Ok guys so here is a long chapter....there are too many things happening here...but they didnt qualify as separate chapters so I have compiled them into one.
"Pretty,prettier, prettiest please?"
Shilpa raised one eyebrow.
"Naina....if you are done showing your grammatical knowledge, can I please return to my work?"
Naina made a sulky face.
"Why Shilpa......why cant you just agree and make my life easy?"
"Why cant you just ask someone else?"
"Because I already have!....and no one agreed."
"Well...I am not gong to agree either."
Naina glared at Shilpa.
"You are such a mean person Shilpa."
"I know ", Shilpa grinned.
"Please Shilpaaaaaaaaa", Naina whined again hoping this time she will agree.
"Naina....listen to me closely.....there is no way I am going to participate in that beauty pageant."
"But what's the big deal?.....And you know its being done for charity....how can you say no to charity?"
With that Shilpa turned to the rack of files behind her
Naina huffed and plopped down on Shilpa's chair. She had cornered Shilpa in her office an hour back hoping to convince her to participate but till now she had no such success.
"I hate you Shilpa."
"Thank you," Shilpa replied without turning back, her mind engrossed in her file.
They heard someone clear their throat and without even turning, Shilpa knew who it was
"Sid! ", Naina jumped up and went running to him.
There was that breathless feeling within her again.Shilpa took a few seconds to collect herself.Momentary thing..........just a momentary thing
, Shilpa tried to convince herself even as her stomach did some vigorous flip-flops at the sound of his voice.
She turned slowly to see Sid listening to Naina, with an affectionate smile on his face, as the latter ranted on about 'how mean Shilpa was'.
Sid loved Naina like his own sister. Even though he never showed it, he missed his sister, Sue's presence a lot in his life but Naina more than made up for her absence.
Shilpa moved her eyes away Sid....even a simply thing like looking at him was becoming difficult.
It reminded her of what she felt and how she shouldnt feel it.
She shook her head and focused on Naina.
"Please Sid...please make her agree."
"Naina!!" , Shilpa glared at her.....Naina knew very well that Sid could never refuse her anything and Shilpa in turn couldnt refuse Sid for anything.
Sid looked at both of them with an amused expression.
"But what exactly do I have to convince her for?", he asked.
"To participate in the beauty pageant that I am organizing....remember I had mentioned it to you earlier?....I had all my contestants ready until one backed out yesterday morning.I have nine people but I need ten otherwise the sponsors will back out. I have asked everyone but no is willing to participate. Shilpa is my best friend so shouldnt she help me out in my time of crisis?!", Naina took a deep breath, having spoken non stop.
"Will you stop your melodrama? ", Shilpa gritted her teeth.
"Melodrama?!! I am in serious trouble woman! The proceeds from this charity are going to go straight to St. Mary's Girl Orphanage.If I dont have all the contestants ready by tomorrow, the sponsors will back out and the show will be cancelled...and then the whole charity will go for a toss."
"My answer is still the same", Shilpa said, turning her nose up in the sir.
"What? Dont you have any sympathy for me? ", Naina put on her most miserable expression, "Dont you care about all those poor children?? Dont you....."
"Enough, enough both of you..", Sid intervened. He felt as if he was in the middle of a very tense tennis match. He knew very well that this could go on the whole day, maybe even the next, if he didnt sort it out.
He turned to Shilpa.
"No Sid ", she stopped him.. One look at his eyes and she knew her resoluteness would go flying out the window.
In fact, she could already see it taking flight.
"Sid...we are talking about me here. Can you actually imagine me in a beauty pageant?"
"Why not?" Naina asked.
"Because.....", she was suddenly felt very anxious with both Sid and Naina looking at her. "Because I have never done such things before! I dont know what exactly is done in such events and.......and this is me we are talking about!"
Naina rolled her eyes. "Yes we know....you mentioned it twice that its you we are talking about......Shilpa, why worry about all that?....I will be there to guide you."
"Its not that I dont want to help but.....but..........oh come on both of you! I dont have it me to participate in a beauty pageant. I am not even that good looking to participate......."
