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The silence is driving me crazy. Nothing can be heard but the shallow breathe of choti and the soft movement of the curtains off the hotel balcony. Everything is silent until the shrieking sound of the crystal tumbler hitting the wall behind my head. Choti screams, Manyata holds her close and Uncle Brij holds onto my dad.
Brij: Giriraj! Calm Down!
Dad looks anything but calm, he's panting as a trickle of sweat rolls of his head and down his neck.
Giri: CALM! CALM!? YOU WANT ME TO BE CALM?
He stalks towards me, anger burning in his eyes but my gaze meets him head on.
There once was a time I looked up to my father- literally and figuratively. Right now though, I tower over him. In every sense of the word.
Giri: Udayveer. I have never. Never prevented you from doing anything. Ever. I have given you the world; and in return all I've ever asked is that you uphold this family's name. You uphold this empire's name. Tum neh to isaat ko mithi meh miladiya!
I listen to his words without flinching. I can't even argue with him. He's right. I have had everything handed to me, and the only thing that was expected in return was to marry then have children with the right woman. That woman is supposed to be Manyata, and I can't even look her in the eye right now.
Brij: Giriraj, what's done is done. What we need to know is how to handle this situation.
Giri: HANDLE? The brat is 4 F*ing years old Brij! What the hell are we going to do to handle him and his wh**e of a mother?
I flinch. I don't know why. I don't know if it's calling the kid a brat...or Mina a wh**e. She wasn't a wh**e. I hate her...but I don't know if I can stomach calling her that. But I let him get it out.
Brij: Well, we need to figure out if she's going to talk, go to the presses or let anyone know. If she's just going to raise him and not tell him anything about Uday and the riayaasat, then it's a non-issue.
Giri: You're right, absolutely right.
He turns to me, looking angry as hell.
Giri: Call the lawyers, get them to draft a confidentiality agreement and transfer 10 million into her bank account. She is not to tell him your biological tie with him, and she is not to go to the media with this. Understood.
I'm about to open my mouth and tell him Mina doesn't need to money but I'm interrupted by an angry voice.
Manyata: That's it? You're not going to ask what he looks like, what his name is, or who he is?
Brij: Manyata Beta, quite- this isn't your concern.
Manyata: Really Papa? It's not my concern that the man I'm set to wed has a child? Really?
Giri: It doesn't matter Manyata, only the children of you and Uday will be the heirs!
Manyata: That's not even the point! Uday has a son! He has a child! And No one cares! He's just some bratty inconvience to you both and your empires! Is this how royalty operates? How many extra brats is each Prince aloud? Is there a quota to fulfill? Have kids, throw money and sign documents and patha saaf?
Brij: MANYATA! Zabaan Sambalkar bholo.
She walks towards me eyes brimming with tears, pulling my arm and forcing me to look at her.
Manyata: Don't make me lose the respect I've gained for you Uday. Don't throw it away while our fathers talk about your son like he's a piece of inconvenient garbage. Don't let them talk about your son's mother like she's a cheap wh**e working the streets. Have some decency to own up to your mistakes.
I know what she's saying. She's being righteous, and moral, but she doesn't understand. She's not looking at the bigger picture. Acknowledging the kid will bring a fire storm to our lives that she can't even comprehend. She'll regret it down the line- I have a feeling it will.
I look into her eyes and see the questions floating vigorously. Holding her shoulders I try to be as calm and assertive as I can.
Me: Manyata, you and I have a future together. I live together. We will have a family together. I love you, and only you. We need to move on from this. Forget this and look forward.
I was expecting many things, tears, a scream maybe but not this. She rears back and slaps my face. The noise silences everyone in the room: Choti, Uncle Brij and my father.
Manyata: You're disgusting.
She turns around and looks at all of us.
Manyata: You're all rich in wealth and stature but your values are cheap. Your thoughts are cheap. You have nothing to offer me whether it be a kingdom or title because at the end of the day love, respect, kindness is nothing. It means nothing beyond the title of your empires.
She walks up to my dad without fear and looks him in the eye angrily, as if she weren't a princess but a Queen.
Manyata: You know he has your son's face? And his smile? Did you know his name is Aditiya? He's a beautiful boy. He's probably more socially acceptable than I was when I first came into the palace- his mother's family is wealthy- he isn't a chawl child like I was.
She turns to Choti and stares her down.
Manyata: This is your nephew, Unnati, this is your brother's child. How can you stand here and say nothing?
Finally, she looks at her father and dares him with her gaze.
