Saturday, 8 October 2016

part 6 : A gypsy's fantacy

Chapter 6

Shilpa didn't get two hours to herself before Armaan was back and Muskaan was knocking at her door. She didn't want to see Armaan right now. She couldn't explain her situation to him. She couldn't tell him why she was doing what she was. But when Muskaan said it looked urgent and he looked really serious, Shilpa pulled her sneakers back on and followed her out of the room.
Surprisingly, Armaan wasn't inside the house. He was outside, waiting in his car. Shilpa walked to him, then pulled the door of the passenger side open and plopped in.
"Okay Malik, say what you've to say. I need to go back." He hit the accelerator and they were up on the road, the car speeding up.
Shilpa yelped then looked at him, "Armaan! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? SLOW DOWN!" She caught the seat belt and shrank in her seat with fear. Armaan didn't respond. He simply kept on driving. It must've been fifteen minutes but it felt like a lifetime. When he braked, every limb of Shilpa's ached. She inhaled sharply and looked out. They were at some remote place. Barren land, more precisely. There was too much sand and dust everywhere, and trees with spikes for leaves. There was a railing now all corroded but withstanding, and it looked like they were at some kind of bridge. Armaan shoved out of the car, slamming the door on his side and walked to the railing with a stiff neck.

Something had altered in him, changed. Shilpa was almost afraid to ask what. He'd been quite pleasant when he'd dropped her. Right now he looked the farthest thing from pleasant, though and she'd a mad urge to run for her life.
She didn't though.
Run.
She stepped out of the car, carefully like she was stepping on some foreign territory and made her way to him.
They stood there for a while, hearing the crows groan and the silent humming of the wind that was coming from the north east.
"I had a brother," he began and Shilpa straightened immediately.
"I had a younger brother. He was just like you." Armaan shook his head, smiling faintly at some memory.
"He had this crazy obsession with plants. As a kid he spent hours out in the garden, ploughing, putting all kinds of seeds in the grounds and reading all these pamphlets. He was crazy. He named all his plants. He sat at night for hours talking to them. He'd just come home tired and share all his worries with one of them. I swear at times I thought those plants nodded at him, too. He had all these environmental campaigns going on in school too. Never relented, that silly silly boy."
Shilpa laughed making Armaan stiffen all at once.
He turned and stared at the side of her face, "he was my everything. I loved him to death. I was his big brother, I wanted to protect him." His words lowered to a whisper.
Shilpa turned her eyes to him, her laugh dissolving. She felt fear clog her throat, "was? Where's he now?" the words came out all wrong; fluffed with uncertainty.
Armaan's intense gaze remained on Shilpa for a minute making her toes fidget and she looked away.
"So, nine years ago," he began speaking nonchalantly, very nonchalantly, but Shilpa froze beside him, "my brother was coming home after partying with friends. He normally wasn't out that late ever. He'd this newfound craze for bikes. I thought they were too dangerous and set all these curfews for him he wouldn't follow and snort at. But then, he was a boy then. So he was coming home and it was raining a lot that night. I remember it was raining so hard, couldn't see a thing." Shilpa turned around but Armaan's fingers closed around her arm like steel bands. He didn't move, didn't stop speaking or looked any different. He went on casually acting like nothing had changed, and Shilpa wasn't trembling all over. He pulled her back and continued.
"Atul called me around 9 p.m and told me he was coming home. I remember his last words so clearly. I love you, bhai. He did. My brother loved me so much. Maybe more than his plants, though most of the days it was a tie and I didn't mind competing with his ugly plants. So I was waiting. I decided we'd have dinner together. I remember sitting on the table there, waiting for my brother. It was ten then. An hour. And he still wasn't home. So I called him again. that night, it went all in calling and calling. First him then his friends. They told me he'd left early around 9 p.m. I remember the panic that'd gripped me."
"Armaan, stop please!" she croaked. His fingers tightened on her arms, most definitely, leaving finger prints. He ignored the hiccups that were bubbling out of her mouth now.
"I was out that night. Searching, searching. I remember it was raining so f**king hard. Couldn't see a thing. Somebody called me then. I think it was one of his friends. They'd found his bike. Did I tell you? He was on bike that night." He looked at Shilpa now with a hardened jaw and the color drained from her face. He pulled her around to face him and went on slowly.
