Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Chapter 28 : Dangerous Desire (AR)

Mission Accomplished!

It was a peaceful moonless night.  The dark sky was looking strangely sad today.  Maybe because it was wondering about the sad smile which played on Riddhima's lips as she stared at the night sky from her window.  She was in her deep thoughts when suddenly her phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Riddhima beta.  Kaisi ho?" She sat up straight hearing Padma's voice.


"Mama!  Main bilkul theek hoon.  Aap kaise ho?"

"Main bhi theek hoon.  Bas tum dono ki bohat yaad aa rahi hain."

"Hume bhi aapki bohat yaad aa rahi hain.  Achha Mama.  Nani kaisi hain?"

"Tumhari Nani bilkul theek hain."


"Aur Papa?  Woh kaise hain?"

"Woh bhi bilkul theek hain." She paused for a moment before speaking again. "Achha yeh bataao.  Samrat ki birthday party kaisi rahi?  Did you two enjoy the party?" Riddhima smiled widely.

"Haan Mama.  Party bohat achhi thi.  Aur maine aur Muski ne bohat enjoy kiya.  Aur tumhe pata hain.  Samrat ne toh mujhe dare diya tha."

"Achha?  Kis baat ke liye?"

"He dared me to do a dance.  And you know what?  I did it.  Sabki bolti band ho gayi thi." They both giggled at this and Padma spoke up.

"Hmm... pata hain.  Tujhe koi dare karta hain toh tujhse bardaasht nahin hota."

"Woh toh hain."

"Achha yeh sab chhod.  Muski kahaan hain?"

"Woh bathroom mein hain.  She's having a shower."

"Oh, okay.  Jab woh aa jaaye, toh usse kehna ki mujhe phone kar lein.  Okay?"

"Okay Mama!  Bye.  Love you!"

"Love you too Beta." She hung up and Riddhima leaned against the window.  She felt the old memories coming back.  If there was anyone apart from Muskaan and her other friends that knew about her two identities, then that was her mom.  She still remembered the day her mom found out about Rihanna.  That day was sketched perfectly in her mind.

Riddhima was in the club, dancing with her friends on the dance floor.  A party had been held because they had recently finished their exams and they all had passed with the best grades.  They all danced merrily, without knowing that someone's eyes were on Riddhima.  It was none other than Padma.

She had been noticing the difference in Riddhima now.  She was starting to stay outside more.  She would say she was going to her friend's house to study for a test.  But how could she have a test every other week?  She was starting to get suspicious every passing day so she decided to call her friend, Sakshi.  When she called her, she found out they never had a test, except for one that was about 2 months back.

 So she decided to follow Riddhima.  On the pretext of meeting her friends, she followed Riddhima.  When she saw her dancing in the club, she just completely lost her mind.  She couldn't believe this was their Riddhima.

She walked up to Riddhima and held her hand.  Riddhima stopped dancing and looked at Padma.  She was shocked seeing Padma there and her friends stopped dancing seeing Riddhima's mom there.

"Mama?" She whispered.

"Mujhe tumse baat karni.  Abhi.  Aur tumse bhi Muskaan.  Main tum dono ka bahaar wait kar rahi hoon." Giving a hard glare to both Riddhima and Muskaan, she left the club and went outside.  Riddhima and Muskaan looked at each other with fear in their eyes and went outside.  They stood outside with their heads hanging down, proving they were guilty.  Padma walked up to both of them with anger visible in her eyes.  Riddhima, who was really afraid seeing her mom so angry, tried to speak up but Padma slapped her.

"Bas karo Riddhima!  Bohat ho gaya!  Humne tum par itna vishwaas kiya.  Aur tumne usska faayeda uthaaya.  Tumhe pata hain na tumhare Papa ko yeh sab pasand nahin hain.  Toh phir kyun kiya tumne aisa?  Bolo Riddhima!" Riddhima cried even more listeing to her mom.  Yes, she was right.  She took advantage of her parents' trust.

"Mama.  I'm... very... sorry.  Ma-main toh sirf... I... was... just having... fun."

