Ananya jogged out of her house to the car waiting on the curb, pulling open the seat and sinking in.
“Oh thank god.” Pooja leaned over immediately, giving her a warm hug. “I love my mom, but I missed your snark desperately this weekend.”
Ananya grinned. “How was Chicago? Did you buy the jewelry?”
In spite of herself Pooja smiled, her face practically glowing. Ananya was relieved to have a distraction, hoping that Pooja wouldn’t ask about what had happened the night of her engagement. She hadn’t had a chance to speak to her after they had wrapped up the party, each tied up in cleaning up. Pooja had left for Chicago just after that, and Ananya was hoping that she had forgotten by now.
“I did! I’m actually getting excited about this now. I didn’t want anything too extravagant, but…” She pulled out a stunning pair of diamond earrings from the backseat, her eyes sparkling. “I indulged a little. Ma told me that this was what my Nani gave her on her wedding night and so… She bought a set for me.”
Ananya gasped, touching them gently. She picked up the box delicately, running her fingers over the sparkling stone. She lifted her gaze to Pooja’s. “They’re beautiful.”
Pooja smiled, nodding. “Aman helped pick them out, actually.” Ananya could see the beginnings of a blush forming on her face, and smiled wickedly.
“Did he now? Does he also want to help take them off on your wedding-”
Pooja cut her off swiftly with a mock glare, winking. “Please. He has way more to be excited about. Actually, I need your help with that. Could we go to the mall and pick up a nice chemise?”
Ananya raised an eyebrow. “Shouldn’t Aman be helping you with this?”
Pooja’s cheeks darkened further. “I want to surprise him.”
Ananya wiggled her eyebrows suggestively, earning a playful slap from Pooja. “So what’s his favorite color, Pooj?”
“A nice neon lemon yellow.” She deadpanned. Ananya snorted.
“I wouldn’t even put that past him.”
They shared a grin, and Ananya reached over, squeezing her friend’s hand.
“I’m so happy for you.” She said softly. Pooja glanced briefly to her from the road, her eyes warm.
“He makes me happy.” She said simply, shrugging. A silly smile played at her lips, and she shook her head, trying to get rid of it but failing.
“After all the frogs you dated, I’m so happy you found your prince.” Ananya’s voice dripped with sappy sarcasm, and Pooja laughed, shaking her head. She quickly sobered up, glancing at Ananya as she pulled into the parking lot. Ananya groaned mentally, knowing what was coming.
She turned to her earnestly but Ananya cut her off before she could start, a fond smile on her face. “Before you start the talk every happy couple tries to give their single friends, I’m perfectly content.”
Pooja looked at her disbelievingly. “Really?”
“I am!” Ananya said defensively, rolling her eyes. “Look, I’m not going to deny that I’d like someone to be there with me, but it’s not a necessity for me right now.”
“Why won’t you let me set you up? Or at least use your Tinder?”
Ananya gave her a look. “You know how I feel about Tinder, and because I don’t want to be set up. I-” She broke off, biting back a comment on Raj.
“Ananya, you’ve got to either let him go, or fucking do something about it.” Pooja said, her voice tinged with exasperation.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I said nothing.”
“You know what I’m talking about.”
“What exactly do you suggest I do?”
“Let it go!” Pooja exclaimed, turning towards her. “You’ve done all you can. You distanced yourself, you’ve apologized, you’ve moped, you’ve cried, what the hell is there left to do?” She took a breath, lowering her voice. “Look, shit happens. You’ve got to flush it down the toilet and move on. I hate seeing you like this — it doesn’t matter if it was your fault or not, there comes a time when nothing more can be done, and he needs to-”
Pooja stopped short at her quiet words, her mouth falling open. “You fucking what?!”
Ananya closed her eyes in exasperation, leaning her head back. “We kissed.” Pooja raised her eyebrows incredulously, gesturing for her to continue. Ananya sighed, rubbing at her forehead. “I was up on the terrace while you spoke to your family since everyone else had left, and he came up to join me. One thing led to another and we kissed.” She paused, shaking her head. “And then we fought and then my mother apologized to him and we may have come to a sort of half assed truce, but I can’t really tell and I just-” She broke off. “It doesn’t matter. Let’s go buy some lingerie.”
