Joined: 09 April 2010
She paced back and forth with her cell phone in her hand along the length of the living-dining room area of the townhouse apartment. She glanced down at the screen on her phone checking the time. It was 8:00pm. He had never been this late coming home from work. If he was running late he always made sure to call and let her know. Her stomach churned uncomfortably at the thought of something happening. She tried not to think about it thinking that if she were to visualize that image it would actually happen and turn into reality. She looked at the medium sized dining room table enough to seat a family of four comfortably and sighed. The table was set waiting for their owners to sit down and have dinner. The food though covered was getting colder and colder with each passing minute. Her eyes darted to her cell phone when she heard it start to ring. "Hello Prem?"
"Heer, I'm really sorry," he answered hearing her concern voice. "I wanted to call you earlier but something came up and then we had to have an emergency meeting."
"Is everything okay?"
"We're working things out. Don't worry." Prem replied.
"Are you coming home soon?"
"There are some things here that we need to work on. Have you eaten yet?"
"No, I was waiting for you," Heer replied.
Prem frowned even though he had known the answer all along. They always ate dinner together. She always waited for him even if he called and told her he was going to be coming home an hour later. "I'm sorry Sweetheart," Prem sighed with an apologetic tone. He felt extremely guilty that he had made her wait this long to eat her dinner. "Don't worry about my dinner. I think I won't be coming back home for awhile. I want you to eat. Don't wait for me. We're ordering some pizza right now. So I'll be fine. You eat okay?"
"Okay. So you think you will be home by 10?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe 11 at the latest? But I'm not 100 percent sure. Don't wait up for me. Go to bed. And go to bed early...I know you haven't been feeling so good lately. You called in sick today?" Prem inquired.
"I did a half day," Heer replied and then pulled the phone away from her ear. She had anticipated his reaction as the voice on the other end got extremely loud.
"Heeerrr! I told you to take the day off. You need to rest. I don't want you to run yourself down," Prem said with extreme distress.
Her eyes squinted at the sharpness of his voice coming from the phone's speaker but cautiously put the phone back to her ear again, "I took a half day, Prem. I'll be fine. Besides I'm trying to save up on the sick days so I can use some of those for that vacation we have been planning." She could hear him sigh guiltily on the other end and added, "I know. It's okay. This project has gone on longer than you wanted to but when you guys do finish the pay off will be great. This is a huge opportunity. You're working with a large client. Doing well with them will really put the company on the map. We don't have to do it by the end of this year. Maybe next year."
"I promise you we'll do it soon," Prem said. Heer was about to say something to him but he interrupted her by saying his farewell, "I'm sorry Sweetheart I have to go. I'll see you soon. Bye."
"Bye," Heer replied and hung up the phone. She walked to the dining room table and blew out the candles that had been lit. She then sat down and began serving herself dinner. She had to admit she had out done herself today with the food she had prepared. She had made it so diligently and with such love and care because today was a very special day. Unfortunately, the cause of such happiness was busy at work and wouldn't be coming home until late tonight. Just as she was about to taste her creations the house phone began ringing. She was rather surprise by this intrusion but went to pick up the cordless phone. When her eyes fell upon the number on the caller ID she smiled. The minute she answered she could hear people murmuring and telling each other to be quiet as they fought over who was going to be the first to say anything. She decided to put them out of their misery and greeted warmly, "Hello Preet."
"Bhabhi!" he shouted affectionately. Heer giggled as she heard him telling the people around him that it was her and not his brother. "Hi Bhabhi how are you doing? Is PB around?"
"I'm doing well," Heer replied. "I know you want to talk to your PB but he's got caught up in some work at the office."
"Oh," Preet said with a hint of sadness in his voice. "We were hoping by now he would be home so we could wish him. You fixed a romantic dinner for him?" Heer's cheeks blushed a gentle pink as she didn't really know what to say at her brother-in-law's last comment. She was saved from saying anything when another voice suddenly appeared on the phone.
"Where did Jiju go?"
"Hi Meher," Heer greeted. "How are things at home? You're not fighting with Preet everyday are you?"
"No," she snapped back.
"Yes she does. She fights with me all day long. Tell your sister to stop fighting with me!" Preet yelled from the background.
"Preet, go away I'm talking to my sister!" Meher shouted back. Heer laughed at their fighting but then stopped to listen to what Meher was saying. "But Didi that isn't the important thing where is Jiju? He didn't take a day off on his birthday?"
"Well..." Heer hesitantly started. "I think..." She stopped in mid sentence when she heard another female voice take over the phone.
"Hi Ma, how are you?" Heer said politely greeting her mother-in-law.
"Is everything all right? Prem is still at the office?" Gayatri inquired. Heer remained silent for a second not sure how she should phrase her words in her explanation of what was going on. "Bole Heer...tell me."
"Well Ma, I wanted to surprise him so I didn't mention anything about his birthday this morning. I had planned to take a half day off work so I could come back home and make all his favorite dishes. I really have to thank you again for those recipe cards. They have really become lifesavers. Anyways, I knew he was going to be extremely upset with me when he came home because I didn't wish him Happy Birthday thinking I forgot but once he was home he would have seen how I decorated the dining room and the table and of course all the food I made for him," Heer answered. "But I don't know...I think with work and everything I think he's actually forgotten today is his birthday."
