24: Eye Of The Storm.

 

She protested weakly as he marched towards their bedroom, carrying her effortlessly in his arms, “It took me an hour to cook all that breakfast, I don’t want it to get cold”.

“I’ve been wanting to do this all week, love. I can’t wait”, he grinned ruefully, lowering her on the bed and stretching his body clad in white shirt and dress pants above her.

With her senses assailed by the his familiar scentย and insanely attactive grin, Khushi didn’t need any more persuasion and soon her impatient finger were fumbling with his shirt buttons, trying to unfasten them.

Her efforts were thwarted when he leaned in, balanced on one hand on each side of her, and hungrily clasped his lips with his. Her fingers curving around handfuls of his shirt material, she pulled him closer and kissed him back. Their tongues dueled as they drank deep trying to quench a thirst that seemed unquenchable.

His hand crept under her Tshirt, tracing the curve of her soft waist, caressing the silken smoothness of her flat belly, exploring the depression of her navel with his thumb.

Even as her body tingled all over in anticipation, she arched it cooperatively when his hand slipped behind her back to to unclasp her brassiere hook.

With his breathing ragged, he helped her take her Tshirt off and then his head descended to take a rosy peak into his mouth, doing things to it that made her squirm in ecstasy. Khushi breathed his name like a chant and wrapped her legs around him.

After a long time, he raised his head and got off of the bed to divest himself of his clothes, instructing her to do the same with the ones that remained on her.

When their bodies rejoined on the bed, Arnav nuzzled her neck slowly in a deliberate attempt to delay their union, reveling in the sweet torture of waiting. He inhaled her lilac scent deeply, his breaths washing over her sensitized skin and momentarily stalling the fingers that caressed his back in long, repetitive movements.

“I love your smell”, he murmured, “It reminds me of spring and a lilac shrub that blooms outside our family room window every year”.

With her fingers caressing the back of his neck, she smiled at the way his words had an uncharacteristically whimsical, almost poetical quality to them. “I love you”, she said softly even as he lifted his head to take her lips again.

 

It wasn’t long before he had positioned himself above her, lifted her closer with both hands and entered her.

Khushi dug her nails into the muscles of his back as she felt herself stretch. Arching her body, she moved it in perfect rhythm with his powerful thrusts, both allowing their passions to soar until the highest peaks…and crescendo into a synchronous finale.

“I can never get enough of you”, he whispered, collapsing onto her, spent,.

Nestled into her warm softness, his travel weary body relaxed and his mind began drifting towards somnolence. He was however rudely awakened by a stinging smack on the skin of his bare back.

He raised his head at once and glanced at her in comical surprise.

“Don’t you dare go to sleep without eating my breakfast first”, she replied, her eyes flashing with genuine trepidation.

.

.

.

“It wasn’t actually an academic conference”, said Arnav, taking a sip of orange juice, “It was an advocacy seminar to prepare members for our upcoming appointment on Capitol Hill”.

“Training for effective lobbying, you mean”, said Khushi, watching him work his way through the breakfast with a warm glow of satisfaction.

That morning was permanently etched in Khushi’s mind. It was one of those moments where every single, insignificant detail is duly recorded and filed away. The pale sunshine streaming in through the vertical blinds and splashing across the breakfast table. The crimson carnations. The smell of maple syrup and vanilla, the sound of his voice wrapped around her in a comforting embrace.

When Khushi got up to make coffee, Arnav extended his hand to catch hers and pulled her onto his lap.

“The cook deserves a kiss”, he whispered in a serious voice belied by his characteristic glint.

The cook had no objection to being thus thanked and soon minutes ticked away as they kissed like they hadn’t seen each other for ages.

“You’ll make me miss my flight”, she said breathlessly, finally able to break apart from him.

“I really have to go, Arnav”, she said, her eyes warm, her palm lightly touching his stubble. After a little while, just as she was about to get off of his lap, a paperback book lying on the table next to his cellphone caught her attention.

Picking it up, her eyes shone a smile at him. Memories of their first meeting flooded her heart with nostalgia. “Were you reading it inflight?

As he nodded in response, Khushi surveyed the cover, a wide angled photograph of snow capped mountains, with her eyes wistful.

“That reminds me of Kashmir…”, she said, “How was the book ? I’d loved his first two”.

