I've been silent reader of your story for quite some time and I must confess that I simply love your story. Hope you post next part soon.
You capture each emotion and attention so blissfully it's amazing! Always intrigued and waiting for the next part! You're an amazing writer and this story has been amazing thus far
Chapter 17 - A Red Dress (Feb 22)
The next morning Zoya dreaded making the call she had been putting off for days now- calling her family and telling them the truth. They didn't even know that she was in India. She had been so caught up ever since the visit at Mahi's Dublin house that she hardly had the time or energy or calmness to call her family.
She decided to slightly alter the truth- about why they broke-up. If her family especially her father found out, he would destroy Yash. And as satisfying as it may be, she didn't want anyone else fighting her battles. Not anymore.
With shaky fingers, she dialed her father's cellphone. The call was received after 2 rings. She took a deep breath, "Hi Abbu."
The call with her family went better than expected. They were confused first and then angry that she didn't inform them about coming back to India. Worry quickly replaced anger when she told them of her break-up. On being asked the reason, she said she didn't want to talk about it, only that Yash and her were not compatible. Her family respected her privacy and let the topic go.
Wasim and Roshana, as expected, told her that they were coming to Mumbai the next day. Explaining why and how she landed up in Mumbai was tricky. She didn't know how to factor that in without telling about Yash's cheating.
Again, banking on her parents' agreement on not pushing her to reveal, she said that she was with a friend who had helped her, referring to Aditya. Her parents were taken aback because Zoya hardly ever spoke to anyone outside the family. Yet, at the end, all they cared about was that she was fine.
She had skipped so many parts of her break-up story that it felt like a puzzle to her family. As per them, she went to Dublin with Yash, stayed there for few days, found out that due to some reason they were not compatible, met a friend in Dublin and came to India with his help. It was too contrived but they reluctantly agreed. Her parents kept asking her if Yash had hurt her, mentally or physically. She answered each of their queries as honestly as she could.
She could now understand why Aditya, even after 2 years, had not told anyone the real reason about why he left Pooja. A part of him, she assumed just like her, may have been angry with himself for not being able to gauge the true feelings of someone they were in love with. Another part, wanted to keep the pain to themselves- for fear of not burdening anyone else with it.
But she had Aditya to help. He, on the other hand, was alone.
She went down to the drawing room to let Aditya know that her parents were coming tomorrow. She found Anjana with Aditya. He seemed relieved when she let him know that now her family was in the loop.
"Give me your parents flight details and I will send the chauffeur to pick them up from the airport tomorrow," Anjana suggested.
"I don't think that would be necessary," Zoya politely declined, "You all have done so much for me. I wouldn't want to impose any more."
"It's not an imposition," Anjana smiled, "I am just glad I got to meet Adi's-" she paused for a second, giving Aditya a sideway glance, "... friend. Adi's friend."
Zoya noticed Aditya slightly shaking his head at his mother at the mention of "friend." Something was going on between them regarding her.
"What are your plans for the day?" Anjana inquired.
Zoya shrugged her shoulder, "Nothing."
"In that case you should come to this charity ball my friend and I are organizing tonight, "Anjana offered. "The proceeds will be given to an NGO. You should come along."
"A ball?" Zoya asked. That sounded too fancy. "I am afraid I don't have the proper attire to attend any gala." She had only casuals and woolens with her.
Anjana waved her hand, "That's not a problem. I will take you to a designer friend of mine. She'll whip something up for you. Will you come then?" She then turned to face Aditya, "Adi is coming too."
"I am? "Aditya scrunched his face in confusion.
"Yes," Anjana asserted, "Harsh has backed out at the last minute and Arjun has some meeting. You have to accompany me. I am one of the co-hosts after all."
"All right," he muttered without resisting.
Anjana faced Zoya, "So, will you?"
Zoya looked at Aditya who said, "It's okay if you don't want to-."
"I would like to," Zoya interrupted him. She had been holed up in the house for so long that she needed some change of scenery. She had never been to a ball and some part of her wanted to see what it felt like.
"Lets get to the designer then, to pick up your dress," Anjana suggested.
"Sure," Zoya replied, "I'll just change and come." She turned on her heels and exited the drawing room. She had climbed the stairs to the guest room on the first floor, when she realized she had forgotten her phone in the drawing room. Turning around, she headed downstairs.
She was in the corridor, walking toward the drawing room when she heard Aditya say, "Mom! Zoya is just a friend."
Zoya stopped in her tracks when she heard her name. And again, like a reflex, as she had on the day Anjana and Harsh were talking about her, she hid behind the wall separating the corridor from the drawing room.
"Just a friend. Right," she heard Anjana playfully tease Aditya.
He groaned, "You and Arjun have some delusional ideas in your head. I told him and I am telling you- she is a friend. That's it."
"So you don't like her?" his mother questioned.
Zoya's heart suddenly beat harder. Anjana and even Arjun, thought that Aditya liked her? As in not only platonically.
No, that wasn't possible... Was it?
She waited for Aditya to answer- to deny his mother's suggestion.
He paused for a long time, her heartbeat increased with each passing second. "I am not talking to you about this," he said finally, to which his mother laughed.
He didn't deny it. Did that mean... he liked her?
