Joined: 01 September 2006
Joined: 27 February 2008
Taking a deep breath, she exhaled coolly through her mouth before turning around.
Quirky jazz music was playing overhead. Though she preferred Indian classical any day, it occurred to her that with the chic theme Sid had opted for, a live jazz band was undoubtedly the best choice for the night.
Looking around, people were definitely feeling the mood especially as the saxophone interlude kicked in, Shilpa tried not to stare when a particular woman swayed sultrily towards her partner who encouraged the gesture with a modest smile.
Gosh, Jazz music was quite...sexy.
Shilpa thanked the dim lighting around her as she felt herself blush.
Enjoy yourself, yeah sure...she scoffed.
This just wasn't her.
She felt alien, to the music playing, to the people surrounding her...it just didn't feel right.
Bopping awkwardly to the eccentric instrumental, she listened hard before finding herself clucking to the beat like a pigeon.
Shilpa rolled her eyes, oh...this felt stupid.
She knew he'd be watching her. Now she could relate a little better to caged animals at the zoo. Observing her every move, assuming her thoughts, trying to decipher her every feeling, no...not only deciphering...he was playing with her feelings, trying to get into her mind and pretend he knew her better than herself.
Sure enough, daring herself to glance at Ansh, she was confronted with thin lips curling into a mordacious smirk and eyes glinting with insincerity.
She looked away instantly. He wasn't finished yet.
No- That didn't matter, because she was done here...She wouldn't allow him to bother her anymore. She just-
She needed to get out of here...before things got out of hand. Before things got even worse.
Glancing over her shoulder, she managed to spot the fire exit hidden behind a pair of beige-coloured, net drapes.
Turning towards Ansh, she took a timid step forwards before pausing, her stance stiff. Her throat was parched as she swallowed, "I'm going to head off now..."
Ansh frowned, peering at her, confused. She watched as his mouth articulated the words, "Pardon me?"
Shilpa grumbled, looking towards the band as they strummed away happily ignorant, the music blared through the speakers not far from where she was stood.
"I ...I said I'm leaving now!" she tried again, shouting just enough to be heard above the noise.
Dejected, she gawked dumfounded as Ansh shook his head, his expression still the same, before he shrugged his shoulders helplessly. She held her breath as he inclined his face towards her.
Careful not to get too close, she inched forward. Speaking in the general direction of his ear, she tried once again, "This isn't right! I'm go-"
Without warning, the music stopped as Shilpa jolted, the last syllable of her voice resounding about the room as a few people nearby turned to stare at her. Ansh shuddered back, cringing from the aftermath of the pitch at which she'd been yelling.
Shilpa scowled at him before lowering her gaze, mortified.
Well if he'd listened the first time round...!
Oh gosh. The song...tune, it had finished! Time to leave!
Crouching down, she gracefully pinched up at the folds of her dress, making a move through a group of strangers, her only focus on the door before her. Already, with every step there was a weight lifting off her shoulders, liberating her...
Suddenly, a tug just below her elbow halted her mid step as she clumsily fell back.
Frowning, she turned her head, shrinking away from his touch but he only tightened his grip.
"You can't. Not yet...."
"Ansh..." she released her dress, squirming as she pulled at his hand, a desperate effort to escape, "Let- Me- Go..." Her voice was strained as she struggled against the strength he was putting into keeping her there.
Horrified, she whimpered as he effortlessly pulled her towards him. Falling into his chest, her arm a barrier between their bodies as she tried to twist it free, her skin burning under his hold.
"I can't-" Ansh smiled bitterly as she felt his other arm snake around her back, pulling her even closer, grasping her firmly.
"What are you doing?" she whispered.
Without warning, the lights dimmed further around them, rendering them in near darkness as she found herself becoming breathless...
"Ansh I – please..." she felt her head becoming woozy.
No, focus Shilpa...she recalled Sid's voice.
Her eyes snapped open as she gasped. Slower, relaxing harmonies were playing; a soft drum beat and a melodic saxophone entwined in a single composition.
She could just make out shadows of couples waltzing together around her, the ceiling was dotted with white lights reflecting from a disco ball, though none could be seen, presumably it had been generated by a machine somewhere...it explained why the atmosphere in the room had changed so dramatically.
...Yet she was suffocating within his arms.
She needed air.
"Ansh..." she inhaled, regaining some energy before awkwardly jostling against his frame again. He scrutinised her face, his eyes boring into her own, as if the new found clarity he'd sensed in her voice had intrigued him.
"It's never going to happen..."
She stilled, "What?"
"You're living in hope, and there's no point..."
"What are you talking about?"
