A/N I will finish this story in the next “few” parts.
Chapter – 21
Promises of The Heart
The morning had presented itself in red, as Geet perceived. And the red had rubbed off itself on her cheeks too when she had walked downstairs to a teasing Priya, just like she had done to her some time back. She blushed deep red and couldn’t get ignore the feeling that settled in the pit of her stomach with the thought of the previous night. The Wedding Night. Their Night. Her Night of the Infinite Stars. She had awakened to his touch even before the sun was up and he had swept her again into a world of his making. she had burned in the warmth of his breath and her lips had sung his name like an endless prayer. Even now, when the sun was so bright, she could feel the remains of his passion in her nerves.
“Ohh Hello! Geet Madam… stop dreaming about last night and get ready for Pag Phere.”
Priya’s words made her shrivel in shyness and that woman was laughing like a devil.
“By the way, how was it? Hmmm? The way Maan and you were before marriage, I can really imagine the action that could have happened last night.”
Geet stood there, biting her lips, extremely embarrassed and cherry red.
Gathering her voice, she managed to speak up, “I think we should concentrate on the breakfast.”
Priya held her hand and raised a brow at her, “Listen woman, just stop meddling in the kitchen and go get ready for the ritual. I am pretty sure Maan wouldn’t want you to go, despite you living in the house right in front of him.”
She had walked back to her… their room in a complete daze and had found her darling husband getting ready to go somewhere.
“Where are you going this early?” she asked, closing the door.
He turned to look at his wife, walking towards him, gathering the towel that he had dumped on the bed. Her hands, he noticed now were beautifully red and she reflected that color on her skin. He stopped doing his cufflinks and pulled her close, holding her hands. She was surprised and looked at him quizzically. But all he did was just look at her with some expression that didn’t tell her anything.
“What?” she asked after a pregnant silence, “is something on my face?”
He smiled and shook his head, “Nothing. Just looking at you.”
“Am I an object of display now, Mr. Khurana?” she asked him pointedly.
“No my love, you are my star… my sari clad, henna dyed star!” and he laughed.
She didn’t know whether to laugh at his words or feel shy at his compliment. She just stood there, with her hands in his and smiled.
“Where are you going Maan?”
“Ohh I have to rush to work. Board meeting today and I hate it.” he winced even at the thought of it.
“Isn’t Dev going?” she asked, setting his tie that remained in an odd position. It was so clich but it felt so nice. This small togetherness was a stepping stone for their relationship that would remain etched in their souls.
He buttoned his suit while she continued her work, “Yeah Bro is coming with me too. When are you going to your home?”
“Umm, in an hour or so. Will you be late?” she finished with the tie and brushed her hand against his shoulder to smoothen the crease. He pushed away the curl that grazed her cheek, “May be. I will have dinner with Naina, papa and Rano Ma okay? Tell her to make my favourite!”
Her lips curved into a wide smile and she nodded vigorously like a little kid. She knew how he enjoyed being pampered by her mother and this whole marriage thing had brought those things even more close to her heart. his phone rang and he walked away talking, not before pressing a chaste kiss on her forehead. She stood there, watching him leave and wondered if he was the same man who had kissed her so carnally the previous night. Was he he same man of the previous night who had kissed her so chastely right now? Sighing, she got ready and walked downstairs, where her parents waited.
She stood at the same place where they used to spend their nights in each other’s arms. The same place which held the bakula tree. The same place where she had bloomed as his jasmine. The same place, now, which held not the bakula but small wild flowers. There was no moon but the weather was pleasant. She stood in the silence, hoping that some day by some miracle, the tree would grow back. The fragrance would linger once again in the air. And they would find their anchor once again.
Strong, warm hands pulled her into the loving embrace of her husband and her heart found beats. She smiled and leaned back on him.
“You are late! Its already 9.” She complained like a wife should.
“Yeah, the meeting went longer than scheduled. I am famished. I looked around for you so that we all could have dinner together but Rano Ma said you were here in the backyard. What are you doing here alone Geet?”
She could still smell the vestiges of his cologne that still remained with him and wrapped her arms around where his arms banded her.
“I was just thinking about the tree. I… I don’t know why it died. I tried everything I could to save it.”
He rested his chin on her shoulder and watched the space that the tree had left empty.
“maybe because it had served its purpose.” He spoke after a while.
“It was the witness of us us’ Geet… I know how much you cherished it. I know you cried the day they uprooted its remains…”
She wondered how he even knew that she cried, when he was so far away, in the US, burning in his own hell. But she remained silent and let him finish.
“it was like an anchor to us and we clung to it to cross the tempest that we were sailing through. It had died down and so, the tree left us, completing one part of our story. And now, we have to find new anchors to hold on to each other, to write another new story. I don’t promise that we will have a fairy tale life Geet. There will be more storms to sail through and so much to deal with. But all I can and want to promise that I will hold your hand through it all. Be my anchor, Geet.”
