Sunday, 10 December 2017

Chapter 35: I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF

Previously on...
AR talk about the impending trip to Paris & the Colessa nuptials.
Muskaan announces her engagement.


"What?" Armaan whispered. "Engagement?"
Muskaan nodded wordlessly.
"Kab?"
"Kuch mahino pehle. Actually, main isliye hi Mumbai waapas aayi hu. Mera fianc Mumbai mein rehta hai. Toh shaadi ke baad main bhi..." She trailed off.

"Kaun... Kaun hai tera fianc?"
"RK," Muskaan whispered.
"RK?" Armaan asked.
"Haan, actor hai."
"RK, as in superstar actor RK?" Riddhima asked.
Muskaan nodded.
"Lekin kab? Kahaan? Kaise?"
"Guys, main tum sabko sab kuch explain karungi, lekin abhi nahi, abhi mujhe duty pe jaana hai."
"Phir kab?"
"Aaj raat ko. Main RK ko bhi apne saath le aaungi. Hum dono milke tumhe sab kuch explain kar dungi. Tere ghar, theek hai, Hero?"
Armaan nodded.
Muskaan turned to the door and said, "Tum teeno bhi aa jaana. Especially tu, Rahul."
Atul opened the door and the 3 of them filed in. There was no mistaking the heartbroken expression on Rahul's face. Atul and Anjali, on the other hand, were just plain shocked, like Armaan and Riddhima.
"I'm sorry, Rahul," Muskaan whispered before she left the room.
Rahul slid on the floor on his knees right there in the middle of the room. His vision blurred as the tears he had been trying so hard to keep at bay escaped his eyes.
"Rahul," he heard someone whisper, probably Riddhima. And then he was being hugged. From all sides. There wasn't a part of his body that wasn't in contact with someone else's.
The 5 friends sat there, on the floor of a patient's room, a tangled mass of limbs.
Eventually, their pages started beeping, reminding them that there were people whose lives depended on them. Feling the full extent of their heartbreak would have to wait.
The rest of the day passed in a blur for Rahul. He tried to concentrate on work and forget about whatever Muskaan had confessed to Armaan and Riddhima, but to no avail.
The words kept ringing in his ears. Over and over again.
Meri engagement ho chuki hai.
No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get rid of them. They were always there, in the back of his mind, irrespective of what he was doing.
He had actively been avoiding Muskaan all day long, not that she'd tried hard to talk to him. She had sought him out twice during the whole day, probably wanting to give him some kind of explanation before talking to everybody else, and both times he had made an excuse and scurried away.
However, he did want to know why she had done this. Was she already engaged when he had flown to Punjab to see her? Was that why she never even answered the door for him? Was she engaged when he had sent her countless emails and messages explaining, apologizing and declaring his love for her?
So, it was no surprise that as the time to go over to Armaan's for The Talk' came closer, Rahul's anxiety increased.
When it was time to leave, he sucked in a deep breath and leaned his head against his locker, still unsure of what to do.
"Hi, Dr. Rahul," Su greeted as the new interns came in.
He looked up and greeted them.
"Dr. Rahul, all okay?" Naina asked.
Rahul nodded mutely.
Atul and Anjali followed soon after them.
Anjali threw her arm around Rahul's shoulder and squeezed it. Rahul smiled at her meekly.
"Sab theek hoga, Rahul. Tu tension mat le," Atul told him.
"Thanks, Champ."
"Chale?" Rahul asked, taking in a deep breath.
"Bas humaare Romeo - Juliet aa jaaye, phir chalte hai," Anjali replied.
"Haan, yaar! Yeh Armaan aur Riddhima hain kahaan?" Atul asked.
"Aur kahaan? Honge hospital ke kisi kone mein, romance karte hue," Rahul answered.
"Ridzy aisa thodi karegi, Rahul! Usse pata hai yeh tere liye important hai," Atul said.
"Champ, tu Armaan ko jaanta haina. Jahaan dekha, chance maar liya."
The trio laughed at Rahul's words.
But, what he was saying was true, because at the same moment, our lovebirds were in the fire escape, where Armaan was busy kissing the shit out of Riddhima.
"Armaan," Riddhima gasped breathlessly as he moved his kisses to her neck when it became necessary to breathe.
"Mmm," he mumbled, his voice muffled against her neck, his mouth refusing to leave her skin for even a second.
He was leaving open mouthed kisses all over her neck, making her heady. The sensations his lips were creating in her body were making her want more. So much more.
When it beamce too much, she yanked his hair, making him look up at her and immediately crashed her lips against his, slanting them. Armaan grinned into the kiss.
Riddhima was becoming more and more open to his physical advances with each passing day. Nowadays, she didn't even blink an eye when he moved in to kiss her. What was more, she had initiated a few of their hot kisses.
Armaan was loving this new confident Riddhima. It seemed that once Armaan had opened up about his insecurities, she was finally beginning to understand that he wasn't as good at this relationship stuff either. He strongly suspected that she was holding back earlier because she was worried about disappointing him. Riddhima had always held him on a pedestal. He had a feeling that since their talk, that pedestal might have shaken a little and she was finally able to see him as a normal person who was just as worried about letting her down or disappointing her as she was about him.