Zoya exhaled slowly, pressing the back of her head on the concrete of the wall. She had to stop eavesdropping on the Hoodas' conversations.
For Zoya the next few hours passed in a daze. She had selected a dress from the designer with Anjana during the afternoon. By evening Anjana had professionals do their make-up. After a couple hours of getting her makeup and hair done, Zoya was ready to leave.
She looked at her reflection in the mirror. She had bought a red halter neck dress, which hugged her petite frame, accentuating her curves. She had her hair pulled up in a messy bun, with strands of hair falling on the sides of her face. Anjana had given her pearl earrings and a pearl pendant. She had paired up her gown with cream-colored heels
"You look pretty," Anjana complimented her.
"Thanks," Zoya replied, feeling different. She had never decked up so much. She wore dresses to parties back home (which Noor made her attend compulsorily) but she had never dressed up for one.
"Umm... You look beautiful too," she returned Anjana's compliment. Anjana did look beautiful. She was dressed in a sheer crimson colored saree and had adorned her neck and wrists with diamonds.
As Anjana put final touches on her make-up, Zoya made her way downstairs. She was descending the stairs when she saw Aditya, fidgeting with the lapel of his jacket, at the bottom of the stair well. He was dressed in a black tuxedo with a white shirt and a bow tie. He had his hair slicked back but a couple of strands had loosened and were falling on his forehead.
The click of her hell on the wooden staircase made him turn his head up in her direction. His hands hovered mid air near his lapel as he paused when he glanced at her. His mouth opened slightly before he gulped and pressed his lips.
Aditya's reaction had given Zoya a fluttery feeling in her stomach. There was something so different about the way he looked at her, as if he was speechless. She reached the bottom stair adjacent to him.
His lips curled in a small smile and he cleared his throat, "You... you look..."
The pause in his words made her cheeks warm.
"...Beautiful," he uttered the word in a low voice.
"Thanks," she smiled and gestured toward his tuxedo, "You clean up pretty well too."
The charity gala dinner was held in a ballroom in one of the hotels owned by the Hoodas. It was a huge room with crystal chandelier and rich dark colored fabric draping the floor to ceiling windows, which accented the cream colored walls. There were over 500 guests yet the place wasn't crowded. It even had a small dance floor at the middle of the room, where a few people were dancing (or swaying) to the live band.
Anjana guided Aditya and Zoya to a table and introduced Zoya to some guests. She then left them alone for the remainder of the evening. Aditya and Zoya sat silently amidst the chattering guests and the soft music. They drank the champagne and ate the food served by waiters.
An hour later, Anjana came back to their table. "You guys are sitting so quietly," she observed.
Aditya raised his eyes at his mother, making sure Zoya didn't see it. His mother had (like his brother) correctly deducted his new feelings for Zoya and was now doing her best to set them up. Aditya had told his mother not to but she could be very persistent. He knew she had his best interests in her heart and the idea of him moving on gave joy to her but he didn't want to spook Zoya. Zoya only liked him as a friend, he had presumed.
"Adi," she directed her question to him, "Why don't you ask Zoya for a dance?"
"Mom," Aditya interrupted, "We are fine."
"Actually," Zoya chimed in, "I wouldn't mind."
He raised his brows, "You want to dance?"
Zoya nodded in response. This was the second time this day that Zoya's answers took him by surprise. The first was when she agreed to attend the ball.
"See!" Anjana sounded way too excited and Aditya wanted to tell her to tone down, "You kids have fun." Saying so she walked over to another table to greet some people.
Aditya angled his arm, "Shall we?" Zoya wrapped her hand around his hooked arm and walked to the dance floor.
More people had started gathering on the small dance-floor and there wasn't much space to maneuver. Zoya stood so close to Aditya that he could smell the floral fragrance on her and it was sending his mind in a tizzy.
The band, being in sync with the theme of the party, was playing slow musical numbers. Aditya held Zoya's right palm in his left hand. She circled her right hand around his shoulder and rested it below is his neck.
Aditya snaked his right hand behind her and paused for a moment. She was wearing a backless red gown. His palm hovered near her back, as he contemplated where to place it. If he placed it on her lower back, it would be really inappropriate and if he placed it high, it would be against her bare skin.
Zoya eyed him questioningly and he realized drawing out the moment would only make things more awkward. At last he drew his hand away from her back rested his hand lightly on the inches of fabric near her the curve of her waist. She was so petite, he could almost hold her in the curl of his palm and fingers.
Aditya noticed that the contact of his hand on her waist made Zoya gasp slightly. Or was it his mind playing tricks? Being in such close confine with her had set his heart racing because of his underlying feelings for her. But she didn't feel the same for him, did she? Then why was she now blushing?
Before the situation transcended to awkward territory, Aditya slowly started to sway to get rid of this weird tension between them. The next second, Zoya followed suit. A few minutes later, after they had warmed up, the dance became enjoyable to him. He was actually having fun, as the band picked-up tempo and played a fast number interspersed with the slow ones. He hadn't felt himself this free in a long time.
From the corner of his eye, he saw his mother sitting at a table with a triumphant grin on her face. She must be congratulating herself on the success of her endeavors. He shook his head and smiled back at his mother before turning his attention to his gorgeous dance-partner in red.
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