“Where to?” Usha Sarna’s sleepy, but somehow still intimidating voice made Twinkle jump up. She had almost gotten to the door, and if she had just a few more seconds, she would have made it through, she thought, cursing her timing. She turned to Usha, who was standing across from her in the huge hall and looking at her suspiciously. “The cafe.” Twinkle replied immediately, gulping when she watched her mother-in-law raise her eyebrows. “Usha aunty, good morning!” Aditi called from behind Usha, and Twinkle let out a sigh of relief. “So, your new daughter-in-law was up at 5 today, and she’s done with that little ritual too. The one where she had to prepare a sweet dish, that is. I think we can let her go now.” Aditi continued cheerfully, and Usha nodded, a little disappointment vanishing from her features.
Aditi smiled at Twinkle and thew her a look that clearly said, “I’ve got this!” Twinkle’s grateful nod was interrupted when she spotted Usha walking towards her. “I’m glad you’ve been trying your best to fit in with us. May God bless you!” Usha said fondly, placing her hand on Twinkle’s head. Aditi giggled on seeing Twinkle’s eyes widen in utter shock. Aditi pointed her index finger downwards and Twinkle caught the clue immediately. She bent to touch Usha’s feet, but the older woman stopped her midway and pulled her into a hug instead. Aditi held back her laugh, showing Twinkle a thumbs up.
Twinkle smiled timidly at Usha when the latter had withdrawn from her and had just released a deep breath when Usha said, “But, you don’t have to work at the cafe any more!” Neither Twinkle nor Aditi could figure out what that meant. “You needed that job to earn a living back when you weren’t married. All your needs and necessities are Kunj’s responsibility now.” Usha explained, catching Twinkle off-guard. “It isn’t about necessity, ma’am. The cafe means a lot to me and was pretty much everything to me for so long. It will always be an integral part of me and I can’t give it up for anything in the world!” Twinkle spoke slowly, tears welling up in her eyes at this new challenge.
Aditi came rushing towards them, hoping they would be able to handle the issue before it grew out of proportion. “What will people say?” Usha countered, glancing alternatively at Aditi and Twinkle. “They’ll say, Ma, that while one of Usha Sarna’s daughters-in-law is a doctor,” Kunj began, and all three women turned to the staircase that Yuvi and Kunj were descending. “Her other daughter-in-law made it big with a cafe of her own, one that she is going to own all due to her efforts alone.” Yuvi finished for Kunj, giving each other a high five. “If it is the job that you are going on and on about, why don’t you ask Yuvi or Kunj? One of them will give you a job in their office! It’ll be an internal matter then.” Usha said quickly, returning her eyes to Twinkle, whose look of utter disbelief hadn’t faded away yet.
Twinkle shook her head, trying to put forth her point yet again. “It isn’t about just any job, ma’am. The cafe-” Usha cut her short with a “Fine then. Kunj, pay off the remaining dues of the cafe immediately. She can start off as the owner right away!” Twinkle watched Yuvi and Aditi exchange a worried glance before her eyes landed on Kunj. “No, Ma. I will not do anything of that sort. Neither will Yuvi. If Twinkle wants us to help, all she has to do is say the word, and we’ll do every single thing in our hands – be it financial, legal or whatever else. But until and unless she says so herself, none of us – and I mean absolutely nobody – will interfere. The cafe is – will be – hers, and she’s free to make any decision regarding it.” Kunj said with an air of finality, earning a warm smile from Twinkle.
“What are you saying?” Usha asked, looking disconcerted. “Aunty, Twinkle is getting late already. We should let her go now. She was preoccupied with so much last week that she has a lot of things heaped up for her.” Aditi quipped in, placing her hands on Usha’s shoulders in an attempt to reason with her. “Kunj, you should drop her. She’ll save some time that way.” Yuvi added immediately, signalling them to leave, while he and Aditi took Usha in the other direction. They knew that this wasn’t the end of the discussion. It would come up again, but they were both hoping that Usha would be able to think clearly if given some time to cool off before making her final decision.
