Sunday, 5 January 2020

part 16 AR FF : "and then she said it"

part 16. Awkward beginnings.

I opened my eyes to the sound of the banging on the door. Blinking my eyes to adjust my vision, I groped for my mobile. But in that process, I realized my left hand seemed to be held down by some weight. Disoriented and frustrated with the knocks that were still persistent at the door, I fetched the mobile and saw the time. It was 4.30 am!!

Groaning, I closed my eyes again ignoring the sound at the door. I pulled the bed sheet closer to my face with my right hand. Inspite of the summer, the room turned chilly due to the AC. Feeling cold, I snuggled into the mattresses. I heard someone calling my name. The voice seemed to come from the other side of the door. I wished one could shut the ears just like the eyes.

"I am not gonna wake up till 10." I yelled at the door and turned to my side pulling something that blocked my movement, closer. I had barely slept in the last 48 hours. And it was the same 2.30 in the early morning when I finally dozed off. It had been just two hours that I closed my eyes, my sleepy brain calculated.



And that calculation resulted in one more realization. I was married yesterday!! Hell, Riddhima was supposed to be sleeping beside me!!! I forced my eyes open with a jerk. I craned my neck and looked around, trying to take in the surroundings that I was in. I was in my room, sleeping on my bed. Then where was Riddhima? I wondered as the bed beside me seemed to be empty. I turned towards the wash room. The door was open.

And then my eyes widened with the sudden realization. I yanked the bed sheet away from my body, looked down and gasped. A sleeping Riddhima clung to me, like a child monkey clings to its mother, with her face buried in the side of my neck. Our bodies were fused together, with her hand around my waist and my leg around her thighs.

I jerked back on an impulse and stared at her completely stupefied. The first thought that came to my brain was whether I suffocated her to death as she appeared still without any moment. I let my eyes move further down and then noticed the even movement of her chest. I sighed and closed my eyes for a moment. Remembering the events of the last night, I opened my eyes and looked at her. My eyes widened, yet again, when my eyes took an account of the rumpled form of her saree. Her saree seemed to be pushed upwards away from her chest and her waist was almost bare sending my heart racing at a jet speed.

It was not her crumpled saree that quickened my pulses. It was rather her bareness flashing in golden yellow light of the bed lamp. The sight was quite appealing and equally awkward. For the first few moments I didn't understand how to react. Yes, she is my wife and I was just granted with a license to look at her. But it being Riddhima, I felt weirdly strange. As much as my ethical brain warned me to back off, my heart desired to touch her. Many a times in the last few days, I had dreamt of her erotically. Well, she is beautiful, with a perfect figure but I never felt this strong physical pull towards any other female and it slightly scared me.

For simple instance, the mere fact that she lay beside me with her clothes slightly out of place made my senses go foggy. These elevated feelings -so strong and so sensitive- should mean something. Sighing, I fell back on the bed; with my left hand still under Riddhima's body and my senses still reeling under the aftermaths of having a slight peek at Riddhima's private beauty-the beauty which would be only mine. But not now, my mind added.

Regaining myself, I tried to pull my hand from under her body. But she frowned deeply from the movement. "Tch, aunty. Five more minutes." She mumbled with a frown and tugged at my T-shirt pulling it closer to her. Her bangles made the most amazing sound that suddenly turned out to be one of my most favorite tunes.

I chuckled at her words. So she still thinks mom was trying to wake her up?! This could be interesting, I thought, when she opens her eyes to the surroundings she was in. I was sure she would be embarrassed to the core realizing the state she was in. Hell, she should have woken up when our bodies were pressed together five minutes ago. Well, she might be enjoying my warmth for she moved closer when I tried the versa. I knew she would never admit that even if she enjoyed. She and her theory of silence!!

My initial awkwardness all forgotten, I wanted to check something else, with my naughty side in full gear. But before that I pulled the bed sheet closer to her body as I realized she might be feeling cold. I moved closer to her and brushed her cheek with my knuckles. Her skin was so soft, just as I had imagined it to be. With the barest touch of my fingers I caressed her cheek before moving down to her jaw line and then her neck. The frown on her forehead disappeared almost instantly and I found her smiling in her sleep. I grinned down at her. Her body does enjoy my caress. I was not the only one facing such strong physical need, I thought devilishly.

