"An engaging and entertaining friend drama..."
Reviewed by Bharti C
Posted March 17, 2019
THE OBJECT OF YOUR
AFFECTIONS by Falguni Kothari is a story based in New York City.
The main characters Paris, Naira, Neal are an interesting trio. The main
themes of the story are friendship, surrogacy and co-parenting.
Paris and Naira are best friends from college, though almost estranged
at the start of the story, who are reunited when Naira returns to see
another friend in New York. Paris a successful lawyer, is married to Neal
Singh Fraser, a jewelry designer and mogul. After college, Naira got
married and settled back home in Mumbai. After nearly a decade of
heartbreak, loss, and grief, she returns to New York to change and
move on from her life in Mumbai.
Paris and Neal are going strong in their marriage except for their
differences on parenthood. Which is where Naira comes in the picture.
THE OBJECT OF YOUR
AFFECTIONS has engaging characters who have an Indian
connection by birth and extended families. ThisÂ touch adds vibrancy
and is a strong presence in the story. I was hooked on the characters of
this story - their flaws and passions were pretty engaging and
entertaining. The story unfolded and ended nicely for me. As an Indian,
I could identify and feel for the various characters of the story. It just
made the reading more exciting. Falguni Kothari is a new to me author
and if this is how other stories are I am looking forward to discovering
her other books soon.
Two best friends rewrite the rules of friendship,
love and familyâ€¦and change everything they thought they
Paris Kahn Fraser has it allâ€”a successful career as an
assistant district attorney, a beautiful home in New York
City, and a handsome, passionate husband who chose her over
having a family of his own. Nealâ€™s dream of fatherhood
have been the only shadow in their otherwise happy
lifeâ€¦until Parisâ€™s best friend comes to town.
Naira Dalmia never thought sheâ€™d be a widow before thirty.
Left reeling in the aftermath of her husbandâ€™s death, all
she wants is to start over. She trades Mumbai for New York,
and rigid family expectations for the open acceptance of
best friend. After all, there isnâ€™t anything she and Paris
wouldnâ€™t do for each other.
But when Paris asks Naira to be their surrogate, theyâ€™ll
learn if their friendship has what it takes to defy
their families and even their own biology as these two best
friends embark on a journey that will change their lives
Wry, daring and utterly absorbing,
The Object of Your
Affections is an unforgettable story
about two women challenging the normsâ€¦and the magic that
happens when we choose to forge our own path.
ExcerptThe things we did for love.
â€śDid you know that the global wedding industry is worth
three hundred billion dollars? The US stake alone is fifty-
five billion?â€ť I waved my phone displaying the appalling
data in front of my husbandâ€™s face.
The stats had gotten worse in the two and a half years
since our own wedding.
Neal, as usual, didnâ€™t share my outrage at mankindâ€™s
folÂ¬lies, so he shrugged as if the matter was of no
consequence to himâ€”which it wasnâ€™tâ€”and with infinite
patience he brushed my hovering hand away from his face and
continue to do unÂ¬speakable things to my mouth.
We were attending our fourth wedding of the year. Fourth!
And, Iâ€™d been invited to half a dozen baby showers over the
past ten monthsâ€”two of which I hadnâ€™t been able to avoid.
As if squealing over fake fluffy bunnies wasnâ€™t bad enough,
such events were filled with busybodies who wanted to know
when I was going to deliver some â€śgood newsâ€ť of my own.
Seriously, the next person who asked me that question was
going to end up in the city morgue. On an autopsy table.
Exactly what was the correlation between pregnancy and
â€śgoodâ€ť news, I had no clue. As if not being pregnant was
â€śbadâ€ť news? Aargh! I could scream.
Iâ€™d bet that when Neal and I gave them our special news,
they wouldnâ€™t care for it either. Our families were going
to go ballistic when they heard that we were considering
gestational surrogacy when I was perfectly capable of
Well, physically capable, at least. Mentally and
emotionally? The jury was still out.
Since Neal had more faith in our mothers than I did, he was
welcome to explain it to them when it was time.
â€śHomo sapiens. Bat-shit crazy lot,â€ť I mumbled from the
corner of my mouth, trying to keep my lips still as Neal
worked on them, while going nearly cross-eyed as I
recounted the zeroes that were peppered across the wedding
industry article in Reuters. â€śAnd never satisfied with
their lot in life.â€ť Maybe it wasnâ€™t billions but millions.
