Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Chapter 70 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF

 Armaan stood in front of his house, frowning.

 "Armaan, tu darwaza kholega?" Rahul asked. As planned, the gang, plus a few of Armaan's friends were sleeping over at Armaan's.

Armaan had drove himself, Abhi, Rahul, Muskaan, Neha and Sonia in his Scorpio. Riddhima and Nikki insisted that they had work to do before getting here and so they'd taken Rahul's car and would be arriving with Rakesh and Nisha, while Jai & Agastya drove themselves.

Right now, all of them, except Riddhima, Nikki, Rakesh and Nisha were standing outside Armaan's house.

"Haan, yaar, Armaan," Muskaan seconded. Her hand was firmly clasped in Rahul's, like it had been since the two had rejoined the group, almost an hour after they'd left to talk. They'd both been grinning widely and one look at their joined hands had left Nikki and Riddhima squealing for a long time. Then, it had been a flurry of hugs and kisses and tears.

"Haan, haan. Ab toh tu Rahul ki har baat maanegi na. Hum hai hi kaun tere?" Armaan joked melodramatically.

"Armaan..." Rahul warned.

"Achcha, baba. Kuch nahi bolunga main. Lekin ek problem hai," he lamented.

"Kya problem hai?" Rahul asked.

"Yaar, main chaabi laana bhool gaya," Armaan answered.

Rahul shook his head exasperatedly.

"Tere se aur kuch expect bhi nahi kar sakte," he chided.

"Haan, but, Billy aur Ananya Aunty aaye hue haina, Armaan? Tu bell baja, woh log darwaza khol denge," Muskaan suggested.

"Muskaan, woh dono ghar pe nahi hai kyuki yahaan bahaar se taala laga hua hai. Pata nahi kahaan chale gaye. Mujhe bataya bhi nahi," Armaan complained.

"Arre, kahaan jaayenge? Maybe Dr. Shashank ke ghar gaye honge," Abhi replied. "Hum sab bahaar gaye the na. Toh unhe bore ho raha hoga toh wahaan chale gaye honge."

"Nahi, yaar," Armaan replied. "Wahaan nahi hai. Maine sleepover ki baat karne phone kiya tha wahaan."

"Toh ab hum andar kaise jaayenge?" Sonia asked.

"Armaan! Flower pot ke neeche waali chaabi use karte haina! Idiot," Rahul scolded.

"Woh chaabi maine Billy ko di hai, idiot," Armaan answered. "Tujhe kya laga? Maine uske baare mein socha nahi?"

Jai and Agastya were a little surprised that Rahul knew where Armaan kept his spare key, but kept their mouth shut. After all, Armaan had been trying to set Rahul up with Muskaan for months. This wasn't a big deal after they knew that.

"Toh ab kya kare? Tune Billy ko phone kiya?" Muskaan asked.

"Haan, but unhone uthaya nahi. Pata nahi kya kar rahe hain dono," Armaan muttered.

"Hey, guys!" Nikki greeted enthusiastically as she arrived with Riddhima and Nisha in tow. Rakesh was walking a few steps behind them, his arms full of a box of cake and a few party decorations.

"Tum sab bahaar kyu khade ho?" Riddhima asked.

"No keys!" They all replied in unison.

Riddhima laughed. "Armaan, you're hopeless."

"Woh chodo. Ab kya karein?" He asked.

"Move," she answered, gesturing with her hands. Armaan obeyed silently, while everyone else looked at her confused.

"Riddhima, tujhe lock pick karna aata hai kya?" Nikki asked.

"Nahi," Riddhima answered, fishing in her clutch. A minute later, she removed a key from it.

"Aha!" She exclaimed. She turned to Armaan and smirked. "Tum bhool gaye? Mere paas bhi chaabi hai."

Armaan grinned sheepishly. "Right. Mujhe... Mujhe yaad tha. Main toh bas check kar raha tha ki tumhe yaad hai ya nahi."

Rahul, Muskaan, Nikki and Abhi guffawed at his response, knowing full well he'd forgotten, but his college friends looked shocked. They never knew Armaan could be serious enough with a girl to give her the keys to his house.

Riddhima laughed at him and opened the door, letting everyone in.

