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She stared down at the sari thrust into her hands, feeling the cloth fall over her skin. The heavy, vibrant green fabric was intricately embroidered in gold, small jewels stitched all over the skirt.
Risking a glance across the counter, she stared longingly at the sari in black silk on the other side, the delicately embroidered circles staring back at her. She knew it was rich, the quality of the fabric shimmering underneath the harsh fluorescent lights.
"Beta, go wear it! You'll look beautiful, I know it! Just beautiful."
She walked mechanically to the trial room, absentmindedly fingering one of the gems as she pulled the door shut and locked it. The overly animated, thrilled voices of her family was now muted, and she sighed with relief.
She quickly pulled off her jeans, slipping on the lehenga. Dropping her bra, she put on the choli, reaching behind herself to button up whatever she could.
"Amma! Can you tie my dori?"
"Haan, haan, aayi!"
Her mother bustled over, her rounded face practically glowing as she stepped into the dressing room to tie the dori in a neat bow. The blouse's low cut back revealed plenty of skin, and her mother easily adjusted the dupatta to make it more demure.
Her mother cupped her face, smiling fondly at her.
"You look beautiful, beta. Khoobsurat. He won't know what to say when he sees you."
"That's kind of the plan."
She muttered underneath her breath, pasting on a quick smile for her mother. She turned slowly, the lehenga flaring out slightly.
It looked... perfect.
A brilliant smile stretched her mother's face, and she was quickly ushered out into the store to show off. She was made to twirl as twenty female relatives gathered around her, showering praises upon her.
She smiled politely, thanking all of them graciously. Just before she walked back to take off the dress, her mother pulled her close, whispering softly in her ear.
"I'm so glad you're getting married, beta. Maybe this way you can settle down a little, and then go back and... take the MCAT?"
She tried to restrain her exasperation, only giving her mother a brief grin.
"Ma, I already have a degree."
"Haan, but environmental science..."
"I should go take this off. This is the one we're getting, right?"
She walked off to the dressing room, ignoring her mother's deflated expression. She was doing this to keep her happy, and for that reason alone.
A tall figure suddenly stopped her, looking down at her through his aviators with a smile.
"Woh rang... itna bhi bura nahi lakta hai aap par."
She gritted her teeth as he hit the button on the bluetooth, barking at some poor guy named Anshuman to make some deal worth millions.
God knows how the guy got the deals, since he never seemed to be in office. He was always around his large mansion, yelling at everyone in sight and snapping that he had work to do.
Everyone except for his Di, that is.
Because his Di was divine. And no one came before her.
Not even his future wife.
Scarcely containing her annoyance, Khushi tugged off the lehenga choli with more force than strictly necessary. She folded it into a messy lump, before grabbing her stuff and walking out of the door.
"Beta, it is getting late. We still have to get to the jewelers and talk to the caterers..."
"Don't worry aunty. I'll cover it. Consider it a... gift to my extended family."
His lips curved up into an arrogant smirk, and he deftly plucked the sari out of Khushi's hands.
Did the man ever actually smile?
She rolled her eyes at her mother's hasty refusals to take presents from her damaad, and instead chose to walk towards the black sari that had caught her eye earlier.
She fingered the soft fabric, brushing her hand over the impeccable threadwork. The blouse was in a muted gold, with a simple black border that reflected the black silk of the sari itself.
"Haan Ma, main bas... I'll come with... him!"
The words spilled out before she could stop them, and she quickly glanced over to see that her fiance was still in the store.
Sure enough, there he was, muttering unintelligble commands into his Bluetooth as the cashier rang their purchase up. She vaguely heard the giggles of her family as they walked away, telling her to enjoy herself with her fiance.
"Excuse me, do you think I could try this on?"
He grabbed the blouse from behind the counter, nodding her towards the fitting rooms.
She easily wrapped the sari around herself, the fabric resting hugging her figure gently. The pleats were quickly made, but they fell neatly to the floor, brushing her ankles with every step.
She looked... radiant.
She continued to look at herself in the mirror, growing more and more disenchanted with the original green lehenga her family had picked.
She hadn't picked it, but her family had. She hadn't wanted to get married- her family had wanted her to.
Pulling it off, she folded it carefully, glancing at the price tag.
If she waited until tomorrow, this sari may not be there. It was expensive but... she could afford to splurge a little bit.
She walked out into the store, sweeping it for a sign of her fiance. He was nowhere to be seen. Letting out a sigh of relief, she walked over to the counter, pulling out her credit card.