“It was a good read”, replied Arnav, picking up the book and distractedly flipping through it, “He is a brilliant storyteller, there’s no doubt, but it’s not his best work”.

“The title is so intriguing”.

“It’s about the choices one makes in life and it’s aftereffects, it’s consequences that ripple three dimensionally across time, places..generations. The echoes”.

She took it from him, flipping it to survey it’s back cover.

“Take it”, Arnav offered, “You can read it on the way to Tampa”

Moments later, while Khushi slid her coat on, Arnav stood by the kitchen counter, pen in hand, a tiny smile lifting the corner of his mouth.

For my Khushi, Love, Arnav“, he scribbled on the first page of the book in his nearly illegible handwriting.

.

.

.
Time ran three hours behind in California and it’s slumbering landscape was still enshrouded in darkness. Soon, dawn cracked across the horizon and sent it’s first rose-pink rays inside a small, three bedroom townhouse in a quiet, affluent neighborhood of San Jose.

Lavanya stood at the window and purportedly gazed at the horizon while her large dark eyes appeared to be focused on something much further than the horizon. Tall and slender, she cut a striking figure with her raven black hair and earthy complexion

Her mind replayed the conversaton she’d had with her father not so long ago…and with the same result. The news that her house in Rocky River had found a good buyer had deeply unsettled her. She couldn’t bear the thought of strangers living in her house…their home. It was intolerable to her but she had given up on her protestations in face of her father’s gentle but firm insistence.

Time to let go, Lavanya“.

Her heart wrenched painfully as she recalled the last few moments spent in that house. They were crystal clear and vivid like a movie playing in her mind.

She saw herself climbing down the curved staircase with dark oak rail and ornate metal bannisters. Standing in the family room, she had paused and looked around her. Stripped clean of all furniture and wall decorations, the house had looked almost unrecognizable.

Desolate and melancholic.

She remembered the streams of sun-rays that had filtered in from the tall windows and splashed on the bare wood floor in bright patches. Wood floor that had been littered with scores of cardboard boxes, neatly packed and sealed with duct tape.

Quite clearly, she saw that open, unsealed box that had caught her attention and once again she was kneeling beside it and lifting a cardboard flap to peek inside.

Bright sunlight had revealed it’s contents and the mere memory caused a powerful wave of emotions to rise from her gut. Aarav’s baby clothes, including the tiny coverall he’d come home in from the hospital.

“Daddy’s boy”, it had declared in bold red letters.

She remembered her breakdown and the comforting sound of Manya’s voice. It had gradually soothed her and pierced the haze of hopelessness that surrounded her.

“Aarav doesn’t want to see you like this, Lavanya. Think only of the beautiful moments you got to spend with him. Seeing you happy, seeing you at peace will make him happy too. He still loves you, Lavanya. Loves you from where he is right now. It’s a beautiful place…a happier place”.

Sighing, Lavanya blinked her moist eyes and focussed on the mellow splendor of a new dawn. “Memories”, she softly whispered to herself and opened a window to her past. Their past.
His voice with it’s characteristic timbre and familiar intonation floated to her in a slideshow of unforgettable images.

 

“Wait here. Let me take the carrier…Aarav… up to the nursery first, then I’ll carry you upstairs. It’s better to be careful about those sutures”.
Effortlessly, he had ascended the curved staircase with her held in his arms, bridal style. Somewhere along the way their eyes had locked and with her pulses quickening, she had tried to decipher a certain new quality that she thought she could see in their caramel depths. But in a flash, it had disappeared leaving his eyes distant and shuttered once again. Like they had been for the past eight months of their marriage.

.

.

.
Khushi adjusted the small pillow in the curve of her back and settled back with a sigh. She glanced at Anita across the aisle. With the earplugs in, her eyes were fixated on the TV screen in front. She had always been amongst those who watch TV nonstop on flights to while away the time. Her mom, sitting next to her, had her eyes closed. Her features looked uncharacteristically relaxed. Maybe, Khushi mused with her heart warming with affection, she was enjoying the luxury of idleness, which air-travel allows you to indulge in, absolutely guilt-free.

Their family hadn’t taken a vacation together in almost two years and Khushi looked forward to it. After the wedding in Tampa, they’d decided on traveling to Orlando and spending three additional days there.

