‘But there’s a side to you
That I never knew, never knew.
All the things you’d say
They were never true, never true,
And the games you play
You would always win, always win.’
The door swung shut with a click, telling her that she was alone. Alone, at last. The cold, impersonal interior of the hotel room was strangely soothing. There were no memories here, no associations. There was…nothing. The powerful air-conditioning, the four hundred thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, the subdued lighting, the hothouse blooms that delicately perfumed the air, the spotless glass tabletops– this was home. With a wry smile, Lavanya stepped out of her heels, her feet sinking into the plush carpet. Here, was all the comfort of familiar wealth.
Carelessly tossing her sequined dupatta away, she twisted her hair into an untidy knot and sat down at the edge of the too-large queen bed in the middle of the room. Her eyes felt as heavy as her limbs but she knew sleep was hours away. The earliest flight to London that she had been able to book left late at night, the following day. Of course, there had been no question of staying any longer at–
No, Lavanya preferred to make a clean break and leave with whatever dignity she could salvage.
And for her sanity, she needed to get away from all of it as soon as possible: from Mami’s well-meaning but tactless bumbling, from Nani’s eagle eyes that had thawed considerably but still didn’t quite rest fondly on her, from Anjali Di’s cloying affection and concern, from Mama and Akash’s polite and completely ineffectual queries, from the dratted goat, and from…them.
From Chamkili, her best friend, and from ASR, the man she was in love with, and who had claimed to love her.
No, he hadn’t, she corrected herself immediately. He had never claimed any such thing.
He had hired her to work in his company. He had taken her out on breakfast dates. He had asked her to accompany him to formal events. He had met her eyes, sharing a private joke, when the marketing representative of a rival company had mispronounced an important client’s name at a pitch meeting. He had flashed her an appreciative glance when she’d dressed in one of his label’s new creations for the celebration dinner– a flaming red confection of fine silk and beadwork that had fit her like a second skin. He had pushed her up against the wall of her penthouse apartment, kissing her languidly while unzipping the dress, deliberately trailing his fingers over every inch of skin he exposed, setting her on fire. He had taken her again and again, until he’d known every inch of her body as well as his own, making love to her with heated kisses that made her want to scream. He had asked her to move in with him, after they’d been exclusive for almost two years. He had proposed to her in front of his family and the world. He’d showered her with flowers and pretty baubles, he’d defied his grandmother for her, he’d treated her opinion with respect in the still-chauvinistic world of fashion, he’d been everything she’d ever dreamed of…
But he had never claimed to love her.
Lavanya felt a knife twist in her gut, sharp and excruciatingly painful. He had never loved her. That was what really stung. She didn’t even have the solace of knowing that he’d once loved her and had fallen out of love with her.
It was pointless lying to herself any longer: he may have been fond of her but loved her he had not.
And that brought her to Chamkili, the one who held his heart.
Lavanya wanted to scream with impotent rage and frustration and hurt.
How had she been so blind? How had she not seen the way ASR looked at Chamkili?
She knew the answer. It was because ASR and Chamkili weren’t meant to happen. How, in her wildest imagination, could she have seen someone like him fall in love with someone like her? He’d looked down on everything Chamkili had stood for. He’d hated her. How could Lavanya have foreseen his change in affections? After knowing ASR intimately for over two years, did she not know the man at all?
She stretched out on the bed, hugging a pillow close to her chest and burying her face in its cool softness.
Her fingers clenched the fabric as anger bubbled through her veins, threatening to destroy everything around her.
Was this all that friendship and love was worth? No one understood ASR’s raw animal magnetism better than her– but Chamkili had always sworn by values, and morals, and ethics, hadn’t she? She’d always stressed on how important it was to uphold traditions and be a good Lucknowi bride. Chamkili had been the one to convince her that she ought to ask ASR to marry her, that a live-in relationship was disrespectful to her.
Where had all of Khushi’s ideals disappeared to when she was falling in love with her friend’s man? There was a dirty word that Lavanya knew for women who stole their friend’s boyfriends and husbands. She kept it in check with difficulty, knowing in her heart that Chamkili hadn’t lifted a finger, hadn’t done anything to make ASR fall for her, any more than she had been able to help falling in love with him. She had just been there, like he had. And the two of them together had blotted Lavanya out of the picture.
A hiccup of hysterical laughter escaped her. Respect? Respect didn’t come from a marriage certificate and a bunch of archaic rituals. Respect came from consideration for the feelings of others, from the acknowledgment that each individual mattered and had the right to her own opinions and desires. And she had always known that, yet like a fool, had played along.
The truth of the matter was that neither ASR nor Khushi had really respected her. They hadn’t respected her enough to be honest with her about their feelings. They would probably have had continued with that farce of an engagement if she hadn’t finally decided to take her blinkers off and talk to ASR. Lavanya knew she had done the right thing by calling it off, but it was cold comfort.
A sudden, intense longing to return to her old life flooded her being– the life where she knew who she was and what she wanted. The life where she still mattered to ASR. The life that had existed before that whirlwind of colour, sequins, pom-poms, sunshine and kindness had torn everything apart. And the life where everything wasn’t steeped in betrayal and bitter hurt.
Yes, she felt more betrayed by her than by him: perhaps because she had always known ASR to be fickle and thoughtless; and perhaps because she had been convinced that no one would have her back like Khushi would.
She squeezed shut her eyes, trying to stem the endless tears streaming down her cheeks.
Congratulations, Lavanya. It was all a fucking lie. And you, the gullible idiot, fell for all of it. Khushi isn’t your friend. ASR never gave two hoots about you. Di and Mami only wanted you around because they wanted to keep their precious Chhote happy. Nani must be thrilled that you’re gone. No one really cared. And you, people-pleasing moron, wanted to ‘fit in’ and become a ‘suitable’ bride for ASR? Since when has he given a FUCK about ‘suitable’?
She gulped, breathing in deeply. The pressure in her chest was making it increasingly difficult to draw air into her lungs.
God, I hate you two. And I hope you two make each other unhappy and miserable and tear each other apart. I hope you feel every bit of the hurt and betrayal that I do right now.
Lavanya sobbed loudly into the pillow. Her temples throbbed and random flashes of memory from the past year played in her head, until it all blurred together into a psychedelic mess of colours, sounds, and touches.
She had never felt more lonely in her life. Somehow, even the thought of seeing her family in less than 48 hours didn’t comfort her.
Her last conscious feeling as she fell into an exhausted slumber was one of stomach-roiling guilt for cursing the two people she still held closest to her heart.
It’s no secret that I love Lavanya Kashyap. This is a prequel of sorts to Someone Like You. While I’ve definitely outgrown Adele since I wrote SLY about a year and a half ago, I haven’t outgrown Lavanya and my fascination with her. I’ve been thinking of making it a quick series of maybe 3 or 4 parts at most. Each part will also read as a standalone snippet since this series is canon; so you don’t HAVE to read all parts or even read them in order.
I can’t say when I’ll post the next part but it definitely won’t be another year and a half later. 😛