A/N: Guess what? I re-watched KANK, and the result? It's right in front of you. This is a Rhea-centric piece. I found myself sympathizing a lot with Rhea, so I wrote this one.
Please read and review!
Dev had never been extremely popular in college, but nor had he been unpopular. He was average-looking, he didn't excel in his studies, but nor did he do particularly badly. He was from a middle-class family, not particularly rich or poor. He had a nice enough nature, but sometimes lost his temper irrationally. He seemed to be in-between for everything. That was Rhea's theory. The only thing about Dev that didn't fit in with her theory was his talent for football.
Rhea had always been fascinated by him. How could someone be so ordinary, so average? To be this normal was in itself abnormal. To be so average was an anomaly in itself. She would find herself watching him out of the corner of her eye during classes. Sometimes he would look bored and fidget, others he would contribute to class discussion and ask questions. Rhea would watch.
The first time he actually talked to her was when he asked if he could borrow her notes in economics. She had wordlessly handed them to him and he had smiled at her. 'Thanks, Rhea,' he had said. She had wondered, dazed, how he had known her name. That was all. It was a simple first conversation. There was no clap of thunder of flash of lightning. Rhea had not been hit with the dazzling realization that this was the guy she was going to marry, like it happened in good books and bad films.
After that simple first conversation, they had many more. They often lent each other notes and sometimes ate lunch together. Rhea had no real friends and Dev only had the guys from the football team to hang out with, so it suited them. Sometimes he would tease her about how seriously she took their course work. He sometimes called her a nerd. She would always say that it was not nerdiness, but hard work.
All the time they spent together, Rhea would look at Dev and try to analyze him as she did with most of the people and things in her life. What was it about him that fascinated her so? What special quality did he possess that made her unable to take her eyes off him?
After a while, his every comment would seem wise and witty. His every move perfectly justified. His temperament the sweetest there was. After a while, every time Dev smiled, Rhea felt that he was the most handsome man in the world. Every time he ogled some other girl, she would feel like putting a hand on his chin and turning his head towards her. She would wish with all her heart that he would look at her like that.
It happened a couple of years after graduation. They still kept in touch – they were the only friends each other had. It had been Dev who had initiated their friendship, but it had been Rhea who had made the next move. That day, when they met up at Dev's house to hang out, she had made them both some hot chocolate. They often would sit there, sipping, sometimes talking to each other and sometimes remaining in a comfortable silence.
Perhaps it had been because of how late it was, or maybe it had been seeing Dev smile at her with a bit of marshmallow on the corner of his mouth, but the next thing she knew, she was kissing Dev. His smile had frozen in shock and the hand holding the mug had slipped, spilling the warm liquid all over himself, which in hindsight, was really quite funny.
'What was that?' he had asked, a little dazed.
She looked at him, an eyebrow raised playfully. 'What did you think it was?' As he continued to stare at her, dumbstruck, her grin faded. 'Dev,' she said more seriously, 'I am going to tell you something that I think you will find quite obvious after what I just did. I want you to know that you have no obligation to do anything. If you don't feel the same way, that's fine – don't feel forced to do anything you don't want to do. No matter how things turn out, I still want to be friends.'
'Dev, forgive the cliche, but I love you.' She sighed. That was a weight off her shoulders. She looked back up at him and smiled gently, twining her fingers through his. 'The rest is up to you. Remember, whatever you decide, we are still friends.'
Dev had clutched her hand. She remembered wondering what was going through his mind, already starting to tell herself that it was okay if Dev didn't feel the same way, that she would find someone else. She wondered why Dev was taking so long, wondered if he was trying to find a way to let her down gently without breaking her heart.
Dev remembered clutching her hand tightly. He remembered thinking harder than he had ever thought before. He had analyzed every time he had been with Rhea – every meeting of theirs. He remembered the feel of her mouth on his – warm and wet, but in a nice way. He tried to think of what came to mind when he thought of Rhea. He enjoyed her company and liked spending time with her. He had quite liked kissing her. He looked at her. Every feature suddenly seemed overwhelmingly beautiful and the expression in her eyes was vulnerable. He did not want to hurt her. He reasoned with himself. If all of this wasn't love, then what else could it be?
