Hey guys, I am back finally. It had been a very difficult time for me, I got ill for a month and then had to give exams just a few days after I got well. I am glad you all waited so patiently. So here is for you all, COCKTAIL- FINALE! I hope you all enjoy it. Feedback is appreciated!
I sighed as I looked at the time. It was 1:30 pm right now. I am supposed to meet FFL at the Caffe at 5. Should I tell him? Since last night, when I untimely realised my love for Lakshya, my mind has been in a turmoil. I am relieved and hell nervous at the same time. It is a big relief to know that my feelings for him are pure, genuine, irrevocable and unconditional. After I woke up early, I spent an hour or so thinking of my ’feelings’. It became crystal clear to me as I recalled all the moments I spent with him, the myriad of emotions that used to course through me ranging from homely comfort in his arms to sheer jealousy at the thought of Kavya, in the past. I was foolish not to realise then that what I had been feeling had been love, simple and unfiltered. These feelings explain a lot about my behaviour for a few days now. I can link my feelings of irritation, jealousy, insecurity and sudden bouts of moodiness to my growing feelings for Lakshya and my obvious unwillingness to accept these feelings.
Back to the matter at hand. I need to tell him. I need to confess to him that I am in love with him and there can be no other man who can make me feel the way I do when I am with him. No man can make me feel like the queen of this world, the most beautiful woman inside-out. No one can make me feel like I am enough for him.
The only thing that is stopping me from confessing is his obvious attachment to that Kavya. He is going to meet her anytime soon and I have a suspicion that Kavya would do something to get back with him. He has moved on from her after such great difficulties that I am scared that anything to do with her would reverse the effects and he would be back with her soon.
It wouldn’t do. I will HAVE to tell him about my feelings this evening. I am not sure how they would be received by him, but he deserves to know. He deserves to know that he shall always be loved and cherished by me, come what may. He may like me back, he may not like me back but this matter had to be solved by tonight.
I smiled faintly as Kavya walked in, a Chanel bag in her hand. It was fake, obviously.
She gave me a beaming smile as she hugged me tightly. Her strong perfume muddled my senses and my nose itched, warning me to back off before I unwillingly conditioned her hair with my mucous. I gave her a short hug and then stepped back.
”Long time Lakshya! You look so different!”
Of course I looked different. I had tanned in this Delhi weather and I had also grown my hair a bit, along with my beard. Ragini thinks I look like a bear now, hahahahaha.
”What are you smiling at? My new shoes? They are from Jimmy Choo, bought in Mumbai…….”
I smiled awkwardly as she prattled on about her new purchases. Did she always talk about this same useless stuff? And more importantly, DID I ALWAYS LISTEN TO THIS SHIT EARLIER?
”But enough about me. How have you been?”
Thank God you realised there was one more person with a life in this room, woman!
”I am fine Kavya. Actually, I am rocking. Never been better!” I replied instead, as we sat down. In front of me was tofu sushi, hummus and green salad. I grimaced. Kavya is a vegan and very particular about her diet and to make this meeting relatively comfortable, I had ordered this stuff. The hummus, I love. Tofu sushi………..what the actual f?
Kavya’s gaze followed mine and she smiled in approval as she picked up a piece of the sushi and tried it. I tried not to vomit. Successfully, I must add. Ragini would be so proud, lol.
”This is so sweet Lakshya! You remember my preferences. But then, you were always so caring and considerate……..”
Arrey jaldi mudde pe aa na yaar. Pakaa Kyun Rahi hai?
”So Kavya, is there a reason you wanted to meet? Or just, like, catching up?”
Kavya stopped mid-rant and looked at me curiously. I swear the expression on her face was comical. Ragini would have laughed her ass off if she had been here.
”Since when did I start looking for reasons to meet you?”
Achha Aisa hai? I DON’T think there has been a time ever when you have wanted to meet me for no particular reason. It was always for asking favours. ’Please buy me this new lipstick’, ’Oh God, is that Samar Suri, please get me an introduction’, ’Lakshya, I HAVE to go to the NYFW, get me an entry pass please’. My lips broke into a sarcastic grin as I answered instead, ”I don’t get the point NOW. When everything is over.”
Kavya kept her cup of Chamomile tea down and held my hand. I looked down at our entwined hands. Once, this sight used to arouse happiness in me. Now, I was just waiting for her to leave.
