Monday, 28 June 2021

part 17 : Forbidden Love

Trepidation didn't even begin to cover what Armaan was feeling as he stepped into Riddhima's house. Sunita and Sunny by his side, he took halting steps inside. His heart was feeling as heavy as his feet. The festive atmosphere of the house along with the decorations were making it hard for him to breathe.
All he could think about was Riddhima. Please God, please give him another chance.

"Beta, just go up and see her as soon as we greet the Guptas. Use this gift as an excuse." Sunita suggested.

Armaan looked at his mother with overflowing emotions. His mother had been a rock to lean on ever since the news of Riddhima's marriage was broken to him. Right after Sunita had told him about it, he had completely broken down. He remembered the shock and the pain of the previous evening. Unable to believe that he might lose his love a second time, tears had flowed from his eyes. Then, it was his mother who had taken care of him when he had tearfully declared his love for Riddhima. She had not reprimended him for realizing it a tad late. Instead she had encouraged him to go get his love. Hence, they had left Mumbai early in the morning to reach Pune in time. Armaan nodded in acceptance of Sunita's suggestion.


"Sunita ji, Armaan. A very warm welcome. It's soo good that you were able make it at this short notice." Shashank greeted them as they went in. Padma and Atul joined them soon. It was evident from the big smiles on their faces, that this was a very joyous occasion. While they were exchanging pleasantries, all Armaan wanted to do was run to Riddhima. He kept looking for an opportunity to slip away but it seemed as if his relatives were not in the mood to let him go. He looked helplessly at Sunita who understood his predicament.

"Padma ji, where is Riddhima? I wanted to give her my blessings and this gift." Sunita said looking around. Though, it was doubtful that Riddhima would be in the hall.

"Oh, she's getting ready Sunitaji. Anjali wanted to dress Riddhima herself. It reminded me of their younger days when they used to play dressup. But please, you're welcome to go and see her." Padma smiled. Sunita smiled as well and nodded her head at Armaan and grabbed Sunny's hand.

All three Maliks moved towards the room in which Riddhima was staying. Sunny was jumping in excitement since he was going to see his Riddhi again. Sunita prayed to God to join Riddhima and Armaan together forever. Armaan's heart was skipping erratically in nervousness. The hope that she'll run to his arms the moment she'd see him was crowding his senses. Please God, please make his dream come true.

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Riddhima was sitting down numbly while the beauticians and Anjali ran back and forth to get her ready. If anyone had noticed her lack of emotion, they probably attributed it to bridal nerves. Anjali kept teasing about her future life with Rahul, despite the lack of response she got from Riddhima.

Rahul..Riddhima couldn't believe that she was actually getting married today. How life takes ironic turns. The girl who had devoted her whole life to Armaan was going to belong to someone else today. Riddhima remembered every moment that she had spent with Armaan like it was yesterday. Every laugh she had shared with him, every tear. How he had loved her
that night and the pain of the next evening. Riddhima didn't know how she had convinced her parents that she had finally had enough of Mumbai which was why she was coming to stay back home. But whatever she had said, they had believed her. In fact, they had been delighted to finally have her back home. And living at home had been in one way like balm to her wounded soul.

Surrounded by the love of her parents and the childhood memories, she had realized that she would be able to go by in life even if she wouldn't ever live again. But she missed the Maliks so much. She wasn't able to sleep at night because Sunny wasn't in her Arms. She felt absolutely useless because no one needed her here like the way the Maliks had needed her. And this house didn't feel like home anymore. Someone had said right, home was where the heart was. And her heart was back in Malik Mansion. When Sunita had called her with the shock she had received when she had come back, Riddhima had been able to forget her pain for a second and console Sunita. Even though Sunita had wanted for their marriage to occur even if Armaan didn't love her, Riddhima had been able to convince her that for a heart which loved Armaan immensely and unconditionally, it would be unbearable to live with him when that love was not returned.

