WHO: Armaan Khatri and his mother Radhika Khatri [NPC] WHEN: Friday, September 30th WHERE: Radhika's apartment WHAT: Coming out WARNINGS: Coming out
Armaan had promised himself that he would speak to his mother about his sexuality tonight. He had even told Freddie, so that he couldn't chicken out of it. It was the perfect timing. His sisters were both busy and he had his mother all to himself.
So why was dinner finished and the dishes stacked in the dishwasher and he still hadn't said anything?! Possibly because his mother was the person Armaan loved most in the entire world, even if he didn't often tell her that. And if he lost her over this, he didn't know what he would do. For so long it had been just them. Armaan and Ma against the world. He felt like she was a part of himself and he couldn't lose that. He couldn't.
Radhika was fussing over her plastic tablecloth, wiping it all down because she liked to keep it in good nick. Armaan turned away from the pot he should have been cleaning and he sort of abandoned it on the kitchen counter, watching his mother scrub at that damn tablecloth. Tendrils of her dark hair escaped her bun as she scrubbed and they caught the autumn sun just right and Armaan was struck - as he was from time to time - with the notion that his mother was so young still. She was only 43. When she had been his age, she had had three children already.
"Amma," he said, before he could stop himself. He so rarely called her 'Amma', so Radhika would know it was a serious conversation he was after. She abandoned the cloth right away, and wiped her hands on her frilly apron.
"Is everything alright?" she asked, her perfect eyebrows arching high.
Armaan swallowed roughly and he leaned up off the kitchen counter so he could go stand near her. His stomach was squirming with fear, and he could feel that he had broken out in a cold sweat. But he had her attention and it was now or never. He chewed on his lip for a moment before he blurted out, "I met someone, Maji. I- I'm in a relationship."
Armaan's eyes were glued to his mother's face, but Radhika gave nothing away as she asked, "ah yes? And what is their name?"
She had said 'their', not 'her'. Armaan felt his chest lift a little, in hope, and god he was going to be crushed if that was just a slip of the tongue- But was it possible she knew?! "Be-before I tell you that, I have to tell you something else," he started, his palms suddenly clammy.
And then Radhika cut right through all the fear and doubt and terror, by stepping forward and taking his face gently into her hands, holding on to him like he was precious. And to her, he was. "Armaan. Jaanu. No matter what you tell me, I will love you the same."
Armaan wasn't a crier. He had teared up when he had come out to Arya, but no tears had fallen. The last time he had cried he had been seventeen, and he had just withdrawn from school. He knew he was leaving his friends and his kind of sort of boyfriend behind. He was exchanging the life of a teenager for one of being a caretaker to his sisters because there was no choice. Armaan had waited until everyone was asleep, and he had crawled out onto the fire escape of their apartment building, and he had sobbed into his hands, trying to silence himself, until his head ached and his lungs burned; crying for the loss of the life he should have had. And then he had climbed back into bed, and woken up the next morning to prepare breakfast for the family, and to fix lunches for his sisters so he could get them off to school. And he had done that for the next decade without a tear. Without complaint.
And now he was about to cry again. Goddammit.
"Ma-" the word burst from his throat as his eyes brightened with tears. "You- Do you know?"
"Tell me, Armaan. You deserve to tell me." She rubbed his cheek with her thumbs and Armaan wanted to curl into her like he had when he was a kid.
Oh god, she was right. Even if she did know he was gay, he deserved to tell her. "I- I'm gay, Maji. I've known for- I've known since I was fourteen." And now that he had said those words aloud, he couldn't stop talking. "And I was going to tell you when I was in high school, but then Baba-" Armaan was going to sob, if he wasn't careful, "too much was happening and I couldn't and then you called me your knight and- You needed me to be- I'm so afraid. Please-" He didn't even realise he was shaking, even as she still held his face in her hands and he begged her to keep loving him. "Please, I need you to love me-"
"Shhhhh, hush now," Radhika cooed gently. She bowed Armaan's head to her, so she could lay a kiss over his third eye. "Armaan, of course I love you. And if I ever made you feel like I wouldn't that's my failure, not yours." Armaan opened his mouth to argue, but she kept right on speaking, "don't interrupt me. I am proud of the man you are. You stepped in when this family needed you to, and now you're going after the job you have wanted for a long time. You treat people so kindly. You're a good man, and your father would be so proud of you too. I know who you are, and I love you."
