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Mission 36: The Mind is a Tricky Thing
Preet nodded his head and gave a sincere thanks before he walked away from the farmer. Heer walked towards him and said, "The ladies over there washing clothes said they don't know anything about Prem. I showed them his picture and they said they've never seen him before.
"Well, I just had an interesting conversation with a farmer. He said he was here when a body washed ashored a month back or so. The man's face was covered in soot and he was barely conscious. He and two other farmers along with a Dr. Ranbir Sahdev took him to the local clinic to have him checked out," Preet reported. He then sighed looking at his watch. "Our twenty-four hours are now down to six."
"Let's hurry up and go to the clinic and see if there is any information they can give us," Heer said. "We should have gone to the local clinic first."
"We needed to start at the beginning. There was a fifty-fifty chance he never visited the clinic and received helped from one of the locals," Preet replied. "I know you want to find him as quickly as possible...so do I. But we have to be organized...we can't run around going here and there."
Heer took a calming breath. "You're right. I'm sorry. It's been a very long day. We just got off a flight several hours ago."
"It has but don't worry Heer we will find him, okay?" Preet reassured.
"Come on let's go to that clinic," Heer said and started walking back towards their vehicle.
In room 225, patient Gaurav Sharma was slowly but carefully lowering the railing down on his hospital bed. He grimaced as he swung his legs to the side and pushed himself off the bed. His knees bent a little as his legs reacquainted itself with the weight they normally carried. Tightening his lips in concentration he took a step forward and hobbled his way towards the window. He smiled in triumphant when he reached the window and placed his hands on the ledge. He lifted his eyes upward and stared out the window taking in the scenic view. "What do you think you are doing?!" His eyes widened and he felt stunned like he had been caught doing something wrong. "Gaurav, why are you out of bed?" He turned around saw Geet giving him a disapproving look.
"You said I could walk," Gaurav replied.
"In a few days," Geet stressed. "But that still has to be determined by Dr. Sharma."
"I'm tired of sitting in bed all day," he whined. "At least I didn't go anywhere I'm still in my room." Geet simply pointed to the bed. "Okay fine," giving up, "I thought this was a hospital not jail," he muttered as he limped his way back to his bed.
"Yes, I'm the warden and you're my prisoner. Dr. Sharma, the sheriff isn't going to like you determining things on your own," Geet fired back. Gaurav made a face shaking his head grumpily. "Now, be good or I won't bring you any kheer."
"Kheer?" Gaurav asked his face suddenly turning into panic.
"I always find an extra portion somehow," Geet said. "But..."
"I'll stay in bed...like a good boy...I'll stay in bed," Gaurav nodded in agreement.
"Okay, I'll be back to give you your medicine and change the bandages," Geet replied. She was about to walk out of the room when she heard Gaurav call her back. She turned around and gave him a questioning look.
"You're going to bring me kheer right?"
Geet couldn't help but chortle at the boyishly hopefully expression on his face. He looked incredibly cute. "Yes, I'll bring you an extra kheer."
"Thanks you're the best," Gaurav grinned.
Geet could feel her cheeks growing warm at the way he said the compliment and how he smiled at her. She quickly snapped out of her reverie when she heard her name being called from the hallway. "Um, I'll see you later. Oh, did you finish reading that book?"
"No, but almost. I'm about seven chapters away from the ending. Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol...not sure why I even thought of this book to read," Gaurav answered.
"Maybe you were reading it before your accident," Geet replied venturing a guess.
"Yeah, I guess," Gaurav said pondering.
"Geet!" a voice yelled again from the hallway.
"I think you're needed," Gaurav said pointing his finger towards the hallway.
"Oh yeah. Okay bye," Geet said and quickly left the room.
Gaurav chuckled a little at the way she left and then reached over to the night stand and picked up the book The Lost Symbol. He stared at the front cover and murmured, "Was I reading this? Or was it someone I knew who was reading it?"
Preet tossed the car keys to Heer who caught them with one hand as they walked back to their vehicle. "Your turn to drive," he said and then yawned sleepily. He noticed how quiet Heer was and frowned. "Don't worry. I'm sure he's fine. The clinic here said they couldn't address his wounds because they didn't have the facility to do it and so they moved him to the next town where there is a hospital."
"I'm just anxious," Heer replied. "We're so close...you know what I mean?"
"Yeah, but you will see him soon and you can give a big hug and a kiss to him...from both of us." Heer gently giggled at his joke. Preet smiled, "That's more like it. Remember to smile when you see him again."
