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This is chapter 22, already. My story's becoming old...
The queen walked in, dismissing the guards with a wave as she plonked down on the couch. His intentions had been nothing less than a mysterious puzzle to her, and even though she tried to think that maybe he tried to frame her, she couldn't. She knew him better than to think he'd frame someone like that, and even if it kills her to admit this, even to herself, she did- he'd never do that.
Why then would he defend her in front of all his ministers? It didn't make any sense to her. She bit her lip, deep in thought, coming to a sudden realization that she is once again torn between him and herself. Maybe, she wondered, he lied to uphold his image in front of his subjects, for it would clearly humiliate him if he'd tell the truth. Or maybe he did it to show off how humble he is.
Yet, something inside of her whispered, maybe he did it just to save her honour. Would he even do that? The man who clearly doesn't care about her feelings, who'd proved it on occasions more often than not, would he be the same man to save her when she could have been hanged to death?
I'm so confused..
Confused. Maybe that's what he is, too.
She thought about him, if he was going through the same phase as her. She felt weak, like half of her was carelessly torn and thrown away. That's how she felt, she felt halved. It was an embarrassing truth that she felt so fragile the moment she separated from him.
And she hated herself for it.
I used to be so strong.. And now, it's like I can't live for a day without wanting to be with him... It's so stupid, I hate him for what he did.. but I can't stop loving him.
She sighed, ruefully wishing that with it would go out all of her sorrows. But when they didn't, she gathered herself together, and decided to go for a day out.
The only problem though, was her injuries. Oh, and his permission.
Not that she cared about either.
Skilfully sneaking out of the palace, she strolled leisurely around the central market. She'd been wise enough to not go out in a queen's attire, and had exchanged her clothes with Reva's. Luckily, she had a few gold coins with herself, just in case.
With distress evident in her features, she reached a lake, the cool breeze providing a relief as it managed to relieve her a tad bit. She smiled, a soft smile, to herself and immediately sat at the land, dipping her toes in the water. She shivered, the water was cold and just what she wanted. Distraction.
Voices from behind captured her attention and she turned, only to witness a visibly lovesick couple that caused polar opposite feelings to emerge. She felt disgusted- they were so in love it was almost like a joke on her, and she felt her heart burst with warmth. Her eyes immediately fell on the girl, who clung to her husband's arm as she giggled and shook her head.
A thought hit her.
It could have been her.
It could have been them.
No.. You could never be them. They're in love, her husband obviously loves her. She tried to convince herself out of her unintentional fantasy.
Maybe your husband does, too. A meek voice protested.
She glanced at the couple again, this time trying to be really happy for them as she silently cursed God for their timing. The entire effort to sneak out had been ruined, all she needed was distraction and she got anything but that.
She focused her attention on her legs, kicking the water underneath when a surprise came her way. "It's such a beautiful lake! Come on, let's go near..!" said who Jodha identified as the wife to her husband, and she sighed- just when she thought she could avoid them.
"It might be dangerous. I don't want you getting hurt." The husband cooed. Jodha rolled her eyes inadvertently, muttering, just lovely.
"I won't, that
woman over there is also sitting near the shore. Stop making excuses!"
" You're the only woman I care about.."
She mentally banged her head against a wall at his words.
They triggered a memory she wasn't sure she could handle.
"Shahenshah, you are totally not trying to trick me." She huffed, agitated and sat on his couch, arms crossed.
"Why would I trick you?" He mischievously questioned, knowing fully well what she was angry about.
"You have so many women at your service, which shouldn't be the case, really, but you've got so many wives'--"
"They're not my wives, Jodha." He corrected uninterestedly.
"I wasn't finished!" She huffed again, glaring at him as he replied, "I fortunately have only 3 wives. I'm not sure if I can handle any more than that. The third one, in particular, is quite a handful." He winked
"She must be a pain.." She stared at him, wondering if looks could really kill.
"That she is." He laughed, unabashedly, and as much as she hated it- he looked absolutely adorable with those crinkles by his eyes. "but a delightful pain, I'd say."
"Huh?" She shook her head, momentarily distracted by the tinkle of his laugh.
"I'd rather handle all her tantrums and wishes and remarks and have her with me, then be free of drama and lose her." He finished, with a smile so sweet she found it impossible to stay angry.
But she could pretend.
"She sounds like a problem. Why are you not with your favorite wife, minus the troubles, then?"
