"Car is here." Tanya informed but I didn't miss the hint of sadness in her voice.
Standing up I took a deep breath to compose myself. This mere information had increased the rate of my heart beat. Nervousness started engulfing me.
'Ahana calm down. Everything is going to be perfect.'
I motivated myself.
I followed Tanya out of the room. My luggage was already taken outside. Coming in the hall everyone came insight, mamu, mami, Tarun and my emotional nani.
I went towards her and took her in my embrace. "Shh!! Don't cry nani." I rubbed her back gently, trying to calm her down.
Backing her away a little I took her face in my both hands then spoke looking down at her, "I'll be fine there. Don't worry. You trust me, right?" She nodded slowly and then kissed my forehead caressing my face with her hands.
"Promise me you'll never lose your hope and take care of yourself." She said stretching her hand to me.
I looked at her old frailed face with glossy eyes then at her outstretched hand.
"I promise" I said sealing it by placing my hands in her wrinkled ones.
Then moving forward I hugged mamu - mami. An overwhelming emotion surging inside me as I started bidding my final goodbyes from all those people with whom I had lived for years. They were emotional too but they didn't let their emotions came out as nani. I could feel tears forming in my eyes but blinked them back.
Tarun stood there with a sad expression on his face. It never suited him. He looked good when he's cheerful and happy not when he's sad.
I went towards him and ruffled his well set hairs, deliberately.
"Hey! Don't do that." He scowled at me while I smiled.
Leaning forward to him I whispered in his ears, "Inform me when she agrees. I'll give you more tips then." I winked and a smile appeared on his face. Now he looked good.
I went to only remaining person, Tanya, standing in the corner, still annoyed with my decision.
"You sure, you want to go there?" She asked for the umpteenth time. She was much more reluctant than nani to let me go.
I nodded. She sighed and then hugged me.
"You better have my number. Give me a call and I will be there." She said sternly. I smiled. She was younger than me but had always acted as a protective elder sister.
Indeed it was my luck to have these lovely, awesome people in my life.
"Ahana, car is waiting for you outside. I think you should leave now. Weather doesn't seem so good." Mamu said stating the fact.
After bidding final goodbyes, I went out. A black coloured 'Mercedes' was standing in front of me. Driver opened the door of back seat for me.
Before climbing in I turned around and glanced at the house for last time where I had spent twelve crucial years of my life.
I waved my hand as everyone stood there to see off me. Driver bought engine to life. Soon they all were out of my sight as car took several turns leading me to my destination.
Shutting my eyes close I leaned back in my seat resting my head against the window. All memories from past once again made their appearance before my eyes and like always I let them in.
Everything was going very smoothly then. I still remember. Life seemed to be so perfect and ecstatic. Having loving parents and a caring brother by my side was blissful. Came an another member in our house and our lives, my younger sister Aarushi, followed by immense joy and happiness completing our family. But the happiness was short lived. My normal perfect happy family started shattering.
As time passed, mamma- papa's much of attention was averted to Arushi. I felt ignored. I was so attention seeking then. The thought of Aarushi being loved more itched me and was stucked in my mind.
Nikhil, my elder brother, was mature. He was not affected by the change or maybe he never felt it. I got more irritate.
One day, when six months old Arushi ruined my project, my all emotions burst out. My anger, frustration, irritation, loneliness, tears everything came out. Mamma- papa were shocked to see me like that. I had locked myself in the room. Mamma papa both tried but I didn't open it. Next day, papa talked to me. He assured me that they both love me and Nikhil equally as they love Arushi. Mamma consoled me too.
Gradually things started getting normal with time. I was also trying to accept the changes that accompanied Arushi's birth. Indeed I accepted reality. I understood that she needed more attention and care then us. In fact, I thought of surprising mamma papa by taking care of Arushi as an elder sister but much to my disappointment it all turned opposite or maybe worse.
It was a weekend. We all were at our farm house. Papa wanted to have some family time. I knew they were doing it to assure me of my insecurity and I appreciated their effort. I thought I should make an effort too.
