Joined: 25 October 2011
What can I say...I was frustrated. Which is probably why this may come out rather disjointed so read at your own risk :s
OS: A Midsummer Night's Storm
'Please Khushiji- don't cry!' NK pleaded for the umpteenth time, staring helplessly at a girl who had, in a remarkably short space of time, won his heart and become one of his closest friends, rocking silently to and fro on the deckchair they were seated on. He threw a worried glance upwards. The heavens seemed mutinous tonight, the silhouettes of the thick woollen lumps speckling the sky lightened with each bright flash of lightning. But Khushiji seemed to be thoroughly oblivious to the raging winds cascading ghoulishly over the poolside, sending violent ripples over the surface of the water, bending Nannav's beloved plants almost double, dislodging showers of leaves, their rustling drowned out by the whoosh of the tussling wind. She sat there, quietly, knees drawn up to her chest, arms thrown about her legs, face buried out of sight. Only the irrepressible quivering as she swayed rhythmically back and forth gave way to the torrent of tears she had succumbed to.
NK did not know what to do. What had transpired in the hall below had been the most awkward of situations he could have imagined. Nannav actually making a proper headway in winning back Khushiji's heart, only to have Di walk in on it, and a perfect set of misunderstandings (as though the ones plaguing the family already, renting husband from wife, sister from brother, were not enough already) had gleefully set in motion.
NK was exasperated; he had had enough. This had to stop. He had to do something about it.
But first- Khushiji.
'Khushiji, you need to get inside, right now,' the plaintive note in his voice had disappeared; instead, urgency reverberated from his tenor, 'There is going to be a storm here any minute, and if you stay out here, you'll be drenched.'
The tone seemed to have had its effect, because it effectively brought Khushi's pendulum-like swaying to a stop. Her arms loosened somewhat, her rigid posture slackening. The peremptoriness having done its job, NK's gaze at her softened discernibly. Every single time, no matter what went wrong, Khushiji was always the scapegoat. And yet, she kept going, kept smiling, kept fighting- and hid her tears where no one could see them. His heart swelled up suddenly, bulging with compassion, with a quiet pride in this girl and her fiery, never-say-die spirit. He sighed heavily. Throwing caution to the winds and deciding he did not give two hoots about convention and social propriety, he carefully latched an arm about Khushiji's shoulders, giving her enough space to push him off.
She did not push his arm off, but his act did get her sit upright, startled, her wide tear-filled eyes glimmering in the low light of the poolside in astonishment.
'Why are you crying, Khushiji? You haven't done anything wrong. None of this is your fault.' NK assured her gently, looking kindly into those luminous wide eyes. She needed to know this, and needed to believe it. Very few people in this family did (NK made a mental note to give his Maasi a piece of his mind once he had calmed Khushiji down), and if Khushiji started believing the half-baked conclusion that every evil deed committed by that lecherous monster he had once called 'Jijaji' was somehow her fault, she would be fighting a losing battle. She would be lost, and he would not let that happen.
Khushiji's big, brown expressive eyes moistened further, brimming over with tears, and her lower lip quivered. She turned, looking faintly disoriented, towards the turbulent water of the poolside.
'I know, Nanheji...I know what happened isn't my fault...but...what is happening...might be.'
Her voice, a low monotone barely audible over the whistling wind, fell into a hush that mingled and disappeared in the cold breeze slapping against their bare skin. But this time NK himself was not aware of nature's protest.
'What do you mean?' he demanded, quizzically, perplexed.
Khushiji's pleading, earnest eyes fixed him in their unwavering stare once more. Her shoulders, as he held her, were shuddering.
'Whatever is happening...Di isn't speaking to Arnavji...all because of me. Di thinks Arnavji is lying to her...she thinks he doesn't care about him anymore...she thinks he's going away from him...it's all because of me...'
NK felt a bewilderment grip him. How could Khushiji be responsible for the wedges that had been driven between Di and Nannav? It wasn't as though Khushiji had Nannav on a leash, or as though she were a pernickety wife that demanded Nannav's undivided attention. If anything, Khushiji had spent the best part of the day before rejecting each and every one of Nannav's attempts to breach the distances between them. He feared that the series of mishaps, one following fast in the wake of another, were finally taking a toll on Khushiji's composure, her pluck- this sort of unreasonable argument could only be explained as paranoia.
