Saturday, 11 November 2017

Chapter 28 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF

The next few days passed in the same fashion. Riddhima would show up at the hospital for sometime, muck around with Armaan and then go home.
She spent a lot of time with Rahul. They connected again, and it was like the whole How - could - you - hide - the - truth - about - your - adoption' argument never happened.
Rahul had his cast removed and was able to walk without too much pain now. The fracture was relatively minor and with constant physical therapy, he was able to get rid of the cast in a week. He had been advised some rest, still, but now he was done and him and Riddhima were joining Sanjeevani from the next day.

Rahul could hardly wait. He had missed working at Sanjeevani. That wasn't just his work place now. It was home. He had missed it. He missed working alongside his friends, he missed the canteen food, he missed all the shenanigans they got up to and he even missed Dr. Kirti's scoldings. He couldn't wait to start back.
Riddhima, on the other hand, was totally apprehensive. None of them had told Rahul about Muskaan's return. All of his therapy and appointments had taken place at home. So, there was no danger of him running into Muskaan. But, they were going to be working from tomorrow and there was no way that he wouldn't find out about Muskaan.
She didn't want another fight to culminate between them, about her hiding the truth, especially when he had just forgiven her for lying just a few days ago. She hoped he would understand that they had done what they did with the purest of intentions because they didn't want the added stress to mess with his recovery.
Everybody knew that Rahul felt incredibly guilty for everything that had transpired between him and Muskaan. And that he regretted leaving her the way he did. But, at that time, he couldn't think of a better option. By the time he had realized the folly in his ways, it had been too late and Muskaan had left. Rahul had tried to contact her numerous times, but she never answered his calls or answered the door when he flew in a time or two to see her.
Her message had been clear - she didn't want Rahul to talk to her anymore. After a few unsuccessful attempts, a heartbroken Rahul had decided that it was best to give her time. He would wait for her to make the first move. They would talk whenever she was ready and he would accept her decision without any contest. It was the least he could do for her.
Riddhima didn't want Rahul to be caught off guard because of them hiding the truth. It would open old wounds and she wasn't sure if Rahul would be able to have grip on his emotions if he were to come face - to - face with Muskaan without a prior warning.
There was also the fact that Muskaan hadn't taken Riddhima up on her offer to talk in the past week. With no clue about how Muskaan felt about the situation, she wasn't ready to let Rahul face the brunt on his own.
Determined, she made her way to Rahul's room, to talk it all out peacefully and come up with some sort of plan on how to react around Muskaan. Despite of how guilty he felt, Riddhima didn't think it would be a good idea to just go upto Muskaan and talk to her, begging her for forgiveness, which she was almost sure Rahul would do.
She took a deep breath and knocked on his door, waiting for him to reply.
"Darwaza khula hai, Riddhu," came his voice. Shakily, Riddhima opened the door.
"Hey," Rahul said, drying his hair. Apparently, he had just gotten out of the shower.
"Hey," Riddhima replied.
She sat on the edge of the bed, nervousness radiating from every part of her.
"Kya hua, Riddhu? Tu bohot tensed lag rahi hai. Kuch hua hai kya? Armaan se kuch baat hui?"
"Nahi, nahi. Armaan ke saath koi jhagda nahi hua hai. Woh... woh actually mujhe tujhse kuch important baat karni thi," she said, fumbling.
Rahul sat on the bed beside her and nodded for her to continue.
"Dekh, Rahul. I think mujhe the yeh baat pehle hi bata deni chahiye thi, lekin accident ke baad hum mein se koi tujhpe aur pressure ya stress nahi daalna chaahta tha, isliye kisine tujhse kuch nahi kaha. Lekin ab tu Sanjeevani waapas join kar raha hai, toh yeh zaruri hai ki tujhe yeh baat pata ho."

"Kya hua, Riddhu? Koi tension waali baat toh nahi haina? Sanjeevani mein sab theek hai, haina?" He asked, getting worked up by the minute.
Rahul wasn't liking Riddhima's tone, at all. He knew something was wrong. He just hoped it was nothing too major.
"Haan. Kuch gadbad nahi hai. Lekin mujhe tujhe kuch batana hai."
