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Submitted on 11/15/2020

Categories: Contemporary Fiction Romance

They were lying on the bank of the river watching the sun rise. It was a cloudless morning and the sun was starting to show its vigour. They were looking hopefully for someone to come and help them. He was dressed in shorts and his chest was bare. She was in jeans with a blouse on top. In moments a boat sounded near them and they saw search lights focussing on them. Two men rushed out of the boat and lifting the woman first loaded her on the boat. They came back and the man was also on board. The boat reversed and in a matter of minutes reached a quay. An ambulance was standing by and the two were carried into hospital.

A hospital orderly asked the man “What’s your name?”

“HIren.”

“How old are you?”

“26.”

“How did you reach the place where you were found?”

“I was on the barge JALAJA which sank and I swam ashore saving the life of that lady who was struggling in the river. It was a very difficult job as the lady had swooned and was wearing too many clothes. But I did it.”

The same questions were put to the woman and she said “My name is Neha. I’m 22. I was on  JALAJA.”

Report on admission to hospital: Above persons were passengers on the barge JALAJA which capsized late last night while it was returning from the temple resort. The 2 were found on the river bank by the rescue boat. They were suffering from exhaustion and Hiren had several scratches on his body. They now seem normal though exhausted. They are under observation to see if they need medical treatment.

Police report: Barge JALAJA was returning from temple resort. It had 4 crew and 22 passengers  which is more than the permitted 18. Also the barge was carrying 4 scooters and 3 bikes despite authorized load of 3 scooters. The vessel capsized in the middle of the river which is flowing in spate. Number of passengers dead: 10. Found and rescued passengers : 4. Passengers believed missing and washed away: 8. 4 crew swam to safety. The owner of the barge JALAJA and who runs the travel line has been arrested. Investigations are on.

Newspaper report:  Barge capsizes in the river which is in spate. 10 people drowned. 8 missing. Owner of barge arrested. 2 passengers Hiren and Neha who had visited the temple resort, floated down and were rescued. It is learnt that Hiren had noticed Neha struggling in the river and had helped rescue her. Hiren is self-employed as owner of a software company. Neha is a painter and model and had returned from the USA only a few days ago. Neha’s father was rescued but her mother is missing. Neha is the daughter of well-known surgeon Dr.Dev recently retired from service in a hospital. Police investigation is on.

Story continued: A week after the tragedy Dr.Dev was told that despite best efforts the body of his wife wasn’t traceable and that she was presumed dead. Dev and Neha were grief stricken and it took days for them to overcome their feelings of loss.

A month later Dr.Dev invited Hiren to dinner at his place to thank him for his help. Hiren accepted. He arrived on time for the dinner dressed in T-shirt and pants. He was a tall handsome man, partially bald and with a big moustache. Neha had dressed herself for the occasion in a maxiskirt and matching blouse. Her abundant hair was knotted into a pony tail. While she wasn’t a ravishing beauty, she was attractive though slightly dark. Hiren was received by Dr.Dev. Dev said “Mr.Hiren many many thanks to you for having saved my daughter from the angry waters of the river.”

Hiren was a man of few words and was considered reserved. He smiled and merely nodded. He said “Sorry you lost your wife.”

Dev sighed and said “Yes. It is a big loss. No one expected a tragedy like this.” Dev spoke a lot but Hiren was as usual reserved. Once the dinner was over Dev had to attend to a phone call and he excused himself. Neha and Hiren sat talking about their experiences on the fateful day. He got a phone call after which he said “That was something official and I’ve to send some data urgently. We’ll meet again. Thank you for the dinner.”

She liked him and said “Let us get together often.”

Some days later Neha called up Hiren and they met at a restaurant. She said “I’ve to take a decision and I thought of taking in your views.” She told him she wanted to start a beauty parlour. She gave him details.

He said “I hope I’ll be forgiven if I’m frank. Foresight is essential to make money in business. From what you’ve told me I feel you’ve no experience in business. You’re likely to overpay, invest on unnecessary gadgets and needless equipment. I don’t think it would be wise to invest now.”

“My father is giving me the money. Let us see what happens.”

She was disillusioned by Hiren’s advice. She said to herself “Why should I heed Hiren’s advice?

She invested in a big way and very soon the business failed. She closed it and then took up an agency for a line of beauty products. But it too failed in only 3 months. Neha and Hiren would meet often and she would consult him, but it looked like his advice was never respected. People who saw the two moving would get the feeling they had a romantic attachment, but Hiren never made such a move towards her.

Some days later Hiren said “Neha I’m going to the USA and Brazil on business. I’ll see you after 3 or 4 weeks.”

“Why don’t you take me along?”

He laughed and said “Then I won’t be able to concentrate on business.”

After Hiren had left for travel abroad, Neha had an invite from Bhagat the son and heir to the owner of Cosmetix International. The company manufactured and sold beauty products and was opening a new showroom. Neha was very impressed with Bhagat and went with him to certain showrooms and salons. She was also his guest at a couple of functions. This caused the gossip columns to conclude that there was romance between the two as Bhagat was also a bachelor. He was tall, bearded and handsome, and being an important businessman and heir to the family’s fortune, was prominently noted. Bhagat had told Neha “We’ll be in touch. Perhaps.....” He had stopped!

Hiren returned from abroad and invited Neha to dinner at his club. While he wore his usual simple dress of trousers and T-shirt, Neha dressed herself elaborately and had her make up at the beauty parlour. As advised by the manager of the beauty salon she dressed herself in a green silk sari with a daring blouse which threatened to disclose her female assets. Hiren was very impressed. He got to know about her encounters with Bhagat but ignored it. He said “You look charming. Here is a trifling gift for you which I bought in Brazil.” He gave her the nicely designed box and opening it saw the gold bracelet. She was very happy as he fixed it on her wrist. She said “Many thanks. It’s the perfect gift.”

The dinner he had ordered was to suit her taste. He was a vegetarian but he knew she liked fish. He had ordered fish of the fresh water type she preferred. As they ate she asked “How did your trip go?”

He said “It was very successful. I’ll be expanding my operations soon.”

She had expected he would propose to her, but he remained silent on romance and she was disappointed. She said “Did you hear about how Bhagat of Cosmetix took to me?”

He said “I did read about it in the gossip columns. He is a big name in cosmetics and you’re best suited to ally with him as you’re a model.”

She was infuriated and asked “Have you no interest in me?”

He was silent. Then seeing she was intent on an answer he said “Neha, I’ve always considered you a very good friend and never had a romantic interest in you. I think you should grab the chance that Bhagat had offered you.”

She heaped scorn on him loudly despite the fact they were in a club’s dining hall where a couple was  dining at that time. She said “I don’t want to see you again. I’m sorry I’ve to say it though it was you who saved me from death in the river.”

She stormed out of the place.

A week later Neha heard that Hiren would marry Shirley who worked with him. A fortnight later it was announced that Bhagat would marry a super star. She knew she had to take vengeance against all concerned. First she shopped. Then she wrote the note. Then she drew on the bracelet Hiren had given her. She was prepared for the day. That day came when she was told that that the superstar was at the beauty salon.  Neha entered the cubicle where the superstar was being attended to, threw acid on her face and quickly disappeared ignoring the cries of the affected. She drove fast towards the lake and parked on its far side. There weren’t people around and Neha climbed to the top of a restraining wall. As she saw the moon reflecting off the water she jumped in.

Aftermath: The body of Neha was fished out of the water. Her suicide note read that it was Hiren who was responsible for her suicide!

END

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