November 9, 2020
Savio and Eric had become best buddies in the last one year. They worked with the same bank in the internal audit department at Mumbai’s Ballard Estate. Savio resided at Kurla and Eric was living with his wife in an apartment at Byculla. They trusted each other and shared each other’s joys and sorrows. The train from Dadar would stop at Byculla at 9:15 am. Despite the peak hour crowd, Eric would somehow manage to enter the same compartment of train in which Savio commuted from Kurla. They had plenty to talk while walking from Mumbai VT to Ballard Estate. From movies to sports, country’s politics to office politics, they never ran out of topics. Childhood adventures were shared in plenty. They enjoyed each other’s company and conversation. Personal and professional problems were discussed as well. It helped them to find solutions.
Savio and Molly were blessed with a son. He was now six-year-old. Eric and Helen were childless. They were married for the last 10 years. Savio and Eric’s friendship had stayed within their level without socializing with the rest of the family members.
“I suggest we should mingle with our families. Let us give an opportunity to our wives to become friends. What do you say?” Savio had expressed his thoughts a couple of weeks back.
“Why not? I would love to meet your family.” Eric had agreed. “All depends on my wife. Helen runs a bakery. She is a busy person and works all the time. Believe me, she has no time for me.”
“We shall be celebrating my son’s birthday next month. I want both of you to join for lunch. Please inform your wife.” Savio had requested.
“Oh, sure.” Eric sounded positive.
It was Monday. First working day of the week. The train reached Byculla at 9:15 am. Eric squeezed in and wriggled through the crowd to reach Savio. They shook hands.
“Would you like to sit?” Savio offered his seat.
“It’s ok. I can manage.” Eric stood beside him.
“How was the weekend?” Savio asked.
“……” Eric silently looked out of the window. His mind was elsewhere.
“Monday blues got you down?” Savio nudged his friend.
“What?” He seemed a little lost. “Did you say something?”
“Nothing important. Let us talk later.” Savio cut the conversation short.
The train came to a screeching halt at Mumbai VT station. They got off the compartment and hurriedly walked amid thousands of commuters. While walking at brisk pace, Savio discussed sports. That was Eric’s favourite subject. Generally, he could speak on cricket, tennis and football at great length. Today was different. He seemed disinterested. His tone sounded dry. Perhaps, Eric’s mind was roaming elsewhere. It left Savio totally flabbergasted.
During working hours, Savio observed his friend was busy on the phone. He appeared whispering on the handset with newfound enthusiasm. At 12 noon, Eric called Savio over the phone.
“I may not be able to join for lunch at canteen.” Eric informed.
“Why?” Savio reacted. However, Eric had disconnected the line.
What was wrong with Eric? Savio could bear the suspense no longer. He placed the handset and went straight to his friend’s table.
“No more secrets. I find your behavior is strange and unusual. I can bet, it has changed. Are you facing any problems? Any financial crisis? Tell me the truth.” Savio insisted.
“You are too loud. People can hear us.” Eric answered in undertone. “If I have a problem, you will be the first to know. I have no problems as such.”
“Why are you not joining for lunch?” Savio bent down and asked in a low voice.
“Fine. You are my good friend. There is nothing to hide from you. I have set a trap.” Eric whispered.
“Trap? What trap?” Savio shrugged his shoulders.
“Rosy is showing interest in me.” Eric was excited. “I think she is falling into my love trap.”
“Who is Rosy?” Savio raised his eyebrows. “Do you mean our new receptionist?”
“Yes. I am taking her out for lunch.”
“Are you out of mind? Cheating is wrong. Helen would be devastated when she discovers.”
“Helen is busy with her bakery business. I have no plans to leave her. This is just a fling.” Eric winked.
That afternoon, Savio ate his lunch alone in the canteen. He did not feel good about the situation. His best friend was indulging in immoral ways. It frustrated him. In the next few days, Savio tried to make him realize infidelity would cause irreparable damage in relationships. Eric was in no mood to listen.
“You are unfaithful to Helen. Not fair. You will have to end this affair. Otherwise you will end up with guilt and low self-esteem.” Savio implored.
“If someone falls into your trap, would you let her go without any pleasure?” Eric smiled. “Don’t think too much. No strings attached. Once bored, I will leave her. Today evening I have plans.” Eric mischievously smiled.
“What are the plans?” Savio was curious.