"Oh mine," Gayatri replied.
"But don't worry Ma it's not as bad as you think...um, I mean...we are doing well. We both have jobs and we have a roof over our heads and..."
"I know Heer. I know," Gayatri said trying to alleviate her anxiety.
"I don't want you to worry about us. I know Bauji wasn't so happy about us moving to the US and had I promised you that I would take good care of him," Heer replied.
"I know that and I know you are," Gayatri said warmly. "His father was the stubborn one. But things are getting better. I don't want either of you to worry yourselves, understood?"
"Understood," Heer answered. "Prem told me he will be coming home very late tonight. I know it must be around 1 or 2am? It's very late you all should take proper rest."
"Yes, I agree. We'll call back later and wish him. You also get some proper rest. Prem told me you haven't been feeling too well," Gayatri said. "Oh wait, your mother wants to say something..."
"Heer?" Teji Maan greeted.
"You sound tire. Prem was right you haven't been sleeping properly have you? Have you gone to the doctor's office to get checked out? Maybe you have amnesia? No, that doesn't sound right...it ends with a nia or something..."
"Yes, that's right," Teji replied in confirmation.
"Mama, I don't have insomnia."
"Well, how do you know if you don't get checked out at the doctor's office?" Teji inquired.
"I went to the doctor's office today and he told me I was fine."
"You went today and he said that?" Teji probed. "What else did he say?"
"Nothing. He said I was okay...perfectly healthy," Heer answered quickly. "It's getting late. You should take rest. I'll talk to you tomorrow." She could hear her mother asking all sorts of questions on the other end but she chose to ignore them and simply talked over her, "Send my love to everyone. Bye." Heer knew she had been evil hanging up on her mother like that but she really was hungry and in no mood to play twenty questions with her mother.*****************************************************************
Prem tiredly got out of his car and took his suitcase from the passenger seat. His suit jacket was slung around his arm as he walked from the housing complex's parking lot to the townhouse that he and Heer were renting. A smile appeared on his face when he saw the porch light still on for him. He entered the dimly lit house and was surprised to hear the TV still on. He quietly slipped his shoes off and made his way into the living room. He walked closer and saw that Heer was sleeping peacefully on the couch. He frowned that she was sleeping downstairs instead of upstairs in their bedroom. He had told her to not wait up for him but she had disregarded his words and was doing what she wanted. He put his things down on the loveseat and turned the TV off. He then walked towards the couch ready to pick her up and take her upstairs. He couldn't help but smile as he came closer. The way she was sleeping was too adorable for words and her face looked calm and relaxed like an angel. She was his angel. No matter how bad his day was coming home and seeing her smiling face made everything better.
He bent down on his knees and gazed lovingly at her. His eyes scanned over to the diamond engagement and wedding ring set on her left ring finger and instantly recalled everything they had been through to get to this point in time. If it hadn't been for his mother they would never have gotten married. A small private ceremony had been held at the mandir before their flight to America. The ring and the mangalsutra that had been given to Heer during the ceremony had come from his mother who had over the years saved her own funds and purchased those things for her future daughter-in-laws. He and Heer were extremely touched by her gesture and blessings. Only his mother, his younger brother Preet, Heer's little sister Meher, and Heer's mother were in attendance for the happy occasion.
Prem lifted his head and crinkled his eyebrows at the silver banner hanging on the wall in the dining room. He had failed to notice it when he walked in because the TV had been on, but now that it was off and the only source of light was coming from the kitchen he was shocked to see a Happy Birthday banner. He checked his cell phone and realized yesterday had been the 17th. He had completely forgotten about his birthday. Prem left the couch and walked over to the table and noticed that even though he had told her that he would be eating at the office she had left him a small plate of food. Prem smiled and sat down. He lifted the plastic lid off the plate ready to taste some of his wife's home cooking. He scooped up a spoonful and then briefly debated on whether or not he should heat the food. In the end he didn't want to disturb his wife's slumber and opted to take a bit of the cold food. He grinned happily and put another spoonful into his mouth. It was really good. It reminded him of his mother's cooking for some reason. It made him feel warm inside. He stared curiously at the spoon in his hand. It wasn't like a normal spoon they usually ate from. It was smaller, shorter, wider, and it had a plastic handle with a picture of Snoopy on it. He grinned fondly as Snoopy was one of his favorite cartoon characters when he was little. His Uncle Krish would always bring him something Snoopy related from America when he came to visit their family in India before everyone moved to the UK and settled there.
"It will taste better if you heat it up."
Prem turned around and saw his wife standing on the side with a sleepy smile. "Thank you," he grinned and gave her an affectionate peck on the lips. "How did you know I would be hungry later?"
"I didn't. I just made a plate for you just in case. What time is it?" Heer asked.
"It's probably 2:30 now," Prem replied. "It was about 2:00 when I came home. Thanks for all of this," pointing to the banner on the wall and the table setting. I can't believe I forgot."
"Happy Birthday Prem."
"Thanks," he grinned.
"I wanted to wish you in the morning but then I thought I would surprise you with a birthday dinner. I thought you would be mad at me for not remembering your birthday, but when you didn't even try to hint anything to me all day I realized you must have forgotten," Heer said.
