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Soumya sat up with a jerk. She looked terrified. Rudra stared straight at her and said, “Would you rather come and sit here to talk or should I come there?”
Soumya looked at the bed and immediately got up. She looked at Rudra nervously, then went and sat on the couch at the other end.
“Where have you been?You look tired.” Rudra asked in a carefully controlled voice as he looked at her.
“Here and there. Just walking around. I needed to think and you were not giving me time or space for it.” she said wiping the tears that rolled down her cheeks.
Rudra saw her trembling hands and her tensed face and cursed himself for putting her in this state. He got up to sit next to her, “Soumya…” Rudra had just started to speak but alarmed at his closeness, Soumya crouched back.
Rudra saw the fear on her face and could not believe how afraid she was of him. Aishani’s words rang in his ears , “I am sure if you talk to her with sensitivity, things will get better.” Suddenly all of his anger disappeared and he felt a deep sense of affection towards Soumya, that he failed to recognize fully. “She means a lot to me and I have to somehow remove that tension from her face.” he thought to himself.
“Soumya! It’s me. How can you be so afraid of me? I just want to talk to you about yesterday. Come on!” he said frustrated.
Soumya sat straight. ” You are not the Rudra I used to know. You always pulled my leg and made fun of me but stayed in a limit and were basically kind. But yesterday…”
“I want to explain…” said Rudra
“What’s there to explain. You are used to always having your own way.You have been pampered by every one. You got angry that I opposed you so you insulted me in a way that you thought was the worst possible way to insult a girl. You told me that I look like crap but you would go to any length to teach me a lesson. How do you expect me to behave with you?”
“That’s not why I …” Rudra was taken aback at her interpretation of his actions. He had been afraid that she would think he had done it out of ego but somehow the way she said it sounded so much worse.
Rudra wiped the tears that had escaped his eyes. Soumya looked surprised as he started speaking in a shaky voice.
“First of all, I am sorry. I am very sorry for what I did. It’s true that I did it out of anger, but not to satisfy my ego or because I am always used to having my way. Bhaiya does buy me whatever I want but I am not a disrespectful person Soumya. My Dadi ensured that. I respect women except that I am a flirt and run after pretty girls. I am twenty two, I have been the youngest kid in this house until Saahil arrived, I am childish, and I am foolish, but I am not someone you should be afraid of. You have forgotten we got married, I can’t. It bothers me.
I feel bonded to you in some way and I don’t like it because I don’t want to be bonded to anyone like that at such a young age. But what’s confusing is that I can’t let go of it either. I could not take it the way you talked to me.I felt mocked and disrespected so I foolishly retaliated. Never in my life have I behaved like that with anyone. Please forgive me.I can’t stand it that you are so angry with me. I am so used to your smiling face that I can’t do anything until you smile again. I feel like I am sick when you are so sad. You are the only girl I have ever known who makes me feel like this. I think I deeply care about you. You really mean a lot to me. Please forgive me.”
Soumya looked at his red eyes and agonized face. She felt some of her anger melting away.
Looking at the softening in her expressions Rudra felt encouraged. He said further, “I have made many jokes about your size and yesterday I also insulted you about it . But I am foolish. What do I know about real beauty? All I know is that there is no other face than yours that makes me feel like I have seen an angel, and there is no other smile than yours that makes me feel like all is well in this world or will be well. Forget about what I said, forgive what I did. Let’s be friends again. Please.”
Soumya wiped the tears that had been flowing steadily. She swallowed back a few times before she managed to speak,
“You hurt me very badly Rudra. It’s hard for me to believe that you respect me after what you did yesterday. Why did you react like that? You could have yelled, fought, whatever. Why did you insult me like that?”
“I could not stand the things you were saying and how carelessly you were talking about our relationship and I found your talk about tying rakhi very inappropriate and insulting.”
“What relationship? We are casual friends. What made you so angry that you did that? You could have just yelled.The only conclusion I can draw now is that you hate me like you have never hated anyone before so you did what you have never done before”
“Or love you like I have never loved anyone before?” Rudra mumbled and then was shocked at what he had said.
“What? What did you say. Say it out loud.”
“I mean, besides my family , maybe you are the only person for whom I have cared so deeply so my feelings and reactions were also on the stronger side than what it is with other girls.” he tried trying to cover up his slip of tongue.
The mention of other girls incensed Soumya and her face went red with fury.
Rudra was taken aback at her expression. ” What made you react the way you did and do all that sister talk and bring in your size and weight. You used to say such talks don’t bother you. Then why did you bring it up out of nowhere when I was talking about something completely unrelated. And, by the way, you think it’s OK to constantly call someone duffer and dumbbell?”
