Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Chapter 23 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF

"Muski..." Armaan whispered, unable to determine what to do next.
Muskaan turned at the sound of his voice. She looked as if she couldn't believe that it was in fact, Armaan standing in front of her. Anjy had told her about his return, but she still couldn't believe it.
"Hi," he whispered finally, after many moments of silence.
Muskaan's only answer was a curt nod.
"Kaisi hai?" He asked her softly.

"Theek hu," she replied in a monotonous voice. Armaan nodded.
He scratched the back of his neck, unsure of how to proceed. He could very well tell that Muskaan didn't like him at the moment.
God, this was awkward. And it had never been awkward between them. Since the moment they had met, all those years ago when Muskaan had imposed herself on him in search of a ride, Armaan & Muskaan had been the greatest of friends. It hadn't been this way even when she was forcing him to fit her good - for - nothing scooty into his car. And he hadn't even known her then.
But now, standing in front of her, Armaan didn't know what to do or to say. Should he aplogise? Could he give her a hug? He didn't really understand what might be the best course of action.
After a few moments of internal debate, Muskaan seemed to understand what the best thing to do was. Which, apparently was to slap Armaan hard across his face.
Armaan looked at her in shock for a moment, not fully able to comprehend that she had actually slapped him. His hand immediately went to his cheek. He rubbed the skin there, wincing slightly. That was one hard slap, and it hurt.
Before he could say anything - he really wanted to ask Muskaan if she'd finally lost her marbles - she pulled him into a tight hug. Relieved that she wouldn't hit him anymore, most likely, Armaan put his arms around her as he returned the hug.
"Kahaan tha tu? Kaisa hai? Sab theek haina?" Muskaan fired questions one after the other.
"Thand rakh, thodi," Armaan replied, laughing. "Main Canada mein tha. Bilkul theek hu. Sab theek hai. Main kahin nahi jaa raha," he replied in answer to her questions.
"Waise, agar tujhe pehle nahi samajh aaya ho toh, woh thappad Ridzy ke liye tha," she said, knowing that he wanted to know why she did that.
Armaan smiled on hearing that, and nodded.
"Kya hua tha, Armaan?" she asked him after some time. The two of them were sitting in the locker room still, reminiscing about old times.
Armaan sighed and launched into a full explanation about everything - how he'd been diagnosed with nervous damage, and the doctors said he would more likely than not lose his mind. He told her about how hard it had been for him to come to that decision, leaving Riddhima, but how he did it anyway, because that was the right thing to do for Riddhima. He told her about his time in Canada and coming back because no medication seemed to work. He told her about the night he found Riddhima in his cottage and the note, how he left the very next day, back to Canada with a new determination to get better for Riddhima. And he told her about how Riddhima accepted him back with open arms when he returned.
Muskaan listened to the whole story intently, never interrupting him. She hadn't known about Armaan's mental condition before today and her heart ached for her friend. All those months of separation and agony, for the both of them, only because they were brave enough to stand up for what they felt was right. No one deserved to go through that pain, least of all Armaan and Riddhima. Hadn't they already seen too much heartache? Hadn't they faced all problems, overcome all odds to stay together? Their friends, Dr. Shashank, the amnesia - they overcame everything to stay together. And just when things were about get better for them, this had happened. Weren't they allowed an ounce of peace?
"Oyye, kya soch rahi hai?" Armaan asked, snapping his fingers in front of her.
"Kuch nahi, bas aise hi. Tu woh sab chodna. Baaki sab kahaan hai?"
"Sab duty par hai," he replied.
"Teri duty nahi hai?" she asked.
"Aaj ke liye meri duty tu hai," he replied.
"Kya?"
"Dr. Keerti ne kaha hai. Aaj se jo nayi senior doctor join kar rahi hain, aapko unhe Sanjeevani mein comfortable feel karana hai, Dr. Armaan," Armaan said, imitating Dr. Keerti's voice.
Muskaan burst out laughing at that.
"Tujhe kaise pata ki nayi doctor main hi hu, Hero? Koi aur bhi toh ho sakta hai," she said.
"Please! Armaan Mallik ko sab pata hai," he replied indignantly. "Nayi senior doctor tu hi," he said confidently. "Tu hi hai na?"
