She felt his lashes tickle her neck as he slowly opened his eyes and murmured, "Priya..." She whispered a soft yes against his forehead.
"Don't touch me." Ram completed his sentence with a firm and wounded tone.
Peeling her lips of his forehead she stared hurtfully in to his enraged eyes. Pushing the boundaries she leaned close to his lips to kiss it, her first step to redemption but he turned his face to the side.
A jaw dropping reaction cradled Priya's pale, fear-stricken face, this was the first time that Ram had ever rejected her and the pain was unpleasantly overwhelming.
"I am sorry Ram" Tears stung the corners of her eyes like an enthusiastic child begging for attention and conforming to the role of a good parent she indulged its presence.
"Why are you crying? Isn't this what you wanted? To be away from me?" Ram asked, looking at Priya before he flung the duvet off of his stretched out body. Hanging his veteran legs over the side of the bed he gripped the layers of sheets to the side of him, venting his pent up frustration on them. The vastly plummeting temperature in the room sent a shiver down the shaft of her bones. She jumped off the bed and ran around it to where he sat, getting close to the most natural and comfortable source of warmth that her body needed badly. Ram refused to make eye contact, his head hung low in attempts to hide the red backdrop of anger glistening in the moistened spheres that lay blanketed behind his eyelids.
"Ram I only want you and I can't live without you." She dropped down to her knees in one lethargic motion, resting the side of her face on his thighs. "Please forgive me...All of this was a huge misunderstanding. And I accept that I have hurt you so much and I am ready for any punishment that you see fit but please don't push me away from yourself. Tell me that I still have that special place in your heart!" Priya raised her head off of his thighs looking up at him for his words of confirmation that would jolt some sense of normalcy in the rhythm of her fibrilating heart. But instead Ram jumped at the opportunity to escape her interrogation, standing up the moment her head was off of him and walking to the other side of the room near the window. Rejection took the shape of tears gliding easily down Priya's already moistened cheeks. Holding the edge of the bed she stood up and watched Ram standing by the window with his back turned to her.
"You know what bugs me the most Priya? When I made a mistake, a BIG mistake, it took me what felt like an eternity to convince you that I was sorry. But this morning when you said you were sorry I believed you in a heart beat and than you left me right after. I hate that I am so weak when it comes to you but I don't ever regret falling in love with you. No matter what you said to me, it never hurt as much it did tonight when you refused to give me a chance to explain myself. I felt that you owed me that much. You know what I have realized after all this?" Ram turned around to face her from a distance, staring boldly into her eyes. "When you said you loved me..." His courage diminished, he shut his eyes. With his voice losing its composure he quickly stated in a raspy whisper. "You never actually loved me..."
"No Ram I do!!"
"Just stop your nonsense. You are quick to remind me that I am the ram kapoor but unlike what you might assume I have feelings that you have strangled with your bare hands. Before you came into my life nothing fazed me! I was like a rock even if I was bothered I wasn't bothered. But you have stripped me of every brick that framed my heart and than attacked me when I was vulnerable. And now when you're not with me my lifeless body treads a colorless world...I hate this feeling!" Ram clutches his head.
"Ram..." Priya rushes to his side...
"Don't touch me...Let's end this sympathy trip Priya...If you touch me I will become weak and I won't let you go."
"I don't want to leave...I want to hug you, kiss you and be with you... forever...I want to take away all your pain..." She gets closer to him..."For all the pain I caused I want to make you happy."
"Don't" Ram puts up his hand, his palm rudely facing her. "Just leave, I need some time away from you..."
"Ram what are you saying?" Babe stampedes into the room and wraps her arm around Priya's shoulder."Do you have any idea what you are saying? Priya don't be bothered by Ram, he is just speaking through his anger. You go and order some food and in the meantime I will calm Ram down."
"Don't bother Priya... And don't worry I won't sit around hungry thinking about you, its not worth it. Just leave...I don't want to see you right now." Ram stormed past Priya and Babe, slamming the door of the bathroom as he entered.
"Priya...Please relax. My baby is short tempered but he doesn't mean anything he said. Watch when he comes out of the bathroom he will be calm and thinking clearly. You know how much he cares for you. I have seen it in the way that he looks at you, when he holds your hand and even right now he has tears in his eyes talking in this manner to you. Don't worry...Please stop crying." Priya continued sobbing, how she wished that Babe's soothing words were the current reality but after hearing Ram's stinging phrases it would not be farfetched to assume that he actually didn't love her. The depth in the pain that she gave him was witness to the change in feelings. She had screwed up by discarding her precious gem, accidentally running it down the drain and killing all possibility of ever finding it again.
