Friday, 25 September 2020

Part 10 : In My Heart

The entire suite echoed with laughter as Anjali di looked on with a confused look at Atul after opening the gift he gave her. It was a small pot of Aloe Vera. "Tumhein acha laga na Anjali mera gift. Mujhe pata tha tumhein yeh surprise bohat pasand aaye ga." Atul said with a cute expression. "Atul tum ne di ko ye kyun diya?" Muski spoke between her unique laughter while I held her so that she doesn't bend over much and stress her wound. "Wo main chahta hoon ke Anjali hamesha khoobsurat dikhe isi liye maine yeh plant diya.".) "Now really, how's that possible?" asked an amused Abhi. "Anjali dekho yeh Sheela hai, mera favorite plant. She will keep your skin fresh, prevent pimples, heal any wound, it's multipurpose and environment friendly you see. Tum janti ho na main rose pluck nahi kar sakta plus it will not be beneficial like my Sheela." "Atul you are impossible!" Anjie di huffed. We all rolled in laughter hearing the cute explanations from Atul. This was the only time when I smiled and laughed whole heartedly. Everyone here tried their best to keep me happy. I've known these people for so less time yet the bond we all share is so strong. I've come to love all of them so much.



It's been a week since i was discharged from the hospital. The entire last week was emotionally draining. I was shocked on finding myself between my family when i gained consciousness. I asked how i came here but nobody answered confusing me more. Muski had engulfed me in a hug and sobbed "I'm sorry Rhea; you had to suffer due to me. I'm really sorry." "Muski are you mad? Who said you are responsible for this? I'm perfectly fine, just little cold because i stayed out in rain. But how did i get here?" i asked. "Don't lie, Armaan bhai told us that he hit and asked you to leave. He found you at the beach and hospitalized you yesterday." to say i was shocked would be an understatement because I was baffled as to why he informed everyone about the incident and brought me back when he had told me to leave. A glance at Prem told me the entire story. I closed my eyes hoping Prem hadn't beaten Armaan blue black. Prem stayed by my side in the hospital and if he needed to go somewhere Rahul bhai was his substitute. I was being looked after like a small child who needed supervision 24/7. Muski created a scene when the doctor advised her not to move much when after every few hours she would come to see me on the wheel chair forgetting about her fresh wound. I knew this stubborn girl and so suggested to get her shifted to my room so that we would be in peace because right now everyone kept moving in and out of rooms of see both of us. Meanwhile Prem had gone to talk to the doctor; a young intern came to check me. "How are you ma'am?" she asked politely. "Better now, thank you." "Your husband isn't around, is he out of town?" she asked checking my pulse. "My husband? Sorry I think you're mistaking me for someone else?" I was confused and this was the only thing that came to my mind. "No, of course not. I know you're Mrs. Mallik. I was here when your husband brought you in, he looked shattered." her words made me gasp and my heart beats rose. "I had come to keep your medicines at the stand after your treatment but didn't enter the room when i saw Mr. Mallik holding you to himself. He really loves you a lot because i haven't seen men literally cry for their wives, you're lucky." the intern finished her round and left smiling at me, leaving me in a mess of thoughts. Why did Armaan bring me? Why was he crying? Did he get to know i was innocent? Why didn't he come to see me then? I kept thinking and trying to make sense of it all.

The next day Anurag Dad and Maa had come to see me and i could see how hurt Dad was, he wouldn't look at me directly. "I'm sorry; I caused you all a lot of trouble." I said feeling guilty. "Yes that you should be, do you know how scared we were when you didn't return?" Maa said sitting by my side and gestured towards dad. "Dad." i called him and patted my side for him to sit. "Please dad don't be upset, I'm fine. You don't have to be embarrassed for anything, it wasn't your fault. Actually dad it wasn't Mr. Mallik's fault either, he just reacted to the situation. Please dad, forgive him." i held his hand and dad gave me a stern look. "Please dad he loves you all a lot, he just did what any other person in his place would at such time. If you love me then please forgive him. If you don't forgive him then I'll be guilty of spoiling your family ties." Dad shook his head and hugged me tight.

Muski and I were discharged together the next day and house arrested for four days under the supervision of Dr. Anjali and Dr. Modi. I seriously feel it's a disadvantage to have doctors as your friends because you can't even skip a single dose of medicine. The gang did their best to not let us step on the floor and fulfill all our needs. Prem had wanted to take me back straight away. I knew Muski wasn't stopping me now because she felt bad about her brother's behavior, but she had been extremely excited about her wedding shopping with me earlier and I couldn't let her down because of someone for whom I didn't exist. I had understood that Armaan didn't visit me once because he hated me. Today was the first day we went out and believe me it felt so relaxing to be out in the open. The weather was so beautiful with continuous drizzling throughout the day. At first I wasn't willing to go but then I had to because I can't hurt people who're trying their best to keep me occupied with work so that i don't think much.

Armaan's pov:

It had been a week since Maa, dad and Muski shifted to UK. I had to stay back due to official matters that had to be attended. We had decided to continue our companies in India, because closing them down would mean creating unemployment for hundreds of workers, and after all these years of their loyal & dedicated efforts for our firms seemed so unjust. I was appointing our managers some additional tasks that they had to do in my absence though I'll be virtually linked and pay visits regularly but still, i did not want any bad impact on my family business.

Last night i had a chat with everybody on Skype, Kashish aunty had arranged dinner for my family. Rahul told me that they've decided that both families will daily have dinner together turn by turn at each house. I really liked his idea and gave him thumbs up for it. My eyes kept darting over the screen from one end to the other in hope of catching a glimpse of Riddhima or at least her voice, but none happened. It seemed as if she wasn't around at all and nobody inquired about her absence through the entire chat, maybe she was out for work. I feel as if a huge load of guilt is placed on me since the day I hit her. I couldn't meet her after she gained conscious, one because I wasn't prepared for facing her, second I knew Prem would create a scene if I went near Riddhima, even if it meant for apologizing and I didn't want to add to her misery. Muski told me that Riddhima had requested Dad to forgive me and that's why everyone was trying to be normal with me. I had apologized to Riddhima's family once again. I really couldn't help but think how can she be so selfless at this moment too? Muski had gone to stay with her at the hotel and they did all their wedding shopping together along with the gang. I couldn't see her before her return as she had maintained the distance between us very well.

I drove like a mad man to the Black Marble club after i received Arjun's call saying he found the anonymous caller. The club was dark, with only disco lights on, the air smelled of alcohol, rang with loud thumping music and people sticking to each other on the dance floor, i felt suffocated but i had to go in to know the truth. The whole way i had only prayed for those evidences to be fake; though it meant I would be proved guilty. I would readily accept my faults but I could no longer tolerate this distance and hatred for me in Riddhima's eyes. I narrowed my eyes to spot Arjun and found him busy in a conversation with someone. He approached me as soon as he saw me and directed us to the table where he was sitting earlier. He introduced me to that guy with some unknown name and winked at me thankfully before I protested. I noticed that guy, Hitesh, was high and babbling continuously. I couldn't understand a word of what he said and honestly i wasn't interested until he said "Riddhima". My head shot up to look at him; I strained my listening capabilities to the max to grasp his words.

