Joined: 01 December 2013
"Another allied victory in North Africa. England is doing well."
Ashok looked up at Arnav's pronouncement, marked with obvious pride. Sakshi had gone out to a meeting with the society women, and it was only the three of them at home.
"The war will be over in no time."
Khushi looked up from her book, annoyance seeping in at his self satisfied tone. She ignored the twinge in her heart, channeling it into her carefully placed facade.
"Yes, the sooner the better. Maybe they'll feel especially generous and give India independence as a thank you for providing so many of our lives to their cause."
"Indians were not a part of the North African campaign. Hopefully, it'll be calm soon."
And I can go back.
The unsaid words lingered in the air until it was almost unbearable, heavy and insistent.
Hurt flashed across Khushi's eyes, her grip tightening on her book. The twinge grew sharper, stabbing through her at his offhandness.
He didn't even seem to care.
He had been frustratingly aloof, avoiding the topic. They had spent hours together in the garden, sometimes weeding, sometimes leaning back and just enjoying the other's company.
But whenever she tried to bring up the topic, he would distract her.
She closed her eyes, recalling the way his hands would somehow sneak around her waist as she determinedly tried to focus on her question, his lips teasing the edge of her ear, before kissing her cheek, then the edge of her lips.
Reality hit her like a cold splash of water, jolting her out.
He hadn't even asked her, not even once. He hadn't told her about the job, and if she hadn't overheard him, she wouldn't have even known.
And they were supposed to be getting married.
She felt the tears stinging her eyes, and blinked them determinedly away, steeling herself with a caustic response.
"I'm sure they will be delighted to have you back. And then I can move on with my own life, and we will all be where we want to be."
There was a tense silence before she roughly pushed herself off of the chair, stalking away. Ashok watched as Arnav gritted his teeth, throwing the newspaper on the table as he left for his room.
Ashok sighed heavily, watching the small figure in the distance, digging into the dirt. He saw a taller figure join her, sinking down beside her. He saw Arnav's hand sneak over to touch Khushi's as she looked up at him warily.
He turned away, feeling as if he was intruding.
Arnav sank down beside her and she moved slightly away, allowing him space. Their hands touched in the dirt as they dug, and she hastily shifted, avoiding eye contact.
They couldn't avoid this any longer.
Arnav felt worry creep up, goosebumps erupting on his skin. He shivered, an ominous sense of anticipation making him shift uncomfortably.
She looked pained, her eyes wary as she shrank away from him. The words seemed to bother her, her hands playing with the dirt in front of her.
She let out a slow breath through her teeth, and looked away, her voice deadly quiet when she spoke.
"What of your job offer? Weren't you going to tell me? Ask me if I want to move?
Arnav stilled, his stomach tightening until it hurt. His hands felt clammy as he stared at her, trying to put off the inevitable.
"My job offer?"
"The one that would require you to move to England."
He felt the beginnings of dread settle in his stomach, his hands cold as her words settled in. Clearing his throat, he forced himself to remain calm, knowing in the back of his mind that this would not go well.
"I accidentally overheard you and Papa speaking of it."
There was a brief, tense moment before he responded, his voice kept carefully light.
"What of it?"
"Do you plan on accepting?"
"Of course. It is a wonderful opportunity."
"And what of me? What would happen to me?"
"You would come with me, of course."
He knew he had misspoken as soon as the words were out, her face blanching.
But once the words were said, there was no taking them back.
"I would come with you."
Her voice was tight, her jaw taut with tension as she stared at him disbelievingly.
"We would be married."
"And that means I have to follow you?"
"It doesn't make sense for you not to. Do you not want to come with me?"
She stared at him, struggling to control her temper. She couldn't believe his audacity, the way he stated it as if it were a fact that couldn't be contested.
"I don't want to move to England, Arnav."
He paused for a moment before responding, continuing to keep his voice light, as if he was speaking to a young child. She was infuriated that he was treating her this way, so condescendingly.
