Here's Part B PART 97 B
Prachi watched her husband from
the corner of her eyes. Tension seemed to eminated from every cell in his body.
Waving off his mother and mausi, he had dismissed the driver and drove the car
himself. Now seated next to him, she knew that they were not going back to the
house but was too nervous to ask him where they were going. He looked grim and
Prachi was sure Vicky would have said something.
Silence hung thickly among them, the tension in the
atmosphere suffocating. He hadn't looked at her even once and stubbornly kept
his eyes on the road but Prachi knew that he was hurting. She knew his body
language so well and she fought a desperate need to hold him in her arms and
take away the pain in him. She rolled the window down and let the chill breeze
in. She leaned back and closed her eyes, her heart thudding heavily in her
woke up with a start and looked around her in surprise. Milind had parked the
car and was waiting for her to get out. Wordlessly she did and followed him to
the elevator. The private elevator stopped at the top floor and stepping out
into the long balcony, she suddenly realised where she was. From that height,
the view of the city was beautiful. The afternoon sun shimmered on the murky
waters of Thames. So, this was their London flat. She looked at Milind as he
opened the door and waited for her to enter. Taking a deep breathe, she stepped
in, a familiar feeling lifting her heart.
It was her first time there but she felt that
she knew the place very well. Wasn't it from here that he used to call her? They
used to talk for hours over the phone. In her mind, she had picturised a
numerous times the layout, the colour scheme as he had described. For so many
nights, she had held on to it, picturing him amidst it all, the way he would
talk, smile and move. Taking a deep breathe, she walked into the kitchen and
stood still. She could almost hear his voice, his laughter, the bell of the
microwave, the sound of the cutlery, the coffee machine, the dishwasher. Oh, how
many nights she had spent hearing them; feeling as if she was next to him even
though he was miles away from her, even though she was unsure of his feelings
then. A sob burst out of her and she whirled around to find Milind leaning
against the wall, his unreadable eyes boring right into her.
"It's all familiar, isn't it, Prachi?"
he asked softly.
Without a word, she walked past him and into
the bedroom. Again the familiarity hit her, the bed, the nightlamp… Their
phonecalls used to run well into the night, the sleepiness in his voice in
contrast with the breaking dawn in Chennai. Most of the time, it was her who
would hang up, chiding him to get some sleep. Wasn't it from here he had
confessed his love for her over the phone? She picked up his pillow and held it
closer to her chest, lost in the cocoon of his love all around her.
His voice cut through her thoughts, "From where I stand, I have no
glimpse of my past. Then why are seeing it, Prachi?" he said softly and Prachi
closed her eyes.
He spoke again. "What do you want to
know, Prachi? I am right here and ready to answer all your questions. However
it ends, it ends today, Prachi. Go on and ask me", he said, his voice carefully
blank of emotions.
Prachi looked at him shocked by his direct question. What can she ask him? Where should she
Misreading her silence, he said bitterly, "Am I not going to get a
chance to defend myself against whatever you are accusing me of? Have you
pronounced me guilty already?"
Prachi shook her head. "No, I am just unsure if I am ready for this",
she said in a very low voice.
"And that's what has brought us to this, Prachi. Make up your mind. I am
waiting", he said harshly.
Prachi took a deep breathe, her hands clutching the pillow tightly.
"Then tell me, Milind. Tell me everything about you and Sally before I lose my
nerve", her voice trembled.
do you want to know only about Sally? What about the other girls?" he asked,
his eyes fixed on her.
"Because we both know that it was only her who
meant and still mean a lot to you", she said bitterly.
Milind took a deep breathe. How right Vicky was? "You are right, Prachi.
But you are seeing it the way you want to see it. That need not be necessarily
always right" he said softly.
Prachi looked at him, her eyes desperate and hopeful at the same time.
"Then help me see it as it was, Milind. Help me….", her voice trailed away into
a mere whisper.
