Breakfast was a dull affair. But seeing the tension between Jammy and Zoya, Tanu felt a prick of malicious satisfaction. She had bristled seeing them from the balcony last night joined at the hip and lip, unable to keep their hands off each other.
Something's not right in lala land, she thought snidely. May be he's come to his senses and realizes that they can't be together. Or may be Khala told them about the baby and they realize they can't be together. So sad!
Her interest piqued. This should be good. She excused herself.
"Jammy, can I meet you with you later? I feel a little sick right now."
Asad nodded moodily and got up to go to his room. He stole a look at Zoya. She was gathering the breakfast dishes, her gaze still skittering away from his.
He couldn't decide whether he was mad or scared. What had happened? Did he do something to hurt or upset her? Asad decided to linger over coffee, pretending to read the newspaper. She went to her room and he sighed in frustration. He had hoped Ammi and Najma would leave the kitchen before her.
His eyes widened; he had an idea.
Zoya was in her room puttering around listlessly. She kept replaying her role as over-zealous horny cat on a hot tin roof yesterday, and her heart kept sinking. Yes, he had shown a bold side to him yesterday, but she had to go and outdo him with her bolder avatar? She covered her face in misery. You idiot!
There was a knock on her door and she knew exactly who it would be.
God, how would she face him?
He entered. She had her back turned away from him.
Asad thrust a steaming mug of coffee under her nose and heard a sob.
"Zoya? What happened?" He rushed to put the mug on the nightstand, and hugged her from the back. "Did I do or say something to hurt you?" She wrapped her arms around his, and shook her head. Her hair swung in a curtain from side to side. Another sob escaped.
He turned her around, and hooked his finger under her chin, "then tell me what it is. It's killing me to see you turn away from me and now crying like this?"
She covered her face and burrowed into his chest unable to meet his gaze.
"Zoya, you are scaring me. Did something happen? Is everything OK with Aapi and Jeeju? Did Tanu say something?"
She felt horrible for scaring him like this. "No," she sniffed. "Everything is fine."
She wiped her tears but still wouldn't look into his eyes.
"Then tell me what's wrong and how I can make it right. Please, I can't bear to see you cry like this."
"I'm just ashamed of myself," she sniffled, and said in a small voice.
"But why? What happened?"
"I was so shameless yesterday and you must think I am such a disgusting""! I feel so cheap." She covered her face again and started to cry.
"Is that it! Are you serious?" He laughed and hugged her tight. "How can you even think that? I loved your feistiness yesterday. It was so damn hot. You were such a tigress!"
"Look at me," he coaxed her.
She shook her head; her forehead was still resting on his chest. Asad lifted her face and kissed her hard, thrusting his tongue in aggressively and dipping her over his arm which made her cling to his shoulders. She responded immediately, sucking on his lips and parrying his thrusts as he twined his tongue with hers.
How, in just a flash, was he able to make her go from 0 to 60, she thought! Vroom!
He pulled away, and she moaned in protest.
Asad laughed huskily. "Did you like that?" He still had her bent backward over his arm.
Her eyes still dilated with desire, Zoya nodded yes, while clutching his shirt collar with both hands.
"See, that's how erotic it was for me to see you take the lead yesterday. I didn't sleep at all last night, imagining what it would be like when we make love." Zoya gasped aloud. He straightened her and held her close.
"I love everything about you specially that I can drive you crazy enough for you to want to jump my bones. Do you know how hot that is? You are so gorgeous! Don't ever think that!"
He picked her up and sat back on the bed with her in his lap; Asad kissed the top of her head.
He handed her the coffee. "Sweet and milky just the way you like it."
She smiled up shyly at him and kissed his cheek. But kissing wasn't enough, Zoya cupped his cheek with one hand and then rubbed her knuckles over the slight stubble and inhaled his scent.
"Are you okay?" he asked anxiously as he tucked her in the crook of his neck.
"You'll still be my love goddess right?" He ran his thumb across her lips.
Her eyes flashed as she giggled and flicked her tongue out to lick his roving thumb. Asad groaned.
"You won't go all traditional and mousy, and boring or repressed on me?"
"May be just on Mondays."
He laughed. Yes, she was back!
"No! I want my Zoya to be fiery hot with all claws out, seven days a week and 365 days of the year! I want to see scratches on my body the next day after you've had your wicked way with me."
Her back arched and she clung to him. "Oh, I so badly want to have my wicked way with you. That's what I was fantasizing about on our way back home last night."
She bit her tongue. Damn! Now why did she have to say that!
"Really? Tell me about that fantasy."
"No! It's too embarrassing."
He ran his fingers over her leg and she slapped his hand away.
"Please," he begged with an exaggerated woeful expression.
"OK, when will it become reality?"
"After we're married."
"On our wedding night?"
She punched his shoulder.
"May be. If you're good."
"I'm being such a good boy right now," he pouted.
"By the way," he played with her fingers. "I loved the way you said my name last night. When will you start calling me by my first name?"
"Only when we are by ourselves. I may give away too much if I said it in front of everyone else. I'd feel too exposed."
His heart knocked in his chest. "That's the sweetest, most amazing thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you."
He bent to kiss her. She met him half way.
Later Asad remembered. "Where's the box I gave you last night?"
She got up and retrieved a dark blue velvet box from the dresser drawer.
"Have you looked?"
Zoya shook her head no.
He reached out his arm and she went back to sit in his lap. She loved how she fit perfectly in his protective embrace, and how he wrapped his arms around her, and bent to kiss her on the head, neck and shoulders. When he wasn't doing any of that, he'd stroke the back of her hands with his thumbs or trail his fingers over her arm or leg. Against his warm chest, feeling his heartbeat against her face, it was the safest place in the world she could be in.
She would never get enough of this.
Thank you so much Allah miyan!
Their hands together, they opened the box and Zoya gasped. She had never seen a more beautiful pair of antique jadau earrings. They were exquisitely inlaid with tiny emeralds and dripping with pearls.
Zoya looked at him in wonder.
"This is Dadi's from when she got married. She specially sent these with Ayaan to give to my fiance."
She felt her eyes brim, and turned to hide her face in his chest. He held her close.
Raising her face to his, he gently kissed each eyelid. "Look at me," he commanded.
When she did, he reassured her softly, "I would have saved them for you. She never had any rights over me. It's only been you. Always!"
She hugged him fiercely.
When she nodded, Asad fastened them with some help from her.
Zoya jumped up to admire herself in the mirror.
He came from behind and curled his arms around her.
"Beautiful," he said as he nipped her under each dangling earring.
"About that fantasy..."
"Mr. Khan! Stop it. it's just not happening, OK?"
"Say my name again."
"Asad," she sighed it shyly and breathlessly.
He loved the sound of his name on her lips. Just two syllables, and she made it sound like a prayer and a siren song. He got goosebumps.
Asad nuzzled her neck again, "can't you at least give me a hint?"
"Please. I can't wait," he groaned. "Have mercy on me!"
"Mmm ... Okay."
She turned in his arms and crooked a finger. He brought his ear closer eagerly. Zoya giggled and stroked the curve of his ear with her finger. He shivered and gripped her tightly.
"You really want to know?" She breathed seductively.
Those goosebumps returned. Asad nodded and trailed his fingers up her arm while holding her by the waist with the other. She caught the errant hand and laced her fingers with his.
He hugged her tighter. "Zoya, stop teasing me."
She licked her lips. Her throat suddenly felt dry.
She leaned closer and with the barest whisper said, "in my fantasy," he strained to hear her, "I swallowed."
And she flew out of his arms and locked herself in the bathroom.
And then realization dawned on him, and red hot lust punched him in the gut making him leap and throb.
Zoyaaa! He moaned soundlessly and his breath escaped in a hiss.
Oh god, they better get married soon, or he'd just combust dreaming of her in his arms and under him. How many cold showers could he possibly withstand? He'd already taken two last night after they'd returned from the bike ride.
