She knew the moment her lips touched his mouth that the last kiss they had shared was nothing at all. This – this violent burst of sensation in her bloodstream as she heard his sharp intake of breath and felt his lips mold against hers, fire to flame – was what kisses were supposed to be made of. Any description she had read, any visual she had gawked at in her twenty plus years on the planet, were no match to what was happening.
She pressed her lips into his, need she had rarely felt before, taking over her senses as her arms snaked up the front of his T-shirt and grabbed the lapels of his collar. It was akin to the sense of imminent loss and the promise of goodbye in the near future. Which was weird because wasn’t a kiss supposed to be the harbinger of good times? Shouldn’t she have felt her lips curving into a smile?
A gruff moan escaped his lips just as her brows knitted together as she felt his other free hand wrap itself around her waist and pull her flush against his body.
She had never been a physically affectionate person. Four years with Arjun had changed that to some extent. But nothing – NOTHING – could have prepared her for what Arnav’s body did to hers as her mind processed every single little detail with excruciating awareness – starting from his fingers that were splayed on the small of her back to his thighs that stood firm against hers right up to where her breasts were plastered against his chest. She could feel the hardened skin on the edge of her neck and the lick of his lashes against her cheekbones. It was then that she became aware of her glasses and how they stayed conveniently out of the way, much to her surprise. Her eyes flew open at the thought and she curled her fingers into his skin at the base of his throat.
As if reading her intentions, he tightened his hold on her – at the waist and the neck and slowly licked her lips with his tongue. Shocked at the surge of electric pulse in along her nerves, her mouth opened in a small captured gasp as she felt his kiss deepen.
She made an embarrassing sound as her left hand left his collar and curved around his neck. She had no clue if she was doing this right or not but since he wasn’t pulling away, she assumed she was free to ask for more.
Unfortunately for her, getting carried away with a kiss was clearly an eventuality she had not considered. If not for the fact that their bodies – paradoxically firm and fluid at the same time – were giving their deepest desires away, it was the sudden jerk of her arm that stretched her wound and made her audibly flinch at the blinding pain – enough to bring tears in her eyes. Or was it the overwhelming emotion that seemed to be coursing through her veins, finally spilling over?
“Shit!” He swore as he broke the kiss and let both his hands slide up her and down the small of her back in soothing circles. “I’m so sorry.” He stepped back and immediately turned to retrieve what she only now noticed was a small military style back-pack. Even as she stared, lips singing in slow chorus that was echoing in her ears, he extracted something and walked back to her.
“This is probably a little late…but…” He didn’t look at her while he spoke in barely audible rasps. He leaned in, crowding her senses as her eyes blinked and closed for a brief moment. She felt the cool touch of gel and skin on her burning skin – light and strangely uncomfortable in many ways. And then it was over.
She looked up and into his eyes, glazed and blurry. He looked flushed and golden, his hair even more tousled than it was when he had just walked in. She forced herself to not stare at his mouth – had she really kissed him so fervently? It was visible on his lips and in his eyes. It didn’t help that he wasn’t able to look anywhere other than her lips either.
“I’m fine.” She said softly as she tried to ignore how her mouth felt. Or the fact that she had just been kissed. Thoroughly. Completely. With no doubt of whether or not it could be classified as a kiss. And she had liked it. A part of her scoffed – liked? By Shiv-ji, she was so dead. What the hell had she done? How did one ever go back from here? By kissing him, she had consciously made the decision to keep this – and him – in her memory for the rest of her life. Five days ago, AV-Sir was still hovering around the edges of her past – one key milestone yes but still one that could be hoped to be forgotten. Now he was Arnav. And he had kissed her. How was she ever going to get over him now?
She frowned as her chest thumped nervously from within. Why was she thinking about getting over him? This should be the beginning. This was the true beginning
The answer was so obvious she was surprised it had taken her all this while to come to it. She blamed him – this person who was still holding her.
Shiv-ji, she groaned silently. He was still holding her. And she couldn’t stop thinking about going back to that kiss. Save me.
“You are going to say this was a bad idea,” He whispered and pressed his forehead against hers. “And that we should forget about it.”
Her heart slammed again against her ribs again. He seemed to be able to see through her and that scared the hell out of her. Relationships, her mother had said and she had always believed, were best worked when it was one of equals. This…this thing with Arnav Varun – it would never be equal. He would always hold this insane power over her. She knew it now. She had known it years ago. Yes, he was right. She knew this was a bad idea. And though she was a coward for not saying it out aloud, she believed it.
She shook her head and then realized she had no idea why she was shaking her head.
She took a small step back and watched as his arm loosened and fell away. He gingerly pulled himself away and looked up at her, his eyes searching her face.
“Arjun.” She whispered back in confirmation and bit her lips before looking away and taking one more step back. Away from him.
“We are not going to forget about this.”
Like she had claimed she had did before? She looked back up at him and saw him staring at her with that glint she had seen so often on this trip – it was almost as it was this brittleness that separated the AV-Sir she once knew from this Arnav.
This Arnav who had been so sure Tripti hadn’t been talking about Arjun that night.
This Arnav who had clearly not bought into her rationalization about not having feelings for him.
