Thursday, 8 November 2018

Part 19 : Chance Encounter

Dinner was fun...or atleast if gulping down soup could be called fun.

"Thank God, you are not a doctor," Riddhima whined as Armaan insisted she finished her bowl of soup, "You would have driven your patients up the wall."

Armaan laughed, "Or charmed them to good health."

"Show off," Riddhima muttered.

"Beautiful!" Armaan countered, making Riddhima blush and concentrate on her soup until she had gulped down the last drop.

"Done."


"Good girl," Armaan said patting her head and handed over her medicines, "Here you go."

Riddhima didn't dare argue, realizing soon enough that it was quite an impossible task convincing Armaan. She took the medicines without complaining. She handed back her glass of water and leaned back on her chair with a smile.

"Anything else, 'Doctor' Armaan Mallik?

"Yep," Armaan grinned back, "You go to your room and go to sleep!"

"Just what a girl wants to hear," Riddhima muttered under her breath.

"What? Didn't get that."

"Nothing," Riddhima hurriedly mumbled, "Armaan, I am not feeling sleepy."

"You will be. It's pretty late and that was quite strong medication. So let's get you upstairs to bed and I am sure you'll be asleep soon enough."

Riddhima frowned but running out of counter arguments, she quietly followed Armaan upstairs. Armaan turned around when they reached her room and smiled,

"Here you go Riddhima, have a good night." He pulled her into a hug and kissed the top of her head, "I love you."

"I love you too," Riddhima whispered smiling and snuggled closer not wanting to let go. "And I swear, I am not sleepy," she tried again.

Armaan chuckled, almost with smug satisfaction and lied, "Well I am. Hasn't anyone ever told you, how much trouble you are? Phew, I am tired!"

Riddhima pouted and tried to push him away but he wouldn't let go. She finally gave up struggling and mumbled,

"Fine, go to sleep. As if I care."

She heard the deep rumble in his chest as he laughed silently,

"Riddhima," he spoke gently, "You need to rest. We'll talk tomorrow, okay?"

Riddhima sighed and nodded, letting him kiss her softly before she walked into her room smiling.









"Crash"

Armaan sat up in his bed momentarily dazed, not sure what had woke him up. As the evenings proceedings slowly flooded back into his memory, the same involuntarily smile that was hitched on his face the entire evening was back.

"Riddhima," he muttered to himself, reveling in the fact that she was in his house, on the same floor, sleeping peacefully, just two rooms away. She would be right there, at arm's length if he gave into his mad desire and knocked on her door.

"Would she be really angry if I woke her up?" Armaan wondered out loud, frowning, "Or will she think it's cute?" he reconsidered grinning.

As if a reprimand to his midnight musings, thunder struck and in the flash of lightning Armaan caught the time.

"2 a.m. !Definitely going to be angry," Armaan made his decision and slapped the back of his head. He was slipping back into the covers when,

"Crash!!"

This time the sound was loud and clear and Armaan jumped out of his bed with only one thought on his mind,

"Riddhima!"



As he ran towards Riddhima's room he was greeted with another loud crash and some mumbled mutterings coming from inside. Not even bothering to knock in his excited state of mind, he simply barged in, shouting,

"Riddhima."

His heart sank at the sight before him. The room was a complete mess. He noted the ruffled bed, shattered bits of ornament everywhere, the large windows and the open balcony that allowed the howling wind to rage a storm inside the room and most importantly......no Riddhima!

"Riddhima," Armaan yelled, terrified, "Riddhima, where are you?"

His heart seemed to hammer painfully in his chest when there was no answer. He opened the bathroom door to find it empty as well and he felt weak in the knees.

"Oh God!! Please no!" He muttered as he ran towards the open window in desperation and shouted again over the storm,

"Riddhima! Riddhima!!"



"Oh Hi, Armaan! Didn't hear you come in!"

