Rhythm&Blues Chap 12: Smooth

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12: Smooth

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“Ooooohhhhhhhmmmmmm” A sound emanating from the depths of the eternal soul. “Shanti, Shanti.”

Clear your mind. Control your breath. Elevate your soul to a higher plane.. Call on your inner strength. Forget who you are, what you are, your purpose in life. Merge yourself with the supreme. Breathe in..breathe out..in…out..in.. There I’m getting it.

Bubbly di! Look! I got straight A’s just like you! Finally! Like you said if I really want something I can make it happen and I did…and it’s all because of you di! You are the Best!’

Shree… Sweet  young innocent Shree..with stars in her beautiful grey brown eyes, just like her Dad, though a lot more carefree and fun loving. Childlike, never wanting to grow up despite being all of twenty, just three years younger than her cousin.

Everybody said that Khanak grew up the very day her parents died. Every step she took wasn’t without considerable deliberation. Her behavior was exemplary, everybody looked up to her.

But see how it turned out? Khanak, (the one who could do no wrong) ran away bringing shame to the family, while Shree..young, flighty, irresponsible Shree chose to toe the line and get married. Married? The very thought made Khanak cringe! Was it some kind of a joke? No she’d sounded pretty serious on the phone..Then was it a trap? Was chachu behind all this? Was Anand…? No! Anand wouldn’t participate in such treachery..he simply wouldn’t! He’ll always be my friend before anything else. But people change. I’d  never have guessed he thought of me more than just a friend.

 

I mustn’t go. No I can’t. What if? But Shree sounded so desperate.. She sounded like she wanted to confide in me. Khanak wavered, her sister needed her.  It’s so difficult to take a decision. By going back I run the risk of losing everything I’ve gained–this new found freedom. Not this glitter and glamour but a lot more. All this excitement and adventure that I have embraced wholeheartedly. Thanks to him, the one with those intensely haunting eyes. The corners of Khanak lips curled into a hesitant smile. I have nothing to fear except myself.

Ouch!” The soles of her feet stung as if she had suddenly stepped on a sheet of ice.

“HORSE!”  A deep harsh voice rang out in rebuke, penetrating deep into her core.

Khanak staggered backwards from the ‘Vrksasana’ (tree) pose unable to hold her balance. But her fall was broken by a warm solid surface which implied an unusual sense of security yet at the same time a pulsating danger.She began trembling like a leaf.

“Khanak?” The same voice now soft, whispering intimately into her ear.  “I’m sorry but you see my bloody pet fancies himself in love with you. He always seems to get there before I do, as he possesses the courage of the innocent, unlike me.”

She could hear the poor creature whimpering. What did Shaan mean?

The tremors had eased replaced by something else she didn’t want to delve upon. Abashed, she tried to straighten her body and regain some semblance of composure, she was getting way too comfortable with him.

“No, don’t. Keep your eyes closed and lean on me.”

She complied trembling again as he interlaced his fingers through hers stretching her left arm straight out while guiding her right to rest on the flat of her stomach pressing her lower back on to his hips so she could feel his thighs glide against her gluts.  

“Why?” Breathless she was barely able to get the word out of her mouth as her body was assailed by sensations completely alien and forbidden.

“Umm..” His breath caressed the nape of her neck. “Well I was thinking of including a number in the show, where the heroine goes blind but doesn’t lose courage. Rather she capitalizes on her disability to reign supreme.”

“But how..?” She asked keeping her eyes closed as he threw her into a spin then caught her in his arms again. Her fingers clutched at his shirt. She felt lightheaded. Her breath came in shallow spurts as her pulse thundered in her ears. But she didn’t open her eyes, lest he’d see what she had been trying so hard to hide.

They were in the penthouse’s tastefully landscaped terrace garden–an oasis of tranquility high above the madding crowd below. Peppered with meticulously tended flora in a bewildering array of terracotta pots along with a sprinkling of exotic water features, the place gave an illusion of a land far, far away. They were surrounded by music wafting through strategically placed speakers. No one could ever consider taking the risk of separating the man from his music, that would be equivalent to committing sacrilege.

“It’s well known that in people who are blind, the other senses try to take over, and compensate for the loss, such as the sense of hearing, “ he said abruptly letting Khanak go and moving away drifting in a confusing circle. “You can easily tell which direction my voice is coming from because you tend to concentrate harder.” He smiled as she turned around and walked confidently to where he was standing.

“Similar is the sense of touch…” He blew gently on the unruly curls which had escaped her topknot making her shudder and scrunch her shoulders.

“But I can feel that even with my eyes open.” she said trying to cover up her confusion.

“Oh yes you can, but not as acutely, the same goes for the sense of smell,” He said closing his eyes and inhaling deeply. Her faint fragrance appeared much stronger, a lot more delectable, though he wasn’t able to place it. She was growing more exotic.

Man it’s a hot one

Like seven inches from the midday sun

I hear you whisper and the words melt everyone

But you stay so cool

My mu equita, my Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa

You’re my reason for reason

The step in my groove

And if you say this life ain’t good enough

I would give my world to lift you up

I could change my life to better suit your mood

Cause you’re so smooth

 

And just like the ocean under the moon

Well that’s the same emotion that I get from you

 

You got the kind of lovin’ that can be so smooth

Gimme your heart, make it real

Or else forget about it

I don’t get this feeling at all. Something is drastically wrong with me! Shan surmised as he held her close. In a way the Tango called for an extreme degree of contact, almost to the point of indecency but for him it was perfect, an excuse to hold her, chest to chest, hip to hip, thigh to thigh. It was like a sensual soiree, an orgy on the dance floor.

GOSH! How can a girl I’ve barely met throw my life completely out of gear? He glanced at Horse who was eyeing them mournfully. Sorry chap, she’s mine for the time being.

He gazed at her beauteous face, supported on the top of a long and graceful swan neck, which in turn urged the beholder to navigate his vision down to a limber and exquisitely shaped body whose every last iota pulsated with a vibrancy none could ignore.

He’d found her preoccupied all day, missing several of her cues, appearing least affected even when Tina had lost her temper and walked out in a big huff. But instead of giving her a stern slap on the wrist like Tina had expected him to, he’d just sidestepped his authority and let Khanak be.

