Fair warning to everyone: this episode is unbelievably the longest one yet. 😉
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EPISODE 8: LUCKY
I looked at her slim frame sweating out in the morning sun. The bandage still covered most of her head, but the luscious hair was tied up in a tight braid. The view I had didn’t make it so difficult for me to remember why I had asked my brothers that favor.
As soon as the words left Shivaay’s mouth, I knew it was wrong to not give her a chance to prove herself. I had felt Shivaay’s hesitation in doubting her. I had felt Rudra’s fear of being right in our suspicion. More than anything else, I had felt Ishu’s burning curiosity in knowing what I knew. As for myself, I had no idea about my own feelings.
“Shivaay, can we try something else? It’s only fair to give her the benefit of doubt”, I said. His reaction wasn’t anything as expected. “If you’re sure, then I’m with you. But if this turns out bad, you know I won’t leave her”, he said with the slightest hint of threat in his assent. Before I found the voice to say anything, he cut me off. “Of course, we’ll always be around bhai!”
The perfect SSO way of never denying me anything I want! Despite the tension in my head, I smiled.
The Bluetooth speaker in my ear blared, making my ears hurt like hell! “O! Is it working? Mic testing one, two, three…”
“Rudra! I’m not deaf. You don’t have to shout”, I spoke into my Bluetooth.
“Om, are you sure you can do this?” Shivaay asked. “Yes, it doesn’t sound so difficult”, I replied. Rudra scoffed at that. “What?” I asked a little irritated with him. “O, don’t you remember the last time we ‘planned’ to catch Ishana red handed?” he asked me, stressing on the ‘planned’ more than necessary.
I did. And I also remembered why it had blown up in the worst possible way. Looking at Ishu’s somber face now, it was easy to distinguish my motivation for the two confrontations. “This is different. I’m almost sure that they’re different people. I’m just worried how she’ll take it.” My voice had become deep all of a sudden. “Om, let’s not assume anything yet”, Shivaay cautioned me.
That’s when I saw Mr. Oberoi leaving for his office. We exchanged our usual look. He gave me a look of absolute dissatisfaction meant to make me feel worthless and I returned it with a look of repulsion. I forced the years of agony down my throat in a lump of dry air, ignoring the ache in my chest. As he left, I turned away and focused on controlling my breathing.
“Om, are you there?” I heard Shivaay at last. “Yeah, I’m listening”, I said in a low voice. I cleared my throat before speaking, “So, when do I leave?” I asked, trying to distract my brothers. “Whenever you’re ready, O”, Rudra said in a sing-song tone. “Make it soon, Om. There’s somewhere else I’ve got to be later today”, Shivaay chimed in. I dredged up some courage and approached Ishu as she was leaving.
“Ishu! Wait up”, I called out.
I instantly sensed the electricity between us. I couldn’t care less about his lips being silent at that moment. And his eyes couldn’t have said more! He had decided at last, and I was glad that I trusted him and waited. Standing in front of him now, I couldn’t help the happiness literally radiating from me. But I just had to say the stupidest thing then.
“Give me two minutes to change”, I said holding up two fingers as if signing for victory! He nodded with a careful expression and I all but ran to my room. Once inside the confines of the four walls, I jumped around the available space, squealing in delight. Finally, I was going to know something from my past; or so I hoped. Nothing was definite yet, I reminded myself before quickly pulling on my favorite pair of jeans and a T-shirt.
Om drove in silence while I tried to be optimistic, clinging desperately to the one thread of hope binding me to my past family. I still remembered my days in that ghastly orphanage. But the part that had always gnawed at me was why I didn’t have any memory of the time before that. It seemed like my memory lane had begun from the middle of nowhere; a blank that was never filled. I had no idea what my reaction to meeting this lookalike girl would be, but I was sure I wouldn’t regret this.
