It was not a pretty sight.
Not to Lila Bakshi who had lived around luxury all her life and after marriage she had never even seen the face of an auto or rickshaw. And if that wasn’t bad enough her nineteen-year-old daughter was married to a pauper.
To make matters worse- a Muslim.
Her darling daughter who had been pampered all along her life had to live to see this day would be a life long regret to her.
Right now from where she was standing it looked as if Monica was trying to light the stove on. Sighing as loudly as she could she walked towards her and gave her light shove.
Monica glowing from top to bottom gave her mother a blinding smile, “Thanks mom! I never seem to find where exactly this thing exactly lights fire”.
Rolling her eyes heavenwards Lila ignited the stove in less than a second. Completed with that task Lila stood backwards, “Now what are you trying to do?”
“Why, making coffee for you?”
Lila opened her mouth to say something when Monica hustled and bustled around the cupboards around her, “So how is everyone at home mom? Grandma and Dad? They seemed be very busy…”
Lila cleared her throat, “What are you trying to say?”
Monica turned and met her mother’s eyes. The light flutter of emotion in her eyes made Lila’s heart go sadder, “I haven’t seen them for such a long time that’s all”.
Lila leaned at the corner of the wooden counter then straightened at the sudden scared thought that the counter would loosen from its unfixed hinges. Monica didn’t seem to have such doubts at all. She seemed to be comfortable around the kitchen, only hopeless with making anything, which was a surprise for Lila Bakshi who had never wanted her daughter to learn anything about the kitchen. She was supposed to study and make big name for herself or at least get married to man who was at least rich if not of their community. But then when it came to love Monica always seem to take it as it came, placing it above everybody she has known all her life. Like her family. Last year when Monica turned eighteen, she had come home married. And what a birthday she had had that day. Raoul, her husband had come close to hitting her and she was just too shocked to see her daughter actually smiling and telling them all that she was married. Monica’s grandma had a literal heart attack…and all along Monica didn’t think she had done anything wrong!
“We all miss you Monica…”, Lila said gently, only because she felt too raw to hide anything. No matter how dumb their daughter was…they did miss her. The house just didn’t seem the same again without her.
“I miss them too mom”, Monica returned softly and if Lila wasn’t mistaken she heard a soft sniff in her voice.
Lila was torn between dragging her daughter out from here along with trying to maintain her dignity.
“Tell me about them. How are Ninad and Tanya? And their cute little sons?”
“They all are fine”, Lila answered distractedly as she noticed that her daughter had poured almost no water in the coffee.
But her attention turned more towards her daughter’s appearance. She was wearing an old worn out shirt, which was hanging out of the long skirt. The skirt was the one Monica had brought two years ago at ShoppersStop and being quiet expensive and excellent in quality it still looked quiet new. Only her long hair was coming loose but her face shone without makeup and all that youth in her glowed on her face. No wonder she got picked by that man, Lila thought bitterly. Even in that drab outfit she outshone any world-class beauty. Monica had inherited the Bakshi’s features and her mother’s beauty. Her eyes were light grayish blue while her complexion was milky white with permanent rose blush at the tip of her high cheekbones, which were slightly filled. Her lips were full and shone with permanent gloss while her chin had a slight cleft in between. She looked a lot similar to Ninad, her brother but while Ninad looked tall and rugged, Monica looked delicate and small.
Whatever their financial conditions were Lila thought, Monica sure didn’t look like she was starved to death any time in the past year.
The coffee was made and Lila grimaced when she saw her daughter fishing around for two decent cups that at least matched.
“Mother would you pass me…”
Lila interrupted her ruthlessly. Whatever Monica looked like she could never be happy here, “Come with me Monica”, Monica spinned whirled around at the suddenness of her mother’s voice, “Leave all this nonsense and come with me!”
“Leave?” came the blank question and Monica blinked in confusion, “Where mom? And I asked you to pass me…”
“I’m asking you to leave with me Monica. Come back to your home. We all miss you at home. I’m sure that they will be delighted…”
“Mom!” Monica shouted, “I can’t leave. I’m tired and…”
“That’s what I’m taking about”, Lila returned in a satisfied voice, “You look as if you have been on feet all day, your face is flushed with sweat, your dress is so old that I’m afraid to even touch it in fear of tearing it…and its too loose for you anyways!”
Looking down at herself Monica suddenly smiled, “Mom…its loose because I’ve a reason…”
“What stupid reason could you possibly have?” Lila asked in an exasperated voice, then turned around to look for the glasses.
