Just Another Love Story

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Dreams

27th Nov 2014

It was yet another morning; I couldn’t sleep and got tired from turning restlessly on my bed. I got up, went to kitchen for a glass of water. I looked outside the window, it was just the morning like that one when we were on bunk, and the disaster occurred. I sat down on the chair, tears rolling down out of habit. It was still bit dark, so I let them flow; there wasn’t anyone around. I closed my eyes, and drowned myself in sorrow.

Mechanically, I wiped my tears as light was turned on. Standing before me, was yet another woman, I loved with all my heart; the only difference that she wasn’t going to leave me anytime soon, alone.

“What are you doing up so early?” She asked, baffled. I was going to ask her the same question.

“Nothing just came for water”. She put on her apron, and started cooking breakfast. I felt a bit guilty and amazed the same time. Her unimaginable efforts always went unnoticed in my self-consumed life, yet she never complained. She would just keep on doing her work, just to feed us, to keep us happy. What I was tired from doing for just few days, she had been doing it for her entire lifetime; putting up a smile and living selflessly for other’s happiness.

“You can go back to sleep, I will wake you up in half an hour, get dressed for school then” she said, her hands beating the dough.

“I don’t want to go to school” my tone, harsh. She looked at me, kept looking for few moments as I kept my gaze lowered on the table.

“Its okay” she replied, her tone, soft. “Go back to sleep then” She didn’t retaliate. I expected her to scream. Her sweetness broke my rude demeanor.

“I can’t sleep either ma” I said, my voice cracking.

“Is something wrong?” she sat beside me, gently tapping my hand.

“Maa, does it hurt when we die?” tears running down furiously.

“WHAT, what are you saying, why are you asking this?” her expression worried, her eyes horror-struck. Her grip in my hands tightened.

In the next 5 minutes, I told her everything, and literally everything without skipping any details yet keeping it as brief as possible. I feared her not taking it well; her only child was busy romancing with a girlfriend at such a delicate turn in his career, while the situation at home continued to be a mess.

But she was very supportive. I don’t know why I was so surprised, she is my mother, and it’s what they do the best. It’s stupid how we wander outside looking for support from strangers when there are our loved ones ready to be helpful in every way possible. I guess we never get over the fear of letting them watch us so broken.

I was crying, there were tears in her eyes too. I don’t know if it was out of watching her son in pain or out of empathy for her. She listened patiently as I vent out my entire sorrow. She reprimanded me for being so weak, for surrendering myself to destiny. Being there for her just wasn’t good enough, I needed to wake her up from her misery and help her get back on feet; I couldn’t be her support always; that’s not how life works; even if it makes her stumble, or unhappy. There is a limit to which we can depend on others to make us smile, true happiness comes from within, from living the way it is meant to be; the cheerful way.

“Is there any way we can help?” she asked seriously.

“There is nothing we can do, the doctor’s are doing their best but the end is almost inevitable.”

“So there is still hope, a chance is left, right?”

“Yes, but it’s a very slim one, if by miracle the therapy works and doctors could perform surgical operation” I said, helplessness reflecting in my tone.

“Sometimes a slim hope is all you need to survive.” She said. I kept quiet.

She continued, “And there is always something you can do”

“What?”

“If it is so certain that there is no way out, make her last days, the best days of her life”

She stood up to leave. I figured out she must be going back to sleep, papa wasn’t home either. That gave her window for some rest.

“Dhruv” she called, standing on the kitchen’s door.

“Hmm” I muttered.

“Bring her home sometime, I want to meet her” she smiled.

I was in her home, sitting on her bed, while she kept dusting off her room. It was pleasant to watch her get back in routine. It was time to be strong, to dare and to confront with the brutal truth.

“Want to see a movie?” I asked.

She refused, blankly.

“Shall we go out someplace else then?

“I don’t want to go anywhere” she squealed, her eyes welling up.

She was locking herself down; it was time to take her out in the open. I held her hand, and took her to terrace. The cold breeze felt good. The color at twilight was deep orange. She pulled down her sleeves from elbow, as it felt chilly, pulling it way below her wrist, upto her palm, and cupping them with her fingers, holding the sleeves tightly in middle with the fist. That was one of the many things she liked to do, and I found it cute about her. She looked adorable in her yellow sweater, with imprinted reindeer on it.

For some time we stood in silence, leaning on the wall, looking at the sky and alternatively at each other. Ever since we heard the news, we developed a penchant of locking our eyes, when both us knew what our hidden motive was; to take a mental picture and store it in our memories. With little time left, we wanted to capture as many happy moments as possible.

Every great life is accompanied with the fear of losing it. Our prolonged hugs, the more tightened grip while holding hands and the delay in withdrawing gaze off each other were less out of affection and more out of fear of having it for the last time.

Each time she would let go of my hand, or we would be separated from each other’s contact, every night while biding good night, we both used to feel a twirl in our heart; totally aware of the vicious probability the next morning could bring in our life.

But I couldn’t have allowed the daunting tomorrow to destroy our present, just yet. The limited time period, comes up with a blessing in disguise, we strive to make each element count. If only one realizes that our ‘entire’ life is also limited.

“You can’t be like this, I can’t afford to see you in this way” I dared to speak.

“What?” she was startled; hurt by the truth.

“Common, don’t pretend as if you don’t understand what I am talking about.” I replied, my voice strict.

“Then don’t juggle with words, say it directly” she was infuriated, already aware of what was coming her way. She might have heard it from her sister, her parents, and was already too irritated by it.

I didn’t know what to speak. “Just get better, be happy…do anything, be positive, just don’t be like this” I feel short of words, blabbering anything in desperation to inspire her.

‘It is just an accident, not the end of your life’ I wished I could say it, that’s the only line I have heard in my life when well wishers motivate someone. I felt sad, I should have gone rehearsed. Consoling her was getting more painful than I thought it would be.

