Zoya was in a Zen state.
For the first time, for as long as she could remember, she craved solitude. She didn't mind that the chillar party was not around her, or that she wasn't plugged into her iPad or iPod.
She twirled around the room on her toes, stretched out on the bed and breathed deeply.
In a few hours she would be Mrs. Asad Ahmed Khan. She swished and swirled the name around in her head.
Nah! Not Mrs.
Too Auntyji types.
She rolled over on her stomach holding her chin in her hands.
May be Ms.?
And then to be Zoya Khan or Zoya Farooqui-Khan or to just stay Zoya Farooqui?
Damn, why didn't men have to figure these things out.
But one thing was decided: she would only allow Mr. Khan to call her Mrs. Khan. And on special occasions only.
She turned to look at her bridal dress. A magenta lehenga with a navy border and a full sheer-sleeved blouse laden with kundan and seed pearls threaded through silver and gold work. She touched and hugged the bridal dupatta that Phuphi had specially presented to her.
A heavy diamond jewelry set from Aapi and Jeeju, and millions of glass bangles and gold bracelets crowded the dressing table. Allah miyan, would she even be able to take two steps in all this? What if she tripped? She felt panic rise in her. But Mr. Khan would be there. She smiled.
She looked around the room.
Her eyes fell on her mother's jewelry box. Sitting up, she reached out to pick it up and place it in her lap. She touched the earrings for good luck and slipped them on. Next she picked up the spherical music box and opened it to listen to the familiar haunting melody.
Zoya fingered the two dancing figures lovingly.
She whispered softly, "Ammi, Abbu, I am getting married today to the best man in the whole world. I wish you were here. You would see how much he loves me."
Her tears fell on her hands.
On her ring.
She stroked it and touched her hand to her heart, bowing her head in silent gratitude and prayer.
A little later she got up to pack her bags and smiled. Allah miyan, how many times had she packed her bags to leave this house! She did something that annoyed his holiness, and then he yelled at her through gritted teeth, and she packed.
She even left sometimes.
And then he brought her back after much gritting of teeth and clenching of fists.
She grinned, hugging herself. She reveled at the thought of those teeth on her neck and those fists in her hair.
And now to find permanent residence in his room. Hah! Jahanpanah never stood a chance. Zoya Farooqui Khan kucch bhi kar sakti hai!
There, that had a nice ring to it.
She needed to dance some more.
By the evening the entire house was abuzz, although only close family had been invited. They could invite half the city for the Waleema later, Asad had told his mother; but the wedding he wanted strictly family only. With Tanveer on the prowl, he didn't want to risk any threats or unknown circumstances beyond his control.
Today, the security had been tightened, more so than other days. Tanveer's photograph had been circulated among the security personnel and female guards had been appointed to identify women clad in burqas.
He was not going to let that woman within a five-mile radius of his home and family. He still shook in anger and horror whenever he remembered how narrowly Zoya had escaped serious injury. How dare she! In front of his eyes!
His blood ran cold.
Tanveer was a scorned and desperate woman, and would do anything to get back at them, and Zoya in particular.
Over his dead body.
That night at the Khan Villa, lights twinkled and glowed, camera flashes worked overtime, heaps and strings of fragrant flowers carpeted and draped every visible surface inside and out.
Rashid's eyes teared up as he entered with Shireen and his Ammi by his side. There was much to be grateful for. He lovingly carried the sehra that he would tie for Asad. To see the childen's bond getting stronger was indeed a treat. For the past three or four days, they had hardly seen their kids at all because they had been permanently camped out here.
They were welcomed warmly by Dilshad and introduced to Zeenat and Anwar. Gifts were put away, drinks offered and they were all seated as guests of honor.
The troupe performed the Qawwali and Asad's heart felt full. He wore a raw silk navy sherwani, starkly elegant, without any frou-frou adornment.
Ammi had forced a black brocade-edged stole on him, "lagna chaiye ki tum dulhe ho," she had scolded.
Ayaan was more flamboyantly dressed in a maroon sherwani and Omar was resplendent in white.
The musicians began playing the shehnai.
He took his place, heart hammering and eyes searching. Rashid and Anwar stood by him along with the beaming Qazi. Through the sehra and the sheer curtain, Asad saw Aapi and Ammi escort Zoya, while the girls held the bridal veil over the small procession.
He watched her come closer and closer.
Before they came to seat her opposite him however, Nuzzhat and Najma jumped in front of Zoya, barring her from moving forward. Humaira joined them too.
Everyone stilled. This was new and off-kilter.
Asad nearly slapped his forehead. His siblings had gone completely mental. He was surprised Ayaan and Omar weren't up there with them. But Ayaan and Omar were right next to him enjoying this spectacle.
They stood up to bait the girls, "Hey ladies, get out of the way. Stop being annoying kabab mein haddis."
The girls weren't to be cowed. "First, bhaijaan has to pay a ransom, only then will we release his bride."
Dilshad was alarmed. Oh my god, these kids would offend the elders and ruin everything. She looked at Badi bi.
Badi bi was laughing in delight. She was thrilled to pieces; in her village, the girls' side would do something similar to delay the nuptials. In fact they would hold back the baratis with sticks adorned with flowers till they were paid up.
Dilshad looked up apprehensively at Qazi saheb. He looked placid enough and was even smiling. She breathed a little easier.
"What nonsense!" exploded Ayaan. "You are the dulha's sisters not the mafia, or even from the girls' side for that matter!"
Zoya was loving this and giggling while trying to hold onto Aapi's arm; Zeenat was just as frazzled as Dilshad by this unexpected derailment.
"Whatever, we aren't moving till we get to collect a toll tax."
Omar piped in, "they are absolutely right, Ayaan. After all they are getting a brand new bhabhi who might torture them and make them work as maids and slaves. They are totally entitled to a troll tax!"
Everyone turned to look in amazement at Nikhat.
She had draped the bridal veil over her arm, and come forward to stand next to the girls.
"Stop giving our bhabhi ideas! What if she doesn't let any of her nanads get married because she gets addicted to having us as her maids!"
She admired her fingernails imperiously, "especially her favorite nanad?"
She looked up at him, hands on her hips and eyebrows raised in a challenge.
"Meri Maa," he helds his ears in apology.
"Aur shayad saali, aur bhabhi bhi, nahin?" she teased him, co*cking her head to the side.
He joined his hands together and bowed his head before her in supplication.
Asad looked up from his hands which had been clutching his head in despair a second ago.
Someone had just shut up Omar?
A bemused Qazi saheb was shaking his head now. More weddings? Wonderful!
The grown ups were laughing, and Zoya was trying to look over her nanads' heads to see how Asad was surviving this improvised interruption.
Someone started clapping. Asad turned around and saw his father beaming proudly. Shireen, Anwar and Badi bi also joined in appreciating the youngsters' spunk and playfulness.
But for Rashid, just to see Nikhat stand tall like a lioness, made his eyes moist.
He gratefully emptied his pockets, Anwar and Asad too, and Omar chipped in some crumpled Dollars and Rupees.
Ayaan held up his empty pockets in triumph.
Omar thumped his back, "saale, teri bhabhi ko hostage banaya hai!"
He loved calling him saala.'
"Chup oye, tainu jeeja kinne banaya, bhutni ke?" he taunted his future jeeja.
And the wrestling started. The photographer and cameraman gleefully captured this on film for posterity.
Oh god! This time Asad did slap his forehead. The mashed mogra flowers released the most heavenly aroma. He couldn't even yell at them. It was his wedding for god's sake! And the six mental dwarves were busy doing dash mein bumboo left, right and center!
He sighed blissfully. Six months ago, he couldn't have imagined something like this happening at his wedding. He would have been livid.
Now? He was happy enough to land on his feet each time Zoya or the munchkins threw him a curveball. And he looked forward to a lifetime of this madness and mayhem.
Rashid and Anwar broke the demented groomsmen apart and returned to the money collection, still laughing.
This wedding was turning out to be the most glorious circus.
Meanwhile, Badi bi made a big show of removing her rings and bangles, Shireen gleefully followed suit, and the ransom was paid off. Badi bi decided instantly that this would be a new family rasm for future weddings.
The loot gathered in Nuzzhat's dupatta, the girls finally parted to let Zoya come forward.
They seated her opposite him, low-fiving their bhabhi to be. It had been her idea after all.
He should have known.
If it wasn't Omar, then it could only have been Zoya's masterplan.
Her face was covered with an ornate veil. The girls adjusted it and her lehenga as each one hugged her. Dadi stepped forward to kiss her on the head and bless her.
His heart was full and eyes damp.
She had said they were even.
But he knew that they would never be so.
She didn't know what she had given his family, and he knew how much his family had taken away from her.
The ceremony was simple and elegant. The fathers' names and Mehar were read, and verses from the Quran repeated. Asad was happy and honored to hear Jeeju's name as her adopted father's name.
The parents had tears in their eyes. Aapi was close to sobbing. Zoya had to hold her hand in both of hers to calm her down.
Assured of the groom's consent, the Qazi then put forth the proposal to the bride.
Reading aloud her full name, he asked "kya aapko yeh nikaah qubool hai?"
He waited for her consent. So did everyone else with bated breath.
Omar sniggered, and Asad smiled and shook his head, knowing exactly what she was up to.
He felt exhilarated.
Aapi, on the other hand, was having palpitations. Ya Allah, yeh ladki! She nearly groaned. Not again, please god, not again.
She shook Zoya's hand hard. "Zoya," she whispered angrily, "I will kill you."
Anwar wiped his brow, but he had a little more faith in Zoya than his wife.
"Zoya!" hissed Aapi, nearly apoplectic.
Ayaan and Omar whooped. And the room exploded in spontaneous laughter, cheers and applause.
"Mubarak ho," everyone called out.
They were fed sweets. And then, one by one, Dilshad, Badi bi and Shireen came to kiss her head and offer blessings.
Aapi was sobbing in Omar's arms. Anwar walked over and patted her shoulder, "Issme rone ki kya baat hai," he joked tearfully. "Iss wale kamre se uss kamre mein jaa rahi hai!"
While the rest hugged and exchanged greetings, she lifted her veil to sneak a peek at her newly minted husband, and he lifted the strands of his sehra to look at her.
She gasped with delight when he winked at her.
Nicely done, Mr. Khan! Just for that he'd get some extra sugar tonight.
He rose to take blessings from dadi, Aapi, Shireen and finally Dilshad. Asad hugged his mother who was crying softly. He lifted the sehra so that she could kiss his forehead and pat his cheek. His own eyes moist, he wiped her tears.
Someone tapped his shoulder. Asad turned around to see Zoya.
"Can I hug my Ammi too?" she asked cheekily.
Dilshad smiled through her tears and hugged Zoya tightly to her heart.
Zoya sobbed now. Finally, something she had yearned for all her life: she was in her Ammi's arms.
Dilshad led her bahu to the couch and signaled Badi bi and the girls to join her. They wiped her tears and fixed her make-up and veil. They kissed her cheeks, but then they had to wipe off the lipstick marks. More hankies were produced.
By now Zoya was giggling.
Dilshad gave a jewelry box to Dadi, who placed it in Zoya's hands.
"Yeh tumhare liye, hum sabki taraf se."
Zoya looked at Badi bi shyly. Her gifted earrings she had already worn at the mehendi function.
She asked her, "Yeh aapka hai?"
Badi bi nodded. "Tha. Meri shaadi ka, jo phir maine tumhari saas ko diya tha uski shaadi par."
She beckoned Asad to sit next to Zoya. Dadi went on to supervise their feeding each other sweets. They blushed feeling embarrassed being the center of attention as their breaths quickened with their lips brushing against each other's fingertips.
Afterwards, dadi directed him to remove the necklace Zoya was wearing.
His fingertips brushed against her nape and she blushed again. The necklace was placed in a box that Aapi was holding.
Through tears in her eyes she said loudly enough for the whole room to hear, "ab yeh tumhe main godh bharai ki rasm pe dungi."
"Aapi!" Zoya whispered, mortified more so for Asad than herself. She knew he would be beetroot-red by now.
Asad was already regretting that he had removed the sehra and that he had nowhere to hide. But as he concentrated on the image of a pregnant Zoya, he smiled.
Dadi next gave him the ornate necklace she had worn at her wedding, given to her by her mother-in-law. He leaned in to fasten it around her neck under the dupatta. She could smell his cologne and feel his breath on her as both his hands moved to the back of her neck to fasten the necklace. She dared not look into his eyes for fear of not being able to look away.
He took his time adjusting it in the back, and then the front, making it just right, centering, patting it in place, and then unsnagging it from her dupatta.
With bent gaze and reddening cheeks, she smiled. Trust his OCD to kick in.
But she didn't mind. She could sit here all night. Oh well, may be not all night. She flashed her eyes at him and he pulled his hands back.
