Hello everyone, sorry for the delay. Here comes the next part. Its slightly long in an attempt to make up for the delay. Waiting to hear what you guys think of it. Cheers
The garden lights
cast a pale yellow glow competing with the setting sun. The breeze was very
mild and the evening warm. Prachi breathed in the fresh evening air, her mind
relaxing. The last three days had been hectic and she was feeling the pressure.
The security alert had triggered a frenzy of work and activity and her family
had been way too busy. She almost never saw her father-in-law although he was
in London. Milind was always between meetings and the one night he came to bed,
she had been fast asleep and he had left early in the morning before she was
awake. The crumpled sheet and pillow was the only sign of his ever being there
and a fierce longing had shot through her as she lay there missing him more
than ever. The last time she had seen Vicky was the night when they had dinner
at his house. He seemed to be non-existent and his parents were out of London
too. Shweta was having an unusually hard time with her new business deal and
feeling the heat of the security breaches. Her eyes looked stressed with lack
of sleep but she always had a smile for Prachi. When Shweta mentioned the
dinner she was throwing for some very exclusive guests at their house, Prachi
was eager to help, talking the responsibility of organising the formal
dinner,…. her very first one. Though slightly nervous, she had reassured Shweta
when her mother-in-law expressed concern if she will be able to handle it all in
such a short span of time. She knew how important that evening was for her
family as it was their way of reinstigating that the Mishras are still at the
top of their game and these little security glinches has done nothing to rattle
them. Shweta had repeatedly told her that no mistake can be made that evening and
to recheck every little detail. Prachi had acquired every information about
their guests from Shweta's secrety, their likes and dislikes. She knew exactly
how the table would be set, the colour theme, the elaborate dinner courses and
when it would be served. There would be 24 people dining that evening and the
list had some very important names which only made Prachi more nervous. She had
been very busy in the last couple of days, checking every single detail and was
in high spirits despite the tiredness. The only thing that brought down her
mood was the knowledge that Sally would be present. She was going to partner
Vicky and seemed to be more involved in Shweta's project than before. Shweta's
praises about how brilliant Sally was only fuelled her irritation towards the
other girl and throwing this dinner all by herself was Prachi's way of showing
that she could be as good as Sally in everything she did if not better. Inspite
of her resolve to not think about Sally, just mentioning her name brought strong
reactions in her. Tomorrow evening would be a challenge and she would prove to
Sally how good she can be, she vowed to herself.
Her face broke into a brilliant
smile as Shweta walked towards her. "Mom, everything is ready. We just have to
wait for Dad and Milind to come home", she said cheerfully.
Shweta smiled as she sat down, "Its been a few
days since we all had dinner together. Thanks, Prachi. I needed this evening to
relax a bit. But if all goes as planned, the deal will be done by the end of
next week and then I can relax completely. I am sorry that you have been left
alone these last few days", she said softly.
Prachi smiled, "I understand, Mom. I
have been very busy aswell with organising the dinner. I only hope that I don't
disappoint you tomorrow", she said nervously.
Shweta laughed, "You will only make
us proud, Prachi. I like your colour theme and the menu you put together. It is
going to be a great evening. I have complete faith in you", she said softly and
"Ah! Don't I love coming home to this",
drawled Anand who had just joined them and
he kissed his wife's cheek.
Shweta laughed, "Credit goes to
Prachi, Anand", she said.
Anand nodded and thanked Prachi and
smiled as her eyes searched behind him. "Milind will join us in a minute,
Prachi. He has gone to freshen up", he said and Prachi blushed as her in-laws
Her eyes brightened as she saw
Milind walk towards them wearing shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. Quickly
kissing his mother's cheek, he put his arm around Prachi, "Missed you, Cherry",
he drawled in a whisper and Prachi gave a shy smile.
As they sat down to eat, Anand said,
"I am sorry that I am keeping Milind very busy, Prachi. Once things calm down,
I will let him off for a few days", he promised.
Shweta shook her head, "Don't trust
him, Prachi. Things never ever calms down. This is one promise that he would
never keep. And Milind takes after his Dad. Even if Anand lets him off, he
wouldn't pull himself off work. I think in that aspect, we both didn't do very
well in choosing our husbands", she said in a huff.
