Thank you Harshu! yes hopefully I will update more regularly now...
Jasangel : yes thankfully all the data is safe.
Onto the next chapter...again guys I am extremely sorry for the delay. And excuse me for nay mistakes that I have made.
Her feet moved sluggishly over the grey footpath as she headed towards her home, a gust of cold wind whipping across her body.
The streets were almost empty with many people confined to their homes because of the chill in the air.
Well past eight now, she would usually be travelling home in her warm car during this time of the evening, but today, she had decided to walk.
She figured it was much safer considering she wouldnt be able to focus on the road.
Her cold fingers involuntarily reached for the pendant around her neck and that familiar, deep ache stirred within her.
Swallowing her...drowning her.
Numbness had taken over her as she had seen her worst fear coming true...he was going away from her.
How had she forgotten...that he was never hers to keep in the first place?
No matter how hard she tried, she couldnt fight this...this horrible feeling... this consuming ache that had taken over her since the moment she had seen them.
Questions...questions reigned her mind knowing they would not be answered.
She laughed bitterly at herself...how could she be so stupid?
Why did she even bother to dream that he too could feel something for her that went beyond friendship?
She had always known, even though she had never really believed in it, that one day would Riddhima would be back.
How could she not?
Sid's love for Riddhima was so strong,so deep that it had to pull her back to him one day...his love, which was like no other Shilpa had ever witnessed, couldnt simply go in vain.
And here, she had been building castles out of clouds.
This had been involved in a serious conversation... which meant they had definitely met more than twice.
She didnt want to acknowledge this new and foreign emotion rippling within her so heavily that she even felt in her fingertips.Jealousy.
Even when she had been young, she had never known how it felt...as a girl who had been orphaned too early in her life, she had always been grateful for everything that had come her way.
Jealousy was something she had never tasted.
And today seeing them together, she had felt it rise like a gigantic wave within her.
For a second , her vision had really blurred.
She shook her head...how could she feel this way?
It wasnt right for her to feel like this...or rather, it wasnt her right to feel this way.
But what had truly hurt her was the fact that Sid had not mentioned a word to her about this.
Their lives were like open books to each other so why had he hidden this page from her?
Did the last six years mean nothing to him that he couldnt tell her such an important thing?Maybe when it comes to Riddhima, all his other relationships take a backseat,
she thought bitterly.
She shook her head again...she should be ecstatic if happiness seemed to be knocking on his door gain.
But realized now that she was a horrible friend.
That was all she felt.
A set of emotions that she had never before associated with him.How can you be so selfish Shilpa?,
a voice admonished her, You should be happy for him, no matter what, right?
Right...except she didnt...no matter how hard she tried.
Maybe because for the first time in her life, she had thought about herself...her own happiness...and look what that had got her.
Why did Sid come into her life then if he was just going to walk away one day?
Why did she develop such intense feelings for him knowing it would cause her nothing but heartache?
But, try as she might, she could never regret that...ever
...his presence in her life had changed everything...it had changed her
Yes her feelings for him did bring her more pain than happiness...but it was an achingly, beautiful pain...something she would always cherish...something she would always keep safe within her.
Her feet stopped and looking around, she noticed that her house was just a few yards away.
She about to start walking again when her gaze was pulled towards a nearby bench...or rather the slumped form sitting on it.
Something about the man caught her attention...she couldnt make out his face but a strong instinct told her she knew him.
She approached him cautiously. Her feet stopped in shock when she realized who it was...she would not have recognized him with all that heavy stubble and that listless look on his face...but it was his eyes that struck her.Armaan.
He didnt sense her presence...his eyes unfocused, he seemed unaware of the world around him.
Despite everything between them, she couldnt help but feel a bit alarmed at that gaunt look on his face...as if he hadnt eaten properly in days.
After standing awkwardly for a few seconds, she turned to walk away...he was none of her business and she shouldnt even be bothered.
But the sympathetic soul that she was, she just couldnt do that.
Taking a deep breath and cursing herself, she turned back to him.
Hesitantly,she spoke, "Armaan?"
He didnt move...she doubted whether he had even heard her.
She touched his shoulder lightly and he jerked out of his trance.
He looked around dazedly for a few seconds before focusing on her.
"Are you...are you alright?", she asked in a professional manner with which she usually addressed her patients.
Staring at her as if she wasnt real, he got up slowly.
And then he proceeded to stare at her some more with an unfathomable look in his eyes...something akin to guilt and regret.
His silence was unnerving her and she was about to speak when suddenly he touched her cheek lightly.
Her eyes widened and she was about to push his hand away when, unexpectedly, he fell to the ground in a cold faint.