I observed Om’s profile, not missing the Bluetooth speaker in his ear. This made me more curious about this Ishana girl. How did he know her? As if in reply to my inaudible question, he glanced at me and said, “I didn’t really know her well. So, I’m not sure if we’ll find her here or not. But I think this is worth a shot since you really wanted to meet her.” His words meant little to me, but I still smiled and nodded quietly. The rest of the drive passed in silence with me watching his glossy hair flying in the wind. For once, I thought he would be irritated but he let me watch his face quietly.
We finally stopped in a downtown place swarming with all kinds of vendors and little shops. I followed him to a tea stall and the owner recognized me as Ishana, asking me how I had come from there when I had apparently bought a cup of tea from him not more than five minutes ago and went back home! This confirmed my suspicion and Om asked the tea stall owner where my house was.
He looked at Om as if we were both crazy, but gave him the directions anyways. I followed Om again, but this time my legs felt wobbly. I held onto Om’s elbow for support as we came to a stop in front of a small house with iron bars in the tiny window at a side and an old wooden door left slightly ajar. Weird sounds of an ongoing argument were coming out of the house. I stepped in hesitantly and sensed my breath catch in my throat.
There she was. In a simple yet well-fitting orange anarkali and her long hair cascading down her back, she looked like a stunning version of me. There was another girl in the room, but she didn’t own even one percent of my attention. My eyes were riveted on the confused and shocked face of Ishana. Even though my brain was frozen, I felt Om’s arms tense under my touch. Ishana turned and I followed her eyesight to a round man in his fifties lying on a cot. He had an empty glass in his hand and he was obviously not in his senses to notice me.
His bumbling curses at no one in particular were just background music to me. Purple bags under his eyes and slouching shoulders completed the unpleasant and immediately repellant image. Om’s heavy sigh brought me back to the world as I held the thought of my current situation. I made myself turn to look up at Om and he had understanding written all over his features. He nodded ever so slightly and blinked his eyes in encouragement. I dragged in a long rough breath and willed my legs to walk forward. I was a little surprised with Ishana walking in pace with me as I neared the man I assumed to be her father.
“Didn’t you hear me? Get me another glass! And what happened about the money I asked for?” he all but shouted. I had a sudden urge to protect the beautiful girl beside me. The man looked up finally and the only thing I saw was his red eyes. Pain shot through my head in a matter of milliseconds and I clutched it between both my hands. The blurred image of a woman tinted in red sprang to the front of my brain. I heard a distant scream dying in a gurgle and before I knew it, my knees gave up.
I braced myself for the bonus shot of hurt but my head landed on something soft and warm. I opened my eyes and looked at white sleeved arms holding me in a kind of back hug and behind me Om’s chest heaved as he let out a whisper. “Are you okay?” His voice literally rang with worry and I impulsively lied to make him feel better. “I’m fine”, I said hoarsely. I struggled to stand up straight but Om left his hand around my back and held my arm protectively. I couldn’t help but note that it felt warm and nice.
Ishana finally stammered, “Who… who are you? Omakara ji, how do you know her?” She didn’t look like a bad sort, but that man’s incessant curses didn’t do much to calm my nerves either. “Bring him back to his senses”, I commanded the attractive girl. She was obviously perplexed at that but no words came out of her mouth. The little girl at the back whom I had forgotten said, “Who are you to order us around like that? Didi, why are you letting her intrude on us like this?”
I ignored her since I wasn’t going to let anything interrupt me now. Before I asked anything Ishana replied to the little girl. “Mona, shh… get some water for Papa.” I’m not sure if it was my imagination but I saw a flash of recognition and a shadow of happiness in her eyes. While Mona went inside, Ishana asked us to make ourselves comfortable. Om waited for me to take the first step and followed a step behind when I did take that first step. I was reminded of his poetry the other day and a strange warm feeling spread through my chest, if only for a moment. I voiced my hunch out loud, “You know me, right?” Tears sprang to her eyes as she nodded.
“I think so, Ashu. I think you are my sister Ashika”, she sobbed softly. The words I had anticipated sounded so disheartening now. We were sisters and yet I didn’t remember her. She remembered me, yet she hadn’t even searched for me all these years. Did they really abandon me? My throat felt parched but I forced myself to ask her about the man. “Who is he? Is he your father?” My voice sounded off. It wasn’t like her husky tone at all. In fact, it sounded more like the lost kid who had been crying for ages. She probably didn’t notice it and replied, “Our father, yes.”
