Act IV: A Confession
Ramaiah gingerly felt the broken glass piece on top of the wall of the huge Arputharaj bungalow, careful not to cut himself. He didn’t worry about the pain, but the Rajapalayam dogs that were tied to a corner of the yard would become agitated if they smelt blood. As it is, a stranger’s entry, however stealthily made, wouldn’t go unnoticed by the hounds. But he decided to take his chances. He couldn’t spend yet another sleepless night thinking of her...
He slowly crept across the lawn and climbed the gulmohar. A few carefully placed tenners to the milkman earlier in the day had elicited the precise location of Julie’s bedroom window. As he gingerly made his way across the branch that leaned into the first floor balcony, he was painfully aware that one false step meant not just a broken leg from the fall, but probably his life if Jacob found out who had crept into the house. Or worse, a public humiliation, following which his own father would kill him.
He was so focused on not toppling over that he didn’t notice the bright eyes watching his progress with child-like anticipation. Julie knew she should be screaming the place awake, but something stopped her. Maybe, because she had lived such a sheltered life since all the local boys were afraid of her brother, this secret meeting gave her an adrenaline rush. She found it difficult to believe she was attracted to this ruffian after just two meetings. After all, she was planning to go to Chennai for higher education, while the loafer balancing himself atop the tree had dropped out of school after failing to clear the eighth standard in three attempts. But she didn’t pause to question her motives or think about the consequences, she just stood there with a innocent yet naughty smile.
When Ramaiah caught sight of her, his heart missed a beat. All his carefully rehearsed filmi dialogue deserted him, and he mumbled something incoherently. But as they say, love doesn’t require too many words to be spoken, and a smile and a hand being gently held was enough to convince both of them that they had no future without each other. Julie told him to meet her at the church the next day, and said they could talk to Father Dorai to marry them soon. She was confident that only Father Dorai could convince her dad to agree.
The events would probably have turned out if Ramaiah hadn’t dropped his slipper, or if one of the dogs hadn’t started madly barking at the slight sound, or if Jacob hadn’t missed his daily peg that night and had chanced to be walking across the lawn. But that is how events turned out, and Jacob caught sight of a man hurriedly climbing down the tree, leaping over the wall and running away. He couldn’t recognize who it was or he would definitely have given chase. But he did the next best thing, and bounded up to Julie’s room to find out who the intruder was. While he loved his sister more than anything in this world, it translated into a strange form of violent protectiveness, and even two stinging slaps couldn’t get her to change her version of “probably some thief trying his luck”. Jacob strongly suspected otherwise, but even he couldn’t have guessed that the ‘thief’ had stolen his sister’s heart.
The next morning, Father Dorai was surprised, both to see his usual attendee missing as well as the unusual attendee standing outside the church. Julie had not been permitted to go to church by her brother, while Ramaiah paced impatiently outside the church, desperate to have a word with the priest. Father Dorai was a considerate man, but equally conscientious, and he took his time completing his sermon and prayers before admitting Ramaiah into his private study at the back of the church.
Father Dorai patiently heard his new confessor, all the while stroking his beard thoughtfully. The young man was unlettered but intelligent, appeared rough but was earnest, and Father Dorai could imagine what made Julie fall for this guy. His mind was working out the complications this might lead to, the violence it might trigger, but if Father Dorai had a fault, it was that he firmly believed that he should offer a solution to all who knock at his door. He said he would think of something, and advised Ramaiah to not confront Jacob till then. Little did he know that his advice would be ignored before the sun set on that day.
PS: For those who are still interested in knowing how it ends (or whether it will end), yes, I am committed to finishing this by the end of the week. Whatever the work pressure.