Posted: 19 December 2009 at 2:01am | IP Logged
Part 1: It's the beginning
Walking out from the well centrally-heated building, Riddhima gasped as the cold air slashed her face, and she hurriedly put on her coat, pulling up the collars to her neck and buttoning herself up as she took rapid steps towards her car, that was parked on the other side of the road. Cursing the city's unpredictable weather for the umpteenth time, she blew into her hands and rubbed them together to make them warm enough to function properly. December as it was, there was no chance of any sunlight to be bestowed on the inhabitants of this city, and though the month was reason enough for what her father used to call 'proper stuffing' in terms of clothes, she was only dressed in a flimsy dress pant and shirt, with a mere waist-coat being her covering. She cursed herself too for the improper clothing and bundled herself into the car as she reached it, switching on the heating system to full blast as she put the key into the ignition.
After a few minutes of driving, she was finally warmed up enough to think about matters other than the cold. As the traffic signal ahead blazed red, she stopped the car and the first thought to come to her mind was her meeting with the lawyer. It had been pretty good, she concluded, partially owing to the fact that the meeting was first of its kind she had ever had. The lawyer, her lawyer, she corrected herself; had been able to make a good impression on her, which was a exception, for Riddhima was known to not like most of the people she met. He had, however, been quite impressive, both in the terms of his work and persona.
What she had liked about him was how certain he had been about his view over the case; his utmost and definite confidence in knowing that he would take over this case even before she had gone over the basics with him. Her first instinct had told her that he was cashing in on the case because of the huge publicity and money attached to it; but she had later realized how unaffected he was by both the said vices. What had assured her of his intention had been his answer when she had, on an impulse, blurted out in front of him. 'Why are you so interested in this case?,'. He had just looked at her through those rim-less specs and smiled, almost invisibly, and replied, 'I'm not. You brought in this case for me yourself. I don't even know who you are.' She had been surprised, for she had been sure he would be knowing who she was, or at least what firm she was representing, but he was completely clueless. She wondered why, for he had been dealing in corporate law since quite some time, as she had found out about him. He had replied to this silent question of hers on his own, saying, 'Miss Gupta, I assure you, I'm not aware of how big-shot a name you are. All I'm aware of, right now, is this case of yours. Can we get back to that now?'.
Determination and firmness, that's what Riddhima summed him up into at the end of their first meeting. Within 5 minutes into the interview, she had known he was going to be her lawyer. Even before that, he knew he was going to take this case. She had found what she sought in people but was most of the times disappointed; she realized, he was as dedicated to his work as she was to hers. Perhaps sometimes, you seek in people what you yourself possess, and when you see it somewhere, anywhere, you instantly recognize it, even if other people can not. She had seen in him all what she had wanted in her lawyer, and that was a first with any person she had ever worked with. As she crossed the green signal, Riddhima knew she had made the right decision. A successful lawyer he was or not, she didn't care; for his certainty and infallibility had won her over. Armaan Mallik was definitely someone who had, for the first time in years, intrigued her.
After driving over a few miles, she once again tried Nikki's number, praying under her breath she would pick up the phone. Just when she was about to hang up, the phone was, unexpected though it was, answered.
'Helllooo??,' Nikki screeched into the phone and Riddhima flinched, but couldn't do more for the headphones were plugged deeply into her ears.
'Nikki, seriously, dump that phone of yours into some trash can...or better still, I will throw it myself today,' she replied, with not a very friendly tone. She was answered back by a scoff and a sarcastic reply.
'Aaaah, I was praying for a similar fate for yours earlier on in the day.'
'Really now? Let me see what could have kept me busy.....aaaaaahhh, the blind date you and that other dumb head set me up for and then sent me there on the pretence of some 'official meeting'. Seriously Nikki, HOW do you deal with my love life being practically thousands of kilometers away from me?,' Riddhima threw back at her and Nikki grinned.
'Well, that wouldn't be a problem now...I'm here, so I can hook up with Mike and set you up with....'
'More of his gay friends? NO, thank you! Spare me the horror,' Riddhima cut her in between, and this time, Nikki laughed loudly. Though frowning for the first few seconds, Riddhima gave in and joined her as well.
