Posted: 08 June 2008 at 2:33pm | IP Logged
2 months later
She never heard from Saagar again. It was almost as if he never
existed, as if he never invaded her life, never made her dream, never
made her feel. Her life more or less settled into another routine...yet
it was not the same as before. Ritesh and Rhia continued their life
from where they left off, but they found, to their dismay, that the
past was in shambles. They had to pick up the pieces and rebuild from
scratch. But no matter how hard they tried, it just never felt the same
again. An essential part of their relaionship had been destroyed
somewhere, and its absence constantly nagged Rhia in the back of her
mind. The wall that had erected itself between them remained just as
solid, just impenetrable. No matter how hard she tried, she could never
reach out to Ritesh from within, and neither he to her. When she
thought about it, she grimly observed that they were living the lives
of two puppets who tried to appear happy, but it was all a facade.
She didnt understand. She thought that Saagar's absence would make
everything better. She would forget him, and move on. But that was not
the case. Instead, she found herself dreaming about him often. The
dream was always the same. He stood before her in his signature suit,
gazing at her longingly with his hands in his suit pockets. But every
time she tried to reach out, he would move away.
All of this did not go unnoticed by Ritesh. He was not blind to
her empty eyes, the way she sometimes lost her thought, or began to
stare into space. It was as if she was there with him physically, but
mentally and emotionally, she was lost. This behavior pushed him into
the recesses of his mind, deep into the matter that was a tangled mess.
And for the first time, his eyes opened up to a reality that had been
staring him right in the face all this time. Through the course of a
week, Ritesh made a final decision.
One late evening, when the two of them sat silently on the dinner
table, Ritesh brought up the topic that Rhia had been dreading the most.
Ritesh: Rhia can you plz pass the rice?
She pushed the bowl towards him, and then busied herself by shifting the leftover rice on her plate. Her appetite had been non-existent lately. Again, he observed her plate for a second before speaking.
Ritesh (casually): So…how's work?
She stiffened. This was unexpected. They had not talked about work ever since they got back together. And work entailed a name that still pained her when brought up.
Rhia (stiffly): Its good.
Ritesh: Really? (Piling on his plate with rice) And how's everyone in it?
This time she looked up at him with a sharp glance. He looked back, eyes wide, face innocent. What was he playing at?
Rhia: Good I guess.
Ritesh: That's nice, and (looking at her out of the corner of his eyes) how's Saagar?
Her insides froze, and she felt that familiar surge of pain stir within her heart where she had repressed it so long ago. Ritesh noticed the color drain off her face as she fought to remain visibly neutral.
Rhia (with an effort): I dunno…
Ritesh (curious): You don't know?
Rhia: Yeah…(taking a deep breath) he doesn't work here anymore.
Her voice spoke volumes. Ritesh noticed the slight tremor when she revealed the last fact, and this time, all his doubts were erased.
Ritesh (clearing his throat): Rhia, we have to talk about something.
She tensed up. There it was; the subject she had been trying to avoid. There was no ignoring it now. Her heart sped up in apprehension as she waited for the big question.
Yes, yes I slept with him, she screamed inside her head. Yes, I love him. I'm sorry I couldn't help it. I'll accept whatever punishment you give me. Punish me now.
Ritesh stood up and walked around the table to her side. She clenched her fist and watched him fearfully with withheld breath. Getting down on one knee, he took her hand and held it gently as he looked right into her eyes.
Ritesh: Rhia, this isn't working out.
She stared at him. Confusion dribbled into her mind. First of all, this was not what she had been expecting him to say. Second, it wouldn't register in her mind. He noticed her expression and gripped her hand tightly.
Ritesh: I think we both know…have known for a while now. But we just chose to overlook it. Our relationship is dead Rhia. There's nothing left…
All she could do was look squarely into his face and breathe. She had to concentrate on breathing, because she felt as if she would crumble at any moment now. He realized that she was not in a state to talk, and continued, as gently as he could.
Ritesh: We both knew that it had died a while back, but we both wanted to give it…give us, a second chance. Its like a dead baby Rhia. We've been carrying this dead child this entire time. You're with me, yet you're not. I cant live like this. Neither can you. I don't want us to compromise with our lives. You understand me?
