Hope (2)

The wall finally cracked a little on Raj’s second death anniversary. Something, Sudha was afraid of, but anyhow she allowed it to happen! She hated the rites that made Raj’s death official but she had to face them for the sake of his parents. So, she did. She allowed everyone to cry, sympathize over his death. She allowed and even followed the rites that she was supposed to follow. But when her pain got unbearable she quietly slipped out of the house. Aakash not only spotted her but also offered to give her company. She let him follow her to her hideout. Place Raj and she frequented, where the memories were still breathing, place, which should have been restricted to only the two of them. But, she allowed Aakash to walk that road, she allowed him to sit next to her as she cried. She allowed him to be part of her mourning. He did not try to get close, did not even bother to hold her hand. He gave her the silent company that she desperately needed.
The next day when she thought about it, she remembered his pain, and the hurt in his eyes. The way he looked at her. Pain etched all over his face. She noticed his growing up beyond his years. She had always been aware of Aakash’s feelings for her. She knew that he loved her more than she could imagine, she knew that she was hurting him. She felt bad for him. She was ready to spend her life waiting for Raj but she didn’t want Aakash to waste his life for her. She wanted him to fall in love again, with someone who would love him back. She decided to talk to him and went to his house one day only to find him drunk. Dangerously drunk, as much as to lose his control! She decided it was not the right time to talk and she turned around to go but Aakash stopped her and her heart skipped a beat. She realized later, she had underestimated his self-control. Aakash wanted her to give him silent company, be a part of his pain, like he had been. She could have refused, but she stayed. She sat with him in his living room, holding his hand as he cried for many hours. With each tear that fell on her fingers, which were intertwined with his, she cursed herself for doing this to him. She knew that he was crying for her, he was breaking from within because of her. If somebody ever decided to whip her body for the ache she caused to him, she knew that she would bleed to death. Right now, she bled tears, which silently joined Aakash’s on her hand. It was getting difficult to live with this guilt. Finally she decided to leave. She walked out of the house without telling anyone. She could not see a life being ruined because of her.

She found a job and house in another city. It was not even a month when her mind was gripped by an intense emotion she failed to recognize. At least she pretended not to recognize it; she was making sure to lie to herself as much as she could. She was haunted by a face. Every time she closed her eyes, the face showed up. A face, etched with pain. Pain that she had inflicted on that individual! She saw the crying man and woke up every time with tears in her own eyes. The face haunted her, his emotions started to ruin her, her heart started to betray her but she told herself that it was not what was happening. She firmly believed that she was feeling sympathetic towards Aakash. That’s it. She could not possibly be in love with Aakash! One day, while returning from the office, she saw an advertisement in a newspaper. The photograph in lost and found section of the newspaper looked similar. It was hers. The words stung her conscience even further –
I am sorry. I never meant to hurt you. Please come back or else I will never forgive myself.
She had walked out so that Aakash could forget her and start a new life, but there was no sign of it. Aakash was blaming himself for her disappearance. He was still hurting and it hurt her as well. Finally she made up her mind. She left the job and the house to return home.

Back home, she unloaded her luggage in the living room and drove to a place she knew she would find him. He was alone. Just like she had been after Raj left her. At her hideout where she often found solace in the memories! He was there, living in his own. Sudha walked towards him. The moment Aakash saw her he ran towards her, almost ready to embrace her. Instead of embracing her, he stood at a distance of a few feet, staring at her. His brown eyes boring deep into hers. They spent a few moments staring at one another. Finally, Sudha broke the spell. She covered the distance and hugged him. When Aakash wrapped his arms around her, she felt comforted by his embrace. The heart that beat over hers promised her a future of happiness. She held him tight for some time and finally let go. Looking into Aakash’s eyes she finally proposed to him. Without waiting for his reply, she kissed him. The crumbling noise of the wall echoed in her ears, her mouth that moved with his, broke into a smile. Her heart was finally free of pain. Despite wanting to continue, she moved back and walked away without turning to look at Aakash. She felt betrayed by her own emotions.
That night, she dreamt about Raj for the first time. Her mother knew absolutely nothing.

She did not meet Aakash for two days. After leaving her alone for two days, he called her. He sounded worried. He had every right to be worried. Sudha’s thoughts were torturing her. She was wondering whether she had made a mistake by allowing Aakash in her life. She wanted to be held, wanted to be loved and she wanted Raj to be the one to do it but at the same time she felt her body reacting on thoughts of Aakash.
I love you”, first words Aakash spoke over the phone when he called. Both of them agreed it was crucial they met.
I love you, too”, last words Sudha whispered as she disconnected the call. Finally making up her mind she decided to meet Aakash.