Heart Invader - episode 15


Thank God the weather was changing. Another couple of months and then winter. The Delhi summer was notoriously long. Because the dry heat simply turned into the oppressive humid Monsoon heat. But at least she was back with her parents. And even luckier to have got this job. So what if it was her mother’s friend’s school? At least she had something to do. And she loved being around these little kids. She missed some of her kids from Mumbai. Especially, especially Aditya but that was a closed chapter and her life was slowly picking up again. She enjoyed being with these children and the staff here was friendly. She missed Kavita and Mohan but that was all part and parcel of life, she thought prosaically. And they were coming to see her in the winter holidays.

She cut the pink crepe paper expertly into the shape of a flower and handed it to the little girl on her right so that she could paste it in her scrap book. She then cut out another flower out of the crepe paper to hand to the boy on her left when she heard a deep, husky, oh so familiar voice say, “Hello.”

The world eclipsed on its axis. Her heart, along with the pair of small scissors, fell to the floor. His ice and liqueur voice coursed through her ears, down her heart, down her soul and all the way down her body making her toes curl. She looked up and there he was. She stared in shock as Madhav Dewan stood not ten feet away just inside the doorway of her brightly painted class room. He looked impossibly gorgeous in a navy blue shirt and beige trousers. The noisy kids came to a standstill and watched the new comer with abject fascination.

It had taken him a second or two to find his voice. It had never happened to him before. But the rush he had felt on seeing her after all this time was nothing less than tidal. There she had been seated in the corner of the sunlit classroom at a tiny square table, coloured a bright yellow. There were four kids seated at the table with her. She had been busy talking to them and cutting out paper shapes or something.

She was as lovely as ever. No. she was lovelier than he had remembered. She wore a pale blue Kurti with cream pants. On her feet she wore silvery white flats. Her lustrous hair was tied high into a pony tail that fell to her waist. For make up all she wore was kohl. And she managed to take his breath away. As she looked up now at the sound of his voice, he saw her face had seemed to lose all colour. As though she had seen a ghost. But then he walked towards her and suddenly there it was, that endearing blush turning her face red. She stood up with a jerk, toppling the tiny blue chair she was sitting on to the ground.

“What are you doing here?” She seemed to have recovered slightly from the shock of seeing him but not totally he could tell because even though she sounded angry she seemed a little wary too. It made him want to smile. But he felt it wouldn’t be wise to do so just yet.

“I came to see you.” He said softly.

“How did you get in?” she asked, her voice still very angry.

“The Director of the school allowed me in.” God, but he could look at her forever.

“Why? Why are you here?” she demanded.

“I wanted to talk to you.”

“Well then you’ve wasted your time because I don’t want to talk to you.” She bent down busying herself picking up the fallen scissors from the floor. The kids already bored with watching the interaction between the two adults were all over the place again, doing their thing. A couple of them were already milling around her legs and tugging her hands. He smiled. Because he wanted her undivided attention too. Can I join the queue he wanted to ask the kids. But what he said was, “That’s okay. You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to. I’ll do the talking, you can listen.”

He watched as she tactfully handled the kids and got them busy with some colouring activity. Then she folded her arms across her chest and looked at him.  He noticed now she seemed to have completely gotten over the shock of seeing him and was fast losing the wariness and regaining her confidence.

“Well as you can see I’m busy” she said briskly gesturing to the class of about twenty kids all of them busy doing their thing.

“I’ll wait. Its only five minutes before the bell.” He said looking at his watch. “Carry on what you’re doing. I won’t disturb.”

Won’t disturb? She thought wildly. She was already disturbed. Just having him in the same room had done that. And she would remain disturbed while he was there. Oh what was the use? Why was he here? She would never get anything done anything with him there anyway. So she might as well pack up and leave for the day. What was five minutes here and there? Besides she was already done here. She just wanted to escape. His presence was already affecting her nerves.

She looked past him deliberately avoiding looking at him and called out to the children’s’ helpers who sat just outside the door “Meera? Urmila?”

