Joined: 17 February 2012
She found him by the poolside...
The spurned bride at the altar- everybody had expected her to gather what little she could salvage of her dignity and leave. Garima had made a hasty exit, taking Shashi with her and after yelling at Khushi for having no shame, Buaji had washed her hands of Khushi and followed soon after.
Khushi had sat silently at the mandap; trying to make herself understand.
He had come down wearing his wedding sherwani, Khushi's heart had fluttered at the sight. He was so handsome.
She had noticed that the moment she had first fallen into his arms from the stage. First the inky black hair styled away from his forehead to ensure that nothing concealed those searing eyes- almost a golden brown in the bright lights that had been blazed on them. His lips, set firmly in line in a jaw carved from stone. She had been able to read him even then; despite the almost impassive, dismissive expression that would be caught on camera, she had seen unbridled fury brewing just behind it.
Over time, that innate ability had just gotten stronger... So it was with mild shock that she recognised an all-consuming pain painting his face right now. As he walked down the stairs, NK cheering that 'Only Nanav could be late for his own wedding.' and Aakash rolled his eyes and joked that 'Well, at least it wasn't just mine then.', Khushi had frozen. Her heartbeat slowing like a ringing alarm clock dropped into a vat of treacle.
As he came to a stop directly in front of her and Khushi looked up into his eyes, she saw guilt and shame dart across them in the fraction of a second it took him to look away.
He clenched his fists and he spoke, his voice ringing clearly through the room like a funeral knell.
"This wedding is over. I can't marry you. Go home Khu- Just leave."
And he had spun on his heels and stormed away, unwilling to deal with the tsunami that he knew would come as a consequence of his earthquake of an announcement.
First Di had gone, tried to speak to her Chotte but returned several minutes later in floods of tears and wailing that he must explain why he was doing something like this. Why was he saying nothing? How could he do this to Khushi?
Then NK and Aakash. They thought maybe a brother's words could warm Arnav's iced over feet... They had simply returned with their faces darkened, shaking their heads to indicate that they too had had no success.
The elders convened on the sofas, throwing furtive glances over at Khushi every so often. Khushi could see Dadi pointing and yelling and she could see the shocked faces of everybody else indicating a secret finally exposed.
She could see Shyam trying to pacify a hysterical Anjali and Payal with her fingers trembling as they rested on her pretty pink lips. Nani asked a question and Dadi's face hardened to stone as she responded.
Khushi didn't hear a word.
She sat, perfectly still, and relived the past year. How she had met a monster and been dragged into his world by the hands of fate. In time, realising that behind the monster there dwelled a broken young boy, frozen and unable to move past the horror of what he had gone through at the age of 18. And finally, slowly, painfully- falling in love with him.
With everything that he was.
Everything that he ever would be.
For Khushi Kumari Gupta knew that she was his. She belonged to him for now and forever.
And she had dared to believe that finally- he was hers too.
Ignoring the voices that tolled out as she rose to her feet, she began walking towards the stairs. She felt a hand on her shoulder and roughly shook it off, not bothering to look back and see who was trying to stop her. More voices calling her name, but Khushi was in a different world. And in that world existed only one other person.
She opened the doors to his- their- bedroom and stepped inside, locking the door as she had done every time they had needed to recede into their own world over the past six months.
She knew that he knew she was there. Even if her presence had not been betrayed by the rustling of the heavy clothes or the tinkling of her jewelry; she knew he could sense her simply because she had always been able to sense him.
He had his back to her, his hands gripping a watering can sprinkling life onto the plants he tended. Everything about him, from the set of his shoulders to the stoop of his head, from the curve of his fist to the stance of his legs told Khushi he did not want to talk.
She knew he would lash out and unleash the full force of whatever it was that was tormenting him upon her when she did so, but she had to know why he was tearing himself away from her.
She had tried to make herself understand.
But she had failed.
She reached out and put an intricately hennaed hand on his shoulder. The watering can crashed to the floor, the water spilling out and soaking the luscious red of the hem of her pooling lehenga to the exact shade of freshly spilt blood.
Khushi felt the shudder wrack Arnav's body at her touch and then every muscle in his body tense in... rage? Pain? Fear? She didn't know. To know, she needed to see his face.
She pulled, trying to turn him to look at her.
But she would have had more luck trying to move a wall.
"Ar-Arnavji?" her voice broke on the word.
"Don't." his voice sounded just as fractured. Just as agonised. Just as desperate as hers.
"Hah!" a short snort at the question. "Why? I'll tell you why." he spun round and he reached out to grab her shoulders. She flinched, anticipating the pain. Remembering the sting from countless memories...
But it didn't come.
She opened her eyes and saw that he had frozen, staring at his hands as they hovered a mere whisper away from her arms. He clenched them and withdrew them back to his sides before turning away from her again, taking a step towards his room. "Just go." he sounded completely defeated.
"Don't make me tell you. Don't make me say it. Please. Just... just go."
