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~ C H A P T E R 3 2 ~
-A DATE AND A DATE OF SORTS-
'I am forgetting something...what is it?' she looked around her desk, and even under it desperately, then checked her blackberry, and her planner, then called her assistant, but nothing, she had not missed any meeting, nothing at all, but she knew she was forgetting something.
'God Zia what is up with you, what are you forgetting?!'
'hey Zia what is up with you!'
She was startled, 'shit! Mehra! Knock nahi kar sakte! Files gira di na! Idiot.'
'tum pooch rahe ho?'
He whispered another sorry as he bent down and helped her with her files, which were full of pictures.
'wow, nice files, sirf photos hai sab main.'
'haan, woh... runway photos, kapdo ki, so that we know what clothes were by which company and designer, and so we can reference them for photo shoots and ideas for spreads, and we know which clothes have been shot and... wait a minute, why are you asking- no, why are you even here?!'
'I just wanted to...'
'I wanted to...'
'tick tock tick tock...'
'ask you how Shantanu and Khanak are going.'
'why? Why not just- Ask Shantanu?'
'because,' Rohan got up and sat on the chair, opposite Zia's, 'Shantanu gets all lovey-dovey and goes into details, which makes me feel weird, since she is like my sister! With you, I know you will keep the details at bay, and keep to point, so I will be updated and spared from throwing up my breakfast!'
'eww! Fine, but wait a minute, i am forgetting something, something damn it!' she looked around frustrated.
'you going through that thing where you know you are forgetting something, but you don't know what and you can't sit still without figuring out what it is, let alone work?'
Zia stared at him for a second then narrowed her eyes, 'yes, how did you know! Did Sapna tell you?'
'she is not on her desk.'
Zia walked out her cabin and looked at her assistant's desk, her mouth open, 'Damn that girl, this is the second time today, she is not on her desk! I am going to nail her ass to that chair, when she comes!'
Zia looked at him, 'but did you know?'
He took off his jacket, and got more comfortable, 'I have the same thing sometimes, so I guessed.'
'no no, don't get comfortable, you aren't staying long.'
'of course I am not, just waiting for you to tell me about Khanak and Shantanu.'
'Oh fine! Well let's see... hmm... what do you know.'
'I know there was no peanut butter.'
She laughed, 'yes, there was peanut butter...'
She sat on her chair, 'so since then, not much had happened, in the past two weeks, Shantanu has, kept giving her hints, touching her while walk by, or brushing his hadn againt her ina sexy way. And, has been flirting, a lot.'
'what about her?'
'Oh yes!' she smiled, 'well, she doesn't talk to me much for obvious reasons.'
'you being heartless?'
'No, I am not her best friend that is why you idiot!
'Oh.... yes, that makes sense.'
She raised her eyebrow, 'anyway, but I did catch her several times, touching her lips, looking all lost and in love. But god knows when she will break.'
'how do you know she ever will.'
'because- genius, if she wasn't interested she would tasered him by now, with all his touching and kissing and occasional sucking.'
'yes, well don't act like you are in first grade, discovering a man and woman can kiss- for first time in your life. Grow up!'
'first grade? Really?! Tha- that young?'
She smiled, embarrassed slightly, 'well, better first grade, than now, when you are a grandpa,' she countered.
He sighed 'well hopefully, in Khushboo and Akshay's wedding, they will-'
She gasped in surprise.
'wedding...' she whispered sinking back in her chair, 'the damn wedding! Urgh!'
'what is so damn about it?'
'I forgot to apply for leave! That was what I was forgetting! Damn it!'
'so... apply now.'
'No, I mean- we leave for the wedding in three days, three days, my application won't be processed by then and even if it does, Simran will never allow me.'
Zia, looked here and there, avoiding the question.
'God, what did you do?'
'oh! You make it sound so bad, like I slept with her boyfriend or something!'
She narrowed her eyes, 'You think? You do remember I boycotted Aisha right?'
'yes you did..'
'yes, well that was because I found her and Purab making out. I hate cheaters! Hate them, and I will never do it to anybody.'
'good to know, that you knew about Aisha and Purab and didn't tell me.'
'are you going to whine about that, now?'
'No! But what did you do.'
'well... she might have said no to a few of the pictures I showed her, and I must have- when she was not looking, add those scrapped pictures in the issue- without her permission. It is nothing big!'
'well, those pictures were great! The essence of the shoot. It was a romantic shoot and the pictures she scrapped were the most romantic of them! in one, the boy and a girl had date, with...'
'a date! Shantanu can take her on a date.'
'she won't go on a date with him.'
'ya... so- we bring the date to her.'
