Sunday, 28 January 2018

Part 27 : Remember this (Arsh ff)

Armaan had a feeling of dj vu as he sat beside shilpa's bed in the hospital waiting for her to gain consciousness. He sat there looking at her face as he held her hand when rahul and muskaan entered the room after having rahul stitched up.
Rahul: how is she?
Armaan without taking his eyes of her face: she's fine! There's nothing serious she just had a shock.
Muskaan: how long has she been out?
Armaan smoothing shilpa's hair back from her face: an hour maybe! (then leaning forward to shilpa) shilpa! honey! Come on! Wake up! Open your eyes!
As if she had been waiting for those words shilpa's lashes fluttered and then opened. She blinked trying to focus her eyes, she looked at armaan's face taking in his worried face. She raised her hand to touch his face but armaan grabbed her hand bringing it to his lips.
Shilpa: are you alright?

Armaan laughed: that was suppose to be my line! (making shilpa smile)
Shilpa gaze traveled to rahul and muskaan: you two ok!
Muskaan: rahul got stitches! Just waiting for you to wake up!
Armaan: I think we should run some tests just to be sure!
Shilpa shook her head: no more tests! I'm fine! I just want to go home!
Rahul: are you sure! Why not stay overnight just for observation!
Shilpa smiled: I'm absolutely fine! Plus I want you guys to meet someone !
Armaan smiled while rubbing his thumb across her wrist: who?
Shilpa looked at him: I want you to meet Shilpa Malhotra!
They checked shilpa out of the hospital and made their way to armaan's home. Ananya and Billy behaved like mother hens around shilpa trying to make her as comfortable as possibly could. After shilpa had settled in the lounge refusing to lie down ananya got up to get her something to eat.
Laughing shilpa grabbed ananya's hand: maa! I'm fine! Just sit with me when I need something I'll let you know.
Through out this time armaan, rahul and muskaan had stayed quiet waiting, finally muskaan spoke up: shilpa! (making shilpa look at muskaan) you were suppose to tell us something! Like your memory is back!
Shilpa: what do you want to know? Ask?
Muskaan rolled her eyes: everything!
Shilpa took a breath: My name is Shilpa Malhotra my parents were Professor Rakesh Malhotra and Smriti Malhotra. Untill a year back I was living in Houston, Texas. (she stopped as if collecting her thoughts) My father use to teach at University of Texas, Austin and my mother was a homemaker, when I was 10 years old my parents told me that I was adopted.
Shilpa stopped again and took a breath: It was as if my whole world went crashing, one moment I was an average 10 year old with the perfect parents having fun with friends and the next everything I knew to be real was actually not true at all. My parents were actually not my birth parents! I was….
Armaan: devastated!
Shilpa smiled: yes! But I was also angry! Angry at the world! Angry at my parents! Angry at god! I remember I stopped talking to my parents for 6 months. For six months I made their lives, mine own and everyone who was in remote contact with me miserable.
Rahul: you were acting out your frustration!
Shilpa grimaced: you can say that again! I got involved in fights at the school, other discipline issues at school, the school admin called my parent to discuss my behavior. The deterioration in my behavior continued, my parents tried talking to me, to help me but I was not letting them help me.
Ananya: so what made you stop?
Shilpa: there was this incident at school, someone stole a students wallet and somehow it was found in my bag. The school called my parents, you can imagine the drama that had ensued. My parents wanted to talk to me alone, once alone my mom looked into my eyes and said "I want you to answer only one question truthfully! Did you do it?" I just answered in one word "no!" and that was the end of discussion. No matter what the school admin said my parents refused to accept it b'coz they believed in me.
Somehow the truth came out, another student had actually stolen but hid the wallet in my bag when every ones bags were being searched. I remember going home that day in a daze not understanding what had happened. My mom fixed me a snack, my father gave me a book to read which was a custom for us. I looked at both of them and asked them, "you believed me!" my mom answered " you are our daughter I know you would never lie to me!" 
