Chapter 6- Ananya

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Jacob

I watched Riya make her way toward the tree and realized that having her made me the luckiest guy in the world—not the Grammys, not the money or the fame—her. I hated seeing her walk away, but I didn't have a choice. The night had been perfect. She'd been perfect. I had to add the icing to the cake.

It was the first time I'd been alone since I saw her in the bar three days earlier. As soon as she was far enough down the block, I spun and jogged to the jewelry store. Of course, they were busy. It was Christmas Eve, after all. I pulled off my glasses and walked to the diamond rings.

As soon as the woman behind the counter came to help me, her face lit with recognition. Her cheeks turned red and she shook her hands. Her jaw dropped and she started to say my name. "Jaaa..."

I held up a hand to stop her. I didn't want to draw attention to myself, especially given the fact I was looking at engagement rings. Scanning the room to make sure I was out of earshot of the other customers, I leaned over the display case and whispered, "If you can keep me hidden, maybe take me in the back, I'll buy a ring from you in the next five minutes. After it's on her finger, I'll let your store spread the word. Deal?"

Her eyes widened and she nodded her head violently. "Yeah, yes. Um. Who's the girl?"

I grinned. "Nobody you know. Just the most beautiful woman in the world."

She pouted and held her hands over her heart. "Aw."

"Can you help me?" I flashed her my megawatt superstar grin, usually reserved for the tabloids.

She waved her hands again, as if she were shaking snow off her gloves. "Omigod, omigod, omigod. Yes. Come with me. I'll bring you in the back to my boss."

After a few selfies with her and the boss, a quick lesson in diamonds, and a promise of anonymity, I darted out of the jewelry store with a ring in my pocket. Remembering my cover to buy coffee, I ran into the coffee shop. I texted Riya that I was on my way, and five minutes later ran out of the door with two steaming hot cappuccinos.

I forgot to put my glasses back on though, and someone yelled my name as I jogged down the street with the coffee. I ignored the voices and kept going. My heart pounded and my breath grew heavy as I made my way to Riya. Now that I had her back, hopefully forever, I never wanted to leave her again.

The tree stood in the middle of Venus town square, its colorful lights twinkling. I looked around, frantic when I didn't see her. Frantic that it was all just a dream.

Then I saw her on the other side, waving at me. My love, my future, my wife. I couldn't wait to put the ring on her finger and start our lives over, together.

The little girl got to Riya before me. She couldn't be older than seven. Cute, with a red knit hat with a fluffy ball on top.

I kept my distance and watched. They spoke Hindi to each other. Riya was a goddess; her usual glow surrounded her as she spoke to the little girl. Every time I looked at her, I saw her glow. I felt it touch my soul.

The little girl held out a raggedy, worn plush doll to Riya. It was dressed in a sari.

"Do you want me to sign it?" Riya asked in English. She bent down to the girl's eye level.

Obviously, the girl was a fan. I should have seen it in her eyes. The way she looked at Riya like she couldn't believe she was real. Sometimes I looked at her that way, too.

The girl pouted. "No. I want you to keep it. Her name is Riya."

Riya gasped, holding the doll to her chest. Two adults, presumably the girl's parents, appeared and bent down to talk into the girl's ear. Riya's lip quivered as she looked down at the doll, tears forming in her eyes.

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