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Mission 41: Full Circle
Heer exhaled loudly as she entered her room. She was feeling completely exhausted from the events of the day in fact the entire week had been exhausting and she knew she would have to deal with the craziness for a few more days. She walked towards the wardrobe and just as she opened the closet door she felt someone grab her from behind. She couldn't scream as a hand was placed over mouth keeping her from making any noise. Her body was ready to go into self defense mood until she heard the familiar husky voice of her fiancee whispering in her ear. "Pumpkin, it's me." Her body loosened and the hand clamping her mouth fell away to her waist to give her a loving embrace.
"Prem what are you doing here?" Heer asked. "You can't be here."
"What do you mean I can't be here?" Prem replied. "You don't want to see me?"
"Prem you know you can't be here. If Mama finds out you are so dead," Heer panicked.
"Your mother?" Prem laughed. "She's going to catch me? I work for the CIA. I know how to sneak around. I leave no footprints, no traces, no evidence of where I've been so just relax. Don't you miss me?"
"I do," Heer replied with her back still facing him. "But this is tradition. We aren't suppose to see each other."
"Well, we aren't looking at each other are we?" Prem smartly responded as he nuzzled her ear.
"You know what I mean Prem," Heer said.
"You're not being very nice to me. All I want is a kiss and then I'll be on my way."
"A kiss?!" Heer exclaimed.
"Why are you making it sound like it's something disgusting? Am I not worthy to kiss you now? If you're beginning to feel this way then maybe we should just call off the wedding tomorrow."
Heer sighed in annoyance that her fiancee was being so difficult. "You know very well I want to marry you. But I'm not going to break tradition. You shouldn't be in my room and I can't believe I've allowed this conversation to last this long."
"You can't believe? I'm seeing a very different side of you Pumpkin and I don't know if I like it. You're suddenly so strict. You are acting like your mother who has completely turned into some Lady Hilter. She's ordering people around left and right...she's got me guarded all the time. I haven't seen you for so long...I think I'm forgetting what you look like..."
"Prem..." Heer said rolling her eyes at his exaggeration. "It's only been three days."
"It's been more than that," Prem protested. "I have to ask permission before I go to the bathroom...before I eat anything...before I go to bed...it's like I'm a prisoner and I'm the groom here! This is my wedding too...I deserve to see my future wife!"
Heer shook her head gently at his words knowing he was becoming overly dramatic. Just as she was about to say something she heard the rushed footsteps of someone coming towards the room. The door hurriedly opened as her mother entered calling her name, "Heer..."
"Oh sh*t," Prem mumbled as he quickly let go of Heer and tried running towards the window to hide behind the curtains.
"I see you son-in-law," Teji barked.
"Why don't you lock the door!" Prem whined at Heer.
"Don't go blaming me," Heer hissed. "You're the one who got yourself in this whole mess."
"Come out right now. On the count of three," Teji ordered as she stood in front of the curtains he was hiding in. "One...two...three..."
Prem emerged from the white curtains and bowed his head downward in a defeated stance. "Ahhh..." he winced when his mother-in-law grabbed his ear in her hands. "Maaa..."
"What did I tell you?" Teji inquired as she shook her finger at him. "Come with me...now I'm going to have even more people watching you. If you thought it was hard before now I'd like to see you try to sneak back into this room."
Heer tried not to laugh at the sight of her mother dragging Prem out of her room holding his ear. She was finding the entire scene entirely too comical but she also felt bad for him as well. He was fidgeting about trying to turn around so he could see her. The more he tired the harder her mother would twist his ear making him yelp. Prem managed to do a quick turn and give her a flying kiss before being hauled out the door. Heer let out a giggle and gave him a loving wave goodbye. She heard her mother instruct some relatives to take Prem away and watch him carefully.
Teji soon returned to the room with a cross look on her face. "Don't encourage him Heer," she said.
"What? I didn't do a thing. He's the one who snuck into the room. I just came up to get something," she defended. "Aren't you being just a tad uptight about this?"
"It is tradition and he shouldn't be breaking it."