She took the brightly colored yellow bag from his hands, grasping it tightly as she dialled a number.
"Geet, I'm leaving. I can't do this shaadi."
It was raining.
The skies were dark and heavy, and an ominous roll of thunder could be heard in the distance. The dim light from the streetlamps that lined the street shimmered in the puddles, and pedestrians ducked into stores hastily as the rain began to fall harder.
She winced, turning back towards the sari store. She could go back in and wait, but she was supposed to be at that damned jewelry store.
"Taxi! Taxi, please!"
She ignored the confused, weird looks thrown over the shoulders of passerbys, waving her hands frantically at the bright yellow cars speeding past. She cringed as one drove straight through the puddle, sending water splashing all over her.
She pushed back the wet hair falling in her face just as a taxi finally pulled up to the curb. Her bangles clinked as she reached forward for the door handle... only to feel a warm hand directly underneath hers.
She shifted her hand like she had been burned, whipping around to see determined, dark eyes staring down at her, pinning her with his gaze.
"This is my taxi."
Her grip tightened on the handle, fully incensed by his assertion. She had been here first, and she would be damned if she waited another half an hour to get a ride.
"No, this is my taxi. As you can see, my hand is underneath yours, which means I was here first."
He stepped closer, pressing her up against the yellow door as he loomed over her.
"No, this is my taxi. I signalled him from all the way over there."
He gestured to an arbitrary location behind him, glowering at her. His hair was slicked down by the rain, the thick strands plastered to his head.
His eyes were framed by thin glasses, his angular jaw emphasized by the dark stubble on his cheeks. He was in an impeccable three piece suit, the fabric of the highest quality.
"Haven't you heard of letting a lady go first?"
"I'm a feminist."
She tossed him an incredulous glare, disliking the way his mouth quirked up in a smirk.
"Very funny. Just give me the damn taxi. You can hail another one."
"But I hailed this one!"
"Seriously guys, if you continue to act like my five year old daughter, I'm gonna start charging you for this. Why don't you just share the thing?"
His voice was muffled through the glass, but the irritation was clear. They stared at each other for a minute, neither wanting to give up the battle.
He sighed, and pulled the door open, gesturing for her to sit down.
He slid in after her, leaning forward to tell the driver where he needed to go.
He turned to look at her, only to find her staring blankly out of the window. The driver gave her an annoyed glare, tapping his finger impatiently as she remained blissfully unaware.
She narrowed her eyes at him, before muttering her address to the driver. She slumped against the seat, fiddling with the ends of her brightly colored bag. She seemed to be deep in thought, chewing her bottom lip nervously.
He glanced at her curiously, watching as her hands went up to the ponytail, letting her hair fall free down her shoulders. It tumbled down in a dark, wet mass, and he found himself assailed by the scent of her shampoo.
She smelled like... strawberries. And a hint of citrus.
He dropped his gaze further down, taking in her jhumkis and neon orange kurta that could blind. The kurta was soaked from the heavy rain, clinging to her slim figure.
She was rather attractive... He tore his gaze away, and forced his eyes further down. Her long legs were encased in dark jeans, crossed neatly at the ankles. At her feet sat a colorful patchwork bag, covered in pins on "Eating Local" and "Saving the Whales".
His eyes lingered on her legs, and he was jolted out of his... study by her shifting in her seat. He quickly brought his eyes back up, and caught a glimpse of her hand.
A glinting, diamond ring rested on her finger, and he watched as she turned it slightly with her thumb.
She was engaged.
Two weeks later
Khushi placed the hastily scribbled piece of paper on the table.
I'm sorry I have to do this to you- but I can't get married. Not for the reasons that I'm getting married for- I want to get married because I fell in love, arranged or otherwise. I want to get married because I want to get married, and not some failed attempt to get me to settle down.
I love you, very, very much, and I know you want the best for me. But I think some distance will help our relationship. I'm leaving my phone here, and getting a new phone. I'll contact you when I'm ready.
She murmured a silent apology to her sleeping parents, knowing that this letter would hurt them. She didn't intend to hurt them, but she would be miserable in this marriage.
And for once, she was deciding to put herself first.
She gingerly closed the door, swinging the duffel bag over her shoulders as a wide grin spread across her face. She rushed down the stairs, her hair falling out of the carefully made bun to frame her face.
She slid into the waiting taxi, handing him the address. He yawned and rubbed his eyes, muttering something about women and how they were always so damned energetic.