Of course, she concluded. He was never going to be convinced. She thought she was a good liar. That kind of confidence was bound to fall apart someday. And who better to discover the little crack than the man she kept falling in love with?
“I will not forget about it.” She said softly. I cannot forget about it even if my life depended on it.
“There is no going back to Arjun, either.”
In fiction, she knew, his words might have sounded like a command. Instead they were uttered like a plea, its polite, almost formal edges laced with a shard of urgency. She wished his words didn’t radiate little flashes of thrill up her solar plexus. “I was never with Ar…” She stopped herself in time. She may not have been with Arjun technically. But she had made a silent promise to herself. And to him. And now it lay broken. “If I was, I would never…I could never do that to him.” The warmth of the kiss was fast fading from her lips. A part of her was almost tempted to lean in and kindle the fire again. Except, Arjun had sneaked into the space between them. And he now stood their midst – a wispy memory and feeble voice she couldn’t drown out. Don’t break my heart.
Arnav took a deep breath and invoked damnation softly before pushing his right hand through his hair. He wasn’t looking at her now. And she could take those few minutes to study the desperation that seemed to be inked on his face, lines around his mouth. It made her want to wrap her arms around him again and kiss him till she could feel nothing except the drum of his heart against hers.
What had she been thinking when she had decided to give what Arjun was suggesting a chance? There was being delusional and then there was this…She had failed herself. And she was going to fail Arjun. “I have to tell him first,” She blurted out, more to herself than him, before panic completely drowned her senses. She needed to tell Arjun sooner rather than later. And he was going to ask her for reasons – which she now knew would break his heart. The angry outburst just last evening might have been ignored. But it couldn’t be forgotten. Her jaw clenched as she realized that her conversation with Arjun was hardly going to be a pleasant one but the extent of damage could in fact be of unimaginable proportions. When something unpleasant happened, it was in the nature of the Guptas to assume the worst was going to happen. She had, in relaxed times, laughed at it with Tripti. But now, with the fate of her friendship with Arjun hanging over her head, she found it far from funny.
She forced herself to look at Arnav to find that his eyes now were strangely shuttered. She watched as his jaw tightened as if he was gritting his teeth. He seemed angry and yet there was no reason for him to be angry. She had just said she needed to talk to Arjun first – it implied that she would come back to…this…that they shared. Even if she knew within that it was probably not as simple…Why then…She frowned. “I owe that to him,” She began and then fell silent, not knowing what to say.
He let out a deep sigh and shook his head. “I know and I understand. But…” He put his hands on his hips and turned away. “This is a mess. All of us…we really need to talk…” His words trailed away as he took a steps away from her. She didn’t hear what he finished that sentence with. But mostly because her mind was stuck on his words.
This is a mess
It was a mess. But the mess was hers. Unless…the only thing that was still tangled between them was his past with Saira. And she wanted to tell him that she didn’t care about what he once had with anyone anymore. Except she wasn’t even remotely capable of living with that curiosity. If this that they shared was real, then what did he have with Saira – the girl he was going to marry? And if that had come to naught, then what would this…ever come to? What did she want it to come to in the first place? Is that why he wanted to talk to her first. So that she would still have a way out if she so wished? Did that mean her feelings and her inability to walk away from him were invisible to him? Was her heart safe after all? And if it was, why wasn’t she more thrilled about it?
“But first, we need to go Rishikesh.” He said as he turned around, his face back to being even and placid as always.
She looked and him and shook her head slowly. “No seriously, I don’t want…”
“Unfortunately, I don’t think we are liberty to give in to our wants at the moment” He said softly to her, his eyes finally twinkling as they rested on her mouth and flipped back to meet her gaze.
She blushed furiously and swallowed in the hope that the little action would keep the blood from rushing to her face. “No, no…I mean…I can’t go like…” She looked down at herself trying to indicate to him that she was not dressed to leave the tent, let alone the camp, when she realized her clothes were in a complete disarray. The shirt she had opened most top buttons off to keep it pushed back and away from her bruise had slid down and had exposed a significant swell of her right breast. The left sleeve, loose as very few clothes were ever on her, had fallen away to her forearm. Her bra straps were peeking out of either sleeve. She looked up in utter shock, her face paling as she realized just how wanton she probably looked at the moment.
She stepped back and pulled her shirt up, her arms stretching her wound as she tugged at her clothes in urgent steps. She refused to wince even as Arnav shifted on his legs but refused to look away from her.
“Do you have a wide-necked vest or something…” He began, his voice raspy and sand-paper coarse as it slid against the column of her neck.
A vest? Was he kidding? She couldn’t step out of the tent with just a vest…not unless she wanted the entire world to see every part of her body spilling out of cloth. And why was he giving her clothing suggestion anyway? He needed to get out of the tent. She was just going to have to tell him to go as uncomfortable as it was.
“You remember reading about tetanus and lockjaw, right? Middle school biology? That is a real thing. Getting that tetanus shot, is non-negotiable. We need to go. And now.”
She bristled even though his tone was absolutely courteous. And she didn’t appreciate that he thought the only way to get to her was invoking school lessons and highlighting medical scares – even if it was working. Damn him.