”Lakshya, I know whatever happened between us wasn’t the best thing. We have been going on, off, on again for so long. I admit that I got jealous of Ragini Gadodia but then, what was I to feel when I saw you two together? I love you so much, it hurt to see you with another woman.”
Yah, and I received ’charam sukh’ when I saw you clinging to that Raunak Shah ka friend, whatever his name was! And that too, fresh after our break-up!
”Kavya, it doesn’t matter now. We split for real. I have always begged to save our relationship so if I am the one who breaks up, you have to understand that it is a real deal. I do not want anything to do with you now.”
Kavya crinkled her nose. The last time Ragini did this, she had smelled Sanskaar’s week-old socks a few minutes prior. Ha ha ha.
”Lakshya, so you mean to say that we are over? Like, literally over? There is no chance of a reconciliation now?”
I smiled sadly and shook my head. To be honest, I felt bad. I had invested so much in this relationship- time, emotions, money and everything. And for it to break irreversibly now was a sore idea but an idea I was willing to entertain because I was spent. I knew I had no energy in me to continue this charade anymore.
To my immense surprise, Kavya scooted closer as her hand, which was kept on my thigh, started roaming around. I looked at her, ready to say something but she inched closer, her lips just a few inches away from mine……………..
I smiled as I looked at the bunch of flowers I bought a few minutes ago. The fresh red roses were perfect to go along with my proposal. The setting was anyway perfect, Lucky’s Caffe is the best place to be in anyday, with its ambience and the food……………
I quickly swallowed the drool that was threatening to come out of my mouth as I giggled. Entering the car I asked the driver to drive me fast to the place.
As I walked up towards Lakshya’s study chambers, I rehearsed again what I had to say. ’Hey FFL, nice weather na? Aise weather mein romance is awesome which is why I want to say that I love you yaar!’
I stopped in my tracks. Umm, no wait. What? Where did this come from, this is so creepy, WTF? What is happening, why am I saying such stuff? Gosh, I have gone crazy! Crazy in love……………..
I shook my head and resumed my journey to Lakshya’s study. As I reached the door, my heart started thumping loudly. In a few seconds, I would be face to face with the man I love. In a few minutes, I would have told him about everything I feel. And if everything goes right, in a few hours, I would be the happiest woman alive. Thinking of this, I smiled deeply. Taking a deep breath, as my gaze fell on the gold nameplate bearing his name, I knocked.
”Andar aa yaar PSL, I can’t come and open the door.”
I smiled as I pushed the door open. Laughter escaped my lips as I saw FFL walking like a duck, handling three bowls of food in his hands. I quickly took a bowl from him as he relaxed and gave me a side hug. His soothing scent warmed my heart and we sat down, placing the bowls on the table.
As soon as I put the flowers beside the bowl and turned, Lakshya gave me a big bear hug. I smiled and hugged him back, tousling his hair.
”Why were you carrying all of this?” I asked as we parted.
”First you tell me, are you better now?”
”I asked first.”
”My question is more important.”
”Achha, who said so?”
”I said so.”
”Who are you?”
Lakshya started laughing while I knocked his head to check if the hollow sound was coming or not. He shoved my hand away as he fell back on the sofa.
”Fair enough. You asked first so I should answer you. I just came here from my own office and decided to grab a few bowls myself and put them here since I am sure you are as famished as I am. The rest of the food with the delicate crockery is going to be served by the staff in a few minutes.”
”Oh great. Thanks for the consideration. I am absolutely fine now.”
”Thank God, I was worried. Did the melody help?”
”Yeah it did. Thanks a lot for it. Although you didn’t need to send it, you could have just sent me your own photo, I would have gone asleep you know, with the boredom you exude…….”
”Hahaha, very funny. I toh died laughing. What a joke it was. You should be a stand-up comedian.” Lakshya replied with a passive face. I giggled which prompted him to smile.
”So, how was the much-awaited meeting with Kavya?” I asked as casually I could manage. I picked up a fork and dug into the Mac and Cheese in front of me, to avoid looking at him.
”It ACTUALLY was good. I had been so worried about what I would say, how I would act and what should happen. But apart from the initial awkward meeting, we soon settled down and talked easily. In fact, when she tried to kiss me…….”
I froze mid-bite. She tried to kiss him? She tried to KISS HIM? AND HE LET HER? My hand shivered and my eyesight blurred as I tried imagining the different scenarios playing in my head, processing this piece of information.
