Chapter 14: Insight Comes At a Heavy Cost
The waves flowed powerfully along the shore while they hit the rocks in full force. The wind had a salty air about it that filled the atmosphere with a musty smell, usually associated with the sea. The beach was almost empty, given that it was a Wednesday, and the few people on the beach where either couples or teenagers having fun.
Ranveer and Ishaani walked along the shore line, their fingers interlocked, and a huge smile one their faces. Ishaani wore a loosely buttoned white shirt top and a three-fourth baggy corduroy pants while Ranveer wore a turquoise shirt along with a pair of shorts. Both of them had their glares on while Ishaani donned a straw hat to protect herself from the heat.
They took several rounds along the water, the water cold and cool over their feet while the sand trickled over and under. Ishaani squealed with joy as she kicked the water and splashed it around like a child while Ranveer stared at her antics, amused.
After several minutes of joyful kicking and splashing that ended up with Ranveer and Ishaani getting completely drenched, both of them made their way to the upper part of the beach where the paraffin umbrella stood, along with their belongings. Ishaani took out the towel and wiped her hair, proceeding to wipe Ranveer's too once she was done.
Ishaani and Ranveer then slept on the two chairs, the wind sweeping around them pleasantly and the umbrella providing a good shade from the sun. The two of them were staring along the azure coast line when their eyes fell upon a group of teenagers passing by, a group of five girls and a single boy. The girls were all looking at the boy's bare torso, mesmerized, and the boy looked a little too flattered with all the attention he was receiving.
When the group passed through their spot, Ishaani noticed that there was a long scar on the boy's torso and the girls were going crazy and pestering the boy to tell them how he had come to get such a scar. The moment they passed by, Ishaani snorted and rolled her eyes while Ranveer snickered.
"What is wrong with girls these days?! Drooling over scars, for crying out loud!"
"Come now, Sunny. Haven't you ever heard about the fact that girls usually find boys with scars like that very attractive? Girls always find a very tragic and heroic story attached to the scar." Ishaani smiled sweetly at the mention of the name Sunny, but frowned at him after the rest of the sentence.
"Well, I haven't heard such kind of nonsense in my whole life." Ranveer gave her a disbelieving look.
"Oh come on. I can't believe you would say that, that too after having met a person with such a similar scar." Ishaani let out a surprised gasp while Ranveer smiled.
"Me? I haven't met anyone with that kind of scar till now." Ranveer cocked her eyebrow at her before smiling notoriously.
"You really don't remember now, do you?" His tone was challenging and Ishaani caught on to it instantly.
"Are you trying to say you know that I know someone with a scar like that?" Ishaani cocked up her eyebrows in defiance while Ranveer stared at her confidently.
"Yes. And if I know right, even you know the guy pretty well."
"First of all, you speak as though I have seen every guy's torso for scars." Rolling his eyes at him, she chuckled. "You are really insane, you know that right?" Ranveer scowled at her before speaking.
"You know I did not mean that. But all I'm saying is that you have met a guy with a scar." Ishaani looked at Ranveer incredulously.
"And out of all the hundreds and thousands of people I’ve met, how on earth do you think I'm going to remember that?" Ranveer gave her a disgruntled look before an idea came to him.
"Fine. Do you want to bet?" Ishaani looked at him confused.
"That you have met such a person." Ishaani rolled her rolled at him before speaking reasonably.
"Stop being childish. It's ridiculous and doesn't make sense at all."
"Oh please. Yes or no?"
"Alright, if I win, we are going to Vegas for my birthday." Ishaani could now see the true hidden motive of the whole bet. Ranveer had been trying to convince her for a trip to Vegas on his birthday since the previous three days while Ishaani had point blank refused.
"Again with Vegas! You are obsessed with it!" Ranveer now gave her an irritated look before retorting heatedly.
"Well, is it a yes or no?" Ishaani knew that Ranveer was stubborn enough to not back down. Grudgingly, she replied back while her mind ran over several excuses as to show she could worm her way out from this trip.
