Sunday, 27 September 2020

Part 12 : In My Heart

 A cool breeze blew lightly swaying the trees along its tunes and the birds chirped away merrily in flocks. A black Range Rover came to halt in the garage of Mallik Mansion. Armaan came out of the car and made his way up to the back stairs with Riddhima cuddled in his arms. He slowly closed the secret door in Riddhima's room with his leg and settled in bed with her. Armaan stared lovingly at the sleeping beauty in his arms thinking about the best night of his life so far. So much had changed within a day. Last night he had taken a huge step of confessing and proposing to Riddhima. He wasn't sure of her reply as it seemed rushed but he couldn't watch someone take her away. All his fears were washed away with just one nod from her. Armaan couldn't thank God enough for sending this angel down for him. "I love you Basket, love you more than my life. I promise, I won't let anyone separate us now." he whispered trailing his nose down her face. Riddhima fidgeted in her sleep as she felt something crawling slowly on her face moving downwards. She tried pushing it away with her hands and continue sleeping but couldn't, then she forced her heavy eyelids to open as she felt the thing restrict her movements. Riddhima found herself in a tight embrace and two fingers running all over her. She smiled a little in response and took in her surroundings. She sat erect as she realized they were home. "Armaan, when did we reach home? Why didn't you wake me up? What are you doing in my room? What if someone saw us together? What are we going to say if they question where we were last night? Armaan did somebody see us coming back? Why aren't you answering me?" Riddhima looked at him frowning.



"Oh I'm sorry, did I miss a microsecond you gave me to respond in between your rapid fire questions?" Armaan asked with a straight face. Riddhima opened her mouth in a big O hearing his reply. He closed her mouth with his index finger and asked.
"Kitna baat karti ho tum. Like really, how do you talk so much in one single breath?"
"What, you think I talk too much. I won't talk to you again, leave me." she replied trying to remove his arms from around her. Armaan chuckled at her fail attempts and whispered tightening his hold. "Chorne ke liye nahin pakra." she huffed and looked away.
"Common, you can't get mad at me, I was just joking. Okay, I'll your answer your questions. We reached a while back. I didn't want to disturb your sleep, so didn't wake you up. I'm sitting with my love in my arms. Nobody will see us because the door to our portion is closed. Nobody will ask anything as they don't know anything about it. And no, no one saw us coming back." Armaan replied to her counting the questions on his fingers.
"Now what are you thinking?" he asked as he saw her in thoughts.
"Armaan, how did we go out n come back without anyone seeing us? Where's the door you came from in my room?"
"We went through the back door from the terrace, so nobody saw us. And the hidden door remains hidden."
"Why, you said you'll show me once we return." Riddhima complained.

"I did say but you were sleeping, so how could I show you at that time. Now wait till I use it next time to get in here, when you lock your door to avoid me. You closed the door to run away from me, isn't it?" Armaan spoke in a teasing tone.

"Why should I run or avoid you? I wanted to sleep that's why closed everything, if you didn't notice when you came in. But this in unfair, I'm supposed to know where the door is. If you won't tell I'll look for it myself. Move." he let her get down the bed and smiled seeing her touch the walls for the door. Armaan couldn't stop himself from laughing when she made those cute faces on not finding it and sat on the bed's edge. "What's so funny? I'll see it when you go out from my room now."

"I won't use that door to go out now." he pulled her into his arms and leaned back on the bed with her head on his arm.

"Armaaan."

"Baaaskeet."

"Don't talk to me."

"As you wish." he closed his eyes and kept the other hand on his forehead.

"Mat batao, main Dad se pooch loon gi." Riddhima was irritated when he really didn't talk to her. She faced the other side turning her back towards him.

"Don't be silly Basket. What will he think about us if you tell I came in through a hidden door? Anyways no one knows about the door and I want it to remain that way."

"Why did you renovate this room according to my likes?" she asked.

"Who told you this? It's nothing like that." he lied hoping she won't get it.

"Really, you think I won't know about it. There's nobody here who knows my likes and dislikes in so much of details except you."

"Dad wanted you to have a permanent room in this house and all the rooms downstairs were taken as guest rooms so he asked me to keep one room for you in this portion. You had left the renovation of this portion purposely, isn't it?"

"Dad told me that he wanted to keep this upper portion only for you and Naina. I knew you wouldn't like me interfering in your matters so i left it untouched." he closed his eyes to block the pain from spreading through his body hearing Riddhima's words. He was so ashamed of himself to have put her through all this torture. She did everything without complain. After seeing her with Sameer, he now understood what agony she must have felt on seeing him with Naina. Armaan knew she was thinking on the same lines. But he wanted to move ahead and make her forget the past, so he tried to lighten the mood.

"But you can't stay in this room permanently; you'll have to change your room."

"Oh, but I love this room." she said in a small voice thinking he didn't want her to stay here.

"It'll remain untouched like this. You can stay here for some time but then you can't sleep here." He spoke turning his head to look at her.

"Where will I sleep then?"

"In our room."

"Our room?"

"Hmm. You've seen that room at the end of passage?" he continued after she nodded. "That's our room. Where we'll stay together after our marriage. You can come here and stay during the day when I'm not home or when you're angry but you're not allowed to sleep without me or go away from me for one single night. This is a strict order and there will no leniency in this, so remember it, because I won't repeat it." he pulled her into his chest and wrapped his arms around her, burying his head in her neck.

"Armaan."

"Hmmm." he said nuzzling her neck.

"Hamari shaadi hogi na?" Armaan turned her to face him as he heard her voice quiver with uncertainty.

