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Om reached Oberoi Mansion by late afternoon.Everyone was busy with his or her work. He quietly went to his study, sat at his desk and covered his face with both hands. His mind went over what Shikhar had told him. He shivered as with closed eyes he could picture almost everything…An alive imagination was a blessing when creating art and a curse when thinking of nightmarish circumstances especially about loved ones. And one thing had been confirmed that afternoon… Aishani was one of his loved ones.
He slowly uncovered his face and took deep breaths to clear his mind. “What does this mean? Where do we go from here? I am not the type who would go and dive into a wedding proposal the moment I feel I am deeply attached to a woman. But could I stand to let her go?” The answer was loud and clear in his mind, “No.”
He came to a decision then.”First things first…enough of anxiety, doubt , and sorrow in her life. First of all, I am going to get her used to be smiling and being happy most of the time. The rest will sort itself out.”
Next day, Shikhar took Aishani to the hospital for her follow up.Her doctor checked her foot thoroughly. “The big gash is healing nicely and the little cuts have almost healed. The sprain is much better but will take a minimum of another week and a half to heal. However, your foot has recovered from the first impact of that trauma and you are ready for your padded shoe. You will be wearing a slide on ankle support inside the shoe. It will give you much better mobility as you will be free from the crutches. But I still want you to avoid extensive standing and walking. You may do short on-site visits. Social visits are perfectly okay as long as you mostly sit during it. Primarily sedentary office work is absolutely fine. How’s the pain?”
“Mostly a dull ache in the evenings and at night. Nothing severe.” Aishani was glad to be able to say that. She was fed up of the painkillers.
“Great!” the doctor said. ” I’ll prescribe milder painkillers. Take them sparingly.You might not have to take any medicines at all by the end of week two.”
Aishani walked out of the doctor’s office free of crutches and wearing an ankle support and a padded shoe on her right foot. “Great! Now this will take some getting used to.” she thought as she walked besides Shikhar. But she didn’t really mind as the crutches were a bigger pain. She couldn’t help thinking of Saahil. “He has had crutches for as long as he can remember. Oh God! Please heal him quickly after his surgery.” She prayed earnestly. Aishani was filled with a craving to see him and talk to him. “Shikhar, “she said , “I feel like seeing Saahil.”
“Sure! I’ll take you to see him right away. He is home.”
Aishani jumped slightly at that voice which did not belong to her brother at all. She turned to her right, and saw Om sitting on the bench there. Her jaw dropped as she stared at him. He got up lazily and without caring that Shikhar was standing right there, Om put his right palm under her chin and gently pushed her mouth closed. He had a slight smile on his lips and a look in his eyes that Aishani was unable to understand. Shikhar looked on at the two of them and laughed silently.
“What are you doing here?” asked Aishani
“How’s your foot? I see you are crutch free now. How’s the padded shoe? ” Om answered cheekily with his own questions.
“My foot is much better. Yeah the crutches are gone. The padded shoe…Wait a minute…First you answer my question…What are you doing here?” Aishani asked indignantly realizing how he had diverted her.
“The hospital is the subject for my next sculpture.l came for research.”
Om said biting his cheeks to hold back laughter.
“Oh! I see.” Aishani was pensive but as soon as she looked up at him she realized he was pulling her leg. Frustrated she turned and started to walk away as Shikhar burst out laughing.
“OK fine! fine! I came because I remembered your appointment. I was the one who handled the initial consultation and prescription from the doctor, remember? Then I got fired from that job for no fault of mine. As far as I can remember I was handling everything very well and taking excellent care of you.” Om couldn’t help his teasing remarks. He was very happy to see her again and his exuberance was involuntary.
Aishani walked slowly with her head bowed, holding back her own smile. Shikhar and Om walked on each side of her both equally towering over her and looking like her bodyguards.
“I just wanted to be here and see how you were doing.”Om added seriously. Then looking at a very pleased Shikhar, he asked, “So what did the doctor say? How is she doing?”
“Very well! She has been given much milder painkillers that need to be taken only if acutely necessary. In fact the doctor said that she will be off all medicines by the end of next week.The shoe will stay for a couple of weeks. She can resume all her regular activities provided she does not stand or walk for prolonged duration.”
“Excellent!” Om said looking at Aishani. “I am waiting for her injury to be completely healed and for her to be completely off any sort of sedative or painkillers so that we can complete some unfinished business.”
Aishani looked at him startled, her mouth open in shock at his insinuating remark and her face a deep shade of pink.
“What!?” Om asked in mock surprise. ” You gave several great ideas for designing the interiors of my gallery and I can’t wait to discuss and implement those ideas and see the end result. Besides, once you are done with the gallery, you will have to start working on Anika’s restaurant. I am going to be handling a lot of that too to help her as Shivaay is already loaded with work.”
Aishani again looked down still blushing and walked slowly. Once near the exit, Om said, “Why don’t you guys come home with me. Everyone has been asking about you. They want to see you. Anyway it is a Saturday.”
“I have to finish a small piece of work, but I’ll be glad to drop off Aashi and then join you guys later in the afternoon.”said Shikhar.