They got into the car and Heer started the engine and began driving down the road. Preet pulled his backpack up into his lap and opened the middle zip to get his water bottle. As he took the bottle out a paperback novel fell out along with it. Hearing Preet shuffling around the car Heer glanced to her side and saw he was holding a book. She recognized it immediately and asked, "The Lost Symbol?"
"Yeah, it's a great book. You've read it?" Preet inquired.
"Yes, I have. I've been trying to get Prem to read it," Heer replied.
"So have I," Preet laughed. "I got a bit hung up at work so I couldn't read for a few months. That plane ride was just what I needed to finally finish the book. It really was a great read."
"It was. Hey, let's listen to something," Heer suggested.
"Good idea. It will help keep us awake," Preet said. He stuck his iPod into the built adaptor in the car and selected a playlist to play.
Geet sighed as she sat at the nurses' station filling in her paperwork. "So much paperwork...why?" She lifted her head when she heard some light chuckling behind her back.
"It's all part of the job," Amrita replied as she pulled her curly hair back into a ponytail.
"There has to be an easier way than this," Geet said.
"Afraid not...we have to have documentation."
"Coffee, anyone?" asked a petite nurse with short hair. "I'm headed over to the lounge."
"Coffee sounds great Dia. In fact I think I'll go with you...stretch my legs a bit," Amrita said.
"Geet, do you take sugar or cream with your coffee?" Dia inquired.
"Oh I'm fine thank you Dia," showing her a bottle of water.
"All right. We'll be back."
"And I'll be here," Geet replied back. She stared back down at her papers trying to find where she had left off when she heard the sound of footsteps coming towards the station. She lifted her head and smiled. "Can I help you?" She noticed right away that something was a bit different about the couple that approached the station. They were both wearing casual clothing; t-shirts and jeans but there was a presence or attitude that seemed very foreign. The man was fair and tall. His hair was cut short and lightly gelled in the front. He had kind brown eyes. The woman standing next to him was beautiful but she seemed a bit stressed and tired. She had almond shaped hazel eyes.
"Yes, have you seen this man?" Geet stared at the picture the tall and fair man was showing her.
"Who is he to you?" Geet replied looking at them. She had recognized the man in the picture knowing it was Gaurav and wondered how these people were related to him. It wasn't that she had some fanciful imagination but she was concern about Gaurav's past. Did he get himself into some situation which explained why he was found in the condition he was in? And if he did get himself in a situation like that would those bad people come after him? She had been thinking a lot lately about Gaurav and his condition and what she would do if it turned out there were bad people after him. But she had also thought of more pleasant scenarios like his family members looking for him. Did he have a big family? How many brothers and sisters did he have? Was he single or did he have a girlfriend?
"He's a very good friend of mine. My name is Preet Rajput," Preet answered.
"Oh. What happened to him?" Geet asked looking him squarely in the eyes. Preet was taken aback by the hard stare and swallowed nervously.
"He's my husband," Heer stated breaking into the conversation. She had seen the way Geet was looking at them and figured she probably wasn't going to give up any information unless they could prove they were family.
"Husband?" Geet repeated with surprise.
"Yes," Heer said putting her left hand on the counter showing off her diamond engagement ring. "We're from the US. We just got married and we went to India for our Honeymoon. Most of our families are in the US or in the UK. And my husband, Prem lost his parents when he was really young. So he was extremely excited when a distant relative of his father's called wanting to meet with him. He left that Sunday morning to go meet with him but he never came back. I should have gone with him that morning but I had this horrible migraine so he told me to stay at our hotel. I've been searching for him refusing to believe that he died even though the police told me there had been a bombing in the building where my husband went to go met this relative. Please if you have any information on him or have seen him please help us."
Geet stood up from her chair and gave them an understanding look. Despite her own reservations about them she couldn't lie to them and turn them away from the hospital when Gaurav was their Prem. "I think you should speak to Dr. Sharma first."
"So he's here?" Heer asked with hope in her voice.
"This way please to Dr. Sharma," Geet simply replied and lead them down a hallway. Heer and Preet both turned to each other with optimistic eyes and gladly followed Geet to meet the doctor.
Doctor Abhay Sharma offered coffee to his guests sitting in his office. He sat back down in his chair and took a sip of coffee from his mug. "I apologize for the mess...haven't had much time to tidy up in here." Heer and Preet just politely smiled as their eyes roamed around the room taking note of all the stacks of folders and files laying about. They took a drink from their coffee cups and waited patiently for the doctor to continue talking. "So you're family of Prem Deshmukh?"
