So, with this Epilogue the journey of Soulmates has come to an end. It's quite an inexplicable feeling for the moment, because I never truly thought Soulmates would ever end. More because I loved exploring IshVeer, their lives and their emotions, and never wanted to imagine a day without them. But everything that exists does end, right? It's the Law of the Universe.
However, it's been an amazing journey with all of you. Now, that we're drawing towards this journey's end, I thank each and every soul that invested their priceless time in reading this FF. It would never have been possible without your continuous love and support. As a writer, to me, each reader, each read, each comment, each critique has mattered a lot. Everything helped me improve myself, and get to this point. Thank you so, so much, everyone.
There are certain names without whom I can't imagine Soulmates reaching to this point.
Prateek. I know most of you don't know him, but he came here when I started the FF and had no idea where to take the story after a couple of chapters since I was the most unromantic person one would ever find. And this boy gives me this precious advice: "If you want to write a love story, you'll have to accept romance." Another thing I am to thank him for is that Soulmates would never have existed post Chapter 5 had it not been for him. The March leap had me left devastated and angry, and unsure what to do with Soulmates; and then it was Prateek who told me I must continue because as a writer it's my duty to write. Well, today Soulmates certainly reached here because of this advice. Thank you is not enough, really. I truly hope you come back to this thread again, Prateek, because you hold a very special place in its existence.
LadyMaringue, I'll never be able to thank you enough for your support. Your expectations used to be frightening (and you know very well how much :D) and if anyone has known this journey the closest, it's you. It's like you've been there like a backbone to me from the start, helping me, supporting me, guiding me, and giving me your feedbacks on the chapters. I still remember the horror before the Valentine's Day chapter because romance was something I could never think of justifying properly. And during that phase, you were the one that listened to ALL my rants and how nervous I was. Your patience has motivated me a lot throughout the while I was stuck, at times frustrated. You didn't just help me as a friend, but a writer and critique, too. You're truly an inspirational author, not to just me, but everyone there on the forum. And need I say how much Untold Stories helped me? I couldn't watch the previous episodes anymore, and then it was US which kept alive the memories and essence of IshVeer in my mind. Even if it's not enough, thank you so, so much. And don't laugh when I say I just had tears in my eyes while typing this. xD
DV. I know you've not been here from the start, but I also know you've been so precious to me ever since you came here. How many times you saved me from dying from heart attack I'll never be able to thank you for. Each chapter felt like an exam and then your reviews used to be like those blows of the cold breeze on a hot day. Totally relieving. You know, your analysis was always so perfect, so brilliant that many a time it made me see things from a different perspective about the story and the characters, something I hadn't thought before. Apart from that, your resolute support has always helped me come up with something better each time, and with each chapter. I truly hope I didn't disappoint you, and if I ever did, my sincerest apologies. Thank you so, so much for staying here and you're a gem of a critic. A kind of person every author feels to have as their friend.
Melahny. Well, I know you guys don't know her, but she's known the entire plot of Soulmates from the beginning. Melahny, you'll never know how much your critiques and thoughts helped me improve in this journey. Your thoughts on the snippets you read were precious, more because you know how literature works. And seriously, your poetry was the real helper too. So, thank you so, so much, Melahny!
Even if thank you is not a word I can limit my gratitude in for you guys, I'd still like to say that. Hugs from my side to all.
So, with this, comes the end. Thank you once again, everyone. I love you all very much. 3 I don't have to say I'm excruciatingly terrified about this chapter.
3 years later...
For the first time in years her feet followed that path alone. The warmth within the hall reminded her of him, while the candles burning dotingly in front of her ignited the same desire to live as it had done that moment when they first arrived on the New Year Eve. She could only play those moments in her mind and every new turn her life took ever since her feet had first fallen in this place. It felt as if a miracle had taken place when her life was full of misunderstanding, lies and heartbreaks. It was as if her life had begun from here as it took her on various journeys with him from where she never returned.
She could still recall each and every detail of her life with him, as if all that happened had taken place a few moments ago and she would stroll back into her past, holding his hand and visiting each and every minute again. But whoever defied the laws of Nature? Not she. They had done their best to run against the time, defying the treacheries of the imminent calamity until they were forced to renounce the struggle.
