Part 18Ram heard Priya's approaching footsteps and wriggled himself up in his bed so that his back rested upright against the headboard. As she walked into the room he eyed her from top to bottom analyzing the stitched fabric that sheathed her body. The fact that she did not have a pair of his jeans in his cupboard made him assume that this was the same outfit she had on last night. A plain fitted maroon salwar top and the pair of blue jeans did justice to the shape of her body but he wondered about the royal blue saree that she had hung up in the bathroom. "Why didn't she wear the saree that she had initially picked out for herself?" Her rash decision puzzled him greatly. It was not that he was strict about her wearing a saree and neither was his mom or dadi but the fact that she changed her attire suddenly made him wonder fearfully, "Is she going to leave me again." Searching between the lines of her elusive body language he found no accurate answer and her pink tinged eyes distracted him greatly, making it that much harder to predict her action.
"Priya, were you crying?" he quizzed her sitting impatiently on the bed but nonetheless adhering to the conditions that she had set forth.
"Uh�No just something got in my eye." her voice broke out unevenly as if her heart was held hostage and this was its SOS strategy. Ram deciphered the message loud and clear and responded cleverly.
"Both of them?"
"Haan�Yes�Umm�I have to go�now�it's almost 5:30 and remember�breakfast," she giggled pathetically all the while moving around the room trying not to make eye contact with Ram. But it was too late; the alarms had already sounded a tale of grief that Ram understood far to well and was, by no means, about to neglect it. Priya had started this inning of hardball and Ram was game using his all roundness to hit a homerun in her heart. Tying up her hair Priya walked towards the open door but Ram tugged her hand protesting her exit.
"Ram you got out of bed again? Why don't you listen to me?" She turns around looking at a breathless Ram who had her hand held tightly with sorrow-drenched eyes fixed on her.
"Why should I listen? I have been trying to talk to you but you keep ignoring me. Answer me Priya. Why were you crying." Ram managed to breath out moving in closer to Priya who still could not meet his glare.
"Nothing Ram�I told you that something got in my eyes."
"And I obviously don't buy that. Tell me Priya�Was it because Babe called." he asked cautiously but was certain that this was indeed the reason. Priya's non-response validated his conclusion. "Priya I told you that I LOVE you and only you!"
"I am not doubting your love. You just seem stuck in between your first love and your true love. I am scared more than anything that you will choose your first love because I can't live without you Ram!" Priya piped up, partly exacerbated by the nature of their discussion but subdued by the warmth in his closeness that she was quickly developing an undeniable addiction for�"
"You never have to worry about that�I want you in my life forever�"
"And Babe?" she interrupted before his words kindled a longing in her heart.
"Priya she is a huge part of my life and I can't live without her either."
"I think I will go spend the rest of my day at my parents house." Priya stated after a sigh. Ram let go of her hand, which immediately raised to stroke his face lightly sensing his distraught. "Ram I love you..."
"You say that so nicely. I almost believed it. Go Priya."
"Ram i mean it...I do love you and I know you love me too. But that doesn't change the fact that we both need some time away from each other to heal. Let me make you some breakfast." Priya proposed, trying to project a false sense of hope.
"I dont want to eat!"
"I said I don't want to eat. If you want to leave, you may! I won't stop you."
"Ram you need to take your medication."
"Don't worry about it� I have people in this big mansion that care about me. But unfortunately, the person that I care the most about couldn't care less. I guess this is my punishment for lying to you. But don't you think that now your decisions are bordering on cruelty?"
"Mr. Kapoor I do love you but I can't share you!" she moves towards him but he wasn't going to have any of that�
Stepping backwards Ram states, "Mr. Kapoor�That just shows you haven't really accepted me. And the kiss, you were just teasing me weren't you? But like I said, you're so good at it that it had me fooled. Go Priya, go wherever you're happiest." Ram's stomach knotted, twisting with the feeling of rejection. Priya felt tight cornered, unable to wrap her head around Ram's relationship with Babe but incapable of digesting the pain that her suspicion created for Ram. "Baldev, Priya is coming downstairs, please drop her off wherever she needs to go."
