New Beginnings (Part 2) – by Kinjal

Click here to read New Beginnings (Part 1)

Aakash was a go-getter but a picky one. He would often take his own sweet time to decide what he wanted to do, and after much rumination he would come to a decision. But once he was sure, he would charge ahead like a bull chasing the red flag. He had succeeded in getting Avni out of the house and had first hand seen the joy and wonder on her face as if she had noticed the world and it’s beauty for the first time. The morning walk symbolised a new beginning not only of a new day but also of a new life of happiness that he was determined to gift Avni.

He already knew his next course of action- it was to reconnect Avni to her lifelong passion for pottery. She loved pottery and was drawn to it even as a child. She would often practice on her wheel for several hours till she created the perfect clay pot. After Varun’s death she had turned away from it. Aakash knew that to rekindle a long forgotten passion was to infuse the breath of life into a dead person.  He was now waiting for the right opportunity to strike, which came to him in the form of a phone call from Avni’s mother. He had been invited for dinner that night.  His lips quirked in amusement due to the sheer good luck that had come his way. He would ensure that Avni put her hands on the potter’s wheel even if it meant getting his own hands in the dirt.

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During dinner Aakash requested Avni to teach him pottery under the pretext of gifting his mother a hand-made flower pot on her birthday, which was a week away. Avni wanted to refuse, but before she could answer, her mother happily declared that her daughter would definitely help him make a flower pot that was bound to please his mother.

The next day, Aakash walked into Avni’s room with an air of confidence to begin the pottery class. Avni explained the basics of pottery and simultaneously began the preparations by kneading the clay.

“Now that the clay is ready we will start shaping it on the potter’s wheel.”

She scooped her hair up and secured it in a neat bun at the top of her head with a hair clip. A few strands escaped and fell around her face but she ignored them as she placed the ball of clay in the centre of the wheel head.

“Now we will rotate the wheel with this stick and then….”

She trailed off when she felt his fingers brush her ear as he tucked a strand of her hair behind it. She cleared her throat and continued to instruct him trying to ignore the tingling sensation caused due to this physical contact.

She pressed the ball of clay downward and inward making a hollow and then gently pulled it upwards and outwards shaping the walls so that they were of equal thickness. Aakash mimicked her hand gestures but ended up breaking his clay pot several times.

“Dammit! This is so difficult!” He cursed loudly when his clay pot crumbled for the tenth time.

Avni bit back a smile and urged him to try once more. “I need a break,” he muttered and threw his rag cloth on the floor. While getting up he accidentally stepped on the clay and slipped. He landed on his bottom with a resounding thud with clay spattered all over his face and hair. Avni quickly got up to help him but slipped on the clay as well and landed on the floor next to him. They both looked at each other. A snort turned into a giggle which quickly transformed into unbridled laughter.

“Aakash, look at your face! You look like a monkey!”

The sight of his comical expression and mud streaked face had Avni almost choking with laughter.

He grinned at her and grabbed a piece of clay. She shrieked and ducked her head but was unable to dodge the clay which landed with a squish on her face. Avni’s mother stood at the door and looked at both of them laughing and hurling clay at one another. Her daughter had finally laughed after two years and nothing pleased her more than to hear her laugh with abandon.

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After that day, Avni spent most of her afternoons beside the twirling potter’s wheel creating one beautiful piece after another. One afternoon when Avni was preoccupied in molding the base of long necked clay pot, she felt someone nuzzle her leg. The sight of a small Labrador puppy licking her toe elated her so much that she gasped in delight. She quickly wiped her hands with a rag cloth and lifted the puppy cooing softly to him. When the eager pup licked her face and placed his tiny paws on her shoulder, she felt her heart melting into a pool of love.

“Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited to see you smile like this?”

Avni looked up to see Aakash leaning against the door frame watching her intently.

“When did you get a dog?”

“It’s not my dog,” he said and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “It’s yours.”

“You got him for me! But why?”

“I wanted to thank you for helping me out and couldn’t think of a better way than this. I know how much you love dogs, so I got one for you.”

“He’s adorable. I’ve already fallen in love with him,” she said burying her face in his soft fur.

“Your smile. It’s always been your smile.”

“What?”

Avni turned to face him and saw that he had a dreamy far away look on his face.

