Saturday, 26 June 2021

part 15 : Forbidden Love

Riddhima stretched lazily moving her hand to the space next to her, a smile gracing her lips. Then she suddenly woke up. The space that had been warm and inviting the night before was cold and empty. Where was Armaan? She looked around the room, Armaan nowhere to be seen. She looked back at the bed feeling a bit scared, only to see a note on the pillow. Riddhima released a breath she didn't know she was holding. She quickly read the note.

"Have to go to work. Won't be back till the evening. Breakfast is in the kitchen. Armaan." the note said.

oh..Riddhima was a bit disappointed that Armaan wasn't here to greet her Good morning. But she understood. He had that delegation coming, so he needed to be at work. And he probably didn't want to disturb her sleep. She had been so tired last night, Riddhima thought with a blush. That brought back the memories from last night. It had been the best night of her life. The happiness that she hadn't dared to dream of were bestowed upon her. She was extremely happy.

Armaan's loving had been gentle and loving. It had made her feel cherished and loved. She loved Armaan so much. And finally she'd confessed. She hadn't been thinking about saying it but hadn't been able to prevent the flow of the words in heat of the moment. And she had fallen asleep right after, so she didn't remember his reply. But she did remember that he'd gathered her into his arms and fallen sleep. She knew he loved her as much as she loved him. Riddhima's cheeks reddened some more , the feeling of floating on a cloud surrounding her. Today, today was the beginning of a new life for her. So, what should she do first? Should she call him at work? Oh yes, that'll be lovely. Hearing his husky voice will make her day even better. Oh no, even better, she'd give him a big surprise in the evening when he comes back. Yes, a romantic candlelight dinner for two. And she'd wear a saree again. Armaan hadn't been able to take his eyes off her the previous evening. Riddhima blushed some more.

"TRING TRING!!!!!" the phone brought her out of her day dreams. Could it be Armaan??

"Hello Armaan?" Riddhima jumped to get hold of the phone. The voice at the other end chuckled.

"Hehehe. No beta. Not Armaan, but your soon-to-be mother-in-law. Sorry to disappoint you." Sunita teased.

"Oh hello mommiji," Riddhima could feel her whole face getting red. Jeez, stop with the blushing Riddhima. She can't see you! "How are you? And Sunny? I'm missing him so much."

"I'm ok and Sunny is ok. Here he wants to talk to you." Riddhima could hear Sunita calling Sunny to the phone.

"Hello Riddhi!! I missed you!" Sunny's excited voice came on the phone.

"Oh baby. I miss you soo much too. I wish you were here with me." Riddhima could feel a tear fall down her cheeks. Her baby was so far away from her. True, last night probably would not have happened if Sunita and Sunny were here. But she would've loved to share this morning with them.

"Don't cry Riddhi. I love you. And you know I am having so much fun here. Camping is great! I wish you could be here too. Maybe we can all go next time!" Sunny suggested and went on to describe in detail the delights of camping.

"For sure darling." Her life was theirs, officially, from now on, Riddhima thought with a smile. She could imagine many many camping trips in their future. She, Armaan, Sunita and Sunny. And maybe Atul jeej and Anjali di. Oh, she couldn't wait to tell everyone about her and Armaan.

"ok Sunny now go and play. Dadi wants to talk to Riddhi," Riddhima could hear Sunita say.

"Ok dadi. Bye Riddhi! love you!" Sunny gave the phone to Sunita and ran away without waiting for a reply from Riddhima. Badmash child, she thought fondly.

"So Riddhima..How was last night?" Sunita asked and Riddhima's whole body turned red. Oh plz! Don't be nervous. She doesn't know what really happened! Mommiji is only thinking about the plan to confess your love, her mind admonished.

"Hello? Riddhima!!"

"Yes mommiji!"

"So, did you have fun last night?" Sunita was excited. She had given Riddhima and Armaan this time alone together by going with Sunny. But of course, if a certain principal had received a donation and a suggestion for a overnight picnic, she knew nothing about it!

"Oh mommiji, last night was wonderful." Riddhima continued dreamily. "It was the best night of my life!"

"Ohfoh beta, tell me everything. Don't leave me hanging here!" Sunita said.

"Mommiji. Thank you very much for the saree. He couldn't keep his eyes off me. And then, at the party, he was soo jealous because he'd heard Rohan say that I have a boyfriend."

"And did you, did you tell him you loved him?" Sunita blurted, not able to take the suspense any longer.

"I did. I finally told him I loved him mommiji."

"OMG!!! Then what happened? What did he say? Did he say it back???" Sunita almost screamed, she was jumping in excitement.

"He umm..he kissed me." Ok fine, things didn't really happen in that order. But she couldn't tell Sunita what really happened. She trusted Riddhima and the truth might hurt her.