"No Babe! Ram is right. I told you, I don't deserve him so it's better if I leave just as he wants. I am sorry I hurt you and more sorry that I harmed your baby..."
"Priya this is ridiculous problems aren't solved by walking away from it..." It was too late, Ram had spoken and Priya decided to leave, glancing once at the closed bathroom door through tears that blurred her vision.
Splashing water over his face Ram stared blankly at himself in the fogged mirrors. In the past 15 minutes that he was in the bathroom Ram had brushed aside a thought, which was now punching his mind, throwing a tantrum. "What have I done?" Pulling a towel off the rack next to the door he roughly patted dry his face and whipped the damp towel on the cream ivory sink bowl.
Ram opened the door to the empty room searching every corner in hopes of encasing her image in his eyes, "Priya?"
"She's gone..." Babe walked into the room carrying a silver tray with some food. "Here have your food! Priya made me promise that I watch you finish everything on your plate."
"What's the point? She couldn't do that herself?"
"Ram don't you think that you are being unreasonable? First you tell her to leave and than you wonder why she didn't bring you food?"
"She left?" He paused with a look of sadness that was splattered on his face and quickly replaced by his rage. "I knew it! I knew she was just waiting for a chance to leave...Babe you don't know her so please stop siding with her."
"I don't know her? Ram perhaps you're forgetting that like her, a man like you had hurt me too. The only difference is that he didn't want to deal with my pregancy and you took advantage of her pregnancy. We look at the way she acted now and think that she overreacted. But is it fair to set a standard on how we deal with pain? I can say for sure that Priya loves you, if she didn't than what you did to her wouldn't have hurt her as much as it did... Anyways why do I bother, my baby is to grown up to listen. Eat up! I have to go to sleep soon because early tomorrow morning I am going to go to court to pull back the marriage counseling appeal that I put forth for you and Priya. There's no point in wasting anyone's time." Babe taunted Ram, placing the tray of food on the bedside table. Ram listened intently to her words of wisdom trying hard to act as if he wasnt bothered but quickly demonstrating his inability to conform to her point of view.
"Babe what are you talking about? I want... No' I need Priya! All I wanted was some time away..."
"There is no such thing as 'some time'. This thing that you are calling 'some time' will turn into a lifetime before you know it." She chuckled nervously before she stated, "Anytime Krishna Di would force me to get married I would tell her that I needed 'some time'. Look at me Ram! Look at how my 'some time' turned out."
Ram rushed up in front of babe standing slightly adjacent to the jury pleading his side of the case. "Babe, you are right. But I just don't know whether she loves me or not. She is always ready to leave, she doesn't trust me, and she wasn't even ready to listen' Is that fair?"
"Baby..."She pulled his cheeks in between her index finger and thumb tugging it with a motherly affection. "All's fair in love and war. So dont even get into the equation of fairness, it'll drive you crazy trying to even the scores. And as for trust it shatters easily but takes forever to reestablish. You know this Baby...So why is it different in Priya's case?" Babe places her palm on his head and advises. "Spend time with Priya...You will know whether she loves you or not! My heart and my experience says that she does...It's just hard for her to show it because once someone gets hurt it's difficult for them to put themselves out there. Remember you were like that also but Priya showed you how to love. When you saw your parents fighting you enclosed your heart and refused entry. I watched a happy, bubbly baby boy grow up to be so bitter and it wasn't your fault. I told Priya everything that you wanted her to know. And I saw an immense love for you in her eyes but with that I saw hesitation in her expression. She feels as if she doesn't deserve you or your love. Priya needs that help and only you can provide it for her. Show Priya how to love, teach her like she taught you. Poor soul is lost within herself and you are the only one who has the potential to guide her back to a familiar state of mind. If you don't want to, it's okay. Priya is a beautiful woman eventually someone will care about her enough to pick up the pieces of the puzzle to her heart. If you can't do it or don't want to than maybe you weren't meant to after all. And in that case set her free so you both can forget this phase of your life like a bad dream and move on in your lives with someone else. "
"No!" The pads of Ram's finger rested aggressively on the base of his palm as he formed a fist. Automatically assuming a childish avatar Ram threw a hissy fit as if something he adored was literally being snatched away from him. "No one can have Priya. And no one can take Priya's place in my life. Babe why are you talking like this? Like she is going to leave me, like we will never meet again. Just the thought alone scares me...And you're going on about it? All I wanted was some time... But Screw it!!! If some time means forever than I am going to fix this right now."