She looked down at his still figure as he lay on her couch.
After managing to overcome her shock, she had rounded up a few street vendors to carry Armaan to her home.
Being a doctor, she could gauge that it was nothing serious...it was either weakness or stress that had gotten to him.
The sooner he got up, the sooner he would leave.
Somehow she didnt feel comfortable having that very person in her house who was partly responsible for the scattered and uncertain lives that she and Sid were leading today...who was responsible for her loss of confidence in herself and her relations...who was responsible for Sid's loss of trust and faith in everything.
What she should have done was call Sanjeevani and ask someone to come and fetch Armaan...she didnt know what had made her take him to her home.
Something knocked on a long closed door within her mind and she was hit with nostalgia...Armaan in her old house, lying on her couch...bleeding profusely... thanks to the wrestling fight she had childishly gotten him into...
She remembered how she had tolerated his harshness with her that night because it was she who had been responsible for his injured condition.
She had not forgotten his animosity towards her when all she had been trying to do was tend to his injuries...his callous behaviour when all she had been tyring to do was help him.
Considering the way he had behaved with her that night, she shouldnt have brought him into her house now...
But the more she thought about it, the more she realised that those memories didnt hurt anymore...they seemed so far away now...like old pictures that had turned yellow with the passage of time.
Time had healed those wounds...
The tears she had shed for him seemed so insignificant suddenly...
Looking at him now, she felt nothing but pity for him...he could have been a good man had it not been for his crazy 'love' for Riddhima.
Suddenly, he stirred and his eyelids fluttered open slowly.
He stared upwards for sometime not recognizing the unfamiliar ceiling.
His gaze moved and landed on her. Instantly he shot up and tried to sit up straight.
The sudden movement made him dizzy and he held his head.
"How...", he managed to speak out.
"You fainted ", she answered in that same professional voice again.
His head stopped spinning and he looked around properly.
"Is this your home?", he asked in a small voice.
He nodded and something akin to shame came over his face.
"I should go then...I am sorry", he said up and got up quickly which made him dizzy again and he swayed on his feet.
Out of reflex, she caught his arm before he fell and made him sit.
She pulled up a chair and sat before him.
"Armaan", she spoke in a firm tone, wanting to get this over with as soon as possible,"Just relax for a minute. What happened to you? Why are you in this condition? Do you need medical help?"
He shook his head."No no I am fine...I am sorry I just...I"
A distressed look appeared in his eyes and she suddenly understood.Riddhima...Sid.
"When was the last time you ate?", she asked.
A sheepish look came over his face and she got her answer.
She shook her head and got to her feet, mumbling at him to stay where he was.
Really not understanding why she was doing all this, she headed towards her kitchen.
Opening her fridge , she took out some leftover sandwiches and heated it in the microwave.What are you doing?!
, she asked herself.You should be showing him the door, not heating food for him in the microwave!
He looked around her neat living room admiring the way it was furnished.
Unlike her previous house, it was obvious that each corner here had been lovingly and tastefully set up...there was a certain warmth and cosiness in this place.
Standing up, still shaky on his feet, he moved over to the opposite wall which was adorned with various photos.
A faint smile, one after a long time, graced his features as his eyes roamed over the various moments of her life.
Pictures of her when she was a baby, a happy little girl with her parents, some of what clearly looked like her teenage years. He noticed that most pictures were taken in Panchgani with her aunt.
His eyes moved over to her pictures with Naina, the girls captured in various shots posing like typical girls...some at Sanjeevani, some at her house, some at a restaurant, some random shots of them laughing uncontrollably.
Pictures of her and Yuvi fooling around...
What caught his full attention were her pictures at what seemed like her engagement ceremony. He had heard that she was engaged but this was the first time he was looking at her fianc.
Shilpa led a very good life...most importantly a happy life...he smiled even more at that thought.
At the same time something clenched inside him observing the deep bonds of friendship that was apparent even in these still images.
He didnt have those kind of friendships anymore...his world had revolved around Riddhima for so long that he had missed out on everything else...
And then finally he came across her pictures with Sid.
Armaan had noticed it at the beauty pageant and he noticed it again now...Sid had changed.
The soft, boyish lines of his face had vanished and given way to a look of firm maturity.
Armaan had to admit, grudgingly of course, that he looked good.
But he couldnt find that spark in Sid's eyes that had always shone so brightly...he noticed in almost all the pictures, that he only half smiled.
There was something about his pictures with Shilpa that made him stare at them for a long time...an certain depth, an unspoken yet visible bond between the two...