"I was so scared. My brother was just a teenager. So small, so young. He had so much to see back then. He was such a jolly guy. Always loved small things. Wanted small things in life. They found his bike. In splinters. They also found blood. But body? There was no body. That night we spent in hospitals. So many I don't even remember the names anymore. Finally, we found him. They took us to the room where all accident patients were. Did I tell you the room had patients who were alive? Well my brother wasn't there. He was in the morgue. We couldn't even identify his face. It was smashed so badly and his arm? It'd plugged out of his body like some kind of robotic arm does from a f**king toy!"
Shilpa wanted to cover her ears and scream. She wanted to hit him and herself and tell him to stop. STOP! But he wouldn't. He went on and on about all the gory details she never wanted to know. She never wanted to know.
"His name was Atul." Armaan said softly, "and nine years ago he was murdered. The hospital authorities said it was an accident. Somebody brought his body in. he'd died before they brought him to the hospital. The person who'd done that to him? That person I wanted to see behind bars so badly? That person I wanted to kill with my own hands? They'd escaped and left my brother to die. For nine years I did everything possible to escape the pain and to find the person responsible for this. Nine f**king years of anger and torment knowing that person was out there roaming free while my brother was nomore."
"I pulled together all my resources and sources. We dug into everything. My cousin had these political ties, he dug deeper. And then today he calls me and tells me to come, so I go. I leave my wife and go to him. And he shows me all these records and evidences. All these records we were never shown. I didn't see any of that. All I see was a name shining bright and clear in the muddled mess. It was Shilpa Malhotra."
His words singed her. A black hole was forming below her feet and growing larger and larger, trying to swallow her. It was Armaan's brother. Armaan's brother. She'd killed his brother. She and Muskaan. All the memories she'd tried to stifle so hard came back plundering her mind and her knees gave up. And when she sank to the floor, Armaan let her.
He looked at her and laughed bitterly.
"I wanted to ask you if you did it. I didn't want to believe any of that shit, Shilpa. I didn't. But you gave me an answer without saying a word."
Shilpa was shuddering but she shook her head violently.
"Armaan, don't."
"He was my brother! I loved him. You. You climbed up a f**king tree because you couldn't see a f**king hummingbird hurt. You climbed a tree knowing your fear for heights. You couldn't see a f**king pea sized bird hurt. How could you. I can't..." he broke off choking.
"Armaan I didn't kill him. I didn't." she was shaking her head and crying.
Armaan kneeled down and pulled her up. She shrank back seeing the fury in his eyes, "Tell me then! Tell me the truth, Shilpa."
She was still trembling. She tried forming words nodding her head but nothing came out.
"How could you do this? How could you do this god damnit?" his voice splintered.
"I didn't. I didn't kill him. You have to believe me. It was...it was." She didn't finish. She couldn't risk Muskaan. What if Armaan dragged Muskaan to the court? She didn't remember a thing. She didn't even know she was almost raped. She remembered nothing about that horrendous night that was so well burned in Shilpa's memory. She'd just gotten married. She didn't need this baggage.
"Tell me!"
Shilpa shook her head, "I am so sorry." She hung down her head.
"I deserve whatever punishment you want to see me suffering. I deserve to die. I deserve whatever agony you want to inflict upon me. But please Armaan, trust me, I didn't kill him. It was...it was an accident."
"Then why the f**k did you runaway? Why did you let it happen to my brother? You left him there to die!"
"I didn't. He died on the spot. When I...when I stepped out of the car, he was dead." She closed her eyes reliving purgatory.
Armaan let go of Shilpa breathing heavily.
"For nine years I've hated you so much. For nine years I'd wanted nothing more than to kill you with my own bare hands. How could you do this to my brother? How could you be so cruel to save your f**king life and take his and vanish like that? You should've owned up to what you did. Were you drunk?"
Shilpa knew it was rhetorical but she nodded making him close his eyes. She was drunk. She was drunk. How could've she been so irresponsible?
"You killed my brother." He whispered trembling too now.
"Armaan, please believe this. It was an accident. You have to listen to me. Please."
Armaan exhaled sharply then pulled her arm and dragged her to the car pushing her in the passenger side. He slammed the door, got in the driver's seat, slammed his as well and drove straight. She was crying and hiccupping and trying to talk but he didn't respond. He brought the car to a screeching halt at the Modhis and told her to get out. All her attempts to make him listen failed and she stepped out staring as he reversed and stormed off.
She crumpled to the ground in a puddle of tears.
