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NK could hear the vague murmurings of the early speakers, their voices not nearly as powerful as the person he was waiting for. His veins thrummed with anticipation, his entire body feeling that something was about to happen.
There was a certain sense of anticipation on the streets, as if everyone was holding their breath. They were all waiting for the one stone that would break the still of the water, sending ripples that became waves, swirling and swirling until they hit the shore.
He couldn't deny that he was excited, the possibilities that lay in Gandhiji's impending speech calling to him. His hands twitched, and he swiveled, pacing the room. He was tired of waiting, playing this game that seemed to have no end.
His mind fell to the scene splayed across the papers after Jalianwala Bagh, haunting his memory. He could still see the stains of blood in his mind, the bullet holes in the walls. He had pored over those newspapers, memorizing every detail, his eyes focusing on the blurry images and mocking sneer of the Britisher behind it all.
He took a deep breath, staring out of the murky window. He could see the faint silhouettes of the people rushing quietly towards him, their heads bent together in deep thought. There was a nervous tension between them as they walked, their quiet chatter reflecting that they too felt like something would happen today.
He looked back at the radio almost resentfully, wanting the period of waiting to be over. He could feel the energy, and was ready for Gandhiji to finally take the steps that would push out the invaders and give him back his country.
There was almost no sound as they pushed open the door, the quiet taps of their feet barely audible against the eagerness that muffled the noise. They filed in like rows of elementary school children, the man in the simple khadi kurta at the front, followed by a demure woman, their pinkies just barely touching as their rings caught the light.
He gave the man, Aman, a brief nod, one that was reciprocated with a half smile. He could sense Aman's nervousness, the tension rising imperceptibly.
There was only one person he was looking for, however, and she hadn't shown. NK glanced at the shadow beside Anjali, searching her out. Noticing his gaze, Anjali gave him a small smile, mouthing that she would be arriving later. He fought to keep the disappointment off of his face, smiling brightly at her.
He could see the twinge of something else in her gaze, an almost pitying look. He would have thought more of it, but he was distracted by another crackle from the radio. It was right then that he smelled the whiff of lavender that had become so familiar to him, and his eyes shot to the door.
His breath caught in his throat, as it did every time she made an appearance. His eyes trailed over her face, lingering on the curves longingly, memorizing the slope of her neck and the curve of her fingers on the doorknob, the way her mouth shaped into an 'o' as she mouthed an apology.
He could see her quick breathing, the crumple of her sari where she had held it up. Her hazel gaze met his, and he saw her flush slightly, recognizing his reverent glances. He allowed the smile to overtake his face, relishing the sight of the small one she gave him in return with a touch of shyness that endeared her further to him.
She nodded, slipping through the crowd towards him. NK felt his heart thump as she sat down next to him, so close that he could feel the heat from her skin. He watched as she pulled her braid over one shoulder, the faint scent of lavender washing over him. He inhaled as subtly as he could, his head spinning at the smell.
He murmured her name, unable to stop himself. The gentle swish of the last syllable sounded so familiar, and he said it again, letting it roll off of his tongue.
She turned to look at him, giving him a small, hesitant smile.
He shook his head. She gave him an odd look, before leaning over to speak to Anjali quietly.
There was something different about her recently. She looked at him differently, the wary nervousness replaced by a calm acceptance. She was still a little hesitant, but there was something... else.
He couldn't help but notice her proximity to him. She would wait for him after class, pushing her hair back with a small grin. They would walk back with quiet conversation, a far cry from the eager chatter she shared with Anjali.
He savored those moments, held onto them. They were what inspired him when he felt defeated, when the entire struggle seemed purposeless.
She inspired him.
The memory of the moment she had finally agreed to marry him made his heart thud, a burst of happiness sweeping through him.
"NKji, I... I want to marry you. Will you speak to your parents?"
He couldn't hold back the wide smile, his skin prickling with excitement at the echo of her words. He had momentarily wondered why it had taken so long, noticing the reticence in her eyes. But it had been overtaken by pure joy, delighted that she had finally agreed to marry him.
He glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes, his gaze lingering on her face.
"Gandhiji is about to speak."
Anjali whispered. Everyone turned to look at her, and she mouthed a silent apology.
There was loud static as the radio came to life, and everyone leaned forward, listening carefully. The familiar, rousing voice of Gandhi filtered through, and everyone seemed to suck in a deep breath,
There was wide-eyed excitement, the entire room filled with pin drop silence. Even the sounds of breathing ceased to exist, the only sound in the room being the voice of Gandhi.
"I want you to know and feel that there is nothing but purest Ahimsa in all that I am saying and doing today-"*
NK's head jerked up, staring at the radio. His heart deflated, the nervous energy fading away as the same refrain came through the radio, marred by the static. He glanced around the room, only to see the rest listening enraptured, their eyes wide with excitement.
Was he the only one who felt this impatience?
"I know how imperfect our Ahimsa is and how far away we are still from the ideal, but in Ahimsa there is no final failure or defeat. I have faith, therefore, that if, in spite of our shortcomings, the big thing does happen, it will be because God wanted to help us by crowning with success our silent, unremitting Sadhana for the last twenty-two years-"*
NK resisted the urge to scoff, frustration bubbling up inside of him. Gandhiji had done nothing but preach about God's will and ahimsa, and how it would eventually come to fruition.
And today, he had said himself that they had waited twenty-two years for some respite. Twenty-two years, and not a damned thing had changed.
NK shook his head, clenching his fists in irritation.
He was tired of this.
"Speaking for myself, I can say that I have never felt any hatred. As a matter of fact, I feel myself to be a greater friend of the British now than ever before. One reason is that they are today in distress. My very friendship, therefore, demands that I should try to save them from their mistakes-"*
NK's blood boiled, a red haze filling his gaze.
A greater friend?
He was sick of this game that Gandhiji played, endlessly trying to appease the British. They were nothing but heartless bas***ds, repressing his people, ruining their culture with their English language schools and their taxes.
They needed India more than India needed them. India was the crown jewel to their empire, filled with beauty and natural resources Britain could only dream of. They had used India to its fullest extent, to the point of a famine in Bengal where people were dying of hunger.
And yet, the British were well fed, their stomachs growing rounder by the minute.
A friend indeed.
A wry, bitter smile took over NK's face. He wasn't going to wait around for something to happen any longer.
He would have to make things happen, and he knew just how to do it.
He saw Aman stand up out of the corner of his eye, but his mind wasn't focused on what the other man was saying. He vaguely heard him outline a plan for the next day, giving strict instructions.
He didn't particularly care, since he knew what he was doing. He could see it in his mind, the burning British flag that he hated so much sliding from the flagpole and falling to the ground.
His entire body thrummed with anticipation, the scene playing out in his mind. He mentally ran through all the locations where he had stored ammunition, ones that would wreak havoc on the British as they had on his people at Jalianwala Bagh.
His blood boiled, Gandhiji's message of ahimsa forgotten. He could only remember the pain the British had brought upon his country, the hatred fueling his passion.
"NKji? NKji, are you listening?"
He blinked, the soft voice of the woman he loved breaking through his haze. He turned to look at her, shaking himself out of his reverie. He stared into her trusting, warm eyes, and his heart stuttered, his stomach growing uncomfortably cold.
Shaking it off, he smiled at her.
"Oh, yes, I'm sorry."
She smiled, and his heart slammed against his chest.
"It's not a problem. I was just saying, that this is all so exciting, hai na? We will be pioneers. For the first time, a country will be given back to its rightful owners through a different kind of war..."
He nodded, but all he heard was the word war. It rang in his head, reminding him of his purpose tomorrow.
"... we will be the leading force for so many in the future, and maybe... maybe the senseless killing will stop, and people will realize that you can win without violence..."
NK's fingers twitched, his eyes closing halfway. He could picture it in his mind, the conquerors finally conquered, bloodied as they fled from the battlefield.
"... and that you can win with a bunch of fasting Indians."
