Wednesday, 23 June 2021

part 12 : Forbidden Love

It had been 2 weeks since that day. On the surface everything seemed alright. Armaan still called her if he needed her for anything, i.e.finding a shirt. Riddhima took care of all his needs and together they spent time with Sunny and sunita. But there always was this underlying tension. At the slightest accidental contact, even if it is just their hands brushing when Riddhima handed Armaan his tea, their hearts fluttered and breath got stuck. To Riddhima, who had always been affected by Armaan in this way, it wasn't that big a deal. But to Armaan, who previously had considered Riddhima as ONLY a friend, these new sensations were a source of conflict. He couldn't deny his growing attraction towards her. It was almost as if he was a magnet and she was a magnetic surface. He was irrevocably drawn to her and her essence. He always noticed her presence, her scent creating havoc with his senses. He cursed the moment he realized that Riddhima was an attractive woman. In the beginning, since these feelings were driving him crazy, he was short-tempered with her, almost as if blaming her for the attraction. He had planned to devote his life to Nikita's memory but Riddhima's presence was a huge obstacle in his way. But then he realized that if he changed his behaviour, then that meant the attraction won and he was determined to not let that happen. Hence he tried extra hard to be JUST FRIENDS with her. He tried not to get too close to her or have any close contact but otherwise pretended to continue their normal lives.
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"Hello," Armaan answered the phone. He was in the office finishing up for the day.

"Hello Bhai? Congratulations. Everything is ready for the inauguration. When are you guys coming here?" Atul said excitedly at the other end.

"Really? Everything is done? Wow Atul. I am so proud of you. You and Anjali both. You make one amazing team." Armaan smiled.

"Thanks bhai. Now tell me when are you guys coming here. Can you make it before sat? Since there's no space in the apartment, I'll book some hotel rooms for your stay. All the preparations are done for the party too. The hall's booked, invitations sent out.etc."

"hmm..I'm not sure when we can make it Atul. I have to a ask Riddhima. She has to get everything ready and plus she's working till friday too," Armaan added and the significance of what he had said just hit him. It sounded as if he was talking about his wife, who has to get everything underway for them to make a move. It reminded him of the way he talked when Nikita was in his life. Did he just refer to Riddhima the same way he referred to his Nikki? NO!!!! There is
no similarity. But it made him panick.

"Actually, you know what. I'll come there early. Sunny and Mom can come later on." he said purposefully omitting Riddhima's name.

"OK bhai. Anjali invited her parents too. So it'll be great to have the whole family together again. OK..I gotta go bhai. See you soon. Give my love to Ridz, mom and Sunny. Bye."

"Bye bro!" Armaan hung up and took a deep breath. What is wrong with him these days? His mind is messed up. His resolution to not let Riddhima affect him was a tough one to maintain. Everything reminded him of her. He thanked God that at least his office was untouched by her presence. This was the only place that gave some peace from his confusion. Otherwise, his house was a resevoir of conflicting emotions. He could see her, hear her, and feel her EVERYWHERE in Malik's House. Suddenly, his intercom buzzed.

"YEA?"

"Sir, a lady called Riddhima and a little boy is here to see you."

WHAT???? ON NO!!!! gosh, him and his big mouth!!!!! God, why are you so unfair to me??? Did I not just mention that this place is my haven from her? Do you want to see me go out of my mind??? grr..

"SIR????"

"Yea, sorry sorry. Please, send them in. That's my son."

"Oh, I'm sorry I didn't know sir. Ma'am, please go in." The intercom was disconnected and Armaan took a deep breath to compose himself for the meeting.

Riddhima, on the other hand, couldn't help but wonder as to why Armaan didn't mention who SHE was to the secretary. That lady is probably thinking Riddhima was Sunny's nanny or something if her condescending smile was anything to go by. She held Sunny's arm as she stood outside Armaan's cabin. Riddhima took a deep breath to calm her nerves before knocking on his door. She hated the fact that their previous easy friendship has flown out the window. Now everytime they met, she has to ACT to keep the atmosphere normal. However, Riddhima had no clue as the extent of Armaan's attraction. For her, the tension was simply a result of their previous encounter that had been embarassing for the both of them.

