Joined: 09 May 2008
Well, this is my first solo ff?? and I must say I am really nervous about this. I had this story in mind and I thought to pen it down. I was really really nervous to put this up????.but after a lot of courage, I am here with the Intro. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Please leave your comments in whatever form they may be; positive or negative, I would love to read them.
'Leave him''''''.leave him please.'
'Go away Riddhima''''..stay away from this. Go away'''.I said go.'
'Leave him'............let him go please' she said with a shaky yet determined voice as she stood there like a wall with both her hands raised horizontally.
'Get away woman'''''.its better for you to leave'''''..stay away from all this else I'll kill you too'.
'Please leave him. For God's sake, let him go'''''let him go please''''..let him go'. Tears were rushing down her cheeks at a high -speed disappearing quickly in the ground dominated with the croissant colored mud.
Feeling her hands joining together automatically, trembling madly as if praying for her own life, she continued her plead 'Don't kill him''''please leave him. I beg of you'.........leave him.'
'Give it Armaan''''''.give it to me damn it' The male voice demanded angrily as if tired of repeating the same thing over and over again.
'I said I won't Allen''''I won't give it to you.'
Seeing her figure about to crash down in front of him, he hurried towards it to stop her from falling. Getting a grip of it, he held her tightly bending his legs to maintain a good balance on the ground.
'No''''''.this can't happen'''''No'. Observing the ground change from croissant to blood red color, he noticed its main source to make a sense out of it. Watching the liquid flush out of her stomach endlessly, he cried his heart out to relieve the pain caused by the action occurred just a few minutes ago.
'Nothing will happen to you'''nothing Riddhima'''''..No'''..this can't happen' he cried bringing her body closer to him, hugging her with as much strength as possible.
Hearing a slight whisper, he bent her down slowly with her face clearly visible to him.
'Don't cry Armaan''''.this had to happen. I told you long before'......but you never listened to me. Ahhhhh'. She cried out of pain trying her best to continue what she wanted to say.
'See'''..now here I am and there you are. If it were in my hands, our lives wouldn't have been the way they turned out to be'''ahhhhh' she stopped to gasp a deep breath and then, she continued 'but'''.I couldn't help myself''''I couldn't. I love you Armaan'''..I love you.'
'No''''''..you can't go''''''.nothing can happen to you. I won't let anything happen to you Riddhima''''..I won't' he shouted out with anger as if declaring to everyone present there; the sky, the clouds, the wind, the trees, all of which were witnessing the scene for sometime now.
Her words had instigated the past in him'''''..They had brought back all those memories in his mind when life was a lot different from now''''for him''''for her''''for them.
*Some months ago*
It was a lovely morning for the people in Milan, one of the major cities in Italy. The sun was shining brightly spreading its light to almost all the things it could reach upon, from automobiles to living beings to even nature related souls. The magic of the sunny weather had already worked its charm on the plants and the trees; they were bending lightly every now and then with the slight breeze flowing around as if waving happily to its viewers. There were different kinds of faces that could be seen around, ranging from young to matured to even wrinkled ones, but all seemed to have one thing in common; they were all gleaming with enthusiasm to start a fresh day.
The traffic was always the highpoint in Milan, especially in the mornings. The cars, the bikes, the vans, the buses, each of them got accumulated everyday with the aim of reaching their destination on time. Even though the crowd was unbelievable almost everyday, there was never even the slightest sign of chaos or impatience to be seen around anywhere. Waiting patiently for each of their turns, the natives always managed to sort the issue with a complete ease and smoothness.
Sitting calmly beside the window, enjoying the sun rays fall freely over her smooth un-tanned skin, she observed the objects outside move past her rapidly, one after another as if competing against each other. By traveling through the same route for the past four years, she was now used to seeing the same things over and over again; the food shops advertising pizzas at special prices, the clothing designs flashing proudly with the stylish beaded decorations, the buildings standing erectly trying their best to reach the sky, and so on and so forth. Nothing had changed except for the faces, which altered every now and then.
Looking forward to today's work, she continued staring across the glass with a slight smile developed on her lips. Going to work was always a pleasure for her, bringing a sense of satisfaction, a feeling of being capable to do something, a feeling of being independent and being able to earn a living at her own terms. She had always hated being dependent on others for her expenditures. She still remembered how much she disliked asking her parents for money when she was in school. The whole idea of growing up and working in a field of her own liking was something she had always wanted from the beginning. She was proud of herself for standing up on her own feet by opening her own business and she was very pleased with the progress of the work she was doing.
Working in a fashion store was almost a dream for her; she had always aimed at opening her own clothing business where she could sell her designs making the customers appreciate her credibility more and more. Coming up with new, appealing designs had been a hobby since her school days. Being a fashion fanatic herself, she couldn't imagine going in any other field if not for designing clothes. Even though she was confused about going into Interior designing as that had been of an equal interest to her, she chose the clothing aspect over it due to its sheer market value. Fashion and Milan went hand in hand together, and she knew that fact extremely well.
Feeling her body tighten up with a figure occupying the seat just beside her, she tried to shift her weight towards the opposite side in order to avoid any physical contact with them. Managing her handbag to stay in her own spatial territory, she held it tightly grabbing it from the middle to maintain a good balance for it.
She heard a voice, a deep male voice. Not sure if it was really someone talking to her or if it was her imagination, she continued gazing outside ignoring whatever she just heard.
She heard the same voice again the only difference was that it was a 'Hello' instead of a 'Hi' this time. Confident of hearing it as opposed to day-dreaming, she twisted her head towards the other side in order to locate its source.
'It's a lovely day today, isn't it?'
It was a young handsome face talking to her. The slight smile on his lips made the dimples on both the cheeks deepen up even more making the face look all the more attractive and charismatic. The shiny strands of hair falling neatly on his forehead added to the sexiness, and its masculinity.
Ignoring his talks, she moved her face back to the original side giving him an indication of not being interested in him at all. Weather was the best way to start a conversation and it wasn't something new for her. She had come across so many guys in the past trying to fish out for topics to get into interaction with her. Knowing this case to be the same, she faced the glass with a frustrated yet calm look thinking to herself 'Such a loser, as if he thinks that I am going to talk to him just like that. Guys like him should be hanged right away, Goshhhhhh'.
'Uhhh''..Che bella giornata'
'Che bella giornata'
'Come sar' il tempo domani?'
She heard all those phrases popped up at her by the same person sitting right next to her. Annoyed with his unending attempts, she faced him with an irritated look.
'What are you doing Mr.? I know English very well and I got what you said the very first time. There's no need to repeat the same things in Italian.' She infuriated at him like a weapon.
