Hello my loves,
I want to thank you all for the encouraging response that my previous work (my first ever post!) ‘Those dark nights’ received.
This one, ‘Lost Time’, is a short story of 2 parts and hopefully a slight upgrade!
Lots of love,
P.S. Your support is essential to me, be it appreciative or critical! Please let me know what you think about it.
Ragini was at the Annual Handicrafts Fair. A silver jhumka caught her eye. It was nothing like her usual choice. There was something different about it, something comforting almost. It reminded her of him.
‘That’s from our Smriti collection, Ma’am. Our girls have carved dainty designs on each one. So there’s no pair alike!’, the girl behind the stand said excitedly.
Ragini couldn’t let herself walk away from it as his words kept replaying in her mind. Two minutes later, she clutched the pouch of earrings and left the stall.
Her eyes watered and she couldn’t figure out why, yet again.
‘Why don’t these tears ever stop? Why am I still in pain?? Ugh.. I’ve done the right thing, then why can’t I just forget everything?’, she pondered along the road.
Her thoughts were brought to a stop by two burning lights and a deafening noise. She felt pain. Not the invisible burden she had felt earlier. This was a different kind of pain and she welcomed it.
Because for once in a long while, she knew why it hurt. And it didn’t feel like a vacuum or an emptiness. It was just very much present, very visible.
‘She’s stable at the moment. But we’re still going to monitor her condition for a while after she gains consciousness’, said the doctor.
‘But my wife.. she.. she’s going to be fine right?’, he mumbled.
‘Yes, Mr. Maheshwari’, Dr. Sahni assured him, ‘she’ll be perfectly fine in a couple of weeks at the most. Her injuries aren’t as bad as they seem. Don’t worry!’
Lakshya looked at her sweet face from where he sat, it was unmarred by the accident. Her chest rose and fell steadily as though she was only sleeping.
His lips curved into a slight smile. And he knew what she would say.
‘Lakshya! You know I can’t see you sad, don’t you?’, he heard her voice, in his head.
‘If you don’t open your eyes soon enough, I’ll definitely not be able to smile’, he said aloud.
He wiped away his tears and looked to the heavens. He wished for everything to just go back to normal, he wished that she would just tell him that she wanted to go back home, like always.
He stroked his chair and rose. He stood near the glass wall in his room, separating them and watched her.
This adjoining guest room, that he was in, was a luxury to the ICU patients’ relatives. But at that moment, he felt that he agreed one hundred percent with his wife.
‘What if they feel anxious or lonely?’, Ragini had asked him two years ago, looking up from one of his files.
‘Who?’, he asked absent-mindedly.
‘The relatives of the patients!’, she replied annoyed as though he was a child unable to understand universal facts.
‘Erm.. why.. would they feel lonely?’, he asked awaiting her tirade.
‘The visiting hours for relatives are short. And they can’t even sleep in the same room’, Ragini remarked.
‘Well, that’s the rule in every hospital right?’, he responded and looked through the file she had just handed him.
‘Just because something has always been done a certain way, we can’t guarantee that it’s the only right way to do it!’, she asserted.
Lakshya placed his file on the table and gave her his full attention.
‘Your point?’, he smiled at her interlocking his fingers.
‘How about an adjoining waiting area or room that has a direct view into the patients’ room? Just a one-way view. That way the relatives wouldn’t have to feel anxious to leave the patients alone’, she stated matter-of-factly.
He had taken her suggestion and tweaked the plan of their new hospital that day. Today he was thankful to her for it.
That was his Ragini, always trying to make everyone a little happier. She created smiles wherever she went. Light shone through her despite any darkness. Then why did she look away, when it came to his pain..
‘Mrs. Maheshwari, how are you feeling now?’, asked Dr. Sahni.
‘R.. Ragini’, she said throatily.
‘Yes yes! How are you feeling Ragini?’, he asked again with a smile.
Lakshya smiled at her response. He could see and hear her clearly. She always preferred people using her name, regardless of how large or small lives they led.
‘I feel exhausted,’ she said looking at her bandaged arm, ‘was I in an accident?’
‘Yes. Do you remember anything about it?’, continued the doctor.
