Monday, 29 April 2019

Part 12 : Unleashing What Remained Unsaid

The sense of it was persistent, no more a  faraway fading nudge. She frowned trying to shove it off, for it was disturbing her, distracting her from something in her head she was trying to concentrate on. She tried to recall what it was she had been thinking, but she couldn't. It refused to leave, the touch, a vigorous sensation now, almost like someone was shaking her. In a final attempt she flayed her hands, and thats when she felt it, the touch of skin, real and cold, even in the confusing chain of thoughts it caused a jolt.


She jerked open her eyes. Too fast, too wide, althogether too sudden a movement for her eyes which still felt heavy with sleep. She scrunched them tight frowning.

"Ridz, are you alright?"

Reluuctantly and with slight effort she opened them again, only enough to barely allow reasonable vision, and she saw Ritu bent over her. As her eyes threatened to shut again, she felt the persistent tug return; It was then she realized that Ritu was shaking her gently, and had perhaps been all that while. How long could it have been she wondered somewhere in her passively reacting mind, it had felt like forever. Rubbing her eyes she frowned lifting her head off the desk and as she did she felt a pain in the back of her neck.


She groaned, her hand moving to the affected spot, her face contorting in pain. Ritu pushed her slightly back more comfortably into the leather chair so her back could rest against it well while the head found a back rest too. More consciously coming awake now she massaged her neck lightly to relieve it of the strain from the uncomfortable posture. Her eyes met Ritu's in a brief moment before wandering all around the room. The office. Unconsciously her hands went to her head, as she held it for a couple of seconds before running her fingers through her hair as she said, almost in a whisper.

" slept?" She looked up at Ritu in question at the last two words. Ritu nodded, and Ridhima realized only then how concerned she looked.

"Are you alright Ridzi? Why didn't you go back home if you were so exhausted? Molly must have informed you the meeting got cancelled."

Ridhima heard the words rattle off, processing them much slower, she spoke a couple of seconds later after finally managing to do so.

"The meeting cancelled?..."

She was puzzled but only for a moment. Then it all came back to her in a flash, what her mind had been trying to concentrate on when she had been interrupted, shaken awake.

"Yeh, uh...yeh she mentioned, I mean yes she came to tell me and I just thought I will wrap up some papers before I leave." She chuckled trying to not to look guilty or nervous, " should have gone home you're right." Then abruptly she got up from her chair reaching for the coat draped over it. "I will now, I guess. I really should get some rest. I'm...I'm tired, of course."

She gave another silly grin, hoping Ritu would buy this and not question her anymore. She had to get out of here, be by herself. She needed time to think, plenty of both, time and thinking.What the hell had she been dreaming. Hastily she collected the essentials, wearing the coat, grabbing her bag, three chart holders, and the car keys off the counter and shooting a confused looking Ritu a quick nervous smile she moved towards the door.


She cursed mentally, then truned around crossing her fingers in hope against a likely interrogation coming her way.

"Are you certain all is fine? You have never just slept off like the office I mean, not even when you've barely slept in nights. I'm just..."

"Ritu..." Ridhima moved over to her friend interrupting her. Holding her hand lightly she smiled, hoping to make it as reassuring as was possible, as her own mind felt devastated with wild thoughts all haywire and clashing.

"I'm fine, just exhausted. And I know that insomniac image holds true, but it isn't criminal for me to sleep once in a lifetime right?"

Ridhima saw a faint smile come on Ritu's lips and almost heaved a sigh of relief. She knew she wasn't capable of maintaining a conversation much longer now, her mind ravaged by thoughts, and the dream needed sorting out, in peace.

"Alright. Drive back safely."

Ritu said softly giving her a hug. Ridhima returned it almost hurriedly, and then pulling out of the embrace she made her exit. Ritu stood some moments longer before shaking her head in attempted denial to the doubts still trying to peak in her mind.

Could Anji Di be right about Vivek and Ridhima? She had called Ritu this morning to check up on the guy who dropped Ridhima home and Ritu had been more than shocked hearing the recounting. She could hardly believe Ridhima had let him do that, keeping in mind their previous meeting. Somehow the fact that she learnt about their second encounter from Anji Di and not Ridhima herself meant only one of the two things, either it had not seemed significant enough for a mention or it had weighed on Ridhima too heavily and she was taking her time opening up about it.