The idol of Christ, now more burnished than before, resting on the wooden plinth cast its old majestic gleam, giving her little more hope as she stared at it in silence. The cross upon which Christ hung sent a painful wave of pain through her skin. The sufferings, she recalled, and few tears escaped her eyes like icicle drops on a wintery day.
She bowed her head low in prayer, and taking two steps back sat at the empty bench nearby, a much required solace she needed at the moment. For a while, her eyes closed, trying not to think of the ever growing nervousness that threatened to claim her very thoughts any moment now.
Visiting the church had become a part of her life whenever it came to him, or the things relating to him. Today was such day, and he would be so proud! A smile formed on her lips. She rarely smiled like this these days, but today was an exception and she already had broken her rules.
Time ceased to exist when she set her feet in this place. The next moment proved it.
"Ishani! Ishani!" The voice echoed in the hall faintly until it sinuously rang beside her.
Ishani smiled, and turned her head towards the direction of the voice. An infuriated glare welcomed her sight.
"You don't remember you're supposed to reach the Marriott in the next 20 minutes?"
Ishani shrugged her shoulders like a child. "Don't get mad at me, Puneet," she said, standing up and smoothing the creases her gown. "They can wait for a while."
"RV sir would never get this late, you know?"
A dreamy look crossed her eyes at the mention of RV, and she looked lost. Puneet waved his hand in front of her, and Ishani was snapped back to the present. "I know." Her voice sank to a whisper as she advanced further, Puneet waking beside her.
"How am I supposed to say you created some real ruckus today? They're all waiting for you, and it'll take us 45 minutes to get there. We're already late!"
Ishani sighed. "So impatient," Ishani taunted. "It happens. It's alright!"
"Nothing's too much for you, is it?"
Ishani smiled. "I still need to take one final look of it today, Puneet."
"Cool. It's all yours. You're the boss."
Ishani's heart thumped at the mention of 'boss', but unlike all the time before when Puneet at times even earned a punch from her, she remained quiet and walked ahead.
As they exited the church the cold autumn air stroked their faces in gentle pats, stirring a melancholy in their hearts as they decided to take their feet to their final destination. Ishani carefully sat on the passenger's seat and requested Puneet to accompany her as the driver took them ahead.
"So?" Ishani asked, looking at Puneet.
Puneet understood her question and smiled uneasily. "I'm nervous. It was my dream," he said, sighing.
Ishani could see his eyes shine with nervousness, and smiled. "It's going to be alright."
"Do you want to take another look at it now?"
Ishani nodded, and Puneet produced an 870 pages long copy of a book. Ishani gently took the copy from his hand and felt her heart skip a beat. RV: The Unknown Wunderkind, it read in white large fonts carved upon a brown cover, and a small smile formed on her lips. The blurb below the title spoke of the achievements in four words, but she knew these four words, or an entire book full of his achievement could never confine RV in their pages. Ishani remembered his face when Puneet had proposed the idea of writing a book about him, and all Ranveer had done was look at them blankly as though he'd received an uncanny news of loss in business. She still relished that moment, for it felt inexplicably precious for certain reasons she had no answers of. It wasn't until the next six months he had agreed at her incessant insistence, and she had pulled his cheeks again.
"The only characteristic he matched with the fellow businessmen of the country was that he was ridiculously unromantic when it came to life."
Puneet smiled as Ishani read the first line of the novel, and nodded his head.
"Despite all, you mentioned that he was unromantic startles me, you know?" Ishani said, as she flipped through the pages filled with the brutal honest account of Ranveer's life, while Puneet chuckled. He hadn't left a single detail of Ranveer's life untouched, and yet Ishani realized RV was much more than these pages could ever truly explore. The pages knew RV, the man, and so would the world. The excitement had been homogonous at the revelation of the news in the market, and so were the expectations. However, the amount of time it took to finish the work left Puneet with unease. For converging the final details in one book of 800 pages had not been an easy task. Neither about the man himself, nor about the achievements of which the world was witness to. Yet this was all that the world could know of about him. The world would never know the man she did. The man who loved her and the man that had picked himself up from not just the broken fragments of his heart, but the life that had been ruthlessly crushed under the burdens of agonizing realities and mockery. Perhaps it could help with the dramatic effect to the book, but no. It would never help see the real Ranveer to them.
