Joined: 19 March 2011
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Joined: 19 March 2011
Joined: 10 July 2007
Joined: 19 March 2011
Joined: 15 July 2010
Chapter 15: Light
"Maan, pay attention!" Pari barked at him, frustrated by his wandering attention. "You know, if you spend all this time being distracted," she said pointedly, "Who will take care of your business? Adi Sir can't do everything. Every time you leave the office, he gets so frazzled. I feel sorry for the poor guy," she muttered to herself.
Maan glanced at Pari quietly before responding, "Who said I'm distracted?"
"My eyes work," Pari replied curtly. She looked meaningfully to the end of the table before turning back to him. "I've known you too long. You don't think that I've noticed the changes in you since a certain woman came into our lives?"
Maan glanced at the end of the table, his eyes alighting on Geet and Rahul giggling over the comics in the newspaper. Geet had insisted on introducing Rahul to the importance of a newspaper and being aware of the world around him. So far they had reached only the comics. She laughed once more, the husky sound causing his heart to clench. His eyes traveled over her happy face. The skin her short sleeves and low neckline left bare enticing him in ways that an employee's skin should not be doing.
He saw her gazing at him out of the corner of her eyes. His eyes narrowed when he saw the flush that appeared on her skin, spreading from her neck to her face, until it was a fiery red. She lowered her head a bit more and whispered something in Rahul's ear. His son eagerly nodded, and the two quickly got up and left the table.
"Where are you going? You haven't spoken to me once today!" Maan opened his mouth, and then resolutely sealed it shut. His hands clenched around his coffee cup, a wrinkle appearing between his brows. Pari was right. He was too distracted by Geet. And tonight . . . tonight was going to be the hardest.
"You're staying over tonight," Maan told Pari abruptly.
"What? Why?!" Pari asked.
"We're going to be working on the Kumar Project," Maan replied. "We've gotten too far behind on everything."
"It can't wait until tomorrow?" Pari asked pleadingly. "I have plans tonight. Important plans. I have a life outside this job, you know!"
"No," Maan replied. "We need to get this done."
She huffed in indignation, then nodded grudgingly.
Maan turned away, his gaze landing on Geet's empty chair. His hands clenched around his cup once more.
Pari's eyes followed his eyes. "Dadi Ma's gone, isn't she?" she asked abruptly.
Maan frowned darkly. Dadi Ma had gone on another one of her pilgrimages, saying that she had to pray for Maan to get happily married since he wasn't making much effort on his own. Maan had tried to argue, saying that Rahul needed his great-grandmother around, especially at night.
"Why don't you have Geet beta stay and take care of Rahul at night?"
Nothing he had said had dissuaded his grandmother's plans or her ill-advised idea to have Geet over. Alone. With just him and Rahul. He readily discounted the servants. And what would a child notice about the shenanigans adults could into over his head?
"Dadi Ma, you're joking, right? How can a single woman stay over at a bachelor's home?" he demanded angrily. "What will people say?"
"Since when have you cared about gossip?" she asked in a surprised tone.
"Since it could hurt Geet," he blurted out without a thought. He flinched when he realized the words that had escaped his lips.
"Beta," she finally said after a pause. "I know that your conscience is clean. There is nothing you would do to hurt that poor child. At least . . . " Her voice trailed off, and she gazed at him questioningly. "Is there something you would like to tell me?" she asked gently. "A reason that you fear your ability to control yourself?"
Maan shook his vehemently. How could he confess to his grandmother the feelings that had been growing within him? How could he confess his weakness? . . . . . . . How could he say that he was afraid?
"Her parents have agreed," Dadi Ma continued. "I will be away for two nights, and Geet will come over to take care of Rahul. The house will be full of servants. You needn't worry. No one will talk."
"So, that's settled," he said to Pari, ignoring her cheeky question. "We'll finish up the details of the Kumar project and focus on choosing the next set of projects that Khurana Construction will be bidding for. You'll be expected to stay over for both tonight and tomorrow night."
"Maan!" Pari protested. "Just because you ca--"
"Tell Adi that I expect him to stay over, as well," he said, interrupting her.
