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Priyanka and Shikhar looked at each other for a few seconds and reluctantly dragged their gazes away. Both stood rooted to their spot waiting for the headiness of the moment to pass. The rush of blood in their system made them a little oblivious to their surroundings for a few moments, and as a result they did not realize that Aashi had finished talking to the technician and was now walking towards them. Aashi was just a couple feet away when Priyanka realized that Shikhar’s hand was still in status quo.
” Done bhabhi? What did he say? Will they be able to install all the units today?” Priyanka spoke in an unnaturally high pitch and hastily too, hoping that Shikhar would remove his hand seeing Aashi approaching them. She felt his hand pulling away and was about to sigh with relief when her breath got caught again. Shikhar had slid his hand back where it had been earlier and held her firmly. Her entire face felt hot and she was certain that it was as red as a tomato. This was a very big deal to her in spite of all the progress she had made over the years. She had learned to manage her shyness but it still existed deep within her. It was part of her DNA after all.
Aashi noticed everything and said nothing about it. “They will finish all the installations today. That’s good. Then we can focus on the furnishings of the girls’ accommodation. Priyanka, are you going to visit the workshop now to see the clothes?” she said with a perfectly casual expression.
Priyanka nodded hastily. ” Yes. Then I have to go home. Choti ma’s friend and her daughter are arriving today. Choti ma wants me to give company to the girl.”
“Oh yeah.” Aashi said. ” I’ll wrap up and come home earlier too.”
As they began to leave Shikhar finally removed his hand from its resting place. His heart was beating very fast now. He had really liked the feeling and it had filled him with a craving that demanded much more. “As soon as that boutique is inaugurated…” he thought to himself.
In spite of Soumya’s protestations, Jhanvi had sent a car to pick her up from her office. Now, as Soumya sat quietly in the back seat, the events of the morning went past her mind. How her heart had leaped when Rudra had said “to you too big angel.” What had she expected? He had just meant good morning! Their ride to her office that morning had been cheerful and replete with Rudra’s usual jokes. “And now he must be with Pinky Aunty’s guests. The beauty queen like Simmi.” Soumya thought a little wretchedly. She felt a sense of unknown gloom shroud her and she walked into Oberoi Mansion with that cloud hovering over her head.
Soumya wanted something soothing to calm her agitation. There were only two things in that moment, that could have calmed her down. Rudra or food. Since she did not want to acknowledge the first , she went after the second. Fortunately, living away from home in a foreign country and completely dependent on herself had given her the habit of turning to healthy options for the fear of being sick. She walked over to the kitchen, opened the fridge, found some oranges, took them back to the dining room, and sat at the table to peel them.
After she had finished eating her second orange she quickly disposed the peels in the nearby trash can and started walking towards the living room to see if anyone was there. Just as she reached there, she was arrested by the sight that met her. As if in slow motion, Rudra walked into the living room side by side the most striking woman she had ever seen in her life. The girl was barely half an inch shorter than Rudra and looked like a model in her black jeans and white kurti. There was an aura about her and the expression on her face oozed self-assurance and confidence. Soumya gulped and stared at them walk in towards her.
“You are back Soumya? Good. This is Simran. Simran, this is Soumya.” Rudra said doing a quick introduction.
“Hi…Simm..ran” Soumya said a little confused.
“Hi Soumya. Nice to meet you. You have probably heard of me as Simmi, that’s why you look confused. I prefer Simran, the name my papa gave me. Are you Rudra’s relative?” she asked
Soumya was completely dumbfounded. “I…no…just a family fr…”
“member.” Rudra completed the sentence. “She is a family member so in a way yes, she is a relative. Soumya, this is Pammi Aunty, Simran’s mummy. You talk to them; I’ll go and inform everyone that they are here.”
“Oye I am not Simran’s mummy, Simran is MY daughter. Pammi’s daughter.” Pammi said smiling at Soumya.
“Namaste Pammi Aunty.” Soumya said nervously and looked sideways to find that Rudra had disappeared.
“Err…please, come and sit.” she said beckoning them to the sofa.
