Like I promised, here is the new update. Lot of you might find this update a little boring, because majority of the update is about Ananya and Lakshya, but its necessary and i still hope you like it.
Link to the previous episode : Here
Lots of Love,
“Are you crying?” Radhika asks without compassion as she comes through the front door. Amit follows closely behind her, but he pauses the second his eyes meet mine.
I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting motionless on the couch, but it still isn’t long enough for reality to have been absorbed just yet. I’m still hoping this is a dream. Or a nightmare. This isn’t how things were supposed to turn out.
“Ragini?” Amit says hesitantly. He knows something is wrong, because I’m sure my swollen, bloodshot eyes clearly give me away.
I attempt to form an answer, but I fail to come up with one. As much a part of this as I am, I still feel that Lakshya and Ananya’s situation isn’t mine to be sharing.
Luckily, Amit doesn’t have to ask me what’s wrong, because I’m spared by Lakshya’s presence. He’s barging through the front door, taking both Radhika’s and Amit’s attention off of me.
He pushes between the two of them and heads straight for his room. He swings open the door, then comes out through the bathroom seconds later. He looks at Amit and signs something. Amit shrugs and signs back, but I can’t follow their conversation at all.
When Lakshya responds again, Amit looks directly at me. “What does he mean?” Amit asks me.
I shrug. “I failed to learn sign language between now and the last time we spoke, Amit. How the hell should I know?”
I don’t know where my unwarranted sarcasm is coming from, but I feel Amit should have anticipated that one.
He shakes his head. “Where’s Ananya, Ragini?” Amit points at the counter toward Lakshya’s computer. “He says she had his computer, so she had to come by here after she left the hospital.”
I look at Lakshya to answer but can’t deny the fact that jealousy is coursing through me at watching his reaction when it comes to Ananya. “I don’t know where she went. All she did was walk in, set your computer down, and grab her things. She’s been gone for half an hour.”
Amit is signing everything I’m saying to Lakshya. When he finishes, Lakshya runs a frustrated hand through his hair, then takes a step toward me. His eyes are angry and hurt, and he begins signing with forceful movements of his hands. His obvious anger makes me wince, but his disappointment in me fills me with my own share of anger.
“He wants to know how you could just let her leave,” Amit says.
I immediately stand up and look Lakshya directly in the eye. “What did you expect me to do, Lakshya? Lock her in the damn closet? You can’t be mad at me for this! I’m not the one who failed to delete messages I wouldn’t want someone else to read!”
I don’t wait for Amit to finish signing for Lakshya. I walk to my bedroom and slam the door behind me, then drop down onto my bed. Moments later, I hear the door to Lakshya’s bedroom slam shut, too. The sounds don’t stop there, though. I hear things crashing against his bedroom walls, one by one, as he takes his frustration out on any inanimate object in his path.
I don’t hear the knock through the sounds coming from Lakshya’s bedroom. My door opens, and Amit slips inside. He shuts my bedroom door, then leans his back against it. “What happened?” he asks.
I turn my head to face the other direction. I don’t want to answer him, and I don’t want to look at him, because I know anything I say to him will only cause him to be disappointed in Lakshya and me. I don’t want him to be disappointed in Lakshya.
“Are you okay?” His voice is closer now. He sits down on the bed beside me and places a comforting hand on my back. The reassuring contact from him causes me to break down again as I bury my face in my arms. I feel as though I’m drowning, but I have no fight left to even bother coming up for air.
“You said something about messages to Lakshya. Did Ananya read something that upset her?”
I turn my head back over and look up at him. “Go ask Lakshya, Amit. It’s not my place to tell you Ananya’s business.”
Amit purses his lips in a tight line, nodding slowly while he thinks. “I kind of think it is your place, though. Isn’t it? Does it not have everything to do with you? And I can’t ask Lakshya. I’ve never seen him like this before, and frankly, I’m a little terrified of him right now. But I’m worried about Ananya, and I need you to tell me what happened so I can figure out if there’s anything I can do to help.”