She grimaced, her face in disgust. “What the fuck is there to be positive about” she screamed, “The fact that finally I am going to get rid from all these medicines and pain?” Her tone piercing my ears

I was out of words; I just stood there blankly, traumatized by her words; reminder of truth hurting me badly. I realized what I was actually trying to do; to cool down the fire, I would have to get burned myself.

She continued, scowling.” I AM GOING TO DIE SOON. Do you even understand the magnitude or the intensity of this thing? It will be the END.”

Yes! Yes! The fuck I do understand. If only I could express the unimaginable, searing pain I feel every second, I can make you see I am losing everything just the way you are. I am just as dead as you will be, and if possible, even more.

“And I supposed that atleast you would understand how sad I am. But you are standing here, like everyone else giving me ‘add days to life’ kind of shitty speech.” She was bursting her anger out. I felt relieved knowing that atleast she is venting out the ripples in her heart. But the realization was heart breaking too. How was I supposed to make someone facing an untimely death feel happy? Who was I trying to push in delusion again, her or me? The situations weren’t going to get better, and I needed to accept that. The only thing left was to make a living out of whatever was left.

“And at least I wasn’t expecting it from you. Have you even looked at yourself? When was the last time you slept or took a bath?”

“And do you like watching me like this?” there I got my opening.

“Ofcourse not”

“Why not?”

“Why are you even asking me this, you already know” she huffed.

“Just tell me in words” I pleaded.

“Because it breaks my heart to see you like this” yes! She spoke what I wanted her to.

“Then just imagine what people around you are going through”

She didn’t speak. It was now my turn to continue.

“Look I know that I can’t even possibly imagine what you’re going through, but I am begging you to look at others too. I know it is very selfish to say it but please don’t turn blind to others sentiments” Tears emerging on her eyes.

“I don’t want to hurt anyone, I can see the pain in your eyes, but I am myself so precarious, I want to be better, believe me; I do” she was crying profusely. I let her cry, I preferred her depleting her entire stock of lifetime in that one day as opposed to her incessant sobs. They were unbearably painful.

“I know you want to be better, I just wish I can be of some help” even I cried over my helplessness. Both of us were wailing in open yet none knew how to make it stop.

“No, please don’t say like that” she came close, wiping my tears, crying herself. That was her love; that was our love.

I just wish I was already dead, the illness doesn’t bother me, and death doesn’t scare me. But it is hard to see my loved ones is pain” she wailed loudly. Despite her pity, I wanted to slap her tightly.

“How dare you say that, don’t you fucking still understand that it is no longer just your life, it is mine too” my anger burst out. “And sorry to be extremely selfish, but you have no idea what we are going through, the pain is excruciating. You’re just going to die, boom. You won’t remember a thing; you will get rid from your disease, free form all the pain. I am going to be left alone, broken, and depressed, all by myself. Do you even know how scary it is just thinking about it?” I broke down, yet again.

“I am sorry, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you, please don’t cry. Please stop” she smothered me in her hug, it felt good to finally knuckle down, and to have some support, care. It felt warmth, I desperately needed to vent out the cyclone in my heart.

But it was supposed to be other way round, I recollected myself, this time with genuine energy felt from inside.

“And never ever say that you will be alone, I will be always there with you, in here” she said, nudging my chest. Extremely cheesy, typical…yet special. “Just close your eyes, and remember me. I will be there”

“Yes you will be, with me, forever.” I smiled.

” I am aware of the efforts you and everyone else are putting in, and I tried. I tried my best, I went back to my normal routine but just the mere reminder would send shiver of fear in my body, and my fake smile disappears no matter how hard I try to put up a brave face.”

“Then don’t fake it” I told her, slightly calmed by her care.

“Then what should I do? How can I be genuinely happy?” she asked, baffled.

“Well, let’s see if this works”

I went behind her. She kept looking straight in the sky. From behind, I slid both my hands down her arms, upto her forearm and spread them wide open.

“Do you remember?” I whispered. She blushed.

“You know I was thinking of throwing you from top when you handed me the cell to take the picture” She smiled.

The stiffness in the air finally flew away, as she turned around and punched me hard on my chest.

“See how pretty you look when you smile, keep smiling that away, it makes life seem easy” She blushed.

“I just wish there was a way to make it easy for everyone” she said, her sobs faint.

“There is, just be you, just live normally”

“I am living, I am not dead yet” she winced.

“This isn’t living, this is just not dying” I checked my tone and I continued.

“Look more than anyone wishing for your betterment, you deserve to be happy for yourself. I know we can’t cheat or avoid death, but we can defeat it. Just die the way you have lived for so long, the happy way; the cheerful way.” my heart plummeted just at the mere mention, yet I rallied at the gaze of the slight sparkle in her eyes.

“Just don’t be this way, don’t be sad. I know it is lot to ask from you, but if you can’t find a reason to be happy for yourself, try to do it for me, for Ayesha, for your parents.”

“Look I seriously want to be myself again, it’s just that…”

“What? What do you fear?”

“Do you remember what you said about the ‘end’, that it is end of everything; all our dreams. There is just so many thing I wanted to do, and now I don’t have any time left” she cried, helplessness running down her face.

“Like what all?” I asked unwillingly. I was already guessing her answer, ’there are so many places I want to visit, my career, so many things I wanted to do; paragliding, deep sea diving, blah, blah, blah…the usual filmy type.

“Nothing fancy, I just dreamt of continuing what I already have, I wanted to paint more, study more, hang out with my friends more, write more entries in my diary….” Her answer simply amazed me. I found it fascinating. You may find her mediocre. I simply adored the way she cared about little things, small things which really count, which infact maters most, yet we are so lost in our ‘big’ dreams, we can’t see it even when it is in front of our eyes all the time. I fell in love with her all over again.

