Tuesday, 14 January 2020

AR FF part 23 : "and then she said it"

 Snapshots of the past

"I am home!" I declared happily when I entered home, to be greeted with a pillow in my face. Bewildered, I yanked it off my face and found Riddhima chasing Rahul while he jumped on and off the sofa, dining table chairs and others which were in his way. Though shocked, that they didn't even notice my presence, I took a step ahead when she tripped and landed in my arms.

"Whoa!! Easy, easy!!" I helped her to her feet but she leaned on me, gripping me for support and panting heavily. "What's going on?" I asked turning to Rahul when I realized she was in no position to speak.

"Your wedding album" Rahul mumbled, slightly breathless, holding up the album which was in his hand. I raised my brow at that while he looked at her in wary, as if getting ready to run if she made a slight movement.



For the last one week since we returned back to Hyderabad, everything was back to normal, infact better than before to be precise: the striking factor being Riddhima. She has changed for good in the last couple of days. It was as if she had let herself loosen up a bit. She was slightly cheerful all the time and less hesitant around me. I never knew that talking a bit about her past would do such that wonders to her. We also made love every night since then. Though the actions were same and repetitive, I always felt something new in the way we loved each other. It was always able to touch the inner chords of my heart that I never knew existed. I didn't know about her but I am completely gone.

"Why are you being chased for that? Can't you both sit and look at them together." I wondered.

"Ask her." Rahul said, grinning.

When I looked down, Riddhima put a strand of her hair behind her ear and looked at me nervously, her cheeks slightly aflame. I stared down at her in amusement.

"Muski also sent a DVD with that which has all the rough snaps which were not included in the album." She mumbled slowly. "And he is not giving that DVD to me." She ended with a complaint.

"Let's watch them together, then." I said, not quite understanding what she was speaking.

"No, no. We can't do that." She added quickly while Rahul chuckled, while I looked at them perplexed.

"In short those are the photos of you both romancing." He completed it for her.

"Romancing?" I wondered where that had come from when we were married. As far as I remember, Riddhima hardly had the stamina in her to stand that day, let alone romancing.

"Woh.." She blushed slightly "the snaps that the photographers clicked infront of the mandap when we were alone." She ended, lowering her eyes.

I grinned as I recalled the moments. That was just after the wedding when the photographers took snaps of us after everyone had left for the dinner. They had asked us to pose for the camera, with me holding her close or hugging her from behind. I still remember her state when the photographers said it was done. She was completely red around her face. Though I was slightly flushed too, I enjoyed watching her trying to calm her nerves down.

"I don't even know that such photographs existed." Rahul whined. "So I am not giving the album and DVD to you unless you let me watch them." He added obstinately. "If Muski can see them, so can I."

I spotted the glint in his eyes and wondered if he was deliberately teasing her. It was confirmed a moment later when he winked at me while Riddhima was busy glaring him. I shook my head at them. The way Rahul and Riddhima bonded with each other over the last one week made me slightly jealous. She was completely at ease with him at bit more than she was with me. It might be due to the calmness that Rahul carries it with him. Nevertheless I was happy for both of them that they found new companions for each other.

"No!!" Riddhima exclaimed, breaking my thoughts.

I stood there in amusement watching them fight. She turned red, with her eyes throwing daggers at him which kind of surprised both of us. Rahul raised his brow at me slightly concerned at her display of anger. I thought for a while and did quick math and then wondered if she was in her PMS. I chuckled and shook my head at him.

"If you don't give them to me now," she marched towards him, "You are not going to have your lunch box filled from tomorrow."

I ginned at him. She was right on the target. Rahul had grown addicted to her food that he almost stopped going to cafeteria at the office.

"Okay then let's make a deal. I will watch the album first if I have to give you the DVD." He bargained.

Riddhima pondered over it for a second and then agreed. A sulking Rahul gave the DVD back to her while she smirked at him and went to the bedroom, probably to secure it. I smacked his head and followed her to our room.

"RIDDHIMA!!" No sooner did we enter our room than we heard Rahul shouting for her. She dropped the disc and rushed back while I wondered what was going on in the house.

"You forgot to remind me of the meeting!" Rahul half shouted and half whined.