"Yes, I'm his wife Heer," Heer introduced.
"Preet Rajput, Prem's good friend," Preet said.
"Dr. Sharma have you seen my husband?" Heer inquired.
"You can rest easy now Mrs. Deshmukh. Yes, I have seen your husband."
"Is he still in this hospital?" Heer eagerly asked.
Dr. Sharma leaned forward in his chair and rested his elbows on the table as he folded his hands together. "Your husband came into this hospital with several broken ribs, a fractured left ankle, first degree and second degree burns on his legs and arms, and a concussion. He was also severely dehydrated. We did everything to stabilize him. He was in a coma for a month. He just woke up about a few weeks ago. To put it plain and simple he's still adjusting to his environment." He looked Heer straight in her eyes and said with sympathetic tone in his voice, "I'm afraid he's suffering from amnesia. He can't recall anything from his past." He paused to let what he said sink into the room. He could see the turmoil appear on their faces and he felt his stomach churn. He never liked delivering bad or upsetting news to family members. "It may be temporary from the concussion he received. But there is also the possibility that he may not regain his full memory."
"Can I see him?" Heer asked.
Dr. Sharma knew what she was thinking and warned her, "He may not recognize you...either of you. He's been trying to remember but with these types of things it has to be handled delicately. These are things that can't be forced. Too much pressure and it could cause an adverse affect. It's best to let these things...as painful as it is...take its time."
"Are there things we shouldn't say to him?" Preet asked with concern.
"You should try to treat him as normal as possible. He can converse and do everything normally. He just can't recall what happened to him in the past before his accident. It's also best to refrain from piling on information that could have a shocking nature to him. Refrain from overloading him with too much information as well," Dr. Sharma explained.
Preet looked at Heer to check to see if she was all right. It had been a very long day for both of them and hearing the news that Prem was alive and well was a relief. But the news of his amnesia hit a critical blow to their spirits. Heer gave a nod letting him know she was handling the news and everything with stride.
"We'd really like to see him if we can Dr. Sharma," Preet stated.
"Of course I'm sure you both are very eager to meet him again." The doctor got up from his chair and led them out of his office. He walked down the hallway and took a couple of turns before he reached room number 225. "I know you've waited a long time but try to remain calm. He could be confessed and maybe a little scared if you act too strongly. Since he didn't have any identification on him we've...well, it was mostly Geet his nurse who came up with a name for him. We've been calling him Gaurav Sharma." Preet and Heer nodded their heads and watched as he opened the door to the room. They followed him in and saw Prem resting in his bed with a book in his hand reading. He lifted his head the minute they walked in and he had a curious expression on his face.
"How are you feeling today, Gaurav?" Dr. Sharma inquired.
"Better Dr. Sharma," Prem replied. "So when can I walk?"
He grinned at hearing that question. "I think tomorrow. I'll schedule you for rehab tomorrow morning. Take things easy though...your body has been through a lot it needs some time to adjust to things. Understand?"
"Understood." Prem's eyes searched passed the doctor wondering who the people were standing behind him. He was trying not to stare but he couldn't help it as they seemed to be looking at him just as much as he was looking at them. His eyes took in their features trying to search the recesses of his mind to see if there was any spark of recognition in his brain but it was no use. Everything was blank. So he just studied them trying to sense what kind of people they were.
"Gaurav, they are your family," Dr. Sharma introduced. He paused to gauge his reaction to the news he just delivered to him.
"Family," he said as his eyes widened in surprise and excitement. He looked at Preet and then at Heer and repeated again, "Family..."
"I'll leave you all to catch up," Dr. Sharma said excusing himself from the reunion.
"Thank you Dr. Sharma," Preet said. He turned back around and gave a nervous grin. It was strange seeing his friend and knowing that he didn't recognize him. Everything they had been through during their covert missions in the CIA and the bond they had shared was empty and meaningless because he couldn't remember it.
"Sooo, you are?" Gaurav hesitantly asked to get the conversation going.
"I'm Preet Rajput. A good friend of yours...almost like a brother."
"What's my name? I know it can't be Gaurav Sharma...that's what Geet named me." Heer couldn't help but feel a slight sting in her heart hearing him say the nurse's name so effortlessly. The nurse seemed a bit protective of Prem. Her concern seemed more than just a normal concern over a patient. A sudden pang of anxiety struck her as her mind wondered if there more than a nurse-patient relationship going on between the two. Her eyes shifted away when she saw Prem look towards her trying to read her expressions.