She shuddered with her eyes closed, sensing the increasing distance between them. But helplessly Priya left the room, glancing back at Ram who sat on his bed scrimmaging through his phone clearly annoyed and hurt but trying to conceal it. Turmoil reached insurmountable heights inside of her, craving the closeness, his touch and desperation but hating the reality that his love was unfocused. Paper thin, her tolerance shredded, scattering into a million uneven pieces around her. Walking past Baldev, she aimlessly wandered the street with her thoughts in suspension, dispersed untamed in her troubled mind. Facts are daggers, violently stabbing holes in our ideal reality. The fact that she loved Ram with every ounce of her existence did not blend well with the reality that he loved someone else, but the fact that was most disconcerting was the fact that despite that understanding, she still loved him.
A lost cause defined the boundaries that Ram and Priya were held captive within. You couldn't tell by the sun ripening in the clouds that today would mark the unveiling of destiny's treacherous scheme. The fear floating in the atmosphere surrounding the potential lateness in the revelation carried no taste, no warning of it's presence. And as the sun was sucked into the horizon, a golden orange wrinkle pronounced itself in the hazy blue sky distracting from the youthfulness of the impending nightfall. Uneasiness was the special ingredient in the resourceful aroma of a helpless dish. To call or not to call seemed to be the question on everyone's disturbed mind and the hysterical component of this dilemma was the fact that ego was not even a factor in this equation. The philosophy of acting naturally as yourself is an impossible task that once strived towards, highlights the unnaturalness in a person's demeanor. Therefore, Priya's little show in which she tried to play herself unaffected by the torment of being away from Ram was visible in everything that she did from the moment that she stepped foot in her parent's home. It was high time that someone intervened in her emotional suicide and who better than Sudhir, Priya's first best friend.
"Priya let's go for a walk."
"Papa it's kind of late."
"It's only 7, I think we both need some fresh air and than maybe you can tell me what's been eating at you."
"Umm Papa my head hurts, can I get a rain check on the walk?"
"Priya beta, I raised you sweety. I know when my princess has a headache and when she pretends to have a headache to avoid confrontation."
Caught off guard by his analysis she had no other option but to go for a walk with her Papa, slapping the sulkiness out of her system. Sudhir informed everyone that they would return shortly. No one questioned their outing it was a routine sight for them. Getting off the elevator they entered the lobby, Priya rubbed her upper arm feeling the chilly wind brush up against her skin. They walked to the lush green garden outside their apartment. The wind whistled past Priya as the dew on the strands of grass licked the sides of her feet, which were exposed through her sandal. Sudhir examined her, seeing right through her nonchalant pretense.
"So Priya how is Ram feeling now?" He sparked the conversation starting with the issue that she would have preferred was not on the agenda.
"He is fine, the doctor said he had seen a lot of improvement in his health." She answered him with a matter of fact tone.
"Why are you here Priya? Why aren't you with your husband?" obviously not interested in the details of Ram's recovery he cut to the chase questioning her daughter's disregard for relationships, a new unflattering trend in her devlopment.
"Papa I needed some time away to understand where we stood. Babe called and Ram�"
"Priya�I don't want to hear about Babe or what you heard Ram talk about with Babe�We all have a past� Ram's past was Babe but you are his present and my heart says you are his future as well. So if his past is interfering with your present with him than you two have to deal with it together. Just answer one question. Do you still love Ram?"
"Yes�I do�But B-Ba�"
"That's it Priya�No buts, ifs or ands just yes� In the past three months Ram remained consistent in his attempts to have you back in his life. And like you, I questioned his intent at first. But now I can say confidently that Ram loves you� He wants to make this marriage work�If you love him than I would advise you to do the same. Life becomes suffocating when you live it in the shadow of what ifs� Give it your best shot Priya because I know Ram is doing the same."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Look up Priya..." She did as instructed and followed his pointing finger to see Ram standing with his hands in his pant pocket, leaning against his car, looking lovingly at her. "Ram called me�He told me everything�And after you know the reality of the situation, you will respect him as much as I do�Ram said tonight is your first marriage counseling session and so he asked if I could find an excuse to bring you down. Go Priya�Don't blow something so beautiful because of what you heard. Try to understand him�An ideal man is not one who is perfect but one who makes mistakes and has the courage to endure the punishment� Give him a chance. What are you waiting for, go to him�"
"Thanks Papa�" She stated through her sobs and hugged him before she ran across the field to Ram stopping abruptly in front of him�She startled him upright with her jerky uncoordinated movements�
"Shut up!" Priya eyeballed Ram, shocked at his bold interruption. "Sorry. Please shut up�" He rectified his earlier statement; if there was such as a thing as a polite insult, he nailed it. The truth that she was head over heels for this man made his attempt even more commendable. He was with her tonight and not with Babe. Priya's heart fluttered doing a victory dance, feeling quite similar to sitting on top of the world, his world, their world� together...