"Everyone does it Mama. Even Papa tried to find a way to sneak into your mehndi party when he shouldn't have," Heer replied.
Teji sighed letting the stern look on her face disappear. "Both of you have been through so much together. I just want your marriage to have a good start. I want it to be free of worry, free of negativity, free of bad omens."
"Mama," Heer uttered as she placed her arm on her hand. She saw her mother give her a teary smile and she hugged her tightly. "Don't worry. Prem and I are fighters...we won't let anything get in our way."
"I know," Teji replied with a soft sniffle. "He's a good man. He'll take good care of you."
"And I'll take care of him. We'll take care of each other," Heer said with confidence. "Our love is strong."
"That it is," Teji said in confirmation. "That it is."
Hazel eyes gazed up at the sky in awe at the full moon hanging high in the dark night. She felt the gentle fall breeze blow across her face cooling her warm skin as she stood outside the balcony of her room. She looked down at the courtyard below and grinned. She never thought that her wedding would be taking place here; in her ancestral home in India in the city of Ludhiana. She had always imagined that her wedding would be in the US where she grew up. But considering everything somehow it seemed fitting that the wedding was taking place in India. They discovered their feelings for one another in Goa and they fought for their love in a village near the city of Ambala. Their love story was tied to this country, their motherland. She smiled as she detected a familiar spicy musky scent drifting along the breeze towards her. "You really don't give up do you?"
"How can I Pumpkin?" Prem whispered as he wrapped his arms around her waist. He breathed deeply letting his chest fill with a scent of sweet vanilla and lavender. "I won't be able to sleep at all tonight. It's going to be torture waiting for the sun to rise."
Heer let out a soft giggle as her fiancee nuzzled her ear. "Mmm...I know what you mean. But Pancake, you really need to go. Don't you remember what happened earlier?"
"I still got out didn't I?" Prem replied. "You're mother can't keep me away from you."
"You can't look at me Prem," Heer warned.
"I'm not. We'll just stand here and look at the moon together," he answered as he placed a kiss on the side of her head.
"Can you believe that we're back in India again?" Heer mused. "When we started planning for this wedding it was going to be held in the States and now...somehow we are here. It's funny isn't it?"
"I suppose. But it's sort of fitting to be here," Prem replied. He gently stroked his thumb against the soft and supple skin of her hand and grinned. "Twenty-two years ago a boy met a girl. The boy use to make fun of the girl...called her names and trouble her a lot but now he can't see his life without her. She has given him so much. He's life has meaning because of her. Now every breath he takes is for her. Every beat his heart beats is for her. He lives because of her...he lives for her."
"What a romantic story...is this the new version of Cinderella? When's the movie coming out?"
Prem's eyebrows furrowed as his mouth exclaimed, "What?" Heer let out an infectious laugh at his response. "I'm saying something romantic to you and you think I'm taking about a movie?"
"Oh Pancake don't be upset," Heer giggled as she reached behind her and caressed his cheek trying to calm him down.
"Don't be upset? You know I've been treated so unfairly this entire week. I can't do anything or go anywhere without people asking me what I'm doing. Your mother, Lady Hilter watches me all the time. I can't even get two minutes to talk to you because some relative always pulls you away from me. I can't hug you. I can't kiss you. I can't do anything. And now you want to make fun of me? You tell me...is this fair?"
"Prem, close your eyes," Heer commanded.
"Close my eyes? What are you going to do sneak away while I have my eyes closed? Isn't it enough that we aren't looking at each other? Now you want me to close my eyes?" he huffed.
"Close your eyes," Heer repeated making sure to enunciate each word. "Close them." She heard Prem grumble but knew he had obediently closed his eyes as she had instructed. She closed her eyes and slowly turned around in his embrace so she was facing him. Her hands rested on his strong shoulders as her body oriented to the new position.
"What are you doing?" Prem asked as his eyebrows flexed in curiosity. He was fighting the urge to open his eyes and see what exactly his fiancee was doing. "You're not going to go tell on me are you?"