"Riddhima, haan that girl.. was Riddhima. I was t..old to kee..p an eye on.. her ea..ch move. She was yo..ung, innocent and extre..mely be..beautiful." I fisted my hand to punch him when Arjun held my hands under the table n glared at me and asked Hitesh casually: " Who told you to follow that girl and why?" "My..my boss Rakesh ord..ered me to do so be..cau..se of some pers..onal past is..sues." Arjun continued: "acha your boss is related to that girl?" "No, no.. My boss is con..cerned only with th..at business tyc..oon, I a..m forge..tting his name n..now." my patience was crossing its limits, though i knew nothing of the facts yet. "Oh it's okay, you continue about how you reached to this state." Arjun encouraged him to continue. "phir i foll..owed her. She used to go out for walks ..on beach and sit at one spot only star..ing at the fa..ar end. Her frie..nd used to vi..sit her daily at ni..ght and leave in early morning. I had followed him fir..st but.. then boss directed me to st..ay near the girl. There was no..nothing suspicious going on, from what i obs..erved they were both in love with each other. That morning the driver coll..ected the file from her and ga..ve it to me. I gave him mon..money for sharing the file with me. I took the quotes and for..war..ded it my boss. (.)

I followed the girl to a hospital and th..en the hotel. S..she met her friend there. I had vid..eo recorded the entire conve..rsation and sent to boss. Lat..er at evening i was told to deliver the parcel at th..the Malliks office, oh yes Armaan Mallik, the young..est business aw..ard ach..achiever. I really doubt his capib..ilities though." I was not in a state to question anything but was relieved to have Arjun besides me. I knew he'll get out from this man all that's necessary. "Why do you say so Hitesh? Armaan is a recognized, accomplished business man, have you ever met him?" "No.. i haven't h..had a direct interaction with.. him bu..t i told you na that i foll..owed him for few days so i saw hi..m then." I realized it then the reason Arjun didn't say my real name and luckily this guy couldn't see me clearly due to dim lights.

"And i doubt him because any..body seeing those pic..tures and cd would ques..tion their credibli..ty. But he beli..eved them and my call too. He didn't ev..en question who i was or h..how i knew about him. I was strictly ord..ered to not open the parcel but curi..osity to see what boss was playing at took over me. I was shocked to see the c..contents and knew they were fake. I didn't like this at all. I tried to run away from this job but my family concerns got me trapped. Boss made my mother under..go a cancer surgery that same day an..d i was to pay it off by working un..der him and if i d..didn't he threat..ened to discontin..ue my mother's treatment. I was left with no option. I don't know what happened af..ter that with them." "That's really sad. So do you have that recording with you? I just want to see it, you know get to know about the business tycoon, it's not every day you get to know about his personal life now, do you?" Arjun spoke with fake amusement. "Just your lu..ck Arjun, I was supposed to cha..nge this mobile last week but n..ew job's office work didn't al..low. Wait, i ha..ave it still, I'll show you." with that he fished out mobile from his back pocket and put it on the table in front of us. I was speechless seeing it, such a big thing escaped from my knowledge at that time. How did i forget that Riddhima had come from abroad and those pictures were of local places? Hearing her entire conversation now made sense to it all. The one I was sent had no voice or face of the guy but this one had his voice and it took me a moment to realize it was Prem. Her voice was so full of life while she told Prem about her stay and specially her "someone special". She had denied celebrating with him for me and what did i give in return? I wished for the earth to swallow me right now.

"Hmm this is all so clear that Armaan was trapped, but do you know why? I mean why would your boss want to ruin his life?" Arjun continued with his interrogation. "No, i don't. He d..idn't meet me much, just con..veyed his orders and i followed. I also won..der about the reason at times why boss is so de..sperate to separate two lovers? I me..an even after years he's behind Armaan. He to..ld me to inform Arm..aan about his sister's ac..cident. I refused and he sent me a term..ination letter along with a she..et of hospital charges. I was bew..ildered and had to complete his order unwillingly. Th..at day i decided i could do it no lon..ger. Riddh..ima was an innocent who was be..ing portrayed as a culprit. I don't k..now her but from what i've se..en of her, she's very nic..ee." i couldn't take it any longer and just left abruptly from there.

I entered the mansion boiling with rage and detestation towards my own being. I didn't know what to do? So many questions, so many doubts, so many thoughts ran an overdrive in my head. I just wanted to put an end to it all, to end my own self and just in a matter of minutes i had destroyed the entire living room, throwing and breaking things but the enraging storm within me didn't lessen a bit. I screamed, screamed loudly, my voice echoing in the empty mansion. My entire being was crushed, I fell on my knees shouting in agony and crying in despair till darkness took over me.

Arjun helped me to my room the next day when he came home to discuss the matter with me. He was extremely mad at me: "tu samajhta kya hai apne ap ko? Pehle to apne gusse pe qabu nahin karta or sab kuch barbaad kar deta hai. Phir jab hosh ata hai to khud ko or cheezon ko nuqsaan pohanchata hai, aise karne se teri galtiyan kam nahin ho jati Armaan." "I.. I hit her." I said dejectedly looking at him. "Get up Armaan. Be a man, own your mistakes and rectify them. Firstly you have to track this Rakesh's plans so that he doesn't cause more trouble. Common." he pulled me up in a hug and then settled with the first aid box to dress my wounded hand. I shook my head and left to change for the day. I stepped into the hot shower to relax my tensed body. I stared at my wounded hand, something sharp must have cut my hand because it was deep but i felt no pain at all, nothing to be surprised, this physical pain was nothing in front of the torturing pain my soul was enduring now. I closed my eyes and Riddhima's face flashed in front of them. I saw her ever so radiant face and heard her soft voice calling my name. I couldn't control my emotions and cried for ruining her, cried for the loss of my love, cried over my fate and my lack of trust in my love.

Arjun forced me have something to eat before we set out for the day. I kept playing with the food because i had lost my appetite and my will to live completely. My heart leapt into my mouth thinking again and again about her words: "you killed me. I wanted to end this life."

"Armaan, I understand what you're going through at the moment. You're hurt because you've misjudged Riddhima and forced her to stay away from you when all you want is her. You should apologize to her Armaan without thinking of her response. She deserves it, after all that she's been through because of you, she never misbehaved. For now you have to be strong because we need to deal with matters that require you to think rationally and in this mode we'll be heading nowhere." he patted my back after speaking. "I know I'm wrong and i will amend my mistake. I will make sure to change the things back to normal again." I willed myself to be strong so that I could get to the root of this problem.