She continued, “have more bunks, taste more dishes, watch more shows, read more novels and…” she paused, tears even reemerging on my eyes, but that time I successfully feigned to be strong. I had to be as the air got denser yet again.

“AND?”

“Please don’t laugh at me, or infact say anything. But ever since that night when you got down on one knee, even unaware yourself what you were proposing for, I stupidly keep dreaming of us getting married, having our own kids” she said shyly, tongue-in-cheeks.

I still wasn’t ready, but she was already sad, I couldn’t have added onto it.

“Well marriage could take time, but we can have kids. We can get started atleast” I said, my tone mischievous.

“Oh!! Piss off” she smiled.

“See I completed my dream”

“What?” she asked confused.

“It has always been sort of my dream to once make a crying girl smile, and that girl turned out to be you. It couldn’t have been better”

“Seriously, that was your dream? It is so…”

“Romantic?”

“Actually illogical” my face drooped; she added “just kidding” and chuckled.
“Yeah as if yours are so perfect” I grimaced.

“Aree, I was just joking. You’re such a baby” she pinched my cheeks.

I looked at her face. She was smiling again, it was soothing yet painful. Everytime I looked at her being her usual self; carefree, happy-go-lucky, the realization that how much life can be unfair would wretch my heart. I was prodding her to embrace life when I wasn’t ready to accept it myself. But it didn’t matter what I was feeling, I was blessed to see her smile.

“So anyway, I understand your dreams; I just don’t understand why you can’t fulfill them?”

“Because I don’t have time, I just wished I had more of that. School, coaching it takes away all the time, and more importantly my energy. I am all tired, and I just can’t do it then”

“Then don’t come to school?” what was the point left in studying anyways.

“What?”

“Yes, don’t go to school or coaching. Come occasionally when you want to meet your friends else stay at home, and do whatever you want.”

Her face enlightened, budding like a flower. “Yes, and I don’t even need to study, and no one could even complain” she laughed though it wasn’t completely a genuine one.

“Yup! So do something new every day, which you haven’t done before, or want to do yet again and have been delaying it for long. Make these days count” I smiled at her.

She kept quiet, lost in her thoughts, but I felt relaxed looking at her calmness. I had finally blown the light, even if not enough illumination, it was sufficient enough to survive upon.

Even she knew she couldn’t have possibly done everything she ever wanted to. She wasn’t going to visit all the places she might have dreamt of, she wasn’t getting married or having kids. But I guess being happy is most quintessential in life, even more than dreams.

Somewhere in pursuit of dreams we forget enjoying the existence.

And more often than not, due to some reason or another, our dreams may remain unfulfilled; all the dreams are never completed anyways. There is no stop to our will or greed. Dreams are sure worth achieving, but are it worth at the cost of our happiness or for the sake of just doing it? Our life may not turn out to be the smoothest ride but better live it happily then in sorrow; we only get it once anyway.

I was happy the way she was making those little things count.

“Oh! Oh” she started blabbering, abruptly. “I know what we should do, we should tell the world about our story”

“Yeah right” I thought she meant it as a joke.

“No seriously, I want the world to know about our story”, she said with a childlike innocence. It was bliss. Sensing her mood I resisted my temptation to laugh. “WHAT?” I am serious, why not? , she asked again. She said it with so much hope that I could not have declined it straight away otherwise it would’ve seemed rude.

“But how can I?” I counter attacked.

“Ofcourse you can, you write such wonderful poems. You express your feelings better than anyone I have known so far, you have the skill, please”

“My poems are not that good, you’re meant to like it because they are about you”

“No, seriously they are great, a part of me was impressed by your poems only just think about how many girls would be impressed after reading it” she winked. That was certainly a very lucrative idea to be able to not think about it.

“Look one poem is a different thing, but a complete novel…I am not that capable and besides that I don’t even like novels, I read them just because you like them and also it gives me a chance to see you lay down on my shoulder”. I said trying to lighten up the mood.

She still remained adamant.

“And there is nothing so great in our story, it is not as sexy or attractive as the stories we read. Infact it sounds so typical; boy and girl meet, they fall in love, after struggle the boy gets the girl and then a tragic end.” I tried to sound as logical as possible.

“You think that our story is not great?” her face drooped.

“Ofcourse it is, it is the sweetest chapter of my life, but it holds its relevance only for both of us, the world will never understand as to why it is so special”

“Then you make them understand, but please you have to do this for me”

“But you have to understand there is nothing different or unique in our story, there isn’t particularly anything special that differentiates it from stories of other couples”

“Nothing is special, yet everything is. It is our story; it is JUST ANOTHER LOVE STORY” she smiled. I was too naïve too even comprehend what she meant, was she pointing out that all stories, no matter how typical or similar they are, are special in themselves. I didn’t need to even decipher what she meant; I wasn’t going to do it anyway.

“Still, it isn’t doable” my tone cold.

“It is my last wish” she said, her voice heavy with tears. Now how was I supposed to reply to that besides hearing those words threw me into a different mood altogether and I had to fight hard with my tears.

Even if she would’ve asked for my life, I wouldn’t have denied, writing a novel was pretty small task to show my love for her.

“I promise you that one day the world will know about our story”. I said in the flow of emotions and for the sake of smile on her face.

Quite frankly even I did not know back then that someday I would seriously sit and pen down the entire story.

It was getting dark, last rays of light peeping out from the sky. I took her in my arms, and observe her face closely. She smiled. Just one smile was sufficient enough to know that no wrinkles, no pale skin, no aches, no dryness, no illness could bring down the audacity of our love.

