Timeframe: Written and set just after Arnav ties a bandage on Khushi’s finger at the mandir.
‘Aakhir aap humse chahte kya hai?!’ Her words still rang in his ears as he walked into the house later that day. What did he want from her… the thought had conjured up a million images and sensations in his mind. He’d been saved having to answer by the pandit but now the question was stuck in his head along with flashes of her bewildered face.
His brain was telling him he wanted her away from him – he needed her as far away as possible in order to become himself again. He needed to switch off all these emotions, this confusion and madness inside him. But he couldn’t bear being apart from her either.
Like today… today he’d been especially rude to her, even for him. He knew she’d overheard him talking to his family earlier and yet he’d still been an ass when she’d come to see him. He knew his every word was a barb and that they were hurting her but he couldn’t stop them from overflowing once they started – in that moment he’d just needed her away from him…
No that wasn’t right either, he needed her WITH him for reasons he couldn’t name and that wasn’t acceptable – not when he was so close to breaking. So he’d hurt her even as he’d hurt himself, just so that she wouldn’t even dream of coming back again.
Watching her leave had been the hardest thing; it felt like she was taking part of him with her and he was helpless – all he could do was stand there and feel the agony and emptiness she left behind. And then he’d seen the blood on the damned glass and it had been like lighter fluid to his already inflamed thoughts. ‘Khushi…’ her name escaped his lips painfully and he remembered pushing her away… onto the glass… a few minutes later he was racing towards her, driving like a maniac and cursing himself for hurting her – again.
Arnav closed his eyes for a few seconds, trying to calm his mind as he thought about the ugly bleeding gash he’d caused on her tiny, doll-like ring finger; his stomach clenched in pain and he pulled off his tie roughly before going to his wardrobe to get a towel. It was just a small cut, why did it matter so much and why did it hurt him like as if it was an ache living inside him?!
‘Because you can’t bear to see her in pain…’ the voice in his head was maddeningly calm and matter of fact and he hated that it was true. He glared angrily at himself in the mirror for a few seconds before stalking into the bathroom to take a shower, nearly taking the door off it’s hinges in his anger.
‘Chotte, tum kab aaye? Aur yeh kapde…’ Arnav sighed as he walked out of the bathroom and Anjali fussed over him. She tried to take the towel and dry his hair but he dodged her and went and stood by the window, hoping she’d leave him. He didn’t want her to notice his restlessness and she’d already commented on his odd behaviour more than he’d liked.
He wondered absently, what she’d say if he told her Khushi was driving him crazy; he made a face at his reflection in the glass, he knew the nonsense she’d come out with and he wasn’t in the mood to hear it.
‘… yeh khoon kaisa?!’ He’d zoned out and now he blinked and spun around at the mention of blood; Anjali was holding the handkerchief with Khushi’s blood on it and looking at it in confusion. Arnav couldn’t stop himself from hurrying over and grabbing it out of her hand, trying not to feel the way seeing her blood made his chest ache again. ‘Kuch nahi Di, mera nahi hai, woh…’
He couldn’t finish; what was he going to say anyway? I pushed Khushi and she cut her finger so I went after her like a mad man with a bandage…?! It sounded insane even to him and he had no way to justify the depth of his emotions.
Anjali was still looking at him, ‘Teek hai Chotte, itne pareshan kyu ho? Mujhe de do, main isse baaki kapdo ke saath wash mein daal doongi.’ She reached for the piece of cloth and Arnav instinctively stepped back, stuffing it into his back pocket as he went, ‘Nahi Di! I mean… it’s not important, just leave it.’ Anjali frowned and was about to question him but he was saved by Nani calling her. ‘Hum baad mein baat karenge Chotte…’ It almost sounded like a threat and as she left the room, Arnav wondered how much longer he’d be able to hold all this in; it was affecting his life so much that he barely recognised it anymore.
He pulled out the handkerchief and sat down on the bed, looking at the lines of her blood. He swallowed painfully and remembered how she’d gasped in pain as he cleaned her wound; she’d tried to hide it after that but he could still see the pain in her eyes as he’d carried on more gently.
‘You didn’t even say sorry…’ the voice was reproachful now, ‘and then you told more lies…’ He threw down the bloody handkerchief and got up; trying to escape the guilt he was feeling. He’d wanted to somehow show her he felt bad for what he’d done but she’d been so defiant and angry it’d pissed him off and he’d flipped, telling her he never wanted to see her again.
She’d thrown her Devi Mayya in his face and he couldn’t bear to listen to any of that garbage, ‘…aur uss din hum waha nahi honge…’ Wasn’t that what had cut him up most though? The thought of her not being there in the future…
He shoved his hands into his pockets telling himself it was for the best, he’d get over it. Maybe she’d gotten under his skin but he was Arnav Singh Raizada and emotions meant nothing to him… but the voice in his head told him he was an idiot and a deluded one at that. His hands clenched into fists and he felt something dig into his palm.
He took out his hand and looked at the tiny key in his palm, remembering her holding it out to him so long ago… how had things become so insane since then?! He thought of his mannat… he hadn’t consciously made one; at the time he hadn’t wanted anything for himself, he had wished only for Anjali to be happy always. He hadn’t bothered hoping for nothing bad to happen to her because he knew the world was an awful place and there would always be evil in it. He’d instead hoped that whatever bad came her way, he would always be there to shield her from it and take it on himself.
Thinking about it again now, he wondered what his mannat would now be… Anjali’s happiness still meant everything to him, she was his world… but things in his life had somehow shifted and he saw a pair of wide, innocent eyes with unshed tears clouding their hazel depths… ‘aap humse chahte kya hai?’ her words rang in his head and he wondered again what he wanted from her, what he needed.
‘That’s the wrong question…’ His jaw clenched at the soft voice in his head; he knew it was the wrong question and a pointless one. He held the key in his hand tightly and closed his eyes as he rested his fist on his chest and sighed, ‘Khushi.’ There was no point asking himself what he wanted from her… it wasn’t any one thing. Because despite the lies he repeated to himself daily, he simply needed her.