"Haan, main hi hu," she replied, laughing hysterically at him.
"Haan, haan. Hasle.  Tum sabko mujhpe hasne ka bohot shauk haina?"
"Tu paagal hai kya, Hero? Main? Aur tujhpe hasu? Kabhi nahi," she said, still laughing loudly.
"Theek hai, theek hai," he replied. And then, he started laughing as well.
When they were finally able to stop their laughter, Muskaan looked at Armaan as if she was contemplating something.
Armaan caught the look on her face and knew she wanted to ask him something.
"Muskaan, jo bhi hai, tu mujhse pooch sakti hai. Main pakka over react nahi karunga," he said.
Muskaan looked at him and smiled.
"Tu Ridzy ko chodkar kyu gaya?" At Armaan's confused expression, she hastened to add, "Matlab main samajh rahi ki tu kyu gaya. Lekin tujhe kyu laga ki woh tere bina theek rahegi? Tujhe pata hai ki Rah - tu jaanta hai main kaisi thi..." she trailed off, not wanting say Rahul's name.
Armaan sighed before answering,"Meri aur Basket ki situation tumse bohot alag thi. Tu toh jaanti hai, agar usse sab sach pata chal jaata, woh mujhe kabhi nahi jaane deti. Aur us waqt doctors keh rahe the ki uske waapas wheelchair se uthne ke chances bohot kam the. Mujhe pata hai agar main yahaan rehta, toh Basket kabhi kisi aur ko mera khayal nahi rakhne deti. Aur agar sach mein main nahi theek hota ya woh nahi hoti, toh phir hum kya karte? Ek wheelchair mein phasi ladki aur ek 25 saal ka ladka jiska dimaag 5 saal ke bachche se bhi kam developed tha? Mere yahaan rehne se uski problems bohot zyada badh jaati. Aur agar main sach mein paagal ho jaata, toh uski jaan bhi khatre mein hoti. Basket ke saath main kabhi apne sapne mein bhi nar sakta. Soch, agar kabhi meri kisi stupidity ki wajah usse kuch ho jaata toh?"
"Hero..." Muskaan trailed off, not knowing what to say. She hadn't even thought about all this. All the complications surrounding a mentally imbalanced and a wheelchair bound person staying together. A recipe for disaster right there. They might have ended up killing each other or themselves while trying to make sense of everything.
"Maine is baare mein kabhi socha hi nahi," Muskaan replied truthfully.
"Tujhe aisa sochne ki kya zarurat hai? Maine is sabke baare mein bohot socha, jaane se pehle. Tujhe kya lagta hai, agar mere paas koi aur raasta hota, toh main kabhi usse chodkar jaata?" He asked.
"Main jaanti hu, ki tu usse kabhi nahi chodta. Isliye main itna zyada shocked thi jab mujhe pata chala. Aur tu is tarah chori chupe, raat mein bina kisise kuch kahe hi chala gaya? Humein kuch kyu nahi bataya, Armaan? Hum tere dost hai, teri aur Ridzy ki madad karte hum," she told him, feeling a tiny sliver of hurt that he hadn't said anything to anyone.
"Us waqt sab apni problems mein itna uljhe hue the. Nikki us Jiya ke baare mein, Anjy aur Atul Basket ke liye itna pareshaan the aur tere aur Rahul ke toh pehle hi bohot problems the sort out karne. Main kisiki aur pareshaan nahi karna chaahta tha. Aur waise bhi, maine sab kuch Dr. Shashank se discuss kiya tha. Unhe bhi yehi sahi laga."
"I'm sorry, Hero. Hum sabne pichle kuch mahino mein tujhse bohot nafrat ki hai, yeh sochke ki tu Ridzy ko sirf isliye chodke chala gaya kyuki woh kabhi chal nahi paayegi. Kabhi kisi ne socha hi nahi ki tu bhi problem mein ho sakta hai," she said, the tears that she had tried to keep at bay for so long finally falling freely now.
"Hey, it's okay. Main jaanta hu. Maine tumse jhooth kaha tha. Agar tum mujhse nafrat nahi karte, toh main shayad tumse karne lagta yeh sochkar ki yeh sab karne baad bhi tum mere baare mein bura kyu nahi sochte," he told her.