"Don't say a word more Priya. You always talk and never listen. It's quite selfish and I thought I was the bossy one. Look I don't know what you feel for me, whether it's love or sympathy I really don't care. All I am concerned with is the fact that I have your attention, that I have the opportunity to prove myself. This of course requires me to recite my past to you so that all your questions are properly answered and so we can move forward in our lives together, if you still want to. It's quite a painful path to tread, the one that leads back to my past. But I am willing to walk down this bitter memory lane so long as you hold my hand and reassure me that at the end of this path lies a beautiful sight, our life together. Priya please come to marriage counseling with me not because of any condition but for the sake of those feelings that you once had for me."
"can I speak now?" She pouted.
"Haan you can but only in yes or no. Will you come to this session with me tonight?"
"Yes." Priya exclaimed staring in his glistening eyes setting off a whirlpool of excitement that was observable in his childish smile and uncontainable rapid body movements. In a flash he pulled the latch of the door offering her a seat before she changed her mind. Snapping the car door shut he took manageable strides to the other side of the vehicle getting into the backseat next to her so that his right arm nested against her freely in case she needed comforting.
Small talks were on the menu of discussion.
"Ram why didn't you tell me earlier. I am so underdressed and..."
"You look perfect..." he glanced at her outfit, the same one she had on in the morning. It actually made him feel good that she didn't find time to change, it meant she was also lofting the whole day baking in memories of each other much like himself.
"That's easy for you too say, all decked up in your suit."
"I tried to send you a message, I even called you on your cell but the usual, no answer."
"You never called me!" She looked through her cellphone, he watched along. "Not even a missed call or a message. I would know because I was sitting around and waiti..." Realizing what she was about to say, she piped down. But she had already said too much and he heard everything, even the things left unsaid.
"Priya if you still intend on staying at your parents apartment until Ayesha's wedding than you better throw away that useless brick that you call a cellphone. It can seriously hamper our long distance relationship." Flashing his trademark smile Ram held Priya's hand taking in the moment and praying that she wouldn't pull back. She fastened her fingers in between his and they rode silently to their destination. The backseat felt like a sauna, steaming up the tinted windows due to hot, heavy breathing triggered by a desire for intimacy dwelling in Ram and Priyas heart.
Sitting on a three seated sofa in a small and simple hotel room Ram and Priya waited for the marriage counselor whose chair remained empty in front of them. Priya glanced at her surroundings unworried, Ram had her hand clutched so securely in his and she knew he wouldn't leave her. The crashing waves of a nearby beach was audible through the cracked open sliding glass door to the side of the room where they sat. This hotel by no means matched the blueprint of a high end hotel and it goes without saying that there was a shortage of elegance. But strangely the simplicity of its nature amplified the beauty of this hotel giving it a new form of elegance, beyond comparison.
"Simple with a side of elegance, that's my style." A coarsed yet tender voice vibratend off the walls of the tiny room. Priya looked at the middle aged lady and than back at Ram who gave her a slight nod of reassurance confirming the identity of this intruder. Ram stood up almost breaking the seal of their hands. Striving to keep their hands fused together Priya also stood up. Ram smiled at Priya sensing her discomfort and as a protective measure he tightened his grip.
"This is my wife Priya." he informed the lady, they smiled at each other briefly before she lent her arm forward to engage Priya in a formal handshake. Letting go of Ram's hand Priya shook the hand of this lady who judging by her attitude seemed way too familiar with her husband.
"Nice to finally meet you Priya. I have heard a lot of great things about you." She stated, shaking Priyas hand firmly like a true professional but Priya couldn't get over the fact that she was continually smiling at Ram.
"I am sorry... who are you..." Priya reeled the lady's attention back towards herself breaking the quite disgusting staring contest that she was having with her husband.
"ohh dear how foolish of me..." she released her hand from Priyas and stated, reveling her age further with her choice of words. "I am Neena Chopra but you can call me Babe."
"What kind of sick twisted game is this?" Priya thought glaring deathly at Ram. "I have to compete with her?" She stared wonderiously at Babe who appeared rather free spirited donning a tropical printed long dress, a red cardigan and flip flops. Simple yet elegant...