"Beendini, did you wake up your groom? He has to get ready too. Why don't you take a cup of tea too?" Mohini prompted gleefully. Paro frowned. She didn't want to see him yet. She didn't even want to think of him and what he said last night. He was so earnest when he told her to save them both by stopping this farce. One signature was all he wanted. She shook her head in an attempt to rid the idea. She offered a cup to Sunheri who had brought more flowers. "Maasa, how can she go? She has to get make herself pretty for the Haldi function. I'll go," she offered. Her mother rejected the idea. Her nephew was not a morning person and he hated to be told what to do. She will be torn to bits. "I'm not one of those old fashioned women who feel the bride and groom should be kept apart. In fact I don't even mind her living with us before marriage. But since I have accepted you as part of the household, you must help out during the functions. So go Parvati beendini. Go wake him up. Besides, he will want to admire his handiwork," she instructed. Maithili observed that the mehendi which Rudra bhaisa had applied had set deeply. He must be crazy about her. Sunheri giggled. "Maithili, are you going to serve the guests Haldi or Sherbet?" Mohini asked. Her daughter-in-law was confused. "I'm asking because, you have been dissolving it from that time," she scolded. Maithili replied that it was done and hurried off to attend to some other chores. Paro too hurried along, she didn't want to be told twice.
Rudra opened the door as soon as he heard a gentle knock. He smiled seeing the damsel in white and blue ghagra choli. He had been hoping she would give in after their discussion the previous night. He took the tea tray from her gently and placed it on the nearest table. He led her to the diwan and observed the palm of her hand. "It's healing well. By tomorrow, it will be good as new," he said. She tried to pull it out of his grasp, "I have to go get ready for the Haldi ceremony." His grasp tightened on her visit. She wasn't backing out. By tomorrow they will be married.
"What's the hurry? You don't to show the mehendi, I applied last night. Look how dark it has turned," he asked as he caressed her wrist with the gentlest of touches. She relaxed instantly. This wasn't the Jallad she loathed. This was Rudra, the one who made her feel safe. If Bholenath has decided that she spends her life with this man. She would accept his will. As he sipped his tea, he observed her eyes glance across the room before looking down at her own hands. She looked so helpless as if she was be driven by Fate's hands. He was a little disappointed. He missed the feisty woman who challenged him in this room. When he placed the empty cup back, he noticed that she had brought his white kurta along. "The buttons had come off so I fixed it for you," she admitted. He looked deep into her doe eyes and was annoyed to see see the genuine concern. So she was ready to play his wife was she? Well, she may accept what Fate brings their way. He could still fight it. He didn't want to get married. Not to her. Not to anyone. He just wanted her compliance so that his mission doesn't fail.
He led her slowly to the bed. She stopped a foot away curious to what he was to up to. "From tomorrow this will be your room too," he said holding her by the waist. He marveled at how soft and satiny smooth her skin was. She slipped away and walked up to the window facing the garden. "You like the view. I like the gentle light that streams in," he said coming up behind her placing his hands on both her sides. "That's the first thing I notice when I wake up. The cool desert breeze will get warmer and the sunbeams filter in. A mirror and dressing table has been ordered for you. Have it placed right here next to the bed. Henceforth your face will be the first think I see when I wake up as you get ready for the day," he pointing to a spot in the room. Paro turned her head to see where bringing her ear close to his lips. He whispered, "You will sit here and brush your long hair. But don't braid it. I don't like that hairstyle. They should be free like your spirit. Not tied up." The floral scent of her tresses was distracting, creating images of her in his bed. His fingers trailed from her delicate shoulders down her shapely arms till they entwined with hers. "Then you'll adorn yourself with bangles. I'll get you new bangles every day, of every color and texture," he said observing the contrast of their skin together. Her milky-white, delicate fingers with his dusky, strong ones. "Every day?" she asked innocently. He scoffed thinking how she probably dreamed of a gentle husband who pampered her as she was growing up. Being gentle was a challenge to him. "Bangles easily get broken, don't they?" he asked rhetorically. She frowned remembering how the red bangles he brought were crushed under his feet before the night was over. She turned away looking at the bed. "The bed shouldn't be a problem. It's perfect. Unless you have a problem with those sheets. You can pick different ones. Change the curtains too, if that would make you happy. And we'll throw out Sumer's exercise machine and get a sewing machine in there. I don't want him coming here when you're alone. I'd rather have you making dupattas for Sunheri. I'll get a chest of drawers to keep your threads, needles, beads, threads and whatever else you need", he suggested.
