Teri Meri Love Stories- Short Story Part 11

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Jun 18, 2016

Teri Meri Love Stories- Short Story Part 11 (By Apopinion) (Thanked: 50 times)

This is a fictional story with a slightly different and modern subject. It is not meant to hurt anybody's sentiments or approve or disapprove of any kind of lifestyle.

Meet Maan and Kirti as they take this journey. Will they unite or will they part? Will Maan find the resolution he is looking for? And will Kirti be able to hold onto the one man who means more to her than anything else?

Kirti parked her car at the allocated spot in her apartment building's parking lot and turned off the engine. She sat there for a couple of extra seconds staring ahead but not really seeing anything, then taking in a deep breath got out and closed the door. Using the remote on her key she locked the car. Then as if she suddenly remembered something, sighing and chiding herself for being forgetful mentally, she opened the door again and took out her purse. How many times had her friends told her to not leave her purse in the car? She had forgotten the count. According to all of them it was an open invitation for a burglar to break in. And Maan's concern had always been that because she kept her apartment keys in her purse she might get locked out if the burglary was to ever take place. So finally he had added the apartment key to the keychain holding her car keys. His concern was always her safety, nothing else mattered, not the breaking in or burglary or anything else. Another reason why she adored the man. He never said much but he was always doing something or the other for her, whether he really gave it a thought or it came naturally it didn't matter. She smiled softly. Thinking about Maan always managed to bring a smile on her face. Not that she could help it, she loved the guy. She closed the the door to her car and locked it again.

But today...today it wasn't just forgetfulness at work it was more preoccupation of her mind. Anika had called. She had been having lunch with a friend when the call had come. Out of the blue. And her sister never did that. Since the day Kirti had left Chandigarh, talks between her and Anika had been minimal restricted mostly to occasions. Like literally. They spoke only on each other's birthdays or on festivals or at New Year. At least that was how it had been for the past two years. But today was neither a birthday, nor a festival and definitely not New Year. So when Anika's name had flahsed across the screen of her phone it had taken a few seconds for it to register and she had tensed wondering if it was bad news. Had a tragedy taken place in her family? Why was Anika calling? And she had taken the call expecting the worst. Only her sister's voice had been cheerful in its greeting and she had relaxed instantly. Only to tense up a few minutes later again....not that she wasn't happy for her sister, after all the girl was getting married and she was her only sister. And Kirti had been delighted at the news. The guy Gurpreet, worked at a software firm in California, USA. It was an arranged alliance and since the guy's green card was in queue for approval the wedding was to take place in the next one week as both families wanted them to get married and travel together so Anika could apply for her green card alongwith Gurpreet's. Hence the quick wedding. It did make sense because otherwise, Anika might have to wait for months maybe even a few years before she could join her husband in the States. Legal constraints. And neither party wanted that to happen. Not the groom's side and definitely not the bride's side. Kirti had cogratulated Anika feeling happy. And then she had felt sad because she wouldn't be able to attend. Her only sister's wedding and she wouldn't be able to go. Or so had been her thoughts before Anika had dropped the bomb on her. She wanted her to come...and not just for the wedding but for all the ceremonies. Kirti had been surprised, a little stunnedwould be a more appropriate word and then she had tensed. But Anika had been adamant. She had informed her that she had already spoken to Gurpreet and he was fine with the plan. And that she would speak to their mom and dad about it as well. Before Kirti had even grasped the idea Anika had quickly apologized for not sending a formal invite because of time constraints and that she would be very upset if Kirti decided not to come.

'Just imagine my sullen face in all my wedding photographs and all because my only sister decided to skip my wedding,' she had said and Kirti had been sure her sister had a pout even as she spoke of how her face would be. Anika was a bit big on the theatrics side.

'But Niku, mom and dad...' Kirti had started to respond when Anika had cut her off.

'Come on big sis, it has been two years now since the fiasco, half of the relatives and friends have even forgotten about it, the remaining half don't count,' she had said persuasively, 'come di, maybe your coming here at this occasion would patch up things for the better,' she had said coaxingly. Tempting her.

'You do remember what they had said don't you,' Kirti had responded sadly,'it has been two years and not a word from them,' she had said reminding her sister, 'it is as if they have forgotten I even exist,' she had said hoping her hurt was not as evident in her voice.

'You don't have to remind me of anything di, I was there,' Anika had responded seriously, 'but its been two years now, and personally if you are happy and all is well, I don't really care, and it is time to bury the hatchett anyway,' she had said strongly, 'besides there are two other reasons why you should attend,' she had said and Kirti had listened despite her reluctance to agree with Anika, 'one Gurpreet's family is on the conservative side and they are pretty big on family staying together no matter what. They will be mighty displeased if they got to know my only sister is not attending my wedding ceremonies no matter what the problem. Your reasons aren't big enough to avoid being here. What I mean to say is according to them you could never have a justified reason for not attending family events,' she had told her categorically, 'and the other big reason is you," she had said stressing on the word, "you should come, at least try to talk to mom and dad, I am sure if they see you, if they learn how happy you are they will revise their opinion,' she had said.

Kirti hadn't known what to answer to that. So she had given a halfhearted reply about giving it all a thought or something to that effect. Then just before Anika had said bye she had offhandedly thrown in a 'Oh! by the way, get Maan along too,' and then she had ended the call. Just like that.

Kirti had somehow managed to keep herself calm and finished her lunch. Not that her heart was in it. Her appetite had vanished. And her very astute companion had noticed the change in her mood. Devika being Devika had graciously cancelled their shopping outing after lunch. Kirti had apologized but Devika had waved it off with a warm smile asking her not to get too formal. At that point Kirti had explained the conversation with her sister. She couldn't keep it to herself. She had been confused. And Devika had listened without interrupting her even once. At the end all she had asked her was what she wanted to do and if Maan would agree. Devika knew all about them. Her and Maan. Everything. She was one of the very few good friends who were close to Maan and were now as close to her too. It had taken her by surprise how quickly Maan's friends had embraced her, included her in their circle and she had never felt like an outsider. But despite the closeness, Kirti hadn't been able to respond to either of those questions. Though they had weighed down on her as she had driven home.

What she should do? And if Maan would agree to whatever she decided? Something told her he wouldn't stop her if she decided to go. Their relationship was such where she had complete freedom to make her own choices and he would give his opinion if she asked for it. And though where she could take decisions for herself she couldn't for him. She also knew somewhere that if she decided to attend Anika's wedding, she will go alone. He will not accompany her. His relationship with his family had been strained even before he had proposed and she had accepted. Coming to the question of her going...should she? Was it advisable after everything that had taken place? Granted to see her family, be with them again was too big to resist but should she take that chance? She had debated those questions all the way home and was still thinking about them.

Her low heel sandals made tapping noise on the cemented floor as she walked towards the elevators. Once she entered, she punched in the floor number and felt the slight movement of the car as it zipped up. She hoped she wouldn't not bump into anyone. But it was a long way up to the twenty third floor where her apartment was. The elevator paused on the first floor and one of her neighbors walked in. Well, she was not technically a neighbor since the lady lived on the fifteenth floor with her husband and son and Kirti was on the twenty third but she knew Mrs. Zariwala personally. In fact, Kirti often found her name a bit strange, Zarine Zariwala. She just couldn’t get used to it for some reason. Once at a society party, she had told Kirti that before marriage her name had been Parvaneh Screwvala. Only after marriage when her surname changed, Mr. Zariwala changed her first name to Zarine. And that she liked this name better than her given name. Kirti had just listened to all the hilarious stories the older woman had to tell. In short, in that half an hour of meeting her, Kirti probably knew more about Zarine Zariwala than she even knew about herself. And the chatterbox that she was, today's story was all about how Gracy was not feeling well. Their pomeranian. And till the time Mrs. Zariwala did not get off on her fifteenth floor Kirti had to listen. Though in her opnion Gracy, looked as healthy as she had yesterday. But as Mrs. Zariwala had exited Kirti had felt vastly relieved. Normally, that was not how she felt. And she did feel a little bad but she guessed nobody could blame her for the way she was feeling today. A lot of old memories and had risen to the fore. And none of them were happy reminders. There was hurt, pain, grief and sadness. There were happy memories too, somewhere but right now they were in hiding.

As she exited the elevator and entered her apartment she took in a deep breath. Her familiar surroundings calming her down immediately. When they had been househunting, Maan had taken her from one amazing apartment to another. Only nothing had excited her as this one. Its simple, open layout, a balcony and most of the windows facing the Arabian sea had charmed her socks off. It had been the most epensive too. But Maan hadn't batted an eyelid. He had smiled and signed on the papers handing her the keys telling her to furnish the house just the way she wanted. And she had been excited like a little child. From the sofa to the dining table to the paintings on the wall, to the bookcase in the extra bedroom, to the spoons and plates in the kitchen, she had done everything. Enjoyed doing it. This was her home...their home. Hers and Maan's. And nothing was as perfect as her little haven. She instantly calmed down. Putting her purse on the dining table she opened the door to the balcony and stepped out breathing in the warm salty air blowing over the sea.

She stood at the railing looking at the huge expanse of water her building faced, thinking.

How would she tell Maan about this? And what would he say?

More than that would he understand?

But to find that answer, she will have to present the question to him, will she?

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Maan saw Kirti's car parked in its spot when he returned and he checked his wrist watch.

She was back early. She was supposed to be out for shopping after lunch with Devika, who was now more fond of her than him. Not that he felt bad about it. The thought actually made him smile. And he wasn't even a bit surprised at that, Kirti was someone who with her sweet, quiet often shy nature made a spot for herself. Anywhere. He was glad of it too, because he had worried if she would be able to make friends here in Mumbai. if she didn't it would have gotten very tough for her. Not to mention lonely. But that never happened. As for Kirti shopping, Maan shook his head as he walked towards the elevator with his golf bag, she wasn't much of a shopper. He had been skeptical when she had told him abour her plans for today, and he had secretly wagered she wouldn't go or if she did go she would return early. But having said that, if one was to leave Kirti in a book store she could shop for hours and still not be satisfied. Guess, they didn't go to the book store. Not that he minded. He was glad she was home. Since the time they had bought the apartment he had become used to coming home....to her. Not a single day had passed since they had started their life together where he had come home and she wasn't there. He hadn't demanded it. And truth be told it had bothered him in the beginning, he wasn't like the traditional men who wanted their partners to be dependent on them or be around at their beck and call. He had insisted, almost pressured Kirti to get her license, next he had bought her a car so she could be independent enough to go where she wanted without relying on him. Of course, Mumbai was a city with great public transport system and she probably hadn't really needed a license or a car to go around but just for his satisfaction. And she had agreed to it, getting both her license and learning how to drive. She was still a little shaky on Mumbai roads but she was gettig better by the day.

He had come home early as well. His standard time of returning from work usually around seven thirty or eight in the evening. Sometimes even later. But today he had had a golf game with a few of his clients and the plan had been to have a round of drinks before the meeting was to have ended. And Maan had anticiapted it to go on at least till about nine or so but the drinks session had gotten cancelled due to some of the people leaving early. 'Prior commitments Khanna', they had said. And he had been happy. He had wanted to come home, maybe suprise Kirti by cooking a nice dinner. Only she had returned before him. So maybe it won't be much of a surprise but he could still cook her that dinner he had thought of earlier.

Lately, Maan had noticed how he longed to spend more time with Kirti. How he liked to watch her face light up with joy over small things. And small things made her more happy than anything big he did for her. She was a simple girl, quiet in nature, taking her time around people, things. And most people assumed them to be her weaknesses. But he begged to differ. She possessed an inner strength which formed the core of her being. It took guts in his opinion to walk away from everything familiar and then adapt to a place, people, environment of which one knew nothing about only on the basis of trust. She had trusted him to take care of her, trusted him to make sure she would be safe and just on the basis of that trust she had left her family...for him. On one hand it humbled him and on the other it made him guilty, not overly much since he wasn't the emotional type but just a bit guilty. She had been close, very close to her family and since they hadn't approved of either him or their relationship she had taken the decision and chosen him. If for nothing else he had been humbled by just that. He had wondered how she would cope, but she had. He knew firsthand he had been selfish when he had proposed to her. And he also knew he had been arrogant enough to say that somewhere he had been sure she would agree, because she loved him...a lot. But knowing that hadn't stopped him from taking that route. He had wanted her, needed her in his life and he had made sure she was a part of it regardless of the consequences. He had no illusions about himself. He had been selfish in his decision or need or want, whatever one wanted to call it and he knew it. And she had embraced her new life with him, in this city with enthusiasm. Those were the reasons why he had made very sure that she had everything she asked for, not that she asked for anything, she was always happy and content with what she had. He had to push her for it. The only thing she had been ecstatic about was their apartment. The second she had walked in, he had seen a certain joy on her face. She had been so fascinated by the small balcony and the view of the sea beyond she had forgotten the fact that she had rejected a few apartments only because they had been so high up. They were on the twenty third floor of their building. And he hadn't wasted any time. Though it had cost him a fortune, but it had been worth it. Now they both enjoyed it. Their home. He liked the way that sounded. She had become an integral part of his life. Even though their relationship was based on equality and independence, at least he liked to think it was based on those two key factors, and that he had given her the choice to walk out of it if ever she chose to he somehow couldn't grasp his mind around that idea anymore. He didn't like to think what he would do if that day ever came, would he hold strong or crumble....so he kept that thought locked away somewhere, deep inside, not even allowing it a breather.

He opened the door to the apartment with his key and took in a deep breath, relaxing. Just her presence was enough. She was here. And a strange calmness surrounded him. He had always felt that everytime she was around. Since the time he had known her. If he thought back it seemed like he had known her forever now. And still she managed to surprise him from time to time. Her thoughts always intrigued him. Sometimes her choice of words threw him off. Some of her actions were unique to her. Always bringing a smile on his face. He hadn't missed the fact that he had started to smile more now than he used to before. Just as he was now. Smiling.

She stood in the balcony by the railing. He propped his golf bag near the wall and placed his laptop on the table as he walked over to the balcony, stepping out and feeling the balmy breeze coming from over the sea now getting colder as the sun started to set. She didn't move. It was a bit strange since she always knew when he was around. It was a knack according to him. According to her it was love. Not that he ever argued with it. It made him feel secure and it soothed his soul. Her love was important to him and he knew he would never do anything to give her a reason which might make her rethink how she felt about him.

He put his arms around her and nuzzled his chin on top of her head loving the feel of her against him. She stiffened for a second before relaxing again. He had surprised her.

His instincts instantly picking up on her mood. Something was amiss. She had forgotten something today...something she had done every single day since they had started their life together. She had forgotten to tell him 'I love you more today...a lot more than yesterday'. And she never did that.

No matter what.

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Jun 25, 2016

Teri Meri Love Stories- Short Story Part 11 (By Apopinion) (Thanked: 35 times)

Kirti toyed around with her food at the dinner table. Toyed around with the food Maan had made for her.

He was an excellent cook. Even better than she was and this was when she had been cooking since the age of twelve. Well, technically, since she was fourteen the previous two years she had tutored under her mother who was a firm believer that every girl should know how to cook. Her pet dialogue had been 'Tomorrow when you go to your in laws' place they shouldn't complain that I didn't teach you even this much' and the other one 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach'. And where she had always listened aptly and tried to imbibe what her mother said, Anika had always made fun of her notions 'No wonder papa's stomach is bigger than his heart'. Something that had irritated her mother to no end. Not that it had stopped Mrs. Kamal Singh from dragging Anika to the kitchen every chance she got. But where Kirti knew how to cook a variety of dishes most of them were Indian, okay, so all of them were Indian and very much Punjabi, Maan's skillset boasted of being global. He could cook different cuisines, a variety of dishes and that too professional scale. She often teased him about being her own personal Masterchef. Not that he minded. And today he had cooked her favorite cuisine. Italian. There was chicken marsala with capers and three cheese ravioli. And all she was doing was pushing the food around her plate. A little more of this and Maan would surely know that there was something wrong with her today, that is if he hadn't summed it up already.

There was very little that escaped his notice anyway. He had that uncanny knack. Initially she used to think it was only with her, but she realized later that it was with everyobody and everything. Any new change, whether it was in somebody's mood, attitude or thought he would be aware of it even before it was highlighted. But she never found his astutueness irritating or annoying, it was impressive. His keen intelligence and habit of perfecting what he did had always amazed her. She had found to her amazement that she had never been shy of talking about how she felt or what she thought. And he had always had respect for her thoughts. Not even once in all the time she had known him or lived with him had he ever made her feel inferior to him. She may have asked tons of dumb questions or acted weirdly at times but he had been patient, reflective but never opinionated. She had often wondered if it was a part of his inherent personality or a result of his troubled past. Only she hadn't found her answer yet. But coming to today's dilemna, she was hesitant. She didn't know why. She had never felt this hesitant to talk to him over anything. Never this reluctant. So why? It should have been easy. But to talk about their respective families or Chandigarh or how things had been and how they were now had never been easy. It didn't matter that their relationship had progressed or strengthened, that was one big topic they both had mutually agreed to not delve upon. Maan did know she called her sister on occasions. He had never stopped her nor had he ever asked for details. If she wished to share she did, and he listened. That was it. On his part, he never spoke of his family, well, she knew all of them on a personal level as they had been family friends so she wasn't really new to any of them or their relationship equations. But Maan himself never opened any topic which might even remotely relate to them. And out of consideration for his feelings neither did she. She wasn't liking this. This...this reluctance. It was an unfamiliar feeling. What was she fearing really? She didn't know. And it was the not knowing of his reaction, not even an honest guess at it was what was stopping her. She hadn't even decided if she wanted to go or not. And she would have gone on thinking if a deep voice hadn't paused her efforts in reaching a frustration level

"It isn't that bad," it said with amu****t.