She had tried to convince herself of the former but it almost contradicted the fact that Ridhima would let someone that insignificant walk her home, that when their first meeting had been definitely not cordial. And if it was the latter, even though Ritu would prefer nothing more than for her friend to get over her grief and settle happily soemthing irked at the back of her head. What could have Vivek possibly have done to win Ridhima's trust enough to walk her back home, it was hard to imagine.

She had decided to let Ridhima explain the whole thing but somehow it couldn't happen through the day, and now when she came to her cabin Ridhima had been sleeping. If that wasn't enough Ritu was certain she had caught between her inaudible mumbling something that sounded like 'he loves me...' It could be all in her head and yet...

"Vivek...Ridhima..." She muttered moving out of the office. Anji Di had been excited on the call, she must have liked him instantly. I have to talk to Chirag she thought to herself.

"Molly, can you lock Ridhima's cabin? She left in a hurry and forgot to." With that she moved to her own room.

Armaan paced the floor across his bed, fiddling with the cordless in his hands.It slipped out of his hands and cursing in his head he picked it up. Then he sat at he edge of the bed, running his free hand through his hair, sighing deeply he shut his eyes. Within seconds he jerked them open, got up and started pacing the floor fiddling with the cordless as before, until it fell again.

"Dam it!"

He cursed aloud picking it up. He had been doing this for almost an hour now, being reckless and fidgety, and peace of mind eluded him no matter what he tried to occupy himself with. He asked himself what he had been asking over and over, after an anxiety of the impending had started seeping in a while ago not allowing the excitement to dominate his emotions as it had during and right after his confession call.

What would she say? How would she react, how did he expect her to he thought gritting his teeth. If only she would call. Would she, he wondered. She's in a meeting Armaan, he told hmself yet again, which can, in fact should take a while. But how long would this while be? And what meeting was it;- a client? a company meeting? a personal meeting? How long could a meeting continue anyways- an hour? two? or more...? Wouldn't it actually depend on how long before his call she had been in the meeting and how much of it was still to go? An hour was a long time, longer than ever when you wanted time to fly past and stop only at that moment you were waiting for.

Maybe he should call her again. Right now? No, he had to wait at least a while before he called her again. But how much longer should he wait? That depends on how long you think the meeting will last Armaan he told himself shaking his head as it all came back to the same thing. How long could it be before the phone would ring, if it would. Countless. The possibilities were countless and there was no use trying to guess something he had  absolutely no clue about. But there was nothing better to occupy himself with either, or maybe there was, only he was incapable being involved with any other tasks while his thoughts were stuck on her. How the hell had he survived six years? A few hours could not be that bad he tried to tell himself. It didn't help.

"I love you Ridhima..."

He whispered slumping onto the bed again. It did not strike him how easy it had suddenly become for him to confess that feeling he had harbored inside himself for over half a decade now. Confess not just to himself, but to her, Ridhima, and ever since he had been repeating it to himself as if it was his source of strength, his sole ray of optimism. He wished he could know if he had been too impulsive, confessed in a rush of emotions, but that countered by a 6 year long wait did not make it appear like a hasty confessions at all, much the contrary. If there was anything at all he would link with the confession, it was an unenduring delay preceeding it, not an impulsive rush leading to it. He loved her, so did she, what remained was only hearing it from her. That was another thing which had changed in the past one hour.

All these years he had not confessed fearing it would hurt her, but now he knew it wasn't her. It was himself he was saving the pain. He had feared she would confess back and he knew not how he would ever live staying away from her if she did. His running away had not altogether been from confessing to her, but from hearing the words reciprocated. And tonight it was a reversal. He had told her what he should have years ago, what she had been longing to hear from him even if just once and now unlike ever before he felt his faith faltering. What if she did not reciprocate?

He had run from one land to another escaping the moment when she would say she loved him and now he wondered if he had ever had to run at all? Perhaps she didn't love him? But he knew she did. Atleast she had. But what if the love had passed her, 6 years was after all a very long time. Then again, why would she still be alone? Yeh right he argued in his head, is that a criteria to ascertain she still loves you? Fine. Gappu said she never moved on, that certainly was a criteria, it had to be. Alright concluded she still loved him. What if she refused to confess it? Of course not why would she do that  if she...if she loved him? Hadn't he done the same? But I had a reason he told himself. So could she, or was she not allowed that excuse, having a reason he thought to himself in bitter sarcasm at self? He slipped off the bed onto the cold tiled floor facing the ceiling as the back of his head rest on the edge of the bed, and he closed his eyes. Sighing deeply he whispered,

"Call me back Ridhima, please, I don't have your patience."