I close my eyes, wondering how I can answer Amit’s question with a simplified response. I open my eyes and look at him again. “Don’t be angry with him, Amit. The only thing Lakshya has done wrong is fail to delete a few messages.”
Amit tilts his head and narrows his doubtful eyes. “If that’s the only thing Lakshya did wrong, then why is Ananya avoiding him? Are you saying that the messages she read weren’t wrong? Whatever has been going on between the two of you isn’t wrong?”
I don’t like the condescending undertone in his voice. I sit up on the bed and scoot back, putting space between the two of us as I respond. “The fact that Lakshya has been honest in his conversations with me is not something he did wrong. The fact that he has feelings for me also isn’t wrong, when you know exactly how much he’s fought those feelings. People can’t control matters of the heart, Amit. They can only control their actions, which is exactly what Lakshya did. He lost control once for ten seconds, but after that, every single time temptation reared its ugly head, he walked in the other direction. The only thing Lakshya has done wrong is fail to delete his messages, because by doing so, he failed to protect Ananya. He failed to protect her from the harsh truth that people don’t get to choose who they fall in love with. They only get to choose who they stay in love with.” I look up at the ceiling and blink back tears. “He was choosing to stay in love with her, Amit. Why can’t she see that? This will kill him so much more than it’s killing her.”
I fall back onto the bed, and Amit remains beside me, quiet and still. Several long moments pass, and then he stands and slowly makes his way to my bedroom door. “I owe you an apology,” he says.
“An apology for what?”
He drops his eyes to the floor and shuffles his feet. “I didn’t think you were good enough for him, Ragini.” He slowly brings his gaze back to mine. “You are. You and Ananya both are. This is the first moment since meeting Lakshya that I don’t envy him.”
He leaves the room, somehow having made me feel the tiniest bit better and a whole hell of a lot worse.
I continue to lie still on my bed, listening for the sound of Lakshya’s anger to return, but it doesn’t. It’s completely quiet throughout the apartment. The only thing any of us can hear is the lingering shattering of Ananya’s heart.
I pick up my phone for the first time since I put it on silent and see that I have a missed text from Lakshya, sent just a few minutes ago.
Lakshya: I changed my mind. I need you to leave today.
I pile a few things into a bag, hoping I’ll actually need it once I get to her house. I have no idea if Ananya will even allow me to step through her front door, but the only thing I can do right now is be optimistic, because the alternative is unacceptable. It just is. I refuse to accept that this is it.
I know she’s hurt, and I know she hates me right now, but she has to understand how much she means to me and how my feelings for Ragini were never intentional.
I clench my fists again, wondering why in the hell I ever had those conversations with Ragini in the first place. Or why I failed to delete them. I never thought Ananya would be in a position to read them. I guess in a way, I just didn’t feel guilty. The way I’ve felt toward Ragini wasn’t something I wanted to happen, but the feelings are there, and refusing to act on them since our initial kiss has taken a hell of a lot of effort. In an oddly sadistic way, I’ve actually been proud of myself for being able to fight it the way I have.
But Ananya won’t see that side of it, and I completely understand. I know Ananya, and if she read all the messages, she’s more upset about the connection I’ve made with Ragini than she is over the fact that I kissed her. The feelings I have for Ragini aren’t something I’m sure I can talk my way out of.
I grab my bag and my phone and head into the kitchen to pack the laptop. When I reach the counter, I notice a piece of paper peeking out from the computer. I find a sticky note
stuck to the screen.
It was never my intention to read your personal stuff, but when I opened your laptop, it was all right there in front of me. I read all of it, and I wish I never saw it. Please give me time to process everything before you show up. I’ll contact you when I’m ready to talk in a few days.
A few days?
God, please don’t let her be serious. There’s no way my heart will survive this for a few days. I’ll be lucky if I make it through the end of today knowing how I’ve made her feel.
I toss my bag back toward my bedroom door since I won’t need it for a while. I lean forward in defeat and rest my elbows on the bar, crumpling the note up in my fist. I stare down at the laptop before me.
Piece of shit computer.
Why the hell didn’t I have a password on it? Why the hell didn’t I take it with me when I left the hospital? Why the hell didn’t I delete everything? Why the hell did I even write anything to Ragini in the first place?