"You're name is Prem Deshmukh," Preet answered drawing Prem's attention away from Heer.
"Prem Deshmukh," Prem repeated. "Prem Deshmukh...hmmm...sounds nice. So what do I do?"
"Um, you're in construction like your adopted father Kiran. You work with him in his company," Preet replied. Heer shot a glance towards him wondering if lying to him like that was such a good idea. But then she remembered what the doctor had told them and realized they were going to have to tell him a few white lies until he regained his memory or when he was more stable enough to handle the truth."
"Adopted father?" Prem asked. "I'm adopted?"
"You lost your parents when you were young but Kiran and Kulraj Deshmukh adopted you," Preet explained.
"Oh, I see," Prem replied with a pondering expression on his face.
"You guys are really tight and love each other a lot," Preet added hoping it would make the news of being adopted sound a little better."
"That's good to know," Prem said with a more positive tone in his voice.
"So you're reading Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol?" Preet inquired shifting his eyes towards the book in his hand.
"Yeah, it's really good," Prem replied.
"I know I've been reading it. And so has Heer...we've been trying to get you read it," Preet chuckled softly.
"So that's why..." Prem muttered under his breath. He then looked at him with a questioning expression, "Who's Heer?" He saw Preet look to his right and understood that the woman standing next to him was her. Prem's eyes flexed as he studied her features. He had noticed her the minute they had walked into the room. He felt himself being drawn to her almond shaped eyes and there was this unexplainable curiosity within him to continue gazing at her. She was very beautiful. He wondered what relationship he had with her. He watched with baited breath as her pink lips opened to introduce herself to him.
"I'm Heer...your wife." Prem's eyes widened at her revelation. He was married. He gently took in a breath and felt relieved even though his heart was beating rapidly in his chest. A strange wonder fell over him as he pondered how he had made her his wife. What was their love story like? What type of relationship did they have? Was it calm and peaceful? Was it passionate and stormy? Was it quirky and unique? Was he romantic? Was he funny? Was he protective? What was it that made them fall in love? Prem realized that there was an odd silence filling the room as she was waiting for his response. "Hi," he awkwardly replied. He wasn't quite sure what to say. He had so many questions running through his mind but he couldn't ask them all. He was sure she was struggling over his inability to remember. It would probably pain her too much to hear him ask when they got married, if they had children, or where they had spent their Honeymoon. It was a delicate situation and the awkward pauses and silent looks were to be expected.
"So, um, you must have a lot of questions," Preet said breaking the silence. He had noticed the way Prem kept gazing at Heer as if he was trying to make himself remember her.
"Questions...yes, a lot," Prem replied. "I don't even know where to start."
"Preet, the doctor told us not overload him with information," Heer said with concern in her voice.
"I know. But we can at least start with a bit of the basics like where he was born and a little bit about his family. General things," Preet reassured.
Prem smiled at his words and nodded. "That's a great place to start."
Geet gathered her paperwork from the desk and walked to the back of the nurses' station into the office room where they kept their files and copier. She heard footsteps approaching the room as she began filing her paperwork away. "So is it really true Geet?" Amrita asked with great curiosity in her voice. "Gaurav's family has come to take him back?"
"I heard from someone who saw them that his wife is really pretty," Dia said.
"What? He's married?" Amrita gasped.
"You didn't know? How could you not know about that?" Dia replied. "Everyone knows about that. I mean when a handsome guy like him has family coming to meet him...and there is a girl amongst that family...the first thing to find out is if she's his girlfriend, fiance, or wife."
"I didn't get to hear everything because I got called away to treat a patient," Amrita said. "Well, I guess there is some truth...the good ones seem to always be taken."
"How are you doing Geet?" Dia softly inquired.
"Fine," she replied as she continued concentrating on putting her papers away. Dia and Amrita both exchanged quizzical looks at one another. "Well, if you excuse me. I have to go to the cafeteria and check on dinner."
Dia sighed shaking her head as she watched Geet walk away. "Poor girl."
"Well, that's what you get when you get too close to a patient. It's not like we haven't been there before. It's a lesson we've all learned when we first started. When you get yourself too involved it hurts and it can sometimes cloud your judgment," Amrita said. "She'll probably be a bit down for the next couple of weeks. We should do our best to cheer her up."
"Yes we should," Dia replied. "She's going to have to see him interact with his wife."
Preet and Heer turned their heads when they heard a soft knock on the hospital door. "It's dinner time." They saw Nurse Geet Sahdev carrying a tray of hot food for Prem. "Oh, I'm sorry if I'm intruding."