He completely ignored her question,
instead, walked up to her, holding the most gorgeous face he'd ever seen in his
hands as he said the words that won her over- "Jodha.." He breathed, his breath
laced with affection, a raspy voice. "I have my subjects to look after. I have
won many kingdoms, and they have gifted many slaves and maids to me. They are
now my responsibility. So yes, I care about them. I have my mother, badi ammi,
ruqaiya, salima begum and many more in the harem that are dependent on me.
You'll never be the only woman I care about, I'm sorry but I can't give you
that. What I can promise to you is my everlasting love and a promise of forever.
I don't know if it's good enough, because maybe you deserve better, but this is
all I can give."
"Shahenshah.." She whispered, but was cut off when he continued,
"I cannot give you all of me, because as a
king I belong to my subjects and to the women in my palace. But I can promise
you that my soul will forever and always be yours."
"You're all I've ever really wanted." She finally found her voice, and kissed his cheek to prove her feelings that were going to burst.
"I love you Jodha..."
Her name always sounded special from his lips. Maybe she was just being a hopeless romantic, but there was something about the way he extended the last syllable a little, almost drawling with overflowing love.
Or maybe he was just a really good actor.
"Begum Ruqaiya.." Maham called, her eyes doing a quick check to make sure she'd caught the queen alone.
She did a respectful salute, her signature smirk at its place before she began with her plan.
"Nice to see you here, Mahamanga." Ruqaiya sarcastically greeted. With the day's events unfolding, she'd been more than pleased to see Jodha's cold reaction to Jalal at the court. It was a sight she couldn't forget.
Therefore, it made sense why she was not interested to have Maham ruin her mood.
"Pleasure is all mine, begum e khaas." She spat back, before settling down on a couch, facing her.
"So I was walking
by Shahenshah's chamber today..." She started, but was interrupted-
"Is this another round of your gossip, Maham? Because I'm not really interested in your stories."
"I wish... I wish so badly that it was a story, begum Ruqaiya. But sadly, it's not. As it is, I heard Shahenshah say something, which might be very important to you, with my own ears." Maham Anga rolled her eyes, she was used to Ruqaiya's rude persona, but she wasn't up for it today. Not when she had a plan to execute.
Not when she needed her to be a part of it.
Ruqaiya narrowed her eyes, before giving a silent nod.
"I'm sure you noticed Jodha ignoring Shahenshah during the proceedings, didn't you?" she asked casually.
"Yes, I did, so if you're here to tell me that then-"
"I haven't finished speaking, Ruqaiya." Her glare hardened, and the feisty queen took the hint to drop the attitude.
"Jodha begum really did raise her hand at Jalal." She revealed, cautiously eyeing her to catch her reaction.
Her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped a bit as she took in the revelation. When the matter was first introduced, she'd brushed it off as a result of jealousy from Jodha. However, she couldn't ignore the nagging feeling at the back of her mind- it wasn't impossible.
Would Jodha dare? She was a hot headed girl, that she knew.
Would Jalal take action against her? A definite no.
"You're lying." She stated
"Look at your face, Begum E Khaas" Maham laughed, "do you think I would lie about a case like this?"
"That bitch.." Ruqaiya muttered, already thinking of ways to murder the Hindu queen. As proud as she was, she couldn't stand anyone, even if it's a beloved queen of Jalal himself, to insult HER husband.
deserve forgiveness, does she?"
"Of course not." She seethed.
And then she realized Maham's unexpected visit.
"What are you planning to do?"
She shook her head frantically, almost repelled by the thought. Almost. Surely she wouldn't mind Jodha getting banished, or maybe even hanged, for disrespecting Shahenshah. But knowing Jalal, she knew her own assassination would follow soon after.
"Jalal would kill
us, if we touch her."
She's smarter than I thought, Maham wondered. Her original plan was to somehow convince Ruqaiya to bring the truth out. This, she thought, would remove both Jodha and Ruqaiya from her way.
It was quite a master-plan.
"You've become more intelligent.." Maham analysed, getting a deadly glare in return.
After a minute of silence, she tried again.
"If we can't
Ruqaiya looked at her curiously.
"Then we can try to separate these two, can't we?" She suggested with a sinister smile.
"You're more messed up than I thought." Ruqaiya concluded, before giving in with a smirk of her own, a smirk so evil and malicious, it could belong only to her. "But we can, we surely can."