I took Arushi from mamma's lap in my arms and asked her if I could play with her in my room. She agreed happily. I took Arushi upstairs in my room and played with her but she was soon fast asleep. I got bored, so I decided to complete my project. It required match sticks. I went downstairs and grabbed a match box from the kitchen.
"Where are you taking this matchbox?" Mamma appeared from behind me." Don't tell me you are going to prank Nikhil or Arushi", she asked suspiciously.
"No, mamma. I need it for project. Arushi is sleeping, so I thought of completing it." I replied genuinely then went upstairs. I started project. A little while later I felt the temperature of room rising and some smoke there. I coughed. I went outside to get some fresh air. And then I heard loud noises coming from the house.
"Fire ! Fire!"
" Somebody call fire brigade"
I got tensed. I rushed inside and saw my room. It was on fire.
' Oh my god! No! Arushi is in the room. I have to save her.'
I ran upstairs and saw mom screaming. Nikhil was holding her back whilst papa was trying to get inside the room. There was smoke everywhere. I felt like choking and then my vision became blur.
I didn't know for how much time I was unconscious but when I woke up I was surrounded by different surroundings. It didn't take much time for me to recognise the place as I was very well familiar with it. I was in Dev uncle's mansion, my father's best friend and owner of 'Kapoor Industries'. Doors of my room opened and here he came. His face full of grimace. He sat beside me and caressed my hairs.
"How are you feeling now?" He asked.
Instead of answering, I questioned him back, " Where are mamma papa?"
My question seemed to pain him. He closed his eyes and squeezed them gently. I didn't know what was going on. I needed my parents. Scenes of that night were playing in mind repeatedly, scaring me more and more. After a moment he spoke,
" Arushi is no more, Ahana. She left us."
' No, it can't happen. She cannot die. He must be lying'
I pushed him away from me and jumped out of the bed.
" No, this is not true. You are lying." I shouted.
He took a step in my direction after recovering from the sudden attack. Before he could reach me I ran out of the room screaming mamma papa.
I needed them.
' Where are you both?'
Tears started flowing through my eyes. I ran downstairs. Uncle was behind me calling my name again and again. But I ignored. At that time, I just wanted to see my parents and they came. I saw both of them at entrance. I quickly ran and wrapped my arms around mamma. Strangely, she didn't embrace me as she used to do. I looked at her. Her once cheerful and happy eyes were dark and red. I held papa's hand but it was not warm as usual. It was cold.
" Mamma papa, see what Dev uncle is saying. He said Arushi left us. Tell me he is lying." I cried.
Now their eyes snapped at me. Mamma came near me and did something which was very unexpected. She slapped me. Her face was showing digust and hatre.
"Mamma", I cried.
" Don't call me that again. I'm not your mamma." She said bitterly.
Papa came forward and placed his hands on her shoulders trying to soothe her but her emotions burst out. She rested her head , crying ,on his chest clutching his shirt.
"She killed our daughter, Naveen. She killed her." She cried. My heart skipped a beat.
Her words ringing in my ears again and again.
'She killed our daughter'
"I didn't kill her." I whispered loud enough for them to listen.
She looked at me fiercely. I took a step back in fear. She knelt down to my level. I was trembling badly.
"You killed her because of your jealousy." She said coldly and her next words were like a piercing arrow in my heart."You are a murderer. Have you listened? You. Are. A. Murderer. " She screamed.
That word still echoed in my ears.
"Murderer", I whispered. A tear slipped out of my eyes.
"Have you said something, mam?" Driver called. I opened my eyes for the first time throughout the journey and wiped my face.
"No, nothing", I replied slowly.
"We will be there in an hour. I hope it doesn't rain till then." He said hopefully.
I looked out of the window. Sky was covered with dark clouds blocking sun rays. It was thundering outside. But now it didn't scare me. I had learned how to face it alone as no one was there to soothe me when I needed the most.