It took some time for to move past the bed. She was aware that married people share the bed. But she had never applied to herself. Nervousness coursed through her body. She was suddenly aware of the man holding her. Jallad! He was probably doing this purposely. To make her uncomfortable. He turned around with a jerk. She crashed into his chest. He held her in place, "I asked you a question?" She sensed the annoyance in his tone. "Do you need anything else?" he repeated the question, slowly this time. She saw genuine concern in his eyes in place of the usual anger. "You have seriously thought about this haven't you?" she asked. He frowned that wasn't an answer. "You want to make sure that I am safe and comfortable here as your wife," she said.
He let her go swiftly and stepped aside. He had gotten carried away as he held her. She was still his beautiful enemy. "Don't talk rubbish. There is no place for women in my life. The last woman who..." he stopped. He didn't want to talk about her. She didn't deserve recall. Not now. Not ever. "Was cruel. I know. You placed her above all else and she didn't value you," Paro read the unspoken words in his eyes. "Not all women are like that, Rudra. Look at Jeeja, she is being taunted everyday but still she goes about her work because she loves Samrat bhaisa. I'm sure Kakisa has complaints about Kakosa, still she is by his side. She still cares about him," she continued. He almost laughed the idea of his aunt's concern for his uncle. "Your mother was a bad apple. She didn't appreciate you and Bapusa," she continued. He clenched his fist trying to control his anger. She meant well. He knew that. But he couldn't bear her sympathy. His heart wasn't prepared to accept it without question. "Someday, you will meet someone who will see the best in you and admire you. Someone who will see the hurt and want to heal you. Someone who will see past the anger and love you still. That's the kind of girl you should marry," she said knowing well how her words were infuriating him. "Go, Paro. Get out of here," he said turning away.
Paro had expected a worse reaction. She placed the empty cup in the tray and turned to leave. She stopped by the door "You are a good man, Rudra. You deserve to be happy. You shouldn't compromise with your future with a girl whom you don't want to marry." Unbridled images of Paro in his life. Sitting behind him in his jeep. Placing his uniform in his cupboard. No their cupboard. Her ghagras next to his clothes. His watch next to her jewel box. His arms holding her close as she peacefully slept on his chest. He couldn't imagine sharing his life with anyone else. "Then why are doing this?" he snapped. He couldn't surrender their future into Fate's hands. She deserved someone who would dote on her not a stone hearted man like him. "You are doing what you think is right. What BSD trained you to do? But that doesn't mean it is right. Isn't it possible that you are mistaken? Thakursa is a good man too. He has always taken care of us. Why would he betray our trust for selling out the country?" she asked. He grabbed her by the wrist, "So you don't believe me? You think we, the BSD are monsters, don't you? You have been in my custody for days. Have I ever hurt you?" He released her hand abruptly realising that his grasp was too strong. He was right. Aman bhaisa and Kakosa were such gentlemen. And he wasn't as big a monster as he pretended to be. That's why if Bholenath guides her into his life as a partner she will be fine. Even if the Jallad in him, roars, Rudra will be her Rakshak always. "I know you will never hurt me. I know you will always take care of me. But I have no reason to believe you on this one thing. Just like your seniors need proof of Thakursa's guilt. I do too," she said. She saw hurt fleet across his features before it was masked by anger. He wanted her unquestioning faith.
He slammed the door as soon as she left. He wanted to bore a hole in her head and draw her faith on Tejawat like poison from a wound. She shouldn't ask for proof. She would be heart broken when she realises the weight of it. Why couldn't she just accept it when he said it? Why couldn't his just remember what happened in the desert? Why did she not realise that her life will end if Tejawat gets hold of her? Her marriage was mistake. One that cost that traitor everything. She was liability to Tejawat. But to him... He ran his fingers through his mane in frustration. He couldn't allow his mind to go there. He shouldn't. She was just a witness.
An hour later, Paro stood
waiting for the ceremony to start. She realised when he walked in. This was not
in her hands anymore. Bholenath will take care of her. She heard Sunheri tease
him about the curtain to make sure he doesn't look at her. She smiled. He was
scowling. She turned to see what was troubling him. She saw his kurta stuck on
the nail. She remembered what happened to the last kurta stuck on the nail.
"Careful," she said raising her hand to help. He might become her husband
tomorrow, the one who shared Bholenath's name.
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