"She's not ours." Her grandmother's harsh comment hung heavy in the awkward silence; even Naina's warning tone to the old woman had come too late. Gia Kapur lowered her gaze, ashamed to look Rohit's parents in the eye. She loved her big sister and after the disastrous afternoon with Kammo Aunty's relatives, she wouldn't be the one to ruin this for Naina. The eight-year-old clenched her fists in her lap, her mother's gentle hand already stroking her hair, the voice reassuring the Patel's that Gia is one of the family seemed far away as the little girl simply tried not to cry. The tension remained for the rest of that seemingly endless tea time, the root of their family issues suddenly out in open: Her father killed himself and Rohit's parents knew it. Gia liked Rohit, he wasn't in the same league as Aman of course but he made Naina happy. The idea of scaring away her sister's reason to smile made Gia's little heart hurt. Dadi always said the evil eye on the family is her fault, maybe she's right.
All these thoughts were still swirling in her head long after Rohit and Naina took his parents home. The basketball game Shiv was watching went unnoticed by her eyes, misty and focused on the grandmother doll from her perfect little family. Shiv's game must not have been too exciting, because the volume was low enough for them to suddenly hear the raised voices of their mother and grandmother. Kneeling on her bed, Gia shakily dropped her doll and stood up. At that point, even Shiv stopped pretending to watch the game on the TV. "Where are you going? Sounds like a war-zone out there!"
"This is my fault," she whispered, trailing past him just quickly enough that he couldn't grab her hand and stop her. "Didi's going to hate me if Rohit leaves because our family is crazy!" The voices below them got louder and she stepped out onto the landing, ignoring Shiv's curses as he tried to get up and stop her, it would take him long enough to move on his own she knew.
She followed the sound of the two angry voices, lips quivering with a fresh surge of guilt as her mother yells: "Relationships are not handled, they are maintained!" Arguments had been a daily feature in the Kapur household for years, but never like this. Soft whimpers finally escaped the girl as her grandmother began shaking a fist to the heavens, screaming her hatred over and over again. Tears flowed freely down her cheeks by this point, so thick and fast she could only assume Shiv had finally managed to get up on his crutches alone and was watching her from the doorway to their bedroom, by the collision of his sticks with the wood. He called out to her in vain, at the exact same moment as Jennifer screeched: "No!"
Sobbing, Gia's gaze took in her grandmother's angry glare and the tears on her mother's cheeks. She had to do something and fast. Barely even thinking, she charged down the stairs and past the bickering women. For once she was glad their street was a dull one, no one was around to witness the tears still streaming as she ran across the road barely even glancing left and right. One name resounded in her head, the only solution to this pain: Aman.
In the house towards which Gia was frantically making her way, Aman was at that moment being forced to relax. It was time for one of his nastier pills and his mother was firmly pushing the stupid plastic pill cup into his hand, with a glass of water at the ready in the other. As usual, Aman rolled his eyes at her as he swallowed with a big smile, he was not about to make this routine any harder for her. No sooner had he lowered the glass than the knocks began, quick and urgent, accompanied by the frantic voice of little Gia. "I'll get it, don't move!" his Mom insisted of course. Aman didn't protest, an almost instant side effect of this particular medicine was fatigue. But before he could get too comfortable, the door opened and the devastated girl across the threshold put everything else out of his mind.
"Gia, what's wrong?" Even his mother didn't have the heart to scold him for getting up just then. While she thought the romance between her elderly brother-in-law and the Kapur matriarch was sweet, everyone had noticed the old lady's bitter resentment of poor Gia. She stood near the door, watching Aman anxiously as he hugged the little girl, waiting for her to calm down and explain what all the fuss was about.
"Mama and Dadi are fighting again," she choked finally. "It's really bad this time, Dadi was screaming that it's my fault Papa is dead. She hates me! It started when Rohit's parents came over for tea, if he walks out on Didi it will be my fault."
As he processed this explanation, Aman glanced up at his mother: "Ma, can you get Jenny's letter from my room? I have to do something!" Even as her expression protested this idea, Aman knelt down and braced his hands on Gia's thin shoulders, hoping his mother's keen eye wouldn't notice the tell-tale sign of dizziness. "Okay first things first, sweetheart. There is absolutely no chance of Rohit leaving your sister now, he's crazy about her and nothing your family does will change that." Mrs. Mathur chose that moment to reappear at his side, the requested letter in one hand and a plastic pink flower in the other. Aman smiled; "And secondly, will you marry me?"
