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Summary

My nose was clogged, my eyes watered but I smiled when I saw him. He waited for me. Despite the freezing breeze wooshing over us wildly, my skin melted when he retreated his palms from his coat pocket and cupped my face. "Are you okay?" He spoke as softly as my breaths had turned now. I nodded. His gaze switched behind me, his striking black eyes and pointed nose glaring like an eagle. I didn't look behind. Whatever I wanted, was right in front of me.

Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
β˜… 4.5 2 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

| o n e |

I EXHALED LOUDLY, as wildly as possible, freeing my thigh muscles and bucking my legs down, landing on the mint mat with a soft thud. Deep breaths β€” I reminded myself. My tank top was reeking with hard sweat, my toes inside my shoes were all clammy and for a second, I couldn't feel my hips.

I smiled. Nothing could be more delicious than the pain of a good workout. But never do it in the evening time especially when you live in a crazily cold city. I was heaving like a fish out of water.

Stretching my arms and legs, I put the mat out in the yard to dry and stripped down my workout clothes to jump straight into the shower. Exercising was a part of me. I couldn't function in the mornings without it but since Mumma decided to make deep-fried puris for breakfast today, I lost my control and gobbled them down in a jiffy. Don't judge me. It's my cheat day. And yet I couldn't stop myself from doing fifty lunges.

There were days when it seemed almost impossible for me to get up and even stretch a limb but over the years, I've found my passion for it. It's hard at the start but my stubbornness to fix that void gave wings to my optimistic side.

Venturing out of the bathroom with warm droplets clinging to my neck, I slipped into a baggy sweater and pyjamas along with my favourite blue beanie and matching wool socks.

My room was a medium-sized, colourful space with whiteboards and posters pinned up on the wall symmetrically. I loved creativity in every form so I doodled some quotes and stacked them on the wall opposite my bed. Waking up to inspirational words was my kind of a good morning, along with a bunch of self-love books that sat on my bedside table.

Walking over to the balcony, I glance at the stone-bordered mirror sideways and involuntarily fix my bangs. My eyes wandered outside the snow-capped trees and my little sister in the rose garden, bunching the white ice with her tiny palms and stabbing it over another snowball.

The window was slowly blurring; the temperature dropping as the sun dipped lower, rendering the sky in ink. It was supposed to be a normal day where I loved to just stare out of the window, losing myself in the white hills opposite our villa and just dream.

I still did. Much of it was regret.

I had dreamt of the last year to be perfect. Well, if not perfect, I wanted it to turn out the way I wanted; which seldom happened.

Dreams and hopes were all I survived on. We all did. But the way it crushed in front of my eyes, in me, was as unexpected as me smiling again and the girl who had recited all bright and sanguine sayings by famous people.

Or maybe I was just overreacting.

With a long sigh and my frigid breath rushing out like smoke, I closed the window taut as the chill grew before calling my sister inside. She looked so rosy, playing in the yard as if that was the only thing in her life. I missed that.

It was probably my fault to have given my all to that phase, having yearned about it so fiercely when it was just a casual game for him.

Sometimes it felt pointless, I'd just shrugged and forgot about it while other times, it re-pierced my heart like an already bloody dagger.

I moved on at a generous pace. I was finally 'me' again, rather better. My parents had constantly supported me and suggested that I forget the past which made me realise that my despair has to have a limit.

Ugh, too much of a sobfest already.

Pushing those thoughts away, I wore a goofy smile and trotted downstairs to the living room where papa and mumma were seated in front of the fireplace, going through their wedding albums.

It was hard not to grin at the sight. Though, it was a little cringe when I realised the reason they were doing it for.

"Aaina! Look at this photo of our engagement" Mom called out from the velvet couch, grinning her motherly grin.

Since the news, everyone was only talking about weddings.

"Ya'll look beautiful," I said and plopped down beside them, relishing the addictive warmth of the fire shrouding the living room.

"And mumma, you don't need to show me your old wedding albums just to hint at mine" I put my arm around her and smirked.

She gave me a flustered smile and called out to Meher.

Steps thundered over the wooden stairs before she joined us at the fireplace.

"This one was when we first held you"
Papa pushed another picture in my direction where I was a tiny baby nestled between their arms. I had seen this picture numerous times but it always seemed fresh.

"Aww" I reached out for it but Meher snatched it.

"This is Di? Please, I was cuter" She declared, her fists resting on her hips in attitude and I tickled the stomach of the she-devil.

"I can't believe you're getting married"

Here we go again.

Mumma put her palm under her cheek in astonishment, as if she hasn't been saying the same words throughout the day.

I deadpanned. "You were the one who set this up, mumma"

"Why is Di having an arranged marriage?" Meher questioned.

"Why not?" I asked.

"I thought you were planning to marry Hrithik Roshan"

Mumma rolled her eyes at Meher who had now started dancing to Hritik's signature steps.

