Joined: 09 April 2010
Deep brown eyes followed silently watching with great fascination as she tucked his son into bed. The precocious five year old had thick black hair like him and a bright smile just like his mother; he sighed thinking how much he had grown in the past few months. Becoming a father was probably one of the best gifts he had ever been blessed with and he owed all of that to his childhood love.
He watched as his son settled himself into his little race car shaped bed. He had pulled the red covers up to his chest and was looking at her with great anticipation of tonight's bed time story. She warmly smiled and sat on a stool with several books in her lap.
"What's tonight's story?" he eagerly asked.
"Hmm..." she pondered building the suspense in the air, "I think...tonight we will read.."
"Please say Where the Wild Things Are..." he mumbled with his eyes closed and his hands clasped together as if he were praying, "Where the Wild Things Are...Where the Wild Things Are.."
She crinkled her nose and softly chortled at his words. "Suraj, I think today is your lucky night. We'll read Where the Wild Things Are."
"Really?!" he exclaimed his mocha eyes lighting upward in delight. "Mama you're the best!" She lovingly ruffled his thick hair in reply. He looked at her and then made a request. "Will you sit on my bed and read it to me?" He lifted the covers up inviting her in. She nodded and got up.
The brown eyes that been watching quickly turned hiding behind the wall afraid that they would be caught spying. He could hear her reading the book in her storytelling voice. It always amazed him how she would change her voice to suit the characters in the story. No wonder Suraj loved hearing her tell stories to him.
He cautiously peek behind the door frame and looked inside his son's room. His eyes smiled at how Suraj was enjoying himself and how carefree she looked as she told the story. It was a picture perfect scene between a mother and son. It was how things were suppose to be. He was glad that things had turned out this way. They had lost a lot, father and son, four years ago. But despite that at least his son had a mother now. He gently walked away from the room deciding it was best to allow them to have their bonding time. As he made his way into the living room he walked past the wall that hung all the family photos. His eyes immediately fell upon a medium sized golden picture frame that had a garland hung around it. Her smile captivated him and made him think of Suraj. His hands reached out and adjusted the garland hanging around the frame. He smiled gently as his eyes roamed over the angelic face in the photograph. He found himself trying to remember every single detail about her, the way she was smiling, the way her hair fell softly against her shoulders, and the clothing she was wearing. It was as if he was afraid he would one day forget who she was. What she had meant to him. What place she had in this family. And why Suraj's personality was the way it was. He felt a sudden throb in his chest and turned away feeling guilty. It was a feeling that he had been experiencing a lot lately. He couldn't understand why. No. That was a lie. He knew why but he wasn't ready to face that truth yet.
"Prem..." He turned at hearing his name being called and wiped away the tears that had escaped from his eyes. "Haan Ma," he replied and walked towards the kitchen.
Gayatri Juneja smiled brightly at seeing her eldest son enter the room. "Help your mother get a box from the top shelf of the pantry?" Prem nodded and walked into the pantry room to take down a large brown box.
"What's this for?" he inquired as he watched his mother pull out paper cups and plates.
"I'm just checking to see how much we have so we can just get the supplies that we need," Gayatri replied. "Bauji and I were thinking about having a few friends over. It's been such a long time since we had a nice dinner party with our friends."
"That sounds really nice Ma," Prem said.
"I still think you all should go out and eat at a nice restaurant that way no one has to cook. You should enjoy your company instead of worrying about how the food is and if everyone ate well." Prem turned his attention towards the hallway by the garage door and saw his elder sister with a dissatisfied look on her face.
brother-in-law was just a few feet behind her. "Ma, I've thrown the trash out
and moved the recycling bins to the curb.
"Very good Kiran," Gayatri smiled. She then gave a simply reply to her daughter, "Don't worry so much Kulraj."
"Ma, I know how you get," she answered as she walked over to inspect the contents of the box. "I don't want you to get stressed over this dinner and be extremely tired this entire week." Gayatri frowned at her words but remained silent. "Just think about it?"
