Chapter 26: Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Staring down at the papers in his hands one more time, he closed the folder. Taking one final deep breath, he knocked on the door. He had been standing on the steps of Geet’s house for the past 10 minutes, gathering his courage to actually knock on that door. He knew that some of the neighbors had noticed; he had seen curious eyes peeping out at him. He freely admitted to himself that love had made him afraid. He knew that she was behind those doors, and his greatest fear was that she would turn him away. If she turned him away . . .
He shook his head in denial. Of course, she wouldn’t turn him away. Even if he had called multiple times during the past few days with no response from her. Even though she had let all his calls go to voicemail. She wouldn’t turn him away without at least talking to him.
Damned Adi had taken off for a second honeymoon the morning after the engagement party debacle. Despite knowing how important contact was, he had left behind explicit instructions that he was not to be disturbed. Maan had, of course, ignored that directive when he couldn’t reach Geet by phone, only to find out that the two had left their cellphones behind for just such an occurrence.
Stepping back, he waited for someone to respond. Looking down at the folder once more, he promised himself that he would make Geet listen. These papers were the reason he had spent the past week away from her. It had him taken him far longer than he’d hoped to get all of this together.
While his first instinct had been to go after Geet immediately, his family had stopped him. They had rightly pointed out that his words might not be enough for Geet. How could he show her what he wanted? How could he show her anything without proof to back up his claims? Clenching the folder in his hands, he prayed that this would be enough for her to realize that her past wouldn’t . . . couldn’t hurt him. It couldn’t hurt them either.
She just had to give them a chance.
The door opened, and Maan was suddenly looking into Geet’s mother’s eyes. He stepped back in surprise. He had been so focused on getting to Geet, that this little divergence seemed like such a setback. ‘You need to get out of this mindset, Maan Singh Khurana. Has the fear of losing her made you a coward?’
“Hello,” he finally said, when the silence continued beyond the bounds of politeness. It seemed that shock had robbed her of her voice.
“Hello,” she replied. “What are you doing…?” her voice trailed off, as if she was unsure of what to say.
“Who is it, Rano?” a male voice called out from within the house. A figure came down the hallway, his eyes widening in surprise when he saw the man standing in the doorway. “Come in,” Mohinder Handa said, quickly ushering Maan in before closing the door behind him.
Maan raised a brow at the speed with which Geet’s father had brought him into the home.
“We have had reporters camped out in front of our door since last week,” her father revealed heavily. “Today is maybe the second day since they decided to leave. I’m afraid that if anyone saw you out there and made a fuss, the reporters might return.”
Maan nodded in understanding and looked around the hallway. While both of Geet’s parents had come at his knock, the person he most wanted to see had not. He turned back to look at her parents in query. “Is Geet around?” he finally asked, when faced with the seemingly obstinate continued silence. They had to know why he was here.
“Maan Beta . . .,” her father began, “May I call you beta?”
“Of course,” Maan said.
“Come in to the living room,” Rano interrupted, urging their guest into the bigger room. “Please take a seat. Would you like something to drink?”
Maan walked into the living room, and immediately moved to stand in front of the window where the two had stood so long ago when he’d apologized for his actions. It was different. It was morning instead of night, the sun shining through the gauzy curtains to light up the entire room, but it was enough to calm him for a brief moment. He turned and stared back into the room, his eyes landing on a photo of an unsmiling Geet on the fireplace mantle. Clenching his hands into fists, he tried to control the surge of emotions inside of him. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to speak politely. He knew that these people were not at fault for the ache inside of his heart.
“I would like to know if I can speak with Geet. Would you please call her?” Maan asked. While he hated to be so abrupt, the more time it took for him to see Geet, the more worried he grew. He knew that the knot inside of him would only unravel upon seeing her.
Her parents exchanged a worried glance.
“Look, I’m sure that you saw the newspapers,” Maan began. “You must know why the reporters were here.”
“We have and we do,” Mohinder said abruptly. “My daughter is the center of all of this attention and every detail about her past is coming out because she was in relationship with you?” His tone was extremely unhappy as he stated these facts. “We had left our past behind, and then this . . . with you. These vultures only care about her because of her connection to you. Did she think about that before starting this relationship? Why did she hide you from us?”
Maan opened his mouth, but nothing came out. What could he say to her parents, when they had been blindsided by all of this.
“Why would she hide something like that from us? We’re not her enemies,” Rano protested, her heart breaking at the thought that her daughter had hid so much. Tears welled up in her eyes. She knew that they had let Geet down in the past. They had been unable to protect their daughter from the abuse she had suffered at her grandfather’s and cousin’s hands. But after leaving Hoshiarpur, they had made all efforts to protect their little girl. It was only now, after seeing the breaking news stories, that they realized they may have tried too late. She had lost trust in them long ago. Rano felt her husband pat her shoulder awkwardly, and she quickly wiped those tears away. Geet hadn’t trusted them with the biggest truth of her life. She hadn’t trusted them with what her heart wanted.
“I don’t think,” Maan began uncertainly.
When they looked at him hopefully, as if expecting some answer, he cleared his throat and began again. “I don’t think it was a matter of hiding something from you. She just didn’t want to tell you anything, at least not until she had something more concrete to tell.”
“What do you mean?” her father asked.
“I asked her to marry me at my brother’s engagement party,” Maan revealed. “She wasn’t hiding that truth from you. It was only then that we really admitted our love for each other . . . to each other,” he completed helplessly. “It was only then that she might have felt she had something to tell.”
Rano blushed at the emotion she heard in Maan’s voice, and her heart warmed at the love she saw in his eyes. “You were going to marry our daughter?”
Maan shook his head in the negative.
“Then what?” she asked, confusion apparent in her voice.
“I am going to marry your daughter,” Maan asserted. “I love her with all of my heart, but I wasn’t able to protect her. A woman from my past,” Maan forced himself to reveal, “disclosed Geet’s truth to the world to punish me. Afterwards, my first thought was to go and punish that woman, rather than staying at Geet’s side. I left her alone while I tried to do damage control That wasn’t right. It gave Geet the time to leave. But even so. . . I am asking you to trust me. I am asking you to allow me a chance to convince your daughter that what we have is worth keeping. Please call her down here,” he entreated, staring at her parents.
“You still want to marry our daughter, even knowing what happened in her past? You love her that much?” Rano murmured, a hand going to her mouth.
“You’re the reason that our daughter’s past has come to light? It wasn’t just that she was unlucky enough to love you, but someone deliberately and maliciously revealed her past to the world so that they could hurt you?” Mohinder asked, anger sparking in his eyes. He glared at the man who was the cause of his daughter’s pain. While he might have stood by and watched in the past, he would stand idly by no longer. “You couldn’t protect her minutes after getting engaged to her,” he pointed out. “So, how can we entrust her to you in marriage? It was her relationship to you that brought her into the limelight. You are the reason that all of this is coming out, and you want us to let you talk to her? You want us to give you another chance to hurt her, when her mere association to you caused her such hurt? She can never be a teacher now!”
Rano’s eyes widened as her husband yelled at Maan Singh Khurana. This was the man who had always been the peacekeeper. This was the man who had always tried to appease everyone, and, in the process, had hurt his own daughter. But now, it was as if he was a lion protecting his cub. She smiled happily. She knew that her husband would fight for their daughter, but he would not be unreasonable.
Maan stared down, unable to meet the censorious gaze directed his way. While Mohinder Handa’s words were hard, he knew they came from a place of love. “When I first met your daughter, she could barely look at me,” he stated, forcing himself to gaze into her father’s eyes. “She would tremble every time I was in the vicinity. She kept herself covered, so that no one could see her scars. She was afraid of the dark.”
