Thursday, 23 November 2017

Chapter 31 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF

"What?" Armaan asked surprised. "No, of course not! Tumhe lagta hai main tumhe aise propose karunga? Bina kisi speech ke, aur bina ring ke aur... aur bas aise hi?" He asked, surprised she thought he would do that.
Riddhima just shrugged her shoulders.
Armaan scoffed. "Please! Isse zyada credit de sakti ho mujhe. Hum dono jaante hai ki main aise propose nahi karunga. Bina ring ke nahi."
"Pichli baar, tumne bina ring ke hi mujhe propose kiya tha, Armaan."
"Tab mein aur ab mein bohot farak hai, Riddhima."

"Jaanti hu."
They both looked at each other for the longest time, not knowing what to say. Everybody looked on, surprised. They didn't have a clue of what to say.
After a while, Armaan sighed and moved towards Riddhima. He held his hand out to her and she took it without a moment's hesitation. Armaan smiled on seeing that.
"Anjy, Maa se kehna main Riddhima ko ghar drop kar dunga, okay," Armaan said looking at Anjali. She nodded in return.
Armaan pulled Riddhima into the fire escape to talk.
"Armaan, woh kya tha?" Riddhima asked.
"Kya?"
"Tum jaante ho kya. Tumne kaha ki tum propose nahi kar rahe, toh phir woh kya tha?"
"Riddhima, maine bas keh diya. Hum dono jaante hai, ki ek din tum Mrs. Mallik hi hogi. Maine bas aise hi..." Armaan trailed off, not knowing what else to say.
"Okay, okay," Riddhima replied.
Armaan looked at her, knowing there was more to come.
"Armaan, tumhe nahi lagta ki ab time sahi hai?" She asked him.
"Kis cheez ke liye?"
"Shaadi ke liye. Tumhe waapas aaye bhi abhi kuch mahine ho gaye hain. Hum saath hai, khush hai, kisi ko koi problem nahi hai. Toh tumhe nahi lagta ki ab hume iske baare mein sochna chahiye?"
Armaan didn't know what to say. Of course, he wanted to get married. But not now. He wanted to wait.
"Abhi jaldi karna zaruri hai kya? Tumhi ne toh kaha ki sab theek hai. Hum saath haina. Aur kya chahiye? Shaadi hum kuch time bhi kar sakte haina?"
"Lekin abhi karne mein kya problem hai?" Riddhima asked.
"Main abhi kuch waqt rukna chahta hu, Riddhima."
"Kyu?"
"Main abhi shaadi ke liye mentally prepared nahi hu," he replied.
"Matlab? Armaan hum almost ek saal pehle shaadi karne waale the. Agar woh accident nahi hua hota, toh us din humaari engagement ho gayi hoti. Aur phir kuch time baad shaadi. Toh ab kya problem hai?"
"Maine kaha na, Riddhima. Tab mein aur ab mein bohot fark hai."
"Jaanti hu, bohot fark hai. Lekin mujhe nahi pata tha ki humaare pyaar mein bhi tabse fark aa gaya hai."
"Riddhima baat woh nahi hai. I love you! Tum bhi jaanti ho ki main tumse pyaar karta hu."
"Toh phir mujhse shaadi kyu nahi karna chaahte?"
"Maine kaha na, mujhe thoda waqt chahiye. Abhi jaisa sab hai, main nahi chaahta kuch badle," he replied.
"Kyu? Yeh sab badalna toh achchi baat haina? Socho, agar humaari shaadi ho jaayegi, toh har din khatam hone par, tum mujhe ghar chodne nahi jaaoge, kyuki humaara ghar saath hi hoga. Har subah, ek doosre ko dekhne ke liye, hospital aane ka ya basketball court jaane ka wait bhi nahi karna padega, kyuki hum saath hi honge."
Armaan closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall, sighing, as he tried to get the images out of his head. Because he wanted all that Riddhima had said, and more. He wanted everything. And he wanted it so damn badly.