They came in immediately, having to edge past Madhav and stealing looks of awe at him even as he moved aside to give them way.

Ji Madam?” They asked.

Bachon ke bags pack kar do.” She instructed. “Chhutti ka time ho gaya hai.”

She refused to look at him in the ensuing chaos of noisy kids who all wanted to hug her goodbye as they always did. She could feel that slight amused smile of his as he stood back with his hands in his pockets and waited patiently as the last of the kids had been escorted out of the class room by the two maids.

Finally when she had run out of reasons to avoid looking at him, she turned to him, “So. What did you want to talk about?”

He watched her for a moment with that smile before playing the emotional card. He couldn’t help it. He was going to try anything he could to get to her. “Actually we are here for the weekend. We as in Aditya, Ma and me. Aditya has been longing to see you for the longest time. He’s been pestering me every day since you left.” He let that sink in and watched her now with an inner nervousness he had never felt in his entire life! She didn’t say anything but he felt her face soften. Quickly he continued, still speaking from across the width of the room, “I tried to placate him of course but Ma has been missing you terribly too.”

He saw her defensive attitude crumble at that. She looked soft and vulnerable again. That was all it had taken? The tiniest bit of emotional pressure and here she was looking like she was almost ready to cry. He felt a surge of love for her. He wanted to sweep her into his arms. But not just yet, he knew that. He also felt a curious mix of elation he couldn’t describe and guilt for using her soft emotional heart against her. He was manipulative and wicked but that was okay because he was going to make it up to her. Every day for the rest of his life.

He took a step towards her. She stood rooted to the spot staring at him with belligerence in her eyes. She was still absorbing all that he was saying, still trying to process all that had happened in the last few minutes.

“And as for me”, he continued softly, “I haven’t been the same without you there. It’s like a piece of me has gone missing. The best piece.” He was almost at touching distance now when he stopped right in front of her. But the next moment pain lanced through him when he saw tears spring into her lovely eyes. She stepped back from him abruptly.

“Please don’t cry. I can’t bear it.” He found he really couldn’t. It twisted something deep inside him. He reached out his hand for her but she shot out her hand and stopped him, “No! Don’t come any further.” She shook her head. Her voice was hoarse with tears as they finally spilled from her beautiful eyes. “So you just walk back into my life one fine day because your son insisted on seeing me and your mother wished to too?” she choked angrily through her tears. “And then it also conveniently occurred to you that you too thought it would be nice to catch up?”

“Radhika….” He began but she wouldn’t let him. She was too pent up with emotions she couldn’t contain any longer. He let her vent it out. He owed her that, and so much more. She was the one responsible for lighting up his dark soul, for giving him life once more, for showing him joy once more, for showing him love; something he had never known before.

“No!” She flashed at him. “You have broken me and humiliated me. Accused me of being nothing more than a cheap conniving tart. You played with my feelings and then dumped me like yesterday’s newspaper. You enjoyed yourself while you wanted to and then …….” She couldn’t speak further as the tears wouldn’t let her anymore. She covered her face with her hands and cried.

In the next instant he was there and had pulled her into his arms. He thought his heart would break watching her cry. She resisted but she was no match for his superior strength. He tightened his arms around her and hugged her close. She was crying brokenly and all he could do was to keep saying, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He had never felt more helpless and so villainous in all his life.

Finally she stopped. She stiffened in his arms and put some distance between them. She took the handkerchief he offered her to dry her eyes and stepped back.

She wouldn’t look at him, embarrassed to have broken down so completely in front of him. “It’s okay. I’m sorry too for this…” she gestured vaguely. Then she showed him once again how impossibly wonderful she was, what a beautiful heart she had because she said, “I’ll be happy to see them of course – Aditya and Aunty. But not like this.” she had stopped crying now and he could just admire her strength all over again.

“Where are they?” finally she did look at him with still damp eyes and a tear washed face. He had never seen anything quite so beautiful. But he was the one who had made her cry. Hurt her so much that she hadn’t been able to contain it. He felt horrible. Like the worst kind of heel.

