Sunday, 21 February 2021

PART 3 : Heartbeat

 He looked at her. They both knew he wouldn't be coming home, not unless they found a donor, which was unlikely. But they never said goodbye. That would be like giving up.....like writing "the end" on a manuscript. There would be no goodbyes for them.

"Theek hai. Maanunga unki baat."

He looked at her. Her hair, her face, her lips, and those eyes that held so much love for him.

"Kya dekh rahe ho?"

"I'm looking at you."

"Kyun? Mere face par kuch hai kya?" she asked, rubbing her cheeks.

He smiled at her innocence. "Nahin toh. Main toh aise hi dekh raha hoon. Waise tum woh photos laaayi ho?"

"Haan. Bag mein hai. Let me get them."

She returned with a huge photo album and he once again pulled her into his lap, silencing her protests with a glare.

They looked at the photos of their wedding. They'd only been married 2 years.....

 

Armaan watched her. She wasn't facing him on his lap but he knew she was crying.....crying for all the time lost....crying because they both knew neither of them would ever move on. He tightened his hold on her, never wanting to let go.

"Armaan?"

"Hmm?"

"Tumhe *sniff* yeh waali *sniff* photo yaad hai?"

He looked at the picture. Surprisingly, it wasn't one of their wedding or of there honeymoon. It was from a college trip. It was just the two of them facing the beach, showing their backs. Armaan remembered the photo. They'd been standing when a man had come to them and given them this photo saying, they looked picture-perfect together.

"Haan. Yaad hai. Par kyun?"

"Bas. Aise hi. It was during the trip that I realized that I loved you'"

"Acha? What brought it on?"

"I saw you kissing Simone and then Sierra told me that it's called jealousy and what I felt was love.....we had a long chat that day.....Tumhe kab pata chala that you love me?"

"I can't believe we never talked about this.....it just felt so right all the time. Like this was how it's supposed to be. I never gave a thought to all this stuff! Like how we realized and all! I came to know I loved you at the Sadie Hawkins's dance. You were with Arjun, remember?" he chuckled softly remembering the myriad of emotions he'd been through that night.

"It was the crappiest evening of my life. I had to look at the man I loved dance with someone else. I was so jealous! Not to mention I had to dance with Arjun! He's such a prick!"

"You? Jealous? You've never been jealous of any girl Riddhi!"

"Baby, that was after I came to know you loved me!" she said, laughing at the memories.


"Riddhi?"

"Hmm?"

"Can I tell you something? It might upset you."

"Kaho."

She turned and faced him.

"Jab vakt aaye.....toh mujhe ek promise karogi?"

"Anything."

"Don't keep me on life support. It only prolongs the agony."

"You mean I have to let you go?" she asked him her tears spilling again.

"Yes." He said, wiping her tears. "I want to die peacefully baby. With you next to me. I don't want anything else."

She nodded tearfully not saying a word when all she wanted was to break down.....scream.....cry and then cry some more.

"Riddhi, listen to me. Promise me that you'll be strong. Promise me you will not hurt yourself. Promise me you won't cry. Promise me you'll take care of yourself and be that bubbly, impulsive, crazy and clumsy Riddhima I fell in love with. I'm always going to be there for you Riddhi. And if someday you find someone-"

Before he could say that, she covered his mouth. "Never say that Armaan. There will never be anyone else for me. It was always you and it's going to remain like that. I promise Armaan. I'll do all those things. But it hurts to be strong Armaan. So much. It pains Armaan.....it pains....."

He pulled her close once again and they hugged each other as if trying to draw the strength that would help them get over this.


He saw the time. It was 9. "Riddhi?"

"Kya?"

"Mere saath dinner karogi?"

"Haan. Chalo tum baitho, main nurse se kehkar khaana mangvaati hoon. Aur ab please argue mat karna!"

"Please na Riddhi! You know I hate hospital food! I've been eating Rice and Khichdi since forever!"

"Armaan tum jaante ho tum aur kuch nahi kha sakte! Phir bhi roz kyun argue karte ho?"

 "Shaayad isliye ki tum ek din maan jao?"

"Nahi. Main nahi maanne waali. Now wait here, till I get the food."


Armaan closed his eyes and let the tears fall once she left. He hated feeling so helpless. Being a doctor and then sitting around waiting for death to take over was exhausting. If it wasn't for Riddhima he would've been long gone. Her strength, her determination and her love kept him alive. He hated himself for making her go through all this. But she was strong. She hardly ever cried in front of him, except on days like this. Days when they both felt it was all just a bit too much...

He felt her take him in her arms and hold him.

"Sssh Armaan. Sab theek ho jaayega. Ro mat. Main hoon na tumhare saath? We'll deal with this together Armaan."

She lifted his face up wiping his tears and barely holding back hers.

"I love you Riddhi."

"And I love you Armaan. Ab khaana khalo."

Armaan closed his eyes with disgust and took the bite expecting the usual bland food. So he was pleasantly surprised when he tasted pasta.

"Pasta? Tum mere liye pasta laayi?" he asked her between mouthfuls.

"Haan. Doctor ne kaha, ek din chalega. Pasand aaya?"

"Of COURSE pasand aaya. I love you!"

She laughed at his childishness.

They finished dinner and she gave him his medicines.

"Ab tum ghar jaao. Please argue mat karna!"

"Armaan. Phir se? Untill it's absolutely necessary, have I ever left you alone? Nahi na, toh phir kyun mujhse roz kehte ho?"

"Tumse toh argue karne ka matlab deewar se baat karne jaisa hai. Why don't you ever listen? You're tired baby. Tum hospital ke ghatiya bed pe kyun sona chahti ho?"

"Kyun ki tum yahaan ho. Ab chup chaap so jaao aur mujhe bhi sone do."

"Aur mera kiss?"

"Kaunsa kiss?"

"Mera good night kiss."

"Kyun? Abhi toh tum keh rahe the ki jao ghar jaakar sona etc'Ab main sone ki koshish kar rahi hoon toh mujhe disturb kyun kar rahe ho?"

Armaan grinned at his wife's antics. They had joined their beds so that they could sleep as close as possible and he tried to reach out to her amidst all the tubes stuck on him. He gasped in pain as one of the needles poked him in his vein.

"Armaan! Kya hua tumhe? Are you all right? Oh God, I'm so sorry!"

"Riddhima! Relax! I'm fine! Ab toh mera kiss de do?"

She smiled at him and gave him a peck on the cheek.

"Mrs. Malik, that's NOT what you call a kiss!"

"Really? But that's exactly what I call a kiss."

"Oh no. THIS is what you call a kiss."

And with that, he kissed her. Hard. It was a long kiss, deep and sensual and they were both breathing heavily once they came up for air.

"One day, I might just die from kissing you, Riddhima." he murmured, before kissing her forehead and falling into deep slumber, holding her hand.


~~~~~~~~~~

Aanya

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