Saturday, 18 January 2020

AR FF part 27 : "and then she said it"

 What I did For Love


I groaned and frowned when I heard the shrill ring of something, close to my ears. I tried to turn to my side, but something seemed to hold me down. Sleepy and disoriented, I groped for the source of the noise, stretching my arm towards the bed side table, when my sleepy brain somehow processed it to be my cell phone.

"Yeah?" I drawled into the phone, my eyes closed.

"Rahul here, are you awake?" I heard his voice and sighed.

"Hmmm" was all I could manage.

"Shashank uncle, Padma aunty and Raji aunty came here last night." He said worried.

"Hmmm" I repeated.



"Saale, wake up!! I am getting engaged!!" That sure woke me up.

"You are what??" I almost shouted and shut my mouth when Riddhima stirred beside me. Not wanting to disturb her sleep, as she was exhausted last night due to her ordeal, I spoke in a low voice. "You are what?"

"Next month 19th!!" Rahul told, his voice frantic.

"Wow!!" I couldn't help but exclaim for I didn't know about this recent development. "How come? No one told me?"

"They didn't tell me either until last night." Rahul scowled. "They decided on the date and came down here to tell me. Raji aunty told me secretly later that Muski was nagging uncle to get us married for about a month. Can you believe it! It's so embarrassing." He complained.

I couldn't help but chuckle. That was so Muski-ish. I could almost imagine uncle sitting with his head in his hands as Muski was rambling about her getting married quickly.

"Poor thing! You left her with no choice." I chuckled.

"Shut up! And you know what? Uncle requested me to shift back to Bangalore because Muski is now taking care of the management at the hospital. I am planning to talk about it to Ankit today. I am sure he would agree but that's not why I called you for. I was wondering why not you also apply for a transfer to Bangalore. I mean it's almost more than two years that we are in Hyderabad and we are entitled to a transfer request." He rambled on, about his plans for both of us.

But then my focus was shifted from the topic of discussion to Riddhima when she stirred again and snuggled closer to me, rubbing her nose against my neck. And just like that I was lost thinking about last night. It was not a night that I would like to recall, but then I couldn't help it. Riddhima, after mumbling her heart out, fell asleep, dead to the world, in my arms. Her words left me staring into the night with no focus. It was so hard for me to digest her words. I knew I told her that we won't let her past create any tiffs in our present and future but her words pinched me all the same. Selfish I might sound, but I didn't want her to love that Sohail. I knew that she used that past tense when she told me that she loved him but then she also said that she was scared to fall in love again. And so my mind frantically put in all those questions. What if she couldn't love me the way I love her? What if she was just trying to love me and it would always leave her trying but never succeeding? What if she compares me with him? What if…..?

All those 'ifs' left me so disturbed and confused that I didn't know when I drifted off to sleep. And I felt that I had just closed my eyes when Rahul's call snapped me awake.

"Armaan? Are you there?" I heard Rahul trying to catch my attention and shook my head. He was sharing his good news and I was lost in my so called problems.

"Yeah Yeah Rahul. Congrats bro!" I wished him realizing I didn't even congratulate him. "Finally the day has come, thanks to Muski." I added.

"Um.. Thanks, I guess." He mumbled, embarrassed. "And about the transfer?" He asked.

"That sounds fine, Rahul. We'll talk more when we come home tonight." I said.

"Fine. And yeah how is Riddhima?" He asked.

"She is fine, still sleeping." I replied and absentmindedly started caressing her back.

"Did you guys have good fun?" He asked, with a drawl.

"Yes Rahul. We had lots of fun" I said, emphasizing on 'lots'. I smiled. We did enjoy the first four days, staying in bed and chatting nonsense, making love, roaming around the small towns, playing in snow.

"Good, because aunty and I are going to make her sit with us and ask the detailed itinerary." He added with a chuckle.

"Mom is staying back?" I asked, surprised.

"Yeah, she took a leave for three days and staying till Sunday." He added, equally happy. "Okay then, we'll talk more when you return. Take care, bye."

"Bye Rahul." I replied and cut the call.

