Stifling a lingering twinge of longing for the dream, she threw off the bedclothes, went to the window and looked out.It was a beautiful day, cloudless and filled with sunshine.She smiled.
No more useless longings.No more doleful thoughts.
Surely clear blue skies were a very promising omen?
In willowbank eneryone was abuzz.
With the help of friends and relatives from around the district.Niki's mum had grown masses of white petunias in pots and tubs and even in wheelbarrows.
Riddhima happily helped a team of women to unload containers of flowers from their cars and place them strategically in the church and the grounds, as well as the marquee where the reception to be held in an allotment next to church hall. The instant floral effect was spectacular.
After that, the morning passed in a happy whirl, much to riddhima's relief. First, she met up with niki and muskaan at hairdressers's then they popped into the salon next door for matching manicures, and finally they dashed back to niki's for a delicious light lunch prepared by one of her doting aunts.
During lunch the phone seemed never to stop ringing and all kinds of messages flew back and forth.
Riddhima had to admire the way niki seemed to float through it all.She was the most serene bride ever.It must be love, riddhima thought,
Shortly after lunch, the excitement really began.It was time for girls to put on their make-up, laughing as they took turns in front of niki's bedroom mirror, the same mirror where years ago they had first experimented with mascara and eye liner while they had gossiped about boys.
Back then, riddhima, being older and from the city, had been considered to be wiser and worldlier. The other girls had looked upto her with respect.
How the tables had turned.Now muskaan was married and a mother, and niki was about to marry abhi, while riddhima was............
No! she was not going to tolerate a single negative thought today.
When they had achieved their best with make up, muskaan and riddhima slipped into their bridesmaid's dresses, which were simply divine.
Then it was time to fuss over niki to help her to secure her veil and then to gasp in sheer astonishment when they saw the complete picture of their best friend in her wedding gown.
"you look absolutely breathtaking,"Riddhima whispered.
Muskaan was emotional. "You are so beautiful, abhi is going to cry when he sees you."
"please don't say that,"niki laughed nervously"you will make me cry."
"and me"moaned riddhima.
Oh, help. Weddings were such piognant affairs. And today armman was going to be there, looking dashing as the best man.How on the earth was she going to get through the naxt few hours?
Dressed in matching dark formal suits with silver ties and orange blossoms in their lapels. Abhi, armaan and Rahul were instructed to wait till it was time to take their places at the front of the church.
Armaan anxiously patted a pocket in his suit jacket."The rings are still safe."
Abhi grinned and laid a reassuring hand an his friend's shoulder. "That's the third time you have checked the rings in the past five minutes.Relax man, they are not going to grow legs and run away."
"abhi's the guy who is supposed to be nervous,"added rahul witha grin.
Armaan nodded and tried to smile."sorry. Don't know what's got into me."He shot abhi a questioning glance."aren't you even a little nervous?"
"Why should i be nervous?"
"You are getting married."Armaan wished his voice wasn't to hoarse.His sleepless night was really getting on him."It's par for the course for a bridegroom to have the jitters,"he said.
"But i am marrying niki,"Abhi responded simply, as if that explained eveything.And his glowing smile made it patently clear that he knew, without doubt, he was the luckiest man alive.
Armaan wished he felt a fraction of his mate's happiness.
"So where are you heading for your honeymoon?"he asked."Or is that a state secret?"
Abhi grinned."The exact location is a surprise for niki but i will tell you two."He lowered his voice. "I am taking her to Italy.She's never been overseas, so we are going to Venice, Lake Como and the Amalfi coast."
"Wow!" rahul's jaw dropped."Thats so over the top, its fabulous.You will have an amazing time."
Abhi nodded happily, but efore he could say anything else, the minister appeared at the door and sent them a smiling wink. "Could you come this way now please gantlemen?"
A chill ran down armaan's spine.For crying out loud,what was the matter with him today? anyone would think he was the one getting married, or they were criminals being led to the dock.
"All the best mate,"he whispered to abhi.
The two friends shook hands, then headed through the little doorway that led into the church, where an incredible transformation had occured.
Not only was the place packed with people but there were flowers and white ribbons everywhere.
Armaan tried to swallow a lump in his throat.He looked at abhi and saw his adam's apple jerk.
"You OK?"he asked.
"I will be fine once niki ges here."
"She won't be late"Armaan reassured him again nervously patted the rings in the pocket.
There was a flurry in the little porch at the back side of the church.Armaan felt fine hairs lift on the back of his neck.His stomach tightened.
The girls appeared in a misty mirage of white and pink.Armaan blinked.Riddhima, muskaan and niki looked incredibly out-of-this-world beautiful.
He heard abhi catch his breath,felt goosebumps lift on hisarms.
Riddhima and mskaan, apparently satisfied with their arrangement of niki's dress and veil, took their places in front of her, riddhima first.
Armaan couldn't be sure that he wasn't trembling.
Riddhima stood, shoulders back, looking straight ahead, with her blonde haed high, her blue eyes smiling.To armaan she vulnerable and his heart began to thunder loudly.
It was so wierd.
He had seen countless weddings and endless processions of bridesmaids, but none of them had made him feel the way he felt now as the organist began to play and riddhima began to walk down the aisle with her smile carefully in place.
She had always tried to pretend she was a tom boy, keeping her hair short and wispy and preferring to live in t-shirts and jeans, but today nothing could hide her femininity.
Her paster off-the-shoulders dress and the soft pink lilies in her arms hightened the aleness of her hair, the honey-gold tints in her skin, the pink lushness of her lips.She had never looked lovelier.
Except perhaps.......that one night on a shadowy veranda, when she'd turned to him with tears in her eyes.........
He willed her to look at him.Just one glance would do.For old friendship's sake.He wanted eye contact, needed to send her one smile, longed for one tiny link with her.
Come on, look this way, Riddhima.
She smiled at the people in the congregation, at her particular friends, at abhi, but her gaze didn't flicker any further to right.It was clear she did not want to see Armaan.
Or,perhaps, she simply felt no need.
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