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Rudra took a quick shower to freshen up and clear his mind. As he put on his comfortable pair of sweatpants and a fresh T-shirt, his mind kept going back to the stricken look in Soumya’s eyes. ‘What has happened? It’s my fault for sending her confusing signals and not saying anything clearly. With our past, right from its beginning, it would be so easy for her to come to wrong conclusions. I know she cares about me…” he ran a hairbrush through his hair and went to Soumya’s room, only to find her gone. Rudra looked at the empty room for a couple seconds. “Running away…just nervousness or something bigger? Khair, bakre ki amma kab tak khair manaayegi, Rudra se bach ke Sumo aakhir kahaa jaayegi!” Pleased with his rhyming, Rudra went downstairs expecting to find her having taken shelter in someone. Sure enough, she sat next to her mother leaning against her.Rudra smiled and went and sat next to her surprising her completely.
“Yahaa ho tum? I went to look for you in your room. I told you I was coming to talk to you. Why did you run away?”
Soumya was taken aback at his openness.For some reason, she had thought that if she took refuge in company, he would avoid addressing her. She was completely unaware of the fact that his confidence had received a major boost from her own Aai.
“Uh, haan. I had been in the room for so long so I thought I would come downstairs.” Soumya clarified weakly. All of her lunch having been evicted and her entire system having undergone stress, she looked pale and tired.
“Isko huaa Kya hai?” Rudra asked sliding a little closer towards her. “Aai, doesn’t she look sick?” Rudra asked surprising Ranjana and Jhanvi and sending Soumya in complete shock.
“Aai? Since when does he call Aai, Aai. And she is not reacting to it. Surely, I have gone crazy.” Soumya thought bewildered. “I am just hungry but I don’t feel like eating anything.” she said aloud.
“Oh! I know the cure for that.” Rudra said confidently and left for the kitchen. When he came back ten minutes later, he had a freshly prepared glass of lemonade. ” This will make you feel better.”
“Thanks Rudra. That was nice of you.” Soumya said taking the glass from him. She looked at its contents thoughtfully. Then seeming to come to a resolution, she sipped from the glass. “This is wonderful.” she said as she turned to look at Rudra who was watching her reactions carefully.
Before long everyone from various corners of the house and from outside, started to pour in. Soon the room was bustling with conversation on various topics.
“How was your day Simmi? Enjoyed with Prinkoo? Best friends already?” Pinky asked laughing.
Simran gave Pinky a good stare while Pammi looked on nervously. “I had a great day Aunty. I got to see Priyanka’s hard work and had the fortune of helping her. I met Shikhar and got to know about his wonderful NGO. I also came to know in greater detail, the noble work Om bhaiya’s gallery is doing. I don’t think I have respected another girl as much as I respect Priyanka. But no, we are not best friends. We have known each other for a day and it would be illogical to say that.”
Pinky looked miffed at the curtness of Simran’s response and became quiet while Pammi looked daggers at her daughter. Simran looked away with a bored expression.
“Soumya, how was your day? All set for your new job?” Simran asked casually.
“Yes, it was ok. I am almost prepared. Just need to sort clothes for ease of getting ready in the mornings.”
Simran beamed at that. ” Please let me help you. I am good at that.”
“She has actually proven that today Soumya.” Priyanka said quietly. ” Let her help you.”
Soumya just nodded looking at Simran’s radiant face. “Why couldn’t she be a little evil so that I could hate her for looking so perfect after a day of obvious hard work. There is no sign of tiredness on her face. Maybe that’s because she is pure hearted and not a burnt toast like me.” Soumya thought sullenly.
“Somamaasi, Aanoo also help.”
Soumya was brought out of her reverie by tiny hands patting her arm. She smiled widely and nodded. “If Anya helps then all work will be finished in two minutes.”
Anya smiled and looked at Simran. “Ok, Sim Run?”
“Ok boss.” Simran said laughing as she pulled Anya into her lap and tickled her lightly sending her into peals of laughter.
By dinner time Soumya was in even a greater awe of Simran. That girl had almost single-handedly, with Anya’s intermittent assistance, organized her closet, her dressing table, and even her study desk. “Are you sure you are human Simran? Who has so much energy?” Soumya asked looking completely defeated.
