This oneshot is in honor of my dear friend, Ruchi’s (Arshi67), special day, her Janamdin! Hope you enjoy it, and join me in wishing Ruchi for her birthday!
Let the race begin…
Amour Sans Fin
”Aimer, c’est vivre ; aimer, c’est voir ; aimer, c’est être.” (To love is to live; to love is to see; to love is to be.) — Victor Hugo
If you asked any race car driver what they dream of… you can bet your life his reply would be to win the Monaco Grand Prix. One of the most prestigious Formula One races in the world. The glamorous location on the French Riviera making it the jewel in the crown of the racing calendar.
It most definitely had been his dream, ever since he had entered the F1 racing circuit at the young age of eighteen. And now ten years later, he had won countless races around the globe. Ranking him among the all time top five.
He had won here for four years on the row, climbing those famous steps to receive his trophy from the Prince of the Principality. And had been on his way to claiming his fifth straight Monaco Grand Prix win. But then his whole life came crashing right before his eyes. Literally and figuratively. His rank. The title. His life.
Exactly one year ago.
But, he was back now. Ready to get inside the confines of his Formula One steed, to win the ultimate race, claiming his number one position once again.
That had been his obsession, since the crash. He hadn’t been able to see beyond that. It’s what helped him heal, overcoming the hurdles this past year. The experts had said he would never be able to walk, let alone race again.
But he had proven them wrong by getting through the qualifying round coming in first place to mark his rightful position on the grid. Pole position, with nothing hindering his view of the track. Bringing him closer to the ultimate race victory.
Arnav Singh Raizada was not a quitter.
Never had been.
Not when it came to what he loved.
Racing was one of them.
An endless love…
“Amour sans fin…”
He whispered, tracing the engraving on the antique pocket clock. An emotion he had never related with anything other than his passion for racing. One that he never knew even existed.
Was there such a thing… a never ending love?
He had been told there was… by her.
He had felt it… for her.
In the very spot he stood today. Monaco.
This was where he had met her five years ago to the date. She had come here from Delhi for her twenty first birthday with a few of her friends. And she had literally fallen in his arms when he had decided to go out for a breather before the big event.
He chuckled, recalling how mortified she had been, as their eyes had locked for a long moment with her secure in his arms. She had joked during their courtship of a tune playing in the background. A melody that had been created just for them.
He smiled in amusement, recalling what she had labeled it. And often hummed the melody to him.
As they had worked on maintaining a long distance relationship that first year, she had taught him the meaning of true love. Something that his reckless heart had never been capable of.
Not just his heart, he had always been reckless putting his life out there through racing. According to her, that is.
As he opened the locket, a sharp pain pierced inside his heart. Those mesmerizing hazels, questioningly haunting him.
Why did it have to turn out this way?
He gently caressed her smiling photo with his thumb. She had gifted him the locket promising to stay with him till the end of time.
Until last month. Much to her dislike, he had notified her of entering the competition after a heated argument…
“I can’t do this anymore, Arnav… I can’t…”
He sighed heavily, trying to push aside what being here today had cost him.
But he couldn’t let this go. It wasn’t an option.
He needed to focus, and take control of why he was here.
“Time to go out there and win the race. This one’s for you, my love…”
He whispered, hovering his lips over her picture. He closed his eyes, seeing an illusion of her in front of him, and placed a gentle kiss.
What he would do to have her by his side. Where she belonged…
But she wanted nothing to do with him anymore.
He abruptly stood up, not allowing despondency to seize him, and slipped the locket inside his pocket.
Quickly getting his racing mode activated, he zipped up his suit, then proceeded to walk out of his motor home. As he looked back, it was yet another reminder of her. She had decorated it for them. Their home away from home, when he was on the road.
Swearing his faith under his breath, he slammed the door shut and walked towards the tracks.
His adrenaline began to pump at the mere sight of his team, conducting a final inspection on his Formula One car.
Entering their designated Pit area, he stilled, taking it all in. The hustle and bustle in full swing with engines growling, smoke filling the air, a sold out crowd gathering and cheering for their respective teams.
This was what the Formula One Grand Prix was all about.
The familiar hollow ache returned, longing to have his number one fan rooting him on. In spite of her fears, she had always sent him off with her exquisite smile that would light up his world.
But not today. His first race without her in the past five years.
“Raizada, you’re all set! Time to go write history…”
The corner of his lip curved at the irony in those words, taking his helmet from the crew captain.