Puneet himself was the one who had decided to avoid certain parts, stating the obvious that the world needed to know RV, not Ranveer, even though the real character was none other than Ranveer himself. How would the calculative world know of Ranveer, the man behind RV?
Ishani sighed, gulping. The words printed on the paper took her back to the era she still cherished and regretted oftentimes. The moments with and without him. The moments away from him, until their destiny had tied them together for eternity. But did it?
Ishani wiped the drops of tears from her cheeks, and smiled. "Is Sally already there?" she asked, placing the book on her lap and looking at Puneet.
"Yes, she's been there since last fifteen minutes already and eagerly waiting for us."
The lobby of the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel bathed in the silver glow of the evening lights welcomed them as Ishani stood at the entrance. A smile graced her lips as she spotted Sally, by her side sat Abigail, dearly known as little Abbey. At Ishani's sight Abbey flashed the widest smile as the mother-daughter stood up to welcome her. Sally ambled towards Ishani and Puneet, and gave them a tight hug.
"I've been waiting for you two for half an hour!"
Puneet shrugged and looked at Ishani whose guilty eyes pleaded Sally for apology. Sally smiled and placed her hand on Ishani's shoulder.
"Come," she said, and led Ishani towards the place assigned for Ishani, Ranveer's parents and Sally, and a seat remained empty. Sally patted Ishani's shoulder as a wistful look crossed her face, bleakness closing in on her features. Ishani smiled, and took the seat while the rest three chairs remained empty.
Ranveer's parents had shifted back to India after hers and Ranveer's marriage, and would visit London occasionally whenever time permitted. They had to leave last week due to some urgency in work, and thus would not be turning up tonight for the day. However, they had sent their regards and best wishes to Puneet for his kindness and invitation as well as apology for not being able to be there for him.
In the next 20 minutes, Ishani saw Puneet take up the stage and she sighed. For a moment her eyes fell on Sally who sat there with a proud twinkle in her eyes. Puneet began with the speech as he stated of the new venture and man who inspired it. The crowd remained in the stupor of the words as silence swayed in the hall warmly.
Puneet's words took a vivid form in front of her as she felt being thrown in her past once again, living the same life all over again. How time flew away, Ishani couldn't tell, but at last a gentle tap on her shoulder snapped her out of her deep reverie. Ishani looked at the direction of the tap and found Sally staring at her. She nudged her towards the stage as Ishani saw Puneet advance towards her. Ishani smiled, wiping the tears, and climbed on the stage. The crowd ahead felt intimidating at first before Ishani composed herself, and gave a generous smile. She knew why she was here, then why all of a sudden the words would not escape her mouth? A simple speech for him... She could say a thousand words about him without a single halt, then why it all felt so overwhelming suddenly?
However, Ishani closed her eyes, recalling all the things he would tell her, and opened them again. She didn't have to say things in multitude about Ranveer, so she decided to speak what her heart told her to.
"It is said," Ishani began, "that behind a man's success there's always a woman who has either accompanied him at each step on his struggle or has motivated him immensely to find a way for himself out of the dark. That's what he always told me as well, but I beg to differ. Behind my success, it's two men who inspired me to become I am today. My father and my husband. Ishani was nothing without Ranveer, and she still isn't. The words I seek to speak for my husband will never truly explain the true man I've known... because words can't be enough for him. They never were. He is an extraordinary man whose ideals will exist for years and years in future." She turned to look at Puneet and continued. "Puneet, thank you so, so much for the honour you've bestowed on him. The world needed to know RV, and you've done the perfect job." With that, Ishani climbed down the stage, and sat on the chair as Sally and Puneet gave her a quiet smile.