He could picture it, their life together, so easily. Him and Riddhima, waking up in each other's arms, huge smiles on their faces as they saw each other first thing in the morning. Him and Riddhima making breakfast together. Them sitting at the kitchen table and feeding each other before getting ready to leave for work.
Him and Riddhima seeing each other throughout the day at the hospital and then leaving together after work. Going home together. Sitting on the sofa, watching TV or talking or just basking in each other's company, wrapped up tightly into each other. And then, going to sleep together, buried in each other.
He could imagine it perfectly. Not having to miss Riddhima for a second in his life because she was there. She was always there. And she was his. And he was hers. And they were together and happy. It was a dream come true.
"Armaan," Riddhima's pained whisper brought him out of his thoughts.
"Tum kyu tayyar nahi ho?" she asked.
"Kyuki... kyuki main tumhe khona nahi chahta, Jaan," he replied in a small voice. Realistically, he knew his fears were stupid and unwarranted. He was being irrational and stupid and and idiot, but he had already lost her too many times and he wasn't ready to lose her again. He was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to survive it this time.
"Armaan? Tum kya keh rahe ho?"
"Jaan, jab bhi hum... jab bhi hum apne rishte ko aage badhaane ki koshish karte hai toh kuch galat ho jaata hai. Mujhe darr hai ki agar humne phir se aage badhne ki koshish ki toh phir kuch aisa hi hoga," he said.
"Matlab?"
"Pehle, Dr. Shashank ko humaare relationship se problem thi. Jab woh sab sort ho gaya, toh humaare beech Pari ki wajah se problems ho gayi. Jab tumne mujhe maaf kar diya aura age badhna chaha, mera accident aur phir amnesia. Aur jab finally, mujhe tumse phirse pyaar hua, toh engagement waale din..." he trailed off as Riddhima pressed her lips to his.
There was a certain desperation to their kiss which they had never experienced before. They kissed long and hard, pouring every inch of the love, longing and pain that they were feeling.
When it was necessary to breathe, Riddhima pulled back and rested her forehead against Armaan's, the tears she was so desperately trying to control now falling uninhibited.
"Shhh... shhh... Its okay, Armaan. Bas, its okay," she consoled him as his body wracked with sobs. She pulled him against her chest and he snuggled closer, desperately trying to make her understand. He was babbling and mumbling and ranting and it was hard to make out the words he was speaking due to his sobs, but Riddhima understood him better than anyone else and she understood everything he was trying to say.
She was just disturbed that she hadn't realized till now how much their separation had affected him. Armaan was well known for putting up a brave front in front of everyone and not talking about his problems, chosing to handle everything on his own as he was so accustomed to since childhood, but Riddhima was always able to see right through his happy - go - lucky charade.
But, this time he had managed to fool her, like he did with everybody else. Riddhima couldn't imagine the burden he felt daily, carrying around so much pain everyday. She had been so happy to finally have him back that she hadn't once thought about how he must have been feeling.
During their time apart, she had had Rahul and Anjali by her side almost every day. All her other friends had checked in from time to time and she had her parents and her friends' parents to lean on. Armaan, on the other hand had had no one. He was actually, truly alone as he battled his condition.
Even when she had come back, Riddhima had had the time to come to terms with the whole situation with Armaan. How he had left because he thought he was doing her good. It had taken sometime but considering how much he loved her and how he was always ready to do anything if he felt it would be better for her and how he was always saving her, she had been able to forgive him.
Unlike her, Armaan wasn't aware of the whole situation. He hadn't even known if Riddhima would take him back after everything. He had put everything on the line for her. He had come back, heart on his sleeve and ready to do anything to prove to her that he still loved her and hadn't stopped for one second since he saw her that day at the basketball court on the first day of their internship. He may not have realized it then, but Riddhima had been the first girl to invoke such deep feelings inside of him.
He hadn't had the time to come to terms with the fact that she was not sending her away. They had jumped headfirst into their relationship, starting right where they had left off, because things had been the same, or so they thought. The fact of the matter was that things were not the same as before. Though their feelings for each other might not have changed, their circumstances had. She realized now, that they should have talked about it instead of sweeping the whole thing under the rug as if nothing was wrong.
