Well hello there. **waves** I know I have been absconding since long but I had been busy. Thanks for all the patience. Btw, few of you asked how did Aayat's phone have Kabir's number. I did mention that Ana had called Kabir from her phone because her battery had died. Hope this clears. And without further Ado...
87.She Had Held His Hand Right Like This...
By all means they try to hold me secure who have me in this world But it is otherwise with thy love which is greater than theirs, and thou keepest me free.
He gently stroked her hair that teased her soft supple cheek softly and looked down at the dark head that rested on his chest. Her soft breath falling in gentle rhythm warmed his skin even below the tee-shirt and nothing made him felt more blessed than the fact that she was here in his arms. The coffee mugs remained a silent witness of a playful chat between the lovers and giggled softly when she sat on his lap and then fell asleep while talking in the bright afternoon of New York.
"I don't know what I would have done without you." He whispered to the winds around him, his fingers still stroking the hair that flailed on his chest now.
"You would have remained a dimwit without me!" she smiled in her sleep.
His lips curled into a soft smile, "the devil is up, eh?"
She raised her head to him and looked at him with those dark drowsy eyes that made his heart flutter. Before he could come up with a reply, she stretched her neck a little and pressed a chaste kiss on his lips, "and she is after your life Mr. Mehra. Beware."
She giggled and turned away from him. Getting off his lap, she stretched her hands and pulled her messy hairs into a bun. That fulfilling sound of her giggles had him swooning and he stood up, deciding to let her know what his heart desired. Holding one of her arms, he turned her around and pulled her back into his arms.
"Antara Khurana. Where do you think you are going?"
She blinked a couple of times, "Uhh to freshen up maybe? Why do you ask?"
He wrapped his arms around her waist and held her tight, "Just be with me"
She smiled seeing him so and softly ruffled his hair, "what have you been thinking?"
He rested his head on her shoulder and left a long sigh, "About us."
"What about us?"
"I have got this research and I keep shuttling between India and NYC and then you are settled here, sometimes the thought of being away from you chokes me. Life has so much to offer Antara...what have you thought of your life?"
"About my life? As in?"
He raised his head, "how do you see yourself in near future? More precisely where do you want to see you?"
She sat straight trying to think, "Hmmm... near future? I don't know. I have so much to achieve in life Aarush. I have so many things to do..."
He smiled at the way her eyes twinkled when she spoke.
"I have so many places to visit and learn so many things. tell me about you. What do you see in your near future?"
He leaned closer and landed a peck on her shoulder, "I see you. I see us engaged... may be married."
She remained still in time for a moment seeing so much happiness on his face. She had expected everything but this...she wasn't sure.
"Erm... Aarush?" she distanced herself a bit and stood up, suddenly feeling vulnerable.
"Yes?" he stood up, not liking this distance a bit.
"Don't you think it's too early?" scepticism was so visible in her voice.
"Don't you want to be with me?" the twinkle in his eyes vanished.
She shrugged, "I do wanna be with you Aarush. But this soon... I haven't even thought that far."
Premchand will always remain a turtle-head.
He smiled to himself and held her by her shoulders gently, "I am not saying to do it now Ana. But I do want to settle down in few years down the lane and I want you to be with me."
"But..." fear of something unknown lurked around the gates of her heart, rattling it, demanding the gates to be opened, "but what if I want more time? What if I am not ready? What if I am at the threshold of achieving something? Will you be okay with my priority? Marriage is a huge commitment... too much of it!!!"
His hands dropped to the sides and he took two steps back. The gates of her heart slowly creaked open. Fear smiled victoriously.
"Too much of it? What do you mean by that? Are we fooling around here Ms. Khurana?"
"Aarush No. We aren't. But I have so many dreams I want to achieve..."
"Do it by being by my side then." He tried to convince.
"it is not that easy. I will have more commitments then. I don't want to regret later that I could have done something but then I couldn't because I got married."
She watched his fingers clench into fists by his sides and she gulped down hard. Fear sneaked in and opened the door of despair. Her dreams, she felt, had started to develop cracks.
"Regret you say? Being with me is a regret to you is it?"
"You are taking it all wrong Aarush."
"then explain what is right. Didn't you say it yourself that you would regret your life if you commit yourself?"
"I did but that is not..."
"You are being selfish."
Anger was unlocked.
"What do you mean selfish? I just want some time. That's all. Can't you give me that much?"
"What is wrong in doing it together? But no. You have your stupid dreams on the way"
"Stupid dreams? My dreams are stupid now? Are we going to fight over this?" she seethed in anger.
"probably yes. I want to be with you. You want to be with me. That is going to happen some day then why not sooner than later?"
"Why don't you understand..."
Her phone buzzed and she watched him throw the vase to the floor in rage. It broke into thousands of parts and her eyes burned with angry tears.
When he turned back, he saw her leaving. Teary eyed that she was, he couldn't have let her go this way. He rushed to her and called out lovingly, "Ana...listen to me."
But she heard none. She took her keys and left. Just like that.
Without glancing back.
Without a word...
She was gone!!!