"But Ram..." He turned sharply on his heels and ran out of the room, ignoring Babe calling out to him. "Kamal hain! Nobody even listens to me anymore. First Priya ignored me and left and now Ram too!!" Babe sighed and than continued speaking loudly to herself while reaching into her pocket for her phone. "What can I do? Gotta take one for the team. Let me text Priya and tell her that Ram is on his way."
Ram tapped the red-lit arrow mounted in between the two steel encased elevators, none of which responded fast enough to please him. Staring periodically at his Cartier and than at the door that lead to the stairs, he finally mustered up the courage to take on his arch nemesis. With one determined step forward to start the ripple of a miracle his graceful attempt was aborted immediately following conception. The sound of his phone screamed in his ears and vibrated in his jacket pocket. Forced by habit he glanced at the unknown number flashing confidently in front of his eyes. On a normal day Ram refused to acknowledge calls unless he was certain of who was on the other end of the line. But breaking tradition was on the cards for tonight and the fact that Priya was out of his sight made this call all the more tempting.
"Hello?" Ram spoke, intonating the second syllable of the small yet potent conversation sparker. After a brief audible phase of awkward respiration Ram restated in a similar tone but with louder acoustics. "Hello? Who the hell is this and why aren't you saying anything? Priya is that you? Are you okay? Where are you? I am coming to get you."
"She's okay for now...But she won't be okay for long..." A man finally responded in a tone so sinisterly palpable that a shivering sensation instantly hurled turbently down the length of Ram's spine.
Guided by instincts he analyzed his surroundings hoping to find a lead to this guy. "You're a coward! Why don't you show yourself?" Ram provoked within safe parameters.
"I didn't think I would need an introduction. Don't you recognize my voice? Remember that night when I put a hole through your chest, the after effects of that shot must have boggled your mind."
"Ashwin!! Your imbecility is hysterical. So you were aiming for my chest? That's the largest portion of my upper body and you still missed it? Empty threats that's all you have left now... In a matter of a few hours you'll be in jail, end of story. And than you can continue dreaming about hurting me or my loved ones."
Ashwin quite calmly responded, "Ram Kapoor I wasn't aiming for your chest, I was aiming for your heart but since she wasn't there that night, there was no way I could've shot her. It gives me great pleasure to see you alive because I'd much rather see you die a thousand times watching your heart being ripped out of your perfect life. Priya...She is your heart right? Where is she tonight? If I am not mistaken she left Hotel Emeralds about 15-20 minutes ago. Refusing to take your driver equipped car she walked home because for a middle class woman she has the ego that surpasses upper class elites. And you would know that since that same ego chewed you up and spat you out; in its eyes you are nothing but discarded bones."
"Listen you ass, you better leave her alone. If anything happens to her I will strangle you with my bare hands."
"Woah relax dude!!! I am not going to do anything to her. The problem with love is that one of its nastiest side effects is sacrifice. When Priya finds out that I shot you and that I am coming back to finish what I started she will find me herself. I will just sit back and wait it's that simple. Here's how the rest of the night will go. After talking to me you will call the commissioner to snitch. They will try to track the location where my call was made and they will expend all their resources to come to this location only to find the cellphone I used to harass you. When they go through the phone they would see that I called Priya. And you already know what I will tell Priya when I call her. So now... Let's see...Will you be able to reach Priya before she reaches me?"
