Wednesday, 15 January 2020

AR FF part 24 : "and then she said it"

Up to the moon!

I was surprised to find her still asleep when I stepped out of the washroom after shaving my stubble. I looked at the watch and found it was little past 8 am. Moreover, both of us have to reach office by 10 am. However, her position on the bed caught my attention and a smirk replaced the surprise look on my face.

Riddhima lay on her stomach, her hair completely covering her face and the pillow. The bed sheet was pushed down, revealing her bare back. She used to put on her clothes after we made love, before going back to sleep. But lately, she hadn't been bothering with that. With the passing days, I realized that she enjoys deep and sound sleep whenever we made love late night. She would be practically dead to the world until she woke up.

Moreover, she had put on some weight recently. And with her curves filling in properly, I couldn't help being drawn towards her. So it resulted in us utilizing the privacy of our bedroom regularly at every opportunity offered. After all we were newlyweds! But for some reason, she urged me to go on last night until it was something around 3 am. She had been surprisingly active and cheerful, which only gave me all the more reason to love her more.



"Riddhima?" I whispered in her ear, pushing her hair away from her ear, caressing her shoulder. When she sighed loudly, I kissed her shoulder and shook her slightly. "Its 8. Wake up, sleeping beauty." I nuzzled her nape.

"Hmm" She drawled lazily, stretching her body and turned to me. Smiling brightly, she raised her head a bit higher and pecked my lips. What a morning!!!

"What's special?" I asked, lying on the bed as she snuggled closer.

She shrugged her shoulders, playing with her mangalsutra.

I kissed her forehead and got off the bed. "Come on then. I have a meeting at 10.30." I said when I watched her sitting on the bed clutching the sheet closer to her body. Smiling at her, I left the room closing the door behind me to let her get ready.

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"Armaan, what is today's date?" Riddhima asked me sitting on the sofa while Rahul and I polished our shoes.

"Its 14th. Why?" I asked looking at her.

She shook her head slightly. "Nothing. Simply."

I raised my brow but she just smiled. Wasn't she acting slightly weird? Rahul just shrugged when I looked at him.

A few minutes later, we left for the office. Rahul drove the car, Riddhima sat silent in the back seat while I tried to recall what the specialty of today's date was.

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I was staring intently at the table calendar on my desk when Rahul came to me.

"What's up, Mr. Romeo? Shall we leave for lunch?" He smacked my shoulder.

"Nothing. I was trying to figure out something." I mumbled. No birthdays and no wedding anniversaries. May be I was just thinking too much!

"You didn't get it, yet?" He asked surprised.

I sighed. "I was married only three months ago, Rahul. So it can't even be my wedding anniversary."

"Exactly dumbo! It has been 100 days that you are married!" He exclaimed while my mouth curved into an 'O'.

100 days? People celebrate that too, I wondered. But it surely meant something for Riddhima. That was the reason all we needed to celebrate.

"So when are you going to tell her?" He asked pointing towards the envelope that lay in my opened drawer.

"May be today" I replied. "Rahul, get a cake from Barista and wait in the cafeteria. I'll get Riddhima." I told him and made my way towards Riddhima's floor.

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I found her taking to one of her seniors, explaining about some report. Her senior however recognized me, as she was my batch mate, and was about to acknowledge my presence when I signaled him not to. He smiled at me and beckoned her to go to the printing room. I followed her quietly to the room.

When she put her laptop on the huge printing machine, I wrapped my hands around her waist and pulled her to me. She jumped startled and I was glad she didn't scream.

"Armaan?!" she exclaimed, when I placed my chin on her shoulder.

"Who else can do that to you?" I whispered and chuckled.

"You scared me!" She complained turning to face me. "What are you doing here, on our floor?" She asked, her eyes quickly scanning the entrance of the door. She tried to wriggle out of my arms, while desperately checking the door. "What are you doing?" She asked, shocked when I tightened my hold around her.

"How about I take you right here, now?" I asked with a devilish smirk and couldn't help but laugh at her scandalized expression. All the color drained off her face for a second before it appeared back with intensified texture, turning her face completely red.