"Haan, bol. Teri aur Armaan ki phir se ladai hui kya?"
"Nahi, nahi. Meri aur Armaan ki koi nayi ladai nahi hui hai."
"Achcha. Toh phir kya hua?"
"Woh... woh... woh, actually..." she trailed off, not being able to speak.
"Riddhu kya hua? Jo bhi baat hai, tu mujhe bata sakti hai."
"Jaanti hu," she replied.
"Okay. Good. Toh bata, kya hua?"
She took a deep breath to calm herself.
"Rahul, Muskaan ne Sanjeevani waapas join kar liya hai," she said.
"What?" Rahul asked. He wasn't sure that he heard what Riddhima had said correctly.
He heard her saying that Muskaan had joined Sanjeevani again. Surely that couldn't be what she said, right?
"Muskaan ne Sanjeevani waapas join kar liya hai, Rahul," Riddhima repeated. She knew it was a huge news to Rahul and he needed sometime to digest the fact.
"Muskaan, as in Muskaan Chadda? Hamesha mujhe gaaliyaan deti rehti hai, bohot khaati hai aur hamesha gaane gaati rehti hai. Woh waali Muskaan?"
"Haan, Rahul. Wohi waali Muskaan."
"Par... par... woh... yahaan..." Rahul mumbled, unable to form a proper sentence.
"Rahul, main jaanti hu ki yeh sab achaanak, tere liye bohot zyada hai. Lekin main nahi chaahti ki kal tu usse hospital mein dekhke aise react kare. Isliye maine tujhe pehle bataya," Riddhima tried to explain.
Rahul nodded, dumbfounded.
"Woh kab aayi?"
"Accident ke next din hi aa gayi thi."
"Matlab ek hafte pehle?"
Riddhima nodded, cringing, unsure whether Rahul would be mad at her for not telling him immediately.
"Theek hai. Theek hai," Rahul said, nodding his head.
"Rahul tu... tu theek haina?" Riddhima asked.
When Rahul didn't reply, she shook him to get him out of his thoughts.
"Huh? Haan?"
"Tu theek haina?"
He bobbed his head, not sure he could speak at the moment.
Before Riddhima could say anything else, Padma Mom made her way into the the room.
"Achcha hua tu yahin pe hai, Riddhima. Rahul se milke tere paas hi aane waali thi," she said by way of greeting.
Rahul & Riddhima looked up at her, confused.
"Kya hua, Maa? Aapko kuch kaam tha?" Riddhima asked.
"Nahi, beta. Bas tum dono ko batana chaahti thi aaj ghar pe dinner hai. Toh hospital se sab aane waale hai," Padma Mom replied.
"Hospital se? Kyu?" Riddhima asked.
"Woh tere Papa ne sabko invite kiya hai. Rahul aur Muskaan ki welcome back party ke baare mein kuch keh rahe the," she replied, shaking her head.
Riddhima grinned. "Theek hai, Maa."
Padma Mom smiled. "Teri help chahiye hogi mujhe, kitchen mein. Tu kar paayegi na?"
"Maa, aap tension mat lo. Main sab sambhaal lungi. Aapko kuch karne ki zarurat nahi hai," Riddhima said.
"Sab kuch tujhe karne ki zarurat nahi hai. Bas meri thodi help kar dena."
"Maa, main sab kar lungi. Aap tension mat lijiye."
"Arre, tu abhi achchi tarah se theek bhi nahi hui hai. Sab kaise sambhaalegi?"
"Main theek hu, Maa. Kal se hospital bhi join kar rahi hu. Dr. Keerti ne bhi keh diya hai, ki ab sab theek hai. Aap kisi bhi cheez ka tension mat lijiye."
Padma Mom sighed and nodded, knowing there was no arguing with her daughter.
"Theek hai. Lekin agar tujhe meri help chahiye ho toh please bol dena. Okay?"
Riddhima nodded her assent.
She grinned at them and then left the room after ruffling their hair.
As soon as she left, Riddhima turned to look at Rahul. He had sort of just been sitting there with wide eyes since he found out about the dinner.
"Rahul?" she called.
He didn't reply.
"Rahul?" She asked again, this time a little louder.
Still no response.
"Rahul?" She all but shouted, shaking him out of his thoughts.
