Friday, 10 August 2018

Chapter 71 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF


"DAD!" Armaan shouted.

 "Arre, what Dad? Kabse wait kar raha hu main, ki ab karega, ab karega, lekin tu toh kuch karta hi nahi," Billy complained.

 "Dad... Main karunga. Promise," Armaan answered.

 "Haan, theek hai. Par kab? Tujhe pata hai, jab Riddhi ka phone aaya tha, ki tu waapas Mumbai aa gaya hai aur tum dono ke beech mein sab theek hai, mujhe laga tha ki woh us waqt hi mujhse kahegi, Dad, hum bas ab shaadi kar rahe hain toh aap aur Mom aa jao. Par, almost 4 mahine ho gaye hain, Armaan. Ab bas. Tu Riddhima ko ghar le aa," Billy lectured.




"Dad, humaari iss baare mein baat hui thi na? Maine aapko sab bataya tha. Aur kisiko koi problem nahi hai agar hum abhi shaadi nahi kare. Riddhima ko nahi aur Maa aur Papa ko bhi nahi," Armaan replied.



"Woh Shanky paagal ho gaya hai. Usko toh bahaana mil gaya na, apni beti ko apne paas aur time rakhne ka. Toh woh kyu tujhe manaa karega?" Billy asked.



"Dad, aap kaise bol rahe hai! Aisa kuch nahi hai," Armaan replied.



"Mujhe kuch nahi pata. Tu bas Riddhima ko ghar le aa," Billy commanded.



"Mom, aap Dad ko kuch bolengi?" Armaan asked.



Ananya nodded, making Armaan sigh in relief. At least his mother understood.



"Billy, tum bilkul sahi keh rahe ho. Ab mujhse aur wait nahi hota," she said. Turning to Armaan, she added, "Tu Riddhima se baat kar, warna main aur Billy Shashank Bhaisaab aur Padma Bhabhi se baat karenge. Choice teri hai."



Armaan was at a loss of words. Really. He didn't know his parents were so desperate to get him married to Riddhima.



"Aise aankhen phaadke kya dekh raha hai? Theek keh rahi hai woh. Ab tu toh kuch karne se raha. Toh humein hi karna padega na," Billy spoke.



Seeing Armaan's dumbfounded state, Rahul decided to help him out.



"Aap... Aap log kyu chinta kar rahe hai? Armaan karne hi wala hai Riddhu ko propose. Ring... Ring bhi le aaya hai woh," he told Billy and Ananya.



"WHAT?!" Everybody in the room shouted.



"Shhh!!" Armaan shushed them. "Riddhima kitchen mein hi hai. Agar aap log chilaayenge nahi toh achcha hoga."



"Sorry!" They whispered.



"Armaan... Tumne ring leli?" Anjali asked.



Armaan nodded. "Haan."



"Kab? Kisiko kuch bataya bhi nahi!" Atul exclaimed, feeling extremely betrayed.



"Ring liye toh janaab ko almost 2 mahine ho gaye. Jab yeh aur Riddhu Paris gaye the, conference ke waqt? Tabhi hi leli thi isne," Rahul answered.



"Saale, kameene! Mana kiya tha na maine, apna mooh kholne. Gaddar! Itna bhi nahi hua tujhse?" Armaan asked Rahul. "Confidence mein bataya tujhe sab. Ki kisise kuch mat kehna. Samajh nahi aata kya?"



"Tu isse... Is kaankhajure Rahul ko bata sakta hai, lekin humein nahi? Yehi teri dosti? Yehi tera pyaar?" Muskaan asked melodramatically.



"Hahaha," Armaan replied sarcastically. "Tujhe batane se better yeh nahi hai ki main poore Sanjeevani mein announcement karwa du? Waise bhi, tere paet mein toh koi baat pachti nahi hai. Tujhe batata toh aadhe ghante mein poori Mumbai ko pata chal jaata."



"Achcha, woh sab chodo. Ring toh dikhao!" Nikki demanded excitedly.



Armaan shook his head. "Nope," he replied. "Basket se pehle ring koi nahi dekhega."



"Armaan, please, yaar. Aisa mat kar. Humein bhi dekhni hai," Muskaan pleaded, followed by Nikki and then Anjali and finally Atul. But, he refused to budge.



