Armaan's voice sounded close behind her and she froze.
"I won't let you escape that easily."His tone held a threat of humour, but there was also a note of command that that was hard to ignore.
His hand brushed her wrist and the touch was like a firebrand.Riddhima was helpless as his fingers enclosed around her, as he pulled her gently but decisively towards him.
"Come on,"he urged."We've got to have one dance."
He made it sound easy, but when she looked into his cool grey eyes she was surprised to see a cautious edge to his smile, as if he wasn't quite confident as he sounded.Which didn't help her to relax.
A no. of wedding guests were watching them,however, and the last thing she wanted was a scene.
"One dance?"Riddhima forced lightness into her voice."Why not?"She managed a smile.No way did she want to give the impression she was trying to dodge armaan.One dance was no problem at all.She would dance with him till her feet fell off.
Armaan led her back onto the dance floor.
As soon as he placed one hand at her back and took her other hand in his, she knew this wasn't going to be any version of easy.She drew a jagged breath.
"Smile,"Armaan murmured as he pulled her closer."This is a wedding not a funeral."
He took the lead and riddhima obediently pinned a smile.
She had only danced with armaan a handful of times, long ago.Even so, she could remember every single detail--his habit of enfolding her fingers inside his, the way he smelled of midnight, and the way her haed was exactly level with his jaw.
Tonight, every familiar memory felr like a pulled thread, unravelling her poorly stitched self control. Being this close to armaan played havoc with her heartbeats, with her sense of rythm.She kept stumbling and bumping into him and apologising profusely.
After the third apology, he steered her to the edge of the floor and he leaned back a little, and he smiled as he looked into har face.
Armaan said something, but riddhima couldn't hear him above the music and she shook her head, lifted her shoulders to show that she had no idea.
Leaning closer, she felt her skin vibrate as he spoke into her ear."Are you OK?Would you like a break?"
That would be sensible, wouldn't it?
She nodded."Yes, please."
Maybe not.Armaan stayed close beside her as she returned to the table and, before she could resume her seat, he said,"There are chairs outside.Why don't we go out there where its cooler and quieter, away from the music?"
Riddhima's heart stumbled again.Going outside where it was quieter suggested that armaan wanted to talk.
Part of her yearned to talk with him, but she wasn't sure it was wise.What could they talk about now?They'd covered the basics last night after the rehearsal, and armaan had been away for so long that they had lost their old sense of camaraderie.
Besides, further conversation would surely lead to uncomfortable topics like her relationship with sid.Wouldn't it be wiser to simply keep there distance now?
But the look in armaan's eyes as he watched her sent a fire shiver rushing over her skin and she knew that wisdom would lose this particular battle and curiosity would win.She secretly longed to hear what armaan wanted to talk about.
"I am sure a little fresh air is a good idea,"she said and she went with him through a doorway into the moon silvered night.
They found two chairs abandoned by smokers and, as riddhima sat down, she slipped off her shoes and rubbed at her aching feet.
Armaan chuckled softly.
"I'm not used to wearing such high heels,"she said defensively."You should try them.They're sheer torture."
"I don't doubt that for a moment, but they look sensational."He released a button on his jacket, letting it fall open.His shirt gleamed whitely in the moonlight and he stretched his long legs in front of him.
After a small pause, he said,"I meant what i said in my speech.You look lovely tonight, riddhima."
Her cheeks grew warm again."Thanks.Niki chose our dresses.She has very feminine tastes."
He let her self-effacting comment pass.
"Its been a perfect wedding,"she said to make amends, but then she was ambushed by an involuntary yawn."But it seems to have worn me out."
"You have probably been working too hard."
She shook her head."My work doesn't very often make me tired.Weddings, on the other hand......."
"Can be very draining."
He was watching her with a lopsided smile."Its not always easy to watch your friends tie the knot."
"I...."Her mouth was suddenly dry and her tongue stuck to its roof.She shot armaan a sharp glance, uncertain where this conversation was heading.She tried again."I am really happy for niki, aren't you?"
"Absolutely,"he said. "Marriage couldn't have happened to a nicer girl."
