He looked back at her sleeping figure, a slight smile touching his lips. Her legs were pulled up near her chest, the sheets crumpled around her bare shoulders as she snored quietly. A pang of nostalgia curled in his heart, combined with a familiar warmth. He reached down, his hand hovering above the loose strands of hair that fell over her cheeks.
With a heavy sigh, he drew back. Goosebumps crept up his arms as he realized how cold the room was, and he grabbed his boxers from beside the bed, tugging them on. He roughly buttoned his shirt, not bothering to fix the mismatched holes as he pulled his pants on quickly.
He glanced at the clock, muttering a curse under his breath as he saw the time.
Amma or Di were probably home by now.
With any luck, they would be downstairs, and there would be no need to explain… this. He hesitated, sitting on the edge of the bed as he listened for the telltale sounds of her in the kitchen.
Letting out a breath, he stood up, almost amused with the situation.
He was almost 30, and he was still terrified of his mother finding him in a room with a girl.
Granted, they had been… well.
He felt the heat at the back of his neck as he turned to look at her once again. Even when they had been dating, they had never shared a room together when they were at his place. While his parents were progressive, they weren’t that progressive, and even though he had snuck in – the idea of his parents accidentally walking in on them had effectively killed any idea of sex.
It was only 3 PM. If he did run into his mother, he could probably get away with an easy white lie of some sorts.
With that thought to comfort him, he quietly opened the door, glancing both ways before stepping out. He let out a sigh of relief when he didn’t see her, murmuring a quick thank you to whatever God was watching.
The door clicked gently behind him and he leaned forward, washing his face. He stared at his reflection in the mirror, leaning his head back. Her words rang in his head, a confirmation of what he had been fighting since they had met again.
“Do you want me to tell you that I still have feelings for you? Is that what you’re fucking looking for? That three years later, I still haven’t moved on even though I know I don’t deserve you?”
It hadn’t just been him. His heart pounded in his chest, a strange combination of anticipation and apprehension settled in his stomach.
She still had feelings for him.
He couldn’t help the little flip his heart did. He touched his lips, the imprint of hers pressed against his lingering with their touches, speaking louder than anything they had said. He struggled to reconcile his emotions, his brain warring with his heart.
It had always been her.
But was he stupid to want to trust her after everything?
He knew she had meant the words, the break in her voice saying more than any of her words had.
He had promised himself that he wouldn’t do this again.
He had let his guard down, giving into everything he had resisted since they had found themselves face to face at that wedding.
He was kidding himself if he believed he was over her.
He swallowed hard, pushing the thought from his mind. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to deal with that right then. He walked back into the room. Ananya was facing him, her head down as she buttoned up her shirt, her lips pursed. Her hair was tied in the messy bun she always wore as soon as she woke up.
She looked up, her cheeks warming as she realized he was staring.
“Hey.” She said quietly. Her face was devoid of the guarded restraint she so carefully kept around him, a fond smile touching her lips. He sucked in a breath, his heart skipping a beat as his gaze traced over her face. He stepped closer, brushing his lips gently against hers.
“Hi.” He murmured, his fingers brushing over her cheek as he pushed a piece of hair away from her face.
She leaned into his touch, her dark eyes meeting his. There was a sincerity in them, reminiscent of her brutally honest words from earlier that day. He inhaled sharply, his hand dropping to his side. He saw her frown and turned away, not wanting her to read his expression. His heart protested, urging him to turn around and wrap her in his arms.
Was he stupid to want to trust her again?
“Do you want something to eat? I was going to go down to make dinner.” He asked, busying himself in folding the sheets. He could almost hear her thinking, her eyes pinned on him. He turned back around with an easy smile, refusing to let her into his thoughts.
He couldn’t handle that now.
Her gaze narrowed, but she chose not to call him on his bluff. She returned his smile, nodding. They walked down the stairs together, catching sight of Anjali in the kitchen, one of her hands placed on her back while the other rested on her stomach as she surveyed the refrigerator.
Ananya glanced over at Raj, wondering if he had seen what she had. She thought to ask him but then shook her head, realizing that Anjali would tell him when she wanted to.
“Hi Didi.” Raj gave his sister a quick kiss on the cheek, squeezing her shoulder. Anjali looked back, a smile lighting up her face.
“I was looking for you! Where did you go?” She asked. Raj glanced quickly at Ananya, who pointedly avoided his gaze.
“I had just stepped out for a bit. Where’s Ma?”
“At the hospital. Papa’s already giving the nurses a hard time by getting out of bed and going where he isn’t supposed to go.” Anjali said, rolling her eyes. “He’s just barely gotten better.” She turned to Ananya, grabbing an eggplant out of the refrigerator. “Did you call your parents?”
