It started raining out of the blues. Mumbai rains are always unpredictable. Aarush and Radhika were sitting on top of a stone in the ocean-waters. Aarush was sitting still, covering Radhika’s head with his hand. He didn’t utter a word.
‘It’s raining…’ Radhika finally looked up at him and wiped off her tears.
‘Really?’ Aarush said. His shirt was already drenched, his hair, dripping wet.
‘Seriously Aarush?’ Radhika narrowed her eyes at him. Aarush laughed and they both got down the stone and started walking towards the promenade.
‘Do you like rains?’ Aarush asked her.
‘Very much!’ Radhika smiled. It was the first time Aarush saw her smile in last one hour. He cursed himself for making her cry.
‘Do you?’ Radhika looked at him.
‘Honestly, I hate rains!’ Aarush said, licking the water off his lips. The tiny diamond in his ear-lobe shined brightly.
‘Is it your first rain since you’ve come here?’ he asked.
‘I knew that. Don’t worry! You will hate the rains too after spending some years in Mumbai. Initially it’s all good, but slowly when you can’t do your daily chores because of the rains, it all sucks!’
‘So what? I don’t think it’s the fault of the rains then. Even God is giving you some time off, you should enjoy it!’
‘But God doesn’t refill your bank accounts with a hefty salary if you take a leave from work to enjoy the rains.’ Aarush hurriedly unlocked his car, opened the door and sat in.
‘Damn…’ he cried out.
‘What happened?’ Radhika asked as she also joined him.
‘What happened, Aarush?’ Radhika spoke louder than before.
‘My leather seats. I love my car very much, you see. I can’t see her soiled up. That’s why I hate the rains even more.’ Aarush ignited his Volkswagen and they drove off to his place. Neither he, nor Radhika made a sound throughout the twenty minute journey.
‘Come in…’ he asked Radhika to follow him to his apartment. Radhika looked at him weirdly.
‘Don’t worry, I live alone. There are no room-mates.’
‘That’s a bigger reason to ‘not’ come in!’
‘Your place is another hour away from here, and I can’t let you fall sick. You are all drenched…come, at least dry yourself.’ Aarush extended his hand. Radhika held it and walked out. They took the elevator up to the 17th floor.
‘I really like one thing about my home, ask me what?’ Aarush twitched his brows.
‘Height! I love height. I want to grow so big in this industry, the IT-industry. And honestly there’s so much money involved in it. You just need to be well-informed and know how to strike up conversations, and nobody can stop you from fetching even a seven-digit package!’ The elevator bell rung and the doors split open. They walked out and Aarush unlocked his apartment.
‘Oops…I’m sorry. Don’t hate me, but I am not a clean-freak. My apartment usually is a dirty mess.’ Aarush finally opened the door to reveal his abode to Radhika.
‘Wow! Looks like someone cleaned it up. The last time I came here it was even messier.’ Radhika gave a quick glance around. Meanwhile Aarush grabbed some towels and placed one on Radhika’s head.
‘I don’t want you to catch fever.’ Aarush vigorously rubbed a towel at her head and dried up her scalp and hair. Radhika was standing still. She knew arguing with him was a waste of time. He wouldn’t let her win anyways!
‘You don’t try to stop me, why?’ Aarush asked Radhika, who never made any effort.
‘I’m good at reading people. I know you are a stubborn rich-brat, who wouldn’t listen to me. First time when we formally met at the mall where I accidentally spilled my coffee all over? You didn’t stop unless you bought me another one. Then when I accidentally left my handkerchief at your place. You wouldn’t rest till you returned it to me. And today when you brought up your ex. You wouldn’t listen to me until you dragged me to Marine Drive and let your heart out. I know you at least this much, that you are really stubborn, and that you won’t rest until you have done what you want to do!’ Radhika smiled. Aarush was gaping at her with awe.
‘You are genius! You notice things so much. You know what I’ve noticed about you? That you are one careless girl, who wanted to fall sick by traveling home in this condition. Now don’t move till you drink an entire mug full of hot-coffee. Just give me a moment to make it!’ Aarush rushed towards the kitchen ignoring the Koel-thing that Radhika was again brushing past.