They a filed inside. The gang, already familiar with place, made themselves comfortable on the couch, while Armaan's college friends looked around.

"Your house is beautiful," Nisha declared.

"Thanks," Armaan replied.

"How about a tour?" Neha asked. "I really want to see all of it."

Riddhima frowned in her general direction, but didn't say anything. Instead, she walked to Rakesh and took the cake from his hands.

"Thanks," she told him.

"It was absolutely no problem," Rakesh replied, grinning.

"Basket, cake kyu laayi ho?" Armaan asked. "Aur, yaar, yeh Billy aur Mom kahaan hai? Main kabse phone try kar raha hu!"

"Armaan! Tum kyu unhe disturb kar rahe ho?" Riddhima asked.

"Arre, woh ghar pe hi nahi hai. Mujhe kuch bataya bhi nahi ki aaj kahin jaane wale the. Toh ab tension nahi hogi kya?" He fired back.

"Unhone nahi bataya kyuki unhe khud hi nahi pata tha," Riddhima replied. "Maine bheja hai unhe bahaar."

"Tum... Tumne? Kyu?" Armaan asked, confused.

"Armaan, tum seriously kitne useless ho!" Riddhima scolded. "Aaj unki 6 month anniversary hai."

"What?!" Armaan asked, shocked. "Really?"

"Really," Riddhima and Nikki replied in unison.

"Cake bhi unke liye hi hai," Riddhima told him. "Aur decorations bhi."

"Ohhh. Toh isliye itni preparations ho rahi hai," Armaan teased. "Mere liye toh tum kabhi nahi karti."

"Seriously, Armaan?" Riddhima asked. "Tumhaara birthday gaye 4 din bhi nahi hue hai. Woh saare surprises plan karne mein mujhe almost ek mahina laga tha."

Armaan bit his tongue. "Sorry, sorry, sorry. Main bas mazaak kar raha tha. Of course mujhe yaad hai. Kaise bhool sakta hu? Best birthday ever." He even pouted at the end.

Riddhima laughed at his attempts to weasel his way out of a scolding. "Tum rehne do."

She went inside the kitchen and puttered around for a bit.

"So, Armaan. Tour?" Sonia asked again.

"Uh, yeah. Sure," he replied. "It's not that huge."

He showed them the study, his parents' bedroom, and the two guest rooms, one of which he affectionately referred to as Rahul's room, because Rahul was over so much and he always slept in there.

"And, this is my room," he explained, before opening the door.

Needless to say, everyone was absolutely flabbergasted to see the pictures of Riddhima that adorned every wall.

"Uh... Wow," Rakesh whistled.

Armaan smiled, a little embarrassed. "I guess it's a little too much, but I like it," he explained sheepishly.

Neha looked absolutely shocked. She'd never seen Armaan so crazy for a girl before. Ever. A room full of her pictures? That too his bedroom? It was overdoing it so much! Armaan had never even had a single photograph of his girlfriends earlier. Now, he had a room full?

Just then the doorbell rang and Armaan sighed in relief. He sprinted to get the door.

It wasn't that he was embarrassed by the fact that he had so many pictures of Riddhima in his room (his friends came into his room all the time and he'd never been uncomfortable) but these people weren't a part of his life any longer and showing them such a private, intimate part of himself felt wrong on some level. They didn't understand the depth of his and Riddhima's relationship. And, he was sure they were judging him, especially because having his room full of his girlfriend's photos was not something College Armaan would have condoned.

Shaking his head and trying not to concentrate on what these people felt, Armaan opened the door to see Anjali and Atul standing there, wearing matching smiles and blushes. He grinned. "Hi, guys, he greeted, teasingly.

The three of them walked into the living room where everyone else was sitting and were greeted by hoots from the gang.

Atul blushed even deeper and Anjali smiled, embarrassed.

"Stop it, yaar!" Anjali exclaimed after a few minutes.

"Congrats on your first successful date!" Rahul crowed. Riddhima swatted his arm.

Armaan chuckled and pulled Atul into a hug.

"Hawww! Mere bina!" Rahul complained, immediately running to them and joining in.