"Fun.  Fun!  You call this fun!  Aise humse jhooth bol kar you're having fun!" She yelled at Riddhima, making her cry even more and then turned to Muskaan.

"Aur Muskaan tum.  Humne tum par bhi kitna vishwaas kiya.  Aur tumne bhi humse jhooth bola.  Tumne bhi Riddhima ka saath diya!" Even Muskaan had tears in her eyes when Padma talked to her like that.

"Mama.  I'm very sorry.  M-mujhe pata hain... aapko... bohat takleef... pohanchaayi hain... maine.  Lekin trust me Mama.  Humne... ku-kuch... ga-galat nahin kiya."

"Trust you?  You want me to trust you?  Kaise?  Itni baar humse jhooth bolne ke baad tum humse expect karti ho ke hum tum par vishwaas karein?  No ways!"

"Mama please aisa matt bolo.  Mama, I-I promise you.  A-aaj ke baad hum aisa kuch nahin karenge.  Aa-aap jo kahengi, hum woh hi karenge.  Lekin please humse iss tarah naraaz matt raho.  Please." She almost begged Padma to forgive her, but Padma was too angry to even listen to her.  She just glared at the two, and then left whereas Riddhima and Muskaan were left crying to themselves.

For about two months they didn't go to the club and neither met with their college friends.  They just went to college and came back.  They tried to talk to Padma many times, but she would just ignore them and go back to doing her work.  This was really hurting them and they just couldn't bear it anymore.

One night, they were in their room, crying because Padma won't talk to them.

"Muski.  Mama ab humse pyaar nahin karti."

"Tu-tu aisa kyun bol rahi hain?"

"Kyunki ab toh woh humse baat bhi nahin karti.  She just ignores us."

"Lekin humne bhi toh unka bohat dill dukhaaya hain na." Riddhima nodded.

"Sab meri galti hain.  Meri vajah se Mama tujhe bhi kitna suna rahi hain.  I'm a very bad girl." She cried even more as she said that.

"Tu khud ko kyun bol rahi hain?  Maine bhi toh tera saath diya na."

"Ab hum kya karein?  Mujhse Mama ki chuppi bardaasht nahin ho rahi." They kept crying, not knowing Padma was standing there, crying silently along with them.  Even she was feeling very bad for ignoring her children like that, but couldn't help it.  She wanted them to learn a lesson and not lie to her again.  She thought it was enough now.  Wiping her tears, she entered the room and stood in front of them.

"Sahi kaha tune Riddhu.  You're a very bad girl.  Tu aisa soch bhi kaise sakti hain ki main tum dono se pyaar nahin karti?" They looked up.  As soon as those words left her mouth, they ran to her and hugged her tight.  All of them cried for a long time before breaking the hug.

"Mama.  I promise.  Aaj ke baad main aapse kuch bhi nahin chhupaaungi.  Main kabhi jhooth nahin bolungi.  Aur... aur agar maine dobara aisa kiya na, toh... toh aap mujhe maarna.  Lekin aise ignore matt karna.  Please."

"Tujhe ignore kaun kar raha tha?  Main toh sirf yeh chahti thi ke tum dono apna sabak seekho."

"Woh toh humne kab ka seekh liya hain Aunty."

"Haan.  Hum-hum aisa dobara nahin karenge."

"Kaan pakkad kar sorry." They held their ears and said sorry very cutely, which melted Padma's heart in a second.

"Koi baat nahin.  Lekin main tum dono se bohat gussa hoon."

"Ab kyun gussa ho?"

"Riddhu.  Agar tujhe yeh sab chahiye tha, toh mujhe kyun nahin bataaya?  Aise jhooth bolne ki zaroorat nahin thi."

"Mama.  Main aapko bataana chahti thi.  Lekin-lekin mujhe darr tha ki kahin aap Papa ko naa bol do.  Aapko toh pata hain na.  Papa ko yeh sab bilkul bhi pasand nahin hain.  Aur-aur main nahin chahti thi ke Papa mujhse gussa ho jaaye.  Iss liye maine yeh... Lekin I promise you.  Aaj ke baad main kissi bhi club mein nahin jaaungi.  Aur waise kapde bhi nahin pehnungi.  Lekin aap please mujhse aise gussa matt hona." Padma just chuckled at her daughter's innocence.