She scoffed derisively, and had he been paying attention, NK would have noticed the bitterness in her voice that masked a sharp pain. But NK was lost amid the thrill of an impending defeat of enemies, the chance to finally be free.
Khushi realized that she had lost NK to a trance. She recognized the almost dream-like realization that this was finally happening, that they were going to fight and win. She shook her head, her own enthusiasm fueled by him.
She couldn't help but admire his determination, the passion he had for his country. She respected him deeply, and even more so for listening to her and joining them in ahimsa.
She knew he was frustrated, but she hoped that he would see the fruits of success after this speech. She could see he had been inspired as the rest of them had, and the thought gave her hope.
She felt a smile unwittingly pull at the edge of her lips as she looked at him, his mind whirring with thoughts. She felt a certain fondness towards him, one that came from a deep friendship.
She reached out towards him, trying to get his attention. She hesitated a moment, her hand hovering over his arm. She pushed away the stab of betrayal that pressed against her, reminding herself that they were-unofficially-engaged.
She took a deep breath and placed her hand lightly on his arm. The reaction was immediate, and he turned to look at her with wide eyes filled with hope. She swallowed, the amazed joy in his eyes making her stomach plummet to her feet, an emptiness settling in.
She chanted his name over and over, trying fruitlessly to replace the echo that morphed into the name of the man she had been trying to forget. She caught herself focusing on the flecks of caramel in the dark brown of NK's eyes.
She forced herself to push the thoughts away, focusing on the moment in front of them.
"Thank you, NKji, for fighting with us."
The sincerity in her voice broke him out of his state, and he turned to face her. He grateful hope in her eyes made him feel guilty, his stomach churning uncomfortably as he mustered up a smile, nodding. Her hand dropped from his arm, leaving a cold spot in its wake, a chill that spread through him.
His mind slipped to his plan for tomorrow as she chattered on, one that she would be devastated by. He could see in the hazel eyes that she trusted him, believed that he would join them in ahimsa.
He would lose her.
The realization hit him hard, and he fought the sharp sting at the back of his throat. He knew she would not approve of his plan, but it hadn't been until now that he had realized just how deeply she would be hurt.
She had finally agreed to marry him. He had wanted this for years, since he had first seen her accompany Anjali five years ago, her eyes scanning the room with a refreshing curiosity tinged with nervousness.
He closed his eyes, the memory of the day he had first seen her as clear as it had been in that moment.
Her thick braid, resting on her shoulder... the tentative sparkle in her eyes, a no holds barred innocence that was endearing.
He opened his eyes slowly, searching her face. He could see nothing but earnestness, her eyes sparkling with excitement for tomorrow. He could hear her outlining their plan, the word ahimsa ringing in his mind, taunting him with what he was about to do.
Was it worth it?
He paused, staring at her out of the corner of his eyes. His mind warred with his heart, his heart holding an image of the woman in front of him, his mind of the sneering General, the bodies strewn across the land.
A sharp burst of rage overwhelmed him, drowning out the picture of her. He could hear Gandhiji's voice in his mind, encouraging them to work towards their independence.
A strong ache built up in his heart, pressing against his ribcage. He felt the deep pain that came with knowing he would be giving up something so fragile and innocent, betraying the woman that inspired him.
It was a strange, twisted type of pain.
He could feel the warmth emanating from her and memorized it, knowing that he wouldn't feel it again. He committed her laugh to memory, the gentle lilt of her voice.
She looked up at him, feeling his desperate gaze that drank her in. She gave him a warm smile, her eyes glimmering with unrepressed excitement.
"I'll see you tomorrow."
She murmured, before turning and walking away, giving him one last smile. He stared after her longingly, the anguish tearing his heart slowly as he watched her go.
The thought of seeing those eyes marred by betrayal caused by him, the pain and anger directed at him, made his head pound, his palms clammy. He wanted to call out to her, to reassure her that he would be joining her tomorrow, forgetting his plan.
He could carry on with ahimsa for one day longer, couldn't he?
He could do this for her.