"Huh," Kirti said. Both looking and sounding confused as she looked up towards where Maan was sitting opposite to her.

His chin resting on one hand supported by his elbow on the table.

"Dinner," he said with a half smile, as he watched her, "it isn't that bad, Kirti," he told her.

"Of course, it isn't Maan," Kirti said almost in protest, "you are an excellent cook," she told him.

"And it is your favorite dish," he said removing his hand from under his chin and crossing his arms at the edge of the table, "and all you have done is push it around your plate," he said and smiled faintly.

"Sorry," Kirti said placing her fork on the side as she leaned back in her chair and took in a deep breath.

"No need," Maan said as he settled back in his own chair, "you have something on your mind," he told her calmly and her eyes flew to his.

"How did you..." she started then paused and smiled shaking her head, "never mind, somehow you always know," she said.

"You have been thinking about something really hard all evening," Maan told her plainly lifting one shoulder casually, "you are awfully quiet, aren't really hungry when this is your favorite dish prepared by your personal masterchef," he said his mouth quirking on the sides at the silly little label she had bestowed him with, "and you have those lines on your forehead that are getting deeper by the passing second," he expalined his observations, "did Devika fight with you?" he asked trying to get her to be comfortable.

"What? No," she said quickly, "Devika is too much of a sweetheart to ever do that," she told him.

"And you are more of a sweetheart to ever frown and think so hard over anything," he declared, "you want to share what is troubling you," he said as he leaned a bit forward giving her his undivided attention.

Kirti looked at him. This was her opening. She should tell him about Anika's call and the invitation. Just blurt it out and be done with it. But that wouldn't be right. And she wasn't that person.

"I would love to have that coffee you made last week," she said instead on a soft sigh, "I guess that would relax me and then I will tell you," she said softly.

Maan looked at her for a second before smiling.

"Whatever the lady wants," he said and rose from his chair picking up his plate and a couple of other dishes to put away in the sink.

His voice washed over her like cascades of chocolate. Deep. Rich. ****y. His voice was one of the first things that she had found too attractive to resist. Maan and her cousin brother Veer had just returned from Dehradun Boarding school after finishing their twelfth grade. And Maan was to leave for his higher studies in U.S. in a few more days. She had been twelve then. Maan had said a polite hello to her but when he had spoken at lengths with her uncle and father she had stood there, mesmerized. She hadn't been able to help herself. His voice had had the same deep, rich texture that it had today. Only it now had more finesse. She had been hooked then. Now of course, she was in love. She mentally shook herself and rose from her seat picking her partially full plate and placing it in the sink. She stood there a couple of seconds as she watched Maan move with ease and grace around their kitchen making her that coffee she had asked for. Not even one protest. She smiled and then went to the living room and sat on the sofa curling her legs under her. The door to the balcony was still open. The breeze coming over the Arabian sea cooler now. She could smell the rich aroma of coffee brewing in the coffee pot. Inhaling deeply she sunk back into the cushions and closed her eyes. It may have been a minute or two when she heard Maan's voice.

"Your coffee madame," he said quietly.

And she opened her eyes.

"Thanks," she said with a grateful smile and took the cup he offered.

"You are welcome," he responded and sat on the chair next to where she sat on the sofa.

She blew lightly on the top of the cup to cool it a little so she could take a sip. And closed her eyes in bliss when she did. It was creamy, frothy....and just plain yum.

"You know I don't know how you do it but the way you make coffee," she said appreciatively, "no one comes even a second close," she told him contentedly.

"Talent sweetheart," was all Maan said.

Arrogance. He had loads of it. But edge was always blunt. Even his most arrogant of statements never had any bite in them. He would say it as if it was the most natural thing to say. Confidently. Surely. Calmly. Kirti smiled watching him sip his coffee. He was waiting. She knew it. He had that bit of tenaciousness in his nature. Once he had something in mind he wouldn't let go of it that easily, which was probably never. He would pursue it. But never in a hurry. He would always bide his time. Wait. In that respect he was very patient. His impatience was all for those who couldn't mind their business, or couldn't keep up pace with him. The hypocrites and those with smug opinions. He just couldn't stand them. She shouldn't wait on this any more. She took in a deep breath and then relased it.

"Anika called," Kirti started as she looked at Maan for any reaction.

"How is she?" he asked as he paused to take a sip from his coffee and looked at her.

His expression telling her nothing of what he was thinking. Or if he thought it odd that she had spoken to her sister despite there being no occasion.

"She is good," Kirti replied, "excited actually," she said with a happy smile, "she is getting married," she told Maan.

"Congratulations," Maan said sincerely.

"Thanks and congratulations to you too," she replied and laughed when Maan made a face that suggested he felt pained at her words. Of course, they weren't heartfelt.

"So when is the due date?" he asked.

"In about ten days," Kirti said a little reluctantly. But Maan didn't even bat an eyelid. Instead it seemed he couldn't be concerned.

"Good for her," was his response to her words.

"She has invited me for the wedding," she said quietly.

"So are you going?" Maan asked as he sipped his coffee. This time he wasn't looking at her.

Well, neither was she. Afraid to see his reaction. His tone was mild which was a good indicator.

"I...I am not sure," she replied softly.

"It should be a simple answer Kirti," Maan said seriously.

Was it? She didn't know. She wasn't sure if there was a simple answer to such a loaded question. There were layers of complexities. Nope, it wasn't simple.

"Is it really that simple Maan?" she asked unsurely.

"It is yes or no," Maan responded.

"She invited you as well," Kirti said slowly, this time she looked at him.

"Is there a formal invitation?" he asked as he raised an eyebrow at her.

And Kirti shook her head.

"It is happening so soon...she couldn't send it," she said hesitantly.

And saw Maan's lips twist into a mocking smile.

"In this day and age with the advanced tachnology we have sweetheart," Maan said mockingly, "it is nothing but an excuse," he told her bluntly.

Ouch, that pinched. But it was true. She had known somewhere he would point that out. In just that manner. Sometimes Maan could be very blunt. Direct. Honest to a point which could hurt...a little. He was right. But if they went, maybe..maybe everything would be set right.

"But Maan..." she started only to stop when Maan looked at her with a serious look on his face.

"You know the answer Kirti," he said seriously.

Or was it impatiently? Kirti couldn't tell. It was wrong on her part to push him for it. Push him for something she knew he wouldn't do wholeheartedly. Then was it right to do that? Was it right to ask him to do something he wouldn't like doing? That was not the basis of their relationship. And she was still trying. Why?

"It is her wedding Maan," she said slowly, with a small frown on her forehead, "it wouldn't look nice if her only sister didn't go," she said expectantly.

"You know how I feel about these things Kirti," he replied with a slight hint of irritation in his voice.

He hated conventions. And he hated being reminded of them too. The problem was Anika had invited both of them for her wedding. Her with pleasure and him ...offhandedly. The point was there was an invitation extended to them. And what of her sister's would be in laws. She did say they were on the conservative side. She probably would have let the topic drop only it was related to her sister and her impending wedding.

"I know Maan," she said quietly as she looked at him,"and I do not want to force you to do anything you don't want to..." she said and would have gone on when Maan interrupted her.

"You can't," he said forcefully angling his chin in stubbornness.

"I am not trying to," she said with a smile. She could never get mad with him and because she was the only person with whom Maan stayed his true self. The way he was. With others he was open, but there was always a part of him he kept reserved. Sure there were times when he closed up on her as well, shut her out, especially if he was reminded of his family and that too his father but in the past few months he had loosened up. At least enough to show glimpses of how he felt, what he thought. And Kirti knew that the only way to cut through his barriers was with patience and perseverence. It was one barrier at a time. "All I am saying is that it is her wedding and it would be nice if you could come along," she said keeping her tone casual. Though keeping her expression just as casual was another matter. It was very difficult especially under his penetrating gaze.

"Have you decided to go then?" he asked her.

"No...not as yet," she responded with a fumble.

"This means a lot to you, doesn't it," he said reflectively, "that is what you have been thinking so hard all evening," he told her and she couldn't deny it, so she nodded.

"It is my sister's wedding Maan," she said a little emotionally,"and we have always been very close, you know that," she said reminding him.

"There has been no formal invitation Kirti," he said almost warning her and she chewed on her lower lip at that unconsciously, "my suggestion would be to not go," he told her in a no nonsense tone.

The point was there would be no formal invitation. The day she had left her house for Maan, going against her family's wishes she had been declared as good as dead. Granted Anika had kept in touch but what of her parents? What of her brothers? Though they were cousins they had been close too? Two years and not one phone call. And why was she talking to Maan when she herself wasn't sure if it would be wise to go. But Anika's voice was doing rounds in her head. How did she drown that voice? And what of the hope? The seed of hope her dear sister had planted in her heart. She wanted to curse out loud. But it wouldn't be her.

"She invited me personally," she said in a small voice.

"And what will you do if your parents throw you out," he said edgily, "or insult you in front of all the guests and relatives or worse, do both," he said in a brutally honest manner, "insult you and throw you out, what will you do then?" he asked as he leaned forward in his chair, bracing his arms on his legs looking at her intently.

She had thought of it. It was a possibility. But what if everything went well. Then what?

"What if everything went fine?" she asked.

"Ever the optimist," Maan said with a smile, then shaking his head stood up, "somewhere you have made up your mind to go. If you want to brave the clan's ridicule and mockery, then who am I to stop you," he said then firming his tone he went ahead, "it is your decision Kirti. As far as I am concerned, I have no patience for this wedding circus," he told her firmly, "I do not want to subject myself to torture, you can still reconsider your unconscious decision," he said then lightly ruffled her hair, "if you want to," he told her.

And Kirti took in a deep breath then released it. Then went back to chewing her lower lip wondering if Maan was right. If she had taken a decision subconsciously and hadn't even known it? If it was a wise decision? Going without an invite was not such a good idea. Then going all by herself...she wasn't sure. With Maan by her side, she knew she would be able to brave anything her family threw at her, but without him was another story altogether. She suddenly felt a warm breath on her cheek and looked up to find Maan's face mere inches from hers and she sucked in her breath. He had always had the power to render her breathless with just his closeness. The warmth of his gaze, the beauty of his features and that arrogant twist to his lips....

"We can put those beautiful lips of yours to better use Kirti," he said slowly. Softly. Almost hypnotically. And Kirti forgot all about releasing her breath as her eyes went a little big in her face. Color stained her cheeks. "Why punish them by chewing on them so viciously," he said and smiled.

Before she could react he traced the curve of her cheek with a finger and then quickly placing a kiss on the tip of her nose straightened and left. Oh man, she thought. Two years she had been living in the same house, same room, sharing the same bed with this man and still...still he could make her lose train of her thought. Still he could make her blush. She suddenly felt faint.

Oh yeah!

Breathe.

She could think later. For now, she could feel happy about being in love with the man she didn't think she could do without.

Shoot, she thought and stood up quickly... she had forgotten. She had forgotten to tell him she loved him when he had returned. And she groaned loudly. How had that happened? It hadn't happened in two years.

Not even once.

And she hung her head the frown back in its place.

It was important. So important to tell him that everyday.

Every single day.

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He didn't want her to go. Period.

Maan had promised her he would keep her safe. He had promised her he would take care of her. And he never broke his promises. Damn.

He had heard hesitation in her voice tonight. Something he had never heard before. He had felt her reluctance. Why? Why had she been reluctant to talk to him? Why worry over telling him about it? She had always been transparent with him, a quality he appreciated. A quality he admired. What had she been afraid of? That you would say no, came the answer. She had been worried over his reaction. And that should not have been the case. He had never given her a reason to fear his reaction over anything. At least he didn't recall any incident. Then why...why hesitate to tell him of her decision. She had said she didn't know what she should do but Maan did. He knew what she would do. Which side her decision would lie because he knew her very well. He knew how close she had been to her family, and how much she yearned for them to accept her within their folds again. It meant a lot to her.

When she had been disowned by them for choosing him, it had hurt her alot. He had never asked her the specifics, neither had he ever reminded her of it, because he had never been adept at handling emotions. Consoling someone or tackling emotional issues had never been his forte. He didn't like doing that. According to him, emotions were a waste of time. He may not like them but he understood them. They made you weak, vulnerable, helpless. And Maan hated being helpless. He would rather die than be vulnerable for others to take advantage of. And advantage others would take. They always did. Survival of the fittest had been the best discovered theory yet. And humans were no exception. They pretended to coexist. They pretended to understand when all they were planning on was your downfall. When to attack so it hurt you the most. And he had first hand experience in it. In short, all emotions did in his opinion was make you miserable, all they brought forth was dependency, hurt, pain and desolation. And he was most happy without them. He didn't need them. So he kept a choke hold on them, shutting them up deep inside somewhere.

But Kirti was different. She loved emotions, basking in them. She always said they made people stronger, brought them closer, kept them together. He disagreed on each of those views. On everything else they were in perfect agreement. No matter how hard she had tried she had never been able to convince him of that logic. Because he was right. If she was to ask him, he would tell her that if she went she would be setting herself for a big heartache. What she hoped for, will not happen. And she hoped to be reunited with her family. If not completely then at least partially, and she was hoping in vain. It would only cause her pain. Not that she would ask. He had always given her the complete freedom to make her own choices. So he wasn't going to start dictating differently now. And if she wanted to experience pain and disappointment first hand then she will just have to do that.

The problem was he couldn't see her hurt. And he didn't know at this point as to what he could do to keep her away from it all. That was where his frustration lay. Unconsciously she had decided to attend Anika's wedding, whether she agreed to it or not didn't matter. That hope guiding her decision. A decision based purely on emotions. A decision she would regret. As that thought crossed his mind his frown deepened and he stared at the buidling across from theirs, at the lights that glittered brightly against the darkness. Nobody from her family had called her even once since the day she had left her house. Not her father and definitely not her mother and this was when they had procalimed numerous times that Kirti was the apple of their eyes. Not even once they had bothered to find out if she was okay. How come they all had detached themselves from her so conveniently at the same time? Yes, she spoke to Anika. Only occasionally. Was it that simple? Was it that easy? To sever all contacts. He had never been close to his family, neither his parents nor his younger sister. So whether they kept in touch or not didn't bother him. He could go without talking to them for months and he was happy. He was used to it. Or to put it more to his point, he wanted it that way. For Kirti it wasn't the same. She had never even gone to a boarding school or a hostel. She had lived with them and her extended family, her uncle and aunt and their two sons. Didn't any of them care?

Because Kirti did. Because that was who she was. A deeply caring person. Extremely emotional. Devoted. Gentle. That was why he had wanted her in his life. Her gentleness soothed his parched soul, keeping his head in place. Since the time he had known her that was how she had been. When they had been kids he hadn't really bothered with her, she had been younger to him and that too a girl, there had never been any topic or any game common enough for them to discuss or play. Besides her mother had always maintained that girls were not supposed to play with boys. They should associate with girls only. Later, as they had grown up he had slowly become aware of her. Her shy mannerisms, gentle demeanor, her eagerness to help others. He had watched her from a distance, broodingly. Always wondering what kind of person she would become, if she would stay the same or will life's bitter experiences change her, how would she turn out. Any time he had thought she would change, she had suprised him. And he had been intrigued. When he had left for his higher studies she had been all of twelve. A thin girl with long black hair, quiet, unconfident and very self conscious. When he had returned six years later she had bloomed into a pretty young girl, still quiet but more steady. More confident. He had been awed. He was already a cynic but despite his cynicism she had left him with no choice but to believe in her. Everytime he had been around her, he had felt his usual restlessness leave him and go for a hike. They had slowly started interacting. Talking. They had become friends, long before he had taken the decision to propose her. Maan smiled mockingly, he had been expecting her to refuse him, because they had both known what her family would say but she had surpised him by accepting. And she had been with him ever since.

