Amicitia, A New Beginning
The room was in pitch darkness except for the illuminating moonlight coming through the windows. Shiv sat on the rocking chair, looking outside, gazing into the mesmerising moon. He sat to and fro, rocking as he stared endlessly, with no particular thought. Suddenly, the door creaked open and the light was switched on. The sudden light caused him to flinch, and rub his eyes instantly. He turned to address the person.
"Mom?" His mother, Aarti Agnihotra walked towards him. She was a slim, petite woman, with similar features to Shiv. She wore a off-white cotton saree; her ageing face was highlighted by her tired eyes. It seemed as if she was hiding her sadness, but was too tired with the world right now. She gave him a warming smile, as she caressed his head sitting onto the bed to level him.
She looked around the room, her heart sunk as she saw a particular picture. It was of her, Shiv and Sia: her daughter, just after birth. Shiv had been so happy that day that she couldn't even say. After her husband died and then Sia, it was as if a part of them had died. Aarti never wanted to live on after that, but looking at Shiv she just couldn't bare to leave him. When Maanvi came and filled the void, she helped Shiv become stronger both physically and mentally. Yes, in Aarti's eyes Maanvi for them was a saint. She was a sweet girl, but someone who they so desperately needed. And she knew that Shiv would never leave Maanvi, he would always support her by doing the right thing just how he had done today.
"I'm proud of you, beta." She said softly.
He nodded, smiling slightly. "I know..."
"If you've done this much so far, then do one more thing."
"What?" He asked her. She pointed towards the door and asked the hovering shadows to come inside. Shiv gulped as he saw the newly married Maanvi with Virat behind. He hadn't expected them to come to his house, to find him. He didn't know what to say, or how to behave. Though it was the right thing, he hoped that Maanvi forgave him for the abrupt decision.
Maanvi's heart ached as she thought of leaving with seeing Shiv. It was just something unthinkable. As she walked into his room, she thought about the million times that she had been in this very room, this very spot. Their friendship was not of two people but of saviours. Both were each others strength. So how could she leave her strength behind? Virat followed in, his attention was instantly taken as he looked at the numberless photos over the pale pastel coloured walls. There was probably about ten altogether, each of a different memory. Virat noticed the one with a young boy which he assumed was Shiv with Aarti and a baby. He wondered who the baby was and where was she. But of course Maanvi knew. Virat saw the others with Maanvi in it. A party. Them laughing. Happiness. His heart sunk as he realised that he had never had a normal childhood. At least how could he? He was a Prince. Princes never have a normal life.
Shiv stood up to face the visitors. But couldn't. His confidence went down the drain as his eyes wandered onto the floor. He stood still as Aarti went out of the room, taking Virat with her leaving Maanvi alone with him.
"Won't you even look at me?" Maanvi asked as she stood right in front of her best friend.
He looked up at her, trying not to get upset. "Maanvi, what I did was what I had to do." He mustered the courage and told her.
She nodded. "I know, you know everything don't you?" She smirked a bit. "The Great Shiv Agnihotri."
He couldn't help but laugh. This was so them, always making jokes and laughing even in the intense scenarios.
Maanvi smiled as she watched him laugh. She loved moments like this. "Thank you." She whispered.
"What for?" He asked. But she didn't reply instead she leaped him and hugged him, closing her eyes.
"Everything." She whispered. "For helping me, for helping Chandrilasia and...for giving me strength." He smiled as he held her, he too closing his eyes. They stood still, just silently, just enjoying the moments - the few moments they had together.
He sniffed, still trying to contain his tears. Maanvi opened her eyes and moved away. She looked into his eyes as a tear fell down. Instantly she placed her fingers on his face and wiped it off. "Are you crying?" She asked. She pulled a frown. "Not fair, yaar! My wedding and you're crying? God, you're such a crying bride!"
Shiv grinned, rolling his eyes at her comment. He sighed as he placed his arm around her shoulders but she brushed him off. "What can I do? My honewale patni has been stolen from me and that to by a Prince." He rolled his eyes again in mockery.
