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What's a Soulmate?

Chapter 2


29th April, 2014

I took the cigar, lighting it and then placing it between my lips as I sat in the lawn and stared at the stars. The sky was painted in shades of purple and blue and a hundred stars were scribbled on it, forming the most beautiful piece of art any artist could have ever painted.

I heard a shift of air and tugged behind to watch Nandini walk over and sit beside me, crossing her feet on the gras just like me. The one reason I had befriended her was that she was simple, unlike other girls our age. She could sit on the grass under the stars beside me without complaining for couches and pillows.

"Aren't you going to tell me smoking is dangerous and to you know, stop this," I ask, turning my face to my left to look at her. She simply nodded negatively. I puffed a small sigh smirk, still dumping the cigar beside me. Uncomfortableness was written all over her face from the smoke although she didn't complain.

"That's fine, I understand," she said, biting on her lower lip, "perhaps, you're the kind of guy who'd say cigarette does no harm to you while love kills."

"Touché," I nod, giving a lob sided smile, "Some people smoke, some drink, others fall in love; each one dies in a different way."

She chuckled slightly under her breath, "Well, smoking is a classic way to commit suicide."

I nod as she continues, "however, I do not recommend doing this when you're on a college trip and teachers could be here any minute. I bet you don't wanna get suspended."

I give a sarcastic sigh, "getting suspended is hard when your father owns the college."

She turned to look at me, "You don't seem very fond of your father?" It was more like a question than a statement.

"I'm not," I say in a cold and distant voice. Getting the picture of that man in front of my eyes on such a beautiful night did not really tinker well with my thoughts.

She nodded, but said nothing in return and we fell into silence. Not the awkward silence, but the comfortable one, where both stared at the sky and the beautiful surroundings around us, lost in our own thoughts.

"Manik?" She called after a while and I turned my head towards her, "What are your fears?"

I smirk, "Nothing. I fear nothing."

"C'mon, you gotta fear something," she persuaded, "Height? Insects? Cockroaches? Drowning? Flying? Blood? Injections? Sexy men? Strangers? Death?"

I gave her a weird look. "You're crazy. Why would I be scared of anything?"

"Because everyone has a fear. And I am weirdly curious to know yours," she teased.

"What's yours?" I spin.

"I fear being unwanted by the person I want the most," she whispered back.

"That's deep," I acknowledge. She nods, taking a deep breath.

After we remained silent for a long time, it started ticking me, the way I had rudely said that I'm not at good terms with my father, and all she had done was be sweet and tried to make conversations.

"My mom died when I was a kid," I said after a while. She turned to look at me. "I was young, and very naïve. As a normal kid would, I turned to my father for shelter. I expected him to be with me, to mourn my mother's death. Even when no one understood, I was sure he would. He had lost a wife too, after all."

I took in a deep breath as all the memories came flashing by. I could trade all the wealth I had and anything of this world to just be able to live those moments with my mother again, when we were actually a family and not just acted as one.

"And then?" She asked, "what happened?"

"I failed a Math test in school. I had waited all day to tell my father, skipped my bed time, I wanted to tell him how Mum's absence was affecting me. That night, he came home drunk. Slapped me for failing the test. And then had the time of his fucking life with another woman in the same bed that was once Mum and his. Two weeks after Mum, and he being the asshole he is, already moved on," I completed, keeping the details to myself.

I did not tell her how he threatened to hit me with the belt or how he kissed the other woman in front of my eyes. I did not tell her how I slept crying that night and every night after that, hugging my Mum's frame close to me. I did not tell her how I did every wrong thing after that, desperate I might get my father's attention. And I did not tell her how he never spoke to me after that night unless very necessary and even the littlest hope inside me died.

"It was heartbreaking," I added.

"It must be," she nodded, "but I believe it is also very heartbreaking to see the love of your life die in front of your eyes and not be able to do anything about it."

I turned to her, stunned. She flushed, quickly explaining, "I, in no means, am saying that your father is right. As you're saying, he is an asshole for the way he treated you. But every man has different ways of, you know, dealing with their problems. Life had thrown a lot at him, taken away his wife, the lady he loved. All I'm saying is, although what he did was extremely wrong and there's no justification to it, maybe he was trying to handle it by drinking, forcing himself to move on, and he went all wrong there."

I give an amused chuckle, "if so, it was the most amazing way of the fucking century to move on."

We fell silent again. I pondered over her words before uttering a thanks. She looked at me and raised her eyebrows, confused.

"I've just told this story to, two people, and it completely changed the way they looked at me after it. They gave me those sympathetic looks that make me feel sick. I'm happy you did not sympathise with me atleast, and taking my father's side was a first," I chuckled.

She gave an amused smile, "I was not taking your father's side. I was just flipping the coin to see a second side."

I gave her a Whatever smirk and she rolled her eyes when something caught her eyes. "Manik!" She called, excited, "Look there!"

I looked at the direction she was pointing in, confused, "Fireflies?" I asked.

She nodded, excited. "I love fireflies!" She sounded so excited, "You know, they shine only where true love is!"

The smile on her face was happy and contented, and the way her eyes twinkled in the dark stirred something in my lonely heart. It was as if they screamed that that twinkle of her eyes would become the stars of my dark life.

"Nandini?" I call. Her smile widened as she looked at me. "You has asked me what my fear is," I say and she nods.

