Saturday, 3 October 2020

Part 18 : In My Heart

"Basket, Basket, get up. Open your eyes Baby. I'm right here besides you. Look at me Jaan." Armaan woke Riddhima as she mumbled and shook in her dream. He pulled her up against his chest tightly which soothed her down instantly and she put her arm around his neck. He held her hand with the drip tightly as she tried to pull it away. She kept mumbling between her sobs clinging to him. Armaan couldn't make out most of her words but didn't miss to catch that her wedding had been fixed with someone else. His body went stiff and his grip on her tightened.

"Papa said he doesn't accept our relationship. He'll get me married to someone else. He told me to forget you. I won't live without you Armaan. Main apni jaan de.."

"Riddhima! Shut up. Do you even realize what you're saying?" he pulled her out of his embrace in rage. Her tear stained face hurt him but her mention of giving up her life so easily killed him.

"Kya har baat ka hal jaan dena hai? Agar aisa hai tou main hi mar.." he couldn't continue as Riddhima covered his mouth with her palm.

"Kya hua? Does it hurt when I say this? Have you ever thought about how I'll feel and cope if something happened to you? It kills me Riddhima, to even think of a moment without you. And here you are ever ready to give up your life on the smallest of obstacles. Don't you trust me a bit?" she nodded her head.

"So, just relax I'll handle everything. No one will take you away from me because you belong to me." He felt her relaxing in his hold so he gathered her up in his lap and settled against the headboard.

"What if they don't let me go with you?" she asked again. He looked at her innocent face and understood she needed assurance.

"Nobody can take you away from me nor can they stop you from going with me. You're mine Meri Jaan and nobody can separate us." he spoke cupping her face. She looked up at him and he blinked in assurance.

"Know one thing for once and for all, I'll die the moment something happens to you so don't even ever think of hurting yourself. I will not survive without you." He was about to continue when Prem rushed in to the room.

"OmG, Rhea are you alright? Papa just told me you fainted? Did you get hurt? Is it hurting somewhere? Should I call the doctor? Wait, of course I should." Prem spoke rapidly and searched his coat for his mobile.

"Wait. I'm okay now. There's no need to call a doctor, she has already checked on me." Riddhima spoke holding Prem's hand and showing her hand with the drip.

"It must be hurting, isn't it? What happened to you?" Prem spoke softly caressing her pricked hand.

"Nothing, I just forgot to take food yesterday so.."

"Forgot?" she covered her ears as both Armaan and Prem screamed. With this began a round of scolding as both of them were mad at her for neglecting her health.

"Prem, you sit with Basket. I'll go talk to Uncle and Rahul." Armaan said after telling Prem the matter at hand.

"No, I'll come with you. I.." Riddhima became quiet seeing Armaan's glare. He was already upset with her and she didn't want to irritate him further.

"Yes, our Rhea's wedding has been fixed for next month and you are invited with whole family. You are supposed to arrive early so that we can spend family time like before; it's been so long since we all got together. And what else would be a better occasion than this?" Sujal conversed with someone on his cell. He motioned Armaan to sit as he noticed him standing.

"Uncle I heard you have fixed Riddhima's wedding without her consent. I want to tell you that this marriage is not possible. Riddhima is mine and I will not let anyone even glance at her. I want to do things properly with everyone's consent and blessings but if you don't change your decision, I'm afraid I'll have to do things the hard way." Armaan spoke with determination. Rahul came and stood next to Armaan with a stern face.

"Rahul, I know you're not happy with my relation with Riddhima. Maybe I'm not what you wanted in a guy for your sister. I can only assure and promise you that I'll keep her happy and never give her a chance to complain. Rahul, I love her a lot, I can't leave her. Please understand and don't be angry with Muskaan. This all has nothing to do with her."

"Of course all this has everything to do with Muskaan only. She's the reason behind whatever happened today." Rahul said eyeing Muskaan who stood at the staircase with a long face.

"What do you mean Rahul?" Armaan asked in confusion.

"Why don't you explain Muskaan, after all it was your plan?" Rahul said sarcastically.

"I'm sorry Bhai. I lied to you yesterday. I just wanted to play a prank on you and Rhea for not telling us about your relation." Muskaan said with moist eyes.

"I don't understand. You mean this wedding is a lie." Armaan said.

"All that I said to you was a lie but this wedding isn't. Riddhima's wedding is fixed with you."

"What? Do you know what you're saying? How is it possible?" he asked in shock.

"Yes Armaan, we all came here to get you two married. Sujal and Anurag have accepted your relation and no one is angry with you beta." Kashish came and patted his head lovingly.

