The game had been going on for quite some time now, probably hours. They had lost track of time, as they often did whenever they actually got down to bringing out the fateful board and started playing. Today, it had been a sudden mood swing brought on by the lady in question, who had turned the whole room upside down, and finally found he dusty board lying on top of the cupboard. It was these unusual rare moments when both of them could actually sit together and give each other some time. Otherwise, she was usually busy with the kids and Armaan, while he often tried to steer clear of the whole situation.
Rahul and Riddhima, though were cousins, had never shared too much of a close relationship. True, they were good friends and often did hang out together, and many a times had they had an awesome time when together. However, they had never shared a personal close 'brother-sister' relationship. The reason behind it could more so be the fact that Riddhima had never found the need to open up to anyone or be emotionally close to them, as Armaan was always there for her. He was like, in the literal meaning of the words, her 'knight in shining armor'. She only failed to recognize it, he realized. Rahul was her aunt's son, and he had unfortunately met her after the death of Misha. He had been deeply impressed by the happy-go-lucky girl she still was, despite all the rumors about how bad a life she had lead. They had met when Rahul had shifted to London, about 2 years ago, and though they had met a couple of times when they were young, this time it was a long-lasting friendship that bonded them together. They both had enrolled in the same program in the same university, where they had found the chirpy and bubbly Muskaan Chaddha. They had all bonded extremely well together, and the trio could be seen everywhere in the university together.
Riddhima had found a great friend in Muskaan, and had surprisingly opened up more to her than Rahul. Though this fact did not irk him, he was still stung sometimes by the fact that his cousin sister did not feel the need to tell him some important stuff of her life. Muskaan and Riddhima were like separated fetuses, they were identical in so many ways and then different in many others. The beauty of their relationship was that they both were unconditionally there for each other, always and even the biggest issues between them couldn't rip them apart. After only a few weeks of their newly found friendship, they had all been sitting in the cafeteria when a sudden entry of a young, handsome man, slightly elder than them, and definitely a one he knew belonged to the MBA program, had arose a shriek from Riddhima and within seconds, she was cuddling into the guy's arms. Muskaan and Rahul both had been shocked, the instant thought of her 'boyfriend' coming to their mind. When introductions took place, Rahul met Armaan Mallik for the first time, and was instantly impressed. The easy, laid-back aura of the guy made him instantly like him. Rahul himself was not a very extrovert person, he needed time to gel with someone, and yet Armaan had made him at ease within seconds. Before all of them knew, within a matter of few weeks, they had all become great friends.
He had always been intrigued by the close relationship Armaan and Riddhima shared; how he took care of all her problems, helped her in her studies, took care of handling her land-lady and the rents, and specially how efficiently he handled her family like his own. As months passed by, he analyzed their friendship closely and realized how much they both mattered to each other. Riddhima couldn't take even one decision on her own behalf if Armaan wasn't there, and Armaan was all the time worried about something or the other related to Riddhima. When he and Muskaan had finally started courting, he realized Riddhima's sudden aloofness towards them and she slowly drifted apart, as if her existence would interfere with their relationship. While she had been as close to Muskaan as she had been, she no longer spent a lot of time with him. This thing had been irking him since a lot of time.
Now that he had come down to India after their sudden bizarre 'non-marriage marriage', he had begun to understand things better. All through the flight, he had wondered why Riddhima had agreed to do this for Armaan. He knew that she was ready to do everything for him, and even though he knew she wasn't as 'indianized' and therefore not as aware of the morals and ethics as Armaan was, he was also aware of the fact that Misha Auntie had brought her up with the best values and traditions she could give to her. As much as he knew Riddhima, she was extremely conscious of her reputation and people's opinions about her, then why had she suddenly agreed, even more than readily, to become her best friend's wife? Had she not thought about the implications this lie would bring with it? Or had she been oblivious to the fact that she would be practically helping Armaan in lying to the people who loved him the most? As much as he didn't understand Armaan's reluctance to get married, he was more intrigued by Riddhima's happy behavior towards all that was happening.
Riddhima had been noticing Rahul acting aloof and lost in his thoughts since the past half an hour, but had decided to trash the idea of asking him. Though once they had been close enough to share stuff with him, she no longer felt that closeness, specifically since the time he had started going out with Muskaan. The whole revelation of the fact that two of her closest friends had fallen in love and found the 'perfect other' for themselves had left her feeling a little desolate and incomplete. Even Armaan had a girlfriend then, and she was the only one who felt devoid of any love. Most of the time, Rahul and Muskaan were together and the 'trio' no longer existed, and Armaan being in a different program, had not been able to keep her a lot of company. She didn't feel jealous of them, she was in fact extremely happy for them. She just felt a sense of loneliness even when she was with them. Alone, Muskaan and Riddhima were still the same old friends, but things with Rahul had changed a little. It had been her childishness to even think that her friends would always be waiting around her, and not live their own lives.