Maybe, that had given her a little courage to let go off of some of her inhibitions.
Whatever, the reason, he wasn't complaining. Kissing Riddhima was the most divine experience in the world.
Riddhima pulled at his hair, making him lean back. "I love you," Armaan whispered, smiling dopily at her.
"I love you, too."
He leaned in again and kissed her, but Riddhima pulled back just as he was deepening it.
He pulled back and pouted, indicating that he didn't like her stopping him. Riddhima grinned at his silliness and pecked his pout before saying, "Armaan, Muskaan aaj RK ko lekar aa rahi hai. Hume ab chalna chahiye."
Armaan nodded, sighing. He had almost forgotten about the meeting today. He really hoped everything would be fine.
He knew that no matter what, Rahul was going to be utterly heartbroken by this. He knew that Riddhima would be spending a lot of time with Rahul now, to comfort him in this time. Armaan was also determined to do his best to help Rahul in any way he could.
He just wished that Muskaan was happy with this arrangement because he didn't want the both of them to be miserable.
Riddhima took his hand and pulled him out of the fire escape, towards the locker room where everyone had decided to meet before leaving together.
"Hey guys," Armaan greeted them when they reached the locker room.
"Hey. Kahaan the tum dono?" Anjali asked. Looking at the matching grins on their faces, she added, "Rehne do. Mujhe nahi janna."
Armaan chuckled and Riddhima blushed.
"Chale?" She asked.
Everyone nodded. They piled into Armaan's car and left.
On reaching his apartment, Armaan busied himself in the kitchen, trying to prepare something to eat for the others while they waited for Muskaan. Riddhima, Anjali & Atul were in the living room with Rahul, trying to cheer him up.
"It's going to be okay," Anjali told him. Rahul nodded wordlessly.
"Rahul, tu itni tension mat le, okay? Jo bhi ho, hum haina tere saath? Sab theek hoga," Atul added.
Riddhima sat beside him and hugged him, trying to convey to him wordlessly, that she was there for him. The others followed suit and they sat that way, hugging each other for sometime before the doorbell rang.
Armaan hurried to the door and opened it. Sure enough, Muskaan ad RK were standing on the other side.
"Um, hey," he greeted them, not knowing what to say.
"Hey," Muskaan replied.
He led them to the living room where everyone was sitting.
After the initial introductions, where RK seemed to know exactly who was who, they sat down in an awkward silence.
Everyone was looking everywhere, specifically avoiding eye contact, not knowing what to say.
They silence prolonged for a long time before Rahul broke it.
"Um... so seems like mujhe hi kuch kehna padega. Main bohot khush hu, tum dono ke liye. Agar Muskaan khush hai toh mujhe aur kuch nahi chahiye," he said. Looking at RK, he added, "Lekin agar tumne Muskaan ko zara sab hi dukh pohochaya, toh mujhse bura koi nahi hoga. Phir mujhe koi farak nahi padega, chahe tum film superstar RK ho ya nahi, samjhe?"
RK smirked, but nodded nonetheless. "Of course," he said. "Actually, main bohot khush hu ki Muskaan ki life mein tum jaise friends hain, jo uski itni care karte hai. Main poori koshish karunga ki usse meri wajah se koi takleef na ho."
"Good," Rahul replied.
Not able to take it anymore, Rahul turned to Riddhima and said, "Riddhu, main jaa raha hu. Padma Aunty ko kisi kaam mein meri thodu help chahiye thi. Tum dono ko Armaan ghar chod dega. Okay?" He was trying hard to keep his voice from breaking, and failing miserably. Riddhima understood that he needed to get away, so she simply nodded.
"Bye, guys," saying so, he turned to leave for the door.
"Arre, Rahul. Ruko," RK called.
Rahul turned, confused.
"Muskaan ke itne achche dost ho, humaare celebration ke liye rukoge bhi nahi?" He asked.
"Main zarur rukta, lekin mujhe bohot important kaam hai. Hum phir kabhi mil lenge," Rahul replied.
"Aise kaise? I'm sorry, Rahul. Lekin main tumhe jaane nahi de sakta."
"RK, please. Mujhe bohot urgent kaam hai. Warna main nahi jaata."
"I insist. Main kuch nahi sunne waala. Tum ruk rahe ho, bas," RK said, pulling Rahul by his arm and making him sit beside him.
Rahul sat down reluctantly.
"Ab, aap sab mein se toh koi kuch keh nahi raha, isliye main hi baat karna shuru kar deta hu," RK announced.
The others smiled politely at him. Muskaan just kept quiet, not knowing what to do or say. Why was RK insisting on doing this? Couldn't he see the pain in Rahul's eyes? Was he that heartless? She knew that wasn't true, because in all the time that they had known each other, he had been nothing but understanding. Of her. Of her situation. Of Rahul. He knew everything about them - their history, their fights everything. And yet, he wanted Rahul to sit here and celebrate their engagement. If that's what this sham even was.
