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Om sat in his studio, working intently on his latest sculpture. While his hand moulded and filed, his mind focused simultaneously on the work at hand and his train of thought. His thoughts included events that had taken place that day as well as the matters that were constantly at the back of his mind. ” Soumya thought of moving out. Why? What is going on in Rudra’s mind? This is not fun and games anymore. A decision has to be made. But they have to do it. And what about Prinku? Once the boutique is open, I have to talk to her. But can I talk to Shikhar until then? If I am wrong, will I be offending him? Will that hurt Aashi? Aashi. Why don’t I talk to her? Who knows Shikhar better than Aashi? I should have discussed this with her to begin with.” Om’s thoughts along with his furiously moving hands came to a standstill. He felt exhausted but his mission had been accomplished. He felt less anxious, having poured all of his agitation into his art. He got up. “I’ll go and talk to her right now, provided she is awake ” As he turned around to go towards the sink, his eyes fell on the recliner next to his workstation.
“Done?” she asked as she leaned back in the chair with her feet up on the ottoman in front of it.
Om smiled. Seeing her sitting in that chair still stirred him up deep inside. “How long have you been sitting there?”
Om walked towards her and sat on the ottoman straddling it to avoid crushing her feet. ” Why didn’t you say anything?”
“There was no need to speak. I just came to watch you work. Couldn’t sleep so I knew sitting here quietly would be soothing.” she said, as she put her feet down and leaned forward to kiss him lightly on his lips. As she felt him quiver she laced her fingers through his hair and kissed him just a little longer.
“My hands have clay on them.” Om said wishing he could hold her back.
“Like I care!” Aashi said laughing.
Om breathed in deeply as he hugged her tightly and repaid her kiss with interest. By the time he was done, he felt light-headed and completely relaxed. “Let me wash my hands. Then, I want to talk to you.”
“About bhaiya and Prinku? Yes, me too. And about Soumya and Rudra.”
Om looked at her amazed and thoroughly enamored. ” When was the last time I told you I loved you?”
“Umm. Long time ago. It’s been fourteen hours.”
Om laughed as he went over to the sink.” That’s terrible. I love you.”
A few minutes later, with Aashi having changed into a fresh nightdress, Om sat with her deep into discussion.” So he hasn’t said anything to you openly.”
“No. I once just hinted at it and he said anyone who loved Prinku would not let her get distracted until her boutique was open and running. He will never hide anything from me and in my opinion that was an indirect admittance.”
“Do you think I should talk to him now?” Om asked tentatively.
“Om, your relationship with bhaiya is based in your friendship with him. I will not tell you what to say or not to say to him. That kind of an attitude is not healthy. If you feel like it, go talk to him. If you want to wait, then wait. Don’t let me be a factor in your interaction with him. Just like he doesn’t let me be a factor in his interaction with you. As long as we trust one another, each person should pursue his or her individual relationships simultaneously with other equations. But you know what, I am surprised that you have said nothing about how much openness and confidence Prinku has shown in this matter. It’s a compliment to her brothers that she is so sure and secure. And to my brother as well.” Aashi said grinning.
Om laughed.” Yes, yes. Your brother is the best. We already agreed upon that. Long ago. So matter of Prinku-Shikhar discussed and resolved ;we wait and watch. Matter of Rudra and Soumya discussed and resolved; we give Soumya some more time to assert herself and recognize Rudra’s feelings. What about the matter of Om and Aashi?” he said with a glint in his eyes as he moved lazily towards her.
“Discussed and in progress. Waiting for a resolution.” Aashi replied with her twinkling eyes as she wrapped her arms around him.
The next few days passed in frenzied activity with Priyanka’s preparations, Soumya’s completing the formalities to start her job, and Aashi’s involvement in Shikhar’s NGO. A week before the boutique opening, Pinky made a special announcement. “I have invited my friend Pammi and her daughter Simmi from Jalandhar, for some days. Simmi has also done fashion designing course from Chandigarh, and when I told Pammi about Prinku’s boutique opening, she thought it will be great opportunity for Simmi to learn from it. They will be here in two days. I already told Mummy ji about it. But thought I will wait till she confirms to tell all of you.”