"Chodo, rehne do. Tumhaare room mein hi hogi na? Hum dhoond lenge," Anjali announced.



Armaan laughed. "Room mein nahi hai."



"Toh fir tumhaare locker mein hogi. Kal subah dekh lenge," she replied.



"Locker mein bhi nahi hai," Armaan told her.



"Toh hai kahaan?" She asked, confused.



"Mere paas hai," Armaan replied.



"Tu apne saath leke kyu ghoom raha hai?" Nikki asked, confused. "Ek minute! Tu kahin aaj hi toh propose nahi karne wala tha?"



Armaan guffawed. "Nahi, Nikki. Main aaj nahi karne wala tha. But, it'll be soon."



"What? Kab? Kahaan? Kaise?" Muskaan asked, teetering with excitement.



"No way. Tum mein se kisiko kuch nahi batane wala main," Armaan told them.



"Armaan, mere bhai, tu mera bhai hai. Hum sabka itna achcha dost! Humein nahi batayega?" Atul tried to emotionally blackmail him.



"Tum logon ko bata du? Taaki tum mein se koi bhi, over excitement mein, sabkuch Riddhima ke saamne bolde aur fir poora surprise kharab ho jaaye? No thanks!" Armaan answered. "Jab main karunga, uske baad sabko pata chal hi jaayega."



"Woh sab chodo. Ring apne saath leke kyu ghoomte ho?" Abhi asked, finally taking part in the conversation.



"Ooohhh. This is awesome. Main batau, please, please, please?" Rahul begged.



Armaan made a gesture as if to say, "please, do the honours."



"Actually, ab Armaan kaisa hai, yeh toh sabko hi pata hai. Agar woh ring idhar udhar rakhke bhool gaya, ya kisi aur wajah se Riddhu ne uska locker khola ya uske room mein kuch dhoondne lagi, toh usse ring mil sakti haina. Toh isliye Armaan aajkal ring har jagah apne saath leke jaata hai," Rahul explained.



"Awww. Armaan that's so cute!" Nikki replied.



"Yes, it is. Jeeju," Anjali teased and they were all graced with Armaan's tell-tale blush. And, as always, it was followed by hooting from his saalis.



"Rahul ko yeh sab kaise pata?" Atul asked Armaan, glaring daggers at him.



Armaan gulped. "Ch - ch - champ... Woh toh... Woh usne... Actually... Haan... Woh Paris mein ek din Rahul ne mujhe ring pocket mein daalte hue dekh liya tha. Toh mujhe usse batana pada."



"Achcha beta... Advice tu mujhse leta hai... Lekin ring ke baare mein Rahul ko bata. Bhai bola tha tujhe. Bas... Yahi na? Dost, dost na raha..." Atul started singing.



Armaan and Rahul looked at each other and hit their heads. Armaan got up from his spot as did Rahul and the both of them sat on either side of Atul.



"Champ," they both intoned lovingly, but Atul was still singing.



"Champ," they tried again. No change.



"CHAMP!" They shouted at him.



"Arre, kya Champ? Koi Champ wamp nahi hu main. Tune mujhe dhoka diya hai, Armaan. Aur tu, Rahul! Armaan ne tujhe bataya toh tu mujhe nahi bata sakta tha? Yaar, bhai ho tum dono mere. Itni badi baat chupayi mujhse!" Atul cribbed.



"Champ, sunna," Armaan pleaded.



"Kya?" Atul asked petulantly.



"Dekh... Ab sab jaante hain ki tu Anjali se kitna pyaar karta hai," Armaan started, but was interrupted by Atul.



"Seriously? Sab jaante hai?" He asked Armaan who nodded. "Sabko pata hai?" He asked Rahul, who also nodded.



"Wow, yaar! Mere aur Anjali ke baare mein sabko pata hai!" Atul cried happily.



"Champ, Champ, Champ! Topic pe reh," Armaan advised. "Abhi hum teri aur Anjali ki baat nahi kar rahe."



"Arre, lekin abhi toh tune bola na, ki mere aur Anjali ke baare mein sabko pata hai. Toh hum mere aur Anjali ke baare mein hi baat kar rahe haina," Atul whined. Rahul and Armaan just looked at each other with expressions that screamed kahaan phas gaye?!'