“Where’s your mother?” I asked curtly. She realized my disparity with her thoughts and warily answered, “She died a long time back. You don’t remember her?” The question brought back the blank sadness and I almost broke into tears. Almost.
Mona came then and made their father drink the water. He spat it out and barked at her to get him more whisky.
That did it. My anger surged and I walked up to him briskly. Even in my sudden bout of fury, I took care to remove Om’s hand from my arm rather gently. I stopped at the little cot and brought one leg to the edge of the cot at his side. Leaning in closer for a more intimidating effect, I hissed, “Are you really my father?” It had the same result I was hoping for. He was evidently scared and no sound came from his open mouth. He nodded rapidly and blinked a few times before he came to his senses. Finally he stammered out one word. “Ashika!”
“Did you really leave me?” I asked with venom seething from every pore of my body. I was beginning to fear if my adoptive parents had dumped me too. The focus of my wrath shook in his place. There were so many questions swimming in my head, but they took a back seat as the fiery rage ruled me. “I don’t care if you have given me birth. I came because I was curious about my biological parents. Needless to say, I’m so disappointed and disgusted right now that I’m wondering why I even thought about you people!”
I turned to my twin and fumed, “Don’t worry. I don’t care for you guys. You can live your life as always. Just forget this visit. Shall we go now, Om?” I don’t know what happened at that instant. One look into those almond eyes and I melted. Everyone else in that room was either scared of me or confused with my behavior. Those were the only pair of eyes that reflected the pain in my heart that I didn’t let the world see. I took a deep breath to settle myself and we walked out together.
Once we were near the car, I softly asked Om to let me drive. He declined in his usual polite way and asked me just one thing. “Where do you want to go?” I barely held in the waterworks and after a moment, I answered, “Can we go to my apartment?”
She was stubborn as hell. Although I was glad that she had spoken her heart right now, I was still worrying about her. Rudra was the first one to break our long silence on the call. “O, bring her back safely. I heard Anika di saying that she has a self-destructive tendency”, Rudra sounded genuinely scared. I guess her earlier attitude could be considered frightening. He was just a kid after all.
“Okay. Talk to you later”, I said taking off the Bluetooth speaker finally. The drive was only punctuated with her short directions. But the silence wasn’t so uncomfortable to me. Just as before, she watched me and I let her. I don’t know what she saw there, but she never got tired of doing that. I could say that it wasn’t uncomfortable, but it wouldn’t be totally wrong to say that I kinda liked it.
Rudra’s expression was clear to understand. I had heard that encounter too, and I know I would have been daunted by her expressions too. “Rudra, it’s okay. They’ll be fine”, I reassured him. “Bhaiya, I don’t know why, but I’m reminded of Anika didi’s words now. I hope Ishu didi doesn’t do anything too stupid”, he said with worry layering his words heavily. My kid brother suddenly seemed mature to me.
“Speak of the devil!” I exclaimed. It distracted him for a second and he was confused about the reference. “Anika is coming”, I explained. He looked around and questioned my sanity with raised eyebrows. I held up a finger and looked towards the main door.
She strolled into view with Sahil walking right beside her. Rudra jumped up and all but ran to him. My cute little devil walked over to me casually and making a serious face, she complained, “This is so unfair!” She pouted a little, looking more adorable than any human had a right to. I raised my hands up in surrender and admitted, “It was just a precaution. Anyways, congratulations!” I put on my brightest smile and enveloped her in a hug, not caring for the younger eyes watching us amusedly. Surprisingly, Anika threw her arms around me too. ‘She must be happier than she let on’, I decided. I lifted her in the air a little and spun her around causing her to giggle cutely.
