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Rudra sat down shivering with agitation on the bed in Om’s room. Om was not back from his studio as yet. Rudra thought about what he had done in the kitchen and felt a huge pang of remorse. Soumya’s beautiful, innocent face and tear filled eyes loomed in front of his eyes. He had always made fun of her appearance. As a result she would see what he had done today as an egoistical insult. “I was not trying to insult her. I had no idea a little quarrel would become so big. It’s just that her disrespect made me very angry. But why did I do that? That was wrong. I crushed her pride and self-respect. What do I do now? I can’t handle it anymore. I can’t forget that we got married. How does she forget and ignore it so easily?” Rudra lay down on the bed breathing rapidly and rubbing his forehead trying to reduce the tension there. He felt warm tears escape the corners of his eyes. He kept thinking hard about all that had taken place downstairs and did not realize when he fell asleep. He had forgotten all about his hunger.
It was way past midnight when Aishani woke up thirsty. The heavy drugs were making her mouth dry and she needed a drink of water. She turned to get down from the bed and saw a bottle of water on her night stand. She looked affectionately at Soumya who was in deep sleep. “What did I do to deserve such nice people.” she wondered. Earlier in the night Aishani had woken up due to pain up her leg. Soumya had made her eat a few snacks left by Anika and take another dose of the painkiller to reduce the throbbing pain. She had helped her change into her night clothes and get ready for bed. Anika had checked on them before going to her room. Now having woken up in the middle of the night, Aishani couldn’t go back to sleep and she did not know what to do .
She sat in the dim lights for a while. Then feeling restless , she took her crutches and tried to hop out of the room. It was not that hard anymore to walk with them. She thought of Saahil and smiled. Outside the room, the corridor lights were on but dimmed as well. She looked both ways and saw light coming from one of the rooms at the far end. Curious, she went that way. As she got near the room she could see that the door to the room was open. She went inside and at one end of the room she saw Om sitting in front of a beautiful clay sculpture of Ganesha, painting it carefully. Aishani stood there for a while looking at him working. She felt a sense of longing seeing him sitting there in his white kurta pyjama, bent over the idol, stroking it with his paintbrush. Then as quietly as she could she turned around and left the room.
Om felt a strange sensation creep all over his being. He felt restless and looked towards the door. He saw no one there so he went back to work but could not carry on. He had a nagging feeling and felt the urge to get up from his work bench. He went to the door and looked outside. He saw Aishani, dressed in light lavender satin pyjamas, slowly and carefully going in the opposite direction.He felt a wave of warmth sweep all over him as he saw her petite form and that curtain of dark hair sashaying across her back with each of her hopping step. She had just gotten a few steps away from his studio. In a couple of long strides, Om caught up with her. Startled by his sudden appearance Aishani gasped as her right hand flew to her mouth and her right crutch tumbled down. She was about to fall when Om held her. He held her with one hand and bent down to pick up her fallen crutch with the other carefully placing it under her right arm.
” What are you doing up and walking about by yourself?” he asked her softly. He thought that she might have woken up because she had slept so early in the evening.
“The drugs are making my mouth too dry. I woke up to drink water and couldn’t go back to sleep. I thought I’ll look around and saw light from this room. Sorry if I disturbed you. I’ll go back to Soumya’s room and will try to sleep again.” she started to turn around but Om held her by her shoulder and made her face him again.
“You should have called me. Anyway, what will you do sitting in a dark room. Come see my studio and sit there for some time. Maybe you will feel sleepy after looking at my boring work.” he said smiling.
“No, it’s not boring. The Ganesha idol is beautiful even though it isn’t finished as yet.” she blurted out.
Om smiled with his eyebrows raised, “So you were there at the door watching me work. Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I didn’t want to disturb you.” said Aishani looking him in the eyes. She did not want to give in to feeling flustered and blushing everytime he looked at her, talked to her, or smiled at her. She hadn’t strengthened herself for the past three years to turn into a piece of silly-putty in a man’s hands. But she soon realized that staring into his eyes was not a wise decision either. She felt sucked in into them and as usual she felt like he could look directly inside her soul. Ironically she felt bothered that she didn’t even mind baring herself in front of him like that. He seemed so safe. But was he?
“I don’t get disturbed so easily.” said Om casually looking away. “Come, I’ll show you my work.” he said trying to make her comfortable.
“No.” she said having a gut feeling that the more distance she kept from him, the better it would be for both of them. ” You should work peacefully and l should try to sleep.” She started to turn around again.
