The story so far:
Jennifer has been driving around now for almost 2 hours. They are driving along Linking Road, Bandra. She suddenly realizes how hungry she is and decides to stop at a restaurant for a cup of coffee. She sits down and orders a cappuccino and a club sandwich. Just then her mobile rings. It is from Shibu. She picks up the phone and notes down the information that Shibu gives her.
“Thanks Shibu. That was really quick. You are a real life saver. I owe you one!”
She quickly gulps down her coffee, pays the bill. She needs to move quickly.
The taxi is waiting for her outside the restaurant. Jennifer gets into it quickly.
“Driver, iss pate pe jaana hai. Zara jaldi karo” (I want to go to this address. Please hurry a bit.)
Shibu has given her the address of a guest house owned by Mr. Ahuja; he comes here off and on. If Mr. Ahuja is not in his flat, this is where he most probably would be. “Trust Shibu to get the information and that too so quickly,” she thinks. The guest house is located on Pali Hill, a very posh locality of Mumbai.
She reaches the guest house only to find that it is surrounded by a six foot high compound wall. Fortunately, there is a coffee shop on the first floor of the building, opposite the guest house. She asks the taxi driver to wait there, goes up a flight of stairs and enters the coffee shop. A waiter approaches her.
“A table for one on the terrace please” she says. The waiter leads her out onto the terrace and she sits at a corner table facing the road.
“A Cafe Latte please” she orders. The waiter goes off, leaving her to herself.
The tables and chairs on the terrace are placed very conveniently for Jennifer and she gets a clear view of the guest house across the road.
She takes out her DSLR camera from her bag and fits a high-zoom lens. The living room of the house opens onto a terrace garden through a French window. The powerful camera lens gives her a clear view of the room. She zooms in and sees three people – two men and a child. She scrutinizes their faces and recognizes them from the photos in Cyrus’s blog. One is Cyrus himself. The older, plumper person is Mr. Ahuja and the child is Roohi. Jennifer has no difficulty identifying any of them.
All three are sitting around a carom board. Jennifer is taken by surprise. She had expected Roohi to be tied to a chair or something, but here she is happily playing carom with her kidnappers! She observes them for a while longer. Roohi is very excited and keeps cheering every time she scores a point. She even hits Cyrus and Mr. Ahuja playfully at times. They are totally absorbed in the game and Roohi keeps smiling and laughing throughout.
Jennifer slowly lowers her camera and places it on the table. She keeps seeing Roohi’s face in front of her eyes, even though she is no longer looking at her. The waiter comes and places the coffee on the table. She thanks him and picks up the cup. For some reason, she is unable to steer her thoughts away from that image. Why is Roohi’s face disturbing her so much? Is it because of the resemblance to Tara’s face? No, that’s not it. Then why? The question keeps lingering on in Jennifer’s mind. Something in Roohi’s face – is it the expression? – reminds her of someone else’s face, but she is unable to pinpoint who it is.
She slowly gulps down her coffee, her mind on the puzzle and eventually keeps the cup aside. Her eyes fall on a faint reflection of herself in the glass cover of the table below. A hazy image forms in her mind’s eye. She sees the innocent face of a Jennifer who is about 15 years younger, a face with the same innocence she has just seen in Roohi’s face. With a shock of realization, Jennifer leans back in her chair. The innocent, vulnerable face that she has just remembered, belonged to a young, carefree, trusting Jennifer. Roohi’s trust in her kidnappers is unwavering, just as unwavering as her own trust in Shekhar had been.
How easily she had been taken in by Shekhar during her youth. When he told her he will not leave her in a thousand years, she had trusted him. When he told her she was his life and he could not live without her, she had trusted him. When he told her he would not leave her even if the whole world opposed their marriage, she had trusted him.
But what happened? Forget the world, just two people – Shekar’s parents – opposed their marriage and he changed his mind, almost overnight! Was that person, the coward who deserted her in the face of the slightest opposition from his parents worth pursuing after all? Didn’t she trust him too much, back then? And now? Suddenly realization dawns! What has happened, has happened for the best. She is better off without this so-called ‘man’. Tara is welcome to him. It was a desire for revenge, rather than genuine love that had been driving her all these years. “Do I really love Shekhar?” she asks herself.
Jennifer is shaken by the realization. She closes her eyes for a while and she slowly comes to a decision. She picks up her mobile and dials Shekhar’s number.
“Shekhar, Jennifer here. I think I can help you get Roohi back. However you will have to keep your nerve and play the game carefully. If the kidnappers call you, play for some more time. Tell them to give you time till tomorrow afternoon.”
She can almost hear Shekhar heave a sigh of relief.
“Thank you so much Jenny. That is so kind of you. I always knew I could depend on you … Our friendship … and love … is as strong as it always was.”
Although Shekhar tries to infuse confidence into those words, he cannot hide his skepticism.
“Why this sudden change in Jennifer? She is singing a totally different tune. What had happened during the course of the evening to make her change her mind? Was this for real or was this some new game plan of Jenny’s?”
Jennifer can hear it in his voice. Of course, he wouldn’t trust her any more. How could he, after all that happened between them?
She shakes her head hard as if to shake off all the emotional baggage that has been bothering her and weighing her down all these years. She is determined to finish the game that she has started. Yes, she is the only person who can do it, and she will.
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