Chapter 22 - A Second Chance
"Aditya..." Zoya took his name, "I-."
The shrill ring of the intercom interrupted her.
He rolled his eyes at the disturbance earning him a giggle from Zoya. She pushed him away gently and gestured to the ringing telephone.
It was the hotel's intercom so he was either getting the call from another cottage (which was unlikely) or the reception.
He pouted at her and walked over to the intercom. "Hello?"
He paused to hear what the other person was saying before replying, "Noor?"
Zoya's ear perked up at hearing her sister's name. Noor was at their cottage in the resort. She had come along with Zoya, for some work.
Zoya walked over to where Aditya was.
"Yeah, she is here... her phone?"
Zoya had left her cellphone in her office. It was a Sunday and she figured she would take a lunch break. Though she had not expected that her afternoon would be spent kissing Aditya.
Aditya handed the receiver to Zoya. "She's been calling your phone," he whispered.
Aditya stepped back and leant against the wall. Noor sounded flustered. He hoped everything was fine.
"Noor, what is it?" Zoya asked.
On hearing what Noor had to say, Aditya noticed that Zoya's face was turning pale. She wringed the wire of the telephone, "No, don't do anything," Zoya was saying, worry evident in her voice, "I'll handle it."
"Are you all right?" he asked the moment she hung up.
"Ummm..." Zoya stammered, "Yeah."
He could tell something was bothering her, "Are you sure? You can tell me-."
"I am fine," she cut him in, "Everything is fine. It's a... work thing. I need to give our accountant some receipts."
She headed toward the main door, "I'll... I'll see you later. I just need to..."
"Zoya, you are scaring me," he confessed honestly.
She walked back to him and took his hands in her palms, "It's nothing. I just need to take care of something..." She shook her head, "Forget all this. Let's have dinner tonight. You didn't let me make lunch so I need to show you my culinary skills at dinner."
He gave a small smile. "Dinner it is."
"I'll see you at 7," she smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
As she was about to walk away, he grabbed her waist and pulled her towards him. Her body was flush against his.
He gave her a peck on her lips, "Can't wait," he murmured.
Color returned to her cheeks at his words and she gave a shy smile. She left without saying anything.
Aditya looked at the clock hung on the wall. It showed 12:25pm. 6 hours. This was going to be a long wait.
It was half past 5 in the evening and Aditya was all set for dinner. Zoya had said earlier that she was going to cook so Aditya expended his nervous energy and time in setting up the table for the dinner. Since his first date with her went tragically south, he figured he could make up for it in this second date.
Each cottage in the resort had a small private backyard over looking a cliff and hills at a distance. He had asked the hotel staff for fairy lights, which he then meticulously put on the white fence and hedges surrounding the small backyard.
He set a table with two chairs at the centre, got freshly cut flowers in a vase, candles (to be lit later) and a bottle of red wine. He placed the bone-china dishes and silverware.
Taking a step back, he admired his handwork- A small cozy table for their date. He only had to kill an hour and a half now.
That turned out to be anything but easy. He kept checking the time after every few minutes and he was sure that time was moving extra slow today. Arjun was going to stay-over at his friend's place in Dehradoon- Aditya double-checked with him. Their siblings had already been privy to their first date. This time there wouldn't be any interference.
He checked his wrist watch- 5:50pm and groaned in frustration. Sitting idly was not helping. He decided to go for a walk in the town.
Aditya aimless wandered through the snaking narrow pathways. The sun was setting casting the hilly town in an orange-red hue. He came across a video rental shop and decided to check it out. He searched the bin where dvds were kept when he found an old favorite Bollywood movie. He had watched it more times than he remembered.
Maybe after their dinner, they could watch it. He wondered if Zoya had ever seen this film before. He paid for the dvd and checked the time- 6:25pm. He decided to walk back to the resort.
A couple of minutes later, as he was walking past a caf, by happenstance his sight fell on a girl inside. It was her brightly colored yellow suit that caught his attention at first. Then he noticed her light-brown hair and then her face came into view- it was Zoya. She was sitting in the caf, talking to a man-
Aditya stopped in his tracks when he noticed the man. It was a face he had seen only once but would never forget- Yash. Yash was telling something to Zoya, gesturing vigorously and Zoya sat back, listening quietly.
Why was Zoya meeting Yash? What was happening?
He reflected on Noor's frantic call earlier in the day. Zoya had turned pale after the call and had dashed out. Is this why she was in a rush? Because she had to meet Yash?
Aditya put a stop to his mounting thoughts and the bitter anger that was rising simultaneously.
He noticed that Yash was more engaged in talking while Zoya had a poker face and was just listening quietly. All of a sudden, Yash placed his enthusiastic hand on Zoya. She visibly flinched at the contact and tried to remove her hand but Yash held on to it.
That was it for Aditya. He barged in the caf and grabbed Yash by the collar.
It took a moment for Zoya to comprehend Aditya's unexpected appearance before she yelled, "Aditya! Let go off him."
Yash had a befuddled expression on his face. He eyed Aditya before realization hit him who he was. His muddled face started showing signs of fury. "It's none of your business," Yash said bitterly.
If anything, that sent Aditya over the edge. He let go of Yash's collar and punched him straight in the face. Yash fumbled at the sudden attack and fell on the floor.
"It. Is. My. Business." He spat each word at Yash. "Stay away from my girl."