"Pagli.  Mujhe pata hain tere Papa ko yeh sab pasand nahin hain.  Lekin main tumhare Papa jaise nahin hoon." They were confused now.

"Kya matlab?"

"Arre buddhu!" She hit Riddhima on her head playfully. "Tujhe yeh sab band karne ki zaroorat nahin hain.  Tu jaa sakti hain." Riddhima and Muskaan just stared at Padma with their mouths hanging open.  Did she just say they could go to the clubs?

"Aa-aap... keh rahe ho ke... hum... club mein... jaa sakte hain?" said Riddhima.

"Aur... hum aise... kapde bhi pehen sakte hain?" Muskaan asked in shock.  Padma just giggled and nodded.

"Haan.  Tum dono club mein bhi jaa sakte ho aur aise modern kapde bhi pehen sakte ho.  Lekin ek shart par.  Club mein sirf apne friends ke saath rehna aur kapde itne revealing nahin hone chahiye.  Okay?"

"Mama.  Aapki tabiyat toh theek hain na?  Papa kya kahenge?  Unhe pata chala toh woh hume maar daalenge."

"Kuch nahin karenge woh.  Main hoon na.  Aur waise bhi.  Main nahin chahti ke meri betiyon ki koi bhi wish Shashank ke vajah se poori na ho paaye.  Main itna toh jaanti hoon ke meri betiyaan apni line cross nahin karengi.  Right?" They nodded like obidient kids making her smile.

"Aur haan.  Dance wance theek hain, lekin kisi bhi anjaan ladke ko apne paas matt aane dena.  Warna main tumhare Papa ko bol dungi."

"Hum aapse promise karte hain.  Hum apni koi bhi line cross nahin karenge aur aapne jo bhi kaha hain, woh sab follow karenge.  Promise." Padma smiled widely and hugged Riddhima and Muskaan.

Riddhima smiled at the memory.  What a day it was.  She had never expected her mom to be so understanding.  If she knew she'd agree to this, she wouldn't have lied to her in the first place.  But she was happy that her mom knew about her and that she didn't have to lie to her anymore.  She never realized when Muskaan came and sat in front of her.

"What are you thinking?" Riddhima looked at her and sighed.

"I'm thinking about the day when Mama found out about us.  You know.  The Rihanna secret."

"Oh.  That was really a crazy day."

"But I still feel bad."

"Why?"

"Muski... I know ki Mama humare baare mein jaanti hain.  Lekin... mujhe Papa se iss tarah se jhooth bolna achha nahin lagta."

"I know what you mean.  But... tu fikar kyun kar rahi hain?  Mama humaare saath hain na.  Aur... jahaan tak Papa ki baat hain, toh tujhe usski tension lene ki zaroorat nahin hain.  Mama Papa ko samjha legi.  Lekin abhi ke liye toh yeh sab baatein chhod.  Tu hi toh kehti hain na, ki kal ki baat kal.  Hume aaj mein jee ke apni zindagi ko maze se jeena chahiye.  Toh phir?" Riddhima nodded.  She felt much better after sharing her feelings with her.

"Ab chalo.  Give me a big hug." She smiled and hugged her while Muskaan caressed her head.

Muskaan knew how Riddhima felt.  She knew Riddhima felt extremely guilty for lying to her dad like that, but she couldn't let the guilt take over her.

"Waise Riddhima.  Ek baat kahun?" They broke the hug and Riddhima nodded as she sniffed.

"Bol."

"Tera dance na, bohat sexy tha yaar." She giggled at her own words and Riddhima rolled her eyes.

"Oh come on yaar Muski.  Tu bhi na.  Tujhe toh pata hain na mujhe aise dances karna pasand nahin hain.  Woh toh kal Samrat ne dare diya tha, issi liye.  Warna you know how much I hate doing those kind of dances."   