A smile played on her lips as she finally opened her book…his book. If only he were coming to the wedding too, she thought wistfully turning a page.

Bringing the book close to her nose, she closed her eyes and imagined she could smell his charactetististic scent. Real and strong. Shaking her head at her olfactory hallucination, she glanced sideways at his father, who was nicely settled in his window seat, reading glasses perched on nose, a paperback held in hands.

“What are you reading, Khushi?, he asked without looking up from his book.

“And The Mountains Echoed- by Khaled Hosseini”, Khushi replied, “The one that came out this summer. Have you read it?

“Yes, I did”, Navin said, “Tell me what you think of it after you’re done reading it. I personally thought that although it’s a good read, it didn’t quite match up to his earlier two works. Which I know is an unfair thing to say”.

An involuntary smile lit her features even as she spoke without thinking, “That’s exactly what A…”.

Pausing in mid sentence, Khushi’s eyes swirled and flickered for a few indecisive moments before a sudden impulse got the better of her.

Taking a deep breath she started, her hazel orbs soft and somber, “Dad, there is something I have to tell you…ask you”.

Navin’s eyes flashed with sudden humor as he glanced at his daughter’s earnest face, “Alright, where is MSF calling you this time? Timbuktu?

“Daddy”, exclaimed Khushi with slight exasperation, “It’s not about MSF. And where is this Timbuktu, anyway? Like I said, it’s not about MSF at all”.

As she nervously tucked a strand of hair beneath her ear, Navin surveyed her anxious face and intuitively realized the gravity of the matter, her daughter was struggling to share with him.

“What is it, Khushu?, he asked gently.

“There is…someone in my life. Someone I like…”, she replied, resolutely meeting his curious gaze, wisely realizing the futility of beating about the bush at that point.

Noticing the guilty quivering of her eyelashes, Navin sighed and zeroed in on the conclusion that is considered by some as an immigrant desi parent’s worst nightmare.

“He’s not Hindu, not Indian?, he asked, surveying her anxious face.

“No…he is”, replied Khushi, with her features relaxing a little, “His family is from Kashmir. Srinagar”.

“What does he do?

“He’s a physician”.

“You think we won’t like his family?

“You already do”, replied Khushi quietly, her heart quickening as they approached within breathable distance of the revelation that was all but inevitable now.

Navin took his glasses off and gazed at her daughter’s distraught face, his eyes flickering with frank puzzlement.

“Toh problem kya hai, Khushi”, he said in an understanding voice that formed a painful lump in Khushi’s throat.

“What’s the catch?, he repeated, his voice more wary this time, “I’m sure there is one, right?

“You know him..”, Khushi said, pausing to bite her lower lip before taking a headlong plunge, “It’s Arnav. Arnav Raizada. Astha Aunty’s son”.

At first, Navin didn’t quite take in the implication of her confession and continued to gaze at her in an absentminded fashion.

“Yes, yes…I remember. He’s a nice boy. Nice family too”.

Much to Khushi’s discomfiture, it took another few painful seconds for the realization to dawn, for the crux of the matter to sink into the forefront of his mind.

His lined face gradually assumed a bewildered expression which caused Khushi’s heart to constrict with almost unbearable pain.

“Isn’t he married?

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21 thoughts on “24: Eye Of The Storm.

    1. Took that out as I’d included it just for fun on a friend’s request ๐Ÿ™‚ Didn’t really go with the mood I’d intended for the chapter…one of impending doom. I’m thinking of including something like that in SS instead ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Parents – divorce – love -& live in relationship – the joys of life – even today there are those who frown upon a divorcee ..it makes me laugh and sad at the same time..I have felling Sujata is going to devastated and I envision harsh words ahead

    Let’s reverse roles if Khuhsi was divorced and Arnav fell in love with her. – her parents would defend her to the hilt – they’d ensure only her happiness mattered.. They’d wash Arnavs feet in milk !!!

    Almost 25 years ago and a divorcee myself I still can clearly hear the names that were colourfully spoken for me – ‘ damaged goods’ ‘Secondhand’ ‘ a divorced girl is hard to remarry ‘ and these were from people who were supposedly family.. More surprising and shocking for them was when the guy I remarried was not a divorcee .. then it was why would he marry her ..she’s already been married.. ..sticks and stone a never broke me but left a bitter taste forever..

