Saturday, 28 December 2019

Part 8 AR FF : "and then she said it"

part 8 . Relationship redefined ?

"I tell you aunty. We should go for counseling for him." Rahul declared without averting his gaze from his laptop. "He never listens to one completely."

It was almost 10 pm when we were done with dinner. Oh I forgot to tell you, throughout the drive back home from the hospital, I was at the receiving end of mom's lectures about my crisis management. And Rahul was just adding fuel to already blazed anger of mom. And it continued after dinner aswell. Now as Mom sat against the bedpost on her bed with me lying in her lap, Rahul sat beside us on the bed still complaining to mom.

"Mom, Riddhima didn't tell me properly." I defended myself.

"Shut up Armaan. You cut her call before she could tell you the entire scenario." Mom smacked my head.



Okay, I'll let you, my readers, know what had actually happened. Itseems when mom and Riddhima went for evening walk, mom was hit by a motorcycle. Mom wasn't hurt except for the light scratch on her elbow. But that poor motorcyclist was so scared that he called for an ambulance immediately despite Riddhima's and mom's protests. So as per mom's insistence she asked the ambulance driver to take her to our hospital, Sanjeevani. And then another wonderful idea stuck her. She thought of getting her monthly checkup done as she was to the hospital. So she asked Riddhima to call me up and ask me to get the reports to the hospital. And well when Riddhima called me to say the same, you, my readers, know what I had done.

"I wonder who offered you the post of HR, when you can't even manage yourself." Rahul muttered.

"The same person who offered you the same position." I quipped.

"That's the reason I call him an idiot." He retorted irritated. The mere mention of Ankit was enough to hamper his mood today.

"See Rahul, that's the reason I was talking about resigning." I said trying to cool him down. But the moment those words escaped my throat I kicked myself for bringing that up. I prayed he didn't remember our conversation back then. But if he did, it only meant my doom today. To my sheer bad luck, I knew he had recalled the same thing I had been wondering about when I saw his face brighten up with a wide grin. I glared at him to make him shut his mouth infront of mom, but that only widened his grin.

"Aunty, you know something? Armaan had already planned about his livelihood after resigning for the job." He started winking at me.

"Rahul, shut up." I sat straight on the bed towering over Rahul. But whom I had been kidding? Why would he let go of such wonderful chance of embarrassing me.

"Aree what planning? And Armaan, why were you resigning to your company? I asked Riddhima to join that one since you always told me it was a good company to work with." Mom replied. She was worried about different matter all together. But Rahul got a kick start at mere mention of Riddhima.

"Yeah aunty, you were almost there. Since Riddhima is joining the company, Armaan wanted to lay back and laze around by resigning." He added smirking at me. Mom looked at us perplexed.

"Rahul, I am warning you." I threatened him. "No mom. I am not resigning. He is just playing around." I turned to mom and tried to divert her attention. But then she was Raji Mallik and my mom. She wouldn't let go of it that easily. She looked at Rahul asking him to continue without paying any attention to my words.

That's it! I jumped over to Rahul to shut his mouth before he would utter the crap I had spoken, unconsciously. "Don't you dare open your mouth!" I muttered under my breath. "Else I'll spill about Muski and you." Whom am I threatening about? Mom was the one who pointed about that in the first place. However I tried my luck.

"As if I care!" Rahul whispered back and pushed me away settling beside mom. I pleaded him for the last time, but yeah he was Rahul. He was all set to cash it. He turned to face mom and I knew its better I shut my mouth and listen to him.

"Aunty, in the evening when you went for walking..." He started off as if it was a suspense thriller. I tried escaping from the room, but he also caught my arm. I don't know; I wasn't comfortable with mom knowing it. I mean I was thinking to talk to mom about Riddhima and me; but this? I wasn't sure what mom would make of it. "Then he replied that Riddhima would have joined the company by then and her salary would be enough for them." I shut my eyes as he said it. "And aunty, he was also planning about talking to Ankit about asking to get Riddhima posted at Hyderabad branch." My head shot up at that piece of information. Where did this come from?

"Saale, shut up!" I smacked his shoulder. "No mom, I only blurted about her salary being sufficient and all. This Rahul cooked up the remaining." I tried defending myself. But mom's face was quite serious.

"Armaan?" she called out for me to catch my attention as I was immersed in hitting Rahul hard. "Does that mean something?" She asked when I turned to her.