'I am sorry, I thought you didn't understand me. That's why I translated it in Italian. You see'.....a lot of people here don't understand English so I thought you might be one of them.' He said in a very calm tone with a smile still playing on his lips; it seemed quite determined to stay there whatsoever.
Hearing his explanation with a weird look, she sat there without replying back yet again.
'So, you didn't answer me'''..What do you think will the weather be like tomorrow?' he asked with twinkling eyes, shifting his posture to face her.
'Now how will I know what the weather would be like tomorrow''''I am not a weather forecast reporter, am I?' she shot back at him''''again.
'That's true. But I thought that even the sun would be dying to come out tomorrow to get a glimpse of your beautiful face. See''''.its already smiling happily up there today.' He said pointing to the sky, the smile still sitting comfortably in its designated place.
Not sure how to react to his remark, she formed a confused look on her face. She knew that he was flirting with her but this was something that had left her in loss of words. Rising partially from her seat, she said to him 'Uh'''excuse me, my stop is here'.
Getting off the bus, she hung her handbag around her shoulder'''..noticing the same person gazing at her, smiling endlessly as if admiring her from top to bottom. Trembling a little from that strong gaze, she wished for the bus to be gone away as soon as possible. Observing the tires starting their circular motion, she felt relieved to see the bus go away with his face blurring out in the distance.
'Thank God he's gone. My Gosh, such a loser.' She thought to herself as she headed towards her work.
'lo stile' the sign board was sparkling proudly above the shop, with cool subdued colors giving it a simple yet classy look. This was her very own boutique signifying the style brought by her designs in any and every form. She couldn't let this property slip away from her hands when she first got to know about its sale around four years ago. It was no less than a golden opportunity for her to get a shop in the middle of the main city that would get her all the recognition with lots and lots of profits. She knew it was a very big step in her professional life and she was sensible enough to take a good advantage of it.
Entering the store, she headed towards the front and placed her belongings on the counter.
'Good morning madam' came a female voice.
Anjalie in short Anjie was 50% partner of this clothing store along with her. They had always been the best buddies since their high school days. From dreaming about designing in school to studying fashion design in real in one of the best universities there, they practically lived this dream together. Always enthusiastic about coming up with new ideas of making all sorts of stylish clothes, including accessories such as bags, belts, shoes, even jewelry, they had wished to work in conjunction with each other'''all the time. Moreover, the duo always seemed a sure hit amongst the customers, which seemed beneficial in all sorts of ways ranging from financial aspects to creative issues. It was therefore not a bad idea to work together, in fact a highly profitable one for both of them.
'So, how was your journey?' Anjalie asked her with a smiling face.
'Don't ask Anjie. Oh boy'''..what a horrible experience it was. This guy'''''.gosh''''..he was literally flirting with me all the time in the bus''''''.'
Hearing the door swung open, she gave a halt to her early morning endeavors and looked at the other side to greet her first customer of the day.
'Hi, how can I help you?'
Seeing the figure head towards her, she felt a familiarity with the face as it came under the illumination of the bulbs. She was confused and shocked at the same time to see the same person standing in front of her who had left her to tremble significantly through his strong gaze a few minutes ago. He had that smile still intact on his lips with approximately the same radius as before. This was annoying yet scary she thought to be stalked up by a guy, following her till her own work place.
'What are you doing here?' She asked him with a frowned look.
'Ohhhh''''.nice boutique. So, you work here huh?' he said without replying to the actual question posed by the owner of the shop.
'I asked what you are doing here? Are you following me?'
'Yeah'''''.I am''''''..I came here to ask you something' he said shamelessly.
'What do you want?' She was confused as well as annoyed with his behavior.
'Will you go out for a coffee with me?' he asked without waiting for a moment.
That was surprising not only for her but even for her friend Anjalie who was viewing the scene as quietly as a non-living object. She had witnessed lots of men in the past asking her friend out but this''''''was different. This guy was blunt'''''and was full of guts without any doubt. Still maintaining her muteness, Anjalie waited for the scene to proceed.
'Excuse me??? What did you just say?' she asked with a tone filled with shock and confusion.
'I said would you go out for a coffee with me'''''.today''''.now?' he replied as confidently as before without any signs of doubt or nervousness in his voice.
'I am sorry'''..I don't go out with strangers'. She said maintaining her frown, accompanied with rudeness this time.
'Oh'''.If that's the case then let me cross away that criterion of yours. I am Armaan''''Armaan Mallik and you must be''''''Riddhima Ormanno Gupta' he said picking the visiting card that was sitting comfortably on its silver polished stand.
'Now, would you like to go out with me?' he said with a satisfied look as if highly positive about giving the right answer.
She was surprised by his behavior, she had not come across a guy as shameless as him before''''''.ever'''''''never'.
'Just telling your name doesn't make you less than a stranger I suppose.' She replied confidently.
'But that doesn't make us strangers either'''..does it?'
'Stop bothering me and leave from here.' She was boiling with anger observing him argue with her one after another.
Seeing him stand there as firmly as a statue, she shouted out with her eyes filled with anger while her hand was directing the exit 'Are you leaving or not'''''
'Think again Riddhima'''''..you might regret it later on' he said with a certain smirk on his face.
'I said leave''''''''..' she said with as much strength as possible with her red cheeks indicating the amount of lava burning inside her'''''ready to explode anytime.
Continuing to stare at her with the smirk which had replaced the smile from its past position, he walked backwards towards the exit''''..with his eyes determined not to blink no matter what. His eyes had something special'''''it was hard to describe in words what it was'''but they had a significant amount of passion in them''''..crazy passion. Opening the door leaving it to squeak a little, he made an exit at last''
Seeing him disappear, Riddhima finally exhaled her anger with the aim of calming herself down.
'Ridz, was that the guy you were talking about earlier?' Anjalie asked with a lot of interest.
'Yeah, I told you'''''..he is such a weirdo'
'I don't know about that but he is hot mannnnn. Are you mad, why did you refuse to him? I wish he had asked me out''''''.' Anjalie sighed saying so.
'Shut up Anjie!'
'Oh come on Riddhima'''..he was hot, wasn't he?'
'Arghhh'''..what does he think of himself? He asked me to reconsider my decision as if I was dying to go out with him'''''.loser'''..I hate such guys'''''''''I detest them to the core' she angrily flipped the pages of her account diary and got back to entering the figures in it'''''''..trying to take her mind away from what just happened'''''
*beep''.beep* *beep'''beep* *beep'''beep*
The sound coming from the alarm clock, standing beside her face broke into her morning sleep and shattered it completely. Hauling her eyes apart, she looked at the time through the gelled clump of her hair.