He opened his eyes as he felt a sudden presence around. Gappu stood next to him holding two cups. Handing one over to Armaan he settled down beside him. Armaan frowned at the cup, then at Gappu then holding the cup up for Gappu to take back he said,

"Thanks, but I don't have coffee." Gappu gently pushed his hand back with a smile.

"I know. But I've been having tea with you for a week when I've never had it in life before. So you have to drink coffee with me now. Pay back time." He grinned making Armaan break into a smile himself despite himself. Lowering his head he blew at the steaming cup to cool it down. Without looking at him he remarked with a sigh.

"Yeh payback time indeed, you guys conspire as a family and do it all at the same time don't you?" Gappu laughed.

"Massi not answering your call?"

"She did, but I know that was only because she couldn't have thought its me."

"What did you say?"

"I said hello Ridhima I love you." Gappu almost choked on his coffee, then stared at him incredulously. Armaan avoided looking back.

"Like that? I mean just like that?" Gappu spoke trying hard to fight his laughter, a grin forming on his face. Armaan gave him a side look then sighed blowing at his coffee again. Without looking up he replied,

"Pretty much, there were another couple of random conversational sentences, but mostly yes, just like that."

"So what did she say?"

"What do you think?"

"She couldn't have said hello back Armaan and I love you too!"

This time Armaan broke out laughing despite himself, and Gappu smiled deep. He never knew Armaan could laugh like that, it was almost an alien thing coming from him, but Gappu wished it would stay. At last Armaan stopped laughing and spoke, shaking his head and still grinning.

"I wish she had though. She didn't. She said she was in a meeting and would call back later."

"Meeting..." Gappu said thoughtfully and Armaan looked at him expectantly.

"You think she was making it up to buy time? I mean...I kinda caught her off gurad you know..." He asked reluctantly unsure of what he hoped Gappu would say.

"Thats a subtle way of putting her reaction to 'hello Ridhima I love you.' " Gappu said and Armaan frowned at him. He continued paying no heed. "Its possible though, but shes a horrible liar. Did she sound like she was making an excuse?" Armaan wondered how he had not thought of it that way. Ridhima was a horrible liar. After several seconds he shook his head.

"No I don't think she made it up."

"Then she must be in a meeting, which will I daresay be nothing but a wreck after your call of course." Armaan shot him an indignant look. Then getting suddenly guilty he looked back at his coffee which was cold now and still untouched.

"Do you have to state it like that?"

"I'm learning from you." Gappu retorted making Armaan look up and spoke on before he could be interrupted, "Dam! I mean what a confession, and here I've been living in the happy illusion that mine was spontaneous as can be." Amraan was curious despite the overwhelming pressure on his mind.


"Then what? You just beat my record. But I get a bonus for saying it well in time." Armaan gave a depressed smile nodding his head and said,

"You do. I will probably get disqualified for my delay. If I'm already not." Gappu looked at him for a long silent moment. Then he said

"Why are you still staring at the coffee? Have it. Its cold enough. " Armaan sighed then lifted it to his lips. A sip later he exclaimed,

"So how did you do it? Propose Minnie I mean? I wish I could have been there." Gappu smiled at Armaan's questions, and his wistful look.

"She said the same. She wished you were there when we took Massi, Chirag and Ritu out for a treat. And its a story, the proposal. You up for it?" Armaan stared at the phone by his side and said,

"I don't know when else I could ever be up for a happy confession if not right now. "

She rushed down to the parklot and dumped her stuff in the passenger seat after reaching and unlocking her car. She moved to the driver's seat and got in, then on an impulse she got out of it and clicking it auto lock behind her she walked out of the parking. A walk in the cold would do her good, it always did. It was something about winter, she loved it, always had and would always. Walking down the sidewalk she looked at the white all around, it had snowed the night before and there was a slight flurry even now. In that moment she shut out her thoughts, she did not want to think.