When the laughing bout was over, Nikki spluttered and said, 'No, seriously Ridz...when are you coming to meet me?,'
'Question of the Millenium, sweetheart.....only, London is spread over some 1500 kilometers of land...HOW am I supposed to find you without an address?,' Riddhima replied, parking the car over in front of a shop as she talked.
'Dude, there's something known as a NAVIGATION system, you know?,' Nikki replied, trying her hand at being efficient as she munched on a packet of chips. Riddhima rolled her eyes, out of habit, at her reply as she got out of the car.
'Wow Niks, that's seriously some news...you know what a navigation system is? Well, then, you ALSO must be knowing that it still needs an ADDRESS, which has to be fed into it for it to guide you...,' This time, Riddhima was cut in between as Nikki mumbled a 'just a sec' and passed on the phone to someone else. The person, a woman it was, dictated the address to her, which she jotted down on the magazine she had just picked up in the shop. After the phone was put down, Riddhima picked up a few other 'chick magazines', which she knew Nikki read, and a few other items of grocery and eatables, and after paying the cashier, she walked back to her car with two bags in her hands. Just as she was getting back into the car, her phone rang again. Glancing at the phone screen, she mumbled a 'God help me!' to herself and received the call.
Abhimanyu strolled into the kitchen after what had been a very short nap, for he had hardly slept for 20 minutes when his wife had woken him up. She had been highly excited for some reason and was jumping up and down on the bed. As it came to be known later, she had been excited about Riddhima coming to meet them in 20 minutes. He had rolled his eyes at her and put the pillow on his head after bellowing out loudly, and THAT was when she had realized he had been sleeping. Mumbling an apology, she had gone out of the room but his sleep had evaded him, and try as he might, he couldn't sleep. Lying on his bed for a few minutes, he had stared at the ceiling and then taken a look around the room. This house reminded him of a lot, most of what had been his postgraduate days at university. This room had been, as Damini had said when she had brought them into the house about an hour ago, 'Modi's Territory', in remembrance of a cheeky joke he had played when he had scratched those very words on the door with a key on one of his visits back then. It had irked Damini so bad, and she hadn't talked to him for about three days, he remembered. However, now those words no longer stood there, the door having been replaced by a new one now.
Nostalgia was an unpleasant feeling, he concluded, for most of the memories it brought back made him wonder of what had been and what had become of it. Though everything appeared to be perfect on the outlook, something had changed, shifted from its locus in the relationship he shared with the two people of this house, and the worst part of it was, he couldn't understand what. But there was no point denying that it hadn't, because the obvious nature of the situation was not hidden from him in anyway.
After what he now realized were fifteen minutes of random retrospection, he jumped out of the bed and walked down the narrow stairs towards the kitchen, where apparently, both the women were sitting. As he heard Nikki chattering on about something, he shook his head unknowingly even to himself, wondering how anyone could talk this much. And how he loved this anyone like anything, despite ALL the things that should annoy him about her, but for some reason, they didn't. He had just walked into the kitchen when the doorbell rang. Damini walked over the door to open it, and was followed by Nikki who passed him with a knowing grin and he was left alone in the kitchen. Must be Riddhima, he thought and fetched himself a glass of water. He had barely sat down on the stool next to the counter when he heard Nikki's loud scream, followed by what was definitely NOT Riddhima's voice. It was a man's voice, a voice he would recognize anywhere.
Damini was the first one to get back to the kitchen, smiling at Abhi as she sat down next to him, and then came Nikki. And him. Abhimanyu rose up from his stool, his fingers still clutched around the glass as he looked at his best friend after 3 whole years. A sweeping glance at him told him he hadn't changed much; except for the hair, the new specs and the stubble. As he looked back at him, he realized that he had also been scrutinized by the other party, and also that they both had been standing there, looking at each other for a few seconds now. His eyes wandered over to Nikki, who was standing next to him, with an expected glee on her face, her hands clasped together under her chin. He smiled despite himself at her reaction, and then looked back at him again.
