Sunday, 24 November 2019

AR os : The Missed Call



"Damn it."

Armaan cursed himself in his breath, as perspiration ran down his handsome face. Was breaking up always so hard?

'No', he answered to himself, 'But this one is...Because unlike your other girlfriends, she is in love with you, and you're So, NOT.'

Running a hand through his hair to calm himself down, he walked with unsteady breaths towards her. There she was, staring dreamily at the rain outside the window, her fingers tapping the glass table ' indicating, she was waiting for him.

Jazz played in the background and he muttered curses, it was making him more edgy by the second. He hated Jazz, it was so sickenly romantic sometimes...Not the peaceful, soft tunes of Bollywood but only...Ah, well.



'Shit, Armaan. Break up. You're supposed to break up with her. Concentrate.', clearing his throat he sat down on the chair opposite her uneasily.

"Hie'", he began.

"Armaan, it's five-fifteen. You were supposed to come at five!"

"Look, um...Sorry babe." 'Wow Armaan, look, you messed up on your break up day too! Fantastic!', he thought sardonically to himself.

"Was getting ready for Me?",she asked in a teasing voice, her beautiful face twinkling. She did look stunning in her pink top and black jeans, with her hair open, he almost regretted his decision. 'But I don't Love her.' ,his heart whined like a child.

"Uhm..",he hesitated with his words.

"Awh, leave that. ",she placed a hand on his," So, what are we doing today? I was curious..you always have your busy days on Tuesday, no? Then today, how come we're meeting?"

'Coz it's a breakup day', he said to himself but not aloud. He wished it could be so easy, breaking up and not breaking her heart too. He asked several questions to himself. 'Why did she fall for me?'

'Why did I not fall for her?'

'Why did I even ask her out knowing that I didn't love her?' etc. etc.

"Armaan..", she squeezed his hand gently.

"What? Oh actually..", 'Here's it.' ," I had to tell you something very important. Urgent, you know."

"So urgent that it couldn't wait till your work finished? Wow. It must be something really urgent then.", she sighed, "The weather is so Romantic. I hope it's something romantic that you got to tell me.", her beautiful smile lit up.

Armaan gulped. Romantic? Yeah, right. So Romantic, that it's gonna break her heart. He gave her a defeated look. They had been dating for almost a year now, and always when she said," I Love You Armaan ", he saw it in her eyes that she meant it, the way she formed the words as if reciting a prayer andhe would say, without a tiny bit of meaning," Yeah, babe. I Love You too."

He wished he had meant it. He wished he could love her. She was as he imagined his life-partner to be.. Beautiful, Humorous, Romantic, Caring, Independent, and Down-to- earth. Not to forget, Successful too. But when his idiot heart had chosen someone else and he himself knew it was Meant to Be, then he couldn't think of changing his destiny. He looked down guiltily.

"Armaan, is everything all right?",she asked, concerned. He felt guiltier than ever, it almost made him want to cry. Nodding, he gathered up courage and said,

"Isha I..I don't want to lie.", he said it in a hurry and saw her staring with raised eyebrows, " It will sound crazy, but I want you to hear a story. " ,he sighed.

His girlfriend Isha Malhotra smiled gently, taking his hand. When she nodded, he understood he had to go on.

*Flashback*

5 years ago,

31st August, 2006.

'Say something, Say something. ',he thought to himself as he looked at her. She seemed as quiet and in deep thought as he was, they both watching the serene moonlight glitter on the silent calm earth.

They were best friends. It would be very difficult for both of them, to imagine life without each other. They completed each other's sentences, knew each other in and out like no other, shared their deepest secrets, they were family.They were neighbors , right from their birth or maybe before, and were so close, any one would hardly see them without each other. He was not a very talkative person, nor was she. That's the reason they blended unnaturally and could talk to each other for hours.

They would never be out of topic. They could talk endlessly, pouring their life into one other, and trusting each other like a part of themselves. They hadn't learnt how to live without each other's banters, his regular pleases of helping with homework, their last minute revisions, her crying on his shoulder, birthday surprises, and their daily dose of lame jokes. But now when they knew they had to stay apart, and live their lives separately, they should've been recalling their memories and should've been talking like crazy the last time. Why was there this weird silence, all of a sudden?

The moonlight illumined her face, and it struck him suddenly, a strange tinkling feeling. She was so beautiful, so soft, so fragile..and yet his strength. How would he ever think of spending his career without her? 'I've never done anything without her support...' , this thoughts trailed off and he sighed. He couldn't find words, and this sudden restlessness, anxiety..or was it fear? This was making him think. He never Thought what to say to her. She was leaving Delhi. Mumbai had always been a dream to her, somewhere she always wanted to work and live, and when she was finally doing it...he should've been happy. Why was he feeling so strained? As if he was losing something very vital in his life?

Of course, she was his best friend and life wouldn't be the same without her hovering around. But she would come back, right? They would talk hours on the phone and stuff...maybe he could even visit her. Then, why the hell was he feeling so Restless? 'Calm down, Armaan.', he reminded himself, 'She's gonna be fine.'The Question was, Would he be fine?