Did things get better after that day? Yes and No. Dying is something you can never get used to, but when we choose to live life to fullest every day, even death seems less scary, because the fear to lose something behind, to left something undone vanishes.

We stood on our vow to make each day count. She started painting more; reading more novels, even her occasional visits to school had its old charm and elegance back. Finally my girl was getting back in her colors, watching her happy made life less painful for us. Eventually inspired by her, we too accepted the truth and went back to our old lifestyle.

Ayesha wasn’t wailing anymore, uncle stopped fluttering from one doctor to another and her mother…well there wasn’t any reduction in count of prayers but still she was getting better too. Somehow they too find a reason in their daughter’s smile to forget worrying about tomorrow and to live in present.

As far as ‘we’ were concerned, tears poured heavily. Obviously we would cry over sad songs or tragic endings, but our eyes would well up at happy ones too; knowing very well that it is something we would never have. That is how we were living, wiping each others’ tears while crying ourselves; damn stupid. She couldn’t stop crying after finishing ’A Walk to Remember.’

I pointed her stupidity out to her, telling her that a novel had already been written on such typical story, and now ours would just sound lame.

She laughed over my idiocy to even compare myself with Nicholas Sparks but remained adamant and told me to do it anyway.

We were smiling… breathing, living again.

5th Dec 2014….

Stupidity or love?

‘What have I done to you?’

She said to me five minutes after I entered her room and settled down. It became a routine for me to arrive at her house around 3.00 after attending school and finishing other chores. Though earlier, we used to have no plans but when it became a routine we decided to do our respective work sitting together.

To be precise the agreement was to be together but not at any loss.

The topic of conversation usually revolved around our mutual friends. I happily kept her updated about everything happening at the school.

We had already reached that part in our relationship a long time ago where one can be all awkward and stupid and nonsensical in front of another. I would narrate to her everything; the reasons for me to get punished, the absurd conversations between me and my friends, rumors of linkup between teachers ,who got rejected by whom, about recent crushes of my friends….

Not all of them were real, in fact very few were. I just made them up to see the smile on her face.

All the part about me getting punished were all just a big lie. In fact I became the most serious student of the class. Everyone was shocked at the sudden change but they all knew the reason. Though they full heartedly tried to engage me in their conversation or their thilwai but I felt disconnected with everything around me. I was attending school only because she made me promise to do so.

But I used to make up stories taking reference from my past as to how and why I got punished only because such stories got her involved the most.

Though she managed to keep a smiling face when I used to tell her stories of our mutual friends, I could see the pain of missing all such things behind her fake smile.

Somehow it got into her head that I was wasting my time. She told me to make “productive use”. How could she not understand that for me making her smile was the best use of time? But she insisted that if I do my homework then and there, it would be more useful to me and how I would get more time to chat with her at night. I as usual agreed….

I took the chair and sat in front of the study table. Just as I was taking out the book from my bag for actually studying that time she interrupted me.

“What have I done to you”, she said. She seemed upset. I gave her a puzzled look not understanding what she was referring to. I stood up and went near. She was wearing a light purple top. Her hair was uncombed or maybe it was her new hairstyle. Her legs were covered with quilt but knowing her fashion sense I could bet she wore red colored shorts.

“What”, I asked giving her the same puzzled look.

She removed her quilt and stood up. Damn, white shorts.

She signaled me with her hands towards the bed for our usual sitting arrangement. I would sit cross legged and she would lie down with her head on my lap. I would then get involved in caressing her hair or staring down at her lips, thinking about kissing them and she would complete whatever she had to say but that day I was tired so instead I made her sit cross legged and laid down with my head on her lap.

The touch of the naked skin of her fair complexioned legs sent the same tingle down my spine as it did the first time we sat like this. It had been over 3 months since our relationship officially started but deep down I still had a huge crush on her which never ended.

Her hair was all over my face. They smelled like they have been shampooed not long ago which explained the uncombed hair. She smelled amazing. I think all girls are showered with an everlasting perfume before they are born. I had a sudden urge to kiss her. I guess she had it too as she brought her face close to mine and kissed my nose.

She kissed a little more. Then slowly I turned my head around and traced the bare skin between her top and shorts. My fingers slowly making their way around as I ran them gently around her back. She arched her spine back, giving my tongue even more space around her belly. I rose on my knees slowly taking one of her hand and showering it with kisses, following the trail till her shoulders. She moaned as my arm on her back reached for the hair around her neck, tilting her head backwards while my lips slowly played around making way upto chin.

I rose further, looking deep in those eyes. It was exciting to watch her enjoy the moment.

I felt warm air by those heavy breaths on my face. I tilted it slightly, just resting my lips on hers before moving it to her nose, my right hand still in between her top and skin, lingering smoothly feeling her soft skin.

I forced my other hand which had pinned her chin, to roll down to her waist then further to her knees. I reached for her ankles, and slid her down. She was beneath me, my body weight on top of her. I rested my weight on elbows, my hand finally free from top. I slid my lower body down to reduce the gap between our bodies. My body rested in between her spread out legs. I could feel her belly on my stomach.

With both my hands pinioning her arms, I let my lips kiss her mouth unhurriedly slipping it from nose to her cheek, to ear, leaving a trail of wet kisses. I let my tongue linger gently around her cheekbones.

She puffed, she whimpered. This is all she could do. I had her arms pinioned but I could feel her legs as she rubbed her knees up and down against my thighs.

She was panting heavily.

I wanted to undress her but couldn’t move out from the excitement. I rubbed my nose in her hair, my cheek grazing hers.

I could sense the pressure building inside her. As I kept nibbling around the neck, she groaned. Her knees reaching my midrib, I could feel her curled up toes against my hips.

