Her heart pounding in her ribcage, Pratibha ended her call to Vasavi. She placed her phone on a table and collapsed on the bed. Why did Rahul behave so? If he is suffering from cancer, he should've told her the truth. Is he interested in seeing me united with Murali? Who told him about my close friendship with Murali? No doubt Rahul loved her. Otherwise, he wouldn't have hidden the fact that he was dying.
What should I do now? I'm sure Rahul will not answer my phone call. Should I go to Bangalore and meet him? I think I should. Vasavi has told me his ailment is in the final stage.
What if she took Murali along with her? Rahul would be pleased to see her with him. Also, Murali could meet her parents as her father wanted to see him. She should speak with him about the matter and find out if he could come to Bangalore.
She took the phone from the table and called him.
"Hello, how are you?"
"Hi. Good morning. Are you busy?"
"I've time for you," said he. "Tell me what's on your mind."
"You know Rahul--" Her chest tightened; words failed her. How can I tell him?
"Yes," said he. "Please tell me what you want to say."
"I heard from my colleague at Bangalore that Rahul has been diagnosed with cancer. And it's in the final stages."
"Oh, I'm sorry." He paused. "But you said he got engaged to someone else right? Did he lie to you?"
"I think so. Maybe he wanted me to settle with someone else instead of getting disappointed."
"I'm sorry once again. What have you planned next? You didn't meet him during your last visit to Bangalore."
"That's what I'm trying to do now. I want to see him and let him know you're with me. I'm sure he will be pleased to see us together." She waited for a moment and composed herself. "Are you free on the coming weekend? We'll visit Bangalore for two days."
"Um--" Murali fumbled.
"Please don't say no," she said. "It's better you accompany me. And it's an opportunity for you to meet my parents and win their hearts. Seeing them should help us get married, you know."
He heaved a sigh. "Alright. I need to get back to work on Monday."
Pratibha boarded her office cab and sat on her usual seat. Simran's absence was palpable.
"Hello, Pratibha." She heard a male voice from behind. Was it Prasanna? She looked over her shoulder.
Prasanna was seated in his usual seat beside his friends. He smiled at her.
"Are you alright now?"
"Yes. I'm perfectly alright," he said. "You're missing Simran."
She nodded, smiling.
She spoke with him about their project and the recovery of the IT industry. When they reached their office premises, she walked with him to the canteen and they ate breakfast together, discussing her visit to Bangalore.
After the breakfast, she bade farewell to Prasanna and walked towards her wing of the office building.
Seated in his office, Sai Krishna was busy flipping through a project requirements file.
He adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose. "Hey, Pratibha."
"How are you?"
"I'm doing well." He waved her to take a seat. "Welcome back."
She sat on a chair beside him. She took out a box containing chocolate burfi from her bag and gave it to him.
"Oh, thank you." He smiled. "I'm glad to have you back on my team."
"Thank you. It will be a pleasure working with you."
"Tell me how your visit was?"
Though Pratibha was upset about Rahul's incident, she told Sai Krishna about her parents and her meeting with Srivastav at Bangalore branch. She also hinted to him about her interest in Murali.
Sai Krishna cleared his throat. "I welcome you once more. Our current customer is again the department of defense. We already know them well."
"Oh, that's good to know. Are we using the same technology as before?"
He nodded. "Yes, it remains the same."
"Then, the project should be a cakewalk for us," Pratibha said, her heart lightened.
"Let's hope so."
They exchanged a few more words about their office matters. Pratibha wanted to talk about her plan to visit Bangalore on the coming weekend.
"I'm visiting Bangalore this weekend. Should be back on Sunday night."
"I don't have anything for you to work on during the weekend at this stage." He paused. "You can go, but is there any important reason you're returning so soon?"
"One of my close friends is suffering from cancer. I'm going to see him as I didn't get a chance during my last visit." She waited for a moment, composing herself. "I'm taking Murali with me."
"Oh, that's good to know," Sai Krishna said. "I wish you the best."
"Thank you." She rose and strode to her cubicle.
Pratibha remembered Vasavi telling her Rahul's ailment was in the final stage. She needed to know where Rahul was. Was he admitted to a hospital? Or was he resting at home? What if he was not at Bangalore at all? She should call Vasavi and know the details.
"Vasavi, is it okay if we talk for some time?"
"Sure. Please go ahead."
"I'm planning to visit Bangalore to see Rahul."
"Oh, that's good to know."
"But I wanted to know where Rahul is. Is he in Bangalore?"
"Yes, he has been admitted to the City Cancer Hospital." She paused and then said, "When are you planning to come?"
"This coming weekend."
"Alright. Call me when you get here."
Pratibha walked towards her flight terminal gate along with Murali and boarded the plane bound to Bangalore. She was contented for taking Murali along with her to Bangalore.
"You can have the window seat," said Murali, placing their cabin bags in the luggage compartment located above their seats.