Peace & Love Everyone!
I’ve had a pretty good week. I was glad for the weekend to come so that I could go to my writer’s critique group. I look forward to exchanging ideas and catching up with other writers like myself.
Anyway, we are coming closer to the end of my short story. Writing ‘Loving Autumn’ has been a journey for sure. I never really know where a story would go when I start it. Usually with a novel I have an idea of what the end should look like and the beginning and middle develop as I create. With my short stories I start with the beginning and we journey together to the end.
Today, I bring you the next chapter in ‘Loving Autumn.’
After Raj and I exchange vows, we tasted the ceremonial sweets and greeted guests giving their blessings and gift. The love in the room was palpable, and I loved it — evidence of my acceptance into Raj’s family. My heart was singing.
I sat my hand in Raj’s hand and smiling. During the greetings and gifts, I would sneak glances at Charlie, hoping to see that he was happy and celebrating also. I only noticed him watching me anxiously, his eyes sullen. He was determined to wait for his moment to speak with me. He didn’t smile; he barely spoke with anyone.
Bauji and Riya knew who Charlie was, and so did Arjun. They thought he was just my best friend but never seemed to like him. They did not know that I was sleeping with him. At this moment, his whole demeanor would prove odd. He could have at least had the decency to pretend to be happy for me.
Once the excitement started to die down, and people started to eat, Charlie approached us. I could only hope he would wish us congratulations and be on his merry way.
“Can we talk?” Charlie asked, looking into my eyes.
Guess that was a pipe dream. “We can talk tomorrow. Right now isn’t the time, Charlie.”
“I leave on a flight tonight. It has to be now.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and whispered to myself, ‘this can’t be happening’ over and over again. When I opened them, both Charlie and Raj looked at me with disbelief on their face.
“It was worth a try,” I said crossly. I was willing to try anything.
Raj and I got up together, but when I walked toward Charlie, Raj was letting go of my hand and walking in the opposite direction. I stopped and turned toward him. My face questioning why he wasn’t going with me. I saw him take a deep breath before he stepped close and leaned towards my ear.
“You need to deal with this on your own. And know that my dad will notice you are gone and come looking for you if you are gone too long. Do not explore here.”
I don’t answer but nodded. Of course, I wouldn’t explore here, that would put Raj in a horrible position. It would also end what Raj and I had. Charlie knew that as well, but I felt as though he would not adhere to it.
I lead Charlie toward the stairs and to Raj’s sitting area. As we walked, Charlie tried to hold my hand, and I snatched my hand away, looking around to see if anyone was watching. I folded my arms in front of me. He couldn’t be serious. Here, now, he wants to reach for my hand?
We enter the room, and I close the door behind me. I didn’t like this situation any better. Me behind closed doors with another man on my engagement day felt like a bad omen. I took a deep breath and turned toward Charlie with my face already set.
I wondered if we should sit. Should we be comfortable having this discussion? I didn’t feel comfortable, so I wasn’t going to make him comfortable. “Why couldn’t this wait, Charlie?”
“Are you kidding? By the time I got back the next time, you’d probably be married to him.”
Why does he feel so angry? Heat is emanating from him. “You knew that Raj and I were going to get married. Besides, why? Are you going to be gone for more than a few months?”
“You know I don’t know that. My schedule constantly fluctuates.”
So he’s going to ignore the fact that I’ve been talking about marrying Raj almost from the moment I met Raj. “But you expect me to wait for you? You knew where Raj and I were going with this relationship. I don’t understand why now? You’ve known me for years. You’ve known I want to be married. You’ve said a dozen times you like being free to travel no wife, no kids.”
“Autumn.” Charlie came closer to her. I stepped back. I’ve never liked being around him when he’s angry. “Autumn, you know I love you. I want to be with you.”
“Charlie, this isn’t the time or the place for this discussion. It’s not just us in this house.” I was trying hard to keep my voice low.
“So, you don’t miss me? Us?”
