The wind was cool. Blue sky appeared cleaner - unusual in a the Mumbai monsoon when it rained cats and dogs almost every day. The sun was going down. It wouldn't take long before the clouds gathered, boasted their impatient grumbling, and cold droplets pelted down. She could visualise the town in her mind, the tumult it would come down to when it began raining. She heard the groans and complains in her mind, loud words and urgency in them.
Ishani shifted in her place, staring at the sky, hoping to keep tears at bay, and miserably failing.
They fell like the rain she was waiting for.
She closed her eyes and tears fell, unbridled manifestation of her agony. The clear sky laughed at her misery, smiled at the way her world crumbled, piece by piece, layer by layer, then all at once. She hadn't been given a chance to hold onto it before destiny unleased its treacherous horrors upon her. Hailstorms destroying a poor man's home.
That's how she felt.
Her phone vibrated quietly but she paid no attention to it. Her eyes diverted to the people around her, smiles and laughter: pure happiness. An emotion she no longer felt. She dashed the tears away with the back of her hand, making her best efforts to not shed any more of them. It wasn't a deal her heart was ready for.
More tears fell.
Five years. Five years, she told herself bitterly. She'd wanted to make her marriage last. To prove her mother wrong who believed men were only after a woman's body and money. That they weren't capable of loving a woman with all their hearts and souls. She wanted to prove men didn't just lust after women. That's not how Chirag was. He loved her. He'd been there with her when she was at her lowest. He was with her when her father's business collapsed and things went haywire all of a sudden, a split moment unveiling ceaseless miseries. He was with her when her best friend betrayed her.
She couldn't believe how a year old relationship had given her so much more than a fifteen year old friendship. Chirag was everything she'd dreamed of in a man. He was everything her father said she would need in a life partner. He was everything - her best friend, her love, her husband.
Except, he wasn't.
The realization made her clutch at the bench harder: hard enough to poke the iron pin in her right palm and make it bleed. Blood warmed her skin. Her heart remained cold.
How could he cheat her? How could he cheat her with her own sister, Disha? Hadn't Chirag declared he loved Ishani and not Disha years ago? What changed him? What made Ishani more sick was that Disha, too, had cheated her fiancé of two years, Manas.
She had always liked Manas, but right now, she felt a kinship with him she had never felt before. She wondered how would he cope with the betrayal. How would he be able to move on.
"Ishani, if something goes wrong, I'm always there for you." Her mother's words echoed in her mind. She had a home. The Parekh Mansion. Her mother, Baa, Devarsh, Pratiek... they all lived there. A happy family. The only upheaval in family after her father's demise had been when Devarsh got married to Parul, the cousin of RV. Baa refused to accept her as a family even though the rest of the family welcomed her. Her mother was the happiest of all when she found out who Parul was.
Ranveer's cousin. Ranveer, who also happened to be RV.
After her marriage with Chirag, her mother had almost stopped speaking to her. Baa was unhappy, because her dream of getting Disha a rich husband had shattered. It didn't matter to her, though, as long as she had Chirag.
Her love and marriage was a battle against the world. But, eventually, she was the loser.
She wanted to prove her mother wrong. She wanted to prove Ranveer wrong. And she had full faith in her father's judgement who believed Chirag was the right person for her.
"I've known Chirag ever since he was in diapers." Her father laughed one day after her engagement with Chirag. She sat beside her father in his room as he shared with her how much love meant in a relationship. He was a hopeless romantic. And even though he wasn't her own father, Harshad Parekh had loved Ishani like his own daughter. She was his life.
But before she could get married, her father passed away. The grief and tragedy hit them like a train, leaving them paralysed. It wasn't until her marriage that things became normal. Or so she thought.
Ranveer had left no stone unturned in breaking her engagement with Chirag. Making this marriage a success was a mission she would happily assign for.
But how could she make it work when one side wasn't willing to? It was this morning that Disha visited her home. It was unusual for Disha to speak with her so sweetly.
People change, Ishani believed. Disha could change too.
Apparently, she didn't. Neither did people change.
While she was at the office today, Ishani heard strange sounds coming from Chirag's cabin. Her heart pounded. She stepped closer and closer, pressed her ears to the door, only to hear a moan from inside. It was a deranged, but familiar voice. It mumbled Chirag's name repeatedly.
She almost threw up when Ishani realized it was Disha in her husband's cabin. Without waiting for another moment, Ishani tapped the door, attracting the people's attention towards her. She didn't care. Delayed response filled her with rage and she tapped harder. Moments later, Chirag opened the door and Disha stood behind him, clutching at her disoriented clothes. Her hair was fazed and she smoothed them with her hands.
"Baby..." His heavy breathing, shocked expressions gave him away. It hurt her that he didn't even try to hide anything from her. Her eyes moved to Disha, her gaze fixed at the marble floor.
"You two are disgusting!" she whispered. "For how long has this been this going on?"
"Let me explain, baby." Chirag moved towards her.
"Stop." She raised her hand. "Don't."
"I said leave, Chirag!"
"This is my office. I'm the owner. You can go away with your mistress anywhere you want!"
Ishani wished she could remain as strong all the time as she was in that moment. Now, as she sat alone in a place she wasn't sure of, she knew she was falling apart. Even though she hadn't realized, the clouds had gathered in the sky, swallowing down the remaining of the stars. Few drops fell, wetted the ground. More followed. And then, it was a riot! Everything she'd imagined a few minutes ago came to life. She heard the rustling of the plastic covers aiding the shops, the people helping each other. The mothers called their children in, the others ran for shelter. Ishani didn't move. Now, she was alone.
She couldn't go back home. She hadn't been there in last two years ever since her father died. Now, barging in after confidently declaring in front of everyone that her love was going to last didn't seem right. She didn't trust them not to laugh at her. Ishani began walking, unsure where and why, in a direction unknown to her. She glanced around - the place was familiar; so were the buildings, and the roads. She'd been here with Chirag hundreds of times. And now, all of it seemed like a memory far, far beyond her reach: that no matter how hard she ran, how far she went, it wasn't going to be enough. She wasn't going to be enough. It would never work out.
In the last two hours, Ishani had made some failed attempts to block Chirag away. Not to imagine his face in her palms and how their love flourished even after everyone told them it wouldn't.
She hated and loved him.
Ishani must have come far away from the town. The lights were dimmed and the roads were empty with no vehicle in her sight. Suddenly, at the corner, as she moved further, a car came to a screeching halt, barely a few inches away from her. She stood there, frozen, blinded by the headlights.
"Hey, girl!" a man yelled from inside the car. "If death is so dear to you, why don't you go somewhere else to get yourself killed? Why do you -" He was interrupted from speaking.
Ishani mumbled a sorry and started walking again, only to be stopped by a familiar voice.
"Ishani!" Without intending to, it warmed her from inside.
She turned around. She looked at him. "Ranveer."