With a quick peck on her cheek, I slid off the bed to answer the knock at the door that I had conveniently ignored for the last few minutes.

"What happened? Why can't you let me sleep for few hours?" I frowned at Muski who was standing at my door in her night clothes, yawning. But she just stared at me for a moment, then her eyes widened and then she ran away giggling.

"Aunty called you downstairs." She shouted from the end of the staircase.

Scratching my head and then rubbing my eyes, I came downstairs and bumped into a half asleep Rahul on my way. He smiled at me with his eyes half open for a moment and then her grinned showing his 32 teeth. He turned back and went to the living room, where my uncles seemed to be sleeping. Frowning, I walked towards the kitchen. Mom and Sudha aunty were already working on the breakfast.

"You are awake?" Mom sighed and came to the dining room when she spotted me. "Where is Riddh-" She turned towards me and her mouth remained open for a second before she looked away with a weird silence. "Go and ask Riddhima to come down immediately. She has to light the lamp before we leave for Indore." She told me, but never looked at me. It was strange the way mom avoided looking into my eyes, which was rare.

"Oh yeah. I forgot." I muttered remembering that we have to leave for omkareshwar temple near Indore. We had the tickets booked for 9 am flight. And I found Sudha aunty smiling at me weirdly. What was so strange about me? I wondered checking my clothes. They seemed perfect.

When I opened my mouth to say something to mom, Sudha aunty pulled me aside. "From now on, check your face in the mirror once before stepping out of your bedroom. Now go and ask your wife to come down quickly." She whispered into my ear and shooed me away.

Frowning, I rushed back to my room to find out what was wrong with my face that mom felt awkward with me. Entering the room, I found Riddhima still sleeping hugging herself. I locked the door and switched the ac off. When I looked at myself in the mirror I couldn't help but gape at my image. I then understood what the reason behind mom's awkwardness was and why was everyone smiling at me strangely. The left side of my neck and the jaw line was covered with sindoor and so was the hem of my T-shirt.

Looking closely, I found Riddhima's bindi sticked to my neck as well. I mentally kicked myself for not having a look at myself in the mirror before stepping out. But how was I to know that something of this sort would happen!!! I turned around and noticed smudged sindoor on Riddhima's forehead. Blushing to myself, I shuddered thinking what everyone might be thinking about my appearance. It was so embarrassing- the way Muski and Rahul looked at me. And then mom! I don't think I would be able to look at her eyes.

I switched the light on and sat back on the bed, near Riddhima's gazing at her. She squeezed her eyes and tossed for a few moments on the bed. She then slowly opened her eyes and looked at me. I smiled at her and she returned the smile back. She sat up on the bed, yawning. With her mangalsutras hanging around her neck and right shoulder, hair messed up full of flower petals, sindoor smudged on forehead, saree out of place and a sleepy face- I felt at home. I have read in some books that men would be turned off when they find their women in such an unkempt form but I felt quite the opposite. She appeared perfect as a woman- my wife.

As I sat staring at her, her eyes widened after a couple of moments when her sleepy brain process our attires. She quickly adjusted her saree to place and started searching around the bed frantically for something. I moved closer to her and she stopped; staring at me with me big eyes. I pulled her mangalsutras to her front and smiled at her.

"Your jewellery is on the table beside." I said pointing at the table. "I removed them after you slept last night."

"I am sorry. I didn't know when I fell asleep. I was tired and fee-" She started with her apologies and excuses; her eyes lowered out of guilt.

"Why are you sorry? Did you have any other plans for the night?" I interrupted her and winked at her when she looked at me startled.

"No no. I mean-I-" She fumbled with her words turning to a shade of pink.

I laughed at her. "Mom asked you to come downstairs quickly." I told her.

"Oh! Did aunty say something?" She asked.