“Excellent idea! Except that I can take her with me and you can go finish your work so you may join us sooner. Have dinner with us today. It will make everyone so happy.”
“Sounds good to me.”said Shikhar happily. “But let’s see if Aashi is OK with it.”
Both looked at her. She had an incredulous expression on her face. “The moment you two meet, you start fixing your playdates. Then when you have decided everything you ask me. If I say no, I become the mean mommy!” her tone was sarcastic but she had a hint of a smile on her face.
Om looked amused at her description and Shikhar was ecstatic because he saw his Aashi talking with her old sarcastic humor.
“OK. So what do you say mommy? Can we have a playdate today? You can play too!” said Om looking into her eyes and smiling meaningfully.
Aishani felt her knees going weak. “I have to finish some work. Another time maybe.”
“OK,” said Om. “When I was coming here mom and Dadi asked me to bring you guys home for the evening. I’ll just tell them that you are too busy to see them, so maybe another time.”
Aishani was suddenly flustered. ” Dadi and Jhanvi aunty asked about us?”
“Along with the rest of the family who want to see you guys again as they did not really get to talk to you and Shikhar as much as they would have liked to.”
“OK,” said Aishani with her head bowed. “I’ll come and Shikhar can join once he is free.”
Om looked triumphantly at Shikhar who looked amazed and mockingly saluted Om.
Om asked them to wait at the exit door while he brought his car there. Soon he was back, holding the front passenger door for Aishani who carefully got into the car. Om closed the door and went to Shikhar who was standing at the steps looking at them fondly. “Come soon. Dadi is really eager to meet you again and chat with you.”
Shikhar was genuinely surprised. “Dadi?”
Om laughed, “I was not reticent just in school. Even at home I only interacted freely with Shivaay. Rudra was very small. I tried to take care of him but mostly it was Shivaay who looked after both of us. Dadi thinks she can find out secret stuff about me from you. Like what I was like in school. The ladies at home are very eager to chat with you. Be prepared!”
Shikhar laughed too, “Oooh! I see! I will cook up some stuff and spice it up.” Then he became serious. “Thanks Om.” he said emotionally.
Om nodded and walked back to his car. Shikhar waved as they drove away. Then he looked up at the sky and said, “Thank you God!”
Aishani sat in the car looking straight ahead.She felt light hearted and happy in spite of herself.”How have you been Om? How is the artwork going?”
Om was a little surprised at her good mood. “The artwork is going great. I have started a new project which is for myself.” Om looked briefly at Aishani as he said this. Then looking ahead he said, “I have been good but I could have been better.”
There was a couple of minutes of silence as both looked ahead holding back their feelings. Then seeming to have come to a resolve, Om said defiantly, “I missed you.”
Aishani felt nervous at his confession. Attempting to change the topic, she asked, “So, is everything going smoothly with Saahil’s adoption and surgery plans?I have so much respect for Shivaay bhaiya and Anika bhabhi for the way they are raising Saahil.”
Om understood what she was doing. He respected her avoidance of the topic and did not pursue it. He also noticed her usage of bhaiya and bhabhi for Shivaay and Anika. This was the second time she had addressed Anika as bhabhi. He recalled her slip of tongue when talking to Shikhar on the phone in her medicated state. “Soon, you will call him out loud what you call him in your mind.” Om thought.
“Yes. All is going well with Saahil’s adoption and surgery plans.”Said Om. They drove the rest of the way in silence.
In her room, Soumya sat and studied her notes . She heard a sound and saw Rudra enter the room with his books.
“What are you doing here?” she asked trying not to sound rude. This was his room afterall.
“I thought I would sit here and study for some time. Cannot concentrate in Om’s room.”
“And you will be able to concentrate here?” Soumya could not help the sarcasm.
“Yes. This used to be my room afterall.” Rudra said seriously.
Soumya looked at his ultra somber face. He looked comical trying to be so proper. But she avoided laughing, ” It is still your room.”
“No no. I have given it to you. Rudra Singh Oberoi does not take back gifts from anyone. There is an empty room next to Om’s studio. I am thinking of making that my room. I will talk to Dadi.”
“No need. I won’t be here for much longer so you will get this room back.” Soumya said trying not to look sad.
Rudra looked at her angelic face and got lost for a while. Then recovering quickly he said, “No one has seen tomorrow. As of now, I need a separate room. I have to study hard for my exams. I want to do well at them.” Then looking furtively at her, he said ,
“I have decided that right after my exams finish, I will ask bhaiya if I can get some junior level job at our office so that I can understand our business and learn some skills. Enough of masti-vasti. You know, I have some responsibility towards my family too.” Rudra looked expectantly at Soumya.
She felt like smiling but controlled herself. “You will quit wandering around with your friends and showing off your biceps and triceps and six pack and attitude to girls and will sit in an office at a junior level and learn business skills!?”
“Yes. I will do that. I am Shivaay Singh Oberoi’s brother. Soch liyaa to soch liyaa.” Rudra said with determination and Soumya could not help being impressed. Then with a half smile and looking into her eyes he said, “By the way Soumya you have very good general knowledge of my assets.”