"Jaan... Jaan I'm sorry. Main... main... I love you. I love you. I love you, okay? Main tumse bohot pyaar karta hu. Aur main tumhe kabhi khona nahi chaahta. Main jaanta hu ki yeh saari baatein bohot stupid sound kar rahi hai. Aur shayad tum mujhse bohot naaraaz ho. Shayad mujhse baat bhi nahi karna chahti. Aur shayad mujhpe bharosa bhi nahi hai, lekin... lekin main tumse bohot pyaar karta hu. Hamesha se. Aur main kabhi soch bhi nahi sakta ki main kabhi tumse pyaar nahi karunga. Main jaanta hu ki meri yeh baatein sunnkar tum bohot hurt hui ho. Lekin main chaahkar bhi yeh saari cheeze apne dimaag se nahi nikal paa raha hu. I'm sorry, I love you," Armaan said, finally able to control his sobs enough to get this out.
"Armaan! Armaan, baby, its okay," Riddhima replied. She kissed across his face, repeating the words Its okay' after every kiss. Armaan sighed and looked down, not able to meet Riddhima's eyes after everything he had said.
What must she be thinking? After this conversation, he knew she would see him as weak and cowardly. He knew he was. He shouldn't be feeling the way he was. The way he said it, it was as if he thought their relationship was doomed or something. That he felt they weren't meant to be. But, that was farthest from the truth. He knew, down to every single cell in his body, he knew that Riddhima was the one for him and that they were destined to be together. Together, they were great. Together, they were an inferno. He wouldn't ever be able to love someone as much as he loved his Riddhima. No one could ever replace her in his heart. And his brain. And his body. And his soul.
He wanted to be with her, in every way, so badly. But, he was still so scared. He didn't know what to do. He was his own enemy. He, himself was the one who was standing in the way of his Happily Ever After. He hoped that someday he would get over this stupid fear he carried around, one that was illogical but stil buried deep in his heart, and have the life he wanted with his Riddhima. He knew that with Riddhima by his side, that one day would be very soon. He hoped that she could wait for him till then.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, a breathless plea.
"Armaan, its okay," Riddhima replied against his lips.
He shook his head indicating that it wasn't. Him telling her that he wasn't ready to get married was in no way okay and she shouldn't just let him off the hook that way. She was supposed to be angry and mad and slap him hard across his face. Not be understanding and loving and shower him with her love and kisses. He didn't deserve them. But, he needed them. God, did he need them.
"Armaan, main samajh rahi hu ki tum kya kehna chaah rahe ho. Aur main tumse bilkul naaraaz nahi hu. Main khudse naaraaz hu," she said.
"Tum? Tum khudse kyu naaraaz ho, Jaan? Tumhaari kya galti hai? Saari galti meri hai. Main hi tumse shaadi karne..." She cut off any further words with another kiss.
"Armaan, tumhaari koi galti nahi hai. Galti meri hai, ki tumhe itni achci tarah jaanne ke baad bhi, main nahi samajh paayi ki tum kya feel kar rahe ho. Tumhe sabse zyada achchi tarah jaanne par khudpe bohot bharosa tha mujhe, lekin main samajh hi nahi paayi ki tum kitni takleef mein ho," she replied.
"Jaan, main..." Armaan tried to say, but was immediately cut off.
"Nahi, Armaan. Kuch nahi. Main samajh rahi hu ki tum kya soch rahe ho. Main jaanti hu ki tum pareshaan ho. Aur tumhe waqt chahiye na? Khudko sambhal ne? Theek hai, diya. Waise bhi meri zindagi ka har pal tumhaara hi toh hai. Jab tak tum tayyar nahi hoge, hum shaadi ke baare meinphir baat nahi karenge," Riddhima said, her tone ringing finalty.
"Lekin, Jaan, tum aise kaise..."
"Aise hi, Armaan. Main tumhe kisi cheez ke liye pressure nahi karna chaahti. Toh agar tumhe kuch aur waqt chahiye, toh tum le lo. Lekin, mujhse ek vaada karo," She said.
"Kuch bhi," he replied.