"It's his two month anniversary tonight!" Pari protested. "They do this monthly thing. He's been going on and on about the plans he has in place to surprise his wife! Do you ever listen to your employees?"
"He can bring his wife," Maan stated through gritted teeth. "They can celebrate after we're done working." He got up.
"What about Sasha?!" Pari called out from behind him. "Shouldn't she be coming over?"
"No!" Maan barked at her over his shoulder, refusing to make any explanations. He left the room, ignoring Pari's dire muttering behind him.
Later that evening, Maan entered his home after a long day of work. He was exhausted, but he still had hours more to get through before he could rest. At least he would get a good night's sleep tonight, even if she was sleeping down the hallway.
His eyes traveled over the foyer, and he saw that the house was dark. Surprisingly dark. He entered the living room, and saw there were candles placed on multiple flat surfaces.
"Nakul!" he called abruptly, pulling at his tie with quick, frustrated motions. "What's going on?" he asked, when the manservant came up to him. He silently handed over his briefcase and his coat.
"The lights have gone out, Saab Ji," he replied.
"I can see that," Maan barked at him. "What happened to the lights?"
Maan's eyes narrowed, as he glanced around, barely taking in the explanation that Nakul was providing. Where was Geet? He remembered the last time the lights had gone out. She must be so afraid right now. Was someone with her? Was Rahul with her?
"It should all be fixed soon," Nakul said, finishing with his explanation.
"Where's Rahul?" Maan asked suddenly.
"Rahul should be returning from his play date soon," Nakul replied.
Maan sighed in relief. At least Geet wasn't here
"Geet must be with him," Maan mused out loud. "Pari and Adi will be staying over tonight. They'll be here in two hours. We'll be working all night on various projects. Make arrangements for food and sleeping quarters for the two of them. Make the same arrangements for tomorrow night, as well. Adi's wife might be coming," Maan said, beginning to turn away.
"Alright," Nakul murmured.
"When will Geet and Rahul be coming back, Nakul?" he asked, turning back to look at him.
"Geet ma'am didn't go with him," Nakul replied. "Rahul will be dropped off by his friend's father in about an hour."
Maan stopped suddenly, his lips tightening at the revelation. "Where's Geet?!" he asked quietly, worry growing inside of him. She wasn't in the living room. She wasn't on the landing upstairs. He couldn't see any lights in any of the rooms above stairs, either.
"She's in Rahul's room, Saab Ji. She said that she should clean up before he came home."
Maan hardly waited for the words to leave Nakul's mouth. He raced up the stairs, heading directly toward Rahul's room. What was she thinking sitting up there all alone? Why make it harder on herself? He opened the door quickly but silently, not wanting to frighten her even more. Turning his head frantically, he looked for her, his heartbeat increasing in tempo when he could not find her.
He heard a soft sound and the flickering light of a flame. His eyes narrowed, and he entered the room, leaving the door open behind him. His eyes were drawn back to the flame. He saw that it was the flickering of a lighter, not a candle flame. He frowned slightly, wondering why the candles had not been burning in Rahul's room.
"It's okay." He heard a frantic whisper.
The flame went out and there was a frightened gasp.
"It'll be okay," her voice gritted out. "Everything will be fine. Stop being afraid, Geet. . . There are three candles in front of you!" She stopped talking for a moment. He could hear the panic growing in her voice.
He began to move forward, wanting to do something to make that fear go away. She was sitting on the floor, at the foot of Rahul's bed. Her next words stopped him in his tracks.
"He's no longer here," she whispered.
His hands clenched into fists, his body reacting to the utter despair in her voice. Who was she talking about? Who had hurt her so much?
"He can't make you suffer anymore. He can't. How long will you let him control you?"
"Geet," Maan murmured.
She turned, startled. Her heart began to beat frantically, fear overriding her common sense for a moment. She began to wonder whether HE was here. She took a shuddering breath, when he spoke again.
"Geet, what are you doing?"
It wasn't him. It was Maan. Maan. Her body tightened, as if ready to spring forward. She wanted to jump towards him, grab him in her arms. She needed someone . . . him . . . to hold on to right now. She forced herself to relax, sitting back down on the floor. It was Maan SIR.
