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Wish Upon A Star - ArSh FF (P16, pg 58) (Page 42)

DulceAmor IF-Rockerz
DulceAmor
DulceAmor

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Posts: 8395

Posted: 11 March 2012 at 8:49am | IP Logged
Originally posted by artemis20

Amazing update. Beautifully written, as usual!!
Thanks for the PM



You're most welcome, hun. Thanks so much for your comment. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed the update! Embarrassed

anumeha_rajat IF-Sizzlerz
anumeha_rajat
anumeha_rajat

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Posts: 10172

Posted: 11 March 2012 at 2:45pm | IP Logged

sorry for the late comment..

but i just loved it..

it was sooo awsum..

the feelings they shared..n understanding each other..

supporting..encouraging...that was all mindblowing..

n the last bit was sooo cute..

awww...both in a precise moment..

cont. soon..

thnx for the pm...

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DulceAmor

DulceAmor IF-Rockerz
DulceAmor
DulceAmor

Joined: 01 July 2007
Posts: 8395

Posted: 12 March 2012 at 2:09pm | IP Logged
Originally posted by anumeha_rajat

sorry for the late comment..

but i just loved it..

it was sooo awsum..

the feelings they shared..n understanding each other..

supporting..encouraging...that was all mindblowing..

n the last bit was sooo cute..

awww...both in a precise moment..

cont. soon..

thnx for the pm...



Hey Anu, it's great that you enjoyed it so much. Embarrassed  I'm really pleased that you liked seeing them opening up to one another and supporting one another through their heartache. I really hope that you will like what's coming up next and can't wait to hear your thoughts. Embarrassed
DulceAmor IF-Rockerz
DulceAmor
DulceAmor

Joined: 01 July 2007
Posts: 8395

Posted: 13 March 2012 at 1:48pm | IP Logged
Thanks to each and every one of you who commented on my last update. Your feedback has been so overwhelming and gratifying. I can never properly thank you all. You guys are just amazing and I love you all! Hug    And now before I get too senti, let me turn my attention to the update. This one is dedicated to KaShAdmirer. You said you wanted a long update and I hope this is long enough for you hun. EmbarrassedLOL  Now, I have actually written way more than this. But then I saw that altogether it was in excess of 20 pages on MS Word, and that is just wayyy to long to ask anyone to read all in one go. LOL  So I've split it in two. I will post the second half either Fri/Sat. This actually works out quite well because I won't be able to update for the next two weeks. I'm doing a work experience placement and I won't have any time to write. So, you'll get two updates this week. Tongue 

Okay, have rambled on enough. Update is posted below. Hope you enjoy it. Embarrassed

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KaShAdmirerkashmayurfanMaNaLoVeKaShm4manju-screwed.UP--Antu-_-Aslan-sammy4u-Nina-

DulceAmor IF-Rockerz
DulceAmor
DulceAmor

Joined: 01 July 2007
Posts: 8395

Posted: 13 March 2012 at 1:51pm | IP Logged

Chapter 13


"So, spill."

            Shilpa lifted her eyes from her salad and fixed them on Sapna's grinning face. They were in the canteen at the hospital, Shilpa having just finished her physiotherapy session. Sapna leaned across the table, her eyebrows arched and brown eyes sparkling expectantly. She looked as excited as a kid on Christmas morning.

            "Spill what?" Shilpa asked, feigning ignorance. She knew very well what her friend wanted to hear about: Armaan.

            It had been exactly a week to the day that Shilpa had moved in with Armaan and this was the first real opportunity she and Sapna had had to meet up. Naturally her best friend was brimming with curiosity about what was going on between Armaan and Shilpa. She seemed to have the notion that they were having an affair or something, judging by the impish glint in her eyes.

            "Oh, come on, Shilpa!" Sapna exclaimed, pouting like a three-year-old. "You know what: tell me all about you and Armaan. I want to hear every single little detail."

            Shilpa rolled her eyes and stabbed at a lettuce leaf with her fork. "There's nothing to tell," she replied.

            "Do I have to pry it out of you?" Sapna's brows furrowed into a scowl. "At least tell me what it's like living with him. Does he take good care of you?"

            "It's fine," Shilpa answered evasively, keeping her eyes focused on her salad. "He's nice and kind and we get on all right."

            "That's it?" Sapna sat back in her seat, her back thudding audibly against the back of the chair. She looked utterly incredulous. "That's all you're gonna say?"

            "There's really nothing else to say," Shilpa reiterated and stuffed a forkful of lettuce into her mouth.

            The truth was she didn't know what to tell Sapna. Things between her and Armaan were so ill-defined that she couldn't figure out herself what was going on between them, let along describe it to another person. How could she put into words the strange closeness that had developed between them? Sapna would probably think she was being all soppy on her if she tried to explain the way Armaan seemed to understand her, the way he always guessed her mood and knew how to cheer her up.

            Just last night, for example, she had found pictures of her parents buried in one of her old journals and she'd been overcome with a crippling sense of their loss again. She hadn't uttered a word of it to Armaan, but over dinner he'd suggested they watch old films together over hot chocolate. How he'd known that hot chocolate and corny old films always made her feel better she would never know.

            But if she told Sapna about that she would just laugh at her. So she kept her mouth shut and concentrated instead on chewing the rather foul-tasting salad.

            "Something has to have happened," her friend persisted, narrowing her eyes at her. "You're not telling me that you have lived with that guy ' who, by the way, is kinda hot ' for a week and you haven't even kissed him."

            Shilpa felt heat blooming in her cheeks and a memory of Armaan kissing her cheek and whispering 'good night' to her flashed through her mind.

