Monday, 21 June 2021

part 10 : Forbidden Love

When is she coming back? It had been hours since she'd gone! Armaan thought disgruntled. How long does a first date take? He could swear that even he hadn't spent this much time on all the first dates he'd went on! His son sat next to him watching TV while he stared mindlessly at the screen, thinking back on what had expired some hours ago.

"Hi, I'm Rahul Garewal, here to pick up Riddhima" Rahul had said putting his hand out to shake. Only because his mom brought him up with manners, Armaan shook his hand. "Hi, I'm Armaan..uh..please come in."

Rahul stepped ahead of him coming inside the house. And he suddenly stopped, his gaze stuck on one place. Following Rahul's gaze, Armaan saw that Rahul's eyes had stopped on Riddhima, who was ruffling Sunny's hair and giving him kisses. Rahul looking at the picture those two made felt like a violation of something precious to Armaan. He cleared his throat to bring their attention to him.

"uh..Riddhima, this is Rahul. Rahul, Riddhima." Armaan introduced, even though everyone present knew that they could only be Riddhima and Rahul. Riddhima shook his hand and gave him a slight apologetic smile in advance, as she knew how this evening was going to end, which looked like a shy smile to Armaan and the fact that Riddhima was already being shy with Rahul did not sit well with him.


"Hi, are you Riddhi's boyfriend?" ever the charmer, Sunny asked Rahul with a dimple.

"Sunny!!" came from both Armaan and Riddhima, embarassed to the hilt.

"Umm..no..not yet at least. Ask me that question in a couple of days champ," Rahul said with a wink at Sunny. Sunny liked him immediately. He has always liked adults who were open and honest with him. Armaan, on the other hand, could not explain the surge of rage that came to his mind when the term 'Riddhi's boyfriend' was applied to Rahul. Riddhima just blushed crimson. Gosh, how does he even know what a boyfriend would mean!

"Umm..sorry about that.. uhh.shall we go?" Riddhima asked suddenly to prevent any oveflow of questions from the curious Sunny.

"Yea sure. It was nice meeting you Armaan. And champ, hope to see you soon," Rahul ruffled Sunny's hair. And Riddhima gave him a kiss and a hug and said Good Bye while grimacing a bye at Armaan. He had been sort of cold with her tonight, starting with the dry compliment, and she could not understand why. Riddhima was sure that there hadn't been any arguments or confrontations between them prior to her going to get changed. She hoped his mood would change before she came back.

Then Armaan looked on as Rahul led Riddhima out of the door, opening it for her. In fact, when he had peeked out a window, he'd seen Rahul even opening the car door for Riddhima. It was a pity, if Riddhima wasn't involved, Rahul was a guy that Armaan could've actually liked.

Armaan brought his mind back to the present to see his son dozing off on his lap. "Bedtime Buddy."

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"So, what was biggest difference you noticed between India and US?" Riddhima asked taking a bite out of the chocolate mousse.

"Well..i think, the biggest thing is the discipline on the roads and....." as Rahul went on answering her question, Riddhima thought back on what happened so far in the night. Rahul was actually a very sweet guy. He had opened doors for her, pulled her chair out. Done all the gentlemanly things. She remembered the first awkward moments of the night in the car. There had been nothing two strangers can say to each other except 'hello' and 'how are you'. And both of those things done, they had just sat on the car looking at everywhere but at each other. Then Rahul had turned on the radio to fill the silence. The song "tu Jaane na" from Ajab prem ki Gazab Kahani had come up.

"OMG this is my favourite song!" both of them had yelled at the same time. Then looked at each other, only to burst out laughing.

"So how come you like this song?" Rahul had asked after they had gotten the laughter under control.

"Well..I love the tune and the lyrics. It's something very close to my heart. And whenever I listen to it, it makes me feel so peaceful. Why do you like it?"

"Well..to be really honest. I like it coz Katrina is in it. She's my favourite actress!" Rahul said sheepishly.

"Hahaha...so does Armaan. You should see how he'd run to the TV if there is anything of Katrina is on" Riddhima said with a laugh, to which Rahul joined.

"So, who exactly is Armaan? I mean, my mom didn't give a whole lot of details about it. Just that you are staying with your sister's in-laws."

"Well, Armaan is my jeeju's brother and Sunny is his son. I've been staying with them for like the past 1 and half years. They have become like my own family now," Riddhima said with a fond smile.

