Joined: 02 December 2008
Chapter 19 ~ New Acquaintances
Riddhima took her water bottle out of her straw purse, and took a long, slow sip; filling her insides with the refreshing monotone taste of the cold water. The line up in front of the museum was longer than what Riddhima had expected. Apparently there was a huge art exhibition taking place today, and everyone excitedly squirmed in their places, as they got nearer and nearer to the shady, roofed area in front of the ticket counter. Riddhima pulled out her Chanel sunglasses, and put them before her eyes to shade them from the piercing sun rays.
As she got closer to the ticket booth, Riddhima couldn't help but to finish off all the water she had brought along to help her survive through the whole day.
Finally, Riddhima reached inside the art gallery, and put on her headphones that guided her through the exhibition. It seemed to be the work of some famous photographer, Mr. Naamra. As Riddhima stepped in front of the next photograph, she stopped in her tracks, and turned off the guide's voice from the headphones she was given as a tour director.
The photograph was of an old lady, in black and white photography, who was scratching her infant's skin in order to gain sympathy from the wealthy that stood behind her. The motive of the scratching was simple: to influence the rich to give some wealth to this family of two who had nothing but each other. Riddhima almost started to cry, but controlled herself. She continued to stare at the photograph in silence as many people just ignored the epic piece of art and walked by, not to distress themselves.
"It seems as though this photograph has captivated your attention completely..." said a low voice from behind her.
The voice startled Riddhima entirely and she almost jumped through the roof above her. She turned around to face the man who assumed her current disposition. The voice belonged to a tall, slim but attractively muscular man. He wore very expensive looking clothing and a matching top hat to his Armani black suit. Riddhima could smell his lustful cologne from where she was standing, approximately two meters away from him. She looked up at his face. He was wearing dark shades that covered his eyes, and his top hat shaded his entire face, even the darkness of the room they were standing in seemed to help him to hide his face. Even though she could not see his face, it was odd to see the man standing before her flinch when he saw her. She quickly looked over his shoulder at her reflection from one of the glasses on a framed photo. She didn't look too bad, and her hair was nicely tamed today. She could still smell her perfume as well. And it was expensive perfume that Keerti had gifted to her for Christmas last year.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I really enjoy this photograph." She smiled a warm, stranger smile at him and then turned her back to him once more, to give her full attention back to the piece of art that she was so 'captivated' by.
She felt the man's chest bump against her shoulder. For a second it awkwardly stayed there, but then he moved slightly back, "Why does it draw so much of your attention?" he asked.
"Well, I really like how the photographer has captured the reality of the rural life that many people in this era are experiencing. I especially like the fact though, that the artist has shown a truth to the audience that most people usually seem to miss...or just don't wish to stop and process it." Riddhima could have talked about her feelings for this particular photograph all day, but instead she forcefully quieted herself and kept a confined character in front of this odd stranger.
"That's a very deep thought. I'm surprised that someone like your self would get the time to stop and realize such a fact, while others, like most of the people in this room, are just pretending that this section of the wall does not even exist."
Riddhima turned around again to face the man and smile at his compliment, "I'm not as busy as I present myself to be, but thank you for the comment." She could not see his face, but she sensed that he was also smiling at this time as well.
"You know, the photographer of this artwork didn't exactly take this picture to show the reality of life. He actually took it to show how deceitful those in this poverty cycle could be." It almost sounded to Riddhima as if this man was challenging her points of view.
"Really, is that right? Well, I guess there's always a positive and negative side in seeing things around you. The photographer might have seen this moment as a chance to show the other face of the traitor, but his viewers, like me, read this to be an expression of the feelings that one undergoes in order to pertain themselves of the little respect that they might hold in their strive to live a life that many just take for granted." Riddhima couldn't have portrayed her thoughts into better words than what she had just said.
"That's a very insightful and inspiring thought you have there. Interesting...very, very interesting...Well, I would surely like to inform the artist of this fan's views. Thank you." Riddhima blushed and smiled at him, wishing that the low, magical voice would reveal its face. But the man just seemed to do the opposite and turn around to walk in another direction.
"Excuse me Mister!" Riddhima felt like a dumbass calling him again, when he clearly did not wish to converse in any further talk with her.
He turned around elegantly, "Yes?"
Riddhima stared at him blankly for a while, not knowing why she had stupidly called him for no reason. She swore that she even thought that he chuckled for a while looking at her expressionless face. Finally when the silence became extremely awkward, Riddhima began to panic and asked whatever question came to mind, "Um...well, I was just wondering...err...how do you know this particular artist? What I mean to say, is that...I'm a very big fan of his, since...um...childhood, and I just wanted to know if you knew him well enough...to...to introduce him to ME!" Riddhima basically did the worst stage performance of improvising in her life. She stared at him, hoping he would buy her story. He laughed just loud enough for them both to hear, and then grew quiet.
"Well, it must be your lucky day, because your childhood hero stands in front of you," he continued to laugh in his low, stony voice. Riddhima didn't know why, but it felt to her that she had heard this voice before. It reminded her of Rahul...but to the extreme point that she would suspect this man to be him. Even though his body also reminded her of his...but then again, most men were toughly built these days. Looking at this man's muscles, reminded Riddhima of Salmaan. She quickly shook her head to erase all thoughts of him and focused on the man in front of her that proclaimed himself as Mr. Naamra.
"Wow, oh my god. This is such a great honour! THE Mr. Naamra!! I sincerely cannot believe my luck today!" She really couldn't believe her luck today, especially the part that included the various flirts that crossed her path since early morning. She faked her excitement and surprised facial expressions of seeing MR.NAARMA, even though she had never heard this name in her life just until about half an hour ago when it was announced through her headphones.
"No please, the pleasure is all mine. But if you truly do wish to honour me, then accept my offer to lunch date today. You would greatly increase my own luck, if you could find it in your heart to keep this negative thinking artist's pride." He grabbed her hand in his, and held it there.
Riddhima felt an unusual spark go through her body. She couldn't understand who this stranger was, but whoever he was, Riddhima swore that this was not the first time she was meeting him. She had never even met a Mr. Naamra in her life, yet his touch made her think that she knew his man all her life.
Riddhima erased the confused expression off her face and smiled at him, "Of course Mr. Naamra. Do not embarrass me by saying that I would do YOU an honour, when the HONOUR is all MINE!" she couldn't find it in herself to refuse this generous proposal. Plus, Riddhima reminded herself that she had promised to take an adventure on this vacation...and an adventure was what she was ready to risk right at that point!
Chapter 20 ~ New feelings.
The driver to the long limousine opened the limousine's back door. Riddhima stepped out to find Mr. Naamra already waiting by her side. "Are you ready?" he asked. She felt like she was being taken to a place beyond heaven.
She laughed at the thought, and smiled, "Only if you are..." motioned for her to walk up the stony path. She began to ascend the steps into a forest. It was not a scary looking forest, instead it was full of life and gentle squirrels and butterflies that sprang out of bushes and scurried along the ground. Mr. Naamra walked right behind her and told her occasionally which way to turn whenever two paths emerged from their one single guide.
Riddhima kept track of the turns just in case she had to run back this whole path. She was always taught to be aware of her surroundings. Even though she was Mr. Naarma's guest; she knew very well that if he tried to force her into anything, then she would hit him in his sensitive area and run away as fast as she could praying God's name the whole entire way. This type of situation had never occurred in the past, and Riddhima trusted her instincts enough to know she would never have to use that emergency plan in the future...yet, still...
Finally the forest began to disappear and a small clearing was spotted. It was a grassy area on top of a cliff that had an overlook on the whole entire city! It was MAGNIFICENT! Riddhima couldn't believe what she was seeing! If that was not enough of a surprise, Mr. Naamra had already set a picnic in the clearing for two. Riddhima looked at him...well his hat basically that covered his face, and smiled. She let go of his hand, which remained in a black glove all the time, and ran towards the picnic area like a little girl seeing candy.
"This is BEAUTIFUL!" Riddhima almost shrieked.
"So, you like it?" he asked innocently.
"Do I like it? I LOVE IT!" she smiled her biggest smile.
"Good. Well please, sit down. Let's start, because I don't know about you, but I'm STARVING."
Riddhima laughed and sat down, followed by Mr. Naamra taking his spot opposite her position. It was an extremely hot day, yet Mr. Naamra wore a black long coat, with a huge black hat and even black gloves!
"Do you not feel hot Mr. Naamra?" Riddhima couldn't help but to ask. The curiosity was killing her inside.
He laughed quietly and then said in a stern voice, "I do not like to reveal skin. I feel more satisfied with myself when I am completely covered and refined."
Riddhima nodded and then looked down at herself, "Well, I'm afraid that's one thing we do not have in common! I love to show skin, but not to an extent where it becomes over the top, but just to an extent where I feel confident about who I am." Riddhima decided to keep her mouth shut. That was enough attitude for now; she had to save her best lines for later.
He laughed a bit louder this time, "That's very unique Ms....I'm afraid I don't remember your name..."
"My name? Oh yes! You can call me Riddhima..."
"Riddhima...a beautiful name for a beautiful girl."
Riddhima blushed, but then she realized something. Mr. Naamra had just called her a girl...if he was her age, then wouldn't he have called her a woman? This indirectly meant that Mr. Naamra could possibly be her dad's age! Riddhima almost puked at the thought. She couldn't even tell how old he was, because all his skin was covered!
"Um...Mr. Naamra, not to be rude, but I was just wondering...exactly how old are you? I would never have asked this question, but I cannot see your face, so I cannot tell otherwise..."
He didn't laugh this time, "Let's not discuss my age, shall we?"
The rest of the afternoon went by very really quickly. Riddhima discussed her plans in Greece for the next few days and talked about her dad and Keerti getting married. At the end of the day, Riddhima had spent her lunch hours and dinner with Mr. Naamra on the cliff. Finally, it was getting cold and Mr. Naamra dropped Riddhima off in front of her hotel. He kissed her hand in a gesture of departure. His warm lips felt tender and soft next to her clammy hands from the humid temperature, even though it was more towards the freezing scale at the moment. She smiled sweetly at him and headed inside the building. As she waited in front of the elevator door for it to open and take her to her room, she thought about the day's events, especially how her unexpected date had unexpectedly ended. Mr. Naamra had not even said a single word about whether they would meet again or whether he enjoyed her company or her beauty. She felt a bit disoriented, yet the mystery of his silence kept her intrigued in his thoughts.
Finally the elevator door opened, and another unexpected surprise waited on the other side.
CHAPTER 21 ' Friends or Lovers...Your choice.
The elevator doors opened and Riddhima stepped in, still completely lost in her thoughts. Just as the doors closed, Riddhima realized that there was a couple kissing madly in the corner. The girl had her hands in the guy's hair and he had his hands in places that Riddhima had once had Armaan's hands on. Riddhima shook her head at the echo of his name inside her head and then felt extremely embarrassed to be invading on their exploration of each other.
Riddhima quickly pressed the "Open Doors" button to exit this particular elevator, but failed in the process when she realized that the elevator was already moving extremely slowly to the top floor on which her hotel room was. Awkwardly, Riddhima pressed herself against the opposite corner from which the couple was furiously kissing in, and looked up at the ceiling to distract herself. She soon got the feeling that the couple had no idea that Riddhima was also standing in the elevator with them. This realization did bring down the level of self awareness that Riddhima was feeling at that moment, but it soon rose high again, when the couple stopped kissing and the girl turned around to face Riddhima unexpectedly.
"Oh my god! Ahhh! Were you here the WHOLE time?" the girl shrieked. She seemed to be around Riddhima's age. She was pale skinned and had blonde hair. She was wearing a formal black dress which ended right above her knees and the neck of her dress rested at her breasts. Riddhima was trying to think of an answer which would make the situation as least awkward as possible, but just as she was about to respond a simple "Yes", Riddhima went speechless. The guy who was kissing this drunk blonde was no one else, but Salmaan. He looked at her for a second and then began to laugh. Obviously, Salmaan was in no better state than this blonde girl. Judging from the way they looked at each other, Riddhima guessed that this tall, model looking woman was the 'girlfriend' that Salmaan had talked about on the plane ride.
"Um...hi Salmaan..." Riddhima smiled weakly and then looked away, indicating to them that she was just here for the elevator ride, and nothing else.
The blonde girl laughed loudly and turned to face Salmaan. She grabbed him seductively by his shirt's collar and laughed while she rested the side of her face on his bare chest.
"How embarrassing!" she continued to laugh.
"Oh don't worry baby, she's a friend of mine! She doesn't care!" Salmaan reached down to kiss the blonde girl's lips and then winked at Riddhima. Riddhima in response rolled her eyes and then continued to look up at the ceiling wondering what would life be like if Riddhima was in the place of the blonde girl's and that girl was in Riddhima's shoes.
Riddhima laughed to herself at the thought of Salmaan holding and kissing her that way. The disturbing couple looked up at her sudden moment of laughter, questioning her sanity. Just when Riddhima was about to die from the torture of confused expressions, the elevator door opened and Riddhima sprinted out of the cage.
Finally, Riddhima reached in front of her hotel room's door and began to insert the key to open it and reach to her heavenly suite which gave a sense of safety and comfort.
After many useless tries of trying to open the door. Riddhima looked up into the hallways to see that Salmaan and his girlfriend were nearing the place where she was standing, while kissing and bumping into things. Riddhima couldn't handle her frustration any longer, "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS GOD DAMN DOOR?!?" she yelled in all her anger and fury.
Salmaan and Blondie stopped kissing and looked at her feeling confused once more. Then, they both began to laugh insanely and stumbled across the hall towards her; another sign of being completely out of your sense and drunk. Salmaan took the key from her hands and in a quick and smooth motion opened the door to Riddhima's hotel room. Riddhima snatched the key from his hand and grunted as loud as she could while she slammed the door at his face.
After a while, Riddhima reconsidered her actions and thought of apologizing to Salmaan for her rude behaviour. She put a chair between her door and its rim so that it would remain open and stepped in front of Salmaan's room. As she was about to knock, she realized the door was slightly open already. Knowing that it was extremely rude, Riddhima still opened the door a little more to see what Salmaan was doing. Not as if she hadn't expected this, but all she could see was a pile of female and male clothing on the floor and the sound of a bed's springs going up and down.
Riddhima quickly closed the door and ran into her own room, where she turned off all the lights, closed all the curtains and buried herself beneath the detergent smelling bed sheets. Beneath the storm of white clouds and on top of the soft, heavenly bed, she wept an ocean that ran down the stony goose bumps of her skin and into the puddle of her heart where they stained over previous stains for every cycle of her heart beat.
Chapter 22 ' Inner Feelings
The sun's piercing rays trickled against Riddhima's closed eyelids, bringing bright colors to the dark and safe world that appeared when she slept. Adjusting to the light in the room, Riddhima slowly opened her eyes and got herself together, out of bed and into the washroom. Her reflection in the mirror didn't bring any good news with it. She was a mess. She had forgotten to take off her makeup, and mascara ran down her cheeks and neck from her tears.
After washing her face twice to get rid of all the black smudges on it, she quickly dressed up and went downstairs into the lobby area to find a good place to eat breakfast. Most of the eating places in the hotel's lobby were expensive restaurants. Just when Riddhima was about to give up and enter an expensive looking French restaurant, she notice through the glass windows a small cafe outside, across the street.
She ran towards the cafe, almost getting hit by a car, and steadied herself from the near-death facing experience. An empty table stood there in the corner of the small, homely looking cafe and she took her spot next to it. The cafe reminded her of Starbucks, back at home, yet minus the people pretending to be important by showing off their laptops, and the teenagers trying to act cool and relaxing in awkward positions on the huge couches. Riddhima set her purse on her lap and took out her notebook, a pen, her cell phone and her wallet. Looking at the menu displayed on the board above the counter's head, she decided on a croissant and some hot coffee. After telling her order to the waiter, Riddhima opened her notebook to the page where a phone number was written in huge numbers by her father.
The number belonged to the client that Riddhima was supposed to meet and show designs to. She quietly opened her cell phone and dialled the digits in. When she pressed send, someone's cell phone rang in the cafe. ''That's strange...''Riddhima thought to herself. When no one picked up from the other side, she ended the call and tried again. Once more, the same ring tone that rang before rang again. Quickly Riddhima cut her line, and noticed the ring tone also stopped at that exact moment. After several more tries and realizing more and more that the ring tone was in fact coming only when she called...Riddhima started looking around the cafe for the receiver of her calls. The cafe which had given a lonely look about half an hour ago was not crowded and packed with people of all ages and sizes.
Riddhima dialled again and followed the music of the ringtone. Finally Riddhima stopped in her tracks and saw a man sitting alone at a table, sipping coffee from a cup and his phone madly ringing on the table. Riddhima cleared out any wrinkles from her skirt and took a deep breath. This was her client and she had to give him the best first impression he had ever seen. She walked and few steps further and then politely tapped him on the shoulder.
Quickly the man turned around. His confused face grew into a LARGE smile and Riddhima almost fainted from the shock. It was Salmaan. SALMAAN? Riddhima felt a huge rush of anger rise within her, but then she immediately controlled herself. Why was she mad at him? He was minding his personal business with his girlfriend. And he did it with his girlfriend, not some random stranger. So, who gave Riddhima the right to be mad? She barely knew this guy. They just met a couple of days ago. Before that, she had never even seen this guy once before in her life.
Riddhima quickly smiled broadly and nodded to his gesture of rising from his chair in respect to her presence. He drew his hand out to shake hers, "Oh my, what a surprise! Seems like destiny keeps bringing us back together at every turn!" She shook his huge, warm hand and took a seat at his table across from him.
"You don't mind if I join you, do you?" Riddhima still had to ask. She told herself that she only asked on terms of seeing if the client was available to speak at the moment...not because of the fact to see whether his girlfriend would be rudely showing up again.
"No, no. Please do. I was going to see Angela today, but she left early. She's always full of surprises...So, how are you finding your stay at Sheraton Hotel?"
"It's really nice. I love the bed!" Riddhima regretted saying the statement after her fat mouth revealed it. That was the most uneducated and babyish response that any adult human being could say.
Salmaan laughed, "Maybe you'd like to show me your bed one day then?" He winked and then took a sip of his coffee, while looking away from her towards the board above the counter.
Riddhima blushed and felt her pulse race inside her chest, "I don't do one-night stands." That was all she could think of to say.
Salmaan laughed once more and then quieted down, "So, who was that man you were with last night?"
Riddhima felt confused, "Last night? Oh! You mean Mr.Naamra? He's a famous artist, you know! His exhibition is just down the street! It's very nice, I went and saw it yesterday and then just stumbled across him..."Riddhima paused from her boring lecture and all of a sudden felt extremely confused. Salmaan and Angela were in the elevator when Riddhima had come back from her date. How could Salmaan have possibly known who she was with or how she even came back!
It seemed that Salmaan had sensed her awkward pause, "What's wrong?"
"Oh nothing...I was just wondering, how did you know that I was with a man last night?"
Salmaan laughed out loud, "I actually had no idea what you did last night; I just assumed that a pretty woman like you would definitely have been in company with a man already. Other than that, it was just a wild guess."
Riddhima laughed with him quietly, but that explanation still didn't satisfy her.
"So, what's his name?" Salmaan asked sheepishly.
