Monday, 14 June 2021

part 3 : Forbidden Love

As planned, Riddhima joined Atul and Anjali on the trip back to Mumbai. They arrived late in the evening, all tired and exhausted. There was only Sunita and Sunny to greet them. Nikita had to be at the hospital and Armaan was out of town for a week. The latter news relieved a huge burden off Riddhima's shoulders. She had been petrified about meeting with Armaan again. But now, she had a whole week to prepare for it. Riddhima was shown in to a beautiful guest bedroom that was adjacent to Atul and Anjali's room. It was decorated with intricate designs of pink and white, a favourite colour combination of hers. She was awed at the beauty of the room. Whoever the interior designer was, she/he had good taste. She quickly unpacked her suitcase. She hadn't brought much stuff, only because she is planning to return as soon as possible. She took a quick shower and got dressed in simple white t-shirt and capris. After checking the effect on the mirror, she went to join the rest downstairs. Sunita was preparing dinner with a servant. Atul and Anjali had not come downstairs yet. Riddhima took blessings from Sunita.


"God Bless you beta!" Sunita replied giving a pat on her head.

"Do you need any help aunty?" Riddhima questioned as she didn't have anything else to do.

"No beta. I think everything is taken care of. Why don't you go and join Sunny till Anjali and Atul come down. He's in the family room" Sunita commented.

Nodding at her suggestion, Riddhima went to see Sunny, who was playing with a soccer ball in the family room.

"Hey Mr. Sunny Malik, how's life?" Riddhima smiled at the second love of her life.

"RIDDHI!!!! You're here already." Sunny ran to give Riddhima a hug. He calls her Riddhi now. Actually, it had started with Riddhima didi, but apparently that had been a mouthful for the 4 year old during the wedding. He tried to shorten it to Riddhi di, but now it had just become Riddhi. She didn't mind. She absolutely adored the kid. Whatever he said or did only made her love him even more.

"I wanted to come and see you before. But dadi said to let you rest. So I listened to her," Sunny added his mouth wide open with a dimpled smile.

"You are a very good boy Sunny.I'm very proud of you. So tell me what are you doing?" Riddhima said returning the hug.

"I was trying to play soccer. Papa got me this ball and promised to teach me how to play. But I wanted to learn a little before he got home and surprise him. Can you teach me?" Sunny replied.

"Sure baby. But I'm not very good it. Is that ok?" Riddhima added.

"Of course its ok Riddhi. My mama says that you should try things even if you are not good at them. Only then can you practice and become better at it," Sunny said mimicking Nikita.

Riddhima smiled, "She is absolutely right. So let's play." They played soccer, kicking the ball around the family room. It was a very spacious and kid-friendly room. There were no expensive or easily breakable things lying around. Really, is there anything in this house that is not perfect? Sunny of course very much enjoyed her attempts at teaching him soccer. Actually, she's not good at the sport at all, but tried her best. After a while, they both gave up, laughing at each other's futile attempts at scoring a goal. They decided to play snake and ladder next, Sunny winning while Riddhima, who hasn't touched a
board game in a long long time, accepting defeat.

"So, Riddhi, when are you getting married?" Sunny asked all of a sudden. "I heard Dadi say to Anjali chachi that its time for your mommy papa to get you married."

Riddhima stopped smiling. A knot had formed in the back of her throat preventing her from speaking. Not sunita aunty too. Why does everyone want to get her married off? She tried to laugh it off, "I don't know Sunny. Maybe when I find someone special."

"Someone special? How can you tell if someone is special?" Sunny questioned. Sunny really liked Riddhi. She talked to him as an adult and never tried to say things like its grownup stuff or its complicated when he asked her questions.

"hmm..someone special..someone becomes special when you love them," she answered.

"So, how do you know if you love that someone?" Sunny continued.

"Well, they make you feel special too. They make you laugh. They listen to everything you say and respect you. When you spend time together, you always have fun. I guess thats how you know you love someone," Riddhima explained.

Sunny took a moment to process everything she said. Riddhima can actually see his face deep in thought. He was such an intelligent boy. He took a great interest in the world around him and tried to explain things to suit his understanding. Sunny's face brightened suddenly, as if a brilliant idea occured to him.

"We always have fun when we spend time together, right? And I always make you laugh?" Sunny asked.

"Of course sunny," Riddhima added.

"And I always listen to everything you say and I respect you a lot too," he continued.

"yea baby," Riddhima wondered where he was going with this.

"So that means you love me right?" Sunny added. Ahh..it all made sense to Riddhima now. He's just asking if she loved him.

"hahaha..of course darling. I love you. I love you a lot," Riddhima gave him a quick hug.

"So, marry me!" Sunny said suprising her.

"marry you?" Riddhima laughed.

"Ya! You said you'll marry someone special. And you said someone becomes special when you love them. And since you love me, marry me! I am small still, but when I am 10 (Showing the fingers on both his hands), I will be all grown up and we can marry. You just have to wait for me" Sunny added with a very serious face.