The night sky was dark and cloudy, without a speck of light, just like my life which was gloomy without a ray of hope. I was sitting on the terrace of our Leeds' Mansion and thinking about Riddhima's words. She had said that stars were like hope; we were to never lose hope even in the darkest of times. It was two days since I arrived here after finishing my tasks in India; I had met the Garewals except Riddhima. She didn't return till we were at her house for dinner nor did she accompany them to our place. My days and nights here are restless and dark. How am i supposed to be hopeful when my sunshine is away and upset with me?

Muskaan came up and settled besides me with her head on my shoulder on the swing. I smiled at her "What happened you are not sleeping?" "Bus baatien karne ka dil chah raha tha to ap ke paas aa gai. You know it's been time since we last had a heart to heart talk." she replied linking our arms. "Really, i thought you didn't need me any longer since you had your best friend forever to share your things with." i said teasingly. I know she's right it's been real long since we sat and discussed our lives and it's all my fault as I had shut myself from the world in my non sense. "Don't take her name; I don't want to talk about her." I quickly looked down at Muskaan and saw her frowning. "Aise kyun bol rahi ho tum, did something happen between the two of you?" "What will happen between us when she's not here?" I frowned hearing Muskaan's jumbled answers which weren't making any sense to me. "Kya bol rahi ho tum, mujhe kuch samajh nahi aa raha?" "Who will i talk or fight with when Rhea isn't here? She left for Australia before we shifted here." she said pouting. I felt my heart sink. "Why?" i only managed to whisper. "She wants to settle there. Such a liar, she thinks I don't know her. I know she's just running away from everyone." There was no punishment that i could give myself for ruining Riddhima's life. I know she went away because of me, as I had told her to stay away from my family. "She will not attend your wedding?" I don't want Riddhima to stay away from her brother's wedding due to me. "No, she'll come a week before the wedding and return after the reception. I've not told her but I'm not letting her go once she's here. Rhea and I always wanted to stay together and now that we can, I won't let her ruin it." I felt ashamed of myself; i was causing pain to my family and Riddhima. I need to do something to stop her from going back. I needed to talk to Prem and ask for his help.

"Hmm. Okay lets talk about you." I spoke trying to divert her mind. "What about me?" "You do know that I've always been over protective about you, right?" she nodded her head. "It was because I wanted you to be always safe and away from all pain and worries. I know I forced you to do things which you didn't like, but trust me Muski, it was all for your best. I hope you aren't upset with me for this." "Of course not bhaiyya, I know you love me a lot and do everything for my good. But I won't lie, I felt sad when you scolded me and forced your decisions on me." "I'm sorry Muski for being rude with you. I know I should explain you the reason for my decisions but your stubborn side made me lose it and I always screamed at you. You should learn to listen to others as well instead of babbling the whole time." Muski quickly sat straight with her mouth wide open "You mean to say I talk for no reason. How mean, go I won't talk to you now." she turned away from me crossing her arms over her chest. I smiled at her childishness. "Pata hai Muskaan main hamesha sochta tha tere liye aik aisa larka dhoondu ga jo tujhe bohat sambhal ke rakhe, teri izzat karey, tujhe pyaar karey or teri her khwahish poori karey. Jab mujhe Rahul ke baarey mein pata chala I was upset because I had lost my right of finding a guy for you and was apprehensive about your choice. Don't look at me like that. Tu chahe jitni bhi bari ho jaye, mere liye to meri choti jhalli Muskaan hi rahegi. But after meeting Rahul all my fears were washed away. I saw sincerity in his eyes. He respects and adores you, and does everything to keep you happy. I am proud of you for making the right choice; there could be no one better than Rahul for you. I hope both of you have a blissful life ahead." I kissed her forehead and hugged her. "I'm sorry bhaiyya, I never wanted to take your right away. I never knew when I fell in love with Rahul but I just hid it from everyone because I wanted to be sure of my feelings. Thank you for supporting me always. I love you bhaiyya." "I love you too."

Rahul and my parents had left for India to bring Dadi, Bi and get the dresses that the girls had ordered for the functions. Rahul had accompanied them. Riddhima wasn't back yet and Prem and I were at cold war level still. I wanted to meet Prem and confess everything because he was the only one who could help me in apologizing and getting rid of this guilt. I know my apology meant nothing in front of the pain i had given to Riddhima but still i wanted her to know. Life had played a dirty game with me where i had to choose between my love and my responsibility. The choice was obvious, I wanted my love in my life but that wasn't possible now as I was already committed and I couldn't break Naina's heart for my own happiness. I know this is just because i don't deserve to be with Riddhima after all I made her go through but now that we're a family and interactions will be plenty we need to at least be on talking terms with each other.