"All right I'll take that into consideration," Gayatri replied.
Kulraj smiled and then turned towards Prem. "So Kiran and I were thinking about taking the kids to the amusement parks since it is spring break and kids are off this entire week...we would love to take Suraj too."
"How long would you be staying?" Prem asked.
"We were thinking about driving down on Monday and coming back Saturday. We're staying at one of our hotel villas," Kiran stated. He could see his brother-in-law pondering if he should let his son go with them. "We have plenty of room. And if you and Heer want to come you guys are most welcomed. We were just thinking how the kids would enjoy each other's company."
"Suraj will have lots of fun. We will make sure he calls you every day," Kulraj offered. She knew how attached her brother was to his son. He was a very protective father. But who could blame him for being that way after everything that had happened. She remembered how carefree he used to be but ever since the accident he had become more somber and cautious. It saddened her heart that he was changing himself and become someone so different. He engrossed himself with work, helping their father run the family business, J Enterprises, one of the top hotel chains in the world. But he always made sure that he made time for Suraj. He wanted to be the best father he could. He tried his upmost to never have anything lacking in Suraj's life. However, the reality of the situation couldn't be avoided. Prem could not be both a mother and father to his son forever. Tired as he did for two years Suraj still yearned the love of a mother. And despite Prem's protests even he needed a companion in his life. He was still young and had many more years ahead of him. She had taken the initiative to talk to their parents about getting him remarried.
Kulraj gently smiled as she saw her sister-in-law enter the kitchen. She was the daughter of one of her parents' good friends. She had spent most of her time aboard studying in London. She had only met the family a few times when she came back during her school breaks. At that time Prem was already engaged to Sanjana and Heer was seriously dating someone else. Life seemed to have them moving in different directions but in a strange twist of fate they both lost their loves and were placed in the same place. The parents brought them together in the hopes that they could somehow heal each other's wounds. The family members adjusted themselves with easy as they saw how quickly Heer and Suraj bonded. They knew it would take some time before Prem and Heer could accept each other. Over the two years she saw them slowly getting to know and understand each other. Prem's stoic exterior was becoming less rigid. He was softening and laughing more.
"Ah, just the woman we were waiting for," Kiran announced making Heer look at him with surprised confusion. "We were just telling Prem here that we would like to take Suraj with us when we take the kids to Disney World for spring break."
Heer's eyes lit understanding the dilemma that was occurring. She straightforwardly asked her brother-in-law, "Kiran Jiju will you be flying or driving? How long will you be at Disney? Are you only going to the Disney theme parks? Where are you staying?"
"We will be driving down. I think it would be a nice adventure for the kids. But we're flying back. We're just renting a SUV for the drive down and to use around the parks. We're staying at one of our hotel villas near Disney. We're only going to be there for a week so I think we will just to stick to the Disney parks...Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios," Kiran replied. "Have I answered all your questions to your liking?"
Heer softly chuckled. "One more question. The address of the villa and what's the phone number?"
"Oh I forgot to take that out..here I have it in my purse," Kulraj said as she rummaged through her bag. "Here," handing it to Heer to inspect.
"What do you think?" Heer inquired and handed the piece of paper to Prem. She was still looking to him to make the final decision even though she had asked all the important questions she knew he was thinking in his head.
Prem stared at the address and phone number on the yellow color memo paper. He lifted his eyes upward to meet her gaze and then gave a nod. He turned his attention towards his sister and her husband and said, "Okay, Suraj can go. But..."
"We will call you every day," Kurlaj firmly stated knowing that was what he wanted to say.
"Thanks. Suraj will have a lot of fun," Kiran smiled.
Their conversation was interrupted when they heard an extremely excited voice shouting from one end of the house. It was coming closer as everyone turned their heads towards the entrance way. A tall fair-skinned nineteen year old male came barreling into the room with a wide grin. He grabbed his sister-in-law and spun her around in a tight embrace. "Heer Bhabhi! You are totally the awesomest bhabhi in the world! You were right! Thank you so much for believing in me and making me do it!"