I’ve never hated an inanimate object as much as I hate this computer. I slam the screen shut and bring my fist down on top of it with all my strength. I wish I could hear it crack. I wish I could hear the sound my fist makes each time I bring it down forcefully. I want to hear it crushed beneath my fist the same way my heart feels crushed inside my chest.
I stand up straight and pick the laptop up, then slam it down on the bar. I see Amit exit his bedroom out of the corner of my eye, but I’m too pissed to care if I’m making too much noise. I continue to pick the laptop up and slam it against the bar over and over, but it doesn’t diminish the hatred I feel for it in the least, and it also doesn’t do enough damage to the casing. Amit walks toward the kitchen and heads to a cabinet. He reaches inside and grabs something, then walks over to me. I pause my attack on the computer and look up to see him holding out a hammer. I gladly take it, then step back and bring the hammer down against the laptop with all my might. This time, I can actually see the cracks appear with each hit.
I hit it over and over and watch as pieces fly in all directions. I’m also leaving a hefty amount of damage on the bar beneath my mangled computer, but I don’t give a shit. Countertops are replaceable. What this computer destroyed of Ananya isn’t.
When there isn’t much left of the computer to destroy, I finally drop the hammer on the bar. I’m out of breath. I turn and slide down to the floor with my back against the cabinets.
Amit walks around me and sits on the floor in front of me, resting his back against the wall behind him. “Feel better?” he signs.
I shake my head. I don’t feel better, I just feel worse. Now I know for a fact that it’s not the laptop I’m mad at. It’s me. I’m mad at myself.
“Anything I can do to help?”
I ponder his question. The only thing that could help me get Ananya back is to prove to her that there’s nothing going on between me and Ragini. In order to prove that to her, I need to not have any interaction with Ragini whatsoever. That’s kind of hard with her in the very next room.
“Can you help Ragini move?” I sign. “Today?”
Amit lowers his chin at my request, eyeing me with disappointment. “Today? Her apartment won’t be ready for three more days. Besides, she needs furniture, and what we ordered this morning isn’t even being delivered until the day she moves in.”
I pull my wallet out of my pocket and remove my credit card. “Take her to a hotel, then. I’ll pay for her room until her apartment is ready. I need her out in case Ananya comes back. She can’t be here.”
Amit takes my card and stares at it for several seconds before bringing his eyes back to mine. “This is kind of a shitty move considering this is your fault. Don’t expect me to be the one to ask her to leave today. You owe her that much.”
I have to admit, Amit’s reaction surprises me. Yesterday he seemed to hate Ragini. Today he’s acting as if he’s protecting her. “I already told her I need her to leave today. Do me a favor, and make sure she gets moved in okay this week. Get her anything she needs. Groceries, extra furniture, Whatever.”
I’m beginning to stand up when the door to Ragini’s room opens. She’s walking out backward, pulling both of her suitcases. Amit scrambles to his feet next to me, and as soon as she turns around and her eyes lock with mine, she freezes.
The guilt over what I’m having her do hits me when I see the tears in her eyes. She doesn’t deserve this. She hasn’t done anything to deserve all that I’ve put her through. The way it makes me feel to know I’ve hurt her is exactly why I need her to leave, because I shouldn’t care this much.
But I do. God, I care about her so much.
I break eye contact with her and look back to Amit. “Thank you for helping her,” I sign. I head back to my room, not wanting to watch Ragini walk out the front door. I can’t imagine losing both her and Ananya in the course of a few hours, but it’s actually happening.
Amit grabs my arm as I pass him, forcing me to turn and look at him. “You aren’t even going to tell her good-bye?” he signs.
“I can’t tell her good-bye when I don’t really want her to leave.” I continue toward my room, thankful that I can’t hear the sound of the front door closing behind her when she leaves. I don’t know if I could take it.
I pick up my phone and lie down on my bed. I pull up Ananya’s number and send her a text.
Me: I’ll give you however much time you need. I love you more than you even realize. I’m not going to deny anything I said to Ragini, because it was all true, especially the parts about you and how much I love you. I know you’re hurt, and I know I betrayed you, but please. You have to know how much I’ve fought for you. Please don’t end us like this.
