Joined: 28 July 2006
"Welcome home, baby," he purrs into her ear before nipping it lovingly, his muscular arms wrapped securely around her slim waist. As she remains still in his enclosed embrace, lightly running her fingers against his forearms, he rests his chin onto her shoulder. He leans his head into hers and inhales the familiar scent of her favorite perfume she wears consistently since the day he met her. It only feels like yesterday that they first met, first locked eyes, first touched, kissed…..
"Oh, Jai," she sputters breathlessly, grasping for a word or two. Her fingers take a grip onto his forearms, putting an end to its previous roaming….
"I know it's not much now… It's all that I can afford in the meanwhile. But I am sure that we'll make it into something great," he murmurs in that silky, rich voice of his that manages to soothe her always.
"No, it's not that….," she begins in explaining herself. Turning herself around in his arms, she gazes up at him from her average height of 5'5" compared to his gallant form of 6'2". Encircling her arms around his neck, digging one hand tenderly into his hair, she smiles sweetly with a shine in her hazelnut colored eyes.
"It's perfect. It's just that, I--…. I can't believe that this is actually happening…. Our home, Jai…. Yours and mine…. Do you know what this means?" she questions him eagerly, barely able to contain the sudden excitement sprouting within her and beaming through her widening smile. He delicately tucks back a curl behind her ear before trailing his fingers down the side of her face and to her chin, cupping it firmly.
"It means that we are married, Bani…. And that we are going to have a long, happy life together…… just the two of us…. Forever," he adds with a building grin of his own. She stares at him with an awestruck expression that a typical teenage girl as herself would wear when hopelessly in love.
"You promise… ?" she whispers to him hopefully, drawing nearer—molding herself into him.
"Cross my heart and hope to die," he replies, never leaving her gaze as he seals his promise with a long, loving kiss……
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"How about Gayatri?…" her husband suggests, his head resting onto her bare abdomen on which he traces light circles with his caressing hands. Propelled on the pillows with her back leaning against the headboard, she runs her fingers through his thick, rich dark hair whilst leisurely lying in bed late at night.
"Hmmm…," she ponders loudly, giving deep thought to the proposed name before shaking her head in disagreement.
"Neha? ….Seema? …."
"No," she replies while giving a wrinkle of her nose. Her husband laughs at the expression and rolls onto his side, lying on his back, staring up at his lately glowing wife. He grins boyishly at her.
"Then what do you propose, sweetheart?"
His wife gives a slight shrug of her shoulders and resumes in stroking his jet black hair.
"I don't know… Jai, we don't even know if it's going to be a girl…. Besides, they say you shouldn't think of names so early in the pregnancy…. It's supposed to be bad luck, you know…"
Jai snorts. "You and your superstitions, Bani…. There's no such thing as bad luck…. Anyways, we're just thinking of our little girl's name… What's the harm in that?"
She cracks a smile. "What makes you so sure it's going to be a girl, Jai Walia?" she pokes him into his ribs making him chuckle and grip onto her finger.
"Trust me, I have a good feeling it's a girl… and if it isn't, I'll be really disappointed…"
"No pressure then huh?"
"None so ever, darling," he replies before leaning up and planting a sweet kiss on her lips. She stares at him dotingly while cupping the side of his face.
"You're really excited about this baby…," she says with relief, stating the clear obvious.
"Of course I am… why wouldn't I be? We're going to be parents Bani; it's the most exciting experience that we're lucky to be going through…"
"And you're not worried about the money?"she persists apprehensively, this thought troubling her since the moment she learned about her pregnancy.
"Hey… I know we're tight on money right now… But we're going to make this work, alright? There's nothing to worry about… This is good news, Bani… We should be happy… We are happy… Everything's going to be okay," he reassures her soothingly. With teary eyes, Bani nods her head understandingly and feels a rush of overwhelming love for her husband, who pulls on her nose fondly.
"Now cheer up, Momma… I want our girl to be a happy baby….not melodramatic about everything like you," he teases and laughs when his wife hits him with a nearby pillow.
"Keep it up with the comments, Walia, and your daughter will become a raging fighter…"
"That will never happen… She's going to be Daddy's sweet little girl….Aren't you princess?" he asks, turning his direction to his wife's slim stomach on which he kisses softly…..
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"Come on, Bani, push. Push!" he encourages her, letting her squeeze his hand as she releases a shrilling scream that fills the entire room. He strokes her hair and looks on anxiously as the doctor announces that the baby is crowning.
"Jai…. Jai, I-I can't….,"she sobs, tears streaming down her face. "Yes, you can baby. You can do this. I'm right here," he persists, patting down her sweaty hair. She takes in a couple of deep breaths into her before nodding her head.
"You're almost there, I just need you to push," the doctor instructs clearly and within a few minutes a bundle of joy arrives in the woman's arms and Bani falls back against the bed, having her entire energy wasted out of her. Sudden cries fill the air.
"Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Walia, you have a beautiful baby girl," the doctor announces cheerfully presenting the child to the newly parents. Bani raises her head in order to take a look at her daughter as Jai stares breathlessly at the beautiful creature coming their way. The doctor places the girl in her mother's arms and Bani openly weeps as she takes her all in.
"A girl, Jai…. Our daughter," she musters emotionally. Jai inches close and drapes an arm around his wife while gazing endlessly at his first born.
"She's perfect," he declares, still reveling in the fact that he is a father. He looks to his wife with tears lining in his eyes. "I love you," he says before planting a kiss on her forehead. Looking back to his fussing daughter, he laughs.
"…. Perfect, just perfect…. Our perfect little family…."
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"Rhea, come on baby, look this way…. Look into the camera," he urges, trying to attain his daughter's distracted attention that wanders all over the place, taking in the decorations that her mother painstakingly put up for the special occasion. She sits on her high chair, dressed cutely in a pink gown, and wearing a golden crown on her small head. Her large gray eyes dance with excitement at what the big commotion is about.
"Jai, enough with the recording…. It's time to cut the cake now," his wife says once entering the dining area holding the specially made cake she baked and iced for her daughter's special day.
Jai sets the video camera carefully aside and listens obediently to his wife of three and a half years. He approaches her and takes her by the waist, kissing her lovingly on the lips. Rhea immediately covers her eyes, a habit she always demonstrated whenever her parents chose to be affectionate, which is almost always.
"Yucky," she chimes with a giggle. Jai turns his attention from Bani, who simply smiles while setting the cake down.
"Yucky, huh?" Jai demands while approaching his two-year old. Rhea squeals with laughter as her father tickles her mercilessly and showers her with sound kisses.
"Jai, she will wrinkle her dress," Bani warns, wanting her daughter to look absolutely perfect in the pictures they would later take.
"It's okay, my little princess looks good in anything, wrinkled or not wrinkled," he retorts while giving a last kiss on his daughter's cheek. Bani places two candles on the homemade cake and lights them carefully. She takes a hold of her camera, ready to take pictures, and tells Jai to lead Rhea into blowing out the candles and cutting the cake.
"Okay,…. 1….. 2….. 3…." Together father and daughter blow out both candles and Jai and Bani clap with their two-year old following along, giggling as she does so. Bani proceeds in taking pictures of Jai and Rhea cutting the cake and Jai feeding their little girl. Just as Bani hands the camera to her husband, wanting him to take pictures of her with Rhea, the telephone begins to ring.
He sets the camera down to go attend the call, leaving Bani behind to gush over Rhea and playfully smear icing on her nose.
"Hello?" he answers gleefully, his attention wavering over to his giggling family in the dining room. However, he directs his focus away and grips onto the telephone tight, neglecting to answer to his wife's curious calls as to who is on the line…..
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He roughly types onto the keypad of his laptop until finishing the last sentence lingering in his mind. Removing his aching fingers, he leans back and stretches, taking a momentary break and realizing how stiff his shoulders have become. Just as he begins to address the issue, he hears the creaking of his study door and looks up to see the small figure of a toddler girl dressed in pink fairy pajamas and hugging a miniature brown teddy bear close to her tiny chest. He smiles at the sight of the little one, quickly forgetting the stress that had been accompanying him just seconds before.