The room erupted in laughter again.
"Bhaijaan, it's still not straight," suggested Ayaan.
Song in Title:
Unpadh (1962) "Aapki Nazaron Ne Samjha"
They had teased her while arranging and modeling her on the bed. She had let them. Once they left her alone, she'd rearrange herself her way.
Najma had draped her ghunghat over her face and placed her arms artfully on her bent knees. Humaira had lovingly fanned out her lehenga on the bed after readjusting Najma's work. She had even lifted the lehenga's edge slightly to show off her hennaed and bejeweled feet.
So Bollywood, Zoya thought. She would kill them if they brought in a glass of milk in a brass tumbler.
"Tamatar, I can't see anything," Zoya protested.
"You don't need to see anything. This is for bhaijaan's eyes only."
Everyone, including Zoya had been hit by a giggling fit.
Najma wanted the ghunghat to be a foot long, Humaira wanted only the eyes covered up. "Let bhaijaan see just her lips when he enters."
Squeals and oohs and aahs followed.
Zoya was suddenly rolling on the bed wheezing with laughter and clutching her stomach. These sweet adorable fools!
"Zoya Bhabhi!" the girls scolded. "You've ruined all our hard work, now we'll have to redo everything." Nuzzhat pointed to the decimated floral heart.
"Oh god!" giggled a breathless Najma, "now Bhaijaan will spend the entire night fixing the heart like the necklace!"
"Only if he doesn't die of embarrassment first," snorted Zoya.
That set them roaring and rolling again.
"Ok, let's mess with Bhaijaan," said Nuzzhat as she deliberately made the necklace hang unevenly.
"Great," Najma clapped her hands in delight, "between the heart and the necklace, bhaijaan will be up till the wee hours of the morning!"
"Haaawww! Up!" roared Nuzzat.
Even Zoya was rendered speechless by all this x-rated frivolity as she continued to twitch on the bed in merriment. This was such fun! She loved having brand new siblings.
"Yeah, let Asad know that Zoya Farooqui is in the building," drawled Omar.
"Oh, my bad, I mean Zoya Khan. Or should it be Asad Farooqui? I don't know, I can't tell any more."
The girls gasped in embarrassment. Ayaan and Omar had been slouching on the windowsill, but for how long?
Now Ayaan punched Omar's shoulder. "Ay, apne saalon ki izzat karna seekh pehle!"
"Kiss saale ki izzat karoon?" The girls laughed; Ayaan still didn't get it.
Nuzzhat was now enacting how bhaijaan would come, sit by her side, lift her veil and say a romantic dialogue, "Inn aankhon ki masti ke, mastaane hazaron hain."
Zoya guffawed inelegantly, "mujra chal raha hai kya?" and slapped her hands away.
Nikhat had unsuccessfully tried to repress all this bawdy behavior and rowdiness. But she was having the time of her life too. She hadn't laughed so much. And, she was thrilled that the two families were closer than ever. A chulbuli Zoya bhabhi and spicy Omar had added that extra tadka to the mix. She loved how confident these two were in their own skin.
May be, just may be, one day, she would be like that too.
Dilshad and Aapi came to the door to hurry them up. In rapid motion, the heart was haphazardly reset, the lights romantically dimmed, Zoya's ghunghat and lehanga rearranged, and her arms splayed uselessly on her knees.
She rolled her eyes under the veil. Allah Miyan, how ridiculous. All this drama would make Asad run away and hide for sure.
She had no intention of sitting on the bed like a mannequin, awaiting her bashful groom's touch.
Finally the door closed after them. She raised her ghunghat and glared at the boys. They mercifully skedaddled out the window.
She got off the bed and shook herself off. Bending down, she smoothed the creases on the bedcover.
Five minutes later a blushing Asad was forcibly pushed into the room and the door was slammed shut amid a lot of ribald laughter. Dilshad and Aapi could be heard shooing them away, but a shadowy whispering clump remained by the door.
This was beyond humiliating thought Asad. He didn't dare latch the door because he knew that the lunatic laughter brigade was camped just outside.
He turned around and his heart stopped.
The empty bed was draped with garlands of fragrant mogra flowers and covered in a giant lopsided heart. God, how embarrassing! They may as well have placed neon arrows pointing to the bed.
Taking off his stole, he went toward the restroom. She wasn't there either.
Where? He turned around in alarm, and saw a flash of pink under the window shrinking behind the console table by the settee.
He rushed to kneel by her on the floor, heart in his mouth, worried that something was terribly wrong.
Her hands were covering her face. Was she crying?
"Are you OK?"
She nodded yes.
"What happened then?" he asked softly.
"This is too embarrassing," she muttered.
He laughed with relief. "I know!"
He too settled down next to her, leaning against the wall with his legs stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankles.
She slid her hands off her face and leaned her head on his shoulder. He kissed the side of her head.
"They are still at the door, right?" she whispered, already knowing the answer.
"Umm hmm. Idiots!"
He rested his cheek on her head, "Omar is a terrible influence on my goofball brother and sisters."
She chuckled. "Good, they need him to take the edge off your Akdu influence on them." She laced her fingers with his.
"Ms. Farooqui!" He said in mock anger.
"I forgot. Mrs. Khan." He rolled the words on his tongue and savored their sound.
"Mr. and Mrs. Khan," he intoned softly, tightening his grip on her hand.
"Hiding by the settee," she songsonged. "Not K-I-S-S-I-N-G ?"
"I love you Mrs. Khan."
"I love you more Mr. Akdu," she competed.
They sat in peaceful silence soaking in their first married moments.
"You know what's going to be even more embarrassing?" he teased gently, a little later.
"Tomorrow morning when we come out of the room."
"Allah Miyan!" she gasped. She hadn't thought about that. "They are all going to look at us and just know what we did." She covered her face with her hands again.
He pulled her in his lap.
"Little do they know ..." he whispered in her ear, his breath fanning her neck and giving her goosebumps. He fixed her dupatta and straightened the necklace.
She rested her head on his heart and giggled.
He lifted her chin, "my beautiful bride."
She wrapped her arms around his neck and nudged his nose with hers, "my hunky husband. All mine, forever."
They kissed slowly, sealing many an unsaid promise and vow.
She rested her hand on his chest and put her ear to his heartbeat. Asad kissed the top of her head again.
He loved holding her in his lap, breathing in her scent, stroking her arms and hands and stealing kisses.
They heard some rustling, whispers. This was followed by slapping sounds and people being shushed just outside the window.
Someone was yelling at them.
Nikhat? Good girl.
"Those morons," groaned Asad.
Zoya's laugh was muffled in his sherwani.
He reached out awkwardly to the top of the console and grabbed a remote to slide the heavyduty, double lined drapes closed over the arched picture window.
They settled back against the wall.
He lifted her palm to kiss it and traced the hennaed filigree with his finger.
"My name in your mehendi? Did you tell them where to write it?" He asked a little later.
She nodded her head.
"Then, even without looking, I know exactly where it is."
She gasped and then grinned. Looking up at him, she asked for formality's sake, "where?"
"Will I get a reward?"
He whispered hotly in her ear. She blushed and nodded a yes.
Lifting her hand to brush his lips seductively over her palm, he pressed his thumb at the bottom of her ring finger.
"It's here isn't it?" He scra*ped his thumbnail below her engagement ring and she gasped.
"You peeked yesterday!"
"Never! I don't lie."
"Mr. Khan, you lied once! And there's a coin in that drawer that proves it."
He leaned his head back. "OK, that once. But it was for a great cause." She kissed his cheek.
"Hmm." Tucked in the crook of his neck now, she was thinking of how many times she had landed in his arms on this settee.
"I know I should have asked you earlier, but there was so much going on. Where do you want to go for our honeymoon?"
"What! Why not?"
"Asad," she framed his face in her hands and looked into his eyes, "I am home, this is where I want to be. All my life, I yearned for a mother's love, a one true love, and a large family. And I have it all now. Why would I want to go away anywhere?"
"But I want you all to myself without my lunatic family at our heels."
She rested her forehead against his. "Hey, my lunatic family too now!" She scolded him.
"OK, tell me, what did you have in mind?"
"Umm, ... voh ... actually ..."
She loved this man so much!
She waited for him to get over his shyness.
"Umm," he stuttered. She rolled her eyes and grinned, but then leaned to kiss his eyes and nose.
He found his voice and flashed his eyes at her. "Since we can't stay holed up in this room for days, I thought I'd take you back to Ajmer, Jaipur and Agra. I wanted to erase every sad memory and create new ones together."
He was greeted with silence.
He bent to look into her face.
"That, Mr. Asad Ahmed Khan," she said through tears, "is the sweetest, kindest and the best gift you could have given me."
He wiped her tears and brushed his lips across her mouth. "I saw your tickets to New York that day in your room. You were going to leave me."
She buried her face in his neck remembering the day they had returned from the trip and her determination to leave as soon as possible because she couldn't bear to see him get married to someone else.
"I love you so much Zoya," he hugged her tight. "I still can't believe we are married."
She kissed him tenderly, "believe it," and then she sassed impatiently, "now, can we please get started creating our suhaag raat memories?"
His laughter rumbled through his chest. She rose and gave him her hand to pull him up. She began to drag him by his hand, and was suddenly slammed into his chest and crushed in his arms. He kissed her, molding her body to his.
"Dance with me, Mrs. Khan." He whispered in her ear.
She looked up at him in surprise, knowing that he hated dancing. Taking her hand he twirled her around till she was breathless. He pulled her to him, gazing into her eyes with hot promise, and kissed her slowly.
Then he twirled her some more.
He crashed her back against his chest and held her by her waist, both swaying slightly to an unheard melody.
Zoya turned in his arms, rose on her toes to lick down his throat, and felt the flash of smoldering awareness and energy ignite between them.
Trailing her finger down his cheek to his lips, she whispered, "shaadi Mubarak ho Jahanpanah."
"Aapko bhi, Mrs. Jahanpanah!" Snagging her gaze, he sucked her finger.
Her body jolted. He hissed and bent to capture her lips with his, plunging his tongue in her mouth to seek out hers to tease and taste it. She moaned in the back of her throat. He backed out and she came seeking his tongue now. He let her dominate and explore while he ran his hands over her back and waist dragging her closer to him possessively.
"Zoya, I missed you so much today," he groaned when they came up for air.
"A whole day without one glimpse or a word from you. It was torture. I want you right now."
Her breath hitched. Eyes locked with his, she unpinned her heavily embroidered dupatta from her head and let it trail over one shoulder. She then turned her back to him and pulled her hair to one side, offering herself up in surrender.
He ran his finger over the curve of her ear, down her neck.
His finger continued to trace the outline of her blouse's neckline and her skin tingled. He dipped his head to lick and nip along the same path. As she arched, he slowly undid the dori holding the two ends of the blouse together with his teeth flicking his tongue out to lick her. His hands quickly took care of the other two strings below.
"Asad," she moaned and swayed with longing as he dropped openmouthed kisses along her back. With his thumb he traced the ridges along her spine from her neck to her lower back as he reached the top of her lehenga. He lightly ran his fingers all along the edge of her waist.
She shuddered with sensations rioting through her.
As his hands met in front, he let his thumb skim her navel; she arched her back and rolled her head on his shoulder. He sucked the curve of her ear after licking its outline, and she moaned harshly. Excruciatingly slow, his hands crept up her stomach to span her waist and then move up her ribs to cup her over the blouse. With deft flicks and strokes of his thumbs he brought each tip to pebble through the fabric.
Unable to take the slow torture any more she turned in the circle of his arms and hid her face in his chest.
"Shy, Mrs. Khan?" he asked lifting her chin. She nodded, her lashes brushing her heated cheeks. He stroked her bare back and kissed each quivering eyelid. Their breaths mingled.
"What if they hear us?"
Crooking his finger under her chin, he whispered huskily, "let them hear their bhaijaan make love to their bhabhi."
Her eyes widened and desire pooled between her legs. That shy and "voh ... main ... actually" Mr. Khan was gone. In his place stood her husband, hard, and proud, staking complete claim.
She sighed in contentment.
And then she opened her eyes to look at him saucily. Slowly she peeled the blouse off, tugging it over the tinkling bangles and letting it drop to the floor.
He stood bewitched.
Refusing to let his gaze skitter away from hers, she draped her dupatta modestly over herself. Her bangles clinked musically again.
As his gaze travelled below, his breath caught at the sight of her bare curves peeking through the translucent, shimmering and studded dupatta. He took a step forward. Still looking into his eyes, she slowly took one back. He held her wrist and pulled her to him. Lifting her in his arms, one hand against her bare warm back, he headed toward the bed.
"Mrs. Khan, your lehenga must equal the weight of twins this time."
