Water on her eyes… someone had the audacity to sprinkle water on her? She hated it…oh God…who on earth was doing this? She had to check. She struggled to open her eyes. Suddenly pain shot through her arm and she winced. Immediately a pair of rough hands held her face. She knew who it was. She would know him in any state…
“Preeti… sweetheart are you alright? Just…open your eyes dear…” Gautam sounded scared.
She opened her eyes and leaned into his palm on one side. She felt as if a truck had run over her body. Her body was aching everywhere. He supported her as she tried to get up. She felt dizzy and held his hand but the movement caused sharp pain in her right hand. She moaned in pain. And Gautam yelled. “WHERE THE HELL IS THAT DOCTOR?”
There was some movement and a young doctor who looked barely out of medical school came in. “Y..yes sir? Oh…Ma’am is conscious now…” he declared happily.
“…SHUT THE FUCK UP. She is in pain… DO something…”
The young doctor stuttered…” Ssssir…Al..al..already given her the shot for pain before the woo…wound dressing. Ca…ca…can’t give another one sssso Soon. Sh…sh…she need to go to a ho…ho…hospital…”
Gautam barked orders. “Mr. Ranawat, Get the papers here… let her sign then we will leave…”
What papers? Was she expected to sign them? Whatever it was, she was in so much pain she just wanted to leave…
The man named Ranawat came rushing towards them. She looked around to see she was in some office. There were rows or tables and benches… She was lying on one of them. Her hand wound was dressed well. Her blouse sleeve was torn off totally. There were a couple of other lawyers standing huddled to a corner. She wasn’t surprised. Gautam had that thing about scaring the world. She heard a ruffle and saw the papers were placed on a writing pad and kept before her on her lap.
“Ma’am you have to sign where the tiny cross is marked. There are four places….”
She looked at Gautam. “Um…what papers are these?”
“Preeti…” he said softly with a different expression on his face. She had never seen him so vulnerable. He rubbed his hand over his face. “…Please trust me on this Ok? I will tell you everything I promise. But today please sign without any questions…”
Her heart was breaking for him. She nodded and tried to move her right hand. But the pain shot through it blinding her and she shut her eyes clenching her teeth. She was just not able to move her right hand without excruciating pain. She couldn’t even straighten her hand. She looked at Gautam with tears in her eyes. He looked stricken as well.
What was in those papers?
Mr. Ranawat who looked like Maharana Pratap from one of the pictures she had seen, took the papers and said, “Vikramsa, I think we will postpone this till bhabhisa recovers. Give me a call once done.”
Gautam looked down at the floor his palms clasped into each other. He nodded slowly.
“And Vikramsa…” Gautam looked at Mr. Ranawat. “ …Do you want me to inform Romila Deviji?”
Gautam nodded and the lawyers left leaving only the two of them in the room. Gautam was staring at the floor lost in thought. Preeti was silently crying. “I…I am so..sorry Gautam… I know this must have been important…but…”
“…No you won’t know… this was not just important…it was a goddamn matter of life and death for…” He spoke in a tone that sent shivers down her spine.
After a couple of minutes, he turned towards her. “Common let’s get going… “
She didn’t know whether she could travel all the way back with the painful arm. She was feeling very weak and drowsy. As if reading her thoughts, he said, “We will check in into a hotel and I will call for a doctor to revive the wound. Luckily the bullet just grazed….” He looked always and rubbed his hand on his face. She had known by now that he did it whenever he was anxious. That was rare though. What was in those papers that made him so anxious? What did have to do with HER of all the people? And…his mother?
He helped her stand up and placed the jacket around her shoulders as her blouse sleeve had to be torn open. He supported her to the car and after she sat he carefully fixed the seat belt. He then drove them to a nearby hotel. She saw there were policemen on the roads when they left.
Who had shot her?
Tanveer Raisingh’s words kept ringing. ‘… You will be collateral damage…’ that meant the bullet was meant for Gautam? She thought with a shudder…
They reached the hotel within fifteen minutes and Gautam drove slowly frequently checking in on her to the point of annoyance. She just wanted to pop in painkillers and lie down. She read the glow sign board. ‘Hotel Oracle…’ Appearance wise it looked good. But she had Gautam with her so she wasn’t worried. Would he book separate rooms? She wondered with a shock. For a man who had been insatiable till now, he had been working extra hard to keep his distance.
