Right I’ve decided to try my hand at story writing.

For this to work I’m going back in time to Jigar finding out about Rashi. So you have to imagine Gopi not knowing what has happened. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going but I think Gopi probably won’t find out about Rashi and Jigar, but we’ll have to see. I’m probably going to plagiarise my OS for this. I’ll see how much effort this takes me. I’m not going to focus on RaJi too much because I know we all want GoHem romance, but for the moment to make life easier for myself I’m going to try and stay as close to the show as possible, so there might be moments stolen from the show, depends on how well my imagination works.

Chapter 1. Scene – Ahem and Gopi have brought Jigar back from the temple. Hetal has told Jigar how Gopi decorated their room and Rashi has brought him in. “See Jigarji how I decorated the room for you! I knew you had been in tension these past couple of days so I decided to make you feel better! Doesn’t it look wonderful?” Rashi is so busy praising herself that she doesn’t realise that Jigar hasn’t said anything. “It took me so long to make the room look so beautiful!!” Jigar is thinking that his mother had told him that Gopi bhabhi had decorated the room yet Rashi is taking all the credit. Everything he heard Urmila say to Sonal and what Sonal herself told him is going round his head already and now this lie from Rashi is further making him realise the truth for himself. Through his thoughts he can hear Rashi going on in the background. “Rashi listen my head really hurts. I’m going to get ready for bed. Tidy this up so I can go to sleep.” Jigar walks into the bathroom. Rashi is left gaping at him. She thinks to herself, What happened to Jigarji? He didn’t even praise me! Good job I didn’t put all the effort in myself! This Jigarji doesn’t even think about me! ----------------------------------------------Ahem was sat on his bed thinking about Jigar. His brother had never been this irresponsible before, yeah he could be childish and immature at times but he never forgot his responsibilities to his family. When he saw Jigar sat at the mandir overwhelming relief went through his body and mind, he had been thinking such awful things. But close on the heels of his relief came the anger. How could Jigar have put his Hetal kaki and his mum through the worry and pain of not knowing where he was?! Something has definitely happened to make Jigar react like this and I need to find out what. Gopi walked in while Ahem was lost in thought. “Ahemji do you need anything?” Ahem came out of his thoughts and looked thoughtfully at Gopi. “How did you know where Jigar was today?” “Erm this morning at breakfast devarji looked worried about something. He asked me what I did when I faced a problem about something and I, I told him that I go to talk to my Kanhaji.” “Do you know what Jigar is worried about?” “Woh I think that there is some problem between devarji and Ra-" Gopi stopped as she suddenly remembered what Ahem had said to her last night. “Problem between Jigar and who? If you know anything then tell me!” Ahem demanded “Woh…” “Stop umming and aahing and tell me!” “I think there is some tension between Rashiben and devarji,” Gopi started looking towards the floor, “Last night woh Rashiben was…” Gopi stammered to a stop and gave a quick glance to Ahem who was remembering how he told Gopi last night not to bother him with problems between herself and Rashi. “Were you trying to talk to me about this situation last night?” “Ji but you were right, I shouldn’t bother you with my problems.”

Gopi was about to turn around when Ahem stopped her, “Stop. Listen Gopi, it’s my fault. If I had listened to you yesterday instead of interrupting you then maybe I would have realised that Jigar needed to talk to someone and everything that happened today could have been averted.” Ahem paused and looked into Gopi’s eyes. “From now on if there is any problem with anyone I want you to come and tell me.” Gopi and Ahem were looking into each other’s eyes, a smile forming shyly on Gopi’s face. Suddenly Ahem realised what he was doing. “OK it’s late now go to bed and don’t worry about Jigar, I will talk to him.” With that they both went to sleep, thinking about the day’s events, Gopi on the floor and Ahem in his bed.

Chapter 2. The next morning Ahem woke up early. Thoughts of his brother had made his sleep troubled and kept him restless. He sat up in bed and noticed Gopi still asleep. For some reason recently he couldn’t seem to stop looking at her. He’d always known she was beautiful, he’d noticed it the first time that he’d seen her, but never before had he been drawn to looking at her as he had done in the past few days. He saw Gopi stir and lay back in his bed, not wanting to be caught staring at her, pretending to sleep. Gopi felt a tingling sensation as she woke up, almost as if someone was watching her. She turned and looked but saw no one there, Ahemji was still asleep. She stood at the foot of the bed and looked at him. Early mornings were one of the very few times that Gopi could look at her Ahemji to her hearts content, without getting shy and embarrassed. She’d felt a change in him recently but she didn’t want to chance anything. Gopi saw the time and realised it was almost time to collect the milk, she reluctantly went into the bathroom to get ready. Ahem watched her walk away. ---------------------------------------Jigar lay in bed, he hadn’t slept all night. Last night coming out of the bathroom he’d seen Rashi tidying the room with a sulk on her face. For the first time since their marriage he hadn’t felt the need to console her or cheer her up. Now he watched her sleeping with not a care in the world. It was hard to reconcile what he was seeing with what he had heard and found out about her. His head understood but his heart was unwilling to believe it. Yesterday had just increased his fear that his marriage was based on a lie. Rashi hadn’t thought twice about claiming credit for something she hadn’t done. If he hadn’t already known the truth from his mother he would never have doubted that Rashi had decorated the room. He wanted to confront Rashi then and there but yesterday while at the mandir he had decided he would wait to make sure he had everything right before he said anything. He wasn’t leaving anything to chance. His whole life was at stake. ------------------------------------------At breakfast that morning Ahem was observing Gopi once again. He could see her hard at work ensuring everything was ready on time and that everyone had something they enjoyed eating. She had managed to make herself indispensable in the time that she had been in his home. Looking at his mother he could see she was relaxed and comfortable in letting Gopi handle the kitchen. Glancing in the kitchen he could see that Rashi was less than useless. Thinking about Rashi made Ahem glance at Jigar. Even now Jigar looked preoccupied. Ahem decided he would talk to Jigar later in the day, when they were on their own. Jigar needed him now and he was determined to be there for his little brother. Looking back at Gopi he could see the worry on her face as she also looked at Jigar. Ahem wanted to reassure her, let her know that he would take care of it, but before he could even try and do anything he heard his kaka ask him if he was ready to go to the office. “Ahem, Jigar shall we go?”

“Ji kaka.” With a final look at Gopi Ahem went with his brother and uncle. ------------------------------------------With the men gone, the ladies of the house got on with their household duties. Gopi thought about Jigar. She wondered what it could be that had taken the customary smile off her devar’s face. Looking at Rashi, she could not see anything amiss in her. Should I ask Rashiben if anything is wrong? No, I should leave it. Ahemji is going to speak to devarji today so I’ll wait to see what Ahemji has to say. “Gopi vau, come to the lounge, and you Rashi.” Once in the lounge Gopi saw that both Kokila and Hetal were waiting for them. “Ji maaji?” “Gopi vau Diwali is approaching and the whole house needs cleaning and all the preparations need to be made. You and Rashi need to look in the house and make sure we have everything we need for Diwali preparations. Gopi vau you need to make a list of anything that we need to buy and me and your papa will go and get them. Do you understand?” “Ji maaji.” “Rashi dhikra,” Hetal spoke as Rashi looked like she was about to leave. “You should collect the clothes everybody is going to wear on Diwali and make sure they are ironed ok.” “Ji mummyji” Rashi replied. Kokila and Hetal walked out of the room, with Gopi going soon after, leaving Rashi stewing in the lounge on her own. “All the time they are after me to do work. They themselves are going upstairs to rest and are making me do everything. I had such dream when I came here, I was going to live like a princess ordering servants about but instead here I am being treated like a servant. It was bad enough when kagdi was giving me orders but now even mummyji has started telling me what to do!” Rashi stormed out of the lounge muttering to herself.

Chapter 3. Jigar sat in his cabin staring into space. He needed to get to the bottom of what happened. At the pandal when he heard what Rashi’s mother was saying he had been shocked to his core. He wished he could talk to someone about what he had found out but no one could do know anything. Too many people could be hurt, he needed to know everything himself before bringing the truth out. Ahem walked into Jigar’s cabin. “Jigar have you had a chance to look through that new construction file?” He looked up from his phone after getting no response from Jigar. Anger started building up when he saw Jigar daydreaming instead of working until he remembered Gopi’s words. He walked up to Jigar, as Jigar had not yet noticed him, and put his hand on his shoulder. “Jigar.” “Bhai! What – How long have you been here?” “Not long.” “Did you need me for anything?” “I just wanted to check that you’d looked over the file I sent you yesterday.” Jigar’s face dropped even further. “Ahem bhai I’m so sorry, I haven’t looked at it. I was just…” Jigar couldn’t look at his brother anymore and stared down at the floor. Ordinarily this behaviour would have been enough to make Ahem lose his temper but seeing the despondency hanging around Jigar all he could think was that his little brother needed him. “Don’t worry about that Jigar. We have plenty of time to look through it.” Ahem looked at Jigar. “Tell me what’s wrong.” “Wrong bhai? Nothing’s wrong. Woh I was just thinking and forgot about the file.” “Jigar I told you not to worry about that. But I’m not an idiot. You’ve been preoccupied for a while now. What you did yesterday was out of character for you. I know you Jigar, you wouldn’t have put kaki through that worry unless there was something serious going through your mind. Gopi told me what you said to her. What was it that made you go to the mandir?” Now how can I tell you what’s going on bhai when I’m not even sure myself? “Ahem bhai you’re right there is something bothering me but at the moment I can’t tell you what it is. I need time to think and work it out on my own. I’m sorry about not concentrating on work but I promise from now on I’ll focus.” “Jigar listen to me. Just forget about work for now. I am your elder brother. If there is anything troubling you then you can always to come to me. I will always help you. The whole family is there for you. You can talk to any of us, me, mom, kaka, kaki, Gopi any of us.” “I know bhai and I promise when I have it cleared in my mind I will definitely tell you.” “Acha then I need to go now. I have a meeting in half an hour with the Kapoor’s, do you want to come?” “Yes bhai, it would be good to meet them and discuss the changes.” -------------------------Gopi was pacing along the room, glancing at the door every so often. It was five o’clock the time when Ahemji would usually come back from work. Gopi was

even more impatient than usual for Ahemji’s arrival. Kanhaji please make sure everything is OK and that Ahemji had a chance to talk to devarji. The doorbell rang and Gopi rushed to answer it. Ahem and Jigar were stood there, talking and smiling. Gopi felt a smile of relief come to her face. “Jai Shri Krishna Ahemji, Jai Shri Krishna devarji.” “Jai Shri Krishna.” “Jai Shri Krishna bhabhi” Devarji looks better today, but he’s still missing the sparkle in his eyes. Gopi looked at Ahem with a slight question in her eyes. He gave back a blank look. “I’ll go and make tea for you.” Gopi was about to rush off into the kitchen, when from behind her she heard Ahemji say. “Bring it up to the room Gopi.” --------------------------Gopi walked up the stairs to her room. Should I ask Ahemji whether he talked to devarji today? Will he like it if I ask? I don’t know, maybe I should just leave it. Ahemji could get angry if I ask. Gopi walked into the room and saw that Ahemji was in the bathroom. She put the tea on the table and was about to leave when she heard the bathroom door open. “Where are you going?” Ahem had freshened up and changed out of his suit into his blue kurta. “I-I was just going…. your tea is on the table.” Gopi stammered. Ahem looked at her, “I spoke to Jigar, there is something bothering him. He wouldn’t tell me what it was but it’s definitely something big. I’ve told him that we are all here for him when he decided he wants to talk to someone, so Gopi if he ever wants to talk to you please make time for him.” “Ji.” “And Gopi, if Rashi tells you anything about this situation I want you to come and tell me. We need to do anything we can to help Jigar.” “Ji Ahemji.” Gopi felt happiness bubbling inside her. Ahemji had decided to share what had happened between him and Jigar today without her having to ask!

Chapter 4 Gopi walked out of her room with a smile on her face, her mind full of thoughts of her Ahemji. Kanhaji today for the first time Ahemji chose to share something with me. I pray to you that he always continues to share with me!! Gopi walked along the corridor and bumped into Jigar who was walking towards his room. “I’m sorry devarji my mind was somewhere else.” “No problem bhabhi. You look very happy today.” “Woh I’m just…. it’s nothing.” Gopi blushed. “Bhabhi I needed to say something to you.” “Ji?” “Thankyou.” “For what?” Gopi looked at him quizzically. “Last night you decorated my room so beautifully. I didn’t have a chance to thank you.” Gopi blushed at hearing Jigar praise her. “I thought that because you were feeling worried it would be a nice surprise for you after a hard day. I’m happy you liked it.” Gopi looked at Jigar and wondered if she should ask him how he was feeling now, she remembered Ahemji’s words. Ahemji has spoken to devarji. I’ll keep quiet for now. “Ok devarji, I’m going down to the kitchen now, do you need anything?” “No bhabhi, I’m just going to my room to freshen up, I’ll come down soon.” --------------------------------------

In her room Rashi was on the phone to her mother. “Mummy I’m sick and tired of being treated like a servant. Whenever you look my mother-in-law and that kagdi are giving me more and more jobs to do.” “Hai hai why are they making my delicate child do so much. You should be ruling over Modi Bhavan like a princess!” “Huh princess! I’m less like a princess and more like a slave here. Mummy I’m so tired!! All day they’ve had me ironing clothes and helping out in the kitchen, honestly mummy my back is hurting so much!” Rashi complained and sat down on her bed with her back to the door. “OK leave all this mummy, this happens every day. Let me tell you what happened last night.” “Tell me dhikri, now what happened in that house. Did Gopi do something?” “Mummy what can that gawar do? Just be quiet and listen to me! Yesterday Jigarji didn’t come straight home from work and the whole house went crazy. Kagdi shouted at me in front of everyone too. Now how was I supposed to know that Jigarji was missing.” “Missing!” Urmila screeched over the phone. “Mummy stop interrupting, just stay quiet until I finish.” Rashi shouted at her mother. “Ok ok I won’t say anything now, you carry on.” “Ahem jiju and that gawar went and found him, he was at the mandir. Anyway leave that it’s not important. The real thing happened later. I told you yesterday

that Gopi decorated my room for me and Jigarji. Well last night I told Jigarji that I spent all day decorating it and Jigarji didn’t even complement me. He just went in the bathroom and then straight to sleep. He didn’t even appreciate my effort.” “Yes but you didn’t do anything.” “I know mummy but I told Jigarji I did. I don’t know what’s happening, I thought Jigarji would be so pleased that he would get out the ring and give it to me there and then but he hasn’t even mentioned it.” While Rashi was complaining Jigar had walked into the room without her noticing. He was stood at the doorway listening to her speak. “Ever since navratri Jigarji has been quiet and moody. I’m worried mummy. What if he spoke to Sonal? What if she said anything to him? I did my best to keep them apart but something is definitely up, even mummyji has noticed that Jigarji is quieter than usual. I don’t know what to do mummy, I need you to think of something.” Jigar made a slight noise to make it seem he was just entering the room. Rashi quickly said to her mother “Mummy Jigarji is here I’ll talk to you soon.” With that she put away her phone and turned to talk to Jigar. “Jigarji when did you come?” “Just now, I’m just going to freshen up and go downstairs.” “Ji.” Rashi replied thinking, I hope Jigarji didn’t hear what I was saying to mummy! He probably didn’t, if he had he would have said something. I’m just worrying for no reason. ----------------------------Sat at the dinner table Jigar was thinking back to what he had heard. Rashi had tried to keep him and Sonal apart at the pandal. That would explain the sudden headaches. He needed to do something before Rashi and her mummy did. Suddenly an idea popped into his mind. It would be perfect. He’d be able to see for himself what Rashi was so scared of him finding out.