"Well sweetheart, that's why it's called a 'Dare'.  You gotta do stuff you don't like.  Lekin seriously.  Agar main ladka hoti na, by God main tere se shaadi kar leti!"

"Yeah, yeah.  Whatever." She giggled.  Her laughter came to halt as she remembered something.

"Muski... I gotta tell you something."

"What?"

"Armaan knows... about Rihanna." Muskaan's eyes widened in shock.

"What!" Riddhima nodded.

"But... kaise?" Muskaan just failed to understand how Armaan knew about Riddhima's secret.

"He followed us to the club.  He heard my conversation with you all." Muskaan just gaped at her in shock.

"Did you talk to him?" Riddhima was dumbfounded.  Their kiss replayed in her mind sending her in a trance.  She felt the shivers going down her spine.  She was brought out of her thoughts with Muskaan's voice.

"Bol na!  Did you have a talk with him?"

"No, not really.  Main kuch kahun usse pehle tera phone aa gaya." Muskaan sighed.

"Ab kya hoga?"

"I don't know." She truly didn't know what Armaan was gonna do now, which scared her.  All she could do now was wait for the Sun to rise.

****

Armaan walked  down the stairs and saw Riddhima setting the plates on the table with Muskaan with a smile on her face.  His thoughts drifted off to yesterday.  He smiled remembering their kiss and walked to the table.  He sat down and waited for Riddhima to serve him.  He looked up at Riddhima and saw her glaring at him murderously.

"Aise kya dekh rahi ho?"

"Tum mein sharam naam ki koi cheez nahin hain kya?  Abhi tak yahin par ho!"

"Tumhari memory bohat weak hain Riddhima.  Maine tumse pehle bhi kaha tha ki jab tak tum wapas aane ke liye maan nahin jaogi, tab tak main yahaan se jaaunga nahin."

"Aur maine bhi tumse kaha tha ki main wapas nahin aane waali.  Toh phir kyun zidh kar rahe ho?  And listen Armaan Mallik.  You can't force me to come back!" She said through gritted teeth and he glared silently.  So Riddhima was challenging him?  Great.  He loved challenges because he knew he would always win.  After all, he didn't know how to lose.

"I can do anything if I want Ms. Riddhima Gupta." He moved around her slowly as he started to speak.  "Zara socho.  Tumhare mom-dad iss waqt Chandigarh mein hain.  Agar unhe pata chal gaya ki unnki beti unnki absense mein kya karti hain, toh unka kya hoga... Ms. Rihanna Sharma?" He stopped in front of her and looked at her with a smirk playing on his lips.  Riddhima's fingers curved into a rock solid fist as she heard Armaan, ready to knock the daylights outta him.

"Tum mujhe blackmail karne ki koshish kar rahe ho?" Armaan scoffed and replied with the same arrogant smile.

"Think what you want.  Lekin ek baat kaan khol kar sun lo Riddhima.  You will come back.  No matter what happens.  Because I, simply don't like hearing a no.  And if not, then get ready to let the world know about Rihanna.  Okay?  Main ab yahaan se jaa raha hoon.  I want you to join back from today.  You know the timings." He glared at her, daring her to challenge his words again.  He left and Riddhima stared at his retreating back.  She couldn't believe he just blackmailed her.  Muskaan, who was the silent witness of their conversation, walked up to Riddhima and placed her hand on Riddhima's shoulder.

"Yeh Armaan Mallik khud ko samajhta kya hain!  How dare he do this!" She took the apple which was in her hand and ate it angrily.

"Kamini.  Yeh sab teri vajah se ho raha hain."

"Heh!  Maine kya kiya!" She looked at her bewildered.  Why the hell was she blaming her!

"Ahahaha.  Poocchh toh aise rahi hain jaise kuch pata hi nahin hain!  Agar tune wapas aane ke liye haan keh diya hota, toh Armaan yahaan nahin reh raha hota.  Aur agar woh yahaan nahin reh raha hota, toh usse tere baare mein pata nahin chalta.  Samjhi!"