"No, it's all right," Preet replied. "It's getting late we should probably get going ourselves. It's been a long day. Prem should rest after all he has rehab therapy in the morning."
"So I'll see you guys tomorrow right?" Prem asked with a smile. "It would be nice to have someone to walk around with even if it's in the hospital courtyard." Geet noticed how Prem's eyes had shifted over to his wife as if asking her to come with him.
"We'll see you tomorrow," Heer answered.
"Bye," Preet politely said to Geet as he and Heer left the room.
Geet placed the dinner tray on the table-bed and rolled it into place over Prem. "Got you the extra kheer like I had promised."
"Thanks," he grinned widely. "Hey you have some time or do you have another room to go to?"
"I'm done. Why?" Geet replied.
You have an extra spoon?" Prem asked.
"I think there are some in the cart. Why?"
Prem lifted the extra kheer bowl up in an offering gesture, "Well, I thought you could join me in having some kheer."
Geet's eyes lit in surprise and she felt her heartbeat speed up in glee. "Oh, okay, I'll be right back," she said and quickly went to the cart get an extra spoon.
A few seconds later Geet was sititng in a chair next to Prem's bed. "Cheers," he smiled as he tapped his spoon against her spoon. Geet beamed a smile back at him before she started eating the milky dessert. "You know I think I've always liked kheer," Prem said out loud. "There is something about the taste that I really like. Maybe my Mom use to make it for me all the time."
"Maybe," Geet said agreeing along with him.
"Thanks for sharing this with me...this moment...I'm really happy today," Prem said. "I think sharing a happy moment with someone makes it even better." Geet looked at him as she silently chewed wondering where he was steering the conversation towards. She enjoyed seeing his smiling face and his cheery attitude. It made her feel light and excited. She felt her heart skip a beat when his browns eyes connected with hers. She knew deep down inside it wasn't right for her to feel this way about him but she couldn't help it. She had a crush on him. She stared into his soulful eyes and waited for him to finish what he was saying. "I finally know who I am because my family found me. Even though I don't remember anything its still nice to know what relations I have, what friendships I've made, and whom I belong to." Geet felt a sinking feeling swell in the pit of her stomach and she slowed her eating. "My name is Prem Deshmukh. I'm married to Heer Maan...I'm a newlywed. Who would have thought, huh? And I'm from the US that explains why I can speak English so perfectly. I came to India for my Honeymoon. And I work in construction like my adopted father. He owns his own construction company. My adopted mother past away a few months back...died of a heart attack. My biological parents died when I was young and I got adopted by the Deshmukhs. I live in Washington D.C. Oh, I met my wife when I was seven. We grew up together...childhood friends..."
Geet saw the look on Prem's face as he continued to tell her random facts about himself that he had leared from Preet and Heer. She knew he was looking for some sort of response from her and forced a smile. "That's great. Gaur...Prem. I'm really happy for you."
"Yeah, it's going to be weird hearing Prem...I have sort of gotten use to Gaurav but Prem's a nice name too. Really thank you Geet for everything you've done for me." The only thing Geet could do was politely smile back at him and finish eating her kheer, even though she had lost her appetite.
Preet handed Heer a cup of coffee as she sat down at their table. "I called in and reported to our supervisor and faxed over the copy of Prem's medical reports that Dr. Sharma gave us. The Director said we should let Prem finished his therapy before moving him. We shouldn't disturb his recovery." He poured some cream into his cup turning the dark liquid to a light milky brown and stirred lightly, "So, sleep well?"
Heer could detect the concern in his voice and she gave a soft grin. "Yes I did." There was a pause of silence between them before she added. "I cried everything out last night so you won't have to worry about me shedding anymore tears."
"Heer..." Preet uttered his eyes filled with mixed emotions.
"I have to be strong for both of us...now that he has amnesia. He may not remember me but that doesn't mean we can't move forward. It will be like we're dating each other again. I'm not going to give up on him," Heer explained. "I've come this far and I'm not going to go back home without him. I won't become weak again."
Preet nodded his head. "And you'll get what you want...you won't leave here without him and I'll make sure of that too." Heer widened her smile at his comment. "I know you're probably not very comfortable with some of the things I told him but you know what the doctor said."
"We are still strangers to him so he probably wouldn't believe us if we did tell him. And even still telling him that he use to be a covert CIA agent isn't exactly the type of news that would probably go down well especially the part about his Uncle trying to kill him," Heer sighed.
