Friday, 27 September 2019

Chapter 24 : Dangerous Desire (AR)

Care to Explain?


She slowly opened her eyes but closed them again due to the bright light. She tried again and frowned feeling her vision blury. She sighed as her vision cleared. She was confused seeing white ceiling on top of her.


Am I dead or what? Itna white, white kyun hain? Haan... shaayad I'm in heaven. Lekin...


She thought. She moved her pupils around trying to figure out her location and knew she was in a hospital. She felt a few needles in her hands so she knew better than to move her hands.


"Hey. Are you okay?" She saw a nurse to her side and found her voice.




"Ye-yes... I-I'm fine." She replied with a weak smile. The nurse quickly paged a doctor and then turned to Riddhima, who was confused.


"Umm... nurse?"


"Yes dear? Do you need something?"


"Ho-how did I get here? I don't remember anything."


"Oh. Actually you had fainted and your friends brought you here." She remembered getting a little dizzy feeling and then collapsing in Armaan's arms.


"Oh. Where are they?"


"Actually they had gotten hurt in a fight. So they got their dressing done and I think they're having something to eat now. Do you want me to cal them here?" She remembered the fight at the warehouse.


"Um... no. Not yet." Just then the doctor came in.


"Hello Ms. Riddhima. How are you feeling now?"


"I'm fine. Just feeling a little weak."


"That's normal. You didn't get enough food or rest for the past few days. What's the matter?"


"Umm... I had some very important work to do. So... I guess that's the reason."


"Hmm... but it's not good to neglect your health like that. I suggest you have some juice and something proper to eat. Okay?" Riddhima smiled.


"Yes doctor." He ordered some food for her and then left to inform the others about Riddhima.


****


The others were sitting in the canteen having coffee.


"Pata nahin kya ho raha hain."


"Lekin jo bhi ho. We should thank Riddhima for this. Agar woh nahin hoti toh aaj pata nahin kya hota." Said Anjali.


"Haan. Woh toh hain. Lekin ussne hume bacchaaya kyun? She was against us right?" They looked at Muskaan who seemed uneasy.


"Muskaan. You know something right?"


"K-kya? N-no. Mujhe kya pata hoga?"


"Jhooth bol rahi ho. Tumhari shakal saaf keh rahi hain ki tum sab jaanti ho."


"Sacchi guys. I don't know anything. It'll be better if we ask Riddhima about this." Just when Rahul was about to say something, the doctor came in.


"Excuse me." They all stood up and walked to him.


"Yes doctor? How is Riddhima?" Armaan asked worriedly, which Anushka didn't like.


"Don't worry Mr. Mallik. Aapki wife ko hosh aa gaya hain. We've given her something to eat right now. If you want you can meet here." They were shocked when the doctor refered to Riddhima as Armaan's wife, though somewhere, Armaan liked that.


"Umm... doctor. She's not my wife."


"Oh." He said, disappointment clear on his face. "Aap jiss tarah se unki fikar kar rahe the mujhe laga... but anyways. We'll discharge her in a few hours."


"Thank you doctor."


****


They went inside the room Riddhima was kept in and saw her sitting up on the bed, having her juice. Her eyes flickered to them and knew what was gonna happen next. Everyone started to speak at once and she couldn't understand what they said.


"Guys! Calm down! Yes, I'm fine. Bas thoda chakar aa gaya tha. Don't worry."


"Riddhima. Care to expalin what all this was about?" asked Anjali. All the attention was now on Riddhima. She had expected this to come. She closed her eyes and sighed.


"Yeh sab kuch bohat pehle hi shuru ho gaya tha. Or should I say from the day the news of the Lonavla tender was out. Planning bohat pehle shuru hui thi, but it came in effect after I joined Mallik Empires.


"Iss sab ke baare mein mujhe tab pata chale jab uss din Julie Armaan ke cabin mein bhaagte bhaagte aayi. Armaan ko yaad hoga." Armaan remembered the day Julie had barged into his cabin and looked very worried.


"Jab maine usse isske baare mein puchha toh..."


"Kya baat hain Julie? Why are you looking so upset?"


"Riddhima. Yahaan par bohat bada scam chal raha hain."