“The first time I saw you smile like this was when you were feeding biscuits to the stray dog outside your house almost 12 years ago. That was the first time I fell in love with your smile.”

Aakash unfolded his arms and slowly walked towards Avni.

“I fell for you when I was in the sixth grade and since then I had decided that I wanted to make you smile that way every day.”

“Aakash, I- I don’t know, I mean, you know that…”

“I know that you have always loved Varun, but I want you to know that you are my first love. I wanted to tell you how I felt, but it was too late by the time I could muster the courage to say it.”

“Aakash… I don’t know what to say…”

“You don’t have to say anything. I don’t expect anything in return. I just want you to be happy. I know that losing Varun was very painful for you but giving up on life is never the solution to any problem.”

He looked into her eyes and perhaps for the first time Avni noticed the boundless love he felt for her.

“The next time you remember Varun, think about all the beautiful memories you have with him. I’m sure that’s what Varun would want too.”

With these words Aakash walked out of the door. Avni sank into an armchair as her leg threatened to buckle. She had no idea about Aakash’s feelings and didn’t know how to respond to his confession.

Hand holding heart against beautiful setting.

She didn’t see him the next day or even the day after. She learned from his mother that he had gone to Pune for some work. At first Avni was relieved that she wouldn’t have to face Aakash but she found herself thinking about him more often than she liked. She was so used to having him around that without him she began to feel lonely. Morning walks were no longer enjoyable, even looking at her beloved potter’s wheel reminded her of their clay fight and all the hard-work they had put in to complete the flower pot. She found herself waiting desperately to tell him that she had decided to call her pup ‘Happy’. She began to realise how much she cherished his company. She didn’t know whether this was love or friendship, but she did know one thing- that she cared for him and she decided that she would tell him that.

The next day when she took Happy for an early morning walk, she saw Aakash’s mother sobbing uncontrollably while her husband tried to comfort her while helping her settle into their car.

“Uncle, what happened? Why is aunty crying?”

“Aakash has met with an accident. We are going to the hospital.”

All the blood drained from her face as she tried to process what she had just heard. Panic clawed its way into her heart and she clutched her own shirt, trying to ease the pain around her heart. If she wasn’t clear about her feelings yesterday then today, in this moment she knew what she felt for him- it was much more than friendship.

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Avni left for the hospital with Aakash’s parents. The only thought that kept ringing ominously in her head was that she could not afford to lose him.  On reaching the hospital they were informed that Aakash had to undergo a minor operation since he had dislocated his shoulder. Fortunately, he was out of danger.

She waited outside while his parents went in to meet him, grateful for the few moments that she got to calm her nerves. It was after a good 30 minutes that she finally entered his room. When she saw his bruised and battered face she tried hard to fight back her tears.

“How could you do this to me?”

Aakash opened his swollen eyes and saw Avni glaring at him from across the room. He saw her lower lip tremble and realised that she was trying to mask her pain by shouting at him. Before he could reply she dashed towards him and threw her arms around him.

“Oww!”

“Oh, oh I’m sorry, ”  she stammered and suddenly felt very foolish.

“Don’t you know the rule? You can’t shout at a patient or accost them like this.” Aakash said this with a cheeky grin in an attempt to mask the throbbing pain around his shoulder.

“Couldn’t you be more careful? How can you go around getting hurt like this! Do you know how worried I was!”

“You were worried for me??”

“Of course I was worried because you’re my friend and ….”

“And?”

“because I love you!”

These three words were so unexpected and it’s effect so profound that Aakash almost fell out of the hospital bed.

“I realised how much you mean to me when I didn’t see you for a week. I missed you like crazy.  When I got to know about your accident…. I felt like I was going to lose someone I love again and even the thought was unbearable.”

Unable to control her emotions she started to weep while Aakash watched in stunned silence. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He wanted to jump with joy but he was aching everywhere and couldn’t move without a yelp that was sure to embarrass him. He shifted clumsily and patted the empty space next to him. Avni sat beside him and smiled hesitantly as he wiped away her tears.

“It’s ok, I’m fine now.”

Avni caught his hand and amidst hiccups asked him, “Will you promise me that you will never leave me and go?”

Aakash smiled and framed her face with his hands. In that moment he had everything he had wished for.

“Yes, I promise that I will stay with you, forever.”

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<The Beginning>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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