So when he said it won't turn out the way she hoped, call him a cynic or a pessimist or both, he didn't care, he knew he would be proved right. There was a time when he had been very good friends with her cousin brother, her uncle's son, Veer. They had gone to the same boarding school, pursued the same course for their higher studies in the U.S. Hell, he had once been of the opinion that if anybody understood him, it was Veer. Of course, he had been proved wrong in that. Another bitter experience he refused to part with because that taught him something he still adhered to. He had expressed his interest in Kirti to Veer, expecting his best friend to support him, instead he had had a rude awakening. Veer had not only cuffed him he had broken off their childhood friendship, on the grounds that from the kind of background Maan came, he was neither fit for Kirti nor their friendship. It had hurt....he would be lying if he said otherwise, emotionally, yes, maybe, but it was his ego that had taken the brunt of it. Maan had been angry, but not at Veer, at himself. For not being able to see the kind of person Veer had been, for not being able to see through his pretense. Veer had taught him something valuable that day. To never rely on anyone. To never believe another human completely. It was one mistake Maan had never repeated. But coming to Veer and all Maan knew about him and Kirti's family, he knew she wouldn't be welcomed. She wouldn't be forgiven. They viewed themselves through other people's eyes. Their respect and pride was very important to them. And if Kirti went, her hopes will be dashed even before she would utter a single word.

What would she do then? How will she cope? Will she be able to withstand that kind of rejection from her family a second time? Maan dragged a tired hand down his face. She was emotional yes, but she was also very strong. Maybe somewhere she too knew there could be repercussions. She wasn't dumb or naive. She must have thought through those scenarios as well. He took a deep breath in and then released it. Maybe he was thinking too much. Kirti must have weighed her options as well. And she could still decide to change her mind and not go. But his instincts told him she will not change her mind. Wasn't there anything he could say or do to dissuade her? It was for her own good. Maan hated not being able to take a swift decision. Here the problem was, it wasn't his decision to make. Damn. He heard the handle turn and door open. He didn't turn around.The soft footfalls told him it was Kirti.

She walked up to him and put her arms around his middle resting her head against his back. For some reason her action made him stiffen. He couldn't help himself. And then he heard her soft voice say something. He shook his head as the words registered and smiled faintly. He turned around, took her in his arms and hugged her tight. He relaxed instantly realizing one vital thing, Kirti had found the chink in his armor and he couldn't deny her anything.

And all she had said was 'I love you more today...a lot more than yesterday'.

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Jul 2, 2016

Teri Meri Love Stories- Short Story Part 11 (By Apopinion) (Thanked: 29 times)

Maan inserted the key in the lock and entered the apartment, taking in a deep breath.

It was still early on a Sunday morning. But Kirti had a flight at six for Chandigarh. Yup, just as he had predicted and hoped against, she had decided to attend her sister's wedding. He hadn't repeated his warning again. Once was enough. She had her own intelligence to decide what she wanted to do. It was her wish. She was an adult and she could take her own decisions, right or wrong. And because she was an adult she could face the repurcussions too. He hadn't wanted her to go and she had known that, despite that she had taken the decision...then so be it. And that had been his reaction when she had told him about it, he had felt a prick of anger that she had chosen to go instead of heeding his advice. For a second he had even doubted her loyalty. And then he had been mad at her for making him think like that, and then at himself for feeling insecure and chauvinistic. She loved him. He knew that. Felt it in everything she did. He could doubt anything but that. Despite his cynicism and attitude towards relationships he knew that one thing to be true. And when he had taken her shopping, for the first time he had seen excitement as she had bought clothes to wear for each function. The joy and shining eyes had made up for all the sourness he had been feeling. After a little time he had enjoyed her enthusiasm too. Not that he had told her anything of the sort. Despite them being so close he still found it uncomfortable to talk to her about his feelings.

When he had dropped her at the airport his mood had been sombre. He hadn't know why. Despite all the rationale he had given himself about Kirti being a big girl and taking care of herself and the freedom of making choices he hadn't been able to stop the worry that had crept in. She would be on her own there. He could have swallowed the bitter pill and gone with her but...his pride was important, and it was one thing he never compromised on. He had never done anything he hadn't wanted to and he wasn't beginning now. Halfeartedly convincing himself she would be okay and that she was going to see her family, maybe nothing would go wrong just the way she had predicted, he had said bye. Gruffly.

But now that he was back home, his mood refused to lift. Damn, but he missed her already. He hadn't realized how much he had gotten used to her presence that now she wasn't there, he could hear the silence in the house, and it was oppressing. It wasn't as if they were always talking or she was a chatterbox. In that respect, they were both similar. She had always had a quiet nature and he had turned his nature quiet.

Maan decided to make some coffee hoping it would make him feel better. The restlessness was getting on his nerves. He put the kettle on and added coffee to it. How long had he known Kirti? The thought came out of nowhere and he decided to indulge it while the coffee brewed. Forever...and his mouth twisted mockingly. He wasn't that romantic. Since childhood...yes, that sounded better. They had been neighbors before his father had struck gold with his business and they had moved to a posh locality. Maan's lips curled with distaste. How he had hated that house. Sure it had been big, still was. But it had always been cold. There had never been any warmth. Full of things, but never real emotions. He had never wanted to go there. Not that his wishes had been taken into account. Nor had he bothered to voice his thoughts after a couple of rebuffs he had got from his parents. It had just been a place to live before he had been sent to a boarding school for being a brat and then, then it had become just a place to visit during holidays. He had completely moved out when he had left for Boston for his higher studies. And those were the only years he hadn't seen her. But like a loyalist she had sent him mails, on his birthday, on festivals, always stayed in touch. Of course, at that time he had also been best friends with Veer. For a second if he was to put that relationship aside, her mails and greetings had always cheered him up. She had been his only link to Chandigarh. When he had returned briefly before heading to Mumbai and making something out of himself, away from everyone and what was expected of him, he had met her again. And despite all his callousness, his father had maintained relationship with Kirti's family. At that time he had been suprised to see her. She had grown up. From a thin, gawky girl with long plaited hair to a slender, beautiful girl with warm brown hazel eyes and gentle soft mouth. But it hadn't been her physical beauty that had intrigued him, it had been the fact that she hadn't changed at all. She had retained her sweetness, her shy demeanor and innocent naivete. She had never been dumb, her eyes had always held intelligence within. Oh! yes, he had been surprised for sure. Where he had been jaded since his adolescence maybe even since before that, who knew, she had stayed the same. He had found her to be an extremely interesting creature. And at that Maan's features relaxed instantly, his lips lifting into a smile...affectionately.

She had definitely been a fascinating person to know. And she had never complained. Not even once. He was a hard man to live with. Even harder to understand. And hardest to love. His rules, his restrictions, his notions weren't something anyone or everyone could digest. No girl in her right mind would have ever fallen for him. From the few off relationships he had had during his college years he had learnt that much. He had his own demands. And he had a lot of them. He didn't like being questioned. He didn't like being asked. He hated being told what to do. He was always skeptical, more like suspicious, of others' motives. He couldn't stand lies, of any kind. He hated cheaters with an intensity that sometimes scared him as well. He trusted very few people, his family not included, and those he did trust, he knew would never cross him. He had seen the worst in people and what they could do and how it affected those involved. And he never wanted to be the one on the receiving side.

He was self made. More or less. His father's influential background had never provided for him. And in all that dim, focussed, mundane existence of his, Kirti had been a refreshing breeze. He still couldn't figure out how she viewed things despite living with her for the past two years. Her zest for life, her enthusiasm, her excitement and ability to find positivity in the most grim of situations...almost always left him puzzled. He often wondered how life's grim realities never seemed to faze her.

Every day he left for work, she was there to wish him. Every evening when he returned she was there to greet him. No wonder the apartment seemed empty. He looked around. Everything had her touch. From the furniture, the accents, the wall art, everything. He had neither had time nor the inclination for such things. She had made this house, home. Filling it up with her warmth and character. And she had been her own person too. For all the stubbornness and arrogance he showed her, she knew how to get things she wanted done. She had embraced him, his harshness, his cynicism, his friends and the life he had offered her in one sweep. He had proposed to her in not so many words and definitely not with flowery speeches and all the romance that goes with it...and she had accepted. Just like that. Accepting all his conditions without a single protest. She hadn't even blinked an eye. Somewhere he had always known she would accept, but the relief at her 'yes' had been paramount. What he would have done had she said 'no' he had no idea, and all because that scenario had never presented itself. And Maan as a rule didn't believe in wasting time on things that never took place.

He sipped his coffee after stirring sugar in it and he missed her company. Just two days ago they had had coffee together. Why was he wallowing? She would be back in exaclty one week. 'Too long', a voice whispered in his head. How was it too long, he shot back with a frown marring his brows. He would be busy through the week, he had a schedule to follow, and days would pass in a blink. And then she would be back. 'What if she doesn't return', taunted the unreasonable voice in his head and that question made him pause in between taking a sip. Where the hell had that question popped up from? He wasnt't insecure. Not where she was concerned. She loved him. For him, she had left her family, friends, city, the life she had known. He trusted her. Completely. She would never do that to him. What the hell? Why was he thinking nonsense? He didn't have time for this. Where was his laptop?

He rose from the chair to go find his laptop and do some constructive work. His coffee mug left on the table. Half full.

And as he worked his mind focussed on the task he was doing, out of habit. But the lingering doubt stayed.

At the back of his mind.

It stayed.

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Kirti rang the bell with trepidation.

People would laugh if she told them she was nervous to enter her parents' home. The same house where she had been born, spent her childhood, adolescence and entered adulthood. So many memories. So many moments. Both good and bad. Mostly good, she corrected mentally. She had had a great childhood, surrounded by love, care, traditions and indulgence. Her parents were the traditional types but not conservative, they were liberal or they had been liberal till it had been convenient. They had provided both her and Anika with the best of education and freedom to choose their own career paths, friends and yet...yet when it had come to the man she had chosen for herself, the man she wanted to spend her life with, they had reservations. So much so they had cut off from her completely. Why was it always that when it came to choosing one's life partner, most parents suddenly decided to walk the conservative path?Anika was having an arranged marriage. At least she liked Gurmeet. Her fiance. But Kirti's heart had always been set on Maan. For her, any other match wouldn't have even been a possibility. Sadly, her parents never could understand that.

Maan had dropped her at the airport this morning. He hadn't asked her again to rethink her decision. It wasn't him. He was proud, if anything. He never repeated himself. Never asked twice. He had always been complicated, for others, but for her, there wasn't another person who was simpler. Maybe because she knew why he was complicated. The problem was that just knowing didn't help. She was still trying, trying to get past all his defenses and he had many. She was successful too, but in bits and parts. He was opening up, slowly, but it was a long way to go. Still. He cared. She knew that. Deeply. For her. Loved her too. In his own way he had shown her how much several times. But he had never given her the words. Where she told him she loved him every single day, he had never in all the time she had known him, including the proposal, ever told her he loved her. And though she was patient and knew it would take time but he would get there, she was starting to get a tad bit greedy. Something she needed to control. He would give only when he was ready. He couldn't be rushed. Just this morning when she had said bye, he had gruffly asked her to take care of herself. And she had hugged him and kissed him on the cheek for that. He was worried for her. But stubborn that he was...he wouldn't accompany her. She just had to wait. She sighed.

How long had she been standing here? How long had she been thinking? But before she could answer those questions, she heard the bolt shift on the other side of the door and she straightened. Her nervousness suddenly back to the fore. She hoped her face gave the impression of being calm even as she felt her palms get all sweaty. She wanted the person opening the door to be Anika, hoped if not her then it would be her mother, at least the woman might be considerate, and dreaded it could be her father, who might bang the door shut in her face or worse, that when the door actually opened she didn't recognize Suraj, their house servant.

For the next few seconds they both stared at each other. She, because she had forgotten Suraj still worked for them, and he because...well, because he probably wouldn't have expected it to be her. He looked surpised. Shocked would be more accurate. Since she recovered first, she passed him a tentative smile not sure of her reception.

"Hello, Suraj," she said in a voice that did not sound very familiar to her.

He blinked almost as if coming out of trance. And then he smiled. A full fledged grin.

"Namaste didi," he said with sudden excitement.

And Kirti smiled, genuinely. He looked like he was happy to see her. Was that good? It definitely boosted her spirit for sure. Two years. It had been two long years . Seemed like ages to her.

"Come, come," Suraj said enthusiastically, and Kirti bent to pick her case, when the weight was taken from her, "what didi?" Suraj said as he took the case even before she could lift it, "why will you carry this heavy stuff, when I am there," he said and turned to go inside leaving her to follow.

Kirti stepped in and looked around. It was as if she had stepped back in time. Nothing had changed. Except maybe the wall colors. They seemed to be painted new. Had that been in preparation of Anika's wedding? The furniture was still the same. Cream colored couches with maroon trimmings. The glass coffee table and matching side tables. The bright maroon rug with cream colored flowers. The crystal chandelier. Memories of having spent so much time in that room gripped her out of nowhere. How many times she had sat on those couches with friends, relatives, her brothers, laughing, arguing, eating. She could almost hear the laughter, the crunch of potato chips even as her mother scolded her to not eat on the couch. She could almost see herself standing there by the big chair, her father's favorite place to sit in the entire room, as her father told her how proud he was of her. She could feel the warmth in her father's voice when he had read her bedtime stories. And then...then the most powerful memory rose to the fore, drowning all others. This was the very room where she had seen her entire family gather one last time before everything had gone down the hill. The laughter was replaced by angry voices. The blame games. Her mother's sobs. She quickly closed her eyes for a second to block the memory, when she opened them again, she was back in the present.

"Didi, you sit," she heard Suraj say, "I will call maaji," he said and rushed off.

She glanced at Suraj's retreating figure. Was she being treated as a guest? This was her home. Former home, a voice reminded her. Was it? She knew everything about this place. She remembered every nook and corner. It was not Suraj. It was her. She had changed. Or maybe the circumstances. There was a time when she would go anywhere she pleased, but now was not that time. Things had changed. She knew why she hesitated to venture further into the house. She didn't know if she was welcomed. True, Suraj had been happy to see her, but how about others? Had Anika told them she had been invited and was coming? How would they react? 'You are dead to us, from here on', a harsh angry voice echoed in her head. 'Don't you ever dare to show us your face'. Her father's words before he had bodily thrown her out and shut the door on her face.

All of a sudden, she wasn't sure it had been a good idea to get all sentimental and come here. Her parents hated her. They must have loved her once but...She felt anxiety rise inside her as she struggled to remain calm and stomp on her sudden need to flee before someone came. She could leave. Right now. Go back. Or stay at a hotel. Suraj had gone to call her mother. How much time had passed since he had left? She looked at the big grandfather clock in the corner, not that it helped, and then she heard hasty footsteps on the stairs. Coming down. She drew in a deep calming breath and had only a few seconds to school her expression when she found herself face to face with Mrs. Kamal Singh after a gap of two years.

Her mother stood before her.

And now there was no going back.

Oh! boy. What was she going to do?

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Jul 13, 2016

Teri Meri Love Stories-Short Story Part 11 (By Apopinion) (Thanked: 22 times)

Kamal stared at the girl who stood before her.

She had been sipping her tea when Suraj had come and told her Kirti was here. It had taken her a full minute to grasp what Suraj had been blabbering about. And then another minute to get over her shock. Kirti was here? Why? Had she returned for good? What was wrong? Was she okay? In that moment numerous questions had chased each other inside her head. Her monther's instincts had taken over and she had risen from her seat in both excitement and anxiousness. Excitement because she hadn't seen or heard from her daughter in two years and anxiousness because she wasn't sure if her daughter was alright. Her sudden return had caused for alarm and that too just a week before Anika's wedding. She had taken a few quick steps towards the door, in her rush to go downstairs and see for herself that all was well when she had suddenly stopped. Kirti...and Kamal recalled all that had taken place before her daughter had left them all for that...good for nothing, immoral and arrogant boy two years ago. The hurt, the anger, the upset at all that had transpired then returned with a vengeance. Kirti hadn't cared for any of them. Not their feelings, not their love, not even their name amongst family and friends forget society. She had forgotten them and all they had done for her before going away with that Khanna boy.

And now she was back. For what? If she had returned thinking she would be forgiven or hoping for a reconcilement then she was going to be sorely disappointed. Kamal was sure she will have her husband's support in this, after disgracing herself and trudging the family name through dirt, she had no place in this house or family. She took in a deep breath and calmed herself pushing traitorous mother's emotions in the back. Then straightened her shoulders and went downstairs. It was a good thing Anoop wasn't home. She could deal with things in a more calm manner. But not Anoop. There would have been pandemonium in the house had he been here right now and Kamal didn't want anything to go wrong with just days to Anika's wedding. What perfect timing? And Kamal narrowed her gaze even as she walked down the lobby. Was that deliberate? How did Kirti know about Anika's wedding? Or was this just a coincidence? Kirti would never jeopardize her sister's wedding. Would she? Kamal tried to keep her thoughts under control. Kirti may have in the past shown she wasn't as trustworthy but Kamal was sure, she wouldn't stoop to that level. But she had lived with that egoistic, selfish man for two years, whispered a hateful voice in her head, who knew how much she had changed. Whatever the reason maybe, Kamal just hoped Kirti wasn't here with the intention of ruining things for Anika, if that came to be true, she will throw her out this time.

But even as she went hastily down the stairs, to be done with Kirti, a tiny part of her stayed anxious to see her older daughter. That was the only part which hoped Kirti was alright and not in some kind of problem. Though what Kamal would have done if that were to be true she had no idea. Keeping her expression contained, lest Kirti assumed her act had been forgiven, she slowed her pace. Then there she was. Kirti had just turned to face her. Must have heard her approach. And despite herself and her solemn resolve she stared at her. Drinking in the sight of her firstborn after two years. Two long years.