‘I was walking to the car from the Handicrafts Fair. I should have been more careful. It was my fault’, she said with a grimace, trying to sit up straight.
‘What’s really broken?’, she asked.
‘Well, your head is hurt and you’ve fractured your right arm, the rest are minor injuries!’, he replied.
‘How long do I need to be here?’, she asked hopefully.
‘We can shift you from here today itself. Then we have to run a few tests. But you’ll need bed rest even after you’re discharged for a few more weeks to recuperate!’
‘Your husband is in the guest room next door. Should I call him in?’, he asked.
Ragini looked up to the doctor, her brows furrowed.
‘Who?’, she asked in confusion.
‘Mr. Lakshya Maheshwari, your husband. He’s in the adjoining room. Shall I ask him to come in?’, he asked.
Lakshya was watching her through the glass, his heart racing.
‘I.. I don’t understand. I’m.. I’m not married. I’m Ragini.. Ragini.. Gadodia’, she informed the doctor, ‘I think that you may have confused me for someone else!’
Lakshya felt the air leaving his lungs as though someone had punched him.
‘So would you please inform my family? You could probably check my phone for their contact number.’
‘Yes sure. We’ll do that. But, is anything else that you remember’, asked Dr. Sahni.
‘I purchased earrings at the fair, right before the accident. But I can’t remember anything else right now. My head really hurts!’, she said grimacing.
‘That’s alright. Please don’t worry. We’ll give you some meds to reduce the pain, alright?’, the doctor said placing a hand on her shoulder, helping her lay down.
Lakshya felt the wetness on his cheeks run down to dampen his shirt. Dr. Sahni had informed that there could be side-effects. But she couldn’t forget.. No.. she couldn’t.. She’s just playing with him, he consoled himself.
Sharmistha and Shekhar came in to see her.
‘Ragini.. Beta’, he placed a hand on her head.
Sharmistha’s eyes were flowing with tears.
Ragini slowly opened her eyes.
‘You are.. here?’, she asked.
He kissed her hair tenderly.
She felt tears well up in her own eyes.
‘How are you feeling now?’, Sharmistha asked her.
‘Better’, she replied.
She smiled through her tears and kissed Ragini.
Shekhar left to speak to the doctor and they were alone for a while.
‘Maa, I wanted to ask you something, if it’s alright’, she asked timidly.
‘Ask me Beta’, Sharmistha encouraged.
‘The doctor called me Mrs. Maheshwari. I felt that it was a familiar name. But I told him that it was a mistake. Do you know anyone by that name?’, she asked.
Sharmistha gaped at her question.
‘Ragini, you had been married to Lakshya Maheshwari for the past two years’, she answered.
Ragini noticed the past tense.
Sharmistha’s eyes teared up as she remembered Ragini’s disheveled state, ‘We still don’t know what happened between the both of you , but you decided to end your relationship and filed for divorce’, she informed Ragini.
‘I’m not her family’, Lakshya said gravely. His bloodshot eyes were the only indication of the terrible ordeal, otherwise he was calm and composed.
‘Is that why you stayed here till now?’, asked Swara angrily.
‘I’m leaving’, he said.
‘Yes of course! That’s what you do best!’, she said sarcastically.
Lakshya turned to her in rage.
‘I didn’t leave her. Nor will that ever happen! She wished to end this relationship. She sent me the divorce papers! So don’t you dare talk to me like you even understand..’, he said through clenched teeth, his shoulders shaking.
He left the guest room without another look.
Ragini was alone in the kitchen. He sneaked up behind her and kissed her cheek.
She was startled at his act. ‘Lakshya! What are you doing here? Please leave’, she said crossly.
‘How rude! You’re always ready to ask me to leave. And you didn’t even ask me whether I wanted anything!’, he sulked.
She smiled inwardly at his childlike behavior and turned towards him.
‘Ok tell me, do you want something?’, she asked folding her hands.
‘Ragini.. I can’t find that blue file that I was working on yesterday. I searched the whole room for it’, he said in exasperation.
She shook her head in disbelief and went to their room.
The file was in the drawer of the side table. She gave it to him.