Chapter 5 With his plan already half put into place Jigar went to speak to his mother. He went to her bedroom where he knew he’s be able to speak to her alone. “Ma, can I speak to you?” “Jigar is that something you need to ask? Come in.” “Thankyou ma. I wanted to ask you something.” “Yes, go ahead.” “I don’t know if you know but during navratri I saw Damini aunty at the pandal.” “Haan dhikra. I didn’t see her myself but I did speak to Sonal for a bit. But why are you mentioning Damini?” “Woh ma I was just thinking, so much has happened in the last year. Damini aunty is your best friend from childhood, because of what happened at the wedding you and her haven’t spoken. I think that it is time for us all to put the past behind us.” “That’s all fine but what do you mean?” “Ma Diwali is coming up, and Diwali is all about new beginnings. I think that we should invite Damini aunty, Sonal and all their family to our house for Diwali. It will feel good and hopefully the past can finally be put behind us.” Hetal looked worried. “Jigar your thought is good but do you think Damini or Sonal will want to come here for Diwali. Just think if things had been different then Sonal would have been this house’s chote bahu.” “At least ask Damini aunty. Anyway Sonal is married and is happy. It can’t hurt to ask.” “Ok Jigar I will ask.” “Thanks ma.” Yes now mum will talk to Damini aunty. I’ve already convinced Sonal so they will definitely be here for Diwali. -------------------------------------The next day everyone was stood in the mandir for the morning aarti. Ahem was looking at Gopi. It felt like that’s all he did nowadays. Today, after quite a while she was singing whilst performing the aarti. Listening to her Ahem thought, Papa was right, she really does sound as sweet as a koel. I could stand here and listen to her all day. Gopi turned around after finishing and came round to each person to give them the aarti. When she got to Ahem she stopped and both stared at each other for a moment before she moved on. Neither of them noticed Kokila watching them. At breakfast Gopi and Rashi were serving everyone. Kokila saw that Ahem, yet again, was looking at Gopi. She smiled. Thanks Krishna you have finally got my Ahem dhikra noticing my Gopi vau. I pray that with this Diwali and start of the new year happiness and togetherness is showered on both my children. “Gopi vau have you made the list of things needed for Diwali?” “Ji maaji, I’ve got it. Shall I go get it?” “No Gopi vau. I just wanted to see you had it. Me and you papaji were going to go to the shops but something has come up. Ahem dhikra?” “Ji mom?” “Today you don’t have to go into work so I want both you and Gopi vau to go to the shops and buy everything we need. Gopi vau has the list so you shouldn’t have any problems.” Kokila looked at Ahem to see his reaction.

“Ok mom, don’t worry me and Gopi will manage.” Ahem turned to look at Gopi who was looking at him with a smile on her face. Hetal was also noticing the closeness developing between Ahem and Gopi. They both deserved all the happiness they could get and Hetal had to admit Kokila had made the perfect choice for Ahem when she chose Gopi. It may have taken Ahem longer to realise Gopi’s worth but at least now he was realising what a diamond his mother had chosen. She glances at her son who for the first time in many days looked calmer and not as worried as he had been. This reminded Hetal of the subject she needed to open with Kokila, however noticing that Rashi was around thought it better to wait until they were on their own. -------------------------Gopi rushed to ensure that all her work was complete and that she was ready to go whenever Ahemji called her. Rashi came up to her with a scowl on her face. “You’re flying very high these days Gopi. Today you are going out with Ahem jiju leaving me to do all the housework. Couldn’t you have said to kakiji that you didn’t want to go, then at least me and Jigarji could have gone out.” “Rashiben maaji wants me to go and I’m not going to argue against her. Anyway don’t you worry about the work. I’ve done all the preparation in the kitchen and completed all my jobs. You won’t have to do anything extra.” Gopi smiled and put her hand on Rashi’s shoulder to reassure her. “Yeah yeah you are great Gopi! You never leave any opportunity to make me look bad!” “No Rashiben it’s noth-“ Gopi was interrupted by Ahem asking her if she was ready. “Gopi are you ready? We need to go.” “Ji Ahemji. I’m ready.” Gopi nervously smiled at Rashi and followed Ahem out to the car. ------------------------------In the car Ahem was thinking about what he had just heard Rashi and Gopi talking about. How dare Rashi talk to Gopi like that! What does Rashi think of herself? And why does Gopi let herself be spoken to like this? After all she is her jaithani she should tell Rashi to speak to her with respect. But Gopi is not like that, she’ll just listen to anything anyone says to her and never try and defend herself. Someone should do something about this. Maybe I should talk to Jigar about Rashi’s attitude? But he is already in so much tension. But still should I? “Ahemji?” Ahem was pulled out of his thoughts by Gopi’s voice. He turned to look at her. “We have arrived.” Ahem looked out of the car and realised that they had reached the shops. “OK let’s go.” He said to Gopi and got out of the car. Thirty minutes later Ahem couldn’t help but smile thinking about what he was doing. He, Ahem Parag Modi, was helplessly trailing behind his wife, carrying bags of shopping, as she competently got on with all the tasks that she had. She didn’t waste time and just got on with the job. He had been shopping with Kinjal

once and all she had gone into every shop and oohed and aahed over what had felt like a million different things. Looking at Gopi he noticed her stop at a shop. It was full of all manners of jewellery. A smile lit up her face as she touched a necklace set. The way she was looking at it reminded him of the only other time he and Gopi had been shopping. He remembered how well she had helped him choose a sari for his mom’s anniversary gift, and also how she had been trying a sari without any expectation of asking him to buy it for her. As Gopi moved away from the shop he realised that Gopi had no intention of buying anything for herself. “Ahemji, I’ve bought everything, do you need anything?” “No, we can go.” They walked together in silence. Ahem thinking how peaceful and serene Gopi was, no useless chatter. As they got to the car Ahem had a thought. He opened it up, “Gopi, you wait in the car I’ll be back soon.” Saying that Ahem went back in the direction they’d just come.

Chapter 6 The next few days passed in a flurry, the ladies busy with cleaning and decorating the whole house in preparation for Diwali, whilst the men went to work. Finally Diwali was here. Gopi was putting the final touches to her rangoli whilst Rashi finished decorating the mandir. Kokila and Hetal were walking around the house making sure that all the preparations had been completed adequately. “Kokila look how well our bahu’s have arranged everything. The whole house is gleaming and is decked out like a bride.” “Haan mota bhabhi, Gopi vau and Rashi have done really well.” “Kokila my heart is feeling so at peace knowing that our girls can take the responsibility of the whole house on their shoulders.” smiled Hetal. “Mota bhabhi don’t get ahead of yourself. They’ve only yet managed to take responsibility for one celebration and that too with our help. Let’s see how they cope today before we sit back completely.” Hetal just smiled and walked towards Gopi, whilst Koki walked towards the kitchen. “Wow Gopi dhikra, your rangoli is even better than you made last year!” “Thankyou kakiji. Did you need me anything?” “I wanted to know what you’ve made for the sweet dish today.” “I made gulab jamun and also kheer. Woh I thought it would be good to have two things, especially as you mentioned we will be having guests tonight.” “Well done Gopi they will be brilliant.” Hetal noticed Ahem walking towards them on his way out and realised exactly why Gopi had chosen those specific dishes. “Did you hear Ahem? Your wife has made your favourite sweet dishes today.” Hetal smiled as she saw Gopi blushing, her smile getting even wider when she saw the expression on Ahem’s face too. Taking advantage of this Hetal pressed on, “Ahem have you seen the decoration of the house? And have you seen the rangoli? How is it?” “Kaki the whole house looks wonderful and the rangoli is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Did you make it?” “Only one person in this house has magic in their hands Ahem dhikra. Your wife made this rangoli.” Ahem turned to look at Gopi who was smiling at both his and Hetal’s comments. Ahem caught her eyes and they just stared at each other for what seemed like forever but it couldn’t have been more than a few seconds before they heard Kokila’s voice calling Gopi. Both of them came out of their trance, Gopi turning and quickly walking towards the kitchen while Ahem made his way outside. Hetal put her hands together and thanked Kanhaji for the change she could see in her children’s relationship. Gopi entered the kitchen. “Gopi vau I’ve checked your other preparation and you have done very well. Now make sure you finish all your jobs quickly. You still need to get ready yourself for Diwali puja, remember you still need to light the diya’s that need to be out around the house and outside.” Kokila walked out and left Gopi to complete all her preparation.

-----------------------As soon as Gopi finished she rushed to her room. She got out her new green sari that she had bought especially for Diwali thinking about Ahemji. Will he like what I’m wearing today? She went into the bathroom to get changed. Ahem walked into his room looking for Gopi. Hearing sounds coming from the bathroom he realised where she was. He went into his drawer and took out a jewellery case. He stood at the dressing table debating whether to leave the case there for her to find or to wait and give it to her himself. Should I give her the present myself? Yeah then I can explain why I bought it. Why did I buy it? And why do I need to explain myself? Gopi deserves something anyway, all the hard work she does. And today she made my favourite foods. A smile crept onto his face thinking about Gopi’s reaction to kaki telling him. He heard the door open behind him and turned to see Gopi come out in the most beautiful green sari he’d ever seen. Ahem was awestruck, Gopi looked exquisite. Gopi was shocked to see Ahem in the bedroom. “You’re here at this time? Do you need anything?” “No, I wanted you, that is I mean, I wanted to speak to you.” Ahem stuttered. What’s wrong with me? Why am I having such a problem getting my words out?! “Oh? What do you need?” Gopi asked. “This is for you.” He held out the jewellery case that he was still holding. “For me?” “Yes.” Ahem waited for Gopi to take it from him. “Now take it at least.” Gopi took the case, opened it and gasped. It was the same necklace she’d looked at when her and Ahemji had gone shopping. How did Ahemji know I liked this necklace? She looked up at him with a question in her eyes. “I saw you looking at it in the shop and bought it. It’s nothing, I just thought you might like it for Diwali.” Ahem moved to walk past her and stopped. “You do like it?” Gopi couldn’t speak so just nodded yes. “Ok. Woh mom said it’s nearly time for the Diwali puja so hurry up and get ready to come downstairs.” “Ji.” -------------------------Gopi came downstairs and went straight to find Kokila. “Maaji do you need me to do anything?” “No Gopi vau, everything is done. Come on let’s make our way to the mandir. Everyone is there already.” They got to the mandir where the family was gathered. Hetal and Chirag started off the aarti who then passed the puja thaal onto Kokila and Parag. Completing her aarti Koki called Gopi and Ahem. “Gopi vau, Ahem dhikra come and do the aarti together.” Gopi stepped to the mandir and looked worriedly at Ahem remembering all the previous times they’d had to do puja or aarti together. Ahem glanced at Gopi and put out his hand to hold the thaali, covering hers in the process. Gopi, surprised, looked at him, smiled and started the aarti. Once completed, they

handed the thaali to Rashi and went to stand, side by side next to each other, with the rest of the family. Once the aarti was completed everyone moved to the “Rashi, Gopi now you need to light these diya’s and place them around. In our house this is done by the daughters in law.” Hetal explained. Once lit both girls went around placing the diya’s. Ahem couldn’t take his eyes off Gopi. She looked amazing in her sari and she was wearing his present. All of a sudden he saw Gopi miss a step. Ahem ran towards her, grabbing her securely in his arms, before either she, or the diya’s she still had, could fall.

Chapter 7 As soon as she felt herself falling Gopi shut her eyes tight and waited to hit the hard ground below. She braced herself for the pain when suddenly she felt herself enveloped in the warmth of strong muscular arms. Ahem held onto Gopi and stared down into her face. She still had her eyes screwed shut. Her hair had come slightly loose from her pins and fallen across her face. Ahem shifted Gopi so she was resting on one arm and used his right hand to gently push back her hair, softly stroking her face while doing so, all the while staring down at her. Gopi’s eyes fluttered open as she felt the soft touch against her face and they both gazed into each other’s eyes for what felt like eons but could only in reality have been seconds before they were interrupted. They came out of the trance they were in and turned to see Kokila coming towards them. “Gopi vau! What happened? Why are all these diyas on the ground?” Ahem helped Gopi stand so she could answer. “Woh I mean I…” “Mom Gopi nearly slipped and fell, I stopped her from falling but the diyas I couldn’t save.” Ahem noticed Gopi blush when he mentioned saving her. Even blushing she’s beautiful. “All right Ahem dhikra. Gopi vau all these lamps still need to be lit so quickly gather them and relight them and then come inside. We need to make sure that everything is ready for the guests arrival. Ahem you stay here and make sure nothing goes wrong this time.” “Ji mom.” Kokila made her way inside leaving Gopi and Ahem alone. Gopi sneaked a glance through her eyelashes at Ahem and saw that he was looking directly at her. Flustered she looked away a blush forming on her cheeks. As she looked away she realised her hair was still loose and that her pallu was not on her head. Ahem saw Gopi’s hand reach for her pallu and quickly spoke. “Gopi come on hurry up. You know what mom said the diyas have to be lit quickly and we need to be inside, leave your pallu and come help me collect these lamps.” Gopi hurried to follow her Ahemji’s instructions. They worked together collecting the lamps, both sneaking glances at each other. Their hands almost met reaching for the same diya, but Gopi quickly retracted seeing Ahem reaching for it too. Gopi’s evasiveness brought a slight frown to Ahem’s face and seeing the frown Gopi quickly glanced away and focussed on collecting the rest of the diyas. Ahem controlled his annoyance and brought a blank look upon his face. He knelt by Gopi and watched her at work, the way her deft hands simply got on with arranging the lamps on the thaal and lighting them. As soon as she was done he picked up the thaali. “Ahemji you leave it I can hold it.” Gopi protested. “No I’ll hold it. Anyway you need to take the diyas and put them around and as I’m here it will be quicker and easier.” Ahem and Gopi walked around putting the lamps in their places, Ahem handing them to Gopi. Towards the end Ahem

decided to see what Gopi’s reaction would be if he brushed her hand whilst handing her the diya. She didn’t disappoint. Gopi’s eyes widened and she took in a deep breath. Oh Kanhaji, his slightest touch makes me lose my sense and leaves me breathless. Gopi couldn’t help but stare at Ahem. Ahem kept his face blank but couldn’t stop his eyes from lighting up. He was happy to see Gopi’s reaction to his touch and proximity. Her eyes really are beautiful. I could lose myself completely in them… They were both brought out of their trance by Jigar. “Ahem bhai, Gopi bhabhi are you not done yet? Kaki and ma are inside waiting. The guests are going to be here anytime soon.” “We’re finished Jigar, and we’re just coming inside.” “Bhai I could see what you were doing!” Hearing Jigar’s teasing comment Gopi blushed even further, quickly placed the diya in its place and hurried inside leaving Jigar and Ahem behind. -----------------------------After Jigar’s teasing comment both Ahem and Gopi were very careful not to be caught looking at each other and busied themselves with their work. Gopi looked around the house and kitchen to ensure that all the preparations were completed so that nothing went wrong during the celebrations. Ahem ensured that all his office work was completed and that there would be no interruptions to his time with his family. ------------------------------Jigar thoughts, however were as far from teasing his bhai and bhabhi as they were possible to be. Finally Diwali was here! The time had come to put his plan into action and the truth to finally be revealed to him. He had so much nervous energy that he was expending by pacing along the room. I hope Sonal managed to convince her mum!! Last I spoke to her she was confident that her mum would come. I need them here today! Hetal saw Jigar pacing. “Jigar what’s wrong? Why are you pacing? Are you nervous about something?” “No ma. It was just, today is Diwali and you know how much I love Diwali. I was just wishing that all the guests come quickly so we can start having some Diwali fun.” “Haan Jigar dhikra. We all know how much you enjoy Diwali. Here you are a grown up, married young man but you still have the enthusiasm of a child when it comes to the festival of light.” Hetal laughed and walked away. Yes mum, but today your son is looking for more than just Diwali fun. Today I will be finding out the biggest truth of my life. Behind him the doorbell went and he rushed to answer the door.

