Joined: 28 February 2011
It was a Nor'easter, stretched along the eastern seaboard from far as Quebec to the New England coast. It was the perfect storm but not necessary for this season. It was usually reserved for the winter months where snow would bring everything to a halt rather than rain. But like all things in life the worse comes when you least expect it. The rainfall was causing extensive flooding and winds were ripping even the sturdiest objects to pieces. The storm kept most of the inhabitants in its path awake long into the night despite those like Maan that wanted so hard to drift into the realms of dreams.
Had there not been constant claps of thunder and battering of rain Maan would have laid there thinking in an eerie silence. He stayed like that since Geet had fallen asleep against his shoulder with her arm wrapped around his. He stared at the ceiling with a blank look and would've continued to had it not been for suddenly feeling nails digging into his skin. Geet was awoken by the last crackling of thunder and out of instinct clutched his arm tightly. Neither did Geet realize what she had done nor was she uncomfortable with finding herself in that situation. With a glance outside she immediately became worried about Dadi and Piyu. It might have been because of this concern or something else entirely but she simply got off the bed with no apparent uneasiness. She hesitated to make a phone call home at this hour but there would be nagging feeling inside of her if she didn't. Thankfully Dadi was awake and picked up on the first ring. She relayed they were fine and Geet in turn assured her they were okay also and would be home as soon as possible. She hung up and made one more call to Meera before heading to the kitchen.
Meanwhile, Maan had also lazily gotten up from the bed lost in his own world. He walked to solid glass walls and peered outside towards the black sea listening to the violent drops of rain clash against it. It seemed as if even the heavens were crying for him. The city below which was brightly glittering only a few hours ago had now succumbed to darkness mirroring the threatening sky above. It also mirrored what was within him. Hollow darkness had long ago settled inside his heart and with Mother Nature raging like she was now the remainder of his senses were also enveloped into its emptiness.
Geet made her way back to the room and stopped by the door holding two cups of coffee. Despite there being no light the sky illuminated every so often due to the lightning which showed his profile. He stood in the far corner staring lifelessly at nothing. Geet sensed maybe he needed time and space so she placed the cup next to table where he stood and proceeded to walk away.
"Do you see the inescapable darkness all around us Geet? It is exactly what you would see if you were to look inside me." Maan knew she was trying to be inconspicuous while leaving but the glass walls gave away her retreating reflection. He could have let her walk out allowing both of them to pretend as if nothing happened but that would have just driven a wedge between them. And that was the last thing he wanted at this point. "There are a few streaks of glimmering hope inside me given by those that are left in my life but they are like this lightning. It gives you some glimpses of light to make it through the infinite darkness but for the most part leaves you drowning in its emptiness." He paused for a moment getting his thoughts together. "Do you recall when I said I wasn't always like this?"
Geet didn't know until he directed that question at her that she had unknowingly walked back towards his side. She looked at him with rueful eyes, "Maan, you don't have to explain anything to me. It wasn't my place to ask you to."
"Geet, don't say that. I'm not telling you because I feel obligated but because I want to." Maan held Geet's hand and made her sit down before walking back towards where he stood. But before he got too far Geet grabbed his hand to stop him and give a soft smile.
"I was twenty four, fresh out of college with everything going for me. I had money, family reputation, connections and most of all, everyone I cared about. That's the difference from five years ago to now. Yes, I'm successful and wealthy but what else do I have? Absolutely nothing, undoubtedly Dadi and Piyu are the world to me…but certain relations can't be replaced. Yes, there will always be people who have bad intentions but nevertheless they will teach you something. Each individual we come across in life is special in their own way. So when you lose a person whose position in your life is irreplaceable and inadvertently break a bond that's invaluable…you are left completely shattered. A void left by them can never be filled. And with time we recover to a certain extent but it's hard to even do that when you are also the reason for them being gone in the first place."
"Here are the files you asked for Sir."
"Thank you, Pinky. But how many times have I told you to stop calling me Sir? Maan chided.