"Hamari shaadi zaroor hogi, wo bhi bohat jald. It's my promise to you Basket." he said gathering her in a tight hug and kissing her head. Armaan knew what she felt because he was facing the same emotional turmoil. Getting her back in his life gave him a reason to live but he still feared losing her again.

"She's supposed to stay happy, she had had her share of grief, I won't let any worry touch her now." Armaan thought.

"Nobody can take you away from me Basket."

"What if.."

"No ifs and buts. I know what you're thinking. I will face everyone and fight them too for us. Just remember nobody can separate us not now and not ever. Okay?" The conviction in his voice soothed Riddhima and she nodded.

"So Basket what were we discussing? Yeah, the room. I have few other rules also which can't be changed. The one that's effective from today is that you kiss me every morning & night." he teased her.

Riddhima bit her lip and snuggled more into his chest hiding her face. Armaan chuckled at her reaction and held her firmly against himself.

"Sleep Basket, it's still very early. I'm here besides you." Armaan slipped out of her room when she drifted off to sleep.

Riddhima and Prem were seated in the study of Garewal Mansion reading a project file. Prem noticed that Riddhima was fidgeting with her fingers and so held her hand over the study table. He knew she wanted to discuss something and so blinked at her assuring. At first Riddhima hesitated but then opened up to him, telling him everything from Armaan's apology to his proposal last night, skipping the details of the past and their intimate moments. Prem looked at Riddhima with a blank expression for a while and then walked in her direction. He kissed her forehead and pulled her into a tight hug. Riddhima couldn't control her emotions and so cried in his arms. Prem told her that he knew everything except for the confession as Armaan had spoken to him earlier. "Thora pagal hai per chaley ga, kyunki tumse bohat pyaar karta hai. I've warned him to stay cautious because one mistake and he'll have to face me." Riddhima smiled hearing Prem. "Rhea, you're really happy, right?" she nodded with moist eyes. "You know I always thought I was very smart but I actually wasn't because I couldn't figure why my baby sister was so lost. When Armaan told me that he loves you, i was blown. I realized then it was love that kept you from moving on. You love him Rhea, don't you?" he moved her chin up as she looked down blushing. "Did you tell him?" she shook her head. "Hmm, taking revenge for making you wait. I just can't put in words how happy and content I am to see this smile. I would have dragged him to you if I knew that he was the key to this hidden smile." he said as Riddhima smiled.

"I'm sorry Prem, I didn't tell you about it earlier, and actually I was confused myself. So thought I shouldn't burden you more than I already have. I know, I know, I'm not a burden but still I've troubled you a lot and made you cry too, isn't it? I can never return even a bit of love that you've showered on me always. Prem you're happy with this relation or are just saying for me?"

"Rhea you should know that I'll never be burdened by you. You are the reason that I'm even alive today. You've given me immense joy by just coming in my life, Ri. Your presence and love is my gift from you. You should never even think about all this return business, it's a brother's responsibility to protect and fulfill all his sister's wishes. And I'm not just saying it, I really am happy with Armaan and your relation. You have my blessings. I'll be with you when you tell Mama and papa about it. So don't worry and enjoy this period. Hmm." he said running a hand over her head lovingly. Riddhima hugged him in response. "I love you Prem, I love you a lot." she said crying.

"Uh.. Rhea, I don't think Armaan will like to hear this." he chuckled as she hit his back. "I love you too sweet heart."

After spending the whole afternoon lazing at home, the gang had decided to head out for some fun. Boys had teamed up against the girls and challenged them for a car race, and decided that the losing side would treat the winners with a wonderful dinner. A Land Cruiser came to screeching halt in the parking area of a sports club followed by a Hummer shortly. The girls came out of the Land Cruiser laughing and hi-fiving each other as they had won the race against boys, who emerged sulking and pretending as if nothing, had happened at all

"So guys are you prepared for our dinner treat tonight?" Anjali asked moving towards them.

"I am always ready Anjali. Uh.. I mean yes we are ready. Where would you like to go?" Atul spoke hesitating.

"Oye tu un se kyun pooch raha hai, jahan hamara dil chahe ga, hum wahin dinner karain ge." Armaan hit him on the back of his head.

"Oh really, I'm so sorry but this isn't acceptable because according to your bet the winning side was supposed to be treated at their choice of restaurant. And now that you've lost, you can't change it." Riddhima said.

"Who says so Bas..Riddhima? We will do whatever we like; nobody can stop us, right boys?" Armaan teased her. Riddhima narrowed her eyes at Armaan as the boys agreed with him.

"You will stop and follow our orders, that too willingly. Right girls?" Riddhima spoke in a sweet tone. The girls nodded and turned to leave for the entrance shouting, "Just make sure you bring your credit cards along."

The guys stopped at the basketball court and decided to play a match. They called out to the girls who were going ahead chatting continuously. "Sorry guys, you go ahead but Rhea and I aren't playing." Muskaan said taking hold of Riddhima's hand and moving out of the court.

"Wait! Why aren't you two playing?" Rahul asked coming towards them.

"I love swimming. I want to go swimming. I can't go alone, I'll get bored, so you all play and we'll leave. Chal Rhea." Muskaan made up an excuse and in her hurry she failed to notice everyone's confused expressions. Armaan shook his head at her stupid excuse and pulled her aside to ask what the matter was.

"Kya problem hai?"

"Kuch problem nahin hai bhai."

"To phir achanak tujhe swimming kyun karni hai?"

"Woh bohat din hogaye na Rhea or mujhe saath swimming kiye, is liye. Ap jao, hum abhi aatay hain." Muskaan tried shoving him away.

