Saturday, 28 September 2019

Chapter 25 : Dangerous Desire (AR)

A Slight Struggle

The atmosphere of Mallik Empires had changed over night. It wasn't long before the news of the recent events reached the ears of the staff.  Obviously most were overjoyed with the facts that their beloved Riddhima was completely innocent.  In fact, they respected her even more.  The only thing they new wanted was Riddhima to rejoin the office.

Not only the staff, but the entire country was now aware about this.  From the minors to the aged people.  Everyone was proud of this young lady's spirit and many even started to take her as their role model!

****

Riddhima was sleeping peacefully with a contended smile playing on her lips.  After a long time she was getting a peaceful, dreamless sleep which was very much needed.  All this while she had been keeping an eye on the Ahujas and trying to save all her friends at once.  Amongst all that, she never slept a blink.  Whenever she tried, horrible nightmares always woke her up.  Now that she was assured her friends were safe, she could sleep peacefully.



She felt someone caressing her hair head lovingly and something wet falling on her shoulder.  She frowned a little in her sleep but then brushed the thought off.  The next second she heard some muffled sounds, like someone was crying.  Her brain started to register the sounds and she slowly opened her eyes.  She sat up and saw Muskaan sitting next to her with tears in her eyes.  She quickly pulled Riddhima into a tight hug and cried her heart out whereas Riddhima was completely confused.

"Muski.  What happened?  Why are you crying like this?" she asked worriedly but received no answer.  She just rubbed her back to calm her down.  After a while she calmed down and parted from her.  Riddhima gave her some water and she drank it down immediately.

"Ab bata.  What happened?"

"Ri-Ridz... I-I'm ve-very so-sorry.  Ma-maine tu-tumhe boh-at bhala... bura kaha tha.  Agar... tum nahin hoti toh... aaj main shayad... zinda hi nahin... hoti.  I'm very... sorry." She held her ears and spoke in between her hiccups.

"Shut up Muskaan!  Agar dobara aisi... aisi aaltu-faaltu baatein ki toh bohat maarungi tujhe!  Samjhi!  Tujhe kabhi kuch nahin hoga!" They hugged each other again and then cried thinking about the incident.

Though she didn't say it, but when Riddhima had come to know of Devraaj's plan to plant a bomb in Rahul's car, she was extremely scared for her.  She didn't even want to imagine what would've happened if they stood there for another second.  She reprimanded herself for even thinking such.   They parted from each other and wiped their tears hearing some noise coming from their balcony.

"Riddhima Didi!  Oh Riddhima Didi!" She heard some kids calling for her and shouted back.

"Aayi!" They jumped out of the bed and went the the balcony.

"Kya hua Raju?  Aise subah subah gala phaad phaad ke kyun chila raha hain?"

"Arre Didi aap TV chalu karo."

"Kyun?  TV pe meri photo aa rahi hain kya?"

"Arre Didi aap dono sach mein TV pe aa rahi ho!"

"Hei?"

"Haan!  Aap jaldi neeche aao!"

"A-aa rahi hoon!  Paanch minute wait kar!" She turned to Muskaan.  "Yeh kya ho raha hain?"

"Mujhe kya pata?  Main koi antaryaami thodi hoon?"

"Ugh!  Chhod.  Main brush kar ke aati hoon.  Tu jaa."  Muskaan ran down the house and Riddhima quickly brushed her teeth.  In a while, she came out and ran down the wooden stairs and found the kids standing right at the door.

"Kitna time leti ho brush karne mein." Said Mini.

"Oye!  Chaar foot ek inch!  Tu mereko mat sikha samjhi.  Aur tum log kya bol rahe the?"

"Arre chalo!" They pulled Riddhima over to their little 'den' and turned the TV on.

Riddhima and Muskaan kept looking at the TV screen with their mouths hanging open.  The reporter talked about the events and told the truth about the Ahujas and how Riddhima saved everyone along with her friend, Sameer.  They pretty much showed her as 'Jhansi Ki Rani' which was no less than a shock for them.

"Yeh kya hain?" Riddhima exclaimed.

"Tu TV pe aa rahi hain!"

"Wow Didi!  Aap dono toh famous ho gaye!"

"Lekin isski kya zaroorat thi?"

"Oye!  Zaroorat kyun nahin hain?  Tune itna achha kaam kiya hain toh you obviously deserve to be on TV!"

"Yeah, yeah.  Whatever."

"Didi.  Aapko toh hume party deni chahiye!"

"Oye!  Kis liye?"