"Preet, you're making your bahbhi dizzy. Let her go. You mind explaining?" Kulraj inquired.
"Oh sorry Bhabhi," Preet sheepishly stated as he stopped his spinning and let her go. She smiled even though she was dizzy. She tittered a bit wandering a little too far to her right. Prem immediately reached out and steadied her. Heer looked up and briefly locked eyes with him. They both lost sight of where they were for a few seconds before they heard the loud commotion of their family members grilling Preet on why he was so happy.
"So are you going to tell us or are you making us guess?" Kiran asked.
"What is this news?" Gayatri gently inquired looking at her youngest.
"Ma, remember how I said I really enjoyed taking my film classes?" His mother nodded her head waiting for him to continue. "Well, there was this amateur short film contest and I was really hesitant to enter but Heer Bhabhi convinced me and they just announced the results," dramatically twisting his right hand in the air with his index finger pointing upwards, "guess who got selected to enter into the national contest?"
"Preet?!" Heer and Kulraj exclaimed at the same time.
"That's my name," he smirked confidently.
"That's great news," Kiran stated.
"Congratulations," Prem smiled patting his brother on his back. "This is really great news."
"I knew it," Gayatri warmly grinned as she cupped her son's face. "I'm so proud of you."
"Awww, Ma are you crying?" Preet exclaimed. "Why are you crying?"
"Beta.." sniffling slightly, "I'm just so happy for you."
"You can be happy for me but you don't have to cry," Preet replied as he wiped his mother's tears away.
"Bauji is going to be ecstatic hearing this news," Kulraj said.
Preet brightly grinned at this fact. He turned his attention to his sister-in-law and gave a very heartfelt thank you, "Thank you Bhabhi. Without you..."
"Preet, you did this all by yourself. You're very talented. You don't have to thank me," Heer replied.
"No Bhabhi if you hadn't convinced me to enter into the contest none of this would have happened," Preet stated. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Heer genuinely smiled.
Prem silently watched as his family celebrated Preet's good fortune. He couldn't help but feel a great sense of pride swell into his chest not only because he believed in his brother's abilities but the person who had helped guide him to this point was his wife. He was greatly touched by her efforts. He softly stared at Heer and felt a warmth begin to spread in his chest. The only thing he could think of at this moment was how lucky he was to have her in his life.
Prem rubbed the back of his neck massaging his tired muscles as he entered the bedroom. He had helped his father look over a project draft they were going to be presenting to some potential business partners. He exhaled releasing some of the tension in his body and glanced towards the bathroom door. He could hear the faucet running and knew Heer was inside commencing in her nightly routine. He walked to the balcony and placed his hands on the railing and looked up at the night sky. There was a gently breeze blowing and he briefly closed his eyes to soak in the feeling of the wind brushing against his face and combing through his hair. When he lifted his eyelids he saw to his wonder a familiar figure. His eyes quivered with emotion hoping that this was not some sort of mirage. Her slender fingers caressed his cheek as she gently shook her head. "I miss you," he whispered. She simply smiled in return and lowered her hand. He watched as her silky hair wavered in the air when another gush of soft wind blew inward. "He smiles just like you Sanju."
"You've raised him well," she replied making him grin. "You and Heer." She noticed the way his eyes shifted after she had said her name and sighed. "It's all right Prem. Don't feel so guilty."
He lifted his eyes and stared at her in confusion. "Sanju there is only you."
"Suraj loves her like his own mother. I'm happy. I want you to be happy too."
"I am happy. I have Suraj," Prem replied with force.
She frowned at his words and tapped his chest with her hand, "You have a big heart Prem. There is room..."
Prem turned his head and moved away walking towards the other side of the balcony. "She can't replace you."