"Champ! Hum Armaan ke baare mein baat kar rahe the. Ring, proposal, remember?" Rahul asked.



"Oh, haan! Hum toh uske baare mein baat kar rahe the. Lekin sab na... Armaan ki galti hai. Usne kyu beech mein meri aur Anjali ki baat start ki?" Atul asked.



"I'm sorry, mere bhai! Maaf karde! Please!" Armaan folded in his hands in front of Atul and pleaded.



"Aise kaise?" Atul asked. "Tune Rahul ko ring ke baare mein sab bataya! Lekin mujhe nahi!"



"Haan, toh main tujhe bata raha hu na," Armaan said. "Dekh... Main tujhe batata, fir tu jaake sab kuch immediately Anjy ko bata deta. Aur fir agar Anjy ne Riddhima ko kuch bol diya hota toh? Mera toh poora surprise kharab ho jata na? Isliye tujhe nahi bataya."



"Oh. Lekin, yaar, tu mujhe bolta toh main Anjali ko kuch nahi batata," Atul replied.



Armaan looked horrified at that. "Aur fir tujhe Anjali se jhooth bolne bolta? Paagal hai kya? Aisa paap main kaise kar sakta hu?" He asked, making a crying face.



"Sach mein? Tune isliye mujhe nahi bataya? Tujhe itni fikar hai meri?" Atul looked at Armaan.



"Of course, Champ! Bhai hai yaar tu mera!" Armaan replied, smiling.



Atul immediately wrapped Armaan in a hug. "Tu best hai, yaar, Armaan!"



Then, pulling back, he placed a smacking kiss on Armaan's cheek.



"Champ! Tujhe kitni baara batana padega? Yeh sab mat kiya kar, yaar!" Armaan cried, wiping his cheek vigorously.



Neha listened to the conversation with morbid fascination. To her, it seemed like Armaan's parents were forcing him to settle down with this girl and he wasn't interested in getting married. Why else would he try to delay the wedding?



The whole happy couple thing could very well be a farce to get people (namely his parents) off his back. Of course, this story made more sense. Armaan wouldn't ever settle down. He didn't believe in love. Or marriage. But, his parents were pressuring him. This seemed to be an arranged marriage issue.



In such a case, Armaan definitely wouldn't have any issues in going out with her. This made Neha very happy. She was glad that she'd insisted that she come to this sleepover now.



"Armaan!" Riddhima's voice wafted through the living room. "Coffee utardo, please!"



Rahul and Armaan looked at each other and laughed. Riddhima was never, ever able to reach the coffee.



"Aaya!" Armaan called back.



"Excuse me, everybody," he said to the people in the living room and walked away.



"Armaan, coffee hi dena usse. Romance mat karne lag jana!" Nikki shouted at his retreating back, but Armaan waved her off, causing the gang to laugh.



"Nikki, Armaan se tu yeh expect kar rahi hai ki itna achcha mauka hai, aur woh chance nahi maarega? Matlab, kya?" Muskaan asked, laughing.



Nikki chuckled. "Yaar, bolne mein kya jaata hai?"



"Paagal ho. Sabke sab," Abhi declared fondly, shaking his head at their antics.



Armaan walked into the kitchen to see Riddhima cooking. She'd changed out of her gorgeous dress into one of Armaan's tees that was too long for her and reached her thighs and a pair of shorts that actually looked like ill fitting full pants, stopping just above her ankle.



Armaan's breath caught in his throat. How was it possible that this girl looked so beautiful still? With sweat on her forehead, her hair a mess and those clothes, she was still the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen. And, he was so in love.



He walked across the room stealthily, not making any noise and grabbed her from behind, wrapping his arms around her and holding her close.



"Armaan!" Riddhima shrieked. "Kya karte rehte ho? Dara diya tumne!"



He didn't reply, instead, nuzzled his face in her hair, placing kisses along her neck.



"Armaan, fir tumhaari badmaashi start ho gayi. Mujhe sirf coffee chahiye. Woh deke tum please chale jao, warna mera koi kaam nahi hoga," Riddhima cribbed.



"Maine tumhe kaam karne se roka hai kya?" Armaan asked her.



