That was well written update, thought seemed like a shorter one than your usual ones.
Lol Zoya and Adi pretending to be a married couple in a place like that is kinda amusing. Yeh dono kahi bhi jaaye, ek doosre se kabhi alag ho nahi sakte hai xD
Omigod omigod omigod!!!!
Chapter 8 - Dinner and More (Feb 14)
Aditya dipped a piece of warm bread in the stew and munched it. Food, real food was so much better than junk. He had freshened up and come down for lunch. Frank and Ivy were already at the table. Zoya was getting ready in the room at the moment and would join him shortly in the dining table.
His mood was lighter, now. Zoya, currently was annoyed with him, but that was much better than her giving him the silent treatment. At least she was talking to him now.
He chuckled inwardly at what had happened in the bathroom sometime ago. When he had raised his hand to get his clothes, she thought he was going to touch her face or something along those lines. Her expression was etched in his mind- the widening of her brown eyes, the way her brows knitted together and her lips quavered ever so slightly-
Aditya ceased his train of thoughts.
What are you doing? A small voice inside his head wondered. Why are you thinking about her?
He shook his head, and focused on the meal in front of him. She would be in Dublin by tonight and he in Limerick. After today, they might never even meet and she had a boyfriend and-
He put his inner ramblings to a pause. Why was he stating those reasons to himself? It didn't even matter because there was nothing to think about. Right?
A few moments later, Zoya joined him for lunch. She was wearing a blue dress with floral prints and had let her hair down.
"So about you car trouble," Frank spoke in between bites, "It's stuck quite deep and we'll next extra hands. I will gather some people tomorrow. We should be able to get it out of the muck."
"Tomorrow?" Zoya and Aditya questioned in unison.
"Can't something be done today?" Zoya prodded.
Frank shook his head, "Small town," he answered, as if that was supposed to be an explanation in itself. On seeing Zoya's confused face, he added, "People are laid back here, there's no rush. Moreover it's Friday. No one's gonna spend Friday evening literally getting their hands dirty."
Aditya noticed Zoya's face had fallen at this.
"It's alright, dear," Ivy too had noticed Zoya, "You'll reach Limerick in no time tomorrow. Besides we have a small dinner tonight... you know... for Valentine's Day."
Zoya smiled and nodded, though Aditya could tell she was doing it begrudgingly.
"A dinner?" Aditya repeated, looking at Ivy, "If you don't mind, I would like to make something. You guys have been really helpful to us."
He saw Zoya tilt her head toward him, in what he assumed to be surprise. Ivy's face broke out in her usual, signature grin, "Oh sure dear. We'd love it. But there is another couple staying with us. Will that be okay?"
"The more the merrier," he replied, adding, "Earlier I saw a vegetable patch outside. Would it be okay if I pick something fresh?"
That made Ivy even happier, "What ever you need."
Later that afternoon, Zoya brewed a cup of tea for herself and sat on a wooden bench in the small garden at the back of the cottage. Aditya was working in the vegetable patch, digging around grown vegetables and observing them intently. He had rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt and was completely immersed in the job.
Zoya studied him from afar before approaching him.
"What are you doing?" she asked, hovering over him. He was hunched down over a plant.
He looked up, squinting his eyes, "Choosing vegetables" he said pulling up one carrot and dusting it, to get rid of the dirt. "I am planning to stir-fry some chicken for dinner, chop up these-."
Zoya cut him in, "No, I meant what are you doing? As in why are you so relaxed about being here? Don't you have work to attend to in Limerick?"
He dusted his hands together and stood up, "There's nothing we can do today. Frank will get help tomorrow, the car will be out and within a couple of hours, we'll reach Limerick. So just trying to make the best of it tonight."
"That... sounds reasonable," she agreed, then added. "You can cook?"
He nodded, "Learnt how to. I had to stay away from home, for long periods."
"Had to?" she picked up on it.
"Yeah," he muttered, "work."
There was something not sincere in his reply but she didn't press forward, sensing that it wasn't something he was comfortable talking about.
"So," she tried to dissipate the silence, "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Can you debone a chicken?" he asked, lifting the basket where he had collected the fresh produce and heading toward the kitchen.
Zoya followed his quick strides into the kitchen. He placed the basket on a slab and washed his hands under running tap water.
"No, I can't," Zoya replied, looking around the spacious kitchen. It was bigger than their bedroom and had many windows.
"Okay," he replied, wiping his hands on a kitchen towel. Ivy had given them full control of the kitchen without any interference. "What can you do?"
"Nothing much, I am afraid," she shrugged her shoulders, "I don't really now how to cook."
"Hmm," he responded with that sound.
"You can go ahead and say it," she scoffed, "I can't drive, I can't cook, I am running after my boyfriend like an idiot. Go on say it."
"I wasn't going to make any snarky comment," he stated.
"Really?" she quirked an eyebrow. "That's a surprise."
"A good one, I hope," he commented, raising his eyes to look at her.
There was something different about they way he was talking to her, the way he was looking at her. She couldn't put her finger on what exactly it was but there was something distinct.
She brushed aside the feeling and picked up an onion, "I can chop vegetables though."
Aditya gestured her to go ahead. She picked a knife and a chopping board, diving into the work. There was a change, a subtle change in his mannerisms. The fact that she couldn't tell what it was, perturbed her for some reason.
There were 3 couples for Ivy's small Valentine Day dinner party. Frank and Ivy, the host, Aditya and Zoya, the imposter couple and Stefan and Kate, who were on a month long vacation. They were in their 40s, loved to travel and were regaling the small group with their tales.
