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If all this wasn’t enough of a welcome, there was more yet waiting at his house. There breezing out of his front door was not his mother or Aditya as she had expectedbut the most exotic looking creature she had ever seen. Delicate, elfin and extremely stunning. She wasn’t very tall but she wore tall, spindly heels with natural grace. She was quite young, not more than twenty and with the tiniest waist she had ever seen, her shapely legs poured into the skinniest white jeans, and a figure hugging white vest top clung to her upper body. Her jet black hair fell down her back like a silky curtain and her equally jet black eyes zeroed in on Madhav as she moved forward with feline grace and threw her arms around him, moulding herself to his body as soon as they alighted from the car. Completely ignoring her.
Radhika felt sick…. With revulsion she told herself. Of course it wasn’t jealousy. The whole thing really was too blatant for her taste. The way the other woman was clinging to Madhav. Looking at them Radhika doubted if even air could pass between them. She almost heard the imaginary smack on his lips…..that’s all that was needed to complete the picture!
She averted her eyes uncomfortably as she continued to be blatantly ignored by the other woman who was now chirping in a breezy voice, “Hi Jiju!”
Had she heard correctly? This clingy woman with her over the top display of public affection was his sister in law? How disgusting was that?
But before she could process any of it, Aditya came rushing out in a flash and as she bent down to hug the little bundle of affection she was sure she saw Madhav making no effort to extricate himself from her tight embrace. On the contrary she heard him give a low husky laugh. This time she truly felt revulsion.
But she had no time to think any further because Mrs. Dewan had breezed out to meet her and in the flurry of the next few minutes, she was ushered inside and ushered a tall refreshing drink. Mrs. Dewan and Aditya were visibly ecstatic to see her again. Miss clingy and Madhav were nowhere to be seen.
A while later she was shown up to her annexe. She had sincerely protested that it would be an intrusion of their family’s privacy but Mrs. Dewan would not hear a word. In thje end she had given in because it did make sense. And she could always stay here and still look for another place. She was unpacking a couple of hours later after she had called home and told her mother about the ‘new place’, and endured another ‘I told you so’ and another lecture, when she heard the purr of the engine. Of course it would have to be the Mercedes. Miss clingy and Madhav were going out for dinner.That’s what his mother had told her anyway. Well good luck to them both.
Suddenly she was all out of steam and she sat down on the bed. She looked at the time. Another half an hour and then downstairs to the house for dinner. Mrs. Dewan had invited her to join her and Aditya as ‘they had a lot to catch up on.’ Besides “‘Madhav and ‘Diya’ are going out for dinner and your kitchen is not operational yet!” ‘
She sighed. Mrs. Dewan was a dear….. a complete opposite of her tall, intense, sinfully attractive and unscrupulous son.
Dinner was good fun. Despite the turmoil in her head, she had a nice time. Aditya was ecstatic to see the stack of colouring books and crayons she had got for him. Mrs. Dewan was equally surprised and genuinely touched when Radhika gave her the heavily embroidered phulkari dupatta she had brought for her.
Although the topic of Madhav and Diya was not brought up, which she thought was a little strange, considering Diya was Aditya’s massi and all massis according to Radhika were nothing less than doting mothers. But in this case the wispy Diya seemed anything but maternal. There was no fond mention coming from Mrs. Dewan either.
“So tell me your plans for tomorrow.” Mrs. Dewanasked.
“I…” she didn’t know yet but she did know that she wanted to stay as far away as possible from Madhav.
“I only meant,” she said placing a hand on hers “that if you have no other plans, you are more than welcome to join us for the day.” She smiled kindly.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by the older woman’s unstinting generosity, she almost felt guilty refusing her offer, but it was something she needed to do before her son got anymore ideas in his head.
It was after ten when she made her way back to her rooms. Actually as it turned out it was an annexe rather than an outhouse. It was wonderful really. It opened into a tiny living room which had doors leading to a tiny kitchenette and a bedroom. The bedroom was nice and airy. It opened into a balcony and also had an attatched bathroom.
By the time she went to bed it was eleven thirty. It was very late into the night when she thought she heard thesound of a car driving in but she was too tired and sleepy so just rolled over and fell back into deep sleep.
Although it was Sunday the next day, Radhika was up, showered and ready by seven thirty. She drew back the curtains and as the sun streamed into the room she unbolted the French windows and stepped out into the balcony. And looked down straight into rich dark coffee brown eyes as he too looked up at the sound of the unbolting of the door. Madhav Dewan was sitting in the verandah facing the manicured lawns. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. On the table next to him was a coffee/ tea tray. In his hand was a newspaper.
“Good morning.” His voice stole over her senses…..
“Uh….umm…good morning.” It was getting difficult to remember that she was miffed with him.
“Come on and join me for coffee.” He invited.
“I….” What was this man? Blowing hot and cold all the time? She should refuse.
“I don’t bite.” He said, as though he had read her thoughts.
I know you don’t. You do something much worse; you play flip flop with my heart.
She hesitated only a second longer before deciding that if she was, what was that saying? Something like if she was going to be living in this pond, she would have to be friendly with the crocodile. The analogy was so ludicrous that she suppressed a giggle as she climbed down the stairs.