As her eyes wandered over to the board lying before them and then at Rahul lost in some thought, she finally decided to speak up. Clearing up her throat, she started off, "Aheeemm!!"
Rahul looked up at her and then mentally smacked his head. She had been sitting across from him and he had been busy speculating about her and Armaan's so called 'platonic' friendship. "Ummm, yeah, sorry…I was just…thinking about something…"
" Obviously, you couldn't have been thinking THAT hard over a game of Scrabbles, even though I know that pea-sized brain of yours needs more time than normal people to come up with words," she replied, the grin on her face widening.
"Yeah yeah,Ridz, go on…try your hand at a little bit of what we call the sense of humor, you might even get good at it after a decade or so," he retorted, winking at her.
"Okay okayyyy….i get it…taking digs at each other wont help…so tell me huh, what was going on in that evil mind of yours," she said, sitting up, her legs curled up under her. A
Rahul looked at her and wondered whether he should talk to her or not. He had, however, noticed the suddenly new hesitance that was developing in Riddhima, as she got into close proximity with Armaan. Many a times had he seen her hug him or give a kiss on his cheek in signs of affection, but now she even hesitated in holding his hand when she was in front of anyone. Anyone who would notice her closely could have seen the slight tinge of blush on her cheeks when someone complimented them, or when they would be teased. That was SO unlike Riddhima, and that was what was on his mind. Was she finally accepting her love for him? He had been here since more than a week now, and the whole 'not-married yet married' thing was perhaps getting to her, according to him.
"Riddhima, if I ask you something, will you be honest enough to answer me?," he asked, looking at her intently as her brows frowned.
"Of course Rahul…wait, lemme think…you just called me Riddhima…you guys never call me Riddhima, so this is serious, huh?" she speculated.
Rahul grinned a little and shook his head. This girl would never change.
"Yes it's serious….Riddhima, why are you doing this?"
Riddhima heard his question and thought for a second, then looked around and then down at the board lying at her feet. "What, play Scrabbles…?"
"Tch, Riddhima!!! I mean, why are you doing all this….this whole farce of being married to Armaan, acting as his wife…I mean, I don't get it…why are you….," he trailed off as he saw Riddhima's determined face at his words.
"Rahul, Armaan is my best friend…this is the only one thing he has asked of me since I know him…after all he has done for me, this is my way of repaying him back all those…," she bit her lip and stopped as Rahul rolled his eyes.
"O come on Ridz, who are you kidding? Me or yourself? You know you are not doing this for repaying him…God knows you guys don't do stuff for each other to be repaid for, he did everything for you, and you are doing this, supporting him in a lie against his family, for WHAT?"
Riddhima was astounded by his reply and she, for once did not have an answer.
"This isn't like you Riddhima…its not like you to go out of your way, marring your repute like that for someone…you would never support Muskaan in a lie like this, then why Armaan…? Its not because he is your best friend, its not because he's done a lot for you…its something else, which you know and I know, and the difference is, I understand it and you are not even ready to realize it. What are you running from Riddhima…? Why are you turning the strongest relation of your life to a mere lie…?"
Riddhima was speechless, so taken aback by his sudden outburst that she couldn't say anything, not even stop him when he murmured something about 'realizing it soon' and left. She was more surprised by the suddenness with which he had said aloud all those thoughts that had been pressing on her own mind since a couple of days but she had been trying to ignore.
Before she could even start thinking of her own actions, and how things had suddenly started to take a turn, Armaan walked into the room. Today, he had been taken along to his dad's office and thus she had had plenty of time on her hands. Rhea and Ryan had instantly gelled with the family, and Ryan and Aravh had become fast friends, so they all were downstairs, playing.
Armaan walked into the room to find Riddhima sitting on the bed, her back towards him, thinking about something deeply. He decided to have some fun, so he went and stood right behind her, and with a simple leap of the arm, had picked her up into the air from around her waist. Riddhima shrieked with the suddenness of this act, and turned her head to look at him.
Riddhima: ARMAAN!! Behave yourself…(in a slightly miffed voice)
Armaan looked at her and grimaced. What had happened to her, she was in a bad mood, that was very clear to him. He instantly put her down and looked at her as she looked away.
" Hey, what happened, you alright?", he asked, a little concerned.