Why? Why did he find himself on this self destructive path..why didn’t he  seem to  care if his precious show was a success or not? Nothing seemed to matter anymore except to have this lovely creature near him always, smiling her gorgeous smile. That was enough to keep him happy.

I’ll tell you one thing

If you would leave it would be a crying shame

In every breath and every word

I hear your name calling me out

Out from the barrio, you hear my rhythm from your radio

You feel the turning of the world so soft and slow

Turning you round and round

 

And if you say this life ain’t good enough

I would give my world to lift you up

I could change my life to better suit your mood

Cause you’re so smooth

 

And just like the ocean under the moon

Well that’s the same emotion that I get from you

You got the kind of lovin’ that can be so smooth

 

Gimme your heart, make it real

Or else forget about it

 

Smooth Santana

 

His hand jerked her head forward so she knew his sensuous mouth was just inches from hers, she could feel the imprint of his long strong fingers on the sinews of her lower back guiding her by firm subtle pressure into just the way he wanted her to move. They were perfectly attuned to each other, their movements complex yet precise and pure.

“What was up with you today? You were lost in some other world.Tina was extremely disappointed. It’s not like you.”

She sighed, “yes, I shouldn’t have. .I need to apologize to her.”

“You are anxious about your sister and her marriage. You’re feeling guilty about running away.”

She nodded, “how did you know?”

He ignored the question and deftly maneuvered her through the trellis densely overgrown with sweet smelling Jasmine. “Khanak, how many times should I say this? Soon I’ll start sounding like a broken record.” He twisted her around, propping her arms straight up and as she stood on tip toe, her body elongated and taut akin a violin string, he let his hands drift down slick and smooth along her torso in a intimate caress.

She moved away blushing deeply but he didn’t let her get too far, he couldn’t.

“Sorry  but it’s part of the dance.” He tried to get some control over his senses and reassemble his thoughts. “You are in your prime right now, at the brink of immense fame and fortune. You did what you felt was right and that was exactly what you needed to do. You listened to your calling because if you hadn’t you’d be sitting right now shackled to your unwanted spouse, stifled in your unhappy marriage. And all to what end? Just to satisfy your uncle’s ego?”

She opened her eyes and looked at him in silent awe. “But I have to go..I can’t let my sister down.”

He nodded. “Of course. Don’t worry I won’t let anybody take you away from me.” But then hurried to fix his error as soon as he saw her expression change to one of arch bewilderment.

“What I meant to say, is if  I let go of you, my main player, I’ll be finished. For the next 6 months at least you have an exclusive contract with me though I haven’t drawn up any papers to that effect. I’ll make sure it gets taken care of without delay.”

Her lips tightened into a thin line and her brow furrowed with understanding. She released herself from his embrace and said curtly, “You don’t have go to any such trouble, I will keep my end of the bargain; you have my word.  I have an early train to catch. Good night.”

“No…you are not going alone. I’m coming with you.”

She turned around fuming. “You don’t trust me?!”

“I do..but your chachu seems like a whole different ball game! There’s no way I can leave you unguarded in his company, because I’ve no one to replace you with.” Shan retorted matter of factly shrugging his shoulders. “I’ll have my agent book a couple of plane tickets for late tomorrow morning. Would that be alright?”

She nodded reluctantly seeing no way out. “Yes..I guess it’d be fine.” Then she walked away without a backward glance, her slim back hard and stiff.

 

At Diva’s the early next morning:

“Hey darling! Why are we wearing a grumpy look on that angelic face?”

‘By the way, the Khatri brothers are organizing their annual fashion show next week and they want us to be their guests of honor…I’ve asked Diva to be kind enough and get you fitted with some new outfits. We have no time to spare.’

“Go ahead and tell me what you need me to do Diva. “ Khanak said irritably. “I’m just a puppet who dances to the tune of my lord and commander. It doesn’t matter how I feel as long as the work gets done. In six months I’ll become just another fading memory.”

“Khanak my princess!” Diva propped her chin up and wagged his heavily arched eyebrows. “You sound miffed at my boy Shan!”

Khanak’s lips twisted into a smirk, “No, not really. He just woke me up from my daydream and not too soon I think. Better to know now than later…so I can look out for myself and not let my expectations run too high.”

“Oh Sweetheart!” Damon said fixing a stray curl in his strawberry blonde hair. “Please don’t talk in riddles, they make my head spin!”

He rushed toward a rack and pulled out several of what appeared to be exclusive designer outfits and laid them out with great reverence on the back of a red settee. “Do you know from where these came from? “

She shook her head in the negative unable to take her eyes off the exquisitely elegant display.

“They are from the best fashion houses in Milan–Versace, Armani, Prada, Valentino, Dolce Gabbana, Etru…you name it, it’s here!” He said caressing the luxurious fabrics with great tenderness. “and they were all handpicked for you by that stupid boy waiting patiently outside.” He pointed to the studio door.

“For me? I can’t…I don’t understand.” Khanak looked dumbfounded.

“Yes my girl, all of these are just for you and you alone! The must’ve cost an outrageous penny. Do you think he’d have gone to this extent for any regular employee?”

Khanak didn’t know what to think or say.

Meanwhile Shan glanced at his Bulgari and figured they weren’t going to make it. Has Diva suddenly discovered his bisexual roots? The very thought terrified him. He knocked urgently on the inner studio door.

“Oh Shan, you naughty boy! Don’t rupture an artery, I wasn’t planning on stealing your girl!” Diva rushed out tittering.

“She’s not my girl Diva! By the way..what happened to the outfit?”  He asked glancing briefly at Khanak who was staring at him bemused.

“It’s not considered lucky for the bridegroom to see his bride in her wedding gown before D Day young man!” Diva said, pausing for effect before breaking into a loud peal of laughter.

tbc

An Incurable Insanity Chap25: Amends

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25: Amends

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There wasn’t really a chill in the air. Yet Ruhi was captured by an uncontrollable shiver as she stared up at the window of the dwelling they had just left. She had felt so much warmer and safer inside.

Shaan saw her draw her arms up to hug herself. “Are you all right?”

Their eyes locked briefly before his own fell reluctantly to his side. They waited till the lights turned off.

“Poor Mr. Lee, she’s going to give him a tough time,” Ruhi observed while smiling to herself as they slowly ambled together to the place they called home.