"At least we tried to stick to the truth as close as we could about his life. Once he's back home we can slowly explained the rest to him," Preet suggested. "Dr. Sharma would probably be very upset with us if we dropped the news to Prem all in one go."
"And that nurse, Geet," Heer muttered.
Preet arched his eyebrows and inquired, "The nurse?"
"I don't think she likes us. I don't think she trusts us. You saw how she was looking at us. She's probably going to be pretty nosy we have to be careful. We can't let people find out who we really are."
"Beside the fact that it could endanger their lives?" Preet replied. "If Jaywant were to find out about us, the hospital, and that Prem is still alive?"
"Cause that's the paramount concern...not your jealousy..." Preet teased.
"Jealousy?" Heer repeated.
"Please I saw the daggers you were shooting with your eyes at the nurse," Preet said as he opened the menu. "You really didn't think I noticed?" He snickered as he saw her cheeks flush a warm pink. "Really, Bhabhi what did I tell you? Don't worry. He was madly in love with you before and he's not about to forget that even if he is having some issues recalling in his mind. You can't trick the heart." He flipped through the pages in the menu and smiled, "So breakfast? Prem has rehab therapy this morning so by the time we order something and finish eating he should be done and we then have time to visit him."
Heer sheepishly took a menu and began looking to see what there was to eat. Preet just grinned as he silently sipped his coffee. He knew it would only take a matter of time before Prem and Heer would be acting like two lovebirds again. He had that much faith in their relationship. He had that much faith that God wouldn't allow them to part after everything they had been through. They deserved that much from God. The All Mighty sort of owed it to them.
Prem sat in his room with eager jitteriness watching the door like a hawk waiting. It had been about two weeks and his rehab therapy was going very well. He was still grumbling about having to walk with a crutch but his left ankle was still tender and they needed to build the strength back up. He saw Preet and Heer every day. It was the highlight of his day. They would watch TV serials or films in the common room together, play cards, listen to music, and talk. It wasn't always questions about his life but anything and everything that was going on in the world. Preet would watch cricket with him; both trying to figure out what was so special about the game. He would take strolls with Heer around the courtyard and listen to her stories about their childhood. He was getting a feel for the type of people they were and the significance of their presence in his life. They were slowly become less like strangers and more like the family he had hoped would come and find him during those bleak days when he didn't know who he was.
His brown eyes lit in mirthfulness when he saw the door knob of his room slowly turn open. "Hi!" he greeted.
"Oh hi," Geet answered slightly taken aback by his extremely cheery welcome. "I'm here with your dinner."
"Oh hey Geet," Prem replied. She noticed the way his expression on his face and the tone in his voice had changed when he realized who she was. He was obviously anticipating someone else to be at his door. "So, um...did you bring any extra kheer?"
"Here," Geet said showing him an extra bowl. "You know I always do."
"Thanks," Prem beamed. "You don't happen to have an extra spoon do you?"
"Of course I do," Geet smiled and quickly went to the cart to get an extra spoon. She walked back into the room thinking he was going to offer the kheer to her like the last time but he simply took the spoon from her with a thankful grin.
"I hope she likes kheer," Prem said rather absentmindedly. "I forgot to ask her what she liked. I probably should have asked her shouldn't have I?"
"She?" Geet inquired.
"Heer of course. I invited her to have dinner with me," Prem answered. "I feel kind of nervous. Silly isn't it...I mean she's my wife and all but I get nervous when I'm around her. I wonder what she thinks of me. I mean I probably don't act like the Prem she is use to seeing."
"I'm sure she understands," Geet said forcing a smile as she pushed the rolling table over his bed. "Matter paneer, aloo gobi, eggplant bhartha, rice, and chapatti...sounds like a pretty good dinner to me."
"Yeah, it smells great and looks great too," Prem grinned as he lifted the little lids off the containers to inspect the food. "I hope she likes it."
"You're letting her eat your food?" Geet asked.
"I thought she could have a taste. She's bringing some food too so we can probably share," Prem explained.
"Well, I hope she doesn't come with a McVeggie from McDonlands," Geet off handedly remarked.
Prem chuckled, "Just cause we're from the US doesn't mean we don't enjoy real Indian food."
"I've heard of some families allowing their children to eat beef so they can assimilate into the culture better. I don't agree with such teachings. I have no issues with other people of different cultures eating beef but for religious reasons in our Hindu culture it's just not something you do," Geet replied.
"Well, she doesn't eat beef. She eats chicken, fish, and seafood but no beef," Prem defended.