Geet’s parents blanched at the reminder of what their daughter had been before she started working for the Khuranas. She had simply been living life up until that point.
“It was only when we became closer, that she stopped being afraid,” Maan continued, forcing them to face that truth with him. “She sat in the dark with me for minutes without breaking down. She wore a sari that I gifted her, baring her scars for the world to see. She began to look around and become aware of the world. She became aware of me.”
Rano gasped slightly at that provocative statement.
“I like to think that she became this way because she fell in love,” Maan said, barreling on. It was embarrassing to share this with her parents, but they needed to know. They needed to realize the reality of what the two had discovered with each other. “Being with me, coming to know and love the Khurana family changed her. She was happier. She was braver. She agreed to marry me!”
“She also ran away from you,” her father pointed out acerbically.
“But you can see that she is running away,” Maan argued, raising his hand in repudiation of that statement. “She loves me. She broke off the engagement to protect me. And she has to realize,” he stopped, clenching his fingers into fists.
“Realize what, beta?” Rano asked, moving over and placing a gentle hand on one of those clenched fists.
Maan turned his head towards her, “She has to realize that I don’t need protection. It’s my turn to protect her. If she gives us a chance, we will have something beautiful. She has to realize that while she might not have the life she planned for, but she will have the life she dreamt of. While her dream career may seem out of her reach right now, I will help her to find another career she could love. I will never stand in the way of her finding her path in life. She just needs to give me . . . give us a chance.”
Rano patted his shoulder in comfort.
“Please tell me where she is,” Maan said in a driven tone. “Do this one thing for your daughter. I promise you, she does love me.”
The couple exchanged glances, reaching a silent agreement. “She’s in Hoshiarpur,” Mohinder murmured. “Bring our daughter back, Maan. Bring her back so that we can then send her from this home to yours.”
“I don’t know if I can get her to talk to me, but I’ll stay here until I’ve convinced her,” Maan said into the phone. “I told you, Vicky, I’m not going to let her go. She has to know that, too. Yeah, sure.” He listened for a moment. “Do whatever you want. Pari will take care of the business until you get caught up with everything. And the two of you, along with Dev, can take care of anything else that crops up. I’m staying here until I can bring her back with me.”
Stopping his car in front of the Handa haveli, his eyes moved over the old building. The windows were shuttered, and cobwebs were hanging from the eaves. The paint was peeling on the façade of the house. This was where his Geet had grown up . . . this was the place that had broken her. Even so, she had voluntarily come back here after her experience out in the world. His hands tightened around the steering wheel. He would not let her hide anymore. Her place was next to him, and not in this old haveli. Grabbing the folder, he got out of the car and strode up the stairs. Before he could knock on the door, he heard the sounds of an argument from inside.
“I don’t want to go back with you,” a woman’s voice said pleadingly. “If you think about it . . . you don’t want me back there, either. Why would you want me? When have I ever pleased you?”
“You’re pregnant with my child,” a male voice stated assertively, the voice surprisingly calm for what he had had just been told.
Maan braced a hand against the closed door. If Geet had told him that she wanted to leave him, especially after revealing that she was pregnant with their baby, he would have been a broken man.
“It’s a girl,” the woman replied. There was an expectant pause, but nothing further was said. She sighed. “I know you don’t want a girl. I can see it from the look on your face.”
“But . . . ” the male voice began in half-hearted protest.
“You’re probably thinking that after more than a decade of being married to me, I get pregnant and I can’t even get that right. Instead of giving you a boy, I’m pregnant with a girl. I think it’s time for you to divorce me. We need to be able to move on without each other.”
Maan finally thought to check the door, and, finding it unlocked, he pushed it open and walked inside. While he did not want to interfere in whatever family drama was going on here, he needed to speak with Geet, and he couldn’t wait any longer for all of this to play out.
“Pammi bhabi!” another male voice protested.
“You’re my wife, Pammi!” the man said harshly. “And I’m not going to let you go just like that. There is no such thing as divorce in this family. You know that.” Pammi backed away, when her husband moved towards her. The taller man towered over the petite woman, and he was using his size to great advantage. He leaned over the woman almost menacingly, and the woman seemed to shrink in on herself.
“I don’t want to go back to that house,” she said, trembling in front of her husband. She was clearly afraid, but she was adamant that she would tell him what she needed. “I don’t want to go back to a place where my husband and my mother-in-law constantly belittle me and make me feel that all I do is make mistakes. And, added to that, with your aunt and uncle coming to live there . . . with their bitter unhappiness, it is a horrible place.” She placed a hand over her womb. “I need to protect my child. Especially this child. If I go back with you, she will grow up in an environment where she will see her mother being shamed on a daily basis. I can’t do that to her. I need to show her that the world will value her, because she is who she is . . . not devalue her for being a woman.”
“You’re coming home with me,” Tejinder said, grimly. “You’re my wife. That is my child.” He took another step towards Pammi, reaching out to grab at her arm.
She backed away, crying out when she stumbled over something and began to fall. Maan moved forward and caught her by the arms, steadying her.
“If a woman is afraid of you,” he said, glaring at the man standing mere feet away from the two of them, “Then clearly you aren’t doing something right. If she runs away from you, stop and rethink your strategy. If you want her to come back with you, show her that you value her.”
“Oy, don’t interfere in our family business!” Tejinder shouted at him, his eyes focusing on Maan’s hand on his wife’s arm. “Take your hand off of my woman.”
“You know,” Maan said calmly, as Pammi quickly stepped away from him, “Your cousin, Brij, had similar ideas to you.”
Tejinder’s eyes widened at that comparison, a muscle twitching in his jaw.
“He also thought that he had a right to tell women what to do. He thought that it was okay to kill a woman, if she didn’t follow what he thought was right, didn’t he?”
“Don’t compare me to a murderer. I’m not like that,” Tejinder protested. “Tell him,” he ordered Pammi and Lucky to defend him. The two only stared at him silently.
“I am not going back to your home,” Pammi repeated. “You have to leave now.”
Tejinder stepped back in shock, and it was easy enough for Lucky to usher his unresisting form out the door. Closing the door behind the man and locking it, the two turned to gaze at Maan questioningly.
“Where’s Geet?” Maan asked, his eyes looking around for her. Hearing a small noise, he looked up and saw Geet standing at the top of the stairs. His heart stopped at his first glance of her. It had been so long since he had last seen her, and he had missed her so much. She had lost weight. She seemed more fragile . . . the shadows under her eyes more prominent than before.
His lips firmed in determination. He was here now. He would take care of her.
She backed away, shock replacing the curiosity that had brought her out of her room. She turned and fled down the hallway, her only aim to escape once more.
“Geet!” he shouted, running up those steps. “Geet, listen to me!” he entreated, following her down the hallway. He reached her room just in time to see her shut the door between them. As his hand went towards the knob, she locked the door from the other side. He pounded on the door in frustration.
“You need to leave, Maan Singh Khurana,” Geet shouted through the thick doorway. “I don’t want to see you! I can’t see you.” She began to cry, tears falling from her eyes.
“Don’t I deserve a chance to talk to you face to face?” he demanded through the door, his hand coming to up to caress the wood, his heart at peace now that his Geet was so close to him. Despite her rejection, he was where he belonged. That knot inside of him was loosening. There was only continued silence. He knocked on the door. “Please.” Seconds turned into minutes. Minutes turned into a half hour and then a full hour. “We were going to have a life together,” he said bleakly. Nothing. Just more silence.
