17: Tangled Chords
My heart is a butterfly
Drifting aimless in the breeze
Floating without a care
Fluttering my wings
Of resplendent silk
Those who lay eyes upon me
Watch in wonder
As I dance, in a trance
To the song of freedom
And the music of love
It was a gorgeous piece of artwork–a tiny yet pristine butterfly arrested in mid-flight, so precious and fragile, handle with care or it’ll never fly again. Turning her hand this way and that, Khanak admired the way the ring caught the light. Surprisingly it seemed custom made for her finger.
How could something so small be responsible for such havoc and chaos in my life? She closed her eyes as the thing in her chest contracted in raw pain. For just a moment she had wanted to believe in what the cold piece of stone and metal implied. That’s what it is,just a symbol, an empty hollow symbol.
And it has served its purpose. She stole a glance sideways and caught him watching her. Her nerves came alive tingling in a flurry of excitement. It was his invariable effect on her no matter how well she thought she’d prepared herself.
Against her better judgment she felt drawn toward him; like fish to bait or mice to cheese; a surefire path to self annihilation.
His gaze didn’t falter, rather she was being perused with singular intensity.
I have my eye trained on the target, and it’s you!
Breathless, she felt trapped, ensnared. She turned away desperate for a way out, unsure if he had gauged the depth of her feelings mirrored in her face.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” Shan observed quite casually. “But pales to insignificance in front of its wearer. It should consider itself blessed.”
Those mesmerizing orbs of jet black widened.
S***! Watch it Doofus! This is dangerous territory! Don’t incite her further..she looks pretty miffed as is! Go easy on the charm factor! She won’t succumb and melt like ice cream on a summer day! She isn’t one of those chicks who strut around flaunting your name tattooed on their chests…or even one of those who scream themselves hoarse just to have you look their way. She’s unique…a rare exotic creature who has socked me like a ton of bricks and now I’m hooked so bad that I’m willing to go to any lengths to keep her close! Even if it meant looking like a fool in front of her!
Though putting the ring on her finger has been one of the most if not the most sincere things I’ve ever done in my life! What do I do now? She won’t believe the truth and I can’t afford to let her go!
Socho (Think) Shan! He decided to bluff his way through.
Grinning and trying to appear quite amused he said;“Did you notice the looks on everybody’s faces? They were like thunderstruck! Especially your chachu! He could have bagged a prime role in Ramsay’s next!”
So he thinks it was all a joke! But he was right. When she thought back..it did appear quite funny like a scene from a melodrama..though nothing could have been more real!
While she had stood there petrified looking at the ring, and then at Shan, unsure if she’d heard him right, her uncle had collapsed on the floor with a huge crash, his face turning a vivid shade of purple while he hurled curses at both of them and banished her forever from the family.
Shan slipped his hand over hers giving it a tight squeeze. “At least now you have a companion in hell.” He said looking morose, and then winked.
She snatched her hand away. It seemed all so cleverly orchestrated! What did he really want from her? “Do you always go around carrying a ring in your pocket?”
He shot her a sharp look, as if he’d been caught in the act. “Uh..not always…well never to be exact.” Damnit!
He was cornered. “Uhhh..well I anticipated it, I mean felt your chachu was due for some shock therapy, with he being old fashioned and all, he would be knocked out flat by the ring. And HE WAS! You can’t deny it!” He exclaimed.
“If you anticipated my chachu’s reaction so well, why did you ask me to dance? Why make matters worse?
God! She is one sharp lady! I better not fall into a trap of my own making!
With a suave shrug of a fine pair of shoulders and that disarming smile, he said, “a wedding party without song and dance isn’t a ton of fun is it? Besides…” he added slyly, “ in that killer outfit you were asking for it.”
Khanak! You better be careful…he knows how to manipulate you! She willed her speeding heart to calm down. “Thanks a lot for your kindness! I think you should have this back.” She unscrewed the ring.
He was instantly on the alert, his brain raced. “Noooo!..don’t take it off! What if your chachu sends one of his spies after us…I won’t put it past him! He seems pretty devious!”
The possibility hadn’t crossed her mind, though it was quite farfetched. Why would her uncle resort to something that underhand? Hadn’t he declared that he’d washed his hands off her?
“No..that’s dim. Take it back.” She said, the cold metal had begun to irk.
“No, I won’t!” She was so not reasonable! Didn’t someone say ‘Diamonds were a girl’s best friend? Shan thought. “Keep it! Consider it ..a.. gift.”
“But you pay me..I’m your employee!”
“A small welcome to the company type gift.”
“Do all your workers get expensive gifts, like designer wear and diamond encrusted rings?”
“Uh…no they don’t.” He mumbled. I’d go bankrupt! “But then not everybody is special like you!”
What does he mean? She felt agitated and upset. It was obvious he was making it all up but she had no clue why?
“And those outfits were necessary, you are after all Jhankaar’s lead dancer!” He added.
“But this ring?” Her fine eyes clouded up in distress.
OMG! The thought suddenly dawned on him. She thinks I’m a phony..a lousy pretender..but the truth is even harder to believe! I need some time! Give me time Khanak..please! I can’t let her take it off! It took so much hard work just to get it on in the first place!
“It looks perfect on your finger. You should wear it!” He was running out of ideas.
“I can’t accept it..I could never compensate you for it!” She retorted.
He said with a cryptic smile. “I’ll let you know when and how you can pay me back.”
Back at Shan’s penthouse in Mumbai:
“I’ll get Horse from the neighbors..I bet he’s chomping at the bit, dying to see you!” Shan said. He was trying his best to cheer her up. Not a single word had escaped her mouth since their chat on the flight. She seemed dejected and utterly worn out. The spark in those eyes was missing. He hated to think that he was responsible for her state.
Khanak glanced around the huge living room, with its knicks and knacks. It was comforting. It gave her a sense of home, as if she was back where she belonged.
How odd! And it’s not even mine! I’m just a drifter, rootless.. Am I so adaptable? Or is it him? No..I can’t allow myself to settle down. Abruptly she pushed open the French doors and rushed out onto the terrace, desperate for air. Feeling better after taking several breaths..the mundane traffic noise calming her, telling her that life hadn’t come to a grinding halt, that it just continued to be a never ending struggle.
The roof garden was in full bloom, but no music played through the speakers.
Her fingers traced the hardy vines of the Jasmine as it wound around the trellis..the dainty tendrils hooking on to the metal support as they changed direction, consummately malleable, offering little resistance. It wasn’t so bad, after all.
Dido- Thank You