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Om was sitting at a table chatting with Shikhar when Aishani joined them . She was back in her own clothes.She sat a chair away from Shikhar which made her face Om almost directly. Her throat felt dry . She picked up the glass of water right in front of her and sipped on it as she stole glances at Om.
“So, Om, how did Shivaay and Anika meet for the first time.” asked Shikhar casually.
“Oh, Shivaay was visiting Anika’s house and Anika threw a glass of water on him.”
Aishani choked on the water she was drinking and started to cough fiercely.
“Oh God!” cried Om and swiftly walked around to her chair, held her left shoulder and started to rub her back gently. She coughed a little more then became calm. He gave her a tissue to wipe her face and her mouth.
“This party is not turning out to be very good for you, is it?” Om said, not realizing that he was still rubbing her back.
She looked at him nervously and shook her head as Shikhar looked on at the two of them with a curious glint in his eyes.
“I mean it is the first time you are visiting my house and first I threw all that water on you and now…” Om suddenly realized what he was doing. He gingerly pulled his hands back and went back to his chair. After a minute of uncomfortable silence, Om ventured to break it by saying, “Let’s get some dinner at the buffet table.” That got full consensus and they got up to go and eat.
Aishani took her food and her eyes scanned the lawn for Soumya. She really liked her and felt comfortable in her company. “Looking for someone?” asked Om stepping a little closer with his plate in hand. Aishani’s heart skipped a beat but she kept her mask of aloofness.
“Just looking for Soumya. You guys will discuss your wonderful days at school. I’d rather go and sit somewhere else.”
“Sit with us Aashi. We will talk about general stuff.” said Shikhar.She gave him a stern look. “Sorry. Sit with us Aishani.” he said looking hurriedly at Om.
“I think she should sit wherever she feels like. I’ll call Soumya.” Om took out his phone from his trouser pocket.
“Come, I’ll take you where she is.” he said looking at Aishani. She looked back at him a little dazed. Om kept his plate at an empty table, asked Shikhar to sit there, and started walking. Aishani followed him quietly, her plate in her hand. They reached Soumya’s table where she was sitting with Priyanka and a couple other guests. Soumya got up and welcomed Aishani. Om smiled at her, turned around and left.
The evening turned out to be quite pleasant. Soumya and Priyanka introduced Aishani to a few of their friends. Om and Shikhar reminisced about their school days and recalled hilarious memories about some of their school teachers. Om felt thoroughly refreshed talking to Shikhar. “So, do your parents still live in Mumbai with you?” asked Om casually.
Shikhar became a little tensed. ” My mom expired six years ago from cancer. I was in the U.S. finishing up my undergrad. Dad expired last year from a sudden heart-attack. It’s just Aashi and me now.”
“Oh! I am sorry. Must’ve been hard for both of you.”
“It was harder on Aashi. She lived alone with Dad for three years until I came back. He was a difficult man to live with.”
Shikhar had a very pained expression.
“She doesn’t like you calling her Aashi in front of outsiders it seems.” Om observed.
Shikhar looked like he was about to cry.
” I gave her that name. I was four when she was born. Aishani was a hard name for me. There was a girl called Aashi in my class. I told ma that I was going to call Aishani, Aashi as it was an easier and prettier name. She has been Aashi to me ever since. Both my parents called her Aishani. I was the only one to call her Aashi. And she used to be proud of it. It’s hard for me to call her Aishani on a regular basis now.”
They were both quiet for a few seconds. Om felt that a sensitive topic had been touched upon unintentionally. He gave Shikhar time to get composed which he did pretty quickly.
“It’s been a lovely evening Om but I think we should get going now. I’ll go an find my sister. Please stay in touch. Come and see our firm one of these days. I am kind of proud of what Aashi and I have achieved in just three years.”
“I most definitely will.” said Om. Actually, I am thinking of getting an art gallery built to showcase the work of struggling artists in particular. Hoping to use this name and money I got in free-fund to some good end. I have acquired a dilapidated old place in a good location. It will need to be torn down completely, rebuilt, and decorated appropriately. Now I know whom to turn to for that major project.”
Shikhar’s handsome face lit up again. “Absolutely Om. Give me a call as soon as you are ready to start with that. Aashi and I would be fortunate to work on that project with you. You already have my phone number.”
They walked toward where Om had dropped off Aishani. As they got within sight of that table, Shikhar stopped and looked ahead. Om looked too and once again saw that beautiful smile he had seen earlier in Soumya’s room. This time it was in abundance. He liked to see her smile. Shikhar looked like he had seen a rare gem and Om wondered why. Together they walked up to the table. Aishani saw them and immediately checked her smile.
Om introduced Soumya and Priyanka to Shikhar. They made small talk for a few minutes. Then Aishani said bye to everyone she had met in her usual brisk manner. Om wanted to accompany Shikhar till the valet service. They started to walk back. Suddenly, feeling compelled, Aishani went back to the table and gave a quick hug to Soumya and Priyanka. “Thanks for a great evening.” she said quickly and walked back to Om and Shikhar. Om smiled and turned to look at Shikhar whose mouth was open in absolute shock. He recovered quickly before Aishani could notice him.