It was too dark to see his expression clearly. She frowned, the randomness of his words made them incomprehensible.
"I know what you want..."
There it was again, that over-confidence. The tactics of a shrewd business man when he was losing out. Pretending that he knew, when he didn't...
It was so strange how she'd never recognised this arrogance in him before now.
Was he the same Ansh?
"Really?" she scoffed. "Now, you know?"
Maybe it wasn't Ansh who had changed...maybe she'd simply become wiser.
She noticed how a crease had formed over his eyebrow. "Shilpa..." there was humour in his voice, "I thought you said you'd forgiven me..."
Hmph, but of course...
It was all just a big joke.
Looking away, she calmed herself, indifferent to anything he had to say. It had been too easy thus far, but no, he wouldn't get a reaction out of her this time. Not so easily...
Putting her mind to more productive things, she busied herself with wriggling out of his grasp.
"I affect you Shilpa, even today..." Automatically, her eyes gawked up at him. Astounded.
Okay...definitely a big joke.
Was she being filmed right now?
"You know it...deep down. There's still something between us..."
He looked deep into her eyes as she held her breath, unable to blink.
Finally, albeit unfortunately, it dawned upon her that for the first time that night... Ansh was actually being serious.
"No..." she murmured uncertainly. It had to be a joke.
"You're in denial. When I saw you here, those feelings just came rushing back. I felt it -" He wrapped his arm further around her as she tried to resist "...and I know you do too"
"No, Ansh...!" she pleaded, startled by this new revelation. "It's not me whose in denial. Its you. If that's what you really think, you're wrong..." She'd stopped struggling as Ansh cautiously listened to her, "There never was anything between us and there never can be! You- you need to let go..."
It was genuinely paining her to see how misunderstood he was. Of their situation...of her. How could it be possible?
She winced as his fingers squeezed her wrist, "Why?"
Unable to free herself, she gritted her teeth in pain,"What?"
"You think Sid's better than me, don't you?... Is that it?!"
Stunned, she stared at him.
….That was what all this was about?
He was jealous?!
Everything he'd said to her...all this time.
She hadn't understood why he was being so harsh, so abrasive towards her. Why he'd been behaving so strangely... His words they'd been filled with resentment and it didn't make sense...
They'd met after so many years, surely they would be civil towards one another? Wasn't that normal?
She didn't know what she'd done wrong. What she'd done to deserve it...
Rage fumed within her now. He'd been so selfish, so immature...
"You know..." her mouth twisted into a pained smile. "You're right. Sid is a thousand times better than you" she spat bitterly.
His gaze darkened, "I knew it..."
She stopped breathing as he brought his face closer to hers, immediately reeling away from him yet her attempts were futile.
Relief spread through her as he abruptly angled his face towards her ear.
"A home wrecker now? That's a new low for you, Shilpa..." he whispered.
Her eyes widened, a shiver ran down her spine.
"No..." her voice was barely audible.
"You disgust me Shilpa...the both of you-"
She blinked at him, tears threatened to fall from her eyes.
Numb, she heard her voice distantly trying to convince him, "We're friends..."
Ansh's dry laughter filled her ears, as she clenched her eyes shut, "Friends?! Have you heard yourself..."
"You don't know anything -" she breathed.
"But I do Shilpa, I know you..."
She shook her head, frantically "No you don't-"
"You have feelings for him -"
Her eyes flew open. The words hung about her in thin air. It wasn't true...it couldn't be.
"It's not rocket science Shilpa. Even I've noticed it, when Sid's around, you're laughing with him without a care in the world. All your attention is fixated on him and the people close to him, and yet, as soon as he disappears out the room... it's funny isn't it, how I've not seen you smile properly, not once?...Even when he's gone all you seem to be doing is waiting for him to come back..."
He peered at her patronizingly as she avoided his questioning regard...
"Ansh, please..." she rasped.
She didn't want to hear anymore.
The room was spinning again. Had her phobia returned? Was it Ansh's hold? Or the words that he'd spoken...?
She couldn't breathe.
"And out of everyone Shilpa, anyone...your sister's ex husband" he hissed at her. "Really? That's the best you could do?" he tutted at her with disgust.
Bile rose in her throat, she was sickened to the pit of her stomach. Her eyes were fixed downwards and yet she wasn't looking at anything...
"And Sid? Don't tell me you didn't know..." she realised she could still hear his voice clearly, without really listening.
"Why do you think he's still with you...why don't you think he's not managed to move on with his life? You really expect me to believe you never thought about it? You're seriously telling me that your genes, the blood running through your veins, even your looks...they mean nothing to him?"
A tear trickled down her cheek.
