Pride

When Mala married Dilsher, the entire community was thrilled. One of the most beautiful girls, with her expressive dark eyes and her soft countenance, was marrying one of the most successful men in their community.

 

Dilsher was the eldest son of the Ranawats, with a large inheritance and a prestigious position within the BSD. Mala was guaranteed a life of luxury, complete with a doting, attractive husband who was the envy of the rest of the town.

 

As she removed her jewels on her wedding night, he came up behind her, softly placing his hand on her waist and reaching up behind her to unclasp the necklace she had been struggling with. With a bashful blush, she allowed him to remove it, encouraged by the love shining in his eyes for her.

 

-***-

 

The quiet ceremony in the temple with the bells tolling ominously behind them should have told Mala that something was wrong. But she was too in love to care. There was no pundit, no witnesses. Just Mala and Tejawat, standing in front of Shivji with a flaming fire next to them.

 

He reached for the sindoor, his eyes focused solely on her. She was flattered by the attention he showered on her, always complimenting her and expressing his love. She stepped towards him, allowing him to pinch the sindoor and streak it in her part.

 

He gently took the mangal sutra in his hands, brushing his worn fingers against her neck as he clasped it, making her shiver in anticipation. He swept her up in his arms, holding her close to him as he stepped into their large haveli.

 

She was the mistress of this mansion now, the queen behind the successful king. She allowed him to place her on their bed, ignoring the pangs of uncertainty in her stomach.

 

She was the queen.

 

-***-

 

Mala conceived within months of her marriage to Dilsher. She glowed like a princess, her face radiant with the joy of carrying a life within herself. She ignored the spiteful eyes of her younger sister, focusing solely on those of her adoring husband.

He was extra doting now that she was pregnant, always making sure she was okay. Nothing was good enough for his Rani and his much loved child. He banished her from the kitchens, telling her they had servants for this kind of thing.

 

She rested her hand on her generous belly as she walked through the market, joy gleaming from her face. She brushed off the whispers that it was bad luck to flaunt yourself like this, that nothing good could come of a woman who made sure everyone knew what she had.

 

She would love this child more than anything in the world, whether it was a girl or a boy. This child, would be born into prestige and live a life as the child of the most beautiful woman in the village and the most respected BSD officer. She would shower her love upon him or her for their entire life, she thought, as she caressed her belly. Her child would never feel pain.

 

-***-

 

“Rani Thakurain, I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can conceive. We have tried everything we know. Have you considered… other options?” The doctor looked up at the stricken woman from the brim of his glasses, studying her gorgeous, tear filled eyes.

 

He watched as Raja Thakur placed a soft hand on his wife’s shoulders, turning her towards himself and pulling her close as he murmured soft, reassuring statements in her ears. It seemed as if the couple did not care who was watching them, the doctor thought, as he averted his eyes.

 

It had been almost two years since her marriage to Raja Thakur, and she missed the one thing in her life that she had left behind. Not a day went by that she didn’t think of her son, the most precious thing to her. Rudra, his name was. He symbolized passion, fury, and also punishing love.

 

They had attempted to conceive, but Mala simply wasn’t capable of it. Her once thick, lustrous black hair was now beginning to streak with white, forcing her to cover it with copious amounts of the finest black dye.

 

She didn’t have to fear. Raja Thakur was an understanding man, he loved her more than anything else. She was his Rani, the joy of his life. He would never sacrifice her. Perhaps she should ask him if she could visit her son, the one she had told him about so many times. He must have grown up by now, finished his school. What was he doing now?

 

-***-

 

“It’s a pity, really, that he suffered in that blast. Such a beautiful wife and a limping husband?”

“She had it coming, you know. Mala. She was always flaunting her good fortune. At some point, it’s bound to run out.”

“At least he became an invalid in honor, right?”

 

Mala seethed as the women laughed, walking away and failing to notice the streaks of tears lining the woman in the shadows. Dilsher was still handsome and young, but he had gained a limp on a particular difficult mission.

 

The doctors said he may never be able to walk properly. He would always need help with things, his asthma only getting worse with the ash he had been exposed to because of the blast.

 

He would still retain his prestigious position, of course- but he would be at a desk job now. They had showered medals and honors on him, touting his courage and bravery for saving his companions at the risk of himself.

 

But she wasn’t perfect anymore, her life was shattered. She, the beautiful Rani, was now the wife of an invalid. She swallowed tightly, stepping out of the shadows of the tent into the market.

 

“Excuse me, miss.” She turned to see a tall, handsome man, offering her his pristine, white handkerchief. She reached for it, wiping her tears away.

 

“A woman as beautiful as you, beautiful enough to be a queen, should not be crying.” He walked away, leaving Mala staring after him in awe.

 

Two months later, she ran away, away from the imperfect family she had with the Ranawats. The man, a king in his own right, would give her back the life she dreamed of. Her only regret was leaving the little boy sleeping in his bed, a full glass of milk by his side.

 

-***-

 

“You want to kill me.” Thakur’s eyes were laden with fury, an almost insane look filling his angry face. Rudra stood in front of him, his gun loaded and pointed at his face.

 

“You tried to kill my wife, my Paro- the woman who means more to me than anyone else. You ruined the lives of her village people, marrying thousands of women off into prostitution without a second thought. You’re a traitor, a villain who doesn’t deserve to live.” Rudra spit out, his calm, barely controlled anger spilling over at the horrid man in front of him.

 

“I did it for her. For my Rani. To give her everything she had dreamed of. You know who she is, don’t you?” He saw Rudra flinch, but he didn’t back down, his hands tight on the gun he was pointing at Raja Thakur.

 

“I’m aware, yes.”

 

“She left you, your crippled father, for a life with me. A life of perfection, the life of a queen. The life she deserved. You wouldn’t… take that away from her, would you now?”

 

His words almost had the desired effect. He could see the hurt and pain fill the younger man’s eyes, the agony of betrayal clear in his gaze. But Rudra still didn’t back down, his grip only tightening on the weapon in his hands, nearly pressing down on the trigger.

 

“I would, if I knew she wanted it.” Thakur stepped back in surprise, not anticipating that reaction from the son of his wife.

 

“She would never betray me.” He spit out, turning around to call her name.

 

“Mala! Mala, come here and tell your son to let me go! Tell him you want to stay with me, in this life of prestige as my queen.”

 

To his utter shock, Mala did not come down from the staircase behind him. She stepped out from behind the broad shoulders of his son, her hair streaked with white that she hadn’t covered. Her sari was torn at the edges, the fine silk stained with grease and soot. She was bare of her jewels, her eyes downcast as she fiddled with her pallu.

 

“Mala?”

 

“Nahi. Main aapke saath nahi jaoongi. You’ve ruined the lives of everyone, everyone I love. You nearly killed my Paro, the girl I treated and loved as my own daughter. I- I cannot believe I left my husband, my son for you. You vile man. And I am no less than you for ignoring this madness for so long. I will not come with you, Tejawat. I will stay with my son.”

