Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Part 22 : In My Heart

The bells of grandfather clock chimed and echoed through the hall of Garewal House. Riddhima groaned and continued rocking herself on her Grandfather's chair in front of the hearth. The hall was dark except for the light from the fire. She quietly observed the flames flicker and form shadows on the roof out of boredom. Her family had left to meet The Malliks to finalize a date for her wedding some four hours back. She had watched mindless TV, surfed on net, checked with her manager in Australia, and e-mailed her friends to kill time but still no one had returned. Riddhima was frustrated that they decided to leave her back here. The weather had turned pleasant after the drizzle in morning but she couldn't enjoy outside as she was being watched over by 20 guards. Armaan had made sure every door and window of the house was guarded and that she couldn't venture out alone.
"Why couldn't he be here if he was so worried for me? Of course how could Mr. Workaholic Mallik leave his work? He hasn't come to see me in two days because agar aik din kaam nahin karey ga tou India ki economy loss mein chali jaye gi." she scoffed. Riddhima leaned down to pick her mobile from the floor as its screen blinked indicating an incoming message.

"Hey I've e-mailed you the pictures and video from our engagement function, thought you might want to see them. Love you Meri Jaan."

"Liar." she whispered in reply to Armaan's text.

 Riddhima's ears perked up as a car halted in the driveway. She almost ran towards the door throwing aside her i-pad but then controlled herself and sat back in the chair pretending to be seeing the pictures, where in reality her heart was thumping in anticipation. Riddhima looked up when the door opened and her family came in. She looked at everyone expectantly but they all smiled at her and got engrossed in talking amongst themselves. She cleared her throat to gain their attention but her jaw dropped down as they ignored her. Kashish walked up to her after a few minutes and caressed her head lovingly.
"Sorry we were just teasing you. The wedding will take place after a month and a half from today."

"A month and a half!" Riddhima exclaimed.

"Dekha na, I was telling you mama that it's too early and we should choose the date for after six months."

"Or even better after a year. Isn't it Rhea?" Rahul and Prem said standing next to Riddhima who looked on with eyes wide in surprise.


"See we told you Mama, she wouldn't want to get married so soon. Let's inform the Malliks." Rahul said happily.

"No. I didn't say that."

"Oh, then what did you mean?" Prem asked faking ignorance.

"Why so late? I mean Armaan won't ever agree. Why don't you ask him?" she asked innocently.

"We asked him. He only chose the date." Kashish replied.

"Armaan chose this date but why?" Riddhima was confused.

"Wo humein nahin pata. Haan lekin agar tumhien jaldi hai tou hum next week finalize kar dete hain. Bolo." Prem teased her.

"Nahin aisa kuch nahin hai. Jaise ap sab ko theek lagey." she replied with a smile.

 The room was immersed in darkness except for the light coming off of i-pad on which a video was playing. It was past midnight and everyone had retired to their rooms. Riddhima was up waiting for a call from Armaan but like the past two days there was none. She debated with herself whether to call him or not and her mind drifted back to the events after she gained consciousness.

 "Riddhima had finally opened her eyes after being out for hours amidst her family. She was taken in a bear hug as they all cried and smiled at the same time. Riddhima's eyes roamed around the room in search of one particular person whom her heart wanted to see and be with. Kashish had noticed her daughter's searching gaze so she informed her:
'He isn't home beta. He's gone out for a meeting.' Riddhima's face dropped but she smiled for her family's sake and nodded in understanding. Everyone showered her with love and pampered her. Sujal caressed her hair and kissed her forehead while speaking:

'Time flies by so quickly, isn't it Kashish? Dekho hamari Princess itni bari ho gayi or hamien pata hi nahin chala. It looks like just yesterday we brought her home from hospital and today she isn't only our daughter, she's somebody's wife too.' Riddhima looked at them with a confused expression.

'I'm.. We all are so happy for you my doll. We'll miss you a lot.' Kashish kissed her cheek.

