Family Day

Family Day

Harsh woke up early that day. He had a  planned with Jen and he had to get ready and pick her up. Harsh and Jen had a family gettogether with her parents and brother. Though Harsh had already met Jen’s mother and brother, he was yet to meet her father. This very reason made the trip important. Jen loved her family more than anything and Harsh also loved them for being so supportive to Jen throughout her life.

Jen was excited as well as scared for the meet. She had already introduced Harsh to her brother and mother. But this time she would be introducing him as her fiancé. She was sure that her family would love Harsh, but she was not sure how her father would act when he finally meets him. After Harsh proposed Jen, she couldn’t hold herself from calling everyone she loved and telling them about the engagement. She called her mother and talked to her for half an hour and they both ended up crying. Jen was happy beyond explanation and her happiness rolled as tears from her eyes. It was not the first time that Jen was in love or engaged but with Harsh it was different. With him everything was different. He was that one person with whom she felt happy as well as content, like all her searches ended right where he was looking at her and smiling.

Jen got out of her bed and made herself a cup of coffee. She took her phone and checked the gallery and smiled at the pics of her and Harsh and smiled at the morning sun in the east. Jen opened her closet and took one dress after the other and still couldn’t decide which one she should wear for the meet. Then she decided to wear a white top and a black jean. Jen got ready and waited for Harsh to pick her up. When she got inside the car she smiled at Harsh and he smiled back. Jen was sure that he was tensed, and she held his hand tight assuring that everything was going to be fine. It should be because Jen has never been this sure about anything in her life.

Jen and Harsh reached Jen’s parents’ home by noon. Jen’s parents and brother welcomed them and asked Harsh to make himself comfortable. Jen’s sister in law had already arranged the table and her nephew was most excited about the dinner. He is such a cute child. He loves Jen very much and as he knew that Jen loved Harsh, he was very curious to know more about Harsh. Jen’s nephew kept on asking questions about almost everything. Harsh’s family, studies, likes, routine. He acted like an elder who wants to make sure that the guy is right for the girl and it was cute. Harsh liked Shawn right away.

The lunch was overwhelming. Jen’s mother made Harsh eat a lot which he loved all the way. The food was delicious, and the family was love. Jen’s brother and mother talked a lot to Harsh, but her father spoke a very few words throughout the meeting. Harsh was not sure what to understand from it. He tried to figure out if he had done something wrong to invite his displeasure. Harsh thought about all the things that had happened since he had got there and couldn’t understand what he did wrong. Jen’s father intimidated Harsh a bit. The way he looked at Harsh was so judgemental that Harsh wanted to be invisible for some time. Harsh looked at Jen and he found her looking at his side and smiling playfully. She could understand his situation. This is another speciality of Jen. She always knows what is in heart and he don’t even have to say it. She understands but she never tries to get in to a conversation until he is ready. She waits, gives time, but always stays near so that when he needs a hug, she is there close by. She was that kind of person. God’s Zariya to bring happiness and smiles to everyone around her. Harsh smiled back tensely and Jen laughed softly. Harsh also laughed and no one else in the room would ever know the conversation they just had.

After the lunch everyone sat down as a family and talked. Everyone loved Harsh. It is tough to not love him. He is genuine and innocent and puts everyone else before him. Jen looked at Harsh throughout the conversation and she knew that there were tears in her eyes, the kind that no one else can see but herself. When Harsh and Jen was about to leave, Jen’s father asked Harsh to come in to his room for a private conversation. Harsh’s heart started beating faster. He followed Jen’s dad and turned back and looked at Jen with his puppy eyes and Jen smiled assuring him that everything will be alright.

Jen’s dad: So, you two are engaged?

Harsh: Yes Sir.

Jen’s dad: Don’t you think it’s a bit early for getting in to a relationship?

Harsh: What do you mean Sir? We have known each other for more than a year now.

Jen’s dad: Yes. But we had known him for a longer time than that. I think you know about Jen’s past.

Harsh: Yes, I do.

Jen’s dad: The Jen you see right now, this didn’t happen that easily. It took her years to get over the pain that man caused her. My child used to sit and cry for hours. Do you know how it feels when your child cries and as a father you are not able to do anything? I and her mother used to sit down with her not understanding what to do. She has worked hard, never blamed anyone, focused only on her career and now she is here, in her happy space. I want her to be in that happy space always.

Harsh: I understand Sir. I will always keep her happy. I promise.

Jen’s dad: I have heard false promises Harsh. It’s not your fault. I just want to protect my daughter. So, if you are not sure that you are going to stay, break it off now. The pain will be less. I don’t think my child or us can take another heartbreak. I hope you understand. Now you can go.

Jen’s father was teary eyed, and he walked out of the room leaving a confused Harsh.

On their drive back Harsh didn’t speak much and that bothered Jen, but she didn’t ask anything. She knew that he would tell her in sometime but this time it was different. Harsh didn’t say anything to Jen when he dropped her at home or on call at night. Jen was confused. For the next few days Harsh didn’t call much or came to see her. Jen didn’t understand what was happening, but she knew it was serious and she even thought of asking a few times, but he never wanted to speak about it. Harsh was becoming distant and silent.

It was the valentine’s week and Jen’s friends wanted to go to Goa. She was not in the mood but they all compelled her to go. Jen called Harsh and said that she was going to Goa and he was silent for some time and then wished her the best. Jen packed her bag and went to her friend’s house and from there they all went to the airport. Jen got the boarding pass and was waiting for the flight call when her phone rang. It was Harsh.

Harsh: Have you boarded the flight?

Jen: Not yet. What happened?

Harsh: I am outside the airport. They won’t let me in as I don’t have a ticket. (Harsh laughed)

Jen: I will come out now.

Harsh: No, you don’t. Go and enjoy the trip. I will wait for you.

Jen: But that’s not right. You are here, and I want to see you.

Harsh: I will be there your entire life, Jen. This is just a small trip. Come back soon.

Jen felt tears in her eyes and her throat was paining a bit. Harsh’s voice was trembling and she knew that he was holding back his tears and Jen didn’t know why. Harsh had always known that he wouldn’t leave Jen, ever. But it took him days to put it to words.

Harsh: I love you Jennifer Winget.

Jen: I love you too Harshad Chopda. I am coming back.

Harsh: I will be waiting. Always.

Harsh cut the call and walked towards his car and Jen went to board her flight and laughed and made crazy videos with her friends. She was so happy that she couldn’t express it rightly. She smiled and laughed throughout the trip and even made her friends do crazy things. Both Jen and Harsh had known love before but hadn’t known each other. It is not the way you love that make one relationship different from another. Love is always love and it stays the same. It is the people involved in a relationship that make it different and with Jen and Harsh it was damn perfect.

Amrutha

Sahasra Chapter 8 Mother and Motherland

Chapter 8: Mother and Motherland

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Sahasra watched the sun rising in the horizon turning the sea into a beautiful hue of yellow and gold. The waves shined and the wind was soft on her face. It had been more than a month and she was nearing her destination. Sahasra turned around and looked at the mass of land they were approaching. Mahishmathi seemed huge from the ship. The tall buildings and the much renowned palace were visible to her eyes. For any other voyager, from any part of the world, Mahishmathi would have been a wonder. But Sahasra was a Sarayuhan and nothing could astonish a Sarayuhan who lives in the land of fantasy. When the ship neared the dock Kshitij got down from it and Sahasra’s heart started beating faster. He was walking straight to the soldiers at the dock. A Sarayuhan is not allowed to enter Mahishmathi and he was going to show them the papers from her country which would definitely earn him a lifetime in jail or even death. Sahasra suddenly jumped down from the ship to the deck and ran towards Kshitij. By then the soldiers had verified his papers and had let him unload the cargo on the port. Sahasra was surprised.

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Sahasra: How did you even do that? I thought you will leave the ship in the open sea and would sneak in to Mahishmathi in a small boat but you simply walked towards the soldiers. Do you have that much hold in Mahishmathi?

Kshitij was surprised by her innocent question and looked at her for a while smiling and when he realized that she was serious about it, he started laughing. Sahasra got angry.

Sahasra: Why are you laughing?
Kshitij: Do you think that the Manishmathi army is made of idiots. No one, even the fiercest of pirates can cross the port and reach Mahishmathi, then who am I to do it? My father is originally from Ziran, a small island near Mahishmathi. His ship, which we have sailed till here is also registered to Ziran. My mother was from Sarayuha and after marrying her and having me he stayed in Sarayuha with us. He used to go to the sea and I lived with my mother. When my mother died, he took me with him to the sea.
Sahasra: I am sorry about your mother.
Sahasra’s face was dull and kshitij felt bad for making her sad. Kshitij smiled at her and suddenly turned to his left side and pointed at a shop.

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Kshitij: That one right there is the place where you can buy swords and knifes but make sure you won’t show any Sarayuhan coins here. I have to go to the black market to sell our goods or else the soldiers will figure out that they are from Sarayuha. Sarayuhan clothes have high demand in all the kingdoms but the people of Mahismathi are not allowed to trade with Sarayuha, so the rich buy from sailors like us through black market and will give us a huge amount for it. This is the reason why the sailors of Sarayuha go to the sea risking their lives. Our clothes fetch good amount and that sustains our land and help us buy necessary things for our people. I will go there and will come back by the evening. You should stay in the ship till then and we will go to the shop and buy some good steel together.

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Kshitij smiled looking at Sahasra. Sahasra always respected the sailors. They were the real heroes of Sarayuha. They put their life in danger everyday to keep her country from dying of famine. She looked at Kshitij with respectful eyes. You don’t have to carry a sword to be a warrior, all you need is courage.

Sahasra: Do not worry. I will go on my own. I will buy everything. I don’t want to waste time. I will be back in the ship before you come. I have brought gold only. There are no coins.
Kshitij: Are you sure?
Sahasra was not sure. She was not going to buy arms but was going to meet the King of Mahishmathi. She knew it was a huge risk if she gets caught, this might become the last time she is seeing Kshitij. A fear ran through her mind and she suddenly hugged Kshitij tight and her eyes filled with tears. Kshitij was shocked. Kshitij caressed his Saara’s hair. Sahasra stayed in the embrace for a long time and then broke off. She wiped her tears and smiled. Kshitij wanted to stay close to her for a longer time. Maybe forever. He smiled back at her.

Sahasra: A good luck hug for me. I am going to try a different accent to the shopkeeper or else he would send me to the court and then to dungeons.

Sahasra laughed like an innocent child and Kshitij couldn’t hold back his laughter. He laughed and his eyes became watery and he didn’t know why. Kshitij hugged Sahasra again and then they broke apart and he walked along with his crew in to the east side of the city and Sahasra towards the west. Both of them turned their heads at times and looked at each other all the way until they both were out of each other’s sight.

Sahasra wandered the streets of Mahishmathi watching its richness. She watched the well dressed, well fed people and their huge houses. Sahasra didn’t feel angry or jealous. They were the common people of the kingdom. We cannot hate people for having a better life when our mayhem is not their fault. Sahasra knew that the common people are never at fault and she had no hatred towards them. Sahasra was thinking of different plans to enter the palace when she heard an announcement that the queen mother Devasena was going to the temple for prayers. Sahasra knew that it was her chance and she ran towards the procession. Both sides of the road were filled with people who wanted to get a glimpse of Devasena and Sahasra didn’t think twice. When the palanquin carrying Devasena came nearby she moved through the mob to the center of the road. The soldiers who were on guard duty were shocked seeing her and they tried to beat her with long sticks. Sahasra blocked them with her sword and they realized that she was heavily armed and all of them drew out their swords. Sahasra was ready for a fight and she took position with a sword in one hand and a knife in the other. The cloth covering her face fell off and she didn’t bother to cover it again. She was here for peace talk and she should be who she is and should not hide behind a mask.

