Absence Weaves Hearts Together

Continued from A Heart's Compass

One day during a visit to a local book store; Ashish saw lying on the shelf infront of him Neha’s book. His hands involuntarily picked it up and he began reading it. There it was in the page about the author; Neha’s picture. She looked the same only her eyes now had vacuum in them. Her smile screamed out at him; it was just a mask to the misery and incompleteness choking her from within. Yes Neha’s eyes gave it all away to Ashish and why not as her eyes were the mirror of her soul. She was unhappy and he knew he was the cause of it.

He flipped through the pages of Neha’s novel and saw unfolding infront of his eyes his entire life with Neha. He witnessed himself meeting Neha for the first time; he saw himself going out on a date with her; he saw their first fight; their marriage and their life after that. It was the last chapter which was the final straw where he saw himself making the horrendous mistake of leaving a sleeping Neha cuddled with their wedding album alone. He saw himself shattering their small haven into millions and millions of pieces. Neha ended her book by saying ‘I guess I’ll never let you go because in the back of my mind I still believe that someday, we'll get our second chance.’ That was it he had to see her. It had been delayed enough and it was time for him to make that long pending flight to Delhi. This time come what may he would meet her. He would tell her what a terrible mistake he had made and that he would make it up to her. He would tell Neha that without her his life made no sense at all.

But before boarding that flight he had to get something for Neha. Something that signified that he was indeed serious about their future together; something that said that this time it would definitely be forever and something that said he wouldn’t make the same mistake ever again if given a chance!

When the first time Ashish had proposed to Neha he had given her a ring carved with ‘Be Mine’. This time he wanted to do that all over again but with the promise of being together forever. He drove to the jeweller and bought a ring in which he got engraved ‘Be Mine Again Neha..Forever’. He would start over again with Neha and he sure wouldn’t mess things up this time around.

He boarded the first flight available to reach there. Throughout the flight Ashish played back and forth in his mind the best way to approach Neha. He felt happy and at the same time felt nervous too. He waited with baited breathe for the moment Neha would be with him. He kept looking at the ring. He was anxious to see it in Neha’s fingers. Though the flight was only for two hours it seemed like eternity to Ashish. He kept fidgeting in his seat. He looked out of the window one moment and to his watch the next. Would all this wait pay off? Would Ashish finally get Neha back again..Forever?

As he landed, he took a cab straight from the airport to Neha’s place. It was just out of the scene of a movie; no sooner than his cab reached a signal it would change to red. The delay was getting longer by the minute. He couldn’t stand waiting for the moment of reuniting with Neha any longer. I guess love does that to you; it makes you wish to fly to your beloved without wasting a minute. But destiny had some other plans. Perhaps the moment hadn’t come for them to come together. Yes fate played a cruel card and Ashish’s cab met with an accident just a few blocks from Neha’s house.

As his taxi was passing by an under construction flyover something terrible happened. One of the heavy equipments fell below hitting several cars and busses among which one was Ashish’s taxi. He was terribly injured. Was that it? Would Ashish recover to open his heart out to Neha finally? He lay in the cab wounded and unconscious; blood oozed out of his head and knees. A crowd gathered around the site; it took hours before Ashish along with the other injured were pulled out of the crash site and taken to the hospital. As the ambulance made its way sounding its red siren; the plans that Ashish had were also tainted in red. Why was fate being so cruel to him? Was it a way to coerce him away? Were they not meant to be together? Perhaps it is right to say things happen when fate warrants it and not a moment too soon.

The phone rang at Neha’s home; somebody was asking for Neha her maid said. Neha thought perhaps it was her publisher with some information. Little did she expect what she heard next? The person on the other side of the phone was somebody from the hospital where Ashish was; he had listed her as the emergency contact in his injured stupor. Neha was shocked and dumb founded; she got news about Ashish after so long and it was about his accident. She felt cold from within and anxiety clustered her judgement. She called up her friend Meenal and started crying. She was scared about Ashish; what if something would happen to him. After Meenal managed to pacify Neha; she told Neha to reach the hospital.

Neha reached the hospital and inquired about Ashish. He was in the ICU lying with wounds all over his body; he was unconscious. The doctors said he had internal injury and bleeding too. He was serious. Neha entered Ashish’s cabin slowly and the moment Neha laid her moist eyes on him she knew she would stand by him till he recovers completely.

Ashish gained consciousness after a week. The doctors initially weren’t very hopeful of him recovering completely but gradually his condition improved. Perhaps it was Neha’s presence that aided his recuperation. The seven days when Ashish lay senseless on his hospital bed; Neha sat next to him and prayed continually. It was a traumatic experience for her; there he was infront of her eyes. How she had longed for time with him but now that he was there it was under such circumstances!