‘I didn’t search there’, he said looking to the floor with a sheepish grin.
She raised his face with her fingers and kissed him on the nose to his surprise.
‘You looked irresistibly cute!’, she said in her defense and stuck her tongue out.
‘Really? How cute??’, he teased with a devilish glint in his eyes, cornering her to the wall.
He saw her blush at their closeness.
‘Now I can’t help it’, he said and pressed his lips to hers. She let out a harsh breath at his kiss, ‘Lakshya, please stop it’, and tried to wriggle out of his hold.
He captured her lips again and traced a pattern on her bare waist through her sari.
She clutched at his arm as he bit gently into her lower lip. A shiver ran through her spine and her nails dug into his arm. He sucked on her lip generously and pulled her closer to him, their chests touching.
His tongue grazed hers and he felt her melting in his arms.
He pulled back a little and their shallow breaths intermingled in that tiny space.
‘What was that for?’, she asked him breathless, with her eyes still closed and her chest heaving.
‘That, my love, was my way of showing gratitude to you for remembering every little thing about me!’, he said, their foreheads touching.
Ragini smiled, ‘You’re not that easy to forget, hubby!’
Lakshya wiped his face. That sweet memory brought tears to him now. His love, their relationship, her abandonment, Ragini no longer remembered anything.
‘A husband? Broken marriage?? Why doesn’t anything come to mind?’, tears of frustration pooled into her eyes as she shut them tight.
‘Ragini..’, she heard someone call out to her.
She wiped her eyes furiously and looked up. Her sister Swara stood flung herself into the room.
Ragini felt a sense of relief in her presence. She felt as though everything would finally be alright and smiled.
She always found solace in her arms. They broke away and suddenly Ragini felt the cold hospital air surround her.
‘When can I leave this place?’, she asked expectantly. ‘I don’t like the smell of hospitals’, she said lowering her eyes.
‘I know! I know! We can leave in a few hours’, Swara said with a faint smile.
Ragini looked the same except for that happy glow she used to have in her eyes, in Lakshya’s presence.
Lakshya couldn’t sleep at all that night.
‘I love you..‘, he thought tearfully, ‘just be fine again. Even if you don’t want to be with me anymore.’
He looked at the empty side of the bed, her side, and the cold sheets beside him; as he sank into another memory of Ragini.
He was working on his laptop late in their room, when he heard her groan next to him. He put away his things and saw her furrowed brows and trembling lips, in the nightlight. Her beautiful features were scrunched up in worry.
‘N.. no..’, she mumbled in her sleep, ‘L.. Lakshya..’
He had seen her toss and turn in her sleep. He moved closer to her and smoothed her brows with his fingers.
‘Shh.. it’s ok..’, he said and caressed her hair gently, ‘I’m right here, love.’
‘D.. don’t.. leave..’, she said, her face contorted in pain.
‘No bachha. I’ll never leave you’, Lakshya murmured tenderly and kissed her head.
Her breathing slowed down gradually as she moved into a deep sleep nuzzling her face into his warm embrace.
She couldn’t even sleep without him. How could she leave him and be happy? He remembered Swara’s words as she pleaded him to meet Ragini. If not for him, then for Ragini’s progress.
He made a mental note to meet her the next day.
Swara showed him to Ragini’s room.
She looked like an angel while she was sleeping. And he was reminded of the numerous times, he watched her sleep like this in his arms.
‘She was tossing and turning the whole night, as usual’, Swara said, ‘She’s probably under the influence of the sedatives right now.’
He walked into the room and sat near her.
Ragini stirred awake after a while and saw him gazing out the window. His face was passive, but his eyes held a lot of pain. He looked like someone who had aged too fast. The smile lines around his face seemed as though he was used to smiling.
He glanced at her and saw her gaze directed at him.
He was unable to control the surge of emotions that overtook him. Flashes of their stolen moments passed through his eyes. He wanted to gather her in his arms. And just never leave.
He glanced away to compose himself and gazed back at her. She had seen a longing in his eyes as if he wished to reach out to her.
But it was gone immediately and she couldn’t read him anymore.
‘Lakshya..’, she called throatily.