Armaan did a double take. He took a 360 degree turn around the spot he was standing, but there was no Riddhima in sight. Yet it was her voice, it was definitely her voice, albeit soft and winded but clear and in an odd way, cheerful. He couldn't have imagined it.

"Riddhima," he screamed, now positively terrified as well as puzzled, "Where are you? I can't see you."

"Err..Armaan. I am right here, on your left.

Armaan was half hanging outside the window and it was quite impossible for anybody to be on his left side, unless they were sitting on a tree.

"Armaan....try 7 O'clock," Riddhima's voice instructed and as Armaan turned his head in the required angle, he finally spotted the owner of the voice.

Riddhima....dripping wet from head to toe with a plastic bag covering her head, leaning over the edge of the balcony waving and grinning at him.

Armaan just stood there, rooted to spot, unable to react. He didn't know what to do. Whether to sigh in relief that Riddhima was alright or scream and rant at her for giving him the biggest scare of his life. He was also in two minds about whether he felt like going out in to the balcony to give her a hug or shake her till he got some sense knocked into her. The decision however was not his to take and he was rudely brought back to reality when a particularly strong wind caught one of the window panes and smashed it on his head.

"Armaan, be careful," Riddhima warned belatedly as Armaan winced from the impact. He caught the window pane just in time as it hurled itself towards him again and secured it with a bolt.

"Well done," Riddhima cheered from the balcony and even went as far as to clap before hurriedly clasping the railing again to stop herself from falling. Armaan for a second toyed with the idea of locking the balcony door and just leaving Riddhima out there in the storm. She definitely deserved it, grinning at him from the balcony in a thundering hailstorm, as if it was the most natural thing to do. However his love for her overpowered his frustration...again... and he tried the voice of reasoning.

"Riddhima, why are you outside?"

"Armaan, this stupid window pane is stuck," Riddhima grumbled, "I am trying to prod it loose from this end."

Armaan took a deep calming breath and grabbed the end of the erring window pane. He tried to pull it but it was indeed stuck.

"Okay, Armaan," Riddhima instructed with a smile, "On the count of three, you pull, I'll push , okay?" Barely giving Armaan the time to nod, she shouted, "One...two...three!!"

The stuck window pane surrendered to their combined effort and grudgingly came loose and Armaan promptly shut the window. Riddhima came running back into the room and closed the balcony door behind her. She rushed up to Armaan with the biggest smile.

"We did it," Riddhima grinned victoriously, "Thanks Armaan, couldn't have done it without you."

While his heart warred with numerous emotions again, Armaan's face remained strangely impassive.

"What were you doing?" He finally managed to ask, surprising himself with how calm his voice sounded.

Riddhima frowned.

"Trying to get the window shut," she said casting him an isn't-that-obvious look!

"I meant," Armaan continued ultra-calmly, "Why did you get it open in the first place?"

"Oh that?" Riddhima chortled, "I couldn't sleep, so I thought," Riddhima turned to look at the raging storm outside, "I'd enjoy the weather," she finished quite lamely.

Armaan had followed her gaze and saw a streak of lightning blaze across the night sky. He turned towards Riddhima and sighed,

"That's a freaking tornado outside, and , and you thought," Armaan took a pause to sigh again, "And you thought, you'd 'enjoy the weather'?" When Riddhima didn't reply and just stared at him sheepishly, Armaan put into words what he had been thinking since the time he had seen Riddhima hanging out of the balcony,

"Are you freaking crazy?"

"Armaan......"

"And I thought you've been freaking kidnapped or something....."

"Armaan, I ..."

"I was freaking out! Thinking about calling the police, and all the time you were freaking 'enjoying the weather'? Riddhima you should be..."

"Armaan!" Riddhima finally screamed to get his attention. "I am 'freaking' alright, it was 'freaking' stupid of me to open the window, I am 'freaking' sorry to scare you and I 'freaking' love you!"

Armaan stared at Riddhima's grinning face for a whole 5 seconds, marveling at his own self control and then shook his head as if pronouncing a verdict before pulling her into a hug,

"You crazy woman," Armaan grinned as Riddhima giggled, "I 'freaking' love you too!"