"Not until you explain why you're doing this." Khushi could feel her skin heating up with pain at being rejected by Arnav, shame at this rejection happening at the mandap and unrelenting waves of fear clutching her at his adamant refusal to tell her why.
"You really want to know?" she could almost hear the smile of surrender in his voice and for a beautiful moment, she thought it would all work out. She thought it would all be okay.
"Your mother killed mine."
Arnav watched the horror dancing on her face. The shame. The disbelief. Every emotion. He had seen them all before and he could recognise them better than his own.
Unable to bring himself to touch her, he pointed with his hand that she should go back inside the room. He had broken the floodgates and so now he owed it to her to explain exactly which river had exploded into her life.
He owed her that much.
Arnav Singh Raizada was not a man of many words, but today he could not stop. Not sparing her a glance, he began to speak at the spot on the floor just beside her. He revealed the sordid way in which their pasts were intertwined and their stars crossed, he went into fine details about what had happened on the single most important day of his life, painting a picture so accurate that she could see the events unfurling in front of her. He did so out of some primal instinct humans have that diverting pain to others will reduce your own.
He realised how mistaken he was even as he saw her eyes well with so much pain that eventually, they just went completely blank.
Comprehension dawned on Khushi long before Arnav had finished speaking.
She finally understood.
"Arnavji. I have one question. If you answer it- I will leave you. I will let you go. And I will never blame you for what you are doing. I won't be hurt and I won't cry. Arnavji... do you love me?"
Arnav looked at her.
Really, really looked at her.
She was so beautiful.
Not just physically, though of course the delicate features; the captivating large eyes, the padded smooth cheeks that almost begged to be stroked, the waves of ebony that cascaded around her shoulders and the pouty, stained lips which trembled as they formed such a painful question broke his heart for the second time that night.
But Khushi had always glowed with something extra from within. An inner kindness and naivety that couldn't help but make its way onto the surface, needing to show itself to those who could only dream of such innocence. She had healed him with that pure, open, easygoing beauty of hers.
She had completed him.
How many times could a heart break before it stopped? He wondered. This woman had taken his heart in her hands and changed it beyond any recognition. She had squeezed, hacked, chiseled and torn until he wasn't even sure there was anything left to hurt anymore.
But what he did know was this.
Whatever shape his heart was in right now- every beat, every pump, every course of life it sent rushing through his body... was only for her.
"I love you so much it's killing me. I love you so much, even the thought of you leaving me makes me feel like I'm going to die. I love you so much that what I want more than anything is to just take you and leave, go somewhere nobody will ever find us and just start a new life. I love you so much, I found myself daydreaming about what I'd call our first child. Khushi Kumari Gupta. I love you so much that without you, it's almost like I don't exist."
"Why am I doing this?"
She didn't answer.
She didn't need to.
"You love your mother. The woman who raised you. The woman who loved you. You love her as I loved mine. And I don't hate you for that. I respect your love for your family and your unfailing loyalty to them. It has made you the woman you are today- she contributed to making you the woman you are today. The woman I love." he couldn't look at her anymore. If he did...
He would break.
He wouldn't be able to do or say what needed to be said and done.
"I cannot have ties to the woman who was responsible for the deaths of both my parents but I will not force you to sever those ties. I made you choose between me and your family once before and in doing so I destroyed your life. I will never do that again. So Khushi. Why am I letting you go? Why am I breaking off this wedding? Why am I doing this?"
His eyes met hers one last time, so that she would know that the words he was about to say came from a place so deep within him that it almost defined who he was.
"Because I love you, Khushi Kumari Gupta. Because that love will never stop and because you don't deserve its curse. So please," he pressed his hands together in prayer as the first tears began to roll down his cheeks. "Please Khushi. Go."
Neither moved for several echoing ticks of the clock. They were suspended in that world to which only they belonged and they both knew that when one of them broke the spell, it would never be able to weave its magic over them again.
Khushi Kumari Gupta rose to her feet, walked to and unlocked the bedroom door and without a single glance back, she left the love of her life, shedding silent tears on the bed.
She held her own in until she had swept past the crowd of almost ethereal offensively bright spectres still hovering on the sofas, run through the front doors and made it to the dark, abandoned street outside.
Where was the rain? Why was it such a beautiful night? Why was the moon so bright? Why were the stars twinkling so... As her tears finally splashed in shining tiny puddles at her feet, she looked up and found the brightest two and she sent up a plea.
"If you're up there and listening, I don't mind that you didn't think I was the right woman for your son. But please," she clasped her hands and closed her eyes, ignoring the looks of a passing woman startled by Khushi's wedding finery. "Please ask God to make it so that he doesn't have to suffer any more. I'm sorry that to the end I brought him nothing but pain, but please. I will leave him so don't let any more anguish come into his life."
She opened her eyes and looked up at the silent night sky.
"Please let Arnav be happy."
It was over.
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