Milind fought a fierce urge to pull her to him and hold her tight in his
arms and take away all the fear and pain in her eyes. If he must bare his soul
today, so be it. Anything for her, anything at all…..His pride was nothing in
front of his love. He walked slowly to the windows and stared outside at the
beautiful view stretching before his eyes.
"You already know that she was my playmate, a
very close friend. My childhood memories are mostly with Vicky, Micky and her.
I never treated her any differently because she was a girl. She was just one of
us whether it was climbing trees or burrowing holes or doing pretend fights. We
used to get into a lot of mischiefs and we would be in eachother's houses most
times. She was pampered a lot, both at her home and outside. People just loved
her. I cared very much for her and yes, she meant a lot to me. We played
together, studied together, grew up together.
Then came high school and teenage. Things
started to change. Harmones, I guess! I started noticing her as a girl, a
beautiful and lively girl. Other boys noticed her too, way too much. That
pushed the challenge higher. Before I knew, we became a couple, a hot property
at school. Life was fantastic. I had everything, money, status, football,
music, looks and a hot girlfriend. What more can a teenage boy ask for?" he
asked, his voice sounding distant.
Prachi almost crushed the pillow to her chest, "And you
became……intimate?", her voice was just a whisper.
Milind turned around to look at her, his eyes taking in her taut form.
He turned back to stare outside the windows, "Making out, yes but not sex. Not
then", he said and Prachi flinched. "I turned sixteen and a taste of freedom
came with it. You don't need your parent's signature on every form, you see. A
weird sense of being an adult but not quite! Sally's birthday was only two
months behind mine. I arranged a party for her at the shack we went to
yesterday. Last night, I must say that I was takenaback seeing her dressed like
that. She looked very similar to how she was at her birthday party years ago.
She always wore her hair straight and long but she had curled it on that party
night, just like she had yesterday", he said.
stared at him. Is that why he reacted when she walked in? She remembered how
Sally looked in the photos she found at the treehouse. If he remembered her so
vividly, how special was that party? "So, in that party……..you……", she
struggled unable to phase her question.
walked towards her, "Yes, Prachi. We didn't dissect pros and cons or make
promises of undying love or a lifetime together. Sex was fun, experimental", he
said. Prachi flinched again and he closed his eyes, "Sorry, I know it sounds
crude. I wouldn't lie to you and say that I didn't enjoy it. Life only became
even better. We were all busy thinking of college when Sally's world fell
apart. The poor girl was torn, feeling lost and unwanted. She relied heavily on
me. She was my friend first and girlfriend next. She needed me and I stood by
her. Every day was a torture for her. She was always treated like a princess,
in school and everywhere but suddenly people were mocking her, passing rude
comments. Life at school became hell. We tried everything we could to protect her,
stayed with her at all times. But then a group of young boys and girls are no
match for the big bad world. Even before she told me, I knew that she would
leave the country and go with her mother. It was the only way out. I accepted
her decision without any questions. I stayed with her every possible minute,
holding her up as much as I could. She left two weeks before I turned seventeen.
But I think she wanted to severe all ties with her past, including me. She
moved on with a vengence.
you angry with her?" she asked softly.
nodded, "Yes, I didn't realise what her going away would mean. There was so
much happening and I was concentrating only on that. I think it hit me only
after a couple of days. I suddenly realised that she was actually gone. An
integral part of my world had suddenly become void. I missed her and I was very
angry with her. I hated feeling that way. It made me weak and I didn't like it.
Even when she didn't communicate for days, I pretended that I didn't care. I
don't think I fooled my friends though. I snapped at Vicky unnecessarily and
wouldn't talk to him. He stayed silent and never questioned me but stayed with
me throughout that time. I didn't stay like that for long. If she could move
on, I could too and I did. I was Milind Mishra, remember. No one affects me,
not even Sally. My first few attempts of dating were disasters. Merin was a bad
choice. She was my friend and could only be my friend. Then came other girls.