"What?"


"Haan. Yahaan ka jo CEO aane waala hain na?"


"Rohail?"


"Haan. Jo aadmi yahaan par aane waala hain, he's not Rohail."


"Matlab?"


"Jo real Rohail Oberoi hain, usska do din pehle Chandigarh mein murder ho gaya tha. Aur jo Rohail aa raha hain, woh Malliks ke sabse bade rival, Devraaj Ahuja ka bhai Rajveer hain."


"What?!"


"Haan. In fact woh toh yahaan par ek spy ban kar aaya hain."


"I can't believe this!"


"Haan. Aur itna hi nahin, balki internet ke through yahaan ke bank se paise nikaale jaa rahe hain. Mallik Empires ko barbaad karne ke liye. Yeh dekho."


"Ussne mujhe ek paper diya tha jiss mein bank se jitne bhi paise nikaale gaye unn sab ki information thi. Main yeh dekh kar shocked thi. Lekin uss waqt maine kissi tarah baat sambhaal li."


"Koi baat nahin Julie. Tum isski fikar matt karo. Main sab sambhaal lungi."


"Phir kuch waqt tak maine Rohail, yaani Rajveer par nazar rakhi. Main usske baare mein sab jaanti thi, lekin woh mere baare mein nahin jaanta tha. Jab usse mere baare mein pata chala toh ussne Devraaj ko sab kuch bata diya. Ussne mujhe dhamki di thi ke agar maine tum sab ko isske baare mein bata diya toh woh tum sab ko maar daalega. Maine unn ki baat maan li. Lekin mujhe Armaan ko bhi warn karna tha. Sim card badal kar Armaan ko uss din maine hi phone karke kaha ki woh apne quotes badal de. Aur ussne meri baat bhi maan li.


"Usske baad maine faisla kar liya tha. Maine Mallik Empires chhodne ka faisla kiya taake main saare sach ka pata laga sakoon. Lekin main yeh bhi jaanti thi ke uss contract ke rehte main Mallik Empires chhod nahin sakti thi."


"Lekin agar tum hume bacchaana chahti thi, toh phir woh CCTV footage? What about that?" asked Atul.


"It was fake. Main jaanti thi ke Ram bohat jald paison ki chori ke baare mein jaan jaayega. Iss liye maine CCTV camera ke paas ek aur portable camera lagaaya tha taaki woh CCTV footage jaisa hi lage. Phir main vahaan aayi, kuch daer uss room mein gayi aur phir wapas aa gayi. Maine kissi ko phone bhi nahin lagaaya tha. Actually, college time mein maine ek play mein negative role kiya tha. Iss liye acting ka achha experience tha mere paas. Uss din maine Ram aur Armaan ki baatein sun li thi. Aur maine woh CD chura li thi."


"Lekin agar tumne woh recording apne camera se ki, toh phir woh uss CD mein kaise aaya?"


"Sony Vegas. Maine uss CD mein woh clip add kar di thi taake kissi ko shaq na ho. Phir woh hi hua jo maine socha tha. Armaan ne contract khatam kar diya aur mujhe nikaal diya. Phir maine mere ek dost ki help li. He's a police officer. Usske saath mill kar maine Ahuja's ke saare phone calls tap kiye. And we knew what was going on. Unnke saare plans mujhe pata the.


"Sabse pehle toh woh Armaan par attack karne waala tha. Lonavla waale tender ke result ke din. Issi liye main Armaan ki gaadi ke saamne aayi thi. Uss van mein jo log the, woh Armaan ko shoot karna vaale the. Lekin jab main vahaan par gayi, toh woh kuch nahin kar paaye aur woh chale gaye. Woh toh aaj shopping mall mein bhi Armaan aur Anushka par attack karne waale the, lekin maine phirse unka plan fail kar diya. Main burqe mein vahaan gayi aur isse pehle ke unka aadmi Armaan par goli chalaaye, Armaan vahaan se nikal gaya.


"Phir ussne Rahul ki gaadi mein bomb rakha. Rahul ko woh jhootha phone bhi maine hi kiya tha taake woh gaadi se door chala jaaye aur usse aur Muskaan ko koi nuskaan na ho. Phir mujhe Singhaniya's ko bhi pakadwaana tha. Iss liye maine aur mere dost, Sameer ne milkar unka parda faash kiya. Aur woh log jail mein chale gaye.


