In continuation of The Confrontation
Sneha did not know for how much time she had been sitting on the floor, crying. She could still hear the old woman shouting and cursing and demanding that Sneha be thrown out of the house, right this moment before she could take more advantage of the situation and the fact that she looked like Smriti. It was necessary; she repeated so many times, that Sneha be told that she was just a temporary replacement of Smriti, and would have to walk out once Shreya was capable of understanding. Sneha noticed that even though Smriti’s mother repeated this several times, Ajay did not confirm the words. He remained silent. Perhaps, Smriti’s mother realized this too because after some time Sneha heard her scream “Oh my God” and then the banging shut of the main door. Even though the woman had humiliated and hurt Sneha, she did feel sad for her. It was totally understandable for her to react like this; she was Smriti’s mother after all. No mother could see her daughter being replaced by another woman. The time when she reached here meant that she had left really early in the morning, her concern about what might happen was so intense. Sneha could not blame her.
Sneha buried her head in her palms and continued weeping. She had developed severe headache and it seemed as if her skull was about to burst open. She could not hear any sound from the living room. It seemed Smriti’s mother had really walked out of the house. Sneha waited to hear footsteps coming towards the bedroom, but Ajay never came up.
When Smriti’s mother walked out of the door, Ajay fell down on his knees and sat there on the floor for a long time. He did not know what to do; he did not feel like moving. He wanted to go and see Sneha, he knew she must be crying and perhaps needed him but at the same time he did not have courage to face her. When Smriti’s mother had slapped her, Sneha could have easily told her that it was Ajay who had taken the initiative but she had remained silent and now he felt guilty about it. He did not know what had gotten into him. Why had he kissed her and why had her kissing him back ignited his desires? What surprised him the most was that when he kissed Sneha he knew he was kissing her and not Smriti. All the feelings he had put into the kiss and all that happened later on were meant for Sneha.
Sneha’s reaction on being questioned about the previous night proved that he had not dreamt about it. She had indeed been sleeping next to him and had touched him and then he had kissed her. He also vaguely remembered having a conversation. Sneha and Shreya had been whispering something and giggling. That moment when he had opened his eyes temporarily and had seen Sneha with his back towards him, whispering something to Shreya, he had thought that it was Smriti. He remembered wrapping his arm around her waist and then he remembered nothing. He really hoped he had done nothing more.
Smriti’s mother had accused Sneha for what had happened without saying a word to him assuming that he was not able to differentiate between Sneha and Smriti. How could he tell her that he was well aware of what he was doing? He knew that he was tired, very tired of this struggle he had with himself, every day, every moment. He was tired of living without Smriti, she was not coming back and he had to live and keep Smriti alive, for Shreya. When he had chosen to introduce Sneha to Shreya though he had said that Sneha was meant to be here for short time he had convinced himself that Sneha was going to be here for a long time, perhaps for her entire life. He just needed to know how Sneha felt about it. He had mentioned it in the draft that she could opt for marriage if she wanted to and if she would have, he would have really married her, though giving her space in his life would have taken time. That was the main reason he wanted to choose the other option, so that he had time to figure out. He knew it had been very selfish of him, but being stuck in the situation he was in, he thought it was justified. Seeing where his being selfish had brought both of them, he felt ashamed of himself. He knew in his heart that if he was lying to Shreya now, it was obvious that he would not be able to tell her the truth, at least not in near future. Perhaps the best thing would have been telling her the truth about Smriti. That day when Smriti’s father had accused him of finding the easiest way out, he had almost made up his mind of telling Shreya that Smriti was about to die but when he had called her, he could not speak and had disconnected the call. Telling Shreya that Smriti had met with an accident and was about to die meant bringing Shreya to the hospital to visit and Ajay did not want Shreya to see Smriti like that. Covered in wounds, head bandaged and surrounded by tubes. And, telling her after Smriti’s death would have been too much for the little girl to handle.