Asad opened and closed the door to her bedroom.
Zoya heard him leave her room, and sighed in contentment and longing. How was it possible to feel both? She hugged herself.
When she stepped out, she saw him leaning against the wall, waiting for her. He opened his arms and she ran into them to be held tight and cherished.
"I love you."
Song in Title:
Blood Money (2012) "Chaahat"
Both Dilshad and Zoya entered Tanu's room as soon as Zoya saw the missed call from Mr. Khan that night. He could only arrange to meet Tanu after dinner since she was not well and he had left for meetings all afternoon and evening.
Between the two of them they looked in the most obvious of places and then started looking more earnestly: under the mattress and inside the pillow and bed covers, curtains, undersides of the drawers, behind the cupboard, in between folded clothes and linens, empty luggage, behind pictures and frames. But they came up empty. They couldn't find her bag either.
Zoya took out everything from the trash can and spread it on the floor. Tissues and hair balls, yuck! Some crumpled receipts. Not bothering to look she just flattened them and quickly took pictures with her phone. They'd look at details later. In fact, if Tanu had thrown these away, she wouldn't miss them. Zoya pocketed the receipts.
Meanwhile in his room, Asad nervously asked Tanu about how she was feeling. His heart sank to see her clutch her bag. He thanked her for suggesting a meeting with his brother and sisters last night. He took his time in broaching the subject of her pregnancy.
"Ammi told me that she took you to the doctor?"
"Yes," said Tanu with a bowed head.
He didn't care if this took all day. However much time it bought Ammi and Zoya to search the room was fine by him.
"Umm, the doctor said that I am pregnant."
He waited for her to say more.
Tanu was mad. She knew he wanted out of this deal that she had forced upon him. But she didn't know how he would do it. Being a stickler for decorum, principles and tradition, she had felt confident that she could always twist his arm. But with Zoya in the picture she was no longer sure about the Jammy she knew and manipulated so well.
And Dilshad's stubborn streak was another game changer.
Upstairs Dilshad was panicking. They had found nothing so far, and it had already been fifteen minutes since they started searching her room. Casting a glance around the room, Zoya decided to look in the bathroom. She looked behind the water tank of the commode, inside, undersides of the cabinets. Nothing. She even unscrewed a couple of wall sconces but came up empty. This woman was smart, Zoya fumed.
When Tanu refused to say anything else, Asad decided to drop the bombshell.
"Tanu, I am sorry I cannot go ahead with this."
Tanu looked up at him startled. She had never heard him be so decisive or direct about a touchy emotional issue.
"I know I'm being selfish, but I am in love with Zoya and I can't imagine getting married to anyone else. I hope you will understand."
Livid, she stood up to confront him, "what? But what about this baby? How am I going to raise it on my own? This is your responsibility," she shrieked.
Annoyed at her gall to still continue to trick him, he said placatingly, "I know. I know it's my responsibility. I have a proposition. Please have a seat."
Taking time to settle down himself, he went on.
"Zoya and I have decided to get married as soon as possible. Here's what we'll do. We will raise that baby as mine and Zoya's. I will pay for all the pre-natal care and expenses till you deliver. If you want we can even say that you are a surrogate for us because of some fertility issues. I can pay you a lot of money as the surrogate mother. But I cannot get married to you. It would be unfair to everyone involved."
Tanu was stunned. She had not seen this move coming. Till she could blackmail him for his guilt and filial responsibilty, she was confident that she could get away with anything.
"But Jammy, you of all people, know best how a child feels when abandoned by a parent. How can you do this to your own child?"
He could have strangled her for the practiced lies and emotional blackmail she continued to wield as a weapon. How could he not have seen through her pretense? Zoya had always been right about him: he did judge people by their clothes and that is how he was in this mess today.
Please, Allah, let me get this right, and I will spend the rest of my life making it up to Zoya.
He replied just as smoothly, "but that's the beauty of this arrangement. This child won't go without a father. And he or she will also be blessed to have the love of the best woman in the world as its mother. Zoya too knows what it is like to have a parent abandon you as a child, and will never let this child feel unwanted or unloved. And as a single woman it'll be harder to raise this child on your own. What better solution than having the child grow up with two loving parents?"
He stood up to indicate his dismissal.
"Please think about it and let me know your decision. I hope you'll see the benefit in the arrangement: you will be handsomely compensated, and the child will have a loving home."
Each word coming out of his mouth was a death-knell. Tanu seethed with fury. Thank goodness she had already implemented a part of her plan B.
This was so frustrating, Zoya thought. We need something and soon. Her eyes fell on the clothes hamper. As an act of desperation she emptied it of all laundry and at the bottom they hit paydirt. Several folders could be seen in clear plastic wrapping. She eagerly took them out and indeed they were papers related to Tanu's factory. Both began taking pictures with their phones.
Zoya heard her phone ping and panicked.
"Stall her," she texted.
Finally they were able to get pictures of all the documents and return the files and clothing to the hamper. They slunk out of her room and crashed on Dilshad's bed, their hearts racing and adrenaline rushing.
In a minute they heard Tanu climbing the stairs and walking toward her room.
They looked at each other and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Song in Title:
Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000) "Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani"
When Zoya left Dilshad's room and came downstairs to go to her room, she found herself hoisted in the air and carried to Asad's room instead. As he closed the door with his hip she grabbed his face and kissed him hard.
He put her down and bent his head to drag her lower lip into his mouth again. After ages they separated and he again lifted her up in his arms and settled on the settee with her in his lap. But not before stealing another slow kiss.
"So, what happened?" Both asked at the same time and laughed. She burrowed in his chest. He held her tight and kissed the top of her head.
"We got them. Pictures of documents that prove that her factory is still running and bank statements. But nothing related to her pregnancy."
He told her about Tanu bringing the bag with her.
We have to find way to look in that bag of hers. But how?"
Both of them fell silent. She suddenly remembered the receipts that she had found and fished them out of her pocket. They spread them out on the settee. Two were from the same pharmacy. Asad took pictures and sent them to Prasad. A third wasn't a receipt but a crumpled up prescription. At least it had the doctor's name. That too was forwarded to Prasad.
They began to feel a little hopeful.
He hugged her. Thank god this mess would be over soon.
"And you?" she asked.
He laughed cynically. "She had the nerve to tell me that I was abandoning my child."
Zoya's hand fisted on his shirt. She knew that this was the dirtiest trick Tanu could have used against Mr. Khan.
"You'll have to hold me back because I'm so ready to kill her."
Asad laughed and dropped a kiss on her head, "I told her that you and I would raise the baby as our own. I've even suggested she accept lots of money and pretend to be our surrogate."
Zoya looked at him approvingly, "Wow! Asad, what a brilliant idea! How did you even come up with this surrogacy thing?"
He looked embarrassed as well as flattered. Ducking his head he said, "that day when you were talking of celebrity gossip on the trip to Jaipur, there was some mention of Aamir Khan or Shah Rukh Khan having a baby through a surrogate mother."
"Nice job, jahanpanah six packs! So you were paying attention that day?"
He looked down at her and kissed her gently, tracing her face with his fingers, rubbing her lips with his thumb. "I was only paying attention to you! It killed me to see you so sad and putting on a brave face for the others. I think I fell in love with you more on the trip. And of course, whose brilliant idea was it? Zoya Farooqui's!"
She beamed up at him happily, and then quickly sobered and frowned.
"What next? How long do we wait before exposing her lies? I hate that she's using her unborn child to play dirty games."
He stroked her back and then smoothed the frown from her brow. He loved those little furrows! They accompanied the tiniest pout as she thought deeply about something and plotted plans to make things right.
"I've hired an investigator who's checking up on her and Imran. We are assuming that the baby could be his, right? I want it all confirmed before I mess up Nikhat's engagement. Short of a DNA test, how would we prove that he's the father?"