But by then I had become very careful, almost cynical. They were not my friends
and they wanted fun. And fun it was, only that though. I played but my game, my
rules, no promises, no heartaches. It worked well untill I met you", he stopped
talking and a long silence stretched between them.
loved you", said Prachi softly.
frowned. Was that a question or a
statement? He nodded, "Yes, but I knew about it only recently. I can't tell
you how ashamed I felt, Prachi. How guilty I was. All those years I didn't
know, didn't suspect or didn't care. How much my indifference would have hurt
her? And I thought that she didn't care", he said softly.
looked at him, her eyes brimming with tears. "Did you love her, Milind?" she
sat down and stayed silent for several seconds. "There was a time when I
wondered if I was. If that was why I was so miserable? But I didn't ponder over
it. Of course I cared for her a lot, still do. But I moved on, Prachi, very
quickly. It didn't make me want to follow her to the States and bring her back.
Though angry, I was also glad that she was moving on, leaving her painful days
behind. I told you that you are the only one I have ever loved, Prachi. You
didn't believe me, did you? Did you think I lied to you?", he asked, pain
evident in his voice.
Prachi shook her head, "I never doubted that Milind but I wondered if
you didn't realise the strength of your feelings for Sally. If it was too late
by the time she came back, if things would have different if you hadn't met me
in Ooty", she said pitifully, her voice breaking down.
Milind looked at her, "You don't
know how I was before I met you, Prachi. However I was, I was not a coward or a
liar. Did you really think that I could be that unsure of my feelings for you?
Could I have thought about any other woman when I was with you? Do you really
think that I could be such a lowlife, Prachi?" he asked bitterly.
Shocked to the core, Prachi cried, "No, Milind, No…."
stood up and moved back, "I never cared much for the women I dated. I could
have had any woman I found attractive, anytime. When I met you in Ooty, I knew
I was attracted to you but I also knew that you were different from the ones I
knew. Not only because of the culture you were brought up in, you are that kind
of person. Your innocence and trust in me was something I had trouble handling.
It stirred a lot of emotions in me, completely new and I called it friendship. It
was safe. When I left India, it was also a relief that I was pulling away from
you. It would give me the time to clear my head. Work was a welcome
distraction. But it didn't keep me away from you for long. I used to cherish
those late night phonecalls. I have felt you in this place, Prachi, felt you
with me and I knew I was losing myself. It scared me and I fought it. I was so
jealous of Neev, you know. I was even jealous of your father. I wanted to be
the only one who meant everything to you. And I fought my feelings only harder.
Then Sally came back. It was awkward at first, meeting her after years but then
our friendship went back years. Within minutes, I was back being comfortable
with her. It was as if those years apart didn't exist. When she arranged the
evening at the club, I knew exactly what I was getting into and I went along
willingly. She was single and interested. I was single too or so I thought. If
everything had gone on well, we would have ended up in her flat, in her bed and
who knows, we might have picked up where we left years ago", he said in a
matter of fact voice and Prachi closed her eyes shut, fighting her imagination.
Milind watched the play of emotions on her
face and his voice softened, "Look at me, Prachi", he said softly and Prachi
obeyed, her eyes pained. "It didn't happen that way. I had already fallen in
love with you. I told you that it hit me on that dance floor. Sally's coming
back didn't make any difference, Prachi. You wanted to know if you had come
between me and Sally. But she was nowhere there. I can't even relate to my
feelings for her years ago. Whatever it was, it finished a long time ago. Love
for me is what I feel for you, Prachi. Love is what turned my world upside
down, changed my view on a lot of things, made me ready to give up anything for
one smile on your face, made me both strong and weak in front of you. That's
what love is for me and that I have felt it only for you. I am incapable of
loving another woman, Prachi. It starts and ends with you. You define me", his
voice reduced to a low whisper.
words rocked the very core of her. Anger and shame filled inside her and silent
sobs raked her body. Milind continued, "Why all this, Prachi? What brought in
this mistrust? Or is it how it was all along?", he asked in a heavy voice.
