An hour before sunrise, in their dim lit room, Arnav gazed at his sleeping wife’s form; he stroked her arm and pondered about her behaviour over the past few days. Their doctor had mentioned that generally, women do have strange and alarming dreams while pregnant, but still Arnav thought there was something more to it than just that. Khushi never spoke about what the dreams entailed and whenever he tried to ask, she would divert his attention by changing the topic or saying she wanted to sleep, just like she had done a few hours ago. The cycle continued, throughout the day she would remain aloof, then at night she would wake up from a nightmare. Something was wrong, he could feel it.
With so many questions raking his mind, he untangled himself from her and slipped out of the bed. He kissed her forehead, picked up his car keys and left the room. He headed to the one place he always found solace and his answers, his Ma’s garden.
It was still dark when he got there, the light poles he had installed throughout the garden, made it easy to maneuverer his way around. He smiled as he walked through the beautiful garden that his Ma had begun when he was just a little boy and he had chosen to maintain it when he had grown up, keeping his Maa alive in the very fragrance of this little heavenly place. He sat on a nearby bench and gazed at the variety of roses and other timeworn trees that provided shade and comfort. He felt like a little boy once again, this garden used to be his hiding abode in his childhood, not much had changed since he had grown into a man, he still came here to hide from the world. These plants gave him the solitude that others could not, maybe it was because he felt closer to his mother here with the plants. Since his mother passed, he always had a habit of speaking amongst these plants; they listened, welcomed his words with a shake of the gentle breeze and he always knew he would find his answers to everything right there. It was then, that he always found his truest form, in the middle of this spectacular little world he had created with his mother and her everlasting memories.
He closed his eyes and leaned against the back of the bench, inhaling the sweet aroma of the garden, instinctively the word “Maa…” escaped his mouth. He felt her being, she was always with him and with that thought, he slowly opened his eyes, seeing someone quite familiar in the near distance.
There she stood, clad in a deep blue sari devoid of anything but a shimmering silver border, her hair flowing freely in the gentle breeze, wearing an unmistakeable smile on her face. Young and vibrant,in that moment she reminded him of his Khushi. In retrospect, his mother and his wife was quite similar, that was one of the limitless factors that drew him to Khushi.
Ratna flashed a bright smile in her son’s direction. Her son, he was in front of her, those tall broad shoulders, handsome face, that boyish smile, she missed him. He had grown into an amazing man, she could hardly believe he was going to be father in a few months. As a tear streamed down her cheek, the word emotionally eased out of her, “Chotte!”
His ears yearned for so many years to hear this very word from his mother. An indescribable emotion ran through his being as he heard her sweet voice call him dearly. He leaped forward and hugged her tightly, “Ma… I miss you so much. Why did you leave me?”
She pulled back and cupped her son’s face, “Chotte, it was my time. Everyone who comes to this Earth is only there for their required time and then they return to God.” She sat on a nearby bench with her son next to her, “Chotte you know I don’t regret the way I lived my life or the choices I made , otherwise I would have never had my two wonderful children, my Chotte and my Anjali. But I do regret leaving the two of you alone to face the world. For that I am ashamed of myself. I was a coward!”
He held his mother’s hand, “Ma… no one can judge you because they were not in your position to go through what you felt. I remember what I felt when I thought Khushi was having an affair with Shyam, I felt like I was dying every day. It took everything in me to not follow down your path.”
Ratna sighed, “Chotte I’m proud with how you dealt with finding out about Garima and your father.” They remained in silence for a few minutes before Ratna continued, “Chotte you know… I am worried about my daughter.”
Before she could continue, Arnav asked, “What’s wrong with Di?”
Ratna shook her head, “Nothing Chotte… I’m not talking about Anjali, I’m speaking about my other daughter, my bahu Khushi.”
He looked up at his mother, “Khushi?!”
She continued, “Hmm Khushi, I am very worried about her. She gets these terrifying dreams… has she ever told you what they are about?”
Arnav stared up into the sky, “No… she never.”
Ratna said, “They usually are along the lines of you rejecting the baby or refusing to bring the baby into the world. She’s scared chotte. She’s scared that you hate her and her baby together with Garima.”
Arnav turned to his mother, “What? Maa… what are you?”
Ratna nodded, “She still does not believe that you’ve moved past it, that you do not blame her nor her mother.” She paused for a second and then asked, “Have you truly forgiven Garima?
He nodded. “Initially I did not want to, but then I thought with a calm mind, the same woman who brought up Payal and Khushi like her own, showered them with love and gave them such good values, how could she do something so selfish like that, I got the answer from her, she said she didn’t know dad was married or that he had kids. I believed her and put it past us.”