He cleared his throat. “They are waiting at the hotel for you for lunch.”

She hugged her arms and looked away. She still wasn’t looking at him. Gosh he adored her! “My mother will be waiting for me. I’d have to….”

“No she’s not.” He said quietly.

Her arms fell and her eyes jerked towards his, “What?”

He reached for her hands then, compelling her to finally look at him and said gently, “She is not waiting for you for lunch. I met her and…..”

It was too much, all this. What was going on? “You what? You met my mum?” she asked incredulously. The spark was back in her somewhat and it made him joyously glad.

“Yes.” He nodded and used her momentary distraction to pull her into his arms once again. This time he tightened them around her slender frame like bands. He was not going to let her go. Literally and figuratively. He put his hand under her chin to raise her eyes to his, “She has allowed me to let you have lunch with us. So please give me a chance to talk to you? Please? I have an apology to make, a question to ask and so many things to explain to you.” He bent his head and dropped a lightening quick kiss on her lips.

She stiffened and tried to move back but his arms were like steel bands, he wouldn’t let her. She looked up at him intending to say she couldn’t understand any of this when her phone rang.

“I need to see who is calling.”

He released her then, “Go ahead. It will be your mother.”

She moved to her desk to pick up her phone. It was her mother. She looked at him a little suspiciously and then pressed the answer button, “Yes Ma?”

“Has he arrived yet?” asked her mother coming straight to the point.

She turned her back to his amused smile.

“Who?” she asked lowering her voice.

“Don’t be smart. You know who?” her mother admonished.

“If you know who why are you asking Ma? What is going on?” she demanded.

“Where are your manners? He came home to ask my permission to take you out for lunch! Can you imagine that? So don’t keep him waiting! Look at the time!” And then incredibly she had hung up. She couldn’t believe this was her mom! She put the phone in her bag and turned back to him, not knowing what to say anymore. He smiled and held out his hand. When she hesitated to take it, he reached for her hand and enclosed it firmly in his big strong one. “Come.”

Dealing with too many shocks in one day was turning out to be too much so she just gave in and let him lead.

On the way out, he thanked her mother’s friend, the director of her school. Without releasing her hand. She had tried to tug it free in front of the other lady but he simply tightened his hand around hers. She was sure her mother would know about it as soon as their backs were turned. As it was it was obvious she was hand in glove with her mother.

As soon as they were seated in his car - he had hired one at the airport he told her - he handed her a huge bouquet of exotic flowers which had been lying in the back seat.

Her eyes widened in surprise. They were just beautiful, a bunch of deep purple, yellow and white. “Thank you” she looked at him and managed to utter. She was beginning to feel a little dazed at the whirlwind of events.

He buckled his seatbelt and leaned across to give her another quick kiss on her lips. “You’re welcome.” He smiled into her eyes and holding her hand in his again, he put the car into gear and stirred the car into the heavy Delhi traffic.

“What did you tell my mother? What’s going on Madhav?” she was still tingling because of that little kiss and the way he wasn’t letting go of her hand but she needed to ask this.

“I promise to answer all your questions. Once we get to the hotel. Pakka.” He reassured her with a smile.

Suddenly he was feeling whole again. Because it was true. There had been a part of him that had gone missing since she had left him. The best part.

He took her hand again as they walked across the huge lobby of the five star hotel to the bank of lifts. As soon as the lift began to take them upwards it occurred to her and she jerked her hand free. “Where are they? I thought you said we’re meeting them for lunch.” She looked at him accusingly.

“We are. But I thought you needed to freshen up first?” He reminded her baldly.

“Yes…” she conceded. And then she looked at him as though another thought occurred to her, “But I could have done that just as easily downstairs.” She argued pointedly.

“Yes you could have.” He grimaced, “But since it didn’t occur to either one of us earlier, you might as well freshen up in the suite.”