They made small chit-chat while waiting for Shikhar’s car to be brought around. Once the car arrived and just as Aishani had started to get in, Shikhar was interrupted by someone who had been a business aquaintenceof his. Shikhar could not get away without exchanging a few pleasantries so Om went around to talk to Aishani.
“I hope the evening did not turn out to be all bad for you. Once again, sorry if I said anything offending.”
“Let’s forget it” said Aishani brusquely. “It’s water under the bridge.” Both of them realized how funny that was given the events surrounding the evening. Unable to help themselves, both burst out laughing. Shikhar saw them like this and got a soft expression in his eyes.
Om said bye to them and went back to the party feeling light hearted and very happy. He attributed this good feeling completely to having met a school friend and all he could recall was a girl in bright pink with a pair of almond eyes looking up at him nervously. Om failed to notice the disconnect between his realization and his subconscious.
Back at the party he went to check on Anika and Shivaay. Anika was enjoying herself eating and mingling with guests. Shivaay was at his wits end. As soon as he saw Om he walked up to him. “Om, how long will this torture go on? I am done. I want to go back to my room.”
Om thought of teasing Shivaay.
“Sure Shivaay. You can go, I’ll make some excuse for you.”
Shivaay looked jubilant. “Seriously? Great yaar. Let me tell Anika.” He started to go in her direction when Om stopped him.
“Oh! Don’t worry about Anika. I’ll tell her. As it is, she seems to be enjoying herself. You go on and rest.” said Om, holding back his laughter.
Shivaay looked at Om like he had given him a chocolate candy only to snatch it back. Rudra arrived just then. “What happened Bhaiya? You look like you are super hungry and someone stole your food.”
“No Rudra. Shivaay is tired and wants to go to his room. So I was telling him to go and rest and I will tell Anika that he has gone.” said Om winking at Rudra.
Rudra understood. “Yes Bhaiya. You look tired . Come I’ll take you to your room. O will take care of Bhabhi.”
Shivaay understood that both were pulling his leg. “Wait till both of you get married. I’ll settle this score then.”
Om laughed while Rudra got serious at the mention of marriage. “O , you should not make fun of Bhaiya like this. Let’s try to help him.”
“Well , most people have left. I think we will be done in another half an hour.”said Shivaay. “Sit with me and tell me about your evening.”
Rudra talked about what he had eaten and how Soumya had irritated him. Om told Shivaay about meeting Shikhar. “He owns an architectural firm along with his sister who is an interior designer and decorator. I got the perfect start to my art gallery project Shivaay.”
“That’s really cool Om. I am so excited for you. Both of you had a satisfactory evening it seems. Only I am frustrated.” said Shivaay. Then he realized he had made the last comment out loud and smiled sheepishly. Rudra and Om burst out laughing.
Very soon the last of the guests had left. All family members went inside. They chatted for some time discussing the evening. Just as Shivaay thought it would be a good chance to say goodnight, Anika offered to make coffee for everyone. Shivaay rolled his eyes and Rudra and Om tried hard not to laugh. Then Om decided to come to Shivaay’s rescue. ” Anika, I don’t think coffee would be a good idea at this time and especially after non-stop eating for the entire evening. Everyone should go and rest. ” He said.Everyone agreed with Om and Shivaay heaved a sigh of relief.
In their room Anika still could not stop chattering about the evening and how many people she had met. Shivaay let her speak and quietly took off her jewellery.
“And you know Shivaay, Mrs. Khanna tried to be overly sweet to me but I could clearly see that she was being fake and then Priyanka told me that she had heard from someone that Mrs. Khanna had wanted to try to get her niece married to you. So she was very upset when Dadi announced our wedding.” Anika suddenly felt her dress going really loose. She found the feeling very comfortable and realized that her zipper had been pulled down. She turned towards Shivaay and saw the look in his eyes. He was completely spaced out and in another world. Anika suddenly felt a familiar warmth spread all over her body.
“Don’t get me wrong Anika. You looked scintillating in that dress this evening but all evening I have been waiting to take that lovely thing off you.” Shivaay said hugging her tightly, his hands going crazy all over her bare back.
Anika pulled free from him.She slid his tuxedo jacket off his shoulders and unbuttoning his shirt she said “let me make you as comfortable as you have just made me.” Shivaay looked at her slightly parted lips that she gently pressed at the base of his throat. His already alive senses went into hyperdrive. Her hands loosened his waistband. When she placed her right palm on his bare midriff, he lost all control. He slid her dress off completely, picked her up, and placed her on their bed lowering himself alongside.
Om lay in his bed thinking about meeting Shikhar. Then his mind went to the curious equation between Shikhar and Aishani. Something did not seem quite right there. Shikhar clearly loved his sister but something seemed to have gone extremely wrong between the two of them. Then his mind wandered to the name Aashi. It was such a pretty name. Aashi and Aishani had two very different sounds. Aashi must have been incredibly sweet and warm. Aishani seemed hard and fierce. What had her journey from Aashi to Aishani been like? Shikhar had mentioned her three years alone with a difficult father. How difficult could he have been? How badly could living with a difficult father affect one? Very badly Om knew. He again got this uneasy feeling thinking of that desolate expression in her eyes in Soumya’s room.He fell asleep thinking of that and had a very restless night.
Thanks for reading Everyone. Please comment if you can. I will really appreciate it.☺