He got up from the floor, where he had settled upon realizing that she would not open the door anytime soon. He pounded on the door in anger at her continued rejection. “By coming back here, you’re rejecting everything we could have had. Are you so much of a coward, that you won’t do it to my face?”
He wanted to incite her anger . . . he wanted her courage to awaken. “Geet, open the door! This isn’t some Hindi movie, where I can just break down the door to get in. If you want me to leave, then open this damn door and talk to me. Say that you’re rejecting me to my face!” At the continued silence from behind the door, his shoulders slumped in defeat.
A soft noise pulled him out of his despair. There was the sound of a lock turning. The door opened, the hinges creaking loudly in the silence between the two of them. He stepped into the room, unable to see her in the darkness. He looked around more carefully, when his first attempt failed. Moving more deeply into the room, he found her in the shadows . . . she was standing in the corner of the room. There was only the expanse of the room between the two of them, but it felt like he had miles to tread before he could reach his love.
Maan moved towards her, intent on forcing her to talk. He saw her flinch and move back, almost embracing the darkness. He froze at that betraying motion. How could she be afraid of him? “How can you fear me?” he asked hoarsely.
“Why are you here?” Geet asked softly, staring at him.
“How can you ask me that?” he asked, moving forward once more. He would not stay away. He would not let her make this decision to hurt them. Reaching her corner, he put up his hand and cradled her cheek and encountered tears. “Why are you crying?”
“How can you ask me that?” she asked brokenly.
“Shouldn’t you be happy now that you’ve left me behind?” Maan asked softly, wiping those tears away with his thumb. “Shouldn’t you be happy that you no longer have to deal with the limelight? After all, it was my past that caused you hurt. It was my fault that you lost your chance to be a teacher.”
“It was not your fault!” Geet cried out, wondering how he could have thought that. Reaching up, she grasped his wrist, her fingers curling around it eagerly.
“But isn’t that why you ran away, even when I asked you to stay?” Maan asked, pulling his hand away. “Because you blame me for what happened?”
Her hand didn’t want to let go. Despite his gentle tugs, she held on tightly. “I did not run away because I blamed you for what happened! I ran away because . . .” she stopped, unsure of what to say. Did she really want to guilt him into accepting her despite her past?
“Because you thought that your past would hurt me,” he finished for her. “You wanted to protect me.”
She shook her head quickly, but he nodded silently in response.
“Your past doesn’t matter at all to me. It can’t hurt me,” he said softly. “You not being in my life would hurt me.”
Geet dropped his wrist and walked to the other side of the room. She willingly moved into the light, unflinching as it fell on her, so intent was she on her mission. She opened her cabinet and took out a stack of papers. “You’re saying my being in your life wouldn’t hurt you? Then what are these?” She threw the papers at him. “Look at what my cousins brought me. They wouldn’t hide the truth from me.”
Maan looked down as the articles fell around him.
“Geet Handa: The Murderer!”
“The Khurana Heir’s Fiancé a Murderer!”
“Handas: A Family of Killers!”
“Hoshiarpur’s Murder Mysteries!”
“The Psychology Behind a Man Loving a Killer!”
“Investors Are Pulling out of Khurana Projects!”
“Khurana Stocks Plunge!”
“Your family is hurting right now because of me. Your reputation is tainted now because of me,” Geet said. “And these are just the articles that came out on one day. I couldn’t bear to look at anymore. And it’s only going to get worse,” she pointed out bleakly. “Can’t you see that what I did was a good thing? Leaving you was a good thing.”
“Then you haven’t seen anything else?” he asked, staring down at the articles strewn at his feet.
“What more is left to see?” she asked, moving over to sit down on the unmade bed. She was so exhausted; she no longer had the energy to even stand. She sobbed once, and then controlled herself. No more tears. She had spent the hours after leaving the Khurana mansion worrying that he would come and she would weaken. She had worried that he would come to resent her for her past years later.
And then one day had gone by. Hours away from the spectacle that had taken place at the engagement party, the impact had softened. She’d weakened without any prompting, and had wondered whether they couldn’t be together. She’d begun to hope. He didn’t come.
Two days and nothing. There was only silence. Silence enough for her to stew. Silence enough for her to wonder.
Three days, and her heart broke all over again.
Four days and she was in agony. The last thread of hope that had held her together had snapped. What had she really thought. She’d run away from him! Was he supposed to follow her?
Five days and she began to get angry. Had it been so easy for him to just move on? He couldn’t even call and check on her?
On day six she had decided to move on, believing that he hadn’t been worth her sacrifice. It would have been better if she had stayed and made his life hell. Despite those irreverent thoughts, she had still spent that day sitting in her dark corner.
Day seven . . . when she’d give up all hope . . . he was here. Maan came and sat down beside her. She turned to glance at him and then quickly looked away. He was really here.
“What’s this?” she asked, staring down at the folder he placed in her lap.
“Some more articles that I want you to see,” he replied.
“I can’t,” she protested. “How can you expect me to read this vitriol?” She picked up the folder and held it out to him. Her hands were literally shaking from the strength of her feelings.
“Trust me,” he urged, pushing the folder back toward her.
Geet’s hands continued to tremble slightly as she opened the folder. Her eyes fell on the papers inside. There were pictures of Maan. And Pari. And even Dadi Ma. And even more articles with pictures of the offices, of Dev and Meera, of Vicky and Pari. Were the newspapers going after all of them now? Her eyes widened when she saw the text in those articles.
“Savitri Devi and Her Three Treasures: Meera, Parineeta and Geet”: The Khurana matriarch, one of the most powerful women in the city, cannot stop raving about the wonderful qualities of her daughters-in-law.
“My New Best Friend, Geet”: Parineeta Singhania, one of the city’s beloved socialites and the new fiancé of the youngest Khurana son, extols the virtues of her sister-in-law to be.
“Self Defense is Not Murder!”: The Domestic Violence Center cries foul at the characterization of Geet Handa!
“Geet Handa, the Savior”: The Girls of Hoshiarpur Club defend Geet Handa’s actions, saying that some of them would not be here but for Geet Handa.
“Geet Handa, My Daughter’s Avenger”: Kuljeet Singh talks about her daughter Channi’s murder and how Geet gave Channi’s killer his just rewards.
“Dev Khurana Enters into Merger Talks with Saxena Construction!”
“Buyers Eager to Buy In”
“Maan Singh Khurana Nixes Merger Talks and Talks New Projects!”
“Khurana Constructions Signs Contract for Two New Locations!”
“Pari Singhania and Vicky Khurana Elope!”
“Khurana Stocks Soar!”
“Vicky and Pari got married!” Geet asked in a shocked tone, her eyes flying to Maan’s face. “How did that happen?”
“That’s what you get out everything that I just gave you?” he demanded in an incredulous tone. “Look at the rest of the articles!”
“I did. But . . .,” she paused and forced herself to focus. “What is all of this? Why would you all even do this?”
“Because they love you. Because I love you. Your past changes nothing.” He leaned in and gently gripped her chin, forcing her to look into his eyes. Geet turned on the bed, her eyes mesmerized by his. “As long as I am here, you will realize that no matter how close the world comes to you, it will always find me there, standing in front of you. As long as I am alive, your past will not come close to you. It will not hurt you.”
Gripping her by the shoulders, he urged her to stand up. Then grasping her hand, he pulled her to the light coming in from one of the windows. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then opened them wide, staring up into his eyes once more. “You can never leave me. Do you know why?” he asked softly.
She shook her head in the negative.