'10 o'clock? Oh my God''.' She woke up with a startled jump. Throwing back the bedcovers, she hurried towards the cupboard.
Even though it was a Sunday today, she wanted to get up early like her usual routine. Being an early riser, she was one of those who liked to kick off their day early in the morning. She was in fact a very organized person and liked doing all her activities according to the plan. Today, like every Sunday was meant for house related work. Things like purchasing groceries and home d'cor items, vacuuming, lawn mowing, and car cleaning were all in her 'to-do' agenda.
Picking out a cool summer green dress from her wardrobe, she softly placed the delicate piece of fabric on the bed and began her search for the matching earrings. On finding the appropriate earrings, drop pearls in a silver setting, she put them carefully on the dressing table and staggered into the bathroom.
Why on earth did we go out on a Saturday night, she wondered as she massaged shampoo vigorously into her hair and tried to stay standing under the spray of water. She had gone out with Anjali to celebrate another of their business successes the previous night. The entire week had been very profitable for them in terms of selling almost all of their new collection to the customers, a lot of them had liked the new designs so much that they had even requested for more. While shutting the shop on Friday evening, Anjali had suggested her to go out to celebrate the following night. They had gone to George's, stuffed themselves with food in a Greek restaurant and fell down for a few drinks. It was a fun night altogether, nothing like her usual routine, and she got back to the apartment at about four o'clock.
'Not so fun when you come to think of it now Riddhima'''.Oh lord, I am having such a bad headache. I shouldn't have listened to Anjali, she is like that from the beginning'''Well, it was all my fault'''.I shouldn't have agreed to go out with her in the first place' Saying so, she wrapped herself in her flowery pink towel and headed towards the bed in order to get dressed.
Coming out of the grocery store loaded with bags that were covering more than half of her body, she felt like a donkey carrying all the weight around in the middle of the shopping centre. While buying items, it had rather seemed like a good idea to throw whatever she came across in the shopping trolley. She had put lots of soups, salads, juices, milk items, as soon as she noticed them on the shelves. Being a health freak, she liked to maintain her diet on these things especially during the week days, and they were quick and easy to prepare as well'''.that suited her all the even more.
Trying her best not to lose her balance, she made her way in the direction of the exit.
She instantly felt a big lump in her throat. It was the same person''or rather the same stalker who had followed her till her own work place the previous week. That incident had bothered her all day long, she had seen a lot of crazy guys trying their chance on her but that was different''..and that too in a scary way.
What if he comes again''.what if he follows me everywhere''..what if this'''what if that'''..she had wondered about the various possibilities all day. She was relieved to see nothing like that happen during the week, and she had in fact even brushed away the memories of that unpleasant incident. But seeing him now, standing only a few centimeters away, she could feel each and every moment of that scene coming back in her head as though it were on a videotape.
'Hello???? Miss Gupta'''How are you?'
'Uhhh''hi'''.what are you doing here?' His tone was so polite that Riddhima couldn't be rude to him''''but at the same time she couldn't be indirect to him either.
'I came in to do some shopping'''.Sundays are such a relief to spend time on yourself''.isn't it?' He said casually.
'Ohhhh''''.yeah' She gave a smile, a tiny smile that only barely turned up the corners of her lips. Not sure about what to say next, she stood there like a piece of stone''.waiting for him to either say something or just leave. As it is, she was having a hard time with the bags''''.it was almost like a weightlifting session going on for her.
'Let me help you with that''''.My God, are you planning to participate in the next Olympics? Look at you'''..you can be given the best weightlifter's title right away' he said with his dimpled effect.........the same smile had occupied its place on his cheeks like before.
Hearing him, she smiled sheepishly trying to look as casual as she could. 'No, thanks'''..I can manage.'
'Oh come on Riddhima''''.do you think it is gentlemanlike for me to see a lady as delicate as you standing like that''...with all the bags almost ready to eat her away?' He said with a smirk.
'Plus, it would be so difficult for someone like you living alone'''there won't be anyone to help you at your house either.'
She felt sick hearing that, a sudden heave over which she had no control brought her blood racing up, and made her shiver with the shock. She didn't know what to say after that'''it had astounded her so much that she instantly felt a drive to run away from there'''
'I have to go now''''..' She said abruptly rushing her self out from the conversation, and heading towards the parking area. 'What a creep''..how does he know that I live alone'''..this is ridiculous' she thought, pushing herself out of the shopping centre.
The drive back home hadn't been so pleasant for her with the thought of that man hitting her mind every now and then. His presence during both the meetings had made her feel uncomfortable. There was something about him that just made her run away from him. It wasn't his looks''..he was undoubtedly one of those good looking men who were blessed with attractive facial features. But, there was something strange about him''.something that had a power to disturb her for reasons she didn't understand herself.
She had managed to get home reasonably early and cooked a chicken stir-fry for herself. After finishing off the vacuuming and car cleaning, she had another shower before she tucked into her food happily, stretching herself out on the sofa in front of the TV'''taking her attention away from all those disturbing morning events.
Wednesday was hectic for Riddhima and Anjali. The boutique had been almost packed with women all around, eyeing on the clothes that appealed to them, giving watery smiles to each of those outfits. They all came with the hope of getting something classy under their kitty''.and why wouldn't they'''.both the girls knew how important clothes were for the women in Milan. The right clothes were like a key to unlock their inner self. Wearing the right clothes made anyone for that matter feel confident, whereas the wrong outfit left the wearer unsure.
She had finally managed to finish off her work and shut off the shop on time. It had been an exhausting day at work. She could feel her stiff neck and the hangover drumming against the back of her eye while walking towards the bus stop. Waiting for the bus was another nightmare, why the hell doesn't it come on time ever, she thought. It had always irritated her when the bus didn't show up on time, she had this ready to kill look on her face''..which was quite obvious for the bus drivers to make them feel scared.
'Hey Miss Gupta, do you want a ride back home? I can drop you off' she moved her attention to the black colored Civic shining in front of her and noticed the same stranger offering her a lift.
'What on earth is he doing here? Why does this man keep turning up everywhere?' She murmured to herself, trying to make a sense out of it.
'Hello''.I was passing through and I saw you here'''I am more than happy to drop you off if you like' he said in a friendly tone.
'No''..it is completely fine, thanks. The bus would be here any minute' she said sharply while gazing at him.
Seeing the bus arrive and stop behind his car, she speeded towards its front door without letting him say anything in return. 'This is crazy, he practically shows up everywhere I go. What is wrong with him?' she thought while getting on the bus.