"Arre!  Aap TV pe aa rahi ho iss liye!" Riddhima gave them a smile.

"Party chahiye?" They smiled widely and nodded expectantly.

"Theek hain.  Aaj lunch mein, main tum sab ke cheezy pizzas banaungi.  Okay?"

"Yes!" The kids jumped in joy and Riddhima smiled widely at them.

"Ab jao.  Khelna nahin hain?"

"Haan!  Chalo guys!" The kids ran out, leaving the duo smiling at them.

****

Lost in his own thoughts, Armaan sat on his chair, thinking about Riddhima.  Her thoughts just wouldn't leave his head.  She was so beautiful, so pure.  He could think about her forever and never get tired of it.  For some reason he wanted to see her, talk to her.  He couldn't wait till she joins the office again.  But why hadn't she showed up?

He heard a knock on the door and let the person in.  Rahul came in with a mug containing his favorite coffee and sat down.

"Coffee?"

"Thanks.  But why did you bring it?"

"Why?  Am I not allowed to bring it?"

"No, it's not like that.  But-"

"Chhod na.  Kya faraq padta hain?  Tu coffee pee na."

"Achha Rahul.  Riddhima ab tak nahin aayi?"

"I don't know.  Haven't seen her yet.  Muskaan bih ab tak nahin aayi.  Lemme check." Armaan nodded and he called Muskaan.

Riddhima and Muskaan were feeding the kids and they were having lots of fun with the kids doing some stupid mimicries of Bollywood actors.  They heard the phone ring and Riddhima signalled Muskaan to pick it up.  She ran and answered the call.

"Hello?  Muskaan Chaddha speaking." She said happily, bringing a smile on Rahul's face.

"Muskaan." He said lovingly and she stood up straight feeling color rising up to her cheeks.

"Ra-Rahul?"

"Haan.  Kya kar rahi ho?" Armaan stopped drinking his coffee and looked at Rahul.

"Ku-kuch nahin.  Bas... yahaan ke bacchon ke saath khel rahe the."

"Office kyun nahin aayi?" He asked very lovingly.  Armaan looked up from his file and faked a cough, making his presense noticable.  Rahul sat up straight, embarrassed the fact he was actually romancing with Muskaan in front of Armaan.

"Wo-woh main tumhe phone karne hi waali thi.  Aaj main office nahin aa rahi.  I wanted to spend some time with Riddhima.  Plus the kids here were insisting for me and Riddhima to give them a party.  So I decided to stay back."

"Party?  For what?"

"Woh... Riddhima TV pe aayi thi na.  Iss liye."

"Riddhima's on TV?" This caught Armaan's attention and he looked up.

"Tumhe nahin pata?"

"No."

"Arre.  Woh Riddhima ne jo Ahujas ko pakadvaaya hain na?  Usski news baar baar TV pe dikha rahe hain.  Dekh na." Rahul took the remote and switched the TV on to the news channel.  They saw the same news being flashed over and over again.  Armaan felt his chest swelling in pride.  He felt so happy seeing Riddhima being praised by so many people.  He was proud of his Riddhima.  Wait, what?  Did he just say 'his' Riddhima?  What was up with him?

"News dekhi?"

"Yeah.  Muskaan.  I just can't wait to see Riddhima back in the office.  By the way, when is she joining back?  Tomorrow?" Muskaan was confused.

"Riddhima's joining back?"

"Yeah, is she not?"

"I don't know.  Meri toh ab tak usse isske baare mein koi baat nahin hui."

"Really?  Ussne tumhe kuch nahin bataaya?"

"Nahin toh.  I'll ask her and call you back."

"Ok.  Bye."

"Love you Rahul." She kissed the phone and quickly put the phone down.  Rahul was surprised, but happy.

"Kya hua?  What did she say?"

"Muskaan said she doesn't know whether Riddhima's joining back or not.  They haven't talked about this yet."

"What?  Really?"

"Yeah.  Are you sure Riddhima's gonna join back?"

"Actually, I don't know."

"Did she forgive you or not?"

"Yeah, she said she's forgiven me and doesn't hold any grudges."

"Did she say she's joining back?"

"No."

"Armaan you're the limit yaar.  Usse puchhna toh chahiye tha!"

Armaan didn't say anything.  Suddenly all his happiness due to Riddhima joining back went down the drains.  Was she not gonna join back?  Did she actually forgive him or just said that so he doesn't feel guilty?  But then he knew she had forgiven him.  He saw it in her eyes!  She wasn't lying this time.  What was he supposed to believe?

