Thank you so much everyone fro reading and commenting! I couldnt reply to all the comments this time but I have read each one of them and they mean a lot. Thnx again..........so sorry for the delay in updates.
Numbness took over his body as he stared at the woman in front of him.
He had seen a few glimpses of her every now and then but had never come face to face with her.....he hadnt even wanted to.
She had not changed at all.
The same beautiful face......that had deceived him so brilliantly.
The same innocent eyes....that had manipulated him so superbly into building so many hopes and dreams.
Why was she here?
Why had she come to him after so long?I have insulted our marriage,our relationship but most of all I have broken your faith in me...
It was just a weak moment...please! I stopped before things got out of hand......it was the sight of your bracelet that made me stop.
The words echoed harshly in his ears.
His eyes hardened.
"How are you Sid?", she asked in a quiet tone.
There was a time when that voice had been the music of his life.
Anger raged within him as the sight of her face slowly and painfully opened up all his old wounds.
"I am fine Dr. Gupta.....Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Sid......I know we parted on bad terms but that doesnt erase the wonderful bond we shared...."
Sid remained silent. He really couldnt understand why she was here talking to him.
"Sid I.....", Riddhima paused, "I miss you Sid...I miss our friendship. I know this sounds very weird coming from me after so many years....I know a lot has changed. But I just want to know how you are doing. Its too late but I wanted to see if you are fine."
He simply looked at her for a few seconds.
She felt as if his eyes were looking deep into her soul as they always had before.
"You needn't worry for me Riddhima".
She felt a pleasant feeling rise within her hearing him voice her name after ages.
"You weren't bothered when we were married so why all this sudden concern now?"
Riddhima swallowed, her throat dry, and looked away.
"It wasnt like that Sid......no matter what I always cared for you...I..."
"No Riddhima...you never cared about me.I was only a duty...an obligation
that you were trying to fulfill."
She looked at his eyes and was suddenly struck by how much he had changed.
Even when they had hated each other in the beginning, he had never looked at her with so much coldness.
Riddhima shook her head and tried to speak but no words came to her.What could she even say.....
She had nothing to justify herself...because deep down she knew he was right...but she wasnt ready to admit it.
"Now if you'll excuse me I have to go", he said getting in the car.
She wanted to stop him but somehow couldnt.
The tyres screeched as he sped the car away.
As she looked at the fast disappearing car with a crestfallen look, a bitter fact agonized her.This wasnt the Sid she knew.
Standing inside the entrance, Shilpa had watched the whole scene through the glass doors.
Her heart almost in her throat, she turned and walked back further into the hospital.
She kept a blank face as people passed her and tried very hard to ignore the anguish running within her.Riddhima......Sid.
She stared randomly at the wall in front of her, having completely forgotten about the water boiling behind her.Riddhima, Sid, Riddhima, Sid, Riddhima, Sid....................
The words played like a broken tape inside her head.
The water bubbled over the surface of the vessel and splashed on the back of her right hand.
She was brutally brought out of her reverie as her hand throbbed with a stinging sensation, tears springing into her eyes because of the pain.
Putting off the stove, she quickly headed towards the bathroom.
She opened the tap and let the cold water run over her hand....a deep purple scar had already begun to form.Great
, she thought, just what I need three days before the pageant.
She looked up and caught her reflection in the little mirror in front of her.
A melancholic face stared back at her.
Her eyes widened...........for a second she almost didnt recognize herself......she looked so distressed.
Her eyes glittered with moisture which caused her image in the mirror to blur for a few seconds and she saw a vision of Sid and Riddhima from earlier that day.What were they talking about?What had made Riddhima come to him?
She blinked and found her reflection in front of her again.
Her tired eyes stared back at her, an evidence of how disturbed she was.
Her feelings for Sid, continuously hiding them and herself from him, the fact that she was setting herself up for a loveless marriage, seeing Riddhima with Sid again after so many years.........everything was taking a toll on her.
She looked into the depths of the mirror to search for the once lively girl that had stood in her place...content with her life.
And now it seemed everything was messed up royally.
She had never expected a person like Riddhima to face her past after so many years.
She shook her head to get rid of her thoughts.
She knew it was not going to do her any good thinking about them.
Closing the water tap, she moved out of the bathroom and sat on her bed.
What was the point in thinking and tormenting herself about all these things?
The fact was that Sid had loved Riddhima with a devotion that she had never witnessed before....and she wasnt stupid enough to assume that Sid had gotten over Riddhima.
Riddhima had been his love, his life, his strength, his weakness....she had been his whole world.And that kind of love doesnt just go away so easily.
From the looks of it , it seemed that Riddhima was back in his life.
Her mind raced with the possibilities of what could happen now.
Whatever happened though, it was she who was going to suffer.