“Are you also visiting for Priyanka’s boutique opening?” Pammi asked looking at Soumya with veiled curiosity.
“How is that any of your business mummy?Rudra said she is a family member. And we are temporary guests. So please don’t ask such ridiculous questions.” Simran said in a perfectly calm and low voice as she sat comfortably on the sofa.
Pammi gave her a scathing look which Simran ignored completely. “Sit Soumya.” she said pleasantly.
Soumya looked a little baffled as she sat next to Simran and looked hastily at the mother and daughter duo. Clearly, they had some kind of a power-struggle going on and the mother was the sore loser in it. Feeling the need to say something, Soumya spoke up, ” How was your journey? I have heard you are a fashion designer too.”
Simran smiled at Soumya’s hasty questions. ” The journey was very comfortable. No complaints. Except that I missed my Papa. And yes, I am a fashion designer. I design mostly western and some Indo-western. Completed my course last year and am working as an intern at a small place in Chandigarh. How about you?”
“I just graduated from a biotechnology program and am set to join the research and development department of a healthcare company.”
Simran’s eyes widened. “Whoa! You are the intelligent kind. Wow! I already liked you at introduction and now my respect for you has gone up a couple notches! Man! Anyone who can study THAT much is a deity for me.”
Soumya couldn’t help laughing. “Being able to study for long hours without getting bored, some cleverness here and there, and memorization skills, that is diligence. Being able to create new things from your imagination, that, in my opinion is intelligence. Like what you,Priyanka, and a few other members of this family do.”
Simran gave a long look to Soumya. ” Beautiful, smart, and humble. Complete package, aren’t you! Well, getting to know you will now become my second reason for appreciating my visit here.”
“So where will you live when you do your job?” Pammi interjected getting a little irritated with Simran’s praise of Soumya.
“She will live in her home. Where else? This is her home.” Jhanvi said with an
unusual chill in her tone.
All three women got up and turned around. Pinky came forward to heartily hug Pammi. “So long after I am seeing you, Oh my Mata Pammi, you are vaisi ki vaisi.”
Pammi beamed at her friend and introduced Simran. ” My younger daughter…”
“Simran.” Simran completed her mother’s sentence and joined her hands together to greet everyone which included Pinky, Jhanvi, Ranjana, Daadi, and Anika besides Rudra. She spotted Saahil who was looking at her with gaping mouth and Anya who was bobbing in her place with excitement.
“Hi there. Who are you guys?”
Rudra saw Saahil’s condition and gently pushed his mouth shut. “This is Saahil, Shivaay bhaiya’s son and…”
“Saahil Baaya” Anya nodded giving complete information.
Rudra grinned, “and that is Anya, boss of this household.”
Simran laughed. “Hi Saahil, hi Anya”
Saahil simply smiled inanely while Anya came forward to hug Simran’s leg. ” Hi Sim…Run” she said looking up at her.
Then she looked at Pammi, thought for a moment and said, “Hi Pammisimmi.” and grinned widely while Anika closed her eyes in embarrassment. Anya had been expecting Pammi Simmi. Since one had been introduced as Simran, she had assumed that the other person was Pammisimmi.
By the end of dinner several things had been established. Pammi had revealed herself as being twice as loud as Pinky, Simran had revealed herself to have the looks of a babe and the disposition of a dude, Pinky was convinced that Rudra and Simran were a perfect match and was imagining her dresses for various functions of Rudra and Simran’s wedding, Dadi and Jhanvi were a little thunderstruck at Simran’s looks and personality, the younger Oberoi ladies were a little amused at the younger generation of Oberoi men and boys gawking awkwardly at Simran every now and then, and Soumya felt a sense of depression consuming her like a black hole
“Nice evening huh!” Shivaay said later that night as he combed his hair obsessively. Anya was fast asleep in her little toddler bed in a small nook that Aashi had designed near the big bed to create a little open room within a room.
Anika sat on the bed looking at Shivaay with narrowed eyes. “Of course, fabulous evening! How are your eyes feeling? Well nourished?”
Shivaay stopped combing his hair. ” What? What do you mean?” he asked walking back to the bed.
