Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Epilogue : In My Heart

Armaan and Riddhima sauntered through Mumbai's departure terminal to board the flight to their honeymoon destination. The couple walked between the aisles to their seats in the first class section. Armaan chuckled as Riddhima scrunched her nose and pushed her handbag in the overhead compartment with difficulty. She slapped his hand lightly when he tried to help her in fastening the belt. The air hostess walked around making sure all the passengers were buckled in as the plane was ready to take off. Armaan closed his eyes and pretended to sleep as he saw the air hostess approach their seat. Riddhima gestured her to stop as she bend forward to fasten Armaan's belt. She bit the inside of her cheek to hide the smile on her husband's actions.

"Ab janay bhi do na Jaan. Why are you spoiling your mood for nothing?" Armaan held her hand as she buckled his belt and pouted when she tried to free her hand.

"Nothing? That woman was flirting with you openly when I was standing right next to you and you say it's nothing."

"Exactly she was flirting with me, I wasn't. Phir mujhse gussa kyun ho?" He said reaching for hand slowly.

"Oh really? Wo itna bara smile and 'thank you so much' kya tha, haan?" Riddhima retorted angrily. Armaan chuckled loudly. She looked so beautiful in her royal blue shirt, white denims and over coat. The reddish tinge on her cheeks due to the cold, anger and jealousy made her look hot. Armaan was tempted all the more to touch her but he knew he had to calm her down first if he as much as wanted to hold hands with her.

"Basket, she had opened the counter for us to check in even before it was time for boarding so I only thanked her in response or kuch nahin."

"Wo to karti hi na open, she was getting a chance to talk to you." Riddhima mumbled turning away to look out of the window as the plane took off.

"You're getting a chance to do even more then talking with me. What do you say?" Armaan whispered flicking his tongue on her ear lobe.

"No." She gasped audibly.

"Wrong answer Sweetheart." He replied pecking loudly on her lips making her eyes go wide. He removed the armrest from between them and pulled her in to his chest.

"Sleep. We've got a long flight so relax as much as you can because once we're there, sleeping isn't allowed." Riddhima nestled her face in the crook of his neck and closed her eyes to hide the growing blush on her face. Armaan kissed her head and drifted off soon holding her tight.

The couple landed in Male, Maldives, after a six hour journey. The wedding day had tired them out so they slept through the flight, only waking up when the plane began its descend. Armaan made Riddhima stand beside an artificial plant while he picked their luggage from the belt. Riddhima smiled widely at everyone who smiled at her and looked around happily.

"What's with all the smiling?" Armaan asked stopping the trolley next to her.

"Everyone's so nice over here. I'm just returning the greetings. Why, do you have a problem Mr. Mallik?" He just pushed the trolley out of the airport without replying. His arm went around her waist and pulled her to his side possessively as he saw a man eyeing her. A chauffeur was waiting outside for them with a signboard of 'Armaan Mallik'.

Riddhima's eyes went wide in surprise on seeing the luxury white yacht waiting for them at the sea port where the car had dropped them. They were to travel in it to reach their beach resort. Turquoise bays were stretched as far as the sight went. The sky and water seemed to merge as one at the horizon. Dark hues splayed across the sky as the sun reached its lowest point, ready to go down. The couple stood in an affectionate embrace on the deck to witness the last sunset of the year together.

"Basket." Armaan ran after Riddhima as she rushed inside the cabin. She was panting heavily hunched up on the basin with her eyes shut tight. Armaan cleaned her face with a moist washcloth and rubbed his palm softly on her back.

"Don't worry Armaan, It was just nausea. I'm fine otherwise." Riddhima said leaning back on the seat. Armaan ordered a strawberry smoothie and chocolate Swiss rolls for her.

"Please Riddhima, I don't want to talk. Did you hear what that cook said? He said you've been empty stomach for a long time." Armaan picked the roll with a fork and forwarded a bite towards her.

"How does he know? He's not a doctor. Maine kaha na its only due to little travel sickness." She mumbled chewing.

"Yes empty stomach combined with little travel sickness. Did you see how you couldn't straighten up due to stomach pain? Now just finish this up quickly without an argument. I'll order dinner once we reach the room." Riddhima nodded but turned the fork towards him to eat with her.