"Wow, I didn't realize how stressed out I've been," Prem pondered out loud as he rubbed the back of his neck. "But don't worry. Things have been worked out so I won't be coming home so late like I have been for the past week."
"I'll go heat this up for you," Heer replied and took his plate from the table.
Prem stretched out his back and then followed her into the kitchen to get something to drink. "You want anything?' he asked.
"Just water," Heer answered. "Ma and the family called to wish you but since you weren't here they said they would call tomorrow."
"Oh. Preet and Meher fighting as usual?" Prem inquired.
"Yes. You know them they love fighting with each other," Heer laughed and then turned her attention towards the beeping microwave. "Here it's nice and hot. There is also chapatti in that steel container. Go back to the table. "
"They'll like old married couples that fight all the time," Prem chuckled. "Maybe we should get them married."
"They'll kill us if we tried to do that to them," Heer replied. "Meher has no interest in your little brother."
"Oh I see how it is. So your little sister is better than my brother is that what you're saying?" Prem questioned.
"Yes," smiling mischievously, "Now go back to the table and eat this before it gets cold," Heer commanded.
"I'll eat it right here," Prem said taking it from her hands. He took a few pieces of chapatti from the tin and then with his Snoopy spoon began mixing his rice and sabzis together. "I bet you that my brother will find someone better than your sister."
"I'd like to see him try," Heer replied.
"Ah, you're right," Prem sighed. "No one can handle him better than Meher. Too bad these two are swore mortal enemies."
Heer laughed at his comment and nodded her head, "Exactly my point. They would kill us if we even suggested it to them."
Prem chuckled and then pointed to his plate, "This stuffed bhindi you made is awesome. I think it's even better than Ma's bhindi."
"Really?" Heer replied with astonishment.
"Really," Prem grinned. He continued eating happily but soon his eyebrows furrowed as he finally took notice of his plate. "Heer, why does this plate seem kind of small? What happened to the regular ones we have. There's like a cartoon baby elephant in the middle of the plate. And this Snoopy spoon...was this something they included as a special gift for purchasing a product? Did you go on a cereal shopping spree again because you had coupons?" He looked up and saw that he had said the wrong thing. His wife had her hand on her hip and was glaring at him.
"Don't argue with me about my coupons," Heer replied. "It saves us money."
"I know Sweetheart. It does and I'm very thankful for that. I just wish we didn't have to buy so many in bulk. It takes us some time to finish the cereal," Prem meekly explained. "You know this chole palak is really good with the chapatti. And this chicken curry mixed with the rice is the best! Can I have some more bhindi...in fact everything?"
She knew he was trying to change the subject and pacify her with compliments on her cooking skills. "Prem, don't eat so quickly and you can't have too much before bed. It's not good to sleep on a full stomach," Heer answered.
Prem pouted a little but quietly finished his food. He washed his dirty plate and spoon and their water cups. He got his suitcase and his jacket and waited for Heer to turn off all the lights before they walked up to their bedroom. He yawned loudly causing Heer to rub his back, "Awww, my handsome Sleeping Prince is ready for bed isn't he?"
"Yes I am," Prem chuckled lightly. "My Sleeping Beauty must be very tired from all the cooking and decorating she did." Heer simply nodded and leaned into him as he put his arm around her waist. He gave a tender kiss on the side of her head. "Thank you for the birthday dinner. I wished I could have come home earlier."
"It's okay Prem. You got to eat some tonight and I'm glad you enjoyed the food," Heer replied.
"I love you," he said giving her another kiss on the side of her head.
"I love you too."
Prem awoke the next morning feeling relaxed and refreshed. He turned to his side and smiled. His mornings were never complete without looking at his sleeping wife by his side. Waking up to her every morning was like a gift from God and he cherished that gift every single day. He gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead and then quietly slipped out of bed. He went to the bathroom to go get his toothbrush. He placed a dab of toothpaste on it and then exited the room with the toothbrush in his hand heading downstairs to the kitchen. The smirk on his face indicated that he had a plan.
Heer turned over and stretched out her body. She had enjoyed her sleep very much but it was now time to wake up. She sat up in bed and was surprise to find her husband missing. She went to the bathroom and started her morning routine. She was surprised to see Prem's toothbrush missing but she saw the evidence of her husband's toothpaste work. He had removed the cap and placed it on the side and pushed from the middle of the tube. And as usual he forgot to recap the toothpaste tube after he was finished. She sighed shaking her head and began brushing her teeth.
Prem cautiously opened the bedroom door peeking his head in to see where his wife was. "Heer?" he called.
"In the bathroom. I'll be out in a minute."
Prem smiled and went back out into the hallway. He took the breakfast tray that he had rested on a hallway table and brought it into the room. He then quickly ran back to grab some of the condiments he couldn't fit in the tray and brought them in. He placed them on the nightstand. He held the breakfast tray in his arms and beamed a bright smile as the bathroom door opened. "Breakfast in bed?" He watched as Heer's eyes lit up and the corner of her lips curled up into a large grin.
Prem waited until she was back in the bed and settled before he handed over the tray. He carefully climbed back into the bed and asked, "Pancakes, scrambled eggs, and turkey bacon okay?"
