OK so they meet anjali finally
So, the jury is out and Arnav is really a ghost.
Chapter 18 - What If
A/N- We've reached the end of the story and this update is the last part. This chapter is a bit longer than the usual ones (almost twice the length). [edit-I tried posting in 1 part but got an oversize post error. So split it in 2 posts].
I can't emphasise enough on how much each read, each vote and each comment has encouraged me. Really grateful for the love, support and feedback that you all have shown. Thank you all for embarking on this journey. Hope you had as much fun reading as I had writing.
"I love you too."
The words tumbled out of his mouth easily. Arnav felt as though a weight was lifted from his chest. The feelings brimming in his heart for sometime now, the words just at the tip of his tongue, always reluctant to be spoken out- had come to a culmination. Khushi had echoed what he had wanted to say for a long time. His joy knew no limits and at that moment looking at the huge smile and glistening eyes of Khushi, he realized that she too, was in the same boat as him.
Now that the words had been spoken, their feelings had been expressed and reciprocated, a different feeling had taken hold in Arnav's mind- something which had always nagged him but he had kept it in the back-burner because he never thought it could come to this day.
She was a human and he, a ghost.
The thought had always been in his mind- the day she had touched his hand, the day they kissed, the day they made love, and today, when they had confessed. How long could he keep turning a blind eye to it?
They were two entities that could never unite, not in the true sense of the word- they could never have a life together. It was improbable. No matter how happy she made him, how fulfilling her touch was, there was a huge dimensional gap between them that could never be bridged.
Arnav saw her smile falter slightly. Surely she must have thought of it too. And just like him, she had avoided it.
Why evoke the unpleasant reality when the dream is so beautiful?
Khushi felt the heavy silence between them. They had been quiet for a couple of minutes, just looking at each other. Those few moments stretched like an eternity. She knew what was going on in his mind. She had been battling with this dilemma too.
There was an impending talk and she knew now was the time to have it. But she didn't want to. Not today. Not now and maybe... not ever.
She let out a small yelp as Arnav suddenly scooped her up in his arms and walked inside the house. It was a surprise, a welcome one. She didn't want to let words pull down what they were feeling and she was glad he felt the same.
He placed her on the bed, with some ferocity, making the mattress beneath her bounce. A giggle formed at her throat but before it could escape her lips, his mouth was on hers- moving against hers.
There was intensity about his actions today. The first two times they kissed, it had been gentle and soft, but today- there was a hunger, something insatiable that needed to be quenched, like a basic need driving them.
With his mouth on hers, his fingers unbuttoned her jeans and she shimmied out of them, using her hands. His mouth left hers and moved down, from her chin to her neck, to her bare and flat stomach, kissing each and every inch of her soft warm skin.
Khushi moaned and arched her back at the pleasure jolting through her body. She lay back on the bed and let the sensation take over her as their bodies became one.
She was breathing slowly now, getting back normalcy, her eyes were closed but she was not asleep. There was a glow on her face- akin to pure joy. Something about her told Arnav that she was in bliss. And he could do anything to see her happy like this, always, forever.
Always? Forever? A voice in his head taunted him. How long would this make-believe game that they were playing, last? The barrage of thoughts that he had been holding back, started to make their way to his mind.
"Arnav?" he heard her call out softy. He realized that he had been drowning in his thoughts and had spaced out.
She raised an eyebrow, wondering what he was thinking about, rather trying not to think about. She sat upright to face him and placed a soft kiss on his lips.
He gave her a small smile. He couldn't bring himself to voice his inner turmoil and with passing moment, it was became more and more difficult.
They had spent Sunday night cuddling next to each other, with Khushi falling asleep next to Arnav. Monday morning, she had gone out of the house in a jiffy, citing her excuse as being late for work.
While returning back from office, a heavy feeling settled in her heart. She was excited to tell him about her day, to talk to him, to put her head against his chest and forget everything, but at the same time, she knew the talk' which they had skirted around for some time now was going to happen.
She dreaded the talk; she dreaded the outcome of the talk.
She was engrossed in her thoughts, about to climb the staircase to the 1st floor when she heard Payal call out to her. Payal was at the doorway to her house and she beckoned Khushi to come in.
"Hey, it's been quite sometime since we spoke," Khushi began with the niceties.
