Posted: 22 October 2005 at 11:26am | IP Logged
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The uncomfortable exchange of small talk kept Kripa and Angad occupied as they walked towards the exit. Approaching their destination, Angad turned to Kripa and asked what kind of restaurant she wanted to go to.
In all honesty, food was the last thing on Kripa's mind. In between answering his questions concerning her day and her work, she was thinking of a million reasons why Angad would want to spend his evening with her. They were certainly not friends. They were acquaintances at best.
Politely, Kripa answered that she was willing to eat anything. Angad, being very decisive, chose to take Kripa to his favorite Mexican caf – La Nita's. He gave her the address and soon, they were standing outside the restaurant.
Angad and Kripa reached for the door at the same time and their hands collided. Kripa laughed and allowed Angad to open the door. She was not used to his gentlemanly like behavior. With the recent movement of equality between men and women, especially in the work place, most men assumed Kripa would not like it if they opened her door and would possibly berate them for their archaic traditions that don't serve any purpose in the world other than to suppress women. Angad's behavior was quite refreshing to Kripa.
Inside, the warm smell of baked beans and fresh guacamole was very inviting to Kripa as she realized how hungry she was. The walls were painted a rusted red color to appear like terra cotta and the splashes of green and yellow made the room quite cozy. Kripa liked it immediately.
The waitress, dressed in a ruffled, white, off the shoulder blouse and a black knitted skirt, lead the two to a cozy table in the corner of the caf. Angad pulled Kripa's chair out for her and Kripa seated herself, noting that Angad has been scoring brownie points all night for being a gentleman.
The waitress left after taking their drink orders and an awkward silence ensued.
Kripa surveyed the room, looking at the various pieces of art portraying different aspects of Mexican culture. Occasionally, she would look at Angad and their eyes would meet. She would look away quickly, pretending he was just a passing glance. On one such occasion, when their eyes found each other, she was met with a smile from Angad. Kripa couldn't explain the goose-bumps that formed on her arms and was thankful she was wearing long sleeves.
"You know, you haven't looked at the menu once since we've got here," Angad pointed out.
Regaining her senses, Kripa quickly picked up the menu and started perusing it. "Hmm, this looks good," she said. Angad laughed to himself quietly. He adored how Kripa would try to play off her embarrassment as if she meant it all along.
The waitress returned with their drinks and took their order. Angad didn't look at the menu once – he didn't need to. This was his favorite restaurant and ordered the same thing every time.
Once the waitress had left with their order, Angad turned to Kripa.
"Since we've already exhausted all small talk topics, tell me something about yourself that no one else knows," he asked.
Kripa paused for a moment, thinking about his interesting question and for an answer. She didn't have very many secrets. "Well, I can make my eye squeak."
A look of disbelief mixed with amusement crossed Angad's face. "Nah, I don't believe you. Show me."
Kripa proceeded to make her right eye squeak by pushing in the corner of her eye with her finger. Angad started laughing appreciatively at her unique talent. Kripa was relieved that Angad was not repulsed.
"That's absolutely sick! I wish I could do something like that," he said.
"C'mon, you must be able to do something weird," Kripa said, laughing at Angad as he tried pushing on his eye to get a squeak.
"Well, I suppose I can twitch my nose like a rabbit," he said after contorting his face a bit.
"Let's see it then."
Angad then moved his nose up and down like a rabbit would and Kripa started giggling.
"Aw, you look like a sweet little bunny," she cooed sarcastically.
"Oh good, I've always wanted to be a sweet little bunny. I mean, when most young boys are dreaming about being ferocious tigers and bears, I was sat in my desk and thought 'What I wouldn't give to be a bunny'" he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"So what did you want to be when you were younger?" Kripa asked.
"Apart from a jugular seeking bunny? Hmm, well I wanted to be a tiger trainer when I was really little."
"A tiger trainer? Wow, that takes some bravery." Kripa replied.
Angad smirked and replied, "Then I wanted to rule a certain place. Like a country. Basically, I wanted to be the President."
"Ambitious. So why did you become an FBI agent?" Kripa responded, impressed with Angad's honesty. He appeared to be very at ease with her; it was not hard for her to relax into the situation either. Angad was not the cold, uptight youth that he used to be. Something in his demeanor changed and he did not carry himself so stoically. His words were warm and inviting; his posture was more relaxed, even his hair was more laid back as he wore it loosely instead of gelled back.
"I didn't decide that until just before we graduated. I was approached by our school principle and he suggested becoming a FBI agent. I had certain connections to the more shady side of the world and he thought I would be a good asset to the department. I suppose that's one reason why I chose that profession," he said, taking a sip from his water.
"And what were the other reasons?" Kripa asked, her voice soft and soothing.
