“Ashi?? Anvesha? What’s wrong with you??” Rihaan enquired with a frown. Ashi was rashly yanked back to reality by his voice. Rihaan turned looking at her, shifting in his seat, slightly frowning, puzzled by the abrupt change in her behaviour.
“Nothing. I’m just sleepy. That’s all. Where’s Taniya?”
Ashi’s eyes scanned Rihaan’s BMW and even the street where Rihaan seemed to have side-parked the car; the parking lights blinking in the dark.
“Like seriously? And what? Like you sleep with your eyes open? Wide open rather, is it?”
Ashi’s silence conveyed that something was terribly wrong with her.
Rihaan sighed heavily, “Taniya left. She lives here.” He pointed his thumb to his right.
“Okay.” Ashi replied solemnly.
“No okay. Come and sit here in the front.”
Ashi got down and took the seat next to Rihaan. She’s mechanically obeying everything that Rihaan asked her to do. She’d lost the power to listen, contemplate and deduce commands, temporarily.
“Are you okay?” Rihaan asked his voice full of concern fastening his seat belt. Rihaan knew she’s not normal for he knew she never obeyed commands without exchanging a few dialogues.
“I’m perfectly fine”, came a programmed reply, mirroring his action.
Rihaan fired the gas and the engine roared to action all set to be driven.
“So now, who called?” Rihaan asked his eyes focused on the street.
“Mumma called, as I already told you.”
“And you think I believed that?”
“Why wouldn’t you?”
“Haven’t you saved your mom’s number? Or she calls you from a new number, every single time? Besides don’t you recognize her voice to ask, May I know who am I talking to?”
Rihaan glanced at her. She’s still blankly looking at the street running ahead of them.
“I know he called you.” Rihaan tried to make the sentence sound as casual as possible.
His statement made Ashi to almost jump in her seat. She’d how-did-you-know-that look splayed all over her face. Ashi’s rewound her life’s fifteen minutes trying to know if she’d blurted something or had spoken her thoughts aloud. Before she could stress her brains a tad more, Rihaan further added, “He does that, whenever he’s interested in any female. That’s normal for him.”
Ashi was totally baffled now. She couldn’t think what he’s talking about. She couldn’t draw any connection between – what was crawling in her head and what Rihaan spoke.
However, his further sentence cleared all her blurred visions.
“No need to act as if you didn’t understand what I said. I know Kabir called you”, Rihaan ended matter-of-factly.
For a brief moment Ashi thought of clarifying his misunderstanding, but given a second thought, she let him believe that it’s Kabir who’d called her. Her thoughts were caught amidst – ‘How can he think this’ and ‘let him believe and dwell on the benefit of doubt about the same’.
“Clarification will only expose me to further questions – I don’t have answers to, currently; if not clarified, he’ll think that I’m interested in Kabir – which I don’t want him to because I’m not interested in him.”
Her mind felt like it’s exactly divided into two.
“It’s better to embrace silence. This way I’ll save myself from both; regarding Kabir he’ll understand that one day.” Ashi kept silent as decided.
“So he called you. I don’t understand why you have to hide that from me! If you think I’ll have a problem with you dating him, then please let me tell you that I don’t have one”, Rihaan mockingly chuckled and added further, “It’s just that you’re a bit too nice for someone like him and I’ve a problem with guys who make girls believe that they love them and then just get in their panties….”
“Okay, so he’s burning inside with flaring fumes. Not bad. Jealous is good. Anytime good. A little jealously is good for the health of any relationship.”
Ashi’s thoughts immediately made her to realize that this was a perfect topic to deviate the ongoing “call” topic – she’d no answers to.
Rihaan switched on the parking lights and side-parked the BMW near Ashi’s apartment. Collecting her boots and clutch Ashi got out of the car and bending over slightly with the door still open mockingly said, “Why don’t you drink fire extinguisher, that’ll help you to quench that burning sensation brewing inside.”
Rihaan pierced a gaze at her and in a swish got down from the car. Ashi’s eyes traced his way without an eye blink as he walked all the way to her and stood exactly in front of her. Holding her arms in his tight, immovable grip, he held her gaze steady. His expressions were grim. Apparent wrath and rage spurred on his handsome, chiseled face.
“Do you really like Kabir?”
Rihaan asked glaring at Ashi, his expressions a blend of emotions – anxious, curious, exasperated, fretful, concerned, jealous and a lot unseen, unexplained ones. It’s difficult for Ashi to slim them to a single one, to gauge his next move or his intentions. Every time he attained this level he showed her a different, more pronounced side of him that left her falling for him, even more.
“What’s with you? You said you don’t have a problem with anything I do or anything I like, right?” Ashi said looking right into his eyes, her voice firm and thick.
Her reply made Rihaan to dig his fingers further into her flesh, gripping her tighter than before. Her expressions remained unchanged, although his anger, anxiety or that “blend-of-emotions” had reached a new apex.
“I want to know. Answer. Now.”
Ashi neither tried to struggle out of his hold nor did she move. She stayed still, glued to the spot trying hard not to make her voice sound croaky or shaky. She’d somewhat become used to he and his anger displaying skills. Keeping her voice as calm and firm as possible she replied, “Yes, I am. Not what?”