"Yeh jo tum aisi harkatein karte ho, mera kaam kabhi achche se nahi hota," Riddhima replied.



"Ohhh," Armaan said. "Really?"



"Really," Riddhima told him.



"Achcha, baba. Theek hai. Main... Zyada pareshaan nahi karunga," he said, kissing her neck.



"Matlab thoda toh karoge?" She asked.



"Obviously. Agar tumhe lagta hai ki main tumhe bilkul pareshaan nahi karunga, toh tum bohot zyada expect kar rahi ho, Basket," Armaan answered.



Riddhima just laughed and shook her head fondly at his antics. This boy would never change.



"Achcha lekin kamse kam coffee toh pass kardo!" Riddhima requested.



Armaan pouted, but pulled his arms back and gave her the coffee.



"Thank you, baby," Riddhima told him, kissing his cheek, making him smile.



"You're welcome, sweetheart! Batao, aur kya help karu tumhaari?" He asked.



"Sachmuch mein help karna chaahte ho?" Riddhima countered.



"Ab, agar main help karunga aur mujhe itna achcha reward milega, toh haan," he answered, pointing to his cheek. Riddhima blushed.



"Achcha, chalo, theek hai. Iss tray mein saare mugs arrange kardo. Aur side mein shakkar ka ek bowl rakhdo. Yeh jo jug mein doodh hai, woh bhi rakhdo. Okay?" She asked.



Armaan nodded his assent and did as he was asked. Arranging everything quickly in a haphazard manner, he immediately hugged Riddhima again.



"Armaan..." Riddhima whined. "Tumhaara kaam itni jaldi ho gaya?"



Armaan nodded. Riddhima turned around and gave him a disbelieving look, but Armaan just took the opportunity to pull her body flush against his.



"Ar... Arm... Armaan..." Riddhima whispered.



"Hmmm? Armaan asked, burying his face in the crook of her neck and placing a kiss there.



"Ch... Chodo, please," she pleaded.



Armaan just shook his head.



"Armaan, please," Riddhima begged, her voice coming out breathy due to their close proximity.



"Fine," Armaan sighed, pulling away. "Tum hamesha saare romance ki band baja deti ho," he cribbed.



Riddhima laughed lightly. "Ab tumhe har waqt, har jagah sirf romance soojhta hai toh isme meri galti hai?" She asked.



Armaan nodded petulantly.



"Tum paagal ho," she declared.



"Haan," Armaan answered. "Hu. Tumhaare pyaar mein."



Riddhima blushed. "Tum na..."



"Main kya?" Armaan asked.



"Kuch nahi! Jao. Main coffee aur sandwiches leke aa rahi hu," she told him. Then, she turned to pour the coffee in the mugs she'd asked Armaan to arrange.



"Armaan!" She scolded looking at the tray. The mugs were placed in an ill mannered way and she was sure that most of them would fall to the ground and break if she attempted to lift the tray.



"What?" Armaan asked, not paying attention as he was drinking water.



"Yeh kya hai?" She asked him.



"Kya kya hai?" He countered.



"Yeh!" She physically moved his head to show him the tray. Armaan's expression immediately turned sheepish.



"Oh, yeh... Yeh... Woh... Yeh..." He fumbled.



"Kya?" Riddhima asked impatiently.



"Yeh tray hai. Tumne hi toh kaha tha set kardo. Toh maine kardi," Armaan replied.



"Aise?" She questioned.



Armaan shrugged.



"Tum na... Tumse koi kaam achche se nahi hota. Agar help nahi karni thi, toh kyu kaha ki karna chahte ho?" She asked.



"Sorry, Basket! Main... Main abhi theek se laga deta hu. Ab koi gadbad nahi. Promise!" He vowed.



"Rehne do. Main khud hi kar lungi. Tum yeh sandwiches ki plate bahaar le jao," she ordered.



Armaan nodded obediently and immediately took the food out.



"Armaan?" Neha asked when he came out. "Uh, mujhe washroom dikha doge please?"



Armaan sighed but nodded. "Uh, sure. Come."



Neha immediately got up and followed Armaan after passing Sonia a sly wink. She was going to talk to Armaan now.



"Here you go," Armaan said, pointing Neha in the direction of the bathroom.



