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Om went downstairs at tea-time to find Shivaay, Dadi, and Anika sitting as normally as possible while Pinky talked incessantly not noticing anything amiss. Jhanvi was not there as yet and that had given others more time to get back to normal. Shivaay nodded to Om signalling everything to be under control and Om nodded back.
Dadi had made up excuses for Soumya and Ranjana so they did not have to show up. Finding Rudra absent from the living area, Om decided to go and check on him. As he stepped in Rud found him sitting on his bed tensed. His eyes were red and he looked like he was going to bust a nerve in his forehead. Om went and sat next to him quietly.
“I didn’t want to be so rude to her.” He said after a while. “Soumya and I talked a few days ago, we sorted out things, and she was really happy that she was going to continue studying here. It just seemed unfair to force her like that. So I had to use such harsh words.”
“Would you have carried out the threat?” Om asked extremely curious.
“If I had felt that Soumya really wanted to stay here then yes. If she would have convinced me that going with her mom was more important to her, then no. I was bluffing in a way and it worked. But Soumya’s mom hates me probably and I feel terrible that I hurt her.”
Om patted his back. “This seems to be my counseling week. I’ll tell you what I told Anika, the evening of the party. It’s not possible to do the right thing while pleasing everyone. That’s life. We sometimes have to take hard decisions and hurt some feelings. But as long as your conscience is clear about your intentions, everything will work out in the end. Now please normalize yourself if you don’t want the two greats of our family to find out about this.”
Rudra chuckled at that. He felt much better. “I’ll come downstairs with my happy face on.”
Om nodded and started to leave. Just as he reached the door Rudra said, “I know I should have shared this with Bhaiya and you. But I want to tell you that today I had so much confidence to say such big things because I had Bhaiya and you there. I know that both of you will always be there. Just like how you made me feel better now. By the way, I am acting grown because I need to. But I still need a hug; I am not that grown!”
Om smiled at him. “Come on. Let’s have a partial O-bro moment.”
Rudra went up to Om and gave him a tight hug. It made Om realize just how scared and shaken he had been. He still couldn’t stand confrontations and fights.
Ranjana winced every time she saw Soumya’s still pink cheek. Never had she imagined that one day she would have raised her hand on her daughter. She regretted it deeply now. “They were right.” she thought. “I shouldn’t have hit her. That was wrong.” Swallowing back her pain and remorse she said in a still cold voice, ” I’ll tell them you have a headache and will ask Priyanka or Anika to bring your dinner here. If you go downstairs now, there will be questions.”
Soumya understood what she meant and nodded in agreement. She wasn’t too hungry anyway. She just wanted this day to end.
Dinner was managed without making Tej, Shakti, and Pinky suspicious. Jhanvi on the other hand felt that something was not right but was distracted by Dadi , Anika, Om or Shivaay every time she tried to find out what was going on. Priyanka had taken her dinner upstairs to eat with Soumya. “At least she is not alone.” Rudra thought.
By the time Ranjana went back upstairs, Soumya had already fallen asleep. She looked completely exhausted. Her face looked better than a few hours before although it still had a tinge of pink. Ranjana switched off the lights and turned on the soft night light. Then she went and sat by Soumya’s side and gently caressed her bruised cheek with one hand and wiped her non-stop tears with the other.
In his room, Om breathed a sigh of relief that it was finally time for bed. He had no more energy left to work in his studio. He thought back about the events of the day and felt like any moment he might wake up from his dream. It felt unreal. But it was real and he had to hold his family together through these tough times.He breathed deeply to clear his thoughts, closed his eyes, and tried to focus on something else. Automatically, his mind went to the statement, “Who told you it’s a guy thing…my cravings are pretty strong too. But to explain, I would have to cross certain limits.”
He opened his eyes again. “I guess it’s time to cross limits then!” he said to himself.
Anika lay on her side next to Shivaay, her head on his shoulder and his arm around hers. Soft moonlight shone on them providing a little bit of extra light besides the night-lamp , so that they could still see each other’s face.
“Thank God the day is over and I can finally think about what happened in privacy. I still can’t believe all that has happened. Rudra.Soumya. What are we going to do? Will they be able to stay in one house knowing that most of us know and be able to ignore that. You know, I completely saw Ranjana aunty’s point. But I had to support Rudra and Soumya at that time. Rudra will get really busy in the office as he has a lot to learn. But Soumya? Will she able to study?”
“Yes Shivaay. She is a strong girl. In fact I think she is going to immerse herself in her studies even more to prove herself to her mother. You know Shivaay, in life, sometimes the events that seem most unfortunate to us at the time they happen, actually land up being the best things that happen to us. They might motivate us to excel, explore new opportunities, or realize our true feelings. But they only become apparent in hindsight. I am sure one day we will look at this event in the same light.”
” My God!! How did you get to be so wise? Are you following bhakti channels too and listening to sermons?”
Anika pinched him for pulling her leg when she was trying to help him by being philosophical.
“Oww! Okay. I was just teasing. By the way, what made you decide to send Dadi.” Shivaay asked curiously.
Anika was quiet for a few seconds and Shivaay could hear her heartbeat in the silence of the night. Finally she spoke.
“First, she was not going to be stopped by Priyanka and me. But more importantly, she has only given us reasons to trust her judgement. After Saahil’s party, I have new respect for her opinions and decisions. Youth should not be so arrogant as to discredit the wisdom of the elderly. She has much more experience and has seen much more life. Besides, I thought she was one person who might have gotten Ranjana aunty to calm down, whatever the situation.”
Shivaay had been listening to her very carefully. He felt overwhelmed by her thoughts. “You truly are my better half.” Then feeling that she had become very somber he tried to distract her. “Imagine, your intelligence and my good looks! What a deadly product would that be. Want to manufacture one now?”
That completely burst the philosophical bubble she was in. “You mean you are more good looking than me?”
“Well pick one. Either you are more intelligent or more good looking. You can’t have both.”
” I can have whatever I want.” she said as she closed the remaining space between them.
“Yes dear. Whatever you want.” Shivaay said softly as his arms tightened around her.
Thanks for reading Everyone. This was a shorter chapter to give closure to the eventful day before we move on with the story. A few more important milestone left to cover. I have some apprehensions about the storyline in my mind. What I have in my mind sort of expresses complete submission to love without expectations. However, it may clash with traditional outlooks. I am between two minds. If this were an actual novel, I would have gone with my first choice. But this is an FF that I write for my readers so I am thinking of going with the alternative. I end my confused Hamlet soliloquy here? Please comment if you can.