“Because my life is barren without you, Geet.” He cupped her cheek, caressing the soft skin with his thumb. She leaned into his touch, craving the contact. “You did what you had to do when you killed that monster. It hurt you, because you have a conscience, but you did what you had to do,” he repeated. “You saved yourself.”
She closed her eyes at that validation. She wanted to believe him so badly.
He rested his forehead against hers, soaking in her warmth. His other hand came up and cupped the back of her neck, holding her close. “You saved your cousin Rajji. And you saved all those other girls that Brij and his group would have killed. And if you had died, you would not have been in my life. We would never have met. We would never have loved. I would never have changed. I would be all alone. Have you ever thought about that?”
She shook her head, startled by the things he was forcing her to think about.
Moving back, he dropped his hands. She whimpered at the lost warmth. “You’re my life. Come back to me.”
He stepped away, but she did nothing. Holding out a hand, he silently entreated for her give him her trust. Seconds turned into a minute, and his hand fell away. The quiet confidence in his face disappeared.
“You’re my life,” he told her, taking another step back. Something had changed.
She noticed with a sharp pain that he was walking towards the door.
“I hope that one day you will have so much faith in me, that you will let me know all of you and let me love all of you.” He leaned against the door, staring at her across the expanse the room once more. His smile had disappeared. “I have faith in you and your courage. I know that living with me will not be easy. You got a taste of that at the engagement party. People will always be envious of us and some will be out to get us, but I hope that you will find our love worth the effort.”
Geet stood in the sunlight, gazing at him. The articles still lay on the bed. He had rallied his family to speak up for her. He had showed his might to the business world by signing even bigger contracts when the smaller companies were abandoning ship. She saw the shadows under his eyes. She saw his exhaustion. He’d turned things around for her and lost sleep over her. He hadn’t left her behind, but had come chasing after her.
Her heart wanted to trust him. She wanted to oh so much.
“I will wait for you,” he promised. He took one step back, leaving her room.
She gasped, her heart beating in panic.
Another step, and another step. “I love you.” And then he was gone.
Geet stared at the empty doorway. She bit her lip, uncertain of what to do. She’d come so far and being in love with Maan Singh Khurana had changed her. She stared around the darkened room, her eyes moving over the dust and cobwebs. His following her had made her realize one thing. She no longer belonged here. She wanted to go with him. She had a right to desire love . . . to be loved. Why should she punish herself any longer for the evil that had plagued their lives for so many years?
He had made her believe in that. Loving Maan Singh Khurana would never be easy, but it would be wonderful. It would be joyous. It would be enough. It would be worth the effort.
“Maan!” her feet moved before she’d even allowed that thought to complete. “Maan, don’t go!” She raced out the door and down the hallway. Turning the corner, she skidded to a stop. Her eyes widened at the vision before her. “Maan?”
He was on his knees before her. His shoulders were slumped. His head bowed.
Kneeling down before him, she raised her hand to touch his cheek. “Maan?”
He looked up.
She flinched at the tears in his eyes, but they were soon replaced with unadorned joy.
“I never thought that you would come so quickly,” Maan admitted hoarsely.
It was her turn to wipe his tears away. This big, strong man had shed tears for her. Her heart melted at that thought.
“I love you,” she whispered. “You’re my heart. How could I let my heart walk away from me?”
He smiled at those words, and pulled her close into his embrace. He clutched her tightly, causing her to gasp and laughingly ask him to let her go. “Never,” he replied, although he did pull back. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a ring.
Geet’s eyes fell on the ring, and she smiled. It was her ring. Putting out her hand, she eagerly waited for him to put the engagement ring back on her finger.
Maan laughed softly and placed the ring in its rightful place. “Don’t ever take it off,” he ordered. Pulling her hand up to his lips, he kissed it gently. ‘Thank you,’ he thought to the higher being that had decided to have mercy on him and give him his this incredible moment.
Geet pulled her hand away and reached for the end of her dupatta and untied the knot that had kept her taveez safe. This was the only thing that she had right now. . . the only thing that she could use to convey her emotions to Maan. He was the one she had been waiting for . . . he was the one meant for her. She would put this taveez around his neck, and it would safeguard him for the rest of his life.
“Why are you so good? I have nothing to give you, except for this . . .” Reaching up, she silently hung the taveez around his neck. “I want to tie you in a bond that you can never break.” She leaned in to place a kiss against his lips.
“This taveez ties us together, huh?” Maan asked.
She nodded. Someday, she would tell him the history behind this taveez. Someday.
“And from now on, it will tie us together for the rest of our lives,” he promised. “Every morning will begin with you and every night will end with you.” She repeated the words back to him. Everyday would begin with him and every night would end with him.
He pulled her close for another hug. Nothing would separate them now.
Hours later, the two sat side by side on the stoop of the house, their eyes taking in the setting sun. The storm that had come into their lives so suddenly had now passed, leaving behind the beautiful colors of the sunset. They had weathered this storm, an indication of how they would meet and handle all such obstacles in their lives.
Maan gazed down at Geet with a smile, his love shining through at that moment. Nothing would keep them apart now.
Geet sighed in contentment and laid her head on his shoulder, her arm coming out to curl itself around his. She held him close, snuggling into his warmth. Her heart was at peace, and she was just so happy that the smile wouldn’t disappear from her lips.
Maan turned his head and gazed down the street. His gaze sharpened, as he focused more closely on the buildings surrounding them. “You know,” he said, holding Geet’s left hand close to his heart, “I think I was here . . . it was a long time ago, but it must have been here. Huh.” He shook his head.
Geet looked up at him from her position on his shoulder, her chin now resting on said shoulder as she gazed up at him in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“I came down here to buy land for one of our ventures. The deal fell through, because the land I wanted wasn’t for sale after all. It must have been this area . . . everything looks familiar. Look,” he said, pointing to a building they could barely see over the rooftops to the left. “I’m sure of it. That building, it’s a factory, right?”
Geet nodded slightly, her mouth falling open.
“It used to be blue?”
Geet’s eyes widened at that. “Yes,” she said softly. “There was a fire near there that did damage to the exterior of the building. Kareem Chacha decided to paint it red when it came time to hide the damage. It was right before we left here.” She paused, ruminating on his revelation, and then rested her head on his shoulder once more. “It’s so weird to think that you walked these streets at one point. We may have even passed by each ot. . . ” her voice trailed off, and she raised her head to smile up at him. “How could I not remember meeting you, Mr. Maan Singh Khurana? You leave quite an impression. It was a sweet thought anyways.”
He gazed down at her, and then leaned forward to place a kiss against her forehead. “You know, that day before I was to leave, I decided to camp out near the sea,” he continued. “There is some beautiful scenery around here.”
She nodded in agreement.”That’s why it was doubly horrible that such a pristine place could hide such evil.”
“One thing I’ll never forget,” he began again. “While on my way out of town, I was driving past this festival. You know, one of those small things with rides and stalls. . .”
Geet listened quietly.
“When somebody just came out in front of my jeep,” he continued. “A figure covered from head to toe. And so tiny. I braked, but she still managed to glance off the front of my jeep. I was so afraid that I might have done some serious harm.” He exhaled deeply.
Geet froze at those words, her eyes turning to gaze up at him.
“I got out and helped her up, and I looked into her eyes,” he murmured, staring up at the night sky contemplatively. “They were filled with so much . . . pain. Her arm, in my hand, was so fragile. She was trembling while standing there, still dazed by the accident. I don’t even know if she saw me at all. Before I could even find out if she was okay, a big brute of a man came and roughly pulled her away.”