The yacht docked at the 'One & only Maldives Luxury Resort'. The resort was situated upon one of the largest islands in Maldives, Atol, which was surrounded by white beaches and blue crystal water. The resort had sleek and stylish villas amidst thick green tropical atmosphere on the beach and over water. Armaan had booked a water villa which was built over the protected waters of the lagoon. It was joined by walkways to the rest of the resort. The villa was known to provide unparalleled facilities and privacy.

The resort shimmered due to the beautiful lighting and decorations done for the New Year eve. The resident couples and families were gathering on the beach to celebrate the occasion. Riddhima bit her lip as Armaan walked her back in to the master bedroom. She took a step back for every one he took towards her. She gasped as her legs hit the bed ending her escape. Armaan's eyes twinkled with mischief as he took the last step making their bodies touch. He pushed himself over her making her fall on the soft mattress together. He circled his arms around her waist, holding her fidgeting body even more close to himself. Riddhima drew a sharp breath as he stretched his body over hers. Warm breath fanned her neck as he dipped his head and nuzzled.

"I don't want to leave you right now but will have to for a while. I know you need to change and shower after the long journey. Haina?" She hummed in response not being able to speak.

"Main next room use kar leta hoon, you use this washroom to freshen up." He opened a suitcase to retrieve his clothes and went out.

Armaan dropped his wet towel on the couch and bent down on his knees in front of the bed to admire his sleeping beauty. He smiled tracing her features with his loving gaze. She had fallen asleep without changing in the same position he had left her. He kissed her cheek and adjusted the comforter over her body and went out of the villa leaving a gift parcel beside her.

Riddhima stood on the over water deck outside her villa facing the resort looking at the people dancing and enjoying themselves. Her face lit up with a bright smile as she looked at the caller id on her mobile.

"Hey. How are you? Yes we're fine." She giggled as Prem snatched the phone from Muskaan and put it on loudspeaker. Her eyes widened as the whole family spoke to her at once.

"Listen guys, I can't understand a word. Guys stop. Stop! Good, now sab aik aik kar ke baat karo. Hi Dad. Jee hum theek hain. Maa ap ko medicine leni hai, don't forget. Papa, no office work at all. Ap ka saara waqt Mama ka hai until you return home." She continued talking with everyone and describing her journey and the place. Armaan hit his forehead on seeing his wife standing outside talking on the phone. He knew it must be his crazy family wanting to know every detail from her. He was sure his sister was asking to send pictures immediately.

"Should I send you back to India?" Armaan whispered hugging her from back. She relaxed in his hold and shook her head. He gestured to cut the line to which she shook her head in no again.

"Maa, Armaan aa gaye. Baat karati hoon." Armaan spoke with his family all the time glaring at Riddhima who kept pouting as soon as he tried to cut the line. The gang cheered loudly as the clock struck 12. Riddhima and Armaan ended the call after wishing everyone.

"Say bye to your phone for the next three weeks." Armaan said switching off her mobile.

"Three weeks?" Riddhima asked unbelievably.

"Yes. Now don't waste time and change. Details baad mein pooch leina. Go go." He said turning her towards the room.

The whole ambience was changed when Riddhima stepped out after getting dressed. Soft glow from the candles lit the entire villa and romantic melody filled the air. Armaan turned around hearing the chime of anklets and stood rooted on his spot in the kitchen with a champagne bottle in one hand on seeing Riddhima. She looked exquisite in her red net sari with a sparkling gold border. Hands full with chura, hair partition filled with sindoor, neck adorned with mangalsutra and with a diamond nose pin, she looked every bit of a newly wedded bride; a very gorgeous one.

"Armaan." Riddhima whispered to break his trance and looked around hoping the semi darkness would hide her blush. Armaan kept gazing at his shy bride fondly. He did a double take at seeing the crystal tray as the drink over flew from the flute glasses. He quickly straightened the bottle and reached for the hand napkin to soak the excess from the counter.

"Yeh Basket na har baar mera focus kharab kar deti hai." He mumbled shaking his head.

"Tum ne kuch kaha?" Riddhima asked over her shoulder while seeing the beach.

"Huh? Maine? Nahin. Haan. I was asking do you want to join the ongoing party at the resort." He walked towards the table set for two. She shook her head in negative.

