“Almost ten years…”
She whispered, tracing the cover of their wedding album.
Their tenth wedding anniversary was only a few months away. At times it felt as if they had recently just married, but then it seemed like a lifetime ago.
Getting married, and starting a family was something she had dreamt of as a child. Always telling her family, what kind of wedding she wanted or what kind of man she would marry. She wanted a big family, so she talked about having three kids. They always called her sanki for her nonstop chatter about marriage.
But wasn’t that every girl’s dream?
Having a husband who loves you and children to love?
Their marriage was semi arranged… they were introduced by their family, and then fell in love before agreeing to get married. Though she never objected to an arranged marriage, she was more of a believer in love.
And, that’s what she found with Arnav… Love.
Both of their families were friends and business acquaintances, so they had known each other since they were children. Though the kids drifted apart when her family moved to another state for a business expansion, their parents had stayed in touch.
They had met a year before they got married when his family came to celebrate Diwali with them.
It had been nine years since she had seen him last. She heard about him from her parents. He had received his MBA from Harvard a couple years back, and held a high level position for a leading technology company.
Needless to say, she was intrigued to meet him. It was her last year completing her law degree from Yale, then taking her Bar Exam in the summer after graduation. So she had been impressed with his schooling. As much as she tried to remember what he looked like, she couldn’t picture him. All she could remember was they didn’t get along as kids, constantly bickering.
When she first saw him walking into her house, she felt a strange sensation take over. There was something about his warm, chocolate brown eyes that captivated her. The way he gazed at her, would send shivers through her spine. Even the slightest touch from him, had her blushing.
His personality was very different from hers; he was reserved and serious, while she was outgoing and cheerful. They really didn’t have much in common in terms of their likes.
But one thing was apparent; there was an attraction, a pull between them.
During his week-long stay, they realized they wanted to explore it further. But, him based in California, and her in Connecticut… wasn’t going to be easy. Somehow they managed to figure it out, all thanks to technology. Also, he was working on a business deal in New York, which allowed them to see each other several times that year.
Whenever he came to visit, they were inseparable. He would schedule his meetings during the weekdays, leaving the weekends free for them. That time together allowed them to really get to know one another.
They had fallen in love in during that time. There was an intense feeling of affection for one another… that neither one had felt before.
So they agreed to get married when their parents suggested it.
It was the wedding of her dreams, with all the rituals… a big fat Indian wedding, as he referred to it. He had wanted something simple, but had agreed for her.
He had surprised her on numerous occasions, throughout the ceremonies. He had picked all her bridal clothes, and jewelry. She was stunned at the clothing he had chosen, elegant and sexy, as he would put it. He even wore a Sherwani for the first time during the phera’s, which had left her in shock.
That had made her fall in love with him all over again…
She smiled, coming across her favorite picture of them from the wedding. It was right after the ceremony was over; both of their faces reflecting love and happiness to start their life together as husband and wife.
A relationship that bound them together for life…
“Arnav…” She whispered, tracing his face in the picture, a lone tear escaping her eye.
But now almost ten years later, where had that happiness disappear?
And, love… does it still exist between them?
He switched off his Bluetooth, opening the gates and drove up the circular driveway to their home.
Looking at the mansion in front him, he recalled gifting it to her for their first wedding anniversary. It was her… no their dream home; a home she talked about since they had started dating. So he had surprised her getting this house built based on the specs she wanted. It wasn’t easy keeping it a secret, but somehow he had managed it. Just to see the happiness on her face.
He smiled, thinking of her reaction when she first saw the home… she was stunned and speechless, which was not his wife.
“Khushi…” He whispered opening the front door.
Her personality was just like her name when he first met her, always happy… and boy, did she love to talk. He had fallen for her immediately, because of the joy she spread around her.
He never thought he would fall for someone instantly, but it happened.
She was exquisite, her beautiful hazel eyes had him hypnotized from the moment he saw her.
He found himself not being able to stay away, so decided to explore business opportunities which were near to her. This had allowed them to get closer. The attraction and chemistry they both shared in those initial months were explosive.