"Oh..." His tone softened, a little too sweetly, as he released her wrist before reaching up; she fleetingly closed her eyes as his thumb brushed across her skin, "Poor Shilpa...you really had no idea?" he sympathised.
He held her face tenderly, lifting her chin with his fingertips so she was looking towards him. "You'll never be happy Shilpa. If I know so much I know this too...You'll never be able to live with yourself after ruining your sister's marriage. You'll never be happy with Sid..."
She let his words wash over her, unable to think, unable to move...
"He's not your future Shilpa..."she felt his hot breath on her ear as he whispered, "-but I can be.."
She shuddered. The words seemed to have absorbed in her mind as soon as he'd spoken them, shaking her up.
"No..." Her voice was somewhat distant as she tried to wriggle out from his hold.
Surprised, he examined her face.
She glared at him, her expression hurt.
"This isn't about you..I didn't come here for you Ansh-" Her voice became stronger the more she considered his words.
She'd never done anything to hurt him and today...after all these years, eventhough at one time she could have called him one of her closest friends, this was all he thought of her. This was what it had come down to...
She'd never truly managed to recognise who he really was...and now his jealousy had ravaged her of any good memory she had every shared with him.
All she could see before her now...was a complete stranger.
She had no clue who this man was... As far as she was concerned, her Ansh had died a long time ago. The friend whose shoulder she'd cried on, the friend whom she'd played numerous pranks on...the friend whom she'd actually thought worthy of love- He was long gone...
"It's – It's true..."she muttered through gritted teeth, tears of anger and disappointment glistening in her blue eyes, "You really mean nothing to me. This was never about you..." She glowered at him. "For you are nothing but a regrettable part of my past. Seeing you here now, before me, just makes me realise how lucky I am that you left me, because otherwise, I would never have met a good man like Sid. And that's the biggest truth of my life. The most important truth...nothing you say will change that-"
He blinked at her, stung by her words, "Shilpa -"
"Let go of me" her voice was low.
"Just listen – please..."
"Let go of me Ansh!" she barked, her eyes ablaze with fury.
Tightening her jaw, a new energy surged within her as she pushed against his chest, shoving him back as he tumbled into a couple behind him. Shilpa's own feet wobbled beneath her involuntarily from the force as she panted, weakened by her own strength as her arms dangled limply beside her.
Wiping at her face with the back of her hand, she carelessly lifted her dress, dodging the oblivious couples around her as she sprinted towards the door. Her eyesight blurred by her tears, her head was throbbing, her thoughts mushed... it was all too much.
She wanted to escape, to breathe. She felt a chill run over her skin as she shivered violently. There it was, the gaping doorway; she could see the night sky with the twinkling stars, there was the familiar garden...it was all so close.
Disturbance coming from behind fazed her as she glanced back over her shoulder. Though it was still dark, she could just make out the couples, who stood stationary, no longer dancing. She acknowledged the commotion was in fact the sound of their applause as they cheered on the musicians who'd stopped playing, the composition concluded, the night was drawing to a close...
From where she was though, she couldn't be sure as to what had happened to Ansh; the shaded figures now seemed to be bearing an eery resemblance to the monsters who used to appear in the dark at one of the worst phases of her phobia from when she'd been a little girl...
she turned back, suddenly colliding with something hard as she
stumbled back a couple of steps from the blow.
She gasped with surprise, instinctively rubbing her arm before glancing up. She noticed it had been a man, completely shadowed as he stood with his back turned towards the moonlight outside, the ends of his hair alone were tinted as if he was wearing a dusky halo.
She blinked adjusting her eyes to the sudden rays which filtered in from around his form, blinding her.
Muttering a sheepish, "I'm sorry..." she brushed past him, relieved to finally be out of the hall as she felt the cool wind whistle under her ears, fluttering through her hair.
A hand on her shoulder sent a tremor of fear down her spine as she stiffened.
He'd got her.
She'd been so close. She was so close...
"Nahi...bauhat hogaya. Please just leave me alone" she whispered.
He recoiled as she took a deep breath.
Had he heard her? Was he actually listening to her?
She didn't want to tempt her fate as she braced herself, ready to break into a run. She wanted to get away, as far away as possible, from him.
Unexpectedly, however, she jerked as he grabbed a hold of her arm again, spinning her around to face him this time as she whined in pain, her skin still sore from the previous incident.
Keeping her eyes to the floor, she stubbornly pulled away, refusing to let him win. "No...leave me alone-!"
She was outside now, she knew she didn't need to hold back, she wouldn't back down without a fight this time...
Outside, she wasn't a threat to Sid's reputation.