I raised my gaze and looked at her red cheeks. Her face turned scarlet. I drowned my face in her chest, my eyes not letting go of her face, she was softly biting her lower lip. Further aroused, I made my way back up pulling her lips by mine. I slid my face again, in her hair…I couldn’t help, and it smelled so good.

With lips twirling around, I bit her earlobe with my teeth.

She grunted, but louder that time. The voice reached her mother in Ayesha’s room. We didn’t realize she was busy cleaning in next room while we were doing it.

“Everything okay?” she asked without leaving the room. She sounded a little irritated.

“Yes ma”, Muskan somehow managed to say so.

Soon we realized how far we came.

I was completely exhausted. She was too. In fact she was panting. I got tensed. Soon I realized that I over strained her. I felt guilty. Quickly I opened the bottle and gave it to her. She sipped water, finally breathing slowly and her face looking less tired.

“You okay?” I asked in a tensed tone. She nodded giving a half hearted smile.

After making sure that she is really fine I once again rested on her lap and closed my eyes.

“Oyye, you were saying something”. I said without a hint of curiosity.

“Babu, you sleep, you look tired.” She said, her voice showing a genuine concern. I did what she asked me to do and slept in her lap. She used a cheesy endearment for first time.

After say 15 min I woke up to the sound of sobbing. I opened my eyes and got tensed by what I saw. She was crying. She was in some sort of deep thought and still hadn’t a clue about me waking up. I pretended to sleep. I squinted so that I could peek what was bothering her. She looked down at my face, and then turned her face around.

“Muskan” I called her. She didn’t respond, still busy in her thoughts. I called again, that time a little louder.

“Huh”, she said. I sat up facing her.

“What is happening? Is something wrong?” I asked worried.

“What have I done to you” She said. For the third time in the day.

“What do you mean?” I asked irritated. She sat there crying. I knew something was bothering her.

“Tell me baby what happened?” I asked.

“I talked with Prateek today”. She replied.

“And. Did he tell you something?” I asked confused.

“How you got punished today” she said. I could sense a hint of sarcasm in her voice. But I ignored.

“Aah! That…that’s nothing…just being a little over smart while answering the questions”.

She started crying even more with tears coming down from her eyes as well as her nose. I think only girls can manage to pull off that sort of look. I held her tightly.

“Why are you doing this?”She asked cleaning her face using my t shirt. Girls are really hard to understand. Even in such an emotional state in her unconscious mind she was able to take care of her face and her top too!

“What exactly are you talking about?”I asked both irritated and confused, “Get to the point”. I instructed. Or as I believe I did.

“I talked with Prateek today on facebook. He told me everything. Like everything. You have disconnected yourself from your friends, how you no longer enjoy with them, how you have become so serious and all”. She said slowly in a heavy voice fighting back her tears.

“That bastard”. I said more to myself than to her. A rage ran through my body. I so wanted to kill him at that point of time.

“Mind your language, mister”. She said angrily.

“Continue”. I said fully aware that there is a lot more left to be heard.

“You are not performing well enough in any of the test. Your marks are decimating with every test. You do not even attend coaching classes as you are here during that time.” She said now getting really difficult for her to fight back tears.

“And”, I said. I knew still some bombarding is left.

“Look you are tiring yourself out. You live such a busy schedule. After coming from school, you come here. You do not study and just waste your time. Then when you go back we either chat or talk on the phone”

I wondered and felt amazed that even after talking so much we still had so much left to talk about, every day. She continued and broke my chain of thoughts.

“You sleep very late at night, then wake up early for school. You know what hurt me the most?”

“What?” I asked fearing what that stupid idiot has told her.

“That you are not their friend anymore. You are no more the old Dhruv, the full of life, enthusiastic, social, fun loving one. Now you are just dull and lifeless. You behave rudely to them. You just ignore them. It’s all because of me.” She said losing her battle to tears as they came down with that last line.

“What the fuck. Did he actually say that it’s all because of you” I asked angrily already slapping him in my mind.

“No. he didn’t say that part. But I know it, everyone knows it. Deep down, you know it too.” She said now crying loud enough for her voice to reach the adjacent room.

I had only one way of calming her down. I tightly hugged her. She shoved her head in my chest. Slowly her tears stopped. Though she was still sobbing she released herself from the hug, and looked towards me; her eye demanding a convincing explanation.

‘Seriously! You are listening to that stupid Prateek, he is out of his mind’ I said making a last possible try to somehow avoid or distract the conversation.

‘Is he lying, then?’ she asked.

‘Not exactly’. I answered. I couldn’t lie to her. And I could not keep running away from that topic. I could clearly see the guilt in her eyes as if she had done something really wrong with me. I needed to answer. I needed to clear all the doubts. I needed to assure her that she is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

‘Okay so here’s my answer.’ She listened attentively as I began my list.

‘First of all, complete course is already over in coaching. So there is no need of attending it. And all the tests in the school were surprise test. I was not even prepared for them. In fact no one was! Hence, the low marks. And I study here, in front of your eyes. Believe me; my studies are going just fine.’

‘Okay, so what about late night chatting and tiring yourself out? Look at the dark circle around your eyes, it has darkened.’ she counter-attacked. I was amazed as to how much she noticed me.

‘Shona, I get enough sleep. And I can easily manage to do all these work. And late night chatting, well I have always loved it and you know that.’ I replied trying to sound convincing.

I could see her getting persuaded. But I knew her; she wasn’t going to let it all go so easily.

‘And what about getting disconnected and being rude with all of your friends?’ She asked.

‘It’s a big lie. I behave with them the same way I used to. Neither am I rude to them nor do I ignore them. He is just jealous because you get more attention than him. That gay has a crush on me.’ I replied.

I could see a smile on her face. Though she tried real hard to suppress it and maintain a stiff posture, she couldn’t. She sniggered.

“I know that you ignore them, last night you didn’t even reply to Avni.’