    Again I get the feeling her parents are not going to be happy at all. I often wonder as parents to two gown up kids my self – Are we wrong when we reject ‘ social norms ‘ over our children’s happiness.. I say this as my daughter is dating a non Indian and once again I’m the one being judged… …

    Jen – don’t know how I missed this gem of story on IF ..xx

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “Letโ€™s reverse roles if Khuhsi was divorced and Arnav fell in love with her. โ€“ her parents would defend her to the hilt โ€“ theyโ€™d ensure only her happiness mattered.. Theyโ€™d wash Arnavs feet in milk !!!”

      This is such an astute observation, 100% true, and so indicative of hypocrisy in society.

      Thank you for sharing that personal detail with me, S, and all I have to say is that I’m so, so happy for you and Mr. R, whom I ‘know’ a little from your tweetsโค๏ธ

      And thank you for your kind words ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you stumbled upon SF…XX

      And oh man, I know what your daughter is going through as I dated and married a white American against my mom’s initial resistance ๐Ÿ˜› Unlike you, my mom wasn’t very understanding at first ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Well Jen and Ladyr society is that especially the Indian one where ever you are! If you don’t go by the set rules of society ( who sets these rules anyway?) then you are the abnormal one. I have two girls ages 25 and 22 and I told them that I will not put them through- you should do this and you should that and they have the freedom to choose their partner whenever they want whoever they want and I refuse to dictate their lives based on the so called norms of society and so people think I am mad ( well they have choicer words) and I live and raised my girls in Long Island NY. To avoid these discussions I once told a group of desi nosy ladies( who have lived here 20-25years) that I am too young to get them married, I need to be atleast of MIL age (I had them both by the time I was 25) and you know what one of them told me – that I should grow up and stop acting silly and childish โ˜น๏ธ! So now people ask me about my daughters I tell them about their work etc and then just walk away before they could ask me anything else. Some people are narrow minded and where they live doesn’t matter, they just can’t change. Hats off to you Ladyr , I am so proud of you – just ignore people. As long as you are happy and the children happy that’s all that matters!
    Jen – as for you I understand what you must have gone through. I have a cousin who is married to a white guy too and she is the most happiest of the lot. So for me Sujatha is more like my mom and I don’t think I can be like her or think like her -ever!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My mom is a lot more understanding and I guess her resistance had more to do with a personal prejudice arising from an unfortunate series of events than a need to conform or anything else. But then, my hubby wasn’t technically still married at the time so hard to say what her reaction would have been in that scenario. I’ve seen, most moms, even white moms from good families, are not very accepting of their daughters dating a still married/ almost divorced man.

      My mom always gave me full freedom to pursue career and happiness too, just didn’t think I was making the right choice at that time ๐Ÿ˜› Now, of course, she and my hubby are the best of buddies esp when it comes to ganging up against me ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I am so glad for you and your mom! Because they are cases when relationships break because of these kind of issues which is very sad in my opinion. I don’t know what I would do if my daughter were to date a married man … A divorcee might not bother me that much but like you said you never know how you would react when you face some situations. You know of late I have been thinking a lot – my daughters close friend is an Indian, brought up here but she is not into guys. But she knows eventually her parents would get her married to a guy and she wont want to tell her parents. It’s sad to see her go through that. My daughter during one such discussions asked me what I would do if she were to date a girl – though she is as straight as can be she assures me, but that got me thinking – I don’t know, I really don’t but I do know that I would try to understand as much as I possibly can and one thing I won’t do is turn her away come what may. I saw too many relationships really break in a bad way because parents don’t approve the choice as its against religion or caste. I think patenting is much more complicated now. The think I didn’t agree with Sujatha is not communicating with her daughter. But like you said each mom is different. Mine is a lot like Sujatha and though I love her it’s so difficult to explain my point of view to her and why I do and think things differently.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Shyamidutt – you are be leased to have two daughters – they are blessed to have you too.. . I have one of each and we too resided in Long Island – until a couple of years ago when it became too much with everyone wanting to know your business.. and we moved … It’s human nature to gossip ……today I’m page one news tomorrow someone else will be…I truly get it but as parents do we truly Or other people believe we raise our kids to make bad choices…

