Saturday, 30 September 2017

Chapter 18 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF

They reached back around midnight.
Yuvi helped Naina get the bags inside as Armaan tried to wake Riddhima.
"Jaan, hum pohonch gaye," he whispered lowly in her ear.
When she didn't respond, Armaan shook her lightly, repeating his words.
She came to in sometime. "Rahul! I'm sorry!" were the first words that left her mouth as she woke up.
Armaan smiled sadly on hearing that. He pulled her into his arms and soothed her.

"I'm sorry, Armaan. Maine bohot bura sapna dekha. Rahul meri wajah se waapas jaa raha tha. Main aisa nahi hone de sakti," she told him.
"Hey! Hum sab haina. Hum mein se koi bhi, Rahul ko kahin nahi jaane de raha. Okay?"
Riddhima looked skeptical.
"Okay?" Armaan prodded.
She nodded slightly.
"Good," Armaan replied, smiling.
He pressed a quick peck to her lips and then helped her out of the car.
Yuvi helped Naina put her bags in while Armaan helped Riddhima.
He placed her bags on one side of the room while she changed quickly. Then, he helped her into bed. He turned to leave, but Riddhima caught his hand.
"Armaan, kuch time ke liye mere saath yaha baithoge?" she asked in a small voice. Armaan smiled and nodded.
She moved to make room for him on the bed and he effortlessly slid in, pulling her into his arms.
Riddhima snuggled closer to him, keeping her head on his chest, right above his heart. The steady beat of his heart helped soothe her.
Armaan pulled her closer and pressed kisses to her head.
"Armaan, sab jaldi theek ho jaayega na?"
"Of course, ho jaayega. Tum dekhna, hum dono milke Rahul ko mana lenge."
"Promise?"
"Pakka promise."
Riddima smiled and nodded. Armaan bent down and kissed her softly.
"Aaj orphanage jaakar bohot achcha laga, nahi?" he asked, trying to change the topic of discussion.
Riddhima nodded mutely.
"Gappu ko itne time baad dekhkar mujhe bohot achcha laga, Jaan."
"Mujhe bhi," she replied, smiling.
"Aur saare bachche kitne bade ho gaye hain. Tumne dekha, Rohit toh mujhse bhi lamba ho gaya hai. Pichli baar jab dekha that oh kitna chota tha."
Riddhma nodded. "Woh sab bohot jaldi bade ho rahe hai, Armaan. Abse humein har kuch dino mein wahaan jaana chahiye, maine wahaan sabko bohot miss kiya."
"Maine bhi. Toh done, abse har mahine hum kamse kame k baar wahaan jaayenge, okay?"
Riddhima nodded happily.
"Haan, par tum mujhpe phirse paani nahi udaoge toh," she added as an afterthought.
"Main? Main tumpe paani udaata hu?"
"Haan, tumhe koi aur dikh raha hai yahaan?"
"Basket, paani zyada tumne mujhe pe udaaya. Pipe se. Saare bacchon ki help lekar."
"Par uske pehle tumne mujhe geela kiya tha."
"Maine galti se thoda pani tumhaari dress pe laga diya. Aur tumne toh mujhe poora nehla hi diya!"
"Aur phir jab tumne paani ki poori baalti mujhpar ulat di tab?"
Armaan started laughing, thinking about that.
"Armaan!" Riddhima yelled, exasperated.
"Oh, Shit!" he muttered under his breath, quickly getting out of bed.
"Tumhe toh main... idiot, duffer, stupid..." Riddhima yelled, trying to hit him with a pillow.
"Basket, Basket. I'm sorry. Main tumpe hasna nahi chaahta tha. Par atleast, mujhe maaro toh mat," Armaan said, running around the room.
The noise startled everybody downstairs and they went into Riddhima's room, to see what was wrong. (Anjali and Riddhima now had separate rooms in the house! Aise easy haina, ab Armaan kabhi bhi aa sakta hai aur Anjy ki no tension :P)
As soon as they entered the room, Armaan hid behind Padma Mom trying to save himself.
"Kya ho raha hai yahaan?" Padma Mom asked.
"Maa, Riddhima meri jaan lene ki koshish kar rahi hai," Armaan replied.
"Kya?" she whirled around, looking at him in shock.
"Aur nahi toh kya. Dekho na, joh bhi uske haath aa raha hai, usse uthakar mujhpe fek rahi hai. Agar koi sharp cheez se mujhe lag gayi, toh main toh..." he said melodramatically.
"Arre, tu aise kyu keh raha hai, hum haina," she told him. Then, she turned to Riddhima. "Riddhima, yeh main kya sunn rahi hu? Tu Armaan par saamaan kyu fek rahi hai?"