But he caught the smile on her face and the mischievous sparkle in her eyes when she reached him.
He rose to greet her she noticed. Okay so he was inherently gentlemanly…..sometimes.
He smiled that lazy smile as he spoke, “it’s only seven thirty in the morning and its Sunday and you look fresh as a daisy….how is that?” not to mention extremely fetching and heart tuggingly pretty in those white Capri pants she wore with a white and sun yellow top and pretty white flip flops. Her heavy glossy hair, tied back with a cute little clip fell down her back in silky waves. She wore no makeup he noticed. Not even gloss. She was utterly glorious.
As they both sat down on the cushiony cane chairs, she looked up at him with those eyes sparkling with humour.
“Early to bed and early to rise”, she said with a bland face but her eyes were dancing with humour. “but you won’t know about that. An alien concept to you no doubt.” She made a naughty dig referring to his late night entry into the house last night.
“Hmm”, he said playing along with her. “That’s why I am sitting here at seven thirty with you on a Sunday morning and pouring you coffee.”
“Yes, but you did say ‘fresh’.” She said pointedly looking at him with an innocent expression on her face.
He laughed at that. It was low and appreciative. Oh lord the man was a threat to her senses!
She took the steaming mug of coffee he was holding out to her, with a murmured thanks, careful not to let their fingers brush.
“But then,” he said raising his coffee to his lips and his eyes were filled with wicked humour as he looked at her over the rim, “you wouldn’t know about the wonders of sleeping late. An alien concept to you no doubt.” He echoed her words back at her with a glint in his eyes.
He watched the blush creep up her face as she tried to look at him nonchalantly and shrugged.
An alien concept to her no doubt, he thought.
“So,” he said deciding to spare her the obvious discomfort, “all settled in?”
“Yes, thank you.” She murmured grateful for the reprieve.
And then as though suddenly reminded of yesterday, of his dire warning, she shifted uncomfortably and avoiding his eyes, she said, “Um….I think I ought to go up now. Leave you to your….um….newspaper.” she carefully placed her mug of the half drunk coffee on to the table and stood up.
He reached out and gripped her wrist lightly, stalling her. He stood up towering over her and looked down into her eyes, not liking the wariness he saw in them at all. And worse, knowing he was responsible for putting it there. “I owe you an apology for yesterday.” He said grimly. “I’m sorry.”
She looked into his mesmerizing eyes and she was sure she saw sincerity in their dark depths. In the background she was aware of the gardener tending to a flowerbed somewhere, of the faint sound of a sprinkler running in the lush grass, of a phone ringing somewhere in the distance. She nodded trying to break the spell, “its okay.” She smiled slightly but when she tried to tug her wrist free he let go and the humour was back in his eyes when he said, “That’s your phone I think.”
She blinked. Of course, her mother! And she ran out of the verandah and up the stairs.
She grabbed the phone from its charger, “Hello Ma, good morning.”
“Good morning. How are you? Did you sleep well?” which Radhika knew meant, ‘was everything alright?’
“Yes Ma I am fine. I slept well. There were no thieves, burglars, intruders….it’s safe, Ma. I told you yesterday,” she said indulgently. “It’s within the premises of their house. Not even an outhouse. An annexe.” She repeated all of what she had already said last night but she didn’t mind she thought with a smile, if that’s what it took to reassure her mother. After another minute of the usual chit chat she placed thephone back in its charger at the bedside table and turned around. Madhav stood there leaning back against the railing of the balcony and holding out her mug of coffee.
“I hope it’s still drinkable.” He said as he pushed away from the railing and walked towards her. The room seemed to shrink in size with his presence. She took the mug from him and murmured, “Its fine thank you.”
What was he doing here?
He was looking around now, “Nice.”
She frowned, “Haven’t you seen it before?” she asked genuinely puzzled.
He shook his head still looking around him interestedly, “Uh-uh, I have but not done up and furnished like this.”
“Done up and furnished?” she asked. “You mean it wasn’t like this before? I thought all it might have needed was some spring cleaning or something…..”her voice trailed away. All this had been done up for her? She took in once again the wall mounted television, an audio visual console, the fully stocked refrigerator, the elegant butter and cream furnishings……
Finally his gaze stopped at her again and he smiled. “It’s very you.”
And before she had a chance to respond to what he had said, he had leaned down, given her a peck on her startled mouth and left leaving her stunned, weakly clasping the mug of coffee in her hands.
Only belatedly realizing…..what about Diya? She wanted to ask. Where was she? And more importantly where had she been all of last night?
Suddenly she felt an urgent need to get away. She called the cab service and asked for a taxi. Then she fixed herself a toast and marmalade and a cup of tea. While she waited for the cab to arrive she finished her breakfast. Only when she was sitting in the back of the cab and heading towards Kavita’s place did she breathe a little easy. Mohan would be up right about now and by the time she reached their place so would Kavita. Belatedly realizing the necessity to call first she fished out her phone from her bag and dialed Mohan’s number. Sure enough he answered the phone and sounded genuinely glad that she was on her way to see them. As she put the phone down she realized that she had so many things to thank God for, first among them, friends like these.
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Purva Mehta Books
by Purva Mehta
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