Saturday, 3 November 2018

Part 14 : Chance Encounter


Riddhima woke up smiling. She stretched and then messed up her hair, still unable to wipe the smile off her face. She remembered the last night and laughed out loud. Niki and Armaan were a riot with Abhi playing the grown up, trying his best to maintain some semblance of sanity. Riddhima pushed aside the blanket and still giggling, moved towards the washroom to take a bath.

 Armaan was rudely woken up by CNN blaring at top volume. He rummaged sleepily all over his bed before he could locate the remote and switch off the television. He woke up every Sunday, listening to the business news on CNN, but not today, not this Sunday. He jumped out of his bed and stretched, today was going to be a great day.

 Riddhima came out drying her hair. She popped her head into Niki's room.



"Niki, get up, it's'.Niki?" She slapped her head as she remembered belatedly that Abhi and Niki were supposed to leave early in the morning to go to Lonavla to meet Abhi's family.

"She must have left a note," Riddhima muttered to herself and as she had predicted, there was a post-it on the refrigerator.

'Good morning sleeping beauty! Leaving for Lonavla, will be back tonight. Miss me!"

Riddhima smiled and went into the kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee.





"Mohan bhaiyya, coffee," Armaan screamed from the top of the stairs.

"Armaan baba? Are you going out somewhere?"

"Yep, but not before having coffee. After all you make the world's best coffee."

Mohan bhaiyya laughed, "Once you get married, we'll see."



Riddhima took a sip of her coffee and switched on the tv, CNN business news, borrrrrring! She changed the channel, a re-run of F.R.I.E.N.D.S., the one where Chandler proposes to Monica.

"I'll be there for you," Riddhima hummed along with the title track.



"I'll be there for you," Armaan hummed along with the Remembrandts, while driving. He parked his car outside a florist shop and bought a bunch of flowers. He took out a long stemmed rose from his bouquet and gifted it to the lady in the florist shop and drove towards Riddhima's house. He parked outside the gate and looked up at the fifth floor with a smile on his face.



Riddhima frowned as she heard the doorbell ring.

'Who could be calling on me on Sunday morning?" she wondered. She opened the door and her mouth fell open.

"Oh my God!!"



Apartment number 503. Armaan fixed his hair and rang the bell. He put on his best smile as the door opened but his smile disappeared as fast as it had appeared.

"Oh my God!"



"Oh my God! I think I have the wrong apartment," Armaan mumbled to himself, "but Niki said'"

"Yes? May I help you?" the man who had opened the door asked.

Armaan looked up to see the man looking at him, his brows raised in unspoken question. Armaan forced a smile,

"Ah, I am sorry, I think I got the wrong apartment. Sorry to bother you."

"It's okay, not a problem."

Armaan turned around to go when suddenly a voice stopped him in his tracks,

"Rahul Gupta, where the hell are you?"

"Muskaan, I '"

Rahul was cut off as Armaan stepped in to stop the door from closing. Rahul turned around surprised, but before he could say anything, Armaan spoke up.

"You are Rahul? As in Dr. Rahul Gupta?"

"Yes," Rahul replied cautiously, a bit unnerved by Armaan's bright, almost maniacal smile.

"You won't believe, how great it is to finally meet you," Armaan grinned and before Rahul knew what was happening, he was enveloped in a hug by the over friendly stranger.

"Rahul, are you deaf? I've been calling'"

Rahul and Armaan broke apart when they heard a third voice behind them. Armaan saw a very pretty lady with a shoulder length curly black hair and if possible, his smile became wider. The lady crossed her arms and cocked an eye brow,

"Well well, what have we here? No wonder, you were so distracted. Dr. Rahul Gupta, won't you introduce me to your 'special' friend?"

Rahul's ears became tinged with red under his wife's teasing and he glared at Armaan,

"I will tell you who he is Muskaan," Rahul muttered, "As soon as I find out myself."

"Hi, Muskaan bhabi," Armaan waved, "It's really nice to see you."

Rahul and Muskaan looked at each other and mouthed wordlessly, "Muskaan bhabi?" They both surveyed Armaan from top to bottom and then Rahul ventured cautiously,

"Umm, er, I am sorry, do we know you?"

Armaan smiled, "No, you guys don't know me, I am'"

"Armaan?"

All of them turned to look at Riddhima who stared back at them wide eyed. Finally Armaan broke the silence,

"Hi Riddhima, I was just telling Rahul bhaiyya and Muskaan bhabi, how great it is to see them."

Riddhima looked from Rahul to Muskaan who were both staring at her expecting an explanation. She glared at Armaan,

"Armaan, what are you doing here?"

"I just came to say hello and I met your brother. By the way bhaiyya, weren't you supposed to go to Hyderabad for a conference?"

"No, we just wanted to surprise Ridz and Papa almost spoiled it, but, wait a minute, how do you know about  that?"

