Monday, November 12, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 54

Khushi awoke to a gorgeous California day. It was still early and the sunlight was still tinged with pink and gold tints of early morning. She could see the clouds in the sky - white clouds with pink-gold edges floating by. It was a beautiful day. It was her wedding day.

Her wedding day! She sat up in bed. Holy guacamole! She had to hurry, she thought, turning to look at the clock. Five-thirty? That’s it?! She lay back down, her heart slowing down from the sudden rush. A smile lifted the corners of her lips as she thought of the past week.

It had been a whirlwind of activity, getting ready for a wedding in five short days.

Arnav had been adamant about it. They were getting married here and she was going home with him. He wasn’t leaving the US without her. Her parents had initially proposed setting a date a few months from now. He’d told them no. Politely but firmly. No. The purpose of a long engagement was to get to know each other. As far as he and Khushi were concerned they knew each other pretty well. And living on two different continents for months on end wasn’t going to get them any closer. So it was better that they married and went back, and got to know each other better by living together as husband and wife.

Her parents had given in, not because of his infallible logic, but mostly because they could sense how impatient he was to begin his life with their daughter.

She looked at her engagement ring and smiled. They’d spent as much time as they could together, apart from going to the county office to get the license, getting an appointment with a JP to officiate at their wedding. It would have to be a civil wedding, mainly because of the legal issues. But she was determined to get as much as she could out of it.

When she’d told him she’d wanted to wear a lehenga for the wedding, he’d picked one out from the new Madrid-Raizada collection. It was hanging in her closet now, one of the few things left hanging there. Most of her clothes had been packed, ready to go with her, although he’d made husbandly grumbling noises at the amount of luggage she had. Typical male! She snorted with laughter.

She got out of bed and took out her faded swimsuit, and a toweling robe, making her way quietly to the swimming pool. Ten laps would ease out the butterflies in her tummy that refused to settle down. She finished her laps and showered, before coming down to find her parents sitting with their morning cups of coffee in the kitchen.

‘Good morning, my darling,’ said her mother, pouring her a cup of coffee. ‘Excited?’

‘Just a little bit. It still doesn’t feel real,’ she said honestly.

‘I know,’ her mother put a hand over hers. She looked at her daughter for a minute and said, ‘I am so happy for you, Khushi. Arnav is a good man. There is something very honest about him. Something extremely lovable. Be a good wife to him, okay?’

She nodded her head, swallowing down a lump in her throat. Her father put his arm around her and hugged her. ‘He loves you a lot, Khushi. And I know you have a lot of love to give him,’ he kissed her forehead. ‘Be happy both of you,’ for a minute he lay his hand on her head.

The tears threatened to spill over as she hugged her father back. ‘I’m going to miss you all, so much,’ she said.

‘And we’ll miss you, too,’ her mother whispered, joining the family hug, wiping her eyes. ‘But at least we know our daughters will be there together. You’ll have each other for support.’

For a long moment they all stood there, then her father drew back, ‘and I think if you feel homesick, Arnav will personally see to it that you come back here.’ She nodded sniffing.

‘Come on, Khushi,’ her mother said. ‘Time to start getting ready. The hair dresser will be here any minute.’ She nodded, picked up the cup of coffee and went upstairs.

****

It was two o’clock in the afternoon. Time for the ceremony to start. The wedding was taking place at the Dutts, the backyard having been transformed into a small private area, shielded from outside view by fences created by tons of plants and flowers. The gazebo was decorated with flowers - red roses and golden tulips and sunflowers - and ribbons.

Three rows of chairs faced the gazebo, occupied by close friends and relatives of the Guptas and the Dutts, as well as Rahul’s family who had been invited to the wedding. While Arnav had wanted a quick wedding in the court, the Guptas had insisted on it, their family having missed Payal’s wedding altogether. To Khushi’s surprise, Arnav had agreed to it.

He had however, insisted that he wanted to surprise his own family by taking Khushi home. So nothing had been told to them. Besides, if word got out in the local media, he knew how bad it would be once they go there. So, a tight lid was kept on any news leaking out to India, the ever faithful Aman having been given strict instructions to keep anything and everything out of the press.

Arnav stood at the gazebo, dressed in a grey Dolce & Gabbana suit, a white shirt and a deep blue Hermes cravat, with a pair of black Battistoni leather wingtip Balmorals. NK stood behind him as his best man. The JP in front of them, a kindly white-haired gentleman in his sixties with twinkling blue eyes, in his black robes.

Arnav was thinking of the conversation that he’d had with his sister on Monday.

***

‘Chotey, are you serious?’ she was thrilled.

‘Yes, Di,’ he said patiently, but with a smile. ‘I did ask her, and we’re engaged.’

‘I can’t believe this. You finally did it!’ she was squealing with excitement, calling Nani on the phone to listen in. She put him on speaker and said, ‘Chotey, Payal, Nani and Mami are also here. I just told them the news.’

‘Chotey,’ it was his Nani. ‘I am so happy for you. You are bringing her home with you, I hope?’

‘Nani, once I get back I’ll explain everything,’ he avoided the question.