She gave in. it was stupid to be arguing over this. Besides they were at his floor now. She’d be quick. Once inside the luxurious suite, he gestured towards the left, “Bathroom is through there.”

“Thank you “she mumbled, suddenly aware that she was alone with him for the first time in a hotel room. It was a silly thought. But even then she quickly washed her face and touched up her hair and makeup. Best to hear what he had to say and get the lunch done and over with too. Any more emotional torture, she doubted she would be able to withstand in one day.

She made her way back into the main room and found him standing by the huge glass doors. The room was filled with natural light of bright noon and she had to admit her heart skipped a beat every time she laid eyes on him. There had never been any doubt about it. He was the most gorgeous man she had ever seen.

She cleared her throat and felt like a silly school girl. He turned to look at her and smiled, “Come.”

Then he walked towards a table where he poured fresh juice for her.

“Shouldn’t we rather be leaving?” she asked a little anxiously. “They must be waiting for us?”

But he just walked towards her, handing her the glass in one hand and taking her other hand in one of his, he led her to the sofa, “We’ll have that talk first? Please? And don’t worry about them. We’ll catch up with them when we are done.” He assured her.

She nodded and sat down uneasily, not wanting to even think about what he might have to say. She had no clue. But why was he being so nice? Did he want some advice regarding Aditya? Was he getting married? Suddenly the thought dismayed her even as she pushed it from her mind. She was being presumptuous and letting her foolish thoughts run away with her. But she did know it could only be about Aditya, he needed a cordial link with her for his son. She leaned forward and put her glass on the table making sure at the same time to sit a little away from him. What was the need to be sitting on the same sofa? Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense sitting face to face?

Madhav noticed her skittering away on the pretext of placing her glass on the table and suppressed a smile. He turned towards her on the sofa and took one of her hands in both of his. This was going to be the most important conversation of his life. He felt her try to tug her hand free again but he held fast. “Radhika, hear me out please?”

She looked at him, her eyes still clouded with wariness and uncertainty. It killed him to see doubt in her eyes. But he had been the one to put it there. And he would be the one to dispel it.

“Let me start from the beginning.” He looked into her beautiful eyes and resisting the urge to drown in them, spoke from the heart, “When I first saw you, I wasn’t prepared for the effect you had on me.” He began with a rueful smile. “I was lost instantly.” He told her. “And it wasn’t just your beauty, although it mesmerizes every time I see you, but it was you. Everything about you. Your eyes, your smile, your face, everything; you. And then as your life inexorably became interlinked with mine, thanks to Aditya and Ma, I discovered so much more about you. Your humility, your kindness, your sense of humour, your sensitivity, your wit. You enthralled me. A little more each day. I fought hard to resist you, but it was ridiculously impossible. I wanted every excuse to see you, to hear your voice, to talk to you, to be with you. It was crazy.”

Radhika sat stunned as he looked deep into her eyes and continued to talk, “It was crazy because I had never experienced anything like it before. But with it came other negative emotions which I had never given a thought to earlier either. Jealousy, possessiveness. These were nasty things to feel. It made me behave monstrously but you see I didn’t know how to deal with this avalanche of emotions I had never felt before. I couldn’t stand the thought of anyone so much as looking at you; I wanted to literally smash each and every one of those young boys at that party who were looking at you.” He smiled ruefully then. “I know it sounds silly now but I felt burning possessiveness for the first time in my life. And I was jealous of your brother! I was pretty disgusted with myself later when Ma told me. But I spent days and nights of agonizing jealousy and insecurity wondering who was this ‘someone who was worth ten’ of me?” He looked at her ruefully now but she could see the disturbed look in his eyes. “I didn’t recognize myself anymore. So I did what came to me reflexively as sort of a defense mechanism you may call it. I wanted myself back. So I pushed you away.”

She was staring at him. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing! She was afraid to believe what she was hearing. But he was still talking.

“But the irony was that I didn’t realize until later that I had actually found myself.”