"Muski, what is the problem? Tell me now!" Armaan hissed signaling others to go and change.

Muskaan gulped and looked at Riddhima, who had left for the changing room with the girls. "Rhea isn't comfortable with this game. She's just doing it for us."

"What makes you think so?" Armaan frowned.

"She only played basketball once during these three years at the University that too she was forced to. Later she sat in the ground lost while our team mates were rejoicing on the victory. I've seen her avoiding the court and any discussions regarding this sport. Something about it bothers her, hurts her."

"Okay, go." Armaan turned away from Muskaan and fisted his hands as tightly as he could to control himself from bursting. He went to the changing room as he realized that all had changed and only Riddhima was left inside. He saw her stepping out wearing a pink and black jogging suit. Armaan kept staring at her as she walked towards him, giving him a bright, heartwarming smile. He turned around not able to see into her eyes, his guilt killing him.

"Oh, I thought you were here to meet me and tell how much you missed me during the day, but I guess I was wrong." Riddhima said gripping his wrist with both her hands as he started walking.

"Riddhima, leave my hand. I have some work, we'll talk later." he spoke without turning.

"What happened? Are you angry with me? I'm sorry, please Armaan tell me what happened? Look at me." she spoke turning his face towards her. Armaan jerked her hand and pulled her to him.

"Why are you doing this? Why aren't you saying anything? Why aren't you screaming at me? Why aren't you punishing me for hurting you? Why Basket, why?" Armaan cried with his head hid in her neck.

"What happened? Why are you saying all this? We already spoke about it, why again?" Riddhima tried pulling away but he wouldn't let her move.

"Please Armaan, you're scaring me like this, don't cry, please." she rubbed her hands over his back trying to calm him.

"I've hurt you a lot and have made you stay away from everything you loved, I'm very bad, I don't deserve to be with you." he spoke with moist eyes.

"Aisa kuch nahin hai Armaan. You never meant to hurt me intentionally. Or agar main hurt hui hoon tau so have you. You've also kept away from all your favorite things, infact more than me. Muski told you about me not playing basketball, right?" he nodded lightly still hugging her.

"I didn't play because it reminded me of you. I couldn't forget the memories I had of us playing numerous times. But now I'm fine, kyunki ab tum mere paas ho." Armaan moved back a bit still holding her close.

"You don't have to Basket, if you don't want. I'll take you back and no one will say anything." his concerns clear in his voice.

"But I want to play Armaan. I want to relive all those memories and make new ones too with you." They moved away as they heard footsteps outside the door.

"It's okay, it's just me guys. Rhea, you don't have to.." Prem spoke closing the door behind him but Riddhima cut him. "Oh God, pehle aik ko samjhana parta tha or ab do do ko. Please guys, I'm fine, don't worry." she grimaced.

"How did you know about us? Did you?" Armaan asked in confusion.

"Yes, Rhea told me. You didn't think of it as necessary to tell me now that you have what you wanted." Prem teased Armaan.

"Aisa nahin hai, I would have told you if you had stayed a bit longer. But I'm glad your sister told you herself. Thanks for your help Prem, without it I wouldn't have been able to get her back." Armaan spoke pulling Riddhima to his side.

"You're welcome. But remember my warning. I must say, you two look beautiful together. Stay like this always." Prem smiled seeing Armaan hold Riddhima.

"I know, even I want to stay like this, but what do I do, your sister runs away from me always." Riddhima's jaw dropped and both the guys chuckled at her response.

The gang had started their warm up when Armaan returned after changing. The boys suggested that Atul would become the referee and this way it would equal the players in both teams. Girls disagreed and called Atul back saying that whichever team makes 15 baskets first would win and with this started another round of arguments.

"But this way you'll have one less player." Rahul said.

"It's okay, we'll win anyway. You guys need an extra player to play against us." Muskaan replied.

"I think you're forgetting that it's you who always loses, we always win every match." Armaan spoke.

"Oh please Armaan; now don't make me open my mouth." Riddhima retorted.

"What do you mean?" Armaan moved towards her.

"I mean, you've forgotten that you always lost."

"I never lost Riddhima."

"Yes you did, every single time we played."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes you did." Prem jumped in the middle to stop the argument before the two spoke something they weren't supposed to. The rest were staring at them blankly, watching the duo argue for the first time.

The girls were leading the match from the start. The scores were 7:4 after 15 minutes of play.

"Common guys, we can't lose to them. Pehle hi we lost the race or ab yeh. It'll be too much. Girls sir pe char jain gi. Let's think of something." Abhi said to the boys during a 5 minutes break.

"Haan yaar, yeh to bilkul sahi bola tum ne. Dekh kaise uchal rahi hain saari, jaise match jeet chuki hon. Hamein kuch karna chahye. Armaan tu kuch soch na, tere ideas aik dum mast hotey hain. Armaan, Armaan mere bhai, kahan kho gaya tu?" Atul patted Armaan's shoulder, shook his arm but no reaction. Atul and the guys looked in the direction of his gaze and found it locked on Riddhima who was spraying water on her face from her bottle.

"Pareshan mat ho Atul, yeh soch raha hai magar bohat agay ki. Let me think of something for now." Abhi said rolling his eyes and distracting Atul & Rahul, who were confused as to what had happened to Armaan.

"Oyye wo chali gayi, or tu bhi jaye ga agar isi tarah usey dekhta raha. Rahul tujhe hi ghoor raha hai. Chal thora focus game per kar baqi usey ghar jakay dekh lena." Abhi hit Armaan on his head breaking his trance.

