She heard the door creak open.. Her heart wildly beating with each approaching footstep.. She didn't know if the tears now welling up in her eyes were of separation or hurt or joy..
She turned back to look at a stranger.. He looked pale but his frame still strong.. The veins more protruding now in his artistic fingers, his eyes deeper and a little sunken. His hairline receded but his greying hair- still that floppy hair..For her he still looked handsome..
His gaze never left her. It was as if he was talking out his pain through his eyes.
"Angad.." there was more of a question in her tone
"Rhea, I knew you would come some day.."
The pain, the hope, the love in his tone broke her heart..
"Angad why didn't you tell me about Shikha?"
He looked at his diary.. So she read it but not the end..There was no end to his love story yet..
"You read it already.. you know why I didn't tell you. You didn't trust me enough.."
"I trusted you Angad..more than I could trust myself.."
"Then why did you leave?"
"Angad you left without even telling Anthony uncle.. You didn't bother calling me for one whole week.. What was I supposed to make of it? I was worried for you but I couldn't call you as you left no forwarding number.. How I wish we had cellphones back then.. My fiance's Dad was on his deathbed and this rushed up my marriage..My parents took me back home. I couldn't tell you. I was dying every moment! And you say I didn't trust you?" She broke down.. Years of yearning, disappointment and hurt was now making itself expressed..
"Rhea I don't know what went wrong.. Our love was jinxed.. The day I went to settle the case with Shikha, she committed suicide. I was in for questioning as I was the only one having any profit with her death.. The investigations revealed the deep debts she was in and also a suicide note where she blamed only herself for her death.. I still don't know what caused her to kill herself when she was about to get 50% of the will from me. It was as if the heavens have finally smiled on me.. I came rushing to you only to find a locked door.. It took me more than a week to trace you and by then you were already married and had set out with your husband to some other country.. I tried to find you but I couldn't. I wanted answers Rhea.."
"Our love was jinxed Angad. You didn't marry?"
"After all that I faced, no guy would dare to love again."
She nodded her head.. Even though she would have hated to know he had married, it really was saddening that he had stayed alone all his life.
"You happy?" he asked her
"I have everything to be happy.. My husband turned out to be understanding and we became good friends.. Companionship is enough to live life sometimes.."
"You love him?"
"He is family now."
"He is family now."
"So why did you come back to me now?"
She looked at him in surprise
"Angad you called me!"
"I don't think I did."
" I received your letter!"
"I didn't even know your address!"
They both looked at each other and then said together, "Anthony uncle"
He was in tears.. After years he had seen Angad and Rhea together. One of Angad's students had come home to visit when Angad wasn't around. The student recognised Rhea from the painting that Angad had made of her.. Anthony uncle sent the mail to Rhea..
"Why did you call her" Angad asked Anthony uncle.
"That was the only thing I could do to make you happy.."
"You are married to her memories."
They both cried for all the twenty years they lost.. For the love that remained unrequited.. For the dream that remained incomplete.
"Angad can I spend this summer with you?"
"Rhea you are talking nonsense.. You cannot stay here.. You are married.."
"Angad this is the least we can do for all that which we have lost."
"Not at the cost of someone else's happiness.."
"What if it involves your own daughter?"
"What?" He fumbled with his words..His daughter!
"Yes, your daughter.. I was pregnant with your child.. I realised it a month after my marriage.. I had had no relations with my husband so far.."
"Rhea where is she? What is her name? How old is she?"
"She is in London.. Her name is Anahita.. She is 19 years old and an artist too.."
"Does she know?"
"Not yet.. But I will tell her someday.. Our daughter is sensible and caring.. She would understand her mother.."
"Will you come back?"
"Yes darling, I will come for the summer with Anahita.. We will live our life in that one month.."
"That will be all my life dear.." He said lost in his thoughts
She looked at him sensing a deeper meaning in what he said.
"Rhea I won't live for more than 3 months..Ironic how all my life I lived like dead and now when I m at the doorstep of death my life comes visiting.."
It all made sense now.. Anthony uncle going all out to bring Angad's happiness.. How could life be so unfair to anyone? Angad had got none of the happiness that he deserved and when he finally found his love, his life was giving up..
She had made up her mind.. No matter what the world thought of it, she would still give him the happiness he longed for all his life.. She would give him the life he wanted to live even if it is just for a month.. She would stay behind to be with him in his last days. She couldn't be with him all his life but she will hold him strong in his death.. His family will be by his side..
P.S: Sorry I had been terribly caught up with mundane tasks and couldn't complete this story earlier.. Love stories aren't unusual.. The decisions are.. Some people brave the world and do what their heart wants and their stories become unusual and mostly go untold.. Sometimes it isn't really in an individual's hands what happens with his life, so we are not really anybody to judge what others do. With this tale, I would just say- next time around you judge someone's morales or talk something about their madness just think back, maybe life really didn't treat them fair and they have every right to live for their own happiness.. even if it is just for a moment and even if it comes at the cost of lifelong isolation.. Maybe you and I would never have the courage to do what they did..