"Oh ho! Who said I've been stolen? Didn't I say? We'll have an affair, you know chup ke chup ke." She winked as they laughed together.
"I'm going to miss you." He said as the laughing died down. "Seriously."
Maanvi shrugged. "Who said this is the end for us? We'll always be together, ShAan for life remember?" He grinned and nodded.
"ShAan for life." He promised her.
Outside in the hallway, Virat sat on the chair just waiting. He thanked Aarti as she placed drinks and some snacks on the table. But, of course the tension was too high that he couldn't eat anything. He took a sip of the water to calm his nerves. He wondered what was happening and wondered whether Maanvi would be happy with him. He knew he was going to try everything to make her settle in, but was she truly going to be happy as his wife? He smiled as he thought of that. His wife. He liked the sound of that. He frowned. Why was he thinking this? And that too right now?
"So, aab kya?" Aarti asked him. Virat zoned out of his thoughts and looked at her.
"Er..." He struggled to say anything.
She didn't move, only smiling trying to calm him down. "I mean, with Maanvi. You're taking her to yours right?"
He stopped. He actually didn't think of anything. He just knew that he had to marry Maanvi and he did. But the aftermath? No, he didn't think of it. "Y-Yes." He replied.
Aarti nodded. "Good. At least Maanvi will be happy." Virat noticed the off-tone in her voice. He had an inkling that she didn't trust him. But of course who could? He himself didn't allow anyone to get close to him, well not after that time. He sighed, hating the way he had let himself become. He wanted to change, even back then he wanted to change but just never had the chance or the reason to...until now.
"I promise, I'll never let Maanvi be anything but happy." He assured her with such confidence that Aarti couldn't help but smile.
"I know." She nodded feeling content with his promise. "You'll be the perfect husband for her."
Virat just nodded, I'll try to. He thought. Virat smiled. He liked talking to Aarti, somehow her never ending trust in Shiv made him jealous. He looked at Aarti and saw her as a mother-figure, he just wished that he had the attention and care from his own mother when he was younger. He sighed but was interrupted by Shiv and Maanvi coming out of his room. Virat looked at Maanvi. He had never noticed her appearance. Sure, he knew that she was pretty but he never realised just how down to earth yet angelic she was. She was the water to his fire. He watched as she walked with Shiv besides her, not taking her eyes of her friend whilst Virat couldn't take his eyes off her. He turned away, cursing under his breath and wondering why he was looking at her so intently.
"Still best of friends?" Aarti said laughing.
Maanvi smiled and took her hand in Shiv's. "Still best of friends."
Virat felt out of place in this scene. It was as if he wasn't meant to be here, as if he was playing the wrong game. Shiv noticed Virat uncomforted and took Maanvi towards Virat. He held her hand but also held Virat's before bringing them together, leaving his own hands out.
"And they're still husband and wife." Shiv said smirking.
Maanvi looked up at her tall husband, his brooding eyes looking back at her. She looked away somewhat shy but somewhat nervous whilst he just looked with care and awe. He was fascinated about her, she was someone that he had never encountered. Shiv tried to hide his smirk as he looked at Virat watching Maanvi. Virat, whose eyes had moved away for a second noticed Shiv and straight away cleared his throat and moved his hand away. He started to blush red.
Shiv laughed, not caring as Maanvi gave him a look. He quietened down as his own mother gestured him to keep quiet. He hide his smile. "So, can I do the kanyadaan?" He asked.
"What?" Maanvi asked, completely amused by his question.
"Well, my best friend has just gotten married and I'm sure Madan chachu and Pinky Chachi have been completely shocked. So, I'm guessing the kanyadaan is left and who else to do it better than me?" Maanvi rolled her eyes. "And besides, the first part has already been done." Maanvi gave him a look. "You know, the whole hand holding thing." He looked at Virat who turned away, still red.
Aarti pulled Shiv's ears, scolding him. "Do you have to joke about everything?" He shrugged.