It had been a busy day again, she sighed while twisting her neck to get rid of the stiffness. Anjali had left for her friend's 21st early in the evening. She had asked Riddhima to join her but she had refused. She never enjoyed such parties; this was probably one of the main differences between her and Anjali. Anjali was more of an outgoing person, she liked to mix up with people, get drunk during weekends and basically have fun''which was what life was all about according to her. Riddhima on the other hand liked to spend time at home, all she liked to do was to relax at home by spending time alone''with herself. She liked to do things by herself rather than behaving crazily at the peak hour of the night, she found it ridiculous and purely a waste of energy as well as time.
Like other Fridays, she was busy with managing the accounts. The finances of the passed week's materials were taken care of and since Anjali wasn't around, the total work load came on her.
She was almost done with entering the figures and now all she wanted to do was to go home and spread on the sofa. Work was enjoyable for her but weekends were always welcomed, she used them to freshen up from the tiredness of the entire week. Closing the diary, she placed it systematically on the pile of files already sitting on the counter desk and packed her bag making her way out of the shop.
It was already dark when she left the shop, around 9 as she headed towards the bus stop. She shivered as the cool breeze stuffed inside her thin silk blouse'''partially due to a slight fear inside her. It wasn't like she had never been out till late by herself but being tired from the day's work, she wasn't feeling very confident about going alone to the bus stop''..and then waiting for long like an idiot for the bus to arrive.
She walked past the shops along the pavement, leaving each successive shop behind her within seconds. Along the same side of the pavement, not far from her, there suddenly came a man in evening dress; he was staggering and cautiously leaning against the wall. On noticing the guy, Riddhima became cautious and flew straight as an arrow, with the timid haste one sees in all the girls who do not want anyone to follow them home at night.
Without saying a word to anyone, the man set off and flew full speed in pursuit of his unknown prey. She started racing like the wind, but the staggering man was overtaking'''almost overtook her. Riddhima uttered a shriek 'What are you doing?' She asked as the man held her hand tightly.
He didn't answer and instead started pulling her towards himself.
'Leave me' she said sternly with a command in her voice but it wasn't very helpful as the man seemed determined not to let his prey get off from his catch.
She got worried as the situation became worse. She didn't realize when the tears started to roll down her cheeks. She was in trouble and she couldn't even do anything to get herself out from that man's grip. He was of a strong built and she was a delicate creature in comparison to him. Feeling herself helpless, she cried for help. She hoped for someone to help her out as it seemed like the most sensible thing to do at that point of time.
In a flash, she noticed her stranger in front of her'''the same person who had followed her to her workplace'''.the same person who had left her to shiver outside the grocery store'''..the same Armaan Mallik. It surprised her how his name came out of her mouth on its own as she saw him.
Armaan had a stick in his hand. Seeing his entry into the scene, the obtrusive harasser took his position and fell back on his own without a word, and only when he went far from them protested against Armaan's action in a rather vigorous language. But his words hardly reached them.
'Give me your arm' he said to her. 'And he won't dare to annoy you any further.'
She took his arm without a word, still trembling with excitement and terror.
'What were you doing here at this hour? You shouldn't roam around at this time'''..don't you know how unsafe this area is?' he asked with a firm voice.
On hearing that, she instantly released her hand from his grip and moved away from him 'I am not a child to be told what to do and what not to do.'
'Okay enough of that. Come and sit in the car, I'll drop you home, it is late already.'
'No thanks, I can manage. I don't need your help.' She slipped by him along the pavement and stood there with folded hands.
Armaan stood beside her and asked 'Why do I get a feeling you don't like me?'
Riddhima looked up at him. 'I don't know', she said honestly. 'I don't dislike you. You make me uncomfortable.'
She looked down at the ground. 'I am not sure.'
'Come and sit in the car and we can talk about it,' he suggested. 'I don't like to think that I'm making someone uncomfortable.'
She slid herself in the front seat and shut the door softly.
He drove the car silently; the frustration on his face was quite evident for anyone to notice. Seeing his face and recalling his words on the pavement, she felt a guilt crawling its way up her chest. She knew she behaved badly with him, he had been kind towards her, saved her from a dreadful attacker and she didn't even have the courtesy to thank him. Turning her posture towards him, she made an attempt at breaking the silence.
'I am sorry'..Ar'
'Armaan' he added spinning his head to face her.
'Uh.......I know I was rude towards you and I apologize for that''and'. thanks for what you did.' She said casting her eyes down on the gear.
'Its okay'''These things happen' he said smiling.
He faced the windscreen as he made a right turn. 'So tell me''''why do I make you uncomfortable?' he asked again.
'Because of the way you behaved with me during our first meeting. I found it'.'
'Straightforward'..' he added following a chuckle.
'I don't know'''.I found it weird.' She told him.
He laughed hearing that 'I know''''but that's how I am. I am a straightforward person and I say what I feel. Some people have the skills of playing with words but I am certainly not one of those gifted ones.'
His honesty impressed her. It was so easy to twist around words but hearing him say everything so simply brought a smile on her lips. She shot surreptitious glances at him, careful to look at him only when his attention was directed towards the front. His face had a charming feel; it was arresting. You couldn't help being drawn to him, she thought.
'What happened' he asked seeing her lost in her thoughts.
'Uh''.nothing' she nodded. 'Armaaan'.'
'How did you know that I live alone'''..you had practically scared me when you said that so confidently on that day''.in the shopping centre. I was scared you know.' She said lowering her eyes.
He laughed listening to her 'You got scared?' and laughed again.
'Obviously'''..who wouldn't'''I thought you followed me and kept an eye on me.' She told him.
'Yeah you were right''''..I kept an eye on your whereabouts.'
She felt hot at the mention of his statement, feeling sweat accumulate on her forehead. Unable to make out how to react, she ordered out 'Stop the car''''I said stop the car.'
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Hearing her shout, he applied the brakes instantly to bring the car to a stop.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"I would go by myself………..I'd take a cab instead" she said in a tone filled with confusion and frustration.
"Wait……..wait…." he reached for her hand as soon as she turned the lock to open the door.
"Leave me……." Her voice rose.
"Riddhima………Riddhima!" He held up his hand. "I was only joking."
His eyes were twinkling but Riddhima was annoyed with him.
Her eyes widened further "Well it's not something to joke about", she said. "You really shouldn't make those sort of jokes."
"I said I am sorry………I couldn't help it. I wanted to see your reaction at the mention of that statement. I didn't mean to scare you as such" he said with a tiny smile on his lips.