Nope. Eleven zeroes tacked behind the cardinal number
three. My hope for humanity plummeted to earth. If that
didnâ€™t prove beyond reasonable doubt that Man itself was
the natural disaster devastating the world, I didnâ€™t know
what did. What kind of senseless, overbred animal spends
that kind of money on a fantasy ceremony solely created to
propagate an even bigger fantasy, that of a perfect union
and its glory-ever-after?
Donâ€™t get me wrong, I wasnâ€™t against the institution of
marriage. I fully approved when compatible people tied the
proverbial knot or cohabitated in a mutually beneficial
Like my adoptive parentsâ€”the second set, as opposed to the
first abominable pairâ€”whoâ€™d been an excellent example of a
square peg in a square hole kind of couple. Mr. and Mrs.
Samuel and Lily Kahn had been harmoniously well matched on
all fronts until the Judgeâ€™s death separated them four
A second great example was my own marriage, which, though
not of the square-peg-square-hole variety, was nothing
short of marvelousâ€”on most days. Iâ€™d married an amazing man
who stroked my brain as vigorously as he stroked my
emotionsâ€¦and other interesting carbon-based assets. Iâ€™d
absolutely hit the jackpot in the supportive husband
sweepstakes. So, it behooved me not to screw things up and
tread carefully with the surrogacy plans. Do not dictate.
Neal and I had narrowed our list of potential surrogates
down to two women and then reached a stalemate. Neal
preferred Martha who came highly recommended by his close
friends in California. I liked her tooâ€”our interviews had
gone wellâ€”but she lived simply too far away. I couldnâ€™t
even begin to imagine the scheduling and travel nightmare
for both Neal and I every time we had to make it to a
doctorâ€™s appointment. If it were up to me, Iâ€™d Skype in for
the ultrasounds. But my husband wanted to actively
experience the entire gestation since it would be the only
one heâ€™dâ€”weâ€™dâ€”have. The other candidate was from
Connecticut, just two hours away by car. We could see her
every weekend if we wished. However, we hadnâ€™t clicked
quite so well with her as weâ€™d done with Martha. Le sigh.
It would be so much easier if our surrogate lived in or
around New York City, but compensated surrogacy was illegal
in New York State thus not an option.
Well, no point in stressing over it right now as we werenâ€™t
making any decisions this weekend. Better to put everything
away and bask in my husbandâ€™s masterful strokes instead.
Nealâ€™s touch was liquid cool on my face, arousing even when
he didnâ€™t mean to stimulate, as it moved across my eyes and
cheeks, brushed over my chin and throat. Though he didnâ€™t
look it, the dear lad was dead on his feet from a sixteen-
hour flightâ€”hence the one-word responses, grunts and shrugs
at my attempts at marital repartee. Or, was he still
brooding over our impasse about the surrogates? Time-out,
Either way, my husband was simply too sweet for not
succumbing to a jet-lagged stupor after his whirlwind
business trip to Asia. Instead, heâ€™d rushed home from JFK,
dumped his travel suiter, taken a hasty wake-up shower,
loaded our wedding weekend bags in our metallic blue Tesla,
picked me up from the courthouse only to dodge traffic for
the next two hours on the I-87 North until we reached the
vineyard in time for my college friend Laviniaâ€™s wedding
rehearsal dinner. After all that dashing around, he was
still on his feet taking care of my needs. Mind you, I had
asked nicely for his help in putting on my war paint. Neal
was just so much better at makeup than I was. So, yes, I
would recommend the state of wedded blissâ€”or even unwedded
togethernessâ€”to anyone whoâ€™d had the good fortune to find
herself (or himself) a Neal Singh Fraser.
In summation, I wasnâ€™t against marriage. What I objected to
was the hoopla surrounding the ceremony. The wanton waste
of time, money and resources in the planning and execution
of said hoopla. How could anyone with an ounce of empathy
justify spending such garish sums of money on a frivolous
party when there were children starving in the world? When
scribbling names in front of a marriage registrar in city
hallâ€”or the likeâ€”worked just as well as an elaborate
exchange of vows in front of a priest or officiator? What
difference did it make if two souls merged into one entity
in front of four people or four hundred? The object of the
exercise was to legalize a coupleâ€™s commitment to each
other, wasnâ€™t it? But no, some people werenâ€™t satisfied
until a three-ring circus supplemented their nuptials, even
when they knew, deep in their hearts, that sooner or later
another even bigger circus would herald their uncoupling.