Chapter 8 “Jai Shri Krishna jamaiji, happy Diwali to you.” Jigar opened the door to see Rashi’s parents, Dhaval and Kinjal. “Where’s Rashi?” Urmila asked as she walked inside. “Jai Shri Krishna. She’s just upstairs, she’ll be down any second.” “Jai Shri Krishna Jigar beta. Happy Diwali.” “Jai Shri Krishna Jigar bhai.” “Jai Shri Krishna papaji, Dhavalji, why are you waiting? Come inside. Come on Kinjal.” They all came in and were greeted by the rest of the family. Jigar could see Urmila searching around for Rashi, as soon as she saw her she ran to her loudly exclaiming, “Rashi dhikra how are you? Let me see! Wow my dhikra looks so beautiful!! And look how nicely you’ve decorated this house!” “Urmilaben you’re acting like you haven’t seen or spoken to Rashi for bhagwan knows how long. You met her just days ago at the pandal, and I’m sure that you must be speaking on the phone.” “Yes vevanji, but it’s Diwali today and meeting family during the celebrations is even more special.” “Yes yes Urmila we all know how much you love your daughter. Now will you let me meet her?” “Who’s stopping you anyway?” Jhitubhai ignored Urmila and walked up to Rashi. “How are you dhikra?” “I’m absolutely fine papa.” Everybody moved to sit down when Jhitubhai asked for Gopi. Hearing Gopi’s name Ahem’s eyes also started to search for her and he saw her coming out of the kitchen with refreshments for everyone. Just the sight of her made him feel calm. “Gopi dhikra! How are you? After coming to your in laws you’ve completely forgotten your old mamaji.” He said jokingly. “No mamaji, it’s nothing like that.” “Gopi I was just joking. Come and sit next to me and spend some time with your mama.” -------------------------Ahem had been sneaking glances at Gopi for the past half hour. When she first sat down to talk to mamaji he noticed how relaxed she was. Her personality shone through when talking to him. What would it be like if she would be like that with him? As always Gopi never forgot her duty. Although she was enjoying talking to her family, most especially her uncle and her brother – Ahem hadn’t noticed her aunt making much of an effort with Gopi, she still remembered to look after everyone and be attentive to their needs. He could see the pride in his mom’s eyes and realised that Gopi was well deserving of that pride. Gopi was trying to concentrate on what Dhavalbhai was saying to her but her mind was elsewhere. She’s noticed Ahem looking at her from time to time, which was making her feel shy and think back to the way Ahemji had held her in the garden. “Gopi…Gopi! Are you listening?”

Gopi was startled out of her thoughts. “Ji Dhavalbhai. I’m listening.” Gopi blushed. Suddenly the doorbell rang. Gopi was getting up to answer when Hetal stopped her and went herself. --------------------------Finally! Jigar had begun to think that they’d never get here. He’d been doing his best to keep an ear open for the conversations between Rashi and her mother, but as yet he hadn’t heard anything that would shed any light. However he heard the word gawar bandied about quite a bit. It seemed like they were referring to Gopi bhabhi but that couldn’t be right. Could it? He saw his mum welcome Damini aunty, Sonal and her husband. All the while he kept his attention on Rashi and her mummy. They hadn’t yet noticed the newcomers. Jigar was impatiently waiting, today either way the truth would be out. Part of him didn’t want to believe what this head was already telling him. That part was convinced that what he had overheard was a misunderstanding, it couldn’t believe that he would have been so easily deceived. But for the most part he was convinced there was no misunderstanding. Today’s findings would prove that once and for all. --------------------------“Mummy honestly I think things are changing between that gawar and Ahemjiju. Earlier they didn’t come inside for ages, they were just there all alone outside. I wonder what they were doing?” “Rashi it’s your job to find out! Remember if they get toge-“ “Mummy look!” Rashi almost screeched. She spun her mother round to face the room where Hetal had brought Sonal and her family in and was reintroducing them to everyone. “Hai mare Thakurji!! What’s she doing here?” Urmila asked. “I thought after what I said to her at the pandal we’d seen the last of her.” “Mummyji I tried my best to keep her away from the family, I did such good acting, pretending my head was hurting and now she’s turned up at my house!!” “But who invited her here?” Urmila went into thinking mode. “OK leave all this for now. Let’s go greet them. If we don’t the Modi’s, especially kagdi, will get suspicious and also say ten things to us about our manners.” “Yes mummy, you’re absolutely right.” Jigar had been unobtrusively listening to their conversation. So this explains Rashi’s sudden bouts of illness and why she’d been so absent minded. He remembered how worried his mum had been about Rashi and felt anger stir at this deception. He calmed himself down. Jigar don’t get angry yet, there’s the whole night to go, and so much more to be revealed. “Shubh Deepawali Daminiben, shubh Deepawali Sonal beta.” Urmila said a little louder than normal. “Shubh Deepawali Urmilaben” Damini replied while Sonal just smiled. Rashi smiled at Damini and glared at Sonal. Jigar saw everything as he walked up to everyone.

“Jai Shri Krishna. Happy Diwali aunty. Hi Sonal, hi Avinashji. It’s good to meet you again. I’m so glad you could come to our house for Diwali. After so long it is so nice to see you here again. I’ve missed our friendship Sonal and auntyji I know ma missed you too!” Jigar was aware that Rashi was getting incensed at what he was saying, and darting looks at Avinash to see how he was taking hearing another man talking about his wife like that. He was glad that Sonal had told her husband everything that had happened a year ago. It made it easier tonight knowing that Avinash knew the plan and was working with them to get to the truth. “Jigar what are you saying? Our friendship has always been important to me.” Rashi hearing this gasped and with her eyes wide, anger plain to see. Urmila elbowed her to get her to calm down. Everyone sat down again and started reminiscing about old times. Jigar was careful to keep Rashi near him so that she couldn’t go talk to her mum without him being close enough to hear. ---------------------------------Ahem was sat listening to everyone talk. Even Gopi seemed to be enjoying herself with Sonal and her husband. He tried his best to get involved with everyone’s fun and games, after all it was Diwali, but his mind kept getting dragged back to what happened outside and what could have happened if Jigar hadn’t come to disturb them. This Jigar, couldn’t he have waited? But waited for what? What would I have done? Never mind, I know what I would have done!! Ahem shifted in his seat and smiled at his kaka who was sat next to him. Why won’t kaka make a move? And almost as if he had said it out loud Chirag got up. “OK everyone has had a good catch up, now shall we go outside? It’s the festival of light!! Let’s go outside and light some fireworks!” Everyone agreed and got up ready to go outside. Ahem quickly interrupted everyone’s departure, “Jigar I’m not going to come outside, I have a little headache and I don’t want to make it worse. So this year you take care of all the fireworks ok?” “Ji bhai.” “Ahem dhikra, are you OK? Why didn’t you tell me earlier that you weren’t feeling well?” “Mom it’s nothing. It’s just a little headache, I just don’t want to make it worse by going outside.” “OK Ahem dhikra, if you’re sure. Anyway Gopi vau will be staying inside as well. She doesn’t like the noise of fireworks, so if you need anything just ask her. OK?” “Ji mom.” “Did you hear Gopi vau?” “Ji maaji.” Finally! Ahem thought. But now what? ------------------------Outside Jigar was in a quandary. Oh why did bhai choose now to get a headache?? How am I supposed to keep an eye on Rashi and her mummy if I’m busy with the fireworks? Jigar was annoyed and his mind was going into overdrive. I suppose I could get dad and kaka to do

the fireworks this time, it’ll be like old times and I can stay around Rashi in case she says anything. Yeah that’ll be good. “Dad, kaka I was thinking remember when we were young and you and kaka used to light all the fireworks, how fun it used to be? Well I was thinking as Ahem bhai isn’t here why don’t you two do it this year.” Chirag looked at Parag. “What do you think Parag? Shall we?” “Why not mota bhai.” Thank god!! Jigar thought. He looked around for Rashi and couldn’t see her anywhere. -------------------------Inside Gopi looked at Ahem. “Do you need anything? Shall I get some medicine for you?” “No Gopi I’m fine. Er how are you? I mean did you hurt yourself from before when you nearly fell?” Ahem reminded Gopi of their earlier encounter. Gopi blushed remembering all that had occurred and replied shyly, “No I’m fine. You stopped me from hurting myself.” She looked at him with a slight smile. “You sit here and rest, I have some work to do in the kitchen.” She turned to walk away and was surprised to see Ahem walk with her. She looked at him with a question in her eyes that he ignored and kept walking towards the kitchen. “Woh why have you come to the kitchen? If you needed anything then I would have brought it to you.” “Did I say I needed anything?” “No but…” Gopi dwindled to a halt. “There’s only the two of us in the house and I don’t want to sit in the lounge on my own getting bored. Anyway last Diwali you were alone in the kitchen and your hand got burned. I don’t want anything like that to happen this year so I’m going to be here with you.” Gopi could only stare at her Ahemji. She was pleasantly shocked that he would want to spend time with her!! And that he was worried about her. He didn’t want her to be hurt again. “So you get on with whatever needs to be done, I’m going to sit right here.” Ahem watched Gopi get on with the preparations for when everybody came back inside. She did everything so deftly and diligently, nothing was out of place and everything was done in order. Her way of working was so similar to his, he was surprised he hadn’t noticed before. Yes but Ahem when have you ever taken the time to notice your wife before? She worked so well it seemed like she’d been at it for years, which was patently absurd. She wasn’t old enough to have this much experience. He was just about to ask her about this as she passed him when suddenly there was a loud bang. Gopi dropped the empty bowl she was holding and in fright, grabbed Ahem tightly by the waist, burrowing her head into his chest.

Chapter 9 The bang startled Gopi so much that she didn’t realise what she was doing. Her instinct was to go to the safest place she knew. For her that would always be her Ahemji. Without thinking she put her arms around him and pressed herself against him. Ahem instinctively put his arms around Gopi and gathered her to him. He could feel her shivering from the fright and gently smoothed his hand up and down her back in order to soothe her. For the second time today he could feel the soft warmth of Gopi in his arms. For the second time today Gopi could feel the solid warmth of her Ahemji. She didn’t want to move. She felt so safe and secure and didn’t want the feeling to ever end. She tightened her arms and felt a responding tightening from Ahem. Both stood like that for minutes before Gopi finally realised where she was and what she was doing. Ahem was also lost in the sensation of holding his wife. He couldn’t believe how right it felt. He’d recognised the sound that had scared Gopi straight away but instead of reassuring her he’d taken the opportunity to hold her in his arms. But now he could feel Gopi become aware of her surroundings. He wanted to keep her tight within the confines of his arms but didn’t want to make Gopi uncomfortable. Reluctantly he loosened his hold and felt Gopi take a slight step back. She looked up at him, through her lashes, biting her lower lip nervously. “I I’m sorry, I didn’t, I mean it was the noise, I got scared that’s why I um sorry…” Gopi faltered to a halt. “It doesn’t matter.” Ahem released her, watched her pick up the bowl she’d dropped and continue with her jobs. He noticed that she was flustered and that she avoided catching his eye. Ahem was pleased with her reaction. He didn’t know why but he was glad that Gopi was so aware of him, her reaction pleased him just as much as her innocence did. “Ahemji shouldn’t we find out what that noise was?” “It was nothing Gopi, just the noise from the fireworks.” Ahem looked at Gopi who seemed to go an even deeper shade of pink. -----------------------------Jigar found Rashi exactly where he thought she’d be, huddled in a corner whispering with her mother. Rashi’s reactions and expressions, coupled with what he already knew, had convinced Jigar of the truth. All that was needed now was proof. He hoped he hadn’t missed anything and found a position where he’d be able to hear everything yet not be seen. “Rashi dhikra why are you so worried? This Sonal doesn’t know anything so how can she harm us? She’s married now so what does she have to gain from telling anyone anything?” Rashi looked at her mother exasperatedly. “Did you not see how chummy that Sonal was being with Jigarji? Our friendship has always been important to me. Mummy I’m telling you girls like this don’t care, so what if she’s married? I’m sure she’s still in love with Jigarji.”

“So what if she’s in love with Jigar? He’s never going to leave my phool jaise dhikri for her.” “Mummy why did you have to go and tell her how you got me into the house. I was already worried and then you went and told her everything!” “So what if I told her? Anyway she’s not exactly going to tell anyone especially not after I threatened her. Why are you getting so agitated? She doesn’t know everything we did.” “Yes but she knows a little. I’m so worried mummy, the little kalakaries we did to convince Sonal that me and Jigarji were having an affair are one thing but what if they find out everything else too? Then what am I going to do?” “What else can they find out? What we did to that gawar?” Urmila asked with a confused look on her face. “Leave that gawar out of this. I’m talking about what we did to mummyji before the wedding. If these Modi’s find out that I deliberately set fire to the mandir so that I could save mummyji and look good in everyone’s eyes, they’ll be after my blood!” “Rashi sometimes I wonder if you are my daughter or whether the midwife swapped you!! How can they find out about that kalakari? Only me and you know about it, and I’m not planning on announcing it to anyone. You’re stressing out for nothing, if Sonal says anything then I have a plan in mind to make everyone doubt her. Now come on let’s go back before anyone notices we’re gone.” Saying that Urmila pulled Rashi along with her back to where the festivities were taking place. Jigar was left dumbfounded with all that he had heard. ----------------------------Everyone made their way inside. Jigar lagged behind his mind spinning with all that he had heard. He’d expected most of it, he wasn’t blind. Rashi’s true character hadn’t taken long to come clear to him but he had never imagined that she and her mother could do something so vile. The anger that had overtaken him when he’d heard the words come out of Rashi’s mouth was like nothing he’d ever experienced before. Now he knew exactly what step he would have to take. Inside Ahem was still in the kitchen with Gopi. He’d spent the entire time near her enjoying her discomfiture and her blushes. “Gopi vau!” They both heard Kokila call Gopi. Gopi quickly moved out to the dining area. “It’s time to eat so bring the food out. And yes can you go call Ahem as well.” “Mom I’m here.” Ahem had quietly followed Gopi out of the kitchen. “Ahem dhikra you? In the kitchen?” “Ji mom, woh I needed something so I…” “It’s ok Ahem.” Kokila had realised why her son had decided to stay in the house rather than come out with everyone else. The expression on both Ahem’s and Gopi’s face told her clearly that things were indeed changing for her children. Kokila hid the smile on her face and turned to Rashi. “Rashi come and help Gopi vau serve the food.” The girls got on with serving the food. Rashi noticed that Sonal had chosen a seat next to Jigar and seemed to be deep in conversation with him. Now what shall I do? I can’t exactly create a scene in front of everybody, this kagdi would kill me.