"What the.. Tera problem kya hai Modi? Tu kabhi tameez se baat nahin kar sakta kya? Or main kuch soch raha tha itna important, sara focus kharab kar diya." Armaan spoke defensively as he had been caught staring.

As the game was resumed, boys started covering the girl who dribbled the ball to the net and somehow took it away from her. Abhi had only winked at Nikki and she left the ball from her hands. Sameer had pushed Muskaan to take the ball and she ended up on the floor with Rahul. Girls had understood their intentions and decided to keep alert. Riddhima dribbled the ball across the ground and just as she aimed for the net, she was lifted off the ground and twirled. "Put me down Armaan. Tum hamesha aise karte ho, loser." she screamed wriggling in his hold. He put her down once Prem had done a basket and that made the boys a point ahead of girls.

The scores were now 9: 11. Boys were hi-fiving and whistling.

"Aik minute, hamesha matlab, tum dono pehle bhi saath khel chukey ho?" Nikki asked Riddhima.

"How did you know it was Armaan even before you saw him?" Anjie asked.

"Woh..actually I knew it because nobody else would do something like this, isi liye. Waisey bhi Armaan has cheater written all over him." Riddhima tried to explain narrowing her eyes at Armaan, who was smirking.

"Oh really Bas.. Uh. Riddhima? Theek se dekho, shayad tum ne sahi se nahin dekha mujhe." Armaan teased her.

"I know what you're trying to do, so don't act smart." Riddhima poked her finger in his chest.

"What am I trying to do?"

"You are cheating because you're losing and this time all of them are helping you with it."

"Why would we cheat Bas... Riddhima? Did you see us cheating? Look at the scores properly baby, you are losing, not us." Armaan spoke in a sugary sweet tone knowing too well of its result.

"Yes of course you're winning, just like you always do, isn't it? Well let's finish the match so that you can celebrate, okay?" Armaan controlled himself from laughing at Riddhima's face that was scrunched up in irritation.

The game was resumed and this time girls used boys' trick on them. Anjali blew a kiss to Atul who nearly passed out seeing this. Rahul was left gaping at Muskaan as she blew a kiss and called him towards her. Riddhima came in front of Armaan and took the ball away by blowing in his eyes. The guys got hold of their senses and focused on the game but they lost it when Anjie scored the 15th basket. Girls group hugged and jumped up and down giggling on their victory. Boys shook their heads seeing the girls dance as if they've won a lottery.

"I know it's hard to accept defeat but it's okay, I know you boys are strong to take this. Now that we've won, you're supposed to do whatever we say, okay?" Naina said.

"You must be crazy to think we'll listen to your orders. We're treating you at your choice of hotel, that's more than enough." Abhi answered back.

"Well too bad, you will have to listen to us otherwise.." Riddhima trailed off with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

"What do you all want?" Armaan asked.

"A day to ourselves." Anjie said.

"When did we stop you from this?" Abhi spoke.

"I knew you wouldn't disagree to what we say. So it's decided we spend the whole next day without you guys." Nikki spoke enthusiastically.

"What?" boys spoke together.

"What, what? Of course having the day to us means no distraction and you all are the biggest distraction. You don't let us do whatever we want." Muskaan said as a matter of fact.

"You are kidding right? You can't do this. I mean we already don't get time to spend together due to the functions and after tomorrow, we'll be busy with the wedding. Anjali tum hi kuch bolo na." Atul spoke.

"Oh common Atul, aik hi din ki to baat hai. Besides think you'll have so much fun without us, isn't it?" Anjali replied.

"Exactly, I remember you guys saying kab hum se jaan chutey gi, now you're getting the chance. I'm sure you don't want to miss it, right boys?" Nikki added.

"Yeah, yeah, of course. We'll have lots of fun doing.. doing.." Rahul trailed off not knowing what they'll be doing.

"We'll manage, you tell what are you all planning to do?" Abhi asked raising an eyebrow.

"Well we plan to go out shopping.."

"Shopping? Are you crazy? You girls spent two whole weeks shopping for wedding before coming here and now you want to go again." Abhi asked with eyes wide with shock.

"Yehi to main in se keh rahi hoon." Muski replied.

"Muskaan teri tabiat to theek hai? Tu or shopping ke liye mana kar rahi hai?" Rahul asked touching her forehead for fever.

"Maine kab mana kiya shopping ke liye, main to in sab se kab se bol rahi hoon ke hum ne sirf shaadi ki shopping ki hai, casual wear to liya hi nahin." Armaan face palmed and patted Rahul's shoulder in sympathy hearing Muskaan reply.

"Or shopping ke alawa kiya karein gi ap log?" Prem asked looking at boys' sulking faces.

"We won't tell because you guys are going to follow us like always and pretend it was a coincidence. In short, we're spending the entire day out of the house. Okay, now let's get back home so that we can sleep well for the next day." Anjali said.

The next morning was a chaos at the Malik mansion with girls rushing their daily showers and dressing up to start their Girls' Day Out. They woke up late courtesy boys who kept them up till midnight simply talking while munching on snacks and sweet goodies. Prerna and Kashish were after the girls to at least have breakfast and then leave but they decided to begin the day at Starbucks. The boys admired the girls silently while sulking in the lounge when they were all gathered around Prerna listening to her instructions. The girls had dressed casually; simple & elegant. They chose black skinny pants, fitted tops, converses, few accessories with minimum make up for the day.