'Yes, it's all because of me...' she repeated, a haunting conviction creeping into her voice, 'I didn't want all those fancy birthday presents from him...I didn't want to celebrate...not when Di was so shattered, Nani upset, Mami furious, Jiju not even speaking properly to Jiji...we should have been trying to help each other, help better these problems...he should have been trying to help Di...he's the only one- who can handle her- right now...'
He stared at the girl shuddering quietly beside him, crouching almost under the burden of her sorrows, in nothing short of sheer disbelief. What is she talking about?
'Khushiji...I understand that the family was upset and all, and Di is in a bad state- but honestly, come on- they aren't kids! They don't need Nannav to babysit them! And anyway, there are plenty of people in this house to look after Di-'
'No, you don't understand!' Khushi's sudden squeal of protest froze NK's frustrated counter-argument, and he gaped at the sudden desperation written clearly across her face, 'You don't understand! She means the world to him! And he means the world to her! They need each other to exist...her happiness means everything for him! All this...everything-' Khushi, as though at a loss of words, gesticulated frantically with her arms, 'He did all this just to keep her happy! He married me to keep her happy! He didn't think twice before-' she choked on her own sobs, her words becoming indistinguishable. She sucked in a deep breath, laboriously, and then continued, in a voice that cracked and shook, 'And now the centre of his universe- his Di- thinks he's lying to her. She thinks he's keeping himself away...just because I'm here! He'll break down completely...Because of ME!' She yelled at the heavens.
There was a pause, during which the wind gusted erratically. A low roll of thunder sounded, followed by a streak of lightning slicing the sky. Then Khushi continued, almost as though she had forgotten that NK was there.
'I'm tired...so tired...he'll come back and yell at me...he'll be angry because Di is mad at him...and somehow, it'll be my fault...it's always my fault...but if it's always my fault...why doesn't he just...let me leave? Why won't he listen? If I left...everything would be back to the way it used to be...with him and Di...they'd be happy again...that's all I want...I want him to be happy...I want to go away, I want to go...why won't he let me go, why doesn't he LISTEN?' she demanded, her voice shooting up several octaves and piercing through the howl of the upcoming storm.
'Because you are my wife.' A third, disembodied voice answered, oddly unmarred, unruffled, by the plethora of noise running rampant outside.
NK had taken one good look at the resolution stamped firmly on the face of his cousin before he had gripped Khushiji's shoulder, conveying through his grasp his support, his encouragement, before leaving the poolside. Because even in the meagre light swamping the poolside, the determination, the intent blazing dangerously in Nannav's eyes left him in no doubt that he no longer had a part to play in that story. For once, he had faith in Nannav's ability to win back his wife all on his own.
He, on the other hand, had more pressing matters to attend to.
Reaching the living-room, NK paused for a moment to gauge what his next move ought to be. Whom should he tackle first? Maasi? Akash? He scrutinised both prospects with a considerable degree of distaste. He felt almost guilty, but he could not help feeling contemptuous towards both his aunt and his cousin. Their anger was as petty as it was pointless, and to him they seemed to be a pair of ill-humoured, scowling children to whom he itched to give a good talking to.
But there were bigger fish to fry this evening, and NK squared his shoulders, marching purposefully towards Di's room. A faint prick of misgiving niggled at the back of his mind, with the fleeting doubt of the sensibility of what he was about to do and what consequences it might have crossing his mind. But it was fleeting nevertheless, and the fresh memory of a cowering Khushiji, emotionally battered to the extent that she had actually started to believe the baseless accusations levelled against her, hastened his step and strengthened his resolve.
'I don't wish to speak to anyone,' were the first words Di muttered the minute he pushed the doors open and stepped inside. She had been sitting in bed, leaning against the headboard, staring passively into space.
'Good,' NK answered grimly, advancing further into the room and pushing the door shut, 'Because I'm going to be doing the speaking, and you're going to be doing the listening.'
