She was angry with herself and thinking about what could be prepared quickly for dinner as she climbed the dark staircase to her house. But she felt more tired than angry. Work had been really hectic of late. The new project manager was always stressing on meeting deadlines as this was an important client for the company. She was not about to let one botched delivery ruin her entire year's efforts, when the appraisals were due next week! Her module was ready and she was set to leave for the day. As per habit, she hit the "refresh" button on her mailbox as she gathered her belongings from the desk and stuffed them into her bag. She instantly realized that she shouldn't have done that. Sure enough, "You have 1 unread mail" popped up on her screen. She wanted to ignore it, lock her screen and go home, but could not.
"Hey! Great work. It looks perfect! But we were just wondering if..." went the mail. That "if" kept her at her workstation for another 3 hours. Finally when she got up to leave, almost the entire office had emptied out. A few cubicles were still lit up. She passed by her manager's desk, who acknowledged her effort with a depressed smile. "At least he himself does what he expects others to do" she thought as she swiped her ID at the attendance-recording machine by the door. "Hope he remembers this in next week's appraisals!"
She'd forgotten to wear her watch. The time on the machine said 21:03. She hung her head. "No way I'm changing two buses to get home at this hour." As she walked out of the main gate, she hailed a passing auto-rickshaw. Rummaging through her bag, she found her mobile phone and sent her husband a text, "Leaving office now. Will be home in some time."
She did not even argue with the auto-walah, when he acted as if he did not have any change, on reaching her apartment's gate. She was just too tired. With a shrug she began to trudge up the three floors to get to her house. "Guess it'll have to be daal-rice again for dinner" she thought to herself. They had stopped eating out for sometime now, avoiding all unnecessary expenditures to save up for their own flat. "It's been over two weeks, no one has bothered to get the staircase power line checked" she murmured in disapproval as she ran her hand through the various partitions of her bag, standing in front of her door, trying to feel for the house keys. He'd not replied to her text, so her husband was either not home yet, in a bad mood from being overworked at office or watching some game on the TV! She was contemplating ringing the bell, when the door opened. "Thought I heard you out there", her husband said cheerfully, letting her in, as she blinked her eyes to adjust to the sudden bright light from their hall.
"Got a little caught up with work. Dint realize how late it was!" she said with a sigh and dropped her bag on the sofa. "I sent you a text though. Dint you get it?" she continued, slowing down towards the question, eyes suddenly widening, surprised at what she saw. The table was properly laid out for dinner! "Yeah, just saw your message" he said with a sheepish grin, "Why don't you change, and then we can have dinner?" "Dinner?! Did you order food?" she asked incredulously. "No, I cooked" came the reply as he disappeared into the kitchen. "You cooked? Seriously?" she asked, following him. "Yes dear! I do possess other talents apart from being able to open those jars with tight lids which you struggle with, you know!" he said with a wink. "Now hurry up, I'm hungry!"
She went into their room to change, still mystified, thinking of the possible reasons and unable to come up with any.