'She couldn't gulp down her breakfast. Something was just not right. Maan never shut himself so and she knew him better than that. She had called Ana a few times and then back at the estates but none was available. She watched her bowl of cereal and then at Pooja who was busy playing with her baby. London was suddenly so alien to her. She rushed to her room and checked all her documents. Her flight tickets were ready. Her transfer was approved. Her paperwork was done. All she had to do was wait for the weekend and just fly back to where she had left her heart.
She paced up and down the room and tried to call Kabir one more time.
Kanha, please let him pick up the call. I don't feel very good about it. Please.
She shot a quick prayer to her Kanha an pressed the phone to her ears.
It took Kabir eons to receive the phone. And just when she was about to disconnect, she heard a low and frail voice so familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.
"Mi bella? Uhh ho...how are you?"
He struggled to speak. She could understand that much.
"Is everything okay there? Why weren't you guys picking up the call? Where is Maan? What happened?" she could feel the panic rising in her own throat.
"Erm... Geet... dad..." he struggled to speak.
"What happened?" the anxiety churned her stomach.
"Dad had an accident."
"Wh...what? How?" she felt her head spinning.
"Apparently he was climbing down the stairs when he had a seizure. He hasn't come back to his senses yet..."
A chill ran down her spine as goose pimples erupted on her skin. Flashes of the eldest Khurana flashed in front of her eyes...how playful that man was and how loving.
"an...and where is Maan?" she finally asked when she was back to her senses.
"He is here, with us."
"Can I talk to him?"
"I doubt. He hadn't moved from his place from last night and he doesn't speak much either."
"What do the doctors say?"
"Abnormal levels of sodium and glucose in blood. The fall from the stairs has had him badly."
She finished the call and sat on the bed hiding her face between her palms. She was worried about the family. She was worried about everyone. But what worried her the most wasn't the accident or the victim but the man who would be in shambles right now.
"Maan..." she called out to him and felt a drop of tear roll down her eyes.
A soft knock on the door startled her.
"hey, everything okay? I came to check on you but you look like a mess!!!"
And the next moment she was in his arms, sobbing, hoping that her "home" remained safe back there.
It was a long silent moment since he sat by the old gramophone in his grandmother's room. He hadn't wanted to come back but when everyone forced him to, he had conceded half-heartedly. They had been right though. He had looked a mess. A quick bath made him feel better physically. Mentally, he remained exhausted. Dadima's room looked like the respite he was seeking.
"Maan?..." he heard someone calling out to him.
"Maan. What happened child?"
He looked up only to find his beloved grandmother standing right in front of him with a smile that always made him forget all his troubles.
"Dadima?" he couldn't believe his eyes.
She looked exactly the same like she had always been. Strong. With those kind eyes. And a sweet smile. He stood up and rushed to her. Hugging her tightly, he did what he had always wanted to. He cried. And he cried like a baby.
"Dadima aap kahan chali gayi thi? I missed you so much."
Her warm but wrinkled hands wrapped around him and softly caressed his back like she always did back when he was a child.
"I was right here. Couldn't you see me?"
He sniffed and trembled, trying not to cry, "I am so scared. I am so scared..."
"it's okay to feel scared Maan. And it's okay to cry too."
"what if something happens..."
"Nothing will happen. And if it does, you have to accept it child."
Faint noise of something falling outside made him snap out of his thoughts.
"Dadima?" he called out and looked around.
There was nothing but an eerie silence that shrouded her room now. She wasn't here. It had all been in his head all this while.
Sometimes, all you needed was an empty room and a silent hour.
He hid face between his hands and sobbed.
And he sobbed like a baby. Strong was what he was to the world that saw Maan Khurana. Who cried now was a little child trapped inside a body that bore the burden of his own name.
If only it was that easy to be vulnerable in front of the world...
She looked at Raj who dropped her in front of the hospital and hugged him tightly.
"You should have stayed with Pooja. She is alone with the baby."
"hey hey...it's fine. She has everyone in the family. Don't you worry. Just go. I will take care of everything here. Have you spoken to the landlord here?"
"I will get things ready. Give me a call if you need anything."
She watched the taxi pull out of the hospital gates and recalled everything that happened in the past 24 hours. She had her flight tickets booked for the weekend. But she knew she wouldn't be able to stay back. She cancelled her tickets and booked the next immediate one. She had been surprised when Raj had insisted to accompany her. She had refused but he tagged along anyhow. And she couldn't have been more grateful!!!
She quickly inquired with the receptionist and rushed towards her family. She stopped when she saw him stand alone, leaning against the wall, lost in his thoughts. His shoulders had hunched and his head remained down in dejection.
She hurried towards him, "Maan..."
Her voice surprised him. Was she here or was he imagining her like the last night he had imagined dadima?
Her voice came close and her footsteps closer. Surprised, he turned back and the next moment, she pulled him into her arms.
"Geet?" the surprise in his voice was so visible as his arms went around her.
"I am sorry I was late."
He didn't say anything but she felt him bury his head into her hair as his hold around her waist tightened. He seemed so vulnerable. She felt it...similar to what he had been when he had lost dadima.