"You were saying that you overheard Jalal say something?" She probed.
"Yes, I did. But I'm certain, you won't like it." She grinned
" It can still help us." She rolled her eyes
"That it will..."
"So what was he
saying? Just tell me already.."
And so she did.
The distressed emperor counted all his options. He could go to Jodha, and confess what an idiot he'd been the other day. He can ask, even beg, for her forgiveness. But he remained doubtful of whether she would really put it past them, so soon.
Maybe she just needed time. She'd come around, he thought with a sigh, he just has to keep reminding her that he loves her. And hope that she'll believe it.
And he just got an idea.
With a determined gait, he went to the royal garden, nodding curtly at the gardener before dismissing her.
We did have roses in the garden, didn't we? He wondered, panicked, knowing that his amateurish plan would fail if he didn't find the flower.
Relief coursed through his body as he spotted the red petals of the flower, before going and plucking one for her.
He acted too soon, because a thorn pricked his finger as he withdrew his hand immediately. He shook his head in dismay, before carefully pulling it out.
She better appreciate this gesture of mine, he thought, I didn't just prick my finger for nothing.
And then he proceeded towards the harem, for the part two of his plan.
"Salima begum?" He greeted politely, with a smile on his face- even though he was certain his distressed features couldn't be masked.
"Adaab shahenshah." The queen smiled, and so did little Rahim as he hugged the emperor.
"Khan E Khaana, I
was just taking a walk in the garden, the weather is excellent, and I think I
heard some maids planning to play games without you." He widened his eyes for
extra dramatic appearance, which made Salima chuckle, before she quickly
silenced herself. "why don't you join them?"
Rahim gasped, apparently offended at the thought of someone playing and not inviting him. "I'll surely go, Shahenshah, and teach them a lesson." He huffed.
"You should." Jalal agreed, appearing very serious as he played along.
He hugged his father-figure again, before quickly rushing out.
"How can I help you Shahenshah?" she asked, and Jalal took a moment to realize how serene and calm her voice always sounded, as if nothing ever bothered her.
He wished, that someday, he'll hopefully be that calm too.
"can you write a letter, I'll dictate the words, but if you can just write them down on a paper for me?" He requested her.
Her name was the first he'd thought of when he developed this plan. He couldn't go to Ruqaiya, for he believed that she was still angry at him. As for Maham or Hamida, he was too embarrassed to ask his motherly figures to write a love letter on his behalf.
That would be very embarrassing, he shuddered.
"A letter?" She was pleasantly surprised. Her sharp eyes hadn't missed the lack of exchange between Jalal and Jodha at the court, and she was hoping that the letter had something to do with Jodha.
She was hoping that Jalal wasn't letting the best thing that ever happened to him, slip away.
"yes, a letter.." he looked down, this was clearly more awkward than he'd expected it to be, and for the slightest second he wished he'd disappear right now. Never has he ever been this embarrassed about anything.
"To who, if I may ask?" She smiled, and Jalal felt a bit of his initial hesitation wipe away. Her smile had something along the lines of warmth that put him at ease.
"Jodha begum..." With that, he glanced at everywhere but her face, knowing she'd probably think of him as a lovesick fool.
But that's what he was.
"I will, Shahenshah." She agreed, wisely choosing not to comment on his adorable display of affection for his hindu begum. It was sweet, she admitted to herself, slightly shaking her head at him, but not enough for him to notice.
"You will? That's..That's great. Thank you." He looked up in disbelief, before one of his biggest grins ever covered his face, along with a bit of impatience and nervousness.
He could only hope that she would like it.
"So let's get started?"
She flashed him an assuring smile. That's one of the qualities he liked about Salima- she had this certain way of making every situation, no matter how awkward, comfortable. This skill of her was useful to him, in situations like these where he felt too embarrassed.
"So what exactly is this letter about?" She questioned, her eyes cautiously gazing into his, trying to figure out the answer.
He looked panic-stricken, as if he'd not seen it coming.
"You don't have to
tell me, it's okay..." She tried to calm him down. He just shook his head to
shake away the bad thoughts, before replying. "I've hurt her.. badly."
I saw that coming, Salima thought sadly. She knew Jalal, he is a good person, but very inexperienced in the matters of heart. Feelings, fragile feelings as she always referred to them, were hurt easily.
She could tell that he was hurting more, it was etched on his face.
