(Thanks -Mahnoor[-SpellOfJoy-] for such a wonderful and perfect banner)
(Thanks -Mahnoor[-SpellOfJoy-] and Amy(Preggy)for such a wonderful and perfect banner)
Life has always been unpredictable for him. Losing his mother at the age of four was the first unpredictable encounter of his life. He had never thought that his mother, who use to cuddle him close to her, trying to teach him so many things, scolding him for his every mistake, taking him under her safe wings whenever he use to get scared, lulling him to sleep, waking him every morning under her warmth, would leave him on one cold and lonely morning. He had searched her for so many days, asked every maid and servant of his Palace where his Mother was, but all he got was a sympathetic look in return, which he was unable to understand back then, but very well understands now. And after days of bugging everyone, one old cook of his Palace was kind enough to take him inside a large door, where he had seen a silhouette of a big man, and as he had neared that silhouette he had figured out who it was. The silhouette was of his Father. And that was his second unpredictable encounter"His Father whom he had always seen strong, powerful, majestic, controlling everything and everyone with a single lift of his finger, was looking weak, vulnerable, face tears stricken and eyes glistening with unshed tears. He had walked towards him, standing between his Father's knee and had asked the only question he was asking from days--- where was his Mother?. And then the unshed tears had rolled down from his father's eyes. He saw his father putting a small baby bundled in a white cloth on his bed, and lift him to make him sit on his lap. And then in a small voice, which was hard to relate with his Father's always powerful voice, he had heard his Father telling him his Mother is no more, she died giving birth to his younger brother. He had not understood what he meant, all he wanted was to know when his mother is coming back and when he had asked the same to his Father, he had said just one word. Never! And then he was enveloped in a warm hug, which was not his Mother's.
And his Father was right. His Mother never came back. He had cried for months. Closing his room's door, hiding inside his blanket, he had cried, but his Mother never came back.
And then the 3rd unpredictable event of his life was followed when he was just back after completing his studies from Cambridge. And the very next day he was announced the Duke of Bristol. Because his Father was no more. It had hurt him, not as painful as his Mother's death, but he had again cried after 17 years, of-course again hiding in the confines of his room. But that day he had promised to every drop of tears leaving his eyes, to never feel this way for anyone. To never allow anyone to come close to his heart, and thus no pain and hurt when they leave you. And he had adhered to that promise always. He had allowed many women in his life, but had never allowed anyone to meander near his heart, the source of every hurt. As a Duke he had always known that he needs to marry, to give an heir to his county people. But he can't! He can't risk that. And after weeks of contemplating on this thought he had made his decision when he had heard that his brother, Akash, was in love with his Viscount's daughter. His brother was in love and soon he will marry that girl. And to avoid his own marriage, there was only one way out. As soon as his brother will have his first Son, he will announce him the heir of his country, washing his hands clean from his marriage possibility.
But as soon as he had turned 27, the 4th unpredictable event of his life had given a knock on his door.
His mother was Indian, an Indian beauty as he hears people referring to his Mother. A beauty his Father had fallen for when he had visited India. And fighting against everyone he had married her and brought her here, to Bristol, and announced her his Duchess, Lady Devyani Martin Westland. As a young boy, he had always wondered why his Mother wears dresses that differ from other ladies of his country. But as he had grown up, he had known why. Because she was not from this world, she belonged to an entirely different world, a world about which he had read, intrigued to know more, but had never seen. But as one old maid had entered his room one fine morning, an old paper held in her hand, his whole life had changed, his best laid plans were crumpled in a ball and thrown out of the window. And within 6 months he found himself visiting India, marrying a girl who belonged to his Mother's world, a girl whom he had never seen, and was back again with her to Bristol. Because his Mother wanted that, and he had obliged. He had married the girl his Mother wanted, his Mother's best friend's daughter. His now bride's Family was reluctant to marry their daughter to him, but knowing the power of Englishman in India, her family had given in , and he was married to the girl of his Mother's choice, a girl who was born after 6 years of his Mother's death, but his Mother had tied her fate with him even before that girl had opened her eyes in this world.
The glass containing the brandy shook in his hand as he threw his head back and groaned loudly. Now hating the pungent smell of the same liquid he had consumed. How, and why nothing goes according to his plan? Just few months back he had resolved to never marry , and now he was sitting on the same chair, all married. But that doesn't mean anything else in his life will change. He is the same 21 year old boy who had resolved to never allow anyone near his heart. And he is going to adhere to that. His wife can have everything she wants, enjoy the luxury her title will bring to her, except him.
He stood up from the chair, and closed the book he was trying to read, wanting to take his mind off the events of his life. Closing the door of his study, he headed towards his room.