"No, they were just laughing at me." I told her as a matter of fact.

"Why?" She asked surprised.

I turned to the other side and showed her my neck and T-shirt that she failed to notice till now. "Because of this." I grinned at her. She turned to a deeper shade of red and ran to the washroom after grabbing a towel from her wardrobe while I fell on the bed, flat on my back and stared at the fan with a stupid smile on my face.

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While Riddhima took her shower in the washroom in my bedroom, ironically I went to hers-the guest room to get ready, to save time. By the time I came back to my room after showering, she was struggling with her heavy dark brown saree, with her wet and messy hair tied up, all her jewellery sitting on the bed with just a mangalsutra made of yellow threads around her neck.

"You are still not ready?" I asked, looking at the state she was in. As soon as she spotted me entering the room, she turned around holding her undone saree at her waist. But that resulted in her almost bare back exposed to me. It took me a moment and a deep breath to control my eyes from getting glued to the sight.

"I- I am almost done." She replied with her head bowed down, her full concentration on the frills of her saree. "Can you please call aunty or Muski?" She asked, her voice tired face exasperated.

"Why? Is something wrong?" I questioned walking up to her.

"I need help with the saree." She replied, turning around to face me. She appeared upset, eyes covered with a thin layer of water.

"What happened Riddhima?" I asked worried. Everything was perfect before half an hour when I left the room. "Are you not feeling well? Are you in pain?"

She shook her head negatively and her eyes filled fast. "I am messing up everything. I dozed off in the couch last night amidst the pooja and then here. I woke up late in the morning though aunty already told me to be ready by 5. That ear ring broke when I was trying to put it on and now I am not getting the frills right." She whispered without taking a breath.

"Is that why you are crying?" I asked bewildered. And I thought something was seriously wrong!

"I am sorry." She sniffed, still clutching on to her saree.

Smiling at her thoughts, I wiped the tear that escaped her eye. "You fell asleep because you weren't feeling well yesterday. That's fine. We had barely slept last night. So don't worry that you were late. I don't think anyone would have a problem with that. I'll ask mom to get you some other ear rings. Okay?" I replied to her, softly. "Now I'll help you with the saree. So relax."

"You- you shouldn't do that." She jumped back when I knelt infront of her to help with those frills of her saree. That was not very new for me. Many a times, I had helped mom with that.

"Why? I used to help mom when I stayed here." I simply stated.

"That- that's different. You shouldn't kneel infront of me." She replied with an urgency in her voice, looking at the door. "Get up Armaan, please."

Shaking my head at her, I reached for the frills and set them straight. She reluctantly let me do it with her eyes stuck to the door lest anyone would enter. In the process, unintentionally my eyes caught a slight portion of her bare waist. I couldn't help my eyes darting to the sight every few moments while she got her saree right. But then after a few moments she pulled her saree down covering her waist and I knew she caught me staring at her. Very awkwardly I got to my feet and left the room. I didn't dare look at her for I knew she would be embarrassed and so was at being caught.

Coming downstairs, I sent mom to help Riddhima with her ear ring. Muski winked at me when I met her in the living room, Rahul just grinned with my two aunties and uncles smiling at me. I kind of understood what they were smiling at and turned red around my collar. I avoided their gazes and buried my head in the news paper.

"What happened to your eyes Riddhima? They appear red." Shashank uncle noticed it and asked her when mom and Riddhima came downstairs to the living room.

"Nothing uncle. Might be due to lack of sleep." She replied smiling.

"Why? Didn't Armaan let you sleep last night?" Padma aunty quipped with a smirk. I choked on my breath and Riddhima's eyes popped out of their sockets. Even mom was struggling to refrain herself from smiling.

"I-I'll go-I'll get tea." Riddhima stammered and fled to the kitchen while I stared at everyone flabbergasted.

"I forgot my mobile upstairs." I got up and ran upstairs while I heard everyone's laughter echoing from the living room. Inspite of the embarrassments, I found myself enjoying each and every bit of it.