"Looks fantastic. I'm starving," Heer replied and started to dig into the pancakes.
"You do realize we are sharing this," Prem said.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Heer sheepishly replied making Prem chuckle. "Here," feeding him a piece of pancake.
"Not bad," Prem said praising himself.
"Not bad at all," Heer replied taking another bite of the pancakes.
"Want some coffee," Prem asked offering her the mug.
"No, actually can I have some orange juice?" Heer answered.
"Orange juice?" Prem repeated his eyebrows puckering in confusion. "You never turned down coffee before especially in the mornings."
"I just really want some orange juice Prem. Please?"
"Okay," he replied. "I'll go get you some. Anything else?"
"We still have some English muffins?"
"English muffins? You weren't kidding when you said you were starving," Prem replied. "Okay I'll go get them for you."
"Butter and strawberry jam please!" Heer called out to her husband as he left the room.
"Got it. Save some food for me!" Prem shouted back.
Heer looked down at the half eaten plate of pancakes and sighed. She placed her hand on her stomach and said, "Have to be good and wait."
Heer grinned as she felt her husband's long fingers slip into the spaces between her slender fingers so they could intertwine into an intimate hand hold. They were walking through the department store as Prem had decided to take her to the mall as an apology for coming home so late and messing up her birthday surprise for him. She thought he was being a tad ridiculous as it wasn't his fault and if anything it was his birthday weekend so they really should have gone and done something he liked doing. "So we'll just shop for an hour Prem. I promise and then we should do whatever you want to do. You're the birthday boy. You want to go to the basketball game tonight? I'm sure they must have some tickets available. I probably should have gotten those for you instead of those monogram cufflinks."
"I liked those monogram cufflinks and the watch you gave me. It will be like you're with me at work now no matter where I go. When I'm missing you I don't have to just look at the photo on my desk I have the cufflinks and watch," whispering in her ear, "You know I sometimes just stare at your picture. You can be so distracting some times."
Heer shyly smiled and looked down, "Prem, we're in public."
"So? I'm the birthday boy remember?" He wickedly smiled and gave her a kiss beside her ear. "Love you."
"I know," Heer replied making Prem frown that she hadn't said it back to him. "Oh, aren't these cute?" Prem watched as his wife dropped her hand from his and zipped over to a rack of clothes.
He arched his eyebrows as she cooed and awed at the tiny outfits. "These are baby clothes."
"I know but aren't they cute?" Heer asked as she showed him Winnie the Pooh overalls.
"I guess. They are like tiny adult clothes," Prem replied.
"They are cuter when they are smaller. Look at this," Heer said handing him a pink dress.
"You know you can't wear these," Prem said inspecting the clothing in his hands.
"I know," Heer replied but continued looking through the clothing rack. "Doesn't mean I can't look for the future."
Prem eyes suddenly lit in understanding and he excitedly said, "Hey, it's Geet and Arjun isn't it? Geet's pregnant. Wow, that's great news for them. So is it a boy or a girl?"
Heer turned around looked at him, "I don't know if it's a boy or girl. And Geet isn't pregnant."
Prem furrowed his eyebrows at her reply. "Geet isn't pregnant?" mumbling," if she's not pregnant then...oh, it's Sanjana? Wow, she's so career oriented I never thought she'd be ready to have a baby." He saw his wife shook her head and he went back into pondering mood. "Not Sanjana? Is it Maya? She's so crazy about her figure. I think she'd die knowing she'll have this baby bump for 9 months," chuckling, "Harman is going to have it rough."
"I think I should maybe get something neutral until it's confirmed by the doctor," Heer said and took the clothes from Prem and put them back in their proper places. "Winnie the Pooh body suit would be nice. It's perfect for either a boy or girl."
"It's not Maya? Then is it Veera? Why are you making me guess like this and won't tell me who it is?" Prem said with some frustration in his voice. "I think I've covered everyone we know who is married or has a steady partner. "Unless it's someone we know and she had a one night stand."
"Who do we know would do such a thing?" Heer replied arching her eyebrow.
"You're right," Prem said in a deflated tone. "Then who is it? I really want to know. Who are we buying clothes for? The suspense is killing me."
Heer sighed shaking her head slightly, "You guessed everyone else but the most obvious one."
"The most obvious one? I said Geet, Sanjana, Maya, Veera...who else is there?" Prem replied completely stumped.
"You're hopeless. I really don't know what I'm going to do with you. Ma is going to be so worried," Heer said.
"Ma? What does Ma have to do with this?"
Heer took her husband's hand and placed it on her stomach. "You understand now?"
Prem's eyes widen and his mouth opened in stunned silence. His mind replayed back to when she had been feeling ill, then the strange mini decorations he had seen on the dining room table when he came home the night before, the Snoopy spoon he was eating with, the plate he ate from that had a cartoon elephant, her appetite in the morning, her refusal to drink coffee and request to have orange juice instead, and her hints in their conversation just a few minutes ago. "Heer?" he finally spoke. "We're...you're...baby?"
"Happy Birthday Papa Prem," Heer replied with a smile. She let out a surprised yelp as Prem brought her into a tight hug and began hopping up and down in genuine glee.
