The emptiness was overwhelming. Rhia couldnt recall another time where she felt so utterly fickle and hollow. Saagar had left without any good byes, which made it seem as if this entire situation was a horrible nightmare, that she would wake up the next morning and Saagar would greet her with his smiling eyes. But she knew that was not so. The last bonds that she shared with him had been severed, broken by Saagar himself. She remembered his words all too clearly. "Then I'm leaving tomorrow..." he had said. If that was true, then this had been their last meeting. He wouldnt be there tomorrow.
She moaned in agony. How was it possible to miss someone to such an extent that she was hurting physically? She had just got home from work, and Ritesh was coming in a few hours, yet all she could think about was HIM. The man who had entered her life just a few months ago and completely turned it upside down. Rhia was wrapped up in a blanket on her couch feeling depressed. She never thought that the pain of parting would be so intense. It hurt when she remembered his charming face, or when she recalled his voice, so velvety, so smooth and charismatic. It even hurt when she thought of his name. Saagar. Her safe harbor...gone.
She moaned again and felt the first tear slide down her cheek. Did he know the about the pain she was going through? Would he even care if he saw her writhing in his memories?
She repressed a sob and covered her face with the blanket. Die...she wanted to die. Death would be relief compared to this torture. The seconds changed to minutes, and the minutes changed to hours, and she was jolted by the bell. She realized that she had fallen asleep sometime. At first she remained stationary on the couch, then stirred unwillingly when the second bell rang. She gave herself a quick look in the mirror and groaned. She looked terrible. Her eyes were bloodshot from crying for the past hours, and her hair was a disheveled mess. It was too late now. She fixed herself up as best as possible, then opened the door.
A cold gust of air blew past her, and time froze momentarily. The face standing before her was so familiar, yet so strange. Ritesh viewed her in silence as well, as if he was having trouble scanning her from his memories. In only six months, the two had grown so apart that they almost felt like strangers.
Ritesh (with a weak smile): Hey Rhia...
Rhia (feeling strange): Hi...
Ritesh: Wont you let me in?
Rhia: Oh (blinking when she realized she was blocking the doorway) sorry.
She moved aside and he shuffled in with his bag. She proceeded to pick up the ones stacked outside and he was back in an instant by her side.
Ritesh: Its ok, I got them.
Rhia: No no, let me take one.
He let her pick up one of the lighter bags and smiled uncertainly. Rather than feeling like husband and wife, it felt like they were meeting for the first time. When the door closed behind them, they stood awkwardly in the main lounge feeling uncomfortable with the uncanny silence. Ritesh pretended to look around, but Rhia didnt even make an effort. She rubbed her arms and flashed a glance in his direction. He caught her look, then looked away. So much had changed. They didnt even know each other anymore over these past few months. It felt as if a wall had formed between them while they had been too busy with their respected lives, and now they could no longer reach out to each other anymore. In truth, Rhia felt completely detached from Ritesh. She felt about as close to him as she felt to some of her colleagues. At this point, there was not trace of intimacy left.
Ritesh (rubbling his hands together): Its good to be back
He scanned around the room and his eyes were focused. To Rhia, it felt like Ritesh was a visitor at her house. She was still trying to get used to the idea of them staying together. Again, she was surprised by how quickly their relationship had changed.
Rhia: You should make yourself more comfortable. Why dont you change and I'll fix up some dinner?
Ritesh (with a soft smile): You're cooking?
This time she had to smile as well. Ritesh knew Rhia's limitations in the kitchen all too well. Atleast something felt familiar.
Rhia: Well, its just some leftover daal from the restaurant, but its still somewhat home food.
Ritesh (smiling): Yeah, somewhat...I'll go change.
With another smile he was off to the bathroom. With a guitly conscience, she wished that Ritesh had been a friend instead. He was a great guy, and someone she could always rely on, but now, anything more more seemed unnatural. Rhia sighed and proceeded to move his bags to their room. Their room. She shuddered when she saw the bed. The last time she had shared a bed with someone was when she had slept with Saagar. She had slept with another man. This realization jolted her to the core and she felt dizzy. "Oh no, not his name...not the memories," she grabbed at her head desperately. The guilt and intimate memories mixed together and swarmed her mind. She was gonna fall!
She grabbed onto the wall and forced her eyes closed, forced her breathing to relax and her heart to return to normal. Just then her phone rang. Feeling somewhat shaken, she made her way to the phone and picked up.
Silence greeted her on the other line.
Rhia: Hello? Hello?
This time, she could hear someone breathing. SHe lowered her voice and focused.
Rhia: Is someone there?
Her eyes narrowed, and she concentrated on the breathing. The realization struck hard.
Rhia (breathlessly): Saagar?
The breathing stopped on the other line, yet she could still feel him there.
Rhia (heart beating faster): Saagar! Saagar is that you?
She looked behind her shoulder at the bathroom door, and was comforted by the sound of the shower running. Ritesh couldnt hear. She gripped the phone harder till her knuckles turned white.
Rhia (in a fierce whisper): Saagar talk to me plz...say something...
His breathing was irregular now, like he was trying to hold back.
Rhia (crying softly): Dont do this. Plz dont do this. Saagar we can work this out. We can work something out, just talk to me.
She though she heard a whisper, but she couldnt catch it properly, and the phone went dead.
Rhia (whispering): Saagar? Damn it!
What had he whispered? With a stab of pain, she realized that he had whispered three words. "I love you."