Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Chapter 13 : Where Did I go Wrong


"Oh no" Riddhima gulped. "Armaan, hide behind the door, hurry"
Armaan obeyed, he handed wailing Ahana into Riddhima's arms and stood behind the door, pressing himself against the wall.

Riddhima tried hushing Ahana as she went and opened the door wide.

"Riddhima, kya hua? Why is she crying like that?" Neha said, half entering the room. Riddhima stopped her immediately, "Nothing" she stuttered, "She just woke up, I'll take care of her.., you, ermm, go back to sleeping"

Neha looked, suspiciously, "Is everything ok?"

"Yeah" Riddhima instantly replied.


"Then why is your bed in such a mess?" Neha clarified.

Riddhima turned to look at her bed. It was hideous. "Ohhh, that…? Ehhh... Ahana has been, err... playing around... Yeah, playing around…you know, twisting… turning on the bed…"

Neha cocked her eyebrow, "But you told me that she just got up"

Riddhima was stuck, what a dilemma, if I could just shake her off… Riddhima was furiously thinking when Neha gasped so loud that it made Riddhima jump. "Is THAT a shirt?" Neha said incredulously, pointing somewhere on the bed. Sure enough Armaan's damp shirt was lying there.

"Riddhima WHAT is going on?" she said, determinedly entering the room.

Armaan had almost stopped breathing, he wouldn't mind being caught is a more dignified manner, but this was terrible! He was standing in his boxers!

"No no no no no… Neha I'll explain, please, 5 minutes, I promise" Riddhima said, blocking Neha. She hoped that Neha would give her 5 minutes.

"Preposterous, I'm coming in" Neha said, forcing her way in.

"Nehaaa"

"Adi is calling you, upstairs, he's waiting" Riddhima said in relief. Armaan was breathing again.

Neha looked like she was debating, then without a word she walked out but back to stare, "5 minutes Neha, promise" Riddhima said, quickly shutting the door. She heaved a long sigh of relief. Armaan took Ahana back into his arms; she now stared at him, she did not look like she was going to cry, she simply studied him.

"Riddhima, you're planning to tell her?" Armaan questioned.

"Yeah, but not when you're only in boxers, put those clothes back on" she replied.

Armaan laughed as he came forward to give her a peck which she did not resist. Ahana couldn't take it, who is this stranger loving momma she thought and gave a loud cry throwing her hands out to Riddhima.

"Aww, my pet I think?" Riddhima said, grinning at Armaan and taking Ahana into her arms; Ahana buried her face into Riddhima shoulder and peeped contemptuously from there, her brows creased. My Momma

"Acha, I see, so you got Mamma's temper eh, now I have to put up with the both of you?"

Riddhima giggled then she added seriously, "Armaan please hurry up, Neha is going to bang my bedroom door down otherwise"

He pulled his jeans while Ahana still watched this stranger, she would turn her head away every time he tried glancing at her and then again she would peep after a few seconds, hide and seek she thought happily, and eventually her laughter rang out.

"See, she likes me!" Armaan said, beaming. "Looks like you're going to be daddy's pet, no baby?" He came forward to tickle her little tummy and she laughed with him. I like him she thought, readily stretching up her hands to reach him. He took her back in his arms and threw her up in the air.

The door knocked, Riddhima sighed. "Come down in 5 minutes while I explain" she said to Armaan, opening the door just enough to face Neha.



An Hour Later



"All's well that ends well" Neha was saying.

"True" said Armaan, agreeing, Ahana was seated on his lap; she had been quiet all the while, like she sensed the tense atmosphere.

"Brilliant, me and Neha don't have to adopt Ahana now" Adi said, exhaling. "I'd hate to take her away from you guys"

Riddhima smiled broadly, she was grateful, that issue had been running on her mind.

"I always knew you'll turn out in the end" Adi declared, turning to Armaan. "I used to tell Riddhima that, though she never acknowledged her thoughts"

"Stubborn" Armaan muttered. Riddhima pouted, but he simply laughed and put his arm around her.

"Mama" said Ahana softly, looking at Riddhima.  There was deadly silence. Armaan looked like he would somersault across the living room. Neha looked guilty. Adi was trying not to laugh.

"I'll get breakfast" said a small voice that was unmistakably Neha's.

"Neha" Riddhima called icily. "I thought I'd told you not to teach her to call me that" On one previous occasion Riddhima had seen Neha repeatedly asking Ahana to say mama showing her Riddhima's picture. She had warned Neha against it!

Neha laughed nervously, then said, "But isn't it good I did that, I mean…" she was fumbling, "Just be happy Riddhima, her first word is mama and it was meant for you"

Riddhima was undoubtedly happy, elated, more than just elated or happy, her joy knew no bounds, and it was too much to take in a day. She had never once imagined that life would take such a happy twist. Tears of joy would leak down any moment now and evidently that didn't go unnoticed.

Neha and Adi left Armaan and Riddhima to their privacy, Riddhima kissed Ahana on the forehead "very good, now say dada, you're sitting on his lap right now, go on, and say da-da"

"Duh-da" said Ahana, loudly, and clapped her hands together after which she laughed revealing her little teeth.

Their joy truly knew no bounds.



***



Riddhima and Ahana had shifted to Armaan's apartment; it was a cozy little rented apartment that was well furnished. They had both decided to take a break from college so to spend time together, while Armaan had to apply for his leave and wait for it to be granted, Riddhima just sat back and giggled. He was permitted leave for 3 days. After three days of blissful living it was time to go back to college.



The night before college…



"72 hours is all we got to ourselves" Armaan sighed sadly stroking Riddhima's hair.

"That's alright, we're just going back to college during the day, but we'll have the rest of the evenings all to ourselves" she whispered, keeping a watch over Ahana who slept soundly on her pram.

They were silent for a few moments, none eager on sleeping. Sleeping seemed like such a waste of time, "Armaan, you never knew about my pregnancy?"

"No sweetheart, I didn't"

"You never doubted about its possibilities?"

"I did, several times, but I couldn't be sure, the thought was scary, not knowing where you were, not knowing the situations you would have been going through, it was an alarming thought, very worrying in simple words,…" He looked terrible beat, several years older and woebegone. "… words that cannot define my state of mind then, but I was sure of one thing, if you were pregnant, I knew you'd have the baby, I didn't have doubts about that, I know you, and I always hoped that you wouldn't opt for an abortion, but there was the scariest factor still, what circumstances were you living in? Any moment of despondency could have you go for an abortion and there would be nothing left to go back to… " He shuddered, taking a moment before having to continue, but he never got a chance, she had captured his lips with hers sparing him the trouble of wording matters out.



***



 Riddhima dropped off Ahana at Neha's and came back to where Armaan was waiting for her on his bike.

"Armaan I think I'll walk from here, it's only 10 minutes away"

"Kyun...?" he asked, puzzled.

"Because I'm your student, you have to agree, it'll look weird if I come on your bike"

"Tch, Riddhima you're my wife" he said, grumbling.

"And how many folks in college know that?"

"Rahul, Muskaan, and, ummm, the rest will know today, come on, we're getting late"

Riddhima gaped and hopped on behind him, "Fine, YOU can face the Dean" she said, sticking her tongue out.

"Anything for you Riddhima" he said, and grinned, looking at her through the rearview, she scoffed and looked away, nevertheless she held him around until they entered the campus.

Sure enough, the reactions were worse than estimated. Every single head turned their direction, Riddhima caught hold of many "what the *beeps*?" She could feel Armaan laughing.

"Armaan, shut up, it's easy to laugh under that helmet, and I can't even hide my embarrassment" she said, over hearing another comment, "I always thought sparks were flying between them, but professor and student? Jee!"

"What embarrassment? You're my legitimate wife; you can gladly take the helmet though" he said taking it off and passing it on, not being able to stop laughing.

She took it, but did not put it on, "Very funny, buy a car will you? That way my embarrassment will be well hidden by the panes!" she replied, indignantly.

He parked while she hurriedly got off, without glancing at any direction she handed him the helmet that she was holding and ran ahead.

That dull blush creeping on her face confirmed weird doubts of a lot of minds.



Rahul and Muskaan were completely their assignments while Riddhima stood in front over them.

"Suhaag raat kaisi thi?" Muskaan asked loudly, grinning.

"Shut up, I'll break your teeth" Riddhima said, looking around to see if anyone overheard.

Muskaan did not stop grinning; Rahul smacked her arm, "oye, assignment"

"I'll see if I can convince Armaan SIR to postpone the deadline of his assignment" Riddhima said, watching everyone struggle to complete it with the tight schedules

"Oh yeah? And he's going to listen to you?" said a girl sitting a little away from Muskaan.

"Oh yes he is" Riddhima said smiling wickedly back at the girl. The girl shook her head in annoyance, "Shirley couldn't do that" she retorted.

"Huh?"

"Yeah, she tried requesting him personally to postpone the dates, and everyone knows she's one of the prettiest girls around, but na, he didn't even fall for it, he just told her off angrily, Shirley confirmed that she put all her charm into it.. But to no avail, I'm starting to think he's gay, honestly" she said, bored and now more annoyed.

Riddhima spluttered. "Man, girls are hitting on him?"

"Yeah", Muskaan said. "You didn't know?"

"No, I didn't"

"You had other stuff to worry about Riddhima" Rahul said, understanding.

"I guess" Riddhima muttered, furious.

"Chod na, you're done with your assignment?" Muskaan asked.

Riddhima grinned, "Yup, I'm done". She borrowed a pen from Muskaan and wrote her name, Riddhima Mallik.

Muskaan cleared her throat loudly, Rahul laughed, and Riddhima flushed.

"Thank you guys, if not for the both of you…" she left the sentence hanging.

"That's alright Riddhima, you don't have to thank us, it was nothing" Rahul replied, Muskaan nodded.

The first bell rang and in a few minutes Armaan entered the room as all settled in place, worry etched on their faces.

"I want your assignments on my table by today afternoon before lunch, no excuses, because your delay might just cost you five marks!" Armaan said with authority. "I understand that everyone has got me?"

Some nodded, some just sighed, some were definitely sure of losing those 5 marks.

"SIR" Riddhima called. Armaan was trying his best not to smile. "Yes?"

She stood up, "Could you please postpone the assignment to a future date? We're rather tight on schedules… Please" she added, her tone was chiding and her eyes twinkled, she too was trying to keep her face straight.

Muskaan was snickering; Rahul tried his best to engage himself into something to keep him from laughing.

"Certainly Riddhima, you may sit down, but I take that you've completed your assignment?"

Riddhima nodded, "yes SIR"

"Good, I want you and your assignment in my cabin by the end of lunch break"

She knew that tone, he was inviting her for lunch. "Of course, you've made yourself clear" she replied and sat down. She turned and cocked her eyebrow to Shirley smiling sarcastically, "it's not about beauty lady, it about knack too or if you would have been a wee bit tactful perhaps…?" Shirley looked intimidating.

"I want the rest of your assignments by tomorrow morning" Armaan announced turning to the board so he could hide his smile.

"Yes" Muskaan hissed, punched the air and thumping Riddhima on the back, "Waah sherni"

Riddhima hi-fived Muskaan and winked at Rahul.

"I told you, there is something fishy, she came on his bike, I saw them" came a voice from somewhere behind, Muskaan and Rahul were ogling at Riddhima while she just cleared her throat and blushed.



Riddhima was stalked all the way to Armaan's staff that day, a week later the whole college had known why Riddhima was in his cabin the whole hour of lunch break. It was uncommon, but accepted. From then on, no one had stopped teasing Riddhima.  Some didn't spare Armaan either, but he never complained.





One evening at Neha and Adi's





"Alan is quitting" Adi confirmed, frustrated, showing Riddhima Alan's resignation letter. Riddhima skimmed through it, "what? He's a professional, he shouldn't be doing this" Riddhima said, unbelievably. "This was his dream, he can't quit"

 "That's what I thought too, obviously I was mistaken, and I've tried everything, his decision wont budge, I think you know why" Adi stated tonelessly.

"His performance has been deteriorating rapidly in the business" Neha added.

"I'll talk to him" Riddhima replied, nodding.



***



"Hi Alan" Riddhima said, entering his cabin, she noticed that half his cabin was empty, he was winding up.

"What a pleasant surprise, come on in" Alan said, he looked delighted.

"Surprise...? You're sure you didn't expect me" Riddhima cross questioned.

"I guessed you'd come around for goodbyes" he said, uncomfortably.

"I have, but not for goodbyes, not now" Riddhima said, keeping a sharp eye on his changing expressions.

"I'm not sure if I understand…?"

