I have no words to thank you for your support, for standing by me when I need time, for being understanding with me, and bearing with me through my deadlines.
I was away from social media, my blogs, and all internet sites during this time. And I was able to finish a lot of work. Finally, I can breathe in peace.
Thanks for being patient.
Love you all. Stay safe.
Also, SALUTE to our Army for staying there at the borders so that each one of us sleeps in peace. It is one thing to write a story where the Army plays an important role, and even that gives me goosebumps, but it is totally different to stand there, fight the perpetrators and take them down, risking their lives.
We need to always remember that the peace and sleep, we treasure so much, didn’t come for free. It is very precious. It was given to us by the sacrifices of our brothers on the borders.
Always remember them in your prayers!
“I’m fine with that. And now, I don’t even want to listen to what you feel. Your words are not needed, Anshuman.”
“If you think words are the only means to convey our feelings, you are mistaken.”
He blinked his eyes, once. Slowly. Deliberately.
She had rightly said that she could read about his feelings in his eyes, his actions, his movements, and his care. So much so, that she didn’t even need words to confirm them. He could believe it. For, this was what he had been doing, all this time. He knew her exact feelings. And she hadn’t uttered even a single word about what she felt about him.
He sighed. “I know that words are not the only means to convey any feelings. In fact, they are not even enough. Still… you can insist… you have every right.”
His hand was still in her hand. She had enclosed it secured in her soft hands. She could feel her throat choking when she said, “I will remember to exert that right. One day, for sure. Thanks for telling me that I could insist. For now, I don’t want to push you. I want to hold this moment, forever.”
He curled his fingers around her hand and squeezed it softly, but firmly. In an unexpected move, he lowered his head and touched his forehead over hers. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in, well aware that his eyes were on hers, from a distance so close that she could hear him breathe. He didn’t close his eyes. He wanted to have a long look at her. To keep this memory in his mind. Just the way, she had suggested. She had wished for.
“This moment will stay in my memory, too,” He whispered, “Forever!”
The sun went down behind the mountains, giving way to the darkness seeping in every crevice, every corner, every part of the fortress.
Anshuman and Manasvi sat quietly, with their backs tucked to the sidewall, overlooking the valley, away from the main fortress, campsite, and the area of warfare. Thankfully, no one came there or spotted them at the terrace.
As the night approached, the sounds of gunshots, bombings, shellings, and running around of boots went down. It became pitch dark and dead silent by late night. Anshuman looked at the watch over his wrist and pressed the button for the faint green light to appear to show the dial in the dark.
“11:00 pm.” He whispered.
“The sounds have stopped.”
“Yeah. Either they are gunned down or arrested.” He left a deep breath and rested his head, back on the wall behind him.
“Should we go down?” She asked, in a slow whisper.
He nodded to refuse, “No, it will be a big blunder. Some people either hide in darkness or try to run away, taking advantage of the dark. The army might also get confused and shoot us. Let the dust settle down for a few hours. And let there be sunlight.”
She ran her tongue over her upper lip, and asked, “Then? Early morning?”
“Yes. Where is your phone?”
“It is in the bag that had my certificates, and diary. Amanda took it with her.”
“Okay!” He nodded, with his neck up and down, trying to think.
He shrugged, “Dropped somewhere… I don’t know… maybe in the OT.”
She didn’t say anything after that. She rested her head at the wall too and counted the number of hours left for the morning. She woke up early to do yoga. So, she knew that it was dawn by 5:00 am, every day. It meant that they had to spend six hours more on this terrace.
Six hours more!
She didn’t know what he felt about it but for her, the time spent on this terrace was the most beautiful time of her life. That she had ‘only’ six hours more, left with him, felt so less, so draining. Given a choice, she would have never allowed these six hours to pass, ever. She could spend her entire life here. She didn’t know if Anshuman would ever tell her what he felt for her. But it was more important for her to treasure what she felt for him. She loved him. And she loved being on this terrace. With him. Even if it was for the last time in their lives.
Manasvi was woken up by the nightmares that disturbed her for most of the nights. She had never had even a single night in her life when she didn’t have those scary nightmares. And today was no different. In fact, today was a scary day. So much had happened today. As if her mind had revised and revisited all the sounds and smells that she had been fighting with, since childhood. She had a hard time falling asleep. She didn’t even realize when she fell asleep, tired and exhausted after the difficult day. Anshuman must have slept after her. Because she didn’t even remember when she closed her eyes, hugged herself, turned on her side, and drifted off to sleep.
Now that she had woken up, her eyes darted around to look for Anshuman. He was at a few feet distance from her. His long legs were stretched ahead. He was lying on his side, with his head rested on his folded elbow below his head, tucked as a pillow. His other hand, held that folded elbow, thereby creating a space, where his head was safely resting. His face and his entire body shone in the white moonlight.