She sat up.
"We know she's been pregnant longer than she claims. She must have some official medical reports. Thank god, we have the name of her doctor at least," Zoya said hopefully.
"You think the reports may be in her bag which she totes everywhere?" He asked kissing her palm.
Zoya thought a bit, "where else would she hide them? Having them with her always makes the only sense. They are our only concrete evidence against her. May be holding that over her head will make her tell us who the father is?"
Asad sighed. "But can we trust her answer? After all this, I won't be able to believe anything coming out of her mouth. She could even falsely implicate Imran or try blackmail."
They both brooded, absently running their hands over each other. Their fingers entangled with one another and began an erotic dance of their own. Their breaths got shallower and eyes locked. Still looking at her, he slowly dragged her hand to his mouth, bit her finger and then sucked on it. Zoya moaned and clung to him. She closed her eyes and sighing contentedly, remembered when in that room in the Thai restaurant, he had said sorry. "I'll make it up to you, I promise," he'd vowed. Tucking her hair behind her ear he had said, "I want to spoil you."
Now nipping and alternately kissing the column of her neck, Asad breathed, "speaking of babies, will you be the mother of mine?"
"Yes! Ouch!" Zoya yelped and boxed his stomach. He grabbed her hand and bent to kiss her palm, running his tongue over it provocatively. Her breath hissed and the air crackled with barely repressed desire.
"Yes, all three of them." She hugged him tight flinging her arms around his neck.
"Three?" He looked down at her, smitten. "And I suppose you've picked out names and careers already?"
"Koi shaq, Mr. Khan?"
"None whatsoever, future Mrs. Khan." They sealed their promise with a long kiss as their hands trailed over one another hungrily.
"And their names?" He asked, in between kissing her shoulder and neck.
"Well, the first-born will be a boy and will be named Zaid." She counted off on her fingers.
He again grabbed her finger and nibbled on it.
"And then a girl, Amna." He nodded approvingly as he went on the trail more kisses down her throat.
"You can have the honor of naming the youngest," breath catching, she nuzzled his neck now. He threw his head back and laughed at her generosity and graciousness.
"Can she be a girl too? I want many little Zoyas running around my house wreaking havoc."
She smiled serenely.
How about Saira?" Asad offered.
"Hmmm ..." she took her time thinking about it.
She gasped. "that's beautiful. I love it."
She pulled his head down for another drugging kiss.
"Great! I can't wait to get started," he purred in her ear setting her nerves on fire.
"Oh really? Have you noticed how many windows you've built in this room? Even the door has glass. It'll be like living ... and doing, you know ... in a fish bowl. Good luck making a single baby."
She got off his lap and swung her hair, harrumphing with disdain.
He tried to catch her wrist, and giggling, she fled from him. He grabbed her from the back and swung her around.
Biting her shoulder he asked, "new drapes with privacy panels?"
Her breath hitching, she parried, "and the sounds?"
He backed her against the wall. His hands at her waist and lips next to her mouth he teased, "there will be sounds?"
"Kyun Mr. Khan, won't you make me scream your name?" She darted her tongue out to lick his lips.
"Zoya -!" his body bucked, "you are killing me."
And he swooped to claim her lips again.
Neither noticed Ayaan outside the window first shocked, then grinning to himself ruefully shaking his head at this new romantic and besotted bhaijaan. He hadn't seen his brother laugh like this.
And a passionately kissing bhai?
Wow, he thought, so this is what was cooking with these two all these months. All the fighting and drama! Who would have guessed?
He wanted to tap on the window and see their guilty faces but decided against it. After all the hard knocks, Bhaijaan deserved the loving and cherishing of a good woman. And that Mona darling sure turned out to be a firecracker having melted the heart of a man who had vowed never to love, or laugh for that matter.
His eyes felt moist.
Hoo boy, time to get out of here. For a hyper conservative guy, bhai was sure well-versed in the art of tonsil hockey!
Song in Title:
Jo Jeeta Woh Sikander (1992) "Yahan Ke Hum Sikander"
Tanu knew she was cornered. She needed a new playground since pretty soon her jig here would be up. But she still had one ace up her sleeve. And may be Jammy's proposition wasn't such a bad deal after all? But she needed some time to process things and make her next move. There was no hope with an Asad in love.
Imran? Could she make some headway there?
Prasad's reports were promising and Asad had already called to tell Zoya about it by that afternoon. He had even asked the investigator to have Tanu followed each time she left the house.
"I miss you already," he said softly. "You owe me a kiss."
Her toes curled.
She smiled remembering this morning when he had embraced her from behind while she was cleaning up in the kitchen after breakfast. Najma had left for College and Phuphi was in her room, on the phone.
Tanu had disappeared right after breakfast.
"Mr. Khan, what are you doing? What if Phuphi comes downstairs? Let me go."
She hadn't been able to look at him without blushing furiously.
He had nibbled playfully on the side of her neck. As he pushed her collar aside he saw an angry love bite. He ran his tongue over it. She shivered.
"Not till I get a proper good morning kiss."
"Please. I'll die of embarrassment if phuphi sees us like this."
"Just one," he had pleaded grinding her into the counter.
"Phuphi!" She yelped in pretense and he sprang away in a hurry. Dodging him she had run to her room and locked the door.
She had giggled as she evaded his hands but she wanted so bad to melt in his arms.
But through an unspoken pact they had decided: no hanky panky. At least not at home with Dilshad and Najma under the same roof.
That evening, the three of them conferred again. Zoya loved this working together as a team! All for one and one for all, the motto of the three musketeers. She sighed contentedly, but quickly sobered; this was not fun and games. Many lives depended on cracking the code and exposing Tanu.
Asad went first.
"Her factory and business are still running. One of her employees told the investigator that she left town in a hurry and with instructions to not call her at all. She would remain in touch every 3-4 hours."
He was pacing angrily now. "Imran was in Kanpur frequently from February onwards and his company did business with Tanu's. They placed a large order of company uniforms with her. So now we know that they do know one another well. The fact that they pretended otherwise the other day, proves that they have something to hide."
Zoya jumped in excitedly, "And I found his facebook page. I googled him and found out about his company. They have a guest house in Kanpur. At the end of February, there was an official party. See here are some photos on his page."
Both Asad and Dilshad looked over her shoulder at the pictures. Some clearly showed Tanu and Imran standing close and talking. In at least two of them, he had his hand on her arm.
As Dilshad sat back he pinched Zoya's waist. She nearly fell off the bed.
Dilshad told them that Tanu had wanted her to reschedule her doctor's appointment because she was feeling unwell.
Asad had also brought hard copies of the photos they had taken of Tanu's documents last night.
But they still didn't have enough to prove the date of the pregnancy or the identity of the father.
Zoya felt frustrated and impatient. "We have to get a look in that bag. There's no other way. Let me think of something."
"So when do we confront her?" Asked Zoya after a pensive silence had fallen in the room.
"Not yet," Asad said reluctantly. "We have to prove the Imran connection first."
Dilshad patted her arm. "Asad and I will talk to her. I don't want you to be there. It could get messy."
"Ms. Farooqui, Ammi is right. It could get ugly and I don't want her to turn on you, or insult you."
Next morning, he was getting ready for work and heard Zoya scream. Terrified Asad lunged for the door and sprinted to her room.
She was sitting in front of the wardrobe with a battered jewelry box.
"Zoya? Are you okay?" He slid across the floor on his knees and held her tight.
"Abbu's old photographs are gone, and so are the letters." She wailed in his arms.
"Shh," he comforted her. "When was the last time you saw them?"
"I - I don't remember. Last week may be."
"Did you see them after the trip?"
"I don't know. So much happened right after that I can't remember."
He felt helpless. He knew how much her father's last momentoes meant to her. She had suffered so much already. Why was she being tested like this?
He rocked her gently and kissed the top of her head.