Aapka humsafar, aapki zindagi mein aaj hi aane wala hai . . .
(Your lifemate is coming into your life today.)
“I wanted to intervene, but everyone told me he was her brother. They warned me that if I pushed, I would just make it worse for her. She was already bleeding, scratches on her arms and a gash above her eye. I didn’t want to make it worse for her.” He raised a hand to touch his right eye in memory and took a deep breath. “But her eyes . . . those eyes haunted me for the longest time,” he admitted ruefully. His hand moved up absentmindedly to grab hold of the taveez.
“Yeh lo taveez. Isse usse pehna dena . . .”
(Here, take this taveez. Have him wear it.)
“I wonder if we could try to find out about her,” he said thoughtfully. “Maybe we can make sure she’s okay.” He turned his head with a lazy smile, but the smile disappeared upon seeing Geet’s face. “Geet? What’s wrong?” His hand cupped her cheek, wiping away those tears. “Why are you crying?”
“Phir dekhna. Babaji ki mehar aap dono par hamesha rahe gi.”
(Then you’ll see. God’s benevolence will always be with the both of you.)
Epilogue: Eternally Yours
The morning sun peeked through the fluttering curtains. The chirping of birds and the movement of bodies in the home could be heard in the silent bedroom. He heard the sound of a child’s laughter; it was the laughter of a young boy seemingly overjoyed with the world. Maan smiled softly at those happy sounds, and turned to put on his shirt. His moves economical, he moved on to donning the cream-colored vest lying on the bed, and then pulled a dark tie over his head. Tightening the knot, he gave one final glance in the mirror, ensuring that all was impeccable before striding towards the door.
He was already on his phone, barking orders at Adi before he stepped through the doorway. “No, Adi. I want you to schedule an appointment with the Saxenas in the afternoon, and Mr. Khanna tomorrow morning.” Entering the empty dining room, he sat down at the head of the table. Eyeing the spread laid out before him, he grabbed a piece of toast, biting it quickly, before turning back to the voice on the other end of the line. “No, not those prints. We need to work on th-”
The phone was abruptly pulled from his hand. Maan turned to glare at the person who had dared to take the cell, ready to rain thunder on the individual. His eyes widened in disbelief when he saw the woman standing in front of him.
“Maan! Not at the dining table. This is family time! Even if there isn’t much of your family around yet,” she finished ruefully, glancing up the stairs. She cupped her hands around her mouth. “Oi! Hello up there! Why aren’t you down here yet?”
“Coming!” came the reply from his missing son.
Maan stared at the fragile hand still clenched around his cell phone, jumping slightly when she shouted. “What? Geet?” Or he tried to speak, but he seemed to have lost his voice at the vision she presented before him. A sudden sense of déjà vu snaked through him. What was it about this moment that seemed to tug at him?
Geet stepped back a little bit and flashed him another happy smile. She posed for him and looked down at herself before looking at him enquiringly.
He shook his head in confusion. “What?” he finally asked, leaning back and folding his arms over his chest. “What are you talking about, Miss Handa?” he barked at her, his confusion growing by the minute. The name slipped out, even though they had been married for so many years. He had to blame that feeling of déjà vu for this slip.
“Miss Handa, huh?” she murmured, crossing her arms over her chest in teasing imitation. “Aren’t we being formal today. Well, Mr. Khurana,” she murmured, moving closer, “you know that I haven’t been Ms. Handa for a very long time.” By now she was close enough to whisper the words into his ear. “Not since you made me your Mrs.”
He flinched slightly, as her moist breath touched his ear. But his body soon relaxed into her touch, as he felt her hands moving up his arms. He felt her arms wrap around his neck gently, enclosing him in her warmth. He sighed deeply, inhaling her unique scent into his body. He couldn’t seem to move under the magic of her touch. The truth was that he didn’t want to move. Geet still had the same power over him that she had held from the first moment they met. Resting more firmly against her, feeling her softness against the strength of his back, he reveled in her touch. Her cheek, her silky skin, came to rest against his, rubbing enticingly against him.
She hummed softly in pleasure at the sensation of his sexy stubble against her cheek.
“Mrs. Khurana, there’s a phone call for you,” an embarrassed male voice intruded from the side, pulling Maan out of his haze. “It’s the other Mrs. Khurana on the line.”
“Ranjeev, I’ve told you many times to call me Geet Ma’am,” Geet cried out, moving away from Maan with one final cheek to cheek caress. “The way everyone does around here. No one calls any of us Mrs. Khurana in this household,” she admonished lightly, before taking the phone from the servant. She waved him away with one final admonishment. “That name, if ever used, is reserved for Dadi Ma.”
“Of course, Geet Ma’am,” Ranjeev murmured before hurrying out of the room.
“Hi. Oh, Pari. Yes. Really? Okay. I’ll see you when you come back,” she said before hanging up. Geet stood there for a moment, her mind pondering seemingly weighty matters. Shaking it off, she turned and gazed at her husband tenderly. “Maan! Look at me!” Geet demanded. “So?” Geet asked again, coming back to stand in front of him. She twirled around, and then reached down to grab him by the chin, pinching the flesh lightly. She forcefully turned his eyes up to meet hers. “Well?”
Maan gazed at her intently, but was only mesmerized by her radiant beauty. It was enough of a distraction that he couldn’t formulate a thought to save himself. ”I don’t see anything,” Maan finally muttered in reply. ‘Besides how beautiful you are,’ he thought to himself. “What am I supposed to be seeing?”
“Maan, you are such a man!” Geet murmured in vexation. “Look at me!”
“What should I be looking at?” he demanded irritably, crunching with quiet ferocity into his toast once more.
“At what I’m wearing,” she replied, unfazed by his temper. She adjusted the sari and posed for him.
The sari . . .
His eyes moved over her body, finally taking in for the first time that she was wearing a sari. Since starting her job at a Non-profit organization five years ago, Geet had taken to wearing business-casual attire. It had taken some getting used to, but they had all adjusted to seeing Geet in pants and shirts or business-style shalwar/kameez at the breakfast table.
The sari . . . it was a silvery-white piece of art that molded to her body lovingly, accentuating her beauty even more. Her arms and shoulders were left bare . . . flashes of her belly . . . her upper back, as she turned to throw a glance up the stairs, was also temptingly bare. He inhaled deeply, tamping down the fire that had begun to erupt inside of him. Geet was always beautiful. Her beauty was something he found hard to ignore at any given time. But now . . . she was ethereal. A goddess in human form.
But, he tilted his head to the side, paying closer attention to the actual sari. It was a sari similar to the one he had gifted her so many years ago. After dreaming of her . . . in this exact same room . . . in this exact moment. His eyes flickered around, going to the window through which the sun peeked. His head jerked to the mantle above the fireplace. In his dream . . . there had been a picture on the wall . . . the image of which had remained in his mind for years.
The picture . . .
His eyes widened. There was a picture of Geet and him on their wedding day, with Rahul held lovingly in their arms. She looked so beautiful . . . so in love with him. He knew from the look in her eyes, she thought him the center of her world, just like she knew that she was the center of his. And to the side, there was a picture of all three brothers with their life partners. Another with Dadi Ma and all of her great-grandchildren. The wall represented their family now. Their happy family. He had seen that picture . . . those other pictures in that configuration years ago.
“When did you . . . ?” he began, unable to ask the question that was circling through her mind. That picture on that wall today was the same picture he’d seen in his dreams . . . in fact, it had been the picture that made him realize it was a dream. He’d never told Geet about his dream. Had never thought to tell her. And yet . . .