"Who's?" This felt like the longest and most troubling interview that Riddhima had ever taken in her life so far.
"He's not my hubby."
"No! I just met him yesterday!"
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
"No, well I mean yes..." Riddhima was extremely confused! Why was he asking so many questions at once? And why did they have to be so personal! Plus, if she doesn't have a boyfriend, then she would look like a complete loser from Mars, but if she said she has a boyfriend, then she'd be lying AND she'd look a little decent to him. But, even though Salmaan clearly had a girlfriend called Angela; Riddhima felt that if she were to say that she had a boyfriend, then somewhere, Riddhima hoped, that Salmaan would get disappointed and loose interest in her. Even though Riddhima cared less about men who just looked at a woman for availability, she still had this strange wanting inside of her to MAKE Salmaan want to see her again.
"You do, or you don't? What do you mean by no, but yes?"
"What I mean to say is...no...YES...YES I HAVE A BOYFRIEND!" Riddhima didn't notice that in her confused state of answering the terrible question, she was practically screaming the statement out loud. Each head in the cafe turned around and looked at their table. Silence brought an awkward atmosphere to the setting and people starred at her.
"She's just going through a hard break up people, give her some lack!" Salmaan showed a sympathetic face and the other people in the cafe frowned at her in sympathy and continued to their lives.
Riddhima laughed from the random attempt of covering the awkwardness in the cafe, and looked at Salmaan's dazzled face.
"What's wrong?" Riddhima asked bluntly.
"Your laugh, it's gorgeous."
Riddhima blushed and then laughed again feeling embarrassed, "Thank you."
All of a sudden Riddhima remembered her purpose of talking to him in the first place, "So, talking in only business now, Mr. Salmaan, when would you like to see your designs?"
Salmaan looked confused for two seconds and then opened his mouth widely in shock, "Oh my god, you have got to be kidding me! You're the agent I have to meet here? This is just great!" he commented sarcastically.
"Is this a bad time to talk business?" Riddhima tried to concentrate on his changing expressions.
"No, no! There's never a bad time to talk business...but YOU? Wow...You know, I was trying to avoid this agent ever since I got here because I wanted this to be a non business vacation. That's why when I saw the agent's number appear on my cell phone a hundred times today morning, I didn't pick up the call because I didn't want to see this agent, especially not on a beautiful day like today. But who would have guessed, that my agent would turn out to be my next door hotel neighbour who I've practically been seeing every day, ever since I got here!"
Riddhima blushed, but then felt disappointment reach her heart, "So, are you cancelling the deal?"
"No! Of course not! I just didn't want to see the agent, but I would have phoned you on the last day and finalized the deal!"
"Without even seeing the designs first?" Riddhima had never heard of someone who would agree to something they didn't even know!
"Well, I made you come here, all the way to Greece...the least I could do is finalize the deal!" he said it in such a calm manner, that Riddhima didn't dare to speak another word against his stupid methods.
"Well, I should be heading back to my hotel room now." Riddhima decided this was the best time to leave, before the conversation got any more awkward.
"Do you want me to escort you back?" Salmaan asked politely.
"No, no please. Continue with your breakfast! Well, it was nice chatting with you. See you!"
They both waved each other good bye and Riddhima crossed the street and entered the hotel.
After placing her purse on the side table, next to her bed, she threw herself onto the cushiony mattress and closed her eyes. Even though Salmaan was not an option, Riddhima sensed a draw of attraction towards him. Besides, it wasn't as if he was MARRIED to Angela, break ups were always possible, right? Riddhima chuckled at her evil plotting and began drifting off to sleep, until the phone rang and woke her up.
"Hello?" Riddhima answered.
"Hi Ma'am, there's a message for you from Mr. Naamra," the young Greek boy spoke from the other side.
"Oh yes, what is it?"
"He says to meet him at Athena's Waterfalls and Restaurant at exactly 8:00pm sharp. That's all Ma'am."
"We are trying to reach Mr. Salmaan since 7:30am this morning, but we are not being able to contact him. If you see him, can you please inform him that Athena's Waterfalls and Restaurant called back and has confirmed his reservations for tonight? His room is right next to yours, on the left hand side."
"Oh, Athena's Waterfalls and Restaurant? Isn't that the same place where I will be going tonight?"
Riddhima felt a thousand butterflies rise in her stomach, "For how many people has Mr.Salmaan reserved for tonight?"
"Sorry Ma'am, we can not disclose too much personal information about other residents in our hotel!"
"Oh, ok no problem. Thanks, bye."
"Would you like transportation?"
"A taxi Ma'am or a limo?"
"Which one would you suggest?"
The boy on the other end seemed surprised by the concern of his opinion, "Well, if he's special I'd say a limo...but if he's just one of those 'I just need to fill my evening' kind of dates...then I'd suggest a taxi Ma'am." The boy seemed to be impressed by his adult-like advice.
"A limo would be perfect then..." Riddhima smiled as she ended the call.
CHAPTER 23 ~ Armaan or Not Armaan?
That's the real question.
Riddhima stepped out of the limo and onto the paved sidewalk in front of the fancy looking restaurant. It gave a cottage look, but was in fact made out of brown England styled bricks which brought a sense of old-fashion and classiness to the atmosphere it possessed around it. There was a grand double door in the center of the rectangular building and two large windows which revealed the setting inside; bright and dim lights in different shades of yellow and brown with a modern touch to it. Riddhima looked around to see if Salmaan was there. Immediately, after the thought, she scolded herself for not thinking about Mr. Naamra, her date for the evening, first instead of someone else's date. No one from who she knew was around, so she decided to make her grand entrance. The door men opened the doors as she entered, and found that the four walls were surrounded by magnificent grape and olive vines, that swirled around the corners of the large room giving an exotic touch to the beauty and shimmering moments which were captivated within this realm; a different world on its own.
Riddhima shook her head to get out of her thoughts and looked around to see if she could spot Mr.Naamra or even Salmaan: no one. The man at the reception coughed just loud enough to get Riddhima's attention. She turned towards him. He was a tall, fine looking Greek gentleman. He was probably in his 50s, and very slim and fit for his age.
"Excuse me Miss, but can I come of your assistance?" his voice was melodic in its own way.
Riddhima giggled at his awkwardness, "Um...yes! Actually, I'm looking for Mr.Naamra...has he reserved a table?"
The man checked his computer and then frowned at her, "I'm sorry Miss, but there are no reservations for a man by the name of Mr.Naamra..."
Riddhima felt embarrassed. She should have found out first under what name the reservations were made, "Well...is there a reservation under Riddhima?" Maybe Mr. Naamra had started liking her so much that he decided to make her feel honoured by naming the reservation under her name? Riddhima laughed at the silly thought.
"I'm sorry Miss, but as far as I can see in our reservations list, there is no Riddhima either." He frowned at her as if she was a small child who had just scraped her whole entire face and was damaged permanently for life.
"Um...is this the right restaurant? Athena's Waterfalls and Restaurant?"
"Yes Miss, I believe it is!"
"Uh...well...oh! Is there a reservation under the name of Salmaan or Angela?" Riddhima felt her voice tone getting higher with nervousness and anxiety.
"Yes! Yes I have the name Salmaan! Is that your table Miss?"
"Oh! Yes! NO! I mean NO! It's not my table...excuse me, but is anyone sitting at that table yet?"
"Yes, a female is seated at the table at this moment."
"Oh, I see. Well, I know this is a lot to ask, but I really don't know what name my date has put the reservations under...and if it's not too much to ask, then could you possibly tell me the names of those that have reservations for tonight? Maybe if I'm able to recognize one, then it might be the one I'm originally looking for!" Riddhima put on a smile and tried making her eyes look charming and beautiful at the same time. She had seen women in movies do that before and get their way, but this was the first time she was trying it out on her own.
The man looked at her with a bit of uneasiness, but then gave into her smile, "Well, I'm not allowed to do that due to some private customer issues, but I suppose I could do it just this once." He winked at her and then cleared his throat to say the names, "Lilly, Ms. Karen, Jenny, Maria Ann, uh...Linda..."
Riddhima cut him right before he said the next name, "MISTER! Um...maybe just the male names, thank you..." Riddhima smiled sweetly once more.
"Oh yes! Mr. Harold Kumar, Mr. Chow, Mr. Singh, Mr. Armaan, Mr. Smith, James Craig, Johnny Taylor..."
Riddhima cut him off again, "WHAT? I'm sorry, WHAT WAS THE NAME YOU JUST SAID???"
"BEFORE THAT DAMN IT!"
"OH MY GOD, DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND 'BEFORE THAT'?
"Excuse me Miss?"
"I'm sorry! Just can you please say the name before that man, Smith or something?"
Riddhima heard the man's voice say his name loud and clear. It had been ages since someone had said that name to her. It sounded like the strums from an angel's harp coming from the blessed heavens above. "I'm sorry please repeat that name once more..."
"Oh no..." Riddhima grabbed the chair nearby, and sat down. She felt her head spinning. Could this Mr. Armaan actually be HER Armaan? After all these years, did God finally give her a chance to see, feel, smell, touch, taste, ANYTHING, with him once more? Could this really be true?
"Are you ok Miss? You look like you're having a heart attack!" The man came around the counter and stood by Riddhima's side, trying to ask her for any medical assistance.
"No, no I'm fine. I was...just feeling a little faint...that's all. Can you please tell me if Mr. Armaan is here yet or not?"
The man went back to his computer and typed in Armaan's name, "Actually Miss, he hasn't arrived yet."
"Oh. Well can you just please put me on a table near to Mr. Armaan's?"
After a while, Riddhima was sitting at a table across from Armaan's, but there was no Armaan in sight. Riddhima sighed and put her menu away from her face.
She quickly put the menu in front of her face again when she saw Mr. Naamra coming down the small set of stairs and being escorted to his table. He was wearing his usually black, detective looking coat, along with a black hat that covered most of his face in the shadows. As Riddhima stared in that direction, she almost collapsed.
There he was. It was really him. Not some mirage, or illusion, or even a dream. It was actually his body, his movement, his stride, his everything! It was Armaan.
Right at that moment, Riddhima felt a huge lump in her throat from nervousness and helplessly watched Armaan take a seat at his table. She stared at him with wide eyes, while hiding the rest of her face in the menu. Armaan's eyes quickly looked up to meet hers. Riddhima shoved her entire face into the menu and prayed to God that Armaan had not recognized her.
While Riddhima sat there, with her face buried away, and praying to the bottom of her heart, she felt a cold hand touch her bare shoulder. The sudden coldness sent goose bumps down her spine and she almost jumped from the shock. Standing behind her with a hand on her shoulder was Salmaan!
"Stalking me again?!? Didn't I tell you that I wanted this to be only a vacation! I guess you agents just love me too much to resist the loneliness felt when I'm not there!" Salmaan laughed out loud and then drew out the seat across Riddhima's at her table and sat down on it. "I hope I'm not making too many men in this room jealous!" He winked at her and smiled adoringly.
"I hope you're not making Angela jealous." Riddhima smiled back and then buried her face back into the menu.
"So, who are you waiting for, may I ask?" Salmaan didn't seem to have any intensions on leaving fast.
Riddhima noticed that mostly all the girls and women of all ages and sizes were looking at their table at that moment. It was as if all of their eyes were glued to Salmaan's body. Riddhima stared at all the eyes and felt like she was in some horror movie. She pictured this to be the part in the movie when the hero smiles and then all the zombie princesses fight one another and try to get their way past the shaking earth to touch Salmaan. Instead, Salmaan shoots them all with his gun that always miraculously shows up in the scene on the floor, and then runs away hand in hand with Riddhima, his one true love.
Riddhima shook her head to get the retarded people's thoughts out of her mind. She smiled sweetly at him, "Actually...I'm here alone tonight, and I'd like to keep it that way. Talking about dates, don't you think Angela would be getting upset by your loss in her life at this moment? I think it's time to go back to your nest." Riddhima was sure that her stinging words would make him temporarily disappear for now...no matter how hot he is.
"What?? How unfortunate! You have to be lying to me! YOU from all people tonight, doesn't have a date?? Please, how could this happen! I can't even imagine such a thing!" Salmaan overacted in order to make Riddhima smile a little. It worked; she smiled.
"Don't worry Salmaan. You don't have to stress your mind by trying to imagine, because the live picture is playing in front of you right now." She rolled her eyes and then buried her face into the menu again. Riddhima also noticed that every time she asked a question concerning Angela, Salmaan didn't answer, but he had answered all the unnecessary questions so far.
"Well, we can't let a beautiful woman like you sit here alone tonight and eat by herself, can we?" Salmaan grinned an evil grin.
"Um...actually, I think I'm fine with eating alone tonight. I think I prefer it."
"No, no...no need to be modest my dear!" Salmaan got up from the table and started walking over to another table. Riddhima's eyes widened as Salmaan took another step closer and closer to Armaan's table. Oh God, please no ' those were the only words that were being repeated inside Riddhima's head at this moment.
Salmaan winked at Riddhima once more, before he tapped Armaan's shoulder and started asking him a question.
Riddhima put the menu right up to her face to make sure all parts of it was hidden from the embarrassment. After a while, Salmaan stood next to Riddhima and Armaan stood across her, behind the table. Salmaan looked at her from the side, "*cough, cough* Well, I think my job is done. I hope you both enjoy your evening together, while I go and enjoy mine!" Riddhima gave him an evil eye just before he turned and left smiling. Salmaan bent down and put his soft, tender lips to Riddhima's left ear, "By the way, his name is Armaan. I know it's not me...which I know is a disappointment for you, but at least our names rhyme. You can just imagine my head on his, and turn yourself on!" Salmaan chuckled in a manly, low, exotic voice and then winked at her before spinning on his heel and walking away with his strong, masculine walk.
Riddhima blushed from the feelings that his comment left inside of her, but then froze. OH MY GOD. Armaan was standing RIGHT THERE. He probably thought she was stupid for still hiding her face! Would he want to talk to her again?? After all she did, and how badly her words had come out?!? Riddhima took a deep breath and calmed down. She had imagined this day right after the time she had found his house empty. She knew this day was bound to come sometime or the other...but THIS SOON...no one could have imagined that!
Finally Riddhima took another deep breath and stabled herself. She slowly put her menu down and brought her eyes up to meet his. Right then time stopped. It came to a huge halt. No one else in the restaurant mattered. Riddhima couldn't breathe anymore. He was actually there. It was really him. His curious smile ended. Time ended. The day ended. Their lives ended. The overwhelming beauty of the swirling grape and olive wines ended. The moment ended. This chapter ended.
CHAPTER 24 ~ A Walk Down the Memory Lane.
Riddhima set the menu down on the table from her hands. As she drew her hands into her lap, they trembled from the moment and what was to yet come. Armaan stared at Riddhima for another quick seconds, which individually seemed like hours, and then turned around. He quickly grabbed his black coat, propped up on his chair, and started heading for the door.
It took Riddhima a moment to realize that Armaan was no longer standing in front of her. She quickly followed the same action and ran with her purse in her hands.
"Stop Armaan! Stop!" Riddhima yelled at him, as she followed him out into the cold night. Wind blew furiously at her hair, as it flew in all directions. "Armaan! Please wait!" Riddhima yelled more, as she ran after him, turning a corner.
All of a sudden, Armaan stopped and turned around to face her. Riddhima abruptly came to a halt and bent down, touching her knees with her hands, while taking deep breaths from her unexpected exercise for this evening.
"Why are you here Riddhima? Didn't we make a promise never to see each other again? Then, why after 10 whole freaking years of waiting, did you suddenly decide to break that promise?" Riddhima listened to each word that came out of Armaan's voice. It was so soft and full with so much evident pain. Just watching his mouth move and his eyes looking into hers again, forced Riddhima's eyes to drop a few tears.
"Armaan! Is this really you??" Riddhima placed her hands on his cold cheeks and met her lips to his forehead, "I can't believe this! It's really you! MY Armaan!"
Armaan grabbed Riddhima's wrist with his hands and forced them off his face, "Don't you ever dare to call me YOUR Armaan again! Got it?!" And with those words, Armaan ran off into the alley with is coat dangling over one shoulder.
Riddhima stood there for a while and watched him madly rush into the darkness. When she could no longer see any part of him anymore, Riddhima turned around in her misery and started walking back to her hotel. It was a long walk back on foot, but Riddhima was in the mood of spending that much quality time by herself.
As she walked past the restaurant on the lonely sidewalk, with the company of the cars passing by occasionally, Riddhima stopped in her tracks. WHAT WAS SHE DOING? ARMAAN WAS IN THE SAME CITY!! COULD SHE BE ANY MORE STUPID?!
Riddhima turned around and helplessly started running back towards the direction Armaan had escaped again. As she was about to pass the door of the restaurant, the door opened and out stepped Mr. Naamra, "Oh! Riddhima, I had given up hope on meeting you tonight. So, I suppose you did get my message after all!"
Riddhima had no interest in speaking to Mr. Naamra, now that she had gotten to see her Armaan again, but she knew better than to be up front and rude, "Mr. Naamra! Ahh...yes I got your message, but um...I...I couldn't find it! I couldn't find this restaurant!" Riddhima couldn't help herself but to continue looking over Mr. Naamra's shoulder to see if she could get any glimpse of Armaan, anywhere.
"Oh, no problem! Are you hungry? If you want, we can still go inside."
"No, actually I think I'm fine. I'll be just heading to my hotel now..I'm sorry about tonight though!" Riddhima quickly gave Mr. Naamra a polite hug and then tried getting past him to continue on her journey of finding Armaan.
Riddhima rolled her eyes and then turned around to face him, "Yes Mr. Naamra?"
"You do realize dear that the way back to your hotel is not the way you're going!"
"Um...thank you Mr. Naamra, I had forgotten..." Riddhima waited for Mr. Naamra to quietly say good bye and leave, but when she realized that his intensions were to escort her back to her hotel; she gave up and started heading back with him.
"So, how was your evening Mr. Naamra?" Riddhima wished that she could go back to the spot Armaan had disappeared, but she knew deep down that doing so was useless since Armaan must have already been sleeping now.
"It was alright. The wine I tried was not as good as I had expected from its name, but it was ok. I felt for a moment I had seen you in the restaurant!"
Riddhima panicked, "Haha...me?! I assure you Mr. Naamra, I couldn't even find my way to the restaurant, I'm not sure how I could possibly be sitting inside the restaurant then!"
"No, no I believe you. Actually, for a moment I was about to go the woman that looked like you, but as I stood up, she ran out the door within a second! Quite peculiar behaviour, if I do say so myself..."
Riddhima giggled and then quietened herself down, "I see..."
When her hotel FINALLY showed up, Riddhima thanked Mr. Naamra for the walk and let him kiss her hand once more.
"Young, pretty ladies like yourself should not be walking alone in the dark. It can become unsafe at times during the night...You never know who might be your friends, and who your foes..."
Riddhima felt a strange feeling occur inside her chest, listening to those words coming from Mr. Naamra's mouth. The words made Riddhima wonder how much she really knew about Mr. Naamra. He looked like a gentleman, yet again she had never really LOOKED at him. Most of him was covered 24/7...she would be lucky to catch a glimpse of his face at least once. Sometimes she felt that maybe Mr. Naamra had had some accident which caused his face to be all screwed up and therefore was the reason why he hid it all the time. Riddhima shook her head, and then smiled at him sweetly, "Thank you."