 

Her words were laced with certainty, a trait he never had seen from Mala before. He looked at her in shock and disbelief, feeling the knife of betrayal swing through him as the woman he had done everything for, stepped over the line to the other side.

 

“Mala! I did this for you. Can’t you see? This is all for you, Rani. For you! I love you, Mala. Mala, please don’t do this.” His voice grew hysterical. He could see the pain in her eyes, the love that still remained as she shook with a combination of disgust and anguish. He awaited her response, knowing she would choose to come with him.

 

“Nahi, Tejawat. I would rather live with imperfection, than of gilded perfection stained by deceit.”

 

He broke completely at her statement. It was not worth fighting on any longer, if she was not by his side. It wasn’t worth it, not if he didn’t have her.

 

He slowly dropped his hand, still clutching the gun, watching as Rudra’s eyes widened in surprise. Before Rudra could do anything, he lifted the gun to his own head, and pulled the trigger.

 

The last thing he heard was her screams..

 

-***-

 

Mala stepped into the haveli, the cold draft of the air hitting her hard in the face. Her son’s hand grasped her wrist tightly, as if he was afraid she would run away. She walked slowly over to the room, opening the door with a loud creak.

 

She saw Paro get up to greet her, her eyes shining with affection. But her eyes, were only focused on the man in front of her in the bed, the man with a lotion being pressed into his lame leg.

 

She heard his sharp intake of breath, the quiet whisper of her name on his lips.

 

She walked up to him, collapsing at his feet in tears. She couldn’t look him in the eyes, the eyes that had once shone in love for her. Laying her pride aside, she did the one thing she had never done for anyone in her life.

 

“I’m sorry.” She whispered.

 

“I’m so sorry.”

 

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Lust (mature)

He brushed his dark hair out of his eyes as he sped along the volatile sands of the Rajasthani desert, his glinting aviators reflecting the sunlight onto the mirrors of his motorcycle. He impatiently encouraged the vehicle to move faster, irritated and eager to get back home, where warm rotis and his favorite aloo subji would be awaiting him.

 

His thoughts drifted to his wife of six months, the woman who had turned everything upside down. From the moment they had first met, he had taken on the role of her protector.

 

He still had the image of her screaming for help from the back of the truck, her eyes panicked and filled with tears as the men tried to rip the delicate, lace choli she wore. He wasn’t planning on saving the girl, but there was something in her face- a restrained, demure innocence- that drove him back.

 

He could still hear her screams of terror as the fire erupted in front of of her, her hands over her ears and her bangles jingling as she shook her head in fear, drawn into the licking flames. He could feel her body around him as he pulled her out of the way, landing with a soft “oof” on the sand, her hair dusted with sand and her hands clutching at his shirt.

 

He could see the grateful thank you in her eyes, the nervous licking of her lips as she looked up at a man above her for probably the first time in her life, his nose almost touching hers as he leaned forward, pulled towards her with force. Her hesitance in looking up at him, the way she leaned away from him, all resonated with the unmistakable innocence of a woman unsure of herself.

 

Her naivety was one of the reasons he was so careful about what he did around her. He desired her, more so than he had for any other woman. She didn’t even need to do anything. She didn’t need provocative clothing or seductive eyes. The smell of her delicate, floral fragrance was enough to send his mind spiralling and his blood rushing from his head down to other parts of his body.

 

He was used to being in power in bed. With Laila, it had always been him dominating and her submitting. He would never stop and ask what she wanted, never wait for her to finish before him. He would come in, take her, and then leave as soon as it was over. He didn’t care if she had rash marks from his stubble the next day, or if his teeth left dark bruises all over her. He needed the release, the feeling of all of his troubles flying away, even if it was for that one, brief moment.

 

But with Parvati, he couldn’t do that. He had seceded power in bed, giving her the reins and allowing her to do as she pleased. He was worried that if he took power… he would overwhelm her, crush her fragile body under his heavy one. He wouldn’t be able to restrain himself from taking her on every possible surface he could find, not caring whether or not anyone saw them.

 

The night after they had first attempted to make love, Rudra had lain awake in bed for a long time. He had taken the time to caress her, touch her, make sure she was ready for him. But it had still hurt.

 

The tears that had spilled upon his entry were enough to make him stop for an entire lifetime, sending searing knives through his body as he watched pain enter those beautiful, hazel eyes.

 

He had stopped immediately, withdrawing and apologizing profusely for causing her damage. He had taken her naked body in his arms, cradling it to himself and berating himself over and over again for letting her get hurt. Her hair had tumbled down his shoulders as he held her to him, her hot tears sliding down his chest as she sobbed her own apologies.

 

Her shoulders shook as she cried, completely devastated by the experience. He couldn’t stop his own throat from tightening as he watched his precious wife break down, murmuring desperate apologies through her tears for not being able to finish.

 

He had reassured her, of course, but that night had troubled him. He knew she wasn’t like the other women he had been with, all hardened by the struggles of life. They had known what it would feel like to have a man touch them, they hadn’t blushed when he tore off their clothes.

 

But Paro was untouched, innocent. She had experienced more than any woman should have at her age, with her husband being brutally murdered and her parents being killed in front of her eyes. But that had failed to slander her innocence, leaving it pristine. The vibrancy and the optimism remained, leaving almost a child in a woman’s body.

 

He made a decision that night as she finally slipped into a fitful sleep. He would be different with her, and allow her to dictate the terms of their physical relationship. He knew it would test the levels of his self control to the extremes, but he would do anything to keep those tears from entering her eyes again.

 

From that day onwards, he was patient and gentle, playing the part of the tender lover perfectly. It was difficult for him to do that night after night, vanilla sex when he wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and make her sob for more. He did it because he got to see the radiant smile on her face afterwards, feel her nose tenderly nuzzle into his bare chest, and her body curl up next to his.

 

He wanted it, he wanted it badly. The nights when he’d come back home from long missions, deprived of her gentle touches and her soft skin, he would want to throw her up against that damned pillar she was always standing next to. He would want to toss that plate of food on the ground and sweep her up into his arms, tearing the small choli in retribution for teasing him with that long strip of alabaster skin. He would take her in his mouth, feel her hands running and tugging harshly at his silky hair, her eyes rolled back and her long neck thrown against their pillow.

 

He could see her hair splayed out against the bed, flying everywhere as he threw her up against the headboard with the force of him. He could practically smell her musky scent as he continued to drive along, feeling the taste of her on his tongue. He longed to suckle at the delicate skin on that neck, leaving marks in the morning that she would not be able to cover with her cholis.

 

He wanted to mark her as his, so that when she came to the office carrying his lunch, innocently unaware of the appreciative gazes trailing up and down her body, they would stop upon seeing his mark on her neck. He was hopelessly addicted to her, lusting after her like a teenage boy in the throes of hormonal passion.