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After a quick and light breakfast we reached the airport at 8.15 to take the 9 am flight to Indore. Riddhima changed into a chudidar after a quick pooja at home. She appeared apprehensive while boarding the flight and then I came to know that it was her first time flying. During the take off, she clutched on to my hand tight, with her eyes shut and chanting something while I simply stared at her amused. But soon after that, we both dozed off during the three and half hour journey.

It was noon by the time we reached Indore. We hired two innovas at Indore to take us to the temple. And by road it took another two hours to reach the small guest house near to the place of temple. We took three rooms- one for me and Riddhima, one for the ladies and the other for the gents. It was awkward enough when Sudha aunty gave me the keys of our room and told us to get ready fast when the others were sharing rooms.

As an unspoken agreement, I changed my clothes in the washroom while Riddhima in the room. This time I didn't offer to help her with her saree neither did she struggle with it. By the time we got ready, Shanshank uncle and Raghu uncle hired a Pandit to perform the pooja for us. The Pandit instructed us to perform the pooja without having food. So while everyone had their lunch, Riddhima and I had two glasses of fruit juices each, hoping that would keep us alive till the end of the pooja.

We visited the temple and got the darshan of the god in the afternoon. It being summer and May, we started sweating the moment we stepped out of the temple. The Pandit arranged for the Pooja in a small mandap near the river. He made us chant few mantras and then we performed a hawan. It was four in the evening when it was done. Then the Pandit asked Riddhima and me to take a dip in the holy water of the confluence of the rivers Narmada and Kaveri. The water was slightly cold and it was a bliss staying in the water on a sunny day.

By the time we reached the guest house, everyone was worried again because Riddhima was running fever yet again. Rahul bought lunch for us. I had some food, but Riddhima refused it saying she didn't feel like eating. Padma aunty made her drink coconut water and Shashnak uncle gave her another tablet for the temperature. We cancelled the flight tickets we booked for the night flight worried of Riddhima's health as she looked pale and booked them for the next day morning.

Late in the evening, everyone went to visit the other small temples the Pandit had told us, but I stayed back with Riddhima in the room. She ate the idlis Rahul had bought for her and took another tablet Shashank uncle had given her. By 8 in the night, her temperature was under control and blood seemed to reappear on her skin. She sat with her back rested against the bed post and I lay on the bed beside her.

Suddenly it appeared like ages I had a proper conversation with Riddhima. Last one week had been quite hectic leaving with us little chance to spend some time alone. And I have to leave for Hyderabad by tomorrow midnight flight. I had booked ticket for Riddhima but didn't ask her if she would like to come with me immediately. She might have wanted to stay for a few days with mom before relocating. And with her not in her good health I wondered if mom would let her come with me; as in Hyderabad no one would be there to take care of her as Rahul and I would be busier at the office after a 10 day leave. As the thought crossed my mind, I quickly sat up on the bed and looked at her.

"Riddhima, I have to leave for Hyderabad tomorrow midnight." I told her and watched her face fall instantly. I was right. She wanted to stay here for a little longer. "But don't worry, you can stay here with mom for few more days. I'll come to take you after a week or two, when you are back to your good health, okay?"

She just stared at me for a few seconds and then lowered her eyes before nodding. My heart sank at her response. Somewhere I had hoped she would say that she wanted to come with me. It might sound filmy but I didn't want to leave her and go. I knew I would miss her. May be she would miss me too. But then I couldn't let her come with me half heartedly when a greater part of her wanted to say a proper good bye to mom, her friends and Muski. I looked at her and found her fidgeting with her fingers.

"You want to say something, Riddhima?" I asked her after a moment. Please say you want to come with me.

"I-" She opened my mouth but then shut it quickly. "No nothing." She added in a small voice and my hope vanished.

And this awkward silence prevailed in the room for the next few minutes, before she broke it with an unexpected question.

"Are you happy Armaan?" She asked.

"Huh?" I looked at her surprised at the sudden question.

"Marrying me, are you happy?" She repeated again, with a blank expression on her face.