"Riddhu," he whispered, looking at her.
"Kya hua?"
"Dinner," he replied, his voice shaking a little.
Riddhima nodded, prodding him to continue.
"Mus... Muskaan bhi hogi na?"
Riddhima nodded.
"Main... Main kya karunga?"
"Kya karoge, matlab?"
"Main abhi usse face karne ke liye ready nahi hu, Riddhu," he replied.
"Rahul, sab theek hoga. Tu tension mat le."
"Main... Main usse kya kahunga? Kaise behave karu usek saath? Mujhe toh kuch samajh hi nahi aa raha. Woh mujhse baat karegi na? Agar woh mujhse baat na kare, toh main pehle kuch kahun, ya nahi? Jab woh aayegi toh usse hug kar sakta hu? Agar main usse sorry kahu aur batau ki main abhi bhi usse pyaar karta hut oh kya woh chali jaayegi? Agar maine usse baat karne ki koshish ki aur usne mujhe ulta suna diya, ya... ya mujhe thappad maara, toh kya hoga? Merit oh koi izzat hi nahi bachegi Sanjeevani mein! Oh, my God! Main kya karu? Main usse baat hi nahi karunga... lekin agar usne mujhe isliye maara kyuki main usse bat nahi kar raha hu, toh? Main... main aaj ghar se hi - " He paused mid rant when Riddhima slapped her hand on his mouth.
"RAHUL!" She shouted. He looked up at her with wide eyes.
"Relax! Kuch nahi hoga. Deep breath in," she said, taking a long, deep breath and urging him to do the same.
She breathed in and out a couple of time with him mimicking her, before he relaxed a little.
"Better?" she asked.
Rahul nodded mutely.
"Rahul, relax, okay? Kuch nahi hoga. Muskaan tujhe sabke saamne thappad nahi maaregi, tu uski tension toh bilkul mat le. Aur rahi baat Muskaan se baat karne ki, toh tu jakar usse normally toh baat kar sakta haina? Jo bhi hua, uske pehle tum dost the, toh ek dost ki tarah usse itna toh pooch hi sakta hai ki woh kaisi hai, right?"
Rahul nodded, having calmed down a little.
On the other hand, there was someone else who was nervous about the dinner, too. That someone was none other than apni Punjab ki sherni, Muskaan.
Muskaan hadn't seen Rahul since the night she had snuck in his room to make sure he was okay.
No one apart from Riddhima knew about the incident and she was happy to keep it that way. On the occasions that Riddhima had come to the hospital, she had tried to talk to Muskaan, but she always ready with some excuse. At times, she was genuinely busy and didn't have the time, but she had been avoiding Riddhima and the talk like the plague.
It wasn't that she didn't want to talk to Riddhima, but telling her, or anyone else for that matter, would make it real. And she wasn't ready for that.
Now, she had this dinner to go to, where she would meet not only Riddhima, but also, Rahul. As if Riddhima's inquisition about the night and Armaan's comments about Rahul hadn't been enough, she had to now actuall see him.
She couldn't not go, because Dr. Shashank had personally invited her and said that it could be a sort of welcome back party for her and Rahul, and also Riddhima, who was joining back after the accident. She respected Dr. Shashank too much to do that.
She could always fake an illness, but she knew that her friends would see right through it. Plus, she knew it would make Rahul feel unnecessarily guilty about the whole thing.
Which brought her to where she was, in front of Armaan's door, seeking advice. When she had first met Armaan, if someone would have told Muskaan that someday she would go to Armaan to seek advice, that too on a relationship, she would have laughed on their face. She would have called the person delusional and probably, even crazy.
But, times had changed Armaan. Riddhima had changed Armaan. Normally, Muskaan would have sought advice on such matters from Riddhima, herself, but she was at home, with Rahul probably, so she chose the next best option, Armaan.
As she stood outside, waiting for him to open the door, she wondered if Rahul was as anxious as she was about tonight. They hadn't seen each other in almost a year and it was bound to ger awkward. She wasn't sure how she should act in front of him.
Armaan opened the door a minute later and was shocked to see Muskaan standing there.
"Muski? Tu yahaan kaise?"