He wanted, needed her in his life… so he married her… She had become his world, his reason for living… the light in his life.
Darkness… is what he feels; just like their home, where not even one light was on.
This was what their life had become in the last few years.
During their first few years of marriage, it was perfect… the bond they shared, the support for one another with their careers, making plans for the future, everything!
She had always supported him with his career; understanding the need for him to work long hours… even dealt with his traveling which had him away from her. But at the same time, he supported her, as she took a position with a reputable law firm handling a heavy case load. There was an understanding between them. This had helped them get established with their careers.
But now, it’s quite the opposite. They rarely spoke or when they did it became an argument. Both of them worked late or on the weekends to avoid facing each other at home. Even though the house was big enough for them to have their own space.
And what about the future they had planned… children?
Wasn’t that why they were living in this big home?
To fill it with kids, their kids… a symbol of their love.
He let out a cynical laugh.
Love… a word that is foreign in their relationship today.
Was it possible to get that back in their relationship?
He stopped outside her room seeing the door open. The master bedroom… a room they once shared, which held so many memories for both of them. Good and bad memories…
“Is this the master bedroom…”
“One second, Mrs. Raizada… I have to carry you over the threshold to the most important room in our house.”
“What are you waiting for Mr. Raizada?”
“Let’s go see how strong this bed is, shall we?”
“Baby, what’s the matter? Why are you crying?”
“Um… I was late this month, so I decided to take a pregnancy test… it’s negative…”
“It’s okay, the doctors said there is nothing wrong with either of us… we just have to be patient. It will happen when the time it right.”
“We have been trying for the last three years… how much more patient can I be?”
“Where the hell have you been?”
“You’re hurting me… let go of my arms! …And, why the double standard… huh? You come home late all the time, coming and going as you please. But… when I come home late… it’s a big fucking deal! Why, Arnav… tell me?”
“Khushi, it’s two o’clock in the morning… why didn’t you pick up your phone or respond to the fifty text messages I sent. I went to your office, drove around the city looking for you. Do you have any idea… what I have been going through the last five hours? Listen to me carefully, don’t you ever, I mean ever… pull this stunt again. You want to go out, go right ahead but tell me the fuck where you are… just like I tell you where I am… which is at work. I am not out having fun…”
“And you think I believe that?”
“Believe whatever you want… I don’t give a shit… I am going to bed, since I have work early in the morning.”
“Arnav… not tonight… I am sleepy.”
“Right, you are always sleepy, whenever I want to touch you… what was I thinking? It gives you pleasure withholding sex, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it gives me great pleasure. And, why do you want me, when you have other women lined up to provide services…”
“Unbelievable… are you going to start that again? How many times do I have to tell you… there is no one else. Why don’t you trust me? Is this why you won’t let me touch you? “
“I don’t trust you… as a matter of fact I can’t stand you anymore!”
“Then there is no point for me to stay in this room, and share this bed with you… is there?”
They both stared at each other, taking in each other’s appearance. It had been two weeks, since they came face to face. He had gone out of the country for business, while she was at her parents’ house to spend time with her sister and nephew, who were visiting from London.
She was sitting on the chaise holding a picture, in a black silk night gown that he had bought for her last year.
Beautiful… he thought.
Seeing the sadness in her eyes, he clenched his fists by his sides, unable to look at the pain that were inside those dull hazel orbs. Her eyes lacking the sparkle that he was used to seeing, and loved. Eyes that would get him to do anything she wanted.
He was responsible for the sadness in her life, but how could he make it go away?
He felt like he was losing control, and needed to escape just like he had been doing for the last few years. Turning his back, when he needed to take control of fixing the mess they were in now.
She noticed his fatigued form which was once dominant and strong. She had admired his authoritative stance, one that was confident… always in control attracting attention solely on him. He was an enigma to those who did not know him, but for her he was always warm, and an open book.
But now, the book had been closed…
His tired, puffy eyes, giving away the lack of sleep.
She recalled what he said to her a couple of years into their marriage when she wanted to visit her parents for a week.
