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Chapter 58: Family
Nihaal sat at the kitchen counter busily texting away on his Blackberry answering some e-mails that he had neglected because of the recent festivities. His parents along with Heer had requested him to stay a little longer since they hardly ever get to spend time with him. Nihaal obliged to their requests as he had brought his laptop with him and could do most of his work online.
sighed as she came into the kitchen to find a mid-morning snack. She was busy studying for her exams and
writing her papers. She was also
slightly on edge because she hadn't heard anything back from the design
contest. She had made it rather far unlike
Maya who was notified that she did not make the second cut to design the
accessories. "Are you still here?" she asked noticing Nihaal sitting in the kitchen.
"Yes, my parents and Heer asked me to stay longer. So I'm staying for the entire month and half...it didn't make any sense for me to leave and then come back when she's getting married in three weeks," Nihaal explained without lifting his eyes from his Blackberry.
"Um, okay...what I meant was why are you still here sitting in the kitchen texting? You've been sitting here since this morning," Veera replied.
"Oh, what time is it? I kind of lost track of time," Nihaal said as he finally looked up searching for the clock in the kitchen.
"It's 10:30," Veera replied.
"Really?" he mused.
"You've been sitting here for three hours and you didn't even notice?" Veera replied. "Gosh, you're just like all the men in this household except for Preet. You and your work...texting...calling...is all you guys do."
"Well, I am working," Nihaal answered.
"Whatever. So, do you want a snack?" Veera offered. Nihaal's eyes widen at her question. "It's only polite to offer the guest something to eat before you take yourself.
"What do you want Veera?" Nihaal asked with a smirk. "You're never this nice to me which I am kind of surprise. You do know I hold great power over this design contest you've entered in."
"But you're not the type to mix business with personal relationships," Veera said as she opened the refrigerator.
"How do you know?" Nihaal inquired.
"Otherwise you wouldn't have called me about that mishap on my design papers. And even I know if you want to make it far in business you sometimes have to separate the two...there may be times when you work with someone you despite on a project but you have to just suck it up and just do it," Veera said as she took out a package of cheddar cheese. "It's business 101."
Nihaal chuckled and gave a pleased smile. "You seem to know a lot about it."
"Bauji is a well respected business man in Canada afterall and I'm his daughter...so naturally some of those business genes are in me," Veera touted. "Anyways, Mr. Maan what project are you so engrossed in today?"
"I knew it...stop beating around the bush and just ask already," Nihaal replied as he watched Veera go to the cupboard to look for a box of crackers.
"Um, you haven't heard anything about the design contest have you?" she timidly asked as she went up on her tip-toes trying to reach the box that was just slightly out of reach. In a matter of seconds Veera felt Nihaal standing behind her taking the box of crackers down for her. She turned around and was surprised to see how close he was standing there. "Um, thank you," she softly replied.
Nihaal stepped back and gave a gentle grin, "You're welcome. And nope, sorry I haven't heard anything."
"How can you not hear anything about it? You were just bragging a minute ago about how you have great power over this contest and now you're saying you have no idea?" Veera asked a bit peeved.
Nihaal held his hands up in the air, "Guilty as charged. I do have some say but remember I don't judge the designs...that is up to Duncan and his fashion minions. They are still in the process of deciding. So all I do is wait. I think they are probably almost done. Maybe you will find out in the next couple of weeks?"
"Great, right in the middle of exams," Veera grumbled.
"So, you making cheese and crackers?" Nihaal asked eyeing the box in Veera's hands.
She rolled her eyes at the obviousness of the situation, "Duh."
"Mind if I have some?" Nihaal asked.
"That's why I was asking earlier," Veera replied. "Wait, what are you doing?"
"What?" Nihaal replied as he took out a jar of strawberry jam from the fridge. "Cheese, crackers, and a little bit of jam. It's really good. Don't worry I'm only going to be putting it on mine." A few minutes later they were both sitting on the kitchen counter making their plates of cheese and crackers. Veera kept eyeing the strawberry jam in disbelief that Nihaal was eating his cheese and crackers with it. "Will you please stop eyeing my food like that," Nihaal said in mid chew.
"Did anyone tell you not to eat with your mouth open and talk to people? I hate to be on a business dinner with you...so gross," Veera complained.
"Just take it," Nihaal said as he plopped a cracker with cheese and jam onto her plate. "Try it and leave me and my food in peace."
"I don't want it," Veera replied.
"Stop denying it and just try it," Nihaal ordered. Veera gave him a pout but took a bit out of the cracker. She gently chewed and then swallowed without much fuss. "You like it don't you?" Nihaal teased. "Come out and say it already.
