Anna D’Souza stepped out of the taxi and stood looking up at the two-story bungalow with its beautifully maintained garden in one of the poshest neighborhoods of suburban Mumbai.
She was dawdling, bracing herself for the coming weekend. But she needed the moment.
With its own custom-designed music studio and a terrace that looked out into the sea, the bungalow was a testament to the success of music mogul, and her estranged husband, AJ Kumar.
They had been married for four months and separated for nine. Her granny had cackled at that when she’d bid Anna goodbye this time.
The pungent scent of the jasmine creeper that scaled up one entire wall slammed her with memories of their short-lived marriage. And yet, like the sweetness of the jasmine, this bungalow held the few good memories she did cherish.
Which was the one of the two reasons Anna had readily agreed to attend this jam session for the upcoming biopic of Bollywood pioneer Vijay Raawal that the prestigious Raawal House of Cinema was producing.
The two grandsons—Vikram Raawal, the highest paid actor and producer in Bollywood, and Virat Raawal, a brilliant director with a stunning of body of work before he was even thirty—were as close to Bollywood royalty as the industry had. More importantly, both were also longtime friends of her estranged husband.
Since Anna wanted to continue building her career as a singer, even after the crash and burn of her marriage, she knew it would be sheer foolishness to refuse a golden opportunity like this. Her agent had made it clear that Virat Raawal had asked for her. And whatever the brilliant genius wanted for one of his projects, he got. Because he only worked with the best, and elevated the artist and the art.
Which gave Anna the jolt of confidence she’d needed to stop hiding in her hometown and throwing away a career that had just begun.
Her career had started its delicate roots on the stage of Singing Idol, a competitive-as-heck singing show on which AJ had been the judge. He’d been her inspiration for so long that Anna had instantly lost her head and heart when he’d given her advice on her choice of songs, and supported her through the show. He’d given her career the start it needed, picking her out of hopeful thousands, and nurtured her confidence. She’d always be thankful to him for that.
But after the show, he’d romanced her and they’d married in a whirlwind affair that she couldn’t regret even though it hurt to think of it now.
The sheaf of papers her lawyer had handed her two days ago—one she could ill afford—weighed on her. It was time to move on with her life. To put aside the hurt and anger, and foolish dreams of building a life with a man so out of her sphere, and nurture her career instead.
She clutched her duffel bag and walked up the steps to the gold-veined marble foyer, and soaked in the quiet. There had always been something very warm and inviting about AJ’s bungalow from the first time she’d walked in, drunk on the high of his attention.
The whitewashed walls, the upholstery in rich, vibrant colors and the priceless art hanging on the walls would have overwhelmed her in its luxury, like the man himself had done in the beginning.
Except for the music instruments littered around every corner like change in her parents’ home. For a girl with dreams of joining the great singers in the industry, it had been like entering a sacred temple. A welcoming space where creativity and the expression of it through infinite variations of raagas reigned over anything else.
Nostalgia was a hard ache in her throat as she turned in her spot, breathing it all in.
“Ahh, I wonder what Virat Raawal would title this moment… Return of the Wayward Wife?” said a deep voice behind her, and Anna jerked around to face him.
Standing against the floor-to-ceiling glass wall that draped his tall, broad frame lovingly was the man she had loved beyond sanity.
Ajay John Kumar…or simply AJ.
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