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Previous Part 3 - Cracks in the Pavement
Thank you everyone for the wonderful response to this SS, you guys are awesome. This update goes out to all of you and especially to uniquebluerose, for her awesomely long insightful and sweet comments that make me feel all warm inside. Thank you so much for taking the time out to write all that you do. I hope you enjoy reading this part, as well as everybody else. So here goes...
Part 4 - All Good Things
She cursed silently in a whisper at not being able to find a mirror in the storeroom. The tear streaks across her face felt sticky as they merged with her makeup, leaving a trail of shimmer behind that she knew would be visible. She didn't want to have to explain anything to anyone. She had kept it a secret, and she wanted it to stay that way. There was no need to worry everyone, so the doctor had said that it was pretty much a sure case, but the results of her scans and tests were not back yet, nothing was definitive. She roughly wiped away at where she thought her tears were and sniffed a few times before boldly stepping out of the door. Arnav had stopped calling out for her and she had waited until the sound of him pacing the corridors had died out and then, she had waited some more, until she was absolutely sure he would have gone back.
She tried to avoid his angry glare as he stared right at her when she walked back in to the dim lighted hallway. She gathered her dress tightly in her clutched fists and rushed towards her family standing by the door in an attempt to avoid him. He stood, jaw clenched, wanting to hold her close and find out what was wrong so that he could fix it, but she didn't give him the opportunity. They waited by the door, the cold December breeze making its way through the open door behind them, as Payal and Aakash finally strode in, smiling at eachother shyly.
The families said their goodbyes and Khushi watched as everyone left, rooted to the spot after having made the mistake of looking into Arnavs eyes. He held her frozen with his intense gaze that was pleading with her to let him in.
"Chote, make sure you close the door, its freezing outside" Anjali called as she walked away, unheard by the two heated bodies they had left behind.
Khushi snapped her eyes away from him, fuming at having given in and tried to take a step back only to find herself being held in place by her shoulders, sending a strike of warmth through her against the cold wind that sent her heart racing.
"Khushi.." he breathed, reaching up to cup her face with his hand, and use his thumb to gently wipe at the few specks of dried blood still clinging to her cheeks.
She stood mesmerised by his eyes filled with worry as he concentrated on removing any disruptions to her usually flawless skin. Feeling herself heat up she swiftly turned around, letting loose a single long strand of wavy hair from her messy bun. He held on to her arm as she reached out for the door.
"Wait" he ordered, slowly wiggling out of his blazer and bending to place it on her shoulders. She resisted lightly at first, but gave into his angry glare, letting him wrap her in his warmth. She could smell his perfume, sending her mind into a haze.
"It's cold outside" he muttered, not managing to get any more out before she ran out through the door, shutting it behind her with a loud bang.
It had been days since then, Arnav thought back to the moment, counting on his fingers. 9 days, he finished, it had been 9 days and he had not managed to contact her through all of it. He had called everyday to have her not answer his calls. Towards the last few days she had turned her phone off because he couldn't even dial her number any more. He threw his phone in anger against the floor, hearing the loud crack as its screen shattered into pieces, remnants of his anger after having reached a dead tone for what seemed like the thousandth time.
It had been two days after the party when he had called up the doctor that had seen her, and asked about her condition.
The doctor had asked what his relation was to the patient. Family? Relative? Friend?
His hesitation in that one moment had been enough to convince the doctor that he was nothing more than a concerned external spectator, legally, he had no obligation to tell him.
"Mr. Raizada, I know you have done much for this hospital and I am very grateful to you for it, but that does not give me, or you for that matter, the right to breach patient confidentiality. The patient we are speaking of, Khushi that is, has asked to keep her health information private and I am bound by law to abide to that, I am sorry."
A flustered Arnav had tried his best business man techniques to get it out of him and had ended up resorting to sheer desperation when the doctor refused outright.
"Please, doctor, listen, can you at least tell me if there is something wrong or if she is okay"
"I am sorry Mr. Raizada, like I have mentioned before, multiple times" he emphasised, making his irritation clear "I cannot share a patient's health records with you, now, I have patients waiting to see me, if there isn't anything else?"
"No, No nothing else" he sighed, listening as the tone dropped.