Ratna asked, “Why haven’t you been giving her time, you both need to spend time with each other. Be there for each other.”
Arnav sighed, “I’ve been working a lot more since Akash left for the US. I just haven’t been giving Khushi any time. I’m barely there for her. That’s why she must think that I…but I swear ma, I never intended for her to feel this way. Its just that handling work and everything, I seemed to have neglected her. I feel horrible.”
Ratna caressed his hand and said, “I trust that you will make everything right, for you, for Khushi and for the little baby you two are bringing into the world. I love you chotte, I’m always with you.”
“I love you too Maa… I love you too…” He opened his eyes to see his mother walking away from him. He stood up and called after her, “Maa… Maa” She continued walking with fluidity, when she got to the horizon, she turned around and smiled at him, “Always make me proud Chotte…take care of my Khushi and my grandchild.” As the sun began rising, she disappeared into the light of the new dawn. He whispered, “I will Maa, always.”
He entered their room quietly, he saw her curled up on the bed, hugging his pillow, evidently still asleep. He sat beside her, he moved her hair from her face as he gently placed a red rose from the garden just beside her pillow. He looked at her stomach, the urge to feel his baby overwhelmed him. His hands found their way over her stomach, moving his hands around to feel their baby. He kissed her stomach, as he felt their baby’s light movement below his hands. He smiled and whispered into Khushi’s ear, “I love you both. I will make everything right again.”
Khushi opened her eyes and glanced to his side of the bed, to her surprise he was asleep in an uncomfortable sitting position, leaning against the headboard. She sat up, “Arnavji…”
His eyes opened wearily to see the concerned expression on his wife’s face. She held his shoulder, “Are you okay?” He nodded and sat up properly. “Khushi we have to talk.”Fear covered her face as she heard his words, “…is something? Did I?” She wound her arm around her stomach protectively.
He looked down at her stomach and put his palm on her stomach. She blinked a few times, bracing herself for what he wanted to say. She knew she was not dreaming this time, there was no waking up. A tear trickled down her cheek, she gulped and her eyes continued to glisten, “Ar rnavji.”
His mother was right, Khushi was terrified, how did he miss this? It was so clear. He did not give her any proper reassurance, he assumed everything was alright, but now… it clearly was not the case.
He titled his head and began caressing the edge of her lip with his thumb. “Khushi please don’t be afraid, its just me. Your Arnavji.”
She kept staring at him, trying to process his words as he spoke.
Her expression eased and he continued, “I know what your nightmares are about… I’m never going to leave you. I love this baby Khushi with all my heart, I would never try to hurt either of you. . What happened in the past will remain there, I do not hate your mother, believe me I respect her. She raised the woman that made me believe in love and who changed my life. She brought you up with values of simplicity and honesty.” He held her hands, “I know I’ve been at home lesser and barely there for you. I haven’t been around because handling the business without Akash, has left me overloaded with work. I leave early, I come back late, I was so caught up with making things right in the business that I didn’t even realise that I basically deserted you in the process. I didn’t think about you, what you were feeling. You must have felt so lonely. I never intended for you to feel like I did not care. I care a lot Khushi. If something happened to you I can’t imagine… I can’t live without you. I’m so sorry.”
She leapt into his arms as sobs raked her form. “I thought you…I thought I lost you.”
Arnav patted her back, “Shhh…I’m right here…” He would do anything to make her stop crying, so he said the next words amicably, “You know you two can’t get rid of me so easily.” She stopped crying and pulled away from him, he smiled seeing her not crying anymore but a second later he earned himself a pillow blow to his head.
“What was that for?” Arnav rubbed his head.
Her nose turned red as she scowled at him, “For saying you know you two can’t get rid of me so easily’ I feel like throwing more pillows at you.”
He picked up the rose that she had not noticed yet and held it in front of her, “Sorry… I just wanted you to stop crying.” His puppy dog eyes melted her and she gave in, smiling at him.
Without saying a word, he adjusted his head onto her lap as he looked at Khushi’s stomach, where his little son or daughter was nestled. She stroked his hair, “Arnavji…” He looked up at her, “Hmm…” She smiled, “I love you.” He wound his arm around her waist, “I love you too.”
Note; A hearty thank you for everyone that read, liked and commented on the first part. I really appreciate all the love. I know a lot of you all wanted a second part. I’m sorry it took so long for the second part to be updated. I hope you all enjoyed this two shot. Lots of love. Sarita