Not unlike you, sweetheart. Why do all women like to play hard to get? Not that there isn’t any thrill in the chase! Yet one does wish to be rewarded periodically. He saw his earnest appeal slide ineffectually off her slim back.

“Did you say something to me?” She paused midstep, hoping he had.

“Uh…no. I was just ruminating.”

“Over what?”

“That women, no matter how ancient, can easily twist a man around their finger, like Sunshine has Mr. Lee or Chang or whatever his name may be.”

“It can’t be done unless he wishes to be ensnared. He has to be a willing victim.”

Yes, that’s right. It’s just a game for you, isn’t it, Ruhi?

But she wasn’t attending to his thoughts. “It’s so nice to see someone in her situation to not have lost the will to live life to the fullest. I really wish her all the best, she deserves it.”

“Yes, she does indeed.” I owe her for today, or I’d never have gathered enough guts to say what I needed to say.

“I bet she is still watching us.” Ruhi stopped, glancing back still uptight. “I think I saw something move.”

“Must be that bird. I hate him!” Shaan declared with vehemence.

“Why? And he has a name, JJ.”

“Fine, JJ! All he did was curse me out in different tongues!”

Ruhi laughed. “You probably deserved it. Animals are much more intuitive than humans you know.”

“You think so?” Shaan erupted. Why does she not lose a single chance to tease me?

“Oh c’mon! There’s no need to get crabby now. He’s a sweetheart, besides he sang for me!”

“Oh, so you wish to be serenaded, do you?”

“I’m certainly not immune to it.” She became pensive. “It just feels good that someone thinks me worthy enough…”

“Ruhi, I—”

But she didn’t let him finish. “Oh yes! What was all that about?”

He raised his brow, feigning puzzlement.

“I, I mean by what you said there, in Sunshine’s house, in her presence.” She was getting all rattled, and he was relishing it.

“Oh that…”

“Yes. What were you driving at?”

Okay, my man, here goes… He cleared his throat. “Ruhi, you know I have never willfully lied to you. I have always been honest.” Even though I was fooling myself.

“So you wish to imply that your words weren’t in jest? She sought his face under the deceptive shadows of a street lamp probing for a sign, any hint that he may not be telling the truth.

His eyes did not waver. “I would never play with your emotions.”

“Then what you told me not once but twice and not so long ago has all of a sudden become a thing of the past?” she demanded incredulously.

Damn! I knew she would put me in a spot. I can’t afford to appear flaky. He inhaled a cautious breath. “At the moment, I did mean it. But now that I’ve gotten to know you, it’s not the same.”

She let forth a peal of mocking laughter. “So I’m supposed to discount the hurt and the insult?”

“I cannot take back what I said, and sorry is not a word that I like to use much! All I can say is that when we met, we were complete strangers, and I wasn’t a rational being. The second time I was so vexed that I just wanted to live in isolation. You were not to fault at all!”

“So does that mean you and uhh…Des are no more?” The subtle relent in her tone sent a surge of hope through his veins.

“We are absolutely not! She was just someone I hung on to because at the time I was floundering in the dark, then…”

“Then?”

“Then you came into my life and everything changed and…” His eyes said the rest.

She wanted to believe in him more than ever, but her mind advised her to be watchful, she couldn’t afford another heartbreak. “So what do you propose to do now?”

“I…” He fell silent. But I cannot tell her how I feel; she won’t believe me. She would wonder how could somebody fall in and out of love so quickly. She won’t understand that I really never was in love with Des. It was all an illusion, make-believe. He regarded his scuffed-up shoes for inspiration. “In the past few weeks, I have gotten used to having you around. I look forward to talking to you, to seeing your face every day when I wake up and before I go to sleep.”

“But I irritate you and bicker with you, what of that?”

“It doesn’t matter at all. Rather, I feel it is an expression of our getting more comfortable with each other. I want you! I, I need you to be with me always, by my side.” He approached closer, “And I hope we can make it work, you and me as man and wife. I’m willing to give it my best.” There, it’s out! How will she take it?

It was her turn to look down at her shoes; she hadn’t expected it. It was too much too soon, and she couldn’t digest it. She couldn’t think! She tapped her feet and looked down the path. Her legs were itching to go on a run, away, far away from this madness he was creating inside her!

Then all of a sudden, she turned to him fumbling with her jacket, “C’mon! Help me with this stupid zipper. Hurry!”

“What’s going on, Ruhi?” Did my revelation affect my spouse so much that she has taken leave of her senses? He thought, while obliging her, pulling up the zipper of her light jacket, which enveloped her torso like a glove. His fingers grazing the sensitive skin of her neck in the process. She shuddered.

Damn! She feels it too!

She mussed up her hair then, hastily putting her arm through his, rested her head intimately in the crook of his shoulder, “Hug me!” she said in an urgent whisper.

Wow! Perhaps lady luck is on my side! She has changed her mind already! He hugged her.

“Not so tight that I can hardly breathe!” she chided him.

“Hell! What is going on? Are you up to one of your tricks again?”

“Your eyes are magic, your body fragrance sublime. Say yes, or say no, you are still my Ruhi!”

Shaan wheeled around to see Debo and Sujoy with Anu in a stroller, approaching fast from behind singing and laughing.

“OMGeee! Dibhai, dadamoni! I… What a surprise!” Ruhi shouted letting go of his arm.

He regarded her with admiration. Got to give it to her, if anyone can give Sunshine a run for her money, it’s my Ruhi!

“Hi Sooj, Debo! How come out for a stroll so late?”

“Hi, Shaan,” Debo said coyly, directing a wink at her husband. “We are always out with Anu at this hour. It’s just that we don’t happen meet you two every day.”

“Oh my little Anu. My Shona! My, my how you have grown!” Ruhi squealed with delight as she scooped up the toddler who came to her readily. “Why don’t you leave her with me sometimes, di? I’d love to babysit.”

“No, that’s not fair, is it, Shaan?” Debo said, looking mischievously at him.

“Uhm…what? What’s not fair?”

“Haaye yeh toh kaam se gaya!” (He’s bowled over!) she declared, eyeing Ruhi who blushed.

“Ahem! Debo, let them be. I think we are interrupting something important here.”

“Oh no, not at all!” Ruhi stated.

“Oh yes we are!” Sujoy corrected her with a smile.

