Thursday, 29 November 2018

last Chapter : Where Did I go Wrong



"Armaan I don't want to go" Riddhima said, peeping outside as the aircraft was about to take off. "I so feel like getting off the plane now" she continued, gritting her teeth.

"Riddhima, I promise, we're not going to be there forever, just a matter of minutes, really, we'll be out of that place sooner than…"

"That does not exclude the fact that I'll have to endure your mother for those few minutes.  Does it?" she cut in fiercely, she did look scary.

"Riddhima…" he said his voice consoling. He put his arm around her.

"Armaan…this is not fair" she said, whining. Her lips pouted. Ahana was trying to imitate Riddhima which Armaan just noticed. "Look at her face" he said in surprise, pointing at the ditto resemblance to Riddhima's current face. It was like a small version of Riddhima, Ahana was now puckering her nose, the piggy face.


Riddhima's mind momentarily tuned off to the dread coming. She was now trying to get Ahana's hair settled, "What are you doing?" Armaan questioned her failed attempts. "Getting her hair to stand down properly…like this" she muttered and smiled at her short lived achievement because moments later the hair was back up sticking in all directions. "Tch, I hope it's not going be like all her life, she'll grow out of it I hope…"

"I didn't grow out of it…" Armaan replied, grinning. "… and I'm glad I didn't, you know why?" he continued, now putting both his hands around her.

"Why?" she asked sweetly, though she perfectly knew. "Because I love it when you get down to settling my messed up hair with your delicate hands… and I wish you'd do that now" he said, her favorite smile coming to his lips, that was so hard to resist. "Your hair is now perfectly fine Armaan" she said, stalling.

It was his turn to pout now, "ok ok, don't give me that look, it makes me feel guilty, come here" she said, now settling to work on his hair, she ran her fingers slowly and expertly through his tousled hair while Ahana dozed off on Armaan's lap as her head rested on his stomach her little legs on either side of his lap. He too was asleep sooner than she had expected.



***



"Riddhima, wake up, we've reached" Armaan said, shaking her.

She stirred and got up with a start, she was having a bad dream, "Oh, I slept right through the landing"

"Yeah, you look confused, bad dream?" he asked, concerned.

"Indeed" she replied, "Let it remain that way, bad dreams are way better than harsh reality"

He did not ask her what she dreamt, he could very well comprehend. "I'm sorry for making you go through all of this, I understand how hard it must be for you to…"

"Just get done with it fast, I can't guarantee when I'll lose control, ok?"

"Yeah, I promise" he said, smiling. "Thanks"

She smiled back and ruffled his hair playfully.



***



She was there, standing in the lawn of the place that had changed her entire life, from bliss to disaster. A part of her soul would always remain in the walls of that room Armaan and she had shared together and even if she intended to leave every unwanted memory of this place behind, she wouldn't be able to, she knew it. It was something that had changed their lives. She looked at Armaan, his mind was probably going the same way hers was, probably deeper and much further than hers travelled, this was his home from the time he was little. She took his hand and squeezed it the slightest, "I think I'm just feeling a bit nostalgic" he said at her touch. His voice was hoarse, "Oh no don't mistake me… I just wish dad was around, nothing of this would have ever happened, but we can't have everything in life, right?"

Riddhima walked back to her past, her long past, she was standing over the grave of her mother, she was crying over being call filth, she was lonely on that aisle, deep darkness was looming over her, she was leaving to never return, she felt discarded, she was delivering, she was in agony and most of all, she was alone. She broke out of her reverie.

"Right, life is never going to be perfect, for no one, we just have to adopt and accustom ourselves to the imperfections, but as long as we're doing it together, I don't care, I think we should go in…" and that's when Armaan squeezed her hand in return.

"We…?" Armaan asked, shocked. All the way Riddhima was telling him that she'd just wait for him outside.

"Yeah, I think I'd want to have a glimpse of where we started our lives together, you go in first, and I'll follow, is that alright?"

"Of course, shall we?"



***



There was no one to be seen in the living room. It would look bright, spotlessly clean and homely to any outsider but to them it was eerily empty. The air of that place had been sucked out, "Armaan, can we just go to our room before, you know… like what if things go bad when you meet your mother and we may not be able to have a last look… " she said, uncertainly, leaving the sentence hanging.