"Keep those eyes shut," Heer ordered. "And why would I go and tell on you?" Her hands slowly crept upward feeling their way to his neck. She heard Prem let out a giggle as he had become ticklish by her movements. Her lips turned upward into a grin. "You mentioned a kiss earlier," she whispered as her thumbs traveled from the tip of his chin to his soft lips. She leaned inward and used her mouth to follow the arch of her hands. Her lips trailed along her skin until it reached its intended destination. She lowered her thumbs so her lips could glide into place and met Prem's parted lips. She could feel his giddy grin as their mouths collided into pure bliss. Her hands coiled naturally around his neck as his hands rested around her waist keeping them close together.
As their lips naturally parted Prem sighed, "Thank you Pumpkin."
"I'd thought you enjoy that," Heer softly said. She could still feel his breath fanning on her skin and grinned as his nose brushed delicately against her nose. "Another one?"
"Please," Prem requested. The familiar tingling sensation he always experience when they adored each other with kisses rushed through his body making him feel light and airy. Even though he knew it was going to happen he still felt amazed by it. "I can't believe I'm going to get a lifetime of these," grinning widely, "your love is beyond anything I know."
Heer shyly smiled. "Your love is all I need."
"Tomorrow we will be husband and wife. Pati...Patni," Prem said happily. "And I won't have to ask permission to see you. I can go wherever you go. I can sit next to you. I can eat with you. I can hug you," tightening his arms around her, "I can kiss you," placing a sweet kiss on her lips, "and I can sleep in the same room with you. Ha! Nobody is going to be allowed in our bedroom. Sirf main aur tum. That's it."
Heer chortled at his last comment. "Sirf main aur tum? Humare beche?"
"Well, of course but even they can't come storming into our room without knocking first," Prem replied making Heer chuckle some more. "Our Pumpkin Pancakes will have manners." His face swelled with joy as he felt Heer snuggle against his shoulder. Prem gave a soft squeeze of affection and lazily rubbed her shoulder with his hand. After some time he slowly began to pull away, "I should go now."
"So soon?" Heer inquired with surprise.
"I got my kiss. And like you said if someone were to catch me here with you I'm a dead man," Prem replied.
"Stay a little longer. I want to watch the stars," Heer pleaded. "Please?"
Prem grinned at her sudden insistence. "Wait right here. I'll be back."
"Prem, wait...what am I suppose to do?" Heer asked as she felt him move away.
"Just stay there. Don't worry. I'll be back." He gently turned her around so she was facing away from the room and instructed, "You can open your eyes and look up at the sky." He then ran into her room looking for something. Prem beamed a sly smile when he found what he was searching for. A few seconds later he was carrying the long wooden bench that had been placed in front of the bed out onto the balcony. He positioned it carefully into place and then shifted Heer towards the bench. "Sit down."
"Prem, what are you doing?" Heer asked with her eyes closed.
"Don't worry. Carefully now...just relax and take a seat," he replied. "I don't want you to fall." He tried his best not to look at her but his eyes would sneakily shift over catching a glimpse of her beautiful face. His half grin tightened in mirth at just being able to spend some time alone with her.
Heer steady herself on the bench and flexed her eyebrows wondering what her fiancee was doing. "Prem?"
"Yes Pumpkin?" he replied as he positioned himself on the bench with his back facing her back. "You can open your eyes now."
Heer's eyelids fluttered open and saw that she was sitting on the bench with Prem sitting right behind her. They were sitting back to back but they both could look up at the sky and star gaze. Her pink lips pursed into a blissful smile as she felt Prem's fingers slowly curve their way around her fingers so they could hold hands. She marveled at how small her hands felt in his. She knew of the strength and power they possessed but in moments like these they displayed such warmth and tenderness. She felt him give her an affectionate squeeze making her beam a look of happiness on her face. Heer then gingerly leaned back resting herself softly against Prem's sturdy body. "Is this okay?"
"Of course," Prem replied as his fingers flexed lovingly while they held hands.
"Are we going stay up and watch the sunrise together?"
"Whatever you want Pumpkin," Prem smiled.
Sighing a bit, "But I don't want to get you into trouble. I know Mama and my cousins will probably wake me up really early so I can get ready for the haldi ceremony."