“Aah! That, I was offline when she texted me. I saw her message in the morning”. I replied.

“Really?”

“Yes”

“Liar, she was here with me when she texted you. I told her to do so. We were chatting at that time. Instead of replying, you turned off her chat”

I had no way out of this. The best I could come up is with a nod accepting my mistake.

“Why are you doing this for my life?” The conversation got tensed. I had to end the matter once and for all.

“How many times do I need to remind you that your life belongs to me too? Don’t ever say like that again. Do you even know how much strength and comfort it gives me to hear you talk. How happy I get when I see you smile”

She looked surprised at my sudden outburst. Though she liked it but she didn’t react.

I continued “Do you know my heart stops beating when I see you in pain? I breathe when you breathe. You are the only reason I feel like waking up in the morning. I am doing nothing for you; I am doing it for myself. I am being selfish. There is no ’me’ or ‘you’…there is only ‘us’”

I could see tears in her eyes. In those eyes I saw the reflection of my love.

As to answer “what have you done to me”….what you have done is to make me smile, make me insanely fall in love, make me feel loved, make me feel important, make me feel cared. You have given a sense to my life, with you I feel like the luckiest and happiest guy on the earth. I am blessed to have you in my life. Sure, on the outside I was having fun, but I understood what true happiness means being with you. I don’t have to pretend to be jovial around you, to be something else because you and only you see who I am within, you fill the empty spaces.’ I held her hands in mine, “You completed my emotion void life, Muskan. What you have done is to give me such a beautiful life that I don’t have to put up fake smiles anymore”

I couldn’t believe I spoke that much. It was all impromptu. Nothing was planned. As if my heart was speaking to her. Listening to those words was hers. I could sense the happiness behind her teary face. I knew she got all her answers. Seeing her relieved and satisfied I was happy too.

I picked up my book and sat on the bed cross legged reading it. She lay down, putting her head on my lap and within moments she slept.

I put down my book and started looking down at her face. Her face was slowly losing the brightness and spark it once had. She deserved to live. Life can’t be this unfair to both of us. I got lost into a series of thought. Tears rolled down my eyes. It was my turn to be stupid…

What if…..

‘Is everything okay?’ she asked.

I didn’t respond. I was too lost in my thoughts.

‘Oyye’ she screamed pinching my nose.

I was brought back from my thoughts. I was confused as to how she woke up. I was making sure that my sobs remain inaudible.

Maybe I made a sound, maybe a tear rolled down my cheeks and fell on her face, maybe she was pretending to sleep, or maybe there existed a connection between our hearts where one’s pain could be felt by other as well.

‘Nothing’. I said, not fully into my senses and not at all sounding convincing. She sat up opposite facing me.

‘What is it?’ she asked or more so ordered.

‘What have I done to you?’

‘What?’ she asked sheepishly thinking that I am probably mocking her for the earlier episode. I remained silent. Sensing that something is serious she held my hand.

‘What is it?’ She asked, sounding concerned.

‘It’s all because of me’.

’What?” she asked perplexed.

I looked away from her.

“Please, say something”

‘I am the reason for your pity condition. This all happened after I came into your life. Before me, you were living a normal, healthy and happy life. I am the reason for all the pain you’re going through. I am sorry.’

She was shocked by this sudden emotional outburst. I was probably sounding stupid but I had a valid reason for being so. Somehow I felt as if I destroyed her life. I had promised myself to never talk about her disease and to make her feel normal at all times but I guess I deserved that one outburst.

“You do know that you’re being stupid”. She replied assuring me that I was being naïve.

‘But look at the facts. All this has happened to you after I entered your life. Before me everything was normal, wasn’t it?’ I tried to sound logical. I felt deprived of words for expressing my feeling thus ended up repeating the same lines.

‘NO! It wasn’t. And you know it. The roots of this disease were present since like ever. It was all meant to happen. You had nothing to do with it.’ She sounded convincing.

‘But you’re suffering now when you’re with me what if ’we’ were never meant to happen.’ I said dropping the big bomb.

’Are you stupid? This would have happened even if you were not with me, it was destined to happen. And what do you meant by what if we were never meant to happen? She asked aghast.

‘I mean look what all we went through. We never knew each other. You were forced into friendship with me. You were having a perfect relationship till I stepped into your life. To be together, you broke up with your boyfriend. All of this is a mess. Just imagine what your life would have been like, had I not entered in the picture. Who knew you would have battled and defeated your disease too?’

I felt a lot more disappointed in myself than those words reflect. It was a feeling of insecurity. Though laconically I made my point!

‘You‘re so stupid, don’t you get it? All this has nothing to do with you. It was all meant to happen. All of this. You were meant to come in my life. You were meant to make me fall in true love. You are not the reason for my pain you‘re the healer of it. You’re the reason I still feel alive and happy’

Now she was being irrational but I think she understood that logic won’t help either. But if my love were truly to be her medicine, she would have recovered by then.

‘Do you even know how much you mean to me? I could see myself dying but I cannot see myself apart from you. You’re the most special part of my life. Do you know why you came into my life?’ she spoke softly.

‘Why?’

“Because every story ends with a happy ending, and you’re my happy ending. It gives me great comfort to know that I will leave this world in your arms.’

I could feel the emotions. I felt blessed to know that she loved me as much as I love her. But words indicating her departure from this world brought tears to my eyes. Seeing my face droop, she added,

“And I agree Tushar was good. But he is no match to you.’ She said in hope to see a smile on my face. She succeeded. To be compared with someone better looking than you and still being favored feels awesome.

‘But’, I said in hope to listen to more of such sweet lines. What came next was even better.

She came forward and kissed, a nice way to shut me up. I felt stupid as to why I hadn’t thought of it during the previous episode. It was the most passionate kiss lasting for quite a long time. As if her lips which locked mine were reassuring me of her love for me. In that moment I felt completely assured that this for sure, was meant to happen.

