“My mom and I went to have lunch on Mother’s day. It was fine and I started believing we could actually have a functional relationship till I ordered wine and she acted like I was a huge disappointment for drinking because women shouldn’t do that.”
Ruhi squeezed Jhilmil tighter. They had planned to have a quiet night of Netflix and Chilling, but after four drinks they had dragged Jhilmil’s mattress to her balcony, and were lying face to face under the starry sky playing a game of catch up. When Ruhi had come to Delhi for the second time in less than a month after their encounter at the airport, she wasn’t sure what to expect. But now she knew that her lips and heart both wanted the same thing- more and more of Jhilmil. While her lips wanted to get to know every curve and inch of Jhilmil’s body again, her heart wanted to know every moment that had passed in the time that they hadn’t talked to each other. After discussing friends and events and strangers that had turned into one-night stands, they had finally turned to family.
“I’m sorry”, she said, brushing her lips against Jhilmil’s cheek, “but from everything that you’ve told me, that’s exactly what I would have expected from her. I know that you are hurt about this, but there is so much more to you than your mother’s approval stamp could ever understand.”
“I know, Ruhi”, Jhilmil buried her head in Ruhi’s chest, “but lately it’s like every conversation with her has become a test. I am constantly listening to decide if she is liberal enough to continue loving me if I come out to her, and she is constantly failing.”
They lay in silence for a while, Jhilmil listening to Ruhi’s heartbeat as Ruhi stroked her hair gently.
“You know Jhilmil, I used to worry about my parents too and it took time but they slowly decided that I am more important to them than anyone else. Ofcourse, no two families are alike, but what I am trying to say is that maybe the reason your mother is failing is because she doesn’t even know what she is being tested on?”
“I understand what you mean, but this feels different. Like that day all I could think about constantly was how if she hasn’t even reached the ‘women can drink’ point, how is she going to reach the ‘a woman loves another woman’ place?”
“I understand- and you do not owe anyone anything. Especially not your identity”, Ruhi kissed her fingertips, “But what is the ‘a woman loves another woman’ place and how can I reach it?”
Jhilmil broke into a huge smile and looked up, “Oh, do you not know where it is?”
Ruhi shook her head playfully, prompting Jhilmil to kiss her neck, “Maybe it’s here.”
Ruhi bit her lip and replied, “Maybe.”
Jhilmil started undoing the buttons of her shirt and following their path to plant kisses on her chest, “What about here?”
“Or does this feel more like it?”
“You tell me”, Ruhi whispered, pulling her close and erasing the distance between their lips.
Their mouths were hungry, but so were their hands which seemed to want to touch every inch of each other at the same time. But they had hardly been kissing for a minute when Jhilmil gasped and pulled away.
“Ruhi, we really should stop.”
“Oh.”, Ruhi’s face fell, “is everything okay? Do you want me to leave?”
“No…just…this is Delhi. And I know that it’s 2.30 am and technically it’s too dark for anyone to see us, but this is still a balcony and we are still very, very, gay.”
Ruhi nodded and followed Jhilmil into her room. Both of them snuggled into her comforter and Jhilmil sighed, “See, this is what I am talking about. Everything is tougher. If my neighbours would have accidentally seen me with a guy the most I would have been worried about is them judging my character, which is fine…”
“..but they see us and suddenly it’s like we are setting the world on fire.”
“I don’t know about that Ruhi, but you are certainly lighting up mine”, Jhilmil whispered with a proud smile, warranting Ruhi to pull the comforter off her, “Jhilmil that is officially the cheesiest thing you have ever said!”
“Hey!”Jhilmil protested, pulling it back, “It’s not cheesier than you asking where the ‘a woman loves another woman’ place is!”
“I think it’s here, Jhilmil.”
“Where?”, Jhilmil looked around, “in a bedroom where I am getting my comforter pulled off me?”
“In a place where you are next to me.”
Jhilmil began to say what Ruhi was sure would be another punchline but she stopped her by shaking her head.
“No, Jhilmil. You keep saying that I run away the second something requires effort. That is true, and I don’t want to do it anymore. But what about you? You start making jokes right when we are on the edge of saying something serious about us, and I want to actually take the leap today, okay?”
“Okay”, Jhilmil nodded, interlinking her fingers with Ruhi’s.
“Like I was saying, any place where I am with you is the ‘a woman loves another woman’ place because I love you. When I wake up, I start searching for your warmth next to me before I even open my eyes. Everything becomes easier when I know you’re by my side. I love the way you laugh and I love the way you get passionate about everything. I love your kindness, and your art, and your playlists. For the year when we were out of touch, I kept hoping and praying I would run into you somewhere so we could start again. Now that it finally happened, I don’t want to leave us up to probability again. I want to choose us. To work for us. To put in effort for us. So yes, a woman loves another woman. Does this another woman love her back?”
Ruhi had been so busy saying the speech she had practiced all the way on the plane that she hadn’t noticed the tears forming in Jhilmil’s eyes. As soon as she did, Jhilmil spoke up before she could wipe them away, “Yes, she does. She loves her alot.”
They leaned in at the same time, their lips meeting halfway and their bodies slowly moving to wrap around each other. The sun was going to come up in less than a few hours, but they could always fall asleep tomorrow.