Posted: 06 June 2008 at 11:13am
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Two – Soni
He appeared without warning in the doorway, pulling a suitcase in one hand, bag slung over the other shoulder. And before Soni's mind had the time register anything, let alone his sudden appearance, he had stopped dead at the sight of her, shock written over his handsome face.
She was barely aware of her breathing, her lips moving, but no words forming themselves. Then, as the suppressed feelings of the last four days welled up inside her, it came out, a cry of relief and desperation. "Jeet!"
All baggage forgotten at the door, Jeet hurried, almost running, to her side, a look of confusion now coupled with the shock already there. Soni could neither say nor do anything, but she instinctively glanced towards Durga aunty, who seemed to be searching for words, but failing.
"Mamma, what is this?" Jeet demanded immediately.
Out of the corner of her eye, Soni saw Veer jeeju look away awkwardly, and Mahi's grip on her shoulder tightened. There was a slight pause before Durga aunty, adopting a coaxing expression, began to speak. "Jeet – "
"Mamma, this is Soni's wedding," he interrupted, the word 'wedding' coming with difficulty. Durga aunty's expression faltered slightly. "Soni is getting married…to…to this?" He jerked back in shock as his gaze fell on Sharmaji, who was still sitting, disgruntled at this new disruption.
"Puttar, this is a moment that has to come in every girl's life…and besides, Soni's marriage was really long due, we owe it to her happiness, don't we?"
He looked at her incredulously. "You did this?"
His mother smiled, brightly, insincerely, and Soni felt a thud of dread. "Circumstances change, puttar, Soni was very keen on this marriage…Thank God you've arrived safely, go – go and freshen up. Relax in your room this evening – you'll be too tired to join the festivities demanded by a marriage."
She took hold of his arm but he wrenched it away, looking back down with unconcealed disgust at Sharmaji. He did not seem to have heard a word of what his mother said – he had been looking at the extravagant settings, then Soni, at his mother, but always back to Soni.
"Four days," He said quietly, and the tone of his voice made Soni look up fearfully. His face was carefully controlled, and Soni wondered just how close he was to anger. "I was gone for only four days, Mamma, and I come back to this – this charade?"
"Jeet, you didn't know?" Veer jeeju's voice came suddenly. Soni glanced at him – jeeju's eyes were darting from Jeet to Durga aunty and he walked up to them, eyes faintly narrowed.
"You said you had told him," he said. His mother looked back at him slightly defiantly, sweat beginning to glisten on her forehead. Beside her, Mahi frowned, but Soni had no doubt Durga aunty would have an explanation for this too. "Mamma, didn't you tell Jeet about Soni's marriage?"
"Listen here, both of you," she hissed. "Now is not the time to create a scene – "
"It's too late for that now, Durga!" thundered Uncle. He sounded furious. "All this goes beyond the reach of respectability. What scene are you talking of creating? The one in which you played the biggest part in causing?"
"I caused a scene?" his wife snapped. She gestured violently at herself. "I have done nothing but secure Soni's future and shown nothing but concern for this girl. All of you are simply wasting time." She did not look at Jeet. "Veer, there will be time to welcome your brother later. Soni, you sit down."
She began towards Soni, but Veer stepped in front of her.
"No, Mamma," he said resolutely.
Startled, Soni felt Jeet grasp her hand tightly, face set with purpose. The feel of his skin calmed her, the gesture of possession reassuring her. He led her away from Sharmaji and the fire threatening to bind her to him, and they turned to face his family.
"Enough of this," He did not speak loudly, but the hall had fallen silent. "I will marry Soni." Soni did not let herself feel relieved, but she still let out a breath she hadn't realised she had been holding. She knew Jeet loved her, but hearing the words there in the open, meant more than she could ever express. She was dimly aware of Durga aunty's half furious, half shaken expression, and of Veer jeeju sharply turning his head to look at Jeet.
"Jeet?" They said it at the same time – Mahi in one surprised breath, and Jeeju with a deep frown on his face. Durga aunty seemed incapable of speech.
"I love her – we love each other," added Jeet. "And if Soni is going to marry anyone today, it'll be me. I'm putting a stop to this right now, Mamma. You say no one will marry a terrorist's daughter? Soni isn't a terrorist's daughter. I'm going to marry her, and nothing can stop me." Soni looked down, tears spilling onto her cheeks.
Durga aunty seemed to get a hold of herself. She glanced briefly at Veer jeeju's astounded expression, sideways at Jyoti and began to stride towards Jeet. "No, Jeet," She spat the words, face murderous, and Soni nervously tried to pull her hand away. "I won't tolerate this."
"But I will," Uncle stopped her, firmly taking hold of her arm. "Jeet is doing the right thing by taking responsibility for Soni. I support his decision." He gravely nodded his approval, and Soni felt her heart lighten. Could this be possible after all?
Lovely bua also voiced her agreement, followed by Mahi, whose eyes were shining with mingled tears and relief. Jeet listened to them both with a grateful, satisfied smile, but then he let go of her hand and looked, as she knew he would, to his elder brother.
"Bhai?" He reminded Soni of a child, looking up to the person he admired and respected most in the world. "Will you stand by me?"
"As I always have, Jeet," replied Veer jeeju seriously. "But on one condition."
Jeet looked slightly taken aback and met Soni's eyes with uncertainty.
"Soni," Jeeju came up to her. "Too many decisions have been made for you in this house without considering your feelings. I will agree to this if and only if you tell me this is where your happiness lies."
Soni quickly looked towards Durga aunty, but her face was turned away. Jeeju laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"No, Soni," He shook his head gently. "Today I want your answer. Only yours. Don't be afraid to tell the truth – is this what your heart truly wants?"
She raised her eyes and looked at Jeet, his smile, his sincerity, his love, and found the courage to speak.
"Yes, Veer jeeju," She smiled for what felt like the first time in weeks.
Jeeju's smile widened. "Well, now I would have had your answer whether you'd spoken or not. I haven't seen such joy on your face since Jeet left." He looked at her for a moment without speaking before gently placing her hand in Jeet's, face serious again.
"Take care of her, Jeet."
Edited by bhavana02 - 10 June 2008 at 6:10pm