My cupid's rulebook

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Cinderella, the klutz

Ira bit her lower lip as she scanned her bank statements. Since her grandma’s passing, the trust money had been blocked which tied up a lot of her cash flow. Her grandma’s lawyer had been trying to resolve the beneficiary issue for a while. Ira’s minimum wage left her with barely any extra money to spare.

“Is here okay, honey?” the uber driver clarified. Ira nodded in response and stepped out of the funky-smelling car as it came to a halt in front of a huge gate. She shuddered at the thought of how much dent that uber ride had costed her savings account.

A bearded guard in full black gear and an earpiece stood guard outside the massive wooden gate. His expression went poker-faced as she approached him.

“Hi, I’m here to see Mr. Samrat, Viaan Samrat”

“Is he expecting you?” He eyed her suspiciously.

“Yes,” she blurted.

“Your name?”

“Ira Khanna...”

“Wait here...” the guard stepped away, muttering into his wrists, nodding in response.

“Viaan isn’t at home”

“Is his dad here?” Her face dulled.

“Ma’am, you need to leave and come back with an appointment.” She wasn’t having it.

“Please call Mr. Samrat and let him know Ira is here.”

“It doesn’t work that way. He is busy today.” The guard shrugged and pushed away towards a sleek back car that had pulled up at the gate.

Ira tried to peer into the high-end car, curiosity getting the best of her. The dark tint kept all the passengers well hidden.

The guard waved for the gates to be opened, without any questions asked. She gathered it was foolish of her to travel across town without calling ahead but she was here now.

Ira forced a smile as she sarcastically thanked the guard, deciding to call Mr. Vidhu instead, to see if he could reach out to Viaan or his dad. It went straight to voicemail.

The LA heat was making her eyes hurt and she needed to drink water. The closest fast food place was a mile back near so she began to trek back towards the main road.

A loud siren made her jump. Her jaw dropped when she noticed a police car had sneaked up behind her. Considering there was no one else on the street, she waited for the officer to step out of the cruiser.

“Ma’am, can I see an ID?”

“Why?” She objected not liking being questioned.

“We’ve got several complaints of a suspicious woman meeting your description loitering in the area. ”

“I’m here to meet someone.” Ira crossed her arms in defiance.

“Who would that be?” he pulled out a notebook and pen as he waited for her to comply.

“I don’t need to disclose that... I wasn’t trespassing.”

“We need to check when there are complaints, which is why I will need a resident name to confirm your story.” he insisted

“Samrat’s, I was here to meet Viaan Samrat.”

“You’re Viaan’s friend?” The officer frowned before chuckling, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

Ira smiled slightly as she shrugged not sure what to expect.

“Why don’t you call him? So we can sort it out right here.” The officer beamed.

“Uhh...” Ira felt beads of sweat forming at her temple. She had spoken to Viaan once on the phone a few years ago when she had picked up her very drunk sister from his house. She never bothered saving it.

“I actually... don’t have his num...” Ira was about to say when the officer pointed behind her and waved.

When she spun around to look, she saw a black Jeep Wrangler approaching them, instantly recognizing the driver.

Viaan parked the car in front of the cruiser stepping out while simultaneously taking off his sunglasses.

“What seems to be the problem, Phillip?”

“Hey, so we got several complaints about someone trespassing the area. We had to come down to check. This lady here says she was here to see you--do you know her?” Ira went from gawking at the cop to Viaan.

“I know her. Thanks, Phillip. I will take it from here.” Viaan nodded, turning towards his Jeep.

“I will need to file a report. Should I put her down as an acquaintance?” the cop interjected.

Viaan was looking down at the curb, his jaw tightened like he didn’t want to tell Phillip the truth. The marriage was temporary, it annoyed him that she would put him in that position.

“She..she is..uh--” Viaan hesitated.

“I’m his wife...” Ira declared scoffing at Viaan’s blabbering state.

“Oh, cool man, sorry, I didn’t know you got married. Congratulations,” the cop wished.

Viaan sighed as he got into his jeep while the cop awkwardly sauntered to his car. He casually put on his sunglasses staring ahead, grinding his teeth in contempt.

“Are you going to get in today?” He snapped at her.

Ira hastily climbed into the passenger seat without arguing.

As he drove them back to his house, she peeked at him conspicuously, noticing his clammy clothes. His long hands maneuvering the stick so smoothly. Viaan’s sports shoes were all muddy and his University cap was covering most of his hair.

Ira recollected how strained their relationship had gotten in the past few weeks. The few times they had interacted back in school and after, had been cordial.

