It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. - Grabriel García Márquez.
It felt unreal. His breathing was abnormally unsteady and his heart had never beaten so different before. Tears often made their way to down to his cheeks that he quickly wiped away, lest someone saw him. No one knew there was still a part of him that craved for happiness and wholeness. Wholeness. He never truly knew the meaning of this word. He had never truly acknowledged he could ever be whole. He had somewhere never truly wanted to be so. He was going to be happy, or at least satisfied, believing there was a reason he could not give up on life and the people he loved. Sometimes memories could suffice for an entire lifetime. That was how he wanted his life to be. He wanted to spend it in the memories of one woman he had loved all his life, for he never thought she could be his.
But as they say, life is not always the same. Its meaning and essence always keeps altering like the world around changing its face, the states of the universe changing and often drastically so. Even before he could fathom the agitation in his soul that fateful day, he found himself sitting by her side as her groom. He had wanted to see her happy and that was what she could not be. She didn't love him. She never did. It never hurt so much before like it did today and all he could question himself was: "Why?"
He had never thought her to be cruel. In fact, no one else could be more kind than her. She had been his friend even when he was her servant. But servant was the only thing he was. She sympathized with him. Thank God there was this compassion left in her. But there was nothing more than that she felt for him. His lifelong love had just proved to be an inadequate thing, unworthy of her feelings. The last time he had met her was this place only. He had come to meet her; to ask her why she had to stay away from him and all she had answered was she hated him. It hurt still with the same intensity it had done the last time. She had warned him, even if he managed to get her out of jail, she would end up killing herself to be with Chirag.
His heart cracked and an unbearable pain in his chest erupted with a promise of endless torment till the end of his life. But he did not care. He had received a call from the jail authority in the morning stating his wife's death sentence had been preponed. He hadn't believed it to be true until 10 minutes later when his feet had forced him towards his car and from there to the place she lived: Abandoned, non-existent to the outer world. The dark passage of the jail was illuminated only by the light filtering through the ventilator hanging down from the roof. With each step his heart twisted in an agony that painfully wrenched the soul out of his fragile body and his heart wept a million unshed tears of misery. It went unnoticed.
"Can we hurry, Mr. Ranveer?" A woman's curt voice broke the sequence of his thoughts and he was brought back to the present. He nodded his head and quickened his pace to the cell his Ishani was kept for the final day of her life. The jailer nodded as well and continued to walk. Rest was unusually silent. If there were no excruciating sensations running through his body, Ranveer would very well have considered himself to be lifeless.
The jailer halted and unlocked the door of the cell. Ranveer felt his own heart sink down as he hesitantly made his way towards the cell. In a whit of the second, a myriad of questions and memories passed through his mind and he closed his eyes for a moment to clear them away that exploded in form of tears now. Dreading over something extremely tragic to happen, Ranveer walked into the cell, but to his disappointment, there was no sign of Ishani. The cell was empty and only Ishani's belongings lay there on the floor. He swallowed hard. A brown blanket, a calendar and a few more random objects necessary for survival in jail were placed carefully on the floor. Ranveer picked up the blanket. It smelled like her, and for a moment he could feel her right there. His eyes then followed the calendar with cross marks on the dates of the current month depicting the countdown of Ishani's last days. He picked it up and squeezed it lightly and a drop of tear fell on the dusty paper.
The promises of love were meant to exist from both sides. He did. She did. They loved each other. He knew she loved him. But he had never been so wrong in his entire life. The red marks on the calendar were a most vivid evidence that she hated him so much that she would rather pass into another world than be with him.
"I'd rather spend my entire life in jail than see your face ever again." Her reproachful words rang in his ears once again as he clutched the calendar tightly in between his right palm. The front page of the paper sheet was puckered. The cell radiated Ishani' essence only but she wasn't there. Ranveer looked at the jailer.
"I'm sorry, but she needed some medical checkups before her execution. We had to transfer her into another jail," the woman spoke indifferently.