Whenever she thought of the fact that he didn't love her, Riddhima couldn't help but breakdown, over and over again. Especially during the times Armaan had called her, her tears had flowed limitlessly though she had willed herself to never
answer it. The vow she had taken to never cry over him again was never properly conveyed to her heart, which insisted in letting out its pain in the form of tears. Her parents had never seen her tears, but they had noticed her somber mood. Which was perhaps why they had invited Rahul into her life again.
Rahul..He had lived upto his promise of being a good friend. In the beginning, Riddhima hadn't been in the mood to go and talk to him at all. But with his winning ways, he had brought her out of her shell of pain and heartbreak. Though laughter was out of the question, Rahul had been able to make her smile again. He had of course known that something had happened to her, but had never pushed her, until oneday.

Riddhima had been sitting on the swing in the garden, lost in the memories of Armaan. Especially the moments they had shared on the swing on the terrace at Malik Mansion. She had not even realized when tears had started to fall down her cheeks until Rahul had wiped them.

"Riddhima, it hurts me so much to see you like this. Won't you please tell me what's wrong?" he had gently asked. And the kind plea in his eyes had been her undoing. She had broken down in his arms and he had held her until her sobs had subsided.

"Ra..Rahul..remember how I told you that I was in love with someone." her voice was weak.

"yea..And remember how you broke my heart," Rahul had teased but that had only brought a fresh wave of tears. She had realized that breaking a heart, even in jest, was nothing to laugh about.

"OK OK..i'm sorry Riddhima. I won't say anything. Please tell me the rest." Rahul had yelled silently at himself for making her cry again.

"It was Armaan. I am in love with Armaan." Riddhima had never thought that she'd ever tell anyone about her love. But after the rejection from Armaan, she simply hadn't had the strength to protect her secret anymore. And she trusted Rahul. Rahul's reaction to the news had been surprise, not shock. He had
probably known somewhere deep inside him that she must've loved Armaan. He had remembered how Riddhima had glowed when she had talked about the Maliks during their date. Especially Armaan. Her apparent pain at Armaan's suffering for losing his wife must've struck a cord inside him that yelled out that this was no ordinary empathy. And her love for Sunny would rival the love of any mother for her natural son. Understanding all that, Rahul had waited for Riddhima to
finish her story.

"I..I was an idiot. I told Armaan that I loved him and he..and he doesn't love me back." Riddhima had shed fresh tears at that, though she had tried so hard to control herself. Rahul had taken her into his arms again trying to relieve her pain, though it had been near impossible.

After that day, a new understanding had dawned between them. Riddhima had opened upto Rahul as she would to a very close friend. She had shared her pain with him everytime Sunny
or Armaan would call. Only Rahul knew the extent of Riddhima's suffering and he did everything he could to cheer her up. He won't pretend that it was easy share her pain. It almost broke his heart to see Riddhima so vulnerable. But he never let her down. Seeing Rahul and Riddhima being so close to each other
had sprung new hope in Padma again. When she had suggested it to them, Riddhima's first response of course had been a resounding NO. But Rahul had thought about it. It was true that Riddhima was heartbroken and she could never love him like she loved Armaan, but it was also true that she needed a companion right now. A friend who'd teach her to live again. He longed to see the Riddhima he had met that first night. And Rahul, who had liked Riddhima from the beginning, had no objections in being that friend. Although it had taken a lot of persuasion to make Riddhima see his point, he had been finally successful.

However, it was probably the plea coming from her parents that had clinched the deal for them. Riddhima had given up all hope for Armaan's love but if she would be able to give her parents some happiness, it will be worth anything that she'd have to go through. And Rahul was her friend, she would not mind him
being her companion for the rest of her life. Hence convinced, Riddhima had not wanted to have any secrets between Rahul and her. She had recounted to Rahul about the intimacy she had shared with Armaan and her inability to love Rahul. Rahul of course had been furious at Armaan for his behaviour but had also known that Riddhima would not hear a word against Armaan. But he had no problem with it. Whatever she had done, it had been out of her love. The purity of the love that Riddhima feels for Armaan could not be marred with any blot, Rahul had realized this. He had respected her and her love. And he had convinced Riddhima that he would be honoured to share his life with her. Hence Riddhima was getting married today. She hadn't had the courage to inform the Maliks directly. She could imagine the disappointment of Sunita and Sunny at the news and she would not be able to bear it. And....

Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Come in!" Anjali had yelled out as she was putting on the ghoonghat on Riddhima.

She was sitting infront of the mirror and through the mirror she could see the door open. And what she saw outside the door brought tears to her eyes. Sunita and Sunny.

Sunny ran into the room into her arms with a loud "RIDDHI!!" as she jumped around to greet him. She engulfed Sunny in her arms. Gosh, she had missed him so much. Riddhima kissed Sunny all over as she ran her hands on his hair and back to convince herself that her baby was really here. She had no idea how she had spent the past month without him. She felt tears ran down his cheeks as well as hers as they continued their reunion.

"Riddhi, I missed you so much. Why didn't you come to meet me? I couldn't even sleep at night because you werent there! Even my teddy misses you." Sunny cried on her shoulder and Riddhima could only reprimend herself for separating herself from him. Why had she punished the son for his father's mistakes.

"I am soo sorry baby.  I am soooo sorry. I missed you soo much too.. I love you!" Riddhima sobbed as she continued the hugs and the kisses. Sunny clung on to her so that she would never leave him again.

Anjali and Sunita standing near them felt tears come to their eyes at this emotional moment. Sunita, knowing the truth about the situation, prayed even harder to give her family a happy ending. But for that to happen, she needed to give Armaan and Riddhima a moment alone. Armaan was waiting outside the door.

He had not wanted to meet her with everyone around. And Sunita needed to make that happen.

"Anjali beta, Padma ji called you downstairs. She needed for you to do something." Sunita had hugged and blessed Anjali when Riddhima and Sunny were having their reunion. Sunita mentally thanked Shashank and Padma for bringing up two wonderful daughters. And it was pure luck that the both girls loved her sons. And if it weren't for Anjali, they would not be here today and Armaan would've lost Riddhima.

"Ji mommiji, I'll go see what momma wants." Anjali exited the room after ruffling Sunny's hair, who was still in Riddhima's arms. Sunita looked at the beautician waiting on the sidelines.

"Could you please excuse us for a moment?" she asked the lady who nodded her head and exited as well.

Sunita went up to Riddhima and hugged her. And Riddhima, holding Sunny in her arms, hugged Sunita back tearfully as well. Riddhima loved and respected Sunita a lot. She must've done something bad in her previous life to not have Sunita as her mother-in-law. In fact, she must've been very very bad in her previous births to have been denied the love of the people she loved in her life. Especially Armaan's. Armaan.where was he? Why hadn't he come today? Riddhima couldn't help but look behind Sunita. God Riddhima, you're being so stupid, why would Armaan be here???, her mind admonished.

"Riddhima beta, you look beautiful. May you live a very long and happy life. My only regret is that I never got the chance to dress you up as a bride," Sunita expressed. And Riddhima sniffed to hide her tears.

"Thank you mommiji. I also regret that I won't have a mother-in-law as wonderful as you." Riddhima saw Sunita wipe a tear at that.

"Beta, I brought you a gift."

"Oh please mommiji, that was not necessary. You being here mean the world to me." Sunita kissed Riddhima's foreheard at that. Please God, make this work. I want to take this girl back home as my daughter-in-law, she prayed.

"No beta. You would want to see this gift." Sunita looked behind her as if waiting for something.

Riddhima followed her gaze only to be stopped in her tracks. ARMAAN???? Riddhima couldn't quell the tiny hope that sprung to life in her heart. Armaan? here?? Surely that must mean something!! NO!!!!!!!!!!NO Riddhima, NOT AGAIN!!!!!! You will not let yourself hope AGAIN!!! gosh girl, have you not learnt your lesson yet??? her mind screamed and Riddhima could feel
her joy being deflated. He must've just come to attend her wedding. Since he was part of the family, he had a duty to attend. Yes, that must be the only reason why he was here. Riddhima could feel the ache of a broken heart start to rise up in her heart again.