****

Armaan stared at the phone, not knowing whether or not he should call her.  He had been debating with himself to call Riddhima to ask her whether she's coming back.  But then he decided it would be better if he did so he quickly dialed her number and impatiently waited for her to pick up.

"Hello?" He felt his breath getting caught in his throat hearing her voice, but quickly recovered.

"Riddhima?" She took in a sharp breath hearing his voice.  For some reason, it felt nice hearing her name being taken from his mouth.

"Armaan... tum?"

"Haan.  Woh mujhe tumse baat karni thi."

"Kis baare mein?"

"Woh... I was... I... I was wondering whether... whether... you're joining the company back." He stammered and closed his eyes.  Riddhima looked around, knowing this question was going to be fired at her soon, but she just didn't know what to say.  No one spoke for a moment, waiting for the other to speak.

"Riddhima?  A-are you there?"

"Yeah, I'm here."

"So... what have you decided?" He felt his heartbeat rising, waiting impatiently for her answer.

"Armaan... no.  I'm not coming back." He felt his heart almost stopping hearing her answer.  He started to feel panicky, but recovered quickly.

"Why?"

"Armaan... I-I just don't wanna work there anymore."

"Is it because of what happened?"

"No, that's not it." He just couldn't understand what she meant to say.  If that was not the reason, then what was it?

"What do you mean?"

"Armaan, I want to move on.  Try new things."

"You do know no one's gonna give you the salary we do, right?"

"It's not always about money Mr. Mallik now, is it?"

"No, it's not." He realized she was right and had no option, but to agree to her.

"Then I guess that's how it is." She was about to hang up, but he stopped her.

"Riddhima, wait!"

"Bolo."

"Riddhima... Atul, Rahul, Abhi... everyone wants you to come back."

And so do I.

A voice inside him called out, but he ignored it.

"I'm sure they can do without me.  And finding a better secretary is not that hard.  But one thing is final.  I am not coming back." She said with finality and hung up.  He heard the line going head and looked at the phone.  He felt his heart sinking.  He had so wished Riddhima would come back, but her no destroyed all his hopes.  What could he do now?

****

Ranvir was passing by the men's restroom when he stopped hearing some muffled sound coming from the store room.  He stepped back and saw a girl sitting on one of the chairs with her head laying on the table.  He was confused seeing this.  Slowly opening the door, he stepped in and walked to the girl.  Feeling another presense in the room, the girl looked up.  He was shocked seeing Anushka, her face stained with tears and eyes bloodshot red.

"Anushka?  Why are you here?  And why are you crying?" She wiped her tears and looked away.

"Nothing." He let out a chuckle on this.

"Sweetie people don't cry for no reason.  Now tell me what's going on?"

"That's none of your business."

"Of course it is my business!  Tumhari shaadi mere... mere dost ke saath hone waali hain.  So obviously I'll wanna know what's going on."

"Haan.  Usske saath jo mujhse pyaar bhi nahin karta." He looked at her with confusion, but somewhere knew what she meant.

"Jab tumhe pata hain ki... woh tumse pyaar nahin karta... toh phir kyun ho usske saath?"

"Because I love him."

"Do you really?"

 She turned to him with a blank look.  For the first time she didn't know what to say.  She just couldn't bring herself to say yes.  As if some unknown power was stopping her from doing so.  She wanted to tear her gaze from his, but couldn't.  His eyes just wouldn't let her do so.

His eyes fell down to her lips and raised back up to her eyes.  He moved a fringe behind her ear and cupped her face.  Moving closer he placed his lips over hers, kissing her slowly and gently.  She felt a sudden fire rising inside her which she never felt before.  Raising her hand up around his neck, she started to respond back with equal passion.

They ran out of breath and pulled apart.  He looked at her.  Her eyes were closed and she was breathing heavily.

"Does that help you out?" She looked into his intense eyes.  She was at lack of words.  What was she supposed to say?  She just kissed Ranvir, but was engaged to Armaan.  Was there anything she could do now?

****

Armaan sat there thinking about how to bring Riddhima back.  He was 110% sure Riddhima was gonna say no.  After all that happened, he knew she would never wanna come back to Mallik Empires, even though she had forgiven all of them.  Making her agree to come back was not easy.  It was next to impossible because she was 'Riddhima'.  No way in hell was she gonna listen to him.  If she was gonna come back, she would've either told him or come to the office on her own.  Now there was only one thing he could do to bring her back.  If she doesn't agree the straight way, he'll use his way.