“You didn’t have to drop me. I have enough time, I would have taken a cab.” Twinkle informed Kunj conversationally as they drove out of the Sarnas’ compound. “Of course not. And thank goodness you didn’t tell Ma that! She would have been so annoyed. I have an easier solution to this. There’s a car at home that Aditi uses. Since both of you have to leave at almost the same time, you can go with her. The driver will also pick you up in the evening. If the idea of me accompanying you is so troublesome to you.” He answered, turning to look at her now and then. “It isn’t that. I just don’t want to bother any of you. Besides, I don’t really feel comfortable with all this luxury.” She said honestly, making Kunj realise that she was probably only trying to get away from all that got in the way of her independence.
Kunj knew this wasn’t the right time to be putting forward this question, but it had been eating him up on the inside for so long now that he had to do something about it. “Twinkle, did you get to speak to Mrs. Taneja after that night in the cafe when you introduced us?” He blurted out before realising it, and regretted it immediately at the sharp look she shot him. Just as he was about to apologise, he heard her speak, “I had called her yesterday, before the ceremony. But she…” She drifted off, looking away. Kunj placed his hand gently on her hand lying in her lap. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to ask you something that would hurt you.” He said softly, anticipating her to pull her hands away, but it never came. Instead, she smiled at him, her free hand subconsciously moving to finger the Mangalsutra that had become a new addition to her life.
“I couldn’t say much to her because there was hardly any time. Everything got so cluttered towards the end.” Twinkle said finally, breaking the pleasant silence they had settled into. Kunj laughed a little at that, agreeing with an “Everyone was rushing around with so much to do, and I was just sitting there, watching the fun.” She cast him a ‘That wasn’t funny at all!’ look, making him laugh some more, as he drawled on dramatically how excited everyone at home was. She gave in midway through it, beginning to laugh herself, when an older memory came rushing back to her, making her freeze. “But Kunj, hadn’t you told me some time ago that you already knew who you wanted to marry, and exactly how the wedding should go?” She voiced her concern, her guilt returning. He kept his eyes trained on the road as he thought of a response to that. “Yes, I did.” He conceded, his mind still thinking through the outcome of denying any such memory.
Twinkle waited for him to continue, for she didn’t know how this conversation was to proceed, if at all. When she realised that he had decided to hold on to his silence, she asked, “And you decided to marry me despite it all?” The conflicted look returned to his face at that and made him cringe. ‘Damn you, Kunj Sarna! I know she’s pretty, and that she’s taken over your heart and all, but could you not maybe think before doing something that would return so stupidly to you?’ He thought to himself. That was one question that he could not answer honestly. She would not be able to handle it. She might even hate him, he feared. “I have an answer to that.” He started tentatively. “I really do, and I will tell you. I promise. But just not right away.” She was confused at that, evidently, but didn’t think it was her place to say anything else.
“Thank you.” Twinkle said as he pulled up in front of the cafe, preparing to get off, but Kunj didn’t free her hand. When she looked at him, he was muttering under his breath, looking nervous. “Kunj? What is it?” She asked cautiously, shifting in her seat to face him. He shook his head, letting go of his grip on her hand, but she caught his hand before he realised it. “You can tell me.” She assured him, following his glance to find it focused on their hands. She didn’t know how she had found it in her to reach out to him like that. She didn’t know how she had warmed up to him so easily, but her heart seemed to know the answers to all her questions. She looked at him carefully as his eyes rose to meet hers, something in them that she couldn’t quite decipher, but it made her feel at home nevertheless.
The trance that she was put in under his sight was broken when he said, “Twinkle, I’m sorry for what Ma said today. She hardly knows of all your battles and does not value your achievement as much as we do. But she will. You can have my word on that.” She nodded with a tiny smile, knowing that Usha had been trying really hard too, just like she had promised. She knew that the recent developments happened out of the blue, and each one of them was dealing with something new, something that they would need time to get accustomed to. It would all hopefully fall into place when the time was right. “I know this big reception thing that Ma has been going on and on about isn’t something you’re looking forward to. I’m sorry you have to go through that.” He was saying when she next snapped out of her thoughts.
