ArHi Drabble: Don’t Let Go

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A/N:  It was  the graphic above that inspired me to write this drabble. The graphic’s mine and the copyright is my tumblr url. The drabble’s pretty random actually, but let me know what you think 🙂

 

Don’t Let Go

Her hands are frantic, clutching his shirt with frenzied urgency as she loses herself in his choking embrace. He’s here, he’s really here. Her heart beats in staccato, her breath in short gasps because this is so surreal, because he’s here and he’s holding her as tightly as she is holding him and because there is no hate this time, and she thinks her heart might explode from the onslaught of emotion. I love you, Khushi. The enormity of his words still rests between them but she thinks they can deal with that later because he’s right here, holding her just like that; he’s safe and they’re together and in that moment she thinks she might take on the world with him by her side.

A part of her wonders if he will still hurt her, but it is dispelled when he buries his face in the crook of her neck and she thinks that maybe every moment they’ve shared was meant to lead up to this; the feeling that pounds in her bloodstream, the way he murmurs her name over and over again because he’s in awe too, because they never thought they would live this one out. But they have and the realization makes her slightly breathless. She takes in a breath and the scent is all Arnav. Not even days of captivity can mask it and she breathes him in, once, twice, thrice, over and over again until she’s slightly sure that he’s not letting go; never letting go if she has her way.

She tries to speak but her voice is nothing but a choked whisper, cracking in time with her tears. Don’t leave again, she thinks and his hold tightens as if to say, Never.

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Aside

Hi guys! So I’d originally thought this would be like a blog where I post my thoughts etc apart from my writing. Turns out its not LOL. I’m going to keep this only for my writing and nothing else! I do all the other stuff on my tumblr (Here) so yeah. As for Embers Burn Bright, thank you for the comments here and on India Forums 🙂 I’ve only written up to chapter 1 yet and I will post the story once I’ve got a large enough chapter bank, which is very far away lmao.

In other news, I have my SAT on 2nd June, pray for me LOL 😉

xoxo

Hi guys! So I’…

Embers Burn Bright : Prologue

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A/N: Hello! This is an ArHi FF I’ve been working on. I’m just posting a prologue to see the feedback! 🙂 I will be posting the story when I’m done writing it because I don’t have time for regular updates at the moment LOL. I hope you guys like it ❤ I haven’t added this in the index yet because this will probably undergo a lot of changes/editing once I finish the entire story! x

Prologue: Two Solitudes

She hears the familiar crunch of gravel and the soft footsteps that have become a part of her routine now. 7 breaths and 5 footsteps later she finds him sitting there, the distance between them big enough to make them strangers but small enough to reach out, if they felt like. She turns her head infinitesimally and watches him look into the distance, wondering what he saw there that made it worthwhile.

After 2 years of this she has come to a conclusion. Patient number 70 was interesting. Sometimes she watches him well into the night, never saying anything. He never looks back, his eyes are glassy, unfocused, as if he’s looking but he’s not really there. She watches him to forget her own reasons of coming out here. She watches him because she is jealous. Because in the hours he watches the horizon, he is at peace. So much so, that she wishes she could muster the strength and cross the chasm between them and maybe watch what he watches. And then maybe she will be at peace too. But then again, peace has eluded her for 5 years; this one shouldn’t be any different.

She fingers the worn out bracelet on her hand. She knows what it says, she has been trying to convince herself of it since the time she has been here. Patient number 17. Manic depressive.

She huffs derisively. It started with depressive and somewhere along 5 years it turned into her being bipolar. As if she didn’t have enough shit in her life to begin with. Pinching the bridge of her nose she breathes in and out, almost hearing the voice of her counselor, telling her to inhale and exhale to reign in her emotions. Fucking bitch.

Still, she continues breathing deeply. Bitch she may be, but she knows her job, she concedes. She rests her chin on her knees and closes her eyes.

“When are you coming home?”

“3 days more, baby!”

“I miss you. And Aryan too. Is he okay? You didn’t let him overeat at the wedding, did you?”

