ENTWINED

I looked out of the window and saw my parents coming. For the past one year I had been under the care of an expert psychiatrist, who was trying to make me look into myself and understand my feelings. Today, I’m going back. As the car starts moving, taking me nearer to realities that await me, my thoughts drift back to those carefree days.Print

********

‘Are you sure, Rhea?’ asks my mother.

‘Of course I’m. Survival of the fittest, mother. I’m not going against Darwin. Also I don’t want unnecessary scars on my body.’

It’s a known fact that we are all born to die. And frankly, I don’t understand why it has to be made into such a big deal. If it were not for my mother I would have said that to the bunch of people outside my house, some of them with young kids, shouting slogans, waving placards, literally wanting me to cut one of my beating hearts out. “Save A Life. Donate!” they shout.

For someone who is one in billions, 7.125 billion to be exact, I expect to be treated better. Scientists are still befuddled regarding my condition that gave me two hearts in my mother’s womb. But years of research and sticking needles into me have led them nowhere, and they have labelled me as a freak mutation. It’s so rare – literally one in all humankind – that they didn’t even name the anomaly (as they call it, I will call it awesomeness). I wanted to name the condition myself, something on the lines of Rhea’s Heartsawesome but the doctors aren’t thrilled with the suggestion. Instead they want to cut one of them out and save a life. Huh?

An IQ of 180, increased concentration, exceptional athleticism and a phenomenal metabolism rate – are just the few boring benefits of an increased blood circulation. Why would I ever give that up?Besides, having two hearts is so cool. Maybe I can actually fall in love with two guys!!

I take my satchel; stuff the books into it, and wave to my mom who is still busy in the kitchen as I slip out through the backdoor. Well, this is one of the discomforts that I have to put up with, for sporting two hearts. The front door and gate are almost always populated by doe-eyed sad mommies and irritated dads waiting to pounce on my heart. So I escape through the back door, climb the wall, and land on Ritu’s backyard.

“Hey, thatz a cool top”, comments Ritu as she helps me down the wall.

“Like it? Bought it for just 200.”

“Great! Come let’s hurry…It’s already late”.

I keep my scooty at Ritu’s house, since I cannot, anyway, take it from my house.

“I had been to the hospital again for another batch of tests, on Saturday…” I began, as we sped past our college bus.

“Again?” interrupted Ritu.

“Hmmm. Don’t know when these doctors will get tired of all this. Guess, next they’ll put me in a glass case and display me in their lab.I got this top from a shop near the hospital. What’s in that cover?” ask I pointing to the huge carry bag that she was holding like a baby.

“Model for the science exhibition. Today is the last date, remember?  Didn’t you bring?”

“O! I totally forgot about that! I slogged for days to build that and now…”

“Well, let’s just go back and get it.”

“We’ll be late to college…”

“That’s ok. I’ll call up Ashraya and tell her to proxy us for the first hour. Now, c’mon lets return. There’s nothing to think about. You know Manoj sir is very strict, and he will not give anyone an extra day, not even to people with two hearts.”

The last bit struck a raw nerve and though I knew Ritu was just joking, yet anything, even a slight comment about my two hearts, was enough to spur me into action. And so I took a “U”-turn and sped back, jumped over the wall, through the backdoor, into my room and grabbed the box with my model.

My entry to this year’s exhibition is unique, and close to my heart, ooops, hearts, for unlike others who had their exhibits based on principles of physics, mine was based on myself – a model of a female with, yes, you guessed it right, two hearts. I had all my medical reports right from my birth, for my reference and of course Google. The model depicted that, in principle, both the hearts have to beat to the same rhythm for me to survive without problems.“Hurry, Rhea, we’re getting very late. Can’t you go a bit faster?”

“Yeah, sure”

I accelerated. Took the next curve.Suddenly, a car came from the other side. With no horns from both sides, both of us had no prior warning. It was too late for either of us to brake, and my scooty rammed into the car with a great thud. Then everything became quiet and black.

The next thing I remember is waking up, a day later,with the familiar odour of hospital filling my nostrils. I looked around me, I had mask on my face and was hooked to a lot of machines – some were blinking and others beeping. I gradually remembered the accident, and as my thoughts wandered to Ritu, a thousand questions enveloped me.A nurse came to check on me. I tried to question her, but with the mask on, and hands pinned to various tubes,it was no easy task. But she hurried off on seeing me awake. Very soon the doctor came, checked me, wrote something on my case sheet, and then finally my parents walked in. My mommy’s eyes were red, she was probably crying the whole night and my father looked sterner than ever.

