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1. Known Strangers

Aruna

I snuggled under the plush purple blanket. But my eyes remained open. A lone teat trickled down and disappeared in the soft white pillow. My back was towards Sumit. He was sleeping on the other side of the king-sized bed. A sliver distance separating us. I did not know whether he was awake or asleep neither did I want to know.

Will my life be like this after today?

Our wedding night had been spent in silence.

We had barely spoken properly to each other.

It was just like he had said.

To the outside world we were a newly-wed couple but behind the closed doors of our- no his room, we were known strangers.

~❉~❉~❉~

After granny had introduced me to Ankush and Tia, I had asked Sumit that why he did not tell me about them earlier. But he had deemed it fit to ignore my inquiry and simply glare at the couple who had been nothing but sweet and hospitable to me.

The rest of the evening went by with us meeting new people, with Rashmi's crass jokes, Rohit's teasing and Tia's witty remarks.

Sumit had greeted everyone as politely as he could yet I could see that his posture remain stiff.

Soon it was time for me to leave my parents. We were supposed to be staying in Sumit's ancestral home for a week along with Rashmi, Rohit and Ankush and Tia. It was granny's wish that we stayed together at least for this once. I knew Rashmi, Rohit and I were totally okay with the arrangement but I wasn't sure about Sumit. Ankush and Tia too were fine with it.

When the moment of vidayi came, the realization hit me like a tonne of bricks. I would no longer be able to stay with my parents. No longer would I be present in the everyday activities of my house. No longer would I get to whine and complain to ma when I don't get a thing.

Nothing

would

remain

the

same

anymore.

I would be starting a new life. A new chapter will begin in my life. Though I know Rohit, Rashmi, Sumit and granny. Still, it would feel different.

Then there was my life with Sumit. Which won't be romantic at all. Any other girl would look forward to her life with her husband but I was thinking about how I would spend every day, living a life which was a lie.

A facade.

Everything was going to change.

With a sinking heart, I had said farewell to my parents. I had embraced my mother tightly and cried. I had cried because it hurt. I had cried because I never thought it would be that hard. My father had tried to calm us both. But I could see the unshed tears. The tears that he was trying to hold back.

Once I had gotten in the car with Sumit. I had started sobbing again. But what had hurt most was that he did not....not even once, say a soothing word to me. Not even once did he try to calm me down. He had let me cry silently. He had just stared out of the closed tinted window and a few moments later he had offered me a handkerchief.

But not because he felt bad.

'Take this. There might be Press outside our house. You need to look presentable ". He had said in a monotone. I was thankful that neither Rohit nor Rashmi were present nor was Ankush and Tia. I was really thankful for Rohit's decision to leave us alone. Otherwise, they would have to see how heartless a person could be.

"No thanks. I have mine", I mumbled.

I was not a person who would succumb to this arrogant male.

"Just tried to be polite", he had muttered. I had chosen to ignore him completely from then on.

When the car came to a stop, I could see a handful of reporters standing near the gate. Of course, they wanted to know who did the most eligible bachelor marry.

I dabbed my cheeks lightly and quickly fixed my make up. I emerged from the car with a radiant yet fake smile. I was yet again amazed at how Sumit could pretend so well. He too had put on a smile. A charming one as if he was over the moon for having married me. 

He had taken my hand lightly in his. It was warm yet I did not feel that warmth seeping in my skin. I had let him guide me. After a few questions, a few poses for photos we had reached the main door of his house.

The mansion- yes mansion, was beautifully decorated with lights.

The rituals were done one by one. I went along with it. After it was over, granny kissed my forehead.

Before we could enter Rohit playfully said to Sumit, "Oi, you can't take her just like that. Carry her in your arms".

"Rohit-"

"No buts Suji, do what Rohit is saying", Granny playfully scolded him, siding with her other grandson.

"Granny-"

He had begun but requests and threats were thrown at his way and finally he had to give in. One hand snaked around my mid-back and the other around my knees. He had effortlessly lifted me up and I had wound my arms around his neck in the fear that I might fall or who knows he might drop me.

I had blushed and as he had ascended the stairs, hoots and whistles had followed. Once near the room he had carefully put me on my feet. Rashmi, Rohit and Tia soon came upstairs. Ankush for some reason seemed to stay away from Sumit.

"So jijaji, you can now go with Rohit and change in another room while we dress up the bride", she winked and grinned slyly. I silently went inside with Tia and Rashu in our room.

I was dressed up in a light-weight pink lehenga. I came to know then that there was a walk-in closet just beside the ensuite bathroom. Tia had put minimal makeup on me. My hair was kept open. I only wore a pair of simple earrings and bangles. I kept my purse on the dresser which was on the far right of the bed. My suitcases had been brought up to the room already.

"You look so pretty", Rashu gushed. Tia nodded in agreement. I smiled at her.

"Okay, now we will take our leave. Have a good

night", Tia wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. My cheeks heated up.

The two ladies laughed and left the room.

~✾~✾~✾~

My eyes wandered around the room.

The room was quite big. The walls were beige in colour. Devoid any paintings or pictures. There was a huge window on the opposite side of the door. Thick blackish-purple drapes were hanging on either side of a huge window, were tied securely with a similar coloured tie backs. A black couch with a coffee table in front was placed close to the window.

My eyes landed on the bed.

I felt heart plummet.

A heart was made with rose petals on the bed. Puffy white pillows rested against the black mahogany headboard. The bed was on the left side of the room. Not a single picture was present in the room. There were black wooden bedside tables on either side of the bed. On the left bedside table was a lampshade while the right one had a digital clock on it.

I was busy regarding the room where I'd be staying for a week when I heard the door creak.

I turned around to see Sumit enter in a simple black tee and grey sweats. He looked quite handsome. His eyes stayed for a few moments on me.

"Sorry", was the first thing he had said.

I was surprised, "Why?"

"For what happened downstairs. I did not mean to touch you", he had replied.

Yet again I had to remind myself that this was not real. That all that happened downstairs was a lie. I merely nodded acknowledging his apology. He had cleared his throat, drawing me out my thoughts.

"You change. I will just put these rose petals away", he murmured. I felt bad for those flowers and the people who so lovingly did the decor. I pursed my lips and nodded. I put away my jewellery in one of the drawers of the dressing table. I took the suitcases and opened the door to the walk-in closet. I flicked on the light and closed the door. There were not many things in there. Only a few suits and casual wear of his. Maybe because he rarely stayed here.

I opened one of my suitcases which contained my toiletries and other garments and rummaged through them. I finally found a light pink full-length nightgown. I slipped out of the lehenga and slipped in the nightgown. Putting the lehenga on an empty rack, I silently walked out. I then went into the washroom and took off my make up. It was fairly big as well.

When I came out, I saw Sumit placing a purple comforter on the bed. The lights were switched off except the lampshade.

"Will we both sleep on the bed?" I asked curiously.

He turned around, "We can't stay in separate rooms and none of us will be sleeping on the ground so yes both of us will have to share the bed".

I did not have any energy in me to argue about it so I just agreed. Sumit went near the window and opened window panes letting the cool night air fill the room.

"On which side of the bed would like to sleep?" He asked.

"Left". I said nonchalantly. He nodded and went to the right and lay down. I too did the same.

"Good night". He mumbled.

"Good night". I turned to face the window. I turned off the lampshade.

The room darkened. Only the street lights made some things fairly visible. My eyes started to well-up again. I already missed my parents. I knew this would be my life. He had warned me. He had told me that there won't be any love in this matrimony.

Then why? Why did it hurt so much?

✍✍✍✍

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Asmita

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