Because that was all that this was. A sham. An arrangement. A desperate attempt to make their families happy.
She didn't love RK & he didn't love her. They were just doing this to please their families. And because either they weren't ready to give the person they loved a chance, or that person wasn't ready to the same for them.
Even though Rahul hurt her, she still loved him. She just wasn't sure if she wanted to put her heart on the line again. And Madhu, the girl who RK loved, wasn't ready to be with him because she was just a lowly assistant and he was a successful film actor. Both of them knew that they weren't going to love someone else, ever. But, their families were getting worried and this seemed like a good option to please them.
"So, I'll tell you about the time we first met," RK started, drawing Muskaan out of her thoughts.
She couldn't help herself. She snorted as she recalled the first time they'd met. It had been 3 months ago, when he was in Patiala to shoot his latest movie.
He'd gotten hurt on location and had been rushed to the ER and as fate would have it, she had been the attending doctor in the ER that day. She'd been a little starstruck on seeing him, but her instincts kicked in when she saw he was injured and she quickly got to tending to him.
He had to stay under observation for a day and he had made it a point to infuriate her as much as possible in that period. They had formed a tentative friendship on that day, mostly because he kind of reminded Muskaan of what a combination of Armaan and Rahul would be like and she was desperate for a connection to her past life.
However, that had quickly changed as they spent more time together because as RK put it, he needed a friend who didn't just yammer on and on about clothes or bags and had more working brain cells than dead ones.'
He had turned out to be a good friend to her and it hadn't taken long for her to tell him all about her past. He had been supportive of her decision to ignore Rahul's constant pleading, albeit reluctantly because he couldn't for the life of him understand why she would shut someone out when he was so desperately trying to make amends. But he was Muskaan's friend and Rahul was a stranger and so he had supported her decision anyway.
It was when he told her about his Madhu that she realized why he was so adamant about her giving Rahul a second chance. It was because he would give anything for one from her. Madhubala or Madhu, as she liked to be called, was an assistant on many of the sets that RK had worked on. He had been captivated by her since the get go. As time passed, he had learned more about her and eventually fallen for her. When he had told her about his feelings, she had balked, naturally. It had taken some time and a lot of persuasion on his part for her to agree to give them a chance.
And then, when she had, everything had gone horribly awry. She had bumped into one of his old flames who just somehow knew about them and had proceeded to say ghastly and cruel things about what she thought about them and this relationship.
And then, she had seen him laughing at some assistant for something she had done and all the things came rushing back. She had broken things off immediately, stating that he didn't fit in her world and she wouldn't ever be able to fit in his. And that had been that.
She refused to talk to him beyond any professional talks. She wouldn't even look at him. It was breaking his heart every single day.
So, when he got a script which required him to relocate to a town in Punjab, he had jumped at the opportunity, wanting to get away from all the heartache.
In a weird sense, they undertood each other's problems which had helped in getting them closer. When their families had seen this increasing closeness between the two, they had suggested marriage.
Muskaan wasn't brave enough to let Rahul in again and RK knew that Madhu wasn't changing her stance on where they stood. And so, they agreed.
It felt like a damn good decision at that time. They would have a friend for a life and their families were happy. Total win.
But, then, Muskaan had come to Mumbai and she saw Rahul again and started cursing herself for trying with RK.
Even though they didn't have any romantic feelings towards each other, she couldn't just ditch him for Rahul. Especially when she wasn't sure whether things would work between them or not.
God! When had her life become so complicated?
"Kya soch rahi ho?" RK asked suddenly, drawing her out of her thoughts.
"Kuch nahi, bas aise hi," she replied.
RK just shook his head fondly.
"Toh jaisa ki main keh raha tha, Muskaan meri bohot achchi dost hai. Sabse achchi infact. Usne mere liye bohot kuch kiya. Lekin, I think ab time hai ki main uske liye kuch karu..." RK trailed off.
"RK? Tum kya keh rahe ho?" Muskaan asked, panicking a little.
"Muskaan, tujhe pata hai kya."
"Nahi. Mujhe nahi pata," she replied, shaking her head vigourously.
"Muskaan, main yeh engagement tod raha hu," he replied in a calm voice.
"WHAT!" Everyone shouted simultaneously.


xxx
Love,
Prags xo

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