She wondered at the logic of the 5 year old. aww.. he is soo cute. Riddhima heard laughter coming from the doorway. She turned around to see Atul, Anjali, Sunita and Nikita at the door, laughing at the declaration of Sunny. She joined them. When the laughter died down, Riddhima knelt infront of Sunny.

"So Sunny, are you very serious about marrying me?" Riddhima asked turning her face serious. Sunny nodded.

"Ok, I will marry you. But on one condition, Promise me that you'll always be with me. And you won't look at another girl except me. And you won't talk to other girls too," Riddhima continued.

"Ok. I will always stay with you. but..umm..Riddhi, is it really important to not talk or look at other girls if I want to marry you? Coz there is asha and priya in my class. They are really pretty. And always smell really nice. Can I not even talk to them?" Sunny pouted.

"HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA" everyone burst out laughing again. Really, this kid is a piece of work.

"Badmash, totally taken after his father. He was a flirt too before he met me. Actually, still is but now he only flirts with me" Nikita added, laughing while a grimace pass through Riddhima's heart.

"yea, I remember. Armaan was such a shaitan and gave sunny all those qualities. Imagine, flirting in kindergarden!!!," Sunita said. Everyone again started laughing. .

"so, my daughter-in-law-to-be, How are you?" Nikita greeted Riddhima with a hug.

"Hahaha. I am absolutely alright, how are you?" Riddhima returned the hug. And things returned to normal. Nikita was a very good hostess and knew how to put everyone at ease. Indeed, it was very hard to be formal around her or keep your distance. She made Riddhima feel like part of the family. And the rest of the night passed in talks and laughter, mainly induced by Sunny's antics. Even mentions of Armaan did not bother her as much that night. Sunny, true to his promise, stayed at Riddhima's side for the duration of the night.
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5 days later...
Riddhima had started working at Glitter Inc. 4 days ago. She had met with Rohan the day after her arrival in Mumbai, accompanied by Atul. As Rohan had explained the details of his company, he had made her very curious and interested in her potential position. It was an upcoming business and he had aspirations to reach for the top. When ROhan had asked for her decision about the job, hiding the real reason behind her not wanting to take the it, she expressed her apprehensions as being living away from her family and working in a field she had no experience in. Rohan and Atul had pressed her to give it a try. Atul mentioned that the Maliks are like her family and Rohan had no problem with her inexperience, invalidating all her reasons. But keeping her options open, she had asked Rohan to given her a week's trial, to which he had readily agreed. If Riddhima had any suspicions on this behaviour, she did not give them much thought. All her concerns revolved around living in the same house as Armaan because she knew that there was no way that her family would allow her to live on her own. The trial had been her way of getting the chance to say no to the job after a week, before Armaan returned.

But now, she had a bit of a problem. After working at Glitter Inc. these last few days she absolutely adored her job. Her co-workers were great, very helpful and patient with her inexperience. She had already made new friends. Rohan was a great boss too, always providing guidance whenever she needed. If anyone had any questions about her being given a high position as director or marketing with herlack of employment history, no one asked them out loud. Now, she had gotten the knack of it and even brainstormed some marketing ideas for few products with her team. She had found a niche for herself and she had been very happy. But now, she did not what to do. On one side, there was her new job, which had made her very happy and given her a sense of pride. And on the other
hand was Armaan, who can never be hers. But she loved him to death. so why should she torture herself with being around him, living at the same house as him? Debating between these two, she was very conflicted.

It was 1 o'clock in the night now, and she had been tossing and turning since the moment she went to bed. She realized that the time till Armaan's return is coming closer. During the past few days, all Sunny could talk about is his papa's return. Whenever, Riddhima played with him after she came back from work, sunny's words always revolved around Armaan. Papa is like this. Papa says this. I want to be just like papa when I grow up. surprisingly, Sunny talking about
Armaan did not bother her. If it was someone else, her heart always stopped beating when they mentioned his name. But with Sunny, she liked hearing about Armaan. He showed a beautiful aspect to Armaan's character, his role as a father, that it only made Riddhima love Armaan even more. But she could not imagine how she would behave around him if she was to live with him. Since she had not spent prolonged period of time with him, what should she do when she was around him 24/7? But she also loved her job. Should she quit that just so she wont have face Armaan?? ughhh...why does life have to be soo complicated!!!,Riddhima asked herself.

Finally, giving up on sleep, she went downstairs to the kitchen to get some warm milk. Padma swore by the effects of Warm milk in giving you a good night's sleep. So she's gonna have to trust her mother. Riddhima slowly descended down the stairs, turning on the light as she felt her way through. Just when she was turning towards the kitchen, she heard a noise. Being deathly afraid of sounds in the dark, she stopped, rooted on the spot. There she heard it again..a
sort of a scratching noise. something being pulled on some surface..yikes, someone is breathing..there is someone in the kitchen, Riddhima thought with terror. But who could be there? Everyone is alseep by now. And if it was a family member, why didn't they have the light turned on in the kitchen..Riddhima pushed herself back on the wall on the other side of the kichen and took a deep breath. She looked for a weapon of sorts and spotted Sunny's bat lying on the floor a few feet away. She slowly crept towards the bat and picked it up with both her hands. She might look small and fragile but when threatened she could beat the hell outta people.