"Shilpa" , Sid interrupted, walking closer to her. "If you dont want to participate because you dont want to.......I understand. But if the reason you are hesitant is because you feel you arent good enough or are any less compared to others, then I think you are severely mistaken."
Sid paused and waited for her to say something but she didnt.
She couldnt say anything even if she wanted to.
In a teasing voice," If you ask me I think its the other contestants who should be worried if you participate....they wont even stand a chance, right Naina?"
Naina was about to reply when she suddenly caught the look in Shilpa's eyes.
Something about the way she was looking at Sid................oh
Naina's eyes widened.Was that even possible?
"I mean have you seen how the men in this hospital look at you??"
Naina was surprised that Sid was completely unaware of the effect his words were having on Shilpa.
How could he not see the pink shade that had formed on Shilpa's cheeks?
Naina felt stumped.Was it really possible?
Shilpa let his words sink into her.Why.....why was he saying all this?Why was he making her feel things she shouldnt?
The worst part was that Shilpa knew that he had no idea how his innocent words were causing havoc within her.
Shilpa looked away from Sid and tried to focus on Naina....tried
"You owe me a big one", was all she manged to say.
"YES!!" Naina shouted and pulled her into a bear hug, almost suffocating her.
"I cant breathe Naina!", she tickled Naina to let her go.
Sid sighed in relief.
"Well that's sorted...now can we please go for lunch? Yuvi has been torturing my phone asking me where we all are."
"Yes, yes lets go", Naina said excitedly linking her arms with Shilpa and Sid. "I cant wait to tell him about this."
But both Shilpa and Sid didnt know that the twinkle of excitement in Naina's eyes was for something else entirely.
Naina made sure to visit Shilpa's home that night........she knew she would not have a moment of peace till she spoke to Shilpa.
She simply had to know or else she knew she wouldnt be able to concentrate on anything else.
They had just been finishing a delicious dinner of pasta and cheese when Naina decided to 'attack' Shilpa.
"Shilpa...can I ask you something?"
"Sure....what is it?"
"Do you love Vivek?"
It was so out of the blue that Shilpa stopped eating.
That was the least thing Shilpa expected her to ask. She put her fork down slowly.
"What do you mean Naina....we are engaged."
"Yes I know that but that is not my answer.....do you love him?"
What could she say?
That question would probably never have an answer.........ever.
"Why are you asking this?"
"Because I am your friend...
"Vivek and I are engaged....isnt that enough?"
"Shilpa........I just want a simple yes or no."Why was it that the more she tried to get away from these questions, the more they cornered her.
"I fell in love once....no wait I thought
I fell in love.......with a man who made me believe that I could be truly and selflessly loved. And then I find out that I was just being used me to make his ex-girlfriend- who happens to be my sister - jealous."
She took a deep breath, "I dont think love is ever going to come to me Naina......"
Naina was silent for a few seconds. And then quietly, "And does Vivek know this....that you will probably never love him?"
"Vivek is a very good man. He understands me.....he understands my past Naina. He doesnt put any pressure on me. He knows everything about Armaan. I havent hidden anything from him."
"Right so Vivek knows everything about you, your past...but does he know you...the real
Shilpa frowned in confusion."Whatever do you mean?"
"Does he really
know you?," Naina paused wanting to see Shilpa's reaction for what she was going to say next, "Does he know you like Sid does?"
Shilpa looked away.Like Sid does
, those words were reverberating themselves in her head.
"Shilpa....you have so many people in your life who love you and care for you....Your aunt, your friends, Vivek. You are an open book for us but still there is a part of you that only Sid knows and understands........Am I wrong?"No, you arent
, Shilpa thought.
She kept quiet...........what could she tell? That little facts like these kept circling hear head day and night making her question herself again and again.
Shilpa's silence was an answer in itself for Naina.
She felt bad seeing the melancholic look in Shilpa's eyes......her questions were bringing up issues which Shilpa probably didnt want to address.
But for how long?.......Naina knew she had not just imagined that look in Shilpa's eyes for Sid.
She couldnt describe it but she knew that whatever it was, it was real, it was intense.
But what worried her was Sid.......she knew without a doubt that he was unaware of all this.