Without saying a word, he pats on his lap and watches as she complies and races to him hurriedly with need. He chuckles as he catches her into his arms, pulling her up into his lap, and kissing her soundly on the cheek.
"How come Daddy's little princess is still awake?" he asks her soothingly whilst planting a couple more loving kisses onto her head. He holds her tight, giving her usual bear hugs that she demanded on a regular basis from her father whenever she could with his busy schedule.
"Mommy no tuck Rhea good night….," she whines softly, gripping onto her daddy's shirt collar and nestling comfortably into his chest. He runs his hand gently along her dark long hair. He frowns to himself, wondering why his wife neglected tucking in their three year old daughter that has been a nightly ritual. She never forgets.
"Dadddy…. I tired," she states accompanied with a long yawn. She slumps her head against his neck, breaking him away from his sudden distracted train of thought.
"Come on pumpkin, it's late…. I'll put you to bed," he says before scooping her up into his arms and tucking her in for the night.
He approached his bedroom door some hour later after completing last minute office related work. Slowly opening the door, he looks into the dim master bedroom and notices the silhouette of his slumbering wife, her back faced to him. He slips quietly in, closing the door after himself.
Changing into his nightwear, he gets under the covers and tries to make himself comfortable on the king-sized bed. Glancing to his right, he stares at his wife's form.
Receiving no response, he inches close to her and places a hand onto her waist. He is more than taken aback when she pushes his hand aside and inches away from him to the edge of the mattress. She gathers the comforter close to herself and remains huddled to her side of the bed for the rest of the night, refusing to even accidently move onto his side……
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He signs mechanically where it is needed and feels a state of numbness take over as he watches the papers being snatched from underneath him, collected neatly in a small pile and stashed carefully in a black folder. His heart races as it slowly sinks in on what he had just done….
"Thank you for your cooperation Mr. Walia, it has certainly made the process easier on my client…. Please be expected to be contacted for information regarding visitation rights and child support in the near future. Have a good day," the middle-aged woman briskly greets before turning to her client across the table and conversing softly with her.
"Come on, Jai, let's go…. There's nothing more that is needed out of you… What's done is done," his old time friend and lawyer, Tarun Sablok speaks to him with a non-so comforting pat on his back.
Where has he gone wrong? What has he done to lead him to this moment of his life? He wishes he can take everything back, anything for him not to see this day….not to see the love of his life and his bundle of joy walk out on him for good before his very eyes.
How could a marriage that had started off so beautiful end so tragically like this? They were so in love and still are—that he continues to believe…. Bani may have forgotten those blissful years of their life together, but he hasn't and he never will.
They lived on their own, her and him. Going against his parents' wishes, he eloped with her and never looked back, only forward into the future with the one girl who meant the world to him and still does. They were young, jobless, and lived in a rundown apartment that they struggled to pay the rent to. Despite all that, they were happy. Their company kept each other going, their love kept one another strong and secure. Then Rhea appeared into their lives more than a year later. She was the icing of the cake. They were a happy little family, Bani, Rhea and him. And that was all he needed or ever wanted.
On the night of Rhea's second birthday, he received a call from his estranged mother. She was in grievance; his father had just passed away. A stroke, she wailed to him. Less than forty-eight hours, Jai, Bani, and Rhea packed their bags to stay briefly with his family in their time of need. The brief stay that was meant to be for a few days turned into weeks, months, and finally two years.
In those two years he didn't realize how distant he had started to become with his wife until it was too late. He hadn't taken notice to the signs that she desperately tried to point out to him numerous of times. He is guilty to admit that the family business took up the majority of his time, making his wife the least of his priorities. He was helpless in the matter, however. Jai's father entrusted the business onto him as he was his only heir. Jigyasa, Jai's older sister, hadn't the brains to run a high-profiled and mighty successful company. Neither did her two bratty sons. Aditya, his brother-in-law, had his own failing business to take care of and his mother hadn't a single business sense instilled in her. Therefore, he assumed responsibility and took his father's place in the family. He didn't plan to. His original plan was to fulfill his duties as a son in time of need and return to be a husband and father to his family in their proper home. Needless to say, Krishna Walia dampened all hopes of fleeing back to his happily more than content life.
In the beginning Bani stood by him as a rock, being more supportive than he ever asked for. She understood that the family he turned his back on needed him the most at the time being.
"They need you right now, Jai… They are shaken… They have no one to look to. … We will stay till things get better," she had told him in the initial weeks after his father's death.
Things got better, but plans were not made to leave. The more Jai stayed, the more involved he got. Soon enough he had gotten himself so involved that he couldn't figure out how to get himself out. His intent on teaching the family business to his nephews showed no promise as they proved to be slackers. He did not feel right leaving his father's hard years of work to the hands of ungrateful, selfish boys. Aditya's bad business tactics finally ruined him as his company came to a downfall. Jai could not convince himself to give Aditya another chance to redeem himself despite Jigyasa's continuous pleas in order for him to do so. He had no one to leave the business to. He did not have the option to turn the company into the hands of the board due to his mother's insistence to keep it a family company.
"Your father's soul will not rest in peace knowing that you willingly handed his company to those vultures to tear apart to their satisfaction," she would cry each time he mentioned the mere idea. So he stayed, and stayed, and stayed until thoughts of even leaving left him for good.
However, those thoughts did not leave Bani. She'd broach the topic whenever she could.
"The business is doing well; your mother is more than alright…. After all, she has your sister's family living with her to keep her company. Let's go back home, Jai," she'd whisper to him at night, resting her head against his bare chest, playing with the small hairs using her fingers.
Just a few more weeks, he'd soothe her. Just a few more weeks for him to train Saahil and Ranveer, to consider Aditya eligible, or to step down and hand the company to the board. Neither of that had occurred. Instead, he continued to work and drowned himself into that it was all he knew what to do.
She began to complain several months after. His mother and sister didn't respect her, taunted her at every given chance, and gave no importance of her as Rhea's mother. Ranveer and Saahil made down-grading remarks about her. Aditya looked past her, barely noticed her presence at all. The servants did not heed to her in order to stay clear of Krishna's wrath. She was a nobody living as a commoner in her husband's home. No one paid least attention to her unless they wanted to rag on her. And the awful things they would say to her would make her cry silently into her pillow almost every single night.
He convinced himself that she was perhaps exaggerating. His family was a handful but they couldn't be as awful as she was describing. She was his wife, the mother of his child; they would certainly give her more importance now than they had when Jai and Bani first had been seeing each other. Not getting the proper response she needed from her husband when informing him of the emotional abuse she received on a regular basis from his family, she began to grow quiet. And eventually, she grew so quiet that she had withdrawn herself from him entirely. That realization had finally settled inside Jai once Bani took Rhea and left him, leaving behind a manila folder containing divorce papers.
For the next six months after Bani filing for divorce, Jai tried everything in his power to win her over. He didn't want to lose her. He loved her, she needed to know that. He didn't want to have to spend the rest of his life without her by his side.
Bani didn't budge. She was adamant. She wanted out of the marriage. He caused her mental distress, she had told him. She couldn't go back to a man and continue to be miserable.
To say he was heartbroken was an understatement. No words could describe the utter anguish, misery, and loneliness that took over leaving him nothing but hollow inside. She made it clear. She wanted nothing to do with him anymore. Their life together, as he knew it, had come to an end.
"Jai? Come on, we need to clear out…. Look, everyone has left," Tarun points out, breaking Jai out of the reverie that had engulfed him as soon as he scribbled his last signature.
Jai gazes around his surroundings and sees that everyone has indeed left—Bani had left accompanied with her lawyer. On this thought, he springs up from his seat and races outside the door in hopes of tracking her. He needed to speak to her; he couldn't let her go just like that.
He found her outside in the parking lot walking to her car. He quickly followed on her tail. Just as she opens her car door, Jai arrives and closes it shut. He stares breathlessly at her bewildered face staring at him with question. Her body posture grows stiff and her eyes guarded.
"Jai, what are you doing?"