As their laughter subsided, Armaan asked softly,

"Riddhima, if you couldn't sleep, why didn't you call me?"

"I thought you were tired and I didn't want to wake you."

"So you decided to wake up the neighbourhood instead?" Armaan chuckled. "Great idea, but try waking me up next time."

"I wanted to," Riddhima fumbled wringing her dupatta off the excess water, "But I thought you might get angry."

Armaan grinned remembering his thoughts when he had woken up and replied,

"Or I might have thought it was damn cute!"

Riddhima looked up at Armaan uncertainly, not getting the joke.

"What?" she asked still wringing her dupatta.

"Nothing," Armaan waved casually, "Let me see, you've got yourself soaked...again! At this rate, I wish I had gifted you an entire wardrobe."

"It was the damn window pane," Riddhima complained, "Not my fault, but what do I do now?"

"Di, to the rescue."

"What?"

Armaan grinned at Riddhima's bemused expression and explained,

"I am sure we can get you some clothes from Di's cupboard. She always keeps a few suits here, incase of emergency. Let's go, you can....."

"I can't do that," Riddhima interrupted, "She might not like it."

"Oh come on Riddhima. I am sure she'll like it even less if you catch pneumonia. So let's go and see what fits you. You wear it now and apologize tomorrow. What say?"

Before Riddhima could 'say' anything  in response, Armaan had strode out of the room. Riddhima followed hurriedly leaving a wet trail behind her,

"Armaan?"

"Hmm?" Armaan walked into another room and switched on the light.

"Armaan tomorrow?."

"Yeah, at dinner. Here," Armaan said, opening the large cupboard, "Take a pick."

"Dinner? Tomorrow?"

"Yeah. How about the yellow suit?"

"You mean Anjali di will be here?" Riddhima whispered nonplussed.

"Obviously, who else? She is arriving tomorrow and wants you to be there. Nah, not the yellow suit, how about the blue one?"

"Armaan?" Riddhima gaped at Armaan, "She knows?"

"Ah-ha," Armaan nodded in affirmative, "Yeah, blue is good!"

"You told her?" Riddhima breathed, stressing on each syllable.

"No, Gappu did."

"Gappu did?" Riddhima was now positively shrieking, "Gappu knows?"

Arman finally turned around fully to face Riddhima. He handed her the blue suit and shrugged,

"Gappu knows what?"

"Gappu knows about...I mean...about....you know...what he told Anjali di?"

"Ofcourse, it was his idea."

"It was his idea?" Riddhima shrieked, "Armaan!!"

"Riddhima," a bewildered Armaan questioned, "What's wrong?"

"What's wrong? You are asking me, what's wrong? It was Gappu's idea?"

"Yeah, but why are you screaming?"

"He is 10 years old!"

Armaan raised his eyebrows and scratched his forehead,

"So? We value his opinion."

Riddhima felt like wringing his neck.

"A 10yr old gave you the idea of proposing to me and 'you value his opinion'?" Riddhima mimicked.

"Huh?" Armaan shook his head, "What? What idea?"

"The proposal. Why didn't you....."

"THE DINNER!" Armaan interrupted firmly, his voice rising over her hysterics, "The dinner was Gappu's idea and Di knows that you are coming. What the hell are you talking about?"

Riddhima swallowed the rest of what she was trying to say and stared at Armaan, unblinking.

 "Riddhima?"

"Armaan, actually....umm.. I thought...umm...nevermind!" She looked down biting her lips.

"Riddhima? What did you think?"

"Nothing," Riddhima insisted, "It was just a miscommunication, a mistake'"

"Wait a minute. You thought," Armaan stared at her, "You thought that you and me...me and you.....US.....was Gappu's idea?"

Riddhima sighed and nodded timidly and then said defensively, "Well you said..that..well."