This time, he didn't refrain from taking the first step and walked over to Armaan, taking him into a warm hug as he reached him. Armaan smiled and hugged him back, with a zest that showed, if not much, then the intensity with which he had missed him. They separated from the hug, and looked at each other, grinning widely.
'Well, wasn't this the meeting apt for two lovers after a long separation?,' Nikki quipped in, and everyone, Damini included, laughed out at this. Abhi looked at Armaan and thumped his back lightly, and the latter looked at Nikki and winked.
'You can't blame us, sweetheart...we are not just ANY lovers...we are childhood ones!,' Armaan replied to her comment, and Abhi nodded with him vigorously.
'Yes, sad as it is, we have to accept that fate, Nikki! I took a long time to adjust to it too....but for them, the other is always the first priority,' Damini joined the conversation as she patted Nikki's back sympathetically, who made a face.
'ALWAYS, remember that Niks!,' Abhi winked at her and received a slap on his back this time. Before any conversation could be carried on further, the door bell rang again.
'I will get it.' Armaan replied in response to Damini's start up from her seat at the sound of the bell, and walked down the hall towards the door. Wondering who it could be, he opened the door only to find the most unexpected person standing before him.
She looked up from her phone, to him, and then stared in surprise. Could she be hallucinating? Was this...?
A loud scream, alike the one that had been bestowed upon him a few moments ago, was followed by a flash of something running past him and he staggered in his position near the door. Holding the door ajar, he looked outside again to find Nikki hugging his newest client with an enthusiasm he couldn't understand. In turn, Ridhhima was also hugging Nikki tightly, and both friends were oblivious to both the cold and the person standing at the door for them. When their breaking apart seemed impossible to him, he cleared his throat.
'Aheeeem...!!', which definitely brought them back to the world. Now that Riddhima was done with her excitement, she again looked at Armaan and frowned. What was he doing here? How did Nikki know him? And why was he grinning at her? As these questions crossed her mind, she stepped into the house behind Nikki and Armaan closed the door behind them.
'Finally! I thought you guys had plans of freezing out there all night...couldn't this historic interaction have taken place inside?,' he mumbled to Nikki, who turned and frowned at him as he rubbed his hands.
'Well, did I question the way yours went? No, right? Then you don't get to question mine!,' he grinned despite himself at her words and in their own verbal argument, they had forgotten about Riddhima who was following Nikki into the hall quietly. Nikki suddenly realized she hadn't introduced them, and so she turned towards Riddhima and pointed at Armaan.
'Riddhima....meet Armaan. Armaan, meet Riddhima, my oldest friend back from Chandigarh.' Her introduction, though pithy and quite uninformative, was enough, she thought, and so walked on towards the kitchen to announce Riddhima's arrival to Abhi. Armaan and Riddhima were left looking at each other awkwardly.
'Let me take that for you,' he said, as she wriggled out of her overcoat and handed it over to him. Hanging the coat on the stand, he turned to look at her and smiled, as they started walking to the kitchen.
'So...Chandigarh, huh?,' she was surprised at his question, for she had expected a lot many from him, but not this precise one. She smiled and mumbled an inaudible 'yeaaah' as they walked into the kitchen. Her smiled broadened when her eyes fell on Abhi, who was walking towards her with an impish smile on his face.
'And so my favorite sister-in-law arrives...AT LAST!,' he growled as he took her into a bear hug and Riddhima hugged him back playfully. When they separated, she smirked at him and said, 'I am your ONLY sister-in-law jeej...don't forget that!'
Abhi scowled at her use of the term he detested and Riddhima rose her eyebrows at him. During their interaction, they had forgotten completely about the other people standing in the room. Now, as Riddhima took a seat, Abhi pointed towards Armaan and explained.
'As introductions are an absolutely must, and I am sure my dear wife would have forgotten that completely,' he winked at Nikki who made a face, 'Riddhima...this is Armaan...my childhood friend...Armaan, this is Riddhima, Nikki's friend back from..,'
'Chandigarh. Yeah, I know,' Armaan replied, looking amused at this round of double introductions going around. In response to Abhi's frown, he elaborated with a simple, 'We've met.'
