It was the last month of the year and she had resolved to come clean before the year ended. The guilt she harbored had become too much to bear. It felt like a heavy weight on her chest and she couldn't breath easy without getting it off. She had made the decision way back in June, thinking she would have enough time to prepare herself to face the consequences of her disclosure and here she was, not an inch closer to her plan. She checked the time again, it was way past her work hours. The lights were out in most sections of the floor. She wondered if she could just stay back and finish what she was writing. She liked to be alone these days. She could think clearly and put her ideas out better when she was in solitude.
It was past midnight when she completed the email. It was the best she could do. She decided it was time to click on the send button. She did not want to wait any more. With a sigh, she sent the email. She packed her laptop, booked a cab and walked towards the office entrance. Her heart was throbbing wildly. She did not feel like herself. After months, she felt unburdened but the adrenaline in her system was making her dizzy. She knew it was a catastrophe in somebody's life.
She reached her apartment at 1 am. It was not unusual for her to be this late. However, it was unusual for the gate to be open at this hour. The security guard was not on his post. A mild shiver coursed through her body. Was something wrong? Her panic dissipated when she saw the guard walking back. He smiled at her. She took the lift to her floor. She saw that her neighboring door was wide open. She peaked into her neighboring flat and stood frozen. It was her.
"Hi Riya, you are very late today", her elderly neighbor said.
"Yes aunty, I had work today", she responded, her eyes still fixed on what she was seeing.
"Riya, Anwesha just came now from Delhi. She will be here for delivery. She is in her ninth month. Ofcourse, you must be knowing", Anwesha's mother blabbered excitedly, unaware of the tension between both of them. She went into the kitchen leaving them both together.
"Riya, why don't you come in?" Anwesha asked.
She looked at Anwesha. Surely she had not read the email. She realised she was staring at Anwesha's baby bump. She looked ready to pop a baby anytime. And then it struck her! What had she done! She had ruined Anwesha's life yet again.
"Anwesha, I am sorry. I am sorry" she broke out and just rushed into her own flat.
Anwesha was dumbfounded by the sudden outburst. A year back, her childhood friend Riya had just stopped talking to her. She refused to divulge what had happpened that led to this strange behavior. She had tried her best to prod her and find out what was bothering Riya. As much as she could think, she did not have a reason why Riya had out of the blue broken all contacts with her. They had no arguments, no complexities and had been best of friends before Anwesha had moved to Delhi. Anwesha had cried some nights on her husband's shoulder when she had lost all hope of Riya's friendship. With time, she had forgotten all about Riya's bitterness. She was occupied with her pregnancy. Riya was unaware of her pregnancy.
She changed into her night clothes and lay on bed, thinking of what had transpired.
The next morning, she opened her phone and realised that she had not switched on the data roaming. The messages and emails started pouring. She was surprised to see one mail from Riya.
"Anwesha, I have been unfair to you. Not just unfair, but unfaithful. I could not face you after what I had done. I could not bear to talk to you. I did not know how I was smitten by Rahul. I just did not plan it. It just happened.
Trust me, I was the happiest person when you got married to Rahul. I did worry about you moving out of the house and not being able to spend time with me, but all my doubts were set aside when Rahul so readily became a part of our lives. I loved hanging out with you both. I did not do it conciously, but a dark desire crept into my heart. To have what was yours. Unknown to me, Rahul was also having the same thoughts. When you guys decided to move to Delhi, it broke my heart. Not because you would be moving to another city, but because I would not be able to see Rahul. I hated how selfish I had become. A week after you guys moved to Delhi, Rahul came to visit me. I was all alone and without thinking about you, we sinned that night. Something changed after that. Rahul distanced himself from me and I could not bear to live with what I had become. I did not dare tell you. You both looked so happy together. I did not want to break your house but I could not go on as if everything was the same. Why am I telling you this now? Because it is breaking me apart. I cannot fathom the hurt it will cause you but I cannot go on another day with this guilt. I am sorry Anwesha, I did not mean to hurt you but I have. I have hurt you deeply. I know it is impossible to forgive me, but know that I never intended it that way."
She touched her baby bump and smiled and said,
"Rahul will never know you are not his".