30: Tangled Tale
“Good morning sleeping beauty.”
Khanak flopped over on her stomach and buried her head in a large fluffy pillow. She was trying hard to hold on to her dream. Or was it real. It was hard to tell. The scene was a grand ball, where she was the only one dancing with the handsome prince because he wouldn’t dance with anyone else. He was holding her tight as if he feared she would vanish at any moment. Then his fudge brown eyes peered deep into her own as he asked for her hand and her heart stopped beating and…
“Wake up sleepy head!”
She stirred and groaned in complaint as the bright rays of sun struck her eyes. Her head throbbed as someone shook her arm.
“Where am I?”
“Perfecto! Just the question I would expect from a beautiful princess. C’mon wake up or was the witch’s spell stronger than the power of your love?”
Khanak sat up straight. The sudden movement made the room spin and sent a wave of nausea through her chest. She stared blankly at the purple haired man sitting in front of her grinning from ear to ear.
“Diva! You here?” She looked around and recognized she was in her bedroom. But how did she get here? She didn’t recall going to bed.
Diva regarded his beautifully lacquered nails and let out an exaggerated sigh. “Kya karein! People remember me only when they are in trouble. When Miss Khanak Mishra passed out in Shan the hunk’s arms, the poor boy panicked and shot me an SOS, not knowing that this is exactly what happens when a girl hears a proposal on an empty stomach.”
“I passed out?”
“Yes you did darling and in the most dramatic style too. You almost gave your beau a heart attack.”
Just then the bedroom door swung open and Shan’s head popped around the edge. It was obvious he had been eavesdropping. He threw a furious glance at Diva as he strode over to the bed and grabbed hold of Khanak’s hand. “Are you alright?”
“Of course she is alright except for a whopping headache.”
“Shut up Diva, I wasn’t talking to you.” He snapped. Then focusing his attention back on Khanak he repeated the question in a much gentler tone but no less anxiety.
She nodded. “Yes I am fine.”
“Thank God.” His face relaxed. “I was terrified.”
Khanak flushed now recalling clearly what had transpired. The heavenly dance had been real and so had her prince charming. She could still hear the proposal ringing in her ears as well as the shouts of encouragement urging her to say yes while she hesitated. Then finally she had complied before everything had gone black. “I’m sorry.”
“For fainting. It has never happened to me before. I…I don’t understand why.”
Shan smiled. “Don’t blame yourself. You were exhausted as you hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast.”
“Plus the stress of being proposed to by a dreamboat. Now tell me what girl would survive something like that?” Diva chimed in with a wink.
Shan glowered at him while Khanak looked down feeling distinctly uncomfortable. Then she gazed apprehensively at the man who made her world spin and said, “Did I make a mistake? Were you satisfied?”
Her prince frowned.
“I mean; I hope I didn’t make a fool of myself last night. That my reply was what you expected. I didn’t want to let you down.” She looked decidedly uneasy.
“Oh that…,” He gripped her hand tighter and leaned earnestly forward. “Khanak you can’t do anything wrong. Please, never let such ridiculous doubts enter your head. You were perfection personified.”
His answer seemed to please her for she smiled for the first time. “Thank you. Now if you both will excuse me, I need to get ready. There is lot of work to be done at the studio.”
“No you should rest. Take the day off. Boss’ orders.”
“No sir I am perfectly fine. Nothing a good breakfast can’t cure. Besides you’ve placed additional responsibility on my shoulders. How do you expect me to fulfill my task if I don’t go to work?” Khanak declared sweetly as she hopped off of bed and hustled them out of the room.
Diva looked up from the bottle of orange juice he had been examining doubtfully. Shan appeared agitated as he paced up and down the room.
Diva chuckled, “Wedding jitters already? It happens son. But let me tell you one thing, you couldn’t have done better than Khanak. She is a rare gem. I’m almost envious.”
Shan looked sharply at him then relaxed when he realized his friend’s words had been in jest.
“I sorely wish it was wedding nerves but unfortunately it isn’t so.”
“Then what is the flurry about. She said yes, didn’t she?”
Shan swung abruptly on his heels and walked briskly on to the terrace. He leaned against the railing and gazed far into the horizon, above and beyond the mad rush of the city. “I don’t think I should be doing this Diva.”
“Playing this game in the name of deception. It was fun at first, but now things are getting complicated.”
“What do you mean? Are you telling me that the proposal was not for real?”
“No, it was very much for real.” Shan turned back to look at his friend. “I couldn’t help myself. The moment, the music, the way she looked—it was perfect. But now somehow I believe she agreed because she thought it was a part of the scheme I had concocted.”
“You mean you proposed without revealing your feelings? You didn’t tell her that you loved her?”
The look of distress on his friend’s face was enough for Diva to realize his suspicions were indeed true.
“Good Lord! What is this kalyug? You act so macho while actually you are chicken! If you love why can’t you say so?”
“What should I do now Diva? I can’t let her go on believing this is all part of a sham. What if she thinks I’m taking advantage of her vulnerability?”
“You are not Shan. You never have and never will. Besides she is an independent woman and a very smart one at that.”
“But still, she may think that she is obliged to me in some manner. That she owes me but nothing could be further from the truth. All I want is to see her is happy and successful.” Shan said bitterly.
And you want her to be with you forever to have and to hold. Diva smiled. “Well I can’t suggest any remedy because the damage is done. You can’t recant now.” He picked up the morning paper and directed Shan’s attention to a certain section.
There right on the top of the gossip column was posted a picture of Shan and Khanak dancing cheek to cheek and the heading said: ‘Fairytales do come true! The prince of the stage proposes to his princess. Will they live happily ever after?’
While Shan skimmed the article anxiously Diva watched him and grinned–God must have surely delegated me to help these idiots. They seem so lost on their own. They end up simply tying themselves up in knots. His pristine eyebrows drew together in a thoughtful frown. The only way is to force the situation, even if that means seeking assistance from the enemy.