Sunday, 4 October 2020

Part 19 : In My Heart

Guards dressed in crisp white uniforms opened the gates of "The Pearl Continental Hotel" as a white limo pulled in its driveway. Armaan and Riddhima were escorted to the hall in tight security amidst the flashes of cameras from media and paparazzi that were eager to capture a glimpse of the couple. Armaan encircled his arms around Riddhima to protect and avoid anyone from touching her.

He linked his arm with hers once they reached the hall's entrance and blinked at her assuring before making their way inside. Everyone's gaze was fixed at the stairs as the couple descended. Armaan Riddhima looked extremely stunning and made for each other couple. The guests whispered softly amongst them as how well these two complimented each other. Armaan and Riddhima stopped before their parents and touched their feet to take blessings.

 "Good Evening Everyone. As you all know we have gathered here to celebrate my son, Armaan Mallik's engagement with Riddhima Garewal. I would like to introduce you all to my daughter who has filled our lives with happiness and love with her presence. I am so glad that now she'll be joining my family permanently. Rhea." Anurag spoke forwarding his hand towards Riddhima and side hugging her as everyone welcomed her by clapping.
"Dad, I suppose you forgot to mention me." Armaan said from behind the duo.

"No, of course I did. Everyone has seen you so there's no need for your introduction." Anurag said without looking back at him.

"See, I told you. You had nothing to worry. In fact I should think of something as you've taken away my Maa and Dad even before our wedding." Armaan said and she poked her tongue at him. He smiled sighing in relief as he saw his family gush over his love.

Riddhima rolled her eyes at Armaan's clingy behavior. He stuck to her side as everyone took her to meet the guests individually. He wouldn't leave her alone for a moment and dragged her along when he needed to interact with his business clients. Riddhima pulled her hand away from his as they neared a corner.
"Kya hua?" Armaan asked trying to take her hand back.

"I'm not talking to you." she replied slapping his hand away.

"Kyun? Ab kya kia maine? Kab se tou ache bachon ki tarah chup khara hoon. I didn't even touch you once the whole evening." Riddhima turned away to hide her smile as he pouted.

"Look here and tell me what happened?" he turned her to face him.

"Armaan, tum abhi tak Muski se naraaz ho? Whatever she did was a prank. However stupid it was, she didn't intend to hurt us." she spoke sheepishly knowing well how Armaan would react and he did.

"Pata tha mujhe tum yeh bolo gi. Per Riddhima main tumhari tarah nahi hoon ke sab ko maaf kar doon. Us ne mera dil dukhaya hai apni stupidity se, tumhein kitni takleef hui us ki wajah se, main usey maaf nahin kar sakta. Please don't talk to me about this again." Armaan said moving away.

"Theek hai phir main bhi yeh engagement nahin karoon gi." she said on impulse but then regretted seeing Armaan fume.

"Kya kaha tumne? You think this is some joke?" he asked.

"I'm serious. I'll say no if you don't forgive Muski." she crossed her arms on her chest and tried looking sternly at him.

"Go ahead whose stopping you." he said imitating her action.

"Armaan tum jaante ho kitna boora lagey ga sab ko, sab kya bolien ge hamari family ke baray mein? Tum itna nahin kar sakte mere liye." she tried to convince him. He turned away without an answer after glaring at her.

The next half hour she found him ignoring her as he mingled with his friends. Riddhima knew there were chances of Rakesh playing his move, but she had a sudden urge to roll her eyes again at Armaan's over protectiveness on noticing three men dressed casually orbiting around her continuously.

Armaan stopped Muskaan by holding her elbow as she tried to get away from the table. He led her to a corner and stared at her angrily. Muskaan looked down and blinked hard to stop the tears.
"Whatever you did is unacceptable. What were you thinking when you did all this? I never thought you would hurt Riddhima like this. You know her so well and still.. I know you wanted to be involved in all this, it's your right too but like this.. You made everyone promise and do as you say.. Now why aren't you happy?" Armaan spoke furiously.

"I.. I am sorry bhai. I just.. I didn't want to hurt you or Rhea. I can never do that. I am so sorry. Please forgive me this time." she sobbed. Armaan closed his eyes tightly. He couldn't forget Riddhima's pale, frightened face and her sobs as she held him. He knew he couldn't be angry with Muskaan forever. Though he still wasn't ready to forgive her so soon, he had to do this for Riddhima, he could do anything for her. He knew these two had a deep bond and he was being a hindrance in their joys right now. Armaan pulled Muskaan in a hug and rubbed her back softly.

