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Bani paced up and down in her office as she thought back to what had occurred only a while ago with Pia and Purva. Gosh, it was really deep the extent of what they felt for each other. And there was her husband. Lord bless the man, but he actually held no grudges against Jai for all he had done to them in the years after their betrayal of him. Just choose to see it as a test of our love, he had said to Bani with a smile hewn from all his endurance and patience.
"How in the world did you end up being Jai's friend?" Bani joked after he said that.
It had drawn laughter from every one present, but Bani had turned to Pia and asked if she could speak to her husband alone. Yes, she had tried to convince the man that having the surgery with or without Jai showing up would be better for him and the baby that should know its father. He on the other hand had quizzed her on whether or not Jai knew she was here. And wasn't she worried about him finding out that yet another woman he loved was consorting with the enemy. She had paused a moment and then shrugged, before she answered him.
"I choose to believe he trusts me enough to know I would never wish him harm,2 Bani said softly.
With a sad smile he shook his head, "We didn't mean to hurt him too. Yet here we are right?"
"Listen. You have to fight," Bani said seriously, "I mean you cannot have made peace with leaving Pia to this big bad world?"
He looked Bani straight in the eye, "There is no making peace with something like that. Rather, there is only a hope that if my death brings some measure of peace to Jai Walia, then so be it. I can only hope that he gains some..."
"This is Bollywood bullshit!" Bani snapped at a surprised Ranveer, "This is not where you die and he feels remorse when its all really too late. Be selfish Ranveer. For your child's sake be selfish." At his raised brow Bani continued, "I love that man, but I am not blind to his faults. From what I hear and have seen, he rarely changes his mind about anything. But Love can make you do really crazy things. One thing I know, he is not the person you or Pia described to me. I'd like to think my interference can make all the difference but what if Ranveer? What if it doesn't? You would deprive your son of a father on a hope? Is it fair to the child?"
Ranveer lay with lowered eyes, thinking about what she said. Finally he raised his eyes to hers and said, "When Pia told me you would be good for Jai, I have to say I was a bit sceptical but I see he has a strong woman in you. Maybe I am being selfish by escaping this world. But I am also placing my faith in the Jai I used to know. He's in there somewhere...and maybe the ultimate punishment to his perceived enemy would give him some peace of mind."
"You're crazy you know that?" she said in her purely American accent this time.
"Pia tells me that all the time," he gave her a goofy smile just as the door opened and the doctor, a kind looking giant of a man entered with a big smile.
"And how are we today Mr Bali?" he asked.
"We are ek daam perfect," he said with an answering smile of his own.
He acknowledged Bani with a nod and proceeded to check Ranveer's vitals, "How's the throat today?"
"Not bad," Ranveer said against his gently probing hands, "The visions better too," he said, then turned to Bani and said, "I was blind for a couple of days you know? Scary stuff."
The Doctor, Anshuman Sinha was highly amused at his exaggerated shudder, "I always say an optimistic spirit heals better than any drug ever could. Perhaps you can talk some sense into him about having the operation Miss eh..."
"Dixit. Bani Dixit," Bani offered at his direct gaze, "And I am trying but he is as happy as he is stubborn."
"I'm right here," Ranveer said with a chuckle.
"We are actually prepared to take his case on as pro bono cos the position of the clot would make his surgery one in a line of few successes this type of surgery has seen. I took the liberty of calling in the best Doctors for this."
The door opened and Pia entered uncertainly, casting a furtive glance at Bani who smiled encouragingly.
"I think you made the right decision Doctor, cos he will be having the surgery," Bani said matter of factly, causing everyone on the room to turn surprised eyes on her, "You will be. I guarantee it."
With a flourish and a wave, she was breezing out the door, but not before she heard Dr Anshuman say "Now I like that one. I'll inform the necessary doctors to be on standby for whatever..." The door closed behind her and the rest of the statement was lost.