      Khushi is well educated .. .she fell in love unknowingly but in a instant was ready to remove herself upon realisation that Arnav is married.. The key here was communication .. They talked ….they understood ..they are consenting adults … Sujatha may lack this communication skill and retreive into a shell … Do we blame her ..yes & no because in all honesty her upbringing was such.. One has to ask does she really want an arranged marriage more for her happiness or Khushis … And if it doesn’t work out Khushi will still be blamed for not trying to make it work..
      A case of dammed if you do …and .dammed if you don’t .. What Khushi needs is an ally ..not her sister or friend but an aunt or uncle who gets it .. Sees beyond Arnav and a broken marriage …
      For any story to elicit such meaningful discussions is utmost credit to the author …

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Jen your personal story gives me hope.. Truly ….My daughters boyfriend and I are already good friends as are his parents with my daughter …hubby is totally on board if this is what his princess wants .. ( she doesn’t want to marry ever ..just a live in relationship ) and that’s what nags at one little corner of my mind .. It rears it ugly head when the tongues have been wagging .. Got to work on that …

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Jen,. You have changed the story at many sections… Why? The original was great…… what made you change?

    Read it too many times….๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    Sri.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wait I just read your comment above… Your reasoning is fine… Because I remember even in the previous chapter… They kisses twice at PF Chang’s…

      Sri

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It might sound trivial, but every time I am able to guess who or what you are alluding to in the chapter, it gives me thrills. Small puzzles these that when I know the answer I am jubilant! It was first Arnab, then Maine Pyar Kiya, and now Khaled Hossenni โ˜บ i loved the first two books of his, and have not yet read the third.

    Aarav was the only reason thst brought Arnav and Lavanya together. And, he is the reason for separating them. We can see the parental instinct, probably triggered by Aarav, that had made Arnav protective. Both while carrying Lavanya, and kissing Khushi’s Lancet marked fingers. You have beautifully portrayed the heart of the person behind these deeds. Great job!

    In terms of opening up, I somehow feel Khushi picked her right ally to break the news. It could have been more drama with the mom… I am now eager to see what happens next. Didn’t she just have a peaceful expression… oh my !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always like to keep cultural references unnamed or oblique and feel just as jubilant, if not more, when readers are able to guess them ๐Ÿ˜Š I’m loving having you on this journey, Anu, it’s like reliving the story again …and with a fresh perspective ๐Ÿ’–

      Liked by 1 person

  7. In a earlier chapter it was trying to keep the Indian culture alive by watching movies or celebrating festivals. Now Navin first response to khushi was the guy she liked was not hindu or not indian? This response is so typical and true ๐Ÿ™‚ Still married…this will not be easy? Would they be ok is he is divorced?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Enjoying reading so far .. , I always find the comments section very interesting ,so many perspectives … , also get a glimpse of the author ( in this case you ) real life & how it has moulded their writing ,

    Liked by 1 person

  9. But why does everyone insist on forgetting that he is in the middle of a divorce and hasn’t lived with his wife for over a year? That does make a huge difference in putting things in perspective! And what a typical Indian dad reaction, but i feel her mom would be harder to convince than her dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sorry if I am late in this one.
    Well Jen you have kept in us in cliffhanger and I am dreading to read the next one but anyways have read it because story has to proceed.
    Like Khushi I am dreading the kind of reaction her father is going to give and more do her mother.

    Now coming to actual point I guess Arnav is in the middle of divorce for both Arshi but we all know that La has taken it all wrong so guess this will be an issue first when both of them will get to know.
    Second a marriage that is going to end in divorce will be another issue for Khushi’s parents even if Khushi tells them the whole truth of Arnav’s and La marriage.

    Every parents first sees the society that we all are living in be coz for them that what matters. If it would be girl getting divorce and is re-marrying then obviously the man standing in front of them is GOD, but when it comes to the man then it all his fault.
    No matter how many years is passed in Independence, but still we are a lot behind in our thinking. Guess,a lot of things are yet to be change but when is what the question is??

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I just started to read your story….. and I am hooked!!! It’s awesome. I am still long way from finishing saffron fields. Then I plan to read silver sands . So wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your work…and the overall blog presentation is really beautiful and soothing.

    Liked by 1 person

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