Wednesday, 4 December 2019

PART 15 : Mr. & Mrs. Mallik

It's been a month since Armaan and Riddhima returned back to Mumbai from Delhi. Life was perfectly balanced - assumed Armaan. He had been mentally battling with his feelings for Riddhima, lately. He was sure that he had started to feel something intimate towards her and also aware that it's more than just a mere attraction but waited for one sure signal from his heart.

Riddhima, since the proximity between her and Armaan at her stay in Delhi, became conscious of his presence whenever he is around. But she brushed the thought every time thinking she was just feeling weird as she was new to being around with a guy - the one thing she avoided since her being a child.

But Muskaan had been a lone listener to Riddhima's gabbling about her 'in-laws' since her return. Her every chat began with Armaan and ended with either Raji or Ananya. Muskaan also noticed the glow on her face whenever she talked about Armaan, Raji or Ananya.



One afternoon, in their break time, Riddhima was again blabbering about the same old 'topic', when Muskaan grew frustrated of it.

"Riddhima, for the last one month, you have been talking about nothing but your so called reception and Armaan this, Ananya Aunty that and Raji aunty and" Muskaan paused a moment and added "I believe if you don't stop that, my ears will start bleeding."

"Am I? I never realized, sorry" Riddhima said calmly sipping her coffee. She was for moment shocked when she heard Muskaan. She never realized she was getting very attached to them, especially Armaan.

Muskaan sighed looking at her. She knew Riddhima, deep down in her heart, liked Armaan or even in love with him but one thing that caught her attention is that Riddhima's general talks about Armaan were always tagged with either Ananya or Raji.

"Riddhima, are you in love with Armaan?" Muskaan asked her straightly.

"What? NO." Riddhima uttered immediately. "It's just that I like him, as a dear friend- nothing more." she added.

"OK, tell me one thing. You like Armaan for the person he is or because of Raji aunty or Ananya aunty?"Muskaan probed further.

"I -"Riddhima was dumbstruck for a moment. She liked him for sure - she knew, but couldn't answer Muskaan's question. "What do you mean, Muskaan?" she questioned back.

"I don't mean anything. Just figure it out yourself." Muskaan smiled at her and gathering her things, went to resume her duties.

All through her duty, Muskaan's words rang in her ear. Armaan was nowhere near to her ideal man, yet she liked him, she didn't understand why. Initially she thought she can never stand him for moment, but everything changed after. She remembered she met Raji for the first time when she went to meet him, but immediately bonded with her. She realized her thinking towards Armaan changed after that. Was it just a coincidence or something else?

Is that because of Raji? Did she trust him, because of the bond he shared with Raji? She wondered. She knew it was silly of her to think so but felt there was a little truth in that. She even got married to him, when they both knew that they were not in love. Why? Her mind said that it was for her dad, to gain his faith in her. But she wasn't afraid then. Why? Is that because of her trust in Armaan or Raji? She has no answer for that.

She knew she liked Armaan, also for the person he is, but-. She didn't understand why there are always 'but's. Even during her stay in Delhi, she tried her best to please Armaan's relatives. Was that because of him or was that because she started searching for her lost family in them? She enjoyed staying with Armaan in his house. Was that because of him or was that because she found a mother in Raji?

Restless with the direction in which her thoughts were heading, she came to the reception to leave, in the night, only to get intimated that she was allotted an extra duty till 10 pm. Frustrated with everything happening around her, she stormed back to the ward.

Finally, after finishing her duty, she left to her house, on her bike. On the way back home, again her thoughts drifted back to the question from Muskaan. Lost in her train of thoughts, she drove aimlessly, until a flash of bright light hit her eyes.

**********************

Armaan was bored at home since Riddhima had an extra duty. He never realized he was getting dependant on her. He checked his watch, which said 10.10pm.

"Raji? Did Riddhima call you?" He asked Raji who was sitting on the couch beside him, watching TV.

"Armaan, this is more than tenth time I am answering the same question. NO, she didn't call me. She only left you a message saying she had a duty till 10 pm." Raji replied.

"But-"

"Armaan, she will take atleast 20 minutes to drive back home. Instead of asking me the same question, why don't you go and check your Reception album?" she said slightly irritated.

"What? Mom sent the album? Why didn't you tell me before?" Armaan asked excitedly.

"Since when did you become interested in Albums?" she asked playfully and added "It's in my room." She then noticed Armaan rushing to her room to get the album. She knew the reason behind his excitement and smiled at him when he came back with the album and sat on the bean bag.

As he kept looking at their photos of the reception, he remembered of their stay in Delhi. He looked at the photos of them dancing together and could still feel her in his arms. He then remembered of that night when they ended up sleeping together in each other's arms and his heart beat increased slightly.

He jumped slightly when he heard the loud voice from TV. He looked around and found Raji asleep on the couch. He checked the watch and was shocked as it said 11.00 pm. He quickly grabbed his mobile to call Riddhima, but it was switched off. Restless, he called Sanjeevani and was told that she left by 10 pm. He made calls to Muskaan and Rahul but they said they didn't meet her after their duty.

Pacing frantically, he tried calling Riddhima's mobile again and again, but in vain. He woke up Raji and said "Raji, Riddhima is not back yet. I'll go to Sanjeevani and find out. They said she left at 10 pm."

"What? Did you call her? Where is she?" Raji asked worried.

"No. Her cell is switched off." He said while grabbing his jacket and bike keys. As he was about to step out of his flat, his mobile rang. Thinking it would be Riddhima, he pulled it out but frowned when he noticed an unknown number. Million thoughts ran in his mind for a fraction of second and he was scared to take the call. 'What if something happened to her?' the thought almost knocked his breath away

"Hello, Armaan" he sighed in relief as he heard her voice in the mobile.

"Basket, Thank God! Where are you? Why aren't you back yet?" he asked impatiently.

"Armaan. I......uh..... I met a friend of mine. I'll be back in half an hour or so." He heard her say. But he noticed a lot of fuss in the background.

"But? What happened to your mob-" before he could finish his sentence, the call was cut.

Armaan walked back to the living room and fell on the couch. "She is fine Raji. Just went to meet her friend." He told Raji and closed his eyes. For a moment, the thought that something happened to her scared the hell out of him. Now that he talked to her, he was relieved slightly but still felt restless.

With each and every passing minute, he felt suffocated. Checking his watch for every few minutes, he paced to and fro in the living room. Raji, though herself worried, tried to assure him that she will be back soon, but his heart beat erratically with every second.

Glancing at the watch at 11.40 pm, he decided to call the same number from which Riddhima called him before. As he took out his mobile and pressed the call button, his heart beat reached its maximum pace while he waited for the call to be taken.

"Suncity Ambulance Services. May I help you" he heard the woman on the other side say and his heart stopped beating altogether freezing him to the ground.

"Riddhima" he heard Raji's whisper and turned around immediately to the door and was mortified at the sight before him. His mobile slipped down from his hand and blood drained off his face. He looked back at Raji assuming he might be hallucinating but the equally petrified face of hers conveyed that it was indeed true. He turned back to the sight infront of him and felt his eyes burning of tears, that he was holding back.

*************


Luv

Sushmita

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