'I will but first I have things to take care, since another brilliant idea has struck me. Just wait here for about ten minutes, I need to fix the wedding debacle.' She took out her phone and started to walk out the room, as she searched for the number she wanted, when she stopped and turned to him, 'and if my assistant comes, staple her ass to her chair will you?'
'I will, don't worry about that.'
'Oh! And if you get bored, don't go through my laptop, or anything on my desk, just read those magazines there.'
He smiled, 'will do, captain.'
'captain? I like that.'
Shantanu looked around her house, tiptoeing in, just in case she was back, even though Zia had told him that Khanak had some work, he thought it was better to check, before he moved in the weapons he had with him.
'hey coco! She there?' he whispered, picking up the excited dog.
He looked around everywhere, even called her name, to double check, coast was clear.
He went to his house and brought the things he had gotten.
He looked at the bags, and checked the items list in his mind, 'let's see, chicken check, wine check, second bottle of wine, check, thyme, oregano, check and check, and... candles and flowers, check and check! Great coco, we are about to blow Khanak completely off her feet with these weapons, he imitated the evil laugh, scaring coco away, 'sorry, coco-woko, sorry, anyway, let's get to work, we need to revamp this place, a tab bit.'
He spent the next two hours cleaning up the place, and making dinner, getting the table ready and the candles and flowers in their places. Making sure the crockery was cleaned and shiny, the flowers smelled beautiful and the lights were dimmed, and the place smelled nice, and of really appetising food, that he had slaved over, for better part of those two hours.
'right.... this looks- perfect!'
He smiled at the dog, who was sleeping- as usual.
'anyway, I should go and take a shower, I smell bad. While the chicken can simmer on low heat, the rice is cooked and the wine is in the ice bucket! Perfect...'
He clapped his hand and surveyed the location once before closing the door and going to his apartment for a quick shower and a change of clothes.
'so you are the famous, or shall I say infamous Ziana Chauhan?'
Zia did not even bother looking up from her laptop, when she answered, 'I guess the plate on the door does say - Ziana Chauhan, Fashion director- so that must be me, if I am sitting here and working.'
He smiled, 'Simran did warn me that your tongue is lethally sharp.'
'Oh! You have no idea.'
'I am going to work with you on the Khandelwal wedding piece.'
'I know, just got Simran's message, but, just to let you know, I don't need help. So you can sit this one out and I will email you the notes with the pictures and you can write you piece.'
'No, no I like working in the field, before I write.'
'Fine then, day after tom we leave for Shimla.'
'You are not going to look at me even once?'
'Nope. I am working on something and I am in the flow- so to speak, so no, I am not going to look at you.'
He smiled, 'well, in that case see you later.'
'that will be good, by the way your name?'
'nice name- strong name, anyway, Aditya can you tell me if my assistant is there?'
'No, she is not.'
Zia stopped typing and looked up, 'what?! Damn her! She has to go, she is SO fired!' she got up and checked for herself.
He smiled, 'you really want to fire her for not being on her desk?'
She looked at him like he had just said the weirdest thing in the world, 'of course! I mean who is supposed to take the freaking calls if she keeps waltzing around the place, Me! She keeps going away...'
'You are a no non-sense kind of girl aren't you?'
'What do you care? Wait, I haven't seen you here much, you free lancing?'
'yes, I do a piece sometimes, and sometimes Simran asks me to do a society puff piece like this one.'
'hmm... anyway, nice meeting you Aditya, now excuse me- I have to...' she walked to Sapna'a desk and took a post it and wrote "you are fired, good night", and stuck it on the computer screen and turned to Aditya and smiled again, 'bye.'
Then before he could answer she walked in her room and started typing again.
Thrice, thrice she had caught herself touching her lips and thinking about his lips on hers. Thrice she had gone off to her dream land and wondered about what could have happened, if he hadn't stopped that night, or the previous one. Thrice she had smiled like an idiot staring into space, and thrice she had kicked herself mentally for thinking about him, and how he had kissed her, and how good it had felt, how alive she had felt... and then thrice had she started to think about him and her and them, again. and then she had kicked herself again (mentally of course) and started to work again.
And it was good, thrice, was good, better than two weeks ago, where she couldn't have don't anything without having him on her mind.
Khanak stepped out of her car, still think about the past two weeks. Thinking about what had happened, and what was happening. She had tried to figure it out so many countless times, tried figuring out what was up with Shaan, and how did she feel about it. She had even tried asking him once, but hadn't got the guts somehow...