"She does wear a lot of western clothing. I haven't seen her in a salwar, anarkali, or even wearing a simple kurta top. She doesn't put sindoor for you or wear her mangalsutra."
"Wouldn't a mangalsutra look kind of strange with jeans and a t-shirt?" Prem asked. "You know I didn't realize you were so traditional. I've seen some people without the mangalsutra and I know they are married. I think the necklace would get in the way of hospital work...can't have something like that hanging down while you're doing surgery on a patient. But Heer wears the engagement ring I gave her. I don't even have my ring. It probably fell off while I was in the river."
Geet realized that she had hit a nerve as his tone had deepened and his eyebrows were knitting in an annoyed manner. "I didn't mean to sound like I'm disapproving of her. It was some things I just noticed. I'm sorry Prem."
She saw his eyes lighten and an understanding half grin appear on his face. "It's okay. I know you didn't mean it."
Their conversation was interrupted when the door to the room opened. It was Heer. "Hey," Prem greeted with a smile. "Come on in. You're just in time."
"Hi. The place I went to pick up some food was so busy," Heer replied.
you made it in time," Prem said.
Geet politely smiled at Heer and then quietly made her exit. As she slowly closed the door behind her she heard Prem ask, "So what did you get to eat? It's not a McVeggie is it?"
"McVeggie? No," Heer answered. "Why did you want one?"
"No, no, it's okay..."
"If you want I can go get you one," Heer said. "It won't take me long."
"No, it's fine Heer. I'm fine with what you brought."
"You don't even know what I brought. You wanted a McVeggie. I guess I should have asked you want you wanted," Heer said with a slight panic in her voice.
"It's fine. I'm fine...seriously...sit down will you?" Prem pleaded. "So what did you bring me?"
"Pav bhaji," Heer replied.
"Pav bhaji?" Prem repeated. Geet then heard them both burst into a fit of laughter as if there was some inside joke attached to the food item. She took a deep breath and then shut the door firmly closed.
Prem laughed heartedly at the story Heer was telling him. He rubbed the back of his head and sheepishly said, "I did a lot of bad things when I was young. How did you put up with me?"
"It wasn't easy," Heer teased back making him grin. She had a bit of the butterflies when dinner started but eventually those floated away as she got more comfortable being alone with him in his room. It was a strange feeling knowing the person you loved couldn't remember a thing about himself or the loved you both had for each other. She had to stop herself from saying "remember when" when she talked to him. She tried to remain positive thinking that maybe one of the childhood stories she told him during their daily strolls around the courtyard would somehow trigger something in his mind and he would suddenly remember everything. But it was getting harder to remain positive when he always seemed to listen to her words like it was something he was hearing for the first time. She told him everything that she could think of about their childhood together; all their silly fights, the antics he got himself into, the class trips, the summer camps, and the family trips. She told as much of the truth as she could. She made sure not to mention his experiences with his Aunt Kuljeet and that he had actually spent some time in foster care before the Deshmukhs adopted him. She also neglected to tell him the pet name he had given her. It was a part she wanted him to remember on his own if he could. The name held so much meaning to both of them that she really didn't want him to use it just because she told him that was what he used to call her. She needed to hear it from his heart. She needed him to call her Pumpkin because he knew that was what he loved to do.
"You know hearing you tell these stories about me...my childhood...us...makes me sort of wonder what exactly did you see in me...cause quite frankly I sound sort of stupid," Prem said as he handed her a small bowl of kheer.
"You're not stupid," Heer chided.
"But still...you seemed to have the brains if you will in our relationship...I seemed a little too antsy...jumping into things without much care," Prem said. "I hope I got better."
"You did get better. You never let me down. You were always there for me when I needed you. You were my best friend," Heer said and took a spoonful of kheer.
"So I was your shoulder to cry on...a hug if you needed...someone who'd go and beat someone up for you, huh?"
"Something like that," Heer smiled.
"And you were my strength, someone who could pick me up even during my darkest hours, someone who cared so deeply...so selflessly...putting aside your own feelings to do what was best or right..." Heer's eyes widen at his words and she saw her vision go blurry as tears suddenly threatened to fall. Prem stopped talking when he saw how silent she had turned and the watery eyes. He felt like he had said something wrong and he looked away ashamed he had somehow made her cry. He took a spoonful of kheer and decided to change the topic. "So, I hope you don't mind kheer for dessert. I didn't know what you liked. I'm sorry I didn't ask. You know there are a lot of sweets...chocolate, ice cream, cake, cookies, brownies, donuts, jalebi, rasmalai, rasgulla, ladoo, gulab jamun, halwa, um...cheesecake, pound cake..."
