Sunday, 24 November 2019

PART 5 : Mr. & Mrs. Mallik

He gave her an injection and sat on a stool beside her bed.

After some time, he sprinkled some water on her face. He sighed with relief when there was a moment in her eye balls.

"Basket….. Are you fine?" he asked her anxiously as she slowly opened her eyes.

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Shashank paced to and fro in the living room checking the watch for every minute. "Riddhima should have been back by 7.30. It is almost 8. Why is she late?' he thought. He dialed her number but didn't get any answer and became more restless. Riddhima's encounter with Armaan at the shop flashed in his mind and he quickly grabbed the car keys and left for Sanjeevani.

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To Armaan's utter shock Riddhima just opened her eyes and smiled at him peacefully. He helped her half-lay on the bed with the support of the pillows and made her drink the juice. She smiled at him again and Armaan noticed her dreamy eyes thinking 'Is she awake?' She then shifted to one side on the bed and dozed off, curling up, leaving a motionless Armaan. He covered her properly with a sheet and kept staring at her in disbelief.

Armaan scratched his trying to take in. 'Riddhima is not aware that I destroyed her bike so I got a smile from her. What will I get if she knows about it?' He sensed a slight shiver running down his spine.  'No. Armaan Mallik doesn't get afraid of anyone' trying to convince himself he walked out of the room. 'But why did she get so disturbed? I mean it's just a bike?' Lost in his thoughts he bumped into Muskaan who was rushing into the rest room, along with Rahul.

"Armaan what happened to Riddhima? Why did you call us? Is she fine? Did……." Muskaan shot all the questions in one breath.

"Chill yaar Muskaan. Take the pain of breathing sometimes." Armaan cut her in between, trying to calm her down only to get a smack at his shoulder.

"What happened to her?" Rahul asked not paying any attention to his words.

"Nothing to worry. She fainted. I guess due to tiredness. I gave her an injection and she is taking rest now." He said switching to his role of a doctor.

But Muskaan was not satisfied with his answer. She rushed into the room and watched Riddhima fine, in a deep slumber. She pushed Armaan onto a chair in the corridor and asked him "Fainted? Armaan tell the truth. Why did she faint? What happened to her bike?" in a voice that was just above a whisper.

"We noticed her bike at the parking area. What happened? Was she hit by any accident?" Rahul added up to Muskaan and they both looked at Armaan expecting some answer.

Armaan smiled at them nervously. He knew he was caught and his mind was not too steady to cook up something quick. So he gave in "Actually…………..." He told them about their encounter at the gift shop and his plan of asking the kids to destroy her bike. "On reaching the parking area she cried and fainted. I didn't expect she would be hurt so much and that too for a bike" he said shrugging his shoulders.

"Armaan, you destroyed it? That bike was presented by her mother. No wonder she was deeply disturbed. I won't be surprised if she wants to stab you to death." Muskaan yelled at him fuming with anger.

"Comon yaar Muski. Am I supposed to dream that the bike was her present? I just thought it would be a tit-for-tat." Armaan tried to convince her and looked at Rahul expecting some support. But after getting a dirty look from him, he tried again "Ok. I accept it was a bit rude on my part but I promise I'll get it fixed. Everything….." He got up from the chair and turned towards the rest room and his voice trailed off.

"Basket" he gulped looking at a stunned Riddhima at the door staring at him in disbelief. He checked her face if she heard everything. Her eyes wider, moist a bit, red cheeks and nose gave him enough symptoms that she was angry at him like hell. He just closed his eyes for a moment as if it would take him away from that place. Holding his breath, he walked towards her.

"You are disgusting" Riddhima spat the words at him and tried to walk past him. But felt her head spin and she supported herself against the door, leaning on it, closing her eyes. He quickly supported her holding her by her waist.

Feeling her knees giving up, Riddhima stayed in his embrace for a few moments, trying to regain her strength. When she was convinced she is better, she opened her eyes to find Armaan's intense gaze on her. She quickly looked away and pushed him gathering all her strength and glared at him.

"Basket, I was just supporting you. You don't look well." Armaan tried to reach out for her only to be stopped by Riddhima. "I am fine Dr.Armaan. I can take care of myself. I don't need your help. You have done too much for me already." she glared at him pressing on the last sentence a bit. She took the help of Muskaan and walked away, followed by Rahul.

Armaan watched their retreating backs. 'Am I supposed to apologize?' he thought to himself but it appeared more of a statement than a question. 'First I lost my money because of her and now I have to get her bike fixed? If she is going to eat all my money at this speed, what would be my bank balance at by the end of the internship? And inturn she gets all the sympathy' he muttered to himself and ran behind them.

"Basket… basket" he ran and placed himself before them "I didn't expect that you have such emotional bonding with your bike. Look, you played a prank last time, so I thought……." His words were cut in between by Riddhima "So you thought to take a revenge" she said coldly and they walked past him. He stood there for a moment stunned 'revenge? Am I any faction leader to take revenge?' he chuckled at his thought of being a faction leader and again ran for Riddhima.

"Basket" but this time she didn't stop so he kept walking back standing in front of her as she advanced "Not revenge yaar. I just thought of teasing you. It's just….. just a tit-for-tat" Armaan bit his lip as the word slipped out, while Riddhima widened her eyes full of anger. Rahul shook his head at Armaan and whispered "Try something else" while Muskaan pushed him out of their way.

Armaan was stopped by a middle aged man on his way behind Riddhima "Do you know that girl?" the man asked in a stern voice. Armaan trying his best to apologize to Riddhima was just pissed off with the interruption. He glared at the man for a second and muttered "Yes. She is my girl friend. You have any problem?" Without waiting for the answer, he rushed in her direction.

