A Golden Day

She smiled into his eyes. The breeze played with her hair and caressed her body, lifting her Uttariya that she caught it and hugged it close to her. He suddenly felt jealous of the breeze, of her Uttariya, of the jewelled bangles that adorned her shapely arms, of the rings on her fingers, of the chain that wrapped itself lovingly around her hips and which swung seductively as she walked, of each and everything that touched her when he himself was not able to.
It was the circumstances that prevented him. Had they been somewhere more private, those clothes and those ornaments would be off her and it would be his hands that would be roaming over her body. But they were outdoors and in plain view of their son, who was practicing with the sword. He was readying himself for the coming war. His eyes lingered on the man who was his son’s sparring partner. And he felt a wave of emotion that was so overwhelming that it surprised him.
Bhanumathy placed a hand on her husband’s arm. She could imagine the thoughts that might be going through her husband’s mind. The war was coming. The war that would end only with the end of him and his allies or with the end of his cousins. She knew there was no preventing it.
Suyodhana smiled at her, but he still looked distracted. She looked at where Vasusena was sparring with Lakshmana with Vasusena’s sons as interested spectators. Padmavathy was also there, her hands on the shoulder of her youngest who was making vain attempts to shrug it off in an effort to look like a man and not still the mother’s boy that he was.
It hit her then, the realization that this might well be the last time she might be seeing all of these people. This might be the last time she might be seeing her son. This might be the last time she might be seeing her husband. It chilled her, that realization.
Was that why Padmavathy was holding on to Vrishaketu so tightly? Was that why she stood watching her husband spar, not from afar as a woman was supposed to, but standing close to the arena that she could see every muscle ripple as he moved?
Bhanumathy turned her attention to her own man. He was watching the sparring too and his pride and his love was easily discernible from his expression. Her eyes traced the firm jaw, the aquiline nose, the moulded lips, the hair that now was being played on by the breeze. She wanted to run her hands through his hair, to place her lips against his, to make him forget, as only she could, the world that waited for them outside, of the war that was in store for them.
And maybe she wished to forget too, and only in his arms, joined with him, his mouth on hers, was she ever able to do that. He made her forget everything, even herself. And she did not think she would survive one day without him. At which thought, her grip on his arm tightened almost unconsciously.
“Bhanu?” He did not know what caused that shadow on her face, but he was ready to do everything in his power to chase it off. She was everything to him, this woman who had won his heart through her rejection and pride and love, who had taught him that love was no mere possession, that it went beyond the physical.
She gave him a tremulous smile. He drew her into his arms, her head resting against his chest. His hand caressed her head.
“What is the matter, my love?”
“I’m afraid,” she whispered. She knew it was a weakness. She was a Kshatriya woman, a princess, a queen, the mother of a Kshatriya, the wife of a Kshatriya warrior, the daughter of Kshatriyas. She could not shame her line and her clan by weakening at the thought of war. War was the most sacred duty for a Kshatriya. It was the most certain way to attain the heaven reserved for warriors.
And if she repeated it often enough, she might reconcile herself to losing all whom she held dear.
“Don’t be,” Suyodhana murmured, dropping a kiss on top of her head. “Whatever happens in this war, you will not lose me.”
She looked up at him in wonder. “How can you say that?”
Because I live in your heart, thought he. Because I always will even if I am not here anymore. But he lacked the articulation to put it in words. So he smiled and placed his hand on her heart. He could feel the fluttering of her heart beneath his hand.
“If a day comes that I’m not here, just place your hand here. I’m always there. You will not lose me, ever.”
She felt a lump rise to her throat and tears prickled her eyes. She buried her face in his chest and could hear the steady beating of his heart. It grounded her. He was here. Her son was here. Her friend was here.
And they still had time.
She lifted her face to look at him. “Take me riding,” she said. “Just you and I. For today, let us pretend that there is no war looming in the horizon. For today, let us just be two people who love each other and want to be together.”
He nodded. It was such a small thing she asked for. He would have done far more for her. But she never asked him to be other than he was. She loved him with all his faults and flaws and for her, he’d tried to be a better person, a better son, a better King.
But he had his blindspots and she knew them too. And she knew that some compromises would have been worse than death to him. And so, she had never asked.
He was smiling as he saddled the horses and helped her mount. He was looking forward to this ride, to this day when he had no cares other than how to make her happy. She was smiling too. Only he had this power, to make her forget the world, the future, everything. She smiled into his eyes.
“Ready?”
“Whenever you are.”
Whatever the future held, they still had today. And nothing would ever take this day from them.
She knew then that he was right. She would not lose him. Ever.

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