Part - 17“Are you waiting for me, Kamakshi?”, asked Padmaja a little breathless from climbing the stair case. She had never been particularly slim. But lately, she had noticed a tightening of her blouses, particularly around her upper arm that she taken to using the stairs over the lift.
“Hmm? Everything okay? Why do you want me to keep quiet? What is the matter, Kamakshi?”, Padmaja reeled off questions with mounting alarm.
“It's nothing”, hissed Kamakshi between gritted teeth guiding her neighbour by the arm away from her own door. “Come in to my house. I need to tell you something, Padmaja”.
And once inside, Kamakshi's behaviour was even more erratic. She said something about a letter and answering and now meeting someone and the man waiting for her at home.
“Where?”, demanded Padmaja.
Kamakshi silently pointed her finger at her neighhour.
“Where? In my house?”
“Have you gone mad, Kamakshi? I gave you the keys in case you don't see me for days and there's an odd smell coming out of my house and you need to let yourself in without breaking the door because if I am okay, you would have ruined a perfectly good door. You don't use my key to let some stranger inside and then insist that I meet him.”
“He had written a really nice letter.”
“How did you find out?”
“Well, because you were no longer interested in this sort of thing, I...”
“You started reading my letters and replying to them as well?”
“Only the letters from the matrimonial advertisement. I only did it out of concern for you, Padma. I can ask him to leave, if you want.”
“Yes, I think you should do that.”
Padmaja stood there in the middle of Kamakshi's living room watching her go out. She heard her front door being opened and then there was muffled conversation. Padmaja stood rooted to her spot for several minutes waiting for Kamakshi to return. The sweat from her exertion was trickling down her back and Padmaja couldn't wait to get back home and wash off her fatigue. She gathered her bag and leaving Kamakshi's front door wide open for her neighbour to return to in case she hadn't taken her keys with her, Padmaja made her way back to her flat.
They were still talking inside. What could they be discussing for so long? Padmaja sighed and pushed the door open.
“Ah, there you are!”, greeted Kamakshi brightly, “I was just telling Mr. Srinivasan here...”
“Please call me Srini”, said the tall man who made Padmaja's sofa seem a little crowded.
“Namaskaram, I'm Padmaja”, she said bringing her palms together to greet.
“I was just telling Srini that you should be back home any minute. What took you so long? Was there a long queue?”, quizzed Kamakshi with perfect innocence.
“I have a splitting headache. So if you don't mind I need to lie down for a bit.”
“I'm so sorry”, said Srini rising swiftly from the sofa, “I can always come back another day.”
“Yes. Why don't you do that? Now, if you will excuse me, I really have go to bed. Nice meeting you.”