When Vivek returned the following week, the first thing he did was meet Raj to express his sorrow. Though only two months had passed, Raj looked as if he had aged several years. Fine lines ran across his face. Misery hung over him.
"How are you Raj? I was so sorry to hear about Mala."
Raj was silent. He didn't know what to say. He stared off into the distance, looking at nothing in particular. He'd come to the office to divert his attention, but was failing. Now that he carried the grief of his children, also, he just wanted to be with them to console them. He had to find ways to bring back the happiness that they had lost. But to do that, he had to come to terms with the current situation. He had to let his mind conquer his heart.
"I'd like to come to your place in the evening today. Is that okay?" asked Vivek.
Raj looked up and nodded in affirmation.
Vivek arrived at the apartment at seven. Raj opened the door and offered him a seat in the main hall.
As they sat there, Vivek didn't know how to start the conversation. A silence hung between them.
"Have the police found out anything about the murder?" asked Vivek.
"Not yet. They're still investigating," Raj answered as he dug his foot in the carpet.
Vivek saw that it was a new carpet. He slowly looked around the room. Everything else looked just as it did the last time he was there. He remembered how Mala's body had fallen in front of him. He imagined Mala standing next to him. But he quickly pushed away the thought.
Sneha walked into the room and said, "Good evening, Uncle".
"Good evening Sneha. How are you?" he asked with a smile.
"I'm good, Uncle," she replied weakly. What a stupid question to ask!
Raj called Sheila. She was the newly appointed household help, whom Ramona had insisted upon Raj hiring. According to Ramona, Sheila was a kind woman with very good reviews from her past employers.
Sheila was sitting with Ankur and watching his cartoon movie along with him. She ran when Raj called her.
"Sheila, please bring tea for Vivek," Raj said.
Sheila returned ten minutes later with two cups of tea.
Raj and Vivek barely talked to each other.
"How is the work going on?" asked Vivek. Raj thought he looked nervous, but figured it was due to his business pressures.
"I have started it again. The experiment I had left. I plan to finish it as soon as possible…" He stared off into the distance again, his voice drifting out.
When Ankur heard the familiar voices in the room, he walked in so he could listen to them. As soon as he saw Vivek, he stopped dead in his tracks, put his index finger near his eyes, which were shifting back and forth, and then slowly made his way towards Raj.
Raj felt Ankur's fear as he clasped onto him.
Ankur's odd behavior irritated Raj. "Please sit properly," Raj pleaded, but Ankur wouldn't leave him. Raj patiently removed Ankur's hand, which was clasped tightly around his shoulder. Even after Ankur removed this one hand, he continued to hold close to Raj with the other.
"Hello Ankur! How are you?" asked Vivek.
Ankur immediately hid his face in his hands. He didn't want to answer Vivek.
"Ankur, please say 'hello' to Uncle Vivek," Raj prodded Ankur, but Ankur just ignored him and buried his face deeper in his hands.
"He's shy. You know how timid he gets..." Raj said, almost apologetically, to Vivek.
"Of course, of course. I am really sorry for you, Raj. Taking care of two kids on your own is going to be difficult. You can count on me for any help you need," Vivek replied.