"Are you alright?" Sally asked, and Ishani nodded in return. She surely needed some time to compose the helpless bristling of the emotions. The next Ishani knew was the noise of the claps reaching her ears as the book finally was launched, and everyone stood up both in honor and excitement, followed by Ishani at last as the world began its journey to knowing RV, the man that changed the world in an extraordinary way. By the time the noise subsided, all she knew was it was the proudest moment for her, and Ranveer. Yet ironically, her husband would probably not the say the same.
The evening dissolved into the night when Ishani found herself on her way back to home, this time alone. She had decided to drop Puneet, Sally and Abbey home as they all decided they wanted to spend some more time with her. However, Ishani had her own plans. The cold moon scudded quietly in the starry sky, never dulling in the glow even after the glaring impact of the streetlamps on the road. The road was silent in this part as asked the driver to take a shortcut to RV Mansion, hoping to reach home on time. Enchanting memories of the book launch floated in her mind once again, making Ishani wish Ranveer could see the entire function on his own... but it wasn't possible, she knew. The thought of Ranveer brought back everything about him and she sobbed a little, thankful that she was alone. The first copy of RV: The Unknown Wunderkind rested on the seat beside her as her reverent gaze followed it before fixing up again on the window outside. But her mind still continued to play the events which brought Ranveer at this moment, the achievements he had accomplished in such a young age where the people continued to wait for the right time, and it never came.
Ishani's thoughts flew back to the day they had first met, unaware of the fact what one would mean to another in a few days. So much that life without each other would seem impossible. But it wasn't that simple. Nothing was. She didn't know what she felt for him, and what he felt for her. She didn't know until it was somewhat too late. The guilt of never knowing her true feelings still stung her, at times painfully so. Maybe if she'd known what she felt for him earlier, it would never have been too bad?
Though, the positive consequence which surfaced from Ranveer's illness could not be ignored either. It was last year that Ranveer had begun to show the signs of tumor once again. Their families had ultimately grown together when they had needed the Parekhs the most. Even Baa as well, although Amba could not truly let go of her past, but she had given in to Ranveer's requests of having his Mota Babuji's family by his side. For a while it had seemed impossible to see her positive reaction, but one request from Ranveer to see her before his third surgery had melted his mother's heart. And Baa was called back. They were left surprised when the old woman had turned up, her eyes misty and full of regret. She apologized to Ranveer's family, stating she'd never be able to repay for their services, but Amba had not truly accepted the apology, and Baa hadn't blamed her either.
"I see my Harshad in Ranveer," she once told Ishani and Ishani had looked at her, surprised. "It took me too long to realize this. I'm sorry." It couldn't have been more amusing, truly.
Their families had been in good terms since then, including Amba and Kailash who decided to shift back to India and were now living in Mumbai at Falguni's insistence. Ranveer had visited India just once for Sharman's marriage, not being eager to return anytime soon. Three years didn't change much, yet she couldn't help but ponder at what way life had brought her.
And the most important factor of her life Chirag? Chirag had been non-existent in her life. His last attempt to ruin her life had been spoiled by Rishi who had seen him in jail two years ago and the trials still continued. But he wasn't a worry anymore. What would Chirag Mehta take away from her, really?
She sighed as the car halted in front of the large gates of RV Mansion. The splendid light within the house significantly deceived its imperceptible solitude, startling Ishani at first before her thoughts settled together. She shook her head and left the car to the guards' liberty as she made her way inside the house. The house was as quiet as she could expect it to be at 11PM. Not a moth fluttered to break the dreary silence.
"Dinner, madam?" Ishani heard a voice crack and turned around, surprised.
"No, thank you." She smiled. "Where is everybody?"
"All asleep since you had said you'd be returning late."
Ishani nodded, and thanked the woman, then made her way towards the backyard. A place which still hoarded hundreds of her secret meetings with him, all too clear still in her mind. This was the only place that hadn't altered in the rage of the fervent passing of years, leaving behind only the memories to hold on to. She still had these memories whittled in her very sense as though passed a few moments ago. The air around the lake was cold and she couldn't keep herself from shivering. Ishani pulled the jacket close to herself as she walked ahead, the moon casting its light on the ground now more magnificently, illuminating the darkest corners of the yard to her sight. Her eyes followed the smooth gravel path, and a smile passed through her lips. Her feet automatically led her to the end, and then halted. Her heart skipped several beats at once as she saw him there. Just like expected, he had sensed her presence.