“we miss you too. Er he might have eaten a little over his usual intake…”

“Jay Malhotra. What did I tell you about watching what Aryan eats?” her voice hardens dangerously, although there is an undercurrent of playfulness that only her husband of 7 years can detect.

“Aryan is going to be fine, you worry too much, jaan.”

“I have to…look what happens when I leave the worrying to you!”

“Shut up!” he manages to sound petulant over the phone and Khushi laughs, a ringing, boisterous laugh. She can’t wait for her family to come home; it’s been a lonely week.

“I love you. Come home soon, okay?”

“I love you too. We should be there soon, the train’s stopped for a bit.”

“Okay, then. Take care, hmm?”

“Always.”

–ooOoo–

Four words stand out in the morning paper, the next day. Train. Crash. No survivors. She doesn’t remember the spilt coffee on the carpet. She doesn’t hear the phone ringing. All she thinks of, is Jay. Aryan. Dead. And then it hits her and she cries. She cries and she never stops.

 

Her eyes fly open and she feels quiet tears running down her cheek. It is a different memory each day. They dance in front of her eyes, always there, and always out of reach, mocking her, taunting her, reminding her that she is alone and nothing can change that. She doesn’t bother wiping her tears, it doesn’t matter anyway. The only person who has seen them has never spoken to her. She gets up, wipes her sweaty palms on her faded kurta and walks a slow pace back to her room. She pauses for a bit when the brightly lit board catches her eye. Maharani Shanti Devi Psychiatric Hospital. She lets herself have a moment of self-pity. She is young, alone and mentally ill. Pathetic, really.

Her eyes flit back to the man still sitting at the pier. He is still looking ahead. She turns around and walks back to her room. Somewhere in the recesses of her mind she thinks that knowing Patient number 70’s name would be nice.

——————————–

ArHi OS: Stay

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Stay

“You’re breaking up with me.” Her whisper broke through the tense silence, her voice coming out mangled and torn; she really hadn’t thought it’d end like this. She nodded, trying to comprehend his words, wrap her head around them. It hurt her that after all this time he would still do this and that he couldn’t make himself to trust her. She felt like screaming; this was so unfair. She’d given her all to this relationship and he had no right, no right to end it, to finish it like this; through stumbled words and false promises. She blinked back her tears and tried to rein herself in; she was on the precipice of a breakdown, this was agony.

He swallowed the lump in his throat, trying to ignore the deafening silence in the wake of her words. The cut through him, his insides screamed at him to stop this. Everything about this screamed “wrong” but he had to do this; he had to get through this. He willed himself to focus, trying not to let his tears foray. He hadn’t said the actual words, but as usual she’d read between the lines; figured out the meaning. And when her voice had cracked, his gut twisted and took everything in him to control his urge to protect her, shield her, keep her away from anything that hurt her. He’d done the right thing by breaking up, it would’ve hurt more later.

She looked in his eyes, trying to gauge his emotions, hoping to see something; anything. But he was so good at this. At obscuring his emotions when he wanted to. It’d taken her a year of friendship and three years of being his girlfriend to realize something. Arnav Singh Raizada was synonymous to complicated. She didn’t blame him though; with parents like his anyone would be fucked up to their saturation point. She knew he had little faith in long-term relationships and that was the reason behind this break up. Not the shit he’d fed her as a reason for the break up. College relationships don’t last…different careers…wanted different things in life. Bullshit. She knew he was terrified of having to maintain a long distance relationship while they worked on their careers. She knew he was afraid it’d hurt too much later so a clean break was better. She wanted to tell him that it’d be okay, that she had enough faith in their relationship for both of them, that she loved him, but she couldn’t possibly do that when he shut down like this. They had the real thing, why didn’t he get that? She wished he’d take that step forward and atleast try to trust her. The longing burned in her, her throat constricting. She hated that she couldn’t reach out to him, that there was always this one part of himself that he hid from her and that no matter what she did it never came out. Maybe it was better to let go.