I left her when I heard the footsteps approaching us and watched her as she fumbled with her laptop and the printer when another colleague came to use the printer. She refused to meet my eyes as I leaned on the wall, watching her actions.

"Come, let's go. Rahul is waiting for us in the cafeteria." I told her and guided her out of the room while she obliged.

As we made our way out of the room, another colleague of mine greeted me. "What a surprise, Armaan? What are you doing on our floor?" He shook his hand with me and asked.

"Uhh, nothing. I just came to take my wife for lunch." I replied casually, while Riddhima's head shot up. She mumbled a small 'hie' to him, with a shy smile.

"Too bad a lie, Mr. Mallik. Your wife has a very transparent face." He winked at me and left. I turned hot around my collar while Riddhima turned a deeper shade of red.

"What yaar Riddhima. You turn red immediately. I didn't even do anything! If this is the case, we can never romance in the office without being caught." I nudged her shoulder and whispered.

Riddhima just hit my arm and gave me a look before briskly walking off towards the cafeteria. I shook my head and followed suit.

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Trust Rahul to do anything simple! I cursed under my breath when I saw the people of my whole department gathered around a big cake. Some of Riddhima's team mates were also present along with her reporting senior.

She stopped abruptly and turned to me confused. "We hit a century, Riddhima. So it calls for a party!" I said, giving her a light hug. She just smiled at me with her eyes twinkling.

Amidst the cheers and whistles of our friends and colleagues, we cut the cake, fed each other and smeared it over our faces. Everything for that smile of hers!

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When Rahul and I reached home, we found Riddhima standing in the balcony of the kitchen with her back turned to us. She had taken half day leave today after our supposedly small part in the cafeteria and I was literally counting minutes to reach home. I knew there would be some special dishes waiting for us.

"Riddhima!" I exclaimed into her ear while she jumped and turned to me startled. That's when I noticed tears in her eyes and phone in her palm. And just like the that, all the fun abandoned me.

"It's Muski." She replied before I could even ask her. "She is crying." She said, placing the mobile in my hand.

I was surprised. Muski crying is something exceptional. So I knew that it is something serious. Before I could hold her and ask something, she walked past me.

"Where is Rahul?" She turned back to me and asked.

"Did he hurt her?" I asked, holding her. Though I knew he wouldn't do anything of that sort, I couldn't help the temper that was building.

"No. no." She replied immediately. "It's just that Muski brought up the prospect of getting married and apparently he is avoiding talking to her since then. So she is worried." She said, leaning her head on my chest.

"Why? I thought they liked each other." I wondered, loud.

"I guess I know the answer." She whispered and pulled me out of the kitchen to Rahul's room. "Let me talk to him first, okay?" she said before knocking the door.

"Hey Riddhima!!" He smiled after opening the door. He had a shower and was in his T shirt and shorts. "I was about to come to the dining room. I could smell something delicious." He chirped.

Looking at him, I wondered how he was managing to do it. He is as good as Riddhima, if not more, in masking the emotions. I was sure that he had feelings for Muski; it was just evident from the way he behaves around her. He might also be hurting himself in the process. But I couldn't understand why he was stepping back.

When she didn't speak anything, I looked at him straight into his eyes and said. "Muski called Riddhima."

Just one sentence and I watched as the color drained from his face. He turned pale and whatever smile he faked a minute back suddenly disappeared from his face as he stared back at us.

"Can I talk to you, Rahul?" Riddhima asked, slowly and tentatively, reaching for his arm.

He nodded, without looking at me. From the agony on his face, I knew he was hurting. I just wanted to hug him, ensuring that everything is going to be okay. But then since Riddhima wanted to talk to him, I stood near the door leaning on it, while she pulled him to the bed and made him sit and she kneeled infront of him.

"What happened Rahul? Why are you taking a step back now?" She asked calmly patting his arm.

He looked at her and then at me before lowering his head back again. I sighed. This is going to be a task!

"Muski is worried Rahul. She is crying." She added.

His head shot up at that. What did he expect? That she would be dancing in joy!!

"I- I didn't mean to hurt her." He replied slowly.

