When the laughter had died down and Chulbul Pandey found himself back at the station, everything began to catch up with him. He spoke to no one as he washed the blood from his hands and splashed his face with water. The adrenaline had mostly subsided as he found the extra shirt he kept on a hook by the door. His hands did not shake, but his heart weighed like lead in his chest. A sensation like a ringing in his ears came over him. Absently he buttoned his shirt as his mind wandered to Rajjo back at the hospital. The ringing seemed to grow louder as he recalled her eyes brimming with tears for their stolen son.
His eyes remained locked on a chair by the wall.
Chulbul startled. One of the deputies was standing behind him. "Ji?" He asked, turning to meet him.
"Sir, your father called from the hospital."
"I'm going to meet him there now. Dhanyavaad."
"Thik hai, sir." The deputy walked away, leaving Chulbul alone once again. He buttoned the last button of his shirt and took a deep breath. He had avenged his wife and his brother. That was in his nature to do, but to go back and accept what Baccha had done to him and his family... He didn't want to face it."
From the time he returned to the hospital, Rajjo tried to hide her sadness from him. He was no fool. Her pain was more than evident, but he did not know what to say or do. The death of her father had been different. Chulbul could comfort her, make sense of it, and he had, but this? There was no answer or upside, and if he thought about it too long he could only blame himself.
For almost two weeks after, all he could do watch helplessly as Rajjo mourned her child.
He hadn't let her see his tears after the doctor gave him the news and she had only shown him the surface of her grief. Now back at home, both husband and wife continued to hide the pain from each other, pain they both shared.
They went through the motions; kissed each other when he left for work, ate together, slept beside each other. All the while Chulbul mourned silently and grieved alone over the suffering his wife had endured. Her eyes lacked their usual gleam, the one that implied she knew what he was thinking before he thought it. He wanted to find it for her and give it back, but she had yet to reach out to him. He could only hope that he wasn't letting her down.
Chulbul awoke in the night, his eyes opening to more darkness. Expecting the silence, his ears were met with quiet weeping. Before he could even think, his heart cringed in his chest. Rajjo was crying in the chair by the window. In the dark, she didnt notice as he propped himself up on his elbow and watched her. His eyes filled up, but never spilled over. He didn't say anything, didn't move.
After a little while though, he couldn't keep away from her any longer.
"Rajjo." He said quietly.
She looked over suddenly and tried in vain to rub the tears from her eyes.
"Rooko." He said, raising his hand quickly. Getting up out of bed, he came and crouched down by the the chair. Her eyes met his. "Rajjo," It was nearly a whisper.
She closed her eyes as more tears spilled out. Chulbul leaned in close, gently pressing the side his face to where their son used to reside. He wrapped his arms around her, and her hands covered his head while his tears wet her shirt.
This was the first time he shed tears since that day at the hospital. Rajjo had allowed herself only one other time, and only after Chulbul had left for work.
He didn't know why they had done this, but it was over now.
Chulbul looked up at her. "Surprising Mrs. Pandey." He said, forcing back the tearfulness in his voice. "Keeping secrets from your husband."
Rajjo couldn't help a laugh despite her tears. Chulbul rose from the floor, gently clasping both her hands in his. He led her out to the front porch. The night was quiet and still, save for the occasional rickshaw that passed the house. They sat down together on the steps and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close. She rested her head against his chest and closed her eyes, her tears slowly subsiding, her breath becoming more even. They sat like that for some time, matching each other's breath. Chulbul moved his hand slowly back and forth across her hair, soothing himself as much as his wife.
"Baccha," he began to say very quietly. Rajjo's shoulders tensed at the name.
"Maaf kijiye." He said.
"Nahin." Rajjo whispered. "Mujhe batao. ...Please."
"Thik hai." He placed a small kiss on the top of her head before continuing.
"He took our son."
She nodded, not moving from where she leaned against him.
"Not you, or me."
Rajjo just listened, breathing along with him.
He didn't have anything else to say and continued moving his fingers gently across her hair. Chulbul breathed in the night air and didn't let go of his wife.