He looked at her with an emotion she was afraid to identify as he explained tenderly, “You found me. You came into my life and lightened up my dark world. You made me want to laugh and live life. You made me whole. And I am so sorry for everything I did to hurt you. Can you forgive me?”

For a moment she could just look at him and then she nodded; that was all she could do because emotions were clogging her throat. But there was more! He was still speaking. She wondered whether her heart would burst.

“I love you.” He was saying. “With every beat of my heart. Please come back to me my sweetheart. I know I may be being selfish and unfair when you could have any young man you want to start a fresh new life with but then that’s me all over again. I can’t let you go. I need you. God help me, I can’t imagine you being someone else’s.” He confessed with stark sincerity.

Tears did flood her eyes then and she had to press her other hand to her mouth to stop from crying, but this was something straight out of her sweetest, most impossible dreams. Madhav loved her!

“Hey?” he said when he saw her tears. He brushed them away with his thumb. “I promised myself I would never make you cry again.” He pulled her into his arms and onto his lap. And suddenly she was back home. This was where she belonged, this was where she had always wanted to be. This was where she was meant to be. She flung her arms around his neck and hugged him back as tightly as he was hugging her. It was incredible to be held by him again.

Oh God, she was so precious. He swallowed back a lump in his throat and hugged her slender frame so tight he was almost afraid he would break her bones. He drew back a little and dropped a kiss on her head.

“Here” he said, handing her some tissues this time from the box on the table. She wiped her tears and said through a fresh onslaught of tears, “I love you too.”

“I know.”

That stopped her tears. Her arrogant Madhav was back. She laughed as he hugged her again. She drew back, “Then what took you so long to figure everything out?” she wanted to know.

He smiled, “I will forever be indebted to my mother. I guess nosing around in other people’s affairs does pay off sometimes.” He laughed then.

She looked at him questioningly.

“She got tired of watching me mope around.” He stated.

“You? Mope around?” she asked incredulously.

“Yes” he grinned, “it’s true, I became a boar to live with after you left. And a bore too!”

She laughed and he was transfixed. How had he even thought he could live without this?

“And then?” she questioned, her curiosity piqued.

“And then she finally got tired of waiting for me to come to my senses and casually mentioned yesterday that you were getting married next month to a dashing handsome young lawyer.”

“What?” she asked incredulously. “Where did she hear that from?”

In answer he gave her a look that said, ‘Oh really? Did you seriously ask me that?’ and she hooted with laughter as she caught on his meaning, “Oh my God!” she laughed out loud now, “And you, Madhav Dewan, smart businessman with a formidable reputation, got taken in? Seriously?”

“You bet seriously.” Her infectious laughter got to him too. He grinned. “He seemed to be a paragon of virtue and you apparently were enthralled. She insisted I attend the wedding with her next month.”

She was doubling with laughter now, “Oh my God. I never knew she had such an imagination.”

He grinned, “Neither did I. And it’s all very funny to you right now but I had gone almost crazy with anger and jealousy on hearing all this. I told myself I didn’t care of course but I was on the next flight to Delhi. I needed to confront you I told myself. I needed answers. How dare, I thought to myself she fall in with someone else? How dare she forget me? How could she have forgotten me? How could she be marrying someone else? It went on and on in my head.”

“Ah…..wasn’t very good for your ego was it?” she asked impishly, obviously enjoying every minute of his torturous confessions.

“I had driven myself crazy. And the wily old woman waited till I landed in Delhi. By then I had worked myself up into madness. All I knew was that that marriage was never going to take place. You were mine! How could you even think of being someone else’s? So as soon as I called her to tell her I had reached Delhi she asked me what was the need of flying off to Delhi. You see she squeezed my misery to the last drop. I told her I needed to ask you how could you even be thinking of someone else? Much less decide to marry him? She said, ‘why not?’ And I said, ‘because I thought she had wanted to be with me’. And then she nailed me, ‘I thought you didn’t want her?’ she asked me. Obviously I had no answer to that. Then she asked me again, ‘Do you want her?’ I simply said yes and admitting it after running from it for so long was so liberating! And then she confessed her tale! Can you imagine?”

