The Vixen - Chapter 7
The Vixen - Chapter 710 mins 994 10 mins 994
“First tell me what’s the deal with Mohit Agarwal,” Nandini asked Anupam as they both sat on the swing sofa in the back garden that faced the small fountain and the flower beds around it.
Anupam visibly stiffened at Mohit’s name and Nandini almost laughed at the way he was reacting.
“Are you jealous?” she asked him, in a teasing tone, when he didn’t answer.
“Are you really thinking of marrying Mohit the moron Nandu?” he asked, looking at her with ridicule.
Nandini shrugged nonchalantly.
“Why not? He is handsome, well educated, rich…”
“But you do remember him? How he was?” Anupam asked.
“So what Anupam? So many people are weird and awkward in their school days. Have you seen Sunder Pichai’s school photo? Imagine if his wife had rejected him based on that!” Nandini said, almost stifling a laugh.
“Please, don’t insult Sunder Pichai by comparing him with Mohit!” Anupam said, irritated.
“Okay, think about me. Remember how I used to look? The awkward, plump shy teenager?” she asked.
“You weren’t so bad. And look how beautifully you have blossomed now,” Anupam said, and Nandini felt herself blush.
“Do you know he has had three, or I don’t know, more girlfriends back in the UK?” Anupam continued retaliating, unaware of what effect his words had had on Nandini.
“So what? That just makes him more experienced, isn’t it?” Nandini said, trying to subdue another laugh. She was enjoying this.
Anupam was fuming now.
“Okay, then go marry that son of a….”
“Relax Anupam, I am not marrying him. And I understand your reaction. You care for me, I know. But please don’t worry. I won’t marry him, or for that matter any guy, without getting to know them well, without understanding how they really are! I know people show us what they want to show us and not what they truly are, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. But I will see to it that I look behind the mask of whoever it is that I decide to marry,” Nandini said softly. As much as she wanted to convey this about her, she wanted Anupam to realize that the same would apply to him as well. She wanted him to realize that he had not yet unmasked all the layers of Tanya’s face.
Anupam finally relaxed and smiled at her. He squeezed her hand.
“That’s my Nandu,” he said.
“And anyway, it is going to be very difficult for any guy to meet the standards of Anupam Puri, whom I think to be the best man I have met. So, hard luck to them all,” she said, and they both laughed, though Nandini wondered if she had just, albeit subtly, revealed her feelings to Anupam.
“So, when are you both getting married?” Nandini asked Anupam.
She needed to veer them towards the conversation she was intending on having.
“Marriage is still a long way to go. We are still getting to know each other,” Anupam said.
Thank God, Nandini thought.
“How did you meet her? Was she with you at college?” she asked.
“No. Actually, we met at the unlikeliest of places. A pub. About a year back,” Anupam said.
A pub? Nandini thought. That was definitely weird. She would have felt better if he had said she was from his college or one of his work colleagues.
“Really? A pub? And what, love at first sight?” she asked, trying to sound more curious rather than sarcastic.
“No, of course not,” Anupam said, sounding offended. “Actually, it was a low phase for me, as I had broken up with Alice, my long-term girlfriend. We were together since college, and we were damn serious. We had even planned our Indian and English combined wedding. But some trivial reason happened, and before I knew it, it was over. I couldn’t get over her. So, it had become a habit of mine to frequent that pub, almost every evening. That is where I met Tanya. I had seen her there too, trying to drown her sorrows with the liquor. So finally, one evening or rather night, when it was just the two of us left there, I got up and sat next to her. We both got talking. and it felt really good to speak to someone who understood. We talked and talked and talked, till it was morning. And I knew she was the one I was meant to be with,” Anupam said.
Nandini nodded, though more to continue the conversation than in agreement.
“Had she also broken up then?” she asked.
“No. she had other issues. In fact, her issues made my problems seem trivial. She is an orphan who had grown up in different foster homes. She had suffered abuse at a few of the homes, and she had run away from one such home when the woman had tried to hit her. The family then framed her for stealth, and she had to drop out of school. She was fifteen then and was sent to a correctional facility till she reached eighteen. As no foster home was ready to take her. But after eighteen, she had to leave the facility. With no formal education, she was left to do jobs to make ends meet. While working as a waitress at a coffee shop, she met a guy, who seemed quite chivalrous. She began dating him, and within a few months, he offered her to shift in with him. She was already staying in a crowded hostel, the rent of which was becoming difficult to pay day by day, so she agreed.”