When Riddhima finally reached in front of her suite's door, she realized her key was missing from her purse! Riddhima heard voices coming from inside of Salmaan's room. Riddhima remembered that Salmaan's room and her room had a connecting door to their suites! She decided to ask whether she could pass through that door to her room. As she knocked on Salmaan's door, Riddhima heard something which was not meant for her to hear.
CHAPTER 25 ~ New Faces Behind the Masks.
"I saw her today and wow, she looked stunning!"
"In case you had forgotten Salmaan, I was there too."
"Haha, yah I know! But you should have seen her Rahul, her brown dress matching her beautiful brown eyes, I mean; I couldn't help myself but talk to her longer!"
"She looks even more beautiful than the last time I saw her! I thought at THAT time, that she couldn't get any more beautiful than that...but boy, was I wrong!" Rahul said.
"Tell me about it. Anyways, it's late now and I think I need my beauty rest. I bet you do too, even though Riddhima never gets to see you," Salmaan stuck his tongue out, "ok buddy, I'll talk to you later. Peace." Salmaan hung up the phone and then went back to his bed. He took his shirt off and tossed it to the floor. Then he went into his washroom and practiced counting his abs, "One, two, three, four, five...five? WHAT? ... one, two, three, four, five...oh! there you are...and six! Perfect." Salmaan took his pants and underwear off and wrapped a towel around his waist. Just as he was about to start the shower, he heard a knock on the door.
"Ooo...ladies, here I come!" Salmaan laughed and rubbed his hands against each other. Then he walked down the small corridor to the door and looked through the small eyehole. It was Riddhima!
Salmaan ran back to the washroom and applied some cologne quickly. Then he gelled up his hair a spiky hairstyle, a hair style that Angela always complimented him on. He then ran back to the door and took a deep breath before opening it, "Oh! Riddhima! What a surprise!"
Riddhima took in one smell of his cologne and instantly felt a thousand different feelings rushing in her veins. She stabled herself, and then smiled at him sweetly, "Salmaan, sorry to bother you at a time like this, but I was wondering if I could get to my room through our connecting door, since I can't find my key."
"Connecting door? Oh! Yes, of course. No need to ask! How unfortunate though, I thought that maybe you'd like to show me your favourite bed tonight..." he winked at her as she blushed and walked past him towards the door.
As she opened the lock and stepped onto her side of the door, Riddhima couldn't help but to turn around and ask exactly what was going on in her heart, "Salmaan, who were you talking to on the phone just now?"
Salmaan stared at her blankly. He looked up at the ceiling, thinking of any name except Rahul that would come up in his head. Before he answered, Salmaan studied Riddhima's facial expression. She had surely asked him the question of who he had been talking to. She made it seem like she had no idea who it was, but had clearly heard what he was talking about, otherwise why the sudden interest? Yet, from her facial expressions, it seemed that she knew exactly who he had been talking about. Salmaan rethought the whole conversation. He remembered that he had said Rahul's name at least once or twice. Salmaan decided to play it safe, "Who I was talking to on the phone? You mean just now?"
"Yes Salmaan, just now." Riddhima continued looking straight into his eyes. Salmaan felt as if she was concentrating on specifically at his eyes to get to his soul. He was that stupid, to not these tricks.
"Why such sudden interest?" Salmaan winked at her again, trying to get the conversation to take a turn in the opposite direction from where it was headed.
"Please don't try to avoid the question Salmaan, just answer. Who were you just speaking to?"
"I think I have a right called, wait let me think...ah yes, the right of speech? Maybe you've heard about it before."
"What's the relevance?" Riddhima started to feel irritated.
"The relevance is, that unless you can give a good enough reason as to why you would like to know who I am talking to at this hour, then I'll tell you. And you can't use the excuse 'I'm your new stalker, Salmaan.' Because, trust me, I've already heard that line a thousand times!" He chuckled lowly and then stared back her. Riddhima noticed the repetition of his chest nervously reflexing over and over again.
"How about the excuse, 'I'm your agent'?"
"Not good enough. Now, unless you're thinking about showing me your bed..."
"Never have and never will."
"Ouch, ok...good night sweetheart!" and with that, Salmaan closed the door between them and locked it silently. Then he opened the room's fridge and took out a bottle of beer. He popped open the cap with his teeth, and drew open the curtain to the extravagant view of the city from his large window. As he watched the city lights through his window with a towel hanging around his waist and a beer in his hand, he picked up his cell phone from his bed and pressed the redial button.
After a few rings, "Yup, Rahul here."
"She just came into my room..."
"Don't you dare touch her!"
"Chillax buddy. I'm still regarding our promise as my heart's promise." Salmaan chuckled.
"And I still know your secrets as my heart's secrets," the reply was not said with a chuckle in return.
"Thank you for reminding me, but unfortunately I still remember that." Salmaan hated it when people talked to him with attitude. All Salmaan had gotten in his childhood was attitude. And as for his mother, her second name was Attitude.
Before Rahul could say anything more, Salmaan quickly snapped his cell phone shut and deleted any evidence of having Rahul on his cell phone. Salmaan knew very well that Riddhima had formed a doubt against Salmaan, and with that doubt she could do anything to figure out how he knew Rahul. Therefore, Salmaan did delete Rahul off all his records that Riddhima could possibly search, but memorized his number, because that was one place where no one could physically investigate.
Then Salmaan dialled in one more number.
"Harry will you shut the hell up? Hello?" said a woman with an extremely high pitched voice.
"Uh...Hi, mom?" Salmaan hesitated on speech.
"Mom? Oh my sweet lord! Is this Salmaan?? My baby!"
"Yah, it's me. Who's Harry?"
"Oh long story son. Tell me, where are you? I searched for you everywhere! I've been thinking about you all this time!"
"Tell the truth mom, I told you before I left, I don't want any more lies."
There was a sigh on the other end, "Ok honey, I lied. I didn't look for you, but I did think about you!"
"All the time? Shut up ma, I know you better than that."
"You know me too well for me to lie to yah anymore. I might have thought about you once in a while...but honey, I'm just so glad to hear your voice again! Where are you?"
"Sure, whatever. Bye." Salmaan couldn't take any more of her fake life.
"Wait son! WAIT!" she yelled on the phone.
"What is it now ma?" Salmaan regretted every thought of phoning her.
"My wedding is in Japan in two weeks! Please come if you can make it!"
"YOU'RE GETTING MARRIED?!?" Salmaan couldn't believe his ears.
"I can't talk now dear, but do come ok? And bring that girlfriend of yours, Angela, right? She's such a darling."
"She's not my girlfriend..." Salmaan mumbled as he hung up the phone and rolled his eyes. This was probably the 10th marriage his mother was going through. Every year when his mother found a new man and spent millions on her short lasting marriage, his cousins and he would bet money themselves on whether this man would be her final or not. Every year Salmaan would bet a 1000 pounds on the current marriage being her last, whereas others betted every year that this was just another small episode in her life; and every year Salmaan would lose a 1000 pounds.
After coming out of the shower, Salmaan dried up his body and put on a pair of clean boxers. Then he crawled into his bed and starred up at the ceiling. His alarm clock chimed three in the morning and Salmaan could still not fall asleep. He began thinking about his mother and the new wedding. Then he thought about sweet, innocent Riddhima. She had no idea what was in store for her future. He couldn't understand why SHE, from all the people in the world, was the chosen one? She was so fragile, that Salmaan could bet all his money and she still would not be able to kill an insect. As his eyelids began feeling heavier and heavier, Riddhima's face became lighter and lighter behind his eyes. Just as he was about to fall asleep, his eyes suddenly flipped open and he sat up straight, "I think I'm in love with Riddhima!"
CHAPTER 26 ~ REALITY CHECK
Riddhima woke up with a huge migraine. If she had heard right, Salmaan was talking on the phone to a man called Rahul and her! Could this Rahul possibly be the same one she was thinking of? If yes, then that meant that the information that she knew about Salmaan was not enough. Riddhima looked at the side clock next to her bed; 11:07am. Riddhima got out of bed and cleaned herself up. After dressing up she was about to leave her suite, when she thought about asking Salmaan whether he wanted anything for breakfast, since she was going to the cafe anyways.
She knocked on the door again. Waiting patiently for a response, but when she didn't receive one, she finally gave up. Riddhima made her way back to her room and stood in front of their connecting door. Riddhima decided to go inside. She thought that if he was there, then she would say that she was knocking madly and no one answered so that had worried her. And in case he was not there, then it never did anyone bad for some exploring.
She opened the door and got in. The room was empty, but the shower in the bathroom could be heard loud and clear. That probably explained why he hadn't answered her mad knocking. She was about to turn around and quietly go back to her room with the little respect she had left, until she saw Salmaan's cell phone lying there perfectly on his side table. Riddhima quickly tiptoed her way to the phone and searched the name Rahul. Nothing. This realization mad Riddhima feel frustrated. Riddhima closed her eyes and remembered exactly what she heard Salmaan say on the phone. He had said something about Rahul seeing her yesterday. That was strange. The only people from who Riddhima knew that she had seen yesterday was Salmaan, Angela, Mr. Naamra and Armaan.
Riddhima closed her eyes again and concentrated more. Then she searched up the name Armaan on Salmaan's phone. Nope. Nothing. Finally, Riddhima heard the shower stop. From panic, Riddhima shut the phone and put it back in its place. Just as Riddhima was about to leave she suddenly remembered that she hadn't searched Mr. Naamra's name. But how would Salmaan know Mr. Naamra? Debating with herself, Riddhima knew she had to check at least once to make sure that Mr. Naamra was not Rahul, even though that seemed highly impossible.
As Salmaan dried himself up in the bathroom, Riddhima quickly searched the name Mr. Naamra and then sighed when there was no contact under that name either. Then within a quick second, Riddhima set the cell phone back to exactly where it was, and ran back to her room closing the connecting door quietly between both rooms.
For the rest of the day Riddhima sat inside her room finished her accounting work and taxes. Then she took a nice, long bath and got ready for some quiet time with herself in the evening. Regarding that Riddhima had not spent much on this trip yet, she decided she would go shopping and then treat herself to some fancy restaurant tonight.
~ Battles with the heart or the guy? ~
Riddhima set her towel on her bed and stood in front of her mirror naked. She noticed that her stomach was starting to bulge out, which meant that she would have to start following her diet plans again. As she sighed, Riddhima picked up her jean, thigh high shorts and a white tank top from her suitcase. After getting dressed, Riddhima sat down on her bed and turned on the TV attached to the wall. The only interesting show coming on TV was "What not to wear!" and Riddhima was not in the mood of seeing people get humiliated live about how stupid their fashion sense is.
The clock read 6:00pm. Riddhima's plan of going on and shopping first, seemed to have just gone by with the time. At least she could still fulfill her promise of a fancy dinner to herself. Thinking carefully, Riddhima decided that since she was in another city, where no one knew her that well, she would keep her shorts on and bombard dressed rudely into any place she liked!
Just before leaving her suite, Riddhima decided to see if Salmaan was in his room. His dead silence from the past three or four hours was killing Riddhima inside with curiosity. Riddhima knocked on their suites' connecting door. Waiting patiently, she continued to knock like a nosy neighbour.
Finally, when there was no reply, Riddhima decided to open the door and just see what would happen by doing so. Maybe she would "accidentally" find Salmaan standing there naked! Riddhima chuckled at her evil plans and opened the door. Salmaan was there alright, but he was sleeping like baby on his bed. He was wearing shorts, revealing brown, hairy, Indian legs. He was also wearing a cute boy's tank shirt that had a picture of Spongebob Squarepants on it! Riddhima controlled her random laughter and then felt like an idiot for knocking so obnoxiously while he was sleeping.
Just before Riddhima left, she noticed Salmaan's cell lying there on his side table in the exact position that she had left it in the morning after her small adventure. Riddhima couldn't understand why she could not help but to keep staring at the phone! She had searched up all possible candidates that she suspected to be in Salmaan's contact list, yet she had still not found anything! She had searched up Rahul, Armaan and even Mr. Naamra! Yet, nothing had come out of all these useless efforts. And now, she was standing like a stalker in between their rooms staring at his phone while he innocently slept there like a child.
Even though Riddhima had seen the blank space on the cell phone show up, indicating that every name she punched in was incorrect; Riddhima still hadn't gotten the satisfaction that she was looking for. THEN, it suddenly occurred to her! Maybe she wasn't giving Salmaan enough credit for smartness. She was so fixed on his looks that it had never occurred to her how strong her opponent could be! If there was one useful thing she had learned from those karate classes her father had forced her to take when she was 10 years old, then that was to never underestimate your opponent!
Either Riddhima had completely lost it, and was thinking her hot, sweet, suite neighbour was a mastermind, or she was simply thinking him to be lower than his actual IQ level!
Quickly, Riddhima picked up his cell and went to the "Missed Calls" page. She scrolled down the list of phone numbers and names, but couldn't see any familiar ones. Then Riddhima went to the "Recently Called" page...but still found nothing! Finally, as her last resort, Riddhima went to Salmaan's text messaging inbox to see if he had gotten any suspicious texts lately.
There it was. Clear in bold print. Even if she was blind, it didn't take much to read the name:
Received at 5:32pm this evening.
Meet me at 124th Augustus Ave. If you know it's wrong, then you don't want to be right...Understand? If not, then go learn it the hard way.
Riddhima re-read the message and the name of the sender about another hundred times. She was quickly copying the address listed in the message, when she heard Salmaan begin to wake. Suddenly, in the best way she could, Riddhima just set the cell phone down on the table and ran for her life into her room and quietly shut the door behind her. As she sat on her bed, trying to keep her head from spinning, Riddhima fainted from the heart racing realization and went to sleep.
As soon as Salmaan heard Riddhima's door close, he opened his eyes and sat up straight. Immediately he picked up his cell phone, which Riddhima (in panic) had accidentally left open on the screen that she was just viewing.
Within a second, after seeing the screen that Riddhima had just viewed, Salmaan dialled a memorized phone number and waited for the call to be answered.
"Hi Armaan, it's me, Salmaan."
"Shhh! How many times have I told you to not use my name! Call me Annul, ok?? Remember!"
"Ok, got it. Sorry, Annul. Don't worry I won't forget next time."
"There won't be a next time for you if you don't get that straight in your head. Anyways, why'd you call?"
"Everything is going according to your plan. She just saw the text message."
"Perfect. Does she have the place?"
"She was writing something down on her hand, so I'm guessing that should be the what she was writing!"
"Nice. I can't thank you enough. Your money will be in your personal bank account by this Saturday. And don't worry about your room service, from now on, it's under my name."
"Wow, thanks. So, after this...is that it? Is my job in this whole thing done?"
"Pretty much...I just need Riddhima to get to that location once! Just once, and then everything will go according to plan!"
"I know I shouldn't be asking this question...actually, no. It's too personal." Salmaan didn't know what was wrong with him. He was getting a weird gut feeling. Even though he hated all aspects of his mother, he still remembered that she had told him to never do anything which gave a weird gut feeling, because those were meant as warnings from our conscious to stay aware of our surroundings.
"No come one. We're brothers now, right? You can ask me anything!"
"Oh, well yes of course! Ok, I know this might sound weird...but do you actually love her?"
"Do you love her?"
"Why?" Armaan's tone differentiated.
"Hey, listen! I can't talk right now, I have to go. But it was nice knowing you! Oh wait! Do you know if she showed any sign of when she would come?"
"Ok, no problem. Knowing her, I think it would be right now! Peace."
"Wait!" Armaan shouted quickly.
"No one should find out about this plan. IF you tell a single soul, I'll make sure your soul goes straight to Hell." And with that Armaan hung up the phone, leaving Salmaan speechless.
Salmaan shut his cell phone and furiously threw it onto the carpeted ground. Salmaan badly wished that he could go up to sweet, innocent Riddhima and tell her everything that was about to happen to her in the next few days. Yet, due to his personal life issues, he could not, under any circumstances, even let Riddhima come a kilometre near to the actual truth!
Why hadn't Armaan confidently said YES, when he had asked him whether he loved Riddhima or not? Was that such a trick question to ask? If someone had asked Salmaan that question, he would have straight up said......WAIT. NO. Salmaan sat down onto his bed. NO. What was he thinking?? What was he even planning to say?? IF someone had asked him that same question...he would have said NO...right? Then why was his own answer not as confident as he had expected to hear Armaan's to be?? Salmaan picked up his cell phone, lying near his bare feet, and dialled in one more phone number that he had recently memorized.
"Hi, it's me Salmaan."
"Hi! Got any news?" said a low voice in return.
"Yah, but how much for revealing the enemy's plan?"
"Wow. As much as you want baby. Cash is not the problem; cash is like time for me...I've got lots of it!"
"Perfect, because this news is going to weigh you costly."
"It better be good. What are you bidding?"
"Ha-ha... no, trust me Rahul, it's good alright. It's good." Right then, Salmaan had to hang up on Rahul, because Riddhima was standing right there, listening to every word he was saying, with the connecting door wide open.
"It better be good Salmaan, it better be good." That was all that Riddhima could say before Salmaan spilt out some of his heart's secrets.
CHAPTER 28 ~ Another Game?
"Riddhima let me explain!" Salmaan couldn't get his thoughts together.
"NO SALMAAN! You've already explained enough to your partners in crime. NOW, all you have to do is TELL ME THE TRUTH!" Riddhima shouted. How Salmaan wanted to tell the entire truth, but sometimes certain secrets are bound with more secrets. Sometimes, in order to keep one thing secret, another one is formed. In Salmaan's case, his whole life was a secret. Did anyone know? Yes, but who? That itself was still a secret to Salmaan!
"Listen Riddhima!" Salmaan panicked for a few seconds, until he decided to change the direction of the conversation, "What are you talking about? And why are you opening our connecting door without my permission??"
Riddhima was about to show more attitude and style by saying another well ' thought line, but suddenly stopped. Salmaan did have a point. It was actually quite rude of her to keep opening the door without his permission or say as well! But she knew the ways of a man clearly, and was not going to let him get away with his crimes by blaming everything on her, "Don't change the subject Salmaan. Stick to the real conversation."
Salmaan felt like shooting himself in the head. She was cleverer than the credit he already gave her, "Stop trying to hide your faults!"
"Being a hypocrite is not good thing, Salmaan!"
"Looks who's talking!" Salmaan knew that was a lame line, but he had to say SOMETHING at least in his manly defence!
"Stop playing with others' lives! I know you know more than you show to know! I'm not that stupid! It doesn't take a genius to understand that you know a person called Rahul and Armaan, who happen to be related to my past!"
"I have no idea what so ever about what you're talking about!"
"Really? Well then, you can tell Mr. Armaan that the only reason I was excited to see him again was because I thought that he had changed his ways...but I guess not. You can let your BOSS know now, that he can sit at that address in his fake message a lone and wait for me until I'm dead, because him and me together is...NEVER...GOING...TO...WORK!!!" and with that, Riddhima slammed the connecting door shut and placed a chair in front of the door on the other side, so that Salmaan could not open it again.
Salmaan stood there for a while, trying to process what Riddhima had just said. Finally he realized what had just happened and threw himself on his bed. Staring up at the ceiling, and his cell phone in his hand, he closed his eyes and imagined the "bright" future that Riddhima had just set out for him, "Oh shit. I guess my job isn't exactly as finished as I hoped it to be...oh well, I still have another week." And with that, both Salmaan and Riddhima fell asleep slowly, caught up in their own problems and issues from life, which brought them far away from harmony with themselves.
