I had three different versions of a Blossom+Kiss+Arnav prompt. I did my best with it.
“Good night, babe.”
They stood on her doorstep. Her pulse quickened as he leaned in, her toes curling in anticipation, and then his lips were over hers. There was warmth and electricity and perfection.
“What the fuck?!”
They broke away, his hands dropping from her waist and her arms unwrapping from around his neck. Her father stood at the door.
“Geeta, get inside,” Daddy growled, “Now. And you …”
He was flung against the wall in one swift move, her father keeping him there with a hand pressed dangerously close to his neck.
“Get the fuck out my sight! Stay away from my daughter. If I catch you anywhere near her, there’ll be Hell to pay.”
He almost collapsed to the ground when her father released him.
“Dad!” she protested as her father dragged her inside bodily, “Daddy stop it!”
And then the door was slamming shut and she was being pulled up the stairs. Her father didn’t stop until they were inside her room.
“Stay here. Do not move. Give me your phone, your laptop, your keys.”
Fighting back tears, she did as he demanded, handing over every point of connection and communication.
“Stay here,” he repeated when she was done, his hands full of her things, “Do not try my patience, Geeta. Not today.”
She jumped as he slammed the door behind him. Alone, she threw herself into the bed, howling into a pillow as her tears overcame her.
Why is Daddy overreacting? I’m sixteen. Doesn’t he remember what it’s like to be sixteen?
Geeta reached for the landline her father had forgotten and blindly dialled a number. She hiccupped as it connected.
“Bambi? It’s … hmm, okay it’s 7 in the morning here. Maybe I should already be awake.”
“I didn’t know who else to call,” she choked back a sob.
“Geeta, are you crying?” she heard him moving around and imagined that he was sitting up in bed.
“Daddy … Daddy pushed Sid against the wall, and then he … he told him to never come back.”
“He saw us … saw us ki-kissing.”
“Ahh. I see. Why were you kissing where Dad could see you?”
“We didn’t … Bhai! This isn’t funny.”
“Do you hear me laughing? Just … what the hell Bambi? Where’s Mom?”
“At the temple with Bua-ji and Maasi-ji.”
“He took my phone and keys and laptop and told me to stay in my room,” she pushed her curtains aside to peer into the poolside below, “Daddy’s at the poolside.”
“What’s he doing?”
She watched her father measure the courtyard with his long strides. He ran his fingers through his normally meticulous hair. It stood up in disarray as he muttered to himself.
“Pacing the poolside. He looks like he’s about to destroy something.”
“Shit. You screwed up big.”
“Help me,” she pleaded with her brother as she watched her father fish out his phone and dial a number. He flung it into the pool when it didn’t connect.
“Hari Prakash!” he bellowed.
HP-Kaka was there in an instant, answering the summons as if by magic, and they engaged in a hushed conversation she couldn’t hear.
“Why are you still at home?” asked her brother, “Don’t you need to go to the temple too?”
“That’s why I needed to see Sid,” she explained, still watching as HP-Kaka nodded and retreated from the poolside, “I needed him to break my fast.”
“What the—” her brother’s exclamation was sharp and full of anger, “You fasted for him on Teej? Geeta, are you that serious about this boy? You know these aren’t just games, you don’t just play at keeping fasts like this. Remember they story of Mom and Dad’s first Teej?”
Geeta closed her eyes. Of course she remembered. She’d grown up thinking it was so romantic, the idea that Daddy had broken Mamma’s fast unintentionally right at the beginning of their courtship.
I want a romance like theirs. I want to love someone as much as they love each other.
“I love him,” she said into the phone.
“You love Dad,” her brother reminded her.
“Do I have to choose between them?”
“No,” her brother sighed, “But be careful, okay Bambi? Don’t say or do something you’ll regret. Dad will calm down soon enough.”
“Pinky promise. Now, hang up so I can call Dad and see if I can smooth things over.”
“He threw his phone into the pool.”
Her brother chuckled, “Right. Of course he did. Good thing it’s waterproof. I’ll call Fufa instead, he’ll know what to do.”
“No, Bambi. Mom won’t help here. Dad’s your best bet, trust me, Mom won’t understand.”
Geeta watched from the window as her father ran his fingers over the red roses he’d planted along the wall, Mamma’s favourite. He jerked away suddenly, putting his finger in his mouth, and she realised that he’d hurt himself on the thorns. Sighing, she turned to her wardrobe, fetching the outfit her mother had bought for this occasion.
Might as well get ready.
She’d changed, refreshed her makeup and fixed her hair when she heard raised voices from downstairs. Rushing to the window, she saw that her Fufa had joined her father at the poolside.
“No Aman,” her father spat, “I am not doing that!”
“You don’t have any other choice, Arnav.”
“—will not help the situation. She doesn’t need the phool and bhawre and Devi Maiyya talk right now. She needs her father, Arnav. Be a man, get your ass upstairs.”
“I never should’ve let you anywhere near my Di,” her father raged, but even she heard the note of resignation.