"HE KISSED YOU!!!!" now Sunita literally screamed.

"Shhh..mommiji!" Riddhima begged for silence. She didn't want the whole world knowing what happened. At least not yet.

"Sorry sorry Riddhima. He really kissed you? Omg. that is unbelievable. Oh I am so happy beta. But..but he didn't say I love you back?" Sunita realized what was lacking in the picture.

"No mommiji, he didn't say it out loud. But I could tell he does. He was so jealous and angry at me because he thought I was in love with another guy. And his kiss, it said everything. But as for the actual words, no worries, I have 2 more days, I'll get it out of him." Riddhima reassured Sunita. Riddhima was confident that she would be able to achieve this. Armaan loved her. And actual words didn't mean more than actions, but if it made Sunita happy, she'd try to make him confess.

"Oh beta, I am soo excited now. I can't wait to come back and plan your wedding. And oh, I have to talk to your parents too. And get your horoscopes matched. And Oh so much to do. I just can't wait!" Sunita's excitement was very much evident.

"Oh I know mommiji. I can't believe that this is really happening. I still feels like a dream. But thank you so much for everything mommiji!" She laughed along with Sunita.

"No worries beta. Bringing you together has given me the greatest pleasure on earth. And since you still have two days alone with him, I promise I won't call and disturb till we come back," Sunita teased.

"Oh mommiji," Riddhima blushed again.

"Tut. Don't be embarassed beta. Now I'm going to be teasing you for the rest of your life." Sunita smiled. "God bless you beta. Take care of my son and love him always."

"Thanks mommiji. I'll love him forever."

"I know beta. Chalo. Good bye."

"Bye mommiji. Give a kiss and hug to Sunny from me."

It was 7 in the evening now. Riddhima was waiting for Armaan to return home. It had been a very busy day. After the call from Sunita, Riddhima had had rushed from the bed to get everything ready for the evening. Since it had been 11 when she had woken up, she had little to time to plan everything. Riddhima had given the servants the day off. She did not want a third person between them tonight. Then she had gone shopping for the perfect saree for the occasion. There had been too much to choose from and and she had finally settled for a simple red one. Then she had rushed home to make all Armaan's favourite dishes.

She had been a tad disappointed that Armaan hadn't called her during the day, but she knew his meeting must be an important one. So, she had wasted no time in thinking about it. After setting the table ready, she had gone to get dressed, taking extra care than usual. Now dressed in her simple saree with little jewellery(, candles lit with soft romantic music playing in the background, she waited for Armaan.

Then Riddhima suddenly heard the key turning in the lock of the front door. Oh he's back. If only he'd rung the bell, she would've run to the door in a totally filmy fashion. She smiled. But it's ok. She could still run and open the door. Riddhima went to the door quickly and opened it before Armaan did. And as she had hoped, Armaan stood frozen looking at her, his mouth dropping as he took in her attire. That's it. She'd wear sarees for the rest of her life!

Riddhima put her arms around him, hugging him to her tightly. Oh he smelt wonderful.

"I missed you," Riddhima said breathing him in. Armaan's hands went automatically around her, bringing her even closer to him. Riddhima broke the hug, inviting him inside. Armaan went in and stopped in his tracks. Riddhima could see the surprise on his face as he took in the candle lit room with rose petals spread all over. She went and hugged him from behind, resting her face on his back.

"I love you!" She said it again. Riddhima realized that she'd never tire of saying I love you to Armaan. She belonged to him mind, body and soul.

"Riddhima we should get married." she heard Armaan say and she could feel her heartbeat jumping all over the place at the declaration. OH married to him! Thank you God, all her dreams were coming true.

"Armaan, I love you. Of course I'll marry you!" she smiled happily, hugging him even tighter. Then Armaan took her hands off him and walked a couple of steps, leaving Riddhima stunned. He stood in silence as if contemplating what to say. What's wrong? Why doesn't he say something? And why does she have a really bad feeling about this? 

"Riddhima I..I don't love you." he said in a tight voice and Riddhima could feel her whole world crashing down. NO NO NO! this can't be happening.

"What we did last night. It shouldn't have happened. I took your innocence. So, I think..we should get married!" Armaan said, his face and voice devoid of any emotion.

Riddhima could feel tears gather at the edges of her eyes. God No! Please make this a very bad dream! She had hoped for so much. This can't be happening to her. Not again. He loved her! she knew he loved her! Please Armaan, just say it. Just say it once. She wouldn't want anything else from life after that.

Armaan, probably misunderstanding her silence, continued. "Riddhima I..I love Nikita. I'm sorry. I can't love anyone else. But after what happened last night, we have no choice but to get married. Please understand." He sounded a bit desperate, but Riddhima didn't pay attention.

