The Arrangement

By: P.G. Van


“Naani… don’t you dare…” His voice was weak even as he issued a warning.

“Mahendra…” Naani started to say, and Niha interjected knowing she was going to put out her emotional blackmail.

“Naani, get better soon. We’re all here for you and will not discuss anything else but your recovery.” Niha narrowed her eyes at the elderly woman as if in warning, and she nodded.

“Take Niha home. I want her to make me my favorite dessert. I want to come home tomorrow now that Niha is back.”

Mahen let out a sigh. “I’ll check with the doctor to see if you can go home tomorrow.”

“I know it… in my heart that I can go home tomorrow,” Naani insisted making Niha shake her head in disbelief. She bit her lip, stopping the smile that surfaced when she realized how much Naani wanted to help her and Mahen.

“Niha, let’s go.” Mahen turned away from his grandmother.

Niha looked at Naani for a long moment as the elderly woman gestured her to go with the flow by moving her fingers around in the air. She nodded and followed Mahen out of the room and down in the elevator to the waiting car.





Chapter 23

Niha and Mahen rode in silence to the house, and when they entered, he stopped to look at her. “Thank you for being here for Naani. You may use the room upstairs for your stay. Everything is as it was.”

Niha wanted to tell him that he didn’t need to thank her and try to console him, but he walked away. She watched in silence, her heart wanting to run after him, but her rational mind told her love could not be forced.

She headed upstairs to his room and walked into the closet to get her clothes. The few clothes she had placed inside his closet before she left were as is—nothing changed, except for the man who she loved. She walked into the shower hoping the water would give her muscles the much-needed relief.

She stood under the shower even after she was done washing off the soap and shampoo, thoughts about how to handle the situation swarming her head. She jumped and opened her eyes when she heard the bathroom door click open, and Mahen stepped in.

It looked like he had taken a bath in another bathroom and changed his clothes. The room was steamy from the shower running, and the glass walls were translucent with the water droplets. She stood naked under the water as he looked in her direction, knowing he could see most of everything.

It would not be the first time that he would be looking at her with no thread of fabric on her, but given the situation, she didn’t know why he was there.

“I’m almost done, Mahen.” She gathered some strength and managed to speak, but he did not move.

She turned off the water and opened the shower door to reach for her toweling robe. He kept his eyes on her movement but did not move. The hunger and passion that she had seen in his eyes when he had seen her in shower before did not resurface, but there was something deeper, an emotion that she could not place, a form of excitement with an underlying insecurity.

“Mahen, are you okay?” She let the water in her hair drip as she walked toward him.

Niha stopped a foot from him but didn’t know if she could reach out and touch him or hug him. She was about to reach out to him, and he moved taking one of the towels to wrap it over her head, wrapping his arms around her into a tight embrace.

Niha was ecstatic. She cried into his chest. “I missed you, Mahen. I hated every minute of the two weeks I was away from you.”

“Niha… I…”

She pulled back, worried he would say something that would break her heart again. “Don’t ask me to leave. I’ll do anything to be with you.”

He nodded. “I need your help.”

“I’ll do anything.” It was a plea.

“Niha, I think it’s best if I get married. I want her to know that I’m married and will be…”

She took a step back, dreading the worse. He didn’t want her but wanted her for his grandmother. Naani’s plan was working, but that’s not what she wanted. “No.”

“Niha… I need to do this for Naani.”

“No… what about us? I love you. I’ll love you until the day I die. And I’ll not get married to you for the sake of getting married.”

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