Chapter – 13
The Ways of Love
Maan and dev had planned out everything… even the rooms had the name of their occupants hung on cards on the doors. Dadima got a room of her own, cozy and warm while the elderly couples got rooms close to each other. Dev and Maan shared one room while naina and Geet shared the other. Speaking of which, Geet wan’t visible to anyone.
He rolled his eyes and walked out to find her standing on the porch and just taking in the view. He came closer and pulled her close by her waist,
“Did you like it?”
She had a thin film of tear on her eyes, out of extreme happiness, “I love it Maan. Thank you.””
She side hugged him and he held her. they stood like that for a while,
“now Jasmine, get inside and rest a bit.”
“aren’t we going to explore the place?”
He smiled at her. she wasn’t tired at all, unlike others. She was up on her toes, ready to explore her dream place. He held her hand and dragged her in.
“not now Geet, rest! We will have nothing planned for this evening today. the others need to regain their strength. We will go to the town tomorrow.”
She made a pout but nevertheless followed. He just felt like leaning in and kissing those pouty lips and smiled thinking of what she made him feel. She caught that.
“why that smug smile, eh?”
“Nothing. Now freshen up and get some sleep.”
The entire farmhouse was a beauty in itself. It had nothing extravagant but she just loved the vintage feel to it. the fireplace in the living room, the hardwood flooring, the furniture, the drapes…everything just like she had imagined, straight out of a book. She fell on bed, thinking of doing something for Maan to let him know how happy he made her but then she couldn’t keep her eyes open.
It was almost dusk when Maan woke up and stretched himself. A good sleep felt relaxing. He looked around and found no Dev. He must be up already. He freshened up and changed into a comfortable tracks and a tee and walked to check on others. They all still seemed asleep. He let them be and walked towards the lawn to enjoy the fresh air. The lights were up as he walked on the cobbled pavement when he found Geet and dev sitting on a bench, made of cobbled stone on the greener side. He sighed and walked towards them. They seemed to be engrossed in some important talks.
“dev, go tell her!”, Geet tried to convince dev but he seemed adamant.
“She wouldn’t listen to me Geet. Priya is really really mad at me!”
“You love her or not?”
“Then pursue her. she is just angry at you. All you need is to pacify her.”
“and that is not an easy task Geet. She is one person who can bring people to their toes!”
Geet laughed and looked at him meaningfully, “ohh yes I can see that!”
“Shut up yaar, help me.”
“Cough Cough!! Let me also know what you are cooking bro, so that I can also help!”
The duo gasped and looked back only to find a smirking Maan. Dev didn’t want this to be out like this! He tried to cover up.
“What are you talking about Maan? What help?”
He sat beside Geet, pulling her into his arms, “you think i don’t know about what is going on between you and Priya!! She is that college crush of yours right?”
“you know?”, this time it was Geet.
he gave a chuckle, “of course. I had my own suspicions but seeing you both talk secrets just confirmed things. So bro, tell me what is wrong with her?”
dev watched Maan and Geet, confused. Geet seemed so comfortable in his arms and Maan just held her that close. He wondered if there was something between them he was missing out!
“since you know, let me tell you then! Priya and I have been in love with each other since college times. After that, she moved to the US, back to her family and I came here and I got held up with work and though she wanted to tell about us to our families, I asked her to give me two years before i actually got a hang of everything made a man out of myself.”
Maan nodded, “yes, but then whats the problem now?”
Dev sighed sadly, “the problem is, her family has fixed her engagement with someone else. its almost going to be two years and Priya is so so angry on me that she said a yes for the engagement. Am trying to reach her but she isn’t even in a mood to talk to me.”
“hmm.. then what are you waiting for bro? Just go and get her home!”
“but thats not easy Maan. You don’t know her. she can be stubborn to the power of infinity!”
“you should have thought about that before falling for her bro. But nothing can be done now. You are sacrificed!”
Geet rested her head on his shoulder, comfortable in his arms and giggled at the plight of dev and Maan’s sarcasm. Dev looked at the two again and his curiosity got the better of him.
“stop laughing at me and tell me whats up with you two?”
“whats up what dev?”, Geet asked clueless.
Dev ignored Geet and looked up at Maan, with that elder brother look that always made Maan squirm.
“Out with it Maan! What are you up to with Geet?”
He knew that look well and he just couldn’t hide from his brother. He wrapped both his arms around Geet and hugged her from the back.
“Stop worrying about my girlfriend bro and think about yours!”
There! he said it! Geet gasped. It was the first time he had addressed her as his girlfriend. Dev, though shocked at first, regained himself quickly and smirked, “so thats what has been happening behind my back all this time, eh? You sneaking out of the mansion in the middle of the nights… it was all because of this lady here, isn’t it!”
