Once again, this moment this day
I wonder about you, my friend who slipped away
How might you have laughed
In a tale that this is today?
He watched as she stepped away from the bed and paced up and down the room, her back turned towards him and yet everything cold and stiff like he might have never imagined given how wonderfully snug she was when pulled up flush against his body. His blood still thrummed as if inebriated from her nearness. It had always been a Herculean task to keep his need in check with her but today…He was an absolute idiot to have pushed her into saying the words that seemed to be the only salve to his craving. But…
She turned around, her eyes suspiciously glimmering. Shit! She was crying…He practically jumped out of the bed and rushed to stand in front of her. “Khushi…” He said softly, reaching out to wrap his arms around her and pull her closer, vowing mentally to keep himself in check. He needed to feel her against him, just to make sure that the last ten minutes were not enough to threaten what they’d been able to so carefully build over the preceding ten weeks.
She stepped away from him, putting more distance than he was either comfortable with or ready for.
“Please look at me.” He urged, his voice cracking with fear that just hours ago had no place in their newly embellished world – one that was shimmering with promise of a multi-hued future. There was so much to look forward to and yet, all he could think of at the moment was the last day of her stay at the River five years ago. The look in her eyes, it was achingly familiar even as baffling as it was. “I know I pushed you. I am…I am sorry…I really should have waited for you to say the words in your own time. I guess I just took it too lightly.” It was true. Somehow, the fact that she’d laughed at her own five month wait clause had made it easy for him to believe it was just a whim, one of those rare instances of coquetry that he cared little for in other women and yet was such a turn on when he imagined it to being employed by Khushi.
She turned around slowly and blinked repeatedly and rapidly, a gesture he now realized was one to hold tears in check. God! What the hell was going on here? What the hell had he been thinking? And then as suddenly as the waves of guilt had sucked him into their deluge, a rush of confusion and bewilderment knocked at his heart. “Khushi,” He whispered again. “What is the matter?”
She looked at him almost defeatedly and shook her head. “Nothing. I just…I think I just got overwhelmed. I know…” She took a deep breath. “I know you were just… I need to get out and clear my head. I’ll be fine…” She whispered and took another step away from him. “See I told you I am terrible with surprises. I make one effort and…” She chuckled, the watery sound doing nothing to soothe his nerves though it was clearly what she was trying to do. And if anything, it just scared him more.
Her eyes widened at the single word inadequacy that was his response. If she wasn’t great at surprises, he was an idiot with confrontation. Professionally, he’d never had an issue calling things out when they weren’t working. Shyam had always maintained it was his biggest strength – even when he was new to the firm, to consulting, to client facing roles. He’d never shied away from calling a spade a spade at work. But in his personal life…“I mean,” He began slowly as he took a step towards her. “If there is something…” He shook his head as his brain failed to grasp the right words.
“There’s nothing. I just told you I need to clear my head…”
“It’s not nothing, Khushi. And we are going to have a lot of these moments in the future. If you decide to keep everything that is bothering you to yourself, we are going to be in a very unhappy relationship.” Dammit. He sucked at this. What the hell was he saying? Rather, why wasn’t he saying it better? This was he was just going to end up pushing her further away…without even knowing what it was that….
“We are going to be in an unhappy relationship anyway,”
For a second, he thought he was just hearing his own words echoing in his head. “What?”
“Nothing….See…I am just…” She threw her hands up in the air. “I need some air. Why can’t I go out and just be for a few minutes? I’ll know what I am saying then…”
“You mean you will measure every word till what you say is nowhere close to as caustic as what you really want to say.”
“Why is that a bad thing? What is the point of letting your words get away and hurt someone when you know better? She asked, her eyes now spitting fire like they rarely did. But when they did…a shiver ran down his spine. She was magnificent like this…and he…
“And don’t say you don’t do exactly the same thing yourself – measure every word before you actually spit something out. This is the pot kettle black thing…”
A small smile broke at the corner of his lips. And it served no purpose but to heighten the blaze in her stance. Her jaw tightened and she stared at him silently for a long moment before she turned away from him and made to walk out of the room.
