Chapter 23

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                            Mehek was fascinated by the meticulous arrangements and opulent decorations made for her baby shower. Shaurya had single-handedly taken responsibility of the function and kept everything under wraps. She was even send away to her loving Happy Chachi so that he could transform the house ready for the function until she was back. Mehek was blissful and twirled around in her Cinderella style gown. Shaurya had got it delivered from the best designers at city. She was in her last trimester and her swollen belly made it evident that she is due in few weeks. Yet the designer had worked crafty to make her look like an elegant princess. Mehek wanted to have a simple function but he insisted on inviting half of the town to be part of their big day. Their bungalow was swarmed with guests who wished her the best and blessed her child. Mehek beamed with joy and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Shaurya stood slightly aside and noticed Mehek. She looked eternal. She was always pretty but today happiness enhanced her beauty. Colonel Uncle & Aunty, Dr Prabha, Ratan Chacha, Nuns & children from orphanage and even spiteful ladies from town came for their function. Over the past few months, Shaurya had worked hard to restore Mehek's respect in society. He successfully managed to portray themselves as a loving couple who are eagerly waiting for new addition to their family. He made sure that people knew they were together even when not bound by matrimony. Although society still raised eyebrows about their unwed relationship, the harshness of their criticism had mellowed down considerably. He glanced at the door when his father arrived. 

"Dad, you are late", he complained. "Don't blame me. This lady took a lot of time to get ready", he pointed at Nehal who smiled sheepishly. He led them to Mehek who tried to get up and touch Harish's feet. But he didn't allow her, "In our family, we don't allow daughters to touch our feet", he pecked her forehead, "May God bless you abundantly, my child", he blessed her. A lone tear escaped her eye but he wiped it away with fatherly affection. "This belonged to my wife, Karuna", he took out an exquisite bangle and made her wear it, " Today, I am happy to hand it over to the rightful owner". Mehek couldn't refute it eventhough she felt uncomfortable to accept such an expensive antique jewelry. "Congrats", Nehal wished her formally and Mehek nodded. The two ladies were still not in great terms yet tried to be amicable. Nehal conveyed regards from Vicky and apologised for him as he was unable to come it due to some important work.

By evening most of the guests had left and house became relatively quiet. Manju and Happy Chachi sat beside Mehek, trying to feed her a healthy snack. Harish & Shaurya remained seated nearby, talking to one another about random topics. Nehal appeared to bored and tried to lose herself in her phone. "Have you thought about any names?", Happy Chachi asked suddenly. Mehek looked at Shauyra with a cute smile and turned to Harish. She then faced them all , "I want to name her after Shaurya's mother...Karuna". Shaurya held her hand and looked at his father. Harish blinked away the tears, "I am honoured that you want to name your child as Karuna. But if you may allow, I have a suggestion". Everyone looked at him eagerly. "Karuna always wanted to have a girl child. But Almightly gave us sons. While she was carrying Shaurya, she had found a girl name anticipating arrival of our daughter", he paused and smile , "That name is NAYANI. I am sure Karuna will be happier if you chose it for her granddaugther". "Wow such a nice name", Nehal finally contributed to the discussion and all agreed to her. "What do you think, Mehek?", Shaurya leaned on to Mehek. "Then NAYANI it is", she smiled and rubbed her nose against his. "So then it's final. Girl name is NAYANI. What about a boy's name?", Happy Chachi asked again. "No need Happy Chachi", Mehek replied. "We know it is a girl", Shaurya added to her reply. The entire crowd, even Nehal couldn't help but laugh. "Can I intrude?", a bold but cheerful voice made all of them turn their attention to it.

"Sonal!!!", Mehek cried out her name and ran to the door to welcome her best friend. Sonal was grinning ear to ear while Mehek jumped on to her to capturing her in a tight bear hug. "Easy there, Tigress", Shaurya was quickly beside her. "I missed you so much", Mehek told tearfully. "Yet you didn't even thought of giving me a ring", Sonal complained. Mehek stood ashamed. She was indeed guilty. She should have made effort to communicate to Sonal atleast once when her life was settled but she was afraid to confront her and chose to swipe it under the carpet. "Come on, Sonal. We talked about it. Don't ruin her day. Please forgive Mehek, atleast for the sake of your niece", Shaurya appealed on behalf of Mehek. "Anything for my Nayani", Sonal laughed out loud and hugged Mehek tightly.

