Sana asked herself to stay calm. She wasn’t going to react. He wasn’t going to see her vulnerable. “It’s been a year. Why do they still care?”
He shrugged. “Criminals wouldn’t be criminals if they didn’t hold grudges for long. They forget nothing.”
“But they’ve done nothing all this while and I’m still alive, so maybe they have.”
Oh God, he’d really have to spell this out for her. “They’ve done nothing all this while because I left your life. They want this to be huge. I have to be there to witness it. How else will I lose? They want me to bleed your blood.”
Her face grew pale. “I don’t understand… why are you here, then?”
This was it. Moment of truth. He knew he had to be honest now. “Because I’m selfish. And I can’t stay away any longer. I need you too much to not be with you. And because we don’t have too much time. They’re going to get frustrated of their little game very soon and when they do, they’ll strike. I’m going to make sure nothing happens to you.”
“Right.” She snorted. “My knight in shining armour. Of course. Who else but you?”
“Goddamnit, Sana!” He raised his voice. “I’m serious here. These people are dangerous. Is this a joke to you?”
“Don’t you dare.” She hissed. “You had one entire year to process all this and I get one day to process the fact that my ex-boyfriend practically ambushed me on my first day of college to tell me that I have psycho-killers on my trail because of a basketball match gone wrong. Is it just me or does all of this actually sound insane?”
He cringed at the word ‘ex-boyfriend’. Did she have someone new? Was she in love with someone else? No, she couldn’t be. Never.
“You have every right to be apprehensive.” He tried doing some damage control. “But you need to realize that the longer you stay in the dark, the more of a threat you are. In an ideal world, I’d have never had to leave and you’d be safe. But it’s because of me that you’re in this mess and I’m going to make sure you come out of it unscathed. I swear to you, Sana. No one’s going to touch you.”
Wow. So he was doing this out of guilt? She had thought that maybe the last year had been as difficult for him as it had been for her. That he needed her as much as she needed him. But it was only guilt that had brought him. Guilt. Not her.
“You have nothing to feel guilty about, Ish. Trust me. What happened was not your fault. Now, if we’re done here,” she stood up to leave when he grabbed her hand.
“Where are you going?” He asked.
“If guilt’s the only reason you’re here, then we’re done with this conversation.”
“Oh Lord.” He glared at her. “How dense are you?”
“Are you done insulting me?” She glared right back and for a second, it reminded her of the usual playful banter that they used to have.
“I’m here because I want to be! Because I’d rather stay beside you than watch you go through all of this alone. I’m sorry, but I’m that selfish.”
Her cheeks reddened and she looked down to hide it. He really meant what he said. It was evident in his face. He leaves her for an entire year and she falls back in love with him the next minute she sees him. God, she hated herself.
“One question.” She had to change the topic somehow. “How’d you know all of this?”
“I know someone who knows Rishi. If Rishi ever found out, the guy would be dead. As simple as that.”
“Okay.” She breathed. “What now?”
“Look, I know you probably don’t want anything to do with me anymore, but we have to put up a collective front. They have to think we’re together again. Only then will they strike. Because until they strike, we can’t get anything on them. Once we do, I’ll make sure they’re out of our lives for good.”
“So we pretend we’re together?” She raised her eyebrows.
“Unless you want to do the real thing.” He smirked.
“No, no.” She glared at him. “We’re pretending.”
And so it started. Every morning, Ishaan picked her up from her P.G and they’d go to college together. She’d hang out with her friends after college and then he’d drop her back. He made her promise that she’d always let him know about her whereabouts. She couldn’t help but think he was being a little too overbearing, but she also couldn’t deny that it felt nice being smothered by him all over again. Her friends believed he was her boyfriend and he naturally played the part. As two months passed by, they started spending more and more time together and what had started as a façade began to feel real.
“We still on for today?”, Ishaan asked her as she got down from his bike.
“For the hundredth time, yes.” She laughed as he pressed a kiss to her cheek.
“I’ll pick you up at six.”
“I’ll be waiting.” She smiled and he wondered how he’d spent an entire year without this. Without her.
At six in the evening, Ishaan reached Sana’s P.G and texted her to come down. He waited for twenty minutes, but she never came down or replied. He talked to her friends who were going out and they said she’d left and gone somewhere at five. Ishaan couldn’t understand this. As far as he was aware, she didn’t have any other plans today. He called her again and again, but it all went unanswered. And as his phone’s battery finally died, he knew where Sana was. They’d taken her.
…to be continued.