For some reason, those direct two words made Riddhima smile unknowingly, as he looked straight back at her after his reply. Even though it was just their second meeting, she could read his eyes, that shone amusingly at her, directing towards the meeting they had had earlier. She looked down at her hands for a moment, and then up at the woman standing next to the sink, who had just cleared her throat to make her presence known.
'Oh...I am so sorry, I completely forgot,' Abhi turned towards Riddhima, who in turn was looking at the woman, 'Riddhima, this is Damini...one of my oldest friends as well,' Riddhima smiled at this introduction and nodded at Damini, who nodded back, 'AND, not to forget, Armaan's wife,'
If he had been looking for a response, he definitely got one. Her smile froze for a second, as she instantly turned to look at Armaan with shock written over her face. With his hands in the pocket of his jeans, he stood looking down at her, his face rejoicing in the expression on hers. She could now see his dimples clearly, and his eyebrows rose slightly at the almost appalled look on her face.,
'You're MARRIED?,' She had blurted it out even before she had thought of those words clearly in her own head. This time, his eyebrows knitted together for a second at her statement, then they cleared and he had an almost laughing expression on his face. She could see him rolling his tongue inside his mouth to stop himself from laughing out loud, and he looked up at the ceiling to avert her gaze. As soon as she had said it, she realized how awkward they must have sounded. She turned to look at Damini, who was eying her incredulously, and Riddhima felt her cheeks warming up. From the corner of her eyes, she could see Nikki grinning at her wickedly.
'I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to say it like that....it's just, I didn't think he was...well, you know...married!,' Riddhima mumbled, her cheeks now practically burning as she looked down into her hands, and she heard Abhimanyu chuckle. However, Damini smiled at her knowingly and replied, 'It's okay Riddhima...I understand! In all those years we have been married, about everyone who has met us thought Armaan was still a bachelor!,' she winked at her in a friendly manner and Riddhima felt herself calm down a little.
'Yeah, what can we say...looks can be very deceptive!,' Abhi mocked her, and she frowned at it.
'No...it's not that...I just..,' Riddhima was again interrupted, this time by Nikki who decided to have some fun.
'Its OKAAAAY Riddhima...we understand! There's nothing to be embarrassed about...I would have hit on him too, if I wouldn't have been married!,' she sighed wistfully with an apparent exaggeration, but her statement made Riddhima turn red again, as she glared at Nikki.
'Yeah Riddhima, don't you know? Nikki had this huge big crush on Armaan the first time we met...only, she got to know he was married a little later then you did!,' Abhi carried on, grinning wickedly at her as Riddhima sighed with humiliation.
'Guys...cut it out! She's had enough now...,' Damini came to her rescue and Riddhima looked up at her thankfully. When she looked around for a customary glance, she found Armaan missing from the spot he had been standing at. As the remaining three decided to gather up in the living room next to the kitchen, she picked up her bag and was about to follow suit when she found a glass of water pushed in front of her.
She looked up from her seat to find him holding it out to her, smiling warmly.
'Drink it up. It will diffuse the red in your cheeks, and bring it back to normal.' She searched for a hint of humor of mischief in his voice and eyes, but when she found none, she took hold of the glass and drank the water in small little sips. Armaan kept standing there, one of his hands resting next to hers on the counter, smiling at the confused side looks she kept throwing at him. When she put down the glass, he gave her a small nod and smiled, picking up the glass from the counter.
'I am so sorry Armaan...I didn't mean to...,' Riddhima made an attempt to clarify herself this time, but he held up a hand.
'It's okay, Riddhima...seriously! Don't mind them...they are a bunch of cartoons!,' she grinned at his choice of words and so did he, 'I know where you were coming from...our first meeting was today and you didn't expect to meet me again today, especially in such a situation....I completely understand!,'
Riddhima nodded at him thankfully and they both headed towards the hall.
'So...married, huh?,' she asked him, in the same manner he had questioned her about her home town a few minutes ago. He grinned at her quizzically and then nodded.
'Yep! 8 years this May!,' he answered it like a fact, and Riddhima looked at him, yet again surprised.
'EIGHT YEARS? Wowww! That's a long time!,' she replied, suddenly interested in knowing more about him. In response to her excited answer, he gave her a small smile and said, 'Yes. It's a very long time.'