I hit the send button and pull the phone to my chest.
Then I f**king cry.
“Let me get those,” Amit says as he bends to pick up my suitcases. He carries them down the steps, and I follow him. Once we make it to his car, I realize I don’t even know where I’m going. I haven’t thought this far ahead. As soon as Lakshya told me he needed me to leave today, I just packed my things and walked out without even a plan for what I’m going to do for the next three days. My new apartment isn’t ready, but I’m wishing I could be in it. I want to be as far away as I can get right now from Lakshya and Ananya and Amit and Radhika and Vikrant and Kritika and everything and everyone.
“Lakshya wants me to take you to a hotel until your apartment is ready, but is there anywhere else you’d rather go?”
Amit is now sitting in the driver’s seat, and I’m in the front passenger’s seat. I don’t even remember us getting into his car. I turn and look at him, and he’s just staring at me. The car hasn’t even been cranked yet.
God, I feel so pathetic. I feel like a burden.
“It’s laughable, isn’t it?” I say.
I gesture to myself. “This.” I lean my head against the headrest and close my eyes. “I should just go back home to my parents. I’m obviously not cut out for this.”
Amit sighs. “Not cut out for what? College? Real life?”
I shake my head. “Independence in general, really. Vikrant was right when he told me I’d be better off living with him than on my own. He was right about that, at least. I’ve been in Lakshya’s life less than three months, and I’ve successfully ruined his entire relationship with Ananya.” I look out the window, up to his empty balcony. “I’ve also ruined his entire friendship with me.”
Amit cranks the car, then reaches over and squeezes my hand. “Today is a really bad day, Rags. A really, really bad day. Sometimes in life, we need a few bad days in order to keep the good ones in perspective.” He lets go of my hand and backs out of the parking spot. “And you’ve made it this long without having to go back to your parents. You can make it three more days.”
“I can’t afford a hotel, Amit. I spent my savings on furniture and the deposit for the new apartment. Just take me to the bus station. I’ll go stay with my parents for a few days.” I pick up my phone in order to bite the bullet and call them, but Amit pulls it out of my hands.
“First of all, you need to stop blaming yourself for what’s happening with Lakshya and Ananya. Lakshya is his own person, and he knows right from wrong. He was the one in the relationship, not you. Second, you need to allow Lakshya to pay for this hotel, because he’s the one making you leave without a notice. As much as I love the guy, he sort of owes you big-time.”
I watch the empty balcony as we drive away. “Why do I feel like I’ve been taking Lakshya’s hand-outs since the day I met him?” I look away from the balcony, feeling the anger building in my chest, but I don’t even know who I’m mad at. Love, maybe? I think I’m mad at love.
“I don’t know why you feel the way you do,” Amit says, “but you need to stop. You’ve never asked any of us for a single thing.”
I nod, trying to agree with him.
Maybe Amit is right. Lakshya is just as guilty in this as I am. He’s the one in the relationship. He should have asked me to leave as soon as he knew he was developing feelings for me. He also should have given me more than five minutes to move out. He made me feel like more of a liability than someone he’s supposed to care about.
“You’re right, Amit. And you know what? If Lakshya is paying, I want you to take me to a really nice hotel. One with room service and a minibar full of tiny bottles of Pine-Sol.”
Amit laughs. “That’s my girl.”
It’s been seventy-two hours.
Enough time for me to come up with even more things I need to say to Ananya. Enough time for Amit to let me know that Ragini is finally in her own apartment. He wouldn’t tell me which one, but that’s probably for the best.
Seventy-two hours has also been enough time for me to realize that I miss having Ragini in my life almost as much as I miss Ananya. And it’s enough time to know that I’m not going another day without talking to Ananya. I need to know that she’s okay. I’ve done nothing but pace this apartment since the moment I lost her.
Since the moment I lost both of them.
I pick up my phone and palm it for several minutes, too scared to text her. I’m afraid of what her response will be. When I finally do type out a text, I close my eyes and hit send.