”And then I told her, Kavya we have always been close. The time I spent with you is irreplaceable and had I a chance to go back and change anything, I would never do it…….”
Yeah, of course. Why would you want to change anything? You were always sickeningly in love with that woman who didn’t deserve it at all. And now that you have got the chance, you have lapped up the opportunity to be with her again, leaving me alone.
”….and it is such an awesome thing that we can now put everything behind us and start afresh. I wouldn’t want to lose contact, not after what all happened between us.”
I closed my eyes shut painfully. A single tear rolled down my cheek and fell on my palm. I quickly wiped my cheek dry and took a deep breath. Despite telling him again and again that he deserved better, he had gone ahead and got together with Kavya. What I’d feared had come true. I had lost Lakshya. Perhaps, forever.
”Hey PSL, you are listening right?”
”Of course. You were saying you want to start afresh with her.”
”Yep. I am so happy it went so rocking. That’s why, aaj ki treat from my side……………wait, you got those roses? Haan?”
Oh shit. I had forgotten that I bought those roses to propose to him. It seemed such a faraway idea now. I was not going to ruin what I had with him just to lighten my burden. He would never know. I would never let him know.
”PSL, you bought them?”
”Y…No. I…I received them. Yeah, I received them from a friend, Nikhil Taneja. He and I studied in the same college, same batch. We met over lunch after a long time and he gave me these.” I lied. Nikhil Taneja was currently happily married to his boyfriend James McPherson and staying in the US since he came out as gay to his parents, who promptly shunned him. We did chat sometimes but we weren’t that close anymore, at least not as close as we were in college. I have no idea why I took his name, but it isn’t as if Lakshya would ever know.
”Oh. Nice. Nikhil Taneja. Nice. Good.” Lakshya said slowly as he picked up a potato wedge and chewed it. Suddenly the atmosphere seemed tense. The room seemed suffocating.
”Yeah. We were close in our college and he often hung out at my place. Maa loves him a lot, he is very obliging with her cooking…..” I chuckled as I said this. Everybody knows that Mom’s experimental cooking is hazardous and not for the faint-hearted. It was a running joke that Nikhil was perhaps Mom’s true son, switched at birth, since he would calmly eat everything she cooked and not even bat an eyelid. The memories rushed and I smiled.
”Seems he is very special. And he has also given you roses, that too, red! Am I to wish you joy?” Lakshya asked.
”No…nothing like that. We just met after a long time. Nothing is going on. Yet.” I added as an afterthought. I couldn’t look weak. I had to act as if everything was going rock-solid in my life. As if I didn’t need him. Because I know, now that he is back with Kavya, she would slowly manipulate all his time and soon our friendship would die. I could see it happening right in front of my eyes. My heart fell to the pit of its cage and my stomach churned.
”What about your feelings for Sanskaar? Weren’t you hoping to get together with him?”
”It was infatuation and I grew out of it. I realised that I couldn’t waste my life waiting for him, if he had to come, he would have come by now. Plus, he isn’t really the ideal guy I want, he doesn’t have 80% of the qualities I want in my man. So I have decided to look around. Date for a while and get to know people. Would also help in establishing contacts.”
”Hmm. Nice. Uh, have the bruschetta as well. It’s a new recipe.” Lakshya said awkwardly as he handed me a bread. I took it from him and my fingers made contact with his. Current jolted through my body and I looked up to find him looking at me intensely. I looked back at him, my eyes screaming for his love.
A sharp knock at the door broke our eyelock as we came back to the earth. Lakshya let go of the bread and leaning back commanded a strong ’Enter’. A staff member came and placed a tray of Pasta Shots and Pasta Glasses along with two Blueberry Tiramisu. She bowed and left. As soon as she did, I picked up my favourite shots to avoid looking at Lakshya.
”So, any news?” Lakshya asked as he picked up a glass.
”Yep. Sanskaar has successfully passed his Master’s degree and is thinking to take a month’s break before joining his father’s firm. Arjun called today to tell me that he was going to propose to Radhika in two days, as soon as the ring he had selected gets delivered. Nisha is super excited and so she is already doing wedding shopping. Kabir is thinking of becoming an underwear model. Twinkle is thinking of killing Kunj and committing suicide as she heard that star crossed lovers like Romeo-Juliet, Heer-Raanjha, Sohni-Mahiwal and Mirza-Sahiban, all died in love.”