“Today a romantic evening at Chowpatty beach. Watching sunset in each other’s arms.” Eric explained exuberantly.
Savio learnt not to waste his time in trying to convince Eric. He wanted to save his friend’s marriage before it was too late. Initially he thought of discussing the issue with Molly. It was a complex issue. Eventually he changed his mind and decided to fix it silently. Helen’s bakery was located at Clare Road in Byculla right opposite an undertaker’s shop. Eric had mentioned this more than once. Eric had revealed his plans to spend the evening with Rosy. Savio decided to visit Helen’s bakery. He called Molly from his office to inform that he would be late.
Savio alighted at Byculla station and walked towards Clare road. Finding the bakery was not a difficult task. He crossed the road right opposite the undertaker’s shop. A woman in blue dress was standing behind the counter. She looked extremely beautiful. He could not take his eyes off her. Unexpectedly it turned out to be an intense attraction. His heart skipped a beat as he moved his eyes involuntarily over a variety of cakes and snacks. Getting anxious, he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. There was no doubt, Savio was strongly drawn. His heart pounded and he felt magical.
“How can I help you?” The woman in blue dress asked him after attending other customers.
“Me?” Savio tried to recover from the irresistible desire. “Are you Helen?”
“I think we have not met before. How do you know my name?” She was obviously surprised.
“I am Savio. I live in Kurla. Eric is my best friend. We work in the same department in the same bank.” He explained.
“Oh, finally I met Eric’s best friend. He always speaks highly of you. Eric informed that he would be late. He is staying back due to overtime. We have an apartment in the same building on the first floor.” She pushed her lush hair from neck.
“I did not come here to see him. I need your help.”
“My help? What do you mean?” Her lips sizzled.
“We are celebrating my son’s birthday next month. I would like to order a special cake.” He made an excuse.
“You have come too early to place an order. A week in advance should be good enough.” She advised. “This is your first visit. Would you prefer tea or coffee?”
“Please keep this visit a secret. Do not disclose to Eric about the cake order. I would like to surprise him.” Savio requested.
“I understand. Don’t worry.” She smiled. “Tea or Coffee?”
“Coffee.” He loved the way she smiled.
While drinking coffee she talked about her interest in baking and how she innated her father’s passion. She showed varieties of cakes that they were specialized in including signature cakes. He could not refuse pastries and cookies that were offered during the interaction. She looked joyful and radiant. Something stirred his soul. He had come with the motive of alerting about her husband’s affair with Rosy.
Savio changed his mind. He did not feel like making her unhappy. They exchanged their numbers before the meeting was concluded. Savio felt refreshed and ready to explore while stepping out.
In the coming days, they stayed in touch on WhatsApp. Text messages were exchanged regularly. They developed fondness and deep bonding. Whenever Eric went out with Rosy, Savio appeared at the bakery to spend time with Helen. Savio’s son’s birthday was celebrated on a Sunday afternoon at their Kurla apartment. Eric and Helen joined them for lunch. Helen gifted a delicious large Red Velvet Cake. Eric introduced his wife to Savio and his family. Savio and Helen pretended like strangers. They kept their closeness completely under wraps.
Following Saturday, Eric took Rosy to a movie for an evening show. Not missing the opportunity, Savio came to Byculla to meet Helen.
“You have not told me the price of the cake. I want to pay.” Savio pulled out his wallet.
“It was a gift. Sorry, I cannot accept money.” She politely refused.
“Thank you. As they say, preparing food is a magical act. I must say, your hands have that magic. Everyone loved your cake.” Savio praised.
“I have something personal to talk about. Shall we go home?” She requested.
She instructed her assistant to take charge of the counter. Helen walked out of the bakery. Savio followed her like an obedient student. She served him coffee and snacks in her apartment.
“You wanted something to discuss…” Savio reminded her while sipping coffee.
“I don’t know how to tell you.” Her face fell. “I feel like Eric is losing interest in me. He is busy with his bank job and overtime. Being an only child, I had inherited bakery business and this apartment from my parents. He does not care. He hardly spends time with me. I am bored and unhappy.”