Anand raised his eyebrows and Milind
laughed, "Come on, Mom, you couldn't have found a better person to be your
husband and the same goes for Prachi as well", he said and winked at her, his
fingers interlinking with hers under the table.
Prachi gave him a naughty look, "I think I
agree with Mom, Milind", she said softly and his parents laughed as he
"Don't worry, Prachi. Once you become a
mother, you will have no time for anyone else. You will be way too busy that
Milind will be the one who would be desperate for your attention", she smiled
and Prachi went a bright red.
Milind whistled softly, "Now that's
a fantastic idea, Mom. What do you say, Prachi? Do you want to get busy?" he
drawled and Prachi bit her lip too shy to say anything in front of her in-laws.
Anand cleared his throat, "I thought that
Prachi still had another year of studying", he smiled at his wife.
Milind grinned, "I conveniently forgot that,
Dad. I am sure Prachi can multi-task like every other woman on the planet" he
said and his parents laughed. He dipped his head low and whispered, "What say,
Cherry? Shall we give it a try?" he drawled naughtily.
Too shy to look at anyone and
furious with her husband, she pinched his hand and hissed, "Besharam, shut up".
Milind chuckled and winked at his grinning
They sat down relaxedly as coffee
was served. Night had set in and the garden glowed under the lights, the lit up
fountain only added to the beauty. Arm around his wife's shoulder, Milind was
sipping his coffee and chatting relaxedly. Prachi was literally glowing and
sighed happily. Just his presence around her was enough to chase away all the blues
and put a song in her heart and a sparkle in her eyes. She sighed again and
leaned against him comfortably.
Conversation moved around work when
Anand suddenly said, "Milind, don't forget to speak to Sally later on. You
really shouldn't have snapped at her in front of everyone. The poor girl was
really upset". Milind nodded slowly and Prachi looked at him curiously.
Seeing Shweta frown, Anand quickly
explained, "Milind is worse than me, Shweta. He was leading the meeting today
and he had asked Sally to get a report ready and she had forgotten. He told her
off in front of everyone and the girl was almost in tears", he said
Milind sighed, "Dad, she knows me
too well to be so careless. I gave her a job to do and I expect it to be done.
But still I will call her later", he said.
Prachi was surprised that Sally had taken the
brunt of Milind's anger and at the same time felt slightly sorry for her wondering
if Milind was as hard a taskmaster as Anand is known to be.
Shweta grimaced, "I think I am at
fault, Milind. I had been keeping her way too busy as well", she said
Anand squeezed her hand, "Let her
go, Shweta. The pressure is too much for her and I heard that it's affecting
her relationship with Mark as well. Simon was worried that Sally had not been
really herself in these last few days and is even ignoring Mark's calls", he
Milind raked his fingers through
his hair, "Oh god, I am feeling guilty now, Dad. I will speak to her soon. We
will pamper her a bit tomorrow and I know she will like it", he smiled.
Anand nodded, "She has seen me in
the worst of tempers, my son but she always held her cool. I was surprised that
she could be reduced to tears by a few angry words", he said.
Milind gave a small smile, "Its
because it was me who was telling her off. I should have known better. She will
come around, Dad. She can't stay angry with me for long", he said confidently.
Prachi froze, something heavy
settling around her heart. He seems to know very well the effect he has on her.
Then does he also know that she loved him and still does? A very uncomfortable
feeling settled inside her, making her hot and slightly breathless. She stood
up suddenly excusing herself. Milind got up too and leaving his parents to
converse, they walked back to their room in silence.
The minute they walked into their
bedroom, Milind pulled Prachi into his arms. He buried his face in her neck, "I
still have some work to do, Prachi. But I will be back soon. Stay awake for
me", he whispered huskily.
Pulling away from his arms
slightly, she looked at him, her eyes accusing. "You were only going to call
Sally" she said.
Milind smiled, "That too and I
have to make a few other phone calls. I will just be in the study. By the time
you have a nice hot shower, I will be back", he promised.
As he was about to leave, she
pulled at his arm, "You have been friends with Sally a very long time, Milind.
Have you never been angry with her before?" she asked softly.