After mentally preparing herself, she knocked on the door.

"Come in." Riddhima opened the door and Sunny broke off her hold and went running to his father, who had jumped out of his chair to gather Sunny into his arms. After a tight embrace, Sunny got to the gist of matter. Namely, the reason for their sudden arrival.

"Papa, let's go eat ice cream!" he shouted excitedly.

"Ice cream, at this time?? But buddy, did you have your lunch yet?" Armaan asked, sending a questioning glance to Riddhima. She nodded her head in the negative.

"No, he didn't Armaan. I just picked him up from school. We were going home when he saw your office building and wanted to come n meet you. This ice cream idea came to him suddenly, from where, I wonder..especially when knows he can't have desert before lunch" Riddhima said giving a wink to Sunny, who hid his face in Armaan's neck, embarassed.

"Papa please!!"he appealed to Armaan.

"OK..let's do one thing buddy. We'll go out for lunch and then eat ice cream after. How about that?" Armaan suggested. Usually Sunny never made requests such as this. Maybe it was the effect of his abandonment a year back. But usually it was Armaan going out of his way to do things for Sunny. Therefore, it made him very happy to see his son acting like this. As Sunny nodded his head with a resounding  "YES!", Armaan looked at Riddhima for her approval. The smile on
her face sealed the deal.

"Papa, can we go to McDonalds?"
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Armaan observed the byplay between Riddhima and Sunny who sat infront of his in the booth. Riddhima was trying to feed Sunny some salad, which of course as any normal 6-year old would, Sunny was refusing.

"Riddhi! please No. You have been saying this is the last bite for the past FIVE bites. Can I please go and play now???" Sunny implored.

He had quickly gobbled down the cheese burger he had ordered wanting to go play but Riddhima had insisted saying he needed SOME healthy thing for lunch. Sunny looked at his father pleading. Armaan, unable to resist the puppy face of Sunny nodded his head.

"YEA!!!!!!" Sunny jumped from his chair and ran to the play area, while Riddhima and Armaan looked on.

"Armaan, you are spoiling the child." Riddhima chided. Since the two of them were left alone, she didn't want the familiar awkwardness to come between them. Therefore, she tried to keep the focus on Sunny.

"He's a kid Riddhima. It's ok if he wants to go play instead of eating your salad," Armaan said giving a distateful look at the plate of green leaves. "Yuck! How do you swallow all that grass??"

"Grass?? Really Armaan, sometimes I think you are worse than your son. For your information this is romaine lettuce, with cucumbers and baby tomatoes. Totally healthy." Riddhima rolled her eyes.

"Whatever. It's still YUCK Riddhima!"

"ARMAAN!!" Riddhima was getting a little mad.

"RIDDHIMA!!!" he mocked.

"ARMAAN!"

"RIDDHIMA!" battle lines drawn, they both looked each other to have a stare down, which only made them burst out laughing a second later developing a sense of comraderie.

"You two make a lovely couple," a female voice interrupted and the shocked duo looked up at an old lady smiling down at them, their laughter forgotten.

"I'm sorry?" Armaan put forth.

"I have been observing you guys for the past 20 mins with your son. You, your wife and son make a lovely family. It is heartening to see families like yours in this day and age. And it's good to see the love you have between the two of you as a couple. God bless you and your wife. May you live long." she blesses and walks away without giving them a chance to clear her misunderstanding.