"It's okay. I like kheer," Heer replied.
Prem stopped his rambling and gave a small smile. His eyes looked on nervously checking to see if her eyes were still watery. Heer on her part planted a big grin on her face showing him that she was fine. The words he had said to her had touched her deeply. It was like he was her Prem again even though the reality was that the Prem in front of her had no clue on how to be the Prem of old. She knew it wasn't his fault. He had no memory. She was still silently struggling with this possibility that she may have to live with this new Prem with no memory for the rest of her live. She wondered where or how to build upon a foundation that was no longer there. What was she to do? Years of precious memories forgotten; she couldn't expect him to remember everything she told him about their life together. He would forget. He wasn't some mechanical computer that could store and recall everything with a click of a button.
"So um, what's your favorite dessert so I know for next time," Prem timidly asked.
"Warm cake and ice cream...vanilla or chocolate," Heer replied. "I don't know I've always liked that combination since I was little. Nothing like warm cake with a cold scoop of ice cream...just the way you the cake melts in your mouth and you get that cool sensation of the ice cream there...the two just really complement each other."
"Ah, I see. I'll try to get that for you next time," Prem said.
"It's okay. I don't want to trouble you," Heer replied.
"Trouble me? What are you talking about? I'm your husband. I should be doing things like this for you," Prem earnestly said. "So um, my favorite dessert is..."
"Kheer," Heer answered. "You've always liked kheer."
Prem smiled, "I guess that explains why I always ask for kheer. Geet gives me two servings."
"Oh, she does?" Heer probed.
"Yeah, she's um, cool like that," Prem replied and put down his empty bowl.
Heer placed her empty bowl on top of his and placed her spoon on his tray. They both awkwardly looked around the room not sure what to do next. "So you wanna take a walk?" Prem suggested.
"Um, to help with digestion...just a little stroll," Prem explained. Heer nodded and then help him lower the railing on the hospital bed. Prem took his one singular crutch and hobbled to the door before Heer could get to it. He opened it and directed his hand in a gentlemanly fashion for her to go first.
They walked quietly in silence for a few minutes around the courtyard listening to the sounds of the warm spring night that had a delicate breeze blowing in from the north. Prem looked up at the sky and marveled at the way the moon was shining brightly above their heads. He glanced to his right and drew in a sharp breath. The moonlight was cascading down upon Heer making her look even more beautiful than she already was. He stood there gazing at her happy that she seemed to be preoccupied by some rose bush. A gentle breeze blew lifting her hair slightly off her shoulders; her dark tresses seemed to float in mid air and he was completely mesmerized. He felt his fingers aching to comb through her hair and he had to fight with himself to not act upon his urge. His body stiffened when he heard her let out a tiny yelp. He quickly grabbed her hand and saw that she had pricked her finger on a rose thorn. Without thinking twice he bent down and brought her finger to his mouth.
Heer stared at him surprised by his actions. She watched as he tenderly sucked the joint on her finger. She felt her heart start to beat rapidly in her chest as his eyes made their way to hers. Prem pulled her hand away from his mouth wondering if he had done something wrong again. He shifted his eyes downward and inspected her finger. "Thank you," Heer softly uttered.
Prem gave a small smile and then turned away. "Probably should wash that and put a bandage on it. Why don't we go back inside and get that for you?" Another breeze blew across the courtyard but this time it was a bit stronger. Heer watched as the wind ruffled Prem's hair and sent a few small flower petals down into his thick black mane. She quickly brushed the tips of her fingers through his silky strands making him turn. Heer lifted her hand up letting it hang in mid air barely above his head while their eyes gently locked. Prem gazed into her hazel eyes and felt himself drowning. It was the good kind of drowning. The one he hoped he would never awake from. He studied the way her hazel eyes sparked underneath the moonlight and thought to himself how lucky he was to be able to witness this sight. He knew even with his amnesia that the Prem he was before the accident probably enjoyed this just as much as he was enjoying it now.
Heer waited with baited breath as she sensed Prem's body leaning in towards her. She then felt his hand delicately holding her wrist pulling it down from his head. "Thanks," he whispered. He reluctantly torn his gaze away from her eyes and looked down to inspect her hand. "Let's get you a bandage," he said with concern.
"I'll be fine," Heer replied.
"Please," Prem simply stated. Heer nodded and they both turned around to walk back inside the hospital.
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|new ff dil ka rishta chpt 2||lub.harshiti||6||444||08 March 2010 at 12:55am