My eyes stung, and I was surprised to feel a drop of tear roll down my cheeks. Even after so many years, the wound was still fresh, the pain still sharp.
A hand touched my shoulder gently, making me jump. I looked back, and saw that everyone had disappeared. Vanished into thin air. I looked around me desperately, unable to understand what was happening. Was I dreaming, or hallucinating?
“Hey,” a voice said, a voice I knew too well. I looked up into the handsome face of my saviour, the person who had helped me so much in the past, to deal with the pain when grandma died. He was the only force that saved me from crossing over to the side of insanity.
Like always, he was here when I needed him.
“Aryan,” I breathed in relief, and threw my arms around him, enjoying the warm feelings that suddenly erupted inside me. Oh, I couldn’t describe how wonderful it felt to be with him. His love for me made the loss of grandma less unbearable. “You are always here for me.”
He didn’t respond, instead hugged me tighter and stroked my hair. I felt elated, so much loved and comfortable. It was always wonder to see how he could change my moods so suddenly. It felt natural to be with him. He and I, were two halves of one.
We stood like that for some more time, before he asked suddenly, “What are you doing here?”
I pulled back a little from him, but didn’t break his embrace. “I don’t know. I can’t understand how I got here,” I said, confused, “What are you doing here?”
He gazed at me pensively, with those warm brown eyes that I lived for. The old familiar pull crackled between us. It made my blood burn within me. I felt myself drown in those rich chocolate depths of his eyes.
But strangely, he broke away the eye contact with a jerk, and looked away. “I have to tell you something,” he said, suddenly in a nervous voice, and his eyes looked….. sad.
His sudden strange demeanour started making me scared. His sorrowful expression and aloofness told me that something was very wrong. I hoped against hope that it was not because of me somehow.
When I didn’t respond, he looked at me again. Giving me the same long penetrating gaze, he stepped back from me, letting me go. That surprised me the most. He never let go of any kind of physical contact with me if he could help it.
“I am leaving you,” his strong, determined voice echoed through the trees, shattering the silence. His response was so unexpected that I burst out laughing.
“You are joking,” I declared, feeling sure that he was. I mean, how could he leave me? I loved him. He couldn’t leave me. But when his serious, mournful expression didn’t change, I suddenly didn’t feel so sure.
“You are joking , right?” I asked carefully, holding his gaze determinedly. For the first time, I felt truly scared. His expression was starting to freak me out.
He stepped back further, and his expression turned sympathetic. “No, Phoebe, I am serious.”
His words hit my eyes like a thunder, with a force so strong that it swayed me off my feet. I stumbled a few steps back, feeling the world spin around me. He quickly reached out and caught hold of my elbow.
“Hey, easy. Are you okay?” he asked, in a concerned voice. Okay? How could I be okay?
“You can’t leave me,” I said, in a matter-of-fact voice.
He raised an eyebrow. “Well, I am leaving you.”
“No, I mean, you can’t leave me like this,” I could hear a little girl’s plea in my voice, “I love you.”
He let go of my arm. “I love you too, but there are some…. things, which won’t let us be together.”
I stared at him in disbelief. “Are you crazy? No one can come between us. We love each other, isn’t that enough?” I shouted in desperation.
“No, actually it isn’t. No one said life was fair.” He informed me silently.
I shook my head, and looked around me helplessly, for something, something to assure me that this all wasn’t happening. “NO!” I yelled again, “You can’t do this to me. How will I live? Without you? Without grandma?” Tears started rolling down profusely, blurring my vision. I hastily wiped them away, ashamed to let him see me crying.
“It will kill me.”
He gave me an indifferent look. “You were fine without me before we met. And you are strong, you will survive.”
I threw myself at him again, and clutched his shirt, forcing him to look into my eyes. To face the pain I was going through. “Why are you doing this? Why?” I demanded, openly sobbing now.
He stiffened slightly, but again adopted his cold behaviour. “Things were different then, they are different now.”
“What do you mean, different? Is it because of me? Am I not good enough for you?”
He frowned. “No, of course not—” He started, then paused to look at me, “Yes.”
“Yes?” I asked in exasperation.
He gently removed my hands from his shirt and stepped back. “Yes, you are not good enough for me.” He said, averting his eyes.
Another thunder blasted in my ear. “Don’t you love me?” I asked in a small voice.
“No,” he answered, bluntly.
No! NO! He didn’t love me?
My knees gave beneath me and I sank to the ground. After all this time, he could leave me so easily, telling he didn’t love me. That I wasn’t good enough.
“Aryan,” I felt the fatigue in my voice, the pain ironically numbing everything inside me. “Please don’t do this. Please.”
He stepped forward, and sank down in front of me on the ground.
“I love you, you know that. Why are you doing this?” I repeated the same thing again and again.
He leaned towards me, and embraced me. His arms felt safe, so warm. I started sobbing loudly, and my whole body shook. He pulled me, and kissed me softly on my forehead. He wiped away my tears, and pulled back to look into my eyes. I swear, those eyes could bore into my soul. Those eyes, which I might have to lose in a few seconds.
“Don’t,” I said, softly.
His eyes spoke legions as he stared at me. All our warm joyous moments replayed in my mind, as I felt myself starting to drown in those depths again. And like before, he pulled away, and stood up. My mind went blank with pain, and there was nothing I could think of to make him stay.
“Goodbye,” he said, and turned away to walk away.
“Aryan,” I said weakly, not looking up to see if he had heard or not. I had no strength left in me. “I love you.”
His footsteps stopped, and there was a long stretch of silence before he spoke again.
His voice sounded so far, out of my reach, “I love you too, always.”
His tone snapped me to attention. I raised my head in surprise, but found him already disappearing into the mist that wasn’t there before. Hope blossomed inside me, but he was already so far away.
“Aryan!” I yelled in desperation. He was not serious, it couldn’t be. Might be, he was angry at me for something. But he could never leave me.
“Aryan, come back! Come back!” The fog started to envelop everything. My vision was totally blurred from the tears pouring from my eyes.
“Phoebe!” A new desperate voice ringed in my ears. “Phoebe, are you okay?”
No, I am not! I want him back, but I cannot find him.
“Phoebe, wake up. Wake up. You are having a nightmare.” I felt someone shake me hard.
Nightmare? Was all this a dream?
I stumbled over a branch on the ground and fell. The fog had consumed everything, and was closing in on me.
“Aryan!” I yelled his name once more, with as much force I had in me.
“Phoebe!” That voice yelled so close to my ear, that it blanked me out.