 

But he wouldn’t give in. He couldn’t. He refused to treat her like he had treated Laila. She meant more to him than that. While there was lust, there was also love and affection towards the innocent beauty he held in his arms. The mark of him would bring her pain mitigated by desire, but no pain was good for his precious Paro. He could thrust her up against the headboard, but the force of it would leave her sore for days. He wouldn’t do that to her. He would exercise his self control, making sure that she came before himself.

 

He finally arrived at the market, searching out the slim, familiar figure of Parvati Rudra Pratap Ranawat. He could hear her voice floating above the others, her tingling giggles sending shooting desire up his veins as he heard her haggle with the vendors. He finally caught a glimpse of her, her vibrant, red ghagra shining under the unforgiving sun, her long hair covered by a carefully placed dupatta. The mirrors reflected the light into his own eyes, momentarily removing her from his sight. When it returned, he was frozen by the sight he saw.

 

Standing in front of him was none other than Parvati, talking to the woman of his past. He hadn’t known they were acquainted, other than the moment Laila attempted to kill her. He had taken great pains to separate them, not wanting the naive ears of Paro to be tainted by her harsh slurs. It appeared that his protective efforts were futile, as he watched Paro give her a friendly namaste. He had half a mind to go and drag her away, yelling at her for inviting trouble. But there was a familiarity he needed to understand first, so he remained in his position, hidden by the shadows of the tent.

 

He heard Laila’s husky, taunting voice, the deep timbers so unappealing in comparison to the softer tones of his wife. He froze at her words, his eyes trained on Paro as Laila began her tirade.

 

“He is not… passionate, is he?”

 

His eyes searched the face of his wife, looking for signs of shock and horror at the knowledge of his prior relationship. To his surprise, he saw none, only calm acceptance. But there was something in her eyes, a pain that he hadn’t noticed before. It wasn’t at Laila’s statement, she clearly knew of the nature of his relationship with the prostitute. No, it wasn’t that. It was as if… Laila’s words were true.

 

He watched as Laila described their sex in detail, right down to his tongue thrusting within her and causing her to writhe in passion. He felt himself stiffen in anger at her words, not wanting Paro to hear such things. But he was frozen, held captive by what was unfolding in front of him.

 

He watched Paro avert her eyes, tears clumping her generous eyelashes together as they gathered at the corners. He heard Laila interrogate her, ask her if she wanted her husband to take her in the dominating fashion he had used on Laila. When Paro finally lifted her gaze, he was shocked to see the hurt in them, the truth of Laila’s words ringing clearly from her hazel depths.

 

She… wanted him to take her like that? She wanted that?

 

Confusion replaced the guilt tugging at his heart. Why would Paro want him to treat her as he had treated Laila? He didn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend this mystery.

 

Did she believe that he didn’t… desire her as he had Laila? But that was ridiculous! She was far more beautiful, and her innocence enticed him more than Laila’s seduction could even dream of doing… What was bothering her?

 

He bit his lip, preventing himself from running up to her and shaking her silly, begging to know the truth.

 

He refocused on the scene in front of him, only to find a complete shift in dynamics. Laila was broken, tears streaming down her face and streaking her thick eyeliner down her cheeks. He felt guilt gather in the pit of his stomach, knowing he had not treated her as she had deserved. He swallowed tightly, willing the pain to go away.

 

“Because he can’t bear to see you in pain, even if it is clouded over with desire. He makes sure you feel loved, that your pleasure comes before his. He-”

She broke off. He could see the conflict in her eyes, knowing that saying the words at the tip of her tongue would only make the truth finally settle in for the torn woman in front of him. He saw her take a deep breath and steady herself, closing her eyes and willing up the strength to push those difficult words out.

“H- He loves you, Parvati.”

He shifted his gaze from the prostitute he had shared a bed with for eight years, to the wife he shared a heart with. Her eyes no longer held pain, but they held understanding. He had been correct in his initial assumption, realizing she felt that he did not feel the same for her as he did for Laila.

She was correct, of course. He didn’t feel the same way he did for Laila. He wasn’t distant or impassive, because she refused to let him be. She would badger him until he spilled his frustrations in irritation, and then care for him with infinite tenderness. He had unwittingly given up his heart to the woman, revealed the broken child within him and allowed her to experience the soft, tender side of Rudra that no one else had seen.

He finally realized that she desired it as much as him. He could see in her eyes that she wanted all of him, not just the tenderness and care. She wanted to dominate him, she wanted him to dominate her. She wanted it to be an equal battlefield, where they would both have a say.

He felt more of his heart leave him, resting in the dainty hands of the dignified, caring woman that was his wife. As he watched her reach out and hold Laila in her arms, hold the woman that he had shared an intimate relationship without any sign of resentment, he realized he had misunderstood her all along.

She wasn’t weak or naive, as he had initially assumed.

She was stronger, far stronger than he would ever be.

 

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Envy (mature)

Despite having grown up in a small village, Parvati was well attuned to matters of her own body. People liked to call her innocent, implying that she wasn’t aware of herself sexually, but that was far from the truth. She didn’t feel the need to broadcast her sexuality out, and took pleasure in being demure about such matters.

 

She knew her body well, as any other woman would. She knew what made her tremble with desire, and what would send blood rushing through her body. She knew that when her husband pressed his lips gently against her neck, his fingertips barely grazing her waist, she would feel the pleasant tightening in her stomach as her head would tingle in anticipation.

 

She was not a naturally demanding person, preferring instead to defer to the needs of others. But she was not, by any means, a pushover, and would make it clear when she did not like something. She just did not feel the need to impose her own views on everyone else around her. Kakisa did that enough, and there was no need for another version of her in the house.

 

Given the reputation her husband had, one would have expected him to be relentlessly demanding in bed. When she woke up in the mornings with heaviness underneath her eyes, Maithili Jija would often make subtle, teasing comments about her husband’s needs, pointing out how his wife was too exhausted to do the day-to-day work in the house. Rudra would only smirk with satisfaction, watching as Paro turned a nice, tomato red in embarrassment.

 

While she would blush and accept these gentle taunts, Paro knew this was far from the truth. Rudra was anything but demanding in bed. He was docile and gentle, caressing her softly and placing tender kisses all over her body. He would slowly undress her, taking care not to rip her cholis or ruin the zippers. The clothes would lie in neat piles beside their bed, and he would stroke his way down her body, holding her like a fragile, glass sculpture.

 

She enjoyed it, and she was not going to deny that. She loved his soft touches, his light kisses, and his patience with her. But she was frustrated.

 

As much as she loved their tender lovemaking, she also wanted the ripping passion that would shoot through her when she saw him after a long mission. She wanted him to take control, push her against the wall, and place harsh, nipping kisses all along her neckline and take up the intensity she knew he possessed.

 

She knew he had that intense, intimate relationship with other women. She knew he was driven by passion, that he was rash and rarely meticulous in his decision making.

 

She loved their loving, gentle encounters, but she desired the deep passion as well. She wanted every facet of him, to experience carnal pleasures in a variety of ways.