"Sorry Maan, it's just we're not in college anymore and I want to maintain at least some office professionalism." She laughed.
Maan only shook his head and smiled back. "As you wish Pinky, and you should go home now. A certain someone left hours ago and I'm sure is impatiently waiting for you."
"You're right, I should go before he calls me for the millionth time again. What about you though? Another late night at the office won't make Sam happy I don't think."
Maan smiled at her sadly. "You know her Pinky, she understands." She simply nodded, bid him goodnight and left. He didn't know what else to say, how to explain that his girlfriend of almost three years was too busy to even talk for a few minutes on the phone. He was envious of the bond his friends shared with their respective other halves. Most were either expanding their family, newlyweds or engaged and while he was ready to make it official Sam was holding back. He didn't want to be overbearing so he let her be and hoped that it was just a phase with her career that would pass by soon. His mind would've continued to think about this but it was simply a waste of time. And so instead of unnecessarily straying from the task at hand with thoughts that won't change anything Maan diverted his attention back to the files but only to be disrupted again. Upon looking at the sight of his panting and pale best friend Maan quickly jumped out of his chair and went to his side.
"What's wrong Armaan,
you look like you've seen a ghost?"
"We have to go now…I just got a call…Riddhima's in labor." His voice was strained and physically shaking. Maan didn't understand why Armaan was in the office this late when he should've been at home with Riddhima in the first place. But that was the least of his concerns at the moment.
"What? How can that be? Her due date isn't for another six weeks." Maan said completely confused with this.
"I know, I know. That's why I'm freaking out. What if something happens to the baby or her?" He was starting to hyperventilate.?Maan realized his questions were making him more stressed and stopped immediately. "Calm down Armaan. It's going to be okay. Nothing is going to happen to Riddhima or the baby." Maan asked him to make his way to the car while he locked up the office. Once he left Maan immediately called Vicky who was doing his residency at the hospital and asked how Riddhima's condition was. He wasn't pleased to hear she was critical and instantly rushed to the car so they could get to the hospital as soon as possible. He also called Sam to ask her to meet them at there but as usual she wasn't picking up. He cursed at the whole ordeal and tried to put on a normal face for Armaan's sake.
As he stepped outside Maan felt the chill in the wind and looked above where he saw storm clouds looming. He realized the weather was threatening and they had to make it to the hospital before the rain flooded the streets and caused Delhi to come to a standstill. He kept the information Vicky told him to himself knowing it would only worry Armaan more. He had been anxious ever since the doctors said it was a high risk pregnancy. And the early labor was now driving him over the edge as it would any husband. Armaan's mind kept coming up with troubled scenarios and Maan did his best to divert his mind but nothing was working. To make matters worse no one was answering their phones at the hospital causing Armaan to become more and more restless. "Armaan, we're almost there. Don't worry."
"Maan, I have a bad feeling about this. I knew we should've given up the baby. It was not safe for Riddhima."
Maan neither liked the way his best friend was thinking nor anxiety it was putting them both under. "Armaan don't talk like that. We all know how much this baby means to both of you. Nothing is going to happen to either of them okay." Maan glanced over towards Armaan to give a reassuring smile despite his worst fears looming within. Knowing time was precious Maan quickly cut into the next lane and sped up to pass the cars in front of them. He looked over at Armaan one more time and promised they were going to make it soon and nothing was going to happen to Riddhima or the baby. But what happened next proved once again how promises can break despite one's best intentions.
While Maan was glancing at Armaan he failed to notice a car move into his lane and cut him off. He swerved in attempt to miss hitting it but instead collided with another car sending theirs spinning. Despite trying to gain control it was futile. The only thing he could do was helplessly observe the moments that were to cause his life to spiral out of control as they themselves spun across three lanes of traffic.
