Finally the D-Day arrived. After much deliberation Khanak chose to put on a simple sleeveless dress of fine white cotton edged with pink and white lace, with delicate barely visible baby pink and white flowers embroidered into the fabric. A wide belt of the same material enhanced her narrow waist and a short-sleeved capped baby pink bolero jacket completed the outfit. Sunita gathered her thick locks and secured them with white and pink satin ribbons high on top of her head. “My angel! You look just like a school girl. I’m surprised this dress still fits you so well. You have not gained an inch since high school!”
“Jiju to gaye kaam se! Megha is going to have some competition today!” A familiar voice piped in.
“Palak! Mama please… tell her not to irritate me!” Khanak said blushing a fiery red when her phone buzzed with an unmistakable beep.
Megha wanted to make doubly sure you’d come,
so I’m sending our driver Dharam to pick you up.
He should be there soon, Miss KissMiss!
As she tried to hide the message from her sister’s prying eyes, Khanak’s chest finally began to reverberate with relief. But why would he send his driver and not come himself, she wondered as she took a final critical look in the mirror.
The Khandelwal House had been transformed. Sparkling lights in varied colors as well as innumerable balloons decked the gate and the main entrance. A long red carpet covered the walkway and the front porch was designed to look like the entrance to a castle.
When Khanak hesitated, Dharam hurried her along with these words: “Madamji, everyone is waiting eagerly for you inside. Baby Megha has been reciting your name constantly since morning.”
Khanak smiled and raced up the steps. It will be cruel to make Megha wait any longer for her Teddy, she thought. At the entrance she was met by two clowns in elaborate costume who welcomed her with an exaggerated bow and a sweep of the hands. One even set a tiara on her head.
“So here’s our special guest, Megha’s darling Doctor Aunty! Welcome! I was getting worried.”
Khanak who was standing bedazzled by the decorations, swung around to see Khushboo walking toward her wearing a wide smile. She was resplendent as Sleeping Beauty in flowing pink. To Khanak’s surprise she hugged her tightly with what appeared to be genuine affection then led her by the hand to the backyard. The huge lawn sparkled like some Disney fairytale landscape. Round tables were covered with pink tablecloth and everything was accented with balloons, streamers and confetti. Children in colorful costumes could be seen everywhere playing, laughing and generally doing what children do. And in the midst of it all Khanak saw the star of the show Megha dressed in shimmering gold, a crown on her head and a wand in her hand. But what was that? Khanak was taken aback when the little girl suddenly broke into loud sobs prompting her to hurry over to her side. She was relieved when Megha stopped crying as soon as she saw her. “Doctor Aunty! Why are you so late? Where is Teddy?” she demanded.
Khanak stooped down to stroke her fine hair; “I’m so sorry darling. Traffic was really awful today. Here is your friend. He’s been missing you just as much as you have.”
Megha’s sad little face transformed with pristine joy when saw her restored Teddy dressed as a little prince in red and black satin. She squeezed Khanak’s waist and then planted a wet kiss on her cheek. “Thank you Aunty! This is the best gift ever!”
Khanak turned guiltily to Khushboo, who smiled at her while mouthing a silent Thank You.
Khanak watched on fondly as Megha kissed and played with her teddy when an unmistakable voice made a loud announcement: “To all prince and princess friends; Megha invites everyone to come and watch a special puppet show put up for you exclusively by her dearest Chachu uncle and Doctor Aunty!”
Shantanu stood on what appeared to be a specially constructed stage; dashing in a Prince Aladdin costume- white silk shirt and pants, purple vest and cloak and a turban to match! He grinned and waved at her asking her to come and join him, and Khanak didn’t have time to think when Megha excited screams pierced the air and she was swept along with the rest.
The rest of the evening went by in a blur. Khanak felt animated like a child when Megha forced her to participate in all the games and entertainment. But Shantanu took the cake by seeming to be the biggest child of them all. There was the puppet show and the search for the glass slipper followed by a treasure hunt and of course the inevitable magic show. All these activities took a toll on the children that when it was time for to cut the huge castle like cake most of them were practically asleep, except Megha.
“Khanak, will you help me put Megha to bed? I don’t think she can stay up any longer.”
Khanak followed Khushboo as she carried her little girl to her room then tucked her into bed after kissing her goodnight. Teddy had regained his place at her side.
“Thank you Khanak. You don’t know how wonderful you are.” Khushboo smiled as Khanak left the room and gently closed the door.
“So has my sweetheart been missing me?”