Chapter 3

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Mehek was lazing on hammock when Shaurya walkout of his cottage. "Long live the Queen. Hope Her majesty is enjoying her morning", he humoured her. "Until a poor peasant disturbed my peace", she acted snobbish and they both laughed out. "Where are you off to?", she asked him. "To church", she raised her eyebrows hearing his reply, "There is a beautiful old church in the outskirts of this town. You are welcome to join me if you want to visit it", he invited.

It was indeed a beautiful place. Mehek didn't regret coming with him. After spending some time praying inside the church, Shaurya asked Mehek to follow him. They entered another old building which was just behind the church. "This is an orphanage run by church. I wanted to give a small donation from my first pay cheque", he told sheepishly. She wondered whether he did it on purpose to impress her. Nevertheless she was affected by his sweet gesture. The nuns invited them into the orphanage and urged them to spend some time with the kids. Shaurya sang for the kids and they played with them for couple of hours. One of the caretakers took Mehek into their kitchen and she cooked a quick dessert for the kids. They loved it and declared it as the best sweet they had in years. Later Nuns gave them a brief tour of their facility as they wanted to inspire more young people to volunteer. Mehek's eyes turned moist when she say babies in the infant section. "How could a woman abandon her own child? Motherhood is a blessing", she whispered to herself but Shaurya heard it. He felt relieved that she was not a stone hearted woman as she tried to project. "It would have been painful for the mother too. We shouldn't judge others", he tried pacify her. Mehek quickly composed herself but found it difficult to maintain her cold avatar. "They are unwanted Angels", she told him. "Not for long, Mehek. They all will be accepted into families who needs them. They will be loved and cared by people who will consider themselves lucky to have them", he spoke confidently. Mehek was unable to agree to his hopeful words, "It is difficult to accept a child who is not your own flesh and blood" . "I agree that it is not easy but not impossible. Trust me, I know it", he was determined to convince her. Mehek caught his hand and made him face her, "Were you adopted?". He shook his head, "But I have a younger brother who was adopted. My mother loved him just like her own son. I can never imagine my family without him. He completed us". Mehek smiled and squeezed his palm, "Your mother was a gem of a woman". "She was", he sighed and intertwined their fingers.

They were walking back home holding their hands. "My parents were killed in an accident when I was little", she told abruptly. Shaurya never disturbed her by probing into details of her personal life although he wanted to know more about her. He was joyful as she was opening up to him slowly. "I was brought up by my aunt, Kanta Chachi. She was widow who had no children of her own. She was a strong matriarch who believed in discipline and traditions. I grew up under her strict upbringing and she always made best decisions for my life. But she was never affectionate. She took me under her wing as a responsibility and did her best to deliver her duties. But she failed to love me. She welcomed me into her house but it never was my home". Mehek looked into his eyes which never wavered from her. He brought her fingers to his lips to plant a light kiss on them. Mehek felt strange still got reassured by his touch. She blushed and freed her hand from him. "You look cute when you blush", he teased her and she playfully punched his arm. Rest of the journey was uneventful but both were at ease.

Mehek draped her favourite red saree and carefully pinned it on her shoulder. She wasn't sure where Shaurya intend to take her. It could be a place where dress code matters. Hence she decided to stick to saree which will be apt for any venue. As promised he knocked at her door at 7 O' clock. "You look lovely in red", he complemented and presented her with a bouquet of red roses. "Thank you", she tried to act haughty, "For a change, you look decent too". He smiled , extending his hand for her. She took it comfortably and he led her outside. Mehek was eager to know where he planned their outing. He led her through the pathway amidst cottages and they finally reached rose garden on the farthest end of the property. Mehek noticed that he had cleaned it up, arranged table for two and decorated the entire place with lights and candles. The pain and effort taken by him to turn the dingy garden to a beautiful dining area were clearly evident. "I hope you would adore my culinary skills", he removed the lid to reveal the Italian dish he had prepared. Mehek was impressed by his efforts but still she feigned disappointment, "Mr Miser, when you promised an awesome treat, I never expected it to be a home cooked meal in our backyard". His face fell quickly. He expected Mehek to be delighted. After settling his rent, donation to orphanage and other expenses, very little was left for him from his remuneration. He thought Mehek liked to keep things simple & personal. So expected her to be touched by his personal gesture. It pricked him to be at fault. He couldn't afford to live up to her expectations. "I am sorry I didn't...", he stuttered, "I promise next time...". "Relax, Shaurya. I was just joking", Mehek tried to put him at ease. He was glad but made a mental note to take Mehek to a proper restaurant next time.

Shaurya carefully opened the gift hamper he had received previous night and pulled out a bottle of champagne from it. "Apt for celebration", Shaurya managed to open it and served it for both. After giving a toast for his success and talent, they sipped it. They ate the meal he cooked and she admitted it was delicious. Mehek felt at peace and free in spirit. Infact she loved his idea of setting a dinner date near their cottage, away from prying eyes . She loved the calmness and enjoyed his company without worry. But soon their melancholy date was interrupted by abrupt drizzle. Mehek looked upto the sky and yelled, "It couldn't have got any better". While Mehek twirled in rain enjoying the water drops, Shaurya grabbed her wrist and tried to escape the downpour. "Can't leave the bottle behind", she went back to rescue their champagne bottle. They ran towards Shaurya's cottage as it was nearer.

Mehek was still laughing as she sat on the rug placed beside fireplace. Sipping from the bottle, she pulled him beside her. May be the alcohol or the magic of the moment, he caught glimpse of real Mehek who was lively and spirited. "This was best date ever", Mehek yelled out loud. Shaurya was aghast for few seconds but soon got mesmerized by her laughter and charisma. She looked so pure and delighted. He gently moved forward to touch her chin. He gently rubbed her chin and traced her lips with his thumb. Though her laughter subsided, she didn't pull back. but leaned to his touch. "I wish things were different between us", Mehek told him tenderly. Shaurya didn't remove his fingers from her soft lips. "Life is too short to just wish and regret. We should make most of what we have now and live the moment", he told her. He leaned forward to her lips. 

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