"I'll help you look. May be you put it in the safe or in your bag?"
"No, I do have a copy of that one group shot in my bag. Thank god, I had the sense to make copies when I first started looking because the original was so fragile. But now I've lost the original forever!"
"You couldn't have lost them. I know how much they meant to you, you wouldn't have been careless. Think, when was the last time you saw them?"
While she thought, he helped her up and sat her on the bed. Then he bent down to pick up the jewelry box. It was one of a kind, exquisitely hand-carved. Inside he saw an earring. It was the partner to the one that he had in his room.
"But Mr. Khan I am careless. First I lost Ammi's earring and now this." Fresh tears fell from her eyes.
"No baby, don't say that. Come with me." He gave her the box to hold and gently lifted her in his arms and carried her to his room. He made her stand in front of his closet and opened a drawer.
She looked and couldn't believe her eyes.
In that drawer she saw such a collection of things that made her smile through her tears. She saw a few broken phones and one held together by some colorful tape, still with her pink post-it note apology stuck to it. There was a coin. Was it the same one that she had used to decide whether she would stay in India or not?
Allah miyan, even the CD!
He took something out and showed it to her.
It was her mother's earring. She looked up at him happy and tearful at the same time and fell in his arms.
"I love you so much. I can't bear to see you cry," he murmured. Asad lifted her face and kissed her tears away.
"Asad," she said his name shyly. She still felt tentative about using it and liked to savor his expression each time he heard her say his name. His eyes would soften as he would gaze into her eyes with a thousand unsaid promises.
"How long have you had this?"
He took the box from her and put it in his drawer.
"Since the day I carried you from Akram's house. It was caught in my cuff. I tried to return it a few times but then just held on to it because it was a part of you."
He took the earring and slipped it on and kissed her ear. Lifting the other one out of the box, Asad put that on as well.
Flicking the earring gently to make it swing and dance, he teased her, "I still remember your silly sher when you first found out you'd lost it."
She looked up at him quizzically.
Tucking her hair behind her ear, he whispered, "Haan, pareshan hoon main, lagta nahin kuch sahi."
Zoya squealed with delight and repeated with him, "Haan, pareshan hoon main, lagta nahin kuch sahi,
Mere Shahrukh Kaan mein jhumka hai, Salman Kaan mein nahin!"
Up on her toes and arms around his neck, she asked, "I didn't know you heard me then."
"I heard it and actually found that one sher of yours cute. I must have been in love already! Who knew love is also deaf!"
"Asad," he prompted.
"Asad," she breathed with a smile.
Now she noticed that his shirt was undone. Fastening the buttons, she asked shyly, "when did you know that you loved me?"
He tilted her head up with his finger at her chin, "look at me."
"I think I fell in love with you the first time I saw you at the dargah. But it took me months to really admit it to myself."
Her eyes widened. He still hadn't told her completely about that day.
He held both her hands in his and placed them on his chest. He began stroking the backs of her hand with his thumbs. Her pulse had already started to jump.
"When you said Qubool nahin hai' for me and stopped Akram from forcing me to marry him. And then when you fed me with your hands at that dhaba in Mangalpur," she spoke dreamily. But then her expression became sad again and she bowed her head.
He lifted her chin again, "what?"
"I think I knew for sure at the farmhouse that night but the next day ... Asad, it killed me to see you hold her."
He nodded in understanding and kissed her pain and tears away.
Asad tucked her hair behind her ear and touched her ear again. "I am so lucky to have you."
He retrieved something else from the drawer.
"I was going to ask you differently but this is the best time."
He went down on one knee and took her hand in his. "Zoya Farooqui, will you marry me?"
She knelt too and gave him a bearhug toppling the both of them to the floor and sprawling over him.
"Yes, yes, yes!"
He rolled over and tucked her under him. Her heart stopped. Slipping the ring on her finger he nudged her cheek with his nose, "qubool hai?"
"Qubool hai," she whispered, hiding her face in the crook of his neck.
Song in Title:
Woh Lamhe (2007) "Kya Mujhe Pyaar Hai"
That night, grippping his hands tightly, she had haltingly asked him for one favor. Could she meet dadi and his abbu to seek their blessings? He had already told her about his tentative reconcliaition with Rashid. She had easily sensed that he was still wary and shy of open contact with his father.
He had only texted him once since their last meeting: "Aapki ki dua se Zoya aur main ab saath hain." But there was so much more that he wanted to say.
With dadi too. While she had shown her love through secret gifts, Najma and he had missed a grandparent's physical love and pampering.
"Where?" he had asked gruffly.
"The dargah? I have come to associate that place with peace, strength and healing." He had brushed his lips across hers when she said that. The dargah would indeed be the perfect place. It was where he fell in love with her and found the strength to win her back. It was also where he had accepted and sealed the fragile bond with his father.
He held her tight and squeezed his eyes shut in gratitude.
Asad didn't know it was possible to feel this happy. But he still had one painful task to complete.
He called Ayaan the next morning from work. This was going to be hard.
"Hi bhaijaan, I bet you have something big to tell me right?"
He removed the phone from his ear and looked at it in puzzlement.
What the hell was he talking about?
"What do you mean?"
"No? You don't have any big news to share with me, your favorite brother?"
"Voh, actually, I do, but how do you ...?"
"I'll tell you later. You go first."
"Mmm ... voh ... actually ... main ..."
"Kya bhai, aise Hakla Ahmed Khan ban ke propose kiya tha Mona darling ko?
"What? How do you know? Have you already talked to her? I should have known she wouldn't be able to keep this quiet. You two are completely nuts."
"No, I haven't talked to her as yet. But I do know." He loved teasing him. For the first time ever, it was bhai's turn to be at the receiving end to have his leg pulled because of a girl.
"Ayaan, what are you talking about?"
"Well, I had come to meet you one night and ..." He goaded, nearly keeling over with repressed laughter.
Asad slapped his palm to his face and squeezed his eyes shut in embarrassment. Oh god, may be Zoya was right about all those blasted windows!
Damn, he was really learning the hard way that she was always right and he was mostly wrong. But he was never happier to be so wrong.
Thank you Allah miyan! What? Did he just ...?
"Voh ... actually ..."
"Theek hai bhai, jaiye maaf kiya for not telling me sooner how you felt about her. You have been in love with her for sometime right?"
Ayaan laughed. "Kyun, bhaijaan? Cat got your tongue? Uss raat toh bahut chal rahi thi!"
"OK, OK" he spluttered through peals of laughter.
"Accha bataiye, Mona darling ka devar aapki kya khidmat kar sakta hai?"
"Voh, I wanted to ask you if you were OK with this ... ?"
It was Ayaan's turn to be puzzled now.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I know that you and Zoya are so similar and get along so well. Voh, I just wondered if you were ... if you felt ... had feelings for her." Oh god, this was harder than he imagined.
And he felt like kicking himself. Obviously Ayaan would say no now.
"Bhai, to be honest ..." Asad's heart plummeted. He had rarely heard Ayaan talk so seriously.
"... I don't know. I know during the trip I flirted with her but I did sense a kind of deep reserve in her. She gave me clear signals that she only looked at me as a friend. So I backed off. And looks like I completely missed the sparks between you two. When I saw you two that night, it didn't hit me or anything. So I guess, what I'm trying to say is, the answer is: no. I really like her but don't think there was anything romantic about it."
"Ayaan," Asad's voice was gruff. "I never thought we'd ever have such a conversation. There's so much I missed and so many things I wish I'd done differently."
"But bhai, why do you say that? You've always been right in my eyes. Sure, you've always been strict but I guess I understand why."
Ayaan had to strain to hear Asad's voice. "I was talking about Zoya. I've been such a jackass and so cruel. I was so wrong about her. I just wish I can make it up to her."
Ayaan sensed a struggle and effort in bhaijaan's voice. His heart went out to him.
"You will. I know it. But what about Tanveer?"