And here she stood, pacing in her office, trying to figure out the best way to go about asking Jai for a favour this huge. Yes, whatever she knew of him, he rarely changed his mind and he was quite adept at sidestepping issues he didn't want to discuss. She would have to go to him. In his own territory so it didn't seem like she baited him. She really hoped he would understand her compulsions. They were absolutely necessary. Somehow she felt the feud was not as important to him anymore as they thought it to be. He was most likely over it, but would understandably never forget his wounded pride. Well then, no use dilly dallying. There's work to be done.
Grabbing her purse off the table, she flipped her mobile on and dialled home to let them know she would be late.
Jai stood in the shadows of his office, staring out the window at the crawling traffic lights below. He had had a weird feeling the whole day but what just transpired a few minutes ago was beyond what he thought it would be. He had to give her kudos though. She had guts coming in here. But right now, the fact that they all of this was now connected to the woman he had come to love, knocked him sideways. He turned to face her as she stood uncertainly by the door, just inside the office.
"Why?" he asked softly.
She exhaled deeply. A calm Jai usually unnerved her sometimes but what was she to do, pretend she didn't know Pia who had just run from the office a few seconds ago, repeating over and over again that she just had to come and see if she could appeal to his better nature.
"I tried...I tried..." she had whispered as Bani caught her arm on her way out, tears streaming down her face, "He won't...I'm sorry but he ...he..."
Bani had looked at Jai to catch the surprised yet confused look on his face. As comprehension dawned, a cold, distant look settled on his face as she let Pia go, bidding her to take care.
She came to stand in front of him, "I love you," she said softly, looking him in the eye. The flick of his eye lid was the only give away that her words affected him, "I would never do anything to hurt you. At least not intentionally."
He looked away from her at that point, admitting to himself that he was afraid that she knew he knew that much about her. She was overly considerate and it pissed him off sometimes that she wanted everyone to come out smelling roses in the nastiest of situation...of course unless it pertained to her family or him. She was a tigress then. But Pia?
"I met her through a friend. They needed my help cos they thought I could talk some sense into you," she said frankly, her voice soft and beseeching, "Pia... she told me what happened. Your best friend...all of it."
A defensive frown crossed Jai's face and he shoved his hands in his pockets, focusing on everything in the room besides her. She stepped closer and cupping his cheek, turned his face back toward her, but still he wouldn't look at her, for fear of what he might see in her eyes. Damn this woman for making him soft.
"Jai look at me," she said softly, and waited till he raised stubborn eyes to her face. Her searching look made him more than a little curious. She had become one of the few people who could look him square in the eye and not blink, "It's been a long time since all of this happened. I can't begin to pretend that I know what you went through in the weeks and months after this happened. But I do know that you are not as angry as you pretend to be right now."
His brow lifted as he looked at her, but she only smiled, "I've seen you really angry Jai...and even when you hold a grudge. And you are far too removed from all of this to tell me that it still gets to you as much as you make out." She paused, her focus on the crisp white shirt that still even in the night time didn't look as worn as it should, "It's about three people's lives Jai...one of them who is completely innocent in all of this. Let them go Jai. Not for them...but for you."
He was still so long she almost thought he wouldn't speak, and she was a little startled when he did.
"They betrayed my trust Bani. That was the easy part to get over. They took something much more from me that day. That's the one I have a little trouble getting over."
She watched him turn away from her again and go to the window to stare out at Mumbai. She knew right away he wasn't inclined to tell her what that was about. Maybe in time. "How bad was it?"
He didn't reply, just stood stoic in his resignation. He knew the worst that could happen had happened but darn it, they were the root cause. Something that should have been kept hidden and he would have been more than happy not to ever have known about it was thrown out in the open. It very nearly broke every relationship in that family. And he was now supposed to forgive and forget...at least proverbially. His shoulders slumped. He didn't want to disappoint her...but she was asking something really big from him. Not that he couldn't give it to her, but would his pride let him?
"He wants to meet you Jai. He won't have the surgery without meeting you. He's willing to die to prove to you how sorry they are for what happened. It's been four years Jai. Four years. You have to see that the fact that they're still together is testament to how much they love each other. They had to hurt you to be together but... don't be the reason they separate Jai. You might think you can live it down, but if he dies without you really forgiving him, you will regret it every day of your life."