He came and sat down next to her, facing the toy chest placed at the foot of Rahul's bed.
Geet took another deep breath. They weren't touching, but he was close enough that she could feel the warmth from his body. She wanted to lean closer, to touch him. But, no. She definitively shook her head. No. She could not touch him.
"Why weren't you downstairs with everyone else?" he asked after a moment of silence. "You know what happened the last time the lights went out."
"I . . . I need to overcome this," she said through gritted teeth. "I mean, what woman is afraid of the da-rk? Especially a person who is in charge of a small child."
Maan put a hand over hers.
She flinched at the contact. He was touching her. Why was he touching her? She tried to pull away, but it was no longer necessary. He'd let go, having taken the lighter from her hand. Flicking it on, he saw the three candles on the toy chest. He quietly lighted them one by one.
She relaxed gradually, her comfort growing candle by candle.
Turning his head, he gazed at her closely. He saw her trembling lips. The tears in her wide open eyes. He watched as a single tear fell from one of those chocolate brown eyes, sliding down her smooth cheek.
Unconsciously, a hand reached out and cupped a flushed cheek. He gently brushed the traces of the tear away.
Geet's eyes widened even more.
"You don't have to prove anything," he whispered to her. "You're already strong."
Geet pulled away, a gasp escaping her parted lips. "No! I need to show him. I need to show them," she insisted.
"Who hurt you so much?"
Geet shook her head.
"Geet, tell me," he urged her. "How long have you been carrying this pain inside of you? Until you open up . . . until you talk to someone, it's going to keep on hurting you. Tell me. I'm here for you."
"It was . . . my cousin," she said in a small voice. The words were barely audible.
"He used to lock me in a small closet for hours on end," she continued, her voice growing hoarse as the revelation continued. "It was always dark. He would not let me out," she ground out. "No matter how much I cried, how much I begged."
"Your family did nothing?" he asked darkly.
She laughed cynically. "He did it with my grandfather's approval," she said, staring into the flame of the candle in front of her. "It was punishment when I got out of line. If I laughed too loudly. If I was five minutes late coming home. If I lost my dupatta!"
"But your parents," Maan began.
"We're taught to respect our elders, Maan! No one would intervene," she finished brokenly.
Maan reached out, and held her hand. She tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let her go.
"You don't have to be afraid any longer," he said to her. "I'm-we're here for you."
She blushed and attempted to pull her hand away once more.
Maan tightened his grip around her fingers, holding on. They sat in silence for a few minutes, resolutely gazing into the flames. "Why aren't you looking at me?" he demanded, as the silence continued between them.
Geet shrugged, refusing to turn her head.
"It was an accident," he murmured, referencing the incident that had occurred two mornings before. "I know that you weren't intentionally in the room to catch a glimpse of my body," he gently teased her.
"Let's not talk about it," Geet squeaked out. She jerked her hand away and shot up, seeking to escape him. But she hadn't realized that her dupatta was caught underneath him. She fell back down, landing onto him with a shocked gasp. Her face planted against his broad chest, his arms coming around to save her from sliding down even further. In catching her, he lost his balance and fell back, landing flat against the floor. Geet was sprawled over him, her burning face buried in his chest.
There was a moment of silence, when time seemed to freeze. Geet slowly raised her head, struggling to put some distance between the two of them. Her hand landed against his chest, before going over his shoulder, and landing on the floor beside his neck.
Geet was inches away from his beloved features, and for a moment she allowed herself to thrill at the contact. She gasped slightly, when she felt him shift beneath her, the movement causing her body to shift and land between his legs.
She began to struggle in earnest, when she felt his warm breath brush across her lips. Everything was too slippery. Despite her earnest attempts to escape his hold, she was unable to do so.
His grip tightened around her body, forcing her to still. She gazed at him once more, trembling slightly at the fire growing in his eyes.
"Maan," she mouthed silently, unable to make her voice work.
One of his hands began to journey up her back, pulling her closer in the process.
Geet jumped slightly when she felt the rough warmth of that hand against the back of her neck.