"Mr. Khan," she said indulgently, "I am loving your sense of humor."
She parted the floral drapes for him as he placed her on the bed and sat by her side. She held his hand. "Will this be my side of the bed?"
"No. This is my side."
"Oh really? Tonight this will be my side." He frowned and she smiled wickedly, "don't pout baby, it can be your side too, I'll just be on top!"
His breath hissed.
Asad leaned over her till she was on her back, her head on his pillow.
"Jahanpanah would like that," he retorted, and bent to swirl his tongue and suckle her hard through her dupatta, "a lot."
Her hands entangled in his hair as she bowed backwards helplessly giving him better access. Her legs bent at the knees and she clenched her thighs.
Raising his head, and looking intensely into her eyes, he flung her dupatta off.
He picked up a fistful of rose petals and sensuously showered them over her. She crossed her arms and covered herself shyly as they rained down on her. His breath caught looking at her stretched on his bed, heavily bejeweled and partially nude.
This was better than any fantasy.
He gently took her hands in his, interlaced his fingers with hers, and dragged them to pin them over her head.
"You are such a goddess," he breathed, and bent his head to kiss his way down her body.
He proceeded to worship her body with his. She got her turn later when she eventually mounted him, laden only with jewels, to brand and possess him.
Clothes shed, he hadn't let her remove any of her jewelry, even though it ocassionally scratched him and chafed her.
Only dadi's rani haar heirloom he had ordered removed.
"Don't want my ancestors in bed with us," he had muttered.
To replace it, he had made her wear his gift to her, a delicate pearl and diamond high collar. It hugged her slender neck intimately and undulated each time she swallowed.
At his insistence, she had moaned and hissed the name of each piece of jewelry on her body. Asad had lovingly kissed it, and stroked and sensuously stretched the skin under it with his charged thumbpads.
Her pajebs tinkled against his thighs.
The kadas and bangles anch*ored by jeweled webs on her hands chimed on his chest.
He traced the baajubandh on her scarred arm, gripped her to lean over him, and said through teeth gritted with desire, "tonight, I'll mark you with my love."
Punctuated with her breathy commentary, the rhythmic soundtrack accompanying their lovemaking became infinitely more erotic and urgent.
Their eyes locked and neither was able to pull away.
He intertwined his fingers with hers, and rested her hands on his chest, stroking them with his thumb through the kundan hathphool. Leaving her bangles jingling and bracelets rustling on his chest, Asad reached out to hold her by her swaying waist spanned by a gold kardhani; its tasseled and belled edge slapped against his thigh musically.
He pulled her to lean over him. Her hair draped over as her nipples brushed against his chest. Her eyes drooped close and lips parted. He arranged her hands on either side of him on the bed.
One hand couldn't resist tracing the studded nosering hoop linked by a slender chain over the shell of her ear. Or, splay across the spangled jhoomar draped over her temple and tangling in her hair. Female jewelry had never aroused him as powerfully as it did tonight. He watched smitten, as she placed her gemmed hands on his chest now and arched her back taking him in more deeply. He was mesmerized by her flushed face thrown back, her mouth parted, and eyes clenched shut in ecstasy.
He ran his hands languidly down her parted lips, to her neck, skimming her cleavage, pausing to cup her, then move further down to her navel, to finally span and gather her wildly bucking hips to his.
But it was the sight of the heaving and twinkling necklace at her arching, moaning throat, the tiny jewel swinging against the hollow of her neck in sync with the dancing earrings, that sent him completely over the edge.
"Aasaadd!" She cried out savagely as he exploded and emptied deep into her.
Song in Title:
Jodhaa Akbar (2008), "Inn Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein
"Oh my god!" she gasped, "it's almost 7:30!"
Zoya had looked up at the clock after a hard and fast sensuous session of wake-up lovemaking.
Her eyes had popped open on their first morning as a married couple as she felt him push and move inside her.
"So?" Asad later pulled her to him to spoon her.
He pushed her hair away and looked at the bruises on her neck and licked them.
She bucked and hissed.
"No, no, no! So embarrassing if we woke up late and everyone was already outside."
Zoya struggled to disengage herself and rose to get up, but Asad wouldn't let her go, trapping her under his hard body and inspecting her neck.
"Are you going to wear jeans today?" he asked, just to make sure.
Where did that come from?
"I wish," she groaned. "But no, I plan to wear a heavier-than-Kevlar suit to face the firing squad."
Good! She was going to have to cover up with a dupatta anyways.
One more love bite wouldn't matter.
He sucked. Hard.
"Allah miyan, what's wrong with you Mr. Khan!"
Oh god, she had married Count Dracula not Jahanpanah!
She twisted his nipple painfully and he yelped.
She giggled and escaped.
She ran to the restroom to quickly freshen up and shower, and came out with a towel wrapped around her.
"What?" he looked up sleepily.
"I forgot to get my bag from my room. I don't have anything to wear!"
He laughed. "Don't wear anything, come to me."
Oh god, this was the worst thing that could happen to her. Now what?
"Mr. Khan, can you text phuph... Ammi to leave my bag by the door?"
"Mr. Khan!" She stomped her foot.
Now leaning back against the headboard, hands behind his head, he looked at her in amusem*ent.
"Mr. Khan has left the building."
"Asad! Asad, please," she remembered and begged.
He got out of bed and stretched.
She got distracted momentarily. Focus, Zoya, he's just messing with you, knowing you'll salivate over this vision of sculpted nakedness.
She turned her back to him. As he neared her to go to the restroom, she moved to the far corner and jumped over the bed to grab his phone.
He shook his head in mock disappointment and closed the bathroom door after him.
Oh god, what to do? Najma?
So embarrassing! How would she be able to look at her after?
Ammi would be the best.
I left my bag in my room. Can you leave it by the door? Please! Zoya, she texted.
The phone showed a new text message received. She opened it eagerly. "It's already by the door."
There was a smiley face at the end.
Thank god! It didn't feel as embarrassing as she thought it would.
She looked at the phone in her hand.
Hmm, he needed to be punished for being so unhelpful.
He came out.
Oh c'mon, at least tie a towel around your waist!
Zoya was distracted. "What? Oh yes, Ammi said it's right outside. Can you please grab it?"
"Mr. Khan, you are so mean!"
He grinned and went to his closet to get his clothes ready.
"OK, don't. I'll step out and grab it." And she started toward the door, securing the towel tightly at her cleavage.
He grabbed her from behind, as she knew he would, and pinned her against the wall.
"You're not going out of this room dressed like that!"
"Oh really? How are you going to stop me?"
He ripped the towel off her and flung it across the room.
"Asad," she groaned in frustration and longing.
"Please let me go."
"No," and he bent to suck her neck and kiss her lips.
Lifting her, he entered her and her head fell back. He rolled and rotated his hips and covered her mouth with his hand as her moans became louder.
By now she had wrapped her legs around his waist.
He carried her to the bed and laid her on her back, still keeping them joined.
"Scream my name," he whispered.
"No!" she replied in horror.
"You did last night! Several times if I remember correctly." He gloated.
She blushed furiously.
"But everyone was upstairs then!" she hissed back.
"Now everyone must be in the kitchen or the living room."
"See? That's why we need to go on a honeymoon so that I can hear you scream my name out loud, day and night."
He crept his hand between their bodies to stroke her intimately.
She bit her lower lip, her hips betraying her, and swaying in abandon.
He bent over her, palms on either side of her face on the bed, and whispered hot threats and sweet nothings in her ear, driving her crazy with each thrust.
She bit her knuckles to stop her cries.
As they came, he chewed her shoulder.
"You may as well stay in the room today. You're in no fit state to go out in public."
She had seen herself in the mirror and knew what he meant. The jewelry rubbing against her skin had already done a number on her.
And then there were the countless bites that he had lovingly peppered her with.
He bit her ear. "And you have no clothes to wear! Unless," He traced a finger down from her neck to her navel, "you want to go out in my borrowed clothes again?"
She slapped his hand away.
"You know, you will pay for this, Mr. Khan!"
"Umm hmm, looking forward to my punishment." He winked at her.
She raised herself on her elbows and laughed.
Batting her lashes at him she taunted, "oh you poor deluded fool! Feeling so confident of yourself, hmm?"
She fell back and let her hands slide up his chest to his shoulders, "haven't you heard of women going on s*ex strikes to punish their husbands?"
"Nooo!" He looked at her in horror. "You wouldn't!"
He grabbed her discarded towel, wrapped it around his waist and rushed to jerk her bag inside.
She was now leaning against the headboard, arms behind her head.
"You know what, I think I will borrow a shirt of yours."
And she sashayed over to his closet, grabbed a snowy white dress shirt and slowly slipped it on.
She buttoned it partially and began to roll up the sleeves.
"Zoya," he growled in alarm, "aren't you going to get dressed and go out?"
She looked delicious in his shirt though, the hem skimming across her creamy thighs.
"You go out first, and then I'll follow 5-10 minutes later so that it doesn't look too obvious," he pleaded.
Poor proper Jahanpanah, always making plans. Terrified of spontaneity, her husband.
Not when Zoya Farooqui, no, Zoya Khan, was here.
"Nah!" she finger-combed her hair now and tried to pile it on her head in a knot; it slid down messily.
His eyes dragged to the jiggle under the shirt.
She could see his Adam's apple bobbing, and smiled.
She hopped on her side of bed, (heard his breath catch) patted it, knelt on it to test it, crawled on all fours, bare ass waving at him (heard a definite moan), and then stretched out seductively, "hmm, this side is better."
His mouth was hanging open in lust and alarm.
"But what'll they say when we go out?" He croaked.
She stretched her arm out and admired her ring.
"I'll just tell them that you refused to let me go. From under you! I'm sure everyone will understand."
He slapped his forehead.
"No!" She would do it too.
He scrambled to the bathroom to shower and get dressed. She hopped off to get dressed too and was out of the room before he stepped out.
When he came out he saw her gone and grinned, already missing her.
"That trickster!" It had taken him half way through the shower to figure out what she had been up to.
He looked at the shirt she had discarded at the foot of the bed and put it on. It smelled of her. He took a deep, content breath. Glancing at the rolled up sleeves ruefully, he shrugged. Never had he rolled his shirt sleeves so messily. In fact, come to think of it, he never rolled up his sleeves.
Shaking his head, he grabbed his phone.
And did a double take.
The wallpaper on his phone now sported his artfully posed, nude wife winking at him.
"Zoya!" he muttered with delight and exasperation.
And of course, she had locked the settings. That's what happened for messing with a tech wizard. God knows what verbal password she had used this time. Could it be the same one as before? He tried the old one: I'm sorry Zoya.
I love you Zoya.
Bingo! But when exactly had she recorded that? Sorceress!
Asad had informed his lawyers to file a case against Tanveer for assault and blackmail the same day she had viciously attacked Zoya.
The police had taken her in for questioning yesterday, and she was beginning to feel the pinch of uncertainty and niggle of fear.
Damn, why didn't she leave when she had the chance?
There were no two ways about it, she would have to contact Imran to bail her out. Didn't he have an uncle in the police force who could make things go away?
But getting hold of Imran wasn't easy. He was blocking her calls. He had been rude and abusive when she did track him down on the landline.
Desperate now, Tanu had told him about the money.
"It's your baby, you have to help me out!" she shrieked.
He was in no mood to entertain her demands.
"I don't believe you. It could be anybody's," he retorted.
"Don't ever call here again, you hear?"
"I can pay you Rs. 1 Crore!" she had whispered, terrified he'd hang up on her.
"Stop lying and tricking me Tanveer. You were always begging me for money. Where did this come from?"
"Umm, I got it recently," she mumbled.
Now she had his attention.
Things weren't going well for him at all. The civil cases against them and his newly unemployed status had crippled their financial and emotional dignity.
"Imran, get me out of here and I will pay you handsomely!" She hissed. "Get your uncle to work some magic."
He laughed sarcastically, "what uncle? He's in a bigger mess than us. Damn that Asad Ahmed Khan!"
"Please Imran! We can get married and go back to Kanpur. My factory is still profitable. We can start a new life there."
She didn't want to reveal anything about her recent windfall or the new flat.
"We'll be rich," she lured him desperately.
He sighed. "Which police station are you at?"
Ammi and Aapi were supervising breakfast. The men were in the living room with the TV blaring when he stepped out of their room Had they turned up the TV volume deliberately? Asad was reminded of his friend from college who joked about his newly married brother: "when you heard the loud music, you knew they were doing it."
Oh god! He squeezed his temples.
Suddenly these kids were early risers? When had they even come? They hadn't spent the night here.
Thank god, the girls were nowhere to be seen. He guessed they were all pestering her in Zoya's former room. He tried to surreptitiously sneak on to the living room couch, hoping to unobstrusively pick up the newspaper and pretend being there for sometime.
