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"You what?" said Maithali, laughing out loud at Pia's description of the day's events. "Poor old Dhananjay. Never mind, though," she said, motioning to Pia to sit on the bed. Growning serious, Maithali continued, " Do you know, Pia, sometimes I hate being a woman. Why must I marry? My father ' " here, Maithali's voice shook with fury- " Plans to encourage all those princes who desire my hand in marriage. The prince of Almora comes here next fortnight, and I am supposed to meet him? Oh, if I could but commit a murder!"
"Calm down, Princess," said Pia, putting a restraining hand on her shoulder. "We will do something. Leave it to me."
Room in a cottage:
When Siddharth returned home, he saw Abhayendra sitting next to the window, looking glum.
"What's the problem, brother?"
"Like you don't know," scoffed Abhayendra. "No," said Siddharth, nonplussed. "I don't." "It's your new pet, Piyali," snapped Abhayendra. "She's bad news."
Siddharth lowered himself onto the ground beside him. "Bad news how?"
"I don't know, she just is," snapped Abhayendra. "The way her eyes look right into you, as if she wants to get out everything from you. She's scary!"
Siddharth let out a laugh. "She's scary?"
Abhayendra shook his head, as if to clear it. "I don't know. Something about her makes me uneasy. I just know she's wrong, Siddharth."
"Don't be silly," snapped Siddharth. " She's absolutely fine."
"Yes, yes," said Abhayendra impatiently. "Defend her like you always do. We'll see how you fare when someone looks at you like that."
"I wanted to give you something, Piyali," said Siddharth as soon as he saw her. "Abhayendra's gone on some job the king sent him for."
He led Pia through the forest, stopping at a rickety old cottage. "My home," said Siddharth, awkwardly. "it's not much, though."
"I like it, Siddharth," said Pia moving closer to it. "Wait," said Siddharth, He darted inside, and came back with a medium-sized, clumsily wrapped packet. Pia took it with some surprise. She hadn't really expected a book...
As she unwrapped it, Pia let out a gasp of surprise. Set in a simple wooden frame was a painting depicting a man and veiled woman, in a wood. Their arms were stretched, almost touching each other, and Pia felt tears prick her eyes as she recognized the scene from the previous day's archery lesson with Abhayendra.
"Did you...did you like it?" said Siddhath, hesitantly. Ecstatic, Pia rushed over and gave him a quick hug, leaving him baffled. "This- this is so wonderful, Siddharth," she said in a choked voice. "Did you make it?"
Siddharth nodded. "I never knew," whispered Pia as she traced the faces in the paintings. "Don't worry, nobody does," said Siddharth, smiling slightly. Pia looked at him in shock. "No one? Not even- Abhayendra?" "Not even him," said Siddharth. "Are you going to tell everyone? Please don't. I don't want anyone to know."
Wiping her eyes, Pia nodded. Her heart swelled with gratitude.
"But Siddharth- you must have other paintings, right? Can I see them?"
Siddharth looked uncomfortable. "Please?" begged Pia. He sighed. "All right."
He led her into a room that was dark. Siddharth pulled away a screen- and light filtered in. Pia looked around in awe. There were a dozen or so paintings, mostly of parts of the Pandher palace, and of mountains, streams, forests...But Pia's attention was drawn to the onethat looked as though it had been kept with the most care. Maithali smiled down at them from a life-size prtrait, and as Pia moved closer to it, she saw how Siddharth's eyes remained fixed at the portrait. Suddenly, it all fell into place. Siddharth staying back to talk to her after Maithali asked him to...the casual movement of his eyes towards her side that day... and now, his reluctance to let her see the paintings... Pia suddenly realized that Siddharth was a marvellous actor.
"You're in love with her," she said out aloud , looking at Siddharth. "You are, aren't you? You try to hide it all the time ..."
Siddharth looked mortified. His head shook in denial, but words failed him. He turned away. "Nothing of the sort, Piyali," he said in a cold voice.
"Maithali is the Princess of Pandher."
Pia stared at him. She'd been so sure... "Look at me, Siddharth," she said, pulling him around to face her. And then, as she saw his expression, she realized she had been right. Siddarth seemed to realize it too, for he suddenly went and drew the screen over the window, leaving the room in darkness. "We should leave," he said formally.