"I guess another night then. I'll sit here for another fifteen minutes. I'm sure by now someone is suspecting something...probably going to my room checking to see if it's really me underneath the covers sleeping," Prem said.
Heer lazily tilted her head back against his shoulder and gave a thoughtful grin. "Tomorrow..."
"Yes, tomorrow. Mr. and Mrs. Pumpkin-Pancake," Prem joked making Heer laugh. "Mr. and Mrs. Pumpkin-Pancake who will one day have little Pumpkin-Pancakes. And those little Pumpkin-Pancakes will love to eat Pumpkin Pancakes."
"How many Pumpkin-Pancakes are Mr. and Mrs. Pumpkin-Pancake making?"
"Hmmm...as many as Mrs. Pumpkin-Pancake can handle," Prem answered.
"What?" Prem sputtered. "Five?"
"That's how many come in a stack of pancakes," Heer teased.
"Do you really want to have five? You know how I was when I was a kid. Do you really want to have to deal with that behavior from five kids?" Prem asked with concern in his voice.
"Not up for a challenge?" Heer laughed.
"You may be finding this all amusing now but when we start having kids you'll see their behavior and you are going to regret it. They are going to be up to a lot of masti...badmaash company they are going to be...they are going to need a lot of discipline...time outs, spanking, and a lot of threatening."
"Prem are you calling your children bad?" Heer gasped.
"They're not bad...just up to no good," he reasoned. "That's why having five is probably not a good idea. They will drive you crazy. I want my wife to be sane."
"I'll be fine. I thought you would enjoy a big family. You wanted children didn't you?"
"Of course I do Pumpkin," Prem said earnestly. "You know I want a little girl just like you. I'm just saying we shouldn't have them all at once."
"I'm not having quintuplets," Heer exclaimed. "They are not all coming out at once, Prem."
"What I mean is we should space them out. I don't want them popping out like every year. That's a heavy toll on the body and if they are all that close in age I think we'd go mad," he explained. "I hope we have more girls than boys."
"With boys they can help you carry on the family name," Heer thoughtfully replied.
"Boys will be more trouble," he groaned.
"Oh? You think girls don't rebel and get into trouble? You'd be surprise," Heer said. "We can be very defiant."
"I rather have defiant then running around breaking the law. Boys seem to have a knack at getting into a different kind of trouble," Prem replied.
"Well, our boys will be well behaved. I won't tolerate such nonsense from them," Heer said making Prem chuckle.
"Ahhh, this is one of the things I just love about you Ms. Heer Maan," Prem sighed with joy.
"Thank you," Heer beamed and leaned her head comfortably back against his shoulder.********************************************************************
Prem stared at his reflection in the mirror and grinned. He was wearing his maroon and beige wedding sherwani. The top was beige with a classic embroidery design and intricate red bead and stone work. His stole and pants were red while his shoes were beige. He adjusted his hair with his hands making sure it looked nice before he reached for his wedding turban to place it on his head. His eyes crinkled into a smile when he sensed the presence of his father. He turned around and looked at Kiran and asked, "So, did I put it on right?"
Kiran chuckled, "Yes, your mother would be so proud. You're going to make your bride speechless."
"Dad," Prem replied shyly.
"Who says the groom can't look good for his wedding? Why does the bride have to get all the glory?" Kiran teased. Prem sheepishly bowed his head not sure what to say. Kiran patted his shoulder letting out a hearty laugh. He then looked at his son, "I saw her. She'll take your breath away." Kiran grinned as he saw the way his son's eyes beamed at the thought of his bride. There was no mistaking the joyful expression on his face. He was ready to get married and spend the rest of his life with the woman that he loved. Kiran felt a sudden unexplainable welling of emotion in his chest. He wished his wife could have witnessed this day; their sons's wedding and partake in all the festivities. He swallowed hard trying to smooth away the lump in his throat.
"I wished she was here too Dad," Prem said understanding what his father must be thinking.
"I'm very proud of you son," Kiran replied.
"Thank you Dad," pausing gently as he gave a heartfelt grin, "Really thank you. I know it was tough to hear me ask permission. You know I love you. I'm very grateful for everything you and Mom have done for me. I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for your love and support."