Armaan and Prem had got busy with the task in hand as soon as the girls left. An hour later a team of men carrying briefcases arrived at the Malik mansion. They were called to install security systems in both the mansions. Prem and Abhi had taken up the charge of keeping the others busy to avoid questions and suspicion as this was a secret. Later Armaan interviewed the bodyguards who were assigned duties during the wedding, especially of protecting Riddhima. Once he was sure of their capabilities, he explained to them what and how were they supposed to carry out the plan.

The girls were heading towards the spa after having a gala time at the malls shopping, laughing, teasing and babbling together. They had decided to relax for a while and what better way than to have a body massage, so here they were at Leeds' best spa. They indulged themselves in pleasure with chocolate spa, enjoying the warmth and soothing sensations at the hands of best professionals.

It was almost dark when the girls returned home to loud whistles and cheers resonating in the air. The boys were glued to the large home theatre screen watching soccer match. Girls slumped on the floor cushions joining them to watch the last few minutes.

"Where's Riddhima?" Armaan asked the girls.

"Where's Riddhima matlab? Isn't she back yet?" Nikki spoke.

"What do you mean; she was with you all, so how come she return before you?" Prem questioned.

"Yeah she was with us but she left earlier saying she had some work and would return home directly." Anjali said.

"She said she'll take a cab and we take her car to return. But that was almost 2 hrs. back, why isn't she back yet Anjie?" Naina asked worried.

"What non-sense, how did you let her go alone and that too without her car, how will she return now?" Armaan's heart sunk in fear of losing Riddhima. He quickly pulled out his cell and dialed Riddhima's number but it was redirected to her voice box. Armaan groaned in frustration and pulled his hair in desperation when after 30 minutes they found her cell in Muski's purse.

"This girl drives me crazy with her careless attitude. Poori dunya ka khayal rakhe gi siwaye apne. I clearly told her not to leave without informing us but why would she listen to me?" Abhi put his arm around Armaan hearing him mumble to himself.

"What was so important that she left so abruptly?" Rahul questioned.

"Pata nahin, koi call ayi jis ke baad wo chali gayi." Muskaan replied.

"Or tu wahan baith kar dekhti rahi usey akela jatay huey. Didn't I tell you all to stay together? How could you let her go alone after what happened in India." Armaan spoke angrily.

"Common bhai, don't worry she'll be back safely, she knows how to handle herself plus she knows this city too well to lose her way, so relax." Muskaan tried consoling her brother who at the moment was worried sick for Riddhima when there was no apparent reason for it.

"Shut up Muskaan, I didn't expect this from you. How could you let her go all by herself?" Armaan shouted.

Armaan could feel an unnerving sensation settle at the bottom of his stomach making him helpless as the minutes ticked away. He paced around impatiently enraged in anger; ready to pounce on anyone who came near him. The gang was confused seeing Armaan react this way except Prem and Abhi, who knew the real reason behind his frantic behavior.
..........................................
The dark sky was illuminated by tiny stars that spread across the horizon with a partially hidden crescent moon. The view was picturesque from the Malik mansion's terrace but its residents were too worried about Riddhima to notice anything. It had been an hour since the girls return and yet there was no sign of Riddhima. The girls were sitting on a couch together praying for her to return safe. They knew if something happened to her Armaan wouldn't spare them, he had made it clear, the reason to which was still unclear to them. Prem and Rahul had called her friends to know if they had any news about her whereabouts but to no avail.

"I'm going to call the police right away. I can't wait any more." Armaan spoke getting up from the entrance stairs.

"Armaan, wait for a while more. I know she must be stuck with some work. She'll come back.." Prem spoke but was cut by Armaan.

"Come back. When will she come back? It's been 4 hours since she left for somewhere and you're asking me to wait. I can't sit here and do nothing. I need to find her, what if she's in trouble? How will.." Armaan's voice trailed as they heard a car stopping on their gateway. They made a dash to the main gate and saw Riddhima get down from a taxi. Prem hugged her tightly whereas Armaan stood still. His forehead crinkled seeing the condition of her dress.

"Lo Armaan, aa gayi tumhari Riddhima. I told you.. What?" Prem stopped mid-sentence not knowing why Armaan wasn't responding. He followed Armaan's gaze and gasped loudly.

"Rhea, what is all this? How did you get hurt? Why didn't you tell me?" Prem looked at her dishelved state and ran his hands on her body to see where she was hurt.

"I'm okay guys, don't worry. I'm not hurt, this isn't my blood. I just helped someone who was injured." Riddhima said seeing their scared faces.

"What happened?" Prem asked.

"Nothing i just found a lady who met with an accident, so i helped her. Just took her to Sanjeevani, bus wahin se aa rahi hoon." she told them. The gang gathered at the threshold of the mansion firing questions at Riddhima together.

"Guys, calm down. I'm okay. I'm not hurt. Please forgive me for making you all so worried. I would have returned long back but this accident held me there." Riddhima spoke trying to relax the atmosphere.

"You could have at least called from hospital to let us know you were fine. But no, why would you do that? You went out without informing and that too alone, despite my telling you not to do so. And to top it all, you left your mobile behind with Muskaan. You've always been this careless and irresponsible, always too occupied to remember there are people who are concerned for you as well. I don't want to hear a word from you, there's no need now." everyone stood gaping at Armaan as he lashed out on Riddhima. He raised his palm indicating her to keep quiet and left from there in fury.

"I'm sorry Ri, bhai ne tumhein aisey gussa kiya, please don't mind. Actually he's a little edgy ever since that accident in India. He had told me not to go alone or let you go but i just forgot about it." Muskaan tried to explain Armaan's behavior but Riddhima didn't need any explanations, she knew exactly why he behaved the way he did.