Surprised at her question, Milind smiled, "Its
always Vicky who picked up one thing or the other to argue with her and end up
having a blazing row. I was always the good boy. To my knowledge I picked up a
fight with her only once before but did make up very quickly. A sulking Sally
is really hard work to bring around", he grinned at the memories.
Prachi was watching him intently,
"How did you do that then?" she asked very softly.
For a moment, Milind looked taken
aback and lost for words. "I ………er………just chocolates and flowers, I think. It
was a long time ago, Prachi. Anyway, I will be back shortly", he said hurriedly
and walked out of the room.
Prachi stood still, her eyes slowly
filling up tears. It was much more than chocolates and flowers and she knew it.
The worst thing was though it was a long time ago, he still remembered it.
Milind walked into the study feeling
slightly disturbed. Why was Prachi asking all those questions? Did she expect
him to tell her how they made up? Oh hell, those memories were long forgotten.
Irritated, he busied himself with work.
A very disturbed Prachi took a
quick shower and tried to read. Tiredness was catching up with her and she
yawned. Minutes ticked by and there was no sign of Milind's returning. Giving
up atlast, she walked towards the study.
Milind hung up atlast. The last
phonecall had taken more time than expected. It was almost midnight and he had
to call Sally as well. He waited patiently for her to pick up. He smiled as she
snapped a hello down the line. "Ouch, that hurt my ear", he complained softly
and the line on the other side fell silent. "I only called to say sorry", he
said again. He grimaced as she let out a swear.
"I can tell you exactly where you
can stuff your sorry", she snapped again.
"Oh god, Sal, that was so unlady
like", he laughed. When she started again, he cut in quickly, "Okay, okay, I
get the message. I have been a pig and I deserve all those names you just
called me. Now, be a good girl and lets forget it, Sal", he said.
Sally smiled, "Yes, you are a pig, Milind
Mishra and I will think of more names to call you. I spent such a beautiful
evening all sulking and crying and working on your blasted report", she said.
Milind laughed, "That's the Sally I
have always known. Come what may you get on with the job. Now can I expect the
report first thing tomorrow morning?" he asked cheekily.
"You moron, your father is much better to work
with than you. I am seriously considering a change of jobs", she whined.
"Ah honey, just put up with me for
another month or so and then I will leave you alone. You can have Dad all to
yourself but provided you answer my Mom. She is very posessive when it comes to
her husband", he teased.
Sally laughed, "Anand has always
been like a father to me since I was a baby and that's exactly how he stays.
And your mom knows that, you idiot" she shot back.
Her voice softened, "I am glad you
called me, Milind. I was really angry with you, you know. I wouldn't have
forgiven you", she said in a huff.
Milind grinned, "You are such a liar, Sal. Of
course, you would have forgiven me. I know you can never stay angry with me,
atleast not for long. Now get some sleep but make sure you have that report
ready for me first thing tomorrow morning", he warned her and chuckling, he
hung up when she started to call him more dirty names.
Prachi hovered near the half-open
door, angry and irritated. She had been waiting for him for so long and here he
was happily chatting with that Sally, she fumed silently. How long had he be on
the phoneto her? she wondered. She knocked on the door hesitating to enter.
Milind looked up from his laptop, surprised,
"Prachi, from when did you have to wait for my permission to enter the room?"
Slightly ashamed of herself, she
walked in slowly and stood watching him.
He gave an appologetical grimace,
"Sorry sweetheart, my phonecalls took a little bit longer than expected", he
"And you forgot about me
completely", she complained in a soft voice.
Milind smiled and beckoned her
closer, "How can I ever forget you, my love?", he asked softly and pulled her
on his lap. "Aren't you a part of me?" he asked huskily.
Fighting a sudden urge to cry,
she leaned against his chest, "Baatein banaana koi aap se seekhein" she chided
Chuckling softly, he held her closer, "I have
every trick up my sleeve to butter you up" he said and kissed her forehead.
"Give me a couple of minutes. Let me just finish reading this" he said.
Prachi took a peak to see what he was
reading. Soon, the numbers on the spreadsheet became boring and she closed her
eyes, nestling closer to him.
One hand caressing her head,
Milind quickly scrolled down the pages, his shrewd mind taking in every detail.