She knew that he had closed the gates of his heart so firmly that they would probably never open again.
Naina looked back at Shilpa.Would she have to endure yet another heart break??
Shilpa stood before Sid's office door, a paper held tightly between her fingers.She was doing the right thing
, she told herself. She needed
to do this.
Rising her hand slowly, she knocked on the door.
She opened the door slowly and stepped inside.
She was instantly encompassed in a comforting ambiance of rich brown and white hues........... they suited the man to whom this room belonged to.
She looked towards him and found him fast asleep with his head resting on the dark ebony table.
Walking closer to him, she took in his sleeping features.
Tiredness was etched across his face and there were black circles under his eyes.He works so hard
, she thought.
She observed the lines of face. Even though he looked peaceful, there was a worry line on his forehead.
A sudden urge came over her to smooth it out, to brush his hair with her fingers. Her hand moved of it's own accord and had almost brushed his forehead lightly when she suddenly she snatched it back.What was she doing?!
She turned away from him.
She was here with a probable solution for her problems and a few seconds ago she had almost botched it all up.
One look at him had made her so weak......
She felt angry with herself. It was better if she left now and came back another time when she could trust herself to behave properly.
She didnt want to disturb his slumber anyway.
She hardly took two steps when...."Shilpa?"Uh oh.......
She turned to see him awake and looking at her.
"I am sorry Sid. I didnt want to disturb you....I.....I'll come back later."
Sid, rubbing his face ,"No, no its ok. I dont know how I fell asleep. Dont go.... I'll just splash some water on my face."
She sat down on a chair, her nerves all jittery.
He came out of the bathroom, looking refreshed.
Seating himself in the chair next to her he asked, "What is it?"
She took a deep breath.
"Sid, is it ok if I take a leave........for a week or two."
Even though Shashank was the head of both the branches of Sanjeevani, he
had given full power and control to Sid for running this branch.
"Is everything okay?", Sid asked concerned. She had never asked for a leave before.
"Yes everything is fine. I just....", she swallowed the lump that was forming in her throat, "I think I should spend some time with Vivek. We dont really get much time together what with my busy schedule and his never ending business trips. But he is free for a few days and I thought...", she paused.Why was this so hard for her? This is exactly what a good fiancee would do for her fiance......
"I have never taken leave before so I thought now would be the best time so that ....."
Sid, smiling at her," Is that all?, You want me to approve your leave?"
"Yes", she nodded.
As Sid took the papers from her hand and signed on them, Shilpa felt something sink inside her.This is what she wanted right?
Take a leave, spend some time away from Sid, spend more time with Vivek, clear her messed up head and maybe when she returned all these unbidden feelings would go away.Do you want these feelings to go away?
, her inner voice asked.
She ignored her inner voice......it had been pestering her a lot since the last few days.
As Sid tucked away her leave application in a file, she could worry about only one thing - how was she going to stay away from him for so many days?
-----------------------------------------------------------Old Sanjeevani Locker Room.
"For God's sake Riddhima! Why can you just let it go?!"
"No! I will not let it go...I need some answers right now!"
"Riddhima I....", he tried to quell his anger," I told you.......I wasnt flirting with that girl. Just because I was friendly to my colleague doesnt mean I am flirting with her or I am interested in her."
He threw his hands up in frustration and shook his head.
"What is wrong with you Riddhima....why have you become like this?"
"Oh....so now you think I am the problem.", she smiled in sarcasm."That's very good Armaan....put the blame on me now."
"Riddhima", he pinched the bridge of his nose, "I am not blaming you. Why cant you simply believe me when I tell you something? Why do you always have to misunderstand and twist my words? Why do I always find myself justifying each and every little action of mine to you?........Why?"
Riddhima scoffed and turned to open her locker.
Armaan was hit with a painful realization that nothing he said affected her.
"If I talk nicely to another woman, why do you always name it as flirting? Dont you trust me? All these years.......have I looked at any other woman the way I look at you?"
Riddhima quietly looked down, knowing but not willing to admit, that he was right.