Gopi on the other hand was finding it very difficult to keep her mind on her work. At first she hadn’t wanted to read too much into his actions, in the past she’d jumped to the wrong conclusions too often, but what he was doing now surely meant that “Gopi vau give Ahem some roti.” “Ji maaji.” I must be imagining things. Gopi thought and then she felt it. The first time she thought it was an accident but every time she passed him or gave him something it happened. She looked at him through her lowered eyes and saw that he was looking right at her. Ahem saw the confusion and bewildered look in Gopi’s eyes and found he loved being the cause of it. Every time she got near him he’d brushed her with his fingers, whether it be her arm as she moved by or her hand as she handed him some food. As he was caressing her palm he had an over whelming desire to pull her to him, but realising where he was he controlled himself and contented himself with just a look. Across the table Hetal and Kokila were watching the interaction between the two with smiles on their faces, they looked at each other and both could see the happiness and relief in each other’s eyes. ------------------------------As soon as the table was clear and everyone was back in the lounge Jigar made the decision to end everything. He’d tried to control himself but to no avail. The anger was burning hot inside him. During dinner he’d talked to Sonal about what he’d heard. He owed it to her, but more than that he’d needed to let someone know what he’d found out. Whenever he thought about what could have happened to his mother that day he couldn’t help the rage. If Gopi bhabhi hadn’t been there that day things could have been so different. “Ma, kakiji I have something to say. Can everybody please sit down.” “Yes Jigar dhikra but what’s the matter?” “Ma if there was any way I could prevent this from happening then believe me I would.” “Jigar why are you talking like this? What’s happened?” “Kaki you sit I’ll explain everything.” Everyone sat down and Rashi looked at her mum worriedly, Urmila gestured to her to keep calm. “Ma remember I told you that I met Sonal at the pandal? Well what I didn’t tell you was what we talked about. Sonal told me exactly what happened on the day we were supposed to get married.” “Jigar we were all there that day. Because of a misunderstanding Sonal thought you loved Rashi, but what’s the point of raking over dead coals now? Now both you and Sonal are happily married to other people.” “Ma we know it was a misunderstanding, but what we didn’t know then was that this misunderstanding was deliberately caused.” “What are you saying Jigar?!” “I’m speaking the truth kaki. This situation was caused on purpose by people for their own gain.” “But who would do such a low act?” Everyone was looking at Jigar waiting for an answer. But Jigar was looking at Rashi, her eyes were open wide and he could see the guilt and fear plain on her face. Any doubts that he was still harbouring were completely diminished.

“This act was committed by Rashi and her mother.” The announcement was met with complete silence. No one knew what to say and the expression on Jigar’s face forbade anyone to argue with him. “What are you saying jamaiji? Why would me or my daughter do such a thing? Why would we bring such shame on ourselves? We weren’t to know that you would offer to marry Rashi so why would we willingly cut our noses in front of the whole world?” Urmila came right up to Jigar. “Jigar beta you shouldn’t be taken in by what Sonal has said. She’s just jealous of Rashi because Rashi got you. She wants revenge, she’s obviously not happy in her own marriage so has come to ruin my dhikri’s.” Hearing this Sonal spoke up. “Aunty you don’t know the first thing about my marriage. You didn’t think twice before you decided to ruin my life. Did you even think what kind of misery and torment a girl and her family would go through when everyone knows that her fiancé was caught with another woman and that she came back from her mandap unmarried?” Sonal turned and clasped Avinash’s hand. “After that my faith was broken, I’d known Jigar since childhood and even though we weren’t in love I couldn’t believe he would betray me like that. When Avinash came into my life it took him a lot of work to convince me to trust him, his patience and love won me and I would never trade the love I have with my husband for anything.” “Oh really then why did you come here? Why have you spent all day stuck to my husband? Then you didn’t think about your own?” “Rashi!” Sonal shouted. “Sonal let me.” Avinash said quietly. “My wife and I have no secrets. Our faith in each other is strong. I have known about her previous relationship with Jigar since I met her. The only reason my wife has spent so much time with your husband today is to finally find out what happened.” Avinash turned to Urmila, “and auntyji Sonal has no reason to ruin your daughter’s marriage. We are happy together.” Avinash turned to speak to Jigar. “We’ve found out what we needed to. The rest is between you and your family.” Saying that Sonal, Avinash and Damini left the house leaving the Modi’s to deal with the aftermath. “Rashi I heard from your own mother’s mouth that she plotted to get you into this house. I heard her threaten Sonal. Tell me what reason do I have to make this up?” “No jamaiji you are mistaken. You must have heard wrong, I never said any such thing.” “Really? And what about everything I heard today? Did I misunderstand that too?” “Today Jigarji?” Rashi asked. “Yes today while we were outside. Tell me did I imagine everything you and your mother said?” Jigar was glaring at the mother daughter duo and he took a step towards Rashi. Ahem seeing this quickly went to stand by Jigar in case he did something he would later regret. “Jigarji we didn’t do anything outside. Mummyji listen to what Jigarji is saying? How he believes everyone but me. You believe me don’t you mummyji? Why would I do anything like that? I would never do anything to harm this family.” Hearing this Jigar couldn’t take it anymore and raised his hand. Ahem knew that no matter how much Rashi deserved the slap, Jigar wouldn’t be able to forgive

himself for hitting a woman. Ahem knew the pain of this guilt, so grabbed Jigar’s hand. “Bhai why are you stopping me? You don’t know the half of what this woman did.” “So tell us Jigar.” Jigar got out his phone and pressed play. Rashi and Urmila were horrified to hear their entire conversation being played out.

Chapter 10 The whole house was in silence. The shock of what they’d heard had left them speechless and senseless. “Tell me Rashi, is this a misunderstanding too? Your own words incriminate you. You and your mother set out to break my engagement. But worse than anything is what you did to my mother. You set a fire that could have killed her! And why? Just so you could come into this house?” Jigar accused Rashi. Hearing Jigar speak brought everyone out of the stupor they had landed in. “Rashi how did you even dare to do this? Such a big step! Anything could have happened, mota bhabhi could have lost her life. Did you not stop to think for one minute before you committed such a crime?” Kokila’s eyes sparked hatred at Rashi. “Vevaanji” Urmila tried to interrupt. “Enough Urmilaben! I recognised the truth of you and your daughter the first day I met you. But even I couldn’t think that you would come down to such a low level. Did your conscience not trouble you once?” Hetal couldn’t believe her ears. So much deceit? So much underhandedness? How could anybody behave this way? She looked at Rashi, the girl she had treated as her daughter, the girl whose every little mistake she had forgiven and forgotten, the girl she had defended. How could she have been so blind. “Jigar.” She called quietly. “Tell this girl and her mother to get out of our house. I don’t ever want to see her face again.” Rashi was shocked. “Mummyji what are you saying? You can’t kick me out of here! This is my house!” “No Rashi I’ve heard enough. How dare you ruin my son’s life? My son who’s never had a bad word to say about anyone, who treated you as a good friend. And you treated him like this? Made him feel ashamed in front of all of our society so that he felt compelled to accept you! If it had been just me you’d brought harm to I could have probably forgiven you, but you have poisoned my son’s life.” She looked at Gopi who had tears pouring down her face. “Gopi put her own life in danger to save me, did you even think of that? Your own sister Rashi, your niece Urmilaben could have lost her life!” Hearing Hetal worrying about Gopi while insults were being poured on her daughter caused Urmila to lose control of herself. “Everything is this gawar Gopi’s fault anyway. If that day she’d stayed out of sight then my Rashi would have been the elder daughter in law of this house, but no this manhoos had to show her face even then. And who asked her to jump into the fire? It was my Rashi who was supposed to save you. My Rashi would have been chosen to become a Modi bahu not that Sonal. Whatever me and my daughter did we did for her rightful place and position in this house.” “Urmilaben let me once and for all take away this delusion from your mind. Even if I hadn’t met Gopi vau at your house, I would never have chosen Rashi to be the daughter in law for this house, not for Ahem and not for Jigar. And another thing If it hadn’t been for Gopi vau Rashi would have been out of this house a long time ago.” Kokila turned to face Hetal. “Do you remember the incident with the empty cooker? Well then I found who the culprit was.” “Yes Kokila, we know it was Gopi’s mistake.” “No mota bhabhi, I knew then it wasn’t Gopi vau’s mistake. That incident too was Rashi’s doing. Gopi vau took the blame upon herself in order to protect Rashi. All Gopi vau was guilty of was believing that Rashi had made a mistake,

but I knew better. I only kept quiet because of Gopi vau but after hearing all this I couldn’t stay silent.” “It’s all this manhoos’s fault! Even after so much planning she managed to worm her way back in this house to put a curse on my daughter’s happiness!” Urmila screamed taking a step, arm raised, towards Gopi. Ahem quickly moved to get to Gopi. “Urmila!” Jhitu bhai shouted and smacked Urmila across the face. “Even after so much has been said do you not have even one ounce of shame? If Kokilaben chose Gopi to be their bahu then that was in Gopi’s fate. You know just as well as me that Gopi had no intention of doing anything against you. How could a child who from childhood has never raised her voice in complaint, against anything you did to her or made her do, ever go against your wishes? Instead of blaming that innocent the pair of you should look to yourselves. Today you mother and daughter have made me so ashamed. How am I ever going to be able to, never mind look anyone in the eye, how will I ever face anyone ever again?” Jhitu bhai put his hands together and walked up to Chirag. “I’m not asking you to forgive Rashi and Urmila, what they have done is unforgivable, but as the head of my family I am deeply ashamed at the pain they have caused you.” He turned and faced Parag. “I know you will probably find my words hard to believe but my Gopi is pure and clean. She would have had no idea, as I didn’t, about the lengths that these two would go to. I beg that you don’t think her capable of this deceit.” Gopi hearing her mama distraught and begging for her couldn’t sit and listen to anymore. Her heart was full of pain after hearing what her sister and mami had done, she ran straight upstairs to her room, to let out all the pain. Ahem saw his mum move to follow Gopi. “Mom you stay here, I’ll see to Gopi.” Without waiting for a response he headed up to his room. “Jhitubhai you don’t need to worry about Gopi dhikra. I know she has a clean heart and wouldn’t do any such thing.” “Yes Jhitubhai, Ahem’s papa is absolutely right. I know my Gopi vau well. She always has everyone’s wellbeing in mind. Don’t worry about her she is our daughter now.” “You’re more bothered about your niece?! Can’t you see that these Modi’s are trying to kick your daughter out!” “She deserves to be kicked out Urmila! After what you’ve done to this family she deserves to be kicked out!” Jhitubhai turned to face Dhaval and Kinjal who were standing quietly listening to all the proceedings. “Dhaval beta let’s go home.” Kinjal and Dhaval walked to the door and Jhitu bhai pulled Urmila along with him. “Jigar go and get this girl’s things and give them to her. I don’t want to see her face in this house again.” Saying this Hetal walked away to her own room, and the rest of the family followed, leaving Rashi alone in the centre of the room screaming that she wouldn’t leave. Jigar quickly gathered anything in his room that belonged to Rashi. He didn’t want any reminders of her in his life. He rushed downstairs to see the Rashi still in the position they’d left her in.

“Jigarji how can you do this to me? All I’ve ever done is try to be a good wife and bahu to this house.” “Rashi forget being a good bahu when have you ever been a good wife? I sacrificed my dreams when I compromised by accepting you. All the hard work in our relationship was done by me. I did my best to form feelings for you because I accepted you but you? All you ever wanted was the prestige of my family name. Well no more now! Get out before I drag you out!” Jigar shouted throwing her suitcase by her feet. Anger boiled up inside Rashi. “How dare you talk to me like that? What do you think of yourself. I tied myself to a wuss of a man who can’t even think of doing anything himself. Ahem jiju’s lackey, that’s all you are. Today I’m going but I won’t ever forget this insult! You just wait and watch!” Saying that she flounced out of the house. ------------------------Ahem walked into his room to see Gopi lying face down sobbing her heart out. His heart contracted hearing so much pain in Gopi’s cries. The words Urmila used about Gopi were ringing in his ears. How could she say such things about Gopi? Why Ahem? You yourself have used equally harsh words about her. Yes but that was before I knew Gopi. How could her own mami call her a manhoos? Her own husband called her a gawar. Ahem shook his head to dispel these thoughts. He may have been harsh in the past but he promised to himself that he would never be so thoughtless again. He knew the value of Gopi and would never let himself devalue her again. He walked up to Gopi who had as yet not noticed his appearance. He sat down next to her on the bed and held her hand, stroking it in a soothing motion. Gopi, feeling someone touching her hand, sat up and tried to stop her tears. She turned to face her Ahemji. Ahem saw her tear ravaged face and used his hands to wipe away the tears. “Ahemji I-“ “No Gopi, there’ll be enough time for this tomorrow.” “But so much..” “I said tomorrow didn’t I?” Ahem said gently, pulling her into his arms as he saw fresh tears fall from her eyes. He rocked her gently to and fro lulling her into a state of relaxation. They sat like that for hours until Gopi fell asleep in her Ahemji’s arms. Ahem moved to lay her down on the bed and fond his hand held tightly by Gopi. Stroking the hair away from her face he decided not to disturb her by waking her up, and lay down next to her their hands still clasped together watching her while she slept and thinking about all he had learnt.

Chapter 11 Gopi woke up feeling safe and secure. She opened her eyes to see Ahem lying in bed next to her. Her mind flashed back to how she’d fallen asleep in her Ahemji’s arms and blushed. She decided to get out of bed before he woke up so she could avoid feeling self-conscious in front of him. Gopi shuffled to the end of the bed and realised that her hand was caught in the middle of the bed. She looked down to see her hand clasped by Ahem’s. Oh Kanhaji how did this happen? Now what shall I do? If Ahemji wakes up and sees this I don’t know what he’ll say! Gopi reached down and tried to pry free her fingers, whilst looking at Ahem. At every movement she froze. She repeated this countless times finally, realising the futility of her action she gave one sharp tug to release her hands. Ahem’s eyes flew open. “What are you doing?” He yawned and asked her. “Ji I, I was getting out of bed but…” “But what?” “Ji woh my hand…” She gestured towards their clasped hands. Ahem looked down and then looked back up at her. “So you should have woken me up.” “Ji?” she looked at him with wide open eyes. “Instead of struggling for ten minutes you should have woken me up.” “How do you know..?” Ahem just smiled, let go of her hand and sat up in the bed. He looked intently at Gopi. He tried to read her eyes but she kept them lowered. “How are you feeling today?” Gopi looked up and quickly got out of bed. “I’m fine.” “Gopi we need to talk about what happened last night.” Gopi was terrified and it showed. She thought back to everything that had happened and been revealed the previous night. “Ahemji I swear on Kanhaji I didn’t know what mami and Rashiben had done.” Tears were trickling down Gopi’s face. “Gopi stop crying. Did I say that I blamed you for what happened? Nobody blames you for anything.” Gopi was shocked by what Ahem was saying to her. She had been worried that, just like in the past, Ahem would blame her too. “But Ahemji they are my family and they were only linked to you because of me.” Gopi took a deep breath and continued, “And you heard what mami said last night. If it hadn’t been for me then mami and Rashiben wouldn’t have had to take such steps.” “Gopi you heard mom yesterday. Rashi was never going to be mom’s choice.” Ahem got out of bed and walked to where Gopi was stood. He could clearly see the pain in her eyes. “Ahemji how could mami and Rashi do this to everyone? Such a big thing? Such a crime? What if something had happened to kakiji?” Ahem could feel the anger burning inside him. The thought of his kaki being out into that situation due to someone’s greed and selfishness made him furious, but seeing the state Gopi was getting herself into he controlled himself. “Gopi look at me. Nothing happened that day and that was all thanks to you.” He tipped her chin up so that he could look into her eyes. He wanted nothing more than to take away the despondency put there by Rashi’s mother’s harsh words. Even now he could still hear them going round his mind, he could only