She didn't stop for a while, letting all of it out. She loved Armaan. She'd dreaded telling him or anyone the truth. And to know it was his brother. Bile gagged her throat and she coughed hard. She pulled back on her legs and made her way to the garden before she vomited. The bitter taste stung her tongue and mouth but she wiped her face with her crippled shirt. She combed her hair with her fingers and went out on the road hailing a cab. She had to explain to Armaan. She loved him.
When she got off his gates she felt squirmy all over again. Would he even see her? She ran to the door but the guards didn't let her in.
"I'm sorry ma'am. You're not allowed inside."
Shilpa stared at him then shook her head, "Please! I need to see him this once. Please tell Armaan Shilpa's here."
They shook their heads and looked at her with pity, "I'm sorry ma'am. We are given specific orders not to let you in."
"Who did?"
"I did." Shilpa twirled on her heels to stare at a medium heighted man with a tanned complexion. He walked to her, his shaggy hair falling at sides and stared her in the eye with animosity, "I told them to not let criminals in."
Shilpa flinched at that and bit her lower lip.
"I need to see Armaan."
"You can't."
"Hell I can't! He is my husband!" it was the first time she'd acknowledged the fact out loud. Yuvraaj gave his head a gentle shake and looked at her with a sardonic smile.
"I think he's talking to his lawyers right now so he could throw the divorce papers in your sorry face. And then have you shoved behind bars. We've got enough evidence to throw you in a rotten cell and keep you there."
Shilpa looked at him and stopped the tears from returning, "Listen, I know you hate me and you've every right to but I need to explain this to Armaan. Please. It's really important. Please just let me talk to him once more."
"Throw her out." Yuvraaj tossed casually over his shoulder as he turned around and walked inside. Shilpa pulled off as the guard neared and ran to the other side where Armaan's library was. She screamed at the top of her lungs.
"Armaan! ARMAAAN!" she kept on shouting his name. The clouds growled above her and then suddenly it was raining hard. Just like it had rained nine years ago. She didn't move from her place. She kept screaming for him but the thundering clap of clouds and lightning drowned her voice. She pummeled the windows with her fists but nobody opened up for her. She crumpled to the ground breathing hard and listening to her own heartbeat before she walked outside in the garden with her head hung low.
She was walking, feeling fatigue spread all through her.
She was breathing shallow.
And then she was not.
"Sir." Armaan had himself locked in his underground study with his head in the crook of his arms. He was curled in a ball at the corner of the room on the floor, staring into nothingness. He heard the door creak and followed it seeing a servant pull inside the room. He quickly wiped his face and pulled himself up from the floor. He looked shitty. His face was tear stricken, and his normally crisp and perfect clothing was messy and crippled.
"Sir," the servant repeated looking hesitant.
Armaan nodded his head for him to continue.
"I know that you didn't allow Shilpa here."
Armaan halted immediately, "what?"
The servant looked nervous and restated, "I know you instructed everyone to keep Shilpa out of here and we've been doing that since evening."
Armaan was already moving toward him at an alarming speed.
"What are you saying? Shilpa is here? Since when? Where?"
"Sir she came half an hour later you showed up back. Yuvraaj Sir instructed everybody to keep her out if she comes so we didn't allow her in. she's been quite relentless though. She's been in the rain, standing outside for hours shouting for you."
It had been eight hours since he'd been home. Armaan closed his eyes.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Sir I thought."
"Is this my f**king house or his?"
"Sorry, sir."
"Where the hell is she? Bring her in and give her a towel."
The servant hesitated. Armaan felt his heart stop for a moment.
"What is it?" he asked softly.
"Sir she's been out in the rain for long. The guard found her passed out on the lawn. She isn't waking up."
Armaan couldn't move for a moment feeling a shrilling voice drum in his ears and his heart thumping hard against his chest. The likes of a fear he'd never known gripped him so hard he lost his balance and black rage clouded him. He strode out of the room, his footsteps hard and fast, echoing throughout the house. He jumped up three stairs at a time and ran outside and his heart ceased beating, making him falter and the life drain from his eyes.
She was lying outside, now dragged on the pavement with a green hood at the top, by the guards. She'd gone totally pale, her lips were purplish blue and she was completely still. Armaan couldn't move. Then he did, fast as lightning. He gathered her in his arms, carefully, like she was breakable and ran inside the house shouting orders.
"Call the f**king doctor! I want him here right now. Where ever the hell yuvraaj is, I want to see him. Do you hear me? Get the medic team here. Right now!" he bellowed taking Shilpa to his room. He laid her on the bed and divested her of all her clothing. She was cold and her pulse was faint. Armaan threw two thick and warm blankets over her after drying her body and changing her clothes and rubbed her arms and legs furiously.