I stood there in the kitchen and asked " for six months I had been behaving miserably with you two and never once did you give up on me, give up on us!"
Shilpa stopped her eyes had a far away look: my father got down to my level with my mother on his side, he cradled my face in his hands and said "you don't give up when it really matters!" with that he hugged me and I knew that it didn't matter. It didn't matter that I was not related to them by blood b'coz in every sense they were my parents.
Shilpa looked at ananya and billy with eyes that burned with intensity: that one incident changed everything! We were inseperable! My parents and I, we were a unit we did everything together. Even during high school, although I had friends but nobody could touch what we had. When I went to college I moved out to stay at campus dorms. I used to come home for weekends so that we could have our time together and then the unthinkable happened.
Armaan grabbed shilpa's hand and held it offering comfort: I was on a summer break and my mom had woken me up early so that we could clear out the storage. I was grumbling as I didn't want to work but I wanted to eat my mom's chocolate cake and she had promised to bake it after I finished the work. I had my back towards mom as we were sorting through different boxes when I heard a loud thump. I turned to see my mother crumpled on the floor, I rushed to her calling her "mom!" but she didn't respond! I dialed 911 from my cell by the time they came it was too late. According to the medic she had a massive coronary she died instantly.
Armaan clasped her hand between his raising her hand to his lip: I'm sorry! (drawing shilpa back from the memories)
Shilpa shook her head: my father took it hard! I deferred my semester and moved back home to be with my father. It was difficult but finally we managed to move on in life, we made a life together.  I had to join back college and I urged my father to sell the house and move to some other place where there won't be so many memories. But my father refused to move according to him "it were the memories that keep me going!"
He continued to teach at the university and I finished college with a degree in finance. I got the opportunity to do an internship in Meryll Lynch I got busy but not so that I was not spending time with him. We were best friends, we shared everything, his love for my mother my lack of love life (laughing at memories, then her eyes darkened with pain) Then one day I got a call from him at work he wanted me to come home early he had something important to discuss with me. I got off from work early and made it home when I entered the house there was no sound.
I remember calling out "dad!" but there was no response wondering if he had gone out I made my way to the study to find him on the floor with bullet in his chest. I remember the sound of my bag hitting the floor and hen I was beside him, I had the presence of mind to call 911, as I looked around the room looked trashed. I started the CPR as I had taken classes after my mom's death, I kept pumping his heart and blow air in his lungs praying all the time to god to spare him. I kept repeating the routine even when I knew that it was of no use, the paramedics arrived pushing me out of the way.
I remember I looked at my hands they were covered with blood and they were shaking, the medic pronounced him dead as the police arrived for the investigation. (The room was quiet with shilpa's breathing harsh with remembered pain) They found nothing it was attributed to robbery gone wrong and I was suppose to live with it.
Billy caressing her hair: I'm sorry beta! For all the pain you had to go through.
Shilpa blinked back tears: I did not deal with it so well. I could not bear to be in the house nor could I sell it. I simply closed it down and I moved to a campus dorm where I was already registered for the coming semester. I just shutdown my emotions and focused everything I had in my job and studies. For months I buried myself but it could not go on.
Muskaan: you had a breakdown!
Shilpa swallowed: you can call it that! I was about to make a presentation as I stood in the conference room facing people I could not for the life of me recall a word. It was so bad that I had to leave the premises fortunately people around me understood what was happening and I was given leave to sort things out. I left everything and went back home, it was night when I got back home, I opened the door to the house where I had grown up after almost 6 months. 6 months of trying to forget the pain of being alone, as I walked in all the memories came rushing back making me crumple in the middle of the room to the floor. I lay there in the hall with my arms wrapped around me as my breath hitched and finally I started to cry.
