Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Chapter 19 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF

The next day dragged on.
Rahul still hadn't talked to Riddhima. She had trying calling him this morning. Thankfully, he had picked up. But all he said was that he was fine and that he needed time. He said he'd call her when he was ready to talk.
She kept her nose buried in work the whole day, only talking to Armaan. She had become a little clingy to him. Armaan knew she needed the reassurance so he just hugged her and kissed her and comforted her the best way he could.

In the evening, Rahul arrived at the hospital for his meeting with Dr. Shashank & Dr. Kirti. He was joining Sanjeevani again and they needed to hammer out some details before it was official.
The meeting was a little awkward, what with Rahul's melodrama the last night. However, they pulled through.
"Welcome back, Dr. Rahul. Aap kal se Sanjeevani waapas join kar sakte hai," Sr. Kirti said, congratulating him.
Rahul smiled widely.
"Dr. Kirti, kya aap humein kuch waqt de sakti hai? Mujhe Dr. Rahul se kuch baat karni hai," Dr. Shashank said.
Dr. Kirti nodded and left them alone.
"Shahsank Uncle - " Rahul started, as soon as she left, but Dr. Shashank held up a finger to stop him from speaking.
"Dr. Rahul, I hope ki aapka yeh naya safar Sanjeevani ke saath bohot hi successful aur fulfilling ho. Aap ek bohot hi kaabil doctor hai aur Sanjeevani ko aapse bohot ummeedein hain."
"Thank you, Dr. Shashank."
"Aap jaa sakte hain."
"Shashank Uncle, please. Aap samajh kyu nahi rahe hain? Mujhe us waqt samajh nahi aaya ki main kya sichu, kya samjhu? Gusse mein main kuch zyada hi aage badh gaya. I'm sorry."
"Rahul, dekho, tumhaare aur Riddhima ke beech mein jo bhi problems hain, main interfere nahi karunga. Jo kuch hua uske baad kahin na kahin tumhaara gussa sahi tha. Lekin, woh Riddhima ke liye tha. Tum ghar chodkar kyu chale gaye? Kya woh ghar sirf Riddhima ka hai? Mera, Padma, Anjali ka ya tumhaara nahi hai?"
"Aisi baat nahi hai, Shashank Uncle. Main Riddhima se kuch waqt door rehna chaahta hu. Agar gusse mein aakar maine kuch ulta - seedha keh diya, toh main usse aur dukh pohonchaane ki wajah se maaf nahi kar paunga."
Dr. Shashank sighed, but nodded, agreeing with him.
"Theek hai. Par main umeed karta hu ki yeh saare problems jaldi khatam ho jayenge."
"Main koshish karunga, sir," Rahul replied, nodding.
Dr. Shashank smiled at him and congratulated him on the job. Rahul then left his cabin and went to the locker room.
He thought he'd arrange his locker - get rid of the unwanted things and then he could put in some of his stuff he had waiting in the car.
And, maybe he could relive those beautiful, magical days again - when he felt that the world was his, with an amazing job, the love of his life and the most amazing group of friends you could ask for.
But, now it was all different. Sure, he had gotten his job back, but what use was it, anyway? Muskaan was no longer there. Neither was Nikki. Armaan was an idiot. And Riddhima, she was a stranger.
He knew things between Armaan and Riddhima would get sorted out, sooner or later - though he much preferred if it was sooner. If obly he could let go off his anger!
And Nikki would be back in some time, after she was done working on that stupid project in Delhi.
But Muskaan, what about her? Would void always be there? He knew he couldn't love anyone else, not after he had loved her. He had never felt this deeply, this wholly and this beautifully in love with anyone else before. And he was certain he wouldn't again. Woh kehte haina, hum ek baar jeete hain, ek baar marte hain, shaadi bhi ek baar hoti hai, aur pyaar bhi, he thought sighing. Then, he grinned to himself. Muskaan sure had rubbed off on him. Quoting ShahRukh Khan! You couldn't be more influenced by her.
But, her influence wasn't enough. The memories weren't enough. Nothing was enough. He wanted more. Always wanted more. He wanted her. He wanted his Muskaan. An he knew, he wouldn't ever be truly happy till he did. That void in his chest, the one that pained too much? It wasn't going away anytime soon.