In school, Ira recognized Viaan as the Science club President, who kept to his selective rich friends. She’d see him cozying up with Isha in the hallway or at the lunch table.

“What the hell were you thinking telling him that?” he interrupted her thoughts.

“It’s not like he is not going to find out.” Ira retorted.

“It’s temporary, we don’t need to let the world know about it.” He shook his head before adding, “What are you even doing here?”

Ira chose not to respond as they had reached his main gate. She smirked at the visibly shocked guard who had stopped her earlier.

“Wait here... I’ll take you back,” Viaan demanded after putting the Jeep in neutral.

“Hey! I’m here because I was told your parents were trying to reach me.” Ira inhaled sharply, “I’m not waiting here like a dog!”

Viaan was slightly amused by Ira’s outbursts noticing how red her cheeks were turning as she growled at him.

“Alright, follow me.” Viaan trudged through a door not glancing back even once. Ira had to catch her breath when she finally caught up to him in the hallway.

“Do you have a problem waiting here too? Or do you wish to join me in my bedroom?” he smirked.

Ira wasn’t listening, she was captivated by interiors of his home. It was like the photocopy of the Buckingham palace she had seen online. The decor was tasteful and regal. She realized she was ogling at her surroundings far too long because Viaan had disappeared.

Ira sat her butt down clumsily bouncing on the sofa guiltily. She picked up an expensive-looking coaster to inspect the design when she heard a man clear his throat behind her. Her dad’s family was affluent, her granny, and she on the other hand lived a more unpretentious lifestyle.

Ira leaped up from the sofa, letting out a muffled scream as she felt the coaster slip through her fingers, tumbling to the ground. The china noiselessly bounced on the furry carpet seeming unharmed.

“I’ll get it, please don’t bother...” the no-nonsense man, dressed in a crisp white shirt stopped her as she tried to lunge forward to pick the fallen article.

Perching on the sofa again, Ira bit her lower lip nervously. She watched the man place the coaster back meticulously.

“I’m Thomas, is Mrs. Samrat expecting you?”

“Not sure, but I’m Ira! Viaan asked me to wait here.”

“I’ll let madam know. She will be happy to know she has guests.” His face not sharing a glint of happiness he had just described.

“Uhh...okay then.” Ira smiled weakly weighing the consequences of that.

Within a few minutes, a perky lady, dressed in a gorgeous salwar suit walked in beaming at her. Ira rose to her feet, grinning back.

“Ira! I’m so happy you came here to meet me. How are you doing, darling?” Mrs. Samrat asked sympathetically.

“I’m good, thank you. How are you?”

“All good, sweetie. I told my husband I wanted to take you out before the event tonight,” she took a seat on the chair. “What happened was so unfortunate, you shouldn’t have been dragged through those business deals like that. I want to apologize on behalf of my family...”

“Mrs. Samrat, you don’t need to...”

“Please call me Kirti or mom, whatever you prefer,” she caught Ira off guard.

Kirti Samrat seemed like a sweet lady, it almost made sense why Viaan was usually so gentle and friendly. Uncommon, these days.

“Sure...” Ira nodded.

“I’m so glad Viaan decided to marry you. The day Isha left was so difficult for him... he was hurting.” Sadness clouded her beautiful features. “Now he has you.”

“Mom, I see you’ve met Ira...” he announced from the doorway.

“Hello Viaan, come join us.” Kirti waved at her son but Viaan didn’t budge.

“Mom, Ira and I will need to leave. She can visit again soon” His eyes met Ira’s knowingly.

“She is here for the first time, Viaan. I’m waiting for your dad. Once he is here, I will give her the ring.”

“What ring?” Viaan scowled.

“I’m here... Sorry for the delay. I was stuck in my office with Rajeev,” Mr. Samrat Sr. declared as he walked in.

“Ira, this is for you,” Kirti opened a velvety ring box. “Viaan! Come here and put the ring on,” she giggled.

Viaan sighed, marching over to grab the ring, pushing the ring on her ring finger like a programmed robot. Normally, a moment like that would hold high significance but Viaan was not having any of it. Nothing was normal about their situation.

Ira’s eyes widened as she stared down at the ring, it didn’t fit her well at all.

“I’ll have the jeweler increase the size for you. I’m sorry it was so last minute, we didn’t have the chance to ask your size,” his mom apologized.

“Ah, Mrs. Sam-- Kirti, it’s fine. It’s a...BIG ring” Ira huffed, enthralled by the diamond’s size.