His Radhika was staring at him, listening to every word with rapt attention. “How adorable is she!”

He gave her a side long look at which she laughed again. Then he continued, “Then I went o your house. Everything was crystal clear by then. I had a different agenda now and life was beginning to look bright again. I introduced myself to your mother. A very beautiful lady I have to say. I saw where you got your looks and natural grace from. Of course she knew who I was but still I spoke to her. I told her everything, including about Rhea and Aditya. She is a wonderful woman. She heard me out patiently without any preconceived notions, without any judgments. I then told her I loved you and….” he stopped mid-sentence.

“And?’ she prompted when he stopped all of a sudden. But then she saw he was reaching back with one arm.

“And” he was saying now, opening a small jewellery box to reveal the most beautiful diamond ring she had ever seen, “I told her I wanted to marry you.” He finished softly.

She gasped and looked at him absolutely stunned once more. “Oh my God!”

“Will you marry me my Radhika?” He asked her the most important question of his life. “I promise you a beautiful life. Filled with laughter and happiness. I will love you forever. I…”

“Yes!” she nodded as tears gathered in her eyes again but she swallowed them back and flung her arms around his neck. Then she drew back slightly and kissed him on the lips. He slipped the ring on her finger. It was perfect fit and then he gathered her in his arms and kissed her thoroughly like he had been wanting to do since he had laid eyes on her today. It had been so long. He was starved for her. One kiss turned to another and then another and soon they were lying on the sofa entwined together. He kissed her eyes, her nose, her throat, her lips again. He moulded her body to his, running his hands all over her silky skin. He slipped his hands beneath her kurti and felt her satiny skin. She was stunning all over and she was his. He lowered his head to kiss her soft skin.

“Madhav!” she spoke, suddenly coming out of a sensuous haze and pushing at his shoulders, “Aunty and Aditya! They will be here any minute!”

He raised his head, “No they won’t be.”

“What do you mean?” she sat up.

“Relax.” He said coming to a sitting position too. “They won’t be coming here. We have to meet them downstairs at the restaurant. In about ten minutes,” he added looking at his watch.

“Oh no!” she panicked.

“Oh yes! But you have enough time to touch up your lipstick again.” He teased. “Oh wait, how could I have forgotten?” so saying he went into the bedroom and came back a minute later carrying a flat rectangular box, beautifully gift wrapped. He dropped a kiss on her lips, “This is for you.”

But instead of the joy he expected to see in her eyes, he saw that they were troubled. Immediately he tensed, “Sweetheart, what is it?” he asked.

She raised her beautiful eyes to his, “Do you really want to marry me Madhav?” He saw her eyes were deeply disturbed.

“Hey,” he asked lifting her chin with his fingers, “What’s the matter?”

She lowered her eyes and looked up at him again, “I mean your wife was…..”

“Oh sweet heart I’m so sorry” he put the box aside and pulled her in to the circle of his arms once again, “I should have explained! I got so carried away. Now listen to me clearly.” He cupped her face in both his hands and raised it to his. He looked deep into her eyes and said, “You, Radhika Kapoor, are the only woman I have ever fallen in love with. You are the only woman I have ever loved.”

When her eyes widened at this, he explained further and there was no doubting his sincerity, “I never loved Rhea. Not even for a single day. It was an arranged marriage. Yes she was beautiful. But her beauty palled within a month of living with her. She was clever and manipulative, self centered and insensitive. She was the absolute anti thesis of all that you are. She wouldn’t hold a candle to your luminous beauty. You are beautiful inside out my darling. I am so proud you are mine. And very lucky too.” He dropped a kiss on her forehead. And then he was looking back into her eyes again, “Ah yes, the only good thing that came out of it was Aditya. That’s it. And when you came back from Delhi that day, and you found me distant and cold it was not because of Rhea’s barsi. It was because I had convinced myself in your absence that I didn’t deserve you. That you deserved a better deal. Perhaps you still do. But you know now how selfish and manipulative I am!” he grinned. She looked up at him for a moment, into his laughing eyes and then she put her arms around his waist and laid her head on his heart.