Lakshya had started chuckling as soon as I had finished Kabir’s update but it grew into full-blown laughter when I ended. I watched him laugh care-free and felt a sting in my heart. I do not know why, but the words tumbled out of my mouth before I could control them.
”And I am leaving for London for the next six months.”
Lakshya froze. He looked at me in shock. ”What do you mean you are leaving for London? Why are you going?” he asked.
Shit. Why did I say that? Mom and Dad had approached me about the same but I had vehemently refused, not wanting to leave them and go and nor wanting to leave Lakshya and my friends. Hell, the plan stood cancelled as of now. Then why……..no wait. In hindsight, it is a blessing in disguise. I would not be here to see Lakshya gallivanting about the city with that Kavya, so I wouldn’t have to undergo heartbreak again and again. I could use the change of scene to heal my broken heart. And the London office is in a bad state, my presence would help it. Hell, this was actually a good idea.
”This whole Mark Singh fiasco has troubled me and my parents so they have asked me to handle the London office for some time. I agreed, of course. It would be of double benefit- the rumours of you and I would die and the work in the London branch would also get regulated.” I said to him, after a significant pause. Lakshya raised his eyebrows.
”So you have really decided that you want to leave. For six months, no less. When are you leaving?” he asked.
”As soon as I can. Possibly, three days.”
Lakshya nodded. The rest of our time was spent in silently eating as we both processed the information that had been exchanged. I am sure Lakshya was just unsettled that I was leaving so soon and abruptly but then, he would soon forget me as he now has Kavya back with him. The thought brought a bitter taste to my mouth as I swallowed the tiramisu. Soon, I bid him goodbye and walked to my car broken-heartedly. As I sat in the back of the car and requested the driver to take me home, the tears that had been at the brink of my eyes finally escaped. I cried like I never had, bemoaning my shattered heart.
This is too painful. How will I live like this for my entire life? Did Lakshya feel the same way when he was separated from Kavya? Because if he did, I wouldn’t want him to suffer anymore. If Kavya makes him happy, I wouldn’t interfere. My resolve strengthened. Lakshya Maheshwari would never know that Ragini Gadodia loves him more than her life.
I looked on in confusion as I sat buttering toast. Lakshya had suddenly arrived at our house with a big basket of exotic fruits and a glass of precious dated wine, all of which was now being inspected by Janki. Lakshya does drop by to say hello and talk to us now and then, such a sweet boy, but why was he here right now? Why wasn’t he out with Ragini, now that he knew that she would be leaving in a few hours? To be honest, I was still reeling with the aftershock of her sudden declaration of wanting to go to London. I had gradually accepted her decision not to leave and then she suddenly popped up from nowhere (from the backseat of her car, actually) and told us that she would be going after all. It was rather abrupt. Of course, mayhem ensued. Janki was supervising the packing, I was supervising Ragini’s stay at our townhouse in London while Ragini herself was completing her pending projects and spending her last few days here in Delhi with all her friends. I thought it rather strange that Lakshya was here with us at this moment.
We share a special and quirky relationship with this young man, where neither of us three are afraid of saying anything to each other, however rude. Ragini has great friends but somehow, I love Lakshya best. Not because he is my best friend’s son and both of them are NOT having an affair with my wife, but because he was a genuinely good friend to my daughter. He was also cool to hangout with, unlike Ragini’s other friends, he never interrupted Janki and I while we were romancing. He was always here at the correct time. He was like a son.
Janki sat back, pleased with the quality and quantity of Lakshya’s generous gifts. She pecked Lakshya’s cheek, picked up the basket and walked towards the pantry, to store these items. Lakshya sat close to me and looked at me.
”Ragini is going to London, Uncle.”
”Good morning beta.”
”So you really are sending her to London alone?”
”Lucky, tera saabun slow hai kya? She is leaving by the night flight in a few hours.”
”How can you send her?”
”On a plane?”
“Very funny. I toh died laughing. Now tell me, what’s up?”
“Fan, ceiling, sky, God and your slow functioning brain……”
“Uncle please! Why are you sending Ragini?”
“Technically, she is leaving herself. It was our idea of sending her but she refused. Then she herself said that she wanted to leave. So she is leaving on her own accord.”
“Wait, so she denied going initially? Then what made her change her mind?”
“No idea. She just came, said I am leaving and then locked herself in her room. Janki and I are still wondering whether it’s a dream or not.”
“Interesting. When did this happen?”