It was first time Radhika was in his apartment in her full conscious. Earlier, she didn’t notice anything, but now she finally had time and opportunity to walk around a bit. Rubbing the towel at her arms, she picked up a photo that was framed at the side-table besides the sofa that she was sitting on. Aarush was hugging some girl and the background was all white because of snow, along with some mountains and hills at a distance. ‘The girl must be Koel’ she thought. Aarush was so much in love with Koel, and still he was putting up a smile on his face, and spending good time with her. How much his heart would’ve hurt when he would’ve known about her wedding. Koel was a really heartless girl. Radhika kept the photo at the same table, in the same position, brushing off her thoughts about Koel, she turned around to see Aarush standing with two mugs of coffee.
‘Here, Aarush special-coffee. It’s better than CCD and the best thing? It’s free!’ he handed over one mug to Radhika.
‘And yes, that is Koel.’ he picked up the photo-frame that Radhika was observing.
‘You don’t have to be, Radhika. Please don’t say that. I’ve to stop being sorry for myself. I’ve to stop garnering sympathy and pity. I’ve to stop living at the mercy of the world. The truth is, Koel is married now. She has had a wonderful honeymoon with her husband too. I’m one asshole, who is unable to move on from her, and who is still so much stuck with her that even the girl who loves me, wants to leave me…’ Aarush finally said it.
‘I’m not the type of the person who keeps things in his heart. I’m the open-type ‘now’. Being closed is never good. I’ve been close and confined in my previous relationship, but look what it left me with!’
‘I really appreciate that about you, Aarush, but not everyone is open like you. And anyone would think a thousand times to say – ‘I Love You’ to someone who is already in love with someone else!’ Radhika kept her coffee mug aside.
‘I know that very well. And I know that it’s all my fault that I’m still involved with her, but tell me, do I have any chance? She’s married. It’s over. The game has ended. If there’s anything ahead at that road for me, it’s dead-end. I have to take a turn. I have to move on. Because if I don’t, I will die in misery. I’m aware of my condition. I’m very much aware of your condition as well. But the problem is, I’ve never found a reason to move on, before I met you…’ Aarush swallowed a lump, ‘You give me hope. You show me a new path. I can’t tell you how happy I’m since I’ve met you. I can’t tell you how peaceful and undisturbed sleep I’ve had, since the day we started talking and meeting.’
Aarush took out the photo from the frame, tore it in half, threw Koel’s photo away and handed over his photo in Radhika’s hand.
‘Everyone has a past. Everyone has been in love and out of it. Tell me one thing, Radhika. Don’t I deserve to be happy again? If you love me even a bit, don’t you want to see me happy? Don’t you want to see ‘us’ happy?’ It was the first time that Aarush was talking so seriously to her. She forgot what Kavita said. She forgot what she had in her mind about breaking contacts. She had only one thing in front of her now, and that was her future – with Aarush.
‘I’m not asking you to move in with me, I’m just asking you to give me one chance. Give ‘us’ one chance. I know, you won’t say no!’ Aarush was on his knees.
‘Are you proposing me for a relationship?’ Radhika asked.
‘No. I’m requesting you, for a friendship. I know you wanted to break off contacts with me. I sensed it in your eyes the moment I saw you at Phoenix mall today. But I didn’t want to let go of such an amazing girl so easily. I want you to give me one chance…’ Aarush held her hand. Radhika nodded in approval. Aarush leapt up and hugged her tight. Their wet bodies sticking to each other in a romantic-fashion. Radhika was swinging partly in air as Aarush almost picked her up. He finally loosened up his grip and she landed at her feet, but his arms were still wrapped around her sleek, wet body. Their eyes absorbed all the coldness around, Radhika’s hands were discovering the fine cuts at Aarush’s back. Her face came closer to Aarush’s and as their lips were about to get locked, Aarush placed his finger at her lips, ‘There is time for this, Radhika. We’re still friends…’