Rhea had waited for him to answer, her eyes blameless but rather fearful, ready to take the negative she was sure was forthcoming. What she wasn't expecting was Dev kissing her again.
Sometimes, she would look at the happy photographs and think of those hot chocolates. She would wonder how on earth their relationship could break over a hot chocolate when it had started over one.
Dev had never been the most romantic person. She was sure that was what was behind his decision to marry her. And though she knew that if he had given a negative answer, her heart would have been broken, she wished that he had. That he had told her he didn't love her. She even managed a small smile. Despite all she had said to him about not feeling obligated to say yes, that idiot had agreed in order to spare her feelings, convincing himself that his feelings of friendship were of love.
Dev not loving her would have been easier to handle back then. If he realized back then, she wouldn't have been half as hurt as she was now. Back then, she would have been able to get over Dev, but now it was much harder. It was much harder knowing that now, Dev had fallen in love with someone else. Now, she had allowed herself to fall in love with him and falling out of it was proving to be more difficult than ever.
At first, Rhea had been extremely angry at him, and she still was at times. She had hated him for what he had done, for sacrificing his family for his own gain. But after a while, she had realized that though Dev did not love her, he must have cared for her at least a little, and she knew that he loved Arjun very much. Though he and Maya had... well... even during all that, he didn't just up and leave his family behind. And he had told her the truth – he had told her that that relationship was over now and had left the decision upto her, just as she had, so many years ago after they had first kissed.
She had thrown him out of the house. She wouldn't have been able to bear it. Her heart was not large enough to forgive him completely. They still kept in touch, and he sometimes came to visit Arjun and Mom. She found it strange that before, just seeing him had put a smile on her face – now, when she saw him, her smile would fade.
Despite all she had said to Dev when she first told him she loved him, she doubted they would have been able to remain friends. It was like now. Her friendship with Dev hadn't quite survived their divorce. They were still on talking terms, but they would never be as close as they were. Rhea was awkward around him and he often felt too guilty to meet her eyes. She couldn't bear to be around Dev for too long – too many memories. Rhea thought that she almost grieved Dev the friend more than Dev the husband. Their friendship had always been sweet and caring, but the last four years of their marriage had been hell.
The pain of Dev's loss was still there, but it was not so bad now. Jai had been there for her whenever she had needed support or a shoulder to cry on. The human heart, she found, was large enough to love again. Jai would never take Dev's place – nobody ever could – but he had made himself a place of his own. She was not quite ready for marriage yet – too many ghosts. Jai had promised he would wait.
And now, three years after her divorce, she didn't have any regrets about her decision. Her marriage with Dev wouldn't have worked – emotionally, it had been one-sided. Maya or not, sooner or later it would have broken.
Though occasionally, she wondered – what would life have been like if Dev had returned her feelings? If he had loved her so much his heart hurt? If that accident hadn't happened seven years ago? She shook her head. There was no point wondering about these things. What had happened had happened.
She slowly sipped her hot chocolate, glad to have Jai's warm arm around her. They often sat here, drinking hot chocolate, sometimes talking to each other, sometimes remaining in a comfortable silence.
'Penny for your thoughts,' he said, looking at her pensive expression.
'Just thinking about Dev,' she said quietly, looking at her mug.
He nodded, sipping out of his own mug. 'If you want to talk, you know I'm here.' He didn't look angry or jealous and he didn't probe further – and Rhea loved him for it. When she was ready, she would tell him everything. Though the pain would always be there when she thought of Dev, Rhea knew that one day she would be able to look back on the happy times they had shared together without regrets.
A/N: Howzzat? This is longer than some of the ones I've posted recently, so hope you enjoyed it! Please read and review!