He understood her and silently agreed. They quietly walked upstairs. The door to their room was unlocked, Riddhima pushed the door open and like every other room in this house even their room was tidy, but now the four walls surrounding them were truly alive, it was a semi homely feeling to Riddhima. The photos of them that adorned the walls were all smiling at them. She placed sleeping Ahana on their bed and looked around yet again.

Armaan closed the door behind them. She didn't question him about that gesture, somewhere she knew the answer, it was ineffable, but she knew it, she knew precisely what their quickened heartbeats wanted to convey. She smiled to herself, she felt exactly how she had felt on their wedding night, and it was an elating feeling yet mixed with anxiousness. May be it was because they'd been away from where they were standing for so long.

Armaan came and hugged her from behind, "I know what you're going through, may be because I'm going through what you are as well" he said, huskily.

She turned around in the circle of his arms and put her arms around his neck "You know we may never get this chance again, might as well utilize this opportunity well" she whispered and kissed him passionately. His fingers were beginning to trace her waistline from under her blouse, it wasn't the time to lose control and so with great effort she pulled back. "Never allow me to forget this moment" he said, his breath ragged. "Never" she said, leaning her head against his. She saw that she had managed to pop one of his buttons; she never realized that, she smiled to herself biting her lip. "I'll never get over him..."

"What's that?"

"Nothing…" she said, embarrassed.

He looked around, "Is there anything you'd want to take before we leave? The last time you left you picked your necessities... So perhaps…?" he said, sounding bitter.

"As a matter of fact, there is…" she replied, walking to the closet and pulling out a thick wrapped package from the corner of the last shelf.

"That looks unfamiliar…" Armaan said, he had never noticed that package before.

Riddhima giggled, "This…" she said, "…are all those love letters and cards you wrote to me everyday after you proposed and before we got married, I can't believe it, email aur sms ke zamane mein you used to write me letters and send me cards, crazy… weren't we?"

"I'm still crazy about you, you know that?"

"I think I do, and so am I"

"I'll find mom I think, you stay here, and you may come out, if you wish…"

"Yeah, you go, I'll make up my mind…" Riddhima replied, reprimanding.

He kissed her forehead and left. She sat down, she felt drained for some reason. Thankfully Ahana distracted her by waking up.



***



Moments later she had made up her mind, she took Ahana downstairs. What she first saw shocked her, she saw her mother in law, and she looked like some great sort of adversity had befallen. She had dark circles and she looked old, really old. The old past flashed in her mind.

Armaan doesn't want children... Just yesterday he was telling me how he was not ready to take up the responsibility of having children



It makes me feel like filth to have you in the house

Good, I like her too, you see, it's highly essential that the ex wife approves of the going to be wife

One of these girls is eligible to be my daughter in law; do I need to explain more? Consider this as a warning if you want Riddhima. I promise you that soon you won't be hanging around here. You'll be gone in a matter of time



Armaan always wanted a boy.

Infuriating!

Riddhima didn't feel sorry for her mother in law, she walked down the last few stairs and watched Armaan being hugged by his mother, she was pleading for him not to leave. She also observed that Armaan was standing there not hugging back. She wondered if being pleased at that sight would be a sin. A stern cold expression crossed Armaan's face as soon as he saw his mother walking towards Riddhima. Riddhima saw her mother in law stumble towards her; the expression on her face was hard to interpret. Riddhima stood her ground.

"That's my granddaughter" she said, in awe, like she'd never seen or heard of a thing like that before. Her hand stretched to touch Ahana when Riddhima held Ahana away and walked backwards, "I'd prefer if you stay away from her, I'm sure she gives you no happiness, you wanted her killed if I remember right" Riddhima said, her voice tight. She could see Armaan's face tightening too.

"I promise we'll be happy together and live as a family, please don't take my son away from me, he's all I have" she said, at Riddhima's face, begging.