She shook her head at that, quickly debating within her mind before willing herself to give his hand a gentle squeeze. “You’ve already done so much according to my wishes, Kunj! I know it wouldn’t have been the easiest task to get Usha ma’am to agree to those in the first place.” She argued, making him furrow his eyebrows. “That is wrong on so many levels!” He protested, biting back a smile at her puzzled face that he thought scrunched up so cutely that it made him want to pull her cheeks. Not that he did though. ‘Scaredy cat.’ His heart taunted, but his mind knew better. In response to her questioning glance, he said, “First of all, this was our wedding – just as much yours as it was mine, so you had to have a say in it. And then, Ma wants all her children to be happy is all. So she wasn’t really difficult. Lastly, you can’t keep calling her ‘Usha ma’am’ anymore! She’s your mother-in-law, not just a customer!”
She looked thoughtful at that. “What else do I refer to her as?” She asked back, hoping desperately that he wouldn’t put her in a fix. “Oh, that is your homework. You have to think about it!” He hit back cheerfully, holding his hands up in an ‘I won’t help you with this!’ motion. “Technically not your homework, but what else do I say?” He continued, making her let out an annoyed whine before finally getting out of the car and waving at him. He watched as she walked into the cafe, not turning back to even look at him. Little did he know that her heart had been beating so frantically at even the thought that he would be looking at her when turned back, that it frightened her! She had, however, stood at the glazed kitchen window to watch him leave, only for Maya to cough obnoxiously loud at that. She hadn’t responded of course, but that didn’t mean she hadn’t rolled her eyes at her poor employee either.
Twinkle would be lying if she had said that she wasn’t saddened by the fact that neither Yuvi and Aditi nor Kunj had come to the cafe that day. Although she had claimed that nothing about her routine at the cafe would be affected by her marriage, some corner of her heart wanted someone – a very specific someone a little more than the others – to drop by, even if for just a few minutes, because ‘Of course it is a fresh start!’ like she had said to herself while she had chopped her vegetables at a furious pace for the soup. She had definitely not seen any surprise coming when she heard a loud ‘Welcome home!’ being hooted in her direction when she stepped into the Sarna mansion that night. She took a whole minute to reassure herself and calm down while the other three laughed their heads off.
“Well, before you get confused about this, let me tell you. Yesterday was your first day here, and you had a welcome ceremony and all that, but we hardly got to celebrate, no? Today, Usha aunty and Bebe aren’t at home, and Manohar uncle won’t come back till late in the night, so we thought it was only fair to welcome you in our way!” Aditi explained, her usual excited chirping cheering Twinkle up instantly. “You didn’t have to.” She told them when Yuvi presented a cake with a bad imitation of a drumroll. “Of course we did!” Kunj exclaimed, walking over to her side. “Also, we know you don’t like big gatherings, so before the one that is inevitable, we wanted to do something for you that could actually enjoy.” He said in a low voice, watching her eyes brighten. She looked away from him when she heard Aditi wolf-whistle at them.
“Is that one of my cakes?” She said the moment she had been able to take a good look at it, and all three of them looked guilty. “We know you’re the best at baking cakes, and we also know that you hardly ever get to even taste your yummy ones yourself, so it works both ways, no?” Yuvi said, giggling as she shook her head. “It also makes this more special, and more about us, no?” Kunj added from right next to her, making her gasp. She had a hard time hiding the blush on her cheeks from then on, but if she thought about it, she wasn’t even complaining. For, without even realising it, she had learned to be happier. She had found her family. Her home. Her Kunj.
That’s it for now, you all!! I hope you enjoyed it!! Where’s the roller coaster, you ask? Well, I love these four too much to put in the spice already, but it is inevitable. It will come, sooner than you know. Also, I really wanted these four to get some time to make their bond stronger, for I believe they deserve it! Until next time, lots of love!!