"I'm so happy! I'm going to be a Papa. You're going to be a Mama. We're going to be parents. This is the best birthday gift ever!" Heer smiled brightly and rubbed his back. "Why didn't you tell me last night?" Prem inquired when they stopped jumping.
"I really wanted to surprise you during your birthday dinner but you came home so late and were so tired I just thought today would be a better day to tell you," Heer explained.
"Tell me? You made you me guess. And last night you would have told me in the same way wouldn't you? You were trying to make me figure it out," Prem replied.
"I thought it would be fun this way," Heer smiled.
"So that's why you used the children plates and flatware. Those didn't come from the cereal boxes did they?"
"Prem," Heer said with a soft warning. "Of course not. I purchased the sets."
"Of course nothing but the best for our baby," Prem grinned proudly. He bent down and kissed her belly. "Papa loves you so much," he whispered against the cotton fabric of her t-shirt.
"Prem, get up before people start wondering what you are doing," Heer hissed blushing from embarrassment.
He rose to his feet and kissed her forehead lovingly. "We need to buy clothes and toys and diapers and the crib...oh, the stroller...and what else? Yes, the bottles, pacifier..."
"Slow down Prem. We have time to do all of that. He hasn't arrived yet," Heer said.
"You mean she hasn't arrived yet," Prem corrected.
"How do you know it's a girl? For all we know it could be a boy. A Prem Junior," Heer replied.
"I just know. We're going to have a girl first. Then we can work on a boy," Prem grinned. His wife smiled and leaned into his chest. "We need to call home and tell them the good news." Heer chortled mirthfully at the way Prem was excitedly dialing on his cell phone. He started pacing up and down the aisle waiting anxiously for someone back at the house in London to pick up. "It's evening right now. Someone should be home. Hello? Preet!"
"Hey PB! Happy Birthday! Let me get everyone. I think they just came back from the mandir. They went to evening aarti. You hold on a minute," Preet replied.
Prem heard some shuffling and garbled voices as his brother went to gather the rest of the family. "Happy Birthday Prem!" he heard over the phone. "Thank you everyone."
"Beta we tried calling you yesterday but you were at work?"
"Haa Ma, there was some things at the office that needed to be taken care of but don't worry everything is fine now," Prem replied. "Is everyone there?"
"Yes. Wait, one minute..." Prem frowned that he had to speak to someone else. He was bursting with joy trying to tell the family the more important news. "Your father wants to speak to you."
"Hello Bauji. How are you doing?" Prem inquired.
"I'm good. Happy Birthday. I've been hearing good things about you and that company you've started. I want you to know that I'm very proud of you," Lalit said.
Prem was left relatively speechless at his father's words. "Bauji...thank you." Things had been rough between them ever since he had left the Juneja household. He had refused to marry the girl of his father's choice and instead married Heer in a private family ceremony without his father's knowledge. A day later he and Heer left for America to pursue his own dreams. His mother and Heer's mother had been childhood friends. They supported their union and had convinced them that it was the only way that his father would take them seriously. Prem hated that he had placed Heer and her family in that position. He never intended to start his family in this manner. "Bauji..."
"I'm going to be a Dad Bauji..."
"Heer, she's pregnant?"
"Haa Bauji. We're going to be parents," Prem replied with a huge grin. He could hear the commotion in the background as his family members started to pester his father for details on what was being said to him.
"Congratulations Prem! Congratulations. Let me speak to Heer," Lalit requested.
Prem looked over at his wife and handed her his phone. Heer stared at it hesitant to pick it up. She knew what his father thought of her. He had blamed her for ruining the plans he had for Prem. Even though Lalit had come to terms with the situation and was sort of on speaking terms with them it was still a very delicate and fragile relationship they shared. "Hello Bauji."
"Congratulations Heer on your pregnancy. I'm very happy. I truly mean that. I'm very happy for both of you," Lalit expressed.
"Thank you Bauji," Heer replied. Prem looked on in alarm as he saw his wife suddenly tearing up. He went to grab the phone thinking his father must have said something to her when she shook her head letting him know it was all right. She smiled a watery smile making Prem relax. She nodded her head as she listened to what was being said over the phone and then let out a small laugh making Prem curious. "Mama wants to talk to you," Heer abruptly said handing his phone back to him.
"Well, it didn't take you very long at all. Two years and five months to give us a grandchild?"
"Mama..." Prem replied astounded at what his mother-in-law had said to him. He wasn't quite sure if she was upset it took him so long or it was too fast.
"Happy Birthday and Congratulations!" Teji cheerily added. "I trust this won't be the only grandchild you will be giving us."
"Um, no. How-how many ddo you want?" Prem stuttered.
"Hmmm...five sounds like a nice number. Yes Balraaj wanted to have lots of grandchildren. God Rest His Soul. So yes five would be the number," Teji replied.
"Five? Um, okay," Prem obediently answered.
Teji hid her laughter and ordered, "Let me speak with Heer."
Prem handed the phone over to his wife and mumbled, "Your mother."
"Mama, what did you say to him?" Heer inquired.
"That I wanted five grandchildren."
"What?! I'm not some baby factory," Heer protested.