"But.. But Riddhima said.."

"It was all Muskaan's silly plan to make you two confess your love in front of us and tease you." Kashish added. Armaan shot an angry glare at Muskaan.

"What are you, a 5 year old kid? Do you even know how badly this stupidity of yours has affected Riddhima? How can you act so dumb? Don't you know how she reacts to such situations? This is how you treat your bbf, by ruining a happy moment in her life and complicating things? And all of you, she is stupid, how could you all agree with her?" Armaan shouted.

"It's nobody's fault except mine. I made them promise earlier to do what I say. They were not willing to do so." Muskaan replied meekly.

"I can't believe this Muskaan. I am really ashamed of you. Is this what we've taught you at home? These people might not say anything to you but I don't want to even see you. Today, I could have lost My Riddhima because of your stupid idea of fun. Go and apologize to her and stay out of my way, understand?" Armaan said sternly and made his way out of the house.

"I'm sorry Bhai. I'm sorry everyone." Muskaan slumped on the sofa and cried covering her face with her hands.

Armaan keenly observed the water and sky merge at the horizon. It had been two hours since he reached the sea side to soothe his nerves. Today's happenings had shaken him; the stupid prank by his sister could have cost him the love of his life. The moment for which he had been waiting for so long had come, their parents had forgiven and accepted him, but something just seemed off. There was a constant fear in his heart that something would go wrong any moment. The recent developments regarding Rakesh were one reason for this disturbance. Armaan closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, thinking of his life, his love. Just then his cell rang and a smile adorned his face seeing the caller's name.

"Armaan, I can't believe it. Armaan, Papa maan gaye. He isn't angry with us. He has fixed our wedding for next month. Aj Ma and Dad will bring shagun. They have organized a small function for celebrating our engagement. Isn't it great?" she chirped.

"Tum khush ho na?" he asked though he knew the answer.

"Bohat bohat khush hoon. Per tum kahan ho? Where did you go without informing me?"

"Tum batao, tumhien kya lagta hai main kahan hoon?"

"Umm.. Tum beach per ho? Haww, Armaan tum beach per akele chalay gaye. Mujhe kyun nahin le kar gaye?"

"Ap so gayi thi Madam, or maine ap ko disturb karna theek nahi samjha per ab next time tumhare saath hi aaon ga. Yahan akele aanay ka koi maza nahin."

"Good. Tum log kab aao ge shagun le kar?"

"Lagta hai kisi se intezaar nahin ho raha?" he grinned.

"Hmm, bohat intezaar kia hai is pal ka is liye ab aik pal bhi bohat lamba lag raha hai."

"Oyye hoyye. Mujhe nahin pata tha ke ap itni beqaraar hain mujhse shaadi karne ke liye Miss. Basket." he teased.

"Armaaan." she whined.

"Bolo Armaan ki jaan." he spoke huskily.

"Batao na kab aao ge?" she asked like a small child.

"Bus Maa abhi nikal rahi hongi. "

"Tum nahin aa rahay?"

"Main bhi aaon kya? What will I do there?" he asked her.

"Of course you have to come."

"Okay Madam as you say but you have to pay heavily for scaring me like this today. Take care till then. Bye."

The Malliks and the gang were welcomed by Dadi and Sujal at the doorstep of Garewal House as they arrived with Shagun. Prerna signaled her servants to bring in the trays loaded with gifts and sweets.

"Welcome to our family Young Man." Sujal said embracing Armaan.

"I'm sorry for my behavior in the morning Uncle. I shouldn't have left so abruptly." Armaan spoke looking down.

"It's okay Armaan. You don't have to apologize. It was our fault, in order to have some fun we troubled you and Rhea. I hope you aren't upset with any of us now." Sujal lead them inside as Armaan shook his head in a no.

All men were seated in the lounge with Anurag and Sujal discussing about the function next day while the ladies helped get Riddhima ready. Armaan was not interested in anything as his eyes were fixed on the stairs.

"Aise ghoorne se woh jaldi nahin aye gi Armaan." Prem said and the rest of them laughed at him as he looked down. Armaan glared at Abhi as he elbowed him and directed his face upstairs.

Armaan's breath got stuck seeing Riddhima descend the stairs. She looked like a Princess descending from heavens decked in a pink sari. Her forehead was adorned with a mang tika, ear rings and hands full of bangles. He moved towards her as if in a trance. The girls stopped at the last step as he approached them.