Om felt desperate watching her leave and walked ahead of her and stood in front facing her.” What’s the point of sitting in a dark room waiting to fall asleep. I want to show you my studio and it will help you kill some time until you are sleepy again. Why are you so afraid of me? What do you think I might do?”
” I just don’t want to intrude. I am not afraid of you.” She said defiantly tipping her chin upwards, her eyes full of intensity.
Om clenched his teeth resisting a strong urge to hold her chin and kiss those full lips. He smiled calculatingly and narrowed his eyes as he said, “Prove it ! Come with me.”
Aishani looked at him for a few seconds then turned around, “OK. Don’t blame me for disturbing you later.” She hobbled slowly towards his studio and he walked by her side letting her support herself.
They entered his studio and she slowly went to each idol and admired it. Om walked two steps behind to make sure she wouldn’t fall down. He explained his work to her here and there.
“I had heard a lot about your work. I feel privileged to have seen your work space. You are a great artist Om.” she said smiling openly and appreciatively at him. Om saw the girl from the pictures in Shikhar’s study standing in front of him. She was enchanting and absolutely stunning. He wanted this girl to stay forever but he knew that if he stared for too long she would flee. So he smiled casually and guided her by holding her shoulders towards a comfortable cushioned chair right next to his work bench.”Why don’t you sit here and talk to me while I work. Let me know when you are sleepy.”
Aishani hesitated but guided by his firm hands she gave in and let him help her sit in the chair. He found a large, square, cushioned ottoman the same height as the chair seat and pushed it against it in front so that the two were touching creating a comfortable space for her to stretch out her legs.He gently lifted her feet and placed them on the ottoman. There was a shawl lying nearby. Om got that and covered her with it. Unable to resist the urge, he gently caressed her forehead running his fingers through her hair. He felt a quiver run through her and immediately pulled back. “Talk and keep me entertained ma’am.” He said lightly and sat at his work bench.Then he picked up his brush again and started painting the idol.
“Do you work here every night?” she asked, feeling incredibly at home and comfortable.
“Every night. And some days. I take fewer orders now to give enough time to my business but I will always be an artist first. It’s my identity.”
Aishani listened to him and nodded peacefully. “Do you always make sculptures for others or have you ever made it for yourself as well?”
” I have made several for our home. I sometimes make them as gifts too.” said Om turning to look at her. “What would you like to see?”
“I haven’t seen any sculpture of Godess Durga here. I find her idols very empowering.” she said quietly.
Om looked at her thoughtfully and took a deep breath. “I’ll remember that.” he said.
“I am done talking Om. You work. I like to watch how your paintbrush strokes that idol.”
Om felt a strong stirring deep within him. He took a moment to get a hold of himself and started to paint the idol. Aishani sat there looking at him. “Aishani, can I ask you something?” he asked still working and looking at the idol.
“Why do you get uncomfortable when I come near you? Any specific reason?”
Aishani was quiet for a few moments; then she said, ” No. I am just uncomfortable with casual flirting. But I get it that it is my problem. It’s normal and harmless and you are probably used to it in your social circle.”
Feeling bothered by her remark, Om set his brush down. He got up and went near her, lifted her feet slightly and sat on the ottoman straddling it with his long legs. “So you have stereotyped me. I am a rich guy, from this privileged background, so I must have had a perfectly luxurious life and I must be used to casual flirting with women.” he looked piercingly into her eyes as he said this.
Aishani felt nervous, “I mean that’s what you were doing at the gallery. It has happened before with me a couple of times. I assumed that it was a casual sport for you.”
“Do you always make assumptions about people based on a single instance of behavior and then give your verdict about who they are and what their character is?”
“I did not mean to offend you. Anyone in my place would have made that assumption. You assumed that I was ill- tempered and devilish at the party.Didn’t you?”
Om nodded. “For some time I did. I agree.” He laughed thinking about that day. “OK. Let me tell you a few facts about myself. I am not an archetypal rich brattish compulsive flirt.I have had a difficult childhood and adolescence and am alive because I have the best big brother in this world.I have had one steady girlfriend for three years with whom I broke up about six months ago after a long distance relationship that wasn’t going anywhere. I have no clear idea why I was flirting with you today. I thought I might have caught an infection from Rudra or maybe I felt some kind of a connection with you. I don’t know. Or it might have been that for the first time I am so strongly attracted to a woman. The fact that you looked enchanting might have contributed to my behavior. But I am genuinely sorry if that led to your going on that staircase too hastily.” He had leaned a lot closer to her as he spoke and she thought he could hear her heartbeat. “But I was definitely not indulging in some kind of casual sport. I have been honest with you. Now will you tell me honestly why my closeness bothers you so much?”