"Mil..ind", Prachi's voice broke and struggled to answer him, "It's not
that I didn't trust you. I always have and always will. But I just couldn't
help comparing me and her. She was there first, you see and she is better than
me in every aspect". She stopped him when he tried to interrupt. "Whatever you
say, I know it within myself, Milind. That's why it was always a losing battle.
Especially after our marriage, I saw more of her, heard a lot about her….from
everyone at home and outside, saw how close you both were…..still. Everyone
said how perfect you were together. I couldn't help feeling……….", she broke
down unable to continue.
Milind raked his fingers through his hair feeling terrible, "Vicky was
right. I am at fault here, Prachi. I had been so blind to your feelings, to your
pain. I just expected you to understand me but never helped you to. I became
defensive whenever you spoke about Sally. But believe me, it wasn't because I
harboured any hidden feelings for her. Now, yesterday's dance seems wrong. But
holding her in my arms didn't stir any forgotten desires, Prachi. You say you
can't help but compare you with her. I can do that too. I am not jealous when I
see her with Mark. It only makes me happy. I am glad she found someone. I am
guilty of causing her pain and seeing her happy soothes it. But you, Prachi……If
any other man even looks at you longer than necessary, I would gorge his eyes
out. You are mine and only you can stir the love and passion in me. When I come
into your arms, I feel that I have come home. Loving you is as involuntary as
breathing, Prachi", his voice was heavy.
closed her eyes, his words easing every pain inside her. Loving him is
involuntary to her as well. If he felt that guilty knowing that Sally had loved
him, how much would he hurt knowing that she still does? His voice broke her
happened yesterday, Prachi? Please be honest. What did I do?" he asked.
swallowed, "You didn't do anything, Milind. It was the circumstances, one after
the other and I couldn't handle it", she said. Seeing him frown in confusion,
she attempted a small smile, "You know how distressed I was after that dinner
party the other night. I felt so incompetent in front of Sally and my
self-confidence was almost non-existent. Then you were angry with me", she
moved towards her hurriedly. "There was no competition, Prachi. There was
never. I knew you put your heart into the arrangements. The mistake you made
could have been easily corrected", he reasoned.
Prachi nodded, "I know that now, Milind. But I was so worked up to think
straight. And I was feeling really low yesterday. Then I saw some photos……in
the treehouse..of you and Sally, of her 16th birthday party", she
Understanding dawned on Milind and he looked stunned. Prachi looked at
him, "It shook me terribly, seeing you and her together. It was as if your past
was unfolding right in front of my eyes. Then Vicky's party…seeing you and
Sally together...hearing your friends say how good you had been together……I
just couldn't handle it, Milind. I am sorry", tears rolled down her cheeks.
should be the one to appologise, Prachi. Oh god, what a mess!", he sighed
also found a bracelet, the one Sally gifted you", Prachi said softly. It was
amazing how easily everything was tumbling out. Once started, she just couldn't
stop or didn't want to.
"What about that?", asked Milind confused. Now where was this leading?
wore that for a long time, didn't you? And you don't like wearing any
jewellery", her voice rose higher.
Milind swore, disbelief in his eyes, "My god, Prachi! It was a gift, for
god's sake. She borrowed the money from her Dad to buy it and paid it off with
a summer job at the office after she turned sixteen. It was the feeling behind
the gift that matters. She didn't need to be my girlfriend. I would have worn it
even if she was just a friend. Come on, Prachi, have you never done anything
for your friends just to see them happy, even though you would have preferred
not to?" he asked, his raised voice matching hers.
Prachi stayed silent. Put it that way, her anger felt stupid, baseless.
She had done a lot of things for her friends, given to Lisa's whims just to see
her happy smile and for Neev, the list is endless. Didn't she share the plate
of food with him on that night before her wedding? Was there any explanation to
it? All she knew was that it meant a lot to him and in a strange way, to her as
well. But still there was just no explanation.
silence angered him more, "What else, Prachi? Go on and get it all out. As I
said, it ends today", he said harshly.
Prachi met his eyes. "Did…..did you quit
smoking for her?" she asked slowly.