The word rang out sharply in his mind, reminding him of his purpose. The shimmering reflection of her swirled with the taunting sneer, fading slowly away until only the General remained in his mind.
He sucked in a deep breath, letting it out slowly through his teeth. His stomach didn't relax, the guilt pressing against him. He pushed it away, focusing on the drive to succeed.
They would win. They had to.
It was now, or never.
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NK sat at the table, savoring the food. He ate every bite of the buttery, flaky aloo paratha, tasting it on every bud on his tongue. The spiciness of the achaar, the creaminess of the aloo and the crispness of the edges of the paratha all seemed magnified today.
He stared out at the glistening rays of sun, filtering through thin cotton drapes. He looked around the room, staring at every crack in the floor, the faint buzz of the people outside.
He hadn't slept a wink last night, his mind ravaged by conflict. He couldn't separate the two images, the laughing face of Khushi from the angry eyes of the photograph on the front page of the paper.
His stomach twisted, recalling the implicit trust in her voice, the earnestness in her eyes that would be shattered today.
But that didn't stop the pulsing adrenaline, the sheer satisfaction that shot through him at the mere idea of taking down the people he hated most.
"Nikhil beta, sab theek hai?"
The soft, gentle voice of his grandmother broke into his tortured thoughts, and he looked up at her. Wrinkles lined the edges of her warm, brown eyes, a reflection of his own.
He had always been close to his grandmother, a woman he respected deeply. Every child of hers had perished except for NK's father, and she had practically raised him. His mother had passed away giving birth to him, and his father...
NK gritted his teeth at the harsh voice of his father, a low warning in his voice. His Dadi simply smiled at Arvind Kumar, placing a worn hand on the table.
"Arvind, abhi tak toh woh baccha hai. Mera baccha."
She shot NK a reassuring smile, and he couldn't help but smile back. He heard his father's derisive scoff, and his head pounded, his temper flaming.
"You spoil him, Ma. That's why he's so..."
There was a sneer at the end of his words, a disgust that NK hated.
His father muttered something underneath his breath, stalking off. Dadi looked sadly behind him, her heart aching for her son. He had been heartbroken when her bahu had passed away, taking his anguish out on NK.
And she could see the consequences.
NK had grown to be wonderful man, but she could see the simmering anger in the wounds inflicted by Arvind.
He had tried to be the son his father would be proud of his entire life, but it had never been enough. Arvind Kumar was never satisfied. When he had gone to college, NK had finally rebelled. He had met Aman, and the two of them had quickly formed a friendship. Aman's calm disposition was the perfect balance for NK's rash temper, and they had bonded over their mutual passion for independence.
But their differences had seeped in recently. NK and Aman's friendship had ebbed slowly away, NK's frustration with ahimsa clashing furiously with Aman's determination to stick to a nonviolent path.
Arvind had been furious when he had found out about NK's resistance activities, cutting him off from his friends. NK had snuck out on various occasions, aided by her.
Dadi sighed, staring at her grandson. She had heard Gandhiji's speech yesterday, and she knew Nikhil would be out with them all today.
He had been out for protests numerous times, enraging his father, but today... there was something different. It was unsettling, the torn pain in his eyes marked by pure determination. She could see his fingers twitching, but there was something holding him back.
She studied him carefully, choosing her next words.
Should she encourage him to go out and fight?
She knew if she did... that he may not come back. She had seen his frustration with ahimsa, knew that today, there would be nothing holding his anger back.
She took a deep breath, setting her jaw determinedly.
NK looked back at his grandmother, overcome by a burst of overwhelming gratitude for the regal woman sitting at the head of the table. He reached out, placing his hand on top of her shaking one as she poured the chai, gently aiding her.
He looked up to see a sheen of tears in her warm eyes, and he leaned into her touch as she reached out to cup his face.
"I'm proud of you."
Her voice was nearly a whisper, but it rang loudly in the silent room. NK felt the tears spill down his cheeks as he wrapped his arms around her frail figure, staining her white sari. He buried his face in her chest as he had when he was a little boy, relishing in her comforting touch.
