She stirred awake in his arms.
“Hi, wow it feels so nice here!”
“You feel all right?”
“Cup of coffee?”
“Yup, sure, it would be awesome.”
Together, hand in hand they walked to the kitchen – their kitchen. This house was a result of dreams and savings of over 8-9 years. They had purchased the house three years back and Emily had put her entire life in it. The black granite of the kitchen platform, the stainless steel appliances and the teapot style tiles all were sparkling clean. Aryan had obviously worked hard to keep it clean, while she was not here.
“Wow, Aryan, this is looking great. Please do tell me that you have also learned to cook, while I was not here. I would die a happy lady!”
“Please don’t say that and no, Emily, I have not yet learned to cook like my so wonderful wife!!”
“Well all right, you keep trying. One day you will surely end up cooking something like me. You remember the time when I was down with viral and you had to prepare some noodles. Those were ready to cook, but you being you, still could not manage it!!” Aryan watched Emily laughing at his expense. He passed the cup of coffee – it was her favourite cup – gift from Aryan on their first Valentine.
“Yeah, I do remember and all I did was to make a wonderful mess of your kitchen in our old house. You were terribly furious with me. I even remember you throwing something at me.”
“I did not. You are making that up!”
“No, I am not, see, I even have a mark to prove it.” He flicked his hair to show her the proof.
“Oh oh, don’t show me the same mark. I remember exactly where you got that mark.”
Aryan had his face hiding in his own hands, “Don’t, you are not going to remind me about the same time again. I told you it is not the same mark.”
“And I told you my dear husband, I know exactly where there are marks on your face and why exactly they are there. But I think my brain may have some trouble remembering the time when we fought and you were flirting with Meera, who was completely drunk and she threw up on your shirt and both of you rushed to the bathroom and slipped on the floor!!”
“You are one frustrating lady and you do remember each and every detail, don’t you?”
“Yeah, that was the only time you flirted with someone other than me.”
“Ok, now we are talking about only my infidelities, is it? What about the time when you were with Rafiq in that stupid, idiotic drama and you had to kiss him.”
“..on the cheek” Now, she was smiling!!
“Yeah, whatever!! I hated it!! And Rafiq!! Give me a break! How you could even find his cheek in all that jungle of hair!! ‘Fess up, you did enjoy it!!”
“No, no, no, not at all but he did look funny back then didn’t he? You never told me you felt that jealous! I would have left the drama.”
“I knew you would have, that’s why I did not mention it. And I obviously knew it was all part of drama, but you know our relationship was new and I was so afraid to lose you back then.”
“Yeah those were the best days of our life, weren’t they? We had amazing fun in Lonavla, do you remember, our first trip in college together. That must be first time, when I really fell in love with you.” Both were lost in thought reviving the memories of the trip and first kiss shared.
“I had been falling in love with you for almost two years by then and you had to ignore me!” Aryan gave her an idiotic grin. “But the weather in Lonavla did the trick and I could finally express myself to you. You painted it later remember.”
“Oh, gosh, yes, I had forgotten it….”
“I still have the painting in my office drawer. It fits there perfectly and never lets me forget you.”
“You do?” Emily’s eyes were shining with astonishment and incredible love for her adorable husband.”You always were like that you know. Picking up bits and pieces of our life and storing it somewhere. And out of the blue, we would find it – while cleaning, shifting, rearranging. You remember that fight we had over buying a new house 6 years back, immediately after our marriage. It was the biggest fight ever. And I was so convinced that you did not love me at all, so I started packing my things. But then I found the valentine day case you had hidden in our wardrobe – it had the greeting card, you had given me, the cork of wine bottle we had and even the sea shells we picked on Alibaug beach. I could not leave the house.”
“So that’s what made you stay. I came home early ready to growel on my knees and you surprised me with the amazing dinner prepared for me. I was so afraid to come back home, you know!! You used to be a terror when you were angry, you know!!”
“Ha ha! As if you gave me any damn!” She made a face at him and all he did was to smile at her lovingly. “But so good we waited then, because we would have lost the opportunity to buy this house – our dream house.” She glanced at the house and in that one moment hundreds of memories sparked in her eyes. They had not paused to think while creating the memory, but now while revisiting, it did not seem so.
“You made it our dream house – you turned it from the house of bricks to the house where people were loved. You spread the love and your charm in each and every corner. Look every nook and corner is crying out your praise!”