“My hyper energy used to be a problem Soumya. I have been trained to utilize it productively. My Papa taught me to harness it and it became my strength.” Simran said sitting down next to her. ” Besides, once I like someone genuinely, I’d do anything for them. And I like you.”
“I laayik you.” Anya repeated playing with Simran’s long hair.
Simran delicately pressed the tip of her index finger on the top of Anya’s nose. ” But I don’t like you.” she said playfully.
Before Anya’s face could become crestfallen she hugged her. “I don’t JUST like you Anya boss, I love you.” she said smiling.
“I laav you. Boss.” Anya repeated with a grin.
Soumya looked at them and sighed. ” It’s impossible. Whatever the case may be, I can’t hate her. I’ll just have to come up with a better strategy.”
Everyone had dinner in batches and Soumya stuck with the last batch that included Pinky, Jhanvi,Ranjana, and Pammi. She was still feeling a revulsion to all food and that became her excuse to eat later.
Rudra looked at her as he left the dining room. There had been no chance to remind her of their “appointment” for that night. He left with Om, Shivaay, and Saahil to go upstairs, talking to Saahil about his school.
Om said goodnight to others and went to his room trying to hide his impatience. Aashi had given him a nod and his insides had been fluttering ever since. He paced his room waiting for her. She arrived in about twenty five minutes.
“Oh God! What were you doing?” he said in a half shriek. Then looking at her tired face he rushed to her and gathered up in his arms. “Where is it? Show me.”
Aashi smiled. “I’ll show you if you let go of me ”
“Oh yeah!” Om sai, letting go.
Aashi walked over to her dresser, opened the handbag lying on it, took out a sheet of paper from it, and handed it to him.
Om took the paper with quivering hands and looked for the relevant box. “Positive.” he said reading it out loud.
Setting the paper aside he gathered her in his arms again and without any warning kissed her. They remained in an embrace for a couple of minutes reliving their past, starting from the evening of Shivaay and Anika’s reception when Om had found her sitting on Soumya’s bed, right to the night they had started to share their room and their life.
When Om pulled away, he saw that her cheeks were wet. “Silent tears. Her specialty.” he thought. “So it’s official now. The blood test report is final and conclusive right?” he asked.
Aashi nodded smiling and looking at him through the thin film of moisture layering her eyes. She had not realized that after being with him for three years, it was still possible to fall in love with him a little more, but it had just happened.
“Seven months left. Now ? When do we tell the family? And how?” he asked her as well as himself.
“I have already thought about it.” Aashi said with a mischievous smile. She walked back to the dresser and took out a little T-shirt from her handbag and held it up to display it.
Om grinned. “I love you. You really are the best. I am going to call Shikhar for breakfast tomorrow. He really should be the first to know but getting to know with the rest of the family is also ok.”
Hearing her brother’s name Aashi felt a fresh surge of emotions. Through a steady stream of tears, she watched Om call and talk to Shikhar.
In his room, Rudra flipped through channels restlessly. When the clock went past eleven thirty, Rudra was convinced that the house must have become quiet. He walked out of his room softly. “I’ll first go there and wait for her. She really did look sick.” he thought as he went down the staircase. ” Maybe, I can delay it for a day. Or should I go and call her from her room. Let me wait there for some time, then, I’ll call her.” he told himself as he entered the long verandah. Unable to even think about sitting, he started to go to the lawn to walk while he waited.
“Oh good you came. I was about to leave thinking you had forgotten all about me.”
Rudra turned around sharply and found Soumya, dressed in her printed cotton pyjamas, sitting on the sofa, her legs up and criss-crossed on the couch. She held a book in her hand loosely while she looked at him.
“Soumya. You are here!” he said in a whisper.
“You said, if I didn’t come, you’d come and get me. So I thought it best to be here.”
Rudra went and sat next to her on the couch and looked at her in amazement.
Thanks for reading Everyone. Sorry about stopping the chapter at such a moment. It was either this or wait for a day or two to post as writing out their conversation needs a lot of time and energy. Eventually I decided to upload this installment for now. Hope you will like it. Please comment you can.?