Atlast he closed his laptop and looked at his wife and smiled seeing her in
deep sleep. "You are such an unromantic sleepyhead, Prachi. The minute you come
into my arms, you fall asleep", he chided her softly and kissed her head lovingly.
Without disturbing her much, he
picked her up in his arms and walked into their bedroom. She stirred when he
laid down on the bed and was half-awake when he joined her minutes later. He
caressed her cheeks and she looked at him with sleepy eyes and yawned. Smiling,
he kissed her lips and buried his face in her neck, his arms gathering her
"I love you, my cherry girl", he
whispered close to her ears.
Fresh tears prickled her eyes
and slowly rolled down and her fingers threaded through his hair, holding him
close to her. Feeling the wetness against his cheeks, Milind looked up, his
eyes searching hers worriedly.
"I missed you", she said softly
and relaxing, he kissed her tears away. "I missed you too, sweetheart. Just a
few more days of such hectic work, darling and I promise that I shall spend
more time with you. Please!" he promised softly.
She nodded and sighed as he
kissed her slowly, tenderly.
"Now get some sleep, Prachi. I won't
disturb you. I can see how tired you are" he said and smiled when she yawned
She rested her head on his chest
and closed her eyes. A few minutes passed and she stirred restlessly.
"What is it, Prachi?", he asked,
his hand caressing her head.
"I can't sleep", she mumbled.
Milind smiled, "Shall I swing you in my arms?
But aren't you a little bit heavy for that?" he teased.
Prachi giggled softly, "Do something
else then", she said.
"What else do you want me to do?
Sing a lullaby?" he asked again.
Her arm held him more closely, "I
am not a baby, you know", she mumbled again.
"Aren't you?" he kissed her head, humming
Prachi smiled and held him more closer. Within
a couple of minutes, her hold relaxed and she was purring softly.
Milind's lips caressed her head, "You are a
child in many ways, sweetheart and I can never love you enough" he said softly
and holding his sleeping wife in his arms, he slowly fell asleep.
Wrapped in a pink teddy robe,
Prachi walked out of the bathroom, towelling her wet hair and stopped still.
Milind had just walked into the room and she gave a shy smile as his eyes
roamed over her from head to toe.
"I thought you had already left
for the office", she said shyly.
Grinning, he walked closer to her
and pulled her into his arms. "Then its good that I had a perfect excuse to
came back to pick up my laptop", he said and brushed his nose against hers. His
thumb traced the water drops on her wet lips.
She wound her arms around his neck
and cocked her head to one side, "You should have asked someone to bring it to
your office for you", she said.
"And miss such a perfect opportunity. I am no
fool, my darling wife", he drawled, his hands undoing the knot of her robe.
Eyes wide, she clutched at her
robe tightly, "Milind, what are you doing? You should be at work and I have so
much to do today. Anna and Eva would be waiting for me. I have to go down", she
said and shrieked when she fell back on the bed as he pushed her gently, her
robe falling wide open.
Eyes heating up, Milind tugged at
his tie and shrug off his shirt, buttons popping out. "Oh my, if that is not an
invitation, what else can be?" he said hoarsely and joined her on the bed.
It was an hour later than planned
when Prachi walked down. Even if Anna and Eva hadn't noticed Milind leaving the
house again minute's earlier, Prachi's bright red face or shy eyes were a dead
giveaway. Hiding their smiles, they wished her a good morning and got busy with
work. By afternoon, the dinner table was well laid out, china and silver
gleamed. White and gold was the theme and Prachi had added dashes of green and
yellow, reciprocating the warmth of summer. It was beautifully laid out and
satisfied, she rushed away to get ready.
She had just finished checking
herself in the mirror when Milind walked in. The look in his eyes told her
everything she wanted to know and her cheeks coloured delicately. He slowly
walked towards her, his heart constricting, overwelhmed by her beauty. Dressed
in a long white and gold one shoulder gown, she looked dazzling. Her only jewellery
were long, heavy gold earrings and a thick gold bracelet. Her hair was swept to
one side and lay in soft curls. He took a deep breathe, "Wow" he said softly,
almost afraid to touch her. She looked etheral.
