Hey klondy Where is the update i mean u never take this much time its been 2 months n 7 days R u okay?
Awww Alia383, you're so sweet. Yes I'm fine and am ready to post new update soon. But it's been only a month since my last update. Have you read the chapter I PMed about - 129? I'm on to chapter 130 right now. It's coming soon I promise.
"Look Ayaan, I'd love to go, seriously. But don't you think Jeeju might have a heart attack if he saw us dancing in a club with women dressed in revealing clothes? Drinking! Shouldn't we try to respect his feelings on this?"
They'd discussed this enough and Humaira was getting worried that Jeeju might blow a fuse with all this non-stop badgering.
Ayaan harrumphed at his wife trying to reason with him about letting go of the nightclub fantasy. Please, did she not know how persuasive Ayaan Ahmed Khan could be? Omar and Faiz were already egging him on to talk to Asad.
"You have only two days left, dude," they threatened him. "Or, extend your stay like we did when we were in India!" Ayaan had tried to show them his own Mukka Ahmed Khan then--he knew exactly why these losers had extended their stay in India. The Khan girls had turned out to be excellent excuses after all.
Keeping their end of the bargain Omar and Faiz had bullied Feroze into saying yes--though Feroze had agreed to go only if Asad was OK with this adventure. Nikhat had already told him tales about her Bhaijaan's conservatism and he wasn't up for ruffling his brother-in-law's feathers. Besides, he wasn't such a club enthusiast himself. He was the kind of guy to sit it out in a corner busy on his phone instead of grinding and twerking away. But only because taking a book with him to the club would really not be okay. Could bouncers throw you out for disrupting the noise? A big part of him hoped that Asad would say no and end this nonsense once and for all. He'd be up for a live comedy show or a jazz club, but the idea of a nightclub just made him twitch a bit.
"Are you sure it's only Bhaijaan you're worried about? You're not saying no because you'd feel shy and awkward?" Ayaan teased Humaira. No way was he giving up on this--this ultimate lifetime opportunity. He pulled her hair and she slapped his hand away.
"Maybe," Humaira said. "I would feel a bit weird. I'm sure Nikhat might too even if Najma and Nuzzhat are on board."
"I think you're forgetting the most important person here who could make all the difference. I'm certain Mona darling can make your General Jeeju relent--he'll fold like a pack of cards."
Humaira giggled. "Oh really? You may be underestimating my General Jeeju and overestimating your Mona darling!"
"Hah! As if," Ayaan brushed a confident finger under his nose. If he had one of those maharaja-type mustaches he'd have given the tip a swaggerlicious twirl.
"Bhaijaan will be toast. Just watch!"
"Maybe," Humaira shrugged. Right now Jeeju was on top of the world. Day before yesterday he'd seemed a bit off. He'd gone super-silent and reminded her of that old pre-Aapi days wala Jeeju who was stern and made you fidget because you thought you'd somehow done something wrong. But today? Today he was ecstatic after getting Zaid's results. He wouldn't stop beaming.
"No allergies!" Aapi had squealed when they returned from the doctor's even though she'd already texted them the good news. Aapi'd hugged her and together the girls had done a quick hop and dance. They'd FaceTimed with Ammi and Abbu back in India and of course Ammi had sobbed in relief. The whole family was in a mood to celebrate. And maybe, just maybe, Ayaan might get his wish if he was wise to strike when the iron was still hot. Maybe Jeeju wouldn't be able to say no after all.
"Hmm," he answered, distracted. Zaid was napping on his chest, and they'd darkened the room to sneak in a post-lunch nap themselves. Only a few more days of such luxury. Once he was back home, work would consume him again. Naptime would officially be over.
"Ayaan's bugging me again."
Asad exhaled. He rolled over carefully to deposit Zaid by his side and thumped the tiny chest that rose and fell.
Zoya giggled. Damn was right. She knew Asad felt trapped by his brother's demands to step out of his comfort zone. Everyone knew that 2-3 years ago Ayaan wouldn't even have asked. He'd have sneaked behind his brother's back to have all the fun in the world. "What Bhai doesn't know won't hurt him," used to be his life-saving mantra. In fact, in those early-early days, didn't it used to be her mantra too? She too had snuck behind Asad's back to drag Najma to a cricket match--despite his warning to not go. Allah miyan, the Mr. Khan of those days! Gusse ki factory.
The old Godzilla-Asad would've crushed heads for even entertaining nightclub thoughts. But Asad 2.0 allowed himself to be bulldozed... In fact, he had pretty much lost the power to say no to anything fun. This new Asad had been forged in the fires of betrayal and vengeance to grasp love's fierce and loyal embrace. And with some cheeky arm-twisting, he'd been persuaded that good, clean fun was pretty close to being a fundamental right.
Zoya crossed her fingers.
And if Asad had changed so had Ayaan. Ayaan had become the guy who no longer snuck behind his brother's back like a rebellious teen. He asked permission now. He begged for Bhai to join in the fun. How could Asad possibly resist? Even in the old days he always gave in to Ayaan's demands.