"But I think your sister doesn't stay there anymore, right?" Rahul questioned.

"Yea, she and Atul jeej are in Delhi right now, working on their new fashion house. I live with Sunny, Sunita aunty, and Armaan. I love it there. They are a perfect family. Armaan loves his son and mom. And we are like best friends."

"umm..where is Armaan's wife?" Rahul asked noticing the missing link.

"Actually, she passed away about a year ago," Riddhima gulped to ease the sudden block at the back of her throat. "She was a lovely lady. We all miss her."

"Oh..i'm really sorry to hear that. That must've been really tough."

"Yea..I took care of Sunny. It was easier since he was a kid, though he still misses her. But it was really tough for Armaan. He loved Nikita a lot and it was a shock that he couldn't get out of for a long long time," Riddhima said, reflecting back on those difficult times. To be honest, she never meditated on those times, only because it was something she never wanted to relive. Now relaying the story to Rahul brought back all the memories. "Armaan was a mess. He locked himself in his room. Became a drunkard. Ignored everyone, even Sunny. No one could get through to him." She sighed, "It was a really tough time for everyone."

"But he so seems normal now. How did he change?" Rahul couldn't believe she was talking about the same Armaan that he met tonight.

"Umm..he and I had a little confrontation, especially because he was ignoring Sunny," Riddhima said looking down. She was really ashamed how she had slapped Armaan and pulled him by his collar. It was needed at the time. But now, looking back, she could only feel shame about her treatment of Armaan.

"hmm..how little is little? The way you said it, I can totally bet you beat him up!" Rahul laughed.

"HEY! I DID NOT!" Riddhima protested.

"HA! liar, it totally shows on your face!"

"OK OK..fine..Maybe I slapped him a little," she added with a sheepish smile.

"Hahaha..I knew it!" Rahul said and both of them started laughing. And they had reached the restaurent by the time they stopped laughing.

Rahul, again the perfect gentleman, treated her really nicely, starting from a pulling a chair for her to ordering dinner. It was a real pity that Riddhima was head over in heels love with Armaan because Rahul was a very nice guy. If her heart wasn't already taken, she would've had no problem getting married to Rahul. That reminded her of what she needed to do tonight. She hoped he'd understand the situation and take her rejection well.

"Umm..Rahul, you know why we are here tonight right?" she asked after the waiter went away.

"Yea. Actually, I wasn't looking to get married this soon or anything. But when my mom showed me your pic, I really liked you. And I had no problems meeting with you. In fact I looked forward to it. So when the meeting came up in Mumbai, I jumped for it," Rahul said with a smile. Oh, that made things a little bit difficult, Riddhima thought.

"Well, Rahul, the thing is..umm..I'm not really ready to get married."

"How come, if you don't mind me asking. I think mom said that you are very serious about your work. If the reason is your career, please don't even think twice about it. I want you to continue with your ambitions even after marriage. In fact, I insist you do."

OH! He is a very sweet guy. God, why does this always happen to her??? She really did not want to give the actual reason. But it seems like as if nothing else will do.

"Actually Rahul, the thing is. I am kind of..kind of in love with someone."

"OH.."

"Please don't take this the wrong way," she said fast. "I think you are a great guy and any girl will be luck to have you for a husband. But it can't be me. I hope you understand."

"I think I do," he said disappointedly. "But, I hope you don't mind me asking, how come your parents didn't say anything about this? I mean, I asked my mom specifically to make sure that you are available."

"Please don't blame them. They have no idea. In fact, I have become very good at hiding my love that no one knows about it," she sighed, not even the guy I love. " And actually, I have a small request to make. Please don't tell them about this." she pleaded. She hoped she was right in the trust she placed in him, even after such a short acquaintance.

"Yea yea of course. I know how to keep a secret. Promise. But you know, I am not surprised. A girl like you, so beautiful and so accomplished. It would've been a surprise if you weren't taken. I promise to keep my broken heart concealed" Rahul grinned keeping his hand on top of his heart. Riddhima smiled while breathing a sigh of relief. She was right. He was a very good guy.

"So, friends?" Riddhima asked putting her hand forward.

"Friends!" Rahul shook her hand and just then the food arrived.