"And she's not talking to you?" She asked, she knew she was probably meddling too much, but it was important to her- she had to gauge his emotions accurately to portray them in the letter.
"I think it's more than that. She's really, really upset." He closed his eyes, knowing it was all going to hit him anyway. He'd possibly destroyed the dangerous edge they balanced their relationship on.
"But you're sorry, aren't you?" At this point, she was fairly certain that she'd crossed the line.
"Of course.." He nodded
"Then it will be okay, she'll understand." She smiled, and with her smile came a bit of hope in his torn soul.
She's right. Jodha will see that I regret my actions.. She'll understand.
"So let's get that letter started.." She grinned, before walking away to get the instruments required.
Dipping the tip of the feather into the ink pot, she waited as Jalal composed himself, before starting to dictate the words to the letter.
I've hurt you a lot, actually I've hurt you more than anyone has ever hurt anyone. And I'm sorry, I really am. I know you probably think that I'm lying, because that all I've ever done when I was with you. Except those times when I told you that I'm hopelessly, irrevocably in love with you. I wasn't lying then.
And maybe this sounds like a lie, maybe I've given you more than enough reasons to not trust me- because I know I don't trust myself, but I still hope you'll believe me when I repeat these words, I love you, Jodha.
I've been the worst husband ever, I've hurt you and crushed you in ways I cannot imagine. I'm sorry. But I'm not lying when I say that I'm hurting, too. I'm no better than you are. Even worse, perhaps. I'm sorry, and I know this letter will not mend things, but I'm hoping it will let you know how terribly I regret those actions of mine.
If I could take them back, I would. You probably hate me now, and even then it's justified, because what I did deserves to be hated for anyway. But I know, I still love you. Can we talk? I know you don't want to see my face anytime soon, but maybe when you're ready?
I promise Jodha, I'll make it better. I'll make it all better.
Now that I see what a terrible man I've been, I can't help but feel amazed- how did you handle me? It only makes me respect you more.
Jodha, you're a strong woman, probably the
strongest I've ever seen, just don't break. I'll be there for you, I'm always
there for you.
I love you,
They let out sighs as the letter was finally done- it'd taken many tries to get it right, but when it did, Salima was sure Jodha couldn't possibly ignore a letter as heartfelt as this.
Jalal, on the other hand, didn't appear satisfied, rather had turned into a ball of jitters and nervousness.
"Would she like it? What if she thinks that I'm lying? What if she hates me now and doesn't want anything to do with me? What if...?" He was silenced by his cousin as she laughed, a breathy laugh but then turned serious again.
"She'll love it, Shahenshah. I'm a woman, and I can say we love these kind of letters- heartfelt, open, honest.. she'll definitely love it. She might not come running to you immediately, and I'm quite sure she won't, but it will definitely have her thinking about you- and that's a very successful first step." She explained, and Jalal sighed again, before nodding.
Thanking her, he took the letter and went off to Jodha's chambers, unaware that she'd snuck out.
He was about to enter, when he noticed Moti bai, a visible look of hysteria on her face. His eyebrows furrowed, and he beckoned her.
"Pranam Shahenshah." He couldn't possibly miss the edge in her voice, but chose to ignore it- he'd already hurt Jodha enough, he couldn't get mad on her close friend.
"What happened? You look like you've seen a ghost?" He questioned, a feeling of dread sinking in as he immediately thought of the worst. He hoped Jodha was okay.
A slight look of
terror flashed through her features, before she masked it and replied, "it's
nothing, Shahenshah. How can I help you?"
He didn't fall for her excuse, he could tell that the issue was more than nothing, but he didn't question her.
"Can you give this letter, and this rose to Jodha begum? Tell her it's from me?" He asked, eyeing her suspiciously.
"Sure..." she returned the suspicion, biting her lip as she took the letter and the rose, saluted him and walked away.
And no matter how hard he tried, the feeling of something was wrong just wouldn't go away.
DING DONG The chapter's finished!! Aha, how happy I am to finally finish this chapter. I was so clueless as to what to write, something that explains their desperation, denial, and of course- the feelings that were too strong to be suppressed.
I am quite sure this chapter didn't do justice to these two.
Buttt.. these two! I know Jalal has been a jerk, but oh my god he's so cute! Excuse me while I go and fangirl over him.
Sorry... for my disappearance? You know you love me.
I love you all,
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