Link to previous chapters
Priyanka, Simran, Shikhar, and Aashi went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Once comfortably seated , and having ordered their lunch, they got into a deep conversation about the upcoming opening.
“All’s looking well.” Shikhar said. “There is a decent buzz about it in the elite circles as well as among regular people. There should be a good crowd.”
“Yes. The PR team we hired has done a good job. And they have cleverly publicized Aasha through Celestial Designs as one fourth of the proceeds from it is going g to the NGO.” Aashi said thoughtfully, sipping on a glass of water.
“Aasha?” Simran asked uncertainly.
“Oh! That is Shikhar’s NGO that’s opening two weeks from now. One fourth of the proceeds from my boutique will go to his NGO and another one fourth to Bhaiya’s art gallery for struggling artists. ” Priyanka explained. ” I’ll let Shikhar talk about the NGO as he can explain it best.”
Shikhar who was sitting right across Priyanka looked at her with a faint smile hovering over his lips. The effect of it, combined with his dark blue, plaid shirt, open at the collar, and his short, brown hair softly fluttering, was quite arresting. He looked away and smiled fully at Simran and went on to explain everything that Aasha aimed at doing and the plans for near and distant future.
Simran listened to him completely awestruck. “Wow! That’s really very noble. I am highly impressed. Maybe one day I can do something like this, in my hometown.”
“Well, the inspiration for this NGO is Aashi. The person who pushed me to actually think of this idea and also to name this NGO is Priyanka. And without the support from Aashi, Priyanka, Om, and Shivaay among others, I would not have been able to achieve so much. ” Shikhar said glancing at Priyanka once again. ” So what I am saying is, if you ever want to do something similar, find as many like-minded people as possible and let them support you. And in-fact, if your schedule allows it, stay for the inauguration of Aasha.”
Simran looked overwhelmed. “I’ll surely think about it. Thank you.” she said quietly stealing quick glances at Shikhar who smiled back at her.
Priyanka looked from one to the other and sensing a restlessness within her, looked away. Their food arrived just then and they ate quickly so that they could get back to work.
Once done eating, they got up to go back to work. Aashi and Shikhar took the two girls back to the boutique and everyone got out of the car.
“See you later.” Aashi said to Priyanka and Simran.
Shikhar waved a quiet bye to both of them but just before he could leave, Simran stepped forward to shake hands with him again. ” It has been amazing meeting you.”
Taken unawares, Shikhar took her hand and smiled at her. “Well, it was really nice meeting you too.”
“We’ll let you guys get back to work.” Aashi said hastily. Waving at Priyanka and Simran again, Aashi and Shikhar got in the car and went back to work.
“You were right!” Simran said, “such men are rare but they are there. What an amazing guy! How he cares for his sister. And not bad looking either, eh?” she said winking at Priyanka.
Priyanka smiled weakly as they walked into her store.
At Oberoi Mansion, having finished lunch, and not having much else to do, Soumya decided to organize her things. “I will go with Priyanka tomorrow, to help her out. No use sitting at home doing nothing. Aai has company with Jhanvi aunty.” she thought as she started sorting her clothes to separate her work clothes from casual and party wear. ” If I can make three categories, work mornings will be much easier. This will take up at least couple of hours. Soon it will be tea-time. Maybe Priyanka will be back by then. And Rudra too.” Her busy hands froze at the idea. She remembered the previous night and what he had asked her to do the following night. ” I won’t go. What does he want to say? Maybe he thinks I am angry again like last time and wants to clarify. Maybe he wants to tell me not to take things too seriously. Maybe he wants to put a formal end to that marriage incident. Does anyone else in this house even remember that happened. Everyone is behaving casually. But that’s what I wanted at the time. At the time. Now what? Those dreams, the way I responded to him last night, and being bhatakti aatma. What the hell…why am I calling myself that! True that I constantly thought about him last couple of years. I missed him and I feel drawn to him even now. But could be because of consciousness about the past. Or maybe I am attracted to his looks combined with his maturity combined with that old sense of humor. Deadly mix. Wow! He is really mature now, and acts goofy just for old times sake. Hadn’t expected this. He’s all settled. He will probably get married now. Maybe that’s what he wants to clarify tonight. How mesmerized he seemed by Simran. And why not. She is his type after all. Nothing wrong with that. Except that I hated to see them together and that will be my dirty little secret forever…” Soumya’s head started to ache due to her racing, helter-skelter, thoughts. She realized that her hands were clutching the pile of clothes in front of her. Just looking at the mess she had created and thinking about the effort it would take to sort it, made her head throb even more.
“Useless! Why did I make this mess. Now I need a headache medicine.” she thought as she got up to look in her first-aid box. It did not have any headache medication. Her first thought was to ask Shivaay. But then she realized that he must be in his study working or at his office. The other person she could think of was Pinky who was constantly complaining of aches and pains. “Yes, Pinky aunty will definitely have it. I’ll go and ask her.” Soumya thought as she left her room.
Pinky sat on her bed with Pammi. They were chatting with the TV on.
” Today Simmi will get some time with Priyanka and will understand the boutique business. Good for her na?” Pinky asked happily.
“Yes, all that is good. But will what we want happen? What do you think? Simmi is very strong headed. She only listens to her father. Mujhe to kuch samajhti hi nahi.” Pammi complained.
“Arrey, don’t worry, Rudra and she are made for each other.” Pinky said in her usual loud tone.
Soumya had just reached Pinky’s doorstep and stopped short hearing Rudra’s name. Pinky continued to talk.
“Look at them together. Both so good looking. Both smart. And Rudra has been liking such beauty queen type girls since college but none of his girlfriends have been anywhere near Simmi. Didn’t you see how he was looking at her!” Pinky chuckled. ” I have even told Jethani ji about it and she seems to love Simmi too. And believe me, she is just the kind of girl, Jeth ji would want for his son. Mummy ji ki to fikr hi naa karo. Give it a few more days and all will be set between them.”