His manager came rushing in and he looked at him with clenched teeth, "All the guards who were on duty from evening till now, all of them, all the staff that saw her out, I want all of them fired right now. Do you get it? I don't want to see any of their faces tomorrow."
"Armaan, they were just doing their duty."
"I don't care!" he exploded, "if something happens to her I will kill them. I don't want to see any of them. They saw her lying there like that! They didn't do shit. I want humans working here, not animals. Throw them out, all of them!"
His manager nodded and slipped out of the room.
Armaan didn't leave Shilpa's side trying to stop the fear that was taking over.
A team of doctors filled in the room and checked on Shilpa and he held his breath. They injected her and wrote down a few medicines on a chart.
"Armaan, there's not much to worry. I'm glad she's been brought in earlier. She hasn't eaten anything for a long time I guess. Her sugar and blood level was low. It's not the rain particularly. Though we are more exposed to diseases and viruses in the rain, the rain in particular doesn't harms. Shilpa needs rest and food and just give her the medicines. She'll be fine after a while. She's caught a slight fever and I think it's the day's tension too. Just don't give her any stress."
Armaan nodded, relief flooding him, still staring at Shilpa and walked them all out thanking them for the umpteenth time.
He looked down at her and Atul's photo that he'd been holding onto for a while still crumpled in his fists. He slumped down on the floor, beside her, crying out, "What do I do, God? What the hell do I do?"
It was hurting so much and it was hurting everywhere. He wished so desperately he'd never met her. She was his wife. He had been his brother.
He caressed her hair rubbing his fingers slowly over her forehead. She looked so beautiful even in her despair. Why did she do it?
He dug his face in his palms and cried so hard without making a sound, hiccupping and sobbing all through the night until the Sun shone through the window peeking at them and Shilpa finally stirred.
He felt her eyes blink but before he could get up there was a heavy knock on the door.
Another servant stepped in and Armaan looked up from where he was perched on the floor.
"Sir her sister is here waiting for you."
Armaan pushed himself from the floor and took a long look at Shilpa, reluctant to leave her but walked out of the room, anyway. He came down the stairs only to find Muskaan face to face with Yuvraaj. Her eyes were round and stricken with fear and even though Armaan knew from where he was coming he'd this urge to throw him to the ground and beat the shit out of him. He wasn't going to forgive him for what happened to Shilpa. He barely contained his anger.
"Yuvraaj, get out right now." He turned around and was startled to see the anger directed at him.
"Excuse me? Me? Aren't you supposed to tell that to this criminal duo?" Muskaan stared between them and backed away like she was slapped.
"Please. Just go." Armaan gritted his teeth.
Yuvraaj mirrored the action and strode out of the room.
Armaan sighed rubbing his face with his palms.
"Muskaan."
"Armaan. I need to talk to you."
Did she know too? armaan nodded and directed her to the library. He shut the door behind him and stared at her awkwardly. Once, he'd been about to marry her. She was lovely after her marriage. She'd grown a little plum and had this rosiness about her. He was glad she'd married Rahul and not him. They would've never been happy together. He'd never really felt anything for her, either. It would've been a marriage of convenience. The perfect recipe for disaster.
Muskaan was fidgeting with her dress now; her skin was agleam with sweat.
"Yuvraaj told me that it was your brother." She said softly.
Armaan looked down at his feet.
"Armaan I've to tell you something. Something that I've kept inside me for nine years now. Shilpa doesn't know it. I hid it from everyone."
Armaan inhaled sharply and fixed his eyes on her waiting for what she'd to say.
Muskaan was shaking too now and sank in the seat at the end of the room. She twisted her fingers around the corner of her shirt.
She exhaled like it was hard for her and started, "Nine years ago I was raped." Armaan grew still swearing viciously under his breath.
She shook her head, "not exactly penetrative. There was this guy our mother was dating. He was a pervert and pedophile. None of us liked the way he stared at us. Shilpa was really protective of me. She never let me out of her sight. That evening mother sent her to fetch something from our aunt's house. She'd been adamant about not going but my mother had beaten her. Shilpa, she's not my real sister. My mother never stops shoving the fact in our faces, but she has not for once ever said the word step and mother together. She never knew her mother and she treats mine like she's hers. She's seen a lot of difficulties but taken it like the strong girl she's always been. Unlike me. That evening Shilpa was out and my mother's boyfriend got her shitfaced until she was just drinking more and more. I was in the backyard playing. I was waiting for Shilpa honestly. And then he was there. Crooning me, touching me in ways I didn't like. He pushed three fingers in my mouth gagging me when I tried to scream and dragged me toward the store room. He didn't get to the point of sex with me. He just used his dirty fingers and touched me in all these places. I wasn't a fighter. I was so petrified. He pulled off when he heard the front door open."