"Riddhima?",he called.

"Hmm?" , came the instant reply. She had been waiting for him to break the silence.

"Will you miss me?", he said before thinking.

He saw her lean on the side of the swing they were sitting on, and closing her eyes, then she said , " Yes. ",very softy. She couldn't say more. He noticed she was trying to hold back tears.

"Please dun cry.", he said gently. It ached to see her cry. Leaning close, he wiped the tears from her cheek.

The sudden silence was back. Her emerald-green eyes bore into his, and he felt transpired to some different world. The familiar tinkling ran down his spine, his heart thudding like never before. Following his heart, he held her hand, and very oddly, thought how it would be to hold it forever. Suddenly he was seeing her.. Differently. She looked angelic in the moonlight, in the serene silence, her eyes seemed to have been telling him something. He didn't want her to go.

His fingers absent-mindedly traced her cheek, caressing it gently. He saw her close her eyes and breathing against him. He didn't know where this was going. His heart thudded and he felt dazed, like no one existed around but both of them. He wanted it all, he wanted her to stay back. Beyond words, he followed his heart, and closing his eyes gently, placed his lips on hers.

The feeling was magical. As he held her against himself and kissed her like he hadn't kissed anyone before, pouring out his feelings. His restlessness seemed distant, all he knew, that he was there with her and he never wanted it to end. Slowly, her hands traced his back and electric-currents ran down, making him trace her cheek with his hand as the other continuously pulled her closer. He felt that it was all he wanted, all along.

They lived in the moment. They breathed in the magic for a long time, till he pulled back. Gasping, her eyes looked into his dazed ones. His uneven breathing and hard thudding heart made him want to reverse it all again, kiss her like crazy. Sense set in. Awkwardly, she left his hand and moved little aside on the little swing, both looking away from each other.

What had just happened?

He had no answers, but he felt guilty. So what she was beautiful, she was his best-friend, dammit. And he lost her. By kissing her, he took their bond into a different level they both hadn't expected, and he was sure she was regretting it. Now the silence was even more awkward and he cursed himself inwardly. He had wanted more. ' I'm so sorry, Riddhima.', he said to her in his mind, looking at her, but not being able to say anything aloud. She had her eyes closed and twitching her fingers together. Taking a finger up, she wiped a lone tear.

'You made her cry, Armaan.' ,he cursed himself. He had to fix it. It was a mistake and he couldn't let it hurt her. He had to say something. But the feeling that had ran down him..

"Uhm.That was weird, wasn'tit? ",he said, faking a laugh.

She didn't reply, just looked at him, trying to convey something through her eyes.

"Let's forget about that..Maybe..it well, flow of the moment? " ,he said, trying to fix it.

"Flow of the moment?",she said in a almost shocked but soft tone. A sad tone.

"Yeah..I'm..Sorry. Really. Shouldn't have happened..Like you know, Just..I'm Sorry. Mistake.", he held up his hands in surrender, which she would always find funny. But she didn't smile this time.Just looked away and nodded.

"So like, you should take care, okay?"

"I will.", she whispered back. Awkward, So Very Awkward.

"I..I have to go, Armaan. Will miss my flight. ",she said in a hurry.

"Are you sure you don't want me to come to the airport?"

"Yes.. You don't need to..It's..You should be with your parents. It's your mom's birthday, na?"

"She won't mind."

"I'll be okay.", she said smiling.

He got up and hugged her. She closed her eyes and tried not to cry. "I'll miss you so much.", he whispered. She shut her eyes tight, preventing tears. "I'll miss you too.", she whispered back , and knew she meant it.

As he left her, he smiled his heartfelt smile. She began to walk away and he watched, his restlessness coming back to life. He bit his lip as she turned away from him. He didn't know why, but he wanted her to turn back. He wanted to stop her. As if reading his thoughts, she stopped and looked back.

"Do you want to say anything?", she asked.

"Uh..", Armaan hesitated, then said," Happy Journey?"

She lowered her eyes sadly and said," Goodbye, Armaan."

He didn't know why, but he felt like grabbing her hand and telling her to stop. But it would not be good for her dreams. 'Stop getting so impractical.' ,he reminded himself and watched her go away. A tear splashed down on the grass and his heart thudded hard as he saw the end of her.

What had she meant when she wanted him to say anything? What was this feeling?

He sat down thinking. It struck him, after 30 minutes. No, dammit, after 17 whole years. It was her all along. She loved him. He loved her. She wanted him to stop her. And he was such a coward. He never wanted to let her go. His heart increased his restlessness and he ran to his garage. Her house was empty and darkened, and it set him crazy. He couldn't let her go. He was losing her.