Armaan slowly came into the room. He had hidden when Anjali and the beautician had left the room, waiting nervously for Sunita to call him in. Sunita had called him a gift for Riddhima. But the truth was, Riddhima was the biggest gift that he had ever gotten in his life. And she looked absolutely beautiful. In
her bridal attire, Armaan had never seen a more breathtaking sight. He could feel his heart jump all over the place as he came closer to her. Please God, make her forgive me.

"Sunny beta, let's go downstairs. I'll get you some laddoos" Sunita tried to coax Sunny out of Riddhima's arms. But Sunny stubbornly held on. He did not want to lose his Riddhi again. Sunita went up to Sunny and whispered to him.

"Beta, if you let go of Riddhi now, I can promise you that she'll never leave you again. If you go with me now, I promise you that we'll take your Riddhi with us back home!" Sunny's eyes lighted up at the promise while Riddhima stared at Sunita in shock. What did Sunita mean by that? But Sunita ignored her and took Sunny away from Riddhima who this time went to his dadi excitedly. Sunita hurried out of the room closing the door behind her leaving an awkward Riddhima and Armaan behind.

Armaan's nervousness was reaching the skies by now. And he couldn't take his eyes off the beautiful picture Riddhima made. Riddhima could feel her heart beating rapidly inside her chest.

"You make a beautiful bride.." he managed to say, his voice coming out in a sigh.

Riddhima's eyes closed in pain. That's it! He really has come to give her blessings for this marriage. WHY GOD??? When she thinks he can't hurt her anymore than he already has, Armaan finds a new way to do it again. 

Armaan misunderstood Riddhima's action. She was probably still mad at him, he thought. No wonder too. He had behaved as an absolute ass with her. "Riddhima..I'm sorry..for..for everything that happened.."

The moment she heard this, Riddhima turned away from him and walked to the window. Why does he insist on making it worse??? Hadn't he hurt her enough???!! Her heart was again breaking into little pieces.

"Riddhima..I wanted to say that I.." Armaan was trying to string the words of love together for her.

"Please Armaan, enough!" Riddhima interrupted him before he could say anything further. Armaan looked up at her in shock. What?

"But Riddhima..I really wanna say.."

"I told you Armaan, I don't want to listen to anything you say!" No way, she won't give him another chance to hurt her more!

"Why Riddhima? I know I behaved like a bas****..but please give me a chance to explain.." he was desperate and was slowly feeling little pangs of anger. Why wouldn't she let him confess!!??? "Please turn around!" His voice was turning up the volume a notch.

"Armaan, you already told me what I wanted to know. There's nothing that you can say, that I want to listen to!" she yelled. She couldn't take it anymore. Her chest was heaving with the powerful emotions she was experiencing. He always had that effect on her. But this time, she won't let him get to her.

Absolutely furious at her behaviour, Armaan ran up to her, held her by the arms and turned her, giving her a good shake. "SHUT UP goddammit! I'm trying to tell you I love you and you won't give me a chance!!!!" he yelled back, his heart beat running erratic at the overflowing emotions.

WHAT??what did he say?..The anger that Riddhima experienced at Armaan's manhandling died a sudden death at his confession, replaced by utter disbelief..what did he say? Armaan didn't notice Riddhima's amazed face. He continued his rant.

"I realized I love you the moment you left me! But like the stupid idiot I was, I didn't have the guts to come and confess to you. I thought I was betraying Nikki by falling in love with you but I didn't realize that Nikki herself would've wanted you in my life. I came here to tell you how much I love you. Without you, my life is NOTHING! I am nothing!! All those nights I spent pining for you made me understand that you were the realization of my dreams. I cannot pour out in words how much you mean to me. If you'd give me the chance, I would spend the rest of my life showing you how special you are. You brighten up my life. You are my only light when darkness scares me. You are my only salvation when my world is falling apart. Please Riddhima, please give me
another chance. Please tell me you love me still.."