“Wow Pinky! That’s great. You are still in touch with your friend.” Jhanvi said fondly.
“Yes Jethani ji. We were friends since childhood, same pind na. Then she got married and went to Jalandhar and I came here. A few months ago, Rudra opened my facebook account and taught me how to use it. That is how I found Pammi again and saw Simmi’s picture. I thought she was Miss Chandigarh. So beautiful, tall, thin, gori, long hair, smart girl. Then recently it came to my mind…”
“Has Pammi told you her flight details Pinky?” Daadi interrupted.
“Yes. Mummy ji.”
“Ok. Let me know. A family member should go and pick them up. After all she is your childhood friend.” Daadi said cautiously.
“Mummy ji, you are the bast. No one has a mother-in-law as good as you.” Pinky said thoroughly touched by Daadi’s words.
” Prinku beta, will you take care of Simmi and show her your preparations?” Pinky asked.
“Of course Choti Ma.” Priyanka replied pleasantly.
Slowly, everyone departed to his or her respective work. Jhanvi got up to go to her room when Pinky caught up with her and nudged her in her arm. “Jethani ji, you also interact well with Pammi and Simmi. You know, Simmi is really like a beauty queen. You know…Boys who like perfect beauties will love her.” Pinky added with an exaggerated wink.
Jhanvi looked at Pinky thoroughly perplexed. Then slowly, Pinky’s hint became clear to her and Jhanvi’s heart thudded down to the pit of her stomach.”Oh . Sure I will interact with them Pinky ” she added. Then, she looked extremely worried as she watched Pinky leave. ” Hey Bhagwaan! This Pinky…Now what do I do with Pammi and Simmi. What if what Pinky is intending really happens…” Jhanvi’s head spun a little and she quickly went to her room to sit down and think.
“Really exciting times for us Jhanvi. I always loved Prinku the most but never knew that one day she would make us this proud.” Tej said as he looked through the closet for a file.
“Hmm.” Jhanvi acknowledged.
“Once the boutique is open, we will introduce the topic that has been at the back of our mind. I really really like Shikhar. From the first day I met him, I liked each and every quality in that boy.”
“Hmm.” Jhanvi hummed again making Tej turn around and take a good look at his wife’s uncharacteristic absentmindedness. He approached her and stood right in front of her staring at her.
” In fact he is so terrible, that I never want to see his face again. What do you think?” he asked looking at her shrewdly.
“Hmm. ” Jhanvi mumbled.
“What the hell is wrong with you!” he cried.”I just said Shikhar is terrible and you said “hmm”. What are you so occupied with?”
Jhanvi looked up startled. ” No…I was just thinking…What? Why do you think Shikhar is terrible? I have never seen a boy like him before, near perfection. And as soft natured as Prinku. Seriously, you are a terrible judge of character!” Jhanvi said completely appalled as she walked out of the room to go and see her mother-in-law, leaving an open-mouthed, gaping Tej behind her.
“Oh my God! If I were Shakti I would think some evil eye has caught Jhanvi and would visit a temple. But thankfully I am a sane person who should immerse himself in logical work to avoid this madness.” Tej thought, as he grabbed his file and walked off to his study.
“Mummy ji, can I talk to you for some time.” Jhanvi said as she entered Daadi’s room.
” Finally you are here Jhanvi. I have been expecting you. And you look just as worried as I had thought you would.” Dadi said sitting up on her bed and patting the space next to her. ” Come sit here.” she said.
“You expected me to come looking worried? So you know …”
“Yes. I know that Pinky is thinking about a match between Rudra and Simmi. I know that you are worried because you are thinking that might harm Rudra and Soumya’s relationship. Yes, I still encouraged Pinky to invite Pammi. And, no, I don’t think Rudra will be at all interested in Simmi. In fact, it will lead to the results we have been hoping for. What are some other questions you have?”