A few minutes later, there was a knock on her door.
“Come in,” she invited, arranging her features into a scowl.
Show no weakness. First rule of negotiations.
He opened the door but stood framed in the doorway, casting his eyes about the room. She looked around too. Strings of fairly lights hung between black and white prints of family photos, each chronicling her growth from baby to teenager. Her bed was made with almost military precision; her dresser devoid of clutter; and a statue of Devi Maiyya sat on a small table next to the door.
“I see your mother every time I look at you.”
She cut her eyes to him, wondering what he was up to and where his anger had gone.
“But maybe,” he sighed, “you’re more like me than either of us would care to admit … May I sit?”
He sat on the edge of her bed when she nodded, still confused.
“I won’t apologise. I think he deserved what he got.”
She opened her mouth to protest but he held up a hand, silencing her before she even made a sound.
“I’m disappointed. I thought your mother and I had raised you to respect yourself. I thought that you knew you precious you are, how special. I thought we’d taught you to respect us, this family and this house.”
His words broke something inside her. She could handle his anger – their arguments were the stuff of legend – but she’d never been able to stand disappointment in his eyes.
“What was going through your mind, kissing him on our doorstep like that? Is this an act of rebellion? Are you trying to provoke us?”
No. I think he loves me, like you love Mamma.
“We didn’t mean to hurt you,” she said instead, “I … I would never hurt you.”
“Geeta, I’ve been on the other side of this, trying to provoke my family into accepting something they couldn’t understand. Be honest.”
“Daddy, no. It’s nothing like that.”
“You’re always excited to see him,” her father changed tactics, directing his words to the wooden floor, “Do you think you could be serious about him?”
Oh, Devi Maiyya, I would have preferred Mamma’s nonsensical birds and bees talk to this.
“Sid makes me happy,” she said carefully, sitting next to her father and taking his hand, “Daddy, you like him.”
Her father scowled as his other hand curled into a fist, and Geeta suddenly felt hollow, realising how furious he still was. His calm was hard-won.
“That was before …”
Before you caught him with his tongue down my throat.
“Sid is a great guy, Daddy,” her voice wobbled, and she feared he would interpret it as a lack of conviction, “He reminds me of you and Bhai.”
“He’s nothing like—” he stood abruptly.
Geeta watched him pace, her worry deepening with every minute that passed.
“Your brother was your age when he sat us down and announced that he was serious about a girl.”
“Kiran?” she asked, wondering where her father was going with the story.
“No, not Kiran. It was another girl, you would barely remember her. She didn’t last long.”
“Afterwards, I sat down with him. A woman must be treated with respect, with dignity. She deserves honesty. She deserves the best of us, but should have the strength for our worst. I reminded him to treat her parents as he treats us, speak to her mother as he speaks to your Mamma, respect her father as he respects me, and speak to her as he would want any man to speak to his sister. To you.”
“Bhai likes Sid.”
“Aarav barely knows Siddarth,” her father sighed, “but you misunderstand my point. Is Siddarth that man? The one who will treat you like that?”
“Geeta, he bolted at the first chance of trouble. He didn’t apologise, didn’t try to explain, and here,” her father handed her phone to her, “he hasn’t contacted you once to check on you.”
“He doesn’t need to,” she claimed, ignoring the feeling of betrayal that swelled inside her, “I’m capable of handling myself.”
“Of course you are, Blossom. Your mother is too. Can you imagine me not checking up on her? Or your brother not checking up on Kiran?”
“I raised you to be strong,” he came to stand in front of her, “But being independent, being strong, and having support are two very different things. I want you to have the best of everything, especially in this.”
Geeta sniffled, a begrudging wave of understanding washing over her. He held his arms out, inviting an embrace, and she sprang into him as if she was still five and coming home from school to find that he’d come home early.
“I love you, Daddy.”
“I love you too, Blossom. You’ll never know how much.”
He stepped away to look her up and down.
“Your mother wore this colour on our first Teej,” he smiled fondly at some memory.
“Is that why she chose it for me?”
“Possibly. Your mother’s mind works in weird and wonderful ways.”
His smile turned into a grin as she giggled.
“There’s my girl. Are you ready? Your mother won’t speak to me for a year if I’m not there before the aarti begins. She still badgers me about those three wedding anniversaries.”
Geeta scoffed, “Three years in a row, Daddy. Didn’t they have those … smartphones … with reminders back in the Stone Ages?”
“Really Blossom? You’re attacking my age?”
She pulled her shoes from the wardrobe and slid into them, still laughing.
“Maybe it was old age?” she ventured.
He swatted at her, and she feigned a frightened squeal as she bolted away.
“Geeta,” he called.
She turned at the door.
“I’m never going to feel like any man is good enough for you, Blossom. But when you meet the right man, I won’t throw him against the wall and threaten his life.”
She smiled as he continued, “Well. I’ll try my best not to.”
He offered his arm and escorted her down the stairs.