Armaan knew he would never be able to have that kind of connection with anyone...he couldnt even achieve that with Riddhima with whom he had spent the last eight years of his life.
His spotted another picture of them where Sid staring off into space and Shilpa looking at him...they seemed unaware that they were being photographed.
It was something about the way she was looking at him...something in her eyes that intrigued him. It was the same way she had been gazing at him when he had dance with her ta the pageant.
There came another picture that rooted him to the spot...this one had them posing properly for the camera...they seemed to be on the beach...she was standing quite close to Sid with her head touching the side of his forehead while he had his arm wrapped around her shoulder.
Content smiles graced their faces.
He felt that strange animosity rise up in him again...why did he always feel so resentful towrards Sid? Why?
Suddenly he felt as if all the pictures were mocking him...showing him what he could never have...illustrating to him that he was truly all alone now.
Hearing a noise in the kitchen, he quickly turned away from the wall.
Rolling her eyes at herself, she carried the tray of sandwiches and coffee back to the living room just in time to see him walk back to the couch.
From his direction, she realized that he had been looking at her pictures.
She placed the tray on a coffee table before him and his eyes grew wide.
"No Shilpa...you didnt have to do this...I...I was just going to leave...I'm...I'm sorry to give you so much trouble..."
Shilpa noticed that this was the third time he had said "I am sorry" to her.
Why was he so edgy?
"Look", she said in a softer tone, " I am not doing you any favor. I am a doctor and I am just helping you. You are a doctor too and you can also understand that right now you need help. Just eat this food and then you can leave."
Her words must have made sense to him because he reluctantly sat down and started eating.
Much as she didnt want to, she couldnt help but feel bad for him...he looked pathetic...lost...and lonely.
A far cry from the Armaan Malik that she had known.
He ate in silence while she absent mindedly flicked through a magazine. Finishing his food, he carried the empty plates to the kitchen and came back into the room.
Sitting down on the couch, he looked at her and she noticed he seemed much better now.
"You...you didnt need to help me...yet you did. Thank you Shilpa..."
She nodded feeling not knowing what to say since this was a really weird situation for her.
He got up and looked around awkwardly for a few seconds.
"I guess I should leave now."
She got up and watched him as he headed towards the door.
Giving her a small smile behind his shoulder, he left and shut the door behind him.
She heaved a breath of relief .
It turned into a habit for her...walking to her home after her duty hours.
She found that the fresh night air did wonders for her mood.
But that had soon turned into a disadvantage.
At first, she had been relieved because she hadnt seen Armaan for two days ever since that night. On the third night though, she had found him near that bench again.
But this time he hadnt been in a bad condition...in fact it looked like he had been waiting for her.
She had looked away from him and had continued walking...she had never expected him to walk with her silently to her house.
And since that night it became a daily routine.
Walking her home sometimes in silence, sometimes talking about random things like Sanjeevani, his work, his life...
She couldnt understand why he was doing this...as if they were friends.
She couldnt just forget what he had done with her...and most importantly the way he had betrayed Sid.
What she should have really done was tell him to leave her alone.
But every time she tried to tell him that, something would stop her...that hollow look in his eyes would make her swallow her words.
She found herself unable to shake him off...he looked starved for company.
She huffed to herself in irritation...her kindness would ruin her one day.
Today, she had made up her mind to talk to him...they werent friends anymore and he couldnt just pick up where they had left off six years back.
He was quiet beside her lost in his own world...
They reached her home and while usually she would hurry inside mumbling a small goodbye to him, today she didnt.
She faced him firmly.
He snapped out of his thoughts and looked at her. He hadnt realized they had reached her home. He always seemed to simply follow her footsteps.
"This has to stop..."
"This", she gestured between them with her hand, "you walking me home everyday...its very uncomfortable for me to be around you..."
The blankness from his eyes disappeared as her words finally sunk in.
"Oh...I am sorry...I thought you didnt mind..."
"Its not about whether I mind or not Armaan... Look I dont know what happened with you...but whatever it is, you have to deal with it and move on. Dont let it consume you like this."
He let out a bitter laugh. " I am dealing with my eight year long relationship ending...I dont know how to NOT let it consume me..."
"Well whatever it is, what does it have to do with me?"
His face softened. "Nothing Shilpa...it has nothing to do with you. I just find myself thinking less about my pathetic life when I am with you. I dont plan on meeting you like this everyday.
When you found me that day, I was sinking...unknowingly, you pulled me out of that darkness I was drowning into...", he paused. "Everything hurts real bad right now but for these few minutes that I am with you, things seems less painful."
"Armaan I only helped you that night only out of humanity...we are not friends...and we can never be."
