Subtle Love

7 min


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Scene-1: A Passionate Night

Sitting by the window side

I watch the raindrops glide.

My half-naked girlfriend in bed,

calls me by her side,

And I say,

Honey, you have to wait.

For you are only my second love,

Coffee is my first.

Arun Sebastian winked at his girlfriend, holding the coffee mug. 

“Shut up and get back here”, an impatient girlfriend ordered. His bathrobe parted as he stood up gulping down the last bit of coffee.

“Is this the shy girl I have always known? “, Arun whispered with his familiar smile as he crawled into her open arms.

“I just want to know if the coffee tastes good”, she whispered back. Her gentle fingers spread all over his shoulders beneath the robe as she raised her head to smooch his lips. He rested his chest on her ample bosom and parted her lips with his own to meet her tongue. She dug her nails into his shoulder blades with ecstasy. At MGM resort that night, they made passionate love several times. 

Scene-2: The Marriage

Raghunathan’s early life revolved around books and marks mostly. He was good academically. But when it came to expressing his feelings, he often felt lost for words. Even as a kid he was obsessed with becoming rich. Hailing from a middle-class family, he knew the pain of hungry nights, debts and congested rooms. 

The contempt for a hand-to-mouth life kept the fire burning in Raghu’s gut. His perseverance landed him a job that paid him very well. His job demanded him to travel a lot, leaving his wife, Hema, alone in their posh apartment. She didn’t complain as long as her husband minted money for it was one thing the couple had in common, a yearning for a luxurious life. 

Art came to her rescue during her lonely times. Deprivation of physical intimacy fanned her amorous desires which often reflected in her paintings. At 28, Hema Raghu was in her prime. She stood 5 feet 5 inches tall and had a slender frame. She had very sensuous features in her perfectly shaped body that could titillate even a dead man’s soul. 

Childless, four years into marriage, she felt very hollow in life.

Scene-3: The Art Exhibition

The Art exhibition hosted at Loyola College buzzed with activity as the participants explained their work to the viewers. The exhibits covered a wide range of themes like religion, politics, humor. Walking along the decorated campus road, Hema’s eyes scrutinized each painting when one of them caught her by surprise. 

A mosaic of oil colours depicted a couple engrossed in a lip lock in the middle of a busy street, surrounded by people carrying laptop bags and hurrying to office. It dealt with everything she was going through in her life at that time. 

“We all deserve one true love in this mechanised world, don’t we?”, a deep manly voice jolted her from behind. She turned around to find a tall, dusky well-dressed guy holding a cup of coffee. He seemed to have read her mind. 

“Are you the artist who painted this?”, she asked pointing at the painting.

“Yes, Arun Sebastian”, his probing eyes captivated her.

“It’s beautiful. I like the message you’ve conveyed in this painting”, she complimented. 

“Thank you, I usually paint on the most take-it-for-granted subject, love. Love is too subtle to notice. Yet the loss of it is so insufferable, don’t you think?”, he said, sipping his coffee, still holding her with his gaze.

“Absolutely. Even I used to paint …”, she was interrupted when Arun swiftly extended his arm around Hema to protect her from an approaching cyclist. Had he been closer by a few inches, the cyclist would have hit her. 

“Hey! watch it!”, Arun yelled at the cyclist. 

“I am sorry. You were saying something”, biting his lower lip, he smiled at Hema apologetically. 

Impressed, she said “You seem to be good at observing things closely.” She felt a sudden revival of her sensual side as he intruded into her personal territory. 

“That’s the first thing I learnt in Painting”, he giggled, stepping back teasingly. “Are you an artist too?”, he sounded so casual as if nothing had happened a moment ago.

“Not as good as you. I just paint”, she replied, resisting the feeling to have him back into her territory.

“We have something in common then. I would love to see your work and find some inspiration from it. A woman’s perspective of love is all I need to learn now”, his enthusiasm amused her. His energy was contagious. She felt excited to find someone who would look at her paintings with interest. 

An hour later, they met at the cafeteria. She showed her paintings from the pictures on her mobile as Arun gave critical reviews laced with humour. She was getting drawn to his boyish charms consciously. They shared their contact numbers and Hema retuned home, talking to him over the phone all the way. 