“Day before yesterday. Said I am leaving in three days. Tickets were arranged for easily, so it got preponed.”
“Why is she going?”
“Two reasons- firstly, work and second, to escape the speculation being caused due to that cockroach Mark Singh’s article about you two. I don’t blame either of you, you are just enjoying your life. But then, Mark obviously doesn’t understand that since he doesn’t seem to have a life of his own…..”
Lakshya smiled at me. I smiled back as I offered him the now oily toast. He looked at me disdainfully and I smirked. Lakshya’s new trainer had asked him to stay away from saturated fats like ghee and butter and ironically, they were his favourite. To his immense irritation, I slowly bit into the toast and chewed it, watching him pout. Laughter bubbled inside my throat.
“I….I am not sure I like what is happening. Like, it is too abrupt. Ragini always takes smart and well thought-out decisions. Why would she take such a big one on her own, without advice or taking time?”
As I was about to reply a voice came from behind me, “Because she already had our approval.”
Janki walked back and sat beside me. “Lakshya beta, I understand your concern. But see, in hindsight, she knew that she had our approval, in fact our own request, to go to London. And if overnight she realised that the work there would benefit from her care and she could avoid run-ins with the paps, then why not?”
“Aunty, she is acting strange. She hasn’t been talking to me properly, and she is acting weird. I am getting a weird feeling. Something isn’t right.”
“I know what isn’t right. Your brain……..”
“Oh okay fine. See, this whole London idea was of Janki. I don’t even want Ragini to run off, she is a strong girl and I have never taught her to run away from the battlefield. However, I couldn’t refuse Janki because she made sense.”
“Arrey okay. Fine. London isn’t a bad idea. Actually a very good idea. But why is she rushing? Isn’t it strange that she first refuses, then agrees and then demands to leave at the first opportunity?”
He was right. The idea of going to London wasn’t the issue. The manner in which it was being done was. Ragini was obviously rushing. But why? I looked at Janki and understood that Lakshya’s point had struck home.
“You are right beta. Shekhar, even though we asked her to leave as soon as she could, but why is she so bent on leaving in less than even a week?”
I looked at the two faces in front of me. I did not know. And to be honest, now, I don’t think we could do anything. Ragini had made it clear, she didn’t want any interruptions in her plan. Nor did she want any unnecessary questions. Her mind was made up. And once that happens, nothing or nobody can drop my princess from achieving what she wants.
“Ragini, are you sure you want to really go?”
“Maa, what is wrong with you? You yourself suggested this to me, what happened now?”
“Haan, but you are leaving too early. Wait for a few days na. You are just……..moving too quickly. Parso you told us you are leaving and now you are leaving for six long months. At least spend some time with us!” Maa cried.
Seeing her tears, guilt engulfed me. I had been so involved with my own broken heart and grief that I failed to realise the consequences of my hurried departure on my parents. They were the ones who would suffer my absence the most keenly.
In the time prior, I had caught up with everyone. Arjun had graciously postponed his proposal to allow everyone to focus on me. I felt really guilty for that too, everyone sans Sanskaar and Swara had been disappointed when I told them I was leaving. I think the women sensed my heartbreak which is why they were more repressed in their disappointment than the men were. Kunj was super stressed while Arjun was silent. Kabir had been pestering me to call him twice a day, everyday. For once, Nisha didn’t mind. Sanskaar and Swara had been very casual. Sanskaar had just shrugged and Swara, following her boyfriend, just wished me good luck. I didn’t even mind. I just smiled and thanked them, paid the bill left by them and moved on. It had been Lakshya’s behaviour which had been making it the hardest for me to leave.
I spent my whole day yesterday in the house, packing. He would just sit while I packed and ask me to stay back. He would come up with ideas to counter Mark’s article and kill the rumours around us and give me ideas on how to manage the London branch from here in Delhi. Had I not been hurting, I would have found this rather cute and funny. Instead, knowing that he was the reason I was hurrying, I just got angry and irritated. I didn’t want him to leave, no. Instead I just wanted him to stop trying to change my mind. I knew I would lose all my resolve in the face of my love’s persistent pleas and I didn’t want that to happen.
I hugged Maa for the last time and then hugged Papa. “We would come to meet you as regularly as possible, princess.” Papa said. I smiled tearfully and nodded. Giving them a last look, I entered the backseat of the Uber I had booked. Maa and Papa had to leave for Nani’s place in a few minutes as well, she was very ill, so they couldn’t come to drop me. And frankly speaking, I didn’t want anyone with me. I wanted to be left alone, to my own devices, which is why I didn’t ask for the driver.