Muskaan nodded mutely. Armaan shook his head and pulled her in for a tight hug. They stood like that for a while, letting all the pent up guilt and hatred float away.
"Chal, baaki sabse milte hain. Aur phir duty pe jaake Basket se bhi milne jaana hai," Armaan told Muskaan after sometime.
"Basket se, huh? Main toh is hi baat se surprised hu ki tu abhi tak usse milne nahi gaya, kitna time ho gaya? 2 ghante?"
"Poore 45 minutes ho chuke hain, thank you very much," he replied.
"45 minutes? Tu abhi tak zinda kaise hai uske bina?" Muskaan asked cheekily.
"Main bas isliye theek hu kyuki Padma Ma hai uske saath abhi, nahi toh main uske bed se ek inch bhi nahi hilta," he replied.
"Bed se? Kya hua Ridzy ko?" Muskaan asked, immediately worried about her.
"Kal raat, uska bohot bada accident hote - hote reh gaya. Agar Rahul wahaan sahi time pe nahi pohoncha hota, toh pata nahi kya hota," Armaan replied, shuddering at thought of the accident.
However, in his stupor, he didn't realize that he had just told Muskaan that Rahul was here, in Mumbai, in Sanjeevani, right now. Muskaan was shell shocked on hearing this. After everything that had transpired between the two of them, Muskaan wasn't sure if she wanted to see Rahul, especially now.
Seeing him would unnecessarily open wounds that didn't need any opening.
She had been so lost in her own thoughts that she failed to see the look of realization dawn upon Armaan as he realized what he had said.
"Shit!" He exclaimed, startling Muskaan out of her thoughts.
"I'm sorry, Muskaan," he told her, in response to her questioning glance.
When she still didn't look satisfied, he sighed, saying, "Woh, Rahul ke baare mein. Is tarah achaanak tujhe pata chala. Isliye."
Muskaan shook her head at his words.
"Kabse hai woh yahaan?" she asked.
"Abhi 2-3 din pehle hi aaya hai," he replied.
"Oh."
"Muskaan, dekh. Koi tujhe force nahi karega. Agar tu usse baat nahi karna chaahti, toh mat kar."
Muskaan nodded absently.
"Kab tak hai woh yahaan?"
"Mujhe nahi pata. Actually hum dono ki zyada kuch baat nahi hui hai. Jab woh aaya toh main aur Basket Lonavala Orphanage chale gaye. Phir woh stupid accident. Toh hume time nahi mila," he said.
Muskaan nodded.
"Kaisa accident? Kya hua un dono ko?"
"Basket bina dekhe chal rahi thi, pata nahi kyu. Shayad uski aur Rahul ki koi ladai hui thi. Aur saamne se gaadi aa rahi thi. Obviously usne dhyaan nahi diya. Rahul wahi paas mein tha, toh usne Basket ko gaadi ke saamne se dhakka de diya. Last minute pe thankfully woh khud bhi kood gaya, lekin gaadi ke bumper se uska pair takra gaya, toh usse fracture ho gaya. Us gaadi waale ne sahi time pe brakes maar diye, nahi toh pata nahi kya hota," Armaan explained.
"Woh dono theek toh haina, Armaan?"
"Haan, haan. Zyada kuch nahi hua. Rahul ko fracture hua hai. Aur Riddhima ke sar pe thodi chot aayi hai. Riddhima toh aaj shaam tak discharge ho jaayegi. Rahul bhi, next week tak ho jaayega," Armaan said, trying to soothe her worries.
Muskaan nodded, relieved.
"Chal, ab. Atul aur Anjali se milkar aate hai. Phir Basket se milke rounds pe jaana hai," Armaan said, authoritatively.
Muskaan mock saluted him, saying, "Sir, yes, sir."
They both looked at each other and laughed at her antics, Muskaan's laugh making Armaan laugh harder. Then, they made their way out.
They had just entered the general ward, when Sid made a beeline for Armaan.
"Hi, Dr. Armaan," she said.
"Hello, Dr. Siddhanth," he replied, his voice tight.
He looked at Muskaan expectantly, waiting for an introduction.