"Phir kal raat ko Muskaan ne mera peechha kiya. Aur mujhe usse sab kuch bataana pada."


"What?! Riddhima! Itna sab kuch ho gaya aur tune mujhe kuch bhi nahin bataaya? Why?"


"Kyunki mujhe tum sab ki fikar thi! Aur Muskaan bas kal tak. Kal raat ke baad main sab ko sach bata dungi! I promise. Bas tujhe meri help karni padegi."


"Kya karna hain mujhe?"


"Maine usse humare plan ke baare mein bataaya. Hum Ahuja's ke warehouse mein raid maarne waale the. Taake sab arrest ho jaaye. Lekin phir sab gadbad ho gaya. Last moment par unhone decide kiya ke woh humare warehouse se saaman ki chori kar ke warehouse ko aag lagaane waale the. Jab mujhe pata chala toh maine turant Muskaan ko phone kiya aur usse tum logo ko warehouse bulaane ko kaha. Unn sab ko main akele nahin sambhal sakti thi. Usske baad jo bhi hua... woh tum sab jaante ho." She closed her eyes and sighed. No one spoke for a while as silence prevailed the room.


Riddhima opened her eyes and saw everyone looking at her with moist eyes.


"Riddhima. Itna sab kuch ho gaya lekin tumne hume kuch bhi nahin bataaya?" said Anjali.


"Humne tumnse itni buri tarah se baat ki... tumhe itna bhala bura kaha aur... tumne hume bacchaane ke liye apni jaan khatre mein daali?" said Atul.


"I fee lrotten right now. Tumne humare liye itna kuch kiya aur..." Niki broke down and Abhi comforted her.


"Guys please. Aisa mat-" Riddhima tried stopping them from feeling guilty, but Rahul cut her off.


"No Riddhima. Aaj bolne do. We were wrong. Humne woh CD dekh kar tum par ilzaam laga diya. Ek baar bhi sach jaanne ki koshish nahin ki."


"Mujhe toh khud par gussa aa raha hain. Ridz ko main itne saalon se jaanti hoon. Usse apni behen maanti hoon... lekin phir bhi usske saath itna bura bartaav kiya. Usse kya kuch nahin kaha." Said Muskaan.


"Haan Ridz. Please hume maaf kardo. Humse bohat badi galti ho gayi hain. We're very sorry." Said Abhi. Riddhima couldn't take this anymore. She didn't like how everyone was feeling guilty and were apologizing.


"Guys please! Why are you all apologizing? Agar aapki jagah main hoti toh main bhi aise hi react karti. Aur maine koi maahaan kaam nahin kiya hain. Kya tum sab apne friends ko bacchaane ke liye aisa nahin karoge? And guys. Main toh tum sab ki friend hoon na? Toh ab mujhe aisa keh ke rulaoge kya? Ab chalo. Mujhe bohat bhuk lagi hain. Tum sab ne toh khana kha liya hoga. Ab chalo. Mujhe shanti se khana khane do. Waise bhi yahaan ka khana bohat ganda hain." They chuckled at this and hugged her together.


"Wow yaar. Yeh Riddhima kitni achhi hain na? Tum sab ke liye itna kuch kiya. I tell you Armaan. You guys are very lucky to have her as your friend. Warna aisa dost milna is very difficult. What say Anushka?" said Ranvir.


"Haan. Main Riddhima ko toh nahin jaanti, but she's a girl with a pure heart. Seriously Armaan. You're lucky."


Amongst all this, Armaan felt his guilt increase rapidly every passing second. Riddhima had saved this company from almost getting ruined. She saved his and his brother's life by putting her's at stake and what did he do? He freakin' slapped her for something he didn't even do! Insulted her in front of the entire staff like crazy. The rotten feeling was taking all over him. He didn't know what to do. Just apologizing wouldn't be enough. Hell nothing's gonna be enough compared to what she has done for all of them! He decided to leave the place for a while to deal with the guilt and went to the fire escape that was nearby.