He watched her hunched posture, the way her hands gripped her forearms, white with the force they applied. He hated himself for what he’d done. For a fleeting moment he’d wondered if she was crying but she wasn’t. He knew she was strong enough to not collapse in front of him. He wished he could take it all back.

She drew in a deep breath; the silence had stretched long enough. She turned to face him and saw his gaze sear her. Her breath hitched, this was too difficult. Looking inside her she grabbed the final reserve of strength.

He looked at her, his head spinning, his heart beating fast in the most painful of ways. He wished he could stop her, he wished someone would push him to end this madness. He closed his eyes when he felt her lips on his cheek for the briefest instant. A drop of her tears splashed on his cheek and the shuffling of shoes told him she was walking away. The anguish lacerated him, made his heart spasm and everytime he breathed a dull ache followed. He remembered everything, all the times he’d spent with her, her ringing laugh, the way she squirmed under his hold when he tickled her, the way happiness seemed tangible when he was with her; everything. It hurt him physically to see her walk away. What had he been thinking? He couldn’t possibly live without her; it’d be like slow torture. Panic took over him, his brow wet with perspiration and the fear that he had just let her go forever. He was nothing, nothing without her. His need for was too strong; it overpowered his fear of anything else.

She turned back when she heard his voice pierce the quiet as he called out her name. His anguished tone propelled her to turn around. She didn’t bother hiding her tears as they ran ceaselessly down her face. Why was he doing this? Why was he making this so much more painful than it already was? She hated that she couldn’t deny him anything, that she loved him so much. She saw the mad, frenzied look in his eyes, did he regret letting go? She didn’t dare to ignite the flicker of hope, lest it should turn into an all consuming fire that ravaged her. She saw him walk towards her purposefully, his eyes losing the madness bit by bit as they filled with flecks of caramel once more.

He looked at her, her face wet with tears. He winced at what he’d done and walked faster towards her, he had to make her listen. He jogged the last few steps, standing close to her, almost touching as he looked back at her.

Her breaths came fast and shallow, she felt like running away. He looked more calm than he ever had and she closed her eyes for a bit before opening them only to see his eyes misting as the walls came down in a pandemonium of destruction. She saw him destroying them bit by bit, as he stood there rigidly, herculean in his efforts to let go of his demons. She didn’t dare to believe what she saw; it was too much to take in. She stood there motionless, having no idea what to do as his eyes filled up. She saw the conflict in his eyes, saw just how hard it was for him to let go. She knew then, that he’d begun to let go, that he was willing to give them a chance, that he loved her too much to see her walk away.

So when he whispered “Stay” a centimeter away from her lips, she whispered a yes. And when he kissed her, she flung her arms around him.

–ooOoo–

AR OS: The Paradigm Shift

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The Paradigm Shift

She snuggled into her coat just a little bit more, as the biting wind whiplashed her face. The fairy lights, that they had so painstakingly put on, twinkled even as tendrils of sunlight whispered through the amethyst sky. Riddhima passed a faint smile in a general direction but the truth was, she was hurting. The place that had once reverberated with their laughter was now nothing but a fetid cesspool of memories that made her heart ache, the sense of loss almost choking her.

The soft murmurs of commiseration enveloped her and the all too familiar lump in her throat made it impossible for her to respond. She was mechanical, robotic, even. Her replies were laconic to the point of rudeness, but no one blamed her. She took in one more unbearably painful deep breath as she struggled with her overflowing emotions.

She looked at her husband a few feet away, the same brusqueness marked his actions too. They were both bereaved and although they had planned this, months ago, neither of them was prepared for it. Riddhima looked at the medley of people, their hushed whispers of condolences wrapping around the gathering like a shroud. She looked absentmindedly at the specks of dust dancing in front of her eyes and in no time her eyes had teared up, her heart clenching unpleasantly with pain, her control almost shattered. And just when a tear slipped out, hanging dangerously on the eyelashes of her kohl-lined eyes, he was there, wiping it off with his thumb, an identical tear vivid in his own blue eyes.