“Shit!” He cursed and then rushed forward to catch hold of her wrist as she approached the door. He missed her hand and caught her T-shirt instead. Without thinking he simply tugged at the piece of well worn cloth in his hand and closed his eyes in a sigh of near bliss when she tumbled against him. A small groan of unparalleled frustration singed through his skin as his blood rushed south and sent his his head reeling. He was reacting like a starved man – which is exactly what he was and yet it had never been a vice he’d had to fight too hard to keep quiet. If anything, he’d worried, rather stupidly, about the strength of his desires when those around him were finding nooks and crannies to get stupid and as crudely satiated as only boys in in their early to mid-twenties could. This woman, this insanely, ridiculously glorious woman that was in his arms was finally testing his limits in the worst way possible.
“Sorry…sorry…” She was saying to him, he realized as he took deep breaths and clenched his fingers around the cloth at her back, his lungs full of her heady scent. Did she know she smelled like the richest caramel, slightly bitter at the darker edges but bursting with sweetness at the center?
“Why are you apologizing?” He asked lazily as he stopped her wiggling body from making it impossible to stay decent when they were in the middle of a…was this a fight? A disagreement?
“I hurt you…you groaned…I mean you made a noise…” Her eyes were flickering rapidly, her cheeks full of rose. If only the curtains from the window to his left fluttered, the afternoon sun would set her face aglow. And here she was thinking she hurt him?
“This is why…” She continued a second later, her mouth drooping as she spoke. But it was the way her eyes slid from his that he knew they had a problem on their hands.
He watched as she unentangled herself from him and stepped back to look at him. “Why do you think we are going to be unhappy anyway, Khushi?” He asked softly, finally zeroing in on the words that he instinctively knew, held the answer to the puzzle that was spinning around her at the moment.
She looked at him, thoughts rushing and out of her eyes as carefully orchestrated blinks. It was the slight exhalation followed by the sagging of her shoulders that clued him in to the seriousness of whatever she was about to say. And it scared him because for once he didn’t know what to expect.
“Because I am fat.”
He stood in absolute silence as she finished the statement that was – by his own admission – not even on the radar of things that it might have been. A part of him, a really selfish part of him almost expected her to tell him about being pressurized by her parents to get married soon –especially in the wake of that matrimonial lunch date that had sent him scurrying up his alley of last resorts.
He watched as she looked at him, her face flush with embarrassment and her eyes – Shit! She was waiting for him to react to that statement…How did anyone react to that statement? “I don’t…I don’t understand…What does that have anything to do with us?”
Her face fell almost instantly and he knew was messing this up again. He was such an idiot! Wasn’t he supposed to say something that would dismiss her declaration? Wouldn’t that be the right thing to do? He shook his head vehemently. This wasn’t one of those WhatsApp wiles that distant uncles on permanently muted WhatsApp groups kept posting jokes about. This…this was a smart, educated, strong, beautiful woman – a woman he loved – telling him she thought she was…fat. What it actually, perhaps meant was…The thought unsettled him and took him back to the first few weeks of her time at IE-V. How many times had comments about her weight and her lack of conventional attractiveness made him squirm in his seat? Heck, when asked in a roundabout fashion, he had found himself unable to explain his attraction to her…Not in IE-V, not even back by the River. Now…of course, now he knew that it didn’t matter, that an analysis of why was never going to bring joy that the execution of it would. He loved her. What reason was good enough to justify that?
“Why would that make us unhappy, love?” He asked instead, wanting to hear more of her real fears before he could jump in with any reassurances – in words or actions.
“Because I am fat,” She repeated plainly. “And I need to lose weight…especially if…” Her face flamed and she pushed her hair away from her face, her glasses up the bridge of her nose….
She looked away as she bit the insides of her cheeks and clenched her fists tight. Everything about her was wound up. “This is insane. What was I thinking?” Then she looked at him again. “Isn’t that enough that I think I am fat and that I need to lose weight…It really is as simple as that?”
He let the words sink in before he spoke. “If you’d said that is why you would be unhappy…relationship or otherwise…then yes, I agree – it is simple – the problem and the solution.” He took a step toward her, careful to maintain his distance so as to not scare her anymore than she already was. “But you didn’t say that. You said that we would be unhappy in this relationship. That – I presume – includes me?”