He sat at the last few steps and leaned against the wall. Closing his eyes, he threw his head back, letting all the memories take control of his mind. Only his heart knew how broken he was when he saw that clip. Of course he was more than relieved to know that Riddhima was completely innocent and hadn't done anything wrong, but the guilt was killing him. He couldn't even face her after this. He didn't have that much courage. But he couldn't sit like that either. He had to apologize or else he would die.


He remembered the first time he tried to say sorry and chuckled at that memory. He tried so hard only to say sorry and when he did, Riddhima just told him off. That definitely had been a moment to remember. The Armaan Mallik getting told off. He heard the door click open and saw Ranvir come in.


"Ranvir tum yahaan?"


"Kyun? Fire escape mein aana banned hain kya?"


"Nahin. Aisa kuch nahin hain. Bas aise hi poochh raha tha."


"Tu yahaan kya kar raha hain?" He sat down in front of him and asked casually.


"Kuch nahin. Bas akele rehna chahta tha."


"Really? Kyun?"


"Kyun? Yahaan aana banned hain kya?" They chuckled at this.


"Nahin. Banned to nahin hain. Lekin sach bata. Tune Riddhima ko thapad maara tha, iss liye guilty feel kar raha hain na?" His head shot up at this.


"How do you know I slapped her?"


"Rahul told me."


"Oh."


"I'm glad at least he tells me things. Otherwise you just ignore me."


"Shut up yaar. It's not like that." He rolled his eyes and closed his eyes.


"Yeah right. Ab chal bata. Usse sorry kyun nahin keh raha?"


"Kaise kahun yaar? Mun se. Come on yaar. Ab tune galti ki hain toh maafi toh maangni padegi. Right?"


"I know... but kaise?"


"Sabse pehle toh usse sorry bolo. Usse apni company mein usski position wapas do. She deserves it. And agar phir bhi nahin maane... toh usse manaane ki koshish karo."


"What am I? Some stupid college going teenager?"


"Dude! Tu buddha ho gaya hain kya? You're just 25 yaar! Aur Riddhima ko manaana itna hard nahin hain!"


"Fine yaar. I'll say sorry to her, but main usse manaane nahin vaala."


"Well buddy, that's your choice. Ab chal. Aise dukhi aatma ki tarah mat baetha reh."


"Dukhi aatma kaun hain?"


"Oh I'm sorry. Dukhi aatma nahin. Angry young man. Jab dekho gussa karte rehta hain."


"Apne gusse ka example doon tujhe?"


"No thanks! I love my face alright! And so do girls!" Armaan rolled his eyes.


"Tu aur teri nautanki."


"Dude. Girls marti hain mujh par. And it's called sense of humor, not nautanki."


"Well Mr. Singh, you have a very bad sense of humor."


"Like you have a very good one. Kabhi dill khol ke smile kiya hain? Nahin na?"


"So what? Mine's still better than yours."


"Yeah right! Aur waise bhi. Girls die for my sense of humor."


"They don't die 'for' your sense of humor they die 'because' of it."


"Ha-ha-ha. Very funny... not." He rolled his eyes and both walked out of the fire escape.


****


In about 2 hours, Riddhima was discharged from the hospital and they were standing in the parking lot, waiting for Rahul to bring the car.


"Achha Ridz. Tum na, mere paas baethna. We have lots of talking to do." Said Atul.


"Oye! Baap ka maal hain kya? Ridz mere paas baethegi." Said Abhi.


"Chal hath! Ridz mere paas baethegi." Muskaan fought back.


"Muski. Tu toh roz dekhti hain isse. I'm sure Ridz bhi tujhse bore ho gayi hogi. She needs fresh air yaar. So woh obviously mere paas baethegi." Niki said proudly to which Anjali raised her brows.


"Oh please. Agar uss mein zara bhi akal hogi toh woh mere paas baethegi. Right Ridz?" said Anjali. Before Riddhima could say anything, they all started to argue with each other over who was gonna sit beside Riddhima, who looked at them incredulously. As they kept fighting with each other, she felt her name being called. Turning around, she saw Armaan looking at the ground. He looked a little fidgety and got a hint about what he had to say.


