Chapter 12

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                  Mehek covered her face in her palms and leaned on the table. She was exasperated and tired. Last night itself, Colonel Uncle had called her and asked her to vacate the cottage at the earliest. He didn't specify the reason but from his tone she understood that apparently he knew about her truth from Dr. Prabha. Second blow was when she went to work next day. Ratan Chacha was unreasonably vexed by her and in time informed her that she isn't fit work at his Dhaba anymore. He gave her wages and requested her to leave the premises. Mehek was speechless when he made not so subtle comments that her dubious shadow shouldn't fall on his young daughters. Mehek knew that it was just the beginning and very soon she will be talk of the town. Gossip and rumours spread quickly in the small old town she chose to dwell. Juicy tale of an unwed mother will be told and enjoyed by many. Yet she didn't want to run or hide. She has to stand tall of her and her child. This is their fight for existence and acceptance. "Mehek, I am really sorry", a feeble voice disturbed her and shook away her thoughts.

Mehek was deep in her own world of troubles that she didn't realise when Prabha entered her cottage. "Mehek, I am really sorry. I never knew that few lose words from my mouth will have such an impact on your life", she apologized to her. Mehek smirked but chose to be quiet. "I tried my maximum to convince my Uncle but he is very adamant. I am sorry", Prabha apologized repatedly. Eventually Mehek understood her predicament and let go of her anger. "It's okay, Doc. I understand that you didn't mean any harm to me", she tried to put latter at ease,"Besides this was bound to happen sooner or later. Infact I should thank you for letting the cat out of the box". Prabha was visibly impressed by Mehek's courage. They sat and chatted over tea. Before leaving, Prabha gave her card to Mehek, " If you need any help, please don't hesitate to call me. I will be happy to be of any assistance", she squeezed her palm and spoke again, "Mehek, You are a brave woman. Don't let anyone or anything douse the fire in you". Mehek waved at her when she left. She was happy to know that world still has good people like Prabhaji

"Mehek, I still feel this is a bad idea", Dr Harpreet said consciously while holding her arm firmly. Despite her age and wisdom, Dr Harpreet feared the eerie atmosphere of the house they entered. "Relax Happy Chachi. This is just a big bungalow which was not been inhabited for long", Mehek tried to ease her. In past few weeks, she became so close to her doctor that she started to address her as Chachi. "Mehek, do you know people believe this house is haunted?", she told Mehek and latter laughed at her folly. The property agent glared at Harpreet and told them, "Ma'am, those are just rumours. Khuranas had owned this bungalow for many years. Now they are settled abroad and want to dispose it off". "Ofcourse you will try to hide that this house is cursed. Afterall you need to sell it and earn your commission", Harpreet snapped at him. The agent turned to Mehek, "Ma'am, your job is simple. Khuranas needs a housekeeper who will maintain their house properly; keeping it neat and clean. They want house to be presentable when we bring our clients to show the house", he paused so that Mehek understood her job description. When she nodded, he continued, "You can use the kitchen and stay in the room beside it. You have been already been told about your salary". "You mean the peanuts, they offered her", Harpreet interrupted him," And why can't she atleast use the guest room but stay in the dingy servants room?", she shot at him. He showed up his hands helplessly, "I am sorry, Ma'am. I just follow instructions". 

"Happy Chachi, its fine", Mehek pulled her away to talk in private, "Look at the bright side. I will be closer to your clinic". "Bullsh*t. Mehek this house is in middle of nowhere. Even if you scream on top of your voice, nobody will hear you for miles", she argued. "Don't worry. If I need anything, I won't scream but just give a call to my Happy Chachi. I am sure she will rush to my side", Mehek coaxed her. Harpreet smiled, but was unsure, "Mehek, why can't you stay with me?". After she vacated the cottage, Mehek had been staying with Happy Chachi. Although she loved being with her, she didn't want to over utilize her good will. Moreover Mehek wanted to be independent. Due to bad reputation she suffered, it was difficult for Mehek to find another accommodation or  job. Finally after 2 weeks of intense searching, she got this job with a place to stay. "Are you in?", Agent asked impatiently. "I am in", Mehek answered quickly. "This is  just a temporary arrangement", Harpreet snapped at the agent, "until she finds a better option". "Or till the house is sold", he told professionally.

It was not easy to settle in Khuran Bungalow. It was terribly huge and Mehek felt lonely in it. So she felt happy to be confined to her tiny room. During day time, she was busy cleaning and dusting the house. At night she sought to the security and warmth of her small room. It was bizarre but the sinister reputation of the house, protected Mehek who resided in it alone. In few weeks, the house and Mehek grew accustomed to each other. She started to consider it as her home. As Khuranas allowed her to use the kitchen, slowly Mehek started a small lunch service for employees & patients in Happy Chachi's clinic.

Many came to check the Bungalow but none purchased it. Several times, the agency asked Mehek to help the prospective buyers to show around the house. For the meager salary she receieved, it was an overhead but she never complained. But that day, the entire agency was eager to entertain a rich client. They instructed her to keep every nook and corner of house prim  and proper. Mehek worked hard to ensure to meet their expectations. Several senior employees were already waiting for this new client's arrival. Although tired, Mehek too was curious and peeped out of the balcony to catch a glance of the person. An expensive sedan was parked infront of the house and Mehek was shocked to recognize person who alighted from it . It was Shaurya.

Mehek ran to hide in her room. His voice penetrated through the walls and resonated in her ears. He sounded serious and businesslike, sans humour. She cowered to the corner of her bed and raised her knee to her chest. She was startled by a knock at her door. "Mehek ji, can you prepare some tea?", someone from agency requested her. She went to kitchen and prepared a tray. She was helpless and had to serve it to Shaurya while her employers asked her. "Sir, she is Mehek Sharma. The house keeper", one of them introduced her and she bowed her head in acknowledgement. "Hope you are doing well ", Shaurya spoke formally. She was relieved that he didn't taunt her or do any drama. She murmured a cursory reply to him and went back to the cocoon of her room again. After an hour or so, they all left and Mehek drew a breath of relief. She held on to her swollen belly and calmed herself . May be it was a strange coincidence, she convinced herself but couldn't halt the shiver that ran down her spine.

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