She fell silent, squirming under Armaan's piercing gaze and muttered an almost inaudible sorry before looking up at Armaan. Before she knew what was happening, Armaan fell back on the bed and howled with laughter,

"Jeez Riddhima," he sputtered between his laughs, "You are definitely one of a kind!"

Riddhima stood in the middle of the room, sopping wet, holding the blue suit and watched Armaan rolling on the bed laughing. She frowned initially but soon she was giggling herself,

"Armaan," she giggled, "It's not funny!"

Armaan sat up on the bed, still laughing,

"Riddhima, you are right, it's not funny, it's the most insane thing I have ever heard. How could you even think that? If Gappu had his way, I'd probably be proposing to one of the Powerpuff girls next!" Armaan broke down into loud guffaws of laughter again while Riddhima giggled, "Seriously Riddhima, you should be videotaped and archived for future generations. Your antics provide much needed spice to mundane reality."

"Armaan, that's not fair, it was an honest mistake and I swear....Atichoo."

"Oh yes, before I forget...you are also a medical miracle!!"



After Riddhima had shoved a teasing Armaan out of the room and changed into Anjali's suit, she came out of the room feeling a bit uncertain. She returned to the guest room and surveyed the mess. The room looked like a deserted battlefield and she felt a tinge of guilt when her eyes landed on a shattered flower vase. She bent down to pick up the biggest piece of the vase she could find and stared at it guiltily.

"That was a family heirloom," a voice boomed just behind her, startling her enough to drop the piece where it shattered into a number of minuscule pieces.

"What?" she whipped around to stare at Armaan awkwardly, "A family heirloom?"

"Yeah," Armaan nodded gravely, "My great-great-grandfather had gifted this to my great-great-grandmother on their wedding day. It has been in my family ever since."

"What?" Riddhima repeated herself, cringing with guilt, "I am sorry, Armaan, I didn't know."

Armaan shook his head,

"It's okay Riddhima, not your fault. It could have happened with anybody. That is, anybody who wanted to open the window in the middle of a raging thunder storm. But, well that's quite natural, isn't it?"

Riddhima's embarrassed face got redder if possible as she tugged at her dupatta self consciously,

"Oh, I am really really sorry Armaan! Me and my stupid ideas. I should have  never opened the window."

"Exactly," Armaan said with a sigh.

"I should have just tried to go to sleep, like you said."

"I wish," Armaan sighed again, "I wish you had listened to me. But it's okay, just a vase, 150 yrs old, but," he shrugged, "Just a vase. Right?"

"150 years?" Riddhima gulped.

Armaan nodded, picking up another piece of the vase and caressing it lovingly.

"Armaan," Riddhima ran both her hands through her hair, "Armaan, I am so sorry. I can't tell you how sorry I am. I am an idiot. I.....I should have listened to you. I am going to listen to everything you say. I ....."

"You promise?" Armaan asked, still caressing the broken shard and looking at it lovingly.

"I promise, I..."

"That hence forth, you'll listen to everything I say?"

"I promise Armaan, I ....."

"Great!" Armaan said, looking up with a bright smile. He chucked the broken piece he was holding, and grabbed Riddhima's hand, "Let's go to the kitchen. I made hot chocolate."

Riddhima followed the trajectory of the broken piece that Armaan had chucked, her mouth agape. She looked at Armaan smiling brightly and she frowned, her eyes narrowing menacingly,

"Wait a minute Armaan. It is a family heirloom, right? What was the pattern of design on the vase?"

Armaan looked stumped. His smile faltered and he scratched his forehead.

"Err......flowers?" he attempted.

"Flowers? Are you sure?" her eyes by then had narrowed to slits.

"Yeah, absolutely," Armaan nodded vigorously, "It's a family heirloom. How can I not be sure?"

Within a second, Riddhima had wrenched her hand free from Armaan's hold and picking up a pillow she started hitting him with it.

"Oww.....Doc. Why are you hitting me?"