‘What is there to explain, Chotey? When are you both planning to get married?’

‘As soon as possible, Nani,’ he said. ‘I don’t see any reason to wait, is there?’ grinning, knowing they would agree with him.

‘Yes, yes, Chotey. It must be soon,’ said Nani.

‘I have so much planned for your wedding, Chotey,’ said his sister. ‘I need to start making arrangements today itself!’

He could hear Payal and Mami exclaiming in the background. ‘We’ll make all the arrangements when I get back, Di.’ He was finally able to hang up on their excited chatter. It was exactly this circus that he had wanted to avoid. If the marriage was a fait accompli, there was no question of all the major arrangements that he knew his sister would be making. He hated a fuss, and his sister reveled in it.

***

He felt rather than saw her, and turned around.

NK turned around too, and soon everybody was craning their necks to look at the bride.

The afternoon sun reflected off the white carpet strewn with rose petals, down which she walked. She wore a pale sea-green dress with a layered skirt and a long train. It was designed to look almost like a lehenga, with silver zardozi work on it. The shallow neckline ended on the tips of her shoulders, flowing out into long sleeves made of see-through chiffon, with tiny crystals embroidered into it, that caught the sun’s rays and sparkled like diamonds. Her engagement ring was the only ring she wore. The sun burst pendant lay gleaming against her throat. Bangles covered her arms, and a veil, a deeper shade of sea-green, covered her head. She carried a bouquet of white flowers in her hand.

Arnav felt his heart skip a beat when he saw her walking towards him. She raised her eyes to his and smiled, a brilliant smile that dazzled his mind. As she came close, he put out his hand, she put her hand in it, handing over the bouquet to Nia who stood by as matron of honor. They turned to the JP.

The ceremony was quick and official. She slipped a gold band on his finger. He slipped a plain gold band on hers, over the engagement ring. Inscribed on the inside were the words, ‘Arnav Khushi Hamesha’. Forever. He’d show it to her later.

‘By the power invested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you man and wife,’ the JP declared, to the cheers of everyone present, bringing the ceremony to a close. ‘You may now kiss the bride,’ his eyes twinkled at the serious but good-looking young groom. Personally, he’d never seen such a beautiful couple in his life.

Arnav snaked an arm around Khushi’s waist and dropped a chaste kiss on her cheek. ‘This is cheating, you know,’ he whispered in her ear.

Her mouth fell open in her famous ‘O’. Claps and catcalls echoed around the place. The JP congratulated them and handed him their marriage certificate. NK stepped up in front of them and said dramatically, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Arnav Singh Raizada.’

There were whoops and shouts again, as Arnav tucked her hand into his arm, leading her off the gazebo. He hadn’t felt so proud of himself in his whole life as he did at that moment. His would have described it as his heart was bursting in his chest, but he didn’t think that was biologically possible! A sense of peace and calm settled in his soul. He felt Khushi looking up at him, and he looked down at her. They smiled at each other. Finally, it was over. They could be together, happily ever after. He lifted her left hand to his mouth and kissed it.

NK clicked a picture of them, just like that, and sent it to Anjali.

***

The Boeing 747 was winging its way across the Pacific Ocean. It had been a long day yesterday for the two of them and now finally here they were on their way back to India. They were in the upper deck of the aircraft, the plush confines of the first class cabin lulling them to sleep. She was near the window, while he was at the aisle. The new lie-flat seats on the aircraft were extremely comfortable, but they had these stupid dividers between the seats for privacy. He didn’t need a divider for privacy, he wanted to watch his wife sleeping! His Wife. He tasted that word on his tongue, swirled it on his taste buds and savored the aroma of it. They were the most beautiful words in the English language, he thought. His Wife. Khushi was his, from now till the end of time. She was His Khushi. She was His Life. His Everything.

Last night, the first night of their life together, had been magical. It had been their first night together - technically. They’d spent it at his hotel.

****

She stopped inside the room, looking around it, when he’d followed her in. He took her hand and led her to the couch near the open windows, through which the twinkling lights of San Francisco reflected off the Bay. She sat down and waited while he poured them champagne from the bucket on the sideboard.

He handed her a glass and held out his hand to her. She stood up face to face with him, inches separating them.

‘To us, forever,’ he said.

‘To us,’ she echoed before taking a sip. He took the glass from her hand and put it down on the table. He held her hands in his looking down at them, the ivory of her skin, contrasting with his darker tones. He looked into her eyes, serious and intent on what he wanted to say.

‘Khushi, I know that we got married in a real hurry. I want to promise you this, I’ll do my best to keep you happy, every single day of our lives. I will be there for you, every day, every night. I don’t want you to be a typical daughter-in-law, but my partner and my equal in life. Everything is for you and with you. I promise you this.’ He lifted her hands and kissed them, one at a time. ‘I can’t promise that I am always easy to live with, but I am hoping you’ll bear with me and be with me ... always.’

He lifted his eyes to her face to see tears trembling on her lashes, making their way down her cheeks. His hands came up to cup her face, wiping the tears with his thumb. ‘No more tears, okay?’ he whispered.