Pia followed him outside. As soon as they were out in the open, Pia started. "Siddharth, why are you lying to me? Don't you trust me? I would never betray you- you know that." Siddharth said nothing, but motioned her to walk towards the castle. Pia kept silent- she didn't want to upset him. As they were passing through the forest, Siddharth suddenly started speaking. "We were best friends as children, but even so...something inside me yearned to be noticed by her. To have her attention...I teased her, made fun of her. She would snap back at me in return. It was almost a kind of game... But then, we grew up. Maithali probably doesn't trust me as much as she -" he left the sentence hanging and continued, " It was when she left...that I realized how important she was to me. But it was too late- and anyway, Maithali does not seem to be destined for me. She is a princess, and I work for her father...That, and our childhood friendship is the only thing that makes her even to speak to me. Maithali does not invite confidences lightly...Don't you see? I must forever keep my love hidden, hidden from the person it loves the most."
"I don't think so, Siddharth," said Pia obstinately. "how do you know she does not love you? You don't right? Maybe she loves you too, but does not want to unbend herself to say so? Why don't you just- tell her?"
Siddharth laughed humourlessly. " You are so naive, Piyali."
"I am not!" protested Pia. "Trust me, if you love someone you should let them know!"
Siddharth smiled 'indulgently this time. "We've reached,Piyali," he said gently. "You should be going indoors."
Pia opened her mouth to protest, but Siddharth hadn't finished yet. " I'll think about what you said, all right? Now go- I want to be alone for a bit. Thanks for ,. You know, listening. I trust you."
Pia felt a wave of happiness. "All right."
It had been a few days since Pia had been thrown out of her time. No wonder Abhayendra felt something amiss. It wasn't her fault. But she needed to speak to Pia- and soon. On the other hand, things in the 21st century were heating up...
Raichand Mansion, 2011:
"Nice to see you finally back," commented Chand, as Abhay entered the house. "If you're done with chasing her, there are some news I need to tell you."
"I wasn't- " began Abhay hotly, but was silenced by a wave of Chand's hand. He looked at his mother: she looked extremely tensed.
"The superiors believe," began Chand, " That a vampire who was dead, has recently been- brought back to life, by the means of some dark magic they would not share with me. This resurrected vampire, if we can call him or her so, will possess the qualities of a human who is changing into a vampire. Which means that, in about a month, the ...creature, will begin to thrist...for blood. The superiors want us to...identify it, and control it's thirst, when it does start. And we have no idea of who this might be."
Abhay shook his head. "But why us?" He looked at Chand , but it was Haseena who answered. "Because it happened in Dehradun, two nights ago."
"Then," said Abhay quietly, "We need to keep track of all the new people in town, so to speak."
"Exactly," said Chand. "And we need you for that. Are you with us?"
Abhay nodded, and left the room.
Mr Khatri, the Mount College principal thought it best not to argue with the odd request. If Mrs Khurana wanted Alina Khurana to take her exams early and get her degree, he decided not to pursue the matter further, as he left the house. Alina Khurana would sit for her exams the very next day.
He had been pacing the room for an hour. He felt a sudden fury at Pia. How dare she? How dare she leave him- them hanging like that? How could she be so selfish? How dare she leave Dehradun- and vanish into thin air, as it were? And Nicolas- Nicolas! Was more important than her family and friends?
A small noise jerked him out of his reverie. Haseena was standing at his door. She gave him a tight smile. "I won't say "I told you so, Abhay," she said quietly. "But you know what...I'm glad Pia left for a week. It'll give you some time to think."
She moved away , and Abhay resumed pacing his room.
Suddenly, he stopped.
Pia had left for "wherever" two nights ago. And this strange vampire was
re-born that same night.
Abhay suddenly hoped desperately that the two things were not inter-related.
PS. I know what I said ...The fact is that exams are on 18th, but I couldn't help it...I had to get this down before I forgot what this chapter was supposed to contain. I won't be leaving this FF...I love tormenting you guys too much. Lol.
Apologies for the badly written chapter- I hate writing everything twice. Oops!
Next chapter, as a reminder to me, will have Alina going to her new office- after getting her degree of course...Where she meets...Oh you know that already.
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|Again and again!!!!!!||abhiyafan-96||0||361||03 August 2011 at 6:22am
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