 

But he refused to choose anything but the tenderness. And this drove her to only one conclusion. He didn’t desire her as he had desired other women.

 

She would be gripped by insecurity. Was she not beautiful? What was wrong? When he was away, her heart would tighten and she would close her eyes, attempting to will away the devil that insisted he didn’t want her as she wanted him. Was she too much of a village girl for his tastes?

 

Her eyes landed on Laila at the market, sitting casually underneath a tent. Her legs were stretched out in front of her, a glass of golden alcohol glittering effortlessly in the sun. Paro appraised her silently, taking in her heavy, dark eyes and the seductive curve of her lips. She trailed her eyes up from her legs, noticing the vast amount of skin left open through the side, her dupatta pinned carelessly.

 

She knew it was odd to compare herself to a prostitute, but she couldn’t help herself. She wasn’t stupid. Laila would never fail to pass a taunting remark as she passed, noting how she had shared a deeply intimate relationship with her husband. She never skimped on the gory details, explicitly detailing how her mouth would close around him, or how he would toss her against the bed and take her again and again.

 

Paro would quietly avert her eyes, holding her head high and never failing to treat her with dignity. She knew Laila was hurting, and she knew she had taken away something that Laila treasured. Perhaps the only thing Laila treasured, was now Paro’s. She could sympathize with the woman, regardless of who she was.

 

She wasn’t insecure about her relationship with Rudra. She knew Rudra would remain faithful, that he only had eyes for her. That was not what she envied, it was not a source of her jealousy. She never feared that Laila would come back and steal Rudra from her. Parvati and Rudra were tied together in the deepest of ways, their names implying the eternal nature of their relationship.

 

But yet, she was envious of Laila. She could feel the jealousy bubble over at the effortless way Laila carried her seductive clothes, the sex oozing off her figure. Her eyes would smoulder, inviting men in. Paro felt the jealousy burn her, not at the fact that Laila had shared an intimate relationship with Rudra- but at the nature of the intimate relationship.

 

She hated that Rudra was never as intense with her. He never took her, never demanded anything of her at night. He was frustratingly slow, taking his time. He didn’t pull of her cholis and thrust himself into her, disregarding all sense of decency. Her cholis were pristine, devoid of rips from lust. He didn’t give her love bites that she had to cover in the morning, a reminder of the passion they had shared at night. She wanted him to take her with no questions asked, make her beg for more of him as she moaned wantonly. She wanted to leave streaks on his back as she clutched him to herself, she wanted to have her mark on him in the morning.

 

So she tried. She applied heavy eyeliner that night, making them smoky and sultry. She lined her lips with a darker lipstick, bringing out what she hoped was a seductive pout. She emulated Laila in the mirror, wanting to get the same grace and sex she oozed for her husband.

 

That night when he came home, she waited nervously by the door. Everyone was asleep when she decided to wear it, knowing he would be home late. She fidgeted with her hands, playing with the ends of her dupatta, uncomfortable with the way it revealed too much of her endless waist, the choli seemingly too small.

 

When he walked in, his eyes instantly traveled up her figure. She saw his mouth contort in anger, his fury barely reined in as he gripped her by the shoulders, pushing her up against the pillar.

 

“Did someone say something Paro? What’s wrong? Why are you wearing it this way? What did you do to your eyes? Paagal ho kya?” His angry barrage of questions drove her to tears, and she ran out of the room, dropping the silver plate laden with food with a loud crash on the ground. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she threw herself against the bed, the tears falling fast and furious. What was wrong with her?

 

He had come, of course. Caressing her back softly, whispering apologies. And that night, he had made love to her even more gently than before, brushing away the tears with a caring, calloused thumb.

 

The next morning, she went back to the light layer of kohl she always wore, not bothering to hide the puffiness in her eyes. She wore her choli, disenchanted and frustrated as she covered up every inch she possibly could. It wasn’t that she didn’t want his tenderness, or the way he would soften just for her. But when humans are given too much of a good thing, it loses its shine.

 

She wanted it all, she wanted to experience everything. She wanted to see the dominating parts of him, and she wanted to let her sultry side out as well.

 

She swallowed tightly, pasting on a smile as she handed Rudra his chai. Maybe this was just the way married life was. Maybe he didn’t desire her the way he desired Laila. She was too ghatiya, too innocently village like for his tastes.

 

That day at the market, she knew something was different. She could feel it in the air, goosebumps creeping up her spine at Laila’s piercing gaze. She murmured softly to Maithili Jija that she would be taking another route, ignoring her discomforted protests and continuing towards Laila. Today, she would find out exactly what she lacked, what made Rudra so restrained with her.

 

She felt the tears prick at the back of her eyes as Laila correctly pinpointed the source of her discontent, the mocking tone causing her throat to tighten and her heart to clench. She wouldn’t cry. She would learn, she would take her caustic, sharp comments as oddly doled out advice.

 

But what she heard shocked her. Laila’s pained explanation, her broken voice, was not what she expected to hear. The woman she had assumed was so self confident, the woman she had envied for her relationship with Rudra, was telling her it was all a lie. Everything her insecurities were based on was false.

 

He wasn’t holding back because he lacked passion, Laila explained. He was holding back because he loved her. He respected her, her desires. He didn’t nip at her skin because he was worried it would hurt her, and the sight of the slightest bit of pain in her eyes seared through him like a knife. He had merely desired her body, but with Paro, Laila pointed out, he desired her heart as well.

 

Somewhere within her, Paro knew what the older woman was saying had truth in it. It was delivered in a difficult way, a painful way, but Paro could tell that Laila was telling her to cherish what she had. Laila was admitting that the relationship between Parvati and Rudra was special, that what she had with him couldn’t hold a candle, no matter how intense their relationship had been.

 

As she watched Laila break down into tears that flowed freely down her cheeks, smudging and tracking the layers of kohl down her face, Paro reached out instinctively and pulled her close. She was eternally grateful to this woman she had once envied, grateful that she had been honest enough to advise her. She had unknowingly forged a bond with the woman who had once tried to kill her, feeling her heart reach out to the broken lady in front of her.

 

As she walked away, she caught a glimpse of her husband standing by the car, waiting. Her eyes widened in surprise, knowing he wasn’t supposed to be back for another three days. She was oblivious to Maithili chattering beside her, focused only on the man standing in front of her. When she felt his hand slide inside her dupatta, finding her bare waist, she looked up at him in disbelief. The understanding in his eyes told her he had heard, his silent gesture hiding behind impassive brown eyes.

 

Paro’s heart was light for the first time in weeks. She turned back to Laila, wanting to glimpse her one last time, to give her an earnest thank you. When she met the pained, dark gaze, she gave her a small smile, raising her hand to wave.

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Sloth (mature)

Note: This one is three parts- Sloth, Envy and Lust go together, each one providing a different perspective on the situation. 

-***-

She lifted the glass to her mouth as she sat underneath the tarp shading her from the blistering rays of the sun, allowing the burn to soothe the thickness in her throat. She smiled wryly as she reached for the bottle, enjoying the sound of the liquid sloshing into the glass messily, staining her baggy clothes.