"He pulled off me and ran out. I wanted to tell Shilpa so badly but I was so scared. That night though, he came on me again. He came inside my room and locked it. I remember screaming so loudly. I remember him coming at me and I remember Shilpa beating at the door with her fists than with a baseball bat until she broke it open. He had his pants down, my clothes torn off and I remember so much panic and the blood flowing from my body and nose. Shilpa had slammed his head with the bat. He'd fallen to the floor, blood flowing from his head. We'd both backed off, scared and out of our minds. Our mother was lying on the floor in her room in a puddle of puke and beer. I don't know what had gripped us, both of us just landed on it, taking chug after chug, long swigs from the bottle. Shilpa didn't stop. I think it was the failure that hung on her head. Not being able to protect me. I wanted to escape. I begged her to give me the car keys and she did."
"She was reluctant but I think it was the fear and need on our face. It was night; we were just kids dealing with a trauma. She wasn't all that old from me the way she thought. So I took the steering wheel. I drove madly. She drifted off to sleep in the middle. It was the moment when I was reliving the accident. Feeling his fingers everywhere, the pain, the hurt, the agony. I watched her tear stricken face and thought of what a failure I myself was. I don't know what happened then. It was raining. There was a truck, a bus I don't know. I remember steering the car to the left. Too left. I tried saving us, but it was all happening in the blink of a moment. Shilpa woke up, she screamed at me to steer the car clear but I was panicked. I couldn't see anymore. I didn't see your brother, nor the bike. We didn't even know we'd hit him until we got off the car and realized the truck had zoned out of sight. She'd walked to him. I'd followed. I remember the feeling of dread seeing all the blood and his body. I should've felt much more remorse but my own traumatic feelings had numbed me. I was just speaking incoherently. Not shilpa though. She was kneeled around the body checking him for a heartbeat and when she knew he was dead, she didn't move. She wouldn't move no matter what I said. We sat there like for hours in which she had his hand clasped in hers and she was sitting there like a statue, like she'd exited her body somehow. Then there was Mr. Modhi, forcing us both in the car and promising to take your brother to the hospital. I didn't remember anything the next morning. I did though. I remembered everything after a few months and I knew what had Shilpa done. She'd taken all the blame to keep me clear of it. She'd done all that so I wouldn't ever be harmed and she'd gone along the plans of Mr. Modhi and our father to keep me safe, to let me live in the delusional life I was living."
"I remembered everything when I and Rahul tried to have sex for the first time. I wasn't a virgin physically. The pain and memories came flooding back. I was so confused and broken for years but he wouldn't leave me. I decided to marry you because I didn't think myself worthy of him. But I'd never known that his love had healed me. I thought I was healed but I didn't realize that not trying to verbalize my fears was not therapy. It made me a coward. I was so afraid, so so afraid of telling this to anyone. But you deserved to know. It's funny how life comes back full circle. I'm the one responsible Armaan not Shilpa. All she'd done her whole life is sacrifice and protect me. All I've done my whole life is shutting all my memories and acting like none of them existed. I let Abhimanyu Modhi mistreat my sister because he thought she was his property. I'd let my sister shoulder all of this all on her own. You'll be right if you want me to suffer for my crimes. I'll take it. Whatever your decision, I'll accept it gladly. Please don't hate Shilpa. She'd mourned your brother every day of her life. She loves you."
Both of them were soaked in their tears by the time she ended. Armaan was shaking his head again and again and gulping. Muskaan went to him and he pulled her down and both of them cried wrapped in an embrace. He caressed her hair and thumped her back lightly, sobbing along her.
"I'm so sorry Muskaan. I'm so sorry for what happened to you. I'm so sorry my brother had to lose his life. I'm so sorry he never got to see more of this world. I'm so f**king sorry. I don't know what to do anymore. I don't." his anguish tore at her heart and she cried harder.
Shilpa pulled off the blankets than moaned feeling her head hurt. Where was she? She looked around only to find Armaan's bedroom. What was she doing here? Then last night came back to her in a flash. He'd ordered her out. She'd been in the rain all night screaming for him to open the door. He was Atul's brother. Atul was dead.