            "Nothing has happened," she insisted, nearly choking on the lettuce she swallowed. "We're just friends."

            "Uh-huh, and where have I heard that before?" Sapna responded, voice dripping sarcasm. "Oh, wait, that's right: in almost every single chick flick that has ever been made! Something is definitely going on between you if you're giving me that old line."

            "It's not a line," Shilpa mumbled, her face on fire.

            She didn't want to think about this. Didn't want to remember the way she felt every night when he touched her hands to show her the chords as she practised the guitar. Didn't want to think of the way her heart sped up whenever he came close to her or how frustrated she felt about the fact they hadn't talked about that kiss on the cheek.

            She tried to tell herself it was because he'd been busy, his boss insisting he go into work right up until today. They hadn't really seen much of one another, apart from at night and for a few minutes over breakfast each morning. There hadn't been time to talk about it.

            And yet they had found the time for the movies and the guitar lessons. She repressed a sigh and shoved another lettuce leaf into her mouth. No, she wasn't going to think about it. They were friends, plain and simple, and that silly fluttery-heart sensation she got around him would fade away in time. She was just unused to male attention, that was all. It didn't mean she was attracted to him or anything.

            "Well," Sapna huffed, routing around in her bag for something. "If nothing really has happened yet, maybe this will help."

            Shilpa glanced up and nearly choked for the second time when she saw what Sapna was holding in her hand.

            "Is that...mistletoe?" she gasped, taking a big gulp of water.

            Sapna's eyes danced. "Yes, my dear friend, it is." She slid it over the table to Shilpa. "Now he has to kiss you."

            "I don't want him to kiss me!" she protested, a little too loudly.

            "No, because you don't find him in the slightest bit hot and handsome," Sapna replied dryly.

            Shilpa threw the plant across the table at her, wishing her face didn't feel as if it were on fire. "Shut up!"

            Glee glinted in Sapna's big brown eyes and she opened her mouth to say something, only to suddenly draw in a short, delighted breath. Shilpa narrowed her eyes suspiciously at her, but she didn't get a chance to demand what was wrong, because just then a voice spoke from over her shoulder.

            "Hey girls!"

            Her heart leapt to her throat and she froze, her fingers clamping round her fork so hard her knuckles actually turned white. No, she thought, a shiver running down her spine, it couldn't be. She had to be making it up. There was no way that Armaan would be here in the hospital canteen.

            "Hi, Armaan!" Sapna chirped, shooting Shilpa a devilish grin.

            "Hey Sapna, nice to see you again." He moved, coming into Shilpa's view as he drew up a seat and sat down to her right. She tried not to stare at him, but she couldn't seem to do anything else. Her brain had apparently hit a short circuit and she couldn't remember how to lower her eyes or lift her fork, or do anything other than gape at him.

            He turned and looked at her, flashing her that devastating grin that always made her heart skip.

            "How was physio?" he asked her, sounding as casual as if he turned up in hospital canteens on a daily basis.

            "I... Good. It was good," she stammered. What the hell are you doing here, she screamed in her mind? Shouldn't he be at work? She could have sworn he said his boss wanted him to work the full day today.

            "I hope I'm not interrupting your girly chat," he said, glancing over at a beaming Sapna. "But I knew Shilpa would be here and I thought why not come and have lunch with you both. Hope you don't mind."

            "Of course not," Sapna all but purred, looking way too smug for Shilpa's liking. She shot her a displeased look across the table but she merely waggled her brows at her. "Shilpa was just telling me about how she's enjoying living with you, weren't you, Shilpa?"

            Shilpa was currently glaring at her best friend and contemplating throttling her.

            "Well, I love living with her," Armaan said, making both girls' heads swing round in his direction. He looked over at Shilpa, amused to see her eyes all wide and surprised. Whenever she got that expression on her face he was reminded of a little child and he wondered if she knew how adorable she was. He smiled at her. "She's great. She doesn't boss me around and she can actually cook. I've never been so pampered in all my life."

            Despite herself, Shilpa felt her cheeks growing warm with embarrassment and she had to lower her eyes. Butterflies went skipping through her stomach and she had to fight the urge to smile all dopily.

            "Aww, listen to you two, so full of praise for one another," Sapna cooed. "When's the wedding?"

            Armaan laughed, but Shilpa knew that her friend was only half joking. She shot her a warning look, which, as usual, Sapna completely ignored. A mischievous grin was stretched across her face and her brown eyes bubbled with mirth. Shilpa decided she really was going to kill her and stabbed a lettuce leaf with her fork a little aggressively.

            "I'm gonna go grab something to eat," Armaan said, standing up. "Be back in a minute."

            He strolled off across the canteen, looking at home despite being dressed in smart black trousers and a light blue and white striped shirt and navy tie instead of a white coat. Shilpa watched him go, admiring the way he walked with such confidence. He could pass for a senior doctor, she mused, her eyes lingering on him as he took his place in the queue. Under the glare of the hospital lights his hair looked darker than usual, closer to black than the dark coffee shade it really was. She sighed internally as she remembered how soft it had felt when she stroked her fingers through it the other night, and then she caught herself and turned hurriedly away, hoping no one had noticed her staring at him.

            "He just turned to look back over at you," Sapna told her with a small chuckle. "You two are like love-sick teenagers."

            "We're not!" Shilpa protested, trying her best to ignore the happy leap her heart had given when she heard he'd looked back at her.

            "Well, I think it's sweet," Sapna declared. "But, urgh, my shift starts in five minutes. I'm going to have to love you and leave you." She dug in her bag again and produced a small, brightly wrapped present. "This is for you. I wish we could meet up on Christmas Day, but my parents are taking me to my grandmother's in upstate."