Point in fact were the hundreds of embittered divorces and
child custody battles filling up the dockets in family
court. Iâ€™d been six when I was dragged into one such
abominable battle between my first set of adoptive parents,
so I knew firsthand what happened when love died and
marriages fell apart. It was that kind of wanton waste I
objected to. Not that I expected Lavinia and Juanâ€™s upstate
New York lovefest to end in divorce. Or my own marriage. I
Shtup. Did I?
Neal sidestepped to the vanity and suddenly the embossed
yellow leaves on the maple-colored wall tile were brought
up close. We were inelegantly squashed inside a bathroom
that was tinier than my office at One Hogan Placeâ€”a space
the formerly taciturn Lily Kahn had pronounced to be the
size of a matchbox. As the crusaders of justice and the
wielders of morality, assistant district attorneys deserved
nicer offices, Lily had once emailed Manhattanâ€™s District
Attorney, my boss, and ccâ€™d me on it. My adoptive mother
had morphed into one opinionated meshugenah since the
Judgeâ€™s death. It was another thing driving me batty these
Her growing obsession with horoscopes, while
incomprehensible at best, was getting to me. Last week, it
had portended a change in my personal and professional life
according to Lily. And today, Iâ€™d been asked to join a task
force that was being set up between the DAâ€™s office and the
United States Attorneyâ€™s office, jointly, to look into a
human rights violation case. That took care of the
professional change. The personal shift could either mean a
bairn or a divorce trying to procure said bairn. Double
After a lightning exchange of brushes, Neal repositioned
himself before me. He settled one hand on top of my head to
hold it steady, and with his right hand, he began to trace
my full, shapeless lips into a discernable form. My mouth
molded into a natural goldfish moue that needed special
care. Indeed, my mouth and what came out of it warranted
close attention. Consider the offer carefully, laddie. Your
freedom depends on it, was my daily counsel to the
perpetrators of crime. Iâ€™d do well to heed my own advice
for the decisions Iâ€”oops, Neal and Iâ€”had to make.
â€śQuit fidgeting, hen. Weâ€™re almost done. Close yer mouth.
And no, donâ€™t frown so. And donâ€™t press yer lips together
just yet,â€ť Neal instructed in his lilting Scottish brogue
that never failed to capture my attention. More, the deep
commanding baritone demanded immediate compliance.
I froze on the closed toilet seat and tilted my face up to
look into my husbandâ€™s loch-blue eyes. Fringed with thick
sooty lashes, those eyes combined with his voice produced
gooseflesh all over my skin even though he didnâ€™t mean to
stimulate me. Was it any wonder then that Iâ€™d given in to
Nealâ€™s mad vision of our own wedding? I still felt ill
whenever I recalledâ€”fondly, mostly fondlyâ€”the sheer
wantonness of our three-day festivities. The truth was that
I found it impossible to say no to this man when he was in
the mood to charm.
I pressed my lips together as Neal plied his expertise on
shaping them. God! But I loved himâ€”all six feet two inches
and one eighty-eight pounds of Scottish-Indian
stubbornness. I loved being married to him. And yes, Iâ€™d
loved getting married to him, exchanging vows and rings and
kisses under the ballroom chandelier of his familyâ€™s
residential castle in Scotland. Our wedding might have been
a self-indulgent waste of resources but it had come from a
place of love and pride, and no one was in debt because of
it. Weâ€™d made promises to each other in front of all the
people whoâ€™d mattered to usâ€”correction, everyone except the
two people Iâ€™d loved and counted on the most in the world
back then had blessed our union. My perfect day of joy
would be forever tainted due to their absence.
At least, the Judge had had a legitimate excuse for missing
my wedding, being dead and all. But my best friend and maid
of honor, Naira, had bowed out at the last minute. Her
husbandâ€™s business had been in trouble. Kaivan the Criminal
had gotten his comeuppance the Indian media had claimed,
and still Naira had stuck by him like a good little wife.
Her choice had broken us for a whileâ€”I was a prosecutor,
for Godâ€™s sake, I didnâ€™t stand by criminals. And then heâ€™d
Things were slightly better between us now. We messaged
each other off and on, and I mostly understood her stance,
her choicesâ€”especially now that I knew just how much I
would do or endure for Neal. But I still felt acid well up
inside me when I remembered just how awful Iâ€™d felt on my
wedding day. How alone.