Dinner was served. All were at table and Mehek beamed with joy. Finally she felt at home, bcoz she was amongst her dear & near ones. She turned her head when she felt his fingers drawing patterns on her palm. She met admiring glance from Shaurya who sat beside her. "Happy?", he asked her. "Very happy", she giggled, "I have everything I ever wished for". "Really?", he asked again and she nodded being affirmative. "What if I could add more to this wonderful day?", he asked her. "Surprise me, Mr.Khanna?", she replied playfully. She knew Shaurya still has some trick under his sleeve. She anticipated that he had already planned another mind-blowing surprise for her. But nothing prepared her for the shock when Shaurya knelt down and pull out a ring from his pocket. "Will you marry me, Mekek?",he proposed to Mehek.

The dining room became suddenly silent. All attention were on Mehek who just got proposed. Shaurya was still grinning as he was enjoying Mehek's bewilderment. Mehek gulped hard and looked around at all. As if it was magic, she imagined she could read their minds. Happy Chachi and Manju were glad that finally she will be married to father of her child. Sonal had cute smile as if she expected it to happen soon. Harish feeling proud of his responsible son. Finally a sarcastic Nehal who still thought that Mehek is a cunning gold digger who trapped a gullible rich guy. Mehek was going through myriad of emotions in couple of minutes. "Mehek, my knees are hurting", Shaurya chuckled. He was still clueless about her turmoil. "It's a simple question, my Love", he humoured again. Tears spilled on her cheeks. All were happy and misunderstood those were tears of joy. "I am sorry, Shaurya. I can't. I really can't", uttering these few words of rejection, Mehek ran to their room.

It will be an understatement to say that Shaurya was shocked. It was sad that he got rejected but the humiliation was unbearable. Mehek declined his marriage proposal before his family and close friends. He looked around to meet many pairs of sympathetic eyes and was suffocated by their pity. "Phewww. That didn't go the way I had expected", he gave a wry smile. "Son...", Harish moved towards him but Shaurya took few steps back, shaking his head. He was clearly denying the support offered to him. He wasn't ready to be consoled by anyone. He wanted to escape. "I think I should to leave. Excuse me", he dashed to the door. They all understood his predicament but stood helpless.

Mehek was walking restlessly across her room. She expected Shaurya to chase her to their room and lash out at her. She was ready to hear his bitter words as she was guilty. But he didn't come. It was her fault which she was ready to accept wholeheartedly. She owes him her explanation. Moreover she wanted to make him understand her status. Seconds turned to minutes and then to hours. She waited patiently but he didn't appear. "Mehek", Sonal's voice startled her. Mehek felt so vulnerable that she ran to her arms and broke down. Sonal knew her too well to keep silent and let her vent out her feelings. 

Eventually when she got composed, Sonal led her to bed and made her drink a glass of water. "I couldn't, Sonal", Mehek sobbed after sipping the water. "I understand, Mehek. More than anyone else I can bcoz I have had witnessed the agony he had pushed you into. He deserves harsh punishment", Sonal talked to her. "When he contacted me and requested me to meet you, I blatantly refused. I blamed him for everything and blasted him", Sonal explained, "Yet he didnt give up and constantly contacted me. Finally I had to agree and decided to visit you. Even then he begged me not to have any hard feelings for you since he was solely responsible for your exile". 

Mehek understood that Shaurya had tried hard to bring back her best friend to her life. "From all these, I could only conclude is that He loves you sincerely ", Sonal shared her thoughts with Mehek, "And I know you love him too". Mehek nodded and sniveled. "He looked shattered when he left", Sonal informed her. "He left???", Mehek was aghast by the sudden news. She started to breath heavily. "Relax, Mehek", Sonal tried to calm her. "He left....", she trembled violently, "He left me again...", she got agitated. "Sonal, I lost him again", she started to hyperventilate. "Mehek, don't panic. You may harm yourself. Get a hold of yourself", Sonal raised her voice but Mehek was too agitated to notice. Suddenly pain shot up and Mehek clutched her belly. 

"HARPREET AUNTY!!!!", Sonal yelled while supporting Mehek who cried in pain. Soon Mehek felt dizzy and Sonal held with all her might while trying to prevent Mehek's fall.

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