The next morning, Salmaan decided it was best to leave right before Riddhima woke up and began her questioning game again. He woke up at 6:00am sharp and began packing his bags, by throwing all his belongings into the suitcase. Finally, he finished packing and forced the zipper of the suitcase to go all the way around. When he finally had both his suitcases ready to go, Salmaan phoned the reception for ordering a limo and breakfast.
Salmaan then quickly dialled and confirmed a business class airplane ticket to Japan. No matter how much he hated his mother, Salmaan knew better than to miss his mother's millionth wedding.
Finally someone knocked at the door, and Salmaan set his table ready for the room service attendant to put his breakfast there. As he slowly opened the door, on the other side stood Riddhima with a tray in her hands, which consisted of Salmaan's ordered breakfast.
"I knew that what you ordered was not enough for the both of us, so I phoned the reception and made sure they gave us two of everything." She walked right past him, closing the door with her foot, and set the tray on the table.
"What do you think you're doing?" Salmaan was frustrated with her lack of common sense on rudely interrupting others' privacy, but on the other hand, Salmaan was also very grateful and excited to get to see Riddhima once before her permanently erased her from his life; just he did to some other things in his life as well.
"I think you've messed up your dialogue. That's my line. I'm the one that's supposed to ask the question: What do you think you're doing?" Riddhima smiled cunningly at Salmaan and then sat down at the table. When Salmaan didn't reply for an awkward moment, Riddhima pulled out another chair at the table and signalled for him to sit down, "Usually when you get stage fright during a performance, you either improvise with words, or you simply do an action. In this case, either you should remember you're line right now and say it, or you also have the option of keeping quiet and sitting down to eat breakfast before it gets cold." Riddhima put the metal lid off of one of the plates, revealing sausages. She quietly placed one in front of her on her empty plate and began slicing it with her knife and fork. Then she took a bite, and smiled at Salmaan as if he was a demented circus clown.
Salmaan sat down and watched Riddhima slice more of her sausage and chew on it, "Did I ever tell you how beautiful your mouth looks when you chew on a sausage?"
"You can flatter me as much as you want, but I still want my answers." Riddhima decided to let him know just how stubborn her true nature was.
"I still don't understand what you mean." Salmaan was not going to lose this war that they both had started.
"You understand the questions as well as you know the answers. Don't think that I'll just walk out this door and leave you at peace without knowing what is rightfully mine to know."
"Oh darn. Don't worry, let me do the honours of the leaving you in peace part, and you can do the honours of sitting here and thinking all day long about what you need to know while I fly to my destination." Salmaan grinned at his own comment.
"I can already see how well your plan is going. I think you've been mistaken, but your flight leaves in two hours. You should have already been checked in by now and sitting in the waiting room. Instead, you are following my plan, and sitting here, waiting to tell me the answers to my questions." Riddhima smiled back in return.
Salmaan panicked at her words and checked his watch. She was right! He should have exactly been checked in by now and sitting in the waiting room! But he had just confirmed his flight about half an hour ago, and at that time he remember that he still had a solid four to five hours left! Then why was his watch telling him something different? He quickly opened his cell phone to see the time. It was the same time as his watch read. Then Salmaan looked at the suite's clock on the wall. THE TIME THERE WAS DIFFERENT! Had he been running late everyday then? But no, this clock had read the correct time before, why did it screw up today??
Riddhima chuckled at Salmaan's panicked expressions, "What's wrong? Running out of time? Don't worry, I've felt that way before...about 10 years ago...but I bet you'll get over it faster than I did. I'm sitll under the same effect."
Salmaan stared at her blankly, "You changed my time?"
"Me? Oh no, you must be under some huge misunderstanding!" Riddhima smiled even larger.
"Well, well...I guess I don't give you enough credit. But how did you know that I would leave? And when did you get the chance to change my time? Last time I checked, you had been sound asleep all night."
"A magician never shares his or her secrets." Riddhima winked at Salmaan.
"A cook never shares his or her recipes."
"Touch...But sometimes a lier needs to share the truth." Riddhima studied Salmaan's face clearly.
Salmaan looked Riddhima right into the eyes and said, "And sometimes a lover needs to share his or her heart's secrets."
"That depends on who you assume a lover to be."
"A lover can come in any shape, size, skin, age or wisdom."
"Wisdom only comes with age."
"I know many that are not of the age that their wisdom shows."
"Yet, is it the wisdom that depicts the age...or the age the wisdom?"
"Touch," Salmaan never had more fun talking to a woman of such intellect before.
"You remind me of someone." Riddhima suddenly felt very confused. The way Salmaan looked at Riddhima, the way he talked, the way he smiled...she couldn't nail who he reminded her of, but there was definitely someone who Riddhima knew very dearly that Salmaan resembled in looks and in manners to...but who? Riddhima couldn't stop thinking about Armaan. Could Salmaan possibly be Armaan in disguise? No. That was impossible. Of course not...she had heard Salmaan talking to Armaan on the phone herself. How could Armaan talk to himself on the phone from two different places? Something was not right. Yet, how much did she even know about Salmaan, to make any assumptions at all?
"Salmaan, tell be about your family background." Riddhima smiled sweetly, but curiosity was burning her from inside.
"I rather not talk about it." Salmaan looked out his glass sliding door, and ignored the question and Riddhima completely.
"Why?" Something about the way Salmaan's attitude changed showed that he was uncomfortable with the word family.
"None of your business," Salmaan continued to stare out the window.
Riddhima concentrated on Salmaan's face. If there was one thing Riddhima had learned from past experiences, then it was that in order to get information, you had to give some yourself as well.
"Salmaan, look at me." Riddhima spoke right to him. Salmaan turned his head to meet her eyes.
"What is it?" His mood had changed completely.
"In my childhood, I witnessed a shooting, which mentally disturbed me. Now, if I ever see blood, I either cry my heart out, or I faint. If that incident was not enough to traumatize my life; my mother died in an accident. I never got to see my mother's dead body. I sent to a camp that summer to make new friends and forget about the shooting. Instead, I was bullied at that camp and tortured for my wealthy state. While at camp, I received a phone call that my mother had died. No one at "home" waited for me to do the burial. My father was at a business trip when my mother's funeral was taking place. Only some of her friends and my maid were there. Then I was sent to a physiatrist's office to get a hold on myself and my messed up life. If THAT wasn't enough, then my father and my physiatrist started dating and now they're planning on getting married. If I didn't state already, then I should let you know that I absolutely HATE this so called physiatrist."
Salmaan stared at Riddhima's face blankly. No sorrow or pity; just a blank expression. He could not believe that THIS was Riddhima's past! He had pictured her to have a perfect, rich, mannered life with obedient behaviour and touchwood skills on demand. He could have never even guessed once that SHE, from all people, would have this life and background. It then occurred to Salmaan, that Riddhima's childhood hadn't been much tougher than his own.
Riddhima stared at Salmaan for some words, or even the slightest reaction. Instead, he continued to stare at her face and looked as if his mind was in space. Riddhima wondered whether he had even heard a single word she had said. This thought frustrated Riddhima to an extent that her head began to hurt with emotions. Riddhima looked up at the ceiling in awkwardness. Why wasn't he saying anything?? Not even a single peep! This was beyond controllable.
Just before Riddhima was about to scream at Salmaan for being inconsiderate, he cleared his throat and spoke, "When I was five years old, my father left my mother and me on the street. He had told us to get out of the car and wait for him on the sidewalk, while he looked for some parking space for his car. Instead, the second we got out of the car and shut the door, he raced off...not looking back once. My mother and I spent some of my childhood in poverty, until she finally found a job as a waitress in some dance club. We paid rent to a drunken man, to sleep in a trailer in a park and every night we would get scared if a police car would go by, because the trailer that his man owned was stolen. One day, the man increased the rent to another $50 so that he could pay for more alcohol. My mother quit her job as the ordinary waitress, and became a dancer at the club. I then took her job as the waiter and served drinks in a uniform, while she danced on the stage with poles. After a while, when we had saved enough money of our own, by not eating meals for a whole entire week, my mother and I left the trailer and started paying rent to an elderly couple to live in their basement. As the years went by, my mother would dress up professionally, to show off to the world that she was going to some law firm, but instead she would go onto a stage and take away even the pride of that freshly pressed black skirt and white blouse. Her briefcase would not be full of files or documents, but of lingerie and whips. Lingerie, which I had to fold nicely into the bag for her, and whips that were used against me, if I ever wasted money on cravings for chocolate or a CD that all the other children my age owned," Salmaan took a deep breath and then turned his gaze from Riddhima towards the window again.
Riddhima sat there in silence, not knowing what to say. Maybe this is how Salmaan had felt; during that time when Riddhima had wished that he would say anything but stay silent. Did Salmaan want her to say something right now? Did guys want that? Or did they want silence to think? Riddhima decided to say at least something comforting, "Unbelievable..." Riddhima hesitated to say the next words, but finally forced herself to spit them out, blaming it on her selfish curiosity, "What happened next?"
Salmaan looked back at Riddhima and continued from where he left off, "I still have some of those scars. Sometimes when my mother would come upset from "work" because she had not met a good client, she would bring her frustration out on me with her belt. If I was lucky, then sometimes she would use the whip. It left smaller scars," Salmaan closed his eyes as if he was replaying those moments behind his eyelids.
"Are you ok?" Riddhima felt a huge concern for him in her heart.
"Yes, I'm fine, thank you. Anyways, sooner or later, I couldn't take the whole pressure of her abuse, the kids at school taunting me about her profession, my labour, everything! So one day, when my mom left at her regular time for work, and the couple upstairs was out of the house; I packed my backpack with all of the clothes I could fit in it. Then I sneaked upstairs and stole some of the couple's food from their fridge, since my own fridge downstairs never had any food in it. We actually couldn't even afford food. We would always go to church and eat God's bread and drink his wine to fill our stomachs. We would always alternate everyday's church that we went to, so that people would not become suspicious of our financial state and that the priest from one church would not become fed up of seeing us every day," Salmaan took a deep breath again, and continued right along, "After I was set to go, I remember quickly going back downstairs to see my so called "home" once more before I permanently erased it from my life. Then I ran away and left no letter, message or sign of my absence. For a long time, I sat in tree house, located in the backyard of the elderly couple's house. I actually wanted to see how much my mother would miss me and what would happen if I never existed. I sure saw what I need to see. That night, my mother had definitely looked around the house upstairs and downstairs. Obviously she had not found me, but she hadn't bothered to look further either. The elderly couple did show some concern for my absence, but that faded with time as well. After all, I was not one of their own. When their own grandchildren had come to visit one day, I had escaped to my new life, before they came up the tree house. I spent a month on the cold, deserted streets. Finally I found an orphanage and took shelter there. I was continuously bullied and tortured. Many of the other boys called me gay and homosexual. They teased me for being too thin. It was not my fault; I had never eaten a proper meal so far in my life. Oatmeal and milk, I remember, was the first proper meal I had ever eaten, and that too was just because the inspector had come to see the constitution. After he left, they began to give us more rotten food. When I finally graduated and topped my class; university and all its fees were covered with my scholarships. I attended Harvard and became a lawyer, the figure of society that my mother faked to be all her life. After graduating from that Ivy League school, I realized my hidden passion for fashion! So later on, with the grand success from my law business, I set up a fashion industry and slowly opened more branches of it, as it progressed financially. Now, look at me! I'm the best bachelor in town!" He laughed nervously and looked up the ceiling. For some reason, Riddhima noticed that he couldn't find it in himself to look into her eyes.
"You're still hiding something from me." Riddhima stated directly.
"What?" Salmaan showed a fake, confused expression. It definitely didn't confuse Riddhima for even a second!
"What happened to your mother? I mean, obviously you must have seen her AT LEAST once in all these years!"
"My mother? Nothing really happened."
"No! Tell me! I want to hear!"
Salmaan said the next few words while looking at his hands, rested in his lap, "On the day of my graduation for law, I gathered all the courage and confidence that I had left in me, and flew on a plane back to my hometown. When I reached at the house, which I had run away from, I found out that the elderly couple had moved on. The grandmother had died, and then grandfather now lived in a senior care home. He had given the house to his children, who were my mother's age, and his daughter now lived in that house. Apparently, I had found out from her that my mother had moved out the day the elderly woman died. Next, I went to that dance club where my mother used to work. The manager was still the same fat, bald, selfish, hillbilly looking guy. At first he didn't recognize me, but when I asked for my mother, he suddenly knew exactly who I was! He told me that just a few months after I disappeared, my mother had performed a late night show, where coincidentally a producer was just enjoying a beer in the audience. Turns out, that he loved my mother's act, and had given her his card. She immediately accepted the offer and flew with him to his work office. They got married later on, when the producer divorced his wife and three children for a woman like my mother. Yet, what troubled me the most was that this all had happened only in a couple of months after I had left. She had not even thought once about looking for me. After all, this man had power, he was stinking rich, if she had wanted; she could have gotten him to send the whole army to look for me. Still, she ran for her own dreams and completely washed me out of the picture. For all she knows, I could have been doing a job just like hers, or maybe I could have been dying from some disease, or maybe even in jail!" Salmaan's eyes grew redder as he talked. Riddhima could sense the frustration built up inside of him all these years, spilling out for the first time. She knew this was Salmaan's first time telling anyone all this, because this was how Riddhima was reacting when she had told Armaan about her troubles for the first time to anyone. Telling someone about how messed up your life was, or is, can be a very difficult process. Usually, a person only tells these kinds of things to people they truly trust or love. If someone tells you these kinds of things, you should always maintain their trust and never let a soul know unless the person, himself or herself, wants others to know. Riddhima had learned this lesson in her childhood when she had trusted her father with her life's issues. Look where that had gotten her... to a physiatrist, who was soon to be her step-mother.
"So did you ever end up meeting her again?"
"Oh sure! You must have heard about the Kapoor's case, right?"
"Of course! You mean the case where the husband, who was a member of parliament, killed his wife and then no lawyer would stand against him, because they all knew that doing so was basically a life threatening position! But then I think there was one brave lawyer who had actually stood up against him...I can't remember his name though!" Riddhima felt proud of herself. She never kept in touch with the latest news locally or internationally, but she definitely wasn't completely out of the world when it came to addressing certain new stories!
"Ha-ha...yes that brave lawyer was me! And I had won that case too. That's why I had received over a hundred thousand dollars for the effort! That news story had brought my face on the newspapers and media internationally. I still remember that just a few days after that huge success and career breakthrough, I had received a phone call at my office."
"How does this have to relate to seeing your mother again?"
"Wait, I'm getting there. The phone call was my mother."
"Oh snap! What happened??" Riddhima began comparing Salmaan's life to a soap opera, it wasn't much different!
"Well, at first I didn't recognize her voice. I mean, I actually heard her speak, or more like mumble, some words and my first reaction was 'mother', but I just didn't want myself to believe it was her. No matter how hard she had made it for me to live in my childhood, I still had that birth connection to this woman. After all, she had given me some shelter and if not proper care, then at least she had brought me into this world! She had given me the best gift that any living thing can possibly possess; Life!"
"What did she say?"
"She wanted me to come see her in Winnipeg, Canada."
"WINNIPEG, CANADA? WHY?" Riddhima controlled herself to not start laughing at his face.
"It's ok, go ahead, and laugh as much as you want. Just let it all out." Salmaan could see clearly from Riddhima's constipated expression that she wanted to laugh badly. And Riddhima didn't find any shame then in laughing right at his face either!
"Sorry, I'm done... but why WINNIPEG?" Riddhima couldn't still understand the connection.
"IF you let me finish what I'm trying to say, then maybe you'd find out why."
"Sorry! Please continue!" Riddhima swore herself to quiet down.
"Ok. Anyways, she asked me to see her in Winnipeg, Canada. I, also at once, found this amusing and retarded. But then I decided to just get this over with once and for all. So I went to Winnipeg, to find out that a wedding of some sort was taking place. All my relatives were there. Including many of my cousins, who had never been a part of my life then I had really needed them. When I reached Winnipeg, my mother stood there in a light yellow dress with a sunhat, looking like a complete farmer. Apparently, the producer was not good enough for her, and she had moved onto a farmer now who owned many acres of land. Later on, in my visit, I had discovered that this wedding was in fact set up for ME!"
"WHAT? FOR YOU? You mean like an arranged marriage?? WHAT? HOW?" Riddhima was so confused!
"My mother had found it an excellent opportunity to obtain more wealth and power by marrying me off to one of her rich contact's daughter. The bride was beautiful alright, blonde and extremely cunning. She was the type of person who manipulated and argued about everything, that at a certain point it made you want to suicide. She was good bed material, but as a human being, she was a waste of God's time. She was basically wasting oxygen by breathing."
"Oh wow, harsh much?"
"It's the truth."
"So did you get married to her?"
"No, I played with my mother's feelings, as a way of revenge. I told her I would never go against her wishes and agreed to marry the girl in front of everyone. My mother spent the whole first of the marriage boasting about her perfect life, and when I rejected the blonde at that altar, my mother spent the rest of the marriage crying in misery and loss of her ideal business contract."
Riddhima was shocked. She couldn't believe this was the real Salmaan. A poor, abused, orphanage brought up boy who saw the world's reality at such an early age and learned to grow up on his own two feet. Yet, he still managed to be witty, kind, smart and dashing. Yet, how?
Salmaan smiled at Riddhima and asked, "What are you thinking?"
"Just how incredible of a person you really are."
"Tell me something I don't already know about myself!" He smiled at her brilliantly, and then looked down at his hands in sadness again.
"I missed my flight."
"Don't you think it was worth it?"
"What do you mean?"
"You realized that your flight is still in another week. So you really should be getting ready for dinner now, since we missed most of our day and lunchtime in our past!"
"We didn't miss lunchtime. We just...planned to work on our diets!" Salmaan smiled and winked at her adoringly.
"Ha-ha...yes, I suppose that's an obvious optimistic approach when looking at this." Riddhima pointed to her stomach, indicating it was larger than normal.
"Oh no, if you think THAT is huge, look at mine...because if we're comparing stomachs, I must be in labour!" Salmaan laughed. Riddhima couldn't help but to laugh at the joke.
"You know you still haven't answered any of my original questions!"
"Wrong. I answered one of my life's biggest questions today! Don't you think that's enough for one day?!"
"NO! I still need my answers!"
"Listen, I'll make you a deal. You stay out of my business and I'll STAY in yours, ok?"
"That's not a fair sided deal!"
"Then what is a fair sided deal to you then?" Salmaan was interested in hearing what she would propose.
"Hmm..." This was Riddhima's chance. If she could propose some super appealing deal to Salmaan right now, then maybe she could get at least SOME of her wanted answers, "Ok, I'll tell you what. I want my answers. You have them. How about everyday you tell me one secret that you know? In that way, it could be an excuse for us to meet every day!"
"I see you every day even without me having to tell you a secret."
"Fine....what if you get to choose which secret you want to share...and when...and how...?"
"Better. So I just need to share one secret every day with you about myself, and poof deal's done?"
"No! Obviously a secret that concerns me and you know exactly what I mean, but when I say 'concerns me'...got it?"