On the fourth, fifth and seventh days he had driven up to her house and waited outside with bated breath for her to step out so her could see her, he knew that would be motivation enough for him to go and speak to her, but he had not been able to, for fear of lack of words. She would ask him why he cared. She would ask him to give her a reason to tell him like she had done before and the thought of that scared him because he knew how much he was at fault. But to acknowledge his wrong, and even worse, to acknowledge that she knew of all his wrong, was so difficult for him to take. He wanted to be perfect for her, not this broken and scarred man. Not someone that could steal her blissful happiness in less than a moment.
And he wanted nothing but happiness for her.
He furiously walked down the stairs, hearing as his sister ordered Om Prakash to go check on Khushi at the Gupta residence. Arnav almost tripped as he flew down the stairs down to his sisters side "Why? What happened" he panted, causing a confused Om Prakash and Anjali to orientate themselves towards him.
"Chote? You are up?" she asked.
Arnav brushed off her comment "What happened?" he pressed on "to Khushi?"
Anjali was slightly confused by his concern but told him anyway "I asked her to come over yesterday to help out with some things for the wedding and she didn't turn up, so I was just sending Om Prakash over to see if everything is okay, she sounded a bit bothered over the phone so I was going to send over this box of Jaleb.." she said, interrupted by Arnav who had already shot halfway down the corridor.
"It's okay Di, Ill go, I was uh.. going that way anyway" he rushed, heading out of the door.
"What? Where?" Anjali asked confused, watching as Arnav left "Oh wait, at least take the sweets" she called out to an empty corridor, finally slapping her forehead in frustration and walking away.
He drove like a maniac, not paying attention to the car as his mind switched onto autopilot and he pulled up outside her house earlier than he had imagined. Looking into the window to her room he contemplated what he was going to do. Taking decisions quickly had not been working out for him lately. He sat in his car for a while, watching her room until he saw the unmistakable flash of her shadown run across the wall next to the window. The image had an unexpected effect on him, setting fear in his heart. He realised he couldn't do it. He was too afraid of what she would think, because he cared now. It wasn't like with everyone else. He cared what she thought of him and as he thought back to the poolside 9 days ago he remembered her listing all the wrong he had done and hit the accelerator. He stared straight ahead as he drove away, not being able to look elsewhere.
When he got home he ran up to his room, ripping off the sweater he was wearing he threw it on the bed. Pacing, furiously, he realised he could not take it anymore. He couldn't take his own cowardice, he couldn't take the separation from her, not knowing if she was okay. He picked the glass on his bedside table up and threw it against the wall, watching as it shattered against the green paint, followed by a photo frame and his laptop that had been innocently lying on his bed. It wasn't enough, he was fuming from all the frustration as he walked up to the sliding doors that led into the poolside, ripping the curtains out of their holds as he exited, finally kicking at any pot he saw and ripping at any leaf and stem in sight, until his garden lay in pieces.
He regretted it once he was done, like he regretted everything else he normally did out of anger, slowly resorting to picking up the broken pieces of clay. At least fixing up his garden was easier than fixing Khushi.
She breathed in deeply, taking in the intoxicating smell of his perfume. The smell that she had familiarised with every moment ever spent close to him and near him, in his arms, where she felt she belonged. She closed her eyes and breathed in again, letting herself get lost in it, letting her mind take her back to all those moments.
She felt the moisture on the fabric before she realised she was crying, gently sobbing into the soft material she lifted her skin off it and picked up the phone that she had dropped on the floor after having spoken to the doctor.
She went through her contacts and heaved in a large breath of air as his number appeared under Laad Governer, she smiled at herself, letting the tears run down her face as she thought of all her silly moments. At least she had spent so much time with him, laughing and crying, even if she couldn't have him, she still had those moments. She would have to make them enough.
Hearing his voice when he picked up made her realise that no amount would ever be enough with him.
He had picked up the phone in a rush, holding the broken screen against his ear he tried to call out to the person on the line, running his hand through his hair at the state he had made of his room and the poolside.
He could recognise her silence placed within the silence of millions.
"Khushi?" he called out.
She nervously cleared her throat and held back her tears at the sound of his voice.
"I..need to talk to you" she said, trying her hardest to keep her voice in check.
Arnav dropped the few pieces of clay he was still holding and grabbed a pull on sweater as he started to walk out of the door, greeted by his grandmother inquiring about the entire ruckus. He ignored her, only nodding to let her know that he was doing something important.
"What is it Khushi?" he eagerly asked, glad to have heard her voice after so long, it was like he could breathe again.