AWKWARD/ EMBARASSED were not a large enough words to describe the tension that followed the old lady's departure. WIFE!! WIFE!! RIDDHIMA WIFE!! were ringing in Armaan's head bringing back the old panicky guilt-filled feeling stealing his breath. While Riddhima, though gratified with the lady's blessings and content with the reference of Armaan's wife was at the same time regretful that the easy atmosphere that had just developed between them had vanished. Now again they are back to square one with not being able to look at each other's face. Actually, it was more Armaan. He was avoiding her gaze. While she pleaded in her mind for Armaan to look at her again.

Armaan needed to breath again. He racked his brain looking for a normal topic to bridge the silence between them.

"umm..Atul called today. He said the fashion house is ready for the inauguration," Armaan grasped the thought that came to him.

"ahh..yea, Anji di called too. She was so excited about it. She was gonna call Momma and Papa after," Riddhima replied gratefully helping Armaan in his quest to make everything normal between them. But the words of the old lady refused to leave their minds.

"yea..I'm thinking I will go to Delhi on Friday." Armaan continued.

"Friday?? Oh, I have work that day. But don't worry. I'll ask Rohan for leave. I'm sure he won't mind. Then I can get Sunny and Mommiji ready too," Riddhima added.

"NO!!!!!!" Armaan yelled and subdued his tone at the look of surprise on Riddhima's face." ugh..I mean, you don't have to take time off. You, Momma and Sunny can come on Saturday. I need to go to Delhi ALONE on friday to get some things ready." Armaan wanted, No, NEEDED time off from the constant presence of Riddhima in his life. He needed to clear his head, to sort out his feelings and confusions. Riddhima being around him would defeat the purpose.

"oh..ok. That'll be ok too. We can go on Saturday morning and come back Sunday night." Riddhima agreed.

"Yea, I'll book the tickets. And..umm..it's late. I think we should go now." Armaan said looking around for Sunny. He wanted to put an end to this awkward interlude.

"Ok, i'll go and get Sunny. And we can have ice-cream on the way," Riddhima reminded him of the original reason for their outing and went to look for Sunny, leaving Armaan behind to think of her. Riddhima impressed him everyday on one pretext or the other. Whether, it was her beauty, intelligence or her caring nature, she always left a huge impact on him. He especially loved the way she took care of everyone. He adored the special bond Riddhima shared with his son. They were an absolute delight to observe. She became a kid with Sunny, though at the same time retaining the authority of an adult. She was one special lady and no power on earth could refute that.
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Riddhima was putting the final touches on her makeup. It was almost the time for the party. She, Sunny and Sunita had arrived early this morning to the hotel. After a brief rest, they were escorted to the Fashion house where the inauguration was to happen. Due to the last-minute preparations, Armaan, Atul or Anjali had not been able to come to receive them at the airport. Therefore, the reunion at the Fashion house had been emotional, especially for Riddhima and Anjali, who had been apart for a long time. But there hadn't been any time to reminice and catch up as the muhurat for the cutting of the ribbon had come up on them. At the request of Armaan and Atul, Sunita had tearfully cut the ribbon. She had been reminded of her husband's behaviour through their sons. Her husband, too, had made her officiate things like this. He had told her, she was his lucky charm. And today, even though she missed him a lot, she was proud that her sons had taken their father's dream forward and made it successful well beyond HIS dreams. Then a press conference had followed a tour of the fashion house, where Armaan had given all the credit to Atul and Anjali. He had officially given the charge of Delhi fashion house to them and taken a backseat. Riddhima and the others had given enthusiatic applause throughout the whole proceedings.