"Yes...I like it," Veera mumbled.
"I'm sorry what was that?" Nihaal replied cupping his ear with his hand.
"I Said I Like It!" Veera yelled straight into his ear.
Nihaal just grinned and said, "You're welcome."
"You are so weird," Veera sighed.
"I am not," he replied.
"Whatever. Pass me the jam," Veera instructed.
"Say the magic word," Nihaal said.
"The magic word," Veera battered back.
Nihaal chuckled, "Very smart."
"And you're an idiot," Veera grumbled as she reached over Nihaal's plate and grabbed the strawberry jam.
"And you're arrogant," Nihaal countered.
"Shut up," Veera replied.
"You shut up," Nihaal said nudging her with his elbow.
"What are you doing?" Veera complained.
"I'm making more space for myself. You're taking up too much space," Nihaal said as he spread his elbows out on purpose.
"Uh, I don't know why I continue talking to you," Veera mumbled. Nihaal just grinned and continued eating.
Heer opened the door to the office and pushed two heavy file folder boxes into the room. She looked up to see Prem glance towards her direction and then back at his computer screen. She glared at him that he was purposely ignoring her. He had been acting like that for several days now and she was getting rather fed up with his attitude. "Prem will you please help me?" He sighed as if she was interrupting him from doing something important and got up from his desk. "I'm sorry I'm bothering you," Heer replied.
"Where do you want this?" Prem asked as he picked up a box.
"By my desk please," Heer answered. Prem did as he was told and then went and sat back at his desk as Heer carried the other box to her desk. "Prem..."
"Hmmm?" he replied while his eyes remained focused on his computer screen.
"How long are you going to keep this up?" Heer asked. She knew why he was doing it and she wasn't going to fall for his plan. He hadn't kissed her, held her hand, or hugged her ever since the Nihaal-lizard incident. Prem was waiting for her to cave and demand some affectionate attention from him.
"I don't know what you are talking about," Prem replied.
"Prem Juneja," Heer said in a stern voice as she spun him around in his chair.
"Heer, this is the office...we both have work to do," Prem explained.
"I know very well this is the office. But I'm just warning you...you better stop this stupidity right now," Heer said in an exasperated tone.
Prem tried suppressing the grin that was slowly forming on his face. "Or what?"
"If you continue with this..." Heer paused thinking of something to threaten him with and then grinned mischievously, "then you will be sleeping on the floor after we are married, got it?"
Prem's eyes flexed in brief alarm but he remained composed. "As you wish, dear."
"I mean it. Not one time will I ever allow you on that big spacious and comfy bed," Heer said as she inched her face dangerously close to his. She titled her head slightly as if she wanted to kiss him. "And our wedding night and honeymoon..." she whispered teasing. Prem's eyelids closed half way as he briefly went along with her gestures wanting the distance to be erased between the two of them. "Well, you can forget about that," Heer said scornfully as she pushed him away.
Prem straighten his tie and glared at her. "Fine. I can control myself. You don't think I can but I can...I'm controlling myself right now...this entire week...I've been the one in charge." Heer laughed at his outburst and began walking away. Prem stood up with a determined look on his face. "I, Prem Juneja..." was about all he was able to utter when he saw Heer trip over the folder box he had placed by her desk. He quickly reached out and grabbed her before she fell onto the ground. He blinked realizing the familiar position they were in. The feel of Heer's body pressed closely against his body was doing funny things to him after a week of chaste behavior.
"Let me go," Heer replied peeling her eyes away from her fiance's chocolate brown ones.
Prem looked at her and grin, "Okay," he simply stated and slowly dropped her onto the floor.
"Prem!" Heer yelled as she sat up rubbing her elbow.
"You told me to let go. So I let go," he innocently replied.
"You're a big fat jerk!" Heer huffed.
"I guess I am. What are you going to do? You're marrying me in three weeks," Prem smirked. Heer got up from the floor and was about to yell at him some more when his cell phone started ringing. Prem looked at the number calling in and said with some alarm, "It's Kiran." He picked it up and answered, "Everything all right Jiju? What? Really? You're on your way to the hospital right now. Are you driving right now? No, Nihaal is...who is with you? Veera? Where's Ma? No, Preet and Harman aren't here. Yeah, I'll call everyone. Bye."
"Is Kulraj Di having her baby?" Heer asked in excitement.
"Um, yeah. I have to call the rest of the family. Your parents are out with your uncle somewhere and Ma is at Mrs. Sharma's house with Rishi...I have to tell Bauji," Prem said as he began walking away from his desk. "But I need to call Preet and Harman and let them know too."