" You know.....the saddest fact of my life is that you have never understood me Riddhima.....and the worse thing, you have never even tried to."
With that, he walked out of the locker room.
Riddhima, too, walked out of the locker room with tears forming in her eyes, going in the opposite direction Armaan had taken.
A few seconds later, Naina walked out of the restroom. Hearing Armaan and Riddhima's raised voices, she had stayed inside not wanting to intrude.
She shook her head at them in pity.
Unlike Sid, Shilpa and Yuvi, she had not been transferred to the new branch.
And consequently, she had witnessed Armaan and Riddhima crumbling relationship.
All she had seen them do in these last six years, was fight and make up, and again fight and make up.
It went on like a vicious circle.
Everyone had expected them to be married now but somehow that bliss hadnt come for them.
Much as she hated Armaan, she knew that what he said today was right......she had never seen Riddhima put in even half as much as effort as Armaan did.
She had wondered numerous times....... how Riddhima could be happy with anyone else given the bond she had shared with Sid.
She shrugged to herself....it wasnt her business.
Sid had loved her immensely....maybe he still did. She had never seen anyone love like that.....but the fact remained that Riddhima had never deserved him.
Sid didnt deserve an unsettled person who couldnt decide which man she was in love with.....her husband or her ex-boyfriend.
Naina shuddered in disgust at that thought.
What mattered to her was that Sid deserved a person who could love him unconditionally,who wouldnt expect anything from him, whose love would be enough both of them....and maybe, just maybe, Sid was very close to finding that person....closer than he expected.
Armaan walked out of Sanjeevani, frustration raging inside him.
He tried to calm himself by taking a deep breath.
But the fresh air did nothing to soothe him.
A glaring truth had been chasing him since many days now and he could no longer hide from it.
It was gone.....the essence of his love....his and Riddhima's love ...was gone.
All that remained now was bitterness.
No matter how much he tried to, he couldnt fill the cracks in the relationship that just seemed to get deeper and deeper.
The ropes, with which he had held himself and Riddhima together firmly since all these years, was slipping from his hands.
And he didnt think he could anything further now......he had done a lot....for the both of them
And he had to admit, even though it was painful , that Riddhima had never worked on their relationship.
It was always him.
But he was tired now.How could things end up like this?
They were the forever couple.....people envied them for their love.
They had built so many dreams about their life....such beautiful dreams.
They should have been married by now.............but every time he spoke about marriage, Riddhima would clam up.
She would get nervous and edgy........the very mention of marriage would make her pale.Why?
, he thought.
When she could get married so easily to a person who had practically been a stranger to her, then why not him.......the man she supposedly loved?
He rubbed his face to clear his thoughts.
He could think about all this later.........he wouldnt let his personal problems affect his duties.
As he was turning to go back inside, his spotted a girl walking out of the other block, one hand holding a cell phone to her ear and the other holding some files.Shilpa.
A strange calm took over him.
it was weird.....whenever he was stressed, a glance of her or a thought about her would calm him down.
At first he had denied it.....because that right had belonged only to Riddhima before.
But he could accept it now..........
What he had done with her was terrible....and he had realized that very late.
All she had done was help him in his most difficult times, she had absorbed his wrath and had only given him friendship and love in return.
But he had been a fool not to see that.
He had only used her.
He had been so obsessed with Riddhima and getting her back in his life that nothing else had mattered then.
No one's feelings had mattered.
He had lost a true friend because of his selfishness.
He observed her as she walked in random circles, engrossed in her conversation.
She still looked the same as she did before....only a little slimmer.
There was a touch of maturity about her....she no longer seemed like that childlike, bubbly girl he had known.
She had matured into an attractive, confident woman.
A light breeze floated towards her and ruffled her hair .
She flipped her hair and smiled at something.
He was suddenly struck by her sheer beauty.........his heart actually raced a little faster than usual.
Eyes wide, he turned away from her........no, he could feel like this for anyone except Riddhima.Riddhima and me....we are meant to be.....we are each other's true love.
But as he stepped back inside the hospital he realized that his last thought didnt sound as convincing as it used to before.
Edited by sidsk - 21 February 2011 at 1:56pm