"Bhai!" exclaimed Ayaan.
There goes that, he thought.
His face flamed.
He nodded, not trusting his voice.
Omar sniggered half-heartedly. Asad glared, and then winked at him.
Omar's mouth hung open.
Hah! He had figured out how to one-up Omar. Be even more shocking and beshar*am.
But Asad noticed that Omar looked distracted today and didn't have his heart in the leg-pulling.
Hmm, what was up with that?
"So bhabhi?" Nuzzhat elbowed her in her ribs.
"Ouch!" yelped Zoya, and then she went tomato-red and covered her face.
"Ouch? Ooh, was Bhaijaan too rough?"
"Nuzzhat!" Nikhat slapped her thigh and glared at her while biting her lips to hold her smile.
Oh god, since when had they all become so beshar*am and badtameez?
The girls were in splits.
Well, not Najma though. Zoya sobered up. What happened?
"Bhabhi why aren't you wearing any jewelry? You are a newly-wed now." Asked Humaira innocently.
Zoya blushed harder. "Umm, I forgot. I'm not used to wearing jewelry."
She remembered last night. Her skin was still sore in places where each piece of jewelry had grated, without mercy on her undulating body.
"Tamatar, what happened, you're so quiet?" she needed to change the subject.
She held her new sister-in-law's hand, "you look upset."
Najma bowed her head and a few tears slipped out.
"What happened baby?" Zoya was really worried now.
"Did you have a fight with Omar? I will kill him for you."
She shook her head no.
"Then what is it?"
The other girls were worried too. Nikhat was stroking Najma's back and Humaira was kneeling by her side. Nuzzhat got her a glass of water.
"He's leaving tomorrow at midnight."
"Midnight? He's Cinderella?" Teased Zoya.
Najma burst into tears.
"Aw, poor thing," Zoya hugged her tightly.
"It'll be OK, I promise. He must have told uncle aunty about you right?"
Najma shook her head again. "He says he'll do it when he gets back home."
Zoya wiped her tears and lifted her chin.
"And he will. He's not the shy or timid types as we already know by now."
The girls nodded eagerly to confirm this.
Nikhat stroked her arm now, "Najma, don't worry, he's hopelessly in love with you. Are you scared they won't approve?"
Now she nodded yes. Fresh tears fell.
"There must be so many smart Indian girls in the US. What if they think I'm too dehati, or too fat, or too dumb?"
"Hutt, pagal!" interjected Nuzzhat dismissing her worries.
"How dare they think that? We will do dash mein bumboo, if they do!"
"Haaaw!" went Humaira.
Zoya pulled her chin again. "They think the world of Aapi. And she'll talk them into it if they have any problems. But," and she kissed her on the forehead, "they won't. They'll fall in love with you at first sight, just like their idiot son did!"
Najma flashed her eyes at her.
The door flew open and Ayaan came booming in.
"Girls, stop your khee-khee nonsense and come outside. Badi Ammi is calling everyone for breakfast." They all noticed that Omar was not with him.
That in itself was a red flag.
They filed out, each thinking how to make the lovebirds happy.
Zoya was dreading running into her husband though.
She would combust into a fiery pile of embarrassed ashes if he so much as looked at her.
And by now he must have seen the gift she had left him on his phone.
Omar was at the table brooding.
She saw Asad at the head of the table, arms folded across his chest, same shirt she had worn for two minutes, sleeves still rolled up.
Oh god, if they had been alone she'd have launched herself into his arms and kissed him breathless.
She smiled to herself, if they had been alone, they wouldn't have been dressed.
If they had been alone, they'd probably still be in their room.
They'd probably still be in their bed.
May be the honeymoon was a moral and mental necessity after all.
She avoided his gaze.
"Omar," Asad called out looking at Zoya.
"My phone got messed up, can you take a look at it and fix it for me?"
Zoya gasped. Oh my god, he wouldn't!
She looked into his eyes and smiled with confidence. He wouldn't, he was just teasing.
And she could wait for him to blink first and admit defeat, but wives didn't do that to their brand spanking new husbands, now did they?
"Don't bother Cinderella, I'll take care of it." She smirked at Jahanpanah as he looked triumphant.
Aww. She looked at the screen and grinned. So he'd figured out the new password. Damn.
The girls had roared with delight at her words.
Omar looked confused. Who's Cinderella? He looked up at Najma's pale face and his heart constricted.
Aapi was aghast. "Zoya, wear some jewelry. You are a nayee naveli dulhan for goodness sake!"
Asad's face was on fire. He ducked his head.
"Aapi, I don't feel like it."
"Ya Allah, yeh ladki! At least wear the haar that badi bi gave you."
She dragged her feet but went to the room to don the necklace. Thank god, it was long and hung low. She would have loved to wear the one that Asad gave her last night, but it would abrade her skin even more.
And if she wore it, he would either lift her over his shoulder like a caveman to go make love to her in their room or, just die of mortification in the middle of the living room.
She'd spare him this once. She had other plans for her password-busting Mr. Khan.
Song in Title:
My Name is Khan 2010, "Sajda"
Last night she had told him that she wanted to visit the dargah on her first day as a new bride.
But by mid-morning, the newlyweds' simple visit to the dargah had snowballed into a family procession with plans for a lakeside picnic later.
Asad mentally rolled his eyes and slapped his head. Why not just call it the Waleema and be done with it, he groused to himself. There was no way he was going to get any alone time with his bride the whole day. The bandar baraat would accompany them every damn where.
And the night was just too damned far away.
All morning he had seen her load up on multiple cups of coffee. He blushed and smirked thinking of having kept her awake most of the night. But when she placed his mug before him, he saw her sleeve ride up to expose her wrist.
He felt terrible.
Carrying his coffee mug in hand, he made some phone calls.
"Asad!" Dilshad called, "stop working. You're off and on your honeymoon." She scolded.
He held up his hand as he continued talking.
Anwar piped up, "speaking of a honeymoon, we were planning to give Zoya and Asad a trip as a gift."
He looked fondly at Zoya, "beta, kahan jaana chahoge tum dono?"
Zoya bent her gaze shyly, "voh ... actually ... Jeeju ..."
Dilshad started to laugh. "Allah, ab ye bhi!"
Zoya looked toward her husband for help, but he was still on the phone. She'd have to bite the bullet.
"Ermm, Jeeju, Mr. Khan has already done the bookings."
She wasn't sure if that was true, but wasn't being married about covering each others' asses? Hmm, speaking of which ... she got distracted and shook herself out of her s*ex haze.
Zoya, focus baby.
"Ooh, bhabhi, where is bhaijaan taking you?" Nuzzhat asked, agog with excitement.
"I don't know. It's a surprise."
Oh god, this covering up was too much work.
Thank god Omar was preoccupied, thought Zoya, otherwise, by the time Asad was done with his phonecall, everyone would be going with them on their honeymoon, and Jahanpanah would kill her.
But then there was always Ayaan to pick up the slack, "can't we come too?"
Humaira punched his shoulder.
You go girlfriend.
The packing for the picnic was nearly done. They would pick up hot food and pizzas on the way after paying their respects at the dargah.
"Umm, Ammi, I have to take Zoya to the immigration office to finalize her papers."
There was a universal groan of protest.
"We got the appointment for this afternoon. So we won't be able to join you for the picnic but we'll go to the dargah."
Zoya pouted the most. Here she was diligently covering up for him and he springs this on her. So boring to go a government office on the day after her wedding and to miss out on all the family picnic fun. She looked unhappily at her husband ready to beg him to postpone the appointment. But he looked at her without blinking and imperceptibly jerked his chin.
Hmm, jahanpanah and his secret head signals, she harrumphed.
What was he up to now?
She decided to hold her tongue, but did so very impatiently.
Allah miyan, and then there was Aapi.
Aapi was still on and on about wearing more jewelry. "Kada to pehen lo kum se kum."
Why wasn't the rani haar enough? Did she have to go out dressed like a Christmas tree?
Asad told them to go on without them; they needed to complete the formalities for acquiring a marriage certificate first, and would meet them at the shrine later.
This bought them some much needed alone time at last.
Pleased with himself he put the mug to his mouth to finish his coffee. The next minute he choked and sprayed it all out when Ayaan proclaimed, "Bhaijaan, we all are going with you on your honeymoon."
In the car he held Zoya's hand. "Tired?" He kissed her hand.
"Not really." She covered up a yawn.
"I'm sorry baby," he kissed her hand again.
"Why?" she looked at him in alarm.
"What happened?" She narrowed her eyes, "what did you do?"
"I hardly let you sleep last night and was such a brute. Look at the bruises on your neck and wrists!"
He kissed her wrist feeling wretched.
"Asad, no!" She grabbed his hand to hold it against her heart with both of hers.
"Last night was beautiful," she breathed, now kissing his hand.
Her voice became husky, "and each time I look at these bruises it reminds me of how I got them, and makes me wish that night would come soon so that we can rinse and repeat."
He chuckled. "Rinse and repeat? So no s*ex strike?"
"Not tonight," she promised, lacing her fingers with his.
He reached into his shirt pocket. "Close your eyes and hold out your hand."
When she opened her eyes, her dimple flashed, "I have the bestest and sweetest husband in the whole wide world."
He gently slipped on her mother's earrings for her and then started the car.
"Finally, I have you to myself. And look at all the strings I had to pull."
"What do you mean?"
He grinned. "We'll go to the dargah because you wanted to. But after that we come home so you can get some rest."
"What? No immigration office?"
"Nope, just an excuse."
"Mr. Khan! You're becoming too good at lying. You better not ever lie to me!"
"Never, Mrs. Jahanpanah."
She giggled. She loved how he now embraced her nickname for him so wholeheartedly.
She took off her heels, turned sideways to face him and tucked her feet under her, wiggling her butt to get more comfortable.
"Buckle up," he reminded her.
"I don't need to rest when we get home." She said softly after obeying him.
"You will. I want my wife fresh and rested when I make love to her all night. And, you'll need all your energy to scream my name each time," he teased.
He turned to look at her not getting a response, and smiled indulgently.
One hand tucked under her cheek, she was fast asleep with her head curled into the seat back.
He slowed down and drove around in circles before finally parking in front of the dargah.
He turned around in his seat to look at her. She looked so angelic. The dark crescents of her lashes dusted her creamy cheeks as she exhaled softly. Her hands were still dark from the lacy mehendi.
When she woke up with a start, it was her turn to smile.
"Poor baby," she said to herself.
Her husband had dozed off, hair flopping over his forehead and cheek stuck to the seat back.
She saw Ayaan coming towards them and reluctantly shook him awake, thumb lingering on his lips. "Asad, wake up."
He rubbed his eyes. Aww, wasn't that the cutest sight, she thought.
Ayaan came bounding up to them. "Ho gaya?"
Asad gave him the look: eyes narrowed, furrows between his brows.
Ayaan grinned, "oh ho! One-track mind! I meant the marriage certificate!"
"Almost," Asad hedged back. "They've called us again in the afternoon."
He wanted to leave no open time for his family to suggest that they join them for the picnic instead.
Zoya coughed, unsuccessfully covering up a giggle.
He loved that sound.
He physically turned Ayaan around, "chalo."
He looked back at Zoya. She was rooted to the spot.
He was by her side in a flash. "What happened?"
She looked up at him and then at Ayaan. "umm, nothing. You both carry on. I have to text phu... I mean Ammi about something."
Asad folded his arms across his chest suspiciously. "Ayaan, go," he ordered.
Ayaan grinned goofily and wagged his eyebrows at Zoya. "Mona darling, humse kya raaz chhupana!"
"OK, OK," he ruffled his hair, "jeez, you guys."
He took a step back, bouncing on the balls of his feet, "Mona, tu Akdu se shaadi kar ke, maha-bore ban gayee hai!"
He ran before the Mukka could grab his collar.
He looked at her, waiting.
"Mr. Khan," she whispered in embarrassment. "I just realized that I'm, umm ... on my period. I shouldn't go in."
His eyes widened. "Why?"
"I ... we ... just don't. Please you go. And offer a phool chaadar on my behalf too."
He took her arm and walked them back to the car. "No, we'll do it together when you're done. Let me take you somewhere else instead."
"But what about everyone else?" she panicked.
"Text Ammi or Aapi that we had to go back to the lawyer's office."
As he started the car, she grumbled, "Allah miyan, let's count the ways how this is all so wrong."
She held up her hand and counted off with her thumb, "one, making me a lying accomplice. Two, at a holy place of worship."
"Three ..." He grabbed her hand and bit her finger, then sucked on it.
"Four ... He kissed her palm and snaked his tongue out to lick the center.
She settled back with a happy sigh.
On the way, she told him about Omar. He had noticed their long faces and now understood why. He kept quiet, knowing that his wife would have already drawn up plans to interfere and make things right.