"Stop crying. I forgive you this time. But remember never hurt Riddhima again because I won't tolerate it. I want you to take care of her when I'm not around, okay?" Muskaan nodded and continued crying.

"Don't cry now, we don't want the guests to run away before the ceremony seeing your scary face, do we? Common, now smile." Armaan said wiping her tears.

"Muskaan go and apologize to Rahul. I don't want any misunderstanding between you two." he kissed her forehead and motioned her to go.

Riddhima blushed as she walked towards Armaan on the stage with her family by her side.
"Common Armaan, now confess and propose Riddhima. We all want to see how much you love her." Prerna said and all the girls agreed.

"Aray ye sab kya hai? He has already done all this. No need to waste time. Armaan tum sirf ring pehnao." Anurag replied and boys nodded.

"Anu, tum se kaun bol raha hai, main Armaan se baat ker rahi hoon. I want to see if he has also gone after his father in expressing his emotions that is nil." Prerna retorted and the youngsters giggled seeing Anurag's face.

The love birds were lost in the depths of their eyes which reflected admiration and love for their partner. Armaan held Riddhima's hand softly and stepped closer to her.

"You had left a deep and strong impact on my mind and heart the very first time I laid my eyes on you, one which affected me like none other. I was shocked and bothered due to my own response and tried to stay away from you. But every time I tried I felt myself being pulled towards you by a strange force. I realized what it was during my visit to Malaysia and decided to confess my feelings but due to my stupidity I ruined everything. That day I didn't only lose you, I lost myself and my will to live too." Riddhima gripped Armaan's hand tightly as his voice quivered. He smiled sadly at her while wiping a tear from her cheek. He moved back and went down on his knee.

"It was only our memories that kept me going, motivated me to work and strive to achieve everything that you wanted for me. I had given in to my family's wish of getting settled but I couldn't move on. I couldn't give your place in my life and heart to anyone else. Riddhima, you have a part of me with you, one without which I can't live. You are the missing piece of my heart, the void in my soul and the essence of my being. I love you Riddhima, I love you deeply, madly and infinitely. I can't live my life without you any longer. I promise to be by your side and to love you unconditionally till my last breath. Will you fill my life with the color of your love; will you complete me by giving yourself to me? Will you marry me Riddhima?"
The hall was engulfed in silence as everyone waited for Riddhima's reply. Riddhima was elated at hearing such a heartfelt confession from Armaan. She nodded lightly and smiled through her tears. Armaan smiled at her with moist eyes as he took her hand. He knew Riddhima didn't want a new ring as she loved her current one. Hence he pulled out the ring from her ring finger and carefully slipped it back. Everyone cheered and clapped for the couple.

The guests were served delicious food and entertained by live music by a band. Soft, romantic music filled the air as the evening neared its end and couples joined the dance floor. Riddhima looked on with a smile from her table where she was sitting with their parents. Armaan was dictating the schedule to his PA and Manager for the next few days. He had caught the dreamy look on Riddhima's face as she saw people dance.
"May I have the pleasure to dance with My Love?" Armaan bent down in front of Riddhima forwarding his hand. Everyone chuckled including Armaan as she looked at their parents for approval. She smiled shyly and slipped her hand in his which he held firmly and led her to the less crowded corner. Armaan guided her hand around his neck as his went around her waist pulling her in to him. They moved in sync to the tunes lost in their own world.

Armaan closed his eyes and grunted in irritation as the gang nagged him for a treat tonight itself. He told them the plan and everyone agreed to it happily. Armaan and Riddhima posed for a few selected print and electronic media, avoiding any questions before being escorted to their car.
Armaan opened the door for Riddhima to get down as they reached their destination. They moved inside the Villa which was immersed in darkness except for the light in the passage. Both smiled at each other as they noticed the decorations on the walls and cards on the coffee table.