She knew she had put on weight in the last six months. Her body, which would once have made men turn and look twice, was no where near as well kept as it had been. She had no reason to stay in shape, really.

She only worked the bare minimum to sustain her, taking on any client as her customer. She was no longer picky, and no longer passionate. The man would take her to a hard, uncomfortable bed, pulling off her clothes in what he hoped was seduction. She went through the motions as well, running her hands down his biceps and moaning when necessary. She would allow him to finish, and then pretend like she had as well, letting out exaggerated screams of passion that seemed to convince him.

They never came back.

But she couldn’t bring herself to care. She didn’t care that her eyes were too made up, the dark liner smudged to cover the dark circles that surrounded her piercing, dark gaze. Her long hair was messy and unkempt, lacking the shiny luster it had for one man. The seductive, saucy smile had been replaced by a disgusted smirk, contorting her chapped lips in a horrendous way.

She stretched her legs out on the blanket, feeling the cooled sand between her toes, the silver toe ring sparkling in the harsh light of the afternoon sun. She was waiting for one person, the one person that would show without fail.

“Bhaiyya, I refuse to pay this much for a tomato. You know how much the men in our family eat? They are a part of the BSD. They serve you, and you charge them this much? Nahi, shame on you.”

She could hear the giggles of the woman’s sister-in-law as the voice of the woman floated above the rest of the crowd, her sweet admonishment easily winning the heart of the vendor. Every single day, without fail, the vendor would begin by quoting a price higher than he had for anyone else. By the time she left, she would leave with the cheapest vegetables.

Their good natured arguing was a ritual, one she waited for every day. She knew that the woman would make her way towards this stall.

Every day, she would throw caustic remarks at the innocent beauty. But the woman never flinched. Her eyes were shuttered and serious, despite the revelation that she, a prostitute, had shared an intimate relationship with her husband. Retaining her honeyed smile, the woman would unfailingly bid her hello and goodbye, ignoring the venom in her remarks.

Today, however, would be different. She would not laze around anymore. She would tell it as it was, the brutal, harsh truth. She readied herself as the woman approached, watching carefully as her sister-in-law split off towards another spot in the market. She observed the quiet murmuring between the family, the older woman clearly unwilling to let this beauty out of her sight. Grudgingly, the older woman left, but only to a vendor across the street, where she could keep an eye on the pretty girl.

“Namaste, baisa. It’s a pretty day, isn’t it?”

“He is not… Passionate, is he?” For the first time, she saw a flicker of hurt in the woman’s hazel eyes, and she felt a dark satisfaction. So it was true. She plowed on, knowing it would hurt her.

“Don’t you ever wish he would just rip your elaborate ghagra cholis off, and expose your naked skin to this heat? Don’t you want to feel his stubble graze you roughly, leaving rashes? Don’t tell me you don’t wish he would nip at your slender neck, Baisa. You want that, don’t you? You want him to leave his mark on you, to have bruises of pleasure to hide in the mornings and to blush when someone catches sight of them. You’ve never felt his calloused fingertips graze at you, thrusting deep inside and causing you to throw your head back in pleasure, have you? Have you felt his tongue against you? Bringing you to the point of release, making you scream his name over and over?”

The woman was silent, her eyes downcast and pained. From her perspective, it was clear she had hit a nerve. She had finally found her weak point, and she felt the elusive twinge of satisfaction.

“I’ve felt that, Baisa. I’ve felt his hands run all over me, I’ve had him throw me against the wall and take me right there. I would leave marks on his back as my nails would run down him in the sheer ecstasy of the moment. He was good, so incredibly good. But you already know that, don’t you? You’re jealous of me. Of me! The prostitute that no one even gives a second glance anymore. Baisa, at one point, no one would give me a second glance because he was there. He wouldn’t allow it. But now… It’s because I won’t allow it.”

She felt her voice break at the end, the pain evident in her cracking vocal chords. Her voice was deep and husky compared to the woman standing stock still in front of her, listening in rapture. At least she had the attention of somebody.

“You want to know why he doesn’t take you that way? Why he’s not… Passionate with you? Because it wasn’t passion, Baisa. It was never passion. It was an animalistic need, a desperation to heal the wounds that are lodged so deep in his heart. I gave him momentary satisfaction, a small period where he could forget his worries.” She fell silent as she attempted to collect her thoughts once more. When she began again, her voice was soft, barely audible.

“He isn’t an animal anymore, he doesn’t need that. Because he has you. You don’t just put a band-aid over his wounds so he can rip it off later and feel the pain. You heal him, filling in every cut that stings.”

She took a shuddering breath, swallowing her burning saliva as she closed her eyes, willing the hot tears that threatened to spill to go away.

“He isn’t trying to possess you or control you. He wants you, all of you. With me, he was… Rough. Intense. And I gave it to him. Oh, I gave it to him. I kept on giving it to him, for eight, long years. And he would take it, and I never asked for anything in return. He just took, and I gave. That was our relationship. Without it, I- I have no reason to work, no reason to live. It was all I knew. He saved me from the demons, and I repaid him. I loved him. More than I loved anyone else. I’m not lazy, Baisa, I swear I’m not lazy. I’m-”

She reached for the murky shotglass, taking a deep swig of the bottomless, amber liquid, despising the desperation her voice had taken on.

“With you, he wants to give. He gives himself to you, leaves a part of himself with you. He treats you like a doll in bed, doesn’t he? A precious, porcelain doll. He’s gentle with you. He doesn’t pull at your hair in passion, he cradles it, doesn’t he? He strokes his hands through your thick, lustrous strands, caresses it with loving adoration. He takes extra care to not leave rashes on you with his stubble, to not mark you with the pleasurable pain of his teeth. Because he can’t bear to see you in pain, even if it is clouded over with desire. He makes sure you feel loved, that your pleasure comes before his. He-” She broke off, her throat catching on the words as her tongue rested, leaden in her mouth.

“H- He loves you, Parvati.” Her voice cracked with the dam holding her tears back, allowing the river to flow down her cheeks. The hot tears burned her skin, feeling like they were exponentially hotter than the sun beating down upon them. She didn’t dare look up into the woman’s eyes, unable to bear the pity she was sure to find in them.

To her utter shock, she felt a pair of warm arms go around her, caressing her head as a mother would a child’s. Soft words of love were whispered into her worn ears, the elegant jewels that adored the woman digging into her skin. She clutched her as if the woman was her last source of strength, the only thing keeping her alive.

When they pulled back from the intimate embrace, she was shocked to see tears in the woman’s eyes.

Not tears of pity, or of sadness- but of understanding. Then, without a word, the woman was gone, pressing a small sheet of paper into her hands.

It was the name of a seamstress, a place she could go when she was ready. Laila clutched the small slip in her hands, taking a shuddering breath in as she closed her eyes, letting the last of her tears flow. She wasn’t ready, not yet. She needed to heal first, to remain unemployed by the side of the road. Her lack of motivation had given her a new perspective on life, a view of the harsh realities. But she would move on.