"Mom, I was just thinking about Ankit and then I just joked about resigning when-" I rambled on.

"That's not what I am asking." She cut me midsentence. I knew its better I speak to her.

"I was thinking to talk to you about-" I started trying to frame it properly.

"About?" Rahul butted in. "I am just encouraging you!" He made peace when I glared at him. Encouragement, my foot!

"Well mom. Yeah-" I, myself, was surprised that I was stammering, running short of words. With two pairs of eyes gazing at me eagerly, I felt uneasy. "I think I am okay with marrying Riddhima." I said.

"You think or are you sure?" Mom probed further.

"Okay!" I took a deep breath. "Mom, I am ready to marry Riddhima if she agrees."

"Really?" Mom and Rahul said simultaneously. I couldn't believe they are doing this. Why can't they believe me?

"Yeah mom." I assured them this time with a smile accompanying my words.

"Wow Armaan Mallik is blushing!" Came Rahul's instant comment. I didn't mind that for once. Because something bigger than that caught my attention. That was mom's smile. Her face lit up at the very instant. That was something I would cherish forever. I hugged her glad that I was the reason for that smile of hers.

"I'll be back." Rahul excused himself to leave the room. I don't know what bothers him but he always tries to leave us when there was something like this ' a bit personal. I tried to make him understand that he was our family too, but he keeps his limits.

"No Rahul. Stay." Mom stopped him from leaving. He looked at us unsure but mom pulled him to the bed. He smiled at me while I returned it.

"Armaan, why did you decide to go for it?" Mom asked me.

I tried putting into words that feeling which made me sure of Riddhima. "I don't know exactly mom. She resembles you in most of the cases." I said shrugging my shoulders. That's what I had been searching in the girls I had been with before. "I like her and yeah, I trust your choice."

"Okay!" She smiled and so did Rahul. "When are you going to talk to her?" She asked.

"What?" I jumped at her words. "No mom, I am not going to talk to her about this." I replied firm with my decision. God, I almost died framing my sentences a few minutes before. I am in no mood to make a fool of myself infront of her. "You talk to her."

"No Armaan, listen." She started and by the stern voice of hers I knew it was something important. "You have to talk to Riddhima about this. She wouldn't be comfortable with me." She said. "Moreover there are few things you need to know of her."

"About what mom?" I asked her wondering what she was trying to arrive at.

"About her." She smiled at me. "Talk to her and it would be better if she herself tells you." She caressed my cheek. "If you still stand by your decision after talking to her and if she agrees to it, we'll go ahead." She added.

That particular statement of hers disturbed me slightly. What was there to know about her? I mean I already knew that she was an orphan and all. But somehow it didn't bother me. And why would I step back after talking to her? But the way mom put forward that sentence didn't appeal to me. If there is something major, then why couldn't mom tell me about that?

"Armaan?" Rahul shook me slightly breaking my chain of thoughts.

"Yeah." I looked at them. "Okay mom, I'll talk to her." I agreed to it.

"When?" Rahul was way more impatient than mom.

"In a couple of days." I answered absent mindedly, my mind still wandering around about what mom had said before.

"Armaan? Did you forget that we have to leave day after tomorrow?" He reminded me. That completely went off my mind.

"What? Why are you leaving so early?" Mom asked surprised. Well, we forgot to inform mom about that conveniently.

"Ankit called us aunty. We have to handle one more project. So we'll have to leave early." He replied.

"Oh!" Mom sighed, not so pleased with that, nor were we for the matter of fact. She looked at me, her eyes questioning.

"I'll talk to her tomorrow." I answered her unasked question. She smiled at me nodding. "Will she agree?" I doubted. I wasn't sure of what she felt towards me.

"Who has the heart to reject you Armaan? You are a charmer." Mom ruffled my hair lovingly. That I, really, am!

"Back to earth, dude." Rahul kicked my back, while I sat grinning. Mom chuckled at us.

"Go to sleep mom, it's quite late." I pointed out, when my eyes landed on the wall clock. It was 11 pm. Rahul and I got up from the bed to leave.

"Armaan?" Mom stopped me. "No matter what your decision might be after talking to Riddhima, make sure that you don't hurt her."

"I wouldn't mom. You can have my word on that." I assured her and she kissed my temple. "Good night."

