Posted: 05 June 2008 at 6:02pm
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A week went by in a blur, and still Rhia was unable to enlighten Saagar to Ritesh's plans. What made reality all the more difficult to comprehend was the fact that Saagar spent every waking moment at her apartment. His kids understood that he was still weak and needed to be taken care of, so no questions were asked when he was absent from home until midnight sometimes. She took care of him like caring for a child, and he enjoyed every minute of the attention Rhia showered on him. One particular night, everything shattered.
The light was faded in Rhia's bedroom, throwing countless shadows around the walls. In the middle of the bed, Rhia sat with her legs partially crossed while Saagar stretched out with his head resting on her lap. She unconsciencely ruffled hair gently as she looked straight ahead immersed in deep thoughts. His eyes were closed in content and bliss as he felt the magic of her fingers on his scalp. He had forgotten how good it felt to be loved with such intensity. In fact, now that he thought about it, he hadn't been loved this way at all. What he felt with Rhia was so different. It was so intense and strong that he couldn't stand the thought of her absence in his life for even a minute.
Rhia (emotionless): Ritesh is coming back
Saagar stiffened momentarily, but no further response arose. She waited for him to speak, to question her, to respond, but he remained as still as a stone. She sensed the change in his manner instantly. His breathing had slowed, and his muscles stood out against his neck, tense.
Rhia (continuing): He's coming in a week.
Again, no response from Saagar. He continued to lay in her lap, wanting time to freeze at that moment.
Rhia: Saagar, are you listening to me?
Finally, he opened his eyes, and looked up at her steadily. Something had changed. His eyes, which usually looked playful looked hollow and hard, like he was holding back.
Saagar: Yeah, I'm listening.
Rhia: What are we going to do?
She had asked the inevitable question, which had been haunting both minds since their confession, but which had been purposely pushed to the back of their minds.
He continued to gaze at her in a strange way. She shifted uneasily and touched his cheek.
Rhia: Saagar, did you hear me?
With a deep sigh, he pushed himself off her lap and sat up.
Saagar: I think the question is, what do YOU want?
She averted his gaze and pursed her lips. She knew what he was asking. It wasn't what she wanted...it was who. Never in her life had she thought that she would be faced with such a dilemma, where her heart would be screaming two names simultaneously. He waited patiently looking as grim as if the life were being squeezed out of him.
Saagar: Rhia, it all rests on you. Nothing I want, or Ritesh wants, will go. This is about you, and your decision.
She felt a tightness in her throat and gulped it down. Clenching her fists, she willed her heart to toughen up, willed her tears to stay back. Saagar held her chin and turned her face around to face him.
Saagar (whispering): Do you love me?
Rhia (instantly): Yes...
Saagar (firmly): Then you have to tell him.
Cold harsh words poured into her like a rapid flood. Nothing made sense. He was talking about her husband. She had to tell her husband. Taking another breath, for it seemed that the room had suddenly run out of air, she spoke breathlessly.
Rhia: I cant...
Saagar's eyes hardened, and she saw his jaw clench.
Saagar (getting angry): What do you mean you cant? That's not an option, damn it.
Rhia: I said I cant, ok? I cant do this to him Saagar, I just cant. He's my husband, we've been together for 4 years now, I cant just tell him its over without a reason. That's cruel and heartless, and he doesn't deserve it.
Saagar (after a pause): And I do?
She pulled away and stood up, unable to sit next to him, to stare into his intense gaze. He was on his feet in an instant, now fully worked up, shaking with controlled fury, and a subtle hidden fear. He was losing her. She was leaving him. He couldn't think, he couldn't talk, he couldn't breathe. Saagar Malhotra had not lost very often, and now he was losing the most dear thing in his life. Desperately, he turned her around and pulled her close while forcing her to look right at him. Like a man lunging for his last lifeline, he pleaded with her.
Saagar (begging): Come on Rhia, we go so well together. We're so compatible, I mean, our mentality, attitude, everything goes together. Come on, dont throw this away, its too special.
Rhia (crying softly): Stop, plz look away, look away. Dont look at me like that. I said LOOK AWAY! (breaks away from him and moves away) I was never yours Saagar, dont you realize that? What we shared was never meant to happen. We dont have a right to love each other. We live in two separate worlds, and our relationship has already been defined by society, by laws of decency. I'm a married woman, and you're not my husband. I dont have a choice. I have to give Ritesh another chance.
Saagar (angry): Why? Why does he deserve another chance? That man takes you for granted, he stopped caring for you when you needed him the most. He doesnt realize what a lucky bas***d he is, and takes advantage of the fact that fate rewarded him with an angel for a wife. Why, if I were in his place, I would...
He advanced aggresively towards her and she moved back till she hit the wall. Her eyes closed, waiting for a blow, a slap, something to stun her so she could also feel the pain she knew she was causing him. Instead, she felt a gentle carass on her cheek, and upon opening her eyes, she saw Saagar looking at her with such tenderness and wonder she wanted to break apart.
Saagar (whispering): I would cherish you like the jewel you are.
He paused and stared at her, suddenly confused, as if thinking. After a deep sigh, he walked back to bed and sat down uncertainly, his face held in his hands. Rhia stood rooted to her spot, afraid to move.
Saagar (face still in hands): I suppose its fair. You never were mine to begin with. I did borrow you for a while (laughs bitterly) but I guess that wasn't a right either.
Countless seconds passed in silence before Saagar regained his composure, and spoke with the proper ettiquette he was known for.
Saagar: Its funny really. My wife cheated on me, and I always blamed her for ruining my life. And today, I was asking you to do the exact same thing. But you didnt yield. (looking up at her with admiration) That's what I love about you. I'm proud of you Rhia, for sticking by your principals (forces a smile)
She walked to him and knelt by his knees. This time, there was no barrier to keep her tears from spilling over. In a subtle, hesitant gesture, she cupped his cheeks with his hand and placed a gentle kiss on his lips.
Rhia: Its not fair. I love you.
Saagar (bitterly): Life's not fair.
Rhia (all but holding back): Give me one promise Saagar, just one. If not as a lover, I still want to keep you close to me, even as a friend. Just dont take that friendship away Saagar. I want you to always be a friend, can we do that?
Her words sounded hollow, even to her. He scanned her face silently for a moment, and then turned away without any answer. She rested her forehead on his shoulder and began to sob. Saagar closed his eyes, and savored his last moments with the one woman that he would never forget.