I sigh. How do I say that I miss our talks but that I don’t miss us? “Charlie, I did miss you. You’re my best friend. We talk about everything. But no, I didn’t miss us.”
“So the other night before I left, what was that?”
“I don’t know.” I didn’t know. I never analyzed my feelings for Charlie. To me, Charlie was Charlie. Even after we’d been sleeping together, I didn’t think about ‘us.’ I did think about the fact that both men knew about each other. I was close to breaking off with Charlie when the three of us happened. It felt so right, but I had to consider Raj’s feelings. He said it was good for him because I was enjoying it, but that he didn’t want to share me. I knew that eventually, Charlie would have the same desire. And in the end, I would have to choose.
I was lost in thought as Charlie drew closer to me. Without consciously being aware, I backed away from Charlie with every step of his advancement towards me. But not paying attention, I backed myself into a corner.
“Charlie, please don’t push this. It’s mine and Raj’s engagement party, at his parents, well, family home.”
“I know you want me.”
“Not now. Not like this. Plus, we cannot…” Charlie cut me off.
“We could if we wanted to. You mean you will not make love to me here and now?”
“No, I absolutely refuse.”
Charlie smiled and placed a hand on the wall and the other firmly at my throat. He leaned in, but I turned my face from his. I was in shock. How could he push this after I said no?
“Please don’t.” I turned my head again. This time he held my face tightly in his hand and leaned forward to kiss me. His grip was stopping me from turning my face, even the slightest degree. “Chalie, stop, no.” I tried to use my hands to push him off, and he grabbed one and pinned it to the wall with his other hand. I started to panic. What in the world was going on? Charlie had never done this. He was pressed against me, and I couldn’t get away. I couldn’t push him off with one hand, so I smacked him. I was in tears. He was supposed to be my best friend. Why was he doing this to me?
With my hand pinned on the wall and his other around my throat, baujee walked into the room. He was saying, “Autumn, have you come up, hear to hide your tears?” He had entered the room as I smacked Charlie. “What is the meaning of this? Autumn, you just got engaged to my son.”
“Dad, what are you doing?” Raj’s voice trailed off; he entered a second behind the slap.
It felt like we all paused. Me pinned to the wall by one arm, Charlie’s hand was gripping my face and leaning on me. My mascara was running down my cheeks. And their baujee stood, Raj behind him. I closed my eyes, willing this scene away as the tears coursed down my cheeks. Today was supposed to be the happiest day before my wedding. I could only imagine what Mr. Arya was thinking. Raj looked on in disbelief.
“Charlie let her go,” Raj’s voice was a deep but an audible whisper.
Charlie didn’t respond at first. He looked from Raj to me. And for the first time since we had been up here, he looked at me, really looked at me. I think it was then that it finally hit him. He looked into my eyes and immediately let me go.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t know what got into me. “Autumn, I’m really sorry.” He moved to leave, but Raj stepped in his way. “Raj, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come.”
I’d never seen the look on Raj’s face before. He was more than angry. His eyes looked like they would have burned Charlie if they could.
“Charlie, how could you? I thought you loved her? She’s your best friend. You’re supposed to be happy for her.”
Charlie brought his gaze to meet Raj. He half-smiled. “I should be, shouldn’t I? She was my best friend.” Charlie turned to me, “I hope you can forgive me someday, Autumn.” He walked around, Raj, and left.
Both Raj and his dad stared at me. I looked at them, tears now streaming, and I felt like my world was crashing down. I crumpled my head in my hands. I only heard the door closing and then footsteps, Raj’s footsteps. He sat next to me and placed his arm around me. I put my head in his lap, my face covered by my scarf.
“Baujee felt sorry for you. But he said it was bound to happen. Baujee said he’s glad he came looking for you when he did. Said, it was inevitable that Charlie would try to claim what was not his.”
I took a deep breath, and my body shuddered.
I hope you’ve connected with Autumn and appreciate her journey. I’ll be back next week with Chapter 9.
Peace & Love