"My fear is that you and everyone else I care about, would eventually see me the way I look at myself. You'd see the monster I am, and the darkness that lies inside me. That's what I fear," I say, risking it all.

She doesn't flutter or flinch. Her smile turns softer as she delicately places her hand on mine, "Manik, if I could give you any one thing in life, I would give you the ability to see yourself through my eyes, only maybe then you'd realise how special you are."

My lips turn into a smile that reaches her, and that made me heart flutter. It was the way she looked at me and made me happy by doing nothing that I knew how vulnerably I have always needed her, and how she was going to be the one for me. Three years later, on the same day, we got married in court.

Five years later, on exactly the same day, our court hearing for the divorce was set.

We stood facing each other, on either sides of the court. Nandini's eyes refused to meet mine ever since she had come, even when she was talking to me before the court procedure had begun. They often turned away from the magistrate, but only to find Mia who was curled up in one the brown chairs to her Chachi. Nandini's Chacha-Chachi and elder brother Abhi had come from her side. Mine was mostly empty except for Cabir, my college best friend. I had invited my Dad too, not that I expected him to show up.

"Why do you want the divorce to be granted, again?" The magistrate asked, her eyes roaming towards both of us.

"We don't love each other anymore, ma'am," Nandini repeated what I had said minutes ago, and it felt like a fresh burn on my wounded heart although it was me who said these words first.

"And you, Mr. Malhotra?" She asked turning towards me.

"..I don't love her either, ma'am," I confirmed. I could see Nandini's grip on the wooden platform tighten and I tried my best not to look at her and keep my eyes fixed to the magistrate who studied out every move.

"So you both just fell out of love with each other?" The magistrate asked and we both nodded at the same time.

"That is no ground for divorce," she said in a strict voice.

"Do you love someone else, Mrs. Malhotra?" She asked turning towards Nandini, who nodded negatively. "You, Mr. Malhotra?" She asked me and I nodded negatively too.

"Then where is the reason for the divorce?" She questioned.

"Ma'am," Nandini began, "You do not need to fall in love with someone else to fall out of love with another. Once you're in a relationship, you think it's going to last forever. But in reality, it lasts only for as long as you're working upon it. Even if one person stops working, it falls apart. And in our case, both of us refuse to work on it. We simply don't want each other anymore."

"And what about your daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Malhotra? Is she not a reason enough for you to stay together?" The magistrate enquirer again.

"She has always been the reason blinding us together ma'am," I say, "But not anymore. We want to choose different paths in life, and it is simply that. There are no hard feelings, no grudges involved. I have and always will have a lot of respect for Nandini, and I am sure, so will she. And it is an undeniable fact that we are both bond together by our daughter whom we both love more than anything. So even when we don't leave each other and want to choose our different paths, we want to end this mutually and cordially, for Mia's sake."

"If I am not wrong, this had been a love marriage, isn't it?" She asked again and we both nodded. A love marriage that was arranged by our parents in such a fucked up way that it burnt our love into ashes we will never be able to collect.

"Falling our of love from a love marriage is not ground for a divorce. You have to state a legitimate cause which would be able to end the marriage in terms with the Marriage Act stared by law. This application for divorce is bound to be rejected," she concluded. A shiver passed down my spine and before I or Nandini could protest, she continued.

"However, after considering the wisdom behind mutually wanting to solve the conflict shown by you two, the court pardons you two to live separate and have a joint custody for your daughter Mia, which has to be resolved by both of you as you wanted. If, in a given time, either of you fall in love with someone else and wish to get re-married, this case would be picked again. Until then, the court is summoned." The magistrate had her decision out in clear words which was noted and printed into the jurisdiction of the files maintained.

There was nothing we could do anymore.

An odd suffocation surrounded me as we got out of the court room in the next ten minutes, and stood together. It was crazy to believe that we had all assembled the same way two years ago, happy and laughing as the marriage papers were signed. Now, no one even looked at each other in the eye.

As if sensing it, they all stepped away, giving me and Nandini a much needed minute.

"Mia will stay with me through the week days, she's staring playgroup next week. You can pick her up on Fridays, spend the weekend with her and I'll collect her on Sunday nights or Monday mornings, whatever does you good. I think we can figure out other details later," she said softly as my hand reached to Mia, who simply stood holding her mother's fingers. I ruffled her hair and she gave me a small smile.

"Does me good," I reply. She nodded back. "Is there-- Is there anything I can do for the two of you? A new house? Paying for your studies? Mia's School fees would come directly from office, you need not bother. Is there any way I- I could...?" I said softly, not meaning to offend her.

"No Manik, I do not need your money," she affirmed, her eyes distant, showing no trace of anger or hurt like I'd expect her to.

I nod, "Is there anything I can do?" I beg, "Anything you'd want to tell me?"

"Yeah," she slightly chuckled under her breath, "Happy Anniversary Manik."

My lips part but I can't force any words out of them, "Then it serves you to ask something from me like you do every year. One last wish, before we say out final goodbye?"

"Yes," she said, her voice soft and vulnerable, "Please-- Please don't fall in love with someone else."

The most frightening nightmare of all

is neither of monsters, ghosts,

lost teeth or a great fall;

but the simple lovely awful dream

of a lover who loves you no more.

-Beau Taplin

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