"You shouldn't have done that." Anirudh said for third time. Amar didn't seem to listen. He was lost in thought. Anirudh literally shook him to get his attention. "Are you listening? I said you shouldn't have done that."
"What did you expect me to do? Tie her up and take her to her family? You saw how they treated her. And I can't marry a girl whose heart lies with someone else. I did the right thing." Amar almost yelled.
"Anna, calm down. I pity her too. She didn't deserve to be treated that way. What I meant was that we, of all people, shouldn't have helped her. We should have asked her to hide somewhere else." Anirudh tried to explain.
"It was our duty. Every human being has a right to marry the person he/she likes. We just safeguarded her right as responsible Indian citizens." Amar emphasized the last part.
"How exactly are we going to explain that to Amma? Do you know what happens when she gets to know the truth? She will get us killed." Anirudh pointed out the actual problem.
Amar was startled. "I didn't think about that. What shall we do now?"
Anirudh spoke after thinking for a while."I have an idea. No one knows where we have been to. So let's go back home and act normal. Let's have supper, go to bed and wait for the news to reach our family from Lasya's family. After hearing the news let's pretend to be shocked. Okay?"
"But lying to our family is not done. It doesn't feel right."
"Anna, we are not lying. We are just hiding the truth. She would have run away with or without our help. We just made it easier. That's it." Anirudh concluded.
"I think you are right. None of this is our fault. So, let this be a secret forever." And they left for home.
Vennela kept looking at a crying Nanditha. She didn't know how to console her. Meenakshi was saying words of comfort to her but she was in no mood to listen to her. Shruthi was trying to contact Lasya's friends to inquire her whereabouts. Ragini, who sat on the floor, seemed restless. It was she who caused a diversion in the living room so that Lasya can escape from backdoor.She closed her eyes and started praying to Lord Hanuman 'Please don't let anyone know that I helped her.'
"Vennela! Come with me." Vidya held her arm and took her out of the room.
"What happened aunty?"
Aunt Vidya didn't answer. She took her to the backyard and asked her, "Where is Lasya?"
"Aunty, what are you saying? How would I know?"
"Don't lie to me. I saw you give her money this afternoon. I would have stopped you if I had known the reason." Vidya sounded angry.
It then occurred to Vennela why Lasya was so particular about money in cash.
"I didn't know what she was up to. She said she was dissatisfied with the hair stylist and wanted to hireanother hairdresser who demanded 25K in cash." Vennela struggled to explain.
"Have you lost it Vennela? Who pays 25K to a hairdresser? Didn't you find it suspicious that she asked you when she could have asked her mother." Vidya scolded her.
"She said her mother refused to give her money." Now that she thought over it again, she understood how dumb the reason was.
"What have you done! I know you didn't do it intentionally. But no one will believe you."
"Aunty please don't tell--" Before Vennela could complete the sentence Meenakshi came out of nowhere, grabbed her arm and dragged her inside. "Nanditha vadina, this idiot provided financial assistance to Lasya for running away", she said pointing at Vennela. "She has given her twenty five thousand rupees this afternoon."
Nanditha looked at Vennela and spoke in a strange voice,"Is this true?"
Vennela didn't answer.
"ANSWER ME VENNELA!! IS THIS TRUE?"
Vennela nodded. Nanditha raised her hand to slap her. Vennela closed her eyes waiting for the blow which never came. She opened her eyes to see Nanditha clenching her fist and trying hard to control her anger. She drew in a deep breath and said, "Why? Why did you do this? Didn't you know that the annual income of the man Lasya wanted to marry is not even ten percent of what she earns per month?"
"Who are you talking about? I don't know him. I don't know anything. She said she didn't have money to pay the hair stylist. She lied--"
"And you believed that?" her aunt interrupted. "I thought I've raised you to be an intelligent girl. I was wrong. You are a fool." She paused for a while.
"She was always focused on her work and nothing else. We were shocked when we knew that she liked a man who didn't deserve her. Do you know how hard it was to separate her from him? Your uncle still didn't forgive himself for slapping her on that day. But we had to do it. It was for her own good. And when everything was under control, you had to ruin it. You didn't just give her money. You gave her wings to fly away from the nest." Nanditha started weeping again.
The seriousness of the situation stopped Vennela from laughing at the 'fly away from the nest' comment. "But aunty, why didn't you give her boyfriend a chance to prove his worth?" she asked timidly.
"Shut up! Not a word." Nanditha yelled.
Vennela walked to a corner and sat down. She wiped her tears. She knew she wasn't wrong, yet she was being yelled at. She made a mental note to punch Lasya's nose if she ever met her again.
"I'm planning to sleep in your room tonight. You may need someone to share your feelings with. If you feel like crying, go ahead. I won't tell anyone."Anirudh entered Amar's room holding a pillow and a blanket.
"I am feeling bad. But I'm not crying. I'm not a little boy." Surprisingly Amar didn't feel unbearable agony. "I mean I hardly know her. I met her only once. The fact that I wasn't emotionally attached to her will help me move on easily."
"Good. It will just take a day or two. Ask me how I'm feeling now. I feel smug. Because we know the news before amma."
Amar laughed at this. They hardly slept for an hour when they heard loud voices coming from the ground floor. "I think they heard the news. Let's go and see." Amar got up.
Anirudh started laughing. "This is so funny. We are about to fool everyone with our acting."
"Rudy, please. You will get us caught. Stop laughing."
When Anirudh finally stopped laughing, they went downstairs. All the guests were assembled in the living room. "What happened? Why are you standing here at this hour?" Amar asked in an innocent voice.
"The bride eloped." said Shambhavi.
To his horror Anirudh started laughing again. Everybody looked at him as if he sprouted another head. To cover up Amar joined Anirudh in the laughter. "Very funny joke aunty. I can't stop laughing."
'I wish Rudy would stop. I can't laugh anymore' he thought.
"Have you two gone mad? Do you really think I would joke about such things?" Shambhavi shouted at them. That shut them up. "We are going to meet the Dhanunjayas and demand an explanation."
Amar and Anirudh pretended to be shocked.
"Amma, you go with nanna. I think Amar anna is saddened by this news. He is not in a mood to get involved in your fight with Lasya's parents."
"Anirudh is right. Amar is in shock. Let's leave him alone or a while." Bharat told his wife.
"Right. Anirudh. Stay with Amar. We will come back in few hours." Shambhavi left with her husband.
Amar couldn't bear the looks of sympathy the guests were giving him. He excused himself and went to his room. "Thank God they didn't force me to go with them. I really don't want to witness their quarrel. I just hope they come back soon so that we can get some rest and disperse to our respective homes tomorrow."
"Come with us to London for a few days." Anirudh suggested.
"I'll see. Let me sleep for now. It was an exhausting day.
He drifted to sleep while his aunt created havoc at Dhanunjaya mansion.