"Prem, go to your father's office and call Ma. I'll call Preet and Harman," Heer instructed as she saw how flustered and excited he was at hearing that his sister was in labor.
"Yeah, great idea...smart thinking," Prem rambled as he paced back and forth in front of his desk.
"Prem, go," Heer said as she pushed him in the right direction towards the office door.
"Okay, I'll be back," Prem said and left.
Maya sighed as she picked at the chocolate muffin on her plate. "I bought that for you to eat not pick it apart," Harman said causing her to sheepishly look up. "Please stop stressing."
"I can't help it. Dad's away on a month long business trip in India. I was hoping to get this all over with but now we just have to wait," Maya said.
"And we will wait. There is nothing we can do. Look my parents didn't say we couldn't see each other while all this is happening," Harman said trying to ease her mind.
"That's right. I think in the mean time we just need to convince Bauji that you can be a good daughter-in-law," Preet said. "Can you cook?"
"Um, no...not really," Maya replied. "We have a cook at home."
"Sew?" Meher inquired.
"Yes," Maya answered.
"Well, that is one thing," Harman said proudly.
"Clean?" Preet asked.
"Does overseeing the maid count?" Maya replied. Preet and Meher exchanged worried expressions. "See, I can't even show your Dad that I have good qualities he would like," Maya said in frustration.
"But you have great business skills. He admires people who can think quickly and negotiate well," Harman said placing his hand on her hand in a comforting manner.
"I'm not the best either at all this stuff," Meher said. "I'm just now learning how to cook from my sister. And even she isn't all that great. Two days ago she burnt the curry and we had to order pizza instead. She's learning the family dishes from Gayatri Auntie...obviously Prem's favorites. Gayatri Auntie offered to help me. I'm sure she wouldn't mind teaching you as well. We could have cooking lessons."
"That's not a bad idea at all," Preet praised smiling at Meher.
"I agree. See, you can learn," Harman replied.
"I can barely make a hard boil egg," Maya said.
"But she can teach you," Meher replied. "Let's be positive about this. All this stuff can be taught. I can't sew and neither can Heer Didi. We still have to ask our Mom to do that for us. You can sew so you have one thing down. You just need to learn how to cook and clean."
"You should start with laundry," Harman suggested. Maya gave him a strange stare. "You see how big our family is. We do laundry almost every day."
"Harman loves doing laundry," Preet laughed. "When Kulraj Di had gone on vacation and Ma was sick. Harman was doing all of our laundry while our housemaid Anjali...she only comes twice a week to clean...cleaned the house."
"I can teach you that," Harman smiled.
"I'll be happy to teach you the basics of house cleaning," Meher offered. "I've got loads of experience doing that. Heer Didi and I helped our Mom everyday back in India."
"Well, I guess I should take this month to learn some of these things," Maya said.
"That's the spirit," Preet encouraged. Their conversation was soon interrupted by Preet's cell phone. He picked it up and gave a cheery greeting to the caller. His eyes suddenly widen as a smile grew brightly on his face, "Yea, we'll be there shortly. Okay thanks...see you later." Everyone gave him a questioning look waiting for him to explain his enthusiasm. "Kulraj Di is in labor. They are going to the hospital right now."
"That's fantastic news!" Maya cheered.
"We should probably go then, right? I hear the second baby comes out a lot faster than the first one," Meher said.
"Who's with them now?" Harman asked.
"Heer Bhabhi said that Nihaal and Veera are already there. She said that she and PB will be coming with Ma and Bauji," Preet replied.
"Nihaal and Veera are the only ones with them right now?" Harman asked as his face paled. "Those two are always fighting."
"I know," Meher sighed. "I don't know why Nihaal Bhaiya likes pushing her buttons but I swear he does it on purpose just to see her react."
"Yea, Veera doesn't exactly have the best temper in the world," Maya said. "It doesn't take much for her to be set off."
"Sometimes I wonder how she's related to us," Preet replied.
"That's because she's been spoiled by all of us," Harman said. "Especially Ma and Prem Bhaiya...Ma was the one that convinced Bauji to get her that silver Volvo convertible and Bhaiya always sneaks her a little extra spending money whenever she runs out."
"Well, anyways we should be going," Preet said as he got up from the table. The rest of the gang soon followed his lead and left the coffee shop.
Heer gently smiled as she stood in front of the viewing window at the maternity ward watching the newly delivered babies resting and waiting to be brought to their parents. Some were sleeping peacefully while some fidgeted excitedly as their eyes scanned and explored their new world. Everyone in the Juneja family was eagerly awaiting the new arrival of another family member. Heer felt the familiar presence of her fiance's form standing next to her. "Coffee?" Prem offered. Heer nodded and took the cup from his hands. "They're so adorable. Can you believe that we use to be just like them? These small little things barely aware of anything except for our parents...but it didn't take us long to learn how to lift our little heads up, roll over, sit, crawl, stand, walk, and talk...its really amazing if you think about it," she said.