"Mom, these things need to be done. Or do you want the bride to cry? Because I can make her cry if you want." Everyone gasped as Aarti slapped him lightly. Maanvi laughed.
"Chup! Every thing you make jokes about. At least today be quiet." Aarti scolded him whilst she too was trying not to laugh.
"I'm sorry mom." He pulled her cheeks and stood in front of Maanvi and Virat. "You're going to take away my best friend in the whole world and I'll probably won't ever see her again," He said with a fake sigh and cry. "At least let me do this one honour?" Shiv asked Virat. Virat nodded, amused by Shiv's words but also knew that Shiv was the best person to do this. He thought about how Madan had refused to bless him, and how Virat had been disheartened.
They walked out, Shiv holding Maanvi's hand with Virat trailing besides them. Virat opened the door to Shiv's car and sat in the driver's seat, buckling his seat belt. Outside Maanvi hugged Shiv, thanking him again for everything. Even in his humour, he tried to hide his true feelings, his true emotions. He nodded, without saying anything else and sat her in, besides Virat as he waved them goodbye. He had done it. Maanvi was now gone away from him.
"Are you happy with your goodbye?" Aarti asked him, knowing that Shiv's jokes were all an act.
He nodded, putting his hands inside his pockets. "At least she's gone away smiling." He said.
"Mm, that was guaranteed to happen. But beta, don't worry. Maanvi will be happy with Virat. If not today, then one day their marriage will be filled with roses."
"I know mom. I know. Maanvi's destiny, her true love only lies with Virat. If only he knew that."
"He'll know one day."
Maanvi closed her eyes, letting the tears stream from her face as the car drove away from Shiv's house. She clutched her chest and prayed that Shiv was never alone. He was silly to assume that she would be going away happy. He should have known that she was his best friend, that she knew how he truly felt. Maanvi sighed thinking about how bad Shiv was at lying. She looked out as the scenery changed, the roads started to become longer as the trees started to darken the night. She sat in the front passenger's seat, her eyes wet and pouring of tears. She sniffed looking out until she saw a hand coming from besides her with a tissue. She looked to see Virat holding a tissue with one hand whilst his attention on the road and his other hand holding the steering wheel.
She took the tissue and in the split second, her hand came in contact with his. A sharp, cold shiver went through her spine. She looked at him to see him looking at her. A moment passed before they looked away, Maanvi quickly turning to the scenery.
The cold icy air infested the car, as the breeze went past through the open window. Maanvi closed her eyes, letting it soothe her. She loved this weather. The calmness. Sometimes, she would sit outside late at night, watching the moon glisten over her and the soft wind blow her hair. She would stay out all night, with Shiv sitting under the starry night, counting the sparkling stars. He would joke about saying how he would steal a star from the sky for her and Maanvi would always hit him for keeping false promises. She found it all cheesy but deep down, like any other girl she hoped that there was someone who would steal a star for them.
The car journey seemed to take forever, the roads still feeling like it was never ending. She watched as the trees started to grow, getting larger and larger before the branches edging onto the top of the car. Far out, she could the soft hooting of an owl. The moon was shining brighter as ever, on this particular night as she had noticed and the stars started to twinkle even more so.
Suddenly the car stopped and Virat hissed. The car started to trail very slowly as he tried to swerve it off the main road. He tried to ignite the engine again and again as the car seemed to stay put. "What is..." He stopped and noticed the fuel tank, empty. He groaned and sighed, moving his head backwards onto the head seat.
"Fuel is gone."
"What? But how? We have to get home, I mean how?" Virat listened to her frantic worries but somehow his heart skipped as she said home. Not the palace, but home.
"Er, I'll look around. See if anyone can help." She nodded as he got out and started to walk leaving her. Maanvi sighed and rubbed her arms, feeling cold. It must have been a few minutes or so when she noticed that Virat was taking quite long to come back. She suddenly became alarmed. What if something had happened to him? She thought but braced herself saying that it was pointless to think such things. She started to doze off, as she fell into a slumber.
The night became darker, the roads became quiet. There was no one for miles but as Maanvi slept, someone watched her very closely.