Her eyes turned moist as she sobbed. He kept the cup down, surged closer and sat beside her. Savio stroked her hair and wiped her cheeks. She rested her head on his shoulder. Voluntarily, he gathered courage and kissed her lips. They threw their arms round each other and embraced passionately. It was their first cozy moment. Fed by the desire, they enjoyed physical intimacy frequently in the next few
Savio kept Helen totally in the dark about Eric’s affair with Rosy. It stayed unrevealed. Whereas Eric informed Savio everything including the smallest details of his affair with Rosy. At the end of the month, Eric took three days off from work and went for a pleasure trip to Lonavala with Rosy. He lied to his wife and made her believe that he had to officially travel. Savio made the best of this opportunity and applied sick leave without informing Molly. He spent the day at Helen’s apartment and returned home in the evening. Everything went according to plan. However, on the third day, he found her a bit depressed and anxious.
“Is something wrong?” Savio asked.
“We cannot continue like this for too long.” Helen explained. “At some point, we will have to tell the truth to our families, proceed with divorce and get married.”
“No way.” Savio rapidly came to his senses. “I cannot leave my wife and son.”
“You should have thought about it before chasing me.” She said curtly. “Did you come after me for some wild, short time pleasure? All men are dogs.”
He did not know what to answer. His face turned pale and terrified. She had never treated him so harshly in the past. She was always loving and gentle. Savio witnessed her anger for the first time. In his hurry to leave, he dressed himself without uttering a word.
“Why are you running? I demand an explanation.” Her face turned purple with rage.
“No more visits. It is time we stop seeing each other.” Savio struggled to explain.
While stepping into the cool evening air, he knew it was time to go home and not to look back. Savio firmly decided.
By the time he reached Kurla, he received a text message on his WhatsApp.
“Please forgive me if I hurt your feelings. Don’t stay away. I love you.” Helen pleaded.
Savio realized his fault. By entangling with Helen, he had committed adultery with no intentions to sacrifice his happy married life. To save his marriage he was prepared to forgo his illegitimate relationship. There were no second thoughts.
“I can divorce Eric. I am fully prepared. If you stop seeing me, I will disclose our affair to both Molly and my husband.” Savio received one more message from Helen the next day.
Savio was stunned. Feeling helpless and nervous, he could not sleep that night. Thinking of the grief of divorce, he felt miserable. He remembered his first visit to Helen’s bakery. He had visited Byculla to save Eric’s marriage. On the contrary, Savio had fallen and driven by temptation. He felt angry with himself for letting his desire go out of control. Savio wished redemption from his blunder. He cursed himself for having been so reckless.
“I am a bit busy. Will try to catch up next week.” Savio sent a message to Helen without any intention to meet her once again.
Next Monday, the train stopped at Byculla 9:15 am. Eric threw himself into the compartment. He waved his hand at Savio and stood silently beside him. Eric appeared serious as if something was weighing him down. Savio glanced at his friend. What could be hidden, he thought beneath the mask of that unsmiling face? Did Helen inflict the wound by revealing her affair with Savio?
He had betrayed his best friend. Overwhelmed by guilt, Savio became suspicious and apprehensive. Their friendship had gone off the track. They walked together silently from VT station to Ballard Estate.
“I have a critical issue to discuss.” Eric whispered before entering the office.
“What happened?” Savio felt dry in his throat.
“Not now. Later.” Eric walked ahead of him to his office.
That made Savio increasingly uneasy. Shadows had crawled over the world around him. Tension in air made it hard to breathe. In next the few hours, they interacted on work related matters without discussing anything personal. Finally, they met at the canteen during lunch hour and picked a corner table. Savio was unnerved by the gloomy expression on Eric’s face.
“Is something wrong?” Savio’s voice sounded brittle.
“You have been very helpful to me right from the beginning of our friendship.” Eric cleared his throat. “I am caught up in a crisis. I need your life saving advice.”
“I am listening.” Savio held his breath.
“My relationship with Rosy has become complicated.” Eric continued with a frustrated sigh. “I am bored, I want to end the affair and I told her it’s over. She is refusing to accept the breakup. Rosy wants me to divorce Helen and marry her. She is crazy. She is threatening to meet my wife.”
“I had believed that Rosy had fallen into my trap. Now it appears like I am the one who walked straight into her web.”
“I am tired and stressed out. If my wife discovers my infidelity I would be kicked out of the house. This should remain under wraps. Please advise me a way to escape from Rosy’s ploy without getting hurt. I want to save my marriage.” Eric pleaded.
“Why are you silent?” Eric sounded impatient.
“I am thinking as hard as I could to save your marriage!” Savio replied in despair.