"Good night aunty." Rahul kissed her cheek and we left the room closing the door behind us.

--------

"Armaan, are you sure?" Rahul asked hesitantly, as I was getting ready. "About this?" It was about 4 pm. In about 30 mins or so, Riddhima's class would be over. So I planned to go to college and talk to her on the way, well, my readers, about, you know, our marriage.

"I guess so." I replied equally hesitant. Wasn't I supposed to be so sure about this? Yesterday I was. Belieive me, my readers, I was. But then after that little talk with mom, I don't know, somehow my resolve is oscillating. I have this bad feeling that something is on its way.

"Riddhima is good for you." Rahul patted my back as I gelled my hair. Ah, that was what I had been waiting for. That, somehow, made me feel better. That's one thing I absolutely admire about him.

I smiled back at him. "You want to come?" I offered.

"No." He said sitting on the bean bag. "You guys carry on." I nodded at him and left the room. "All the best, dude." He shouted from inside the room.

"Bye mom." I kissed her cheek before grabbing the car keys.

"Armaan?" She called for me when I was about to step out of the house. But she just smiled at me when I turned to her. That look on her face, was different. It was as if she was afraid of something. It, somehow, scared me.

"Mom, you want me to know something?" I asked, not able to keep that in me.

She hesitated for a moment. "No" She whispered kissing my forehead. "Bye."

I forced a smile. Something is definitely wrong. I could feel that. But what? I had no idea of. Mom was excited, not visibly- but yes excited, about Riddhima getting married to me. Then what happened all of a sudden? She was behaving weird, in some sense which I couldn't understand, since she had been back from the walk with Riddhima. Is that something related to Riddhima?

Pushing that negative vibes aside, I started the engine of the car, my brain now focusing about how I had to approach Riddhima. That was a task itself.

-----------

As I waited for Riddhima infront of her block in the college, I was literally writing a script of what I had to talk to her. I know that's a mere waste. Because I know she somehow freezes my senses when I am talking to her. Eventually I'll end up with something else.

Finally after some time, I spotted Riddhima coming out of the block. I searched for Muski around her as I spotted her walking alone. But I guess, Muski, as usual bunked her class. Riddhima was stopped midway by a couple of girls, I guess her friends. They talked for a couple of moments and she climbed the stairs down which led her way towards me.

"Armaan?" She asked surprised with my presence.

"Hey Riddhima" I greeted her, walking towards her.

"What are you doing here?" She enquired, her eyes wide open. I couldn't stop my smile looking at her expression.

"What does it appear like?" I asked back, standing infront of her.

"Huh?" She looked around, probably searching for someone, a big frown adorning her face.

"Mom's not here." I answered it for her. I knew she was searching for her because its not likely that I come to pick her up, is it? "I just came to pick you." I added.

The already confused expression only deepened. "Riddhima?" A girl called for her. That girl looked at me when she didn't get a response from Riddhima, who was still looking at me surprised.

"Hey!" I greeted the girl, breaking Riddhima's trance aswell. The girl spared me a shy smile. Girls! I rolled my eyes.

"Your notes." She gave Riddhima a book. She took it and smiled back at her. But the girl didn't leave. I probably understood what for she had been waiting for. But Riddhima, being a little dumb in these matters, didn't get it. "So, you are Riddhima's friend?" She asked Riddhima eagerly. That's when Riddhima got her cue.

"Yes, I mean, no." Riddhima stammered, amusing me. "He is my friend's son." She stated blankly.

That look on that girls face was worth a billion dollars. God, she stared at me as if I was an alien. Who wouldn't? When you probably introduce someone almost same age of yours as your friend's son? I scratched my chin and turned around not able to refrain my laughter. When I turned back the girl wasn't there. I burst into fits of laughter looking at Riddhima.

She didn't get it. She just stared at me confused. "God, Riddhima, don't you think I am a little too old to be your friend's son?" I asked her guffawing while walking back to the car.

She simply stared at me for a few seconds when we sat in the car and then she giggled when realization dawned upon her. She just put her fingers on her forehead and smiled. That only increased my laughter. I laughed, laughed and laughed all the way, recalling the expression on that girls face. I stopped the car and rested my head against the steering to catch my breath back.

"Armaan, where are we?" Riddhima's question made me look at her. She was looking around the surroundings anxiously.