Get used to it, he told himself. Muskaan waapas nahi aa rahi tere paas. Kyu aayegi, jab tune usse itna dukh pohonchaya? Tujhme hi kami hai, ki tu usse woh zindagi de sake jo woh deserve karti hai.
He sighed, clearing his head of all these depressing thoughts. He would start his journey back home on a good note.
Lost in thought, he didn't realize when he reached the locker room.
He smiled as a wae of nostalgia hit him. This was it. So many memories, secret smiles, private conversations, love, laughter, tears. This room had seen it all. From Armaan & Riddhima's coochi - cooing to his and Muskaan's fights to Anjali's taunting and Atul's songs. This room had witnessed everything. He grinned remembering all those times with his friends, his family, really.
However, that smile quickly vanished when he saw Riddhima emerge from the chaning room.
Riddhima came out of the changing room, feeling exhausted. Her day had completely sucked. Firstly, she had ER duty that day, which in itself was a huge task. Armaan had been busy in surgeries and so, they hadn't had as much time together as she would have liked. Plus, some kid had puked on her causing her to smell for a better part of the day before she got the time to get changed. To top it all off, there was the Rahul situation. She really wished that Rahul would forgive her, and soon.
She was thinking about him, and anyway in which she could gain his forgiveness when she came out of the room. She was surprised to see Rahul standing there, staring tautly at her.
Rahul looked at her for sometime before moving to his locker, as if she wasn't even there. Rahul's actions hurt her, but she covered it up quickly, before he could notice.
Rahul hummed to himself as he arranged hi locker, doing his best to ignore Riddhima who was intently staring at him. He quickly put his things away and turned to leave, not wanting to stay in her presence just yet.
"Rahul," she called, as he moved out of the locker room.
He sighed and turned around, looking at her questioningly, waiting for her to start.
She looked at him hesitantly before moving forward so she was standing in close proximity to him. "Woh... Who actually tumse kuch baat karni thi," she said in a small voice.
Rahul really wasn't surprised that she wanted to talk. He had successfully avoided her for a day, but he couldn't do that forever. And he knew that she would want to talk to him, to explain her side of things. To talk, to rant and to justify. But, he wasn't for that, not yet. Before he could think any further, he had to come to terms with the fact that she had lied. It wasn't easy for him to do that. Ever since he had met Riddhima, even before they had become friends, before everything had happened - Rahul had looked upto her. She was his first friend at Sanjeevani. She had given him a tour of the hospital and helped him get settled in. She was always there to stop him when an argument with Muskaan got too heated. She was there to defend him when Armaan decided to pick on him. Before yesterday, Rahul had held Riddhima on a pedestal.
She was perfect in his eyes. She was strong, brave, brilliant, resilient and kind and beautiful and loving and just about everything good on Earth. She was always there for people in need, she would do anything for her family and family. She was just ethereal for him. He hadn't met anyone like her before.
She commanded his respect from the moment they met. And even after everything - the ups and the downs and turmoils and betrayal and heartbreak - she was here. She was still the same person, almost the same person.
And then, she had done the unthinkable. Her pedestal was shaken down. And for the first time Rahul realized that she was human, like the rest of them. It had come as a huge blow to him and he needed time to digest the information. He also needed to come to terms with the fact that this was something that could very well happen in the future.
He didn't want any lies to come in between their friendship.
He knew the consequences of lies all too well. Lies had destroyed his and Muskaan's relationship. They had almost destroyed her and Armaan's.
While Armaan and Riddhima had been stronger, braving the storm and emerging victorius. He and Muskaan hadn't been as lucky. Their relationship hadn't been able to take the brunt of all that had happened.
He had already lost the love of his life, he couldn't bear to lose his friend too.
"Riddhima, hum baad mein baat kar sakte hai? Abhi main thoda busy hu," he said, trying to get out of the confrontation he wasn't ready for yet.
"Rahul, please..." she whispered.
He sighed and nodded.
"Kaise ho?" she asked tentatively.
"Theek hu," he replied absently.
"Kahaan ho?"
"Atul ke ghar."
"Chintu, Ritu aur Meena kaise hain?"
