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In the end all that worry had come to nothing. That first day armed with all the paraphernalia which was needed to interest and educate Aditya she had gone to the Dewans’ residence. The cloud of apprehension she had carried with her had evaporated once she had reached there. Madhav was nowhere to be seen.
So feeling supremely relaxed she had got down to work with an excited but still shy Aditya. She invited Mrs. Dewan to join them too. On hearing that Adityacouldn’t hide his excitement, “Really?”
Those were the first words he had spoken voluntarily without being nudged or prompted. Mrs. Dewan was quick to note it too. She confided as much in Radhika.
“I think it’s going to be alright after all. I am sure we have made the best decision for Aditya.” She said a little emotionally. “Madhav too will be very glad to hear about this significant bit of progress when he gets back from Bangalore.” As she let slip that snippet of information Radhika felt herself relax completely. At least a couple of days of reprieve! Thank God!
The next couple of days passed wonderfully. As the weekend drew near Mrs. Dewan invited Radhika, “Why don’t you have dinner with us tomorrow? If you are not busy of course?” She added anxiously. “I mean its Friday and it’s just Aditya and me. Madhav won’tbe back until tomorrow evening.”
Before she could answer, a tiny voice said unexpectedly, surprising the two women, “Yes. Please Miss Kapoor.”
She looked down to see Aditya looking up at her with a closed look on his face as though he regretted blurting out his spontaneous request. As though he expected her to refuse.
She took his little hand in his and swallowing a lump that had formed in her throat she looked up at Mrs. Dewan and said brightly, “I think I will have Aditya’s favourite food for dinner tomorrow. How about you Aunty?”
She saw the answering sheen of what she felt in the older woman’s eyes as she smiled a joyous smile at Radhika.
The chocolate chiffon cake was literally finger licking. And that was exactly what she was doing – licking her fingers - when Madhav walked in unexpectedly at the last stage of their sinful ‘Friday dinner.’ As though eating Aditya’s favourite food, Chinese noodles with chopsticks they couldn’t handle wasn’t bad enough - the result was there right on the table in front of them– being caught licking your fingers when it was something she never indulged inwas embarrassing in the extreme.
Aditya doing that was cute and adorable. Where as she looked ridiculous if not worse! But suddenly there he was. Tall, lean, big and real. She scraped her chair back and stood up with a jerk. It was like the school principle had walked in and she was an errant student. Not the best of analogies either she thought depressingly as she picked up a napkin and sought to undo the damage, managing to mutter, “Hello Mr. Dewan.”
“Hello Miss Kapoor……”his voice was low and reminded her of coffee and liqueur……how could she have forgotten in only a couple of days? And yes it had the same heady effect on her….. Their eyes held for a second and then a tiny voice said an almost inaudible, “Hello Papa…..”
Madhav Dewan was astounded to say the least as was she. His eyes dropped to his son who too had hopped off his chair and was now standing looking at his father uncertainly. Watching them both she realized that this had to be a first. His son had never before taken the initiative to greet him. And just when she had a horrible feeling that Madhav was too stunned to respond, or worse, didn’t know how to respond, he seemed to break free of the inertia that had gripped him and walked towards his son. He lifted him up into his arms and holding his little frame tight he replied the greeting in a gruff voice, “hello son.”
Radhika felt her throat constrict as she watched the scene. She felt like an intruder. Quickly she looked down at the table and busied herself with sorting the mess on the table when Mrs. Dewan walked in from the kitchen.
“I thought I heard your voice ……” she said sounding pleasantly surprised.
And then she stopped short as she witnessed the scene of her son holding his own son tight in his arms. On seeing her, Madhav bent to put Aditya back down even as the little boy was already slithering down.
“Hello Ma.” He greeted his mother and walked over to touch her feet in the age old tradition. “Things got wrapped up early so I flew home.”
“Good.” By now she had quickly gathered her herself and was saying, “Why don’t you go and freshen up while I get the table cleared and set for you? Chinesetake away for dinner.” She grinned perkily.
He gave his mother a peck on the cheek and strode out of the room.
Radhika cleared her throat and turned to Mrs. Dewan, “well thank you for the dinner Aunty. I should make a move. The dinner was lovely.”
“Stay.” That dark voice uttering that single word came from behind her. She whirled around to see that he hadn’t obviously left as she had thought. He stood dark and dangerously handsome in the doorway, one shoulder leaning against the doorframe. His gaze, deep and intense, holding hers riveted. Her mouth went dry and her breath caught in her throat. Even after all these days just when was beginning to believe that her attraction to him wasn’t all that she had imagined it to be, was back with a bang; she was tongue tied yet again. Unable to drag her gaze from his yet again.“I…...” she fumbled.
“Please.” He said in that bone melting voice.
With great will she managed to drag her eyes from hisand tried to hang on to her sanity. “It’s late…..” she began.
“I promise to drop you home safely myself.” Now there was a glint of sardonic amusement in his eyes bringing back in a rush all what had happened the last time he had dropped her home.
She lifted her chin at that intending to say that she didn’t think that was a good idea at all when suddenly she realized Mrs. Dewan was watching the electric exchange with great interest and amusement. How could she have forgotten her?
“Besides Ma tells me Adi is doing very well – a bit of which I experienced just now.” This time his voice was devoid of humour, laced instead with a sincerity that made her blush. “I’d like to hear more about his progress.”