After the finger licking incident nothing of significance had happened, but he would always touch her, brush his fingers again her, hold her waist, as he leaned over to see something... and she knew, there was something definitely different about as he walked by, or smile at her, ,making her heart skip a beat... She knew something was different about him, the way he looked at her and the way he touched her, brush past her, or hold her hand, everything was different.
She walked the stairs and started climbing them.
But... she thought, I could be hallucinating, I mean, after that particularly hot, finger licking moment he hasn't done anything, so probably, there was some peanut butter that I didn't see... and that kiss was nothing and his touch and the way he looks at me is the same and I am just looking more into it. That is possible, I mean, what other explanation could there be! He hasn't done, said anything after that...
But then the question is, do I want him to do something more? She asked herself, God who am I kidding, of course I do! I haven't figured out yet as to why... but I definitely do want. Him. To do. Something... anything really. But something! She thought.
I need to do something about my commitment phobia I really do!
She looked at the door of her apartment and sighed, home sweet home, 'but for now all I need is a hot bath! And a good book, perhaps some wine?' she said as she looked for her keys, 'and then I need to arrange the mess in this freaking bag, so I am able to actually find things! AHA! Found them!' she took out the keys with a triumphant look on her face, 'got you!'
She smiled at her silliness and opened her door...
'Rohan, hi, how are you doing?'
'I am fine, just got out of work and remembered that you are arriving tomorrow right?'
'yes, I am doing my final packing as we speak, actually.'
'Oh good! so I just wanted to ask, whether you need a car to get you from the airport and all, or have you arranged all that.'
'actually I haven't, thanks for reminding me... I will call-'
'No need to call anyone, I –I can pick, you up?' he said, trying to sound casual.
'Rohan...' she sighed.
Oh god sighing is never good! he thought.
'Rohan, we- you should not pick me up. I mean we broke up and we should try and stay away more. I know this must be tough for you. I can tell it is, I can hear the love in your voice. But- I am I don't! We are not ready for each other.'
'Why not?! Tashu, we loved eachother, why the hell did you break up with me?! and why cant we have a second chance at it! We were perfect together.'
'second chance?! What are you hoping to woo me back? Rohan! I can't! Rohan I keeping the phone I cannot have this conversations right now!'
'why the hell not!'
'I told you I am not ready!'
'I didn't ask you to marry me, that you aren't ready, we can take us slow.'
'Rohan! I am not having this conversation with you again. goodnight.'
She had cut the phone.
Rohan slammed his fist on his desk in frustration, 'damn it!' he clenched his jaw in anger.
He took his jacket and stormed out of his office, needing to be somewhere, anywhere else...
He closed his door, gently, not wanting to startle her- just yet.
She stood there, surprised, a smile appeared on her face, as she stepped in her apartment, which ahd been cleaned. The clothes that had been lying everywhere were now nowhere to be seen, and the whole house smelled of delicious food, which she could see was still on the stove in her open kitchen. The table was set, with flowers and wine, wine glasses. Lights dimmed, everything just looked perfect!
'Who?' she asked herself. And as if on cue, he tiptoed behind her, and whispered, 'me... achche laga?'
She gasped as she felt his breath on her neck, she took a deep breath, her body more aware her surrounding, particularly his closeness.
He smiled, and took her bag, from her hands, gently.
She let go of it, and saw him walk to the sofa and keep it there, then turn to her with his sweet, flirtatious smile. They looked at each other, for a second before he started walking towards her
'Shaan...' she whispered.
He walked to her, and took her hand in his, and escorted her to the kitchen, 'rice is cooked and your favourite chicken basil is still cooking, and I have wine, two bottles just in case, we need more, he added. And your favourite flowers,' he handed her a lily.
'Shaan what is?'
'hmm, last time I checked dinner, that too candlelight and wine, and flowers, did equal a date.'
'as friends? I just wanted to do something special for you, that is it, I am sorry...'
She smiled, 'sorry? Why? Friends can have dinner and wine, and have fun.'
He smiled, 'of course we can.'
He pulled out her chair, 'mademoiselle.'
'Oh thank you, sir.' She said as she sat down.
'here you go,' he poured her some wine, and then went to the stove, 'and as I thought the chicken is done. He put the chicken in a dish and got it to the table, where he had kept the rice already, before going.
'dinner is served!'
She looked up, as she heard a knock on her door.
She was surprised to see who it was, to say the least, 'what are you doing here?'
'I had a hunch you would be working, this late.'
'Again, what are you doing here?'
'I needed to talk to you.'
Zia leaned back in her chair and folded her arms, 'wow, at eleven in the night, you come here, to talk to me, this must be serious. What happened? Is everything okay?' she asked slightly concerned.