He would just be needed to sign on the dotted line and play the hired muscle.
"So how are you going to fix this?"
She opened her mouth to eagerly share her ideas and then looked at his expression.
Oh really? He thought her fix-it-tiveness was funny. She crossed her arms across her chest and huffed looking out the window.
He tickled her at the waist.
"Mr. Khan! I'm not talking to you!"
"OK, then I'm going on a s*ex strike!"
She gasped, and then laughed with delight.
"Yippee," she clapped her hands, "I'll get a full night's rest now. So let's join the picnic after all!"
As they neared their destination her eyes misted and she smiled through her tears. She leaned over and kissed his cheek as he parked.
"I love you, and" she brushed her lips over his, "Jahanpanah, you are going to get very lucky tonight," she promised, and hopped out.
She knelt by her father's gravesite after they had reverently placed the chaadar and offered flowers. Raising her palms she felt his shoulders rub against hers and sighed in contentment.
He watched her bowed head and looked around warily. Though his lawyers had updated him on Tanveer's legal woes, he still couldn't rest easy in public spaces.
Assuring their safety, his mind wandered. He looked up at the gravestone to read her father's name and the date of his passing.
A crow cawed raucously in the tree above, and smaller birds scattered in alarm. Cars honked in the distance.
Closer, the Muizim called for prayer.
A ping of awareness gnawed at the edge of his consciousness. He looked at Zoya's covered head, and then back at the gravemarker.
The hair on the back of his neck stood.
His eyes widened.
It couldn't be.
He rose and whipped out his phone and reviewed the video of Tanveer and Mr. Siddiqui taken by the investigator's team. He carefully watched the sequence of actions. The old man seemed aloof and angry in the beginning. But his body language immediately altered as soon as he opened the paper bundle she gave him. His hands trembled and when Tanu started to speak through her tears, his face softened, and he bent forward to grasp her hand.
Asad watched the video several times, each time his suspicions becoming more and more concrete.
The old man didn't seem resentful or angry. Wouldn't he be, if it was blackmail?
In fact he looked ... regretful, and hopeful at the same time.
When he removed his ring to place it in her palm and then curl her fingers over it, Asad knew.
He staggered on the uneven ground.
Omar followed Najma as she wandered listlessly by the lake, picking and twisting leaves in her restless hands.
"Najma." She halted but didn't turn around. She had seen him in an intense conversation with Nikhat by themselves, and her already chafed heart was now numb with grief.
"Why are you by yourself?"
"Umm just like that." She plastered a smile on her face. "I was just thinking about my application for a Masters Program at the University and whether I would be accepted."
She flung the crushed leaves away with more force than necessary.
"I didn't know you wanted to study further."
Her breezy coldness made him awkwardly self-conscious.
There's a lot you don't know about me, she thought grimly, but said nothing.
"Umm, have you thought about applying in the US?"
Her heart skipped a beat.
"No," she replied. "I could never think about going so far away from my family."
He turned her around by her arm, "not even if I asked you to?"
She looked down, and then away, hopeful and yet despairing.
"Why ..." She took a deep breath and looked into his eyes, "what are you trying to say, Omar?"
He sighed and pushed his hands in his pockets. "You know what I'm trying to say."
"No, I don't."
She was angry now.
"I know you've flirted with me since day one after you were done flirting with Zoya. I too got swept away in the romance of it all and thought that may be ..."
She was dangerously close to tears.
"But now you are flirting with Nikhat. You say you are leaving tomorrow. I hope you had a fun summer fling in India and can go back to being a hotshot in the US!"
She turned to run to hide her tears and was jerked into his chest.
"Shut up Najma, just shut the hell up!"
He kissed her softly.
She struggled against him, more angry than ever. "Don't touch me! I refuse to be one of your desi conquests!"
She kicked at his shin.
"Najma! Stop it." He held her face in both his hands and wiped her tears with his thumbs.
"Idiot girl! Haven't I told you I love you?"
"You told Zoya also you loved her. You throw I love yous' around like a dog sheds hair. Why should I believe you? I'm sure you've said I love you to a million girls in America!"
He shook her by her forearms, "Najma stop twisting everything I say. Just because I was born and raised in the US doesn't mean I'm a sl*ut!" he growled through gritted teeth.
"And yes, I do love Zoya. But," he lifted her chin, "I'm in love with you."
He bent his head to kiss her more fiercely this time. His arms tightened around her and she melted against him. As he parted her lips with his tongue, her head fell back in surrender. He whispered hoarsely against her soft lips, "marry me."
She blinked her eyes open and pulled back. "Apply for a Masters at UC Berkely or Davis, and be my desi wife."
She hid her face in his chest.
"Toh main haan samjhoon?" he asked as he held her tight and bent to brush his lips against her ear.
"No?" he teased. "Then do me the honor of forever living in sin with me as my mistress."
She kicked his shin again.
"Ouch! Abhi se you are dominating me. May be we can try whips, handcuffs and blind folds when we are married?"
"Omar!" She was too shocked to be embarrassed.
"What? I thought every girl wanted her own version of 50 Shades of Grey'!"
She had had enough of his tormenting ways and tried to run away.
"I am not going to the US with you, ever."
He tugged at her wrist. When she turned around, he was on his knee.
"I don't have a ring as yet, but Najma Ahmed Khan, will you celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with me under the stars right here, by this lake?"
She started to cry and he rose to hold her, "I got so scared when you said you were leaving tomorrow."
"Silly girl, you didn't even listen to what I was trying to say." He lifted her chin, "if you had stayed long enough, you'd have heard that I am leaving early so that I can talk to my parents about you."
"What if they don't like me?"
"They'll love you."
Later he had laughed, and told her about his conversation with Nikhat. Nikhat had earlier pulled him aside and nearly bitten his head off.
"If you so much as hurt a hair on Najma's head, before Ayaan and Asad bhaijaan kill you, I will slowly pull each fingernail of yours to inflict maximum damage."
Omar chuckled and kissed a shocked Najma, "hmm, may be the Khan girls do have some dominatrix issues!"
Najma punched his chest, ecstatic with Nikhat's super-sister avatar.
"Omar," she twisted his ear and he yelped, "please tell me you haven't read that book!"
"No, but may be you should?"
He groaned through laughter as fists rained on him.
Song in Title:
Fanaah (2006), "Mere Haath Mein"
"Mr. Khan you are an evil genius!" she gasped.
"But I don't know how I am going to ever face them again."
She couldn't believe what he had just pulled off.
Two days ago, she had assumed Ayaan was just kidding about everyone accompanying them on their honeymoon.
But somehow that idea caught on like fire.
Now that Omar was back to his old self having re-charmed Najma off her feet, his demented collaboration had added more psycho impetus to the project.
One universal truth had quickly emerged: When Ayaan and Omar ganged up with the power puff girls under their wing, they were unstoppable.
Even Zoya didn't stand a chance.
She was partially disappointed that they wouldn't get their own holiday where they could do what they wished, when they wished.
Not leave the room at all, make love on the balcony at midnight, or in the jacuzzi, or wander around the anonymous city lost in each other.
She would wear lingerie that left nothing to the imagination, and even wander naked in the living room suite to sit in his lap as he watched the news.
The TV would be forgotten as she screamed his name.
Over rims of frothy cappuchinos they would gaze into each other's eyes, play footsie under the table, may be even dance, or swim under the stars, among complete strangers, fragrantly cocooned in their heady romance.
But another part of her was equally caught up in the excitement of a glorious family trip and adventure. This time she wouldn't be the sad outsider who constantly felt like the fifth wheel and yearned to be part of this magic.
This time she would be the rightful center, cherished by her new family and spoiled rotten by her besotted husband.
This time she would rightfully share a room with her husband and have him drive her crazy with need as she muffled her screams of joy instead of tears and sobs.
So what if they didn't go the Taj and watch it in each other's arms on a full moon night, they could still dine at the Taj Mahal hotel and may be even catch a celebrity or two if they stayed late enough.
They were all to go to Mumbai where Omar's parents would join them.
Rashid, Shireen and Dadi too would join the extempore festivities.
Ayaan was ecstatic.
Finally, with so many elders tripping over each other to eagerly keep in-laws happy, bhaijaan distracted in his love fog, they just might be able to con their way into clubbing.
And in Mumbai!
All through the Waleema, plans for the family trip kept getting more and more elaborate. The family trip would be a celebration for another upcoming wedding.
The Waleema had become the staging grounds for a small engagement ceremony. While the newly weds were showered with gifts, the newly engaged couple were showered with blessings.
That morning Omar had snuck Najma away to go ring-shopping after having introduced her to his parents via Skype.
His parents had already become familiar with the Khans because Zoya had oh-so casually shared videos of her mehendi and nikaah when she called to thank them for their gift.
She had even given them a video tour of her brand new home, animatedly introducing her husband, sister- and mother-in-law.
Next Aapi had set up the assist by gushing to Hana about how blessed Zoya was to be married into such a fine family, and how wonderful it would be if Omar got married into the same family.
And at last, they could still turn their friendship into a rishtedaari. Wouldn't that just be the cherry on top?
How could Omar's parents resist this charm offensive? Especially when their only son clearly couldn't seem to stop smiling.
They had eagerly given their blessings dazzled by Dilshad and even more so by Najma who blushed all through the video chat and never once looked up. They laughed aloud when they saw her slap Omar's arm when he got too rambunctious for his own good.
She had looked up at her future in-laws in shock, blushed harder, and run off. He had joked later about her violent streak; she was the jahanpanah's sister after all.
This had earned him being clocked again.
His parents had continued chatting with a tearful Dilshad and Zeenat afterwards about panicky last-minute preparations; that conversation had lasted well over an hour. Dilshad could tell where Omar got his smarts and charm from. His mother was serene and quietly witty, her dark eyes framed by laugh lines; and why not, his father was a booming laughter powerhouse.
Zoya couldn't contain her excitement. Allah miyan, what a riot it would be!
Even the car ride to the airport had been wildly entertaining. Ayaan had got everyone singing "Pyaar Tumhe Kis Mod Pe Le Aaya," in a deliberate foghorn voice.
Humaira and Najma, squeezed in the last seat, had blushed when Ayaan and Omar turned around and belted, "battiyaan bujhane wali jaane kab ayegi!"
And Zoya had loved singing, "shor na machana warna bhabhi jag jayegi." Even Asad hadn't been able to resist a chuckle at that.
The SUV had rocked on its wheels as they all sang, as besura as possible:
"Pyaar tumhe kiss mod pe le aaya, haye.
Ki dil kare Haye!
Koi ye bataye kya hoga!"
They had pulled up at a traffic light just then, and even passengers in neighboring cars were smiling looking on at this tomfoolery.
At the airport, Asad had herded everyone toward the gate, reminding them that they weren't able to get all the seats together. The chillar party had merrily gone on ahead with Dadi, followed by the scolding parents.
In the chatter and buzz no one had noticed that the newlyweds hadn't boarded the flight.
He had whisked Zoya on a flight to Agra instead.
"I told Ammi and Jeeju," Asad told her, holding her hand in his as the flight took off.
She stroked his arm with concern.
"Asad, we could have stayed at home. We didn't have to come. You are so tense."
He had looked preoccupied and pensive all of yesterday and the day before. Zoya had asked him about it a couple of times but got no clear response.
Finally she had framed his face in her hands and issued an ultimatum: "Asad, I know something's bothering you."
He had lowered his gaze and swallowed.
She had kissed him firmly on the mouth, "the old Zoya would have pestered you till you came out with it. But, I am going to trust you to tell me when you're ready."
He had nodded imperceptibly, sighing in relief and hugging her tight.
It was then that he'd recalled that moment of piercing clarity at the cemetery.
He had looked back at her as she rose after lovingly tracing the contour of the stone and adjusting the chaadar.
He had wanted to shout, "that is not your father!" but he choked on his own spit, his throat raw with suppressed tears.
When she turned around and looked up at his face, she had looked haunted. "Asad?" She had rushed to his side. "What happened?"
His eyes were unfocused; hers were wide with alarm.
"ASAD!" she felt his forehead and then wrist. His hand was ice cold.
She had held his face exactly as she was doing now, "Asad, don't you dare do this to me again. Talk to me!"
She pressed her lips to his. After a second his arms went around her to clutch her desperately.
"Please talk to me, Asad. Don't shut me out!" she had begged.
He'd pressed his forehead to hers and held her face. "Do you trust me?"
"More than anything in this world," she had whispered, terrified about what he was going to tell her.
But Asad couldn't tell her. He was either the biggest coward in the world or the worst liar.
Once home, he had contacted the investigator again. "Rakesh, I want those enlargements right away. And," he brushed his hair off his forehead, "I need you to do a full bio and profile on Gaffoor Siddiqui at this address."