“But once she shifted with him, his demeanor suddenly changed. He began behaving like a possessive husband, even though they weren’t married. He stopped letting her go out of the house, he made her quit her job, and he began abusing her. When he went away for his job, he would lock her inside the house. Finally, she somehow managed to escape him. But she stayed on the run, lest he found her. Every night she would find a new shelter. And every evening she would spend in the pub. Contrary to my belief, she never drank. All she consumed was water. The bar owner was kind enough to let her stay inside the safety of the bar every evening.”
“After that first night together, I offered her to stay at my place. Initially, she refused. I had to convince her I was not like the first guy she had met. I promised her she would have her own separate room. She finally agreed. But for days, I could see she was very cautious, and always on guard. It took time, and a lot of effort from me, to allay her fears and anxiety, and to bring her back towards normalcy.”
Nandini was stunned to hear the story. If this was true, Tanya had sure had her fair share of misfortunes and probably that was why she sometimes behaved so irrationally. But the most important question was, was any of this true?
“She is really lucky to have found you,” Nandini said truthfully.
“That is why her emotional state is very fragile, Nandini. I try not to argue with her or upset her over small matters. I can’t explain all of this to my parents. I can’t bring her personal life to the forth. But that is the reason I am so protective about her, you know? She is now completely dependent on me. She needs me for literally everything. I was not planning to get her here. But she wouldn’t stay one day without me. I had to get her along!”
Nandini had always felt a deep respect for Anupam, and now that respect had increased by several bounds. In addition to all the feelings she felt though, pity and sympathy for Tanya, love, and respect for Anupam, she felt a strange feeling seethe through her - a strong pang of jealousy.
She wanted this considerate and kind-hearted man to be hers now, more than ever. But that was not possible.
She needed to focus on what she had to do. She swallowed.
“Do you know what the name of that man was? Her boyfriend?” Nandini questioned.
“Abhay, I think. Not sure. And I don’t think I know the surname. Why do you ask?”
“Nothing, I was just wondering if she ever registered a police case against him. Because if he went scot-free, he would soon brutalize one more woman, isn’t it?” Nandini asked.
“You are right. But I don’t think she did that. She was not in any mental condition to do that,” Anupam said.
“Did she have any friends? Who helped her? Before you?” Nandini asked.
Anupam screwed his eyes in deep thought.
“Not that I can think of,” he said finally.
Now that was definitely weird.
“Not even a single friend?” she persisted.
“No. Maybe because she hardly studied till ninth grade, and after that, she was in that facility…In fact, now that you ask me, I remember a weird incident. I and Tanya had gone for dinner to a restaurant, and there, a waitress suddenly appeared out of nowhere and hugged Tanya, crying ‘Anjali, where have you been'. I and Tanya were both shells shocked and Tanya politely told her that she had been mistaken and that her name was Tanya and not Anjali. But the waitress was not ready to listen! She initially got confused, and later got pretty angry. She was not at all ready to back out and went on telling some things to prove that Tanya was Anjali! I and Tanya had to leave that restaurant! Weirdo!” Anupam said.
This had piqued Nandini’s interest.
“What did you say was the name of the restaurant?” she asked, hoping Anupam wouldn’t realize why she was asking such questions.
“The Grand Indian restaurant. I can never forget that place. The ruckus the girl created!” he said, shaking his head.
“What was the girl’s name?” Nandini asked.
“I don’t remember, but she was also Indian,” Anupam said.
“What things was she saying to prove that Tanya was Anjali?”
“She was saying nonsense things, like they went to school together, and some picnic they went to together, they had their first job together, that she still has childhood photos….”
“Maybe she was telling the truth? You said Tanya had studied till ninth. Maybe this waitress was with her at school…”
“But first of all, she would remember Tanya as Tanya and not Anjali. And secondly, wouldn’t Tanya remember her? Anyway, she was just a load of bullshit. Tanya and I laughed about it a lot later on,” Anupam said, still smiling at the memory.
Nandini could see that Anupam had absolutely no reason to doubt Tanya’s version, to not believe her. So he believed everything she said. But what if it was all a lie?
“How did she get her surname? Andrews? Was it from one of her foster parents?” Nandini asked.
Anupam finally looked at her, his eyebrows raised.
“You are asking me a lot of questions about Tanya today,” he said, a smile forming on his lips.
“See? It’s not just you who is worried about who I get married to. I will also not let you marry just anyone,” Nandini smiled. This definitely wasn’t a lie.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know. She probably has it from the orphanage she was at,” Anupam said.
“Oh,” Nandini exclaimed. She was surprised how Anupam had just accepted everything that Tanya had said without any questions asked. From what she could see, Anupam knew literally nothing about the girl, and whatever she had told him, had never been verified!