Encouraged to continue, Angad replied, "As the last Khanna, I realized I had a thousand years of crime and pain to make up for because of my family's history. I intend for it all to end with me. Becoming, a good guy, seemed like the best way."
Kripa nodded, taking in his words. Angad had certainly changed.
"Also, I knew it would be a great way to stick it to my old man. If he had a grave, I know he would roll around in it daily," he added as an afterthought, laughing bitterly to himself.
Kripa looked at Angad with a grave expression upon her face (mind the pun). She had not heard Angad speak of his father since his days at school. As far as she knew, Angad never talked about what happened the day he killed his father. Not even to her.
"Oh, go ahead," she said.
"No, please, you looked like you wanted to say something. I think I might know what you wanted to talk about," he said, his expression determined and ready.
"Well, I uh, I just wanted to know if you are okay. I mean, what happened with your father – nobody knows about it. I didn't tell anyone, I didn't think you'd want anyone to know what happened," she said, looking up into his eyes. She was comforted by the warmth she found there.
"Thank you for not saying anything. I've never spoken about it to anyone – not even my mother," he said, the warmth never leaving his eyes. He had been waiting five years to share this moment with Kripa, to have this conversation. Whatever walls he had built around the subject had been removed the second he sat down with her for dinner.
Kripa's chocolate eyes peered into Angad's, sensing the relief he felt in sharing these words but also the intensity behind them. She knew it was not easy for him to say these things; it had taken him five years to acknowledge what she knew about him.
"How did you deal with this, Angad? You were so young then, how did you handle all of the pain, the thoughts, and the emotions?" Kripa asked, her maternal instincts taking over. She would have helped him at the first opportunity if she had not thought it wasn't her place.
"I found my outlets. I focused on my FBI training at first. I graduated at the top of my class, tied with Prithvi. I devoted myself to my work; I put everything into the cases I researched."
"But you can't shove things away. If you bottle emotions for too long, they're bound to explode."
"And they did," he said, looking away from Kripa.
"When?" she asked. She felt she might be pushing him too far but she could not help it. She looked at his face and it pained her to see his look of sorrow. "You don't have to answer that, it's personal. I'm sorry," she said quickly.
"No. No, it's okay," he said, pausing to take a breath. "It all came crashing down two years ago. I was in Mumbai on business and I stopped by our school. I went to the site and everything came rushing back as if it happened yesterday."
He paused again and Kripa thought she saw his eyes glistening with tears.
"I was living alone, in contact with no one. I stood there for hours. I'd never felt as alone in the world as I did then. I was going to take my life. I didn't know how, but I had decided," he said with a sudden coldness to his voice.
Kripa shivered at the thought and wrapped her arms in front of her. "What changed your mind?" she asked.
"Do you really want to know?" he asked. His voice now with an intensity that spurred Kripa to lean closer so she could hear as clearly as possible.
"Yes," she said simply.
"It was you. You changed my mind. When I was out on the grounds, I saw you leaving the school. You were there the same day that I was and I remembered that you were also there when it happened. You were the only one in the world who could possibly understand what happened to me. I realized I wasn't alone."
"Angad, I –"
"Kripa, I don't want to overwhelm you right now. But I need you to know something – I owe you my life. If it weren't for you, I would probably have gone home that night and killed myself."
As the tears started to stream down her face, Kripa reached her arm across the table and placed her hand on top of his. Angad in turn took her hand and squeezed it gently.
They looked into each other's eyes and came to a new understanding – nothing would ever be the same between them.
"I'm sorry this took so long, we had a slight problem in the kitchens. But here you go, if you need anything else, just ask," the waitress said as she placed two plates of food in front of Angad and Kripa.
Kripa had forgotten all about her hunger and was happy to finally alleviate the hunger pangs that now presented themselves in her stomach.
The two ate in comfortable silence for the next few minutes, both thinking about the conversation they just had. A sense of relief came over Angad for finally sharing with Kripa what he had waited so long to tell. Kripa felt a sudden possessiveness over Angad and his feelings. She felt like she was his protector, his keeper. She was his only confidante in the world, a position she was not going to take lightly.
After some time, Angad finally spoke. "So, back to our original intention for dinner: any new developments with the secret admirer I should know about?"
Kripa had completely forgotten about the Man in the Mask as well. However, last week's events suddenly entered her mind and she unintentionally scowled. "Well, yes. He never came to the theatre but he did send me an apology letter only after I mailed him."
"You mailed him?" Angad said, feigning ignorance.
"Yes. I took a chance. I didn't say anything of importance. He said he was out of town on business. I'm not sure if I believe him."
"Why don't you?"
"I think he showed up, saw me, had second thoughts and skipped out," Kripa said with partial bitterness.