"Ugh, fine! And if I win?"
"We get to go scuba diving for my birthday." Ishaani studied Ranveer's expression carefully. The idea of going scuba diving was tempting enough for her, but she knew that Ranveer hated anything got to do with so much water. She knew that either Ranveer was simply bluffing or else he was absolutely sure about the fact, but either way, it meant that she would have to call out his card by betting in.
"Fine. Bring it on."
"You must be quite confident that you never have met anybody with a scar." When Ishaani glared at him, Ranveer smirked and continued.
"Alright. I'll give you three simple clues. You will be able to guess him within a matter of seconds." Ishaani groaned inwardly while giving him a resigned look.
"First: you love the guy. Second: You’re married to him. Third: He's sitting right beside you." Ishaani stared at him stunned for several minutes.
"You! Damn it, why didn't it strike me before?!" Ranveer stuck out his tongue at her while she stared at him dewy eyed. "I didn't know that you were talking about that scar."
"Well, didn't I tell you that scars have always got a tragic and heroic story along with it? Mine had betrayal, tragedy and heart-break, just for starters." Ishaani gave him a deadpan look before she slapped his arm harshly.
"Don't be such a prat. And go to Vegas alone for all I care. The bet was a hoax anyway." Ranveer stuck out his tongue to her, but Ishaani's expression did not falter.
"AHA! You're being a spoilt sport now."
"No I'm not. The bet was a senseless one and I'm definitely not going to visit Vegas with someone as- as unruly and-and obnoxious as yourself!" Ranveer could see her seething at him and he gave her an apologetic look.
"Alright, I'm sorry. There, I said it. Atleast now don't be angry with me. Please." Ishaani turned her face away from his before she muttered fiercely.
"Please go drown yourself."
"Fine. I'll go do that." Ranveer made to get up but she pulled his hand back so that he fell back on his chair.
"I have no strength to go and swim you out all over again. You're way too heavy." Ranveer chuckled immoderately but he noticed that Ishaani still had that distant look in her eyes.
"That's good. Atleast you aren't as angry as to want me dead." Ishaani stared at him in horror, he eyes bulging in some unexplained emotion.
"Oh stop it! You're too fascinated with death." Ranveer thought through her statement twice before replying.
"I've seen it once and lived through it. It's bound to catch your fancy." Ishaani clapped her hands over her mouth before she ran them through her hair in a frenzy.
"God, you are freaking me out!"
"Alright, I'm sorry!" Ishaani suddenly looked at him blankly, her eyes in some turbulent storm and simply nodded. Ranveer looked worried, knowing that he had ruined her mood completely with his stupid talk and apologized several times, but she would only simply nod her head each time.
They got up and took several rounds along the seashore again, but Ishaani was silent this time, her grip on Ranveer's hand stronger than usual while she looked slightly pale. Ranveer didn't feel too good either, not because he had ruined Ishaani's mood but because he had brought up one of the most painful moments in his life, not only mentally or emotionally but physically as well.
It still gave him shivers when he thought about that moment, it's endless agony all crammed together in those few minutes before he lost his consciousness while his limbo in the hours succeeding it.
They silently had their lunch at a café near the beach and Ranveer dropped Ishaani home later. It had already become dusk by the time they reached her place and Ranveer gave her a swift hug before he left. Ishaani saw Ranveer's car fading away in the distance while she entered her house, her hands shaking and slammed the door behind her.
Ishaani sat on the bed with a chain in her hand, its pendant gleaming in the light. She ran it through her fingers, flinching at times as though she had been shocked suddenly. She stared at the pendant, a now greenish-golden bullet, her eyes bulging as the frightful scene of the life leaving Ranveer's eyes played before her own, a look of betrayal and suffused angst etched in her memory forever.
She quietly put the chain around her neck, the bullet touching the exact spot of her heart, a cold dawning of the fact that this same bullet had nearly claimed the life of the person with whom her own heart stayed.