Manyata: You want me to marry him right? You want your kingdoms united? I'm naming my price right now. I will only marry Uday when he acknowledges his son. I will only become his wife when he agrees to finally become a father. That is my price.
We're all starring at her- she's crazy. She doesn't know what she's asking for. She storms out of the room and I charge after her, calling her name, but she ignores me. The Elevator opens and someone gets out. Running in she reaches to shut the doors before I make it, but I stick my hand it. The doors open with a resounding ping and I step in. Angry and not looking at me, she's stuck in a corner of the elevator but I corner her further. My body blocking her way.
Her gaze refuses to meet mine and I stare at her. Her precious tears are sitting on her eye lashes, each one cutting a dagger into my heart.
Me: Look at me Manyata.
She refuses, so I hold her face to look into mine. If looks could kill I'd be dead.
Me: You're out of your mind, you don't know what you're asking for.
Manyata: I'm asking you to gain some backbone Uday.
Me: YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! It's NOT about Backbone! It's
about being realistic! We can't do this! It's suicide!
Manyata: What's the worst that can happen!? What are you going to lose?!
Me: YOU! I'M GOING TO LOSE YOU!
She looks at me with her mouth hanging open.
I run my hand through my hair and hold her face closer to mine.
Me: You want this now, but this is going to ruin us, this...this...child is going to come between his. I can't have that Manyata, not when I just found you. Not when I just got you.
Manyata shudders as tears fall through her eyes, and she lays her head down on my chest.
Manyata: That's where you're wrong you idiot. Aditiya is going to bring us closer. He's going to make you human in a way that I never can.
Reaching up, she lays her lips against my neck boldly. It's this odd sensation of her warm lips and cool tears as she speaks against the column of my throat.
Manyata: Losing me is impossible at this point Uday. I'm yours. Forever.
The elevator door Chimes open, and we fail to jump apart. Rajmata, Aunti and JN are standing to get in, but by the expressions on their face they aren't angry at the embrace, but more so absorbing the tension between us.
Rajmata: Uday. Kya hua?
I straighten up, and hold Manyata's hand tight.
Me: There's something you all need to know.
The drive over to Mina's hotel room isn't the easiest. Manyata is silent as we follow the two cars infront of us. The first has Dadi Sa and Uncle Brij, and the second has dad by himself. He hasn't spoken to me since, but upon learning the truth Dadi Sa laid down the law, and agreed with Manyata in the end. In order for Devgard and Jaigard to have a political future together, we have to reconcile my past. And by reconciliation, she means acknowledging my son.
Dadi Sa: We're royals Udayveer, but that doesn't mean we have to abide by every old tradition. It may have been acceptable at one point in time to have children littered around out of wedlock; but it is not acceptable now, nor is it acceptable for my granddaughter. In order to move forward, you will have to face your past, and get to know Aditiya. I'm not saying he should be your heir, but do not make him a dirty secret that can come back to haunt our Royal Houses down the line. Tomorrow, we will go with you and face the Randhawa's. Tomorrow we will settle this.
Sleep was impossible to come by, too many scenarios were running through my head. We had decided not to call Mina, but simply show up...it's been two days since that night when we discovered the truth about Aditiya, but it feels like it's only been a few hours at the pace that everything has moved at.
I adjust the collar of my Tom Ford Shirt and button up the blazer as I step out of the car. Manyata climbs out in her simple cream anarkali and gives me a soft smile. Something about her makes me calm, and without hesitation I come around to clasp her hand. We're in this together. She'll stand by me. We can make this work.
The elevator ride up is awkward and silent. Dad still won't look at me, Uncle Brij is fiddling with his broach, and Dadi Sa looks straight ahead. Leading the way I take the dubious steps towards the suite where I know my past and future are hanging in balance. Finally I knock.
Dressed in black slacks and a crisp royal blue blouse Mina and just finished packing for Andy and her trip back in the English Country side. The last two days had been taxing to say the least; regardless of the emotional turmoil, she was just looking forward to heading home and enjoying the next few weeks before Vacation was finished and her role as the CFO in her father's company was back into the fray of things. These Vacations were the only few weeks a year where she could focus on her son 100% without business getting in the way. Andy was sitting on the table near the fire place, fiddling with her phone and playing some game as children of his generation always did, Legs swinging and his tongue sticking out from the corner of his mouth. A smile reached her lips as she gazed at her son from afar. Her son. Her everything.
A knock on the door took her out of her thoughts, walking up she never contemplated asking who it was, since it had to be the bellboy, taking their luggage down. How she had wished she hadn't opened that door.