Lying on his bed, he closed his eyes, wanting to halt all the running thoughts. He can think on this tomorrow with clearer mind. But as soon as he was tucked inside his warm blanket, ready to sleep, he heard a voice and his eyes jerked opened. But the voice was gone as if it had never came. He closed his eyes, thinking he must have imagined it. But no sooner that he had closed his eyes, the voice was back again. He sat on the bed. There was no way he was imagining the voice. The voice was very much real.
Getting off the bed, he looked around in his room. The voice was coming after every small interval, irritating him. He walked towards the door and was about to pull the door open to look outside, when the voice bounced again, and this time his ears were sharp enough to catch the direction of the voice. The hold on the door knob loosened as his eyes landed on the other door in his room--- the adjoin room, the duchess room, his wife's chamber.
He stared at the door, staying still. So the voice was coming from there. And exactly was he supposed to do? He really don't know how to deal with his wife. He has been with dozen of woman, unmarried and married both, though he prefers the latter one, the less clingy ones. But he don't know how to deal with his bride, or how exactly does she expects him to behave. As if he cares! Rolling his eyes, just wanting to stop that irritating voice, he started towards the door. Standing still for few seconds in front of the door, he tried to gather his scattered senses. And then catching hold of the door knob, he pushed the door open, not caring to knock and ask for permission. He was the bloody Duke, who had never asked for permission, and he is not going to change his way of living for anyone, least of all for a woman.
And as soon as he entered the room, a loud gasp greeted him. His eyes landed on the orange bundle on the bed. Was... That ... His ... wife..? Dear Lord! A lengthy cloth was covering her front, the same cloth going back and coming in front to cover her head and face. And a rack style silky cloth studded with various glittering stone coming out from her covered front and resting on her feet. Her feet-- - Two tiny snowy white feet, the only visible skin of his bride.
That irritating voice pulled him back from his thoughts; the same voice which had forced him to enter this room was back again. He stared at the bundle for few seconds, and there was the voice again. And the realization dawned soon--- She was crying. Now that's great. This was his wedding night, and he was here, standing in front of his bride, hearing her cry. So he was supposed to sush down a crying baby on his wedding night. All thanks to his deceased mother.
"Care to share the sorrow."
As soon as those words left his mouth, he saw, with the speed of light, the orange bundle which was on the bed few moments back, was fled to one corner of the room. The many candles lit up in the room were giving enough light to make out the figure huddled in the corner. And then the irritating voice was back again. He gritted his teeth.
"Why the hell are you crying? Do you have any problem? Do you want something? If you want something then all you need to do is , call the maids and ask them. And everything will be in front of you within minutes..." and he would have continued further if that voice had not reached his ears again, which was now increased by few decibels. He gritted his teeth and marched towards her. Catching hold of her arms, earning another gasp from her, he brought her in the middle of the room.
"Now tell me what your problem is..." Arnav asked. But instead of getting a reply, he saw her tiny feet, which were peeking out from her dress, moving back. He took a step forward, and again her feet moved back.
"Why the hell are you moving back?!" His voice irritated and louder than the previous ones.
His emerald liquid stared at the fully clothed figure in front of him. Did he really hear that voice, very much familiar to the nightingale's, or he was hearing things.
"I asked why are you moving back?" He asked again.
No! He was not hearing things. The small, soft voice was coming from beneath that veil only.
"What?" He asked, unable to understand what his bride meant.
"Slowly ... slowly... Slowly ... Good no English... English no good ... please.. "
Oh! So she doesn't know English, and that makes the night more beautiful. He thought with a frustrated sigh.
"Why... are ... you ... moving ...back ...?" He asked, calling for all the patience in the world.
"Why ...Kyun ... you ...hum... moving ... chalna ... Back ...peeche ... Kyun chalta peeche ..." she decoded the English and soon understood what her husband was asking her.
"Woh ... Woh hume aapse darr lagta hai " she stammered, scared, but said the truth anyway.
"Woh ... Angrezi mein kaise kehte hai ... "
Arnav stared at her, she was blabbering in some language he can't understand.
"Hum ... me .. aapse ... you ... Darr lagta hai ... Scared ... Me you scared..."
A chuckle bubbled inside his chest. What the hell! He never laughs. May be the brandy was affecting him now.
"You are scared of me?" Came his question in a perfectly molded English accent.
"Slowly ...slowly ..."
"You... are .. scared ... of... me ..?"
"May I ask why?"then realizing his mistake, he began again. "May ..I ..ask...why?... Why ...scared..?"
"Humne bohot sunna hai aapke baare mein ...I listen stories ...of you .. bohot ... many many .." She lifted her slender hands to show how many.
And that's when he saw the slender milky hands of his bride, arousing a sudden urge to hold that silky thing and measure it with his big manly palms.
