The business trip to Pune brought them together.
They brought overnight bags with them. Their meeting would last into the second day. As he drove across a bridge they watched a flock of pigeons standing on the small dry riverbank, watching the small water stream flowing by.
He said, “Pigeons.”
“Mmmm, Will you be seeing her?”
“Gauri. Will you be stopping by to see her while we’re here?”
He downshifted as they came into town and rolled up to a stoplight. He glanced at her, then turned right on the red light. “No, I’d rather she not know I’m here. If she sees me she’ll start in again. I don’t want that. She needs more time.”
“More time for what? To get over the fact that she caught you with that woman?”
“It was a onetime thing. We got caught up in the heat of the moment.”
“Time has nothing to do with it.”
“Oh, you know about those things, huh?”
“I’m a woman … so yeah, I know about those things.”
Ten kms out of Pune, they passed a man on a bicycle, dressed in cycling gear, a green-stripped polo shirt, black cycling shorts, white helmet. It was cool, but his bare legs were exposed and pumped like machine pistons.
“He looks like my Darshan, she said. “My husband.”
“Darshan’s a cyclist?”
“Yeah, he was pretty serious about it once…” She turned her head to watch the cyclist as they passed by. “He’d go out every Saturday with a group of people and they’d ride a hundred kms or so.”
“Gosh, he must be in great shape.”
“Yeah,” she said dryly. “Bicycles bore the hell out of me, to tell you the truth. Always breaking down, and when they’re not broken, you’ve got to fiddle with them to keep them tuned just right. The tires go flat all the time.”
“I know, I had one a long time ago. I sold it after maybe a month or two of having to take it in for repairs.”
“The professional ones cost a fortune to keep, and you can’t have just the one. Oh, no. You need two, maybe even three if you’re serious about cycling.”
They passed a herd of black and white dairy cows. “Cute,” she said. “What kind are they?”
“Beats me,” he said, “I’m a city boy.”
“But you come from around here,” she protested.
“Yeah, but I’m still a city boy. I never took to the country-life. Now, if I had to guess, I’d say they were dairy cows.”
He turned toward her and flashed a winsome grin. “It’s the only name comes to mind.”
She laughed and gave him a playful punch on the arm. And watched as they came up on another bunch ambling towards the barn, walking in ones and twos, like tourists coming back to a bus.
“Darshan would know,” she said.
“What kind of cows they are.”
“He’s really smart.”
“You once told me he was the gentlest man you ever knew. Now you’re saying he the smartest.
“He’s really quite the guy.”
“Sounds like he’s a regular Mahatma Gandhi.”
“Cut it out! I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
But a few minutes later she said, “Sometimes, I don’t know.”
“He’s so self-centered. Sometimes…”
“He bores the shit out of you.”
“No, no … He’s such a good guy.”
“But you think he’s tapping the woman from work?”
“Elaine?” She laughed, “I don’t think so; she’s like sixty-eight, looks like an adoptive mother.”
“He’s faithful then.”
“Oh, yeah. I can’t get away from that.”
They pulled into the Shivaji Hotel parking lot. He got out, “I’ll make sure they have our rooms ready. Be right back.
Three minutes later he walked back to the car. She reached back and rubbed her neck with one hand, then got out of the car. He handed her the key to the room.
“We’re all set, I’ll help you with your bags.” She was less than a foot away and he could smell that special scent she always seemed to have on.
She opened the door, stepped inside and made room for him to enter. He hung one bag in the closest and set the suitcase at the foot of the bed.
“How much longer are we going to fool around?” he asked quietly.
“I’m all done,” she said.
“Say what? You’re all done?”
“Yeah.” She stepped across the room. He started after her, but she reached the lights, snapped them off and then stepped back into the semi-darkness of the room near the bathroom.
“I’m really scared,” she said.
“Gosh!” He said wrapping his arms around her and pulling her face to his. The kiss locked them together, swaying for ten seconds; then she pulled her chin back, gasping, and they stumbled sideways together and fell on the bed.
“Harish, dammit, give me a minute to take a shower!”
“Fuck the shower,” he said. His voice was course, fevered. He kissed her again, his body pressing her into the bed. One hand tugging at the buttons that held the top of her dress together.
“Jesus, let me…”
“I got it.” A button popped and his hand was on her warm skin, her stomach. Then around behind, unlatching her brassiere. Sushmita began to moan, trying to catch his lips. They rolled across the bed, she fumbling with his belt, he with a hand beneath her dress, pulling at her thong.
“My God,” he rasped as his fingers got caught up in the edge of the material.
“Slow down, Harish … slow down!”
He got the thong off one leg and his hands were on her. Finally he entered her and she nearly screamed with the intensity of the feeling … and sometime later, she thought, she did scream.
“Bhagwan, I wish I still smoked,” he said. He’d turned on a bedside lamp and was sitting up, still mostly dressed. She was gasping for air. Like a carp, she thought. She’d never seen one, but had read about carp gasping for air on riverbanks. He looked down at her. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. My God…”
“Here, let me…” and after the violence of the first encounter, he was suddenly tender, moving her body, lifting her, stripping off her remaining clothing. She felt almost a child again until he kissed her on the front of her thigh, just where it joined her hip. And the fire ran through her belly again and she gasped.
Harish was on her again and the bedside lamp seemed to grow dimmer. Then again, after a while, she thought, she may have screamed again.
To be Continued