CHAPTER – 9
“Maan.”, she broke that beautiful silence they shared under the tree.
“Yes Jasmine.”, he spoke softly, playing with her long locks, as he lay on her lap under the bakula tree. It was cloudy and it seemed it might rain anytime soon. He had come home for the weekend. He had been down with fever the previous week. But those moments with him were like dream for her. she had come back that evening itself but the fun they had, playing video games and talking like crazy were too good to forget. Even after a week, she still revelled in those memories.
“tell me a story.”, she demanded.
“Story?”, he asked surprised.
“yes, and tell me now. Am bored.”
The entire Khurana and Handa clan had gone for some party. Geet had stayed back for she was overloaded with work. Maan had gone with the family but then how could he have enjoyed when his jasmine was back home, all alone. He made some lame excuse of a headache and got back home. None stopped him, knowing how much workload he handled and that he needed rest. He was back but to the handa Haveli and despite the storm brewing up, he had dragged her out and laid down on her lap. She protested first but then her heart sang the same tune as his.
“I don’t know any story.” he shrugged.
“No I want to hear a story. Like you used to tell me when we were kids.”
“ohh the ghost ones?”, he chuckled. She knew as a kid she hated, in fact was dead scared of ghosts and anything remotely horror. He used to deliberately tell her scary stories whenever she asked him to tell her one.
“shut up Maan.”, she twisted her lips, slapping his hand that played with her locks.
“Shut up jasmine.”, he mimicked her.
“why do you keep calling me jasmine? Its not my name.” she spat, irritated.
“I have been calling you jasmine since ages and you are asking about it today!”
“han. Now answer me.”
“well, thats something I’d rather keep a secret.”, he moved her hair away to watch her expression.
“I want to know the secret.”
“Then it wont remain a secret, will it now jasmine!”
“You are a mean man.”
“very correctly deduced jasmine.”, he teased.
She knew he wouldn’t say. He was damn good at keeping secrets. And it was futile to even try to get words out of his mouth. She rolled her eyes and looked away. He sighed and sat up.
“come on Geet, now don’t be mad.”
She turned to him with a smirk, “who said I am mad! I demand a story. Period.”
He sighed, “You wouldn’t give up now, would you Woman?!!”
She grinned and shook her head. He breathed out. Could he deny the demand of his little woman here? She had always been the centre around which his life revolved. The weather turned stormy and a gust of wind flew by, making the flowers shower themselves on the two souls beneath their home.
He picked up a fallen flower and took in its mild sweet fragrance. She watched him think, looking at the flower, as if searching something in them. He rested against the tree trunk and looked up at the dark sky. She watched him, unblinking.
“With my song
I will charm Demeter’s daughter,
I will charm the Lord of the Dead,
Moving their hearts with my melody.
I will bear her away from Hades.”
Those first lines from his lips set goose bumps on her skin. She looked at him half surprised, half anxious but he still seemed lost in his thoughts.
“These were the lines Orpheus spoke when he decided that he would go to Hades, the king of the underworld and bring his wife back. His wife, Eurydice was bitten by a snake on their wedding night and she died.”
Geet gasped, “and then?”
He watched her interest piqued and her eyes shone like stars in the dark night.
“He was the son of Apollo, blessed with musical excellence. So, he held his lyre and marched on to the gates of Hades of the Underworld to bring his wife back.”
The clouds rumbled but she was far from realizing anything. just as she was when she was a kid, he thought. Start a story and she will forget the world.
“When denied what he sought after, he played his lyre and sang. A song so sad and pitiful that Hades wept and allowed him to take his wife away, only on the condition that he must not look back until they reach out of the gates of the Underworld, else Eurydice would vanish forever.
“Victorious and Happy, he walked out and Eurydice walked behind him. it was the sound of her footsteps that kept his company throughout. And it was for her that he held his extreme urge to turn back, hold her hands and walk ahead.”
“Please don’t tell me he turned back!”, she asked, scared that her words might come true. He smiled at her innocent curiosity. She was still a baby.
