Monday, 29 October 2018

Part 9 : Chance Encounter

"Ofcourse I was missing you. I was missing you terribly!"

 Armaan faltered. He was flirting with Riddhima and was expecting her to get flustered like she always did. He loved how she blushed and then fiddled with the end of her dupatta. He loved how she tried to avoid his eyes and fumbled trying to find an answer. He expected all that but not a direct confession. He was so startled that he lost his balance and then managed to steady himself.

"You were?" Armaan asked bewildered.

"Yes," Riddhima replied coyly and then moved towards Armaan.

Armaan was getting more troubled by the minute. He stood up straight as Riddhima moved up close to him.


"Armaan'.." Riddhima breathed.



"Riddhima, are' are you alright?"

"I am hungry, Armaan. I am so hungry" Riddhima drawled seductively.

Armaan couldn't believe his ears. There had to be some catch, this was so not happening, this couldn't be happening.

"Hungry? Riddhima, are you, you are hungry, for what, I mean, you are hungry?"

Suddenly Riddhima stepped back and with her hands on her hips shouted,

"Obviously, I'll be hungry na Armaan. It is 8 o'clock and the cake looks yum! Gappu won't cut the cake without you and so everybody in the hall is missing you terribly. Now will you kindly do the honour of going to the hall so that poor kids like us can have something to eat?"

Armaan was totally dazed. He ran a hand through his hair and looked at Riddhima.

"Hungry? Cake?So when you said you were hungry, you meant, you meant the cake?"

Riddhima giggled, "Of course, what else?  What did you think Mr. Mallik?"

Armaan, totally out of words just kept staring at her.

"Now stop staring," Riddhima said, grabbing his hand and pulling, "And let's go before the kids finish off the cake!"

By now Armaan had finally managed to gather his wits about him and wasn't going to let off Riddhima that easily. As soon as Riddhima pulled his hand, he pulled back sending Riddhima crashing on to his chest. As he steadied her, she looked up at him with questioning eyes which also had a trace of something else that he couldn't quite put a finger on. Was it apprehension or longing or a mixture of both? Armaan gazed deeply into her eyes trying to figure out the message in them but Riddhima quickly averted her eyes.

"Armaan? What are you doing?"

"Who wants cake when I can have you?"

Riddhima turned a beetroot red which Armaan could figure out even in the limited lighting. He ran his knuckles along her face and then tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ears.

"Armaan, I was just, I mean, you don't, I mean I can't, you, me, cake''"

Armaan laughed, there she was, his mumbling, fumbling, superbly disconcerted Riddhima.

Now it was Riddhima's turn to look bewildered. She stared at Armaan while he laughed. Finally Armaan stopped laughing and gazed at Riddhima with a grin,

"Doc, you are good, but you have miles to go before you catch up with me!"

Riddhima didn't know what to say, all she could manage was a, "Huh?!"

 She was still a little dazed when Armaan held her hand and pulled her into the hall. The kids at once send up a cheer and crowded around the cake in front of which stood Gappu, ready, knife in hand. As soon as Armaan and Riddhima reached the cake, Gappu smiled at both of them and blew out the candles. Then amidst clapping and cheering, he proceeded to cut the cake. Riddhima smiled at all the enthusiasm and was about to clap when she realized that Armaan was still holding her hand. She looked up at Armaan who seemed totally unaware of the fact that her hand was still clamped securely in his. He was holding Gappu with his free left hand and cheering as he cut the cake. Armaan looked so comfortable holding her hand it felt like he had held her hand for ages. Like as if her hand belonged in his.

"Riddhima didi, have some cake."

Riddhima was brought back to reality with Gappu looking up at her, grinning and offering her cake. She looked form Gappu to Armaan, who was also grinning.

"Riddhima didi, have some cake," Gappu insisted. Riddhima looked at her hand clasped in Armaan's and then looked up at him. Armaan too seemed to notice for the first time that he was holding her hand and finally let go of it, albeit reluctantly. Riddhima bent down to have the piece of cake that Gappu was offering and then took another piece and fed it to Gappu.

"Thank you, Gappu and a very happy birthday."

"Thank you Riddhima didi." Gappu then turned towards Armaan. "Armaan mama, cake!"

Armaan bent down and had some cake and fed some to Gappu.

"Yum, nice cake! What do you think Riddhima?" Armaan asked and then winked.

"Riddhima unsure of whether her voice would reveal her emotions, just managed a nod and moved away. The other children were by now clambering for cake and it was quite easy for her to slink a little away. She felt she needed fresh air and wanted to go out to the balcony but stopped herself when she remembered her earlier visit there. She finally stood near one of the windows and watched the kids playing around, eating cake and generally having fun. Although she was physically present, her mind was dwelling in the past. She wondered how just two minutes with Armaan could affect her so much. The time when he was holding her, it felt, it felt so right. She was amazed at how comfortable she felt with him and how much she looked forward to talking to him, fighting with him and generally being with him. She admitted to herself that she was missing him and so had gone outside to look for him. She smiled to herself as she remembered how she wanted to tease him and the plan had backfired. That thought again led her back to the memory of those two minutes when she was in Armaan's arms and she blushed involuntarily.