"Don't fight what you can't control. You've already been defeated. Just let it in," Sanjana stated. She saw him turn around with tears in his eyes making her sad. "It's all right. It's time to move on. She needs you---"
"She doesn't need me," Prem interrupted becoming an upset.
"You need her." She could see his eyes darkening and his shoulders slumping at her comment. She shook her head and walked towards him. "I'll always be with you. We have our memories. But I want you to know that it's okay to make new memories. Goodbye Prem."
"Sanju?" he called out in alarm. She just smiled and gave him a reassuring look.
Prem suddenly felt another presence there on the balcony and turned around to see Heer looking apologetically at him like she had interrupted his peace. "The bathroom is free." He watched her turn and walk back into the bedroom after making her announcement. He was feeling rather confused wondering what had actually happened to him a few minutes ago.
Hazel eyes took in the sight of the light green and cream colored comforter covering the queen sized bed while nimble hands removed the decorative pillows from the bed placing them on the couch. She looked at the beige cloth couch remembering the first six months of their marriage and how Prem had slept there. It wasn't until one night when Suraj came into their room because of a nightmare did they start sleeping in the same bed together. She remembered the curious question he had asked his father when he was sitting in his lap on the couch. Why wasn't he sleeping in the same bed as his wife? The innocent question from the two year old had caught both adults off guard. Suraj had no real understanding or concept of the words husband and wife. He used the words freely and with great innocence. They really didn't know what to say. After a moment of silence Suraj gently lead his father to the bed and made him get in. Suraj then asked her if she would read him a bedtime story. She agreed and picked him up and tucked him inside the queen size bed before she settled down next to him.
She recalled how awkward that night was. Suraj was soundly sleeping while she and Prem slept on either side in a restless manner. The next morning they discussed the matter and despite their own reservations, they decided for Suraj's sake that they would share the bed. They didn't want to confuse or hurt him should he wander back into their bedroom one night. A thin smile appeared on Heer's lips as her memories filled her mind on what it was like for the first few weeks after their decision. They had been cautious and placed a pillow between them as a boundary. But during the night the pillow would end up moving from its spot and they would find themselves sleeping with their heads close together. Eventually they just simply moved the pillow away as it was useless to keep it between them.
Heer sat on the side of the bed and pulled a book out from the drawer in the night stand. She flipped through some pages until she hit a natural parting in the book. The amber flecks in her eyes warmed as she stared at the handsome features of a young 26 year old male. His black hair was cut short and he had it slightly gelled upward. His face was shaved clean and his smile displayed cute dimples on either cheek. Her fingers gently stroke his face in a caring manner and she felt her tears begin to slowly well up behind her eyes. "I'm sorry," she whispered. It had been several days since she had taken the book out to look at his picture and she felt guilty. She use to look at his picture every night before she went to bed but lately she had been neglecting him. Her days were filled with tasks for work or for the family. Things had become rather hectic at the clinic. One of the Physician Assistants was on maternity leave making the work load heavier than normal. When she came home she'd check over Suraj's homework and then help make dinner with her mother-in-law. Afterwards she'd play with Suraj until his father came home and then the entire family would sit down to eat dinner. His father would help Suraj take a bath while she gathered the dirty laundry to put downstairs with the rest of the family's clothes to be washed in the morning. She would then tuck Suraj into bed. The next hour would be spent in front of the TV watching two serials. Prem would sit with her on the couch reading articles or paying the bills on his laptop. Even though he was doing things on his computer he actually knew what was going on in each show. It was oddly enough their bonding time together. When the shows ended they would watch thirty minutes of the news channel. This would usually lead to some discussion about what was being reported. By eleven o'clock they were in their room getting ready for bed. These days the days seem to follow onward in this fashion and she simply moved along with the flow. Life was moving again for her. And this scared her. She was afraid she was forgetting him and their love. It was becoming more and more obvious that their love was now a love they once shared. It was becoming a memory of the past because something else was slowly making its way to the future. Her heartfelt uneasy as she couldn't shake the sense of guilty twirling in the pit of her stomach and she wondered if he could possibly be feeling the same way as her. Was it possible to fall in love again for the second time? She was jolted from her thoughts when she heard the bathroom door began to open. She quickly stuffed the book back into the drawer and laid down on the bed pretending she was already asleep.