"Hi, I'm Muskaan Chadda. Sanjeevani ki new senior doctor," Muskaan said, introducing herself, her voice incredibly intimidating.
"Morning, Ma'am," Sid replied warily.
"Dr. Siddhanth, aapko kuch kaam tha?" Armaan asked, clearly enjoying Sid getting intimidated by Muskaan.
"Haan, woh actually, Dr. Armaan, mujhe ghar jaldi jaane ki permission chahiye thi," he said in a small voice.
"Dr. Siddhanth abhi toh din shuru bhi nahi hua aur aap abhi se ghar jaane ki baat kar rahe hai? Aur waise bhi aajki duty aapko Dr. Keerti ne assign ki hai. Toh permission bhi aapko unse hi leni padegi," he replied.
"Dr. Armaan, please. Aap meri help kar dijiye. Mujhe aaj jaldi jaana hai. Main Dr. Keerti se permission nahi maang sakta. Aap toh jaante hain ki woh kaisi hain. Mujhe aur zyada time ke liye rectal exams assign ho jaayenge," he said.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Siddhanth, lekin main aapki koi madad nahi kar sakta hu is maamle mein. Agar aapko ghar jaldi jaana tha, toh aapko time par aana chahiye tha," he replied.
"Lekin Dr. Armaan..." he cut her off before he could say anything further.
"Yeh discussion ab aage nahi hogi, Dr. Siddhanth. Please apni duty par jaiye. Aapke liye achcha hoga agar aap kaam par dhyaan de aur kahin nahi. Samjhe?" Armaan said, his tone ringing finalty.
Sid left, defeated.
"God! I love my job!" Armaan said as soon as he left.
"Oyye Hero! Tujhe usse koi problem hai kya? Bada sunaa raha tha usse," Muskaan asked.
"Problem toh hai. Saala, kameena kahin ka. Woh toh Basket ne mujhe mana kiya hai, nahi toh is kutte ko toh main aisa sabak sikhaata na, apna khudka naam bhi bhool jaata," Armaan ranted.
"Aisa kya kiya hai usne? Ki tu usse itni zyada problem hai?"
"Chod na, yaar. Abhi bataunga toh phir mera mood kharaab ho jaayega. Aur mujhe bohot zyada gussa aata hai, us baat ko yaad karke."
"Abbe khotey. Tu meko nahi batayega? Yahi thi teri dosti? Yahi tera pyaar?" Muskaan asked in a dramatic tone, doing all the gestures that only she could pull off.
"Muskaan drama mat kar zyada. Yaad rakh, ab hum senior doctor hai," Armaan instructed, catching ahold of her hands and pinning them to her sides.
"Haan. Theek hai, theek hai. Zyada bhaashan mat de ab. Baat toh aise kar raha hai jaise khud bohot sudhra hua hai! Dekhti hu kitni baar din mein tu aur Ridzy hospital ke kisi kone mein miloge," she replied.
Armaan made a face at that. "Haan, theek hai, theek hai. Zyada ud mat ab. Baaki sabse milna hai ya nahi?" He asked trying to divert the topic.
"Haan, chal! Anjy aur Atul se mile kitna time ho gaya hai, yaar! Aur Nikki kahaan hai? Aur woh khadoos Modi?" She fired off her questions.
"Shaant, Rajdhani Express, shaant! Anjy aur Atul honge yahin kahin, rounds pe. Aur Nikki aur Modi Delhi mein he kuch kaam se. Abhi 1 - 1.5 mahine baad aa jaayenge."
"Phidde mooh. Nikki ko kya zarurat thi uske saath jaane ki? Akela bhi toh jaa sakta tha," Muskaan said, annoyed.
"Arre, ab Dr. Shashank ne usse bola toh woh chali gayi. Waise bhi yaar, uska husband hai. Uske saath hi jaayegi na," Armaan replied, trying to pacify her.
"Haan, haan. Shaadi ho gayi toh ab humein thodi poochegi. Par hum kya usko kha jaate? Dost hai uske. Achche se hi rakhte. Useless hai woh poori ki poori," she said.
"Chal ab Nikki ko gaaliyaan dena chod. Baaki sabse milte hai," Armaan replied.
