Arnav stepped out of the conference room. He had a big fashion show coming up and even though he didn’t mind the amount of work he had to do, it was taking a toll on him. On top of that, his cruelness to Khushi was draining him. Pretending to hate a person he loved was very taxing. But he felt guilty for showing kindness to his sisters betrayer, so he took out his anger on Khushi and the cycle started all over again.
Today though, he was thankful for the work. He got a call from Akaash a couple of hours ago saying that Bauji passed away. Her bauji was a good man, he loved Khushi unconditionally. Every time Arnav saw bauji he felt a twinge of regret for treating his daughter so cruelly. And now that he was gone, he knew Khushi would be broken. He didn’t know how to face Khushi. Until now he had hidden behind his mask of hatred, but today he couldn’t, no wouldn’t, be cruel to her. He decided to give her time to grieve.
He checked his blackberry. There was a missed call from Khushi. Arnav was immediately on alert. She hadn’t called him once in the past 5 months. In fact, she very rarely spoke to him. So he knew something was awry as soon as he saw the voice-mail.
“Hello Arnavji? It’s me Khushi. I…I just wanted to say that I love you. I love you very much. I needed to say that. I don’t want to have any regrets. Please forgive me if I ever caused you or your loved ones any pain, that wasn’t my intention. Take care of yourself.
Don’t…don’t blame yourself. This is not your fault. The pain of losing bauji is just too much.I love you. Bye.”
His breath whooshed out of him. Only one thought kept repeating in his head. He is going to lose her.
He didn’t know how he reached home in one piece. He ran through the living room ignoring all of his families questions.
There she was, in a pool of blood that was fast growing. She looked peaceful and happy, more than she had in a long time.
“Khushi!!” He rushed to her side “What the hell did you do?”
He grabbed the first cloth he found and held it to her hand to stop her bleeding.
“Khushi, Khushi can u hear me?” His voice cracked “Please, please Khushi, stay with me. Khushi!”
He picked her up and rushed out of the house, paying no heed to the worried voices of his di and nani. He needed to get Khushi to the hospital. She couldn’t leave, not like this, and not before he replied to her confession.
“Doctor! I need a doctor! My wife, she’s bleeding” He was a desperate man. “Get me a f****** doctor!”
He was a man possessed. He was losing his life, and he was desperate to survive.
She was placed on a stretcher and rushed to the Intensive Care. He held her hand until he was pushed away by the doctor.
Once their fingers parted, he collapsed. Until now, his sheer will to get her to the hospital had kept him on his feet. But now it was out of his hands. Only she could decide if she wanted to fight for her life or leave him to his regrets.
Ironically the first person to reach the hospital was Shyam. The man who single-handedly managed to destroy the lives of two beautiful families. He was deranged with anger.
“How could you do this Arnav? I know she decided to kill herself because of you. I only had to wait 15 more days and she would have been mine. She would have stopped hating me and realized that I loved her, unlike you. You took her away from me, you bas***d!”
Arnav listened to Shyam ranting, but didn’t pay him any attention. He wasn’t angry with Shyam like he should have been. What was the point? Shyam might have been a two-faced bas***d, but he was right. Khushi decided to kill herself because of him. She was foolish to think that he wouldn’t blame himself. He was the villain in her life, not Shyam. Because she didn’t care what Shyam thought about her, he didn’t mean anything to her. He realized that she would have fought thousand such evils headlong, if only he stood by her side.
Seeing the family coming, Shyam made his escape. If Khushi did die, he would have to continue his drama of loving Rani sahiba. Didn’t make sense to lose all his ventures.
“Chotte!?” Anjali rushed to his side. “What happened to Khushiji? Is she alright?”
But he wasn’t speaking, he couldn’t. He was trapped inside his own head, remembering all the things he said to her, all his accusations that had broken her heart piece by piece, until there was nothing left of it. He was seeing himself murder her slowly since the past five months.
“It’s good that your parents are not alive to see your disgusting character”
“How do you look them in the eyes at night?”
“How can you betray our families like that when they love you so much?”
“I HATE YOU!”
“Doctor?” Anjali cried. “How is she? Is she going to be alright? What happened to her?”
Arnav looked up. He needed the doctor to say that she would be alright. He refused to think about the alternative.
“She lost more than 40% of her blood. She slipped into a coma. We put her on life support. All we can do is wait and pray to god.”
“No” It was just a whisper. Anjali wouldn’t have heard him if she wasn’t hugging him.
“No what, Chotte?”
“No, I won’t pray.”
“Chotte! This is no time to be stubborn about your religious views. All we can do is pray!”
His sister didn’t understand him like she would have. He would do anything to see her alive, to see her eyes sparkle with mischief, to hear her beautiful laughter. He refused to pray, not because of his stubbornness, but because he was paralyzed with fear. He remembered what she had said to him.
“You will believe in god one day, but that day, that day I won’t be with you.”
He refused to pray because he was afraid that she would fulfill her promise. He was afraid that she would leave him.
So he waited in silence, for her, for his salvation.
– – – – –
“Mr. Raizada, it’s been more than three months. I don’t think she will wake up. I suggest taking her off life support.”
He looked at the doctor with rage. How dare he suggest he kill his wife. He grabbed the doctors collar and yelled “No! How dare you ask me to kill my wife? If you say something like this again, you will rue the day you were born.”
Anjali who entered the room just then, rushed to her brothers side. “Chotte! What are you doing? Let him go.”
Arnav released the doctor. “Di! He was asking me to take Khushi off of life support. How can he say something like that?”
“Chotte, calm down.” She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. He sat down and held Khushi’s hand again.
“Chotte, have you given any thought to what Khushi would want? It’s been more than three months. I feel like we are holding her back from freedom. Wouldn’t she have wanted us to set her free? She would want to see her amma, bauji.”
Arnav looked at her with tearful eyes. He had thought of that, but he was a coward, too afraid of his own pain. He was afraid to let go.
“How can I live without her Di? How will I survive? My breathing would stop.”
Anjali cried seeing her brother in pain. Life had always been cruel to him, but when Khushi showed up, Anjali thought he was finally getting his share of happiness. But life had showed him a beautiful dream of love, only to snatch it away.
“We need to do what she wants Chotte. And I think she would want to be free”
“Not yet Di. I need some more time. I need to say goodbye”
– – – – –
And that is what he did. For the next two days, he sat by her side and talked to her. Told her everything, every little thing about his life, his feelings. He apologized to her. He told her about the happiness she brought to him. He broke down all the walls he had built and let her finally see him, the real him. And finally he promised her.
He hugged her and promised to her.
“Remember this Khushi. I promise you, I will join you in time. There is a world where we will be together again. And this time my sole mission would be to give you unconditional happiness.”
He laid her back and kissed her lips one last time.
“I love you Khushi. Be happy.”
He looked at the doctor who was looking at him with pity.
He held her hand, felt her breathe her last and whispered
“Until we meet again…”