He hadn't even thought to ask her?
"We would be better off there, Khushi. It is much cleaner, much more organized and-"
"And what I want doesn't matter? This is my home, Arnavji. My home. What would happen to Ma and Papa?"
"They would come with us."
"Have you considered that they may not want to? Their daughter is here."
"Anju has Aman."
She scoffed, unable to believe her ears.
"She's still family. They won't want to leave."
"Papa loves England. He'll want to-"
"Have you even asked him? Or did you just decide this and expect us to follow along?"
He could hear the tightness in her voice, the carefully controlled anger that simmered beneath the surface. He sighed, running a hand through his hair in frustration.
"Is this about your little pastime? I'm sure there are plenty of wayward rebels in England that you can join."
She shrunk away from him, her eyes flashing with hurt and anger. He reached out to her, but she flinched, moving out of his grasp.
"Don't you understand me? Don't you know how much this means to me?"
"I don't see what the problem is, Khushi! You can find a group there too. It's not that-"
"It's not about that! I don't do this simply to rebel! It's about my passion for my country-"
"Your country? That has nothing without the British?"
"They killed my parents!"
Her voice rose to a fever pitch, broken and angry as she faced off from him, tears brimming the lids. Arnav felt his gut clench painfully, hating the sight of her pain.
"They... they killed them, Arnav! They were the ones who ordered the lathis to be used, the ones that killed my innocent father who just wanted to buy vegetables. They're in our land, using our resources, reaping the profit of our work. I will be damned if I move to that country."
Arnav's heart constricted at the sight of her anguish, and he stepped forward, pulling her into his arms. She clutched at his shirt, her tears staining the fabric as it stuck to his skin. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, allowing her to curl into him.
"Khushi, we'll... we'll be better off there, can't you see? We'll have the best doctors for Papa, we'll have a nice flat, and I can give you everything. I'll build a garden, I'll... find a bookstore, maybe we'll even have a library, with all of your favorite books."
His voice held a plea for her to listen as he leaned back, searching her eyes for a sign of acceptance. He would give her anything she wanted, if only she would let him.
He wished she could see how much happier they would be there. He could give her everything.
But all he saw was bitterness, her jaw set and resolute.
"Nahi. I won't go there. We are happy here. This is our home. Our family, our friends... everyone is here. Why would I want to leave?
Arnav felt the guilt weigh heavily as he stared at her, hurt bubbling up inside of him.
Did he not mean anything to her? She cared about the resistance, but what about him? Didn't she care about him?
"Stop being so emotional, Khushi. It's not like you being here will help anything. You will like England once you get there, I'm sure-"
She recoiled and stepped back further, the tears spilling down her cheeks. Her body trembled with hurt, stunned by his callousness. He cursed himself, wishing he could take the words back.
He reached out to touch her but she turned away, her heart heavy with grief and anger.
She knew this would happen, she had known all along.
She was so stupid.
So damned stupid.
"No. I won't like it. Did you not hear a word of what I said?"
Her voice quivered, and Arnav felt the knife twist deeper, pressing into his stomach. The sound of rushing blood was loud in his ears, drowning out his voice as he tried to call out to her.
He saw the steely determination in her eyes as she lifted her chin, her voice perfectly steady when she spoke. He could feel the cold weight of fear in his stomach, the deep feeling of loss.
The feeling of dread worsened, clawing at his stomach as he stood there, listening blankly to her words.
She had given up. No. She couldn't give up, not now, this wasn't how it was supposed to happen.
"Nahi, Arnavji. You are entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine."
She took a deep breath, her voice devoid of any emotion.
"This will not work. We have two different opinions on something very important. It will tear us apart, break us until we cannot stand the sight of each other."
"Khushi, don't do this."
She turned her gaze to him, a wry, bitter smile on her face.
