Joined: 04 June 2009
It's not like she's never wanted kids. On the contrary, she's been picturing them in her mind ever since they'd gotten married; tiny little ones with his eyes and his hair and hopefully, not her clumsiness.
But it had all happened so fast, and she'd been in shock the entire time she'd been telling him; shock that he had misinterpreted as hesitancy and regret. And to be perfectly honest, she had been having her fair share of regrets and self-doubt ' it had all happened too fast and she was going to be a horrible mother.
Well, now she is; she most definitely is a horrible mother, because she hadn't accepted this child whole-heartedly and so the tiny baby had been ripped away from her, a casualty thanks to her usual accident-prone self. And she will never have a child again ' never ' because that's what the doctors tell her.
She loves him too much to put him through the same kind of pain.
Sometimes, we lie not to hurt others, but to protect them; to keep them safe. We lie because we know that otherwise, our loved ones would act selflessly and give up all of their hopes and dreams and their future. And so she lies; tells him she's done the one thing he will never forgive.
"It wasn't the right time," She says in a monotone, one that he'll think of as cold and detached, not heartbroken and too tired to care. "It happened so fast; I had to take care of it. But then something went wrong." Her hospitalization had been chalked up to an abortion gone wrong. "It was the right thing to do." She insists, still in a flat tone.
He walks out of her life for good that day, and as he leaves, she squeezes her eyes shut ' as tight as she can ' so that she won't have to see him break her heart into a thousand jagged pieces; pieces that will never fit together again.
They come to see her, as usual. Today marks the day her life ended and her happily-ever-after was brutally ripped out of her grasp, and so her friends ' her sisters, almost ' come and take care of her and keep her alive, as they have for the past three years.
She doesn't quite know how she's made it this long, but she knows now that she is living proof of the fact that you can, in fact, survive with the smallest shard of a functioning heart. She also knows that it is possible to be dead yet alive at the same time, that nightmares are only scary when they depict the empty shell her life has become, that it is possible to be chilled to your very core and still feel like you're trapped and burning alive.
She knows all of this now because this is her life, every single day for the past 1096 days. The sunlight burns and so she stays indoors; the evening laughter of children hurts and so she sequesters herself away ' far, far away in lands of written words; the dark nights chill her and so she protects herself from the horrifying oblivion which awaits her, night after night.
She doesn't know if this counts as living, or if this is some twisted version of life-support, but does it matter? Does anything? When you lose everything you have ever held dear, what do you do in the aftermath? How do you regard the survivors?
How do you pick up the pieces?
She can't pick up the pieces of her heart, because they are sharp and lethal, and so she remains frozen in time ' an endless lifetime of one single, never-ending day. She accepts this'. mere existence, because she deserves it; she deserves it for what she has done, to their unborn child, to him, to herself.
Self-loathing is an art form to be perfected by many nights of restlessness. She likes to think she is a master of that particular art; it is the only thing in her life that she has ever truly been good at: hating herself 'and perhaps the old her, the real khushi, would have found this terribly devastating, but self-hatred leaves no room for emotions.
Her closest friends ' the survivors that linger long after the storm ' know better than to push her. It is a routine of comfort and grief, and mind-numbing food (whenever they can get her to sustain herself) and movies that are supposed to help take her mind off these events.
An utterly ridiculous notion, because these events are the only things on her mind at any given time, now that she no longer has to live actively. Memories of the past are tainted with sorrow but they are worth reliving, rather than these empty days.
It is only when lavanya ' perfect, size 2 lavanya ' straightens out her top to reveal the slightest of bumps that she realizes life has gone on; her survivors are new people and she has been left behind because of her own obsession with the past.
They laugh about it, smile about it and cry about it, because there will be no children playing together; it will be lavanya's child but there will be no tiny khushi or' she can't bring herself to even think his name ' a name she had associated, for so long, with happiness.
And when her friend finally leave, days later, she allows herself to sink to the ground and cry for all that she has lost.
The baby she never met. The babies she will never have. Him. Herself. Years with her friends and family. Laughter and bonding over motherhood. Smiles and holidays. A future.
And then the world is dark, and reality is heavy - so heavy as it drags her under.
The next time she opens her eyes, she knows someone must have taken pity on her and freed her of her mortal struggles, because his eyes are the first sight she registers.