Aishani gazed at him amazed at his directness. She swallowed hard to gather courage. She considered what to say and decided to act on impulse for a change. “It bothers me that I am so comfortable around you after having known you for less than a week. It bothers me that I am attracted to you because I can’t handle that emotion. But worst of all, it bothers me that your eyes seem to see right through my exterior and directly into my soul after having met me just twice.Is that honest enough? And by the way, I have had a pretty rough childhood and adolescence as well and I am alive because I have the best big brother in this entire world!”
Om wasn’t smiling at all now. He had listened to her spellbound and with each one of her sentences, his heart had raced a little faster. All of the urge he had been having all day to hold her, kiss her, comfort her came rushing in a tide of desire and crashed into him. Strongly compelled, he closed the distance between their faces and tentatively kissed her lightly on her lips. She shivered and clutched his sleeves. Om slid further ahead sitting at the edge of the ottoman and supported her by hugging her. Aishani expected the familiar fear to kick in but it didn’t. Instead she felt a surge of desire racking her body. When she did not protest he kissed her again but this time it was a deep kiss that blended their beings. Om hugged her tightly running one hand through her hair as he steadily lost all control. The slippery fabric of her top made his hands slip and impatient with it he slid his hands on to her skin. Her skin felt incredibly soft and warm under his touch. He had a feeling that her warmth was infusing him with life and he hungrily pressed his palms against her sides stroking them like he was moulding soft, pliable clay into a beautiful sculpture. As his right hand moved all over her back and started to move forward she shivered hard and gripped his back tightly. Om suddenly woke up to what he was doing. He pulled back and saw her flushed face, closed eyes, open mouth and dishevelled hair. Om felt his heart become so full that it hurt. He gently placed his palm on her forehead and lightly slid it down in a straight line down her face and neck. She nervously held his hand to stop it from going any further and Om let his hand rest where it was. As he looked at her with wet eyes he realized how vulnerable she was in his arms right now.
And then it hit him; she was his friend’s sister who was injured and he had brought her to his home on a promise of taking care of her. He thought, “This is not taking care of her. She has a troubled past for sure and what I am doing now is taking advantage of her vulnerability.” He hugged her softly and patted the back of her head to calm her down. They hugged until their breaths were steady again. Om moved back and held her face in his hands, “Aishani, I brought you here to take care of you. You are injured, still under the effect of heavy painkillers and sedatives and you have had a very rough day. I should take you back to your room now.”
Aishani looked at him stunned as the realization of what she had just done hit her fully. Tears rolled down her cheeks but she was quiet. Om felt wretched at her condition and wiped her tears and softly kissed her cheeks. ” We will figure it out. Don’t worry.” But Aishani was not listening to him. All she could hear in her mind, were her father’s abusive words tearing her soul into rags.
Om pulled back and saw that she was in a trance, far far away. He lifted her up in his arms and took her to Soumya’s room and lay her down on the bed carefully. “Aishani, do you need a painkiller again? Is your foot hurting?” he asked softly.
She shook her head in denial.He covered her with the comforter, went and got her crutches and placed them next to her bed. She looked at his face as he kneeled by her side. He didn’t leave as she had expected. Instead he sat there caressing her forehead. After a while of letting go of silent tears which he kept wiping quietly, Aishani fell asleep. Om sighed deeply as he stared at her tear stained face for a while. “This is getting serious.”he thought. “I have to figure this out. What exactly am I doing here and where do we go from here!” He sighed again, got up, and still in deep thought went
Thanks for reading everyone. I had to give this chapter very serious thought and it underwent several rounds of rewrites. The Om Aishani scene in this chapter was heavily edited until I thought it was acceptable for posting. I feel that it is integral to portraying their fierce attraction towards each other and absolute sense of security they feel in each other’s company. In joint families, married couples share their thoughts about various issues apart from being intimate, when they are alone at night. I try to portray this perfect marital bliss in ShivIka interactions. I will comment about Rumya when I write about them in next episode or so. For now, I am moving carefully with this plot so that it correctly portrays my vision. It will be slow and maybe a little boring on the way. I hope you will earn with me and continue to read. Thanks so much. Please comment if you can.😊