"May I have a dance with you?" Riddhima looked at the out stretched hand in front of her and then at her husband who looked no less than a prince from a fairytale in his black tuxedo. She was fascinated by the flexing muscles underneath the well-tailored jacket which displayed his broad shoulders and accentuated the planes and dips of his firm chest. Her gaze traveled down and up his body leisurely taking in every detail. Armaan smirked seeing her check him out. He cleared his throat softly to gain her attention. She bit her lip on being caught and placed her hand in his without meeting his gaze. He took her one hand in his and guided the other over his shoulder. He pulled her chin up forcing her to look in to his eyes as they swayed slowly side to side to the tunes.

"6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1" Armaan took Riddhima's lips in a soft, loving kiss pulling her as close as possible. The loud ringing of the bells and cheers from outside indicating the arrival of the New Year all drowned as they kissed.

"Happy New Year Jaan. May God bestow all His blessings on you and keep you under His protection always." He spoke huskily holding her face in his palms.

"Happy New Year to you too Baby. May God keep us together and in love with each other for eternity." She whispered taking deep breaths. Armaan kissed her temple as they turned to look at the stunning firework display spreading vibrant colors all over the dark sky.

The couple enjoyed a romantic candle light dinner at the deck. Not many words were exchanged during the course but lingering touches and long love filled glances had set the atmosphere ablaze with excitement, desire and anticipation of what the night held for them. Riddhima found it difficult to concentrate on eating with her heart racing crazily and skin erupting in goose bumps with each contact. Armaan was well aware of her condition as he too could feel the simmering heat between them. Riddhima stored the leftover food in the refrigerator and placed the used dishes and cutlery in the sink consciously as she was well aware of his heated gaze following her every move.

Riddhima watched the high blue tides crashing against the shore and then retreating back to their origin from the living room. The sound of the waves made her feel at ease and allowed her a moment to think clearly.

"Thank you God for all the blessings in my life, big and small. Thank you for helping me out of the dark times where I had lost hope and desire to live. Thank you for surrounding me with people who care about me. Most of all thank you so much for returning my love to me and for bringing us together again. Now all I ask of You is to help me be the perfect wife and lover for Armaan and to always keep us under Your protection." She sighed contently after sending a silent prayer.

She shivered as a chill went down her spine sensing Armaan's presence in the room. She turned around to see him standing in the doorway with hands in his pockets. He had taken off his jacket and opened the first three buttons of his white shirt. Riddhima found it hard to tear her eyes away from his hypnotic orbs as he took steps towards her. She squealed when he walked out carrying her bridal style.

"I thought our night would be incomplete without this, it has become sort of our thing now, you know sharing a cup of coffee. What do you say Basket?" Armaan questioned stirring the hot frothy beverage. His lips turned out into an adorable pout finding Riddhima curled up in fetal position on the over water hammock with her hands placed beneath her head as pillow.

"Mera to bad luck hi kharab hai, jab bhi kuch plan karta hoon sab ulta ho jata hai." He exhaled deeply sinking on the lounger next to the infinity pool. Armaan observed her sleeping peacefully while he kept fidgeting uncomfortably. He cursed silently and stood up when changing positions didn't help relax his body.

Riddhima waved her hand to shoo off the fly buzzing around her ear and disturbing her peaceful sleep. She opened her eyes groaning as the fly kept bugging her but a small smile formed on her lips seeing her love.

"I love you." Riddhima said in a sleepy voice cupping his left cheek. She turned on her stomach pulling the comforter over her head.

"I love you more Jaan." Her eyes shot open on hearing a whisper and feeling the warm breath on her ear. She came face to face with a smiling Armaan on turning her head. He quirked an eyebrow as she stared at him with an open mouth. Riddhima removed the comforter from her face to look around and within a minute a sense of understanding dawned upon her.

"Kya kkar rahhe ho Arrmaan? Dekhoo kitni raat hai, muujhe bohat neend aa rahi hai. Tumm bhi soo jao." She stuttered trying to push him away as he lowered his head on her shoulder. Armaan pulled her face towards him and kissed her hard. The kiss was anything but gentle. It held his love, passion and heightening desire.