Me: Are you ready to talk about it?
I stare at my phone, waiting for her to respond. I want to know if she’s okay. I want to be able to tell her my side. The fact that she’s more than likely thinking the worst is killing me, and it feels as if I haven’t been able to breathe since she found out about Ragini and me.
Ananya: I’ll never be ready, but it needs to be done. I’m home all night.
As ready as I am to see her, I’m also scared to death. I don’t want to see her heartbroken.
Me: I’ll be there in an hour.
I grab my things and head straight out the door—straight back to the half of my heart that needs the most mending.
• • •
I have a key to her place. I’ve had a key to her place for three years, but I haven’t had to ring her doorbell in all that time.
I’m ringing her doorbell right now, and it doesn’t feel right. It feels as though I’m asking permission to break through an invisible barrier that shouldn’t even be here in the first place. I take a step away from the door and wait.
After several painfully long seconds, she opens the door and makes brief eye contact with me as she steps aside to let me in. I pictured her on the drive over with her hair a mess, makeup smudged underneath her eyes from all the crying, and sporting three-day-old pajamas. The typical heartbroken attire for a girl who just lost all trust in the man she loves.
I think I would rather she looked the way I pictured her than how she actually looks. She’s dressed in her typical jeans, and her hair is neatly pulled back. There isn’t a smudge of makeup on her face or a tear in her eyes. She gives me a faint smile as she closes the front door.
I watch her closely, because I’m not sure what to do. Of course, my first instinct is to pull her to me and kiss her, but my first instinct probably isn’t the best. Instead, I wait until she goes into her living room. I follow her, wishing more than anything that she would turn toward me and throw her arms around me.
She does turn to face me before she takes a seat, but she doesn’t throw her arms around me.
“Well?” she signs. “How do we do this?” Her expression is hesitant and pained, but at least she’s confronting it. I know this is hard for her.
“How about we quit acting like we’re not allowed to be ourselves?” I sign. “This has been the hardest three days of my life, and I can’t go another second without touching you.”
I don’t give her a chance to respond before my arms are wrapped around her and I’m pulling her against me. She doesn’t resist. Her arms wrap tightly around me, and as soon as my cheek is pressed against the top of her head, I feel her begin to cry.
This is the Ananya I need. The vulnerable Ananya. The Ananya who still loves me, despite what I’ve put her through.
I hug her and pull her to the couch, keeping her secured against me as I sit with her now on my lap. We continue to hold each other, neither of us knowing how to begin the conversation. I press a long kiss into her hair.
What I wouldn’t give to just be able to whisper all my apologies into her ear. I want her as close to me as possible while I tell her how sorry I am, but I can’t do that and sign everything I need to say at the same time. I hate these moments in life where I’d give anything to be able to communicate the same way so many others take for granted.
She slowly lifts her face, and I reluctantly let her pull back. She keeps her palms pressed against my chest and looks me directly in the eye.
“Are you in love with her?” she asks.
She doesn’t sign her question; she only speaks it. The fact that she doesn’t sign it makes me think it was too hard for her even to ask. So hard that maybe she doesn’t really want to know the answer, so she didn’t really want me to understand her question.
I did understand it.
I grab both of her hands pressed against my chest, and I lift them, kissing each of her palms before releasing her hands to answer her.
“I’m in love with you, Ananya.”
Her expression is tight and controlled. “That’s not what I asked.”
I look away from her, not wanting her to see the struggle in my eyes. I close them and remind myself that lying won’t get us back to where we need to be. Ananya’s smart. She also deserves honesty, which isn’t at all what I’ve been giving her. I open my eyes and look at her. I don’t answer her with a yes or a no. I shrug, because I honestly don’t know if I’m in love with Ragini. How could I be when I’m in love with Ananya? It shouldn’t be possible for the heart to love more than one person at once.
She diverts her eyes away and scoots off my lap. She stands and slowly walks the length of the living room and back. She’s thinking, so I give her a moment. I know my answer has hurt her, but I know a lie would have hurt her even more. She finally turns to me.
“I can spend all night asking you really brutal questions, Lakshya. I don’t want to do that. I’ve had a lot of time to think this through, and I have a lot I need to say to you.”
