Damini : "That's right! I forgot all about it. Thank you for reminding me."
In relatively little time they pulled into the parking lot of a super market in a mall. By now it was five o'clock. Once again he came around and helped her down. It seemed automatic for him to cup her elbow as he guided
her into grocery store to store.
An mid age woman at the cheese counter called out greetings to them. Prithvi answered in a polite way and a short
conversation in his style. The girl clerk nodded several times.
Damini watched in fascination as he chose his produce with infinite care, explaining as he went that only for the best things to pick up. They left the checkout counter with their arms full of groceries. He put the packets in the back side of the car and then they went to pick off her car.
Prithvi : "I'll follow you back to your mansion."
She paused before getting out of the his car. "What about your girlfriend? Aren't you going to pick her up first?"
Prithvi with smile : "It's more important to get our meal started. At some point she'll join us."
"All right," she said in a quiet voice. "I'll hurry."
It was a good thing Damini had been so upset last night. In the hope of working off enough excess energy to fall
asleep, she'd given herself tough time in clearing her mansion. Little had she realized she would be entertaining Prithvi and his girlfriend tonight. Never had she missed her momma presence more. Mommma would have helped Damini get through the coming evening's bitter experience with grace.
If she had one thing to be grateful for, her momma's kitchen was well equipped who enjoyed her cooking, she also tried to teach few magic receipee to Damini but She failed. Damini smiled at the memory.
Prithvi shouldn't have too much trouble finding the things he needed to prepare their dinner. By the time she'd parked her car in the garage and let herself in the mansion, Prithvi was buzzing her from his car asking for her help in carrying the bags.
"Come on in." She took one of the bag from him. He followed her through the hall to kitchen where they set everything down on the countertop.
"Since you've been here many times before, you know your way around. Please feel free as your own home ."
Prithvi bid "Thank you." and excused himself for washroom to freash up a bit.
How different their situation at this point in time. Her momma was gone, and his girlfriend would be joining them at any minute. The sooner she got here, the better. Being alone with Prithvi was not a good idea at all…
As she was removing the last of the items from the bag he entered the kitchen and came to stand next to her.
His nearness had the effect of changing the rhythm of her breathing.
"What can I do to help?" she blurted.
He plucked the oil from the rest of the items. "For fried rice, I'll need a pan."
In a jerky movement, she opened one of the bottom cupboards and handed him the kind of pan he wanted.
Damini with a smile :"Here you go. What else can I do?"
Prithvi said casually : "Slice those onions for me."
While she found the chopping board and a knife, he poured some oil in the pan and set it on the burner. Then he
reached for a mixing bowl and started his work. He worked fast. It was fascinating to watch him use the knife so expertly. She felt his total concentration on what he was doing.
After washing her hands, she got started on her task. Pretty soon tears were streaming down her face. He
glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and chuckled.
Prithvi : "I should have told you to put a little piece of chocolate in your mouth. It helps prevent the tears
Damini : "I didn't know that! Was it one of your mother's tricks?"
Prithvi : "No. My father's. Otherwise he couldn't stay in the kitchen to help."
She wiped her eyes with her fingers. "How fun those times must have been."
He opened the package of spices and mixing them. "You know how it is when you're young. You don't
appreciate how happy you are until those times are gone."
"You're right. I didn't particularly love to weed, but, when I look back on it now, those times with Daddy were
priceless." She took the board of onions over to him.
He darted her an intense look. "Are you sure you're not a professional cook? You did those just right." He poured
them into the hot oil to soften them up.
That was how his compliment made her feel. Soft and eager for the attention he showered on her. So far it had
been a magical day. But reality would hit as soon as his girlfriend arrived. She needed to get here before Damini forgot Prithvi had been entertaining her for the sole purpose of making her cut-off day from the studio bearable.
With deft movements, he engaged himself in his cooking.
"Now for the most important ingredient." He annouced while looking at her face.
He knew she was mesmerized by everything he said and did.
Damini : "What is it?"
"A few teaspoons of this (while taking lemon juice) and your perfect smile (he blinked while adding the lemon juice in his receipe.
She knew he was trying to make her smile so she just smiled in reply and added : "well I'd better hurry and set the table."
She put out three place mats and decorate the table for three of them. Prithvi had searched until he'd found his
favourite juice can in fridge. No doubt it went superbly with the meal he'd planned, so she placed three
juice glasses next to their water glasses.
They worked in harmony getting everything ready to put on the table. Faint from hunger, she could have eaten
the whole ball of fried rice he called Prithvi special.
Damini had placed him at the head of the table. She flicked him a glance after he'd seated her and teased. "I feel honored the master chef is dining with me, too."
"I'm the one who's honored." He poured juice into both their glasses.
"Prithvi—we really shouldn't start until your girlfriend gets here."
"Yes, we should," he came back forcefully. "This meal is ready to be eaten. To wait would ruin it. Try this (he selected one of his item) before you taste anything else, even your juice. That way you'll detect its unique flavor. I want your opinion."
She looked at him with pleading. "Is this another test to decide if you'll be offering this dish to your girl friend?" She teased.
"You don't really mean that." she cried.
The glimmer in his eyes unsettled her. "You're my tester. It may be one of my favorite dishes, but if you
find it an acquired taste, I need to know immediately."
She lowered her head and refused to comment on his tester remark but instead she replied : . "I don't think I want the responsibility."
"Now you're sounding like Chandini who is not sure about herself around a family, who is afraid of being a home lady. I thought she'd gone away."