imagine what Gopi was feeling. He wanted to tell her that everything would be ok but couldn’t get the words out, all he could do was look at her. Suddenly they heard a rapping at the door and were both startled out of looking at each other. Gopi went and opened the door to see Kokila waiting outside. ------------------------Kokila had spent all night worrying about her Gopi vau. She hadn’t been able to sleep thinking of what Gopi must be going through after hearing her mami openly blame her for the mess caused solely by herself and her daughter. Gopi vau was such a gentle person, the slightest criticism hurt her badly. She should have followed her instincts last night and comforted Gopi herself, but yesterday Ahem had, for the first time, taken responsibility for Gopi’s wellbeing. Kokila trusted Ahem implicitly and had noticed the changes that he had been making in his relationship to his wife. It was heartening to see him worry about her, but now Kokila was second guessing her own decisions. Knocking on her dhikra’s bedroom door she comforted herself with the thought that Gopi was safe with Ahem. The door was opened by Gopi. Kokila noticed the sadness in Gopi’s eyes and the evidence of recent tears. Ahem was stood further back. “Gopi vau how are you?” Gopi smiled back and replied quietly. “I’m fine maaji.” “Good. Quickly get ready Gopi vau it’s almost time for morning aarti.” Gopi nodded her head and went to get her sari and into the bathroom, leaving Ahem and his mum alone in the room. “Ahem dhikra how is she?” Ahem took his mum towards the sofa’s and they both sat down. “Mom she’s ok. She cried herself to sleep last night. She’s more worried about what the family thinks of her rather than what her mami said about her. But mum I can see the sadness in her eyes over what her mami said.” Kokila was proud that her son had been able to see so clearly into what was bothering his wife. “You’re right Ahem. It’s down to us now to convince her that no one blames her and that no one thinks she’s any of those awful words Urmilaben used.” “Mom I have tried to tell her that no one blames her but I think it’s going to take more than just telling her to make her believe it.” Ahem paused and thought before mentioning the next thing. “Mom woh last night Rashi’s mom said something that I didn’t understand. She said that after so much planning Gopi still managed to come back here. What did she mean?” Kokila had wondered if her son had heard everything that Urmilaben had let out in her venomous anger. It seemed her son had been listening hard. “Dhikra not now, we are getting late for aarti. Once Gopi is ready I want you to hurry and get ready. Your question will have to wait for a better time.” “But mom…” “No Ahem, now is not the right time. Gopi will be out of the bathroom at any time and I have to go to the kitchen and help mota bhabhi with the preparations for breakfast.” Kokila walked out of the room, leaving Ahem searching for the answer to his question. -------------------------------

Jigar was sat in his room thinking about the mess his life had become. How had it come to this? Well he knew how but why? He’d never done anything to harm anyone, in fact he went out of his way to help people. It was due to this tendency he’d got himself into this mess. Aargh if only he’d kept out of Rashi’s way rather than being taken in by her false friendship he’d have been happily married to Sonal now and his family wouldn’t have to go through the pain they were going through now. Why hadn’t he kept away? Even on his own wedding day he had let himself be dragged into Rashi’s problems. If he’s stayed out then Damini aunty would never have had any reason to call off the wedding and he wouldn’t have felt obliged to offer marriage to Rashi. Rashi. Thoughts of her made him so angry not only at her but at his own gullibility! He thought about all the harm she’d caused his family, she hadn’t even spared her own sister! The venom that she had spewed before leaving was ringing in his ears. “Wuss of a man am I?” He said out loud, jumping out of bed and pacing restlessly. “I’ll show you exactly what kind of man I am!” He said getting out his phone and making a call. ---------------------------------------Downstairs in the kitchen Hetal was doing her best to concentrate on her work, but all her thoughts were occupied by her son. Thakurji what kind of test have you put on my family? My poor innocent child is having to go through so much through no fault of his own. Thakurji please protect him and help him get through this tough time. “Mota bhabhi it’s time for aarti, everyone else is at the mandir waiting.” “Ok Kokila let’s go.” Gopi was feeling nervous standing with the rest of the family. She felt sure everyone blamed her for her sister’s deeds. She was finding it difficult to look anyone in the eye which didn’t go unnoticed by Jigar. “Bhabhi.” He said coming to stand next to her. “I think that you should do the morning aarti today. It would be so good to start the day by hearing your voice, wouldn’t it mum? He turned to look at his mum. Hetal smiled back at Jigar. She like everyone else there had realised what Gopi was feeling. “Haan Gopi dhikra, your aarti would be perfect for this morning.” Gopi looked at Kokila who nodded her head and signalled for Gopi to start. Gopi walked up to the mandir and started. As soon as she started singing she felt a peace come over her which spread to the whole Modi family.

Chapter 12 Ahem walked to his mother’s room thinking back to all that had happened during the past twenty four hours. How much things had changed from one morning to the next. Breakfast today had been a sombre affair. An uneasy quiet had descended upon the house. Everyone had been deeply lost in their own thoughts – including Ahem. What could Rashi’s mother have meant? What could they have possibly done that would cause Gopi to leave? Why wouldn’t they want to see Gopi back in her own home, settled? What could they have to gain? These questions were going round and round his mind. He knew he had to find out the truth, which was why he was now making his way to talk to his mother. He knocked on the door and entered. Kokila had known her son would want his earlier questions from this morning answered. She had seen him lost in thought during breakfast. It was about time Ahem had to think back over past events. Kokila had noticed the change in her son’s and vau’s relationship, as had everyone else in Modi Bhavan, he was finally seeing things clearly with regard to Gopi vau. Now he would be willing to listen to everything he hadn’t before. “Come in Ahem dhikra.” “Mon, I’ve come to ask you again. What did Rashi’s mother mean by all that she said yesterday? And please mom don’t fob me off like you did earlier.” Kokila looked at her son with pride and not a little smugness. “Ahem I have no intention of not telling you, but are you sure you want to know? The truth can be a bitter pill to swallow.” “Mom this truth is important isn’t it?” Kokila nodded, “Then I need to know.” Kokila took her son by the hand and sat him down, knowing that within a short matter of time he was going to be faces with many shocks. “Ahem before I tell you what you want to know, I have to know something first. In this past year many things have happened that have affected our lives in countless different ways. I know that you had feelings for someone else before you got married and I am aware that you gave up that person because of your love and respect for me. I have also seen the fire of your hatred for Gopi vau. Now I don’t know if this hatred stemmed from Gopi’s illiteracy or if it had to do with Anita, that Ahem is for you to decide and work out. What I need to know is how far your feelings for Gopi have changed? Are you fully committed to making your marriage work?” Ahem flinched at the reminders of his past behaviour and attitude towards Gopi. At his mom’s mention of Anita the past had flashed into his mind. It had surprised him that he didn’t feel a pang for what might have been, all he felt was a sense of something and nothing for what had once been. His heart didn’t clench in pain anymore, something had replaced that pain. Realising that his mother was still waiting for an answer he brought himself out of his thoughts. “Mom you were right. Spending time with Gopi has helped me to realise what it is you saw in her that made her the person you chose for me. The time spent together has awoken me to her innate goodness and purity. I have tried to take some steps to make Gopi comfortable with me and mom I am committed to her

and our marriage. That’s why it is so important for me to know exactly what has happened in the past.” Kokila smiled at her son. “That’s what I thought. My eyes don’t miss much dhikra, I have noticed the increased closeness between you and Gopi vau, but I wanted to clearly hear you say that you are ready for the future now.” Kokila took a deep breath and began her revelations. “When I first saw Gopi I recognised her as a girl who was used to do someone else’s bidding. A hardworking girl who had all the values and qualities I had been for so long searching. A girl who would never answer back. And that suited me. I thought she would be the perfect companion for you, always there for you, catering to your needs but never demanding. That first day I noticed that Urmilaben didn’t treat her right but I didn’t think much about it, after all once Gopi was brought to Modi Bhavan she would be away from her family. I didn’t bank on Rashi coming here too.” Kokila took a deep, calming breath to stem the anger that came to the fore at the thought of Rashi. “After the wedding Gopi made a few mistakes that I got really angry with her about, but I felt I was teaching her the way to become a Modi bahu worthy of the name. And to Gopi’s credit she always followed my teachings and began learning very quickly how to live in our house.” Kokila paused and looked at Ahem. “It wasn’t until after you found out the truth about Gopi’s illiteracy that things started to go wrong. Did you know Ahem that Gopi vau once asked me if she could leave the house? And all so that you could be happy. Of course I said no,” Kokila carried on without waiting for a response. “It was after that Gopi started making more and more mistakes, mistakes she had never made before. After hearing what Urmilaben said yesterday I am convinced that she and her daughter were behind Gopi making those mistakes. They were obviously under the misapprehension that by getting Gopi to make these mistakes I would be forced to admit I made a mistake in choosing Gopi and tell her to leave.” Kokila stood up and walked over to the door. “There are still many things that have happened to Gopi in this house that you don’t know the truth to. Are you sure you still want to hear?” Ahem promptly answered. He needed no time to think. “Yes mom. Nothing you have told me has made me change my mind.” “Well last night you heard me tell mota bhabhi about who was responsible for the cooker incident. I’m sure Gopi thought if she admitted to that it would give all of us a cause to kick her out.” Ahem remembered that day clearly, and the way he had tried to kick Gopi out. If his mom hadn’t stopped him that day he would have surely lost Gopi by now. But there was another big revelation to come from Kokila as yet. The next thing Ahem heard shocked him to the core. “Rashi even used your relationship with Anita to make Gopi leave.” At Ahem’s shocked look Kokila continued. “Even thinking about it now makes my blood boil! Rashi pretended to be Anita’s ghost and proceeded to scare Gopi vau and all so that Gopi would leave this house and you.” Ahem thought back to when he had taunted Gopi about her believing in ghosts, how he had called her a gawar for her beliefs, how he had blamed her lack of education for this belief. He also remembered the odd behaviour Gopi had exhibited during this time. Gopi must have been so fightened! “Mom so much happened and you didn’t tell me?” “Ahem dhikra, in those days you were in no mood to listen to anything to do with Gopi. You were neither willing nor ready.” Ahem flushed guiltily and realised his mum was speaking the truth.

“I don’t know what other steps they must have taken to get Gopi to leave but I do know that they were never happy to have Gopi here.” Kokila walked back the where Ahem was, sat down next to him and took his hand in hers. “I need you to be there for Gopi, just like you were last night and this morning. I don’t trust Urmilaben and Rashi not take their anger and vitriol out on that poor child.” “Don’t worry mom, I’ll make sure that no one is able to harm Gopi anymore.” He vowed to protect her against all evils and to make up for all the wrongs he had knowingly and unknowingly committed against her. As he got up to leave the room another memory flashed into his mind forcing him to stop. “Mom? I’ve got to know Gopi very well now and I know this. Religion and her family are the two most important things to her. So it seems out of character for her to have broken her fast on teej.” Ahem paused and looked to his mom for confirmation. “Did she really?” “Dhikra you know the answer to your question.” And Ahem did. “She didn’t.” Ahem answered his own question with conviction and Kokila waited for Ahem to connect the rest of the dots. Her son didn’t disappoint her. “She pretended because of me, and got punished. You knew this didn’t you mom? This is why her punishment didn’t last long.” “I found the food she had pretended to eat still in the kitchen. When I finally got to her in the store room Gopi vau, the hunger and weakness had caused her to faint.” Ahem groaned and held his head in his hands. “Oh mom, I have caused pain to Gopi in so many ways!” Kokila came to comfort her son. “Dhikra the past is the past. I know Gopi vau, she will have long forgiven and forgotten. However you now have the opportunity to make up for your actions. Keep my Gopi vau happy Ahem.” “I will mom, I promise.”

Chapter 13 Gopi was in her room looking at the picture of her parents. She’d never had the closeness of parents, people there to look after her, pick her up when she fell. She hugged the photo to her, tears pouring down her face. Mamu had been the only one to love her, but even he had been unable to keep her safe. Why does mami hate me so much? And Rashiben too! All I’ve ever wanted is their happiness! Am I really so unlovable? Ahem walked into his room to see his wife in tears. “Kanhaji what is that is missing in me? Why can no one love me? Am I really the manhoos mami calls me?” Ahem was shocked! He felt the wind leave his sails. He’d known Gopi was putting on a brave face in front of the family, he’d known she needed to let out all the anguish, and now that he knew what she’d been through he’d realised there was a lot within Gopi that needed to be released, and a lot the he needed to find out about his wife’s past. But for now he needed to take away this misconception from her mind. He walked towards her purposefully. Noticing Ahem coming into the room, Gopi quickly got up and turned her face to wipe her tears. She walked to her cupboard to put away her last remaining memory of her parents, when she felt Ahem’s hand stop her by holding her arm. Gopi looked up in surprise as Ahem took the picture out of her hands. “These are your parents?” Gopi nodded. “Then why are you putting them in the cupboard? They belong somewhere you can see them all the time and see them looking over you.” He walked over to the bedside table and placed the photo there. As he turned back he saw Gopi standing in the same position the sadness scoring a line through his heart. He walked the short distance to her and pulled her into his arms, and waited for her arms to go round him. “Gopi what is this?” He asked her while hugging her and letting her cry her misery out all over him. He waited until her crying settled down and all he could hear where her gentle hiccups as she tried to stop herself. He lifted her chin so that he could look into her eyes. He took her by the hand and sat her down and kneeled down before her. “Gopi, if I ever hear you call yourself manhoos again then you’ll have me to answer to understand?” Ahem kept his voice gentle so as to not startle her. Gopi’s eyes still widened though. “You’re a smart girl Gopi, how could you believe that you are manhoos? No one is manhoos. You’re the one who sorts out everyone else’s misconceptions so how have you carried on believing this?” Ahem got out his handkerchief and wiped the tears trailing down her face. “And another thing. What’s this nonsense you’ve got into your head about no one loving you? Didn’t you hear your mama last night? The way he spoke about you? Is that not love? And mom? She loves you and worries about you. Today all her thoughts have been for you Gopi, no one else. Even papa, kaki, kaka, Jigar and the rest of our family love you.” Ahem stood up and pulled Gopi up too. “The fault doesn’t lie in you Gopi. The fault lies in anyone who cannot appreciate you.” Ahem stopped and looked at her, getting lost in the wonder shining from her eyes, while stroking her hand and stepping closer. Gopi couldn’t believe how Ahem was speaking to her. She had thought he’d be first to agree with her mami’s judgement of her. Even though lately he’d been nice to her she’d been trying her best not to get her hopes up again, only for

them to be dashed at a later date. But he seemed so genuine. She thought back to his actions the previous day before everything had blown up all around them. He’d definitely been in a teasing mode during dinner. He’d been deliberately touching her and trying to distract her. She remembered how even earlier when they had been outside together, the way he had held her and come close to her. All his actions over the past two days including this morning flashed into her mind, making her blush not only with the memories but also his nearness, yet she was unable to move back or drag her eyes away from his. Ahem was enjoying the blush forming on Gopi’s cheeks. He had read the thoughts going through her mind and was glad he’d managed to distract her from sad memories. He lifted his hand and stroked Gopi’s cheek marvelling at the softness. Gopi closed her eyes and took a deep breath, Ahem came closer and his hand left her cheek to stroke the silk of her hair. Gopi could feel Ahemji’s breath on her cheek, her breathing got heavier any moment now she’d fell his lips touching her – she waited holding her breath… when Jigar walked in. Ahem and Gopi guiltily sprang apart. Ahem glared at Jigar and Gopi took the opportunity to run out of the room. She got downstairs and was trying to cool down her burning cheeks and the smile on her face when Hetal saw her. “Gopi dhikra, what’s wrong?” “Nothing kaki, I ran downstairs and I’m a little out of breath. There’s still all the food to make yet so I thought I’d come down.” Gopi didn’t like lying to her kaki but she could hardly tell her the truth. Hetal smiled. “Gopi you shouldn’t be in such a hurry to do all the work. Me and Kokila are here too.” “Ok kakiji.” They both walked into the kitchen together. As soon as Jigar had entered the room he had realised that he had interrupted something important, before he could beat a hasty retreat bhabhi had run past him and he was left with Ahem bhai glaring at him. “Bhai I’m sorry, woh I didn’t mean to interrupt. I thought you were in here on your own. I just needed to talk to you.” Ahem stopped glaring as he remembered it wasn’t just Gopi who’d suffered and been betrayed. He put aside his own feelings and focussed on his brother. “Jigar it doesn’t matter, come and sit down.” Jigar smiled at his brother glad he’d have the opportunity to discuss his latest actions with him. “How are you Jigar? I haven’t had the chance to come and speak to you. Are you ok?” “I’m fine bhai. I just feel bad for ma and Gopi bhabhi. I mean for a while now I suspected that there was something Rashi was hiding from me. At first I believed everything. I had no idea that this was all a ploy so I put my all into making the marriage work. I didn’t love her but I tried. It’s more ma I’m worried about. She really took Rashi into her heart. It must have really hurt her to find out the truth, the same goes for Gopi bhabhi. After all Rashi is her sister.” “Jigar don’t worry about Gopi, I’m here and so is mom to help her get through her pain. As for kakiji, I think you need to speak to her. She’ll be more worried about you than herself.” “You’re right bhai, I should talk to her. But this isn’t what I came to talk to you about.” “What do you need Jigar?” “Woh bhai I contacted a lawyer earlier.” “A lawyer?”