"But apparently she is, Rahul. What is happening?" I asked, slightly annoyed. "You know her, right? We practically grew up together. She doesn't cry easily, Rahul. What did you say to her? Why are you avoiding talking to her? I thought you both wanted to get married."

"Armaan!" She whispered looking at me, worried of my outburst.

"She doesn't understand, Armaan. She is too good for me. She is- she is-" He stood up and turned away from us.

"Are you having second thoughts?" I almost yelled.

"Why don't you understand Armaan? She grew up like a princess, surrounded by a beautiful family. She is precious. And I am nobody: no family, no identity. I tried to explain it to her, but she wouldn't understand. She will be risking her happiness with me, Armaan. And I don't want that to happen." Rahul yelled in frustration, running his hand in his hair.

I stared at him, taken aback. So did Riddhima. I never saw him losing his cool. This was the first time, I heard him yell in frustration. But as his words made sense, I wondered if I was back in time. Four months back, it was the same case with Riddhima. I clearly remember her words. She said that I deserved the best. But with the chance given, I realized that she was the best I could get.

Riddhima turned him to her while I was still taking in his outburst. "I was in your position four months back, right?" He just looked at her blankly. "I was also skeptical about the same things back then. But then, Armaan gave me a chance, didn't he? Look at us, Rahul. We are happy now. I was never this happy in my life before. Muski will face the same happiness, if not more." She explained it to him, while I just stared at them.

"But it is different, Riddhima. He brought you into a beautiful family. I will be doing the opposite to Muski." He sighed, defeated.

"You will be her family, Rahul. She doesn't need a big family. She only needs you. Family always comes next." She said slowly while I was simply a witness. "Take my case Rahul. When Armaan is with me, I don't even think about Raji aunty or anyone else. Just his mere presence makes me happy. No one else can take his place."

My heart skipped a beat at her words. I never heard her taking about our relationship so openly. For some reason, my chest swelled in pride to know that I am the reason for her happiness. Though I am aware of that deep down, just listening to it from her made me elated. And that fact that mom comes next to me was a cherry on the top!

"Moreover, you are not separating her from her world. You are just adding another beautiful part to her world. As you said, Muski is truly precious Rahul, don't hurt her. And most importantly, don't lose her." She said with a smile, while a tear rolled from Rahul's eye. "Talk to her, will you?" She asked.

He nodded and hugged her. "You are as much precious." He whispered. "Thank you." He left her and looked at me.

I just shook my head, smiling. I would never understand how they understand each other's emotional loop holes so easily. They are just soul-siblings, if I were to use a term. In a way they are almost similar, exactly opposite to me and Muski.

"You are a dumb-ass, you know that!" I exclaimed, hugging him tight. "And I thought there was a serial problem." I grinned at him drawing back. "Muski would surely be happy with you. I will ask mom to talk to Shashank uncle soon" And that brought color back to his face. He was blushing!! "Go, talk to her." I patted his back and pulled Riddhima out of the room, closing the door behind us.

The moment we stepped out, I gave her a deep lingering kiss on her mouth. She turned red and lowered her eyes. I realized one more thing about us; she is the emotional balance that I lack. I guess that's the reason why mom thought she would be the best for me. Ofcourse, I wasn't sure how I would have dealt it with Rahul without her. I might have just lost my temper and shouted. That was almost what I have done. For a person of fewer words, the words she spoke today surely made my day. And for that I could only love her more!

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She rushed back to the kitchen when the cooker made a whistling sound. I walked to our bedroom lazily pondering about what she had said to Rahul. I felt lightheaded; for this was the first time she showed any of us a glimpse of her heart. And the sincerity and subtleness in her words warmed my heart as much as they made it swell it pride. After all, my gentle shy wife almost told that she loved me. Almost!!

Taking a quick shower, I put on my night clothes and went to the dining table to find her already waiting for us. I glanced at Rahul's door and chuckled to find it still closed. I supposed Muski was giving him a piece of her mind. We decided to wait for another five minutes but I almost regretted the decision. The delicious odor of the food filled my lungs and all I wanted to do was pounce on the food. I might have been gawking at the dishes for when I raised my head up, I head Riddhima giggling. I smiled at her sheepishly and we turned to his door when we head it click.