“Now, you are being melo dramatic in your appreciation!! But I remember how much we fought while deciding the interiors for this house. You used to be very tensed and stretched, then because of financial pressures this house had created. Seriously, we fought on anything, we still fight on so many little things. We are a pair you know.”
“Back then, I was so afraid that I would not live up to your expectations.” His eyes were now glistening with unshed tears. Emily took his hand in hers.
“You talked about it, you know, in your sleep.”
“What? you never told me that! What kind of a person talks in his sleep, yucks!”
“The best kind!! The kind, who does not want his loved one to know that he is worried and that makes him even more worried.”
“You always know what’s on my mind”
“But you are the one who makes our relationship wonderful and precious! And fun! Before you I did not know how to have fun!”
“Yeah, we had amazing fun when we had our friends get togethers. I was the one who used to call all my friends for chit chat and you were the one who prepared wonderful dinners for all. You are a gem, you know and deeply loved by all.”
“Your friends have always been my best friends too. We are a family!! That reminds me, are they dropping in today?”
“No, tomorrow. Today, you are all mine!”
“Yeah and what are you going to do with me, or should I say do to me?”
“I am going to present my queen an amazing dinner from your favourite Thai restaurant followed by desert speacially prepared by chef Aryan!!”
“Good I will be having my favourite dinner first, so even when the desert kills me, I will die happily!!”
“If you say that again, I will kill you personally.”
“Oh my God, I am not used to such personal attention from you!”
“What I feel is that you have completely forgotten what my personal attention is and hence I am going to kiss you.”
“My pleasure” And they kissed as if their life depended on it!!
“Hmm, wow! the desert was awesome! I am so full that I cannot breathe! And the songs were amazing, too! Thanks for creating for such a magical ambience!”
After their dinner Aryan was sitting on a couch on the porch with Emily tucked under his arm.
“What do you think would have happened if we had not been together all these years?” Emily wondered.
“I dont know about you, but I surely would never be able to imagine this – big house, big car, settled, well paying job with hefty bank account and all at the age of 32. We achieved a lot all these years. I would never have done it without you!”
“You are giving too much credit! No, what I am asking is if there were no financial pressures, would you have continued with your passion for tennis?”
“Um, probably yes. I was so dedicated to tennis, then. I still love to play it, but then perspectives change, priorities change, so who knows? Now I have got different priorities. And I frankly don’t miss it, since probably play it every week.”
“So you don’t regret your choices made.”
“No, not me. What about you? Do you regret your choice to marry me? I mean, you were all set for that position in London. But I was not ready to leave India. do you regret giving that up for me?”
“How could I regret that, when I had so much fun staying here. We had fun building this entire thing called relationship, which made us complete!! Of course we had few financial pressures, but we survived. Didn’t we? We always do.”
“So you mean to say we will survive this storm too?” His voice almost became a whisper, much like making a wish.
“You will, I know that.”
“But you know I won’t be able to do it without you. Hell, I have not done a single thing in the last 8 years without you. How do you think I will survive?” He pecked a quick kiss on her cheek. The touch of her skin was all that was required to make him mushy inside.
“I know you as a very strong person, who had the capability to handle me, when I was completely broken down after death of my parents. And, I see you as very strong person who has stayed strong for all his friends when they were faced with one or the other crisis. I know, its in you. All you have to do is stand up for yourself.” She looked upwards in his eyes. His eyes were very disturbed, although his face did not show a thing. Then again, he never could do this thing right – he could never lie to her.
“No, I wont be able to do this. Please don’t ask me to.”
“Please don’t do this now. Let’s enjoy whatever time we have on our hand. I would like you to take me to Chowpatty, where we used to have this bhel. I would like you to…..”
“Stay with me, don’t go!” his hands tightened around her.
“Yeah, I am staying with you. That’s why I am saying please take me out tomorrow. I would like to enjoy my last few days…”
“No not for a few days, stay with me forever. Don’t go, please!!”
“I hate you, you know. You are doing it again. you always make me feel guilty about everything.” Her flaying hands were caught swiftly by Aryan. She finally saw Aryan laughing through tears.
“Trust you to pick up fight from any damn subject!! Oh, God, I so love you!” He pulled her nearer as if wanting to savour her touch and feel forever.