Monica nodded and grinned broadly.
“Pregnant? Oh. My. God”, Monica frowned, her grin slowly fading but she edged a step closer to her mother.
“Monica how could you for God’s sake!”
“Now what did I do?” Monica asked, her frown strengthening but she didn’t look angry only fed up.
“What did you do?” Lila face turned white with rage as she shrieked, “You are nineteen and pregnant, you fool and you have the gall to ask me what you did?” she was so full rage that the last word ended with a choking sound.
Monica pursed her lips, “I’m married mom!”
“Youarealsobroke!” Lila returned with a shout. Her look indicated very closely to the woman possessed with wild spirits.
Monica took a step back but her anger was evident in her voice now, “You are making me angry now mom”, taking a deep breath to calm herself she tried again and said softly, “Just because you married into a rich family doesn’t mean I’m not happy here. Rumán may not be super ultra rich but we manage”.
“He is not even little rich. Don’t bother to add ‘super’ and ‘ultra’ for that worthless fellow!” Lila spat.
Just the sound of his name filled her with blinding rage. Until now she felt fine along with her daughter but she just couldn’t bear to hear his name. She had seen him many times and no matter how good he might look there was nothing else she liked in him. He looked down right arrogant not to forget rude and god knows what else along with that.
“Mom…”, Monica began with a warning to make her stop.
“You are managing because you manage now Mona. When a child comes what do you think you will do? Do you know how much it costs to take care of a baby? Probably both of you have to starve and sell this damn house just to keep your selves in good pair under clothes…”, seeing the increasing fear with each worry she voiced, Lila goaded further, “Think about it Mona. No food, no money…do you want your child to die!”
Monica’s face turned white and she lost the entire glow Lila had seen just a few minutes ago, “What do you want me to do?”
“Get rid of it”, came a flat voice.
“What?” Monica’s eyes filled with water.
“Abort it”, Lila’s sarcastic voice made Monica clutch her abdomen protectively.
“Abor…! You want me to…!” she clutched herself even tighter, “No mom I will not do it! This is Rumán’s and my child…”
“Abort the child Monica. You can leave that so called husband of yours and I’ll take care of everything…”
“You will have many children Monica”, Lila went on with a hard voice, “A child who will be brought up in a better place, a child who will be a Hindu…”
Monica gasped so loudly that it made Lila stop, “So that’s it! You don’t want me to bright my baby because it’s Rumán’s”.
“I didn’t say that…”, Lila tried to cover, frowning very hard.
Monica heaved against the counter lightly, her eyes glazing through Lila, “You’d better go mom. I think you have said enough”.
Lila looking at her daughter’s tried face on the top of that the strain she herself had put her through made her feel guilty, “Alright I won’t say anything else”, she walked closer towards her daughter and put her hands on her shoulder, shaking her a little, “But are you happy Mona…? Really happy I mean?”
Monica lost her glazed look, “Of course I’m!” she smiled so that Lila couldn’t possible miss the sparkle in her eyes, “Rumán is a wonderful man. I love him”, she added simply.
Lila muttered something under her breath only because she didn’t want to hurt her daughter’s feelings. Monica tried to ignore that but the anger had again lighted on her mother’s face.
“Now what mom?”
“He doesn’t…forces anything on you, does…he?”
Monica’s eyes narrowed with laughter, “By…forcing I really hope you don’t mean…”
“I meant if does he imposes his religion you or not!” Lila Bakshi burst out, all red in her face now with embarrassment. Then tipping her nose in air, “I really don’t care about your personal affair Monica”.
“I gathered that with this visit of yours”, Monica’s reply came out sarcastic.
“What does that supposed to mean?”
Monica at last gave a helpless smile, “I know how much you care mom”. Then she became serious all of a sudden. Meeting Lila’s eyes frankly she answered, “No Rumán doesn’t imposes anything on me let alone his religion. But that doesn’t mean I parade Hinduism in front of him trying to convert him at every second. And you forget mom, we are half Sikh so I don’t let myself bother with the intricacies of any religion…”
“You don’t bother with anything”, Lila said and this time her anger was all dampened down.
“God is one mom. He doesn’t mind which religion He belongs to”.
Lila blinked back the tears, “My little girl talks like a woman”.
“I’m a woman”, Monica sighed and put her hand around her mother’s waist, “I’ve matured earlier than most girls do I guess”
“It seems like”, Lila pulled her hands back and stopped out, walking towards the door, “Your cousins asked about you. Ninad is coming next week…”
“I’ll try to meet them then”.