“the moment he stepped out of the gates, he turned back, unable to hold his happiness, forgetting that Eurydice still hadn’t stepped out.”
She held her breath, “and then?”
He looked up at the sky, sparkling with the soft lightening, “and then she was gone…forever. she went back to the underworld and Orpheus was left to live alone, forever and all he was left with was his music and the faint farewell’ from Eurydice before she vanished.”
He looked at her forlorn face, as if she were living that story and pulled her cheeks, making her wince.
“ahhh…what are you doing?”she was ready to pounce on him.
“Don’t cry on me jasmine. Its just a story.”
“I was not crying. But that was so sad. From where did you hear that one?”
“I had heard it long time back from a friend of mine in the University, a literature student.”
She was about to say something when a drizzle interrupted her. the wind picked up speed and the clouds rumbled. She stood up and pulled him up too.
“come on. Lets get inside.”
And in no time, the drizzle turned into a heavy downpour, making her squeal as she ran inside the house. She wiped her face and hair and looked around for Maan only to see him stand in the rain, smiling.
“What are you doing Maan? Get inside.”
“no jasmine, come out. Its wonderful.”
The cold water pricked his skin, filling him with a sweet sensation.
“Maan..get inside please. You just recovered from a fever.”
“NO Geet..just come out here.”
She rolled her eyes. Stubborn man. She was in no way getting him all sick once again. she dashed out, held his hand and tried to drag him inside. But then he stood firm and stiff. She turned back, “Maan… please come back.”
He held both her hands and smirked, “No. I am staying here and you are staying back with me.”
“No ways.” she tried to wriggle out of his grip.
He mentally laughed at his condition. He had a meeting the next day but this woman here makes him feel and do crazy things. The more she tried to run away, the tighter he held her.
“Let me go.”
“You are staying here with me. And you are wet already. So there is point in getting in now.”
She sighed in defeat, “why don’t you ever listen to me?” and jerked her hands off his and turned to leave when he lifted her off the ground by her waist, making her scream.
“Ohh God what the hell are you doing Maan?”
He laughed and whispered in her ears, “having fun!”
And he twirled her around, in the rain, making her laugh. She clutched his hand that banded round her waist and laughed in glee. He laughed with her too. He put her down when she turned around, looking at him naughtily and tickled him. he was damn ticklish and this caught him off guard. He jerked away from her but she was not letting him go. she got around him and tickled him, making him run around. She ran behind him, screaming at him to stop. It was when her leg slipped on the wet grass and in a desperate big to save herself, she held his arm, making him slip too.
The skies found the two souls laying on the grass, in the downpour, laughing their heads off. she turned to him and raised herself on her elbow, “now, can we get inside?”
He wiped the water from his face and looked at his sweet sweet jasmine. Her hair stuck to her face, her eyes twinkling and her lips curved into a smile. Oh how much he loved to see her like this! He gently pushed away that stubborn wet lock away from her face with his finger. Their eyes met and she shivered with the intensity of the moment. Never had she felt the need so urgent to wrap her arms around him and keep her head on his chest and listen to his heartbeats. She licked away the water from her lips, making his eyes flick to those red petals and she caught that. His gaze intensifying, just like the weather. She gulped hard, watching him and did what she had always wanted to do and what she felt was her right. She placed her head on his chest and wrapped her arm around him.
The wind was cold but she felt so warm against him. he held her close to him and knew she belonged there. it was not today or yesterday, it had been forever, he realized, that she belonged to him and only him.
He went to see her the next day and stood by the door, smiling. She was on her bed, skipping office.
“Aacchi..!” she wiped her nose and sighed sadly. So much for having fun. She shook her head when she saw him stand by the door of her room, hands crossed over his chest and smiling away at her plight.
She twisted her lips, “thank you Maan for the gift you gave me.”
He strode in lazily and sat beside her, checking her temperature. He leaned closer and whispered in her ears, startling her, “so, what do you suggest? Shall I stay back tonight and nurse you back to health like you did the last time?”