She hadn't changed much. A bit here or there but mostly she was still the same. Same big hazel brown eyes in a still very familiar oval face stared back at her . Her long black hair was left open and it still curled naturally. How many times she had oiled Kirti's tresses? How many times she had braided that hair? Countless, came the answer. Her maroon kurta and mustard churidaar complimented her fair skin. She looked radiant. Happy. Despite the slight hesitance Kamal noticed in Kirti's eyes, there was a certain glow on her face. She didn't look distressed or troubled, Kamal's mind registered. She saw Kirti smile faintly, as she approached. Despite the youth and innocence that was still so much a part of Kirti's face, Kamal detected a certain maturity. Kirti looked wiser somehow. Confident too despite the uncertainty that Kamal was sure her daughter felt. The tiny part that had been anxious, was now satisfied. Kirti was fine with whoever she was living with or whatever she was doing with her life. And so Kamal clamped a lid over the satisfied part. It seemed they were both over their intial shock now.

"Hello ma," Kirti said quietly.

"Have you come to your senses then?" Kamal questioned as she raised an eyebrow for effect.

And Kirti suddenly felt at a loss as her mind registered the frosty note in her mother's voice.

Will Maan's prediction come true? Or did destiny have something more interesting in store for her?

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Kirti stood there for a second watching her mother's face. What was she looking for? There was no softness in her mother's eyes. Neither had there been any warmth in her voice. Her demeanor seemed hostile. Her stance rigid. For her. Maan had cautioned her that she won't be welcomed and somewhere she had known it too and yet...despite all of that she had hoped. That maybe....that somehow with all the months between them, they might have mellowed in their attitude towards her and her decision. That they might be willing to move forward and forget the uglinesss of that day. It didn't seem so. Was it all in vain then? Will Maan be proved right? Did it matter? They would never understand what she had done and why. Question that rose in her head was did she want them to? Weren't parents and family supposed to support their children? She hadn't committed a crime. In their eyes, maybe yes. She had chosen the man she had wanted to spend her life with. That was all. Was that that big a crime? And she had had an amazing life with Maan. True, he had his hangups. Life hadn't been fair to him but he had despite that given her everything he could. She didn't care how he was with others, because she knew if he was mean it must be because they deserved it and if he was good it was because they deserved it, with her he had always been caring and giving. And she couldn't have asked for more. Just because they couldn't see him in that light, they thought she had committed a sin. She hadn't been the one to desert them, it had been the other way around. All she had asked for was understanding. And respect for the decision she had made. They had been the ones to cut off all ties with her, thrown her out of this house and their life as if she had been a bad limb. It had hurt. A lot. For so long. For so many months. It still did. But not at that level. Because somewhere she had consoled herself that there would never come a day where she would even see them again. So there had been nothing for her to lean on, till...till she had received Anika's call and the carrot had dangled in front of her eyes. Or maybe it still hurt, with the same intensity but because she had built her life with Maan and moved forward she had kept it buried somewhere.

Kirti looked at her mother. She had aged a bit. Not overly much. She was still a bit heavy. Her long hair with orange streaks tied behind her head in a bun, same as always. She wanted to hug her mother, feel that warmth and comfort, but she couldn't. And she understood that at some level. She almost took in a deep breath. But paused. Whatever the case, she couldn't let her mother see that her words had stung.

"When had I ever lost my senses ma," she replied quietly. Surprised at the strength she heard in her voice. Maan would have been very proud of her. Just thinking about him gave her confidence. No wonder she loved him so much. He had become her anchor in more ways than one. He was her best friend, her companion, her lover, her life.

"So, you are still living with that..." Kamal said scathingly, even as she tried to find a suitable adjective,"brat...whatever his name is," she managed somehow.

"Yes ma," Kirti replied calmly, something she was far from feeling. What did her mother mean when she said 'whatever his name is'. What had he ever done to them? And one thing she could never tolerate was someone insulting Maan, especially when the man was not around to defend himself. She doubted if her mother would have used that tone in his presence. Till the time he was civil, he was civil but when he took off the veneer of civility, he could be as nasty as they came. "And why pretend as if you don't know him at all, ma," she asked firmly. Kirti was not the yelling types. She had never been and she wasn't starting now. This was her mother she was talking to, despite whatever had happened. She hadn't forgotten their relationship or the boundaries that governed that relationship. She respected her mother. Loved her despite her views and opinions. "You have known him since he was a child. He practically grew up before you," she said even as her mother pursed her lips at the reminder, "you still maintain relationship with his family, then why not with Maan?" she asked her voice pitched slightly higher than she had intended. It was a question she had asked that day too. The day they had broken off ties with her.

"And how I have regretted ever letting him set foot in this house," her mother replied with anger, "had I even had an inkling on what might happen in future, rest assured you would never even have heard of him," she said forcefully, "as far as his family is concerned, they are as disillusioned in him as we are in you," she said and raised her chin a notch,"and as to why we still maintain a relationship with them, I don't think I owe you an explanation," she retorted, "besides, what do you care? You already chose your path," Kamal said distastefully, "why are you even here?" she asked. In her mind though, Kamal knew she was shying away from answering a question she herself didn't fully understand. Or to put it in a more correct manner, she had never really given that question much thought. Why they had maintained relationship with the Khannas and not with Maan? She actually didn't know the answer. She didn't want to know. Maan had destroyed their family name, taken their daughter away from them and those were enough reasons to hate him. The manner in which things had taken place and the way Kirti had sided with him, putting all their teachings and values on the backburner, left no place for forgiveness. She didn't care what anyone said, what both Kirti and Maan had done was damming. And that was that.

"Anika invited me to attend her wedding," Kirti replied softly, not sure how her statement would be taken or if Anika would land in any trouble. Her mother hadn't been expecting her, that much she had deduced from the surprised and frosty welcome she had received. But now she was sure because her mother had clearly asked her the reason for her visit. Oh, boy! this wasn't good.

Kamal's face lost all color. Had Anika lost her senses? What was wrong with her? She had invited Kirti for her wedding without once consulting her or anyone else? She felt the need to sit...and she did. What was wrong with the daughters of this house? One had left with a man they all had thoroughly disapproved of and the other...the other was hellbent on getting her upcoming marriage cancelled. Anika's would be in-laws were on the conservative side, and that was to put it mildly. And Anika had invited her disreputed sister to her wedding. Kamal's mind refused to wrap itself around the whole idea. What were they trying to do? Give her a heart attack? What will relatives say? What will their friends say? How will Anoop react when he gets to know? And she would have gone on thinking when she felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to find Kirti's concerned face.

"Are you okay ma?" Kirti asked concerned. Her mother in the last few seconds seemed was going to have a stroke. She had gone white as a sheet since she had told her that Anika had invited her to her wedding. Plus, the fact that she sat down abruptly.

"Okay..." Kamal said slowly then she stood up as suddenly as she had sat down,"you ruined your life and our name by running away and now Anika will get her marriage cancelled a week before the actual date," she said shaken, "and I should be okay?" she asked. Her voice rising almost like a screech.

Kirti was confused. The first part she understood but Anika's marriage getting cancelled. She had no clue what her mother was talking about. She opened her mouth to ask what her mother meant but another voice interrupted before she could put her thoughts into words.

A very happy voice. A very excited voice.

"You came," it said happily.

And both Kirti and Kamal turned around.

Anika was here.

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Jul 18, 2016

Teri Meri Love Stories-Short Story Part 11 (By Apopinion) (Thanked: 35 times)

Anika had been going to her mother's room to confirm if the girls who were supposed to come and start working on her trousseau were coming today when she had heard her mother's voice. Loud. As if she was yelling at someone. And Anika had wondered what had compelled her mother to lose her temper in such a manner. Curiosity as to what was happening had urged her to come downstairs. She had been halfway down the stairs when she had heard another voice. Calm. Quiet. Sweet. Kirti. And she had paused in her step. It was Kirti's voice. Her sister's voice. She could recognize that one voice from far. She had come. Despite the fact that she had said she wasn't sure, she had come. Anika had felt happy. Kirti had honored her request or threat or whatever she had said to her on the phone the other day. She was here. That realization had made her go bounding down the remaining steps. The second she saw Kirti she exclaimed delightedly.

"You came," she said happily and moved towards her. Her mind not registering the pained look in her sister's eyes nor the stormy one on her mother's face. She was maybe a little slow to catch on the tension in the room. But it didn't matter. At least not at this point. She went all the way up to Kirti and hugged her. Tightly. She felt the surprise in her sister's response as her body stiffened, as if she hadn't been expecting such a welcome. And then slowly Anika had felt Kirti relax a little and hug her back. It had been so long. Two years since she had seen Kirti. At that she had broken away and looked at her sister. Her eyes going up and down.

"You look the same," Anika chimed, "no difference," she said and then smiled, "it has been so long, I had thought you would have started to resemble someone I would never recognize," she said with zest, "but not bad...not bad at all di," she told Kirti with a grin, "you somehow still manage to look amazing," she said and then laughed lightly.

"Thanks Niks," Kirti responded naturally, "you haven't changed a bit either," she said as she looked over her sister, "I would have thought arranged marriage would maybe put a damper on you but...you are looking very happy, very nice," she said with an appreciative smile. It was hard not to respond to her sister's charm. Anika seemed genuinely happy to see her. As was she.

"Well..." Anika started when she heard her mother's strict voice interrupt.

"You invited her?" Kamal asked still unable to understand why Anika had gone behind their backs to do something so stupid.

Anika turned to look at her mother. And it hit her. She hadn't told her mother about it. Yet. And now that Kirti was here, it was a little late.

"So how is it?" Anika asked as she sat cross legged on her sister's bed and Kirti hung her clothes in the cupboard.

"How is what?" Kirti asked without turning around.

"Living day in and day out with... him," Anika said stressing on the word 'him'.

And Kirti turned around to give her sister a dour look.

"He is amazing," she said levelly.

"But he is so arrogant," Anika went on,"how do you put up with him?" she asked curiously.

"It is not right for you to assume he is arrogant or cynic or anybthing else,' she reprimanded lightly.

"Come on di," Anika chuckled even as she scooped a spoonful of ice cream in her mouth,"every one knows what he is like," Anika went on,"tell me, if I am lying," she challenged.

"Then why don't you go ask everyone what it would be like to live with him day in and day out," Kirti said defensively. How she hated such presumptions. There was so much more to a person than he or she displayed to others. But people being people...

"Come on di," Anika said refusing to be brushed off, "I am serious, okay, forget about others, tell me," she insisted, "I want to know," she said putting her bowl of ice cream to the side,"how is it like living with a man under the same roof when you have never had that kind of experience? That too away from family...just the two of you. What is it like? I will be married in a week, you can give me tips," she said with a hopeful expression on her face.

Kirti sighed. What could she say to that? If the partner was right, everything was smooth sail even after the honeymoon period got over. If not, then....life could get a lot harder.But Maan was a perfect partner. For her. If only people could believe it.

"Anika, I cannot generalize," Kirti said softly, "really, because each person is different," she said wisely,"I don't think thereis any partnership, be it business or marriage or work or even plain old friendship, without certain adjustments," she went on as she walked towards the bed and sat opposite to Anika,"no two people are alike, same goes for their backgrounds and values and thoughts. Our experiences also shape us, our behavior and all we can do is know in our minds at least as to what is acceptable and what is not," she said seriously, "there will be always some things that cannot be adjusted to and some things cannot be so," she said and then shrugged hoping she had answered Anika's questions.

"He treats you well?" Anika asked suddenly, trying to keep her tone casual.

But Kirti heard the worry and the doubt behind the casual tone. Somewhere her sister wasn't sure if Maan was a good guy or even the guy for her. She should have sighed but smiled instead.

"Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better partner Niks," Kirti said even as she placed her hand on her sister's and squeezed a little for assurance, "he is arrogant," she said hoping to make her sister understand, then maybe she could make the rest of the family understand too, that they all misunderstood Maan. And that the choices she had made had been right. "You are right, to add to that, he is also very proud," she continued and watched slight frown lines appear on her sister's face, "he can be extremely rude if he is irritated and downright mean if someone crosses him," she said slowly ticking off Maan's negative attributes, "he is short on patience too if things or situations or people get overly emotional, he owns a big ego and an even bigger phobia to relationships..." she said and would have gone on had Anika not interrupted her.

"And you still went away with him...leaving all of us," Anika said in an accusatory tone. This time she couldn't keep her tone casual nor could she hide the hurt.

But Kirti only smiled. Anika didn't know Maan, at least not the way she did. A lot of people asked her how she coped with him? Or why was she still with him? They were people who pretended to know him. Because his best friends never did. None of them had ever asked her those questions. Her family viewed Maan in the same light as the world did. Arrogant, proud, egoistic, selfish, boorish, someone who defied conventions every opportunity he got. And Kirti labeled all of them as ignorant. Because if they actually Maan, his qualities often outshone his other not so good attributes. Those adjectives just sounded negative, in actuality they weren't. He had never behaved without cause. And Kirti realized something vital as she spoke to Anika about this, that it was a great opportunity to make her family realize how wrong they were in their assumption about him.

"You didn't let me finish," Kirti said quietly, "he is arrogant and he has every right to be, at his age, all he has achieved and all by himself, I would say he has every right to be arrogant, but remember he is not ****y," Kirti said stressing on the right words, "he is proud, and why shouldn't he be Niks," Kirti went on, "yes, he has a big name beacking him but he built his success without that backing, if he shouldn't be proud of achieving his goals I don't know who should," she said gently,"he has no patience for society's many rules and conventions, so everyone thinks the worst of him but you tell me, how many of those very rules and conventions do you agree with? Tell me, if you have never challenged any of those yourself? He is not unlike you or me or anyone else Niks, he is like us," Kirti asked Anika reminding her of the several conversations they had had as sisters growing up. Their dissatisfactions, that they had discussed but never openly voiced. Why were there so many rules? Why so many for girls? Why not for boys? Why couldn't they do things their way when the same was allowed for their cousin brothers?, "only where we do not find the courage to say our thoughts openly, he does," Kirti said softly,"you do know most of them are hypocrisies than anything else, based on power politics," Kirti went on as she saw Anika seriously considering her words, "there was a time when you were totally against arranged marriage, 'why should we parade as if we were objects to be marketed or sold', your words Niks, not mine," Kirti said gesturing with her free hand, "'why can't we go and have the boy parade' or 'they should pay dowry instead of us, after all we leave everything and go', should you be treated like an outcast or...or...or should you be ostracized because you raised those questions," Kirti queried as she rose restlessly from the bed and moved towards the window of her room, "and now you are the one who is going for an arranged match," she said and paused for a second, collecting her thoughts together. "All I am saying is, that without knowing someone, nobody should form opinions," she said and turned around to face Anika who was looking at her with a thoughtful expression, "people would have broken Maan and his spirit long ago if they had their way," she spoke quietly, emotionally. Because she knew that Maan and his actions, his thoughts were all governed by deep rooted hurt and pain. "In his words, either you toughen up or you get trampled upon, choice is yours, just don't cry either way," she said and fell silent. Letting Anika digest her words. Think them through. Sift through them and make a decision.

Anika didn't say anything either. What was she thinking? Kirti wanted to ask but felt hesitant. There was a time when she could ask just about anything under the sun to her sister, but today...as she stood here, in this room, with her...she felt distanced. True, they had stayed in touch, true, Anika had invited her for her wedding despite knowing she will have to face the wrath of the entire family...but things between them felt different. They probably still loved each other but there was a certain degree of awkward hesitancy now. Did they still think the same way? Did they still talk the same language? Kirti wasn't sure. Why was she feeling this way? Anika was still the same, wasn't she? Or had Kirti changed? Maybe this wasn't the time to think of all of those things. Maybe later. She took in a deep breath and released it.

"You don't know him the way I do Anika," she started again softly. The silence had probably stretched longer. And she couldn't stop herself."With him I can be myself and not worry," she said with a light fondness entering her tone, "with him I am happy, it is important to him...my happiness," she said with a smile as she looked at Anika, "I feel safe, cherished. I don't have to word my needs or thoughts or feelings, he just knows it," she said and shrugged lightly, "same as me. I don't know if other couples share the same kind of equation or bond," she said unsurely, "I don't know if you will have the same equation with Gurpreet, you must have seen something in him or connected at some level to say yes, same is for me, and I cannot help but hold on to it," she confessed, "maybe I seem selfish, maybe I am disgraceful, but it is not possible for me to let go of something as beautiful as I have," she told Anika, "so I decided to choose him," she said with certain mistiness in her eyes now, "if everyone thinks it is madness, then madness it is, all I want is for you...ma and papa to at least try to understand it, even that would be sufficient," she said and raised her chin a notch. She wasn't sure if she had worded it right. Nor was she sure if Anika understood. But she hoped her sister did. Or at least tried.

Silence seemed to stretch in the room when Anika finally spoke.