"Flowers? You idiot!" Riddhima sputtered while chasing after him, "It was a Chinese inscription. I was looking at it before I opened the window. You pathological liar. 150 years old, family heirloom! Bull shit!"

Armaan laughed while he ran around the room trying to avoid Riddhima's blows.

"Riddhima I am sorry, okay? I was just trying to justify your guilt."

Riddhima stopped in her tracks staring at Armaan.

"Justify my guilt?"

"Well yeah. I walked into the room and found you looking at that bit of porcelain as if it was the Kohinoor or something. I braced myself to hear one of your never ending 'sorry' lectures again, but thought you should not waste your breath on a silly piece of porcelain. I made up the story to make your apology worthwhile, to make you reach the depth of your guilt. Plus I needed you to promise that you'd listen to me in the..."

Armaan couldn't finish what he was saying as a pillow came hurtling towards him.

"I'll listen to you? Never!! Not in a million years!"

"But you promised," Armaan said dodging the pillow, "Twice! Now, you can't take it back."

"Ofcourse I can take it back. It was a stupid promise following of a stupid story. This promise doesn't count."

Armaan laughed as he ran around the bed being chased by Riddhima, "I agree it was a stupid story. Riddhima, I expected you to catch on much earlier. My great-great-grandfather might not have had the charm of 'The Armaan Mallik' but he was nevertheless, a Mallik! And Malliks are not dolt enough to gift their wives 'flower vases' on their wedding night!"

"Armaan!" Riddhima geared up to say something scathing but words failed and she giggled inspite of herself. She sat down on the bed and laughed till tears streamed down her face.

"Armaan, you are terrible!"

"Does that mean I am forgiven?"

"No," Riddhima shook her head, "It means, we are taking a little break."

"Wonderful," Armaan exclaimed, sitting down beside her, "Care for a cup of hot chocolate?"

Riddhima nodded and both of them went down to the kitchen.



Sitting in the living room with steaming cups of hot chocolate, Riddhima looked through Armaan's DVD movie collection while Armaan stretched himself on the couch, looking at her with a smile.



"Enter the Dragon, Rambo, Fist of Fury, Fast and the Furious.....Powerpuff Girls original movie?"



"That's Gappus'," Armaan tried to justify the presence of that particular video while Riddhima clutched her side laughing.

"I didn't know you were a Powerpuff Girls fan."

"I am not!" Armaan scowled, "Buttercup is alright but Blossom and Bubbles..."

Riddhima doubled up with laughter,

"You actually know the names?"

Armaan kicked himself mentally,

"Nah, I mean...I just happened to know," Armaan muttered hastily, "Alright, I give up. I saw the movie with Gappu. I had lost a game of  Delta Force and that was my punishment. Happy?"

"Very," Riddhima replied grinning from ear to ear, "It is always nice to be with someone who has a fair idea about everything."

"Really?" Armaan asked, cheering up.

"Absolutely," Riddhima nodded primly, "By the way, what's Buttercups's dress colour?"

"Green," Armaan blurted out instantly and then bit his lip when Riddhima broke down into another fit of giggles, "Ha ha, very funny!"

"Okay, I am sorry Armaan. Enough with the Powerpuff girls, let's see what else you have. Oooh.....Roman Holiday! I love this movie."

"Must be Di's," Armaan muttered, still scowling.

"Can we watch it? Please, please please?"

Armaan shrugged and stood up. He grabbed the DVD and proceeded to put it on. As the movie started, he handed the remote to Riddhima and flung himself back on the couch, his scowl intact.

Riddhima shook her head and smiled. She got up from the bean bag that she was sitting on and went and sat beside Armaan on the couch. Armaan gave hear just a sideways glance before turning back to the TV screen.

Riddhima grinned,

"Oh come on Armaan, I am sorry, okay?"

Armaan just grunted.

Riddhima sighed, "Okay, if it makes you feel any better, I've seen the Powerpuff Girls movie too, and I wasn't even forced."