“If brutal questions will help you, then ask me brutal questions. Please. We’ve been together five years, and I can’t let this tear us apart.”
She shakes her head, then takes a seat on the couch opposite me. “I don’t need to ask the questions, because I already know all the answers. I just need to talk to you now about where we go from here.”
I lean forward, not liking where this is going. I don’t like it at all. “At least, allow me to explain myself. You can’t come to a decision about what happens to us without hearing me out first.”
She shakes her head again, and my heart clenches. “I already know, Lakshya. I know you. I know your heart. I’ve read your conversations with Ragini. I already know what you’re going to tell me. You’re going to tell me how much you love me. How you would do anything for me. You’re going to apologize for developing feelings for another girl, despite how hard you tried to prevent that from happening. You’re going to tell me you love me so much more than I know and how your relationship with me is so much more important to you than your feelings for Ragini. You’re going to tell me you’ll do anything to make it up to me and that I just need to give you a chance. You’re probably going to be brutally honest with me, also, and tell me that you do have feelings for Ragini but they don’t compare to how you feel about me.”
She stands and moves to sit next to me on the couch. There are traces of tears in her eyes, but she isn’t crying anymore. She faces me and begins signing again.
“And you know what, Lakshya? I believe you. And I understand all of it. I do. I’ve read your conversations. It’s as if I was right there, sifting through it all while the two of you were attempting to fight whatever was developing between you. I keep telling myself to quit logging back into your account, but I can’t stop. I’ve read those conversations a million times. I deciphered every word, every sentence, every punctuation mark. I wanted to find the spot in your conversations that proved your disloyalty to me. I wanted to find the moment in your conversations where you became this despicable excuse for a man by admitting that what you felt for her was purely s*xual. God, Lakshya. I wanted to find that moment so bad, but I couldn’t. I know you kissed her, but even the kiss seemed excusable after the two of you had that open discussion about it. I’m your girlfriend, and even I began to excuse it.
“I’m not saying what you did is readily forgivable, by any means. You should have asked her to move out the second you felt compelled to kiss her. Hell, you shouldn’t have ever asked her to move in if there was even the slightest possibility that you were attracted to her. What you did was wrong in every sense of the word, but what’s so messed up is that I feel like I understand it. Maybe it’s because I know you too well, but the fact that you’re falling in love with Ragini is obvious, and I can’t just sit back and share your heart with her, Lakshya. I can’t do it.”
No, no, no, no, no. I quickly pull her to me, wanting the comfort of her to subdue the panic building within me.
She can be heartbroken. She can even be pissed or terrified, but the one thing I won’t let her be is okay. She can’t just be okay with this.
Tears begin to sting my eyes as I hold her as if my embrace is somehow supposed to convince her of how I feel. I’m shaking my head no, trying to get her not to take this conversation where I’m afraid it’s headed.
I press my lips against hers in an attempt to make it all go away. I hold her face in the palms of my hands and try desperately to show her how I feel without having to pull apart from her again.
Her lips part, and I kiss her, something I’ve done on a regular basis for more than five years but never with so much conviction or fear.
Her mouth tastes of tears, and I’m not sure whose they are, because we’re both crying now. She pushes against my chest, wanting to speak to me, but I don’t want her to. I don’t want to watch her tell me how okay my feelings for Ragini are.
They’re not okay. They shouldn’t be okay at all.
She sits up and pushes me away from her, then wipes her tears. I lean my elbow into the couch and cover my mouth with my trembling hand.
“There’s more. There’s so much more I need to tell you, and I need you to give me the opportunity to get it out, okay?”
I simply nod, when all I want to do is tell her how hearing her out is the last thing my heart can take right now. She adjusts herself and pulls her legs onto the couch. She wraps her arms around them and rests her cheek on her knee, looking away from me. She’s still and quiet and contemplating.
I’m a complete wreck as I sit here and wait.
She unwraps her hands from around her legs and slowly lifts her head to look me in the eye. “Remember the day we met?” she asks.