"Does he feel the same way about you too di?" Anika asked quietly. She hadn't said a word before this or interrupted her sister. She had given her sister a chance to explain her side of the story, something their family had forgotten to do before. And after seeing her mother's reaction to Kirti's return she was sure her sister would never get the chance in future too. But she had wanted to listen. Wanted to know. Maybe she still didn't understand what had motivated her sister to make the choices she had but she wanted to. The emotion she heard, the love and conviction, somewhere she wanted to believe every word Kirti had said. But doubts....doubts about the man in question, his intentions regarding her sister and the kind of person he was refused to let go. At her question though, she found Kirti look back at her.

Kirto didn't answer immediately. Maybe Anika was starting to believe her. Maybe not. Maybe she was starting to understand. Maybe not. Did it matter? The girl had defended her downstairs not so long ago. And she had sat there and listened to everything she had said. But the doubt was there. Loud and clear.

"Does he love you just as much di?" Anika asked again when Kirti didn't answer.

It didn't matter. Kirti realized. Anika being doubtful didn't matter suddenly. Because her question was stemmed out of her love...love for her, her safety and Anika's worry for her future. And that realization made her smile. Brightly.

"Yes, he does," Kirti responded with confidence.

"Did he tell you that?" Anika asked narrowing her gaze skeptically, as if trying to gauge if Kirti was telling the truth or a lie.

Kirti felt her smile broaden.

"You know the beauty of our relationship Niks," Kirti asked and saw slight surprise appear on her sister's face, "he doesn't have to," she said happily. Contentedly. Confidently.

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Aug 1, 2016

Teri Meri Love Stories- Short Story Part 11 (By Apopinion) (Thanked: 30 times)

Kamal paced the space of her room in agitation wringing her hands with a fierce frown on her forehead. What was taking so long?

She had called Preeti the second she had come to her room.It had been over an hour now. Where was she? Her sister-in-law. Despite the fact Preeti never had any constructive ideas or advice to give, Kamal had always sought her out everytime she had faced difficult situations. Preeti somehow always managed to calm her down. She was her brother-in-law Jeet's wife. They had been in a joint setup for a few years where all their kids had grown up together, and then they had found a place of their own when space had started to get a little tight and both Jeet and Preeti had wanted a house of their own. In Kamal's mind it had been the latter. Jeet and Preeti had wanted their own house with the authority to decide for themselves with less interference, space constarints had only been an excuse. But since it had all worked out amicably so Kamal had nothing to complain about. In fact, their relationships had gotten better. The strain and tension Kamal used to feel at times when they were living together had dissipated. They had been here that day when Kirti had left this house. Veer had been livid. Preeti's elder son. He had always been protective for both Kirti and Anika. And somewhere he had blamed himself for what had happened. But in actuality it hadn't been much of his fault. He still hadn't forgiven Kirti for insulting their family name the way she had. She wondered how he will react if he found Kirti was back to attend Anika's wedding and that the invitation had been extended by Anika. It had been difficult to control him two years ago when he had wanted to go after Maan and hurt him for brainwashing Kirti. They had managed...somehow. What if things got out of hand this time? She didn't want any commotion or unnecessary drama in Anika's marriage. She massaged her temples. This was more complicated than she had thought. What had Anika done? Kamal paused and looked at the clock again. Where was Preeti? And just as the thought crossed her mind the lady in question breezed in.

"What happened to you?" Kamal asked surprised to see her sister in law in such disarray.

Preeti looked a little out of sorts. Her always neatly plaited hair was tied up with a band behind her neck. Her kurta was partially wet. She was wearing slippers when she always wore sandals anytime she was stepping out of the house. A quick dash of lipstick and kohl around her eyes was all she had for makeup and this was when Preeti was very fond of applying tons of other things on her face.

"I had applied henna on my hair parjhaiji," Preeti said with a slight frown and adjusted her dupatta, "when your call came had to wash it off quickly," she told Kamal,"since you had said it was an emergency and you sounded so stressed, I just came as fast as I could," she said in one breath, "what happened? Is praji alright? Did Anika's in laws call with some bad news? Is Guddi not coming?" she asked without taking a pause.

"No, nothing of the sort," Kamal tried to explain in between all the talking Preeti was doing.

"Haye haye, parjaiji," Preeti said interrupting Kamal and switching naturally to Punjabi, "tussi te jaan hi kadh di," she said as she put her hand on her chest dramatically, "main te aina ghabra gayi si," she said and then using her dupatta started fanning her face,"tussi vi na," she said shaking her head and then went ahead and sat on the chair Kamal had been sitting on earlier when Suraj had come with the news of Kirti's return. As she sat she saw the half finished cup of tea on the table. "Tussi savere di cha nahi piti?" she asked. One thing she knew about Kamal was that she rarely did anything out of routine. She was a nice woman but very strict about day to day functionality. And that was where Preeti had struggled for several years, more so because her mother in law had been similar too. But that was all before they had moved into their own home. Now things in her house took place the way she wanted them. "Waise, Suraj kithe aa, aunu kaho jara mere layi vi thodi bana de," she said and smiled.

"Tu gal sunan da ki legi,"Kamal said in a high pitched voice. Why was Preeti so talkative? It was always as if once she started she couldn't stop. But it got her the attention she needed. Preeti looked curiously at her.

"Achcha, chalo now meri attention tuade naal hai, dasso," she said as she settled more comfortably in her chair.

"Preeti..." Kamal started then paused for a second unsure, but it had to be said. She needed a quick advice and Preeti was family. Taking in a quick deep breath she started again,"Kirti is here," she said, almost in a harsh whisper.

Preeti stared at Kamal. What did her sister in law just say? She said 'Kirti is here', her mind repeated for her. Kirti? What? Why? When? "Kirti?" Preeti parroted. And at Kamal's quick nod she finally understood what the emergency was. "Our Kirti?" she asked again just to be very sure she was hearing and understanding correctly.

"How many Kirti's do you know?" Kamal asked irritated. "Or how many Kirti's have to be present for me to be tense?" she asked as she crossed her arms over her chest. Maybe it had been a bad idea to call her.

"But why?" Preeti asked even as she patted the chair next to her. An invite for Kamal to come and sit next to her, so they could talk better. Kamal did look stressed. And rightly so, if what she said was true.

"Anika invited her for the wedding," Kamal said in a voice that came out as strangled. Then went over and sat with a thump on the chair next to Preeti.

"Why? Is she mad?" Preeti said with a horrified expression, "Doesn't she realize Praji would lose it? And what of her in laws?" Preeti said with growing alarm,"Parjayiji, only ten days to her wedding, Kudi kamli ta nahi ho gayi," she said as the full import of the situation hit her, "the relatives and friends...everyone will have a field trip gossipping,"she said as she painted the picture, "we have already faced that situation once...how will we face this one more time?" Preeti said distressed. Then paused as another thought hit her. She quickly took Kamal's hand in hers, "Is that...is Maan with her?" she whispered loudly.

"No," Kamal said tightly.

"Thank you Babaji," Preeti said closing her eyes for a quick second in relief, "does praji know?" she asked as she looked at Kamal, who was now looking haggard.

"No, Preeti," Kamal said as if exhausted, "he wasn't home when Kirti arrived. I didn't believe her when she told me that Anika had invited her here," she said tiredly, "but then Anika confirmed it," she said then shook her head, "she went behind our backs to invite Kirti, now I don't know what to do? Anoop is going to flip badly over this and Anika will have to face the brunt of it," she said miserably, "I just don't want any ruckus to take place Preeti, you know how difficult these past two years have been...the talks, the taunts, the insults...and now if because of Anika's one mistake, something goes wrong, I don't know if we will ever be able to get over that," she said and put her hand on Preeti's and squeezed, "I am so scared Preeti, what if Anika's in laws see Kirti's presence as an insult? What if they break this alliance..." she said and looked at Preeti for some kind of assurance.

Preeti understood where her sister in law was going with this. It had been difficult, the past two years, yes. Kirti leaving all of them for Maan and running away with him had never been taken kindly by anyone. Her brother in law, Anoop had taken it very hard too, severing all ties with the girl. Nobody had been forgiving, not their relatives, not their friends, not even their neighbors. Finally, things had started to settle down. And with Anika's alliance getting fixed in an excellent family people had started to shut up. But with Kirti's return...things could go down the hill for all of them. Again.

"Parjayiji, stay calm," Preeti said, though somewhere she knew, it was easier said than done, because the worry was not just for Anika's in laws, the worry was also for Anoop praji, because once he lost his temper, he sure was scary, "are you saying, you had no idea Anika was in touch with Kirti and had invited her to this wedding?" she asked just to confirm that was how it was.

"Of course, I had no idea," Kamal said loudly, "you think I would have let her continue if I knew," she said upset.

"I know parjayiji," Preeti said trying to calm Kamal down, "getting upset won't help at this time, we have to think this through," she said with a slight frown on her forehead, "so praji doesn't know Kirti is here right now?" she asked and Kamal nodded her head in answer,"Where is Kirti? Is she staying at a hotel?" Preeti asked seriously.

"No, Anika insisted she will stay here," Kamal said stressed, "Preeti, Anika told Gurpreet that she was inviting Kirti," she confessed.

Preeti stared at Kamal in bewilderment.

"Gurpreet knows," she asked surprised.

"Yes," Kamal said looking at her hand, "Anika told him," she said and bit her lip.

"What did he say?" Preeti asked concerned.

"Anika says he if fine with it," Kamal replied.

"Does he know the full circumstances as to what had happened?" Preeti asked trying to understand how bad the situation was.

"I have no idea," Kamal said distraught, "and I cannot go ask him. If I ask him and he has no idea then things will for sure get out of hand," she told Preeti.

"Right,"Preeti said thoughtfully. It was a very delicate situation. With the wedding taking place in ten days and relatives starting to come in today, it would get very stressful for everyone. "Why did you allow Kirti to stay here?" she asked curiously.

"I wanted her to leave," Kamal said strictly,"she wanted to leave too...but Anika refused to listen," she said unhappily,"Preeti, I didn't want any more drama before the servants. My biggest worry is Anoop," she said upset again, "he won't listen. And I don't want anything untoward happening at this point," she admitted, "what do I do?" she asked.

Preeti thought for a while before responding.

"Do you know..." she started then took a second before framing her question correctly, "did Kirti and Maan get married?" she asked.

Kamal looked at Preeti meeting her gaze. She didn't know. She hadn't asked. She hadn't seen any vermilion on her forehead or the mangalsutra around her neck. Neither had she noticed a ring on her ring finger. But these days, a lot of girls did not wear any of the traditional things. In short, she had no idea if Kirti and Maan had married or not. Damn, she should have asked. It should have been her first question.

"I...I don't know," she said disjointedly.

That was not good news in Preeti's estimation. If Kirti and Maan had gotten married after leaving here, it would have at least been some sort of consolation, but if they hadn't...then that would prove to be disastrous. Live in relationships were getting to be the next big trend but not many approved. If one was to ask her, she herself felt it was nonsense. If you could live with a man day in and day out, share all the things that usually took place post marriage then get married....what was the problem? Divorce was just as easy these days. So it amounted to be the same thing. But being in a live in relationship was more of a stigma than getting divorced. And there were other repurcussions nobody really thought of. The thing was, Chandigarh was still not that big a city or that modern a city to accept such things. Neither were their relatives or friends. Nor were they. Praji would be livid beyond measure.

"Parjayiji," Preeti started carefully,"if she has gotten married that would be a small relief...at least we could then pretend in front of everyone that we have forgiven her and Maan, but if she hasn't then it would prove to be a big hurdle," she told Kamal who bit her lower lip with eyes full of tears, "you should have at least asked before letting her stay here," she said then patted Kamal's arm, "right now, you need to tell praji, so he is prepared to accept Kirti being here when he returns, if he comes back and finds her here without having any idea of what is going on, you can imagine what would happen," she said reminding Kamal of Anoop's temper, "and if there are others here at that time..." she said and left it at that.

"But Peeti, if I just call him and tell him of Kirti's return he would be livid and then the emotion would build by the time he comes back," Kamal responded to Preeti's statement anxiously,"it would be the same either way," she said.

Preeti understood Kamal's concern. She thought for a second.

"So don't tell him," she said quietly, "call him and tell him there is an emergency and he needs to come home right now, then talk to him alone," she suggested, "explain to him that with Anika's upcoming wedding it is important that a joint front be shown to one and all. We can talk about what needs to be done once Anika is married and has gone to her home," she adviced,"that way, there will be no drama before others and this...this situation would be under control," she said, "what do you think?" she asked Kamal.

Kamal pondered over Preeti's suggestion. For all the stupid talk she ususally did, this was her best idea ever. To get Anoop home first and then talk to him alone. As for others, they could pretend all was well. She will need to ask Kirti about her relationship with Maan too. But later. Was there another way to diffuse the situation? She thought for a few seconds but couldn't come up with even one. Maybe her brain was overworked right now.

"Guddi comes later this afternoon," she said almost as if talking to herself, "then Babli comes tomorrow morning followed by Shanno and Shalu," she said with a deep frown on her forehead, "we cannot show we are upset over Kirti's presence and neither can there be a showdown between Anoop and Kirti in front of anyone," she said then with a sudden irritation she slapped her forehead hard,"the nerve of these girls. What a time they have chosen to conspire against us," she said upset.

"Parjayiji," Preeti said alarmed,"you cannot get upset. Isn't Praji enough?" she said quickly, "Think of Anika's wedding and nothing else. A lot is at stake parjayiji, be strong, you have to handle a lot of things," she said placing a hand of reassurance on her shoulder,"and then we are there too," she said with a faint smile, "you are not alone. We will handle this together," she said.

Kamal placed a hand on Preeti's and squeezed a little to show her thanks. Then took in a deep breath. She couldn't get weak. She had to stay strong. A lot was at stake. Anika's wedding. Their reputation. Their family name. No, she couldn't let anyone mess with any of those. If pretending was what was the need of the hour then that was what shall be done. But first she will have to talk to Anoop. And convince him to work with her to mitigate any unwanted situation due to the sudden return of their disgraced daughter. But what will she do if Anoop didn't agree? What will she do if things didn't go the way she was hoping?

And Kamal frowned because she had no answer for either of those questions.

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Anika was in her room. The trousseau packers were here. It was the in thing these days, to get all gifts packed professionally. One didn't carry them all in suitcases like in the older days and then hand out once you reached your in laws' post wedding. These days gifts were beautifully wrapped and labeled and given during the ceremonies itself. She had protested against it, citing it as an extravagance. But she had been asked to keep her mouth shut, her parents were not cutting any corners for her wedding and all because they thought Kirti's leaving the way she had was a handicap that could be covered by all this lavishness. In her eyes, it wasn't a handicap and that spending so much money on unnecessary things was absolute stupidity. Not that anybody cared about her views on the subject. It was a Punjabi wedding.

However, her mind was not on what the two girls were doing. There were beautiful vibrant wrapping papers, different shapes and sizes of baskets, organza ribbons, tapes, staples, scissors all strewn around in one part of the room where the girls were working. Her mother had already instructed them on what to do and left. She would return in a few minutes to survey their work but Preeti chachi was here and Anika could bet her favorite cold coffee as to why she had been summoned at such short notice or why her mother had been hasty in her instructions when she was a highly detail oriented person. The two of them, her mother and chachi, would either be downstairs or in her mother's room coming up with a contingency plan as to what to say to other friends and relatives or more so how to convince her father to stay calm and allow Kirti to be a part of this wedding.

She frowned slightly as she looked at the flowers blooming in the pots kept in the balcony. Her mind went over the conversation she and Kirti had had a little while ago. Kirti had changed. She was still quiet. But she was much more confident. The way she had defended her relationship, her wisdom, the surety in her voice, Anika could never have imagined Kirti to be like this. The happiness she heard in her sister's voice, the contentment, relieved her of her worries. The biggest Kirti being in a relationship with the ogre. Anika frowned severely at the reminder of...Aryaman Khanna.

She had known him since they were kids what with them being family friends and all. He was way older to her. Almost eleven years give or take a few months. The problem was that despite the fact that they had rarely ever interacted considering the age gap and how they were so different from each other he had always behaved with reluctant tolerance. Always sarcastic, when he wasn't being sarcastic he was mean. She never did have any high opinion of him. So when Kirti had announced she loved him...HIM...even Anika had been shocked. Later she had been angry too. How could Kirti choose him over them? Had it been anybody else she might not have minded. But Aryaman Khanna? Really? Of all the people? Anika would never have imagined even in her wildest dreams that he could make any girl happy. Miserable...yes. Happy...NO.

And Kirti was happy. Genuinely. Had she compromised? Anika took in a deep breath at that. Weren't all relationships a bit of compromise? Only thing was Kirti had always been the shy one, the more docile one out of the two. She had never known how to stand up for herself. Sweet. So had she compromised more than fair share to feel happy? Anika didn't like where her thoughts were heading. Kirti wasn't the pretentious types like most of their family. She was honest. And it didn't seem like she was deluding either herself or anyone else. The way she spoke of Aryaman or Maan as most people called him including Kirti said a lot about her feelings. And what of the confidence, Anika thought, what of her calm, assured manner of talking. Kirti had never been able to fake those attributes before, her nervousness always overshadowed her behavior but not anymore. Was it because of the distance from this family or closness to Maan? She picked the latter. Despite all the negatives and Anika knew he was full of them he had somehow managed to remove timidity from her sister's DNA. And just for that Anika was ready to reconsider her strong stance against him.