Asad clicked his tongue in impatience. But how could he say yes to ... this new demand? This was really asking too much of him. A nightclub? There'd be scantily clad women there, he was dead sure of it. A lot of dirty dancing and ... he would just die of embarrassment. The drinking ... the drunkenness ... and the body shotting nonsense he'd heard of and seen in films ... His face twisted.
Zoya sighed. There he went, gritting his teeth again.
"I've ignored him so far but he's really getting desperate," she said. "Raaburt's decided that this will be his goodbye to New York."
A reluctant chuckle broke from him. "He actually said that?"
"No, that's my spin on it. He hasn't figured out the wording just yet."
"Please don't give him any more ideas," Asad said. "I don't get what the big deal is. Why is it so important for him to have this experience! I've said they can go on their own. Why does he want me to tag along?"
Zoya grinned. Poor Jahanpanah, he'd be so uncomfortable in one of these places. "Aww, he wants his Bhaijaan to go with him, that's why! He thinks he won't have fun without you."
"Even though he knows I'm not a big fan of such activities or places?" Asad turned to stare at the ceiling and crossed his arms under his head. A few years ago he would have taken this infernal pestering as a sign of disrespect. Why couldn't Ayaan understand and respect his views? But Zoya had managed to dismantle some of these high-horsey, prickly ideas of his: "Isn't it more disrespectful when he does something behind your back and you find out about it months later from a third party?"
Zoya had been folding Zaid's clothes. She pushed the little piles of tees and onesies and pants and miniature socks to sit by Asad's side.
"Maybe that's exactly why," she said as she rubbed his chest in circles. "I think in his own bumbling way he's just begging you to share what he loves. He wants your approval, I guess. He looks up to you and doesn't want you to hate or be judgemental about the things he loves!"
"Hmm." Asad really hadn't thought of it that way. So Ayaan really wasn't being a disrespectful pest, just an insecure one who craved brotherly blessing? "But I'm not being judgmental! I've said yes, they can go. They have my permission and blessing!"
He shuddered a minute later. He may as well fess up to what was really bugging him.
"I don't know how comfortable I'd feel ... in such a place." Garish visions of a jam-packed room with half-naked bodies grinding to some unholy noise swam in his eyes. He got a headache just thinking about it.
Zoya rested her chin on his chest and he scooted to make room for her on the bed. "What're you really afraid of, Mr. Khan? Tell me."
He grunted, suddenly embarrassed to share his insecurities.
"Is it that you'll find the women's skimpy clothes offensive, or see public displays of affection?"
He squeezed his eyes shut and she smiled. Yup, hit the nail on the head. "The music will be awful ... and loud ..." he muttered.
"Yes, the music will be loud. Probably as loud as the music we play at our Indian wedding functions--remember, like the one you came to attend all the way from Bhopal."
"Hmmph. I don't know why Indians have become so mental about dancing all the time! Why must every occasion or event have DJs and dancing Incredibly foolish."
She laughed. If her husband were the prime minister he would ban all incredibly foolish activities for sure. Dancing would be first on the list.
"It's really the women's clothes and the PDA that bothers you, right?"
And the drinking.
Asad covered his eyes and nodded. Might as well own up to the diagnosis. She'd probably give him a big feminist lecture now for being the 17th Century blah, blah, blah.
She pushed his hands away and framed his face in her hands. "Look at me."
"You've been so good so far and I'm really proud of you! You haven't thrown a tehzeeb-fit or had a single heart attack even though wherever we went there were dozens of women in slinky tank tops or short shorts, camis or cut-offs."
Everywhere. New York was enjoying a rare hot spring after a wicked winter. You couldn't stop New Yorkers from busting out their shorts and tank tops in 60-degree weather--and these days the temp. had been well into the mid-70s.
And Zoya had definitely noticed his reaction. Her poor husband had kept his eyes at eye level not daring to look below women's chins. Not a single peek. She knew also because that's how he used to look at her before they got together. Eyes right! Left, right, left. Eyes front! General Jeeju was extremely particular of tameez sightlines indeed.
Asad blushed. It had been surprisingly easy to navigate the streets in New York and not once did his tightass tameez-meter go haywire because of glimpses of partial nudity. Because he got it now.
He'd heard his sisters and Zoya and Humaira discussing how no one stares at women in America and how free it felt. He'd come to an abrupt halt hearing that. The one reason he was so 17th Century Jahanpanah with the girls in India was precisely because men in India stared. They'd leer at women in burqas, let alone shorts. But here you just didn't stare. Here, you accepted the fact that women had the right to make choices about what they wore without being judged for it. And if you didn't stare at men for what they wore then why subject women to that? Once you figured that out the rest was easy. Women didn't need covering up; men needed to get over themselves.
Zoya leaned in to nibble at his jaw. "You Jahanpanah, are a new 21st Century man now. Why let old worries pull you back? And who cares about PDA when we can indulge in some of our own?"
He flashed his eyes at her. "Really, I'm a 21st century Jahanpanah? Because I'm OK with women and their ... umm, short clothes?"
"Umm-hmm," she nodded enthusiastically. "Because you're OK with them choosing to wear and do whatever. For not judging them anymore."
His breath caught. He had judged her once. More than once. Even though her clothes covered her neck to wrist to toe, he'd judged her as "badtameez and unIndian"someone who'd lacked proper upbringing.
