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The Best Gift for Her…
(Short story #3)
He wasn't dense. He could be pretty dog-headed (pun not intended, as people liked to say) when it came to Josh Oberoi, but he wasn't stupid, that was for sure. He'd always been able to feel things, the palpitating resonance of every mood fluctuation. He'd known, since he hadn't quite been able to talk, that his first word would not have been 'mom', because he knew it would've pricked the mascara-ed tears from Naina's eyelashes. There had been something about the malleable stiffness when she carried him, the honeyed cooing, that told him he wasn't wanted. He found out later that her marriage to Dilip blossomed from a forcibly initiated erotic escapade and a taciturn agreement between respected families.
In very much the same way, he knew his father didn't think much of him. Though his features were molded in a similar way, his son had proved to be just a well-packaged ersatz. Angad Khanna was a late bloomer, he had only started talking at five, and his development proved to be along the same line. Contrary to his own deft ability at many things, Angad had proved to be only at the average level, and the only aptitude he possessed was for singing, long considered a lower class occupation in his family. Introverted and cowardly, his son was hardly what he considered the next in line for the Khanna Mansion. Angad had seen all this, and desperately in awe of his father and his proud, reassured manner, he had tried. Trying to imitate his father's fluent ways, he conversely remained just below the top, trying to copy his father's confidence and wit; he developed an effusively brash and disdainful manner that only further disappointed his father.
He had known, no, he knew someone who reminded him of his father. The very first time he met him, he had seen through the shy demeanor and old-fashioned glasses to the erect carriage of the boy, and the ease he felt in his quiet, unobtrusive movements. He had known Josh Oberoi was special even if Josh refused to acknowledged that himself. That had made him hate him all the more, because he longed to be like Josh, he would give anything to have the status of Josh, yet Josh shied away from it all, and in his awed envy the hatred burned red the lonely black of his heart.
And so he had felt the indecisive emotions of Kripa's heart, torn between Angad and her loyalties. He knew the feeling of guilt and treachery which wafted around her like an unrelenting miasma, her heart convulsed with betrayal whenever she thought of each side. He could sense the pain that wretched its way through her body, escaping in every laugh, sneaking through grins and recently, tainting the grief honey from her eyes. This explained why he was wandering the school at night, those fear-frosted, midnight-hewn hallways, the walls seeming disproportionately undulating, suddenly looming and receding in the coarse gloom of night.
He was scared. The school's hallways reminded him unnervingly of the Khanna Mansion's foreboding, threatening hallways, and the nights he had spent in them under the merciless, cannibalistic eyes of his ancestor's portraits when he had angered his father. It was scary, and his heart was thumping louder than the controlled clack of his leather shoes on the carpeted floor, but there were things worse than this.
He knew that she had pitied him. He had felt it in her polite ignorance of his existence, betrayed by the lingering looks during meetings. He wouldn't lie to himself that he wasn't devastated when his father was put in jail, his smart, capable, invincible father, but he did lie to everyone else. He could never pull of the same manner of condescending aristocracy as his father, but he knew how to maintain his air of scornful contempt, he couldn't embarrass his father further by having a son who broke down in his absence. And so he did.
Yet, for all his aplomb, Kripa had pitied him. It drew him inexplicably to her, and he fell in love with her. For a long time he had merely observed her, synergizing his heart with hers, knowing her exasperation with Josh and Prithvi's lack of understanding, feeling her joy at her next perfect score, warming pride when she answered questions correctly in class, and even a faint stirring of unselfish love when he watched the way she cared for others with her whole being. But most of all, he had seen behind the abundant love in her chocolate eyes, a dimmed veil of aloof isolation, and he felt for the first time in all his intuitive perceptions of the human heart, instead of knowing, he understood.
Then one day, he had seen her alone in some section of the library, flipping some book. It wouldn't have mattered which book, because he had felt the peace that cocooned her, a guileless love for everything around her. He had felt jealous. He was jealous because he wanted her to love him like that, not some ridiculous book. He was jealous because she thought the world was good when it wasn't; it made sad, embittered, scared people like him. He wanted to taint her, hurt her, make her his. He had gone up to her, and then he had touched her hand.
"I know you pity me."
She had stared at him when he said that, he could see in her eyes the surprise and some fright, but mostly a new bubbling geyser of sympathy. It didn't make him angry. It couldn't. All his life he'd ached with the back of his mind for an emotion that wasn't indifference or hate, and everywhere he'd seen walled eyes that mirrored his own. It didn't matter if it was her who offered it. He was tired and scared and he just wanted someone to care. He felt like he had just returned home. So he kissed her. It wasn't really a kiss. He bent his mouth to skim hers, and touched the tip of his lips to her lips, running them back and forth in playful temptation. He stepped back, staring at her. She didn't say anything. So he kissed her again, this time for real. Gently, lovingly, like he'd imagined it to be.