" yeah I am….i just…need some time alone…I am fine…", saying that, without looking at him, she walked out of the room.
Armaan looked at her retreating figure and wondered what had happened to her suddenly.
As he walked down to the hall, he found Divya, Padma, Bey-jee and Da-jee sitting together, having some private discussion. He walked over to them and sat down on the sofa, next to Padma and put an arm around her shoulder.
Armaan: kia baatain ker rahay ho ap log??
Divya: hey Armaan…dekh na…shadi ke cards bann ke agaye…aren't they good? (handing one over to him)
Armaan took one card and started looking at it, though he was still a little distracted by Riddhima's odd behavior. She rarely was in a bad mood, and whenever she was, he was the first person she would talk to.
Armaan: yeah…its…its nice…(looking at the cover)
Divya noticed him being slightly miffed and leaned over, whispering to him, "Hey, what happened…? Everything okay…?"
Armaan nodded back at her, trying to steer clear of any discussions which would raise further eyebrows. He looked over at Da-jee as he heard his name being called out.
Da-Jee: Armaan beta…hum ne aik decision liya hai…aur yhe hum sab barron ki khwaish hai…
Armaan: jee Da-jee…boliye na…
Da-Jee: beta, tu ne apni marzi se, pasand se larki pasand ki…aur uss se shadi bhi ker li…(Armaan looked down, looking slightly embarrassed) …hum ne tujhe kuch bhi nahi kaha…par beta, log tarah tarah ki baatain kerne lagay hain…beshak tujhe uss se farq nap array, lekin humari izzat per koi aanch aye, yeh humain bilkul pasand nahee…
Armaan looked down dejectedly and spoke "Jee, Da-jee"
Bey-jee: issi liye hum chahate hain ke logon ko baat kerna ka mauqa hi na diya jaye….Shubhankar keerti ki to shadi ho hi rahi hai…hum ne socha ke kyun na teri aur Riddhima ki bhi shadi ussi mandap main ker di jaye, sab reet-o-riwaj ke saath??
Armaan looked up at her, horrified as the implication of her words set it. Did they mean they both would actually have to go through the whole marriage farce? Wouldn't it be taking the lie a few notches too high?
Armaan: kkk…kia matlab? (looking from Bey-jee to Padma)
Padma: iss se pehle ke log baatain kerna shuru kerein, humain unka moun band kara dena chahiye…aur wese bhi, yeh court marriage ka kia maza…mera aik hi aik beta hai, uski shadi ka koi to jashan hona chahiye na…(laughs)
He couldn't even come up with one genuine thing to say. It was too much, all at once. He didn't even have Riddhima there to talk things over with. She was, in fact, lost in a world of her own and he had to make up a good excuse right now till he talked to her about it.
Armaan: Mom, I don't think Riddhima would be comfortable with it….I mean, uski traf se koi family nahee hogi…plus, she has to go back to London in a few weeks….(fumbling with his hands)
Divya: haan to iss main problem kia hai…Shubh ke saath saath hi teri shadi ki rasmain bhi kerwa dainge…wese bhi, 2 dinnon mein to mehndi hai hi na…problem kia hai??
Armaan sighed as he failed to come up with any other valid excuse. He looked around helplessly, as he couldn't say anything much in front of Da-jee, and most probably, no one would be even ready to listen to him.
Armaan: phir bhee…let me talk to Riddhima about this once…okay? Main ap logon ko bata dunga…abhi, I have to go…
With that, he stood up and walked out of the hall, slightly disturbed. Everyone sitting in the hall exchanged worried looks, while Da-jee looked at his retreating figure and thought of something.
Armaan sat on the bonnet of his car and looked down at the lightened city. It was as beautiful as he remembered this sight he could never tire of. Whenever he had some deep thinking to do, he would come here and his mind would get cleared up within a few minutes.
He thought over the latest problem at hand, how would he tell everyone that they could not go through with the marriage rituals, that all of this had been a lie, a farce. What had seemed like a harmless, small lie had turned into one major problem, as everyone had readily accepted Riddhima as their new daughter in law, and now they expected them to stay in India forever. Only a few days ago had Padma questioned Riddhima about Rhea and Ryan staying with them in their room, and Armaan had fortunately appeared at that scene, diverting the topic. However, Padma had brought up the topic again and Riddhima had been so bustled up at that time that she just told her that she was really attached to the kids so they slept with them. That had been the invitation to a long lecture given to him by Da-jee and her by Bey-jee over the moral ethics of a 'husband-wife' relationship, which had been a pretty embarrassing ordeal in itself, and had consequently resulted in Rhea and Ryan being shifted to Rahul's room, where Riddhima would put them to sleep and then come to their room.