"It's okay Muski, don't say sorry. I should be the one apologizing for making you all so worried. I'll talk to Armaan once his anger subsides. I'll go change now." they nodded in approval and moved back inside.

After an hour a man in his thirties exited from the Malik Mansion after speaking to Riddhima. She sighed in contentment and turned around to be met with boys glaring at her and the girls with their hands on their hips.    "What? Why are you staring at me like that? See I didn't tell you before because I didn't want to worry you unnecessarily." she tried explaining in a convincing tone to subside their anger but was bombarded with questions in response.

"What the hell were you thinking when you jumped in the middle of the road?"

"Didn't you even once think before taking this step?"

"What if you were hit by the car instead?"

"Didn't you even think of us for once?"

"Why didn't you call us from the hospital when you were hurt?"

"How could you hide this from us, didn't you think it was important for us to know?"

"Wait, stop all of you. I can't answer everyone at the same time." Riddhima spoke loudly to cut the chain of questions being fired at her.

"See this is why I didn't want to tell you all. I knew you'll all get panicked when there was nothing as such. Calm down now, I'm right here in front of you, perfectly fine." she spoke and twirled around for them to see her.

"Oh yes, you call this lump on your head perfectly fine. Chal idher baith and let me see." Nikki dragged her to the sofa and carefully parted her hair to see the lump.

"Oh God, this is so big, we need to get it checked at the hospital." Nikki exclaimed.

"Move, let me see. Damn it Rhea, where did you hit your head? Prem we need to run a scan on her immediately." Abhi spoke hurriedly pushing Nikki aside.

"Abhi, I'm fine. I got the test done. It's okay, don't worry." Riddhima said.

"Don't lie; I know you wouldn't have shown yourself to the doctor. You always run away from them and medicines." Muski told.

"Go get an ice pack, it'll reduce the swelling and Nikki bring her some pain killer too. And you, don't you dare get up. I don't understand how you are even standing and arguing in so much pain." Abhi told Riddhima.

"Guys I want a favor. Please don't say no." Riddhima said as Anjie rubbed the ice pack on her swollen head.

"Please don't tell Armaan about this."

"What? Are you crazy?" Prem said.

"Please yaar, wo pehle hi mujhse gussa hai, yeh pata chaley ga to or naraz hoga plus it isn't even a big wound, so there's no need."

"Marwana hai kya? If he gets to know from somwhere, he'll blast at us." Atul spoke shaking his head disagreeing.

"Who's going to tell him if we all don't? Nobody else knows about it. Please understand I just don't want to trouble him more. Please, I'll tell him later but not now."

There was silence for a few minutes as everyone thought about it. Prem sighed and nodded his head in approval after looking at Abhi.

"Okay, we won't say anything but you better tell him soon."

The sound of claps from the stairway made everyone turn their heads in that direction. Everyone stood up seeing Armaan.

"Excellent guys; I never thought you all were capable of deceiving me. Prem and Abhi, I had never expected this from both of you. Instead of scolding her on her stupidity, you're siding with her and doing as she says."

"Armaan it's.." Riddhima opened her mouth to speak only to be cut rudely by Armaan.

"I'm speaking to my friends and you don't need to interfere. Yes, all of you. She didn't want to inform me because I mean nothing to her but do I not mean anything to all of you as well? You agreed to hide the truth just because she said." Armaan spoke in a hurt tone.

"Armaan, it's not what you're thinking. She didn't want you to worry more. She wasn't planning on hiding it from you, just wanted you to cool down a bit." Abhi tried to clear the confusion.

"Yes I.."

"What about 'do not speak a word to me' do you not not understand Ms. Riddhima Garewal? I don't want to talk to you. You decide to not let me know anything that involves you because you don't find it important. So I get a choice too and I choose not to talk to you. In fact I don't want to see any of you at all." Armaan rushed upstairs followed by Riddhima.

"Armaan please listen to me once. Tum jo soch rahey ho waisey kuch nahin hai." Armaan locked the door from inside.

"Hear me out once. Open the door Armaan. Please. See this isn't fair that you get in my room even if I don't want to see you but I don't." He opened the door and rushed back downstairs and out of the Mansion with Guys at his tail.

"Armaan ruk, kahan ja raha hai?"

"I want to be alone for some time and that's not possible here, so I'm leaving, stop following me everywhere."

"You don't need to go anywhere. I won't disturb you again. It's your home you should stay, I'll leave." Riddhima said softly and moved towards her car.

"Stay here Riddhima, you don't have to leave. I didn't mean this." Armaan said turning away from her trying to control him but she left without a word. Prem and Rahul followed her in their own cars glaring at Armaan.

Prerna and Kashish stood on the door to welcome in the ladies for the Mehendi ceremony that was being held in Mallik Mansion. The girl's gang was busy dressing Muskaan for the function.



As the ladies had all gathered, men were sent out in the garden where sitting arrangements were done and caterers served them refreshments. Muskaan walked down the stairs in her greenish silver lehenga choli with the help of Riddhima & Nikki. All the ladies of the house had worn churidaars in different shades of yellow and green. The girls helped Muskaan settle down in the centre on golden floor cushions that were placed on plush crme rug. The rasam began with Prerna doing the shagun followed by Kashish and girls. Riddhima sat near Muskaan telling the girl applying mehendi to hide Rahul's name such that he doesn't find it and both soul sisters giggled at their own teasing and private jokes. All the girls had got their hands filled with mehendi except Riddhima.

"Kya yaar Rhea, tu aise kaise mana kar sakti hai. Tujhe lagwani hi hogi,bus. Main kuch nahin sunney wali." Muskaan huffed irritated.