"Never forget that. I am so proud of you, beta."
His grandmother's words gave him strength, and he could tell by the steely glint in her eyes that she had given him permission to go out and fight. He gave her one, last squeeze, knowing very well that he may never get the chance to again.
He pulled away, reaching down to wipe away the tear at the corner of her eyes.
Her voice was gently insistent, and he dropped her hand, swinging his bag over his shoulder as he walked out. He turned around, giving the woman who had raised him a last smile.
Even from where he was standing, he could see the pride in her eyes.
The atmosphere swirled with energy, the crowd growing larger and larger by the second. They had never seen so many people in one place, the streets packed to their capacity, hot, sticky sweat mingling as they pressed up against each other.
There were loud chants, the murmur of voices growing to a clamorous din as their voices merged, becoming one. Even those that were not on the streets peeped out from behind the curtains in their windows, their eyes brimming with proud tears.
But none of that mattered.
Not the stench of sweat, the dust that was kicked up, or the ominous tension that loomed in the air.
All that mattered was the swell of pride that overwhelmed them at the sight of so many people, standing together for one cause. There was a certain thrill pumping through them at the thought that this was the scene in city after city throughout their country, standing as a wall of people against the invaders.
The echo of Gandhi's speech rang in their brains, reminding them of their cause. They were here to take back their country, pushing out the people that had held them under their claws for so long.
The piercing cry of a newspaper seller broke the air, his childishly high voice echoing above the uproar.
"GANDHIJI ARRESTED! LEADERS OF CONGRESS ARRESTED! BRITISH THREATEN MORE ARRESTS IF THE PROTESTS DO NOT STOP!"
For a moment, there was silence.
Khushi stood between the crowd, her eyes widening as the resentment coursed through her. She felt Anjali's fingers tighten around hers, lifting her jaw defiantly as the announcement sunk in. She heard the quickening of NK's breathing, and didn't need to look to her other side to know that his face was rapidly filling with color, his fingers grasping hers to the point of pain.
It was thick, the air simmering with unreleased anger, the passions swirling amid the dust. There was a tense anticipation, heartbeats thudding against chests as they waited with bated breath.
And then, it spiraled out of control.
A sharp scream of fury split the air, and there was suddenly chaos.
Khushi's hand slipped out of NK's, and she lost him, unable to see through the sudden rush of people. She looked around, trying to find Anjali, who had also been lost to the crowds.
People swarmed around her, angry cries of protest filling the air, no longer one. It was a mesh of every language, becoming one indecipherable mess that unleashed the rage that had been simmering for years.
Khushi looked around wildly, her voice hoarse from screaming. She couldn't see anything but a mass of people, pushing her forward as they swept through the streets, their cries echoing in the air.
She could hear her heart pounding in her head, the sharp beat of her pulse pressing against her skull. Her voice was lost among the jeers, and she vaguely heard blasts in the distance, the sounds of gunshots.
On any other day, she would have been paralyzed by fear.
But her adrenaline pushed her, and she shoved herself forward with the crowd, her hazel eyes darkening and narrowing, her face red as she cried out at the injustice.
And then just as suddenly, the crowd parted, agonized cries replacing the fervor. There was a barricade of British police officers, menacing in their crisply pressed uniforms. Khushi watched in horror as one of them lifted his baton, smashing it down indiscriminately, not caring who he hit.
She could see the blood pouring from wounds, and she fought the bile that rose up in her throat. Her father's face flashed before her eyes, the sight of him lying in the hospital, bloodied, etched in her brain. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks as she tried to flee the memories, the broken sobs of her mother and the emptiness that had followed.
"HEY! Where do you think you're going! GET BACK HERE!"
She could hear the harsh orders of the police officers, and felt her arms being twisted behind her back. She winced at the pain, the metal cuffs digging into the tender skin at her wrist.
She turned around, jabbing an elbow into her captor. He didn't flinch, only dragging her away, the pallu of her sari dirtied. She kicked and screamed, letting every dirty curse she could think of spill from her lips. He slammed a large hand over her mouth, and she sank her teeth into his palm, relishing the sharp cry of pain.
