hellos..my OS writing fever has returned...of course at the rate this forum buzzes with activity my os might just disappear..but hope some people manage to read this anyway.
please forgive any factual errors and try to appreciate content of story, even if you think it's zero.
Garden of Shadows
Arnav loved gardening. It was roll-on-the-floor laughter inducing, even more hilarious than the fact that his grandmother kept a goat in the house, but it was true. At the end of the day, when he had finished letting out all of his unspent teenage angst on his employees, his family, his girlfriend and even the otherwise thick-skinned Khushi Kumari Gupta, he liked to placidly trim his plants by the swimming pool. His roses, his rhodendrons, his wildflowers, these were his real friends. They silently bore the brunt of his anger when he lost his temper, and his withdrawal from human emotion did not enrage them.
After his gardening session was over, he retired to his bedroom, which he had built in such a way that his garden was visible from there. Gardening had been Raizada Sr's favorite hobby, something which he had cultivated in his son at a very young age. Arnav's mother and his sister Anjali had always mocked the father-son duo, and Arnav's mother had even complained once that his father loved his plants more than her. But they had never minded. At the end of a tiring day, Raizada Sr would squat down with his son by the plants and together they would inspect the flower beds in silence. That was all they had ever really needed to understand each other.
Arnav closed his eyes and turned over, when suddenly a blinding light seemed to penetrate through the darkness and disturb his sleep. He blinked once or twice. It was a full moon night, and the light from the moon was getting reflected off the shiny leaves, creating a dazzling display in the garden. Arnav smiled, content not in the happiness of the beautiful vision in front of him, but the assurance that no one was looking. Then his smile disappeared. All that would change now. Soon, Lavanya would also be by his side. The privacy he had strived for so many years to maintain was going to go. His bond with his garden would be broken.
He was about to go to sleep again when he saw, unmistakably, the shadow. There it was, five feet eleven inches. Always one inch short of six feet tall and handsome, his mother had teased. Arnav's father. Arnav had always wondered whether it was the cliched 'cold feet' before marriage, or the multitude of emotions Khushi Kumari Gupta had brought into his life, but lately he had been feeling his father's presence all around him. Perhaps his impending nuptials were a terrifying reminder of that day all those years ago when he had seen his mother lose everything in front of his eyes, that too during his sister's wedding. It was only natural that he should see his father everywhere. After all, all those years his father had been the only part of that teenagehood memory which Arnav had refused to be haunted by.
Arnav got up, as if some supernatural force seemed to be possessing him. Yes, he was going mad, all because of that stupid marriage and that stupid Khushi Kumari Gupta. The girl would make him jump off a cliff one day. He could see the shadow moving rapidly along the pool. So Raizada Sr. had decided to torture his son after thirteen long years. Oh well, whatever. It was just a dream. He would wake up and that stupid Khushi would be sprinkling water on him, screaming 'Arnavji Arnavji' in her trademark style. He did not know what connection Khushi had with his father, except that both of them were people he intensely loved, but who had chosen to leave-or were about to leave him.
Suddenly the shadow turned around and took rapid strides towards Arnav's bedroom. Arnav hurriedly chased it, and found himself in front of the mirror, filled with the dread and uncertainty that can only be found in a nightmare. He hesitantly raised his eyes, and looked. Staring back at him, in the moonlight, was his father. Yes, there he was, Raizada Sr., giving him a sickly grin that in no way hid the melancholy and anger in his gaunt face. Arnav wanted to scream, but no sound escaped from his mouth. Suddenly, he was thirteen years younger again, and the man he had idolized and adored, the man who had understood him without any words being passed between them, had wrecked his own family and left them alone. The vicious sorrow inside him had destroyed his wife and his two children. The illusion of the perfect family had been shattered.
Arnav no longer remembered his father's real name. He always thought of him as 'Raizada Sr.' Whenever he gave an interview to news reporters, he would always say 'My father was a businessman. He died in a car crash.' It was as simple as that. Give a new surname, and even a new mode of death. It did not matter whether it was a car crash or whatever. Death was death. His father was gone and would never come back. He smiled back at the reflection. Immediately, a voice interrupted 'Arnavji! Arnavji!'
Arnav turned around, and smiled. Khushi was standing in front of him, her eyes filled with panic and horror. 'Arnavji, what were you thinking?' she screamed. 'Wandering around the room like that! You could have tripped on something!'
Arnav stopped smiling. Suddenly the haze cleared, and the static went out of his ears. He turned around to look at the mirror, and saw himself, looking a bit dazed, and Khushi, who oddly enough seemed to be wearing a night dress. He thought to himself how beautiful she looked even without her hair tied and that cute salwar kameez. Then his mind finally gained consciousness.
'What are you doing here?? And whose clothes are those?' he asked, frowning.
'You forgot? Anjali ji asked me to stay back the night because I worked so late preparing for the engagement. And that is Lavanya ji's dress,' she said, suddenly feeling self-conscious. 'Anyway, everyone in the house was so scared because of you, you know! Lavanyaji and Mamiji thought some ghost was screaming out there! What happened?' she demanded, her eyes narrowed.
'Nothing,' he said, as his heart gradually started hardening again. 'It's none of your business.'
Irritation flared up in her face. 'Fine,' she said, stomping out. Just as she was about to exit, her face softened. 'It's okay Arnav-ji. Everyone has nightmares.'
Arnav was about to retort and say that Arnav Singh Raizada wasn't scared of anything, especially not childish nightmares, but he stopped. Perhaps for one night, it would be best if he let one person, even if it was Khushi of all people, know what was happening to him. For some strange reason, he felt that one person could actually only be Khushi.
Khushi went back to Lavanya's bedroom, immediately thinking of what excuse she would make to explain the odd noises coming from Arnav'jis bedroom. Somewhere deep inside her heart, she wished Arnavji had asked her to comfort him. But then, who was she to offer him a shoulder to cry on? His girlfriend? His fiancee? His wife? Heck, she wasn't even a friend.
Soulmate, the garden beyond the glass windows seemed to whisper. As she always did in such situations, Khushi looked towards the stars, at the same time that Arnav's eyes focused on two twinkling dots on the sky and asked them to forgive him for what he was doing to their daughter.