The tracks of her tears still gleaming on her face, Gia took the flower shyly with a tiny smile. Holding it tightly in one hand, she flung her arms around his neck and murmured; "I love you, Aman."
He straightened up, rubbing her back affectionately: "No more crying, I'll fix this, okay?" With that Aman took the letter from his mother, keeping a smile in place for her worried eyes. Feeling the burden of maternal pain really could be a curse. "Don't worry Ma; everything's going to be fine." He couldn't very well say more in front of Gia, who knew nothing of his heart condition yet of course. So instead, his Mom just nodded and switched her maternal instincts towards the barely calm little girl instead. "Don't worry sweetie, if anyone can stop your Mom and Dadi fighting, it's my boy! Would you like something to drink? I find hot chocolate very relaxing at times like this."
Gia nodded; "Thank you, Aunty." She didn't loosen her grip on the woman's hand as her milk heated up, the physical contact felt like a lifeline, drowning out the nasty argument echoing in her head. Before the drink was even ready, the front door was victim to a fresh onslaught of frantic knocks. Gia remained clingy as Mrs. Mathur answered the summons to find Naina standing on the doorstep with a deep, worried frown. "Didi!" Gia bolted out from behind Aman's mother and hugged her sister tightly. "I'm sorry, I ruined everything! Is Rohit mad? What's going to happen now? I'm sorry!" she babbled barely coherently, the tears flowing once again.
"We were just making hot chocolate," Mrs. Mathur cut in, as Naina awkwardly walked her distraught little sister over to the couch and sat down with the teary girl on her lap. "This little one could clearly use some. I'll be right back."
"Why would you think Rohit's upset, baby?" Naina asked Gia as she rubbed her back consolingly. "Dadi was way out of line; this is not your fault!"
"Aman said the exact same thing," Gia confessed quietly. Naina smiled, no wonder Aman had been the one to text her urgently saying there was a major argument brewing at her house.
"You know what, sis? It doesn't matter that he's married; I think you should put your Aman doll back in the same room with our family. He'll be our angel, yeah?"
"Yeah," Gia beamed back, her biggest smile in hours. Suddenly there was sniffling noise from the kitchen and when Aman's mother emerged with two cups of hot milk a minute later, her eyes were teary too.
"I really hope all this drama can be sorted out, you girls are precious," she said passionately. She couldn't help but worry increasingly about Aman and to see how much good he did, made the near-constant tension worth it.
Naina hugged her; "The only reason I didn't even bother going home first when Aman texted me is because I know Mama will be okay while she has him there," she said fervently. "In spite of how difficult things have been at times, Aman is special. I trust him, simple as that."
As a touched smile highlighted the emotion shining in Mrs. Mathur's eyes the front door clicked open once again. "Say that again darling," Aman piped up, leading in the previously feuding Jenny and Lajjo. Both women looked drained and emotional but made a bee-line for Gia, still perched on the couch.
Naina vaguely heard her grandmother's broken voice apologizing profusely over and over again for years of misplaced hatred, but she only had eyes for Aman. "How on earth did you pull this off?" she marvelled, slowly pacing towards him.
"Private and confidential," he winked, waving a letter in her face. "It's up to your Mom to tell you about it now, later I should think. Look at that!" He pointed to the couch she had just vacated, where Lajjo and Jennifer now had Gia squashed between them in a tight hug. All three of them were crying, expressing relief and joy this time, Naina knew.
Mesmerized by the sweet sight, when Naina turned to face Aman he had vanished, forced to sit down by his over-anxious mother. "What was that about?" she asked referring to Mrs. Mathur's hovering behaviour.
"It's a Mom thing," he replied vaguely brushing her query off. Her family was finally happy, now was not the time to blow the cover of "marriage", playing it cool was the only way. Naina's hand slipped into his and how perfect it felt made his ever-weakening heart want to burst.
"Thank you for fixing this family," she whispered, leaning across the side of his armchair to press a kiss to his cheek. "Gia and I agreed, you are that guardian angel we asked God for months ago, congratulations." Aman stared into her dark, soulful eyes for a moment. If this was the end for him it was strangely okay. Angel she'd said, well that meant he could claim her heart for all eternity and until then live for this moment of her appreciation and love.
A/N This was my first ever Bollywood fanfic, this movie hits me in the feels every single time I watch it. Enjoy!