            "I know," Shilpa replied, choking back a surprising swell of tears. She sniffled and took a present out of her own bag. "Happy Christmas."

            "Happy Christmas." The two girls hugged over the table, both of them sniffling. "God, listen to us!" Sapna exclaimed, brushing a hand over the backs of her eyes. "Anyone would think we were acting out a scene from a really corny film."

            Shilpa gave a small, hiccupping laugh. "Yeah."

            "Okay, I have to go." Sapna rose to her feet. "Take care and have a good time."

            "You too."

            Sapna waved and then, slinging her bag over her shoulder, she headed off to complete her shift. Shilpa coughed to clear her throat and reached out to fiddle with the present Sapna had left her. She was turning it round and round in her hands when Armaan arrived back at the table.

            "Where did Sapna go?" he asked as he sat down.

            "She had to leave for her shift," she explained with a small sigh. Putting the present carefully in her bag, she dashed a hand over her eyes and then looked up at Armaan. As soon as she did she felt a smile tugging at her lips and the ripple of sadness she'd felt at having to say goodbye to Sapna faded completely. "So, what made you come all the way out here?"

            "I told you," Armaan said, picking up the cheeseburger on his plate with both hands, eyes focused on it with the sort of deadly concentration he usually reserved for his drawing and music. "I wanted to have lunch with you."

            He lifted the burger to his mouth, still not looking at her. But he knew she was watching him; he could feel her eyes on him, the warmth of her gaze seeping through his skin, making his blood gush a little faster in his veins. Inexplicably his heart started to pick up speed and he took a big bite of the burger to distract himself from it...and from the thoughts crowding his mind.

            When he'd made the decision to drive over to the hospital in his lunch hour he'd known that she would be surprised at him turning up unannounced, had known she would question him about it and he'd have to give some sort of explanation. And it was true: he had wanted to have lunch with her. All morning he'd been sitting staring at the clock on his desktop, wishing it was five o'clock in the afternoon so he could go home, to her.

            It was the same thought he'd been having every day this week. Each morning he said goodbye to her with increasing reluctance and each night he rushed back to the apartment, anxious to know how she was, to spend some time with her before they both had to go to bed again. And every hour he had to spend at work had dragged by, his mind never able to focus on his work, constantly turning to thoughts of her as his longing to see her again grew and grew.

            None of it made any sense at all. He'd only known her two weeks, but now he couldn't imagine life without her. Increasingly he found that she was all he could think about; in meetings he would remember the way her eyes got that soft glow when she smiled, lying in his bed at night he would recall the way her hair had brushed his cheek as he leaned over her, directing her fingers to the right chords, and sitting in his office he was plagued by the memory of her arms, warm and secure around him, sheltering him.

            Whenever he heard something funny or interesting he instantly wanted to rush and tell her, knowing she would see it in the same light. There was a time, not that long ago, that he never felt any urgency to go anywhere or do anything, but now he hurried home because he knew she would be there waiting for him. Just the thought of her glancing up from her book as he walked through the door made his heart skip in a way it never had before. And for the first time in months he found himself actually looking forward to tomorrow.

            All this had been revolving round his mind as he sat at his desk this morning. That was when it had struck him: he didn't have to wait till this evening to see her; he could go and spend an hour with her over lunch. As soon as he had the thought he'd known he was going to do it. He'd had to do it. It wasn't something he could explain, he just knew that the burning restlessness inside him would only be sated if he snatched some time with her.

            And so he'd come, and now he didn't know what exactly to say to her without sounding crazy.

            "Will your boss mind?" she asked after a moment's silence. "You won't get in trouble for leaving the office, right?"

            "Nah," he answered as he swallowed. "It's the day before Christmas, so everyone's slacking off a bit. I bet he doesn't even notice who's in the office and who's not. And anyway, I am entitled to an hour for lunch. It's up to me how I spend that time and I wanted to spend it with a beautiful girl, surrounded by frighteningly clever people."

            She chose to ignore the fact her heart gave a flutter when he called her 'beautiful', and, shaking her head she pointed to the greasy burger he was holding. "That is what you chose to have for lunch?"

            There was a distinct note of incredulity in her voice and he glanced up to find her regarding him with arched eyebrows and a vaguely disgusted expression on her face. He frowned.

            "What, this?"

            She nodded, shuddering at the same time.

            "What's wrong with it?" he asked, pushing one of the onion rings that was threatening to fall out back under the seeded bun.

            "It's full of grease and fat," she told him, her brow furrowing as she watched him bite into it again. "It's a heart attack on a plate."

            He snorted in amusement. "Doctor's worst nightmare, huh?" he asked, arching his brows naughtily. He started to wiggle the burger towards her and she shrunk back, holding out her hands to create a kind of barrier.

            "Urgh, Armaan, keep it away from me!" she cried.

            Eyes twinkling, he made a diving motion with his arm, swooping the burger down like it was plane. "What's wrong Dr Malhotra? Scared of the burger?"

            "Armaan, I mean it!" she warned him, but he could hear the laugh trembling in her voice. Her green eyes flashed at him and his lips twisted into a wicked grin.

            "Watch out, the fat is gonna get you!" he cried in a pantomime cackle as he swept his arm out, bringing the burger to within an inch of her face. She squealed, holding her hands up at her face, her shoulder quivering with the laughter she was trying unsuccessfully to hold back.

            Her shrieks were loud enough that a couple of doctors at a nearby table threw them both disapproving glares. Shilpa smiled apologetically at them, feeling her face flame, and turning back to Armaan she shot him a warning look.