As the car sped through the empty lanes of Chanakyapuri, my mind replayed all the events that had occured in these months. Why did all this happen? Why did I lose my heart to a man I knew I wouldn’t have a future with? Why did he come to Delhi? Why did we become best friends? There were no answers. It had been destiny. I closed my eyes as I felt the wind blow on my face.
The car came to a screeching halt. My eyes opened and I looked ahead as the driver pressed the horn. “What happened Bhaiya?” I asked the driver. “Madam, a man is standing in front of the car. He isn’t moving and just looking at us. He seems angry.”
My eyes widened as I looked out of the window. In front of me stood Lakshya Maheshwari, hands in his pocket. He walked towards the car and opened the door towards which I sat.
“Get out Ragini. Niklo gaadi se bahar.”
I looked at him in confusion. He looked dishevelled. He stood standing before me, holding the door of the car, waiting for me to come out.
“Arrey hero, who are you, what are you doing……”
“I am not talking to you. She is my friend, I can drop her to the airport. Ragini, take your bags and come out of the freaking cab!”
“Par Lakshya, what are you doing here……..”
“Ragini. Get. Out. Of. This. Car.” Lakshya spoke in a restrained manner. It was obvious that he was angry. The driver looked at me. “Madam, you know this man?”
“Haanji bhaiya, he is my best friend. He is nice and polite actually, I don’t know why he is behaving in this manner……..”
“Ragini, no need to praise me, I am not going to marry this man, alright! Get out of the car now!” Lakshya barked. I moved out of the car as Lakshya signed the driver to open the rear to take my luggage out.
“Madam, are you sure it is safe to be with him? Do you want me to hit him with my hockey stick?” the driver whispered as Lakshya unloaded my luggage.
“Bhaiya, I trust him more than I trust my own self. In fact, I could stand naked in front of him and I know he would never even look at me without my permission, let alone harm me. I am telling you, he is very kind waise. Don’t know why he is acting like this. Don’t worry, I will be fine.” I whispered back.
“Guftgoo khatam ho gayi ho toh please leave!” Lakshya barked at the driver. He gave me a frightened smile and after I paid him, he scurried off towards the wheel. “Madam, should I give you a 5 star rating?” he called and asked.
“Give her 1 star, I don’t think she will be requiring cabs ever in her future. JUST f**kING LEAVE!” Lakshya shouted. The poor driver hurriedly sped the car away. Lakshya looked at me in anger.
“Where the hell do you keep your stupid mobile phone? Why weren’t you picking up my calls?” he asked me. I looked at my feet uncomfortably. I had been avoiding his calls on purpose. I didn’t want to hear him one last time before I left, it would break my heart.
“I asked you something Ragini Gadodia.” Lakshya said in a cold voice. I looked at him. He still looked very angry. His eyes were completely red.
“I..I was with my parents. I kept the phone on silent, I didn’t want any interruptions in my time with them.” I replied.
“What about the time in the cab? Why didn’t you call back then?”
“I didn’t check.”
I heard the shuffle of Lakshya’s feet and saw him approach me. I looked at him in confusion. “Why are you here FFL?”
“To hell with your nickname shit! My name is Lakshya Maheshwari, call me by name!”
Tears came to my eyes. Why was he saying like that? I didn’t want to lose even my friendship.
“What happened to you? Why are you behaving like this? Why are you here?”
“Oh well obviously I am here to meet you! I called you more than a 100 times, messaged you constantly, then reached your home only to be told by your servant that you left!”
“It is time for my flight Lakshya. Obviously I left. Why did you take me out of the car?”
Lakshya walked away from me in frustration, one hand on the waist and other, pushing his hair away from his eyes. Then he took a sudden U-turn, walked towards me and hugged me tightly.
“Don’t go Ragini, please. I love you.”
His voice was merely a hoarse whisper but to me, it was as loud and clear as if he had spoken in a microphone. It was a cold day, yet my body stood warm against his, blood rushing to my ears as my mind went on repeating his declaration of love.
Love. L-O-V-E. Lakshya loved me. The same love that I had for Lakshya. Or was it? Was it just friendly love? My heart broke yet again as I reminded myself that he just looked at me like a friend. He just loved me as a friend.