She turned around in her room, watching her sister walk past her their room. For some reason she wanted to tell only him. She told herself it was because she couldn't do it alone, because she needed someone to know, someone to share it with, because she was too scared. But she also knew deep inside that anyone could have done that for her. It was a different reason why she was telling him, and she didn't want to think of it like that, because it made her feel selfish and greedy. She wanted him to know because she wanted him to help her, she wanted him to be there for her, and most of all, she wanted him to be there with her to make all the moments in the world to remember after she couldn't have them anymore.
She wanted him, and she didn't care what would come in between that, she would try her hardest, even if it was only for a little while.
She hesitated for a long moment, hoping that she wouldn't regret what she was about to do "Not here, and not at your house either, I need to talk to you alone, can you come by the woods behind the temple near your house? And please promise not to tell anyone?"
Arnav stopped in his tracks for a moment, feeling the dread creep up inside him again as he heard the sky above them call out in thunder and lightning. A storm was on its way.
"Allright, I'll be there Khushi, but be there as quickly as you can, it looks like it is going to pour down soon."
She nodded against the phone and he smiled knowing how she was responding, he thought the better of telling her that people couldn't hear nods over the phone and climbed into his car as she grabbed her bag and headed out of the door under the grey sky.
Please do listen as you guys read, it really sets the mood x
He watched her shivering form make its way through the sparse trees by the edge of the woods, the temple visible in the distance as she approached him, wearing the same dark red she had the day she had first collapsed. With every step she took she felt the weight on her chest increase. This wasn't right. No matter how much she wanted to, she couldn't dump this all on him. She looked up at him, watching his eyes full of fear and took a swift 180 degree turn before she was even a few metres close to him. She couldn't do this.
He jumped off of the tree he was leaning on and rushed over to her, blocking her path.
"Khushi? Don't walk away, tell me, please tell me what is wrong" he begged, making sure to keep his voice soft. The image of her had sent his heart plummeting. Her already fragile frame had lost more weight which he had thought impossible at first. She still had that gleam in her eyes, the gleam that told him his Khushi lived beneath that skin, but it was partly masked by the sullenness of her skin draped around her bones. She was shivering through the mildly cold weather like they were standing in an ice storm and she flinched as small droplets of water began to hit her paleness, drained of all their usual cheerful colour as the water hit her like it was bruising her soft skin.
"No No" she shook her head, trying to get away "I should go, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have called you" she breathed into the moist air, starting to cry.
"Khushi, please, please don't cry, please, look even if you don't want to tell me, I want to know okay, just let me know."
"You are going to hate me if I tell you."
"I could never hate you" he replied back seriously, looking at her as she looked down at the floor and tried to wriggle out of his grip around her elbows.
He waited as she gulped in for air, starting to choke on her tears and then finally calm down, never easing his steady supportive grip on her.
"Khushi!" he warned, squeezing his hands slightly.
She took in a deep breath, deciding that she was going to do it, and deal with the consequences later "I..when I fell the other day.. the doctor" she struggled as Arnav froze hearing all the words he didn't want to hear "I shouldnt.." she tried, only to find herself held firmly in place by him, she looked up into his eyes and realised she had been wrong to ever lie to him. He cared, so much more than he would ever let on, and she could tell from the way he was looking at her then.
"I lied to you then other day" she said slowly, stopping for air as the sky above them shook from thunder "when I told you everything was okay."
She watched his eyes shake, slowly beginning to fill up with moisture at her pain like they had when he had first apologised to her. She hadn't been looking at him from so close then, she hated seeing him like this.
She waited, watching as rain began to pour on them from the sky above, washing out what would have been his tears. She wished it well for ridding his sign of pain, so at least she didn't have to watch him cry.
She stood resolute. Knowing that whatever happened next didn't matter, because he was here right now, holding on to her and that meant to world to her.
"Cancer" looking up at him again, shaking him to the core "I have cancer" she said slowly, as though trying to convince herself of it too, blinking through the rain seeping through her lashes, watching his expression show that of disbelief. He kept his grip on her strong and took an unbelieving hearty breath "No" he almost laughed "No you are kidding me."
"The doctor called me today, he said the results of the scans and blood tests are back, I have cancer" she said again.
"No" Arnav repeated, watching her as he slowly let go and turned around, running his hands through his hair.
He turned back around to face her, taking in deep breaths.
"So, so what does, th..that m..mean exactly, so you, what I mean is, I d..dont.. what now?" he stuttered, finding it hard to string coherent thoughts together.
"Nothing now" she said, surprised by his question.