The receptionist greeted me with a smile at the Garewal Companies and led me to the conference room. I stood facing the window pondering on how to initiate the conversation. I was here to meet Prem, explain my side of the story and ask his help. I turned around on hearing the door open and brought my hand forward for a shake but Prem stood with hands in his pocket "How can I help you Mr. Mallik?" Prem's cold voice told me this wasn't going to be an easy task. "I want to talk about what had happened between Riddhima and me three years back." i knew there was no point beating around the bush. "I don't want to talk to you at all especially not about Rhea. So please excuse me." he turned around to leave but i stopped him. "I know you aren't interested but please. I know you're the only one who knows about us and so i want you to know my side of the story too." "Why?" "I want to apologize to Riddhima for my harsh behavior as I've realized my mistake and only you can help me with this." "I'm sorry I can't help you." "Please Prem I know you are mad at me and it's justified but i really need to apologize as I can't live with this guilt anymore." I spoke earnestly. A strange feeling was building up in me and making it difficult for me to live. Prem kept looking at me for a while with a blank face and then nodded. He settled on a chair while I took the one opposite and began "We met at Shanti Nagar when she visited dadi. I've been going to that place for many years. We became friends very quickly. Her bubbly and innocent nature attracted me a lot. It was winter break and so I visited the orphanage more frequently to spend time with kids. We celebrated Christmas and New Year together. Riddhima had done so many preparations for making the occasion special for kids. I really appreciated her efforts. We had come closer during this time; I had found a great friend in her on whom I could depend. We used to talk freely about anything and everything. During my business trip abroad i had realized that.. I.. I love Riddhima." I could see Prem was shocked hearing this. "After i returned, Riddhima met with an accident and at that time I had felt my world slipping from my hands when i saw her covered in blood. I had started visiting her more frequently because I just couldn't stay away from her for long. But believe me I never crossed my limits. Both of us worked together for our presentations that were on the same day. Dadi had gone with kids and so i stayed back with Ba..Riddhima. The next day I had planned to propose her after our meetings but everything turned upside down when I received a parcel." I kept the cd in front of him. "There were some pictures of Riddhima with a guy and this cd." Prem was shocked seeing the edited clips and I knew he understood what message was given through this cd. "I was so broken seeing this and wondered why Riddhima never told me about this guy. I decided to end my relation with her as i thought she cheated me. I called her at the beach and told that I didn't want to have any relation with her and left without telling the reason. I was broken and lost without her as all my dreams were shattered. I got engaged to Naina on Maa's insistence. I had told Naina that I loved somebody and i needed time to adjust in this relationship but that day never came. I could not forget Ba..Riddhima at all. Then I met her now and you know what happened this time." "I don't believe this! I just can't. You confess of loving Rhea, unbelievable. Do you even know what love means Mr. Mallik? Did you even think about Riddhima for once before announcing your decision? This cd made you so blind that your love and trust became so weak. Do you even know who this guy is?" Prem stood up in fury. "I know it's you Prem, I got to know recently, this is the cd that was sent to me and I've got hold of whole recording as well and that's how I got to know the truth." I stood looking down guiltily. "Do you know what happened to Rhea after you left her? Do you know she never spoke a word against you all these years nor did she ever tell me what happened with her? I got to know about you because she kept taking your name in unconscious state." It was my turn to be shocked and I whispered "Unconscious?" "Yes. She had stayed at the beach the entire night. I had found her in unconscious state the next morning amidst a group of people who were trying to revive her after they pulled her out of water. She didn't respond to any treatment at the hospital and had slipped into coma due to lack of oxygen for a long period." I slumped in to the chair not being able to take the truth in. I couldn't believe my ears. "We were so tensed about her. She came back after 5 days and the first and only thing she whispered was Armaan." I gulped the knot forming in my throat and shut my eyes. "I had taken your number from orphanage and called you but you didn't even give me a chance to speak. Rhea didn't speak a word after regaining full conscious. We flew her back after a month but there was no improvement. We had lost our Rhea. She started with her studies after another month and that's when Muski came in her life. It was due to her presence that Rhea smiled at times otherwise she had shut herself from the world. She had requested me to tell everyone this was an accident and made me promise to never ask about you." I requested Prem to stop but he said "Does it hurt Mr. Mallik? I'm sure it'll make no difference to a man like you but you need to know what you did to my Rhea. We lost her thrice because of you." he screamed. "She attempted suicide by cutting her wrist during the winter break. It was a miracle that Muski rushed her to hospital on time otherwise we would have lost her forever. I've loved Muski from the start like my sister because she was always there to support us without a question. Huh, how ironical is it that whenever you hurt Rhea, your sister was the one to help her recover. You two are poles apart, i wonder whether you really are siblings or not?" There Prem threw it back at me. My words to Riddhima were thrown back at me. I had lost the capability to speak anything now; my head was buzzing and echoing with Prem's words. "That day you didn't let her speak because she was wrong in your opinion and now that you've realized you want to apologize. For how many things will you apologize and you think your apology will be enough for all the agony you've cause her and her family? Go back Mr. Mallik. We don't need you or your sympathy. Do not go near my Rhea otherwise I will not spare you. You've already made her leave this place and her family but not anymore. I was quiet because I didn't know the whole story but now I'll make sure you stay away from her. Understand." Prem spoke pointing a finger at me, I knew he was right, I deserved this. I got up and left the building stumbling on my way to the car.

I locked my portion as soon as i reached the mansion and moved to the gym where my punching bag was hanging. I needed to let out all my frustration and this was the only way. I picked up my gloves and started punching. "Riddhima suffered so much due to me and still kept silent. I forced her to end her life. I thought i was the only one suffering but it was her who suffered truly. I broke her beyond repair. I deserve to die, die in pain and agony for hurting an innocent angel. I claim to love her, is this what love teaches us to destroy and dessert our lover. I always forced my decisions on her. I should die, please God take me." i kept punching for don't know how long. I had lost track of everything around me. All I knew was I hurt Riddhima when I was supposed to protect and love her. I saw blood trickling from my gloves down my elbow to the floor but i couldn't care less. I wanted to punish myself for my sins and no physical pain was greater than the excruciating pain in my heart.

I heard loud knocking sounds somewhere in the distance but they were loud enough to hurt my already pounding head. I tried to see around through my half open eyes, sun rays spread their light and warmth on the floor where I was lying. I got up and dragged myself to open the door. A scared Muski was standing there with tears running down her cheeks. I felt bad for troubling her like this. As I raised my hand to wipe her tears she gasped and I glanced at my hands and saw blood on them. "Woh punching karne mein thori chot lag gayi. I'll just change and come, ok." she just kept looking at me. "I'm ok Muski, don't worry."

A week had passed since Armaan got to know the truth from Prem and since then he mostly remained away from home. He knew Prem was there for Muskaan. Armaan stayed in office for long hours just sitting and staring in space. He indulged himself in activities that gave physical pain to escape the reality which was impossible.

Riddhima's pov:

I boarded the flight to back home and settled in my window seat closing my eyes. I was supposed to go after a few days but there was a strange feeling that forced me to go early. I wasn't really sure if my decision was right but I couldn't ignore the sinking feeling. I just hope Armaan isn't mad at me again for coming back. The flight had passed in thinking about the past and what fate held for me in future, I couldn't sleep a blink, thanks to my sleeping disorder. I had come home to a silent and dark Mansion, I knew mama and papa weren't home but where did Prem go? I got to know he was staying with Muski at her home from the servants. Now that was strange, Prem staying there, I mean as far as I knew Prem couldn't stand the sight of Armaan and now staying with him didn't make any sense to me. What was i supposed to do now, I couldn't go there because of Armaan and both Prem and Muski weren't picking their cells. Something was wrong and I needed to know what it was.

Muskaan and I planned to go out for lunch and so we stopped at Garewal office to pick Prem. Muski excused her for toilet and I moved towards Prem's cabin. I stopped at the entrance as I heard Armaan speaking "Prem I don't think this deal would generate so much money as this company claims it would. Have you read the clauses well? I think we should sit and reconsider this." Armaan stood up seeing me on the door and we were lost in each other's eyes. I didn't notice when Armaan came so close to me until I felt his fingers trace the mark on my forehead. I quickly stepped back glaring at him. "I'm sorry Riddhima. I apologize for my inhuman behavior with you at the hospital and I'm sorry for that day at the beach. Please forgive me." I looked at him incredulously. What did he think of himself, that he would hurt me whenever he wanted and expect me to forgive him when he wished? "Please believe me; I'm extremely sorry for all that I did." I averted my gaze from him as his eyes were drawing me in them as always. I could feel sincerity in his apology but I was a human too, I just couldn't forget everything like nothing happened. Besides this distance was required to keep us away as we couldn't have any relation between us now, not even friendship because I was fed up of being the victim of his hatred and rage. I thanked Muskaan in my head for coming back at the right time. We left with Prem for lunch after Armaan went back to his cabin. All my excitement for our day out went down the drain as my heart sank seeing Armaan's lost expressions. I knew he was hurt as I didn't respond to him but this was necessary to avoid any more heart ache for me. I couldn't handle my emotions around him and I had to keep myself in check as now Armaan was committed to someone else.