The passion soon reached another level. My hand working on its own slid into her top reaching where they wanted to. She took off my t-shirt and grabbed me with both hand. We touched, we kissed, we cuddled, her tongue playing with me, we both didn’t want to leave each other, leave the feel of the bare skin, trying to get as intimate, as close as we could. More than ever we wanted each other’s body. The desire, the urge to get into each other, to become one reached just another level. We were about to when suddenly she backed off.

Not because of realizing the stupidity of our actions but due to getting completely exhausted. I got back into my clothes and she lay down. I gave her water and walked towards the study table.

‘Hey where do you think you are going? I need a pillow to lay my head on’. She said.

Soon we got back into our regular sitting arrangement. I started caressing her hair. She was still panting.

‘You almost killed me out there’ she said in a sexy tone. Probably the most desired line to be heard after, well you know what.

‘Probably, we shouldn’t do it’. I said in a serious tensed tone.

‘You sure?’ She said in a seductive tone while running her finger on her lips.

Sensing the light mood I realized that I was being worried for no reason. I contributed to the sexy mocking.

‘I don’t know it’s pretty risky’.

‘How?’ She asked.

‘Well who knows I might literally personify the phrase ’fucked till death’. I winked at her.

She laughed. ‘You shameless dog’.

I stood up to flex my muscle. I went outside in the balcony to inhale some air. I returned and found her lying on the bed on her stomach, still blushing. I wanted to add onto her amusement.

Well, I do have a serious question.’ I said.

‘Yes, it was good, could have been better.’ She said sheepishly.

‘Hey, I wasn’t talking about it and I know I am very good at it. I don’t need any certificate for it and besides it wasn’t even a full show’. I said a little defensive and disappointed by the use of word “good”.

“Is it because of tiredness caused by disease, or you can last this long only?” I naughtily mocked.

She just scrunched her nose.

‘Well I am happy about one thing’. She said, after few seconds.

‘What?’

‘At least I am not dying a virgin’

‘You’re not dying.’ I said out of habit.

‘AND WHAT?! What did you just say?’ My mouth open, Heart in a mild shock. I was startled.

‘What you just heard’

I remembered real hard of all the times she or Tushar told me stories about them. There was no mention of it.

She could sense my face droop.

‘How could she?’ I mumbled to myself.

’ Look at your face’ she said pressing her stomach with her hand almost falling out of bed. ’Relax; I am still what you call it-‘pure’. She said laughing uncontrollably.

‘What? Why would you do this to me?’ I said in a pretended furious tone, ‘That was totally uncalled for’

‘So that from next time; you think twice, before mocking me.’ she said still incapable of controlling her laugh.

‘Leave the mocking; I will stop talking if you say so. But please keep such jokes to yourself. Now, you almost killed me out there’.

‘Okay, relax, calm down now.’

‘Now please pass me my book, I have to study’

’So what am I supposed to do now?”

‘What you have been doing from all this time. Here listen to songs.’ I said throwing my mobile at her. Apparently her SD card was damaged so she had to put up with the stuff in my gallery.

‘Okay, but try to study. Don’t keep on staring at me’. She said with a sheepish grin; Mocking me again.

‘Listen’ I said after a deliberate pause.

‘Hmm’

‘If today again you entertain yourself with the porn, please delete it from “last played” list.’ I said winking at her.

She laughed. She couldn’t hide the blush. She took up a pillow and threw at me; soon the pillow fight started which was disturbed by a knock on the door. I got back to the chair as Muskan opened the door and Ayesha walked in.

‘What’s with the closed door? Something private going on?’ she said mockingly. Both the sister apart from their looks shared other qualities too.

‘And what are you still doing here?’

‘Huh?’

‘It’s 7:30. Papa is already home.’

A current of fear ran through me as I quickly packed my bag and stood to leave.

‘Here, take this physics book. Tell him, Avni asked for it.’ Muskan said.

’What were you planning to say anyway if he would have asked?” Ayesha inquired.

I shrugged my shoulders.

‘I almost did you daughter. TWICE’! I thought.

Muskan’s father shifted his gaze towards me from the daily news on TV as I walked down the stairs.

‘Namaste uncle.’ I said managing a smile on my face. He simply nodded.

‘I came to pick up this book on Avni’s behalf’. I said and mentally kicked myself.

Uncle raised his eyebrow on the uncalled explanation. I hurried towards the gate and left as the sisters who were eavesdropping giggled.


I don’t know if this particular incident holds any relevance in our story but it felt special to me, and was worth mentioning.

I was in her home, as usual-she was busy in her artwork. I don’t really know what exactly was in her mind, in one hand was a paint brush dipped in colors and besides her were pencils of different shades, either she was looking for a pencil sketch or an abstract style, and I very well knew it could turn into something else altogether. Her idea of art was to let it flow freestyle, she liked to begin with a clean slate and let inspiration engulf her as she moves forward but she was equally shy as much as artistic; she never showed me any of her work, kept it to herself and always argued that I would laugh looking at them and would mock her. Pretty stupid, how could I not like anything that was in any way related with her?

Though I once glanced at her collection, when she was helping her mother out in the kitchen. Now I can’t really call it extraordinary but it was amazing at such amateur level. Her collection covered from canvas painting, stone painting to clay toys, from fancy posters to her handmade charts of favourite songs.

With a gorgeous collection of novels and literary work from across the globe, from sticky notes to painting kit; her shelf could embarrass any stationery shop.

