He looked at her. She was fast asleep, oblivious of everything. He had always envied her ability to sleep so soundly. She was dead to the world the moment her head touched the pillow - like a small child without a care. She was lying naked, her eyes closed. The black lustrous hair forming a halo around her beautiful face. Her full, soft lips half parted as if hoping for the delicate intrusion of his tongue. His eyes traveled down....Her firm breasts and the brown delicious tips - he could still feel the slightly rough texture of her nipples on his tongue....her flat stomach, her taut thighs and between them the most delectable part of her. He remembered the first time he had kissed her there....very tentatively.....apprehensive she might feel repulsed. Instead she had moaned and raising her hips had pulled his head down. That was all the encouragement he needed. He had buried his face and with his tongue explored every tiny pore. He had sensed the tremors and then watched her explode..... As his eyes took in her naked body, he felt himself getting turned on again. He raised his hand and as he brought it down there was a glint of metal.....

***

Jairam fell in love with Arti the moment he saw her.
 
It was 6th January, a Wednesday. His boss had given him a ring.
 
"Jai, I am sending Arti Krishnan, the trainee I was telling you about. She will be reporting to you."
 
Five minutes later she had breezed into his room. One look and he had fallen for her.
 
Jairam had never believed in love at first sight and such kind of juvenile nonsense. He was sure what he was feeling for her for just some kind of infatuation. But when the malady persisted he made every attempt to break free from the hold she seemed to be having on him. He tried to wrestle with his feelings, fight with his emotions. He knew they were just not made for each other. He was shy, moody, almost a recluse. She was vivacious, charming and loved socialising. He was ordinary looking - of average height, thick set with a receding hair line and eyes which were perennially sad. She was tall, with bright, laughing eyes, long hair and a great figure. But how much ever he tried, he just couldn't stop thinking of her. He had to admit she had become his obsession. Once he realized this he began wooing her earnestly. And in love, as in other things, he was meticulous and methodical. He found out about her likes, her passions, her interests and slowly began cultivating them. On coming to know she adored Wodehouse, he went and bought 20 books by the writer and over a couple of weekends read them all up. Now he could converse freely on the follies of Bertie Wooster, the brilliance of Jeeves, the vacuity of Lord Emsworth and the nonchalance of Psmith.
 
When she told him she loved Chinese food, he started asking her out to dinner to the fanciest Chinese restaurants in town. When he learnt she loved ghazals and was crazy about Jagjit Singh he presented her a complete set of CDs of her favourite singer.
 
Arti was from Nagpur. She had come to Hyderabad after landing this job. She lived with her widowed mother. Jairam had no one to call his own. His mother had eloped with a young man when Jairam was just fourteen, leaving his father shattered. A diabetic, his father had wasted away and died when Jairam had just completed his graduation. He had been on his own since then. He had done part time jobs and completed his CA and was now Assistant General Manager, Finance in Sunlight Pharmaceuticals.
 
Jairam realised he was no match for Arti. But he was hopeful his persistence and sincerity would win her over. And it did. A year later he proposed to her. She asked for sometime to think it over. Those three days were hell for Jairam. He couldn't concentrate on anything during the day and kept tossing and turning at night. On the evening of the third day she gave a ring and simply said, "Yes."
 
They were married in a quiet ceremony in Arya Samaj Mandir. He took her to Ooty for the honeymoon. He had made one thing clear to Arti that she was not to work after marriage. She was a good cook and she could devote her energies in developing her culinary skills or take up some other hobby. But he wouldn't like her working. She had agreed without a fuss and Jairam was delighted and also a trifle surprised.
 
Arti found Jairam to be a caring husband, a good friend and a patient, understanding and selfless lover. Unlike the husbands of most of her friend he didn't believe in the 'slam, bam, thank you maam' routine. He seemed much more concerned about her pleasure than his.
 
He was ideal in every way except for his possessiveness. He was extremely jealous and she felt also very insecure. She was sure in some way it was because his mother had left him when he was very young. That sense of rejection was probably behind his insecurity.
 
He didn't like her talking and laughing with his male colleagues at office get togethers. In the market, on the streets if he found anyone staring at her he would go red in the face. Once a young loafer brushed past her in the market. Jairam who was walking a few steps behind her saw what had happened and lunging forward grabbed the ruffian's neck. And then right there in the middle of the market thrashed him. Arti was so embarrassed she could have died. Later they had a row, their first and only one, about the incident.
 
"Arti, I can't help it. I know it is not done, but believe me I don't know what comes over me. Even if someone looks at you I feel like gouging his eyes out," Jairam said.
 
Seeing the maniacal glint in his eyes Arti shuddered involuntarily. For the first time since their marriage she felt a trifle scared of him.
 
Jairam was thrilled with Arti. She was a good cook, an efficient housekeeper and so very gorgeous to look at. He knew everyone in the office envied his luck and were secretly quite surprised at the success of this rather incongruous pair's marriage.
 
"I don't know what she sees in him," he had heard Manjit his colleague in Finance whispering to Chawla, Manager, Marketing.
 
On their wedding night, he had told Arti, "Sweetheart you are my fist and last love. You're the first person I ever kissed and the first am going to make love to...." he had paused and looking at her searchingly asked, "But surely Arti there must have been scores of guys after you. With your kind of looks you must have attracted them like flies. Did you... were you....." he waited with bated breath. "Don't be silly darling. I am not that sort of girl. You are the first man I have fallen for and the first to man to have ever touched me," she had told him, her wide, beautiful eyes as innocent as a fawn's.
 