"Hmm...Let's suppose that I agree to this deal, but what do I get out of this all at the end? I mean, I should benefit somehow too, right?" Salmaan thought the deal wasn't too bad, as long as Riddhima was offering good bait.
"What do you want from me?" Riddhima hesitated. She knew what typical answer a guy would give to this statement. She just wished that Salmaan wouldn't ask for it, making the situation more awkward than it already is.
"What can you offer?"
"What you want...as long as it's in its limits."
"Limits...in return of a secret, I want a secret."
"A secret? What do you mean, about myself?
Riddhima stared blankly at Salmaan. Salmaan had just clearly stated that he knew who Armaan was. This meant that she was not going crazy, and in fact had actually heard him and Armaan talking on the phone! Yet, if Salmaan was so close to Armaan...why would he want his secrets?
"That will be one of the secrets I will share with you...one day..."
Riddhima's perfect proposal had backfired. Would she be willing to disclose information about her one and true love, in return for her own selfish curiosity of what was going on with her life behind her own back?
"Deal," Riddhima assured.
"Deal," Salmaan replied.
"Ok, but I'll only disclose a secret of Armaan's after you tell me your promised secret."
"Fine with me...are you ready to hear a secret?"
"I can't think of any other better time! Unless, you're not ready of course," Salmaan teased.
"No, of course I'm ready! Tell me."
"Angela is the same blonde I was supposed to marry, according to my mother," Salmaan grinned evilly as he read Riddhima's changing facial expressions.
"WHAT? But...WHAT? That makes NO SENSE at all! HOW? WHY? But...but....wait! How is this secret related to me??" Riddhima became completely confused all of a sudden.
"We never had a deal on me explaining to you WHY or HOW the secret is related to you. That's up to you to figure out."
"BUT IT'S COMMON SENSE TO KNOW THAT THE EXPLANATION WAS A PART OF THE DEAL!!"
"Sorry, I lack common sense," Salmaan smiled.
"BUT YOU'RE A LAWYER!!??!!"
"So? Who said lawyers always need common sense?" Salmaan's grin grew wider, "And where's my secret?"
Riddhima wanted to open the glass sliding door, and throw Salmaan off the fifty story high patio, "Your secret? You mean Armaan's? Hmm..." Riddhima couldn't think of what to say. Finally she concluded on, "Armaan hates Rahul's guts." Riddhima smiled within herself.
"Armaan hates Rahul's guts. I sort of ALREADY KNEW THAT." Salmaan's smile faded away, "Tell me something I DON'T KNOW already!"
"Sorry that wasn't part of the deal, remember?"
"That's not fair! You know nothing about all the secrets I might tell you!"
"Sorry, you should have thought about that before you made the deal." Riddhima couldn't help but to keep smiling even wider.
"I MEAN A SECRET MEANS SOMETHING YOU DON'T KNOW!! NOT SOMETHING YOU ALREADY KNOW, AND JUST HAVE IT SAID AGAIN TO YOU!" Salmaan shouted.
"Don't scream at me Salmaan."
"Sorry, but it's elementary to know that Armaan hates Rahul and Vice Versa!"
This statement made it clear to Riddhima that Salmaan not only knew Armaan, but he also knew Rahul very well too. Riddhima could have easily said any other stupid secret to Salmaan, but she knew said this one on purpose to find out whether Salmaan knew Rahul too or not. Not only did Salmaan know Rahul, but he knew him WELL too. Because, from what Riddhima had experienced in the past; you have to be close to Rahul in order to find out from him alone about how much he hates Armaan. Otherwise, to a third person, Rahul fakes Armaan to be a close and dear friend! If Salmaan was close with both Armaan and Rahul, then that meant Salmaan was a neutral player. A person who played according to his mood and emotions from the day. He was not loyal to just one, but to both in turns. Basically, for Riddhima, he was the perfect person to observe and befriend, because she now had perfectly figured out that Salmaan was a lone soldier, and didn't belong to just ONE army on the battlefield. These kinds of soldiers always came handy, because they were never loyal to just one team...but (in this case) they would be loyal to all THREE teams ' Rahul's, Armaan's, and now Riddhima's.
"Well, I'm sorry to hear that you already knew this secret. But a deal is a deal...I still completed my side of the bet. See you tomorrow for another round of this game!" Riddhima smiled as she got up from the table and walked towards their connecting door.
"BUT ITS COMMON SENSE TO KNOW THAT WHAT YOU TOLD ME IS NOT A FAIR SECRET!" Salmaan still shouted from irritation.
"Sorry, I guess I lack common sense then!" Riddhima laughed as she closed the connect door between them and ran to her notebook, place inside her purse. She quickly and wrote down the date and the secret that Salmaan had told her. Then she wrote down the secret that she had told Salmaan and his reaction. She also wrote a small synopsis of Salmaan's childhood story and then closed the notebook, placing it between the narrow space of the TV and the wall that it was attached to.
Riddhima now knew how cunning her opponent was. He was one of those players that thought ahead of the game plan. He knew she would definitely search his cell phone for any possible contacts of her own. Therefore, he deleted them all and any of their traces from all his records. Yet, he must have written their contact information somewhere! No. He's too smart to know that the minute he steps out of this room, she would be in there searching through his stuff! Riddhima sat down on her bed and thought hard. The only place where all the information she needed was inside Salmaan's head. How as she supposed to dissect his brain open and get all the things she needed??
Finally Riddhima phoned at the reception, and ordered some dinner from the hotel's kitchen. As Riddhima waited for her dinner to arrive, she stared out at the dark city with a few lights, thinking about her next move in the game.
Armaan had deliberately left a message for Riddhima to read on Salmaan's cell phone. And he had not erased it like all his other information, so that Riddhima could purposely read it. Armaan and Salmaan both wanted Riddhima at that place...but why? What if Salmaan was even more cunning than Riddhima thought him to be? Maybe that message was not from Armaan at all! Maybe it was a trick! Maybe, Rahul is the only person Salmaan is in contact with, and Rahul is faking to be Armaan to get Riddhima exactly where he wants her!
Riddhima's head began to pain. She couldn't think anymore as to what was going on. She wrote down all her guesses into her notebook and then kept it back to its hiding spot. Then, just before going to sleep the thought occurred to Riddhima's head. Of course Rahul was not playing as Armaan! Rahul had stated in his phone call with Salmaan that he found Riddhima attractive at Athena's Waterfalls and Restaurant! This obviously meant that Rahul had been there at the restaurant that night! And on the same night, Riddhima had met Armaan! So Rahul couldn't possibly be trying to lure Riddhima to that place as Armaan...or maybe he was so cunning that he was doing this all on purpose. Maybe Rahul purposely set up the situation that way, so that Riddhima would see Armaan after all these years and want to go where ever Armaan said to go. Armaan might have been the real thing at the restaurant, but there was a possibility that Rahul was using that one acquaintance to manipulate Riddhima into falling for his trap!
Riddhima decided it was not safe for her to go to the place alone. So, she finally planned that her next move in the game would be for her AND Salmaan, to go together, to this so called trap. But is Salmaan trustworthy enough to take along? What if he is the mastermind behind this all? Riddhima was so confused that she literally wanted to puke! How much could she trust Salmaan? Was the story that Salmaan told her about his childhood even all true, or was it, as well, another game?
CHAPTER 29 ~ The Mission.
Riddhima woke up early and quickly got dressed. She placed her notebook from behind the TV into her purse, along with a pen and ordered a cab from the reception. The second the cab parked along the hotel's curve, Riddhima got in and gave the driver the directions from her notebook that she had graciously copied down from her hand earlier.
"Here you are Ma'am," the taxi driver said as he parked the cab to a side.
Riddhima thanked him and gave him the ride's fee. Then she hurried up the hill to the one house that stood there alone at the top. While Riddhima climbed up the hill, she heard the taxi driver's voice again, "Um...hey lady!"
Riddhima turned around, "Uh...yes?"
"Are you sure you want to go up there alone?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean...it looks really creepy."
Riddhima laughed, "No, I'm fine! Thank you for the concern though!"
"Do you want me to stay here? In case you need to run back or something?"
Riddhima became confused, "Run back? Why on earth would I run back?"
"Well, there's a lot of weird rumours about that house...I don't think you should go there!"
Riddhima looked the old man's face and walked back to the cab. When she finally got next to the taxi and stood beside it, she spoke to the man through the side open window, "What kind of weird rumours?"
The man hesitated at first, but then he finally gave in, "Well...you know, ghosts and stuff. All those weird magic kind of stories."
Riddhima stared at the old man. She controlled to keep a stern face, but was laughing out loud inside. This man was saying the words 'ghost' and 'magic' as if he was a five year old child, "I assure you, I don't believe in ghosts...or magic."
"You'd be mistaken lady. I'm a 56 year old man, and I've always laughed at words like ghosts, witches, magic and all those hocus-pocus gigs. I'm the kind of man that believes the rabbit is already in the hat before the trick is made. But, this house, lady...I assure YOU, that the only people who go up there to that house, are either the homeless people during a storm, because they have no other option...or the wacky kind that have no brains. Sincerely, no one normal dares to go up there!"
Riddhima tried really hard to keep a serious face, "Well, I'm not a normal girl then." And with that, Riddhima turned around on her heel and started walking back up the hill. As she walked forward, she heard the car's engine start and begin to back off. Later on, she heard the car make a U-turn start to leave. Just before turning the corner at the top of the hill, Riddhima watched the yellow car drive away quickly. Riddhima watched her last escape route, drive away quickly with it.
Finally, when Riddhima could no longer see the yellow cab anymore, she turned herself around, to face the house that was supposedly full of ghosts and magic. As Riddhima took in the whole house, her heart skipped several beats. This house...she had seen it before somewhere! Not some house that looked like this one...but the SAME, EXACT HOUSE!
Chills ran down Riddhima's spine, and memories flooded her mind, soul and eyes. It was as if she was seeing her whole past before her eyes. This house was no other house...than Armaan's house! Riddhima controlled herself. She could not afford to lose confidence now, or faint, or cry. This was it. This was what she was waiting for. But...what was THIS that she was waiting for?? All of a sudden Riddhima got an anxiety attack. She no longer remembered why she was standing in front of this house, and for what stupid reason she had told her last source to safety and civilization, the taxi, to discard her?!
She took a deep breath, and stabilized herself again. She could not let her emotions and unneeded feelings to get in the way of her goal. Who cares if this house was the same house that Armaan used to live in? WAIT. Was there a reason why this house was the same one? No...maybe Riddhima was just hallucinating. Yes, that's it. After finding out so much at once yesterday, Riddhima has just started to feel insecure that's all. She just needs to get a grip on herself...nothing more. Riddhima did a small yoga exercise, and then decided to ring the button in front of the gate. Her first mission was to get past this huge Iron Gate. Then, she just had to deal with all the rest after!
Riddhima pressed the button and waited for a voice on the other side.
"Yes?" Riddhima recognized that same smooth, melodic toned voice.
"Um...hi, this is Riddhima."
"One minute please," the woman said. There was an awkward pause, until she continued, "Reason for coming?"
Even Riddhima wasn't too sure of that answer, "To see someone."
Riddhima wanted to throw a rock at this nosy woman, "Mr. Armaan"
"I'm sorry he isn't here at the moment."
Obviously, that all went well. Riddhima began feeling frustrated, "May I know when Mr. Armaan will be back?"
"Sorry, I can not disclose any personal or confidential information."
"Can you at least tell me when I should come back then?"
"That would be indirectly telling you when Mr. Armaan comes back Miss. Therefore I cannot."
Riddhima wished this woman would just come in front of her once. THEN Riddhima would show her personal information; a personal jail record, "Fine. Is there anything you are capable of telling then, Auntie?" Riddhima couldn't stand this conversation anymore.
The woman on the other side seemed to have gotten extremely offended by Riddhima's last question. Good, because that's exactly what Riddhima wanted, "Excuse me?"
"Sorry, you're not excused," Riddhima teased.
"Mind your tongue lady; I can sue you for your bad tone!"
"Yah, and how exactly are you going to sue ME?" Riddhima could confidently say this because her father was one of the best lawyers in the world, and now she also had Salmaan to guard her back.
"You just wait missy, when Mr. Armaan gets back at 3pm, I'll show you who's boss!" the lady shouted.
"Bingo," Riddhima smiled and added, "You can expect me at 3pm sharp then!"
"ARGH!" shouted the lady again, but that didn't bother Riddhima. Riddhima skipped down the hill in victory and then phoned a cab to pick her up. She needed to be back here at exactly 3:00pm. Right now it was 11:23am. Basically, Riddhima had about three and a half hours left before her re-acquaintance with the infamous Mr. Armaan. Her next mission was to kill time.
Salmaan woke up with a painful hangover. Last night, after Riddhima had left his room, Salmaan had treated himself to all the beers in the hotel's fridge, since he no longer had to pay for them himself.
Salmaan looked at his clock and it read 7:00am. Wow, it felt though, that he had been asleep for ages! Salmaan closed his eyes again, and tried falling back to sleep, when suddenly he realized something. THAT CLOCK'S TIME WAS WRONG! Salmaan quickly flipped open his cell phone and saw that the time read 2:01pm!
"What the F**K?" Salmaan raced to the connecting door and put his ear against it. No sound, not even a small peep. He quickly opened the door and saw that there was no Riddhima, but there was a tray of cold bacon on the table. Salmaan quickly got dressed and then picked up the left over bacon from the tray and ran out the door to the reception.
"EXCUSE ME??" Salmaan yelled at the reception manager.
"Yes? How can I help you Sir?"
"Can I please know if one of your clients by the name of Riddhima has booked a cab or something this morning?" Salmaan tried to catch his breath.
"Sorry Sir, we can't disclose personal information about other clients like that."
Salmaan stared at the manager and wanted to slap him across the face. Salmaan walked to the opposite wall where an aquarium was on display, and then came back to the reception. This was it, Salmaan had to use 'Plan R-rated'.
"Excuse me??" Salmaan called for the manager again.
"Please listen to me! Ms. Riddhima is the only woman who I can trust in my life. She's taught me to be myself and not underestimate my capabilities! I love her, and yesterday I could have told her that, but being a typical retarded man, I wasn't able to tell her how I really felt about her. I've already lost a wife and a child in a car accident. I cannot, under any circumstances, bare to lose the love of my life again in a row! You have GOT to help me!" Salmaan tried his best to bring a few fake tears to dramatize the affect.
The other people in line and the receptionist all looked at Salmaan with passion, but the manager still looked as if he didn't believe a word Salmaan was saying. Salmaan now had to use the tactic of making the target feel the same way and realize the meaning behind the bullshit that he was making up on the spot.
"Listen! Look man, you have a gold ring around your fourth finger on your left hand. You probably still remember that moment when you said 'I do' to your gorgeous wife! Let me get MY moment now man! Riddhima is probably at her wedding right now. She's probably walking down that aisle in that perfect church and that perfect white dress, getting ready to say those blessed words to some dumbass that...that..." The manager actually started concentrating on Salmaan's words. Salmaan panicked. He had no idea what to say next! He had to say something meaningful...something that really brought the arrow right to the core of this ugly man's heart, "that...that," Salmaan took a deep breath. All of a sudden Salmaan noticed that the manager was wearing a Manchester United pin on his chest! Salmaan let down a few more tears, and then started again, "She's probably going to marry a dumbass today that doesn't even know what the Manchester United Team is!!!" Sincerely, Salmaan didn't know what the Manchester United team was either. He was guessing that it was some UK team for soccer, because the pin had a picture of a soccer ball with the letters 'UK' written inside of it.
The manager gasped in horror and looked at the other people around him. Everyone was terrified at what Salmaan had just said. Salmaan controlled himself not to laugh, and nodded in regret and sorrow at everyone who gave him pity looks.
"Oh no! Please! Please tell me how I can help you! Anything!"
Bingo. "Well, can you just get me a limo that will take me to the same place that Riddhima went today??"
"Don't worry about it!" The manager quickly picked up a phone and dialled a limo. All the other people behind the reception stopped what they were doing and began to help him. One of the old ladies behind Salmaan took a red rose from a case nearby, and shoved it into Salmaan's hands, "Here son! Give this to the lucky lady! Roses add a lot to the mood of the love confession!" She winked at him, and then all the people behind the reception and in line escorted Salmaan to a limo and waved him goodbye, thinking he was going on a life changing mission.
Salmaan chuckled at their stupidity. If any of them were even the least bit smart, then they would have noticed that in his fairytale, Riddhima was getting married in a church! So, if he was really going to go stop Riddhima from getting married, and knew so much about her...then wouldn't he have already known which church she was getting married in?? And why would he need a limo to go to exactly where she had gone? Salmaan laughed inside and then wiped at his wet eyes.
"Nicely done, you still haven't lost your act, Salmaan!" Salmaan said out loud in his mind to himself. Finally the limo pulled to the side. As he got out of the limo and told the driver where to park, Salmaan turned around to see that the limo had brought him to 124th Augustus Ave; the same place where Armaan had told him to meet him in the text message. So Riddhima had after all, fallen for the plan. Maybe Salmaan DID give Riddhima TOO much credit for the actual intelligence that she had.
Salmaan pressed the button on the large Iron Gate.
"Yes?" said Sheila.
"Salmaan," he replied. And with that, the gate's large doors opened and Salmaan walked around the curvy pavement towards the wooden, front door.
Riddhima came up to the gate again and pressed the button numerous times until the woman's voice finally spoke, "Yes???"
"I'm back! Get excited." Riddhima replied. She tried to put some attitude into her tone, but gave a wide smile as she spoke.
"Oh. Sorry, he's still not here. Too bad...so sad."
Riddhima rolled her eyes, "Really, how stupid do you think I am? I can see Armaan's car parked in the driveway!"
There was a silent pause, "I think you are mistaken. Mr. Armaan is not here. If you were as intelligent as you claim yourself to be, maybe you should have noticed that Mr. Armaan does not ride in a black limo, he prefers white."
Riddhima became confused, last time she checked...she had always ridden in a black limo with Armaan when they had been together, "A white limo?! Since when?"
"Obviously you do not know Mr. Armaan that well then...Hmph."
"Hey listen lady, I don't know what your name is...but you have GOT to cut down on the attitude if you want to stay on this job! I know Armaan very well, and if I was to tell him ONCE to fire you...he's do it without a single doubt!!" Riddhima boasted her closeness to Armaan to this obnoxious woman, but inside Riddhima knew that ...let alone a complaint...Armaan would not want to even see her period.
The woman giggled and replied, "I'd like to see you try."
"Wow, you have got SOME nerve woman! I can't believe you! If I was you, I'd be wetting my pants!!"
"You cannot possibly know Mr. Armaan as much as I do, I do not suppose I should be 'wetting my pants' even the slightest bit!"
Riddhima couldn't believe this! She was having a pointless conversation...or maybe this should be called an ARGUEMENT...with a woman sitting in a small box, talking to her through a walky-talky!
There was a silent pause, until the woman started laughing again and said, "Happy Realization!"
"Ok just shut up," Riddhima spat, and then wiped her mouth dry. She pressed her back to the gate and sat down on the cement floor. What was she going to do now? Her cell phone reception was dead in this forested area, and her only connection to civilization was either Armaan, sitting inside his house...or this annoying woman behind the talking box! Riddhima began to cry at her current state.