Prem looked at Heer's profile and smiled at the way her eyes twinkled as they followed with great interest at the baby baskets on display. "You like babies."
"Everyone likes babies...who wouldn't? They are so cute," Heer replied and then waved tenderly at one of the front baskets, "Oww, you're so cute. Have a nice nap? Hi, there. Hmm...a boy...you will probably grow up big and strong like your Papa."
"You know I've never seen your baby pictures. I bet you were a very cute baby," Prem said.
"I'm sure Mama has some pictures for you to see. She carries around a few. I'm surprised she hasn't shown them to you. I was a bit round but not as round as you were," Heer chuckled and then continued making faces for the baby boy.
Prem took a sip of his coffee and grinned reflectively, "I guess that means our kid is going to be a fat baby." Heer stopped what she was doing and turned facing him. Their eyes gently lock causing Heer to blush and glance away. She took a sip of her coffee and murmured, "Good coffee." Prem continued staring mesmerized by the way she looked. "You know they are going to ask...um, you know once we get married."
"Aaask?" Heer stuttered. Prem stepped forward closing the distance between them and slipped his arms around her waist. Heer's body stiffened at the contact but soon relaxed and leaned into his chest. "I thought you were determined to make me beg."
"Oh yeah," Prem said and tried pulling away only to have Heer hold onto his arm preventing him from leaving.
"Don't," Heer simply stated. Prem smiled and rested his chin on her shoulder. "Just promise me you won't do that again---"
"But Heer..." Prem pleaded cutting her off.
"I wasn't finish," Heer said. "You have me for the rest of your life to cuddle and sleep in your arms with. Nihaal is staying for awhile so sneaking around is out of the question. I really want my soon-to-be husband in one piece."
"Say that again," Prem gently ordered.
"You have me the rest of your life---"
"Well, that is nice but no, not that skip ahead," Prem said cutting her off.
"Nihaal is staying for awhile?" Heer hesitantly answered venturing a guess.
"Forward," Prem replied.
"Be in one piece?"
"You left out words," Prem pouted. "It starts with the letter H."
"Husband?" Heer replied.
"Say it one more time," Prem said grinning as he rested his cheek against her head.
"Husband," Heer repeated.
"I like the way it sounds when you say it," Prem replied. "Just one month."
"I know," Heer grinned. "But have you listened to anything I said?"
"Yes, I have," Prem sighed. "Okay, I promise."
"Thank you," Heer said and affectionately snuggled closer.
"But you know you still haven't answered my question," Prem replied.
"It's so early...I mean not that I don't want to...just we have one year left in Grad school...and then you'll take over the hotel and be busy with that...I'll be looking for a job. We really have just begun our life together," Heer stammered. "Can we wait two years at least?"
"I feel the same way. Hopefully the family won't bug us too much. And what's this about looking for a job?" Prem asked. "You'll be working at the hotel with me. Unless, you don't want to...do you want to?"
"I like working at the hotel in the events department but I just assumed it would look bad...you know...I was an intern and then next thing everyone knows I'm engaged to the owner's son and now working at the hotel?" Heer replied.
"That's nonsense Heer. The hotel is family business...our family business...and you're becoming family now. Beside as the boss, I would be very stupid to let someone of your talent go," Prem said. "I'm offering you a job. Will you stay?"
"Hmmm, I don't know. I have to ask my husband about that," Heer teased.
"I think he's a pretty understanding guy. He wants nothing but the best for his wife...and just wants to see her happy," Prem replied.
"Okay," Heer giggled. "We should go and check in and see how everyone is doing."
"We should," Prem replied nuzzling her cheek. "But let me apologize for my behavior this week. I've been so uncaring..."
Heer slowly lowered her eyelids and whispered as their bodies shifted and she felt Prem's lips brush against the side of her mouth. "Yes, you have. How are you going to make up for it?"
"How's this?" Prem replied as he captured her lips. Prem felt that magical jolt of electricity pass between them as their mouths softly collided with each other. They stood there for a few minutes relishing in the pleasurable sensations, until he realized they were kissing quite intimately in public. Prem reluctantly pulled away and murmured as he placed his hand up in front of their faces acting as a shield, "I think we showed the babies something they shouldn't be seeing at their age."
Heer blushed and hit his chest, "Prem..."
"What, you want to explain to their parents why they know what kissing is?" he joked.