This time, she was able to nod slightly, but her eyes were still unfocused, as if she was trying to grasp his words. This was too unexpected. She wasn't ready for this.
Ritesh: I don't know what went wrong. I wish I could figure it out, go back, and fix it before it happened, but I cant. We cant change the past, but we can help the future. We're not happy. Maybe it was moving away. I thought we could handle the long distance relationships but sometimes…there are distractions.
This time he looked straight into her eyes, and she lowered her head. She knew all too well who he was alluding to.
Ritesh: Rhia its ok, look at me. Just look at me. I don't blame you. (she forced herself to look at him) I always got the hint that there was someone else in your life, but honestly, I cant point fingers at you. How can I make accusations at you, when I may be in the same boat?
Her mouth fell open in surprise. She was astonished to find him gazing at her helplessly, with guilt stricken eyes. She finally found her voice.
Rhia: So all those times that you said you were busy, you…(she trailed off)
He nodded and lowered his eyes this time. She waited for the anger to come, but surprisingly, she felt…better. Good. She felt as if a burden had been lifted off her shoulders. Knowing that Ritesh had fallen into the same path as her, made the same mistakes, helped ease the guilt that had been plaguing her for the past two months.
Ritesh (speaking fast): I met her at work. You were so far Rhia. I tried so hard to reach out. But you were so far.
Rhia (speechless): Don't…its ok. I understand.
She did. She understood far too well those irresistible forces that had torn them apart. She never thought that relationships could be so complex, so intricate. But now she did.
Ritesh: I just need to know. (in a whisper) Is it him?
Rhia (feeling numb): It was. Not anymore.
Ritesh: I'm sorry…
Ritesh (with a small laugh): I told her I needed to save my marriage.
As they gazed at each other, a comfort developed between them, based on a deep understanding of each other's weaknesses.
Rhia: What do you want to do?
Ritesh: We tried working it out, but I don't think its meant to be Rhia. We really tried (covers her hand with his other one) And I'm proud that I ever shared a relationship with you. I look back at those days with a smile. (after a pause) But now...I think I should go back to New Delhi.
Panic bubbled up her chest. She wasn't ready for this. Ritesh was leaving her. Saagar had already left her. She had nobody now. She was all alone. She grabbed at his arm.
Rhia (desperately): No…plz no.
Ritesh (firmly yet gently): Rhia we have to do this. I've thought a lot about it. I would've loved if it worked out, but it didn't. We both gave it our best shot. And now I want to take the steps to ensure that we always think of each other with respect and admiration, with the best of wishes. Before our relationship fails miserably, Rhia I want us to part on a good note. You understand?
She understood, of course she did. What he said made perfect sense, but she was afraid. Afraid of loneliness that would envelope her as soon as he left. She would suffocate in its deadly grasp.
She didn't even realize that she had started crying until she felt her vision blur. Ritesh reached out and hugged her. It was an embrace filled with understanding and security, but nothing more. She knew he was right, but she was so very afraid.
Ritesh: I promise, I will ALWAYS be there for you. Whenever you need a friend, just call me up and I will be right here with you before you know it.
She hugged back, sobbing without caring now. No matter what they had endured, they had been together for so long, that such a drastic change killed her. She was being selfish. She knew she didn't feel anything for Ritesh above friendship, yet she still wanted to keep him close just for a sense of security. She knew it, and so she forced herself to understand.
Ritesh let her sob for a while as he comforted her. When she was finally able to regain her composure, they both settled into a comfortable silence as they cleared the table together. After a long time, the silence wasn't awkward, but soothing. It really did feel like tons had been lifted off her conscience and shoulders. As Ritesh left the dining room to go to bed, he glanced back in her direction one last time.
Ritesh: I know it hurts a lot right now, but with time, you'll understand why I did this. And you'll thank me. It wont hurt for long…I promise.
She smiled back and watched him leave the dining room. The evening had been one of most significant moments of her life. Tonight, she had lost her husband. Tonight she had gained a new friend.
Edited by desigal90 - 08 June 2008 at 6:39pm