Riddhima shrugged her shoulders. "You were the one fighting with me for the last one hour." She almost shouted back. I just gaped at them. How did I miss the development in their relationship or rather the entertainment for the last couple of days? It might be due to the reason that I had to spend few extra hours at the office due to the work load after my shift.

While I just stared at her with my mouth slightly open, Riddhima came to me slightly concerned after Rahul left. She then sat on the bed, lost in her thoughts. I wondered if she had any personality disorder. One minute she was on the verge of losing her temper and the next she was as calm as a nun.

"What happened now?" I asked slowly sitting beside her on the bed.

"Do you think Rahul would feel offended since I shouted back at him?" she asked.

I wanted to laugh out loud. How cute can she get! With a wide grin, I pecked her lips and hugged her tight, almost choking her. With every passing day I am only falling in deeper for her. I couldn't help it.

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

"I am home!" I declared happily when I entered home, to be greeted with a pillow in my face. Bewildered, I yanked it off my face and found Riddhima chasing Rahul while he jumped on and off the sofa, dining table chairs and others which were in his way. Though shocked, that they didn't even notice my presence, I took a step ahead when she tripped and landed in my arms.

"Whoa!! Easy, easy!!" I helped her to her feet but she leaned on me, gripping me for support and panting heavily. "What's going on?" I asked turning to Rahul when I realized she was in no position to speak.

"Your wedding album" Rahul mumbled, slightly breathless, holding up the album which was in his hand. I raised my brow at that while he looked at her in wary, as if getting ready to run if she made a slight movement.

For the last one week since we returned back to Hyderabad, everything was back to normal, infact better than before to be precise: the striking factor being Riddhima. She has changed for good in the last couple of days. It was as if she had let herself loosen up a bit. She was slightly cheerful all the time and less hesitant around me. I never knew that talking a bit about her past would do such that wonders to her. We also made love every night since then. Though the actions were same and repetitive, I always felt something new in the way we loved each other. It was always able to touch the inner chords of my heart that I never knew existed. I didn't know about her but I am completely gone.

"Why are you being chased for that? Can't you both sit and look at them together." I wondered.

"Ask her." Rahul said, grinning.

When I looked down, Riddhima put a strand of her hair behind her ear and looked at me nervously, her cheeks slightly aflame. I stared down at her in amusement.

"Muski also sent a DVD with that which has all the rough snaps which were not included in the album." She mumbled slowly. "And he is not giving that DVD to me." She ended with a complaint.

"Let's watch them together, then." I said, not quite understanding what she was speaking.

"No, no. We can't do that." She added quickly while Rahul chuckled, while I looked at them perplexed.

"In short those are the photos of you both romancing." He completed it for her.

"Romancing?" I wondered where that had come from when we were married. As far as I remember, Riddhima hardly had the stamina in her to stand that day, let alone romancing.

"Woh.." She blushed slightly "the snaps that the photographers clicked infront of the mandap when we were alone." She ended, lowering her eyes.

I grinned as I recalled the moments. That was just after the wedding when the photographers took snaps of us after everyone had left for the dinner. They had asked us to pose for the camera, with me holding her close or hugging her from behind. I still remember her state when the photographers said it was done. She was completely red around her face. Though I was slightly flushed too, I enjoyed watching her trying to calm her nerves down.

"I don't even know that such photographs existed." Rahul whined. "So I am not giving the album and DVD to you unless you let me watch them." He added obstinately. "If Muski can see them, so can I."

I spotted the glint in his eyes and wondered if he was deliberately teasing her. It was confirmed a moment later when he winked at me while Riddhima was busy glaring him. I shook my head at them. The way Rahul and Riddhima bonded with each other over the last one week made me slightly jealous. She was completely at ease with him at bit more than she was with me. It might be due to the calmness that Rahul carries it with him. Nevertheless I was happy for both of them that they found new companions for each other.

"No!!" Riddhima exclaimed, breaking my thoughts.

I stood there in amusement watching them fight. She turned red, with her eyes throwing daggers at him which kind of surprised both of us. Rahul raised his brow at me slightly concerned at her display of anger. I thought for a while and did quick math and then wondered if she was in her PMS. I chuckled and shook my head at him.

"If you don't give them to me now," she marched towards him, "You are not going to have your lunch box filled from tomorrow."