“Tumhaare muh me ghee shakkar Pinky. My daughter, Oberoi bahu!” Pammi said with shining eyes.
“Of course. She has the looks and class for it. They will look good on all newspapers and magazines where they appear. Simran is western clothes designer and Prinku, Indian clothes designer. Both nanad bhabhi will be the stars of fashion.” Pinky said laughing merrily.
Soumya felt all blood drain from her head and she felt a little dizzy. Headache all forgotten, she now felt nausea creeping up on her. She turned around before she was noticed and started to walk back to her room. As she reached her room she realized that it was not just a feeling, she was really going to be sick. She ran to her bathroom just in time so as not to make a big mess. Once she was sure she was done, she washed her face with cold water. Feeling awful, she took out her toothbrush, and cleaned her mouth with a vengeance. Still not satisfied, she took off all her clothes and went and took a shower. Then dressed in a fresh, loose, soft, salwar kameez, she walked back to her bed feeling intense fatigue. Just as she reached her bed, her knees gave way, and she fell on her bed. Soumya lay there next to the pile of clothes for a few minutes, Pinky and Pammi’s conversation replaying in her head. Before she knew it, due to the stress her body had gone through, she fell into a deep slumber.
It was late afternoon when Rudra wrapped up his work in his office. He gave the last few instructions to his newly appointed secretary, Mr. Dixit, and left for home.
“Tomorrow I’ll visit Prinku’s boutique to see how it’s going. Only a couple days left. Wonder what Sumo is doing. I’ll definitely make things clear to her tonight. Enough is enough…” Rudra’s train of thought continued all the way till he was in the living room. He found Jhanvi and Ranjana sitting in the living room.
“Where are others?” he asked sitting next to Jhanvi and putting his right arm around her.
“Busy with their own stuff. Men are working in some corner or another. Mummy ji is resting in her room. Anya is taking a nap, and Anika is with her. Saahil is probably doing his homework in his room. Om you know better, probably still at his office, and Aashi and Priyanka are not back as yet. Pinky and Pammi are chatting in Pinky’s room.” Jhanvi stopped with a smile , exchanging a meaningful glance with Ranjana.
Rudra waited patiently. Then, when he got no more information, he inquired, “And Sumo..I mean Somu, Sumi, Somamaasi…where is she?”
Jhanvi and Ranjana burst out laughing. “She was in deep sleep when I checked on her half an hour ago. Maybe still asleep.” Ranjana said between her laughter.
“Soumya? Sleeping at this time?” Rudra said wondering.
” She had a huge pile of clothes next to her. I think she tried to organize them, then got tired and slept off. I kept them away for her.” Ranjana explained. Then, just as Rudra was about to get up, Ranjana stopped him. “Rudra, I will leave the day after Priyanka’s boutique opening. My leave is coming to an end. I have already stayed too long. Before things get too busy, I just wanted to tell you that I am very impressed with how responsible you have become and how you are supporting your brothers. Om is like a son to me and since you are his younger brother, with that relationship, I want to tell you, I am really proud of you. You are a great son, a great brother, and the way you have encouraged and supported Soumya through her education, you are also an excellent friend.”
Rudra looked completely dumbfounded. All these days, he had been wondering if Ranjana was still a little angry with him, if she would ever look at him with the same affection in her eyes that was there for Om. And here she was, looking at him with love and approval, dripping from her face. He felt his eyes sting and turned to look at Jhanvi. She smiled at him and ruffled his hair.
“Thanks Ranjana Aunty. Your words mean a lot to me.” Rudra said holding up his composure. Giving the two ladies one final smile, he got up and went upstairs.
As he was passing by Soumya’s room, feeling a new surge of confidence from Ranjana’s words, he decided to go in. He found her sitting on the bed staring ahead of her. Dressed in a soft, light blue salwar kameez, she looked like a porcelain doll, her creamy skin shining bright like it had been scrubbed. Her hair lay in soft layers around her shoulders while she sat with her hands folded around her knees on which her chin was resting. Rudra swallowed back realizing that he desperately wanted a repeat performance from the previous night at the lawn. Shaking his thoughts away he tip-toed to her bed and bent down to look at her face. A couple seconds later, he knew something had happened to bother her.
“Somu, are you ok?” He said looking at her intently. The flushed look of her cheeks made him touch her forehead to check her temperature. She felt slightly warm. “Do you have fever? Have you checked?” he said getting up to look for a thermometer.
“I am ok Rudra. Slightly feverish but no fever. I checked. I just need to rest. So I’ll stay in my room. I want to be well enough for Priyanka’s big day and my first day at my job. You must be tired after your busy day. Go ahead and rest.”
Rudra came back to sit in front of her and gave her a good stare. “What happened?”
“Nothing. I am just a little fatigued.” she said steeling up her nerves.
Rudra looked at her for some time. “Ok, I am going to change. Then I will be back to hear what happened.” he said as he got up to leave. Half way to the door he turned around and came back. ” If you are fatigued, then lie down.” He said holding her by her shoulders and pushing her back against the pillows. He touched her left cheek gently looking into her eyes again. The turmoil in them was plain and clear. He took a deep breath. “I’ll be back soon.” he said again and this time really left the room. Soumya lay down staring at the ceiling, a sense of panic circling in her gut.
Copyrighted to Diyaa
Thanks for reading Everyone. I know this update came a little late. I could only write a bit every day due to both other work and slowly developing idea. A big thanks for waiting patiently and also to those who inquired when I’d be posting next. It really means a lot. Hope the update won’t disappoint. Do comment if you can ☺