Timeframe: Written in May 2012, during their stay at Gupta house, the night/morning after Khushi’s friends wedding.
‘Benaam rishta woh,
Bechain kar tha joh,
Ho na sake joh bayaan… Darmiyaan
Kuch toh tha, tere mere darmiyaan…’
He lay on his left, facing her back and for a second he was thrown by the fact that he could easily tell she was upset simply from the lines of her body and the way she was sleeping – curled in on herself, her shoulders tense and her breathing slightly erratic.
He knew it wasn’t anger alone that was troubling her; it was the hurt he’d given her, the pain that continued to fester and grow. Seeing her try her best to cover it up caused him as much guilt as it confused the hell out of him because he didn’t know why and was no closer to answers than he had been on the night of their marriage.
How could marriage matter so much to her when she’d had no qualms over telling a married man to leave his wife for her? Why had she pretended that their wedding had been special to her friends when it had most likely been her worst nightmare? Why had she told Garima that things were so perfect between them – that he was perfect? Why did her each and every word make his stomach churn with sickening guilt when he’d seen proof that she was holding on to someone else’s memories only a few hours ago?
Why despite everything did it feel like he was the monster, like he was the one who’d ruined someone’s life? Why did her words make him feel like he’d stolen something precious from her; something he could never give back or replace no matter how hard he tried..?
The questions kept on piling up, the confusion kept on growing and everything he’d firmly believed was becoming shakier by the minute, all his convictions hanging by a maddening thread…
She shifted slightly and he silently watched her struggling with some unknown emotion while she slept. She hadn’t been her usual self before they’d gone to bed; hadn’t chattered aimlessly about the wedding, hadn’t tried to trick him into giving up his side of the bed or annoyed him with random nuggets of useless information… and even though he should be happy, it ate away at him because he was the reason. She’d been quiet and subdued after the conversation with Garima and even in sleep it seemed to follow her, not allowing her to let go and relax and sleep with her usual abandon.
She rolled onto her back but her face was still turned away from him. Soft moonlight fell across her face and he could easily make out the thick sweep of her eyelashes and the delicate flush of pink on her cheek. He felt something ache inside when he saw the way her arms were still wrapped around herself even though she was fast asleep.
He’d spent the past few nights pushing her away, trying to make his own space on the tiny bed, untangling himself from her but now he couldn’t seem to fall asleep; her words still echoed in his mind, her tears still fresh and he felt strangely cold and empty without the soft feel of her glued to his side.
He scooted a little closer to her warmth and she continued to sleep, unaware that he’d brushed away the ever present line between them and was watching her closely, unable to even explain to himself what he was doing. Relieved that he hadn’t woken her, he angled his head on her pillow so that he could breathe her in as his eyes drifted shut finally; giving in to comfort she unknowingly brought him.
Despite the slight relief, all his earlier confusion continued to gnaw away at him until eventually he fell into a restless sleep. All the while there was a heavy and achingly painful truth playing on his mind; the knowledge that even though only a few breaths of air separated them physically, there was so much hurt and mistrust between them that they may as well have been poles apart.
Khushi woke with the nagging feeling that she was late… no, that she was missing something; something that should be obvious. She felt unsettled, like nothing was right. She took a breath and opened her eyes, trying to get rid of the feeling and then felt a solid but steady heat radiating from her hand. She looked up and her eyes widened when she saw Arnav’s head almost on her pillow, their hands entwined tightly and resting between them.
He was fast asleep and she felt her heart constrict as it always did when she was faced with this, the sweetest of images, first thing in the morning. She preferred it when he woke up before her and went jogging; at least then her heart didn’t melt at the sight of his sleeping face. The hair falling across his forehead made him look younger and without the fierce expressions he always seemed to carry when he was around her, it was a softer and more innocent Arnav she saw now, one she’d never really had the luck to meet.
‘Sapne dekhna band karo Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada!’ She narrowed her eyes as she imagined his voice growling out the words and he was right – she had no business day dreaming about him.
From their stay here she’d realised something she’d probably always known; that he wasn’t a heartless man when it came right down to it. She had told Garima the truth in part – he did care about people and when that was the case, he would do all he could for that person and leave no stone unturned for their happiness. It was just her bad luck that she wasn’t one of those people.
The thought was like ice cold water that burned instead of freezing and she gritted her teeth as she tried to pull her hand out of his without waking him. But he was holding on too tight so she gave up and yanked her hand away and her heart stopped when he sat up instantly, calling out her name and breathing hard.
She forgot all her reservations and sat up next to him anxiously, watching as he looked around blindly while he wiped sweat off his face with his sleeve. ‘Arnavji.. kya hua? Aap teek toh hai?!’
Her voice was soft and she tried to mask the concern as his head spun round to face her and his wide eyes scanned her features quickly as if reassuring himself of something. His face was unguarded for a moment and Khushi thought she saw a flash of fear and relief before he swallowed and composed himself and it was gone. She asked again if he was alright but he shook his head, his eyes sliding away from hers as he put his walls back up, ‘It’s nothing, I’m fine.’
His gravelly voice and clipped out words were like sharp jabs at her already sensitive nerves, clearly telling her that she wasn’t welcome to know his thoughts and she cursed herself for feeling so hurt when he averted his gaze and slid out from under the mosquito net, away from her. She clenched her jaw in an effort not to cry and swallowed back tears, wondering why she was so bothered by this so small a slight when she’d faced worse.
She got out of bed and watched him for a minute as he moved around the room swiftly and in a hurry to escape, looking for something while he pulled out toiletries. She walked to the wardrobe and pulled out his towel before walking up to him and holding it out wordlessly. She expected him to simply take the towel and walk but he stopped when he saw her, a hand on the towel and in the moment that followed she saw conflicting emotions in his eyes as he looked down at her.
He looked confused but there was still anger there, and hurt; like he was silently accusing her of something. She didn’t know what he saw in her face but she thought she saw a hint of guilt darken his eyes before he swiped the towel and turned away.
She resisted the urge to drag him back and demand answers; answers about why he was treating her like she’d wronged him but refusing to explain even after all these days. She knew that tactic wouldn’t work because it hadn’t in the past; he always stopped himself at the last moment… denying them both of something.
She watched him go, wishing she could hate him because that would make things so much easier but when he turned at the door to look back at her, she was hit by an overwhelming sadness. Because she couldn’t hate him. And she just couldn’t escape the gnawing feeling that if they could only just get past whatever was holding him back, there was something so real and so precious between them, something that had survived everything they’d thrown at each other, something aching to be heard but kept getting drowned out by their insecurities.
She moved to the door resignedly, trying to focus on the day ahead and all the while wondering sadly if there’d ever be a time when what was between them would be given a voice…