They became oblivious of their surroundings as their eyes locked. Their eyes spoke the language of love which only they could understand. Armaan looked at her intently from top to bottom appreciating her with his gaze to which she blushed and lowered her eyes. Riddhima suddenly became aware of all the eyes fixed at them and the place where they were. She looked at Armaan and found him still lost in admiring her. She cleared her throat lightly to gain his attention as Dadi walked up to them but couldn't. Dadi put a black dot behind Riddhima's ear and kissed her forehead lovingly. She chuckled seeing Armaan who still stood as a statue.

"Ab tou wapis aa jao apni khwabon ki dunya se. Wo chali gayi hai neechey. Pagal." Prerna hit Armaan's head to bring him out of his thoughts.

Everyone settled in the garden after the dinner was done. All faces were reflecting the same emotions of joy and contentment and so were the talks that were being held while enjoying the Shahi kheer. Armaan stared at Riddhima as she stirred the coffee mug in her hands. She looked up as she felt his gaze. Riddhima beamed recognizing the look of pride in his eyes. He motioned her to come with him but she shook her head to which he pouted. She didn't want to give others another chance to pull their legs as it is she had enough of teasing for a day. Kashish smiled noticing the silent interaction between them and so she came up with an idea.

"Rhea beta you haven't seen the house yet, isn't it? Go see around then and do one thing, take Armaan along."

"Aray we haven't seen the place too. Come on lets go together. Muski you show us around. Chalo na ab utho." Nikki said pulling a reluctant Muskaan. Armaan rolled his eyes at his friends' actions. They all started exploring the house from the veranda. Armaan held Riddhima's hand and pulled her along the stairs.

"Aray wahan kya kar rahey ho tum dono Armaan?" Atul asked looking up.

"Tum sab ko pata hai main kya kar raha hoon, zyada masoom banne ki zaroorat nahin. Agar tum mein se koi bhi mere peechey aya ya disturb kiya na tou acha nahin hoga. Samjhe." Armaan stopped and narrowed his eyes while looking down.

"Aray wah aisey kaise nahin disturb karien? Tum ne hum sab ko kum sataya hai kya? Ab apni bari ayi tou sab bhool gaye?" Nikki said with hands on her hips glaring back at Armaan.

"Exactly, not happening." Anjali added.

"Oyye zyada free honay ki zaroorat nahin hai. Kal tum sab ko treat de raha hoon na phir kya problem hai?" Armaan said irritated.

"Haan haan theek hai jao. Common guys, Armaan to sada ka besharam hai per bechari Rhea pe taras khao, dekho kaise wo laal tamatar ho rahi hai." Abhi said pointing at Riddhima. All giggled seeing her turn her face away.

Armaan locked Riddhima's room as they entered it while holding her wrist as she tried to move away. He pulled her towards him with a jerk embracing her tightly.

"Do you know how long I've been waiting to hold you close to myself?" he whispered inhaling her smell.

"Kyun?" she asked.

"Don't you know?" she shook her head in reply.

"Really? Chalo main bata deta hoon. Yahan dekho zara." he said lifting her chin to meet her eyes. He lowered his face rubbing his cheek on hers.

"Armaan hato. Main tum se naraz hoon." She tried to push him away.

"Tch Basket, kya tum thori dair baad naraz nahin ho sakti? Itni mushkil se mujhe time mila hai tumhare paas anay ka or ab tum shuru ho gayin. Acha batao tou kyun naraz ho?" he asked as she turned away.

"As if tumhien nahin pata."

"Kya nahin pata? Basket, seriously how would I know unless you tell me?"

"Koi zaroorat nahin. Jao tum." she huffed. Armaan ran his fingers through his hair in exasperation.

"Kya hua hai Meri Jaan ko?" he said softly walking in front of her and was shocked to see tears in her eyes.

"Oyye kya hua? Ye aansu kyun?" he said catching a tear on his fingertip.

"Janey do na Armaan, tumhien kab se meri fikr honay lagi? Tumhari koi important meeting hogi ya koi client intezaar kar raha hoga, wahan jao. Mere paas kyun time waste kar rahay ho?" she wiped her tears which rolled down stubbornly.

"Please don't cry Jaan. I'm really sorry for not giving you proper time. I had so much work to do before the week ended that I couldn't pull myself out of it. Believe me Riddhima, agar woh kaam zaroori na hotay tou main kabhi aisa nahin karta. You know it very well that I can't stay away from you, don't you?" Armaan spoke pulling her closer by waist.

"Maaf kar do. I won't ever do this again. Please Baby."

"Just this time, okay?" she said melting on seeing his pout.

"Yes only this time. Never again." she wrapped her arms around his neck hugging him tight. Armaan smiled and kissed her hair. They stood for a few minutes in silence absorbing each other's presence.