"That was all part of the misunderstanding. But thank god, it's over. I'll tell you about it in more detail when we meet. In fact, that is also something we have to talk about. Zoya wants to meet dadi and Abbu."
Ayaan gasped with delight. Abbu? Could it be?
"Bhai? Sach mein ...? I don't believe it."
"We met one day at the dargah and ... Anyways, I'll tell you later. And we have to meet. I have something important to tell you all."
"You sound so serious. Is everything alright?"
"It will be. I'll see you soon."
"Kya bhaijaan, ab to mujhe khidki se bhi aane mein darr lagega. Ab to Mona darling ne tale laga diye do bhaiyon ke pyaar pe," he kidded to lighten bhai's mood.
"Ayaan, stop it!" He smiled fondly.
"But seriously bhai, now I'll have to call ahead like shareef people so that I don't walk in on any steamy action!"
The phone disconnected.
Ayaan laughed softly, "bhai, bhai, bhai. Aap to gaye kaam se. Akdu Ahmed Khan bana Lattoo Ahmed Khan. Who knew?"
Song in Title:
Woh Lamhe (2007) "Kya Mujhe Pyaar Hai"
The next day a whole army of window dressers, decorators and drapers invaded the Khan Villa. Zoya had laughed and clapped her hands in glee. Jahanpanah was really getting serious about privacy issues. Nice save having the whole house redone, she thought dreamily.
But they had so many loose ends to tie before they could even think about getting married. There was still the issue of Imran. Was he the right man for Nikhat or was he just as culpable as Tanveer in tormenting the Khans.
And then there was Humaira. Just a single meeting with her had won her over. Now that she had found her love reciprocated she hoped she could play Cupid for her new friend. But how?
Her phone rang. Omar.
She hadn't met him since the dinner. She remembered how his over-the-top boyfriend act had tipped Mr. Khan over into her arms. Hmm, could Omar help nudge the other Khan brother over too?
"And you don't mind facing the firing squad later?"
"My ulterior motive in getting you two together. Your job's to distract him." Her heart skipped a beat. Oh yes, she'd love to do that.
She shook her head to dispel the dream of running her hands over Mr.Khan and kissing him passionately, "only if you help me with something."
Omar agreed to help Zoya play matchmaker and undercover agent. Hmm, may be he needed to change careers. Who would have thought that his reluctance in even coming to Bhopal for his cousin's wedding would bring such serendipitous rewards with it?
They had tried to brainstorm various ways to get Ayaan to realize his feelings for Humaira. Omar had insisted that Zoya help him woo Najma in return. He had been charmed by Najma's shy smile the first day. While he had told Ammi that things hadn't worked out with Zoya he was secretly looking forward to suprising her with Najma"that is if all went well and Najma felt the same way about him.
They decided to meet at the mall for lunch to discuss Operation Love Guru. She didn't know how Najma felt about Omar but having him discuss flirting with Humaira could perhaps show her true feelings.
Zoya decided to invite Humaira for coffee and they would take it off from there. She called Ayaan.
"Hai, hai, Mona darling. Apne Raabert ko chhod ke, Akdu Ahmed Khan ki baahon mein?"
She gasped and blushed furiously.
"Shut up Raabert! How ...?"
"Hum bhi Tees Markhan hain, Mona darling. Sabki khabar rakhte hain."
"Whatever Raabert, I need Humaira's cell number. I forgot to take it from her that day."
"Kyun? Humaira se kya kaam hai?"
"Kucch nahin. I just wanted to take her out for coffee. I really liked her and we hit it off. It would be nice to have other friends in Bhopal besides you. Tumhara kya pata, kab kiss ladki ke chakkar mein apni Mona darling ko bhool jao."
"Lekin Mona darling to humein bhool gayee."
He laughed and gave her the number.
Zoya started planning multiple weddings in her head. How fortunate that Aapi had sent Omar as a pyaar ka farishta.
But weddings brought her mind back to Nikhat. If only that mess could be resolved. Nikhat had seemed quiet and reserved and Zoya felt terrible for how she'd be devastated if Imran turned out to be the father of Tanveer's baby.
She thought back to the scene of Tanveer whispering with Imran. The bag had to be the only place where she kept incriminating documents. But how to get that? And if only she could get her hands on Tanu's phone. That would be a gold mine of contacts and text messages that they could use to expose her.
She took a deep breath. Time to look over all the evidence they had already gathered and she needed to talk to Phuphi to run some ideas by her.
The investigator had located the doctor who had written the prescription for Tanu but the doctor refused to share patient information. Pacing furiously in his office, Asad rubbed his forehead in frustration.
He called Tanu.
"Tanu, I wanted to know what you've decided."
"I understand. Please let me know by tonight so that I can start planning for how we will work this out. And, by the way, I am willing to pay you Rs. 1 Crore for the surrogacy."
He hung up. He knew that this was a big gamble. He hoped that the money would act as an effective lure.
His phone rang. He smiled looking at the called ID.
"Mr. Khan?" she spoke softly.
He sighed loudly.
"What does he want and why must you drag his name in to ruin my mood and visions of making love to you?"
He heard her sharp intake of breath and soft moan. His body tightened in response.
"He wants to take Najma out for lunch," she said tentatively.
He exhaled. "Go with them."
She hesitated and he sensed that she wanted to say something. "Can't you come too?"
"I wish! There's a ridiculous lunch meeting that I can't get out of. Hands to hold and damned fires to put out." He dragged his hand through his hair.
"I wish someone would hold my hand and put out fires closer to home," she spoke forlornly.
"Aahhh!" he groaned.
"OK, I understand. Work is important. Bye."
"Baad mein." And she hung up.
His phone rang almost immediately. He broke away from imagining her in his arms.
"Hello?" He spoke distractedly.
He heard the sound of a kiss and couldn't stop grinning like an idiot for the next half hour.
Zoya let Omar know that he had Jahanpanah's permission to court his baby sister but there was a price to pay. He would have to be Zoya's little helper in matters of domestic defense and security. Omar was only too willing. After all, this was the most fun he was having after a long, long time. And then there was Najma.
Omar came over in the late morning and insisted on taking everyone out for a grand lunch buffet at a Five Star hotel. Najma needed no convincing, Dilshad was game too, and Tanu was finally cajoled into going as a welcome break from being cooped up inside the house. A little change of scenery and she'd feel so much better, they told her.
Once they arrived and settled in, the game was underway. Najma had not been apprised of any nefarious activities. Omar wanted her to know, but he also understood Asad wanting to shield her from the sordidness of Tanveer's conspiracy.
After they had served and seated themselves, Omar began to extoll the virtues of the poached salmon.
"Zo, you have to try this. It's heavenly. Here, take a bite," and he leaned over to feed her a chunk. His fork lingered tantalizingly under Tanu's nose.
Tanu gagged and fled toward the restroom.
"Arre, Najma beta, go see if she needs help."
As soon as the coast was clear, they rummaged through Tanu's bag and unearthed a file. Fast as lightining they took pictures with their cell phones.
Zoya and Omar also worked their magic on Tanu's phone.
Finally she tipped the jug of water on the phone completely drenching it.
They sat back just as Najma walked in leading a pale Tanu by her elbow.
"Oh Tanu, so sad, when you rushed out in such a hurry the water pitcher fell over and now your phone may be ruined."
"Come beta, sit," Dilshad said dotingly. "Bechari, let me order some nimbu paani for you and you'll feel better."
She turned to the other three. "I've called the driver and will take Tanu home with me. You all can come when you are done."
As they were leaving Zoya's phone indicated a new message received.
"Parking lot. Ditch them. Left hand side of the entrance."
Her heart soared. Her eyes met Omar's and he winked at her conspiratorially.
Zoya told Najma that she had to go to the bank and would she mind going alone with Omar?
Giddy with the promise of love, each went to their respective destinations.