'I don't understand anything. Why are you all behaving so weirdly? As if I'm going somewhere? Can anyone explain me?' she asked them lifting herself into a sitting position.

'You and Armaan bhai are married now.' Muskaan exclaimed happily.

'Armaan bhai submitted the marriage papers in court and they have been approved.' Riddhima's eyes went wide with shock on hearing this.

'Why? He didn't tell me. He said he'll not submit them. I'm sorry Papa, please don't be angry with him.' She mumbled scared of Sujal's response but his reply calmed her a bit:

'Don't worry Princess; no one is angry with you or Armaan. He couldn't inform you because you were kidnapped on the same day as he got the letter from court. Armaan has explained it to us and we agree with his decision.'

Silence prevailed in the room as everyone got absorbed in their own thoughts.

'Riddhima go and take a bath beta. You'll feel better.' Kashish told her. Riddhima was feeling dizzy and weak but still pushed herself as she needed to wash off the dirt and sweat from her body and wanted to dress up for Armaan. She stepped out of the bathroom to change and found Armaan on the door. She shrieked and turned her back towards him embarrassed at being caught like this. Armaan's touch made her already weak body wobble and stir with desire for him. But Riddhima's mind clouded with negative thoughts as Armaan turned away from her and left the room. She couldn't understand what happened in an instant that made him react like that. Her confusion grew seeing him taking care of her before his own self at dinner. She couldn't eat anything as the smell of food made her nauseous and so she ran back. Riddhima felt so weak after the vomiting that she couldn't stand up. She was grateful that Armaan came behind her. She wanted to talk to Armaan alone, ask him how he was and about everything that had occurred in these two days but before any of it could happen, she felt herself being pulled in by darkness."

Riddhima was too lost in thinking that she didn't notice when Muskaan slipped in bed beside her.

"Bhai ke baray mein soch rahi ho na?" Riddhima's head snapped in Muskaan's direction and she gasped seeing her there.

"Pata hai Riddhima, I've never seen Armaan bhai so happy as that day. A permanent smile was etched on his face as he waited for you on brunch. It was as if he was controlling himself from shouting and announcing the news of your wedding to the world. He was lost and defeated when we couldn't trace you. Rahul told me that bhai wasn't moving away from the spot where your blood and things were scattered. He wasn't listening or co-operating with them at all. Rahul said that they were scared something would happen to bhai. Arjun and Abhi bhai pulled him away when the police arrived. Bhai had already figured that it was Rakesh's trap and so he spoke to him. But that man really is something. I can't get words to describe how big of a scumbag he is. Bhai didn't return home after that. He spent the entire time in his office. All of us wanted him to return and rest but didn't force him as we knew he wouldn't sleep a wink till you were back. Bhai's knuckles were bruised with all the fighting he did but he didn't let anyone treat it. After he was satisfied that you were stable, he explained his decision to Papa. You know Rhea, I was really scared that now Papa would never accept bhai but we all were so surprised and relieved when he hugged him."
"I'm so sorry Muski. You all had to bear so much because of me. I really am sorry." Both of them cried holding each other.

"Chalo ab chup ho jao and sleep. Agar tumhari tabiat kharab hui to bhai will kill me. He's instructed me to care of you and keep informing him." Muskaan said wiping Riddhima's tears.

"Muskaan, did Papa really ask Armaan about the wedding date?"

"Yeah, he was at office so Maa called him up and told the three dates Pandit jee had pointed out. So he selected this one." Muskaan clarified.

"Acha. But I thought Armaan ko shaadi jaldi karni thi." Riddhima said in a small voice.

"I didn't know you are so eager to be with bhai that you are ready to marry him next week. I am so calling bhai right now and telling him to prepone the wedding date." Muskaan teased Riddhima and they continued to bicker like old times. Muskaan left for her room after tucking her in bed.