His hand gently cradled the back of her head, his eyes silently gazing into hers. They implored her to do something. They asked a question that she could not answer.
When she made to turn her head away, he grabbed her chin and gently turned her eyes back to meet his gaze. As she lay there, mesmerized by the fire in those eyes, he came closer. His breath touching her lips once more, making that skin feel unbearably tender.
Her lips parted, a breath escaping her.
He reached up, as if against his will. She answered by drawing closer to him.
And then the world was on fire.
Geet jumped slightly, startled by the harsh light surrounding them. The electricity was back on. And there were no shadows to hide what they had almost done. She quickly pulled away, her lips trembling at the thought of what he might be thinking of her. Jumping to her feet, she frantically began to blow out the candles.
"I . . . ," Maan began in the silence, as he slowly got up as well.
She resolutely ignored him. What could he say? How could she justify her behavior? His actions?
"Geet, please," he began again, reaching for her hand.
"Geet Didi!" Rahul's voice shouted from downstairs. "I'm back!"
"I . . .," Geet turned to look at him. "I have to go."
Reaching out a hand, he smoothed back the hair that had fallen across Rahul's forehead. "You will need a haircut soon," he commented, pulling his son close for a hug.
Rahul immediately nestled close. "Geet Didi said the same thing," he replied. "She said we should go in tomorrow for the haircut. I asked her whether it was time for you to get a haircut, too."
"What did she say?" Maan asked, gazing down at his son.
His mind flashed to the incident in Rahul's room, distracting him for a moment. The woman refused to look at him after what had happened two mornings ago, but now it was even worse. How could he justify his actions? How could he explain to her what had been going on in his mind? He didn't even know himself.
"Daddy?" Rahul asked.
"What did she say?" Maan repeated.
"I already told you!" Rahul said. "Weren't you listening?" His tone was aggrieved.
"I'm sorry, beta," Maan said soothingly. "Tell me again."
"She said that you could take care of your own hair," came the prompt reply.
Maan smiled reluctantly, and then cuddled his son closer into his arms. It was that time of night where the two of them sat together and talked about their day. Rahul shared everything that he had seen and done on that day, and Maan listened avidly. It was something that he had truly missed when the distance between the two of them had increased.
"How was it having Geet here today?" he asked his son.
"I had fun," Rahul replied, resting his head against his father's chest. "I didn't want to go on my play date, since Geet Didi was here. I can see my friends any time, but Geet Didi said I had to keep my promises. She said that I should never break promises." He sighed heavily.
"You don't miss Dadi Ma?" Maan inquired. "You used to when she went off before."
Rahul shook his head. He was silent for a moment.
"I missed her because there was no one I could talk to when you weren't here," Rahul said quietly. "With Geet Didi here I always have someone to talk to. I'm happy that she's here when you're not," he said, glancing up at his father. He looked worried for a moment. "Don't feel bad, daddy," he said, patting Maan's cheek. "You didn't know."
Maan forced the frown from his face. He took Rahul's hand and gently kissed it. "Geet Didi takes care of you," he said softly. "I'm happy that she's here for you."
There was a moment of silence, the two lost in their own thoughts.
"I like Geet Didi, daddy," Rahul finally said.
"I know, beta," Maan murmured, kissing the top of Rahul's head.
"I really like her, daddy," Rahul said.
"I know," Maan said with a smile.
"Dadi Ma likes her, too," Rahul continued.
"Pari Didi calls her a good person," Rahul said.
"I have heard her saying that."
"Adi Uncle was saying that she's his wife's best friend."
"They've known each other for a long time," Maan replied absentmindedly, staring into the flames, their light reminding him of the candles in Rahul's room.
"He also said that she's his favorite sister-in-law," Rahul said.
"She's his only sister-in-law," Maan replied dryly.
"You like her, too, right daddy?" Rahul asked, staring up at him. "Right?" he prompted, when Maan didn't . . . couldn't answer.
"I . . . do," Maan replied.
"She's pretty," Rahul said, resting his head against Maan's chest once more. "Isn't she?" he said, when Maan didn't answer.
"She is," Maan said hoarsely.
"And she's smart. She knows everything," Rahul said delightedly.
