The stench was unbearable… she looked around but there was no one in that huge godown… It started getting dark…then there was a whirling noise… the shutter opened and the black vehicle arrived with masked men. One by one they all stepped out of the car in slow motion… they started moving towards her and she started to step back… she moved till her legs hit something…it was a cot. She fell on the cot and they laughed the noise booming in the exaggerated acoustics of the godown. The noisy clatter echoed through the area and vibrated inside her skull… before she realized one of them pushed her down further on the hard bed and started tearing off her clothes. She wanted to screamed physically stop them but she could do nothing…she struggled but she couldn’t move… why couldn’t she move… will her savior come this time? Who was shaking her now? Someone was calling her out her name… Preeti….
“…Preeti… Preeti…. Wake up… look here dear…” someone was calling her. Preeti opened her eyes and sat up with a jerk as her head pounded. Clutching her head she looked around… she was in her flat. What had happened?
She looked up and saw the tall man from the elevator walk in towards her hurriedly from the kitchen. She should have been scared but she wasn’t. It was as if she had known him for ages. She didn’t even question him being in her house. She accepted the glass of water he offered. It was then she actually saw him… he was much older to her. Strong oval face with overnight stubble…almost bald but the most striking feature was his eyes…they were her favorite and familiar in shape but they were brown. Not the same blue which had stood out in her dreams… ended her nightmares with a sense of calm. But the browns too had a similar effect on her. Even now as her breathing slowed towards normalcy, she sipped the water and looked at him. He was staring right into her eyes. There was some sort of uneasiness in them….something she felt he was trying to convey. She was lying down and slowly adjusted her position on her couch in her living room while he sat on the opposite chair across her. His stance was rigid and he appeared tight with tension.
“Nightmare?” He asked her in his deep baritone.
She could only nod, her insides still trembling with the after effects of her dream.
“…Um… what happened…in the elevator…?” she asked softly.
He stood up with hands in his pockets. He had worn a pair of black jeans and black t shirt with a black leather jacket with huge collars that could be raised up to cover his ears. He looked away as he said, “… you fainted in the elevator. I got you home…”
“…Th…thanks… for everything…for all these years…”
He suddenly looked at her and once again averted her eyes.
Drawing in a deep breath he said, “I…I will take your leave now… You are alright. I have heated milk from your stock in the fridge and cut few fruits … do take them. You should be fine…. And… don’t EVER skip breakfast…”
How did he know that?
“…Wait…” She said startled. “… Don’t go please… don’t leave me…” She realized what she said and covered her mouth with her palm, her eyes wide.
“… I… HAVE TO GO. Take care…” He said firmly and turned to leave.
She gathered all her strength and rushed towards him. She held his hand… his strong and hard hands. “pl…please… don’t leave… I can’t take it…any…anymore… Pl…pleeese…” Her last word was almost a whisper as tears rolled down her cheeks.
She saw him breathe heavily. He stared down into her eyes his jaw rigid she could see a muscle ticking. She couldn’t read the expression spanning his facial contours… Suddenly he held her by the shoulders his fingers digging into her soft skin… She must have grimaced and he suddenly left her looking away. She instantly regretted it…she missed his touch.
“…You don’t know me Preeti… don’t know me at all…” he growled softly…his breathing still erratic… as if he had run a marathon.
“… I want to know you then… I have waited for twelve years… I…I… know you have been watching over me in Alwar and for a while in Mumbai too…” He gave her a sudden glance and she nodded and continued, “… I could sense it… I know when you are around…”
He moved aside from where she stood and started walking towards her main door. She rushed towards the door and stood with her back to the door facing him. “..No…I won’t let you go like this… Please… I…I want some answers… don’t… don’t go…”
“…move-aside-Preeti…” He said in a low commanding tone. The look in his eyes was molten enough to melt someone.
But Preeti was unfazed. She didn’t fear him. He had to know that. She shook her head. “…Sorry but I am not letting you go this time… I just…I want to thank you…please just stay for lunch… its pouring heavily anyways…”
In a flash he moved very close to her… his body barely touching hers. He was breathing down her face. She looked into his eyes. His beautiful eyes were filled with turmoil… she had the urge to kiss it away… suddenly he caught her hair at the nape of her neck… she gasped as he tightened his hold and pulled… making it painful but she didn’t budge. He was breathing heavily. Gripping her jaw with his other hand he slammed into her mouth. He wasn’t a patient man at all… and she didn’t expect him to be either. He was rugged and rough which was visible in his tight hold over her….literally and figuratively as well. He devoured her …the pressure of his mouth on hers as if he was trying to flatten it…she pushed her head back and opened her mouth welcoming him inside as he plunged into her softness. He explored her mouth. She felt the heat rising inside her as their tongues clashed. Her nipples had peaked and were extra sensitive as her chest touched his hard torso. She lifted her arms and touched his chest… gathering his lapels in her palm. His other hand now held her hip and pulled her towards him as he started to grind his erection against her flush. She felt heat radiating from his body and seeping into her though their clothing…she wanted to feel him. She pulled him further towards her…but suddenly as if something snapped and he realized what he was doing he moved away with a jerk releasing her… There was look of horror on his face. They both stared at each other panting heavily. He shook his head and turned away his back towards her rubbing his hand over his face. She felt the sudden emptiness…again. NO…this time she wasn’t letting him go. She didn’t know where she got the courage from…she hugged him from behind, holding his torso tightly and dug her head in between his shoulder blades.