            "Armaan, those are my superiors," she told him in a hushed voice. He just shrugged, a grin flickering across his lips, and despite it all she found her heart beating that little bit faster.

            "Let them glare," he said, picking up a fry. "You're not on duty right now. And, anyway, they're probably just jealous because you're sitting here with a hot guy while they are old, stuffy maids."

            "Armaan!" she exclaimed, eyes widening in disbelief.

            "What?" he laughed.

            She picked up a fry and threw it at him. "This is the last time I ever have lunch with you," she told him, but her eyes sparkled with amusement.

            He just grinned at her and went back to chomping on his burger. Shilpa pushed the last of her salad about her plate, her eyes constantly skipping over to the sizeable portion of fries on Armaan's plate. Their strong, junk-foody, yet strangely comforting smell enveloped her and she heard her stomach growl. Man, she was so hungry! Salad never filled her up, but she was trying to steer clear of fatty foods while she was unable to exercise. She licked her lips, fighting the temptation to reach out and snag one off his plate.

            "Here," he said, holding out a fry to her, making her start a little. Once again he'd seemed to read her mind. She lifted her eyes to his, feeling slightly light-headed. "I know you're lusting after them," he told her teasingly. "Go on, take it."

            Oh what the hell, she thought, and reached out to take the fry. Only for him to pull it away again with a devilish grin.

            "Armaan, that's not fair!" she cried, shooting him a reproachful look. "You know I hate being teased."

            "That's why I do it," he informed her, his eyes twinkling. "You look so cute when you pout like that."

            "I am not pouting!" she insisted, narrowing her eyes at him.

            "There! Right there! You're pouting now!" He fished his phone out his pocket and pointed it at her, opening up the camera device on it.

            "Don't you dare!" she warned him, lifting a warning finger. "Armaan Malik, if you snap my picture I will make your life hell."

            Click; she heard the shutter as he took the picture. He gave a triumphant chuckle and turned the phone round so she could see it. Her own image stared back at her, her finger pointing right in the lens, her eyebrows arched severely and her lips open as she spoke. She'd never looked so hideous. She was going to kill him.

            "Delete it."

            "Nope," he shook his head with another chuckle. "This is going on Facebook."

            "You wouldn't!" she gasped, eyes widening in horror.

            "Watch me." He started to bring up the internet on his phone and she gave a seething little hiss.

            "Armaan Malik, you are so dead!" she cried, lunging across the table to try and snatch the phone out of his hand. He just moved in his seat, putting his shoulder to her, hunching over the phone like it was a pot of gold. She breathed out irritably and tried to come at him from the other side but he just twisted round again.

            They were both panting and gasping with laughter when a shadow fell over their table.

            "Ah, Armaan, Dr Malhotra, so nice to see you both enjoying yourselves."

            They both looked up to see Dr Hughes standing beside their table, his hands folded behind his back and a warm smile on his face. He looked between them, a distinct twinkle of mirth in his eyes. Shilpa swallowed, embarrassment washing hotly over her and she quickly scuttled across her seat, putting distance between her and Armaan.

            "Dr Hughes," she said quietly. "How are you?"

            "I am very well, thank you, Dr Malhotra," he answered. "You look to be much improved. Your ankle is healing well?"

            "Yes, sir," she nodded in response.

            "Good." Dr Hughes glanced over at Armaan. "I hope you are taking good care of her, Armaan. She is one of my best interns and I am anxious to have her back with us as soon as possible. The healing process is greatly sped up by rest and relaxation."

            "I'm no doctor, but I try to do my best for her, sir," Armaan told him honestly.

            "Well, from what I can see it would seem you are doing a fine job," the doctor said. "They do say that laughter is the best medicine and it's wonderful to see Dr Malhotra smiling."

            "Yeah, it is," Armaan agreed, glancing over at Shilpa, making her blush deeper.

            "Ah, mistletoe!" Dr Hughes suddenly exclaimed and Shilpa's heart missed a trepid beat. Her head snapped up, all the heat and colour draining from her face as horror swept coldly through her at the sight of the doctor holding up the plant. Sapna must have left it behind her, probably as some kind of joke. She was going to throttle her for real for this.

            Oblivious to her discomfort, Dr Hughes turned the plant over in his hand, smiling down at it. "I do so love the tradition associated with mistletoe," he said. "And while this may not be the most romantic setting, it is nice to see two young lovers embracing the tradition."

            The doctor laid the offending plant down in the middle of the table and then, after bidding Armaan and Shilpa goodbye, walked away. Neither of them said anything. Both looked down at their plates, their appetites completely gone. Almost simultaneously they pushed their plates away. Armaan cleared his throat, feeling his stomach churn queasily as Dr Hughes' words kept revolving in his mind: 'two young lovers'. He didn't dare glance at Shilpa; couldn't. The tension between them, brought on by the doctor's assumption, was too strong, hanging in the air between them like an actual physical weight.

            All week they had tiptoed round the issue, both of them trying to explain the sparks of attraction whenever they came close as flukes, a product of spending so much time together and symbolic of nothing more than the fact they enjoyed one another's company. They both knew that they should talk about it, that suppressing whatever it was that was bubbling between them wouldn't  solve anything, but neither of them could bring themselves to raise the topic. And now that it had been raised unwittingly by the doctor, they shied back from it, afraid of what they might uncover.

            They sat in silence, keeping their eyes cast down, but highly aware of the other sitting there, only a few inches away.

            "Well, I, um, I better get back to work," Armaan eventually managed to choke out. His voice was hoarse and that only added to his embarrassment.

            Shilpa didn't look up as she nodded. "Yeah, I should get back to the apartment."