Since Aditya had taken charge of dinner, Ivy used her her free time to decorate the house with fresh cut flowers, and candles. It smelled sweet.
Aditya's effort had paid off and the group loved the dish that he made. Once they were done with dinner, Frank opened a bottle of a Scotch whisky, one of many from his collection.
He topped off the glasses and took his seat next to Ivy. From stories of Stefan and Kate's adventure, the talks shifted to how the couple met.
"I was on a backpacking trip in Hungary," Stefan replied, "It was 20 years back and she," he wrapped his arm around his wife and pulled her into a close sideway hug, "was on a trek, alone. She was lost and asking for directions. And I being the gentleman," this earned him a laugh from Kate who quipped, "Ah the gentleman! Helping the damsel."
Stefan went on telling their story, making it sound exciting, like an adventure with inputs from Kate. When he was done, he pulled his wife close and kissed her, with the same passion with which he talked about his adventures.
Zoya shifted uncomfortably in her seat and saw Aditya gulp down his drink, at the display of affection in that fervor by the Italian couple.
Next, Frank and Ivy told their story. Next door neighbors since childhood; they had been friends since they were toddlers. The only time in their long life when they were separated was for 4 years when they were in college. It was a sweet story and earned them an 'aww' from Kate and Zoya, as Frank kissed Ivy on her lips.
Frank-Ivy and Stefan-Kate turned their attention the youngest couple on the table. It took a few moments for Zoya to comprehend that it was their turn.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "yes, our story." She gave a laugh which he hoped wouldn't seem nervous to the group.
Zoya turned to face Aditya and bit her lower lip, "Ummm... yeah, we met a year back." They hadn't created a fake-backstory because she didn't think they would need one. At the moment she hoped Aditya could improvise.
"On a flight," Aditya added. "Her seat was adjacent to mine."
"I have a terrible fear of flying," Zoya continued unsurely, "and... Aditya helped me through it. Even with the oxygen mask when the flight hit hard turbulence. He was sweet and kind and considerate."
Zoya saw Aditya's lips twitch and she knew he was trying hard not to laugh. In their first meeting, he had been the opposite of what she had described- he was surly and rude but later on he did help her, so her story wasn't entirely fake.
"And she," Aditya spoke, "...was beautiful."
The way he said it, made something stir inside her.
He went on, "We were stuck together for some days after that, flight was diverted, we had to make our way to another city... and somewhere between all that chaos, something had changed in me," Aditya was now looking only at her. "I had started to feel something new, something inexplicable..."
What was he doing? Was what he talking about? Zoya wondered. He was mixing fiction with reality, like she had done but the way he was describing- it didn't feel like fiction, not any more.
Zoya cleared her throat and broke eye contact with him, "By the end of the journey we were... you know... in love. We got married some months back," she addressed the other couples. "That's it."
She took a big sip of whiskey from her glass and downed the bitter liquid in one go. Okay, it was over, she calmed herself down. Now they can get back to discussing Stefan and Kate's trip to Brazil or some exotic location.
"That not it," Ivy giggled like a teen, "You guys didn't kiss."
Zoya almost choked on her drink, "Erm... what?"
"You end your story with a kiss, we all did," Ivy arched an eyebrow playfully. "It's Valentine's day after all."
Zoya clenched her fist, not daring to look at Aditya. Her face must have reddened by now, at Ivy's statement. All around the table, 4 pairs of eyes looked at them, waiting for them to properly finish their story. It was natural for them, nothing unusual about kissing your spouse.
If they didn't go through with such a simple task their drama would be over, they'd be back to walking in the mud with rain dripping on them and sleeping in the car, all drenched. And after the lies that they have spun, Frank and Ivy wouldn't be eager to assist them with the car situation. No, it was too much trouble for just one kiss.
"Come on," Ivy coaxed them again, "You are among friends."
Like that was supposed to help, Zoya grumbled internally. She turned sideway to Aditya who was transfixed on his seat. His right hand had gripped the glass tightly. He slowly swiveled his face in her direction.
She came close to him and whispered in his ear, "Lets just get this over with."
Her voice, barely a whisper, in his ear, made Aditya's stomach flutter.
"Let's just get this over with," she had said.
Aditya considered her words. She wanted to get done with the 'act.' It was definitely better than the consequences that they would face if they refused and the truth came out. Zoya must have reflected on the same and hence her conclusion.
Her palm pressed the top of his hand and brought him out of his thoughts. She furrowed her eyebrows just slightly, wondering what he was thinking.
"Come on man," came Frank's thick voice, "kiss your wife." He banged his hand on the table as a sign of encouragement. Clearly the whiskey was making him tipsy.
Aditya let out a small breath as his eyes flickered from her brown ones to her lips. No, he reminded himself, it was an act. It was not real...
Without another thought, he closed the distance between them and placed his lips on her. She gasped, at the sudden but expected contact. He closed his eyes, not thinking about the people staring at them, not thinking about the fact that he might never get to see her again. His senses only registered the feeling of her warm, soft lips against his.
The kiss lasted for a couple of seconds before he pulled away. He opened his eyes, to see Zoya doing the same. She exhaled slowly through her mouth, and took a swig of her drink.
Aditya's heart beat against his ribcage with a ferocity that he hadn't experienced, maybe in a long time, maybe ever. He wasn't sure if this was only an 'act' now or if he wanted something more...
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