He'd said that when they parted. His hands were still tangled in her hair.
That was how it had started. Sometimes he wondered why she had let him start it all; it would have been easier for her to just to turn her head. For him it was alright, he had nothing to lose, and much to gain, and that made him love her all the more, because she had been willing. Sometimes Kripa wondered too. She thought it must be because of look in his eyes, the hunted loneliness and tender vulnerability. She recognized it because it was the same doleful eyes that stared back at her out of the mirror in the dorm room.
Kripa was lonely. Josh and Prithvi were great friends, but they were boys, relatively immature ones at that, they had more in common with each other than her, and they didn't bother to find out more. It didn't help that they seemed to be revered and awed by her academic prowess. So, feeling unloved, she had loved everyone, because it made her feel less lonely.
She had seen Angad many times after Dilip had been put in jail, how he still maintained his haughty deprecation. But it cut less, and everyone knew it, because he was now the child of a disgraced criminal father. Kripa had pitied him, against all her reasoning and with all her compassion. She also pitied him because of a hidden empathy that she hadn't realized until he had looked into her eyes that night in the library.
She knew that he wanted love and she knew that she could give it, that she was willing to. He understood her, and in the craved need of the abandoned, she had let him kiss her, and kissed him back. In an unspoken mutual agreement sealed by a sensitive kiss, she cared for him while he understood her, and both of them would no longer be alone. She knew now, though, she had been cheated. She knew Angad would have known, because he could sense the raw thoughts of her subconscious better than her, but she had not. She had thought her love for him was that of a motherly kindred spirit, but her stubbornness could deceive her no longer.
She loved Angad. She loved the gentle touch of his caresses during their clandestine midnights, the warm touch of his lips as they breathed intoxicating love into her mouth. She loved the awkward movements that melted into smooth fluidity when he cuddled her in his strong arms. She loved the light flaxen hair that flopped over chocolate brown eyes hooded with spidery lashes, and his ebony sculpted face, all unrelenting sharp angles. Most of all, she loved the way he understood her whole being just by looking at her.
It was confusing. He was still the same Angad. He was still cowardly and bitter, and he still insulted Josh inexorably, triumphing in her sad resignation. He was still vindictive, upping her every time he could, scared to lose, and scared to lose her. He still believed in his father's almightiness, and thus in crime too. They had kept their relationship apart from the realities of the world, but the fairytale was coming to an end and the urgencies of reality were slipping into their impossible dream, warning her of consorting with an unredeemed enemy, whispering of her traitorous behavior to her friends.
Angad saw all this, and he hated himself for being weak, for kissing her that night in the library instead of watching mutely as always. He had never really wanted to hurt her; all the callous words from his mouth were spoken to defend himself from the idea of her rejection. He had always wanted; he always wanted to protect her, to save her from his sin, to redeem himself for pulling her innocence into his evil. But he had never been able to, because that would mean losing her, and he didn't want to, he was selfish.
It was alright though, now. He would do this one unselfish thing for her, in the most selfish way possible. He knew it would hurt, but he was too spineless to be nobler about it. But he would do it, definitely, because he loved her only, selfishly maybe, but he did. She had been the only person to love him, and Angad would set aside his entire cowardliness for just this night alone, to thank her for it. Angad knew what to do. He would return all the love she gave him back to her, end the shadow that trailed her, the shadow in his form, he would return her back to where she belonged. He stepped out onto the stone-hewn balcony on the roof of the school, looking at the carpeted sky of dancing stars.
How beautiful, he thought. The roof was the one place he had never brought Kripa to, because he had thought the place a schmaltzy clich. Yet, there were reasons why it had earned its renown, reasons he had never bothered to think of, because he didn't want to. He looked out over the lake, a rippling opal glacier dotted with stars fallen from the sky, and thought that he should have taken Kripa here, but now he wouldn't get a chance, not anymore. He placed his hands on the smooth icy railing, savoring the chilly relief on his sweaty palms.
Today was Valentine's Day, and Angad was going to give the best gift he could offer. He would kill himself.
Hey I hope you all liked this one! I have been busy so they are kind of short, but they will get longer. I promise!! I Anyways tell me what you think!
Joined: 04 July 2005
Joined: 23 January 2005
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