They reached the living room, where Abhimanyu and Nikki had made themselves comfortable. Damini was nowhere to be seen. Nikki took hold of Riddhima's hand and made her sit next to her, putting an arm around her affectionately as they started talking amongst themselves. Armaan looked at Abhi with an amused expression and Abhi rolled his eyes at them in his usual manner. Armaan looked around, and then asked Abhi, 'Where's Damini?,'
'Oh...she went up to get ready. She said she has some party to attend...absolutely necessary stuff and all..she must have told you, hmm?,' Abhi replied, a direct emphasis on his words that wasn't lost on Armaan, who sensed the hidden question between his words. He just nodded back gravely and then went off to the kitchen on the pretense of getting them something to eat.
Riddhima and Nikki were, by now, totally lost in their own conversations while Abhi in his thoughts. He had been right when he had guessed something wasn't right, something had shifted. Even in the mere hour he had spent in the presence of the two people of this house, he had sensed the change; probably because he had been the sole witness to the situation before it had taken place, that he had guessed it so rapidly. Saying that Armaan and Damini were not the same would be wrong; for Damini had been totally like herself throughout. Could be pretense, he thought, but ditched the idea for Damini was one of the most genuine people he had ever met. Whatever she was, she was right out in everyone's face and she didn't care an ounce what people thought of her. However, Armaan had definitely something going on with him; Abhi knew him too well to know there was. Having practically done everything together; from the first day of school to innumerable assignments, from bullying others to getting ragged on first day of college, from law school to London; they had lived the two decades of their lives with each other. One was more aware of what the other was up to then the person himself, and so, nothing was hidden between them.
But something was different, it was disturbing; both him and Armaan. Whether it was his move back to India 3 years ago or Armaan's personal issues, Abhimanyu could not figure out, but the equilibrium of their friendship had slightly shifted, to a new setting such that Armaan had withdrawn into himself. What had made him do that? That question had arisen in Abhi's mind for all those years; and even though contact had been maintained and everything was perfect on the outlook, it wasn't in reality. He was done wondering by now, and as Armaan walked back inside after a good 15 minutes, Abhi decided that he was going to know what it was, no matter what. He had had enough.
Only a few minutes had passed when Riddhima stood up from her place and everyone looked at her.
'Where are you going?,' Nikki asked innocently, and Riddhima rolled her eyes at her.
'I'm going home Niks...in fact, WE are going home!,' she replied. Nikki chuckled at her and said, 'You are not planning to take Armaan with you, right? That would create quite some problem here!,'
Her comment received a hearty laughter from Abhi, a chuckle from Armaan and a cushion in her face by Riddhima.
'Shut up! WE means me and you guys! I came to get you people..!,' This time, her statement was followed by a confused glance between Armaan and Abhi and a guilty grin by Nikki.
'Errrmm...Ridddhimmmaa...,' Nikki started and looked from Abhi to Armaan, both of whom were giving her baffled looks.
'Actualllyyy....we will be staying here, at Armaan's place!,'
'WHAT? But you said you will stay with me! I have got everything ready for you guys...then why...," Riddhima questioned, confused at this change of events.
'WHAT? You told her we'd be staying there? NIKKII!!,' Abhimanyu interrupted them, glaring at Nikki who gulped.
'Errrm...I didn't know we were going to stay here...I thought...,'
'I don't care! You guys are coming with me and that's it!,' Riddhima said, and picked up her bag, glaring at Nikki to follow her, who just squirmed in her seat.
'Wait a second...,' Armaan interrupted this time, and looked at Riddhima, 'They are not going with you.'
'What?,' Riddhima frowned.
'Yeah. They are staying here...!,' he said with a finality that made her more furious.
'I do. I got them picked up from the airport...so they stay here. At least, he does!,' he replied, pointing at Abhimanyu. Riddhima stared at him for a second, then rolled her eyes and took hold of Nikki's hand.
'What the..? This is the most absurd argument ever. Okay, fine. He stays here, and she goes with me. Deal?,' she looked at Armaan, while both the concerned parties looked at each other, amazed. They were being separated without them even knowing about it?