Jhanvi looked dumb-founded at her mother-in-law. ” I…You…I mean how? No, I mean why?” Jhanvi took a deep breath. “Three years ago, I got the shock of my life when you told me what had happened between Rudra and Soumya. I spent the next two years seeing my baby boy mature up, and become everything that he was capable of. And I knew that the source of it was the incident. I also observed them together although it did not happen much and was convinced that odd as the couple might seem to a stranger, they brought out the best in each other. I have been waiting for Soumya to come back so that Rudra can finally have the complete happiness he deserves and now this? Beauty queen Simmi? Just the kind of girl Rudra used to run after when he was in college? This could ruin his life if he really gets attracted to her!” Jhanvi said just an inch short of hyperventilating.
“Or it might give Soumya the push that she needs to recognize Rudra’s place in her life and stop thinking about foolish things like moving away from here.” Daadi said picking a bottle of water from the nightstand and passing the bottle to Jhanvi.
Jhanvi looked astonished as she took the bottle and sipped from it. ” That is why you encouraged Pinky? ”
“No. I want her to feel that she is free to invite her friends and family to her home. That is why.” Daadi said smiling fondly.
“But you knew what was behind the invitation.”
“Yes I understood that.” Daadi replied patiently.
Jhanvi felt her head spin again. ” But Mummy ji, using jealousy is a dangerous thing. With Soumya’s self-image Simmi’s coming could discourage her. And Rudra could get distracted by all of this and do something foolish.”
“Or this could be the perfect test of the strength of their relationship. I trust my grandson Jhanvi. I know him thoroughly. And I have full faith in Soumya’s intelligence too. She needs to step out of her denial and false perception about her relationship with Rudra. She needs stop giving inconsequential things like financial background and a specific kind of physical beauty so much importance. In today’s date those stereotypes are no longer in Rudra’s mind. They are inhibiting Soumya’s mind instead. But everything will turn out well. Relax.”
Jhanvi took another sip of water from the bottle and nodded.
Soumya sat alone in her room working on her laptop. Ranjana was downstairs with Anya. She sensed someone enter the room and looked sideways.
“Busy?” Rudra asked as he came to sit next to her on the bed.
Soumya felt her heart racing. ” No, just some online orientation that I need to complete before I join next week. Almost done.”
Rudra leaned in to look at her computer screen. “I like online orientations. Save a lot of time and energy. And they are flexible too.”
“Yes. That’s true.” Soumya replied as she stared at her screen.
“You stopped roaming the corridors at night. It seems your bhatakti aatma is now satisfied.” Rudra said pulling her leg.
“Or that my jet-lag went away may be?”
“Maybe. But I miss our late night chats.” Rudra said casually putting his arm around her shoulders.
Just as Soumya was starting to get nervous he spoke again, ” So were any of your friends in the U.S. from Mumbai?”
That distracted her adequately to stop her nervousness. ” No, one from Delhi, and a couple from western U.P. None from Mumbai.” she said trying to recall if she did meet anyone from Mumbai.
“How often did you miss me?” Rudra asked changing subject completely.
“Everyday.” Soumya said spontaneously before she realized what he had asked.
“Me too. I really missed having you here.” he said looking at her with longing.
Soumya felt her face go very hot but she was unable to look away from his eyes that seemed to be peeping into her soul.
He came very close to her face and her recurring dream flashed before her eyes. She felt her lips going dry but did not dare to lick them to make them wet. Rudra looked deep into her eyes and gently caressed her soft, long hair. Then he rubbed his thumb across her forehead to push away her bangs. ” Were your eyes always this shade of brown? I thought they were darker.” he said pulling back a little. “Anyway, come downstairs for dinner. It is being set. ”
“You came to call me for dinner?” Soumya said in disbelief.
“Yes. Why, what did you think?” Rudra asked with a poker face.
“No, nothing. I’ll be there in five minutes.” Soumya said almost out of breath.
“Ok. See you Soma.” Rudra said smiling at her and very aware of the telltale signs of her rapid breathing. Then he turned around to leave the room. He had a big grin on his face as he walked out of the door.
Thanks for reading Everyone. Long dialogues today. They were needed to set some background for future chapters. More Rumya scenes to come up and some more Prinku-Shikhar interaction as I realized I haven’t let the lovebirds interact in a while now? There are still a few chapters to go but the story is turning towards its completion. Hope you will enjoy this chapter in parts or in entirety. Please do comment if you can?