"Kyu? Main tujhse milne nahi aa sakti kya, Hero?"
"Nahi, nahi. Aa sakti haina. Andar aa," he replied, moving aside to give her room.
She plomped down on the sofa, thinking how to start the conversation. Meanwhile, Armaan was moving around the house, tidying up before leaving for the Guptas.
"Kahin jaa raha hai kya?" Muskaan asked him.
"Haan," he replied, "Maa ne jaldi bulaya hai aaj, Basket ki help karne."
"Help, as in?"
"Woh madam ne aaj Maa ko kitchen mein jaane se mana kar diya hai. Rahul abhi bhi poori tarah recover nahi hua hai aur agar Anjy ko kitchen mein help karne bola, toh aaj raat hume dinner hi nahi milega, isliye main jaa raha hu, uski help karne."
"Anjy ki buraayi toh aise kar raha hai, jaise khud toh Sanjeev Kapoor hai," Muskaan commented.
"Main Sanjeev Kapoor nahi, Armaan Mallik hu."
"Mujhe pata hai, tu Armaan Mallik hai. Toh kya karu? Achaar daalu? Tujhe khana banana aata bhi hai?"
"Please!" Armaan scoffed. "Armaan Mallik, The Great ko sab kuch aata hai. Phir khana banana kaunsi badi naat hai?"
"Haan. Tujhe aisa lagta hai, kyuki tune kabhi apne haath ka bana khana khaya hi nahi hai! Ridzy se pooch, bechaari kaise tere haath ka khana khati hai? Zeher hota hai, zeher!"
"Excuse me! But Basket ko mere haath ka khana bohot pasand hai," Armaan replied indignantly.
"Woh bechaari toh aisa bolegi hi na? Tujhe hurt jo nahi karna chahti."
"Itna bhi bura nahi hu, yaar. Aaj tu khake dekh hi liyo. Phir kabhi kisi aur ke haath ka khana nahi kahyegi," Armaan said.
"Armaan, agar tere haath ka khana khake main mar gayi, toh meri bhatakti hui aatma tujhe kabhi chain se jeene nahi degi, samjha?"
Armaan just rolled his eyes at her dramatics. Typical Muskaan, spewing all the Bollywood bullshit dialogues with a flair of melodrama, which could easily rival those pathetic daily soap actors.
He ignored her as she blabbered on and on, taking care of everything he needed to before going to his bedroom to change. He emerged a few minutes later, dressed in a snug white tee and dark washed denims, looking good enough to eat.
As he flexed his arms, even Muskaan stopped talking to admire his taut muscles. The man really was too sexy for his own good.
"Kya hua? Achanak teri chapad - chapad band kaise ho gayi?" Armaan asked Muskaan when he heard her stop talking abruptly. She was staring at him, not saying a word, so he snapped his fingers at her to get her attention.
"Kya hua?"
"Ku - kuch nahi, Hero." She said. "Waise, aaj bada hot lag raha hai. Baat kya hai?"
"Main hamesha hi hot lagta hu, Muskaan," Armaan replied in duh' tone, as if stating the most obvious fact in the world which she already should be aware of.
Muskaan just shook her head. Apparently, somethings never changed.
"Woh sab chod, chal main jaa raha hu. Shaam ko milte hai," Armaan said.
"Ek minute, ek minute. Tu abhi jaa raha hai?" Muskaan asked.
"Haan. Basket ki help karni haina."
"Kya hua?" Armaan asked, cutting her off before she had the chance to speak. "Tujhe bhi chalna hai mere saath? Chal. Anjy ke saath gossip kar lena. Atul ko bhi le chalte hai. Achcha time pass ho jaayega sabka."
"Nahi! Tune meri problem hi solve nahi ki," she said.
"Kaunsi problem?" Armaan asked, confused.
"Rahul wali," Muskaan replied, stating the obvious.
"Rahul wali kya problem?" Armaan asked before the proverbial light bulb went off in his head.
"Ohhh! Aaj tu aur Rahul us din ke baad pehli baar milne waale ho na?" He asked, rhetorically.
Muskaan nodded sullenly.
Armaan placed his hands on her shoulder, making her sit down. "Muskaan, relax. Kuch nahi hoga. Rahul hi toh hai. Sab normal hoga, tu tension mat le."
