Tuesday, 29 June 2021

part 18 : Forbidden Love

Armaan looked on as the joy disappeared from Riddhima's face. Her sudden pale face was an indication that she was reminded of her wedding. Suddenly afraid, Armaan held out a hand towards her. Please God, he can't lose her again.

Anjali was astounded at the emotions pouring out of the two people standing infront of her. She had no idea about any intimacy between these two. "Riddhima, what's going on?"

Riddhima stood silent at the questioning glances of both Armaan and Anjali. Her whole body was shaking with the realization that she was about to lose her love again. GOD!!! Why wasn't God fair?? Why hadn't he let her live one moment with love and hope?? Ever since she had fallen in love, her every happy moment was followed by severe heartbreak. She could feel tears threaten to fall down her cheeks again.


Armaan moved closer to her, which only made her step back, shaking her head at him. Armaan was getting terrified moment by moment. No, he would not let this happen. He tread towards her and held her by her shoulders, forcing her to look up at him. "Riddhima, listen to me. You can't get married to Rahul now. You love me and I love you. We belong together!" he was almost yelling in his haste to convince her that this marriage couldn't happen.

"WHAT????" Anjali's yell resounded in the room, almost echoing in its intensity. THEY LOVED EACH OTHER????? HOW?? WHEN?? She was dying of curiosity. And there was Rahul waiting for his bride downstairs!!!

Armaan and Riddhima almost didn't hear Anjali in the intense eye-lock session they were sharing at the moment. Armaan's eyes were pleading with her to stop this wedding and Riddhima closed her eyes in pain. She could not betray Rahul's friendship. He was building high hopes for this marriage. How could she break his heart again? Armaan's heart was skipping rapidly and he breathed deeply to control the feelings of anger, disappointment and love.

Riddhima took his hands off her shoulders and walked a few steps back. "Armaan..please..please understand. I can't betray Rahul. He has helped me so much in the past month. When I was crying over you, he was my only refuge. He helped me to get through the day without you. And he..and he.." Riddhima's voice was breaking with emotion. "and he really wants this marriage to work.."

"But Riddhima why don't you understand, a marriage without love can never be successful. You could never love him the way you love me," Armaan was confident about Riddhima's love. He now realized that her every action had been coloured by her love for him, even though he had been an utter moron to not recognize that fact before.

Riddhima turned away from him. "Please Armaan. We cannot be together. I guess..I guess it was never written in our destiny. We are just not meant for each other." She could feel the tears that she had been holding onto fall down freely.

"I'll talk to Rahul Riddhima. I can't lose you again. You can sacrifice yourself, but you can't sacrifice our love. I won't let you."

Armaan turned around to leave the room only to stop helplessly at Riddhima's shout. "Stop Armaan, Tumko meri kasam!!!"

"Riddhima please don't..."

"Armaan, if you really love me..you won't tell him anything.." Her gaze pouring into his, Riddhima said firmly. She had to do this for Rahul. After all, he had done so much for her.

While this was going on, Anjali realized what she had to do. She needed no further explanation as to what was going on, not that she was getting one from these two. It was obvious that her sister loved Armaan very much who returned that love in equal measure. And she could not let Riddhima sacrifice her life and love for a compromise of a marriage. And if Riddhima would stop Armaan from telling Rahul, she would tell him herself. She quietly exited the room while the two lovers engaged in the intense eye lock.

Armaan felt his vision blur with tears. He looked away from her to wipe his eyes. Riddhima too wiped away her tears. Armaan moved closer to Riddhima again.

"Riddhima, please won't you rethink this? My whole life depends on you, just as I know that your life is me."

"Armaan, please..It's too late. You and I aren't meant to be. I should've realized that the moment I fell in love with a married man. I should've realized that my love was forbidden."

Riddhima felt the sudden urge to tell him everything. All the things she had hidden from him for the past 2.5 years. Because from this moment on, she would never be able to be with him again. Because in a couple of minutes, she would belong to someone else. She walked over to the window to stare out as she shared the ultimate truth of her life with the man she loved.

"Armaan, I fell in love with you the moment I opened the door and saw you standing infront of it. In that moment, I felt like I had lived a hundred lifetimes with you. You were the one for me. The one I had been waiting for all my life." Then Riddhima gave a helpless shrug. "I had no idea that you were married.
When I realized how much you were in love with your wife and what a wonderful woman she was, I forced myself to forget my love. But as you can see, I was not very successful." She gave an ironic smile. "You have no idea how your every smile, your every word and every touch affected me. But please don't think I was ever jealous of you and Nikita. I was envious yes. But I knew that God had made a perfect couple in you. Though, I still could not help but love you. When Nikita passed away, all I could think of was making you and Sunny better again. As time went on, we became really close friends and I had persuaded myself to be happy with just your friendship. I never expected anything more from you." Taking a deep breath, Riddhima turned to face Armaan again. "And knowing that you love me too, it has been the best gift that God has ever bestowed upon me."