Prachi gave a shy smile, "Thank you" and stoop on tiptoe to
kiss him on his lips. "I left your dinner suit on the bed. Get ready and come
down quickly", she said and glided past him, her long dress moving in soft swirls
around her ankles.
Milind closed his eyes for a minute and shook
his head as if to clear his thoughts. "Wow", he said again and with a satisfied
smile, rushed to get ready.
If Shweta and Anand were mighty
impressed with the arrangements and complimented her, Vicky too exclaimed what
a great job she had done. Her eyes searched her husband's face and lit up with
joy as she saw nothing but pride and approval in his eyes. She was doing her
last minute checks in the tea room when she heard Vicky's loud whistle.
"Oh my! Sal, you look absolutely gorgeous,
honey. You are going to make me very proud", he said and kissed her cheek.
Prachi quickly walked out and
both girls stood looking at eachother, their eyes assessing and approving.
Wearing a silk copper coloured off shoulder gown, her hair pinned high with a
diamond clasp, tendrils of hair framing her face, Sally looked like a
fairy-tale princess. Though she knew she looked equally good, Prachi felt a
sudden jealousy rip through her as everyone exclaimed how beautiful she looked,
Sally laughed and slapped Vicky's
wrist when he put his arm around her waist, "Behave now, Mehra. It won't take
me long to call Pooja and tell her how your eyes look besotted tonight", she
Vicky grinned, "Be my guest, Sal.
I will pacify her later. Now, let us enjoy the evening. First come and see the
dinner table. Prachi has done a great job. The whole evening is her
organising", he said proudly and led her through.
Prachi smiled when Milind put
his arm around her waist.
Sally looked around in surprise.
Even she had to admit that Prachi had done a very good job. The rest of the
evening is yet to be seen, she thought to herself. Anna had just finished
putting the name tags and Sally frowned and looked again carefully. She walked
back to the lounge and touched Shweta's arm, "Are you really sure about the
seating arrangements? It might not go down very well with those people" she
said in concern and Shweta looked at her confused.
"Prachi arranged everything,
Sally. Now to think of it, I never even checked it", Shweta said and walked
hurriedly with her, leaving a confused Prachi rush behind them.
Shweta stared at the name tags in
shock and turned to Prachi, her eyes flashing angrily, "Prachi, did I not tell
you that there should be no mistakes? If you were in doubt, you should have checked
with me again. Did my secretary not give you enough details about all our
guests?" she asked curtly and Prachi nodded nervously and looking even more
Shweta sighed and waved her hand
towards the table irritatedly, "You have seated the wrong people together,
Prachi. Such slip ups could turn a perfect evening into a disaster. People will
think that we were deliberately insulting them. No dinner ever hosted by Mishras
has gone wrong till now" she said.
Having never seen her mother-in-law
angry, Prachi stared at her stunned. Hearing voices in the lounge, Shweta
Sally nodded to her, "Why don't you
go and handle the guests? Prachi and I will sort it out. I know about them very
well and you can trust me to not make mistakes", she said softly.
Smiling at her gratefully, Shweta nodded. She
turned to Prachi, "Rearrange it and join me soon", she squeezed her hand softly
and walked away swiftly.
"Prachi, do you want to give me a hand here?"
called Sally and Prachi automatically walked towards her, her whole body stiff
with shame and shock.
Of all the things, she had to make
this blunder and Sally should be the one person to pick it up. She had read all
the information thoroughly but missed the subtle hints. Now seeing Sally
rearrange everything, Prachi could see that she had indeed done a big mistake. What
would Mom think of her? Oh God, she trusted me and if not for Sally, I would
have let her down completely. The very thought filled her eyes with tears.
Feeling sorry for her, Sally gave a
small smile, "It's important to have the right mix, Prachi. That would keep the
disagreements interesting but not disastrous. You spice up the evening but
soften the heat too. That is the trick", she said, swiftly changing the tags.
It only took ten minutes but it
felt like hours to Prachi. She watched Sally in awe. Never in her mind had she
felt so low and so ashamed but the same time couldn't help but admire the other
Sally stood back and looked at the
table. "Now everything is perfect", she declared and smiled at Prachi.