“Oh, I’m so happy to see both of you like this!” Debo exclaimed, enveloping Shaan and Ruhi in her warm gaze.

“Do come to the apartment, we can talk for sometime,” Ruhi pleaded.

“No, no, Anu has to be put to bed, and we don’t want to be cursed to hell as Shaan is preparing to do right now. Do we, Sujoy?”

“No, of course not! Will see you tomorrow at work Shaan… perhaps?”

Shaan grinned and nodded as the trio quickly bid their goodbyes and hurried away.

He smiled indulgently at Ruhi as she unconsciously latched on to his arm again and leaned on his shoulder while they resumed their walk. He wanted to savor these precious moments where there were no questions to be asked or answers to be given, just a peaceful togetherness.

At the bottom of the steps, he paused; he needed to know. “So it was all for the benefit of Debo, wasn’t it? Are you afraid of her?”

“Huh?” She snapped out of her private musings and moved away taking on a defensive posture. “No…actually, yes. I didn’t want to suffer another lecture.”

She unzipped her jacket; it had gotten quite warm.

He nodded. “I agree with you entirely. She used to be a teacher by profession.”

She giggled. “Must have been a very good one then. Let’s go, it’s time for Two and a Half Men.” She turned toward the stairs.

“No,” he said, blocking her way, “not before I know your decision.”

“About what?”

“That you will stay here with me?”

She smiled mysteriously. “So you are anxious for my answer, Mr. Grey?”

He grasped her roughly by the arms. “Damn you, Ruhi! Didn’t I warn you not to call me by that awful name again? Or I’ll…”

“You’ll what?”

“Kiss you,” he blurted out.

She let out a tiny gasp while her eyes widened with irrational excitement. She wanted to incite him further, take the risk. “Then do it, Mr. Grey!”

“Ruhi!” He pulled her roughly to himself and was surprised that she came readily without a struggle.

What is she trying to do now? Can’t she see that I’m crazy about her?

Her pulse thudded loud in her ears when she saw him bend forward, intent on carrying out his threat. Give it up, Ruhi! What is there to lose? You want it as bad as he does!

“No!” She pushed him away and ran up the stairs.

He groaned, crouching down on the steps. “God I hate this girl! I really, really do. But I don’t want to let her go either. This is torture unending. What am I to do?”

He felt a tap on his shoulder. “I’m willing to consider it!” There was mischief in her voice.

“Not so fast.” He pulled her down before she could run away again. “I need to know now! Please don’t go, say you won’t!”

She stared at his anxious face and melted. Poor Grey. He has been through a lot today. “Fine, I’ll give it my best shot, but on one condition!”

“I’m willing to do anything!”

She laughed, gently stroking his cheek. “Can we get some pizza from Tony’s?”

“Phew! You witch! You had me scared sick.” He smiled, looking relieved, and then holding her firmly by the hand, proceeded up the stairs.

“Look here. If you start calling me names,  I’m gone tomorrow!”

“I’m sorry! But you irk me to the infinite degree.”

“Then I’d better leave.”

“No! I like being irked.”

Giggles. “Order the pizza right now. I want to watch Ashton.”

“Like hell you do! We are watching Gone with the Wind on DVD!”

“No way!”

“Yes way!”

A door closed with a loud bang.

tbc

Rhythm&Blues Chap 11: Hearts in Motion

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11: Hearts in Motion

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Shan threw down the pencil in disgust. For the past three hours he’d been trying to compose the opening score for the show. Usually this exercise was a walk in the park but this time he hadn’t even been able to get off the starting block.. for whenever he drew the bow across the strings of his violin, she came into view and interrupted his train of thought.

Khanak was a siren. Her svelte lissome figure fit consummate in his arms, snug like a glove. Her lovely face, with those perfectly etched features, made him want to just keep gazing endlessly at her. And those incredibly expressive eyes bade him come closer then looked away as if distracted, playing a constant game of hide and seek, holding him imprisoned, like a willing slave.

He sighed aloud frustrated causing Horse to cock up his ears and open an eye before settling down to snooze again, his master was behaving weird these past few days.

I feel like a fool! What’s going on? Are these feelings transitory? He tossed his violin aside. I get anxious if I don’t see her…but then I become tongue tied in front of her. I don’t know what to do or say. All I want is to just take her in my arms and..and…

Darn I need to see her again right now! He cast a glance at his napping pet. I’ve become just like you Horse!

He got up from his deep mauve leather rocker and ambled over to the studio, aware that she’d be there practicing her routine. After the slightest hesitation he turned on the switch that transformed the opaque wall into a one way viewing panel. He felt almost like a voyeur, yet  he needed to see her badly and for the sake of argument, it wasn’t her bedroom.

As soon as he saw her all his anxieties disappeared and were replaced by a sense of calm. She was sitting on her haunches, her beauteous face a study in concentration as she keenly watched something on the LCD panel mounted on the wall, as if trying to absorb a very vital lecture in school.

He watched as she did a pirouette while perfectly balanced on her tiptoes..(Tina had taught her well, but then she was an able student) then out of the blue she glanced at the audience (him) with a coy smile and a haughty toss of the head. He stepped back in haste, for a moment fearing that he’d been discovered.

Rubbish Shan! You seem to have taken leave of your senses as well. That’s impossible. He reassured himself as he watched her take position again but this time she did three in a row. A hiss of satisfaction left his mouth as she landed with that same somewhat annoying gesture.

He frowned, remembering having seen it before. But where?

Oh yes! Tash!… No! He couldn’t let it happen!

He wrenched the door open and before she could react, had her arm in a vice like grip.

—xxx

Khanak was feeling good, having spent the past few hours practicing, while watching the great dancer Natasha’s DVD’s, thereby making sure that she had all her moves technically perfect. She had discovered that she had a natural aptitude for dance of all kinds; not just Indian classical where she couldn’t be beat, but contemporary as well and for ballet, though she still had a long ways to go there, she did possess the natural grace and strength required for it.

Though from what she had heard so far she had mixed feelings about her predecessor, she couldn’t deny that as a dancer Natasha was probably one of the best, if not The Best in the country and filling her shoes was a tough and nerve wracking prospect. Khanak sighed in resignation as she watched another of Natasha’s impeccable performances end with a standing ovation.

But I’m going to try my best. My Boss is betting on me and I can’t let him down, I can’t let myself down.