He thought of how this was effecting everyone, especially their own relationship. The physical intimacy which they shared was not like the one they were used to, sharing the bed, the bathroom, the same wardrobe, always sitting together while eating, doing all the 'married couple' rituals in poojas and being introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Armaan Mallik in itself implicated the change in their relationship. He understood how they both felt awkward with the excessive intimacy now, a touch here, a sudden hug there. It was all a drama to show to people, but the way it was effecting them was not good for either.
As he thought over the past three weeks they had been together as 'married', the reality of the situation hit him and he realized how big a mistake he had done to put up this marriage farce. He had clearly not been thinking clearly, but what he did not understand was why had Riddhima played along? No doubt, he was the sensible one between them but she was not a complete nutter when it came to serious decisions either. Now that he came to think of it, Riddhima would have never agreed to do this, the kind of person that she was. Then why had she, and why hadn't she objected to all those instances when the physical intimacy had maybe gotten a little out of hand. Platonic friendship it was not, then what was it.
As his cell began to ring, Armaan sighed frustratingly and picked up the call. It was from home, and he was being called back to run some errand. As he got into the care seat, he frowned a little, as he thought of the fact that rather than being calm and relaxed after coming here, he was even more confused and disturbed.
Riddhima woke up suddenly, her eyes trying to adjust to the semi-darkness of the room. She hadn't realized how and when she had drifted off to sleep. She had been thinking about the current situation and whatever Rahul had said to her, and by the time she had started feeling drowsy, Armaan had not come back, and she had slept. Now, she tried to understand what had woken her up, and then the reality of the situation hit her.
She stiffened as she felt Armaan nuzzle in her hair, his hand tight around her waist, pulling her towards him. She couldn't understand what was happening for a moment, as his limbs entwined with her, and he was half-lying, half over her. The weird thing was, he was still asleep, or at least semi-conscious, and not fully awake as she was now. She sucked in her breath and tried not to say anything as Armaan's lips slightly touched her neck and rested there. Never had they come so close in the past 3 weeks that they had been sleeping together. True, his arm was occasionally around her waist whenever she woke up but that was about it.
When no more movement occurred from Armaan's side, she slowly put her hand to his and tried to get free from his strong hold. However, even in his sleep, he had grabbed her so tightly that she couldn't break free. Her movement had slightly triggered off his sleep, and she gasped as she suddenly felt him give a slight peck on her neck and then roll over to the other side, lost in his deep sleep.
Riddhima sat up, her whole being slightly shaky with the sudden close contact she had just had with him. Though Armaan was oblivious to whatever had happened and probably wouldn't remember whatever had happened just now, she couldn't think straight for a while. She looked at his back towards her, and then reminisced how close he had been to her. Her hand itself reached up to her neck, slightly touching the point where he had kissed her. Heat radiated from her body, and she realized she had been holding her breath.
She then realized what she was doing, and looked down at her hand, mentally coming back to her senses. He had perhaps been lost to the world, but she had been in her senses. Why hadn't she stopped him? What disturbed her more was, that she knew the feeling inside her, and she knew that she had somewhere, not wanted him to stop. And as this thought hit her, she almost groaned with mortification at having thought of her best friend in that manner.
As she now sat on the floor of her bathroom, her back towards the door, she put a hand to her mouth and silently, not knowing when, tears crept out of her eyes as she thought how she had been oblivious to everything that had been happening. More so, she was concerned of what would happen now. Whatever anyone said, she would never see Armaan Mallik as the same man, her best friend. In the past few days, not knowing how, he had changed for her from 'just a guy who happened to be her best friend' to 'a man she unwillingly and unknowingly yearned for'.
hey guys!!! yep, thats it for today...prart 21...um so so sorry for the delay...and i think u guys wont be too happy with the length of the update either, but i just had to put a part up for today....i knw, its coming a little late, but aah well...at last i updated heheheh....
So yeah, the story moved a little forward, and we are gonna see a lot of changed from now on...it was becoming quite a drag, i knw...
This one goes out to Nij, trust me, shes the one to whom the credit goes...the threat of being spammed on the thread and beging literally abused was too much, i had to write it out ehehe....luv ya girl...
And of course nia, miss ya thinghi...i hope u r having fun...!!
And to all u people out here...who waited and commented, i dunno how u guys put up wimme hehehe...thanks a ton guys...
Promise, th next time update will be soon...plz do comment...and the silent readers, just press the thank you button down there..=D
Thanks guys...lov ya all...