BOOK EXCERPT

That’s unusual: Nikita Singh’s newest romance novel is about two people falling out of love

In ‘Letters To My Ex’, the popular romance-writer explores heartbreak and healing rather than a happily-ever-after. Is love changing in the popular imagination?

Once the cheers faded and our friends stopped their drunken hooting and clapping, you turned to me, only because it was my turn to put the ring on your finger. I was still looking at you, and when your eyes met mine, mine were brimming with tears. My entire world was falling apart inside me. As soon as our eyes met, mine flooded and tears began to fall unchecked. I was so embarrassed, angrily
wiping them off my cheeks.

I can understand why everyone else would think that I was just emotional or aww how cute, she’s crying. But I don’t think I can forgive you for not knowing immediately that something was terribly wrong. I was breaking inside. Every cell in my body was screaming for your attention, your love, your affection, but you couldn’t even see me, could you?

That was the moment I knew. I couldn’t marry a stranger, and that’s what you had become.

Honestly, I was surprised that you even put up a fight when I was leaving. I’d half expected the party to go on without me after I left the stage. That’s how worthless I felt. And I don’t care if it’s unfair to you, but I blame you for it. My eyes were only searching for yours, but even when you looked directly at me, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. This person, standing next to me, making promises of commitment...he was a stranger. I didn’t know you at all.

It’s like they say in the movies – I saw it happen as if in third person. I felt myself leave my body and look at everything that was happening. I saw myself pull my hand away. You laughed, assuming I was just joking. You caught my hand again and pulled me closer to you, laughing even louder. I couldn’t take it. We were in entirely different worlds. We were so disconnected from each other; you were completely clueless to what I was feeling.

I saw myself pull my hand away again, this time more forcefully, unable to hide my anger. I can’t think of a time I had been angrier at another person, or myself. It suddenly felt like a business transaction, all of it. I was disgusted. We were going through the motions, doing things we were supposed to do, like robots. Signing a contract to live together for the rest of our lives. I just couldn’t do it.

When I pulled my hand away a second time, I did it more forcefully, with more finality. I looked you directly in the eye, and through the hot tears, whispered, “I can’t do this.”

That was your first clue, and even then, you looked confused. We were on such different planets by then that even when I was breaking down in the middle of our engagement ceremony, in front of everyone, you had no idea what was going on.

I felt the force of all of it together as I stumbled away. People calling out to me, all the questions, the steps that followed me. I was so angry and so, so disappointed with us, for letting our love come to this. With each step that I took away from that stage, it felt more and more like I was escaping a life sentence. If I was truly marrying the love of my life, I would imagine it would feel quite different from
that. It should’ve been the happiest day of my life – getting engaged to marry you. Then why did walking away lift such a heavy weight off my shoulders? Why did I suddenly feel like I could breathe again?

Leaving behind the million questions, murmurs and confused and angry faces, I grabbed my handbag and car keys. At that moment I felt lighter than I had in months. You followed me. You caught up with me just as I was about to walk out the door, and demanded an explanation.

You know what hurt the most? The look in your eyes – it wasn’t sadness. It wasn’t even confusion. It was anger, plain and simple. What did you think was happening? That I was following a script, just for entertainment? How could you not know that it was killing me to walk away from you?

You were angry with me as if I was an unreasonable child acting against your (or our families’) wishes. That first look you gave me was pure rage.

“Where are you going?” you demanded, grabbing my arm.

“Away from all this.” It wasn’t an explanation, and I owed you one, so I stopped and turned to face you. I looked up at you, and said, “You don’t love me anymore. We shouldn’t be together.”

I didn’t need to say much more. All three of those sentences were true, and described in a nutshell exactly how I was feeling or what I was doing. And that was enough for you to understand, at least a little, why I was leaving.

I saw your face change. I saw the anger leave, and you let out a troubled breath, opening your mouth to say something...but then closing it without letting any words escape. I could tell that your mind was racing, trying to find explanations, excuses, something. But you came up with nothing. You wanted me to stay; your grip on my arm established that. But you couldn’t think of a single reason why I should stay.

You said zero words. I was leaving you, and you said nothing to stop me.

Was that acceptance? Did you agree that you didn’t love me anymore, and that we shouldn’t be together and I should get away from all of that? If you didn’t agree, why didn’t you say something? Anything. I just needed you to tell me that I was wrong. That you did love me. That’s all I needed to know.

I thought that I was too far gone, my foot literally out the door, but one word from you and I would’ve stopped. I would like to think that my decision was final and I wasn’t going to change my mind, but who am I kidding? It’s you; when it comes to you, I do unreasonable things. I would’ve stayed with you forever, if you’d asked me once.

But you couldn’t find a single word to say to me. Not one word.

You stood there and watched me get into the car, still wiping the stubborn tears off my face. I watched you watch me, in the rear-view mirror, and my heart fell heavy into my stomach. Standing there at the door, watching me leave, your arms at your sides, shoulders hunched in sadness, and the pain on your face...

I will never forgive myself for causing that. I will try to forgive you for not saying a single word as I drove away.

Excerpted with permission from Letters To My Ex, Nikita Singh, Harper Collins India.

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