In front of her stood the man she no longer loved, and could not completely hate- since he was what had given her the Gift of Aditiya.
He looked different then she remembered from their last few interactions- tired, and anxious.
Uday: Can we come in?
At his words, she finally glanced behind to see a group of people with him and Manyata who she recognized but had never met. After all, their relationship had never gotten that far.
Mina: I suppose, since whatever you're here to discuss is not about to be done in the hallway. Come in. Please.
Had she not had her son here, she would have given him a piece of her mind for him to come into her space unannounced. The arrogance of these people was astounding, and never failed to surprise her.
She was still thinking of how to get Aditiya out of the area, when Rajmata stepped in front of Aditiya and sat down on the chair in front of him, smiling.
Mina: Andy, say hello and then your nanny will come up and take you out for ice-cream, love.
He looked up, unsure and surprised at all of the strangers in the room until he saw Uday and Manyata.
Aditiya: Miss Manya! Mr. Oddaybeer! Have you come to play with me?
Both Uday and Manyata couldn't get in a word edgewise as the youngster continued talking at a rapid excited pace has he rushed towards them.
Aditiya: Good! We can play and have ice cream while my mamma packs! We're going home and den we're going to go to DISNEY LAND! Do yous wants to play with gator? Lemme go grab him, he's on my bed!
Mina grabbed her son before he could run off and got down to his level.
Mina: Andy, you're a good bacha, right?
Aditiya nodded his head solemnly, somehow sensing his mother's serious mood and no nonsense tone as she held him still and touched his face.
Mina: Good puth. Mary is outside, she just stepped off the elevator, go with her and grab some ice cream. Bring some back for everyone. OK?
Aditiya nodded his head solemnly kissed his mother's cheek with love; and walked away from the serious adults, oblivious to the fact that he was the subject of their somber mood. The Adults looked at his innocent frame as he went away, and finally walked towards the main sitting area to get down to the dirty business of this all.
Giri: First things first. The child's name will be changed. We'll take up all of the legal costs, we'd like him to spend six months here, and three months in Mumbai with us; if you wish we can make it three months alternating between the two families. His schooling will be done like Uday's as well. As for being an heir, we're going to have to talk to the Royal House about this to see where his...legitimacy stands.
Brij: We're happy to accept Aditiya as a part of Manyata's family. The family she's going to marry into, and we hope you will extend our daughter the same courtesy.
Rajmata: Aren't you going to say anything Miss. Randhawa?
Mina smiled, and crossed her left leg over her right, and gazed around the room, a cool look of distain on her face.
Mina: Are you done? All of you? Hogahi bakwaas?
Giri: How dare you!
Mina: No. How dare you. How dare you come here and dictate to me how my son's future will be. How dare you come here unannounced and try to claim a right to have a say him our lives? Who are you? What right do you have?
Rajmata: We're just trying to do what's right for Aditiya.
Mina scoffed as she switched the position of her legs, and starred icily at Rajmata. No one would have dared to gaze at the queen with such distain.
Mina: You are trying to do what is right for you. What's right for your precious families' reputation? Don't worry though, I'm not some desperate middle class groupie out to make a buck with the tabloids. In case you didn't notice, my son and I do not need your families to pick up any expense or change his name.
Uday: Will you just listen?
Mina: Will you just shut up? I'm sorry to be rude Ma'am and Sirs, but frankly, if you want anything to work out or see Aditiya, then please step out and let me talk to Uday alone.
Brij: That is completely inappropriate!
Uday: What are you trying to prove!
They all shouted at once, but Rajmata had enough sense to see what it would take to get the conversation flowing.
Rajmata: Baas! Giriraj. Brijraj. Let's head back to the hotel and let the kids sort out their own messes. I hope that they will be mature enough to resolve this, and keep in mind that beyond their egos, pride and emotions- there is an innocent child involved. One who deserves to be happy and know both his mother and his father, as well as their respective families and histories?
With that comment she ushered them out of the room, and leaving Uday, Manyata and Mina alone with a deafening silence.
Awkward and unsure of what her role in all of this is Manyata made her move to get up and leave, but the simultaneous sensation of Uday's hand pulling her back and Mina's sharp voice saying "Stay here" rooted her back down.
I wish I could go for a run right now. Not figuratively, although it may come off as that right now. I'm not going to run away from the issue at hand, no matter how painful and confusing it is. But I do however want to just run. Feel the pavement beneath my shoes, the sweat trickling down my back, and the wind cooling my down while the sun shine beats the top of my head. I want to run to and burn all of this energy away. All of these pent up words and thoughts I have. I want to spit it all out onto the pavement via my feet and an open road.