Armaan was overwhelmed with her love. Though from Nikki's diary, Armaan had gotten a feeling of Riddhima's love for him, he had no idea as to the extent of her love. He felt humbled by her words. And very very blessed. He went up to her and cupped her face.

"That's why I am telling you Riddhima. God has given this gift of love for the both of us. How can we just forget about it?"

Riddhima took his hands off her face. "It just has to be this way Armaan. I have to marry Rahul. He has done so much for me." She sighed defeatedly.

"But I don't want to marry you!" A voice came from the door. Both Armaan and Riddhima looked in that direction in shock. There stood a somber Rahul, in groom's attire, accompanied by a silent Anjali.

"Rahul..what..what are you saying?" Riddhima asked flabbergasted.

"Riddhima, how could you even for a second think that I would come in between you two? I know how much you love Armaan and his family. And Anjali just told me that Armaan returns your love as well, so how could you even dare to think about sacrificing yourself for me? You will only be disgracing our friendship Riddhima. I have always only wanted your happiness. And Armaan is your happiness, no doubt about it."

While relieved tears fell from Riddhima's eyes at Rahul's declaration Armaan looked at Anjali with gratitude. He silently thanked her through his eyes who smiled back at him.

"Rahul, you really mean that??" It sounded too good to be true to Riddhima. Rahul realized that only actions would convince her. He took her hand and brought her to Armaan to place her hand in his.

"There..see..I really really mean that!!!" Rahul grinned. Armaan and Riddhima's happiness knew no bounds. They finally could be together. Armaan hugged Riddhima again, bringing her close to his heart while Riddhima went into his arms to relive her heaven again.

"Armaan, just imagine when we tell mommiji and Sunny. Oh they'll be so excited!!!!" Riddhima offered happily,her heartbeat skipping a mile a minute while Armaan agreed with a laugh. She had already started dreaming about the perfect life she'd spend with the Malik family. After they broke off the hug, Armaan shook Rhaul's hand.

"Thanks man. I owe you so much. And thank you so much for taking care of Riddhima for me.." Armaan offered.

Rahul, giving a pat on the shoulder to Armaan, said "It was my duty man. But remember, if you'd ever hurt her, you'll have to answer to me. Her big brother."
Though everyone laughed at his comment, Armaan indicated that he had perceived the threat that Rahul posed with a nod of his head. Riddhima went to hug Anjali thanking her from the bottom of her heart.

"Thank you so much Di. If it weren't for you, this happiness wouldn't be possible. I am so glad you caught us together in the room..!!"

"Crazy girl. How come you never told me that you loved Armaan. Oh, I am soo happy for you. Just imagine, you and I married to the Malik brothers. OH it's going to be so much fun!!!" Anjali added excitedly. But Riddhima couldn't share her excitement.

"But Di, momma and papa. Would they agree?" Armaan came to stand next to her and held her hand. He shared her fear. Would Padma and Shashank accept a widower with a son for their youngest daughter?

"Riddhima, don't worry. I'll take care of it." Anjali offered.

"And I'll help!! Remember, your mom really likes me.."Rahul teased and everyone burst out laughing again.

"Ok, then let's go!" Armaan said starting to walk out the door with Riddhima's hand in his.

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"Shashank, should I go up and see what's going on? Why did Anjali just take Rahul up there just like that?" Padma asked worried. Everyone was waiting for the bride and the groom. The tense atmosphere was getting to the parents as well as the guests who were gathered there. Sunita stood next to Shashank and Padma holding Sunny in her arms, who was gleefully biting into a laddoo. She very well knew why Rahul went up there and thus waited anxiously for them to come
down.

"Oh there they come," someone yelled out and everyone looked up to see the foursome descending down the stairs. Anjali and Rahul walked infront while the other two lagged behind. Instead of going to the mandap, they walked upto where the parents were standing and Padma's worrying level went up a notch.

"What took you so long? The auspicious time is getting close. Please go sit on the mandap." Shashank ordered to Rahul and Riddhima.

"Auntiji. A wedding won't happen today. At least not mine and Riddhima's." Rahul said and Padma and Shashank could feel their hearts drop to the stomach.

"What..what do you mean?" Padma asked in a wavering voice.

Rahul and Anjali moved away to reveal the entangled hands of the couple behind them. Everyone felt their jaws drop to the floor. There was absolute silence everywhere. Padma and Shashank looked up at Riddhima and Armaan in shock. Sunita however, sent a prayer heavenwards thanking for uniting the lovers. She sent Riddhima a wink and Riddhima couldn't help the smile that escaped her lips even in this tense moment. She absolutely adored that woman!!

"Riddhima what's going on???" the shrill in Padma's voice drained every bit of Riddhima's courage. She clutched Armaan's hand even more tightly.

"Momma listen.." started Anjali, only to be interrupted by Shashank's stern voice. "Not you Anjali. We want to know from Riddhima's mouth. What is she doing holding hands with another man when she is supposed to marry Rahul??"

Riddhima cowered at shashank's tone. uhoh..this is going even worse than she thought. Armaan rubbed the top of her hand to ease her nervousness, which probably helped to calm him down too. He realized that this was a battle that they needed to fight themselves.