Payal's face was grim. "I had a chat with Shyam's mother today."
Khushi raised her eyebrow to which Payal replied, "Shyam is a jerk but his mother is a good woman. I have known her since my childhood."
"Okay." Khushi mumbled, not sure where this was going.
Payal pressed her lips before continuing, "She told me she went to visit Shyam in jail yesterday. She was quite disturbed after the visit. I asked her what the trouble was and she said that Shyam was losing his marbles, he was becoming insane."
Payal paused, Khushi shrugged her shoulder indicating her confusion.
"As per Shyam, the night he and his friends attacked you" Payal began, her voice very low, despite of no one being around, "He said... there was an invisible presence around them. He said with certainty that someone, they couldn't see who, had beat them up."
Khushi felt goose bumps all over her skin. "I..." her throat had gone dry.
"I know you are brave," Payal spoke again, "but to take on 3 well built guys without having any training is quite unbelievable. You had help, didn't you?" She craned her neck and pointed at the ceiling. "The ghost in your flat helped you, didn't it?"
Khushi gulped and tried to speak, "Payal... there is no-."
Payal's face was grim. "A dozen people have sworn that there is an evil presence in the house, that the flat is haunted. The two sets of tenants we had, the electrician, the plumber, the maids, everyone swore they felt something. But you- you never faced any problem."
Payal's face contorted in shock as realization hit her, "You have been living with a ghost... for months. And the ghost is helping you, it is protecting you!"
There it was- Khushi's secret out in the open, figured out correctly by Payal. Khushi wanted so desperately to talk to another human about it- about her unusual roommate, the unusual arrangement, the fact that she had been intimate with a ghost and that she loved him. She wanted to pour it all out of her heart. And there was Payal, her only friend to whom she could.
She would understand, wouldn't she? And what if she didn't? What if she told her mother or the neighbours? What if they all unite to throw away the evil,' as Payal put it, out of the house? What if they did something- an exorcism or something and this time it worked? No, she couldn't risk that.
Payal waited for Khushi to say something. Khushi took a deep breath and broke out in laughter the next second.
Payal looked at her, incredulously. Khushi put her hands on her stomach and laughed harder, trying to not over do her fake laugh.
"You think," she sputtered between her laughs, "Me and a ghost!"
Payal seemed astounded at her reaction. Khushi caught her breath and stopped laughing. "Payal! What on earth would make you think that? Shyam could be acting crazy, maybe, to get out of jail. Plead insanity and go to a hospital instead of a staying in a prison. Have you thought of that?"
Payal furrowed her eyebrows, thinking over her words. "But..." she trailed off.
"You came to my apartment with your family for lunch. Did you see or feel anything abnormal?"
"I..." Payal fumbled, "I didn't. But... so many people have swore that they-."
"But you never have," Khushi cut her mid-sentence, "You have personally never had any experience, right?"
Payal slowly shook her head, her face turning pale.
"Then why are you so certain that there is a ghost in the house? Despite of me proving to you time and again that the house is fine?" Khushi asked.
"I know because..." Payal spoke, biting her lip, "I was the one who summoned it."
Khushi raised her eyebrows in shock, "What?"
Payal had started to tear up, "It was a few months back when the two college guys were our tenants. Mother was not at home one night so I went to the 1st floor. We were drinking and talking when one of them took out an old and dusty Ouija board. It belonged to some previous tenant probably."
The words came out of her mouth in a flow, "We thought it would be fun to summon a spirit. We didn't think it would work. We turned off the lights and lit candles around the house, holding our hands as we sat in front of the board, calling out to spirits. Little did we know that we had actually brought one in the house."
Khushi recalled her first conversation with Arnav. The first time they spoke, he told her that he had heard voices calling someone when he was in the dark room. He had said it was a girl's voice at first and then a guy's and they were laughing. He had followed the voices to find the source and the next thing he knew, he was in the apartment. He didn't know it then but it was the voices of Payal and the two guys.
"The candles went off and suddenly it got cold, really cold." Payal continued, her voice starting to break as tears formed in her eyes, "I could feel something with us, around us. I ran from the house. The guys were laughing at me but I was right. After a few days they agreed that something weird was happening in the house. They said someone was writing on walls and mirrors and on books. They had ignored it, thinking that it may have been the maid's kids. But slowly it started getting worse- lights shattering, things breaking, weird noises."