"Coffee lounge. Come." I replied getting out of car.

"But why are we here?" She asked again, following me as I walked towards the lounge.

"Just to have a cup of coffee." I answered sitting on the couch inside. She looked at me strangely and settled infront of me. I placed an order for two coffees and looked at her trying to start conversation. But somehow I again remembered that girl's expression and laughed again. This time Riddhima joined me smiling when she got why I was laughing for.

"That girl would have been trying out all the possibilities of me being your friend's son." I added smiling, when my laughter subsided.  I brought our cups of coffee.

"I know. That was so stupid of me. I should have framed it properly." She agreed, sipping her coffee. "Why did you bring me here?" She asked again.

"You should have introduced me as your friend. I guess I am one." I said sitting straight.

"Yes, you are. But-" She hesitated.

"But?" I asked her, interested.

"If I told her you are my friend, then she would always tease me and spread around, you know, that you are my boyfriend." She replied looking away. "She just likes gossiping." She added.

"Then how would you introduce me?" I probed further.

She was not comfortable under my gaze, I could sense that. "I- I don't know." She replied playing with the spoon. "There is not any concrete relationship between us anyway." She mumbled, which kind of surprised me.

"I have an answer." I said softly.

"You do?" She looked up at me surprised.

"Yes." I replied, looking straight into her eyes. "Marry me?" I came straight to the point.

But her reaction just left me bewildered. The spoon dropped out of her fingers instantly. I know it was kind of abrupt but?! She went pale, color draining off her face as if she had seen a ghost. She just stared at me horrified.

"Yes Riddhima, I was thinking about this lately. I mean, only if you are comfortable with that." I tried explaining her, looking at that mortified expression on her face. It scared the hell out of me when her eyes filled up the next moment.

"Take me home, please." She pleaded, fighting back her tears. She stood up and walked out of the lounge.

"No Riddhima, listen-" I threw the money for the bill on the table and ran out.

"Please" A lone tear escaped her eye and that shut my mouth. I let her sit in the car and drove back home.

This had turned out to be so wrong. I knew by the look in her eyes that it was much more than a mere surprise for her. I didn't mean to shock her by bringing that up so suddenly, but I didn't expect this reaction from her. I thought maybe she would just say she needed some time or so. But this? It scared me, that look in her eyes. I don't know what it meant, but I, somehow, felt the pain in them.

Pain, for what? Was I responsible for that? That bothered me; a lot to be precise. I recalled all our encounters, there was absolutely nothing that could mean she hated me or despised me. Moreover, I thought she trusted me. I am sure she did. But then why she was crying? Throughout the drive, tears rolled down her cheeks though she shut her eyes tightly. Her face was contorted as if in great pain. But why? The thought that I might be a reason for that stung me bitterly. I never meant to hurt her. I meant it when I promised that to mom.

I was utterly confused for I knew mom would never bring this up if Riddhima would be hurt in any way. But then she did? Then suddenly it hit me. All that what mom had talked in the previous night and that look when I left home today's evening, they meant something. But what? That ignorance started irritating me. If it was something related to Riddhima's past, she could talk to me. We could have sorted that out. It was not as if everything is forced. She had her right to say. I mean, I just asked her if she would marry me. It's not like I put a knife on her throat and compelled her to agree. But the way she had been crying for the last 15 mins in the car only meant the latter. It left me rotten.

--------------

"Hey Arma-" Rahul's wide grin disappeared the moment I stepped in, while Riddhima followed me.

"What happened?" He looked at me. I just stood pressing my forehead and eyes. "Riddhima?" He asked her. "Oh my God!" He gasped when she looked up at him, her eyes red and swollen. "Aunty" He shouted to call mom downstairs.

"Rahul, shut the door." I told him before turning to Riddhima. "Riddhima, what happened?" I asked her desperately. "Look Riddhima, it's just a thought. We'll not force you nor will we ask you to vacate the house. Just tell me what happened." I tried citing various reasons for her breakdown. But hell, she wasn't even ready to look at me.

"Rahul, why are you shouting? I was just cleani-" Mom stopped midsentence spotting us. She threw the clothes she was holding aside and ran downstairs to Riddhima. "What happened Riddhima? Why are you crying?" she moved to her. "Armaan?" She looked at me, her eyes questioning. She took Riddhima into her arms when she didn't respond.

