‘Aaarghhh!’ I screamed, as the contractions grew stronger. I had been in labor for almost 10 hours now. The labor pains were excruciating. I couldn’t believe all that had happened, had led to this. The past year had been one hell of a year, much like hell.
That night, Khushi had gone so joyously to enjoy her sister’s wedding, forgetting about everything else, but God had made other plans for her. Everything changed. For, the worse? Yes, definitely. That one night she had been roped into a contract marriage with the man he thought she could have loved. Her family had broken all ties with her. Her entire world had shattered around her, crumbled into a million pieces that could never be put together.
To say those six months of being married to Arnav Singh Raizada were hard on her would be an understatement. Not that she was hurt, not kept well. She was given all things she could have asked for and more. But, things. Mere material things. She didn’t have anyone to talk to. She felt lonely most of the time. The ignorance is what hurt. She was unnoticed, unheard, in Shanti Niketan. But, yes, she was fed. She did breathe in air to survive.
Arnav and she had kept up the perfect charade uptil the absolute last day. They co-existed in two worlds simultaneously, one outside their room, and one within the four walls of their bedroom. Even though they didn’t talk, or acknowledge each other in their bedroom, she liked it better, at least there wasn’t a pretense to keep up to. Or a glaring Nani, Anjali or Maami to face.
They didn’t have to spend much time in their together anyway. Khushi would wake up early, and leave the room before Arnav was up. And Arnav always got back late from office.
Whenever they were at the dining table, or just in front of anyone, they were the envy of other couples, who wished to share what they shared. They were like gravity, in perfect sync with each other. Sometimes, they secretly wished that it would last longer. Arnav was the perfect husband in the world’s eye, who doted on his wife.
But both of them knew this want real. However much they wanted it to be, neither of them could say it to the other.
He let me sleep on the bed, and slept on the couch himself. It was as though, he could not let himself go through the additional pain of watching me in pain. We had almost become civil in the bedroom, the snide remarks had reduced.
His actions contradicted his words very often. It was like he did something for me by mistake, and then regretted it. Like once, he got me flowers, lilies, my favourite kind, at the dining table, but when I was putting them in the vase in our room, he snatched them from me and threw the bunch into the dustbin. I didn’t understand him most of the times anymore. He wasn’t the same as he was before Jiji’s wedding.
How I wish I could understand him, explain everything to him. But he refused to listen to me. He wasn’t the man I had fallen in love with, before any of this had happened. I had seen the other side of the him, and I ,sadly, knew there was another version of Arnav Singh Raizada. It would have been easier if I hadn’t known that he was in fact capable of human emotion.
Then one night, I lay in bed, wondering, where Arnav might be. He was normally late, but this was later than usual. It was nearly 3 a.m. He wasn’t ever this late.
Just as I was about to pull the covers over, I heard his foot steps, and then the crack of the door, and then some light penetrated into the room through the opening.
I peeped through the covers, I didn’t want him to know I had waited for him. He didn’t say a word,but he didn’t go to the couche, he just came and lay next to me. He seemed cautious as though not to wake me. He nuzzled my neck through my hair, and he whispered in my ear, asking me, if I was awake.
I didn’t oblige him with a verbal reply, I just nodded my head to say yes. My hair must have been rubbing against his face. I had waited for so long for him to come to me, come to me on his own accord.
Before I knew it, he gently slid his hand around my waist and pulled me close to him, so that my back arched into his chest. It felt so comforting, but I was going through a tumult of emotions. Why suddenly?
I turned around, while his arms were wrapped around me in a hug, to face him. But just as I opened my mouth to speak he claimed it in a kiss. Oh, it was so wonderful. It was like our tongues danced in each others mouths. There was so much passion, I forgot about everything else. All I wanted was him. I didn’t realise when my own hands trailed up, from around his back to his hair.
The kissing grew more intense, and our clothes were strewn all over the room. I think we made the most passionate love ever made between a man and a woman, and he finally said those four magical words my ears had been craving for what seemed eternity now.
I love you, Khushi.
It was so magical, so perfect, so right.
We didn’t even realize when sleep took over us. I slept cradled in his arms that night, it still is my most peaceful night.
But I didn’t know what happened in the morning, I woke up and he was gone. Only the quilt lay in a messed up bundle next to me.
Later Di told me, ” Chotte left for office Khushi. He had some important meeting. Maybe he didn’t want to disturb you.”
On any other day, I would have thought, they are so oblivious, to what actually goes on in Arnav’s mind, but that day I felt, maybe Di was right, maybe he did care about me.
I waited for him with bated breath till late in the night, I had tried his phone but he hadn’t answered. Reluctantly I walked to our bedroom as it was past eleven.
Maybe I had fallen asleep and missed him, or maybe he hadn’t come into our room at all that night. But as I woke up and sheepishly walked to the bathroom I noticed something. His normally impeccable white shirt, had stains of lipstick on the collars. I was shocked, mortified. I wanted to talk to him. And he didn’t make me wait too long. I heard him enter the room just then.
I rushed out to confront him, I held up the stained collar to him and asked him, ” What does this mean?”
He didn’t answer me at once, maybe he felt guilty, but I guess not. He looked away as dismissively as always. I wasn’t going to be subdued about it, if that’s what he wanted. I walked up in front of him to face him.
“Get out of my way.” he said shoving me with his hand. He didn’t handle me like a woman. Not ever.
I couldn’t help the pool of tears forming in my eyes. How I hate myself for that.
“Did that night mean nothing to you?” I asked naively.
He charged toward me like a bull. He put one hand on my shoulder and yanked me. How well I remember those eyes, staring into mine. He said through gritted teeth, ” Khushi Arnav Singh Raizada, you, and the time that I forcefully spend with you or even that night, none of it meant anything to me. You are absolutely N-O-T-H-I-N-G to me. Don’t go about getting a big head that Arnav Singh Raizada cares a damn about you.”
“But… you said… you said..” I stammered while looking at the ground, unable to face a man with so much of anguish and hatred for me.
But before I could complete my sentence he had stomped out of the room.
He said he loves me.
But it doesn’t mean anything to him.
I don’t know how I passed my last month in that house. It was the hardest. He never even looked at me again. I felt like, once we stepped into our room, I became invisible to him.
I didn’t see any more lipstick stains on his shirts anymore though. But he reminded me on the 29th day after 5 months of being “married” to each other, “You’ll leave tomorrow Khushi. I’ll tell my entire family the truth.”
I didn’t have the courage to face that. He would be late again I thought. I mentally prepared myself to pack and leave before he got home.
And I did, I left before he got back. He gave me plenty of time. He wasn’t home till midnight. And I don’t know when he must have gotten in. Maybe he had decided to re-visit his friend who had left that lipstick mark on his shirt.
I don’t know why I’ve let my thoughts wander to him as I await the most beautiful moment of my life. Maybe because the major role, however thoughtlessly, he had played in bringing it to me.
“Aaarghhh!” the pain just got stronger.
She smiled as the doctor handed to her the most angelic child ever. She was so beautiful. Khushi cradled her in her arms as she lay on the hospital bed. She looked at her with all the affection in the world. One sight of her, and all those thoughts in her head had cleared. None of it mattered.
She lowered her head to kiss her daughter on the forehead, and that’s when she noticed, she had his eyes. She had her father’s eyes.
Maybe, someday we’ll know, why I wasn’t meant for him.
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