As she climbed into the SUV he grabbed her hand and kissed it while gazing into her eyes. She blushed and tried to reluctantly pull her hand away. "Mr. Khan!"
"Asad," he prompted.
Her blush deepened. "Asad," she said shyly.
"Rushed through it so that I could catch you before you left. Any luck?"
She pulled out her phone. They hadn't even glanced at the pages of the file while photographing them so intently. Now they both poured over the details like "New Hope Maternity Clinic," dates, blood work, doctor's instructions etc.
They looked up at each other, exhilarated. They hugged each other, or at least tried to, given the obstruction of the central console.
"What is that saying, camel pahaad ke nichey?"
He laughed heartily, "ab aaya oonth pahaad ke nichey, you mean."
"What does that even mean?"
"Something about how the mighty or arrogant have fallen, I think. But who cares? We have the evidence now."
"I'll get copies of these made and pass on this information to the investigator. Were you able to switch out her SIM card?"
"Yes, I forgot. Here it is."
"I hope this gives us what we need."
They looked longingly at each other and instinctively laced their fingers together. This time she lifted their hands and planted a kiss on his hand and then held it to her cheek.
He stroked her bottom lip with his thumb and she closed her eyes.
She shook her head no and then reluctantly, yes. Oh god, it was so unfair. She wanted to snuggle in his lap and have him kiss her senseless. But there was important work to be done.
"Did you save any room for kulfi?" he indulged after giving her a swift peck, and laughed out loud when he saw her nod her head vigorously and say through those dimples, "and paani puri!"
They stopped by his office to give Prasad the SIM card first. The new pictures had already been sent to him and he brought fresh enlarged printouts as well as reports from the private detective. They would go over them in detail at home.
Song in Title:
Ghar (1978) "Aajkal Paaon Zameen Par Nahin Padte Mere"
Najma was mad as hell. Something was cooking right under her nose but she just couldn't put her finger on it. For a house that should be eagerly planning an engagement and wedding nothing was was being done. Ammi didn't even mention plans, arrangements, deocrations, caterers, menus etc.
She just looked preoccupied.
Fishy, very machhli.
There was Tanu who always looked thunderous these days. Had the engagement been called off?
What was going on?
Bhaijaan was a different story altogether. She had never seen him so relaxed and mellow even cracking a half-smile every two hours. Fishier.
Fish reminded her of the brunch buffet Omar had treated them to yesterday. It had been such fun when Ammi had gone ahead with Tanu and she got to ride back home on Omar's bike. He had even taken her to a coffee shop where he had looked on while she slurped on a hot choc fudge sundae ...
She had shyly asked him questions about his work, family and friends. Didn't he miss them? He had looked long at her. "I do, but I'm really loving it here. I didn't think I would have this much fun in Bhopal. Meeting all of you has been great."
One thing had always intrigued her. "Where did you get the bike?"
He had laughed. "It's my cousin's. He's away for his honeymoon so I borrowed it."
She had loved that he took the long way home.
Once home, she had wanted to invite him in, but didn't know what to say without making a fool of herself.
She just shyly said bye and thank you, and he had smiled at her and said, "can I get a glass of cold water before I leave? I'm dying of thirst."
She had blushed and apologized profusely, "I'm sorry, so silly of me, I should have offered."
Dismounting from his bike he had lightly touched her arm and said, "that's OK, don't worry about it."
He left more than two hours later after insisting on making adrak elaichi tea for them all. She had whipped up mirch pakoras to go with the tea.
The tea was the best she'd ever had! Through a red nose and smarting eyes he'd said that the pakoras were the best he had ever had.
Bhaijaan and Zoya had walked in later. He carried a sheaf of papers in his hands, and had looked warmly at Omar before shaking his hand.
Bhaijaan, so welcoming of Omar? Even fishier.
Her thoughts returned to secrets brewing in their house.
And then there was Zoya. She had gone from silent to cynical to glowing in just a matter of weeks.
What the hell? Why hadn't she paid more attention to this detail?
Was she in love?
Was it Omar?
Her heart plummeted. Najma paced her room in agitation. She sat heavily on her bed and threw the cushions angrily on the floor.
Why did that bother her?
So what if Zoya and Omar were together?
She ran to Zoya's room and slammed in breathing hard. Zoya looked up in surprise from her iPad.
"Hi Tamatar. Kya hua? Are you OK? Is phuphi OK? Why are you looking like that?"
Najma took a deep breath and held up her hand.
"Everything's fine, but I'm mad at you."
Zoya gasped aloud.
"Why? What did I do?"
"You are keeping secrets from me."
Zoya looked away in guilt. Najma's heart stopped. Oh god, please don't let it be true.
"Explain," she ordered.
"Whatever it is that you are hiding from me and looking guilty about."
She looked at her friend and felt terrible for keeping her out of the loop. But she couldn't tell her about Tanu without consulting Mr. Khan ... Asad, first.
"Voh ... actually ..."
"Accha, bhaijaan ki bimari aapko kab se lag gayee?"
She misread Zoya's blush and asked haltingly, "I knew it. Something is up. You are in love, right?"
Zoya, tomato-red herself, covered her face with both her hands. Najma felt cold and numb.
"Is it Omar?"
Her stomach clenched painfully.
She looked away not wanting to see Zoya's face glow. But she heard a snort and snapped her head back. Zoya was clutching her stomach and laughing like a moronic, stupid idiotic nincompoop.
"What? What's so funny?"
"Yes, I am in love, but it's not with Omar, paagal andhi tamatar. I thought it was so obvious and I was so embarrassed."
Najma knitted her eyebrows in confusion. But she was feeling remarkably better all of a sudden.
Not Omar, thank god.
She breathed a sigh of relief and postponed the analysis of her feelings for later.
Zoya was in love.
Not with Omar.
But then who?
Things slowly began to fall into place and all the ducks lined up in a row in 3, 2, ...
"Wha ... BHAIJAAN?" she yelped loudly.
And she saw Zoya hide her face behind a fluffy white cushion.
Najma squealed with delight, lunged at her and hugged her tight. They both rolled together on the bed and nearly fell off.
Breathless but ecstatic, she demanded, "tell me EVERYTHING from the start."
And Zoya did.
The agony of the trip, Omar's benign intervention, the confession, the proposal. She shyly showed her the ring which she had been wearing turned around these days.
Najma clasped her hand and admired the ring.
"Ooh, no wonder Bhaijaan is so different these days. Nice choice. I had no idea that he could be so romantic."
She saw Zoya blush and duck her head.
"Oh, so it's like that huh? Have you guys, like, uhh ... kissed?"
"Tamatar!" a beetroot-red Zoya ran and locked herself in the bathroom.
"Aha!" She gloated.
"Haye, humari sharmeeli tamatari Zoya! That can only mean one thing. That you have! Zoya and Bhaijaan sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G," she started chanting loudly outside the bathroom door.
"First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage! Ooh, there will be babies!"
"Shut up!" Zoya peeped out. "Phuphi will hear you," she hissed happily.
Najma dragged her out and hugged her.
"This is so awesome. You know I always wanted you guys to get together. You were so cute together. All the fighting and the yelling, and now chhup-chhup ke romance. How exciting!" She clapped her hands merrily.
"No wonder Tanu looks like she swallowed a lemon!"
She saw Zoya pale and hurried to reassure her, "sorry, sorry, didn't mean to bring her up. But I never liked the idea of Bhaijaan engaged to her. She's nice and all but you are the best! I am so happy. Does Ammi know?"
"But why didn't anyone tell me anything?" she pouted.
It was Zoya's turn to reassure her now. "There are just some loose ends that Mr. Khan wants tied up first. And he probably doesn't want to announce our engagement so soon after the break up with Tanu. And" she looked mischievously at Najma, "may be we should think of your marriage first."
Najma disengaged herself and turned away. "What rubbish! I can't think of marrying right now. I want to study more."