I placed the phone aside on the bed and slowly turned to my side after shifting Riddhima's head to the pillow. I was about to get up but changed my mind when I saw Riddhima's face and lay down to stare at her. Sleeping, she appeared so peaceful and happy, with no worries or insecurities or whatsoever. I mean, she is happy with me, I know that but she appeared content and calm that I couldn't help but stare at her. Her lips were slightly parted and she tucked her hands under her face. Her nose was still slightly pink, may be due to all the crying she did last night. I caressed her soft cheek slowly and placed a kiss there. All the other things can go to hell! I am in love with her and she is happy with me. That was all that matters. She might have loved someone before me but for now and forever, she is all mine and I am never going to let her go. I am going to shower her with all the love and happiness that she wouldn't be left with a choice but love me back. I am sure I could make her fall for me, if I put my interest in it. After all, I am a charmer. At that thought, some of the tension left my body and I felt light-headed and determined. What love does to one!

Smiling, I pulled her closer by her waist and hugged her to me. But when she opened her eyes slowly, I rolled her to her back and leaned onto her, supporting my body with my elbows. She stared at me dazed and I knew she wasn't fully awake. But who cares! I gave her a grin before placing my lips on hers. She sure didn't expect that, I thought when she lay still under me her lips closed. When I nibbled on her lower lip trying to gain her response, I felt her responding. Her hands came around my neck and her lips moved against mine and parted, kissing me back with all her ardor.

But then, like always my senses betrayed me when she arched her back and fisted my hair, moaning into my mouth. I felt her tugging at my shirt and I drew back, happy to comply with her wish. I removed my shirt and threw it aside on the bed before covering her body with mine and taking her lips again. She held me tight; sometimes rubbing my back, sometimes caressing my nape, sometimes fisting my hair and sometimes running her fingers in my hair. Whatever she did, it was enough to make me go mad with that desire to take her completely. And so even when I heard the bell ringing at the background, I helped her remove her top and trailed wet and desperate kisses on her neck and shoulders before moving down to her chest.

"Armaan…" She gasped and pulled my face back for a kiss when I softly bit her bosom in my ardor. So I let my lips engage hers and fondled her with my palms and fingers. But just when I was about to undo the string of her track pants, she pushed my face away and shook her head, panting for breath and quivering with need.

"Door…Bell…" She managed to utter and that's when my ears processed the continuous ringing of the bell. Cursing whoever it was under my breath, I covered her naked upper body with the blanket when she seemed incapable of doing it herself, put on my shirt and went to answer the door.

I was greeted with wide grinned room service personnel holding the trolley of our breakfast. When he starting moving the trolley into the room to serve us the breakfast, I stopped him, gave him his daily tip and brought in the trolley of food myself. I found Riddhima in the same position as I had left her and chuckled proudly realizing that our desires could render her dazed for more than 5 minutes. But with her on the bed with just a blanket covering her almost naked body, face completely red, hair completely disarrayed. She was still slightly out of breath and staring at me as if in trance which made my body that had calmed down come alive almost instantaneously. I jumped onto the bed the next moment and before I could resume our incomplete business, I heard Riddhima's stomach grumbling at the sight of hot samosas, sandwiches and green tea. I chuckled at her when she looked at me embarrassed.

"Let's have a shower and attack the food." I told her and got up from the bed. She started looking around for her top that was missing now. I found it on the floor beside the bed and thought of giving it to her. But then changed my mind and looped her into my arms.

She shrieked and wrapped her arms around my neck when I picked her up. She gasped at her nudity and turned into me hiding her bare body from my eyes when I let the blanket fall off her and walked to the washroom.

I put her down in the shower stall and was about to go and fetch my shaving kit when she held me by the collar of my shirt and turned me around. She just looked straight into my eyes. I raised my brow when she remained silent and she shook her head with a smile. But before I could return her smile, she pulled me down and placed a short kiss on my lips.

"Thank you." She whispered and smiled again.

And with that smile of hers and moist eyes, I understood why she was thanking me. I realized suddenly that it was her way of letting me know that she was fine now and in equation with whatever that has happened. Though my mind hinted at me to talk to her and resolve the Sohail issue for once, I dropped it after a moment of thought. If she had made peace with whatever that had happened, I didn't want to spoil it for her.

"That sure isn't the way to thank me, Riddhima." I whispered pulling her closer to me by her waist, until we were fused together. The fact that she was standing in the shower stall with me with only her track pants on didn't go unnoticed by me either. I shuddered wondering where we would end up if I kissed her again. But who cares! I took her lips in mine, yet again, and just as we were deepening the kiss, we were interrupted again. I groaned when I realized it was the intercom phone this time. You got to be kidding me! It's our last day of at honeymoon and the world is bent on interrupting us! I reluctantly let go of her and went to answer the call.