“Baby, you know I can’t sleep without you next to me? What will I do when you are gone for a whole week? My eyes that you love so much… will not look good with lack of sleep. Do you really have to go?”
He noticed a small smile on her lip, and realized she must be thinking about something. Something inside him pushed him to stay and talk versus walking away.
“You are not asleep yet?”
She shook her head.
“Did you just get home?”
“It’s almost midnight, why do you work so late? You look tired, Arnav. Your eyes don’t good as they used to…” She smiled at him.
He smirked, realizing what she had been thinking about.
Were they having a civil conversation for a change?
“I am tired, actually very tired…”
“Would you like to come in?”
He looked at her surprised, knowing he hadn’t stepped foot in this room for six months.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I am sure… I am just asking you to come in, it’s not like I am asking you to sleep with me.”
He let out a small chuckle, and made his way inside, taking a seat next to her on the chaise.
She couldn’t help but smile, seeing him laugh after a long time. His facial expression when he laughed made her feel content.
She watched, as he looked around the room. His close proximity bringing back feelings she had pushed away.
“I like the changes you made to the room… Um..what are you looking at?”
She looked down at the album next to her, and the picture she was holding onto… debating whether to show him.
Without waiting for a response he leaned over to take the album, his arm brushed against hers sending an electric shock through them.
They both looked at each other, feeling the current. Something they hadn’t experienced in a long time.
The touch tempting him to lie down on her lap, like the many times he had on this chaise, where she had massaged his head. There was magic in her hands that would take away the tiredness of the day.
But now he had lost the right to do that…
“Our wedding album?” He asked, opening the album, to get the forbidden thoughts out of his head.
“I was cleaning out the closet, and found it. You don’t need to look at it.”
She stopped midway as he turned the page, looking up at her.
“I know… but I want to, it’s been years since I looked at these pictures.”
She stared at him, as he went through the photos. Whenever he paused at a particular page, she looked down to see what he was looking at. She noticed him taking extra time looking at pictures of her.
“I still can’t believe I wore that stupid thing at our wedding… which by the way was very uncomfortable. That look did not suit me at all… what was I thinking…”
“Oh I know, you told me every fifteen minutes, how irritating the Sherwani was. But, it most definitely suited you… you looked like a prince that day.”
She shocked herself and him, by admitting that out loud. But she didn’t care; for once they were talking, and she wanted that right now more than anything. She was tired of arguing and the silent treatments.
“And, you looked like a beautiful princess…”
She blushed, and looked down at the floor.
It had been a long time where they had complimented each other… it felt good.
“Why is there a picture missing?”
“I had taken it out earlier…here. You can place it back.”
He looked at the picture taking it from her hand, and closed his eyes after seeing it. This was their favorite photo. It was a close up shot, the smile and glow on their faces reflected the happiness of wedded bliss.
“What happened to us…” She whispered.
It was statement, rather than a question… which neither of them had an answer to.
Both sat in silence, with a distance between them… similar to their life today.
How did they allow these distances to happen?
Did they start taking each other for granted?
Did they let their careers and busy schedule come in the way?
Why did they argue about the smallest things?
Why did their differences become too much to bear?
Where did the insecurities or not trusting the other come from?
What is keeping them apart now?
“I don’t know, Khushi… all I know is I am tired of living like this. Pretending like we don’t exist… being strangers in our own home.”
“I can’t live like this anymore either. The last couple of weeks at my parents with Jiji and her family… has made me realize how empty my life has become.”
He stared at the woman that had meant everything to him… so why wasn’t he fighting for her, fighting for them?
She stared at the man that was her life, her reason for living… then how was she breathing without having him by her side?
What had their life become?
They called out for each other in unison…
He nodded for her to speak first.
“Where do we go from here?”
“I don’t know… but let’s figure it out together…”
He moved closer to her, and took her hands in his, squeezing them tightly…
She saw a glimmer in his eyes, which reflected, hope…
He looked at her smile that had been missing, which gave him faith for their future…
She looked down at their entwined hands, and then continued.