Armaan turned to face her. He wasn't smiling but she could make out the fact that he was trying really hard not to.

Riddhima smiled and continued with her story, "I had nothing to do one morning, and I happened to catch this movie on Cartoon Network. It was quite interesting really, I got hooked, especially when Mojo Jojo...."

Riddhima didn't finish what she was saying as Armaan kissed her, full on the mouth and then drew back chuckling,

"Whoever thought I'll end up with the only doctor in this universe who finds Mojo Jojo interesting."



Riddhima stretched in her sleep and was awakened by a shooting pain up her leg. She winced and frowned, opening her eyes slowly, blinking against the bright sunlight. For a moment, she didn't know where she was, but before panic could set in, the memories of the previous night came rushing back. Now fully awake she realized that she was sleeping on Armaan's shoulder with his arm around her. Her legs were cramped by the side of the couch and that explained the pain. Smiling slightly, she carefully sat up straight trying her best not to disturb Armaan but he frowned in his sleep as soon as she moved. He however didn't wake up. He shifted in his sleep, trying to find a more comfortable spot but the effort being futile he just ended up sleeping with his head in a very weird angle. Riddhima giggled and reached out to fix his head into a more comfortable posture but Armaan opened his eyes immediately. He stared at her blankly for a couple of seconds and then smiled. He closed his eyes muttering, "Riddhima," and attempted to drift back into sleep.

Riddhima laughed and nudged him,

"Armaan wake up, it's morning."

Armaan opened his eyes a fraction of a centimeter and frowned. He held up his hand to touch her face and frowned even deeper. Suddenly he opened his eyes wide, staring at her and sat up straight.

"Riddhima, you are real. Oh, ofcourse you are," he continued ignoring her bewildered expression, "What happened?"

"We fell asleep."

"I thought you weren't sleepy?"

"I wasn't," Riddhima blushed.

"Must have been the movie then," Armaan replied grinning.

"It wasn't the movie," Riddhima denied quickly.

"Then what was it?" Armaan asked holding her hand while she blushed.

The God's however were not on Armaan's side. The doorbell rang just then and Riddhima snatched her hand away.

"I'll get it," Riddhima muttered angrily looking shyly at Armaan before running out to open the door.

"Riddhima," Armaan hollered from the living room, "I'll be waiting for your answer."



Riddhima opened the door and smiled in polite enquiry at the visitor. The visitor however looked oddly thunder struck, probably a stray one from last night. She surveyed Riddhima from head to toe, still holding the shocked expression and her eyes lingered longest on the blue salwar suit before noticing the messed up hair. Riddhima frowned, felling uncomfortable. She reached up to fix her hair and hoped the lady would say something.....soon.

However, before any one of them could respond vocally, there was an unearthly squeal,

"Riddhima didi!"

 Riddhima felt the breath knocked out of her as someone hugged her tightly around her middle and with a shock she recognized the voice.

"Gappu," Riddhima exclaimed staring at the dark head which turned to her with a huge smile.

"Riddhima didi, meet my mum and dad!"



It was as if Gappu had spoken a magic word. There was a huge change in the dynamics of the situation. The two ladies standing face to face seemed to exchange their expressions instantly. Riddhima was the one who now looked thunder struck and Anjali was looking at her in polite enquiry.  Riddhima glanced behind Anjali to find Atul staring at her too, with the tiniest trace of a smile.

Riddhima gulped but before she could find her voice, somebody else voiced her thoughts.

"Di? Atul bhaiyya? You guys? Here? Now? How come? You said, you were coming by the 11 o'clock flight?"

Riddhima turned wordlessly towards Armaan who looked flummoxed as ever.

"Well, well," Anjali seemed to have finally found her voice, "We thought we'll surprise you, but I guess you surprised us first."

"Di, I ..."

"I said dinner Armaan, not breakfast. I think you misunderstood. Anyways, nice to meet you Riddhima, I like your suit."


                                               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Love,

  Mia

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