            "Oh, uh, I forgot to tell you..." He pretended to look up a message in his phone to give him something to look at. "Muskaan texted me this morning. She wants us to go over tonight. I can drop you there now, if you'd like."

            "Uh, sure," she replied, tucking her hair behind her ear.

            "Okay, then, let's go."

            Nodding, she gathered her bag and her crutch and tried to stand, but her bag slipping down her shoulder made her almost lose hold of the crutch and she stumbled, nearly falling back into the table. Armaan's hand shot out, gripping her elbow, strong and sure, steadying her. Her heart somersaulted and she lifted her eyes to his face at last to find him gazing down anxiously at her, those sapphire eyes deep and dark and so soulful it took her breath away.

            "Are you okay?" he asked her.

            "I'm fine," she replied, and despite all the awkwardness between them and the racing of her pulse, a smile tugged at her lips. "Thank you."

            His own lips curved gently upwards and just like that some of the tension between them dissipated. They both breathed a silent sigh of relief.

            "Want me to keep a hold of you?" he asked, a hint of mischief darting through his eyes.

            "I'm a big girl, I can manage," she told him in her most serious tone. But as they started for the canteen exit she couldn't hide a smile.

 

That night when Armaan walked into his sister's house he had to take a moment to digest the scene before him. Her large, open-plan living room had been taken over and apparently turned into some kind of nursery. At least ten kids were rushing about the place, shrieking and giggling and generally making a lot of noise, while Muskaan stood over by the window, arms waving wildly about, barking orders at them like a sergeant major. Only, the kids didn't seem to be paying her a damn bit of notice. They didn't some much as glance in her direction as they scampered about, jumping on and off the sofa like it was some kind of giant beanbag.

            And in the middle of it all was Shilpa. His eyes travelled to her almost instantaneously. She was seated on the second sofa, a child on either side of her, bending over the coffee table. A wreath of papers was spread out before them and a bunch of crayons were littering the spaces in between. She held a golden coloured one in her hand, rolling it between her fingers absently. Her eyes were focused on the page the girl to her left was doodling on and every now and then she would say something to the girl that had the child looking up at her with a beaming smile.

            Watching her, the chaos the rest of the room was in faded away. He forgot that he was standing in the doorway, losing himself in studying her: the way her hair fell over her shoulder, the ends brushing the coffee table whenever she leaned over, the way the lamp light glowed at her back, creating a hazy halo around her head, teasing out the coppery tinges in her hair, and the way her eyes softened whenever she looked at the kids. He didn't realise that his face was slowly taking on a dreamy, far-away look and that a smile was playing softly over his lips. But his sister did.

            As her eyes swept over the room, looking for some way to reign in the boisterous kids, she spotted her brother standing by the door. At last, she thought irritably, and then she paused, registering the fact that he appeared to be in some kind of trance. Frowning, she followed the direction of his gaze and when her eyes alighted on Shilpa a dart of glee went through her.

            Hmm, she thought, a calculating smirk spreading across her lips. So I was right the other day when I saw the picture: Armaan has started having feelings for someone else. Her eyes slid to him again, her mind whirring as a plan started to formulate in her mind. It wasn't just a selfish kind of delight that motivated her; she felt vastly relieved to see her brother showing signs of affection for someone again. For such a long time she'd feared that he would never be able to find happiness and the thought of having to watch him slowly self-destruct had kept her awake many a night. So it was only natural that she wanted to encourage this spark of happiness that she saw in his eyes when he looked at Shilpa.

            "Armaan!" she yelled above the din the kids were making. "Finally you're here! Hurry up and get in here. We need you."

            As soon as she heard his name Shilpa's heart leapt to her throat. Her head snapped up and she spied him there in the doorway, straightening up from leaning against the doorframe. His cheeks looked unusually red and he scratched the back of his neck in the way he always did when he was embarrassed. But she didn't have time to ponder it, because just then he glanced in her direction and their eyes met. His pupils dilated slightly and she could have sworn his cheeks got redder, but she was too busy trying to remember how to breathe to really notice.

            It was ridiculous that he could have this affect on her with just one look, she thought, but when his lips curved in a small, almost bashful smile, her pulse fluttered wildly, sending a rush of delight through her. She felt her own lips turning upwards in an answering smile, warmth flooding into her cheeks as shyness stole over her. Like a silly schoolgirl, she lowered her eyes, her face tingling as if electric shocks were running through it.

            "Stop loitering over there and come here!" Muskaan shouted, drawing Armaan's attention away from Shilpa. He looked over at his sister and saw her standing with her hands on her hips, an impatient scowl etched across her forehead. For some reason he felt suddenly nervous and as he tried to navigate his way through the toys and Christmas decorations littered across the living room floor, he ducked his head, not daring to meet anyone's eyes.

            "What's going on in here?" he asked when he reached Muskaan. "Did you adopt a whole brood while you were in India?"

            "They're my neighbours kids," she told him, still scowling, which he thought was totally unfair. He might have been late, but at least he'd turned up. "I'm in charge of organising the neighbourhood Christmas party. It's tonight."

            "Here?" His heart sank. If there was one thing he didn't cope well with, it was kids. They freaked him out. Maybe it was because they were so much more insightful than adults, having an uncanny knack of knowing exactly what the adults were thinking and feeling.

            "No, it's at the Steele's house," Muskaan said, easing his fears. "I'm just in charge of the decorations. Which is why I need your help." She grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him so he was facing the room again. "Go and help Shilpa with the snowflake cut-outs."

            "The what?" he asked, but Muskaan just gave him a shove and turned back to yell at the kids some more.

