Taken aback and suddenly very afraid of this hitherto unknown avatar of Sherry, Anya hurriedly hid behind Arnav, “Maamu,” she whispered urgently, “Samjhaiye isse.”
Arnav looked at Sherry, who was looking rather wild and in a flaming temper – Arnav pulled out Anya from behind his back and thrust her in front of Sherry, and said rather mildly, “Tum samjhao.” He shook his head disbelievingly, “he is right – ten years – aur isse sab kuch pata hai humare baare main and you didn’t tell him that you are adopted?” he shook his head, “Unbelievable!” Arnav put his arm around Sunita and gently steered her out nodding to Khushi and Anjali to follow suit, sparing only a faint nod of approval to Sherry – he made a circling motion with his forefinger around them and said, “Wrap it up and uh make it quick will you?” he shook his head as he looked at his watch, “Wasted enough time as it is,” he sighed lugubriously, winked before shutting the door behind him.
“Sherry,” Anya moved strategically behind a convenient chair as she pleaded for clemency, “Actually I like to think of myself as Anjie’s daughter and ASR as my Mamu, Nani as my Nani,” she paused, “You understand don’t you?” she said in a small voice as he stood there unmoving, his fists clenched, Anya’s heart fluttered, she began blabbering, “I was born in Canada, my biological mother died in an accident, Daddy came back to India to look for his family and we found Maami who is actually my Bua but before that I found Anjie, I really love her and wished she was my real mum, I am so proud of my family,” gathering courage she edged closer to Sherry and looked up at him through her lashes, “Your family,” she said softly as put a hand on his sleeve.
He jerked her away, “Dammit Anya!” he burst out, “Couldn’t you have told me this earlier?” he grabbed her roughly by her arms and shook her like a rag doll, “Do you have ANY idea how horribly wrong it could all have gone?” he shuddered in horror of what they had both undergone and worse what could have been; Anya looked up at him wide-eyed, her heart in her eyes, “I love you I love you,” was all that she was capable of saying in response, he pulled her into his arms and gathered her close to him, “I could kill you right now you know, I could strangle you right now,” and proceeded to suffocate her in a bear hug and then smother her.
Anya came up gasping for air; she slid her arms around his neck and plastered herself to him murmuring, “I am sorry, I am sorry but you could have also told me the truth instead of all this filmy natak,” she pouted, “hmmph,” she snorted, “Bekar main hi…” she tossed her mane.
In response, Sherry crushed her close still shuddering from the near escape from the worst-case scenario – dammit Anya ko kuch ho jaata ho! Anya hugged him reassuringly and then leaned back to complain, “You still haven’t said the three magic words,” she said distractingly, coyly, “I said it so many times and even that day six months ago, aur tum ho ki,” she punched him.
Sherry caught hold of her hand and kissed it fiercely, “Let’s call in the others shall we?” he said contrarily as he looked down at her blandly, “I haven’t yet met my family properly.”
“Sherrryyyy,” wailed Anya as she stamped her foot, “Here I nearly died while you were busy building your empire and you don’t even bother to confess.”
“Confess?” Sherry raised an eyebrow, “Confess what Anya? Bola toh tha that I felt obliged…” he seemed determined to punish her for her laxity in not sharing an important part of herself – her parentage. Perhaps once the relief had sunk in, the fact that she hadn’t been completely honest with him, rankled and disturbed him – reading between the lines, the message that came out loud and clear was that despite her exhortations and avowals of love, she didn’t trust him – perhaps after all she didn’t care for him that much?
Tears sprang into Anya’s eyes, she shook him off and began walking, “I’ll call the others…”
He grabbed her from behind, “Hey,” he said softly as he tipped her face up, a finger under her chin, he couldn’t bear to see her tears – he brushed away his hurt – so what if she didn’t love him? After all he loved her – more than enough for both of them.
Sherry looked down at her tenderly his face an open book; he kissed away her tears, “Do I really need to say it?” Anya looked up into his face awash and aglow with love and tenderness, she blinked at him and shook her head, too full to say anything, she swallowed, “I’ll let the others in,” contrarily, this time his arms tightened around her, she smiled smugly to herself; he reluctantly let her go – with a rider, “Humari baat abhi khatam nahi hui hai.”
Her heart fluttered and thrilled to the insistent call of their song as she met the promise in his eyes with one of her own – she tripped to the door, they had all the time in the world, he was with her, in front of her, talking to her – she wanted nothing more – at least for the moment.
Outside Sherry’s office
Anjali was talking excitedly with Sunita, introducing her husband and Khushi to her all the while looking apprehensively towards the closed door, finally unable to bear it anymore, burst out, “Chotte! Bahut der ho gayi aur Sheru sach main bahut gusse main tha, kahani Anya ko kuch,” she looked at Sunita and bit her lip.
Arnav shook his head and said rather heartlessly as he sprawled on the sofa fiddling with his mobile, “Karne do – she deserves to be spanked and sent to bed without food or water for a week – sab uski galati hai,” he declared, “Itne dino se Sheru ko jaanti hai, sab kuch share kiya uske saath toh yeh kyon nahi? Even I would be offended,” he spoke up in support of Sharath.
“That’s not fair Maamu!” Anya burst in upon them just as Arnav openly defended Sherry – it was Anya’s turn to be hurt, “You are supporting Sherry? I don’t believe this,” she was aghast at this turnaround.
Arnav shrugged gracefully as he got to his feet, “Oh well that is to be expected isn’t it?” he excused himself, “After all blood is thicker than water,” he put out his hand and shook Sherry’s hand and awkwardly patted him on the shoulder.