"Hello? Is there a delayed echo in this room? I recall me saying the exact same thing a week or two ago."
Najma looked sad. "But Zoya, your case is different. You found true love and your soulmate. Not everyone is so lucky."
Zoya hugged her and kissed her forehead. "Allah kare you will be just as lucky. Ummm, is there someone that you like?"
She saw her blush and bent her head to gaze into Najma's face. "Kaun hai woh, bolo, bolo kaun hai woh?" she sing-songed and teased.
"Stop it! There's no one," snapped Najma.
"Liar! Jhooth bole kauwa kaate!" She sang loudly.
Now it was her turn to plague Tamatar. She was sooo going to get even for that K-I-S-S-I-N-G thing.
Though she wouldn't mind any K-I-S-S-I-N-G right now.
Mr. Khan, come home soon, please! I want to feel your arms around me.
She took a deep breath.
"Theek hai, don't tell me. As it is I am busy right now trying to think of ways of bringing Omar and Humaira together."
"What? Why? Does he like her? He didn't say anything like that when we were together." Najma said, her face pale.
"No, but I just liked her and I think they would make a great pair. And by the way, when were you together? Oh, when he dropped you home yesterday. Did something happen between you two?"
"Voh ... actually ..."
And they both burst out laughing.
"But Zoya, you should at least ask him first. What if he likes someone else?"
"Do you know if he likes someone else?" Zoya prodded.
"No! But you are his friend. He'll be more open with you."
"Now that's a great idea! Let me call him right now."
She smirked looking at Najma fidgeting with her dupatta's end and looking half-hopeful and half-dejected.
"Omar? I was thinking of setting you up with Humaira. But Najma convinced me to ask you first if you like someone else."
"Zoya!" Najma gasped in embarrassment and agony.
"Oh, so you do like someone else. Um hmm. I see. OK, I'll talk to you later." She hung up.
"You were right Tamatar, I'm glad I took your advice. He does like someone else and would have killed me for setting him up with Humaira. You have great instincts."
Najma didn't know whether to be flattered or heartbroken.
"Main bhi naa, kitni andhi hoon ..." Zoya nattered on, tormenting her.
"Umm, Zoya who did he say he liked?"
"Who liked what?"
Zoya loved pulling her leg. Finally, her doubts had been confirmed.
Yay! Another love story in the making.
She should really start a dating and marriage service, she was that good!
"Oh, he said he liked another girl who was shy, sweet and very beautiful."
Najma paled and turned away.
"Is she ... does she ... live in the US?"
Zoya hugged her from the back and said softly, "No, she lives right here. In this house. And her name is Najma."
"Zoya, stop teasing me! I don't believe you."
"Fine, he and I are meeting Humaira tomorrow then."
Song in Title:
Satte Pe Satta (1982) "Dilbar Mere"
Last night they had decided that they would not just meet dadi and Abbu, but along with Ayaan, present all their evidence regarding Imran's involvement with Tanu.
Snuggled in his lap with Asad's arms around her in his room, empty coffee mugs on the console, she had told him about Najma knowing about them. And, after long-drawn out molten kisses, about Najma and Omar.
"But I didn't tell her anything about Tanveer though," she reassured him hastily.
"Let's hope we can all decide tomorrow how to confront Imran and then Tanu."
They sighed and breathed in each other's scent.
"Is Omar a good guy for Tamatar?" He nuzzled her neck.
Zoya caressed his face. "The best. If I wasn't already in love with you I would have snagged him for myself, and lived happily ever after in San Francisco."
Asad's arms tightened around her painfully and he twisted her face toward him roughly, "don't even joke about it. It killed me when he first came and I saw you hug him. I'd have broken his jaw there and then!"
He gripped her forearms hard, "and never talk about leaving me, OK?"
Her eyes teared.
She sat up and knelt in his lap, and held his face pressed tight against her heart. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."
Zoya kissed his forehead and then tilted his face up to kiss him full on the lips. Their tongues darted and danced, breaths hitched, hearts raced, and they moaned with pleasure. He guided her down and pressed her back to the settee while still sucking on her lips and leaned heavily over her. Her knees hugged him to her. Hands gripping his hair, she raised herself to nip his lower lip and then swirled her tongue around to soothe the bite. Breathless, he looked down at her, and they gazed at each other longingly. Please, their hearts had begged. His hands had itched to creep up from her waist, but they had promised each other restraint.
Only kissing and cuddling.
They heard a sound from the kitchen and twisted apart. He guiltily looked out of the window and dashed his hair off his forehead.
Those damn windows needed shades. Pronto! This was becoming untenable.
He deposited her back in his lap and whispered in her ear, "I love you," after dragging her earlobe into his mouth.
She shuddered and leaned back in his embrace. Lifting his hand to her lips she kissed it and whispered the same to him.
"We shouldn't do this any more now that Najma knows," she said reluctantly.
"No way." He had hugged her tighter. "This is all I have to look forward to after a long day at work away from you."
"Me too," she had whispered gratefully, and they sealed their yearning with another slow-burn kiss.
Later, with her fingers interlaced with his, she had reminisced, "remember the first night in your bed?"
She felt his lips curl against her cheek. "Umm hmm. Sorry for that. Did it hurt a lot?"
She giggled soflty and turned in his arms. "For two whole days. Thanks a lot jahanpanah six packs, but what moves!"
"I have other moves planned for you the next time you are in my bed!"
"Asaadd," she had moaned helplessly instinctively arching her back in open invitation.
"Let me kiss it better and make up for it, with interest OK?"
"Oh, you will pay more dearly for tha---" she was swiftly silenced and her protests turned to sighs and shallow breaths. Asad crushed her to him kneading her back and waist.
Long cold showers followed.
Now for Operation Love Guru, thought Zoya the next day.
She didn't tell Najma about this meeting. She didn't want Omar distracted. Later he could tell her, and she could beg her forgiveness.
Humaira had shyly accepted the invitation for coffee. She was pleased that Zoya had singled her out. While they were waiting for their drinks to arrive, Omar had casually walked by and joined them.
And just like that, they were soon hotly contesting who the best Khan was in Bollywood.
"Salman Khan is the hottest and se*xiest," drooled Zoya.
"Ayaan loves Salman Khan too! But Shah Rukh Khan is the most romantic," said an animated Humaira. Zoya look at her in amazement. When it came to talking of romance and love, Humaira was not that shy. She giggled. Perfect!
"Oh puhleeze! No one like Aamir Khan!" Omar goaded, and both women turned on him.
"Salman was awesome in Dabang'."
"Oh c'mon, woh, bhi koi picture thi. Have you seen Rang de Basanti'?"
"And Shah Rukh was so good in Chak de India' no?"
Omar nodded, "now there I agree with you. I liked him in My name is Khan' and Swadesh' too."
"Wouldn't it be awesome if all three were in a movie together?"
Zoya was pleased that Humaira was so comfortable with Omar. She listened intently as both of them fantasized about the Khan triumvirate in a Bollywood film.
"Something like Amar, Akbar, Anthony' would be awesome, no?"
"No, too obvious. There's an old film Waqt,' whose remake would fit them perfectly."
"Oh! Dadi keeps talking about that film. It has that famous song right, Ay meri zohra jabeen'?"
Omar started playing the table as a tabla, and they both sang the first two lines of the song together.
Zoya shot a video of them and sent it to Ayaan with the text: "you should join us, we are having such fun. Omar's here too."
Now on to the next stage, she thought.
"Humaira, do you mind coming shopping with me? I have to buy a couple of kurtis. And then we can drop you home."
"Sure!" Humaira was really enjoying herself. She wasn't feeling self-conscious as she would with Ayaan. The relief from unrequited love made her more relaxed. Even with Nikhat and Nuzzhat each time Ayaan's name would creep up, the familiar pain would return. Here there was no pressure to pretend or hide her emotions. Zoya and Omar seemed so open and friendly, and just accepted her for who she was. She didn't realize that she had really missed that.