Prem returned home earlier than he usually did and told me a surprise was on its way for me. I kept asking him for hints but he kept repeating like a stubborn person to have patience. We sat waiting for my surprise at the terrace. I sprinted down the stairs as soon as the SUV's door opened and ran into Abhi's arms. I squealed as he lifted me off the ground and twirled around. The gang had arrived for the wedding and I couldn't be gladder on having them here. We all joined together in a group hug smiling. Armaan stood at a little distance besides his range rover with a small smile on his lips. I noticed everyone's expressions harden a bit on noticing him and they all moved in without a word to him. I followed them cursing my heart for melting just at his sight. "I'm sorry guys. I know I've been a jerk all these years and hurt all those whom I love a lot." my heart picked a rapid pace hearing this from Armaan but then i controlled it saying it wasn't meant for me and continued to stir the coffee. "Please forgive me all of you. Don't do this to me. I've missed you all a lot already. I didn't keep in touch but believe me I never forgot any of you. Please." I couldn't handle this for long and so excused myself before I broke down here. A while later I was astonished to see stacks of pizza on the coffee table with soft drinks, a tub of popcorn and a jar of chocolate cookies. "What's happening guys?" i asked looking around. "We're having a movie night and stay over." Prem said. We had a huge argument at which movie to watch and finally settled for a chick flick due to Muski and Nikki's drama. I made a face as Anjie di passed the box of pizza to me. I didn't like pepperoni filling at all but couldn't help much now. As soon as I brought a piece to my mouth a hand gripped my wrist. Armaan took the piece from my hand and kept it back as I looked at him confused. He opened another box and I quickly looked at him, I couldn't believe he remembered my choice. The movie had started and everyone's attention was fixed at the screen. He brought a slice of hot and spicy pizza near my mouth without breaking the eye lock and gestured me to take a bite. I took the piece from him looking away, as I couldn't ignore his captivating eyes but I didn't want him to get any wrong signals from me. He put the entire box in my lap and settled next to Prem on the floor rug.

It was decided that the girls would stay at Mallik Mansion because Muski couldn't stay at our house before the wedding now and the boys would stay at my house. I didn't want to go there because of Armaan but I wasn't left with much of an option. I was given a room on the upper portion that was Armaan's as I didn't like much commotion. We all spent the day together and later retired for the nights respectively. This was extremely difficult for me as I had to spend time in Armaan's company in which mostly his gaze was stuck on me, making me uncomfortable.

Armaan's pov:

All of us were gathered in the living hall of Mallik mansion, sitting on fluffy floor cushions and bean bags, extremely bored, thinking what to do when Anjali came with an idea. "Hey Armaan, we haven't heard you sing in ages, common now sing for us." and that started the chants of please sing. Muski ran up to my room and brought my guitar without me agreeing. I was in no mood to sing, i know this was my hobby but right now my only focus was a person who's main aim was to run away from me and then it hit me, i could express my feelings using singing as a medium and so i started strumming the chords of a song that currently described my feelings the best.

I started singing looking into her deep forest green eyes:

"Bhulaaun Kaise, Woh pal jo mere bin hai tu beeta chuka…
Lautaun Kaise… Jo aansun meri yaad mein baha chuka…

Mar me jaaun… Fanna ho jaaun.. Kahin main jaake doob jaun
Nazar milaun… To ye chahun… Ke teri aankon se…

Pi jaaun… ye gham.. Pi jaaun.. ye num

Bujhaun kaise… Ye aag tere dil me jo laga chuka…
Sunaun kaise… Wo siskiyaan jo dil me hoon daba chuka..

Mar me jaaun… Fanna ho jaaun.. Kahin main jaake doob jaaun
Nazar milaun… To ye chahun… Ke teri aankon se...

Pi jaaun… ye gham…"

The lights were dimmed and i was grateful that Riddhima sat away from everyone's sight, because i didn't want anyone to see her so vulnerable. She gulped hard and bit her lip, but couldn't tear her gaze from mine. I knew she was controlling her emotions, I wanted her to let it all out, and i had promised myself that i would break this wall that she has built around her but not over here.

Naina paid a surprise visit at noon. She was really tensed and worn out, i could make that much out from her appearance, and she sat with everyone and spoke for a while before I took her to my room. Naina kept pacing from one end to the other, occasionally opening her mouth to say something but then closed it. I was getting anxious as to what could possibly be the reason for her behavior. At last when i could take it no more, i held her shoulders and asked her: "Naina what is it, you are scaring me now. You know na, we are friends first and there's nothing you cannot share with me?" She nodded and i continued. "So please tell me. Remember we decided to be honest with each other at every step of our relation?"

"Armaan, i just don't know how to say it. I feel really ashamed of myself. You have always been by my side but i fear I'll lose you now. You do know that we've taken a step ahead in our relation for our parents, and are taking time to get close and develop other feelings, right." It was my turn to nod but i couldn't understand why she was repeating this. "Armaan, you are very close to me, i don't want to lose you but there's another truth that i can't deny anymore. Armaan i.. I.." "You love somebody." i stated. I shook her gently to bring her to reality as she gaped at me mouth open. "How did you know?" she whispered. "It's obvious Naina. I'm so happy for you." Shocked was an understatement for Naina's expressions "What are you saying Armaan? You are not mad at me?" "Do i look like? Of course silly I'm not. I didn't know you were so scared for no reason at all." As i said this Naina started crying and now i got scared what happened suddenly. "You know I thought I'll lose you n our friendship if i tell you this. Trust me Armaan; i never hid anything from you. I realized my love for him recently and you are the first one whom I'm telling about it. I'm ready to marry you even now but it's just i didn't want to hide this from you." i smiled hearing her. "Naina remember what i told you before we got engaged? I told you everything honestly about my feelings because I didn't want to force you into anything and spoil our friendship due to any reason. I know i haven't been really nice with you like fianc are supposed to be and I'm sorry for it." i said guiltily. "Please don't say that Armaan, you've always been my support. Armaan you really aren't upset with me?" "No Naina, I'm not upset at all. Indeed I'm glad you found somebody who'll love and cherish you." "Thank you so much. You don't know how relieved i am now. But what will we tell our parents, they'll not agree with us." "Uh, Naina. There's something i need to tell you about.."

"About what Armaan?"

"Your Rakesh uncle." i told Naina the entire thing and that i still needed to know the reason for all this game. She agreed with me to keep this engagement drama on till Muskaan's wedding. She hugged me crying and thanking. I parted from her, slipped the engagement ring off of her finger and kissed her forehead. "Naina you and Pooja aunty are family to me and i want the best for you both." "I wish you find your love back Armaan, i feel so sad for that girl." "I have found her Naina, but i have to bring her back in my life and i'll do anything for that." "Really, i am so happy Armaan, finally we'll be able to settle down happily. I love you Armaan." i smiled at her and thanked God for paving a way for me that lead me to where i belonged, that is with Riddhima.