Gautam helped her out of the car and lifted her carefully avoiding pressing her injured arm. She rested her head on his chest as he carried her into the hotel. Thankfully he booked a single suite. He carried her to their hotel suite and placed her carefully on the huge double bed. The bell boy followed with their luggage. Gautam tipped him and ordered dinner for them. She smiled hearing him order Kadhi Chaval. He also called for a doctor to see her injuries. She was glad he didn’t insist on visiting a hospital. She always shuddered at the thought as they brought back haunting memories. He cared about every detail…
He helped her go to the washroom and she shut the door assuring him she could manage. Though he had seen her without clothes so many times something between them had changed since yesterday. Was it because they were married?
She finished her chores in the washroom with great difficulty. They hadn’t carried any spare clothes. She had to tear open her already torn blouse to remove it as well as her bra strap. She just couldn’t move her right hand. She somehow cleaned herself using her non dominant hand struggling all the way. He had given her the hotel robe which she wore on one side but couldn’t bear the pain again. She emerged just barely covering herself. She couldn’t tie the ropes of the robe. As if he was waiting for her, he was immediately by her side concern etched on his face. “Preeti… are you… are you ok? Is it very… painful…”
“…Gautam…” her voice cracked. She was getting extremely emotional at the turn of events in that last two days. No one from her home had even bothered to call her to ask her well-being. Even Rewa didi for that matter… And Gautam…it had always been Gautam who cared…always. “…I am fine…it’s hurting but otherwise I am Ok….I…I need to lie down…sleepy.”
“…Ye..yes…rest…” he mumbled and helped her on the bed. She wasn’t conscious not being covered anymore. She smiled as he took the covers up to her chin. Running a hand over her head he spoke in the softest voice she had ever heard. “Just…just rest, alright? The doctor will be here soon. And the dinner…” He looked away. He stood and she held his hand with her left hand. He sat next to her in the little space. She tried to move but it was painful. She grimaced. He immediately got up. She suddenly missed his warmth, his closeness.
There was a knock at the door. He opened to let the doctor in. Her eyes became wide when she realised it was a male doctor and she wasn’t even clothed. Immediately Gautam helped her up supporting her back and with the sheet still tucked beneath her chin. He made her sit upright her legs hanging from the side of the bed. He sat right behind her hugging her and covering her with the bed sheet in the process. Relief filled her and she dropped her head back on his chest. The doctor, an elderly man checked her wound and changed the dressing. He started her on antibiotics and gave her a tetanus shot. The doctor nodded and turned his back and Gautam again made her lie down on the bed. After covering her up like earlier, he asked the doctor about her.
“Don’t worry Mr. Rathore, she is fine. Nothing that won’t heal soon. I will send a sling and see to it that she keeps her hand in it for a couple of days. Don’t get the wound wet. Consult your doctor once you get back to Bhiwadi and get the dressing changed and um Mr Rathore… one more thing…”
Gautam looked worried. “Yes doctor?”
The kind doctor smiled and said, “…Nothing serious but in spite of the antibiotic she might get a fever tonight. So just take care of her and here is the medicine to get the fever down. I will see her tomorrow morning. Ok young lady… take care.”
Gautam dropped the doctor off. The dinner arrived simultaneously. Once again Gautam helped her sit up and stacked the pillows behind her back. He helped tuck her robe to cover her chest. He then took a plate from the food trey and served Kadhi Chaval on it. He came to her and sat next to her on the bed facing her. He scooped some food with the spoon and took it close to her lips. She opened her mouth and he fed her. She was hungrier than she thought she was. She finished the plate quickly. He helped her have the glass of warm milk and finished his dinner as well. She sat up till then watching him in the shadows cast by the dimmed light. She was mesmerised…
He then helped her lie down on the other side of the bed so that the injured arm faced away. The sling had arrived and he helped her into it. Later after he made her comfortable under the comforter he went to the washroom. He was in for quite some time and she almost slept off. A little later she felt the bed next to her dip. She moved towards him as if on autopilot. He had taken off his clothes she realised… before she slipped into deep slumber.
Her head was hurting… why was it so hot? Her throat…it was hot as well. Why was she shivering? Oh God it was sooo cold.
“Preeti?” she heard him call her.
She opened her eyes to see there was dim light in their room. She was shivering with a terrible headache. Was she running a fever? She heard Gautam run around the room. What was he doing? She then felt him come close to her and felt something cold on her forehead. Ahh it felt so much better. He did that for quite some time and she started to relax. The pounding in her head came to a halt. She was in tears as she remembered the last time she had fever. She was alone in her house in Mumbai and had to shuffle to the kitchen to heat milk and take some medicine. No one…not once in her life had cared for her the way he had been doing. She closed her eyes but tears flowed. She felt him come close and hug her carefully. She turned to his side on her better hand and wept into his chest as he held her…
Why couldn’t things be normal between them?
For a change … she didn’t care anymore. All that mattered was she wanted to be with him….
Not just for six months but for life…
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