She watched as his fingers hastily loosened from around her wrist as she caught her breath.
Instead, they reached for her face as she shrunk back, cringing, her eyes clenched shut, "Stop it!".
Suddenly, she stilled. The lines on her face disappeared as she relaxed. The voice, barely a whisper, had called out to her.
It wasn't a question...it wasn't Ansh.
The touch on her face was gentle, as he stroked her cheek softly, slowly over and over...reassuring her.
That touch, she knew...wasn't Ansh.
Gradually, reluctantly, she opened her eyes, fearing whom she'd find before her...unable to accept she could be so lucky.
She inhaled sharply, her eyes widened in disbelief. She blinked, suddenly doubting herself, clearing her vision, desperately familiarising herself with that face...those features...
Stood there, as they watched each other silently, everything seemed to have frozen around them and yet internally, she felt as if a tornado of emotions had engulfed her.
It was so strange...
All the anger had seeped from her body.
It had been an adrenaline rush which had stimulated her before, provoking her, pushing her into acting the way she had done. She knew it was the only reason why she'd managed to get this far...
She'd been so desperate to get away, to forget everything and leave, she had just wanted to run so fast, so far...
And yet now, one look at his face...and everything had gone.
The anger, the fear, the suffocation.
It was as if time had stood still, slowing her down alongside with it. Holding her back, trying to soothe her. She felt paralysed, unable to move, unable to handle the tranquility that consumed her...
She was frightened, struggling to deal with her conflicting feelings.
Was that tornado within her rising or settling?
Why was she so restless? Why was her heart still racing, faster than before?
It felt as if she was experiencing a rush of a different kind – something was still usurping inside of her, threatening to burst the longer she found herself looking at Sid...
silence was overwhelming her, she'd wished it for so long.
It was almost unbearable – this, a dream she was afraid was going to shatter before her eyes...
There was no one else here...
Just her and Sid, alone.
Her mouth gaped open slightly as she stared at him in wonder...
Still not quite believing it could be true.
She felt overpowered by his smouldering gaze. His jaw set straight, he was merely observing her. Looking
deep into her eyes, in the same unblinking manner as her eyes watched
It was as if he was reading her thoughts, boring into her soul...
Still he said nothing.
She realised his hand was still on her cheek as she glanced hesitantly towards it. Immediately, she felt his fingers stretch further towards her, deeper, till they were raking through her hair, touching her neck.
Her breath caught in her throat as she closed her eyes, allowing her face to melt against his palm, welcoming the warmth that was emanating from his skin...
Slowly she raised her eyes towards him again, beholding his face as she felt his thumb lightly brush against her cheek.
How could this be bad...?
All those things she'd heard should have destroyed what she felt for Sid, all those words should have made her feel terrible about even being associated with him, all those accusations should have made her ashamed to even look Sid straight in the eye...
Because that's exactly how she'd felt minutes ago.
And yet, as he watched her now, as he held her, she didn't feel anything like that whatsoever...
As if those words had completely been wiped from her memory.
Lifting a trembling hand, she stopped herself just before the lapel of his suit jacket, bracing herself for as long as she could manage before slowly resting it against his chest.
The strumming of his heartbeat under her fingertips revived her. Her throat rasped as she inhaled a deep breath of air, as if she'd been brought back to life; finally reassured that he was really here, as she tightly clutched the material of his jacket in her fist.
She looked into his face, her eyes brimming with tears.
Never before had she been so relieved to see him, so grateful to have him beside her. As if she'd lost everything in a moment and had been returned it in the next...
All she wanted to do was to let him know how she was feeling but she couldn't find the words to express herself.
She couldn't talk, she couldn't even laugh with joy, eventhough she could feel her chest swell with happiness...
There was still a void there somewhere, in the absence of her words, making her panic; rendering her breathless.
It was a fear lurking inside of her, as if she'd just experienced losing him...
As if she'd acknowledged a world without him, but had only been made aware of it because he'd returned to her.
She felt his fingers carefully brush her forehead, gently sweeping her fringe out of her eyes.
And instantly she knew what it was she needed.
Without thinking, she locked her arms urgently around his neck, clasping her to him as if she could never let go. His scent invaded her senses as she breathed in, instinctively pulling him closer to her as she did...
Finally she felt right, as if this was where she belonged.
Seconds passed but it was undeniable when she eventually felt his hands slowly spread across the small of her back. Her skin tingled beneath his touch, as he wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight as she sank further into his embrace. Closing her eyes; she was lost in the moment...
Here, she didn't have to run.
Here, she wouldn't suffocate.
Here, there was no need to be afraid.
Because she knew, in his arms, she was safe.
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