She doesn't speak and neither does he; both fully taking in this moment and absorbing the impact this reunion of theirs has brought on. The sudden onslaught of emotions ' pain, relief, love, hate, grief, joy ' is almost too much for her weakened mind. But he's here ' he's here ' and so she pushes through the haze, against the darkness, and tethers herself to reality and this one moment.
When he does speak, it's reluctant because words ruin the moment; words ruin everything. The world starts moving again when he does, creeping closer to her, a hushed greeting thrown into the air.
"arnav." She coughs out; she sounds hoarse and her throat is dry ' she wonders, for a fleeting moment, just how long she's been out.
"khushi." He nods curtly, and she realizes that he has no idea what he's doing here, only that she'd been in the hospital and someone ' lavanya, most likely ' had forced him to come and see her. Briefly, she considers just thanking him and sending him on his way home, to the person who makes him happy, but then he speaks.
"You lied." He says flatly, and she stirs, trying to move as foreign emotions attack her and panic threatens to bubble to the surface. Her eyes feel wild; they must be darting around. He can still read her, even after all these years. Grasping her limp hand in his, his eyes soften as he takes in, once more, the bags under her eyes; the way her cheekbones are too sharp; the way every single bone in her body pokes out.
"lavanya didn't say anything," He reassures her, saving her the trouble of asking. "Did you honestly think I wouldn't ask for your records? Something I should have done the first time, I realize now." One hand moves to run through his wild hair, a move she remembers so fondly. It's surreal to have him here, talking to her, messing up his hair.
"How could you, khushi?" And in those four words she finds equal measures of anger and self-hatred. She frowns; he shouldn't beat himself up. And so she forces out an explanation; pushes through the dry burn of her parched throat.
"You've always wanted kids, arnav," She does not need to start crying now, but she's helpless against the tears that insist on leaking out. "Ever since I knew you, you wanted the dream. And we were'" She still can't talk about it, even after all these years; why can't she talk about it? "We were so close, but then I had to be stupid, and fall and' we lost- I lost our-"
Tears morph into great, horrible sobs that consume her and destroy her, and it takes less than three seconds for him to be holding her, comforting her even though it should be the other way around.
"I lost our baby." She finally cries, words she has never said; could never say. For three years she has kept it inside her, this horrible truth.
"khushi," He tries to comfort her, smoothing down her hair. "Shh," He holds her closer still.
"I lost our baby, arnav. I lost' I didn't want a baby, at first, and then I lost it, because I didn't want it. I didn't want to be a horrible mother but I am ' I was. I lost my baby." Great, big sobs keep coming and she's shaking, so badly. Everything she's kept bottled up now storms in, a great tidal wave that threatens to devastate her entire being.
Her baby. She lost her baby. She lost their baby.
"khushi, love, why did you-"
"You wanted kids, arnav," She reminds him in between trembling sobs. "And the doctors, they said I' I can't have children anymore. arnav, I will never have a baby. And it hurts, so much."
He stills at this unexpected revelation, frozen.
"I love you too much to take that away from you. So I' I realized then that the way I'd been acting ' I could use it to protect you, to just feed you a little lie. A white lie to protect you."
"To protect me?" He echoes incredulously, pulling away. She longs for him immediately; a reformed addict falling back into her old ways. She stills as he processes this, almost scared to watch this play out.
"khushi, you broke my heart. You made me go through hell for three years, trying to 'protect' me. No kids ' I could have accepted that. But you made me believe that you killed our child. Three years, khushi. Three years of wondering where I'd messed up, what I'd said wrong ' what horrible thing I had done to make you ' the woman who couldn't hurt a fly ' kill her own child; our child. Three years of hating you and myself, of self-doubt and anger and misery. khushi, you did this to us."
Silent tears trace a path down her cheeks and they might as well be acid, for all the pain she feels right now. His eyes are hard and his jaw is set and she knows, she just knows what happens next.
This is the part where her broken heart finds a way to break all over again.
"arnav-" She manages a feeble whisper, and nothing more.
"I can't, khushi," He says in that pained, strangled tone she remembers from the last time; the last time this happened and her world crashed down. "I ' I need some time."
And with one promise of false hope and heartbreak, he turns and walks away.