"Bolo. Kya hua?"


"Woh... um... can I talk to you?"


"Yeah. Bolo. Kya baat hain?"


"Yahaan nahin. Can we talk some place else?"


"Umm... okay." She smiled at him and he took her to the terrace of the hospital.


There was pure silence between them as awkwardness filled the atmosphere. All they could hear was the swoosh of the cold, chilly winds. Riddhima was waiting for Armaan to speak up, whereas he was thinking about what he should start off with.


Yeh Armaan kuch bol kyun nahin raha. Woh mujhe yahaan le kar aaya, aur khud chup hain. Aisa kyun?


Kya bolun? Sorry kaise bolun? Kya woh mujhe maaf karegi? What should I do? Ek kaam karta hoon. Let's just start something.


Lagta hain mujhe hi conversation start karni padegi.


"Woh main..." They both spoke at the same time and let out a nervous chuckle.


"You go ahead."


"Riddhima... I just wanted to say sorry. Jo bhi hua, I know it was wrong. I-I shouldn't have slapped you like that. I'm very sorry." Riddhima smiled at this.


"It's okay Armaan. I've forgiven you."


"Are you sure?"


"Of course Armaan."


"Riddhima I know I insulted you for no reason and it was wrong but you don't have to forgive me if you don't want to."


"Armaan. I've seriously forgiven you. I know tumne uss waqt ho bhi kiya woh gusse mein aa kar kiya. And I don't hold any grudge against you." She said genuinely and smiled. Armaan was amazed at how she had forgiven him so easily. He felt like some huge burden had been put off his shoulder.


"Ab chale? Sab neeche humara wait kar rahe honge." He nodded and both moved to the terrace door. Riddhima felt her cell phone vibrate and took it out of her purse. Riddhima became alert. Armaan turned around and saw her stiffen up. He frowned at her, wondering what suddenly happened.


"Riddhima?" She looked up. "Kya hua?"


"Nahin, kuch nahin."


"Toh phir phone kyun nahin utha rahi?"


"Woh... yeh unn salesmen ka phone hain."


"How do you know?"


"Woh... din mein kam se kam pandra baar phone aate hain na unke. Iss liye unke number yaad hain mujhe."


"Oh. Chalo."


"Haan." They left the terrace and went down to the parking lot.


"Guys! Kahaan the tum dono?"


"Woh... hum terrace par gaye the."


"Kyun?"


"Tum sab ke jhagde se door rehna chahte the."


"Really now Riddhima?"


"Yep. Ab chalo! Raat ke baara baj rahe hain. I'm sleepy!"


"Haan jaldi chalo!"


"Lao Rahul, I'll drive."


"Nahin yaar. Bohat raat ho gayi hain. You must be tired. I'll drive."


"Ok." Rahul got into the drivers seat and Armaan sat beside Riddhima, which was the only spot left.


On the drive back, Armaan kept looking out the window, admiring the full moon up in the sky which smiled at him. The cool breeze coming from the window caressed his gorgeous features, making him shiver slightly. He felt a little weight on his shoulder and someone pulling his arm closer to them. He saw Riddhima's head laying gently on his and her snuggling closer to him for warmth. He realized she was shivering due to the cold weather and closed the window.


"Rahul. Zara heater chalo kar na. Thand lag rahi hain."


"Ok." He turned the heater on and the car turned warm in a few minutes. Throughout the ride he kept staring at her beautiful face. She looked so innocent and heavenly while sleeping. Even an eternity would be less for him.


Soon they reached Riddhima's house and realized Riddhima had fallen asleep and requested Armaan to take her up to which he agreed. He took her up and layed her gently on the bed. When he tried leaving, Riddhima held onto his arm tighter. He realized she was still sleeping and tried moving away from her without waking her up, but stopped when he saw her frown.


"Mmm... Muskaan... mera teady hain. Chhod." She pouted in her sleep and Armaan smiled. She slept with a teddy with her? He looked around and saw a small white teddy on the drawer and got it. He slowly and carefully moved his arm away and placed the teddy in her hands, but the frown still didn't go. He smiled and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. The frown was immediately replaced by a smile and he went away.


****

Medha

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