Arnav had thought long and hard about that day. What if he’d picked up her call, would he have been able to talk her out of committing suicide? What if he went home as soon as Akaash called, would he have been able to lend her a shoulder to cry on? What if he was actually in the hospital with her when her bauji died, would he have been able to comfort her? What if he’d not trusted Shyam in the first place, would they have been able to end his evil plans together?
Most of all, one thought haunted him, what if he’d told her that he loved her, before it was too late.
Ever since his maa died Arnav’s life took a turn for the worse. Anyone who looked at him would find a smart entrepreneur, a formidable businessman, and a strong personality. But these qualities came at a price, his emotions. Since his parents’ death, Arnav has been emotionally stunted. He was still that fifteen year old boy, afraid to love and care because of his fear of losing the people he held dear. And that fear held him back from experiencing one of the greatest feelings on earth, Love. Khushi’s love.
When Khushi came into his life like a hurricane, destroying all the foundations of his life, that he had painstakingly built over the past thirteen years, he wasn’t angry…, he was afraid. Because this girl, with her innocent doe like eyes, had made him feel again. He didn’t know what he felt, except that this feeling, it could either make him the happiest man on earth or turn him to ash.
Arnav sighed. If only.…if only he had trusted his heart, trusted her not to hurt him, he might have had her with him today.
Instead, he was gazing at the stars, remembering her serene smile, her twinkling eyes, her hands that held the tenderest touch, her sindoor that looked like a rising sun peeking through her hair that put the blackest of nights to shame. Most of all he remembered her presence, a soothing breeze on his otherwise distressing life.
As if in answer to his thoughts, a light breeze brushed past him. As if she was embracing him, comforting him .
“I love you”he whispered, like he did everyday, hoping that the winds would carry the message to her, and like every day receiving only silence in return.
He turned around and saw at his 11 month old niece fastly crawling towards him, eager to be in her mamu’s arms and stare at the blinking toys in the sky.
“Aasha, what are you doing here?”He took her into his arms and threw her into the air and caught her, delighting in her tinkling laughter. She was a ray of hope that saved their whole family from crumbling.
“What she does everyday, spending time with her mama and mani, right ashu?” said Anjali, walking into the garden that has been renovated to fit a child’s needs. “You niece just couldn’t wait for her mama and me time, she sneaked out while I was talking to Abhi.”
Abhijit was Anjali’s second husband. He was honest, straight-forward, kind and loving, everything Shyam was not. Abhi and Anjali met when Khushi was in the hospital. For the first few days, his family and hers left him alone. But when Khushi hadn’t woken up after a week, his Di sat him down and demanded answers. Arnav didn’t have the strength to pretend anymore, so he told her the truth, about Shyam, their contract marriage, his cruel behavior towards Khushi, everything. Anjali had slapped him and cursed him for pushing Khushi to kill herself, told him his behavior was abhorrent. Arnav didn’t flinch under his Di’s accusations, why would he? He wasn’t hearing anything new, his di was just vocalizing what he had been thinking for the past week.
Anjali had taken over her life then. Being betrayed by someone you loved was an eye-opening experience. If Arnav had shut down his emotions after his maa’s death, Anjali let her emotions rule. And she had loved the Shyam she thought he was, not the person that had betrayed her. Anjali filed a police complaint against Shyam for fraud, and had used the Raizada influence to make sure that he never left the four walls of his cell again.
Anjali and Abhi had met at the hospital. Abhi was there taking care of his mother, who was dying of cancer. He lost her a week after they had took Khushi off of life support. The two broken people had helped each other heal. They had confessed their love six months after, and got married soon. Arnav had been reluctant to let his Di marry again, but Anjali was adamant about making her own decisions, and he had let her live her life, her way.
“And mama can’t wait to have his princess in his arms, hain na ashu?”Aasha was the only reason he had survived this long. Even though nothing could ever take away the constant ache in his heart, Ashu gave him a brief respite.
“Then the princess of naughtiness is all yours”, saying this, Anjali left.
He settled down for their nightly ritual in the poolside chair, watching the stars, and talking to ashu her about her mami.
“You know ashu, your mami was just like you. She had big eyes that sparkled like yours. And she was naughty too, maybe even naughtier than you. She used to love causing trouble to me” He said with a sad smile. “Do you see that bright star there?” he said pointing at the brightest star in the sky. “That’s your mami. See she just blinked, she is saying hi to you.”
“She would have loved you so much, ashu! She would have pampered you, stitched adorable princess gowns for you, and made you eat loads of jalebi’s. I am sorry, jaan. I am sorry for making you miss out on your mami’s incredible love.” He said with a chocked voice.
He looked down to see her sleeping, with his shirt fisted in her hand, and a adorable smile on her face.
He took her to her room and laid her down in her crib.
“Good night, jaan” He whispered, kissing her forehead.
– – – – –
Tomorrow would be the anniversary of Khushi’s death. The pain of losing her hadn’t reduced at all. He still felt an empty hole in the place his heart should have been. At times, it felt like he would keel over from the sheer magnitude of his agony.
“I…I just wanted to say that I love you. I love you very much.”
He ached to hear her say those words again, to hold her in his arms, to kiss her breathless. He was suffocating in his own thoughts. He felt a strong desire to run away from the pain, away from the hurt and most of all from the nothingness that was looming over him.
He grabbed his car keys and left shantivan.
– – – – –
He didn’t mean to drive off of the road. In an effort to avoid the truck coming at him, he swerved and lost control of the car.
He could hear the sirens and people shouting around him, trying to get him out of the car to safety. But he felt something akin to relief, an odd peace take over him, he would be with her soon.
He felt a slight twinge of regret for leaving Ashu and his Di, but for the first time in his life he wanted to be selfish. They were in good hands, Abhi would take good care of them.
He hoped that god wasn’t too angry with him. He wanted to go to heaven, where she was bound to be.
The last thing he heard before he passed out was a whispered “I love you, I’ll see you soon.”
– – – – –
He woke up in a garden. It was the most beautiful place he had ever seen.
He felt her presence before he saw her. She was a vision in red. Her skin looked radiant in the light peeking through the tree. Her hair, flying in the air while a few stray pieces played with her cheeks. The only ornaments she wore were his mangalsutra and her smile. She was looking at him with love.
He hugged her close and whispered in her ear.
“I love you, Khushi”
She looked him in the eyes and replied.
“I love you too, Arnav.”
Sealing their confession, he held her face in his hands gently, and placed a tender kiss on her lips.
She pulled back, and extended her hand to him.
“It’s time, Arnav.”
He smiled a serene smile at her, and took her hand, not caring for anything because he was with her. He was finally home.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe