"I'll only give 80 rupees for this," said Aarvi, holding the blue coloured bracelet.
"I can't give you this for 80," replied the 40-something shopkeeper.
"What? 120 is too much. Give me 80 or I'm leaving.” She placed the bracelet back on the stand.
"Okay, 100," The shopkeeper demanded.
"Okay, fine!” The shopkeeper gave up.
A smile of victory came on Aarvi's face. She paid and smiled at him, "Thank you, bhaiya."
The shopkeeper looked at her with a puckered face and nodded. That made Aarvi chuckle.
She was walking on the road and heard a voice call out her name. She turned around to locate the source of the voice and stood rooted as she came face to face with him.
Darshan somehow managed to smile a little but Aarvi couldn’t. She tried to act normal to no avail.
"So after three years you are here. Any reason?" Darshan asked, taking a sip of his coffee.
"Yes, my aunt got sick. I came to see her. Now, I'm going back to Delhi again. My flight was at 10 but because of this stupid rain my flight is delayed by 6 hours."
"6 hours!" Darshan widened his eyes.
"Yes. And roaming here on the streets, I managed to pass just one hour. I have no idea how long I can sit here." She rolled her eyes in disgust and took a sip from her cup.
Darshan smiled a little because he knew very well how much she hated to wait.
He cleared his throat and said, "I can help you with it."
Aarvi looked at him, one eyebrow raised.
"We can spend time by talking about our lives." Darshan explained.
"About our lives? I don't think we have much interest in that." Aarvi replied, absentmindedly circling the tip of her finger on the edge of the coffee cup.
"Maybe you don't but I do. So tell me about your life." Darshan sat straight in his chair. "Are you happy in your marriage life?" He asked, making Aarvi look at him.
"Of course, I am. We're very happy. He loves me a lot." She answered, looking away.
"And you?" Darshan asked instantly.
"What?" Aarvi asked.
"Do you love at him?" He asked.
"What kind of question this is? He's my husband, of course, I love him." Aarvi snapped.
"Sorry for this stupid question." Darshan apologized. He added, "You didn't even invite me to your wedding, Aarvi." He added.
"Because I knew you would never come. And honestly, I didn't wanna see you in my wedding." She said directly.
Darshan said nothing and lowered his head.
"So what about your life?" Aarvi asked, breaking the awkward silence.
"All I have in my life after you is music." He replied.
"Why don't you get married yet?" Aarvi asked.
"Well, I don't have any interest in it anymore." He huffed.
"Why?" Aarvi questioned.
"Because I don't think that I can love someone else as I loved you." Darshan was looking at her but she couldn’t meet his eyes. She smiled blankly.
"Look who's saying this. The person who left me." She stated, bitterly.
"I'm sorry." He uttered.
"The sorry is meaningless now, Darshan," Aarvi said.
"But I really loved you." He said.
"Really, Darshan?," Aarvi looked at him, "Then why did you leave me? Why did you leave me all alone?"
"You know the reason, Aarvi. My relatives...."
Aarvi cut him off and said, "Yeah, I know. I know that your relatives were not happy with me. As if my dad was always so happy, right? You know how I was after my mom and dad's divorce. When my mom left us, you know I was broken and shattered. You pulled me out of that situation Darshan. You protected me. You taught me how to trust someone and how to love someone again." Her eyes became teary.
"And I did. I did trust you, I loved you. I loved you with all of my heart. I gave you all that I had. What did I want, Darshan? I just wanted you to stay by my side. Did I ask for too much? After knowing all these things, you left me, you broke me into more pieces than I was previously. When my father and relatives were going against our relationship, I fought with them. I tried to console them, tried to convince them. I was ready to fight with all of them, I was ready to stand against the whole world but you stepped back. You gave up, Darshan. You left my hand at that moment when I needed you the most. You left me all alone!" She couldn't hold back her tears anymore, they also ditched her and left from her eyes.
She stood up and left the cafe. She wiped her tears. Darshan followed her. He stopped her by the elbow, turned her around to face him and cupped her face.
"I'm sorry. Really, really sorry. I know I hurt you a lot but trust me I was hurt too. Please forgive me." He rested his forehead on hers.
"Darshan, leave me." She uttered.
"Please forgive me," Darshan repeated.
"Darshan, leave me."
"No, I won't. I won't leave you this time." He told her, tightening his grip on her.
"I'm married, Darshan." Tears built their way from her eyes again.
Darshan looked at her and left her with a jerk. He moved two steps back.
"Yes, you are married. You are married." He repeated his words. "You hold his hand. You hold his hand so easily. How can you when I'm still here, missing you every day?" He asked, with a hint of desperation in his voice.
"You left me no choice, Darshan." She groaned in frustration.
"And you know what? Abhi is far better than you. At least, he's always there for me whenever I need him. No matter where we are, what the situation is; he will never leave my hand," Aarvi gave her final statement.
For a while, they were standing there numbly looking into each other's eyes. Then Darshan stomped away in anger.
Aarvi started crying and couldn’t stop. She didn't even know for how long she exactly cried. Then her phone rang. She picked up the call.
"Hullo?" She said.
"Hey, Aa… Aaru, are you crying?" Abhimanyu asked as he heard her voice.
"No, Abhi, I'm not crying. Actually, I ate two ice-creams so my voice just..." That was not at all a lie. She really did eat two ice-creams before Darshan came.
"So where are you now? At the airport?” Abhimanyu asked.
"No, in a cafe," Aarvi replied.
Aarvi looked at the empty seats in front of her and said, "Of course, alone, Abhi."
"No, I thought you have bumped into some of your old friends there, after all, you stayed there for so many years." He said.
"No, I'm sitting alone. I found no one." She shut her eyes.
"If you want, you can sit with some handsome boys. I don't mind at all." Aarvi could feel his smirk through the phone.
"Shut up, Abhi." She chuckled softly.
"Okay, stay safe. I will come to pick you up from the airport."
Aarvi was sitting at the airport, reading a book. Her flight was announced. She got up, took her bags and started walking when a voice called out her name and she knew it was him.
"Aarvi!" She turned around. Darshan ran to her.
"Your flight is here?" He asked, out of breath. Aarvi could only nod.
She looked into his eyes, they were red due to crying.
"Can I suggest something?" Aarvi asked him.
"Yeah, go ahead,” Darshan urged her.
"Find a perfect girl for yourself and marry her, Darshan," She said.
Darshan was looking straight into her eyes.
"It'll help you. But never tell me. Because I am not that brave to see you with someone else.", She stopped, took a deep breath and continued, "Stay happy. At least... try? Give a second chance to life. This time it won’t disappoint you. You deserve better than this."
She turned her trolley around and started to leave. They again left each other with teary eyes. Darshan only saw her leaving. He wanted to stop her, hug her tightly and kiss her for the last time but he couldn't. Because he knew that now she had someone else in her life.
"Yes, it can be better than this." He smiled and slowly made his way out of the airport.