"What stories?" He asked to divert his mind from the route it was taking.
"Stories ... you ... You-- frightening ... you-- angry .. you ... you ..."
He saw her halt, probably thinking, and then heard a slow whisper from her.
This time he had to bit his lips to stop the chuckle from coming out loud. The brandy was surely messing with his senses.
"Hmmm... So ... that's...why ...you ...were ...crying?" He asked, and this time saw her shaking her head negatively.
"Hume yaad aarahi hai Nani-ma ki.."
And that irritating sound of her sob was back again. He didn't like that voice even a bit.
"Nani-ma ...Grandmother ... yaad aa rahi hai ... my grandmother , remembering ..."
"Oh... you ...are ... missing ..your...grandmother"
"Ha ..ha...yes ..yes... missing" she said hurriedly at finding the correct word, least she forgets again.
"See... You grandmother ...is ...not ..going to ...come here ... It will be .. better .. better if you stop missing her ... and crying over that ... Understood?"
"Understood .."she nodded her head. "Samajh gaye ..understood ... no Nani-maa" She again nodded her head, but the heaviness on her chest didn't budge and the tears still continued to roll down her cheek.
Listening to her tear filled voice, he knew exactly how much she had understood him. Feeling little bad for the tiny orange bundle in front of him, knowing how it must be to leave everything, and come and stay with complete strangers, in entirely new country and surrounding, he thought of starting a casual conversation to divert her mind.
"Come ...sit here..." he went and sat on her bed and looked at her.
She moved towards the bed and took her initial position.
"So ..let's start with the name ... You..know...my...name?" Arnav asked.
She nodded her head. "Yes...Yes.."
"Ok, Good.. " But he had forgotten her name. "So , what ..is ...your...name?"
"Name ..naam ..my? ...Khushi .." came her soft voice.
"Kusi .." Arnav replied.
"No Kusi ...Khushi ..." she corrected.
Khushi huddled back against the head-post. "Kusi ...Kusi..." She agreed, too scared to correct her husband. And with that, a new realization broke loose on her. Her and her husband's world were so different. She don't know his language perfectly, he is not aware of her language. He belongs to completely different world, which is so new and strange for her. How can she adjust in his world? But she had to. Her Nani- Maa had told her. She has to adjust, keep her husband and her new family happy, never upset them, never deny them anything, especially her husband. She can't bring shame to her Babu ji and Nani-maa's name. She will have to make this work.
"I guess the conversation is over. Go to sleep now."
Khushi nodded her head. Not understanding a thing, but sharp enough to catch few words like over' and sleep'.
Arnav was about to enter his chamber, but he stopped. Turning to look at her, he saw her in the same position.
"Do you always keep that veil?" He asked.
"Uggghh?" She was unable to grasp a thing.
Not interested in playing 'slowly-slowly-slowly' game with her, he walked towards the bed, and bending down to her level, caught her veil by two fingers.
"You keep this always?...always?"
"No ...No .." Khushi shook her head. "Nani -maa ... say ..only other...no...no for husband..."
"Good...so I really don't see anyone else here ...So remove the veil, relax, and go to sleep..." Seeing her not moving, probably not understanding a thing, he caught hold of her veil and lifted it without a pause. And then what he saw took his breath away.
Fragile China Doll! She was like a fragile beautiful china doll. Eyes closed, milky cheeks, a shiny thing resting on her nose, glittering in the soft yellow light. He had seen many beauty in his 27 years of life, but had never witnessed such innocent beauty--- Innocence dripping like a child, but beauty which has the power to bring any man to his knees. His gaze shifted to her milky swan-like neck, heavy jewelries resting on her slender neck. Her chest heaving rapidly. He felt his throat going dry as his eyes rested on her chest, the tantalizing movement of her chest tinkling his insides. His gaze shifted more down, and every fiber of his body prayed for some control. The tiny waste of her, urging him to open his palm against it and feel the soft silky texture of it.
He don't know when his hand lifted to her cheek, caressing and feeling the softness he had never felt before, but as he felt something too powerful pull him towards them, he lifted his eyes to stare in the two warmest brown he had ever stared in.
He immediately pulled back and stood straight, looking at everything but his bride. "Sleep... go to sleep ..." he managed to drawl and left the room in a hurry.
Closing the door behind him, he closed his eyes. Few hours back the question was how to deal with his bride. But now everything has changed drastically. Now the question wasn't how to deal with his bride, now the question was-- how to keep his hands away from the alluring thing lying just a door away?
Hope you all will like this new story. Yes, its a period story, something I wanted to write from long time.
And once again thanks Mahnoor and Amy for such a beautiful and perfect banners
Part 1 (up)