"Champ, yaar! Dil khush kar diya tune toh aaj," Armaan teased. "Tu aur Anjali date pe gaye aur kuch gadbad nahi hui! Wow!"

"Armaan!" Anjali called from across the room.

"Ooohhh! Possessive," Armaan and Rahul chorussed, causing the duo to blush deeper.

"Oyye, kaankhajure!" Muskaan said, "Bohot bol raha hai. Chup reh thoda. Samjha?"

"Muskiii! Ab toh aise baat karna chod de," Nikki complained. "Boyfriend hai yaar tera."

"What?!?!" Atul & Anjali exclaimed.

"Rahul?" Atul turned to Rahul for confirmation. Rahul shrugged and nodded.

"Mere bhai! Teri bhi setting ho gayi! Wow! Main kitna khush hu!" Atul said, hugging Rahul.

"Mujhe pata tha. Hum dono ki setting ho hi jaayegi. Yeh mera bhai haina, Armaan, woh hum dono ko dukhi dekh hi nahi sakta. Haina, Armaan?" Atul asked.

"Of course," Armaan agreed. "Tum dono ko akela kaise chod du? Nahi toh hamesha Devdas ki tarah ghoomte rehte ho mere peeche, peeche. Aur timing toh tumhaari itni first class hai ki kya batau!" He said sarcastically.

Rahul gave him the stink eye, but Atul looked clueless.

"Haan, toh meri galti haina? Hospital ke har kone mein mujhe tum dono milte ho toh," Rahul fired back, causing Riddhima to blush.

"Coochi - coo karte hue?" Nikki asked teasingly. Rahul hi5ed her. These two had always been the ones to catch Armaan and Riddhima. "Mujhe bhi bohot milte the. Remember?" She asked Rahul, who nodded, laughing.

"Yaar, mujhe toh kabhi nahi mile," Muskaan whined.

"Achcha hi hai, Muski. Yeh besharam Armaan toh jagah dekhe bina hi start ho jaata tha," Nikki taunted.

"Uh... Har jagah nahi," Armaan muttered. "Bas... Fire escape."

"Kya... Kya kaha tune?" Rahul asked. "Bas fire escape?"

Armaan nodded.

"Achcha. Toh terrace pe tum dono ke bhoot dikhte the mujhe?" He asked sarcastically.

"Right," Nikki agreed. "Aur locker room mein bhi toh koi aur hi hota tha. Haina?"

"Ab agar 3 saal mein bhi tum logon ko samajh nahi aaya, toh meri galti nahi hai," Armaan answered petulantly.

"Shut up, Armaan!" Riddhima called, embarrassed. This only caused the gang to laugh harder.

"Yaar, tum log kyu usse chidha rahe ho?" Armaan asked.

"Hayye, main mar jawaan. Itna protective?" Muskaan teased Armaan. Armaan just made a face at her.

"Tu kya chehra bana raha hai? Besharam! Tere liye, ek toh main tere uss stupid se reunion party mein gayi! Mujhe thank you bolne ke badle, aisa behaviour? Bhalai ka toh zamaana hi nahi hai," Muskaan lamented.

"Oh, hello!" Armaan fired back. "Mujhe bhi tujhe le jaane ka koi shauq nahi tha. Aur ulta, tujhe mujhe thank you bolna chahiye. Sab mera plan tha taaki teri aur Rahul ki saari problems sort out ho jaaye."

"Armaan!" The rest of the gang, apart from Muskaan scolded him.

"What?" Muskaan asked. "Yeh sab sirf mere aur Rahul ke liye?"

Armaan nodded sheepishly. "Ab tu maan hi nahi rahi thi. Kuch toh karna padta na. Dekh, sab sahi ho gaya."

"Haan, haan. Theek hai," Muskaan replied.

Just then the doorbell rang again.

"Ab kaun hoga?" Atul wondered out loud.

"Billy Uncle aur Annie Aunty honge na, paagal," Rahul answered.

"Oh, yes!" Armaan exclaimed. "Ho sakta hai."

"Okay, so, lights off, guys!" Riddhima called. "Be ready."

Once the lights were turned off, Armaan went to open the door. It was indeed, Billy & Ananya, returning home after the lavish dinner date Riddhima had planned for them.