This time, she doesn't close her eyes ' she needs to know if there's any manvi inside of her empty shell left to be killed.
She trades the watchful eyes of the nurses for the watchful eyes of her best friends as they take her in and refuse to leave her alone, waiting for the inevitable realization that they know will hit her any day now: he isn't coming back.
She sits out on lavanya's porch every day, just resting as the light breeze sways the swing-set, the last vestiges of summer seeping into her deprived form. lavanya and everyone else accuse her ' albeit gently ' of waiting for him, but she isn't. She just wants to remember what living feels like, and the sun ' the familiar sun, her constant since her days in lucknow ' does that for her; draws up memories of a childhood without pain; a vocabulary without the word 'heartbreak' in it; a family that isn't hers to manage and destroy and tear apart.
In all the years they'd spent together, he had always been the over-protective one; the one who would err on the side of caution and save her. So just how ironic is it that the one time she tries to save him, she somehow manages to break both of them?
When summer gives way to fall, lavanya tries to cajole her inside, tempting her with warm drinks and the promise of comfort. She simply bundles up in warmer clothing for the slight chill in the air that bites at her pale cheeks, just to humor her concerned friends, and sits outside all day long.
They try to keep her inside; oh, do they try. But as time passes they realize that maybe the ganga is doing her some good, because blood ' just a little, little bit ' courses through those once-ivory cheeks and so she is left alone to reminisce, deluding herself; creating a world of her own.
Some days, it rains. Those are the times that lavanya does not budge, and she is trapped inside with warm drinks and dark dreams, because those are the days she sleeps away.
She is always tired; so very tired. It is worrying for the first two days, before she remembers that she had heard, once, of someone dying of heartbreak. Things make much more sense after that, and she doesn't wonder, merely appreciates her last moments, glad that she is surrounded by friends even though she doesn't think she deserves this privilege.
Soon, she tells herself.
Not long now, she can feel it in her bones.
A mother always knows when she is about to find her child.
It is diwali night, she realizes one day, because she is not the only one sitting outside, and there are bright lights everywhere, and children's laughter rings in the air.
It used to pain her ' this light laughter ' but not anymore. Soon she will hear her own little one emit these shrieks of delight, and that is all the consolation she needs. Tiny beings rush up to her and ask for treats, and she is thankful for the small diya lavanya had thoughtfully left out earlier.
As the night wears on, the children dwindle in numbers until slowly, slowly, all she hears is the quiet night breeze and the soft beat of her heart, no longer erratic and on a broken loop, merely accepting what is to come.
She knows then that it is time, and it's good, because she doesn't want lavanya to make a fuss, or cry over her. They shouldn't; this is for the best, and she will see them again someday.
Maybe she will see him, too, someday. Maybe it will take all the time in the world for him to forgive her, but she knows that where she is going, time will be irrelevant, and she will wait; she will wait a thousand years, a million ' until the end of time, if only to see him again.
It is her only regret: not seeing him before she embarks on this journey, and so as she feels herself slipping away, she pretends that she does; she does see him. He appears out of the heavy fog that had settled in earlier, dressed in his usual dark colors. She imagines that his hair is longer, disheveled because he hasn't had the time nor the inclination to tame it. She imagines that his perfect face is flawed by dark bags, evidence of nights spent pondering her actions. She imagines his shoulders aren't as straight as they once were; envisions this man broken by the reality of life.
She imagines him picking up his pace as her field of vision narrows; imagines him holding her as she slips away. She pretends she can hear him, frantic and worried and panicked as the light fades from her eyes. She visualizes the way he would shake her ' pretends that she can feel it ' and sees how he would shout at her, denying her this one escape.
And as she leaves, she pretends she can hear him murmur, very, very softly, the three words she has been longing for.
"I love you. khushi, I love you. Please, don't do this to me. Not again, khushi. Please."
She doesn't say it back; the darkness consumes her before she can.
He brings her back that night; breathes life into her as he had years ago, that first night.
And they live a full, flawed life, one that is so beautifully haunted by the ghosts of their past.
And when they do go to that land she's always dreamed of, they are old and wise, and every bit the tormented couple in love they had been that night, a lifetime ago.And there, in that land of timeless bliss, they find the one they had lost an eternity before..
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