"I'm afraid there's more Chandini in me than you realize in that way. I am not a home lady kind of materila,...you know...for example I too don't know cooking or any other girly stufff."
Prithvi in teasing tone : "yaa I know, you are not girly I guess...that is why you asked me to marry you?"
"No. That part was totally out of character thanks to Sameer and his writing staff." She replied with irritation.
"But you have to admit it got her what she wanted in the end." he continued.
"Come on. Live dangerously and take a bite," he said in a husky tone. One taste before swallowing and Damini said, "You don't need me or anyone to tell you how delicious this is. The flavor and texture are out of this world."
He gave her a smile she'd never seen before, as if her opinion truly mattered to him. For a moment she caught a
glimpse of the little boy he once was who would have been so anxious to please his parents.
"Now drink a little juice, then try the rice."
Prepared to do anything for him, she obeyed his command.
"Food is really awesome, Prithvi, I really did not expect this. (she noticed his raies eyebrow on her confession but she continued) Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to enjoy it the way I want."
He threw back his head and laughed while she proceeded to eat everything in sight.
"You eat too fast," he observed when she finally put down her fork with a sigh of contentment.
"I couldn't help it. It was your fault. Oh, I don't care if you believe me or not. That was the best meal I've
ever eaten in my life. You know what I think?"
HIs black eye brow raised.
"In any case you change your mind about your security agency, try your cooking skilss in business, I am sure you will get success and I assure you that people who will have your food would feel That way just like I do."
Damini realised how much she appreciated his cooking when he asked bluntly : "And how is that?"
She tried to say something to express her feeling : "Like ...Like...Ohh...I don;t have word..its the best food I ever had."
He wiped the corner of his mouth with his napkin. "I am flattered...really I am..Damini.
Their eyes locked for a moment and he changed his gaze first " am I to presume you're ready for dessert? It is own favorite."
"Not yet!" Damini cried. "I couldn't. There's no room. Maybe when your girlfriend gets here."
"I expected her before now. It appears she's not coming after all."
"Because of me?"
He nodded slowly.
"But that's crazy, Prithvi!"
"Not really. The truth is, she's a lot like crazy, too timid and hesitant to fight for what she wants. I'm afraid our relationship is over."
Surprised, Damini pushed herself away from the table and stood up. "If she's jealous of me, she shouldn't be. I'd be happy to call her and tell her that nothing has ever gone on between us. if that is what she is thinking"
"She doesn't see it that way," Prithvi explained. "You'd never convince her otherwise. Frankly, neither does anyone else who knows you or me."
Her heart thudded sickeningly. "It doesn't matter what other people think. It's human nature to gossip. But I
wouldn't hurt your girlfriend for anything in the world. We should never have spent this day together. It's
only made matters worse for you." Her voice shook.
"You're wrong. The break had to come. Today was the right time to call it quits."
She clung to the chair back. "But earlier you told me it was very serious between you two."
Prithvi : "It was. However there's a big difference between serious, and doing something about it."
Damini :"Like what?"
Prithvi said bluntly : "Like getting married."
Damini : "You don't want to marry her?"
"I thought she was going to help you run your business, your orphage."
"I thought so, too, but obviously things have changed."
Damini started clearing the table. At the doorway to the kitchen she paused. "How long have you known her?"
Prithvi : "As long as I've known you."
"If you didn't want to marry her, why have you stayed in the relationship?"
Prithvi :"We'd both made a commitment and didn't want to go back on it."
"A-are you devastated that it's over?" she stammered.
"Not at all. If you want to know the truth, I'm relieved. Which brings me to the question I've been wanting to ask
you since you ran into my car."
At the mention of the accident, her pulse rate picked up speed. "Just a minute while I put these plates in the
Prithvi :"I'll finish clearing."
The moment he got to his feet, she darted into the kitchen and started loading. With several trips he'd brought
everything in from the dining room. He put the remaining food in the fridge. In the act of wiping off the counter, she turned her head toward him. "What did you want to ask me?"
He studied her features for a moment. "Since you have a week before you join your business, how would you like to
spend it with me?"
She blinked. "You mean like help you in setting up your business and orphanage?"
"We could do that. I could help you also to settle down in your life. I'm your man..now...He added with a serious note.
"Aren't you being a little crazy? Your girlfriend must be shattered to think things are over between you."
"If she is, someone else is already waiting in the wings."
Damini stared at him. "Are you saying she was unfaithful to you?"
"Then maybe if you gave it a little more time—"
He shook his head. "It's finished, Damini. I'm ready to move on. You and I have both severed ties with the studio.
Something tells me you are as much at a loose end as I am right now."
His comment was so patently true, there was no point in denying it.
She drew in a deep breath. "I'm going to be honest with you about something, Prithvi."
He'd propped himself against the counter. "What's that?"
"I don't think we should see each other again after tonight."
Prithvi :"Give me a reason."
She folded her arms in defence : "Because it's not a good idea."
Prithvi :"That's not specific enough."
Damini thought where their conversation has gone upto..., she replied in defence : "For one thing, you're just coming out of a relationship."
Prithvi avoiding her every effort to change the topic: "Meaning what?"
Damini : "Meaning you're feeling vulnerable and…lonely."
"So I've turned to you because you're the most handy girl around, is that what you think?" He smoothed a
strand of her hair off her forehead. It caused her to tremble.
"It's true." She tried to change her view.
"What's so bad about two lonely, vulnerable people seeking each other out? We've been friends for a long time."
In a panic, she backed away from him. "That's the whole point. We're friends. Nothing more."
"Would you like it to be more?"