“Yeah, me too! I am so happy to have received your love all these years. But remember always, you have so much love in you to give away.”
“Yeah, I know. I will need at least at least four wives at a time!” Both of them laughed, both savoring the moments, which were scarce now.
Her tired eyes told him that it was time for her to rest now. Reluctantly, he picked her up, (she had become so tiny) and carried her to the bedroom. He tucked her in bed and waited for her sleep to set in.
“Good night, baby!” she said with her eyes closed.
“Good night, princess! Sweet dreams!” He kissed her forehead and kept watching her. They were both riding on thin rope of hope, but he was immensely proud of the way she was handling her illness.
They came to know about the brain tumor around 8 months back. After multiple rounds of doctor visits, tests and medicines, it was very clear that it was incurable. She had been in hospital for a couple of months now. Aryan stayed with her every day in the hospital. It was as if he may lose her forever if he is not constantly alert. Everyday, he had fought with the doctors to bring her the best medication possible. He had become her shadow during these months.
He felt lost sometimes, but it was Emily who taught him to hold on to hope. And now even the doctors had given up all the hope – ‘another 6-7 days max’ was what they had said. Then she had insisted to return home! She wanted to live her last few days in this house which had become her life – where they had created their life together. Aryan and Emily decided to make most of this time together and to prepare themselves to say good bye.
But how does one say good bye forever to your best friend? How does one say good bye to your own soul? How can he let her go away from him? They can joke whatever they can, but he would never be able to love another woman. It was Emily who woke him up in the morning, it was Emily who cooked for him, it was Emily who did his laundry for him, it was Emily who motivated him, It was Emily who cheered him during the tennis match, it was Emily who had hugged him and shouted with joy when he had been promoted, it was Emily who hold him close when he was disturbed at nights. Emily was there in every moment of his life. How was he supposed to pretend that everything will be all right after Emily, when he knew he won’t be able to walk one step without her?
“No, you cannot leave me, Emily. Please don’t go, please!” Aryan cried on her hand.
“Of course I won’t be going dear.” Emily was awake.
“You are awake!” Aryan wiped away his tears. “I am sorry to have woken you up.”
“No, its ok. This was something I had to say now, probably I may not get a chance.”
Aryan tried his best to control the tears from flowing again. He was holding the hand very tightly.
“I wanted to tell you that I am going to be here, in this house forever. You remember that lamp shade, we had purchased in Goa – pearl white, with shades of blue and pink butterflies hanging. How instantly we fell in love with that lampshade!! Whenever, you will light that lamp, I will be there watching you. You remember the purple glass pitcher outside where we have stored our sea shells. Every shell has our memories etched into it. Whenever you will hold those sea shells in your hand, you will be able to feel me in that touch.
You remember those wind chimes we collected from various corners of the city. Hang them in all the windows of our house – it brings in good luck. When the wind will blow, through their sounds you will hear my sounds. Do not forget, I am not leaving you, I am going to be here with you. You have to choose all these good memories over the bad and you have to go on. I will be here, so that I can see you moving on, choose a companion who will stay with you throughout your life and flourish her with all the love you have in you! Like I flourished under your love and care.”
“But, I fell short didn’t I? I could not look after you. I promised your parents, I would look after you, and I could not do it correctly.”
“No, you are not going to tarnish our memories with guilt! Its insulting you know – insulting for me, insulting for our love! We have built something amazing here. Please do not let it go waste – build something even more beautiful! Do not let our love crush you, let it be like a lighthouse in your life! Please promise me, you won’t let that love go waste – find someone for yourself. You have always hated to be alone, since your parents were not around in your childhood. I won’t be able to bear if I see you alone.”
“Yeah, I do promise! Whatever you say! All I want is some more time together. Do you think it is possible to cheat God? We can trick him you know. That will give you few more days here with me.”
Emily smiled slowly and cradled his face in her hands, “I know but that wont change the result. You will still find it difficult to let me go then. My fate is defined, Aryan. Now I want you to change yours since I know you have the capacity. I don’t want to see you drowning in sorrow. I will know, mind you, I will be watching everything.”
Aryan smiled, “I know, I know. And you won’t let me live in peace!!”
He pulled her close and they laughed and cried and slept, together, for the last time.
Emily had a satisfied smile on her face when she passed away. She now knew her Aryan was going to be ok. He had his eyes on the lighthouse and he was a fighter and a survivor after all!