****

Riddhima sat on the sofa reading her favorite novel- Twilight.  She was so engrossed in the story that she jumped in her spot when the bell rang.  She put her hand on her heart to calm her racing heart.  She became angry when the person on the door started to ring the bell impatiently.

"Aayi!" She shouted.  "By God.  Inko kisi ne manners nahin sikhaayi kya?  Bill kya yeh bharega?" She spoke to herself and then walked to the door, ready to smack the daylights out of him.

"Oye teri toh!" She stopped seeing Armaan at the door.  She was surprised.  Why was he here?

"Tum yahaan kya kar rahe ho?" She asked with suspicion clear in her voice.

"Tumhara ghar lutne nahin aaya tha.  Tumse milne aaya hoon."

Yeh nahin sudharne waala.  Sadu.  Akhdu.  Jab dekho gussa karta rehta hain.  Mann toh kar raha hain isske sir par danda maarun.  Kuch akal aayegi.  Waise bhi usska dimaag khaali hain.  Baba Armaan.

"Aur kya main poochh sakti hoon kyun?" She said with a sugary smile.

"Tum mein manners nahin hain kya?  Guest ko iss tarah se baahar rakh kar baat karte hain?  Haatto." He pushed her away and moved inside the house while she stared at him with her mouth wide open in shock.  He seriously had the guts to come to her house and push himself in like that?!

"Oye!  Kidhar gusse jaa rahe ho?  Baap ka maal hain kya?" Armaan fought a strong urge to smile seeing her going red in anger and her nostrils flaring.

"Nahin hain." He said with a straight face and looked around the house.  He was quite pleased with the interiors and the furniture around the house.  He saw Riddhima snapping her fingers in front of his eyes, catching his attention, and stopped in front of hers.

"Idhar." She pointed at herself.  "Ab bolo.  Kya kaam hain?"

"Kyun?  Yahaan aana mana hain kya?"

"Oye!  Seedhe seedhe baat ka javaab do!"

"Tumhara phone band kyun aa raha hain?  Kitna try kiya."

"Tumse matlab!"

"Well, I was trying to call you.  So obviously mujhe isse matlab hain."

"Ugh!  Why are you here?"

"Tumse puchhne aaya tha."

"Kya?"

"Tum office kab se join kar rahi ho?" Riddhima just stared at him, bewildered.

"Excuse me.  Say what?"

"What 'what'?  I asked when are you joining the office?"

"Tum behre ho kya?  Maine phone par bola toh tha ki main office join nahin kar rahi!" But her words fell on deaf ears.

"Really?  Tumne aisa kaha tha?"

"Duh!"

"Lekin maine toh sunna tha ki tum join kar rahi ho."

"What?!"

"Haan."

"Maine aisa kab bola tha?"

"Arre?  Tum hi ne toh phone par bola tha.   Ek kaam karo.  Hospital jaa ke khud ko check karva lo.  You never know.  Kab kaunsi problem aa jaaye."

"Look Armaan.  Tumhe jo karna hain kar lo.  Lekin main wapas office join nahin karne waali." They glared at each other, their eyes speaking murder.  Armaan knew this was gonna be difficult, but he wasn't the one to give up.

"Ok.  Toh aaj se main yahin par rahunga." He flopped himself down on the comfy sofa and looked at Riddhima, who was angry now.

"What?!"

"Haan.  Jab tak tum nahin maanti, tab tak main yahin par rahunga." He said challengingly.

"You can't do that!"

"Oh yes I can."

"Main-main police bulaaungi!" He scoffed.

"And that's gonna make a difference on me?" He stood up and walked up to her, looking her dead in the eye.  "Ms. Riddhima Gupta.  Maine apne bhaiyon se vaada kiya hain.  Jab tak main tumhe office phirse join karvaane ke liye manva nahin leta, I'm going out of here.  So it's up to you.  Ya toh jaldi haan keh ke wapas office join kar lo.  Ya phir roz mujhe yahaan dekhne ki aadat daal lo.  Okay?" He smirked whereas she looked at him with a murderous glare.

"Armaan Mallik.  Agar tumhe lagta hain ki iss tarah se mere ghar par reh ke tum mujhe manva sakte ho, then you're wrong.  Tumhe jo karna hain karo.  I am not joining back."

"Yeh waqt hi bataayega.  As of now, I'm going up to my room."

"Your room?"

"Yeah.  Aaj se tumhare mom-dad ka room, mera room.  Okay?" Saying this, he went up to 'his' room, leaving a furious Riddhima behind.

****

Medha

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