I moved closer and sat beside her. "What do you think, am I?" I asked her, taking her hand in mine.

She lowered her eyes and started playing with my fingers like a cute little girl. "You appear to be happy." She replied.

"Riddhima" I called for her softly and she looked up into my eyes. "You are a wonderful woman and I am very happy to have you in my life." I spoke slowly stressing on every word. "And I mean it." I added with a smile.

She smiled at me and placed her head on my shoulder taking me by surprise. "I am happy too." She whispered.

I eased one of my hands from hers and snaked it around her shoulder. When she didn't part away I let it slide down to her waist and pulled her closer gently. She continued playing with my fingers and I realized that now I am a content man, with serene warmth taking over my heart. She turned to me and looked up, her eyes meeting mine. I found the same warmth reflecting in her eyes. I lowered my face and touched my lips to her forehead softly. I let my lips linger there for a few moments so as to give and take as much as that warmth I could. When I drew back and looked down at her, she had her eyes closed. She opened them slowly and smiled at me; and I found everything in just that smile of hers.

A sudden knock on the door of the room broke our trance and she lowered her eyes shyly, her cheeks already flushed. With a quick peck on cheek and a gentle squeeze of her body, I left her and went to answer the door.

15. Awkward Beginnings-II

Riddhima appeared kind of lost ever since we had returned back from Indore this morning. Sometimes, she just stared at me or into space with a blank face. Late in the morning, I helped her in moving her things to my room. She spoke to me or to mom only if needed. She seemed to be preoccupied in some thought. I tried making conversation with her during lunch but she just replied in mono syllables. At first, I thought she might be tired; but by evening I knew something was wrong. So I just waited for the time to come when I could make her let it out; as all through the day, someone or the other was around us.

"Armaan?" Mom called me in the evening when I was working on my laptop in the living room. Sudha aunty and Raghu uncle had left after a late lunch and finally I had time to check my mails. Riddhima was with Muski in our room.

"Yes mom?" I raised my head from the screen.

"Can we talk for some time? In my room?" She asked me. From the tone of hers, I knew it was something important.

"Sure." I nodded smiling. I put the laptop aside and followed mom to her room. She closed the door when I stepped in and I was surprised to find Rahul sitting there. "Hey Rahul." I smiled at him but he put up a fake smile.

"Rahul was saying that he was shifting to some new place from the flat you were sharing now at Hyderabad." Mom told me sitting on the bed.

I looked up at Rahul, shocked. "When did this happen? Rahul?"

"I thought of telling you when we go back. I am planning on renting another flat." He said.

"Why?"

"You are married, Armaan. You need privacy. Riddhima needs some privacy." He replied.

"It's a three bed room flat Rahul. Moreover Riddhima accepted you as her brother. She wouldn't feel uncomfortable." I said calmly. I knew he hates living alone. And I also knew what he was trying to say. But I didn't want him to push himself away from me now that Riddhima entered my life. He might have grown stronger over the years, but he is as vulnerable as Riddhima is. I didn't want him to go through any of the trauma he had endured in his past.

"You don't understand, Armaan." He shook his head. "Riddhima doesn't-"

He was interrupted by Riddhima herself, who dashed in with a tray of coffee cups. But she stopped in her tracks when she noticed our serious faces. "I am sorry. I should have knocked" she added quickly.

"You need not knock Riddhima. If I am not wrong, you are my wife, right?" I took the tray from her hand and placed it on the table beside. She nodded her head shyly. I made her sit on the couch infront of the bed and sat beside her.

She looked at me, Rahul and mom. "Is something wrong?" She asked.

"You know that Rahul and I live in the same flat at Hyderabad, right?" I asked her ignoring her question.

"Yes, aunty told me about it." She replied.

"Good. And it's a three bed room flat." I added.

"Armaan-" Rahul tried to interrupt me but I ignored him and continued.

"So we were just talking to the rental agent to find a new place for us." I told her, watching her face for her reaction.

"Why a new place? I mean, why can't we stay with Rahul?" She asked immediately. "I-I mean- only if Rahul doesn't have any problem. I mean-" She stammered looking at Rahul and me.