She couldn’t move her eyes from him, because he didn’t look peaceful while he slept. He was clearly disturbed.
On an impulse, Manasvi crawled and kneeled to be near him. She observed his face closely. His brows were furrowed in a distinct frown, with clear lines between his brows, forced to stay still. His eyes stayed tightly shut. His lips were pursed with so many expressions crossing his face. His eyeballs moved rapidly under the curtain of his eyelids. He appeared to be breathing heavily.
‘Do I look like this, when I am witnessing nightmares in my sleep? So disturbed? Does he suffer from nightmares too?’
She knew exactly how he was feeling and what he was going through. As if it wasn’t painful to witness nightmares every night and be woken up by them that she had to witness Anshuman go through nightmares too. It was probably one of the scariest feelings to go through. When you are asleep, you are fighting an unknown enemy and not even able to fight it with all your might, because it doesn’t allow you to. It envelops you until it drains all of your energy, slowly, compulsively, forcing you to give up or be defeated, before waking up with a jolt as there is probably nothing you could do while you were asleep. Nothing felt more helpless. More restless.
She didn’t even think twice, when she slipped to lie beside him and curled her arm around him, to hold him and support him. She curled her fingers over his shirt at his back. Training at Army and working at PBB had been responsible for his fragile sleep. The very next moment, he knew that she had slipped beside him to hold him. Surprised, he opened his eyes. Only to meet her eyes, right before him. She was looking at him, slowly adjusting in the tiny space left for her on his elbow.
He pressed his lips inside and softly moved his head away to let her rest her head on his elbow. He stretched his other hand and impulsively curled it around her, as discreetly as possible, but not before heaving a deep sigh and closing his eyes, again.
She didn’t know if he caught sleep immediately after that or took some time because he didn’t move after that. Not even an inch. She watched him sleep for some time and then she closed her eyes too.
It was weird that she didn’t hear or feel him moving for the entire night after that. He didn’t get any nightmare after that. Nor did she. Her sleep was broken a few minutes before the dawn, and she knew that she didn’t have any nightmare for the rest of the night. She was curled up like a baby when she woke up, hugging herself and not him. His hand was though, still around her. He slept peacefully, holding her.
She didn’t know what trauma had been affecting his mind that he had to go through these nightmares. She was not sure if he would ever allow her to step so close to him, to be able to share those ordeals. And she didn’t even know if she would ever be able to help him, even if he allowed her to. But one thing was sure, that it had helped her.
She had never known before this that holding someone and trying to ease his pain would soothe her own wounds. That, in an attempt to calm his demons, she would be fighting her own. She had never had such peaceful sleep before. And that was not even in her mind when she held him to calm his nightmares.
She had just hoped to put him at ease. But never knew that in return, she would gain peace. herself.
Early morning, around 5:20 am.
Anshuman woke up and found Manasvi leaning by the parapet, looking outside.
“When did you wake up?” He got up, and yawned slightly, stretching himself, talking to her as if it was the most casual thing to do.
“A few minutes ago.” She turned her face to him and replied with a smile.
He knelt down and crawled to be beside her to look at the war scene downwards. He asked, “What is the status?”
“Peaceful.” She replied.
“Great.” He sighed.
They examined the area once more and saw no sign of warfare. The campsite was as deserted as a graveyard.
“Let’s go!” He said,
Worried, she asked, “Are you sure?”
“Yes. See, there!” He pointed towards some men from the Afghan Army patrolling around the area, carefully moving around each area, making sure that the area was free of extremists.
Anshuman stretched his hand towards her and asked, “Can you give me your scarf?”
She removed her white dupatta and gave it to him. He stood straight, waving that piece of cloth, stretching his hand high up in the air and so clearly that army could see it.
Panicking, she stood beside him, “Anshuman, please be careful. They can mistake you for the enemy.”
He patted her shoulder assuringly, “We have to take that risk. Pray for the best.”
Manavi nodded and opened her hair so that her long hair flew in the air, so that the Army men who saw from far, could see that there was a girl standing with the guy waving the cloth. Anshuman rode on the edge of the parapet.
“Anshuman…” Manasvi could feel her heart sinking at that.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going there. I don’t want them to gun me down and later realize that it was a mistake.” He chuckled lightly.
She was not amused. In fact, she was miffed at that, “You think, it is a joke?”
“No, I don’t! But it is a regular thing for me. This is not the first time that I am stuck in such a situation…waving flags towards the army, praying that I am not gunned down by mistake… however…”
“However?” She raised her chin and asked.
“This is the first time, I’m scared. Scared for you!”
(Thanks for reading)