At the mall, Zoya tried on a few kurtis and asked for Humaira's approval. She found a turquoise blue kurti and held it up against Humaira.
"Ooh, this would look so good on you. You have to try it."
"No! I don't wear these."
"So what! No one's going to see you. Just try, you don't have to buy them."
It didn't take long for Humaira to get into the spirit of things. What's the harm, she thought.
As she went to try it on, Zoya fished a long khaki skirt, and pair of jeans for her to pair it with. She even brought heels and a pair of boots from the shoe department.
When Humaira stepped out in the skirt and kurti with boots, Zoya clapped her hands with glee.
"You look so cute! Omar take a picture of us."
She convinced a shy Humaira to pose like her"head and shoulders thrown back, one hand on the waist and one leg bent at an angle like a model. They pretend-walked on an imaginary ramp, and Omar clicked away like a rabid paparazzo.
Next she had Humaira try on another rust colored kurti with jeans, and they repeated the catwalk and the pictures and videos. Humaira was breathless with laughter and excitement.
Afterwards, Humaira was looking at suits, and Omar was throwing in his two cents. Zoya answered a call from Ayaan.
May be mission accomplished.
"Where are you guys? I thought you'd be at the coffee place."
"Oh we are right next door in the department store. I wanted to buy kurtis and Humaira and Omar are looking at shirts for him."
"What? Why does Humaira need to help him with shirts? Doesn't he know what kind he wears?"
Zoya silently pumped her fist in the air and deliberately ignored him.
"A woman's touch just adds a different flavor to it. They are really hitting it off. We had such fun. I think I'll tell Omar's ammi that Humaira may be a good match for him," she squealed.
Teer nishane pe lagaa! She pumped her fist again.
"What do you think, Raabert? Here, I'll send you some pictures we took." And she sent him the best of Humaira dressed in a skirt and jeans and posing happily.
"Nice no? She is so sweet. I think she would be so perfect for Omar. They make such a cute couple," she gushed endlessly.
"Did Omar take those pictures?"
"Who else? I'm so glad we ran into him. He seems to like her too and can't take his eyes off her."
She could hear him swearing at the other end and suppressed a snort.
"Are you crazy? She's going to be engaged." He was practically shouting.
She could now see him making his way to the store and waved to him.
"Come, I'll show you how cute they look together," and she dragged him to where Omar and Humaira were now bent over the jewelry display. She was holding up earrings next to her face, and he was shaking or nodding his head and saying which one suited her oval face or eyes. He even took her by the shoulders and turned her around to look at the mirror behind her.
Zoya could feel Ayaan hyperventilating next to her.
"So adorable na? I think I'll suggest that Omar drop her home on his bike."
"Humaira! What are you doing here?" Humaira turned around in alarm and nearly misbalanced. Omar grabbed her from the waist and helped her straighten.
Ayaan was apoplectic.
"Aren't you late? Isn't it time to go home?" He spoke more quietly but through gritted teeth.
Humaira looked from him to Zoya nervously. She licked her lips and Zoya heard Ayaan suck in his breath.
"Raabert, chill! Omar can drop her home."
"Why will he drop her home when I can do that?" He growled at her.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I completely forgot. But I didn't know you were going straight home."
"I am now!" He snarled.
She giggled again as she saw Ayaan glare at Omar.
Omar was taking his time in saying bye to Humaira.
"By the way, you looked really cute in those skirt and jeans, Humaira. But I think you look gorgeous in suits. And in a saree you would knock everyone's socks off!" Humaira blushed furiously.
Ayaan was just furious.
"This is too personal. I don't think you should comment on how she looks in what kind of clothes!" He fumed.
"Just saying yaar! I think Indian girls in Indian dresses are a knockout. But I hope I haven't offended you Humaira?" He asked her solicitously.
She shook her head shyly.
"No Omar, thank you for saying that. So many Indian boys these days seem to think that girls in suits and sarees are behenjis."
Ayaan had the grace to look embarrassed.
He looked at Humaira in surprise. He never expected her to be so forthright in front of a stranger.
"So when should we meet again? I know you wanted me to help you buy a new laptop and set it up." He gently held her elbow guiding her out of a crowded aisle.
"I would recommend a Macbook Air but then I'm biased. I can even get you some upgrades and free software."
He looked at Humaira pointedly.
She looked up at him in confusion, and he winked at her tilting his head toward Ayaan. She looked at Zoya for confirmation and saw her wink and grin too.
Oh, so they were here on a mission to make Ayaan jealous. Was it working? Her heart soared as she saw Ayaan frowning thunderously and clenching his fists on his helmet.
She decided to throw caution to the winds. It was now or never.
Eyes twinkling, Humaira clutched Omar's arm and squeezed it with both her hands, "thank you so much Omar! It would really help me. How about tomorrow for lunch? And then you can drop me home afterwards. I would love a bike ride."
She fluttered her lashes at him, "can you teach me how to ride a bike? I would love to try it. Zoya tells me it's such fun."
Zoya blushed and ducked her head remembering her last bike ride.
Omar's bike was seeing way too much action these days!
Ayaan's mouth hung open. What was with this bold and ultra confident Humaira? Was she really finding Omar attractive and actually flirting with him? His Humaira? How come she had never asked him to teach her to ride a bike?
This was too much.
"Ab ghar chalein Humaira? We are getting late."
"Just a second, Ayaan. I wanted to show Omar a gift for his Ammi. And if you are in such a hurry, carry on. I'm sure Omar can drop me, right?" He nodded eagerly, and she dragged her smirking accomplice away.
"Mona! I hate your friend!"
"But why? What happened?" She asked innocently.
"I don't like how he's getting so close to Humaira."
"But Raabert, that's exactly what I was trying to tell you. Aren't they sooo cute together? I have to tell Aapi. I am an awesome matchmaker!" She ran to join Omar and Humaira, singing "match, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a husband, catch me a catch," under her breath.
Ayaan was aghast. What had just happened? His cell rang. Bhaijaan.
"Ayaan, I think we should all meet at the dargah this evening. I have something important to discuss with you and Abbu."
Ayaan was too distracted.
"Bhai, this friend of Zoya's, Omar? He's seriously getting on my nerves. What do you know about him?"
"What? Main kya keh raha hoon, aur tum kya baat kar rahe ho? Be serious for once, will you?"
"No seriously bhaijaan. I don't like him."
Asad sighed. He knew he'd get nowhere till he had heard Ayaan's sob story. "What happened?"
"Get this. Mona darling invited Humaira for coffee this afternoon. And this jackass also turned up, just a bit too conveniently, I think. And he's sticking to her like a leech now."
"Zoya invited Humaira for coffee?" He put two and two together and shook with silent laughter. Last night she had been talking about matchmaking and pyaar ka farishtas, and some such thing. But he had been too intent on the racing pulse in her neck and preoccupied with her swollen lips. Courtesy him! And he knew that Omar was taken, so what was going on?
Okay, so Omar was up to his old tricks again. He was sure Zoya had put him up to it this time. He recalled that night at the restaurant when he had wanted to remove every bone from Omar's body, one agonizing minute at a time.
Thank you Omar!
"So what? Why does it bother you? It may be a blessing in disguise if she starts liking him. You'll be a free man."
"But bhai ... We know nothing about him."
"Zoya's family knows him very well. And he's doing great for himself. Great job, nice place to live. What else do we need?"
He heard Ayaan sigh in frustration. He could imagine him raking his hands through his wild hair.
"I don't know bhaijaan, but I don't like this."
"Ayaan. Focus. I have work to do, but we'll talk tonight. Please let Abbu and Dadi know."
He hung up and called Zoya.
"What are you two doing to Ayaan?"
Song in Title:
Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008) "Khuda Jaane"
Topic started by dixeij
Last replied by -jass-