Milind just stared at her. Where did she hear all this? "It makes her
sick. She can't stand it. It wasn't hard to choose a kiss over a fag especially
when you spend the whole day with your girlfriend. So, I never smoked when I
was with her. But I didn't quit. I had just started and it was fun. I told you
that I have done a lot of things in that treehouse. Away from the mainhouse, it
was the safest place. It was usually with Vicky and we used to look out for
eachother. It was in the garden and anyone could walk in. But that evening, I
was on my own in my room. Mom and Dad were out and I was feeling brave or
stupid, I should say. I smoked in my room and thought I would get rid of the
smell before they come home. But then Mom walked in and I was caught
red-handed. I waited for her to freak out but she didn't say a word. She didn't
look angry but very very hurt and she just turned around and walked out. I
never felt that ashamed in my life before, Prachi. I expected her to tell Dad
about it and was waiting for a severe telling off during dinner but she didn't.
She never did. After that I just couldn't bring myself to pick up a cigerrette.
All I saw was her eyes full of hurt. I never smoked after that. I didn't plan
to quit. It just happened. Vicky knew and I am sure Mom noticed. She never
asked and I never said. It was as if the incident never happened and I would
have done anything to make sure that it never happened again", he said, his
voice thick with emotions.
closed her eyes, suddenly feeling very tired. How much more explanations does
she need? And he was answering every one of her questions. What more does she
need to know now?
if reading here thoughts, he said, "What else do you need to know, Prachi? I
may not have spoken about Sally in detail but you already knew most of what I
told you. I should have understood how you felt. I should never have let things
get to this extreme. I can't see you in pain, my love. It hurts, Prachi, more
than I could ever explain. And to know that I have caused it……", he broke off,
angry with himself. "Lastnight was punishment enough, Prachi. But if you think
I deserve more, then go on. So, where do we go from here?", he asked heavily.
looked at him as if all fight had drained out of her. "I thought hurting you
back would ease my pain but I was wrong. I should have known that by now,
shouldn't I? I wasn't thinking straight, Milind. I was too wedged in your past,
which I now know is one of my own making. I was jealous, angry and I hurt you.
I am sorry. I only wish you have told me all this earlier. It would have made
things easier. Or I should have had the nerve to ask you. I am sorry", she said
in a broken voice.
walked closer to her and she sighed when he touched the side of her face. "I am
sorry too, Prachi. Forgive me if you can and I won't blame you if you don't. I
know you deserve someone better. I can't rewrite my past, Prachi. I wish I
could but I am who I am. Just take me as I am. Love me for who I am", he said
gave a teary smile, "You idiot, here I am, crazily in love with you, so jealous
and posessive of you that I can't even bear to think someone in your past could
have meant so much to you. I am not content with being your present and future
but want to stake my claim on your past too. I want to be the only one in your
life, all your life. That's what makes me scared, vulnerable. And you think I
deserve someone better. Who else than you, Milind? Who else I could love, but
you?" she said softly.
you to be strong in my love, sweetheart, not scared or vulnerable. Just
remember that you are the only one, Prachi and there was no other and will
never be. This I promise you", he said fiercely.
rolled down Prachi's cheeks as her eyes searched his. As Vicky said, her husband
was not a callous man to have had no feelings for the girl he knew all his
life, his close friend. In her heart, she too had always known that. He had
come so close to loving Sally but not quite. He might have been happier with
Sally but fate had other plans. He was destined to be hers and only hers. She
had put together a story of his past but only today she saw the real picture.
Sally's Milind was long gone and this was her Milind, her husband, her lover,
her friend and the man she trusted, respected and loved more than anyone could
ever fathom. Her hand closed on his, her eyes looking into his. If she could
see a part of her in them, a part of him resides in her too. His love defined
her very soul and in him, her dreams began and ended. She smiled, a slow,
content smile in the knowledge that her heart lay entrapped in the nest of his
love and if one thread breaks, another one forms in its wake, bringing new
promises for tomorrow.