“Lakshya, I…..” I struggled to form words as I mustered the courage to push him away. I couldn’t. His much familiar scent played havoc on my senses and I could feel myself getting weaker by the minute as his body warmth engulfed me.
“Don’t. Don’t push me away please. Just stay. Stay like this, in my arms. Stay like this for eternity.” he whispered.
Tears rolled down my eyes as I heard words I had been dying to hear. I was sure he didn’t even realise what he was saying and what these words actually meant. They were words of a lover. They were the sweet nothings, yet significant words that were laced with the thirst of romance. They were what every lover wants to hear. And here, I was hearing them from my love. Only that he wasn’t my lover.
“Lakshya, you must leave me. I need to go.”
“Why? Why do you have to go? I love you Ragini, stay for me at least. Don’t leave me and go. I would not be able to live without you, without your love. Do you love me?”
I wanted to shout a big yes. I wanted to hug him back tightly and kiss his face as I declared my love. But that wasn’t what he meant. And I knew that.
“What do you want to hear?” I replied with a cracked voice. My body shook as I controlled my voice. Lakshya pulled back and cupped my cheeks as he looked at me and replied.
“Anything would do. A yes would make me the happiest man alive. And if it is a no, I could persuade you that nobody could love you like I do. That my love would be enough to keep us both happy for the rest of our lives.”
I looked at him in confusion. Why is he making passionate declarations of love, like he loved me. Was he not back with Kavya?
“Lakshya, what…what do you mean? What kind of love? The friends type love, right?”
Lakshya looked at me as if I had made him smell cowdung. “Arrey stupid, I mean love waala love. Like, umm, ishq waala love. Arrey the love between your parents? That waala love. The shaadi-phir-2-bacche waala love!”
And I stood there, rooted to the ground in shock. Pyaar? Love? I felt faint. What the actual f**k was happening?
“But what about Kavya?”
“What about her?”
“Don’t you love her?”
“I did love her at some point in my life. She was a special person. But I don’t love her now. Not when I realise what love actually feels like. Not when I know that I could not love anyone like I love you!”
“But you said that you two had sorted out…..”
“Haan na, I told you. We sorted out the misunderstandings between us. She tried to kiss me but I quickly stood up and hid behind my table. I told you! Why are you asking all of this now? Wait……..did you think that by ’sorting out’, I meant getting back together?”
I blushed furiously as I realised that I indeed did think of that. And to be honest, I hadn’t even listened to the rest of his tale after that. Had he not gotten back with her after all? Does this mean he is single now? And so, does this mean that he loves me? My head spinned with all this new information. And wait. He hid behind the table? Woah, ye kab hua?
“Umm, sorry. I was out of sorts. I didn’t hear that part. Please tell me again.”
“First tell me, do you love me like I love you?” he asked hopefully as he bent on one knee. “I know you have feelings for that Sanskaar, it is sudden and there was no indication but it just happened. First you started telling me about that Nikhil Taneja and then you told me that you were leaving. I felt a rush of such intense emotions that I couldn’t even fathom existed in me. I tried stopping you, not knowing why I minded so much. But tonight, after talking to your parents and finally realising the truth behind this event, I realised I couldn’t live without you. I love you. And so, I lost no time in trying to stop you by telling you. I know it is rather selfish but then, everything is fair in love and war, right?”
My heart warmed as I gave him a beaming smile. He smiled at me in tension. I stroked his cheek as I raised his right hand, ducked my head and kissed on his knuckles, holding it by my both hands. He stood up and fondly pressed his forehead to the top of my head, sighing deeply.
“I have lived with your name in my heart for a long time now Lakshya. I reckon I love you more than you love me. And that shall always be the case.” I replied softly, inhaling his beautiful scent. Lakshya’s body shook with happiness as he grabbed me by my waist, lifted me and twirled me in the air happily. I shrieked in joy as my heart lifted. He placed me on the ground and hugged me again, giving me a loud, noisy, and wet kiss on my cheek as I giggled in mirth.
“You won’t leave for London now, na?” Lakshya asked doubtfully. I shook my head.
“There is no need of that now. The London branch and the Mark article were just excuses to hide my main reason- to stay away from you. I had fallen for you but I thought you got back with Kavya. I didn’t want to come in between, nor I could see you with her. So I decided to leave.”
“Hain! What made you think I got back with her? I told you what happened that day!”