The lunch was a noisy affair; of course it had to be when all the chatter boxes were together at a table and speaking at the same time. The lunch was delicious; it had to be because my Riddhima made it. I could see how much Riddhima was trying to act normal but i could see right through her, i wonder how stupid i had been back then to have made the gravest mistake of my life of misjudging her.

The girls were clearing the table and cleaning the dishes. Riddhima and Naina were putting the dried cutlery back in the cabinet, when i entered the kitchen desperate to have Riddhima's hand made dessert. Spoons fell down from Riddhima's hand and Naina bent to pick them. Riddhima stared at something on Naina's neck with wide eyes, gasped and turned away. I went to see what it was and cursed under my breath, it was a love bite. Riddhima had fled from the kitchen and i knew what she was thinking. I sighed and knew it was time for faceoff between us; i only needed Prem's help now to execute my plan.

The next day everyone had some plans, of course except for Riddhima. I wanted to talk to her but she stayed locked in her room the entire day, so i messaged her:

"Riddhima i need to talk to you, meet me in our portion's study after everyone leaves. I am not asking you so, NO is NOT an option! Be there on time otherwise I'm coming to get you."

Everyone had left by 7 pm and an hour had passed since then but Riddhima had not come yet. I was working on my laptop, glancing at the door, which was ajar, after every two minutes. I raised my head to see her standing at the door on her soft knock and said come. She came and settled in the chair opposite mine on the office table. We kept silent for a few minutes, she was digging a hole in the ground with her constant stare and i was staring at her. I couldn't help but smile seeing her look so pretty in that lime green top and black pants, with her hair tied in a high ponytail.

"What did you want to talk about Mr. Mallik?" her voice broke my trance and i got nervous. "Actually Riddhima, main kehna chahta tha ke main tumse baat karna chahta hoon." i mentally groaned after saying this stupid line, and she was looking at me blankly. "No, I mean to say i want to discuss about whatever happened in the past between us. I want to.." she stood up before i could complete my line and spoke: "I do not wish to discuss anything, so good bye." Riddhima turned to go but i went and stood in her way. I knew she didn't intend to discuss this but i was also positive about clearing all misunderstandings tonight. I pulled her hand and dragged to the coffee table and handed her envelop having the fake pictures. She looked at them once and said she'd seen them. I was shocked, how did she see them? "Where did you see them?" "They are my pictures so am I not supposed to know about them." she spoke with a raised eyebrow. She was taunting me and i knew i had to keep my calm to get through all this mess. I kept silent and played a video on my laptop, she looked at it with a confused expression, and i knew it then that she didn't know a bit about what this was about. "I lost that Switzerland project." she looked up at once as i said this. "You know who got the deal, this guy with you, Mr. Matthew." her eyes widened like she was beginning to get something. "I went back to office to prepare your surprise for the evening when i recieved a parcel with all these things. That time it made no sense to me at all, I couldn't understand anything but was shattered hearing you confess to this guy, who i didn't know back then that it was Prem. I got to know about it recently. Then i received a call which warned me to stay away from you. i stayed back in the office just wondering about what this all was about and then finally decided to finish everything, because i felt you cheated me, so i called you to the beach." her blank expressions were frightening me, why wasn't she reacting. I stepped ahead only to have her flinch back closing her eyes. I stood rooted seeing her reaction; i couldn't believe she thought i was going to hit her. Oh God, what have i done to her, she's scared of me. I felt like killing myself at the moment. I regained my composure and said: "Why aren't you saying anything Riddhima? Please say something."

"Did you let me speak on the beach, no? Did you let me speak at the hospital? No. So why do you want me to speak today? You didn't let me speak before, when i wanted to tell you i was innocent, because i was a culprit in your eyes and now that you discovered the truth, you want me to speak but i don't want to say a word. Keep all this to yourself, i don't need your apology or sympathy." she said coldly. I blocked her way again and she simply stated: "please Mr. Mallik go away. I know you wouldn't like to be found anywhere near a filthy, disgusting sl**."  "Riddhima! How dare you say that?" i roared, how could she even say that. The next moment she gripped my collar with both her hands, her voice increasing with every sentence she spoke, "Weren't you the one to show me my real face that day? Didn't you tell me how low and cheap i was Mr. Mallik? Didn't you tell me how evil i was? Weren't you the one who felt unfortunate to have met me? Didn't you tell how bad an omen i was for your sister and family? Didn't you accuse me of attempting to kill your sister? Didn't you slap me? Didn't you ask me to never show my face again? I had gone away, then why this pity? Why did you take me hospital? Why didn't you let me die? Why don't you all just let me.." I quickly put my palm over her mouth shaking my head. I felt disgusted with my existence this moment. I was a monster who had ruined an innocent soul. I fell on my knees, wrapped my arms around her waist and begged her "I know whatever I've done is unforgivable, i won't force you to do anything. You should punish me for all the hurt and pain i gave you. Please punish me Riddhima, punish me to an extent that this guilt goes away. Please Riddhima let me die in peace." she fell on the floor with a thud in front of me and kept staring at something in the background.

"That evening I was going to tell you that i wanted to stay back for you but you didn't give me a chance to speak." i quickly looked up from my lap to see her speaking with a lost expression. I waited for her to continue. "I kept waiting for you at the beach, that you'll come back and say it was all a prank. I stayed there the entire night, but you didn't even turn to look at me, you left me, you left me alone, you left me forever." she spoke hitting her fists on my chest. I closed my eyes tight to stop the tears; her condition was breaking me into shreds. "I was disgusted even at the sight of me in the mirror after that night. I wanted to finish myself but nobody let me die. They forced me to live." a sob escaped her lips; I wanted to stop her but knew that she needed to say it. "You didn't even try once to find out if i was dead or alive. You moved on with life. You forgot me. I couldn't let my past pass, it was my only possession. Your slap didn't hurt as much as your words. You didn't want to see me again, then why did you bring me back? Don't do this please; I will not be able to pull myself together again after you leave this time. Please don't come near me. Don't do this. Please.." i pulled her in to my chest and held her tight. She kept hitting my back sobbing loudly "Leave me. Let me go." she cried for as long as she could, when all her energy was drained, she wrapped her arms around me whispering repeatedly "you left me. You left me all alone. Why did you leave me? Why?" i felt her hands fall down and noticed she had fainted. I strode to her room with her in my arms and settled on the bed. My heart ripped and broke into millions of pieces seeing her break down. I was so helpless, couldn't do anything to lessen her agony or return her the lost time.

I tried to leave after a while but her grip around my waist was so tight and i didn't have the heart to wake her up, so i just kept caressing her face till sleep came over me.