Scene-4: The loving Husband

“What’s the matter Hema? You seem to be very lively these days?”, Raghu said playfully at the dinner table. 

“Is it? That’s because I made a new friend at the Loyola College Art Exhibition. He paints so well. I showed him some of my paintings and he was impressed. I wish you had such artistic eyes”, she said with innocent excitement.

Raghu paused eating and stared at his wife. Her adorable expressions made him fall in love with her again. Also, a tinge of possessiveness crept in and he quipped, “So you found another mental just like you” 

“That’s all you’ve got to say? Yes, I am a mental and so you are!”, he couldn’t hold his laughter at her childish outburst as she stood up angrily and walked away to her bedroom. After dinner, he found her sitting before the dressing mirror with a grumpy face. Her petty anger didn’t last long as Raghu’s fingers tapped the right buttons. They had great sex that night. She imagined that it was Arun, making love to her.

Scene-5: The Manipulative Boyfriend

“Hems, you hadn’t called since morning. I really missed you”, Arun said over the phone.

“Sorry da, I was a little busy. Guests had come. Just now got free”, Hema replied.

“Now that you made me miss you, you have to make it up. Coffee with me at 6pm?”, he asked flirtatiously.

“You have a knack with words, dog. Okay, Café Coffee day. But I can’t spend more than an hour”, she said.

“Your husband is out of town for a couple of days, right?”, Arun said.

“Oh yes, still. Please understand”, she replied. 

“All right madam. Just an hour. Don’t be late. Sharp 6PM”, he cut the call. 

She was late by half an hour and was greeted with a phoney exasperation from Arun. He now had his grip over Hema’s emotions and felt in control. In the middle of a light-hearted conversation, Arun’s face straightened up suddenly and he said,” You know Hems, to think about it, it all feels funny. I feel guilty for talking to you. I am making a mistake. I shouldn’t have gone this far with a married woman. I never missed anyone like this before. We should probably stop talking before things go out of hand. You feel me?” 

“You can’t be serious. I am rediscovering myself only after you coming into my life and you are saying this now?”, she spoke with disapproval. 

“I’m worried about your husband. He won’t be happy if he comes to know we are getting close. I don’t want to put you into trouble. Forget him, even you won’t entertain me beyond a point. I am just a passing cloud to you. That’s why it all feels funny”, he talked slowly.

“He knows we are close. I told him all about you and he doesn’t care. In fact, he doesn’t care about me. He loves only his work. Stop being nonsensical now. You mean so much to me and I would do anything for you”, she said.

“You can’t even stay more than an hour here and you say you will do anything for me? What a joke!”, Arun’s sarcasm hurt her ego.

Hema stared at him silently.

“What if I asked you to spend the night with me? Would you?”, he smirked. 

“I will!”, she snapped back without a second thought.

“Stop being silly. Your time is up. Go home now. Your hubby might call you anytime”, he chided her.

“No, I am serious. I want to spend the night with you if that’s what you want”, she said sternly. 

Arun grabbed the opportunity and didn’t let her think further. He pulled out his phone and dialled a number. 

“Hello, is this MGM resort? I need accommodation for tonight. Available? Mhm..great.. we are a couple. I hope that’s not a problem? Great. Please make the reservation. We will be there in an hour”, he called a friend and pretended to book the room. He had booked it even before calling Hema, fully knowing that he would convince her. Everything looked so spontaneous. She didn’t get even the slightest of doubts. 

Scene-6: Hooked Fish

They woke up at morning eleven in their cosy bed at MGM resort, lying there naked and cuddling. Kneading her breast gently, he said, “This is the most wonderful night I have ever had.”

She snuggled up closer and kissed on his jawline. 

“Ten missed calls from your husband. What are you going to tell him?”, he sounded curious.

“Severe headache, sleeping pills”, she replied. 

 “Baby, I hate to go out of this room. I hate to get back to my life. I wish I stayed here in your warm hands forever. My life out there is miserable. With my paint and brush, I am struggling to make ends meet. As if it’s not enough, I have a sick mother. Whatever little I earn is going for her treatment itself”, Arun sighed.

“How is your mother now?”, Hema asked concernedly.