Riddhima wrinkled her nose, that woman was truly rotten. She didn't even apologize, just got down to begging, not that Riddhima would have been able to forgive her if she'd apologized. "He can choose to stay if he wishes and if you remember, I never took him away from you, it was his choice" Riddhima replied, her temper was rising; she could feel it getting on her head. She didn't even care if that witch cursed her.

"Son, I'm sorry, I really am, please convince her too to stay" she went back pleading and stuttering to Armaan.

"See what you've got down to? Begging… I had no one besides him in my life either, yet you worked your way and got me away from him? How does it feel now? A doze of your own medicine, isn't it?" Riddhima said, now no longer fighting to keep the anger low in her voice.

Armaan didn't respond to anything, he simply went to Riddhima, zipped open the handbag that was on her shoulder and removed a file. "I haven't come here to stay, you can let that thought out of your mind" he said, tonelessly, for some strange reason he didn't feel sorry saying that, his mother truly deserved it. He handed over the file. She opened it and stared, wide eyed.

The first page read DISSOLUTION OF THE FIRM.

"I've signed it, be sure to read everything properly before signing because that also says you want me to have the company's assets" Armaan said, with finality. "I expect a response in 10 days precisely, my lawyer will see you after that… dad's company isn't doing well, it'd be better to dissolve it that ruin all the reputation he made, I'm sure you'll agree with me"

He waited for her response, when she remained quiet he moved on, "We'll leave now, sorry for all the inconvenience". His tone wasn't sorry at all. "Have a good day"

"What goes around comes around, doesn't it? It has come back to you double fold, I guess!" Riddhima said, more to herself, but it didn't go unheard.



She trotted away; not trusting her tongue anymore. Armaan followed her out, neither of them wanting to discuss the events of what happened in there.

"What now? Shall we check into a hotel?" Riddhima asked, completely unsure, she had never questioned him their next plan.

Armaan grinned, his eyes twinkled and there was a glow on his face, "No, we catch our next flight and… you'll see…" he said, winking.

Riddhima loved his surprises, but the suspense and curiosity killed her.



***



"You like it?" he whispered.

They were standing in front of the most beautiful house Riddhima had ever seen. It wasn't too big, it was too small either, and it was just perfect. The garden lawn was mesmerizing, with some many flowers and greenery everywhere. The kind Riddhima always saw in movies, it was hard to digest that she was standing there. She gasped, a little too late, but that was enough for Armaan to comprehend.

"That is where we're going to be living" Armaan said, proudly. "My father had left this land in my name long ago, it was time I used it"

She just turned around and hugged him; he put his free arm around her holding Ahana tighter with the other.

They were finally together in the true sense, they had become one forever.



***



The following week their lawyer had informed that Armaan's mother had changed the clauses regarding dissolution. Armaan had now 95% shares and the company's assets. 5% shares and the house she chose to keep in her name so she wouldn't have to depend on anyone for the rest of her life.





Some Many Months Later…





"One…" Armaan was saying slowly.

"Won…"

"Two..."

"Toooh…"

"Three…"

"Tehleee"

"Four"

*A long gap*

"Baby… Four…"

"Faull"

"No darling, it's three... T-H-R-E-E… and F-O-U-R… Foul... Err... I mean Four"

Ahana ogled at Armaan, with big eyes and pouty lips. "Now say one to five at a stretch. You can give me that mama look of yours later…"

She remained quite, she almost scoffed. Armaan laughed, but he knew how to get her, "you're daddy's girl no baby? A good girl… Right…?

Did someone call her good girl and daddy's girl? "Won, Tooh, thlee, foul" she said fast and after a long gap, "fife" She laughed and clapped at her achievement and went back to playing with her toys.

"No, toys later… Six!" Armaan said, lifting Ahana onto his lap watching her drag the toy with her.



Riddhima laughed hard as she walked into the room and settled on the bed with Armaan and Ahana.

"She's just a bit over 2 years Armaan, give her time, she needs to get used to her tongue…" Riddhima said, "No darling…?" she added patting Ahana's head lightly, Ahana flashed a dimpled smile in response.

"But Riddhima… you're going to spoil her?"

"Look who's talking, didn't you sneak into the kitchen, dead of night, 2 days ago, because you wanted to grab a chocolate for yourself? And when Ahana saw you sneaking out, you bribed her into it too, she had chocolate all over her mouth!"