"I gave you what you wanted, Bani. Now give me what I want….," he musters to say in a raspy voice.
"And what is it that you want?" she subtly demands, her body posture not changing the least. How had she become so defensive around him? Last he remembers she was so carefree and relaxed in his presence, unfazed by anything.
You, he wants to scream on top of his lungs. He wants her and his daughter back with him where they belong, forever and always.
"I want to talk…. We can still work this out. Our differences are not as irreconcilable as you think….."
"I have nothing to say to you…."
"I love you! Don't you see? I love you, Bani, and I want you and our daughter with me always! Don't break our family apart like this, just don't do it," he pleads.
"Love is not enough for me anymore, Jai…. I thought it was, but it just isn't. I can't go on like this…. Just please let me go," she answers defeated, tired of hashing over this for the past many months.
"Love isn't enough?" he scoffs at her in disbelief, his arms falling to his side. "You're telling me that there is something more important than love between two people? Is my love for you inadequate? Does it mean anything to you at all, Bani?" he finds himself demanding. She doesn't know it, but a particular pain ripped through his chest hearing her words. He has been continuously hurting for the past several months. He doesn't know how much more pain he can take.
"Yes, Jai, I'm telling you that there is something more important than love between two people—respect! And for the life of me, I can't remember when was the last time I've been respected by you or your family in a very long time….," she cries, her shoulders tensed, her eyes burning with ire.
"If there's no respect, there's no love…. And I can't be stuck in a loveless marriage for the rest of my life…. I just can't," she repeats firmly, her voice wobbling slightly. Jai, stunned, nearly takes a step back. He is flabbergasted, not understanding where all this bitterness is coming from.
"Now excuse me, Mr. Walia, but I have to leave to be with my daughter…. My lawyer will be in touch with you soon to brief you with the remaining agreements. Goodbye," she bids briskly while opening the car door and settling herself in. She immediately shuts the door before he can try to stop her again.
"Bani—…" he attempts, but restrains himself once the engine starts and her vehicle drives off eventually out of sight.
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"Darling, you must absolutely see what I have to show you," his mother announces to him in an almost sing-song voice once he arrives home, exhausted from a long day at work. He tries to hide his annoyance with her; she has been hounding him regularly whenever given the chance. He suppresses the urge to sigh.
"What is it, mother?" he reluctantly questions, knowing that it will most likely be unpleasant for him. Her smile widens, her pearly white teeth flashing that makes him slightly cringe. Ever since he was a child, he had always found his mother's smile somewhat cold. It was almost never genuine and rather forced; like she didn't even know how to smile.
"Sit, sit, sit," she commands excitedly, nearly pushing him to one of the couches in the lavishly furnished living room. Once he takes a seat, she unfolds what she has hidden in her hands. She splatters the items across the clear-glassed table served for snacks and tea throughout the day.
"Just say the word and I will have it arranged for you to meet any one of these women," she gushes, presenting the numerous pictures of women belonging to their elite circle.
"Look at how beautiful they are and what class they have, Jai. Any one of these girls will make the perfect wife for you. After all, you need a woman on your side who is worthy and has the right background for our family. ….. Oh, how about this one? I have had my eyes set on her the moment you turned twenty-one," she begins in rambling and pointing out to a single picture among many.
"Mother, we've been over this many times—I am not going to get married," he states strongly, making sure to keep his stand as he has done since his divorce over two years ago. His mother drops the picture she had in hand.
"What do you mean you won't get married? How utterly immature of you, Jai. It's because of that girl, isn't it?" she shrills, detesting bringing up his ex-wife and ruining her mood. Jai's eyebrows narrow.
"That girl is my wife," he stresses coldly, the prickling of an anger beginning to build inside of him.
"Ex-wife, darling, you're ex-wife. And an ex-wife for a reason. Now, you are thirty-two, becoming thirty-three next year. It's time that you think about settling down. Make yourself a family," she advises with a touch on his shoulder.
"I already have a family," he answers steely. "Bani and Rhea are my family. And I did settle down, mother, there is no reason for me to do it again." Saying that, he brushes off his mother's hand and rises from his seat, storming off to the study and locking it shut to avoid having his mother chasing after him.
He releases a dreary sigh while sitting on his chair, reveling on the conversation he just had. Looking up, he stares into the picture resting on his desk of his daughter and now ex-wife smiling at him. He smiles faintly on the memory, the picture taken on Rhea's second birthday before the phone call that ruined everything.
Before he knows it, he dials a number onto his cell and waits as the line rings for the other side to pick up. He holds in his breath once it is received.
He closes his eyes on hearing her voice, feeling a sense of homecoming every time he listens to it. He misses that voice. But more in particular, he misses her.
"Hello? Is someone there?" she persists.
Jai clears his throat and rumbles a reply. "… Bani, it's me."
That is all that is needed to be said in order for her to change from being friendly and polite to guarded and curt.
"Rhea isn't here. She is having a sleep over at a friend's. You will have to call for her another time. Goodnight," she promptly dismisses him.
"Bani, wait—…," he almost begs desperately. Unlike many times before, she waits.
"….Yes?" she asks almost begrudgingly. And he cannot blame her, not after all that he had put her through.
"I…. I want to see you….," he gathers the courage to be bold. He hears her sigh on the other line.
"Jai, that's not a part of our agreement….," her voice softens just a little.
"Screw the agreement. I don't want visitation rights every other weekend… I want you and Rhea by my side, all the time," he states clearly, his voice growing an edge.
"… You had that Jai…. And you blew it. I'm not going to put my daughter and myself in a position where you can hurt us again," she says firmly.
"Just say it, Bani, say it once and I'll walk away from it all…. I'll leave the business behind…. I'll leave everything behind and be just with you and Rhea…. It'll be just like back in the day….."
"Will you really walk away Jai? Walk away from your father's business? Walk away from your mother and your sister's family?"
"Yes," he replies rather too hastily.
"… No, you can't…and you won't. You say you will, but both you and I know that that will never happen. You're chained to that family, Jai… and Rhea and I will never be more important than them or the business," she retorts.
"You are important…. You've always been more important, dammit," he refutes.
"I've moved on, Jai," she declares abruptly, silencing Jai immediately. "After two long years, I have moved on….And I suggest that you do too," she adds just before hanging the line.
Jai slumps his head into his hands after throwing his cellphone carelessly onto his desk…..
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"Daddyyy," she screams and embraces her father tightly causing him to break into laughter. He picks her up and swings her around. To the corner, her mother stands watching both father and daughter embrace and catch up during his times of visits.
"How's my baby girl?" he asks once placing her down and taking her all in. She has grown significantly over the years, soon breeching age six. Rhea beams brightly at her father, excited to see him as always.
"I'm fine Daddy," she chirps happily. She takes him by the hand, leading him away from the front door and into the house. "Come in Daddy," she urges him excitedly, nearly dragging him along. Bani removes herself away from the scene, quietly slipping back into the kitchen, her sanctuary.
Jai gazes around his ex-wife's small abode and searches for any sight of her.
"Where's your Momma, Rhea?" he questions casually, when really he couldn't wait to lay his eyes on Bani. She has grown even lovelier than ever and each time he sees her, he falls more in love.
"She's in the kitchen…," she answers unmindfully, not caring to notice the interest her father has in seeing her mother on each and every one of his visits. All she has gathered is that her mother hides away from her father every time he comes. She supposes that her mother doesn't like him very much, but that doesn't affect her love for her father one bit.
"Daddy, you want to see my new toys?" she questions enthusiastically and proceeds to lead him into the living room where she shows off her new stuff for the next hour or so.
Bani had been sitting out on her deck some hours later, sipping on her tea, when she heard the sliding door behind her open. Turning around on the sound, she sees her ex-husband emerge into view and meet her eyes silently. She quickly averts her gaze and looks anywhere but at him. She ignores him standing beside her and for a few moments neither of them speaks.
"Where is Rhea?" she finally asks, breaking the silence.
"She fell asleep…. I put her in her room."
"…. Thank you," she says politely before resuming back into silence.
