“Where are you?” She gasped, her hands covering her eyes, her gowns floating around her as if she were underwater.
“I am somewhere here, my love,” I murmured from behind her, careful to make sure my lips ghosted over her ear, never touching, never breathing.
“I can’t see you, darling,” she mumbled, taking a step forward.
I laughed. “That is because I made sure you closed your eyes, my beloved. This is a surprise, a surprise I want you to remember and cherish.”
“I cherish every moment I spend with you,” she replied, her sword clinking against her ankle-bracelets. The jewels embedded on the hilt glimmered in the early morning sun, bright with glee.
“I know,” I murmured, my hands sliding to her waist. I couldn’t help myself; love for her filled me, drowned me. “I love you, and I cherish you. But please, try and find this surprise.”
She giggled. “You know I am deathly afraid of surprises, my King,” she teased, reaching out for me.
I arched back, narrowly missing her dainty, slim fingertips. “But I am with you, my love. Nothing will happen to you, I will make sure of that.” I could tell she was quirking her eyebrow underneath the cloth I had made her wear; underneath the mask she refused to take off.
“I can protect myself,” she said. “Besides, we both know I am the one who protects you, Rohan.”
I scoffed, wiping my hand over my face, skimming the nose-ring my mother had forced me to pierce myself with. “Not all the time, but I suppose you are right.” I tapped her gently on her shoulder and she swirled around, reaching for her sword instinctively.
I laughed. “Easy, love, it’s only me. Nobody else is here, I assure you.”
Her lips twisted into what looked to be a scowl. “Are you sure? Last time you said that, your mother nearly caught us!”
I licked my lips, looking around. “I assure you; there is no one else here except us...just the two of us...” I lowered my voice, using the same baritone I used whenever we were alone, the voice that I knew made her cave to me.
I saw her falter slightly, the scowl slipping from her face. “Okay,” she whispered, despite her hand remaining firm on the sword attached to her hip. “But if something does happen, Rohan-!”
I cut her off with a chuckle, biting my plush bottom lip. “Rest easy, love. We have the whole day to ourselves; I used the night to finish my duties. I am all yours.” I spread my hands around the garden we were in, even though she couldn’t see me. “Now look; find the surprise I have for you, and I promise that you won’t be disappointed.”
I didn’t know if she could see me or not; I never knew if she could see me or not. She always covered part of her face from me, and while I could see her, I didn’t know if she could see me; if she was looking at me. It hurt me, slightly, hurt that I was not able to see the real color of my beloved’s eyes, but I didn’t ask her about it. The film covering her eyes didn’t bother me; it was like a veil, only pink, and attached to the top of her mask.
It made her beautiful, my Queen.
“Rohan?” She questioned, her smooth voice sighing from her lips. “Where are you? Am I going the right way?”
I chuckled. “You are going...somewhere, my love,” I said, my colorful clothes beaten mercilessly by the heavy wind. I walked over to her, my shoeless feet padding silently on the stone. Placing my hands on her slim, covered shoulders, I guided her with my palms a few steps towards the surprise I had prepared for her; towards the event, I worked hard to please her with.
I slipped the blindfold from her eyes as she spoke, her words cut off harshly, in which I knew she had seen what I had done for her.
Since I had finished my work early last night, I was able to prepare a small surprise for her, an apology for not being with her for her training, or with her at all, for the matter.
The patio where my parents liked to share their breakfast was decorated with a multitude of flower garlands and little jewels embedded into the stems. Teacups and plates of pastries and sweets sat on the table, the scent wafting to my nose in a heated rush. Green trees circled the fenced patio; flower petals decorating the smooth stone ground.
I looked at her, noticing the way her hands flew up to her mouth, small streaks of wetness rolling down her soft, chocolate cheeks.
“I-Rohan, this is...beautiful...I...”
I smiled, leaning towards her and pressing my lips against her cheek. “I’m glad you like it, my love. I’ll admit, it took me quite a while to make for you, and possibly most of the night.”
She clicked her tongue. “Rohan, what have I told you about staying up all night for me? You don’t have to! It’s not important.”
I rolled my dark eyes. “But it’s important to me. I love you, and I wanted to spend some time with you, after being away from you for so long. I want to make sure you know that I love you, and know that I want you all the time, anytime. It doesn’t matter if I’m working or not; I’ll always find time for you, my love.”
She didn’t react for a moment to my confession; in fact, she just stood there for a while, looking around, seemingly at a loss for words. She was a spitfire, always ready with a comeback, so just having her stare around in awe frightened me.
Finally, she turned, her mask raised higher from her uplifting cheeks. She ran towards me, her thin arms wrapped around my torso, her cheek pressed against my bare chest.
It took me a moment to respond, but once I did, I moved my necklaces from my neck, holding her close against me after a long, antagonizing week.
“I love you, Rohan,” she murmured.
I smiled. “I love you too...Mohini.”