Neal cocked an eyebrow at me, divining my mood dips as
expertly as he was reshaping my lips. â€śAre ye practicing
your apology to her in your mind then? Is that why yer
My back and shoulders went taut. â€śWhy should I apologize?
Sheâ€™s the one who got all bent out of shape because I
pointed out the truth.â€ť
â€śAnd I suppose ye would let people get away with bad-
mouthing me to yer face, aye?â€ť
â€śIf it was the truth,â€ť I began but stopped when Neal raised
a second brow high. Another stalemate. I let my shoulders
droop. â€śFine. Iâ€™ll beâ€¦nice.â€ť I didnâ€™t do apologies. Mainly
because I didnâ€™t make mistakes or speak out of turn.
Neal was right though. I was nervous about meeting Naira.
It had been four years since weâ€™d seen each other in
person. Two days ago, Iâ€™d received a message from her after
weeks of iMessage silence: Hopping on a plane to NY. See
you at Laviniaâ€™s wedding.
What the hell kind of message was that?
â€śStupid weddings.â€ť I pressed my phone to my stomach,
willing the awfulness to abate. I was a mess at weddingsâ€”
about weddings. I was better at marriage.
Because it served no purpose to get upset about the past or
the state of the world, I made a concerted effort to shut a
mental door on all my current grievances pertaining to
weddings, best friends, starving childrenâ€”any children, for
that matterâ€”and the task force. All that could wait until
Monday. This wedding would not.
Sexy times with my amazing man should not.
Said amazing man skimmed his sexy finger down my nose and
tapped its slightly upturned tipâ€”yup, Iâ€™d been born
disdaining the worldâ€”as he scrutinized my face.
â€śYe look bonny. Now get dressed so I can start on yer
hands.â€ť Heâ€™d offered to paint henna designs on my hands.
Neal was a globally coveted jewelry designer, a metal
artiste and an honest-to-goodness lordâ€”he was fourth in
line to a Scottish baronageâ€”and as such an expert on
beautiful things and luxury lifestyle. He pulled me to my
feet and nudged me out of the miniscule bathroom to get on
with getting dressed. I stopped in the doorway to thank him
with a kiss but heâ€™d already turned to face the tiled
vanity and was putting my makeup bag to rights.
My pout swelled into a laugh as I watched my husband recap
bottles of glitter and gold, click-shut eye shadow
palettes, wipe faux-hair brushes with tissue and pack each
one of the items into their designated pockets in my
cosmetic bag with ferocious care. For a man who dabbled in
paint, pencil shavings and liquid metals for a living, Neal
did not handle mess well. He tolerated my slovenliness
without batting an eye though, and it was one of the
million things I loved about him. One of the zillion things
I hoped would never change between us.
I hugged him from behind, pressing a kiss on the nape of
his neck, careful not to mess up the fashion-plate paint
job heâ€™d done on my face, complete with intricate swirls of
a bindi design in the middle of my forehead. It shone like
a piece of jewelry embedded into my skin. The women at
Laviniaâ€™s three-ring circus were going to hate meâ€”they
always did when Neal did my makeup.
My thank-you left a perfect bow-shaped pink kiss on his
â€śThere now, my gorgeous-ship. Youâ€™ve been branded as mine
like the Fraser sheep on your familyâ€™s farms.â€ť I wasnâ€™t a
possessive person by nature, but with Neal all bets were
off. I continuously did things against my better judgment
with Neal, for Neal.
We were going to have a bairn together! If that didnâ€™t
explain how weird my life had become with him, I didnâ€™t
know what did.
Amused, his gorgeous-ship twisted around to shoot me a smug
grin. Shirtless and barefoot, he still managed to look
sophisticated and sexy. He was turning me on, probably why
his smugness didnâ€™t irritate me. And gauging from the
height of the tent in his pants, my lingerie-clad state was
affecting him too.
Neal had been away at the Hong Kong gem and jewelry trade
fair for the past week and we hadnâ€™t even hugged properly
when heâ€™d picked me up from work this afternoon, much less
ravaged each other like we usually did after one of his
business trips. And, today was our third engagement
anniversary. It was our marital duty to put everything
aside and celebrate with monkey sex.
â€śF**k henna hands and wedding rehearsals. Letâ€™s f**k.â€ť I
slid my hands up his hair-roughened chest to his shoulders,
my intent as clear as the day was bright.