"Vaada karo, ki aaj nahi toh kal, kabhi na kabhi humaari shaadi zarur hogi. Please, Armaan. Tum apne is darr pe kaabu kar sakte hona? Mere liye?" She pleaded.
Armaan smiled and nodded. Riddhima sighed in relief before she launched herself into his arms.
"I love you," she said.
"I love you, too," he replied.
And for now, that was enough.
Anjali sat back in bed, deep in thought. What had happened at the basketball court today? She still couldn't comprehend. Everyone had been celebrating the fact that Riddhima won, when she suddenly asked Armaan if he had proposed to her. What? She still wasn't able to understand.
Muskaan was sat beside her, seemingly in a world of her own. Anjali was sure that even Muskaan was thinking about what Riddhima had said.
"Anjy, Armaan aur Ridzy ke beech sab theek haina?" Muskaan asked.
Anjali looked up at Muskaan smiled, pleased at the concern her friend had for her little sister.
"Haan. Sab theek hai," Anjali replied.
"Toh aaj Armaan ne kuch kaha kyu nahi?" She asked, perplexed.
"Tu toh jaanti haina un dono ko. Jo bhi hoga, woh dono sort out kar lenge. Tu tension mat le," Anjali told her.
Muskaan sighed. The door opened to reveal Rahul and Atul standing.
"Hey, guys," they greeted. The girls replied half - heartedly.
"Hey, kya hua?" Rahul asked.
"Armaan aur Ridzy ke baare mein soch rahe hai," Anjali replied.
"Oh," Rahul replied.
"Hey, it's gonna be okay," Rahul told the girls as he sat beside Anjali and wrapped her up in a hug. They looked unconvinced.
"Seriously, guys. Hum Armaan aur Riddhima ki baat kar rahe hai. Unke beech kabhi kuch galat ho sakta hai kya?" He asked. They all shook their heads negatively. Rahul kissed Anjali's head. "Anjy, sab theek hoga, okay?"
"Lekin aaj hua kya?" Muskaan wondered out loud.
"Haan, yaar. Main bhi yahi soch raha hu. Aise Ridz ne Armaan se achaanak yeh kyu poocha?" Atul added in.
Rahul sighed. They looked at him questioningly, knowing he knew something.
"Armaan ne Riddhu ko Mrs. Mallik bulaya," he said.
"What?!" They spluttered together. Armaan had said what now?
"Armaan ne Riddhu ko Mrs. Mallik bulaya," Rahul repeated.
"Abbe, idiot, humne pehli baar mein sun liya tha," Atul said, hitting Rahul on his head.
"Toh phir poocha kyu?" Rahul argued.
 "Woh hum chauk gaye. Toh isliye," Atul replied.
"Lekin Armaan ne Ridzy ko kab..." Anjali trailed off.
"Mrs. Mallik bulaya?" Rahul asked. She nodded.
"Aaj, match ke baad. Riddhu ne usse kaha ki ab woh ek hafte tak uska Ghulam hoga and he was like, Yes, Mrs. Mallik' as if usne Ms. Maalik ki jagah Mrs. Mallik use kiya ho. I think woh wohi karna chaahta tha," Rahul explained.
"Oh," Anjali said.
"Kitna exciting hoga na, agar Armaan ne sach mein Ridzy ko propose kiya ho toh?" Muskaan asked excitedly.
The other three looked at her before nodding their heads in yes, a small smile on their lips.
They started discussing plans for the AR wedding, when Rahul's phone rang.
She looked at it and smiled widely when it showed that Riddhima was calling. She showed it to the others before answering.
"Hey, Mrs. Mallik," he greeted cheekily.
"Rahul," Riddhima sighed. The tone of her voice was enough for him to realize that something was not right.
"Hey, kya hua?" He asked her, immediately concerned.
She explained to him that what had happened at the basketball court today was a horrible misunderstanding. She told him that Armaan was not in a good place right now and she needed to stay with him for sometime to make sure he was okay. And she might have to spend the night. So, he was to talk to her parents and convince them let Riddhima stay over. He was welcome to use any of the guest rooms at Armaan's so that her parents would be somewhat pacified to know that he was there. If that wasn't enough, he could bring over the entire gang, on the condition that they left her and Armaan alone and didn't ask questions.