Riddhima just hugged her, burying her face in her neck and cried more. I went mad and ran my fingers in my hair trying to calm myself. The last thing I wanted now was losing my cool. But Riddhima wasn't helping it. What should I make out of it if a girl cries terribly when all I asked her was to marry me? I could feel my worry slowly giving away to anger. First because Riddhima wasn't speaking anything and secondly because I felt bad, somewhere deep down, that I was the reason for her sorrow or whatever. Above all maybe it was the fear of rejection. To be frank, I didn't face rejection much in my life. I wasn't used to it in the first place. And I don't think I was ready for one, when there wasn't any probable reason for that. I was above her in every aspect!

"I want to go to my room." Riddhima mumbled when she parted away from mom. As she made her way towards the staircase, I stopped her holding her arm.

"No Riddhima!" I said, my voce a bit harsh. "Okay fine!" I left her arm and took a step back when she looked up at me scared. One. Two. Three. Four. I counted numbers in my mind. "Tell me what's the matter, before leaving." I asked, my voice demanding. So were my heart and mind, demanding for an answer.

"No Rahul." I shook his hand off my arm when he tried stopping me. "I just asked her to marry me and she is crying as if I had misbehaved with her." I shouted exasperated.

"Armaan" Mom raised her voice glaring at me.

"Okay!" I took a deep breath and turned to Riddhima who was standing at the first step of the stairs. "Riddhima just tell me the reason. Why are you crying? You can take time if you want." I tried, once again, maintaining my voice soft.

"I don't want any time Armaan." Riddhima spoke to me for the first time, her voice emotionless. "That's so wrong." She added looking down. "You wouldn't want to marry me."

"Cut the crap Riddhima." I sighed irritated. "I wouldn't have asked you if I don't want to marry you."

"I'll leave upstairs." It was Rahul once again and I lost my head at that statement of his.

"Oh just shut up Rahul." I blasted at him. "Stay where you are."

I turned to Riddhima after a moment. "Fine Riddhima. Tell me why I wouldn't want to marry you."

"Aunty knows that Armaan." She said blankly staring at me. "Even she wouldn't want that."

"How would I know if mom is aware of that? Tell that to me." I sighed trying to make sense out of our conversation. Where the hell was it leading? "And mom was the one who asked me if I would like to marry you. She was happy with that." I told her, trying to stay calm as much as I can. "Weren't you mom?" I asked turning to mom.

I turned back to Riddhima when mom nodded. But Riddhima just stared at mom hurt, fresh tears again filling her eyes. She then looked into my eyes, her eyes pleading. If I thought I was able to read her eyes, then I had been wrong all along. I couldn't comprehend what her eyes were pleading for. "You deserve the best Armaan, not me." She whispered after a couple of moments.

I sighed relieved. May be it was just her inferiority complex, that she had been talking about. May be she was worried about her being an orphan. I knew how they would feel for I had seen Rahul behaving the same sometimes.

"Riddhima, if you are just backing away because you are an orphan and all. Leave it aside. I like you and I want to marry you because I..." I searched for words. What should I say now? I don't even know why I was trying this extent to make her understand. Why couldn't I just leave it aside if she didn't want to get married to me? "...because you are a very good person Riddhima." I ended hoping that would make some sense.

"Armaan I-" She sounded defeated. "I was married." I just stared at her aghast and then at mom. Rahul was as surprised as me.

"Riddhima you-"

"Yes, Armaan. I was married." She repeated once again. "That's the reason when I told you that you wouldn't want to marry me." She smiled slightly amidst her tears. "It's better we stay as strangers if you don't want me as a friend now. You asked me what I should introduce you as. This is the truth of the relationship between us, Armaan. Nothing more can be possible."  She added as few more tears slipped out of her eyes.

I felt as if my voice was lost somewhere. I couldn't speak anything but just stare at her retreating figure as she ran upstairs to her room.

"Armaan, I-" Mom tried to speak to me, after a couple of moments.

"No mom. wait." I cut her midway. "We'll talk about this tomorrow." I told her. I couldn't think of anything else except Riddhima's words. And the fact that mom expected me to marry her when she knew about this hit me hard.

"Rahul, just leave me alone for tonight." I added before going upstairs to my room for I knew Rahul would come to me to sort me out. But I don't want that. I wanted to stay alone.




-Sushmita

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