"You still want to sleep now?" Armaan asked drawing deep breaths as he pulled back. He palmed her face as she tried to look away.

"Don't close your eyes. Look at me." Riddhima bit her lip seeing his usual twinkling orbs turned into dark clouded ones. She gulped recognizing the look of burning desire in his eyes.

"We don't have to do this until you're ready Riddhima." Armaan said mistaking her hesitation as denial.

"No. I mean.." She replied immediately seeing his fallen face and then regretted having open her mouth at all.

"You mean what Jaan?" He smirked stroking her swollen lip.

"I.. I mean.. Please Armaan." A beautiful blush crept on her face as he gazed at her intensely waiting for her reply. She hid herself in his chest raising her upper body from the bed. Riddhima's heart fluttered as he undid the knot of her backless blouse. She moaned as Armaan caressed and kissed the areas exposed to his heated gaze as he removed her jewelry and clothing piece by piece. He slowly built and stoked the same fire in her which was blazing inside him. She lost all control as he whispered words of love to her as his hands and lips worshipped her body. Armaan groaned in satisfaction as their bodies moulded into one. He took them again and again to the incredibly beautiful and intense journey of love and pleasure.


8 months later...
Anjali stomped her foot and marched angrily through the lobby of Sanjeevani, Mumbai. She had been receiving flowers from an anonymous admirer since the moment she arrived at the hospital today morning. She tried inquiring who was sending her the bouquets but the guards and staff showed ignorance about it. Anjali found a cup of her favorite green tea and a note of congratulations waiting in her cabin as she returned after a successful surgery. She had been scared for a moment as this person was well acquainted with her likes and her schedule too. She decided to complain to the authorities but was left speechless at the sight of reception area covered in pink and white balloons and flowers. Anjali picked up a heart shaped balloon as she walked further admiring the setting.


"Atul. Where have you been since morning? Maine kitna dhoonda tumhien. Why didn't you tell me you were going out of hospital? Have you seen all this, koi subah se mujhe flowers bhej raha hai. Kisi ko nahin pata kaun hai yeh sab karne wala." Anjali said taking Atul's hand.

"I've done all this."

"You." Anjali whispered shocked.

"Today is the day that I saw you for the first time, right here, 5 years ago. You were signing the attendance sheet and talking with Nikki. You looked angelic in the pale blue floral shirt and jeans. I had lost my heart to you that day itself. I've tried many times to express my love over the years but moved back at the last minute because I'm not as smart or cool as Armaan or Abhi and because you deserve the best. But today I won't step back because I want you, I want us to be together. Anjali, I love you, I always have. Please will you give me a chance, give us a chance to explore our relationship beyond friends? Will you be my girlfriend?" Anjali's throat clogged with emotions hearing Atul. She had never expressed her feelings for him but had always wished for him to say it loud and clear, the emotions visible in his eyes. Today she couldn't be happier. She nodded threading their fingers together. The whole staff who witnessed the scene hooted for their resident doctors.

"Congrats Anjie. Congrats Champ." Atul and Anjali both looked around hearing Armaan's voice. They rushed towards Nikki who was holding her tab with Armaan on Skype.

"Finally aj Atul ne bol hi dia. Or Atul, tu mujh or Abhi jaise kabhi nahin ho sakta, kyunki tumhara dil hum dono se kahin zyada acha, sensitive, caring or loving hai."

"Exactly. Armaan bilkul sahi bol raha hai. So next time don't ever compare yourself with anyone." Abhi said after Armaan patting Atul's back.

"Thank you Bhai." Atul said emotionally to which Armaan winked in response.

"I'm so happy for both of you. Have a great day all of you. Main chalta hoon, have to get ready for an early meeting."

"Bye Armaan." The gang said together.

"Will you go out with me tonight Anjali? It'll be a double date with Abhi and Nikki."

"Thank you for all this Atul and I would love to go out with you." Anjali hugged Atul.

"Okay. Everyone back to duties. Now." Abhi shouted over the cheers and talks going on. He clapped his hands to gain attention. Everyone dispersed with smiles on their faces.

