I wrote and submitted this to the ArShi 4th Anniversary OS Contest. Though I did not win, this story is very close to my heart, and it has touched many of those who voted for me, I enjoyed reading your comments on why you liked it. Hope those who have not read it as yet, do enjoy it.
The song All Of The Stars by Ed Sheeran inspired the title. The theme of the contest was, “Their first meet.”
The skies were dark and ominous but of course that did not hinder Arnav Singh Raizada from his daily routine. He got up at the brink of six o’ clock and got dressed to go for his morning run around the neighborhood. As he got out of his house, he pulled his hoodie over his head and briskly started his day. After twenty minutes of his run, he slowed his pace and then completely stopped on the bridge which overlooked the pier. Birds chirped in the distance as he watched the boats in the horizon.
The sun had just begun to rise and it was definitely a beauty. As Arnav leaned against the railing, he thought about how he had seen the sun rise every day during his runs, yet he never got tired of it. As it happened each day, amazement washed over his face as second by second, the once dark and dismal morning suddenly had hope. The dreary clouds vanished and it was replaced by white cotton candy clouds. He ran his hands through his hair, he drank in the sight once more before he turned and headed into the direction of his favourite breakfast joint.
An unsettling feeling washed over him and he changed his route, using a shortcut. As he moved past an alley, he heard a faint murmur. He was always alert, so he stopped immediately, he took a few steps back and peered into the alley, only to see the shadow of a figure hunched over in the corner. He moved cautiously into the alley with the aid of the flashlight on his phone. As he got closer to the figure, he realised it was a woman. She was dressed in a pale white shalwar, torn in some places. Her knees were brought up to her chest as she buried her head on her knees.
He stooped down and touched her shoulder as gently as possible, she trembled with fear. She raised her head slightly, revealing her messy hair filled with dirt and blood. He could see the sparkle of her nose pin and her eyes in between her hair strands. Hazel coloured, dismal eyes, those eyes were etched in his mind the second he saw them.
He called out to her, “Ma’am?”
She moved further against the brick wall, frightened by Arnav’s presence, “Please don’t hurt me.”
He fished his badge out of his pants, he held it before her and shone some light from his phone onto it, “I’m a police officer…” Once he saw that she understood what he had said, he put the badge away.
She whispered hoarsely, “They… they’ll find me. They’ll hurt me.”
Arnav shook his head, “No one will hurt you don’t worry. You’re safe with me.”
She studied him with her weary eyes, she stammered, “Pr r omise?”
He nodded and squeezed her hand in reassurance. “I promise.” He didn’t have his car, so he dialed 911 and gave them his location.
While they waited for help, he wrapped his arms around her fragile body in attempt to warm her with his body heat. The weather was brutal for anyone on the streets, much less in a dark alley for god knows how long.
Her fingers bunched the front of his hoodie as she clung onto him for dear life. Her eyes drooped as she lost consciousness. Her breaths were short and uneven, but she was alive. Arnav counted down each second until he heard the faint sirens approaching them.
Once the paramedics arrived on site, Arnav scooped her into his arms and brought her out of the alley. He laid her onto the gurney and stood back as he watched the emergency respondents move the gurney into the ambulance.
Once she was settled inside, Arnav got in and accompanied them in the ambulance. At the hospital, the doctors cleaned her up, bandaged her cuts and tended to her bruises. She was also given saline drips to regenerate her body. He sighed in relief as the doctor had filled him in on her progress and that she was stable. The doctor had also mentioned that she needed a lot of rest so it was best he went home and return later. Arnav agreed, he boarded a bus and went home for a shower and something to eat. On his way back to the hospital, he stopped at the police station and filled out some paperwork regarding what had happened earlier that morning.
After another quick stop to pick up something, Arnav pulled into the parking lot of the hospital. He could not help but ponder over the woman he had saved, no name and he barely saw her face. Though her eyes, he could recognize them anywhere now. There was something about them, they implied innocence and delicacy.
He had saved people before, countless people. His duty was to serve and protect, of course sacrificing and risking your lives in the line of duty. But this time it was something different, something pulled him towards using that route and going past that alley. It was as if he had to save her, no matter what. Was that destiny?
Khushi stirred in her sleep, she groaned as she felt pain seething through her body. She blinked a few times before her eyes registered where she was. A nurse who had just walked in increased her dosage of pain relief. As the nurse checked her vitals, Khushi asked,“How did I end up here?”
The middle aged nurse cupped her face, “An officer got you here. He saved your life, he found you passed out in an alley and he called 911.” The nurse exited the room, leaving Khushi tangled in her thoughts. He saved her! She remembered how he had promised her and pulled her into his arms but after that moment, everything went blank.