Devasena was curious to know what was happening outside and put her head out of the palanquin and found a few soldiers standing around a girl who was in warrior clothes. What astonished her most was that all the soldiers had their guard down and their swords were not drawn when the girl was armed with a sword and a knife. Devasena took a knife from the scabbard attached to her cloth and asked the palanquin holders to put her down. She could sense the curious and surprised mood of the crowd. Devasena walked towards the soldiers and asked then to move away to get a clear view of the girl and one look and her heart stopped. It was Avantika, only a younger and a bit taller one. But she looked the same as how Avantika used to look during her youth. Devasena had no idea who the girl was but she immediately asked the soldiers to tie her up and put her in the palanquin and bring her to the palace.

Sahasra was shocked to hear what Devasena said and she tried to escape from the scene. But the soldiers caught her and were about to tie her up when Kshitij, Karma and Saneel drifted through the crowd with weapons in their hands. They covered Sahasra and tried to escape from there. But by then more soldiers had reached the place and the four of them were outnumbered and as they didn’t want to create a bloodshed, they surrendered. The four of them were taken to the palace. Sahasra was asked to sit in the palanquin and Kshitij and others were made to walk. Sahasra didn’t understand the reason for such respect. She thought it was because she was a woman. Sahasra looked through the cloth lining of the palanquin at Kshitij and it broke her heart. He was walking in the sun with his hands tied. Kshitij was trying hard to get a glimpse of Sahasra but he couldn’t. Sahasra thought of jumping out of the palanquin and running away from this horrible land with Kshitij. But her aim was to reach the palace and she was going there. Sahasra bit down the pain in her heart and the tears in her eyes.

Kshitij was tensed and scared. He had no idea what he had brought Saara in to. If they reach the palace court, the officials will find out that Saara was from Sarayuha and she will be put in the dungeon. Kshitij had a sudden urge to attack the soldiers and save Saara but he couldn’t risk getting both of them killed for attacking the royal army.

The palace gates were huge with elephant heads on both sides. They were opened with a loud sound for the procession to enter and when the entrance door of the palace was reached the palanquin was lowered and Sahasra was asked to step out. Devasena walked in the front and Sahasra behind her and Kshitij and his crew with the soldiers after them. The Mahishamathi palace and court were five times bigger than that of Sarayuha and held a huge number of people. Sahasra could see the throne from far which was built on a high position with stairs running to it and on it sat the man she hated the most in this world. Sahasra kept her head high and walked straight to the throne. She was bothered by the vastness of the place and the number of eyes that were looking at her. She had never seen so many people in a court before. Sarayuhan courts were small and peaceful but here there was a lot of buzz.
Mahendra was astonished when he heard the announcement of Rajamatha Devasena’s arrival at the court. She had left for the temple in the morning and shouldn’t be back by the time. So if she was coming to the court then it would be for something of utmost importance, Shivu thought. Shivu watched the party walking towards him. His mother was in the front with a girl. She was shorter than his mother and wore warrior clothes. It amused Shivu but what felt surprising was how the members of the court became silent when she passed near them. Shivu could see that they were shocked and numb.

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Sahasra was astonished by the kind of silence and muttering that followed while she walked towards the throne. It was confusing. Then she forgot about all of it when she saw the king closer. He was looking at her like he had seen a ghost. His eyes became wide and teary. There was disbelief, sadness and anger in them. When she reached closer to the stairs of the throne, the king spoke. His voice was shaking.

Shivu: Who are you?
Sahasra didn’t know what to say. Even though she came all the way to meet the king and talk peace, her mind revolved in circles. She turned around and looked at Kshitij and apologized with her eyes. He was about to say something but she turned back and looked at the king and said.
Sahasra: I am Sahasra, the princess of Sarayuha. I have come here with a pleading. I want peace between Sarayuha and Mahishmathi and I would request you to consider this proposal.

Sahasra folded her hands and she looked at Shivu, then Devasena and with a teary eye at Kshitij. He was totally shocked. The entire court burst out and Sahasra was not sure what they were saying. Mahendra was about to say something when they heard the announcement of Queen Avantika’s arrival. Sahasra looked at the left side and saw a woman walking towards her. She had her head held high but more than grace and pride she had the power of a warrior. She was one and Sahasra could sense it by the way she walked. The queen Avantika came closer and closer. When she could see her face Sahasra was shocked. Avantika resembled her, an older her. The queen was shorter and had longer hair but everything else was the same. The eyes, the lips. Sahasra felt as though she was looking at a mirror of age and seeing her older self.

Avantika didn’t know what to do when she saw the girl standing in front of her. Avanti was informed by her maids that a girl had come to the palace and she should go and see her immediately. But she never thought that she would see her younger self in front of her. Avantika’s heart went out for the girl in bondage and wanted to hug her and didn’t know the reason. She was about to inch closer to her when Shivu roared.

Shivu: Get this girl to the royal chambers and lock her up there and the other three to the dungeons.

The soldiers had Kshitij, Sahasra and the crew in their hold before they could say or do anything. Kshitij and the crew were taken to the dungeons and Sahasra screamed Kshitij’s name crying harder and begged to let them go. But the soldiers didn’t budge and they forced her to move towards the chambers. Sahasra’s sword was taken and she was pushed in to a huge room and was locked from the outside. She knocked on it for a long time but no one listened. She sat on the floor and cried her heart out. She was in the enemy’s land and she had no escape and because of her Kshitij was also in trouble but the queen who had resemblance to her made her mind go blank. Sahasra lied on the floor and let her tears flow unchecked. A warrior cries too. But mostly when alone.

Shivu sat on the steps to the throne with tears in his eyes. When he first saw the girl he was not sure what to understand but when she spoke about Sarayuha, he knew that it was them who took his daughter. Today his child was standing in front of him and he couldn’t hug her or talk to her softly and instead he locked her up. Shivu broke down sitting on the steps and Avanti came and sat next to him and cried. The whole court went silent. Devasena looked at her broken children and thought about all the years they cried when their child was only a war away.

 

Amrutha

Sahasra Chapter 7: Wind and Waves

Sahasra

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Chapter 7: Wind and Waves

The sky was a golden red. Like the royal Sarayuhan sword after a battle. Gold and red were the Sarayuhan colors of victory. Sahasra remembered the sculptures and the royal sword in the palace war room. The sword was untouched since the death of her grandfather in the battle with Mahishmathi. His sword was returned to Sarayuha along with his headless body before she was even born. Sahasra had admired the sword and wanted to touch it but her mother would always say that only a king could wield the golden sword of Sarayuha.

Kshitij looked at the horizon and then at Saara who was standing at the edge of the ship. She was a sight to behold. The dying sunlight fell on Sahasra and it made him feel as though there was a hallow around her. It had been a week since they had left Sarayuha and now they were at the open sea. Wind was weak and they had to often use manual power to increase the speed of the ship. Kshitij was lost in thoughts when Sahasra found him staring at her intensively. Sahasra was taken aback by his expression but she realized that he was thinking about something but she didn’t want to lose an opportunity to tease him.

Sahasra: What are you looking at Kshitij?

Kshitij came back to his senses.

Kshitij: The wind, I mean the sunset. His face reddened due to embarrassment and Sahasra laughed out loud. Kshitij was confused but then he gave a shy smile. How can a woman look this beautiful even when she was not trying to be? Sahasra was a tough warrior and Kshitij had met many woman warriors in his journeys before but there was something soft about Sahasra which was new to him. Sahasra got down from the edge of the ship and she looked at the waves. The ripples created in the water by the ship made it look like pearls and gold thrown on aquamarine and it looked breathtakingly beautiful. She watched the waves and the dolphins jumping on the sides of the ship and laughed in excitement. She was traveling by sea for the first time. It was a beautiful feeling and she couldn’t explain it like you experience something for the first time but you feel that it was always so beautiful and you had always experienced and enjoyed it before. Sahasra had always felt connected to the sea. She sat in the Temple of Heles for hours and listened to the waves. There was a calling, to the place where she belonged and it often confused her why she felt that way when she was in the temple as though she was of another land, of a distant place above the mountains.

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*****

It was night and the wind was good so the sails were fully raised. The crew of the ship took rest trusting the wind and the ocean. Sahasra was polishing her sword fighting skills when she found Kshitij lying on the ship looking at the sky. It amused her. Sahasra kept her sword in the scabbard and walked towards Kshitij.

Sahasra: What are you doing?

Kshitij: Watching the night sky. Come on, you lie down here too.

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Kshitij suddenly got up and pulled Sahasra down and she was surprised and pulled her hand back. Sahasra was not used to people touching her without permission. Kshitij realized that he had made a mistake and apologized. He looked like an innocent child and Sahasra smiled and messed up his hair. Then she lied down on the floor of the ship next to him. Kshitij couldn’t comprehend what Sahasra was thinking or doing. One moment she pulled her hand away and looked angry enough to kill and the next moment she was laughing and messing up his hair and lying next to him. No matter whatever she did, it only made him like her more.

Sahasra lied next to Kshitij and for a moment she felt awkward and then she saw the sky above and she was stunned. It was so beautiful. It was the most beautiful sight she had ever beheld. Sky from the sea seemed a million times beautiful than from the land. Sahasra was in awe of it and she opened and closed her mouth and Kshitij looked at her and laughed. Sahasra suddenly realized what she had done and cupped her mouth with both her hands and smiled shyly. Sahasra was astonished by her own actions. She seemed to herself as a shy girl when she never was one and never kept her head low in front of anyone. Kshitij’s presence was doing something to her and she knew it but she chose to ignore it. Kshitij raised his hand and pointed it to the sky.

Kshitij: Sailors are the worshippers of the seas and the stars. We follow the constellations and trust the sea waves and voyage to the unknown. It is very important to make sure that a sailor know the stars and they are mapped in his heart. Sahasra only nodded taking in the beauty that she was beholding and for a moment she forgot who she was and why she was voyaging, what she wanted and what she was supposed to do. Sahasra forgot everything and just watched the sky that had spread beyond her eyes to the distance of infinity and her eyes widened. Kshitij felt a new wonder watching the sky with Sahasra. He used to watch it every day of his life but that night was different and he smiled and slowly moved his fingers towards Sahasra’s hand and almost touched it. It was then they heard the warning horn sounding from above. The watcher over the poll has noticed something in the sea. The crew was alerted and all were looking to the west.

Kshitij and Sahasra got up and ran towards the west side of the ship. Kshitij saw a small ship approaching them. He was never afraid of pirate ships but today he was as Saara was with them. He wanted to protect her at any cost. He held Sahasra’s hand tightly. Sahasra was taken aback with his gesture and she looked at their hands and then his face. Kshitij’s face was expressionless.

Kshitij: Pirates are coming towards our ship. Get ready. It is going to be a blood bath tonight.

Sahasra took her sword out from her scabbard.

Kshitij: What are you doing? You are not the crew of this ship. You get down and hide among the cargo and I will call you when it is over. You are not needed here until then.

Sahasra was burning with anger. She was a warrior and her duty was in the battle field. No one had the right to tell her to hide in a fight.

Sahasra: I am a warrior and I want to fight.

Kshitij: I don’t care who you are and what you want. This is my ship and I am asking you to retreat and hide among the cargo. I don’t want my passenger getting hurt. Go inside.

Kshitij was scared and angry and opened the door and let her in and Sahasra had no other choice than to hide inside the ship till the captain called her out.

Kshitij was ready for the battle. The ship that was approaching them was a small one and it was a scavenger ship. It normally carries only a few people and Kshitij had no idea why it was coming towards a ship like theirs which was bigger and had more number of people. Kshitij was ready for the battle when he found something that ran a chill to his spine. It was not a scavenger ship but the ship of one of the notorious sea pirates Nharga. The flag that was raised on its sail was a black shark on a red background. Kshitij trembled. Kshitij had only encountered him once before when he was with his father. He had come in a small ship but had enough people to destroy the biggest of ships. The men he had were cruel and could fight ten people at the same time. Nharga and his people had killed his father and most of the old crew and destroyed the ship. Kshitij was left thinking that he was dead. When Kshitij was rescued by another merchant ship he was heavily wounded and his ship was mostly burned. It took him almost a year to recover from his injuries and to fix the ship and sail again to the deadly seas.

Kshitij remembered the night he had lost his father and he could feel his heart beating faster. Today he was going down with his ship and the crew but what worried him the most was what they would do to Saara. Kshitij was ready with the sword as was his crew. They slashed down the pirates one by one as they entered but some of the pirates climbed the sail of their ship and jumped to the sail of Kshitij’s ship with ease and then down on the crew. They slashed the crew and killed a few but they spared most. They were not here for killing people and stealing the cargo but for capturing the crew to take to their island. Kshitij was scared more. The pirates had all of the crew on their sword point and two of them went near the door and tried to pull it up and Kshitij’s heart stopped for a moment and he tried to get out of the grip of a pirate who had him under his sword. Nharga who was standing near the wheel of the ship bend his head to the side. He was fascinated by Kshitij’s reaction. Nharga has ruled the seas since the last twenty years. He was a nightmare to every ship that passed the Sarayuhan seas. He had killed, looted, burned and raped. But last few days he was in a search for people. They needed slaves. It was good to get money for those he simply cut down for the beauty of it. He enjoyed blood on his sword. The smell of burned bodies gave him unmeasurable pleasure.

Nharga signed his men to stop and he watched Kshitij’s face and saw him breathing the air of peace and he smiled. He knew something important was inside the ship and he walked towards the door. He pulled the door up and went inside followed by two of his men.

Sahasra was listening to war cry above and kept herself from running out and fighting. She was never someone who would run away from a battle but her duty to her nation and her purpose for visiting Mahishmathi was more important than her call for fight. She needed to stay alive. Sahasra was lost in thoughts when she heard the door pulled up and she hoped it was Kshitij but she didn’t move. If it was him, he would call her name but it was someone else. Sahasra cupped her mouth and stayed silent. She was shocked and taken aback when someone caught her hair and pulled her up. She tried to get out of the grip but the man was too strong and Sahasra tried to take her sword but another person had already taken it from her scabbard. The person who caught her dragged her by her hair and pulled her up to the surface of the ship. Sahasra looked around and she breathed peace when she saw Kshitij alive. She looked at him and he was helpless and she saw angry tears in his eyes seeing her state. Sahasra gave him a faint smile.

One of Nharga’s men brought a torch and showed the light towards Sahasra. Nharga looked at her with the light of the burning fire and was bewitched by her beauty. She was nothing like anything he had ever seen before. He had travelled the nine seas and never found anything that looked as precious as she was. A true angel, a fairy or a goddess covered in warrior clothes. He knew that he would give anything for her. He would even fight the pirate kingdom for this beauty. Nharga pulled her close and smelled her and he could already imagine her by his side in all the nights to come.

Nharga: In all my travels, in all the lands I have been I have never seen a beauty like this. She is as beautiful as the Kuntala river in the mountains. I claim her for me. I don’t want anything else from this loot. Everything else is yours my men. All the men and the cargo and the ship.

Saying this he smiled showing his stained teeth at Sahasra. Sahasra looked at Kshitij and she knew that he was preparing to do something that would end up putting his life at risk. Nharga laughed softly looking at Sahasra and she only smiled back at him and everyone was surprised. Sahasra slightly touched her elbow and a small knife came out of it and with the speed of the lightning she raised her elbow to Nharga’s neck and pierced it and moved it left to right. Blood spilled all over her hair and her face. She quickly took the sword from his hand and slashed him down and she cut down three of the pirates who were standing next to her. A moment of surprise and fear in the pirates was all that was necessary for Kshitij and his men to grab the swords of the pirates and cut them down. One by one they were killed and the rest jumped to their ship and escaped the scene.

The elbow knife was an ancient war technique of the guardians. They wore a knife on their hands and only when touched on a jewel attached to the scabbard would it come out. It was the last technique that a guardian would use to escape if caught. Sahasra sat down on Nharga’s lifeless body and looked at Kshitij and his men who were looking at her in shock and awe. She had killed the black shark of the seas, the terror of night and that too alone. Kshitij walked close to her and bend his knee and sat down.

Kshitij: Who are you?

Sahasra looked up at his eyes which were filled with concern, respect and awe and said.

Sahasra: A warrior.

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Amrutha

Crossroads Chapter 18 Reverse Track

Chapter 18: Reverse Track

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Maya waited outside the club for almost an hour. She was calm and composed. She knew exactly what she needed to do and there was no need to be panic. The first thing she had to do was to take Ashwin’s driver out of the way. Maya stood in the dark and when his driver got out of the car she called him and when he came nearby she sprayed a sleep inducing medicine on him and before knowing who she was, the driver was unconscious. It was better to not hurt him or else he would be more vocal about the incident. Maya dragged him to the bushes and hid him there. After that she walked to the car and sat on the driver’s seat. After about half an hour she found Ashwin coming out of the club and he got in to the back seat of the car. Maya started the car and drove it at a medium speed. Ashwin was totally drunk and had a bottle in his hand. He could barely talk. When they reached a highway with multiple roads, Maya stopped the car and got out of it and took a pistol out of her jeans. She opened the back door and entered the car again. Ashwin was taken aback but he was too weak to react. Maya raised the gun and pointed it at Ashwin’s head. Ashwin was scared and started trembling all over.
Maya: I suffered a lot. Just because of you. Not just me but my mother and grandfather too. But none of us had ever hurt you in any way and you should have taken it as a blessing and should have left us alone. You didn’t. I would have still let you live Mr. Mehrotra, if you hadn’t hurt my Zoya. But now you will die.

Ashwin screamed and asked Maya to let him go and not to kill him and he would never come after her. His voice was not clear because of excessive drinking. Maya pointed the gun closer to his head.

Maya: You are a very bad father Mehrotra. More than that you are a very bad person. All my life you have only hurt me and frightened me. I have been scared and angry all the time. I vented it on everyone else when I should have only stood up to you. But I never did. I hurt others for the pain that you gave me and my mom. But not anymore. You hurt me, I kept quiet, you hurt my mom and still I didn’t do anything but now you have hurt Zoya for that I will never forgive you.

Ashwin: Maya please Maya, don’t kill me, I didn’t do anything.
Maya was unable to control her anger and tears fell from her eyes. She hit Ashwin’s face with the gun and he fell to the side. Maya again pointed the gun at Ashwin.
Maya: I won’t kill you. I won’t.
Maya lowered the gun. Ashwin couldn’t believe it. He breathed heavily.
Maya: Open the door and run to the other side of the road. You have two-minute time. If you reach there by then, I won’t shoot you. Go, get going.
Maya said softly.

Ashwin was surprised and shocked. Maya raised the gun to his head and he frantically opened the door and started running. It was a highway with four tracks and each track had two ways. Ashwin tried his best to dodge the cars and trucks that came his way and his head was spinning and he couldn’t run properly. Suddenly a fast-moving car came and hit him and he was thrown over to another car which ran over his body. Maya watched the scene sitting in the car and closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Maya quickly got out and walked briskly through the dark side of the road and after sometime she started running. A drunk Ashwin Mehrotra got run over by a car. Maya tried to smile but she couldn’t. No matter how bad a person is, killing is never easy. Maya sat down at the side of the road and laughed and cried at the same time. She looked up and saw a church. Maya got up and went inside the church. It was dark but the streetlights entered it through colorful glass windows and it was heavenly to behold and Maya remembered that it was the same church that Zoya used to take her all the time. She could see Zoya walking around in the church and kneeling down to pray and she cried. Maya went to the center of the church and kneeled in front of the crucified Christ. He was wearing a crown of thorns and had wounds all over the body. Maya laughed at herself.

Maya: Zoya always loved to come here. She used to pray but I never did. (Maya folded her hands and tears kept on falling from her eyes) I have only hurt people in my life. I have never done anything that I am proud of other than loving Zoya. She is the good person. All the pain that I am going through right now, I deserve it. But Zoya do not. It has been days; she hasn’t wake up. Doctors say that she won’t survive but I don’t believe that. She will stay and I know it. Not because I need her, I do, but because she deserves to live. No one deserves to stay alive more than Zoya. I want her to open her eyes and see the world again. Maya Mehrotra has never begged anyone for anything, but I am begging now. That’s all I can do. (Maya wiped her tears) I don’t know why I am saying this to you. Zoya says that you listen, so I am asking. You seem to be in so much pain with the thrones and the wounds. I don’t know. Maybe we both can understand each other’s misery. But I will not let my life tear apart because Zoya is not with me. I am going to stay intact. I am going to smile every day. I am going to try loving people. I will try to be like Zoya, but I can never be her. There is only one Zoya Siddiqui, there’s just one. She has given her love, time and life for me. If I go to darkness again that is disrespect to her love. I will stay happy. I promise. I will never hurt anyone, I promise.

Maya gave one last look at the crucified Christ and spoke.

Maya: I still wish it was me who fell from the heights than Zoya. I deserved it and not her.

Maya closed her eyes and she felt Zoya by her side caressing her hair and kissing her forehead. Maya suddenly opened her eyes and there was no one there. Maya got up and walked out of the church and she kept on walking for a long time and then she called her driver and asked him to pick her up. Maya reached her home and it felt so lifeless. She thought for a moment that Zoya might not walk the halls again and she suddenly had the urge to burn everything down. Maya walked to her room and took off her clothes and went inside the bathroom and stood below the shower and cried her heart out. Maya changed to a new set of clothes and took her car and drove to the hospital. It was early morning.

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Maya was sitting next to Zoya’s bed in the intensive care unit. Zoya was on life support. She was breathing heavily and slowly and had a lot of bandages on her body. Her face was scarred and head shaven and bandaged. Maya looked at Zoya and tears developed in her eyes. She was about to take Zoya’s hand in hers when Noor walked in.

Noor: You have been here since so long.
Maya: No, I just got in. The nurse won’t allow me to stay here for long. Maya gave a faded smile.
Noor: I didn’t mean in this room, I meant the hospital. Do you ever go home? You need to go home Maya. You need rest too.
Maya: Noor, I need to be with Zoya. I need to be here.
Noor: I know that you both are not just friends. Who is my Appi to you, Maya?
Maya: Your Appi? (Maya gave a faint laugh) She is my everything, my entire world. No, I belong to her. That is right. Maya Mehrotra belongs to Zoya Siddiqui.
Maya softly caressed Zoya’s hand and Noor could only smile through her tears.

It took weeks for Zoya to breathe on her own without the life support. She could only open her eyes and look at people but was not able to speak or move her body. When Zoya spoke it was an evening. Maya was sitting next to Zoya’s bed. Zoya called Maya’s name softly. It was not clear but Maya heard it. Zoya could barely speak out but the name came from her heart and Maya knew the love and pain in it. Maya looked at Zoya and smiled and her eyes teared up. Tears fell from Zoya’s eyes. Maya wiped them off and kissed her forehead.

Months passed and Zoya was able to sit straight and move her hands and legs. She started smiling and laughing. Zoya’s hair was shaven for the operation and they kept it shorter even after months. It was not easy to manage longer hair. Zoya looked a lot different in the short hair. But her smile didn’t change. It was the same, cute, innocent and full of life and Maya could watch it all day. Maya mostly worked from hospital through video conferencing and Noor and Wassim took care of Zosh events as it is Zoya’s dream. After almost a year, Zoya was able to walk on her own even though slowly. She tried many times in the beginning and slipped but Maya never let her fall down as she always knew the rhythm of Zoya’s walks no matter how different it was now. Zoya didn’t cry about anything. She was just happy that she was alive and was able to be among the people she loved so much. Zoya smiled and laughed a lot but she was sad that she couldn’t go outside the care center where Zoya was shifted to now. It never bored her as her Ammi and Maya were always with her. At night all of them would sit together and joke about things and sometimes Maya’s mother who was completely fine now would also join them. After letting Ashwin to die Maya took her mother to a different rehab and within a few months she was completely fine. Now she was able to take care of ‘Fashion and the City’ like she used to do before her marriage.

After getting discharged Zoya and Maya went to Mussorie to Zoya’s house. When Zoya’s parents and Maya’s mother came to know about their relationship they were all shocked but they didn’t go against it. Zoya and Maya and both their families had suffered a lot and they wanted only happiness and peace for their children. It took days for Wassim Siddiqui to agree to the relationship but he did anyway.

Zoya needed rest and Mussorie seemed like the best place to be. Maya went to Mussorie with her and the fresh air of the hills made Zoya feel rejuvenated. Zoya woke up early every day and saw the morning sun which she missed in Mumbai. The Mussorie sun is more beautiful and she never understood why. She watched the flowers and birds and the dew drops and the children playing nearby. Sometimes Maya would join them as well. It was peaceful to watch Maya happy. Running wild. Zoya wished to join but she couldn’t run, she was just starting to walk faster. When Zoya came to know about Ashwin’s death, she kind of understood that Maya might have been behind it but she never asked Maya about it. Death was never the answer but sometimes you fall in love with someone’s laughter so too much that you would pay any price to keep it. Maya’s smile was worth keeping the secret. Sitting on the front yard of her house Zoya remembered the girl who had left this place to marry the person she loved. Now she is back to her home with the love of her life. Zoya has grown from a girl from whom her husband had hidden even simple worries thinking that she was too naïve to a girl who was another person’s support system. Zoya didn’t feel weak anymore but she felt stronger than she ever was before. Zoya watched the children playing and Maya running after them laughing loud. Everyone deserves happiness at least once in their life and Maya got hers at last. Zoya smiled to herself with tears in her eyes.

Maya and Zoya were packing everything to go back to Mumbai. Maya had to resume working at her company and Zoya at Zosh. Zoya was completely fine and could do things normally. She didn’t need help but Maya never stopped helping Zoya. She was always there, all the time, whenever Zoya called. To be loved that way felt so beautiful and fulfilling to Zoya.
Maya was happy for the first time in her life. She was completely happy. She was not afraid. She was free and safe. Maya learned that if a person lives under constant fear that person’s actual character never comes out. Only if a person is free and happy does the person shows the real self. Maya loved the person she was now. She was happy and lively and she loved Zoya more than ever. How not to love Zoya Siddiqui? Maya fell in love with her again and again, every single day.

On the eve of going back to Mumbai Maya took Zoya on a ride. Zoya didn’t know where they were going. Maya drove to end of the mountain where there was a deep valley below. She helped Zoya to get out of the car. It was evening and the sun was setting in the valley. The sky was a color of gold and red and Zoya was astonished seeing the sight and she watched it with her bright hazel eyes and Maya watched Zoya all the while. Maya would never find anything more beautiful than Zoya and she knew that there was no point in looking at the deep valley or the setting sun. Nothing would look more ethereal to her than Zoya. Maya opened her purse and took out the small ring case. She called Zoya and she turned around smiling. Maya smiled back like a stupid child and opened the case and asked.

Maya: Zoya Siddiqui, would you be mine forever?
Zoya was taken aback by Maya’s gesture and cupped her mouth with her hands. She smiled and cried at the same time. She always knew that she wanted to be with Maya forever but that moment gave the kind of joy she never expected before. Zoya nodded her head and Maya put the ring on Zoya’s hand smiling and she hugged Zoya tight. Zoya hugged Maya back and kissed her cheeks. Maya held Zoya’s hands and kissed them. Both of them smiled and laughed and then kissed each other on their lips till the moonlight shone over the valley below.

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Amrutha

Crossroads Chapter 17 Mountain Path

Chapter 17: Mountain Path

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Zoya was working on a presentation when she got a call from Maya’s secretary. Zoya was shocked to hear what had happened. Ashwin Mehrotra had come to Maya’s office and had met her. The secretary didn’t know what he had spoken to Maya but after he left Maya had a breakdown and she was not talking to anyone for hours and later her doctor arrived and took her home. Zoya was scared and her whole body trembled. She left what she was doing and ran out of her office and got in to the first cab she found. Zoya asked the cab driver to take her to Maya’s house.

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Zoya got out of the car and ran to Maya. She had trouble opening the door as her hands were trembling. After getting inside Zoya walked briskly to Maya’s room. Zoya knocked the door and entered. She found Maya sitting on her bed looking at the evening sky through the glass window. Zoya called Maya’s name and Maya turned around and looked at Zoya. Maya’s eyes were expressionless and Zoya knew something really bad had happened. Zoya walked towards Maya and sat on her bed. Maya suddenly fell on Zoya and hugged her tight. Zoya hugged her back. Maya seemed really scared and Zoya caressed her hair whispering soft assurances in her ears.

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Maya: He won’t let us live in peace Zoya. He is going to hurt us.
Zoya: Who Maya? No one will hurt you. I am here. I am with you.

Maya got up and sat straight and looked Zoya in her eyes. Zoya couldn’t bear the pain in Maya’s eyes.

Maya: My mom has been drinking since years. Ever since that man started seeing another woman. She wasted her entire life and my grandfather gave his property to me before his death because he didn’t trust her or that man. I tried my best to take care of the company and my mom but he never let me live in peace. He made my mom a drunkard but she wanted to change Zoya, she did and that’s why I sent her to a rehab. Everything was going fine but whenever I visited her, I only found her more and more weak and last day I came to know why she was not recovering. That man had bribed the doctor to give alcohol to my mom and she was still drinking without her knowledge and now she has become more addicted. I secretly went and discharged my mom from there and took her to a distant relative. That man has understood that she was no longer in the rehab and came to office today. He scared me so much Zoya. He said he will go after my mom no matter wherever I hide her and will never leave me alone. I am so scared.

Maya was trembling when she said it. Tears falling from her eyes.

Maya: I have fought all my life Zoya. He used to lock me in the basement and hit me and drown me in water. I cried but never told anyone. I thought if I keep quiet maybe he would spare my mom but now he is after her too and I don’t know what to do. I vent all my anger on others but when I see him I can’t even look him straight in the eye. I tremble and I won’t know what to do. I am so scared Zoya. I am scared. I can’t do this anymore. I am tired. I want everything to end.

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Maya felt really weak and if Zoya was not there she didn’t know what she would have done. She was on the edge of losing her sanity when Zoya opened the door and came inside. Maya felt cold all over her body and she hugged Zoya tight.

Zoya didn’t know what to do. She hugged Maya back softly. She wanted to fix everything but had no idea how to.

Zoya: Maya, don’t be afraid. I am here now. It’s not just me, my Abbu and Ammi, all are there. We will figure this out. I won’t let him hurt you again. No matter what I have to do. He will never be able to reach you.

Zoya cupped Maya’s face and smiled through her teary eyes. Zoya kissed Maya’s cheeks and her forehead. She kissed her palms and her nose and assured her that everything was alright. Zoya looked in to Maya’s eyes and softly planted a kiss on her lips. She wanted to make Maya feel better. She wanted Maya to forget her worries at least for some time.

Maya looked back at Zoya, her eyes longing for something Zoya couldn’t understand. Maya’s eyes spoke in languages that Zoya was unable to translate but she somehow knew that in every word there was yearning for her. Maya kissed Zoya’s lips. She kissed Zoya’s face again and again. She kissed Zoya’s neck and her shoulders. Maya kept on kissing Zoya holding her shoulders with her hands and her nails piercing in to Zoya’s skin. Zoya was taken aback by Maya’s sudden reaction. Maya had never been that intimate with Zoya. They have kissed many times but this time it seemed different. It seemed more than what they have shared before. Zoya started trembling. She felt trouble breathing and she could feel butterflies in her stomach. She didn’t know what she should do. She wanted Maya to stop, at the same time, she also wanted her to continue the kisses. It felt good.

Maya didn’t expect Zoya to kiss her. She was sad and broken and needed support. She had no idea how and what she should do to end the pain that was eating her mind away since years. As though it would never go away. Then Zoya came to her and comforted her and Maya felt better. Zoya was always her strength. Whenever she saw Zoya’s eyes she knew that she could fight any battle but above that she could live more than merely surviving. Then Zoya kissed her and she had an urge to be kissed by Zoya again and again but then Zoya stopped and that triggered something in her. She suddenly started kissing Zoya. She wanted to touch Zoya and kiss her and do more and more. That desire blindfolded her consciousness and every other thought vanished from her mind. Maya caught Zoya’s shoulders and thrusted her to the bed. She started kissing Zoya continuously. Zoya was too weak in front of an aggressive Maya. All Zoya could do was to breathe hard taking in the kisses Maya showered on her. Maya unzipped Zoya’s dress and pulled it down and started kissing her shoulders and her neck. She ripped the dress off and threw it away and kissed every inch of Zoya’s body. Zoya felt as though she was in a magical spell and she held Maya closer to her. Maya took of her dress and kept doing things to Zoya which she had never done before. Maya had never been intimate with a person in her life. She never felt anything for anyone the way she was feeling for Zoya and today it was not just her desire it was her pain and her fear that she was venting on Zoya and somehow Zoya enjoyed it. Zoya could sense the madness with which Maya wanted her and she wanted more of it. Zoya kissed Maya back and found herself forgetting everything else other than the desire to be with Maya. To be fully hers without caring about anything else. It felt beautiful and as though she was melting away slowly and becoming a part of Maya and her whole body trembled and her cheeks became red. Maya kissed Zoya on her temple and she spoke.

Maya: You are the most beautiful being I have ever seen Zoya Siddiqui.

Maya kissed Zoya again and then she laid down next to Zoya and breathed in her scent. Maya felt peaceful after so many days. She was thankful that Zoya was there with her, was there in her life. Zoya turned towards Maya and kissed her forehead and caressed her hair and pulled her closer to her heart. Both were breathing heavily. Maya smiled at Zoya and she smiled back.

Zoya: Maya, go to sleep.
Maya: I don’t want to. I want to keep looking at you like this. I want to be this close to you, always. I don’t want to be away from you. Stay with me. Don’t ever leave me. If you are with me, I will fight anyone or anything. I will never give up. I promise.

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Zoya only smiled and caressed Maya’s face and kissed her eyes. Maya hugged Zoya and slowly went to sleep. Zoya laid on the bed looking at the ceiling unable to understand whether what that had happened between them was right or wrong but it made Maya feel peaceful and nothing else mattered to Zoya more than that, but it was a temporary happiness. Ashwin Mehrotra was still there. Zoya closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

Zoya was trying to contact Ashwin Mehrotra since days. She kept on calling him and trying to meet him. After about a week, he called her back and asked her to come and meet him. The place he chose was a building which was under construction. Zoya felt strange about the meeting place but she went there for Maya. She had to speak to Ashwin and somehow convince him to leave Maya and her mother alone. Zoya doubted if he would listen to her or not but she wanted to try at least once. When Zoya reached the place there was no one there except for Ashwin. He was standing on its top floor of the buiding.

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Ashwin: Hi Zoya, we meet again.
Zoya: Mr. Mehrotra. I wanted to meet you since days. I really need to talk to you.
Ashwin: Of course Zoya, I am here to listen to you.
Zoya took a deep breath and assured herself that she could do this. She hoped that she could make a difference even if the possibility was less.
Zoya: Please leave Maya and her mother alone. You have hurt them enough. They don’t deserve the kind of pain that you are giving them. You are Maya’s father. I am begging you.
Zoya folded her hand and her eyes were full of tears. She didn’t know what else to do. Zoya was always kind and believed in the goodness in people. Ashwin Mehrotra only smiled his wicked smile and spoke.
Ashwin: Do you know why I married Maya’s mother? It was for her money. I thought that if I marry her, her father would give me everything. But he was one cunning man, he didn’t give us anything saying that his daughter married against his will. I waited. Then we had Maya. Still he ignored us. I was in love with another woman even before my marriage and I left her to marry Maya’s mother, that insecure woman. But I put up with all this assuring the person I loved that we would get the money sooner but Maya found out about it and everything went from bad to worse. But I silenced her and my wife hoping that I will get the company and all the property. But no, he had to give it all to Maya and what she should have done was to let me handle it but she left my house with her mom to keep me away from her grandfather’s property. I tried my best to scare Maya and to hurt her mom in such a way that she became a drunkard and was unable to take any life decisions. I went after Maya again and again and frightened her reminding of how I tortured her in her childhood. She trembles when she sees me. Maya was scared and vulnerable, and she would have easily ended up in a mental hospital soon if you wouldn’t have come in to her life. You came and ruined all my plans. I wanted to kill Maya and her mother long before but then the property would have gone to the board and I would never get my hands on it. All my efforts would have gone to waste. So I couldn’t do that. It would be stupid of me, isn’t it?
Zoya was shocked hearing all these. She felt really bad for Maya. Thinking of the things Maya had suffered in her life broke Zoya’s heart and her tears rolled uncontrollably. She had trouble breathing.
Zoya: You are the most heartless man I have ever known.
Ashwin: I know and I am and I am going to do something even more heartless. (Ashwin smiled) You are Maya’s greatest support system Zoya. If you are gone, she will break apart and she will suffer her entire life in a mental asylum.

Zoya was really confused and shocked. She looked at Ashwin in disbelief. Ashwin came closer to Zoya and gave a hard push on her shoulder before she realized what he was doing. Zoya who was standing at the edge of the building slipped and fell. It was all of a sudden that Zoya couldn’t even comprehend exactly what had happened and she was falling.

It is wrong when people say that no one can love anyone else more than themselves. When you are at the edge of death. When everything is ending and life is becoming a blur, if you are not thinking about yourself but of another person then you know that you love that person more than yourself. Before her body hit the ground, before darkness spread across her eyes all Zoya could think of was Maya and how her life would tear apart without Zoya by her side. A lone tear escaped her eye and then she felt nothing.

Maya couldn’t believe when Noor called her from the hospital. Noor was breathless and her voice was not even clear. Zoya had an accident and Maya didn’t believe it at first. She ran to her car and drove like a mad person. She reached the hospital and ran inside. She checked with the reception and came to know that Zoya was in the operation theatre. Maya ran to the third floor tripping quite a few times. When she reached there Noor, Wassim and Roshnaq were standing and crying and Maya slowly let it sink in that Zoya had indeed fallen from a building and is in a serious condition and is getting operated. Maya felt darkness all around. She couldn’t imagine a world without Zoya smiling, without Zoya talking and without Zoya existing. Maya kept her hand on her chest and breathed heavily. She felt as though all the air around her was gone.

After like a lifetime a doctor came out of the operation theatre. Wassim went near him and asked about Zoya’s condition.

Doctor: The fall was really hard. There is a serious head injury and many bones are broken. She has lost a lot blood. I am sorry to say this but be ready for any kind of news in the next 24 hours.

The doctor went inside and Roshnaq and Noor started crying heavily. Wassim hit his hand on the wall and cursed himself for bringing his child to this city. Maya felt numb for some time and then she walked towards Noor and Roshnaq and held Roshnaq’s hand. Maya smiled to them.

Maya: Don’t worry. Zoya is not going anywhere. She promised me that she will stay. All I have to do is hold her tight. And I am going to do that and she will stay.

Maya smiled to herself and tears started falling from her eyes. Maya looked at the door of the theatre with hopeful eyes and sat down on the floor wishing that all of this was a nightmare and she would be awoken up by a smiling Zoya Siddiqui.

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Amrutha

Crossroads Chapter 16 – Seatbelt

Chapter 16: Seatbelt

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Maya sat on a chair near the bar counter. She was annoyed. It was a party arranged by one of Zoya’s clients and Zoya wanted Maya to accompany her. But at the last-minute Zoya got a call from her office and she went there. By then Maya had already reached the party.

Maya hated sitting alone. Many were dancing under the lights and a couple of guys had asked Maya for a dance to which she politely disagreed. Maya ordered a Tequila shot and drank it. She was about to order another one when she saw Zoya walking in to the hall. She was wearing a red color dress which was not hers. Zoya had either bought it on her way here or someone might have gifted it to her. In any of the cases, Maya was not aware of it. Zoya walked in to the party and a man followed her. It was her client. He was a business man and had a tie up with Zosh events as he was very spontaneous about throwing parties and needed an event management company to help him out.

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Zoya walked towards Maya smiling with her childlike innocence and Maya smiled back at her. Maya was trying to get up when Mr. Mehta walked towards Zoya and asked her hand for a dance. Maya got slightly angry but she kept calm. It had been a month since Arjun had come to her home and it took days for Zoya to get over her sadness. So Maya wanted Zoya to be happy and lighthearted but something inside her was burning furiously. Maya watched Mr. Mehta leading Zoya to the dance floor. Zoya had told his first name but Maya never cared to remember. He was young and good looking and rich and all of it irritated Maya so much and Maya couldn’t comprehend the reason behind it. Maya sat at the counter and Zoya looked at Maya and waved her hands. She didn’t look happy. Mr. Mehta held Zoya at her waist and pulled her closer and Maya wanted to break the tequila bottle on his head but she stayed calm. Maya was burning inside when someone from the crowd came up and asked her.

‘Would you like to dance?’
Maya: Of course, I would love to. But definitely not with you.

Maya gave a smile and the person walked away. Zoya was dancing with Mr. Mehta and Zoya looked so beautiful in red dress and Maya immediately regretted that she had never bought Zoya a dress.

Zoya was very excited when she heard about the party. She wanted to go with Maya. They hadn’t gone out in days as Maya had flown to Mauritius for a shoot. Zoya hated all those days. Though Maya had asked Zoya to accompany her, she couldn’t go as there was an event for her. When Zoya heard about Mr. Mehta’s party she was so happy and readily agreed and asked Mr. Mehta if she can bring Maya as well. Zoya was dressed in a blue salwar and was going to the party when she got a call from Atul Mehta who asked her to come to Zosh. Zoya was tensed and went there as fast as she could but upon reaching there she understood that he only wanted to give her a dress for the party. Zoya felt awkward but she accepted it to be polite. She wore it and he offered to drive her to the venue and she agreed to it as well. When Zoya walked in to the party and saw Maya sitting there right next to the counter and as she knew that Maya was waiting for her, Zoya’s heart was uplifted and a smile came on her lips.
Maya was like the air, when you breathe it you won’t even know it actually exists but when you are devoid of it, you will suffocate. Zoya wanted to grab Maya’s hand and run to the end of the horizon and that’s when Atul asked Zoya to dance with him. Zoya couldn’t say no as he was always nice to her. Atul held Zoya’s waist and she felt uncomfortable. Not just that she was not liking the proximity, it was also that Maya was sitting there. Zoya could sense Maya’s displeasure.

After the dance Zoya walked towards Maya and Maya was getting ready to leave. She was furious at Atul for touching Zoya. She kept on saying to herself that it was fine but she couldn’t control the anger that was rising in her.

Zoya: Maya, let’s go. I think it’s getting late.
Zoya wanted to spend some lone time with Maya and the party didn’t suit the purpose. She wanted to go for a long drive or for a walk in a park.
Maya: Yes, Zoya, I will drop you at home.
Maya smiled widely. But her smile didn’t last long. Atul interrupted the conversation.
Atul: Hi Maya, I am Atul Mehta. I think you might have heard my name.
Maya shook his hands and tried to smile.
Atul: If you don’t mind, may I drop Zoya home. She came with me. I feel it’s my responsibility to drop her back.

Zoya was shocked and didn’t know what to do. She suddenly remembered that she had kept her purse on the other side of the hall and excused herself to get it. Maya was getting annoyed by Atul’s presence.

Atul: Maya, I am being open to you. Your friend Zoya is a very nice girl. She is the sweetest person I have ever known. I was always fond of her work and I don’t know when I started liking her. Do you think she would agree to date me?
Maya: You should probably ask her if you survive.
Atul: I am sorry, what do you mean?
Maya: Oh. I meant when you are ready.
Zoya came back after fetching her purse and Maya said.
Maya: Zoya, go with Mr. Mehta. I will see you later.

Zoya rolled her eyes at Maya but Maya didn’t say anything but left the party hall.
Maya was angry beyond limits. She couldn’t believe how Atul could ask her about Zoya. Zoya was all she had, the only person who loved her and he wanted Zoya. Maya called her driver and asked him to bring a different car and take the one she was driving. Maya got in to the car and followed Atul and Zoya at a distance. She made sure that they didn’t notice her. Maya drove the car to the road through which Mr. Mehta was supposed to go and she stopped her car and took out some spikes and threw them over the road. She waited at a crossroad till he dropped Zoya and came that way. As soon as he crossed the road the tires of his car burst. Atul was shocked and he went out of his car to see what had happened. Suddenly a car came from the side road and hit him hard. Atul didn’t expect the hit and he was thrown a meter away. His head hit the road and blood started flowing. Maya didn’t stop her car and drove fast. She made sure that no one was anywhere nearby to witness what she did.

Zoya was shocked seeing what Maya had done. She was on her terrace taking out her clothes as it was going to rain soon. She had a view towards the crossroad at a distance. She could see Atul’s car going that way and she watched it and suddenly saw that the car had stopped and another car hitting him. Zoya was shocked and she was more terrified when she realized that it was Maya Mehrotra’s car. The black Audi that she seldom uses. Zoya was numb for a moment but she snapped out of it and ran down. She grabbed her phone and asked Noor to accompany her. She went to accident site while calling ambulance.

Police and Ambulance arrived and they took Atul to hospital. Zoya and Noor went with them. Zoya sat in the hospital for hours praying to God to keep Atul alive. She was scared and broken from inside. She couldn’t believe that Maya could do something like that. It was almost morning when the doctor confirmed that Mr. Mehta was out of danger. Zoya was doing namaz and prayers till then. Zoya felt relieved to know that Atul had survived but her anger hadn’t subdued. Zoya asked Noor to go home and she took a cab to Maya’s home. When Zoya opened the door she found that the hall was dimly lit. Maya was sitting in the main hall staring at a new painting she had made. It was Zoya’s portrait. Zoya in the red dress that she was wearing then.

Maya looked up and saw Zoya and smiled at her. Zoya was fuming with anger and disappointment. She couldn’t accept that Maya had hurt someone.

Zoya: What have you done Maya?
Maya gave a confused look and laughed looking at her painting.
Maya: I was painting you as I always do. I have thirty-eight of them with me. What happened?
Zoya: Maya, I am not talking about the painting. You know exactly why I am here.
Maya: No, I have no idea. Yes, why are you here early this morning and why haven’t you changed your clothes?
Zoya: Why did you hit Atul Mehta with your car Maya? What did he do to you?
Maya: I didn’t hit him Zoya. Who told you that?
Zoya was shaking with anger and Maya was tensed inside out unable to look Zoya in the eye.
Zoya: No one told me. I saw it from my terrace. Your black Audi. You hit him and drove past without stopping the car.
Maya was lost.
Maya: Did he survive?
Zoya: He did. Thank God. I spent a sleepless night in the hospital. Why did you do that?

Maya got up from the floor and walked close to Zoya. Her closeness was giving goosebumps to Zoya and she trembled. Maya seemed so different, so intense. Maya reached Zoya and she held both of Zoya’s shoulders with her hands and looked straight in to her eyes.

Maya: He said that he liked you. He danced with you. He touched you. I couldn’t handle it. He wanted to take you away from me and I hated him so much and I wanted him gone. I am sorry Zoya.

Zoya felt so weak. She was not sure whether to scold Maya or to hug her tight as she felt so vulnerable.

Zoya: Maya, what do you think of me. Am I a child that someone would take me away?
Maya: Zoya, I am sorry. You are all I have left. I thought I will lose you. I don’t want to lose you, ever.
Zoya: Maya, you have no idea what you mean to me. You will never understand. I was going to be engaged to Arshad but I left him. I chose you. I came to know that Yash never cheated me and still I stayed by you. No matter whatever situation I was put in, I only wanted to be with you. And you think that I will just leave you for another person. I am no longer angry Maya. I feel defeated. No matter how much I would ever love you, it will never be enough.

Zoya turned to the other side and there was a long silence between them and Maya felt so weak and sat down. She had remorse not because she had hit Mr. Mehta but because she had doubted Zoya. Zoya was crying and it was because of her. Maya couldn’t bear the pain. She felt an emptiness in her. Maya started moving to and fro and her head kept on hitting on the side of the chair. Zoya heard the sound and turned back and was totally shocked seeing Maya that way. Maya was lost and her eyes looked emotionless. Zoya couldn’t let Maya fall in to any darkness again. Zoya sat down behind Maya and hugged her. She kept her head close to Maya’s shoulder. Maya was snapped out of her thoughts.

Maya: I am sorry Zoya. I am so sorry.
Zoya: I won’t say everything is all right Maya because it’s not. But I want to say something to you now. I am never going to leave you Maya, means never. And if you ever feel that I am drifting away from you, hold me closer. Hug me tight. So that I know what you are feeling. Suffocate me but let me know that you need me. No matter wherever I am, whatever I am doing I would want to be with you. Only you. I love you Maya.

Zoya hugged Maya tighter.

Maya broke down and turned around and hugged Zoya. Zoya held Maya’s face and kissed her lips hard. They hugged each other so tight that their fear, tears and anger drifted away into the morning light. They were there and the moment was real and that’s all that mattered then.

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Amrutha

Crossroads Chapter 15 Speedbreaker

Chapter 15: Speedbreaker

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Maya woke up early that day and made herself some coffee. The morning was cold due to some unknown reason. Maya was wearing shorts and her legs shivered in the cold. She took the coffee mug and walked to her room. Maya got on her bed and covered herself with the blanket and sipped the coffee. Maya had the raw version of the next month’s edition of Fashion and the City. Maya was going through the articles to make sure that they were perfect before publishing. Maya was reading the magazine very thoroughly when she heard a knock on her bedroom door. Maya snapped out of her thoughts and almost spilled the coffee on her. Maya kept the mug on the table and smiled. She knew it was Zoya. No one else had the key to her house.

Zoya: Maya, I am coming in.
Zoya opened the door and came in. She was wearing a blue saree and she was breathtakingly beautiful. Maya’s jaws dropped. Zoya gave a mischievously cute smile.
Zoya: You should probably close your mouth.
Maya covered her mouth with her hands and got out of her bed.
Maya: Hi Zoya. You look amazing today. Is there a wedding?
Zoya’s face dropped. She had an angry expression.
Zoya: I knew that you would forget. Last week we were talking about going out and you promised me that we will go today and had asked me to come to your house.
Maya: Oops, I am so sorry Zoya. I forgot. Oh no, I have a meeting today at my office about the next edition of our magazine.
Maya held both her ears and apologized and Zoya looked really annoyed.
Zoya: Fine, then I will go to my home and don’t even dare to call me out again.
Maya was confused and sad and didn’t know what to do.
Maya: Oh no, I forgot. I have fever and I am not feeling well.
Maya made a sad face and walked to her bed and got on it and covered herself with the blanket. Zoya was anxious and walked to Maya. She touched Maya’s forehead with concern but there was no temperature at all. Zoya got really angry.
Zoya: You are such a brat Maya. I really hate you.
Maya smiled widely.
Zoya: Why are you smiling now.
Maya: Because you look so cute when you are angry. Sometimes I want to eat you up, then I would think that if you are eaten then how would I see you again.
Zoya: That’s so sweet of you.
Zoya gave an angry smile.
Maya: Okay fine. I am serious. I will call my office and tell them that I am not coming today and then we will go anywhere you want.
Zoya: Can you actually do that?
Maya: No, I can’t Zoya. The meeting is really important. But I will come back fast. I am so sorry. You know that I don’t forget anything that fast. This just got out of my head. I am sorry.
Zoya: It’s okay Maya. It’s completely fine. I will wait here. But come back fast.
Maya: Yes, I will.
Maya jumped out of her bed, kissed Zoya’s hands and ran to the bathroom. Zoya smiled watching Maya run.

Zoya sat on the sofa watching TV, Maya had messaged her saying that she was on her way. Zoya checked the clock every other minute. Suddenly the calling bell rang. Zoya thought it was Maya and happily went and opened the door.

Arjun: Hello, I am hoping that you are Zoya Siddiqui. I had gone to your home and your father said that you are here.
Zoya: Yes, I am Zoya. I am sorry, I don’t know you.
Arjun: Well, we have met each other before in Musoorie. But I am sure that you won’t be remembering me. I am Arjun, Arjun Hooda. May I come in?
Arjun walked inside the house without waiting for Zoya’s permission.
Zoya: I remember you now. What can I do for you?
Arjun: I don’t want anything from you but forgiveness. I have come here to confess something that had been hidden since a long time.
Zoya: What do you mean? Please say clearly.
Arjun: I have known Yash for the last four years. He was Pooja’s friend. We had invested in his business when he wanted to start a company.
Zoya: Yeah, I know. Pooja had given Yash money. They were in love and he wanted to divorce me to start a new life with her.

Arjun: No, that’s not true, Zoya. Yash never loved Pooja. He never cheated on you or wanted to leave you.
Zoya was confused. She couldn’t understand what he was saying. Zoya started panicking.
Zoya: What do you mean?
Arjun: It was not Yash that Pooja had an affair with. It was me. It was all my fault. I have always loved Pooja even since my teenage. She was my only crush and love. But she chose my brother instead of me and soon realized that it was a mistake. Pooja was sad and lonely; my brother didn’t have time for her. He was too childish to understand what she wanted. Pooja was getting hurt in that relationship day after day. I am not trying to justify our act but Pooja was sad and I couldn’t see her that way. Me and Pooja started getting closer. She started sharing her problems with me and then our relationship went out of our hands. We fell in love and even slept together. Pooja got pregnant. We had two choices, either to forget everything and part ways or to tell everyone everything and get married. We chose to be together. But my mother came to know about it and she objected to it and warned us. We didn’t agree. Pooja had my child in her and I didn’t want to give up on it. But my mom didn’t want anyone to know about the affair or my family to be broken. So she got Pooja killed in a car accident. But it was not just Pooja who died. Yash was in that car too. He was safely bringing Pooja to your house to protect her from my mother.

Zoya couldn’t believe what she had heard and tears started rolling from her eyes and she felt like the ground beneath her was shaking. Yash didn’t cheat her. He was only helping a friend. He was just being a good person.

Arjun: I know I have made mistakes in my life. I destroyed my brother’s life and yours. But I am standing here as a person who has lost everything. My love, my child, my family. I can’t explain what I am feeling right now but I just wanted to tell you the truth because you don’t deserve to be kept in the dark anymore. And it was my mother who sent you the divorce papers to make sure that everyone believes that Pooja had an affair with Yash. Mom confessed everything to police yesterday when she was caught with evidence. You might have known it soon but I thought it was better if I say this to you myself.

Arjun was in tears when he completed the sentence. He folded his hands and looked at Zoya’s eyes.

Arjun: Zoya, do take care. I am sorry. Arjun walked out of the room and Zoya looked at the door and found Maya standing there like stone. Her expression was of disbelief. Zoya couldn’t process anything she had just heard. Yash never cheated her. He has always been faithful, always been loving, always been hers. It was not Yash who deceived their love, but it was Zoya who did. She didn’t trust him. Didn’t mourn his death enough and she has also fallen in love again. Zoya looked at Maya and guilt overwhelmed her senses. She was unable to breathe. Maya was confused and scared. Maya walked briskly to Zoya. Zoya sensed that Maya was coming closer to her and she ran to a nearby room and closed the door behind her. Maya ran after Zoya but couldn’t catch hold of her. Maya slammed her hands to the door and called Zoya’s name and tried to open the door and failed.

Zoya stood inside the room crying and hating herself. She looked at the mirror and hated her reflection in it. She sat down next to the door and sobbed. Everything in the world looked unreal to her.

Maya: Zoya, open the door. Don’t do this to yourself. Please let me in. I want to talk to you Zoya, please.

Zoya was unable to speak up. She wanted to say something but her voice won’t come out. Zoya breathed heavily. She wanted to break away from herself. It was that suffocating. Yash was killed and she thought it was an accident. She didn’t even find it important to investigate more about his death. She believed everything that was told to her and forgot who Yash was. She even fell in love with someone else. It felt so wrong to Zoya that she had moved on this fast. Zoya started crying harder.

Maya: Zoya, please, let me talk to you.
Zoya: Maya, I don’t want to talk to you. Go to your room. Just leave me alone.
Zoya was sobbing really hard. Like her entire world was in pieces.
Maya: No, I won’t leave you here like this. I am going to sit here till you open this door. You didn’t leave me when I was broken and I won’t leave you in this state. I am going to be here for you, even if it takes you an hour or a day or a lifetime to open this door. I am going to wait for you.
Zoya couldn’t control her tears but she couldn’t let Maya sit outside as well. Zoya got up slowly balancing herself on the table. She could barely walk. Zoya opened the door. Maya got up from the floor and got inside the room. Zoya felt weak and wanted to hug Maya so badly but she was not able to do it. Being with Maya felt so right and so wrong at the same time that Zoya couldn’t comprehend the reason for it. Maya understood Zoya’s confusion and she walked towards Zoya. Zoya stopped Maya by holding her hand up.

Zoya: Don’t come near me Maya. It’s so wrong. I am wrong. I made a huge mistake and I don’t know what to do. Maya looked down and wiped her tears.

Maya: Zoya, I heard what that person said. I know what had happened and it was all wrong but does that mean that you won’t come near me. Does that mean that our love is wrong? Do you mean that your choosing me is a mistake?

Maya was breaking from the inside and she could sense only darkness around. Tears rolled down Maya’s face and Zoya couldn’t bear that sight. Zoya ran to Maya and hugged her tight. Zoya kissed Maya’s face and hugged her again.

Zoya: It’s not wrong. Me choosing you us was never wrong. I am sorry Maya. I am sorry that I hurt you. I love you. Maya hugged Zoya back so tightly that it felt suffocating for both of them. But they didn’t let go.
Maya: Zoya, go to sleep now. We will talk about this tomorrow.
Zoya: How can I sleep. After hearing all this.
Maya: You can and you have to. I won’t let you to cry whole night.

Maya led Zoya to the bed and Zoya got on it. Maya followed her and both lied down side by side. Zoya turned to one side and wept continuously. She felt cold all over her body and she trembled. Maya hugged Zoya from behind and caressed her hair and told her that everything will be all right. Zoya cried herself to sleep.

Everything felt like a nightmare for Maya. She thought she had lost Zoya forever and that would have killed her the very night. But Zoya didn’t leave her. Zoya chose her again and that felt good. Whatever happened in Zoya’s life was all wrong but if that brought Zoya close to Maya, then she was grateful to everything that had come by their way.

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Amrutha

Crossroads Chapter 14 Mapped

Chapter 14: Mapped

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Zoya couldn’t sleep that night. She turned and tossed in her bed. Whenever she closed her eyes Maya’s face came to her mind and all those kisses she showered on Maya kept haunting her thoughts. Zoya could feel butterflies in her stomach and it was uncomfortable. Zoya couldn’t understand how the kiss happened and why she did what she did. Everything happened so fast and she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Zoya wanted to cry but tears won’t come out of her eyes. Zoya laid straight on her bed and looked up at the ceiling. She was unable to process the situation or to comprehend what she should do from there. Zoya shrieked and hit her hands and legs on the bed and hugged her pillow tight and pierced her nails in to it and none of her actions helped her to feel any better.

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Maya stood near the balcony watching the moon. It somehow looked beautiful to her. Maya never felt that the night sky was breathtaking. It was always the same for her, black and white, just like how her life used to be. But today she felt different. Maya could see beauty in everything she has felt as dull and a waste of her time. Even the heights of her balcony felt serene. She felt as though she was on the top of the world. Maya turned back and walked towards her bed. She was not sleepy but it was not her insomnia but a beautiful kind of feeling that kept her awake. Zoya had kissed her. It was surprising but amazing. Zoya might be in love with her too. Maya was not sure about that but she was not guilty anymore of her feelings towards Zoya as Zoya had something for her as well. Maya lied down on her bed and smiled to herself.

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Zoya woke up late the next day. She was not sure when she went to sleep last night. Zoya looked at the clock and it was almost ten. She jumped out of her bed. She had an event the next day and had a lot of arrangement to make. Zoya ran down the stairs calling her Ammi but she suddenly heard a familiar voice. Maya was in her house. Zoya suddenly stopped and slowly turned back to run back to her room but her Ammi caught her.

Roshanaq: Zoya, you woke up? get ready and come down. I have made breakfast.
Wassim: Zoya, see Maya is here. She has been waiting for you for an hour.

Zoya looked at Maya and regretted what she did. Maya had a smile on her face and Zoya’s eyes widened. Zoya thought how could Maya smile when Zoya was suffering so much.

Zoya: Abbu, I am still in my pajamas. I will get ready and come back in sometime. You can ask Maya to leave as she might be busy.

Zoya said this turning her back to Maya and briskly climbed the stairs. She got in to her room and closed the door behind her and breathed heavily. Zoya took her dress out of the cupboard and ran to her bathroom. Zoya brushed her teeth really hard and bathed in hot water which almost burned her skin. No matter whatever she did, Zoya couldn’t forget the feel of the kiss. Zoya got out of the bathroom drying her hair with a towel and she suddenly jumped back seeing Maya in her room.

Zoya: Maya, what are you doing here? Get out now.
Maya: Why are you being so rude to me? What did I even do? I just came to check if you are ready for breakfast.

Zoya felt sad that she hurt Maya and suddenly wanted to cry. Zoya was going crazy with the confused emotions and wanted to scream at everything she saw.

Zoya: If I am ready, I will come down. You go and eat. I will come down in a while.
Maya had a sad expression and Zoya’s heart melted. But suddenly Maya turned around and spoke.
Maya: I love you Zoya. You look beautiful in pink.
Zoya was shocked and Maya smiled and walked out of the room. When Zoya went downstairs everyone was having food. Zoya ran towards the door and said loudly.
Zoya: Ammi, I don’t want food. I am late. I will eat at my workplace. Zoya opened the door and briskly walked out before Maya could even utter a word.

Zoya was busy making arrangements for the wedding the next day, when she saw someone sitting at the venue. It was Maya. Zoya understood that Maya was following her and she wanted to hit Maya with files in her hand. Maya was such a distraction and Zoya couldn’t even think peacefully any more. She got herself an angry face which seldom came. She walked towards Maya.

Zoya: Why are you looking at me?
Maya: What? I. Well, the chair was turned this side.
Zoya: So turn it around and look at the other side. It not fixed to the ground.
Maya: Why are you getting angry on me for the chair’s position. I didn’t do anything this time. I swear.

Zoya walked closer to Maya and forcefully turned her chair to the other side. Zoya’s hair fell on Maya’s face and she had a sudden urge to touch it. But she didn’t. Last night after seeing Zoya’s confusion, Maya had promised herself that she would never touch Zoya again without her permission. Zoya made a face and went on to continue her work. Maya looked at the other side and it had mirrors everywhere and Zoya’s reflection was all around. Maya laughed to herself and got up and walked out of the venue. Zoya didn’t want Maya to look at her, so she wouldn’t look at Zoya. Maya wouldn’t do anything that Zoya doesn’t want her to do.

Zoya arranged the tables in order and turned her head to see if Maya was sitting there but was sad to see that Maya was gone. She couldn’t understand why she was feeling sad when Maya left as all she wanted till then was Maya to leave. The confusion was killing her thought process and Zoya felt like screaming at everyone. But she remained calm. It was nothing, she thought to herself.

Zoya walked round briskly. It was the wedding night. Everything was already checked and ready but still she felt as though she was doing it all wrong. Zoya felt like her mind was at hundred places at the same time and sometimes at where Maya would be. Zoya couldn’t accept that she was falling in love because it was impossible for her to. She had already fallen in love before and how would she fall in love again, Zoya thought and Maya was her friend. Zoya was lost in her thoughts when someone called her name. Maya. Maya was in full length red lehenga. She was a vision to behold. Zoya always felt that Maya was attractive and beautiful but for the first time she felt as though Maya was heavenly. Zoya almost complemented Maya but she kept her mouth shut.

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Maya: Hi Zoya, how is everything going?
Zoya: What are you doing here? It’s a marriage.
Maya: I am invited here. The bride’s father is my client.
Zoya: Very good then, please enjoy the party. If you need anything, feel free to call Sam.
Zoya kept her head high and walked away. Maya smiled and followed her. Zoya went to the caterers and Maya followed her. Zoya went to the bride and Maya followed her there as well. Maya was behind Zoya everywhere. Maya was in the mood to tease Zoya. She couldn’t wait to hear what Zoya thought about their relationship. Maya wanted to open up to Zoya and hoped that she would reciprocate her feelings.

Zoya was standing next to the mandap while the pheras were happening when Maya suddenly held her hand and dragged her to a nearby room. Maya didn’t want to do this but she couldn’t wait any longer. Zoya pulled her hand out of Maya’s grip.

Zoya: What is this Maya? What are you doing? What do you want?
Maya: I want you to tell me what you feel about me. I want you tell me that you love me too.
Zoya: How can I say something I don’t feel Maya. I don’t love you. I never did and I never will.
Maya: Then what about that kiss?
Zoya: It was nothing. It felt nothing. It was a mistake and I regret that I ever did it. I regret that I even came to see you that day. I even regret that I am standing here with you in this room.

Zoya screamed everything in one breath and then looked at Maya and suddenly realized the mistake. Maya looked broken, she was close to tears but she was not crying either. Maya stood like she had lost everything and she was numb. Zoya wanted to comfort her but she didn’t as she didn’t want to further complicate anything.

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Zoya: Maya listen.
Maya: It’s okay Zoya. I made a mistake. I expected too much from you. I literally stalked you and followed you and forced you to accept what I wanted to impose on you. I am sorry. I will never do that again. I will never come after you, will never ask you to love me or care for me. I never deserved it and I should never have expected it.

Maya wiped her tears and walked out of the room and Zoya was shocked. Zoya’s knees were weak. She was shaking all over. She couldn’t believe that Maya walked away leaving her there. Maya never did that. She always stayed, always persuaded. But she didn’t at that moment and it felt all wrong. Zoya balanced herself with the help of the bed and sat there for some time. Tears rolled down her face and she cried without understanding the reason. All Zoya knew at that moment was that she couldn’t live without Maya. Maya was her strength, her happiness, her life. Zoya ran out of the room and out of the venue to the entrance and she found Maya standing there. Zoya called Maya’s name aloud and Maya turned and looked at Zoya.

Maya: I am sorry Zoya. I am leaving. Don’t worry, I have called my driver, he is coming. I won’t disturb you anymore.
Zoya wanted to speak but she couldn’t stop crying.
Maya: Why are you crying Zoya. I said I will leave. Please don’t cry. I can’t see you in tears. My heart can take any pain but not your tears, I can’t see you in pain, I will die. Please.

Maya was pleading. Zoya came closer to Maya and hugged her tight and cried harder. She held Maya so close as though the world was taking Maya away from her. She cried her heart out and Maya couldn’t understand what was happening. Zoya wiped her tears and moved away from Maya.

Zoya: So if I ask you to go would you leave me then? Is it all that this is about? You leaving me? Listen Maya, I will get confused at times and I will scream at you. I will get angry and I will scold you. I will be sad and won’t talk to you. I will ask you get away from me but you should never give up on me. Because no matter whatever the situation I am in, I would want you to be with me. No matter how hard I am on you I would be loving you. You are not allowed to leave me. Maya, no matter whatever happens, you should stay with me.
Maya couldn’t process all that she was hearing.
Maya: What do you mean Zoya?
Zoya: I don’t know. I don’t care. I just want you to be with me. Whatever I am feeling for you or you are feeling for me doesn’t matter. I just want to be with you. Call it love, friendship or companionship, I don’t care. I just want your presence in my life. I want you to want me Maya. I want you to trouble me till I agree, and even if I don’t, I want you to keep trying. I want you to be there.

Maya couldn’t believe her ears. Zoya wanted to be with her. Zoya loved her. It didn’t matter what she was feeling for Zoya and what Zoya was feeling for her but what mattered was that they had each other and Maya would never leave Zoya, no matter what. Maya went closer to Zoya and hugged her tight and kissed her head. They both walked to a bench nearby and sat there away from everyone and everything. Zoya kept her head on Maya’s shoulder and closed her eyes. Maya looked at the sky above and the stars were shinning to eternity and for the first time in her life everything made sense to Maya. For the first time she was truly in love and it mattered. A lone tear fell from her eyes to the ground and disappeared in to the soil down below.

Amrutha

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Crossroads Chapter 13 Two Way

Chapter 13: Two way

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Zoya stood outside Maya’s cabin for a very long time for Maya to finish her meeting. Zoya hadn’t seen Maya since days. This time it was not Maya who was ignoring Zoya but it was Zoya who stayed away from Maya. Staying away from Maya was not easy but still Zoya had to figure out what Maya meant in her life. Maya had called Zoya every day after Zoya had broken the engagement. Zoya picked up the call but didn’t say much to Maya. Zoya didn’t want to talk to Maya but was afraid that Maya might go back to the situation she was in a few days before and Zoya didn’t want Maya to fall in to the kind of emotional black hole ever again. Zoya spoke to Maya just enough to make sure that she was fine. Zoya called Maya’s office every day to make sure that she had come there. Zoya made sure that the receptionist won’t tell Maya about it.

Maya watched Zoya through the glass wall of her cabin. Zoya looked tensed but tried her best to look composed. Zoya never spoke about Arshad or the engagement with Maya. Maya acted as though she had no idea about it. She called Zoya and asked about many things but never mentioned anything about the engagement. Maya knew that Zoya wanted to speak to Maya but also understood that she was avoiding her as well. So Maya kept away from Zoya. She wanted to give Zoya some space and also wanted to wait till Zoya would open up about the issue to her.

Maya followed Zoya everywhere, without Zoya noticing it. She went to the event sites where Zoya was working at and looked at Zoya from a distance. No matter how troubled Zoya was, she never let that hinder her work. She was always in smiles and took care of her employees really well. It was magical to see Zoya work. The way she walks from one part of the place to the other and almost falling down. Zoya had an issue balancing herself and slipped at times. Maya was always cautious while walking along with Zoya and always caught Zoya when she was about to fall. Kind of Maya knew the rhythm of Zoya’s walk and the depths of her talks and when would she be completely immersed in the conversation and forget to balance herself. Maya knew it all.

Maya signed the contracts after reading them, watching Zoya shifting from one leg to the other. Maya could easily recognize Zoya’s impatience. Maya shook hands with her clients and saw them out and asked her secretary to let Zoya in. Zoya was hesitant first but walked in to the cabin briskly.

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Zoya: I need to talk to you. Would you come out with me now?
Maya: Yes, I will but what is the issue?
Zoya: I will tell you when we are somewhere alone.

