Her hair was exactly the same umber black as hers, so was the chin. For a moment she thought she was staring at a looking glass, except the smile. She didn’t know when she had last smiled like that- carefree, genuine and so full of mirth. Sometimes she thought she had forgotten how to do it.
“She is beautiful, isn’t she?”
She should have known that even his voice was enough for her to know that indeed she was not. His complement was prejudiced.
Shaking her head with a smile she turned towards him.
“I don’t know how to answer that question without sounding smug. But I think I liked that old man’s picture better.”
He laughed, “At least you could have lied instead of being a mean ruthless critic. After all the trouble I took to take that one photo of yours.”
She clicked her tongue; the man could always be trusted to shift her mood. After all, it was his big day today and she was excited for him. Twelve of his photographs were displayed in the gallery and two of them were hers. She had respected Rishabh’s photography, but watching and feeling them made it more real.
“Auction is going to begin shortly but before that I want you to meet a very important person in my life,” he said, leading her out of the gallery.
They made their way through the crowd towards the smaller lobby. She saw a couple there. The woman was well dressed and her attire and elegance spoke of money and power. And as they approached the pair, she sensed a foreboding of recognition in her features. But before that her eyes landed on the man standing beside her. Dressed impeccably and complementing the woman in looks and status. She registered her shock mirrored in his eyes.
She was vaguely aware of Rishabh beside her introducing them as his sister and her fiancé. She raised her hand for the obligatory handshake as called for by the circumstance. With the familiar grip of hands she drew her hands away afraid that the familiar warmth may melt the ice that she has taken too long to build. She had spent too long encased in ice to let these feelings overtake once more.
Not able to come in terms with her feelings she excused herself from them.
He never thought he would come to face his past. But now the encounter with his failures made his guilt and shame surface. He felt like a coward trying to run away with his doing.
“You are quite.”
He focused his attention away from his thoughts.
“Yeah jet lag and workload nothing new to worry about,” he replied wearily relaxing on his seat. It was a lie. To her and himself. In fact his life itself was a lie. In his assertion of power and prejudice he had overlooked peace. He prided himself in always taking the right decision but now he realized he had been wrong. Wrong in his definition of right.
Weighing his conscience he stared across the table to the woman whom he had blamed all this time. And the tangible truth hit him hard. She may have started this game but he was the victim of the circumstance he created.
Because he had choices and he took the wrong one.
“I am leaving,” he said standing up abruptly.
Priya stood up from her seat and eyed their untouched food.
“Since we haven’t spoken a thing since we came back from the exhibition, if we are not going to eat and I guess talk, we better be doing that.”
It was the first time in their history that he agreed with her, but he did not have the energy to admit, so he simply stood and followed her out of the restaurant. He once again stared at his phone.
And the text he received two hours earlier.
“We need to talk.”
And he knew he had to make things right once and for all.
She did it in an impulse. The message. But she realized she had not done something so right and sure in her life. She waited at the parking lot.
She heard his footsteps before she saw him.
“I have waited long.” She said it, not knowing whether she meant it for now or their life in general. But she realized she meant both.
“I know and I really wanted to tell you how sorry I was….”
“No you are wrong, I am not waiting for your apology; we made mistakes and reaped regrets. That ship has sailed. I just want to return this to its rightful owner.” She took his hand and placed the bracelet on his palms softly and curled his fingers.
“What you did was your decision and THIS is mine.”
“I release you from the repercussions of your guilt.”
She saw him sigh and nod in acknowledgement but it was she who was feeling the relief.
The feeling of relief for letting go.
Forgiveness means that we would not allow a temporary event to have “perpetual” repercussions.
The noise of fading footsteps made her turn her head and she saw Rishabh retreating. And the realization that he might have seen everything made an unknown fear settle inside her. Fear of losing something very important in her life.
He didn’t seem to tear away his eyes from their folded hands.
The street was empty and he did not know where he was going.
“Think you forgot something?”
He halted on his tracks hearing those words.
He thought he was being disillusioned but giving in to his instincts he cautiously turned around.
“World is a small place but that does not imply you would make me run like this,” she said coming forward.
He smiled reminiscing their first meeting when he had said the same to her.
The handkerchief, the one that lined their fate, she handed it to him.
As the realizing of what she was trying to do set in, he nodded in acknowledgement.
“You were right- no future could be built without letting go.”
Revealing her past to Rishabh and relieving her heart like never before, Ankita let herself free of the ever so bounding shackles of her past. Giving herself another choice, a new one. She was all set to start afresh.