Taking a deep breath she closed her eyes and the cold intake did her wonders as she felt a calm seep through. No it wasn't the winter she thought with a small smile, it was something about her, loving whatever and whoever she did forever. The thought slowed down her pace to almost a step with each breath and she looked straight ahead at nothing in vision. Her eyes felt tearful as a cold wisp of wind blew into her face. But she held the water forming in them as she looked upwards widening her eyes so they would absorb it back. She did not blink but as she lowered her face she felt the inevitable chilling trail of a tear down her cheek. She wiped it off.

"He loves me..." she whispered to herself in a lost voice saying the words at last. Seconds later frowning slightly she said "Or was that part of my dream too?"

The frown set in deep as she continued walking on in slow steps trying to revisit her dream; - where had it started? It had to be the wedding...she had been waiting inside a hall, which had been packed, people sitting in the rows were blurs, she knew no one there, at least no one she remembered seeing in the dream as she had searched for something...someone...while she was on the stage. Oh yeh, it had been the stage of West Road Hall from Cambridge. She almost smiled at the thought of the hall as an image of it flashed in her mind; it was where they had gone for a musical concert night when he asked her out the first time. That seemed to click in place.

But a wedding scene? Why did she think it was a wedding, it was a stage an audience and most of all she had been alone. Alone but dressed like a bride she corrected herself. And then...they had heard him...all of them in the hall. "I love you Ridhima..." She heard the words in her head again now, the words from her dream, resulting perhaps from his call? Had the call been real then? She tried to think on further about her dream.

It was his voice, Armaan's voice there was no mistaking it, and she had run off the stage looking for where his voice came from. And then it had dissolved. There wasn't a hall no more neither the audience. It was a forest and she had been running around in a search. A search of him because he had told her he would come, and then she had felt a touch...on her shoulder...and she had turned around to cry and yell at him for disapearing but there was no one...and she had screamed his name but there was no sound. She screamed again asking him to tell her he loved her, like he had before, had he not? But there was no sound in her voice she could not even hear herself, and then she had felt it again, the touch on her shoulder...

The touch had been Ritu, and the dream had ended there. Ridhima shut her eyes now feeling a chill again as her eyes watered more. It was the Chicago wind of course, she wasn't crying.

"So...he did call then" she thought sighing the dream now flashing in her mind and his confession echoing in the background. Pushing her lose hair back she stopped suddenly.

"Oh yeh the call..." She exclaimed then fished onto her pockets for her cell phone. It would be on the call log if he had called for real and not just in her dream. But the cell was not with her, she left it in the bag in the car. She cursed mentally, why was she incapable of keeping her phone on herself. Quickly she turned around to retrace her steps to the parklot. Thankfully she had not come more than five blocks.

"But I'm certain the call was not my dream, no he definitely called and said...he loved me." She paused her words doubtfully, "But it so doesn't sound real, a confession...from him. Maybe it was a dream, why would he...all of a sudden out of like..." She shook her head hard mumbling to herself almost walking into the oncomming pedastrians she was walking the wrong lane and continued doing so. "But...I do think he called, like just before I was leaving for the meeting and then I had to cut it cause Molly knocked at the door and I thought she had come in to say I was delaying and...then she said it was cancelled?" Ridhima stopped in her track again, abruptly this time for she had been walking fast.

"Yeh there was a meeting, it did get cancelled, and Molly came to inform me about it, if all that happened for real so did the call. I wasn't dreaming, I mean I was later but he did call. And he did say...he loves me..." Unconsciously she was walking slowly again, deep in thought.

"Armaan..." The name left her lips and she sighed. "Armaan loves me, he said it. He told you Ridhima he loves you. He called you to tell you he loves you. He..."

She quickened her pace. She had to get her phone. She had to call him back. Why had she not done it right away when Molly...then it struck her, how the hell had she slept off? That after ARMAAN MALIK TOLD HER, RIDHIMA GUPTA THAT HE LOVED HER? She ran her hand through her hair sighing in frustration and walked as fast as she could with the wedge heels on the thin sleet like film which remained in patches on the sidewalk despite the salting.

"I was just...shocked." she justified herself. "Yes I was in a daze and I didn't realize I should call him back. What? Of course not, I realized I had to call him back. In fact when I cut his call I had no idea of how I would sit through the meeting, with three sleepless nights behind me, which did not even come close to the distraction from his call...his confession call." He said he loved me, she thought, like said it. For real. In words.