Anya made a moue and tossed her mane disdainfully, “Theek hai, agar aisi baat hai toh,” she walked up to Kshitij and hugged him hard. Kshitij held her to him and asked softly, “Everything ok sweetheart?” Anya turned to look at Sherry who stood with his hands thrust into his pockets talking to Arnav and Khushi, “I think so,” she offered hesitantly, a bit piqued at Sherry’s non-committal attitude – pata nahi kya chal raha hai uske dimaag main, she thought a bit resentfully.
Sherry seemed to relax a bit as he gripped his long-lost brother’s hand, “Thanks,” he murmured gruffly at Arnav’s tacit approval and welcome into the family; he cleared his throat and said hesitantly, “Although to be honest, I would have expected you to lay my father’s sins at my door and made me pay for them,” he looked away, “Justifiably too.”
Arnav, shook his head grimly, “Who am I to throw stones? My own father was no saint and of course neither was Chachaji,” his face softened as he looked towards his Di talking to Sunita, “But the women in my life,” he put his arm around Khushi, “have made all the difference and I have finally learnt that when you find a good woman hold on to her and never let her go – no matter what.”
Sherry nodded his head and turned around, searching for the woman of his life and caught her eyes, his face softened and his eyes instantly warmed – Anya blushed, “I think so,” she murmured more confidently and sagged against her father, the emotional roller coaster of the last couple of hours suddenly taking its toll, she felt faint and weak.
Kshitij looked down at her in concern and then at Anjali who immediately rushed forward, “Anya! Tum theek ho?”
Anya smiled faintly and turned to hug Anjali as sudden tears sprang to her eyes, “Oh Anjie!” she wept on her shoulder, “I never thought I would be glad that I am not your biological daughter! I always wished for it so strongly that I pretended that I am indeed your and Daddy’s daughter,” she hugged Anjali who was also in tears.
Anjali wiped her tears, “Oho isme rone waali kya baat hai? I am so happy,” she laughed, “Pata hai ab tumhe shaadi karke vidaa karne ki zaroorat hi nahi padegi! Ghar ki beti ghar main hi rahegi hain na? Humara ghar ho ya Chachi ka ghar ek hi toh baat hai na?”
Anya pouted and shot an accusing look at Sherry, “Arent you jumping the gun? Usne toh kuch bola hi nahi abhi tak,” she sniffed.
Sunita and Anjali looked at each other and shook their heads, “Chachi ne toh kangan de diya na?”
Anya made a face, “Haan ‘mummy’ kahengi tabhi,” she trailed off, Sherry refused to rise to the bait and stood there unmoving, only his eyes glowed with sort of a fierce light.
Khushi came up and put a comforting arm around Anya, “Don’t worry Anya,” she said in a loud whisper, “Yeh khandaani bimaari hai. They speak their heart only at gunpoint ya phir,” she looked at Arnav, “aise jaise not as if declaring their love but accusing you of the most heinous and underhanded of crimes!” Arnav crossed his arms and just looked at her, Khushi’s heart fluttered and went dhak dhak, she bent closer to Anya and murmured for her ears only, “Waise mark my words, most of the times, in love, words are redundant,” Khushi blinked back at Arnav as the RV overrode the SV rather shamelessly.
Anya looked at Sherry rather skeptically and accusingly only to feel breathless and faint – she couldn’t breathe, she felt hot and cold all over – Maami was right, one corner of her rational brain whispered what was the need to say anything when he was right here looking at her as if his very life depended upon her, me too she blinked back, she swayed a bit – it was all too much for her.
“Ma,” called Sherry, “I think we should call it a day here; let’s go home and take some rest, maybe eat something?”
“And that my dear was for you!” Khushi giggled and nudged Anya, but she looked blankly at Khushi, suddenly feeling low – he wanted to leave!
But Khushi rallied her, “ Arre dil chotta mat karo! Don’t hear what he is saying, learn to listen to what he is NOT saying! Seedhe seedhe nahi bol sakte that ‘I am worried about Anya, she needs to rest and nourishment’ bas aise hi ghuma phira ke baat karenge – learn to read between the lines my dear!” she laughed as she teased Sherry; Anya perked up and looked at Sherry with sudden interest – the tips of his ears turned red; she smiled despite being on the verge of collapse.
“Chalo Sharath, humare ghar chalo Nani would be thrilled to meet you both I sure,” Khushi smiled as she invited them to RM, “Chachiji, chaliye na?”
Arnav and Anjali both nodded their invitation, Sunita agreed while Sherry fidgeted – dammit couldn’t they see that Anya was ready to topple over?
Sherry, chaffing at the delay, unable to bear it any longer, released his breath in a hiss and he strode forward to take matters into his own hands – he picked up Anya in his arms, “Ab chalein?” he said to his mother; the ladies all giggled but moved forward, “Aap chalo main Anya ko lekar aata hoon,” he walked off with his booty.
He seated her in his car and waited till she buckled up before driving off with a grim expression, “Kya hua?” Anya asked in a small voice.
“Kuch nahi,” he bit out before stepping on the accelerator averting his face; Anya stared at him at a loss – ab usko toh nahi pata tha that Sherry couldn’t bear to look at her hollowed gaunt face before wanting to lash out at someone – preferably himself.
Yeh sab tumhari galati hai, he castigated himself his knuckles turning white as he fiercely gripped the steering wheel as if it were his own throat, you should have listened to Ma and told her the truth so much of heartache could have been avoided – dammit Anya ko kuch ho jaata toh!
Anya sighed wearily, too exhausted and tired to make head or tail of what was going on in Sherry’s head – she closed her eyes and leaned back against the headrest, giddy with weakness – the car stopped.
“I will be back in a jiffy,” he said gruffly and disappeared; her heart beat increased, she smiled to herself, surely he had gone to buy a ring for her, she hugged the thought to herself.
Click here for Chapter 332