Wednesday, 14 February 2018

part 18 : It all Depends on Love(AR)



"I love you Riddhima." Abhi said snatching her hand and laying her palm on his cheek.

"I don't need your love." She withdrew her hand and pushed him away.

"But I do." Abhi said fiercely taking hold of her shoulders "I need your love."


Her eyes sparking… she tried to break his grip but he pulled her tightly against him.. she turned her head aside to evade his kiss

"No" she snapped, the rest of her furious protest stifled as his suffocating mouth came down on hers.

"Take your hands off my wife" Armaan's voice slashed into the room

Riddhima staggered as Abhimanyu let her go… She felt sick and was trembling… her heart plummeted with dismay as she saw the expression on Armaan's face… She could imagine how the scene must have looked from the doorway…

Armaan didn't move from where he stood, yet even his stillness seemed a threat. A nerve jumped in his lean jaw and his eyes held a murderous glint as they remained fixed on Abhimanyu.

"Get out of here." He ordered

Abhi's hand nervously stole to his collar and he said "I was the one Riddhima should have married… but don't worry she'll come back to me."

The reply was ill advised. Armaan waited till he went to pass him, then his hand shot out. Slamming Abhi against the door frame, he warned "Set foot in this house again and I'll kill you."

"Armaan stop it." Riddhima broke in

His gaze swung to her before returning to Abhimanyu. Armaan's lips curled sarcastically. He stepped back allowing Abhi to go free and the front door banged seconds later.

In the throbbing silence Armaan studied Riddhima with hard eyes that held chilly glint. The anger and contempt in his eyes set her heart beating unevenly

"It's not what you think." She began at once.

"You don't know what I think" he bit back angrily "Not yet."

"Yes, I do. It was written all over your face when you came in and saw………."

"You and your ex-lover's intimate scene?" He cut in "evidently I came home earlier than you expected."

His sarcasm was like a knife thrust. Suddenly she was angry too, angry and hurt… How dared Armaan condemn her so swiftly for something she hadn't done when, if her sister was telling the truth, he was the one who dealt in deceit?

"Just what are you accusing me of?" she burst out " I know how it must have looked when you walked in but I can explain."

"Why don't you, then?" he suggested gritting his teeth

"What's the use?" She cried bitterly, she made to turn away but he caught hold of her. "Let go of me. You are not interested in what really happened, only in confirming your suspicions."

"Don't act innocent with me." He said "Are you going to tell me you didn't invite him in, you didn't offer him a drink? He wasn't kissing you?"

"That's right, he was kissing me." She answered "but I didn't invite him in… the front door was open."

"What kind of fool do you take me for?" Armaan exploded, gripping her by the shoulders

"I don't have to appologise for something I haven't done." She declared

The tone of her voice convinced Armaan a bit. He released his grip on her. His jaw was still tight and he said with cold toneless voice "Don't ever let me come in and find you with your ex- lover again. If you do I am liable to break every bone in you beautiful little body."

"Was that why you married me, for my beautiful little body?" she flung at him "At least I am not a liar lie you."

"Meaning?" he snapped

"Meaning…" She broke off, her heart thumping painfully. She clenched her fingers into her alms as she said haltingly " Were you and Niki lovers?"

"No" he answered, but he said it just a split second too late for it to ring true.

Tears stung her eyes

"Who told you we were lovers?" he demanded harshly

"What does it matter who told me?" she cried "what matters is that it's true, that you are lying to me."

He swore under his breath"I have never lied to you." He stated controlling his anger

He reached for her but she shied away

"Not when you said you loved me?" she countered fiercely "Not when you said you and Niki were friends, nothing more?"

"Riddhima, Listen"
He caught hold of her arm but she retreated from him as though she couldn't bear to have him touch her.

"Listen to what?" she hissed "more lies?"

She turned around but he spun her back to face him. He looked as if he was sorely tempered to shake her "For God's sake Riddhima……" he halted mid-sentence as his phone started ringing

"I'll talk to you later muski… I am" he answered the phone "ok I'll tell her bye."

"I was saying……" he said after disconnecting the call and Riddhima interrupted

"I don't want to know… We made a contract of six months marriage… and this marriage will get over after that."

Alone Riddhima sat with her face buried in her hands, fighting the tears that welled up inside her. She thought of Armaan and her sister together and curled her nails into her palms against the sharp uprise of anguish and then as she wondered if he had thought of Niki every time he'd made love to her.

Why, why had she let herself love him? How could she have been such a fool as to place her happiness in a man like Armaan? Had she learned nothing from the past? Twice now she had let her heart rule her head and twice she had been betrayed.