"Her birthday is next month," he states, bringing the topic to light. Bani heaves a sigh, knowing this conversation would come up sooner or later.
"….Yes, I do realize. I am her mother," she replies flatly. Jai ignores the sarcasm.
"I want to celebrate her birthday at my place….," he announces, not surprising Bani a bit as she had expected this.
"You do not have her on that weekend…. So I'm sorry, but I can't allow it."
"She's my daughter, Bani. And I want this one birthday of hers to be spent with rest of the family. She rarely gets to see her grandmother, aunt, and cousins. Don't you think she deserves to see them more often?" he inquires.
"She sees them enough. … I don't see why you want our daughter to celebrate her birthday in a city she isn't acquainted with when she has her life here in Pune. Her family is here and her friends are here."
"You are not just her family alone, Bani. I am her father and I have equal rights. I love her just as much as you do and I don't get enough time with her. I want this….," he firmly puts across.
Bani purses her lips together and looks reluctant. "I'll think about it," she responds slowly, easing Jai that she hadn't completely put him off.
"Thank you, that's all I ask….. I'll leave now then. It's already getting late…. See you next weekend?"
Bani simply nods her head and watches him go with observing eyes. Once he shuts the sliding door behind him, she sighs deeply and stares up at the darkening sky.
Jai treads quietly through the house, making way to the front door, when he hears the telephone ringing. He stops and looks behind him to see if Bani will come to attend it. He waits for a few moments and concludes that she may not be hearing it. Staring at the telephone resting on the tableside near him, he walks close and answers it.
"Hello? Hey Bani, it's Daksh…. I've got great news for you and it's a good cause for celebration. I'll be on my way over soon. I'm bringing champagne so brace yourself….. ….. Hello? Bani?... Hello?"
He hangs up and revels in what he has just heard. Casting a backward glance and catching a last glimpse of Bani's backside through the glass door, Jai carries on forward with heavy shoulders and shuts the front door after himself…..
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The next weekend, Jai made his usual trip to Pune from Mumbai to visit his daughter. Since he stays longer than normal, putting an inconvenience on his ex-wife, Bani sets out dinner for three. Rhea jumps in her seat, happy to have her father stay for dinner and be with her for a little longer. As the three of them sit together, eating dinner, with mostly Rhea and Jai talking, Bani speaks up once conversation begins to die down towards the end of the meal.
"…. I've decided that it is alright if we celebrate Rhea's sixth birthday in Mumbai with your family.. I understand that I was being unreasonable so I would like to apologize for that," she broaches the topic somberly. "You were right…. I am just not her family…. Rhea has more family members that have a right over her as well…"
Jai is barely able to contain the wide smile that spreads onto his handsome face.
"Thank you, Bani, I appreciate that."
"Daddy, are you going to stay the night?" Rhea chirps, ignoring to acknowledge her parents' exchange about her upcoming birthday. To her, it didn't matter where she spent her birthday, as long as she had it with both her mother and father present.
Jai flashes a quick look to his ex-wife, who refuses to share the look and carries on with placing the dishes away.
"Uh, no princess. I can't. Daddy has work tomorrow. I have to leave back tonight," he explains carefully. Rhea pouts openly about this.
"Daddy, why don't you stay here? All my friends' daddies stay with them," she states as a matter of fact, placing both of her parents in a difficult and awkward situation. Jai clears his throat as Bani isn't sure of what to say as a response.
"Well sweetheart---," Jai finds himself interrupted in the beginning of his explanation by the sound of the doorbell. Bani, grateful for the distraction, leaves to attend the door. Jai's eyes follow her trailing figure intriguingly, wondering who is coming to pay a visit to his family this late at night. He hears the front door open and strains his ear to listen in on the conversation flowing from the other end of the house.
"…. No, now it not a good time," Jai hears Bani say disapprovingly to the person at the door.
"Bani, I need to speak to you though… and with you there is never a good time. I won't take up much of your time, I promise," a masculine voice replies, drawing Jai's great interest.
"Daddy?" Rhea questions on seeing her father rise from his seat. He sends her a small smile. "Hang on, Rhea, I'll be right back," he says right before exiting the kitchen.
"…. Daksh, I said not right now," Bani speaks in a hushed voice which Jai catches once joining her at the doorway. Once in view, he peers at the man standing across him on the front porch. He's a tall man, maybe an inch or two shorter than him, with brown-reddish hair and nice features that would qualify him as a relatively attractive man. On seeing Jai, the man regards him with surprise.
"… Hello," he greets him politely before casting a look to an uncomfortable appearing Bani. "Bani, whose this?"
"I am Rhea's father, Jai Walia…. And who might you be?" Jai questions, taking the introductions up to himself. The man, taken aback, recovers and smiles reservedly. He brings his hand forward in a handshake.
"Daksh… Daksh Randheria… I am Bani's good friend and colleague…"
Jai trains his face in order to show no reaction on hearing the man's name. He forces a smile in return even though what he really wanted to do was thrash him. If he gathered anything from the phone call from his last visit, Daksh shares more than just a friendship with his ex-wife.
"I was just telling Daksh that now is not a good time and that he should drop by some other time," Bani announces with crossed arms, giving Daksh a discreet glare.
"And it seems that she is right…. I do not want to intrude. But I came by to speak with Bani regarding something. Perhaps Mr. Walia, you could help?" Daksh asks directly, now gathering Jai's further interest. He raises a brow after glancing in Bani's way, noting how more and more uncomfortable she gets.
"Daksh, that isn't necessary---I'll speak to you myself tomorrow," Bani warns in an ominous tone.
"You see Mr. Walia, Bani has been offered a wonderful job opportunity in Bangalore that will be a good advancement in her career… better pay and better working conditions…. Perhaps you should discuss over this proposition that has her and your daughter's best interest…..," Daksh continues steely, meeting Jai squarely in the eye.
Jai, noting Daksh's impoliteness creeping in his tone, stands rooted to his place, unable to properly respond to what he has just heard. Bangalore? He flashes a look at Bani, who stares at Daksh instead, not meeting his questioning eyes.
"Hopefully you will encourage her to take the right decision to take up the job offer… instead of continuing to chain her here in Pune when she has far better opportunities for her….," he finishes darkly, not bothering to even be the least bit civil anymore.
"That's enough, Daksh. You have to leave now," Bani issues angrily. Daksh looks to Bani's reddening face and realizes that he has crossed a line.
"Sure, Bani… I did say that I wouldn't take up much of your time…. I'll see you at work on Monday," he bids farewell before walking off and disappearing into his car.
A thickening silence is created between the two exes as they are left standing at the doorway. As Jai is swarmed with a whirlpool of emotions, Bani remains looking stone-faced. She makes a movement to walk back into the house until hearing her ex-husband's chilling voice stop her.
"When were you going to tell me this?"
Bani closes her eyes, dreading this moment greatly. Jai turns around, drilling holes into her back faced toward him.
"… After you took Rhea and moved away to Bangalore?" he demands, hurt and anger reflected clearly in his tone.
"I never made any decision, I still needed time to think," she clarifies, not knowing why she feels the sudden need to explain herself to him.
"So you are thinking about it…," he says in disbelief. Bani turns around on hearing this. Her hazelnut eyes stare intently at him.
"Yes, Jai, I am thinking about it," she answers calmly. He doesn't appreciate her reply and feels even more enraged by it. However, he controls his rising anger.
"And I suppose I have no absolute say in this considering that it will only seem like I'm continuing to chain you here selfishly, right?"
Both Jai and Bani look to the side to find Rhea standing some feet away, seeming unsure and concerned about the behavior of both her parents.
"What's happening?" she asks innocently.
"Nothing sweetheart, mommy and daddy are just talking. Go back into the kitchen and we'll be right back," Bani soothes her.
"No, actually, we are done talking. Rhea, princess, daddy has to leave now. But I will see you soon, alright?" Jai pacifies her while approaching her, taking her into an embrace.
"Okay, daddy… I love you," she bids before kissing him on the cheek. "I love you too, pumpkin." He returns the kiss and releases her. He then grabs his coat.