The soft beams of sunlight sifted through the closed blinds illuminating the dark room slightly. Riddhima lay wide awake in her bed staring at the tiny particles moving and colliding with each other rapidly, visible due to sunlight, and her hand unconsciously fingering the charm bracelet. She sighed and closed her eyes turning away from the window and tried to sleep for a while as it was still very early in the morning. Riddhima groaned in frustration pulling her bunny over her face after lying down for another twenty five minutes without a wink of sleep. She hurriedly shoved a photo frame under her sheet as a knock sounded on her door.

"Good Morning. How's my Princess doing today? Sujal told me you were up till late night. I didn't come to check on you because I thought you might be talking with Armaan." Kashish spoke running her hand lovingly on Riddhima's hair.

"I'm fine Mama; I was studying a file at night, new clients hain. Armaan ko to time nahi hai mujhse baat karne ka." Riddhima answered with a pout.

"Busy hoga wo Rhea warna us ka bus chaley to tum se har second baat karta rahey." Kashish chuckled.

"Now get up and come down. I've made breakfast, now you feed your bhabhi dearest. Sujal hasn't returned from jogging aur meri or Rahul ki nahin sun rahi wo." Kashish left the room kissing her head.

Riddhima shook her head thinking about Muskaan's antics. Muskaan was in her last trimester of pregnancy and the worst of moods but it wasn't her fault too. She had had a tough, complicated pregnancy, now that her due date was approaching near; she was getting worried and scared and so threw tantrums at every small thing.

Riddhima came out of the shower and slumped on the settee clutching her stomach. She felt weak and tired and blamed it on lack of sleep. But what made her concerned was the constant nausea and abdominal pain. She recalled what she had eaten last night and slapped her forehead remembering she had missed dinner and had hardly eaten during the day. Content on pointing the cause of her pain, she hurried through her room getting dressed. She checked her mobile once again for any new message but was met with none. She kissed the heart charm engraved with their initials hanging in the middle of all the others. This charm was a wedding gift by Armaan. Her frown turned in to a beautiful smile as she heard the beep from her i-pad. She quickly tapped at the screen to unlock it and opened the app to receive the incoming call.

"Good morning. How's my Jaan doing?" Armaan's voice boomed through the silent room. Riddhima's eyes moistened seeing her husband after two days. This was the first time during the eight months of their marriage that Armaan had gone abroad on a business trip for a week. He had dropped her at her parents' home so that she could spend time with them.

"Meri Basket naraz hai mujhse? I'm sorry Baby, I got caught up with meetings the moment I arrived here or raat ko bohat late ho gaya tha is liye I couldn't call." Armaan explained as he was met with silence from the other end. Riddhima ran her fingers across the screen touching his face.

"Switch on the camera Basket. I want to see you." Riddhima quickly rubbed her face, wiping away the tears and put on an angry face to hide any evidence of her breakdown.

"Tum ro rahi ho?" Armaan's deep dimpled smile vanished on seeing his wife's face. He could see right through her fake anger. Riddhima tried her best to reply but all that she managed to do was to shake her head in denial. Her dull, lost eyes and quivering lips gave her away.

"Good. Do you know Atul propsed Anjie? Did Anjie call you?" Armaan clenched his fist tight and smiled at the screen as best as he could with his heart sinking at Riddhima's upset face. He relayed all the details and included funny details from the time how Atul was skeptical to do this. He leaned back in to the sofa and sighed happily at having made her smile and laugh truly by the end of his narration.

"Armaan, Muski's calling me. I'll call you later. Don't forget to take your meals on time and do rest as well. Have a great day. I love you Armaan."

"You also take care of yourself. Don't worry main jaldi aa jaon ga. I love you too Jaan." Armaan laughed seeing his wife flush red as he gave her a big, loud kiss on the screen.

Riddhima worked through most of the day hardly taking any break as she managed Armaan and her own end at the office. Anurag sent in refreshments for her regularly knowing she wouldn't leave the office without completing all the work and now those trays with cold and untouched food decorated the coffee table. Riddhima walked to the book shelf and jumped up to reach for a file on the top portion.

"Ouch." She yelped in pain, the file dropping from her hand as she crouched on the floor clutching her tummy. She got up once the pain subsided and popped a pill with a cold sandwich.

"Come in." Anurag said reaching for his files and laptop bag.

"Rhea, how many times have I said not to knock? You can come here whenever you want." He scolded tenderly.