Suddenly she felt herself being pulled around violently and was confronted with Shan’s glowering face within inches of hers.

“What in hell do you think you are doing?!” He demanded. It wasn’t a question, rather an accusation.

He saw her beautiful eyes widen, and her tender mouth part but no sound found its way out. She looked terrified. He eased his grip and his features softened but only slightly. His voice retained its harsh quality. “I asked you something, I expect an answer.”

She shook off his hand while trying her best to tame her agitated nerves. “I..I was just watching some of Natasha’s videos which I found in my room. I’m using them to get some pointers. She’s a wonderful dancer, I don’t think there’s anybody who can match her.”

“Yes she is a class apart, and perhaps will always be one of the best who ever happened to grace the stage. I don’t mind you watching her videos to hone your skills but…” Shan paused.

“But what? Am I doing something wrong?” Khanak asked anxiously.

“Yes you are, doing something terribly wrong! You’ve declared yourself her inferior even before your very first performance, thereby leaving no room for improvement and consciously or unconsciously you are aping her signature move, so whenever somebody sees you saucily toss your head, they’ll think of you as Tash’s clone and not Khanak Mishra, an ace dancer in her own right!”

She stared at him, realizing the truth in his statement.

He put his hands on both her shoulders giving them a firm shake while his eyes bore into hers. “Khanak! I never want you to compare yourself to her or anybody else! You have something few others have. Not only are you a remarkable dancer but you have a rare charm which draws each and every person in the audience to you! I’ve seen it and felt it! You have all the makings of becoming a phenomenon..maybe even outdo Tash!”

“Outdo Tash? That isn’t possible. I can’t imagine!” She shook her head.

“You can and you will! If you dream and work hard enough you can achieve what may seem impossible! You can create a style you own and people will recognize it as Khanak’s personal stamp! You can do it. I don’t doubt it at all! All you have to do is lose yourself in the dance, like you’ve done before. Forget that this form is something new for you. People don’t care, all they want is to connect to you. Use your body as an instrument of expression…then see the world will be at your feet!”

During this entire impassioned speech, Khanak watched her handsome boss dumbstruck, hanging on to his every word each of which infused her with positive energy. Against her better judgment she too felt invariably drawn to him like a magnet. It was getting harder to remind herself that this arrangement was only temporary.

He stopped speaking and they stood for several moments staring at one another, each overwhelmed by a sudden rush of emotion.

Shan! You better get a hold on yourself dude! If you don’t then she may suspect you are really more involved than you want to reveal. That just won’t do. I can’t afford to frighten her away, he thought.

He let go of her and walked to the stereo system, “here listen to this, I want you to dance with me to this song.”

Jar of Hearts- Christina Perri

He took her hand. “I want you to give it your all.., think that I’m the one who led you on then jilted you. This song is about your hurt, how you felt when your heart was being tossed around. C’mon show me, make me feel your pain!”

With all seriousness and determination she responded. “Give me 10 minutes and I will.”

“Okay.” He shrugged his shoulders and left the room.

“I’m ready.”

Continue reading

Zen

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Photo credits- Simi K.Rao and Emrys

The concrete jungles of California aren’t without their share of peaceful spots—the Japanese Gardens in Balboa Park in San Diego, Hsi Lai Buddhist temple in Hacienda Heights, and Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, California.

Rhythm&Blues Chap 10: A Story of Love

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Chapter Links

10: A Story of Love

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“So am I in for sure?” Khanak asked anxiously as Shan tossed his bike keys to the parking attendant at his apartment complex.

Dhyaan se Shyaam (careful Shyaam)…not a single scratch should be seen.”

The boyish attendant raised a cheeky finger in salute before roaring away on the shining vehicle in glee. Shan chuckled shaking his head indulgently.

“Kya (What?) ..He just drove away on your bike and you are laughing? What if he steals it?”

“He won’t..he’s an honest boy who leads a very tough life. I’m just letting him have his moment of thrill, he lives for it..did you see how his face lit up when he turned the engine on?”

Khanak nodded, appreciating this new soft side of Shan which he kept well hidden. Inside all the glitz and glamour hid a very caring and real human being.

“And yes you are in. Why..were you in doubt?”

“I..I, wasn’t sure..after what happened on the stage with Tarun.. I questioned myself.” She said nervously.

His features tightened. “Tarun shouldn’t have done that..his behavior was totally  unacceptable and I don’t know why Div didn’t put a stop to it either. He’s been getting out of hand lately..I need to warn him not to take his position for granted.”

“Thank you so much! Oh God I’m so happy! If I hadn’t got the job..I don’t know what I’d have done.”

“What do you mean?” He was distracted by loud barking as he unlocked the door..

The giant puppy almost knocked her over putting both his forepaws on her shoulders and licking her face with great enthusiasm.

Shan laughed. “You better start putting makeup on. Horse hates how that tastes.”

“Then I definitely won’t, he’s adorable!” Khanak said smiling hugging Horse tight.

Shan smiled back, still having some trouble accepting her simplicity and down to earth attitude. She’s so different from the rest..like a breath of fresh air.

“Shucks! I forgot, today’s Dibu’s day off!” He said noticing the bare dining table. “Maybe we can go out to eat..what say?”

“Can I suggest something?” Khanak asked after quickly going through the pantry and refrigerator.

“Like what?”

Would you mind if I tried my hand at some cooking? I’ve been tremendously missing my aunt’s home cooked bhojan (meal).”

“Sure, sure..be my guest! I’d love to taste something other than Dibu’s standard continental fare.”

Khanak did a small jig on the spot and would have hugged Shan but held back at the last moment.

He grinned, his eyes following her as she rushed in to the guest room for what she said was a quick shower.

“My my..what do you think Horse? She’s not just a fantastic dancer but also full of other delightful surprises.. Hmm what if I ask her to stay here forever..would she agree?”

“STOP! You cannot go in there..unless I go with you and that she won’t allow!”

He struggled to pull the pup back as he decided to amble into the bedroom after Khanak. “You’ll have me hanged one of these days..GOD!”

Trying with great difficulty to appear cool and composed Khanak went about preparing an ambitious meal while Shan watched her with his arms resting on the granite counter, sipping a martini a la James Bond ‘shaken not stirred’.

