“Get up, you horse,” said Kian, thrusting a soft pillow on my head. I groaned and pulled the blanket up above my head to block out his voice. It was obviously in vain. Kian was anything but a quitter. He would never take no for an answer. He, for one, knew how to take advantage of my weak defenses to get what he wanted. “The sun would be up any minute now. You didn’t come here to sleep, Ananya.”
“Yeah, right,” I got up groggily, trying to blink away the sleep that was threatening to devour me. I meant to shout at him, but he wore that excited look on his face, one that was keen on sharing every possible experience with me. Was that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Well, I did not know.
The tent we had slept in looked cramped with the two of us and the truckloads of bags that we had carried all the way there. We had been planning this getaway for our honeymoon. Somehow, it had not materialized until the day before yesterday – the week before our divorce. Yep, you read that right. We were heading for a mutual separation, having been best friends for a decade and married for another half a decade. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, what went wrong then, you ask?
Well, nothing, actually. And everything.
Kian looked at me with a lot of hope. Damn, those eyes. No, there was no way I was going down that path again. Hell no! I walked out our tent and stifled a yawn, stretching my hands out like a rubber band. The grass blades, wet with morning dew, were squished gently underneath my feet. I loved walking barefoot on the grass, as the scent would go straight to my brain and then soothingly spread across my body.
I quickly made my way to the small washbasin, splashing water all over my face to get rid of the unrelenting drowsiness. The cell phone in my pocket beeped. I grabbed a towel and wiped my face as I read the text from my sister. She was lecturing me for the umpteenth time on how selfish I was being to leave my loving husband. Well, she was not entirely wrong. Maybe I was being selfish.
Kian had been really respectful of my privacy and would even build a wall of bags partitioning my side of the bed from his. He had also momentarily forgotten everything about the divorce and hit me playfully until I looked up at him grudgingly, before he let it go. I was cursing myself for agreeing to come on this trip already. But then again, I had little choice.
“Come to the trip, and I’ll sign the papers,” he had declared.
Kian’s voice put an end to my daydreaming, “Shall we walk to the beach? I don’t want to miss the sunrise.”
I nodded before gulping down a mouthful of water. We walked toward the shore as the sound of the crashing waves echoed through the quiet, waning night. It was a secluded property that had access to a private beach, one that could only be visited by the guests staying there. Our feet crossed the dirt path before the silken sand began caressing our toes. It was awkward to walk beside him and have nothing to talk about. We bickered and argued a lot, often over unnecessary things, and now all that remained was a hollow husk of a once-flowering relationship.
I sat down on the sand, and he followed suit. It was just the two of us witnessing the red dot on the horizon as it slowly began creeping toward the center of the sky.
“Wow,” whispered Kian as the light sky was slowly being painted with hues of soft pink and orange.
“It’s beautiful,” I said, mesmerized, as daylight emerged on the horizon, dispatching yellow rays our way.
“You know why I wanted us to go on this trip?” Kian asked with an edge to his voice. Of course, I knew it. I had wanted to take him away from work at all costs. But that had been five years ago. Now, I was no longer sure if it even mattered.
“To brag about how you’ve been kind and fair to me on Facebook? Tomorrow’s headlines will probably be all about how the CEO of Space Architectures donated a full 72 hours to his soon-to-be ex-wife,” I joked.
I bit my lip. I did not say that to hurt him, but the words had tumbled out spontaneously. That is what we had been doing, anyway. Living an artificial life, trying to hold it together as Kian spent all his time glued to his laptop screen to grow his startup. He had a brilliant mind, and spaces spoke to him. He could see a blank spot, and a blueprint of a building would pop up in his head. And me?
Well, I was just an accountant who barely stayed afloat in an industry that did not take kindly to mistakes. Space Architectures was his baby, his life, and his soul. As it often happens with such passionate and gifted individuals, his dream took precedence over everything else – our relationship, our future… and me.
Kian gazed at the horizon, his eyes transfixed on the waves lapping around our feet, coaxing us to join them. He did not even look at me when he asked, “How’s Carrot doing?”
Carrot was a stray kitten that I had found on the roadside and took home with me. He had now grown up into a beautiful tom.
“He’s doing fine. Still doesn’t miss a single chance to jump over the fence,” I replied.
“You know, I… I kind of miss giving him those belly rubs. Does he miss me?”
I croaked, “Maybe he just got used to your absence, the way I did.”
Kian finally turned to me, holding my gaze. I looked into the eyes of the boy I had fallen in love with. He had turned into a fine man. However, what startled me was just how tired he looked. There were already fine lines running across his forehead, and his eyes had bags underneath. Light stubble adorned his otherwise weary face.
Kian slipped his fingers into his pocket and pulled out a bunch of papers. I had kept my word, and he had kept his. He had signed the divorce papers.
I was not going to cry; not now. He handed me the papers, and my hands trembled as I held them. He turned his gaze back to the sea even as my vision got blurry, thanks to the losing battle I fought with the tears welling up in my eyes. The first paper was titled ‘Partnership Deed’. Wait, what?
I wiped my eyes, trying to check if my eyes were deceiving me. But no, the words stood right there in solid print. I skimmed over the pages thinking this was a joke. However, what it actually was a 15-page agreement that made me dizzy.
“What’s this?” I asked Kian, who had kept silent all this while, perhaps in an attempt to gauge how angry I was. He replied while drying circles in the sand, “Something that I should have done long ago. Well, I’ve already signed the papers.”
I jumped up and put my hands on my hips, “These are not the papers you said you’d sign.”
Kian looked at me with his swoon-worthy eyes, “All I said was that I’d sign the papers. I never specified which, and you didn’t ask, either.”
I was incensed. That idiot had tricked me. And there I was, waiting for all of it to be over. Maybe I was the real idiot. I turned away and started walking back.
Kian ran toward me and blocked my path with his outstretched hands. “Just give me five minutes. Just… just listen me out. If you’re not convinced, I’ll do as you say. No tricks this time. I promise. Please.”
It was the ‘please’ that undid me. I sat down on the sand and replied in what I thought was a devil-may-care tone. On the inside, however, I could feel butterflies fluttering, “Be quick. Your time starts now.”
Kian took a seat near me and started off, “I’ve thought a lot about it. This is the only way. You wouldn’t have accepted if I’d made you the CEO, and you know what? I don’t want you to leave. Not now, not ever.”
His tone had such finality that my anger vanished in thin air.
“But we’ve been over this. There is nothing left between us,” I tried to reason. After all, separation had been a mutual decision. We had agreed to downgrade our relationship to friendship. Only now did I realize that maybe it had not been our decision.
Kian inched closer and held my hand, “Wrong. From now on, nothing would come between us.”
I tried sounding confident, but my voice seemed strained to my own ears, “You’ve said that a dozen times already! There would always be an urgent meeting, a client that needed you more than I.”
Kian pulled me closer, “That’s why I want you with me, Ananya. You would be the partner. I’d attend the meeting with you. Face the client with you. I know I can’t divide my time between the two halves of my life, but the least I could do was to sync them.”
He looked so hopeful; his eyes were so full of guilt that my resolve began to crumble. “But I don’t even understand architecture. And… what if I say no?”
Kian hugged me as he began weaving his fingers through my hair, “But you understand me, and you can pull me back if the costs exceed the future profits. And I know you won’t say no.”
Maybe deep inside, I did not want to say no, either.
I sat cocooned in his arms, breathing in the scent of him; it had been ages since he had held me.
“What makes you so annoyingly confident?” I asked.
Kian chuckled, “You haven’t fought your way out of my embrace yet.”
I punched him on the shoulder as I realized how I had lost the battle. Tears were freely running down my face, splattering on my t-shirt.
Kian whispered in my ear, “Is that a yes?” He waited for my reply, one that never came. Instead, all I did was turn around and pull his windcheater tightly around myself, resting my back against his chest.
We sat there for what felt like ages before the sun started biting our skin. Kian would later tell me that my silence was the best reply he had ever had.
…now that you’re here
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