 Kashish was pouring tea for Sujal at breakfast when Prerna and Armaan walked in. Armaan took blessings from Kashish and Sujal and kissed Muskaan's forehead. They all settled in the dining lounge as Prerna told the reason of her visit.
"I've come to invite you all for pooja at our house tonight. It'll be great if you could join us. It's a small gathering, just our families and close friends."

"Of course we'll come Prerna. Yeh bhi koi kehne ki baat hai. We're family so ab in formalities ki zaroorat nahin hai." Kashish ensured placing her hand above Prerna's.

"I know but I had to come because of Armaan too."

"Maa please.." Armaan interfered.

"What Maa please? Armaan has brought something for his wife but he wanted me to convey it to her and I refused. He made lame excuses of being busy and all so I brought him now before he left for office. Sahi kya na maine?"

"Bilkul sahi. Armaan you can meet Riddhima whenever you want without any excuse, you've got all rights beta. Go see her, she's in her room and wake her up as well." Kashish replied with a smile.

Armaan walked in Riddhima's room and placed the gifts on her dressing table. He crouched on the floor beside her bed and tucked the lose strands of hair behind her ear. He smiled seeing her sleeping on the bear he had given her and nuzzle it. Armaan kept looking at his Sleeping Beauty fighting the urge to slip in bed and hold her against himself. He left for office after peppering feather light kisses on her face to avoid disturbing her.

A beautiful smile adorned Riddhima's face as she dreamt of Her Prince Charming but it didn't last long as she was shook out of it by someone. She scrunched up her nose while peeking through one eye to see who the intruder was. She clicked her tongue in disapproval at seeing Muskaan hovering above her with a wide smile.

"What has you smiling like an idiot this early in the morning Muski?" she asked turning over to hide her face in the duvet which Muskaan threw off of her.

"Open your eyes to know the reason and it's late in the afternoon not early morning, my Dear Bhabhi." Riddhima sprang up in bed, rubbing sleep out of her eyes.

"I'm sorry for being late. I had taken a pill so.. But why didn't you wake me up?"

"Your Husband dearest had issued orders to not disturb you in any case. But yaar mujhse aur wait nahi ho raha tha is liye utha dia. Please tum bhai ko mat bolna." Muskaan said with a pout.

"Armaan.. Us ne mana kiya? Did he come here? Why didn't anyone.. Oh goodness.." Riddhima's words died on her lips as she saw a delicate bouquet of pink roses and white lilies placed above her favorite chocolates. She smiled dreamily while inhaling the fragrance and caressing them against her cheek. Muskaan left the room to give her some privacy while gesturing towards the table. Riddhima kept the bouquet back and padded towards the boxes wrapped in pink glittery paper with silver bows on them. A gasp escaped her lips as she touched the soft silk fabric of stunning red sari in one box. It had a green border adorned with delicate threads of gold, zari work and stones. She lifted a pink note in Armaan's writing:

'I don't know much about girl's choice in clothing so please excuse me if you don't like it. I had this designed for you according to what I envisioned you dressed in on Our first pooja together. Will you please wear this for me tonight?

I'll be waiting for you..

Your Armaan.'

Riddhima leaned back on the headrest and closed her eyes contentedly after putting the note back. A small smile played on her lips as she thought of Armaan of how he had kept even the small details in mind while getting the matching accessories. Riddhima decided against calling him as she knew he would be waiting to hear from her. But this would be a part of his punishment for keeping away for three days. With this thought she put her mobile on silent mode and went out to satisfy her grumbling stomach with a snack.

Armaan had called an event organizer to take care of all the arrangements for the evening but Prerna wasn't having any of it. Despite being reminded to take it easy she had been on her toes all day. She had taken upon herself to cook the entire meal for tonight dismissing the kitchen staff. They were instructed to return once everything was done just for serving and wrapping up. Prerna was dragged up to her room to change when Nikki and Anjali arrived directly from their duties at the hospital.