“I got it done for our anniversary as a surprise for you,” Geet cried out with a huge smile. “I loved that picture the best out of all of our wedding pictures. And it seemed like it was time to rearrange the other pictures around it, anyways.”
Maan stared at the picture in silence. It was all coming together . . . the way the sunlight was slanting through the curtains in that same way, the way the children’s shrieks floated down the stairs . . . Geet’s sari . . . the picture . . . Was that why he had been feeling a sense of déjà vu?
“I love it,” he murmured. “I love you.” He glanced at her, his body tightening as he fought the surge of emotions welling up inside of him. His heart clenched at that answering love in her eyes. And he ached to hold her. This sari was a reminder of his first dream . . . his first claim on her. He still remembered the exultation he had felt when he saw her walking into the party, wearing the sari that he had gifted her. His heart beat rapidly at the memory of that hopeful dream.
“Do you remember the gift you gave me so long ago . . . when we had our first dance?” she asked softly. “You had a sari like this gifted to me, but I didn’t know it was you until Dadi Ma hinted at it. Since it is a special occasion today, I thought to have this made in that exact same style. Just another surprise. You like it?” She swallowed at his continued silence, her hand creeping up to tug at her necklace.
The necklace . . .
The jewelry around her neck caught his eye, and he was unwillingly fascinated by the intricacy of the design. It was the exact same necklace in his dream. Had that design lurked in the back of his mind until now . . . until he decided to gift it to her for their wedding anniversary? He hadn’t even realized where the idea for the design had come from when he had commissioned it.
Her hand trembled slightly before falling away. She smiled at him. “It’s beautiful,” she said softly. “Thank you for giving this to me as my gift.” She walked over to him and leaned down. Maan’s eyes wandered up her body to land on her face, which was now breathtakingly close. He felt her breath against his lips, her sweet scent wrapping around him once more. And just like that, he fell under her spell once more. She leaned in a little more and planted a soft kiss against his lips.
“Maan!” her voice called out impatiently, “You’re not listening!”
“What is it?” he asked, glancing up from his file.
“I can’t find my engagement ring!” she cried out, coming to flop down beside him on the sofa. The two were in his library, taking a breather from all of the craziness of wedding planning. Geet did want a big wedding. She wanted to be surrounded by her family members and dear friends. But facing the chaos and headaches that came with the planning made her seriously regret that decision.
“I don’t know, maybe I took it off and gave it to Pari,” Geet murmured, jumping back up to stride towards the balcony on the side of the room. She stared up at the moonlight, distracted for a moment by the beauty of the night. But soon, she was back to worrying about her ring. Staring down at her bare hand, she thought desperate thoughts about the whereabouts of that beloved ring.
Maan put the file down and got up. Walking over to her, he wrapped his arm around her waist from behind, hugging her close. Holding her in his embrace, he kissed the side of her neck, nipping gently at her ear.
She moaned softly at the exquisite pain, a flush appearing on her cheeks. They had been planning the wedding for two long months, with nary a free moment to enjoy their new found love. These emotions . . . these sensations were entirely too new.
Turning her around, he grabbed her hand and raised it to gaze at the bare ring finger. “Why would you give the ring to Pari?” he asked in a reasoning tone.
“She wanted to get my ring size for our wedding rings. They’re such a huge secret, that she won’t even let me near the jewelers. I tell you that she is taking this too seriously!” Geet complained. “Why does she care so much?”
“Well, Vicky and Pari did elope so they could provide some fodder for the news media,” Maan pointed out. “How did Pari put it when we were discussing their elopement? They ‘sacrificed’ themselves for us, Geet. Think about it. If we didn’t have the reporters and paparazzi chasing the two of them on their super secret quickie honeymoon, Dev and I wouldn’t have pulled off those new contracts in secret two months ago.”
Geet snorted. “Pari confessed how happy she was not to have to plan all of this for herself! Especially, since she’s pregnant and didn’t want to be showing her pregnant belly by the time they got to the wedding date.” She smiled up at him, wrapping her free arm around his waist. “But she also said she found the experience fun when it wasn’t about her own wedding . . . notice how I did not hire her, she just forced herself on me,” Geet said on a side note. “She is having way too much fun with it! More than I am!” Her tone was completely disgruntled now.
Maan chuckled softly at her tone. “You know you’re happy to let her take over,” he pointed out.
“Fine,” Geet muttered. “But my engagement ring is the most important piece of jewelry I will ever own, Maan. It is the only ring I will wear till the day I die!” she cried out, entirely way too dramatically.
Maan paused for a moment. “Let’s calm down,” he murmured, kissing her on the forehead. He pulled something from his pocket.
“There it is!” she cried out, laughing up at him. “You had it all along. Why do you have it?”
“You left it in the kitchen,” Maan murmured, kissing her cheek. “Nakul brought it to me when he couldn’t find you, insisting that you would freak out if you thought you’d lost it. Have you figured out the date?” he asked, holding up the ring.
Geet smiled softly, having calmed when she saw the ring was where it belonged. “It’s the date your heart felt something for me . . . maybe even love,” Geet stated. She smiled again when he put the ring on her finger.
“The day my heart awakened again,” Maan confirmed, placing a kiss on the back of her hand. She shivered at the touch of his lips on her bare skin. He continued, placing a kiss on the inside of her wrist. Her inner elbow. Her collar bone.
“The day you first met me,” she moaned softly, pulling his head up to meet his lips with hers, so that she could show him the love in her heart.
There were silent moments of loving, and then she whispered a question, “Is the door locked?”
. . . . . . . .
Geet touched the necklace lovingly. “You copied the design of my engagement ring, didn’t you?” she asked. “You know how special it is to me.”
“It’s the only ring you wear at all times,” he pointed out. “You look beautiful,” he muttered, watching her move to the other side of the table. “Damn beautiful.” He cleared his throat, embarrassed by the emotion throbbing in his voice.
“Thank you,” she said, beaming at him. Geet sat down and pulled a plate of apples toward her. She began to peel them one by one.
“But you know . . .,” he burst out, but stopped mid-sentence.
She gazed at him questioningly.
“You are never wearing that sari in public,” he said sternly. “The sari that I gifted you was not this sexy. All of this beauty that you’re baring to the world is-”
“Only for your eyes,” Geet finished with a roll of her own eyes. “Maan stop being so selfish. The world-”
“Deserves to see your beauty,” he finished drily for her.
This exact back and forth . . .
This constant feeling of déjà vu inside of him . . . he shook his head in wonder. He didn’t believe in prophetic dreams. But . . .still . . . somehow, he had dreamt all of this years before now. His dream had come true. But there was still something left . . . something that could prove that it hadn’t just been a eerily predictive dream.
She laughed delightedly and reached out to pinch his cheek. He grabbed her hand, and turned it over to kiss the palm of her hand.
There was joyous laughter of the many children coming from upstairs. The two glanced up and then smiled at each other. “The kids are having fun,” he commented, watching her push the plate of sliced apples toward him with her free hand.
“Eat,” she commanded. “It’s not often they have a chance to play with their cousins. I’ll let them be a little late for breakfast.”
“Who is up there?” Maan asked, taking the slice of apple from the plate. “It’s way too loud for it to be just our hellions.”
“Nisha and Prem are also up there,” Geet commented.
“Where are their parents?”
“Pari and Vicky had to go out for a few errands. And, we also have Sania and Raman, the twin terrors. Dev brought them over this morning before heading off to his own errands. They’ll all be back this afternoon.” She smiled at him, “We’ll be celebrating our anniversary and the twins’ birthdays together again this year. You don’t mind?”