"Thanks," Neha replied, grinning.



"Waise, mere saamne yeh drama karne ki zaroorat nahi hai," she added, smirking.



"What?" Armaan asked, confused.



"Yeh, happy relationship drama," Neha clarified.



"Neha, tum kya keh rahi ho mujhe kuch samajh nahi aa raha," Armaan told her.



"Come on, Ammy. It's so obvious. Tumhaare parents chaahte haina ki tum usse Riddhi whatever se shaadi karo? You're just doing this because of parental pressure," Neha told him confidently.



Armaan looked at Neha absolutely shocked. She thought that his parents were forcing this relationship with Riddhima? His Basket? The one girl he'd loved since forever?



The ridiculousness of the statement made him burst out laughing. "You... Oh my god! You... Hahaha... Think... Hahaha... You think I... I don't love Riddhima?" He asked in between laughs.



"You don't, right? I mean, jis tarah Mr. Mallik all but ordered you to marry her, but you shot him down, toh it's obvious you don't have feelings for her," Neha said, a little confused. Why did her saying this make Armaan laugh so hard?



"Uh, let me assure you, that is so not the case," Armaan answered.



"Come on, Ammy! Itna bhi jhooth mat bolo. Main kisiko nahi bataungi. It'll be our little secret," Neha coaxed.



"Main keh raha hu, Neha. You're misunderstanding. Aisa kuch nahi hai," Armaan repeated his words.



"Ammy, look. I'm gonna be honest with you. Mujhe lagta hai tum yeh sab sirf apne parents ko dikhane ke liye kar rahe ho. And, that's okay. Sabke parents ki kuch expectations hoti hai. You're fulfilling them. Great! Lekin, if you're not happy, I understand. Maybe we could..." She trailed off suggestively, caressing his arm.



Armaan pulled her hand away from his body and looked at her with fire in his eyes.



"Listen to me, Neha, and listen good. That girl out there, Riddhima? Jiske baare mein tum yeh sab keh rahi ho? She's my life. Zindagi hai meri. Bohot pyaar karta hu main usse. Itna jitna maine kabhi kisise nahi kiya. I love her more than anything else in the world. Meri duniya us hi se shuru hoti hai aur uspe aake khatam ho jaati hai. Jaan hai woh meri. Jitni mohabbat usse ki hai, phir kabhi kisise nahi karunga.



Aur please, yeh disgusting thought, ki humaare beech kabhi bhi kuch ho sakta hai, apne dimmag se nikaal do. College kw dino mein hi jab maine tumhe date nahi kiya, toh ab toh bohot door ki baat hai. Riddhima ke alawa kisi aur ko dekhna toh kya, kisi aur ke baare mein soch bhi nahi sakta main.



Yeh yaad rakho, tum sirf meri ek classmate ho. Just a random classmate jisse main aaj 10 saalon mein pehli baar baat kar raha hu, lekin Riddhima? Woh mera sab kuch hai. Yeh jo tumhe laga raha haina, ki main parental pressure ki wajah se Riddhima ke saath hu? That's the stupidest thing ever. Main Riddhima ke saath isliye hu kyuki main usse pyaar karta hu. Woh, kehte haina? Bepannah mohabbat? Usse bhi zyada pyaar karta hu usse.



Aaj ke baad, main tumse phir kabhi baat bhi nahi karunga. Shayad, ho sakta hai kabhi hum kahin takra jaaye aur formal hi hello karle, lekin uske alawa? Kuch nahi. Kabhi sochunga bhi nahi main tumhaare baare mein. Lekin, Riddhima? Woh har pal, har waqt mere saath hogi. Kyuki main chaahta hu hum saath rahe.



Toh, tum sochlo, ki tum dono meri life mein kahaan aati ho. Khudko Riddhima ke saath compare karne ki koshish kar rahi ho na tum? Ki, jo rishta mera uske saath hai, woh tumhaare saath bhi ho? Mujhe toh yeh lagta hai ki tumhe Riddhima ke saath ek kamre mein bhi nahi rehna chahiye.



Now, get lost. Sabke saamne main scene nahi create karna chaahta isliye tumhe ghar se nahi nikal raha hu lekin agar tumne iske baad kuch aur karne ki koshish ki toh I swear dhakke maarke bahaar nikaal dunga, no matter how late it is. So, stay in your limits. Riddhima ke baare mein ek galat shabd nahi sununga main. Samjhi tum?" He asked coldly.