Armaan had a hectic day as he had to reschedule three meetings and relieve Anurag too so he could return home early. He had been anxious to hear from Riddhima but was disappointed when received no call from her by the end of the day. He assumed she didn't like the sari and so messaged her to wear anything of her choice. Armaan signed the last check and handed it to his PA before leaving the office premises. He stopped at the family jeweler's to collect the orders he placed before heading home. Armaan rushed to his room saying hi to the gang on his way to get dressed.

Sujal chuckled hearing Rahul's irritated voice from outside Riddhima's bedroom. He fixed his collar and adjusted the shawl on his shoulder before going out.

"Don't worry Son, this is usual for women. They always take ages to get dressed even for the smallest gathering. You'll get nowhere with fretting so be patient." he said taking Rahul away from banging the door again.

"You've got to be kidding Papa. Have you seen the time? They've been in that room for the past three hours and now Mama has also joined them." Rahul said incredulously.

"Stop whining like a kid Rahul. Aa jaye gi abhi Muskaan bahar, stop being so impatient. You're going to see her first, relax okay?" Prem said joining them on the stairs. Sujal laughed as both brothers bickered. He went forward to embrace the ladies of his life as they came out followed by Rahul and Prem.
Armaan hurried down the stairs and past his friends to the door as a car stopped in the driveway. Prerna and Anurag stood on the entrance of Mallik Mansion to welcome the Garewals. Armaan's breath hitched as Riddhima came in view. His heart missed a beat and then went in to overdrive as he took in her sari clad form. Riddhima looked beautiful in everything but this sari made her look gorgeous beyond words. Prerna moved ahead with the platter to do Riddhima's aarti who was lost in her own little world admiring Armaan. A loud throat clearing brought the two lovebirds out of their daze.

"Armaan, remember pooja se pehle koi shararat nahin." Prerna teased. Everyone laughed and left them alone. Armaan entwined his hand with Riddhima as she crossed the threshold and put her first step in the house and made way inside smiling.

Pandit jee awaited them in the small temple in the house.

"Pandit jee, aj ki pooja mera beta or bahu karienga. Armaan Rhea aao." Anurag said. Armaan stared at Riddhima with eyes full of love as she sat down next to him fumbling with her pallu. He held her hand and covered her head himself and adjusted her mang tika. His heart swelled and eyes moistened seeing Riddhima look every bit and more of what he had envisioned her to be as Riddhima Armaan Mallik. Armaan said I love you holding her gaze and kissed her cheek making her turn scarlet matching the color of her sari as everyone chuckled in the background.
The Mallik kitchen was a mess as the girls peeled, diced and tossed ingredients of salad in a crystal bowl. Prerna and Kashish were busy frying cutlets and grilling tandoori chicken. Riddhima scrunched her nose in disgust at the floor littered with vegetable cuttings. "Ridiculous", she muttered under her breath as the girls carelessly munched on dried fruits while spilling half of the vegetables on the counter top. Rahul bumped his shoulder with Riddhima and raised an eyebrow sitting beside her on the high chair. She gestured towards Prerna shaking her head. "Cool, then enjoy the show." Riddhima pouted at Rahul's reply making him roll his eyes. "What are you three trying to do? Why dont you let Rhea help, you are in dire need of it." Rahul said grabbing a fistful of nuts from the platter. "We would love it but Prerna aunty has ordered not to make Rhea do anything." Nikki said peeling a carrot. "Oh right. Don't you girls think you should take seperate bowls so that it's convenient and later you can combine all your cuttings?" Rahul said. "Why don't you join us or better do it yourself, if you know so much." Anjali replied. "Uh huh. I don't think so. I much prefer seeing you work. It's a rare sight you know." Rahul winked at Muskaan. "Don't you see me working at home?" Muskaan asked.

"I only see you stuffing yourself just like right now."

"Bhai." Riddhima nudged him.

"But Rhea, that's what she does. Okay, you always serve food too, cooked by others."

"Mama look at Rahul." Muskaan whined.

"Rahul behave yourself. Don't say anything to my daughter." Kashish scolded.