One look at Rahul's face and we burst into fits of laughter. His face was complete red and he didn't dare look at either of us in the eye. I wondered if it was due to the lectures Muski might have thrown at him or the sweet nothings she might have added. Shaking my head, I put the thoughts aside. Muski was capable of both of them!

After our dinner, when Rahul and I sat on the carpet on the floor chatting catching upon the stupid gossip of the office, Riddhima came with a small board in her hands. After a moment, I realized that it was the Chinese checker board.

"I found it in the attic when I was cleaning last weekend." Riddhima told us when we stared at it.

"You were cleaning the attic too?" I asked astonished.

She just shrugged her shoulders while he chuckled shaking his head. When she placed it on the floor and filled it with the coloured marbles, Rahul and I looked at each other and smiled suddenly nostalgic. When we were kids we used to spend most of our time playing this in the weekends when Rahul used to stay over with me. We brought it with us to Hyderabad but never bothered to pull it out and play.

"But I don't know how to play." Riddhima remarked when she was done with rearranging the marbles with Rahul's help.

"I can teach you." I pulled her to me gently but she decided to sit between my legs. I looked at Rahul if he minded it but neither of them seemed to notice our closeness. Some things are changing; I shrugged to myself and wrapped one of my hands around her waist while she leaned back on my chest.

Riddhima seemed to hang onto every word of Rahul when he told her about our childhood while playing. I couldn't see her face but could imagine her expression when he told her how we met, became friends at first, then close friends later and almost brothers at the end. He however left out the incidents where he refused to stay at my home during holidays and continued to stay at the orphanage. We used to play the whole day but he insisted on going back to his orphanage in the night. I didn't quite understand his logic until I was much older. I realized later that his self-respect is as big as my ego.

She giggled when he told about my naughtiness and gasped when he told her proudly how we had rescued a puppy from drowning when we were 14. She grimaced when he told about his fracture of his leg when we were in 12th class and sighed when I told her how I blackmailed him into staying at our house while his wound healed. I whined that I had to submit an extra assignment during my 1st year of engineering due to him and he blamed me that it was my fault that I copied his assignment.

We stopped arguing when he signaled me to look down. I lowered my head and smiled to notice Riddhima fast asleep. I shifted her slightly so that her head was rested comfortably against my chest and held her waist to make her stay put in my arms. We then resumed our discarded game of the checkers.

"She is a gem." Rahul said after a moment, without lifting his head from the game.

I didn't understand if he was taking about Muski or Riddhima but nodded anyway. "I know." Both of them are equally precious.

"She loves you." He added as a fact and I realized he was talking about Riddhima.

I smiled.

"Do you?" He asked.

"Do I, what?"

"Love her?" He asked.

"I do." I said.

He smiled. "Tell her."

"I will." I said and he nodded. I knew he wanted to talk about something but was hesitating. I was sure it was something related to Muski.

"What is it, Rahul?" I probed him.

"I promise you Armaan, I will try to keep Muskaan happy to the best I could." He said, his voice strong with his determination yet soft with his vulnerability.

"You need not say it Rahul. I know you would." I assured. I knew he would treat her as a princess if not more.

"I never knew when I fell in love with her, Armaan. It just happened." He said staring into space. "I tried to hide my feelings but she noticed. She told me that she loved me." I smiled and waited for him to continue. "She has been hinting on marriage since your wedding but I was scared as I felt inferior to her. She tried to explain it to me many times but I stubbornly refused to understand."

"Mom says that I am stubborn but you are not any less." I remarked.

He smiled. "I now understood what she had been trying to tell me." He said. "It's complicated." He added.

"What?"

"Love." He said and winked.

I chuckled. "Couldn't agree more!"

"But women make it seem less complicated." He added.

I just smiled. Riddhima stirred in my arms. I kissed the top of her head and held her tighter.

"Good night, Armaan." Rahul said as he put the board aside and moved to his bedroom.