Riddhima nodded. Asmall silence limped by. "I suppose weddings are tiring because they involve lots of people. "Hunting for a way to disguise the fact that armaan's presence at this wedding was her major problem, she made a sweeping gesture towards the crowded marquee. "I am more used to animals these days. They are so much quieter than humans."
"And i am used to rocks."
Riddhima laughed."I dare say they are quieter too."
"Silence is one of their better attributes."Armaan chuckled again."Sounds like we have turned into a pair of old loners."
"Maybe,"she said softly, but she knew it was hazardous for her to talk of such things with this man.
Quietly, he said,"its happening all around us, basket."
Basket.........her old nickname.
Only her father and armaan had ever called her basket, goose or Basket Goose......and hearing the name now made her dangerously nostalgic.
She tried to shake that feeling aside."What's happening all around us?"
"Friende getting married.Starting families."
Riddhima stiffened.Why did he have to bring up that subject?"Its hardly surprising, given our friends ages."
"Yes, and we are older than all of them."
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock..........
Riddhima closed her eyes as the familiar breathless panic gripped her.No.She wasn't going to think about that worry tonight.She'd declared a moratorium on all thoughts that involved babies, hving babies, wanting babies, losing babies.She couldn't imagine why armaan had raised such a sensitive topic.
Or perhaps he didn't know about her miscarriage.After his brother's death, she'd barely spoken to armaan at the funeral and then he moved as far away from willowbank as was possible.Since then, if they'd run into each other, it had been by accident,or because their friends had invited them to the same christmas party.
Armaan had always been polite but he'd kept his distance and riddhima had always been busily proving to him that she was managing damn fine splendid on her own.
So why this?
Riddhima knew her sudden breathless fear would not be helped by a continued discussion of marriage and babies with Armaan Mallik.
"Is there a point to this conversation,Armaan?"She thrust her feet back into her shoes and grimaced as they pinched."Because i don't enjoy being reminded of how old i am getting."
She jumped to her feet, only to discover she was shaking violently.Her knees had no strenght whatsoever and she had no choice but to sink down again.
She was too embarrassed to look at armaan.
In a heartbeat, he was bending over her solicitously."I am sorry.I thought i was stating the obvious.Marriages, births, christenings all aroun us.Are you all right?Can i get you a drink?"
"I am fine,"she lied, dragging in oxygen."But I......I should go back inside.Niki might need me."
"Are you sure you're OK?"
She gulped another deep breath."I am certain."
Armaan's hand was at her elbow, supporting her as she got to her feet again, and she hoped he couldn't feel the way her body trembled.
With her first step she swayed against him.He put his arm around her and it felt amazingly fabulous to have his solid shoulder to lean on."I swear i haven't had too much to drink."she said.
"I know that.You're just tired."
She supposed he was right.What else could it be?
"As soon as this reception is over, i will drive you home,"Armaan said.
"There's no need."
"No arguments,riddhima.You don't have your car here,do you?"
"No,"she admitted."I left it at niki's place."
"My vehicle's here.If you're tired, you need a lift."
By now they'd reached the doorway to the marquee and riddhima could see muskaan handing around a platter of wedding cake in pink and silver parcels.
"Oh, heavens,"she cried, slipping from armaan's hold. "I should be helping wuth the cake."
"Are you sure you're upto it?"
And, as she hurried to help, she knew that it was true.She was perfectly fine when she was safely away from armaan.
That went well, armaan thought wryly as he watched riddhima hand around the platters of wedding cake.
Already she was smiling and chatting and looking hundred times happier than she had a few minutes ago when he'd crassly reminded her that life was passing them by.
Watching her with a thoughtful frown, he recalled the countless conversations they'd enjoyed when they were friends.They'd shared a mutual interest in science, and so they'd been totally in tune about many things.It was only later, when they'd talked about life after university, that their friendship had run into trouble.
Riddhima was adventurous and as curious about the world as he was, but unlike him, she hadn't been keen to get away.She'd apparently wanted nothing more than to get staight back to willowbank, to settle down in a veterinary practice.