Kirti was enjoying her life with Maan and Anika was happy. Would she have a similar experience? Anika didn't know. She wanted it though. Gurpreet was a good guy. A little serious, a little reserved and overprotective but he was even tempered. Well mannered and knowledgeable. But he came from a very conservative background. Not that she came from an epitome of modern family but in some matters they still held liberal views. The plus point was Gurpreet was in California. And he intended to stay in the U.S. So the interaction between her and her in laws would be limited, their influence might be there but Anika was sure she could manage it. She had spoken about her sister to Gurpreet, told him about her family's stand on it and he had listened. She had then told him about how she wanted Kirti to be there during the ceremonies. He hadn't been too encouraging but he hadn't been too discouraging either. He had in his own serious manner told her that though he wasn't in agreement with how Kirti had left all of them for one man and brought bad name to their family, he did not want anything to disrupt his family's happiness during the rituals. It was okay to invite her sister so nobody got a chance to indulge in evil gossip and alarm his family and Anika had been in agreement. Gurpreet hadn't said anything beyond that. One thing she had understood about Gurpreet was that if things did not affect him or his immediate family, he rarely concerned himself with them. Gurpreet did not have patience for idle gossip and knickknacks. Neither did she. They both liked things plain and simple. No drama associated. Only thing was he was way too serious and she...well, she liked having fun. At least some of the time if not all the time. And so far in all their interactions she hadn't found anything that Gurpreet had done to be fun. Even his hobby was to read tech magazines. And she didn't understand technology at all. Softwares, applications, databases, tools, languages. Anika made a face. Maybe she would understand a bit after marriage, she wasn't below average IQ. Maybe not. Maybe she could teach a few things to Gurpreet too.

She smiled broadly at that thought. It could be fun. But what if it wasn't? The question popped into her brain from nowhere. And she shook her head. She didn't love him, not as yet. It was an arranged match. She didn't know him as well. But she liked him. For now, that should be enough. Love would come. What if it didn't? What if she couldn't adjust? Kirti had said Maan had never tried to change her, he let her make her own choices and decisions. Would Gurpreet let her do the same? Marriage was a partnership wasn't it? Aren't you thinking of changing a few things about Gurpreet, a voice asked in her head and Anika frowned. But she hadn't been thinking of changing Gurpreet, she had thought of teaching him a few extra things. Was that trying to change him? He would still have the option to not do them or try them if he wanted to or adapt them if he liked them, wouldn't he? The same went for her too. Had Kirti changed Maan? Was that why she was happy? But she had told her Maan was still mean and arrogant. She closed her eyes and shook her head. Kirti was in love with Maan, even though Maan had never told her the same. Despite that Kirti was sure that he loved her too. Would she ever have that kind of confidence about Gurpeet? No two people or no two relationships were the same, she reminded herself. If she kept doing analytics then she would never have a successful marriage.

She had agreed to marrying Gurpreet after meeting him a couple of times and talking to him at least a dozen times on the phone much to the censure of her family and his. But since everything had gone well for both sides, they were now content. She had said yes, of her own free will. Whatever happens, happens. As for Kirti, she had plunged into a relationship with Maan of her own free will too. So, good or bad, she will have to face whatever comes her way by herself too. Anika just hoped that Kirti wasn't living in any kind of delusions since Maan came from a background that indicated something completely opposite of what Kirti had told her. Because if Anika's fears were to come true, her sister would be badly hurt and for Kirti's sake, Anika wished with her whole heart that that never happened.

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Aug 8, 2016

Teri Meri Love Stories-Short Story Part 11 (By Apopinion) (Thanked: 24 times)

"What the hell is she doing here?" Anoop's voice boomed off the rafters of their room.

And Kamal cringed inwardly. Outwardly she only expressed mild irritation. She had known this would be exactly how it would play out. Kirti's sudden arrival and Anika's support had put her on the backfoot as well. For now, Kirti was in the guest room. She had accepted Preeti's idea to call Anoop, get him home and then talk to him in private. With decorators and servants already present in the house and with their relatives starting to come in a little later, it would be embarrassing if Anoop lost his temper before all of them. Plus, the fact that it would give both strangers and people they knew ample ammunition to gossip for days if not months. And so, she had called Anoop, told him to come home immediately citing an emergency. It was an emergency. She had then ushered him straight to their room and closed the door before she had told him reluctantly about Kirti's presence. He had looked shocked. Then incredulous. But those emotions had lasted only a couple of seconds before his anger had taken over.

"Please calm down," Kamal said keeping her voice neutral, "she did not come on her own, she was invited," Kamal said on a deep breath.

"Invited?" Anoop ground out.

"By Anika," Kamal responded understanding Anoop's unsaid question, "for the wedding and other ceremonies," she explained.

"And you are asking me to calm down," Anoop thundered, "you expect me to calm down when I told you that...no, not told you, I laid down the law to everyone in this house that that wretched girl was dead for me," he yelled, "and she was never to even enter the gates of this house," he said angrily, "and she is here," he said pointing the finger downward towards the floor, "in this house, that too on invitation," he said tightly still unable to believe it, but at Kamal's nod of agreement something really ugly raised its head inside him. His jaw tightened and mouth thinned, "Where is she?" he asked in a low, deadly voice.

Kamal's face turned pale. She shivered involuntarily. The intent in her husband's voice was clear. He would throw Kirti out. Again. If he had to drag her in front of everyone he would do it. Now. That was hazardous. Men. Why were they so stupid? Always acting before thinking. Didn't Anoop realize that doing something like that would be scandalous? Maybe in his anger he didn't. Of course, he didn't. She saw him move towards the door when she didn't answer immediately. And instinctively she caught his arm and moving in front of him blocked his path.

"Get out of my way Kamal," Anoop said furiously, "you know better than to stop me," he said dictatorially, "she may have forgotten, as did your other daughter, that she is not part of this family anymore, that disgraced girl will not sully our name again," he said strictly, "I will not let anyone do that again," he said decisively.

"Anika invited her Anoop," Kamal said keeping a tight control over her emotions so her voice didn't waver. Had Kirti ever thought of what upheavel she will cause with her return? Did she even care? She left them when she felt like it. She came back when she felt like it. And she expected all of them to just accept how she came and went without a word. Hurting them. Opening up old wounds again. Kamal shook herself mentally. This was not the time to get into all of that. She needed Anoop to listen to her. To understand the repurcussions. There was a lot more at stake this time than just their family name.

"Who gave her the right?" Anoop asked in frustration. He had had no clue when Kamal had called him up and told him to hurry home telling him something about an emergency and not a clue to what it was. When he had arrived Kamal had been waiting for him downstairs. Then quickly assuring him of everyone's good health she had ushered him up to their room before spitting out what the matter was. He had been shocked to hear Kirti's name and that she was here. He had flipped his lid. He didn't care if the whole world listened. The old pain, hurt and anger returned with a vengeance not that it had ever gone away. He was the head of the family. And his word was law. Kirti had defied him and so she had been cut off from this family and no way was he going to accept this transgression sitting down. And now, Kamal was telling him his other daughter had gone ahead and defied him too by first staying in touch with Kirti and then inviting her for the wedding. Who the hell did both of them think they were? They maybe old enough to do what they wanted but he was their father...at least he was still Anika's father he quickly reminded himself and Anika had no right to disrespect him or any of his dictates. And why was Kamal looking so calm? How come she took Kirti's return this easily? Or had she had more time to adjust to the idea? How had she even allowed Kirti to set foot in this house? Why hadn't she thrown her out the second she had seen her? Had she softened? And suddenly with those questions popping in his head one after the other his anger turned its direction towards his wife. Had she been in on this too? Had she known all along about Anika's anitics? And he narrowed his eyes at her in suspicion. "How come you are taking this so calmly?," he asked as he looked at Kamal who looked at him a little strangely as if she didn't understand what he was saying, "How come you allowed Kirti to be here when you knew what I had dictated to each and every member of this family Kamal," he asked again in a very soft voice laced with undertones of anger, "or is it that you had known all this time what Anika was upto and kept it a secret," he said in a menacing tone.

Kamal stared at her husband. One second she had been trying to calm him down and not go after either daughter and make a huge drama and the next second she had been left confused then bewildered at the accusation that had been flung her way. How had Anoop even for a second thought that she had been in on Anika's schemes the whole time and not done anything about it? And suddenly she was indignant.

"And why would I do that?" she asked as she crossed her arms over her bosom challenging him to answer, "What would it achieve?" she asked.

"I don't know," Anoop said trying to find the source for the origination of his suspicions and failing, but he was a proud man and to tell Kamal that what he had asked was baseless would sound stupid so he shrugged and then responded without thinking, "maybe you wanted to spite me for an old event or something I had said or done and decided this would be a great way to shake me up," he said belatedly realizing that he had actually spoken like a fool and now that the words were out he couldn't really take them back. It was stupid. But he couldn't admit that either. Because admitting it would mean he was wrong. And that would hurt his ego a lot. So instead of apologizing he stared back at Kamal in stubbornness.

"And you think this is the only way I can spite you for whatever you had said or done," Kamal said with measured words and an outward calmness she was far from feeling, "to have Anika call Kirti here for her wedding so that our family name and honor could be dragged through dirt one more time, so that you could be hurt," she asked Anoop. He didn't answer. That is exactly what he had thought. Ouch. It hurt. Why was it always that a man could say anything he wanted and the woman should listen without a line to her forehead? Thirty one years of marriage and it hurt, that her husband knew her so little that he would say something like that to her. Had her mother in law been alive she would have pacified her by saying that 'in anger men always say a lot of things....learn to ignore them...they don't mean anything' or her own mother, she would have given her another advice saying 'it is a woman's duty to keep the family together and make sure the man of the house is always respected no matter what he does or says'. In short, the man's respect within a household was of utmost importance and a woman's respect came from how much her husband was respected, and that was that. She had never questioned the dictates of her elders. Always followed their words, their advice. But to expect her husband knew her, knew that she would always hold his and family's respect above her own...was it a lot to expect. This wasn't the first time it had happened. There had been multiple instances in the past and numerous examples she still remembered where Anoop had accused her of such things, always indicating she somehow wanted to spite him for reasons only known to him and she had always ignored them despite the pain those accusations had caused. Just as she was going to do now. Yes, she was going to ignore this again. Wasn't that how successful marriages worked? Her mother had always told her that in her one submission a hundred peaceful moments were hidden. And she had followed that dictate to its last word. Always submitting. Never questioning. Always looking out for those hundred peaceful moments. Had she ever found them? She didn't know. She had had way too many responsibilities to fulfill to ever savor any of them if they had come her way. She took in a deep breath. "You do know, I will never do that Anoop," Kamal responded quietly. Her hurt lingering but not quiet as intense as it had been a few seconds ago. She knew how to handle that part of her conscious mind very well. "I love this family alot and I will never do anything to sully its name," she said in a more controlled voice, "I will never do anything that would hurt you in any manner. Anika acted of her own free will, she never once consulted me and that was why I am so mad at her," she told Anoop who wasn't looking at her anymore but was listening with tight pursed lips, "I could have thrown Kirti out too, problem was Suraj had been the one to open the door, and you do know with decorators starting work today, the wedding trouseau girls coming in almost at the same time and guests arriving in the evening, word would have gotten out and it would have caused a scandal," she said trying to explain to him the reason why she had acted the way she had, "I am not giving any excuses. I spoke to Kirti and told her she had not been forgiven, she was not welcome here and the girl had agreed to leave when Anika got all stubborn and refused to listen to anything," she said keeping all emotions out of her voice. It was difficult. But she managed. Anoop had still not looked at her. "I did warn both of them that your word would be the last word on the subject, however, you should know this...Anika has spoken to Gurpreet about it and if my guess is right, he will be expecting Kirti to attend, whether his family knows about it or not, I have no idea," she told him.

Anoop stayed quiet for a few seconds processing the details Kamal had just informed him about.

"Ki khake paida kiti si tu dono kudiyan," Anoop said suddenly in a barely controlled voice and Kamal winced, "now I understand why people do not want the burden of having girls in their house," he said shocking Kamal to her core, "they are a nuisance," he said bitterly, "why did Anika speak to Gurpreet without telling us about it?" he ground out.

Kamal snapped out of her shock in an instant. Taking in a deep breath that stabilized her, she decided to respond quickly.

"Anoop, it doesn't matter what Anika did or didn't do, that is not the point of discussion right now, we can do it later," she said with slight urgency to her voice,"Guddi arrives in a few hours with her family," and Anoop glanced at her with irritation at the mention of Guddi's name, "there cannot be a scene with her present here and there cannot be a scene right now either, you know she will get a wind of it and that would be disastrous," she said telling Anoop the seriousness of the situation at hand, "no matter how much we hate Kirti's presence or how much we want to take Anika to task, what is important is we take a decision how we are going to deal with this situation...do we show a joint front and pretend we are letting bygones be bygones and accepting Kirti amongst our fold again or do we throw her out and then face the drama that will enfold post that," she said presenting the two options before her husband.

"Are you saying you are ready to forgive her?" Anoop asked shocked.

"Pretend...pretend we have forgiven her, bear her presence for the next few days and let everyone think that is what is true so there are no gossips or talks or anything of the sort and all is amicably done and Anika goes to her in laws' without an incident," Kamal said trying to hide her frustration with her husband, "my goal is to make sure Anika is married off without any drama, that is it," she relayed the message to her husband loud and clear, "after that Kirti goes back from wherever she came from and we have no further contact with her, it ends," she said strictly.

And it satified Anoop. Kamal's strict tone. For a second he had thought she was ready to forgive Kirti all she had put them through. But she wasn't. It meant she was still loyal to him. And that calmed some of his anger. Though he was not happy about being forced to do anything. He was his own person. He expected others to follow what he said not the other way around. This situation however, called for him to follow his wife's advice. He didn't want to. He wanted to do what he thought was right which was to give Kirti her marching orders and confining Anika to her room for the next two days. But he couldn't. Somewhere he did understand it was a delicate situation. And that it might get out of hand. He wanted another alternative. Only he couldn't come up with one. So he had to trust his wife to know best and go through it. It would be tough. But if that was what it would take to keep people from opening their wretched mouths and defaming them again, then that is what he would do no matter the cost. It was only for a few days, right? He could do it. Pretend things were slowly on the mend for them and Kirti. It seemed logical. Yes, that would shut everyone up. They would cease their incessant nagging and constant taunts. Maybe he would even enjoy his wonderful relatives' discomfort and watch their jaws drop. He grinned at the thought mentally. Yup, that would present him with immense satisfaction. To Kamal he said something else.

"If that is what you think is right, then so be it," he said granting his consent to Kamal's proposal and he almost heard the sigh of relief. It was good to know Kamal still valued his decisions and that she knew her place. He would always be the decision maker in this house. She could suggest and that was all, whether to agree with her suggestions or not was his discretion. "However, there are a few conditions," he told her as he looked at her directly this time and was satisfied when he saw Kamal stiffen again. His father had taught him something valuable when he had said to never let a woman think she was in control of anything either within the family or within the relationship of a husband and wife, because when that happened they became complacent in their positions which always resulted in disaster. Keep them on their toes and they would stay docile and there would always be peace in one's life. Yes, Kamal's suggestion had weight. And he was agreeing to it to save their family name and whatever came with it but there were certain things he wanted done as well and it would be Kamal's duty to make sure that was how it went.

"What conditions?" Kamal asked a little surprised. She should have expected him to say something like that. The decision hadn't come from him, she had adviced and he had been unable to come up with another or how shall she say.... a better advice for the current situation, so he would want to put in something that would make it look like he was still in command.

Anoop smiled.

And Kamal didn't like that smile. Instead of helping her ease the situation she was sure he will add conditions that would make it very difficult for them....not for him. For them.

For Kamal, Kirti and Anika.

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Aug 20, 2016

Teri Meri Love Story- Short Story Part 11 (By Apopinion) (Thanked: 16 times)

Kirti looked at the man who stood with his back to her. Tall and proud.