"Oh, I still am" We giggled and then our parents switched to a conversation about the budget and preparation analytics of the non-existent wedding.

"Guys, let me meet him first, I won't get married right away!" I groaned in obvious frustration.

"We know that, sweetheart. If not now, but someday you will, right? Let us have our part of the fun with organising" Papa chuckled and patted my head.

"I'm not marrying till I am 50" Meher snorted in a very annoyed, teenage way and yanked at my hand as she used to when she was a toddler, dragging me to play with her.

"You won't be able to carry your ghagra at that age" Mumma shot a funny look to her ten-year-old daughter.

"I'm not wearing a ghagra. It'll be my denim or nothing"

We all broke into chortles. Kissing their cheeks, my sister and I returned upstairs to hunt for some fun hobby before dinner. We ended up deciding on monopoly since she was now getting good at math and wanted to flaunt her skills.

The snow pelted softly on the window and we settled in my bedroom, stuffing ourselves with shawls. Even Olaf wouldn't survive the winter in the north.

"Is he your boyfriend?" Meher asked nonchalantly, simultaneously commencing the first round by dropping the dice.

She was just ten but spoke her mind, especially with me. I didn't even realise how much she had grown in two years. Chocolate brown hair like mine, slightly curly and shorter, some splayed over her forehead in girly fringes. But she was anything but girly.

"No"

"So you're marrying a stranger, Di?" Her eyes twisted in anger.

Yeah, right.

"You think I would do that? If mumma suggested a guy for marriage who I didn't know but she did, I would wait at least a year to know him well"

"Accha. Then why don't you find someone for yourself?" She whispered in a dramatic tone.

Meher spoke the truth always. I enjoyed talking to her and shared everything without hesitation.

"It's not about that, Meher. What I found wasn't what I expected. It came and left on its own. It's over and I'm happy. And I don't mind an arranged marriage"

"Ugh, don't be an oldie, sis. You'll get someone else" She scoffed, passing the dice to me.

I didn't mind having another boyfriend but my timorousness to start all over again gave away every time.

I wasn't desperate but I did want to get married at some point and now seemed like an adequate time considering I got promoted last month.

Maybe I was a coward to not work for it and find the 'love of my life' but this proposal arrived as a chance to deeply acquaint myself with someone I already knew.

"I'm not. I'm willingly doing it because I see nothing wrong. I get to decide who I want to marry and he is not a stranger. I've known him since we were four"

"Really?!" She gasped at the revelation.

I nodded, my cheeks turning warm.

"Wait, when did this happen? Why doesn't anyone tell me anything!" She screeched in her shrill voice.

I chuckled, collecting the plastic coins and paper notes in my palm while playing my turn.

"You weren't even born then and we've lost contact for a few years"

"Does he know me?" She spoke with enlivened stars in her eyes.

"Of course he does. You were just a baby and spat on him when we were having dinner at our house. He didn't even look at you after that" I giggled and she facepalmed herself in embarrassment.

"But you don't love him," She said atlas, staring at me with ruthful tenderness.

It was a sore topic I didn't want to plunge into, so I did what I always did.

Laughed it off.

"Missy, do you know anything about love?" I smirked.

"Don't start with your philosophy, Di. I know you are avoiding it but you sort of . . . have to love him, right? You don't love him"

She said it in an obvious way like it was easy to love. She was too young to understand; that doesn't mean she was wrong, but it were her days to not worry. If only life was so simple, like in a kid's eyes.

If only I knew what I was getting into.

My mind wandered to those memories when, like Meher, we used to build a snowman and organize snow-fights between our families. Inseparable, cackling and yelling all day long. I'm not sure if he remembers me well. It had been seven years.

He was this cool kid at school, funny and yet simple but the apple of every teacher's eye.

Did he change? How is he like now?

Last week, The Shroff's, our old family friends took us β€” me, predominantly, by surprise with a cute, auburn basket waiting at our doorstep and a card which held the proposal. After that, Mrs Shroff and Mumma haven't stopped chatting over the phone, hoping their kids would agree. Papa said Sameer had taken over the family business and was doing exceptionally well. Well, his family sent the proposal so maybe he already agreed?

I fiddled with my fingers, visualising our meet next week. What if I freak out? β€” which I most definitely will and make a total fool out of myself all over again.

Our childhood was so innocent and joyful that it scared me whether that powerful a bond would exist between us again.
We had grown up and apart. We fought and shattered our friendship to splinters. I remember the day before I was supposed to catch my flight to New Zealand. I was astounded because my best friend ended our friendship in a single evening and was heartbroken when I learnt the reason.

I doubt he'd even agree to see me.

Worried I might go with the flow and drown again, I felt inconsiderate. It became a habit now. But again, I had grown hopeful.

Meher gazed at me with expectant eyes.

I hummed, not sure of my answer.

"I think I can"

But I'm not sure he would.



***

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