Laughing, the two of them made their way to the cafeteria where they were sure everyone was chilling for sometime before Dr. Keerti came around.
In the cafeteria, Naina was babbling on about some thing or the other. The others were pretending to listen and Yuvi was busy admiring her.
Armaan made Muskaan wait outside the caf and went inside, the both of them gearing up for the big reveal.
"Hey, guys. Kya chal raha hai?" Armaan asked as he made his way to the group.
"Hi, Armaan. Kuch nahi, yaar. Bas aise hi time pass ho raha hai kuch time ke liye," Anjali replied.
"Arre, Armaan. Woh nayi doctor aa gayi kya?" Atul asked excitedly.
"Kyu, Champ? Tujhe bada interest hai us nayi doctor mein? Anjy ko chodne ka plan bana raha hai kya?" Armaan asked cheekily.
"Armaan!" Atul thundered (in a typical overdramatic Atul reaction), "Main Anjali ko kabhi nahi chodunga, samjha?"
"Shut up, Atul," Anjy replied in her flippant tone.
Armaan smiled widely.
"Ahhh! Kuch cheezein kabhi nahi badalne waali yahaan, haina?" He asked rhetorically, a wave of nostalgia hitting him.
The three of them looked at each other before grinning and saying "Nah," in unison with a careless shrug of there shoulders.
"But, seriously Armaan. Woh nayi doctor kaisi hai? She's gonna be fine right? Koi aisi - waisi toh nahi haina?"
"Anjy, I'm sure ki she'll fight right in. And something tells me, ki tum dono ko woh bohot pasand aayegi. Basket ko bhi, in fact. Sab usse milkar bohot khush honge, I'm certain," he replied smugly.
"Armaan! Zyada suspense mat badha. Kaun hai? Humein bhi milaana! Please!" Atul pleaded.
"Okay guys! Drum rolls please," he said dramatically, banging his hands on the table, "I present to you, the new doctor at Sanjeevani..."
"Muskkkiii!" Atul shouted, on seeing her enter. He jumped from his chair and ran to her, pulling her in a bear hug.
"Atul! Mujhe bhi milna usse. Tum please side hatoge? Kuch zyada time se usse hug nahi kar rahe?" Anjy aksed after Atul didn't let go for a few minutes.
Atul immediately let go of her and turned to Anjali, saying, "Anjali? Tumhe bura laga maine Muskaan ko itne time ke liye hug kiya toh? Wow! Tum mujhse itna pyaar karti ho ki kisi aur ko mujhe hug karte hue bhi nahi dekh sakti? It's okay, main tumhe bhi hug kar leta hu."
As he moved to hug her, Anjali pulled back, saying, "Rehne do. Mujhe pata tum mujhe hug karna chaahte ho. Lekin mujhe Muskaan ko hug karna hai. Hato raaste se."
She then hugged Muskaan.
"Kaisi hai, Muskaan? Kitna time ho gaya yaar tujhe dekhe! Ab tujhe yaad hai humaari?"
"Main ekdum achchi hu, Anjy! Tum kaisi ho? Aur mujhe toh humesha hi tum sabki yaad aati rehti hai!" Muskaan replied, hugging Anjali back.
"Main bhi theek hu," Anjali replied. She pulled back from the hug and everyone seated around the table.
Muskaan was introduced to Naina and Yuvi.
They were just chit - chatting idly when a waiter appeared and set plates and plates of food in front of them.
"Arrey! Humne nahi mangwaya yeh sab. Aap kiske liye hain?" Anjali asked.
"Ma'am, woh ye sab Dr. Muskaan ke liye hai. Woh itne dino baad aaj aaye hai, isliye," the waiter explained.
"Waah! Sanjeevani mein mera aisa swaagat? Thanks!" Muskaan replied cheerfully.
The others shook their heads thinking they should have expected something like this. After all, when Muskaan was here she spent most of her time in the cafeteria, eating. The waiters and cooks all knew her likes and dislikes within a few days of her joining. There had come a time when Muskaan didn't even have to order and the food would be set in front of her, just like now.