Her father had always been a tall man. He was almost Maan’s height. Almost. Maan still topped him by a couple of inches. In pride, however, they were both equal. Come to think of it maybe her father topped over Maan in pride. She hadn’t been expecting to meet Mr. Anoop Singh this soon. He didn’t look enthusiastic to see her either. If anything, his expression had been worse than the one her mother had given her before he had turned around and presented his back to her. His face had had a dispassionate look as if he didn’t think she was of any consequence. And his eyes had been condemning, full of anger and hatred. Briefly so, this was what she had seen on her father’s face after two years of no contact. And how she had viewed him. He had aged. Since the last time she had seen him. Lost weight as well. Lines around his eyes and mouth had increased in number too. And all this she had caught before he had turned away. What had he seen? What was he thinking while facing the wall, away from her? She knew what she had been doing. She had been busy comparing the man she remembered from the man she had caught a glimpse of. The picture she had kept in her head of her father. He had always been strict in certain aspects but he had also been caring. He had laughed so many times at their antics even when their mother had been yelling at them to behave. She remembered the worried man who used to wait outside the gates of their house if ever either of his daughters got late coming from college or from a friend’s house. She remembered the gentleness with which he had tended to s****es and wounds she had gotten while playing. The man who had calmed her fears anytime she had been afraid of something.  The man she saw today wasn’t the same person. Was it this easy to forget all of those memories? All those emotions? Was it this easy to cut off from your own child as if it was a bad limb? Even with a bad limb that was cut off nobody ever forgot its place within the body, said the mocking voice in her head. Maybe she had been hoping in vain. Maybe she had been way too optimistic. He hadn’t even asked if she was okay? Or if Maan treated her well? As if what he had said all those months ago, he had started believing in it too. ‘If you step out of this house Kirti, you would be dead to me’. Maybe she was dead to him.

She had been summoned to her mother’s room right after Suraj had brought her lunch.  She had asked if others had had theirs and he had been reluctant with talking about it. And she hadn’t pressed. Maybe he had gotten a solid scolding as to why he had allowed her to enter the house when it had been made clear to one and all that she wasn’t allowed back. No matter what. And she didn’t want Suraj to face any more brunt on her account. She had found it in herself to smile and he had left, looking relieved. She hadn’t felt like eating after all that had happened since her return but then not eating wouldn’t solve anything, she had thought. Now that she was here she will just have to deal with whatever was thrown her way. And for that she would need strength. Starving herself won’t help. So she had eaten. A little. She had just finished when Suraj had come to tell her that her presence was required in her mother’s room. Not sure why, she had gone, and knocked before she had entered. Memories of her life in this house, in her mother’s room, in the lobby that connected all the rooms upstairs had chased each other inside her head. She had had a brief second to compose herself before she had gone in. The second she had entered she had known her mother wasn’t alone. There had been this strange tension in the air. That was when she had realized her father had returned.

Now that she stood there, she was suddenly unsure. The why’s and the what’s started doing rounds in her head. It was obvious her father had been told about her return. Her mother’s pensive expression didn’t do anything to lessen her uncertainty. The woman was as tense as tight string to a bow that would snap any second. Had they decided she should leave? If that was the decision, had Anika been informed? How had she reacted? Why couldn’t her parents give her one chance…just one to say her side of the story and then decide? She needed to calm down. Control her wayward thoughts and with an effort she did exactly that. She still loved them, even if they didn’t. And their dispassionate attitude pained her. But she kept her expression neutral, at least she hoped it was that way.

“Kirti,” her mother started and Kirti turned her gaze towards her mother, “this was not supposed to happen,” Kamal said and frowned slightly. This was not the way to start the conversation. But her husband’s demand that she talks to Kirti and let her know a few rules to her stay here was something she wasn’t yet sure how to convey. But it had to be said. She cleared her throat and looked at Anoop for a brief second. He just stood there with his hands behind his back staring at the picture on the wall before him. How she hated this? Always being the one to do the policing. Somewhere she had known it would come to this. It always did. Anoop was a good man but in some respects he was a typical male. What could she say, she was already married to him for over thirty years now, she had adjusted, she knew how he worked and what was her duty in all of this. “What I mean to say is, Anika should not have gone behind our backs to invite you here when she clearly knows how we feel about this…” she said and casually moved her hand about. It still didn’t come out right. God, this was such a mess. She had to tell her daughter some rules and she would have had she been alone, but with Anoop there with them…. she was nervous. Not her fault. She still wasn’t sure if Anoop would flip or not. “But since you are here now,” Kamal went on, her voice turning a shade stricter and harsher, “we cannot really go through another round of taunts and gossips and whatever else others will throw at us if we ask you to leave, we have decided that it would be better if you attended the functions and the wedding just as Anika wanted,” she said taking a pause.

Kirti didn’t know how she should react. Should she feel relieved? Should she say thank you for letting her stay and attend? Should she feel tense? She decided she needed to say something. And with that she opened her mouth when her mother raised her hand and stopped her right there.

“Wait,” Kamal said as she raised her hand, “it does not mean, that we have forgiven you,” she said sternly, “all it means is that the time is such we are forced to accept your presence here,” she told Kirti and raised her chin a notch, “any other day, and we wouldn’t have thought twice about it,” she said and looked at Kirti. She had to give it to her. The girl hadn’t batted an eyelid. She stood there with a neutral expression on her face that didn’t give any clue to either how she was feeling or what she was thinking. In some soft corner of her mind, it gave Kamal a sense of pride that her daughter had become stronger. Was it because she had been away from them? The sheltered life she had had here? Or was it because she had to face too many challenges with the decision she had taken? Staying with Maan wouldn’t have been piece of cake? Wait, what was she thinking about. Pushing all those unwanted thoughts and emotions aside Kamal started talking again. “With Anika’s wedding a few days away we do not want anything to go wrong or any new drama to take place. So please, don’t do anything I wouldn’t. You can stay here as a guest,” she said listing out the conditions carefully so she didn’t miss any, “attend the functions and then leave. In front of everyone, we shall pretend that we have decided to let bygones be bygones, that we are starting to accept you back but do not even for a second believe the act to be true. Anika’s in laws are very conservative and traditional in their thinking, I do not want anything that might upset them or give them a clue to what had happened or where our true emotions lie,” she said firmly, “besides that, you shall be present in all the functions yes, but you do not have any right to participate in the rituals, if possible, stay away from us as well…” she said and from the corner of her eye saw Anoop stiffen a little. And that gave her pause. What was that for? She frowned slightly. She was saying exactly what Anoop had dictated or demanded or both, just a little while ago. Then what…and she realized maybe her choice of words hadn’t conveyed the exact meaning and it was confirmed when Kirti raised her doubt.

“Be present and yet, stay away,” Kirti said softly. She was trying. Really hard to not burst into tears just yet. The stern tone of her mother listing out conditions…she was a fool. The biggest there ever was. Maan had told her, no, warned her, he hadn’t been happy at all that she had decided against his advice. He had known what would happen. He had anticipated this, and she…in her stupid optimism ignored all of it. At least they aren’t throwing you out…not yet at least, said the voice in her head. But it was hollow consolation. What had she expected? Why? She knew her parents. She knew her father. Knew once he set his heart and mind against something it was very difficult to sway him. Almost impossible. And still she had come here in the hopes of trying. What had she hoped for? They wanted to pretend. Pretend all was fine. Things were getting sorted out. Which amounted to a lie. How she hated lies? But even if she was to put that aside for a second, she didn’t understand how could you even pretend with so many negative emotions between them? Her father hadn’t even looked at her. How did he hope this would convince anyone things were on the mend, even for the sake of a pretense? It would have been better if they had decided she left. Maybe, it would have been better if she had decided against coming. Now that she was here she will have to brave through it all. She had no option. She would never jeopardize Anika’s happiness. But the last line her mother had said had confused her. What did she mean be there and yet not be there?

“What I mean to say is, we know you are here, and you have to be present in all the functions to keep appearances but please try to stay out of our way,” Kamal elaborated correcting her mistake, “try not to engage much with us, calling us mom or dad…just refrain from talking to us as much as possible,” she said and paused to take in a breath, “if you agree to all these conditions you can stay,” she finished.

Stay in the shadows. That was what her mother was telling her. Talk to others but not them. Laugh as if all was well when everything was the exact opposite. Enjoy but remember you are not one of the family anymore. How did one accomplish that? How did one do that? Even if you were the best actor on earth it would be difficult to put on an act like that. Was it a test then? Kirti wondered. Maybe all these conditions were a way to test her. Twisted logic. And she agreed one hundred percent with it. Maybe it was a way to kick her out without creating a scene. Put conditions that would be impossible to meet and she will leave all by herself. Really? How pathetic was she to keep fanning her dying hope that she would be able to reconcile with her family? She could have laughed at that. Only it would be without any humor. Do you even want to? The voice in her head was back. Do you even want to reconcile? What for? What would it achieve? You will go back to Mumbai post Anika’s wedding, what will this achieve? This was all because Anika’s in laws might not know the truth of her leaving two years ago, or the life she had been leading or the inside scoop on the strained relationships. It had nothing to do with anything else. And of course, to keep the gossip makers at bay. What was she to do now? Leave, said the voice. Don’t participate in this farce. It would be disastrous. You hate pretensions of any kind. Why subject yourself to such degradation, the voice questioned. The voice was right. She should leave. But Anika…what would she say to her? What would she say to her only sister? That she was leaving because…was she a coward then? Wouldn’t people remark on her sudden appearance and then disappearance? Wouldn’t that provide the gossip mill with enough fodder to last them days? Her sister’s marriage would become a playground for more drama. She shouldn’t have come in the first place. Period. But now if she was here, she better makes the most of it. Right? And maybe who knew…they just might turn around. She resisted the urge to shake her head at herself. Instead she took in a deep breath. Some things just couldn’t be decided on the basis of logic. And she had never been too logical to begin with.

“I will try,” she said and looked her mother in the eye as she said the words, “I can’t make a promise but I will try to not do anything that might create a problem in Nikki’s wedding,” she said with a steady calm voice, something she was far from feeling, her emotions in turmoil. And she almost had to bite her tongue to stop from calling her mother ‘ma’. It was natural. Wasn’t it? But from here on she will just have to keep that in mind.

“I expect nothing less,” Kamal said strictly, “you can leave now,” she said with finality, then as if she remembered something, “wait…” she said before Kirti left and that brought two sets of eyes back to her. One set belonged to Kirti and the other set belonged to Anoop. But neither person said a word. “There is one more thing I need to talk to you about…but later,” she said hastily.

Kirti nodded her head slightly and turned around to go out. She didn’t know why but she paused at the door with her hand on the doorknob and looked back…. she didn’t know what she had hoped to see because nothing had changed. Her father still had his back to her. Her mother still had that strict expression on her face. And the air in the room turned a bit more tense if that was even possible. All it told her was that there was more to come. There were more people she had to face. Many more people.

Because she had only just arrived. And there was a full week before her to get by.

One full week.

With that thought echoing in her head she opened the door and left.

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Aug 28, 2016

Teri Meri Love Story- Short Story Part 11 (By Apopinion) (Thanked: 26 times)

Kirti was back.

It was surprising. In actuality it was no less than a shocker in Vansh’s opinion. He was sure his older brother shared his sentiments on this issue if not on any other. He knew his family. Very well. There had been a time when he used to think his family to be different but that was a long time ago. A lot of people called him jaded. But he didn’t think he was. He was just a realist. Just because he didn’t think his family was paragon or could never do anything wrong did not make him a cynic. He still loved them, only he saw their faults too and acknowledged them. How could any human be perfect?

So when his mother had called him up specially to let him know of Kirti’s arrival and some of the other developments he had felt the need to sit down. Not that he had. He had been shocked, then puzzled and then felt irritated at the instructions he had got from his mother. When he met Kirti and the others nothing should reflect that he was surprised or didn’t have a clue that she was supposed to attend Anika’s wedding. He was supposed to greet her, treat her with respect. Not exactly. Not really. He was to pretend that respect. He was supposed to pretend that all was well in their world, and that Kirti was being accepted back. She wasn’t in reality. But they were to show a joint front on that account. What was that even supposed to mean? He hadn’t really understood the ask. He had driven home in a hurry. It wasn’t as if he hated Kirti. He never had. Something that had irked the whole pack of Singhs. The one who had complained the most had been Veer. His older brother.

‘She has disgraced us all,’ Veer had said angrily, ‘she is my sister…my sister,’ he had asserted, ‘and she left us for that ****,’ he had yelled.

‘She made a choice,’ Vansh had protested, of course in vain, but he had thought he should, ‘or how should I say, we forced her to make a choice,’ he had argued.

‘How can you side with that…ungrateful brat,’ Veer had asked furiously.

‘I am not siding with anybody,’ Vansh had tried to stay calm and reason it out with his brother, ‘we twisted her arm into making a choice I am sure, she didn’t want to make,’ he had explained, ‘all she wanted was for us to understand why she wants to spend her life with Aryaman,’ he had said even as every pair of eyes that had been staring at him were asking him to shut up, ‘why she chose him over all the other potentially amazing guys with equally amazing backgrounds,’ he had said, ‘I don’t understand why we couldn’t allow her to say her side of the story. We just asked her to shut up, shut all she felt for Aryaman inside her somewhere and go with our dictates,’ he had argued, ‘she is an adult, technically she has every right to choose her partner,’ he had said.

‘And has she chosen a partner?’ Veer had sneered at him, ‘Is Aryaman Khanna, a partner in the real sense of the word?’ he had asked.

‘Yes, a partner is a partner bhai,’ Vansh had responded, ‘there are multiple ways we can define a partner, but the simplest would be a partner is a person who one shares things with, emotions, feelings, thoughts, life,’ he had said wishing his family would put aside their prejudices and consider what made the daughter of the house happy, ‘not to mention, till about a few days ago the same Aryaman Khanna had been your best friend,’ he had said and raised an eyebrow in question, ‘he is the same person who had been welcomed in this house with open arms,’ he had said looking at the taut, disapproving faces of his family, ‘just before he showed interest in Kirti. Suddenly, he is not welcome anymore, suddenly, he is bhai’s best enemy,’ he had said mockingly, ‘wow. How convenient,’ he had said caustically, ‘I fail to understand what is it about him that you find unsuitable?’ he had said puzzled.

Not that any of what he had said had rung a bell with anyone. They had collectively asked him to shut up and refrain from talking about her or to her. Strangest part was, he had. He had conceded with the family dictate. But not without guilt. It had been eating at him. For two years. Kirti was just a year older to him. They had been more friends than brother and sister. And he had always prided himself to be more liberal and modern than any of the others, including Kirti. And yet, when the time had come, to stand with his sister, his friend, he had shied away. For all the argument he had posed he hadn’t really done anything about it. A phrase often came to his mind, ‘All talk and no show’. Yup, it stood true where he was concerned.

As Vansh reached his uncle’s house, he could see a couple of cars that were parked in the driveway. Which meant relatives and friends had started to come in. He could see the car his mother used parked outside the gates. He parked right behind it. He didn’t want to meet anyone just yet. What was he going to say to Kirti? He had broken his promise to always safeguard her as a brother. He hadn’t gotten a chance to say anything the last time he had seen her. The day she had left them. Or much rather the day she had been forced to leave them. He didn’t fault her for making the choice. He respected her decision for what it was. Only thing he had begrudged her was, that she had shown much more courage and strength than he had. He may believe in things that didn’t swing the same way the Singh’s did, but he never stood up for them. Would a meager apology be sufficient? The way Kirti was coded, Vansh was sure he was already forgiven. She had always been that way. Extremely caring. And very forgiving. Genuine in her affections. He had never known her to be pretentious. Neither had he ever seen her be part of idyll gossip. Nor had she ever participated in talking ill of anyone because he or she had slighted her. And he had loved his sister for all of those traits. He had been protective of her too. Fearing she might not be able to hold up her own in front of stronger personalities or stronger opinions. But she had. She had stood her ground when hell had broken loose at her declaration of being in love with Aryaman. She had taken a decision. Made a choice. Even if she had done it against her will. She had. And he had admired her. He still did. She had loved this family. It must have been a tremendous effort to break away from them. But how come she had returned now? He had asked his mother the same question and all she had told him was that it didn’t matter. She was here and she would stay till Anika’s wedding…if she lasted. His mother’s comment had made him frown. But then he had understood. Their relatives were like old vultures. Perched on top of old branches of trees. Viewing the world from there, and anyone and everyone with it. Casting remarks, taunts at one and all. Waiting for the prey to make a mistake. And then they would swoop down for the kill. Damn.

Vansh took in a deep breath. He couldn’t sit here all evening long. He will have to go inside at some point. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts he got out of his car and walked towards the entrance of the house. The lights were already on inside. And he could see the faint light in the strings of bulbs that now decorated the house, hanging down from the terrace to the grounds. Swinging freely as they were tied at only one end. Vansh paused for a second. Family ties were just like these strings of light weren’t they? Tying the length of a person’s life at one end. The beginning. But then, why weren’t lives allowed to swing freely, glide with the wind? Tied yet free…. Vansh smiled sardonically. Getting philosophical won’t help. Sighing, he walked away from the gently swaying illuminated strings. He had decided he wanted to see Kirti first. Talk to her. How or about what…he didn’t know yet. And lucky that he was he didn’t meet anybody on his way in. Just a couple of neighbors who were sitting in the living room laughing and talking. A few pleasantries and he was on his way. He met Suraj and asked him where he could find Kirti. Suraj told him she had been given the guest room. And Vansh immediately felt affronted on her behalf. But what could he say to Suraj. Tightening his jaw he went upstairs bypassing the room where he could hear some voices emanating from. Even though he wasn’t really listening he could discern his mother, Kamal taiji and Guddi bua’s voices.  Explanations were on, he thought mockingly. Or rather lies.