“Are you sure you want to?”
“Why not?” Monica asked with bravado she didn’t feel inside.
When Lila Bakshi opened the door Monica shouted, “Mom about the coffee…”
“Try to find the glasses as well. I don’t fancy drinking directly from the hot pot”.
Monica’s chuckle made Lila smile as well. But as soon as she closed to door behind her, her shoulders dropped with disappointment. She looked like she had aged ten years more.
Monica felt tired and exuberant all at once. Now that she had spoken to her mother after such a long time that she felt the air clearer enough for to breathe in properly than the last few months. Her family just over reacted for everything. After all a marriage between a Muslim and a Hindu was a common practice now days. She couldn’t name even one but she was a satisfied with the knowledge that she hadn’t done the ultimate weirdest thing in the entire world. And religion in marriage, does it matter? Doesn’t love count? And doesn’t the feeling that you belong to someone give that heady feeling of being on the top of the world…? And if the world interferes doesn’t love make you fight back?
Well, she was fighting back no matter what!
Sighing at people’s folly of letting go someone on the name of religion Monica walked inside their bedroom.
Straightening her shirt, which felt soft against her skin after so many washing she thought not so deeply about her mother’s words. The words ‘sweat’ on her face bothered her. She didn’t want Rumán to come home and find her turning into any other housewife after marriage. She smoothed her strands of hair that were falling in front of her face. One day she had experimented wit her hair and had cut several strands of hair in front of her forehead. It gave her a sexier look and she liked it. But they hindered with whatever she did. But the feeling of Rumán smoothing her hair almost an innumerable times a day had made her keep on cutting a bunch more. Her lashes were thick and long opposed to her lower lashes. Her mouth was swollen because of the regular kisses she got from her ever- loving husband and of course she liked that taste of the slightly bruised lips. Her eyes went to her shirt again. Maybe she should change into something more feminine, more eye- catching… or maybe into something clingy. She turned away feeling better to having to do something other than cleaning the house. Her mouth was already curving into a delicious smile, so that her face, which looked flushed with sweat, looked like a face that couldn’t wait for another day, which was definitely going to bring something good.
But as soon as she opened the cupboard of her clothes the doorbell rang. Shrugging lightly Monica walked towards the entrance door instead.
It was Rumán at the door.
At the sight of him her breathing automatically became irregular which wasn’t a surprise to her because her mind always ran through the incidents of spending herself in naked splendour in his arms, closing so protectively around her. And the magnetism of his dark eyes pulling her towards him made her throat dry. Monica always thought, who needed foreplay when you have got a husband like hers.
“You are home!” she shrieked with delight while love and warmth dripped out from her eyes.
“I’m”, his velvety rough voice made her shiver with a feeling of being close to someone like him.
I love you , she wanted to say but instead of that she launched herself in his arms, hugging him as tightly as she could.
“Missed me?” he teased but because her head was under his chin she couldn’t see the pained smile in her eyes.
The strain of her mother’s visit and the day’s tiredness left her with a magic whoosh…already she wanted to pull Rumán inside and kiss him senseless.
“Come”, she said pulling out of his arms with a happy gurgle, “I’ve made dinner for you”.
“You did?” he tried to sound delighted as well but Monica noticed the way he was forcing himself to smile.
They closed the door behind them and when Monica teasing smile became blatantly provocative Rumán growled low in his throat, “Come here you baggage”.
Monica giggled and shook her head, “Baggage?”
“A sexy little baggage”, he compensated but there was real need in his voice throbbing with emotion, “Now come here”.
“You must be tired”.
“Not as I’m going to be when I’ll make love to you”, he returned already moving towards her.
“I’ll take your bag first”, she said.
He shook his head but she was already tugging in from him hand, “Rumán…I’ll keep it inside…”
“I saw your mother”, he blurted out and this time there was no teasing sparkle in his eyes only a certain pained look.
Monica froze at the task of tugging it hard, “You…met her?”
“Yes” one word but it was enough to make her heart fall on the ground. She started tugging his briefcase again not wanting to talk about her mother at all, “Give me your bag Rumán…you must be tired…”
He pulled the briefcase back and growled, “I’m”.
The sudden change from a sexy predator to a angry husband made Monica cringe the words he continued to speak stopped her into silence, “But that doesn’t mean I’m an invalid!” he turned to go towards the bedroom indicating the close of topic.
She backed up several steps, all her fears suddenly surfing up with force, “You are bored with me, aren’t you? You want to leave me!”