Looking away he let out a bitter laugh and asked rhetorically," Dont I know that?"
Her fingers fiddled with the straps of her bag. "Its Riddhima isnt it? Riddhima and..."
She paused and swallowed.
"Riddhima and Sid?"
His gaze shot back to her. Even though she tried to mask it, he could still detect a trace of heaviness in her voice as she took their names together.
"I understand what you must be feeling Armaan...but I truly cant do anything about it.The last time you had issues with your love life...I was there for you. I was there for you to unload all your agony. But that was really long time ago...I cant be there for you like that ever again. I am not the same person...and I dont even want to be that naive girl again."
Her eyes became distant as she remembered something.Shilpa means nothing to me
The words echoed in his mind too.
She wanted to stop the words coming to her lips but couldnt.
"Dont you realize Armaan that you are behaving in the same way that you had all those years ago? You keep coming here everyday because you are missing her and you want to fill that emptiness inside you."
He shook his head and opened his mouth but she kept talking.
"Its hurts, doesnt it? Realizing that your time, patience and love means nothing to the one you have spent it for...welcome to Sid's world.
His eyes narrowed and he felt as if someone had punched him in the gut.
"What you are feeling now is just a fraction of what Sid has gone through every day, every minute, ever second of the these last six years...at least you can share your pain...you can take it out on someone or something."
Armaan looked away as he realized that she was hinting on his rude behavior towards her in the past. Anger sparked within him...he didnt want to hear about Sid or his pain...it was none of his business.
But Shilpa continued. She didnt realize that her eyes had gone moist. He was shocked to see how much Sid affected her.
"Sid doesnt even do that. No...he bottles up his pain so tight that it suffocates him every second and yet he doesnt let anyone know."
"Then how do you know? ", he asked quietly.
She was taken aback by his abrupt question.
"If he doesn't let anyone see his inner suffering, then how do you know so much about it?"
There was a mild contempt in his voice that she knew was for Sid.
She gave him a melancholic smile.
"Because Armaan, nobody...nobody knows him better than I do...not even himself."
Something about the way she said it, the certainty in her voice and the sadness that accompanied it, hit him hard.
His eyes grew slightly wide.She loves him
, he realized.
Suddenly Armaan was struck by a tragic yet true fact.
Life had really closed all doors for him...he had never appreciated the good things in his life and now everything had been snatched away from his hands.
No one cared for him...or rather no one wanted to care for him.
Her words had hurt him but somewhere deep down he knew she was right...he just didnt want to admit it.,
Her empathy for Sid hurt him because he knew that there was a time when she had cared the same way for him.
She watched the various emotions playing on his face. She had not meant to say all that.
A part of her couldnt help but feel satisfied at unloading some of the burden off her chest.
There was a time when Sid had faced the same dejection, when he had gone through the same torment...for no fault of his.
And now history was repeating itself with the person who was partly been responsible for destroying Sid's life.
But another part of her held sympathy for Armaan...she knew she shouldnt feel like this but she did.
She felt sorry at the way he had royally screwed his own life for the love of a woman who had never appreciated him.
She doubted whether Riddhima had ever really loved him or not.
There was a long silence before Armaan spoke. "I am sorry if I make you feel uncomfortable ...I dont mean to. All you have ever done is help me...I dont think anyone, not even Riddhima, has understood me the way you have."
He took a step back.
"I understand Shilpa that what I have done with you is not only unforgivable but unforgettable too. I wish I had realised it earlier. And yet you quietly tolerated me these last few days...it means a lot to me...more than you can imagine."
"I should have understood that my presence would be painful for you...but I didnt. You know me...always the selfish one."
"I wont trouble you now Shilpa...but I have to thank you...for everything. I know we can never be friends...I know I have lost that chance but I am thankful that I came across at least one person in my life who had selflessly cared for me without any expectations."
He suddenly closed the distance between them and brushed her cheek with his cold fingers.
"You truly are an angel Shilpa ", he whispered.
And in a flash, he walked away leaving her with an oddly mixed feeling of relief and guilt.
Seated in the Sanjeevani cafeteria with Sid, Naina and Yuvi, she asked herself, 'Was she supposed to feel guilty...no she wasnt .'
But she did...ever since that night Armaan had walked away, she did feel a strange of guilt overcome her from time to time.
She hadnt seen Armaan since that night and she somehow felt as if she had done something wrong.
Should she confide in Sid? She never liked hiding things from him. But how was she supposed to tell him anything when he was so busy avoiding her?
What would he think of her if he knew?
She glanced at him from the corner of her eyes...his attention was captured by the medical journal in his hands.Would it even matter to him?