He paused at the door. Not sure how he should talk to Kirti or what kind of response he would get. It had been two years. She must have changed a lot. Keep thinking like that and you would never get to talk to her, said a sarcastic voice in his head. Shoving the sarcastic tone aside, he took in a deep breath and knocked on the door. He heard a faint ‘come in’ a scant second later. And he opened the door and entered. He hadn’t been sure of what he would find on the other side of the door but the girl he saw…was familiar. Nothing had changed about her. At least not physically. Same face, same long hair, same sweet smile. But her eyes looked tired. And he could see she had recently shed tears. His guilt nagged at him. And he shifted uncomfortably on his feet.

“Hi,” he said uncertainly as he pushed his hands inside the front pockets of his jeans.

“Vansh,” he heard Kirti exclaim and her smile turn happy, “hi,” she said happily and moved forward to hug him.

Then she paused. Just a couple of feet away. He watched her happy smiling face turn uncertain. She must have stopped because she must not be sure of her reception. Had others shown their disdain and hatred already? Of course, they must have. So why was she still here?

“How are you?” he heard her ask. And he looked at her coming out if his thoughts.

Her tone was cautious. Almost formal.

“Good,” he answered, “how have you been?” he asked not knowing exactly what to say to her now that he was talking to her.

“Good,” she said quietly.

And Vansh felt the weight of awkwardness settle in. She must have felt it too as she clasped her hands before her, offering him a serene expression. As if she had braced herself for something. But what? Did she think he was here to berate her too?  He shook his head. And then smiled faintly.

“For a brother and sister who were also very good friends at one time, we aren’t behaving the way we should have been, right,” he said humorlessly.

He saw Kirti’s eyes widen a second before she laughed haltingly. Her eyes filling up with moisture.

“No, we aren’t,” she responded with a small smile then gestured for him to sit, “maybe we should reacquaint ourselves,” she said and went to sit on the side of the bed as he took the chair almost gratefully.

And then there was silence. He needed to tell her he was glad she was back for Nikki’s wedding. He needed to tell her how sorry he was for not standing up for her when she had needed his support. He needed to tell her how guilty he felt. That now she was here, he would support her. He wouldn’t hide behind his cowardice. Be the brother he was supposed to be. Be the better brother. But he just couldn’t form the words.

“Did you make a girlfriend yet?” Kirti asked suddenly.

An easy topic. A topic they had teased each other over so many times. And Vansh smiled.

“Not yet,” he responded, “since you left, there has been a curfew on the kids of this family where that is concerned,” he told her, keeping his tone light.

“Even the boys?” Kirti asked surprised.

“Yup, seems we can get the wrong girl home,” he said with a little humor, “imagine how mom would react if that happened,” he said and rolled his eyes.

Kirti laughed. She could well imagine her chachi’s reaction.

“She would faint,” she said laughing lightly.

“Or feign a heart attack,” Vansh said. Then grinned suddenly.

“I could actually visualize that happening,” Kirti said with a mischievous grin of her own.

Vansh looked at Kirti. She hadn’t changed. And this time he wasn’t talking about her appearance. Her nature hadn’t changed either. Still easy to talk to. Still intuitive towards how the other person was feeling. Still sweet.

“You haven’t changed one bit,” he said feeling much better than he had when he had entered the room.

“Was I supposed to?” Kirti asked him.

“I don’t know,” Vansh said as he sighed. He could talk to her. Get the burden off his shoulders. She would understand.

“Something bothering you little brother,” Kirti said lightly.

“We are just a year apart, I am not little…” he started automatically, then paused, realizing what she had done. This was one argument they always had. She would tease him and he would respond strongly, unhappily. Just as he had now. Kirti laughed. And Vansh smiled. His eyes feeling the prick of moisture. “I am sorry Kirti,” he said emotionally and saw her laughter slowly ebb away as she turned serious eyes in his direction, “I am sorry, I should have stood up for you…” he said and would have gone on when Kirti tried to interrupt him.

“Vansh, it is not your…” she said but he shook his head at her and she fell silent.

“I am your brother,” he said in a strong voice full of emotions, “I promised you every year, on Rakhi that I would support you, protect you, stand with you in your hour of need,” he said his voice turning a little shrill as he tried to suppress the guilt that seemed to want to engulf him and he cleared his throat to gain more control, “I may have been young…but I was not that young. I should have backed you in your decision, made sure you were safe with that decision….and what did I do,” he said mockingly, “stood there and watched this family throw you out,” he said shaking his head in disgust. Only his disgust was directed at himself. “I felt so guilty…you have no idea,” he said as he looked at his hands unable to meet her steady, calm gaze, “what good was I as a brother Kirti? What good was I as a friend?” he asked her, his voice full of regret and anguish.

“It wasn’t your fault Vansh,” Kirti said quietly, “it was as much of a shock to you as it was for others,” she said and shook her head slightly, a sad smile on her face, “I don’t blame you. I don’t blame anybody. I chose Maan, of my free will. I wasn’t blackmailed or brainwashed,” she explained, “I…I fell in love with him,” she said simply and lifted a shoulder in a shrug, “all I wanted was for everyone to just understand how I felt…that was all,” she said on a long drawn breath, “to hear once why I chose him over others,” she continued and Vansh listened, “he was the best thing that had ever happened to me, and in the two years that I have been with him, I have never regretted that decision,” she said with a faint smile, “he has not given me one reason to say I made a bad choice, not one,” she insisted.

“He treats you well?” Vansh asked unable to stop himself from asking that question.

“I wouldn’t have been living with him if he hadn’t,” Kirti said understanding her brother’s need to verify his doubts.

And Vansh looked at her closely. Trying to gauge if she was lying. And she met his stare. He was wrong. He had been wrong in thinking she hadn’t changed. She had. For the better perhaps. Her confidence radiated itself in her expression. Her love for the man she had chosen, shone brightly in her eyes. The truth in her voice couldn’t be denied. She hadn’t said much. But the way she had put it, said a lot about her relationship with Maan. He had always thought she would be crushed in front of Aryaman’s personality. She would be hidden. But now he wasn’t as sure. What had she seen in him that they all had collectively failed to see? He didn’t know. But he was satisfied. His guilt easing out. Slowly. And he found his ghost of a smile again.

“He wouldn’t dare do anything different,” he said and his eyes twinkled with mischief, “he knows I will take his golf club and hit him over his head if he did anything otherwise,” he told her with false bravado.

“You wouldn’t dare try to do that,” Kirti said in mock anger, even as he eyes showed her mirth.

“I am glad you returned Kirti,” Vansh said truthfully, “and I am glad, we had this talk,” he told her and she smiled, “it is good to have my sister back. I don’t care what anyone thinks or wants, but I am with you sister, if ever you need anything,” he told her.

“I am glad I am back too Vansh,” Kirti said emotionally, “only, not everyone thinks that way,” she said and looked away.

Vansh understood what she was saying. Damn his family for making her so sad. She shouldn’t even bother. But he knew she would. That was how she was. He swallowed hard.

“It hasn’t been an easy day for you has it,” he said. It wasn’t a question. Just a statement.

Kirti didn’t respond to it.

“How come Aryaman let you come alone?” he asked with a frown. If the man loved Kirti had he not known what she will have to face? But knowing Aryaman the way he did, he was sure the man had known what would happen…and yet he had let Kirti come home, alone, and face the hungry vultures.

“He had advised against it,” Kirti replied on a sigh, “and somewhere I had known too, I guess… but I chose to come,” she admitted, “I couldn’t say no to Nikki. Besides it had been so long since I had seen everyone and I wanted this chance to make them understand…” she said and would have gone on when Vansh interrupted her with a mocking laugh.

“Make them understand,” he said sarcastically, “don’t delude yourself Kirti,” he told her.

“I can try Vansh,” Kirti responded, “at least I would know I tried,” she said with a smile.

“You and your optimism,” Vansh said with a reluctant smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

He rose from the chair and went to where she sat on the side of the bed. Then hugged her. She had stopped herself when he had just come in. But he knew she needed the reassurance that someone understood her efforts. That someone still cared. Then he bent and placed a kiss on her head.

“My dearest sister, you have just offered yourself to be sacrificed in the name of pretense and lies,” he told her, “but I will watch your back this time, I promise,” he said and ruffling her hair he took a step back, “if things seem to get out of hand or someone gives you grief let me know,” he said and winked at her.

“And what if both you and me are unable to handle them,” she asked with a smile, “then what?”

“Then I will have to drag Aryaman’s sorry little neck here and make him sort things out,” Vansh said with a broad smile, “and if I know him even a little, he is the best at putting people in their places,” he said.

And then both Vansh and Kirti laughed.

That may be true.

It may be true that Aryaman Khanna knew how to put people in their places, but that would happen only if he came.

Will he?

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Sep 2, 2016

Teri Meri Love Story- Short Story Part 11 (By Apopinion) (Thanked: 23 times)

Kirti didn’t know what to make of her first day back in her house. Correction, back in her parents’ house. This wasn’t her house anymore. If it hadn’t been clear before, everyone had made sure she understood that fact by the time the day ended.

Pretend. Wasn’t that what her mother had told her a few hours ago, Kirti thought as she stood in front of the mirror tying her long hair in a loose braid. Had that been only for her? Or had that been for them as well? Her father’s tight, closed expression, her mother’s guarded and reserved one definitely didn’t begin to portray that they were welcoming her back. Her chachi and chacha had done a much better job. And of course, Anika and Vansh, because they were happy. And the genuineness of their acceptance of her reflected in their voices, their mannerisms and their affection. Veer…well, Veer had been another case altogether. For the most part her parents had been able to keep their anger or hatred or whatever they felt under covers, just barely so, but at least they had tried. But Veer, if he had been any more obvious of his animosity towards her, Kirti was sure she would have run. It had taken her all to stay in his presence, be in the same room as him. Vansh had tried all evening to keep Veer at bay. And Kirti had given him credit for it. Anika had grumbled ‘Exactly what is his problem?’ more than three times at least. ‘Why does he act as the moral police of this household?’ she had said through tight clenched teeth when Veer had shot a snide remark her way. ‘You are still his sister, or has he forgotten that?’ she had questioned unhappily. And all Kirti had said was ‘Let it be’.

Only it hadn’t been as simple. If only she could ‘Let it be’. She was human after all. And it wasn’t just her immediate family she had to contend with, it was her relatives and neighbors too. The whispers that were meant to be heard, the comments that were meant to hurt, the speculations that were meant for their target…Kirti had had to contend with all of that and more. Once Guddi bua had started there hadn’t been a second’s space to get her to even pause. Guddi bua was two years younger to Kirti’s father and four years elder to her chacha. A very strong personality. Very vocal. And very authoritative. Kirti had seen both her mother and Preeti chachi go out of their way to keep her appeased. She was known to be a great counsel to Kirti’s father. Even if Anoop Singh did not listen to anybody, he listened to Guddi. And nobody knew how or why that came to be the way it was.

Praji, jo hona si ho gaya,’ she had said with her hand on Anoop’s arm, ‘aaj kal de bachche kithe sunde ne,’ she had gone on clucking along the way, ‘ai te changa ae ki munde ne kudi de naal kuch galt nahi kita, chad nahi diya ainu,’ she had said caustically and then glanced Kirti’s way venomously, ‘shukr kar rab da kude, ae honde ne maa peyo, bachche jinni marji galti karen, aunanu pher apne aanchal cha jagah de dende ne, Kirti tu ta pair dho ke pee aine dona de,’ she had said and then turned back to face her brother, ‘praji, khushi da mahaul ae, tussi kinne vade dil de malik ho jo Kirti nu maaf kar dita ae,’ she had said pasting a sweet smile on her face, ‘lucky hoon main te praji je tussi mere pra ho,’ she had said.

And all her father had done was sit there silently, not once saying anything, not once looking in her direction. Which had given Ritu aunty, their neighbor encouragement to say a few words too.

Guddi is absolutely right bhaisaab,’ Ritu aunty had said, ‘ it is not simple and definitely not easy, you really have a big heart,’ she had said with a broad smile, ‘my Simi would never even dream of doing anything like what Kirti did,’ she had said trying to get one sarcastic comment in too, ‘but then Simi is Simi, very dutiful and caring,’ she had said proudly, ‘she doesn’t even venture out without informing me,’ she had chirped on, ‘but anyway, it is your generosity bhaisaab that you are accepting Kirti back…had it been anyone else…’ and Ritu aunty had left it at that.

But where Ritu aunty had left off someone else had picked up the thread.

Really, Kamal,’ one of the other neighbors started, ‘had it been my Rinku, had she run away…I would have never seen her face again,’ the lady went on sternly, ‘this is you, you are being too emotional and kind, hats off to you,’ the woman had said. But it hadn’t been meant as a compliment.

Have they really accepted her back?’ Kirti had heard a really loud whisper coming from somewhere behind her. But she hadn’t turned around to see who was talking.

They are saying so,’ someone had responded, ‘only with the tense expressions on their faces, it doesn’t seem so,’ that same person had said.

They are pretending…’ another voice had exclaimed, ‘is that what you are saying?’ it had asked.

Shhhh…don’t be so loud and I am not saying anything,’ the same person replied who had voiced the answer before.

And when Kirti had finally turned to identify the speakers, all she had seen was a few ladies, some she recognized, some she didn’t. They had all had the same expression, a fake smile and wide eyes that were anything but innocent. Only it hadn’t stopped there. Her parents had been hoping to avoid drama, but it seemed people were hell bent on creating one. On more than one occasion through the evening Kirti had felt subjected to utter scrutiny, expressions of haughty disapprovals and superior speculations. It seemed everyone had something to say. As if they had been waiting for her to return only to condemn her. It had been hard. So hard to keep a neutral, calm expression through it all. Her own family was of no support. Even though Guddi bua had voiced she was happy that bygones were bygones, but Kirti knew they had been just empty words. As the evening had continued from ‘Is she married?’ to ‘Is she pregnant?’. Kirti had heard it all. She had been amazed at some of the imaginations she had heard being discussed. Of course, she had also been wounded. The only silver lining she could find was that Anika and Vansh had stuck to her. They had even supported her wherever they could.

But now that Kirti was back in her room, she couldn’t help but feel sad. To some extent she sympathized with her parents. If her return had caused such a stir she could only imagine what her leaving with Maan would have done. All her parents had listened today had probably been nothing compared to all they must have had to listen for the past two years. And Kirti felt tears come to her eyes. She sat down abruptly on the chair. Why? Why were people so cruel? Why couldn’t they let others be? Why was it so important to trample upon others? What pleasure did one derive from it? Weren’t we all humans? The same Ritu aunty who had belittled her today had told Simi, her daughter, to follow Kirti’s example. How many times she had played at Ritu aunty’s house when she had been a child? How many times Ritu aunty had said that Kirti had been like her own daughter? Is that how one treated daughters? Words. All words. And how empty all of them. She shook her head as nervous anger took over. It wasn’t fair. She made a choice. What was wrong with that? Was she then a selfish child? She didn’t sacrifice her happiness, her life, her love for her parents, did that make her an evil daughter? She loved her family. She did. In that moment, in that time, Kirti had just followed her instincts. It was not so much her love or happiness that had been her motivation, it was the need she had seen in Maan’s eyes that had moved her to take such a decision. Though his expression had been aloof. His voice had been casual. His eyes had spoken volumes. As if he would be lost if she wasn’t with him. That was what she had wanted to explain to her parents. That was what she had wanted to tell them all. That Maan had needed her like a drowning man would need air, only he had been too proud to put it in words. And they had been too angry to listen.

Kirti closed her eyes and the moisture squeezed out of her tightly shut lids. Maan needed her. He may not say that, he may never admit that, but she knew it. She wiped the wetness away from her cheeks. This is just the beginning, a voice whispered in her head, there is a lot more to come, it reminded her. And how true was that, Kirti thought and laughed humorlessly. Tomorrow would bring a busload of other relatives. Buzzards, wasn’t that what Vansh had called them. And new rounds of words would be fired. She will have to brave it out. There was no other way now. If she showed weakness, or that words affected her, she would be easy target. And there would be no stopping anybody. Maybe she could endure all of that, how would she endure her family’s indifference. True, she had won two to her side but there were five more tough members to win. That was where the challenge lay. It pained her to see Veer’s open hatred for her. Her brother had loved her so much. Where had all that vanished? And where Vansh could see or understand, why couldn’t Veer? Why did he behave as if she had caused him some grave, personal injury? Somewhere her instincts were telling her that it just wasn’t her going away with Maan, it was more. But what? Though even as she struggled to remember she couldn’t come up with anything. Her head ached. If she continued to think more she would fall sick. And that wouldn’t do at all. She had to be strong to get through the next few days. And suddenly just seven more days seemed a lot longer than usual. She wished Maan was here. He would have known exactly how to calm her down.

She sighed tiredly. She needed to sleep. Sleep to keep her strength. Tomorrow was another day. With that she rose and went to the bed. And lay down.

Only sleep took its own sweet time coming.

How would Kirti fair the next day? Would she find the strength to keep up or would she crumble?

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