Manyata is tense as I hold her hand in a death grip. Everything else seems so false, so unreal. She's the only real thing I have right now. The only person who makes sense in my life.
Me: I'm sorry.
The words seem dry and hollow as they come out of my mouth. But I have to spit it out. I have to start this off with the right foot. I have to make peace with this woman for my future. I have to do this.
I'm expecting a verbal lashing or outcry from Mina, sort of like the last time. But her big blue eyes are impassive, and emotionless, as she gazes as me. It's almost frightening how icy she is. I almost want to yell at her and say she has no right to act all high and mighty as she is just as wrong as I am but in different aspects. She could have contacted me. She could have. She choose not to. So what I didn't pick up her phone calls? So what? She could march right up to my place and yell that she was pregnant. But she just gave up. Then again...if she had done that- where would I be right now? Most likely married to her. I would have had to marry her- there's no question about it. I wouldn't have Manyata. I would have lost her, even when she would have been found. God. This is just so much to take in.
Mina: You're sorry?
Me: Yes. There's no need to be condescending about it. I...
God, I can't do this sitting down. I stand up and walk towards the balcony window and just look out at the glistening lights of London.
Me: I was wrong. I was terrible to you. I hurt you. Me. I did all of these things and I am sorry for them.
I never thought we'd be here Mina. I never did. I never once looked back, and maybe if I had, we wouldn't be here right now. Maybe your life would have been better and different. For that I'm truly sorry.
Mina looks at a loss for words, she looks at Manyata who's looking at me, eyes brimming with tears, a smile on her face.
Mina: You've changed a lot, haven't you Uday?
I want to agree with her, but Manyata speaks up first.
Manyata: He's always been in there Mina. He's just learning to be human again.
Getting up, she loops her arm into mine, and makes me sit back down on the couch and get my thoughts on track again.
Me: What I'm trying to say is that we need to move on from this. This animosity and hatred. No matter how justified it seems and realistically is. I would like to get to know my son.
Saying the word "son" seems so foreign still. I can't barely get the words out because I don't feel this connection with him. He's just a cute little annoying kid...that I've bumped in to once or twice. How can he be my son?
I look towards Manyata, and she gives me a faint smile as we both turn and look towards the woman who holds the final decision of this all. Jaw set tight and face emotionless, she finally turns and looks me in the eye.
Mina: Fine. We can do that. We can try. I want to be very clear with you UV. Aditiya isn't a toy. You can't play with him until you've had your fill and cast him aside.
I clench my fist at her remark, but Manyata rests her hand over it, to sooth away the anger. Instead I give her a sharp nod. I can't even fault Mina for the comment because from where she's been and is coming from the point is valid and true.
Mina: I have the next three weeks off. I was planning on spending that time in our country home with Andy but, we'll come to Mumbai instead. You can get to know him, learn a bit about being a parent. It will be an experience, but under no circumstance is he to know what your relationship to him is.
That causes me to whip my head up and stare her down.
Me: Oh really? Then what the hell am I supposed to do? Be an "uncle"? Really? What's the point of playing this game, why can't we just be upfront, get this done with and move on?
Mina: Because not everything is about you Uday! He's 4. He's turning 5. I'm not going to dump this on him and expect him to understand. Let him get to know you first, then we can go from there. I'm not going to tell him, "Oh look Andy, that's your daddy. I know you've never met him before, but please do try to get along" That's too much pressure and it's going to freak him out. He's a child Uday, not an adult. Think of it from his perspective.
I haven't been a child in so long that the idea of thinking like one seems like a foreign concept to me. But not to Manyata, who has always had a heart of gold.
Manyata: She's right Uday. We need to look at this from the angle that's best for Aditiya. Not you. Not me. Not Jaigard or Devgard. Just Aditiya.
I nod and get up, extending my hand to the woman who holds the fate of our two riyasaat's in her hands.
Uday: We have a deal then? The next three weeks you and Aditiya will be in Mumbai and we'll try to figure things out. For the better. For the future. And For him?
Mina's hand was firm, and cool as she clasped mine.
Mina: We have a deal, but remember if you or yours hurt my child in anyway, there won't be any of you left to have any future.