Armaan had proposed to her because the woman he wanted was not ready for the commitment and because in order to entertain he needed a wife. She was nothing more than a substitute

She sprang to her feet. She had no intention of continuing to live in the same house with a man who didn't love her. She got as far as the door of her bedroom before her heart started to pound. Without Armaan there would always be this ache of incompleteness tearing her apart

Surely the pain of staying was better than the agony she would suffer if she walked out. If Armaan really loved her sister, wouldn't he have waited for her? The thought lent her courage. Instead of waiting he had chosen to marry Riddhima, perhaps in time he would come to love her

Her next thought steadied her. Armaan had said once that he had believed in commitment. He wouldn't have married her ih he'd had doubts about their marriage lasting, she told herself. She remembered all the passionate moments they had shared. They had to mean something… THEY HAD TO.

The trouble was that, while she loved Armaan desperately enough to swallow her pride to stay and work at her marriage against all the odds, anger kept intervening. Perhaps if she'd been less fiery she could have accepted that she was second best. But was it in her nature to wait patiently in the hope that maybe some day he would discover that he truly loved her, that she was first in his heart after all?

When she had pulled herself together she went into the hall. She had two choices First: to accept her marriage as it was Second: to walk out because she couldn't accept that it wasn't as perfect as it had seemed. Either from realism or love she had decided on the former.

She went into the kitchen then stopped as she saw Armaan. He had changed out of his business suit and was wearing jeans and T-shirt which made her very conscious of the breadth of his chest.

"Where is Sarah?" she asked

"She is not feeling well so I asked her to take rest and I didn't think you'd feel like cooking this evening either." He answered evenly

"I don't." she agreed "but I'll prepare dinner anyway."

"You don't have to. It's already in hand. I'll have it ready in about twenty minutes."

Feeling out of place in the kitchen when there was nothing for her to do. Riddhima went into the dinning room

They ate their meal in silence. The pasta Armaan had cooked was delicious but romance in her relationship with Armaan had shattered, the atmosphere of the dining room was so tensed that Riddhima had to force her food down.

She made the coffee, aware of Armaan's gaze on her as she poured it out. Briefly she raised her eyes to his, passing his cup to him. The tension in the air flared and her hand began to shake so that the cup rattled in its saucer.

With a mirthless smile Armaan took it from her
"Why so upset?" he asked

"You know damned well why I am upset." She sparked

"Because of Abhimanyu modi?" he asked softly

"No, not because of Abhi, because……." She broke off

"Go on." He ordered

"She felt too drained and too hurt to want to discuss their marriage "Can we please change the subject."

"Sure" He replied sarcastically "Muskaan called to say Niki will leave for US tomorrow morning and tonight she will be staying at Muski's place."

"Ok."

"I was hoping" he said smiling sarcastically "you might be able to come up with some kind of explanation as to what was going on here when I came home this evening."

"I tried to give you an explanation. You weren't prepared to listen."

"I am prepared to listen now
But he sounded hard and impossible to convince. She got up and as she headed for the door, he asked her in a polite voice "I am waiting for an answer."

"What exactly is there to say?"
Her bitter question remained unanswered as she left the room

************


The rift between them was one which remained unhealed. Riddhima was glad that her business kept her so fully occupied. At least at the office she could forget for a while the pressure her marriage was under. There was no repetition of their furious row. After few days, completely out of the blue, Rahul phoned her.

"I was just wondering how my newly married sis is getting on." He'd begun "How's married life going?"

"Everything is just fine with me." She lied "tell me about your self… How are things with you?"

"I have got a half term holiday coming up this week end… I thought I might come and spend it with you… if you'll agree to have me, that is. I have decided may be I was a bit hasty. I should at least meet this new husband of your's before I make up my mind about him. Even if he is a Mallik. What do you say sis… will you let me spend a sometime with you and your husband"

"Of course I'd be delighted to see you." The sentiment was true, but she's had her reservations. "but don't feel you have to come rushing down here at your half term if you have got better things to do. There is plenty of time for you to meet Armaan."

But he had obviously made his mind " No, I want to come" then he added, misinterpreting her hesitation "Unless you don't want to see me, of course."

That was the last thing she wanted him to think "It's not like that, idiot." She protested "of course I want to see you, Rahul. It's just that I thought you might have something more exciting lined up with your friends. I am very glad to hear you don't" she assured him "I am going to get your room ready this very afternoon."

As she laid down the phone, she smiled wryly to herself. In this particular instance, getting spare room ready would involve a little more than simply putting clean sheets on the bed. She would have to empty the cupboards and drawers and move out all her things.

For the past 3 days, since their disastrous fight. Riddhima had adopted the spare room. Not only did she sleep there, with the door locked, at night, she also frequently retired to its peaceful seclusion with a book in the evenings when Armaan was at home. It was an arrangement, she suspected, that suited him as much as her.