I ginned at him. She was right on the target. Rahul had grown addicted to her food that he almost stopped going to cafeteria at the office.

"Okay then let's make a deal. I will watch the album first if I have to give you the DVD." He bargained.

Riddhima pondered over it for a second and then agreed. A sulking Rahul gave the DVD back to her while she smirked at him and went to the bedroom, probably to secure it. I smacked his head and followed her to our room.

"RIDDHIMA!!" No sooner did we enter our room than we heard Rahul shouting for her. She dropped the disc and rushed back while I wondered what was going on in the house.

"You forgot to remind me of the meeting!" Rahul half shouted and half whined.

Riddhima shrugged her shoulders. "You were the one fighting with me for the last one hour." She almost shouted back. I just gaped at them. How did I miss the development in their relationship or rather the entertainment for the last couple of days? It might be due to the reason that I had to spend few extra hours at the office due to the work load after my shift.

While I just stared at her with my mouth slightly open, Riddhima came to me slightly concerned after Rahul left. She then sat on the bed, lost in her thoughts. I wondered if she had any personality disorder. One minute she was on the verge of losing her temper and the next she was as calm as a nun.

"What happened now?" I asked slowly sitting beside her on the bed.

"Do you think Rahul would feel offended since I shouted back at him?" she asked.

I wanted to laugh out loud. How cute can she get! With a wide grin, I pecked her lips and hugged her tight, almost choking her. With every passing day I am only falling in deeper for her. I couldn't help it.

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

Rahul called us later to inform that he would be late and that we need not wait for him for dinner. I took a quick shower while Riddhima got the food ready. While she was arranging the table, I placed the DVD in the player and sat on the sofa waiting to see how the snaps would be like. But then thought otherwise and put in on pause.

"Riddhima, let's have dinner in the living room, watching the DVD." I told her. When she nodded, I helped her move the plates and few dishes to the table in the living room. I settled back on the sofa and waited for her to join me so we could watch them together.

"Armaan, I will have a quick shower and come. Till then you watch the album." She said and gave me the photo album. She turned to go to the bedroom but then turned back again. "Don't start the DVD without me, okay?"

I chuckled at her words. "Five minutes exactly. If you don't come back by then, I will start the disk." I replied. I looked at the watch in my mobile. "Your time starts now." I added and smirked when she ran back to the bed room.

Meanwhile, I slid down to sit on the carpet and looked at the cover of the album. It had the snap of me tying yellow mangalsutra around her neck with me grinning down at her while she had her eyes closed with a serene smile. I smiled at the photo. It's a wonderful art, capturing the golden moments in the camera and these photographers-whosoever they were- have done an amazing job. One glance at this photo and anyone could tell how happy we were at that moment.

The photographs covered each and every moment of our wedding, right from us reaching the hall to us leaving it after the dinner. Despite the chaos and sleepless nights, everyone had smiles on their faces; the biggest ones being on Riddhima's and Rahul's for the obvious reasons. I might not understand the depth of their emotions of that day but I could realize the importance it held in their lives. And then there was me, with a stupid grin on my face. Looking at the snaps, I couldn't help but wonder what made me that happy that day. May be it was the aura of Indian Weddings!

"Armaan, you didn't start the disk, did you?" Riddhima's voice broke my chain of thoughts.

Craning my neck, I noticed that the door of the bedroom was still closed. Supposing that she was putting on her clothes - fighting the temptation to sneak a peek- I closed the album and stretched my legs. Grinning at the idea that suddenly popped up in my head, I replied back. "Riddhima, it's been 15 minutes that you went for bath. And now I am going to start the disk in 10 seconds." And with that I started the countdown, my dirty brain somewhere imagining a towel clad Riddhima running out of the room.

"Four; three; two an--" The word stuck in my throat when she literally flew out of the room.

My heart beat suddenly increased as if it was crazy as my eyes took in her appearance. With my mouth still hanging open from the unuttered word, I let my gaze slide down her body. Few strands of her hair were hanging loose from whatever bun she had tied them into, with a curl or two sticking to her slightly wet forehead and cheeks. And then came the best part of her attire. I didn't know where and how she finds all my unused clothes and this time my old black kurta clung to her petite body. I knew that she prefers my shirts to her T-shirts while going to bed but this time her night pant went missing. And I was not complaining. After all her missing piece of clothes provided my eyes with a feast of her bare legs; all thanks to that kurta of mine which ended just below her mid thighs. In spite of having access to her bare body almost every day, I couldn't help the reactions of my body. And when I looked up, I noticed her holding a comb in one hand and the two mangalsutras - black and yellow- in the other, the expression on her face kind of a mixture of shock and surprise. When I grinned at her, she stomped her feet and went back to the bedroom.