Keeping the bat infront of her, Riddhima slowly walked towards the kitchen looking for the intruder. Stopping at the doorway, she
tried to figure out the layout of the kichten and the location of the intruder without turning on the lights. There, he's doing something inside the fridge! The bright light coming from the fridge showed a silouette of a guy, bending down with his head inside the fridge. She held the bat high, and smacked the guy on his back!

"AHHHH!!!!!!!!" the guy jumped out of the fridge turning towards his attacker. Riddhima, now afraid the bat hadn't done him much damage, ran screaming towards the entrance of the kitchen to turn on the lights.

"Armaan!!!" now that the lights illuminated the room, Riddhima could see the frowning face of Armaan rubbing his back glaring at her. Then when he realized that his attacker was Riddhima, he started laughing.

"what..why..but..u..here?..but it hasnt been a week!" Riddhima accused him with embarrassment flooding though her.

Dear God, she had hit Armaan. Her Armaan!!! Oh no, did she hit him really hard? Is he really hurt? And the next thought that came to her head was she's standing in her nightie!!!! OMG..she whole face turned bright red and she could feel her ears burning. Oh plz ground, open up and swollow me RIGHT NOW! Riddhima pleaded. Armaan still hasn't gotten over his fit of laughter. He just kept pointing at her, the bat (which she had thrown on the ground when she ran towards the light switch), himself and at her again and kept laughing. Finally Riddhima found her voice.

"I'm sorrry. I didn't realize it was you. I heard some noise and thought there was a thief or.."

"A thief?? You thought there was a thief in this highly secured house? HAHAHAHHAHA.. And even if there was, you think that bat could've protected you from him???" Armaan continued laughing pointing at the bat. "It's plastic you know," Armaan added with even more laughter.

After that realization struck, Riddhima was started yelling  at herself for being a fool, (really, in her head). Of course the Malik Mansion is highly secured. There was a security camera system and a watchman on guard 24/7. But at the panicking moment, it never occurred to her. Now she felt like an idiot. The stupidest of them all...ugh..n oh great!!to top it all, she had to make herself look like a fool infront of Armaan!! Nice, Riddhima can just guess what kind of impression he
had of her by now. As it is, she never uttered more than few syllables in front of him. And now this. Oh, why isn't this floor opening up??? I wanna disappear now!!! Riddhima's mind screamed. She tried apologizing again.

"I'm sorry Armaan. I panicked and I never thought about the security. You are right, if it was an actual thief, I'd be in real trouble by now," She put hesitantly. Armaan noticed the shamed look on her face and took pity on the kid.

"It's ok Riddhima, it happens. Dont think too much on it. And I'm sorry about the laughing. You just really took me by surprise. But hey thanks. That laughter was a really good welcome home gift," Armaan smiled.

"Oh yea, speaking of which, how come you are home early? I mean Sunny said you won't be back till the end of the week," she questioned.

"Well, I missed everyone soo much. So I finished everything early and came back. And I didn't want to wake anyone up. That's why I didn't have the lights on downstairs and the kitchen. And I was hungry, so tried to raid the fridge" Armaan winked. His explanation brought another round of red faces and burning ears for Riddhima.

"I feel so embarassed. I didn't hurt you anything, did I?" she asked looking at the floor. Armaan lifted her face up with his index finger. Riddhima felt chills run through her body at this simple touch.

"Please don't be embarassed. And no, you didn't hurt me. I mean it was a plastic bat and all, but even if it was a real one, Im sure it can't do me much harm. I have back muscles that run for miles!" Armaan teased making Riddhima smile.

"So Riddhima, how come you're up so late?" Armaan continued the conversation. And Riddhima explained the need for warm milk. Armaan invited her to join him with her warm milk while he had food and they chatted. Riddhima told him about her work and how much she liked it and Armaan mentioned the contracts that he had gotten in Delhi, where he had been for the past few days. Then they talked about Delhi, she about her school days and him about the people, traffic and monuments etc. After a half an hour of harmonious conversation, they bid good night to each other and went to their respective rooms.

As she closed her room's door behind her, Riddhima realized that she spent the past half an hour with Armaan and it had been great. She had actually talked to him! Shared her thoughts and opinions. It had not at all been that awkward, compared to their previous interactions, and actually fun. He is a great  conversationalist and had made her opinions and inputs feel valued. She still felt a little bit of tension in his presence, but it was not unbearable. Maybe that intruder-attacker moment had broken the ice. Recollecting that brought a smile to her face. She went to bed happily as the thoughts of Armaan flitted through her mind. Maybe it won't be too bad living at the Malik Mansion, even with Armaan around. Tonight had proven that she could (almost!!) behave normally around him. And maybe even become friends with him in the future. So maybe, she won't have to quit her job. She can have her cake and eat it too! She closed her eyes with a smile on her lips and swayed into a dreamland, where she, of course, dreamt about Armaan.

Hiranya

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