"Jai---…," Bani calls for his attention, not wanting him to leave in this manner.
"There's no room for discussion, Bani, is there? … It seems your decision is perfectly clear…. And that is to leave me out of it," he ends tersely. She stares at him, stunned by the sudden display of bitterness.
"I'll be back next weekend," he states briskly as he reaches for the door and walks out…..
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End of Part 1
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Joined: 28 July 2006
"Jai, what is all of this happening in our house? It's being decorated as if someone's getting married…," his older sister disdainfully remarks with a crinkle of her nose. She walks in through the main hall of the large house, swaying her hips in her newly bought designer saree, and carrying shopping bags. Jai restrains the urge to sigh at the sight of her. At age forty-five, his sister Jigyasa refuses to let herself grow old. Her attempts of staying young are pitiful and ridiculous at the same time. No matter how much Botox or makeup she cakes onto her face, it will not change the fact that she is a significantly older woman. He truly pitied her. Her once beautiful looks were the only thing that she had going for her. She rejects the idea of letting herself age gracefully.
"Well you may have forgotten, but it's your niece's birthday today… I am making sure that everything is perfect for tonight," Jai says with pride running through his voice. With Bani's permission, he has gone ahead and planned out his daughter's sixth birthday. Bani and Rhea will be arriving in Mumbai this afternoon just before the party in the evening. He could hardly wait to see them. Despite his recent silent feud with his ex-wife, he wants to see her. He always does, that is. He loves her and he is going to make sure that she knows it once and for all. And somehow, he is going to convince her to stay and not to move away to Bangalore with their daughter.
Jigyasa listens on diffidently whilst glancing through her bags and walking toward the spiral staircase. "… What nonsense, I don't have a niece… who are you talking about?" she rambles carelessly until stopping at the first step of the stairs and realizing her grave blunder. She dreadfully turns back around and stares into her brother's steely gray eyes that chill her.
She releases a nervous chuckle while attempting to cover up the mistake. "Oh Jai, can't you take a joke? …. I of course know that you are speaking about Priya… my lovely niece….."
His gaze turns colder. "…. Rhea," he rumbles dangerously causing Jigyasa to chuckle some more. "Rhea, of course… I'm just joking again… How could I forget my only and favorite niece? Seriously Jai, what kind of aunt would I be then? … Anyways, so today's her big day, huh? How old is she now? … Four?" she questions politely, hoping to rid the tense environment that has now surrounded her and her visibly unhappy brother.
"Six," he answers harshly. She bites down on her tongue, realizing that she is a lost cause. "Well she is growing up so fast that I can hardly keep up anymore," she offers lamely.
"Just make sure the party has your attendance for tonight, Jigyasa Didi," he continues in a hard tone. She shoots him a timid smile. "Why, of course, Jai…. I'll just go to my room right now and pick out my outfit for the evening." And with that she rushed away. Even though younger, Jai's anger when provoked could frighten anyone.
Tearing his attention away from his sister's trailing figure, Jai's focus changes onto the ruckus being created nearby the grandly decorated hall. Within seconds he watches his two nephews tussle with one another as usual and bickering loudly. His brows narrow in annoyance. This is a usual occurrence between the two twin brothers.
"Ranveer, Saahil, you two better get your act together else I'll have you both thrown out of here for good," he growls gaining both boys attention. "You two have been living off your parents for too long and have become spoilt rotten by it… It's about time you learn to be an adult." They immediately cease their fighting.
"Come on Mamu, we're twenty-three now… you can't use that threat on us anymore," Ranveer says with a roll of his eyes.
"Yeah, and we are already adults," Saahil chimes in with a smug smile.
"You're a couple of brats, that's what you two are… If you two acted like adults, perhaps I'd treat you like one," he retorts. The twins share an exasperated look. Their uncle has been scolding them for years ever since he moved back into the house.
"I was just a year or two older than you two when I had my own family, living on my own, and working two jobs…," he lectures.
"Yeah, and that worked out real well for you…. You're back here, aren't you?," Saahil sniggers, Ranveer joining in on his laughter. Jai's face turns a shade of red as anger rises inside of him from their insolence.
"At least I learned independence, self-discipline, respect, and values," he tersely responds.
"Mamu, that is so overrated… you've gotta learn to just chill and make the most of life," Ranveer suggests casually before signaling to his twin for them to leave before this conversation can build any further.
Jai clamps his mouth shut, telling himself not to bother. These two will never change. Once a spoiled brat, always a spoiled brat. He watches them walk away bitterly and at the last minute calls out to them.
"Remember that tonight is the party for Rhea, so don't go off doing your late-night shenanigans," he warns. Saahil and Ranveer stop midway on the stairs. Saahil flashes a confused look.
"Rhea? Whose Rhea?" he questions, perplexed. Ranveer smacks his brother upside his head. "Rhea is Mamu's daughter, you idiot."
"And your cousin," Jai adds steely. "I have been reminding this family about the party for a month now… does anyone remember that it is my daughter's birthday today?!" he says in frustration. Saahil and Ranveer, however, do not respond and proceed to run up the remainder of the stairs.
"Oh Jai darling, what are you shouting about so early in the day dear?" he hears his mother's voice from behind. Jai sees his mother enter the room, coming back from her usual time spent in the garden.
"No one in this house gives a damn about my daughter, that's what I'm shouting about mother," Jai fumes openly. Krishna gives a wave of her hand. "That is absolutely ridiculous. We all love Rhea here and can't wait to see her today. We hardly ever get to see her as it is since that wretched woman keeps her away---.."
"Mother," he interrupts warningly.
"Oh alright… you never ever let me say anything awful about her even though she was the one who trampled all over your heart and left you, taking your daughter with her…. Who does that chit of a girl think she is? That's all I want to know…," Krishna demands.
Jai closes his eyes and inhales a deep breath into him in order to calm himself. The last thing he wants is to lose his cool before his daughter and Bani get here.
"Mother, can I just have one day where my daughter and the mother of my child can feel welcomed as if this is their very own home among their loved ones? It was very difficult for me to get Bani's permission to have Rhea celebrate her birthday here in the first place… I don't want this to go horribly wrong."
"Jai, darling, you know you can rely on your family… we won't disappoint you," she assures with her frigid smile while patting his cheek. She walks away saying, "The decorations are coming along real nicely dear," right before disappearing from sight.
Jai stands to himself alone in the hall, attempting to rebuild his cool, and reminding himself to be cheerful on the thought that he will get to see Bani and Rhea soon….
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She is nervous; he can tell by the way she constantly wrangles her pallu with her slender fingers. He is at the moment, though, too preoccupied being smitten by the sight of her. If he still could, he'd take her by the waist and hold her against him, refusing to ever let go. His heart races as she smiles gingerly while being introduced to the guests at the party by Aditya, his brother-in-law. She looks ravishing in an emerald green saree with golden border lines and small golden jhumkes to go with the outfit. She is simple, yet elegant. And the most beautiful woman in the room….
He takes a sip of his champagne and gazes elsewhere once her eyes look up and meet his. He catches his daughter beaming while playing with the other children in the room, racing around in circles flashing her toothy smile. His heart swells with overflowing love for her. His daughter is by far the best thing that has ever happened to him, that, and marrying her mother.
Taking a look around, he wonders again for the hundredth time since the party started why he had thrown such a grand party. Perhaps it is because he wants everyone to know that Rhea is his child and that Bani is his one, even though they are currently not together.
He isn't a sucker for high-societal parties. He hated them since he was a child. He'd remember hiding away in various places as a boy to avoid such parties. He hated the people who attended them as well. Snobby, selfish, and dimwitted, these people irritated him. Since he was young he knew he didn't fit in with his family or the community they are a part of. He was different, he is different. He wanted to run away and leave it all behind. He didn't want the riches, the glamour, the parties, the pretentious snobs, or his equally pretentious family. He wanted a life where it was the complete opposite. And he found that life possible when he met Bani Dixit at the train station and became love-struck.