"Sshhhh Sshhh" She told her head..."Stop it. Stop thinking about him. You have to first think about...him. I mean stop thinking about what he said. You have to think of what to say back to him first. OH MY GOD!" She stoped in her track abruptly again, "Thats it. Thats what I had sit down to think about after Molly left. Dam, I must have shut my eyes. That explains it. Dam it!" And looking up ahead she saw she was across the street from her office parklot.

"Alright lets get this straight here. You were like together for 5 months after I left and atleast a couple of months before that, and together as in all the time you could be together, and all the time you could not be as well. But in none of those moments you were with her could you tell her you loved her, not even the moments when you pre planned confessing it, not when you threw a surprise party for her birthday, not when you crashed into her room to wish her good luck at 1AM for her exams with a red rose, not when you walked down the Lake Michigan shore hand in hand, not when she hugged you for the first time, or through the countless eye locks you claim...not even at the crazy rain party when you danced away all night...No. When did it happen then, thankfully i know it did or the way you're narrating this I would have assumed the confession was never going to come. You like missed every moment there was to tell her, every moment she would have expected you to.

Gappu grinned, blushing slightly. Then shrugging with a smile he said,

"Every moment except the one which was meant to be it Armaan. You missed 6 years and said it tonight, do you have any reason except that it seemed so right?" Armaan stared at him for a moment then shaking his head he said,

"It seemed so right, I wonder if it was..." Then sighing he looked back at Gappu and said "So when did you tell her?"

"It was this evening she forced me to go on the Ferris Wheel, yet again, shes such a kid for it, wants to go keep going back to Navy Pier just for that ride. And you know love struck as I am, I always consent. Actually after that evening I almost keep waiting for her to mention the ride again, I think now I'll never have enough of it, I relive that evening everytime..."

Armaan smiled at the dazed look on Gappu's face, waiting for him to continue. If only all endings could be so happy, he sighed glancing at the phone again. When would it ring, for him...

"It was after my team won the inter varsity league, I made the winning goal. I was dead tired but she refused to let me go without a treat and I was too happy to turn her down. And so missy drives me to her forever favorite spot, I groaned seeing it Armaan but I'm so glad we went there that evening. Anyways she dragged me out of the car and when I knew she wouldn't let it go I just resigned to her demand, and we went on the ride. It was turning dark, dusky to be precise. I can't deny the sight is worth a heartbeat atleast, its just I never understood what was Minnie's persisting fascination of it, like she was watching it for the first time everytime she did."

"I always wanted to know but speaking on that ride is prohibited if you're with Minnie. She just wants to sit in silence and watch the city she loves, from the perfect height of the Ferris, its like you're low enough to catch the details of even the people walking on the ground below, and you're high enough to see for a long distance away, the city its lights, the lake all of it between your eyes and the horizon at the other end. That evening was no different, no less mesmerizing, no more captivating than all the times before, and I just sat looking at her. Then she caught me off guard, totally as she suddenly turned around and I couldn't look away from her in time. She caught me staring and so I tried to avoid her gaze concentrating on the view for once, our trolley at that moment was closing in to the peak of the wheel, we were almost at the top. And she whispered." Gappu smiled lowering his eyes as he stared at the floor, Armaan felt he was replaying the scene before his eyes.

" 'Isn't it beauty a Gaurav?' she asked me I just nodded, still avoiding her eyes. But I could see her smiling from the side gaze and thats all it ever takes me to look back at her. I smiled, and Minnie says now I blushed too, I think it just gives her a high to tease me when she rarely can. Anyways, I don't know it was the look in her eyes, I always had felt my feelings reflected in them, but that evening it seemed more than just a reciprocation. I almost started to ask her, but all I could manage was asking her how she never found the sight repeatitive and monotonous. She said it was the exhilerating feeling, of being on the top of the world, that when the world below was such a beautiful sight. She said she felt like she ruled the happiness of the world, like it was all hers, and the feeling never changed no matter how many times she took the ride. Then she asked me if it wasn't so? If the sight did not make me feel similar?"