"No, I mean, what, I don't understand" he asked her, his mind racing at a million miles per hour, what was going on?
"What do you mean blood tests, why, why did, why did you have blood tests" he managed, running his shaking hands across his wet face and neck, not knowing what to do.
She froze at his question, not wanting to answer it, but finding that it wasn't that scary. Not when he was there with her.
"Leukaemia" she whispered softly, voice strong, unwavering.
"It's leukaemia" she said again, watching sadly as his face almost broke right in front of her.
He looked around, tears running out of his eyes masked completely now by the rain pouring down hardly all around them.
He tried to keep himself composed, knowing that he was breaking down bit by bit inside and it was getting harder and harder to not just fall apart, he wouldn't let the whole reality of the situation dawn on him, he wouldn't be able to bear it.
"So, there are treatments right? I mean, this is okay, this isn't a big deal right" he asked fearfully, looking at her pleading for her to not say what he knew she would.
She shook her head "Treatments, to help with it, not to cure it."
Arnav nodded strongly, all of it pretence for her sake. He couldn't be breaking down, not right now, not when she needed him so much.
"To help with it" he nodded confidently, not daring to ask the question they both knew was hanging between them.
"You want to ask how long right" she smiled up at him, her heart breaking as she watched him slowly fall apart into a million little pieces right before her eyes. She shouldn't have done this, he didn't deserve it.
He shook his head, hiding his intention "No, No I don't want to know" he said, not knowing himself if he was lying or not. He looked up at her, taking the image of her in, suddenly terrified that he wouldn't be able to see her like this forever.
"What options are there?" he asked, trying to distract himself from the thought of her leaving him.
Khushi shook her head again "There is no point, I thought about it, and I decided that I can't do that to my family" she said, looking up at a confused Arnav.
"You know, it's so expensive, and I don't want to put that kind of strain on them, not when it won't do that much anyway and.." she pressed on, interrupted by an infuriated Arnav holding on to her by the shoulders, roughly, yet gently, taking care not to hurt her.
"ARE YOU CRAZY KHUSHI?" he shouted through the hissing rain. How could she even think that way? How could she even consider refusing treatment when he was there for her. Didnt she know that he would do anything for her? Sell his company, throw away all his wealth, all of it, just to know that she would be okay. How could she not even come to him for help. He suddenly felt a strong surge of loathe. He hated himself for making her feel that way, for not making her feel like she was worth it, for making her feel like he didn't care.
He looked into her eyes, watching the droplets of water make their way down her skin, he dropped his hands down to around her waist and bent down to pull her into a close hug, burying his head in her neck and holding on to her like his life depended on it. She could feel him shaking against her, shocked, down to the core by what she had told him.
"Khushi.. I don't know what... you know I would give anyth.."
Khushi shook her head again, interrupting his slow speech as she smiled against his hair.
"I don't want your money, I couldn't do that, I don't want to. I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to feel bad, or pity me, I just wanted you to know, I needed it" she sadly looked down at his closed eyes pressed against the crook in her neck and lifted him up by the shoulders, so he was standing in front of her, broken.
"I ..I can't.." he started, interrupted by Khushi placing her cold hand against him warm and wet cheek.
She smiled through feeling her skin against his, it felt so good. It felt perfect.
"I just wanted you to know" she said, looking up at Arnav who started shaking his head miserably as he held onto her hand on his cheek in both of his.
"It's okay, It's not such a big deal, people...people die all the time" she tried to laugh, failing as Arnav shook his head more vigorously, lost for words, warming her freezing hand up with his.
"It's really going to be okay, I mean, my parents... and yours? I can meet them, and hey.. it was going to happen one day right" she said smiling, resisting against her voice cracking and breaking down in tears.
She watched him hold her hand close to his cheek, finally kissing it with his wet lips. Holding a piece of her close to him. The image broke her heart. She shouldnt have done this. It wasn't worth seeing him like this, even if he would have found out at some point. The relief of having told him and the pain at his state stood conflicting her emotions in her mind.
"Im sorry" she finally cried, watching him still shake his head and hold her hand against his lips, crying softly into her skin.
She gently pulled her hand away from him, watching as he looked terrified of her moving away.
"I told you, you would hate me if I told you" she said, sending him a single small smile before stepping around him and walking away through the trees, feeling more weighed down than she had felt when walking towards him.
"I could never hate you" he whispered, frozen against the rain, after a long moment.
He looked up and she was gone.
Love Hayley xx
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