Her whole being had gone numb. She couldn't feel anything. She couldn't see anything. All she heard was "I don't love you". Those despicable words rang in her head over and over again. This pain was beyond anything. Not even when she had first heard that he was married, had she felt this heartbroken. Why God? Why does it always happen with me?? I never asked for this!!! I would've lived happily as just his friend forever! Why did you make my expectations rise? Why did you let me hope for something more? I hate you God! I hate you! her mind screamed at the injustice. But still, not one word came out of her mouth. Her capacity for speech gone with the hopes for a happy ending.

"Riddhima!" Armaan shook her arm, bringing her back awareness. "Riddhima," he said again, looking at her face, as if trying to decipher her response. Riddhima looked up at him with tears blurring her eyes. She couldn't do this. She couldn't face him.

"Riddhima will you marry me?" he asked and the tears that she had been holding back flowed from her eyes. She looked away from him, hiding her tears. That was a question she had dreamt of him asking from the moment she had fallen in love with him. But not like this. Never like this. Would she marry him? Not like this. Never like this! Riddhima be strong. Stop crying. You can cry later. You can feel your heartbreak later. Right now, you need to answer him. Stand up for yourself. Don't be weak. Her mind screamed at her and she took a deep breath and uttered the one word that she had never said to him.

"No." It was a simple No. No screaming, no weeping. Just a simple straight statement. Just like how he had first said that they should get married.

"Riddhima?" he looked shocked. "What are you saying?"

"It's simple enough Armaan. I said no, I won't marry you." she said and it came out more firmly that she'd thought. Right now, she was shaking inside, her mind crying about thousand different things. But she knew she needed to do this. For herself. For the love that she had nurtured all these years. For the past year, she had given him everything she had. She had done everything possible to ensure that he was happy. But this was one thing she could not do. She could not marry him when she loved him so much and he didn't. God, he loved Nikita! How could she have been soo stupid! She could feel the tears come again. NO! Don't you dare cry again Riddhima! Don't you dare!

"Riddhima, don't you understand. After what happened last night, we HAVE to get married," he begged. "We're friends. And you love me. We can make it work. Please think about this Riddhima." He continued to beg. But he never said the one thing that would've changed her mind. But then why would he, he didn't love her.

"Armaan please. I don't want to talk about this anymore. No means NO for me. I would never want to be in a loveless marriage." Riddhima took a deep breath. "Excuse me. I gotta go." She quickly ran away from there ignoring the pleas of Armaan.

She rushed to her bedroom and locked the door, giving free rein for her tears to fall. She could hear Armaan slamming against the door, trying to get her to open it. But she ignored him. She ignored him and cried her heart out laying on her bed. Riddhima cried and cried. She cried until there were no more tears left in her,  her body shuddering with her sobs. Armaan had long given up on trying to open the door. Finally, unbeknownst to her, she fell asleep.

Riddhima woke up suddenly unaware of her surroundings. It took her a minute to realize what had transpired couple of hours ago. And the same feeling of pain enveloped her heart. Riddhima took deep breaths to calm herself again, trying to prevent new tears from forming. There was no point. She was just not destined for love. She now knew with a certainty that Armaan would never love her. Never again would she let herself hope for a future with Armaan, she told herself firmly. And never again would she cry for him. With that thought, she reached a final decision. She needed to leave this place. She needed to leave Malik Mansion. Riddhima could not face Armaan again. She could not live under the same roof knowing that he didn't love her. And again she felt like a fool for confessing her love to him. Riddhima, it doesn't matter. What is done is done. Right now, you need to leave this place! her mind urged her.

Riddhima quickly packed her things and called for a taxi. She peeped out her door to see if Armaan was around. But it was midnight now, so he probably was sleeping. She stealthily walked out of her room into the living room, bringing her luggage with her. She didn't take everything. She didn't have the time. The urge to escape from Malik Mansion overriding her desire for her material goods.

As Riddhima waited for the taxi, she took a final look around the living room. The remanants of her broken dreams still lying in the room in the form of burnt out candles and rose petals. Her eyes caught sight of a picture frame hanging on the wall. A picture of herself and Sunny. OMG Sunny. She didn't even for once think of Sunny. Oh, what would her poor baby do without her? She felt fresh tears run down her cheeks. And she'd die without him. But she would die if she had to live here again too. No, Riddhima, this was the right decision. She was leaving. Riddhima walked up to the wall and took down the picture from it's hold. She hugged it to herself.
"Please forgive me darling. I am sorry I am leaving. But I will always love you." She kissed the part of the frame where Sunny was and put the frame in her bag. Suddenly. her cell phone beeped. Oh the taxi was here. She had to go.


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