There’s a faint smile in her eyes, and my panic eases slightly at the pleasantness in her memory. I nod.
“I noticed you first, before I noticed Amit. When Amit approached me, I was hoping he was approaching me for you. I remember making eye contact with you over his shoulder, because I wanted to smile at you so you would know that you caught my eye the same way I caught yours. But when I realized Amit wasn’t approaching me for you, I was disappointed. There was something about you that tugged at me in a way that Amit didn’t, but you didn’t seem to have that same reaction to me. Amit was cute, so I agreed to go out with him, especially since I thought you weren’t into me that day.”
I close my eyes and soak in her words for a moment. I never knew this. I’m not sure at this point that I want to know this. After several quiet moments, I reluctantly open my eyes again and let her finish.
“For the short time I dated Amit, you and I would have these brief conversations and moments of eye contact that always seemed to make you uncomfortable, and I knew it made you uncomfortable because you were developing feelings for me. But your loyalty to Amit was so strong that you wouldn’t allow yourself to go there. I always admired that about you, because I knew the two of us would have worked so well. To be honest, I was secretly hoping you would betray his friendship and just kiss me or something, because you were all I thought about. I’m not even sure I was with Amit for Amit. I think I was with him for you all along.
“Then, a few weeks after Amit and I broke up, I began to think I’d never see you again, because you never came for me like I hoped you would. The thought of that terrified me, so I showed up at your apartment one day. You weren’t there, but Sanskar was. I think he knew why I was there, so he told me not to worry, that I just needed to give you time. He told me about the deal you and Amit made and that you really did have feelings for me but didn’t feel right pursuing them yet. He even showed me the date you had circled on the calendar. I’ll never forget how that made me feel, and from that point on, I counted down the days until you showed up at my front door.”
She wipes away a tear. I briefly close my eyes and try to show her respect by not allowing myself to pull her to me again, but it’s so hard. I never knew she came for me. Sanskar never told me, and right now, I’m struggling with wanting to let him know how pissed I am that he kept quiet and how much I love him for informing Ananya of how I felt.
“I fell in love with you during that year of waiting for you. I fell in love with your loyalty to Amit. I fell in love with your loyalty to me. I fell in love with your patience and your willpower. I fell in love with the fact that you didn’t want to start things out wrong with us. You wanted everything to be as right as it could be, so you waited an entire year. Believe me, Lakshya. I know how hard it was, because I was waiting right along with you.”
I lift my hand and wipe a tear from her cheek, then let her finish.
“I swore I wouldn’t allow my illness to interfere with us. I wouldn’t let it prevent me from completely falling in love with you. I wouldn’t let it be my crutch to push you away. You were so adamant that it didn’t matter to you, and I was so desperate to believe you. We were both lying to ourselves. I think my illness is the thing you love the most about me.”
My breath catches in my throat. Those words hurt me more than any words ever have. “Why would you say something like that, Ananya?”
“I know it sounds absurd to you because you don’t see it that way. It’s who you are. You’re loyal. You love people to a fault. You want to take care of everyone around you, including me, Sanskar, Amit . . . Ragini. It’s just who you are, and seeing how Amit treated me back then made you want to jump in and become my hero. I’m not saying you don’t love me for me, because I know you do. I just think you love me the wrong way.”
I run my palm over my forehead and try to squeeze the pain away. My head can’t take another second of listening to how incredibly wrong she is. “Ananya, stop. If you’re about to use your illness as an excuse to leave me, I won’t listen to it. I can’t. You’re talking like you’re about to just give up on us, and it’s scaring the living hell out of me. I didn’t come here for you to give up. I need you to fight with me. I need you to fight for us.”
She tilts her head to the side, slowly shaking it in disagreement. “I shouldn’t have to fight for us, Lakshya. I fight every goddamned day of my life just to survive. I should be able to revel in us, but I can’t. I’m constantly living in fear that I’m going to upset you or make you angry because you want so badly to form a protective bubble around me. You don’t want me taking risks or doing anything that causes me one iota of stress. You don’t see the point in my going to college, since we both know my fate. You don’t see the point in me having a career, because you think it’s better if I just let you take care of me while I take it easy. You don’t understand my yearning to experience the things that give people that rush of adrenaline. You get mad when I bring up the idea of traveling, because you don’t think it’s safe for my health. You refuse to go on tour with your brother, because you want to be the one to take care of me when I get sick. You give up so much of your life to make sure I’m not having to give up any of mine, and sometimes it’s so suffocating.”