“Just like you don’t,” he murmured, smiling back at her. Leaning over, he teasingly tugged at a loose curl.
“Dadi Ma said that she would keep them company and keep them out of trouble. And of course our three are up there, as well,” Geet murmured. “Rahul is keeping watch over the youngsters. He said he wants to be with them as much as he can before going off to college in a year and a half.”
Maan made a face at the thought of losing his son. “We can still convince him to go to college close to home,” he pointed out. “Nothing is set in stone.”
Geet shook her head at him. “Let him fly like he wants to, Maan,” she urged him. “He’ll come back. You know he will.”
“Have Mahi and Aryan gotten over their anger at me for grounding them last night?” he asked, changing the subject.
“You know they love their daddy and would forgive him anything,” Geet said, silently urging him to eat more by pushing another plate closer. “You have been the most wonderful father to them. They all love you.”
Maan pushed the plate back at her and urged her to eat with a look of his eyes.
“I’ve already eaten,” Geet responded.
He raised an eyebrow at that, knowing that Geet had a habit of waiting until all of her children had eaten before eating herself. “I have been a great dad to our three, haven’t I?” he asked with quiet satisfaction, popping another slice of apple in his mouth.
“Soon to be . . . four,” she whispered, placing a hand over her womb.
Their fourth child. . .
He choked on the bite. “Fourth?” he gasped, once he was able to get the words out.
“Fourth,” she confirmed. “I hope it’s a girl this time. Then, we’ll have two of each! Mahi needs her own little companion too. Oi! Hello up there! Get your little behinds down here for breakfast. It’s getting late.”
He smiled slowly as Geet continued to yell up the stairs to the children.
His dream had come true. Nothing made that more clear than today.
He was the happiest man alive. Nothing had made him feel that it was safe to feel such happiness, as the day they had gotten married and he had made her his.
“Geet, you look beautiful,” Pinky whispered into her ear, tugging her down to relay the compliment.
“Pinky, this is the third time you’ve said that,” Geet said with a small smile. “Don’t exaggerate. I look okay.” Geet adjusted her clothes and then the tika on her forehead. “Everything looks okay, right?”
“Okay?!” Pinky exclaimed. “Geet you look like a goddess!” she said, glancing around. “I can’t believe that my best friend is getting married!” Pinky squealed in excitement. “You are going to be so happy.” She leaned in for a careful hug, trying not to muss Geet up. She then ran off to supervise Adi, as he supervised the workers who were setting up the lights.
Geet smiled, her heart pounding as she readied herself to leave the room. She was moments away from joining her life with the love of her life.
She closed her eyes to send up another grateful prayer, her hands folding in front of her. “Thank you, Babaji, for helping me to meet my humsafar (lifemate). Since I wasn’t paying attention the first time, thank you for helping us to meet again when I came to Delhi.” She smiled softly, picturing Maan. Today was their wedding day, and she was the happiest woman alive. “Thank you. Thank you for helping me to realize he was my love. Thank you for giving me the courage to pursue my love. And thank you for the luck that resulted in him loving me back. Thank you, Babaji.”
“Geet, it’s time! The baraat (wedding party) is here!” Pinky yelped excitedly, hurrying over to shake the other girl. “You need to start paying attention now.”
Geet sat on their wedding bed, her eyes shyly going to the door when it opened. Maan was here. He smiled back at her, and then decisively shut the door behind him, closing out the giggling chatter of the girls standing on the other side.
The wedding festivities were over. She had been surrounded by her family and given all their love. Her family had been there . . . Ma and Papa Ji. Rajji and Titu had come, along with her Taya and Tayi. Her heart had overflowed with joy when she realized they had finally decided to move on. They had assured her they would no longer look to the past, but would focus on the children they still had. They also wished her well in her new life.
Lucky was also there. He had decided to stay in Delhi with her parents, even finding a job on his own. After becoming an employee in a fancy gym, he had begun planning on learning how to be a professional trainer. Geet’s mother had confided in her that they were happy to have someone else to nurture, when their only child left the nest. Her mother had whispered to her that they would be marrying off Lucky next, but only when they found a girl who could win his heart.
Pammi bhabi was there with Tejinder Veer Ji. The two had reconciled. When Geet had asked worriedly about the reasons for her reconciling with him, Pammi bhabi had revealed that Tejinder had changed. Her leaving him had awakened him to some home truths about his own behavior. He had made all efforts to change that behavior and become a better man. Pammi had trusted him to not to regress back to what he had been. His change had also affected his mother, who was now making an effort to understand her softer, more timid, daughter-in-law.
A few college friends had also come to the wedding to give their well wishes.
And of course. . . Maan. Maan had been there, calm and calming on her nerves. His smile . . . the loving look in his eyes . . . had helped her to get through all of this, even when she had been the center of attention of all those guests. Even when Meera’s water broke, and she had raced off to the hospital with Dev, insisting that the wedding continue without them. Even when a reporter had sneaked in and interrupted them as they were sitting down for the rituals . . . Maan had gotten her through all of that.
The bed shook slightly, as Maan sat down beside her. He began to take off her jewelry. She shivered slightly at his gentle touch. His fingers brushed her lips as he took off her nose ring, and she smiled at the touch. Maan paused and ran his thumb across her lips once more. When she closed her eyes at the sensation, he leaned in and kissed those tempting lips, parting them easily so that he could slip inside.
Geet moaned, her hands coming up to grip at his collar. Her fingers twisted it, as she reveled in the sensation of his touch and his intoxicating taste. But then . . . a thought intruded. Pulling back, she looked into his eyes. Seeing the passionate fire burning in those eyes . . . directed solely at her, she nervously bit her lip.
Maan leaned down for another taste, but Geet quickly put her hand up to cover his lips.
He quirked an eyebrow in silent question.
“Maan. I have something to tell you.”
He leaned down to caress the skin behind her ear with his lips. Suckling lightly, he murmured a distracted “Hmm?”
“Maan, listen,” she ordered, grabbing the hair at the back of his neck and tugging at it to pull him away.
He looked into her eyes impatiently. “What is it?” he growled, pulling her close despite the resistance in her body.
“Maan, main pregnant hoon.”
“Maan, I’m pregnant.”
They had kind of jumped the gun. The night he had slipped his ring on her finger once more, she had pulled him into her arms and had been a willing participant in her own debauchery. Months later, as the wedding day came close, Geet had found out that she was three months pregnant. And Maan had been overjoyed. The two had made an effort to ensure that Rahul would never feel like an outsider.
Within months of each other, the three Khurana sons had become the parents of three beautiful children. Meera had given birth to her twin terrors, Sania and Raman. Three months later, Pari and Vicky had given birth to their first child, Nisha. And three months after that, Maan, Geet, and Rahul had welcomed Mahi into their lives.
It was their tenth wedding anniversary today. Those ten years had been very happy ones. In that time, their family had welcomed another addition to their family, sweet Aryan. It was now time to welcome a new addition. Their family would grow once more.
Geet hummed softly, as she prepared the decorations around the table. She instructed the servants to carefully hang the streamers and balloons from the ceiling.
While it was their 10th wedding anniversary, it was also Meera and Dev’s twins’ birthday. They had gotten used to celebrating both events together more often than not. And the twins didn’t seem to mind so much sharing their big day with their aunt and uncle.
“Nakul, please place the cakes on the table. We’ll cut the twins’ cake first, and then Maan and I will have our turn.”
“Geet beta,” Dadi Ma’s voice called out.