"It's always nice to establish some goals. Congratulations Beta. We're getting ready for dinner so we'll need to end the call. You two enjoy the rest of your day and weekend. Take care. Bye."
"We will. You too. Bye," Heer replied and then hung up. She stared at her husband and inquired, "Five children? You promised my mother five grandchildren?" Prem just sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck not knowing what to say.
Heer smiled as she leaned against the door frame of the second bedroom in their home. She couldn't believe that in one day Prem had converted the guest room into the baby's room. She watched as her husband diligently worked on putting the baby crib together. He had opted to spend the rest of the day and devote his birthday weekend on baby projects. "Coffee Prem?" Heer offered as she entered the room with a mug.
"Thanks Sweetheart," Prem said as he used the electric screw driver to tightly screw in the last bolt to the baby crib. "So what do you think? It's good isn't it? Nice and sturdy and it meets the current safety standards too."
"It's great," she answered slipping her arm around his waist as he sipped his coffee.
"So I was thinking the next thing we can do is decide on a theme for the room. Most baby rooms have themes right?" Prem inquired.
"We still have time for all of that. We bought a crib today," Heer replied. "I don't want us to get overly excited. You know just in case. We don't want any evil eye to fall on us."
Prem nodded his head, "Okay, we'll take things slowly. We should start going to the mandir every Tuesday besides our usual Sunday visit. We've been so blessed to receive this gift." Heer smiled and leaned her head onto his shoulder. They stood there quietly for a few minutes staring at the crib in silence thinking of their future child. "Thank you so much."
"For what?" she hummed.
"For everything. I know things didn't start off as ideally as they should have. Leaving the house and your Mom and Meher while I took you to the US," Prem replied.
"I would have gone anywhere with you. My life is with you."
Prem gave a soft grin at her answer. It was just like her to say such a thing. She was so selfless in her love for him. "But, the things you had to endure...working two jobs so we could rent that crappy apartment while I was working a part time job and trying to form a startup company. We nearly killed each other the first year. I had nightmares that I would wake up in the morning and find that you had left me. Your mangalsutra and wedding ring would be on the pillow with a note saying you were flying back to London." Heer turned looking at him with a sense of sadness that he had hid this fear from her. "Thank you for staying with me."
Heer gently wiped her thumb against his cheek taking with it a single tear. "Prem," she uttered and cupped his face. "I'm incomplete without you. Just as you are without me." He gave a teary smile and wrapped his arms around her. "You know I'm the pregnant one and hear I thought I would be all emotional."
"I know something must be wrong with this picture," Prem chuckled and then sniffled a little. Heer leaned her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. "Sleepy? Need to rest?"
"No, I'm fine. I was just thinking about what we are going to have for dinner."
"That reminds me we haven't celebrated yet," Prem grinned. "I'll cook dinner tonight. What do you want?"
"Prem, it's your birthday. What do you want?"
"You're carrying our little girl...you should rest. What do you want to eat?" he replied.
"Excuse me, it could be our little boy," Heer quipped.
"Nah, it's going to be a girl."
"Boy..." Heer firmly stated. They both looked into each other's eyes and started laughing.
"Can you please tell me what you want to eat?" Prem asked after the laughter had subsided.
"Hmmm...how about pizza?" Heer finally answered.
"Okay so we'll order out. I'll go make the call," Prem said and then made his way to the door but before he stepped out into the hallway he turned around and simply said, "Girl," and then ran away.
Heer chortled lightly amused at his antics. She then made her way downstairs to join her husband in the kitchen.
Brown eyes mirthfully smiled as the lights were dimmed low in the living room. They watched as candles were lit and placed on the coffee table. The scent of fresh pizza filled the room as the cardboard top was lifted open. Prem tried not to laugh at the way his wife was eyeing their food. She was acting like a little toddler her eyes wide open and her hands lightly clapping in glee. "Should I take what I want now and leave the rest for you?" he teased.
His eyes glistened mischievously as he saw the pout form on her lips. "Stop. Don't make fun of me," she whined.
"Sweetheart you know I would never deprive you or the baby of food. You can have as much as you like. Just let me know how hungry you are, okay?" Prem replied.
Heer smiled and took her plate. He had given her the biggest slice of cheese pizza in the box. "I love you," she said happily.
"Thanks," Prem grinned.
"I was actually talking to my pizza," Heer said and then took a bite. Prem made a face but she was too busy enjoying her food to notice. Her chest rose in exhilaration and her body felt at ease as the warm gooey cheese melted into her mouth. The thin and crispy dough crunched wonderfully between her teeth. The sweet and tangy tomato sauce brought about a balance to everything swirling around on her taste buds. She was in heaven. Pizza Heaven. "Mmm...I would marry you if I could."
"You know I'm sitting right here," Prem said looking at Heer. He knew he was going to lose some attention from her when the baby was born but he never thought he would be losing her attention right now because of food. Heer laughed and gave him a sloppy kiss on the cheek. Prem grinned but wiped his cheek removing the tomato sauce from his face. "Thank you."
"Anytime you want a sloppy pizza kiss from me just ask," Heer winked.
"Oh, I forgot. A toast," Prem said as he picked up his can of Coke. Heer picked her can up as well and waited for him to finish. "To us and the little blessed gift you're carrying. Our Baby Girl."