"She's afraid of the dark," Rahul said, "But she's fine if she has us there, right?"
"She loves us, daddy," Rahul said plaintively.
Maan nodded silently, gazing into the flames.
"And I love her," Rahul said softly.
"I do, too."
Maan stiffened as those words popped up in his mind. Maan gazed down at Rahul, but Rahul refused to meet his eyes.
"Rahul?" he prompted in a strangled tone, afraid of what his son would say next.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Can't she be my mommy?"
Geet strode purposefully through Rahul's room, picking up all the discarded toys and clothes in her path and putting them in their proper place. Her eyes landed on the candles on the toy chest, stopping her dead in her tracks. A hand unconsciously went up to her lips; they were burning once more.
The incident that had happened two mornings ago. This incident now. What was she thinking? How could she even think . . .? After what had happened back in Hoshiyarpur, she'd stopped feeling anything. But working in this home, for these people, she'd begun to care. She'd opened herself to feelings once more. And now this. These feelings that were growing inside of her for that man. That tenderness, that excitement, the heat.
It was scary.
Pinky, Adi Sir and Pari were her friends, and all had place in her heart. She loved Dadi Ma. She loved Rahul.
She'd tried telling herself that it was okay to appreciate Maan Sir.
'It is okay to like that incredibly moody man, who can be angry one minute and so loving the next. A man who has principles and ideas about how things should work. It's okay.'
But this was so much more. He'd made that last half hour in the dark bearable. He had made her forget the darkness. Because of him, she placed a hand over her heart, she was a little less afraid today.
How could she even begin to expect so much in return. She shook her head. She couldn't. She just couldn't. She needed to forget that anything had happened between them. Starting now.
Spotting the two books on Rahul's desk, she muttered darkly about little boys who never put anything back where they were supposed to. Picking up the books, she made her way to the library. Maan Sir definitely would not like the books from his precious library lying about in a messy boy's room.
When she opened the library door, she heard soft whispers coming from the other end of the room. Sticking her head inside, her eyes moved over the floor to ceiling bookshelves that covered all four walls of the room. There was a fire lit in the fireplace at the end of the room, the light flickering across father and son, who seemed to be intent on some sort of private conversation.
"Can I come in?" Geet called, already pulling the door open.
"No!" two male voices shouted back.
Geet stepped back in surprise.
"And close the door," Maan called after her.
Geet shook her head at the moodiness of these Khurana males and went toward Maan Sir's study. She'd leave the books in there instead. When she opened the door, she felt the movement of air. Her eyes moved around the empty room. Nothing seemed out of place. Gazing at the heavy set table in the center of the room, the filing cabinets and the seating area, she found no hint of anyone else.
Geet hesitantly went into the room and placed the books on Maan Sir's desk.
Looking around once more, she tried to figure out what was out of place. But . . . her eyes traveled to the desk once more, and moved to the curtains behind. They widened when they landed on the feet peeking out from below the curtain. Geet stealthily moved forward, grabbing something from the table as an aid.
Moving up to the curtains, she reached out a trembling hand and yanked them aside.
"Pari!" she yelped, falling back.
"Are you going to stab me with that letter opener?" Pari asked with a sniffle, blowing her nose into the handkerchief she clutched in her hand.
Geet quickly dropped her arm and stared at the letter opener in her hand. Throwing it over her shoulder, she moved closer to Pari and patted her arm.
"What's wrong?" she asked worriedly. "You've been crying? Is it Maan Sir's fault?" Geet asked darkly, a frown growing over her face.
"No! God no," Pari burst out, shaking her head vigorously in denial. She tottered over to one of the couches and sank down onto it.
"Then what's wrong?" Geet asked after a moment of silence.
Pari stared up at the ceiling in silence, and her eyes filled with tears once more.
"Geet, I'm pregnant," she blurted out suddenly.
"I didn't even know that you were married!" Geet exclaimed in surprise.
Pari turned a bleak gaze toward Geet.
A/N: Sorry for long wait. I will finish this fanfic. How long it takes, I have no idea. Hope you liked the above chapter. Don't forget to like and comment. =)
Joined: 01 August 2008
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