He drove like a maniac in the traffic, his car screeching through the roads. His heart remembered the magical kiss and he smiled. He'd confess. 'Oh Shit, Riddhima...You should've told me. I Love You. I'm coming.' He drove further and saw the road on repair. Muttering curses, he took the bypass, and watched his speed limit crossed. He was driving on a freaking 120km/h.

He practically ran with his life to the airport gate, his breathing uneven, and his heart banging against his chest. He whispered her name as he looked around frantically in the crowd, but she was nowhere. He prayed silently, as a lone tear splashed down, and he saw Nikki, her sister, walking back to the entrance with a mournful face.

"Nikki.", he breathed as he ran.

"Armaan? ",she asked surprised.

"Where..is..R-Ridd-Riddhima?",he asked gasping.

Nikki's eyes moistened as she understood. She looked down and then again at him.

"She's gone, Armaan...You're late.17 years too late. She's gone forever. "

And he was certain, she loved him. His heart confirmed one more thing, he Loved her more than ever, and he couldn't love anyone else.

*Flashback ends*

Isha sat quietly and she wasn't looking at him. She was looking out at the window at the rain and Armaan knew what she was thinking. He hadn't told this to anyone. None of his friends knew, and he wished Riddhima would. He had looked for her crazily. She wasn't in Mumbai. She was nowhere. Nikki wouldn't tell him anything, Riddhima had made her swear she wouldn't. He would have his heart broken every time. He hadn't dated anyone since Riddhima left Delhi. Isha was the first, she was so much like Riddhima and he was nearly as comfortable with her as with his Riddhima, he decided to take his chances. But he could do it no more.

She loved him. He couldn't lie to himself or her anymore. He had decided to wait for Riddhima, he knew deep down that someday his destiny would make them meet. His missed call that fateful night completed 5 years on the present day.

"Isha.."

"You still Love her, don't you?",she asked in a whisper, as she wiped a tear hurriedly.

"Yes.", he said truthfully.

"Then..I guess, it's..Over, Right?"

"I'm so sorry, Ish..I know..I know I hurt you so much..",he said, guitily.

"To be frank, Yes. You hurt me. ",she looked at him straight in his eyes, " But you love her. And maybe..I'd do the same like you did today. Speak it out. "

He looked down from her moist eyes," I.."

Isha stood up suddenly and so did he, " Armaan, I Love you and I will love you. I never expected you to love me back, but I know that you deserve her. At least I got to spend time with you and tell you. You couldn't do that. Just remember, Riddhima is a lucky girl." ,she smiled heartily.

Armaan smiled back, thanking her silently. She kissed his cheek and he gave her a last hug, for old times' sake. She whispered ," Its destiny, Armaan. " as he left her and walked out of the restaurant. He followed and waved to her as she drove away.

His phone beeped. He saw it was a missed call again, from an unknown number that had been yesterday too. His irritation got in. He hated these pranksters. The phone rang and he picked it up.

"Hello?"

Silence at the other end.

"Don't waste my time. Who are you?"

Still silence.

"Come on!", he said angrily. "Is there anyone out there? Speak up Dude!"

A small sigh at the other end and the line went dead.

Armaan shook his head as he threw the phone on the passenger seat and started driving, thinking who it could be who called him up. He reviewed the number again. It wasn't a number from Delhi. It was a Mumbai number, Airtel. Running a hand through his hair, he sighed.

It struck him like it had 5 years back. A missed call, He had missed the call yet again. Riddhima. Mumbai. Unknown number. A sigh. It was her. His heart thumped hard again as his car screeched to a sudden stop in front of her old house. He looked around. She wasn't there. Her room windows were still closed. Could she really have come back? After 5 years?

He fumbled with his phone as he hit the call button on the number.

"Hello?",the voice at the other end said. His heart leaped and sang at her voice, a melody to his ears. He wanted to search again and hug her tight. But for the moment, he knew he couldn't miss this call. Not again.

"Basket..", he said. A gasp and silence at the other end. The magical awkward but known silence, that had wrapped them both 5 years back, when he kissed her, came back. He took a deep breath and said the words he was dying to say.

"I Love You, Riddhima Gupta. I have always loved you. I was a jerk to realize it late, but I want you back . I've been searching like crazy. Please, Please come back..I Love You so much.."

"Armaan..", her voice choked up at the other end.

"Please?", he pleaded.

"I am coming home, Armaan..I'm coming back to you.", she said and hung up. He could hear tears at the other end and gazed at the phone. She was finally coming back. A missed call, once again, changed his life.

He held his face in his hands as he leaned back on the car and cried.

"Hey, do you want to say anything? ",he heard a familiar voice and looked up.

She stood there, as beautiful as ever, her eyes moist like his own. Wiping his cheeks, he smiled.

"No. Maybe you'd want to say something?"

"What?",she acted innocent.

"Come on, please Riddhima. I've been dying to hear it. Don't tease me.", he whispered as he walked nearer.

"I Love You, Mr. jerk. " , she laughed as she sank into him, letting his strong arms bind her there for life.

And he was Glad, He hadn't missed this call.

***


Love,

Maitree

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