While my brain took off to imagining how it would have been had Riddhima appeared only in a towel, she returned back; her hair loosely held by a band and her night pant accompanying the kurta. She then surprised me by sitting between my out-stretched legs, leaning her back against my chest. Taken by surprise at her slightly bold attempt, it took me a couple of moments to respond. I thought she would settle beside me as always and hence it was slightly unexpected. She, sure, was full of surprises.

She might have noticed my lack of response for she turned around to face me. "Sorry, I thought you wanted me to sit-I don't know why I-" She stammered, her cheeks filling up with colour and started moving away.

But before she could, I snaked my hands around her waist and pulled her closer. "I like it this way." I murmured in her ear, kissing her nape. It felt really good, I sighed placing my chin on her shoulder. She leaned back placing her hands above mine and relaxed against me.

"Armaan?"

"Hmm" I mumbled, still lost in the moment, my hands slowly finding their way inside her kurta.

"The video is started." She whispered, somehow arching her neck back.

"Then, watch it." I whispered back, caressing her earlobe with my lips slowly while my palms fondled her waist under the kurta.

The crackling sound of the plate falling down startled us. Looking around, it took me a couple of moments to realize that it had fallen off the table due to me stretching my leg further. Hearing a soft giggling sound, I looked down to find her trying to refrain her giggles. My lips curled up involuntarily watching her. I never knew that just a normal evening could be this beautiful. But sitting on the floor with her in my arms, both of us smiling, I wondered if this was what people called as a perfect evening.

Riddhima slid away from my arms and served food in a plate. When she offered the plate to me, I took the plate and pulled her back to me. I started the disk from the start and wrapped my hands around her while she held the plate. When she looked up at me confused, I pecked her nose and said, "One plate is enough. Why waste another one?"

She just smiled and relaxed against me as we watched the photos together and ate the food. As expected, the first few photographs were the ones from the wedding with us standing in different poses, sometimes holding hands and sometimes hugging. I laughed watching a red Riddhima towards the last photograph. The rest of them were the other photographs from the wedding.

"Let's go in." I told her when we finished our dinner. She smiled shyly at me realizing the underlying implication in my statement. Ofcourse that was true. I was pretty much turned on, god knows how!

"Muski also sent one more DVD." She said and I sighed. One more?! "She said it was her wedding gift for me." She added which caught my attention. She then placed the other DVD in the player and settled back with me.

I was pleasantly surprised when the first photograph was that of a very young mom and dad holding a tiny baby-which was me. Dad was kissing my tiny palm while mom was staring at us. I never saw the photo; so supposed it was with Shashank uncle. The next one had mom trying to bathe me with Sudha aunty sitting beside her. The following ones were also the same: each one of them depicting my childhood.

Looking down, I found Riddhima staring at them in awe. True, I never knew they existed. And then I saw one tear rolling down her cheek.

"Riddhima?" I turned her face around.

She wiped it away and smiled at me. "Sorry, I didn't know why." She said and turned back to the TV. "You are so cute and so tiny." She added.

I hugged her closer and chuckled. "Babies are supposed to be tiny." I kissed her lips and wondered how she had been in her childhood.

Riddhima wriggled out of my hold. "I have something to show you." Her eyes filled with excitement, she ran back to the bed room. Shrugging my shoulders, I followed her after switching the lights off.

Entering the room, I saw Riddhima sitting on the floor infront of the wardrobe opening some kind of a cardboard box. I sat on the bed wondering what she was doing. She pulled out an envelope and jumped to the bed, her every action screaming enthusiasm. I couldn't help but chuckle at her. It was a rare sight to watch. She then handed me the envelope.

Opening it, I saw few photographs in it. When I pulled out and stared at the baby in the photo, it didn't take me more than a second to realize who it was. Baby Riddhima was staring right back at me from the photograph with a lollypop in her mouth. I smirked realizing she was wearing a khakhi shorts. She and her inclination for men's shorts!!