"You wouldn't have any problem if we stay together?" Rahul asked, stunned.

"I never had a family before. I would always prefer as many people as I could find, staying with me." She replied in a small voice and turned to look at me. I understood the depth of her words and gave her a side hug, smiling.

"Oh, thank you so much Riddhima!" Rahul exclaimed elated. She looked at him confused. I shook my head when she turned to me. We then heard Muski's voice yelling for Riddhima. She quickly stood up and ran to our room while Rahul and I chuckled.

Mom, who was a silent spectator of the event smiled at us. "So are you all done with packing?" She asked us, serving us the cups. "Ask Riddhima to take only her new clothes." She added.

"But mom, Riddhima isn't coming with us to Hyderabad." I told her, "Didn't she tell you?"

"What do you mean that she's not coming with you?" She asked, astonished. Rahul stared at me agape.

"I mean, she wanted to stay with you for few days before relocating. So I told her I would come and take her after a week or two." I said, sipping my coffee.

"Huh?" Mom was surprised for some reason. "I didn't know about this. Are you sure of this?"

"Yes mom. Moreover she is not in her perfect health. So I thought she might want to stay here for some time." I added.

"Are you just assuming it or did you talk to Riddhima about it?" Rahul asked, frowning.

"I talked to her yesterday night." I told them. "She said she wanted to stay back." I, myself wondered what I had spoken. I mean, Riddhima didn't tell me that she wanted to stay back. But her actions meant that way. Did I miss something? I felt myself asking that as I left the room.

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While Riddhima packed my bag, I sat on the bed and observed her carefully. Something was wrong with her. She fumbled with my clothes while placing them in the bag, then with the zip of the bag and then with the door of the wardrobe. Infact she had been clumsily fumbling with literally everything. She almost dropped the dish while at dinner and she ate very little food.

I went closer to Riddhima when I found her struggling with the zip of the bag. I closed it for her and turned her towards me.

"What's wrong Riddhima?" I asked her softly.

She didn't look into my eyes. "Nothing, Armaan. I am fine. I'll go and-"

"You are not yourself today. Do you want to say something to me?" I cut her midsentence and probed her further.

This time, she did look into my eyes and I was amazed to find a whirl wind of emotions in them, most of which I couldn't understand. But she kept on looking into my eyes pointedly as if searching for something, asking for something. I had seen her eyes like this before somewhere but I couldn't recall when.

"Can you manage with the take aways every day at Hyderabad?" She asked, after a moment.

It took me a couple of moments to make sense of what she had asked. I thought it was going to be something serious.Where did these take aways come from, in the way? "Yeah, sometimes I wish I could have home food. But I am used to them now." I said but she looked at me expectantly.

"And then the laundry? It might be difficult" She mumbled.

I wondered where the conversation was leading to. "I have been staying there for almost two years Riddhima. I can manage." I told her. She sounded exactly like mom, asking those questions. "However it's only for a week or two, right? Then you will be there with me." I added, smiling.

She just nodded and looked away, something like defeated. I checked the wall clock for time. It's 10.30 pm. Our flight is at 12.30 am. So Rahul said we should leave by 11 pm. I still had 30 minutes before I left. And by the time, I wanted to know what was bothering Riddhima. I had asked her several times, but couldn't come to the tail of it.

"I'll go and see if Rahul needs anything." She said and left the room.

I sat on the bed and replayed the entire conversation. What's with the laundry and take aways anyway, I wondered to myself. And then her eyes! There was something in them- vulnerability, some need, a little hesitation and something more. Sighing, I lay flat on the bed and closed my eyes. The sight of Riddhima's eyes flashed infront of my eyes and I realized the similarity of the myriad of the emotions in them. Her eyes held the same depth and feelings that I had seen when she came to meet me at the airport when I left her the last time.