“Smells like heaven..You’ll soon be dealing with the green eyed monster in Dibu’s guise for sure.”

“He should be least concerned…I’m not planning to take his place.”

“I wish otherwise…you are definitely more picturesque than he ever will be.”

Khanak blushed before turning away to chop some onions which had her sniffling in no time.

“Hey let me..I’m the best onion chopper in the business.” Shan volunteered eagerly. But by some strange act of fate he ended up slicing his own thumb. “I seem to have become weak and accident prone lately..wonder why.” He said looking at her with an innocent smile as she spruced him up. “Maybe I like being pampered.”

“What?” She looked sharply at him..

“Here..I think you can take care of the rest yourself!” She said thrusting the bandage in his hands.

“Hey..I didn’t mean to. It’s just that its been so long. I..I guess I’m missing  Dadi ma’s touch.” His face fell and his eyes seemed lost in a far off place.

She felt sorry for him, wanting to know more but didn’t think it was her place to intrude. Why had Diva appeared so concerned about him? “Ahh..nothing like the aroma of traditional Indian spices to titillate the taste buds.. Methi Aloo, phulke, Kashmiri pulao, mint raita, sambhar soup and kulfi.”

“No ice cream?” Shan asked.

“Hmm..kulfi sounds more authentic don’t you think?”

He dug in to the repast with single minded dedication and nothing was said for the next half hour while Khanak looked on with trepidation.

He got up from his chair and walked over to where she was watching silently twisting and untwisting the cream napkin over and over on her fingers.

“You didn’t like it?”
“Like!” He dropped down on his knees..took her hands in his gently kissing her palms not letting go as she tried to pull them away.

“What can I say to someone who reminds me of a past that I want to forget? Those wonderful yet painful memories when my grandma used to make methi aloo and bread just like this and feed me with her own hands after my father had locked me up in my room when he discovered that I hadn’t gone to school once again? What can I say?” His eyes delved deep into hers.

“But he never did so to my brother or my sister… I used to wonder if I was really his son and repeated the same mistake over and over waiting for the day when he would just pat my head and tell me it was fine and to not do it again.”

“That day never came…” He laughed. “And grandma died and all hell broke loose.” He turned to Khanak earnestly, gripping her fingers hard in his hands. “Tell me! How can a true parent mistreat one child while rain love on another? How is that possible?!”

She wrenched her hands away, stood up and pretended to get busy clearing the table. “I don’t know..that’s a tough question to answer.” His words had made her recollect her own painful memories..would chachu do the same to Shree?

“I’m sorry about your grandma, it’s really hard to say good bye to someone whom you really love.” She turned away and briskly walked nto the open kitchen, trying to hide the tears that had sprung up in her eyes.

He followed and pulled her around with force. “Why don’t you know the answer? Why can’t you tell me?”

“Because I am an orphan that’s why!”

He stared stunned at her for several moments. “But I thought you had a loving and supportive family..”

“Yes..so did I. But when my chachu who I used to think the world of, insisted on marrying me off against my wishes, because he considered me a liability..I couldn’t stay to find out, I ran away and..and here I am. I really don’t know if my father would have done the same thing. If he’d  have also killed my dreams.. Because he’s long dead and gone, so is my mother.”

She broke down and he hugged her gently letting her cry, while Horse came up and rubbed against her leg.

Khanak stepped back suddenly and wiped her nose roughly with the edge of her dupatta. “I’m..sorry. I shouldn’t have done that..you are my Boss and I’m your employee.” She bent down and kissed Horse on his head.

“No I consider you much more than that.”

She threw a sharp glance at him.

“I mean..I’m a human being first and then anything else.”

“I don’t want you to think that I’m trying to invoke your kindness or your pity. I wish to be hired only on the basis of my talent, that is what I’ve worked hard on all my life and that’s why I left my home. If I don’t fit the bill then tell me so frankly, I’ll leave right away. I’m sure I’ll find something else.” She smiled trying to make it sound easy and casual. “I can join a smaller company or maybe even teach dance..I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there who want their children to get a taste of their culture and heritage.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” He looked down intently at her face while grabbing her arms again. “I’d never have hired you if I didn’t think that you were the right one for me. You have that spark, that josh, that spirit inside you which I’ve seen in no one else. You make the stage come alive and make me feel like I want to dance with you..be a part of your story. I want to…I want to…” He stopped abruptly and stared at her not believing the words that were at the tip of his tongue. Was he going insane? Or was he unconsciously falling into a trap that he himself had helped create? Was it all an infatuation?

Horse’s loud barking at the door came as a welcome interruption. Shan felt unusually tongue tied and bothered. His new companion was wrecking havoc on his organized and uncluttered life and he wasn’t sure what to make of it all. Yet he didn’t like the disturbance. “Who can it be at this God forsaken hour?”

It was only 10 pm.

“Hello..boyfriend! We have a date tonight!” Trish walked in all saucy wearing a backless dress with a deep revealing neckline, a red satin bow around her scrawny neck and heels to match.

“What date..I don’t remember any..and anyway I have loads of work left to do.” He said glancing at Khanak.

“Darling!” Trish hung on to his arm while Horse started a low continuous growl. “Remember last Valentine’s when that Tash stole you from me..that Bitch! You promised to make up by taking me out this year..and today is the day! Besides your whole artsy stuck up gang will be there.”

“Yes Shan.” Tarun said sauntering in behind his sister looking dapper and snooty in a white jacket and red bow. “Navin Jha and Sherie Bajaj are both supposed to make an appearance with their respective exes..you know how they adore the ground you walk on and doing a little PR especially at a time like this doesn’t hurt does it?”  Aiming a sly wink at Khanak.

“Don’t be a nerd baby, where is your fun side? Oh will you ask that stupid animal to shut up! How do you tolerate that thing!” Trish said waving her red painted nails in Khanak’s direction. She already looked plastered. “Anyways here I am lover boy, give us a kiss.” she pouted her dark red lips.

Khanak looked away embarrassed. “Please excuse me, I need to practice what Tina taught me today.”

“No..you come too, meet the in crowd, get familiar with their ‘high class’ ways! You can be my bro’s date since none of his are planning to show up!”

“Trish, that isn’t very nice!” Tarun glowered.

“I’m just saying the bitter truth my dearest bhaiya (brother). It’s high time you realized that girls aren’t toys!”