I stand up and pace the room for several moments, attempting to breathe the air back into my lungs that she’s repeatedly knocking out. After I’m calm enough to respond, I return to the couch and face her again.
“I’m not trying to suffocate you, Ananya. I just want to protect you. We don’t have the luxury of time like every other couple. Is it wrong that I want to prolong what we have for as long as we possibly can?”
“No, Lakshya. It’s not wrong. I love that about you so much, but I don’t love it for me. It always feels as though you’re trying to be my lifeguard. I don’t need a lifeguard, Lakshya. I need someone who is willing to watch me brave the ocean and then dare me not to drown. But you wouldn’t be able to let me near the ocean. It’s not your fault that you can’t give me that.”
I know it’s just an analogy, but she’s only using it to make excuses.
“You think that’s what you want,” I sign. “It’s not. You can’t tell me you’d rather be with someone who would allow you to risk the time you have left than have someone who would do whatever he could to prolong his life with you.”
She exhales. I can’t tell if she’s admitting I’m right or if she’s frustrated because I’m wrong. She looks me square in the eyes and leans forward, then briefly presses her lips to mine. As soon as I lift my hands to her face, she pulls back again.
“I’ve known all my life that I could die at any moment. You don’t know what that’s like, Lakshya, but I want you to try to put yourself in my shoes. If you knew all your life that you were going to die at any moment, would you be okay with just barely living? Or would you live as hard as you could? Because you’re needing me to barely live, Lakshya. I can’t do that. When I die, I need to know that I did everything I’ve ever wanted to do, and I’ve seen everything I’ve ever wanted to see, and I’ve loved everyone I’ve ever wanted to love. I can’t just barely live anymore, and it’s not in your nature to stick by my side and watch me do all the things I still have left to do in my life.
“You’ve spent five years of your life loving me like no one’s ever loved me. My love has matched yours minute for minute. I don’t want you to ever doubt that. People take so much for granted, and I never want you to feel that I took you for granted. Everything you do for me is so much more than I deserve, and you need to know how much that means to me. But there are times when I feel like our devotion to each other is tying us down. Keeping us both from really living. The past few days have helped me realize that I’m still with you because I’m scared to break your heart. But if I don’t find the courage to do it, I’m scared I’ll just keep holding you back. Holding myself back. I feel like I can’t live the life I want to live for fear of hurting you, and you can’t live the life you want to live because your heart is too loyal for your own good. As much as it hurts me to admit this, I think I might be better off without you. I also think that maybe someday you’ll realize you’re better off without me.”
My elbows meet my knees as I lean forward and turn away from her. I can’t watch her say another word to me. Every single thing she’s saying is not only breaking my heart, but it feels as if it’s also breaking the heart within my heart.
It hurts so much, and I’m so f**king scared, because for a moment, I begin to think there’s a possibility that she’s right.
Maybe she doesn’t need me.
Maybe I do hold her back.
Maybe I’m not the hero to her I’ve always tried so hard to be, because right now, I feel as if she doesn’t even need a hero. Why would she? She has someone so much stronger than I’ll ever be for her. She has herself.
The realization that I may not be what she needs in her life consumes me, and my regret and guilt and shame fold in on themselves, completely devouring the strength I have left.
I feel her arms wrap around me, and I pull her to me, needing to feel her against me. I love her so damn much, and all I want right now is for her to know that, even if it doesn’t change anything. I pull her to me and press my forehead to hers as we both cry, holding on to each other with all we have left. Tears are streaming down her cheeks as she slides onto my lap.
She mouths, “I love you,” then presses her lips to mine. I pull her against my chest as close as I possibly can without crawling inside of her, which is exactly what my heart is trying to do. It wants to embed itself within the walls of her chest, and it never wants to let go.