Monday, 20 January 2020

AR FF part 29: "and then she said it"

When I said it...

"Sir, your flight booking is confirmed. It's at 6 in the morning."

"Thank you." I replied and cut the call. I sighed, yet again. For the last few days, I was trying to book a flight ticket back to India. Due to the weather, most of the flights were getting cancelled and there was high demand for the tickets making it impossible to get one. So I called some travel agency that my colleague here recommended and as expected I got the ticket.

"Mr. Mallik?"

"Yes?" I heard someone knocking the door of my cabin. "Phill, please come in." I walked up to him and shook his hand.

"Oh, well I just came to thank you personally. I heard you are leaving tomorrow." He smiled politely.

"Yeah, I think the payroll system is back on track, perfect this time. So it's time that I get back." I said, both of us taking our seats.



"In that case, I would say it was a great pleasure having you here for the last three weeks. Ankit did tell me that you were married recently and were looking forward to celebrating the New Year with your better half. I am sorry about that but I hope you had a good time here." He said, his voice slightly apologetic.

"No Phil. The decision was mine. I am glad I came." I added. I didn't know how he understood my words, but he left after gifting me a small hamper full of different types of wines.

I was true when I said that I was glad I came here. It did help me in clearing my head, diffusing my misplaced anger and then the guilt at my misjudgement. It gave me some time to think without any distraction, especially Riddhima.

When I landed in Munich three weeks ago, I had no clue as to why I was running away and from whom. I just knew that I couldn't face Riddhima after the disgusting words I threw in her face. I abhorred myself after looking at those papers after making sense of what was happening.

"bas***d! What the hell was that?" Rahul shouted at me while he laid her on the couch. "Get some damn water!"

For some reason, the envelope lying on the floor caught my eye. I ignored Rahul and picked it up, trying to read the words written on it through my clouded brain. It took some time but when I made sense of what those papers are and the date stamped on it beneath, I felt like I received another punch in my gut, this one painful than the first. I saw Rahul sprinkling water on her face but all I did was take my mobile out and dial a number.

"Ankit, I am ready to take up the project in Munich. Book me a flight for tomorrow."

When Ankit agreed to it, I fell to my knees the papers slowly slipping out of my fingers. For some reason, the light headedness I felt a minute ago suddenly vanished and I was sober. And I was afraid. Afraid of the consequences of what I had done impulsively. I turned and saw Rahul carrying Riddhima to our room. I felt drained out of energy and couldn't move a finger. As I sat there staring into nothing, I saw Rahul standing infront of me. I didn't know what he saw in my face but he told me that Riddhima was fine and that she fell asleep. I expected him to yell at me, but then he was Rahul. So he sat infront of me and looked at me closely.

"What happened Armaan? I know I shouldn't interfere but Riddhima was mumbling about meeting Sohail and some papers. Do you want to talk?" He asked, he voice soothing as if dealing with a hurt animal.

I showed him the papers that were lying on the floor. Without asking me any questions, he picked them up and read through them.

"Riddhima asked me about the procedure for changing the nominee of her PF account last month. When we went to the accounts department, they showed us her earlier nomination and then she realized that it still held Sohail as her husband. She then told me that she never got divorced. So these are the divorce papers of her marriage to Sohail and the changed PF nominations paper. So what? What has it got to do with what just happened?" He asked perplexed.

And I was stunned.

"You knew about this?" I asked weakly.

"Yeah. I gave her Atul's number when she asked if I knew a lawyer. Why?"

"Oh God, Rahul! Why didn't you mention it to me, even once!" I closed my eyes and cursed under my breath.

"I thought you knew about it and then- Wait but what happened now?" I knew he was losing patience with me.

I gulped. "I saw Riddhima with Sohail in the bakery. I already told her I didn't like him." I stopped unable to continue.

"And what?" He almost shouted.

"And I don't know Rahul. I don't know what happened to me. I don't know why I thought so. I don't know why I drank so much and I freaking don't know why I said all those words to her. Oh god, what have I done?" I yelled. "Is she fine, Rahul? Is she okay? Why did she faint?" I asked, frantically.

"I'" Rahul was stunned to roots, I could tell by the look on his face. Or maybe he was trying to make sense of the blunder I had done. "I don't know. She took some medicine and fell asleep mumbling about talking to you." He said slowly. But then suddenly pushed me back and yelled, "bas***d, I thought you loved her! She is Riddhima, Armaan, don't you know her? She literally worships the floor you walk on. How can you think so low of her?" He stood up running his fingers in his hair. He gave me one last look and left to him room.

And I still sat on my knees, staring at those papers on the floor though the tears in my eyes. My heart started beating fast and I felt panic gripping my nerves slowly. What if my stupidity had destroyed the beautiful relationship that we had developed between us? Would we still be able to be the same with each other? Would I ever be able to look into her eyes without feeling guilty of misjudging her? Would she ever believe me if I said that I loved her?