He whirled around so fast that he lost the firm grip of his briefcase. It slipped from his fingers and the shock of her words made his face loose color, “What in the hell does that mean!”
Her eyes turned misty, “Why are you yelling at me?”
“Because you are making me mad, Monica!” he took a deep breath and tipped his head backwards muttering, “Aw, Hell!”
He straightened and tilted his head to one side. His stare unnerved Monica a little. He didn’t look this…different before. Almost as if he wanted to rip everything off and then start all over again. His “Come here” wasn’t reassuring either.
Shaking her head wildly Monica tried not to look away.
His eyes narrowed but he didn’t force her to comply. Instead he looked frustrated and contrite now, “I met your mother Monica and she…had few things to say…”
“What…things?” Monica managed to choke out.
“Bad things”, he growled and looked away as if to protect her from his anger now.
“Bad things?” Monica giggled suddenly especially at the way he had it. Her sweet sexy Rumán was actually angry and couldn’t even know how to be. She walked towards him without hesitation now and when he looked down at her without expression she leaned and wrapped her arms around his waist, rubbing her cheek on his coarse shirt. She smelled clean scent of a man. She inhaled deeply. No matter what Rumán always smelled good.
Rumán himself seemed to relax suddenly when he felt his soft hands pressing the small of his back. He leaned down and placed his chin on the top of her head.
“Mother is bitter Rumán. She is very angry…”
“I know she is angry”, he agreed and his voice turned softer, almost husky when her hands crept to the back of neck, “But it’s been almost an year now…”
“She thinks we are too broke to have a child…”
He nudged her closer where he could feel the slight swell of her abdomen. God, he always felt good near her, “We are broke Monica”, the heaviness of his expression filled her with dread somehow and the lightness she had been feeling when she had thought everything would go well faded away, “Raising a baby is more expensive than getting married. The diapers…”
“Made easily by cloths”, she replied quickly suddenly feeling like laughing at the worry in his voice. Rumán was never serious, then why suddenly was he worrying?
“…The crib…”, he continued even though he had heard her.
“We can adjust a drawer and pull some comfy sheets inside…”
He pulled his head up and forced her to look up at him, “…The bottles, milk…?”
She raised her brow, mischief lightening her gray eyes then looking down at her already heavy breasts she said her voice filled with laughter, “Lot of that down here”.
Rumán gave up. He was glad to.
His urge to laugh became indeed a laugh. His laughter came out as a large clamour, which wasn’t unpleasant at all. His laughter was what Monica loved best. He never stifled it in fear of embarrassing himself thinking that he didn’t sound good. He knew that he looked good and sounded even better and that always filled her with pride. Her Rumán was a man in a million.
Her eyes must have indicated some sign of her feelings for he stopped laughing suddenly. Touching her forehead with him he groaned softly, “God Monica what am I going to do with you?”
“Make love to me…”
“Hmmm…now that’s something I’m willing to do happily…”
His hands reached down at her round derriere cupping it softly then she was suddenly in his arms walking towards their bedroom. Their room was large and airy and that was one thing that Monica had wanted to look like a bedroom. She loved the large soft bed on which Rumán now placed her gently. She loved the faint smell of sandalwood in it and the only light in their room was a bedside lamp. Wryly she thought her mother was right. They were broke.
But nothing mattered as long as they were together and Rumán made love to her…
Her breath caught in her throat and she forgot to think. His hands were cupping the swell of her breasts and squeezing them lightly. She realized he was talking, “Will you hate me if I tell you I don’t like your mother?”
She groaned softly, “Come here you stud!” her hands weren’t idle either. They crept lower from his chest to his waist relishing the power she had when she heard Rumán groan that way.
It wasn’t long before naked bodies moved aganist each other with sleek sweat and scent of sex took place of the scent of sandalwood. Rumán’s was still shuddering, his fingers contracting around his waist, jerking her closer and closer until it was difficult to tell who was who.
“Oh. My. God”, he let out a huge gulping breath, his hot breath lifting the strands of hair on her forehead.
At last he gave up and slumped on her moving at a side to protect her abdomen. Monica turned, smiling but there were already tears running down her cheeks. She wanted Rumán to open his eyes and look at her but she knew he wouldn’t. Rumán always felt asleep after making love and that softness on his face took her breath away every time.
“I love you”, she said not bothering to think if she would disturb him. She wanted him to hear and hear he did.
He didn’t exactly open his eyes but he smiled suddenly, a dimple digging at his left chin, “Mmm…”, was all he said.