Her father was a doctor and she'd claimed that she was anxious to follow his example.She'd worked hard to get her degree and she looked on travel as a waste of time.Why work at mental jobs simply to earn enough money to move on to the next travel spot, when she could stay in willowbank and build her career?
At the time, when armaan had left on his big adventure with maya in town, he'd had a vague idea that he might eventually return and find work closer to home.
The news of his brother's engagement to riddhima gupta had come out of the blue and he'd been shocked by how much it had worried him, by the urge that had hit him to hurry home.Not that he could blame riddhima for falling in love with sid.
Everyone in the entire willow creek district had loved his outgoing, confident brother--and Siddhant Mallik had a habit of getting what he wanted, especially when it came to women.
Armaan could easily imagine how his brotjer had flirted with riddhima. Hell, yeah.Sid would have charmed and courted her so expertly she wouldn't have known what had hit her.And sid would have offered her the exact life she wanted--marriage and a family, witha steep station thrown in as the icing on the cake.
But had sid really, deeply cared for riddhima?
It surprised armaan that he still let these questions bother him after all this time.
"You look down in the mouth."Abhi's voice sounded at armaan's elbow."Everything OK?"
Armaan turned guiltily and forced a grin."Its been a fabulous night," he said, hoping to avoid answering abhi's question. "Ace wedding, mate."
"Glad you've had a good time."abhi nodded his head in riddhima's direction.She's a lovely girl."
It was pointless to pretend he didn't know who abhi meant.Armaan nodded."Yeah."He shoved his hands deep in his pockets, as if the action could somehow comfort him.
"Niki told me you two used to be really close."
"Close friends."Armaan corrected and he did his best to dismiss this with a shrug, but abhi was watching him in a way which made his neck burn hotly.
Abhi smiled."You look as miserable as i felt four months ago, before i sorted everything out with niki."
"This is totally different.More like a mystery than history."Armaan muttered glumly.Perhaps.But in the end, it all comes down to the same thing."
Armaan glared at his friend."I didn't realise that a wedding ceremony turned a man into an instant relationship guru."
Abhi's smile faded."Sorry.Was i sounding smug?"
"You were."Armaan gave another shrug."But I'd probably be smug too, if i were in your shoes.
"except that you are right,"Abhi said, looking more serious now."I know nothing about you and riddhima."
Aheavy sigh escaped armaan and he realised that, despite his fierce reaction, he'd actually been hoping that his friend could reveal some kind of magic insight that would help him to clear the air with riddhima.Anything to be rid of this gnawing guilt he still carried.
"I think we are heading off soon,"Abhi said."I guess i'd better find my wife and finish my farewells."
They shook hands and armaan wished his mate all the best and it wasn't much later before the guests started gathering on the footpath to wave the happy couple off.
In the light of a street lamp,armaan could see riddhima's hair shimmering palely as she kissed niki and abhi before she drifted back to watch their departure.
Niki was lauching as she stood at the car's open door and lifted her bouquet of white roses.Armaan saw riddhima backing even further away, almost trying to hide.
Then the roses were sailing through the air in a high arc.There were girlish squeals of laughter and hands rose to try to grab the flowers, but niki's aim was sure.The bouquet landed square on riddhima's nose and she had no choice but to catch it.
A cheer went up and riddhima gave a bashful smile and held the bouquet high, no doubt knowing that all of willowbank would love to see their favourite vet married.
But she was probably grateful that everyone's attention quickly returned to the bride and groom.
Over the heads of the crowd abhi sent a flashing grin and armaan answered with a thumbs-up.
The car's exhaust roared as they took off for their new life.
Armaan,however,was watching riddhima.She stood in the shadows at the back of the throng, clutching the wedding bouquet in one hand while she used the other hand to swipe at her tears.
I think this would do as a big update.........
........pls comment whether it is good or bad or u can press the like tab too...........AND IF U WANT PM THEN PLS ADD ME TO UR BUDDY'S LIST...............
Edited by harshikarocks - 03 January 2011 at 9:44am