Shankar plucked all his courage as he was opening the door of the sixth floor of the News Flash. Shankar's hands which had never trembled while holding a gun or the eyes which looked completely fearless while facing the nameless criminals he had caught, were now cowering in fear.
And Shankar could not let Shreya see that. Shankar told himself that one more time as he opened the door.
The first person he did see in the floor, was Shreya. Her gray eyes were twinkling as always, as she was pulling up a big file and walking towards her seat.
Probably, it was her eyes that drew him to her. Her eyes always seemed to look into him. Shankar did not know how. She seemed to divine what he was thinking, most of the times.
And right now, Shankar wanted nothing more than to just keep seeing her. The ready smile on her face, that absurd dimple...it just drove him crazy.
But along with that Shankar saw something else. A scar on her forehead. A fresh scar.
And Shankar felt a fresh stab of fear assault him. That prick Karan. Just because Shankar had closed down Karan's smuggling business, Karan had tried to hit Shankar. And Karan really knew where to make Shankar hurt.
Even now, when Shankar thought of the five hours that followed the time, he had come to Shreya's house and found the house in complete disarray, Shankar felt a cold fear assault him. That nameless dread which filled him when he saw that it was Karan's handiwork.
And the following five insane hours, where Shankar had spent doing nothing other than snarl and try his best not to kill people. Shankar had lived and died every second in those five hours.
And he had found her at last, near the abandoned building near the Harbour.
She was barely conscious, as she was struggling not to show how terrified she was. She did not even know that she had hurt her forehead, and Shankar knew she was finding it extremely difficult to focus of him. Her gray eyes looked haunted as she had hugged him tightly as Shankar could feel sobs racking her entire body.
Shankar knew he could not go through all that again and live. Which was why he was here.
That was when she saw him.
Shankar's heart ached as he wished he could record the expressions on her face.
The gray eyes....the beautiful gray eyes. It sparkled with joy and she did not even look like she was thinking about the scars she had. That did not even seem to compute in her head. Shankar wondered how the Powers-That-Be still found time to make girls like that. Then Shankar stopped himself. That was what he was not supposed to be thinking. Especially now. Preferably never.
She moved over and came towards him crossing over the cubicles and never once did her eyes move away from him.
But her smile was hesitant as she studied his foot. "How is your leg?" She asked looking worried at him. "When were you discharged....?"
"I want to talk with you." Shankar said gruffly. He swallowed painfully hoping she would not notice it. The quick concern in her eyes was just driving him insane. He did not deserve that. Not one bit.
Her mouth looked amused as she heard him. "You are talking with me," She said rolling her eyes.
Shankar struggled with himself because he wanted to chuckle.
He did not come here for this.
"ALONE!" Shankar snarled as he saw two to three people from the room were looking curiously at them.
Shankar walked away from the room as Shreya was curiously following him.
They found the first empty room, which turned out to the editor's room. The editor was naturally not there as Shankar looked around the room and found no threat as he looked at Shreya.
"What is with the secrecy, Inspector?" Shreya demanded. "The editor is going to barge in the room and he is going to be very unhappy when he cannot.."
"I cannot do this anymore," Shankar said abruptly, cutting off Shreya's talk. He had never interrupted Shreya before this. He loved to hear her talk. Her melodious voice, her expressive eyes – they made just about anything interesting.
But right now he just could not do it.
"Do you know that your sentence does not have a predicate?" Shreya asked her lips, in half a pout, struggling not to giggle. "All sentences should have a subject and a predicate...." Shreya started pedantically.
And Shankar's heart ached. She was so....
"I cannot do this. I do not see any future for us anymore, Shreya," Shankar said taking a deep breath. He had to finish this as soon as possible. Preferably before he had a complete breakdown.
For the first time, there was a doubt in Shreya's face. "What are you talking about Inspector?"
"I do not love you, Shreya,"
There it was. Before coming here, Shankar was sure he was going to gag before the words were out of his mouth. Saying this and saying it like he meant it, just took up all that he could summon right now.
And as he said the words, he could see something in her eyes die. That bubbly enthusiasm which was part of her, it just died.
That was when Shankar felt his bones reeling.
"Shankar, what has gotten into you?" Shreya asked and her voice was not cold. She was just hurt. Too hurt. "Are you doing all this because of what that bastard Karan did?" Shreya asked and she looked like she was gasping to breathe. "You don't have to worry about me, Shankar. I can take care..."
"There is another woman in my life, Shreya," Shankar interrupted harshly, willing Shreya to believe him. "I love her. I do not want to be with you anymore...." Shankar stopped talking because he knew that he could not finish the sentence.
Shreya looked at Shankar in part horror and part disbelief.
And that was when Shankar looked at Shreya and felt confident enough to give her a ruthless smile.
The smile did it.
Shreya looked like she was finding it difficult to breathe as her hurt eyes were struggling to look at Shankar, and she looked like she did not want to believe him. But Shankar's cold eyes and smile were giving her absolutely nothing to hold on to.
"Thank you for telling me upfront," Shreya said in a dead listless voice. "And I hope you have a happy life with her, Shankar." Shreya said in a curiously huddled voice not looking anywhere at him.
She was looking at her feet and Shankar was sure that she did not want him to look at her tear-stained eyes.
And Shankar did not want to do that. He was afraid, he was going to completely break down if he saw that.
And that was at the minute, Shankar knew that Shreya was never going to forgive him. No matter what he said. She would never let him back in her life.
He had broken her heart. Cruelly.
"Goodbye Shankar," Shreya said in chocked voice, walking towards the door and opening it.
She did not even turn back. Not even once.
If she had, she would have seen a broken man. A man who had just had his heart broken.
Shankar closed his eyes, struggling to keep breathing. In-Out. In-Out. Finally, it was over. Shreya would live. She would live with a man who loved her. Not with him. But with a man who really loved her. And who brought light into her life. The same way she did for others.
And Shankar had no doubt that Shreya would find someone else. She was just someone like that. She just needed to blink and men would fall for her.
In a few months, she would probably not even remember him.
Shankar never remembered his journey back home, that day.