She let out a small cry of disbelief. “I cannot believe this. I just confessed about my deepest fear, regret, shame, whatever the hell you can call it. And you are…you are being technical about it.” She shook her head. “I’ve said enough. And there is nothing for you to do…I am…I have already started working on my weight…I will be…”
The comment from a few days ago about wanting being hungry at night suddenly made sense. As did a comment from their time in Detroit when she’d compared herself unfavorable to her sister…There was clearly a pattern here…One he wasn’t sure he was equipped to handle.
“Khushi,” He started again slowly. His mind was crafting to the question he was going to ask. But he needed to be sure before he could say or do anything else. “Why do you want to lose weight?”
She looked at him in sheer incredulousness. “I can’t…” She shook her head. “Can we please forget about this – like I requested right at the beginning of this ridiculous conversation? If only I’d just had two minutes to gather my thoughts…”
“This weight loss program…” He began, ignoring her muted anger. “This is for my benefit?”
She stared at him, a million answers flooding her eyes with sharp tears. It clawed at his heart to see her struggle like this. But it was necessary for them to get through this conversation – however hard it was. If it was serious enough for her to get worked up about it, it was serious enough for him to persist till he knew enough.
“No,” She replied but even in the strength of her voice, he knew she was lying.
“Yes. Okay, fine. It is. It is for both of us. But basically,” She placed her palms on her forehead and pressed hard. “I need to lose weight so that we can…so that…” She looked down and swore under her breath once before giving in completely. “Fuck, I am fucking twenty eight years old….I cannot be embarrassed about…” She looked up. “I want to lose weight so that someday, this relationship can be about more than just kissing. That when you kiss me, I am not only worrying about how the folds of my skin feel in your head. That when we…”
“Khushi” He rushed forth and curved his hands around her neck and face, tilting her up so he could look at her. If this was frightening her, he couldn’t help it. “You think we haven’t…had sex because…I don’t find you…”It was so ridiculous that he wanted to cry out loud. “attractive enough to want to…?”
“I have seen myself in mirrors all my life, Arnav. I know what I look like…I have seen all of me…and it is not…it is not pretty. I cannot imagine…If you looked at me and cringed it would…”
“Stop,” He said, his voice harsher than he’d wanted it to be. “What…what the hell is going on in that pretty, smart head of yours, Khushi. Where is all this coming from? What have I said that has made you believe…”
“Nothing!” She whispered. “This is not about you. I never…you have been wonderful. Even this morning…I don’t know why I got so upset about your teasing. I want to be this warm and fuzzy person I imagined being but all I am able to manage are these sharp, hurtful spikes…”
He took a deep breath and brushed his lips against hers lightly. “You want to know why we haven’t done more than kiss?” He didn’t wait for the answer he knew wasn’t going to be forthcoming. “Because I am an old romantic fool, I guess. I wanted for you to say that you love me – of your own accord. I wanted for it to be the moment I could finally relax and let my body behave the way it aches to around you. I would have asked you then if we could make love or if we should wait to get married before we get to that stage.”
She made a small noise at the back of her throat and it sent him headlong into a pained chuckle. “You don’t believe me? Or do I sound like a 60s hero?”
“People were a lot more progressive in the 60s” She whispered, making him chuckle in mirth this time. “Roop tera mastana, remember? Also Julie…”
“The Neha Dhupia one?” He asked with a small smile as he wound his arms around her waist. “You’ve seen that too? Impressive…but it wasn’t as far back as the 60s, you know”
Her eyes grew round and wide behind her glasses and she shook her head. “No!” She cried out. “The…Dil Kya Kare one…”
He smiled at the inevitable appearance of her fondness for Bollywood trivia in their conversations and pulled her closer.
“You knew which Julie,” She said as her brows narrowed and her eyes sharpened. “Why are we talking about movies?”
“We always talk about movies.” He pointed out and kissed the corner of her lips.
“No,” She shook head. “We talk about songs…”
“We’ll have to change that, then. And we can start with Julie…”
“It’s not funny,” She blew out, her eyelashes now spiky with unshed tears. But there was color in her cheeks once again. And at the moment…
“You know why else we haven’t done more than kiss, baby?” He whispered against her ear as he caught her ear lobe with his teeth.