"Bilkul theek," he replied, siling inspite of himself. Atul was the greatest friend ever, but he was a little weird. He still had a huge nursery of plants. And he still named them. And talked to them as if they could understand what he was saying. It was really endearing to watch.
"Yahaan kaise?" Riddhima asked, bringing him out of his memory of Atul singing his plants to sleep.
"Woh actually main Sanjeevani waapas join kar raha hu, toh uski hi formalities poori karne Dr. Keerti ne bulaya tha."
"Really?" she asked.
She squealed when he nodded and threw herself in his arms.
And in that moment nothing else mattered. Not the fact that they weren't talking or that he was mad at her or that she had lied. It was just two friends, celebrating.
Rahul grinned as he higged her back. He knew that she would really excited it. She hadn't said it in the exact words, but Rahul knew that she had wanted him to come back. Not just for her, but she had wanted him to try to right things with Muskaan. For some reason that he couldn't fathom, Riddhima still thought they had a chance at making it.
However, the light atmosphere didn't last for long as they both came back to reality. Riddhima was the first to let go. Her arms dropped from around Rahul's back and she stepped back. Rahul realized what she was trying to do and let go of her.
"Congratulations," Riddhima said in a watery voice and brought her had forward.
"Thanks," Rahul replied, taking her hand and shaking it.
"Ab mujhe chalna chahiye," he added.
Riddhima sighed. She knew Rahul didn't want to talk to her right now. That had been clear since the moment he had seen her enter the locker room. But, she couldn't just leave it be.
She had to try to talk to him, to make him understand that she didn't mean to do it, to try and make him see things from her perspective. She knew it wouldn't be easy to get him to talk to her but she wouldn't give up that easily.
She knew that what she had done was wrong, she shouldn't have lied. But at that time, it had seemed the smartest thing to do. She had just went with the flow and spewed out a bullshit story about her adoption when they had been talking about him and Muskaan.
She needed him to understand that just because ehe couldn't have kids didn't mean that his and Muskaan's relationship had to end. Adopted kids could be loved by their parents as well. And what better example than herself? Everyone thought that Dr. Shashank loved her more than Anjali. And she was the adopted one. She had tried to make him see reason through her story. That had led to a discussion about her adoption.
When he had asked about her parents, she couldn't tell him the truth. Even though she trusted him implicitly and knew that he wouldn't judge her or Mom, she wasn't able to tell him the truth. She couldn't tell him that she didn't want to talk about it and ask him to leave it alone, for what reason she never understood. That had led to the biggest lie of her life.
And now she was paying for it. She just wished that the punishment was a little less harsh. It was her who had to work to make things better. So, she needed to talk to Rahul. Keeping that in mind, she squared her shoulders.
"Rahul, mujhe tumse baat karni hai."
"Hum baat kar chuke hain, Riddhima. Abhi main thoda busy hu, hum yeh baad mein kar sakte hain."
"Nahi," she said forcefully, "Baad mein nahi kar sakte. Mujhe tumse abhi baat karni hai."
"Riddhima, mere paas time nahi hai tumhaare liye is waqt."
"Toh time banao, Rahul. Tum yahaan se tab tak nahi jaa rahe jab tak hum baat nahi karte," she said, her tone ringing finality.
Rahul sighed and nodded. Better get it done with, he thought.
"Rahul, mujhe pata hai ki tum abhio mujhse baat nahi karna chahte. Mujhse naraaz ho. Par, main sirf tumhe apna perspective samjhana chahti hu."
Rahul nodded, indicating that he was listening.
"Tumhe yaad hai, us din jab hum tumhaare aur Muskaan ke baare mein baat kar rahe the?"
"Haan, tumhe nahi lagta ki meri problem ki wajah se hume alag hona chahiye tha."
"Haan, aur jab tumne mujhse poocha toh maine tumhe mere adoption ke baare mein bataya tha. Lekin jab tum mujhse Papa ke pehle waali zindagi ke baare mein janne ki koshish ki, main tumhe sach nahi bata paayi. Main tumhe jhooth nahi kehna chaahti thi. Lekin pata nahi kyu tumhe sach nahi bata payi. Us waqt jo khayal pehle mere dimaag mein aaya, maine keh diya. Mujhe aisa nahi karna chaahti hu. I'm sorry," she said, sighing.