The next morning i felt something shift uncomfortably over me so i held it tightly to stop its movement and that thing started hitting my chest. I slowly opened my eyelids still heavy with sleep to see what was happening but grew wide on seeing the situation. Riddhima was struggling on top of me with her one leg trapped beneath my leg and her hands trying to push her up. I quickly loosened my hold on her waist and she got up screaming: "How dare you touch me Mr. Mallik? What do you think of yourself? You'll have me whenever you want and then discard after using? This is not happening, so just quit and let me live in peace." i felt ashamed and upset when Riddhima said this about me, but only i was to be blamed for it. I told her that my engagement was broken but nobody would know about it until Muskaan's wedding. I left the room apologizing and assuring her that i wouldn't come near her again.

Today was the start of official celebration of Rahul and Muskaan's wedding with the Sangeet ceremony. It was being held in Garewal Mansion, which was glowing with lights, smelling of orchids, lilies and scented candles, flowing silk drapes and echoing with soft romantic songs. I had reached here to help out Prem with the final preps that were to be done before the guests arrived. I was extremely restless and worried due to Riddhima. It has been four days since we last spoke or saw each other. I didn't contact her as i didn't want her to feel any sort of pressure from my side in beginning any sort of relationship between us. The wedding chores had kept me down right busy but that didn't mean i forgot about her. I kept wishing n hoping to get any sort of signal from her side to let me know that we could start afresh but nothing of that sort happened. I knew it was not possible to forgive my mistakes and so i decided to maintain distance from her though it was impossible.

I was directing the caterers to serve warm snacks when her melodic laughter reached my ears, i sighed and closed my eyes to absorb as much of it as possible. There were so many things i loved so much and whose pleasure i was denied for the last three years and one of them was her laughter. I turned back to see her, she was laughing, laughing whole heartedly and just the sight of it was enough to warm my heart. She looked like a fragile doll in her lemon yellow floral flowing dress. So beautiful, I yearned to touch and hold her but i couldn't. The next moment our eyes met as she stepped on the stairs and rest went into oblivion. All i knew was her and her beautiful green eyes conveying the same yearning of being together but good things don't last long, do they now? Our moment was broken mercilessly by none other than Modi as he slapped my back hard. I glared at him while he just shrugged and went towards Riddhima. They both came down and moved out of the mansion.

The guests had started coming in but still Abhi wasn't back with Riddhima. I couldn't concentrate on anything and ended up calling Riddhima. "I knew you would call any moment to ask about her." Abhi received the call laughing, i rolled my eyes at his stupidity and said "where is she? Where have you taken her and why do you have her cell with you?" "Oh do one thing, ask her all the questions when she returns. For now I'm sorry we can't speak to you because we're busy." I stared at the mobile in my hands wanting to kill that Modi for cutting the call. Everyone's attention was fixed at the entrance, so i followed their gaze and saw a heartwarming sight. Dad was descending the stairs with Riddhima and Muskaan at each side with their arms linked to his, followed by Rahul escorting Maa and Kashish aunty. They moved towards the stage and helped the bride and groom settle. I couldn't help but smile sadly; i would have been a part of this sight if i wouldn't have committed that sin.

All the guests were admiring Muskaan and Riddhima. Muskaan and Rahul looked so beautifully perfect together, Muskaan in a sharara with shades of blue and Rahul in a royal blue sherwani with silver work on collar. I noticed Maa walk up the stage and put the black dot behind their ears and then moved to Riddhima who was busy correcting Nikki's duppatta. Riddhima was startled when Maa put a black dot on her "itni khoobsurat dikh rahi hai, kahin meri nazar hi na lag jaye." Maa kissed her cheek and she smiled back. Maa was right; Riddhima looked no less than a princess in her pink and black sharara.

The evening began with a performance by a famous desi band followed by various dance sequences. The gang had planned a special act in which they played pictures of Rahul and Muskaan from the time they began seeing each other till date. The best part was where Prem and Riddhima enacted their fights and conversations. Everybody laughed hard seeing Muskaan chase Riddhima down the stage who ran and hid behind Dad. There was no doubt that these two were bff, both were drama queens after all. Muskaan made a face at Riddhima and came towards me. I side hugged her smiling while she lead me to the centre of the dance floor and handed me my guitar making a puppy face. I rolled my eyes at her antics but gave in like always. Everyone cheered loudly as i began humming.

ohh O ohhh
Baby, Come, stand by my side
Come n be my guide in life
O i will be what you want me to be
I will give all my love in whole of my life
Soniyo O soniyo

I looked up to see Riddhima looking at me intently. Our eyes locked as i kept singing. All the couples joined the dance floor.
Tumhein Dekhta hoon to sochta hoon bas yehi
Tum jo mera saath do
Sare gum bhola ke
Jee lu muskuraake zindagi
Tu dede mera saath tham le haath
Chahe jo bhi ho baat
Tu bas de de mera saath.

I get this feeling now
I cannot wait no longer
I know your love will keep me happy
Will keep me stronger
I get this feeling now
I cannot live without uou
I know your love's the only one so true

i sang pleading her to give me a chance, give us a chance again through my eyes.
Rahoon mein tanha hoon saath le chal yoon                                                                                                 Sang tere safar poora karoon
Kya kahun aye zindagi
Tu hai meri saans,    Rehna tu paas har ghadi

Tu dede mera saath tham le haath
Chahe jo bhi ho baat
Tu bas de de mera saath
Tu bas De de mera saath

I was shocked when Riddhima moved towards me but let the guitar fall on the floor as she crushed herself in my arms. I closed my eyes as tears filled them hearing her sing.     Tujhko jo paaya to hai yeh lagta kyun
Baahon mein bas teri mehfooz hoon

Tujhko jo paaya to hai yeh lagta kyun
Baahon mein bas teri mehfooz hoon

My heart felt it would explode any moment with the tremendous relief and joy it got from having her back. I continued to sing and swayed on the music with her in my arms. I tightened my hold around her as i felt her shaking with silent sobs.

Tum bano saaya mera zindagi mein aao
Zindagi Bitaao bas yehi

Tu dede mera saath tham le haath
Chahe jo bhi ho baat
Tu bas de de mera saath
Tu bas de de mera saath

Baby, Come, stand by my side
Come n be my guide in life
O i'll be what you want me to be
I'll give all my love in whole of my life

Baby come n be my guide in life.

As soon as the song ended i lead her out of the Mansion to the back yard. We stood in silence staring into the depths of each other's eyes which played similar emotions of hurt, pain, yearning, guilt, relief and love. She lowered her eyes and mumbled: "I am sorry." i stared at her with wide eyes totally confused as to why on earth was she apologizing? She understood my confusion and said: "I'm sorry for being rude with you that day. I didn't intend to say all that. I just..it just..I don't know how it slipped out. I'm sorry. Please don't be upset with me." a lone tear rolled out from the corner of my eye. I couldn't believe this girl was for real. I had hurt her to no limits and here she was apologizing when she needed to be furious and punish me. I asked her dejectedly "How do you do this Riddhima? I left no stone unturned to hurt and humiliate you when you were innocent and you are apologizing to me for something that is absolutely justified, when you should be clearly mad at me and punish me."