Ishani sat down, the sight of the lake before her eyes still as beautiful as she remembered it to be for years.
"You're back!" His voice drew her out of her reverie and Ishani blushed, her eyes shining.
"I missed you there, Ranveer."
Ranveer sat up, and turned his face towards her. A comely smile passed his tired face and Ishani stared into his eyes. Never did they fail to disarm her even after all those years.
"So many people wanted to meet you."
Ranveer sighed, and shifted his attention back towards the lake, watching the moonlight flicker across the surface of the dark water. "I know."
Ishani suddenly spotted the copy of RV: the Unknown Wunderkind lying by Ranveer's side, and she picked it up. "You finished it?"
"You loved it, didn't you?"
"The story has ended, Ishani." His voice carried a wistful desperation and Ishani placed her hand on his.
Ishani looked up at him, and shook her head. "It hasn't." She brought his hand to her lips and kissed it in assurance. "The book covered a certain part of your life... it wasn't everything. Alright?"
Ranveer moved ahead, and took Ishani in his arms, Ishani placing her head on his chest wearily. The sound of his heartbeats today was more beautiful than she ever remembered it to be. The silence around them made it impossible to keep her from sobbing.
"Ishani?" Ishani separated herself from him, and wiped her tears.
"Ranveer... I wanted to tell you something more," Ishani whispered, and at his confused look, guided his hand towards her belly. Understanding dawned on Ranveer, as his look remained shocked for a while before it settled in that of amusement.
"It kicked!" he said, smiling at Ishani.
"Yes, we both have been the happiest today. It's because of you."
Ranveer withdrew his hand from Ishani and an awkward silence ensued between them.
The second assault of tumor had been terrifying, more to him than her, and it was inevitable. What surprised them was his will to fight back this time. Ranveer had refused to give up, giving Ishani her hopes as well. But it wasn't until the third surgery that she had gathered her courage to stand by her husband's side. And since then they never looked back.
And he? He always said, he'd fight even with the death for her, and he did. Ranveer's recovery was astonishing in all ways, but the doctors asserted it was his will to live which prevailed this time instead of the medicines and the therapies. The tumor cells had been dispelled by the treatment of 10 months, leaving behind the Ranveer that wanted to live on, even if it could be only for a day after this conduct. His fears of wanting to stay away from Ishani had come true, but this time he was the one who had fought them.
Yet, disease left its long lasting impacts on him, mental and emotional. As well as physical weakness from which he was yet to recover. But it was his strength which mattered the most to Ishani and those around him. Still, Ishani could sense some reluctance in his eyes.
"Ishani... are you alright?" Ranveer asked, and looking at him, a smile formed on her lips.
Ishani shifted in her place uncomfortably. "Yes." She nodded her head. "It all feels so perfect, Ranveer. I met your doctor today and he also gave green signal for your health." She snuggled on his chest once again. "Miracle did happen after all. It had to."
"It did," Ranveer said softly.
"Aren't you afraid... of future?" Ishani asked, separating herself from him, and Ranveer smiled.
"Not anymore," he said firmly. Ranveer lay down on the ground, pulling Ishani alongside as they fell on the ground clumsily. Ishani laughed. The child in Ranveer never stopped from resurfacing. He covered them both in the velvety blanket as the cold dispersed away, comforting them both. It was after months they spent an evening by the lake, and neither of them willed to take a leave.
However, as Ishani looked at him, she felt her heart break. His worn face, now paler than before and his eyes twinkling in the dark stared at her. She shifted herself close to him and took his face in her hand.
"Me neither," Ishani said. "Unlike before, Ranveer, I realize I have more faith in everything. And most importantly in you."
Ranveer moved away and lay supine, glancing upwards in the sky while Ishani's hand still remained in his. "When we married, things were so different."
"But our love wasn't."
He looked at her.
"And it's not going to change ever either," Ishani said.
"Ishani," Ranveer said. "I want you to make one promise to me."
Ishani nodded, her eyes welling up at the thought of what he might tell her.