“If only I could rewrite history.” He paused, looking out at the section from where she would be waving and throwing flying kisses, which he would catch. But that wasn’t the case today. “Kash, she was here, Aman.” He gave his best friend a small smile.
“Call her. I know she will answer, it’s her…”
He shook his head, swallowing the lump in his throat. There was no time. And he had already broken her heart, couldn’t bear to upset her more. Not today.
“I’m… ready. Let’s do this!” He yelled, sliding up his protective headgear, followed by the helmet. He followed his precise routine of slipping on his gloves, then tightened the cuffs on his wrist.
He slid smoothly into the cockpit of the red Italian beauty waiting specifically for him, and completed a quick sound check that enabled him to communicate with Aman during the race.
A true work of art by the craftsmen who had designed and built her to take on the toughest competitors out there. His Formula One Ferrari was a single-seater, open cockpit, open wheeled, race car. The aerodynamically efficient front and rear wings, and the sophisticated engine positioned behind the driver’s seat, gave it the power to surge forward and manoeuvre around the curved track with precision. Only the best of the best could handle it. Like he had.
This race in Monaco was the ultimate challenge for man and machine, pushing the limits of both human and mechanical endurance. And that’s what got his blood flowing. He snapped shut his visor, and mentally went through his earlier debrief with his engineers.
It was time to show the world what Arnav Singh Raizada was capable of.
The next thirty minutes consisted of getting warmed up for the race by doing one reconnaissance lap. After which he waited in his pole position with his engines off, as per the rules. While his crew continued to do their final checks.
He could feel the warmth from the sun against his face, as he leaned back against the headrest. A touch that she often provoked in his life, caressing his face with her soft hands.
He couldn’t help but smile, remembering her at every juncture today. While he had focused on the happy ones, somehow those agonizing memories after his accident were viciously coming forth. Where he had pushed her away to get himself here.
“Fuck you, Raizada! You made your bed, now lie in it…” He muttered, as he felt the throb of his engine being turned on at the one minute mark.
Sixty seconds for the race to begin. This was what he had wanted.
“Arnav, you’re not fully healed yet. Don’t do this, not now…”
“What gives you the right to tell me what to do? It’s my life, I will do as I please.”
And yet, he couldn’t stop thinking about her. How he had failed to prove his endless love for her.
He engaged the gears of the F1, waiting for the signal to go off to begin the formation lap. One that he needed to be patient to get through, before the race officially kicked off. And surprisingly he was able to circulate without getting too far ahead of the rest of the grid and then having to wait in his position for them to line up, as his idling engine overheated.
But when the five lights went off signalling the start, his heart slammed against his chest, as he pushed hard on the accelerator and charged ahead.
“Raizada, slow the fuck down, before you go empty after a few laps. And follow the Goddamn rules will you when you pass the other cars.”
Hearing the nagging warning from Aman, he grunted, curving with precision around the corner.
“This isn’t my first rodeo! I know what the fuck I’m doing… do your job and keep an eye out on the McLaren that is on my ass.”
He smiled in satisfaction, gearing away from the traffic jam developing behind him and zoomed away from them. He chuckled, hearing Aman swear at him, seeing two of the F1 cars crashing against the unforgiving Monaco barrier, in his side mirrors.
A feeling of exhilaration washed over him after ages, as he continued to push his F1 at maximum speed. His heart raced along with his car, maneuvering around each turn, and easing in and out of the tunnel.
This was what he was born to do.
This was his happiness.
How could it be?
Who was he going to share this victory with when he crossed that finish line?
“Please Arnav, mat jao…”
He tightened his grip on the steering wheel, recalling the anguish in her eyes the night before he had left their home. Left her.
“You promised me you would never leave me…”
The aggression inside of him picking up as he made a sharp turn, overtaking the McLaren, which was rejoining from the pitlane. The McLaren that had caused his wreck last year. The crash that had taken so much away from him.
“Don’t I come first? Our relationship?”
All of her words coming back with a vengeance in front of his glossed over eyes. Tears threatened to fall, but he pushed them away, hearing Aman’s voice through the radio.
“Raizada, it’s time for a pit stop. You’ve almost worn out the tires. Pull in at the end of this lap. You copy?”
He swore profusely in acknowledgement, and moments later he had entered the pit lane and was being pulled in by the Lollypop Man. He impatiently waited as the skilled crew, with breathtaking speed and efficiency, put on a new set of tires, along with making tiny adjustments to the front wing of the car in a matter of a few seconds. After this stop, he was ready to complete the race.
“Go get this win, Raizada… and then her.”
