Being honest or being happy?

“Usha, can I ask you something personal?” Urmi asked hesitantly. “Sure, what’s up?” Usha replied nonchalantly. “Hmm, I don’t know how else to ask you this, but are you completely honest with Vikram? As in, do you tell him everything?” Urmi posed.

That coming from Urmi was an odd question. Urmi and Usha had been close friends since college and had been through thick and thin ever since. Once upon a time, they shared secrets only sisters could have, but life happened, marriages, kids and they grew apart some. They did meet for lunch or dinner every few weeks or when the other needed an emergency tête-à-tête, like today. “Well, Vik and I have an open line of communication with each other at all times, so yes I tell him almost everything. Maybe not what I had for lunch today but if I met you for lunch, yes I would mention it to him. Not as an agenda but in passing. Why? What’s going on?” Urmi fidgeted as she prepared herself to ask her question. “Would you tell him if you slept with someone but there wasn’t more to it?” Now Usha was starting to get worried. Urmi, for all her boisterous exterior had a straight-laced, conservative personality. This question coming from her was not just odd but plain alarming. 

Usha weighed her answer carefully. She wasn’t sure where Urmi was headed but they were friends, Urmi was in some kind of bind and Usha wanted to make sure she was there for her. “Do you remember 6 years ago when Vik was traveling all the time?” Usha asked. “Yes, you said it was fun to be married and in a long distance relationship. It reignited your passion for one another.” Urmi replied, a tad amused. “Well, it ignited something else too. I was lonely and Vik wasn’t around as much as I needed him. I hate to use the word ‘affair’, but I had one of those with someone from work.” Usha said calmly. Once Urmi had picked her jaw off the ground, Usha continued “He was married and as was I. We both knew this would go nowhere. Just enjoyed the companionship and obviously the sex. It lasted a year and then we decided it was getting weird,so we ended it.” Urmi’s mouth was an O! Here she thought she knew everything about her friend Usha. “Ended it? Just like that? No hard feelings?” Usha smiled. This was the Urmi she knew. “Yep, we had to. Like I said, it got weird and yes there were feelings, but we were both happily married and not interested in making this a permanent situation. We’re still friends, but without benefits.” Usha ended, winking at Urmi. Urmi flushed a bright red!

“So, Vik was ok with this?? How?” Urmi was still reeling from the news. “Well, you asked me if I tell Vik everything.” Usha said. “He doesn’t know about this. I never told him. For a while, he suspected it, but he didn’t ask and I didn’t tell. We chalked it up to ‘a year off being married’ and moved on. Thing is, even if he had asked, I would have denied it. Sometimes being happy is better than being honest.” Urmi was quietly chewing on her lower lip, a sure sign that she was digesting this information overload. She wasn’t judging Usha. They had been through way too much to do that. This just hit her hard and it was a little too close to home.

Urmi cleared her throat. “So I need  your advice” she said, shifting in her chair, twirling her fork around the yet untouched pasta on the plate in front of her. “Do you remember Yuv? From college?” she asked. “Do I remember Yuv?? More like have I ever forgotten him! You two were hot and heavy and I thought headed for the long run. To this day, I don’t know what happened. Why did you just break it off with him?” Usha asked. Urmi knew it was time to explain. When it happened, she had been too hurt to talk to anyone but a good decade had passed since and she had come to terms. “He slept with my lab partner. He said he was drunk and didn’t know what he was doing until it was done. He did her in the lab, on the teacher’s table. When I asked her later why she didn’t stop him since he was drunk, she said he wasn’t drunk enough to not know what he was doing. When I confronted him, he was sheepish and said he didn’t want to tell me because he knew I would get mad. I couldn’t stay with him after that. He showed no remorse. Said it was just in the moment.” Usha was stunned. She had always known Yuv was a dick, but this was a dictionary dick move, if there ever was one. Now she was glad her friend dropped him like a hot potato. Atta girl, she thought.

“OK, so that was over a decade ago. Why do you bring it up now? Is Ari asking about your past again? He is way more possessive than I could put up with I tell you. I love him because he loves you, but boy he needs to stop  thinking he owns you. I wouldn’t tell him any of this if he is asking. This was before he came into your life and….” Usha stopped as she saw Urmi fidgeting. There was more to this than just the past. “Urmi, what’s going on? This isn’t about college is it?” Urmi shook her head. “So what is it?” Usha asked again.