Soumya’s mouth fell open at his stark questions. She became very quiet and stared at her palms blinking back tears. Rudra became nervous again. “OK. You can call me anything you want. Sorry. Just forgive me this time and let’s be friends again. I can’t live without you…I mean without your smiling face… it’s very hard for me to go on with life while you are so angry and hurt.”
Soumya sighed heavily, then said, “Look Rudra, I am not a spiteful person and I can’t hold grudges. And I do know in my heart that you are good. So, I forgive you. But I can’t forget. I am also just twenty and all that happened between us and that is happening is very confusing and scary for me too. But I have seen many situations in my life that I had no control over and the two choices were to either sit and cry and be in a depression or move on and care about my loved ones. So when we went through that accidental marriage that scared the wits out of me, I chose to move on and focus on my purpose in life. My career is important to me. I want to support my Aai in future and for that I need to study hard. All this is taking up too much of my energy.I have decided that I will finish my final exams and then transfer back to my old college in Pune. As it is I miss my Aai a lot. Also, how long will I stay like this in someone else’s house. It doesn’t look nice. Once I am out of sight, you will forget that accident of a marriage.”
Rudra looked aghast at her. “What!!?? How can you go back anywhere? You are supposed to be here. This is where you live. It’s your house too. This is your family. I don’t want my room back. I give it to you forever.”
“No Rudra.” said Soumya seriously, “I have given this a lot of thought and have come to the conclusion that it will be best if I go away. For me and for you. My decision is final. I will send an application form to my old college next week to begin the transfer process. Now can I please get some rest. I have walked around all morning and afternoon. I desperately need to lie down.” Then thinking something she said, “And Rudra, you are not a duffer or dumbbell or any such mean names I have called you. You are intelligent, sensitive , and caring. If you still consider me a friend I want to tell you that it is high time that you figured out your purpose in life and then pursued it. I did talk very arrogantly yesterday and although your retaliation was not justified, I am sorry too.”
Rudra wanted to talk more but he saw her exhausted state and decided against it. He was exhausted himself.He nodded and got up to leave. His heart was sinking steadily as he walked towards the door. Just before he left, he turned around and said, “I will not let you go.”
Soumya looked at him leave and close the door behind him as he left. Her head spun and she felt completely overwhelmed by the situation she was in.Her brain and her body were both so exhausted that within five minutes she fell asleep.
Once home Aishani went to her study. This was her sanctuary. Shikhar came in behind her with her bag, “Do you want this upstairs or downstairs?”
“I’ll stay in the study. It will be convenient. Leave the bag by the bed.”
Shikhar went in and kept the bag inside. ” I talked to Sushila. For some extra payment, she is willing to help out and stay overnight after the evening kitchen-work and cleaning to assist you if needed.. If you want I will fix that.”
Aishani nodded absentmindedly, ” Yes that will be good. Thanks.” She felt very lonely and missed Om terribly. She went and sat on her recliner and looked outside the window. A sudden sadness crept all over her and tears rolled down her cheeks.”
“Aashi, I’ll get your medicines out and give them to you according to your prescription.” said Shikhar looking into her bag. He found the medicines and prescription in a clear plastic bag and took it out. Walking over to the recliner, he asked her if she needed any painkillers and stopped short looking at her wet cheeks. “Aashi! Are you OK? Is your foot hurting very badly?” he said kneeling down beside her.
Aishani looked at him weakly then giving up her fight, she hugged him and wept quietly. The bag of medicines fell from Shikhar’s hand. Completely stunned, he gently patted her head and let her cry. After a few moments, Aishani pulled back. Shikhar wiped her tears and saw his kid sister sitting there.Visions of her in pain, whimpering and terrified floated in front of his eyes again and he felt tormented by them. However, his personal demons were less troubling today because she had hugged him after over two years today. “Aashi, baby, do you want me to stay here or leave? I’ll do what you want me to do.” Shikhar asked completely shaken.
” I always wanted you to stay. I never wanted you to leave. I had no one besides you. I was helpless without you. I was completely used to your love, attention, care, and security. In spite of all the turmoil at home, I grew up cheerful and happy because you were my shield. You protected me from her abandonment and his vicious attacks. And then…you left me when I needed you most. You said you had a life of your own to lead and you couldn’t spend your life worrying about me. If you left me then, why do you hesitate now. Leave. This is just a foot injury. I endured far worse without you.” Aishani was out of breath from her long speech which she had delivered while sobbing continuously. She looked spent as she leaned back against the recliner.
