04. Playing house | Unconditional

August 16, 2020 Sujay Sarma

A few days later, when I came home, Juhi was on the balcony listening to music. She had set a steaming hot mug of coffee on the counter, and next to it was a newspaper. She had circled out rental listings. I smiled to myself at the not-so-subtle hint. To be fair, this was not…


A few days later, when I came home, Juhi was on the balcony listening to music. She had set a steaming hot mug of coffee on the counter, and next to it was a newspaper. She had circled out rental listings. I smiled to myself at the not-so-subtle hint. To be fair, this was not an apartment fit for a family. It was a bachelor-pad. We did need to move.

I went to the balcony. She looked up. I took away the noise-cancelling headphones she had on and set it aside. And knelt down on the carpet in front of her.

“J,” I said, looking into her eyes. “I found something you really would love.”

“Which one?” She asked, snatching the paper from my hand and scanning through the listings on the page it was open to. “This one?” she asked, pointing to one of them.

I shook my head and kissed her. “Those are rentals.” I said, half into her mouth.

“You want to buy one?” She asked, astonished. “Can you? Can we?” Her eyes widened with surprise.

I nodded silently and grinned.

“Let’s drive over this weekend. If you like it, like I think you would, we can put down the deposit right away.” I promised her, standing up with some difficulty and heading back into the house.

She wandered in behind me. A little dreamily. And went to set the table for dinner.

That weekend, we drove over to the place I had seen earlier. I had been on a weekend trip with my team from the office. We used to do these getaways sometimes to keep the team bonds alive and recharge, away from the city, away from the rest of it.

It was a large house, big enough for a small family and a few guests. And may be two or three children. I had set it aside in my memory as “one of those places”. At the time, I had no idea who I might share it with. It had been one of those things.

And then, just two days after Juhi and I had landed here, the property had come up on the market. The price was not too much, I could afford it. I had a little put by from my earnings here and I could make up the rest with mortgages and loans.

Juhi had been looking at the houses and the neighbourhoods as we drove through.

“Well, this is it.” I said, pulling up next to the house.

She turned abruptly to look at the house I had pulled up to.

“This one?” She mused.

Her face turned pensive. She had ‘that clouded look’. My heart sank. Did she not like it? I had fallen in love with it the very first time I had seen it. And when I had been inside, I had to buy it.

“Let’s go inside”. She said quietly. “Do we have a key?”

I nodded. The realtor had said she would leave a key under the mat. Walking up, I retrieved it and unlocked the door. Behind me, Juhi was shaking her head furiously.

“I would never ever leave a key there!” she said.

The house, at the moment, stood fully furnished to show potential buyers what spaces would look like. We had an option to have them replaced with our own.

The front door opened into a small welcoming room. There was a larger study to one side, and a living room on the other. One for official friends, one for family. Deeper within was a large kitchen with a dining area to one side. It was an ‘open kitchen’ arrangement with a large counter separating the areas. Everything in the kitchen was a posh off-white colour.

Silently, she walked through the rooms, looking at different things in different rooms. The lighting, the curtains, the vast fireplace in the living room.

“There’s an upstairs too.” I said quietly.

Her face lit up. “There is?” She asked rhetorically and found the stairs.

She took them two at a time. Laughing at her excitement, I followed her at my own pace. When I reached the top of the stairway, Juhi was admiring the bedrooms. There were three bedrooms on the first floor that we were on. A master bedroom, for us. Then a smaller, children’s room to one side and another smaller room on the other side. There was another ‘room’ in the attic-space that we could turn into a room or use for storage.

I was thirsty, I told Juhi I was headed down and went to the kitchen. I found the bottled water the realtor had stocked in the fridge and took a sip. I heard a rustle of dresswear and then was in a tight embrace from behind me. I smiled and turned to her.

“Like?”

Her eyes were sparkling. “You know I love it.” I said in a whisper and rested her soft head on my chest.

“Did you see the backyard then?” I asked.

She left me in a hurry and rushed to the back of the house. The frontage was right on the road outside. But we had quite a bit of space at the back, with a pretty little garden there. When I followed her out to the back porch, I found her standing there with her hands clasped and she was twirling around happily. She did not notice me there.

“It’s a good thing I bought it then.” I grinned.

“Get out!” She shrieked in joy pushing me away. “Really?”

I nodded.

“The papers are in the desk back at the apartment.” I said sheepishly. “I want you to sign them too.”

“Oh!!! This is getting worse and worse.” She said, her eyes tearing up. She started to walk toward the main door. I followed and caught up with her at the car. We drove in silence for a while. Until the intersection a few yards away. Then she started talking a mile a minute. What furnishings we should keep, what we should throw out, the colour schemes for each room.

“You know,” I interrupted her when I got a little space. “There are at least two children’s rooms in that house. Thoughts?”

I was being naughty. But she went quiet. And shy. Her fair cheeks blossomed in pink and she shrank into her seat. She turned to the window. I could see by her reflection in the slightly tinted window glass that she had teared up.

“What’s wrong, J?” I asked.

She shook her head and sniffled. I put off asking her about it till we got home. My hands were full fighting the evening traffic. But she didn’t talk to me at all the rest of the evening. She put a pillow between us and turned to the other side when she went to bed.


About the author:

Sujay Sarma is an IT industry veteran, about 43 years of age. He has spent 25 years in the IT industry and has done it all, and seen it all. Now, his passion is writing [blogs, stories, novels] and music. He has his own YouTube channel called "Sujay Sarma's Musical Adventures" where he posts his covers and originals, and a Podcast named "Interesting People Interesting Stories".
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