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That night after the movie, when we went to bed, I didn't have my back against him unlike what I was doing till now. Perched up on our elbows, we were talking how our day went and after that was done, I went on about all the non-sense Simi and I had done when we were kids.
"You guys were crazy!", he said when I recalled how we used to surreptitiously follow Varun, whom Simi had a crush on. (He is now her husband)
"We just wanted to know if he was single", I replied coyly
"And you thought you'd know that by following him? Anyways, I forgot to tell you... since you've not met my friends properly, they've arranged for a small party for us at Sutra on Saturday...."
"Wow, that's so sweet of your friends re", I said. More than being happy that he had nice friends, I was rejoicing at my chance to go to a disc!
"I don't have anything to wear for Saturday", I complained to Dhruvesh while serving him his morning tea
"So, go buy something", he said, looking up from the newspaper he was reading and taking a sip of his tea
"You'll come with me in the evening?", I asked, wanting to spend more time with him. So unlike me a month back!
"Shopping!! Why don't you go with Simi? I hardly know anything about clothes anyways", he tried his best to evade a shopping trip. "Take my credit card...."
"You're offering me your card!! Wow!! I love you!! Ok, I'll go with Simi.", I gushed at the benefits marriage could bring along with it and leaped at the card he held in his hand.
"What?", he looked shocked at my 'I love you'. I didn't know how to react as well, so I just kissed him on his cheek and bade him goodbye for office and excusing myself for a shower. I wasn't prepared for an I-love-you session right now.
I went shopping for a one piece dress to wear for the Saturday party with Simi in the evening. After the shopping spree spread to buying more than just one dress, we thought of dropping by at Megha's place. She was our common friend. I hadn't seen her since my wedding. She was rather shocked to see us, invited at her place.
"Hi... you didn't tell me you were dropping by! My house is in a state of mess.", she confessed, opening her pony tail and ruffling her hair.
"I hadn't heard from you since my wedding, so we decided to just drop by", I replied.
"Oh yeah, so, how's it being married?", she enquired of me.
"It's nice....", I blushed. "How have you been re and how's Vinay?", I asked. Vinay was her husband. Even she had a love marriage and I was really envious of her love story because Vinay was a real catch! Rich, handsome, intelligent....what more does one want in a man anyways! I used to have a huge crush on him. But He was like a mad puppy in love with Megha.
"I'm good re. He's fine too.", she replied.
However, that didn't sound so convincing. Her voice shook while answering. That's when I realized that behind the hair that covered her face, was a swollen left cheek. After a few lies about having a tooth ache, she cried in my arms. Simi came close too. We were hoping against hope that it wasn't what we were thinking.
"What happened?", Simi offered her a glass of water and tried to calm her down. I was still holding her tight. Contrary to what men think, even women are inept at handling other crying women, even if they are best friends. She told us her story in between sobs and wails and that sent a chill through both Simi and my spine.
I went home and I was still in shock. I didn't realize when Dhruvesh came home. He found me lying on the bed staring at the ceiling fan in darkness. My cheeks were wet with tears, which I wasn't sure were for Megha's state or fear for being in the same state myself.
"Are you ok, Payal?", he asked me switching on the light. "Payal, Payal....", he came near me and looked over me.
I got up and hugged him and held him tight for a few minutes. That was our first hug. He placed his hand on my head and asked me in a soft and gentle whisper about the reason for my strange behavior. I told him about how Megha found out about Vinay's extra marital affair, about his drinking problem that she was trying to convince herself was ok till now, about how he hit her right across the face when she confronted him about the love bites on his chest she found the previous night as she was changing his clothes for him as he was too drunk to do that. And before Megha could recover from the shock that Vinay was cheating on her, she also had to get over the fact that he had hit her. Dhruvesh just rubbed my hands to settle the goosebumps I had while narrating the story. I told him how I feared being Megha and he looked into my eyes and assured me he won't be another Vinay. My heart trusted him, but my eyes were still watering. That's when I realised how hopelessly in love I was with Dhruvesh to be so scared to lose him to another woman.