"Yes?" I shouted into the phone, rather rudely, angry at being disturbed.

"Armaan, Sohail here." He sounded hesitant. "I tried calling on your mobile, but you were not picking it." He added.

"Oh we were in the washroom, so didn't hear the ringing." I said as a matter of fact and then wished I hadn't said that as there was silence on the phone.

"I just called to check- I mean ask- if Riddhima is fine. I mean she was crying yesterday, so I was just slightly worried." He said. "I know you would take care of her and I shouldn't ask it, but I couldn't help it."

I closed my eyes and sighed when I heard the concern and desperateness in his voice. "Yeah, she is fine. She was just scared when she didn't find me in the room when she woke up." I said.

"Oh okay." He said and paused again. "I am leaving for Kolkata for a conference in an hour." He said slowly.

"Oh?"

"I was wondering if I could meet Riddhima once." He said. "Only if she is willing, that is." He added quickly.

"Can I call you in 5 minutes?" I asked, looking back at the washroom door.

"Sure. Thanks." He said and cut the call.

When I went to the washroom, Riddhima finished her bath and was standing infront of the mirror brushing her teeth. I took a deep breath and opened my mouth.

"It's Sohail. He is leaving in an hour. He wants to meet you." I said calmly.

She stopped brushing when she heard my words and looked up at me. "Will you be there, with me?" He asked.

"Ofcourse Riddhima. I will always be there." I said and hugged her after she had washed her mouth. "I'll ask him to join us for breakfast?" I asked.

She nodded her head and I smiled.

I then called Sohail and asked him to join us in 15 minutes. He sounded happy when I told him that she agreed to meet him. But I desperately prayed that this was the last time we were meeting him.

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And so after 35 minutes, I was standing, leaning against the pillar in my room, watching Sohail and Riddhima stare at everything but each other in silence. For the last half an hour I had done all the talking until my throat started aching and my patience worn out. Sohail kept checking his watch once in a while and I knew he had to leave soon; but he still hesitated to initiate a conversation with Riddhima, who sat like a doll. She was even worse; not even glancing in his direction. I wondered if my presence was making them awkward, so decided to leave them alone for few minutes and got up to leave. But both of them gave me worried looks when I stood up that I had to pretend as if I was stretching my legs and stand by the pillar. Finally I sighed, exasperated.

And then Sohail stood up, his shoulders slumped in defeat. He checked his watch once again and looked at Riddhima, who was staring at the floor as if the carpet has the most amazing design that she couldn't avert her gaze from it. He then looked at me and I noticed the defeated look in his eyes too. I stepped forward to do something but stopped short when I heard him speaking.

"Riddhi, I-" He started only to shut his mouth and clear his throat when she looked up at him. I wondered if she was surprised that he finally started speaking or took an exception to his way of addressing her. But either way, her one look made him falter. And I couldn't help but feel bad.

"Mrs. Mallik," I closed my eyes and sighed when he spoke "I know you wouldn't want to meet me, but then I couldn't leave without speaking to you. I tried to track your whereabouts but the people at your orphanage never let me reach you. All I wanted was to apologize for the heartbreak I caused you." He paused to take a deep breath, before continuing. "I know I made a stupid decision for both of us but I am glad that you now have a good life. I am also aware of the fact that you are right if you detest my presence but I have always lo-" He paused again to change his words "I have always respected you, Ridd – Mrs. Mallik. I just wanted to let you know that I am not a bad guy. I just made a bad move and I am still regretting it." He sighed when she still didn't speak anything. "I- I couldn't leave; not without explaining myself to you, because even after all these years, you were the only woman who came close to my heart. I am so sorry that I created a mess out of our lives. I just want you to think of me as a closed chapter in your life, not as a depressed phase that you abhor to think about. I am sorry that I stepped into your life, again, and caused you pain. I promise that I will make sure that out paths never cross again if that's what you want." As I stood still trying to take in all the words he had said, he shook my hand, smiled at me and left the room.

I shook Riddhima softly when she sat still staring at the open door. "His intention wasn't to hurt me when he left me, was it?" She asked, as a tear slipped out of her left eye.

"You know the answer yourself, Riddhima." I said softly, wiping the tear away.