She knew what he felt now and she just held him. None spoke. He didn't ask her why she was here so suddenly or how did she manage. She didn't ask him anything either. All she did was just hold him...her crumbling fortress!
His breathing was quick and shallow for all the restless energy swirled around his body. She softly caressed his hair and then his cheek.
"where are others?"
He broke apart from her after a long moment and gently pushed that strand of hair behind her ear.
"Kabir had taken them home. They had been here all night long."
"Have you been home? Do you want to go home and rest a bit?"
"No." came his immediate reply. Home haunted him.
"Have you eaten anything?"
When he didn't reply, she gently took her by his hand and dragged him out of the hospital. He didn't resist. He just kept watching her as she led.
The evening was pleasant, slowly giving way to nightfall. The sun was already gone and a gentle breeze endured. He walked behind her, memories of the same hitting him one by one. That time, dadima was in hospital. She had held his hand right like this and had dragged him out to the streets. She didn't like hospital food. She bought a sandwich and a coffee for him and a pretzel for herself...
Just like the last time.
He remembered. As he slowly munched on his sandwich, he realized how hungry he had been all this while. In fact, he felt a lot better now that he had some energy. She didn't say a word. Once done, she just held his hand and walked towards the hospital. As they walked toward the room, they could see Ana and Kabir waiting at the distance.
He watched her smile a bit and walked ahead. he held her back, holding her hand tightly. She halted and turned back with questioning eyes.
He leaned closer and pressed a long grateful kiss on her forehead before letting her go. His eyes said what his mouth couldn't. she smiled a bit assuring him and hopped towards her friends who were indeed surprised by her sudden visit.
It took another 30 hours for dad to gain his senses and she remained around, talking to Ana, sometimes holding his hands, talking about London and baby and what they'd do when everything was fine. She spoke with Avantika and took her home, fed her and made her sleep. And when the doctors gave the green signal to discharge, she sat with Ana and Kabir telling stories while he finished the formalities right beside him.
"...And I took a transfer here. Permanently."
He heard Ana squeal and Kabir hi-five with her as they asked her details of her whereabouts. His hand worked on the papers while his ears remained with her as she narrated how Raj helped her with a new apartment and how she had wanted to surprise them over the weekend.
"Geet... where is your new apartment?" Ana asked, excited and happy after a long time.
As she gave directions to her new home, she felt his gaze right on her. She looked up. He was done with the papers and she kept speaking, not looking away from him.
"Why did you rent another apartment Mi Bella? You can stay with us right?"
She broke their eye contact and smiled at her friends, "it is close to work. easy for me to commute."
A long relaxing bath was what she needed the most. Raj had left in the morning and everything was fine at the estates. So, she had come back to her apartment finally and it felt good. It was a little bigger than her previous one and somehow it made her feel proud of herself. She had rented this on her own money.
Her own achievement!!!
She wiped her hair and opened the window to let some air in. she looked around and realized she'd have to arrange a lot of stuffs around. Her fridge was empty!!! She had been at the estates since the day she had arrived and now that she was settling down, she realized a lot had to be needed. She quickly dressed up in jeans and a cotton kurti, let her wet hair down and went to get her purse when the doorbell chimed.
"Must be Ana or Kabir." She smiled and shook her head.
Another round of chimes was followed by a loud bang on the door.
She rolled her eyes and opened the door only to find him at her doorstep.
One dark brow went up in amusement and her eyes twinkled in joy. She stepped aside to let him in, still reeling in the surprise. He came inside and she closed the door behind.
"how did you know..."
She stopped. Ohh well, who was she asking? He knew everything about her, literally.
"how is uncle..."
She couldn't even complete her words for his lips came crashing down at her.
"Ummm...Umm..." she tried to get a grip on herself but he held her tight in his arms and kissed her like never before.
So much restless energy in him, she realized now as she slowly yielded to the kiss and wrapped her arms around his shoulder.
He must have been so alone...
He broke apart after a long moment and rested his forehead against hers, breathing heavily.
"Is it a dream?" he asked.
She opened her eyes and looked into his for a brief moment before leaning closer and placing a kiss on his cheek.
"does it feel like it?"
"I don't know. I just don't want this to end Geet."
She breathed in sharply and pulled him into her embrace, "It is no dream. I am here. Finally."
Countless number of times he had held from falling apart. It felt so different to hold him so... for he had bestowed that authority over her. She caressed his hair and let him be. It was after a long moment that he pressed a kiss on her neck and looked up, "were you going somewhere?"
"Umm. Needed to do some grocery. Are you hungry? We can order something."
He thought for a while and then smiled softly, "lets get you settled first little storm."
"Huhh?" she raised a brow.
"Come on. Do you have your list ready?"
"Uhh..yeah. Maan... seriously?"
"what?" he picked up the keys that he had thrown on the side table.
That was an awesome welcome back update! Guess a relationship put to the test, Ana and Arush really got hot headed, but Ana's choice of words really hurt Arush. Hopefully Geet can help her. Glad Senior Khurana is ok, and just that instinct that Geet had to there was supportive to Maan :) Thanks you!