“I’ll wait outside.”
With that he turned around and walked away, leaving her gaping at the rustle of the tent flap that now separated her from him. What the hell had just happened here in the last few minutes? She sunk to her bed and took a deep breath even as her thoughts churned into a whirlpool. She had gone from being kissed for the very first time to worrying about losing her best friend to feeling utterly naked and exposed to eyes that had never strayed from her gaze.
And now she was required to be alone with the man she didn’t want to peel herself off of.
She groaned and held her head in her palms, her eyes closing as her pulse procreated and chose to beat in her lips with just as much relish as it did just below her left shoulder.
Eventually, it was a kurta she had tossed into her bag at the last minute while packing that came to her rescue. It left her back bare but stuck to her body and dipped too low on the front and the back to be decent. And in her current state, a dupatta was out of question. She looked at herself in the mirror and sighed. The bun Aditi had so carefully pulled her hair into was now a messy heap of entangled curls, most scraping her already injured skin, leaving flashes of burn memories behind each time. She pulled the band holding her hair down and tried to pull them back into a bun, only to wince every time she tried to raise her hands above shoulder level. Giving up after a few minutes of concerted effort, she pulled her hair into a bunch and let it hang on her other shoulder. She then took a deep breath and decided she couldn’t delay the inevitable any longer. The fear of lockjaw was way higher than the anxiety of being alone with Arnav again. Clenching and unclenching her fists, she walked towards the exit flap of her tent and stepped out into the sun.
Arnav was standing just a few feet away, hands folded behind, his back ramrod straight and held held high, like he was looking at something in the distance.
She walked up, her voice box trembling as she decided she would have to call him something to get his attention. AV-Sir – he didn’t feel like anymore. Arnav seemed too personal…anything else…Clearing her throat and saying let’s go was an option she didn’t quite like. As filmy as she was, embodying the sixties heroines was not exactly her idea of who she wanted to be. Why couldn’t he just turn around on his own?
Enough, Kaveri Gupta, she scolded herself. There should be an expiry date on melodrama. Get over it.
No sooner had she muttered that to herself, Arnav turned around and she stopped in her tracks. She had rarely known what to say to him and now that they had kissed, all she could think of was that. She needed to think about other things – anything that wouldn’t involve the memory of how it felt to…
“It might be a good idea to tie your hair up.”
“I’m not able to…erm…lift my hand…It seems to be jammed…” She shook her head. He was right. She plucked the cotton scrunchy off her wrist and gently lifted her hands to tie it on one side, without lifting her arms.
“I can…let me help,”
“Huh?” She asked as she squinted up at him, trying to see what his expression looked like but it was too bright and the sun was right behind his head, casting a dark shadow on his face and a halo around his head.
Before she knew it, he had come over around her, with his palm extended. Stumped, she quietly placed her band in his palm and waited as he gathered her hair, his fingers brushing against her scalp, her neck as he quickly pulled it up into a bunch behind her neck.
“Okay?” He whispered, his breath against her neck, his fingers grazing her shoulder before his hands fell away.
She nodded, unable to spit out a word in the aftermath of a bundle of nerves that her body was in the moment. She turned around to look at him again. There was something in his eyes that she couldn’t ignore as he watched her unblinkingly. For a second, it almost looked like he was going to kiss her again.
So she blinked and spoke quickly, before she lost her head. “How will we go to Rishikesh? The SUVs must have left to pick the others up from after rafting?”
She saw him smile softly as he looked at her.
He shook his head. “You didn’t say car.”
She couldn’t help the fact that her lips curved of their own accord. “I am a mechanical engineer. And a Speed Motors employee. They are not cars. None of them are.”
This time he chuckled. “Hatchbacks and sedans?”
She shook her head. “Segments. Based on wheel base. Desi company. Only marketing and Sales is allowed to use international classification”
The two of them laughed and Khushi watched as Arnav’s face changed. There was glimpse of a boy she once knew – the one who had spoken so beautifully about wanting to spread his wings and explore new skies. It was heartening to see that he might still exist under all that gravity he now carried with him.
She shook her head. “How are we going to Rishikesh?” She asked again.
This time his smile was sunshine and secrets, flirting, boyish. Drop dead gorgeous. “Bullet Electra.”
River Song, Music and Lyrics
Song Title: Sairat Zaala Ji
Album: Sairat (Wild)
Singers: Chinmayi Sripada, Ajay Gogavale
Music: Ajay – Atul
Lyrics (in Marathi): Nagraj Manjule, Ajay-Atul
For the English translation of the song, please visit this link. I personally believe translating takes away the essence of the poetry (Hence the lack of translation for other songs). Marathi, however, I assume is less present here and hence the translation). Knowing nothing of Marathi though I have personally still not needed words to go with this song.
It’s a song about that streak of wildness, the little unspoken words that can catches you unaware one fine day – even if it is not as dramatic as our movies would have us believe!
Next Update: Monday, Sep 19, 2016
As many of you know, I no longer post on IF owing to forum rules. If you have any friends who you know still wait for the IF update notification in their My Posts, please do let them know.