She felt him stiffen and then slowly soften. He released her hands and turned towards her again.
He cupped her face gently with a look so tender that she leaned into his palm. He rubbed her cheek bone with his thumb and said, “Preeti… I am not who you think I am… I just… I am a BAD person… what you have seen is just the tip of the iceberg and only the good stuff…..” He touched their foreheads and spoke ever so softly. “…You deserve much MUCH BETTER… someone who can worship you…someone who can respect and love you…cherish you… and… and I am not the one….”
Preeti covered his palms on her face with her hands and said, “…I don’t want to know anything anymore… I am…living today breathing this air only because of you… The only reminder of THAT incident… is the nightmares I get… but I can cope up with them because you…YOU are there …always there at the end of it… YOU…you are my silver lining…”
“…NO…NO…NO….” He yelled and pushed her away. He was angry. “… Do you think life is so easy? Life is not a bed of roses….there are thorns in fact most of it is thorns… you don’t have a clue of the real world …ok? You just…. Fancy an image of someone who saved you once…. Preeti…get out of the fairy tale world. Get a life….”
“…I don’t want a life… YOU HEARD ME….?” Preeti was now openly crying. “… I don’t want to know anything. All I know is that incident and the events following that were enough to last me this lifetime… I…i… agree I have an image of you…but… but… trust me…” her voice cracked. “…trust me when I say, that image is my tonic for living…. I would be dead long ago otherwise…probably would have killed myself. I knew you were around somewhere keeping an eye over me. It helped me sail through those years in Alwar before I left the place…. So… So don’t tell me what I must do… You want to leave isn’t it? GO…go away or should I say… Run away?”
He looked at her with his eyes burning fire. His stance totally rigid with anger. “…. You are playing with fire Preeti…” He said through clenched teeth. “… You will burn to ashes… Stay away from me.”
Saying he strode towards the door.
“I am going to Alwar for a while.” Preeti declared.
That had his attention and he stopped and turned around.
He came back and held her shoulders again. “What? Why? Are you crazy?”
She shrugged his hands away and said, “Alwar…is my hometown. Its six years now…I haven’t seen my folks…”
“…You shouldn’t go back to Alwar… You should make a good life here…”
“…you don’t get to advise me anymore…. I will go wherever the hell I want to…”
“…GO anywhere but not Alwar… its…its…dangerous….”
“…Is it? Then pray tell me why… why is it dangerous? The man who vio… violated me is dead… you saw to it…”
Without warning he held her lower jaw and pushed her towards the wall. He pressed his body against her and whispered, “Why do you have to make this all about your goddamn ego? When I say it’s dangerous…IT’S DANGEROUS.”
She pushed him away with all her might but barely managed to create a little distance between them. “EGO? Ego…is this what you think… this is all about? I … I was violated…for God’s sake… lost my little brother and a very close family like person in that incident… NO ONE…. No one cared about me after that… I was the victim but had to bear the brunt of the social stigma. My folks were only too happy when I left. I had to give up everything. My childhood memories, my cousins, my school friends…my …my mom… and you say this is all about my EGO….?” She covered her face and started sobbing… She hadn’t cried so much after the incident but today the dams broke. She was in his arms the next moment as held her against his chest and rubbed her back. She wailed holding his jacket tightly… her gut wrenching sobs tearing through the apartment.
After a while, when her crying bout subsided he kissed her forehead and said, “… Preeti… I didn’t mean to hurt you… it’s just… you have been protected from the nasty world back there.… its horrible and dangerous… if nothing, the memories will be triggered again when you go back. People may be unwelcoming…. I mean…”
“…then explain it to me…. Um…whats your name, by the way?”
He shook his head and she saw a hint of a smile… “ It’s Gautam… Now listen to me please…. Some things are best not revealed. I know you are brave but there is only so much a person can take… For God’s sake don’t go to Alwar…”
“…Okay…I won’t go…but on one condition….” She said a smile playing her lips.
“What is it?”
“… I want to see you again… tomorrow…” she looked at him with pleading eyes.
“…i…I don’t think it’s a good idea… I am a stranger for all you know…”
“…Gautam, You are closer to me than anyone I know… you know me inside out… I…I want to know you too…the man who saved my life and …my honour…”
He looked at her intently, war going on in his beautiful eyes. After a moment he nodded. “…Ok… “
“…Awesome… come home for dinner tomorrow? I will cook…”
“Ok…ok… I will be here by … 7PM tomorrow… alright with you?”
Preeti was thrilled. She finally was getting to spend time and get to know the man whom she had only dreamed about in the last twelve years. Would he answer her questions? Would he really be the man of her dreams? She never had a trustworthy relationship all her life… would he be the one… her permanent?
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