Now this was something she couldn’t just say ‘another time’ to. That was the purpose of her being here in the first place wasn’t it? So she nodded and said, “All rightI’ll stay.”
Madhav heard the slightly hesitant and uncertaininflection in her voice and it almost made him smile.
“Five minutes.” He said.
As he turned around to leave the room he couldn’t help thinking that she was more beautiful than he remembered. During the time it took him to shower and change he couldn’t help thinking that it was just as well that she did not know that the reason he had rushed home a day earlier and skipped the company dinner tonight was because he had wanted to see her again. As soon as he could. He could not hold out any longer. It had been almost two weeks now. First avoiding her in his own home and then going to Bangalore. It was something novel; something that had never happened to him before. And he was in no mood to question the whys and hows.
Dinner as promised by his mother was Chinese take away. He enjoyed every bit of it. Although if anyone had asked him later what all had been on the menu; he would have had no idea. All he was aware of was the extremely fetching Ms. Radhika Kapoor sitting right across from him and playing havoc with his senses. She was wearing jeans and a short sleeved black top. Obviously she had not dressed to impress but she was managing to do it all the same. The black top made her face look all the more fairer and in that high pony tail her perfect features stood out. Her only make up seemed to be the black kohl lining her eyes. And they drew him to her with a magnetic force he had never felt before. Watching her from beneath hooded eyes he saw her infectious grin as she and his mother teased Adityaabout something. Her animated expression as she spoke to Aditya; she was full of life; vibrant and fiery. He listened to the light conversation floating around him as he ate, interspersed with laughter coming from his mother, her and even a giggle from Aditya which in itself was another first. As was the way his son had greeted him, for the first time ever.
There was another peal of laughter and he turned his head to look at her. With her around he had never experienced a dull moment yet, he thought with an inward smile as he finished the last bit of the chocolate cake on his plate.
Suddenly all he wanted was to get away with her. He rose from the table and turned to her, “Ready to leave Miss Kapoor?”
“Miss Kapoor seems so tiresome and formal now that we know her so well,” interjected his mother. “I call her Radhika. Why don’t you do the same Madhav? It’sso much more comfortable than the stiff and formal ‘Miss Kapoor’. And Radhika you too – please drop ‘Mr. Dewan.’ Just call him Madhav.”
He suppressed a smile at that. His mother was irrepressible.
“Come on Radhika.” He said.
Her named sounded different on his tongue. Different as in strangely pleasing. And then she saw the infectious laughter in his eyes and felt her cheeks go warm. She made a last ditch effort, “I’ll understand if you are tired. You have just come in. I can easily call for a cab if the driver is not available.”
“Nonsense. It’s not as if he flew the plane himself!” Mrs. Dewan was quick to react. Madhav stoodwatching this little exchange with amusement. Andwhen Radhika turned to him obviously feeling lucked out he sealed her fate with, “Chalein?” his face bland but the laughter twinkled in his eyes.
As he eased the SUV out into the busy Mumbai traffic, Radhika sat in silence, extremely aware of the sinewy strength of his body, how tall he was and how astoundingly charismatic he was in profile.
And stealing looks at him was utter nonsense she told herself! Willing herself not to do so, she looked away and out of the window and realized with a start that this was not the way to her flat. May be this was a different route she decided as she did not know Mumbai as well as he did after all. So she decided to keep quiet about it. But at the intersection when he took a left and the direction in which her flat lay would have been on the right, she turned to him.
“I’m not sure….is this the way to my place?” she asked skeptically.
“No.” he said.
“No?” she repeated.
But when she realized he was not going to elaborate, she turned to him and asked archly, “Then may I ask where we are going? If you have somewhere to go, you can drop me off here and I can take a cab.” But inwardly she doubted she’d get a cab, eyeing the notorious crush that was the Mumbai traffic. Plus it was a Saturday night.
His thoughts exactly it would seem because she heard the amusement in his dark voice when he spoke, “not so easy.”
Before she could respond to that he was turning into the premises of a well known five star hotel. She had been so busy talking to him that she hadn’t even noticed it coming up.
“Why are we here?” she asked feeling both wary and confused.
He brought the car to a halt at the valet parking and turned to her, “have coffee with me?”
Oh my god he was looking right into her eyes and speaking in that lazy drawl. Her stomach swooped and her knees melted. She thanked the almighty that she was sitting down. She stared back into his eyes, totally robbed of speech when he spoke again, “please Radhika?” it was accompanied by that lazy smile of his.
Realizing he was waiting for her answer, she said somewhat inanely, “here?”
He raised his eyebrows, “Why not here?”
“Look at me.” And then realizing how crazy that sounded she said quickly, “I mean I’m not even dressed for this!”
He looked at her face feature by feature with hooded eyes and then flicked his eyes back to hers and said, “you look perfect.”
In that moment something shifted in the atmosphere between them and she had a vague feeling that she was stepping into something way out of her realm.
Madhav unlocked the doors and said softly, “Come on.”
She felt as if she had lost control of everything around her and that she was a puppet playing to someone else’s strings; willingly playing to someone else’s strings. And the truth was that she just didn’t want to think any longer. Her door opened and Madhav stood there tall, strong, dark and handsome as sin, holding out his hand to her.
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Purva Mehta Books
by Purva Mehta
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