"And I couldn't answer her for several seconds, cause I couldn't stop staring at her. Not even at being caught staring this time. I just couldnt break the look, her face, her smile, and I could see nothing beyond it, nothing at all of the sight she was talking about. Then she said my name, but it did not sound like it was for an interruption, not like she was calling me out of the daze so I would stop making her uncomfortable. No. That's when I knew it was then or never. It was the moment as perfect as I had always imagined it to be, not because of the beauty of it, or the ambience around, or even the proximity between us. It was because in her voice I thought I heard not just a consent to my love, that had always been there, there was an added edge to it, an urge from her that I should say what we both knew I had to. And so I did. I told her I loved her. Right there, at the top of the Ferris Wheel over looking her favorite sight and when she hugged me saying the same it was the magical moment I had waited for, I knew the magic of it would last me a lifetime, and I believed then that I had chosen the right moment for this memory. She made me chose it, there could never have been one better..."

The silence fell between the two of them, as both Armaan and Gappu were lost in their own thoughts, Gappu smiling and Armaan staring at phone unknowingly, but almost as if he was willing it to ring.

"I love all that you can't say...years gone by and still..." They were both jolted out of their frenzies as the tone from Gappu's cell echoed in the pin drop silence. He looked at the screen for a moment, then handing the cell to Armaan he said,

"Love's calling!" Winking at him he left the room.

Driving the car out of the lot she bit her lower lip dialing the international code. Then she flipped the phone shut. Sighing she dropped it on the passenger seat. She couldn't. She just could not bring herself to call him back. If only she had not told him she would. Now he would be waiting for her call, he must have already for like an hour and a half and... She pressed hard down on the accelerator. So what she thought in sudden defiance. Waiting was certainly not something he could complain about, not to her at least.

6 years. Which had seemed much longer. There were times when the nights had seemed impossible to survive,and there were days which had gone by in a daze. Things happened, nothing outside her head and heart ever came to a standstill, people came and left, some stayed on, but it was for her a spectator mode, she sat outside the activity frame watching the 6 years of her life pass her by as everything and everyone around her advanced in their lives ahead.

She sighed trying to shake off the gloom which would rise everytime she thought back in retrospective. It was like another lifetime, the happy years of her life which had preceeded this period, an abyss. She lost her parents in an air crash at an early age, and her family life revolved around her sister in their years of schooling in the London boarding schools, where they were enrolled by their grandmother. Soon after Anjali got married, while Ridhima was just starting high school, their Grandmother passed away as well. Their had not been much bonding with the relatives in India as their family, a nuclear unit except their gradmother had lived outside India too long, not enough effort from either end to remain in touch.

Atul was Anjali's batch in undergrad, and the two of them had taken those four years of education to fall in love. Ridhima believed they had been and still were alot more of a pair of best friends then two people in love. Her fantasies about love had been none like her sister's. And then she had met Armaan. It was a defining time for her dreams as she saw everything fall into place, believing that the miracle of love had happened to her and would last forever. It did, atleast it was lasting until now, only it had seemed nothing like a miracle for quite some time now.

Strangely he had been nothing like her dream man on the outside, he was quiet, far too subtle, a living contrast to her carefree liefstyle, and yet he fit into her life like his spot had been carved in there from much before. She could never get enough of his rare spells of lasting conversation, in so many ways he was an enigma and she liked him so. He would talk at times in words too blatant, which would shock her, but then he would get back to his eluding talks and she loved to pester him till he would explain what he meant, even if she understood what he may have implied it was so much fun just to push him to an explicit explanation.

That was one thing Armaan Malik did not do well. Talk explicitly. He was a wonderful listener, and though a man of few words, each one he spoke was deep in its intent. But explicit talking did not belong in his life. It was as if he had been in his childhood told he would be punished if he presented his mind for what it was. And so Ridhima had conveniently assumed his love for her was merely unstated, hoping wishfully he would claim it in his own time, but never doubting its existence for a moment in the months they were together. That until, he left. Without so much as a word to her. And she realized after he did leave, how his silence had mattered to her so much more than the words spoken by all others around her. The gap just remained, waiting to be filled up, for the moment he would liberate her of this wait. Today he had.