He clenched his fists and gave her a tight smile.
‘You look bored’, he said matter-of-factly.
She smiled at his statement. She noticed that he hadn’t made a comment on her health like everybody else.
‘I am. I wish that I could atleast get some fresh air’, she said resigned.
Lakshya got up and placed her sandals near the bed. He placed a hand on her shoulder to raise her from the bed. She sensed his touch and it felt like his hands were burning through her clothes. Blood ran into her cheeks as she realised their closeness. She could smell his musky cologne and it sent her heart racing.
Lakshya looked at her in concern, ‘Are you sure you feel alright for a walk?’
‘Yes!’, she said breathlessly and he nodded as though he was a little doubtful.
He helped her get down gently and held her to his side for support.
She peeked at him through her lashes. When he glanced at her, she looked away self-consciously.
They walked to the park behind her house and he sat her on a bench. The sun was shining on to her face so he shaded her eyes with his hand.
She looked up to him, ‘The sun hurts your eyes’, he said defensively. She smiled inwardly at his caring gesture.
‘How dare you set foot in my house?’, seething with anger, Shekhar approached them.
Ragini winced at his words and Lakshya held her a little closer.
‘Baba!’, Swara intervened, ‘I asked Lakshya to take her out for a little while.’
Shekhar turned to her enraged, ‘Swara! You allowed him in? You let him meet Ragini?? She has lost her memory. But what about you?? How can you forget all that he’s done to her?’
Swara tried to speak but he raised his palm, ‘Take her to her room right now. And I don’t want to hear another word from you!’
He shoved Lakshya violently, shutting the door at his dejected face.
Ragini was shocked at her father’s behavior. She had never seen Shekhar this angry in her life.
He even shut the door on Lakshya’s face. She felt her eyes tear up as she thought of Lakshya.
‘Swara, why is Papa so angry?’, she asked.
‘Ragini.. Baba holds Lakshya responsible for your state. I don’t know how right or wrong he is in his assumptions.
But there’s one thing that I can tell you for sure, you both have loved each other more than words can ever express, and I still see it in his eyes for you.’
Love. Could it be love what she had seen in his eyes today? Then why didn’t he say anything?
‘Lakshya wasn’t always like this, Ragini. He wasn’t so withdrawn or quiet. There could have been a misunderstanding between the both of you. But that’s something only you would know.’
‘Swara, I just can’t seem to remember anything, however hard I try’, she was close to tears.
‘Then you need to listen to your heart. Do you feel like you can.. trust him?’, Swara asked.
‘I don’t know. One second he’s the caring husband and the next an unreadable person! I can’t seem to figure what he really is’, Ragini complained.
‘Erm.. I have a plan. But it’s a little tough’, Swara said tentatively.
He looked back at the screen of his phone. It was an unknown number. But he could identify that voice anywhere, any day.
‘Ragini..’, he responded.
‘Lakshya, would you come pick me up?’, she asked.
‘Where are you right now?’, he asked in surprise.
‘At Ramu Kaka’s shop. It’s near..’
‘I’m coming’, he interrupted her, ’15 minutes.’
And he was halfway through the door.
‘What did he say?’, asked Swara eagerly.
Ragini looked up at her confused, ‘How does he know Ramu Kaka’s shop?’
‘Ragini, he knows every little thing related to you!’, she laughed.
‘He said that he’ll be here in 15 mins, but Swara I’m really scared. What about Papa?’, she asked nervously.
‘You leave all that to me. Your excuse will arrive in 3.. 2.. 1!’, she winked and pointed to a man walking towards their house in a lawyer’s coat.
‘That’s Mishra uncle’s son. As per the court order, that we received two weeks ago, you’re supposed to stay with your husband for the coming 6 months. Now he’s going to tell Baba that you or your family members can be jailed if you don’t follow it!’
Ragini looked at her open-mouthed, ‘Swara, you’re crazy!’
‘No no. Just crazy smart!’, she laughed.
‘But what do I tell Lakshya? I mean, what if he doesn’t take me home??’, she asked anxiously.
