Posted: 10 June 2008 at 6:22pm
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Three – Jeet
Jeet stood out on the terrace, feeling more restless than he could ever remember feeling. He found that during the last few days, he had been able to bear the separation between him and Soni much better than this little trifle – all it took now was a few steps down the stairs, across the hall, and into his room, where his Soni would be waiting. His Soni. She was Mrs Jeet Khurana now.
Jeet curled and uncurled his hands into a fist where they rested on the railings, an eager smile playing on his face. Even the moon, in whose soft glow he used to search some likeness of Soni's gentle beauty, held no such allure today. And he wished that she was there, with him, at the moment, so he could put the thought into words, compliment her and tease her as he liked to, watch the faint blush tinge her cheeks and her eyelashes drop shyly.
She was now his wife, his Soni. Yes, Jeet had waited for this moment, dreamed of it during hours of sleep and awareness, but never had he expected things to happen the way they had. On the bright side, he thought, it was just as well there were no souvenirs of the painful evening. Jeet rather doubted a wedding album would have made for pleasant viewing.
He turned as he heard footsteps behind him and saw Veer standing on the top stair, looking as surprised as Jeet to see him there. He came up to stand beside him, a little smile on his face.
"So…congratulations," bhai's face was open and sincere, despite the underlying strain, and Jeet felt a stab of guilt. At the very least, he could have told Veer before he had left. All excuses now seemed feeble.
It was bhai who broke the silence again. "So what's our dulhe raja doing out here by himself? The guests are asking after you."
Jeet smiled to himself again, Soni foremost in his mind. It made the guilt somewhat bearable. "Well, it was Lovely bua…" he began to say. He felt like a boy again; strangely shy, even in front of his brother. "She told me to leave –"
"Yes, yes, I understand," said bhai, laughing. "She wants you out of the way – perhaps you should know, there's mass decorating going on in your room – I just passed Jyoti struggling under piles of candles. I couldn't see bua for all the flowers she was holding." He paused. "But you…out here alone like this – is everything alright, Jeet?"
That was bhai – concern first, questions later.
"I'm fine," he replied. "I really am, it's just…I didn't feel like facing all those people again – those people who just stood there and watched what was happening to Soni without saying anything. It's disgusting – bhai, how could they do that?"
His elder brother looked away, his gaze wandering over the gardens below. "Sometimes the rest of the world tends to believe lies over the truth, even when it stands right in front of their face." He met Jeet's earnest look with the conviction of the police officer he was. "But when that happens, it becomes our duty to make sure that it is the truth that triumphs. And if the rest of the community can't recognize the honesty in Soni's heart –"
"They're all blind, then," put in Jeet, vehemently.
"That doesn't matter now," replied Veer, a hint of a smile on his face. "You stood against the misconceptions of the community. I'm proud of you."
"That means a lot to me. I can do anything if you're with me," Jeet looked down, remembering. "But Mamma…"
His brother sighed, biting his lip. Jeet knew why. Mamma had never exactly been fond of Soni and today she had shown outright dislike in front of everyone by refusing to give them both her blessings. Unsure himself as to how to console her, and afraid his own anger would make him say something he would later regret, Jeet had not tried to persuade her further.
"Don't worry about Mamma," said bhai gently. "I'll talk to her."
It was like a load lifting off his heart. Bhai would know what to do, the right things to say.
"Soni?" Lovely bua's slightly exasperated voice came echoing faintly up from inside. "Where are you, child?"
The brothers smiled at each other. "She's taking my wedding night seriously," joked Jeet.
"What do you expect?" replied Veer, in a matter-of-fact tone. "Her favourite nephew just denied her the pleasure of planning a magnificent wedding."
Jeet immediately regretted his remark. He thought he knew now, what was coming, what must have been first in bhai's mind all evening.
"So…how long?" asked Veer lightly.
Jeet winced. "Bhai?"