“Yes. I can’t bear to be married to Rashi any longer. Especially after hearing the venom from both her and her mother and also what they did to mum! Bhai mum could have died! Thank god bhabhi managed to get to her in time.” Thinking back to how Gopi had been injured whilst rescuing his kaki made the anger return once again. He was happy that Jigar was taking steps to end his relationship with Rashi. “Bhai I’m worried about what Rashi and her mother might do. I’ve talked to the lawyer about getting a restraining order in place against Rashi and her mother so that they are unable to come near the house or our family members. I wouldn’t put it past them to try something else now. I have the recording where they have admitted their deeds so it should be simple enough. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get a no contest divorce either.” Jigar stopped and looked at his brother. “What do you think bhai? Am I doing the right thing?” Ahem smiled at his brother. He was proud of the way his younger brother was handling everything. He couldn’t have thought of anything better himself. “Jigar you are absolutely doing the right thing. But the decision is yours. Think carefully before you take any steps. If you have any doubts then I wouldn’t go for the divorce yet.” “Bhai I know what you’re doing, but I have no doubts. I could never trust her again, and I know that I would never be able to love her. A divorce is the only step. You know bhai I feel relief thinking about divorce, I feel like I will finally be free.” “Then you have my full support. Do you want me to talk to kaka?” “No bhai it’s my job to tell them. I just wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing before I told anyone else.” As Jigar left Ahem was left thinking to how life could change. Just months ago he himself would have jumped at the chance of a divorce, freedom would have been in sight. But now the thought of divorce was anathema to him. He couldn’t think of life without Gopi around. He’d never felt like this about anyone or anything before, he didn’t know what this feeling was but he knew he didn’t want to lose Gopi.

Chapter 14 Rashi was creating a storm at home. In the day she’d been back there hadn’t been a moments peace. She’d screamed and shouted about the injustice done to her to the only person who would listen. “Rashi dhikra don’t worry so much, I will think of something and get you back in that house.” “Mummy after the way they insulted us do you think for a minute I want to go back there?” Urmila looked at her daughter in shock, eyes wide and jaw dropped. “No mummy I never want to go back but I definitely want revenge for the way they treated me. Did you see how Jigarji threw me out of that house like a bag of rubbish? I’ll never forgive him for this. You wait mummy, I’ll make him regret it.” “Why dhikra what are you going to do?” Urmila looked at Rashi worriedly. She could see the Modi money leaving her grasps. “You leave that mummy. First thing I want you to do is get that choti kagdi out of this house!” “What?!” “Get her out mummy. If I’ve been kicked out then why should she be able to stay here? No mummy Kagdi needs to be shown what it’s like to have her daughter kicked out too.” Urmila looked at her daughter with pride. “Now you’re talking sense Rashi. Wait for now I’ll think of something to do to make Kinjal and the Modi’s more ashamed.” Neither had seen nor heard Dhaval at the door listening to their every word. He walked in shock to his room where Kinjal was. Even after everything that had happened he couldn’t believe that fai and Rashiben would be planning even more things against Kinjalji this time. Kinjal looked up from her magazine at Dhaval who looked crestfallen. “Dhavalji what’s wrong? Why do you look so sad?” Dhaval looked at Kinjal and made a decision then and there. “Kinjalji get your things together.” He said to her while gathering his own, “We are leaving here right now.” “Leaving? But where are we going to go?” “Kinjalji now is not the time to ask questions. I’ll explain everything later but for now just get ready to leave.” Kinjal didn’t need asking twice. She got up and packed everything away in no time. In Modi Bhavan everyone was gathered for lunch. Gopi felt much happier now. Spending the time in the kitchen with maaji and kakiji had helped her to realise that neither of them blamed her or held any grudges against her for what mami and Rashiben had done. In fact Hetal kaki had been more worried about how Gopi was. Gopi couldn’t stop thanking Kanhaji for the wonderful family he had given her, she now had a mum, dad, uncle, aunty and Ahemji. Just thinking about Ahemji made her glance at him and remember what nearly happened between them earlier. Ahem was looking at Gopi and saw the blush form on her cheek as she saw him. He knew exactly what she was thinking about, because he was thinking about the same thing. He decided he’d carry on teasing his wife today. He was

annoyed at himself that he hadn’t realised earlier how much fun it could be to make his wife blush and how beautiful she looked while doing so. Seeing her look away and get on with serving the other members of his family brought a small smile to his face. “Gopi vau give some food to Ahem too.” “Ji maaji.” Gopi went round to stand next to Ahem and serve him. She saw the glint in his eyes and blushed again. Again she felt his fingers brush against her arm and this time she knew he was doing it on purpose. She tried her best not to let anyone else know what was happening between them and concentrated on the job she was supposed to be doing. “Gopi vau now that you’ve served everyone you sit and eat too.” Gopi smiled and took the seat that had been left for her, next to her Ahemji. She glanced sideways at him and saw him concentrating on his food. She breathed a sigh of relief and served herself. She got ready to eat and felt her left hand get caught by his under the table. She was startled and dropped her spoon. “Gopi vau what’s the matter? Are you OK?” Kokila asked her. Even Ahem turned to look and asked her with a hidden smile. “Gopi why did you drop your spoon?” Gopi blushed and stuttered, “Woh i-i-it j-just fell out of my hand.” “Take care Gopi vau.” “Ji maaji.” Gopi tried to tug her hand out of his, she didn’t want anyone to see what was going on, but Ahem just tightened his hold. He started stroking her inner wrist gently making a tingling feeling go through her. Gopi felt her breath hitch and put her full concentration on eating her food. Ahem was enjoying himself so much. He loved being able to fluster Gopi so easily. He may not have been sure of what his feelings were but he knew he wanted to get closer to Gopi, and based on Gopi’s reaction to his nearness she also wanted the same thing. He carried on tracing light patterns over her hand and wrist, building up the pressure and enjoying her reaction. Gopi looked at him pleadingly but he refused to let up. Koki noticed the glances being passed between Gopi and Ahem and smiled confusedly. She had no idea how much her son was teasing her vau. Jigar was thinking about when and how to broach the subject of his divorce. Should I tell them now or should I wait til everyone’s eaten? Or should I just tell papa on his own? He hadn’t made up his mind when the doorbell rang. “Who’s this at this time?” Hetal asked. Gopi sensing an opportunity to escape the exquisite torture Ahemji was carrying out on her offered to go and check. “No Gopi vau, you sit I’ll go.” Kokila got up and went to the door. Ahem saw Gopi glance at their clasped hands and smiled. Gopi could be so transparent at times! Kokila answered the door and was shocked to who was in front of her. “Dhavalji you?” She saw the bags that Kinjal and her husband were carrying. “With these bags? Is everything ok?” “Jai Shri Krishna saasuma.” Kokila remembered her manners and greeted them both and asked them inside. She brought them to the lounge and asked them to sit. The rest of the family, who had now finished their food, also came to the lounge.

“Kinjal dhikra what’s the matter? How is it that you’re here and with these bags?” “I don’t know kaka. Dhavalji just told me to pack everything and then brought me here.” Everyone turned to Dhaval who didn’t know how he would start telling them what he had overheard. “Saasuma please don’t mind that we came here without asking but the situation became such that I had to take these steps without any notice.” “That’s all fine Dhavalji but at least tell us what has happened.” Dhaval proceeded to tell everyone what he had overheard Rashi and Urmila say. Everyone had similarly shocked expressions on their faces apart from Kokila and Ahem who were both angry and showing it. “So you see in this situation Kinjalji couldn’t stay there and I wasn’t letting her come alone as fai would probably try to use my presence there to convince people that we kicked Kinjalji out.” “You did absolutely right Dhavalji.” “I thought if Kinjalji could stay here for a few days while I try to find somewhere for us to live it would make it easier.” “And where would you go?” Chirag asked Dhaval. “Kakaji I will arrange somewhere for myself. As long as Kinjalji is safe I’m ok.” Kinjal looked at her husband in shock. She thought back to how many times she had verbally attacked him and made him feel like he was less than nothing, and his first thought was for him. “No Dhavalji.” Kokila said. “You are the son in law of this house, if your wife is staying here then so are you.” Seeing that he was about to argue Kokila put her palm up to stop him. “I don’t want to hear any arguments. Kinjal take Dhavalji to your room and then both of you come back down.” Kokila turned to Gopi. “Gopi vau once you’ve cleaned the dirty plates from the table can you please set the places for Dhavalji and Kinjal, they must be hungry.” Gopi went towards the dining table whilst everyone else stayed in the lounge. Jigar was left thinking about how quickly his lawyer could set things in motion. The sooner he got into action the less chance there was of Rashi being able to do anything to hurt his family. He needed to speak to his father. He looked at Ahem who gave a nod of his head. The time had come to speak.

Chapter 15 “Papa?” “What’s the matter Jigar?” “I need to talk to you alone, can we go to your room?” Chirag looked at Hetal, who shrugged her shoulders back at him. “Yes but what do you need to talk about?” “Papa let’s go and I’ll tell you.” “Ok.” Chirag got up and followed Jigar upstairs. Hetal turned towards Kokila. “Kokila what could be so important and secret that Jigar had to speak to his papa alone, and couldn’t say it in front of us?” “Mota bhabhi why are you so worried? Mota bhai is speaking to him, if it’s anything important he will tell us.” “Yes you are right but still, so much has happened to Jigar lately. It’s enough to have a bad impact on anyone.” “Mota bhabhi Jigar is a smart and sensible boy, he will never do anything that could cause anyone pain. Krishna bhagwan will always look after such people. And anyway in this house there are many people to look after him and for him to share his concerns with, there’s you, me, his brother and his bhabhi. Don’t think so much. Everything will be ok.” “Kokila nothing good is happening at the moment. First there was everything Rashi did here, and now look! Jamaiji and Kinjal have had to leave their own house and come here.” “Mota bhabhi this is also their house. And we will do our best so that Dhavalji doesn’t feel indebted to us or feel shame that he is staying here.” Kokila turned to Ahem who was lost in his own thoughts. “Ahem dhikra.” “Ji mom?” “I want you to help Dhavalji look for somewhere to live when you have the chance. He is a very honourable man and won’t like to live in his in-laws for too long.” “As you wish mom. I’m going upstairs, can you tell Gopi to bring my green tea up to the room.” “Ok Ahem.” Hetal and Kokila watched Ahem leave and smiled at each other. “At least one good thing has come out of all the bad. Our Ahem and Gopi seem to have become much closer in these days.” “Haan mota bhabhi. I’ve seen how Ahem is taking care of Gopi vau these days. Finally he’s realising Gopi’s true worth.” “It’s good. It feels like happiness will soon be returning to our house.” Kinjal was sat in her room thinking about what had happened. She couldn’t believe that Rashi and her mother had still dared to think about humiliating her family even further. And Dhavalji? How he’d stood up for her, thought about her, protected her against the machinations of his own aunt and cousin. He hadn’t thought twice before he’d brought her back here and let everyone know the truth about his own people. And all for her. All her preconceived ideas about her husband were coming crashing down around her. The man she’d always thought of as worthless and spineless had cut himself away from his family for her.

All these thoughts were spinning round Kinjal’s head not letting her get away from the truth. Her husband was a good man. A knock at the door brought her out of her reverie and she noticed that Dhavalji had been unpacking his things. She got up to answer the door to find it was Gopi. She waited for the familiar anger and hate to bubble up at her sight but found that there was nothing there. What on earth was going on? “What do you want?” She asked abruptly. “Woh the food is ready and maaji asked me to call you down.” “Ok you go, we’ll be down in a minute.” She turned back in the room and saw that Dhaval had almost unfinished his packing. “Dhavalji you leave the unpacking, I’ll finish it.” “Kinjalji it’s practically done now, so I’ll just finish it off.” “No, the food is on the table now so after eating I’ll do it.” “Ok if you insist.” Gopi walked to her room with Ahemji’s green tea but her mind was once again on her Rashiben and mami. Everyday she was learning something new about their behaviour and attitude. She’s never imagined that they would take their anger out on Kinjalben this way. In fact deep inside she’d thought that Rashi would realise her mistake and repent, but today’s situation with Dhaval and Kinjal had just shown Gopi how mistaken she’d been. Ahem was in the room trying to work on his laptop but thoughts of Gopi kept distracting him. This was happening more and more often, these days he was having to force himself to concentrate on his tasks when previously he was sole minded when it came to his work. All he could think about today was how it had felt to hold Gopi’s hand! Exactly! Her hand!! Since when had Ahem Modi become so soppy? But the feelings this hand holding had evoked inside him were much more than he’d ever be able to describe. Her hand had felt like it belonged within his, like something that he’d never even known was missing had finally returned home to him. All Ahem wanted was to be close to her. His mind kept thinking of ways to get her alone. And almost as if he’d wished her there Gopi appeared. Gopi noticed that Ahemji had his laptop out so quietly walked into the room, she put down the cup and was about to walk out when she heard him softly call her name. She stopped and turned back around to face him. Ahem got up and walked towards Gopi. He could see the tension on her face that had been there since Dhaval had told everyone what had happened. “Gopi are you ok?” “Ji Ahemji.” Gopi replied not meeting his eyes. “Gopi?” Ahem said again knowing that she was hiding her feelings. “Ji?” She mumbled looking at the floor. Ahem gently held her hand knowing that this would get Gopi to look up at him with her big shocked eyes. Bingo! I need to do something so that my touch doesn’t shock her so much! “Gopi I know you’re upset and I know you’re trying to hide it by not looking at me. But Gopi,” Ahem paused here. Come on just say it! You’ve already accepted it so just say it out loud. “Gopi you’re my wife and you should be able to share your feelings with me at least. So, instead of bottling everything away so it

causes you more pain, I want you to tell me, just like you did last night and earlier today.” Hearing Ahem call her his wife filled Gopi’s heart with happiness and even though her mind was full of thoughts about Rashi and Urmila she couldn’t stop the happiness sparkling from her eyes. However realising that Ahem was still waiting for her to unburden herself she took him at his word. “Ahemji I was thinking about Kinjalben and how Rashi and mami could even think of humiliating their own family member like that. I wish there was something that could be done to stop them from hurting everyone even more.” “Gopi don’t worry so much! Nothing happened to Kinjal. Thankfully Dhavalji found out and brought her here before Rashi and her mother could do anything. As for them causing anymore pain, Jigar is sorting it out so that they won’t be able to. Now don’t think of such things, try and focus your mind on something else.” Gopi smiled shyly at her husband, who was still holding her hand. “Ahemji, you’re still holding my hand.” “And…?” He raised his eyebrow at her sardonically. “N –no nothing, it’s just that your tea will be getting cold.” “Hmmm?” “A-and y-you’re b-busy with work.” “Anything else?” “No.” “Sure?” Gopi nodded her head vigorously. Ahem entwined their fingers and clasped her hand. “Gopi whenever I hold your hand you’re always trying to run away from me. Why? Do you not like it?” Gopi was speechless, all she could do was shake her head and blush. “So does that mean you do like it?” Ahem teased Gopi and watched her get even redder and lower her gaze. He smiled and lifted her hand to his lips, turned it around and gave her a kiss on her open palm. Gopi sharply inhaled at his touch. Ahem released her hand and walked back to the table, picked up his cup of tea, leaving Gopi looking at him awestruck. Again his eyebrow went up and Gopi turned and ran out of the room, leaving behind a chuckling and mischievous Ahem.