I cried the whole night as the sun rose in the sky I could feel my parents around me. I knew that they wanted me to get up and face the day, face life without them (shilpa's eyes filled with tears and overflowed). I started to go through my dads stuff, as I knew I had to take care of them.
Armaan: it couldn't have been easy!
Shilpa: it was pure torture! Everything had a memory attached to it. Every article had a piece of his personality in it. It took me a month but I managed to get through his study I have lost count how many times I had cried going through his stuff. He even kept my school essays and art with him, things that I had forgotten he still cherished. (shilpa blinked her eyes rapidly to forestall the tears that threatened to fall)
I finally moved on to his clothes and other personal stuff. As I was going through his closet I cam across an envelope, it was neither sealed nor addressed to anyone as if hurriedly thrust under clothes. I drew the sheet out of the envelope and was shocked to see that it was a letter from my dad addressed to me.
Armaan: what did it say?
Shilpa: the letter has been seared into my brain.

My dear Daughter Shilpa,
I hope and pray that you never have to read this letter b'coz the only way you are going to get this letter is that I was not there myself to talk to you. The reason I wanted  to talk to you was that I need to tell you about your parents and the circumstances in which they died.  Your birth parents were one of my closest friends, your father Sushant Garewal  was a renown industrialist, he was the owner of Garewal Industries. He had and his wife were the most beautiful  people and everytime I hear you laugh I'm reminded of them. They had you very late in life they were in their forties when you were born.
I  met them after a couple of years in Panchgani, your mom and I had come from States for some family reasons. Initially I had thought that they were there for holidays but that was the cover story which I found out later. Sushant told me that he had some doubts about his brothers, he felt that since your birth they had changed. Sushant for some reason was feeling threatened by all of this and he wanted to secure your future. He had come to Panchgani at the pretense of holidays but had also called over his personal lawyer with the papers to legally secure your future. In case he was not there to protect you he had put his entire wealth and your inheritance in such a legal bind where even you or his brothers' could not touch it until you turn 30, giving you time to be a mature adult able to take your own decisions. I was witness on the legal papers and Sushant and family started on their journey back home, your mother and I were also suppose to leave in a couple of days when we were contacted by the police that Sushant and his family was killed in an accident. Sushant and his wife were killed on the spot but you somehow survived, looking at the wreckage it was sure a miracle.
That day I took the most courageous decision of my life, I bribed the police there making sure that the news of your being alive never came out and I took you with us back to States. You were hardly 4 years old  barely understanding that life around you had changed irrevocably. For th e past 22 years I have kept my silence, your mom wanted to tell you all of this, she thought that you deserved to know the truth. The truth is that your uncles had your parents killed but unknown to them your father had secured you your inheritance and as they never found your body, legally they can't claim the inheritance for themselves until and unless your 30th birthday had not passed and then they can have you declared legally dead. But somehow they have found out about me and you, we are not safe anymore. I think I'm being followed, Sushant had underestimated them I don't want you to make the same mistake.
What you do with this information is upto you, I know you are a intelligent person and whatever decision you take I and your mom will always support you. I want you to promise me one thing that you'll be careful  and take care of yourself. All of this doesn't change anything, you are and always will be my daughter. Even though you don't come from by blood, you are still my daughter and I tank god everyday for blessing us with you. I hope and pray that things don't come to this and I get to talk to you personally  but I feel as if time is running out.
I love you, always remember this.

Shilpa stopped trying to control herself. Armaan sat near shilpa with her hand clasped in his. Shilpa drew a shuddering breath and continued: When I read that letter I just lost it! I went into my room and then I thrashed that place. I was so angry!
Muskaan: at what?
Shilpa: at god! For letting this happen! Finally when I calmed down I wanted their blood. I knew my parents wanted me safe but I was not going to let these people get away with killing my parents and my dad. Even though there was no evidence to indicate it then but I knew they had kille my dad. I hired investigators to find out everything about the Garewal's. I dropped out of University resigned from my job and made preparations of going to India.