Armaan sniffed hard, and he leaned his head, heavy against her shoulder. He had been so scared for so long, and while he should feel relieved now, all he felt was exhausted. Relieved could come later. But at least he didn't have to be scared any more. "I was so afraid you wouldn't understand," he whispered.
"Come sit," Radhika said, and she led Armaan to their lounge room. She sat on the sofa, and he dropped himself into it, facing her. "I won't lie and say I do understand," she said and Armaan felt sick for a second, until she added, "but I want to. I don't know how any of this works. Or why. I- I've had a suspicion," she admitted, "but I didn't know for sure until you just asked to talk to me and you looked pale as a ghost. And I guess I should have looked into this when I first wondered. That is also my failure. I also can't lie and say I didn't want for you to find a wife, but I will just need to get over that, won't I?"
Armaan looked a little uncomfortable, but at least she wasn't flat-out rejecting him. "I- I'm sorry-"
"No! Armaan, don't ever apologise to me," Radhika said firmly, "I'm not saying this to make you feel guilty, I just don't want to lie to you about where I'm at. This is something I need to change. It's me who should be sorry. I feel like you must have known I wanted you to find a wife and maybe that is why you didn't tell me."
It was exactly why he hadn't told her, but he felt bad admitting it. "Amma-"
"It's me who needs to change, Armaan, not you," she repeated. "And I'm going to. When I was in love with your birth father, my parents refused to understand why. And it sent me running. I know now they were right, but if they had tried to understand my side, they might have been able to make me see- This isn't an exact correlation," she said with a small smile, and Armaan couldn't help it when the corner of his mouth lifted in a smile as well. "I know if I don't try, you'll leave. And I couldn't bear that. So I will learn."
"Thank you," Armaan said, feeling wrung out and a little listless. "Do you ever- Do you ever wish you hadn't gone? With Varaha?" He wasn't going to call the god his father.
"Then I wouldn't have my Armaan," Radhika said, and Armaan raised an eyebrow.
"That isn't an answer," he said flatly.
"It is," she insisted. "No. No I don't wish I hadn't gone, because I wouldn't have you. And I love you, no matter what."
He didn't even know how to put into words what this all meant to him. "I've been so worried for so long, and I just- Thank you, Ma. And I'll try to explain the...whatever it is you don't understand, but a different day? ...what are we going to do about the Aunties?! They still blow my phone up every week, trying to tell me some girl is back in town."
Radhika chuckled then and she nodded, patting his knee. "You leave them to me. So tell me about this boy then, Armaan. What is his name?"
At that, Armaan cringed a little, "uhhhhhhh, Freddie..."
Radhika blinked and she swatted his leg, "Armaan Viraj Khatri, don't tell me you are bringing home a white boy!" she said, but her eyes were shining with mirth.
Armaan laughed and ducked, covering his head, "a white, Christian boy!" Radhika squawked and she grabbed a pillow, swatting Armaan with it over and over.
"Nooo! Woman! Stop!" he laughed as she swung the pillow into his side.
"I am going to let the Aunties have you!" she cried out and Armaan barked out a laugh, and grabbed the pillow, pulling it out of her hands. Then, with barely a hesitation, he pulled his mother into his arms and hugged her tight. He felt her arms wrap around him too and he sighed, smiling to himself.
"And you're happy?" she asked, over his shoulder.
"It's early days yet," Armaan answered, "but yes. He makes me smile and laugh. He makes me feel good. Please don't feed me to the aunties."