From a distance, she saw the radiant red of Parvati’s ghagra shining underneath the sun. Their eyes met for a moment, the gentle hazel meeting the hurting black. Parvati raised her hand in a small wave, before slipping into the car. A tentative smile graced Laila’s face, restoring for a moment, her enchanting beauty.

She would be okay.

 

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Gluttony

The silver tiffin box sat on the edge of the desk mockingly, taunting him with its shiny skin that left pretty light formations on the walls of the room. It contrasted well with the ebony of the desk, shining brightly in the glaring sunlight.

 

He glared at it angrily, feeling his irritation rise as it sat there. It was forbidden, only increasing his desire for the goods inside. He could feel himself salivating as his stomach grumbled in protest, longing for the delicious food sure to be inside the tiffin box.

 

He glanced over at the clock. It was noon, just in time for lunch. They had just finished a long, difficult morning, heading down to Biripur to interrogate more people in the hopes of finding the elusive Raja Thakur. They hadn’t had any success, and everyone was irritated as a result.

 

From the cafeteria, he could smell the slightly sour flavors wafting down from the army kitchens. He winced, knowing that he really should make his way down there and eat lunch with the rest of his colleagues.

 

“Saab, if you’re not going to eat it, at least let me eat it.” He shot an irritated glare at the guard standing by the door. The man shrunk back, slipping once again into the shadows as he resumed his position.

 

He continued to glare the box down, as if he was attempting to burn it with his gaze. How dare it taunt him like that, sitting on the desk as if it had done no wrong? His tongue slipped out, wetting his dry lips, and he winced as he felt his stomach grumble once more.

 

“Bhabhi’s cooking is absolutely phenomenal- her food tastes just like my mother’s.” He could hear the satisfied murmurs of the men outside, having just finished eating the inviting food sent by her. His hands twitched, begging him to give into the temptation.

 

His hands reached out unwittingly and pulled the silvery container towards himself. He opened it slowly as the steam swirled out, allowing the delicious vapors to permeate the air. His eyes closed as he licked his lips, inhaling the smell in deeply.

 

He glanced at the neatly written note on top of the container, the script impeccable and perfectly straight across the small piece of paper.

 

This is your favorite, isn’t it? I know it probably isn’t as tasty as your mother’s, but I hope it comes close.

 

A soft smile graced his face, all hesitation of delving into the delicacies housed within the innocent box dropped. He reached in, pulling a piece off of an impossibly soft poori. He dipped it into the spicy broth, allowing the pillowy dough to absorb the flavors of the chole, cooked just enough to have a nice bite to it.

 

He nearly groaned out loud at the flavors dancing on his tongue. The fried, delicate poori was laden with the vibrant spices of the chole. He could taste the finely ground powders, roasted with just the right amount of heat. The onions and the garlic were sauteed to a gentle caramelization, lending a slightly sweet taste to the savory meal.

 

He could resist no longer. His hands worked of their own volition, reaching in over and over again to tear off pieces of poori, dipping them in with no hesitation. For the first time in years, he felt as if he was eating his mother’s food, reminding him of long summers back home where she would painstakingly feed him with her own hands. He had not had such delicious food since then, resorting instead to the brittle rotis and overcooked dal that the army dumped on their plates in the name of food.

 

As he finally reached the end, stretching eagerly towards the sticky rounds of jalebi that sat in the accompanying bin, he heard the door creak open. His fingers were stained with the thick syrup of the crispy, orange rings, dripping down his pointer finger as he clutched the sweet guiltily.

 

“Aman, what are you doing?” The sharp voice of his senior rang out, the familiar click of his boots echoing in the empty room. He turned slowly to face him, holding the jalebi like a criminal caught with a bag full of loot. He cowered under Rudra’s narrowed, piercing gaze, mentally cursing himself for not being more vigilant.

 

“Uh- woh- ji- main…” He attempted to come up with a suitable excuse for the situation he was in, but found himself tongue tied, completely at a loss.

 

“Is her food really that good? All I hear, everywhere I go, is praises of that woman’s cooking.” The bitterness in his boss’s mouth was not shocking, especially in relation to the woman at question. He knew Rudra resented the fact that his wife had won over his entire crew with seemingly no effort, her flouncing ghagras and brilliant smiles enchanting and distracting everyone in the BSD.

It was not unusual to hear Rudra bark loudly at a poor soldier who had come to tell him of his wife’s latest accomplishment, complimenting her on her savory lunches that she sent every single Friday for the people who worked closely with her husband. As a symbol of protest towards his lovely wife, Rudra would often not even touch the lunch she adoringly packed for him, choosing to ignore it and toss it away. But she was undeterred, and she would often pack food for Aman as well.

 

Until now, Aman had maintained a careful loyalty towards Rudra, who was like an elder brother to him. Rudra had taken him in when his parents had passed away, caring for him and admonishing him as a sibling. Aman’s fondness for Rudra stemmed from the gratefulness and the respect he had for the stern man.

 

But he was not immune to Paro’s charms. He could hardly resist her when she called him Bhaiyya in that impossibly soft voice, her eyes widening and her lower lip trembling as if she was about to burst into tears.

 

He had defied his boss only once before, and that was for the woman his boss had married, ushering her into the haveli against strict orders. Rudra was not amused, and Aman had gotten an earful later, but it had resulted in their marriage and a delighted smile from Paro Bhabhi, making the yelling entirely worth it.

 

He couldn’t stand the sight of sadness in her eyes, and he had seen it every single time two tiffin boxes went home untouched. It was subtle, and she would quickly mask it with her bubbly countenance, but Aman could see that she was hurt by Rudra’s distance from her.

 

Aman, for his part, knew that his boss was not as untouched as he liked to seem. He would force Aman to give back the tiffin instead, unable to bear the sight of her deflation. When she was sick for a week, Rudra paced around, barking at Aman angrily and making him run to the haveli every two hours to check on her. They had only been married for a month, but Aman could see the clear affection for the stubborn girl in Rudra’s icy heart.

 

He claimed he wanted revenge on her, but his mask would inevitably fall at the slightest sign of her discomfort, forcing him to justify his actions with harsh words that rang unconvincingly in the air.

 

Aman shook himself, surprised by the silence from his constantly crabby senior that had a habit of yelling out orders on repeat. He looked up from his sticky hands to see Rudra digging into the chole poori that his wife had sent, completely oblivious to the shocked and satisfied gaze of Aman resting upon him.

 

He watched as Rudra licked his fingers clean, sucking every last bit of the chole off of them. He smirked in amusement as his harsh boss’s eyes fluttered shut as the jalebi melted in his mouth, the remains of the sugary sweet sticking to the edges of his lips.

 

Rudra suddenly felt very aware of Aman’s knowing gaze, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. His eyes flitted about the room, avoiding the satisfied smirk that played at Aman’s lips.

