“oh wow… Monopoly? You like to play this one?” Kajal exclaimed as she held up the slightly tattered box.
She was looking around his bedroom, which was probably the size of three-fourth of her home. She saw him blush and look away. Something was way too different about him today. The man was an enigma, no doubt, but today she saw another side of him. He wasn’t the arrogant star she had seen so far. He didn’t force himself on her vulnerability. She knew she was developing feelings for him because he was the first man who had touched her mind-body-soul.
But she had to be careful, or she would get burnt to ashes. She couldn’t get attached to him or his kind grandmother, who had showered her with love in the past couple of hours that she had never seen after her mother left. Despite her failing health and the old grandfather in a coma, the lady had seen to it that Kajal was comfortable and well-fed.
Ajji had asked KB to show Kajal his room, which was his true face according to her. KB had just made a face of annoyance and moved away. Kajal had chuckled and wandered into his room, checking out his framed pictures on the wall. Surprisingly there was only one picture of his from his younger days, and she wondered why. Would she ever know?
From what she had researched during her period with Rhapsody, there was nothing about him available from before the last eight years. All that was available was news about his initial struggle and how he became the most sought-after show stopper for designers and ad film directors and then his foray into mainstream TV. He had done a few side roles for movies, but he had tasted success only on the small screen. Most of the information available was only restricted to his flings and drunken brawls.
But she had never sensed him to be a drunk every time she had met him so far. Did he have any vices she didn’t know of? She shuddered but then, she needn’t have worried. She would be busily confined to her room or at work most of the time. She was yet to hear from Rugved’s office, but she hoped to get the job.
Though KB’s grandmother had given her a platinum credit card with a reservoir for a limit, she wasn’t keen on using it. Besides the fact that it was in KB’s name, she didn’t want to milk the guy dry… she wasn’t in it for the purpose. She was glad to get what was agreed upon… that made her cringe already.
She had found a rack of old books like Hardy Boys, TinTin, and a few board games. She was surprised as though he had never outgrown those or a phase of his life was not documented anywhere was something not to be spoken about. Whatever it was, she had the gut feeling he was a kind soul and probably was misunderstood… was it a PR gimmick? He constantly lived under scrutiny. She was glad he didn’t insist she did too… she would have felt suffocated.
She was lost in her thoughts and didn’t see him walk towards her. He took the game from her hand and looked at it with a forlorn expression.
“This was my father’s gift to me. For my 12th birthday… I never played the game as such, but I have kept it more for his memory…”
“I am sorry… is shouldn’t have spoken about it… I didn’t know.” She turned to move.
“Let’s play?” He abruptly spoke, and she stopped.
“You seem to know the game… let’s play…we have a few hours before the press meet… so why not just relax?” he looked at her with a look that reminded her of a little kid asking, for candy.
She smiled and nodded.
For the next hour, they played the game, sitting on the bed, and she was lost in fun. He wasn’t KB the star nor was she Kajal, the prospective contract bride who had just been engaged in a hush hush ceremony. They were just two kids involved in a game testing their business acumen, and though Kajal didn’t have much experience, she found herself enjoying every moment. KB looked carefree, a far cry from the snobbish personality she had experienced.
He was right; she was now relaxed and they spoke about her likes and dislikes and he cracked her up making fun of her choices of colours, movies and food. She burst out laughing, and he kept regaling her with a few tales from his shoots where he had freak accidents. She didn’t know when they came closer as he sprawled next to her balancing himself on his elbows. She was laid back and inclined to the backrest of the bed, and suddenly they looked at each other.
Kajal’s heart paced, and she turned to move, but he held her arm, pulling her on top of him. She balanced herself on his chest and stared into his molten eyes. The fury was back now… there was something there she couldn’t fathom still, but she was getting pulled into them by the minute. He palmed her face with one hand, and she leaned into its warmth. Then, with the other hand, he dragged her closer, and soon her lips touched his.
This was not rushed like the last time, but she could feel the slow combustion… moving up her body now in close contact with his. Holding her in his arms and not breaking contact, he explored her softness with his tongue even as he turned over. She didn’t know her hands had a will of their own as they circled his neck, bringing him closer, monopoly long forgotten.
He gently bit her lower lip and sucked at, and she pulled him closer to her feeling his taut chest against her soft ones. Her breasts wanted to break through their barriers and feel him… she gasped at the intensity of her desires. She didn’t know she had any. He stopped the kiss and looked into her eyes. He kissed her forehead, a gesture she hadn’t expected from him, and her eyes filled. Something about the gesture spoked volumes of the brimming tenderness in his heart and she wondered if it wasn’t just a mirage.