"I understand Prem. I've fine with your decision. I told you didn't I? I don't want you feeling guilty. I think you are doing a great honor to your parents," Kiran said reassuringly. "The paperwork has been filled and filed. I don't want to hear any more talk of this in the future understand, Mr. Juneja?"
"Yes Dad," Prem nodded obediently. "But I want you to know...it's a promise...my son will have the middle name Deshmukh...he'll carry it on...it's my word." Kiran gave him a tight hug and patted his back. "Love you Dad."
"Love you too Son."
The father-son moment was interrupted when they heard a group of loud voices come barreling into the room. Preet was in front leading Prem's closest friends into his quarters. He had a wicked smile plastered on his face. He ceremoniously kneeled on one knee with his palms facing upward as he presented a lavishly decorated sword to Prem take. "Rajakumar, your sword. You can't be in incomplete attire in the baraat."
Prem chuckled and took the sword from him. "Thanks."
"So we're just going to ride in a car to the hotel?" Leo inquired rather sadly.
"Sorry modern transportation," Preet answered. "No horse or elephant."
"You were looking really forward to that weren't you?" Prashant inquired.
"I've been reading about traditional Indian weddings," Leo replied.
"Modern times now I'm afraid but we still have plenty of people who partake in those traditional processions too," Manmeet explained. "Just not at this wedding."
"I guess next time," Leo sighed.
"Let's go boys the groom is getting restless. He wants to get married fast," Kiran teased.
"Eager to lose all his freedom and go to jail...the life of marriage?" Prashant smirked.
"He's crazy that's for sure," Manment sighed shaking his head, "He doesn't realize what he is getting into. Isn't that right Kiran Uncle?"
Grinning widely, "When the honeymoon phase is over he'll realize what he got himself into."
"And after that there isn't any turning back is there? He's the one that decided to purpose," Leo added.
"Correct," Kiran nodded with a laugh along with the rest of the single men in the room.
Prem shook his head gently at their teasing while Preet started pondering his own future now that he had purposed to Meher. "You're making Preet worried instead of me," Prem chuckled as he slapped Preet's back. "Trust me guys I know what I want. I know I have no one to blame but myself at the end. But I know I won't regret it."
"All right, let's go. If we show up late the bride is going to be very angry," Kiran said and lead the way out of the room.
Cheeks gently flushed pink as girlish giggles erupted in the room. Heer sat in front of the vanity getting ready for the wedding. A few of her close friends came to her room to wish her well before the wedding got underway. Of course there was a lot of teasing going on and jokes being passed about the night's festivities particularly the suhagraat. "You're getting to be the color of an apple!" Debbie laughed. "It's not like you're all that innocent."
"She's a lady," Veera defended causing Heer to lift her eyes and look at her. "Who's a tigress in the bedroom!" Heer grimaced at the last remark as a flurry of giggles erupted in the room again.
"Okay, we'll give you a break," Meher said after she had caught her breath. "But you know you're going to get it ten times worse from your family. They're going to be asking when you will have children."
"But she's prepared for that aren't you?" Liz inquired.
"Two years...or a year...we'll see how we feel after a year," Heer replied. "Both of us want kids and a big family so it's probably a good idea to start early."
"But you two need time for yourself. Don't rush into it too much. Once you have kids your priorities change. You won't have as much time with each other," Debbie said with some concern.
"I know. We'll see after a year. We are waiting at least a year," Heer replied.
The girls turned their heads when they heard a knock on the bedroom door. "It's time to go," Meher announced. She looked back at Heer who nodded her head and rose to her feet.
"Don't be nervous," Debbie said as she held her hand.
"No running away Missy...you're the one that accepted his proposal," Liz warned making Heer let out a laugh.
"I'm prepared to take him as he is," Heer answered.
"It will be all over...in oh, just a few hours," Veera jested. "I hope you went to the restroom. You'll be sitting on that mandap for awhile."
Heer chuckled and quickly said. "Let me go to the restroom. Tell them I'll be down in a minute." Meher smiled and went to the door to pass the message on.
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