"I was..," Armaan started but was again interrupted by Riddhima.

"Bhai, this is Armaan, we were all at the party together when you called last night."

"Oh, okay," Rahul smiled and then frowned again, "Armaan? Where did I hear that name? Didn't you'."

"Bhai," Riddhima hastily interrupted his thought process, "Why are you still standing at the door? Armaan come in, meet my brother Rahul and Muskaan bhabi."

"We've met," Rahul said curtly still frowning, "A little too well for my comfort."

Rahul's sarcasm was covered up with Muskaan's enthusiasm, she at once went forward with a huge smile,

"Hi Armaan, always a pleasure to meet someone so handsome."

Rahul flinched audibly and Riddhima closed her eyes and desperately wished she could disappear. However, Armaan handled it superbly.

He smiled, "Likewise, ma'm," and extended the bouquet of flowers he was holding, "For you."

"Oh, Thank You, that is so sweet of you," Muskaan exclaimed, "It has been a such a long time since anyone has brought me flowers," she added pointedly, looking at Rahul.

"Well, it has been a long time since anyone has called me handsome," Rahul complained in the same tone.

Muskaan cast Rahul a caustic look and again turned towards Armaan who couldn't help but smile.

"Armaan, come in. So how do you know Riddhima?"

"We are friends," Armaan said.

"We met at the hospital," Riddhima said.

They looked at each other and then corrected themselves,

"We met at the hospital," Armaan said.

"We are friends," Riddhima said.

Muskaan looked puzzled, "I am confused."

"Actually, we met at the hospital and then we became friends," Armaan explained.

"Oh, right," Muskaan smiled, "So Armaan, you are doctor? What do you specialize in?"

Armaan shook his head, "I am not a doctor. My nephew was sick and that is how I met Riddhima. By the way, she is a fabulous doctor."

A faint smile appeared on Rahul's face on hearing Riddhima being praised but the scowl returned soon enough.

"If you are not a doctor, then what do you do?"

Armaan looked at Riddhima who rolled her eyes in an 'I told you so' gesture. Armaan stopped the laugh but couldn't control the grin that spread across his face.

"What's so funny?" Rahul inquired.

"Umm, nothing," Armaan tried his best to wipe off the grin, but failed, "I just love my work and it always makes me smile talking about it."

Riddhima snorted at Armaan's pathetic excuse while Muskaan nudged her and asked in a whisper,

"He is not mad, is he?"

Riddhima shook her head and then looked away to hide her smile.

Rahul was a bit taken aback by Armaan's comment but he managed to pull off a smile,

"That's very nice, but what is it that you do?"

"Umm, we have a family business, and I mind my own business," Armaan finished with a grin.

Muskaan burst out laughing in a weird squeaky way and Armaan laughed along with her.

"That was funny Armaan, 'mind my own business', ha ha!"

Armaan turned to look at Rahul and quickly stopped laughing when he noticed the 'not amused' expression.

"Umm, sorry."

"It's okay," Rahul allowed, "That was an okay sort of a joke. Well, what kind of business do you mind?"

Before Armaan could answer Muskaan interrupted,

"Oh God Rahul! Give the poor guy a break. You just met him and you have started with your third degree."

"But, Muskaan'"

"Ssshh..Rahul, zip it. Armaan, sit down. You seem like an interesting guy, what do you do for fun?"

Riddhima slapped her fore head; here goes another line of questioning!

Armaan didn't miss Riddhima's frustrated reaction and grinned.

"I like Football, Maradona is my favourite."

Instantly he had everybody's attention. He winked at Riddhima secretly while she looked daggers at him.

Rahul's scowl diminished into an almost negligible frown and he looked vaguely interested,

"You like Maradona?"

Muskaan grimaced, "Oh no! Welcome to ESPN live!"

"Absolutely, he is the best," Armaan smiled, "I think he is like the 'Shahrukh Khan' of football!"

Riddhima buried her face in her hands, this is so not happening!

"What?" Rahul and Muskaan shouted in unison.

Armaan grinned, 'bull's eye!'

"Yeah, like Shahrukh Khan is the king of bollywood, Maradona is the absolute ruler of the football field."



Riddhima peeped through her fingers to see Rahul and Muskaan staring at each other apparently dumbstruck at having the main two reasons of their fights pitted against each other or rather being declared as equals. It was something like fighting for ages about whether sandwich is better than pizza and then realizing that they are basically the same thing ~ bread!



Rahul was the first to find his voice,

"Tch, that's a stupid comparison. How can you compare Maradona to that 'Shahrukh Khan'?"

"Oye Rahul, don't make that face, Shahrukh Khan is any day better than Maradona."

"Puh-leez, in your dreams, can Shahrukh Khan kick a back volley?"

"Of course he can, haven't you seen DDLJ?"