She was nineteen and he was twenty-four. Neglecting his parents' insistence on using the personal chauffer, he chose to take the train along with his best friend, at the time, who belonged to a poorer background than him. He saw her in the unisex compartment giggling along with her girlfriends, showing her wide perfect smile. For a week he'd silently observe her, admiring her from afar till he gathered the courage to approach her when she was alone.
"Hi," he had said to her as coolly as possible. She brushed back her long hair and sent him a shy smile. "Hi," she greeted back with pink cheeks and her hazelnut brown eyes dancing. "May I?" he politely asked, directing to the empty seat beside her, the only one in the crowded compartment. She softly nodded her head and scooted over.
And from there began their brief friendship that blossomed quickly into first love. They were hardly apart for a moment, stealing as much time with each other in a day. It was eleven months into their love affair that his family caught wind of his relationship. They disapproved immediately when learning she was of lower-class, that too, an orphan who lived in a hostel. Jai rebelled and rebelled against deaf ears. They would not hear any of it.
"Love?" his father had scoffed at him. "She's filth, she's not worthy of your love…," his mother hissed.
"You are never to see her… She does not belong in our world… you will marry who we approve of, not some trash off the street," his father thundered.
Three days later Jai returned home holding hands with a young girl clad in bridal wear and vermillion filled in her parting.
"She is my wife and she may not belong in your world, but she belongs in mine," he told his parents, who disowned him and shut their door on him for the next four years.
With Bani he found the peace he searched endlessly for and created a life where there wasn't any pretentiousness, neglect, or dearth of warmth.
"Jai, you have a very lovely daughter," he hears a voice, breaking into his thoughts. Startled, he turns and sees one of his business associates by his side. He smiles in pleasure.
"Thank you, Mr. Mehta."
As Jai struck conversation with Mr. Mehta, on the other end of the party, Bani is trapped in turmoil of discomfort and bitterness. She promised herself that she'd never step foot back into this house and here she is celebrating her daughter's birthday in the very house that took all her happiness from her. When Jai asked, she couldn't refuse right away with his gray eyes staring so intently at her. In her time of solitude, she thought over his words and realized to her dismay that he made valid points. Even though not ideal people, Rhea has a right to be with her father's side of the family.
Bani glances over to her daughter and watches over her carefully. She observes that she is having a good time and is pleased to know that she hasn't made the wrong decision after all. Perhaps this all won't go horribly wrong. Rhea seems to be having a wonderful time and that is enough for Bani.
"Adi, Mr. Desai is here at the party. Right now would be a good time to discuss the business proposal you have in mind." Bani looks over her shoulder to see who the shrilling voice belongs to and tenses up on seeing her ex sister-in-law standing behind her.
"Yes, of course. But what about Bani?" Aditya questions wearily, not wanting to abandon Bani who knows absolutely no one at this party. He felt absolute pity for the girl, nothing else.
"I'll introduce her to the guests, darling, but right now it is important for you to be elsewhere," Jigyasa urges, taking Bani by surprise once she loops her arm with hers and flashes a wide smile.
"Come along Bani dear, let me introduce you to all the guests… after all, you are the birthday girl's mother. You are an important person," she adds in a sugary tone that nearly blows Bani away who is unfamiliar with this display of kindness. She stays cautious, knowing that Jigyasa Bali couldn't have had a change of heart in the past two years.
Bani observes Jigyasa's fishy behavior and wonders where she leads her away from the crowd of people and to an isolated area to the far right side.
"Where are you taking me?" she manages to question.
"Why, I'm introducing you of course…," Jigyasa replies vaguely once approaching a steel door that she pushes through. Being led inside, Bani sees that she has been brought inside of the kitchen where the cooks and waiters rush in order to have the meals cooked and served properly on time.
"Everyone, I want your attention," Jigyasa commands for obedience and is pleased as the workers settle down and stare in her and Bani's direction.
"This is Bani Dixit," she announces while pointing out Bani, who remains fazed, not knowing what's coming her way. She should have known better to let herself be alone with Jigyasa.
"She is the supposed mother of Jai Walia's daughter…. Also his pitiful tramp of an ex-wife who lives pay check to pay check and struggles to raise her illegitimate daughter single-handedly… It is important that you treat her specially well, she is the birthday girl's mother after all…. Shower her with all the importance that she deserves…," Jigyasa finishes with a smirk.
Bani remains rooted to her place, color leaving her fair face, and burns inwardly as the pairs of eyes refuse to leave her and stare intensely at her. The workers whisper amongst one another while giving sideway glances at her. Tears build in her eyes as total mortification takes over. She rushes outside of the kitchen, pushing through the door, and tries to gather her breath. She shuts her eyes to stop the tears from flowing. She hears the door open again behind her and knows very well who it is. She whirls around and faces her angrily, her pride and dignity hurt.
"What was that?" she demands.
Jigyasa seems unfazed and answers politely. "Why Bani darling, I was merely introducing you to your own people… you know, of the working, lower-class… Why do you look so shocked? Did you really think you were so important and precious to be introduced with the elite of society? Why Bani darling, they wouldn't want to be associated with filth like you…. What need would there be for that?"
Fresh tears spring in her eyes, making her vision blurry, and a blow so strong hits her hard in the chest. Her head spins….
"… I may be filth, Jigyasa Bali, but it's not me who I feel sorry for… it's you…. I may be alone in this world and be living pay check to pay check, but at least I've made something of myself… I'm an independent, strong, and intelligent woman who has many opportunities …. I do not rely on anyone to get by in life… especially not my looks….," she spits venomously just before turning around and stalking off.
Anger immediately unfolds on Jigyasa's face, marring her features. "How dare you?" she hisses after her. However, Bani doesn't let her draw her back into confrontation and carries on with her way….
Jai had been still conversing with Mr. Mehta and a couple of his other colleagues when he caught the fleeting glimpse of Bani slipping through the French doors leading to the garden…..
Bani releases a shuddering sob as she steps out into the cool night, shielding herself from the French doors and leaned against the stone wall of the house. The tears she tried so hard to control stream rapidly onto her cheeks, refusing to stop. The taunting, the endless insults, the cruel jokes all come back to haunt her. The emotional abuse she suffered from the hands of this family has left a permanent scar. And Jigyasa Bali has reopened that old wound.
She had been far too timid during the two years she lived within the Walia family. And having them as her in-laws, she felt defenseless. They were downright rude and mean to her behind Jai's back and kept up a farce in front of him. But she loved Jai too much to ever say anything bad about his family. So she took the countless of insults until it became too much to bear. Her dignity and self-respect was compromised by living in that house. And she realized that she could no longer live that way. Jai was too consumed by his own guilt of having gone against his family to leave them, she knew this very well. Hence, he took her concerns lightly and didn't heed to any of her requests. She was losing him the more they stayed and her will to fight was weakening. So she finally did herself a favor, she left and never looked back. And she made herself a promise that she wouldn't ever let anyone make her feel worthless, insignificant, and inferior ever again.
She isn't that young, defenseless girl anymore. She is a strong, independent woman who has made something of herself. She has come a long way since then. She won't let anyone make her feel like that insecure twenty-four year old again.
"Lovely night, isn't it?..."
Bani holds her breath and stands stiffly on hearing his rich, deep voice speak to her in that special tone he'd only ever use for her… that gentle, loving voice. She wipes away her tears quickly in an attempt to make herself presentable. She does not turn around, keeping her back faced to him. She can feel his dominating presence lingering beside her….
"…. W-w…where is Rhea?" she manages to ask, her voice slightly wobbly.
"She's inside… with her grandmother," he answers gently. Bani rests a hand against the cold wall and struggles to keep her emotions in check, yet failing as the tears continue to flow.
Jai, unaware of Bani's emotional distress, takes a cautious step toward her, careful to keep enough distance between them. He did not want to alarm her by encroaching on her personal space.
"Bani… I… I've been… wanting to apologize to you….about my behavior this past month….," he puts across, bringing light to the silent feud that neither of them would address. They hadn't spoken about Bangalore again since Jai stormed out of her house that night a month ago.