“You’re ok, Rhea and so is Ritu. Now don’t ask or say anything. I’ll tell you everything later. Get some sleep.”

I was told the details later. Ritu had broken her leg, and had lost a big chunk of flesh from her face. She will have to undergo a number of plastic surgeries to set her face right. The guy who was driving the car was also a college student. He had suffered very severe injuries. Of the three of us, it seemed, I had been the luckiest, for all I had were a bandage on my chest and a fractured leg.

That evening, both my parents came to me, they seemed very grave.

“We want to talk to you, Rhea”, started my mother.

“And you have to listen carefully and please don’t jump to any conclusions, or get unnecessarily excited.” added my father.

I knew the issue was definitely related to this accident and my rash driving. I was already driven by guilt and knew I was responsible for this whole accident. Were they planning to sell off my Scooty and tell me never to drive again?

“…we didn’t have an option. This was the only way”, my mother was saying

“What?” I blurted out.

My father, in his calm voice started explaining.

“For making your exhibition model, you did a detailed study of your two hearts.So you have a fair idea as to how you survived all these years. Both your hearts were in sync. But this accident, it caused one of your hearts to go out of rhythm. This could lead to various complications including…” he paused there and his face looked very pained.

I still had not comprehended what they were driving at, or rather; my mind was deliberately refusing to accept the obvious.

“…so we had to remove it. The boy, who was driving the car, had a serious heart injury. So, your heart was transplanted into him”, finished my father with a sigh.

I felt my chest. I had only one heart. It was a fact that I found difficult to accept. I had stubbornly refused to donate my heart to anyone, but now it had been taken off – stolen.I felt sad, empty, as though I had lost someone precious. I cried for a long time.

“I want to see him”, I murmured.

So my parents took me to his room. Vishal was sleeping when we went in. I looked at his bandaged chest – my heart was beating there. I looked at him. He looked almost my age. Just then he opened his eyes, looked at me and then at my parents.

“Rhea?”

I nodded my head. I couldn’t say anything.My heart – those two words were buzzing in my head like some mantra. I was wading through an emotional turmoil. I couldn’t bear to remain there for another second.

“Mom, let’s go back”.

She then took me to see Ritu. Her lovely face, had become so disfigured, that I turned my face away,unthinkingly. She started crying when she saw me, and I too could not control my tears. Remorse like a sharp-edged knife was slicing me relentlessly. “Sorry”, I sobbed.

She extended her arms towards me, and I rolled the wheel chair unto her. She hugged me, and said “I just lost a small part of my face, Rhea, but you….”

So she knew, I thought. It pained me even more, and we cried a lot.

“Ah! You both will flood this hospital”, exclaimed the doctor, who had come on his routine rounds.

I was discharged a few days later.They both had to remain in the hospital for another 3 weeks, during which time we made it a habit to see each other. Gradually, Vishal too became one of us. The initial anger and hatred that I had felt for him had sprung from the thought that he had stolen my heart from me, and my guilt. But later when I learnt about the medical complications, I tried to accept him. Transplantation of my heart was the only way to save both our lives. I felt a strange attachment and attraction towards him. Was it because my heart beat inside him. ?

Ritu, Vishal and I became thick friends. Ritu had to undergo numerous surgeries, but after each, we both were there to help her.

My affection for Vishal kept growing, but I was not sure if he realised it.I was fascinated by everything he said or did. A smile of his or aremark was enough to make my day.

Eventually,they too were discharged. Ritu had got a face transplant, so it was no longer disfigured, but she looked different.

We continued to meet each other, mostly at Ritu’s place. I accompanied Vishal to his gym, helped him with his college notes and mostly looked out for a reason to be with him. My eyes lit up with joy, literally, when I saw him, and my poor heart (who had lost her twin) pined for him, every moment that I was away, as if the accident and surgery were not enough a burden for this ailing heart. I was looking for an opportunity to tell him about my true feelings. I was sure that my adoration was quite obvious to the whole world, including Vishal, but somehow he seemed not to notice it.