“I’ll help.” Ananya took the knife from Anjali’s hands without waiting for a response, ignoring her protests. Her face brightened. “Yeah, I called Amma earlier today to let her know that I’m still here. She wanted to say that she’s glad Papa is okay. She also told me to say hi to you and -”
She hesitated for a moment, looking over at Raj. “To you and Raj.” She said, her voice quieter. His heart tightened, her words a quiet reminder of the canyon that still stretched between them.
Anjali glanced between the couple, who had looked away from each other. She cleared her throat, flashing them a quick smile. “That reminds me of my own little one. Hopefully Javi isn’t too overwhelmed. I should go call him.” She quickly wiped her hands on the towel.
Raj watched his sister’s retreating figure, silently cursing her choice underneath his breath. He could feel Ananya’s gaze on him. She offered him a wry smile. “Was it just me or…”
He laughed, shaking his head. “Nope, that was exactly what it seemed.” She grinned, the tension that hung between them retreating.
“Thank god it was Anjali and not my mother who came home.” Raj muttered underneath his breath, so quietly that she thought she had imagined it. He raised his eyebrows, and she bit her lip, barely restraining laughter.
They worked in comfortable silence, the only sound in the kitchen the click of their knives against the cutting boards. He turned towards the stove, the sizzle of the onions in the hot oil breaking the silence.
He found himself particularly conscious of her, her presence right behind him almost distracting. He could feel the shadow of her movements, her little movements moving the air around them. She was standing so close to him, her back almost pressed up against his own, the faint scent of her perfume lacing the air. He sucked in a breath, forcing himself to focus.
“Can you grab the turmeric for me?” He asked, leaning back. She looked over at him, finding herself surprisingly close to him. Their eyes met for a moment but she quickly looked away, trying to distract herself.
“Uh, yeah, It’s on the top shelf, right?” She asked from his right.
He made a noise of agreement. “You should probably get the stool – holy shit.” He cursed, taken aback by the sight of her on her knees on the counter, reaching for the bottle. “Anya, come down from there, that isn’t safe.”
She waved him away. “I’m fine, I do this all the time.”
“Go get the damn stool, An- oh, you’re coming down. Give me the bottle first.” He took the bottle gingerly from her hands, warily watching her as she shuffled backwards on her knees. She slowly extended one leg back, trying to gauge where the ground was.
He stepped forward, placing his hand on her lower back. She immediately stiffened, her spine growing rigid under his fingers.
“I’ve got you.” He murmured, his voice low. She leaned into his grasp, warmth spreading through her body from his fingers. She took a deep breath, surprised by how intensely his proximity had affected her.
She slid down from the counter, turning around. She found herself face to face with him, their noses practically touching. She could feel the heat of his breath against her skin, her heart quickening as they looked at each other. His gaze dropped to her lips, and they leaned in, their lips melding together.
The kiss quickly deepened, his hands sliding from either side of her to pull her flush against himself. Her hands sank into his hair, tugging gently on the strands as their mouths opened against each other.
“Raju! Amma says she’ll be back home for dinner.” Anjali called from the other room, her voice sending Raj and Ananya flying apart, breathing heavily.
Raj exhaled slowly, closing his eyes as he struggled to gain control over himself. He swore roundly under his breath, shoving his hands into his back pocket as he took a step back from her.
“Raj?” She called again.
“Tell her we’ll have dinner ready!” He responded, his eyes not leaving Ananya’s.
They stood silently for a moment before the scent of something beginning to burn filled the air. Raj’s eyes widened, and he hastily jumped to the stove, grateful for the distraction as he turned the burner down. Ananya leaned against the counter, her eyes following his movements.
“It didn’t burn all the way. We can just say it’s… nicely caramelized.” He laughed awkwardly, trying to fill the heavy silence between them. Ananya cracked a smile, her gaze remaining serious.
“We need to talk about this, Raj.” She said quietly, looking at him. He avoided her eyes, his jaw tightening as he stirred the subji. “Raj.” She repeated, this time more insistent. He regarded her for a long moment.
“I know.” He finally responded. “But it’s nice to stay in that little bubble, isn’t it?” He commented, chuckling humorlessly. She made a noise of agreement, drawing a deep breath.
“Yeah, it is.”
He looked over at her, his eyes serious. She tore her gaze away just as Anjali walked in, distracted by her presence.
Artist: Howie Day
Note: And that’s where I leave you for today! I hope you enjoyed the chapter — please let me know what you think — reading your comments makes studying for my organic chemistry final far less agonizing 😉 As always, follow buttons are on the right, and if you find that you aren’t receiving notifications, please try unfollowing and refollowing.