By Shreya Gupta
The doorbell interrupted Kiara’s flow of thoughts. She moved towards the door and looked through the peephole. Instantly she had a smile on her face. She opened the door halfway to see Rishi in his business suit holding his laptop bag and a takeaway package which she knew contained her favourite sandwiches from a stall near his office.
They shared a glance as he entered. Kiara took the package from his hand and went into the kitchen. Meanwhile, Rishi kept his bag down and took out an envelope and placed it on the table.
Kiara offered him water and kept the plate with sandwiches on the table.
“Look what I received today,” he said passing the envelope to Kiara.
He drank water while she opened the envelope.
“You remember Piyush, my chachu’s (father’s younger brother’s) son. He is getting married in two weeks from now.”
“Oh! that is nice,” Kiara skimmed through the invitation.
“Yes, it is. Now, Let’s eat fast. I need to get back home early today to book our tickets,” said Rishi, taking another bite into the sandwich.
“‘Our tickets?” she asked with her eyes wide open.
He knew Kiara would not be thrilled at the idea, so he tried to convince her, “Sorry, I didn’t ask you. But you love weddings. Besides, everyone one will be there and Piyush especially invited you.”
She took the invitation card and went through it again without saying a word. Meanwhile, Rishi offered Kiara a bite, but she was too occupied.
When Kiara had not said a word for minutes, Rishi asked, “So, what do you say?”
“No,” she said plainly.
“No? Why?” This was not the reaction he had expected.
Rishi knew Kiara very well and she loved nothing more than a wedding celebration. Her stern refusal confused him.
She continued, “We have known each other for over a year, and we have been going out for around four months. We do like each other’s company.”
“Yes, so?” he said trying to understand where she was going with this.
“So, I don’t want us to break up,” she answered with a straight face.
Rishi was lost at her reply, “I am not sure I can understand what you are saying.”
They were sitting on the opposite ends of the couch facing each other. Kiara was trying to explain her reasoning to Rishi without offending him. And Rishi was trying to be very patient with her refusal.
“What I am saying is this whole family wedding thing is for a whole week in a place that is totally alien to me, where I would be surrounded by strangers on all sides, being judged and evaluated at every step,” she looked at him and continued. “You know me, and you know I don’t do well in social settings, especially the whole joint family situation.”
Rishi now knew what was bothering Kiara. He knew she was raised in a nuclear family and hated every single of her jerk relatives. Her reservations to meet his family now made sense to him. So, he sat Kiara down and reassured her that none of the soap opera dramas were going to unfold at the wedding.
But his loving reassurance was met only by her fears when she jumped up from the couch, talking really fast as if she just wanted to end the discussion. “See there are just two possibilities.”
“I’m listening”, Rishi still maintaining his composure.
“Number one; your family is super mean to me. I get insulted, compared to some aunty’s perfect daughter. Be given kitchen tests and fail miserably. Your family and I will hate each other, and we will break up.” She looked at Rishi for his response.
“That is not gonna happen,” he said without blinking his eyes.
Now Kiara seemed even more excitable and annoyed by Rishi’s patience. “Number two; which is more probable. Your family is super nice to me and I am a total bitch.”
“And why would you do that?” he asked almost with a chuckle.
“Because I don’t know how to behave with strangers. Remember how mean I was to you when we first met,” she said falling into the couch as if almost embarrassed with herself.
“What?” His shock was clearly visible on his face.
“What if I shout at you like I do all day long?” she said in a low sheepish voice.
“Fine, shout at me, I’d love it.” His response as playful as his pinch on her cheek while saying so.
Kiara looked at Rishi’s infectious smiling face and could not help but smile as well.
After a moment, Kiara sprang up again as she came up with another argument, “Okay, if not that, then I will start hating you till the end of this trip. I have seen enough drama in other people’s lives to know what is gonna happen.”
“Ok, enlighten me please,” Rishi said while folding his hands and falling back on the couch.
“You would want your family to say what a great girl you found, so you would ask me to be super nice and pretentious which would obviously annoy me. You would accuse me for being unreasonable and stubborn. And I would accuse you of being spineless for not supporting your woman. By the end of the trip, your cousin would be married and we would be single,” Kiara said in one breath as if she had already thought about it and predicted the future.
Rishi stared blankly at her and she realized that she was getting too worked up.
She came back and sat next to Rishi on the couch.
She took his hand in hers and said softly, “I don’t want us to break up and that is why I don’t want to come along. You go, have fun, come back and tell me all about it.”
“But how far is it sustainable? Will you never meet my family?” Rishi was serious now and looking at Kiara for an answer.
She did not say anything.
“Are you serious? You will never meet my family?” Rishi stared at Kiara with disbelief.
Kiara could see how hurt Rishi was.
She started speaking. Her voice stammering as she tried to hold back tears, “You know I have always lived by myself and now I am so comfortable to being unanswerable to anyone that I think I would come off as rude and ill-mannered.”
Rishi felt guilty for pushing her to do something that made her uncomfortable. But he also wanted her to overcome her anxieties. He took her hand into his and said, “You are nothing if not well-mannered. I know you are scared to meet new people and do not want to ruin your first impression. But it’s okay. You are allowed to be nervous. All I am asking you to do is trust me and be yourself. Everyone is going to love you.”
Kiara was amazed how well Rishi knew her. She could not hold herself back and tears rolled down her cheeks.
Rishi continued in a calm voice, “Maybe you are overthinking this. Don’t see it as being stranded with strangers, think of it as meeting the people most important to the person who is ‘somewhat’ important to you.”
He said this jokingly and that brought a smile on Kiara’s face.
She looked at him and said very slowly, “I know how important this is to you. I really don’t want to mess this up. I still think you should go without me.”
Rishi knew that Kiara was still not very confident at the thought of meeting his family, but he also knew that she needed to know how much she meant to him and how he felt about her. He turned her towards himself and said, “Look at me — yes, my family is important to me but so are you. I love my family because they were given to me. But I made the conscious choice to fall in love with you. I have known how amazing you are from the moment we met, and it had only grown. My family will get to see what a beautiful person you are only if you allow them to. And once they get to know the really smart, intelligent, strong self-made women that you are, they will not be able to stop praising my choice. But all this will only happen if you open yourself to this new adventure and take a leap of faith with me.”
Kiara stared blankly at him as her eyes welled up and all she could do was to fall into his arms.
Shreya Gupta is an amateur writer who has interesting stories to tell; some from her experience and some fictional.
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