"Ye mere kapde hain, character nahin!" Her bitter words spoken through unshed tears tore at him ...
He remembered that day as if it had been only yesterday ... a mini skirt. He'd actually erupted and gone apesh*it, as she liked to remind him, over a mini skirt. How had he thought he even had the right? They weren't together then. He was still battling his attraction to her and she hadn't yet told him yet about her feelings for him. So how could he have even thought that he had any right to say those things to her?
"Dekhiye Mr. Khan, stop giving me these judgemental looks," she had often said in those days.
Asad ground the heels of his hands to his eyes.
"What?" Zoya asked as she pulled his hands away.
He tilted her chin up to look into her eyes. "I hope I've changed enough to understand that woh unke kapde hain, character nahin. A wise person once taught me that."
Zoya smiled. Ahh, her Janahpanah knew how to melt her in more ways than one.
Asad sighed as he playfully dug a finger into her dimple. "So I guess that means we're going to a nightclub?"
Zoya giggled. "Only if you think you're up for the challenge. And if you're bored out of your mind or uncomfortable, you can pull out," she wagged her brows at him. He laughed at the innuendo. "Then we can leave early and have our own party back here. Just the two of us."
"Fine. Tell him yes and get him off my back."
He watched Zoya text Ayaan. She showed him her phone the next instant when Ayaan texted back giddy emojis dancing and clapping and high fiving. "I knew you'd do it, Mona Darling!!! Shabash, mera cheetah!" This pronouncement was followed by a bunch of cheetahs. Asad groaned. But now he'd committed himself and there was no turning back.
"16-17 years from now is this how you'll convince me about going easy on Zaid?"
"If at 16 or 17 Zaid is asking to go to a nightclub I'll expect you to come down very hard on him, Mr. Khan!"
"Really? You'd want me to be strict! But you're the one who got fake IDs made at 19 to sneak into a club!" She'd told him about some of her pre-marital escapades.
"Yes really, Mr. Khan. Our son isn't going to pubs or bars or clubs at 16! And even though I did get the fake IDs made my friends and I didn't make it past the door, remember? I had to call Jeeju to come get us. It was humiliating!"
Anwar had laughed at her and her friends who were mortified at being caught and thrown out. The girls had lied at home saying that they were going to be spending the night at a friend's. They were stuck and only Jeeju could be trusted to not yell at them. He'd treated them to ice cream that night and then said mildly, "girls, the next time you want to pull this stunt keep me in the loop, OK?" They'd nodded, solemnly. "In fact keep me posted even when you're legal," he'd added. He went on to repeat the talk about boys--never trust them, watch your back. And your drink. Have a buddy system. Go to the restroom in pairs. Blah, blah, blah.
They'd all trooped back to the Farooqui house that night. And Aapi had been livid enough for the both of them. She had given them the expected lecture making up for Jeeju's bindas-ness in a hurry. Thank god though, she agreed to not tell the other parents! But she'd exacted punishment from them--the girls had to give up the next few weekends helping to clean out the garage and hold a yard sale. And that night she'd made them cut up the fake IDs.
"So you're going to be the cool and fun mom and I'll be the bad cop to the kids?" Asad asked in mock-outrage.
"On some days I do want you to be the bad cop. But on some days I hope you'll go rescue the kids like JeejuMan when they do something stupid--which you know they will!"
Asad had heard all the stories about JeejuMan. Yes, he hoped he could be a good dad like Jeeju. Funny, how he now envied Zoya her upbringing.
"Zoya, Jeeju told me that the trick to parenting was to be a parent first and then a friend. Make sure that you remind me of that when I'm being the bad cop. Remind me to be the friend too." He feared he'd been too strict with Najma.
That's why she'd lied about getting her hair cut short, the fashion show, and Zoya's involvement in protecting her from the college gundas. And Ms. Farooqui had landed up in an Indian jail. Asad didn't want to make the same mistake twice.
"Done," she kissed his nose and lips. "Now get some rest, Mr. Khan cos. you'll have to do double duty as our bodyguard at the club!"
"Aw, hell." For a second there he had almost forgotten what he'd said yes to.
"You'll survive. Now hush!"
"So you really never made it to a nightclub?" He asked after a few minutes of hushing.
"I did, but it wasn't as cool as we'd imagined. We went to celebrate Jackie's 21st birthday. She's the youngest among us. But we were so self-conscious and so highly-strung that we couldn't relax. The dancing was fun though!"
"So you're not too keen on this nightclub idea either? I thought you'd be straight up as excited as Ayaan!"
"Now that I have you going with me, I'm more than super-excited." Zoya clapped her hands. Being single and young got you a lot of unwanted attention at a club. That's why they had been so awkward that first time! But with a husband in tow? That changed everything! Aapi used to always say: "For many Indian women real freedom often comes after marriage." Because hyper Indian parents kept their daughters on a tight leash. "Don't do this."
"Don't go there!" "Stay home." "What will neighbors say?" "Who will marry you?"
Jeeju used to make fun of Aapi when she went out with friends for movies, on cruises, women-only get-togethers, birthday celebrations and what not. "Now in middle age, they're getting to be the teenagers that their parents wouldn't let them be," he would tell Zoya.
