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It hurt her less with every passing day, the loneliness that crawled in her chest and the quietness that had settled in her home. Her grandmother had decided to go on a pilgrimage with her friends for "washing away the sins of last decade. When Anjali heard that, she had laughed harshly at her grandmother. "How about you apologize to Arnav like an adult? Her grandmother had looked aghast at Anjali's sharp words and jabbing accusations, not that she felt they were wrong.
"This is what I can do, in my capacity, her grandmother had said sheepishly.
"Arnav's phone number is still active. I spoke to him couple of hours ago. You can call him and tell him that you were wrong in blaming him for what our parents did to themselves. The tone Anjali took scared her grandmother.
"Have you? Her grandmother countered instead.
Anjali laughed. "And you wonder why you have become irrelevant in Arnav's life. My sins cannot be washed by dipping in some river or telling God how f**ked up I am. That's your deal grandma. You ask for forgiveness from God but don't care shit about your grandson.
Her grandmother bristled at the accusation. "As if you have some leg to talk.
Anjali shrugged. "I actually don't. But I am a hypocrite so here I am. She spread her hand across.
Her grandmother decided to change the line of conversation and ask the most relevant question yet. "Have you taken over the company now?
Anjali nodded. "Arnav is tired and I completely understand because half his exhaustion comes from me being a bitch to him for two long decades. I started poking into things that didn't need to be disturbed so I am cleaning up the mess.
The older woman hummed. "So, you are talking to Arnav.
Anjali doesn't say anything.
"Anjali. Her grandmother tries again.
"I am not running away to absolve my sins grandma. Unlike you, remained unsaid.
"Where is Shyam? Her grandma asks knowing she isn't going to like the answer. "Is he at the other house? She asks tentatively.
Anjali looks up from her laptop. "He doesn't even live in this country anymore. Its been six weeks grandma, she sneers at her grandmother. "If you had paid attention to things other than your God maybe you would have noticed absence of my husband.
Her grandmother is angered. "Don't blame me for the choices you made Anjali. Its not fair. There are unshed tears in her eyes. Anjali is vaguely reminded of Arnav's broken expression whenever their grandmother shut him down in public. Her grandmother's latest guilt-ridden expression gave Anjali a perverse sense of satisfaction.
"Why not? You blamed Arnav constantly for no fault of his. The callousness in her tone made her grandmother take a step back and she turned to leave. "Stop your holier than thou attitude and sit here grandma. Sit next to me and lets both confess our sins. Anjali's expression was unreadable.
Her grandmother adjusted veil of her sari and smiled. "I will see you in three weeks. Take care.
Anjali smiled in response as if she had received an answer she was expecting all along. "You too grandma. Call me if you need anything.
Her grandmother watched her for few minutes and saw the chasm between them. She had failed her son in ways she couldn't imagine and she decided that once she was back from her trip, she would start her amends.
But knowing her grandchildren, they wouldn't make it easy.
"I thought you were going to quit when Arnav left this shit show. Anjali passed a bowl of fruit to Suman who was sitting on the floor across her.
"I love shit shows. Shit shows are where I thrive. Suman deadpanned. "Besides I promised Arnav to stick around till you found your footing.
"You talk to him often? Anjali asks, twirling her fork in mid air. "I sense betrayal.
Suman chuckles. "I used to talk to him everyday after you took over. He was out of the game but-
"Its not easy to walk away completely, Anjali finishes for her.
Suman nods. "Not at first. It tapered off couple of months into his vacation though.
"What changed? Anjali asks, curious.
"He talks about pretty snow, cherry blossoms, beautiful sunrises and all that shit. It got embarrassing after he waxed poetic about Khushi's long hair for three minutes straight. Suman groans.
Anjali throws her head and laughs. When Suman's phone beeps for the fifth time, Anjali sighs. "You sure you don't want to pick that call? He is trying to apologize, I think.
Suman shakes her head. "My husband can kiss my ass.
Anjali snorted into her fruit bowl. "I think that's exactly what he is trying to do right now.
Suman groaned. "He pulled a silly prank and made me look like a moron in front of my family. He should be groveling a little more than these cutesy text messages and constant phone calls.
Anjali grins at her. "How long are you sticking with me? She asks. At Suman's raised eyebrows, Anjali waves her hand. "If you aren't going to continue with your job then help me find a replacement for you. I still don't know how much damage Shyam and papa have made over course of years so sifting through that nonsense is going to take a while.
Before Suman can respond, her phone beeps again making her yell. "I swear to God; this man will irritate me into kicking his ass. She gets up and adjusts the pleats on her sari. "I am going to stick around till the chaos dies down. Your case against Arnav isn't a problem anymore but everything else is. Once we are on track, I will squeeze shit ton of money from you as my bonus and retire in a land far, far away where you Raizadas can never reach.
Anjali grins. "Thanks Suman, she says sincerely. When Suman simply smiles in response, Anjali adds. "I should be thanking Arnav, right?
"Yes, you should. Suman answers and waves.
Anjali leans back on the sofa and takes in the quietness that has fallen in her home again. It's a big mansion with several rooms and thousands of memories many tainted and miserable and full of venom with toxic undertones. As if the shadows of the house were telling her, Anjali picks up her phone and shoots out a quick text message: Can we talk?
The caf was cozy. They had a cup of coffee each in front of them and Anjali wanted to take the cup and hold it in front of her face just to see if it was as large as it looked.
"I have been unfair to you, Anjali says.
"You have been a horrible human being to me, treating as if I was garbage under your shoes, Aman replies easily. Anjali flinches at his words but holds his gaze. Aman mentally gives her credit for this braveness.
"I am sorry to have hurt you. Anjali says again. "I have been a bitch to a lot of people Aman but the things I have said to you she shakes her head.
"How is it any different from what you used to say to Arnav? He challenges. "It f**ked his head Anjali. Every time you went out of your way to hurt him, it didn't just cause him anguish. It messed up the way he thought about himself.
"What I said to Arnav and how I am making amends with him now is not something I am ready to discuss with anyone. At least not yet. The anger I harbored against Arnav was different. I took it out on you and Lavanya. Anjali took a long sip of cold water and tried to calm herself. "I used your unrequited love for Arnav against you and made your sexuality a joke. That's something I can't apologize enough for.
Aman's anger isn't abated but his eyes shine with a layer of tears. "It's a start. He whispers.
They don't talk for several minutes each dealing with their own onslaught of thoughts. Its been six months since Arnav left and for the first time, she feels a pang of loneliness in her life.
"Do you know any realtor who can find me a new apartment quickly? She asks Aman suddenly. Aman looks surprised at the sudden request and it takes a moment for him to recover.
"Don't you people have like a dozen apartments around the city? Aman isn't being evasive, just stating the truth.
"Have you seen those apartments? They all look...complicated. She finishes lamely.
Aman bites back a smile. "Complicated? Anjali nods defiantly. "You mean furnished with nick knacks and some of them occupied.
Aman shakes his head as he scrolls through his phone. "Let me make a call.
Anjali picks the coffee mug that is as big as her head and takes a long sip. Something in her chest un-clenches and for the first time in decade, her breathing doesn't bring an ache in her lungs.
There is just one chapter left and that will be posted hopefully very soon.Thanks everyone for sticking by this story for so long. I hope you liked the journey as slow as it was.
I am not sure when I will come back with a new story - if I ever want to that is. I am loving reading more than I love writing now and that is how it has been for a year now. If you want to talk books, I am on Goodreads. We can talk books there or here or PMs or DMs on Twitter.
Have a great day and I will see you all in final chapter.
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