Shilpa hid her face in her hands and pushed off the bed. Somehow her life had slipped straight into the drain in a matter of hours. Armaan would always hate her. This wasn't about him anymore. If she was going to jail, she'd to save Muskaan. She'd to somehow convince Armaan to not let Muskaan be involved in this. She'd to somehow do that and keep her composure intact. They'd made a mistake nine years ago that had cost Armaan his brother's life. All her wounds were reopened and the pain assaulted her freshly.
"Atul." He had a name. He was obsessed with plants. Tears spilled down again. What had they done?

"Shilpa," Shilpa looked up startled to see Muskaan standing at the door. Her eyes looked puffy and blotchy. Had she been crying?
"Muskaan? What's wrong? Were you crying?" had Armaan told her everything? Shilpa was stricken with fright.
Muskaan stepped in and smiled nervously, "No you were missing all night. I was so worried. Armaan told me you were ill. I was out of my mind with tension."
Shilpa smiled and pulled Muskaan to her and she came hugging her closely.
"I'm so sorry Shilpa."
"For what?"
"For anytime I've hurt you. I love you so much. Let's go home."
Shilpa pulled back reluctantly. "I was hoping I could talk to Armaan."
Muskaan looked at her toes than at her, "He left. He said to take you home and take care of you. He needed fresh air."
Shilpa bit her lip to hide the hurt that must've spread across her face. Enough of whining, enough of crying. Armaan didn't even want to see her face. Maybe he went out to file a report. He didn't tell Muskaan anything which meant he didn't know it was her. He wouldn't cause her harm. Shilpa would find some way to keep Muskaan unaware.
"Yeah. Let's go home."


Armaan lowered himself to Atul's plants. They'd become fully fledged trees now. It was miraculous. He crossed his legs and stared around him. He could feel his brother.
He cleared his throat and began.
"I loved you so much, Atul. I know that you know it. I know that you know that the hurt that losing you brought would never go. I can never forget you. You were all I had. The best brother anybody could've asked for. I think of all the time we spent together. I envy that your plants got you more than me. I mean yeah, they needed you and all, but I have the right to whine about it at least, yeah?" Armaan smiled feeling the rustling of the wind making the leaves sing along.
Nodding plants, he used to call them.
They were living. Weren't they? They'd lost him too.
Maybe he was here somewhere listening.
"Atul, the hole that was created in my life after I lost you cannot be filled. Nobody can do that. I'd always miss you, always love you. I'd always hate the way I lost you but then death isn't much of a choice specific. Is it? It doesn't really care how we want to go. It happens when it happens. When I met Shilpa I wanted to hate her. I don't know why. Maybe it was because she reminded me of you and I didn't want the painful reminders. She's so crazy Atul. She's funky and crazy and stupid and intelligent. She has all these qualities about her. She climbs trees when she hates heights. She got drunk and married me. She loves these entire giant to nano sized animals. And she's actually named a hummingbird that too. Nano. And has these lame looking dogs that look like they want to fart at my face. Not one good one. And she's so pessimistic about herself. She doesn't see how beautiful she is. She doesn't see how adorable her clumsiness is. I always thought that this self depreciation came from bad past experiences. I never realized what kind of pain she's been harboring. The pain of losing you brother? Nothing ever compared. But when I met her, slowly it began to dull. I smiled, I laughed, was fascinated. I felt emotions. The blankness began fading."  He looked down at the green grass, greener than the color of her eyes, listening to him so silently and carefully. He shook his head madly.
"I've waited nine years to know who did this to you. Nine years of loathing and anger. And now that I know. Now that I know, I don't know what to do, Atul. Muskaan didn't deserve what happened to her. Shilpa didn't deserve what happened to her. You didn't deserve what happened to you. Life isn't fair that way. It never was. We don't always get what we want, I guess. Atul, I don't know what to do. I'm so confused. I'm so torn. I want so badly to love her. I want so badly to understand Muskaan and Shilpa, but letting go of you isn't easy. It's not."
He looked up at the sky then down at his lap as if searching for some sort of answer. He heard the birds chirping and the sky looming over him bright and clear, with no traces of the rain and thunder it'd produced yesterday. He searched for some kind of answer to this madness. He waited so long.
Nothing came.
Or maybe he just didn't understand it yet.
He straightened the lines on his shirt and stood up.
He was going to divorce Shilpa.
He'd set her free.

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