She looked at his uneasy posture, back stiff but head bowed. She knew he was battling with himself on what to do, but a good fighter always knew when to retreat and live to fight another day. She came p and hugged him from behind. After a few seconds, he relaxed against her, wrapping a hand over her intertwined ones that snuggled his midsection.
"Whatever you decide Jai, I won't judge you for it. It was a long shot anyway," she said softly, then added, "You may not like this, but I'm going to the hospital Jai. I think she needs someone right now."She stepped around him to face him, and then after giving him one last searching look, pulled him into a warm, reassuring kiss, "I love you so much."
Giving him the smallest smile, her eyes sad as can be, she turned and left, slowly exiting his office, the soft click of the door felt more like a death knell than a shutting door.
Damn, he thought, gazing at the door through which she had just left.
Purva sat with Pia and Ranveer. It was difficult to sit and watch those two as they tried to make the best of an obviously bad situation. She didn't know if Bani had succeeded in convincing Jai to come see a man who may very well not walk out of the OR. Feeling someone's eyes on her, she looked up to find Ranveer staring at her. She gave him a shaky smile that didn't hide her apprehension.
Ranveer chuckled, "Frustrating isn't it?" he asked, seeming to understand her thought process, "Feels like you're waiting for the lesser of two evils. You don't know which one will get you first. The tumour, or the not knowing how much time you have left."
"How can you be alright with this?" she asked in wonder.
"I'm not," he said simply, "But I have made peace with it, just in case."
Just then, the door opened to admit a visibly tired Bani, who it seemed had been crying, for her red rimmed eyes were a dead giveaway. Pia, Purva and even Ranveer, looked at her with such hope that her resolve to hold it together broke and a deep sob broke from her throat as she slapped her hand over her mouth to keep from crying out loud. Pia followed suit, crying openly against her husband's hand while he tried to console her.
Purva pulled Bani into a maternal hug as she cried. "It's okay Bani. You did your best," she whispered, "The rest is up to him."
"Bani," Ranveer called. She turned to look at him from where she stood with Purva, "You've done more than enough. You didn't have to get involved but you did. I thank you for that. There's no need to beat yourself up about not being able to talk him into seeing me. I cannot ask for any more."
She advanced on him, her eyes more than determined than ever, "Get the surgery."
"Bani..." he began.
"No! Get the surgery," she said more forcefully, "Enough of this mahaan behaviour. You have a child on the way. What would you expect a child who hears his father died when he shouldn't have? When it could have been avoided altogether?"
"Do you know what waiting does to people Bani? It's a silent killer. I will not have the last few moments I could have with my wife and child be taken away in an OR. I mean...I want to believe I might make it Bani, but..."
"What if you don't?" she finished for him, looking at Pia for a second, "But what if you do? You get to see your child grow to become a man or woman of great importance. Would you give all that up for an unnecessary act of sacrifice?"
Ranveer looked at his wife who was looking gratefully at Bani, but Bani's unwavering glance was fixed on him. He was about to speak when the door behind them opened up and Dr Anshuman entered with his gentle smile, this time in scrubs with another wizened looking doctor.
"Am I interrupting?" he looked at all the tense faces in the room.
"Not at all Doctor," Purva said, "I think we might need a few minutes for us to make up our minds on the surgery."
"Well I am glad to hear that. This is Doctor Malhotra, world renowned neurosurgeon."
"Please, call me Sahil," he waved Dr Anshuman away.
"I don't need to think about it Doctor," Ranveer said, "I'm not going to have the surgery."
Bani whirled around on him so quickly that everyone in the room looked at her in surprise. When she spoke her voice was bitingly cold, "What did you just say?"
Ranveer was about to speak but then his eyes flew past Bani to the door that had just swung further open to the man who now stood filling the doorway. If possible, his pale face blanched further. A gasp from Pia who had followed the line of Ranveer's vision caused everyone else to follow their line of vision. This time, it was Bani's turn to gasp. It had been too much to ask for Jai to show up, but along with him was Natchiket, who gave her a smile.
"I'd do what she says if I were you," Jai spoke, his eyes trained on Ranveer in his all too familiar disapproving manner.
Ranveer swallowed hard, "Jai."
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