'Deal.' Armaan said, and they both smiled at each other victoriously. Riddhima dragged Nikki up from her seating position and Armaan turned to Abhi, cocking his eyebrow at him and jumping back on the sofa.
'Wait a second. You guys didn't even ask us...and..?,' Abhi spoke up, appalled to see Riddhima dragging Nikki behind her. Riddhima turned to him with a no-nonsense look and asked, 'What is there to ask? You stay with your best friend, Nikki stays with hers. What's the problem there?,'
'Exactly, Modi. Don't tell me one night's separation from your wife is going to kill you!,' Armaan grinned and Abhi shot him a disgusted look.
'Abhi,' this time, Nikki spoke up, with a grimness in her voice that surprised both of them. 'I have to go with her.'
Even though it was a simple statement, they shared enough understanding and realize the intensity behind her words. He looked at her for a second, then leaned back against the sofa, threw up his hands in the air and smiled at Riddhima.
'She's all yours for tonight!,' he winkled at her and Riddhima grinned back.
'Don't worry jeeeeej...I will take good care of your wife!,' her words had the required effect at him, as he made a face and they grinned. While Nikki walked over to him to say a good-bye, Armaan at once sprang up from the sofa and walked towards Riddhima. At Abhi's questioning, he replied, 'However wonderful the sight might be, I do NOT want to see you guys making out in my living room. We will wait outside!,' he smirked and Riddhima laughed, and they both walked out into the lobby.
Armaan took off her coat from the hanger and handed it to her. Riddhima put it on and smiled at him, saying, 'It was nice meeting you Armaan....again.'
'Again,' he said, reinforcing the word as he walked her to the front door and Nikki appeared behind them. She told her she'd need a few minutes to pack a few things up, and Riddhima should continue walking towards her car and she would join her. Armaan opened the door for her and as she stepped out, he followed suit.
'Where are you going?,' Riddhima looked at him, confused as he rubbed his hands together and blew into them, exactly like she had a few hours ago, and kept walking beside her.
'I am walking you to your car.' He stated it as a fact, and Riddhima turned to look at him, amazed.
'There's no need for that...I can walk myself...it's cold outside, Armaan...you are not even wearing a coat and...,' she continued with her rant and Armaan grinned.
'Seriously, Riddhima. No matter how many excuses you come up with, I'm still walking you to your car.'
The rest of the walk to her car, which barely lasted a few minutes, was encaptured in silence. As they reached her car, Armaan opened her door for her and Riddhima acknowledged this with a smile, nodding at him thankfully.
'Thanks a lot Armaan! And now you should seriously go back! It's very cold outside...!,' she said, looking at him as he leaned over her door, peering at her over the window. With a customary nod at her, he simply said, 'Take care!,' waved her a goodbye and started walking back, a lone figure in the dark. For a few seconds, Riddhima kept staring at his retreating figure, until she saw Nikki emerge from the house and then she started her car, putting on the heating system. Her glance fell on Armaan playfully shuffling Nikki's hair as she passed him and a smile spread on her face at their light interaction as Nikki ducked and then laughed. After this second meeting, if nothing else, she had been assured of one fact: Armaan Mallik definitely left her much intrigued every time she met him.
so here is part 1 guys...yeah, just a start off so sorting out a few pieces into place...getting to know the relations between people, the situation everyone is...and well, an overall insight...i havent read the part yet myself, so excuse any mistakes :D...and as for the length of the part, i wanted to write more but decided whatever i wanted to should fall in the next part :) so here is the first part! I know, there was not much of Armaan, a lot of Riddhima in there....but that's purely intentional :P anyways, thanks for all the comments, you guys, i will get back to them asap...and if you like this part, you know what to do :P
did i say this part is for my special, very own grazy? a. cuz it was her bday on 10th..belated hai yeh but fir bhi :P...b. cuz she's been there to hear to banter ALL week long...c. cuz everything about her is only, uniquely HER :) lovya hinziya!
for M/D : fams stay bonded together no matter how far, i know we will too, forever :) lovya guys!
for the rest of you people....as i said, you know what to do :)
Edited by Pebblez - 19 December 2009 at 2:22am