"You sure you do not have a blood pressure problem?"

Riddhima closed her eyes to compose herself when she heard the voice and then turned towards Armaan.

"What? Why?"

"No, it's just that you keep turning various shades of red at the drop of a hat, so I was wondering. You sure your blood pressure is normal?" Armaan asked with his signature lopsided grin.

Riddhima felt another blush creeping up her cheeks and quickly looked in the other direction to control it.

"No, I was just, it's a bit hot today."

"Very hot!"

['There he goes again,' Riddhima thought, 'drops a sentence innocently that could mean a thousand different things. Oh God, why can't he just say stuff in straight sentences and spare me the ordeal of analyzing everything and driving myself up the wall?"]

"Did you say something?" Armaan inquired.

Riddhima quickly straightened herself, "Nope, nothing!"

 "You still hungry?"

Riddhima turned so quickly towards Armaan, her head swirled. She gripped the window ledge, shocked and found Armaan grinning at her. She realized that he was teasing her again and for a second she felt like throttling him.

['How long is he going to tease me about that silly thing? Why the hell did I do that silly antic in the first place? I should have known better. I am going to get back at you Armaan, just wait and watch. You don't mess with Dr. Riddhima Gupta!']

Riddhima looked out of the window and didn't answer. Armaan saw her slightly embarrassed face and decided to call a truce. He smiled to himself and said softly,

"Riddhima, I got cake."

Riddhima looked at Armaan holding a plate with a piece of cake. She smiled and took the cake from him and suddenly realizing their close proximity, took a step back. Before she knew what was happening, she slipped. She had by mistake stepped on a basketball lying around and lost her balance. She closed her eyes and felt herself falling. Expecting to hit the cold floor any moment she was quite surprised when the floor never came and she felt herself suspended in mid air. She opened her eyes cautiously unsure of what exactly was happening and gazed into a pair of warm twinkling mesmerizing eyes. She realised that Armaan had caught her before she had fallen but what she couldn't figure out was why the room had got deathly still. There was not a single sound and everybody seemed to be staring at them. She looked at Armaan and was surprised when she found that he too was staring at her with an anxious expression.

"What? Why are you guys staring? I am alright."

Armaan motioned with his eyes and Riddhima followed his gaze. What she saw made her shriek and jump up straight. Armaan had managed to save her from falling but he hadn't managed to save the cake. The cake was now splattered all across the front of her churidar. The chocolate cream was all over and her churidar was ruined beyond repair!  She looked at the mess, then at the kids and then at Armaan.

"My new churidar!" Riddhima wailed and tried to rub off the cake stain, effectively spreading it more. Finally she gave up and looked up at Armaan helplessly.

 Armaan tried his best but couldn't control himself. He burst out laughing and gripped at a bookshelf to steady himself. The kids looked at Armaan and taking his cue started laughing too.  Very soon everybody in the hall was rolling with laughter and pointing at Riddhima. Riddhima couldn't bear it any longer, her new churidar was a mess and everybody was pointing and laughing at her. Her blood boiled, and all because of Armaan! How dare he laugh! Her eyes narrowed at Armaan, when she spotted another piece of cake lying on the window sill, probably the one Armaan had brought for himself. Before even she knew what she was doing, she reached for the cake and splattered it all over Armaan's face. That shut him up effectively. Infact, everybody was so taken aback, not a single giggle escaped anybody. Armaan stood there, open mouthed, his face full of cake, unsure of what had just occurred. Riddhima wiped her hands on her now ruined churidar and smirked in a self satisfied way.

"That will teach you Mr. Armaan Mallik. Never, I mean NEVER, laugh at me!"

 Armaan looked at her and then at the rest of the room full of people who stared back at him equally  bemused. He looked at a little boy standing next to him holding a piece of cake. He quickly reached for him and grabbed the cake muttering a hurried sorry. He went to Riddhima and before she could move away, he plastered the piece of cake all over her face.

"There you go Dr. Riddhima Gupta. Enjoy your cake. By the way, the colour suits you!"

Riddhima couldn't believe that Armaan actually did that. He actually plastered cake on her face.

"Argggh Armaan! You, you scum! You are sooo dead!" She reached for a plate of samosas lying nearby and made a perfect aim at Armaan. Armaan unfortunately ducked and the samosas hit Gappu.

"Riddhima didi, you hit me?"

"I am sorry Gappu, I didn't want to hit you. Its all Armaan's fault," this time she aimed a pastry at Armaan which hit bull's eye.

"Ha, Mr. Mallik, I win!"

"In your dreams Dr. Gupta!"

 Just under a few seconds, pandemonium broke out. Everybody was throwing food at everybody and no body knew why. Mohan bhaiyya and the other house hold help watched on helplessly as the hall turned into a battleground. Armaan had a pint of fruit punch poured over him and now smelled of strawberry gone bad. Riddhima looked as if she had curly hair thanks to the strands of spaghetti sticking to her head. All the kids looked like ghosts out of some horror movie and none of them had ever enjoyed themselves more!


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