"Main, main tumhe kaise samjhau, Riddhima? Tumne kyu nahi kaha kuch?"
"Main nahi chaahti thi ki tum Mumma ke baare mein..."
"Ki main Padma Aunty ke baare mein galat na sochu?"
Riddhima nodded mutely.
"Tumhe lagta hai ki sach jaanne ke baad main tumhaare aur Padma Aunty se nafrat karne lagunga, tumhe baare mein galat sochunga?"
Riddhima shook her head vehemently, trying to defend herself. But, Rahul held up a finger, indicating he wasn't done yet.
"Tum aisa kaise soch sakti ho? Kya tum mujhe itna gira hua, itna narrow minded maanti ho?"
"Nahi, Rahul. Dekho, jo hua, mujhe nahi samajh aa raha ki main tumhe kaise samjhau..."
"Kyuki samjhaane ke liye kuch hai nahi, Riddhima. Chalo, ek pal ke liye maan liya ki tumhe laga ki main is laayak nahi hu ki main tumhaare baare mein yeh sach jaanu. Ki main bohot hi gira hua insaan hu, aur yeh jaane ke baad, main tumse nafrat karne lagta..."
Riddhima started to protest but Rahul shook his head.
"Kya tum mujhse yeh nahi keh sakti thi ki tum is baare mein baat nahi karna chaahti. Tum mujhe keh sakti thi, ki tum yeh baat share nahi karna chaahti. Main tumhe force nahi karta tumhe. Agar tum mujhse koi baat nahi share karti, toh main tumhaari privacy ki respect karta. Ya tum yeh bhi nahi soch saki, ki main tumhe us baat ko lekar pareshaan nahi karunga?"
"Aisa nahi hai. Main jaanti hu, agar main nahi chaahti, toh tum mujhe kabhi force nahi karte."
"Toh phir kyu?"
"Chutki..." Riddhima began, but trailed off when she saw the colour drain off Rahul's face.
Rahul sucked in a ragged breath before all the air left him in whoosh. Chutki?  What about her? Why did Riddhima have to bring her up in this conversation?
"Chutki, kya?"
"Rahul, Chutki..."
"Chutki, kya, Riddhima?"
"Tumne mujhe kuch din pehle hi uske baare mein bataya tha. Apni life ka sabse bada sach. Apna har dard, har takleef, har zakhm kholke rakh diya tumne mere saamne..."
"Aur, kyuki main aisa kiya, tum bhi karna chaahti thi?"
Riddhima nodded.
"Toh sach bata deti, jhooth kehne ki kya zaroorat thi?"
"Rahul..."
"Nahi, Riddhima. Maine kabhi nahi socha tha ki humaara rishta kabhi itna chota ho jaayega. Kabhi nahi socha tha ki hum apni feelings, apne dard ka sauda karenge."
"Rahul..."
"Nahi, Riddhima. Aaj ke liye bohot baatein ho gayi. Ab main kuch nahi sunna chaahta. Kya pata jaane se pehle tum kaunsa aur jhooth boldo mujhe, kyuki maine tumhe apni zindagi ke har hiss eke baare mein bataaya hai. Yehi haina humaara rishta? Mera sach aur tumhaara jhooth?"
Riddhima looked like she had been slapped. She choked in a sob and ran out of the locker room, leaving Rahul behind.
Rahul didn't even register what he was saying before he had said it.
Listening to Riddhima talk, give him reasons that were so petty, hearing the name Chutki, it had all been too much for him. And before he could stop himself, he had just spewed all that out, without stopping to think for a second. And in the process he had hurt Riddhima more.
"Idiot!" he exclaimed to himself, punching a wall. He swore and ran after Riddhima, hoping to catch her before she left.
Riddhima couldn't believe the words that had left Rahul's mouth. Just because she had lied about her adoption didn't mean that their relationship was a lie. How could he have said such cruel words? They echoed in her mind as if set on replay. She tried the tears to stop, but she couldn't do it.
She ran out, not really looking where she was going, her pain and her tears blocking her view.
Her vision was so blurred that she didn't see the car heading her way nor did she hear the horns blaring. She didn't hear Rahul's panicked voice shouting, "Ridhu!" before it was too late.
She collided into something and then, everything went black.

xxx
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