She silently shut the lights of her room, switching off her phone alongside while she could feel the cold metal pressed against her heart, a lifelessness spreading within alongside.
Ranveer paced about the room restlessly, his mind in a distress. He had called Ishaani a couple of times, but her phone remained switched off. He knew it was too early for her to sleep, for it was only seven in the evening.
He knew there was something drastically wrong with her and that he had frightened her with his talk about fancying death. He had seen her pallor go white, her pupils dilated as though living a horror of the past. She had fallen completely silent ever since their banter had to come to an abrupt end and her cheerfulness from the past two weeks seemed to have disappeared as well.
Quickly making up his mind, he slipped out of his room and met Martin halfway through the staircase, informing him that he wouldn't be around for dinner and walked swiftly towards the door.
An hour later, Ranveer was standing at the threshold of Ishaani's house, hammering away at her doorbell. He had tried her cellphone several more times, only to get a switched off message. He tried her landline, but it kept going on the answering message. The house was doused in complete darkness from what Ranveer could make out through the windows.
Out of nowhere, a phrase crossed his mind that seemed to have frozen his insides.
"Well, I've been asking Ishaani to stay over at my place tonight, because it's really late and the place where she stays is pretty dangerous for a girl at this time of night. Lots of muggings."
Gulping worriedly as Martha's words floated around his head, he made knock at the door, but it simply swung open. Ranveer opened the door completely and rushed into the hallway, shutting the door swiftly behind him. He could hear someone sobbing from one of the rooms within.
More afraid, he ran quickly into the room from where the sobbing was persistent. The room was devoid of light and it took Ranveer a couple of moments before his eyes got accustomed to the surrounding.
The bed was empty, but he could make out that it was slept in. The sobbing could now be heard more clearly and Ranveer made his way towards the noise, swiftly yet careful enough to not bang into anything in the darkness. The moment he reached around the bed, he saw a figure fallen down, face hidden. Alarmed, he quickly switched on the lights and a shriek ensued.
Ranveer rushed towards the bed again to find the figure still intact on the floor. Rushing quickly, he turned the figure over to reveal a semi-conscious Ishaani, who was half-sobbing and half-muttering things that didn't make any sense to him, until he saw her clutch at something hanging from her neck. Picking her up quickly and lying her down on the bed, he hugged her tightly while she held on to him in her slumber, her grip as strong as death.
He kissed her head and checked her head and arms for any wounds but found none. He could get a strong whiff of alcohol from her and on turning behind, he saw a newly-opened bottle of rich scotch on her coffee table, half empty. Laying her back once again, he finally managed to have a glimpse of what she was holding on to - the same chain he used to wear with the bullet as a souvenir.
Ranveer looked at Ishaani and quickly left her side while she yelled even louder now. Five minutes later, he returned back with an empty basin and a glass of soap water. Making Ishaani sit up, he made her drink the soap water and the reaction was instantaneous.
Ishaani threw up into the basin and Ranveer gave her another sip before she threw up further. Once Ranveer made sure that she'd thrown up the most of the excessive alcohol, he went and cleared up everything from the bedroom.
Another 10 minutes later, he returned back to her with a glass of lemonade which he kept on the now empty coffee table while he helped Ishaani to the washroom so that she could clean up.
Coming out after 10 minutes, Ishaani looked unsure on her feet, taking the support of the wall while Ranveer stared darkly, his temper rising with every passing second. The moment he saw her, he walked up to her and supported her to the bed. He looked at her angrily and shoved the glass of lemonade in her hand roughly.
"Drink." Ishaani stared at him with blood-shot eyes, the lights blaring her vision.
"Please shut the lights. It's driving my headache over the edge."
"Sure, love." Ishaani stared at him upset while he shut off the lights and switched on the lamp light instead. Ishaani drank the lemonade quickly while staring at Ranveer guiltily. Ranveer gave her a cold look throughout the time while she sipped on the lemonade silently, occasionally hiccoughing. The moment she finished drinking, he snatched the glass away and slammed it on the table before sitting on the bed and pulling her face up to level.
