“Thanks, Simran,” Pratibha said, smiling. The aroma of hot coffee, which Simran had brought, filled her bedroom. “You took trouble unnecessarily.”
“It’s alright.” Simran handed coffee to her. “We’ll prepare dinner together. I need to go and speak to my Mum.”
Pratibha sighed. She needed Simran’s togetherness to chat about her office matters. But she too wanted to speak to her parents. “Alright. Thanks for the coffee.”
Simran smiled and went out of the room.
Pratibha sipped her drink. The caffeine invigorated her. She had worked late that day as Sai Krishna had asked her to prepare the minutes of the meeting with their customer that evening. She didn’t want to say no to Sai Krishna; she had quietly sat and had finished writing the report just before her office closed. Simran had helped her in editing and printing the document.
It had been a few days since she spoke to her parents. She took her phone and called her dad.
“Pratibha.” Damodar sounded excited. “How are you?”
“I’m doing well, Dad.” She sat on a metal chair. “How about you? Is Mum all right?”
“We’re all fine here, but worried about you.”
“Dad.” Pratibha sighed. “I told you not to worry. I’m staying comfortably with Simran in the guest house.”
“How are you doing at work?”
“Doing well. My manager is kind enough and has given me enough freedom to work on the project. You do not need to worry about me.”
“How do you commute to the office? Do you need your scooter there?”
“No. I don’t need it. The company cab picks and drops us every day on time. No hassles to commuting.”
“Alright.” Her Dad paused for a moment. “I don’t have any concerns as long as you’re safe. It’s your Mum who is more worried about you.”
“Is she around?”
“Yes. She is here.”
Pratibha heard a rustling sound before her mother said, “Hi, Pratibha.”
“Hi, Mum. How are you?”
“I’m doing well, beta. How about you? We’re concerned about your stay.”
“I told you already I’m not staying alone. Simran is like my sister and she is quite helpful.” She had called Arti during the daytime, but her phone was remained switched off. “Why don’t you keep your phone turned on, Mum?”
“I’ve some issues with it, dear. Don’t worry." Arti paused. “You said you prepare dinner yourself. Will you get tired doing it after working hours?”
Pratibha admired Arti’s concern about her. At her home, her mother took care of her well. Pratibha wasn't allowed to enter the kitchen and instead, it was suggested that she study and help Usha in doing her assignments.
“Don’t worry, Mum. It doesn't take much time to prepare for two of us. In fact, we enjoy doing it together.”
“I hope you’re taking care of yourself well.” Arti paused for a few moments. “When are you visiting us?” She sounded loud.
Pratibha remembered Sai Krishna telling her to work on weekends. It would be hard to visit Bangalore, leaving him disappointed. She needed to prove herself and finish the tasks to please him so that he would transfer her back to Bangalore. He was interested in finishing the project on time without flaws. He would never allow her to take time off until the project got completed.
Pratibha didn’t want to displease her mother. Arti would worry if she told her the truth. “I will visit soon, Mum. You need to be patient for a few more weeks.”
“I have something important to talk about,” Arti said, her voice lowered.
“Your Dad was talking about your marriage.”
Pratibha’s pulse quickened. She did anticipate her parents would be thinking about her marriage. Her mother had been hinting about the matter for a year. Should she tell her she loved Rahul? Her parents wouldn’t accept him easily. Pratibha needed to speak about the matter in person. And that would be possible only when she got transferred back to Bangalore.
“Mum, how is it possible now?”
“Why don’t you visit us on a weekend? You can see some grooms and choose one.”
Nausea coursed through Pratibha's body. Her parents were seeing boys for her marriage. She needed to quiet her Mum and postpone the matter. “I’ll try my level best to visit Bangalore. Please give me some time.”
“Sure.” Arti sounded elated. “I don’t have any objections as long as you’re happy there." She paused and then said, "Usha wants to speak with you.”
Pratibha waited for Usha to speak.
“Hello, Akka.” Usha sounded empathetic.
“Hey, Usha. Did you speak with Vasavi to solve your assignments?”
“Yes,” Usha said. “I did consult her and got the problems solved.”
“Good to know. You can seek her help whenever you’re stuck with any academic issues.”
“Okay,” she said.
“Did Rahul meet you anywhere?” Pratibha whispered.
“Yes, I saw him near my college. He was busy talking to someone else.”
Someone else? “Who was that someone else?”
“She is our senior, Kamini.”
Pratibha’s breath caught in her chest. Is Rahul double-dealing with me? “Did he see you there?”
“No; and I avoided going to him.”
Pratibha sighed. She believed in Rahul. He did maintain some contacts with female friends during their engineering studies. Pratibha needed to trust him and she was sure Rahul would never betray her; he would never deceive her.
But she was staying away from him and that created some anxiety in her. Rahul was unhappy about her transfer; he complained about waiting for six months. Has he developed a friendship with Kamini in my absence? She hoped he wouldn’t cross his limits and would remain faithful to her.
“Call me immediately if you see Rahul with Kamini again.”
“Okay. I will.”
Pratibha spoke to Usha about her college and how her studies were going on before ending the call.