Saturday had come. I was so excited to wear my new dress. Dhruvesh said that I was looking stunningly hot, obviating the need for the usage of rouge on my face! We reached the venue and met all his friends outside Sutra.
"If I can't keep my hands off you today, it's all your fault", he said placing his hand on my waist and pulling me closer to him.
"No, it still is your fault. You gave me the credit card to go shopping", I whispered in his ears, feeling very proud of my repartee about my dress that he was referring to also quickly planted a kiss on his cheek.
"It's not your dress. It's you. It has always been you.", he said looking into my eyes. And then, I suddenly didn't want to go inside Sutra. All I wanted to do was to go and sit with him somewhere alone..... But his friends had already reached and he guided me towards them. He introduced me to them again... This time it was more detailed and I was more interested. His hand didn't lose its position on my waist.
When we went inside, he got a vodka for the both of us. I wasn't much of a dancer so, I just stood by a corner with him by my side But that didn't work for long, as we were dragged onto the dance floor whenever we escaped it.
I noticed that he wasn't called Dhruvesh by his friends. It was always Dhruv. He later told me that the only people who don't call him Dhruv are his parents and relatives! He confided in me that he wasn't particularly fond of him name for the same reason that I didn't like it for.... the ESH in the end!
Some time later, I saw him standing and drinking beer in a corner with Rajeev, his friend. I went to join them. Rajeev excused himself to get a drink. I complained to Dhruv, (yes, now I can not call him Dhruvesh!) about the smoke and loud music making it difficult to talk and I caught him looking at a hot girl standing behind me.
"You said you won't be able to keep your hands off me and you're not even able to keep your eyes on me....even when I'm talking to you", I said, turning his face towards me.
"Sorry na baby", he apologized holding my hand. Also making it the first time he called me 'baby'. I wasn't sure if it was alcohol induced.
"Forget it", I said, relieving my hand from his hand. I was angry. On the one hand he said, I was looking 'stunningly hot' and then on the other hand he keeps on staring at other hot bitches.... this isn't done!
He tightened his grip on my hand and pulled me towards him. My nose was now only 3 inches away from his. He looked into my eyes and said, "I love you". With that, all my anger just melted. It was like I was never angry! "And I love only YOU", he emphasized after a few moments. "Kept it within me for such a long time, now I feel so relieved", he confessed. I hugged him tight. He fell a little backwards as he wasn't expecting the hug. I hugged him tight, almost choking him. I had tiny droplets of tears in my eyes.
Rajeev's wife Seema saw us and laughed, "You're just back from your honeymoon!!! Just go get a room!!"
"Let's go get a room", I said freeing myself and him from the hug. He looked at me in disbelief. After repeating it once more, he excused us from all his friends giving some reason that I didn't even bother listening to. His 'I love you' was still playing in my mind in loops.
When we entered our car, I just grabbed him by his collar and kissed him hard. He went into a deeper sense of disbelief.
"I'm not complaining, but seriously, what is the matter with you!!", he said.
"Nothing", I said. The tiny droplets made a reappearance in my eyes.
"Payal... you're crying, what happened? Was it something I said?", he panicked.
"I was just so freaking stupid. I was going to throw all this away! I'm soooo stupid!! And how are you in love with such a stupid girl?", I said.
"Because the stupid girl is smart, she is independent, her smile has is in itself to light me up anytime of the day... though I'm seeing it only recently...and when she opens her hair and when they fly across her face, she looks divine. Enough for me to just look at her and spend the rest of my life doing just that", he said. The tiny droplets of tears now became big tears and rolled down my cheeks.
"I thought you'd get overwhelmed by all this and give me another kiss and all I'm getting is tears!", he joked.
"I'm just confused if I hate myself more or love you more", I said.
"How can you hate the girl I love?", he smiled.