Rahul: didn't any one try to stop you? Friends?
Shilpa: since my dad's death I had distanced myself from everyone, there was Steve who still persisted and told me that I was acting mad for doing all of this.
Armaan: did you tell him why you were doing it?
Shilpa shook her head: no! frankly I didn't trust anyone, even steve! So after I had the info I came to India.
Billy: How did you approach the Garewal's?
Shilpa smiled but it wasn't pleasant making everyone look sharply at her: oh! I contacted them through a lawyer, requesting for a meeting. Our first meeting was very formal with both our lawyers present. But I underestimated him!
Rahul: who?
Shilpa: your tayaji and my dear old chachaji! He didn't request for any blood test or anything ! According to him one look at my face and any judge would rule in my favor I was the spitting image of my mother and my eyes were unmistakebly my fathers'. He requested me to come over to the Garewal mansion for luch where we can talk in detail as there were things about family he needed to discuss. I was suspicious but I agreed.
I went there, we had lunch and afterwards he told me how he found out after the death of my parents that their deaths was no accident. He found out that it as Rahul's dad that had planned their deaths as he had gotten greedy and wanted the money for himself.
Rahul: WHAT?
Shilpa: I don't your dad rahul! So I was skeptical of the truth that he was so called telling me. But he was a good story teller and by the end of it I was also convinced to some extent that it might be him. Though I tried to stay suspicious chachaji played me well. He invited me over to stay at the mansion for few days till all the legal mess could be sorted. He introduced me to his very charming and good looking son Akshad.
I moved in and god was I gullible. Both of them spent time with me telling me different stories about my parents and time I had spent here as a child. One day in the evening Akshad and I were alone when he played his ace. He told me that his father was so happy finding me after such a long time. How he had never seen him so happy and I was like a daughter to him.
Muskaan: oh really  ?
Shilpa smiling: you don't know the half of it! He then proposed to me! saying that how much he like me and found me attractive. According to him he would not insult my intelligence by saying that he was in love with me but if we give each other a chance we could have something beautiful and will make his dad every happy. Before I could refuse he made me promise that I would atleast think about it.
Armaan: did you say yes?
Shilpa: I didn't have to as on the very same night I found out what they were planning to do? I was unable to settle down so I decided I'll go to the study and get something to read. As I neared the study I heard both chachaji and Akshad talking, they were laughing as they discussed how easily they had made a fool of me. I could not believe my ears as I realized that they had planned to kill me once Akshad and I married. Naturally that event would have to occur after a couple of months. I was furious and obviously lost my mind that I barged into the room.
I confronted them but they just laughed at me. Just like this time they accepted that they had killed my parents and dad. I remember as if a red haze had come over my eyes I had launched myself at chachaji I wanted to kill him with my bare hands. Akshad pulled me away from his father and very calmly chachaji told him to take care of me and walked out of the study.
Akshad laughed as I continued to struggle in his grasp, he told me how with this little show they could prove that I was mentally unstable as they could show the recording that was happening from the secret camera. I remember I was so mad, I was mad that they had bested me again and that they were going to get away with everything. For that minute I didn't care that he was going to kill me I just wanted to hurt him. I grabbed the letter opener from the desk and sliced his face open with it. As akshad howled in pain and rage I ran from the study down the stairs and out of the house. Once out I tried to walk calmly trying not to give it away that I was running. I asked the guards to let me out the gate and continued to walk as if just out for a evening stroll. Once out I ran before I could decide where to go they had their goons after me, they caught me and I was as good as dead but then I was saved.
So now you know the whole story.
Ananya: what are you going to do now?
Rahul: definitely press charges against them!
Armaan: which we have already done! Now justice would be done.
Shilpa: not yet! I want them to rue the day they heard the name Shilpa Mlahotra. I'm going to take everything they hold dear. By the time I'll be done with them they regret the day they were born.


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