Because Love is a Four-Lettered Word!!!

My dear readers, I managed to write yet another one of these. This is the sixth chapter of the Siddhant-Ishika story, and I think you’re fed up with it by now. Still, the story continues. Here are the links to the earlier episodes: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5. I would suggest that you go back, read the earlier chapter, if you haven’t already done it and then come back to find out what happened next.

Ishika and Siddhant had reached an impasse. Like any great story, theirs had a big conflict in the plot and yet, they weren’t fighting about it. They were calm. A certain routine had set in between them. They kept in touch, neither of them going back on their stance. Ishika, still pining for the man she couldn’t have and Siddhant pining for Ishika, it was like a neatly tied bow tie where Ishika and Siddhant were two ends of the leaf. 

More than a month had passed since they first met and Ishika had gone back to her hometown for a week, during which she couldn’t call Siddhant a lot, much to his dismay and very visible discontent. Ishika thought it was cute because she could see he wasn’t happy but he acted as if it wasn’t bothering him. So, on her way back to Delhi, she asked Siddhant if he wanted to spend the next day with her. It was fun to hear him attempt to subdue his excitement as he agreed to meet her at her place the following morning. He was playing it cool, really cool and the subtlety wasn’t lost on her. 

That night, Ishika dreamt about Siddhant. In her dream, he was drowning in the ocean and she was the coast guard trying to save him. When she woke up, Ishika wondered about the symbolism in her dream. She felt protective of him, clearly and she couldn’t understand why. He was just a stranger she happened to meet and yet in the past few weeks, she’d grown so close to him. She dropped him a text asking him if he was coming. He replied that he was on the way. She quickly tidied up her place and prepared some veggies and daal. He was always eating out and she was concerned about his health, so she’d decided to treat him to a home-cooked meal for once.

Siddhant reached her building in a while and on his way up in the elevator, his heart kept thudding hard against his chest. Saying he was excited to meet her, would be a gross understatement because what Siddhant was feeling was more like ecstasy and a bit of nervousness sprinkled on it. He kept checking himself out to see if his hair was okay or not, even though he knew Ishika didn’t really care about appearances. When he reached her floor, he found the door open for him. Ishika was seated on the couch in the living room and she greeted him as he knocked on the door, “Hey! Took you long enough. Come in.”

“Go into that room,” she said, pointing to a bedroom, “Keep your stuff there.” Siddhant set his bag in the room she had pointed at and then started looking around the house. Ishika noticed how quietly he was walking and commented that he was walking like a hunter on the prowl. He laughed at her comment. Siddhant’s Master Plan was in motion. I say "Master Plan" but the plan was actually very straight forward. He just meant to stay around, treat her like a queen and be there for her, so that eventually she’d get attached to him and realize that she couldn’t do without him. And meeting her again was a win for his plan, he thought. 

Ishika asked him to sit in the bedroom with the AC turned up because it was a hot afternoon, while she went to fix lunch for them. But Siddhant followed her to the kitchen and offered to help. He was willing to help but she wouldn’t let him do anything. He chopped a few onions, which she let him do because he was being fussy and then, she finished up the rest of the dishes. While she cooked, Siddhant told her about how he missed his mum’s cooking. He spoke about his hometown and the food there, commenting on the differences in the cooking style, as she poured ghee into the daal and on the chapatis. She was amused.

Siddhant let out a moan of immense satisfaction as he took the first bite of the food. It was amazingly simple and tasty, just like the food his mum cooked for him before she passed away. Ishika gladly smiled at the expression of content she saw on Siddhant’s face. She felt fulfilled. She knew she cared for him. She had a rational explanation for it. And while the expression made sense on paper, the happiness she felt at that moment, seeing Siddhant enjoying the food she cooked, couldn’t be explained away so easily. 

After lunch, Siddhant helped Ishika clean up, even as she told him not to. Ishika excused herself to take a shower. When she came back, Siddhant sat on the bed, quietly. He looked a little nervous and uncomfortable. She urged him to talk to her. He replied with an overt compliment and she blushed a little. He went on to tell her how he was feeling. Even though he had expressed his feelings a hundred times before, every time he managed to use new and colorful words to describe his longing for her. And she’d be taken aback every time. Frankly, she didn’t quite believe that he loved her. She wrote it off as infatuation and expected it to go away eventually.