“No crying, remember?”

His voice, thick with his own anguish brought her out of her musings and she hastily blinked the tears back, even as she wiped his tear before it fell. This was a promise they had given her and if nothing, they’d honor this.

They stood together, hand in hand, acknowledging the condolences, the hand-squeezes, the sympathetic smiles, not once wavering in their control.

His warm hand, holding her small one caused awareness to seep in. The lilting notes of the music did nothing to help her composure and she tuned it out, lest she cried again. She willed herself to focus on her surroundings. The gushing noise from the waves and the salty smell of sea air revived her to some extent and she found in herself a small reserve of strength, to go on with the rest of it.

To an outsider it probably looked like a soiree, she mused. Minus the somber air, of course. No one had worn black, Anokhi had vehemently disagreed to it. She saw faint, reminiscing smiles on people’s faces and she was glad. Another one of Anokhi’s wishes was fulfilled. The incessant tapping on her shoulder jolted her out of her thoughts.

“Riddhima!” his concerned voice made its way through her and she apologized.

“I was lost in thought, sorry.”

He murmured an affectionate “It’s okay.” Before making her face the projection. “Baby, look. Anokhi’s friends have prepared a video. Come, we’ll go sit, okay?”

She nodded, looking at him with apprehension. A video? She wasn’t sure if she could stand a video, it was too painful. He blinked reassuringly and some of her fear evaporated. She wondered how he did it. He was in as much pain as she was, yet he was so strong. Giving his hand an affectionate squeeze she sat down beside him. The video started playing and almost instantly she was enwreathed in memories.

She sat there, holding her bundle of joy in her fatigued arms. She was her perfect thing. Riddhima hadn’t known that something would trounce over her love for Armaan, but her baby girl, their baby girl, took her breath away. Her tiny hands fisted her mother’s little finger and unshed tears of happiness sparkled in Riddhima’s eyes. This was why she’d born the pain. Their baby girl, was their miracle. She looked at him looking at the two of them with unabashed love pouring from every inch of his gaze. She motioned him to come closer and hold her. The fear which was ultimately submerged by awe in his eyes was a moment that would forever be etched in her memory. He held both mother and daughter close, savoring the moment. At that moment, she opened her baby eyes and looked at her parents, her eyes widening with every passing second. In that instant, they knew they’d chosen the perfect name for her. She was their special baby. “Anokhi Armaan Malik” they whispered, as he snuck a chaste kiss on her lips before the nurse came in.

 

They’d finished cleaning up, Anokhi’s seventh birthday party had been a grand success. “Moooom?” “Daaaaad?”

“We’re in the living room, baby!” He smiled as she ran towards them, hugging them tightly. “That was the best birthday ever, Mom! Thank You!”

Riddhima smiled at her bubbly daughter, kissing her forehead. She watched as he settled Anokhi on his lap. “Where’s our return gift?” he asked her mischievously. “What return gift?” She watched the father-daughter duo revel in the moment and smiled, shaking her head. He was such a kid when it came to her. “You gave all your friend’s return gifts, where’s mine and mom’s?” Anokhi laughed, the tinkling sound filling the house with warmth. “I’m your return gift daddy! See you’ve got the best return gift of them all!”

As Riddhima returned with hot chocolate for everyone, she laughed when she saw him tickling her even as tears of mirth poured out of their daughter’s eyes.

 

“Mr. Malik your daughter has Lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes. Typically, it’s a solid tumor of lymphoid cells….symptoms are fever…anorexia…extreme weight loss…thankfully it’s the beginning…radiation or chemotherapy will work…”

The doctor continued to speak, but Riddhima had frozen at “Lymphoma”. She wanted this to be a bad dream. It couldn’t be true, they had done nothing to deserve this. What had turned out to be a check-up for extreme fever for Anokhi, had morphed into a full-fledged nightmare for them. She looked at her baby girl, sleeping on the hospital bed, the fluids feeding her intravenously. It agonized her to see her daughter like that, among needles and bottles of glucose. She turned to her husband, the doctor had left them to deal with the blow. She’d sobbed ceaselessly into his shirt, staining it with her tears while he buried her face into the crook of her neck, letting the pain out. She’d cried for quite a while until they were both ready. Their daughter was eleven, she didn’t have to go through this. They were ready to fight. Fight for their daughter’s life.