She leaned back into the seat, momentarily wondering what she had gotten herself into. She didn't have a stable job, except for the lobbying she did on a regular basis. She had numerous disruption of peace charges to her name for her rallies, and a couple thousand dollars in savings.
Until now, her parents had been her main source of support.
She could feel adrenaline pumping through her veins, masking the feeling of dread that threatened to overtake her.
Was she making a mistake?
Her parents had never thought of anything but the best for her. She felt like she was betraying them in some way. They had done so much for her, and she was just... leaving, because they had asked her to get married.
Maybe she could have been happy in her marriage? She knew people who had had arranged marriages, her parents being a prime example. They were happy, and more in love than any other couple she had ever seen.
It wasn't the arranged marriage part of it. It was the fact that she simply wasn't ready to get married.
She shook her head, clearing it of the doubtful thoughts that threatened to take over. She couldn't go back, or she would have to marry that arrogant man.
She didn't feel bad for leaving him in the lurch. He was overconfident and suave enough to find himself another woman, and she wouldn't be surprised if he found himself a lapdog- er, wife- within a few months.
Forcing the thoughts away, she pulled out a book, worn at the edges.
Rolling her eyes slightly, she sunk down in the seat, making sure the driver couldn't see her choice of book. No one needed to know that she enjoyed reading romance novels in her free time. It was her guilty pleasure, and this author happened to be her personal favorite.
Even if the sex scenes could use a little work.
She rang the doorbell to the apartment half an hour later, profusely thanking the taxi driver as she got out. He had simply glared at her before zooming away, cursing underneath his breath.
She rang the doorbell again, and the door finally buzzed, allowing her into the building.
She stood for a moment, awed by the tall ceilings and the sparkling tile floors. She hit the button to the 75th floor before stepping out and knocking gently on the ebony door in front of her.
She was about to knock again when it swung open, revealing a tall man with thin glasses, thick stubble, and sleep toussled hair. She could smell the musky scent of his cologne, and struggled to keep a hold of her senses as it washed over her.
"What do you want?"
Her eyes traveled downwards, and they immediately flew open with a shocked gasp, her hands flying up to cover her eyes.
"Put your clothes on!"
She peeked through the slits in her fingers to meet his slightly bemused, irritated caramel gaze, and quickly shut them again.
"This is my house, you know. I'm allowed to sleep however I want to. Given the fact that it's 2 AM, you should be happy I even opened the door. What do you want?"
"This is my house too now, and I would appreciate it if you didn't sleep... like... like..."
A flush filled her face, and she quickly shut her fingers, jutting her chin out. She heard him chuckle before his footsteps padded away, apparently to put some clothes on.
"You can open your eyes now."
She jumped, dropping her hands from her face. His voice was deep and husky, melting over her like smooth caram-
This was not much better.
He now wore low slung, dark grey sweatpants, and his eyes held a certain confusion as he looked at her. He looked really...
"You look... familiar."
He stared at her for a split second, and something flashed across his eyes. It was almost as if he knew who she was.
Maybe she had imagined it.
"I've... seen you somewhere."
"Overused pick up line."
"I am not trying to pick you up. I've got much better taste in pick up lines than that."
"I'd like to hear this."
"If I were to look into the Mirror of Erised, I'd see the two of us together."
"Harry Potter. I'm charmed."
"I know, I'm quite disarming."
"More like petrified, but that's only because I haven't gotten access to your Chamber of Secrets."
She couldn't help the giggle that spilled out of her lips, but she immediately froze when she saw him staring at her.
His eyes were...
She suddenly realized where she had seen him before, and her eyes widened in realization.
She glanced down at her bag, belatedly realizing that she had been staring- only to realize that her novel was sticking out slightly. Flushing, she shoved the book further down into her bag.
He did not need to know she read romance novels.
"Um... yes. May I ask what you're doing at my house at 2 AM?"
She stood there frozen for a minute, before she quickly stuck out her hand.
"Hi, I'm Khushi. Your new roommate."
He hesistated, his dark eyes filling with confusion.
"Wait, what? No, you're not my new roommate. My roommate is a guy and his name is Khush... Oh. You're Khush?"
"But Aman said your name was..."
She smiled unceratinly at him, a feeling of dread settling in her stomach. What if he kicked her out? Where would she go? She didn't want to interrupt Aman and Geet, not when they had just gotten married.
He sighed heavily, pulling the door open further.
Khushi dragged her duffel bag in as he walked into the kitchen, placing it neatly by the door.
This was certainly not going to plan.
Note: And there is the Prologue. I hope you enjoyed it! Please follow @ipkchotidesi for update notifications.
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