Amidst all these, my attraction was her private diary, all her life hidden inside a black jacketed book, I was crazily intrigued about the unknown aspects of her life, and also I wanted to read what all she has written about me. I was never skeptical of her love for me but there was so much of little intricate detail yet to be known, also the thought of looking deep into a girl’s heart was very fascinating and lucrative…what all girls dream of? What are their fantasies? What turns them on? What all they look for in a boy? Well, I feigned being busy in my own work, pretending to pay no heed to what she was doing, and that’s when I heard the knock on the door.

“Di” a sweet voice reached my ear, and stepped inside room a cute little girl, maybe 2-3 years old, followed by Muskan’s mother. She had ribbons in her plaits and wore red skirt and white top. Her red nose cutely crinkled whenever she laughed.

A small drum was hanging on her neck and she was enjoying making ‘noise’ beating drum sticks which looked too big on her small hands, she barely managed to hold them up.

“Why did you purchase her these?” Muskan asked, scrunching her nose. At first I thought she was pretending to be frowned.

“It’s just a little gift, yesterday I was out shopping and I glanced at the toy shop, and it looked fascinating. I thought it would be perfect for her.” Muskan had that drama-queen expression intact and gave a meaningful gaze to the girl. (As if she were to understand any of these)

Aunty added, “Common beta, she is like my daughter. Look, how cute she is.” Aunty picked her up, gave a kiss on the cheek and then pinched her nose. “Our gudia is the best girl” Aunty mumbled to the little girl.

“Nae na, I am the best girl”. Muskan said in a childish high-pitched voice. I tried hard to control my laugh, but could not hide my amusement. She blushed as I raised my eyebrow, trying to make some sense out of the scenario.

Mentally, I pictured her fighting with Ayesha in their childhood, battling for the shared love of parents, fighting over the number of toys or clothes one gets to buy, teasing and mocking and making fun of each other. Their sisterly love was indescribable but the envy, the fights; all these seemingly stupid nonsensical brawls just make it even more so special.

“Haan, mera bccha, you are the best”. Aunty pampered her, and she smiled. She yet won the love, like she always had. I think aunty got tired of holding her, so she made her sit on bed beside Muskan.

“Okay, let her play here”. Muskan gave her a piece of paper and a pencil after choosing carefully amongst the dozen she had, she gave which was least usable for her.

She made some wayward designs on the paper, after which her pencil fell down. She asked for another one, Muskan resented and instructed her to pick up the pencil from the floor instead. In the process, her tiny hand hit on the water colour placed inches away from lap of Muskan, and the color spilled all over her ‘artwork’. She was getting on Muskan’s nerves.

“Maa, she’s ruining everything.” Muskan shouted, in agitation. It somewhat scared the little girl. She got down from the bed; aunty sensed it and diverted the conversation.

“Come, gudia…let me find a toy for you, and then we will play together and eat maggi”

“Great, stuff her with more food, no wonder she is getting so fat” Muskan scrunched her nose once again. I felt like kissing that nose, but I could not put Aunty in any more shock. She was already having a tough time pampering two little girls.

Aunty began her search for toys and told her to go and play with ‘bhaiya’. I was startled, me! What me? Why me? Me, noooo. I am awkward around kids and girls, and hell she was both.

I was completely puzzled what to do as I saw her walking towards me. Muskan grinned from ear to ear. I imitated what Muskan did; I gave her a piece of paper, and sat cross legged with her on the floor. I wondered what to do next and tried hard remembering my childhood days to get a hint of games that I could play with her as I saw aunty searching for toys in Muskan’s cabinet. By then I was familiar with every furniture and color of every wall of Muskan’s house, they are in the bottom left cabinet behind the pile of her old books, I resisted telling her, as it would have been more weird rather than inappropriate, I wondered if she had a video game with double dragon CD.

Eventually Muskan told her, and aunty picked out a doll. Suddenly the ambience got nostalgic. Auntie’s gaze lasted longer than normal. She turned around and looked at Muskan, her eyes welled up.

“Remember, that day we went to zoo, and the whole time you kept on demanding for this doll. You loved it so much, once you got so worked up when Ayesha hid it, you created a scene in the house. Both of you have always been so chaotic.” She gave a painful smile. “But now you won’t be troubling me much”. She choked, tears running down her eyes. She could barely breathe.

Muskan stood up, and tightly hugged her mother. “maa-it-will-be-okay”, her eyes wet, words barely escaped her mouth.

Aunty smiled , “look at my little girl, all grown up still it only seems like yesterday when we brought you home from hospital, and yeah you’re my best girl”. She kissed on Muskan’s forehead. Muskan chuckled.

At that moment, I realized I wasn’t the only one who was losing the love of my life. They were losing a part of them, instead. There can’t be any bigger grief for parents to watch their child die in front of them. They knew that with each passing day, they were getting closer to losing their daughter, forever. The mere thought that their whole life is going to be shattered wrenched my heart. I couldn’t even possibly imagine the pain they must be going through. Uncle feigned to be normal, to remain strong (for the sake of family) but aunty was emotionally quashed.

But the end was inevitable. With the end of her life, it would mean the end of theirs too. You can’t just flush down 18 years of memories, from her first cry, to her first walk, her first day at school, her first period-she has seen it all. No amount of love and no degree of sacrifice can even be compared to what parents do for their child. Such intense love, care, motherhood-the strongest bond in the entire universe; all the pampering and the upbringing, and it was being taken away.

All the dreams to see her daughter getting married one day and living a happy life, brutally crushed. I shuddered thinking their afterlife, they would lose their smile, the reason for their existence…will they ever feel happiness again? Time and again, on their visits to gardens they would see little girls playing with their mother, how would they react then? Will tears ever stop? Maybe they were secretly wishing for their own end to be near soon. No parent should have to bear the burden of performing the final rituals of their own children. They were embracing the future embarked with darkness hopelessly, it was Muskan’s heart which would stop beating but they too were lifeless.

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