Prachi's eyes shot daggers at her and even
Sally looked taken aback. "Of course it will be perfect. Afterall, it was Sally
who had set it right", she said harshly and marched off to join her family.
Sally's eyes hardened, "A simple
"thank you" would have done, you ungrateful bitch", she muttered under her
breathe as she walked back to the lounge.
As hours ticked by, Prachi wondered
how an evening which had promised to be so perfect could turn into a nightmare,
well, atleast for her. Her confidence already in shambles, she struggled
through every minute of the evening. She was seated between Milind and Anand,
Sally between Milind and Vicky and even the reassuring presence of the two men
on either side of her didn't calm her nerves. She was horribly tongue- tied and
howmuchever her family tried to ease her into conversations, she failed
miserably. The appreciation from the guests about how good the food was, how
perfect the arrangements were, did nothing to ease her nervousness and she
could see Milind and his parents gaze at her worriedly now and then. Sally was
a perfect partner for Vicky and he seemed to be mighty impressed with her only
making Prachi more bitter and aware of her own failings. It was a relief for
her when the long dinner atlast ended and they moved to the garden for more
drinks. She carried on making small conversations dutifully but was aware that
she was fooling no one. Conversation turned on to business and Prachi only felt
more shut out. Milind's reassuring gazes did nothing to ease her and the
evening dragged on for her. She almost shouted in relief when the night drew to
an end and their guests started leaving.
Milind pulled at his tie and raked his
fingers through his hair, "Oh man, that was painful" he muttered and turned
around feeling Sally's hand on his arm. He gave a small smile, "Thanks for
everything, Sal. You were brilliant and I owe you for this", he thanked her
genuinely. She had stepped in for Prachi ever so discreetly everytime she
Sally patted his arm, "Don't
mention it, Milind. Poor Prachi, she seemed so miserable", she said softly.
Milind clenched his jaw but
remained silent. Excusing himself, he went to join his parents.
Standing at a distance behind them,
Prachi froze. Tears stung her eyes and she stiffened finding Sally in front of
"You did well with the
arrangements, Prachi. The food was very impressive as well. Good choice", Sally
said with a smile.
Prachi glared at her with furious
eyes, "Cut the crap, Sally. I know what you were doing all evening. Haven't you
had enough fun showing off how perfect you are when I am not?" she bit out angrily.
Sally raised her eyebrows. "You
are spoiling for a fight, aren't you? Fine, have it your way. Yes, that's
exactly what I was doing. But I was only doing my job, Prachi and it was more fun to do it in front of you.
Did I not tell you during the first time we met that this life is not for you?
You don't have what it takes to be a Mishra. And today you proved me right.
This is their life, Prachi. This is what they thrive in…….this show of power.
And you only disappointed them. Just setting the table and ordering the proper
food is not what all these dinners are about. That would be at your father's
house. This is a different kind of play and you are so out of this league. You
were such a let down, Prachi. Yes,…. you were" she said softly and turned to
A sob escaped Prachi and Sally
turned back to her. "Sorry, but you asked for it. I would have just
congrajulated you and walked off. But you wouldn't let me", she almost
appologised and walked away.
Prachi stood there wanting to
double over and howl in pain. Sally was right. She was a complete let down. How
was she going to face her husband and in-laws? If this is their life and hers
as well now, how was she going to cope? How many times would she embarrass
them? How many times will they forgive her? For the first time, she wondered if
Milind had made a mistake in marrying her? How long before he wonders the same
too? The very thought send a shudder through her and she took deep breaths
trying to stay calm.
Wanting to get out of the place and
lick her wounds in private, she rushed towards the house and walked straight
into Vicky. Steadying her, Vicky shook his head, "Look where you are going,
Prachi. Now where is my partner? She was brilliant tonight, wasn't she? I am
sure people were left wondering who the hostess was……..you or her. You were so
quiet throughout the evening, you silly girl", he chided her.
Prachi looked at him with blazing
eyes, "Traitor", she bit out and seeing Milind walk towards them, ran past him
towards the house, trying hard to muffle her sobs.
Vicky stood stunned and turned to
look at an equally stunned Milind. "What is wrong with her?" he asked
"That's exactly what I am hoping to find out",
Milind said harshly and strode towards the house in angry strides.