"It was merely a guess I made seeing the amount of bags you had in your hand. I guess anyone in my place would have been able to make that out……….the way you had all the salads and soups and the amount of items you had bought on your own, I don't think it would have been hard to make it out that you lived alone……….But I am really sorry if I hurt you in anyway. It wasn't my intention believe me………"
She felt stupid about the way she had reacted after hearing Armaan, it was merely a joke from his side but she took it personally………but it was natural, any girl would be annoyed knowing that someone had been following her.
"Let's get this straight, have you been following me?" she asked him bluntly.
"Of course not," said Armaan. "I was going back home. Saw you in a dreadful state. Thought you might be needing help" he said with a grin.
Riddhima sighed. "hmm……I am sorry………I guess I over-reacted." She tapped on her head thinking about her silly wonderings. He was a kind person, at least he had been kind towards her, offered her help at each and every instance, but she took it wrongly. "That was so stupid of me" she muttered to herself.
"Hmm……did you say something?"
"Uhh….nothing" she gave a sheepish smile.
"Right from here?"
"Yeah" she nodded.
He turned the steering wheel in clockwise direction "So tell me, how come you live alone? What about your parents?"
"Umm…….my parents live separately………they are divorced." Her tone lowered.
"I'm truly sorry……..I didn't mean to upset you again," said Armaan sincerely.
"Oh no, you don't need to say sorry……….Thinking about them makes me upset anyway. I suppose people don't like to be reminded of difficult times."
"Why was it difficult?" he asked.
"You know how it gets when two people don't get along at all…….there used to be fights every night……….this was when I was still in school………." She felt her eyes water and a tear slid gently down her cheek.
"My dad is Italian and mum is from Indian origin. They had a love marriage………..Mum came here to do her graduation. She was in college when she met dad. Dad was senior to her…….they bumped into each other and that's how they started going out……….It was like a love at first sight thing for both of them……..at least that's what I was told." She smiled.
"Then, their relationship started taking a bumpy turn……..Throughout the afternoon, it used to be peaceful at home but as soon as mum and dad came after work in the evening, the house got filled with their arguments. It got so difficult to live in that house with them fighting about pretty much everything. They used to send me to grandma's to keep me away from it but I knew that things weren't going well for them."
"They eventually got divorced and now………..they are living with their own respective partners………well dad married another woman, mum said she stole dad from her………..it sounds silly doesn't it…….dad had allowed her to steal him, an entirely different thing." She grinned saying so. "And now, mum is living with someone else as well" She sighed.
Noticing the car turn towards her street, she took a deep breath "There it is. Yeah here."
"Okay, so my job is done then." Armaan smiled.
"Thanks for the lift………" she gave a warm smile and got off the car. On shutting the door, she said "Thank you for listening to me."
"Anytime……….Riddhima" His eyes were warm as he looked at her……as if trying to say something to her. He was very different from what she had imagined him to be. She had spoken throughout the way about her life and he was very easy to talk to. He didn't judge her but simply listened.
"So, I'll get going. Have a good night Riddhima Gupta" He smiled at her and drove off the street.
She went to the Alitalia restaurant for lunch. Quite often she would walk down the street and go in there at lunch time, sometimes to eat while at other times to just enjoy a cup of coffee along with a book. She liked the contemporary feel of the restaurant; it had a sense of freshness associated with it that attracted her towards it.
She liked to gaze at the paintings hanging on the walls. She loved the portraits, painters' imaginations captured on the canvas since the eighteenth century. Her favourite was an Italian Landscape painting. Among the dark walls of the restaurant, this was a bright painting, full of light and color. It had a colorful, deeply dimensional landscape with a house by a river, and churches in the background. In the foreground, there were several people including a man with a bag over his shoulder and with his dog and donkey, a man in gray eighteenth century clothing, with a stick over his shoulder. A group of trees dominated the center of the scene, with sun rays sneaking through the holes between the clusters of leaves. The painting was so peaceful that looking at it made Riddhima peaceful too. She often wondered about the simple and contended side of rural life shown by the painter. This was the thought that stroked her mind each time she glanced at it.
She ordered a Lasagne and salad after seating herself comfortably on the soft couch. Morning's work at the boutique had exhausted her already. As soon as the flyers about the launching of new collection of clothes reached the women, hundreds of them huddled inside the shop to get their hands on the outfits. It was almost like a nightmare trying to deal with all of them at the same time. She along with Anjali had somehow managed to fulfill the demands of their customers on time, about which they were surprised themselves. Even though, the women customers were pushing their way inside the shop, Riddhima couldn't handle the heat for very long and decided to get herself an hour break. She was thankful to Anjali for being there and managing the shop during her absence.
The restaurant was already filling up. The hum of conversations between the people was getting louder all the time. On the arrival of the food, she shifted the book she had been reading to her side. She cut a piece of lasagne with a fork and popped into her mouth when she got a glimpse of a familiar face sitting diagonally to her, it was Armaan Mallik. She recognized him straight away although he looked unusually smart. He was wearing a suit and a tie. It was a good suit, the jacket was a neat fit and the trousers had a knife-edge crease down the middle. His tie was a splash of color.
Seeing him, Riddhima quickly held her book over her face to hide herself behind it. Their last meeting had turned out to be quite awkward according to her. She cursed herself for opening up so much to him. She had wondered all this time what he would have thought about her………how she had told him about her parents and almost cried in front of him. Thinking about that itself made her shudder out of embarrassment.
She sneaked glances at him from the side of her book, careful enough not to catch his attention. He was with a girl, a pretty girl who couldn't have been more than twenty. She had soft brown hair, brown eyes and a flawless complexion. Her hair flowed around her shoulders in a riot of chestnut curls and she wore an elegant terracotta-colored dress. Riddhima wondered whether she was his wife or his girlfriend. "Why did he ask me out for a coffee if he already had a girlfriend" she muttered to herself. You cannot possibly be jealous, Riddhima told herself, as the girl placed her hand on his. They seemed to be having a good time in each other's company.
Feeling annoyed with herself for behaving like a robber, hiding behind a book, she placed it down and tried to keep herself busy with her food……..not worried about being noticed anymore. She didn't feel like eating more, all the groaning inside her stomach had suddenly vanished.
Putting down her knife and fork, she grabbed her belongings to leave from there.
"I thought it was you." She recognized his voice instantly and faced up towards him. He looked incredibly handsome now that he was standing so close to her, she thought. He had the same immaculate look with the same boyish grin on his face.
"Hello," she said in a tone filled with a mixture of nervousness as well as attitude.
"Where did you spring from?" He asked.
"I come here for lunch quite a bit."