 

“Kaisa tha?” He could hear the “I told you so” in Aman’s voice, and he didn’t like it one bit. That damned girl would be the death of him, turning his own right hand man against him in their battle. He cleared his throat, reaching for the glass of water and attempting to wash away the taste of her food. He had no luck.

 

“Tikh tha. Not that great.” He said gruffly.

 

Aman bit down on his lower lip, hiding a chuckle and nodding at Rudra’s obvious discomfort. He heard the soft knock of Paro Bhabhi on the thick, wooden door, and reached out to collect the shiny, empty tiffin boxes lying on the table. Rudra looked away, busying himself with examining the small cracks in his desk.

 

Aman swung open the door to see her expectant face. Only adorned with her mangal sutra, simple, gold chudis and a streak of sindoor, his Bhabhi was radiant as she greeted him with a small namaste.

 

Aman couldn’t hold back his smile at the sheer joy in her face when he handed her two, empty tiffin boxes. Her face seemed to glow in the light as a thrilled smile stretched across her face. He could hear the chime of her payals fade as she slipped away, carrying the boxes with satisfaction.

 

When he turned around, his boss was staring off into space, a tiny grin curving up his lips underneath the carefully trimmed mustache. Aman turned around, quietly shutting the door behind him.

 

His boss would learn the hard way that no one, could say no to Parvati Rudra Pratap Ranawat. Especially when it came to matters of the stomach.

 

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Greed

Mohini had been denied everything as a child. Overshadowed by Mala, her parents had never showered their love upon her, instead giving everything to the more beautiful, more dutiful daughter.

With her full face and stern, harsh eyes, she lacked the soft grace that Mala had. She was brash, outspoken, and too quick to anger. She would never get a husband, the people said.

So when Dilsher came for Mala, asking for her hand with the desperation of a starving man, Mohini was married off to his younger brother without a second thought. Like a buy one, get one free deal, their parents were so desperate to rid themselves of the caustic girl that they no less begged their older daughter’s family to allow their younger one in as well.

Her wedding was held on the same day as Mala. She didn’t need a separate wedding, they said- she didn’t need to be the center of attention.

Mala was a radiant bride, the shining jewelry their parents had bestowed upon her glinting under the light of the flames. Dilsher looked adoringly at her, his eyes awash with pure love for his new bride. Praise rained down on the couple, wishing them a happy, prosperous future with numerous children running around their adorned feet.

But it was not like that for Mohini. Her jewels were dull, not newly polished like Mala’s. Her sari was her mother’s wedding sari, because they didn’t want to spend the money for both of their daughters. Her husband, while kind eyed, did not hold affection for her. It was almost as if he feared her in a way, sitting as far as possible without drawing suspicion.

The women would bless her hesitantly, tell her that she would be well cared for. She was never blessed with children, or with eternal happiness. She was told she would be taken care of.

Her jealousy only grew when Mala conceived before her, turning from a blushing newlywed into a resplendent mother. Mohini took to tying her hair back in a severe bun, a giant, red bindi plastered right between her powerful eyes. She seethed in jealousy, desperate to have her own children before Mala. Alas, her wish would not be fulfilled. While she conceived mere months after Mala, Samrat was born three months after the wailing Rudra came into the world.

She wanted it. She wanted it all, everything Mala had been endowed with. She was desperate for the wealth Mala had at her fingertips, with the older brother as her loving, caring husband. She wanted the house to be hers, to have the servants address her as the mistress. She needed it.

She would yell and screech at Danveer, calling him worthless for staying with his brother. You never work hard, you never do anything for me, she would cry. He would only sit there stoically, a quiet knowledge in his eyes as he heard her screams.

She knew she was misguided. Danveer worked harder than anyone, and they were self dependent. They paid for half the house, for half the maintenance, despite Dilsher’s objections. Danveer, while he adored his brother, would not live off of him. But the house, was still Dilsher and Mala’s.

Samrat was a quiet baby, never curious and always gentle. He was restrained, and never curious. He simply lay on the floor, staring up at the ceiling silently. Rudra, however, was different.

Rudra was like Mala, taking the center of everyone’s attention wherever he went. His loud cries could be heard when his mother would deny him his favorite sweets. He crawled everywhere, learning to walk and talk months before Samrat even attempted a crawl.

He was precocious and temperamental, known for throwing his toys at the servants that swarmed the house. He would question every order, refusing to follow them unless he had a reason. He would pull pranks, lighting Diwali fireworks on random days and running around the house pulling clothes off the lines.

Everyday, he would refuse to drink milk, throwing the steel tumbler against the wall whenever Mala would attempt to bring it to him. She would gently coax him, bribing him with sweets and threatening that she wouldn’t come back if he threw it.

One day, Mala fulfilled that threat. She went out to buy vegetables, and she never came back. Rudra, who had refused to drink his milk at breakfast that morning, was distraught. His mother was the only person he would listen to, and without her, he grew angry and withdrawn.

While Mohini missed her sister- sort of- she was immensely relieved. No longer would she be compared to her, the perfect wife, mother and daughter-in-law. Mala had ruined her reputation by running away, allowing the rumors to fly.

 

“Did you hear? Mala ran away!”

“That’s what happens when you’re so beautiful.”

“Poor Dilsher. The man can’t even walk properly.”

“Her sister must be like that too. After all, blood is thicker than water. Who knows when she’ll leave Danveer?”

The comments against her own person hurt. Mohini wasn’t Mala, and she intended to show them that. She may have been unhappy with Danveer, who was much too wimpy for her taste, but she wouldn’t leave him. She would be different.

She was thrilled when Dilsher took Rudra and left, going far, far away from the haveli. The house she had dreamed of, with her three young children and a husband she could control, was finally all hers. She finally was the mistress of her own domain. She was no longer Mohini, the sister of Mala. She was Mohini- the owner of the huge haveli on the corner.

But then, as all luck must, it ran out. Rudra was back with Dilsher, and this time, he had a girl with him. A girl so beautiful, so much like Mala. She shone wherever she went, her innocence permeating from every pore of her body. Mohini hated her upon sight. The girl had already won over Danveer, the emotional bastard, with her sweetness, and it wouldn’t be long before she would win the entire household.

From the minute Rudra took the slap intended for that dratted woman, Mohini knew she was in trouble. Rudra was not sacrificial, unless it came to his colleagues. If he had protected her once, he would be there for her forever. That was just the kind of person Rudra was.

This meant only one thing. Her nephew and that girl, the one that resembled her hated sister so much, would end up married. If they got married, she would never get the house. Her dreams of growing old with grandchildren surrounding her, of living a life better than Mala ever would have, would be shattered.

So Mohini planned. She recruited Sumer and some random girl to burn Dilsher, to slaughter him. Rudra would be devastated. As much as he pretended to hate his father, Mohini knew that Dilsher was all Rudra had. She framed the girl for murder, and she would have the house when Rudra left to get revenge.