"Because the girl you love is supremely stupid.... she wanted to have a love story before marriage and only because that didn't happen, she thought she'd never get it and hated the idea of marrying a guy whom she didn't love before marriage... pretty stupid isn't she?", I said.
I was careful in not mentioning that I also didn't like him earlier because his English was pathetic and his name sucked. And realizing later that having bad English is any day better than being beaten after having being cheated on by an English speaking glib talker.
"You know when was the first time I saw you?", he asked.
"When you came to see me at my place with your parents", I answered.
"Naaaa.... "He laughed. "I saw you at Nirav's wedding". Nirav was his cousin who had married my distant cousin Preeti. "You were trying to eat your food, finding it difficult to balance the plate on your hands and keeping your hair in place, which were falling on your face because of the fan you were standing next to. I found it so cute....to see you take care of your hair and still manage to eat. I really really liked you that time. I told Mom that I'd like to marry you if you were single. And you were."
"So you decided to marry me basis how well I handle my hair while eating food?", I asked in disbelief.
"I know that's stupid.... but isn't it how love stories are supposed to be anyways?", he said, putting strands of my hair behind my ears. Now I understood why he insisted that I don't cut my hair.
And here, I had my love story that I always wanted. The only difference was that it happened post-marriage as opposed to pre-marriage as I wanted. But it was pre-marriage for Dhruv at least! So that counts!! And I finally did get a guy who'd fall in love with me when he would see a strand of my hair on my face and loves it.
"Why did you not tell me all this earlier?", I complained.
"Because I knew you didn't love me when we got married. I just wanted to give you some time. Also, it's unfair to some level yaar.... one month was really a very small time period. But having said that, I wouldn't have been able to wait for long!", he said.
I hugged him. "Thank you for giving me such a beautiful love story", I said.
"How?", he asked puzzled.
"I always wanted to have a love story that no other girl had. A guy no other girl had.... and trust me, no girl on Earth would have a patient husband who'd be ok with not touching his wife on his Honeymoon. Thank you.... seriously", I said. This time, he kissed me before I could finish the sentence.
"I love you. I seriously do. And I'm just glad I wasn't the stupid rigid girl who ruined her marriage for some teenage romance expectations!"
"I love you too", he kissed me and stroked my nose later.
We were still in the car and we saw Seema knocking on my window. I rolled down the window and she said, "I told you guys to get a room....and you started in the car!" She went ahead and told the entire group about our apparent make-out session in the car. We then went to have a late night dinner where they further pulled our legs.
I have never been so happy in my life. Simi was right. Some love stories happen after marriage. My love story happened after and Dhruv's happened before our marriage. That night, I officially lost my heart to Dhruv and also a tissue....
The following morning, I woke up to Dhruv kissing me softly on my cheek to wake me up.
"Good morning baby" he said.
"Good morning", I blushed as our last night's love making scene flashed in front of me.
"You look beautiful", he said. And I knew I wasn't. After we came home, we couldn't wait for me to come back after washing off my make-up so my make-up was still on me. My kajal , eye-liner and mascara had all smudged over my face. And Dhruv still found me pretty when I was looking like a ghost.
"Dhruv, can I ask you for something?", I said.
"Yeah, tell me...."
"Can you take a week off..... I want to go on a Honeymoon"
"A week!! That looks really difficult. I had already taken almost a month off for our wedding...", he said
"Oh ok. It's ok...", I said, trying to smile so that he doesn't feel guilty.
"I'm so sorry baby.... I can take Monday off in the next week... Tuesday is a bank holiday anyways.... We can go to Lonavla on Thursday night and return on Tuesday night....... It's almost a week", he said, trying to bring a genuine smile on my face.
"Lonavla?", I cribbed. That wasn't a place where I wanted to have my Honeymoon.
"It wasn't me who wasted a week in Maldives na", he teased me.
"I hate you", I said, hitting him with a pillow for the Maldives comment.
"But I love you, Mrs. Payal Dhruv Shah", he said kissing me passionately.
After Dhruv, there was one more thing I fell in love with.... my new name.