"That's not possible! He was probably too nervous to talk to you," Angad said simply.
"Riiight," Kripa replied, skeptically rolling her eyes.
"Well, you're rather intimidating. Maybe he wasn't confident enough without his mask. Naturally, he wouldn't have worn it to the theatre."
"I'm intimidating? That's the funniest thing I've ever heard."
"Why? It's true. You're extremely intelligent, witty, and beautiful. A simple man would think himself a fool for thinking he could approach you," he said, smiling softly as Kripa blushed furiously.
"He seemed to have plenty of confidence at the ball," she said softly, still blushing. Angad continued smiling at her, knowing she was trying to avoid his compliments.
"He was wearing a mask – something of power. It's his crutch. With a mask, he can hide. He's in control. Without it, he is completely vulnerable."
"You seem to know a lot about masks," Kripa said, not realizing what she was saying.
"I've had masks of a different kind," Angad said. "I don't think I need to remind you of my early years at school."
Kripa blushed again, aware of her slip. "I'm sorry Angad, I didn't mean-"
"Don't apologize. Never apologize to me for you can never hurt me," he whispered, his brown eyes penetrating into hers.
Kripa was taken back by his words and the intensity behind eyes. She felt as if she had seen those eyes before.
"Anyway," he said, quickly breaking Kripa of her thought. "Do you have the letter?"
Kripa nodded and pulled the letter from her purse. She handed it to Angad and watched as he pocketed it without looking at it.
"Have you gotten anywhere with the letters? Any hints, clues? How about the writing, can you trace it?" she asked.
"I think I have enough samples to compare to whatever writing samples we have on file. However, I doubt I can trace it to him because I doubt he's one of the shady characters that the Ministry would have records on."
"What about following the mail? Could that be done?"
"Have you ever tried?"
"It's a possibility. I think our best bet would be to arrange a meeting. Invite him to meet you some where while we have somebody waiting to identify him before you arrive. If the situation seems safe, you could proceed to meet him – if you chose to do so," he said, reading Kripa's face as she considered the possibility.
"I'll have to think about it."
The conversation between the two turned to a light conversation about Prithvi, Alliyah, and Zeb and what they had been up to since school and it wasn't until the staff started to close the restaurant did they realize how late the hour had become.
Angad and Kripa argued over who would pay for the check and Angad won only under the condition that Kripa could pay for the next time. Angad had a hard time concealing how happy the idea of having dinner with Kripa again was to him while Kripa tried to figure out why she had voluntarily invited Angad to dinner at another time.
It was well past midnight when the two stepped out of the restaurant and into a nearly empty street.
"Well, I suppose I should get home," Kripa said, looking at her watch.
"Oh, right," Angad said with disappointment in his voice.
"But if you want to walk me home-"
"I'd love to."
Kripa's apartment was not far from the restaurant and it did not take long for the two to find themselves standing outside of the door to her building.
"Well, thank you for dinner, Angad," Kripa said, standing awkwardly in front of Angad. The last time a man had walked her home, she had prayed that the bloke wouldn't try and kiss her and she turned her head at the right moment and got a kiss on the ear. The thought of Angad kissing her ear made her blush slightly but the thought of kissing Angad on the lips caused her to blush furiously. She could not explain why she was having these thoughts about Angad Khanna – someone who, up until recently, she had never considered romantically.
Angad watched as the thoughts danced through Kripa's mind and laughed to himself as she closed her eyes and shook her head in an attempt to rid herself of those unwanted thoughts.
Angad took this opportunity to close the distance between himself and Kripa. When she opened her eyes, she felt Angad wrap his hand in hers and saw him leaning in closer and closer.
With her heart beating rapidly, Kripa closed her eyes when she felt Angad's lips softly graze her cheek. He whispered "anytime" in her ear, removed his hand from hers, and walked away down the street.
Kripa stood on the door stoop, her mouth hanging wide open while her hand was on her chest, trying to calm her breathing. She watched Angad walk away until she could no longer see him in the distance.
When Kripa walked into her apartment, she didn't notice Anitha sitting on the couch reading a book. She walked directly to her room, ignoring Lavender's greeting, and flopped on her bed.
She recalled the events of the evening, hardly able to believe what had happened.
She lifted her hand to her cheek where Angad had kissed her. She couldn't help but feel disappointed that he hadn't kissed her on the lips. She could not believe she was having these thoughts about Angad. Despite how foreign these thoughts seemed to Kripa, they possessed a certain appeal that Kripa could not deny.
Kripa fell asleep with a smile upon her face.
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sry kinda short but i gtg. Today is my mom's b-day!
Edited by simplyconfused - 22 October 2005 at 11:37am