“But…” Khanak protested then agreed with much reluctance on seeing Shan’s faint nod.

–xx–

The Buddha Baron (An upscale watering hole and dance lounge haunted by the who’s who of Mumbai’s entertainment industry.)

The youthful party of four managed to attract attention as soon as they made their entrance. Though Tarun and his sister Trish were no mean eye candy..the objects of particular interest were the very handsome pair who accompanied them. Shan in a black tux which he had chosen to wear over a red silk shirt with a fluffed red silk handkerchief as the only adornment making him appear rakishly debonair and charming at the same time and the lovely girl who stood behind dressed in a simple yet elegant white tulle cocktail dress with a sweetheart neckline and a twisted red satin cinched waist which enhanced her fresh beauty but what attracted everybody more was her wide eyed innocence and naiveté which was a rare sight to behold.

“Ahh.. I like it so much here..at least I don’t have to watch out for some old fart’s hand up my arse!” Trish said loudly to Khanak who was  busy absorbing the sights around her. The colorful language took a lot of getting used to but she had to reluctantly agree with her view..the place was huge!

The ambience at once stunned and mesmerized the untrained eye. The decor in reds and golds with wooden panels and exotic artifacts looked classy and refined but at the same instant managed to appear glamorous and trendy. The center of focus was a giant Buddha the bar’s namesake, sitting serenely enthroned. The covered entry led into a large open area decorated with amber colored lighting and red and gold Chinese paper lanterns.

A live band played in the background giving the evening a sensual feel.

Couples dressed in the theme colors of the evening were already swinging to the music.

“Thank you.” Khanak said softly as Shan pulled back her chair, both remained acutely aware of the other despite making a singular effort to avoid any kind of contact.

She sighed in relief when he hurried away after being hailed by a particularly large boisterous group; their earlier conversation had put her feelings all in a jumble.

Tarun didn’t wait around much longer either..he was still miffed at being targeted by Shan in front of the other dancers. He believed that he had been unfairly singled out and blamed it squarely on Khanak.

“My brother is such a jerk…he makes every girl he goes out with think that she is the only one while actually he is just playing the field.” Trish observed while they watched Tarun cozy up to a very buxom blonde.

She drew in hard on her pink women’s special filters before letting the smoke drift out through her nostrils then promptly went into a coughing fit. “*** these cigarettes! I thought they’d make me look cool for Shan, but he hardly looks at me. I’d rather have red wine instead..they say it’s good for your health.” she giggled. “By the by has he come on to you?” She asked Khanak archly.

Khanak flushed. “What kind of stupid question is that? I just work for him.”

“But I know your heart goes ding dong when you are with him and I’ve also seen the way he looks at you.. Wanna be my chammak challo o.o..” Trish winked taunting her while she jigged on the spot to the catchy tune.

“Trish please there’s nothing like that between us…” Khanak said trying to remain calm while feeling all giddy and agitated inside.

“Ahh..jaane do (let go) you can have him..I don’t want him, anyway he has no time for me.” Trish brushed her off. “I went after him only on my **** bro’s say so. When he said it’ll help make Marcus jealous. Ohhh..Marcus, Marcus..when will you come back to your Cleo?”

Khanak followed Trish’s dazed eyes to the dance floor where she saw a slim and very attractive young man dancing intimately with a scantily dressed girl.

“Isn’t he a dish! We used to be always together until Tarun spoiled everything! Oh..I know Marcus wants me back, if only he’d answer my calls.” she said her eyes screwed up. “No I must not cry..that’ll spoil my makeup then he won’t look at me at all!”

Khanak found her a tissue and watched blow her nose hard into it. She realized that Trish was a lost and thoroughly spoilt girl who was being exploited by her brother for his own gains..she wondered at what they were.

“I think I’ll go to Marcus and tell him everything!” Trish got up and wavered over to the dance floor holding onto tables for support, she could hardly stand straight.

“Khanak!” Shan came over with a couple of his friends who looked like twins. He held out his hand to her, “let me introduce you to some of the best known names in the fashion industry..the Khatri brothers–Rohan and Roshan and this is Ms Khanak Mishra., my new lead dancer.”

Khanak smiled feeling quite a bit exposed as both the brothers swept her over.

The one called Rohan grabbed her hand and smooched it sloppily. “Nice meeting you Ms Kha.nak..I’m sure we shall keep in touch.”

Shan eyed him with derision before whisking her away. He whispered, “keep away from those two..they are wolves in disguise. But you don’t have to worry, I won’t let them touch you!”

She looked up at his face and was arrested by a strange look in those yummy brown eyes. Her pulse went haywire.

The music picked up, a very familiar rhythm..one which made her want to dance and sing with joy.

Placing an arm possessively about her waist he pulled her to the open floor. “Shall we show them what dancing is all about?”

He jerked her close to his chest, a warm hand firmly supporting her back. “It’s time for your first show..Just remember I lead.. you follow.”

She smiled and nodded, feeling no fear at all.

She danced without hesitation, as if the movements were ingrained into her body, following his every move smoothly. Then gaining confidence, feeling a familiar thrill of being in the limelight she came into her own. Her eyes sparkled with mischief as she smiled coquettishly and her body teased him drifting very close and then moving away making his heart race with excitement as if she was dancing for him alone and no one else.

No one dared share the stage with them. They held their breath as they watched the two dance as one..lovers caught in each other’s spell..

He reluctantly released her after acknowledging the thunderous applause moved back and let her take her bows. I need to take care, this is definitely more than just infatuation.

tbc

An Incurable Insanity Chap 24: Remedies

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Chapter Links

24: REMEDIES

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Ruhi was somewhat perplexed to see Sunshine greet them with a wide expectant smile when they trooped guiltily back into the living room.

“I’m so sorry but I broke this, and I know it can’t be replaced.” She remorsefully held out the fractured ancient tea cup while furiously eyeballing her masculine accomplice.

At least she is brave enough to own up to her fault. But why is she protecting me? Shaan wondered while still unable to fathom that Ruhi had allowed him to come so close and they would have come closer still.

“It’s all right, child,” Sunshine said, turning over the delicate piece of china in her hand. “It was a wedding present, but I am not going to take it with me to my grave, am I? It’ll just be me and my bones.”

“Oh please don’t say that! You are going to outlive all of us, I’m sure.”