“Nothing. Quite a looker that Simran is. Isn’t she?”
A light bulb lit up in Shivaay’s head. He switched off the dim light in the room so that only Anya’s soft starry night light threw night sky projections on the ceiling. Sliding in next to Anika and putting his arms around her he said as genuinely as he could, “Is she? I was busy talking to Bade papa about an upcoming business deal.”
Anika turned to look at the silhouette of his face and suppressed her smile. “Really?! God! What’s wrong with you? Such a hot girl and you did not even notice? Age is catching up with you and you know, you might be getting old.”
Shivaay was about to flare up at that when he realized that she was throwing a bait. “You know what? You may be right. There is only one way to figure out whether I am functioning well or getting old.” he said pulling her against himself and holding her tightly. “Hmm, so far everything seems to be normal. But why take a chance with such serious matters.Let me make sure.” he said kissing her briefly. “What do you think?” he asked her as he ran his fingers through her hair.
“I don’t know about you…” Anika said in a raspy voice, “… but all of me is functioning perfectly well…”
Shivaay had to laugh at that as he hugged her.
In his bed, Rudra tried hard to sleep.The events of the entire day played in his mind. “What a day it has been! Got so busy that I did not even get to ask Soumya if all was set for her first day on Monday.” He turned to look at the time. “Not that late. I bet she is sitting with a book either reading or over analysing something.” Feeling restless he walked over to Soumya’s room and gently pushed the door. It gave way and opened. Rudra peeked in and looked around. Ranjana was sleeping and the night light was on, but Soumya’s side of the bed was empty. He walked over to the bathroom. Its door was open too. He knocked gently and realized it was vacant as well. “Bhatakti aatma again.” he thought and went out of the room.
Once downstairs he went to the balcony where he had found her sitting a few times the previous week, but that place was also empty. Now his heart started to beat fast. “Where is she? At this time of the night! Kitchen?” Rudra ran over to the dining room and the kitchen but he didn’t find her in any of those places.
He paced back to the living room with his heart beating rapidly and painfully. He thought hard about all possibilities. Then he went towards the little covered sitting area overlooking a small lawn at the back of the mansion. It was a little place that was open air but walled for privacy. As he entered the longish verandah he found Soumya walking in the lawn , surely enough, with a book in her hand. Rudra sighed with relief and stood quietly for a couple of minutes gathering his composure. “What the hell are you doing here at this time of the night!” he said walking over to stand beside her.
Soumya turned around startled and bumped into him. Before she could stumble, Rudra held her around her shoulders. ” It isn’t that late. I couldn’t sleep so I thought I would read for a while.”
“And you are so intelligent that you read by holding a book in your hand and walking to and fro in a dimly lit lawn.” Rudra said sliding his hand down her back to encircle her waist.
” No, I was sitting there.” she said pointing at a deep chair on the verandah. It had a reading floor lamp right behind it. “Then I decided to walk for some time. The breeze is pleasant.”
“Yes it is ” Rudra said feeling a little intoxicated. Her angelic face framed by her soft hair looked even more appealing in that setting with the mild breeze making her hair flutter. On an impulse he raised one hand to push back her hair from her forehead. ” How was your day at your office? All smooth?” he asked feeling himself drowning in some warm waves.
Soumya simply nodded as she looked at the expressions on his face. She was completely unaware of the fact that her own expressions mirrored his. Rudra slowly pulled her closer in a complete embrace and softly pushed her head towards his left shoulder so that her face landed up being right above where his heart was beating. In the still of the night, Soumya heard the sounds of his rapidly drumming heartbeat and his heavy breathing. After that as she slipped into a trance she forgot all count of time.
They stood like that for some time, Soumya in a trance and Rudra letting a thousand sensations fire him up. All of the major and minor events of their four year old past swam past his closed eyes. He slowly pulled back a little, bent his head down, and kissed her deeply. Soumya thought of resisting but her body shocked her by its total rebellion and having no choice she gave in and kissed him back. All of the pain, loneliness, and longing the two had experienced in the past couple of years started to melt away letting loose the expression of their need for each other.
Thanks for reading Everyone . Please do comment if you can ☺