"Care to explain what the hell this is?" When Ishaani remained silent, Ranveer felt even more irked. "Do you have any idea how frightened I was? I thought you had got mugged... or... or..." The though too much for Ranveer to phrase, he instead took to shaking her arms.
"Have you gone crazy?!" Ishaani gave him a painful look before she replied hysterically.
"I could not stop those images of you from coming to my mind! They wouldn't just go!"
"So what, just down half a bottle of pure scotch?! You can't freaking drink even less than a quarter of bottle without getting drunk! Do you have any clue what could have happened had I not come on time?" When Ishaani stared at him blankly, he shook her even harder. "Do you understand anything I'm speaking to you, woman!?" It was as though something flared suddenly within Ishaani. She threw his hands off her shoulders and caught hold of his shirt.
"Oh yeah! I don't understand why the heck you are telling me that! You started with the whole scar nonsense! For the love of God, never, ever mention that night in front of me ever again! Do you get it? Don't ever mention that night or you... you... getting..." Ishaani howled in a deranged manner while she buried her face in Ranveer's chest, trembling and shivering. Anger fading away, he held her tightly and securely, rubbing circles on her back while he now spoke soothingly.
"Ishaani, I'm sorry. I really am. I was a jerk to talk about that incident so stupidly and I know I frightened you with my talk about death. I know what you fear. But look at me Ishaani," Ishaani turned to stare at him wide-eyed while Ranveer cupped her cheek lovingly. "-nothing's going to go wrong this time. Nothing. And nothing is going to do us apart this time, not even death. I know these two weeks have been too extraordinary to believe it's true. It's too much to come to terms with. But, I'm here with you now. Trust me."
Ishaani stared at him drowsily before she snuggled into his chest, hiccoughing before speaking.
"Don't leave me and go. Please."
"I won't. Ever." Ishaani's next sentence was lost to him as she barely spoke above a whisper before she stopped moving. Ranveer gently separated her from himself and saw that she had fallen asleep, tear tracks visible on her face. Making her lie down, he quickly checked her to see if she had a temperature. Sighing, as he could feel that she did have a fever, he quietly opened her bed stand drawer to find for a thermometer.
Taking it out, he measured her temperature. 102°C. Clicking his tongue in disapproval, he quickly left and side and returned back after 5 minutes, a vessel of cool water in his hand. He kept in on the side table and drowned his handkerchief in it before squeezing it and making a roll of it. He applied it on Ishaani's head while he stared at her troubled expression.
He knew that he had been stupid enough to pull out the experiment on her, knowing that it had barely been two weeks. He had always thought about that night from his point of view, but now that he saw it through her eyes, he felt guilty. He knew that both of them had been so emotionally disturbed during the days after his getting shot, that the physical and mental after-effects were all amiss to them.
He had never truly experienced the actual post-physical agony of getting shot, given that he had practically become numb after the incident, with only a surging hatred he had at the thought of the photos and its implied meaning, but somehow, he never stopped twice to think about the mental impact of the incident on Ishaani.
He knew now that it was even more of a traumatic memory in her mind, for afterall, she had seen him die and been brought back to life that night. And she had known that in a way, she had been the reason behind why he was shot.
She had been the reason behind why he was shot.
Something about the statement that had just crossed his mind clicked in that moment. He stared at Ishaani, his features slowly changing from one of bewilderment to one of realization. In that moment, he had finally learnt the actual reason that led to Ishaani doing what she had to do three years ago. The rest of the jigsaw pieces framed themselves easily, until the whole picture was clear. He had finally gained an insight into her mind, even though it was at a heavy cost.
Re-applying the soggy piece of handkerchief over her head for one last time, he shut off the lamps, so that the room was doused into darkness once again. Removing the cloth after sometime, he took to stroking Ishaani's hair gently before a thought crossed his mind.
It was certainly going to take more time for her to heal than he had expected to.