"Abhi iss mein meri kya galti hain woh gond ki tarah mere se chipka hua rehta hain.  Maine thodi na kaha tha usse yahaan rehne ko!"

"Jo bhi hain Ridzi.  Galti teri hain!  Ab ya toh tu wapas company join kar le, ya phir uss din ka wait kar jab Papa ko tere Rihanna waale roop ka pata chalega.  Ab main jaa rahi hoon.  Mujhe late ho raha hain." She quickly grabbed her toast and left the house to go to the office, leaving a fuming Riddhima behind.

"Kamina Armaan Mallik.  Aa gaya na apni boss-giri pe.  Sadu.  Akhdu.  Kanjoos.  Pata nahin khud ko kya samajhta hain." She paused and looked up at the ceiling.  "Hey Krishna.  Aapko iss poori duniya mein ek main hi milti hoon kya?  Aapko pata hain na mujhe uss Armaan ke saath kaam nahin karna.  Toh phir kyun mere saath aisa kar rahe ho?  Meri toh waat lag gayi hain.  Na bhi nahin keh sakti aur haan bhi nahin keh sakti.  Mtch.  Muski bhi sahi bol rahi hain.  Sab meri vajah se hi ho raha hain.  Ab toh office join karna hi padega." She spoke with defeat and went back to eating her half-eaten apple.

****

Muskaan entered Armaan's cabin with a wide smile and saw everyone already seated there.

"Mission Accomplished!" The others smiled widely whereas Armaan just smirked, knowing this was bound to happen.

Armaan sat in his room, talking to Rahul on the phone about what he came to know today, when Muskaan entered his room and he turned around.

"Armaan.  Mujhe tumse baat karni hain." He said a quick bye to Rahul and turned to her.

"Bolo.  Kya baat karni hain?"

"Tumne hume follow kiya?  What are you trying to do?  Spy on us?"Muskaan blasted on him, while Armaan rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, I was.  So?"

"How dare you Armaan!  Tum yahaan Riddhima ko manaane aaye ho ya phir hum par jaasoosi karne?"

"Of course main yahaan Riddhima ko manaane aaya hoon and I know how to get her back."

"Kyun?  Ab kya karne waale ho tum?"

"I'll use her secret against her."

"What!  You mean tum usse blackmail karoge?" She asked bewildered of this.

"Haan.  Agar woh wapas aane ke liye nahin maanegi toh mujhe yeh karna padega."

"Are you mad Armaan!  Ridz tumhe maar daalegi!"

"Woh aisa kuch nahin karegi.  And Muskaan.  Kya tum nahin chahti Riddhima wapas aa jaaye?  Don't you want her to come back?  Aur tumhe kya lagta hain.  Agar hum usse pyaar se baat karenge toh woh wapas aa jaayegi?  No.  We've already tried that.  Now this is the only way.  You just tell me if you're in this or not." Muskaan thought about this.  Armaan was right.  Riddhima was a thick headed person.  She wasn't gonna agree to come back so easily.  If they wanted her back, then they'll have to do this.

"Theek hain.  I'm with you in this.  But agar woh nahin maani toh?"

"I'm sure woh maanegi.  She won't have an option." Muskaan smiled and left the room, hoping that their plan will be successful.

"Wow Bhai.  Tumne toh kamal hi kar diya.  I mean.  Riddhima's finally gonna come back!" said Abhi.

"I know yaar!  Ridz ke bina yeh office toh ab jaise kaatne ko daudta hain.  I really miss her." Niki agreed with Abhi and spoke sadly.

"By the way.  When's she coming back?" inquired Anjali.

"Aaj se." Muskaan answered.

"Oh my God!  Really!"

"Yes!  Armaan ne aisa jaal bichhaaya hain na, ki Ridz ko vapas aane ke liye maanna hi pada!"

"Wow Bhai!  You're great!" Armaan smiled at his crazy brother.

"Ab chalo guys.  Riddhima ke vapas aane ki tayaari karte hain!  We have to inform the entire office!"