And tonight,it was time for the celebration. It was being held at the hotel they were staying. She had not seen Armaan since the afternoon. He had made some
excuse and gone away from them. Riddhima missed him. She cursed the day their friendship equation changed. And that lady's verdict had added fuel to the fire. At least before, they pretended to be normal, but now Armaan avoided her like the plague. He had not even called her to pack his belongings before setting out for Delhi. She wished all this had never happened. If everything had been like before, today would have been a true happy day and Armaan would've celebrated with her. But ever since she had come, Armaan had been a little aloof and it did not sit well with her. However, she had hidden her emotions, as usual, and spent the rest of the time with her family. Padma and Shashank had come as well and were staying in the same hotel. Padma had mentioned Rahul only once and had stopped when she had seen Riddhima's expression. Soon after, their gathering had broke off since it was time to get ready. Riddhima, Sunny and Sunita were staying in the same suite. She and Sunny were sharing a room and Sunita occupied the other one. Armaan was in the suite next to them. She had gotten Sunny ready first and put on some cartoons on TV for him to watch while she got ready. She wore a brown and blue dress, which had been a gift from Anjali and is Malik Fashion House creation.

(http://image.made-in-china.com/2f0j00FMetmybciHqw/Prom-Dress
-ZY-019-.jpg).

Anjali would also be wearing a dress of their label. In fact, there will be models mingling in the party showing of some of their other creations. Riddhima looked forward to tonight. The dress made her feel very pretty and she couldn't wait to see Armaan's reaction.

Soon, she finished getting ready and went to the living room to collect Sunny. Sunita too had come in by that time and they both stared at the vision Riddhima presented.

"Riddhi. You are so beautiful. You are the most beautiful girl in the world." Sunny said with his wide smile, starting to run towards her. Sunita, who restrained Sunny, said with a grin "No beta. Don't go jump on your Riddhi. You will spoil her beautiful dress. And you are totally right. She looks very very beautiful."

"aww..mommiji thank you but don't worry about my dress. No matter what I wear, Sunny can always hug me." Riddhima said walking towards them and giving Sunny a tight hug. "Thank you big guy. But I miss your angel compliment. Don't I look like an angel today?" Riddhima pouted.

Sunny, oblivious to Riddhima's teasing, very seriously added, "Of course you look like an angel Riddhi. But I wanted to say something different today. My friend's brother said girls like hearing different compliments," and Sunita and Riddhima burst out laughing. It was to the sound of this laughter that Armaan opened the door to the suite and stood thunderstuck.

OMG. That was Riddhima? Words like Beautiful! Gorgeous! Stunning! Sexy! were circulating in his mind, while he tried to get his breathing back to normal, his body held stiff in reaction. Why did this girl have this effect on him? She made him forget everything except her. And right now, all he wanted was to drag her to the nearest bedroom and satify all his cravings. huh what?? He wanted to do THAT with Riddhima? While looking in to Riddhima's eyes, who had locked gaze with him after registering his presence, Armaan realized that he WANTED her. He wanted to make love with her and lose himself in her softness and the only thing that was stopping him was his family's presence. This realization shocked him. He had known he was attracted to her, but to this extent?  He suddenly realized that Riddhima was blushing as if she had discerned his intentions. She looked away in shyness only to sneak glances back at him, which only
made Armaan want her more.

Sunita noticed their exchange of glances and realized that they indeed had some sort of feeling between them. She was elated. Riddhima's blushing spoke volumes to the effect Armaan had on her and Armaan's stare screamed that he wanted her. She should talk with Riddhima about this, Sunita decided and waited for their eye-lock session to end.

"Hey, you guys are matching!!!!" Sunny suddenly exclaimed, breaking Riddhima and Armaan's meditation on each other.

"HUH?" they both looked at each other confused. Then they looked at the little boy who continued, "yea papa, look your blue shirt matches the blue on Riddhi's dress. Look!" Armaan and Riddhima looked at each other giving each other a detailed perusal, and indeed Sunny was right. The blue shirt Armaan was wearing with his black suit matched with Riddhima. This brought another round of blushing for the duo, who protested that it didn't match 'that much!'

"Ok Ok, let's go guys." Sunita said to end their embarassment while a secret smile danced on her lips. This accidental matching was further proof that this pair complemented each other very well. Riddhima and Armaan nodded with awkward smiles and the whole entourage continued out the door to the party venue.
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"Good evening everyone! I would like to thank all of you being with us on this special occasion.."

