Sanskar had finally decided to declare himself. At least, that’s what Swara thought this
special weekend away betokened. She hoped.
They were at a gorgeous, turn-of-the-century resort in the Berkshires. Their room
was pseudo-rough-hewn, with furniture made of unfinished logs and a thick plank floor.
Plush rugs covered the rustic floor, and velvet drapes were held back from the multi-paned
windows with thick, braided cords.
It was terribly charming and very, very romantic.
Sanskar had sprung her with the invitation right after telling her he’d arranged for Sahil
to spend the weekend at a nearby outdoor camp. They could drive Sahil up Friday
afternoon, go on to the resort, and then pick Sahil up for the drive home on Sunday
afternoon. It was all so very well planned. So very Sanskar.
“Do you like the room?” Sanskar had finished with the porter and was walking toward
“It’s lovely.” Swara turned around with a smile she felt right down to her toes. This
was exactly the kind of place Sanskar would choose to propose to a woman.
Sanskar’s answering smile was crooked, delightfully nervous. “It is rather remote, but
there’s sailing, hiking, tennis — ”
Sanskar laughed, too. “Who am I kidding?” He took Swara in his arms and gave her a
slow, warm kiss. “I brought you here to get you alone, really alone.”
Swara’s heart did a mad dance as she looked up at him. “As if I’m not deeply enough in
your clutches as it is.”
A strange look crossed Sanskar’s face. “Not quite.” He let her go and turned. “Did that
— ? Oh, yes, good. He’s bringing the flowers.”
The porter had returned. He pushed a cart overflowing with vases of white roses.
“Where did you want these, sir?”
“Ah, that’s up to the lady.” Sanskar gestured toward Swara, whose mouth had fallen
open. Flowers, dozens of them. Her gaze shot to Sanskar. He was smiling, but she could see
him swallow. He wanted to please her.
Swara raised her lowered jaw and smiled back. “Thank you, Sanskar. They’re beautiful.”
A tiny lowering of his shoulders indicated his relief. Swara took his arm and gave him a
kiss. Oh, the man was going all out. And that was okay with her. It was just fine.
That evening, Sanskar arranged a candlelit dinner on the patio overlooking the lake.
Together, they watched the moon glinting off the water. There were soft smiles. They held
hands. Swara tried not to breathe too fast but adrenaline was pouring through her. She kept
expecting the big moment.
It didn’t happen. No, it seemed Sanskar wasn’t through with the build-up. They finished
dinner, enjoyed rich coffee, then Sanskar led her up to their room. Candles glowed
everywhere. They gleamed off the soft skin of the roses and shed a flickering light over the
“Oh, Sanskar,” Swara breathed.
He came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. “I’m glad you like it.”
They undressed slowly that night, taking their time, prolonging the pleasure. When
Sanskar finally entered her it felt fluid, as if they were two bodies of water wrapping around
and then blending into each other.
The next day they took a long walk, holding hands and sharing warm smiles. They
rented a sailboat, enjoying two blissful hours of sun and lazy togetherness. For exercise,
they played a match of tennis. Afterward, panting and laughing, they went up to their
“Wear something nice,” Sanskar warned Swara as she was about to walk into the full-size
Swara mutely nodded. Tonight, she thought. He’s going to do it tonight. Her heart
The weather was chillier than the night before so they ate indoors. It was another
candlelit table on a balcony overlooking their outdoor patio of the night before. This time
they had a private table with a private waiter who appeared mysteriously only when
Soup was brought, a delicate, nearly transparent bisque, followed by the crispest of
green salads in chilled glass bowls. Swara couldn’t eat a thing. Sanskar, she noticed, didn’t
seem to have much of an appetite, either.
The waiter crystallized, somehow understanding they were not going to finish their
meals. He whisked the plates away.
Once he was gone, Sanskar cleared his throat.
Okay, Swara thought. This is it. Finally. She made herself breathe.
“Swara — ” Sanskar began.
“Yes, Sanskar?” Breathless. She sounded idiotically breathless.
Sanskar smiled. Swara hoped to God he wasn’t finding her comical. Lord knew, she felt
“Swara,” Sanskar said again. He reached across the table. Swara was clutching her wine
glass. Somehow she managed to loosen her fingers enough for Sanskar to take her hand.
His smile faded as he stared at their joined hands. “Swara, I…don’t think I’ve told you,
not in so many words, how very, very much I’ve been enjoying the time we’ve spent
“I’ve enjoyed it, too.” Swara’s voice came out high, squeezed around a peculiar
obstruction in her throat.
Sanskar nodded. “And now, well…I guess…” He lifted his eyes and gazed straight at her.
Through her nerves, Swara did her best to look encouraging.
Sanskar drew in a deep breath. “Well, I guess…” Suddenly his gaze flicked to the side.
He cleared his throat. “I guess I’d like to plan ahead a little bit.”
Swara blinked and stared at him. He wanted to plan ahead…a little bit? She blinked
some more, trying to reconcile this with the words she’d been expecting. He only wanted
to plan ahead a little bit?
But perhaps this was a prelude? If Sanskar were as nervous as she was, he might need to
build up to the real thing. Trying to help, she breathed, “Um, okay. Let’s…plan.”
Sanskar’s gaze swept to hit her then veered off again. “As far as, well — you going
back to Las Vegas, well, perhaps you don’t need to.”
Swara’s heart picked up speed again. This was more like it. “I — Right. Why do I
need to?” she whispered.