"Haan, lekin main usse baat kya karungi?"
"Jo tum normally karte ho. Muskaan, dekh, sab jaante hai ki tere liye yeh kitna mushkil hai. Tu tension mat le. I'm sure Rahul samajhta hai, kit u abhi ready nahi hai, okay? Tu tension mat le, sab sahi hoga. Aur agar usne tujhe zara bhi uncomfortable feel karaya, toh tu usse keh dena, I'm sure woh teri baat samjhega. Agar woh phir bhi tujhe zyada pareshan kare toh mujhe batana, main uski khabar lunga. Theek hai?"
Muskaan nodded mutely.
"Chal, phir. Tu abhi aa rahi hai? Rahul se pehle hi mil legi, toh sabke saamne uncomfortable nahi hogi."
Muskaan jumped at the offer, thanking Armaan profusely for his help. Armaan just shook his head and ruffled Muskaan's hair.
On the way, they decided to pick Atul up as well. The three of them arrived at the Gupta House sometime later, much to the delight of Padma Mom.
"Arre, Atul, Muskaan? Tum dono bhi aa gaye? Chalo achcha hai. Aajkal toh tum mein se koi dikhta hi nahi hai, yahan," she said, pulling all of them into hugs.
Armaan made a beeline for the kitchen, sure that he would find Riddhima there already preparing for the night. Sure enough, she was scuttling around the kitchen, trying to manage everything.
It was clear that the poor girl needed some help, but she didn't want to trouble her mother and with Rahul in bed, asking Anjali for help was just a recipe for disaster.
He stood at the entrance of the room for a second, taking her in. Even with her hair haywire, flying in all directions, covered in sweat and dressed in her pajamas, she was the most gorgeous woman he had ever laid eyes on.
He sighed, looking at her. He was thankful that she was in his life every single day. He couldn't ask for more.
"Hey," she called, breaking him from his trance.
"Hey," he said, coming in and pulling her in for a hug.
They had been too busy pranking each other to just be together for sometime and he missed her. Sure, he had missed their pranks and their friendship, but now he was missing his Riddhima, who seemed to have forgotten about everything else apart from their pranks.
"I missed you," he whispered into her hair, pulling her close and then nuzzling her neck.
"I missed you, too," she replied. And she had. She didn't get to see Armaan as much anymore, because he was at the hospital and she was home. What little time they had together when she was at the hospital was marred by him getting called in for work. It seemd she didn't have enough of his attention these days. So, she had resorted to pulling stupid pranks on him so that he remembered her. She knew that it was, literally, a kindergarten notion where the boy pulls on the pigtails of the girl he likes best, but she couldn't help herself.
When he retaliated, she had the joy of feeling that he was still thinking of her even when she wasn't around.
Armaan pulled back, causing her to come out of her thoughts, and pressed his lips to hers in a kiss. His mouth moved on hers, gentle yet passionate as e savoured the closeness. Her arms went around his neck to his hair as he pulled her even closer.
"I love you," he said, once he had pulled back.
"I love you, too," she replied.
"Tum itni jaldi yahaan kaise?" Riddhima asked him, still in his arms as she traced patterns around the back of his neck.
"Maa ne bataya mujhe, ki tumne unhe kitchen mein aane se mana kiya hai, isliye main aa gaya, tumhaari mada karne," he replied.
"Hmmm," she hummed as she pecked his lips.
"Chalo batao, aaj kya madad kar sakta hu aapki?" Armaan asked.
Riddhima shook her head at him and pulled him to the counter. She told him what to do and they worked silently for sometime.
However, Armaan wasn't liking the silence. Or the not touching. So, he moved closer and closer to her, till their arms brushed even at the slightest movement. Riddhima looked at him, raising an eyebrow in question, but he shrugged innocently and went back to work. When he was done, he moved behind Riddhima and pulled her into his arms.
"Armaan!" she shouted at the sudden pull.
However, Armaan ignored her and put her hair to one side, nuzzling deeply into her neck, placing kisses occasionally.
Riddhima shivered at the contact and tried to move him, but he wouldn't budge.
"Armaan, kya kar rahe? Hato, mujhe kaam karne dona."