"Arre, Armaan? Lights kyu off hai?" Ananya asked. "Aur tu bohot jaldi aa gaya. Mujhe laga reunion hai toh late tak wahaan rukega."

"Haan, woh... Actually mom sab ghar aa gaye," Armaan answered quickly, helping them both inside.

"Arre lights toh on karde! Andhere mein maarega kya?" Billy joked.

Before Armaan could respond, the lights were switched on and everyone cried, "SURPRISE!"

Billy and Ananya were pleasantly surprised to see so many people standing there. Of course, the gang was there, a few people they faintly remembered from Armaan's college photographs and some new faces.

"Ummm... Wow! Thank you!" Billy stuttered a few seconds later.

"Happy 6 month Anniversary!" Nikki wished them, coming forward and giving them both hugs.

"Thank you, Nikki!" Ananya replied. "And thank you for this," she said, gesturing towards the decorations.

"You're welcome, Aunty. Lekin yeh sab na, Riddhima ne kiya hai," Nikki answered.

"Of course usne kiya hai!" Billy exclaimed. "Uske alawa kisiko humaari parwaah thodi hai," he added, giving Armaan the stink eye.

"Hahahaha," Armaan laughed sarcastically.

"Par woh hai kahaan?" Ananya asked.

"Main toh yahaan hu," Riddhima replied, coming out of the kitchen with the cake in her hands.

"Come on, come on! We've got to cut the cake!" She ordered, placing it on the coffee table.

Billy and Ananya smiled and stood in front of the table with everyone else crowding them. They held the knife together and cut the cake surrounded by applause.

Of course, they fed each other and then, it was Riddhima's turn. Ananya made her eat a huge piece and she returned the favour.

"Thank you, beta!" She thanked her, pulling her into a huge hug.

"Bas ab. In sab cheezon ke liye bhi aap thank you bolenge?" Riddhima asked. Ananya grinned sheepishly.

"Annie! Tum 2 minute ke liye usse chodogi? Mujhe bhi toh usse milna hai!" Billy whined.

Ananya and Riddhima laughed, but Ananya let Riddhima go and she immediately captured in a bear hug by Billy.

"Dad!" She shrieked, laughing loudly.

Billy laughed and let her go a few seconds later. "Arrangements bilkul first class thi. Maanna padega, tumhaari Mumbai mein bhi okay type ke restaurants hai."

"Achcha?" Riddhima asked. "Sirf okay?"

"Haan, okay hi hai," Billy answered.

"Dad!" Riddhima whined. "Woh restaurant kitna achcha hai. Sea facing view, itna achcha menu, such a nice ambience. Aap aisa kaise bol sakte ho? Aapko pata hai, woh mera favourite restaurant hai!

"Basket, tumne Mom aur Dad ko Gadda Da Vida bheja tha?" Armaan asked laughing.

"Kyu? Koi problem?" Riddhima questioned, miffed.

"Mujhe koi problem nahi hai, sweetheart," Armaan said, throwing an arm around her shoulder and pulling her into his side. "Bas, Dad ke liye sab waste hai. Unhe toh bas apni Delhi ke restaurants hi pasand haina."

"Aisa kuch nahi hai, Riddhima. Billy bas mazaak kar raha hai. Bohot achcha restaurant tha. And we had a lot of fun," Ananya interrupted. "The food is so good. Aur wahaan ka Tiramisu? Oh my god! Work of art."

Riddhima laughed. "I know. Aur Chicken Tikka? Woh kitna achcha hai. Actually, maine isliye wahaan reservations liye the. Dad ko tikka pasand hai aur aapko desserts. Aur wahaan par dono itne zyada achche milte hai."

Turning to Billy, she said, "Dekha, Mom ko sab pata hai. Aap hi ho bas, pakke Dilliwale. Humaari Mumbai koi kharab nahi hai."

Billy laughed. "Arre, kharab kab bola maine? Ab meri Princess yahaan rehti hai, toh main iss jagah ko kharab toh kabhi bol hi nahi sakta na," he replied, pulling Riddhima into his side as she blushed.

"Lekin, seriously, Riddhi beta," Ananya said, "Bohot hi achcha tha. We really enjoyed it."

Riddhima grinned. "I'm glad."