Little did she know, that Siddhant’s yearning for her was more real than truth itself. He looked at her and a whole world unfurled before his eyes. His life until that point lost all meaning and was re-defined by her existence. He knew that she was the meaning of his life now, his future and everything in between. That was why he would become so speechless when he looked at her. His feelings were bordering on devotion and it scared him as much as it humbled him. What does a man say when facing his Goddess?

Ishika really didn’t want to believe that Siddhant was in love with her. Because then she’d have to accept that she was going to be the reason for the pain that was coming his way. She was never going to be able to love him back, contrary to his unwavering belief. She knew her soul and heart were already taken, even though she would never be with the man she loved. All she could give Siddhant now was care and concern. And every time she’d tell him that he’d end up getting hurt, he would simply say, “So be it.”

The two spent the rest of the day talking. When evening came, Ishika got up to finish some work that had come up. She asked Siddhant to stay in the room while she went to her home office to wrap up the pending work, but he followed her there and sat across from her, in the living room. The tiles on the living room floor were clear and reflective. Siddhant kept looking at Ishika’s reflection in the tiles as she worked. He loved how she tilted her head a little as she looked at her computer screen with concentration. He thought to himself, “I could do this forever.” And sadly, he didn’t even mean being with her. He could pine for her forever, without ever having her for himself.

Sometime later, they sat together on the couch and watched a quirky Adam Sandler flick. Adam Sandler always managed to crack Siddhant up. Ishika looked at him as he laughed, saying a little prayer under her breath, wishing that he never lost that smile in his doomed quest to win her over. Moments later, Siddhant sneaked a peek at Ishika’s face as she looked at the television screen and prayed to a deity he didn’t believe in, to deliver her to him. Neither of the prayers was heard.

They ordered dinner and had it, silently. The mood was suddenly pensive and neither knew why. Siddhant was dreading the moment she’d ask him to leave. He had savored every minute with her and yet it felt like the day had come to a close way too soon. And she’d told him last night itself that he couldn’t stay the night. But somewhere inside his heart, he was stupidly wishing that she’d ask him to stay. But she didn’t. She asked him to call a cab, breaking his heart a little. He didn’t want to leave her. He pulled her close, wishing she’d come up closer and kiss him. It didn’t happen.

At one point, Siddhant just couldn’t take the longing any more and held Ishika in his arms and looked into her eyes. She sternly said no and he backed off. He had learned his lesson after the last time. He wouldn’t kiss her now, only to have her regret it later. He wanted all of her, her heart, her soul, her mind and her body, one without the other wouldn’t satiate the desire in his heart. Siddhant broke into tears as the night ended and the cab driver called to inform that he had arrived. Ishika asked him not to be a baby about it. She went down the twelve floors to see him off. Then he pulled away.

In the hour-long cab ride from her place to his, all Siddhant could think about was the hole he felt in his heart. Why couldn’t she just kiss him? Why was life so unfair to him? Why did the day get over? He cried silently, his tears flowing unnoticed in the darkness of the night, the sound of his sobbing lost in the whirring of the car engine. When he was all cried out, he texted her: “Thanks for an amazing day. I wish it hadn’t ended.” She sent back just a smiley. At that moment, she asked herself a question, “Why can’t I just love him back?”

The truth was that she was feeling all of his misery, his pain, and his heartbreak. What she wasn’t feeling was love for him, at least not the way she’d once loved, not the way he deserved. This was the moment she acknowledged that she did feel something for him, something beyond friendly care but less than romantic love. She felt a kinship towards this ‘stranger’, this “cry baby” like she’d known him forever. 

Miles away, oblivious to the mysterious workings of Ishika’s mind, Siddhant was staring at the phone screen, contemplating whether he should send her another text after that indifferent smiley. He decided not to, and it took a lot of strength on his part. He shut his eyes close tightly and whispered loudly, “Ishika, I love you.” And then, he drifted off to sleep. Ishika, on the other hand, lay awake all night, trying to cope with the feelings she’d caught from Siddhant. 

Yet, nothing changed in the weeks after. Ishika didn’t let those feelings be anything more than what they were, an echo of the sound her first love had made. And Siddhant kept trying to find new and innovative ways to grab her attention. He was doing everything to get her to associate him with happiness. He was doing well at times and failing miserably at others, but he wasn’t giving up. Isn’t love a heartless bitch?


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