Maya agreed and asked Zoya to follow her. Maya went to the car parking and opened the door to her BMW. It was Zoya’s favorite car and whenever Maya went out with Zoya she always chose that car. Zoya got inside the car and didn’t speak a word. Zoya was confused and scared thinking about how she was going to tell Maya about Arshad and how Maya would react to it. Zoya was not sure if Maya already knew about the issue. The last couple of weeks without Maya was killing Zoya from the inside but whenever she checked about Maya she came to know that Maya was fine and was coming to office and was going to business meetings. Zoya thought Maya had overcome the emotional breakdown and didn’t want to tell Maya that she had broken the engagement as it might instill a new hope in Maya’s mind and Zoya never wanted to give any false hopes to Maya. Even though Zoya tried to stay away from Maya it hurt so much every day and her heart couldn’t bear the pain and hence she called Maya and said that she wanted to meet her.

Maya drove the car to their secret meeting place. A hilly area with a lot of trees and mostly no visitors at all. Zoya and Maya spent hours talking about nothing and everything in the world. Maya stopped the car at their favorite spot and got out of the car. Zoya opened the door and went out too. Maya was watching Zoya while she walked towards the edge of the hill. Maya had a fear of heights. But when she was with Zoya it vanished. Maya gets so drowned in Zoya’s presence that she forgets about the height of the hill or the wind that blows over her body.

Zoya looked down and then to Maya.
Zoya: Maya, I wanted to tell you something,
Maya: What do you want to say?
Zoya: I don’t know if you already know about it.
Maya: I can tell you that only if you tell me what you want to tell me.
Zoya: Maya, I am not engaged. I broke my engagement with Arshad. That’s it. I wanted to tell you this but I couldn’t. I am sorry.
Maya: So it took you 16 days, 17 hours and 44 minutes to tell me something that I already knew.
Zoya: I was just confused and I didn’t want you to feel that I did it for you because I didn’t. I just didn’t want to get engaged.
Maya’s smile vanished but she already knew that Zoya didn’t love her so she stayed calm. The pain of rejection is bearable if the person you love is still talking to you. For Maya it was all that mattered at that moment. Zoya was there standing in front of her. After all that had happened Zoya was still talking to Maya and that meant that Zoya couldn’t be without her. Maya was lost in thoughts that she didn’t see Zoya coming closer to her.
Zoya: Maya, what happened? What are you thinking.
Maya: Nothing at all. Just nothing. Can I ask you something? Maya moved closer to Zoya.

Staying away from Maya for a few days had changed something in Zoya. She didn’t know if it was the distance or the fact that now she knew that Maya loved her. But Zoya was sure that there was something definitely wrong. Zoya could feel her heart beating faster than ever. Maya came closer to her and Zoya could feel goosebumps all over her body and it felt beautifully strange.

Maya: Zoya who am I to you?
Zoya: Why are you asking me this?
Maya: I just wanted to know.
Zoya: You are my friend Maya. My best friend.
Maya: Good to know. So that’s all you feel for me? Just wanted to confirm.
Zoya: Maya, I am sorry. I know what you feel but I can’t be what you want me to be. I can only be your friend.

Zoya slowly touched Maya’s shoulder and realized that it was a wrong move. Maya’s skin was hot against Zoya’s fingers. Maya who was looking at the valley below suddenly turned around and kissed Zoya on her lips. It was all of a sudden and Maya couldn’t control herself. All the pain she had suffered. All the distance she had kept from Zoya raced to her heart. Maya’s mind was a blur and she kissed Zoya like it was only thing she had ever wanted to do.

When Maya turned around Zoya didn’t know that Maya was going to kiss her. It was all of a sudden like a gush of wind or a hailstorm. Zoya’s insides heated up. It shocked her and made her numb. But what surprised Zoya was how much she wanted that kiss. It felt liberating as though she was a lake blocked by a dam and was suddenly released to flow on her will. Zoya shivered in Maya’s kiss and then Zoya kissed Maya back. She held Maya’s head with both her hands and kissed her lips and then all over her face. It was all of a sudden that even Maya was awestruck.

Maya was shocked and she released her hold from Zoya’s shoulders and Zoya suddenly realized what she had done. Whatever she didn’t know, whatever she was trying to hide, it all came out like a downpour.

Zoya sat down weak taking long heavy breathes. She kept her head low and looked at the ground. Maya looked at Zoya with disbelief and then she smiled and laughed softly to herself. Maya wanted to jump up and down at that moment but she kept calm. Zoya has kissed her back. An action that she thought as a mistake turned out to be something completely different. Maya touched her lips and her face, everywhere where Zoya’s lips touched her. Maya couldn’t believe it. She laughed and cried at the same time. Maya turned away from Zoya and faced the valley. She called Zoya’s name. Zoya raised her head. Maya spoke softly as though to the valley and the night in front of her.

Maya: I am in love with you Zoya Siddiqui, and I am no longer sorry.

Amrutha

 

Crossroads Chapter 12 – Muddy Path 2

Chapter 12: Muddy Path 2

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Zoya sat near Maya hugging her tight for an hour or more. Maya was crying for a long time and then she calmed. It was like a storm passing over the sea, raising the waves along with it and crashing them over the rocks. Maya kept her head close to Zoya and let herself feel safe in Zoya’s embrace. It had been years since someone had hugged her and sat by her side without counting time, without caring about anything else. Maya felt peaceful and guilty at the same time. She wanted to hug Zoya tight as well as push her away and scream to the air. Maya lifted her head from Zoya’s body and drifted away from her embrace. She wiped her tears with the sleeves of her cloth. Zoya realized that Maya had moved away from her and she opened her eyes in surprise and fear. She had no idea how long it had been since she had come there. Zoya’s phone was somewhere in the room and she hadn’t checked it since her arrival. Zoya looked at Maya in anticipation. Maya kept her eyes low while speaking.

Maya: Zoya, what are you doing here? It`s your engagement today. You have to go now.
Zoya: Leaving you here in this situation? How can I do it or even think about it?
Maya: But it’s your life Zoya, your engagement. I am fine now. I will take care of myself.
Zoya: No, you won’t. I won’t let you do this on your own. You are not alone in this Maya. Whatever it is, we will figure it out together.
Maya: Zoya, you don’t understand what you are saying right now. I am in love with you. Do you understand what it means? Do you have any idea?
Zoya: I know what love means. I have been in love. I have gone against my family for love. So how can I hate you for loving me. It’s confusing to me as it is to you. But I don’t hate you for this nor am I going to leave you for this. Now go and freshen up. I will make you some coffee.
Maya: But it’s your engagement. Your family will be worried.
Zoya: I know, I will call and tell them. They would understand. But no matter what, I am not leaving you here like this.
Zoya held Maya’s face and slowly kissed her forehead. Maya was surprised but stayed calm. It felt so good that Maya smiled involuntarily. Zoya smiled at Maya and took her phone from the floor and went out of the room. Maya sat there for some time looking at the path Zoya walked on and later went to freshen up.
Maya went inside the bathroom, turned on the shower and stood below it. The water was cold on her body. It had been a couple of days since she had bathed or changed clothes. She smelled really bad. Maya didn’t remember when she had last eaten, whether it was yesterday or today. Maya was so lost in her thoughts since the last few days that she totally lost the sense of time or place. Her mind was wandering between wanting to be with Zoya so much and not letting herself get anywhere near Zoya.

Zoya was trembling with fear and confusion when she dialed her Abbus’s number. Wassim was tensed and scolded Zoya for disappearing without informing anyone and being late for her engagement. Zoya told Wassim that Maya was not feeling well and she is taking care of Maya and will come home in an hour. Wassim agreed though relentlessly. Zoya was confused about what she should do. She was not ready to leave Maya in that state but there were many who were waiting for Zoya to turn up as earlier as possible for her engagement and making them wait would be a mistake. Zoya couldn’t decide on what she should do at that moment. Sometimes your mind gets entangled in two different decisions that you have to make and when both are equally right, the mind gets confused more and more.

When Maya came back from shower, Zoya was standing in her room with a coffee mug. Maya looked at Zoya and realized that Zoya was wearing her engagement dress and Maya regretted that she had delayed Zoya`s engagement. Zoya looked beautiful in the blue lehenga that she was wearing and it was the first time that Maya was seeing Zoya in such a heavy dress. The lehenga had strings of pearls attached to it which touched her angles. Maya felt happy that Zoya had left her engagement for Maya but immediately hated that the thought had come to her mind. Maya walked to Zoya and Zoya offered the class of coffee to Maya. Maya took the mug without looking at Zoya and drank it all. Then she kept the mug on the table and spoke.

Maya: Zoya, you should go now. I am fine. I can take care of myself. You should go get engaged. Everyone would be waiting for you.
Zoya: I will go but when you go to sleep. I have put your phone for charging. Lie down and try to sleep. Once you do that, I will leave.
There was disappointment in Zoya’s voice which Maya caught easily.
Maya: Zoya, it’s not that I hate you, I hate myself and I can’t face you until I figure out what I can do about my feelings. So please go.
Zoya: Fine, I am leaving.
Zoya stopped herself from weeping and walked out of the room and from the apartment. There was so much pain in her heart and she had no idea why it hurt so much. Maya looked at the wall while Zoya walked out of her room and hated herself for letting Zoya leave. The truth was, Maya never wanted Zoya to leave the room or her life, ever.
Zoya reached her home and her Abbu asked her to go and get ready as fast as she could. Zoya ran upstairs to her room. Her Ammi and Noor were waiting for her since long. Zoya went inside and tried to smile at them and sat on the chair. Noor took out the ornaments and Zoya wore them one by one. Zoya’s mind was like the deep-sea. She thought about Maya, about Abbu, Yash and Arshad. She couldn’t decide what she wanted to do. She couldn’t understand what would be the right decision. If she decides to marry Arshad, then she will never be able to see Maya. Arshad will take Zoya to London. Even if she remains here in Mumbai, Maya will keep a distance from her and would never speak to her as she would want to forget all her feelings towards Zoya. That thought scared Zoya, leaving Maya forever. Zoya’s eyes welled up. She was sure that she was not in love with Arshad. But what that she felt for Maya was still a mystery to her. But something had to be done and it had to be done today.

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Zoya got up after wearing a chunri over her head and went downstairs. She went towards her Abbu and Arshad. She then looked straight in to her Abbus’s eyes and spoke.
Zoya: Abbu, I don’t want to get engaged.
Everyone was shocked. Arshad who was sitting on the decorated sofa suddenly got up.
Wassim: What are you saying Zoya. We arranged everything after talking to you. Then why are you saying this now.
Zoya: Abbu, I thought I was ready for another relationship but I am not. I am still not ready to get married. And if I agree to get engaged right now, it will be nothing less than forcing myself in to this relationship which I do not want and would only destroy both Arshad and my lives. I have already made enough mistakes in my life and I don’t want to repeat them. I need more time to think about this marriage.
Zoya folded her hands and asked everyone for forgiveness. Arshad was truly hurt but he agreed to what Zoya said and informed that he accepts Zoya’s decision. Arshad and his family left the place. Though most were angry with Zoya but as they knew about what had happened in her life, they thought what she did was right.
After Arshad’s family left Wassim Siddiqui sat on the chair and his eyes welled up. Zoya sat down next to him and apologized to her Abbu. He didn’t speak to her but he kept his hand on top of her head and gave his blessing to her and got up and walked to his room. Zoya called her Abbu and he didn’t turn back. Zoya wiped her tears and ran upstairs and Noor followed her.

There were a few people who were standing and talking outside Zoya’s house. Among them was a person who stood and watched everything that was happening around her. Maya felt as though her soul had left her body when Zoya walked out of her room. She had no idea that she loved Zoya to that extend to follow her to her home to convince her to break the engagement with Arshad. It was total madness and made no sense but Maya felt as though she was suffocating and only Zoya’s presence could keep her alive. Maya drove her car faster than she had ever done before to reach Zoya but when she reached Zoya’s house, Maya learned that Zoya had already broken the engagement with Arshad. Maya was shocked. She went numb for a few moments. Maya should have felt sad for her friend but what she felt was a relief. The kind that made her eyes well up and a smile to appear on her lips after a very long time.

Amrutha

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