"Sir, I love your daughter. And she loves me. And with your permission.."

"Love my daughter??..What are you saying Armaan? And don't you think you should've thought twice about falling in love with my daughter especially with your family background? You were married before and has a son from that marriage. You never thought how that would affect my daughter's life??"

"Papa, how can you say that? Don't you know that I love Sunny like my own!! I would consider him my own son even if Armaan never marries me! Armaan and Sunny are my life!!" Riddhima finally got the courage to face her parents. It was probably because her father's attack on Sunny and Armaan. She could never bear her loved ones being hurt, even if it was coming from her own family!

"Marry you..Papa wants to marry you Riddhi???" an excited child's voice made them all turn to stare at Sunny. He got down from Sunita's hands ran to Riddhima and Armaan. Armaan bent down to pick him up but Sunny moved past him to Riddhima's hands. "Riddhi, that means you'll be my new mommy? My friend Sameer says he got a new mommy when his dad married again!!!!" Riddhima smiled at his excitement.

"Yes baby. That means I'll be your new mommy. Will you call me mommy?" she ruffled Sunny's hair.

"Oh I can't wait. Can Papa marry you now? I always tell God in my prayers to make you my new mommy. And when you are my mommy, you won't ever leave me again right??? Oh please papa, please marry Riddhi now!!" he clung on to Riddhima. Everyone laughed at his enthusiasm except Padma and Shashank. Looking at their unconvinced faces, Sunita knew now it was her turn to speak.

"Padmaji. The time that Riddhima had spent with us made me love her like my own daughter. As you can see, Riddhima loves Armaan and Sunny. I understand your worries and your dreams for your daughter. But I think all those dreams would include in-laws who love her like their own, a husband who adores her and children that revere her. I promise you at our home, she will get all that. In fact, I can tell you now, our lives had come to centre around Riddhima. The past month that she wasn't with us made us realized the extent to which we all loved Riddhima. Please give your permission for their union." she begged from Padma and Shashank.

Sunita was right, they realized. As parents, all Padma and Shashank had wanted for their daughters were what Sunita had just described. Their eldest daughter had received
that love and care of from the Maliks. Thus, there was no doubt that their younger daughter would be treated any differently. In fact, they had known of the bond that Riddhima had shared with each of the Maliks. They were shocked that Armaan and Riddhima loved each other. That must've been why they had
reacted this way. Otherwise, there really wasn't anything wrong with Armaan. Shashank and Padma looked at each other with understanding, both reaching the same conclusion. Shashank nodded his head at Riddhima and Armaan.

"Yes..you have our blessings beta. May you live a happy long life!"

Everyone whooped in delight. Rahul jumped high into the air in excitement. Though, Armaan wanted to do the same, he contained himself. He looked at Riddhima, who stared back at him in joy. Finally. Finally all her dreams were coming true. Thank you God. The faith that she had once lost was slowly returning. Armaan and Riddhima both bent down and touched her parents' feet to get blessings, who wished them warmheartedly. Then they moved forward to Sunita who was crowing with happiness. She gave long and tight hugs to both Armaan and Riddhima, wishing them a very happy future together. Armaan and Riddhima were going to move to get blessings from other elders when suddenly Rahul shouted out.

"Guys, don't waste time. The auspicious time is here. Let's get you two married!!"

That had set off a beehive of activities. Everyone gathered around excitedly. They made Riddhima and Armaan sit down on the mandap. Anjali and Rahul kept teasing them which made Riddhima red in the face. Sunny refused to leave them, so Armaan made him sit on his lap. With the blessings on everyone, all the rituals were performed grandly. Riddhima
couldn't help but shed a hidden tear as they were taking the pheras. When she had fallen in love and gone through her first heartbreak, she had never imagined that her love will culminate in this. She felt utterly blessed. Armaan, probably realizing her emotions, captured her hand and held it through the rest of the pheras. As they were continuing on with the ceremony, not forgetting her duties, Riddhima sent a prayer of thanks to Nikita, promising to take care of her family forever.

Finally it was done. She was officially married to her love, Armaan. Her mangalsutra and the sindoor on her forehead were the evidence of that. When the priest had announced that now they were man and wife, the first thing that happened was Sunny running to her saying "Mommy!!!!" Riddhima hugged him with all the overwhelming emotions crowding her heart. God, finally..She heaved a heavy but happy sigh looking forward to a new future. Sunny in her arms, she looked at Armaan, who put a hand around them and kissed both Sunny and Riddhima's forehead. "Our family!" he said. Then everyone was giving blessings and best wishes. There wasn't a soul at the house who weren't genuinly happy for this newly married couple.

Amidst all this, a harried Atul ran into the room. He had been sent on an errand before and he had only now reached. He ran to Anjali. "Anjali what did I miss?"

"Riddhima and Rahul didn't get married!"

"WHAT???"

"Armaan and Riddhima love each other!"

"WHAT???"

"Armaan and Riddhima got married!!"

"WHAT???"

Anjali let out a giggle at Atul's shocked expression, along with everyone else.

Hiranya

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