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Rudra sat on the couch, just a few inches away from Soumya. He looked at her wide, open eyes with their anxiety and her soft skin with some color returning to it. It was a face that invoked myriads of memories, deep seated emotions, and a fierce sense of attachment in him.He felt a little speechless for a while.
As Soumya felt the mounting tension within her, she decided to break the silence. “Let’s talk. You wanted to tell me something about your feelings and why you did what you did. I have had a lot of time to think about it and I have come to the decision that I should act my age and face my fears. You start because I have to tell you something as well and might take me a lot of effort and time to tell it.” Soumya finished her speech and looked upwards to think if she had missed any point. Satisfied that she hadn’t, she looked back at Rudra with a somber face.
Rudra stared at her with dropped jaw for a couple of seconds and burst out laughing. She looked adorable but extremely funny with her “going to the gallows” expression. “Did you prepare for this talk? Don’t tell me you studied and researched for this too.”
Soumya glared at him, her face red. Rudra placed his palms on both of her cheeks to test his guess. “My God! I was right. Your cheeks ARE burning hot.That means you did do that!”
“So?” Soumya said in an irritated tone. “What’s wrong with preparing for a situation that is challenging? It helps to go over all the points in advance. And you keep laughing and joking, while someone will come and we won’t have discussed anything important.”
Rudra stopped laughing. “You are right. I don’t want to delay this anymore. But what’s all this about fear and challenges. It’s just Rudra after all, Sumo Somu Soma Sumi. Why fear from me? I am your friend right? And since you have brought up challenges and fears, I want you to go first. As it is, you have prepared your presentation. I don’t want you to forget it. And while you talk, I’ll prepare my speech. ” Rudra kept a perfectly serious face while he said this.
Soumya stared at him to assess if he was mocking her. Then she drooped her shoulders in defeat. “Even if he is, what can I do. This is not a time for arguments.” She took a deep breath and began. ” Just after I came back, when I said I missed you too, I wasn’t being polite. It’s the truth. I felt your absence in my life every single day while I was there and you were here. I thought about the two years I stayed here after the confrontation with Aai. I thought about how supportive you were and everyone else was to ensure I stayed focused. I thought about how you encouraged me to pursue my higher studies in the U.S. I thought about how you stayed in touch in spite of all the changes your own life had undergone and how incredibly busy you had become.”
Soumya paused, swallowing back the lump that was beginning to hurt her throat. “I sometimes also thought about that freak wedding that meant nothing but that set into motion a series of events that now form the basic structure of my life and mean the world to me. And I thought, if it could reveal so many valuable relationships and a determination to excel, it couldn’t have been all bad. I don’t regret it anymore. That confrontation gave my mother a son she had been craving for, and showed me that I had a much stronger friendship than I had realized. All these years I have been thinking about these things. And I wondered how changed you would be. I also wondered if you had a new girlfriend.”
Rudra breathed in sharply in between his spellbound concentration on what Soumya was saying. But he kept quiet. “My God! I only new the tip of the iceberg.” he thought listening intently.
Soumya continued, ” And then I came back and met you again. You are same in many ways and have changed in many. The overall result is that I constantly feel drawn to you. You can lighten up my somber moods and brighten up dull days. Yet you have this maturity of having seen a lot of stuff over the years. I am completely baffled by this. I don’t know where to go from here.” she fell silent looking a little out of breath from speaking so much.
Rudra looked down at his hands. “Why do you think I kissed you last night?”
“Because you were all charged up? And the timing, and setting, and the pleasantness of the atmosphere induced the urge in you?” Soumya said uncertainly.
Rudra was incredulous. “Charged up about what?”
“About being around Simran all day.”
Rudra felt like he had crashed from a floating cloud straight to the ground.”Simran? Ye kahaa se tapak gayee?What the jahannum are you talking about?”
Soumya looked very confused at his reaction. ” Tapak gayee? You brought her from the airport. Spent time looking at her all afternoon and evening. She is your type so she charged you up. That’s my understanding.”
Rudra had a thoroughly disgusted expression on his face. ” You claim to be intelligent? What kind of nonsensical theory is that? Yuck! I was charged up by her so I came and kissed you? Ewww! What disgusting stuff have you witnessed in the last two years?Worse! Who have you been hanging out with?”
Soumya was taken aback by his reaction. ” I am not disgusting. I was just putting two and two together.”
“And you came up with five? I officially pass on the title of duffer to you. You have earned it. Did it not occur to you that I might have kissed you because I felt like kissing YOU? Have you checked the mirror lately?”
