There was nothing extraordinary about the slight figure sitting outside the door, with her knees drawn to her chest and her head cradled in the crook of her arms; nothing that would make anyone turn around and give her a second glance.
Laila, sneaking out of the Officers' Quarters, wouldn't have noticed her either-- had it not been for the silver clasp of the girl's rudraksh bracelet, which glinted in the moonlight and caught her eye.
Her nostrils flared while her eyes narrowed. She would have recognized that bracelet anywhere in Rajasthan. Only two people of her acquaintance wore it. One was a muscular man with a formidable moustache. The other was a delicate-looking woman of uncommon beauty.
This was clearly the latter.
With an exaggerated sigh and shake of her head, Laila abruptly changed course and walked over to the girl.
The chime of her anklets must have woken her up, for when Laila crouched down in front of the girl, she met a pair of dark eyes still hazy with sleep. She watched, a sardonic twist curling her vividly painted lips, as the mist cleared and the girl's eyes widened in recognition.
"He threw you out again."
Parvati opened her mouth, presumably to refute her assumption, but decided against it. Ignoring Laila's statement, she looked away, her fingers fiddling with the serrated brown beads at her wrist.
"I did tell you he is an animal." Paro now refocused her attention on Laila with a wary expression on her face. It never boded well for her when Laila referred to that particular conversation. But this time, she found no malice glittering dangerously back at her.
Instead, she found wry amusement and...sympathy?
Parvati bristled. No matter what went wrong between her and Rudra, she did not need pity. And definitely not from the likes of...of...Laila.
Her flashing eyes only made Laila laugh.
"Save your fire for your husband and his appetite, sweetheart. You'll need it more over there."
Paro glanced around uncomfortably. She had never quite gotten used to Laila and her outspoken ways. She focused on the beads of rudraksh she wore, praying with all her might for Laila to go away and leave her alone.
All of a sudden, slender fingers reached out to trace the angry imprints around her wrist, making her hiss in surprise.
Laila maintained her easy conversational tone, as though she had not noticed Paro's soft gasp. "Men are so callous. Not to mention, misguided. They think that this aggression, this exhibition of raw power gives them more control...makes them more masculine. Little do they know that real power lies in restraint. It lies not in coercion, but in creating temptation so that your opponent wants to do what you want her to do. And men are blind. They are blinded by their own convictions. They cannot imagine being wrong about anything or anyone. And we, women? We feed those convictions. Because we're selfish as well. Because we cannot imagine a life without the men. And that is where we go so wrong."
Laila's voice had dropped to a silken whisper that skittered across Paro's skin, making her arm break out in goosebumps. She listened mesmerized, making no move to withdraw the wrist which Laila was gently stroking.
"We don't really need men. Not as much as they need us. Many years ago, Yasmin Aapa had tried telling me this very truth when she had taken me under her wing. All of fifteen, I didn't understand her then. I didn't understand her when she taught me what it means to be a woman either. Nor did I understand her warning when I left her protection to follow my heart, follow Rudra. But I do now."
Laila raised her head and looked straight at Paro, holding her gaze for a long moment. And then a half smile softened her visage. "I don't know what it is about you that refuses to let me live in peace. And our situation is such that the only way I can talk to you is to give you unsolicited advice about men and their ways. I almost wish that things had been different. But then it strikes me that you may not like...different."
Raising Paro's wrist, Laila pressed her parted lips against the thrumming pulse that she had been caressing.
And then she was gone-- the lingering scent of mogra and the ghost of her tinkling anklets, the only proof of the encounter.
Paro stared at her wrist in shock, while trying to calm her racing heart. A smudge of lipstick marked the spot that still tingled with the memory of a touch gentler than she had ever known.
Oh my! Mera (very) early wallah birthday present. Pyaar, pyaar, pyaar.
Topic started by CheshireBilli
Last replied by rudrasa