In these few seconds it seemed as if time had stopped to allow his mind to imprint everything that happened into his memory with absolute perfection. The adrenaline made his senses polish the pain and noise around him in slow motion. All sensations from sound to touch were more vivid then they should have been. His ears were blasted with the noise of screeching tires against the pavement and cold hard metal crunching. The odor of burning fumes mixed with metallic hot blood clogged his senses. The shattering glass grazed his arms and face allowing the crimson fluid to flow freely. In an attempt to prevent any more damage he blocked his face from any more debris but only further embedded the silvers of glass into his skin gashing it further. He screamed out to Armaan but heard nothing. After managing to turn his head in that direction he noticed him unconscious. It wasn't long before he was in the same state. It had all faded away as quickly as it happened. The incessant noise stopped, pain vanished, and a deathly silence permeated the air.
Two Weeks Later
He was slowly gaining his senses. He tried opening his eyes to figure out where he was but it was excruciating to let the light in. Images started to flash at rapid speed. He remembered wetness surrounding him. He remembered feeling something warm trickle down his temple and burn. The echoing of metal grinding and colliding also followed. The combination of these horrific memories awoke his comatose brain further allowing it to pound back to life. As his body adjusted itself to accommodate his condition he gradually came back to his true bitter senses.
The first real sound to greet him was a faint yet burdensome beep. It made him only want to smash the object of distraction. The noise of soft whispers earlier was now getting louder and rustling of footsteps around him heavier. All of this only amplified the soreness in his head which to him felt as if was recovering from a massive hangover. Despite the whiteness causing rapid signals to bombard his nerves he slowly managed to open his eyes. He couldn't prevent the faint groan that escaped and although the temptation to disappear back into darkness was great the voice of someone calling out to him faintly prevented this. He looked around trying to determine where he was. His confusion disappeared upon seeing the doctors and nurses. As his eyes wandered across the fairly large hospital room he saw two familiar faces. There was Dadima sitting next to his bedside with a grateful smile on her rather bleak face. His eyes moved further and saw his brother Vicky with a similar forlorn look. As he tried to read the meaning behind their expressions an elderly doctor began to check his vitals and asked how he was feeling.
"We were initially worried how long you'd be out in a coma given the state you were brought in with Mr. Khurana. You are a lucky man though, to make it out with only a few broken bones and bruises."
Maan didn't know really what was going on until the doctor spoke and he started to recall how he ended up mangled and plastered. Then it flashed before him. The sounds and images he heard circling his mind continuously before awakening began to fit with his last memories in the car completing the puzzle. They were going to the hospital to see Riddhima and he had lost control of the car. Fear began reverberate through him. He remembered his last words which were calling out to Armaan. He looked at their faces again and saw there was more to the sorrow in their eyes than just seeing him in this state.
"Where is Armaan?" He asked with hollow hope that swirled with anger at the few possibilities. Everyone stood numb and silent. They all knew this would be the first question he'd ask but answering it wasn't easy as asking it. Maan looked at Dadi with expectant eyes but she looked away from him trying to hide drops of tears that shed from her eyes. Not being able to control any longer she quickly walked out of the room. It was Vicky who stepped in and asked everyone else to leave. He walked to Maan's bedside and sat down.
Maan tried to overlook the misery in his eyes. He wanted to see warmth or consolation at the moment but there was none of that.
"Bro, I know this will be hard to hear…" His tone said everything and Maan's heart began to shatter.
Vicky placed his cold hands over Maan's own and managed to speak words that were on everyone's mind but not able to be uttered. "He didn't make it."?Maan broke into a fit. A part of him knew Armaan was gone but the desire to see otherwise was stronger. The thought of losing his friend that helped him through so much all these years was worse than death itself.
"You're lying Vicky! This is a joke you're playing on me. I know you are but this isn't funny! Where is Armaan? I know he's somewhere here." Maan became hysterical. He tried to get out of bed pulling the IVs with him in the process. Vicky forcibly pushed him back onto the bed and hugged him tightly. Maan was shaking uncontrollably with a mixture of self-rage, guilt and sorrow.