“Oh hello!” Soumya said feeling incensed. ” I have no complex. I know I am pretty decent looking and there will be many nice men interested in me. So I am not some complexed, depressed person.” Then taking a deep breath she said very quietly, almost in a whisper.
“But the question is, can I be attractive to YOU? Can I generate interest in you. Seeing you next to Simran, brought back in full force the huge gap between what is attractive to you, and what I am. So no it didn’t occur to me that you wanted to …kiss me!”
” First, it’s not “what is”. It is “what was attractive to me”. Four years ago. Since then I have grown, unlike you. You probably are still in love with Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck! Moving on though, if that’s what you thought why did you kiss me back? Or were you imagining I was Tom or Jerry, depending on your taste?”
“I am not the only one who thought that about you and Simran.” Soumya cried, very angrily at his mention of cartoon characters. Her anger made her lose her composure and control, and she spoke without inhibition, “And I kissed you back because I couldn’t help it! I think I have been in blasted love with you and have no idea what to do with that. But that’s my problem. What’s your excuse Mr. High and Mighty?”
Rudra took in what she had said. He smiled lazily and held her close. “My excuse? That I love you? I have for the last three years or more? Although I did not fully recognize and label my feelings untill a few months ago.”
Soumya looked at him stunned. “But how is that…”
“Oh grow up already! People fall in love for different reasons and in different ways. I realized over the years that the girl I felt most closely attached to, had deepest affection for, and was most at ease with was you. For me, that is love. Even if I was not physically attracted to you when I first met you. I was in a different zone then. So? Big deal! I always felt attached to you. You were always a comforting presence. I always had deeper conversations with you. If you do not consider that the root of love then you are too shallow. Stay near me and I’ll give you some depth.”
Soumya struggled to get out of his hold but couldn’t. ” I am shallow! And YOU, YOU are deep?”
“Yes. You are fixated upon my definition of hot from four, five years ago and refuse to see my definition of love today.”
“And you do not find Simran hot?”
” I do. Don’t you? Are you in love with her and want to marry her?”
Soumya was at loss for words. She stopped struggling and slowly, hugged him back. ” I guess I do have growing up to do. I’ll stay very close to you. Give me some depth.”
“Oh you don’t even know the tip of how much depth I am going to be giving you.” Rudra said laughing as he kissed her. “Soumya, our relationship is based in experiences and survival of attachment in spite of terrible trials and separation. You’ll see, it will be an ishqbaazi of it’s own kind. And when I am giving you that depth training, I will explain to you in complete detail, how each of your physical attribute is attractive to me. So that we are past that crap once and for all.”
Soumya laughed. Then to her disappointment, he separated her from his comforting embrace.
“We have to tell the family immediately. There will be rituals and ceremonies then. But until then…” Rudra smiled as he took out a golden foil wrapped piece of chocolate from his pocket. He held it out to her, “Soumya, will you be my best friend forever and marry me. Again?”
Soumya smiled, her face glowing with happiness. Unable to speak, she nodded.
Rudra unwrapped the chocolate carefully and popped it in her mouth. Then he folded the golden foil in a long strip, held up her left hand, and wrapped the golden strip around the base of her ring finger, twisting it tightly on the bottom of her finger. “Till eternity do us part.” he said softly.
Soumya felt warm tears rolling down her cheeks and drip on to his hand that was holding hers. ” Do you have another piece of chocolate.” She asked through her soft sobs. “I have no ring for you.”
” No more chocolate. But you can give me something more important. You have given me your word to be with me forever right?” Rudra asked looking into her eyes.
She nodded wiping her tears with the back of her free hand.
“Then seal that promise with a kiss.”
Soumya leaned forward and kissed him softly on his lips. Then she drew back gradually.
“We’ll have to tell the family. Simran’s mother might not like this news.” Soumya said nervously.
“Aah! So you heard some rubbish from her and came to those nonsensical conclusions. Don’t worry, I have a feeling, Simran can handle her mother. And barring three people, who have no clue about our past, the rest of the family has been waiting for this news since the day you came back. Now they can have their peace of mind. Now shall we go to bed? Separately? Until we get the license to do it together?”
Soumya blushed heavily and got up to leave. Hand in hand they walked over to the door to go back upstairs and into the next phase of their lives.
Thanks for reading Everyone. After having stopped at a delicate moment in the last update, I felt compelled to write this one as soon as possible. So here it is. I have tried to keep the essence of Rudra and Soumya in this update. Hope it won’t disappoint. Please leave a comment if you can. I really want to know whether my approach was satisfactory. Have a blessed day Everyone☺