Her mind muddled with Rahul's betrayal, Pratibha tossed and turned on her bed.
“Akka,” Usha said. “Mum is calling you to have dinner.”
Pratibha turned to Usha; she wasn’t in a mood to eat; she was hurt after seeing the message sent by Rahul.
“Tell Mum I’m not hungry.”
Usha approached her. She held Pratibha’s hand. “Akka, I can understand your situation. But you should move on.” She sat Pratibha upright. “You’re beginning a new life by going to your office tomorrow, and try to forget your past with Rahul. You can't get back Rahul in your life.”
“It’s easier said than done.” Pratibha shrugged.
"Come on, Akka." Usha pulled her out of the bed. "You should forget that cheater and live your life."
Pratibha waited for a moment; not wanting to disappoint Usha, she came out of the bed. They walked to the dining room.
Her parents were seated at the table. The dishes had been placed on it and the smell of hot masala food wafted in the air. They sat opposite their parents.
“What has happened to you?” Arti said, looking at Pratibha. "Are you unwell?” She served food.
Pratibha cleared her throat. “I’m feeling a bit feverish.”
"I'll give you some medicines and you should feel all right by tomorrow," Damodar said.
Pratibha remembered Murali. She had been attracted to him ever since Rahul stopped talking to her. Murali had been very innocent. She blamed herself for hurting his feelings. He had been forgiving as he attended the party along with Prakash.
She needed to tell her parents about her interest to return to Hyderabad so that she could unite with Murali.
“Papa,” she said, chewing her food. "I’m interested in returning to Hyderabad. Sai wants me on his team.”
Damodar served himself a capsicum curry. “What are you talking about, my dear?" He narrowed his brows. "How can you think of leaving Bangalore again?”
"But, Papa, what should I do if Srivastav is unable to accommodate me in his team?"
"Let's not worry about your profession," Arti said. "You'll seek another job if needed.”
“Mum, it's not-”
“Forget about leaving Bangalore," Arti said. "We want you to get married this year.”
Pratibha tossed and turned on the bed thinking about how to convince her parents. Should I tell them I love Murali? Will they accept the alliance and let her marry him?
“Hello, Akka.” Usha approached. “I wish you the best for reporting back to your manager tomorrow.”
“Thank you.” Pratibha kissed Usha’s forehead. “Can you do me a favor?”
“Yes, tell me what it is.”
“You need to tell Papa I’m interested to return to Hyderabad.”
“Sure, I can. But tell me why you want to go back?”
“Well- I – you know-” Pratibha fumbled. Should I tell Usha about Murali?
“Don’t hesitate, Akka.” Usha looked into her eyes. “I’m ready to help you if I can.”
She drew in a heavy breath. “I have started liking someone there.”
“Wow,” Usha said, smiling wide. “I guessed you’ve fallen in love with someone else. Tell me more about him.”
She told about Murali and where he worked. “Can you help me now?”
“Yes, I will.” Usha sounded exhilarated. “It’s my pleasure.”
She hoped Usha would talk to her parents and let her unite.
But how should I tell my interest in Murali? Should I contact Prakash and convey to him my intention to unite with him?
She approached her manager at the Bangalore branch. “Hello, Srivastav.”
“Hey, Pratibha.” He smiled wide. “Welcome back.” He waved her to take a seat.
She dragged a chair and sat opposite him. “How are you? How is the project work going on?”
"I'm doing well," Srivastav told her about the project. “How was your experience working with Sai?”
“It was really good. He is going to lead another project.”
"Are you going to work on the new project?" he asked.
"Don't you have any vacancies in your team?"
"I'm sorry," he said. "I can't accommodate you as all the positions are filled."
Pratibha heaved a sigh of relief. It was like a blessing in disguise. She too wanted to return to Hyderabad.
"It's okay. I can return to Hyderabad and join Sai." She drew in a heavy breath. "Can you talk to the management so that I can return as soon as possible?"
"Sure. I'll be glad to," Srivastav said. "I too don't want you to sit on the bench without work."
“Sai has a challenging assignment for me," Pratibha said. "The new project will be a valuable addition to my profile.”
"I wish you the best," Srivastav smiled at her.
With her mind cluttered with recent events, Pratibha stretched out her legs in her favorite bedroom chair. She picked an Agatha Christie novel, 'And Then There Were None', from her bedside table and started to read.
Her glance shifted towards approaching footsteps near the door. Usha, in her white lehenga and dark blue odni, entered. Her face was lit with a broad smile as she approached Pratibha.
"Hello, Akka," she said. She took the novel from Pratibha and placed it on the table. "Appa wants to speak with you."
Is Usha mediating about my intention to return to Hyderabad? "Did you tell--?"
Before she could complete her sentence, Usha said, "I told Appa about your interest in Murali."
"What did he say?"
"Let's go and see him," said Usha. "I don't think he'll object to your intention to return to Hyderabad."
Pratibha needed to try her luck. If Damodar agreed to send her back, she would be grateful to her father forever. She rose. "Okay, let's go."
Her father sat on the couch with a smile plastered across his oblong face.
Pratibha heaved a sigh of relief and sat on a smaller couch while Usha sat beside him. Arti had gone to perform pooja in a nearby temple. It was a good opportunity for Pratibha to settle her matter in her mother's absence.