“Gah!” I shot upright in bed, my eyes wide and my mouth ajar. I licked my dry lips and looked around the room in haste, in confusion, and maybe in disappointment.
Was it all a dream?
Looking around the room now, I realized, with a drop to my stomach, that it was indeed a dream, a past memory I had, one of my last memories of a time when I once loved Mohini; when we were happy together.
“Shit!” I cursed loudly, throwing the blankets off of my large frame. “Fucking shit!” I spilled curse after curse from my lips, stomping into the bathroom. She entered my mind again; an image taped to the walls of my skull.
“Fuck.” I hissed, leaning on the white sink in my washroom. “Damn, what the fuck’s wrong with me?” The curses couldn’t stop spilling from my mouth, but I didn’t care. Nobody was here to hear me; I was all alone.
I turned the tap on roughly, wiping my face with my soaked hands, catching the dark irises in my already dark eyes. I didn’t take the mask off, not even to wash my face. I couldn’t look at my face; I couldn’t see the demon, the monster she had cursed me to become.
I could feel my fangs run along my bottom lip, spearing through the sot flesh, a reminder that I didn’t live in a fantasy; that Mohini was no longer with me; that she was no longer mine.
The pain that came with the realization was quickly replaced by anger. She didn’t deserve me; I didn’t want to love someone who had betrayed me. With a burning fuel in my stomach, I remembered with fury how hard I had worked that day on the garden, on making sure my work was prim and proper so that I’d be able to give her all of my attention; all of my desires, all of my love.
Unfortunately, that anger was replaced slowly by guilt, guilt that gnawed at my throat, and my stomach. From the rooms in the North Tower, I could hear singing, soft, but loud to my pointed, elfish ears.
Radha could sing.
I didn’t know she could sing; in fact, ever since she had come, I hadn’t really interacted with her, apart from our time alone at night. Damien and Lucifer teased me mercilessly for it, claiming I had already slept with her, and while that was rotating somewhere in the back of my mind, it took great effort to push the thought away.
Her voice was soft, melodious, yet had a raspy edge to it. It wrapped around my body, and I could only imagine how gentle she looked singing. Was she swaying on the balcony, or was she lying in bed? Was she in her nightclothes? Or was she in the garments I laid out for her everyday?
Any image I had for Mohini disappeared in my mind as Radha’s singing carried to my ears. I suddenly had the urge to hold her, to sing with her as she fit perfectly in my arms, our bodies swaying together. I never had that urge for Mohini, ever.
Maybe it was the differences between Radha and Mohini that made me so conflicted between the two. Whereas Mohini was a tough, buff, and slightly aggressive woman, Radha wasn’t anything like her. She wasn’t tough; instead, she was independent. She wasn’t buff, but she knew how to have a good verbal argument. She wasn’t aggressive, but she was assertive when she needed to be, and that was all gathered from her interactions at the auction and with Damien and me.
I grabbed a towel from the rack beside me, smothering it over my face. God, what was happening to me? Why was my heart racing around Radha, when it had only been a week of us being together? With Mohini...
I shook my head. “God damn it!” I roared. “God fucking damn it! Why can’t you leave my mind! Why can’t you let me be? Why can’t I love another? Why? Fucking why?” At this point, I didn’t even care if anyone heard me, even if it was Chandra’s bedtime. The desire, the need to love someone else, to forget about Mohini and finally settle down, conquered me, enveloped me. Yet, she kept plaguing my mind, harassing me, tormenting me.
I need Radha, I thought in aggravation. I need her, now. I need to get my mind off Mohini; I need to start getting to know this girl if she’s to be my wife.
I stormed out of my room, unconcerned if she saw me or not. She was going to at some point, and as long as she didn’t see beneath my mask, I was fine; we were fine.
As I walked over to the Northern Tower, the place where I had instructed Damien to leave Radha, I began to feel nervous. Now that my anger was slowly dissipating, all of my former confidence had disappeared, anxiety replacing the sputtering pit of flames in my stomach. What would she think of me? Would she think I was too tall? Would she dislike my skin tone? Would she fear my fangs?
My heart banged in my chest as I approached her door, my mind fighting with me to change course and return back to my room; to pretend I was only taking a walk.
I fought back, however, and after a long five minutes, I finally gathered enough courage (or maybe it was only a spark) to raise my hand and knock on the door.
I bit my lip, stiffening as I heard Radha’s voice falter, her feet padding to the door. She opened it a crack, and as the door creaked open, I could see her eyes slowly begin to widen.
“R-Raja...?” She questioned carefully, her eyelids lowering slightly, probably so that it wouldn’t seem that she was very surprised.
I winced slightly. “Um...yes, that is me,” I affirmed, immediately regretting my choice to come here. “I-I didn’t want to bother you, but I...well, I wanted to get to know you more, and...”
I trailed off, but instead of her slamming the door on me, Radha’s lips curved into a wide, and might I say, gorgeous smile. Her eyes lit up, taking in my frame once more.