The house and the money would be hers. It was a perfectly respectable plan.

And it worked. Rudra believed her instantly, too torn by the near loss of his father to think rationally. The girl had played right into her hands by running away with the traitor Thakur, severing the bond of trust that she had seen between her nephew and the girl. Mohini had achieved what she desired. She would have it all.

But greed kills a person, and it would kill Mohini too. The girl was stubborn and insistent, and she came back. She was shrewd, and she knew not to trust Mohini. She won over her weak willed daughter-in-law and her bumbling daughter with ease, convincing them of her innocence in the matter. Her wide, doe eyes and her softness won her allies, and she knew she had won the battle.

But not all was lost. Rudra still believed in her guilt. He wouldn’t go near her, would he?

When Rudra stumbled in, his eyes red from the alcohol and with that girl’s name on his lips, Mohini knew she had lost the battle for good. She watched in horror as her carefully laid plans backfired, as Rudra made eight horrible vows and took the girl as his wife, shattering the chair to fuel the fire further.

He hated her now. But Mohini knew the hate would disappear. It would transform, become another animal entirely. The girl, like Mala before her, would overwhelm him with love and affection, breaking down his temperamental exterior and making her own place in his heart.

Mohini’s heart plummeted as she realized her greed had left her penniless. If she had only accepted what she had, accepted her nephew and brother-in-law with open arms, she would not have suffered this fate.

But alas, she would have to succumb to the deadly poison of greed in order to save her skin. She knew Rudra was close. He was too precocious, too smart- he would realize that she had attempted to murder his father.

She would have to stop him. He and that girl would have to be separated. She needed the house, she needed the money. She needed to be better than Mala. She needed it all.

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Wrath

He stood there in the darkened room, completely humiliated as he removed the gun from his side. He could feel the thickness in his throat, burning and pricking as he reached for his belt with “BSD” written on it, gently laying it down on the table. His stomach dropped when he felt Aman’s fingers on his broad shoulders, reaching with trembling hands towards the three stars that adorned his uniform on either side.

 

They had questioned his honor, his very sense of being. The organization that was his life had abandoned him because of that chit of a girl, with her long hair and sweet face driving him insane.

 

He had to give it to her, she had guts to propose to him in front of all of his colleagues. She was manipulative, her khoobsurati hiding her true intentions. She had worked her way into the hearts of his younger female cousins and his own father, enchanting him with her endearing naivety.

 

He smashed the bottle against the ground in frustration, watching in satisfaction as the dark liquid splattered over the filthy ground, slowly dripping down the shining exterior of his motorcycle.

 

His anger rose with every second as he thought about her, the bane of his very existence. She had been stubborn, she had been blindly loyal. Her idiotic loyalty was the cause of this entire situation.

 

When he had met her, he expected her to be pliant and easy to manipulate. It was supposed to be an easy case. She would give them the evidence they needed, they would storm Thakur and take his traitorous organization down. But because of her, he had lost his comrades and his honor. He was quickly finding that he had lost the upper hand to her, and he hated it.

 

Until now, he had protected her as a witness. But she had pushed it too far. She had revealed her true colors, and she would pay. She would see his wrath, his blind anger that could destroy the world.

 

-***-

 

He stumbled in, calling her name at the top of his lungs.

 

He saw her step from behind the gated wall, through the hexagonal shaped grill. Her radiance was dampened by the fear in her eyes at his state, clearly recognizing that he was not in a mood to play.

 

Great. It would make his task that much easier.

 

He grabbed her wrist tightly, making sure he would leave dark, blue bruises in the soft skin. He could see the beginnings of tears in her eyes as she struggled, growing hysterical as he dragged her into the main hallway, ignoring the shocked stares of his family.

 

She flinched as he tossed the chair to the ground, allowing it to experience and demonstrate the danger his anger could bring. She stepped back in fear, unwilling to place herself in this warpath. Kakisa’s furious rambling faded to the back of his mind as he focused all of his attention on the girl trembling in front of him.

 

He watched as she shivered in terror, sadistically thrilled by her obvious fear of him. He was sick of her blind devotion to him, of her overpowering love and adoration. He wasn’t some God, he wasn’t the Shiva to her Parvati. He didn’t want her mythology lessons, her metaphors to their relationship. He felt nothing but disgust at her faith. And he would damn well make sure she knew that.

 

He wanted to bring himself down in her eyes, so that she would never attempt to force her unwanted affection on him again. He burned whenever she attempted to lavish him with love, standing in tapasya simply because he had made an offhand comment about her staying out there. She still hadn’t learned from her blind devotion to Thakur, and he hated people who didn’t learn their lesson.

 

He spoke every, dreadful vow with passion, with a certainty that he knew would break her heart. He could feel her twisting her wrist, and he only squeezed tighter, making her gasp in pain. He ignored her pleas of mercy, her panicked voice increasing in pitch as he continued to pull her around the fire roughly. She begged him, her voice breaking with the pain he inflicted on her.

 

For the eighth, final vow that he added, he grabbed her and tugged her close. For a moment, he was spellbound. Her eyes were wide, lined to perfection with the dark kohl. His body tightened as he felt her supple curves pressed against his chest, the soft, rounded, breasts rubbing against his thin, black t-shirt. Even in her fear, she was beautiful. Khoobsurat. The word stuck in his mouth, poisoning it. It broke the spell between them and he proclaimed the final vow, feeling no remorse.

 

He would never be hers. She would be the target of his wrath, the woman that would suffer for the rest of her life under his control.

 

He reached for the dark, red powder she valued so deeply. He knew the sindoor held an unimaginable significance for a small, village girl. It symbolized everything she held dear, her dreams for her future. He took a pinch of it, feeling the soft powder stain his fingers a dark red.

 

For him, it symbolized the breaking of a sacred bond. His mother had worn it every, single day, and she had still left. She had left him, his father- the man she had promised to spend the rest of her life with. The sindoor was a memory of that, a shard cutting deep into his heart.  For him, it was blood, vengeance and pain.

 

He lifted the tips of his fingers towards her part, watching as she shrunk back from his hands. He needed to break the value she put on the flimsy powder he held in his hands. He would devalue it, make sure that she never held it in such high regard again. He would show her that it was powder, not a promise. It represented nothing, meant nothing, and had no value. It was a mockery of a ritual that she respected, and he knew that it would break her completely.

 

He ran his hands through her part, allowing the red to stain her. She was his. He was not hers, no- but she was his. His property, his possession. He could treat her as he wished.

 

He expected to feel satisfaction. He had allowed his wrath to manifest itself into revenge, betrayed her in the ultimate way. He wanted this, he wanted his image to fail in her eyes, lose respect and that stupid idealized view of love. He wanted her to detest him, hate him to the very core.

 

But as he watched the tears stream down her face, the salty water streaking her face like the red powder had streaked her hair, he felt empty. He whirled around and stumbled out of the room, hearing her collapse to the ground in shock.

 

He felt nothing. Completely, utterly, empty.

 

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