She nodded her head, holding his face in her palms, she kissed him gently. He kissed her back. A kiss of deep tenderness, and promise and love. He moved back and said, ‘wait. I’ve got something for you.’

He went to the closet and took out a flat gift-wrapped box which he put in her hands.

‘What’s this?’

‘Your wedding gift,’ he said, hoping she would understand.

She smiled at him and quickly started to tear off the gift-wrap. A thin, flat box appeared. She opened it. Inside was a file with her name on it. She frowned and opened it. She picked up the papers inside the file and began to read them.

‘The Feminine Divine. Mrs. Khushi Singh Raizada. Owner? and President?’ She looked at him. ‘Arnav, what IS this?’

‘Feminine Divine is now your company, Khushi. I bought it, and it’s registered in your name. You get to choose how you want to operate it. I know living in India and operating a company in the US will be a little challenging. But I have some suggestions, and if you’re open we can discuss them.’

‘But Arnav ... I thought you only bought the company to have a hold on me,’ she was still perplexed.

‘I know. Initially, that was my thought. But later, once you said yes, this just made perfect sense,’ he said. ‘So.’

She shook her head. ‘I’ll never understand you.’ She dropped the papers on the table, and came to him, putting her arms around his neck. ‘But thank you,’ she whispered, before kissing him again.

They broke apart, feeling the familiar desire rise in them. ‘That’s all the thanks I get?’ he had that devilish lop-sided smile on his face.

‘No, you’ve got all night. So ask and its yours,’ she said saucily.

‘Ask, hmm? You know I never have to ask for someone to thank me,’ he murmured, brushing his lips over the pulse in her throat.

‘Really?’ her breathing was accelerating now, as her hands moved down, unbuttoning his shirt.

‘Mmm-hmmm,’ he was busy nipping his way down her neckline, unhooking the buttons on her blouse, and pushing it away from her shoulders.

‘There’s always a first time,’ she moaned as he found a spot between her breasts, raking her fingers through his hair.

‘Let’s go to bed,’ he said scooping her up in his arms.

‘I thought you’d never ask,’ she replied.

****

Fourteen hours on a flight can get to be a bit much. Arnav had walked around, stretched, and worked. He’d even tried watching a movie. But it was of no use. Unlike his wife, he couldn’t sleep on a flight. She finally woke up, yawning and stretching like a cat. He couldn’t stop looking at her. She opened her eyes to see him smiling at her.

‘Hi,’ he said huskily.

‘Hi,’ she sat up, bringing up her seat to an upright position. ‘Did you get any sleep?’

He shook his head. ‘Can’t sleep on planes.’

She touched the dark circles under his eyes. ‘I wish you’d slept.’

He pulled down the partition between their seats. There was only a few other passengers on the upper deck. He held her hand and said, ‘come sit with me.’

‘I need to freshen up,’ she got up and moved into the aisle, to go the bathroom. Five minutes later she came out, looking scrubbed and clean. He held out a hand and she sat down in the seat with him, half on his lap and half on the seat, almost lying across his chest.

‘Someone will see,’ she whispered.

‘Let them,’ he said, his hand behind her head pulling her in for a kiss.

‘Arnav, what’re you doing?’

‘Kissing my wife,’ he murmured, his eyes almost like slits but the flaming passion unmistakable in them. He had one arm wrapped around her, the other framing her face. She looked at his lips, unconsciously licking hers. He moaned in his throat, and pulled her face down to his, making short work of entering her mouth.

Their tongues tangled and danced with each other. His hands roaming restlessly across her back. She looped her arms around his neck, sliding her fingers into the collar of his shirt, rubbing the corded muscles at the back of his neck. He kissed her along her jawline, little nips and licks, she tilted her head to give him full access. He found the hollows behind her ear, and ran his tongue down it, felt her shudder in his arms. Found a spot, he thought, smiling. His hand moved up to the other side, his thumb stroking the hollow behind her ear, mirroring his tongue, leaving sparks on her skin, she moaned into his throat. He could feel her start to tremble. His arousal was starting to get uncomfortable with her leg between his. He pulled back, and she opened her eyes, Heavy-lidded, sensual eyes, that mirrored the arousal in his. He swallowed.

She was his wife, not a girl friend, not a lover, but above and beyond that. The most treasured thing in his life. The MHC was not the place for her. He shifted her back into her seat. She looked at him questioningly. He shook his head. She understood and smiled at him. He lifted her fingers to his lips, kissed them and put her hand on his chest, holding them there. She felt his heartbeat through the tips of her fingers. Slowly his eyes closed, and he slept.

*****


4 comments:

  1. Beautiful!!!! Wat a wedding....I cud picture it all.....

    NK is going to be in trouble......A wanted a no fuss reception in India & @ home....but now.....;)

    Next plz....sooooon.....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Read the last 3 chapters all together.... Loved them... loved the wedding !!! Let's see how the family reacts to his wedding surprise !!!

    55 please !!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This was just beautiful, can say no more.

    ReplyDelete

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