"Yeah, chalo!"

****

Riddhima parked her scooty in the parking lot and got off. Putting the helmet on the bike seat, she looked at the office building.  She felt a nostalgic feeling coming back in her mind.  It felt so good to be back after so many days.  The flashes of the days she spent in the office played in front of her eyes.  Those days were definitely very precious to her.  Well, obviously excluding the day when she was sacked from the office, but that was a different story.  Taking a deep breath, she smiled and walked to the entrance.

She opened the door and was rooted to her spot.  Everyone was standing up with flowers in their hands and had a big smile on their face.  There were also some boards which said 'Welcome Back!'.  For a moment she thought she was in the wrong place and looked behind her to see if someone else was standing there, but no one was there except her.  In a blink of an eye, everyone rushed to her and took her in a big hug.

Riddhima was just in shock seeing so much love from everyone in the office.  A smile made it's way through her lips and she hugged people back.  It felt soo good seeing those familiar faces!  Everyone just spoke at once which made it next to impossible for her to comprehend what they were saying but she didn't mind.

"Ridz!" She looked up and saw her friends smiling big and the next second she was pulled into a rib-crashing hug by Niki.

"Oh my God Ridz!  I missed you soo much!  It feels soo good to have you back!" She spoke excitedly and then parted away from her to look at her.

"Maine bhi tujhe bohat miss kiya Niki!"

"Hatt!  Kitna jhooth bol rahi hain!  Issi liye wapas aane ke liye mana kar rahi thi!"

"Sorry yaar woh main-" She started but was cut off by Niki.

"Chhod na!  Abhi tum aa gayi ho, toh sab pehle jaisa ho jaayega!"

"Haan Riddhima.  Sach kahun toh tumhare bina yeh office kaatne ko daud raha tha.  Yahaan ka saara fun gaayab ho gaya tha." said Anjali.

"Pehli baar Anjie ne sahi baat boli hain." Said Abhi.  Anjali glared at him for saying that which made Atul giggle.

"Shut up Abhi!"

"But seriously Ridz.  Ab tum aa gayi ho na, toh hum bohat masti karenge!" said Atul.

"Achha ji!  Masti karenge toh phir kaam kaun karega Mr. Atul Mallik?"

"Arre haan yaar.  Yahaan toh kaam bhi karna padega.  Warna Bhai sab ki band baja denge."

"Exactly!" They giggled at this.

"Chalo Riddhima.  Ab cabin mein jaa ke gappe maarte hain." Said Niki.

"Oye!  Kya gappe maarte hain?" Abhi interrupted them, making them turn their heads towards him.  "Office mein kitna saara kaam hain.  Bhai maar daalega hume."

"Arre haan.  Gabbar abhi bhi yahin hain na?  Mtch.  Meri kismat..." Riddhima said, mocking sadness which made everyone laugh.

"Chup!  Ab chal.  Kaam par lag jaate hain.  Bohat saara kaam karna hain." Everyone agreed and Riddhima left for her cabin.

****

Riddhima entered the cabin and stopped at the entrance.  She looked around the cabin and felt other memories coming back to her.  Not much had changed.  Just a few things here and there, but nothing major.  She smiled and slowly walked towards her table.  She touched everything lovingly and felt her eyes welling up slightly.

"Wow yaar.  Yahaan toh kuch bhi nahin badla.  Sab kuch waisa ka waisa." She wiped a tear that had rolled down without her notice.  She sat down on her chair and turned around in it, unaware of Armaan's eyes on her.

He had been watching her from his window and the smile never left his lips.  He just stared at her, observing her movements and expressions.  They were priceless.  He knew even she wanted to come back, but wouldn't say it because of that big ego of hers, but at last he was successful in bringing her back.  He smiled at her kiddish behavior.  He thought it was time to have some fun now and went back to his seat and dialed her number.

Riddhima stopped turning and answered the phone.

"Hello?"

"Mere cabin mein aao.  Abhi." Saying this, he immediately hung up before she could say anything.  She looked at the phone and rolled her eyes.

