Author's Note: I had a request for a more realistic ending, an ending that reflected the fact that Aman had a life-threatening disease. I wanted to rewrite that whole hospital scene anyway, so here it is: How It Should Have Ended.
Chapter Four: Naina
He's dying now.
I am focused on his fingers in mine, still warm, still trembling with life.
I am focused on his eyelashes resting like black feathers against his pale cheek.
I am focused on his breaths, quietly moving from his lungs to pass his lips, then back again.
I am focused on his heartbeats, pounding slowly and more slowly.
I am focused on the memories, the years we had, the years we fought for and won.
He's dying now.
I breathe through the fear, the dark years that stretch ahead of me.
I close my eyes against the sight of his mother's tears, the sorrow etched into her face.
I open my eyes to catch Rohit's glance, the glance of love and concern. The strength I wish I could possess.
I remember his smile, the dimples that play across his face.
I remember the warmth of his arms around me, his heartbeat like a drum against my ear.
I remember his voice, his words that I never could get enough of.
I remember the moments when our eyes would meet for endless spans of time, when it was just him and me, Aman and Naina.
I remember laughter, tears, pain, joy, hope, and dread.
He's dying now.
Whatever I may want, whatever I may hope for, the time is now and I am about to step into the dark.
He said something to me, something that was important and I should not forget. As my eyes trace the deep crescent of his eyebrows, I let my mind drift back to that day.
I was so angry. The surgery was over, the healing was done, he was home and well and we were in love. And then it happened.
We were at the grocery store, buying vegetables, he was smiling and I was laughing and we were holding hands. Then his face turned gray and he sort of fell sideways, and I don't remember anything except some lady with two kids in her cart called 911 and I was kneeling there, vegetables forgotten, holding his hand and begging him, please don't leave me, don't leave me, I love you . . .
He opened his eyes to look at me. He smiled, like at that day on the pier. The day that I found out and my world shattered for the second time.
"I'm not leaving you, sajana," he whispered. "I'll never never leave you."
His finger reached up to touch my face where my dimple is and he said, "I'm right there."
He is dying.
But I watch, because I have one last gift for Aman, the man who taught me to smile again.
The lashes drift upwards to reveal the soft brown underneath, and I feel as though a light has come into the room again.
His eyes slowly glide around the room, taking them all in. His mother, his uncle my mother, Gia, Shiv, Jazz and Sweetu, Rohit, my Dadi, and finally me.
I lean close to him, I hold his eyes with mine. One last gift.
My lips twitch into a smile, a smile that holds all the love I possess. One last time, I smile for Aman Mathur, and I bring our hands up so that his trembling finger can touch my dimple.
"Never forget, love," I whisper. "Kal a jayga."
He is dying. But we are whole.