As she cried and wept her heart out in an embarrassing and helpless situation, a hand held Riddhima's shoulder from behind the gate. The sudden touch surprised Riddhima and she jumped up to see it was Salmaan!
"WHAT ARE YOU...," Riddhima realized she was shouting from surprise and quietened down, "I mean, what are you doing here?!"
"I knew you'd come here. Sometimes you're too curious for your own good. Anyways, what are you doing? I mean, I know the house is magnificent, but that doesn't mean you have stand outside and observe it...I think you're allowed to come inside if you want!"
"Very funny, but seriously, how'd you know where to find me? I thought I hid all evidence pretty well this time!"
"You underestimate me too much. Just come inside already!" Salmaan pressed the button and the woman spoke again.
"Salmaan," he replied in a charming voice.
The gate opened as Riddhima's mouth grew wider from the easy action of just stating his name and seeing the enormous iron gates unlock magically. She felt like she was in one of the Harry Potter movies, where you say a magical spell and something miraculous and impossible becomes possible.
"I don't know about you...but I think I'm going to go inside."
Salmaan waited for Riddhima to pass him by and head off first towards the familiar wooden doors. Riddhima walked around the curvy cement pavement, feeling as if she was in a whirlwind of memories. The same pavement; the same rocks; the same flowers and their identical arrangement; the same green, lively bushes; the same birds chirping their same melodies; everything was exactly the same way Riddhima had left it...except the last time she had seen this all; the liveliness had vanished...and now all that could be noticed was the life.
CHAPTER 31 ~ Attitude Management
Salmaan and Riddhima stood there, in front of the two large wooden doors, waiting for answer to their knocking. Salmaan seemed to be at extreme ease and didn't have a single crease on his forehead. Whereas, Riddhima was sweating an ocean and her stomach was doing a secret circus performance.
Riddhima couldn't take it any longer, "Why isn't anyone answering?"
"Shhh, take it easy babe," replied with style. Riddhima wanted to slap him.
"And...oh! Yah, so how did you get here? How come you got in easier? Why are you here? How did you know I would be here?!?" Riddhima was going crazy!
"Hold your horses princess. Just keep quiet, like you've been told, and everything will be ok."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
Salmaan rolled his eyes and looked at the way Riddhima had crossed her arms in front of her chest.
"Are you cold?" He smiled.
"A little...but I'll survive." Riddhima stared blankly at the doors.
"Good." He smiled broadly and then started to whistle to the Indiana Jones song.
"Shut up." Riddhima started getting annoyed. She had expected him to take off his jacket and give it to her like a gentleman; apparently he wasn't as internally charming as his he was externally.
Riddhima couldn't take it anymore. She began to tap her foot and then continuously knocked on the door over and over again. Finally, the sound of many locks opening was heard. Salmaan stopped whistling and straightened his tie.
The door was opened by an elderly woman, around the age of sixty. Riddhima had never seen her before in her life.
"Sheila! You've never looked better!" Salmaan kissed her on both cheeks, and she did the same in return. Then she looked at Riddhima and drew her eyes from Riddhima's shoes to her hair. Riddhima looked at this woman. She had fair skin and eyes of striking brown and green, which almost looked pure gold. Her hair was done up in a very neat and tight bun at the back of her head. She had rectangular glasses with sharp eyes looking behind through them. Her teeth were perfect, and her nose was as thin as a piece of paper. Her presence and posture, made her look like a queen and she wore heels as tall as Riddhima's tall fingers. She wore a pencil red skirt with frilly, barnyard fabricated Shauna Blouse.
Salmaan walked right past this Sheila and into the house. He didn't even care to introduce her or gesture Riddhima to go in first! What was wrong with Salmaan?? He was such a ladies' man! What happened now? Did her armpits smell or something? Riddhima smiled at the woman and walked past her into the house, following Salmaan. When she bent down to take off her shoes, she quickly put her nose to her armpit. It smelt like strawberry deodorant. Then, why was he acting so weird towards her?
Riddhima saw Salmaan in the kitchen pouring himself a glass of wine. She decided to ignore him, since he was doing such a great job with the same tactic. Riddhima proceeded up the stairs, which she had once done every morning on her way to make breakfast for Armaan.
Riddhima walked down that same cottage looking hallway and stepped in front of the closed door; the door that belonged to Armaan's room. She took a breath and knocked at the door. No one answered. Riddhima quietly wiped away a silent tear, and turned a full 180 degrees, to face her former bedroom. She looked down at her knees. All of a sudden they had weakened and were wobbling. Riddhima got a hold of herself, and knocked on her bedroom door. Again, no one answered. Riddhima was about to turn back to the stairs at the end of the hall, until an overwhelming feeling rose within her. Riddhima rushed back to her bedroom door and opened it with hope.
There he sat. Perfect. The sun's rays shone through the window and highlighted every bit of his body. His black tuxedo out stood all the white and yellow in the room. His back was turned to her. He didn't even twitch. He was so perfectly still. He was...her Armaan.
Riddhima opened her pony tail, and let her hair fall loosely on her back. She took a deep breath and stepped forward.
CHAPTER 32 ~ Under the Mask
Riddhima made her seating next to the mysterious figure as soft as possible on the bed. She didn't want his perfectness to be disturbed by her awkward behaviour. She quietly rested her hands on either side of her on the bed. They both sat there in silence, until Riddhima noticed that the mystery man put his hand back and on top of one of hers.
He slowly turned around. She had guessed right, it was Armaan. Armaan looked at her with a worried expression, and quickly got up. Riddhima stood up too, with the sudden surprise, but as she stood up, Armaan shot her back down.
"Stay!" he ordered her. And Riddhima did exactly that.
Armaan ran to the door and locked it from the inside. Then he went to the window and blocked out the light by shutting the window and pulling down the shades. With efficient speed, he ran into the connected bathroom and also did the same procedure for that window as well. Finally when there was no light in the room or any escape route either, Armaan opened the side drawer and took out a candle. He lighted it with a lighter from his pocket, and walked over to where Riddhima was sitting.
Riddhima wasn't sure whether she was supposed to feel frightened or excited. She felt a bit of both emotions and began playing with her thumbs in confusion.
"You are nervous?" Armaan asked.
"No. Why do you ask?" Riddhima found this sudden affection very odd.
"No reason." He sat down and held one of her hands in his to stop it from shivering.
"Oh. That." Riddhima blushed. His hand was so warm; so soft; so smooth; so inviting; so delicious. Riddhima shook her head.
"What's wrong?" he looked at her.
"Nothing," Riddhima was extremely confused. If she remembered clearly, Armaan had shouted at her and ignored her for the whole entire week, and now he was perfectly back to normal!
"Listen Riddhima. Pay close attention. I want you to...to never come back here again. Do you understand?"
"Yes...wait WHAT?" Riddhima blinked quickly a dozen times. What was this that she was hearing! Never to come here again?!?
"I said just listen. I want you to pretend that you never met me. That you never even knew my name. I want you to forget that there was once a time when you lived in this house with me."
"WAIT. Hold up! Let me get this straight!" tears began to roll down Riddhima's cheeks, "You want me to pretend that the word 'LOVE' doesn't even exist!"
"There never was any love Riddhima." Armaan turned his face away from hers.
"Don't you DARE turn away from me now Armaan!" Riddhima brought Armaan's face back to face hers, by grabbing his chin with her hand and turning his head, "You and I know perfectly well that love was always there from the start! If love isn't about me wasting a whole day to find you and somehow communicate with you to say how I truly feel about you! Then I'm sorry to say this Mr. Armaan, I just wasted a solid eight hours of my life!"
"Riddhima, I want you to act mature. This will be our last acquaintance. This will the last of any communication we will share. This will be the last time we talk to each other. Is that clear?"
Riddhima took Armaan's face into her hands, "Say all of this again, while looking at my eyes Armaan."
Armaan stared into her eyes for a moment, but then turned away, "I can't!"
"Then what you're saying is not true," Riddhima smiled victoriously, as the tears burned the cheeks they rolled down.
"Riddhima, you're making this more difficult that necessary!"
"No I'm not! YOU are! Why can't you just tell me why you're doing this all?!?"
"Trust me Riddhima, if I could, then you'd be the first person on my mind who I would tell!"
"Then tell me!!"
"I can't! I can't! I can't!"
"Fine! Go to Hell!" Riddhima got up and started to head for the door, with the candle in her hand.
"Wait!" Armaan yelled back. Riddhima stopped in her tracks.
"What is it?" Riddhima asked, with soreness in her throat.
Armaan walked up close behind her, so that his chest touched her back, "What if I'm the bad guy, and not the good guy?"
Riddhima turned around to face him, "Oh come on! You have to be more original than that! Everyone knows 'What if I'm the bad guy and not he good guy?' is a famous line from the Twilight Series!"
"Sorry, I just got really tempted to say it. But, it's the truth. What if I really am the bad guy?" Armaan raised one eyebrow.
Riddhima felt like slapping him, "You know what Armaan! One second, you act like my best friend, then the greatest lover. So when I finally end up falling for you, you pull the trigger and act like my biggest enemy. After forgetting about you and returning to my daily routines, you show up again to just refresh all those hurtful memories, and then play the whole, entire game over again! So how do you really expect me to feel at the end of the day?!"
Armaan let go of her arm and starred at her with wet eyes, "I want you to feel as if you don't know anyone by the name, Armaan."
Riddhima felt a lump of anger and nervousness gather in her throat, "If you're going to take such a big right away from me...can I at least ask for the right to know WHY?"
"That right would cost you the right to live," Armaan snapped back. Then he blew out the candle and stepped toward the closed door. He opened it and stepped out of it. Then he turned around and held it open for her, "Now hurry along, you wouldn't want your dear Salmaan to start worrying now, would you?"
Riddhima grunted rudely at Salmaan's name and walked out the door, down the stairs and into the kitchen, without even turning back once to see if Armaan was still behind her.
As she entered the kitchen, Salmaan rose from his chair, and started to walk past her. The second he walked past her, he shoved a glass of wine into one of Riddhima's hands, and grabbed her other hand, leading her towards the main entrance.
"What's going on?" Riddhima asked in surprise.
"If you little visit to Mr. Lover-boy is done, then I would like to get out of here as soon as possible, thank you very much!"
"No! Wait! I still need to...Hey!" Riddhima tried to protest, but they were already on the paved path outside of the house.
"I knew you would try to hold back. That's why I gave you a glass of wine. If this is all too much for you to handle, which I suspect it is since you're still protesting, just take a sip of the alcohol." Riddhima did as told. Yet, she didn't sip the wine because she couldn't bear being taken out of a house without her own will, but because this acquaintance could have been the last one she had with her Armaan.
CHAPTER 33 ~ A Silent Marriage.
"Where are we going?" Riddhima said to Salmaan, as they climbed into the black limo.
"Where we came from," Salmaan answered back.
"Home, or in other words...The Hotel."
"Oh. Ok." Riddhima was confused.
When they reached the hotel, they walked in, still holding hands for some reason. As they walked towards the reception area, all the workers stopped what they were doing and all of a sudden started to clap and hoot for some odd reason when they saw them both holding hands! Even some of the other people staying at the hotel were clapping. As they pushed past a crowd of people whistling, Riddhima swore she heard one of the old ladies ask her if Salmaan had given her 'the rose'? What was this all about??
Riddhima giggled at the weird and odd behaviour. While they waited for the elevator, Riddhima realized Salmaan was still holding her hand. She quickly let go of him and put her hand to her side.
"What was THAT all about?" Riddhima asked Salmaan.
"Congratulations! Consider yourself married form today," Salmaan smirked.
"Don't worry. You're allowed to get a divorce once you check out of the hotel. But, don't expect me to share any bank accounts with you."
"Hah...wait...HOLD UP! You? Why you?"
"Never mind, you'll understand as time goes by. For now, all you need to do is sleep. You seem to be getting cranky."
"Yah, I feel exhausted."
"You've had a long day."
"Can I ask you something?" Riddhima asked.
"How did you know I'd be at Armaan's house?"
"I have my sources."
"No, seriously; tell me."
"I just followed my instinct." Salmaan actually didn't know himself about how he was able to find Riddhima so quickly.
"Sure. Fine, don't tell. I don't care." Riddhima slid her key into her door, but it wouldn't open...as always.
Salmaan opened his door smoothly, and then put his foot in front of the door so it wouldn't close. Then he took Riddhima's key out of her hands, and opened her door for her with one try, "YOU don't care? Now, that's the biggest joke I've heard today."
With that, Salmaan walked into his own room and before closing his door, he popped his head out once more and said, "Good night love."
Now it was final. Salmaan had truly lost it.
CHAPTER 34 ~ Time To Go
The next morning, Riddhima woke up early and took her empty suitcase out of the closet. She began to neatly fold and pack her clothes and belongings. After finally finishing with all the labour work, she ordered a few pancakes and coffee from the reception.
Someone knocked at the door and Riddhima went to go open it; thinking it was room service. She was wrong...it was Salmaan.
Looking over her shoulder, "Um...where you going neighbour?"
"None of your business," Riddhima actually didn't really know where she was packing for either. All she knew was that she had had enough of this hotel and Salmaan and Armaan and anyone else. She was just tired of all the games that kept following her wherever she went.
"You really didn't think that you could go and leave quietly before giving me a divorce, do you? I mean, who's going to give me my legal share of the property?" Salmaan smirked.
"I really don't know what you're talking about, and I don't think that you know either. So how about you forget anything ever happened between us, and just go back to bed. Wake up in another hour and then start your day all over again."
"Now, now Riddhima. If I didn't know what I was talking about, then who would? And for me forgetting about US...I think it would be easier if YOU just forgot what you JUST said. That way, both of us are happy!"
"Great! While I'm at it, why don't I just forget who I am, where I'm from, what's my name, why I'm here, when's my birthday, who you are..."
Salmaan cut her in between, "I really don't know what you're talking about, and I don't think that you know either."
"Don't copy my lines. Go find your own. Besides, all you do is sit in front of your computer and search impressive lines to say to me from Google."
"Yes. Besides all that, I follow you around, make sure you're safe 24/7, eat your leftover breakfast, invade your privacy and help you reach your destinations. Oh no, wait. You actually do reach your destinations...but you just don't know how to get in. I help you with that part." Salmaan's grin grew wider.
"Eat my leftover breakfast? Now we've figured out one thing for sure."
"You're poor too." And with that, Riddhima slammed the door on Salmaan's face. Then she ran back to her bed and sat down. Eat her breakfast, meant he had been in her room without her presence. Was he searching for something? Did he find what he was looking for? Riddhima took and deep breath and then phoned the reception to order a cab. After doing so, she took all her clothes off and left them on the bed, while she went to take a shower.
After about fifteen minutes, Riddhima took the towel and dried her hair. With the little bit of dry towel left, she wiped away the water droplets from her body and wrapped the towel on her head. Then she tippy ' toed out of the washroom, while closing the lights and humming to a song.
Fortunately, with her back facing the bed, Riddhima opened the closet to take out a dress she had left hanging to wear, when all of a sudden a voice came from behind, "Nice bum."
Riddhima jumped with shock and instantly spun around to find RAHUL sitting there on her bed, "Wow, nice body too."
Riddhima suddenly realized she was completely naked, and turned her back to Rahul. All of a sudden her whole world was coming down. Riddhima took a deep breath, and quickly wrapped her dry body with the wet towel from her head.
Then she spun around again, hoping it was just a big nightmare. But no, it was real. He sat there, propped on the bed, with a straight back; crossed leg; and a huge grin.
Riddhima tried to speak, but her throat has suddenly gone all dry inside.
Rahul broke the killing silence, "Leaving so soon? Not even a single good ' bye?"
Finally Riddhima gathered all her courage and said, "What are you doing here? ...and...and how did you get in??"
"Elementary, my dear. Now forget about all that. Don't stress yourself too much. How are you?"
"WHY ARE YOU HERE?"
"I can answer that" said another voice. It came from the door. Salmaan had somehow opened Riddhima's door from the outside, and had now stepped in, "Did I miss anything?" Salmaan said with a grin.
"Salmaan?" Riddhima couldn't understand what was going on. Salmaan and Rahul? Rahul and Salmaan? Wait, but wasn't it Salmaan and Armaan? Riddhima felt her head spinning.
"Haha, surprise!" Rahul said idiotically.
"But, how? Why?" Riddhima couldn't get her words straight.
Rahul got up from the bed. His black cape slid on the floor like darkness behind him. His hair was gelled back. Riddhima felt like she was in a Harry Potter scene. Salmaan was that white haired freak, and Rahul was Professor Snape.
Rahul slithered around Riddhima like a snake in a circle; keeping a close eye on her, "Dear, dear Riddhima. I swear, I really do; I tried to keep such a close eye on you. I tried to protect you in your every step. Trust me, when you slept...you not only slept for yourself, but for me as well. I had each one of your breaths timed from the moment you were born. Everything was going fine, until that worthless Armaan started his foolish games. The minute you stepped into his house; you not only ruined my plans, but also brought your doom. Oh sweet Riddhima; now tell me, what can I do?"
Riddhima was extremely confused, "I don't understand what you're saying. What do you mean by my doom?"
"No questions Riddhima, unless asked," Rahul snapped back in a harsh and frightening tone.
Riddhima quieted down instantly. She looked towards Salmaan, who for some reason had formed his hands into tightly gripped fists, at the action of Rahul shouting at her. Riddhima swallowed some saliva and tried to calm down.
"Now listen to me Riddhima," Rahul continued, "I never wanted to look like the bad guy. You forced me to; remember that." Riddhima couldn't understand what was the point to all this talk.
Rahul finished his circle around Riddhima, and stood exactly parallel to her. He was one a few inches taller that her. Riddhima followed Rahul's hand with her eyes. It smoothed a hair off his forehead, then went down to the side of his belt, and out of the cape it rose with a gun in its hand!
Riddhima began to panic and looked at Salmaan for help. Salmaan kept a stern and focused face, but she could see the sweat rolling down his neck.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Riddhima yelled.
Riddhima tried to run for the open door, but Salmaan quickly closed it and blocked her way.
"CEASE HER!" Rahul ordered Salmaan.
Salmaan grabbed Riddhima and locked her arms behind her. Riddhima screamed, but there was no use. No one could hear her.
Rahul put the gun right at the middle of Riddhima's forehead; a place where she had applied a bindi a few days before her trip to Greece...her terrible, terrible trip to Greece.
Rahul pulled back the trigger and put his finger on the place to shoot the gun, "Now my child, you may ask questions."
"WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?" Riddhima screamed.
"No, no. Calm down. Are you not civilized?" Rahul teased.
Riddhima took a deep breath, "Why me?"
"No one can answer that question for you my dear. Not even I. You can ask that question to God once you reach him," Rahul cleared his throat and instantly changed his voice to sound innocent and loving, "Oh Riddhima, do you really think I, ME, from all people would want to do this?? I'm your best friend remember?? We've played together and known each other since we were merely children!" Rahul sincerely did look sad, but then he changed his facial expressions back to how they were originally, "But no one else can do this, than me. So any last words, princess?"
This was it. This was really it. Riddhima had seen these kinds of scenes in movies, where the villain asked for any last words. Now, this was reality. It was not a scene from a movie, this was her life. These were going to be her ACTUAL last words. Riddhima took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She quickly prayed to God, and then pictured her mother's face.