“Bad to worse. They removed the cyst from her stomach but that’s not all. There is one more surgery pending, and it will cost seventy thousand rupees. I almost broke down on hearing that”, his voice was feeble.

“Oh dear, don’t worry. She will be alright. I am always here to help you. Why didn’t you ask me?”, she said.

“No. I don’t want money to interfere with our relationship. I have already asked a friend of mine. The interest rates are high, but I have no other option.”, he spoke plainly.

“I wonder why you behave like a dick sometimes. Let me see what I can do”, she resolved.

“I love you Hema”, he kissed her forehead, feeling triumphant of making a fool out of her. His mother was perfectly alright. 

On reaching home, she transferred seventy thousand rupees to Arun’s account. 

Scene-7: Deafening Silence

Raghu started noticing obvious changes in Hema’s behaviour as her telephonic conversations seemed endless. He dared not to ask for the risk of losing her. But that night, his possessiveness took over him seeing her on phone at the dinner table.

“Hema, who’s on the phone?”, his voice sounded sharp.

“Arun”, she went back to the call. 

“Is Arun so important right now? You haven’t kept food on my plate yet!”, he was aware that his pitch was high. 

“Can’t you see the rice bowl? Should I feed you like your mother?”, she shot back with a higher pitch and went back to the call. 

Raghu collapsed in his chair with disbelief. His worst fears had come true. As he stared at his empty plate, his eyes moistened. Without saying a word, he stood up and walked to his room. Hema stopped talking over the phone and looked at Raghu, walking. 

“I’ll talk to you later”, she cut the call and sat there for over an hour staring at her husband’s empty plate and the untouched rice bowl, lost in thoughts.

Scene-8: The Break-up

Though it had been a week since the husband and wife talked, Hema never stopped talking to Arun. One afternoon during their usual phone calls, Hema said, “Arun, I have a surprise for you.”

“What is it?”, he asked.

“I am pregnant with your baby”, she lied to see his reaction. 

“I am thinking of getting a divorce. Let’s get married. I want to spend the rest of my life with you!”, she continued, laughing inside, wondering how thrilled and happy he would feel to hear that. 

“Oh fuck! I never thought you would be so stupid. Didn’t you take the pills? Are you a schoolgirl to be so naïve?”, he shouted on the phone. 

It came as a rude shock to her. After a momentary pause, she said, “Arun, I thought you will be excited to hear the news. Aren’t you?”

“Oh, now I get it. You are pregnant with your husband’s baby. Now that he wants a divorce because he came to know about your affair with me, you want to marry me and have a namesake daddy for your baby! You are a smart bitch, aren’t you?”, he sounded evil. 

Hema’s hands started shivering as she felt stripped of all her dignity. 

“You bloody scoundrel! How dare you talk like this to me! Don’t you even dare come in front of me again!”, she threw the phone at the wall and their affair shattered into a thousand pieces.

Scene-9: The Letter

Disgust chocked her lungs as she tried to wash away the insult with tears. It took a while for her to regain her composure. That’s when she found a neatly folded letter on her dressing table. 

Dear Hema,

I made a holy promise to you that I will never leave your side in any circumstance. From that day, I left no stone unturned to give you a good life. The mad rush to fulfil that quest has blinded me to the fact that I have failed. I gave you a house, but not protection. I gave you clothes but not warmth. I gave you food but not nourishment. Only when I began to understand the truth, it was too late. Maybe, he has connected the right chords with you. You have found something in him which I lack and which matters to you the most. 

It’s fate that brought us together and I’ll never stop thanking it. But now, with a heavy heart, I think I should let you go, not for my sake but for your own.

A teardrop fell on that line as she read on. 

As long as I am alive, I will always be there for you, as a friend, as a well-wisher. 

Yours loving husband,

Raghu

“Just tell me not to go, Hema. I will burn this letter to ashes”, Raghu said to himself with remorse after signing the letter.

*******

 

“Raghu! Please don’t go!”, Hema wailed, crushing the letter in her hands.

***

Photo By: Simon Hattinga Verschure

***

(This is an entry in ArttrA-4, a room8 writing game at ArtoonsInn. We’d much appreciate you rating the story and leaving a review in the comments.)


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