            Shilpa lifted her head, almost as if she sensed him looking at her, and smiled softly at him. His feet started taking him over to her before he'd even made the conscious decision. As he neared the sofa she rose to her feet, stubbornly not using her crutch, which he noticed was lying under the coffee table. He shook his head mentally, but he couldn't deny that her stubbornness was one of the things he liked best about her.

            "Hi," she said, voice a little breathy, like the whisper of the wind. For some odd reason it had goose bumps rising up all the way down his arms.

            "Hi," he replied. Say something else, his mind screamed at him as they just stared at one another, smiling a little inanely. But he couldn't seem to think of anything else to say; his mind had gone completely and utterly blank. All he could was stand there, grinning at her, feeling like a fool. And then he noticed the little sparkle of glitter on the end of her nose.

            "You have glitter on your nose," he blurted.

            Her eyes widened and he cringed inwardly, overcome with embarrassment. She rubbed at her nose, giving herself cross eyes as she tried to see the glittery spot.

            "Is that it?" she asked, lowering her hand.

            He started to say yes, but then she moved her head and he saw it wink again. "Here." Without thinking, he reached out and brushed his thumb across the bridge of her nose.

            It got rid of the glitter, but it also sent a jolt of electricity down her nerve ends. Her skin tingled from that brief touch and her heart started to pick up speed, making her feel a tad breathless. She struggled to keep the heat from rising in her cheeks, clasping her hands tightly together as a mini shiver hurtled down her spine. Wide-eyed, she looked up at him, and once again their gazes locked.

            Armaan's heart did a strange sort of flip as he stared into those emerald depths. They were large and impossibly round, surprise and some other emotion he couldn't place deepening them so they looked like a shady pond. He knew all too well how easy it would be to drown in them, to lose himself in their shadows. A part of him yearned for it, intensely, and had he been capable of rational thought he might have been alarmed by it. But he wasn't, capable of either thought or fear. There was only the dizzying sensation of gazing into her eyes, of seeing her pupils widen, filling her irises up, drawing him further in.

            He hadn't even realised that he'd started to lean toward her until one of the kids rushing about banged into him and he lurched forward, practically knocking Shilpa off her feet. She caught his arms, somehow managing to steady them both before they ended up in a tangled heap on the sofa. Heat surged through his skin from her hands and he had a moment to meet her startled gaze and then a chorus of giggles made him look round to find two girls and a boy grinning up at him.

            "All right, which of you was it?" he demanded, turning to face them, folding his arms across his chest. They all gave him their best angelic expressions.

            "Thomas, I know it was you," Shilpa said from behind him. She bent down, so she was on eye-level with the little boy. "What did your mommy tell you about banging into people?"

            "It's not nice," the little boy answered, twisting his foot about on the carpet.

            "And what do you do when it happens?" Shilpa prompted.

            "Say sorry," Thomas mumbled, lowering his eyes.

            Shilpa reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder. "So, are you going to apologise to Armaan for knocking into him?"

            Thomas took a moment to consider this, scrunching his face up into the most adorable thoughtful expression Shilpa had ever seen. She had to press her lips together to stop herself from grinning at him. After a second, though, he nodded.

            "Sorry Mr Armaan," Thomas said solemnly, lifting his big brown eyes to Armaan.

            "That's all right champ," Armaan told him, kneeling down beside Shilpa and smiling tentatively at the boy. "I'm strong. I can take a few hits. See." He crooked his arm, flexing his bicep. Thomas' eyes got all wide and he let out a small exclamation of awe.

            "Are you a fighter?" he asked excitedly. "My daddy takes me to see those cage fights. I wanna be one when I grow up."

            "You could definitely do it," Armaan told him as the boy showed off his own, much smaller bicep. "You look really tough. Don't you agree, Shilpa?"

            "Really tough," she echoed, nodding her head. "I think you have more muscles than me."

            Thomas beamed delightedly. "Thank you!"

            "Thomas, you better not be causing trouble again." Muskaan appeared by the sofa, looking slightly frazzled. Her brown curls were escaping from the ponytail she'd tied them back in and she sighed as she pushed them back from her face. "I don't want to have to tell your mom you've been bad."

            "Relax Di," Armaan said. He was grinning at Thomas so he didn't see the shock widen Muskaan's eyes or the delight that quickly followed it. "Thomas was just showing us how tough he is, right champ?"

            "Right," Thomas nodded.

            "Big sisters are such a pain," Armaan whispered to him, rolling his eyes. Thomas giggled.

            "I heard that," Muskaan said, but her voice lacked any severity. She was too choked up to feign indignation. Armaan hadn't called her 'Di' in months and much like his happiness, it was something she'd thought was gone forever. Her eyes moved to Shilpa who was smiling at him, her face infused with a tender light that Muskaan recognised straight away.

            "It's six thirty," Muskaan said, clearing her throat. "Kids, go get your coats. It's time to take you to the party."

            With a chorus of 'yays' they all bounded toward the hallway, where they could be heard chattering excitedly amongst themselves. Shilpa and Armaan were both smiling as they straightened and Muskaan had to resist the urge to hug them both.

            "Rahul's coming with me to act as chaperone," she told them instead. "We'll be gone about three hours. That should be enough time to get the decorations up."

            "Decorations?" Armaan's eyes narrowed. "No one said anything about decorations."

            "It's Christmas, Armaan," Muskaan said, fisting her hands on her hips. "We need to put lights up and Rahul and I can't do it if we're out, can we?"

            "You could have done it any night this week. Why wait till now?"

