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Armaan was sitting on the staircase with a bird's eye view of the hall and had been doing four things, one after the other, repeating in order, for the past half an hour. The four things being, blowing balloons, surveying the room full of 10yr olds, looking at his watch and glancing at the front door. He had been doing it unconsciously but hadn't broken the routine in a while.
"Riddhima, where are you?" Armaan asked himself for the umpteenth time. His eyes sought out Gappu playing with a couple of his classmates, taking turns on his new skate board. Gappu caught his eyes and smiled and then motioned him to come join them. Armaan smiled and shook his head. As Gappu went back to playing with his friends, Armaan surveyed the room. The hall had become virtually unrecognizable. Where usually there were the large sofas and huge bookcases filled with very serious looking bounded titles, now were full of all kinds of fun games. There were basketball hoops, hula hoops, heck, there was even a miniature football field complete with goal posts on either side. There was popcorn stall, ice cream stall, pizza stall, all kinds of junk food stall and even a bhelpuri stall on Gappu's request. All in all a kid's paradise. Armaan smiled and admitted that even he liked it better this way. Suddenly the room became even better as his eyes fell on the door and there looking as lovely as ever was Riddhima.
Riddhima couldn't believe her eyes. The house looked something like a children's amusement park and for a second she wondered if she had come to the right place. She was unsure of what to do and was just waiting at the door when she spotted Armaan sitting at the top of the stairs. He had evidently spotted her earlier as he smiled and lifted his hand in greetings and then got up to move towards her. Riddhima couldn't help but notice that he looked adorable. He was wearing blue jeans with a black Popeye T-shirt, apparently to blend in with the crowd and Riddhima had to give him full marks for that. Riddhima watched as he made his way towards her, pushing past jostling kids, jumping over a carom board and then narrowly missing a stray basketball he finally reached her. He ran a careless hand through his hair and smiled.
"Hey Riddhima didi!"
Riddhima was taken aback for a second and then she glanced down to find Gappu smiling at her holding a huge bar of chocolate.
Riddhima smiled, "Hey, Gappu." She bent down to give Gappu a hug, "Happy Birthday!"
"And here's your birthday present, hope you like it!"
Gappu quickly tore open the wrapping paper and exclaimed, "Wow, a football! Thank you so much Riddhima didi. Dexter! I love Dexter. Thank you!"
"My pleasure," Riddhima reached out to rub off a piece of chocolate from Gappu's cheek and said, "Ooh, that's a big bar of chocolate!"
"Armaan mama gave it to me, he said it was the biggest bar he could find," Gappu said proudly.
Riddhima looked up at Armaan grinning and said,
"Really? That's sweet of him."
Armaan quickly put a hand on Gappu's shoulder and pulled him towards himself,
"Isn't it? Actually I am a damn sweet guy!"
Riddhima stood up and rolled her eyes in mock disbelief.
"I am a sweet guy. Give us a chance and I will prove it to you, Dr. Riddhima Gupta."
This had to be one of the corniest lines, ever and Riddhima knew that Armaan was just kidding around but somehow when she looked into his warm, twinkling eyes she felt like taking him seriously. He said 'give us a chance'. What if he was serious and she did give them a chance? What would it be like to actually be in a relationship with Armaan? He was stubborn and headstrong but he was also intelligent and understanding. He was a compulsive flirt but he was also very caring and responsible. He could irritate you one minute and then charm you the next. He didn't '
"Riddhima didi, why are you still standing here?" She was jerked out of her reverie by Gappu tugging at her dupatta. "Come with me, you have to meet my friends," and before she could say anything she was pulled away by Gappu to meet his friends.
Armaan smiled to himself as he saw Riddhima being led away by Gappu. She had to be one of the most openly expressive people and he hadn't missed the play of emotions on her face. She looked irritated for a moment and then wistful and at that instant he could have given anything to know what she was thinking. He now watched her talking to Gappu's friends and was awed at how easily she made friends with children or rather how easily children met friends with her. She was like a breath of fresh air and you couldn't help but like her. He was intending to follow her and Gappu when he felt his phone vibrating. There was too much noise in the hall so he went outside in the balcony to take the call.
"Oh hi, Atul Bhaiyya. Gappu is inside, enjoying his birthday party. Do you want me to call him?"
"Na, its okay, let him have fun, I wanted to talk to you."
"Talk to me? Why? Is Di driving you crazy again?"
"Absolutely up the hill," Atul sighed, "She has been cribbing since yesterday about being away from Gappu on his birthday. I just don't know what to say to her. She is in such a foul mood, I am probably not going to get any breakfast today, or for that matter any lunch or dinner!"
"You are laughing Armaan? Don't laugh."
"I am sorry bhai," Armaan snickered, "I know about Di and her temper tantrums. Don't you remember how she wouldn't talk to me for an entire day just because I called her fat. Then both of us had to take her out for her favourite strawberry milkshake to calm her down."
"Yeah, I remember, but this time I don't think even strawberry milkshake will work."
"Just chill, she'll be alright."
"Hmm'I know. Anyways, thanks a ton buddy."
"No Armaan, seriously. Thanks for everything. Thanks for throwing Gappu a party."
"Gappu is my favourite nephew and he deserves it. Actually, I should be the one to thank you. Thank you for leaving Gappu here with me. It means a lot."
"And if you say anything more, I will tell Di that YOU thought she looked like Tarzan with her previous hairstyle."
"You wouldn't do that!"
"She'll kill me!"
"Well, best of luck then!"
"Fine, you win, but don't worry, every dog has his day."
"I'll be waiting!"
"Anyways, I gotta go, I think Tarzan is done with her bath and if she hears me talking to you, she'll get into another of her tantrums modes."
Armaan laughed, "Okay, have fun, bye!"
Armaan disconnected the phone with a smile on his face. Atul and Anjali were so different yet so perfect for each other. Where Anjali was hot headed and impulsive, Atul was calm. Where Anjali was loud and boisterous, Atul was more reserved and balanced. They were like the perfect foil for each other and the definition of opposites attract. They were constantly bickering but it was impossible to miss the love and respect they had for each other. To Armaan, Anjali and Atul's was a match made in heaven, a perfect couple!
"A penny for your thoughts!"
Armaan turned around to find Riddhima smiling at him.
"This is really not fair Armaan," Riddhima pouted, "You said that you wanted me to help you with the kids and then you disappear, just like that!"
Armaan smiled, "I thought I was leaving the kids with the expert, Miss Paediatrician."
"Yeah right, but its not easy handling twenty kids alone you know. Like I said, I am a paediatrician, not a magician. Besides, you are the host, you should be present."
Armaan now turned around fully. He rested against the railing and crossing his arms across his chest, grinned at Riddhima.
"Riddhima, why don't you stop making excuses and just admit that you were missing me?"
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