"… I shouldn't have reacted in that way…. I was just upset…. I don't like the thought of you and Rhea being even further away from me than you already are. … Is that so unreasonable?" he asks, staring into her back. Hearing no answer, he continues….hesitant with his next words.
"Truth is…. I don't want you or Rhea going off anywhere because I want you two with me always… … I know that's selfish…. But it's just the way I feel…… Bani, I-….. I want us to be a family again."
Bani shuts her eyes and her fingers clench against the wall…
"Is it too much to ask?.... Too much to ask for another chance? …. I've never stopped loving you. And I've never lost hope either. …. Give us another try…. I promise I won't let anything go wrong this time," he speaks, gathering courage. He treads closer, enclosing on the space in between….
Bani nearly jumps on feeling his strong arms wrap around her waist, pulling her softly into the front of his chest. He buries his face in the curls of her black, silky hair and holds her to himself, treasuring this closeness that he has longed for since months before their separation. He inhales the scent of her jasmine smelling hair.
"…. You have no idea how much I have missed you," he whispers, resting his head against hers. He is at ease to see that Bani does not retract from his advancement, until she speaks a long moment later.
"….They questioned Rhea's parentage….," she states hollowly, as if in a daze. Jai grows alert on hearing her words… his embrace loosening.
"They said awful things….terrible things… I couldn't have them look down on my daughter in the way they did to me…. She's a child, Jai, she doesn't deserve that treatment….. That's when I finally decided to leave…. That's why I left…..," she finishes quietly, letting her words hang in the air.
Jai's arms fall down to his sides and he remains stumped, unsure of whether he heard her right. What is she talking about? This is the first he is hearing any of this.
"Bani, what are you saying?.... Who questioned Rhea's parentage? … and why haven't I heard this before?" he demands, withdrawing from her completely. On feeling his distance, Bani turns around, staring directly into his stormy gray eyes. Jai is taken aback on seeing the damp tears on her cheeks and water dwelling in her eyes.
"Your family, Jai…. Your family questioned whether Rhea is your daughter or if her father is really just a random man off the street…. They wanted to know if her mother is a tramp and had countless of affairs to the side…. They wanted to know how her mother managed to trick and trap the son of their family…. They wanted to know if Rhea is just as much filth as her mother supposedly is…," she tells him in a rising voice.
"… You tell me Jai… how could I possibly live in that house after they attacked my daughter in that way? … They could insult me as much as they'd like, but not my child. That is where I drew the line. … If my husband was not going to stand up for me and our daughter, then I had to defend our dignity. … I couldn't have Rhea living in an environment like that… where she would always be looked down upon….where she wouldn't ever be accepted truly into the Walia family… where her father neglected his wife and child and allowed that emotional abuse onto them…," she seethes, her eyes burning with anger.
Color leaves Jai's face, making it as white as a sheet of paper. He stares at her, dumbfound and speechless. He loses the ability to move, paralyzed from head to toe. Shock takes over….
"I left because there was no place for us in their house, Jai…. I felt suffocated… it wasn't a home, it was a hell-hole… It was the worst years of my life…. I hate those people you call family and I hate you for not being there when we, your wife and your daughter, needed you the most…. You say you love me, but I never felt loved or secure for a second when living under that roof…. And I'll be damned if I let my child and myself be put back into that environment again….," she thunders, all her pent up frustration over the years finally being released.
Jai remains quiet, staring at her with unblinking eyes, and taking slow breaths. She covers her mouth as another sob arises and flees immediately, vanishing through the doors, leaving him alone stranded in the garden.
How could he possibly not have known? Where was he throughout all of this? But most importantly, how did he allow this to happen? Was he really so blinded? Blinded by his own guilt of defying his parents, turning his back on them, and his father's death that he completely neglected the only real family he ever had? Why? Why did he do it? Why was he so careless? Why was he absent? She is right; he gave her nothing but neglect. He wasn't there for her as a husband or as a father and her anger is justified. But she must know that that all is going to change here on out. Because he doesn't want to be away from her for another second. She may not need him, but he needs her. He wants the family he once lost… the happiness he had. He wants to make things right again.
And with that thought, he follows after her….
Slipping through the garden doors, Jai reenters the party and searches desperately for Bani through the strings of gathered people.
"Oh, Jai, there you are my boy… I was wondering where you had gone off to," Mr. Mehta says in delight, hounding him almost immediately. Jai barely glances in his way and brushes him off.
"Jai, where are you going?" he asks in puzzlement and receives no answer as Jai races off, disappearing from sight.
He finds her walking toward the other end of the hall and quickly trails after her, trying to catch up. He ignores the curious looks he draws from the guests, he needs to speak to Bani before he lets this come in between them… again.
All that goes through Bani's mind as she passes through the crowds of people is to take her daughter and leave as soon as she can. This was a terrible mistake. She shouldn't have come back here. Nothing good would have ever come out of this.
She finds Rhea secluded in a corner with her grandmother, who holds her by the arms speaking to her in private. A terrible feeling sweeps inside of Bani on seeing her daughter alone with Krishna Walia and she is proven right as she draws nearer.
"Now Rhea darling, I need you to listen to your grandmother …. Do you understand?" Krishna says to her and proceeds once Rhea nods her head obediently.
"Your mommy is very bad… she took your daddy away and made him very unhappy…. you need to make sure that you aren't like her…."
Bani feels as if someone has punched all the air out of her as she stands breathlessly, witnessing the woman spewing ill things to her child.
"… But why, Dadi? … I love mommy… mommy isn't bad," Rhea insists, terribly upset that her grandmother isn't saying nice things about her mother.
" Rhea, your mother is a wh**e….," Krishna replies rather harshly.
"… What's a wh**e, Dadi?" Rhea questions naively.
"Why sweetie, a wh**e is----…" Krishna begins in explaining until she is abruptly interrupted by an ominous voice that calls out to her.
"Don't you dare say another word," she hears him warn darkly in an icy tone. Startled, Krishna Walia glances up and sees her son standing nearby accompanied with his ex-wife who stares at her with wide-eyes. She is momentarily taken aback and tries to act quickly in order to present herself well to her enraged appearing son. Jai removes his hard gaze from his stricken mother to his confused daughter, who is uncomfortable in the sudden tension that has sprung up between her parents and her grandmother.
"Rhea, go to your mother….," he commands and watches Rhea listen immediately and walk toward her mother, who takes her into her arms. Bani holds Rhea close to herself protectively and glares at Krishna.
"Jai, dear, I was just speaking to my granddaughter… that's all… Do I not even have that right?" Krishna questions lightly, trying to uplift the darkening mood.
"No… you do not… as of today, you have no rights over her… I never want you coming near our daughter again," he answers steely. His mother scoffs in disbelief.
"Jai… you are being irrational right now… I did nothing wrong… I was merely speaking to my granddaughter," she offers as an explanation. His gaze narrows onto her.
"You were speaking ill of my child's mother to her….," he states through gritted teeth. Krishna raises her chin, meeting her son's menacing gaze.
"I have Rhea's best interest at heart… I was simply informing her of her mother's true nature," she responds unremorsefully.
Appalled, Jai stares at his mother with foreign eyes, not believing what she is saying. He glances in Bani and Rhea's way and notes the tears stinging in Bani's eyes as she continues to hold their daughter in her embrace for comfort. He looks back to Krishna, who takes notice to how they are creating a scene and attracting attention onto themselves.
"… Every time I wasn't around or looking… is this how you treated my family, mother?" he demands callously, wanting to hear the truth from his own mother's mouth.
"Jai, we are not going to speak about this right now… Everyone is starting to look…. Just let the evening end and then we will talk…," she attempts to ease him but to no success.
"No, we are going to talk about this right now!" he roars in fury, taking Krishna, Bani, Rhea, and everyone else in attendance by surprise at his sudden outburst.
Krishna looks to him with a dumbfounded expression. She gazes nervously around, seeing that everyone in the room is now staring at them. She grows embarrassed.
"Not in front of everyone," she persists, wanting to save herself dignity in front of the entire community. She did not want their family issues to come out for everyone's entertainment.