He laughed and Maan made a face, asking him to mind his own business. But Geet was far from that. She recalled that party when she had asked him what they shared and he had just asked her to keep their relation unnamed. But now, he himself went ahead and materialized their relationship. She felt happiness, an overwhelming happiness well up from deep inside her heart as she clutched his hands tighter.
Like he understood. He leaned and pressed a kiss on her temple, sealing his words firmly. He knew she had longed to hear this for a while now. And now that he had said it, she felt like turning back and hugging him so tight that even there wasn’t a particle of dust that could pass through them. but she held back her urge, seeing the sad face of dev. And then after a long discussion, it was decided. Dev would tell everything to the family and they would bring their eldest daughter-in law home.
The kitchen was well equipped but everyone settled for some light soup, thick vegetable curry and bread. The dinner was lively because everyone had almost gained back their energies and enthusiasm. They talked and laughed until dev burst the big bubble, shrouding the table in silence. Geet sat beside Maan and she was more nervous than Dev seeing everyone so quiet. She held Maan’s hand tightly under the table, her lips moving in some incomprehensible prayer for her beloved friend.
“it will be okay Geet. Just relax. They are trying to create some drama.”
She heard him whisper into her ears but nothing relaxed her until dadima burst out laughing, followed by rano and then the entire hall was echoing.
“i thought my grandson never liked women. I dreaded to even think of any other possibilities!”, laughed dadima.
“ohh dadima!!!”, dev’s eyes widened at the possibilities dadima could have been thinking.
He smiled realizing her grip loosening. She seemed relaxed now as the discussions continued about the marriage and talking to priya’s parents. Yash didn’t want to waste a single moment. He immediately asked dev to call up priya and let them know that they wanted to welcome her in their lives.
It was way past midnight when everyone retired to their rooms. She turned off the lights of the stairs when she felt him tug at her hands and the next moment he was dragging her somewhere.
“shh. Just come.”
They climbed the stairs and walked the dark wooden corridors until they reached a door. He opened it and guided her inside. It was a dark attic, with nothing around. The wood creaked under her feet.
“where are we Maan?”
He gave her handsome smile and opened the window that opened out to the fields around. He pulled her close and made her stand.
“Look and tell me what you see.”
She stood and looked up… thousands and millions of stars spread on the inky sky, like little fireflies. Her mouth remained agape with the beauty. the moon wasn’t visible but the stars were enough to fulfill that void. It felt as if someone had strewn glitters on a dark canvas, such was the beauty she beheld. She turned around and wrapped her arms around his shoulders
“So, Mr. Khurana, whats up with surprise the girlfriend’ spree of yours, hmm?”
He smiled, something she had loved to see all the time,
“umm… well you see, I want my girlfriend to be spending time with me here and not with my brother!”
Her eyes gleamed with naughtiness, “Jealous of your own brother, eh?”
“Yes of course, when my girlfriend is this beautiful, I would want her to be with me all the time.”
She laughed feeling something warm build within her heart. this is what he made her feel… beautiful! He made her love herself. She leaned closer and pressed her soft warm lips on his right cheek, “Well, then you must deserve a reward!”
And she blushed, biting her lips. He could still feel her lips on his cheek. His arm around her waist, pulled her closer
“then I must keep surprising her like this! The reward is encouraging!”
He winked, making her giggle in his arms.
“well in that case…”
She left her words lingering and pressed another kiss on his left cheek,
“I would look forward to them.”
The next day went in visiting the town. The Victorian architecture and the Italianate city hall left Geet in awe. She took thousands of pictures while the rest shopped around, having fun. They had lunch at a local diner and resumed exploring the city. Maan enjoyed but at the same time he kept himself busy with phone to such an extent that Geet snatched it away, frowning.
“Why are you with the phone?”
“I have got work Geet!”, he spoke, adjusting his shades.
“But Maan, we are on a vacation!”
“I know sweets, but we can’t leave everything right. Dad and bro have been handling everything. so I just wanted to run everything via phone so that it doesn’t bother them!”
She sighed but couldn’t stop smiling, “You think about others a lot, don’t you?!”
He groaned, “don’t make me look so nice Geet. I told you I am here for my selfish reasons!”
“yeah yeah selfish I get it.”, she rolled her eyes handling him the phone and went ahead, looking at some souvenirs.
It was late evening when they drove back home, fatigued and happy. But, Geet noticed, her mom and badi ma, exchanging smiles secretly.
“Whats up with you ladies?”
“Ohh nothing Geet. We were just talking!”
Geet had ignored them then but back in their farmhouse, she knew something was amiss. The two ladies have been asking her to wear her prettiest salwar kameez, and pestered her to change out of her jeans.