"You little bitch."
The menacing hiss was the last thing she heard before her vision blackened, and she fell to the ground. He picked her up with ease, tossing her into the back of the truck with the other demonstrators, before driving off.
He shoved her forward harshly, and Khushi stumbled, her hands tied behind her back. She could taste the metallic blood in her mouth and grimaced, licking her dry lips. Behind her, there were hundreds of other protestors, all crammed into the tiny room, the humidity overwhelming them. She felt woozy, the heat making her dizzy.
The man behind the desk sneered at her, his pale yellow hair barely mussed. His uniform was still pressed to perfection, and he looked at her through narrowed, cold blue eyes.
"Who is this?"
"She was a part of the group, sir."
"And what was she doing?"
"Why don't you ask me what I was doing?"
Khushi spit, her eyes flashing angrily. The man merely gave her a lazy glance, before turning back to his subordinate as he leaned back in the chair.
"She was protesting, sir."
The man hummed noncommittally, examining the burnt end of his cigarette. They stood there as he took his time, not paying them the least bit attention.
Khushi bit out, struggling in the other man's grip. The man at the desk leered, leaning back casually. His eyes narrowed, suddenly lighting up in recognition.
"You look familiar... aren't you..."
His eyes widened, and a malicious grin appeared on his lips.
"I recognize you. You're the girl staying with Ashok, aren't you?"
Khushi froze, trying to place the man. She knew Papa had numerous British contacts, given his position as the head of the leading pro-British paper. For a moment, she was struck by fear, realizing that this situation could hurt her adoptive father.
The man's grin widened as he realized he was correct, a speculative gleam entering his eyes.
"Well, would you look at that? Ashok Raizada is housing a little rebel girl. Isn't that sweet?"
Khushi flinched, her mouth contorting with disgust.
"Don't you dare take Papa's name."
The man merely laughed, leaning back on his chair and twirling his cigar in his hands. The other protestors shifted uncomfortably, recognizing the increasing tension as they stared at each other.
"Imagine that. I'm sure his contacts would be pleased to know just what his beloved little orphan is doing in her free time."
She sucked in a sharp breath, the words hitting her hard. She hadn't thought of the consequences on Ma and Papa, and he knew it. He chuckled again, and she shivered, jutting out her chin.
She wouldn't let him see her affected.
"What shall we do with her? She deserves... special treatment, don't you think? Ungrateful children, biting the hand of the one that feeds them-"
His vicious rant was interrupted by a scuffle, the crowd parting to let through yet another rebel. He was surrounded by police officers who handled him roughly, and Khushi could only see glimpses of him through the people blocking her vision.
"He set off the bombs, sir. Shot and injured two officers. No one was killed."
A hush spread through the room as they stared at the shadow of the prisoner, some in awe and some in fear. She strained to see his face, the figure seeming oddly familiar.
The man behind the desk stepped up, his heels clicking ominously in the quiet of the room. He walked up, and the officers parted, then reached forward and grabbed the man, forcing him to look up.
Khushi's heart stopped, a horrified sob ripping through her when she saw his face.
It was beaten and bloodied, dark purple bruises marring his skin. She could hear his rasping breath, one of his eyes swollen shut. His kurta was torn, cuts and scratches visible through the cloth.
He looked up at her, every movement of his strained, a groan of pain escaping his lips. She hadn't even realized she had said his name aloud, a broken whisper filled with pain.
"You know this man?"
She ignored the officer, tears rapidly filling her eyes as she stared at him.
No, no, no...
She didn't want to believe it, the sight that was in front of her. She hated the little seed of doubt in her mind that had sprung up, making her heart constrict.
He couldn't have done this, he wouldn't have.
Not after he had promised her not to.
A sharp burst of rage shot through her, and she tore her hands from the grasp of the man behind her, her body shaking in anger.