Rahul was stuck for a second and then he started with renewed vigour,

"Ha, back volley! That was his stunt double, miss I-believe-everything-I-see moron!"

"Moron? You called me moron? Fine, even if it was his stunt double, who cares? Can your Maradona dance like Shahrukh or for that matter even like his 'stunt double'!"



Riddhima looked on helplessly while Armaan sat between the fighting couple smiling serenely. Finally she had enough and stepped forward to stop the fight.

"Bhai!"
"Anybody can put on makeup and make faces'"

"Bhabi!"

"And anybody can kick around a football'."

"Armaan!"

"Yes, sweetheart?" Armaan grinned.

"Armaan," Riddhima narrowed her eyes, "A word, in the kitchen!"



Armaan followed quietly as she led him to the kitchen. She leaned against the kitchen counter and glowered at Armaan.

"Armaan, what the hell do you think you are doing?"

"Oooh, aloo parantha," Armaan squealed.

Riddhima slapped his hand away and he made an offended face,

"What?"

"What what? What was all that Maradona,Shahrukh Khan fiasco? What are you doing here Armaan?"

"Like I said," Armaan frowned, "I came to say hello. Abhi told me last night that Niki and he would be going to Lonavla for the day, so I thought maybe, we could spend the day together, you know, have lunch or something, but I think, you'd rather see me hungry." Armaan finished with an accusing look, patting lightly the hand she had just slapped away.

Riddhima felt guilty, Armaan hadn't done anything, it is not his fault that my family members are off their rocker.

"Armaan, I am sorry. I am just a bit overwhelmed. I mean, Bhaiyya-Bhabi came, and it was a huge surprise and then you turned up. It was all just a bit'"

"Surreal, but nice," Armaan finished her sentence with a grin.

Riddhima had to smile at that, "Notting Hill! Armaan, now you are quoting movie dialogues? Muskaan bhabi is going to love you."

"Why the future tense, sweetheart? She already loves me, didn't you hear?"

"Armaan," Riddhima sighed exasperated, "Stop it, since when have you started calling me sweetheart?"

"Since today, because you are very sweet and my heart melts whenever I see you, sweetheart," Armaan finished dramatically.

"Oh God Armaan, can you be serious, for like just 1 minute?"

Armaan looked straight into her eyes and took a step forward. Riddhima tried to step back but realized that she was trapped by the kitchen counter. Seemingly unaware of her discomfort, Armaan took another step forward. He placed one hand on the kitchen counter just behind her back and raised the other to her face, placing his knuckles on her cheek.

"I have never been more serious in my life, Riddhima."

Riddhima's knees felt weak and she just about managed to utter a hoarse, "Armaan."

"And there's something that I have been dying to do since the time I walked into your apartment."

Riddhima wanted to protest, she knew her brother was in the next room and could walk in at any moment, she knew that all she had to do was just say a simple 'no' and Armaan would move away, she also knew this was not the time or the place for being intimate, but surprisingly she did nothing.

Armaan smiled as he saw Riddhima close her eyes and thought that she had never looked more beautiful. Her eyes tightly closed, her lips parted, she looked adorable. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her, then and there, but he knew in his heart that this was neither the time nor the place for their first kiss. He wanted it to be special. Instead he limited himself to just caressing her cheek with his thumb and then wiped her nose with the back of his hand.

Riddhima opened her eyes, surprised and found Armaan grinning at her.

"Armaan?"

"You had flour on your nose, Riddhima."

"What?" Riddhima whispered.

"Yeah, wiped it," Armaan grinned, raising his palm to show the flour marks on the back of his hand.

Riddhima rubbed her nose unconsciously and she looked so very cute, Armaan couldn't help himself. He put his arms around her and gave her a hug. He pulled back and smiled,

"Thanks Riddhima."

"Thanks? For what?"

"For the Aloo parantha," Armaan grinned as he showed her the parantha he had picked up from the plate behind her. He bit into it and smiled, "Yum, Riddhima, you make great paranthas."

"Armaan!" Riddhima tried to look angry but failed. Instead she smiled, "You are too much."

Armaan was about to say something when they heard Rahul calling from the living room.

"Riddhima, what are you doing in the kitchen?"

Riddhima quickly pushed Armaan away and hurried into the living room with him following her.

"Bhai, I was just making the paranthas for lunch."

Rahul frowned, "And Armaan?"

"Armaan was'"

"I was helping her," Armaan interrupted, "After all she invited me for lunch, that's the least I can do."

Riddhima glared at Armaan while he grinned back at her cheekily. He looked past Riddhima and smiled at Muskaan.

"Muskaan bhabi, have you seen Duplicate? You know, the one where Shahrukh plays a chef and he has a villain look-alike."

Riddhima shook her head and smiled as she heard Muskaan squeal excitedly,

"Today is definitely going to be a very interesting day!"

Mia

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