"I feel sorry for you Kashish, you'll have hard time with Muskaan in the kitchen. I've tried numerous times to train her but always failed due to her lack of interest." Prerna said dishing out cutlets on ice-berg lettuce.

"It's okay because I don't intend on making my daughter do any work. I want her to enjoy this phase because once she joins business, she would get busy. Khana pakana kaunsa mushkil kaam hai, she'll learn that too. Haina Muski." Kashish said patting Muski's cheek as she hugged her from behind to which she nodded enthusiastically making everyone smile.

"Good for you Muski, common girls lets go out and serve. Thanks for your help today." Prerna said walking out of the kitchen with dishes.

"Aww mera bacha, come here. I've kept the most important work for you." Prerna said hugging an upset Riddhima.

"Yeh plate lo or apne pati ke liye khana nikalo and make him eat it. This will be his first meal at home in a week. Na jaane kaunse kaam mein busy rehta hai, apni sehat ki bilkul fikr nahi hai is larkay ko. But koi baat nahin, ab tum ho na us ka khayal rakhne ke liye, hmm?" Prerna kissed Riddhima's forehead and gestured to go.

 Riddhima found Armaan and Sujal involved in some business talks in the living room, while the rest were busy in some random talks. "I was just telling Armaan that we should leave office work at office only and not bring it home." Armaan lifted his gaze confused at Sujal's words and saw Riddhima standing with a tray of food. He smiled at her and went back to working on his laptop.

"Shut down your laptop quickly. I'm sure you don't want to fill your stomach with a lecture." Sujal mumbled shifting in his seat as Riddhima stepped down the stairs.

"What the hell?" Armaan screamed in surprise as Riddhima pulled the laptop from him. "What are you doing Basket? Can't you see I'm working? Give it back to me." Armaan said trying to pull it back. "I can see very well but I guess you can't see the dinner I've brought for you. No. No, move your hands." she replied slapping his hands away. "Basket wait, only 3 slides are left. I need to complete it before tomorrow morning." "Okay, I understand but first finish your dinner and then do the remaining work." "I'll just finish it.. No.. I meant, I'll just save the presentation. Can I?" Armaan stuttered on her stern expressions and she just nodded. "Wow Rhea, you've got him under control even before your wedding." Atul said getting up from a bean bag.

"Is ka gussa dekhe ga tou tu bhi aise hi daray ge." Armaan mumbled but unfortunately loud enough for her to hear. "What do you mean? Main tumhien darati hoon? Haan bolo." "When did I say that Jaan? I was saying that I don't want to upset you." Armaan said smiling brightly making everyone chuckle.

"Armaan why do you call her Basket?" Sujal asked pulling a chair out for Kashish. "Uh.. Just like that. No reason." Armaan replied meekly not wanting to explain. "Really? Then why do you object if anyone else calls her that?" Abhi asked filling his plate. "Ye sirf main isey bula sakta hoon, kyunki yeh meri Basket hai." "Rhea you tell us when did he call you Basket for first time?"Armaan glared at Abhi. "When we played Basketball for the first time at Shanti Nagar." Riddhima replied with a smile remembering those days. "I'm sure Bhai won because he's a champ at this game." Muski said and Riddhima shook her head. Arjun and Abhi fake gasped making Armaan roll his eyes. "You didn't win. I let you, okay. No one can beat Armaan Mallik." Armaan said pulling his sherwani's collar. "Oh please, both of us know that you always lose whenever we play." Riddhima retorted. "Haan Cheater se kaun jeet sakta hai." Armaan said rolling his tongue in his cheek enjoying her irritated expressions. "Haww.. You..You.." Riddhima's eyes widened and she pointed her finger at him. "Yes Me." Armaan pulled Riddhima down next to him as she stuttered. "I never cheat samjhe tum. You always cheat but still lose."