Maan sobbed on his younger brother's shoulder mourning the loss of not only his best friend but the loss of another brother. "He can't be gone…he can't." The bond he shared with Armaan was one that he didn't even have with his own brothers. They grew from childhood friends to family supporting each other through their own personal struggles. Dadi considered him another grandson, his brothers considered him another brother as did Maan. They shared countless memories which they were to grow old with and laugh back on. They were to create new memories, they were to celebrate their successes and support in troubles as they had done all these years. They weren't supposed to end their friendship so soon but it seemed fate had other plans.
Maan never had been a religious man but during that moment he called out to God and questioned him. He asked why was that it was always him and his family that suffered. Why was it that his family was broken apart? Why was it that He decided to take Armaan away who had everything, a wife, a child and a family? The thought of facing the baby and Riddhima made him cringe. He didn't know how he was going to go in front of them. How was he going to explain that she lost her husband because of him? How was he going to explain to the sweet child that he was responsible for the death of her father? "How will I face Riddhima? Vicky, she's going to hate me...absolutely hate me."
Vicky looked at Maan faintly with a sheen forming in his eyes. He knew it wasn't Maan's fault, no one thought it was. But nothing could take away the guilt a person felt in a situation like this but he tried to console him. "Bro, please don't blame yourself. It's not your fault. It was an accident."
"No Vicky, it is my fault. I was driving and made a mistake and this is the result. I killed my best friend. I killed her husband and the baby will never know her dad because of me. I can't believe what I have done…they'll never forgive me." Maan continued to cry helplessly and Vicky this time also couldn't help the tears hearing what Maan had just said. He was tempted to turn the sedatives dial and put Maan into an induced coma but realized that wouldn't change anything. It would only cause the truth to linger and the pain to stretch. He didn't want to do it now but he had no choice. "Bro, there's more you need to know..."
After Vicky finished talking Maan who was already in a turmoil of emotions was now deathly numb. He sat lifeless and left with more guilt than could be explained. He initially saw the blood on his hands as a loss of his best friend, a husband to a wife, father to his daughter but now he learned he was partially responsible for a child being without her parents' altogether. She was all alone in this world now.
The day had been a living hell which Maan felt he was living ten times over each second. It marked not only the day he lost his best friend but the day that was to change all relationships he had left with those around him. The time that followed was anything but better because the worst was yet to be over.
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One Week Later
It had been two days since Maan had been discharged from the hospital. He was lost as where to go now that the world was absent of two people he deeply cared about. The office had so many memories of Armaan. The house echoed of his and Riddhima's laughter. Everywhere Maan turned all he could see was his loss, their family's loss, and most importantly Piyu's loss. The only thing that made him smile occasionally through all this grief was Piyu because she was all he had left of either of them. Even though she was barely a few weeks old Maan could clearly see his best friends in this sweet child. And it was then without a second thought Maan decided to adopt her as his own. He knew Piyu would be a reminder of his mistake but she also was the only living memory of Armaan and Riddhima. And because that was all he had left Maan was more than willing to take her. He hoped that with Sam also agreeing to get married now they'd all be able to move past this together but if only. He had called Sam over to the house to sign the papers for Piyu's adoption and what erupted was nothing he expected.
"Maan! Do you have any idea what you are
doing? You can't just adopt a baby and expect me to be okay with it."
He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Sam, what has gotten into lately? What do you mean by just a baby? This is my best friends' baby. Also your best friend's baby, Riddhima's baby, the every friend that would have done anything for you in a heartbeat. And you can't accept her?"
"Maan, please try to understand. You can't expect me to sit at home and be mommy all of the sudden when I have my own things going on."
"Sam, you aren't going to be alone in taking care of her. I'm here, Dadi's here, so is Vicky. I don't understand what the difference is if we adopt Piyu or have our own child later on." Maan was struggling to keep his composure.
Sam wasn't willing to budge either. "Maan, I just can't. It won't work out. I
have to go to shoots and travel all the time. I can't be tied down with a baby
to take care of. Just give the baby up for adoption."