Shashank fumed in anger at Armaan's words. 'She is my girl friend' his words echoed in his ear. 'So this is what Riddhima does here?' he thought to himself and dialed a number taking out his mobile "Yes Mr. Bhatia" pause "yes Riddhima accepted the proposal" pause "yeah as soon as possible" pause "Ok he may meet her in a day or two" he ended the call satisfied with himself.

Armaan found Riddhima seated at the reception. He went to her and sat beside her. "Armaan. Please leave. I don't want to talk to you." She said looking away.

"Basket. I didn't want to hurt you. It just went off guard. If it's a present from your mother, don't worry I'll convince her about the loss. Infact I'll request her to get a new one for you." He said with a grin to lighten her mood. But he was perplexed when she turned to him with her eyes full of tears "You can't…….. Because she is no more" she said in a whisper and walked towards the exit of the hospital.

Armaan stared at her retreating back and felt bad for her. For the first time since he met her, he regretted what he had done. He didn't like the sight of tears in her eyes. Somehow it pained him watching her in pain. He felt a sudden urge to genuinely say sorry to her.

Riddhima was waiting outside the parking area for Rahul and Muskaan, as Rahul said that he would drop her home. Armaan found her standing, staring into space. "Basket" she slightly jumped at his voice close to her. She turned around to find him. She looked away and walked past him only to be stopped by a hold on her wrist. "Basket. I am really sorry. Please." He said slowly and calmly.

"Leave my hand Armaan" she jerked her hand glaring at him. He let go off her wrist and immediately knelt before her. Before she could react, he wrapped his hands around her legs and begged "Basket. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I have been apologizing you for past one hour and you are just ignoring me. I won't leave you until you accept my sorry."

Riddhima stood mortified at his action. Too shocked to speak, she tried to free herself from his hold but in vain. He held her legs tight mumbling sorry to her. She felt too embarrassed as others stared at them, making faces. She yelled at him first, requested then and finally pleaded him to get up. Not able to take it anymore, "OK…… Armaan… I forgive you. For God's sake get up now." She shouted at him. He sprung to his feet at once and in a flash hugged her tight "Thanks Basket".

Once again Riddhima's words got stuck at her throat. Her heart beat raced up feeling his hands at her back. She closed her eyes trying to control her breath but it only made her impossible to breathe every passing fraction of second. "Armaan…..Leave me……I…….. can't……..breathe" she struggled in his rib crashing embrace. He released her at once while she tried to catch her breath "Oops. Sorry Basket. Bye. I'll get your bike fixed in a couple of days" he said, winked at her and left leaving Riddhima staring at him.

A loud horn broke Riddhima's trance. Thinking it might be Rahul's car, she turned around to get the biggest shock of the day "Dad" she gulped as she stared at Shashank horrified. Then it suddenly stuck her that she forgot to call her dad that she would be late. "I am sorry dad. It was an emergency so…….." her voice trailed off as she felt her throat dry. "It's OK Riddhima. Get in. We are getting late." He said in a calm voice. She was taken aback with his sudden calmness. Still confused, she got into the car and left a message to Rahul that she left with her dad. Closing her eyes in the car, she prayed to God 'I can't handle any more heartaches today. Please keep the remaining night calm and peaceful at home.'

After reaching home, Riddhima was surprised to find her dad calm and without any complaints against her being late. They had their dinner in silence and she was more than glad when Shashank told her to go to sleep after the dinner. Infact she was happy as he didn't yell at her. Thanking God, she drifted off to sleep.

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"Armaan" Raji called his name loud to get his attention. She had been calling him for the past one minute but no response. She switched off the TV, but he kept staring at the blank screen. He jumped suddenly when he was hit at the back of his head. "Aaahh. Raji. What happened?" he shouted at the top of his voice.

"Armaan. I should ask that question. Is everything fine? Where are you lost?" Raji asked sitting beside him in the couch in their living room. Now Raji started worrying as Armaan was quiet since he reached home. He ate the dinner without speaking much. He smiled at her, came and sat on the floor, infront of her, with his head in her lap, his back supported by her legs. She understood his gesture and ran her fingers in his scalp slightly massaging it.

He had been feeling a bit restless since the time he saw the tears and pain in Riddhima's eyes when she talked about her mother. 'Do I miss my parents?' he asked to himself but he didn't have any answer. 'Or is it because, I was partially responsible for her pain?'

Feeling lightheaded after the massage, he told Raji everything that happened at Sanjeevani – everything he had done. "But Raji I somehow felt very sorry for her. She misses her mother badly" he said arching his head back in her lap and closing his eyes. "Armaan, why do you bother that poor girl? Stop teasing her and get her bike fixed up soon." Raji said pressing her fingers against his forehead. "But Raji, this time she started it" he said feeling dizzy under the soothing effect of fingers on his forehead.

Raji sensed the pain in his voice when talking about her mother. She knew that Armaan missed his parents, from his childhood, though he won't admit it. To lighten his mood she said "Armaan, it's appearing that you like Riddhima. Why don't you marry her?" Armaan jerked listening to Raji's words. "Like, my foot. I can't tolerate her for a moment. For heaven's sake spare me from your dreams of my marriage." He retorted back walking back to his room, while Raji chuckled. "Then why did you feel bad when she was in pain?" she asked with a curious face. "It's only because, I know I am its cause partially. I would have felt the same for any other one. Because I know the pain of being away from parents very well. Good night Raji" he said smoothly and shut the door of his bedroom. "Good night Armaan" she whispered with moist eyes and retired to her room.

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SUSHMITA

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