I sat up with a start on the bed. Does that mean that she doesn't want me to leave? Or maybe she wanted to come along with me? Hell, that might be the reason why she was talking all carp about take aways and laundry. She wanted me to take her along with me. She wanted me to ask her if she wanted to come with me. But I did ask her, didn't I? And on the spur of moment, I realized I didn't. I didn't give her a choice; I just told her. But couldn't she say that she wanted to come? For the umpteenth time, I found myself asking the same question.

Why doesn't she say anything?

I looked up when I heard the sound of the door. "Rahul is ready, talking to aunty in the living room." Riddhima told me.

"Riddhima, will you come with me to Hyderabad now?" I asked her when she made her way towards the washroom.

She turned around and stared at me frozen. "You will take me?" She asked with her eyes big and eons of hope in them. Did she think that I don't want her to come? Only if she knew how much I wanted the opposite!

I nodded my head and her eyes twinkled immediately. And I knew I was right in my analysis about our previous conversation.

"Yes!" She replied breathlessly, tears filling her eyes. "I will come with you."

I walked up to her and held her hands in mine. "Is that why you were upset since morning? You thought I wouldn't want to take you now?" She didn't reply; just looked at me. And I got my answer. "Oh Riddhima, you should have told me. I thought you wanted to stay here with mom for some days." I pulled her closer holding her wrists.

"I didn't know that I could tell you that. I thought you would be upset." She spoke hesitantly.

"Riddhima, your happiness will be one of my priorities always. So tell me if you want something from me, okay?" I asked her.

When she nodded, I closed the distance between us and hugged her. I felt her hands on my back holding me tight. It was the first time that she held me without any hesitation and it made my heart leap in joy. I pulled her closer and let my hands move across her back and waist. No sooner had I done that than my fingers came in contact with her skin at her side waist; thanks to her saree. I didn't know what overtook me; I pressed her waist closer to my body and nuzzled her neck, pushing her hair aside with my nose. I wanted something; and I had no clue what that something was.

I heard her gasp and opened my eyes. It was then I realized that I had closed my eyes. When did I do that? And I felt something near my lips too. Realizing that it was the skin of her neck, I released her from my hold. Had I been kissing her? I had no idea. Her body and that feminine perfume of hers always do something to me. She looked away when I looked down at her. Her face was in a deep shade of pink.

"umm- pack your clothes. I'll go and talk to mom and Rahul." I told her, awkwardly, and rushed out of the room.

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And my readers, did you know what happened when I told mom that I am taking Riddhima along? It was her vidai. Can you believe a mother-in-law vidaing her daughter-in-law? Well, you have to; because that's what happened at my home. Even Padma aunty and Shashank uncle joined mom. Muskaan was a handful for Rahul and I wondered what I had to do when I say mom and Padma aunty shedding tears holding Riddhima close.

Mom pulled me aside after a moment. "Don't hurt her. She is very sensitive.And give her some space, in getting comfortable with you." She added. "Don't push her. Do you understand what I am saying?"

I turned red with her question. "Mom, I-I'll take good care of Riddhima." I told her, not knowing what else to say. God, I felt like I was talking to my mother-in-law not mom. And if mom was referring to our physical relationship, which I was sure of, I wasn't comfortable with that.

"I knew you would." She spoke, her voice muffled and hugged me.   

And then it was quite a task consoling Riddhima. I strictly warned them not to accompany us to the airport. I was sure we would miss the flight if they came. And Riddhima was still sniffing when we boarded the flight. I chuckled looking at her. "You are crying because you are leaving your mother-in-law behind! How funny does that sound?" I quipped and Rahul smacked me, while she just sniffed more.

"Oh, don't cry Riddhima. I promise we'll come to mom every month." I told her hugging her from the side." Deep down I knew what mom meant to her and vice versa.

Riddhima drew away when the air hostess cleared her throat. She gave us the blankets and before leaving wished us. "Have a happy honey moon, Mr. & Mrs. Mallik."

"Uh-Thank you." I replied awkwardly, Riddhima looked away blushing and Rahul winked at me.

Later, I closed my eyes with a content sigh, entwining my fingers with Riddhima's, awaiting a new day with a new beginning.

sushmita

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