So yes, having Asad around would, in fact, be more fun at a club--no worries about anxious parents or a late night, being hit on or having to guard their drinks. She could really get to be an irresponsible American teenager with no consequences of being grounded or yelled at. It would be M.A.
Asad's lukewarm thumbs up led to the guys racing to research clubs across town. Marquee or the Output? The ballroom at Jane Hotel or Cielo? The super-exclusive ones that celebrities favored might be inaccessible at short notice. When to get there--not too early ... but not too late that they'd be refused entry. Reservations?
When the girls learned of the Jahanpanah seal of approval they squealed and scampered to get their clothes ready. What would they wear?
"Zoya, what'll you wear tonight?" Asad wanted to know too.
She had her closet door wide open and was staring at the racks of clothing. She had been standing in front of it like this for the past twenty minutes.
"You guys are so lucky," she mumbled. "A shirt and slacks and you're done. We, on the other hand ..."
He watched her from the bed. "What did you wear the last time you went clubbing on a fake ID?"
She turned to him with an impish grin. "You really want to know?"
The narrowed eyes and raised eyebrow sent her burrowing into the depths of the closet. He watched her butt sway and wave and that familiar lick of desire started a firetrail ...
"This!" Her face was flushed from the exertions. As flushed when he had her pinned and arching under him--
Eyes hooded he looked up at the dress she held. It was simple enough--a grey-black, slinky-shimmery thing, full-sleeved with shoulder cut-offs, almost knee-length.
Asad grabbed the pillows, punched them before sliding them behind his back and sat up against the headboard.
"Asad, we don't have tim--!"
"Shh. And Zoya? Since it's for my eyes only ..." he left the words unsaid.
She blushed. As if he even needed to say that much. Didn't she already know the way his badtameez mind worked by now?
Later--after she had shown him the dress without anything on under it and he'd just as quickly whipped it off her body and shown his lusty appreciation of the curves underneath--he had co*cked a lazy eyebrow and suggested:
"Why not wear this tonight?"
"Really? In front of everyone?"
"Sure," he drawled. "With the proper underclothing and those boots--definitely those black boots ..." He winked at her.
She gasped. Oh hello, where had her tehzeeb-e-afta husband gone and who was this guy?
"You're serious? You won't have a meltdown? You won't explode into a fullblown tameez tantrum?"
He'd grinned a satisfied Cheshire cat grin and pulled her naked body against his. "Babe, the meltdown and explosion already happened a few minutes ago, remember?" Another wink. "I'm good to go for now. Wear what you want."
She didn't wear the dress.
Because somehow now it was just their thing. Their secret. Their love costume and armor. For his eyes only. And for her to see herself reflected in his eyes. She wore her skinny jeans and that white zari kurti that she'd worn the night of their confession in that Thai restaurant. They still smiled their secret smile at one another each time Asad recognized it. His fingers had memorized each zari paisley on it. His thumb had trailed familiar paths along its neckline and his lips had branded her at its timeless cuffs.
Asad's eyes lit up with pleasure when she came out of the room ready to leave for the night. How well she knew him. How well she intuited that even though he'd have loved to see her in the dress he may not yet be ready to share her in that dress in public. This kurti and jeans were the perfect choice indeed. They were the uniform of the girl he'd fallen in love with despite his Akdu Jahanpanahness. The mini skirt episode popped into his head again.
"I've tried to wear sarees kyunki apko achcha lagta hai." She was still doing it for him. "Kyunki apko achcha lagta hai."
And wasn't she already telling him how she really felt about him even then? His grateful fingers itched to tuck her hair behind her ear but the parents were here. What if he couldn't look away from her eyes? The parents would laugh and clear their throats like they always did to remind them that they were being behaya as usual.
But in the taxi he raised her hand to his lips and whispered against her ear, "you look beautiful. But then you always do when you wear this."
She smiled. This playful, romantic side of his meant that he wasn't anxious about the nightclub. That he was going with the flow--knowing that relaxed her too.
Asad cleared his throat. "Is there a mini skirt you can wear for me tomorrow?"
"Jo hukum, Jahanpanah," she laughed softly. "I have a white denim one. With buttons down the front."
"How many buttons?"
She swallowed. "Umm ... four, I think."
He groaned. He could just imagine it--four buttons meant that it wouldn't be too--"Perfect," he growled against her lobe and she shuddered. "Then wear just that. Nothing else."
Her breath caught. He'd done it again. Now all evening she'd have only one thing on her mind. All evening she'd be in a state of misty, smoky arousal--at the horny edge of a milksilk org*asm. And he knew it too. Damn you, Mr. Khan. She dug her nails into his thigh and he sniggered.
Asad scraped a thumbnail across her palm and felt her buck next to him. "Don't worry, Mrs. Khan. It'll be hell for me too."
And Zaid? What about him? Zaid had an exclusive invite to the grandparents' club. After feasting on his favorite new American meal--Mac and cheese--he FaceTimed with Dobby and told him about the girl who needed Zaid Miyan and Dobby Miya-oon's help. Chhoti Nani and Nanu showed him the toys that were waiting for him when he came back home to Bopa. There was a rocking horse! Dinner and kheer were extra khaas. And story time was extra long.