"Ashwin I will..." Ram stopped hearing the disconnected beeping through the earpiece of his phone. The elevator doors slid open and Ram took one huge step inside tapping G for the ground floor and praying as he descended smoothly. Ram had a few names that he had sketched in his mind on a self made who-to-sue list if a single scratch dared to etch itself on Priya's flawless body. "This elevator is so frikken slow. I should have taken the damn stairs and as usual Priya is not answering her phone. What the hell am I going to do? If anything happens to Priya I will kill Ashwin. But before that, I will sue the person who designed this slow ass elevator and than I will sue this hotel for endorsing it. And than I will sue the entire police force for not arresting Ashwin." Fearing the threat to their exitense the elevator doors quivered open and Ram stormed out through the wide gap with his head down dialing Priya's number again. Two giant steps out he met resistance in his path and looked up to analyze the obstacle so he could find the appropriate words to lash out on the object or person that dared to stand in his way. "Are you high? Do you have any idea who I..." The rest of his sentence stalled, as his eyes became the most welcome messenger and the ignitor fluid to his heave of relief. "Priya...Tum?" She maintained a sloppy stance her feet spread apart like open scissors with her fingers extended and palms flat as if it were resting on thin air on either side of her. Messing with her highly focused equilibrium he consumed Priya in his warmest and most anticipated embrace. Kissing the tip of her right ear Ram's left hand moved up until he reached a spot in between her shoulder blades using the same momentum he thrust her closer against his chest. Priya's hands roamed hungrily on his back. Ram's kisses along the length of her sensitively sheathed ear and his constant I-love-you whispers made her heart beat with an enthusiastic vigor. She couldn't help but tease the skin on his neck, nipping its softness once with her lips and than breathing warmly over it. The feeling was like none other, an eruption in serenity. Finding his lost sense of being Ram unleashed her from his embrace gliding his palms down the length of her arms until he reached her hands and held it tightly.
"Priya are you okay?"
"Aside from the fact that you nearly ran me over...Yeah, I am fine!"
"Sorry...about'that'But what are you still doing here?"
"I know you asked me to leave. Don't worry! I'll go..." She tried to pull back her hand but he held on even tighter, taking mini steps forward as he spoke, "Priya'I didn't mean it like that! What I was trying to say is that you left 15 minutes ago so where were you all this time?"
"Ram let go of my hands, everyone is watching. Please let's not make a scene here. I will explain everything but first you need to follow me. This is very important please'" Ram glanced around discreetly and realized that indeed more than a dozen eyes were piercing and preying on their personal matter. He released her hands and she began walking towards the elevator with a worried expression accentuating her face. Tailgating Priya he stepped into the elevator and watched as she tapped the highest number in the grid aligned options provided for the floors. The silence created a calamity in his mind pushing aside the false sense of solitude that her presence provided a while ago. As they travelled up the many floors, the distance to their destination decreased but her worrisome attitude sustained and he began thinking the worst. "Does Priya know about Ashwin? Did she meet him already? No Ram that's not possible'If she did than she wouldn't be here right now. But than why is she so silent it's so unlike her? What is so urgent and confidential that she could not tell me downstairs."
"18th floor! Going down'" An automated female voice announced as the doors to the elevator slid open once more. Ram looked to Priya waiting for directions and as soon as she made a move he began following her. They went down a small corridor passing every room on their way to the end. She climbed up a flight of stairs with Ram right behind her. Struggling in her jeans pocket, she shimmied unnaturally digging into it for something that refused to form any shape, avoiding giving off even the slightest hint. Finally she pulled out her hand with a card key pinched in between her index and thumb finger. She pushed it into the thin rectangular cut out in the metal door until it clicked and than she shoved it open.
"What is all this?" Ram asked angrily as the door shut with a thud behind him.
"I know it's not much but in 15 minutes it's the best I could do." Priya answered humorously, all the tension evaporating off her face.
Ram's mind was so out of sorts with cohesion that he could not see the effort that Priya had put into organizing a romantic dinner out on the terrace of an 18-floor hotel. Under a blanket of dazzling stars she had laid out a blueprint to the perfect night for two lovers. There were no gimmicks just heart felt emotions that are at its best in the company of the one you admire. A table sat in the spotlight of the moon dressed with ivory linen on top of which laid sparkling cutlery and fine porcelain plates.
"Do you like my surprise?" The direction from which her voice sounded alerted him that she was standing beside him.
"Surprise?" He pivoted on his left foot turning to face her. "Do you have any idea how worried I was? I thought you were hurt! I felt guilty because I was the one who asked you to leave and than someone hurt you!"
"Ram what is your problem? I wanted to surprise you' And who would possibly hurt me? You're acting like somebody has put out a hit on me'"
"Priya you have no damn idea!" He left it at that, nearly spilling the beans' Ram did not want Priya to know about Ashwin's involvement. As twisted as Ashwin was he was right about one thing, Priya would put her life on the line for Ram.
