Shlok was cleaning and resetting his cupboard when he found an album. He flipped through it to see his birthday photographs that were clicked about four years ago. That was the period which the court had given to Aastha and Shlok to save their marriage and when Aditi was staying with them. Seeing a photograph, Shlok began laughing. It was was clicked when Aditi was giving Shlok his birthday gift and there in a corner stood Aastha green with envy. How could Shlok forget that day...
It was Shlok's birthday. The preparations were going on in swing. Aditi and Aastha had gone to buy a shirt for Shlok. Aastha had decided to buy a bright coloured shirt for him. "Humesha dark kapde pehente hain Shlok... I really want him to see wearing bright colours. This sky-blue colour will suit him!" thought Aastha looking at a shirt.
Just then Aditi came there saying, "I have already bought this shirt for Shlok" She showed Aastha the maroon shirt. "Let's leave!" she said.
Aastha insisted on buying the blue shirt but Aditi was against it. Aastha was determined to buy the shirt of her choice and she did.
"Let's see whom does Shlok choose... you or me!" taunted Aditi while leaving the shop.
Aastha felt offended by this. "It's not about you and me!" said Aastha strongly, "It's about the shirts!"
"Both are the same!" said Aditi.
"What do you mean? Kya mutlab hai tumhara?" asked Aastha, "Don't forget that Shlok is my husband!" she said.
"Ah you are so innocent Aastha... Don't you see that your so called marriage means nothing to Shlok? I thought you were smart enough to understand that..." taunted Aditi. "But poor you, even when just eleven days are left of your meaningless marriage, you still have hopes!" Aditi laughed. "I must appreciate that!" she said with an evil smile and got into the car.
Aastha's eyes welled up listening to all that Aditi said. Eleven days! Will our separation be my fate? No! That can't be! I have faith in our relation. I trust Shlok... Rather, I trust my husband. I know he won't leave me alone... Or will he?
Aastha stood on the steps for a while as Aditi's words reverberated through her ears... Let's see whom does Shlok choose... you or me!
Aastha silently got into the car and they drove back.
The drawing room was beautifully decorated. All the preparations were done. The huge cake was ready. Now everyone was waiting for the birthday boy to arrive. Aditi, ready to welcome Shlok, was wearing a beautiful lehenga, and make-up and jewellery and everything she could do to look beautiful, especially more beautiful than Aastha. She gave everything the form of a compeition between Aastha and herself. She had kept both the shirts in the same bag and kept it in Shlok's room telling Aastha to wait and see which one Shlok chose.
Aastha wore a decent saree and looked simple as she always liked to be. As everyone waited for Shlok, Aastha quickly went to the back yard. She spent some time in the garden and made a little bouquet for Shlok. She tied the flowers together with a red sattin ribbon and stuck a little label with "Happy Birthday Shlok" written on it. With the bouquet, she returned to the drawing room. She smiled looking at the bouquet. It was not just any bouquet afterall, it was her love for Shlok!
Finally Shlok arrived and was surprised by the sight in front. Aastha smiled seeing Shlok. She began walking towards him but she saw Aditi hurry towards Shlok to be the first to wish him. Aastha felt bad, but she stood silently at her place. Aditi was trying every way to impress Shlok. She went to him and hugged him while wishing 'Happy Birthday'. Here Aastha clinched her fists seeing Shlok and Aditi so close. Shlok noticed Aastha's envy and he secretly smiled to himself. He was enjoying the moment seeing Aastha jealous. He knew that Aastha didn't like Aditi coming close to him, or rather any girl coming close to him. Aditi held Shlok's hand and walked with him inside. Aastha was watching everything with her lips apart. She couldn't believe that Aditi was actually doing this. She felt like going and just pushing Aditi away from Shlok. But what hurt her more was that Shlok wasn't saying anything to Aditi. Shlok bhi kuchh nahi keh rahe! Does he have no problem with this? Does he like Aditi being so close to him? This thought was troubling Aastha. Shlok could feel Aastha's thoughts through he face and eyes. He immediately withdrew his hand from Aditi's grip and looked at Aastha as if to say don't worry Aastha, I am yours... But Aastha had turned away as she couldn't see Shlok being with someone else. Aditi pulled Shlok into his room and told him to wear the new shirt. She gave him the bag which contained the two shirts bought by her and Aastha. As she came out from Shlok's room, Aditi threw a glance at Aastha as if to say "Just wait and watch!" Aastha just hoped that everything went her way.
Shlok came out wearing the sky-blue shirt chosen by Aastha. Aastha was very happy and she kept looking at her handsome husband. Aditi was frustrated that Aastha won. But how could she let that happen! Before Aastha could go and speak to him, Aditi took advantage of the situation. She went to Shlok and said, "Wow Shlok! You look cool in this shirt. See, my choice is always good!" Aastha's jaw dropped as she heard Aditi say that. Shlok didn't fail to notice Aastha's reaction. "Nice choice Aastha!" he said in his mind and smiled looking at Aditi's drama. Shlok knew Aastha enough to know her choices and read her face and mind as well.