The next day went in haste as everyone was busy with the preparations of the function Anurag had held. The venue and whole organization was looked after by boys while girls took care of the dresses and invitations. Today was undoubtedly a joyous occasion for Riddhima. She was everyone's center of attention. Prerna had arrived early with Anjie, Nikki and her designer carrying loads of dresses & jewelry to select from for the evening. The girls selected their outfits as well as boys, according to the party theme. Snacks were constantly being served as no one had time for proper lunch. Riddhima felt herself exploding with the amount of food she had stuffed and it was all due to her beloved fianc and brothers who were constantly after her with something or the other.  "Guys please; I'll vomit if you bring anything to eat near me. I've eaten enough for 3 days. I feel like a stuffed animal. Am I leaving for a war zone where I won't be able to eat? Please, I am perfectly fine. Stop force feeding me." she whined when Rahul came up to her holding a plate of spring rolls.

The girls gave personal invitations to the people whom Anurag and Sujal had jotted down due to lack of time. Armaan had requested them to keep it a low affair as he didn't want any danger for his family so only close friends and business associates were invited.

Riddhima had been sent to rest for a while before the party started. She sighed lying down in bed snuggling with her new teddy which she received today early in the morning with a bunch of red roses and the sender was of course her Armaan. Riddhima closed her eyes to relax and fell asleep due to exhaustion but her sleep broke soon as she jerked up screaming for Armaan. She griped the comforter tightly to her chest and looked around to take in her surroundings. She picked her mobile and dialed Armaan's number with trembling hands.

"Hey, how's my baby doing?" she left the breath she had been holding on hearing Armaan's voice.

"I'm okay. Are you okay Armaan? Where are you? Is anyone else there with you?" she asked trying to steady her voice but whom was she kidding Armaan caught on to her trembling voice.

"What happened? Why do you sound so tensed? Are you okay Riddhima?" he asked worriedly.

"Nothing, I'm fine and at home. Just sleepy but wanted to talk to you."

"Are you sure? I'm sorry I can't talk much now as I'm with the event planner. You take rest; I'll see you in evening. Remember don't leave without me, I'll come to take you."

"No don't disconnect, keep doing your work, I won't disturb you, promise."

"What is it Jaan? What's troubling you?" he asked softly.

"Kuch nahin. Tum kab aao ge?" she replied.

"Are you okay Jaan? Do you want me to come now?"

"I'm fine, just missing you. Don't take long to come in evening."

"I won't make you wait for long, promise. Now close your eyes. I'm on the line, okay. I love you Baby."

"Hmm. Me too." she bit her lips to stop the cry from escaping her mouth. Riddhima could feel her heart sink low as the dream played on a loop in her mind. She had this feeling since morning but was trying hard to hold herself from breaking as she didn't want to spoil the day for her family. Right now all she wanted was to be in Armaan's arms, near him, where no one could reach her. But for now she tried to find solace in his voice as he kept instructing workers.

The boys returned exhausted from the venue after finalizing everything. Kashish got the servants to serve snacks and coffee for meanwhile. It was decided that they all would leave together for the venue from Garewal house. The girls had taken the upper portion to get dressed and so the boys took turns to get ready downstairs.

"Kya hua Armaan tum ne shirt kyun nahin pehni?" Atul asked as he saw a frustrated Armaan emerge out of the room.

"Yaar yeh log aik bhi kaam dekh ke nahin kar sakti kya? Shirt ke pehle do buttons tootey huey hain per unhe kaise pata chalta, they must have been busy admiring their girly stuff." he huffed.

"What's the big deal? You would anyway leave the first three buttons open as always. Isi liye unho ne tumhare liye ye choose kiya hoga." Abhi teased him.

"Shut up Modi. Ab main kya karun, Maa has already left for the function?"

"Give it to me, I'll ask Muskaan to fix it." all the boys laughed as Rahul suggested this.

"Please, Muski only knows how to work with a pen not a needle. She will ruin the remaining of them too." Rahul shook his head smiling and directed Armaan to Dadi's room where he could find the thread and needle. Armaan peeped around cautiously as he took small steps towards Riddhima's room. He knocked softly and entered only to be frozen at the door.

There stood Riddhima looking as ethereal as ever donning a peach sharara with green and golden work. Armaan gazed at her intensely from head to toe. Her hair was held in a bun with a few loose curls falling over her cheeks. The make-up was subtle but her eyes stood out due to the kajal outlining. His trance was broken with her voice.

