Timeframe: Written in November 2011.
After Khushi tells Arnav she is engaged to someone and he explodes because she didn’t think to tell him earlier..
‘Khushi!!’ His own agonized voice was echoing in his head over and over; he’d called her name and she hadn’t heard, hadn’t cared… but he wasn’t sure if he’d even said it out loud. Wouldn’t she have heard his anguish? He didn’t know; his world had shifted and he didn’t really know anything anymore. He closed his eyes and told himself it was still better than hearing her voice saying those words. The words that had left him stone cold and yet still burning.
She’d gone; Anjali had come and taken her. But if she hadn’t, what would he have done and what would he have said? Why did it matter to him if she was… he couldn’t even bear to think the word; it made his blood boil and set his teeth on edge. How long had it been? How could she not have told him…
‘Iss baat ki, aur tumhari; meri zindagi mein koi ehmiyat nahi hai.’
He heard his own voice again, saying those hateful things to her. But it seemed now that he’d been fooling himself all along; however he may feel, she hadn’t even thought it necessary to tell him she’d taken such a big step in her life. In the end, that was how much he had meant. He felt something clawing inside him at the thought, it felt like something was pressing down on his windpipe and he had to stuggle to drag in a breath.
He staggered over to the open glass doors which led to the pool and leaned against one, trying to take in the cool night air but it felt more like dry ash in his throat.
‘Aap ko iss se kya farak padta hai?!!’
Her angry words rang in his ears and her confused face swam in front of his eyes; why couldn’t she see what difference it made to him? She always knew how everyone else felt, always knew just the right words to say… ‘How could she know? You told her she meant nothing!’ The voice in his head was full of pain and resentment; how could he have told her she meant nothing when she meant everything?!
He felt tears come into his eyes and he clenched his jaw, blinking them away angrily; hating the helplessness that came with them. He tried to tell himself it didn’t matter what she did, she wasn’t tied to him in any way… but they were just empty words and their echoes did nothing to soothe the burning ache inside him.
‘Chotte?! Kaha khoye ho? Hum aap ko kab se bula rahe the!’ Arnav felt numb as Anjali grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the room without looking at his face.
He attempted to re-arrange his features as he walked, not particularly caring where they were going till he realised what they were about to do and he wished he’d stayed where he was. He stopped in his tracks automatically and Anjali turned and looked at him in surprise, ‘Di… mujhe kaam hai, aap…’ He didn’t look at her as he gestured for her to carry on; he didn’t want her to see the way he was breaking inside reflected in his eyes.
He turned to go and suddenly felt Lavanya grab his arm, ‘ASR chalo naa! We have to wish Chamkili, can you believe uss ne hum se pehle engagement kar li?! Her fiancée must be very impatient!!’ Her every word was like a thorn jabbing into his heart and he saw red at the mention of the word ‘fiancée’.
He unwillingly let her pull him a few steps forward and then stood as still as a statue, finally giving his eyes what they wanted by allowing himself to look at Khushi while Nani did her aarti.
She didn’t look happy. That was his first thought; there was a smile on her face but it didn’t reach her eyes. She seemed lost and a confused and her eyes were moving restlessly, searching for something till they rested on his and stopped. She stared at him as Nani fed her some jalebi, and then Anjali; all the while her voice resounded inside his head, asking him why he cared.
His face was expressionless, his jaw tightly clenched but he couldn’t hide his eyes and he didn’t look away either; he let her see his agony as Anjali made a joke about how she’d wanted to keep her fiancée all to herself this whole time. He kept watching as Khushi finally looked away, visibly shaken by what she’d seen in his eyes and he didn’t care that she had.
Lavanya tried to pull him forward; it was their turn to congratulate her but he didn’t budge an inch and Lavanya went ahead without him and hugged Khushi happily. She met his eyes again over Lavanya’s shoulder and he heard himself call her name again – he was screaming silently; did she hear him?
Her eyes filled with tears and he thought for a second that maybe she had. Then Lavanya broke the hug and their eye contact too, ‘Chamkili… tum ro rahi ho?! Let me guess, phir se Khushi ke aansoo right?!!’ Of course they were, he thought numbly as the words cut into him and broke his paralysis and he turned to go.
‘Chotte?!’ He heard Anjali’s concerned voice but he didn’t turn; he didn’t think he could re-arrange his face this time. He walked away from them, their words and their laughter echoing in his ears; but strangely her laughter was absent from the mix. He turned and looked down when he got to the top of the stairs and saw she was looking up after him, concern etched in her features and reflected in her eyes.
Her concern stayed with him as he carried on to his room, mocking him because he knew it was probably no different than the concern she felt for anyone else. He slammed the doors shut behind him and leaned against them, breathing fast, as though he’d run a marathon.
He closed his eyes and tried to gather the pieces of him that made him ASR; he wanted to be that block of ice – uncaring and unfeeling… but he couldn’t find those pieces of him anywhere. They were drowning in the agony too and eventually he gave in and let it wash over him in waves.
‘Aap teek toh hai naa…’
His mind tried uselessly to comfort him with echoes of her voice, fragments from their bitter-sweet past and he had to cover his ears because it only made the emptiness inside even louder…