Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

To Keep the Flame Alive!

The charms were fading after 10 years of marriage. It had been 3 years since they had had a romantic dinner, the two of them. The sex too was more about getting it done than the enigma that it was during the time the two were dating. Still, it had not stopped completely.

Other than that, they were just two strangers living under the same room.

“Shashi, can you submit the bills this month.” Anjali asked.

“Hmm..” Shashi grunted without looking up from his phone. There was a time when Shashi and Anjali’s house had a no-mobile-on-the-dining-table rule. They would look at each other while eating smiling abound. Now, Anjali sat beside him and opened her mobile phone and replying to the messages.

“The kids.” Shashi said without looking up.

“School.” Anjali gave the monosyllabic reply. Rehan and Anshika were 7 and 3. Anshika had just started school.

Shashi and Anjali both left for office. In the same car, they travelled for over half an hour but no one spoke a word. Anjali dropped Shashi at his office and then left for another half an hour of travel. Their offices were at a triangle from their home and they both took turn every day in taking the car. This meant that everyday, one person was suffering. ‘A perfect metaphor for marriage’ — Shashi had joked when he had suggested this a long time ago; a time when he used to joke.

“Hey Shashi. Good morning.” Anvesha said with a beaming smile. Shashi looked at her and smiled back. Anvesha had joined the team a couple of months back and was under training. Once trained, she was to join Shashi’s team.

“So, what are your plans for the weekend?” Anvesha asked.

“Huh! Weekend?” Shashi asked.

“Oh my God! Don’t tell me you have forgotten it’s a Friday?” Anvesha asked in a squeaky voice.

Shashi smiled sheepishly.

“Ok. So, I was planning to check out that new place. Do you wanna join?”

“Alright.” Shashi said.

“Great.” Anvesha said.

Shashi messaged Anjali that he would be late and went on to his work.

“Hey Anjali.” Jayant softly said as Anjali was settling on her seat. She checked her phone and read Shashi’s message. Unsurprised, she kept the phone down.

“Hi Jayant. How are you?” Anjali said smiling.

“I’m good. A couple of us are planning a weekend getaway. You think you can join?”

“Ooh.. What’s the plan?”

“Same old. Go to a nearby resort, get smashed and forget how much we hate the weekdays.” Jayant said with a wink.

“Sounds fun. Who else is coming?” Anjali said.

“Uhh.. I have asked you. Will ask others as well.” Jayant said putting his hand on Anjali’s.

“Alright. I’m in. You ask others.” Anjali said putting her hand on his.

“You know Shashi. I have never met someone as sweet as you.” Anvesha slurred as she leaned on Shashi. The two had a dinner that moved slowly into drinks.

“Really Anvesha. I thought you would have met plenty of such people.” Shashi said grinning. Anvesha smiled at that.

“If only they were like you.” Anvesha cooed. Shashi opened the door of her house and helped her enter. Anvesha looked at Shashi longingly and then leaned towards him. Shashi looked at the whole ordeal and then picked Anvesha off her feet in his arms.

“Oh my!” Anvesha said as Shashi took her to the bedroom.

The doorbell rang and Anjali opened the door. Shashi entered smelling of alcohol and perfume.

“You’re late.” Anjali said.

“Huh! Yeah, sorry.” Shashi said and moved towards the bedroom quickly. Anjali followed him as he went into the bathroom.

“Shashi. What happened?” Anjali asked once Shashi was out. He had been able to remove the smell of perfume and alcohol to an extent but not completely. Shashi didn’t meet her eyes.

“It happened, didn’t it.” Anjali said, her breath held.

Shashi looked at Anjali and decided that lying won’t help. He nodded solemnly.

“Bitch!” Anjali said and roared with laughter. Shashi looked at her with anguish. Anjali looked at his puppy face and gave him a kiss.

“Now, tell me what happened.” Anjali said sitting on Shashi’s lap.

“As you had predicted, she got drunk and came on to me. Heck! She almost jumped on me to try and kiss me. And by God! Was she drunk. I had to pick her up and throw her on her bed.” Shashi said as Anjali played with his hair.

“I told you she had a thing for you.” Anjali said and hugged Shashi.

“I shouldn’t have taken that bet with you.” Shashi said sadly.

“Yup. And now, we go for the weekend trip.” Anjali cooed.

“Who else is going on that stupid trip?” Shashi asked.

“Jayant has asked me so he must be going at least. He said that he will ask others.” Anjali said.

“You know he won’t. No one else is going to be on that trip.” Shashi said sarcastically.

“I don’t care. The person whom I wanted to take is going now.” Anjali said and pulled Shashi’s cheeks.

“So, what next?” Shashi asked.

“Well, it’s your turn to set the bet.” Anjali said. Shashi smiled.

Despite the monotony of their relationship, the thought of cheating never occurred to either of them. The only thing that the two still had was the faithfulness the two had for each other. That, and their love for betting.