"Um... Aaplog ki toh baatein hi khatam nahi ho rahi, toh hum sab cake khale kya?" Atul asked, butting in their conversation.

The gang looked at each other, shook their heads and exclaimed "Atul/Champ!" in unison.

But, Neha was fuming. It was still okay to see Armaan so enamored by Riddhima (okay, it wasn't okay at all), but his parents too? She was calling them mom & dad. Not Mr. & Mrs. Mallik. Not even Aunty & Uncle. No. She was already calling them her parents. She knew that Armaan's parents hadn't ever liked any of his girlfriends before. On the rare occasion that one of them ever got to meet either of Armaan's parents, which happened scarcely because Armaan didn't really interact much with them, they'd always insisted that these girlfriends address them as Mr. Mallik or Mrs. Mallik, depending on who she met. None of them had ever progressed to calling them Uncle or Aunty also.

But, this girl was calling them mom and dad. If that wasn't enough, it was clear as day how fond both of them were of her. Mr. Mallik was calling her Princess. And, she was so familiar with his house. Armaan's room was practically a shrine to her. She had a key to the house, too, as if all this wasn't enough.

Really, imagining Armaan Mallik so head over heels for someone? She couldn't even fathom it. But, it seemed he was. Stupidly, completely, wholly in love. So, what about her? What about her desire to have him?

"Yahaan toh baat kuch zyada hi aage badh gayi hai," Sonia whispered to Neha, who could only nod.

"Ab kya karna hai?" Sonia asked. "Yeh dono toh kuch zyada hi chipak rahe hain," she commented, gesturing towards Armaan and Riddhima who were standing with the rest of the gang and arguing over cake. Even as they bickered, Armaan had an arm around Riddhima's waist, pulling her into him and Riddhima had wound both her arms around Armaan, one of her hands resting on his heart and her head on his shoulder.

"Kuch toh karna padega," Neha replied. "Sochte hain."

After cake, everyone settled down on the living room floor, chatting and laughing.

"Yaar, mujhe bohot bhook lag rahi hai," Nikki announced after sometime.

"Tujhe kab nahi lagti aajkal?" Armaan asked.

"Armaan! I'm eating for two!" Nikki admonished.

"Chal, chal. Bechaare baby ko kyu blame kar rahi hai? Tu toh hamesha se hi bhukkad thi. Bas ab tujhe bahaana mil gaya hai," Armaan replied.

"Haan toh... Theek haina. Mera baby, mera paet, meri bhook. Tera kya jaata hai?" Nikki asked.

Before Armaan could reply, Riddhima intervened. "Armaan, tum ab kuch nahi bologe. Waise bhi kisi aur ko tum bhukkad na bulao toh achcha hoga. Uss din dinner pe tumne 8 rotiyaan aur chawal khaye the. Aur fir 5 strawberry puddings akele khatam kar diye the."

"Haan toh theek haina. Mumma ne mera favourite khana banaya tha. Paneer Tikka aur Chicken Kadhai aur Daal Makhani. Aur tumhe pata hai mujhe Mumma ke haath ki pudding kitni pasand hai!" Armaan cried.

The gang laughed.

"Kya baat hai, Armaan? Aajkal Padma Aunty tera bada khayal rakhti hai," Muskaan commented.

"Woh toh hamesha se rakhti thi, yaar. Bas kuch log iss baat se jealous ho jaate hain ki unki Mumma unse zyada kisi aur se pyaar karti hain," Armaan taunted Riddhima.

"I know. Kaise small minded log hote hai. Nahi, Mom?" Riddhima asked cheekily, hugging Ananya who was sitting next to her.

The gang laughed at that and Armaan made a face at Riddhima who stuck her tongue out at him.

"Woh sab theek hai. Lekin mujhe bhook lagi hai!" Nikki complained.

"Ruk. Banaati hu kuch," Riddhima replied.

"Thanks, Ridzy! I love you!" Nikki crowed.

Riddhima just shook her head fondly and walked out of the living room.

Billy waited for a few minutes to ensure that Riddhima was out of hearing range. When he was sure she couldn't hear him, he turned to Armaan and asked, "Tu Riddhima ko propose kab kar raha hai?"


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