“No, I’ve had enough. My batteries are all worn out!” Sunshine cackled wildly, flapping her hands.

“Did anything happen?” The wise woman’s eyebrows shot up dramatically in Shaan’s direction.

Talk about playing one’s cards close to one’s chest. Ruhi will have it figured out in no time! “It didn’t work.” He emitted an exaggerated sigh after taking a cautious sip of his dark brew and reclined against the lacy cushions, all the while staring openly at Ruhi.

She looked away flushing with anger.

“Verdammt!”

Shaan’s ears turned red with shock, the old lady indeed had a colorful vocabulary. Hell it’s not my fault!

JJ screeched imitating a hyena and swung upside down on his perch; he seemed to prosper in the hubbub.

“Sunshine!” Shan exclaimed.

“I was born in Austria,” she said dismissively as though it was adequate explanation. “But tell me why didn’t it happen, my boy, why?”

Why is this old hag bent on composing my funeral march? “Because of me, damn it!”

“What’s going on? I think I deserve an explanation!” Ruhi didn’t like being kept in the dark particularly when she was the topic of discussion.

“Kaput!” 

“My dear!” Sunshine said, shooting a vile look at the bird who had taken to preening his feathers, “it’s simple. This is an honest attempt to bring together two beautiful people whose match seems to have been made in heaven. It’s a crime that you’re still apart!”

Ruhi gave a pale imitation of a smile. “So very nice of you, but really you didn’t have to go to such lengths. We share the same quarters.”

“What? You have been living together, and nothing has happened?” Sunshine stared aghast at both of them. “If it had been me in your place, my child, I’d have seduced this handsome hunk of a man a long time ago! No one is safe from Sunshine’s charms, like my Jeremy used to say…Poor man, may his soul rest in peace.”

Ruhi went into a convulsion of manic laughter while Shaan raised the old charmer’s hand gallantly to his lips. “You’d already had me trapped in your magic, now you’ve taken possession of my heart as well.”

“Stop taxing an old lady’s ticker, my boy, it still has to last me another couple of years!” Sunshine grinned, smacking his arm. “I know who has really stolen your heart, don’t I, sweet buns?” She looked meaningfully at Ruhi.

“It’s not as easy as you think, Sunshine. It’s very complicated!” Ruhi protested in frustration, her voice breaking as she turned to the window, trying to mask the tears that threatened to race down her cheeks.

Shaan hurried to her.

“What’s going on between you two? I don’t understand. You owe me a clarification, young man!”

“I…I don’t know what to say.” He mumbled.

Of course you don’t! Khanak thought.

“I don’t approve of this arrangement at all!” Sunshine had worked herself up into a frenzy. “What are your intentions? How long before you propose to this young lady?”

“I, I can’t.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m already taken,” he said, casting a wary glance at Ruhi. “I’m already bound in a sacred relationship to a most lovely young woman, and I have no desire of letting her go without a fight!”

“But it doesn’t make any sense.” Sunshine was distressed.

He didn’t pay her any heed. “She is disappointed and peeved with me at the moment and not wrongly so, but I intend to persuade her to change her mind before it’s too late,” he declared fervently, not taking eyes off his alienated wife.

Ruhi’s person stiffened as she attempted very hard to stem the flood of emotions his words had provoked.

Sunshine observed her with consternation, then smiled when her astute gaze fell on the gold band, which she was unconsciously twisting around her finger.

“Honk! Honk! Honk!”

Ruhi jumped, screaming. “What the hell!”

“Shut up, JJ!” Sunshine threw her shawl on JJ’s cage. “He has gone berserk, too much excitement today and it’s past his bedtime.”

“It’s just eight o’clock,” Shaan muttered glancing at his wrist.

Sunshine glowered at him.

“Uh…oh. Yes! You’ve had a long day, Mrs. Jeremy.” Wily fox! He grinned back at her.

“Do you need any help in the kitchen before we go, Sunshine?” Ruhi anxiously fussed around her friend not at all in a hurry to leave.

“No, thank you, my dear! These old bones need some exercise or else they’ll get stiff and shatter!” Sunshine said, happily shooing her away. “Oh, talking about exercise, I just remembered something!”

Ruhi paused, looking back eagerly from the door while her escort frowned. Sunshine fumbled turning bright pink. “You know the eighty- year-old neighbor I had mentioned earlier? He wants to take me out on a date this weekend.”

“Oh, how lovely!” Ruhi clasped her hands together in delight.

“He is from China, a Mr. Chang or Lee or something!”

Ruhi laughed. “That seems rude to not even know his name.”

“I’ll learn when he goes down on bended knee but then he may not be able to. Well, that’s beside the point! As I said, he wants to take me square dancing, but I don’t want to show him that I’m interested, so I have a plan!”

“Care to elaborate before the night is out?” Shaan said, getting edgy.

“My wish is for Ruhi to go as Mr. Lee’s date while I take Shaan as mine. That will surely make everybody stand up and pay attention, particularly Mr. Lee!” she asserted with a devilish wink.

“Uh…oh! What can I say? You give me way too much credit. I can’t dance at all!” Shan said looking doubtful.

He received a reassuring pat on his arm. “You will do fine. Just come and cheer us old folks and perhaps have some fun in the process.”

“I don’t think I’ll be nice company for your Mr. Lee. He probably wants to go with you.” Ruhi looked apprehensive.

“He is likely to have a stroke when he sees you and another when he sees me with Shaan!” Sunshine tittered, thrilled to bits. “But I want him jealous, as green as can be!”

“But—”

“Please won’t you make this small sacrifice for a poor old woman who seeks a companion for the remaining days of her worldly life?” Sunshine looked beseechingly at Ruhi.

She was enclosed in a warm hug.

“You are a true classic!” Shaan mumbled in her ear before planting a firm kiss on her wrinkled cheek.

“Now get going before JJ has a fit!” She hustled them out of the door.

Later, she watched as the pair slowly strolled together deep in conversation before coming to a standstill under a streetlight. She whispered to JJ who was perched on her shoulder, “I would give my dentures to be able to hear what that silly boy is saying right now, JJ! Wouldn’t you?”

He puffed up his feathers and hooted like an owl.

She sighed. “God bless them. They are a pair of fools in love! Now let’s go and get you some treats!”

tbc

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