She felt her cheeks heat up with his husky voice, reminding her of the previous night when they had spent a beautiful time in each others’ embrace. He suppressed his laughter seeing her so stiff and got up to leave.
“take care. I will be going now Jasmine.”
Her face fell and she looked at him sadly, “What? Now?”
He shrugged, “its Monday. I have to work jasmine.”
She blew her nose and fell back on the bed, feeling sick and upset that he was going away. She felt his breath on her cheeks and closed her eyes.
“get well soon okay.”
He pressed a kiss on her cheeks and rushed off. she sat up immediately to look for him but then he was gone. She caressed her cheek where he had kissed and fell back on the bed, sighing in sweet agony of cold and this separation.
She got up panting and immediately looked for him, moving her hands on his side.
“Maan… are you there?”
She didn’t like the silence now. There was time when she loved the solitude of the silence but she was scared now.
“Maan…”, her lips trembled. She moved her hands frantically to look for something to hold on to so that she could get off the bed. Holding the bed post, she managed to stand up. The birds chirruped outside her window telling her that it was morning already. But nothing pleased her like before. Days and nights were same for her. she tried to picturize their room in her mind and walk to him.
“Maan where are you?”
She took a few steps ahead and tripped over something when two soft hands grabbed her, preventing her fall. She quickly clutched those hands, feeling glad.
“Maan…where were you? I was looking for you..”
“its me Ma’am. Sir has gone out for some work and asked me to be here.“
It was the nurse and it hurt.
“ohh.“, she spoke sadly. The little happiness she felt seemed to die down. What has happened to their beautiful world now? She felt like crying.
The nurse talked of how well she was healing and what the next step was but she was far from anything. she just sat where the nurse had made her sit, numb to everything. why wasn’t Maan with her? she came to realize that he had been avoiding her for the past few days. But why? It hurt her so bad, the distance could be felt. He came to her only when it was something to do with her health, or when the nurse called hi. He came when she was sleep and he was gone when she woke up.
“…and the doctor says we can remove the bandages round your eyes tomorrow. It will take some time but please have patience ma’am.”
Did it make her happy? What difference did it make in her life now? Her nights wouldn’t turn into days and her days wouldn’t turn into nights. It will always be the same for her. time passed in waiting but she didn’t know what she was waiting for. Her mother had called, asking her if she was okay. She wanted to ask them so many things but she couldn’t. She couldn’t ask about dadima or about Dev or Priya and her pregnancy or her badi ma or anyone else for that matter. She was far from them, across the seven seas and 5 continents away. Seemed as if she was far from Maan too.
It was much later at night when she felt him pull her close to him. he was back. She felt like crying but held back the urge and pretended to remain asleep. He was in his vest and tracks, she could very well deduce. But he seemed restless, his muscles tensed and his breathing erratic. She wrapped her hand around him and kissed his chest. He stilled.
“you are awake?”
She gently moved her fingers up on his torso, trying to feel him… re-learn his body just with her touch. She gulped down when she felt that warm pulse on the base of his neck, pulsating in an arrhythmic fashion. He sighed in with the touch. Her fingers treaded further to his firm jaw line and lingered a bit there before resting on his cheeks.
“Geet..”, he whispered, feeling the heaviness of her emotions on his skin.
“Don’t go far from me Maan.”
It was a desperate plead, that squeezed his heart painfully. He kissed her palm that rested on his lips now.
“I am right here, With You jasmine.”
She felt nice, feeling his lips move against her palm. It gave her a warm feeling. He was with her.
But she felt the cold surround her when she sat still as the doctor removed her bandages, asking her not to open her eyes yet. He was not with her today. she felt her heart prick. He lied! The nurse had informed her that he was gone for some work. Why couldn’t he tell her that he was leaving? She was perhaps wrong to assume that the distance had been just her imagination. It was very much there. so profound now! It was all her fault that Maan has gone away form her. she sat in their room, pondering over the facts. She was nothing but perhaps a burden to him now. The clouds rumbled outside and she cried, sitting all alone. Those moments of them in the rain, embraced in each other’s arms flashed in her mind. What had become of them?