"No I don't Ram'Please enlighten me'I don't know what you heard or what you know and why you are acting like this'All I know is that I love you and I can't live without you even if you want me to." Tears resented taking another routine trip down her cheeks so late at night but duty called and the ducts in her eyes delivered. "Do you really want me to leave? Are you fed up with me? I know'I know I don't deserve you but'"
Ram interrupted, "No Priya'" She continued her old habit, refusing to listen. "I don't deserve you'It's better if I just leave'Sorry Ram' I am sorry that I added my name to the list of people who have hurt you in your life' I only request that you take care of yourself' The slightest scratch on your body is like a death sentence to me'You deserve all the world's happiness and I feel so bad that I am not the one who could provide it for you. Even our child, I couldn't make you a da'" Ram had heard enough. He tried to speak up but it was impossible to veer her off her relentless self-battering track. So Ram employed a new method hoping that it would literally leave her speechless.
With his finger spanning the entire surface of her moist cheeks he tugged her face lightly towards himself as he moved closer and fused his lips to hers. Lost in her lips Ram forgot the purpose of his kiss devouring it from every angle tilting Priya's head for his satisfaction. A soft, shallow moan ran wildly up Priya's throat giving Ram an indication of her inability to contain the surge of pleasure cycling through her. She fisted his shirt at the sides above his waist and inside his black suit jacket squirming as he continued his sensuous torture. "Stay still." Ram whispered an unrealistic command against her heated lips. She focused hard on his actions trying to develop a tolerance to his pattern of pecking, shifting and sucking. But the moment a predictable expectation started to fix in her mind Ram would create a whole new algorithm and once more she would grind to his sexy tune. "Stay still or I will stop." Ram froze inches away from her throbbing flesh letting her know that his words weren't simply an empty threat.
"I can't!" She whimpered and moved in to kiss him but he lifted his chin up making his lips unavailable to her desires. Ram's hands glided down her needy body until he reached her hips and wrapped his arms around it. Pulling her into him by her waist, he lingered over the longing flesh at the crook of her neck. "You feel it Priya? The desire and longing...The helpless attempts to fulfil my request." He grazed his lips on her neck for a split second almost as if he was rewarding her silence. "That's how I felt when you told me that I didn't love you and than asked me to stop when I set out to prove my love for you. It's not that I didn't want to listen. If my leaving you would make you happy than I would have tried...But when I touched you I felt how much you needed me. I felt that you loved me too so I couldn't resist but I had too and that's how you're feeling now." Ram nuzzled slowly down her neck starting from the base of her ears purposely driving her crazy before he pulled back and looked at her in her watery eyes. "I dont want you to leave me, not tonight or ever. Believe it or not, I will die without you."
"Shhh" Ram ceased her attempt to speak. He had more to say and now was her turn to listen. "It's true I will die without you! Priya when you're not with me even my favourite dishes taste bland. When you're not with me I have no motivation to do anything. This morning when you left me, it hurt me more than any wound on my body. I can live with the pain of my open wounds but I can't live without you. When I see a single tear in your eyes my mind works round the clock brainstorming ways to make you smile. So when you cry because I hurt you it kills me! I know I used you for payback but strangely I don't regret it as much aanymore. If I didn't meet you that night than I would have never met my soul mate. And my past was screwed up but I swear to god I am ready to go through it all again if I am guaranteed to spend the rest of my life with you... When I was a little kid my dad fought with my mom a lot and my biggest hesitation when it came to marriage was becoming like him. I was scared because i didn't want to hurt the one that I loved. But look at what I have done to you. Priya i don't see the love in your eyes anymore. I see fear...Fear of being hurt and I was the one who created this in you... " Ram's arm loosened around her hips, he let go of Priya and kissed his palms together. "Please Priya..." She ripped his palms apart from each other and ran into his chest. "Stop Ram... I am sorry..." Ram's hand cradled the back of her head while his right arm wrapped around her back. She sobbed hysterically refusing to let go. "I am sorry...I am sorry...Ram I am so sorry..." With sheer difficulty Ram broke Priya away from himself. Holding her by the shoulders in front of him and watching her cry weakly with her head hung low. Quickly wiping away his tears, he hooked Priya's chin with his index finger and dried her face with his palms.
"Priya are we even supposed to be up here. I mean... I know you had the keys but how?" Ram stated with a cheeky grin trying to lighten the situation.
"I stole it" She smirked back at him with a slight smile, playing along for his pleasure.
"Wow that's actually really hott." Ram stated with naughtiness brimming at its peak in his voice. He moved closer to Priya.
"Be careful. I might steal your heart." She warned in her defense.
"Darling it's too late for that! I'll do you one better." He moved his lips towards hers to steal a kiss but before he could, they were both interupted by a thunderous knock on the door.