Rahul knew that Riddhima would never ask him to do all this if the matter wasn't extremely serious. So, he agreed and told her that they would be over in sometime.
He sighed and ended the call.
"Kya hua?" Anjali asked. This wasn't the phone call she was expecting from her little sister. She had expected squealing and tears and uncontrollable giggling when she announced that her and Armaan were in fact going to get married because Armaan had proposed. But, from the bits of conversation that she had heard, she knew that was far from the case.
"Hume Armaan ke ghar jaana hai," he replied.
"Sab theek haina, Rahul?" Atul asked, concerned for his friends.
Rahul simply shook his head, no. "Lekin, hopefully, kuch time mein ho jaayega," he replied.
The others nodded. Rahul went to talk to Dr. Shashank and Padma Mom then.
"Aunty, aaj raat hum sab Armaan ke ghar ruk rahe hai," he told her.
"Kyu?" she asked.
"Woh bas... actually, itna waqt ho gaya hai, hum sab achchi tarah se mile nahi hai, isliye," Rahul replied quickly. He wasn't lying entirely. They hadn't hung out for a long time.
"Tum roz toh hospital mein milte ho," she countered.
"Haan, lekin tab sab duty mein busy hote haina. Toh bas kuch time ke liye ek doosre se milte hai."
"Achcha, theek hai. Jao. Lekin zyada shaitaani mat karna, samjhe?" She said, as if talking to a 5 year old kid.
Rahul grinned and nodded. He thanked her and left. Anjali packed her and Riddhima's overnight bags as Rahul packed his own. Then, with quick stops at Atul's apartment and Muskaan's hotel, they were at Armaan's.
Rahul removed the key from under the mat, exactly where Riddhima had told him it would be, and unlocked the door, filing in to the house.
They sat in the living room, not knowing what to do.
"Koi mujhe batayega, ki yahaan kya ho raha hai?" Muskaan finally asked.
Rahul sighed and nodded.
"Apparently, Armaan didn't propose," he said. This was met by 3 gasps.
"Haan. Aur ab un dono ke beech kuch baat ho gayi hai. Mujhe zyada toh nahi pata, lekin Armaan bohot upset hai. Isliye Riddhu uske saath rehna chaahti hai kuch waqt ke liye. Lekin usse pata tha ki agar woh Armaan ke ghar raat mein akele rukne ke liye permission maangegi, toh Uncle - Aunty kabhi nahi maanenge. Isliye usne mujhse kaha ki hum sab bhi aaj yahin ruk jaaye. Taaki woh Armaan ke saath time spend kar sake."
"Main andar jaa rahi hu. Shayad woh dono andar honge. Ek baar unse baat karke dekhte hai," Anjali announced, getting up from the couch.
"Nahi, Anjy!" Rahul exclaimed as he sprang to his feet instantly.
"Riddhu ne kaha hai, ki woh nahi chaahti ki abhi koi bhi usse ya Armaan se koi sawaal pooche," Rahul told them.
"Rahul, main bas ek baar baat karna chaahti hu," Anjali replied.
"Anjy hume Riddhu ki baat ki respect karni chahiye. Jab woh taayar hogi, I'm sure hume sab bata degi," Rahul said.
"Main bas ek baar dekhna chaahti hu ki woh theek hai ya nahi."
"Anjy, Riddhu ne saaf - saaf kaha hai, ki koi bhi abhi unhe disturb na kare. Aur waise bhi, yeh baat uske aur Armaan ke beech hai. Hume interfere nahi karna chahiye," Rahul replied firmly, taking her shoulders and forcing her to sit down.
Anjali sighed but nodded. She understood what Rahul was trying to say. They shouldn't interfere. But she was still worried. She looked up and saw her worry mirrored in the eyes of her friends.
They looked at each other and let out a collective sigh.
Hopefully, everything would be fine between their beloved couple soon.

 xxx
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