            "Because we've been busy. And anyway, my sweet little brother-" She placed a hand on the side of his face and grinned impishly at him. "-you're the creative genius. You will do a better job of it than me."

            "Fine," he sighed. "But you owe me."

            "Just wait till you see your Christmas gift," she replied, winking at him as she stepped back. She started to head to the door, but she paused before she reached it, looking back over her shoulder. "Shilpa can help you. I'm sure between the two of you you'll get it done in no time."

            Feeling immensely pleased with herself, she slipped out the room, leaving Armaan and Shilpa to gape at the spot where she'd been standing.

            "Can you divorce your sister?" Armaan said as the sound of the kids filing out the door died down.

            "Probably," Shilpa replied. "But it'd be expensive, I'd imagine."

            "Guess we have no choice than to put the decorations up, then," he sighed.

            "Guess not."

            With another sigh, he turned to her and slung an arm casually around her shoulders. She tried not to think about how good it felt or how warm his skin was resting against the base of her neck, or how her heart pounded just from that one simple contact between them.

            "Come on," he said, steering her towards the hallway. "Let me introduce you to Christmas chez my crazy sister."

 

Two hours later they stepped back to admire their handiwork. They'd draped lights over the big bay window in the living room and hung the cut-out snowflakes from the ceiling. Muskaan had a miniature tree stationed in the corner of the room, which they draped with tinsel and hung coloured glass baubles from the branches. Through it all they laughed a lot. Armaan got the fairy lights all tangled up around his hands and Shilpa had to spend ages unwinding them. At one point he grabbed a piece of tinsel and flung it around his neck boa-style and did a silly dance to the Christmas songs playing on the TV. Shilpa collapsed in hysterics, holding her side which actually hurt from all the laughing she'd done.

            She'd never enjoyed herself like this, not even when her parents were alive. Mucking around with Armaan, she felt like a different person. The perpetual cloud of gloom that had followed her all her life was gone. There was no twinge of sadness when she heard the Christmas carols, no burning ache in her heart, no tears wavering at the backs of her eyes, threatening to rush forward at any moment. There was only laughter and a warm, glowing feeling that radiated through her, leaving her light-headed and carefree. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world and she never wanted to let go of it.

            As they flopped down onto the couch, gasping and giggling, she felt worn out, but in a good way. She snuggled into the comfy seats, resting her head on the cushion behind her with a small, contented sigh. Armaan stretched out beside her, putting his feet up on the coffee table. He knew if Muskaan was there she'd throw a fit and that made him chuckle to himself. Like Shilpa, he was on a natural high. Exhilaration rushed through his bloodstream, making everything seem lighter and brighter than it had in a long time. As he relaxed into the couch, he realised that he was actually contented, something he would have thought impossible only a week before.

            A Hindi film was on TV and with a thrill, Shilpa realised it was one of her favourites. Armaan rolled his eyes as she squealed in excitement, but as he turned his head back to the screen he was smiling. He liked seeing her happy. It made her whole face glow and turned her eyes a luminous shade of jade, as if the sun were shining on them. He watched her from the corner of his eye, his lips twitching as she got caught up in her film, mouthing along to the songs unconsciously.

            They were sitting close and her scent was washing over him, sweet and fresh, reminding him of a spring day. She shifted on the couch as a practically dramatic part of the film played out and her knee brushed against his thigh. An unexpected jolt ran down every nerve in his leg, travelling all the way up to his heart, which thudded hard in his chest. She was wearing leggings and he had on a faded pair of jeans, but even so he could feel the heat of her skin through the barrier of their clothes. He tried to focus on the film, but the more he attempted to ignore the heat, the more aware of it he was. When she finally shifted he let out a small sigh of relief, closing his eyes momentarily.

            For a while he watched the film, or pretended to. His eyes kept straying back to her face and it was on one of these occasions that he saw her lips moving along in time to the dialogue. Her hands were clasped over her heart and there was a faint shimmer in her eyes, like she was about to cry. Frowning, he glanced back at the screen and saw that the hero was professing his love to the heroine. It was one of those iconic scenes that everyone knows, so even he knew the dialogue, but it amused him that she was mouthing along to it and with a smile he leaned in closer to her and whispered along with the hero.

            "My heart is yours, only yours. Without you it wouldn't beat. When a day passes that I don't see your face, I feel as if life has lost all its colour. I don't measure time in hours and minutes, I measure it by each moment I spend with you. When you are not here there is only an endless blackness, a nothingness that cannot be filled except by you. You have taught me to live again when I thought that I was done. I thought my happiness had shattered into a million pieces, but you put them all together again and gave them back to me. It is because of you that I found the strength to carry on. I cannot live without you."

            His lips were right by her ear, his breath whispering over her earlobe, sending a million thrills through her skin. Her blood began to rush a little faster in her veins, leaving her light-headed and breathless. She knew he was just fooling around, but his words seemed to shiver over her skin and though she tried to remain indifferent, she couldn't stop her heart from racing.

            "Stop it, Armaan," she said, trying to sound light and teasing, but conscious of the tremor in her voice. Warmth rose in her cheeks, and it wasn't all from embarrassment.

            "Oh, you wound my heart with that cruel, cold look!" Armaan exclaimed, mimicking the film's hero. Out of the corner of her eye Shilpa saw his lips twisting into a grin and despite herself she started to smile too. Blushing deeper, she shoved at his chest and he landed in a heap on the floor.

            Undeterred, he got onto his knees by her feet, and grasping her hand, he held it to his heart in dramatic style.

            "Do not reject me now!" he cried, feigning despair. "Do not send me back into that black abyss! I need you, Shilpa."