Arnav nodded at his best friend, for voicing what his heart desired. But his mind was plagued with a truth he wasn’t willing to hear.
Would she come back to him?
The inner turmoil battled inexorably, as he did the same on the track. Taking back what belonged to him. He maximised his chassis and power unit, pushing the car around the track at record speeds, leaving his competition trailing behind. It was time to bring home the title to prove to her, her Arnav never was in any danger.
The crash last year was a fluke, caused by another driver that had lost control. Now he had a strategy in place to prevent that from happening again.
She wasn’t going to lose him over racing. Never. He would always be hers.
“Amour sans fin.”
That’s what their love meant. And he would continue to prove that to her till his last breath. If she would take him back.
Arnav Singh Raizada wouldn’t be proven wrong. With his heart already consoled at the prospect of getting his Happiness back, he felt the last of the G-forces pulling at him. Coming around Rascasse for the last time, he approached the finish line in record breaking time.
“Khushi!” He yelled, flying past the waving chequered flag that declared him the winner. “We did it, my love.” He whispered, as fresh tears sprang in his eyes.
Glancing around as he stopped in front of the winner’s podium, parking in front of the number one position, he was engulfed with a myriad of emotions, as his hands trembled encasing his fist around the steering wheel.
It didn’t take long for him to hear his crew screaming out his name with immense joy, as they strained against the barrier holding them back. The enthusiasm contagious, he smiled brightly and leapt out of the car running towards them. The Carabinieri watching on as he was hoisted up by his mechanics, giving him a better view of the crowd that had gathered for the celebrations. The turnout was significant in comparison to what he had ever seen before. And to hear them chanting his name, unleased those tears he had been holding at bay.
Unable to contain his excitement, he removed the barriers keeping him confined. In no time the gloves were yanked off, followed by his helmet, then his protective head gear lowered.
He finally felt free, a burden of not being good enough that had been caged inside of him the past year let loose. And like a crazy man, he screamed his lungs out, before taking the big bottle of champagne from Aman’s hand and popped it open, uncaring of protocol. The bubbly shower felt amazing, as he sprayed it around and basked in the joy radiating off everyone present.
This was what it was all about. His team, the crew, his generous sponsor, the tifosi. For everyone who believed in him. He had come back against the odds to prove he was the champion of the racing circuit to win his fifth F1 Monaco title, in record breaking time.
History was made today.
A dream coming true… almost.
There was another dream yet to come true. One they had dreamt of together.
He was finally able to retreat to his motor home a few hours later, after further celebrations on the track and receiving his winner’s trophy from the patiently waiting Prince, followed by a press conference. After being on a high, he could feel his energy or rather mood dipping to an all time low.
He sighed heavily, prying open the door that never failed to get stuck. He climbed the two steps, walking inside the small boxy space and ran a hand through his hair.
He was about to pull down the zipper of his suit when a slim figure caught his eye. His breath caught in his throat upon getting a view of her. Her dark hair streaming down her back, just the way he liked it, covering her red silk kurti.
Was it really her…
No, this was probably his mind playing a cruel joke on him.
Yes, that’s what it was… wasn’t it?
But then, she called out to him, a small, tentative smile adorning her face.
“Khushi…” A hoarse husky whisper escaped his lip, as his feet moved on their own accord towards his life.
She tilted her head, biting her lower lip, as a sheen of tears coated her hazel eyes. He had never been able to see her cry. That had always been his weakness. But today, the torment in her saddened gaze, nearly shattered his heart.
“Congratulations, Arnav.” Her soft voice, broke the silence.
Unable to stop himself, he leaned his forehead against her’s, snaking his arm around her waist and pulled her closer. The need to hold her superseded anything else.
“You came…” She slightly nodded, closing her eyes shut to push back her tears. But it hadn’t escaped him, as he caught the lone tear escaping the corner of her eye. “Happy Birthday, my love. This one was for you.”
She didn’t say anything, opening her eyes. Instead she raised one trembling hand to his face, and traced the scar that ran across his left eyebrow, a legacy from the crash last year.
He leaned down towards her slightly parted lips, neither of them surprised at what came next.
This was how it was meant to be. She might have pushed him away, fearful of the danger that came along with his profession. But without Arnav, there was no Khushi.
She closed her eyes, waiting for his lips to touch hers. And when they did, they lost themselves in a storm of sensation that rivaled the one he had just won out on the tracks.
His lips caressed hers gently, but the urgent hands that molded her body to his betrayed his need for the woman he loved. He hadn’t done a great job showing her what she meant to him. But now, he selfishly took her lips in a passionate kiss, exulting when it was returned in full measure.