Riddhima watched as Armaan gave the welcoming speech to start the party. She was thinking back on what happened in their room. Riddhima had been startled to see the ravenous look on Armaan's eyes. She had been waiting to see Armaan's reaction to her outfit tonight, but she got more than she bargained for. Riddhima shivered in response as she remembered his eyes devouring her. He always made her feel a million emotions when he turned those eyes on her. And when he took his gaze away from her, it made her feel an enomerous loss as had happened after they had come out of the room. When they had arrived at the party, his duties as a host took him away leaving them to mingle with the guests themselves. Sunita was away chatting with some of her friends while Sunny had
discovered some children of his own age. They were running around playing hide and seek. Riddhima had initially stood with her parents but had gone to a little alcove when Armaan had started his speech. She wanted to observe Armaan without any interruptions.

"Again I would like to thank my bro and his wife for accomplishing all this. Without them, none of would've been possible. Thank you guys," Armaan turned to Atul and Anjali, who stood on the stage with him, with a smile. They had already welcomed the guests before giving the mike to Armaan. Riddhima looked at the easy confidence with which Armaan carried himself. He was every inch the business tycoon tonight.

"Now, all the boring speeches of the night are done," everyone laughed at this. "So everyone, without further ado, please come and join us on the dance floor and have a rocking time." Everyone clapped as the music started.

(Mohabbat ho na jaaye from Kasoor)

Hey la la la la, la la la la, la la la la la la
La la la la, la la la la, la la la la la la

Armaan got off the stage along with Atul and Anjali. They took to the dance floor with other couples while Armaan looked around for Riddhima. She saw the moment that Armaan noticed she was in the alcove.

Dekha jo tumko, yeh dil ko kya hua hai
Meri dhadkanon pe yeh chhaaya kya nasha hai, haan

Armaan slowly walked towards Riddhima, while Riddhima stood spellbound with his stride.

Dekha jo tumko, yeh dil ko kya hua hai
Meri dhadkanon pe yeh chhaaya kya nasha hai, haan

The world ceased to exist around them as Armaan continued his walk. Finally, he reached Riddhima and put out a hand towards her.

Mohabbat ho na jaaye, deewana kho na jaaye
Sambhaaloon kaise isko, mujhe tu bataa, haan
Mohabbat ho na jaaye, deewana kho na jaaye
Sambhaaloon kaise isko, mujhe tu bataa

Riddhima hesitantly put her hand in his. Armaan closed his hand around hers tightly, locking her eyes with his. Then when she least expected it, he pulled her towards him, making her bump into his chest. Riddhima clutched his coat to keep herself from stumbling.

Dekha jo tumko, yeh dil ko kya hua hai
Meri dhadkanon pe yeh chhaaya kya nasha hai, haan

Armaan straightened Riddhima up, putting one hand on her waist, pulling her slowly close to her and keeping the other hand in hers while slowly swinging to the music. He twirled her around keeping up with the rhythm.

Bheegi bheegi alkon se, chori chori palkon se
Kyoon mera sapna churaaye
Jhunki jhunki ankhiyon se, dheere dheere batiyon se
Kyoon mujhe apna banaaye
Meri nazron pe chhaaye, khushboo ke jaise aaye
Mera tan mann mahekaaye
Saanson mein yeh pal pal jaane kaise halchal
Kuch bhi samajh mein na aaye
Sharaarat ho na jaaye, mohabbat ho na jaaye
Sambhaaloon kaise isko, mujhe tu bataa
Sharaarat ho na jaaye, mohabbat ho na jaaye
Sambhaaloon kaise isko, mujhe tu bataa

Riddhima looked down shyly away from the intense eyes of Armaan. Armaan, who couldn't take her avoiding his gaze, put his finger on her chin, slowly making her look up at him. Riddhima couldn't help but shiver as Armaan directed his captivating gaze on her. She closed her eyes in response. Armaan kissed her eye lids gently, then continued raining kisses on her forehead and cheeks, while going dangerously close to her lips. Riddhima's hand on Armaan's shoulder tightened its hold, making Armaan breathless. He slowly disengaged their hands and put both her hands around his shoulders, pulling her even close to him.