"It is best that we end it here, to lessen the pain. I would like to end this on a good note, as acquaintances. Just as we should have remained."
Arnav felt as if the breath had been taken out of him, as if someone had punched him hard. His voice was strangled, and he struggled to breathe. He couldn't believe what he was hearing, her cool, collected voice sending goosebumps crawling up his arms.
Her voice echoed in his head, a never ending loop. He clenched his hand so hard that his nails indented the skin, the emptiness in her eyes breaking him.
No. This wasn't supposed to happen like this.
"It is better this way, Arnavji. We will be happier."
Her voice softened, and for a brief moment, he saw the flicker of anguish, a glimpse of how much this was hurting her.
But it was gone as quickly as it came, her face like engraved marble.
He searched desperately for something, anything to grasp onto. His thoughts were incoherent, hope rapidly slipping away when she didn't respond.
This wasn't supposed to happen. Not like this. Not now.
He tried to say no, his mouth dry as he swallowed, trying to think up reasons for why it would work, why their love would win out.
He couldn't think of a single thing.
Instead, he nodded robotically, wanting desperately to tell her no, to convince her that it would work.
But even he knew that his words would be hollow and meaningless as they stood there, faced with a deep, plunging cliff that lacked a bridge.
"Y- yes. You're right. We... should end it here."
His voice sounded alien, his throat like sandpaper, gritty and harsh. He couldn't think beyond the quickly forming empty abyss, his stomach plummeting as he struggled to breathe.
Why wasn't he fighting for this? Why wasn't she fighting for it?
She nodded, turning around to pick up the trowels and the spades. He watched her, his mind completely blank.
There was nothing left to hold onto.
She stepped up to him, her free hand resting gently on his cheek. He closed his eyes, leaning into her touch, relishing the feel of her warm hand against his skin.
He looked down at her, searching her face one last time for a sign of hope, anything that would stop the agonizing heartbreak.
But all he could see was resignation, a heavy sadness as she looked up at him.
She leaned up, pressing a lingering kiss to the edge of his mouth before stepping back. Cold air washed over him, the distance between them seeming larger than ever.
He could feel his throat clog up with the sharp, painful prickles as he tried to swallow, desperate to open his mouth and cry no.
But he didn't say a word.
He heard her take a shuddering breath, blinking rapidly as the tears threatened to fall.
"It's better this way."
He didn't know if she was trying to convince him or herself. She turned to walk away, the tools clutched limply in her hands as she took another deep breath, holding back the sob that threatened to come loose.
"I love you."
His voice was broken and hoarse, cracking as he stared at her disappearing figure. He saw her freeze, not turning around.
She whispered, her voice painfully loud in the silence of the morning. He saw her shoulders shake, and knew her eyes would be squeezed shut, the tears streaming down her face as she forced herself to put one foot in front of another.
He didn't call her back.
Note: And that's- *ducks from chappals*- where I'll leave you today! I hope you enjoyed it. If you have the time, please let me know what you thought with a like or a comment!
As always, please follow @ipkchotidesi or PM me your email for update notifications.
I will try to plan for a Q&A session- hopefully, it'll be sometime tomorrow. Keep an eye on this thread, and I'll let you know the time more exactly hopefully once I know what I'm doing tomorrow in AD
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An update that starts with her savouring the word they' and ends with her tearing herself away from the they'. That feeling of bursting with happiness transmuted into painful reality in a poignantly written update. Your use of language and manner in which you've put forth the emotions of each one of your characters is superb. The subtle play of emotions, the delicate subtext in their actions very well portrayed.
The ambience you created for their conversation was superlative. Teetering at the edge, pulling back after the most tentative of attempts to jump. Choosing to follow the dream that has consumed him ever since he can remember. But won't success be hollow if he can't share it with her? A her, in whom a shadow of pain causes him to want to soothe it away instantly. Begs the question, can just love ever be enough?
And I'm calling you back right now to tell me what happens next!
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