He watched Khushi gather her defences, watched as a mask of impassivity dropped into place across her face where before it had been contorted with injured, unbridled hurt. His heart bled at the sight, watching his wife stiffly rising from where she sat, turning mechanically about to face him. Only her hair, caught by the billowing breezes, moved, swivelling this way and that, making her immobility all the more pronounced. A bitter cold prickled against his skin.
He moved towards her, painfully conscious of the fact that both her hands balled tightly into fists, of the fact that she was fighting to hold her ground and not move back.
He stopped a foot away from her.
'You think I'm going to yell at you?' he asked sadly.
Khushi's eyes, so far riveted onto a tiny cracked corner of a tile on the floor, darted up to him, taken aback. Obviously, she hadn't expected him to say that. After all, how could she have known that he had just borne witness to each wounded word her lips had uttered?
'Why did you think I would yell at you, Khushi?' he continued, his gentle timbre low, almost- despondent.
Khushi stared blankly at him for a few seconds, her mouth moving slightly but soundlessly. Then she averted eyes once more.
Arnav sighed heavily, and took the last few steps needed to be standing right before her. She steadfastly refused to respond to his presence.
'Khushi, you haven't done anything. So why should I yell at you?' he asked, a weariness creeping into his voice. He did not know how much longer he would be able to keep up the vigil. He felt battered, broken, bruised- what he had just returned from, the virulently cold words hurled at him by his sweet-natured older sister, had been nothing short of a war, a titanic battle where survival was more of a curse than a blessing. And now, bleeding freely from the aftermath of accusations he had never even dreamed would arise between him and the one person who had known him, understood him, inside out, he had stumbled into another nightmare.
Khushi wanted to leave him.
Now, when he thought he had finally toppled the last of the barriers between her heart and his...the barriers had malevolently rebuilt themselves and stood jeering over their victory at his expense.
'You should be with Di,' Khushi muttered, flat and toneless, 'she needs you.'
'And I need you'. There. He had said it. He was a man of few words. And in with those few words he had summed up one of the cornerstones of his existence. He was tired, exhausted from being tossed about on the tides of a life he once thought he could control. But fate and destiny had had other plans and seemed to have taken his arrogance to heart, going out of its way to prove to him at every bend that he couldn't control the mechanics of life. And he was too weary to be beating about the bush right now.
Khushi's expressions remained impassive. And yet, despite no change in her stance, Arnav could practically see the cogs and wheels of her mind in rapid disarray, spinning wildly to build a formidable fort about her once more, to deny him entry. Because the worst thing he could have anticipated had happened.
She actually believed that he could never be happy with her in his life.
And it was his responsibility to shatter that delusion that she had fooled herself into believing.
'You need her,' Khushi corrected him slowly, as though he was having trouble understanding.
'And you,' Arnav countered quietly.
'No,' Khushi breathed, shaking her head slowly from one side to the other, 'No...if I hadn't come into your life, everything would have been OK...Di would have been happy...Shyamji wouldn't have tried to deceive her...'
Arnav winced. If she had physically assaulted him, slapped him tightly across the face, it would have hurt less than having his own poison-deadly words, venom-tipped darts, flung straight back at him. He nearly staggered backwards, but held his ground with difficulty. Those meaningless, worthless, blasphemous claims that he had uttered in a fit of rage sounded lethal, chilling him to his bone marrow, in her dead voice. He steeled himself for a great effort.
'If you hadn't come into my life, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada,' Arnav murmured, his quiet tone slitting cleanly through the rush of the tussling gusts, 'I wouldn't have learnt to smile again...' He took a step forward 'I wouldn't have learnt to laugh...I wouldn't have dared to dance...' He was inexorably advancing towards her, and this time Khushi teetered. Her rigidity faltered, and she began to stumble backwards.
'I wouldn't have come back to my family...I wouldn't have become Arnav from ASR...I wouldn't have been able to love.'
He had backed her almost to the edge of the pool. The fact did not seem to register with Khushi, and she kept retreating inch by inch backwards.
'...you said you just wanted me to be happy, Khushi,' he whispered, watching as his warm breath washed over the pale of her skin, tinting it suddenly a blooming pink, 'You were lying...' he accused her softly.
So...shall I continue?
I reserve all rights over this work of fiction and request that readers do not reproduce/copy/modify it and/or claim credit. Thanks :)
Link to last part: Here
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