Maan was fuming inside. "So what exactly where you expecting after we got married, Sam, just live like we were before? I stay in the office late at night waiting for your phone call at any hour of the night? "
"Why are you making a big deal out of this? It's simple just'"
"Enough Sam, I can't
believe you would even suggest that. I have done everything you've asked but
not this. Adopting Piyu is my final decision. If you aren't happy with it then
you are welcome to leave." He didn't know when she had become so cold hearted
and distant towards people she once seemed to care about so much. He usually
gave into her every whim and even agreed to put the wedding off for a year but
this wasn't something we would even consider.
She recognized the tone but wasn't scared by it. "So that's it? You are going to choose that baby over me? Maan, I stuck by you all this time and this is how you treat me?"
"I don't understand when you became so selfish Sam not only towards me but everyone that cared about you. What was so vital that you couldn't even attend their funeral? What photo shoot was so important that you couldn't take a few minutes to be at the hospital when everything was going on? Sam if you really loved me you would stick by me now and support my decision not question it. You would gladly welcome and love your best friend's baby as you would your own because that's what Riddhima would've done for you and not suggest to give her away. And you know it." He looked at her with fiery eyes.
"You know what Maan, I'm not selfish and I don't have to explain anything to you. But you're right about one thing. I should leave because it seems as if it was you that never loved me. If you truly cared for me then you would do what I want. And anyways why should I have to pay for your mistake?"
Her last words pierced him. It was like beating an already broken man but that wasn't going to deter him. "You're right Sam'you shouldn't have to pay for my mistake but I also shouldn't have to make another mistake by putting up with your selfishness. So the door is wide open and I'd appreciate it if you would use it and leave." She didn't need to be told twice and strut out without a second glance.
It hurt Maan to hear those words but it was true. He knew it was his fault but hearing it from someone that should've supported and consoled him was heart wrenching and resealed his guilt. But it was also true in his mind that what she asked was selfish. He had put up with her tantrums for too long. He was willing to take anything but not this. Even though he was upset about her not showing up for the funeral Maan put it aside and tried to look past it. But not anymore this beautiful child was the last memory he had of his best friend and Riddhima who had always been like a sister to him. There was no way he was going to give her away. He knew this decision would serve as a reminder of his mistake. And he'd have to look into Piyu's innocent eyes and feel nothing but guilt every day. One day he would have to her answer questions about her parents and it'd be a day that she might hate him forever but whatever the case maybe he wanted to make sure Piyu was in safe hands. And with him, Piyu would be because he learned his lesson once and didn't want to lose another precious person from his life.
Dadi stood at the stairwell the whole time watching and listening to the conversation. She wanted to speak out and stop them but realized what was happening was for the best. She saw how Maan was behaving even before the accident because of Sam. She realized they were not good for each other, probably never were. At the moment she was beyond livid at Sam for uttering what she just had. Dadi had always known Sam wasn't the best for Maan but she wasn't one to impose on his personal space especially when he seemed happy. But it appeared as if in the past few months Maan also started to realize the cracks in the relationship went to the foundation of what they had. And so she stood as a bystander and let everything crumble in hopes that one day Maan would find someone that would love him truly.
She saw Aditya or Adi
as they all fondly called him walk inside and proceeded down the stairs towards
him and Maan.
"Did you call the lawyers Adi?" Maan asked.
"Yes, they should be arriving any minute and once you sign the papers you can bring Piyu home." Maan nodded and turned his attention towards Dadi. "I know this doesn't change what I did but..."
"Maan, please stop doing this to yourself. I don't know how many times I'll have to say it for you to understand it wasn't your fault."
"She's right Maan. I'm
sure neither Riddhima nor Armaan would want you to think like this. We can't
change what has happened but we can be thankful for what we have and that's
Piyu." Adi said.
"No matter how many times you say it or what you say, it won't change the fact. I'll have to live the rest of my life knowing I killed my best friend." Not being able to bear the thoughts any longer Maan walked away leaving them to stare at his retreating form helplessly with a heavy heart.
Alright my updates are usually long but this one has to top all of them so far. I hope you enjoyed this part :)
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