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
Rihaan asked with a scowl, his expressions finally a bout of anger, still holding her arms, his fingers prodding in her soft, sensitive flesh, visibly shaking her for an answer.
“Why should I even reply? I don’t wish to.”
Saying this, she jerked him off letting herself out of his hold and continued with a disgusted yet teary tone, “What’s your problem. Rihaan? Why do you become insecure when I get close to someone?”
“It’s because I know them. I know what they think of you and what they want from you?”
“Seriously? And you think you’re different? Let me enlighten you that even you’re as horrible as they are.”
“And what made you say that? Just because I kissed you, seriously? That’s through a mutual consent, wasn’t it? And foremost, it’s no big deal.”
“Maybe not for you, but it’s for me. Everything related to you is a BIG DEAL for me! Damn Rihaan! Forget it! You’re a wreck! A Dickhead creature! Why am I even expecting you to understand?!”
It seemed like the wrath like a spirit had escaped Rihaan’s body and had possessed Ashi.
“Wait. What do you mean everything related to me? Don’t you now tell me that you’ve fallen for me?”
“What if I say, I have. I have fallen in love with you Rihaan. Badly. Miserably.”
Ashi finally confessed and voiced her thoughts aloud in front of Rihaan. She looked at Rihaan raringly waiting for a reply, her heartbeats fluttering at a speed she thought her heart would sprang out of the ribcage. To her surprise, her thoughts didn’t clutter her mind; instead they just vanished and her mind went numb, blank, as if all her mind, senses and brain power were waiting for Rihaan’s reply, so that they could commence with their cinch of multiplying the thoughts abnormally.
Rihaan stared at her for a brief moment and without meeting her gaze replied, “It’s not possible. You can’t. You shouldn’t. Stay away from me, Ashi. I’m not someone who can be loved.”
“But I don’t find it difficult to love you. You’re irresistibly lovable.”
Ashi’s reply came like a lightning strike as if she’d presumed Rihaan’s reply.
“Don’t. Just don’t let me believe something that isn’t true.”
“But it’s true. Maybe a loss for me but it’s true”, Ashi sighed heavily, “Goodbye Rihaan.”
Having said that Ashi turned, leaving the moment, the conversation, the hopes, the desires and her Rihaan, there, hanging in the midst just when Rihaan gripped her wrist and pulled her closer to him.
“Wait”, Rihaan’s breathing was highly noticeable.
“What now?” She asked. Her voice was croaky and dry.
“Don’t go like that”, Rihaan said, his eyes lingering on her dreary-etched face. Ashi didn’t look at his face. Instead she dropped her face till her chin touched the bottom of her neck and fixed her sight staring at her bare feet. She fiercely feared that the water dammed behind the lining of her eyelids would break all loose and will start flowing anew if she looks at him, even once.
“Let me go please”, Ashi’s voice croaked further.
Rihaan stood there, still, looking at Ashi intently. He cupped her face in his hands and making her to look at him, her eyes teary; he gently pressed his lips on her forehead, kissing her forehead.
“What is this for, now?” Ashi squeaked, her voice barely audible.
“Because you’re too nice and kind and I’m a mess. You should stay away from me and my life. Please.” Rihaan continued, her warm face still under his gentle touch.
“Can you stay away from me?”
Rihaan sighed and looked away.
“I think you should go in. It’s late.”
“Rihaan, you can’t do this. Look at me.”
Ashi’s voice had raised its bar and sounded far from squeaky or croaky.
“I don’t need to. I told you whatever I had to. It’s not going to be possible ever, in this life at least.”
Rihaan moved away further and slightly leaning he placed his palms on the roof of the car and continued in deep exasperation, “You need to understand, Ashi. You really need to. Don’t let yourself into this. I’m not the man for you. You deserve a better guy who isn’t involved in so many conspiracies. I look great on the outside. I appear cool, practical and composed but I’m equally wrecked on the inside. There are reasons for the way I am. Some unexplainable reasons.”
Rihaan spat the words as he ruffled through his hair trying and failing to dishevel his perfect length hair. All the while it seemed like he’s talking to his self more than Ashi. Taking a deep, long breath, he turned to face Ashi to elucidate her about his ‘why-s’, ‘if-s’ and ‘but-s’, only to find her walking towards the main gate, her hands folded and held close to her chest. She’d finally put on her angel-looking monsters back, that’d covered her feet.
“Why can’t he understand that we can be a beautiful mess together?! What a loss! What was I even thinking?! That he’ll pull me into an embrace?! Jeesh! What have I done?! Holy Shit! I can’t even use my all time rescue mechanism – alcohol. I’m not drunk. Nor even tipsy. Shit! How am I going to face him?! Maybe I should tell him that we shouldn’t talk to each other. But then again that’s not something I personally want. I want him around. I need him around. Every. Single. Time.”
Ashi closed her eyes and took a deep breath to surface her thoughts; and when she finally opened them, she realized she’s standing in her living room, her mom staring at her in the same stance – arms neatly folded across her chest.