She leaned back against the bed and shut her eyes. She relentlessly tried to forget those brutal memories but they flooded her thoughts every time. Breathe. In and out. Think of something else, someone else. An image of coffee coloured eyes flashed before her closed eyelids. They felt so familiar and pure.
A soft knock on the hospital door pulled Khushi out of her trance. She saw the police officer who had helped her, she faintly smiled as he walked up to her, he was dressed in his uniform, a deep navy coloured police uniform, his hat held loosely at his side. His musky scent filled the otherwise disinfected pristine hospital room. He wore light stubble on his face, which defined his jawline.
She instantly noticed his eyes, the same eyes she saw in her head minutes ago. His eyes were like an open book, a sea of emotions could be seen in them at just a glimpse. He oozed of loyalty, simplicity and honesty which were something not many officers in the force had.
“Hi…” He let out in his husky voice.
She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “Hey…”
“These are for you, I picked them up on the way here.” He explained as he placed a bouquet of variegated carnations on the side table.
She touched one of the petals. “They’re beautiful, thank you.”
“How are you feeling?” He inquired as he sat on the stool beside the bed.
“I feel better now that my pain relief got increased.” She managed to let out a chuckle. “I can’t thank you enough, you saved my life and I don’t even know your name…I…”
He smiled as he shook her hand, “Officer Arnav Singh Raizada and there’s really no need to thank me, it was my duty.” He gazed at her, “Though I’d like to know the name of the woman that I saved.”
She answered, “Khushi Kumari Gupta.”
He ran his hand through his hair, “Nice to meet you Khushi.”
She shifted slightly before she confessed to him. “This seems like a pretty affluent hospital, I’m afraid I can’t afford to…”
He shook his head, “I took care of it.”
She protested, “Officer you…”
He chuckled, “You can call me Arnav and it’s perfectly fine. The only thing I ask of you is that you get better.” She nodded at his request.
His eyes met the floor as he pondered whether he should ask or not. He was here as a well-wisher, certainly not as an interrogator. He knew she would have her fair share of question and answer sessions later on in the day from other officers since it was practically a case now.
He thought it was best to ask her himself, instead of someone who was fairly new to her. He glanced at her, “Are there any family members that I can call?”
The glint in her eyes disappeared as she heard his question. She shook her head negatively.“There’s no one, I’m an orphan.”
He saw her eyes turn glossy. He humbly said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I’m an orphan too, I lost my parents to a car accident when I was younger.”
She titled her face at him, their grief mirrored on each other’s faces, both of them yearned for their parent’s love. “I’m sorry too.”
He nodded and asked his next question. “How did you end up in the alley?” He added as an afterthought, “Its okay if you don’t want to speak about it yet, but there will be some officers that may stop by later for some routine inquiries.”
She whispered, “I don’t mind talking to you…” She stopped and thought about what she was going to say while he remained silent, patiently waiting for her to speak about her ordeal.
Her voice cracked as she recalled what had happened to her. “I teach dance at the orphanage I grew up at. On my way home, two guys, I never saw them before. First they began harassing me, then they tried touching me. I pushed them away and began running but I quickly realised I was lost and they took advantage of that and cornered me. They began beating me for trying to escape from them, they tore my clothes and said they were gonna rape me.” She breathed heavily as the memories tormented her. She felt a warm hand rest onto her palm, she looked up at him and she knew she was safe, he did not have to utter a word.
She began where she had left off, “I managed to hit one of the guys and push the other one off. I knew they were coming after me but I didn’t look back. I felt myself getting weaker and I couldn’t outrun them so when I saw the alley, I hid there until you found me this morning.”
He caressed her hand, “You were really brave. I’m proud of you.”
Her lips trembled as she sobbed. “I was so scared, I don’t know what I would have done if you didn’t…”
Instantly he leaned over and pulled her into his arms. “You’re okay, you’re safe with me. Nobody is ever gonna hurt you again. I promise Khushi. Shhh” He stroked her back as her body shuddered.
Three months later, Arnav and Khushi walked on the sand side by side on a beach in the opposite side of the town from the pier. With the aid of Khushi’s descriptions, Arnav and his team were able to find and arrest the two men who attacked her. Since then Arnav and Khushi had begun seeing each other. There was something magnetic between them that they both could not neglect. It was as if it were meant to be.
“Do you believe in destiny?” She asked unexpectedly as they looked out at the sea.
A smile played on his lips as he intertwined his hand with hers, “For a long time I was unsure, but after the way we first met, I definitely believe in it, it was destiny, we have all of the stars on our side.“ She leaned into him as he looped his arms around her body. They watched on as the sun began to set, it flooded the sky with a myriad of colours until it disappeared beyond the horizon. The sky darkened and stars began to adorn the dark canvas as Arnav and Khushi stood beneath it.
Thank you so much for reading and liking my story 🙂 Do leave a comment if you liked it.