Sanskar’s eyes came back to hers. His hand tightened around her own. “Swara. If you —
? Well. I’ll just lay it out for you. I want to keep things going.”
Swara stared into his eyes. She held her breath. But he didn’t go on. He just looked at
her, intense and expectant. He didn’t say, ‘I love you.’ He didn’t say, ‘Will you marry me,
for real?’ No, he said he wanted to ‘keep things going.’
Swara’s heart beat very fast. This certainly wasn’t a proposal. Yet as she sat there
looking into his dark, waiting eyes, she heard herself stammer, “Um, uh…yes. I’d like to
keep things going, too.”
Sanskar’s paralyzed gaze relaxed. Meanwhile Swara wondered if she’d said that? Had she
really said that she wanted to keep things going, too? How vague could anyone get?
But Sanskar’s expression was one of incredible relief. “Good, then.” He reached over the
table to capture her other hand as well. “It’s settled.”
It was settled? What was settled? But Swara didn’t have the heart — or perhaps the
guts — to query further. Sanskar looked so happy, and at least something had been said.
She didn’t have to leave at the end of the trial period. The relationship would continue
and, for right now, that was enough. Their love would certainly grow. Who knew?
Perhaps one day, even soon, Sanskar would come out with the words she really wanted to
Oh, Swara didn’t know. Was she being pathetic? Or patient.
Then Sanskar brought her fingers to his lips. His lashes lowered as he kissed her
knuckles. “You won’t be sorry,” he whispered.
Swara looked down at his lowered head. She knew the emotional desert he came from.
She knew how far he’d traveled to get to where they sat now. A well of love sprang up in
her heart. The gush of love was big enough and strong enough to quell her momentary
doubts. “Oh, no,” she agreed. “I won’t be sorry. Ever.”
There, he’d done it. He’d asked her to stay. She’d said yes. Sanskar lay beside Swara in
the big four-poster bed of their hotel room and listened to her soft, slow breaths. She was
asleep, which she very well ought to be after the s*xual exercise he’d given her. Oh yes,
everything had gone exactly according to plan.
So why did Sanskar feel as if something had been left very undone?
He frowned at the wood beams in the ceiling. Yes, he felt antsy, anxious, as if nothing
had been settled at all.
Well, maybe nothing had been. Swara had said she was going to stay, but she hadn’t
said for how long. Sanskar hadn’t asked. No, he’d stopped well short of demanding anything
Sanskar’s frown deepened. But, then, he hadn’t intended to demand — or expect —
anything from Swara. That had been his whole plan. Not to expect.
But now he wondered…maybe his plans hadn’t matched his desires. Maybe he wanted
to demand something from her.
A flicker of fear flashed through him, something old, almost forgotten. He wasn’t
supposed to want more. That was dangerous, unrealistic, reckless.
He didn’t want anything more from Swara, Sanskar assured himself, curbing an urge to
jump out of the bed and pace. He didn’t need more. All he needed was Swara’s commitment
to making an effort. And that was exactly what he’d gotten. A body couldn’t ask for more
Sanskar closed his eyes. He told himself that everything was fine. Quite all right.
Deliberately, he planned the drive home the next day. Once they’d picked up Sahil they
could stop for lunch at an old farmhouse restaurant he knew. Sanskar imagined Swara’s face
when she saw the vegetarian sandwiches they could put together. She loved vegetarian
It would be a good time.
Sanskar’s breathing calmed. His heart rate slowed. Everything was all right. But it was a
long while before he managed to fall asleep.
“Too much air-conditioning?” Sanskar asked. He glanced from the road to Swara as he
steered the 4 x 4.
“Hm? No. I’m fine.” Swara gave him a bright smile. They’d been walking on eggshells
around each other ever since they’d gotten out of bed at the fancy resort that morning. She
wasn’t exactly sure why. Maybe it was because something had been said the night before,
but not enough.
Yes, yes, it had been enough for her, enough for right then, but not enough for either
of them to feel completely secure.
First thing in the morning they’d packed, had a quick cup of coffee, and then driven
straight over to the outdoor camp to pick up Sahil. Sanskar’s half-brother had acted as if
he’d been away for a month instead of two nights. Swara had felt her nerves calm in the
ebullient joy with which Sahil had greeted them.
Sanskar, too, had seemed to loosen up under the onslaught.
He does love the kid, Swara had thought, watching Sanskar hook an arm around Sahil’s
neck. He was capable of the emotion. She’d felt the scared places inside of her soften.
Sanskar knew how to give love. He didn’t quite know how to receive it, that was all. That’s
why he’d stepped back from a real proposal, one including an avowal of love. Despite his
apparent confidence, he was still wary of Swara’s response.
In the car now watching the summer countryside roll by, Swara wondered once again
if she ought not take the initiative. Maybe she should tell Sanskar that she loved him.
Or would that be a disservice? Perhaps it was better to let Sanskar believe in himself
enough to take the plunge. Waiting for Sanskar might take time, it involved some risk, but it
could turn out better in the long run.
Swara was still pondering the matter an hour later when Sanskar turned the car through
the big iron gates of the estate. As he drove down the long, winding road toward the
house he made a small, strange sound.
Swara glanced over. “What?”
Sanskar only pressed his lips together and shook his head. Meanwhile in the back seat
Sahil stirred. “Hey,” he muttered. Then he shot forward against his seat belt. “Hey!” he
exclaimed, full volume. “Dad! It’s Dad!”