Thank you everyone,
For all the wishes and love, I’m deeply grateful. I’m sorry, I didn’t reply to anyone as I have been packing and shifting stuff. Not active on any social media, either.
I’m temporarily shifting to Bikaner for a few months. The process is still on, but I’m in a better space currently as I have some major work done. Rest will slowly find its place.
The love and trust you have bestowed on this story leaves me in awe. It’s not an easy story and the way you all have kept patience until now is commendable. Leaves me speechless.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart 💖💖💖
Love you all
“Forgiving you is easy. But how will I forgive myself?”
He knew how low she was feeling, how she was struggling with herself in agony, how she was unable to get over the betrayal she had received from him. He knew he was the reason for her pain but this pain was inevitable. He couldn’t have let her ruin herself.
She didn’t speak anything for some time. He didn’t speak either. She bit her lower lip and her brows were puckered. Her fingers found a chipping cuticle at the side of her left thumb. She scratched it with the nail of her right index finger. He noticed everything. The pained look on her face, her right finger nail pulling the damaged cuticle at her left thumb causing her more pain. He waited for a few seconds and when she didn’t stop, he stretched his hand and held her right hand firmly to stop her.
She tried to pull her hand away, but he didn’t leave it. In fact, his hold became stronger with her pull. She jerked away his hand yet again to free her hand. And once again, he didn’t relent. He was too strong for her, and his grip was much firmer than her efforts.
She heaved a desperate sigh, with an angry whisper. “Leave me.”
He didn’t release her. Instead, he chided her in a firm tone, “Stop doing it.”
She waited for a second, and then, she brusquely jerked her hand from his hold. He left her. She stood up from the chair, and spoke in a dejected tone, “I’m not talking to you. Please leave me alone.”
Leaving him stunned, and speechless, she turned around and walked away barefoot towards the cold sand, and the ocean making waves splashing on the shore. From here, the darkness engulfed the beach for as far as eyes could see. He stared at her helplessly, waiting for her to stop or look back at him. She didn’t. Did she really walk away? He couldn’t believe it that she was so angry that she didn’t want to talk to him.
He waited for a few seconds, and when she was sufficiently far, he couldn’t take it any more. He took off his shoes too, and folded his denims at his ankles, to avoid the sand and water soiling it. When he ran towards her, his long strides took only a few seconds to cover the distance and reach her. She had been walking away in the darkness, with only soft moonlight falling on her face and reflecting off the water in the ocean.
“Manasvi,” He called her from behind, “Wait!”
She didn’t respond to his call. She had listened to him very clearly but she didn’t stop. Wearing denim capri pants, folded at her calves, and white cotton kurti, with a scarf loosely wrapped around her head and neck, she looked slightly different from the salwar clad female he had seen in Kabul. She looked cute from behind – angry, and upset – lost in the jungle of cruel world. He wished he could crush her in his arms to squeeze away all of her pain out of her. As a surgeon, and an armyman, he had known only one technique – to cut off the part that didn’t heal. To squeeze away all toxins. Alas! This wasn’t feasible with emotions. They were more complicated than gangrene.
She kept walking away. He took two more steps, almost a short sprint towards her, and held her elbow to stop her. She was forced to stop walking. With a single jerk of his hand on her elbow, he turned her to face him, “Stop, I said.”
She was now facing him. He was zapped to see her face wet with tears streaming down her cheeks, lips tormenting each other as if trying to avoid making a show of her emotions, but failing eventually, and her entire body shivering.
Dr. Anshuman Shekhawat never knew how the tough core inside him could melt with one vulnerable look on Manasvi Rathore’s face. He had handled the most difficult situations in his life but every time he was with her, he was stirred profoundly, unable to handle the turn of events. She had a knack of leaving him lost and speechless. Once again, she was successful in turning his heart into a jelly.