Geet hurried over and sat beside Dadi Ma. She listened carefully, before nodding and hurrying out of the room. The older woman was still with them, although much frailer now. She was loved by all of them, and spoiled by her entire family.
“Let me take care of that,” Meera said, walking into the room and hurrying to the side with all of the kiddie decorations. “Sania is very particular about how you sprinkle the confetti. I’ll take care of it.”
Dev came and sat down by Dadi Ma for a quick hello before getting up to take over another one of the many awaiting tasks.
“Dadi Ma, your favorite grandson is back!” Vicky called out, striding into the room. Pari came behind him, lugging all of their shopping bags. “A little help, please!” she said crabbily. Vicky raced back to take the bags from her hands. “Don’t worry, babe. I got it,” Vicky crooned, placing a quick kiss on her cheek.
“Daddy! Did you get me gifts?!” a young voice called out from the stairs. Prem raced down the stairs to lunge toward the bags.
“Woah there,” Vicky yelped, grabbing his young son. “These are gifts for Geet Auntie and Maan Uncle.”
“That’s a toy!” Prem said hotly. “Why would auntie and uncle need toys?!”
“It’s Sania and Raman’s birthdays, too,” Vicky replied.
“Why do they get gifts when I don’t?” Prem asked.
“Because it’s their birthday. And you get to wait for a few months,” Vicky murmured, taking Prem to the side of the room. “Now, go help Mahi and Aryan with the decorations.”
“Maan! Stop that!” Geet cried out, as she walked into the room. Grabbing him by the tie, she pulled him towards the corner with the cakes. “Look at what Pari arranged. Look at these beautiful cakes.”
Dadi Ma stared at her children working around her, and her heart reveled in the knowledge that all of her grandsons were living happy lives now. They had been very lucky in the women they had chosen for their life partners. She was surrounded by her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. It was exactly where she wanted to be in her old age. She smiled happily, her heart bursting with joy.
Geet smiled up at Maan, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek before pushing him away. “We still have to set up the gifts. Go make sure the kids are all getting dressed now.”
Staring at the chaos around the room, Geet smiled deeply. This was her family. They were her life.
“What’s this?” Geet asked, staring at the papers in her lap.
“It’s paperwork setting up a foundation,” Maan murmured from behind her. The two were sitting on the bed in their room. Maan leaned against the headboard. Geet rested against him, sitting between his legs. His arms were wrapped around her, snuggling her close.
“Foundation?” she asked, distracted by his lips nuzzling the back of her ear.
“A charitable foundation set up by Khurana Constructions. I think we’ve earned enough money. We haven’t really done anything consistent to give back,” he murmured, “Besides the odd charitable contribution. It’s time to spend more of it doing good deeds. The company has expanded over the past five years,” he murmured. “Dev and Vicky have helped out a lot. And you, being here, supporting me at every turn and running our home, has made all of this possible. Now it’s time for you to work on your own career.”
Geet pulled away, moving across the bed to put some distance between them. She stared at him, quirking her eyebrows in silent question.
“I want you to head it,” Maan murmured.
“But, how can I run a foundation?” Geet squeaked out. “I have no background in this area! Wouldn’t that be nepotism?”
“I know that you can do the job. And you want to do it. You aren’t saying no,” he pointed out. “You have a degree. You finished your education, remember? You took courses in business, as part of your general requirements. Why wouldn’t I give you this responsibility? I trust you to pick the right causes. I trust you to make the right choices. Besides, Pari said she would take over the administrative side of things. And I will be there every step of the way to guide you and teach you. Soon, you will be doing all of it on your own.”
Geet stared at him, joy unfurling in her heart. She had spent the past five years of her life being grateful every day for having met Maan Singh Khurana. She had thanked her Babaji for the blessed life that she was living and for her children. Rahul. Mahi. And, of course, Aryan, who had been born during the second year of their marriage.
But the children were now older. And she could take this time to work on something a little bit more. Geet squealed in joy and launched herself into Maan’s waiting arms. He always knew what her heart needed, even before she did.
Geet had taken that gift and run with it. Utilizing her past, her experiences, and her notoriety, Geet had used the foundation’s funds to assist, provide services and educate survivors of domestic violence and other types of violence. Starting off small, the foundation had set up an office at one location. Women, and even men, had come to their offices to get help putting their lives back in order. Geet had not hesitated in asking Maan for assistance and information whenever she needed the help.
Soon, the need for their services had far outpaced the location and providers. Not only had they had to move the offices to another, bigger location, the foundation had also set up two shelters to house women and men. And soon after that, a rudimentary school/daycare had been set up to care for and educate the children of these broken families and people.
Beginning small, the foundation was now the sponsor of multiple shelters, legal clinics, and two small schools. And she was finally where she had wanted to be years ago. For a part of her day, she went and taught young minds about math, English, Hindi and survival. The children there and their parents certainly did not mind her stepping in and becoming their teacher.
Geet had it all . . . her family . . . her love . . . her career. She was a mother. A wife. A daughter. And granddaughter-in-law. A sister. And a career woman. It was all possible with his support. Her Maan Singh Khurana. They had truly become each others humsafars.
And now . . . the foundation was running on its own, with a full staff. Pari was there and Meera had stepped in and become an active participant. Geet could safely take time off in the latter stages of her pregnancy without everything falling apart.
“Geet it’s our turn to cut the cake,” Maan murmured in her ear.
Geet jump in startled surprise. Had she been so busy thinking about the past, that she had missed the twins cutting their cake? She shook her head, wondering when she would ever get over this habit of hers. Looking up at Maan, she smiled and nodded her head.
As the two held the knife over the cake, she looked up at Maan, her heart clenching at the love she felt for this man. Regardless of how long they would be together . . . decades down the road . . . she would still love him like today. And he would love her with exactly that same degree of passion and need.
He gazed back at her lovingly, silently communicating with her.
“I, Maan Singh Khurana . . . ,”
“I, Geet Maan Singh Khurana. . . ”
“We solemnly swear that we will walk through all obstacles together . . . ”
“We will be together in sickness and in health, and we will face all sorrows and joy together . . .”
“We will never hide anything from each other . . .”
“We will trust each other always . . . we will be as life mates . . .”
“We will hope for a long life together . . .”
“We will give support to each other when facing all problems.”
“In our family . . . in our lives . . . we will bring peace.”
“And in life, we will never break these vows we made to each other today.”
He smiled at her and tilted his head in question.
She nodded her head, telling him silently that she had repeated their vows, as they did each year.
“Cut the cake!” Vicky called out.
“Yeah! Cut the cake!” Prem yelled out.
“The cake!” Dev and Meera cried out.
“Oi, Geet! Stop woolgathering. My little one insists on the pink cake, and you guys are holding things up by making googly eyes at each other!” Pinky called out.
“Hush, Pinky!” Adi urged her.
“I want some cake, daddy!” Aryan yelled out.
Maan and Geet began to laugh, and turned back to the impatiently awaited task of cutting their cake.
“Bhai?” came a voice.
The entire group looked towards at the door.
Maan exhaled in surprise. Geet grabbed onto his hand in comfort.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Annie had come home.
A/N: This was my vision of Maan and Geet post-marriage. Maan was an incredible partner for Geet (after he fell in love, of course, and he admitted it). So, he would definitely make sure that she would find a fulfilling career outside of the home, especially since his past was the reason her past was revealed. Of course, one final time, dialogues from the drama were used. Remember the episode where Maan, post-amnesia, and Geet restated their vows and amnesiac Maan actually felt something? I don’t speak Hindi that well, so the above was my approximation.