Rahul spat again, "Well, ANY LAST WORDS?" Rahul smiled at Salmaan, "I've always wanted to say those words! Who knew being the bad guy was so much fun! I wasted so many years on being the good guy. No wonder Armaan won't come to the good side!"
Riddhima closed her eyes again and imagined Armaan there beside her, holding her hand. Then she opened her eyes and said, "Last words? I'll tell you last words. I would rather die from a slow and painful death, than be killed by a cheap ass like you. You don't even deserve the privilege of life, so what am I supposed to say to a worthless piece of shit like YOU," Riddhima spat on his face.
"HEY!" Rahul shouted in anger, and just when Rahul was about to shoot the bullet through her head; at that exact moment something...or someone came crashing through the suite's window and onto the floor. The thing was dressed in all white and hit Rahul really hard on the head during its landing on the floor. Rahul's gun dropped from his hand and he fell to the ground, with his hand placed on his throbbing head, which had begun to bleed. Salmaan instantly let go of Riddhima's hands and ran for Rahul. Riddhima pushed Salmaan away, but he dodged her and grabbed for the gun. Riddhima gasped in horror, while Salmaan hit Rahul's heat continuously with all the wine bottles placed on the counted as decoration and room service.
"GO!" Salmaan shouted to Riddhima. He pointed to the person dressed in white who was standing there waiting for Riddhima. Riddhima ran to the mysterious figure. The white thing wrapped its arm around her waist, and said in a low and deep voice into Riddhima's ear, "Hold on tight."
Riddhima swallowed hard and then quickly glanced back at Salmaan. He smiled at the unconscious Rahul and looked up at Riddhima's confused and fearful expression, "It's ok! Don't worry; you won't get rid of me this quick!" He smiled warmly, when Riddhima laughed with relief at his statement.
Before Riddhima could know what would happen, the white figure took the last remaining wine bottle and smashed it on Riddhima's head. The last thing she remembered from that night, was when she asked the mysteriously masked man in pain, "What? Why?"
He had simply replied, "Time to go!"
CHAPTER 35 ~ Hiding Behind a Mask!
Riddhima woke up with a massive headache. It was broad daylight outside and the room was dark, due to the large curtains being drawn. Yet, a few rays of sunlight still poured in through the curtains which drifted softly from the breeze blowing through the open windows that they covered. Riddhima brought her hand to her forehead, realizing that it was wrapped with a white bandage.
Just when Riddhima was about to get out of bed and pull her covers away, someone opened the curtains, letting the full affect of sunlight pour in. The dark and mysterious room suddenly lightened up and revealed to be a place that Riddhima did not recognize. However, she did recognize the person who opened the curtains for her.
"Armaan?" Riddhima asked, to make sure it was him.
"Rise and shine Princess," Armaan answered back. He smiled at her as if she was a child and then sat down next to her side on the bed.
"Where am I?" Riddhima asked, her head suddenly felt very dizzy.
"Japan." Armaan answered another quick question with ease and a broader smile.
"JAPAN?!?" Riddhima shouted a little too loudly.
"No need to get too excited, my dear."
"WHAT AM I," Riddhima took a deep breath to calm down, "What are we doing in Japan?"
"We're attending a wedding."
"What? A wedding?" Riddhima was so confused.
"Yes, I believe that's what I said."
"But, who's?" Riddhima closed her eyes again, to prevent herself from fainting.
"It's a surprise. Anyways, I want you to get dressed! Today's the engagement! Now, we don't want to get late for that, do we?"
"You're going too?" Riddhima asked foolishly.
"Of course! Now, it wouldn't be a true event if I wasn't there, right?"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure myself," Armaan winked at her and then got up from the bed. He went over to the closet across from the bed and opened it. Inside were numerous gowns and dresses of all colors. They were mostly the colors that Riddhima wore, and the styles were of her choice.
"What are those for?" Riddhima asked.
"Obviously for the prettiest gowns in town, would be for the hottest girl in the world."
"Me?" Riddhima smiled.
Riddhima pouted and made a genuine sad face. She really did think that Armaan meant what he said about Sheila. If Armaan really thought that SHEILA was better looking that her, then she would have to pick up her own pace...sincerely.
Armaan's smile quickly changed to a stressed look he raced towards Riddhima. He sat down beside her, and with one go, took her face into his hands and kissed her all over the face...except the lips.
Riddhima tried to take advantage of this situation and pull his lips onto hers, but he quickly let go and put his finger on her lips firmly. The strong grip of his finger on her lips turned her on.
"No." Armaan said casually, yet with a bit of sternness in his voice.
"What was that for?" Riddhima was still trying to breath at a normal pace, but her heart was leaping out of her chest.
"I cannot bear to see you upset in any way. Promise me you will never be sad or pout?"
"I'm sorry Armaan, but I cannot promise you that," Riddhima replied frankly.
"And why is that?"
"I cannot sit in a corner and laugh, play and smile all my life. What if tomorrow you leave me again like you did in the past? What if I decide to come to your house one day, and then realize that it is vacant and that no one knows where you are, and no one even knows your name! Should I bring out the drums and trumpets and begin to play them in joy? I can't promise no tears Armaan, if my eyes won't stop crying."
Armaan looked like he had been plunged in the heart with a knife over and over again. His face revealed all the tension and heartache he had had over the years of their separation. Plus, it was true. Ever since Armaan had walked out of Riddhima's life, it was as if he had taken his soul and sold it to the Devil. There was no more life, unless Riddhima was there. It was as if, Riddhima was his soul.
"I am truly sorry Riddhima." Armaan apologized.
Those words pierced Riddhima's heart open into a billion pieces. She took her hand and covered Armaan's mouth with it, "Hush! Look at me, we're finally here together, and I'm ruining the moment with nonsense. Forgive me Armaan." Riddhima hugged Armaan as tightly as she could, and Armaan hugged her back 100x harder. They both sat there in silence, remembering the moment and saving the memory of a lifetime. Nothing could compare to the peace and satisfaction that they both found in each other's arms. Nothing could compare to the love that they felt for each other. Nothing could compare to the secrets that both held for each other, in their own hearts.
Riddhima waited for Armaan to say something more. She wanted him to say those three words that every woman wanted to hear from the love of her life at least once before she died. Riddhima waited and waited and waited until all her patience vanished, and she let go of him and his breath-taking hug.
Armaan looked at her feeling very confused. Riddhima could tell that he understood what she was wanting from him. Yet, it was evident in Armaan's eyes that he felt the way she felt for him, but for some odd reason could not say it out loud.
Armaan got up once more form the bed and then started to walk towards the door. Riddhima watched in silence, until he turned around and smiled at her again, "Hurry up! Don't make me wait for too long this time!" Then he opened the door and stepped out of it into the hotel's corridor. As he stood there, facing the wall...the heavy door slowly closed behind him, covering every inch of him from Riddhima's eyes.
Riddhima got up from her bed like a lazy bug and quickly took a shower and brushed her teeth. Before walking out of the bathroom, she wrapped her body with a towel, in case Rahul had decided to wait for her to come out naked again.
With all the courage she had, Riddhima stepped out of the bathroom with a plumbing stick in one hand for protection against Rahul. When she realized that she was the only one in the bedroom, and that there was not Rahul or Salmaan or Armaan, she set the stick to a side, and then lied down on her bed with a sigh of relief.
"What a day..." Riddhima said out loud to herself. She then went up to the closet and opened it to see what her choices were for the mysterious event happening later in the day. After screaming in distress for what to wear, Riddhima closed her eyes and randomly picked the first dress that her hands laid themselves on. It was perfect. Riddhima jumped up and down with glee and then raced to the bathroom to put the dress, make-up, jewellery, etc. on!
After getting ready, Riddhima looked at herself in the body length mirror. Something was missing from her overall appearance...a scarf! Riddhima looked around the room to see if her suitcase was anywhere.
Riddhima couldn't remember anything from what had happened during her last few moments in Greece. All she could remember was when she came out of the bathroom and Rahul saw her naked. Then she covered he body with her towel and was about to escape when Salmaan suddenly appeared to increase her problems at the time! All Riddhima could recall was until the part when Rahul put his gun to her forehead and asked her for her last words. After that, everything else was a blur.
Riddhima found her suitcase on the other side of the bed. She quickly opened it and found the perfect scarf that nicely completed her whole outfit. Then she closed her suitcase and put it back to its spot. Riddhima was about to leave the room, when the sudden thought of someone robbing her stuff came to her mind. Riddhima quickly picked up her suitcase and thought of a place to hide it. It didn't fit in the closet, and the bathroom was a stupid place. Riddhima finally decided to place it under the bed.
As Riddhima pushed her suitcase under the bed, she realized there was something else under there already. It was another suitcase! Riddhima pulled it out, and unzipped it slowly. Inside were several clothes. They were all men clothes. She recognized many of them that belonged to Armaan! Riddhima smiled, as she picked out one of his shirts and smelled it. It smelt wonderful. Just like his body odour which was like the scent of Dove soap. Riddhima was about to close the suitcase and put it back under the bed, when she noticed a place garbage bag at the very bottom.
She carefully took it out from the bottom and untied the tight knot at the top. Inside was a whole, one piece white suit. It looked very familiar, but Riddhima could not remember where she had seen it before. Riddhima sighed in confusion and was about to put everything back in as she found it, until she realized there was one more thing in the bag. It was a white mask. Suddenly Riddhima's head began to hurt, and she got vivid memories of her last night in Greece. Salmaan had knocked a few wine bottles on Rahul's head, and then a man dressed this white suit and mask had appeared. Salmaan had told Riddhima to trust the white masked man and this man had hit something on her head before they jumped out of the window! Riddhima grabbed her head in pain, and lied down on the floor for a while to regain her strength. This all meant that Armaan was the white masked man who had saved her from Rahul. Salmaan, who had helped Rahul at the time being, had then aided Armaan in saving Riddhima. Who was Salmaan faithful to? Where was Salmaan anyway? Riddhima forced herself to stop thinking and quickly stuffed the white clothing back into the bag as she found it. She tied a double knot to the black garbage bag as it originally had, and then stuffed it at the bottom of the suitcase, which she closed and tucked back under the bed, along with her own.
Riddhima quickly got up, and put the room's key from the counter into her purse. Then she closed the door behind her, as she walked to end of the corridor, making her way to the elevator which would transport her to Armaan...was he still hers? This, she needed to find out.
CHAPTER 36 ~ The Heart, or the Life's Secrets?
Armaan couldn't believe his eyes. Riddhima walked down the stairs into the lobby. She was wearing a dark purple dress, strapless, with magnificent white pearls and a cashmere light purple shawl; draped in a loop around her arms. She wore black, pencil heels, with her hair let loose. It dropped on her shoulders like a sprinkling fountain, wavy and lengthy. Her make-up was not over done and had a natural look to it. An illiterate man would assume that the woman had not done any make-up at all. Her lips were juicy pink and her eyes sparkled like the million rupee chandelier shining above them in the meeting area.
"Excuse me miss, but would you care to be my date for the evening?" Armaan acted like a wealthy gentlemen.
"I believe I shall," Riddhima smiled sweetly and looped her arm with his. They walked around the corner in the hotel, where two grand doors stood open to the hotel's grand ballroom. On either side of the doors stood doormen dressed in red, standing still as statues. "Welcome," one of them said, saluting as Armaan took Riddhima into the room.
Inside, the whole theme of the party was dark colors. Colors like: brown, black, white, purple, burgundy; dark forest green, navy, etc. Riddhima was so happy she had randomly picked out this purple dress instead of that light parrot green or baby blue one. Riddhima thanked God and then smiled at Armaan, who was carefully studying her facial expressions at the moment.
"Don't worry. If you had worn one of the other dresses, like the light pink one, then I would have told you to changed...no matter how dashing you would have looked!" Armaan winked and then brought her towards a circle of people chatting away. One of the ladies in the group had a very obnoxious laugh that echoed through the room and made some want to puke. Some, as in Riddhima especially wanted to just drop her shawl to the ground and slap this woman.
"Control your anger Riddhima," Armaan whispered in her ear, as they approached the circle. This comment caught Riddhima by alarm, because it almost felt as though Armaan had just read her mind! She hadn't said a single word since they walked into this grand ballroom!
"Why hello there Mr. Rogers," Armaan politely shook hands with another man a few years older than him, and kissed cheeks with his wife, "This is Riddhima, my date for the evening."
Riddhima politely smiled at all the people Armaan introduced her to. Armaan knew a lot of people at this party. It almost felt as though this was their engagement, and not someone else's!
Finally, Riddhima could no longer smile anymore, and told Armaan she was going to the bar area to get a drink. Armaan nodded at her with reassurance, and then continued talking business with three other men who seemed to be his clients. They all acted as if they hadn't seen him for ages.
Riddhima sat down on one of the chairs at the bar area, with a martini in her hand. Finally she had gotten a place to sit down and relax her sore legs and feet from standing!
As Riddhima faced the other guests, while seated, the waiter behind the counter came close to her ear and whispered her name. Riddhima almost spilled her drink all over her dress in shock and turned around. It was Rahul with a fake beard and moustache on his face!
Riddhima was about to scream, when Rahul quickly covered her mouth with his hand and spun her around again to face the other guests. No one had noticed him doing any of this. Even Armaan stood at a distance in ease, talking to other men. Riddhima felt a knife up against her back, as threaten to her screaming or drawing any attention.
"Listen Riddhima, you and I know very well, that I'm not going to hurt you here in this crowd."
Riddhima smiled as a woman passed by looking at her, "Then why are you here?? And how did you find me??"
"Save the questions for later sweetheart. Just listen to me first. I don't intend on harming you, but there's some things you need to make clear."
"You need to make a few things clear Rahul! Stop interfering in my life!" Riddhima stopped talking instantly, when the knife poked a little into against her skin.
"Armaan is not the person who you think of him to be Riddhima. I'm the good guy! He's the bad one! He's just making you seem like I'm the villain, but it's actually the other way around!"
"Um...Rahul, how can I believe you're the good guy when you have a knife ready to be plunged at my back?"
"This is only to make you listen to what I have to say Riddhima. I don't really need to waste my time to find you and spy your every move. Seriously, you're life is as boring as watching an ant crawl up and down the same rock over and over again."
"Thanks for the compliment."
Rahul chuckled lowly, "You always had the brains. Now listen, we can't waste any time. Look Riddhima, your death results in the safety of the world. Your love for Armaan may be pure, but in return he cares as much about you as a bird does when eating a worm. It may seem to you right now that Armaan truly loves you, but if he did, wouldn't he have said it to you by now?"
"What do you mean? Armaan has told me several times he loves me!" Riddhima felt the need to defend her Armaan.
"How about lately?"
"How would you know?!" Riddhima shouted a little loudly in frustration. A few heads turned around in her direction, but Riddhima quickly covered up all tension with a gentle smile. If only Armaan would turn her head once and see her, but he was too far away to even hear her sigh in distress!
"I know everything Riddhima, everything. I've been watching you from your first breath till now. I'm not here to kill you...yet...but I want to make a few things clear to you. Armaan is not who you think he is. You have no clue what he is capable of and for what reason he is using you!"
"I know everything there is to know about Armaan! We have a very open relationship!"
"A few days back, you both weren't even talking to each other. Ok, if you know so much about Armaan, then tell me why he hasn't kissed you yet on the lips?"
"He's very protective...that's all," even Riddhima didn't know the answer to that question. She wished she did though.
"That proves my point. The biggest secret to your 'relationship' is the fact about why can't kiss his lips. You know nothing Riddhima. Just ask him once! Ask him who he really is! Show him that you already know, and watch his face turn from that cheery red to green! Then, once you find out for yourself Riddhima, come and I will be waiting...just like always, in the shadows. Riddhima, I AM your shadow."
Riddhima quickly turned around to see Rahul, but he had already disappeared. She quickly got up from the seat and raced to Armaan's side. He smiled at her warmly and put his arm around her waist. Suddenly a spotlight shone on an elderly woman and a younger man by her side.
The woman spoke into the microphone, "Hi everyone! Thank you so much for coming you Bill and my engagement party! I'd like to introduce a few very important people! First of all my first ex-husband, George! My second ex, Michael! My third ex, Christopher! My fourth ex, Joseph! And now, my five sons, Sanjeev, Sahil, Sunil, Satvir and Salmaan! And, last but not least, my fianc, Bill!" Everyone clapped and hooted as this woman kissed his fianc on the lips and the people she acknowledged, awkwardly stood there by her side watching her. They all looked like they were in pain, and were serving a punishment for being related to this woman.
Riddhima looked up at the man that the woman called Salmaan. It really was him! Riddhima smiled and waved hello when he looked in her direction. However, he ignored her and looked away. Riddhima felt a weird feeling inside. She felt hurt from Salmaan's behaviour, but she would have to think about that later. Right now, she had other things on her mind. Right now, she had to get to the bottom of the biggest secret of her life, which she didn't even know!
CHAPTER ~ 37 ~ The Truth.
Riddhima hurried up the stairs, towards the level upon which her suite was located. Armaan jogged right behind her, both hand in hand.
"What's wrong Riddhima?? Can you please tell me at least why we left the party so soon?"
Riddhima didn't reply, instead she just ran up the stair faster, until she got to the exit door that brought them into the hallway on the fourth floor.
Riddhima raced towards her suite's door, with Armaan catching up right behind with both of their hands tied into each other's.
Riddhima stopped in front of the closed door and looked for her key.
"Riddhima! What is the meaning of all this rudeness?!" Armaan yelled in frustration.
Finally Riddhima opened the door and dragged Armaan inside. She quickly closed the door behind her and then walked into the middle of the room and pushed Armaan against the wall.
His back slammed up against the wall and Riddhima locked his shoulders back with her hands, leaning in close to him so that their chests touched. Riddhima took a silent, deep breath to calm down and then took one of her hands and traced Armaan's strong and masculine jaw-line with her index finger. Armaan closed his eyes at the sudden intimacy between; capturing the moment.
Riddhima took her finger and drew a symmetrical line down his chin, neck, chest, belly button, and then stopped at this belt. She gripped his belt with a stern and firm hold. She yanked his belt towards her, drawing their bodies even closer to each other.
Armaan let out a deep sigh, and his lips parted from their original stressed position. His wide eyes, closed slightly, as he deeply gazed into Riddhima's exotic eyes.
Riddhima brought her lips extremely close to Armaan's and whispered at a distance, so that Armaan could feel her breath against his lips, "Kiss me."
Armaan subconsciously began to lean forward, just as Riddhima did. Riddhima closed her eyes slowly. This was it. Finally of her fantasies of feeling Armaan's beautiful, golden lips against hers would come true!!
Just as Riddhima was about to fully lock her lips onto his, a hand came in between and Armaan pushed Riddhima back forcefully. She flew across the room and landed on the bed with a bounce.
Tears began to roll down Riddhima's cheeks; they burned everywhere they left a mark.
"DO...NOT...EVER...TRY...THAT...AGAIN!" Armaan shouted through deep breaths. He was angry, and a hard wrinkle formed on his forehead. Riddhima had never felt so scared in her life. She sat there on the bed and watched in horror as this new Armaan walked towards her and pushed her back again, so that she was lying on her back.