“Kajal…” he whispered, sending shivers down her body. “…while I want nothing more than to take you right here, I know you aren’t ready… so… let’s prepare for the upcoming event, shall we…?”
She could only nod at his consideration. Yet, for all her wicked thoughts and bravado, deep beneath, she was scared. She shut her eyes to prevent the tears from escaping the boundaries.
“hey…” he spoke softly, palming her face. He was till close, and she could inhale and feel him. “…are you upset with what just happened? I am.. sorry… I …” he fumbled with words.
She shook her head. “No… not that..” she hoarsely said, placing her palm on his.
“Kajal, look at me, please” he was so close she could feel his warm breath on her face. Letting caution to the wind, she opened her eyes, and the stream of tears made their journey downwards.
He wiped her tears and helped her sit up. He leaned on the bed rest and held her close to him. She placed her head on his chest and felt her turmoil drain away, washing her fears along with it. She had never felt so secure in her life before, ever since her mother had left.
KB didn’t speak anything. He just held her close, rubbing her other arm as if he already knew what was troubling her. She knew he was hurt too… physically, emotionally… she only didn’t know the hows and the whys. She didn’t know if she even had the right to know anything personal about him. She just hoped, like how he made her comfortable and made her feel better, forgetting all her troubles for a while, she could help him someday.
About half an hour later, the makeup artists and the hairstylists came over to prep them up for the show they had to put up before the scribes. The event was to be held on the lawn right outside the bungalow.
Kajal was taken to another room and helped into a grey designer saree with pink floral motifs. Her hair… well they took an hour to do something with it along with her make-up while she sat still. The outcome was that her hair felt softer, and oh God, there were tints in it. They were made wavy and fell on one side of the shoulder. She wore a sleeveless blouse and felt a bit coy…. Would KB like it? She shook her head, chuckling. Since when was she interested in what KB thought?
Filling the stilletoes, she stood tall, admiring the finishing touches to her look when there was a knock at the door. Her heart fluttered as if it knew KB was here.
The door opened, and she turned to look at who it was. KB stood staring at her; his words paralyzed on his tongue. Then, suddenly gathering himself, he nodded at the make-up and hair artists as they left the room. He walked towards her and gave a side smile while she looked down, blushing. She hoped he wouldn’t hear her heart galloping at the rate of 120 kilometers per hour!
He looked gorgeous too like he always did. It was a simple buttoned-down shirt and faded blue jeans, and her limited fashion sense said it complimented her look. She was swooning over him, so he would have looked great to her, even in rags.
As they approached the area, the little dais built for them, the shutterbugs clicked away, and she was suddenly thrown back to the first-day fiasco with the press. She halted in her tracks, and KB looked back. He walked back to her and held her hand, interlocking his fingers with hers.
“Don’t worry Kajal…. We have got this sorted. They are only looking at you because you look a million bucks now!! So chill”
She laughed at his compliment and felt lighter. Then, they walked towards the central place directed by the organizer and were asked to pose.
Many questions were fired in quick successions precisely as they had anticipated, and KB answered them with his practiced poise. Finally, they posed with fingers upwards, showing their rings. The gathered crowd roared.
A while later, as they turned around to leave the area, one of them asked.
“KB, what about Hetal?”
They halted in their tracks. Kajal’s heart fell. How could she forget his latest arm candy?
He turned towards the crowd and smiled. “As you all can see, I am engaged to Ms. Kajal… we met on the sets in a professional capacity and fell in love… whether you want to call it a whirlwind romance, love at first sight… I leave it to you. So everything else is past, and Kajal is my present and the future. I think that should answer all the doubts!”
He turned back and took her hand, walking briskly back to the bungalow.
Though he didn’t say anything, Kajal could feel the change in the atmosphere… he had withdrawn into his shell, and the easy-going camaraderie was now gone. Did Hetal mean that much to him? He could have married the woman… Hetal swooned over him anyways.
So why did he agree to marry her, and all they just shared that evening was it all fake?
Ajji came to see her off and made her promise to visit her at least once before the wedding. Given the condition of his grandfather, the ceremony was to be a simple affair.
Kajal nodded, still disturbed that KB hadn’t said a word even when he accompanied her in the car as the driver took them to drop her home. He had frozen and was completely locked up as if possessed by another spirit.
As she watched the crimson sky changing its shade as the dusk passed and the darkness replaced it totally, she wondered if there was any similarity with the man next to her who had changed his shades… he was all dark now.
She rode on the exuberant bandwagon filled with love and desire
The start of a relationship marred by doubts spreading like wildfire…