"Mom! Yeh Armaan - Riddhima hai, agar dono ladenge nahi, toh khana kaise hazam hoga inhe!" Anjali said, throwing in her two cents.
"Maa, sab galti is Armaan ki hi hai," Riddhima started, defending herself.
"Armaan ki galti kyu hai?"
"Woh mujhpe has raha tha."
"Armaan..." Padma Mom said reprimandingly.
"Arre, Maa, maine kuch nahi kiya. Ab story itni funny thi toh main kya karu? Mujhe hasi aa gayi."
"Kaunsi story?"
"Woh waali jisme Armaan ne mujhpe baalti bharke paani daal diya," Riddhima said, before Armaan could reply.
"Armaan!" Dr. Shahsank said, speaking for the first time. "Tum kyu Riddima ko pareshaan kar rahe the?"
"Par maine start nahi kiya! Pehle Bask - Riddhima ne mujhpe oaani udaaya, pipe se. Toh maine uspe baalti se paani daal diya," Armaan said like a little kid.
The others started laughing on hearing this. "Tum dono na, kabhi nahi sudhroge," Padma Mom said, smiling fondly at her two babies.
"Maa, ab humein bhi nikal na chahiye," Armaan said, nodding at Yuvi.
"Achcha? Tumse kisne kaha ki tum jaa sakte ho?"
"Maa..." Armaan started.
"Itni raat ko tum dono kahin nahi jaa rahe. Yahin rahoge."
Armaam sighed, and started to say something, but he was cut off.
"Main kuch nahi sunungi. Chalo dono andar jao. Armaan tu Yuvi ko apna room share karne dega ya main guest room khulwau?"
"Hum room share kar lenge," Armaan replied. He knew it was just a waste of time to try and argue. Padma Mom won every time.
"Chal Yuvi," he said, and went to his room, a clueless Yuvi in tow.
Yuvi didn't know that Armaan had his own room at the Gupta house. Guess Armaan was closer to them than he had realized. But then again, he called Mrs. Gupta, Ma. Yuvi knew that everybody called her Padma Aunty but he wasn't that comfortable calling her that as she was Dr. Shashank's wife. But Armaan, he was a step ahead of all of them. He called her Ma. And they bantered and hugged and kissed like any real mother - son duo. It seemed like he really was a son to them.
Armaan fished out a spare pair of tracks and a t - shirt and threw it at Yuvi, bringing him out if his inner musings.
"Yeh pehen le. Tujhe fit ho jaayenge, I think."
Yuvi nodded gratefully and then changed. By the time both of them had changed and settled, Padma Mom was calling them down to eat.
"Aunty aapne toh kha liya hoga na?" They heard Naina ask as the two of them reached the kitchen.
"Haan, beta, humne toh kha liya, par tumlog abhi aaye ho. Raaste mein kuch khaya bhi nahi hoga. Isliye tum khalo."
Naina smiled angelically at her. Padma Mom returned the smile.
"Achcha hua aapne bana liya, Ma. Mujhe bohot bhook lagi hai," Armaan said, announcing their arrival.
Padma Mom smiled brilliantly. It had been long since he had had dinner with them. She was really looking forward to it. Whenever Armaan didn't eat with them, she would worry whether he ate anything at all or not. The kid was a pro at neglecting his own health while looking after others.
"Chalo aao, main table lagaati hu."
"Ma'am aapko itni takleef uthaani ki kya zaroorat thi? Hum aise hi so jaate," Yuvi told her, when he saw that she cooked atleast 5 different dishes for them.
"Arre, isme takleef ki kya baat hai, beta? Tum sab safar se thak kar aaye ho, toh itna toh main kar hi sakti hu. Aur haan, please Ma'am mat bulao. Baaki sab mujhe Padma Aunty bulaate hai, tum bhi wahi bulao," she replied.
Yuvi smiled hesitantly.
"Chalo aao," she said, gesturing them to sit.
Yuvi and Naina obliged immediately.
"Main Ba - Riddhima ko lekar aata hu, usne bhi kuch nahi khaya hai hai," Armaan said.
"Woh kaisi hai?" Padma Mom asked him.
"Woh... woh bohot pareshaan hai. Is sab ke liye khud ko blame kar rahi hai. Maine usse samjhaane ki koshish ki, lekin aap jaanti haina, ki woh kaisi hai..."
She nodded, not knowing what else to say.
Armaan made his way to Riddhima's room. He knocked and then entered.
Riddhima and Anjali were sitting on Riddhima's bed, hugging each other.
"Hello, Beautiful," he said by way of greeting.
The sisters looked up to see him smiling down at them.
"Hey, Armaan. Kaise ho?" Anjali asked.
"Main bhooka hu."