I knew I would get the answers if I talked to her but being the imbalanced person I was, I took the easy way out. I left a small note for her and left for the airport after packing few clothes in a small bag. I called Rahul and informed him about my project. He didn't say anything. Neither did I.

But Riddhima called me the first thing in the morning, I think may be when she woke up. She sounded frantic when she asked me where I was. The panic in her voice cut through my heart but I she slightly relaxed when I told her that I am going on a project for three weeks. I cut the call saying I was boarding the flight when she started apologizing. Since then, she had been calling me every day. I would talk to her but never more than a minute or two. I didn't apologize for what happened that day and neither did she bring it up. She behaved as if nothing had happened and that made me feel guilty more. It sounded great for the first few days but then it made me think.

And so I thought, for 13 days. And finally came to a conclusion that we can only get back to what we were only if I apologized to her and told her that I love her. If she reciprocated the feelings, that would be great. If she didn't, even that would be great because I know how to make her fall for me. After all, as Rahul said, she did hold me in high regard. So it would be easy to convince her that I deserve her love, wouldn't it? I made up my mind and now had the flight booked. I had been also rehearsing what I would say to her, in the perfect way without messing it up.

Feeling slightly happy of my new resolve, I made my way to the airport. I spent the first few hours in the flight trying to imagine what her reaction would be when I showed up at the door unannounced. Yes, you heard me right. I didn't tell her that I would be returning today. And I never knew when I drifted off to sleep.

I woke up when the flight landed in Hyderabad. I took a taxi to home and waited at the door holding my breath, slightly excited, slightly nervous and slightly afraid.

"Armaan?" Rahul exclaimed, rooted to the spot.

"Hey Rahul, can I come in?" I asked with a grin. But he stood still as if making sure I was real.

But my mind was distracted with the hurried footsteps and the door of our bedroom creaking. Rahul moved aside and I stepped in. But I wasn't ready for what I had expected.

Riddhima stood at the door in her usual night dress. I gasped taking in her appearance. She had dark circles under her eyes, looked pale and had lost weight. I could swear that night dress that was hanging lose around her now used to hug her body as second skin before three weeks. From the corner of my eyes, I saw Rahul move to his room and shut the door. But before I could try and make sense of it, Riddhima jumped into my arms hugging me tight. I tried to draw her away to ask her what was happening, but she held me tight. When she did step back, she didn't waste a second in smacking her lips on mine. Now that was something new!

Inspite of my mind warning me not to get carried away, the feel of Riddhima's soft body against mine after so many days took my senses away and I couldn't help but kiss her back. Our lips still joined, we stumbled to our room and then the bed. She pulled my Tshirt over my head with an urgency that we had never experienced. The more I tried to bring it under control, the more she urged me. I knew we should talk first but the leftover sanity in me left when she took my hand in hers and placed it on her breast.

Oh, she would be the end of me!

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

Some many several minutes later, I lay panting in the bed trying to understand what the hell just happened. Sex had always been great between us, I knew that but never this wild. And I felt something changed in our equation. All the time, I felt Riddhima was trying to search something in me, as if she was contemplating something in her head. The moment when I was just entering her, she looked at me, straight in my eyes, as if she finally made sense of something, as if she was finally convinced of something. And a moment later, her smile left me breathless.

I turned to my side and saw her sleeping on her stomach, her arms around herself and her face turned towards me. I moved closer to her slowly. I was not sure if I would ever be able to understand her, understand what goes on in her head but with all the complexities in her and even more complexities in me, I was sure we would be happy. Overcome with immense fondness for her, I wrapped my arm around her hips trying to pull her to me.

But I stopped short when I felt something wet on my fingers. I looked at her face, she still had her eyes closed. Confused, I moved my palm south and the wetness only increased. I jumped off the bed and switched the light on. My heart stopped beating at the sight that greeting my eyes.

Riddhima was still sleeping but was also bleeding. The light pink bed sheet turned dark red due to the blood. I shook her but she didn't even flinch. I didn't know if I stood there watching for just a minute or an hour. But the moment my senses came back to me, I quickly put on my shorts and ran in the direction of Rahul's room.

"Rahul, Rahul!" I banged his door and shouted for him.

"What? What's wrong?" He opened the door instantly and asked me frantic himself.

But the words left me for some reason and I found it difficult to string words together. I just showed him my fingers which were still covered in blood and mumbled, "Riddhima."

His eyes widened and he dashed to our room while I followed him, but I stopped him remembering that Riddhima was completely nude in the room. I jumped infront of him when he was about to enter the room.

"Get the car, I will bring her." I said, running a hand through my hair.

He appeared as if he would refuse it but he just nodded his head and ran out of the front door. I quickly pulled a dark black long kurta from the shelf and dressed her in it, all the while shaking her trying to bring her to consciousness. I saw the time which said 2.34 am. I just prayed that some doctor would be available at this time. Lifting her in my arms, I ran out of the flat. I placed Riddhima in the back seat of the car, shouted at a perplexed watch man to lock the flat. All of a sudden Rahul ran back to the flat mumbling he would be back immediately. That's when I looked closely at Riddhima. She still appeared serene and peaceful, unknown to everything. I felt something wet on my cheek and realized I was crying.