Neha cancelled all her commitments of book readings and any event related to her novel to be by his side. For her Ashish was the first priority. She left everything; the only items that figured in her list were those that were related to Ashish. Meenal who would visit the hospital from time to time tried hard to convince Neha not to neglect her life completely but Meenal’s concerns fell on Neha’s deaf ears. The only thing Neha cared about now was getting Ashish back to his feet. She began neglecting her health; her professional commitments something that Meenal was always afraid of should Ashish ever come back to Neha’s life.

Initially there was only awkward silence between Neha and Ashish at the hospital. Both of them were unsure of how to start off; apart from the customary greetings they hardly spoke to each other. They were both eager to talk; to share but the history that they had stopped them. It was strange considering how well they knew each other at a point in time. It was like getting to know each other all over again. There was anxiety and apprehension; excitement and happiness even at the smallest of talks they would have. It was strange but it was as if they were falling in love with each other all over again. Only difference now was it would take much more than ever before for them to confess their feelings towards each other.

Weeks turned into months and Ashish was gradually improving in health and along with that their rapport was becoming healthier too. They would talk for hours and the hesitation slowly began to disappear. Things started looking up again.

Neha’s birthday was just round the corner when Ashish was still in hospital. He had spent days thinking what to gift her?  It was similar to their days back in college when Ashish would plan for days on end for Neha’s birthday surprises. But what could he do now from a hospital bed; moreover he wasn’t sure if he should do anything at all without Neha’s permission. Would she like it? Would she be happy at surprises as she used to? Once a relationship goes through turmoil people become more cautious and cynical in taking steps which they would have otherwise easily taken earlier.

Neha was happy at being able to spend her birthday this year with Ashish. However she wasn’t sure if Ashish would still remember it? It was strange, both Neha and Ashish thought of nothing else except each other; but both also tried their best to camouflage their feelings infront of the other. After their separation, Neha had never celebrated her birthday let alone wait eagerly for it. But this year was different; this year she was eager for her birthday; she was eager to see if Ashish would remember this special day. She was eager for a wish from him! Love doesn’t need much; small gestures are all that one desires when in love.

On the eve of her birthday Neha kept strolling in her room, waiting for the clock to strike 12.  She looked like a lady newly in love; with nascent expectations from her beloved. One instant she stood looking at the watch; then taking nervous steps to and fro; biting her nails and looking at her phone at the next. Would Ashish wish her like he used to? At midnight as she sat fidgeting with her hair, the doorbell at her house rang suddenly. As the maid opened the door while Neha still continued looking anxiously at her phone there was a delivery boy asking for her. He had with him a cake of Neha’s favourite flavour, bunch of orchids again Neha’s favourite and a box of exotic Swiss chocolates needless to say Neha’s favourites. Neha looked for a card to see who must have sent it but the card only said ‘Happy Birthday’. Perhaps it was Meenal, Neha thought. She called her to thank her but she was fast asleep and had actually forgotten that it was Neha’s birthday at all that day. It was weird; whoever had sent the gifts knew Neha very well. If it wasn’t Meenal, who would it be?

As she looked at the flowers, it struck her. It had to be Ashish. All this while she was just expecting a call from Ashish but he had gone a step ahead. He did what he was always best at; he surprised her. He remembered her birthday. He cared enough to send her all that. He still remembered her likes and dislikes. That night Neha didn’t sleep for a bit; instead she sat with the gifts with a wide grin on her face like a teenager who had for the first time fallen in love.

When Neha went to the hospital in the morning, she thanked Ashish. He wished her and they shared the cake which Neha had brought along. It was wonderful, the sight of them smiling; talking and eating their favourite cake together. Ashish then took out another box of her favourite caramel cookies and gave it to her. They looked at each other; Ashish thought if it was the right moment for him to give her the ring. Neha wanted to hear the words from Ashish which she could feel by his gestures. Both fought the inner tumult; to say or not to say was the question they were fiddling with. Ofcourse the fear of losing even the present moment of togetherness stopped them again.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Neha and Ashish had been away from each other for so long; all the while craving for each other’s company. Could it be possible that this prolonged separation followed by this sudden twist of fortune where they ended up spending so much time together was successful in igniting a passion even greater than they once had? To know when to go away and when to come closer is the key to any lasting relationship. Perhaps all the wait; all the choices of stopping themselves from trying to contact each other eventually had nurtured even a greater passion in them for each other. ‘In the entire world, there is no heart for me like yours. In the entire world, there is no love for you like mine’ is what Neha and Ashish’s bond symbolised; only thing remained was for them shedding the fear and confessing that to each other. The shortest distance between people; between togetherness and separation is the heart but the reasons of the heart not even the heart can fathom; would Neha and Ashish be able to gape the distance between their hearts is what the stars had now to weave!