"I'll remember from next time." She replied with a smile.

"Kya baat hai beta? Do you need something?" Anurag asked seeing her disturbed expressions.

"Dad, can I come home with you?" Riddhima asked hesitantly.

"Of course you can yeh bhi koi poochne ki baat hai? Wo tumhara ghar hai Princess, you don't need anyone's permission. Now go, bring your bag, I'll wait for you near the lift. The driver will take your car back."

Prerna took Riddhima in a warm embrace as she returned home at evening.

"Ghar bilkul soona lag raha tha tum dono ke bina. Main Anu ka wait kar rahi thi to return from office so that we could visit you. Acha hua tum khud aa gayi. Go and freshen up, main khana lag wati hoon."

Armaan felt his insides relax on seeing Riddhima sleeping in their bedroom. He had sped towards Garewal Mansion as soon as he came out of the airport. Kashish informed him that she had gone back home last night. As it was nearing lunch time, he was sure to find her at the office but was disappointed at not finding her there either. On coming home Prerna had told him that she didn't have her dinner and slept immediately after coming from office.

Armaan closed the door carefully and walked to the other side removing his shirt to get in bed with her. He smiled on noticing her wearing his kurta and sleeping on his side. He stared at Riddhima's face for a long time, taking in every detail as if seeing her for the first time.

Riddhima stirred and opened her eyes lazily feeling something warm caressing her thighs. She was met with the most beautiful sight of her husband smiling down at her with eyes shining with love. Her fingers reached up to touch his face.

"I missed you." She kissed his lips lightly and inhaled his unique smell deeply.

"I missed you too." Armaan whispered hoarsely after a passionate kiss. She wound her arms around his neck pulling him on top of her. Armaan pulled her closer and cupped her cheek as he kissed her ardently, trying to quench his desire of her.

They stayed in bed most of the day, only going down to have dinner with their families who had gathered on Armaan's insistence.

Riddhima was shocked to read the contents of a file Armaan had kept on her desk.
"Armaan yeh.. Main kaise.. Kyun.." She looked up at him not knowing what to say or make of it all.

"Do you remember I promised you that we would work together on our dream project?" He asked making her stand on her feet. He continued as she nodded.

"So this is it. I've got the land and all paper work done. We can start our project whenever we want. Yeh power of attorney tumhare naam is liye kyunki everything that belongs to me is yours, because you're mine. I don't want you to suffer at all if something happens to me."

"Never say that again. I won't be able to live without you." Riddhima placed her palm over his mouth.

The families gushed over the new born baby. Muskaan had delivered a beautiful little girl, her exact copy except for the green color of her eyes, inherited from Rahul. Prem and Riddhima were the most enthusiastic, ready with their cameras to click each of her movement. Riddhima kissed her niece goodnight as she placed her in the crib next to her parents' bed.

Armaan noticed a painful expression cloud over Riddhima's features as she got ready for bed. She leaned back into him as he stood behind and combed her hair. Riddhima kept her eyes down not wanting to worry him with her back pain.

"Bohat dard ho raha haina? You shouldn't have stressed yourself like that behind Muskaan. I've got the doctor's appointment for tomorrow morning. Aao abhi ointment laga deta hoon, thora araam hoga." She kissed his cheek as he turned her over to massage her back.

Armaan carried Riddhima upstairs to their bedroom after their session with the doctor. He kicked the door shut and slowly lowered her on the bed. Riddhima bit back a smile seeing him fuss over her like a small baby.

"Wait. I'll carry you there." He bent to take her to the washroom.

Armaan got in bed and held her delicately as if she was a glass doll after helping her with the lunch and medicines. They lay silently for a while holding each other close.

"Thank you Riddhima for this beautiful gift. I have no words to describe my emotions. You've given me the biggest joy; you've completed me and our family." Armaan said peppering her abdomen with wet kisses.

"Thank you Armaan, for showering me with your love. You complete me; I'd be nothing without you. I know how you feel because I feel just the same. I love you Armaan, so much." Riddhima raised her head and kissed his lips softly.

"I love you Jaan, infinitely." Armaan enveloped her in his arms. Riddhima sighed happily as their hearts pounded in sync while they laid back weaving dreams of a beautiful tomorrow with their baby.

 The End

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