Third engagement anniversary. Weâ€™d been together for more
than three years already. It baffled me that weâ€™d lasted
this long, considering weâ€™d come together in an explosion
of instinct and not intellect. After a mere six weeks of
dating, Neal had impulsively suggested we get hitched on
the night Iâ€™d taken the bar and in my post-exam fugue state
Iâ€™d grunted, â€śWhy not?â€ť
Iâ€™d changed my mind the next morning, after guzzling down a
gallon of coffee and sense. And lost them marbles again, a
couple of months later, when Iâ€™d been giddy with excitement
that Iâ€™d passed the bar on my first try. We were married
within a head-spinning six months of my reproposal. Best
impulsive decision of our lives.
Nealâ€™s hands came to rest on my hips. â€śDidnâ€™t ye say this
weekend is dedicated to yer college friends?â€ť
â€śDoesnâ€™t mean I need to be joined at the hip with them.â€ť I
pressed my lips to his jaw. â€śHowever, you and I can be.â€ť I
nudged his hips with mine. â€śWeâ€™ll claim that you were jet-
lagged and I was exhausted. Unless, you have your heart set
on spending the night flirting with my friends?â€ť I tweaked
his ear playfully, confident of his answer.
â€śDally with strangers or shag my wife? Now thatâ€™s an
impossible choice.â€ť Nealâ€™s lips kicked up in a sexy grin as
he took the phone from my hand and set it aside. He freed
my hair from the clip holding it up and out of my face. My
bra was next, unhooked and tossed over his shoulder.
Released from their lacy cage, my boobs thanked him by
perking right up.
I giggled when he swung me up in his arms, and tension
drained from my body as he carried me into the barn-style
bedroom only slightly larger than the bathroom. It felt
roomier though, as evening light poured in through the
casement windows that showcased the lovely Hudson Valley
and its river. The vegetation was slowly turning to gold
outside. Unlike Manhattan, where the trees had only just
begun to blush. Fall in New York was breathtaking. The
vivid, fiery colors; the perfect weatherâ€”bright and crisp
and spicy with the taste of pumpkin lattes and sangrias on
your tongue. How could I have resisted falling for Neal in
New York in the fall?
Careful not to jostle the outfit and accessories Iâ€™d laid
out in one corner, Neal lowered me to the double bed. The
coverlet was cool but its textured roughness felt
surprisingly good against my skin. I sighed as pleasure
spiked and washed away the last of my anxiety.
I pushed down my panties and kicked them off as Neal
divested himself of his dress pants. We were naked in
seconds, and then he was on top of me, crushing me with his
large, warm body, my mouth with his. I bowed up and moaned
as he slid into me, flesh to flesh, stretching me. Every
nerve inside my body snapped like an electric charge. Weâ€™d
starved for each other for a week, been separate entities
for seven fricking days. We didnâ€™t need priming. We needed
to devastate. Quick. Desperate. Now! Climax came quickly
for both of us.
Spent, we lay there, breathing hard in the aftermath,
hugging, laughing, still joined and shuddering with
aftershocks. Perhaps a little disappointed that it was over
Neal pushed up on one arm, but he didnâ€™t get off me. I
didnâ€™t want him to. Not yet. He began to rain kisses on my
face. He nipped my jaw, teased my ear, licked my
â€śBetter?â€ť he asked, his voice gruff with satisfaction, his
face ruddy with love. The scar on his chin, the one heâ€™d
gotten in a ski accident years ago, before I knew him, was
stark white against the dark red skin where Iâ€™d sucked him.
The rest of him glistened and I felt my pores open too. His
blue-blue eyes watched me with humor and a good dose of
fatigue. He was the one tired and he was asking whether I
was feeling better. Because he knew Nairaâ€™s text had upset
Love gushed through me, quicker and stronger than my
climax. I was glad Iâ€™d taken the time to just be with my
man, to take care of him. I ran a hand through the jet-
black thickness of his hair, which tended to curl just
above his shoulder. In three and a half years, heâ€™d become
as familiar to me as my own face. Every freckle, every
scar, every hair follicle, so very dear. Iâ€™d missed him so
much this past week, especially with everything that was
happening at work. With Naira. With the surrogacy. He was
always so encouraging and supportive. He loved me. It was
such a wonder that he loved me at all, much less when I was
a witch to him.