Friends. That's how they had spent the past 3 hours. In fact, they had so much in common. Same taste in music, movies and books etc. They were having a non-stop conversation and didn't even realize how the time flew. And now its the dessert time. She smiled at him answering a question that he had asked.

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"BYE!" Riddhima waved as Rahul's car sped away from the drive way. She walked into the house smiling. She was very happy. She had a great time tonight and accomplished everything she wanted to. She was able to break off a potential marriage and gained a new friend as a result. Riddhima went into the house humming, happiness evident on her face. As she was walking up the stairs trying to not make noise, she got a strong urge to go to the terrace. Maybe she could find Armaan there! Her happiness increased ten fold with the thought and she ran up the stairs to the terrace. And as she expected, Armaan was sitting on the swing, deep in thought.

"Hey Armaan!" Riddhima said touching his shoulder. Armaan shot up in surprise at the contact. "hey, why so serious? What are you thinking about?"

"uhuh..Um..nothing..How was dinner?" Armaan asked and was shocked to see Riddhima's smile widen at the thought of the dinner. Did she really like Rahul that much?? That thought made Armaan feel an enormous sense of loss. What would he do without her? No, he couldn't lose her. He had to do something about this!

"You know, that guy Rahul. I didn't like him that much. There was something fishy about him." Armaan mentioned.

"Fishy?..really Armaan? I thought he was a very sweet guy. In fact, he was the perfect gentleman with me. He didn't even let me pay for half the dinner even though I offered. Such a nice guy." Riddhima said happily oblivious to the currents of jealousy running through Armaan. Armaan pursed his lips in annoyance. Fine, she liked him. But that didn't mean she has to sing praises about Raooooul!

"Well..what kind of a man would he be if he let a girl pay for dinner. Though you never know. People are always nice on first dates" Armaan said sarcatically.

"Armaan, what's your problem?" Riddhima was now annoyed. She had hoped his off-mood would be changed by the time she got back. But no, nothing's changed. She did not understand what had happened. She had never seen Armaan like this. "Why are you saying all this about Rahul?" She got up to leave, only to have Armaan hold her hand stopping her. She could feel chills running down her spine. Gosh, his touch..NO NO!.She twisted her arm to get rid of the tight hold, but Armaan didn't budge.

"I'm just looking out for you OK!? You are my friend and Anjali's little sister. Your parents trusted you with us, thats why they left you here. If I didn't look out for you, who would?"

Riddhima turned around to face him, still trying to drag her hand from his hold. "Armaan, if you are forgetting, lemme tell you. MY PARENTS chose Rahul for me! And I don't need you looking out for me, especially when it comes to a guy who's just my friend and nothing else!" she bit out and Armaan let go of her hand suddenly. She stood there rubbing the bruises on her hand.

"What do you mean just friend? That guy came to see you for marriage!"

"Which is not happening anymore. I told him I'm not ready for marriage and he understood, unlike my so-called family!" Riddhima threw him an irriated look and went away from the terrace continuing to rub her hand.

She's not getting married! She's not getting married! Armaan's heart jumped ecstatically at the news it had just received. She's not getting married. He could feel all the tension that had enveloped his body he'd felt since he heard about Riddhima's marriage, leave him. That struck in his mind. Tension? Why was he feeling tensed about Riddhima's marriage. And why didn't he like Rahul? As Riddhima had pointed out, Rahul was chosen by her parents. Then what could be wrong with him? Only the fact that he had come to see Riddhima? And now, when Riddhima had said Rahul is only her friend, why does he feel like making Rahul his best friend? Could it possibly be that he was jealous????WHAT?? jealous??? jealous of Rahul and Riddhima? NO WAYS! But if not, then why would he feel this tensed? Riddhima was only his friend! or was she? Armaan, what are you thinkin?? His mind admonished. How could he possibly think of Riddhima as more than a friend? Agreed, he had started to notice Riddhima as a woman. But that didn't mean he thought of her as more than a friend or that he was JEALOUS! YES! He wasn't jealous. Nah, it was simply the fear that marriage meant he'd lose her as a friend, he decided. That sorted out to his satifaction, now he had another problem. Riddhima was mad at him. And he had no idea how to pacify her. Riddhima had never been mad at him before. In fact, except for that night in his room, he had never seen her mad at anyone! What should he do? With this thought in his head, he headed downstairs to his room.

Hiranya

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