Dadi told him his favorite Abbustory and then Nanu told him a brand new Ammistory. He had looked around for his Ammi and Abbu but Dadu made him forget about them by blowing on his stomach. He had laughed till he couldn't breathe.
Shireen Dadi reminded everyone about Ayaan Chachu's favorite game as a four-year-old. The famous pee-line game!
Dilshad groaned--she remembered it only too well. Because Ayaan had tried to rope his Bhaijaan into playing that game too. Badi Bi went, "Ya Allah," and smacked her head.
"Yaaa yayaa laaa," Zaid smacked his head too.
"What's a pee-line game?" Zee Nani asked innocently.
"You don't want to know," Rashid muttered. But he was sure that the Chachu would teach his Bhatija one day and pretty soon Zaid would be playing this game too. And teaching the younger siblings and cousins whenever they came along.
"Ayaan decided he was going to be the peeing champion of Bhopal. So he would practice by drawing chalk lines on the bathroom floor in front of the pot."
Zeenat was still confused. "Chalk lines? Kis liye?"
"To measure the longest distance he could aim and pee from!"
"Allah miyan, what's wrong with boys!" Zeenat moaned as she covered her face. "They're just wired different, right?"
"Bilkul! Then he graduated to peeing in the potted plants around the house," Badi Bi added. "Ammi, I watered all your flowers, he would come and tell Shireen!"
They all laughed. And then everyone looked at Zaid. Oh yes, history would be repeating itself.
"Peee yaaa," he clapped his hands.
Dadi scooped him up in her arms and planted a tight smooch on his resisting cheek. "Zaid bhi Ammi and Dadi ko gift dega? Plants water karega?"
He grinned. Definitely.
"Bechara Asad, kya beetegi uss par," Shireen mused. "Isn't it great how kids change you?" She tickled Zaid's foot and he gurgled; his curls bounced.
Later Chhoti Dadi and Badi Dadi helped him to finish the Empire State Building.
He'd fussed only a little when he missed Ammi and Abbu. He wanted to stay up till they got home. But his eyes wouldn't cooperate. Indedly fooliss. Then Dadi carried him to Ammi's darkened room and hummed Abbu's song to him as she walked him to sleep in her arms.
"Sweet dreams mera bachcha," he heard her whisper.
He dreamt of a warrior kicking monsters off the Bookin Bij. He saw Jhassi kRani pepper spray a beast that howled and fled. He saw himself riding on Jhassi kRani's back.
"Zaaf!" he mumbled in his sleep.
And he waved when he saw Dobby sitting on Stachoo of Wibetty's shoulder. Zaid smiled in his sleep.
Dilshad dropped a kiss on his forehead and hugged him just a little bit tighter before tucking him into his spot on the bed. He didn't know that she had prayed over his silken head. Prayed that he got to be as naughty and have all the fun that Ayaan Chachu had had and none of the heartache of his parents' childhood. "Khoob shararat karna, humein hasana, aur Insh'allah, khud bhi hanste rehna." How she wished she could have warranted the same for his father.
Asad wasn't having too bad a time.
So far he hadn't exhibited any signs of a heart attack or a tameez rage. And come to think of it he was tickled to see the girls' excitement. It was non-stop. They squealed and giggled and bounced and talked over each other in sheer glee, even more excited than Ayaan. It started the minute they espied each other in the club's parking lot and gushed over being dressed similarly--jeans and kurtis or tunics--even though they had planned this in advance. Everyone oohed and ahhed over everyone's shoes and earrings and clutches. That took about 20 minutes if not more.
Asad pulled Najma to his side and dropped a kiss on her head. "You're looking beautiful, Tamatar."
She blushed with pleasure. "You don't mind me in jeans, Bhaijaan?"
"Nah, why should I mind? You're happy, that's all I care about." He'd wasted so much time in being angry and overprotective all these years. He should have spent more time chatting with her and spoiling her. Asad touched her hair remembering the fiasco of the haircut from a couple of years ago. It had become yet another excuse for him and Ms. Farooqui to squabble over in their I'm attracted-to-you-but-still-hate-you days.
"You're growing your hair out?"
"You noticed? Yeah, I told Omar that I used to have to really long hair and now he insists he wants to see how long!"
"I always think of you in long hair," he told her. "We miss you so much," he added.
"I know, Bhaijaan! Me too!" Her arm around his waist tightened.
"OK, go now, the girls are waiting for you. And I don't want you to see me cry." She laughed at his attempt to cheer her up.
Najma skipped ahead a few steps and then returned to give him a tight squeeze. "Bhaijaan, I'm really happy that Zaid doesn't have allergies. Can't you leave him with us for a few years? He's sooo cute!"
"You already have your hands full with a bigger baby," Asad jerked his chin at Omar who was fake-wrestling with Ayaan over some imagined insult.
"True," Najma giggled.
"Tamatar, hurry!" Zoya called her.
Najma patted her brother's arm. "Don't worry about tonight, Bhaijaan. We'll behave and won't let anything bad happen to you!"