Armaan looked closely at her again, then got absolutely terrified at the fall of tears on her cheeks. GOD PLEASE NO! she didn't love him anymore? He could feel his heart collapse with pain. No, this can't be happening. The arms that was grabbing her fell down on his sides.

"Riddhima..I understand..you..I am too late..I.." he couldn't complete his sentence, words getting stuck in his throat. Something suspiciously similar to tears blurred his vision.

Riddhima was crying her heart out at Armaan's confession. GOD..how long?? How long had she waited to hear this from his mouth. She simply could not believe that, that moment had finally come. All her dreams were coming true!!!! Gosh, she loved him so much..and he..he returned that love!!! Unable to contain herself, she ran to put her hands around him and hugged him tight. She pressed herself to him, still sobbing, as much as she could to feel the reality that he was indeed in her arms.

Armaan couldn't believe what had happened. His hurting heart was finally cured when her arms had gone around him. He hugged her back tight as well. He could feel her body shaking with her loud sobs. And his own tears fell down, one by one.."hush..Riddhima, it's ok.." He whispered patting her head. He longed to feel her hair which was covered by the dupatta. The relief Armaan felt at her reaction was immeasureable. He continued to caress her head. Finally, Armaan could feel her sobbing end and she broke off from the hug.

"Armaan..Armaan you have no idea how..how long I have waited to hear..hear this.." she hicupped trying to control herself. Armaan pressed a soft kiss on her forehead, still keeping her close to him. "I love you so soo much. You have no idea." She put her head on his shoulder and put her arms back on him again. Armaan hugged her closer to him. He never wanted to let go of this moment. He could feel sun shine in his life again. All because of his Riddhima.

"Riddhima, you really mean that right? You haven't stopped loving me because I was an utter idiot?"

Riddhima laughed shakily at this. Still in his arms, she could still feel trembling in her body in the aftermath of the shock. "Armaan, you couldn't stop me from loving you even if you were the dumbest person on earth!" Being in his arms was heaven for her.

"Now that's something. Are you sure that I wasn't the dumbest person on earth? I am dead sure I came pretty close.."

"Yea pretty close.." she agreed.

They both laughed at this, humour back in their lives. Then Armaan became serious. "Riddhima, you have forgiven me right? For how I acted. I think I had fallen in love with you long before, but because of Nikki.."

Riddhima lifted her head from his chest and put a finger to his lips, interrupting his words. "Hush Armaan..I understand. Your love for Nikita won't end just because you love me. Your heart is pretty big to love us both. But I know how guilty you must've felt when you realized you love me. You are that kind of person. You must've felt like you were betraying Nikita."

Armaan was awed Riddhima's understanding. He must've done something pretty good in his previous lives to be loved by two amazing women like Nikki and Riddhima. At this moment, his heart was overflowing with love for Riddhima, for her maturity and her understanding but most of all, her love. He used his
hands, which were around her waist, to pull her closer.

"Riddhima..you are one amazing woman. I feel blessed to have you in my life. But I want you to know one thing. Nikki was my past. You are my present and future. I promise you that I will always keep you happy."

Armaan bent down his head to capture her lips in a gentle kiss. Riddhima's hands snaked up around his neck, pressing her body closer to him. Armaan slowly increased the pressure of the kiss, making Riddhima moan at the intensity. She never wanted this moment to end.

"Riddhima, Rahul is here with the baraat!" Anjali suddenly burst into the room, only to stop dead on her tracks as she took in the sight infront of her. Armaan and Riddhima's passionate embrace was not something she expected in the bride's room and her jaw dropped in astonishment.

Armaan and Riddhima jumped apart at Anjali's voice. Their shocked faces were crowded with guilt. Along with guilt came another unbearable emotion as Riddhima remembered that it was the day of her wedding. To Rahul..

Hiranya

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