She sighed her thoughts back to the present. Then she smirked slightly replaying his words. It had to be one of those rare blatant spells in his life, when he spoke his mind exactly for what it stood. But why? What after 6 long years, had made him call her in the middle of his night to place before her his feelings so raw. In mechanical response to the red light, Ridhima braked her car to a halt, turning off the ignition. Momentarily she shut her eyes, and heard his voice again as he had said those words which remained unsaid so long. She could hear in the voice now what she had been too shocked to observe then, a deep sense of happiness. It made her frown. What could have made him confess at all, what in the name of heavens.

She glanced at her wrist, it was now almost two hours since he had called. Would he still be waiting? It would be close to 3AM in India, an odd hour to call back, but he had said he would wait, had he not? More than anything else, she still could not think of what she would say to him. But then he had also said she could remain silent and he would talk. What would he talk about? Did she really want to hear what it was he had to tell her. She didn't know. She had sought the answers to the many unanswered questions which lingered on in her life for six long years. Until this call two hours ago. She thought about it now, and realized that his confession had chnaged so much. It was as if the questions were a talk of the past, she wondered if she cared enough now to know what and why. About Lovely, about his marriage, about his return to India, about evrything else in his life which wasn't her even if it all linked back to her in some sense.

Somehow everything seemed insignificant as she tried hard to let the feeling sink in, he had said he loved her, why now? And why not before? That was all she cared for. She had to know. Hearing the cars around her she realized the signal had turned green. With one hand off the stearing she picked up the phone and dialled his number a second time. But just as quickly she cut the call. She would not make a fool of herself once more in life. He had said he would be waiting, perhaps he was. But what if he wasn't? She trusted him for too much, or perhaps her expectations of him had been far too many. This time she would not repeat her mistake. An instinct kicking in she dialled Gappu's number. Yes she could call him, tell him she missed him and ask among the talking if Armaan was awake...perhaps he would even be able to give her unintentional information of what may have lead to this confession from Armaan.

It was the third ring when it occured to her that 3AM was an odd hour indeed not just for Armaan, Gappu could very well be sleeping himself. She waited for another round of ringing but the phone remained unanswered she almost moved it off her ear to cancel the call when she heard the click.

"Gappu I'm so sorry, I only just realized a ring ago that this was a horrible time to call and wake you up. I just...I mean since you did answer the phone, do you know if Armaan is still awake?...Gappu? Wake up yaar, answer me then you can go back to sleep I promise I wont keep you..."

"I am awake Ridhima." Armaan interrupted in a quiet voice. Ridhima on the other side almost hit the car ahead of her, braking the very last second. She gasped at the narrow escape. Swallowing hard she steered her car out of the traffic lane to a parklot she could see half a block away.

"Ridhima? Are you alright?" The concern in his voice was evident and she realized he must have heard her gasp. As her eyes searched for a vacant spot for her car so she could cease to be a road menace, she spoke uncertainly.

"Ar...Armaan?" She paused taking a deep breath, she could not afford to stutter before him, she would not, not today. "I'm fine. Just driving and I didn't realize..."

"You shouldn't be on the phone while you drive Ridhima. Its not quite safe and..."

"And I may hit someone?" Ridhima interrupted him as he had, agitated at the sound of his concern. "You don't have to bother. I parked. And I wont keep you up any longer just called Gappu without realizing the hour."

"To ask him if I'm awake. Just so you could tell me to go back to bed?"

Ridhima kicked herself mentally for rattling off thoughtlessly on the phone without knowing who was at the other end. He was already picking at her, why the hell had she even wanted to talk to him.

"I did not expect you to answer the call," she stated curtly trying to end the talk.

"It was unexpected. Gaurav just gave me the phone and walked out of the room."

"He gave you...WHAT?" She paused as the implication of his sentence seeped in. She asked anyways, almost hoping he would deny the obvious. "Why would he do that?"

"Do you need me to answer that Ridhima? He knows it." Armaan answered with a silent sigh.

"Yes I do, I need you to answer me. WHAT THE HELL DID YOU TELL HIM ARMAAN? What does he know?"

 "Ridhima he knows everything but I didn't..."


She yelled interrupting him and he could sense a mounting anger in her. He shut his eyes to stay calm, he would have to if this conversation had to head towards any reasonable realm. She spoke on, the strained control easily heard in her voice.

"I can't believe you would resort to this. Was I not a wreck enough, now you manipulate my nephew to stand up for you? Against me? You and your smooth talking, I should have sensed this after I got that letter from him. Is it too much to ask of you to stay out of my life?"