Soumya gasped, her mouth open and her face a fierce pink. ” You came to study or chat?” She said trying to gain back control.
” To study” Rudra said smiling. Then he went and sat on the couch, legs criss-crossed , turning away from her and started studying with complete earnestness.
Soumya looked at him a little amazed. Then she went back to her books as well.
Once they reached Oberoi Mansion, Om got out of the car swiftly to open Aishani’s door. He put his hand forward to help her get out.
“It’s ok Om.” she said. Without crutches, I can easily manage on my own.
Om pulled his hand back and let her get out on her own. She walked slowly and Om walked right by her side. They had to go up a few steps to get to the main entrance. Once again, Om attempted to hold her hand but she refused politely. But getting up the steps with the padded shoe, and without a railing to hold on to was not easy. Aishani stumbled at the first step. Om held her firmly by her shoulder. She looked at him with a defeated expression in her eyes.Once again, Om extended a hand to her to hold on to while climbing the steps. ” Thanks.” she said somberly as she held his hand and took his support.
Jhanvi, Dadi, and Pinky sat in the living room chatting. Jhanvi was the first to notice them and her face lit up as she saw Om and Aishani at the entrance to the hall. All three stood up as they saw them enter the threshold together, Om holding Aishani’s right hand to support her as she limped with her padded shoe.
The three ladies watched them mesmerized. Om was dressed in his blue jeans and white shirt with sleeves rolled to three quarters length and Aishani wore a white salwar and a loose, sky-blue, cotton kurta with three quarters length sleeves as well. Together they made a beautiful and complimentary picture. Dadi was the first to recover from her dazed state and went forward to receive them. Jhanvi and Pinky followed.
“Welcome Aishani beta. Thanks for coming to see us. We have missed you. Shikhar did not come?” Dadi asked warmly.
Aishani felt herself drenched in a sensation of warmth and affection. Also, her faith in Om was further sealed. He hadn’t lied. They really were expecting her and Shikhar and were obviously very glad to see her.
She greeted all three by joining her hands, ” He had some work. He will be here soon.” Aishani said smiling.
Pinky and Jhanvi smiled at her and brought her inside.
Aishani soaked in the warmth she had received and she was glad she had given in to Om’s persistence. They went and sat down. Everyone asked her about her foot and her overall well-being. Aishani answered all the questions while her eyes searched the hall and constantly turned towards the staircase. Om understood whom she was looking for. He went upstairs. Before long, he was walking down with Saahil in his arms and Anika by his side. Soumya, Priyanka, and Rudra followed.
Aishani beamed at the sight of Saahil. “Hi Saahil!” she waved at him as Om set him down in front of her.
“Hi Aishani Didi.Wow!Your crutches are already gone? Cool!”
Aishani pulled him onto her lap. “Yes. All because of your good wishes. And soon your crutches will be gone too. I still have this padded shoe. I think both of us will be walking freely at about the same time.”
Saahil gave her the broadest smile that made her day. Then she turned to say hi to Soumya, Priyanka , Anika, and Rudra.
“I’ll go and call Shivaay.” Anika said, asking Om to sit.
Aishani looked at Rudra and then at Soumya. She tentatively asked, “So, how is everything Rudra?”
“Good , good Aishani di. I am studying hard. You know, final year and all. Giving serious thought to my purpose in life.”
Om,Priyanka and Jhanvi stared wide eyed at Rudra. Dadi and Pinky smiled. Aishani looked impressed and Soumya slapped her right palm to her forehead looking down.
“Rudra, you are taking too much stress these days. Tabiyat to theek hai?” Jhanvi asked.
“Of course Mom. I am fine. My fitness level is excellent. Just becoming serious you know. High time.” Rudra said nodding and looking very important.
Everyone nodded showing appreciation while Om shook with silent laughter and Soumya muttered, “Oh God, help me!!”
Anika found Shivaay standing behind his desk staring at his laptop.
“No hot coffee please. Icy drinks are ok.” he said looking at her enter his study.
“I brought neither. Just came to call you. Om and Aishani are here.”
“Oh good!” Shivaay said. I’ll go see them in a few minutes. Come here first.”
” No.” Anika said remembering what had happened last time she was here.” I am going back outside. Come when you are done with your work.”
“I wanted to show you some sites for the restaurant.” Shivaay said seriously. “But you and your one track mind. Seriously!!”
Anika felt very silly. “Oh! Sites for the restaurant. Achcha, I’ll quickly take a look. We can discuss it briefly with Shikhar when he gets here.”
Anika went towards him and peeped in front of him to look at the laptop screen. It showed some business email. “Shivaay it’s at the wrong screen.” she said. “Minimize it and open the right screen.”
“OK. Shivaay said pulling her back and giving her a quick hug and a kiss on her neck.”
She turned around and looked at him angrily. “You tricked me!”
“No, no. I seriously found some sites.” Shivaay said laughing at her indignant face. “Look.” he opened a real-estate site and showed her a few interesting options. Anika looked very excited looking at the property descriptions and Shivaay smiled tenderly looking at her as he softly kissed her hair. After a while they went out to join others.
Thanks for reading Everyone. Please comment if you can.?