Neha gulped and nodded.



"Good. Leave. Now," Armaan ordered.



Neha immediately left from there, shivering at Armaan's ire.



Riddhima came out of the kitchen and passed coffee to the gang, brewed to all their preferences - milk for Rahul and Abhi, black for Armaan and Anjali, latte for Atul and cappuccino for Muskaan, just like hers. She'd also made a lemon tea for Nikki.



Turning to the others, she said, "Um... Main sure nahi thi ki tum sab ko kaisi coffee pasand hai, so please, help yourselves." She gestured to the tray which had milk and sugar in one corner and a coffee pot in the other, with a few mugs placed in the middle.



"Thank you," they chorussed, not knowing what else to say. Riddhima smiled tightly.



"Yeh Armaan kahaan hai?" She asked no one in particular.



"Woh toh Neha ko washroom dikhane gaya tha. Ab tak toh aa jaana chahiye tha," Rakesh answered.



"Yeh ladka bhi na!" Riddhima shook her head fondly. "Main dekhke aati hu."



She went in search of the two to find Armaan telling Neha off. She hid herself, staying out of view to listen to their conversation.



Armaan's words brought tears to her eyes. She'd never imagined such a scenario would arise and that Armaan would be so vehement in her defense and passionate about their relationship. Hearing the fierceness in his tone made her appreciate him all the more. He really was the best partner. Riddhima was lucky to have him.



A couple minutes after Neha left, Riddhima walked in. Armaan looked up at her in surprise.



"Oh. Tum ho," Armaan sighed in relief. He thought it had been Neha. "Mujhe laga ki..."



"Neha hai," Riddhima finished for him.



Armaan nodded. "Tumhe kaise pata?" He asked, trying to keep his tone normal. The confrontation with Neha had left him reeling and he hadn't had a chance to get a grip on his emotions.



"Mujhe sab pata hai, Dr. Armaan," Riddhima answered, walking to him and wrapping her arms around him in a hug. Armaan's arms automatically shot out to hug her back. Riddhima rested her head on his chest before saying, "Bas yehi nahi pata ki aap mujhse itna zyada pyaar karte hain ki apni itni puraani dost ko bhi aap aise sunaa denge."



"Tumne sab sunn liya?" Armaan asked, surprised. Riddhima nodded.



"I'm sorry, Basket. Jaanta hu shayad itna rude nahi hona chahiye tha mujhe. Woh meri guest hai. Aur chipku hai, lekin kisi zamaane mein meri achchi dost thi. Lekin, jab woh yeh sab ulti seedhi cheezen kehne lagi tumhaare baare mein aur humaare baare mein toh mujhe bohot gussa aa gaya," Armaan answered. "Isliye bas maine usse sunaa diya."



Riddhima chuckled. "I love you," she declared emphatically.



"I love you, too," Armaan replied, grinning.



"Aur... Mujhe bohot achcha laga jab tumne Neha se aise baat ki aur usse yeh bataya ki tumhaare liye main kitni important hu," Riddhima added, smiling shyly.



Armaan laughed and kissed her forehead. "Nautanki. Khudke baare mein compliments sunne mein bohot mazaa aata hai tumhe!"



"Haan, par sabse zyada, tumhaare mooh se sunna achcha lagta hai," she admitted.



"You're so cute, baby!" Armaan told her, kissing her cheek.



"Armaan! Riddhima!" Abhi called. "Bahaar aa jao, yaar!"



They chuckled. "Chalein?" Riddhima asked.



"Jaana toh nahi hai, lekin koi option hai kya?" Armaan asked rhetorically.



Riddhima shook her head and pulled him with her.



He really wasn't looking forward to this. If Neha tried anything else, he really was going to throw her out. It had been idiotic to invite all these people home. They weren't a part of his life any longer. They didn't understand him. What was worse, they didn't seem concerned by it. They weren't even trying to get to know the person he'd become, like he'd tried with them, with the exception of Rakesh, who was still genuine in his friendship like before.



Ugh! This was going to be a long night.

xxx
love
prags

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