He didn’t know how to deal with this. She had been tearing apart. He gathered her close in his arms and cupped her face with his one hand, wiping away her tears with his thumb. She clutched the lapels of his shirt to avoid buckling at her knees. The cold breeze stroking them, the waves touching their feet, and the wet sand slipping away from under their feet made them step closer. He touched her forehead with his forehead and waited for her to say something or to stop crying. She didn’t.
Slowly, he bent ahead taking both his hands behind her, drawing her closer with this. He moved his nose over her cheek, over her nose, reaching further ahead. She sighed in anticipation but she neither moved away nor resisted him. He could feel her sigh on his jawline. She shuddered like a meek kitten, eyes closed and breath caught in her lungs. She wished she could tell him that they should talk first. He had waited for this moment for long, and he wasn’t going to allow any of them to spoil it. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say something, he kissed her.
His lips lovingly and carefully caressed the softness under them. She was taken aback, confused at first, but relieved eventually that he had come all the way to meet her and was not confused about what he felt for her. His kiss spoke everything that he didn’t. That he had always felt the same for her as she did. That he wasn’t avoiding her or had left her for a brighter future. He had left her for her safety.
She could feel her heart breaking. How many times was he going to make her fall in love with him? How was she going to love him more than she already did?
She kissed him back, turning a soft peck more passionate than any of them had ever imagined. They had never shared a lot of words between them. Their relationship was more about assuming, and understanding, and hoping. But now, they knew they didn’t need words to help them either. Their hearts were well versed with what they felt about each other.
After a long blissful moment, she separated from him. He rested his forehead on her forehead, once again, and observed her.
“I’m so.. so sorry.” She whispered.
“Don’t torture yourself. I would have done the same if I was in your place. I would have left that place if you wanted me to do it. And if you were in my place, you would have done the same to send me away. That was the only solution I could think of.”
She murmured between her tears and hiccups, and kept speaking, “This is so difficult to handle…I’m not able to explain… It’s so painful…how will I live with this… I’m sorry… I let you down… I could have done something… But I walked away…”
“Stop it.” He chided her and impulsively kissed her again. For a moment, she tried to break away but her resolves didn’t stay for long. She leaned into him, kissing him more, wishing for this moment to stay forever.
She hoped she wasn’t dreaming. She knew she wasn’t dreaming, though. A dream can’t be this beautiful. Her dreams had always been scary and terrifying. She had never dared to imagine something so mesmerizing even in her dreams.
It had to be reality.
They lay on the clean beach sand, watching the clear starry sky, and the full moon shining high up above them, talking about all they could, all they remembered, all they thought that the other needed to know.
He let his hand move on the sand between them, to find her hand, to hold it, subtly unfolding her fingers to intertwine his fingers with hers. She stopped speaking when he did that, and turned her face to look at him. He shrugged. She nodded, and started speaking again.
Their conversations comprised of fewer words, interspersed with long silences. They quietly observed the night sky, resumed talking in bits of sentences and short phrases. None of them was a great conversationalist. Yet, communication came easy to them, only when they were with each other. Just like the times, when they were in the Afghanistan camp, and spent hours facing the cliff.
The only difference was that their hands were entwined, this time.
He told her about the life in jail, the kind jailer, the medical work he did, Junaid Khan, and how his team had helped him escape. He shared his thoughts about his life and experiences in PBB. His life had come a full circle after he had found a closure about his parents in Afghanistan. And now that he had met her again, all his wishes were fulfilled. There were no turbulences in his mind and heart anymore.
She told him about people she met in Afghanistan, his nanny, his parents’ nursing home, Liz and her team, how she had spent past 5 months in The Insight, the parts of her work that she loved to do, and how Kajal had this confusion that she could be even remotely interested in getting married to Krish.
“In a way, I should be thankful to her. I would have waited for you to finish your work and come back, but when she said that you are on a holiday in Goa with Krish, and have agreed to marry him, I couldn’t wait to talk to you. I couldn’t stop myself from coming here and finding you anyhow.”
She turned her face from the sky to him, and asked, “Were you worried?”