Asad rolled his eyes. They were all trying to protect him like guilty parents who try to cover their kids' eyes and ears when a love scene interrupts a Hindi movie. First Zoya. Now Najma.
"Bhai!" Ayaan appeared next to him beaming his toothy grin. The hair was even messier because of Omar's recent high jinks. "You OK?" he asked Asad as he ran a hand through his mane.
Asad laughed. He couldn't resist. How could he? "Yes, I'm OK. So far. But you better behave Ayaan, or you'll be meeting Mukka--" He raised his fist to drive the point home.
"I know, I know Bhai! I promise. Best behavior!" He held his ears. "Thanks for saying yes, by the way. I'm sorry for being a pest."
Asad looked at him in surprise. Never had he ever heard his brother apologize for being a pest. He wrapped an arm around Ayaan's neck in a headlock. "That's OK. It's your birthright to be a pest! Har family mein ek pest hona chahiye." And he dragged his younger brother to where the others were waiting by the entrance.
"Bhai!" Ayaan protested. "When did you become so mean? Zaroor Mona darling ka kaam hai!"
Once inside they'd all tried to sneak guilty looks at Asad's face. The music had hit them like a crashing wave. Zoya saw everyone looking and squeezed his hand.
When he looked down at her she asked softly, "you OK, baby?"
"I will be once everyone stops asking me that!" he growled. Or staring at me like I suddenly grew horns.
And he was. OK, that is. Yes, there were all the things that he'd feared but then his family was right there next to him shielding him from any unsavory or X-rated sights. They surrounded him, distracted him, took extra care to get him settled down with a drink and eventually he did let his guard down. He even agreed to dance and join the gyrating, pulsating crush of people dimly lit by flashing strobe lights. Once again everyone else formed a rough and intimate circle around him. Ayaan and Omar and Faiz took turns to jump and jive and jig in his face. The girls had their own cluster going. He watched their animated faces as the dancing lights skimmed over them. Instinct and habit made him squint to see if anyone was staring at or dangerously close to groping them. No. Every other person on the floor was lost in their own frenzy. It was nuts. He didn't get why they had to do this to have fun but he'd decided that he wouldn't be Akdu tonight and rain on anyone's parade.
Once he felt that he'd done his part, spent a customary 15-20 minutes of hazri, Asad left them to join Feroze at their table. Thank god it was tucked in far away enough from the deafening racket. At least they didn't have to shout too much to hear each other. Feroze had already completed his rounds and earned himself at least a half hour of sitting time. Between them, they figured that the girls would be fine with Ayaan, Omar, and Faiz--tonight's designated bulldogs.
Nikhat was the first one to break away from the madness and return to their table to check on her husband and Bhaijaan. She smiled shyly at Asad and he smiled back happy to see her relaxed and being spoiled by Feroze who got her to drink water to stay hydrated.
"Your heels not bothering you?" he heard Feroze ask his sister and grinned. Soon he'd be asking Zoya that too. Why did girls insist on wearing shoes that killed their feet? He remembered Zoya's heels though and shut up his mental judgmental commentary--those heels had made him think of things he'd do to her when he got her alone with him ...
Soon the others rolled in too, exhilarated. The girls were fanning themselves, their faces shone, their eyes sparkled.
"That was so much fun!" Asad heard one of their breathless voices.
"Oh my god, the best! We have to do that again!"
He resisted rolling his eyes. This was all good. They were happy. That's all that really mattered.
They ordered drinks. Virgin Mojitos and Pina Coladas and Margaritas all around. In all fruit flavors. The girls couldn't believe what they were getting away with just under their Bhaijaan's and Jeeju's noses. Asad still seemed mellow so they ordered another round. With appetizers.
Life was good. This was serious fun.
"Did you just see that?" Asad whipped his head around at Zoya's raised voice. He'd been talking to Omar.
"Zoya, what happened?" he asked. "Are you OK?"
She was in an agitated discussion with Nikhat. "You saw that, right? I didn't imagine it?"
"No Zoya Bhabhi, you didn't imagine it. I saw it too!"
"Zoya?" Asad gripped her arm not caring if the others saw. She looked mad and incredulous.
"Mr. Khan," she pointed at the table diagonally across from theirs. "See that guy? Nikhat and I are pretty sure we saw him slip something into that girl's drink."
"No way! What girl?" Najma asked spinning her head like crazy.
"Shh, I just saw her leave their table," said Nikhat. "She must've gone to the restroom!"
Zoya knocked her chair back. "Mr. Khan, keep an eye on that guy. We'll be right back."
And the girls went trooping to the restroom. Only Nikhat had seen the girl's face so they had to rely on her to ID her among the many women.
They waited impatiently for the stalls to empty. Finally, that girl stepped out and moved toward the sinks.
"Hi, excuse me?" Zoya called out to the young woman when Nikhat elbowed her to confirm the girl's identity.
"Yes?" the blonde turned and looked at them curiously before reaching for the faucet.
Zoya stepped forward to look at her reflection in the mirror. "This is going to sound really dumb or weird, but how well do you know the guy you're with?"
"Pretty well," she laughed, "he's a good friend. I've known him for over a year. Why?"
"Umm ..." the girls looked at each other uneasily.