â€śI loâ€¦ ACK!â€ť I began in a whisper and ended up shrieking as
the room phone screeched into existence. My heart, beeping
with affection a second ago, slammed against my chest with
the impact of a judgeâ€™s gavel. Wildly, my eyes sought out
the culpritâ€”a quirky 1980s-style phone on the nightstand
that ought to be in a museum, certainly not for use
â€śThat is possiblyâ€”No! That sound is several decibels worse
than the FDNY sirens,â€ť I yelped. â€śItâ€™s the sound the hounds
of hell would make if theyâ€™d been forced to skip dinner.â€ť
Neal stretched out an arm to reach the nightstandâ€”he didnâ€™t
have to stretch farâ€”and answered the phone with a brisk
â€śHullo!â€ť that belied the laughter rippling through his
body. Obviously, he didnâ€™t think anyone had deprived
Satanâ€™s hounds of their kibble. With a wink and an, â€śOch,
aye. Here she is,â€ť he pressed the phoneâ€™s receiver to my
It was Karen, Laviniaâ€™s pregnant maid of honor. It figured.
â€śParis! Is your cell phone on silent? Iâ€™ve called and
called and left a dozen messages. Are you okay? Not about
to pass out for the night, are you? Because Lavinia will
kill you if you do. Are you ready to partay? Weâ€™re all
Yup. I was in hell. In college, Iâ€™d run myself ragged
trying to graduate summa cum laude in journalism and
philosophy with a minor in Latin while making it my
personal mission not to miss a single night of partying.
Every month like clockwork, Iâ€™d collapsed from sheer
exhaustion, sometimes passing out right in the middle of
whatever I was doing, and would sleep for two days
straight. What did it say about me that my friends didnâ€™t
think Iâ€™d matured since then?
â€śWeâ€™ll be down in fifteen minutes,â€ť I said coolly. Karen
disconnected the phone without another word apparently
satisfied that I was awake and lucid.
I passed the receiver back to Neal. â€śI shouldâ€™ve said I had
work to finish tonight. Or, you could have brought back a
disease from Asia. Yes! We could both be infected by
something sinister and avian right now. Something nasty and
contagious. Damn it! Iâ€™ve been trained to think on my feet.
Why didnâ€™t I think of it?â€ť I wondered if it was too late to
try the excuse.
Neal laughed heartilyâ€”I often amused him with hyperboleâ€”
sending our joined bodies aquiver again. Now, I was truly
sorry I hadnâ€™t thought of an excuse in time. I needed more
than that quickie with him. But I also wanted this night
with my friends. It had taken seven years for usâ€”all of us
including Nairaâ€”to come together since graduation. It was
like a homecoming.
I also couldnâ€™t let Lavinia down. Not for her wedding.
â€śYe canâ€™t ditch the lass. She came to our wedding and
clocked in full attendance.â€ť
If Iâ€™d ever been in doubt that my husband could read my
mind, those words cleared it up. But I wasnâ€™t programmed to
give in without a fightâ€”the reason I was a damned good
â€śThe only reason Lavinia came to our wedding was because
you paid the air and hotel fare for my friends and family.
And arranged for corporate discounts at various hotels for
those interested in a Scottish holiday after the wedding.
Why wouldnâ€™t she have come?â€ť I argued.
Heâ€™d offered Naira the same red-carpet arrangement and
sheâ€™d still not come. Aargh. Donâ€™t rehash the past. Itâ€™s
â€śParis.â€ť My name didnâ€™t sound nice as an admonishment.
Sometimes, I disappointed him with my quick criticisms and
â€śI didnâ€™t mean it negatively. But fine. I take it back.â€ť
Arguing simply for the sake of having the last word never
served any purpose. â€śI love you to the moon and back. You
know that, right?â€ť I took his face between my hands and
kissed his mouth, quick and wet. An apology. I kissed him
again and again worth several apologies. â€śYour eyes are
red. If youâ€™re tired, I can go by myself.â€ť
The nonred part of his eyeballs twinkled green and blue and
purple in the slanted sunlight. What did I tell you? Wicked
charmer. â€śI slept on the plane. Iâ€™m fine for a bit. But,
Iâ€™ll probably need to crash after meeting yer esteemed
He planted a soft kiss on my shoulder, then taking care not
to hurt me, he rolled off and sat up on the bed. Even so,
my body curved in response to his movement and I gasped as
grief welled up inside me. No matter how many times we came
together and drew apart, or how, in anticipation of the
disengagement, I readied my body for separation, clenching
it tight, or scolded my heart to behave itself, I still
felt hollow when he left me. Like heâ€™d abandoned me. Cast
me out. Rejected me. Have I mentioned I have issues?