Shikhar pushed a button on the side and the footrest sprang open so that she could lie down completely. He covered her with a blanket and said, “Rest Aashi. I made the biggest mistake of my life four years ago. I’ll never repeat that mistake. The only reason I will ever abandon you again will be if I die. I accept your hatred as I fully deserve it. But I will replace that pain in your eyes with love and happiness. Hopefully that will be the most valuable gift from your big brother to you. Hate me forever Aashi if that gives you peace and I will always love you like I always have.” Shikhar looked at her streaming eyes and wiped her cheeks again. There was no more hatred in her eyes. Just immense pain and he could clearly see love peeking from behind that pain.
Shikhar felt a new determination in himself. She had finally done what the therapist had wanted her to do. She had broken her silence towards him and had voiced her resentment against him. Her bitterness was beginning to flow out making way for sweetness. She had moved out of the stagnant state she had been in for the past two years. And his gut feeling told him that there was only one person responsible for this miracle…Omkaara Singh Oberoi.
After spending the entire afternoon working in the study, Om finally came out when Priyanka came to call him for tea. He went out and saw every one gathered up in the living room. They looked at him anxiously and he realized that they were worried about him. Om made an effort to be cheerful and jovial for their sake.
Soon it was time for dinner. Once it was over, Soumya quietly went back to her room. Rudra watched her leave and walked to Om’s room deep in thought. Om went back to his study while Shivaay observed him carefully.
In her room, Anika came out of the washroom fresh and ready for bed. She saw Shivaay sitting on the bed leaning against the headboard, a book open in front of him as he stared ahead at nothing. He was clearly deep into some thought. She tiptoed to the bed and quietly went and sat next to him. Shivaay didn’t budge and kept thinking deeply. Leaning against him she placed her right hand on his chest. Shivaay immediately felt a release of tension and let out a deep breath of relief. He put his right arm around her shoulders and squeezed her close to him for comfort. “You were right as usual. But is she good for him? She seems to have some issues.”
“That is the reason why they are so comfortable around each other Shivaay.” said Anika, resting her head comfortably on his right shoulder. “Om also had major issues but he has overcome most of them and she is probably yet to do that. Something tells me that Om is the medium for her release. And doing that gives Om the ultimate satisfaction. They have an implicit trust, an unspoken understanding, and an inherent sense of quiet comfort around each other. We just need to support him. Their destiny will take care of the rest. I have given the job of building and decorating the restaurant to Shikhar and Aishani.” she smiled.
Shivaay looked at her amazed, “My God! Here I am still understanding the situation and you already have everything including the solution figured out.”
Anika laughed, “It’s Om, Shivaay. He helped bring us back together and gave us the gift of lifelong happiness. I’ll do what I can to ensure his happiness.”
“What plans do you have for me madam mastermind?” asked Shivaay comically.
Anika smiled a devilish smile. ” I have big plans for you that will keep you awake at night, make you work hard, and give you a tough time.” she said as she lazily moved her right hand randomly.
Shivaay breathed in sharply and turned towards her hugging her with both hands. “Better get to work then I guess! You know I am not afraid of hard work!” he said in a low raspy voice.
Om worked till late in his study. He had finished all of his work for the presentations next day. He came out into the quiet and lonely hall and gradually walked up the stairs. Sleep was far away from his eyes. He passed his bedroom and went to his studio. The memory of the previous night hit him hard as soon as he went in and he could almost feel her vibes. He walked to his work bench and picked up his brush to put finishing touches on the Ganesha idol. As he painted , events from the previous night kept coming to his mind. He could not help but glance at the chair and ottoman next to his work bench. They were in exactly the same position as last night.Om recalled what had occurred there the night before, and he felt a storm raging within him.
He remembered how her skin felt in his hands. He remembered his conversation with her. All of a sudden, Om walked to a different worktable and got out a large piece of clay from a covered box. He put some water on the clay and kneaded it to make it pliable. Then feverishly, he started to mould the clay with both hands.
Lying in her bed, eyes open, looking out of her study window , Aishani gazed at the stars visible from it. She felt restless but at the same time she felt at peace. It was as if she had undergone some kind of detoxification after having spoken to Shikhar. Some knot inside her had been released and she felt a great sense of relief. She now remembered the incidents from the previous day. All of a sudden she felt a stirring deep within her. She recalled how his hands felt on her skin moulding her as if she was soft pliable clay. Just the memory of him drove her in a state of both longing and ecstasy. Another conflict that he produced in her.Her entire being shuddered as she felt a strange sensation as if he were stroking and moulding her into a brand new entity even at that moment. “He must be in his studio working.” she thought to herself. In the dead of the night, she whispered softly, “Om”, his name a prayer on her lips and in her heart.
Thanks for reading Everyone. Please comment if you can 🙂