"We just saw him dump something in your drink," Zoya blurted.
"What? You're kidding me!"
"Sadly, no. I wish I was kidding. I saw it and my sister-in-law here," Zoya pulled Nikhat forward, "she saw it too. It was right after you left to use the restroom." Nikhat nodded.
The girl's face reddened and she sagged against the counter. "Are you sure? It can't be! There's no way you could've been mistaken?"
Zoya and Nikhat shook their heads no. The girl crumpled. They moved closer to pat her shoulder when a few tears leaked out from under her lashes.
"How could he? I trusted him! I can't believe this--!"
Zoya was the first to recover from the outrage that burned inside her. They had always heard stories of date rape drugs on the news but never thought that they'd come face to face with the crime in action. How dare he! That lecherous, ass-wiping piece of--
Nikhat stroked the girl's back. She felt terrible for what this girl must be feeling right now.
The girl was crying softly, "I shouldn't've come. I didn't even want to," she rambled. Maybe the betrayal still hadn't sunk in. "I just broke up with my boyfriend and was feeling low. Jake suggested coming here would take my mind off--Oh god, I'm so dumb!"
"No, you're not!" Najma couldn't bear to stay silent and hear this girl start to blame herself. "He's the one to blame. How dare he think he could take advantage of you when you're so vulnerable!" Her face got redder and redder. Humaira rubbed her arm in comfort.
"Look, let's be sure about this first," Zoya said. "Our table overlooks yours. Do you want to go back and make your excuses? We can make sure that he doesn't try to bully you. We have a big group. We'll make sure you get home OK."
Nuzzhat handed the girl some tissues. "Make sure you don't drink anything at the table. Maybe you can pretend to feel sick?"
"Or you could pretend to know us and join us if you want?" Humaira suggested.
The girl sniffed. "Thank you," she breathed deeply as she looked from one helpful face to another. "Thank you all. I still can't believe it's happening to me. Would he really--?"
"We don't want to wait and find out," Nikhat spoke with quiet firmness. "I'm Nikhat," she stuck out her hand. "What's your name?"
"Amy," she said tearfully.
"Amy, go back to your table and we'll take care of the rest," Zoya patted her arm. "I'm Zoya by the way. You can call me Zo. Remember that when we show up at your table."
They oversaw her wash her face and fix her make-up and soon followed her out of the restroom to join the guys.
The guys hadn't been idle all this while. While Omar, Faiz, and Ayaan kept a close eye on Mr. Date Rape, Asad and Feroze went in search of the manager. It took some time to convince him but they were able to get him to believe their story: their group had seen this guy pop something in a girl's drink. The manager didn't want trouble on his hands. If what they said turned out to be true--
He offered to go check the CCTV footage. In the meanwhile could they distract the girl and keep her away from her drink?
"That's already been taken care of," Asad told him with full confidence in his wife and their sisters.
When they joined everyone at the table the girls had returned. Good ole Faiz was even recording the couple at the other table. They watched Amy say something to her partner. The guy frowned. They watched the guy push the drink under Amy's nose. They couldn't hear what they were saying because of the noise but his body language spoke volumes: Just a little bit, he urged. Relax, they saw him mouth the words.
They saw Amy get more and more upset.
She was becoming teary-eyed and probably pleading illness. I want to go, they saw her say. He moved the drink closer to her. This will relax you, he seemed to say. Zoya wanted to march up to them and punch him in the face. What a sleazebucket!
She couldn't bear it a second longer. Zoya jumped up ready to have a go at him but Asad grabbed her arm to calm her down.
"You have a plan?" he leaned in to whisper.
"Oh boy, do I have a plan!" she muttered.
"OK, game on, but just take a couple of deep breaths, OK? For me."
He led her over to the other table with a rough idea of what her plan might be. If it failed they could improvise on the spot. He just needed to make sure she didn't have a stroke from the rage that poured off her.
"Amy! Is that you?" Zoya shrieked loud enough for everyone's heads to turn.
Amy turned too and broke into a relieved smile. "Zo? You? Here? How are you!" She rose to hug Zoya. "It's so good to see you," she said with genuine warmth.
"I haven't seen you in ages! This is my husband," Zoya turned to point to Asad and watched them shake hands. Jake looked more and more annoyed by the minute but managed to paste a plastic smile on his face. "Why don't you join us for a drink?" Zoya said.
"I would love to but I was just leaving. I'm feeling sick. That's what I was telling Jake right now." She waved toward the guy who did not look pleased at being interrupted.
"Hi," Zoya extended her hand to the guy and gritted her teeth as he shook it. She felt Asad's hand on her waist and stood taller. "I'm Amy's neighbor. From the same street." She hoped this guy didn't know too much about Amy's neighborhood and that the lie would work. She crossed her fingers behind her back. Jake the snake!
Casually she turned to Amy and slipped an arm around her shoulder. "Aww, I'm so sorry to hear you're not well."
Asad jumped right in seizing the moment. "You know what, we can get that drink some other time. We should probably leave too, right, honey?" He asked Zoya and she gave him a deep, deep smile--it must have killed him to call her honey in public but she was so damn grateful for that.
"We could give you a ride home," Asad said to Amy.
