“You know I have to go back to Bombay at some point, right? You can’t keep me hostage forever!”, Ruhi called out to Jhilmil from the bedroom.
“Hey! This is a my-girlfriend-is-a-freelancer perk!”, Jhilmil shot back from the kitchen where she was frying eggs, “Besides, you are the one that keeps cancelling your ticket.”
Jhilmil was reaching for the plates when she felt Ruhi’s hands wrap around her waist. She sunk into the embrace and sighed, “See, this feels so good!”
“It feels the best”, Ruhi gave her a kiss, “But I need my dolphin lamp and my glitter sneakers and my adorable cat misses me.”
“What if you brought them here?”
“Jhilmil I’m not sure my lamp or my cat would fit in my luggage. Or that it would be practical to keep carrying them back and forth.”
“Hmm…”, Jhilmil nodded, “Well, we have Shanaya’s sister’s wedding tomorrow, so maybe you could leave sometime after that? You promised her during last week’s Pride meeting.”
“Yes, because she is your friend and I want her to like me.”
“Well, it’s working! She loves you and has been texting me all day about how she can’t wait to meet you again tomorrow!”
“Jhilmil, this is my point. I don’t even have an ethnic outfit I can wear!”, Ruhi pouted.
“Ruhi, all your arguments except this one have been valid. Let’s not pretend that your wardrobe in Bombay has even one ethnic outfit.”
Ruhi finally broke into laughter and said, “Okay, fair. You can put me into something from your wardrobe that Shanaya’s distant relatives won’t glare at.”
“You don’t need to worry about what you wear, Ruhi. Shanaya has been out to her family for years, and it was comparatively easy for her as well because her uncle came out as bi in the 80s…her family is more than welcoming towards her queer friends! You can just wear one of my lehenga skirts!”
The moment they entered the wedding lawn Shanaya wrapped them both in bear hugs excitedly and then took them to meet her sister, who looked like her polar opposite but was just as warm. After getting the compulsory picture clicked with the bride and groom on stage, they both found themselves making their way towards the table that was right in the middle of the bar and the snack counter.
“So, I noticed you’re wearing a beautiful Rajasthani lehenga. Have you ever visited the state or do you find the culture generally fascinating?”, Ruhi asked a little too seriously when they sat down.
“What are you talking about, Ruhi? We picked this together and I have told you about my trip to Jaipur at least three times”, Jhilmil was absentmindedly looking at the dance performances that the bride’s family was doing on the elevated DJ floor.
Ruhi broke into a smile for a moment but then controlled herself and became serious again, “Please don’t interrupt me madame, I am trying to make an observation about your interests and using that to initiate a conversation.”
“What are you talking ab-”, Jhilmil began, but her eyes suddenly grew wide in excitement when she realized that Ruhi was doing what she had promised all those years ago- recreating the magic of their first meeting, without any prompting or pauses.
“Well, I did go to Jaipur when I was in college, and I found everything to be absolutely fascinating. I am a big history buff, but visiting the monuments had a surreal feeling to it that going to museums doesn’t. It was like I was walking in the same hallways that Queens did. That was where history happened, you know? It was like being in a time capsule.”
“That sounds wonderful, but I do think that museums have their own place. They are educational, and accessible, and let you visit multiple moments in history at once. What I am saying is that if monuments are time capsules, then museums are like time machines.”
“Time machines…”, Jhilmil repeated, “I like the sound of that.”
“And I like the sound of your voice. What can I call you when I want to hear it?”
“Jhilmil”, Jhilmil giggled, “And you are….?”
“About to ask you to dance”, Ruhi held out her hand, “I know the bride’s sister and she is on the dance floor right now and I have a feeling she will love to clear out some space for us!”
As if on cue, Shanaya’s voice rang through the speakers in the lawn, “Aaaaaaaand the next dance will be by my close friends Jhilmil and Ruhi, who are going to set the stage on fire with their chemistry!”
Jhilmil looked at Ruhi for a moment, and then decided to drop her inhibitions and take Ruhi’s hand. They walked together towards the stage and Shanaya’s family cheered when they reached it.
Jhilmil closed her eyes and wrapped her hands around Ruhi’s waist, not sure what to expect, and Ruhi held her waist back, waiting. Ofcourse, the DJ started playing the first song that they had ever danced to and they started swaying, getting more and more confident and twirling and moving with the beats that they had moved to before- then, hidden away and expectant- now, spotlit and warm. They even did a half bow when they finished, and Jhilmil whispered, “I love you.”
“I love you too”, Ruhi whispered back, squeezing her hand.
Once the people that had gathered to tell them that they looked amazing dispersed, and they had thanked Shanaya and her sister a million times, Ruhi finally asked, “So, would you like to go for a walk? I’m not going to need to steal shoes this time, I wore sensible flats.”
“Lead the way!”, Jhilmil nodded, and they started walking away from the crowd.
“So, did you ever book that ticket?”
“Yes, my flight leaves tomorrow night.”
Jhilmil bit her lip and then finally said two minutes later,“There’s something I need to ask you…”
“Ofcourse, anything Jhilmil!”
“Will you come back?”
They had reached the parking outside the back of the lawn at this point and Ruhi stopped and turned to look at Jhilmil, “What are you saying, Sweetheart? Why won’t I come back?”
Jhilmil wrapped her arms around Ruhi impulsively and Ruhi hugged her back immediately and asked, “Hey, is everything okay?”
“No, it’s not. I don’t want you to leave.”
‘It’s not like I want to leave either, and I can keep working from here but I am paying the rent for a Bombay flat, you know?”, Ruhi smiled.
“Ruhi, no. I don’t mean right now. I mean, ever.”, Jhilmil pulled her in for a kiss and Ruhi could feel the passion in her eyes translate to the hunger with which her lips were pulling her close, and she responded with just as much fervour, her hands making their way to Jhilmil’s hips, making Jhilmil press herself more closely against Ruhi’s body.
“Ruhi, what if you stayed here?”
“Jhilmil, I feel like we are talking in circles.”
“No you don’t get it! By ‘stay here’ I mean ‘lived here’. What if you lived here? In Delhi. With me. You said it yourself, you can work from here and we can have breakfast every morning together and you can get you cat and your lamp and your sneakers and-”
“Do you actually want this?”, Ruhi smiled.
“Yes! I do! If you want to move in, ofcourse!”
“Well, I will need to let my family and friends and everyone I know…and get a moving van…and pack so many years of stuff…”
Jhilmil’s smile fell but she tried to not look too disappointed.
“This is going to be a lot of work, Jhilmil. And we will need to sort out a lot of details. But like I said when I told you I love you, I’m ready to do this. To make us work. To choose us. So yes, I will do it. I can’t wait to share an address with you.”, Ruhi pulled Jhilmil close and Jhilmil laughed and kissed her on the tip of her nose.
“I have a feeling this is going to be more than just sharing an address, Ruhi…”
“Ooh, I’ll get to finally share your towels, too?” Ruhi laughed back.
“I was going to say it’s going to be sharing a life, but if it’s going to be a lifetime of jokes like that one then I should probably reconsider…”
Ruhi got fake offended and shook her head before she pointed towards their car, “I think the people inside have probably had enough of us by now. You wanna get in and start that life we are supposed to share, right now?”
“Yes!”, Jhilmil’s eyes shone with excitement, “But only if you let me be the one that gets to drive us to ‘our’ home for the first time!”