Rubbing the tears away, I called mom. When I heard her sleepy voice, I couldn't help but let my tears flow freely. I heard her frantic shouts but couldn't utter a single word. Rahul came back by then, took the phone from my hands, spoke something into it and then he drove us to the hospital. All the while, I sat staring at Riddhima's face, caressing her cheeks with my knuckles afraid of increasing whatever pain she was going through.

And the next few hours were just a blur for me. I saw someone wheeling Riddhima to some room, Rahul explaining something to someone, someone trying to ask me something. Feeling my head spin, I slumped on the chair in the corridor with my head in my hands.

I lifted my head when I felt someone's hand on my shoulder. Rahul sat beside me with a cup of coffee in his hand. Looking at him, I suddenly realized that he was supposed to leave for Bangalore in few hours. It was his engagement after four days. I felt some panic gripping me at the thought of him leaving me alone to handle whatever was happening around. Neither was I in clear state of mind nor was I capable of handling something like this.

"I am not leaving until she is fine. Don't worry." I heard his voice and blinked.

I hugged me tight. "Rahul, I don't know what happened. She was fine when we- when I came. She was conscious when I made- and then she fell asleep. When I touched- and then I saw the blood. She didn't wake up when I shook her. She-"

"Armaan, calm down first." Rahul drew away ad looked at me. "Did she tell you anything? Did you guys talk?" He asked.

When I shook my head negatively, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

"Armaan, Riddhima is-"

He was cut short by the nurse who came looking for us. "Doctor is calling you to her cabin. Cabin no 109" She told us and left.

Rahul sighed leaving me confused. We both made our way to the doctor.

"I am Dr Saritha, please take your seat." She told us when we entered her small cabin. "Are you related to her?" She asked.

"I am her husband, Armaan Mallik" I said.

"Well Mr. Mallik. Your wife is fine, don't worry. It is not unusual to spot slight bleeding, given her state. The blood loss wasn't too much, so we didn't have to inject blood into her. But we would like to keep her in observation for 6 hours to monitor the progress of the foetus. It is strong as of now but-"

"Excuse me, foetus?" I exclaimed, wondering if I heard her wrong.

The doctor looked at me perplexed and then at Rahul before looking back at me.

"Yes its 9 weeks old. Her earlier reports show that she is taking iron capsules but I would recommend,-" She stopped speaking suddenly and put forward a file "Mr Mallik, are you aware that your wife is pregnant by 2 months?" She asked softly.

Though I was shocked to say the least, I took the file from her hand when I realized that the file was the same one I saw in Riddhima's hands three weeks ago. Wasn't it the divorce papers?

I turned the first page with my hands slightly shaking and saw a medical report stating that she was indeed pregnant. My eyes fell on the date of that report and the breath left my lungs. 25th Dec, the same day I almost accused her of cheating on me, the same day she wore my favourite saree and held my favourite wine bottle in her hands.

Oh God!

"Can I see her?" I didn't realize that I had spoken those words until I felt Rahul's hand on my shoulder. "I am fine, can I see her?"

She buzzed a nurse and told us that the nurse would lead the way. Still dazed, I came out of the cabin and found Shashank uncle and mom standing near the reception. I saw mom walking towards me but turned the other way and followed the nurse while Rahul stayed back.

I entered a large room which had few beds in it separated by curtains. The nurse handed me gloves, a nose cap and a scalp cap. After putting them on, she led me towards a bed with few devices beside it.

I collapsed on the small stool that lay beside the bed when I saw Ridddhima lying on the bed, motionless except for the rise and fall of her chest. She was in the same kurta that was pulled slightly up leaving her small waist bare and a blue sheet covered her legs from below her lower abdomen. A small tube was attached to her belly.

I raised my shaking hand and placed it slowly on her waist where I supposed our baby resided. I tried to control my tears, but for the second time in the last few hours they flowed freely imagining what she must have gone though in the last few weeks. During those calls that I barely responded to, did she try to tell me that she was pregnant with our child, that she was missing me, that she needed me?

"Armaan?" I heard her small voice and then felt her palm against my cheek.

I raised my eyes to her and found her slightly smiling at me, her fingers trying to wipe my tears away. I held her hand with both my hands and looked straight into her eyes.

I didn't know what came over me that second, but all I did was utter those few words I imagined I would be telling her in a different place, scenario and situation.

"I love you, Riddhima" I planted a small kiss on her palm, placed her hand back on the bed, stood up and left without turning back at her.

When I reached the corridor, I found mom, Rahul and uncle waiting anxiously for me. "Mom, when Riddhima is discharged, I want you to take her back to Bangalore." I told her impassively and walked towards the exit.

All the while, only one thought plagued my mind. Do I really deserve her?

sushmita

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