Muskaan happily hogged on the food, offering some to others. After sometime, Armaan was really getting impatient. Muskaan was taking a lot of time, and he needed to go see Riddhima. It had been almost 1.5 hours since he had left her and he wanted to check on her once, just to reassure himself that she was fine.
"Abbe, Muski! Itna khaana band kar. Bhukkad itna khayegi toh 2 din mein haathi jaisi ho jaayegi," he said.
"Abbe! Tera kya jaata hai, main kitna bhi khau? Mera pet hai.  Tujhe kitna baar samjhaaya hai, mere aur mere khaane ke beech na aaya kar."
"Par tu itna time lagayegi toh main kya karu? Poora din yahaan baithke khaana nahi hai. Abhi Dr. Keerti aa jaayengi na, tab samajh aayega tujhe!" He said.
Muskaan started choking on her food hearing him. She drank some water to stop her coughing and immediately caught Armaan's collar. "Saale, kamine. Saari bhook hi mita di tune. Woh Gabbar ka naam leni ki kya zarurat thi? Chal ab, baad mein kha lenge," she said, looking longingly at her food. She shook her head and then turned back to him. She caught Armaan's hand in hers and pulled him up.
"Chal ab," she said.
Atul and Anjali, too stood up then. Another round of hugs was exchanged before Armaan & Muskaan headed in one direction and Atul & Anjali in another, leaving behind an amused Yuvi and Naina.
Muskaan made her way to the General Ward, figuring that atleast one of Armaan's patients would be there. When Armaan figured the direction they were moving in, he immediately stopped and pulled Muskaan back.
He then tugged on her hand and led her to the opposite direction, where all the private rooms were.
"Abbey, khotey. Pehle hi bold eta ki Ridzy se milne jaana hai! Aise Hitler ka naam leke mujhe daraaya kyu?" Muskaan asked him, knowing that they were going to see Riddhima from the look on Armaan's face.
"Atul aur Anjy ke saamne? No way! Woh dono pehle hi mujhe aur Riddhima ko bohot chidhaate hain. Unko aur mauke nahi dena chaahta main," he replied.
Muskaan just laughed on hearing this. Her unusual laugh made people stop and look at her. Embarassed, Armaan ducked his head, looking at floor as if it was the most interesting thing he had come across in ages. He then tugged on Muskaan's hand forcefully and walked faster.
When they reached Riddhima's room, he made Muskaan wait outside, telling her to come in only when he signaled her to.
He went in without any preamble and stopped short on the sight in front of her.
Padma Mom was sitting on the bed, beside Riddhima and the two of them were laughing carelessly. Riddhima's head was thrown back as she laughed loudly at something. He sighed and just stared. He could look at the scene forever.
His Basket was always beautiful, but nothing beat the look of sheer happiness on her face. He lived for those smiles. Those smiles signified the happiness in their lives. Happiness that he thought was well deserved, after all the hardships they had faced.
He was just standing there, admiring the beautiful moment between his girl and their mother, lost in his own world. It was the snapping of fingers in front of him that brought him back to the real world.
"Kya soch rahe ho?" Padma Mom asked him.
"Kuch nahi, bas aise hi," he smiled, a beautiful blush covering his face.
Padma Mom shook her head at him, grinning widely.
"Kahaan that u? Kabse wait kar rahi hu tera. Mujhe toh laga ki tu aaj yahaan se bahaar hi nahi niklega," she told him.
"Haan, waise mujhe kahin nahi jaana tha. Lekin Dr. Keerti haina. Unhe kaun samjhaaye?" He asked, in Woe is me' tone.
"Achcha. Batau abhi unhe? Aise baat kar raha hai unke baare mein," she asked him.
"Arrey! Ma! Please aap aisa mat karna. Nahi toh mujhe pakka rectal exams milenge!" He said.
"Waise, is wajah se ek achchi baat toh ho gayi," he added.
"Kya achchi baat?"
"Aap dono ke liye surprise hai," he said.
"Kya surprise?" Riddhima butted in.
"Arre, thoda patience rakho. Bata raha hu," he said.
"Haan, toh jaldi batao na," she replied.
Armaan smiled at her eagerness.
"Okay. Pehle aap log apni aankhen toh band karo," he said.
"Armaan! Main koi aankhen nahi band kar rahi hu. Tum batao surprise kya hai?" Riddhima demanded.