He had sealed her statement with a kiss and they had made love for the first time...hungry, groping, grasping kind of love and then again slow, languid, languorous and then again....

***

Today was their first wedding anniversary. He had taken her to Nanking - the swankiest Chinese joint in town. She was looking ravishing in a turquoise blue chiffon sari with diamond necklace and earrings to match - he just couldn't take his eyes off her.
 
When they reached home she made him wait in the bedroom and changed in the bathroom. Five minutes later she emerged wearing the new nightie he had bought for her. The nightie was diaphanous and she wasn't wearing anything inside. He could see the outline of her breasts, her brown slightly distended nipples, her thighs, her long legs... he couldn't control himself. He peeled off his clothes and leaving them in a clumsy mess on the floor lunged towards her. It took him a few seconds to strip her and another few to wear a condom. He grabbed her and laughing and giggling they fell on the bed. He began caressing her with his lips, his tongue. He knew every pore of her body, every nerve. He kissed her all over till she started moaning with pleasure. He entered her in one swift stroke and then began moving gently. Her body started responding to his stokes. Her eyes were open, a glazed look in them, she grabbed his hands and placed them on her breasts. "Faster...faster," she screamed and he complied.
 
"Oh! Imran, please....deeper, deeper, Oh! I love to feel you inside me....Imaraaaan......."
 
He stopped. Was he imagining things.....was he hearing voices. Imran! Who the bloody hell was he? He looked at her. She had collapsed. Her body had gone limp. There was a look of complete satiation on her face.
 
"Did..did you...was it good?" she asked, her eyes still closed.
 
"Yes," he lied.
 
He got up and walked to the bathroom. He threw the condom and walked back to the bedroom and put on his pajamas. She was fast asleep - dead to the world. He went to the living room and sat down - his head in his hands. Who was Imran? Her past lover, her present one or her fantasy. He just had to find out or he would go mad. He got up. In the store room was black trunk - the only item which she had got from her mother's place.
 
Once he had asked her, "What is in the trunk? Some treasure?"
 
"Only my old certificates and some books and photographs. Darling my only treasure is you," she had laughed kissing him on the tip of his nose.
 
He went to the store room. It was at the bottom, below the three VIP suitcases. He shifted them, dragged the trunk out. It was locked and he didn't know where she kept the key. It was a small lock. He gabbed and yanked it with all his might. It snapped. He opened the lid. Inside were, like she had said, certificates, a couple of rusted cups, a few books and five - six albums of photographs. He quickly flipped through the albums - nothing out of the ordinary - Arti in pig tails and a frock with her parents, with her girl friends in school, Arti acting in a play, receiving a cup, singing on stage - the usual stuff. He was about to close the lid when his eyes fell on an envelope lying at the bottom. He picked it up. Inside was a bunch of letters. He got up and went to the living room. He sat on the sofa and started going through the letters. Gradually, bit by little bit, all the pieces fell into place and the jigsaw puzzle was complete.
 
Arti and Imran were classmates in college. They had fallen in love and wanted to get married. But because Arti was a Hindu and Imran a Muslim there was strong opposition. Arti had wanted to elope but Imran had chickened out saying his mother was a heart patient and would die of shock. Imran had got admission in a college in Pune and shifted bag and baggage. Before they had parted they had made love not once but many times. Arti's mother was a working woman and they had all their trysts in Arti's place. Imran's letters described in lurid detail every moment of their animal lust, every nuance of their primal passion.....
 
Jairam got up seething with a wild uncontrollable rage..
 
'That bloody bitch, the bloody whore. She had betrayed him. And she was continuing to do every moment. When he was making love to her she was thinking of her lover. When he was kissing her she was feeling that bastard's lips. When he was inside her she was imagining....'
 
Jairam's hands and legs started shaking with rage - a sure sign he was about to lose control. He walked into the kitchen. He found what he was looking for.

***

He raised his hand and brought the knife down straight into her belly button....She opened her eyes wide and screamed....The expression of shock, pain and terror in her beautiful eyes fascinated him. He plunged the knife in again, and again and again.....
 
Her screams, echoing in the stillness of the night, were somehow very soothing - it was almost as if she was apologising, begging forgiveness for her sins....
 
He stepped back and surveyed the bloody mess.
 
"Not at all a pretty site," he murmured. He meticulously cleaned up the placed and draped a fresh sheet on her body. He opened the front door. He didn't want anyone to break open the door in the morning and create a mess in the living room. He went back to the bedroom, placed Arti's head in his lap and picking up the knife he slashed his right wrist and then with some difficulty his left wrist. As the blood started oozing out he bend down and kissed her lips.
 
"Now that I have punished you for your sins, Arti dearest, I am forgiving you. You should remember sweetheart, no has ever loved anyone as much as I love you and no one ever can....
 
Do you recollect that lovely song by John Denver. Let me sing it for you."
 
Lovingly cradling his Arti's head in his lap Jairam began to sing :
 
"I'll walk in the rain by your side
I'll cling to the warmth of your hand,
I'll do anything to keep you satisfied
I'll love you more than anybody can......"

 

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