"Ab kyun bulaaya hain issne?  Zaroor lecture dega!  Baba Armaan." She got up and walked to his cabin.  She knocked on his door.

"May I come in Sir?" She emphasized slightly on 'Sir' and glared at him.

"Come in." She walked in and stood in front of him with her arms crossed.

"Tumne bulaaya?" He leaned back in his seat and smirked.

"Kya kaha tha maine tumse?  Main tumhe wapas le kar aaunga.  And look at this.  You're back." She gave him a nasty glare.  He had the audacity to brag his victory in front of her!  If only one murder was allowed...

"Apni jeet par itna khush hone ki zaroorat nahin hain Mr. Armaan Mallik.  Tum mujhe blackmail karke wapas laaye ho.  That's not something to be happy over."

"As if I give a damn."

"I know you don't.  Ab jaldi batao mujhe yahaan par kyun bulaaya hain."

"Obviously tumhe kaam ke liye bulaaya hain." She grew extremely irritated and just rolled her eyes.

"Toh aap zara bolne ka kasht uthaayenge?"

"Raichand's ki file tumhare paas hain kya?"

"Tumhari memory weak hain kya?"

"Kya?"

"Main abhi bees minute pehle hi aayi hoon.  Mujhe kya upar se koi sapna girega ke yeh file yahaan hain aur yeh file yahaan hain?" Armaan rolled his eyes.

"Toh tum ab tak kar kya rahi thi?  You should've got to work as soon as you got here.  Tumhe itna bhi nahin pata kya?"

"Yeh lo.  Phirse Baba Armaan ka pravachan shuru ho gaya." She muttered under her breath so Armaan couldn't hear her, but unfortunately for her, he did.

"Achha Riddhima.  Tum kya woh dhaarmic channels dekhti hoon kya?" Riddhima looked at him as if he were some ghost.  Of course she didn't watch those things!

"Nahin.  Kyun?"

"Achha?  Toh phir tum mujhe... Baba Armaan kyun bulaati ho?" Riddhima stared at him with her eyes widened and mouth hanging open.  How the hell did he know about this?  It took Armaan lots of effort, not to burst into fits of laughter.

"M-m-m-main-main che-check karke aati hoon." She quickly walked out of the cabin, saving herself from further embarrassment, whereas he chuckled at her.

****

It was lunch time and everyone was sitting in the canteen having their lunch and chatting merrily.

"Achha guys ab mujhe yeh batao.  Mere jaane ke baad yahaan pe kya kya hua?"

"Well Riddhima.  Sabse zyaada bura haal toh Atul ka tha."

"Achha?  Kyun bhai?"

"Yeh toh Devdas bann gaya tha.  Harr waqt bas Riddhima naam ka jaap karta rehta tha."

"Aww... you're soo sweet Atul."

"Thanks Ridz.  Dekha.  Bas ek Ridz ko hi meri kadar hain.  Aur kissi ko nahin hain." Atul pouted cutely.

"Arre Atul aisa nahin hain.  Hum sab ko tumhari bohat kadar... especially kissi ko." She gave a sideway glance to Anjali, who was staring at Atul.  She looked at Riddhima in shock, not really expecting the sudden tease.

"Matlab?"

"Kuch nahin Atul.  Achha aur baatein sunao."

"Well... Riddhima.  Ek baat kahun?" asked Abhi.

"Kaho."

"Umm... are you sure Muskaan is not like... 'that?'" he talked in a low voice as if telling something very important.

"Kya?" Riddhima  asked, not understanding what he was trying to imply.

"Tum kehna kya chaahte ho?" Muskaan yelled hearing this statement.

"Haan.  I mean jab Riddhima absent thi, toh tum harr waqt Niki ke saath chipki hui rehti thi.  So I thought they are... you know what I mean." Muskaan, who was listening to this till now, exploded at this comment.

"OYE!  ABHI KE BACCHE!  TU KHUD KO SAMAJHTA KYA HAIN!  TERE KEHNE KA MATLAB HAIN MAIN USS TYPE KI LADKI HOON!" She stood up and shouted over the top of her lungs.  Even Abhi stood up at this.