Obviously, we couldnâ€™t stay joined together like a pair of
incestuous conjoined twins forever, but my body didnâ€™t seem
to understand it. Knowing this, knowing me, loving me, Neal
never withdrew without a heads-up like that kiss on my
We resumed our dress-up dance then, swirling around the
room like a pair of professional ballroom dancers. Mid-
October temperatures had cooled the room even without air-
conditioning and the sweat dried off our bodies quickly.
Deodorant took care of the rest. I rice-papered my face,
and it was enough to repair my makeup. Last, I slipped a
pair of emerald-cut diamond earrings onto my earlobes while
checking my appearance in the mirror above the TV unit.
Neal stood behind me, adjusting his tie. His dark suit
complemented my copper-and-blue brocade jacket that I wore
over a pale blue summer dress.
We were always a study in contrasts, whether in or out of
clothes. I was tan to his fair, voluptuous to his lean; a
frugal vote to his extravagance. His mixed-race heritage
and my evidently South Asian DNA had blessed us with bold
looks and hardy genes. I liked how we fitâ€”not totally in
sync but complementary like the set of decorative vases on
the console table by the TV. I adored who we were, together
and separately. I valued the person Iâ€™d become from loving
â€śHere, let me help.â€ť Neal took the two-inch thick
smaragdine diamond bracelet from my hand. It wasnâ€™t hard to
clasp shut, even one-handed, but my mind had been elsewhere
and Iâ€™d missed the claspâ€™s opening twice now.
â€śThe henna wouldâ€™ve flattered it, but I enjoyed these hands
on me better,â€ť he said gruffly, closing the bracelet around
my wrist. Then he kissed the back of my hand.
The bracelet was a Sothebyâ€™s certified Neal Singh Fraser
classic. Heâ€™d given it to me on our first wedding
anniversary. Iâ€™d accepted it reluctantly not wishing to
hurt his feel ings. Make no mistake, I loved my bracelet.
Took delight in it more because Neal had made it himself.
Not just designed it or hunted the planet for the perfect
stones to set in it, but also fashioned it with his own
hands like an old-fashioned goldsmith and not with the help
of machines or hired artisans. I couldnâ€™t imagine how heâ€™d
done it or how long it had taken him to cast and shape and
finesse the train of interlinked pink-gold rings. Each ring
in turn was alternatively pavĂ© set in smaragdineâ€”Nealâ€™s
brandâ€™s signature emerald green colorâ€”and white diamonds. I
marveled at his talent. I did. But owning expensive pieces
of jewelry did not sit well with me no matter the sentiment
attached to it. It was a frivolous indulgence just like a
circus wedding. And I disapproved of it.
It wasnâ€™t the first piece of jewelry Neal had given me but
it had become the last. Maybe thatâ€™s why I was partial to
it. A few weeks after our anniversary, Iâ€™d told him that
such presents made me feel uncomfortable instead of happy,
and I couldnâ€™t enjoy them as he meant me to. Heâ€™d stopped
giving me expensive trinkets after that. Instead, he
planned special things for us to do on our special days in
addition to donating large sums of money to Right is Mightâ€”
our NGO of choice and the reason we were together.
Neal understood my soul. He cared about the betterment of
humanity. He might not be as politically driven as I was,
but he cared. And that was another one of the zillion
things that made him amazing.
â€śHenna my hands tomorrow,â€ť I said by way of compromise.
My husband liked to pretty me up, and I indulged him when I
could. It was what marriage was about, wasnâ€™t it? Knowing
each otherâ€™s peccadilloes and loving that person anyway?
Working out a compromise where one could? Like Iâ€™d
compromised my stance about not ever having children, and
he had compromised his by having only one, and with a
Then, before I got too analytical or anxious again, and
before Karen sent out a search party for us, I took my
husbandâ€™s hand and dragged him down to the wedding
rehearsal dinner, where unsurprisingly Naira didnâ€™t show.
My best friend had become adept at breaking her word.
â€śNo amount of rehearsing prepares you for marriage,â€ť I told
Lavinia later that night as part of my bridesmaidâ€™s duties.
â€śYou have to wing it just like you do everything else in
How I was going to wing being a mother though, I had no
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