‘Sorry Ragini! Now that’s totally up to you. I can’t help with that. So all the best! And take care of yourself. Muah..’, she handed Ragini her bag and left.
‘Swara.. oh God! What do I do?’, she muttered.
He stopped the car in front of the shop and hurried up to her.
Her face looked tensed. And he saw her luggage bag with her.
‘Would you.. take me with you?’, she asked.
Lakshya staggered a bit at her question. She wanted to go back home with him. No that’s probably not true. She may have had some other reason. Whatever it maybe, he couldn’t leave her unsafe at this time of the night.
He picked up her bag and gestured her to enter the vehicle. Ragini sat in the car.
She couldn’t believe her luck. He was taking her with him, just like that. No questions asked. She secretly hurrayed!
Just then she saw him move closer to her. She looked into his eyes and her heart skipped a beat as his hand grazed her arm. She held her breath as the gap between them lessened. Ragini was lost deep in her thoughts as he adjusted her seatbelt and buckled it.
She left the breath that she’d been holding in and air rushed into her lungs. Just then, his familiar clean scent of musk and citrus hit her. She closed her eyes and savoured it. She felt calm in his presence as she recognised his scent. She had probably spent too much time with him, if she could remember it so clearly, she thought.
Ragini looked out the window trying to clear her head of his thoughts.
Lakshya didn’t understand why he had set off immediately as she called. It was almost like how he had picked her up last time.
He had gotten off the car and saw her with her bag.
‘What are you doing here? And what’s with the bag??’, he had asked her.
‘That.. That.. Lakshya please get in the car, my feet hurt!’, she sulked.
‘Now tell me what happened!’, he said after they were both seated.
‘Actually, Swara had emotionally blackmailed me into visiting them. I was annoyed with you because you didn’t send the driver to collect your lunch as you were too busy. I decided to come stay at home and I was angry so I came without informing you. But halfway through, I missed you. And I ended up calling you’, she said remorsefuly.
He couldn’t control himself and burst out laughing to her chagrin. She was so cute! He just couldn’t take it.
Lakshya cracked a smile at that memory. Ragini noticed his smile and found her lips curving into one herself.
Ragini was looking around the room, when she saw him take his pillows to the couch. She felt bad for intruding his space.
‘Lakshya.. You can take the bed. I’ll sleep on the couch’, she offered.
‘No no.. The couch is really uncomfortable’, he replied.
‘Then you shouldn’t sleep there too. Come on’, she said patting the bed. He looked at her wide-eyed. ‘It’s big enough for both of us’, she reassured.
He had laid down on his side of the bed staring up at the ceiling and felt glad to be with her. The memory of those nights when they had slept off entangled in each other’s arms came back to him vividly.
He felt her body heat radiate towards him so he shut his eyes tight, and clenched his fists so that he wouldn’t be tempted to reach out to touch her.
Ragini woke up alone. She found no trace of him in the room. She felt a little disappointed and trudged into the washroom.
Getting dressed was a struggle on its own, as her right arm was still in the cast, but she managed it. She found her sindoor on the dressing table but she couldn’t wear it without moving her fractured arm.
She heard the door open as she was contemplating what to do. Lakshya entered with a breakfast tray and placed it on the coffee table.
‘I need your help’, she said to him, looking at him through the mirror.
He walked up to her and she pointed to the sindoor.
‘You don’t have to do all this Ragini. There’s really no need anymore’, he said and held her elbow, steering her away from the dressing table.
‘What do you mean?’, she asked astounded.
‘When there’s no meaning to this relationship, why would you want to still wear these signs of marriage?’, he asked painfully.
‘I don’t know! I really can’t understand why I wanted to break this relationship! I’m really trying to work things out now, Lakshya. Can’t you just give us a chance? Why can’t we begin again??’, Ragini broke down in tears.
Lakshya held her in his arms. He patted her head consoling her. He had always thought that he wouldn’t budge from his decision to move on from their relationship. But he couldn’t see her cry. He couldn’t ignore her feelings or wishes; not then, when she had demanded for a divorce and not now, when she wanted to come back to him!
P.P.S. Please tell me if I bored you to death or if you liked/disliked any specific part. Thanks everybody! All love!