Instinctively she wound her arms around his neck, and he angled his head to deepen the kiss as their passion mounted. He groaned, as their tongues collided, both quickly reaching the point of no return.
He knew they needed to pull away for much needed air. However, letting her go was proving to be harder than anything he had done before. Trying to regain control, he took several deep breaths and finally slowly pulled away.
“I want you, Khushi. But, not here…” His voice was rough, struggling to regain control of his breathing.
“I know.” Her calm, whisper didn’t align with the storm of emotions in her eyes. She moved away from him, taking a seat on a small sofa to gather herself, before she spoke again.
“Arnav, I came so close to losing you last year. Right here in Monaco. The same place where I found you. The image of you covered in blood, your body disjointed… it’s not something that I could ever forget. And I don’t know what I would do if I lost you. I can’t lose you…”
He kneeled down in front of her, taking her hand in his.
“And, you won’t, Khushi. I plan to live for a long time to tell our grandchildren how I met their strong-willed grandmother.” She smiled through her tears at the line he had used often. “You do realize it is because of you that your Arnav, is standing, walking, and now, racing. You refused to give up on me, when honestly I had given up on myself when the doctors said I wouldn’t walk again. I’m never leaving my strength…”
“But you did.”
The reality of those three words, was something he couldn’t deny.
“I’m so sorry. I know it doesn’t make up for the fact that I left our home to come here. But I needed to do this for myself. This is my life, you are my life… I need the both of you to survive.”
“I know, Arnav. I know. And yes it was selfish of me to make you choose. But when you brought it up out of nowhere, telling me you needed to leave the next day. I let my emotions and fears speak, without understanding what you were going through.” She paused, giving him a small smile, before she caught him slightly flinch, placing his hand on his waist. “Are you okay?” She inquired, unzipping the front of his suit.
He was aware she wasn’t going to be content until she saw for herself. So, he slipped down the top half of his suit, and took off his undershirt. She meticulously looked over every inch of his chest, waist and back, until she was fully satisfied.
“See, I am more than fine. A bit sore with the seatbelt digging into my waist, but it’s something you can easily remedy. Will you, Khushi? Kiss it away…” He whispered, inside her ear.
She blushed, trying to look away, but he would have none of it. He placed his hand under her chin, forcing her to look up at him.
“Don’t tell me, Mrs, Raizada is still shy after all these years… Sweetheart, after everything we have done, a kiss is nothing in comparison. Plus it’s your birthday, that does require…”
“Besharam!” She glared at him and instantly covered his mouth with her hand. “Exactly, it’s my birthday. And it’s time for you to spoil me rotten!”
She stood up, and helped him up.
“Indeed, it’s time to celebrate my love’s birthday. First a private celebration… then a night out on the town.” He winked mischievously, pulling her up against his chest.
“I love you, Arnav.” Her voice was barely a whisper, unable to keep her eyes away from his lips which lingered right above hers.
Just before his lips touched hers, before they lost themselves in the passion of their love, his husky voice whispered.
“Happy Birthday, my love. Amour sans fin…”
What do I gift someone that means so much? I figured I would try with a piece of writing that encompasses some of the things that you love. I hope it has done justice… knowing how biased you are towards me, I already know the answer.
For that, I love you, dil se, my love.
Our relationship has morphed into this close bond that at this point goes beyond friendship. One that I probably don’t even have with my friends in AD. What am I talking about? You are part of my AD!
It’s your kindness, your grace, your unconditional love that comes through which makes you so very special. It’s rare to find people that are genuine and share in your happiness, success, sadness, and even anger… yup, believe it or not, I have had the pleasure of witnessing the calm and collective Ruchi, angry! And that too for me. Someone whom you met virtually a few years back.
You opened up your heart to me, embracing me with everything you have. You are my confidant, and have always been there for me to lend a ear, or rather eyes with our non-stop texting… or as K would say, “There’s Mumma tick tick with London Masi again.” Even our never ending phone conversations as I rack your brain about my crazy plots. Oh, let’s not forget being there to edit my work, that too very happily during crunch time right before I have to post. I have said this to you before, and will say it again, if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to continue this journey of writing.
Wishing you a very Happy Happy Happy Birthday! I wish you all the love and happiness in the world!
Here’s to us meeting again, very soon where I can’t wait to get my squishy hugssssss!
We love you so so so much to Chanda mama and back! (That’s from our Aneri and me :))))