"Please yaar mera mann nahin hai, mujhe nahin lagwani, bus." Riddhima also retorted in the same manner.

"Jab kisi ki mehendi ka rang bohat gehra charhta hai to pata hai is ka matlab kya hota hai?" Prerna asked as she settled besides Riddhima. The girls nodded except Riddhima.

"Yeh ki jitna gehra mehendi ka rang utna pyaar karne wala pati, samjhi?" Prerna pulled Riddhima's hand in to her lap: "Tu nahin jaana chahti ke tera pati tujhse kitna pyaar karega? Pata hai meri mehendi ka rang to Anu se pyaar honay se pehle bhi bohat tez hota hai, chal dekhta hain aj tum mein se kisi ka rang mujhse gehra hota hai ya nahin." Riddhima smiled and looked down blushing.

A pair of deep blue eyes was watching the interaction keenly from his room. He knew that Riddhima's reluctance was a result of his behavior from last day. He wasn't able to apologize till now and the reason for it was this beauty herself; dressed up in yellow churidaar with silver and green zardosi work. Riddhima had stayed away from Mallik mansion the whole day and reached just before the function and since then had hid effortlessly in Muskaan's room where boys weren't allowed. Even now she wasn't making it any easy for him as she ignored his existence itself. After the function had ended, the girls were locked in Prerna's room as Rahul came for dinner but even after his return, they remained inside chatting and waiting for their mehendi to dry. He could see how distracted Riddhima was, she would zone out for minutes until somebody nudged her. A tall, muscular figure entering the Mansion caught his sight on the computer screen and within a minute he was downstairs hugging the guy.

"I'm glad you could make it before the wedding ends." Armaan patted Arjun's back.

"I know I am late, you don't need to remind me again." Arjun shrugged his hand.

"Hello Everyone." Arjun spoke as he entered Prerna's room. The whole gang took him in a bear hug, laughing and screaming in joy.

"Beautiful." Arjun whispered once he parted from the hug on seeing a girl near the wall mirror.

"She is..." Muskaan was cut by Arjun.

"I'll do the introduction myself."

"You are Basket, right?" he asked as he moved towards her.

 "Basket?" girls repeated after him in confusion.

"Hi, I am Arjun."

"Hello." Riddhima spoke softly.

"Your voice is as beautiful as you." Arjun took her hand and kissed it lightly. She smiled.

"Congratulations." he hugged her tightly. Riddhima stiffened under his hold till he whispered the next words in her ear. "I'm glad the idiot finally proposed you. I am so happy for both of you. May both of you have a beautiful and bright future together." Riddhima hugged him back and thanked him.                                                                  "Thanks to you for saving me the pain of seeing a sulking Armaan again. I know being a jerk he will keep messing things but nothing to fear as your devar is at your service Bhabhi." Arjun whispered as he pulled back from the hug. Riddhima giggled seeing him bow his head in front of her. The gang couldn't hear the conversation but were surprised to see the interaction between these two but Armaan was mad seeing them hug.

"I hope we can be friends, Basket." Arjun put his hand out for a handshake.

"Don't call her by this name. Yeh sirf meri Basket hai. Her name is Riddhima. Don't you dare flirt with her, understand." Armaan spoke with gritted teeth as he pulled Riddhima's hand out of his hold and rubbed his thumb over the spot where Arjun had kissed.

"I can flirt with anyone I want. Jab usey koi problem nahi hai to tu beech mein kyun aa raha hai. I don't require your permission. So Bas.. I mean Riddhima, now that we are friends, will you go out with me?"

"Rhea, my friends call me Rhea."

"What about the other part of the question?"

"Uh.. Woh." Riddhima stammered.

"Oh are you committed to someone?" Arjun winked at her.

"No." Riddhima looked at Armaan from the corner of her eyes as she replied. She understood Arjun was trying to irritate Armaan and it really was fun to watch him get jealous so she played along.

"That's great. So it's decided after the wedding tomorrow, I take you out to wherever you want."

"Okay/ No." Riddhima and Armaan spoke together and then stared at each other.

"Tera problem kya hai Armaan? I know she's your friend but she's mine too now. She is capable of taking her own decisions; you don't have to do it for her, so please just stay out of it."

"I will do as I wish and you stay away from her, otherwise.." Armaan trailed off showing a punch to Arjun.

"Why should I?"

"Okay both of you don't get started with your banter again. Armaan wo abhi aya hai or tu us ke saath shuru ho gaya and what's the big deal if he takes Rhea out." Nikki spoke pushing Armaan and Arjun away from each other.

The gang had gathered in the dining area where boys were feeding their girls as their hands were covered in mehendi. Armaan was feeding Naina but his gaze was stuck at Riddhima who was playing with her food sulking but wouldn't spare a glance at Armaan. Arjun was observing the scene and knew something was off and his doubt was confirmed as Abhi texted him the details of yesterday's incident.

"So Rhea will you give me a tour of the Mansion, if you're done with playing, I mean eating food." Arjun asked and she moved her chair back to stand nodding.

Riddhima was engulfed in a hug as she closed the door of her room. The room was immersed in darkness but she didn't need any light to recognize the person holding her. His smell, warmth, and touch were different from all. She would do anything to stay in his arms forever but not now. Riddhima fidgeted in his arms trying to free her but the grip got stronger.

"I'm sorry Basket." Armaan said with his head dipped in her neck. She tried her best to remove his arms from her waist without speaking but he wouldn't let her move an inch away. Riddhima understood it was useless trying to win against him physically so she stood still letting him do whatever he wanted. Armaan noticed that Riddhima had stopped moving and wasn't holding him back.