“Wow! Really? We can spend some time together? Not at night?” She asked, sounding elated.
I frowned. “Well, yes, but are you...scared?”
She quirked an eyebrow. “Scared? Why should I be scared of you, Raja? You’ve been nothing but nice to me for the past few days. I’m not afraid of you, beast or not.” She looked at me directly in my eye, even though she didn’t know it. “Sure, you have blue skin; sure, you’re tall and sure, you have fangs, but you’re still the same Raja from last night and all those other nights.” She giggled at my expression, which was somewhere between numb and disbelief. “Now, come in! I really want to get to know you, especially now that I can see you...well, most of you.”
I blushed, snapping out of my trance. “Um, well, I’m not too sure I’m ready for my face or my hands...yet.”
Radha nodded readily, taking my large, gloved hand and leading me into her room slowly, the door closing with a click behind her. “Don’t worry. Everything happens in good time; I’m not forcing you to tell me everything yet; I’ll wait.”
I smiled, relieved, and honestly, a bit surprised. “Thank you, Radha.”
She smiled. “Of course. Right now, I’d just like to get to know you, or, as much as you’d like to reveal about yourself.” She led me to her bed, seating me gently on the cleaned blankets, and if I didn’t have such a perverted mind, I would realize that she was trying to make me comfortable, and not seduce me.
“So...should I start?” She asked, turning towards me. I didn’t realize it before, but now, looking at her, I realized that she had dimples on her face when she smiled. Mohini didn’t have dimples when she smiled, and somehow, Radha smiling with dimples made her look extremely, extremely cute.
I coughed. “You can start if you’d like.”
She nodded. “Sure. Well, my full name is Radha Mohan. I’m twenty, and I used to help my father in his bakery that he and my...my mom had made,” she faltered slightly, but brushed her slip-up away quickly. “I didn’t really do much apart from that...I guess you could say my Dad was grooming me to become a stereotypical housewife.” She paused for a moment, then chuckled suddenly. “Shit. I sound like I’m applying for a job.”
I smiled. “You can apply for...jobs?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “It’s how we make money. Someone applies, and then the boss will interview them. It depends. Sometimes there are other people who will interview the person, but I guess I watched too many billionaire movies.”
“I haven’t watched many movies, despite living for quite a long time,” I said, trying to remember the last movie I watched. “I think...I watched Hum Saath Saath Hain before stopping movies for a while.”
“You watched that movie?” Radha’s eyes lit up again and she clapped her cheeks. “I love that movie! Nowadays, Bollywood movies are literally just strippers and buff men fighting each other! It’s disgusting compared to old Bollywood.”
“It is,” I agreed, her hand slipping back with mine. My heart fluttered, and I squeezed her hand, grinning up at her.
“What’s your favorite movie?” She asked.
“Hm...I think Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, because it was a nice family movie,” I replied, rubbing my thumb over her knuckles, just like the night we met. It was different from Mohini’s, but I liked that.
“It was a nice family movie. You hardly see any of those anymore,” Radha agreed. “Also, Hrithik Roshan was cute and young then, but he’s still cute.”
“I...guess,” I forced out, pausing for a moment to collect myself. I didn’t like it, but jealousy had crept up my throat at that; at her tilt towards an actor.
“Student of the Year was also a good movie, but I didn’t watch the sequel,” Radha continued, her bottom lip protruding slightly.
I resisted the urge to bite her lip, nodding with a thick swallow. “I watched the sequel. It wasn’t that bad, apart from the fight towards the end.”
Radha nodded. “I feel that in every movie Tiger Shroff is in, he has to fight someone, somewhere, even in school.”
“Yeah, but I honestly think I could compare to him,” I replied, gaining confidence, in a somewhat cocky manner.
Radha giggled. “You could definitely compete with him,” she murmured, her eyes trailing down my shirtless body. It just occurred to me that I hadn’t put a shirt over me, but now, feeling her eyes trail down my blue skin, I didn’t mind it.
In fact, I craved it.
We continued to talk amicably after that; our topics ranging from Bollywood to hobbies to other irrelevant topics about ourselves. I didn’t reveal much; I wasn’t that ready yet, but Radha didn’t seem to mind talking. She was quite the chatterbox, something I didn’t mind at all. It made my heart pound louder in my ears, like a marching drum.
I stayed throughout the day and late into the night, wanting to continue talking to Radha. It was only one day in the whole week we’d been in the same house, and now I regretted not showing her myself sooner. She was an amazing woman, a beautiful, incredible, amazing woman.
I left her room that night glowing, my cheeks hotter than they had been in years. I was so engrossed in my positive meeting with Radha, that I didn’t notice one thing.
Ever since her death, I had carried Mohini’s necklace with me, one of the things I couldn’t part with; one of the things I carried to carry on her name and to carry on my guilt.
With a thump that I ignored, the necklace fell into the waste bin.