“Yuv is back from Munich. He just wrapped up a divorce, a rather nasty one with his wife. She was cheating on him. She still got sole child custody, his lawyer screwed him over.” An evil grin spread over Usha’s face “Hah! As you sow, so shall you reap. Eat that fucker!” Usha said, a little too loudly for the small dining area they were in. Quickly she looked around to make sure there were no kids. Too late but it was a reflex. “Usha! Don’t be a bitch! He is a mess right now.” Urmi said, a little miffed. “What does he want from you?” Usha asked matter of factly. “He wants to meet. Just to talk. Said he needed someone to talk to and the only person he knew that would get it was me. Before you say anything, I want to meet him. He is lonely and broken and needs a friend.” Urmi spoke, a little too quickly. “And you owe him this why? Because he screwed you over?” Usha was getting mad at her friend. “Usha, I’m not asking you if I should do this. I am doing it. I just don’t know if I should tell Ari. He isn’t like Vik. He won’t take it well. But I can’t let that prevent me from seeing Yuv.” Usha sighed. This was the obstinate Urmi she knew.

“You’re right. Ari won’t take it well but he has been good to you and Yuv hasn’t. You don’t owe Yuv anything but you seem to want to do this. You want my advice? Here’s how I would do it.  I would set up the meeting in a public place, like a coffee shop or a busy lunch spot. I would tell Ari in advance and tell him where and when you’re meeting. I would meet and talk to Yuv and then get out of there and never see him again. Oh and tell him to get some male friends to commiserate with. Bet he did it to her first, before she did it to him.” Usha said a little too sharply. “You are being too harsh. Let it go. It’s been 15 years. He’s a changed man I’m sure.” Urmi defended him. They talked some more about their lives and kids and left with the promise to meet again after this Yuv meeting.

Urmi followed most of what Usha asked of her. She took a day off from work, set up the meeting at the coffee shop across from the train station and picked a time when it would be sufficiently busy. She called to let Usha know she was meeting Yuv. What she didn’t do was tell Ari. She was sure he would follow her and she didn’t want to meet Yuv feeling like a goldfish in a bowl. She got there a whole 15 minutes early and sat at a table by the window. When he walked in, she barely recognized him. He looked taller, fitter and darker than she remembered. He had this caged animal look that made her skin tingle. That scared her! He spotted her and walked right up, embracing her in a massive hug and holding her a tad longer than she thought was needed. They exchanged pleasantries, he ordered his coffee and they talked for a while. He told her about his life in Munich, how he walked in on his wife in bed with their building supervisor, how his kid still got assigned to his wife, how he just needed to get out. He didn’t ask once how she was, her family, her job. She chalked it up to him being traumatized from the experience and wanting to talk to someone.

Suddenly he said “Should we get something stronger? This coffee isn’t doing it for me. I need something stronger. My hotel isn’t too far from here. I have bourbon in my room. You still drink don’t you?” Urmi wasn’t sure she wanted to do any of it, but something compelled her to smile and say “Sure I do. I can’t stay long though. I have to be somewhere in an hour.” Yuv nodded hastily. “Yep, yep. I really appreciate it. This divorce hit me hard, I’m sorry.” 15 minutes later in his room, as he handed Urmi her drink, he also slowly leaned in to kiss her. Urmi knew she should resist but again she didn’t. “Umm, you still smell the same. I’ve missed you, babe.” he said huskily as he gently touched her hip. It’s like Urmi had a blackout. The next 20 minutes were a blur. She remembered him unzipping her, getting her between the sheets and her moans as he devoured her. It had been a while since Ari and her had wild sex like this. 20 minutes later though, she was back on earth, painfully aware of him lying on top of her, breathing hard. He rolled off her, smiling and lit a cigarette. “You still taste the same too, Urmi. I always enjoyed fucking you.” he said as he yawned. Fucking? Was that all it meant to him? A quickie? Was that all it meant back in college too? It all came crashing back in her mind. Maybe it was, maybe why he wasn’t remorseful. She was just a warm body then, like she was now.

She let herself off the bed muttering under her breath about needing to leave. He was in his own world, oblivious to her. “I can see why your wife left you, you ass” she said under her breath as she cleaned up and got dressed. He was asleep when she came out, so she just left. On the elevator ride down, she blocked his number, blocked him on social media and deleted his emails. She would tell Usha what had happened but she decided she was never going to tell Ari about this. It was pointless and sometimes, being happy is better than being honest.

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