He paced angrily and snarled through gritted teeth, "I want to know everything there is to know about his entire life, if he sneezed yesterday, what he ate for lunch five weeks ago."
He continued to dictate, "I want to know about dates when he travelled out of the city or country, destinations, where he stayed, with whom, this year, twenty years ago, whatever. Every bloody detail, as soon as possible."
He had flung the phone on the bed once he was done and wiped his face with both hands.
It all made absolute diabolical sense.
He now knew with terrifying certainty, whose skeletal remains were found in the factory and why his father had been scapegoated as the alleged murderer and arsonist.
And he knew why Zoya was at the factory that night, and why she needed to be eliminated.
His heart twisted in abject terror and revulsion.
His sister and wife were victims and pawns of a great conspiracy hatched eighteen years ago. Those filthy bast*ards had threatened one child's life to orphan another, and roast her alive in order to cover their cowardly tracks.
He had been unable to breathe. His chest burned.
That night Zoya had held him in her arms and made love to him as he clung fiercely to her, crushing her possessively to him and burying his face in her hair.
She wrapped her arms around him, whispering a teary litany of love and comfort while her heart hammered with worry.
She had stroked his forehead with her soft fingers while raining a thousand kisses on his face.
"I love you, I'm right here baby. I won't let anything happen to you," she had promised over and over again.
One hand had rubbed his chest in circles across his racing heart.
She knew he would tell her when he was good and ready.
Right now he needed time alone with his demons before he slayed them and returned to her.
She'd be waiting with open arms.
Song in Title:
Race (2008), "Pehli Nazar"
"Pyaar Tumhe Kis Mod Pe Le Aaya" Satte Pe Satta (1982)
Ayaan was slack-jawed with awe. Whoa! Bhaijaan was major badass! Mona darling sure had done a number on Akdu Ahmed Khan for him to become so crafty and cool.
He ruffled his hair and thought about whether he had changed in significant ways since falling hard for his little miss sunshine. He was looking forward to stealing away with her and spoiling her during this trip. She had loved his stories about his trip to Ajmer, Jaipur and Agra.
He had urged Humaira to pack her skirt and boots so that she could go dancing in them with him.
He grinned happily as he entered Dadi's room in the en suite. Ammi wanted him to remind her that they would be going down to dinner soon.
He heard a murmur of voices.
Abbu was there too then.
He halted, glued to the spot as he heard Abbu's raised and angry voice.
"Ammi, I refuse to give in to that woman's blackmail any more."
His voice rose and fell as he paced furiously.
"She is the one who forced us to accept Haseena bi's proposal. Yeh to accha hua ki Asad ne sari asliyat saamne la kar humari Nikhat ko bacha liya. Otherwise her life would have been ruined."
"I agree Rashid. But how are you going to convince Shireen to leave that house? Are you willing to tell her the truth?"
Ayaan felt his world tilt on its axis.
What was going on?
Blackmail? Leaving the house?
"Yes, I am working on it. I already told her about Imran and Tanveer and how Ayaan paid off Firoze with money he got from bhabhi. She was shocked to find out that she had the nerve to blackmail Ayaan into marrying Humaira for that money."
He swore savagely under his breath.
"I have some evidence of their creative bookkeeping that could convince her more. They have some shell companies in Shireen's name, so that if they were ever caught, they could make her the scapegoat."
Dadi gasped loudly and shuddered, "itna ghatiiyapan! What about Shireen's kids if something terrible had happened?"
"Kya hota Ammi? Humpe apna ehsaan jatate, aur apni meherbaniyon ke bojh se humein zindagi bhar ghulam bana lete."
He continued pacing, "but we have to get out before that woman gets Ayaan forcefully married to Humaira. I refuse to sacrifice my son to her so that she can continue to blackmail us for the rest of our lives. It's time to make a clean break."
He heard Dadi sigh. "Bechari Humaira. She's been in love with Ayaan since she was a little girl. It's tragic that she'll have to pay for her parents' sins."
"Haan, Humaira acchi ladki hai. But, we cannot enter into any alliance with that family. They are poison. She's kept me under her thumb for too long. I agreed earlier because I was a coward and she threatened to harm Dilshad and the kids. But now all my kids have grown up, they can stand strong by my side and together we can take them on."
Ayaan stumbled blindly out of the room. What new evil had mumani perpetrated now? How could her actions be standing in the way of his love for Humaira?
Here he had secretly hoped that they too could soon announce their engagement. Wouldn't it be cool to get engaged at Najma's wedding or Waleema? It could be a cool new Khan tradition: ek nikaah ke saath, ek sagaai free!
He had toyed with several ideas of proposing to Humaira. In fact, he was planning to run them by Omar and Zoya soon.
He was livid with heartache and raging hatred.
He punched in her number. "You have been blackmailing my father for all these years? You repulsive hag!" he ranted.
"Ayaan yeh kya badtameezi hai?" he heard her shaken response.
He laughed sarcastically, "badtameezi? You foolish woman, you wanted me to marry your daughter? And now, when I have actually fallen in love with her, Abbu and Dadi have decided that they will never let me be married to your daughter, Razia Siddiqui."
He wiped his brow angrily, "and you know what? I don't blame them! How can I marry the daughter of parents who destroyed my father's life and who would have thrown my Ammi under the bus to save their own sorry skins? You even threatened badi Ammi and Asad bhaijaan!"
He laughed in despair and pain, "I hope you see the horrible irony in this, you pathetic excuse for a woman! Your evil ways have finally managed to catch up with you and ruin your daughter's life! Thanks a lot, you blood-sucking witch!"
He slammed his fist into the wall.
Razia crumpled to the floor.
Tanveer was rummaging through her old purse. She was downsizing and getting ready to fly the coop. She had paid Imran some of her money, but was still unsure of whether he was her last hope in snagging a father for her baby.
The eternal optimist, she was still keeping her options open.
You never know.
Her hand felt a bump in the lining. Curious, she fished around and retrieved a slim black cartridge, the size of a postage stamp.
Her eyes gleamed.
Now wasn't this just the perfect stroke of luck!
That jail scare had happened for a reason after all.
She gripped her jackpot tightly and lay back on the bed, hugging herself with delight.
How could she have forgotten this golden goose? They must be right about pregnant women losing vital memory cells!
Razia was heartsore and furious!
Her carefully laid plans were in shambles like a house of cards.
How dare that b*tch show her blackmailing simpering face around here? She should have never brought her on board and embedded her in that household.
She should have known that this one was bad to the bone. And now, once again, a major thorn in her side.
"I could turn it over to the police but where would the fun be in that," Tanveer purred.
"Soch lo bi, yeh agar Asad Ahmed Khan ke haath lag gaya toh tumhari khair nahin." She had laughed baring her teeth, and gleefully mimed the action of a knife slitting her throat.
"He has impoverished the Qureshis for messing with his step sister. They will never be free of legal battles and court hearings for the rest of their lives."
"Tanveer, I don't have time for this. Just name your price and get the hell out of my house." Razia had snarled through teeth clenched tight to prevent them from chattering in terror.
"Are you crazy?" She had snapped, "I don't have that much money lying around."
"So? Ask your husband. He must know about the blood on your hands I'm sure, and would want to save his own sorry ass."
After a bristling silence, Razia had croaked, "but how do I know that you haven't made other copies?"
Tanveer got up and laughed again. "You don't. That's the beauty of it."
"Tomorrow at eleven in Cabin 45 by the lake."
And she slithered off.
He was done playing fair. He had greenlighted the investigative team's search of Tanveer's new residence two days ago.
Armed with the latest findings and evidence he had decided to tell Zoya everything.
Not the honeymoon of their dreams certainly, but far more critical to their happiness and sanity in the long run.
After checking into their room and freshening up, they were perched on a pristine white leather sofa. The view was breathtaking out of the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Yamuna and the Taj glimmering in the setting sun's rays.
She was in his lap, ear to his heartbeat, playing with his fingers in her lap.
She could almost hear the gears in his head whirring. It was as if he was doing a mental version of his "voh ... actually ... main" mode.
"Asad?" she kissed his knuckles and lifted her head to nuzzle the crook of his neck.
He sighed heavily and intertwined his fingers with hers.
"Zoya ... I don't know where or how to start."
She gripped their joined hands to her heart. "Just say it and it'll get easier."
Suddeny she swivelled in his lap in alarm, "oh my god, is Ammi OK? You're not dying of cancer, right?" The idea had just come to her and left her choking with horror.
He patted her back with his other hand, shaking his head to reassure her.
And just like that ... in a flash she had put everything in perspective and made it so simple: Ammi and Najma were fine, in fact happier than never before. His family was together, and they both had their health and were weaving dreams of raising a family.
Nothing else could possibly matter.
He kissed her tenderly and Zoya sensed him relaxing for the first time in two days.
"Pakka?" she confirmed.
"Pakka!" he affirmed.
She breathed easier.
"You are magical, you know," he murmured in her ear. "You do have some super powers that I hope you'll pass on to our kids one day!" She laughed, delighted with his playful tribute.
"What brought that on, jahanpanah?"
He reached for his phone. "I've been having Tanveer followed since she left our house."
Zoya frowned. This was all about that witch! What had she done to upset her jahanpanah now? For two days in a row? She'd kill her!
She gave him her full attention.
"This is a video of her from last week."
She watched, mystified and then gasped.
"Mr. Khan! Those letters and pictures are mine!"
He had even shown the enlargements of the photographs to Zoya to confirm this.
"But why is she showing them to this man? Who is he?"
He looked pensive. "He's Humaira's dad."
"What? But how does he know Tanveer?"
He gripped her waist hugging her to him, "I don't think he knows her. He met her for the first time that day."
"But Asad, in this last part he seems so emotional. Look, he even tries to hold her hand. He must know her from before!"
She had viewed the video about half a dozen times.
Zoya was beginning to put the pieces together. "It looks a lot like blackmail. And if she's using those letters, then Humaira's dad must know something about my father and mother, right?" She asked hopefully.
"But how did she know to steal my papers? What does she know that we don't?"
Zoya was thinking aloud now. "If only we could tell what they were saying." She leaned against him in frustration and then sat up quickly. "We should get a lip reader," she kidded.
Asad looked at her with admiration. "May be. Are there such experts?"
"They have them on cop and legal shows!" she replied, eyes glowing with determination.
Zoya was excited, "you call the investigator. Meanwhile, I'll do my own research." She tapped on her iPad after retrieving it from her bag.
He smiled ruefully. Only his wife would think detective work on her honeymoon was such fun.
He sobered quickly, still terrified of telling her more.
He brought out a manila envelope and handed her a black computerized chip. She looked at it suspiciously.
"They recovered this from her house and made a copy of the audio recording. She had two other copies. "
"Back up just a minute. She has a house in Bhopal?"
He nodded with eyebrows raised. "Just got it, paid in full, posh high-rise building, top of the line upgrades."
"She can afford that?"
He looked at her. "We think she blackmailed her way into it."
"Wow! That must be some secret!"
His heart broke. If she only knew.
She saw that he still had his hand outstretched.
"Why does this look so familiar?" Zoya spoke distractedly.
He sat next to her, "because it's similar to the chip from Najma's doll that we lost and then found."
"Tanveer had this all this time? But why? We heard it and it had only Abbu's voice on it."
He felt humbled that she still insisted on calling his father "Abbu" even after knowing what he may have done
"I think that was a fake. This may be the real recording."
Her hand flew to her mouth. "What? Why? What's going on, Asad? How is she involved with any of this?"
Her eyes narrowed and she continued as if talking to herself. "She did turn up exactly at the time of the case against Abbu. She was also the one who claimed to have found the doll. Have you listened to it?"
"Not as yet. I thought we'd listen together."
While he pulled up the converted audio file on his laptop, snuggled next to him, she was still talking, working out the pieces of the sordid story.
"So she steals my letters and also the real recording. She blackmails Humaira's dad and possibly someone else with the chip and sabotages Abbu's case. She's been working against us since day one? Did someone plant her in our house to get this, or is she the mastermind?"
Asad felt terrible.
Part of his moodiness over the past two days also had to do with blaming himself for his cruel words to Zoya during that period in their lives. She had firmly believed in his father's innocence and mother's faith. She had tried to reason with him, nag him and even trick him, but he had been adamant about his beliefs. Instead, he had relentlessly belittled her words and actions, humiliated her as an unwanted misfit, and degraded her as an outsider who had no right to interfere in his family's affairs.
Worse, in trying to fight his growing attraction to her, he had extolled and paraded Tanveer as a paragon of virtue and modesty. Too often he had fallen victim to Tanveer's veneer of manipulated innocence and rushed to blame Zoya for the smallest of engineered offenses.