"C-can't I meet her by any means?" Ranveer stuttered. "It's a matter of 5 minutes only."
"I think you have been given enough time, Mr. Ranveer. We can't waste more of it." The jailer locked the cell again as Ranveer exited the room and took one final look of the place. His fist clenched as he struggled to keep himself composed. Before walking away finally, he looked back once again, hoping against hope that he would get one glimpse of Ishani's. It was futile of him to think so. Without having any idea where to go, Ranveer walked out to the same dismal passage he had come from. His feet felt too tired to walk anymore.
"I have never seen a love like this." The jailer's words brought Ranveer back to his senses. He turned back as the woman continued, "She loved him so much."
Ranveer rushed towards the lady. "Who are you talking about?" he asked nervously.
"Ishani loves Chirag so much. I have never seen someone love another like that. She killed him herself because she couldn't have him," the jailer said.
Ranveer looked down, a tear helplessly escaping his eye. "She told you this?"
"Yes." Her voice was kind now. "Ishani had met Chirag 3 years ago. Her driver had helped her in understanding Chirag's feelings back then, but they could not unite. She was forced to marry someone else. Still, she kept seeing him after her marriage and planned to start a new life after separating from her husband, but ended up killing her love instead. Now she says, after her death, she'd unite with him in death."
Ranveer stared at the woman for a while who refused to meet her eyes with him, and walked away.
"Have you too loved someone like her?" the jailer asked, looking back at Ranveer.
"Yes," he said. "For the first and final time"
It was his fault. One-sided love has to have such fate. It was his stupidity to believe she loved him. She lost Chirag because of him and now she was leaving him as well forever. Ranveer sighed, trying to keep insanity taking over his senses as he walked out of the jail.
The cold air caressed his face softly as Ranveer lay there on the swing, moving to and fro, and staring at the full moon blankly. He wondered if Ishani was looking at the same moon as well. It comforted him somewhere. He held a photograph of Ishani close to his heart. Tomorrow would be the last day she would breathe.
Ever since he had come back in the evening, he had felt only calm. Every agitation had subsided and every tear drought out. There was no pain that could be felt anymore. A void seemed to have surrounded him that sucked out every little drop of life out of him.
Ranveer did not care.
Not knowing why, his eyes suddenly drooped low, and a little gasp left his dry lips: almost like a hiccough. He coughed. He hadn't taken alcohol at all this night unlike before when it aided him whenever he missed Ishani. There felt no need of doing so. Little drops of sweat appeared on his face and suddenly he felt a pain in his chest: one that he had felt right before he was shot 4 months ago. It was worse than the ghastly blow the bullet had been able to inflict upon him.
But now, he did not care.
His thoughts drifted back to Ishani. The moment he had first seen her: he recalled that moment to be the beginning of his life but tonight it was the opposite emotion that occupied his thoughts. "Ishani!" he breathed out her name, but she did not answer. He remembered her jeering face, mocking him and his inability to get over her. Only if he could see her one last time. Only if she could confess she never hated him. Only if she said she loved him. However impossible it sounded, he wanted it to be true. He felt his heart burst with a pain he had never felt before.
But tonight, he did not care.
His grip on Ishani's photo grew stronger and his breathing heavier while his eyes felt shutting down. Night was too deep to stay awake anymore. He was tired and needed to sleep. Those tears needed to stop for the sake of his weary red eyes. That agitated soul needed to be relieved for the sake of its peace. He wanted to feel the touch of someone loving him on his forehead, caressing it and telling him everything would be alright.
But tonight, it didn't matter. Not anymore.
Ranveer breathed deeply one last time as Ishani's smile crossed his mind once again and then suddenly with a rapidity of the flash of lightning everything was calm. No movement. Atmosphere turned graver than that in a graveyard. The air stopped blowing. The trees stopped murmuring and stars above forgot twinkling. Those who could notice, must certainly have realized, a tired spirit passed through the silent path to another world where no living had yet been to. In this world, all was still.
He always said, 'I can't live without you.'
And he didn't.