"Agar surprise chahiye toh aankhen toh band karni padegi. I'm sorry," he said.
Riddhima sighed and relented, wanting to see this surprise soon.
They both closed their eyes, and Armaan called Muskaan in.
"Okay, guys. Done. Ab aap apni aankhen khol sakte hai," Armaan said.
"Muski!" Riddhima shouted gleefully on seeing her. Muskaan grinned and moved to the bed to hug Riddhima.
Then, she hugged Padma Mom.
"Kaisi hai tu, Muskaan? Bade din ho gaye tujhe dekhe! Chandigarh kya chali gayi, hum sabko toh bhool hi gayi hai tu!" She said.
"Sorry, Aunty. Par wahaan bohot kaam tha. Zyada waqt hi nahi mil pata tha. Lekin Anjy se har thode dino mein baat hoti rehti thi. Nikki se bhi," she said.
"Woh toh mujhe pata hai. Anjali humein teri poori khabar deti thi," she replied.
Then, they sat down and began the endless session of talks and gossip.
"Yaar, yeh Muskaan toh khud hi yahaan settle ho gayi. Maine socha tha iske bahaane thoda time Basket ke saath spend kar lunga. Lekin yeh toh yahaan pe jaise rehne hi aa gayi hai, Basket ke saath," Armaan muttered.
"Armaan, tumne kuch kaha?" Riddhima asked.
Armaan just smiled fakely and said, "Nahi, maine toh kuch nahi kaha."
Riddhima resumed talking then.
Armaan started trying to catch Muskaan's eye. After several tries, she finally looked at him. He gestured for her to leave them alone for sometime.
Muskaan laughed silently at his desperation. She shook her head negatively, indicating that she wasn't gonna do that.
Armaan started making faces and muttering threats under his breath.
"Armaan, tu kuch keh raha tha kya? Maine suna kuch," Muskaan said.
"Nahi, nahi. Main kaise kuch bol sakta hu. Maine kuch nahi kaha," he replied and went back to his muttering.
After sometime, Muskaan decided to take some pity on him and said, "Padma Aunty, aap mere saath chalengi? Mujhe na coffee peene ka bohot mann kar raha hai. Kitne time se main yahaan ki coffee nahi pee."
Padma Mom getting the clue, agreed immediately. Armaan breathed a sigh of relief when the two of them left the room.
He sat on the bed and pulled Riddhima into his arms. Riddhima sighed and sunk into him, snuggling close.
"Kitna achcha hua na. Muskaan waapas aa gayi. Main bohot khush hu," she told him.
"Mmm. Main bhi bohot khush hu. Ab bas Nikki waapas aa jaaye. Phir hum sab waapas saath honge," he replied.
Riddhima nodded.
"Ab kaisa lag raha hai tumhe?" He asked.
"Armaan, tum kyu itni tension le rahe ho? Tumhe kaha na maine, ab main bilkul theek hu. In fact, agar Dr. Keerti haan bole, toh main abhi ghar chali jaungi," she said.
Smiling, Armaan kissed her temple.
Then, he bent his head and captured her lips in a kiss. Pulling back, he kissed her forehead and then rested his forehead against hers.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you, too," she replied.
He tucked her into his body completely and hugged her tight, resting his chin on her head, their arms wound around each other.
They sat like that for a while, before the Muskaan and Padma Mom returned.
"Chalein?" Armaan asked Muskaan.
"Kahaan?" she asked.
"Duty pe nahi jaana tujhe?" He asked.
"Tu jaa, mujhe abhi thoda time yahin rukna hai," she replied.
Armaan sighed. He wanted to spend sometime with Riddhima, but he didn't want to sit through another gossip session with the women, and he knew Dr. Keerti would have his head if he didn't report to duty soon.
He looked at Riddhima for help and she indicated that he should leave. He sighed. He kissed her forehead and turned to Muskaan, saying, "Theek hai, par jaldi aa jayiyo. Agar Dr. Keerti ko pata chala toh bohot problem ho jaayegi."
Muskaan nodded.
With one last glance at Riddhima and a mouthed I love you', he left.

xxx
prags (pragati)

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