"We can take the sofa-bed into my room. ' Armaan suggested when Riddhima raised the subject. "No one but ourselves need to know that we are not in fact sleeping on the same bed."

Even sleeping in the same room sounded risky to Riddhima, though she could think of no better solution herself. She nodded vaguely, avoiding his eyes.

But as usual Armaan read her mind "Don't worry." His tone stiff with sarcasm. "I am not going to force myself on you."

That's nice to know." She snapped

The first couple of nights of Rahul's stay, Riddhima lay wide-eyed and sleepless in the big double bed and listened to the gentle rhythms of his breathing as he slept peacefully on the sofa-bed. No matter how hard she tried to bolt him from her consciousness, her senses were all too aware of the vibrant, half naked male presence lying just a few feet away from her.

Before Rahul's arrival Riddhima had worried that the tension in the house is already high and might rise unbearably with the addition of her brother. But, contrary to all her fears, Rahul's arrival on the scene had brought out in Armaan yet another new and unsuspected side. He had gone to considerable trouble to keep his young guest occupied and amused.

"I take back everything I have ever said about him and the Malliks, Sis… He is great I am really going to enjoy having him as a brother in law." Rahul confided at the end of his first day.

Riddhima smiled tightly and glanced away, aware of a new weight pressing on her now. For suddenly she realized that when it came to explaining the divorce to her brother in just under five months' time… She's not going to have an easy task on her hands

************


As usual, she had lain awake for ours, her brain tensed with seemingly insoluble problems. Then at last she had drifted off, only to be seized by an overwhelming terror, like some demon is chasing her. Next thing she was sitting up in the bed, her body soaked in a lather of sweat, panting, her fingers clutching at the bedclothes, dimly aware that she was crying out.

"hey what's up, baby? Relax you are safe." A warm, reassuring arm was stealing round her shoulder, drawing her shivering body against a broad and comforting chest. A strong, gentle hand smoothed her sweat-tousled hair. "You are all right Riddhima." A soft voice was telling her "I am here with you. It was only a dream."

Gratefully she leaned against him. As the bedside lamp was suddenly snapped on Riddhima blinked but did not move as the safe and comforting presence at her side continued to hold her and stroke away her fear.

"Do you want me to bring you a glass of water?" Armaan enquired softly against her hair

"No" She tightened her grip impulsively on his arm, not wanting him to move away and leave her

"Do you want to tell me what the dream was about? The best way to drive a nightmare from your mind is simply to talk about it."

Riddhima stole a glance at him, meeting the pair of frank, caring eyes "I can't remember. All I know is someone was chasing me and I was trying to get away. Only my legs wouldn't move. My feet felt as if they were stuck to the ground.

"A typical anxiety dream." He stroked her hair and smiled " I trust the villain wasn't me, by any chance."

"I don't think so." At the comforting note of humour in his voice. She allowed herself a smile " I am not even sure if it was a person. It was just something scary. I couldn't even see it."
Armaan drew the bed sheet around her shoulder and softly continued to stroke her hair. "You have been letting things get to you, bottling up your emotions. I have been watching you over the week and I have seen It building up."

Riddhima gave him a surprised glance

"What's the matter?" he questioned mildly "Did you believe I am blind?"

She shook her head and glanced away as he added, changing the subject" Are you sure you wouldn't like me to get you something?" A hot drink to help you sleep?"


"No thanks." She shook her head again

"OK" Armaan bent to drop a light kiss on her hair "Is it all right if I put out the light?"

Riddhima nodded as he reached out to switched off the lamp, then stiffened as she felt him slide from the bed. Involuntarily she tightened her grip on his arm. " but don't leave me, Armaan. Not just yet."

He paused "I'll stay as long as you like, but I hope you don't object if I join you underneath the covers. It's a little e bit chilly out here." Then, when she didn't object, he pulled the sheet back and slid alongside her. His body warm as he pressed against her, gathering her more fully into his arms.

With a low satisfied moan Riddhima snuggled closer, her soft body moulding to his, her head cushioned against one muscular shoulder as she slipped one arm around his waist.

"Goodnight." She heard him whisper "sleep now, sweetheart."

"Goodnight." She murmured.

By the time she awoke next morning, feeling fresh after the best sleep she'd had in last few days. Riddhima was once more alone in the big, warm double bed.

With a twinge of disappointment to discover Armaan already gone, she sat up and stretched, then suddenly caught sight of the wrapped package on the end of the bed. She paused and blinked. It was the package that contained night dress he had brought in Paris and which she had believed was destined for Anjali.

One peep inside confirmed that she was right. A little uneasily she laid it aside. "What was this gesture supposed to mean?"

Anita

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