“Don’t call me that. I told you, no one can pull it off. It’s annoying, really.” She said as her fingers curled into his arm. And then a second later, she shook her head and just like that, his body hardened. And she thought she wasn’t…
“We haven’t done more than kiss because you can’t even say the words, Khushi. You can’t say sex. Or make love. Sure you say fuck but as much as I wish it was, it isn’t in the same vein…”
She glared at him. “So this is my fault…? What about the fact that you never said anything either? What about this entire wait till we get married thing? Did you ask me before….” She let out a deep breath. “What am I saying!” She looked up and pushed at his chest, wiggling to let herself out of his hold. “Let me go.”
“No.” He said simply.
“What do you mean?” She said as she struggled against him, torturing him deliciously. All these days, he’d had to fight his body and look what that had translated to in her head? “Let me go.”
“All these days, I did. And you seem to think that’s because I don’t want what you want. Or at least claim to. Now…wait for a few moments and I will not need to tell you what you do to me.” He bent his head close to her ears again. “You want to see how you are driving me insane? You want me to tell you that when I run my hands against the softness of your skin, I am struggling to not visualize how sexy it would be put my lips where my hands have been? You want me to tell you how I have to fucking breathe just do I wouldn’t rip things and let my teeth mark you in way you’ve marked me by just being with me?”
Her eyes blazed as she stared at him, her skin flush with warmth. Desire, deeper than anything he’d ever felt kicked him in the plexus and bounced off her in strong, glowing ripples. And then she blinked and looked away, pushing against his arms that were still tightened around her waist. “Let me go.”
“Why?” He asked softly.
“Because I am asking you to.”
“And not because you think I don’t want what you want?”
She looked up at him for a second, a muscle ticking in her jaw as she stared into his eyes unblinkingly. Slowly, she shook her head.
“Do you want to make love to me, Khushi?”
She continued to look at him and then pushed his arms again. This time, however, she didn’t ask him to let her go.
“I don’t want to rush you, Khushi. But please don’t mistake that for lack of desire. I want you – in every way a man who loves a woman wants her. I want to make love to you. I want to have sex with you. I want to…” He took a deep breath and bent his head close to her ears. “I want to fuck you. I want you to fuck me back. I hope you want all of these things. Because we may have lost a decade but we have many more to utilize to the best that there is.” His heart was thumping in his chest. It was the boldest declaration he’d made in his life and yet, in the situation, he wondered if it was still adequate. He knew no other way to assure her.
She looked down and nodded her head ever so slightly.
“And we are going to talk about these things.” He continued. “Not make any assumptions without…”
She looked up at him. “We” She specified.
“We” He acknowledged, including himself in the promise more distinctly. “But first we will get some breakfast. I know this great place in…”
She swatted him in the arm lightly and then stared at her own hand as if shocked to have hit him. A decade younger Kaveri would have instantly apologized. Now, however, she just cleared her throat and spoke, no trace of mortification in her voice. “I just told you I need to lose weight. The fact that…” She cleared her throat again. “I mean…Nothing changes the fact that I want to lose weight.”
He bit back a chuckle. “I understand. But breakfast is non-negotiable.”
She rolled her eyes and he swiftly placed a kiss on her surprised lips. God, he loved her so much – complicated and jagged-edged as they were both turning out to be to each other.
“Will you now, please, for the hundredth time…let me go. It’s…a little…too”
This time he chuckled and reluctantly let her go. He watched as she stepped back and evidently kept her eyes fixed on his face, presumably to avoid looking down at the evidence of his arousal. Three weeks ago, it would have awkward for them…Heck, without talking about it, it had been awkward – at least for him. In some way, today, had set them free. He winked at her and breathed in deeply. “Give me a minute and we’ll be ready to go, okay?”
This time her eyes slid down and flared for a second long enough for him to catch her awareness.
“Aap convince ho gayin hai ya…”
“You are shameless” She retorted as she turned away and walked into the small kitchenette, busying herself with something he was sure didn’t need to be attended to half as urgently as her actions suggested. He chuckled to himself and let out a deep breath.
River Song, Music and Lyrics
Song Title: Khuda Jaane
Album: Bachna Ae Haseeno
Singers: Shilpa Rao, KK
Music: Vishal – Shekhar
Lyrics: Anvita Dutt-Guptan
Next Update: Monday, Nov 27, 2017, late night IST
Thank you all for reading and for staying with the River!