It's our last day at the hotel before we head back to Mumbai. I had planned a tour of Buckingham Palace and dinner at Ramsay's but things have just been too awkward and tense between our two familes to do anything at the moment. Manyata has been huddled up with Jai in her room. Unnati has been trying to talk to me, but I haven't been in the mood to talk. Dad's ignoring me, and Dadi Sa and Uncle Brij are trying to facilitating pressers and interviews right now- speaking about the upcoming wedding. It's odd isn't it? I just proposed a couple of days ago but the wedding has been on for about a year. I think the time is 6 months from now. 6 months from now Manyata and I will be married, but at the same time, there is so much other BS to deal with. The storm has only just started and we're already drifting apart. We haven't spent time together, and not to mention she always looks so worried and stressed out. I'm doing what she wants but I just hope it doesn't come to bite me in the ass alter on down the line. I can't afford to lose her again. Not again.
It's only 8PM but the hotel roof top pool and vandera are empty because we had booked them off. We were supposed to have a big family get together and celebrate the joy of getting officially engaged before heading out to dinner, but it seems those plans never came together considering all the other things going on. So instead, I dive into the pool and try to swim away my thoughts.
The water is warm but the air cool enough that each time I break to the surface I get a chill. Soon my pace is frantic and I glide back and forth around the large surface, paying no heed to time nor place. I almost want to exhaust the thoughts out of my head. Pulling myself up onto the ledge of the pool. I sit back down, feet dangling in the water, trying to catch my breath which is shallow and fast I close my eyes and try to picture what the future looks like from a week from now. A month from now. A year from now. But I can't it's all too convoluted, but the one thing that I know I want to see there is Manyata.
It's difficult to catch me by surprise, but so long in thought I almost jumped out of my skin when I felt a soft touch on my bare wet shoulder. Looking up I see the very person of my thought's desire. Manyata. She's radiant in a plane white suit, no makeup on, and hair tied up in a messy bun. She looks tired, but so beautiful. Uncaring of her clothing she sits down beside me and puts her bare feet into the water, her shoulder brushing mine.
Manyata: How are you?
Me: Better, now that you're here Princess.
She smiles at me and laughs as she kicks her feet in the water, making it splash
Manyata: Flirt karne ka moka tum nahi chorthey!
There she is. Making me grin.
Since she's surprised me today, it's only fair that I take her by surprise as well at least once.
I quickly lean into her and roll on top. Pinning her beneath me. I can't imagine what it feels like for her, the wet tile beneath her back, and the wet weight of me pinning her on top. She looks startled, and flushed. Her breath is just as shallow as mine, but slower. Our eyes lock and she looks at me unsure. Her hands tentative at my sides in the air but finally fall to rest at my hips. She takes one shuddering breath and is about to say something before I stop her by leaning in.
Me: Kyun, kya hua Princess, Bolthi band?
I'm smirking because I know what this is doing to her, but suddenly there's this odd sensation going through me. It's Manyata's hands...they're moving? They are, gently, up my back caressing the water droplets that are clinging to my skin. The sensation is so wonderful yet torturous. I suck in my breath and look down at her face again, and she's grinning ear to ear.
Manyata: Kyun, kya hua Udayveer, bolthi band?
I can't help but laugh at her bold retort that's leaving me all hot and bothered. This back and forth we have these games that are played are so much more than that. I need her to be with me, always close. Always loving.
I ignore her rhetorical question and stare at the beautiful column of her throat; it's wet from a few droplets of water that have trickled down from my hair. Her scent is so fresh, clean and pure. Unable to stop myself I lean down and kiss her where the two droplets rest. I can feel her plus beat fast against my lips, and her playful hands suddenly dig into my back. The playfulness is suddenly all gone and her eyes look hazy. It's like this sudden dam of emotions is bursting and I continue to kiss her neck. Warm, soft and welcoming I press closer to her. Chest to chest. My lips find hers and her hands go up to my hair and all there is us and the movement of our lips against each other, I can't even describe where I end and she begins. We're one. Breathing the same air and holding the same essence in this moment. There's nothing else but the feel of her lips on my lips and her warmth against mine. There's just too many layers of clothing between us.
That thought. That thought is what snaps me out of it, and I roll off and away. Panting. I have to wait. We have to wait. She deserves so much better than me wanting to wash away all my problems with the oasis of her body and love. I love her too much to make a selfish and shortsighted mistake.
I turn to my side and look at her as she looks at me. Flushed, and breathing heavily. Her hair is open now, loose from my wandering hands, and I tuck the wayward strand away.
Me: I love you Manyata.
Manyata: I know Uday. I know.
She leans in closer and rests her head on my shoulder. Kissing me lightly where my heart lays, as if to reassure me that she's here with me to stay.
OK! So, as promised ITS UP! IT'S FINALLY UP! I will do my best to update every two weeks to ensure you guys get your dose AND the story get's it appropriate due!
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