One crisp morning, Rhia set out for a walk in the park across the street. The breeze was slightly cool and refreshing, and the trees blew softly, side to side. Friendly smiles greeted her all around and she smiled back. It was a picture perfect morning. As she neared the track, a sight made her halt immediately. It was not a new sight. She had seen this mirage all too often, yet it still caught her off guard. Maybe it was the clarity of the face that stood out, or the way his lips were turned up in a slight smile. Whatever it was, but this mirage stunned her momentarily. He was standing in a white dress shirt with a pair of blue jeans, and leaned against a tree not far off. Saagar's mirage was staring right at her, making her feel unstable. So she looked away and continued to walk. This was how it always was. She thought she saw him, but every time she looked back or blinked, he was gone. This time, she was determined to ignore it complete. The mirage would vanish soon enough. Right as she walked by it, it spoke.
Voice: Did you forget me already?
She froze. She was terrified of looking back. This was the first time it had spoken to her. Would he still be standing when she looked back, or would she feel the same disappointment she felt every time?
Voice: You can turn around Rhia. I'm don't bite.
Rhia turned around slowly. Sure enough, he still stood, standing right where he had when she passed him by, so close that she could reach out and touch him. He really was here. This was no mirage. Saagar stood right in the flesh.
Saagar (chuckling): You look like you've seen a ghost, or is it just the effect I have on women nowadays? (smiles)
Rhia (softly): Oh god…
He knees buckled and she grabbed at the nearby bench for support. He took as step forward when he noticed her stumble, but paused when she steadied herself. Clearly, she was in shock. He decided to avoid any sudden movements that might startle her even further.
Saagar (with a soft smile): Its been a while Rhia. How have you been?
Rhia (still within a whisper): Oh god…oh god…Saagar. What are you doing here?
His smiled vanished and he took a step towards her, yet still maintained a healthy distance.
Saagar (with dark eyes): Why didn't you tell me?
Of course, he was asking about her divorce. She looked away, feeling speechless, then looked back.
Rhia (breathlessly): How could I? You left me Saagar.
Saagar: Only because you pushed me out Rhia
Rhia (forcefully): I never asked you to leave
Saagar: Yeah, but you didn't exactly leave me another choice now did you? Or would you have rather I stayed and watched you and Ritesh become a couple while I went through hell? What kind of cruel and unusual punishment is that Rhia? How damn selfish of you.
He shook his head bitterly, still watching her intently with pained eyes. She had no response to that, and swallowed hard to keep herself from crying out. Even matching his eyes took effort.
Rhia: How did you find out?
Saagar (with a small laugh): After months, when I finally found the strength to mention your name, I asked Sarika at the office about you. Imagine my surprise when she told me about all the changes you had been through. I took the next flight the following day and…here I am.
Rhia: Where are the kids?
Saagar: At home, in California. I told them before I came though. They're getting their hopes up, but this time, I didn't stop them. They deserve to know the truth, whatever it may be. Whether or not, WE may be.
Rhia (collapsing on the bench): No Saagar…
He moved forward suddenly and kneeled in front of her. She recoiled fearfully.
Saagar: Rhia, plz.
He reached out for her and she looked back, her lips trembling.
Rhia: What do you want me to do?
Saagar: I want you to give us a chance. I love you Rhia.
Rhia (tearfully): I cant Saagar, not after what happened. I cant do this…look how mine and ritesh's relationship turned out. I cant take on this pain and disappointment again. Not after this. I don't think I'll live the next time…
Saagar (firmly): I know this fear Rhia. I've been living with this fear of commitment for the past seven years. But not anymore, not when I've finally found the woman of my dreams. For you Rhia, I'm willing to risk it all. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.
Rhia (panicking): How do you know? How do you know this will work out? How do you know we wont fall apart?
Saagar (calmly): I don't know. How can I know that Rhia? But I do know that I've never met another woman that I love as much as I love you, and I've never met another woman who understands me like you do. Rhia its like we share one mind. This is so special. Don't throw it away.
He reached out and held her hand, which trembled in his. He brought it to his lips and planted a gentle kiss on the back. She whimpered and touched his cheek. He then reached into his pocket and withdrew a small case, the size of a ring case.
Saagar: Now that we're here, I got you something.
Rhia: Oh my dear lord…Saagar?
He smiled and pushed it onto her palm.
Saagar: Open it.
With a moment of hesitation, she opened the case…and stared dumbfounded.
Rhia: Umm…thank you Saagar, for this wonderful…rock.
She took out the rock that was placed inside and looked at it, puzzled. This was not what she had in mind. He chuckled at her response and took the rock.
Saagar: There's a reason I gave this to you Rhia. Its coz, I don't come alone. I come with a burden (shows her the rock). And I want to make it all clear right now, before we move any farther.
She nodded, unable to speak. This was his floor now, his time to talk.
Saagar: I come with a past Rhia, a past of broken relationships. Not only that, but my past is with me even today, through my kids. They're a part of me, they're who I am. If you accept me Rhia, you accept them, I want you to know that.
She smiled. Encouraged, he continued.
Saagar: I'm also a lot older. Ten years to be exact. You can find someone younger if you want. In fact, lets look around right now. There's that guy riding the bike (he pointed at the track), or maybe that guy…actually, he's not that good looking, so scratch that. How about him, look, him right there? Rhia don't look at me, look at him. He's around your age, isn't he? Hell, you can get whoever you want to Rhia. But if you choose a man like me, with all my flaws and downsides…maybe you need to get your brain checked. (smiles)
She smiled, this time with tears in her eyes. His shoulders sagged and he lowered his head. She touched his cheek and lifted his head until he looked right at her.
Rhia (in a whisper): You're the most perfect man in the world for me. My prince charming. My life. I choose you Saagar Malhotra.
With that, she inched her face closer to his and kissed him. It was the perfect kiss, the perfect start of a new beginning. When they parted, he continued to gaze at her in wonder.
Saagar: Where have you been my entire life woman?
She smiled, and he reached inside his other pocket this time. As she watched, he withdrew another case, identical to the first one.
Saagar: Now that we've gotten through that, let me present you with something a bit more appropriate for the occasion
He got down on one knee, and while she watched with a beating heart, he opened the case to reveal the most dazzling diamond ring she had ever seen.
Saagar: Ms. Rhia…its not sharma anymore is it? What's your maiden name?
Rhia (grinning): Rhia Sahani
Saagar (with a bright smile): Rhia Sahani, will you marry me?
Rhia: Oh god...yes Saagar, YES!
He gave a whoop of joy and took her in his arms. She laughed in bliss as he twirled her around in dizzying circles. For a moment she thought they would fall, but nothing scared her anymore. In Saagar's arms, the world seemed like a much beautiful place. He slipped the ring onto her finger than offered her a hand.
Saagar: I know we have a whole journey ahead of us, but lets start off with this walk. Come with me?
She didn't know the future. She never would. She didn't know whether they would last, or how this relationship would turn out in the distant future, but at the moment, she felt at peace with herself. With him by her side, she finally felt more complete than she had ever felt before. She took his hand, and the two walked off into the horizon, onto a new beginning.