She sighed softly and looked at her cup of coffee.
"What is it Shilpa? Is something troubling you?"
She looked up to find Naina and Yuvi looking at her quizzically.
An instant lie was ready on her tongue but she stopped herself. Maybe she should share this with them...it might help her get the load off her chest.
And that way Sid could know too without her actually telling him.
Naina's eyes popped out, Yuvi paused in sipping his tea and though he had not moved, she knew that Sid's eyes were on her.
"What about him?", Yuvi asked.
Shilpa proceeded to tell them everything...how she had found him, took him home, and as she kept talking, Naina's face started getting angrier with each word.
"Shilpa! What is wrong with you?!"
Shilpa didnt answer her and instead stared into her coffee that was getting cold with each passing second.
"How could you forget everything he did to you and Sid?"
Shilpa glanced at Sid who quickly moved his gaze away from her but not before she caught his eyes clouded with hurt.Perfect
, she thought. He can show his emotions but he wont talk to me.
She suddenly felt very angry with him.
She turned back to Naina. "I havent forgotten anything Naina...if I had then I wouldnt have asked him to stop meeting me everyday. I took him home that night because he truly needed help. I am a doctor and at that time I didnt think of the grudges I have...no had against him."
"Fine...but why did you entertain him walking you home everyday?"
"I dont know! ", Shilpa finally lost her temper."I dont know. I wanted to tell him to leave me alone but every time I tried the words just stuck in my throat. He really was in a bad state and I just couldnt tell him anything..."
"I cant believe you Shilpa...how could you ..."
"Naina", Yuvi interjected with a firmness in his voice that no one missed. "Stop blaming her. She didnt do anything wrong."
Naina turned her disbelieving eyes at her husband while Sid too frowned at him.
"What ?", Yuvi countered,"Why are you blowing this out of proportion Naina? She didnt ask him to come to her, did she? And when she told him to leave her alone, he did. So what is the problem?"
"The problem", Naina answered, "is that I know Shilpa is feeling guilty for brushing him off."
"So? Is that such a big sin? You cant control what she feels now can you? Whether you like it or not, Armaan is a big part of her past. If she can be resentful towards him, she can also be sympathetic to him. Its her choice...why judge her? No matter how much it pains you, sometimes it is hard to shake off your past."
"I am not judging her Yuvi! I am just saying that considering what has happened, she shouldnt even look at him."
Yuvi took a deep breath. "Not everything can be categorized so easily between black and white. There are various shades of grey in between. Shilpa came here to talk about her troubles and instead we are blaming her."
Those last words by Yuvi struck her and suddenly she felt moisture prick her eyes.
Maybe she shouldnt have told them...she should have just kept it to herself.
What hurt her even more was that there was sill no response from Sid.
She got up suddenly, grabbed her coat and with a small grateful smile towards Yuvi for defending her, she turned and left the cafeteria.
As soon as she left his sight, Yuvi turned and glared at his wife and friend.
Yuvi dragged Sid to the general restroom and turned his confused yet glaring eyes on Sid.
"What?!... Just what is going on with you?"
"What?" Sid asked looking at the walls.
"Why are you avoiding Shilpa like the plague? Did you guys have a fight or something? Why are so distant with her?"
Irritatedly,Sid answered,"Nothing is wrong Yuvi...I am just very busy these days...I have loads of work piled on and ..."
"Oh please stuff that stupid excuse!"
Sid glared at him.
"You have been coming with that same line since the past six years...its high time you stopped fooling us!"
"Fine! ", Sid said, now really fed up, "What do you want me to say?"
"I want to know the reason behind this strange behavior of yours towards Shilpa. She looked so distressed today...so lost. She was talking about Armaan!...Armaan out of all the people!...after so many years...and there was not a single response from you."
"Well what did you want me to say?!"
"Something...anything! Sid...you are her closest friend. And yet today you were behaving as if you dont even know her."
"I was not!"
"Yes you were..."
Sid rolled his eyes in anger and looked away.
"I dont know what happened with you two...I dont know what's going on in that head of yours...but Sid...if you dont get your act together soon, you will lose the only person, the only girl who has cared about you more than anyone else in this world..."
Sid's eyes swivelled back to Yuvi catching the hidden meaning behind his words.What was he trying to say? Does he know something I dont?
, Sid wondered.
In a much calmer voice, Yuvi advised, " Dont be ignorant towards yourself Sid...dont lose that one thing in your life that has taught you to live again."
Yuvi left the room leaving Sid behind standing still, his words echoing around the room.
Edited by sidsk - 30 May 2011 at 7:37am