            He used her name instead of the heroine's and it sent a wave of unexpected delight through her, bringing her skin out in goose bumps. A grin was still playing about his lips, those blue eyes dancing with mischief, but his grip tightened on her hand, pressing it against his chest, so she could actually feel the beat of his heart under her palm.

            "You are my reason for living," he continued to recite, leaning in closer to her, the ends of his shirt brushing against her knees as he stared ardently up at her. She tried to remember that he was just acting, that the words he was saying were pieces of corny dialogue from a film, words that had been used so often they were hackneyed. But the way he said them, voice so low and seductive, and the way he was leaning so close, his face only inches from hers, had her whole body quivering with excitement.

            "You wouldn't be so cruel as to rob me of my life, would you?" He curled her hand into a fist so that her knuckles rested over his heart. "Please, Shilpa, say you'll be mine. Say you'll be mine."

            He gave an exaggerated cry of anguish and pretended to collapse, bowing his head in her lap, wrapping his arms about her legs. Her heart somersaulted and for a moment she didn't know what to do. She could feel his breath fanning against her thigh through the thin material of her leggings and it was making her skin prickle. Her pulse started to hammer and she swallowed, staring down at his head, buried in her lap, torn between the desire to push him away and to fist her hands in his hair.

            And then he looked up at her. Those blue eyes were bright and light and sparkling with humour, his whole face lit up with enjoyment, his lips curved in a wide arc, revealing the faint indentations of his dimples. She tried to smile back, but she was frozen, locked into place by the tumble of emotions running through her. All she could concentrate on was his hands, big and warm, clutching her legs, and the thundering of her heart, so loud she was certain he could hear it too.

            On the TV a love song had started to play and it was the only sound in the room as they stared at one another. Shilpa watched as all the mirth gradually faded from Armaan's countenance, his eyes deepening, darkening, and filling up with some unknown emotion that had her already frantic heartbeat increasing. Slowly, he started to lean toward her, closing the small distance between them until his lips hovered right above hers. His eyes searched hers, looking for a sign that she wanted him to pull back.

            She didn't give him one. Every pore in her body was throbbing with expectation and the sensation of longing deep within her was so strong she thought she might go crazy if he pulled away now. Her eyes fluttered shut, her lips parting slightly, inviting him to capture them. Armaan glanced down at them, heart pounding, his blood feeling as if it were on fire. He'd never wanted anything more in his life than to feel them pressed against his own lips and suddenly he couldn't remember one single reason why he shouldn't lean down and kiss her.

            Closing his eyes, he bent his lips towards hers.

            And then the front door banged open and Muskaan's voice rang out like a fog horn.

            "It's only us!"

            They both jumped at the sound of her voice, their eyes flying wide open as shock made their hearts beat hard against their rib cages. Armaan stumbled to his feet, feeling a hot wave of shame rise into his cheeks. His sister came breezing into the room, closely followed by a grinning Rahul, and even though he knew they couldn't have seen anything, he felt like they exactly what he'd been about to do.

            "Muskaan! What are you doing back so early?" he asked, conscious of how panicky he sounded.

            She stopped to narrow her eyes at him and for one terrible second he thought he saw suspicion flash in her hazel eyes. He averted his gaze, rubbing his hand nervously up and down the back of his neck.

            "Why?" she demanded. "It's my house. I can come back when I want. Are you that keen to get rid of me, huh?"

            Rahul snickered and Armaan's face started to feel as if it were on fire. "Muski, I think your baby brother was trying to romance Shilpa with corny old film songs," his brother-in-law said.

            "Oh just shut up, Rahul!" he snapped at him.

            "Ooh, touch!" Rahul exclaimed, his eyes twinkling with devilment.

            "Uh, we got the decorations up," Shilpa said in an attempt to change the topic. She gripped her crutch and pulled herself to her feet, then gestured to the lights with a sweep of her arm.

            Muskaan let out an elated gasp and then she started to gush about how wonderful everything looked and after that no one could get a word in edgeways. Armaan cast Shilpa a thankful look, their eyes meeting for a fleeting second. She smiled tentatively back at him, feeling her heart pick up speed just from that one small look. They both quickly lowered their eyes, feeling bashful and confused.

            The rest of the evening was spent helping Muskaan with the final Christmas preparations. Both of them were glad for the activity; it helped keep their minds off what might have happened had Rahul and Muskaan not came home when they did. It also tired them out and by the time they were finished neither of them had the strength left to think or feel.

            It was late, so they stayed the night, much to Muskaan's delight. She proudly gave Shilpa a tour of the house and gave her the biggest guest bedroom as her room. Armaan got his usual room, down the hall. In a way he was grateful not to be right next door to her. The thought of her being separated from him by just the thin partition of the wall would have definitely kept him off his sleep. But he was exhausted from the long day and his head hadn't long hit the pillow before he drifted off into a peaceful, dreamless slumber.




So, that was the first update for this week. I know not that much happened, but please be patient. All the good stuff is in the next update. LOL  Still, I hope you found something in it to enjoy and please still like/comment/criticise. I really want to hear your views. 

Edited by DulceAmor - 13 March 2012 at 1:52pm

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Posted: 13 March 2012 at 3:08pm | IP Logged
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Posted: 13 March 2012 at 5:19pm | IP Logged
beautiful update good to know armaan feels the same cant wait for the kiss update soon

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Posted: 13 March 2012 at 6:35pm | IP Logged
Awesome part! Sapna and shilpa's convo was too good:p and thr burget scene was soo cute! Luved the way he was teasing her!the scenes were extremely well described :D the best part was when they almost kissed! Hope it happens soon! Can't wait to read the second half! Cont.soon

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