"That would be great," Amy breathed.
"Hey, that's OK, you don't have to. I can drop you, Amy," a panicked Jake spoke. "It's no problem."
"No Jake, that's fine. It's out of your way and it's way too late. This would be best."
"No, please! Just one drink and then I'll take you home. Promise! See, I ordered your favorite." He gestured frantically at the table.
"Thanks for being there for me, Jake." Amy almost choked on her words and Zoya squeezed her shoulder in support. "But I'm really tired. I'll see you later. Bye," she said with a degree of firmness he didn't expect.
"But--" he tried to follow her as Zoya led Amy away.
"Nice to meet you, Jake," Asad stepped in front to block his path and view of the girls. He held out his hand to put an end to the discussion. Asad too had to control himself to not crush the jerk's hand when he shook it. He would have loved to smash the smug bas*tard's face in but getting Amy away from him was more important.
They walked Amy over to their table and the family converged to shield her from Jake's sightline. A few minutes later they watched the manager and a bouncer come over to Jake's table and haul him away. Amy sobbed while Ayaan and Omar followed them out to see what they would do to Jake the snake. They saw him get thrown into the back of a police car. Wow, that was fast!
Fifteen minutes later the manager came over to thank them. "We checked the footage and saw him clearly slip something in her drink. We'll be getting the drink tested for drugs. They did find more pills on him so it's an open and shut case most likely. He won't be forgetting this any time soon. Thank you for being alert. I guess the NYPD slogan about say something if you see something is already working. Next round of drinks and dessert are on the house. Enjoy!"
They whooped as cheers and applause broke out around them.*
Asad and Zoya put a distraught though grateful Amy in a taxi. They brushed her thanks aside.
"We're just glad to help," they assured her. She decided to not go to her apartment for the night but to her sister's instead.
As they watched the taxi pull away from the curb and merge into traffic Asad heard Zoya sniff.
"Zoya, are you OK?" He pulled her into his arms as she began to cry. "It's OK, baby. You saved her--you did the right thing. I'm so proud of you." He rocked her to him. He knew she was feeling the adrenaline come crashing down.
"I just happened to be looking in that direction at the right time. What if we hadn't seen him spike the drink? She could already be drunk or passed out right now!"
"Shh," he soothed her.
"Why are people so ugly, Asad? So sick! All over the world. Remember Tanveer did the same to you. It doesn't matter if it's India, America ... why do these people think they can take advantage of someone who trusts--?" She felt so beaten. Why did bad things happen to good people?
Asad wiped her tears away with his handkerchief. "They're jerks, that's all I can say. They don't care what damage they do to people around them. Forget about them. I think the world goes around only because there are more good people in it than bad."
"But still! That was so horrible--her whole life could've--!"
Asad framed her indignant face in his hands. "He was just one. We were eleven of us--we took him down, Zoya. Focus on that! He's probably somewhere in a jail cell right now. And with the security camera footage and Faiz's recording they only have more evidence against him about his intentions to get her to drink that co*cktail. Think about it--we did good today!"
"We did, didn't we?" she sniffed and finally smiled.
"We sure did."
"That was pure genius to get the manager to check out the CCTV, Mr. Khan! You are becoming more and more Jahanpanah Bond. I love it!"
"Good. Now let's go in." He grabbed her hand to lead her back in. The parking lot was practically deserted. A few people lounged about in a distant alley.
"Asad?" She held back.
"I don't want to go back in. I'm kinda done with all this. I just want to go home."
He grinned. "Thank god! Let's say our byes then, grab a cab and get out of here. Suddenly I just want to hold Zaid in my arms to feel clean again. Besides, you have promises to keep ... "
She blushed. Yes, she had made some wild promises in the backseat of the taxi on their way over.
"And miles to go before we sleep ..." he breathed against her ear.
She gave him a puzzled look when he laughed in her face.
* I have fictionalized a real incident that happened in a Santa Monica restaurant in Los Angeles earlier this year. In that case, it was three women who saw a man slip drugs into his friend's drink when she went to the restroom. Everything else happened the same way: them talking to her in the washroom, the manager checking the CCTV, the guy getting arrested and being charged with a felony (the worst of it was that she said the guy was her best friend).
Finally i got My fix of ur story! Loved the update. The rape-drug scene was amazingly well written. I love this mellow and indulging asad. He has relaxed and learned so much since his time with zoya. It's difficult not to fall in love with him. Loved the good-cop, bad-cop talk. I can really imagine the scene in front of me when they're having their talk with a teenage zaid. And zaid is the cutest baby ever. I hope he soon gets siblings or cousins to share all his experience with :-).
I'm truly very addicted to ur FF. I just started to read it from the beginning as I was waiting for ur update. I have never read the beginning of the story, except for the first time. It left a very bitter and dark feeling in me the first time around. But now I know all the wonderful time that will be waiting for them. Thank u for a wonderful update and FF. Excited to know how their return to India will b like
I really can't thank you enough for suggesting me this story Klondy, it has been such a beautiful read and love the way u present it easy to imagine loving it :-) nly thing I wish is we get more regular update and intense romance :$ coming to the update I love how Asad is still trying to mend himself and trying to be a 21 century's jahapana!