Turning around he saw Zoya standing stock-stilled, her mouth covered with her hands. Aditya knew if he stayed any longer, this would escalate to a full blown out fight. He headed out, anger seeping through him.
Aditya flung the dvd and his jacket on the floor when he reached his cottage in the resort. He was so full of anger he could hear blood pumping in his ears.
Seeing Zoya with that cretin had caught him off-guard. When he touched her... that infuriated him.
Aditya pressed his palms on his face. He had just come from outside but he needed fresh air. He walked to the small backyard of the cottage, that he had so fondly decorated just hours ago.
Some minutes later he heard the main door of the house bang. He knew Zoya was here and by the way she was banging the door, she seemed quite angry herself.
"Aditya! What the hell-," she stopped mid-sentence when she stepped out in the backyard. She took in the decoration and then turned her gaze to him.
Aditya stood at the centre of it all, arms crossed across his chest and anger evident on his face.
Zoya took a deep breath and exhaled by her mouth, "What was that?" She had toned down her voice but she was still angry, "What were you thinking punching Yash like that? You are lucky he is not pressing charges for assault."
"And he is lucky I didn't break his bones," he spat out.
She was flabbergasted, "What is wrong with you?"
"What's wrong with me?" he repeated her question, taking a step closer to her, "You hide your meeting with him and there's something wrong with me?"
She shut her eyes for a second, "I didn't tell you or anyone because I wanted to deal with-," she raised her palms, moving them in air, "...all this myself. I was taking care of it."
"Why did you even meet him?"
She sighed, "Noor told me earlier, when I was with you, that Yash was calling me urgently. I met him to find out what it was that he wanted."
"Wait," he interrupted, "you got that call hours ago. You were with him the entire time?"
"Of course not!" she vehemently denied, "He was in Dehradoon. He first asked if I was okay with him coming here. I just met him sometime ago. And he was only re-confirming if I had told Abbu about his indiscretion. Because once Abbu finds out, Yash's business in this city is as good as over. He was simply pleading with me to not tell him. Now that he is back."
"He's using you again! First he was using your finance and connections and now he is using your naivety. He's playing you."
"At this point, I don't even care about him. He could fail or excel in his career and I don't give a damn," Zoya replied, "I just don't want to be the person responsible for anything in his life."
"Why not?" Aditya prodded, "Why does it bother you if your dad finds out? It'll be good if Yash is chased out of the city."
"For the same reason you didn't want anyone to find out about Pooja's affair," she stated, "This is my problem. I'll deal with it my way."
Aditya shook his head, "Is it just that or do you still have feelings for him?"
Zoya pressed her lips in a thin line. "Excuse me?"
In anger he said things that deep down he didn't really mean. But that's the thing- when he was angry, he'd say things to hurt.
"You heard me," he replied, impulsively.
"Will you listen to yourself?" this time Zoya was fuming, "Would I be making plans with you, kissing you if I still loved Yash?"
Aditya didn't respond.
"You do realize this is a small town and everyone knows everyone. My ex being punched in public by my new business partner is just the juicy gossip this town needs," she said, calming down a little, "Abbu is trying to get in politics. How would such news affect him?"
She let that sink, before adding, "And worse, what if Abbu finds out? He'd want to know why you felt the need to assault Yash. Till now he was not probing because he thought that Yash and I broke up due to incompatibility. You airing our dirty laundry in public is only going to make him more inquisitive. Now do you see what you've done?"
"I am not sorry for it," the stubbornness in his voice, "I'll punch that b*stard again if I see him accosting you."
Zoya huffed, "How would you feel if I confront Pooja in one of your mother's parties?"
"What?" he asked, perplexed, "What has Pooja got to do with this?"
"It's the same thing. Pooja and you are in the same social circle. Your mother frequently keeps coming in contact with her. What if I get angry, that she cheated on you and broke your heart, and slap her in public, in your city."
"This is ridiculous," he responded, "Pooja and I broke up years ago. This is different."
"You and Pooja were childhood friends. I knew Yash for less than a year. Her betrayal should cut deep."
"This is not about Pooja!" he retorted.
"No, this is about how you wanted to take charge of my situation without respecting my wishes," Zoya replied. "When you told me about your issues with Pooja, I didn't interfere. And I expect the same from you. What did you want to prove anyway? That you're in charge?"
"What! No!" Aditya answered. "I saw him grabbing your hand, I got angry. I am not going to apologize about defending you."
"O my God!" Zoya pressed her hand on her forehead, "Why are you being so stubborn? Hitting someone without provocation is not defense. That's aggression. And if you can't see the potential repercussions of your action and how you blatantly disregarded me, then... I can't stay in your company any longer."
Aditya clenched his teeth. He knew he would definitely regret what he was going to say next but rage fuelled him. "Close the door on your way out."
Zoya pressed her lips and nodded her head. She turned on her heels and without another word exited his cottage.
Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t! I should stop her, before everything explodes.
He knew he should've, but he didn't. His feet were immobile. Call it stubbornness or arrogance or maybe ego, he didn't budge.
He stood in the cold for quite sometime. The fairy lights were faintly lighting the backyard. If he lit the candles, it would look so beautiful, the entire table would be submerged in a yellow-golden hue.
It was supposed to be a do-over of their first date.
And this one had gone down in flames.
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