"We don't know what our future will be. Nobody does, but in our case it's somewhat known. Just in case anything goes wrong... promise me you'll never break down. Will you do this for me?" His own voice echoed thick with emotions.
"When I lost Papa, I didn't know how I'd survive in a world like this, but then you came and everything changed. Ranveer, I have my faith still intact just like before. I know you aren't going anywhere." She held his hand in hers and pressed squeezed it.
Ranveer smiled. "You can't run away from the truth, Ishani. Neither can I. And trust me, even if I'll not be here physically, I'll still be with you all the time. Looking for you, laughing with you, crying with you. Seeing our baby grow up. True, I'm never going anywhere. I'm never leaving you. And if there comes a day when you can't see me, just know I'm right there. In your soul. As alive as you are. Forever."
Ishani sobbed, masking it as a cough, and gulped in an attempt to keep her emotions steady. "Just because I said I'm not afraid of your illness anymore, doesn't mean you've got to talk all this, alright?" Ishani said as tears escaped her eyes. "You know, Ranveer, if anyone taught me to see the world differently, it's you. I didn't believe in miracles, and it was you that made Ishani believe they could exist, becoming an example one yourself."
"Ishani." Ranveer wiped her tears. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you like this. It's just... I'm talking about something we both know is inevitable."
"Could be," Ishani corrected. "It's not inevitable, Ranveer. And you know what? If it's this way, how come you think I'll ever leave you? I'll follow you anywhere you go."
"What about our child?" Ranveer pointed towards Ishani's belly, and Ishani looked up.
"We're going to see it grow together, and become proudest parents. Trust me."
Ranveer took her in his arms again and placed a soft kiss on her lips, Ishani closing her eyes at the familiar touch. She clutched at his shirt and pulled him close.
"I want to live through this for the rest of my life, and I know I will," she said through the kiss, emphasizing on the last sentence.
"It's your faith which has brought me here to this point, Ishani."
"And it will take us further, don't worry."
"So, is it the end? End of our story? It's all perfect. We're the happiest." Ranveer separated himself from her and tucked her hair behind her ears.
"This is not the end." Ishani smiled. "There will come a day when our parts in this story will and then someone else will take it further with them, passing our legacy in the future."
Ranveer smiled and clasped her hand. "Look the dawn is about to break. Night is fading."
Ishani gasped, surprised. Truly, stars had begun to fade, and the red gleam adorned the eastern sky beyond the lush green trees. How night had passed in these hours they didn't realize, but this dawn was another evidence that they had spent one more day together, happy and in each other's arm. Just like they had dreamed it all their lives. Ranveer looked at Ishani and placed his palm on hers, Ishani squeezing it softly. She smiled at him, making another promise like she did three years ago on their marriage to stay with him. Life was too uncertain, she knew it very well, but she never denied the power of their love either. His love had brought them this far, her faith had kept it from falling into the abyss of despair even in the darkest hours.
They were two souls destined to be with each other that ferociously fought with the ironic side of the destiny to keep them together, from falling apart. Weren't they both One now? Their souls tied together by the strongest of the bonds that wouldn't shatter by any blow anymore, no matter what it took them to go on? How could death ever prevail when it was their love guarding their souls? They were Soulmates, their Souls intertwined together for eternity. How would one exist if another left? Battles would go on as long they lived. Threats would exist as long as they loved. Doubts would linger forever as the relics of their struggles, and scars adorning their hearts would forever sing the tales of their victory. But wasn't it always meant to be like this? Their tale wasn't meant to be simple, instead, it had to pass through the entangled threads of life to persuade destiny to realize its very own limits.
Destiny's ruthlessness couldn't rule their world where love existed.
"Isn't it beautiful?" Ranveer said, looking at her.
"It is." Ishani moved closer to Ranveer and closed her eyes. Soon, the rays of the sun broke through the horizon as Ishani felt her lips collide with Ranveer's gently.
Terrified, fear ambulated away, leaving behind the yearning of the two aching souls that found solace in each other's arms while the Sun above smiled, casting its brightest rays upon them as though in blessing.
The shadows began to fall away, and light again triumphed.
Goodbye, guys. I hope this journey was worth it. xx