"Jeetna kaun kambakht chahta hai. Hum to bohat pehle hi haar maan chuke." Armaan whispered and kissed her cheeks. Riddhima brought a spoon of rice to his mouth which he turned towards her to eat first. Everyone awed making her rosy cheeks turn bright red.

 The dinner went well with constant chattering and teasing. Muskaan pulled Riddhima away as soon it got over for a tour of the Mallik Mansion. She took her to every room and narrated stories from her and Armaan's childhood. Riddhima enjoyed listening to them as she felt more connected to Armaan and his family. "This was my hiding spot for many years." Muskaan said gesturing towards the wooden built in wardrobe's lower cabinet in pantry. "You used to hide here? How did u fit in to this? Sorry but I can't picture you fitting there." Rahul remarked leaning against the door. "What do you mean Rahul? I.."

"Muski relax, Bhai is just teasing you. So what were you telling?" Riddhima stopped the verbal fight between the couple. "You know I used to sneak in at night and eat pickles, tamarind, nan-khatai and besan ke laddoo from that portion. Muskaan pointed to a cabinet at the right corner of the wall. "How did you reach there? It's pretty high for a kid." Riddhima questioned tilting her head to the side. "Simple. Wo almari dekh rahi ho na, I used a ladder to climb on top of it, wahan baith ke main sab kuch nikal leti thi, phir us mein chup ke khati thi." Muskaan said proudly while Rahul rolled his eyes at his crazy wife. "Why did you have to do such stunts? Couldn't you eat them during the day or ask someone to get it for you?" Rahul asked reaching for the cookie jar from the top rack. "I used to fall ill very often due to tonsillitis so Maa made me avoid the sour things but I loved them so much, is liye mein chup ke khati thi. Per Maa ko pata chal jata tha jab bhi wo jar open karti thi and then she stopped my sweets as a punishment, isi liye main pehle kha leti thi." "Explains your voice." Rahul teased. "You mean my sexy voice." "Yes.." Riddhima giggled and left the room to give the couple some privacy.

 Riddhima inhaled deeply as a familiar fragrance of ocean breeze and musk hit her senses. She felt herself being engulfed in a comforting embrace and her heart felt almost content. She closed the door behind her as she padded towards the digital picture display on the bed side table. Riddhima caressed the pillow and duvet trying to touch the essence of the person to whom it belonged. She settled at the bed's corner and looked at the changing photographs. Her heart filled with warmth as she saw them. Riddhima's eyes caught a suit and casual clothes strewn across the love seat. She held a black button down shirt to her chest and nuzzled its sleeve. Armaan smiled fondly as he found her in this pose with her eyes closed and a smile on her lips. Riddhima was so absorbed in her own world that she failed to notice the flashes of camera as Armaan captured her pictures in his iPhone. She was startled as he blew in her ear making her turn around. "Wo.. Main.. Sorry main sirf ghar dekh rahi.. Muski was showing me around but she got busy with Bhai. So I left them and came upstairs and started checking the rooms. Your room is really nice. The color, interiors, everything is very nice." Riddhima babbled to hide her embarrassment. Armaan tugged her wrist to prevent her from falling over the coffee table as she kept stepping back. "Thanks for appreciating the room. You can come here whenever you want because this is Our room not only mine. But there's something I don't approve of.. You crushing my shirt in your embrace but not even giving me a small hug." Armaan smirked as Riddhima ducked her head lower and her hair formed a curtain around her face, avoiding his gaze. He threaded his fingers in her hair and put them behind her ear, making her look at him through her thick lashes. Armaan pulled her flush against himself in a tight embrace. "We need to talk Armaan." Riddhima whispered as they entwined their fingers above his heart. Their small happy bubble burst as Muskaan dashed in the room making the couple spring apart in haste. "Oh sorry, I hope I didn't interrupt anything. I'll leave." Muskaan said turning around. "No need. We weren't doing anything. If you don't mind can I show Basket around? You can complete whatever you were doing with Rahul in the pantry." Armaan smirked as he saw Muski turn red but sobered at Riddhima's glare. "No, I'll take her along. I have lots of stories to tell." Muskaan said pulling Riddhima's hand. "Please don't tell her embarrassing stories about me." Armaan smiled a half smile filled with love and yearning as Riddhima turned around to look at him before exiting the room.