He still couldn't get over how, not even once, had Zoya uttered a harsh word against Tanu, or even himself. Sure, she had given him many nicknames but they weren't meanspirited. But he had been mean. Cruel, in fact.
Only now he knew how she was an expert at hiding her tears and grief from everyone.
Asad still couldn't completely forgive himself.
He put the laptop aside and gathered her in his arms. His eyes were moist; his heart heavy with remorse and gratitude.
"Asad, what aren't you telling me?" she spoke into his neck, her lashes fluttering butterfly kisses across his skin.
His pulse leaped.
They looked at each other.
"Now?" she asked, half in jest, more surprised.
"Now," he carried her into the bedroom. "This is more important than everything else." He kissed her greedily.
"Everything will be fine?"
He hesitated, "it will be because I'll have you by my side."
"Mr. Khan," she sighed, "I never knew my jahanpanah could be so romantic."
He put her down and held her tight against him, "me neither," he whispered against her lips. "Sab apka asar hai!"
"I love this side of you," she breathed, swaying against him dreamily, arms clasped around his neck.
He ground his erection against her, "and this side?"
She threw her head back, giggling and swinging in his arms, "umm hmm, specially that side!"
Song in Title:
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006), "Mitwa"
It was a full moon night.
Her cheek against her husband's shoulder, knees pulled up to her chest, they must have sat for hours just gazing at the pearly Taj against the velvet night.
It wasn't as crowded as they had thought. Thank god, they even got a spot on the raised platform, the perfect viewing station.
Asad moved his arm to tuck her into his side. He dropped a kiss on her hair.
"So beautiful," she sighed.
"Chalein?" he asked.
"Unnh, " she grumbled.
He chuckled. "You owe me my fantasy number 6." he whispered.
She hid her face his side, "Jahanpanah!"
They walked out of the gate, arms brushing against each other. She stumbled on a loose stone and his arm went around her waist.
He let it linger there.
They heard a wolf whistle behind them and drunken sniggers.
"Haye, haye, besharmi toh dekho."
Asad's nostrils flared. He cursed under his breath.
He dropped his arm and balled his fist, but Zoya clutched it tightly.
"Mr. Khan, ignore them. They're drunk."
They began to walk faster.
"Raat akeli hai, bujh gaye diye ..." one of them sang, slurring the words.
Other tourists, families, and young couples also filing out looked uncomfortable and on edge.
He could hear the louts shuffle closer behind them. One of them tripped and brushed against her, grabbing Zoya's hand.
With lightning fast reflexes, Asad's fist spun out to grab his hand and hook him across the face. The man screamed in pain and staggered as if deflated.
"Asad!" Zoya screamed at the same time.
Dragging her behind him to shield her, he faced the other two men.
One of them smashed his beer bottle across Asad's head; the other flicked out a knife. Asad's eyes slitted dangerously. Glaring at them he charged as the knife-wielding assailant tried to lunge at him.
People around them gasped and scattered.
Zoya looked around them to plead for help. There were uncomfortable murmurs but everyone avoided eye contact with her.
The men meanwhile were moving around like predators stalking their prey. The man with the knife playfully bounced the knife back and forth between both hands expertly.
Zoya clutched Asad's shirt. She dug out her pepper spray.
"Arre, ladki ko bhaga kar laya hoga. Maro saale ko."
She could feel the heat and fury emanating from Asad. His arms were raised in front of his chest, fists clenched, and knees slightly bent bracing for impact.
She was scared but also angry. How dare they! What right did they have to play the moral police and harass innocent people? And why wasn't anyone stepping up to do something about it?
She looked around her. Thank god, they weren't alone.
She knew that Asad would take care of both them but she had also heard and read daily news reports of escalating attacks on women.
Allah miyan, what is wrong with this country? Why aren't women safe even with their husbands?
She heard a scuffle, the sound of flesh connecting with flesh, and looked back in horror.
They had pounced on Asad.
He held the hand of the man with the knife in a vise-like grip, but the other one had him a headlock. He wrenched his arm out and smashed the heel of his hand to break his assailant's nose.
She gasped as she felt a hand on her arm. She looked up as the first ruffian dragged her toward him. Insane with rage she pepper-sprayed him full in the face.
"You b*tch!" he screamed in agony, his hands clawing at his eyes and face.
She couldn't take it any more.
If they went down, they both would go down fighting.
Now armed with her phone, she began to circle the seething, fighting and grunting mass of arms and legs.
Her heart pounded and prayed for Asad's safety. Please God, don't let anything happen to him.
Her throat was tight with tears. She started to speak loudly, "aaj dekhungi ki yahan kiski jeet hoti hai."
She sniffed; her voice cracked.
"Mere husband ki, ya inn gundon ki jinhone hum par attack kiya."
And she started clicking pictures from every angle.
Wiping her tears, she continued talking loudly for all to hear. "I will post these on all social media sites for the world to see that this is what happens to women and decent men in India."
She turned toward the spectators and started clicking pictures of them as well.
"Aur aaj duniya dekhegi ki kaise kuchh log tamasha dekhte rahe par mere husband ki madad karne ke liye aage nahin aaye."
Some people hid their faces and backed away.
But two girls stepped close to Zoya and whipped out their phones as well. They started filming the fight and the crowd too.
"Haan," one of them said loudly, "even I want the world to know that today some brave people could have come forward to stop this cycle of violence but they hesistated."
The other girl urged, "please aage aayiye, someone help him. They are only two of them. We can stop this."
Two young men stepped up and tried to pull the men off Asad. Other men came forward to help too. As they held the drunken men back, Asad landed a few more furious punches in their guts and the two slumped to the ground.
He exhaled loudly bracing one hand on his knee, and pushing his hair off his face with the other.
Zoya and the girls had turned from the crowd to film the break up of the fight. Many other spectators were also recording this excitedly.
For the first time they felt a powerful part of a cause bigger than themselves.
A middle-aged man stepped forward and said, "shaabash beta, humein apni insaniyat aur farz yaad dilane ka."
He turned to everyone. "Aap sab please, khoob saare photos and videos lijiye. We will give them as evidence to the police so that these criminals can be taken off the streets of Agra. Poore desh ka naam badnam karte hain aise log. Please publish and share these pictures on news sites right away to let the world know what is happening here."
The crowd surged forward. Many people went close enough to the three gundas and took close-ups. Faces bloodied and groaning with pain, they tried to hide behind their arms.
Some people, mostly women, tried to slap and kick them.
"Kaminon, tum jaise logon ki wajah se ladkiyan kahin aa ja nahin saktin." A woman armed with her sandal cried out.
"Tumhari wajah se humare parents humein ghar se nikalne nahin dete," huffed a young girl.
Someone pulled out the wallets of the assailants to search for their ID. A young girl grabbed it and read the name loudly.
"Yeh mahashay hain Naresh Kumar. Gaur se dekhiye inko, aur inka chehra or naam yaad kar lijiye."
People took photos of his ID picture.
"Kitna garv hoga aaj Naresh Kumar ke maa baap ko!" Some women continued beating up the men with their footwear.
People started chanting, "Naresh Kumar haye, haye!"
Others' names were called out too, and the crowd added their names to the chant.
"Gundagardi nahin chalegi!"
"Aur nahin, ab bas!"
Looking around in wonder, Asad took out his handkerchief to wipe the blood and sweat off his face. He looked around in panic. Zoya slammed into his chest sobbing like a baby. He clasped her shuddering body in his arms, murmuring soothing words.
He saw a police van arrive and constables pour out with lathis. They parted the crowd, which was still filming, and reached to nab the three men.
The crowd started cheering and clapping as the men were handcuffed.
"Nalayak!" People yelled as they were led past them.
Zoya heard Asad chuckling and looked up through her tears. He was looking in the distance. She turned her head and saw a news van roll up.
"Mrs. Khan," he murmured in her ear, "you sure know how to start a revolution. Now let's get the hell out of here!"
Under the cover of darkness and the euphoria of a socially roused and responsible crowd, the honeymooners slunk away just as another news van trudged up.
Back at the hotel she cleaned his cuts with trembling hands. She was still crying.
"Zoya, I am OK, don't cry."
She cried louder.
"They had a knife! What if something happened to you?"
"After what you did? Impossible!" he tried to hold her but she was too worked up. She saw his raw knuckles and torn shirt and broke down again.
"We should have gone to the hospital to have you checked out. Please, Mr. Khan. For me."
He looked at her tear-streaked face and relented, "OK, call the front desk and ask if they have a doctor on call."
After some screamed threats and ultimatums over the phone, a terrified doctor and an apologetic Hotel Manager rushed in twenty minutes later.
While his patient sat calmly, often smiing quietly through the tests and bandaging, his wife stood guard like an Amazon, barking questions and orders, making him jump, and his hands shake.
The doctor cleared his throat. He spoke to the husband, not daring to face the raging wife.
"You should be OK. I've prescribed some painkillers." The Manager tripped over himself to rush out and order the medicines.
"I am pretty sure nothing's broken, but it may be a good idea to get x-rays done tomorrow." He continued.
He paused and took a deep breath and almost fell off the side of the bed when Zoya pounced again demanding guarantees and assurances that her husband would survive the night.
"Mr. Khan, I'll have to report this to the police." The doctor spoke when he finally was able to squeeze a word in.
"Doctor saheb, please don't report my brand new wife to the police. She's really not that bad, and wouldn't last a day in jail!"
The doctor looked up at the wife in alarm. That's certainly not what he had meant.
She looked so young in jeans and a smudged kurti. With her fists on her waist and fire in her red-rimmed eyes, who would have thought that she was such a terror?
She burst into tears.
"Aw Zoya. Come here baby."
The smiling doctor let himself quietly out of the room. He'd send them the bill later.
He didn't want to disturb the lovebirds; they had obviously forgotten all about him.
In his haste to flee her wrath, he didn't make the connection between the feel-good news story he was watching just before the urgent summons, and the young couple whose room he had just left.
He had known that she would sleep fitfully that night.
She woke up screaming, tears running down her face and groping for him, running her anxious hands to feel his face, shoulders and arms.
"Shh," he soothed her and held her to him.
He wouldn't admit it to her, but he was shaken by the events too. What if he hadn't been able to fend them off, or if they had a gun, or disabled him by hitting him on the head or something? What would have happened to Zoya?
He squeezed his eyes shut willing away the worse-case scenarios.
The second time she jerked awake in a cold sweat, there were no screams.
She gazed unblinkingly at the opposite wall.
Dawn still hadn't completely broken through. She could barely see the ghostly outline of the Taj shrouded in mist through the windows.
Zoya turned to look at his sleeping form. The room was chilly; the AC had been on all night at full blast. She covered his shoulders with the quilt and winced looking at the shadowy bruises and swelling. She was scared to touch him, not wanting to wake him up.
When he woke up late in the morning, he saw her curled up on the sofa gazing sightlessly out of the bank of windows.
She turned to look at him framed in the doorway.
He was at her feet the same instant.
"Zoya? Are you OK?" Her hands were icy.
She looked remote, a thousand miles away, looking at but not really seeing him.
"He's my Abbu, isn't he?"
His phone rang.
"Yes, Rakesh?" he swiped his brow and flexed his shoulder still sore from last night despite the painkillers and a hot tub soak.
"Mr. Khan, something strange has happened and it's not looking good."
"What?" he pressed his fingers to his eyes; they felt gritty.
"Yesterday my guy followed Ms. Tanveer to a lakeside cabin around 10 am. At around 11 am, Mrs. Siddiqui came to visit her. She had a large rolling bag with her. She went in and came out in about 45 minutes still rolling that bag.
"Since then there was no action. I had to change two shifts to keep an eye on this cabin."
Asad was listening impatiently, tapping his fingers against the tabletop in the living room. He had just managed to convince Zoya to take a nap threatening her with the doctor's return and sleeping pills if she didn't listen. Her teeth were chattering as if she just couldn't get warm enough.
He had warmed her with his body heat and rocked her to sleep after making love to her.
"An hour ago, a maid went in and came out screaming 15 minutes later. From what we can gather, she found a lot of blood stains on the back of the bathroom door."
Asad reeled in horror.
"They haven't called the police as yet, but I'm sure they will soon."
Oh my God!
Rakesh was still talking.
" ... have to come clean to the police and give them all the evidence if it is true. What do you want us to do next?"
His phone rang again. Nikhat?
"Bhaijaan, Ayaan has disappeared."
"His backpack's gone. We can't reach him on his mobile. Ammi and Humaira are hysterical."
He heard his father on the line as he snatched the phone from her.
"Asad, beta, don't worry. We'll find him. I've informed the police though they say we'll have to wait for 48 hours before they can launch a formal investigation." As much as he was trying to reassure him, he sounded very worried.
"Abbu, I know a detective. I'll call to ask him about a trusty contact in Mumbai and send you his number. In the meanwhile have some recent pictures of Ayaan's printed up so that we can start showing them around."