She didn’t know when tears had rolled down her eyes but she immediately turned back to see him and hug him and tell him that she would not go anywhere, that she would hold on to him no matter what! but then she saw him, with his head lowered in front of her, in love and in reverence of her.
“Oh Maan… what do I do with you?” she cried, raising his head and cupping his cheeks.
“Let it go Geet… but keep the fragrance of the bakula locked in your heart.” he smiled. she let her tears roll down and hugged him tightly. What was he made of?
She was suddenly realizing that he was made up of not one but hundreds of layers that she was peeling off one after another, slowly. They remained like that until Naina came looking for them.
“Ahem.. Maan bhai, di… please come for dinner.”
They parted in haste and Geet felt embarrassed. Maan was not. he held her by her waist and led her in.
“Stop sneaking up on us, Brat.” He hit Naina’s head lightly and lovingly.
“I was not sneaking okay. You should stop doing PDA.”
“You, fat pig, must learn to close your eyes and not ogle at the couples.” He stated with a straight face and Naina winced.
“Am not fat.”
“Yeah yeah, says the elephant.” He teased as the three walked towards the hall.
“Di, I hate your husband in one day only. I miss my Maan Bhai.” She cringed.
Maan laughed and pulled he close in his arms, holding two devils on either side of him.
Time flowed like water unrestrained and they flowed along like flowers floating on the surface. She remained limp in his arms after the tiresome love making and he still had energy left to kiss her here and there.
“Maan… we need to pack!” she yawned, eating half of the words.
“I don’t feel like it!” he spoke lazily.
“Ohh, and tell me who is responsible for it?” she asked caustically.
“You jasmine. You, must never ever seduce me like that. From now on, you are banned from wearing that white tank top.” He complained, earning a punch on his shoulder.
“oww… it hurts woman!”
“You deserve it. I have been wearing that for the past three months Maan and you never had any complains before!”
“yeah.. that was then.” He feigned innocence.
“what has changed now, you shameless man?”
“Geet, you must know that its my favourite top on you.”
“yeah you tell me that after three months of marriage! Now hurry up and start packing.”
He got up but then sat still by the edge of the bed, thinking something. she saw him lost in some thought and got up too, pulling the sheet around herself and strode to his side.
“what are you thinking?”
“I… I don’t like this idea of leaving bro and bhabhi like this…with mom in such a state and dadima is unwell too. Tell me Geet, are we doing right? We are shifting to a place very far away from everyone… it just worries me.”
She sat beside him and rested her head on his shoulder, “I was worried too and I even told Priya that we didn’t want to go. You know, that woman actually laughed at my distress!”
He just remained silent, looking at the floor and worried. Hence, she continued.
“She told me that it was Dev’s wish too, to finish what bade papa had started. And there was no one better than you who could do it. She told you are babe papa’s reflection Maan. And she is right.”
She straightened and cupped his face, making him look at her, “It was too hard to convince me but Dev and Priya did it. and I know what this means to you Maan. Lets do this together!”
He looked into her eyes to search confidence, “they will be alright, hai na?”
She smiled, “Yes. They have to be. Besides, ma, papa and Naina are here too. And we can always come back, right?”
He gave a weak smile and left to freshen up. She sighed and looked around for her clothes. They will be leaving for the US in a few hours and she had to hold Maan now, for she knew where his dreams lied. She had cried in front of Priya not wanting to go but then she had to be there for Maan. He still suffered in his dreams and she had to make it okay!
The fragrance of Jasmines mingled with the musk of the slightly wet soil like two comets colliding and spreading stardust to every corner of the universe. She had calculated the steps and walked to the window and pushed it open. Cool droplets of water fell on her cheeks and rolled down, washing away a bit of stress, every single time. She would be under the mercy of the doctors from the next day onwards. The thought itself brought about a fragment of the memory of the hospital smell and she repulsed. Uneasiness settled within her and she stretched out a hand to feel the water.
“Geet, come to bed. You need to sleep.” He called out the moment he was out of the washroom and found her by the window. She didn’t reply. She kept staring into the darkness and remained still. Her mother had been with them for the past five days, helping her with things and tell her stories about how Priya’s baby looked and what crazy childish things Dev had done to the baby room back in KM. He found her so lost in her thoughts and walked to her.
“Geet, come on now.”
Like she was in some other world perhaps. She just called out softly to him,
“Yes Jasmine?” he asked, keeping away his laptop and files that were sprawled on the bed and readied it for her.
“Can we just go out?”
His head riveted towards his wife who was lost somewhere.
