Our errand boy Gopal handed over a letter to me. “Sir, the postman brought this”, he said. It was an inland letter. “Who writes letters these days!”, I thought while turning it over. I saw the sender’s name – it read ‘Anamika and Biplab’. “A letter from them after 45 years. For what?”, I thought.

“Where are you? Come, the tea is ready”, Neelima called. She was in the kitchen when the letter came in. I went to enjoy the evening tea. “Why was Gopal here?” she asked. “To give me a letter”, I responded involuntarily. I realized this was going to lead to more questions and I was right. “A letter? From whom”, Neelima enquired. “It is nothing. A newsletter from a company”, I lied to her.

Wives generally are apt at spying on their husbands, but Neelima was different. She trusts me and believes in what I say. I was damn sure she would never look for the letter which I hid under a book when she called me for tea. I left for my evening stroll and opened the letter when I had come far from home; “Meet us at our rendezvous spot on Saturday “, it read.

While doing our higher secondary education, Anamika, Biplab and I used to meet at 4 o’ clock on every Saturday at the Panthanivas for coffee and cutlets. We used to spend the whole evening talking about different things. I was enamored by Anamika’s charms – she was witty, knowledgeable and had a special spark in her eyes. I would listen to every word she said. Biplab, an idiot was an unwanted third wheel but Anamika would always insist he came along.

This Saturday, I planned to go to the meeting place. I lied to Neelima, “I’m going to meet a colleague from office. Don’t wait for me at tea time”.

“Don’t be late.”, said innocent Neelima.

While driving there, I was thinking of the past. My parents started looking for a good matrimonial match, the moment I started my job. My father wanted a good-looking, educated and sophisticated girl from a good family for me. After all, I was his only son – handsome, obedient, an engineer. They found Neelima for me. I still wanted Anamika, but decided to meet Neelima, bowing to pressure from the family.

The first time I saw her, I was stunned by her beauty. She looked very graceful and was well-mannered, but she missed Anamika’s spark. I was undecided still. Anamika’s wit, her confidence, her authority and of course that spark in her eyes attracted me. I was torn between my family’s expectations and my desire. I consulted other trusted friends about my dilemma. They opined that Anamika was cunning and was only after my family’s wealth. She was keeping that idiot Biplab as a backup, in case I didn’t fall in her trap. While I was still unconvinced, I went with what my family wanted.

My wedding with Neelima took place in 6 months. I had received a letter from Anamika a week after the wedding and it only read “I thought you loved me. I wish you a happy married life”.

I had felt a lot of remorse on reading it.

When I reached Panthanivas, both Anamika and Biplab were waiting for me at the corner table at the Cafeteria. I couldn’t make eye contact with Anamika. After initial pleasantries, Biplab started explaining to me about his losses in business and how they had gone bankrupt. I wasn’t surprised that the idiot had messed up his life and that of Anamika. He wanted my help. He was in urgent need of ten lakhs rupees to settle debt.

The face of my wife flashed in front of my eyes. She knew very well how I was often scammed by people who preyed on my kindness. She had once remarked, “Abinash. I wonder how the rogues get the better of you so easily. Are you really that kind or just a blatant fool? “. I looked into Anamika’s eyes for the first time that evening – that spark was gone, and she looked desperate and vulnerable.

I decided to loan Biplab the money. I promised him two cheques of 5 lakhs on Saturday at the same place.

Of course, this promise was made without the knowledge of my wife. I was sure that she would never check our joint bank account on which the cheques would be drawn. She never took keen interest in matters financial.

6 months passed by. Neither Biplab nor Anamika had contacted me. I made many attempts to contact them and finally got through to Anamika. She coldly said, “Forget the money Abinash. We are not going to pay you back. Don’t contact us again”. I got very angry. I had been scammed by them. The words of my loving wife again rang in my ears, “How can you trust everyone Abinash!”

I felt guilt. It was the guilt of keeping a secret of my wife. It was the guilt of cheating on her and being enamoured by Anamika’s charms one more time. Neelima had always opened her heart to me and bared every detail. This woman, my adoring and faithful wife had sacrificed so much to make our home perfect. She declined many lucrative job offers to focus on raising the children and giving them wings to fly. She has always been selfless in happily giving. I love and respect her too much and but still lied to her so many times.

But this time the guilt is too heavy on my heart. I wanted to confess to her about what happened, but I feared her reaction. Her trust in me would crumble.

No, I have no right to deprive her of her faith and happiness. I may suffer every bit from this guilt, but the sadness in her eyes will be more painful to bear.

I prefer to carry this guilt to my funeral pyre.

Written by Charulata Panigrahi

Charulata Panigrahi is a homemaker. In her free time, she likes reading the works of Indian authors. She is also fond of gardening.