“Yes I do,” she teased, “and imagine I still love you. I still want only you.” She teased.

Their eyes met as all laughter died from their eyes. Their mouths met again in a kiss that was deep, long, hungry. Her arms went around his neck and he pulled her closer at the waist. They strained to get closer to each other. There were more kisses, more touching. They couldn’t get enough of each other. He ran his hands all over her satiny skin even as he kissed her long and deep. She caressed his back, his shoulders, loving his strength. She was sure she was fast getting addicted to his kisses but in the end sanity prevailed and Madhav pulled back gently and held her body close to his. Then he pushed back her silky hair that had somehow been let loose by one of them a few moments earlier. He raised her heated face to his and pressed a soft kiss to her lips. “I hate to stop this here and you can call me old fashioned but where you are concerned I want to do things in the right order. You are special and deserve to be treated so. I want to do this on our wedding night. When you are mine. Heart, mind, body and soul. And in legal binds.”

He had floored her yet again.

“You haven’t opened your package yet.” He said.

She sat down to open it as he stood watching her. She unwrapped the paper to find a stunningly beautiful georgette saree in a lime green colour and an antique border.

“Oh this is gorgeous! Thank you Madhav.” She looked at him.

“This for my Apsara.” He said. “That’s how I think of you.”

Ah….. I get it,” she teased him, “So if I am an apsara, that makes you the Lord and Master of some heavenly kingdom.”

“Na.” He said his eyes filled with laughter, “I’ll settle for being lord and Master of you!”

“Ha ha, very funny!” but she ended up laughing with him too.

“And by the way”, he spoke again, “You are supposed to wear this soon. I’m taking everybody out for a celebratory dinner as soon as we have talked to your parents formally.” He announced.

Her eyes shone with happiness but then they turned anxious. “I don’t know about Papa Madhav.” She said looking up at him with troubled eyes. “So that could take a while.….” She bit her lip.

“I understand sweetheart.” He said gently. “After all if I had a princess as beautiful as you I would wonder about every man’s credibility, let alone someone who is a widower with a son.” He smiled at her, “But don’t worry sweetheart. I’ll win him over.” He placed a kiss on her forehead. “I Promise.”

But then he grew serious. He cupped her face in his hands and raised it so that he could look deep into her eyes. And then he asked in a clear voice, “Tell me sweetheart. The truth. If you want time to think about it I will give it to you.” he paused, “Do you want this? Are you sure? Because I have been married before you know and I do already have a child. So you will be a mother as soon as you marry me. I know it’s not every girl’s dream so is this what you really want?”

Tears gathered in her eyes. She reached up and covered his hands with hers. Then she swallowed and without looking away from him said with conviction resonating in her voice, “You are my dream. Yes I do want this. Yes I do want to marry you. I want this more than anything in this world. Because you are my world. I love you so much and beyond. I love Aditya…..” and then suddenly her voice changed as a thought occurred to her, “We will have more children, won’t we?” She asked a bit anxious and a bit embarrassed too.

“Yes we will my sweetheart. Little girls who look just like you.” And then he couldn’t wait any longer. He lowered his head and kissed her with a love he no longer needed to disguise. When they drew apart she continued, “So Aditya will always be our beloved first child. Perfect?”

“Perfect.” He said, his eyes absorbing every beautiful feature of hers.

Finally they left the suite together, holding hands, fingers interlaced. And Madhav was saying as they walked the thickly carpeted corridor towards the lift, “I did tell you not to bother with the lipstick.”

“Why not?” she looked at him puzzled.

“I’m only going to mess it up again on the way down.” He said wickedly as they stepped into the lift.

“Oh no you won’t!” she said firmly as the doors closed.

***

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