21: Killing Me Softly
Khanak couldn’t shake the feeling of unease as she wandered over to the dimly lit music section. She was concerned about Shantanu. Had she been too harsh with him? But then he had started it, and what was that about getting jealous of a poor fifteen-year-old, who was only going through a difficult stage in his life? Hadn’t Shaan been through it himself? Couldn’t he empathize instead of blowing his top? Hmmph!
But where was he now? What was he up to? Did he leave? How would she get home? What would she tell her Mom and Dad? She wasn’t used to lying to them yet at the same time she couldn’t bear to hurt them, Khanak brooded as she stared at a huge poster of Lady Gaga.
“I certainly wouldn’t want you to look like that.”
She shivered when the familiar voice rumbled in her ear. He had come as close as he could get without establishing physical contact yet had made the tiny follicles in her neck to stand on end. This habit of popping out of thin air at the least expected moment had totally messed up the integrity of her nervous system. In desperation, her fingers pressed against the side of her neck to quiet the strong pulse that had begun banging away, causing her ears to ring.
But Shaan as usual looked unperturbed, his eyes inscrutable in the dim light as he observed her with his arms casually crossed over his chest.
That irked Khanak. She tapped her foot furiously on the carpet then turned on her heels and proceeded to walk out of the store when Shaan grabbed her wrist and firmly pulled her back.
“Not so fast! I’m not used to playing catch me if you can with immature female doctors!”
“Nor am I used to being accused of leading on adolescent boys by so called mature men!” On impulse she stepped on his shoe.
“Ouch! You Vixen! No. Not again! Not before you hear me out!” His grip on her wrist only got tighter as he tried to overcome the shock of pain.
He pulled her toward the listening station which was fairly isolated at this late hour except for a lone young fella who looked ridiculously funny jamming to soundless music with his earphones on. Khanak was seized by an insane desire to laugh out loud. Shantanu was making her completely distraught.
“Put this on.” And when she protested he placed a headset gently on her head surprising her by his sudden change in attitude. Then, placing a finger on her mouth, he took her hand and held it over his heart. Soon she was lost as he mouthed the romantic lines from an old Hindi ballad.
Shantanu’s face broke into a smile when his paramour’s complexion suffused with shy color and she hid her face in his chest. He folded her gently into the protective circle of his arms. It was clear she had forgiven him. Yet, he wanted to be absolutely sure so he went down on his knees in front of her. As Khanak gazed at him dumbfounded, the sound of clapping hands and shouts of “C’mon Forgive Him,” brought her rudely back to earth. A small crowd had gathered around them they were egging Shaan on. She wrenched her hand free from his grasp and blundered out.
“I am sorry Khanak! I really mean it, look at me, please! Do my eyes lie to you?” Shantanu pleaded.
Khanak closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “There’s nothing to forgive. I just wanted to see how much you cared for me.”
“Cared? OMG Khanak! I don’t care about you, I’m mad about you! You drive me nuts but I can’t imagine being with anybody else. My life revolves around you and you alone can save me again and again and again. Don’t you dare doubt my feelings or I will…”
“Lose my self-control and carry you away to some remote island and ravage you till you beg.” He hissed loudly in her ear making each word stick.
“Doesn’t sound like a bad idea,” Khanak muttered under her breath. She was trembling like a leaf.
He traced her jaw line with his forefinger. “Khanak my love, I promise we will be engaged and wed within a week. Till then, we must try to find ways to distract ourselves, like this…”
He pulled her into a large shoe store and before she knew it had seated her on a padded stool. He flicked away her sensible moccasins and took both her feet in his hands.
“Shantanu, stop! This is embarrassing!” She said as some of the clientele had started to look.
“I’m doing nothing wrong, just admiring my girl’s hardworking feet. Poor dears, they need to be pampered,” he said, his voice oozing seduction.
Bewitched she watched as his strong and slender fingers expertly massaged her soles sending wildly inappropriate messages to her brain. Then after efficiently scanning the displays, he brought back a pair of shiny black jewel encrusted stiletto pumps which he slipped onto her feet before she could utter a single word in protest.
“Now walk!” He ordered.
“I can’t! These aren’t my style!”
“They are! They are my woman’s style. When she wishes me to know that she wants me as badly as I want her, she wears these.” There was a concealed threat in those fudge brown eyes and as she stared at him his pupils appeared to dilate ever so slightly making the message even more urgent.
She walked awkwardly down the aisle, trying her best to appear nonchalant while her heart thudded hard and fast, knowing that not only had she become a spectacle for the shoppers in the store, but him as well.
“They look great! We’ll take them!”
She watched with some trepidation as he paid at the counter and boxed her old shoes and walked out, his arm possessively around her waist.
“What was that all about?” she asked. “I don’t want new shoes, especially of this kind!”
“Well, I know that very well, in fact nothing about you is hidden from me, remember I told you that your eyes never lie?”
“Then why? Why this coercion?” She was confused.
He turned to her, “My darling, I want to dress you from head to toe, indulge you, spoil you. This was just a sampler. You don’t have to wear anything to please me, pun not intended. Be what you are. But humor me on occasion; it will hurt if you refuse.” His eyes twinkled with mischief.
Khanak retorted, “Why don’t you shut up your dirty mind sometimes! You are just…”
“Too impossible? Irrational? Unbelievably crude? Well that’s my way, just get used to it.”
Khanak began to feel dizzy, she couldn’t understand if it was due to emotional hyperactivity or the lack of nutrition. “I.. need to sit down. Please don’t carry me!”
“Oh, my sweetness, I’m so sorry! You must be starving. How inconsiderate of me! And most of the restaurants have closed too.” Shaan looked genuinely concerned.
“Just get me a drink of some sort and I’ll be fine. I can eat something at home.”
He led her to a bench. “Sit here and I’ll get something from the coffee shop. Here, read your book in the meantime. Me Rochester to your Jane Eyre.” He smiled handing her the copy of Jane Eyre that he had bought at the book store, leaving her flummoxed.
After several minutes of restless waiting, Khanak walked over to the cafe to find him laughing loudly with the teenage attendant at some private joke. Irritated, she marched up to his side and dragged him away.
“Hello! Possessive, are we? Nice. Here’s your ice cream float,” Shantanu grinned.
“Hang yourself from the nearest tree! What’s with you men? Did you forget I was waiting?” She said fuming.
“Sorry, but she asked me if I was single. Man, times are changing fast!” He shook his head.
“You!” She pummeled his chest with her fists then ran out of the exit.
“Hey hold on to your horses! Won’t you ask what I told her?” He yanked her around.
“Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know!” she cried averting her face.
He forced her to look at him. “I told her I was married to the most beautiful girl in the world and I have no intentions of looking elsewhere for as long as I live.” She knew he was telling the truth when his lips descended hungrily on hers. A few moments passed before he said, “Let me take you home before things get out of hand.”