Chapter 16 Kokila watched Gopi run out of her room and smiled. Thankyou Krishna Bhagwan for all the happiness that is coming my Gopi vau’s way. She walked along and hot on the heels of that thought came the thought of her daughter. Kokila had thought that by marrying Kinjal to a man like Dhaval, Kinjal would have realised what is important in life. Unfortunately she hadn’t banked on Urmilaben and Rashi being so devious. Thankfully her faith in Dhaval hadn’t been misplaced. Hopefully now Kinjal would begin to realise just what a loving man her husband is.

Elsewhere in the house Kinjal was also thinking about everything that had happened. Dhavalji had helped her, once again, without thinking about himself. No one else had ever put her first like this. Even Umang had only thought about himself. Kinjal had long faced up to the fact that Umang had never loved her. He had left her to face her parents wrath without a second glance. Months had gone by without a word from him and he could have very easily contacted her. She hadn’t changed her number and during the initial days of her marriage she had pinned all her hopes on him coming and rescuing her. She thought back to everything she had done in the name of love. She had lied to her parents, lied to her brother and for what? Her life had still ended up being ruined. Ruined? Her inner voice questioned her. Your husband cares about you so much that he left his family and brought you to safety. You’ve already admitted that you were mistaken about Umang so exactly what is it that’s stopping you from moving on? What is it that is making you so stubborn? Who are you trying to hurt? And with that Kinjal knew exactly who she needed to speak to. “Gopi dhikra can you take this juice to Jigar? I haven’t seen him since he went to speak to his papa but he’s in his room now.” “Ji kakiji.” Gopi took the juice and made her way upstairs. Even though Jigar had done his best to make her feel that he didn’t blame her, there was still something in Gopi that made her hesitate. How could he not harbour some resentment against her? She was after all Rashi’s sister! She knocked on his bedroom door. Jigar had been thinking about his chat with his father. He couldn’t believe he’s been so worried about letting his dad know what he was planning. “Papa I don’t know where to start.” “Jigar what’s the problem? Whatever it is you know you can tell me.” “I know papa but this is something I never thought I’d ever have to say.” “Sit down, take a deep breath and tell me.” “Woh the thing is, well you know everything Rashi has done, nothing is secret now. It’s about that. Papa I can’t live with her. I can’t continue my life with her.” “Jigar we’ve already sent her out of the house.” “Haan papa but I don’t ever want her back here again. I want to divorce her.” Jigar continued before his dad could speak,”I know that there has never been a divorce in our family before but I don’t want my name to be joined with hers anymore.” His dad looked at him for a few minutes. “I understand where you are coming from but before we do anything we have to think carefully. Remember Rashi is not only your wife but she is also Gopi and Dhaval’s sister. Our families are linked in other ways too.” “Papa after hearing what Rashi and her mummy have done to Gopi bhabhi in the past and what they planned to do to Kinjal my resolve has been made even firmer. So much so that I’ve even instructed my lawyer to serve them with a restraining order. I don’t want them causing harm to anyone else in our family.” Chirag looked at his son. In front of his eyes he was growing up. He understood his son’s feelings and was glad that they matched his own so well. “OK Jigar, I agree with you. Whatever you decide to do the whole family will be by your side.” Jigar was brought out of his flashback by the knock at the door.

“Bhabhi come in, why are you waiting outside?” “Woh devarji kakiji sent juice for you.” Gopi walked in slowly to hand him the juice whilst avoiding looking at him. Jigar knew his bhabhi extremely well. Her guilt complex would be working overtime and she was obviously uncomfortable. He smiled and took the glass of her, placing it on his bedside table, took his bhabhi’s hands in his and made her sit down next to him. “Bhabhi what is this? So quiet? Are you upset with me?” Gopi was shocked. “No devarji! Why would I be upset with you? Woh I thought you’d be….” Gopi trailed off leaving her words unsaid. “I knew it! Gopi bhabhi do you trust your devar so little?” Gopi shook her head. “Bhabhi whatever Rashi has done she did it. I would never blame you for anything. I don’t want to see you upset bhabhi and I definitely don’t want you thinking I blame you. You are my pyaari Gopi bhabhi and I thank god every day that Kaki chose you for Ahem bhai.” Gopi smiled a small smile. “Come on bhabhi, you can do better than that! I want to see the sparkle back in your eyes!” Gopi widened her smile and looked at her devar clearly. The usual twinkle was dimmed but she saw a resolve in his eyes. Thankfully though there was no sign of the reproach that Gopi had been dreading. From the doorway Ahem took in the sight of his wife and brother. He should have known that no matter what anybody said to Gopi, she wouldn’t be convinced. But it seemed like Jigar had succeeded. “And what are my wife and brother doing in here?” He teased. It was getting easier and easier to say the words now. Gopi quickly stood up hearing her husband’s voice, while Jigar took his time. “I came to give devarji his juice.” Jigar stood up behind her and put his arms around Gopi’s shoulders. “And I was trying to tell my lovely bhabhi that I don’t want to see her worried.” Jigar carried on. “Bhai don’t you think bhabhi looks better smiling?” Ahem gave his brother a knowing look, Jigar could be so transparent at times, always trying to get him to admit his feelings. He walked up to them and pulled Gopi towards him, looking into her eyes to gauge her reaction, pleased when he saw her pupils dilate. “Your bhabhi is beautiful Jigar,” he replied looking back at Jigar for his reaction, “Especially when she’s smiling.” He walked out with Gopi leaving Jigar gaping after them. Jigar wasn’t the only one gaping. Gopi couldn’t take her eyes off Ahem. He was still holding her hand, and remembering what he had said to her earlier she curled her hand into his, comfortably grasping it. Ahem turned to look at her and smiled, making Gopi’s heart skip another beat and blush again. Ahem guided her into the bedroom and closed the door behind him and barring it, ensuring that they wouldn’t be disturbed. Kinjal knocked on the door and waited. She needed to have this out once and for all. Only then could she move forward with her life. “Kinjal? What are you doing here?” “Maa I need to talk to you. Can I come inside?” “Yes but what’s the matter?”

Kinjal walked in and closed the door behind her. “Maa I’ve been struggling for nearly a year now trying to work out why. Why you punished me like this? I admit I made a mistake but did I really deserve to be punished so harshly?” “Kinjal what are you talking about? What punishment?” “This life that I’m now living! You got me married to Dhavalji so you could punish me for what I did.” Kokila looked at her daughter in astonishment. “Punishment? You think I got you married to punish you?” Kokila couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Kinjal how could you think that I would treat your life so lightly? Kinjal, Kinjal, Kinjal, you still haven’t understood what I was trying to teach you! All your life I’ve tried to teach you the right path. When I thought you were pregnant and that Umang had left you to your fate I was broken. Broken thinking about what would happen to you! I was sleepless worrying about you! At that time Dhavalji came to us like a beacon of hope. A man who was willing to overlook everything and accept you. I got you married to him because in his eyes I saw honesty, trust and an admiration for you. He was intent on doing the best for you. His actions today prove that I was right.” Kinjal looked at her mum bewildered. “If it wasn’t to punish me then why did you never want to see me? Why did you ignore me?” “Kinjal I wanted the best for you and I always will, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t hurt by your actions. I needed time to accept the shortcomings in my upbringing that made you react the way you did.” Kinjal thought back to everything that had happened. If she really thought about it her mother had always been there for her. Even after her marriage, when needed her mum had always come through. That support had only stopped because of Kinjal’s own actions. She thought back to the day her mum had confronted her about her modelling, the way she had spoken to both her mother and her bhai. She was ashamed thinking about her behaviour now. Looking at her mum now she could see the love for her clearly shining from her eyes. Her mum may never have been the most affectionate of people but in the past Kinjal had never doubted the depth of feeling she’d had for her, so why now. The clouds were finally lifting from her mind and she was seeing things clearly for the first time. She walked up to her mum, sincerity clear in her eyes. “Maa can you forgive me? I should have never doubted you or your love for me. I was blinded at first by me feelings for Umang and then by my own despondency and anger.” Kokila took her daughters hand in hers and wiped of the tears trickling down Kinjal’s face. Today it looked like she was getting her daughter back. “Kinjal a mother will always forgive her children.” She smiled at her, “But I want you to forget the past now and focus on your future, Dhavalji is a good man. I want you to try and understand him. I am convinced he will make you happy.” Kinjal nodded her head and smiled up at her mother.

Ahem looked at his wife who was busily blushing away. “You look even more beautiful when blushing.” Ahem looked on in amusement as his wife blushed even more. His wife! He couldn’t get enough of thinking of Gopi in this way. He walked up to her and saw her take a step back, all the while looking at the intent in his eyes. He carried on advancing and she carried on stepping back until her legs hit the vanity unit. Ahem came up to her and stroked her rosy cheek, feeling the heat it was emitting. He saw that Gopi had her eyes closed, he

leaned down and blew gently, making her lashes flutter and her cheeks cool. He lowered his head further and placed a gentle kiss on the apple of her cheek. Gopi’s eyes flew open. Ahem took her hands in his and placed them around his neck, Gopi complied mutely and let him lead her. He gathered her closer and watched for her reaction. Whatever he saw in her eyes encouraged him to get even closer. He cupped her face in his hands and gently brushed his fingers along her neck, making Gopi shiver in response. He lowered his head once again and this time captured Gopi’s lips with his own.

Chapter 17 Her eyes closed as Ahem’s lips gently coaxed a response from hers. She quivered as new sensations came upon her body, sensations that she had never experienced before. She tightened the grip she had around his neck as a listlessness overcame her legs. She felt his hands move further down her body as he decided to bring her closer to his body. She gasped at the intimate contact and Ahem took the opportunity to deepen the kiss. He had the urge to passionately plunder her mouth but controlled himself, his wife’s innocence held him back, he wanted to introduce her gently to the pleasures that could be had between them. Reluctantly he broke the kiss and was gratified to see Gopi try to pull him back to her. She opened her eyes to see her husband smiling at her. Gopi blushed and lowered her eyes, unclasping her hands from around his neck to find them caught within Ahem’s hands. He pulled her towards him and hugged her to him, Gopi could feel the rapid beat of Ahem’s heart under her palm, she smiled at the realisation that he had been just as affected as her. Tentatively her hands went around his waist as she returned his hug. She nestled closer, inhaling the scent of him, the smell of her Ahemji. “Gopi.” Ahem murmured. She looked up into his eyes. Looking into her eyes he forgot what he was going to say and just said the first thing that came into his head. “I think I love you.” Gopi’s eyes widened and she moved her head back to look clearly at Ahem. “Ji?” She gasped, shocked. Ahem released her Gopi from the hug but led her by her hand to the bed. He made her sit and sat down next to her, never letting go of her. They sat in silence for a few minutes, Gopi waiting for Ahem to continue, she squeezed his hand which gave Ahem the confidence to carry on. “Gopi I don’t know how to start. I don’t even know if you’ll believe me. God knows I’ve never been in this situation before.” His hand absently began stroking hers. “When we got married I was a swine, no Gopi don’t say anything,” He said quickly noticing that she was about to object. “I was utterly vile towards you and I don’t even know how to begin to apologise for my behaviour.” Ahem took a deep breath and Gopi sat there quietly, waiting for him to carry on, knowing instinctively that she needed to stay quiet. “Even after knowing you, living with you and seeing your goodness I refused to believe it. I held on to my misconceptions, in fact I needed them so I could continue covering my own feelings with anger. But this is the magic of you Gopi. Slowly slowly you made a place for yourself in my life. I didn’t even realise at

first what was happening. How I’d be waiting for you to bring me tea, how I expected you to sort my things. I didn’t notice at first that you were the one who I was coming to rely on. But now I find myself actively waiting for you, watching you and needing you near to me.” Ahem got off the bed and kneeled in front of Gopi so he could look into her eyes and see her reactions to what he was saying. “Recently though I’ve let myself feel all the feelings that I’ve had for a while. What your mami said about you filled me with so much anger, but also there was pain there for you. These past few days the time I’ve spent with you have only intensified the feelings that were taking over me. I didn’t intend to tell you anything today, I wanted to wait until we were closer and I was more clear in my head about what was happening, but today kissing you, touching you, I couldn’t help myself. I had to tell you and I need to know your feelings before we go any further. Gopi I do love you, these feelings can’t be anything else. I can’t bear to see pain in your eyes, or sadness. I can’t bear to be apart from you and I hope to God you feel the same way. I felt like maybe you do but I don’t want to ever rush you.” Ahem saw the wonder in Gopi’s eyes but he felt like he could see a wariness there too. He got up and walked back. “I don’t expect an answer now. After everything I’ve done to you I don’t expect it to be so easy, but whatever your answer is when you’re ready I’ll be waiting.” Saying so Ahem walked out of the room his heart thundering in his chest. Everything was in her hands now. He only hoped that fate was on his side.

Gopi was left sitting on her bed in a little bit of shock. She’d never seen her Ahemji so nervous!! He hadn’t even let her say anything, and he’s gone from the room as if he was terrified of what her response would be. But why would he be nervous? She’d never made any secret of how much she loved her husband. And her responses to his touches gave her away everytime. True she hadn’t put her love into words and she hadn’t made the first move but surely he knew how she felt. Didn’t he? Gopi thought back to earlier, being in Ahem’s arms, his lips against arms… A tingly sensation went through her body and she lay down on the bed grabbing his pillow and hugging it to her, recognising his smell and hugging the pillow even tighter. He loved her! Her Ahemji loved her! Downstairs Ahem tried to concentrate on his work but his thoughts kept returning to what he’d just done. I should have waited! It was too soon to say that to her! What if she doesn’t feel the same? Damn it! I just went in there like a tank, I definitely should have waited. Maybe I should go and explain to her? No Ahem, you’ve said enough just let it happen now. But did I say enough? Could I have said more? I should have explained myself fully! Crap! What if I’ve blown it? Lost in his thoughts he hadn’t noticed Gopi come down the stairs until he heard her speaking to his mother. He turned to look at her but she very carefully avoided looking at him. Oh crap! “Maaji do you have something for me to do?”