He grinned sheepishly. "…and that teacher spirit of yours kicked in since Ahana started talking a little, give it a rest no, see how Ahana is making that sad puppy dog face at you" Riddhima continued, imitating Ahana.

"Cheer up baby, see mama has got you yummy oats; you must be hungry no? Open your mouth, aaaa…"

Ahana opened her mouth wide, "That's like a good girl, now you'll be strong and healthy like papa and smart and intelligent like mama"

"Acha…? I'm not smart and intelligent huh?" Armaan said, his tone getting mischievous as his eyes narrowed.

"When did I say that?" Riddhima replied, mocking his tone.

"Riddhimaaa…"

"Yes Armaaaaann….?"

Armaan gently kept Ahana on the bed now and advanced towards Riddhima, the Armaan-Riddhima game was on again. Riddhima moved back, she knew what was coming later, she was right in doing so, she jumped off the bed as Armaan began chasing her around, she escaped a few times, but he was too fast, he grabbed her around the waist and began tickling her, she squealed, "Armaan,… noooo,…. please" she managed to say between many gasps, laughs and cries. "Ok…Ok... You're smart and intelligent too, now let go…" He stopped tickling her but didn't let go her, he buried his face into her neck. Riddhima was regaining her breath, but she held onto Armaan too.

"Riddhima?" he said, softly, his breath blowing against her hair.

"Hmm…?"

"Can we go from three to four?"

She took a moment to realize what he was saying. "Yes, I've been waiting for you to say that..."



The following year…



Riddhima gave birth to a baby boy whom they named Rehan, this time R standing for Riddhima and N standing for ArmaaN.

Rightly enough, Armaan had been there with Riddhima right from the start, from the time of conception to birth and everything else they were deprived of.



***



Armaan and Riddhima had celebrated their 10th anniversary, not celebration; more of a get together.

"10 marvelous years…" Riddhima was saying, sleeping at her usual spot that was between Armaan's shoulder and neck.

"You bet…" Armaan replied sleepily. "… and I've never been able to gift you anything greater than what you've gifted me…"

Riddhima looked at him, puzzled. "Ahana and Rehan, they are more than what I could have asked for… Thank you, every time I look at them, it's like I'm looking at them for the first time…"

"Armaan, my biggest present if you, you've given yourself to me, what could be greater…"

"I'm glad… "

"You seem tired…?" Riddhima asked him, concerned by the tiredness in his voice.

"I think I'm just getting old…"

"Of course not, we have so many years to go, we still have our silver and golden jubilee to go…" she said, giggling.

"Oh my God, I'm going to be really old by then, no teeth and all…"

Riddhima's giggle turned into laughter; "Let's not worry about that… and don't you dare call yourself old…"

"Yes your highness… now if you'd just goodnight-kiss-me, I'll let myself slumber peacefully…" he said, the twinkle returning in his eye as he turned to face her.



She did not protest. It was a day today thing for them now, but not something they loathed doing or got bored of, it was one of the pleasant things not everyone probably was blessed with. It was hard to believe that all their troubled past was done with, they had moved on so well, with a pledge to drive out the slightest spark of misunderstanding, they argued, sure they did, like normal folks did, whether the argument was playful, little or big, the making up part was the best outcome of it. None of them held egos; the one in the mood to make up first would just take the right step.

Working with Riddhima Armaan realized was a whole new dimension. It was strangely fun, something he never thought business could be, they had started their small firm that evolved over the years and was doing well. She had developed in him a whole new point of seeing things, from then on; he always looked at things from Riddhima's eyes.

And as they broke apart a ripple of pleasure shuddered through their veins… with many unspoken promises, the tomorrow's battles and challenges they'd face together, the troubles they'd share, the differences they'd sort, being together in all the walks of life with love that bloomed every other day… what could have been a happier ending? They had successfully wiped the ghosts of their pasts.

They would get through the darkest times if ever they should have to face such a thing again… and this time - Together.



And so they drifted into sleep with dreams of living on happily ever after…



__________________________________

Steff

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