Heer shook her head at his emphasis on the gender of their child but smiled brightly. "To us and Our Baby Boy," she replied. "And a very, very Happy Birthday to my adorably loving husband...without you this happiness couldn't have been possible."
They tipped their cans towards each other in a toast and then took a drink. "Thanks for acknowledging my little contribution," Prem cheekily said giving her a naughty smirk.
"A contribution that you apparently told my mother will happen another four times," Heer replied with a slight glare.
"She's my mother-in-law. I have to be a good son-in-law," Prem defended. He leaned forward so they could exchange a few sweet kisses. He rested his forehead against hers and grinned, "I love you so much Sweetheart."
"I love you too," Heer replied giving him a playful kiss on the nose. "So what are we having for dessert?"
"Already onto dessert?" Prem inquired puckering his eyebrows. "The baby is very hungry tonight."
"I just want to know in advance," Heer replied as she took another bite of her pizza. "And this time you choose."
"I was thinking brownies," Prem answered. He chuckled at the way her eyes lit up. "I'm going to take it that you approve?"
"Yes. With vanilla ice cream?"
"Why not?" Prem smiled.
"Can't wait," Heer said. She finished eating her slice except for the crust and placed it onto Prem's plate. She then got herself another piece of cheese pizza and began eating it merrily. Prem grinned at her leftover crust on his plate. He remembered the first time they went out for pizza with some friends before they had started dating. She had a pile of leftover pizza crusts on her plate. He really enjoyed pizza crusts and he hated seeing food go to waste. He reached over and took her crusts and started eating them. Their friends gave him strange looks and then started teasing them about becoming a couple since she didn't eat her crusts but he would. They were so embarrassed by the comments. But strangely from that moment onward Heer start cutting her crusts off and dropping them onto Prem's plate for him to eat. It soon became a habit with them wherever they went. Prem picked the crust left by his wife and gently dunked it into a small pool of ranch dressing on his plate and took a bite chewing happily at recalling such a memory.
"The more you stare the more time it's going to take," Prem chuckled as he saw his wife flip the oven light on to check on the brownies for the third time in five minutes.
"I know but I really want some now," Heer whined.
Prem just grinned as he leaned back on the kitchen counter and folded his arms against his chest. When they were mixing the brownie mix together he had to keep her from licking the batter because it contained raw egg. He couldn't let her consume any because he knew it would be bad for the baby. She huffed and puffed about it but eventually gave up settling for a marshmallow instead. He realized at that moment he would have to start using food to pacify her moods. It made him think of his father, his brother, and even himself. Their baby was developing the Juneja sweet tooth. His father loved sweets and his mother always had to control his intake because of concerns over his blood sugar. Preet was just as bad. When given a choice between something salty or sweet he always chose the sweet. He too had a weakness particularly with baked items like brownies, cookies, cakes, and pies. He felt a strange sense of pride wash over him. This was proof that the child Heer was carrying in her womb was his. Prem continued to lean his back on the counter and watch his wife impatiently wait for the brownies to finish baking. Her hair was pulled back up into a high ponytail leaving a wonderful view of her neck to him whenever she bent down to check the oven. His eyes followed her S line shaped figure and sighed at her beauty. He never thought a pajama black tank top and red shorts could be so alluring to him but it was. He walked steadily towards her and pulled her into a back hug.
Heer's eyes widen but then soon sparkled into a smile as she felt her husband's lips nibble her collar bone. The gentle stubble around his chin brushed ticklishly along her shoulder. "Prem, what are you doing?"
"Thought we could make some use of our time. It will make the wait go faster," he explained as he brushed his nose up her neck and then placed a kiss on the side of her chin.''
Heer turned to face him and wrapped her hands around his broad shoulders. She grinned at the mischievous twinkle in his eyes and captured his mouth. "Mmm...good idea," she said after the kiss broke.
"Only one?" Prem inquired. "It's my birthday."
Heer let out a soft chortle but then closed the distance between them. The sweet kisses passing between them steadily grew into passionate gestures of desire. She could feel Prem's muscular arms flex as he lifted her up. Her chest molded into his as she anchored herself with her arms tightening around his neck and her legs wrapping around his waist. "Jaanu..." she called softly as he placed her on the counter. Her fingers twined themselves in his silky black hair as he showered her neck with loving kisses. Her breath caught in her throat as his head dipped further down her chest teasing her as he nuzzled himself there.
Prem felt her hands become impatient and begin to move down his back clutching his white tank top pulling the fabric upwards. "Sweetheart..." Prem whispered as he allowed her to help him take his tank off. He heard her giggle and lifted his head up to see her toss the clothing behind him. He grinned and fell back into her embrace. His body shivered at the contact of her warm hands rubbing his smooth skin. He was in utter and total bliss as they continued to physically express themselves. His mind was heading into that fuzzy warm place where all he could do was feel, hear, and taste her. He let out a groan when the sound of the beeping oven broke their magical trance and Heer hopped off the counter eager to get to the brownies.
"Heer, the oven mitts...the pan is hot," Prem exclaimed as he got the mitts and pulled the pan of brownies out of the oven before she could hurt herself. He placed them on a pot holder while Heer busily went about getting the plates and silverware out. She took out the ice cream from the freezer and placed to the side waiting for him to cut the brownies. "We need to let it cool down," Prem explained.