He came onto the bed, and crawled on top of her. She starred in shock with wide, open eyes, as he starred her down into a trance.
"You want my kiss, don't you? You want it so bad, right?" Armaan screeched through his gritted teeth.
Riddhima had never seen this side of him. Maybe Rahul was right, how much did she after all know about Armaan? Nothing, really... Riddhima watched as Armaan brought his lips to her neck and kissed her all over. Then he kissed her on the cheeks, sucking away the tears with his tongue and lips.
As much as Riddhima was scared, she also had never wanted Armaan so bad. She wanted him to place his lips all over her. Places where all girls want a man to explore at least once. Riddhima groaned exotically, as Armaan kissed down her neck, and brought the side of dress down, as he kissed her shoulders and just above her breasts.
Riddhima placed her hands on Armaan's head, and felt his hair. She moved it one direction and then the other. She guided his head to her other shoulder, and then forced it to go lower, and lower, until her bra came into the way. Armaan tried pushing himself higher her neck, bit Riddhima resisted any place higher than her Adam's apple.
"Riddhima, please control," Armaan whispered through small breaths.
Riddhima smiled. Why did it always seem that Armaan was the good guy and she was the bad one when it came to these body adventures? She remembered how previously, he always was the one to take precautions. But, not this time.
Riddhima pushed him away from her. The push was accidentally a bit too strong and Armaan embarrassingly fell of the bed.
"Oh no! I'm so sorry!" Riddhima quickly got up from the bed to help him up. He backed away from her, so that he was sitting on the floor with his back against the wall, opposite from her. She became confused and sat down on the ground as well, with her back against the bed. It was awkward.
"What's gotten into you Riddhima?" Armaan asked feeling entirely confused and shocked from her sudden behaviour.
Riddhima blushed like a tomato and then looked down at her feet.
"Answer me Riddhima, what's wrong? I thought us being together again like this would mean a lot to you! This why I arranged all of this to happen, yet why aren't you satisfied?"
Riddhima felt offended for some odd reason, "Am I satisfied? How about you Armaan, are you happy right now, or is this all a compulsion. Are you staying with me out of your own free will, or is this all another huge game or secret??" Riddhima yelled out loud across from the room. She felt her eyes getting wet.
"What do you mean? What are you trying to say Riddhima that I have another motive behind all of this?" Armaan said confidently as if nothing had ever happened.
Riddhima looked straight into his eyes. As crazy as it seemed to trust anything Rahul would say to her, Riddhima still realized that there was truth behind Rahul's words. If Armaan really loved and trusted her, then why had he never answered any of her questions? If she really knew what she was dealing with, then why was the situation always so confusing? All these questions were clogging up her brain, and so Riddhima brought out all the courage she had remaining, "I know why you're doing all this Armaan. Why you can't kiss me, why you're always hiding, why you always look down when I ask you a question...and now I want to hear it from your mouth. I know the truth Armaan; I just want to hear it from your mouth now." Riddhima gulped in a load of saliva and stared at Armaan with wide eyes.
Armaan froze. Riddhima knew? What. Armaan's whole organized and well-thought out plan just flushed down the toilet in a second. How could Riddhima know? Was she faking it? No, Riddhima had never done anything like this before. Armaan calmed down, but kept his facial expression stern for her to see. He had to choose his words correctly. One mistake could lead to spilling out all the secrets. Armaan loosened his tie and put it on the ground next to him. Yet, who could have told Riddhima about this? How did she find out? Rahul...no, Armaan was with her the whole evening, how could Rahul just come suddenly? If he had, then Armaan would have sensed it. Another question was...how MUCH did Riddhima know?
"What are you talking about?" Armaan asked wearily.
Riddhima panicked, but tried to question him again, "Everything."
"How?" Armaan replied.
Riddhima thought about this question. 'How'...this meant Rahul was right. There was SOMETHING that Armaan was hiding from her. The kiss on the lips was not an act of insecurity as she had imagined...it was a deadly secret that could not be imagined.
"Just say it Armaan. Don't test my patience," Riddhima tried to come up with a strong front.
Armaan tried to study her face. She looked very confident. Yet, why was he not able to get into her thoughts? He could easily always do it before, but why not this time? Armaan took a deep breath and let his guard down.
"Ok, but not now" he simply replied.
Riddhima felt frustrated. She crawled towards Armaan and then took his hand and placed it on her own head, "Swear on my head Armaan. Now tell me everything."
Armaan quickly took his hand off her head, "What's the meaning of this?!? You know I don't believe in such things!"
"I know, but I also know that you do believe in them, when I strongly do too. Now tell me Armaan, or see my dead body tomorrow." Riddhima said with victory.
Armaan put his hand on her mouth to stop her from saying such inauspicious things, "Never say death and your name together Riddhima. I can't afford that to happen!"
"Then say everything Armaan."
Armaan took his hand off her mouth and looked away, "There's too much to tell."
"I have all my life to hear," Riddhima replied back stubbornly.
"Then we don't have much time."
Armaan got up from where he was sitting and went over to the bed. He took out a suitcase from under and opened it. The suitcase revealed female clothing, under-garments, jewellery, scarves and shoes. He became confused and looked at Riddhima. She blushed and quickly closed it in front of him, "Sorry, I couldn't find another place to keep it safe."
Armaan gave a small smirk and then tightened his face once more. Then he took out the other suitcase, which belonged to him, and unzipped it. He took out all the men clothing and threw them onto the bed. He quickly took the garbage bag from under and examined it, before opening it.
"I see you've already seen what I was about to show you," Armaan accused Riddhima.
Riddhima blushed and looked at the bag, indicating that Armaan still open and show what he intended to show. Armaan did so, and took out the whole one-piece white suit. Then he took out the white mask and placed it on his face, "Remember anything?"
Riddhima stared at him, but couldn't understand what he was talking about, "No?"
Armaan looked at her and said, "Think harder," he then placed his hand on her forehead and closed his eyes, "Close your eyes and concentrate on my hand against your hand."
Riddhima did as she was told, and all of a sudden she saw all the images she had remembered earlier about the night that the mysterious white masked man had appeared and saved her life with Salmaan's help. Riddhima remembered the whole entire moment, until the part when the white masked man banged the wine bottle against her head. Suddenly a pain burst into Riddhima's head, and her eyes fluttered open. Armaan took his hand off her head, and Riddhima grabbed at it, as if feeling a massive migraine.
"WHAT WAS THAT?" Riddhima shouted.
Armaan took the white mask off, and stared at her in silence. "What you saw was what happened that night."
"How did you do that?!?"
"I'll explain it all later, just calm down for now. Listen, I can't tell you this all right now. I don't know where you got your information from that you keep getting angry at me for, but obviously whatever you've been told has been told in the wrong way!"
"IN THE WRONG WAY?? ARMAAN IF I RELIED ON YOU TO TELL ME, THEN I WOULD HAVE NEVER FOUND OUT!"
"Tell me then, what do you know?"
Truthfully, Riddhima didn't know anything. She was just doing as Rahul had told her to do to find out what was the truth behind all the secrets that Armaan kept from her. All those secrets, which had built up as a large brick wall between them and prevented them from forming any legal relationship. Riddhima looked at Armaan with a stern face, trying to force all the truth out of him.
"Look Riddhima, right now is not the best time."
"THEN WHEN IS THE BEST TIME??"
"JUST NOT NOW, OK?" Armaan shouted back, but he suddenly retained his anger and quieted down, "Sorry."
"I just want to hear everything from you, Armaan, that's all. Just tell me right now. There's no better time than the present to do an act!"
"Sometimes Riddhima, the present can be the bad time."
"But right now, it isn't. JUST TELL ME ALREADY ARMAAN!"
"AFRAID OF WHAT?"
"...afraid...afraid of losing you after you find out..."
Riddhima looked into Armaan's eyes and felt his pain, "Look Armaan, I promise. I promise I will not think differently of you, or question you for anything that you are ashamed or guilty of, ok? I just need to hear everything from you once to make sure what...what I know...is right, or wrong. That's all. So, just forget about everything ok? Forget about all that is that you are scared of right now, and just spit all those secret out Armaan. It's time."
Armaan looked at Riddhima and then took a deep breath, "Ok, you're right."
"Finally," Riddhima sighed in victory.
"It all started when..." Armaan began his story.
CHAPTER 39 ~ SECRETS REVEALED.
A shadow was spotted in every corner. A new face was seen in every direction. A new motive was discovered in every place. An ending to a very long saga was drawing near.
Armaan turned the corner and ran into a nearby, abandoned warehouse. It had faced many similar hardships that Armaan had experienced himself: beating, wearing down, fire burning within, etc. Armaan ran up the stairs as gun shots were heard and seen in all imaginable space. Time was running out. It was no longer by his side. He reached the third floor of the building, the highest point, and hid behind an old, steel cabinet. The other men rushed up the broken down stairs and made their way closer to his fate.
Armaan took out the amulet from his pocket and nervously looked around in case there was another witnessing this historic event. Quickly he dug the deepest hole that time allowed him to dig into the ground with his cupped hands, and buried the amulet there forever. The other men furiously searched around for Armaan, but the eerie and dark atmosphere was still on Armaan's side. After several moments, when the men gave up and exited the building; they set the warehouse on fire so that anyone still inside could no longer find any further escape route.
Armaan panicked and went around the room, looking for a way to escape the burning walls. A cracked window nearby, gave exit to the fields behind the warehouse. Armaan looked out the window and saw that none of Rahul's men were there. He jumped out and landed on his knees. Quickly he ran as fast as his feet could carry him. Before he vanished into the shadows, Armaan looked back once at the building glowing with flames. The old man had told him that the stone was indestructible. In the old Japanese man's words, "There is no element of water, fire, nature, air or life which can destroy the power of this amulet. When once placed by the owner, it cannot be removed by any other than the owner himself." Armaan nodded his head in wisdom and agreement to the prophecy and rushed into the darkness.
"Is this all real?" Riddhima asked curiously. The story that Armaan was telling her of his past seemed too adventurous and incredible to believe. Yet, this tale could possibly hold some truth, after all Armaan was not a predictable person.
"You asked for the truth. So just listen before I change my mind."
"Ok ok!" Riddhima quickly replied. She couldn't afford to let go of this golden chance that she had been waiting for so long.
"Anyways, back to my story..."
"What is it child?" The old man asked Armaan.
"I have lost the amulet Master!" Armaan replied in fear.
The old man placed his hand on Armaan's forehead and magically saw the whole incident in which Armaan had lost the stone. "Ah, I see. Not to worry my son. Do not fret over such meaningless situations."
"I do not understand Master," Armaan could not believe how he was not supposed to be tense when he had just lost the only source that could give immortality. Armaan coughed blood onto the ground. The blood was absorbed by the soil that it fell upon and left no trace or mark.
"Wait, wait, wait!" Riddhima interrupted.
"What is it now?" Armaan stopped himself from continuing. He looked extremely annoyed, "I was finally getting into the whole mood of the story again."
"I'm sorry! Actually, I was just wondering...this stone that you're talking about...is this the same stone that you told me about many years ago?" Riddhima felt so clever for finding the connection.
"Of course," Armaan rolled his eyes, "Can I go back to the story now?"
"Sorry," Riddhima apologized, "Please continue..."
"Child, you have questioned the amulet's power with a force of nature; fire," the old man spoke slowly for Armaan to understand each and every word.
"What? I swear Master! I never challenged its power!" Armaan tensed even more.
"I know son, I know. You did not directly question the amulet's power, but leaving it there in the fire and not bringing it out with you has struck all the forces of nature which gathered a hundred years ago to create it. Now, that you have questioned it; the soul of the amulet will not be removed until a another full cycle of a hundred years."
"A HUNDRED YEARS?!? How can this be possible?!?"
"That is all, my son," the old man replied, "Now I must go."
"No please! Just answer two more questions! Please!" Armaan pleaded with all his might.
"For you, two is nothing. Ask away."
Armaan cleared his throat, "Can anyone else remove that stone??"
"No, Rahul cannot. Only you can, because you are the one who has truly questioned it."
"Where can I find it after a hundred years?" Armaan asked, while coughing more blood onto the ground.
"Remember child, you have only one more cycle left to your life. The amulet first gave you three cycles to live. After this one cycle, you will turn to stone and perish into a billion pieces of dust. You and Rahul were both some of my best students, but only you turned out to be the chosen. You have gone this whole way to get that stone; now do not lose hope when it comes to the test of patience."
"Yes Master, but where can I find it?" Armaan coughed out even more blood.
"You will find it on the same location you left it. Keep eye son of that burnt down warehouse. After a hundred years, you will find the same amulet in the same dirt that that building once stood proudly."
Armaan coughed a huge clot of blood out of his mouth and wiped his red mouth with the sleeve of this shirt.
The old man stood up and turned around. He was about to leave, until he quickly turned around and grabbed his head. He immediately sat down and his eyes began to spun inside his skull.
"What is wrong Master?! Are you ok?"
The old man suddenly stopped and brought Armaan's face closer to his by grabbing at his collar and bringing it forward. "There is a girl."
"A girl? Which girl?" Armaan became confused.
"She has not come yet, but she will. She will soon arrive. Wait patiently son, for around 70 years. When she comes, only she can help you get the amulet."
"What? How can a girl help me get the amulet?!? Is she going to be one of the new followers??"
"No son, she will be a mortal. No power, no strength, no endurance. Yet, she is the only one who can retrieve the amulet."
"WHAT? HOW? I thought you just said only I could get it?!"
"Yes, yes son. But I said that according to the set rules passed down by our ancestors. But each force of nature that you use to test the amulet's power has a different prophecy to it! The element of fire has always been the odd one from them all. The fire element claims that it will send a descendent. A girl, who will be of your human age when time comes around to retrieving the amulet. This girl will be born under the fifth star on this same exact date."
"How will I know which girl it is?! There will be a thousand girls born on this date in the future! How will I know which one it is??" Armaan coughed more blood onto the wet soil around him.
"You will know son, you will know. Your fate and her destiny will bring you to each other. Leave it on time Armaan, leave it on time." Yet, that was what Armaan did not have; time.
"Fine then, I'll leave it on time." Armaan became frustrated and the old man released his grip on Armaan's collar.
"Remember one important thing Armaan," the old man said his last words, "There will be many others of your league who have wanted, still want and will want that amulet. After all, this amulet that you have joined your name with now has been searched by all our ancestors in the past. Yet, none were of so strong – willed and genuinely true as you are. You may present yourself as the bad one. You may give other impressions that you are with evil, but I will always know my son, that evil is not born with one, but obtained later on. No matter what the world thinks of you Armaan, I will always know your truth. Never trust another besides me to be your own, Armaan. Doing so, will only bring your own downfall. Even this girl..." the old man clutched his head and his eyes began to spin again.
"Are you ok Master??" Armaan panicked.
"...even this girl, Armaan...can never...be...trusted." And with that, the old man fell to the ground and turned into stone, where a sudden wind knocked him into a billion pieces of dust.
"MASTER!" Armaan wept, as he lifted the pieces of dust in his hands and let them drop back onto the ground. A motion similar to an hourglass; time. Armaan's tear's moistened the dry dust, and the remaining ashes of his one and only master were absorbed into the soil. Armaan looked up into the dark sky and rose to his feet. He had no one of his own left in this world. He was as lonely as the last tree standing from a diminished forest. His branches were not ready to be cut quite yet...they still had a lot of growing left to do.
"Um...Armaan?" Riddhima hesitated to interrupt his story, but Armaan suddenly became quiet, as if he was visioning the whole event with his 'master' in silence.
Finally Armaan came out of his trance and starred at Riddhima, "That's pretty much it."
Riddhima starred back in silence until Armaan's words actually struck her, "Wait, what?? That's it?? What do you mean that's it?! Why can't you kiss me?! Who's this girl? Where's your master now? Do you have the amulet? What does it do? The Rahul you talked about isn't the same one I know, right? Where is the amulet now? I'm so confused!"
"CALM DOWN RIDDHIMA!" Armaan said slowly, "I'll answer all you questions when the time comes."
"NO ARMAAN, NOW!" Riddhima yelled. She calmed down and then looked at Armaan, "Stop hesitating, I promised I won't think differently of you. Just answer the questions I asked, and then that's it. No more, I promise."
Armaan starred at her and then nodded silently to himself. He then pointed to the clock behind him, "Look Riddhima, it is 8:40pm right now. I will answer as many questions as you want, and as fast as I can...until 8:45pm. You're time starts now."
Riddhima panicked with excitement, finally everything she was waiting for!
"Who's this girl?"
"You," Armaan replied. Riddhima decided to leave the shock to these answers for after.
"Where's your master now?"
"Do you have the amulet?"
"Where is it?"
"In this building."
"This building?? Is that why we're here?"
"Your past was in Japan?"
"Haven't you ever watched any kung fu or extreme action movies? They're all based in Japan, duh."
"Ok, ok. Am I the one who can retrieve the amulet?"
"Why is Rahul after me?"
"He wants the amulet too."
"Only you can have it, because you found it right?"
"Not necessarily. Only you can retrieve it. Yet, no one can take it forcefully out of your hands. Whoever you wish to give it to, only that person and claim it."
"So Rahul wants the amulet and that's why he's been trying to manipulate me?"
"Why is everyone so crazy for the amulet?"
"It contains the soul of a long lost ancestor from our clam. Her soul was the one with the most power. She went to fight against evil a long time ago and never returned. Instead her soul was trapped into this amulet. Whoever finds it and enchants her name twice with a true heart upon a kiss, will obtain her immortality. Then he who lives forever will be the new leader of all the generations to come."
"When will your cycle thing be complete?"
"What's the date today?" Riddhima forgot she was actually being timed at that moment.
"Riddhima, my cycle completes on your birth date."
Riddhima looked at him, feeling shocked. She had only 30 seconds to ask one more or maybe two more questions.
"Why can't you kiss me?"
"If I kiss you, then I will become mortal. For example, if I kiss you on the lips right now, then I will become mortal and will lose all my powers and strength. I will be a normal human. I will die like a normal human and will experience pain and hurt."
Only fifteen seconds left till time was up. Riddhima had to ask the question which was bugging her ever since she met Armaan.
"Do you only care so much about me, because you need the amulet...or because you love me?"
Armaan looked at her gulped saliva. Then he looked up and the second hand had come around to the "10" on the clock. It was now 8:46pm and 15 seconds, "Time's up."
"WHAT? No! I asked that question within the time frame! You HAVE to answer it!"
"No, if you remember Riddhima, I clearly said that I will try to answer as many questions as I can and as fast as I can within the time frame. There was never any agreement upon whether you asked as many questions or as fast as you can in 5 minutes." Armaan replied victoriously.
Riddhima let out a frustrated grunt and looked at Armaan. Had her vision on Armaan changed? ...No. She still regarded him as the same Armaan she met ten years ago. But why? Riddhima realized at that very exact point, how much she loved Armaan. He was someone in her life that completed her as a whole and gave her the courage to defend herself. He was that one medicine, that living without was not an option. Riddhima felt a huge burst of pain strike her heart. It buried it deep within her chest. Even though realized you are in love is one of the happiest moments for some in their lives. Riddhima, instead, felt extreme pain because if Armaan's words were really true...then Armaan and Riddhima could never be one.PARTS 38 AND 39 ARE ALSO POSTED ON PAGE 9 IN COMMENTS!!!
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