Meri hai yeh mushkil, ab to yeh mera dil
Bas mein huzoor nahin hai
Itna bataa de mujhe kaise samjhaaoon
Tujhe mera yeh kasoor nahin hai
Chaahe hum chaahe bhi to pehre lagaaye bhi to
Kaise din raat ko roke
Aag bina yeh jale, zor na koi chale
Kaise jazbaat ko roke
Yun chaahat ho na jaaye, mohabbat ho na jaaye
Sambhaaloon kaise isko, mujhe tu bataa, haan
Yun chaahat ho na jaaye, mohabbat ho na jaaye
Sambhaaloon kaise isko, mujhe tu bataa

He slowly caressed her face with his fingers. Then he ran his finger down her face, until he reached her neck which was covered by her long tresses. Armaan put her hair back, revealing her soft white nape, and the need to feast on it sprang inside him. He slowly bent his head forward until his lips reached her neck. When he pressed a soft kiss on it, Riddhima's whole body trembled, their breathing increasing a hundred-fold. Riddhima who couldn't bear it anymore broke off from his hold, only to have a confused Armaan staring at her. She shook her head and turned to go away, only to stand still as his hand had shot out to grab hers. She slowly turned back to him.

Dekha jo tumko, yeh dil ko kya hua hai
Meri dhadkanon pe yeh chhaaya kya nasha hai, haan
Mohabbat ho na jaaye, deewana kho na jaaye
Sambhaaloon kaise isko, mujhe tu bataa
Mohabbat ho na jaaye, deewana kho na jaaye
Sambhaaloon kaise isko, mujhe tu bataa

Armaan touched one hand to his ear while keeping his other clasped on to Riddhima. He gave an endearing smile, at which Riddhima's resistance melted and she came back into his arms. She put her head on his chest, while they swayed to the final notes of the song. After the song ended, they stood like that for a while. Riddhima's head on his chest, while his arms hanging protectively around her. Content with themselves and with the world.

Finally, she looked back up on him, who smiled at her and said with with a deep breath, "Riddhima." Then for some reason, Armaan was shaking her by her arm relentlessly, breaking the spell that had enveloped around them. She was annoyed.

"What are you doing?? It hurts" she said dragging her arm from his hold and rubbing it looking at her arm.

"Well, if you had answered the few couple of times I called you, I wouldn't have had to hurt you!!" an annoyed female voice stated.

Wait. A femail voice? She looked up from her arm to the disgruntled eyes of Anjali. Anji di?? Hey, how come she's here? and where's Armaan? She looked around to see Armaan standing near the bar talking to some guests. If he was there and she was here, then what just happened, didnt happen?? Oh no, it was only a DREAM?????!!! Riddhima realized disappointedly. All those beautiful moments between the two of them had just been her imagination? She felt a huge sense of loss. She pinched herself to bring her mind back to the present. She was an IDIOT!!!! Riddhima had called herself that name a million of times. But it was never as apt as this moment. IDIOT IDIOT!!!!!!

"Hello, Ridzi, what's wrong with you???" Anjali continued more irriated than before.

"ugh.umm..sorry Di. I was just thinking about..umm..never mind..what did you call me di?" she gave an absentminded smile at her seeing which Anjali's anger melted.

"You've become weird Ridz. LOL..it's ok.. Sunita aunty and Momma called you. They couldn't find you. What are you doing here hiding?"

"ah..nothing Di. Just wanted some peace and quiet. Ok let's go." Riddhima told her and they both went to look for their elders.

Hiranya

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