"Let's go," Heer said grabbing his right index finger and tugging him to leave. "I can't wait for you to get that cast off your arm.
"Me too. Next week it's finally coming off," Prem reported with glee.
"Thank goodness," Heer replied.
smiled proudly as he walked quickly into the waiting room where the family was
waiting. "It's a healthy baby girl!" he
announced with glee. Everyone smiled and
congratulated him at becoming a father again.
He and his wife had decided that they didn't want to know the gender of
the baby and wanted to be surprised at the birth so the family was kept in as much suspense as they were.
Lalit gave a firm handshake and patted Kiran on his back. "Congratulations son. She'll grow up just as beautiful as Kulraj. Will we get to know the name soon?"
"Thanks Bauji. We've picked out some names but we will let you know soon enough," Kiran replied.
Kiran glanced down as he felt his son tug on the surgical robe that the hospital had provided him when he went into the delivery room. He picked him up and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. "You're a big brother now Rishi."
"Can I see the baby?" he asked.
"Soon enough. Mommy is feeding her right now," Kiran explained.
"Will we be allowed to visit Kulraj Di?" Veera asked.
"I don't see why not. There isn't much room in the room though. We may have to split everyone up into groups of four," Kiran said.
"Can I venture a guest that you guys picked a girl's name that begins with R?" Preet asked.
"Haha...you're wrong. I'm not giving any hints," Kiran replied.
"That's not fair. You guys wouldn't tell us what the gender of the baby was," Veera pouted.
"We didn't know either," Kiran answered.
"Yeah right...like I can really believe that. Kulraaj Di is just way too curious," Harman said. "She of all people probably asked the doctor to tell her."
"Nope, I made sure she didn't know. It made for some really sleepless nights...she kept bugging me...one minute she was demanding to know and then the next minute she was changing her mind and saying she rather be surprised. In the end I ordered the doctor no matter how much she pleaded she was not to be told," Kiran said causing everyone to break out into laughter.
"Well, let's hope she isn't as much of a handful as Rishi here," Prem said gently tickling his nephew.
"You know Prem...I have a wish for you...may your children be just as or even more rambunctious as two of my children combined," Kiran teased.
"Jiju," Prem replied in shock.
"Haha, well PB you are next in line," Preet snickered.
"If anyone's kids are going to be a handful it would be Preet's," Veera joked causing everyone to nod their heads in agreement.
"I can imagine little Preets running all over the Juneja household stomping in mud and breaking things," Kiran replied chuckling.
"Harman Bhaiya's children would be the tamest...sitting in the living room reading," Veera said.
"There is nothing wrong with reading," Harman defended. "Anyways, your children will be a bunch of fashion snobs. Oh, Mommy this dress is so last year! I need a new one and also a purse that matches with my dress and the shoes have to be name brand too."
Veera opened her mouth in shock while her brothers continued to laugh and tease her. "That's a great one Harman," Prem said holding the side of his stomach. "Oh, I think I strained a muscle from laughing so hard."
"Okay guys, I'll go check in and see how my wife is doing," Kiran said and handed Rishi to Veera. He made his way back towards Kulraj's room and gently knocked on the door. "Can I come in?"
Kulraj chuckled at hearing this question from her husband, "Yes dear you can."
"I just wanted to make sure. How's the feeding going?" Kiran asked as he closed the door.
"We're done actually," Kulraj replied.
Kiran smiled tenderly at seeing his wife holding their precious newborn in her arms. "Bauji says she'll grow up beautiful just like you."
Kulraj beamed a tiny grin, "Bauji would say something like that."
"I think he knows what he's talking about," Kiran replied as he bent down and kissed his wife's forehead. "I love you."
"Love you too," Kulraj answered. "So, have you decided on what name?"
"I'm fine with whatever you choose you know that dear," Kiran replied.
"I like the name Tanu," Kulraj said.
"Then Tanu it is," Kiran confirmed. He reached over with his finger and gently probed his daughter's hand. She immediately latched on to his finger and gurgled. "You like that name Tanu?" His daughter stared at him with her hazel eyes and smiled. "Tanu, my little angel...beautiful like your mother." Kiran placed a tender kiss on her forehead. "I love you." Tanu gave a big yawn and then stretched her hands outward in a sleepy motion. "Ah, sleepy are we? But there are lots of people waiting to see you."
"Well, then you better bring them in," Kulraj replied.
"Yea, I was thinking at least four people at a time since the room is so small. I'll bring in Ma and Bauji...and Balraaj Uncle and Teji Auntie...after all they will be in-laws soon," Kiran said.
"That's a good idea. Hurry," Kulraj shooed. Kiran nodded and quickly left the room to get the elders.
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