“It’s tight because it was sized for Isha not her,” Viaan spat abruptly. It was the ultimate truth, everyone in their social circle was aware that Viaan was ready to pop the question. However, the declaration seemed to sting Ira a bit.

“Viaan!” his mom snapped.

“This is not necessary. In fact, I think it safer with you all.” Ira swirled the ring around in an attempt to take it off. She caught Kirti glancing at her husband with concerned eyes.

“It’s yours. It was my mother’s ring. You’re Viaan’s wife now.” Mr. Samrat Sr. finally spoke.

“Only for a year--” Viaan jibbed. Ira got a feeling that her temporary in-laws and her temporary husband were not on the same page.

“So, have you both decided about where you want to stay?” Samrat Sr. brought up the crucial agenda.

“You’re more than welcome to come live with us,” Kirti offered promptly. Ira looked around the room finally deciding to put in a word.

“As I mentioned before, I am heading to UCSF this Fall...” Ira looked over at Samrat Sr. for some form of support.

“That’s taken care of, you will be going to UCLA.” Samrat Sr declared. “I was going to announce it at the party tonight but what the hell, congratulations!” Before he could finish, his wife squealed with excitement.

Ira was totally numb. Her mind was processing this new information rather slowly. She caught Viaan glaring at his dad.

“I need...to use the bathroom.” Ira could barely speak, tears threatening to spill. Viaan sensed something off so he grabbed her arm slightly.

Viaan escorted Ira to his room upstairs. As they walked into the room, Ira rushed into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.

***

He sat down on his bed realizing what his father had done, he had no business meddling with her application. He sat soundlessly hearing her muffled sobs through the door. He didn’t say a word, he felt partially responsible for those tears.

Viaan waited patiently till she decided to reluctantly step out. He could see she had tried hard to blot her eyes but her tiny nose was still red.

“Water?” he offered. She declined.

“I think it will be better if I move to your apartment.” Viaan sprung the topic out of nowhere.

“Is it even my apartment?” Ira exhaled sharply.

“Look, we will have more privacy in that apartment. My parent will expect us to live a certain way. I think we will be better off there.”

Ira nodded, she glanced around his spacious room. The thought of sharing it with him made her quiver involuntarily.

“I’m sorry you couldn’t go to the college of your choice.”

“It’s fine I guess. He got me into UCLA last minute so I wouldn’t miss school for a year.” She sniffled.

“You seemed pretty upset a minute ago.”

“Everything in my life has changed. I’m so wound up legally and my grandma has me doing things I couldn’t have imagined doing a month ago...Like getting married.” Ira rubbed her palms on her face.

In the meantime, Kirti had come looking for them. Viaan stood up eyeing Ira.

“Ira, I wanted to take you out shopping for tonight’s event. Do you have anything planned for the day?”

“Not really.” Ira retorted calmly to his mom’s request. She had taken the entire day off at work.

“Sweetie, let’s go if you’re ready,” Ira followed Kirti without glancing back at Viaan as she felt unsettled after sharing her mind.

Ira nodded politely as Kirti babbled about the party arrangements in the car. Ira couldn’t care less.

The ladies walked into a posh boutique named Vanity on Robertson Boulevard. A place where Isha would routinely visit, not her. The staff there knew Kirti well enough because they were all on their toes. They immediately pulled out a bunch of gowns in Ira’s size and paraded their best Jimmy Cho shoes.

“Kirti, I’m not sure what I’m doing here,” Ira whispered to Kirti who simply laughed.

“We’re here to have a girly time and to pick a dress for tonight,” Kirti restated.

“I can’t afford all this” Ira whispered again.

“You don’t need to pay a dime. Just pick what services you want and it will be taken care of”

Ira hesitated as she walked by all the gowns, feeling the silky fabric under her fingers. “This one, I think. What do you think?” She turned to her fairy Godmother.

“It’s lovely but try it on first.” Kirti beamed her.

“I think a good updo with that neckline will look just right.” The employee at Vanity chimed in.

She stepped out wearing her chosen dress carefully as to not to step on the skirt. Ira’s heart clenched as Kirti’s eyes watered looking at her. Ira was choosing her wedding dress that day and Kirti was closest to a mom figure she had.

“Would you like to try another one?” Kirti probed. Ira shook her head. She didn’t care.

“It’s your day, Ira” Kirti gave her a sympathetic smile, sensing a lack of enthusiasm.

Kirti was trying hard to make Ira feel good. Unfortunately, the thought of having to transfer schools, living with Viaan for the year, and dealing with her finances, exhausted her mind.

I didn’t ask for this... All I wished was to go to San Francisco, work, and travel...

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