“The hell we will. We will finish this conversation first.” Pooja said sharply, grabbing her arm. “Did you kiss him or did he kiss you?”
“Is this really necessary?”
“Yes. It is. And since you didn’t tell me about it for a week, I retain the right to interrogate you as I please.”
Ananya rolled her eyes, throwing her hands up in surrender. “Fine. I kissed him.” Pooja opened her mouth but she held up her hand. “To be fair, I was pretty drunk.”
“You were not that drunk.”
“I- well he kissed me too! I tried to pull away but he pulled me back and…” She trailed off, sighing. She could feel the kiss on her lips, and she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to push the memory away. “God fucking damnit Pooj. I thought I was over it. I honest to God was! And then I saw him and it’s all just come tumbling back and kissing him just made it worse and I just-”
“Maybe you should just sleep with him.”
Ananya turned an incredulous gaze on Pooja. “That’s your brilliant idea?”
Pooja shrugged, a smile tugging at her lips. “Hey, he is good in bed.”
“He is- I don’t remember!” Ananya said hotly, pushing away all the memories of what it had been like. Pooja grinned.
“You know that’s a lie.”
Ananya glared, refusing to acknowledge the comment. Pooja reached for her, pulling her into a half hug. “And hey, it might give you the closure you need.”
Ananya sighed, swallowing audibly. “Just let it go, Pooja. You were right. I need to let it go.” She murmured, almost to herself.
Pooja shook her head, smiling softly. “Anu, I just want you to be happy.” She hesitated. “Look, I don’t know if it’ll ever work out between you and Raj, which is why I don’t think you should mull over it. But…”
“I don’t think he’ll ever forgive me, Pooja.” She said softly, her voice breaking. “I didn’t think I needed his forgiveness anymore but I…” She inhaled deeply, picking at the chair.
Pooja regarded her for a long moment, grasping her hand reassuringly. “I’m not going to tell you that it will work out, because I don’t know if it will.” She paused. “But I will tell you that things like this take time. It’s the first time you’ve actually been forced to confront it in person. Give it the time it needs.”
Ananya pressed her lips together, exhaling slowly. Pooja was right. She couldn’t rush things like this, no matter how frustrating it was. She squeezed her best friend’s hand, pulling her into another hug. “Thanks. I love you.” She murmured against her ear.
Pooja pulled back, shrugging. “Eh, you’re okay.”
Ananya merely grinned, getting out of the car. “Let’s go find a surprise for your boy.”
“Man; Ananya, he’s a man.”
Ananya rolled her eyes with a small smile as they walked into the mall. They briefly browsed through blouses before making their way to the lingerie section, shuffling through the seemingly infinite types.
Ananya pulled out a scrap of lace, her eyebrows knitting together as she held it up.
“What exactly is the point of this?”
“There is none.” Pooja said dryly, assessing it. She turned it over, her eyes widening in horror. “Holy shit this is $17?!”
“Hell, in my experience, they like it more if we wear nothing at all rather than spend $17 on this.” Pooja snorted at Ananya’s statement, shaking her head. She reached underneath a pile, pulling out a bright pink chemise.
“I like this one.”
Ananya took the fabric between her fingers, the satin soft against her palm. She opened her mouth to respond when she was interrupted by a loud scream from a child, followed by a murmur and hiccuping sobs.
She turned to Pooja, sympathetic. “That’ll be you in a few years, once you fulfill your baby making duties.” Ananya said dryly.
“Ha, ha, you’re hilarious.” Pooja glanced around her, catching sight of the man fruitlessly trying to calm the child. She squinted and then her eyes widened in surprise. She grabbed Ananya by the wrist, startling her.
“What are you-”
“Oh my god, it’s Raj.” Pooja said in a harsh whisper. She turned a narrowed gaze on Ananya, making her shift uncomfortably. “Wait you guys didn’t have like a secret child or-”
“Yeah, and then I ran off to New York to hide my pregnancy and the baby is still only a year old because we actually went back in time when we met up.” Ananya retorted sarcastically, an amused smile playing at her lips.