 

“They said it would go away mom, the doctor promised!” Riddhima held her, helplessness adorning every part of her features as her daughter cried in her embrace. The cancer had relapsed and there wasn’t much chance of it going away now. She looked at her husband, he was discussing further treatment for their daughter and she was happy she had him. He had been her pillar of strength, Riddhima didn’t know what she would do, who she would be, if not for Armaan.

“I’m only fifteen mom, I don’t want to die, please!” Try as she may, to control them, the sobs made their way out. She couldn’t imagine it. Anokhi couldn’t die. Not now, not like this. She felt Armaan take them both in a rib-crashing hug as the three of them came to terms with yet another obstacle. She looked into his cerulean eyes, as they winced, each time a sob cut through Anokhi’s petite frame.

 

“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” The roar of the waves near their beach cottage suddenly seemed louder. Deafening silence enveloped the two adults in the room and she clenched Armaan’s hand at her daughter’s question. The utterly blasé tone in which Anokhi had uttered the sentence surprised her. It was true, but they would die fighting before they admit it.

“No baby, you’re going to sur-”

“No, mom, I’m not going to survive it. Not this time. I overheard Dr. Kevin say that I have, six months at the most.”

“Anokhi, don’t talk like that, the chemo-”

“The chemo isn’t helping dad! I’m tired of it! Can’t we just stop the treatment?”

“And let you go? There is no way I’m doing that, Anokhi!”

“Dad, please! The chemo hurts! And I’m not going to make it anyway, can’t I just live the last few months of my life in peace? I hate the hospital! Please dad, I don’t want to do it anymore, please!”

The desperation in her voice nearly undid him, she could see that. They put her to sleep and made their way out of her room, it was time they talked.

 

“You’re just going to let go? Armaan you can’t do that!”

“It’s hurting her, Riddhima.” He murmured, tiredly. It was the hardest thing he’d done.

“She’s just a kid Armaan, she doesn’t know anything! Please, we can’t let her die!” the tears never stopped. Why didn’t he get it?

“I don’t want to do this either, Riddhima, but we have to. And she’s not wrong, you know that!”

“So you’re going to let her die. You’re going to let MY daughter die?” her maternal instincts took over her, blocking out all reason and any specks of logic that had nested in her mind.

He shook her by her shoulders. “OUR daughter, Riddhima! You think this is easy for me?” she saw the tortured look in his eyes and melted into his embrace, apologizing. Letting go was the hardest thing they’d done.

 

“I love you Mom, and you too Dad. I’m so glad I got parents like you, you’re the best, period.”

“Sshh, don’t talk baby, you’re weakening yourself.” Riddhima held her tears back. They both knew this was the last time they were seeing their daughter alive.

“Don’t cry, okay? Remember what Abhishek Bachchan said in that Simi Garewal show? Don’t cry that it’s over, smile that it happened. And don’t let anyone wear black at the funeral, I hate black, it’s depressing.”

A watery smile made its way up the couple’s faces. She remembered Simi Garewal of all people, right now?

“Okay, baby girl, no tears and no black, I swear.”

Anokhi looked at her dad, “Pinky Swear?” Armaan nearly lost it when she said that. She’d say that when she made the most important of promises. “Pinky swear, baby girl.” He whispered.

Riddhima saw her daughter put up a brave front as she bid good-bye to all her friends. And then it was time. Almost. She heard her daughter whisper a soft “I’m scared” that only she could hear and Riddhima bent down to kiss Anokhi’s forehead. “It won’t hurt sweetheart. We love you.”