Ajay got up from the floor and sat down on the couch and rested his head on the backrest. What was he supposed to do now? It was clear, from Sneha’s actions that she wanted to stay, she wanted to be a part of his life and though he would always love Smriti, he needed her in his life, too. Apart from being a look alike of Smriti, there was something special about her that made her the person she was. She was not just a look-alike of Smriti, she was Sneha. And, spending time with her, he had learned to not only accept but appreciate that. He liked being with her.
Ajay got up from the couch, he was feeling very restless. He walked towards the stairs and had almost climbed up but he changed his mind again. He walked to the lawn to breathe fresh air, after a few minutes he returned and finally walked up the stairs towards the master bedroom. He tried to open the door but the knob did not turn. The door was locked from the inside. He stood there, wondering whether he should knock or leave. He tried to listen to any sound coming from inside the room, but it was very silent. Suddenly, all the positivity seemed to have left the house. There was heaviness in the house he could not understand, the heaviness that made him suffocate. He realized that the heaviness was from within.
He waited there for almost half an hour but when the door did not open he walked to the gym. It was afternoon, he had work to do but he did not feel like doing it. He sat on the treadmill and dialed a number. He had to hear her voice. Service to the number was active but the cell phone was switched off. Ajay heard the voicemail message and tears started flowing down his cheeks. He decided to record the message even though he knew she would not listen to it.
“Hey! I just wanted to hear your voice. You know how hearing your voice gives me strength whenever I am weak and helps me to take decisions. I want you here; I want to be with you, so badly! I love you and I am confused. I just don’t know what to do, please help me figure out.” Ajay recorded the message and waited for further instructions for saving and sending the voicemail and then he disconnected the call. The voice message to Smriti’s cell phone was successfully sent.
After a few minutes the door to the master bedroom opened and Sneha stepped out. She started to climb down the stairs to go to the kitchen but she saw Ajay sitting in the living room and decided to go and talk to him. After spending time alone in the master bedroom, she did not have strength to talk to him, she had wanted to vanish, run out of the house but in the end she could not bring herself to behave so selfishly. She knew it was not necessary for her to do the chores but she wanted to. Besides, cooking was good for her mind. Making up her mind to get busy in the kitchen she had opened the door and stepped out. Seeing Ajay the way he was sitting on the treadmill, her heart went out to him. Finally she decided to talk to him. She did not know what she was going to say but she wanted to be there for him. She loved him and that was enough reason for her to walk over to him.
When Ajay looked at Sneha he could not see her face clearly, his vision was blurred by tears. He pinched the bridge of his nose and looked again. By this time, Sneha had walked closer. She sat next to him on the treadmill. She did not hold his hand but Ajay felt comforted. And, he felt ashamed of himself for not doing the same for Sneha. She had needed him and he had failed.
“I am sorry.” He whispered without looking at her.
“I am sorry for whatever happened; I know I should have not let her hurt you. I know I should have been there for you.” Ajay repeated.
“It is okay.” Sneha said with a voice thick with emotions and Ajay looked up at her. He was shocked to see the mess she had become. Her hair was a mess, it seemed she had been pulling at her hair and her eyes were red and swollen from continuous crying.
“It’s not okay.” Ajay said and moved to hold her hand but she shifted away from him.
“I take the blame for whatever happened today. It is my fault. I don’t know what I was thinking.” Sneha said, fresh tears appearing in her eyes.
“I was the one who first kissed you.” Ajay confessed. He knew this confession should have come earlier and not in front of Sneha but in front of Smriti’s mother but he was coward. Yes, that is what he was – a coward too afraid to accept the truth.
Sneha shook her head and said, “I should have known it was not for me, I should have not let you kiss me and I should have not kissed back. It was a mistake. Yesterday when Shreya got up in the middle of the night and I had to sleep next to you, I don’t know what happened. Why I did what I did but then it felt so normal to me. The whispering with Shreya, the giggling and the casual conversation, it all seemed so natural. I guess, I got selfish when you put your arm around my waist.” She could not continue further as she felt her throat constricting with emotions.
.. The Giving Up
.. The Giving Up