She turned on the radio on her phone and propped it near the washing machine. She started pulling the clothes out of the hamper one by one. She went through her son’s pants and surely enough, found a half-eaten candy bar and some change. In Sunil’s pants she found his folded kerchief, the monogram with his initials visible outside SM. She smiled to herself as she remembered how he had had to explain to her what a monogram was, what a double cuff shirt was, and educate her in the sophisticated ways he liked to live. Water in a glass was always to be brought with a tissue wrapped around it. Cups of coffee and cold beverages always had to have a coaster. Always. The morning after every party, she had to spend a while calling up each guest and thanking them personally. He never asked her to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself, and she loved him so, so these didn’t seem like impositions or chores at all.
She caught the whiff of something, a perfume that she was not familiar with. She picked up his shirt which she had just tossed into the washing machine and brought it close to her face. Hmm. She could smell his own cologne, the CK One that she loved sensing in the pillow and sheets in the mornings after he had gone for a run, or when she slipped into bed sometimes in the middle of the day just because. But here there was another perfume, an alien one. She pulled out his tie and could smell the same perfume. Slowly she ran her mind over the events of the last few days – his trip to Delhi where he was unreachable on his phone for a few hours and told her later that he had been stuck in a poor signal zone, the credit card receipt that fell out of his pocket that he had grabbed quickly and tossed into the trash. She told herself she was making a too much of a small thing and continued with the clothes. But she wasn’t humming any more.
She went back to the living room where Sunil was watching some sports channel. Dinner had already been laid out on the table and she called him over. Her son was already at the table, playing a game, barely aware of where he was. She poured out the water and sat down. It was new this, eating together. It had been something he had read about and implemented at home – dinner time, no tv (he switched it off), no devices (her son’s game was rudely cut short) and just time with each other. He pulled Rohan’s leg about a girl in his class, making funny kissing noises over their son’s protests. She found herself laughing, enjoying him in this mood, loving how happy and attentive and endearing he was to both of them. She felt guilty for having suspected him. She put her fear away, buried it and locked it up. Years later she would identify that the fear actually never went away, rather that it lay dormant, spooking her every now and then, sending a shudder through her body and then vanishing as quickly as it came in the dark of the night.