"So do I." His companion couldn't be seen around anywhere, he might have hidden her somewhere, she murmured. How ridiculous to think like that, she thought to herself but she couldn't help not thinking that way about him.
He looked around. "Have you eaten yet" he asked, "or are you waiting for someone?"
"I've eaten" she told him.
"Pity" said Armaan.
"I'd have treated you, of course."
"What about your girlfriend?" She asked with a taunting look.
"Who…….the girl I was sitting with? She was my cousin. She had come here from Florence to spend her holidays so I was showing her around. She is going back today" his eyes crinkled with amusement.
Riddhima felt like a child caught with a hand in a jar of sweets. She felt silly. He was a stranger for her, after all. And, he had a complete right to have someone in his life. Giving a break to her senseless wonderings, she finally stood up.
"So you come here on your own?" He asked, with a tone of amusement still present in his words.
"Nice place to be" she said.
He looked at the landscape picture. "It's one of my favorites."
"Mine too." She smiled at him. "I often wonder how it was like to live such a simple life. Every time I look at it, I find myself surrounded with peace and contentment."
He smiled slightly. She turned away from the picture and began to walk back to the entrance.
"Where are you going?" He walked after her.
"Back to work"
"Where, Rovigo Square?"
"Yes, you know I work there………..you even followed me there" she said with sarcastic tone.
"I'm going to Veneto Street. I have some work there" he said. "I'll walk with you."
"If you like."
It was bright and shiny outside. The wind was blowing, warm as if released from an oven, catching dust and litter as it went. Riddhima placed her hand over her eyes.
"What do you do?" she asked.
He relented. "I work as a property dealer…….Catalina Real Estate, you might have heard the name."
"Oh yes." She had heard about them, they were quite popular in the city.
"We've three franchises in the city and we are now planning to open a few more" said Armaan.
"I've seen the one in Casarolla Street, although I haven't had a need to go inside it yet" she said.
"Well if you do plan to get a new house, you know whom to talk to now." He coolly said.
"How are your parents?" he asked casually.
She shrugged. "They are fine………..both mum as well as dad."
She didn't know what else to say, it was exactly as it had been when she was younger, she was completely tongue-tied. How crazy she thought. She was a mature adult, he was a mature adult yet there seemed like a shortage of an appropriate topic to talk about. She said nothing. Neither did Armaan. They walked in silence as far as Rovigo Square.
"I'll get back to work now," she said. "Nice seeing you again."
"Likewise" said Armaan smiling. "May be in another few weeks…….See you Riddhima" he turned and was gone within seconds.
She hurried towards her boutique, feeling strangely alone. She tried to forget that she came across Armaan Mallik when she least expected him.
She looked up while laying on the bed, her morning sleep disturbed. Armaan was standing over her, blocking the sun rays falling over her face.
"Hello", she said lazily, surprised to see him there. She hadn't expected him to be there. He sat on the edge of the bed, near her knees and ran his finger gently across her neck.
"I've missed you, Riddhima" he said.
"And I you" she whispered.
"How could you stay away so long?" he asked.
"I didn't want to."
She felt protected in the circle of his arms. "I want you so much," he said placing his body over hers, his skin touching hers passing the warmth from his body to hers.
"I want you too." She breathed.
"Don't ever leave me again" he said, unbuttoning his shirt.
"Never" she whispered as she slid off the shirt from his body.
She woke with a start flustered by the intensity of the dream. She was almost shaking. The dream had been very vivid. She didn't know why it had come to her like that, but it seemed so real that it frightened her.
It had almost been two weeks since she met Armaan. She hadn't wished to see him again, but she wasn't able to flush him out of her mind either. His face, his words, his actions had almost engraved in her mind like a stamp, disturbing her thoughts every now and then. She didn't know what she wanted from him, and didn't quite understand what he wanted from her either.
The boutique was very busy, more than the usual way. Riddhima and Anjali had an overseas client to deal with in a week's time. The client was visiting them especially to make a deal for their internationally reputed clothing line. They had to make the samples, prepare the documents and make slides for the presentation. So they were absolutely up to their neck. They had bought a new design publishing package too, for creating the designs more quickly and precisely, and Riddhima hadn't quite got the hang of it yet so she kept having a look in the manual to see if she was doing things properly.
She made hundreds of mistakes at work that day. The morning's dream had almost made her day go in a chaotic manner. She was totally unable to remember the materials of the outfits and their finalized shapes. Every time, she kept confusing herself with the neck shapes of the silk tops finalized the previous day and ended up taking twice as much time as it should have taken. To top it all, each time, she had the design nearly right, the phone would buzz and she'd forget what she was doing and would have to start all over again. Usually, she loved it when the phones were hopping like this, because it meant more profit to their business. But today, particularly, it was driving her round the bend.
"lo Stile" she said as she framed the earpiece between her ear and her shoulder and tried to point the computer mouse to make an arc using the pen tool on the screen in front of her.
"Could I speak to Riddhima, please?" asked the unknown voice.
"Speaking." She used her pleasant telephone voice.
"Hi….Riddhima, it's Armaan."
She almost dropped the phone and clicked the mouse at the wrong point, losing the curve she intended for the silk top made graphically on the computer screen.
"Armaan!" She cleared her throat. "How can I help you?" She asked still maintaining her professional pleasant voice.
"How can you help me?" He laughed, that echoing deep laugh. "You can help me by coming to lunch with me today."
She stared at the earpiece as if she could actually see Armaan Mallik's face flashing on it. "Lunch?" She asked with a surprised tone.
"Yes" he said. "I am going to Alitalia restaurant for lunch and I thought to ask you if you'd like to join me."
She felt confused at the sound of his reply, her hands were shaking a little and she could feel the beat of her heart but he wouldn't have seen any of this, she thought. "That's very nice of you" she said trying to sound in control. "But I can't do that."
"Why not?" he asked.
"Well, because….I just can't." She didn't know what to say about it, she hadn't expected him to ask her the reason for the denial as such anyway. All she wanted at that moment was to make an excuse somehow and drop the receiver down.
There was silence at the other end of the phone. She could hear the hiss of stillness on the line.
"I am sorry" she said. "I'll have to go. I am very busy." She hung up, her heart was pounding, feeling as heavy as an elephant.
"Did Armaan ask me for a date? Hardly…..lunch isn't exactly a date. He knew I refused him for coffee, so why did he want to meet me for lunch? Why had he asked me out…….ask me out, sounds like such a childish expression" she muttered to herself.
"Come on Riddhima" she said to herself. "Get a grip." But all through the afternoon, as she tussled with the design presentation work along with Anjali, his face kept floating before her eyes, rumpling her all the even more.