"What?"
"Haan, yaar! Bohot zoro ki bhook lagi hai mujhe."
"Toh tum mujhse kyu keh rahe ho? Mom ko jaake bolo, woh kuch bana dengi tumhaare liye."
"Woh toh woh already kar chuki hain."
"Toh tum yahaan kyu aaye ho?"
Armaan rolled his eyes as if the answer was obvious - which it was.
"Arre, tumhe aur Riddhima ko bulaane aaya hu," he said in a duh' tone.
"Mujhe bhook nahi hai," Riddhima said in a barely audible voice, finally speaking for the first time since Armaan had entered the room.
"Aise kaise bhook nahi hai? Chal, pata nahi kabse kuch nahi khaya hoga tune," Anjali said, authoritatively.
Riddhima shook her head meekly.
Armaan sighed and motioned for Anjali to give them a few minutes alone.
Anjali knew that someone could convince Riddhima, it was Armaan.
So, she nodded and eased herself off the bed, quietly leaving the room and shutting the door behind her, giving the couple privacy.
Armaan climbed on the bed and pulled Riddhima into his arms.
"Hey," he said, kissing her head.
"Hi," Riddhima muttered, snuggling closer to him.
They stayed wrapped in each other for a few minutes before Armaan sighed.
"Jaan, khaana toh zaroori haina?"
"Armaan, mujhe bilkul bhi bhook nahi hai."
"Main jaanta hu."
"Toh phir kyu keh rahe ho?"
"Jaan, tumhaare aur Rahul ke beech mein jo bhi problems ho, iska matlab yeh toh nahi ki tum khaana hi chod do? Aur Rahul ko kitna bura lagega yeh jaankar, ki tum dono ke problems ki wajah se tum theek se apna khayal nahi rakh rahi ho, hm?"
Riddhima nodded begrudgingly, knowing that what Armaan was saying was true.
"That's my girl. Ab chalo, Padma Mom khaane pe humaara wait kar rahi hain," Armaan said, smiling down at her.
Riddhima nodded. "I love you," she told him, hugging him tightly for a minute before letting go.
Armaan smiled widely as he replied, "I love you, too."
He bent his head and captured Riddhima's lips in the softest whisper of kiss.
After pulling away, he held her hand and pulled her down to the dining room.
Yuvi and Naina were already eating. Anjali was sitting beside them, listening to Naina chatter continuously with amusement.
Armaan pulled a chair out for Riddhima, making her sit before seating himself beside her.
He started plating the food in front of her and Padma Mom watched with a huge smile on her face. Watching Armaan care for Riddhima always made her heart full.
As Armaan plated Riddhima's food, she plated Armaan's.
When Armaan turned to look at his plate after being done with Riddhima's, he was shocked to see the amount of food filled in it.
Before he could make any sound of protest, Padma Mom cut in, "Tujhe ye saara finish karna hai, Armaan. Agar aaj tune koi nautanki ki, toh mujhse bura koi nahi hoga. Samjha?"
Armaan nodded like a good boy and they started to eat.
While eating, he kept a close eye on Riddhima, making sure she ate properly. She mostly just played with her food, occasionally eating when she felt Armaan glare at her.
After eating, Yuvi and Naina retired for the night. Armaan motioned Padma Mom and Anjali to leave. They sighed but did as he asked. Both of them had seen that Riddhima hadn't eaten much and they knew that Armaan was the only one who could make her eat.
As soon as they left, Armaan placed Riddhima in his lap with a sigh. Riddhima snuggled against him.
"Jaan," he whispered.
Riddhima nodded against his chest.
"Please, kuch khalo."
Riddhima just shook her head.
"Please Basket. Zyada nahi keh raha main, bas thoda. Please. Mere liye?"
She nodded reluctantly. Armaan smiled and started making morsels from the plate, feeding them to her.
She ate a few bites before stopping him.
"Bas. Aur nahi chahiye, Armaan."
"Riddhima..." he started.
"Nahi, please. Aur nahi chahiye."
"Okay," he said, agreeing reluctantly.
Armaan then helped Riddhima clean up. They both went into their rooms and tried to sleep.
However, sleep was miles away from either of them. Riddhima was feeling incredibly guilty for what had transpired between her and Rahul. She wanted to make things right, but she knew that that ship had sailed now. She had to wait till Rahul was ready to talk to her. Armaan, on the other hand was worried for them. He knew that Riddhima was feeling guilty about not telling Rahul the truth. Also, Rahul would be too confused to relate to anything. He must be feeling angry at Riddhima for lying about such a huge truth from her. At the same time, he must be feeling guilty himself for treating Riddhima so badly. He just hoped that the two of them resolved this soon. He couldn't se his girl and his not - really - best - friend - at - the - moment - but - best - friend - nonetheless mad at each other.