"Why did you want me to meet him?" She asked.

"Because I knew that he is a good person, Riddhima. I went to talk to him last night. That was the reason why I wasn't in the room when you woke up. He left you because he cared too much for you that he decided you were best off without him or his family. Moreover, if not for his decision, I wouldn't have had you in my life, would I?"

She shook her head and sagged against me, silent tears escaping her eyes. "I should have talked to him." She said slowly.

"It's still not late." I whispered. "Come," I pulled her to her feet and walked her towards the corridor.

I noticed Sohail waiting near the elevator, four rooms away. He was about to step into the elevator when I shouted his name. He stopped midway and turned back to us, surprised. I nudged Riddhima to get her moving and then she started slowly walking to him. She stopped suddenly, turned back to me and smiled. When I returned her smile she turned around and all but ran into Sohail, who promptly held her in his arms for a moment before stepping back. I couldn't hear what they were speaking but whatever she said made him smile. It also made her blush and look back at me. He smiled at me while I nodded. Though I wanted to pull her back to me when I watched him hugging her again, but I stood where I was, reminding myself of my determination to win her love. When he waved back at me and left, she ran back to me.

"Happy?" I asked her softly, walking into the room. When she nodded, I hugged her to me and kissed the top of her head. Promptly, I then heard the grumbling sound from her stomach, yet again.

"It seems like your tummy is cursing us." I chuckled and led her back to our room, both of us smiling by the time we returned to our room.

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"Aunty!!!" Riddhima shrieked and ran to mom, dropping the bag, she was holding, at the door. Mom was not any less, I chuckled and shook my head when she shouted her name and hugged her tight. I laughed out when Rahul came running out of his room due to the commotion. Though confused at first, he was relieved when he spotted me at the door and came to hug me.

"How was your trip?" He asked with a wink.

"Great!" I winked back and then after a thought added, "And eventful." Though he raised his brow at me, he didn't question me further.

"Armaan, you have gained more weight." Mom pulled me into a hug. "You look good now."

"Finally, you remembered you have a son." I pouted and kissed her cheek.

"Even if she does, I am sure you would be right there to remind her of that." Rahul added, hugging Riddhima. Mom laughed and she and Riddhima went to out bedroom while Rahul and I followed them with our luggage.

"You didn't tell me aunty was here!" It was more of an accusation than a question from Riddhima. "And that Rahul and Muski are getting engaged!"

"It was called a surprise Riddhima, if you didn't know." I chuckled and pecked her lips before taking my towel and walking towards the washroom. Before closing the door, I found a slightly pink Riddhima who looked everywhere but at the audience in the room who were highly amused by my display of affection. The moment after I kissed her infront of everyone, I myself was surprised. But strangely enough, I wasn't uncomfortable and I realized that my love reached a stage where it was beyond physical and mental reactions; and mere magic. It was something deeper and stronger. And beyond everything that was momentary. I couldn't help but sigh contently.

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"Looks like your trip did wonders to Armaan, isn't it?" Rahul drawled the moment I stepped out of the washroom. He was sprawled at the end of the bed while mom and Riddhima sat with their backs against the bed post. It appeared she was showing mom our photographs from the trip in my laptop. Riddhima just turned a shade deeper than what adorned her cheeks at his comment and mom smiled. I just pulled the bean bag closer to the bed and sat on it, enjoying the cozy ambiance of our bedroom.

"How come you came early from the office?" I asked Rahul.

"To keep aunty company. You know I am her godson." He declared as a matter of fact proudly and I was caught off guard at the confidence I heard in his voice. Never before had Rahul been so open about his relationship with us. He always shied away whenever he felt he was intruding our personal space. But whatever had happened in my absence I was happy for him, for he seemed as if he made peace with everything.

"Oh, but I thought you were my brother." Riddhima chirped in before I could comment.

"Yeah, I am your god-brother too." He added, as if consoling her.

"Godson is fine, but godbrother Rahul? I don't think that word even exists." I asked, feigning shock.

"Yeah, whatever!" He muttered, slightly embarrassed and I decided not to push him further or scare him off his acceptance of his relationship with us.

"What is this place?" Mom asked pointing at a photograph. I was about to get up to have a look at it when Riddhima answered.

"It is the orphanage in Shimla. That's where I lived all my life before coming to Bangalore." She said softly.