Pooja shrugged. “I never know with you… oh, he just made eye contact.” Pooja raised up a hand to wave, and Ananya frantically pulled it down, glaring at her.
“What the hell are you doing?! He’s going to come over here and I don’t want to-” Ananya fell silent as Raj approached them, bouncing Nick on his hip as he balanced a toaster oven on the other waist. “Thanks for this.” Ananya muttered to Pooja underneath her breath. Pooja gave her a saccharine smile before she turned to wave to Raj again, grabbing Ananya by the hand and stepping out into the aisle.
“Hey Pooja.” He said warmly. Nicholas nestled closer to Raj, putting his thumb in his mouth. He turned a cooler gaze on Ananya, giving her a half smile and a nod. “Ananya.”
“Hey Raj.” She said, smiling tightly.
There was a tense silence as the three of them stood awkwardly, glancing around.
“Is this the new weight lifting trend?” Ananya asked, desperate to break the silence. Raj glanced at her in confusion, before looking down at himself, laughing.
“Clever. No, actually, Nick here decided that it would be a good idea to put a rubber ducky in the toaster oven.” Raj gently admonished his nephew, who merely looked up at him innocently. “Apparently, my apartment isn’t baby proofed enough.”
Ananya’s eyebrows furrowed. “How exactly did he get up on the counter to reach the toaster oven?”
Raj reddened, and if his hands had been free, she knew he would have rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah… Well, I thought I could keep him up there while I cooked so I lifted him up there and… before I knew it I had a melted rubber duck in my toaster.”
He lifted his gaze to hers, giving her a brief, sheepish grin. She smiled in spite of herself, unable to hold back the amused chuckle. They held each other’s gaze for a split second too long, and awkwardly looked away from each other. Raj nervously cleared his throat, looking down at Nick.
Pooja glanced between the two of them, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. “Are you babysitting?” She asked, eager to snap the tension.
“Uh, yeah, I thought I’d give Anju and Javi the week off to give him a sibling.” He grinned, but it quickly morphed into a grimace as the words sunk in. Ananya snorted and he glanced at her, looking away just as quickly.
“When does she get back?”
“Friday. This guy gets to hang out with me until then.” Raj gently bounced Nicholas on his hip, and the little boy looked up at him adoringly and giggled. Pooja glanced over at Ananya, who was watching him with a soft smile on her face. Raj looked up and caught her watching, and she hastily averted her gaze, pretending to look at the chemise.
There was an awkward pause as Ananya and Raj studiously avoided each other’s gaze, with Ananya picking at the tag on the chemise. Pooja withheld a sigh of exasperation, directing her eyes to the ceiling.
“So you guys are…” Raj tilted his head towards the lingerie section, trailing off. Pooja laughed, nodding.
“Yeah, I dragged Anu along. She needed some sexy lingerie for her Tinder date.” Pooja smirked inwardly as Ananya’s head snapped up, immediately looking to Raj. Raj looked equally stunned but quickly collected himself.
“She’s joking.” Ananya said hastily, lifting the chemise as she tossed Pooja a glare. “This is totally not my style.”
“I’m aware.” Raj deadpanned, his voice so quiet that she wondered for a moment whether she had imagined it. She looked up at him in surprise, and he gave her a shadow of a smirk. She smiled slightly, relieved that they could now to some extent, joke about their history together.
“You know, I really have to use the bathroom. Would you mind holding this for me, Ananya?” Pooja interjected suddenly, thrusting two bras into her hand before Ananya could object. “Thank you so much.” She said, leaning over to give Ananya a quick hug. “Talk to him about it.”
“Pooja-” But she had already walked off, leaving Ananya alone with Raj. She turned back to him, smiling uncomfortably as she cursed underneath her breath.
That woman was going to get it from her.
Song: Chalte Chalte
Artists: Abhijeet, Alka Yagnik
Movie: Chalte Chalte (2003)
Note: Sorry for the delay! I’m trying to update every two weeks as much as possible, but with the semester having started, it’s so hard to find time to write. I promise you that I will not abandon this story — thank you for the support! As always, follow buttons are on the right. Please leave your thoughts, I love to hear them 🙂