She could hear Prem's footsteps as he walked around the room putting his things away. The click of a switch announced that he had turned the lights off. She felt the pressure change on the mattress as he got underneath the covers and settled himself in bed. She heard him turn to his side and then lay flat on his back. She suddenly felt this great curiosity to turn towards him and open her eyes and look at him. Her eyelids lifted and she stared out in the dim room. Her ears strained to hear if he was still awake or if he had fallen asleep. After a few minutes of listening she decided it was best to just go to bed. If she got caught she wouldn't know what to say.
Little did she know that Prem was wide awake with his head cradled in the crook of his left arm staring at her back pondering about their relationship. Was she happy with him? Was it possible that she was expecting more from him? Would he even be able to give her that? He respected her a lot; he knew this much. And she was his friend at least he considered her that but he wasn't sure how she saw him. Prem rubbed his hand across his face feeling weary from all the thoughts scrolling through his mind. He closed his eyes deciding not to think about it anymore and went to sleep.
Suraj sat on the side of his bed and dangled his little feet in the air as he watched his parents walk around his room opening up drawers and looking in his closet deciding what clothes they should pack for his trip. He was super excited to be going to Disney World for the very first time. Though, he was a tad sad that his parents would not be coming with him. They had explained that they had to work and couldn't take time off.
"What's the weather going to be like down there?" Prem inquired.
"I don't know I didn't check the forecast. We should go look at the Weather Channel," Heer suggested. "I'll packed a couple of long sleeves shirts, jeans, and a jacket."
Prem pulled out his cell phone and went online to check the weather forecast. "Looks like it's going to be hot and humid...average temp will be around 86 degrees."
"Well, I'll still pack those things because you never know with weather. They could get a cold front."
Prem nodded his head in agreement, "It's best to do that." He walked over and handed some clothing to Heer, "Swim trunks."
"Right. Oh, can you get the sunscreen and his baseball cap."
Suraj looked at the suitcase on his bed and said with great gusto, "That's a lot of stuff Mama."
"You need these things," Heer simply replied. "It may look like a lot but it isn't."
Prem handed over the things that she had requested him to bring and grinned at his son. "You sir, have to be a very good boy on this trip. Don't cause any trouble for Aunty and Uncle. Understand?" Suraj nodded his head in understanding. "Don't fight with Ketan and Taanu."
"Remember to say please and thank you," Heer added.
"Haan Mama," Suraj smiled. "And I will eat everything on my plate...and call you and Papa every day so you won't miss me." Prem and Heer immediately broke out into huge grins at his words. "I'll be very good so next time we can go together. We'll go next time together, right?"
The adults exchanged guilty looks with each other before they returned their attention back to their five year old. "Yes Suraj, next time we'll go together," Prem replied.
"Great! I love you Papa," he exclaimed as he stood on the bed and reached over to his father giving him a forceful hug. Prem patted his son's back in appreciation for his gesture. Suraj then broke away so he could give Heer a tight hug as well. "I love you Mama."
"Love you too Beta," Heer replied and gave him a kiss on his forehead.
"Sorry to intrude..." the family turned to see Kulraj entering the room. "Here is our itinerary," handing it over to her brother. "I thought you would like this."
"Thanks Di," Prem replied.
Kulraj turned towards the suitcase and started to chuckle, "So many things? He's only going to be gone for a week," inspecting the contents of the bag, "Why are there three of these?"
"They have to come with me," Suraj answered as he took the teddy bears from his aunt's hands.
"All three? Why don't you take just one?"