Payal put her arms around herself, "We did exorcism and everything but nothing worked. The next tenants, the couple, would complain of the same things. It was not serious- just minor activities here and there. I had never set foot in the house after that cursed day. Till you came, till you assured me that there was nothing and I ... I believed you."
Khushi stood there, listening to all Payal had said. She knew that she couldn't invalidate Payal's experiences. But she had to draw attention away from the flat and Arnav.
She placed a hand on Payal's shoulder, "I don't believe in ghosts or spirits," she felt hollow in her gut as she lied with ease, "Maybe you are right, maybe you inadvertently called a spirit. I strongly don't think so, but maybe you did."
Her grip on Payal's shoulder became firm, "Let me assure you that there is nothing wrong with the house. There is no ghost, no spirit, let alone an evil' one." Khushi was shocked at the ease and confidence with which she had lied. But she had to. It was for Arnav and if she was being honest, as selfish as it may sound, it was for her ownself.
Payal slowly nodded her head, "I believe you. I saw it myself that day. Everything was fine. But ever since Shyam's mother told me-"
Khushi interrupted her, "And I told you the intent behind his story." Khushi repeated to Payal all the logic again to (hopefully) appeal to her rational mind. When she left Payal half an hour later, she knew she had more or less convinced her to her side.
Once Khushi was back in the apartment, she told Arnav all that Payal had revealed. Arnav had taken the news without showing any expression. Payal had told Khushi that the Ouija board was still in the apartment and had pointed her to the spot. Khushi fished it out from underneath a pile of papers that belonged to the previous tenants, in a dusty drawer from a chest that she had never gotten around to cleaning.
"An Ouija board?" he muttered in disbelief looking at the now battered board placed on the centre table after Khushi had dusted it. "I was trapped here because of an Ouija board! I thought it was a child's toy.
"Now we know it's not," she added, looking at the faint alphabets painted in gold on a brown board. The apparatus in itself looked innocuous. Who knew, something so ordinary, could hold so much power.
"What are we supposed to do now?" he asked, his eyes still fixed on the board.
"Well, I am no expert and my knowledge is derived from pop-culture," she always gave the disclaimer when venturing into supernatural explanations, "As per movies, the spirit," she gestured to Arnav, "your spirit is trapped here because of this board. This is the physical object that has you bound here on earth, so my guess is if the board is destroyed, you will be free to go back to your realm."
The hordes of movies she had seen all had the same way of getting rid of spirits- to burn the object that had connected them to the human world in the first place.
"This," Arnav spoke after some deliberation, "this is stupid."
She shrugged her shoulder, "That's what the movies show-."
"No," he interjected, "No, I mean, all this," he gestured with his hands around the house. She furrowed her eyebrows, not able to follow.
"This board, me being trapped here, me dying at the first place," there was frustration in his words, "Everything that has happened to me, rather everything that I have brought upon myself stems out of reckless actions by me."
He huffed in anger, "I died because of an accident... an accident which was caused because I was a fool to drive when I was sleep-deprived." He picked up the deteriorated board, "And then after my death, instead of getting drawn to the summon, if I had just waited in the dark room for the light, I wouldn't have been stuck here for months! My life was just about work and my death and afterlife was one unwise decision after the other."
He was visibly shaking with fury now and a manifestation of that emotion was making objects around the house tremor slightly.
Khushi looked at the glass on the table, making a clattering noise, vibrating at the table. "Arnav," she spoke as softly as she could, "you need to calm down."
Hearing Khushi's voice, must have reigned in his temper, as the objects on the table and shelves stopped shaking. The rage on his face had subsided; it was taken over by something different... a resolve.
"I need to make things right," there was determination on his face and before Khushi could make sense of what he was saying, he had briskly walked over to the kitchen, turned on the stove and placed the Ouija board on the burner.
"No!" Khushi cried out and ran to the kitchen. She tried to remove the board, which had erupted in flames, but Arnav blocked her way, "Stop it!" she exclaimed, tears falling down her face.
Continued Here (on Page 101; 1st post)Edited by ErisedWitch45 - 2 years ago
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