Shlok was desperately waiting for Aastha to wish him. He looked at his beautiful wife. Her simplicity always mesmerised him. She always looked gorgeous. Aditi's make-up and dressing up seemed nothing to him compared to Aastha natural beauty and simplicity. Aastha tried to talk to Shlok but Aditi never gave her a chance.
The cake was cut. Shlok held a piece in his hand looking around for Aastha. But the cunning Aditi held his hand and put the cake in her mouth to show that Shlok did it himself. Aastha was feeling helpless. She felt cheated. She tried to hide the tears in her eyes and smiled as much as she could. But Shlok could feel the pain behind that smile. He wanted to talk to her, but Aditi didn't let him to. Aditi was not ready to let Shlok go away. She made him sit on the sofa chair and brought a big rectangular thing wrapped in shiny gift paper. She handed it to Shlok saying, "Open and see whether you like it!" With all this, Aditi was sprinkling salt on Aastha's wounds. Shlok opened the gift wrapper to see a collage of his photographs along with a greeting card. Shlok was not interested in Aditi's gifts. He just wanted to meet Aastha. But Aditi held him back saying, "Wait handsome, here's another gift for you!" and she handed him a wrapped box. Now Aastha couldn't take it any more. Her little bouquet was nothing compared to these big gifts, she thought. She just dropped the bouquet on the table and went to her room not able to control her tears. Though Shlok's hands were busy opening Aditi's gift, his gaze was constantly searching for Aastha. He became restless when he couldn't find her. The perfume gifted to him by Aditi was useless to him right now.
"Excuse me!" said Shlok to the guests and went searching for Aastha. He felt a gentle touch on his shoulder. He turned immediately. "Aastha... I wanted to..." but then he realised that it was Aditi and not Aastha. Aditi insisted him to go back as the guests were waiting for him.
After all the guests had gone and after Aditi finally let him go, Shlok headed straight to the bedroom. On the way, he found the little bouquet lying on the table. The petals of the flowers were wrinkled by now, but still they gave out sweet fragrance. He saw the red ribbon and the little label on it saying 'Happy Birthday Shlok'. He smiled at it as he whispered, "Thank you so much Aastha!" Taking the bouquet with him, Shlok entered the bedroom to find Aastha sleeping there on the floor behind the curtain that separated both of them. Shlok placed the bouquet on the side table and lay down on the bed. He looked at Aastha. He knew she wasn't asleep. He could feel her pain through her sobs. He just wanted to take her into his arms and never let go. But he didn't have the courage to do it, now that there were only eleven days left for the hearing of their divorce in the court. He knew he wouldn't let her go. But right now he just couldn't cross the curtain to go to the other side.
Shlok felt bad recalling those days. He felt bad that he had caused Aastha so much trouble. He just kept the album aside and ran downstairs. "Aastha?" he called out.
"I am here!" he got a reply from the kitchen.
He went to the kitchen to see Aastha making dough. He looked at his beautiful wife admiring every bit of her. He just went and hugged her from behind. Aastha was surprised. "Yeh kya kar rahe hain aap? Don't you see I am busy? Chhodiye mujhe!" she said. Shlok just picked her up in his arms. "Arey! Chhodiye Shlok! What are you doing? Look at my hands, they are full of dough!"
"Shhh" said Shlok and took her to their bedroom. He gently kept her on the bed and kissed her forehead. "I love you, Aastha" he whispered.
Aastha didn't understand why Shlok was acting this way. She knew something was troubling him. "What is it Shlok? Kya hua hai?" she asked. "You can't hide anything from me... Toh ab bata deejiye bina koi bahaana banaye!" she said.
"Maine tumhein bohot takleef di thi na Aastha? You had to suffer a lot because of me... I am really sorry, Aastha... I didn't want to..."
"Shlok! Phir wohi?!" scolded Aastha, "We had decided not to think about the past anymore, had we not?" Shlok remained silent. Aastha noticed the album and the photo. "Oh! Toh yeh baat hai!"
Aastha smiled remembering those days. "By the way, the sky-blue shirt was my choice and not Aditi's!" she said.
"I knew it, Aastha" replied Shlok with a smile. Aastha was surprised. But she was more surprised by what Shlok said further. "And I couldn't get an opportunity to thank you for that beautiful bouquet you had made for me..." he said.
"You had found it?!" she asked. "How did you know it was made by me?"
"Do I need to answer that?" he asked with a wink. "And you know what?" he continued, "the fragrance of those flowers was sweeter that that of the perfume gifted by Aditi.."
Aastha's eyes watered as she heard this. "But Aditi also gave you the card..." said Aastha.
"The little piece of paper on the bouquet with 'Happy Birthday Shlok' written on it was more precious to me that the greeting card..." replied Shlok. Aastha was touched by Shlok's words.
"And the collage of photographs?" she asked.
"What can be more valuable to me that my image in your heart?" asked Shlok in the most romantic way.
Aastha blushed as tears escaped her eyes. She hugged Shlok tightly and Shlok hugged her back not minding the dough soiling his shirt.
Even the dark moments of the past too could do nothing but bring Shlok and Aastha together forever!!