"I don't want to dwell in the past anymore. It hurts too much to just think of it and I want to forget it all. You did hurt me but i also know it was all unintentional, you were forced to do so by the circumstances and so i forgive you." "Don't do this Riddhima, please punish me. I deserve to be punished in the most agonizing way. I never gave you a chance to say anything and you're being so selfless. I'll die out of guilt if you let this matter go so easily." i said with my head hung low with shame and guilt.

"Who said I won't punish you? Of course I will." I looked up at her. "Your punishment is that you'll return me my best friend, my Armaan and never take him away from me ever again. Will you do this for me?" I could see fear of losing again in her eyes as she whispered this. I held her hands in mine and blinked my eyes to assure her. She flung her arms around my neck and cried again. I held her close and let her cry her heart out. My heart clenched with immense pain hearing her sob like a baby clinging to me tightly in fear of losing me again. She might have forgiven me but i will never let myself forget this. I'll do everything in my ability to make her forget the past. It took her a long time to calm down and part from the hug. "Let's go back inside before somebody comes here searching us. I know I owe you an explanation and I will but please till the wedding is over we'll meet secretly. I don't want any more problems for you or Muski. Okay?" I smiled as she nodded her head and kissed her forehead after wiping her tears. I stayed back for some time to avoid any suspicion and most importantly to calm my madly racing heart and tears that were threatening to flow endlessly. "I have to be strong for her; i can't break like this, not now at least." I kept chanting this mentally.

The guests seemed to love the function and my family so much that they weren't leaving. I wanted to throw them all out, it might sound offending, but for God's sake it was nearly midnight and the function had started some 6 hours back. The best part was everyone was enjoying out there except for me, how could I when i was supposed to stay away from Riddhima and not even look at her? One second, where did she go? She's not here for a while, oh God is she crying again? I panicked realizing that Riddhima wasn't present here since a while. Before I could go in search of her a steaming mug of coffee came in front of me. I smiled widely seeing Riddhima and took the mug from her. "Please stop staring at the guests, they'll leave in a while, enjoy your coffee and relax." saying this she made her way to the stage and sat besides Muski. I sipped the coffee and relished it's taste while looking at her. My heart fluttered every time she spoke animatedly and smiled.

After the last guests left, Abhi and Atul went to leave maa, dad and the girls at my house, whereas i stayed back to help Prem. It took us a good two hours to wrap up. Everyone here had retired for the night so i sneaked to Riddhima's room knowing she must be awake.

"Hey." "Hi. You haven't left yet? It's already too late and i thought you were exhausted hours back. Do you need something?" Riddhima said standing at the entrance. "Can I come inside and answer?" i asked. "Oh, yeah sure." "Thanks. No i haven't left. You are right I am exhausted and even know it's late. I needed to see if you were okay. Hope this answers your queries." she smiled in response to my reply. "So why are you awake till now?" i asked her, though i knew the answer. "Uh.. I wasn't sleepy so thought of working out the details of my new project." "At this time? Are you crazy, you don't have work tomorrow, do it later. It was such a hectic day today, you need to rest. Come." i held her hand and lead her to the bed. I extended my hand to pick her ipad and she screamed "no, no, don't take it. I'll keep it back myself." "Hiding a secret haan? Ab to dekh kar hi wapis karoonga." i said with a teasing smile but her scared expressions confused me. What was she trying to hide? Well i just returned it back without any question. "Come lie down." i said patting on her pillow. "I'll sleep, you go and rest." she said with a cute face near the bedside. "Oh, so you want me to leave? It's okay, you can tell me directly. I'll leave now." "No, i didn't mean that." she climbed the bed on her knees and quickly grabbed my hand as i turned to get off the bed. "Riddhima I don't want to force you into anything, even if it is staying in my presence. Don't do anything to please me, okay?" she nodded. "I just want to stay here till you fall asleep and then I'll leave, I promise." I wanted to remove any fear or doubt from her mind. "You don't have to promise me, I trust you. I was just saying because I don't want you to ruin your sleep." i smiled at her. She was an Angel, MY Angel. "This is the least I can do for all those sleepless nights that you've had just because of me. I know I'm not of much help but I'll stay close till you sleep." i felt so pathetic and disgusted with myself. There was no limit to the damage i had done to her. "I can't sleep. I am.. I have.." she struggled but couldn't complete. "I know you have insomnia. I saw you taking pills at night when you were at our house and checked out the medicine when you went down. I'm sorry. I didn't intend on checking on your things without your permission but.." i could see she was shocked hearing me but smiled a small smile saying: "It's alright, I know why you did this." "I threw your pills away. You don't need to take them now. I caused the problem right; I'll only help in curing it. Don't worry, just relax." i spoke making her lie down comfortably and plopping on my elbow next to her. She looked so pretty in her baby blue satin night wear. I couldn't help but caress her cheeks. She closed her eyes leaning into my touch and i smiled at her response. "What are you thinking now? I just told you to relax and here you're lost in your thoughts." i said when i noticed that she was still up even after half an hour. "What happened? Are you feeling alright?" i asked quickly as i saw her moist eyes. "You'll not leave me this time na." i felt an intense sting in my chest hearing her. I cupped her face and spoke "this time I'll only leave you when I breathe my last.." Riddhima suddenly put her palm on my mouth. I smiled sadly at her and kissed her palm. I lied down and pulled her next to me, with her head on my chest. I wrapped my arms around her and she kept her hand on my stomach. "Close your eyes Riddhima, I'm here with you." We lay like that for don't know how long, lost in our thoughts. I could feel the wetness on my shirt and knew she was crying, i just rubbed her back and kissed her hair. Riddhima had slept crying, i waited for her go into deep sleep so that i could shift her position. Though i didn't feel like leaving her for a moment but i couldn't let anyone point a finger at her. I adjusted the pillow under her head and promised her sleeping form: "this will be the last night when you cried yourself to sleep. Today onwards there'll be only tears of joys in these mesmerizing eyes. I gave you pain and now I'll make sure to fill your life with so much of love that you'll forget everything. I love you Basket." i kissed her cheeks softly. I stepped down and felt something fluffy come under my foot; i peeked beneath the bed and shook my head. "This girl is silly and i love her for this so so much." i pulled the bunny out and kept it next to her knowing she must have hid it down there. She snuggled into it and i saved this scene of my beautiful princess sleeping peacefully as my wallpaper, so that i could see and cherish her till i slept and first when i woke up. Tomorrow would be a new beginning, i promised her and myself as i moved out of Garewal Mansion.

Nimra

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