The whole hall slowly slips into silence and no one breathes a word, too preoccupied by the scene unfolding before them. Jai's anger reaches its height and his patience runs out. He turns around and meets the guests' curious gazes.
"Everyone, out! Get out right now! Leave!" he orders rudely, not caring to make excuses or put up his best behavior. The guests stare at one another in confusion at first until fleeing one by one. They leave in murmurs, insulted in the way they were kicked out from the house.
"Jai!" Krishna sputters, astounded that her son had behaved in such a way with the elite of their community.
"You, answer what I asked you!" he thunders, making Krishna speechless by his insolence. In all her years, she has never been spoken back to. Nor has she ever been treated like this.
"Is this how you have always treated my wife and child?!" he yells at her, invoking anger into his mother as well especially after he kicked out all her guests and created such a scene.
"Ex-wife! … And an ex-wife for a reason! You want the truth? … The truth is that that woman was never fit to be your wife! She didn't deserve to belong in our family! She is absolutely classless! Your fling with her made our family into the laughing stock of the community! And I thanked god when we were finally rid of that filth!" Krishna screams while pointing at Bani, who can't seem to stop crying as all the old hurt takes over along with the new.
"How could you, mother?! She was my wife! It was never up to you to determine whether she was fit for me or not! That was my decision alone! I married her because I love her! And she deserved the respect as my wife, dammit! You had no right to treat her any less!"
"She isn't a part of our world, Jai! How could I possibly accept a worthless, orphan girl as your wife?!"
"Don't you call her that!" he shouts furiously.
"Well what else do you expect us to think about a girl you picked off the streets, Jai?" demands another voice belonging to his older sister, who steps forward and sides with their mother.
"With no class, no background, no family--- she wasn't an appropriate girl to belong in our family. For all we know, she is some tramp," she ends bitterly.
"And how do we really know that Rhea is in fact your daughter? That woman could have easily lied to you. I say that we have a DNA test done to prove it," she rambles on until silenced immediately by the sudden impact of her brother's hand against her cheek.
"Jai!" Krishna screams. Jigyasa places a hand to her now burning cheek and stares at her brother with stunned eyes.
"Say another word and you will regret what comes your way," he threatens a shocked Jigyasa.
"Jai, you hit your own sister over that woman?!" his mother demands fiercely.
"No, I hit a woman who attacked my family… my family who you people tortured and gave no respect to…. my family who didn't deserve to be treated as if they were worthless…. My family," he stresses.
"….. Mother, you say that Bani doesn't belong in 'our world'… well she belongs in mine and if you can't accept that… then perhaps I don't belong in your world either…."
"We are your family!" she argues.
"No, from here on out… none of you are anything to me," he claims bitterly. He takes a good look at his mother and sister, who stand rooted to their places. His glaze fleets over to Aditya, Ranveer, and Saahil who watch as bystanders. He gives a shake of a head while sneering, "You were never my family…. My family is with Bani and Rhea….and I'm going to my real family. " Turning around as he says this, he expects to see both Bani and Rhea behind him but instead sees neither of them there. His eyes sweep over to the exit, concluding that Bani must have taken Rhea and left. His feet take him forward….
"What about your father's business?!" she cries after his retreating figure. Without giving her another glance, he answers, "It can go to hell… as of today I quit!"
Jai continues to stalk away, forever turning his back on them, and walks out of the front doors, heading toward his future….ignoring his mother's frantic calls after him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Rickshaw!" she yells while lifting her hand high in the air and keeping her daughter close to her to avoid having her separated from her. Rhea clings onto her mother as they search the streets for any sort of transportation back to their home. She has been quiet since the commotion that occurred in her father's house.
Bani left from there discreetly, not wanting her daughter to witness or take part of the heated exchanges between her father and his family. Also because she didn't know how much more she could bear to hear. She has been insulted enough for one evening. She won't hear any more of it.
"Bani! …," she hears him shout from afar. She ignores his calls, pretending that she cannot hear him, and frantically looks for any passing rickshaws that are not occupied. That is until she feels a sudden grip on her arm that turns her around and makes her look into a pair of dark gray eyes that stare back at her intensely.
"Where are you going?" he asks breathlessly, panting for air after the long sprint he had made in order to reach her.
"Home," she replies curtly. He notes her guarded behavior and casts a look to Rhea, who continues to stick to her mother. His eyes redirect onto her.
"Let me take you home… It's late, I want you two to get there safely…," he explains. Bani shakes her head while giving a backward glance to the road.
"No, it's okay… we will take the rickshaw," she begins in saying until Jai hastily cuts in. "Bani, please," he nearly pleads. She stares into his eyes and comes to a realization that she can no longer refuse him. She quietly nods her head in agreement.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Rhea fell asleep on the drive to Pune while Jai and Bani did nothing to break the silence between them. Jai drove while Bani stared out of her window, not daring to look in his way. On arriving at the house, Jai carried Rhea in and tucked her into bed as Bani lingered by the doorway of their daughter's bedroom. She watches him kiss Rhea sweetly on her forehead before rising from the bed. She retracts from the doorway and leans against the wall from outside the room. She remains stiff when hearing him close the bedroom door shut. They say nothing to each other for what seems an eternity, not knowing what to say to each other after all that had occurred tonight.
"… I understand now…," he almost whispers a long while later. On hearing his gentle voice, she glances up and looks to his sulking face, his head bent and eyes glued to the ground.
"I understand why you left….and why you don't want us to become a family again….nor do I blame you for it… after all the pain I have caused you, Bani, I shouldn't be forgiven… you deserve so much better… you should have all the happiness that you did not get while being with me… and for that too, I am sorry… From henceforth, I will leave you in peace….you have my word," he finishes, lifting his gaze and showing the pain inflicted in his shimmering eyes.
Bani stares at him quietly, not answering to any of his words, unable to look away. She watches on as he hangs his head once more and turns, walking briskly to the front door in order to leave.
Just as he reaches for the doorknob, he hears her soft voice speak behind him….
"We were so young…. We weren't ready to be married… I was just nineteen, not even finished with university….and you were barely an adult yourself… just making your presence in the business world….," she falters, letting another silence to elapse before she continues.
"But you didn't care…. You told me that everything would be okay… and I believed you…. I always had faith in you, Jai," she says with all honesty. Turning back around, Jai looks to her and sees her facial features visibly soften and her hazelnut brown eyes misty as she reminisces.
"…. I don't understand," he speaks in confusion, not following her words. Why is she speaking about their past so unexpectedly?
He watches as she becomes crestfallen and vulnerable all at once within seconds.
"… Oh, why don't you understand, Jai? …. Why don't you understand that I've never stopped loving you… never… not even for a moment….not for a second…. I still love you and always will," she confesses while bursting into hot tears. Her vision becomes blurred and all she can hear is his hurried steps toward her just before he pulls her into his arms, holding her tight against his chest, with no intention of ever letting her go. She clings to him as she breaks down into sobs.
"Shhhh… I'm here, baby… I promise, I won't let anything come between us ever again," he murmurs whilst kissing the top of her head.
"… I… I don't want to live without you anymore," she whispers, burying her face into his chest, her hands resting against his torso.
"You won't have to… I love you, Bani… and I'm not going anywhere… I'm going to be with you and Rhea always….," he reassures her when cradling her face in his hands and wiping away her shed tears. She closes her eyes when he showers her with kisses.
"You promise?" she asks with desperate hope.
"Cross my heart and hope to die," he replies affirmatively seconds before pressing his lips against hers….
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The following 13 member(s) liked the above post:
anu1973, psruthi, sweet40, spiriT20, Proud-BrownGirl, piyushi, zarlish18, static_chaos23, vj2102, amiee, ~*Manshi*~, -purnima-, Isa_de,
Joined: 05 July 2005
The following 1 member(s) liked the above post:
Joined: 20 August 2006
that was a nice story
plz update the other ff's as well :P
Joined: 28 June 2006
Joined: 03 October 2009
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Joined: 20 July 2007
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The show has also been shooting in Rajasthan and had the shoot halted..
The actress is a loyalist of the Ekta Kapoor camp.
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