“It is as you said. I just heard that you ’sorted it out’ and I thought the worst. And so, I didn’t pay attention to the rest of the story, so sad I had become.”
“Chal, stupid PSL! I love you, and even if I didn’t know then, I would have realised it sooner or later. The Kavya chapter has been long over. Do you want me to tell you again what happened?”
I nodded eagerly and Lakshya sighed in resignation. He picked up my luggage and we walked towards his car and sat after fixing my luggage. He sat on the driver’s seat while I sat next to him, waiting eagerly to know what had happened.
“Haan, toh as I was saying, I hid behind the table to save my izzat. I shouted at her for trying to seduce me. And then I told her, Kavya we have always been close. The time I spent with you is irreplaceable and had I a chance to go back and change anything, I would never do it. But that didn’t mean I loved her or wanted her. She told me that she wanted to get back with me but I only wanted to get back to my bedroom and sleep. She then told me that she regretted leaving me and treating you badly. So I told her that she could always apologize to you but there was no way in hell I was taking her back. A heated exchange happened and she called things I can’t repeat because I didn’t listen, lol. Then she blurted out that she had given Mark some of the information for his latest article and if I wanted that news to die, I could only do one thing- get myself a girlfriend. So I told her that my Martha aunty, the one who used to wipe my potty when I was young was looking for a new husband, and she was a far better candidate than Kavya was….”
I laughed like a maniac as Lakshya chuckled and continued.
“Ya, so I was VERY angry on her for doing what she did. I threatened to ruin her life and career and she started crying and pleading to spare her. I let her be but I told her that she was now never going to give any interviews or gossip about me or you and she was not welcome in my life anymore. That was a price she was willing to pay for her reputation and career, so she and I parted on a good understanding of how things stood between us. I told her to keep in touch if she needed help desperately but not to expect anything but financial help or a recommendation.”
“Woah. Great story. I loved how you put her in her place. What had she been thinking, giving false information to the paps about us!”
“I know right? And then when you said that you were leaving partly because of the Mark fiasco, I felt so bad since it was MY ex who ruined things. I even went and threatened Mark in his office today morning. Tomorrow’s newspaper would carry an apology. And guess what Ragini? You would not believe the gossip I am about to impart.”
“I am all ears, my love.”
“My love, hehehihihui how cute that sounds. Haan, toh, I got to know that there is a guy called Kartik who has been supplying information about you and your gang to Mark. And guess who he is.”
“Kartik? No, I don’t know anyone by that name. Who is he?”
WHOA. Now this was big. If I was understanding exactly what Lakshya was trying to imply, it was a damned big thing. And I knew Lakshya and I were on the same page.
“This is why Kartik had so much leads on you and your gang. Swara informed him. It helped him get a promotion while Swara, obviously, was benefitting from your ’friendship’.”
“I will punch her in her jaw, that dumb bimbo……”
“Arrey leave it. Now you done thing, tell that Nikhil Taneja that he is not welcome anywhere near you.”
“Lakshya, those roses had been for you. I fabricated a story, Nikhil lives in the US with his husband.”
“Yeah I know it was rude, but I was shocked. Forgive me, please?”
“Leave it na PSL. Baaki baatein baad mein. Just look into my eyes and say I love you again. And then I shall say the same. And then we shall repeat this till we go to sleep.”
“Chup, idiot!” I replied as we laughed.
We then went to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib where we both did sewa by cooking and cleaning and seeked the blessings of Waheguru for the new start of our relationship. We then went to India Gate and walked around, eating ice cream and talking about random stuff. Everything seemed normal yet, there was something absolutely different about having this conversation with a man I loved and who I knew loved me back. I was with my soulmate. As we both sat, exhausted yet feeling a new energy between us, I smiled looking at him. A few hours ago, I was the saddest person, about to leave my everything, having lost my love. And now, in just a few hours, I was the happiest person alive. It taught me that I shouldn’t act hastily. Had I been attentive towards Lakshya, I would not have suffered the pain. But whatever happens, happens for good. Lakshya was prompted into action by my imminent departure. He realised his love and set out to stop me. And here we were. I looked down at our entwined hands and then, looked ahead as the sun rose to mark a new day.
A new life awaited me, same yet different. And I was ready, with this man beside me in my every moment. Our life till now had been a cocktail of emotions and events. And I was sure that it would remain the same. It was not the end. It was the beginning of something new, only much more exciting.
~ THE END ~