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Monia giggled to herself as the SUV zoomed out of the palace grounds and towards the basti which she had been yearning to visit ever since she had been so unexpectedly wrenched away from it. After cunningly sending Jai Nandini to Toilet Hell, she had put on the very innocent face her younger sister so annoyingly loved displaying, and convinced the Rajmata to send her out till Ms. J, ermm...recovered.
However, a glance in the mirror of the car told her that her Great Escape wasn't working out the way she had planned. A black car was following her closely. Oh god, who has the Rajmata sent after me, she thought morosely. She didn't need to wait too long to find out. The car pulled up beside the SUV, and its tinted window scrolled down to reveal Udayveer, clad in black trousers and a white shirt that was unbuttoned just enough to reveal a hint of the deliciousness lurking under it.
Who does he think he is, some kind of Bollywood hero? she thought with a sulk. He grinned and motioned to the chauffeur to stop the SUV. The car grinded to a halt, and Monia immediately jumped out, eager to send Mr. Prince Annoying back to his palace.
'Why are you following me?' she demanded, putting her hands on her hips. He smiled as he got out, and Monia couldn't help but notice the way the rays of the sun glinted off his eyes, giving them a wicked amber tint, the kind she'd always seen in the devils in the fairytale picture books Murari had brought for her as a child.
'You're my honewaali maharaani, rajkumaari ji. If something happens to you, how will I forgive myself?' he said dramatically, leaning against his car. 'Hmph,' she said, 'like you can feel bad.'
'I do feel bad Rajkumari ji,' he said, looking at her intently. She stepped back uncomfortably, slightly unnerved by the sudden seriousness in his eyes. 'I do feel bad when you take off like this without informing me. Kahin tum apne...' She narrowed her eyes at him sharply, just as he abruptly switched back to his humorous self. 'Don't worry,' he grinned. 'Do whatever you want...but stay within my sight.'
Why does the Rajmata have to tell him everything? she thought, her eyebrows knitted in frustration. She got back into her car, her joyful mood spoiled. I feel like returning back to the palace...but no, I must not. This is the only chance I have. Just bear him if you have to, but don't let it go out of your hands.
Monia gulped as the people from the chawl herded her, feeling grateful for the first time that she had her royal entourage by her side. Udayveer followed her closely, looking curiously at the people as they called out to her happily, asking for autographs. As I thought, she's not enjoying the attention, he thought with a smirk as he saw her keep a bargepole's distance away from her former neighbours. Monia's uniqueness made her special to him, but often prevented her from enjoying moments of fame such as these.
These are not the real dangers Uday, his mind cautioned. The real dangers are waiting inside the chawl. He pushed his way through the crowd, eager to witness Maanyata's little reunion with her friends.
Monia felt her insides crumble as she saw Ammaji lying immobile on the bed, repeating her name over and over. Akash and Chinki were by her side, holding her hand and trying to explain that she wouldn't come.
But I came, she thought proudly, as she leapt forward to Amma's bed, shouting her name joyously. She momentarily forgot Uday's dark presence behind her as she hugged the old woman.
'Monia, you came,' Amma rasped weakly, her body trembling as she embraced the girl who had become so special in such a short amount of time. Akash remained frozen, his eyes darting back and forth from the girl he loved, to the arrogant prince who had snatched her away from him.
'How emotional,' Udayveer muttered. How could it be possible that Monia could hold these people whom she had known for such a short time so close to her heart? How could she toss her real family away for this poverty? He remained impassive, perfectly aware of the hatred-filled stares Maanyata's friend was shooting at him.
'Akash,' Monia exclaimed joyfully, looking at her old best friend with tears in her eyes. Akash jerked back to reality and got up without any explanation, rushing outside. Monia hurriedly ran behind him, completely ignoring a furious Uday, who was enraged by the affection he had seen in his fiancee's eyes for that stupid, two-bit friend of hers.
Uday chased behind, wondering whether to laugh at the comical chase that was currently unfolding in front of his eyes, or to overtake Monia and straightaway throttle that fellow before he did any drama. Monia banged on Akash's door, crying out his name in desperation. Keep calm, Uday, he thought gritting his teeth. If that fellow knows what is good for him, he will keep quiet.
Akash stood with his back pressed against the closed door, unable to stand Monia sobbing outside his door. At the same time, he knew that her fiance was standing outside, and he wouldn't be too happy if she did anything out of the way.
'Go away Monia!' he yelled. 'You shouldn't be having time for the likes of me!'
'No Akash, it's not like that-' she tried to explain, then broke off as she felt Uday's tight grip on her arm. She turned around to argue with him and then shivered as she saw the possessive look in his eyes. 'Chalo,' he said, a firm 'no-nonsense' look on his face. 'Didn't you hear him? He's not interested in meeting you. Let's go.' Moniya bit her lip, trying to claw his hand away, but Uday refused to listen to any of her pleas. His cold,princely blood gushed in his veins with hot rage. Rajkumar Udayveer never loses. I'm not scared of your cockroaches, Maanyata.
Uday pulled her out of the chawl and, nearly breaking off the car door with aggression as he opened it, shoved her into the front seat of his Jaguar. Maanyata wanted to run back, but an unknown force kept her bound to the seat, as Uday haughtily told her chauffeur that he would drop her home now. She looked at him, terrified as he got into the car and fastened her seat belt for her. Suddenly all the friendship he had been trying to build up between them had evaporated.
Uday kept silent till they reached the palace. When they finally arrived, he looked at her icily. 'You're home, Maanyata,' he said. That was that.
You halkat, she thought, struggling to control her tears as she got out. I knew you would ruin my day. Just wait and watch what I do with you.
Uday sighed as he watched her run away into the palace and probably upto the bedroom. Perhaps he had done the wrong thing. But he had no choice. Maanyata's place was with him. If he allowed her to run away, she would never come back. I'll set you free Maanyata, don't worry. But that's the day you forget your old life.
It was going to be a new year soon, and they would make their new beginnings together. From Monia to Manyaata. From chawl girl to his queen. He had taken the first step-now it was her turn...