“You want to go to the lawn, now?” he asked arching a brow. And then he sat stunned to find her calculated steps towards the door. She knew her way! She knew what stood where and she walked to the door on her own! Technically, he was supposed to be happy that she was being brave but he wasn’t. That she was making effort to hold herself, he was supposed to feel happy. But he wasn’t. Her bravery didn’t make him feel proud of her. He, in fact, screamed in agony within his head. She was not getting used to this, he cried. She was not getting used to this darkness, he screamed in his head. No! No! NO! He wouldn’t let her lose hope. No. He would not let her be brave.
How pathetic did he sound?
He would not let her walk in the darkness. He would never in this life, let her get used to this disability. He rushed to her and without a warning, picked her up in his arms.
“What the hell are you doing?”, he screamed and left her shocked.
“Maan? What happened?” she clutched his shirt with one hand and searched for his face with the other. Sliding against his shoulder, she finally reached to his face and caressed his cheek. She felt warm breaths on her skin and knew instantly that he was upset about something.
“Tell me. What happened?”
How would he answer her now? That he didn’t want her to progress! He pressed his lips together and took a deep breath in to calm himself down and tried to tone down his emotions.
“Nothing. You should just call me okay!”
“Hmmm. Is Mamma asleep?”
“Yeah. She wanted to be with you but I asked her to rest. Come on, lets get you out in the open.”
He set her on the ground and she felt goose pimples on her skin, feeling the cold wet grass on her bare feet. The drizzle was so light that she felt someone was sprinkling water from the sky. She left his warm cocoon and embraced the chill of the weather, walking ahead, one step at a time and feeling the air on her skin, the water on her face and the soft grass below her feet.
He wanted her venture into the open, without him, for the first time. And something twisted inside him, hurting him so much more than ever before. She would be going to the hospital tomorrow. He had looked for the best doctors for her. she would be getting the best treatment ever. She would be back to how she was in a few weeks. Then why in the world is she getting one with the darkness? He watched her twirl gently in the drizzle. Why in the world she did she love this torment? He was scared. What if she had accepted her fate? What if she had… countless dreads clouded his mind as he just watched her from afar, trying to caress the plants that came her way.
She was about to touch one such plant when he rushed to her and held her hand,
“No. Stop. Its a rose bush Geet. You will hurt yourself.”
She smiled as if it didn’t affect her anymore, “Ohh… I should be more careful now.”
He left her and felt that intense urge to scream at her. tell her that she needn’t be okay with things! She needn’t accept this fate! Only he knew how helpless he had felt to see her like that. When the doctors confirmed of the retinal tear that she carried, he cried silently more than she did. How will he look into those deep eyes and find himself, when he was lost? How will he ever burn in the gaze of her love? how will he find courage in her soft eyes? More importantly, how will he see his reflection in her? he sounded selfish but he was being one! He existed because she did.
“Maan…”, she squealed in happiness, “this is the jasmine plant right?”
She had wandered towards the fence where the jasmine creeper hung like manes of a beautiful woman”thick and fragrant!
“Can I touch? I can smell them..” she asked with a childlike enthusiasm.
He smiled weakly and walked towards her. hold her hand, he, very carefully, guided her up to the bunch of flowers. They felt softer than ever before. Was it because of her mere presence? He gave her credits and watched her as she revelled in the happiness of finding something so precious.
He has been standing too close to her perhaps because a mild shiver in her alerted him of her state.
“Lets go inside.”
She tried to protest but then he didn’t give him a chance. He lifted her off the ground and walked inside. He helped her change and she wondered at his silence. He never teased her with his words or his touch like he always did. He tucked her under the blanket and pressed a kiss on her forehead.
“Never again Geet, you are going to see this darkness. This is your last night. Fight it.”
She remained awake for a long time, thinking about what he spoke and the intensity with which he spoke. It felt as if he was fighting a battle within and those words were merely to convince himself of something. She turned to his embrace but didn’t find him close which was so unlike him. he had rolled to the edge of the bed, she guessed and pulled the covers closer, feeling sad. He was distancing himself. Again!
She just remained still for a long time until she felt his arm sliding across her and pulling her into his embrace. She yielded to his touch, as quick as lightening and hugged him tight. He let out a deep ragged breath, “Am sorry, Love.”
“Umm.”, she felt better in his closeness, “Don’t shut yourself like this, ever!”
“I won’t. I Promise.”
“Promise me Geet, that you will fight!” he asked her desperately.
He pressed a kiss on her forehead and remained still for a few moments. The nurses surrounded her and he had to let go of her. it was suddenly all so difficult to just let her go with the doctors but he had no courage.
Rano held his hand and pulled it away from Geet’s. She blessed Geet and led Maan out.
“She will be okay Maan.” She tried to assure him.
Even he knew that she will be okay. He didn’t need any assurance. But still, that dread, of her pain and hurt, lingered.