Vishal had come to Tanishq, to select a ring. Not even in his dreams had he imagined that he would fall in love; for, he had never believed in the existence of love. He, who had always scoffed love as just hormones working over-time, was now hopelessly in love! As Vishal walked out of the jewellery, with his Valentine gift, he laughed at how much he had changed.

Ritu liked Vishal – he was kind, soft spoken and a really caring guy. He had come to meet her every day,while they were at the hospital, and after Rhea’s discharge, he had been her sole company. They shared many common interests, but what brought them really close was their love for ghazals. She had had a tough time, going through the facial transplant and then coming to terms with her altered look. Rhea and Vishal had helped her overcome her fears. Had it not been for Vishal’s constant motivation, she would never have had the courage to look at herself in the mirror.

February 14th, 2015

Valentine’s Day – Vishal was going to declare his love. Will she accept him? They are good friends, but will she accept this role change?Never once had he hinted about his true feelings, so he’d probably surprise her. She had all along been very caring, loving, but did it mean that she will be romantically interested in him? With an anxious heart and trepid steps, he rang the doorbell.

She opened the door, looking as lovely as ever, wearing a blue and black T-shirt and jeans.

“Vishal!”

“You look gorgeous, lady. It’s a bright day, shall we go for a walk?” asked Vishal, smiling.

“Sure,Vishal. Let me just inform Mamma.”

They walked along the road till they reached a small park. Both of them sat there.

“Ritu, I want to tell you something. Please don’t say a ‘No’. Take your own time, think, and then give me answer”

“What is it, Vishal?”

“Open it” urged Vishal giving her the gift-wrapped box.

A surprised Ritu, opened the box to find a glittering ring with a ruby at the centre, and looked at Vishal in wonder.

“I love you, Ritu. Will you marry me? I promise to keep you happy all my life. Please say yes”

Ritu was first surprised, then laughed and finally nodded her head and said “I love you too, Vishal.”

Vishal was ecstatic and so was Ritu. They wanted Rhea to be the first one to know this.

 

I had my gift ready, and was waiting for Vishal. When the bell rang, I ran down to open the door. It was Vishal and Ritu. They were smiling and Ritu was looking very happy. Before I could even utter a word, she took my arm and tugged me to my room, closed the door, and started giggling.

“What’s it?” I ask impatiently.

“Oh Rhea…. I can’t believe it!”

I rolled my eyes at her. She smiled and hugged me and sat on my bed, on top of my gift for Vishal.  “Hey, what’s this?”

“That is for Vishal. Was planning to give it to him today. You know, Valentine day gift. I really like him.”

Ritu looked at the ring on her finger, and then at me, her face was deathly, and tears were coursing down her eyes. She was mumbling “I didn’t know,sorry… I would never have…”

Vishal entered the room, to find Ritu crying and I looking confused. He calmed her and made her say what had happened.

“Sorry Rhea, I don’t want to hurt you. But I love Ritu, and I just proposed her today.”

It was as though I was falling down a deep pit, the pain and sadness transformed into rage and I started screaming “No…No… That is my heart, mine…” I don’t know what came over me. I hurled myself at Vishal, and started hitting him. Ritu pushed me away. I fell onto my study table. I saw the knife that I had used last night to carve out the entwined hearts for Vishal. I grabbed it and thrust it into Ritu. She fell down as blood spurted out of her stomach.

“Ritu…” screamed Vishal

Hearing the commotion,my parents came rushing. I fell down unconscious. But later that day, I again became violent and was taken to a psychiatrist.

**********

The car stopped, and I got down. Ritu and Vishal were waiting there to welcome me back. I looked at Vishal, and smiled while Ritu came running to hug me. After we sat down I took a sheet of paper from my pocket and gave it to Vishal.

Vishal read it and gave me a bear hug and showed it to all.

“Our hearts are entwined, and so are we. Will you forgive me, brother?”

The psychiatrist had helped me overcome my obsession for my twin heart and analyse my feelings for Vishal. It was then that I realised,that I was searching for a brother in him – a brother that I never had. I had, all along,yearned for the love, affection and security of a brother.

The heart-break, literally and figuratively, had taken me on an emotional roller coaster ride. It had also revealed the violent streak in me.But I was happy to be back on firm ground again and anormal girl with just one heart.

 

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