"How long has my little brother been hiding his heart from me?" Jeet screwed up his eyes at the concealed hurt, the hint of wistfulness shadowing bhai's voice. "Since when did you move beyond the reach of my understanding, Jeet?"
"Bhai…I tried – I mean…I wanted you to know first, before anyone else," Jeet's words tripped over one another in his haste to make Veer understand. "Bhai, I didn't expect things to happen like this. I wanted to tell you, before I left on business, I'm sorry…believe me, bhai."
His brother nodded slowly. "Of course I do, Jeet."
There was a short silence before Veer gave a self deprecating laugh and looked away. "Just listen to me…I should be sorry, speaking like this – what right is it of mine anyway?"
Horror rose in Jeet like bile. "Bhai, are you crazy?" he exclaimed. "Please tell me that was a joke. That was a joke, right?" He gripped Veer's arm, but he didn't reply. "Bhai, come on! You were right. Just listen to yourself." He shook his head indignantly. "You're closer to me than anyone else, you know me inside out! And – and you know Soni. Forget my heart, it took me long enough to figure out what was in hers! You have no idea – It was like trying to get hold of a butterfly…"
A slightly reluctant smile appeared on bhai's face. Jeet carried on, encouraged. "Every time I thought I knew where I stood with her, I'd have to take two steps back and start over again – come on, don't hold this against me."
Veer seemed to shake himself. "Would I ever, Jeet? This brother of yours would do anything for you – if you'd told me sooner, perhaps I could have arranged things better."
"Everything's fine now though," said Jeet, feeling a lot happier. "I came back in time for my bride." He expected a laugh, or a light hearted comment, but the intensity of his brother's reply surprised him.
"Thank God you did," Veer said heavily. "Otherwise, I don't know what I would have done…"
"What's there to be so serious about? If not me, then you would have done what was best for Soni. I trust you."
At this, Veer met Jeet's eyes, a strange expression on his face. "You know, now is not the time for this talk. You should go." His face softened. "And don't worry, I'm here to take care of everything."
"And I'll see you two…lovebirds…in the morning!" Lovely bua winked and half pushed him into the room, and he stumbled in his own hurry. He heard her lock the door outside and say something, laughing, to Jyoti, and he locked it again from inside, just to be sure. He turned around.
Bhai had been right. His room was unrecognizable. Candles, flowers and glittering things he didn't know the name of had sprung up as if from nowhere, but his eyes were drawn to his bed, where among strewn rose petals, Soni sat, face covered. In all her wedding apparel, she was like a glorious pink rose herself, but the true treasure was what couldn't be seen, he knew. He was suddenly gripped with an urge to see her face again, look into her eyes and see the love that burned in him mirrored in them.
He approached the bed and took his place beside her. Her fingers curled around his as he gently placed his hands over hers and he felt a little thrill go through him. He had not been this close to her, ever. As he slowly drew back the ghoonghat that covered her face, he felt almost breathless at the sight of her, her lips slightly parted, her eyes downcast, yet hesitantly flickering over his body in front of her. Her eyes closed as he brought his hand down and caressed the skin under her chin, and he enjoyed the way her head moved in tune with the slow sliding of his fingers.
He slowly reached around her with both hands to loosen her hair from its tight bun, his body pressing ever so slightly against hers, and he felt her head tilt back slightly. Her hair tumbled down in his hands and he softly let the waves run through his fingers. He was close enough to admire the way her hair shimmered red, sometimes black as it caught the candlelight, close enough to smell the faint scent of her hair, which was softer than he could ever have imagined. After what seemed an eternity, he drew back, but her hands clasped his arms tightly, stopping him so their faces were no more than a breath apart. He saw her swallow, her wide eyes moving down to his lips.
"No…stay close to me, Jeet" it was hardly a murmur, but he heard. Too caught up in his own emotions to even smile, Jeet yielded to the shadows of her throat and her neck, and bent his head to softly brush his lips against them.
Edited by bhavana02 - 27 June 2008 at 2:33am