“Yes. I was scared. And very nervous.” He confessed in a deep, throaty baritone, “Despite asking you to go away and move on, I couldn’t let go of you.”
She turned away again, to look at the stars, and replied, “Krish is a good friend of mine. But he can never take your place. No one can.”
He smiled. “I feel honoured.”
A sinking sensation overcame her as she replied in a drained, tired voice, “You should feel suffocated, instead… and not honoured. You have been Godsent for me. You did everything you could do, and never left me alone. You’ve given me a new life every time I was in trouble. For so many times, that I can’t begin to count. But I have given you nothing but problems, pain, bondage of marriage at an early age, and now, even jail. I’m a bad omen for you.”
“Stop saying that.” He was angry this time. He hated it when she said anything like that. She had no idea what she meant to him. His life revolved around her. He could never tell her how he drew his strength from her, how his peace lay in her smiles, how his sanity resided in her presence. If she was fine, he was fine too. If she was happy, he felt relieved and gained a new energy to fight the world. She didn’t know what she was to him.
“That’s the truth. It won’t change even if you shout to dismiss it.” She spoke in a low, pained voice. She sat back on the sand and hugged herself, rubbing her arm with the palm of her hand, as if warding off the chill of the cool breeze.
He sat back too. And said, “I wish, I could explain to you how you give me peace and courage… you don’t…”
She interrupted him with her hand on his arm, “Don’t say anything to make me feel good. I’m fine.”
“I’m not…” He started speaking again, but she stopped him again.
“I’m feeling cold. I need to go inside.” She stood up, and started walking.
“Come on, ya! Why aren’t you letting me speak?” He dusted himself to follow her.
“Because you are being nice to a girl who, you think, is living in self-pity. But I’m not living in any pity or craving for sympathy. I am genuinely concerned. I’m not good for your stable life. Disturbances in my life disrupt you too. You need someone who is kind and caring, and who brings love and peace in your life. Not someone who blows away all calmness and rocks your life for worse.”
Walking behind her, he spread his hands in the air, “How can you decide what I want or need in my life? Let that be my decision. Talk about yourself.”
She stopped walking, faced him, and asked, “Talk about what?”
He folded his hands across his chest and looking at her pointedly, he asked, “Can we leave behind everything that happened in the past and walk ahead? From here, from this day, this moment, do we belong together?”
She sighed, and walked back to stand near him. Raising her chin to look at him, in agony dripping from her poignant deep eyes, and in a teary voice, she replied, “You are too good, Dr. Shekhawat. Too good for me. I don’t deserve you.”
His jaw tightened, as every crease on his face hardened. He nodded, and spoke on a clenched jaw, one word at a time, “Fine. I’ll go away. But I need to see you safe and content. So, please get engaged to someone you think you deserve. And I promise I won’t disturb you again.”
Her face was drawn when he said that. Her eyes narrowed as she stammered, in a whisper, “You have lost your mind…”
She walked away, with him following her. She didn’t speak for some time until they reached the entrance of the hotel. He picked up his shoes and bag from the chair and followed her, saying, “What happened? Just now, you said that you don’t deserve me. Let’s find a substitute then.”
“I also said that no one can take your place in my life.” She spoke as she crossed the corridor towards her room.
He followed, trying to argue with her, “Oh, really? Let me tell you that you can’t keep both sides of the coin. You can either be with me or push me away. You can’t do both.”
“Why not? You did exactly that.” She sharply retorted, fetching the key from her pocket and opening the door.
He held her wrist and stopped her. Pulling her towards him, he stared at her eyes straight, and asked in a furious voice, “So, is this revenge?”
“No. This is all I have to offer you. I will not bow down to any of your stupid ideas.”
“You find it stupid only because I challenged you. You don’t want to live with me. But you don’t want anyone else in your life, either.”
“I don’t want to be with anyone else. I can’t think of anyone else…because…”
“Because… I’m married to my fate, already.”
“So I am! Period. End of discussion!”