"Sweet dreams Raoool. I love you!" I shouted for him.

He muttered something but I only head the word saale. I chuckled and lifted Riddhima into my arms when I stood. She startled awake and looked up at me in daze.

"Ssh. Its me." I whispered, kissing her nose. "Go to sleep."

She sighed and snuggled closer to me while I walked to our room. I placed her on the bed and turned to lock the door. But when I turned back, I found her sitting on the bed rubbing her eyes.

"What happened?" I asked as I sat beside her.

"I brought a gift for you." She said. Her voice was muffled with sleep.

She got off the bed and walked somnolently to the dressing table. She pulled a small bag out of the drawer and walked back to join me in the bed. She kneeled in front of me and gave the bag to me.

I opened the bag and was surprised to find a small box in it. Opening it, I was even more surprised to find the similar kind of platinum wedding band that adorned her left hand. I didn't understand what to feel. It was not every day that I am gifted with a ring, that too by a girl: or by my wife to be precise. Hell, nobody gifted me a ring till now. This one didn't even cross my mind when she told me she brought a gift. But then it was Riddhima. She never ceases to surprise me.

Her sleepy face was filled with so much eagerness to please me that I couldn't help but smile and pull her into a deep kiss that left both of us breathless. She sagged against me when she slipped the ring to my finger. She held my hand in hers and looked at it for several moments before she looked at me and smiled triumphantly. For some reason, she appeared to be extremely pleased with herself.

"Now Vidya will think twice before making a pass at you." She added absentmindedly.

"Vidya who?" I asked perplexed.

"My batch mate. You didn't notice? She has been hitting on you." She added with a grunt. "She says that she needs one chance to talk to you and you would be in her bed the next moment." She gritted her teeth, her sleep all forgotten.

"Of course, I might be. But you would be in my arms." I pecked her lips, slid off the bed and ran to the living room to get my office bag.

I brought the bag to the bedroom, locked the door and handed her an envelope.

"You brought me a gift too?" She asked excited.

I chuckled and nodded. She is just a kid when it comes to gifts.

"Darjeeling and Manali? Really?" She exclaimed, jumping into my arms throwing her arms around my neck, nearly knocking me off balance.

"You wanted to go on a honeymoon and play with snow, remember?" I whispered; my voice deliberately husky. "I got a leave only for three days and with two days over weekend; this is the best I could manage."

"Oh, thank you so much, Armaan." She whispered, her voice trembling and I knew what was coming.

I drew her back and placed my lips on hers, kissing her slowly while she leaned back on the bed with my body blanketing hers. I stoked her cheek, probing her lips open for my invasion. She complied and her tongue met mine halfway. She caressed my nape and chest while unbuttoning my shirt and pushing it back down my arms. I smiled at her eagerness when her chest heaved beneath me and unsealed my lips from hers. As expected, there were trails of tears on her cheeks. I kissed her salty tears off her cheeks before showering her face with wet kisses.

She arched against me and moved restlessly against my body, fisting my hair. I let go off her, threw my shirt aside and pulled her T-shirt over her head. She pulled me down and kissed me senseless. She caressed my back with her trembling fingers just the way I liked while I fondled her breasts with my palms first and my lips later. Her throaty moans rendered me mad when I kissed her navel and further down. When I felt her first tremors, I shifted between her and filled her.

We made love to each other, slowly and deeply, into the night. We spoke nonsense into each other's ears, promised sweet nothings and ravished each other thoroughly. We took each other to our own heaven when we found our release. I slumped my body on hers exhausted, trying to catch my breath and calm my racing heart. It took me long minutes before I regained myself.

"I love you, Riddhima." I whispered.

When I didn't get any response from her, I raised my head and looked at her. She was in sound sleep. I wasn't disappointed at the lack of her response. Mrs. Mallik was sleeping with a smile on her face and it was all that mattered. I rested my face back on her chest, trapping her legs with my thigh, loving the feel of her bare and warm skin. Before closing my eyes, I saw the full moon from the window in our bed room.

As cliched as it might sound, I felt I was flying up to the moon!

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sushmita

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