"It is. But if you ask me I will." He paused but as Ridhima said nothing he assumed he could talk, "I told Gappu nothing. Chirag did. He knew it all before he even landed in Kolkota, and I was aware of nothing more than you were until after dinner tonight." Armaan paused again but Ridhima remained silent. He sighed and spoke on.

"Ridhima I didn't call for any of this, I was trying to, as you just said, stay away from your life, as far away as I could. But Gaurav made me realize what 6 years of solitude could not. And then I just called you. I didn't think Ridhima, I just called. It was...I didn't think of the consequences or of how you would react."

"How should I react? There's a man who tells me nothing, neither his feelings, nor his expectation of me, neither why he left me not once but twice, nor why it suddenly dawned upon him that his 6 years 5 out of which he was married were spent in solitude. And now he decides to confess? Of course as always he gives me no reasons, explanations between us have never been mine to seek and that remains unaltered. Whether he leaves me or comes back, I am to do nothing but accept his verdict, never asking why. Its not unlike you Armaan to not think of consequences, for you never turn back to face them anyways. Why then would you wish to be bothered by how I react, just let me know how it is that you hoped I would, and I may just comply, yet another time." Armaan remained silent and that enraged her. Feeling the threat of tears she spoke into the phone furiously struggling to keep them away,

"Are you going to say anything at all? I thought you said it was you who would talk today."

"I'm not sure if you wish to hear me say anything at all Ridhima. I'm sorry for that call. I got carried away, letting my emotions overcome me. It was a mistake. I really am sorry." He spoke in a quiet whisper but Ridhima missed nothing.

"Loving me was a mistake...why did you not say this much earlier Armaan, perhaps my ego would have saved me 6 years of pain."

"It wasn't Ridhima, it never could be a mistake, and you know that."

His quiet voice made her want to scream. She knew it wasn't true, least of all in the way she had said it. He was apologizing not for his love, only its impulsive confession, but she could not fight the feeling to yell at him, to misunderstand him delibrately to accuse him unfairly, to inflict upon him all of her pain. He may not have deserved as much and it was certainly comforting her none, but she felt frustrated and desperate suddenly and then exhausted.

She could stop them no more, the tears of agony and pain. They had been pent up inside her too long, as long as this confrontration had been due. But it had to be now that I breakdown, she thought aggresively trying to wipe away the tears, before him leaving him no chance whatsoever to pity me for what I have become, all because of him. Armaan shut his eyes again as he could hear her voice crack on the phone, he knew she was crying, and he knew he was the cause as he always had been. Why could he not have just left this issue alone, unmentioned ever again.

"Ridhima..." he whispered wishing hard something would stop her tears, take away her misery forever.

"Why do you care Armaan, why anymore?" she whiepered back, her voice falling short with the crying.

"Because I love you Ridhima." he whispered back simply. He could feel tears in his own eyes, if the confession hadn't already taken its toll on him, the pain in her voice was causing him unbearable anguish.

"Stop it. Stop saying that. You don't love me, you never did and you never could, you're incapable of love and a heartless man. If only I had known you so when I..." She stopped herself, she would not admit her love to him. It wasn't for him to decide and announce it to be their moment of confession, if he had not cared for her so long she would not comply to his wish now.

"I hate you Armaan." She stated trying to stamp her stand and he tried hard to swallow his tears in vain. She spoke again after pausing, and he felt the aggresion had been replaced by resignation.

"I hate this feeling I can't get rid of. I hate its existence, its interference in my life. I hate your presence all around me it doesn't let me forget what I don't wish to remember. I hate to have to cry inside for every second of the day I'm awake, and I hate when the nights haunt me out of my sleep. I hate it when in every other guy I meet I seek you, unwillingly, but I do and I hate the relief in then knwoing he could never replace you in my life. I hate to crave for you knowing you would never come, and I hate to still hope that you will."

"Ridhima..." he whispered again trying to stop her. In her attempt to lash out at him she was confessing all he knew she was trying not to. And though he was feeling an underlying relief as she said all of it, he knew she was hurting herself much more in spelling out his influence on her life. "Please...hush quiet. I'm sorry Ridhima."

"I hate you Armaan, for the helplessness I feel being in love with you." She paused then whispered in a hoarse voice completely choked with tears, "Please don't leave me alone ever again."



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