She worked until seven o'clock. She bought take away pizza on the way home, hot and dropping with melted mozzarella cheese. It was already late by the time she left the shop and she was in no mood to prepare anything by herself after reaching home.
The following week passed quickly. The preparations for the presentation to the clients made it an overly busy routine at work. The talk with the clients itself was a lengthy process with the designs of the clothes discussed for almost four full days. The clients were quite happy with the proceedings and ultimately decided to make the deal with lo Stile. Riddhima and Anjali were happy to get the consignment offer. They had worked extremely hard for this, days and nights to get things right and they were glad their hard work paid off.
"I'd better get back home now" she said, twisting her neck.
"See you tomorrow Riddhima" said Anjali placing a carton on the rack.
She hurried back home thinking about the past week, how everything worked out well for their boutique. She thought about the days she had spent in the shop, working continuously developing the clothing concepts and resolving them. It even made her think about Arman Mallik, who had called her during one of the week days. She couldn't get Armaan Mallik out of her head, although she tried to blank out thoughts of him every time they appeared. But she'd be in the middle of sketching something, or ordering fabrics on the phone, and then suddenly she'd hear his voice in her head, or see his face in front of her as clearly as if he were really there. And she'd stumble over whatever she was doing and make a mess of it.
She still didn't quite understand exactly why he asked her to have lunch with her, a quick fling with him trying to get her to go to bed with him seemed the most likely thing, and yet he didn't seem like the person who would want a quick fling. And he didn't seem like the person who would take advantage of a girl in any way. She wished she could figure him out and forget him once and for all, but she couldn't quite do that.
She hadn't messed the presentation with his thoughts cropping in her mind during the week though, which was a relief for her.
She met him in the Alitalia restaurant again, by accident not design. It was one of those typically November days, one minute a bright and shiny sky and the next, grey clouds and heavy rainfall. She was walking towards the boutique, past the restaurant when the rainfall began. She hurried inside to gain shelter. Lots of other people occupied their positions with the same idea. She sat on one of the couches and looked around her for the waiter, still shivering a little from the sudden blast of the watery wind. Then he walked past her, from one of the back tables towards the door.
She thought he hadn't seen her at first because he speeded by, damp hair neatly settled over his forehead giving a gelled look, shirt half drenched with water, collar falling lazily over his shoulders, hands deep in his pockets, with his eyes staring at the floor. He stopped suddenly, spun around on his heels making a screeching sound and looked back at her.
His brown eyes lit up in recognition and he walked back to her, smiling. "Hello again…..Riddhima" he said as he stood in front of her, with his hands out of his pockets. "How are you?"
"I am OK…….And you?" she said rising, pausing a little.
"Great." He smiled.
They looked at each other for a while, green eyes meeting brown, feeling an air of silence all around. Riddhima felt that she should say something to him but like the previous meeting, she didn't know what. He just looked at her.
They both started to speak at the same time and broke off.
"You first" he said. Riddhima shook her head. "No you."
"I was going to ask you if you'd like to have dinner with me sometime" he said. "Since you put me down the last time."
"I was surprised you phoned" she said. Pausing a little, she asked "Why did you ask me? Why do you want to have dinner with me at all?"
"I'd enjoy it" he said.
"With me? Don't be silly." She laughed nervously.
"Why are you so afraid of a simple dinner?" asked Armaan.
She stared at her shoes. Her right leg started to tremble. She twisted that leg behind her other leg to hide it. It was like being a teenager again, although if she were a teenager she could at least say she had a crush on him or something. But she was too old for crushes. She was almost 27 and crushes were out of the question for her. She didn't fancy him anyway, and wasn't attracted to him in any sort. She told herself over and over again. There was no room in her life for men. They brought nothing but grief.
She thought about them all. Every man she'd ever known had made her cry. First her own dad left her with tears while breaking marriage with her mother. She had begged him not leave her mum but he hadn't been kind towards her wishes. That itself had made her lose faith on relationships. Then her childhood crushes; Jamalio, Antonio, Anchio, even Rahul - the only man who had really mattered to her, the first and only man she had fell in love with in university had even left her to pursue his career in Sweden. Thinking about them all made her heart ache out of pain.
"But why do you want to……" she broke off, unsure about what to say next.
"See you?" he supplied.
She shrugged "Whatever."
"I like you Riddhima" he said simply. "I always have…….from the day we met the first time." His eyes twinkled with excitement.
"But I am not ready to go out with anyone" she told him. "I don't think it would be a good idea……I am sorry." She pulled off her handbag from the couch and hung it over her shoulder.
He looked resigned. "I can understand that Riddhima, that's not the issue. I am not trying to have an affair with you or anything. For God's sake, I have met you quite a couple of times now and haven't tried to have an affair with you ever."
She gave another nervous laugh while listening to him.
"I only want to get to know you better" he said. "Nothing more."
It wasn't that he was trying to do anything wrong by asking her out, she thought. He was being honest about his intentions and was way too polite about the entire issue. He had been sweet towards her all the time, she was rather the one who was rude to him every time they had met.
"Nothing?" she asked him still unsure about her words.
"Not yet, anyway" said Armaan.
"So what are you suggesting?" Riddhima asked.
"A couple of dates" he said. "You know what dates are? Dinner, theatre, movie, drink……that sort of a thing" He grinned with dimples taking position on his cheeks.
"And nothing else?" she asked him again, with a slight smile developing on her lips.
"Not unless you want to of course."
She might want to, she thought, but that wasn't the point. Armaan was a nice man but did she want somebody in her life? Was she ready to fall for someone, did she really want someone she could fall in love with?
"A date then" she said cautiously. "Nothing extravagant."
"Nothing extravagant." He put hands in his pockets. "I'll phone you, shall I?"
She'd thought he would fix up something there and then only. She was a bit surprised. "OK" she said.
"Fine……I'll leave you in peace now and I'll be in touch" He smiled at her and walked out of the restaurant.
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Riddhima knew her subconscious was up to something when she went for shopping after work to buy a pair of trainers, and scampered to the counter with a black silk and velvet bra and knickers set instead. She was surprised at her own behaviour that day, and couldn't understand what made her take an action as drastic as that. It made her feel stupid, and left her to have second thoughts about her date with Armaan. She was finally.........yes, finally going out on a date with him that evening.
Armaan, just the thought of him gave her goose bumps. She couldn't believe she was going out with the same person who she had tried to always stay away from in the past few days, the person who she had resisted all this time, the person she had deliberately avoided even if her heart cursed her for an accusation of being inhuman and ruthless.