"They are friends. If I leave one home he will be lonely and the other two will miss him," Suraj explained.
"I tried Didi," Heer whispered. "He won't let you take them out."
"Hmm..." Kulraj pondered. She then lifted up a stack of shirts and started counting, "Six shirts? Two long sleeves? Three shorts? Two jeans? We'll be doing laundry Heer."
"The longs sleeve shirts and jeans are there just in case a cold front comes in when you are there," she reasoned.
"Okay. I'll leave the jeans and the long sleeve shirts. But we'll only take four shirts and two shorts. One set of pajamas...and he'll just wear sneakers so one pair of socks besides the ones he will be wearing. Underwear...we'll take four. Suraj, all three bears will have to stay at home I'm afraid," Kulraj said looking at her nephew. "You're only going to be gone for week. Let them stay and watch over the house...make sure Mama, Papa, Dadi and Dada are okay. How does that sound?"
Suraj looked at his aunt with an unsure expression etched on his face. After a few minutes of thinking he finally said, "They always keep me company when I'm sleeping. Mama and Papa won't be there so who will keep me company if they don't come?"
"I see," Kulraj replied in understanding. "What's their names?"
Suraj pointed to the largest bear and said, "Papa Bear," pointing to the middle sized bear, "Mama Bear," pointing to the smallest bear, "Chotu."
"So they are like a family," Kulraj said.
"Yes, like my family..Papa, Mama, and me," Suraj replied. Prem and Heer were left speechless that they had never made the connection before with the teddy bears and why Suraj was so attached to them.
"Ah, so if Chotu were to go with you Mama and Papa Bear would be sad and if Papa were to go with you then Mama and Chotu would be said and if Mama were to go then Papa and Chotu would be sad?" Kulraj inquired. Suraj smiled and nodded his head affirmatively happy that his aunt understood. "What if we leave them at home and look for a new edition to the family on our trip?"
"Edition?" Suraj repeated with confusion.
"What if there is a baby sister? That will be Mama, Papa, Chotu, and Baby," Kulraj answered. She glanced towards her brother trying not to smirk as she saw his eyes grow wide.
Prem couldn't believe she was teasing him like this. He knew two years had passed since his marriage with Heer and there was this unspoken wish from the family to see another Juneja heir running around the household. Prem felt his cheeks grow warm and he was beginning to sweat. He shifted his eyes over to his right curious to see Heer's reaction. She had her head bent low concentrating on Suraj's suitcase making sure things were all neatly packed inside but it was clear she was also feeling uncomfortable.
"So we have to look for a baby sister?" Suraj asked. "I don't like pink bears," he firmly stated. "What if I they have a boy?"
"Okay, no pink bears. We'll find something suitable to be a boy or a girl," Kulraj laughed. "So we will do this. Every night when we call home we'll use Face Time...Papa and Mama will sit and chat with you with Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Chotu. This way you will get to see everyone. You like that?"
"Yeah," Suraj nodded. "And we can find a Baby Bear."
"That's correct," Kulraj grinned. "How does that sound Prem?"
"Uh...that um...uh...sounds fffine," Prem stammered. He really didn't know what to say. He was a tad angry that his sister was indirectly making bold comments regarding his personal life with Heer. Things were still not settled between them even though they had managed to form a friendship. And now things were going to become awkward for them again.
"Well, I'll let you finish your packing," Kulraj said looking at Heer.
"Thank you Didi," Heer simply stated and forced a small smile on her face. She felt her stomach churn uncomfortably and wondered what this meant and how Prem was going to react to everything. They would practically be alone in the house for the next week. Preet had already left for New York with some friends for his spring break. Kulraj, Kiran, and their kids along with Suraj would be out of the house come Monday. Only Ma and Bauji would be at home but even they had their own schedules and things they would be doing. Heer swallowed hard and glanced over at Prem. Their eyes gently locked in an awkward gaze for a few seconds before they turned their heads to go concentrate on something else.
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