“Oh my Mata! What is happening here?” My Mom burst our little bubble of happiness. Anika ran to her and told her the happy news. “Maa, my company has got a huge profit! And it’s going international!” she squealed in joy. It felt good to hear her call it “my company” after all these years of hard work. Rudra asked, “Didi, what were you saying to Bhaiya when you came in? What’s ‘so unfair’?” I looked at him in wonder at his new sharp memory and asked, “Since when did your brain start working properly?”
He became overly happy with my disbelief and replied, “Bhaiya, it’s all because of Anika didi! She told me to eat twenty-one almonds every day. I’m just following her directions.” They exchanged thumbs up and I chuckled at his childish achievements quietly. “Tell me, Billu. What was that about? Unfair… something?” my Mom pressed for more information. Anika explained, “Maa, his minions keep following me around all day and report to him about everything I do. All my surprise goes down the drain! It’s so unfair, right?” Mom sided with her, as usual, and I had to pull out my cutest wide eyed look to win them over. This was something I had learned a few weeks ago from Anika. She had unintentionally told me what a great weapon of mass destruction I had and since then I had experimented with it frequently. Obviously, it always worked.
Anika and I went to my room and Sahil went with Rudra to his room. Once we were alone, I asked her, “Will you now tell me what’s bothering you?” She wasn’t surprised this time, thanks to my consistent nature of knowing most of her thoughts. “In a minute. I missed you, Shivaay”, she cooed. Her tired dark eyes turned into pools of unfathomable affection and I gave in to her request.
Her stomach grumbled loudly and she looked up apologetically before we burst out laughing. “Let’s get you something to eat first”, I said and pulled her with me to the kitchen.
“I’ll make something!” she declared and picked up a carrot. “No!” I stopped her in time before she wreaked havoc in there, only to see a perplexed Anika standing too close to me. Her cheeks flooded with red and my breathing grew in tune with it. So much for reigning in the exaggeration! I reminded myself of our position and took a step back with effort. Her moods were so unpredictable at times! Now, her lips turned up playfully as she neared me threateningly.
“Why don’t you let me do as I please, Shivaay? You know I’ll get my way”, she managed to look charming while purring like a lioness on a hunt. “Anika, what are you doing? Don’t come any closer Anika”, I walked back while trying to stall her progress. Honestly, there was no telling what sets her off! My warning didn’t have any effect on her except that she looked more sensual with each word I uttered. Instead she brazenly called me out on it, “Oh my God! Shivaay Singh Oberoi is scared of a girl! How is that even possible?” Her mock disbelief was my undoing. I stepped up to her challenge and moved closer to her, encircling her waist. She was taken aback by my actions and her palms rested on my shoulders. “I warned you not to come closer”, I whispered into her ears and before she knew it, I picked her up and put her down on the counter top.
“Watch me!” I boasted as I went around the kitchen throwing in a lot of goodies for her benefit. She pouted in the beginning but she was soon engrossed in my expertise. And I couldn’t have asked for a better picture than my view right now! All the predicaments and hassles of the world can wait.
SNEAK PEEK: Shivaay and Anika finally solve the attacker’s mystery! More surprises on the Ishkara part. A huge rift coming up in the Oberoi family.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Hey guys! 🙂 Happy New Year! May this year bring lots of joy and all the good things in the world to you!
I know I’m really late with this episode and I’m sorry for making all my dear readers wait. You guys won’t believe it, but I’ve been writing and editing the beginning of this episode for eight days. It wasn’t until last night that I could go beyond the first five hundred words! And when I did, I wrote until late night. That earned me a scolding from my Mom, but that’s okay! 😉 I’m so shocked that I actually went over all my past episodes including all the episodes of ‘Precious’ and watched a few older episodes of Ishqbaaz on Hotstar as well to finally bring myself to decide on the course of this story. Although I wasn’t busy during this time because of my holidays, this took up a lot of my time and energy. There’s no particular reason for me to share this with you guys, but I wanted you to know how important you are to me. Even your past comments motivated me a lot and this is the result of your appreciation. So thank you guys for this amazing gift you give me with every word you write on the comments! I know it’s not easy to make time for commenting on each and every ff that you read, but it does mean a lot when you do.
Love you all and keep smiling guys 🙂