"You do Alan, I know you do, wasn't this joint venture a dream you and Adi built together? It seems like a waste to just terminate yourself out of it, for reasons unimportant and unrelated to this? I know I'm probably repeating what Adi said, nevertheless, I know I'll be making a difference to this"

He didn't answer. She moved on, "What are you afraid off? You're leaving because of me isn't it? You're afraid you wouldn't be able to move on? I'm the reason for that wrong decision you made, and I don't see why you should move out of the picture? You're going to kick your dream and years of friendship with Adi just because you feel a strange bond towards me? What kind of immaturity is that Alan? You have a whole life ahead in front of you, you can turn it blissful, but you're chucking it for something worthless, quitting this place isn't going to get you what you want"

She had been calm all this time while he kept his face down staring blankly, she traced that he was ashamed. "I'll be leaving soon Alan, few more days and then we, that is me and Armaan along with Ahana have planned to settle away from here"

That was a lie. Armaan and Riddhima had never planned about their future. But lying so was going to make a difference.

"Don't do this to yourself Alan, you'll regret one day, your decision isn't getting you anywhere, I'll be back tomorrow and I sincerely hope to hear a positive reply from you, right?"

He nodded, "Right". If that was what she wanted, she'd get it.

She was at the exit, "I'm not going to let you make a mistake like the one I did Alan, you better change your decision, walking out is a terrible thing to do"



***

Riddhima's final exams had been fast approaching and she was awake many late nights in a row with all the preparations required. And so on one such night…

"Riddhima…?"

"Hmm…?" Riddhima replied sleepily as she climbed into bed and cuddled into Armaan's arms.

"What do you plan to do after Graduation?" Armaan asked, slowly.

"I'm not sure… is there something you'd suggest as a professor" she said, giggling, her eyes were closing.

He made her look at him, his eyes questioning hers.

"I want to do anything that deals with real estate, you know, real estate development, like if I could be a real estate developer… " she said, slowly, pausing and looking at him to see if he was going to react, he remained silent, waiting for her to go on, "…may be somewhere abroad, but I obviously don't have that kinda money for initial investment, I'm not comfortable borrowing that much, but I can always start later, when I have the requirements" she said.

 "Riddhima, finance is not an issue, you know tha…"

"No Armaan, for that you'll have to redeem your company's shares, and I'm not letting that happen, your father didn't want that, I'm sure, and you're forgetting, your mother wont allow you either."

"I own 49% shares Riddhima…"

"51% shares and everything including all the assets plus your house is in your mother's name… No Armaan, we're not doing this"

"But…?"

"Armaan… later, there is no need to hurry at all, I'm still very young, there'll be time for it later, and even if there isn't, I really have all that I want" she said with finality, shutting her eyes and putting her arm around him.

"Right"

He was lost in thought, he didn't know how long, sometime later he held Riddhima possessively. He had concluded something in his mind. When he turned his head around to look at her, she was fast asleep on his shoulder.



***

"So Alan, I've given you more than a day, have you made a decision that is going to immensely please me?"

"As a matter of fact, I have, I'm not leaving" he responded, smiling.

"Excellent, I knew you wouldn't upset me" Riddhima said, gladly, moving forward to give him a hug.

"There's something I want you to have" he hesitated watching her. She didn't show any sign of discouragement, "yes Alan?"

"This…" he said, taking something out of his pocket, "… was something I got for you, but didn't pluck the courage to … oh well… never mind, I just want you to have it"

She took the gold chain that he held out to her, it was soft, short, pure and thin as a cable wire, it had a nice small round ball pendent, with the smallest and finest stones.

"It's marvelous, I'll keep it Alan, in memory, I promise, Thank you"





That evening the chain Alan had given Riddhima was around Ahana's neck"





A few weeks after the final exams were over Armaan asked Riddhima to begin packing.

"Pack everything you don't want to leave behind Riddhima; we are not coming back here" Armaan said, giving it a head start.

The lease period of the apartment they had been staying in was coming to an end, and Armaan had no intentions of renewing contracts, they were going to settle properly for good.

"What? Everything…? Why… I thought we're renewing the contract? And you've resigned? Riddhima said, unsure.

"Honey you ask too many questions, help me out, come on" Armaan said, ushering her.

"But, where are we going?" Riddhima said, standing her ground and flaring her nose, looking at Armaan hurriedly moving around.

"Here, our visas and passports, keep them in your handbag, the one you'll be carrying around, we're going home, there's something that's got to be done"

She didn't know what was to be done either.  The idea of going home was revolting enough.

Was her fate sealed?


__________________________
 Steff

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