"Lagta hai sab so gaye hain. Mujhe laga tha sab hamara wait karein ge per aisa tou kuch nahin hai, chalo hum wapis.." Armaan spoke loudly from the hall to attract everyone's attention and he was engulfed in a bear hug by kids even before he completed his sentence. Armaan and Riddhima handled a bunch of over enthusiastic kids, who were jumping up and down with happiness as they celebrated the engagement of their beloved Bhaiyya and Di. The gang joined the kids with desserts and cake and left after clicking loads of pictures, dancing and gift exchanges.

It was past mid night as Riddhima stood at the terrace of Garewal Mansion staring at the dark sky covered with sparkling stars. She rubbed her arms to warm her body as a shiver ran down due to the chilly wind. She sighed in contentment when a pair of arms engulfed her in a hug from behind securing her from the world. They stood like that for some time in compatible silence.
"I thought I couldn't love you more than I already do but today you made me fall for you even more deeply. I love you Armaan Mallik, from the bottom of my heart and the whole of my being." Riddhima whispered turning in his embrace.

"I love you too Meri Jaan, infinitely." Armaan bridged the gap between their bodies and kissed her deeply.

Arjun laughed as he saw Armaan run around his room in haste trying to look presentable. He kept throwing shirts from the hangers as he tried them all. Armaan would have been annoyed at his friend's behavior but today nothing could wipe the wide dimpled smile from his face.
Today was special, very special, as he had been gifted the one thing he desired most. Both the friends sprinted down the stairs of Mallik mansion and jumped in to their car. Armaan couldn't help but notice how beautiful the day was, the sun rays peeped meekly from behind the thick clouds covering the sky. The trees danced on the tunes of cool wind and the birds chirped happily. Armaan looked at the bouquet of red roses in the back seat, humming in anticipation of unfolding the big news to his beloved. Today everything was going to be perfect.

The gang and Garewal family was gathering at the dining for brunch as it was too late for breakfast. Armaan and Arjun were ushered in by Kashish as she served food to everyone. Armaan refused politely saying he would wait for Riddhima to wake up. The guys were chatting while enjoying their meal when they heard the girls call out Riddhima's name repeatedly. They all stood up once rushing upstairs from where the voice was coming.
"What happened? Why are you screaming? Where's Riddhima?" Armaan asked worried.

"She's not in her room. We searched for her everywhere but she's not here." Muskaan said.

"What non-sense, where can she go? She must be up at the terrace. I'll call her down." Armaan said turning towards stairs when he saw Nikki coming down shaking her head. Boys rushed out of the mansion and found that Riddhima had left two hours back upon interrogating the guards.

"I swear this girl is so careless. She doesn't think once before doing anything. Even after being reminded repeatedly of the danger, she ventures out alone in a city which she has no clue about." Prem said angrily dialing her mobile number. Even after numerous attempts no call could get through, all were directed to her voice mail. Armaan punched his hand on the wall in frustration as another hour passed without any news from Riddhima.

"Armaan she took your car." Arjun exclaimed.

"Thanks for reminding buddy." Armaan replied sarcastically. Arjun shook his head; his friend really couldn't think straight with anything involving Riddhima.

"Armaan she has your car, that means it has the tracking system." Armaan smiled a little at Arjun as hope found its way back to his heart.

Arjun snatched the keys from Armaan as they rushed out of the tracking company's office after finding the location of the car from the tracker.

"Sorry you don't get to drive because I want to reach there in one place." Arjun didn't allow Armaan to drive despite his threats.

 Armaan jumped out of the car with tracking device and the guys followed him. The beep kept growing stronger as they approached the Mall's basement parking leading them to its farthest corner. The device fell with a thud from Armaan's hands as he found Riddhima's things strewn across the floor besides his white Audi Q5. Rahul and Prem picked her purse, mobile and shopping bags hurriedly while Abhi, Arjun ran towards the guards to gather any information.

Armaan knelt down to touch the dark red drop near the car's rear view mirror and his heart constricted on realizing it was blood, His Riddhima's blood. He couldn't respond to the calls of his friends as they tried to move him away from the spot as the police had arrived. The world started spinning as his head pounded and vision blurred with hot tears. His nightmare had turned in to reality, his fears had come true, and he was once again robbed of his love. Armaan clenched his teeth firmly and fisted his hands as anger and rage coursed through his veins. He stood up determined to not only defeat his enemy but crush it altogether. He would make sure to extract revenge for every drop of blood and every tear of His beloved. Armaan Mallik could overlook anything but wouldn't spare anyone who dared to touch His Love.


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