That sure caught Rahul attention too and three of them dug their face in the laptops watching the photographs while I sat munching on the leftover chips in the packet which we bought in the flight. Then Riddhima started explaining about what all we had done on the trip minus our love-making.

"And then we met Sohail too?" I stopped chewing on the chips when I heard her words and turned to them putting the packet aside.

"Which Sohail? Our ex-colleague Sohail Goswani?" Rahul asked turning to me.

"No, Sohail Sharma, my-" she took a pause, "my previous husband."

"Oh!" Rahul muttered recognition and then silence fell over as Rahul and mom glanced at Riddhima and me warily.

"Yeah we just met him unexpectedly in Shimla. He came to attend some conference and stayed in the same hotel as us." I volunteered the information when they didn't ask further but kept glancing back and forth at us.

"And?" Rahul probed finally while mom sat silently watching me closely.

"And what? We talked to him and then invited him for the breakfast with us." I said, sitting beside Riddhima on the bed, draping my hand around her shoulder. "He is a good guy mom, just made a bad move. He is regretting it even now." I added.

"And he told me that he would be coming to Hyderabad. So I asked him to come for dinner when he comes here." Riddhima spoke and I was surprised at this bit of information. My reaction would have been clearly evident on my face for Riddhima held my hand and looked at me carefully. "I thought it was okay." She said slowly.

"Ofcourse, it is." I smiled; my lips tight. She was relieved, Rahul was impassive and mom appeared to be deep in thought.

"I'll go and start preparing dinner, then." Riddhima announced and made her way towards the kitchen.

"Armaan, are you sure you are okay with what Riddhima said?" Mom asked me after a moment.

"Yes mom. Why do you doubt it?" I asked trying to not let my discomfort show.

"Because that's not who you are." Rahul declared softly.

I shifted my position and lay down with my head in mom's lap. I sighed. "I don't know mom. I thought I was at peace with Riddhima's past life, but with Sohail's sudden appearance, I am not sure anymore. Sohail is a great guy and I know his intentions are good but I couldn't wipe off this sudden panic that grips me at his mention. May be his being a good guy is the problem itself." I trailed off smoothly.

"Why is that a problem?" Rahul asked, his voice genuinely curious.

"Because sometimes, I feel that Riddhima is not yet ready to let go off him." I replied. "And I don't want Riddhima to turn towards me as an obligation."

"You are in love with her, aren't you?" Came mom's amused question.

"Oh, you have no idea how much mom!" I uttered and buried my face in her saree.

"It's okay if you are uncomfortable him, Armaan. It is natural. But you shouldn't let Riddhima develop false hopes about you maintaining decent relationship with him." Mom said, ruffling my hair.

"But she is just so happy meeting him again, mom. She tries to hide it but she couldn't."

"That's because, he was the only one she considered her family before us. She told me that he was the first one who respected her, admired her, helped her deal with things she couldn't by herself. He was the first one who let her dream, Armaan. She will always have that soft spot for him inspite of the misery he put her through." She explained.

I realized what the main problem was, I was jealous of Sohail for being the many firsts in her life that I wished to be. I sighed heavily. "I understand that mom. That's the reason why I want to be perfect infront of her." I mumbled.

"Why?" Mom asked, her voice reflecting confusion.

Because I want her to love me as much as the way I love her. Instead, I tried to divert the topic. "You are the best mom ever, do you know that?"

Mom laughed at that and Rahul smiled. "That's the reason why I wish I was born to you, aunty." He added, looking at mom, his voice heavy.

Mom patted my shoulder telling me to get off her. She motioned for Rahul to come close to her and kissed his forehead, brushing his hair back. "Even if you are still not comfortable to accept the fact, you should know that you are my son Rahul, not just a godson. I love you as much as I love Armaan. Even Arvind always considered you his elder son. At one point when you were a kid, we even considered adopting you formally but let it go when we realized how sensitive you were about that topic." She wiped the tear that spilled from his eye and kissed him again.

"Moreover now that Muski is marrying you, you will officially be my brother." I said cheerfully trying to clear the lump that suddenly formed in my throat. "Now let us go to the living room before Riddhima comes and says that she also wished she was born to you. Because of all the things I am sure of, the first one is that I don't want Riddhima to be my sister ever." I said hurriedly shuddering at that fact. I heard mom's and Rahul chuckles behind me and smiled.

Everything, after all, is going to be alright!

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

sushmita

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