"Haan, toh maine tumhe thodi roka hai, kuch bhi karne se. Tum woh karo jo tumhe karna hai, main woh kar raha hu jo mera mann kar raha hai," he replied, his voice muffled by her skin.
"Armaan, badmaashi nahi, please."
"Riddhima, please."
"Armaan, dekho, hato."
"Nahi hatunga, bolo kya kar logi?"
"Armaan, main Papa ko bulaungi, haan. Hato, yahaan se," Riddhima threatened.
On hearing Dr. Shashank's name, Armaan moved away quickly, scowling at her.
"Huh. Genuine aadmi ki toh koi value hi nahi hai. Tum mere saath thoda bhi time spend nahi kar sakti na?" Armaan was talking away, making hand gestures and not paying attention to his surroundings.
His hand accidently hit the open sauce pouches that were kept on the counter, resulting in all the sauce flying everywhere, with a majority of it falling on Riddhima.
"ARMAAN!" Riddhima bellowed.
"Sorry, sorry. Jaan, maine jaan boojhke nahi kiya. Woh galti se haath sauce pe lag gaya. I'm sorry," Armaan mumbled.
Riddhima glared at him. She turned to the counter and picked the first thing that came into her hand, dumping all of the vessel's food on Armaan. It turned out to be gravy, which was now falling from almost every part of Armaan's body.
"BASKET!" Armaan shouted.
"Oops! Sorry, Armaan! Maine jaan boojhke nahi kiya," Riddhima said sarcastically.
Armaan wiped his face before he picked up another utensil and dumped it on Riddhima. Then, it was plain war. Both of them were just dumping food on each other blindly.
"Armaan! Riddhima! Yeh kya kar rahe ho tum dono?" Padma Mom's shouting brought them out of there their fight.
They looked at each other and then at Padma Mom, before pointing fingers at each other. "Maa, isne start kiya," Riddhima said accusatorily.
"Maine? Maine tumse kaha na, ki maine galti se sauce gira diya. Toh tumne mujhpe gravy kyu daali?" He asked. "Maa, sab Riddhima ki galti hai, usne hi ladayi shuru ki thi," Armaan told Padma Mom.
This led to the start of another fight.
"Armaan, dekho, jhooth mat bolo. Tumne mujhpe pehle sauce giraya tha."
"Haan, toh maine sorry bola na," he replied.
"Haan, toh sorry toh maine bhi kaha tha, gravy giraane pe," Riddhima replied.
"Lekin maine tumpe jaanke nahi giraya tha sauce."
"Lekin giraya na?"
"Toh maine sorry kaha na!"
"Armaan, dekho, tum ab zabardasti ladayi kar rahe ho."
"Main? Main zabardasti ladayi kar raha hu?"
"Haan, aur nahi toh kya!"
"Nahi, Riddhima. Jaanke tumne ladayi start ki, jab tumne mujhpe gravy giraayi."
Their voices started to get higher as they continued fighting.
"BAS!" Padma Mom bellowed. "Dono ekdum chup. Mujhe koi farak nahi padta kisne pehle ladyai start ki. Tum dono yeh poora sab saaf karoge. Aur phir apne kapde badalke bahar jaoge, sabke liye khana laane, samjhe?"
Both of them nodded like little kids.
"Sorry, Maa," they murmured in unison before getting to work.
The others who had gathered in the kitchen on hearing the voices looked on, shocked.
Muskaan and Atul were having a hard time keeping their laughter in check, while Rahul and Anjali hooted unabashed. Naina was looking at them, surprised along with a horrified Su and Sid who had come in early to drop off dessert.
Riddhima picked the broom up and started to clean, when Armaan's hand on hers stopped her movement.
"Yeh main kar lunga," he whispered, "Tum jaake change karlo."
"Armaan, it's okay. Main kar sakti hu," she replied softly, her love for him increasing as he stopped her.
"Jaan, please. Main nahi chahta ki tum yeh sab karo. Main kar lunga."
"Armaan, saara kachra hum dono ne kiya hai, toh saaf bhi dono hi karenge, okay?" Her tone ringing finality.
Armaan sighed before nodding.
She smiled at him, quickly pressing her lips to his before getting to work.

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