“No Gopi vau, me and mota bhabhi have made the food. How are you today Gopi vau?” “I’m fine. Shall I set the table?” Kokila nodded and Gopi set to work. Without glancing at Ahem, who she could feel was looking at her, she finished her task and followed her mother in law into the kitchen. “Maaji I have something to do upstairs I’ll be back in a little while.” She went out of the other door to the kitchen and made her way back to her room. Ahem had never been as thankful for Jigar as he was today. Earlier he had managed to make Gopi realise that no one blamed her and now he was helping Ahem to take his mind off the mess he’s made of his life! Although at times Ahem still drifted back into thoughts of Gopi. All through dinner he had tried to get her attention but she had kept her distance. She’d served him his dinner but the closeness of the past few weeks had been missing. Ahem was cursing himself for obviously rushing Gopi into thinking about a situation she was in no way ready for. “Bhai so after everything that has happened recently I’ve decided to focus more on work. How do you think I’ve been doing so far?” “Jigar you’re doing amazingly. You’re showing a lot of dedication and skill and I think you are ready for a lot more responsibility. So keep working like you are and you will go far!” “Thankyou bhai!” Jigar hugged his brother and walked away. Ahem looked at his watch and noticed it was getting late. He couldn’t dally downstairs for much longer so headed towards his room. He didn’t know how he was going to manage being in the same room as Gopi after everything. He just needed to take a deep breath and open the door. Just a deep breath. He opened the door and began to step forward stopping abruptly when he noticed what was in the room. He stepped into the room and looked around in awe. The room was decorated with rose petals and candles, much in the same way it had been decorated a year ago but in his anger he hadn’t appreciated it. Every candle and every petal spoke of Gopi’s feelings for him. The bed had been lovingly decorated as a bridal bed and in the middle of it sat Gopi, head covered and waiting for her Ahemji. Sat on the bed Gopi was nervously awaiting her Ahemji. She’d known the moment he’d entered the room and now she couldn’t bear the torture anymore. She hoped she’d done the right thing, she’d been emboldened by his declaration but now doubts were assailing her, doubts that weren’t helped by Ahemji not coming near her. Kanhaji please help! Have I done the right thing? And then she felt him sit next to her on the bed. Ahem’s feet took him closer to the bed until he was sat next to her. His heart was beating ten to the dozen as he looked at his wife. He reached over and uncovered her head so he could finally see her face. Her head was lowered and her eyes were closed. “Gopi?” He whispered. He reached over and touched her cheek causing her eyes to flutter open. He saw the same nervousness mirrored in her eyes. “Ahemji, I-I” Gopi stammered to a stop.

Ahem pulled Gopi towards him and looked deep within her eyes. Whatever he saw in them gave him the impetus to make his next move. He gathered her to him and took her lips in a deep, devouring kiss. Gopi, hesitant at first, matched him with the passion she had rising from deep within her. Ahem laid Gopi on the bed and leaned over her. “Are you sure?” He asked her not knowing what he would do is she said no. Gopi nodded, a blush rising but she couldn’t take her eyes away from his, from the love she could see shining from his eyes. He gently undid he pallu and slowly revealed her to him. She was breathtaking. He couldn’t believe he’s managed to stay apart from her for over a year. He stood up and got undressed. Gopi couldn’t take her eyes away from his body. He was gorgeous. Her hand reached up and then fell back again as she was too shy to complete the move, Ahem however took her hand between his and placed her palm against his chest as he lowered himself onto her. He kissed his way down her body, trailing a path of fire wherever his lips touched. Gopi arched trying to get closer to him as he tormented her with his teasing lips. His hands reached places that had never been explored as Gopi got closer and closer to the elusive feeling of release. Tension was building and mounting in her body, Gopi moaned out her needs to her Ahemji. “Ahemji I need…” “What do you need Gopi?” He teased while his hands and lips continued their magic. Ahem encouraged Gopi to use her hands to reciprocate the feelings that he was causing within her body, until Gopi needed no prompting and was led by her instincts. Her hands caressed his chest, closely followed by her lips. As her hands went lower and lower along his body Ahem quickly grasped them and held them above her head. He knew he wouldn’t be able to handle her touch. Ahem kissed his way back to her lips and while his lips ravaged hers he gently entered he body, taking care not to hurt her any more than she needed to be. He caught her moan of pain within his kiss and stopped any movement, letting her lead the pace. After the pain caused by Ahem’s possession Gopi froze. She kept absolutely still until the pain subsided, then finally she moved slightly. Realising the pain had passed and enjoying the sensation within her, she moved again. Sensing Gopi was ready for more, Ahem gently started moving his body against hers, engaging them both in rhythm as old as time and leading them both to point of pleasure that awaited them both. Gopi moaned as the pleasure built and rocked against her Ahemji. Finally they both reached the point of no return and let themselves fall over the precipice, Ahem capturing Gopi’s scream of pleasure with another heart wrenchingly passionate kiss. As they both came down to earth Ahem covered them with a blanket. He gathered Gopi up to him and whispered in her ear, “I love you so much Gopi, thankyou for the gift you’ve given me.” Gopi turned to face her husband, the light of her life and the fulfilment of her dreams. “I love you Ahemji. You’ve given me everything I ever dreamed of.” They both looked at each other and finally drifted off to sleep, lost in each other’s arms.

Chapter 18 Ahem awoke with a smile on his face, eyes closed he reached over anticipating the feel of his wife’s satiny soft body. To his surprise instead of his wife he felt the cool silk of his bed. A frown marred his face and he opened his eyes in surprise. She was nowhere to be seen. If it hadn’t been for her scent surrounding him he could have believed he had dreamed what had happened between them last night. All trace of decoration had been swept away leaving behind his pristine room. He got up to find Gopi and remembered his state of undress. His eyes flared with remembrance of all that had taken place the night before as he headed to the bathroom. Downstairs Gopi was sat in front of her Kanhaji, bright stars shining in her eyes. As usual she’d woken up with the rising sun but today everything had changed. She’d looked at her Ahemji in awe. His face so calm and serene in repose, a slight smile playing about his lips. She’d softly touched her fingers to those lips and remembered everywhere those lips had been. The journey they had taken. She blushed and winced as she gently got out of bed, the muscles in her body a reminder of the night before. She’d quickly showered and dressed and made sure her room was left as her Ahemji liked it. Now she was sat in front of her Kanhaji preparing to thank him wholeheartedly, in the only way she knew, for the gift he had bestowed upon her. Her Ahemji’s love. She decorated the temple lovingly and turned to see her maaji and kakiji coming towards her, closely followed by the rest of the family. Her heart raced as her eyes searched for the one person she needed to see. Not seeing him there she turned back to her Kanhaji and began to pour out her heartfelt thanks. Showering and dressing quickly Ahem made his way downstairs, eager to see his wife. Smoothing down his kurta he walked out of his room to hear an angel singing, no not an angel but his angel, his Gopi. He could hear the happiness in her voice and, as if entranced, he followed the voice and ended up at the temple where his family was already gathered. He saw her then. His eyes took her in like a drowning man takes in air. Hai Gopal Krishna karu aarti teri hai priya pati main karu aarti teri Tujhpe ho kahna bali bali jaaoon saanjh savere tere ghun gaaoon Prem mein rangeen mein rangeen bakhti mein teri Hai Gopal Krishna karu aarti teri Hai priya pati mein karu aarti teri. Gopi’s eyes glistened with happiness. Finally her dreams had come true. She turned to offer the aarti to the rest of the family and saw him there, watching her. She blushed and continued, her eyes never leaving his, her words for him. Yeh maati ka than hai tera mann aur pran bhi teri Mein ikh Gopi tum ho kanhaiaya tum ho bhagwan mere Krishna Krishna Krishna rate aatma mere Hai Gopal Krishna karu aarti teri

Hai priya pati mein karu aarti teri. She walked to her family and proffered the aarti ensuring everyone took the blessings, but her gaze was caught by her Ahemji’s. She slowly walked up to him and lowered her eyes, the memories of the night before them fresh in their eyes. Hetal and Kokila looked at each other with smiles on their faces. The new found closeness and knowledge of their loved flowed around the happy couple. They were bathed in the light of their love. “Kokila look. They can’t keep their eyes off each other!” “Yes mota bhabhi, I’m looking at them. My Gopi vau and Ahem look so happy.” “Do you think…?” “God willing mota bhabhi. They’ve both been through so much. It would be Kanhaji’s blessing if they were finally together.” “And just think Kokila! We could have someone to call us dadi!” Hetal’s smile became wider. Kokila looked at her sister in law. “Mota bbabhi. Do you not think it’s a little too soon? They’ve only just become close.” Looking at Hetal becoming thoughtful Kokila added, “But yes our house does need the pitter patter of tiny feet.” They left the temple, following the rest of the family members, leaving Ahem and Gopi on their own. Those two seemed to be lost in some world of their own. Ahem reached out his hands to feel the skin of her face that was glowing, to touch the softness he remembered touching last night. Gopi, looking at her Ahemji through her lashes, saw him raise his hand and shivered at the anticipation that slithered through her body, awaiting his touch. She gasped as his fingers gently brushed her heated cheeks and widened her eyes to look at him. She saw the same feelings she was feeling reflected in his eyes, his eyes mirrored the love that was shining from hers. “Ahemji…” she whispered. “You ran off this morning.” Ahem said, taking the puja thaal out of her hands and placing it in the temple. “Ahemji… I was just-” Ahem interrupted. “I woke up thinking it was all a dream, until I remembered. Every touch, every scent, every kiss.” Gopi blushed and moved away from him. “Running again?” He taunted slightly. “Ahemji we’re in the temple!” Ahem took her hand and led her out of the temple and up the stairs to their room. Once in the room Gopi regained her senses enough to remember her responsibilities and half-heartedly made her objection. “Ahemji I should go downstairs. Woh maaji will be waiting for me in the kitchen.” “Gopi come and sit down.” Ahem said to her, ignoring her protests. Gopi, who didn’t need much urging sat down in order to be near her Ahemji. “Now tell me. What was the rush to leave me? I woke up wanting to feel you next to me but all I felt was emptiness.” He pulled her towards him and turned around on the bed so she was laying under him. He mock growled, an imitation of his earlier anger, “I missed you.” He brought his head down to her neck and nuzzled it, leaving light kisses along her throat. Gopi brought her hands round towards Ahem’s head and tangled them within his hair. She’d had intentions of

pulling him away from her but they feelings he was arousing within her made her hold him ever closer to her. Gopi moved under him, unknowingly sensuous, making Ahem lose the little control he had. His lips moved to capture hers and she capitulated, matching her husband kiss for kiss. Downstairs Hetal and Kokila, aided by Meethi, got on with making breakfast for the family. “Maa do you need any help?” Hetal looked up at hearing Kinjal’s voice in pleased surprise. She glanced at Kokila and saw the pleasure, although muted, reflected within Koki’s eyes. “Yes Kinjal. You help your kaki with setting the table and I’ll bring the food out.” Kinjal looked around was surprised to see that Gopi was missing from the kitchen. “Is Gopi bhabhi not here today?” Hetal and Kokila glanced at each other. “No Kinjal dhikra, she’s a bit tired from yesterday and is resting in her room.” Hetal answered. “Shall I go call her when I’ve set the table?” “No Kinjal. Let Ahem and Gopi vau rest. When they come down Gopi vau will make something herself.” Rest? Kinjal thought. They were both fine for the aarti. I wonder what happened. Kinjal frowned but shook her head and got on with her tasks. Ahem reached over and a smile crept along his face. This is how it should have been he thought as he pulled his wife closer to him. She turned in his arms and put her hand over his chest, feeling his heart beating in tune with hers. She smiled as she looked up at him. He pulled her closer so he was hugging her close and nestled her head under his chin. “Happy?” Gopi kissed Ahem’s chest gently and answered. “I’m always happy with you Ahemji.” “Always?” “Always.” Ahem leaned back and tilted her head back so he could see into her eyes. He saw the truth of her statement in her honest eyes. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you Gopi but I can tell you now I’m never going to let you go.” “I don’t ever want to go.” She whispered. Ahem tightened his hold and kissed the top of her head. Minutes passed and they lay together, until finally Gopi glanced at the clock. “Ahemji!” she shouted and scrambled up. “Look how late it is! We need to get up!” Ahem turned to see the clock and saw that hours had passed since the two of them had come upstairs. He stretched and sat up in bed. “Alright I suppose it’s time. You go have a shower and then I’ll go.” “Ok.” Gopi was about to get out of bed when she remembered she wasn’t wearing anything. She froze in indecision. It had been so easy this morning. Ahem had been asleep and she’d been able to get to the bathroom with no

issues. Now she hesitantly looked back at him to see him looking at her with a grin on his face. “Gopiji what are you waiting for?” he teased her. Gopi went red and gathered the coverlet around her more securely. “Ahemji I-i er I… can you…?” “What Gopi? I can’t understand what you’re saying. Erm, I, you. Say what you want clearly.” “Ahemji…” she pleaded. “Can you close your eyes. I need to get to the bathroom.” “So how am I stopping you? Go.” “How can I go like this?” She asked gesturing to herself. “Gopi it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.” He said raising an eyebrow causing Gopi to get even redder, not that Ahem thought that had been possible. He saw he discomfort and decided to stop his teasing. “Ok Gopi my eyes are closed. Run away.” Gopi glanced at him to ensure his eyes were closed and rushed out of bed. She went to the wardrobe and gathered her clothes, running to the bathroom. Kinjal sat on the sofa and tried to concentrate on her magazine but the conversation between her and her mother kept playing in her mind. So many misconceptions had been cleared and Kinjal was left feeling much lighter. She had a new outlook on her life and most of all on her marriage. Since Dhavalji had brought her back here she’d had a new found respect for him, which, when coupled with what her mum had said to her, was impacting on the way she saw him. Each and everyday since their marriage Dhaval had worked to make her happy. He’d supported her and done everything possible to ensure she had no problems. And now he’s even gone against his own family for her. She owed it to her husband and to herself to treat him with respect and work with him rather than against him. The sound of anklets brought her out of her musings and she saw Gopi walking down the stairs. Surely Gopi had been wearing a different sari this morning? Kinjal thought to herself. “Jai Shri Krishna Kinjalben.” Gopi smiled at her as she greeted her. Kinjal felt a pang deep inside at the way Gopi always treated her with friendliness even after everything that she had said to her. “Jai Shri Krishna Gopi bhabhi.” “I’m going into the kitchen to make something to eat. Shall I get you something too? Does Dhaval bhai need anything?” Kinjal looked into Gopi’s eyes and saw a restfulness coupled with happiness. Again she felt a pang and realised what it was. Guilt. “No we don’t need anything.” Gopi smiled and walked towards the kitchen. Kinjal hesistated and then called out. “Bhabhi!” Gopi turned and waited as Kinjal hurried to her. “Woh I need to sa-” “Kinjaaallll!” Came a shout from upstairs. Kinjal looked from Gopi to where her mum’s voice came from, and back again to Gopi.

“Kinjalben maaji is calling you. You should go, I need to get food for Ahemji anyway.” Kinjal nodded and went to her mum’s room, both frustrated and glad of the interruption.

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