 Armaan came downstairs to find the ladies nowhere, boys sprawled in front of the lcd with their remote controls to play COD and Anurag and Sujal watching a political show. He walked towards his parent's room from where he could hear giggling sounds. Ladies were sitting in a circle around Riddhima on the bed whose back was facing the door. Armaan leaned against the door frame as he saw Prerna retreat two bangles from a box. "Yeh dekho Rhea. These are also for you." "They're so pretty Maa." Riddhima replied softly taking the bangles. "Sach. Tujhe pasand aye? I know they're old. I got them on Armaan's first birthday for his bride." "Whoa, hold on. You mean to say I'm old?" Armaan asked with a raised eye brow as everyone except Riddhima turned around to see him. "Tu kab aya Armaan?" Prerna asked. "Jab ap mujhe old bol rahi thin. Or yeh kya Maa, birthday mera or ap ne gift Basket keliye liya?" "Main tujhe nahin is design ko old bol rahi thi. 25 saal pehle liya tha maine, us din keliye jab meri bahu pehli baar ghar aaye gi. Chalo idhar aao or Rhea ko yeh karay pehna do." Prerna said. Everyone shuffled around the bed making space for him. "What's wrong?" Armaan stopped to ask as Riddhima grasped Muskaan's hand and shook her head. "Oh right. Bhai aik minute don't come here. Common girls help me take these off." Muskaan replied. "Take off what? What are you all doing?" Armaan asked as he saw them hover over Riddhima. "You were taking off this set? Why couldn't I see it?" "You can see it but on your wedding day. We were just seeing which one will go with her dress." Nikki said fixing her pallu which had slipped. "Oh you've already selected the wedding dress? I was thinking if I could choose it? I mean if there's no issue. I just.." Armaan stopped speaking as he heard the girls giggle. "It's okay Armaan, you can choose the dress, we haven't selected it yet." Kashish said caressing his head. Armaan lifted Riddhima's right hand to his lips to kiss the inner side of her wrist after slipping in the bangles.

 The gang had gathered in the backyard as a round of coffee and dessert began. "So Armaan what have you thought about your honeymoon? Kahan le ja raha hai Riddhima ko?" Arjun asked leaning on a tree trunk. "Kyun, tujhe kyun bataon?" Armaan asked. "Is liye kyunki hum soch rahay they kyun na sab saath chalien. Hum logon ki bhi annual leave rehti hai. Kaisa?" Atul asked excitedly. "Tum sab saath jao, per main kisi ko apne saath nahi le ja raha." "Per tere bina maza nahin aye ga na mere bhai." Atul countered. "Aur mera maza tum sab ki wajah se khatam ho jaye ga." Armaan mumbled under his breath rubbing his temple in irritation seeing deflated faces of his friends. "Kya yaar, main koi family holiday pe thori na jaa raha hoon jo poore gang ko le jaon. Main apne honeymoon pe ja raha hoon, tum sab ka wahan kya kaam? Tum log bhi embarrased feel karo ge, you know if you find us in.. Ouch.." He rubbed his forehead where a candy had hit and looked up to see Riddhima glaring at him. Everyone burst out laughing seeing Riddhima blush furiously.

"Thank you so much Bhai. I loved it." Muskaan said hugging Armaan referring to her gift of diamond ear rings from him. "You're welcome Dear." he replied kissing her head and thanking her inwardly for saving him from Riddhima's questioning gaze. He was happy to have avoided 'the talk' tonight but was aware that Riddhima will corner him soon. The Garewals were in the Land cruiser waiting for Riddhima and Muskaan to settle who were currently saying their good byes. Armaan mouthed 'later' and smiled waving at Riddhima who stared at him through the window as the car sped away.


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