“what is wrong with you two?”, she asked, exasperated.
The doorbell rang right at that moment and rano pushed her, “go Geet, open the door!”
“yeah but naina is there downstairs…”
“Shh. Just go Geet.”, her badi ma urged.
Utterly confused, she had gone and opened the door, only to find a tall young man standing there, with a smile on his face!
He took off his shades and she realized he was one beautiful man, standing right in front of her, with a dazzling smile.
“Hi, am Rishi… Rishi Malhotra!”
“No… Maan Bhai, You are cheating. Di, please tell him.”, Naina whined.
It was a late Sunday evening when naina had challenged Maan for a snakes and ladders match, post dinner. They were sprawled on the bed while Geet sat, resting against the headboard.
“You brat! When did I cheat?”, he spat back.
“My token was at 63. I got 5 on my dice so, i move to 68 where I climb the ladder!”
“No. Yours was on 64. So it moves to 69 and you get eaten by the snake!”
“Maan Bhai, it was on 63. Don’t cheat!”
“I never cheat. You were rolling the dice like it were a bowling ball and you misplaced the token!”
Geet sat beside them, listening to their banter and laughing. She didn’t know who was telling the truth and who was cheating but nevertheless, Maan and Naina banters were always worth witnessing. Her reverie was broken by her sister’s angry voice.
“Diii… see he called me a fat woman!”
Naina had this extreme OCD of maintaining her figure. And she hated those who called her fat even by mistake. And Maan knew it very well. Geet sighed, “Maan, don’t tease her.”
“Come on Love, am not teasing. I am just stating the truth. She has gained, umm, I guess around 10lbs since i last saw her!”
That was the last straw. 10lbs!! That was a nightmare for naina. She cried.
“your husband is really very mean di. I hate him!”
Maan laughed, “yeah yeah… I am mean to cheaters!”
He loved teasing naina because she gave him reactions. And at his comment, naina stood up and stormed out of their room, “I hate you Maan Bhai.”
He stood by the door, watching her rush to her room and had a good laugh. She’d come back to him the next day demanding something or the other. Naina was his source of entertainment for all purposes. He closed the door shut and turned back to Geet laughing.
She had been sitting at one corner of the bed, now tried standing up, holding the bed post. She was calm these days and advent of Naina had actually taken her mind off her own self. She now walked around their room, counting steps and feeling things with her fingers as Lizzy would instruct her. she stretched herself standing by the bed when she heard him gasp. She realized the sensitivity of her ears that had tried to cover up for her eyes and immediately turned towards the sound.
For a moment Maan felt as if she could see with the way she looked at him. but then that blank expression burst his bubble.
“Maan, what happened?”
He gaped at her, wondering if his head was playing tricks on him. she stood there, his broken angel, totally clueless about the beauty she made. She had worn a knee length skirt and a tank top, which he hadn’t noticed yet, thanks to naina. She made an inviting sight. And he had let out a gasp.
Geet wondered if Maan was still in the room when he held her by her waist and pulled her to him, pressing her body against his. And this time, it was Geet’s turn to gasp.
His strong hold felt even stronger these days. She could feel his muscles on her bare arms.
“who has dressed you like this?”, his words came out as a low groan that tumbled her insides.
“Naina…she had pulled out my old clothes today.”
She felt is breath fall on her lips and closed her eyes. He was close… so very close to her. his muscles, she could feel them flexing and suddenly so conspicuous. Never before had she felt his skin speak to her like it did today. May be because she wasn’t able to see! May be because her other senses had heightened these days! She gulped down to wet her dry throat when his chest pressed against her soft bosom, telling her about the deep breaths he was requiring. She wanted to hold him and she wanted to make love to him but she knew she was not in a condition to. Her lips dried and her skin erupted in goose bumps as the tell-tale signs of her building desire. But she knew she couldn’t. With all her courage, she pressed both her palms on his chest and looked down.
“Let go Maan.”
“Look at me.”
He didn’t listen to her and tipped her chin to raise her face to him.
“You want me.”
She was surprised to have been caught like this.. at his blunt statement but she resisted. She shook her head softly, trying hard to deny her feelings.
“yes you do Geet.”, his voice was firm, and dominating.
“Noo..”, her reply came out breathless.
“Tell me you do. don’t run away Geet.”, his hand now pressed her hips closer to him.
“ahhh..”, she whimpered feeling her insides liquefying. She felt the heat… the heat of his words and his body now seeping into her, slowly, oh-so-slowly!
“You want me Geet!”
Her mouth remained slightly opened, unable to form any answer but she knew his gaze was piercing into her. she wanted to look into those eyes, slowly smouldering into dark charcoals but who could grant her wish now?
“Yes.”, she rasped out and a drop of tear rolled down her cheek.