"The warden at the orphanage took them. I took them when I left the orphanage." She said while I watched the photographs. She was always alone in the photographs unlike me where I was surrounded by my family. I felt a tug in my heart when I looked at her. She just smiled at me and I knew that she understood what I was thinking.

I was about to put them aside when a particular photograph caught my attention. It was a photograph with Riddhima in a saree with a man holding her by her shoulders. While she was smiling, he was grinning at the camera. For a moment I wondered who he was and then it struck me.

"That's Sohail." She said hesitatingly. "It was the photograph when we were married." She added in a small voice.

One look at the man and I knew I hated him. The initial hatred was due to the way in which he held her but the latter one and the stronger one was for what he had done to her. May be it was the jealousy. I didn't know what kind of relationship they shared except that she didn't let him touch her. And the mere fact gave me an odd sense of pleasure. I might sound mean but I didn't know when and why I had developed this loathe towards the person I hardly knew. Whatever it was, I was just not comfortable. But then she didn't talk much about her past. Okay to put it right: I never asked her about her past.

"He married me when I was 20." She said when I raised my head.

By the cracking in her voice I knew it wasn't something that she wanted to talk about. So I threw those photos aside and hugged her closer before we lay down on the bed. "It's okay. You need not tell me."

Though her eyes were filled with tears, she shook her head. "I want you to know." She snuggled closer while I wiped her tear away with my thumb. "I met him when I was in my final year of bachelor's degree. He came to the orphanage as a part of some community service in the company he was working for. He was the first man who talked to me without staring at my body. So I couldn't help but adore him."

My hold on her tightened involuntarily at her words. I didn't like the way she uttered those words. And I didn't want to know if she was in love with him.

"I knew I was not supposed to dream big but couldn't help them when he taught me to dream big. I was happy and content in the world I built around him. I didn't dare utter any word to him for I knew my limitations as an orphan. But one day my joy knew no bounds when he told me that he wanted to marry me." She laughed, with few more tears spilling out.

I didn't understand what to do. I just kissed her tears away and couldn't help but ask. "Were you in love in him?" I dreaded the answer and wished I hadn't asked the question. But she just buried her face in my neck and my heart sank to my belly at her silence.

"Though his family agreed reluctantly, I knew they were against our marriage. He encouraged me to study after our marriage and I completed my degree with his support in spite of his family's hesitance. Though his parents taunted me, he stood by me. I almost worshiped him for giving me a beautiful life. I was so happy." She drew back and looked at me. "But then all of a sudden, he just left me. No words, no letters. I waited for him to come counting each and every day but he never did. I was broken beyond repair when I realized I was abandoned." She hiccuped hugging me tight.

It was then I understood why she was always under an illusion that I would leave her. He did not just leave her, he also took all the trust she had developed for people around her. He opened the gateway for her to live and just when she started embracing it he snatched it back brutally.

"I want to believe when you say that would never leave me. I trust you but I-" She whispered but I cut her short by placing my lips on hers.

I didn't know how much time it would take for her to believe in my words, but I was ready to promise her with my presence in her life every single day. After all, I was in love with her!!

You are safe here in my arms
Never fear i'll be beside you
Feel my love, touching your soul
Holding you close as i whisper to you

I will never leave you hold on tight
Promise to stay forever by your side
I will never leave you promise I'll
Stay forever I will never leave you behind

Stay with me and you will see
I will be the one you've been dreaming
I won't hurt the heart that you've given me
You'll never be wounded in my arms i promise

I will never leave you hold on tight
Promise to stay forever by your side
And I will always love you promise I'll
Stay forever I will never leave you behind
And every moment, every minute, every hour of my life
I intend to live my whole life with you
I will be your home and you'll be safe forever in my arms
And we'll make it through

I will never leave you hold on tight
Promise to stay forever by your side
I will never leave you promise I'll
Stay forever I will never leave you behind...

I'll be with you... whenever, wherever, whenever..
Promise I'll stay forever
I will never leave you behind...

You are safe here in my arms
'coz I will never leave you
Leave you behind...

[Never leave you behind - Eric Santos]

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

sushmita

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