"How are you accuse him of this? Don't you have any shame, accusing an innocent man of such deeds? Our whole movement is based on ahimsa, on nonviolence, and he wouldn't dream of-"
She froze, hearing his soft whisper. Her stomach dropped, breathing becoming difficult as her throat tightened painfully. She swallowed tightly and continued, ignoring the way her heart told her otherwise.
"-he w-wouldn't ever dream of doing such a t-"
She heard his voice again, his time more gently. She could hear the poignant notes of apology, the pain searing through her. A hiccuping sob escaped her, and she blinked back tears, slowly turning to face him.
He could barely meet her gaze, his own eyes swimming with tears as he stood in front of her, battered and bruised. There was complete silence in the room as she stared at him in devastated horror, awareness crawling up her skin.
She shook her head, desperately trying to hold back the sobs that threatened to overwhelm her.
She had believed him.
Oh god, she had believed him.
She was so stupid.
Her heart was ripped out of its chest for the second time, the knife of betrayal plunged deep.
NK was supposed to be the man who was perfect for her. He was supposed to have been there for her, stood by her side. His beliefs matched hers, and he was a good man, with strong morals.
He was her friend, and he would have been something more. She had agreed to marry him, had just started to see him as something... more.
And he had betrayed her.
Her heart plummeted, a gaping abyss in its place.
She felt the sobs shaking her shoulders, the tears streaking her cheeks as they washed away the grime. Through her blurry vision, she could see his dark eyes, pleading with her to understand, begging her to listen.
She could see the anguish written across his face at her pain, regret burning in the warm eyes she had come to rely on for friendship. They were the eyes that sought hers out during a difficult resistance meeting, the ones that had stared earnestly into hers, asking her to give him a chance.
And she had. She given him that chance, to build a life together, one she knew would have been content.
His tormented expression reflected that he knew what he had done to her, he knew exactly how she felt. He didn't look surprised, only resigned, pleading with her silently to forgive him.
She could see that he had thought about this, expected this.
And he had still chosen to do it, even after knowing how it would hurt her.
She couldn't believe she had fallen for it. She was so stupid.
His voice was barely a murmur, cracking in between. She stared at him, the tears swimming in her eyes, blurring her gaze. His voice begged her to forgive him, to understand why he had done this.
She simply looked at him in defeat, the tears spilling over unchecked. She saw the pain flash across his face, his eyes searching hers for a sign of forgiveness.
He said again, his voice hoarse.
She couldn't take it any longer and turned her head away, unable to bear the sight of him. She swallowed tightly, her throat closing up, prickling sharply. She didn't want to see him, the man who had shattered her last strand of hope.
She had believed he would give her contentment, she had believed they could have a family together. If anything, she would have been able to live with breaking Arnav's heart, only because her marriage to NK would have made Ma and Papa happy.
But he had taken that away too.
She watched as he was dragged away, the resistance leaving his body. She felt herself being pushed into a cell, shoved in with a hundred other women.
She cowered against the wall, the cool stone failing to soothe the throbbing, painful wound. She pulled her knees to her chest, burying her face in the cloth of her sari as she wept.
She wept for her broken glimmer of hope, for the man who had hurt her knowingly.
Her heart was empty with the loss of a friend, for the man who had stood with her, inspired her to fight with his passion for freedom.
Her sobs subsided, left with a desolate emptiness. The cell was filled only with the sounds of the murmurs of the women, their adrenaline still intact. She couldn't work up the courage to feel the same way, thoughts of NK plaguing her.
She vaguely heard the click of the keys in the cell door. The women fell silent, staring wide eyed at the tall man in front of them, his cold, hard eyes focused on only one person. She looked up, and her heart leapt into her throat, her eyes widening in shock.
Note: And that's where I'll leave you for today! I know it's not exactly a Valentine's style update, but... I promise, I promise there is relief soon! I hope you all have a lovely time celebrating with your Arnavjis or with friends!
Please let me know what you think through a like or comment, if you have the time. I enjoy hearing your thoughts!
As always, please follow @ipkchotidesi or PM me your email for update notifications.
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