"HAAN!" He shouted back.

"ABE KAMINE MAIN TERI JAAN LE LUNGI!" The next second Abhi and Muskaan were pulling each other's hair, gathering a huge crowd.  The others were almost traumatized seeing the duo acting like complete lunatics.  Niki and Rahul were the first ones to recover from the shock as they sprinted towards the two and tried splitting them apart before they would kill each other.  They looked at the other 3 who were still in shock and called out to them.

"Tum log kya inn mein se kissi ek ke murder ka wait kar rahe ho kya?" Niki exclaimed.

"Idhar aao!" They came out of their shocked state and ran towards them to split them up.  Riddhima, Rahul and Anjali were trying to hold a wild Muskaan back whereas Atul and Niki were trying to stop a mad Abhi from killing Muskaan.  Though they almost stopped the physical fight, the verbal fight was worse.

"OYE KAANKHAJURE!  MAIN TUJHE MAAR DAALUNGI!"

"OYE PUNJAABAN HAATH TOH LAGA KE DIKHA!"

"TU MEREKO CHALLENGE DE RAHA HAIN!"

"HAAN DE RAHA HOON!  KYA KAR LEGI!"

"TERI TOH!" Muskaan became wilder at his comment and tried to air-kick him but Rahul held her back.  This went on for a while before Armaan came back.  He was flabbergasted seeing Abhi and Muskaan fighting like that.  What the hell was happening!

"BAS KAROOO!" He shouted and everyone stopped and looked at his anger filled face.

"Yeh sab kya chal raha hain!"

"Yeh Abhi mera mazaak uda raha tha.  Iss liye main isse maarna chaahti thi." Said Muskaan.

"Yeh koi school ka playground nahin hain jahaan tum dono bacchon ki tarah ladoge!  Get your acts together and go do your work.  Lunch time is over!" He said angrily whereas the others stood there with their heads hanging down.

"Ye-yes sir." They said together and Armaan left, giving them a disapproving look.

****

It was around 8 at night when Riddhima left the office.  Muskaan had already left because her work load wasn't much, but she had to stay back and catch up on everything that was going on in the company.  She took her sweet time going through all the files and then finally decided it was time to go once she had finished her work.  She was walking to her scooty outside when she heard some noise coming from a car nearby.  It was actually her name that caught her attention.

"Oh my God!  What are you saying Maya?" Riddhima heard a girl exclaim.  She went closer to the car which not that far.  She stood at a distant from them, but close enough to hear them speak clearly.

"I'm saying the truth babes.  Maine apne kaanon se suna.  Armaan Riddhima ke ghar par reh raha tha." Maya said.  Riddhima was confused.  Why were they talking about them?

"But why?  I mean, that is so not like Armaan!"

"Well, Niki ma'am Abhi Sir se keh rahi thi ki Armaan Riddhima ko wapas laane ke liye usske ghar par gaya tha.  But who knows what the matter really is?"

"Sacchi yaar.  I'm sure uss Riddhima ne zaroor Armaan par koi jaadoo kiya hoga.  I mean, Armaan aur woh bhi kissi ladki ke ghar par ussko manaane ke liye?  No ways!"

"I'm sure unn dono ke beech mein kuch chal raha hain."

"I swear yaar.  Mujhe lagta tha Riddhima woh bholi bhaali type ladki hain.  But woh toh bohat chaalaak nikli.  I mean zara socho.  Woh aur Armaan, usske ghar mein akele akele.  Vahaan kya kya hua hoga?  I don't even wanna think about it."

"Sacchi yaar."

Riddhima felt disgusted at those talks.  She couldn't believe people thought she and Armaan were doing anything like that.  Well, yeah they had kissed and all that but that was just a... passing moment?  They both got carried away and kissed, but what they were saying was just disgusting.  She gave them a disgusted look and walked back to her scooty.  She didn't give a damn about what they said.  After all, you can't expect anything out of people who's minds are always in the gutter.

****

Medha

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