Rahul had been trying to sleep for almost an hour. However, sleep was the last thing on his mind. He didn't know what to feel. His best friend, no - his baby sister, had been lying to him for so long now. He never thought that Riddhima could be capable of something like this. Lying to him for so long?! He couldn't imagine her doing that in his wildest dreams. And now, here it was. It was his reality. Something he couldn't fathom was actually the biggest part of his life at the moment. If someone had ever told him that Riddhima would lie to him, he would have laughed them off and told them to mind their own effing business because they didn't know him and they definitely didn't know Riddhima. But now, that the day was actually staring him in the face, he didn't know what to do or what to feel.
He was mad at Riddhima, that was a f**king given. She had lied about the most important part of her identity from him. He still couldn't understand why would she do that? Did she think that he would think differently about her? About Padma Aunty once he found out? How that was possible was beyond his imagination. She was his best friend, his sister, the most amazing person he knew. He couldn't think of her in any other way. And Padma Aunty? She was just the most beautiful person, inside and out. She was Padma Aunty. No one could take her place in his life.
So Padma Aunty had made a mistake when she was young. But she had been in love. Aren't we all fools in love? Don't we all make mistakes when we're blinded by love? Armaan, Riddhima, Muskaan and he were the greatest examples of that. All four of them had made so many mistakes when it came to love. They thought that they knew best and convinced themselves that it was right. Padma Aunty had made a similar mistake. She was young and in love and she trusted him completely. She trusted him to love her, care for and look after her for the rest of their lives. If it was anyone's fault, it was that bas***d's - for breaking all his promises and leaving behind the woman he supposedly loved to deal with pain, heartbreak and misery.
Riddhima thought that he would hate Padma Aunty for it. He hated someone, alright. It just wasn't his Padma Aunty. It was that vile bas***d.
How could she think that he was so narrow minded and orthodox was beyond him. He wouldn't - couldn't - hate either of them. He was extremely pissed that she thought so lowly of him.
He wasn't angry that she hadn't told him truth, no. That was far from true. Everyobdy has something in their life that they feel is extremely private. Something they don't share with anyone. Riddhima, like any other person had some secrets she wished to never be disclosed. There were probably things she hadn't even told Armaan! And if Armaan didn't know about every single detail of her life, even after being the most important person to her, after being the love of her life, he sure as Hell didnt have the right to know. And he knew that was right. It's the way it should be.
If, when the topic had been broached, had Riddhima come outright and told him that she didn't want to talk about it, he would have understood. Maybe, he would have felt angry at the exact moment, but he knew, once he cooled down and thought about it rationally, he would understand. She didn't want to talk about. It was her choice, her decision and he respected that. But, she had lied to him. Told him that she'd been staying at an orphanage before Shashank Uncle adopted her. That was something he couldn't just let go. He was angry because she had lied, not because he felt that he had the right to know about every single detail of her life!
And with the anger, came the guilt. The guilt of storming out of the house in his rage, not listening to anyone, not offering any explanations. His extreme rage overshadowing all other emotions. He could still see the broken expression on Padma Aunty's face, the sorrow on Anjali's and the shame on Shashank Uncle's everytime he closed his eyes.
He had made them feel that way. These people were his family and he had made them feel like they meant nothing to him. He wouldn't be able to forgive himself for not listening to Padma Aunty's voice, all choked up with tears, calling out for him as he stormed off after telling them that he couldn't bear to stay another minute in a house where no one saw fit to tell him anything.
And he wasn't just feeling guilty about that. He felt that everytime he ignored Riddhima's calls. And when Armaan called and asked him to talk to Riddhima. And he felt even guiltier after Atul had gotten off the phone with Armaan explaining that they had cut their trip short because Riddhima needed to talk to him and that she wasn't doing so well.
He felt extremely guilty about ignoring her and even more so for making her cry. He hated Armaan because of the pain Riddhima had felt because of him. He hated Armaan because of every tear that had spilled from Riddhima's eyes due to that pain. And now, here he was, doing the same thing. Causin her pain, making her cry. Why is it that we deeply hurt the people we love the most? He hurt Muskaan so badly, and now Riddhima.
But, he was so angry at Riddhima that he just couldn't bring himself to talk to her. He knew that if they talked before he calmed down, he would inevitably say something cruel, which he wouldn't really mean, but he would say it nonetheless. He couldn't bear to hurt her more than he already had. She was probably - who was he kidding? He knew, for sure - feeling immensely guilty for hiding this from him. He didn't want to add to her misery anymore.
With these thoughts in mind, he drifted off to a fitful sleep.

xxx
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