"No we don't. Warm brownies and ice cream will go well together," Heer replied. "Just cut it."
"It's not warm right now it's hot." He quickly grabbed his wife's hand and held her by the waist preventing her from cutting into the cooling brownies, "Why don't we finish cleaning up? The pizza still needs to be put away...the dishes need to be cleaned...the mixing bowl and the whisk. When we are finished we'll cut into it."
"Promise?" Heer inquired.
"I promise," Prem replied and turned her around in his arms. He then got down on his knees and got close to her stomach. "Papa promises you'll get some brownies and ice cream really soon. You be good. Papa loves you." He placed a kiss on her tummy and stood back up. "So?"
Heer grinned and gently nodded her head giving her consent to his idea.
A few minutes later they were back in front of the pan of brownies. Prem cut a large piece out and placed it into a bowl. Heer put a scoop of vanilla on top but then inspected the proportion. "The brownie is really big."
"Put another scoop of ice cream then," Prem said. Heer did as instructed and then waited for him to cut another piece. "Let's share," he suggested with a smile and put one spoon into the bowl.
They made their way back into the living room and sat down on the couch. Prem pulled Heer over so that she was sitting on his lap with her legs laying in a horizontal position. She scoop up a bit of ice cream with a bite of brownie and feed it to her husband. Prem grinned happily as he chewed. "You just wanted me to feed you," Heer said.
"It's practice," Prem smartly replied.
"Oh?" Heer questioned rising her eyebrows at him as she ate some ice cream and brownie.
"For the baby of course." Prem then boyishly opened his mouth and asked, "More please."
Heer gave him another mouthful before she took a bite herself. "Aren't you cold? Why don't you put your tank back on?"
"Nope I'm fine like this," Prem replied and affectionately hugged his wife so he could get some warmth.
"Ahhh," Heer commanded as she moved the spoon towards his mouth. A few creamy drops of ice cream and smushed brownie dribbled down the corner of his mouth making him frown. He tired getting it with his tongue but he couldn't reach all of it. Heer gently kissed the corner of his mouth and delicately licked his skin tasting the sticky sweetness of the treat they were having.
Prem grinned at the response and opened his mouth again wanting more. Heer obligated and continued to feed Prem and herself in an alternating fashion. "You're totally missing my mouth now," he complained as he felt a trickle of ice cream run down his chin while she tried catching it with the spoon and moving it back towards his mouth.
"Stop moving your mouth so much and stay still," Heer replied.
"I am sitting still. Where else would I go? You're sitting in my lap," Prem said.
"You're the one who wanted me to practice so stop complaining," Heer snapped.
The ice cream was melting fast because of the warm brownie. Everything was becoming a soupy mixture as she tried feeding it to him. A splash of melted vanilla fell onto Prem's chest and slithered downward towards his bellybutton. Before he could say anything his wife placed an open mouth kiss along the trail making his eyes widen for a totally different reason. "Now, you're just being mean by teasing me," he whined.
Heer got up from the couch and placed the bowl of ice cream and brownie on the coffee table. Prem looked at her in alarm thinking perhaps he had been a little too harsh in his tone. He didn't really mean to sound unappreciative. He stared at his hand when she grabbed it and began heading towards the stairs. "What about the dessert? There is still some left," he mumbled.
"I thought you wanted me to stop teasing you?" Heer simply replied. "But if you want that dessert then..." turning back around, "we can finish that instead..."
Prem immediately understood what she was implying and quickly held onto her arm twirling her towards him. He swept her up into his arms and shook his head, "No," and then carried her up the stairs to their bedroom with a smirk.
She sighed gently as she looked up through the window watching the night sky. The brilliant round moon was hung high and casting its illuminating glow upon everything. Her almond brown eyes flexed as her lips curled upward into a tiny grin when she felt his presence behind her. His warm outstretched hands engulfed her into a back hug as a white bed sheet surrounded them. A small purr escaped her throat as her husband affectionately nuzzled himself against her ear. "Mmm...I was wondering why the bed felt so cold. Staring at the moon tonight?"
"It's beautiful isn't it?"
"Not half as beautiful as you," Prem replied.
"You and your compliments," Heer chortled.
"You know you love hearing them no matter how much you protest about how cheesy they sound," Prem said with great affirmation. Heer grinned and turned around to face him. He looked at her lovingly and said, "This has been one of the best birthday's I've ever had. I'll always remember this one even though I forgot on the actual day," chuckling lightly, "But seriously you've given me everything that I could ask for. I'm so thankful for having you in my life and for one of the greatest gifts you could ever give me, our baby...'" pausing dramatically with a smile."
"Girl?" Heer filled in.
"Boy," Prem answered. They both broke out into gentle laughter knowing what the other one wanted to say. "We're going to be parents!" He leaned his forehead against hers and grinned happily. "I love you."
"I love you too Papa Prem. You're going to be a great father."
"You're going to be a great Mama," Prem replied and hugged her tightly. Heer snuggled into his embrace and beamed a huge grin. They both swayed from side to side in joyous rhythm excited on entering the next phase in their life together; becoming parents.
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good work grace.
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