"I always hurt you, isn't it? What do I do, I just lose my mind in anger. I never meant to say whatever I uttered yesterday. Please forgive me." He parted a little with his hold still tight around her. Armaan lifted her chin to see in her eyes as she kept staring at the floor. Their eyes had adjusted vision according to the little light from the window. He was scared on seeing her eyes devoid of all emotions for him as she stared at him blankly.

"Don't do this, please. Scold me, beat me, and punish me as much as you want but don't do this. Speak to me Riddhima, say something. See I'm apologizing holding my ears, I'll do anything you say but please stop this silent treatment." He urged her to speak but she stood still.

Armaan gulped the lump in his throat and stepped away from her. He went down on his knees and held his ears. "Please maaf kardo apne Armaan ko. Dobara kabhi tum pe gussa nahin karun ga."

"Let me go please." Armaan felt his heart sink hearing her. He got up and cupped her face in his palms.

"Itna gussa ho apne Armaan se ke ab pass bhi nahin rehna. All that I said and did was because I want you to be safe and happy always. You know the existing situation isn't favorable for you to adventure alone outside, I had mentioned it to you but, did you listen? No, there was something that couldn't wait nor could you take somebody along. I was on the last bit of my patience and your carefree attitude and lies made me lose it. I didn't mean to scream or insult you in front of everyone, nor did I say anything intentionally to hurt you. Please forgive me. Trust me; I won't repeat this mistake again."

"Jhoot." she screamed shrugging his hands away. Armaan stared at her wide eyed.                                              "Jhoot bol rahey ho tum. Tum to pyaar karte ho na mujhse phir kyun nahin jaan paye ke mujhe kis baat se takleef hui? Leave it, I know the answer already."

"Main tumhari takleef ki wajah nahin jaan paya is ka matlab yeh nahin ki main tumse pyaar nahin karta. Please tell me what is troubling you so much Basket. I promise I'll try not to repeat it again." Armaan replied calmly in a soft tone. He needed to know what was eating his love from inside.

"You think I'm upset because you scolded me in front of everyone. No, I'm not because you were right at your place and it is your right. I should have informed about my whereabouts. I'm upset because you walked out on me, again." her voice ended in a whisper but loud enough for Armaan to hear. She turned her back on him.

"You said whatever you had to and derived wrong meanings of my actions because I'm always wrong in your eyes. Did you ask me once why I did whatever I did? How easily you said that I didn't tell you about the accident because you mean nothing to me. The truth however is that I don't mean anything to you. That is why you force your decisions on me without letting me speak."

"Basket." Armaan whispered turning her to face him.

"I didn't tell anyone about the accident because I didn't want to spoil the wedding atmosphere. The gang overheard me speaking to the man whose wife I helped. I knew you'll panic because you care for me deeply. But you would never consider anyone in front of your anger, be it your love. You left me again without hearing me for once." she closed her eyes and tears made their way down her cheeks freely. Armaan fisted his palms tightly stopping himself from breaking everything around him as he realized how much he had once again hurt her.

"Main bohat bura hoon na, tumhein sirf dard or aansoun deta hoon. But believe me all I ever want to give you is happiness and love. I love you a lot, I can't let you go away from me because YOU are my life. I might sound selfish but please will you give me a chance to rectify my mistake?" he waited for her reply crossing his fingers. Riddhima kept staring at him for a while and then shook her head.

"No use, you forget everything once you're angry. Let's just leave all this."

"What do you mean by leave? There's no way in hell that I'll let you go away from me again. I'm promising you Riddhima; I will listen to others as well before forming any judgements. Please forgive me this time, you can punish me but don't push me away." he held her hands in his firmly yet tenderly due to her mehendi looking at her hopefully.

"You mean the world to me but I'm afraid that your anger will tear us apart again." she said crying.

"Please don't say that. I'm promising you na that from now on I'll be careful." he kissed her forehead.

Armaan led Riddhima to the washroom, carefully rubbed off the dried mehendi and dried her hands with a soft towel after washing.  "Yeh mehendi gawah hai meri mohabbat ki gehrai ki." Armaan brought her palms to his lips and kissed them on seeing the dark shade. He quickly scanned the designs with his finger for something.

"Kya dhoond rahey ho?"

"Mera naam."

"What?"

"Don't you know brides write their to-be-husband's name on their hands and the groom gets a gift on finding it."

"Really? Well, just a reminder that I'm not the bride nor are you the groom, not for now."

"So what if it's not our wedding tomorrow, you still are my bride. You should have gotten it written." Armaan spoke turning Riddhima towards the mirror and hugging her from behind.

"Yeah right, so that everyone's suspicion rises a little more. They are all confused about your sudden care and attention towards me, all thanks to you."

"I don't care about anyone. I just want this wedding to end so that I can tell our parents about us. But for now, I don't get anything." Armaan pouted.

"What do you want Armaan?" Riddhima asked through the mirror cupping his right cheek.

"You." he whispered in her ear.

Riddhima closed her eyes as Armaan leaned down and rubbed his cheek on hers. She giggled and leaned back in to him as the soft movements of the stubble tickled her. Armaan moved down her slender neck kissing the entire right side of her face but their moment was broken by a loud knock on Riddhima's door.

The gang left for the Garewal Mansion, leaving the Malliks to have some family time since it was wedding the next day. Armaan called Riddhima late night after spending time with Muskaan & once he was sure everyone had retired to their rooms and both fell asleep weaving dreams of a beautiful future together.

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