"Di please yeh dori tie kar do na. It's so hard. I can't do this." Armaan then noticed that Riddhima's entire back was visible, the doris being the only hindrance.

"Yeh tumne kya pehna hai Riddhima?" he couldn't stop himself from shouting. Riddhima was startled on hearing his voice. She quickly spun around and saw him standing there in black pajamas holding his golden sherwani in hand.

"Tum yahan kya kar rahey ho Armaan? Tumhien to neechey tayar hona tha na?"

"Don't change the topic. What are you wearing?" he asked moving towards her.

"Can't you see?" she asked irritated at his tone.

"Yes I can see that's why I'm asking why you are wearing this. Abhi utaro issey." her eyes went wide hearing him.

"Why are you staring at me like that? Abhi utaro yeh. I'm not taking you out. Aik minute. Oyye dirty mind, I didn't mean it that way. Go and change your dress. I can't let anyone see you like this."

"Armaan but Maa chose this dress for me. How can I not wear it?

"That I don't know. You can wear it when you are at our home but not outside. I can't tolerate people looking at your naked back."

"Oh really and what are you doing without a shirt in a girls room? Don't you have any shame?" she asked with a raised eye brow.

"I'm not in any girl's room; it's my fianc's room. And what can I do when you didn't notice while choosing this that the buttons are broken?" he said pulling her into his arms and inhaling her scent. She fidgeted out of his hold and sat to fix his shirt before they got lost in each other.

"Wait, let me wear it first." he snatched it from her hands.

"Kyun? Main theek kar ke deti hoon na."

"Nahin. Yahan mere paas khari ho kar karo." he pulled her up and wrapped his arms around her waist.

"Ye kya hai? Main kaam kar rahi hoon, choro."

"So do your work, when am I stopping you? I'm also doing my work?"

"Seedhey raho warna main needle chuba doon gi." She said pushing him away as he leaned to kiss her lips.

"Main tou tumhein nahin rok raha na tou why are you stopping me? This isn't fair Basket. Ouch." he yelped as the needle pricked his chest.

"Armaan, I'm so sorry. I didn't do it intentionally. Bol rahi thi na seedhe raho, per tum kab meri suntey ho? Dekho lag gayi na. I'm so sorry." she spoke almost crying looking around for the tissue box to wipe the blood drop but couldn't due to the mess of clothes. Armaan took in a sharp breath as Riddhima pressed her lips to his chest. His eyes shut as she sucked the spot to soothe the pain. He pulled her in and ran his palm slowly over her back. Riddhima didn't know when her other hand started to trace his chest and her lips followed its path. She looked up when she reached his chin and found him staring at her passionately. They inched closer until their lips met in a soulful kiss. She wrapped her hands around his neck when they parted for oxygen.

 "Are you crying? Move, let me see. What happened now? You're still upset with me?" he said trying to pull her out of the hug as he felt wetness seep through his shirt but her hold became more strong around him.

"I don't want to lose you again. I can't stay without you. Don't ever leave me Armaan." she said crying.

"Now where did this come from?" he asked perplexed by her sudden insecurity.

"I feel like somebody is trying to pull us apart, trying to distance us."

"Basket, it's nothing. You're thinking too much. I told you na that I won't ignore you again, I'll come daily, if you want more than once. But just relax."

"No I had this feeling even back then when you left for Malaysia. I saw a dream that somebody was taking me away from you and see we got separated. What if Rakesh does the same thing again? I saw a similar dream today."

"Why didn't you tell me this before? Why are you torturing yourself like this Jaan? I've told you to share everything with me, then why are you holding yourself back? "He rubbed his palm over her back to pacify her.

"I didn't know how to say it at that time and now I didn't want to trouble you. But this feeling is not going away. Armaan, I feel so suffocated, as if I can't breathe. Please Armaan do something. Take this feeling away." she cried holding him. Armaan pulled her into him leaving no space between them. He was shocked to hear Riddhima as he was fighting with exactly the same weird feelings. The nightmare from last night kept haunting him too. He didn't know what to do, maybe it was just their fear of losing each other again as they have been through so much that was playing with their imagination or maybe.. He didn't even want to ponder over the other reasons. For now he had to assure Riddhima that it was nothing and all would be fine even though his own heart was refusing to believe it but he couldn't let his love suffer and not enjoy one of the happiest days of their life.

"Shh. Stop crying. Nothing will go wrong because we are together and this time we have our family's support. I won't let anyone take you away from me because you're mine. I love you, I love you so much Jaan." Armaan said pressing a kiss on her lips. He made her stand on his feet taking her into a tender kiss promising his undying love for her always.


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