And the shrill beep of the ventilator told her that their baby girl, had made her journey across the horizon.

 

And they were all born pretty in New York City tonight,

And someone’s little girl was taken from the world tonight,

Under the Stars and Stripes.

As strong as you were, tender you go.

I’m watching you breathing, for the last time.

A song for your heart, but when it is quiet,

I know what it means and I’ll carry you home.

I’ll carry you home…

As the last few verses from the song floated into her head, she looked at the teenagers on the stage. The video had been absolutely beautiful, showing her just how much their daughter had touched people. And now her friends were singing the song for her. The wind blew across her face, making her realize she’s cried quite a bit. She wiped her tears and glanced over to see how Armaan was doing. He was no better, the tear tracks on his face shone clearly on his face. She squeezed his hand ever so lightly and was relieved when he returned the gesture.

It was an hour later when they were the only ones left on the beach. It was a starry night, with the stars twinkling merrily at them. She looked up; she missed her daughter already. Her ready wit; her ringing, boisterous laugh; her squeals when she had tickle fests with her father; they would all be missed. Her memories were tucked in every crevice of their house. She felt Armaan wrap an arm around her shoulder and with a sigh, she sank into his hold. They walked to their house, with Anokhi’s photo in their hands. She’d inherited her father’s blue eyes and trademark smirk. Riddhima trailed her hand on the picture, the pain nagging every corner of her heart, waiting to be set free.

Riddhima sat on their bed, having changed. Her eyes remained fixed on Anohi’s photo, until he wrapped his arms from behind her. And then she broke down. Turning around she hid herself in his shoulder, her body racking with sobs. She couldn’t help it, it was too damn painful. She felt him shed silent tears on her shoulder and she ruffled his hair, as they held each other, comforted each other through each slash of pain that made their hearts spasm.

They broke away, hours later. Riddhima looked at him as she pulled away. He was everything to her. She remembered him changing Anokhi’s diapers; pushing her on the swing set; teaching her how to ride a cycle; worrying himself to death when she came home late from a party; researching on Lymphoma overnight because he wasn’t in the medical field and wasn’t aware of the disease; supporting their daughter throughout while being Riddhima’s reserve of strength. She gazed at him, a new found love and respect blooming in her heart. Time had changed his appearance, he wore glasses now and there were a few strands of gray hair [although he would never admit it] and in the last few months he looked like he’d aged fifty years. She ran her hand over the tired lines of his face as he closed his eyes. They’d done it. Anokhi may not have survived, but they’d done it. They’d fought for her, with one hundred percent commitment and Riddhima felt an odd sense of peace envelope them.

He placed a chaste kiss on her lips before she slept, secure in his embrace.

–ooOoo–

She sat on the bench, her legs crossed. It was almost time for sunrise. It was freezing out there and she’d bundled up in warm clothes. Riddhima felt him sit beside her and she murmured a thank you when he passed her coffee. She scooted closer to him, as fuchsia merged into topaz and the Sun dazzled on them, shining with all it’s glory. They watched the sunrise together the tranquility encompassing them in it’s embrace. She looked at him and a small smile tugged at their lips. It would take months, years maybe, and maybe the pain would never go away. But the soft smile on his lips, her hand in his and the memory of their daughter told her that they’d get through this. Together. And Riddhima fell in love with her husband all over again, the pain of losing her daughter already starting to heal.

–ooOoo–

ArHi OS: Safe Haven

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A/N: Based somewhere around the Episode with Arnav’s parents’ Barsi. Set in the future.

Safe Haven

She woke up, her throat parched. Coughing a little she sat up slowly, not wanting to wake him up. Why did he have to keep the water on his side? And then he said she woke up him up while drinking water. Go figure. Khushi turned slowly to the other side. She was determined to not wake him up this time. She leaned over him, making sure her hair didn’t touch his face. It was an awkward position and she was trying to steady herself when she felt his rumbling laughter beneath her.

“Khushi, tum uth ke paani le sakti ho.”