Rashid sighed. "You always know the right thing to say and do. Thank God we have you."
"We'll be there by the evening. Did he have a fight with someone? Ask Omar or the girls."
Shireen grabbed the phone, "Asad beta, do you think he's been kidnapped?" she asked through tears. "I knew Mumbai was a dangerous place. We should never have come," she wailed.
"Nahin, chhoti ammi, I'm sure he's fine. In fact I will kick his butt once I find him. Don't worry."
"Nahin beta, usko marna mat. Nahin toh wo phir bhaag jayega."
God, he better be fine or he really would kill him. He punched in Rakesh's number after failing to get Ayaan on his phone. He gave Rakesh his phone number so a trace could be put on it the moment Ayaan switched it on.
His eye fell on Zoya's iPad on the coffee table. He pulled up her camera roll to find a picture of Ayaan and found a few from their earlier trip.
He sent a couple to Rakesh.
Song in Title:
Bachna Ay Haseenon (2008) "Khuda Jaane"
Asad called to arrange the earliest tickets to Mumbai. Once Zoya woke up they could pack and leave.
They still had to talk about the Siddiqui situation ...
... and now Tanveer ...
His phone indicated a new text message received. Ayaan! Shukr hai khuda ka!
Asad rushed to open it.
"I had to get away. I'm OK."
He texted back: "where are you? Do you know how worried everyone is?"
They texted back and forth.
"But where are you?"
"Bhai, don't worry."
"Allah miyan, what is wrong with you! Zoya will kill you for ruining her honeymoon!"
"LOL! And not Mr. Zoya?"
"But what happened?"
He waited for nearly half an hour but got no response in return. He had tried calling several times but no answer. He sighed in frustration and worry. Why had he run? Something bad must have happened to make him want to disappear like that.
"Call me whenever you want to talk. Or better yet, talk to Zoya," he backed off for now.
And called his father.
"Haan beta, he just texted us telling us he's fine. Yeh ladka! Idhar iski ammi ne ro ro kar haal kharab kiya hai. Wapas aane do, khabar leta hoon."
"And Asad, you don't need to come now. Enjoy your time together. Once the kids come you won't have any time to yourselves."
Asad blushed with pleasure.
Shireen once again grabbed he phone from her husband, "beta aap log apna khayaal rakhiyega. Humnein news mein dekha ki Taj ke paas kal raat mein kucch badmashon nein kissi shadi-shuda jodey ko tang kiya. Shukar hai Allah ka, ki woh log pakde gaye."
"Jee chhoti Ammi."
"Zoya ko humara pyaar dena."
After hanging up, he stretched on the sofa thinking about their hot tub soak.
They needed one more romp in there to erase the bad memories.
And may be get started on those kids.
Asad glanced at the iPad lying next to him and browsed through the camera roll. He looked at all the pictures from their earlier trip remembering the heartache and the smiles. His fingers itched to delete every photo with Tanu in it. But he held back. These may be the only pictures they had of her if they needed to identify her remains ...
Pushing his cuff back he checked the time.
Who knew he wouldn't know what to do with himself without Zoya?
Through the plate glass windows the Taj glimmered in the distance.
Sounds from the room next door told him that she was up and about.
The bathroom door closed.
And just like that, the day felt brighter, the air crisper.
In the afternoon sun, the marble glowed a buttery golden yellow. He knew that the monument changed color with the different angles of the sun, but seeing it still managed to take his breath away.
It was hard to look away.
He folded his arms across his chest and sighed, vaguely remembering the guide's words at Agra fort from their last trip for some inexpicable reason.
Shah Jahan would gaze for hours at the Taj Mahal when imprisoned there by his son in his last years. Sometimes so overcome with grief, he couldn't even look at the monument to his beloved directly.
He would look at its perfect reflection in a broken mirror.
Clothing rustled behind him and he turned around with a smile.
And did a double take.
Zoya was dressed in a demure suit covered from neck to wrist to toe. He held out his arm and she melted against him.
He crooked his finger under her chin to brush her lips with his.
"May be I shouldn't wear jeans ..."
"What rubbish! I won't let some drunken hooligans change who you are." He nudged her nose with his and gazed intensely into her eyes, "after all, Jahanpanah couldn't do it."
That sound warmed him to his toes.
He arched an eyebrow. "Let's get you out of these clothes. I have many plans for my kaneez." He let his finger trail from her lips down to the pulse at her throat.
She started to back up playfully, still giggling.
"Oh really? Kaneez haath ayegi, tab na!" and she ran away from him behind the sofa.
He chased her.
Snagging her flying dupatta he draped it around his neck.
"No Fatehpur Sikri?" she pouted.
"Only after jahanpanah's fateh!"
They faced each other across opposite ends of the glass dining table. He did his little head tilt indicating the tabletop.
She blushed a deep red.
"Mr. Khan!" she cried, feigning shock, and fled toward the bedroom.
He grabbed her by the waist in two quick strides and swung her in a circle.
"I know, the table would be too cold for my Mallika. I have just the right thing for her." He whispered in her ear. He raised both her arms over her head and peeled off her kurta.
A few more flicks of his wrists and nimble fingers, and he had unhooked and tugged her out of the rest of her clothing.
"Hide these in your bag or I'll burn them. I never want to see them again, especially not on this trip," he commanded imperiously.
Ooh, she loved this dishy and arrogant Zille Ilahi! Tyrant and feminist rolled into one, how lucky was she?
Asad lifted her chin, "are you OK?"
"I think so ..."
"Want to talk about it?"
Her lashes brushed her cheeks, "later?"
He carried her to the bathroom and placed her at the tub's edge.
"Whenever you're ready," he caressed her cheek and leaned over to kiss her forehead. "I love you."
After turning on the faucets and the jets in the hot tub, he quickly divested himself of his clothing.
She came to examine the bruises on his jaw and ribs.
"Have you been icing this down?" she touched his jaw.
"Umm hmm, all that time that you were sleeping." He turned her around, and reached for her hair scrunchie on the counter.
"Wanted to look my best when I seduced my wife out of her Bhartiya nari clothing into a naked goddess!" She let him secure her hair in a high ponytail.
He'd really gotten good at it too.
Zoya laughed, "Asad, you really surprise me. I had thought you wouldn't ever want me to wear western clothing now."
He kissed her hard after turning her back to face him. "Wear whatever you want. I love you in jeans. But on some days I would love to see you in a saree with a sexy blouse." Asad bit down on her neck and trailed kisses to her shoulder, "or no blouse at all."
He nuzzled her now, licking the hollow of her throat and nibbling on the column of her neck. Warm hands feathered to the curve of her waist and he huskily murmured in her ear, "wear that tiny lace thingie tonight with your fu*ck me heels ... I promise, you won't even have to take them off!"
Eyes hooded with desire, she shuddered and moaned in his arms.
"Jo hukm jahanpanah," she purred.
Zoya urged him into the hot water now frothing and steaming, ready for them.
He reached his hand out once he had settled his back against the wall of the tub. She shook her head and went out.
"Zoya?" he complained.
"Hold your horses, I'm coming."
"I want you coming here, with me," he whined.
"Mr. Khan, behave!"
He closed his eyes and leaned his head back, arms stretched loosely over the edge.
And inhaled deeply as he felt soft, warm fingers rub something fragrant on his jawline, neck and shoulders.
"What's that?" he asked softly, languid and relaxed.
"Vitamin E oil. May be it'll help with the bruising. Shh now, just relax."
"I'll smell like a girl now."
"Not just any girl though, a goddess hmm?"
He looked down in his lap, an eyebrow arched, "now you've just confused the god downstairs."
She convulsed with laughter and hugged him from the back, "I really, really love you Mr. Khan."
"Good, because Mr. Khan needs lots of loving right now," and he tugged her into the swirling hot water on top of him.
Stroking her thighs, he told her about Ayaan.
"How could he do that to Humaira!" She wrapped her arms around his neck and hitched up higher in his lap.
His eyebrows shot up.
"Please, Asad, if you don't kick his butt when he returns, I will!"
"But Zoya, he must be really upset to do that." His hands lightly tracked up her bare back.
She fisted her hands painfully in his hair forcing his chin up.
"Aaahh! What the ..." he complained.
"Mr. Khan, you're already hurt so I'll be gentle."
His eyes widened; he swallowed.
She leaned over to whisper tightly in his ear, "what is it with you Khan men? You run when faced with a problem and don't talk it out to find a solution?"
She tugged at his hair even harder.
God! He realized she was really furious now.
At him? What did he do?
Damn you Ayaan, I'll really have to kill you now, he fumed.
"You would have walked away from us if I hadn't talked to you that night, right? I died a thousand deaths on the Mehendi day."
She bent to bite his nipple. He jerked.
"Before that, you nearly let me go back to New York. What if I hadn't seen that video that you didn't even record intentionally?"
He wrenched her to him.
"I was a royal fool."
"Yes, incredibly foolish!" He felt her lips curl on his chest. Her tongue snaked out to take the sting out of her earlier bite.
He guided her mouth to his to suck and feast on her. "I'm sorry baby, I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to you. I promise."
She looked him dead in the eye, "and, your brother better do right by MY sister."
Tucking her hair behind her ear, he promised gruffly, "together, we'll make sure he does. Meri saali ki zindagi ka sawaal hai aakhir!"
He bent to lick a stray teardrop.
" ... And speaking of kicking butts," he cupped her bottom as she guided him into her.
" ... when we return, all you girls will learn some hard ..." he thrust hard into her and she bucked. "... core martial arts," he ground out through clenched teeth.
"And ..." his fingers dug into her waist, "... Mrs. Jahanpanah, you will learn too. Don't even," he nipped her neck and bent his head to suckle her, "try to tell me that you already know from watching too many movies."
Her ponytail bounced and swung from side to side as she rode him, "only for you, Mr. Khan, since you asked so nicely," she barely gasped out.
The room filled with steam; the gurgling jets and their hissed breaths punctuated with soft cries and amorous banter added to the headiness of their union.
"And ..." she gripped him by his hair again to tilt his head back, "only if you spar with me!" She let go to next rake her nails on his arms.
"Koi shaq, Mrs. Khan?" Asad ground out with quickened breath, he swatted her bottom, slowly kneading it.
"And ... then we'll make love afterwards ..." she queried innocently.
"Yes!" he grunted as their bodies moved more urgently now.
" ... when you lose ...?"
And she arched back and screamed his name.
It was hours later at Buland Darwaza, when he realized what she'd really said. He squeezed her hand. "Mallika-e-Asad Ahmed Khan, why will I lose?"
She turned to look into his eyes and raised her eyebrows. Fist on her angled waist, she explained patiently, "Mr. Khan, when we are sparring naked, who do you think is going to win?"
He slapped his palm on his forehead, "of course! What was I thinking? Sorry baby, I must have had my stupid pills today."
They had just visited Salim Chisti's shrine where Zoya sank to her knees in gratitude after carefully untying two threads from the lattice groaning under billions of hopes and wishes.
She pressed those threads, her duas, to her heart. Please Allah, meri behen ki bhi dua qubool karna.
Seated on the stone ledge under the Masjid's shadow, shoulder to shoulder, Asad had asked when she wanted to meet her Abbu.
She shook her head.
"No, Asad, it's OK. It's enough for me to know that he's well and that I have a sister. She's wonderful isn't she and she'll be my devrani!"
"But Zoya, all your life you yearned for your Abbu. You came to India only to find him." He couldn't understand why she would turn away from her life's quest.
She touched his shoulder and gave him a half-smile, "and I found you instead."
She showed him the two strings she still clutched in her hands. She would go home and place them in her copy of the Holy Quran.
Hugging her knees to her now, she rested her chin on her arms.
As if thinking aloud, she spoke softly. Asad had to strain his ears to catch what she was saying.
"He believes he's found his daughter. Just looking at him being emotional is good enough for me." She turned to him, hope and regret in her eyes, "He would have loved me ... and cried for me ..."
"Zoya, you can meet him in person ..."
"No, Asad, why would he believe me? I have no evidence. And I don't want to put him through the indignities of paternity tests."
"Oh my god, Zoya," he drew a ragged breath, "what are you made of?"
He was so angry at Gaffoor Siddiqui.
That man did not deserve a daughter like Zoya. Why had he not looked for her? He knew that this question still haunted her: why didn't he try to find her?
Asad felt fear and loathing curl up inside him. Was this man part of the conspiracy to kill her mother? Did he leave Zoya there in the factory to die?
Who does such a thing? To their own child?
Not caring who saw them, he dragged her into his arms, hid his face in her neck, and cried with her.
Song in Title:
Dor (2006) "Ye Hausla"
Topic started by dixeij
Last replied by -jass-