He sighed, 'I have been drivimg around the city for an hour, thinking about this.'
'about what i am going to say to you.'
'and what would that be?'
'You promise first.'
'yes,' he took steps in and sat opposite her, leaning on the desk, sounding all business like, 'you have to promise, you won't utter a word about this to anyone.'
'No Zia I am serious, not a word.'
'what? Do you have herpes that this needs to be such a a secret, or you are, as I have always thought, indeed a patient of a psychiatric ward who has run away, and the doctors have finally caught on to you?'
'Zia! I am serious!'
'okay! I promise! What is it now?'
'you...' he took a deep breath.
'God Rohan you look like you are in physical pain, what is up?! You are freaking me out now.'
'I am in physical pain as I confess, that You are,' he took a deep breath, and closed his eyes, 'you were... right.'
Zia was in shock for a second, and then when Rohan looked at her, finally opening his eyes, she threw back her head and laughed.
'Oh god!' she mananged, gasping for air, as she laughed.
she controlled herself finally, 'No wonder you were in physical pain!'
'fine, Rohan- about what, may I ask?'
'why what happened.'
'I called her and asked if I could pick her up from the airport tomorrow morning.'
'what?! My god!" she exclaimed, no more laughing, 'why don't you just hold a banner or tattoo it on your forehead, "I am desperately in love with you Tashu, and want to marry you and make babbies!" geesh, what did she say?'
'She said I should come and that I need to try and get over her and we need to stay away, try at least not to be together alone, because it'll just make things difficult for me.'
'ouch! So basically...'
'she smashed my heart- again and humiliated me, yes...'
'well I hate to say it, but told you so!'
Rohan threw his hands in the air in frustration.
'sorry! I just, really wanted to say it.'
'I know, I would have to if I were in your place.'
She smiled, 'hmm...'
'I love her, I really love her.'
He looked at her, 'help?'
She raised her eyebrows in surprise, 'you want my help?'
'dont make me say it again.'
She smiled and shut her laptop, 'okay... I won't, but just once common! That music to my ears! Please!'
'Urgh! Fine, I Rohan Mehra,need Ziana Chauhan's help, happy?!'
'Oh! You have no idea, I am a centimetre away from getting teary eyed.'
'so will you?'
She got up and got her bag and walked towards the door, then looked back.
'you need special invitation, to get off your ass and follow me?'
'where are we going?'
'to get some food into my system! I haven't had anything to eat since morning, so can I get fuel then I will start dishing out ideas, Come on!'
Rohan sighed and got up, 'fine, but no Chinese!'
'hey that is my favourite.'
'ya, ya, whatever, Italian?'
'Fine! I do like myself some lasagne.
'lead the way then, oh Evil dictator.'
'thank you Mehra, that was sweet.'
He laughed, 'yes, well, move now!'
They both exited the building and had dinner, for the first time together, all alone, and they did not fight, but actually made each other laugh and had a pretty good time.
'Khanak come one! Tell me!'
'No I will not!'
'because, I don't want to!'
'I told you!'
'So? Come on Khanak that is cheating!'
'fine, I think Zia is- sweet, she can be aggressive and a little rude, and very sarcastic, but I think when you get used to it, it is fine.'
'fine? Please you love her for all those things!'
'hey! at least I didn't criticise her too much, like you did Tashu!'
'hey, she broke my friend's heart, of course I will criticise her!'
Khanak smiled, 'well that is true...'
'hell ya it is!' he said in a drunken voice.
They had sat and had the most amazing time, having food, and talking, talking about work and about people. About their day at work, about that particularly annoying colleague. About the upcoming wedding, about everything. And so they both sat there two hours and two wine bottles later laughing and telling each other about what they thought of the other's friends.
'but Zia, can also be a pain!'
Shantanu nodded, 'yes she can, but in a good way.'
'there can be a good way of being a pain?'
'yup, there can. She urges you to be the best version of yourself, and she just does not settle for the third or even the second best version, that is why she can be a pain. But she is sweetheart.'
'except with Rohan,' Khanak added.
'ah... yes expect with Rohan, with him she is total bitch!'
'why? She is usually sarcastic but sweet... why is she so...'
He laughed as he got up with his plates, 'she had her reasons Khanak, tryst me she does.'
Khanak got up and walked after him, with her plates, 'what reasons?'
'well, Rohan has been a total ass to her- unknowingly.'
'how can someone be a total ass to someone unknowingly?'
'he said a few things, he shouldn't have, he doesn't know that she knows though... that only I know, that she knows...'
'care to expound?'
'nope, this is Zia's story to tell, and I promised her I won't tell anyone,' he turned and took her plate and kept it in the sink along with his.