She recoiled and sat beside him, her mouth open. She had been so quiet, how in the world had he woken up?

“Aap humein ek baat bataaiye. Aap raat ko sote hai ki nahi? Main paani lene uthti hoon, toh aap uth jaate ho. Main iss taraf mudti hoon tab bhi aap uth jaate ho. Aur phir aap humein kehte hai, ki aapko meri hul-chul se neend nahi aati?!”

Arnav stifled his laughter at his wife’s flushed face. “Dekho, Khushi-”

“Nahi! Agar aapne mujhe phir kabhi kaha na, ki aapko mere hilne se neend nahi aayi, toh aap dekhlena. Main aapse koi baat nahi karungi.”

“Khushi meri baat toh suno!”

“Kya hai?!”

“You didn’t wake me up…I wasn’t sleeping.”

Khushi looked at him, embarrassed. How did he manage to shut her up like that?

He looked at her, as she tried to think of a comeback, and smiled. He was grateful for her presence in his life. She made things better.

Khushi frowned as she couldn’t come up with a comeback. Instead, she lied down beside him, waiting for him to do what he always did. He smiled at the expectant look on her face and brought her closer to himself. It was always like that. She’d lie beside him and he’d pull her closer. Everyday.

“Waise aap jaag kyun rahe the?”

Arnav tensed. He didn’t want to worry her; she always worried too much about him. And you love that, don’t you? He sighed. Yes he did. He’d always taken care of everyone. And it felt good to have someone care for him, he wouldn’t deny that. But she was waiting for his answer.

“Bas aise hi…neend nahi aa rahi thi.”

Khushi furrowed her eyebrows together. She hated it when he did this. Tried to distance his pain from her, tried to hide it. Didn’t he know, she’d love him regardless?

Arnav waited for her accusation. It irked him that he couldn’t lie to her like he did to others. She always managed to read too much into him. Sure enough, she asked him.

“Aap humse jhooth bol rahe hain?”

He looked at her and sighed. He’d known it was pointless to hide.

“Woh, kal barsi…”

Khushi hugged him tighter, offering her support. All these years, and it still pained him. She supposed it’d never get better, though. Losing your parents was not something you ever got used to.

He buried his face into her neck, drawing comfort. He didn’t know what he’d do without her, she always managed to kiss away his pain. He closed his eyes as she placed a soft kiss in his neck and soon the rhythmic movements of her hands in his hair, lulled him into sleep.

–ooOoo—

“Yeh phool lekar aap uss tasvir pe chadhaa dijiye.”

Arnav nodded curtly as the pundit finished each ritual one by one. It was sheer torture sitting in front of the flames; he could swear he saw his parents in them. He put the flower on the picture, not letting his gaze linger for a moment more, lest he should tear up. He forced himself to listen to the pundit.

Khushi looked at her husband sitting beside her. The muscle in his jaw was pulsing and his hands were balled into fists in his lap. It pained her to see him like that. She scooted closer to him, their knees brushing with each other.

He didn’t look at her. If he did, he’d come undone. His eyes flicked to her in surprise when he felt her hands trying to pry his fist apart. He sat there looking at her determined face as she pried each one of his fingers loose and then slipped her hand into his and gave it a squeeze. He looked ahead, not wanting to disturb the puja.

Khushi turned her attention back to the puja. She smiled to herself when she felt him squeeze her hand back.

An hour later, the puja was done and the punditji had gone. Arnav picked up the photo of his parents to keep it back. Just as he was about to climb upstairs she stopped him.

“Rukiye!”

He looked at her quizzically. She came closer and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you.”

He smiled for the first time that day and for the millionth time thanked Him for bringing her in his life. He was about to say it back when Naani called. “Khushi bitiya?! Zaraa ek minute yahaan aaiye.”

“Abhi aayi naaniji!”

She blinked at him in reassurance and rushed to the kitchen, as he made his way upstairs. She made the pain disappear. She was truly his safe haven. And he didn’t know who he would be, without her.

–ooOoo–