Even though she had agreed to go out with him, she didn't quite know if she could handle herself getting in a relationship again. She knew it was too soon to even think about a relationship, but getting close with someone, starting on dates with an opposite sex was all about forming a new bond for her. She knew Armaan had been very sweet about the entire situation, she knew he had just wanted to know her better, and she had wanted the same even if she refused to accept the fact. But, she also knew the consequences of falling into this interaction. She didn't want another heart break; she didn't want to be betrayed again. She didn't know if she could bare the set back all over again, which made her stomach tinkle out of fear and nervousness............not to forget, with an overpowering feeling of excitement as well. She had longed for a companionship after Rahul's departure from her life, and at the back of her mind, she wanted this new bonding with Armaan to work. She wanted to make that died feeling of togetherness alive.........She wanted to feel the magic of being a teenager again........She wanted to fall in love all over again.........but she didn't know what was right or wrong. It was no less than a battle between emotional and rational mind transpiring inside her, which she couldn't resolve even if she tried hard to. "Oh Riddhima......you're an awful idiot" she told herself following a sigh".
Worse still was hearing her best friend Anjali call out her name from behind the cash counter, causing her to guiltily hide the carrier bag containing the new bra and the knickers set behind her back.
"Hey Ridz......what are you doing here?" asked Anjali, as she took an involuntary step forward from the middle of the queue.
"Ohhhh Anjie.........what a pleasant surprise" Riddhima pulled a face, biting her lower lip to hide her hidden secrets from her friend.
"Ahhh so you're shopping huh........what did you buy, let me see let me see" Anjali demanded childishly.
Riddhima sighed in defeat and handed the bag to her.
"Wow......." Anjali exaggerated the word on seeing the contents of the carrier bag. "Are you going out with a guy Ridz?" she raised her eyebrows to show her excitement.
"There's nothing like that Anjie" Riddhima hedged, rolling her eyes to show her discomfort to a question as private as that.
"Come on Ridz, tell me please" she begged.
"You are very pushy Anjie" Riddhima growled.
"Oh please tell na, are you going out on a date?" she asked again with an expression stiff with skepticism.
"It is not a date Anjie, it is only a casual dinner. Nothing special" Riddhima bit her lower lip again, hoping her friend would let the discussion drop now.
Anjali's smile transformed into an expression filled with disappointment at the opaque reality of Riddhima's response. "Who is it?" her hands flew up showing her palms as if she wanted to hold the answer to her question.
"Armaan Mallik" Riddhima sighed again, sensing that Anjali wasn't about to give up.
"Who........Armaan........" She pondered. "Is it the same guy who followed you to our boutique?"
"Yeah, he asked me to join him for dinner tonight and I couldn't say no" Riddhima replied curtly.
"That's great Riddhima, you can finally have some fun now. You needed this you know.......I am glad you are giving yourself another chance, you deserve a lot better than what you give yourself." She said sincerely.
"I am not going to have a relationship with him Anjie........don't even think about such ideas." Riddhima said angrily.
"Well, that's what you should do and I know you want the same yourself." She said with a tiny smile forming at the corner of her lips, as if enjoying a private joke.
"What?" Riddhima asked, with anger obvious in her tone.
"Well, if you don't want it yourself, then what is this huh?" she asked raising the carrier bag, with her dark eyes dancing with mischief.
"A......uh.....it is for myself" Riddhima stammered, uncomfortably aware of Anjalie's questioning gaze on her. She couldn't stop the shiver that flashed down her spine. "I mean, I bought them for some special occasion." She said looking embarrassed, keeping her eyes down to avoid Anjalie's further quest.
"You don't need to be embarrassed Ridz" Anjali said as if reading Riddhima's mind, placing her hand on Riddhima's shoulder. "It is completely natural to feel like that. In fact I would totally want you to enjoy yourself, you should give yourself such a liberty, and take life as it comes rather than punishing yourself within the four walls of your apartment. I won't push you any further and let you do what you feel like........but think about what I said again.........you might like to take it into consideration."
Riddhima wasn't mad at her friend for saying so, she somewhere inside her knew that Anjalie was just being supportive towards her; she was just behaving the way anyone's friend would. Shovelling the clothes neatly back into their carrier, Riddhima politely took a leave from Anjalie......with a thankful smile on her face.
"Enjoy your night Ridz" Anjalie said with a smile on her face, breaking into a wink which irritated Riddhima to a certain extent, if not completely.
The glorious bra and the knickers set, now destined never to be worn, mainly because of the friendly talk Riddhima had with her friend a few hours ago, was stored deep inside the cupboard drawer. Riddhima stood in front of the mirror in her bedroom and gazed in appalled fascination at her reflection. Tonight was her first date in five years, five years......such a long time, she thought to herself. She was nervous, she admitted to herself, not about going out with a stranger, well almost a stranger, but about being alone with a man, a man who liked her, a man who had mentioned himself that he enjoyed being with her. She felt like she had almost lost touch of how to behave in dates. It had been five years and not being out on a date, not even a casual meeting with a guy, was making her body shake out of anxiety and tension. Thinking about even the basic things like what to say......how to say.........what to do...........how to do...........were all making her more and more panicky about the evening. On top of that, Anjalie's words were driving her crazy. She felt like the desire she had been resisting all this while had been reignited inside her.
"Calm down Riddhima.......you can do this" she said to herself taking a few deep breaths, with an intention to strengthen her self-confidence.
She spent ages trying to decide what to wear for the dinner. No matter how hard she tried to remind herself about the casualness of her meeting with Armaan, her subconscious would re-surface again and again suggesting her to look her best in front of him. While scanning the wardrobe, her hands would automatically go on the most elegant and the most seductive looking dresses ignoring the other options in their vicinity. Like a teenager, she would try on each of them with utmost care, devoting as much time as needed, and would make faces seeing the outcomes. First, she put on her new light green coloured halter neck gown, beautifully beaded and decorated with orange and clear crystals, but decided that it looked far too new and too much as if she was making an effort for him. She then decided to wear her red satin full length strapless evening dress instead, which though had a simple design in comparison to the first dress, but looked equally elegant and flattering. She then styled her hair in an up-do, with a few wayward wavy tresses falling and framing her face, and wore her favourite drop pearl necklace with matching earrings. She was so engrossed in unintentionally bedazzling her date, that she didn't even realize when the tires of his car slid on the brick driveway, with headlights flashing through the front windows, down the room to her. She stiffened on her seat, in front of the mirror. The butterflies had made their re-entry inside her stomach, making her to stand up almost instantly.
The moment she had been preparing for since morning had arrived, with her date.......Armaan Mallik waiting for her only a few yards away from the main door.
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