'okay,' Khanak smiled and walked to the fridge taking out another bottle of wine.
'another one?' he asked with a raised eyebrow.
'I am thirsty!'
He laughed, 'whatever.'
She went and sat on the slab, and watched him put the utensils he had used in the sink. She found something calming about the way he walked around knowing his way about her kitchen, his movement was calm and precise, he knew what he was doing, he knew what to put where. And that knowledge, that he knew her kitchen so damn well (perhaps better than she did herself) made her feel, in a weird way closer to him.
Her eyes moved to his hands, his arms, as he kept a few things in the sink, she remembered them holding her, against him, and it made her heart beat faster...
Emboldened by the wine, she said his name.
'hmm?' Shaan turned to face her.
She took a gulp of the wine.
'shaan, why?' she asked.
'why...' she took a deep breath, 'why did you kiss me?'
He looked at her, a little surprised; he had given up hope that she will ever ask him this question.
'you really want to know?'
'of course I do Idiot!'
'sorry... but- but why?'
He walked towards her, and stood right in front of her.
She looked at him, slightly dizzy, 'why, did you kiss me?' she asked looking into her eyes, 'why? And you've changed! Shantanu you have changed, you look at me differently!'
'how?' he asked.
'how is the way I look different?'
She looked into his eyes for a second, 'and...' she whispered, avoiding his question, 'and you, touch me differently...'
'and,' she continued, still avoiding him, 'you talk differently...'
'how?' he took another step towards her, not once breaking contact with her eyes.
'you are different...'
'how?' he asked a little more desperately, wanting her to answer.
'why did you kiss me?'
'don't you know?' he asked.
She looked away, 'I don't think I do...'
'I think you do, but just don't want to admit that you do...'
'I don't know what you are talking about,' she said looking away, closing her eyes.
He leaned in, his nose against her cheek, she could feel his lips on her jaw, his breath on her cheek, and some on her neck.
She gasped, loving the feel of his hot breath on her skin.
He took in her scent, he wanted to kiss, her and show her why... answer all her questions, by showing how much he needed her, wanted her... but he controlled himself.
'You do...' he whispered hoarsely, 'you do...'
'No...' she shook her head, 'no, no I don't!'
He touched her face, and turned her face to him, 'you do Khanak you do...'
She opened her eyes, looking into his.
In that moment, the way he looked at her, the way he touched her... In that moment she felt she knew... she knew why he had done that, why he had kissed her, why he had changed so much.
'You...' he said, whispering, his face close to her face, their breaths mingling, 'you, know me better than I know myself, I know you know...' he leaned in, moving his lips to her ears, ' you know Khanak, you know how I feel.'
She closed her eyes, as his lips touched her ear, 'no...' she whispered back.
'no you can't.'
He looked into her eyes.
She was close to tears, her lips quivered, as she thought of what to say, 'you can't Shaan...'
He kissed her, his lips soft and loving against her own, out of instinct she arched her back, longing to be closer to him.
Her hands moved to his face, her fingers feeling the contours of his face, as he deepened the kiss, making her sigh into his mouth.
He wanted her to feel his love, he wanted, he needed her to know, but he knew words would be too much for her, he knew his Khanak too well... he hoped that his kiss, can tell her just how much she meant to him. Just how much he loved her, just how much he needed her.
He broke the kiss, finally catching his breath, 'I do,' he whispered his lips still touching hers, 'I do, with all my heart, I do...'
A tear escaped her eye, she knew he meant it, she knew that she meant the world to him. And she knew that no one will ever feel the same for her. And her heart burst with joy at that revelation, but there was fear too. She was not there yet, more importantly, she feared she will break his heart, just the way she had of all others. She feared she will lose him, that she will mess everything up. And that thought, of a life without him, paralysed her with fear, wrenching her heart.
'Shaan...' she whispered, 'I am not...'
'I know... ' he said, 'but I know you will be there, and I will wait for you for the rest of my life, if I have, to, I will wait forever, for you. I am not going anywhere! I..'
'don't say it...' she requested him, 'don't... not yet...'
He smiled, looking into her, eyes that were still closed, 'fine, I will say it when you do... and you will say it someday...you will...'
She opened her eyes and looked into his, smiling at her, she didn't know what the future held, all she knew was that she needed him too.
She kissed him, and he kissed her back... and it was the most passionate kiss either had ever experienced, and it was the most alive she had ever felt, and the most safe, in his arms, with his lips on her...
okay, she will say it and he will say it too, but that will be, later in later chapters, and I meant sorry if he some-what confessing seems random ... but it was abt freaking time...!!
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