The Homecoming

The palace was the same and yet, Pritha felt the difference. It was the same in appearance, but the atmosphere had changed. From the suspicion in the eyes of her nephews to the barely concealed hostility in the eyes of the Prince of Gandhara, Hastinapura had changed.
Pritha tried to tell herself it was her imagination, though she knew better. But she hoped that she could change the suspicion of her nephews to acceptance and even love. After all, they were the sons of Gandhari.
She knew that there was nothing she could do about the hostility of Sakuni. But he was only a visitor and was not of much moment. She dismissed his hostility as chagrin.
She was saddened by the decision of Satyavati and the two queen mothers to take sanyasa, but accepted it. It was the way of Kshatriyas. To go to the forest, to be an ascetic. The last stage of life.
She looked around her apartments nostalgically. They were not the same ones she occupied before. But almost all the apartments in the royal palace followed the same design. The rooms were large, well lit and luxurious.
She sighed as she sank down on to a chair. Already, her life in the forest seemed a lifetime away. She felt tears seeping out of her eye and did nothing to stop them. The cremation and last rites of her husband and Madri had to be done the next day. She would need to be composed and dignified. And she would need to hold her tears in check then.
She thought of her life with her husband. A slight smile appeared on her lips, though tears still flowed down her cheeks.
“Kunti,” she could hear his voice. He lifted her chin and looked into her eyes. “Shy of your husband?”
She dropped her eyes, her heart racing. His eyes held passion and yet his touch was gentle.
He cupped her face with both hands and lifted it to his. She closed her eyes and raised her face in anticipation of the touch of his lips.
She opened her eyes as cold air met her upturned face.
Pritha buried her face in her hands and wept.

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