Whatever the consequence, she was going to have to deal with the fact that she might not have Sid so close to her as she did now.
As soon as her last patient of the day walked out, Shilpa sat back in her chair and closed her eyes, completely exhausted.
She had been swarmed with so many patients that she didnt even get a chance to eat anything the whole day.
Getting up, she started to clear her table which had turned into a complete mess.
She was almost done when suddenly her door was burst open.
She looked up to see a heavily panting Naina and a frowning Sid.
"What happened?" , she asked alarmed, "Is everyone alright?"
"Shilpa...." Naina tried to calm her breathing, " Why do you think tragedy has struck somewhere just because Sid and I have come rushing into your office?"
Slightly annoyed at herself for overreacting, Shilpa focused on Naina and tried not to look at Sid.
He hadnt mentioned anything about Riddhima yet and that hurt her....a little.
But then again, it was a completely different story that they hadnt spoken to each other properly since the last few days.
"I need a favour...I need you and Sid to run an errand for me."No, no....
Things were simply too awkward between them right now. Remembering the hurt in his eyes yesterday , she was sure that he wouldnt want to go anywhere with her.
"The flower coordinators are having a bit of a confusion. I need you to go to the Flora Emporium and explain a few things to them. I cant go because I have too many appointments today. Sid cant go alone because he doesnt know all the details but you do. And you cant go alone because you dont know where it is but Sid does....so you know....you both have to go together."You fail miserably at discretion Mrs. Oberoi
, Naina told herself.
Shilpa momentarily looked away from Naina as her mind came up with a hundred excuses of escaping this...but she pushed them all away.
She had run enough now....more than him, it was her own self she was running from.
And now it had to stop.
She didnt know what the future held for them but she was not going to let any chance, of simply being by his side, escape form her hands.
"Sure Naina......what exactly do I have to tell them?"
Naina smiled widely in relief...she had been sure that Shilpa was going to refuse.
Sid must have thought the same thing too, Naina thought, because the frown marring his forehead had eased away and he looked mildly surprised.
"Thank you so much! You both are my life savers. Now I want you to tell them that........................"
Shilpa quietly followed Sid as they walked out of the hospital and towards his car.
All these days she had been using her own car to travel to the hospital.
And now, as he opened the door for her, she was assaulted by severe guilt at her actions.
She had truly left him alone only because of her own selfish reasons.
As she got into the car, his phone rang.
He turned away to receive the call and she quickly opened the the glove compartment in front of her.
She spotted a box of Runts sitting there.
Sid always kept a of box of those candies in his car because he knew she loved munching on them while traveling.
The sight of it sitting there innocently, even when she had not traveled with him since the last few days, filled her with such an intense emotion that she felt like crying.
She quickly closed the glove box before Sid saw her.
But, unknown to her, he had seen her.
He shook his head at her...she was behaving like a small girl.
Taking a deep breath, he got into the car and drove away from Sanjeevani.
A thick silence persisted in the car...so thick a knife could slice through it.
She kept her eyes turned towards the window trying very hard not to look towards her right.
White had always been Sid's color.......it did wonders in bringing out the beauty of his dark eyes.
And right now, sitting next to her in a white button up shirt and black denims, with his sleeves rolled above his elbows, he was doing a fine job in throwing her into a complete daze......unknowingly of course.
His mind thought of various ways of starting up a conversation but they didnt make it to his lips.Since when had things turned so uncomfortable between them?
This was Shilpa.......why did he even have to find ways to talk to her?
They could understand each other even without saying a word.
He kept glancing at her every now and then.
Her fingers were fiddling with the ends of her stole........she always did that when she nervous.
Was she preoccupied about something?.....or was he making nervous?Dont be silly Sid....why would she be nervous of you?
He observed her discreetly.
Red had always been her favorite colour. Dressed in blue denims and a red sleeveless kurti, she looked more like a college student than a pediatrician.
His heart suddenly filled with affection for her.
No matter what happened, he was certain the she was the one constant in his life that would never change.
The thought calmed his mind which had been in a perpetual state of unrest since his encounter with Riddhima.Why
....why had she come to him now that he had learned to live without her?
When he had walked away form her, he had hoped never to meet her again........
Long-buried, painful questions were rising within him which he had hoped never to face again.
Only Shilpa could put his unease to rest......he wanted to talk about it to her but he didnt how to start given their current status.
Before they knew it, they reached the emporium.
Stopping the car, he turned of the engine and said, "You go on.'
Shilpa didnt ask him to come inside with her....she knew he wouldnt.
This was the same place from where he used to buy flowers for Riddhima.
That name hung like a huge pendulum between them.
She was about to get out of the car when suddenly he grasped her hand.
Tiny bolts of electricity shot up her arm from where his hand was holding hers.
His finger traced her bruise........his touch as soft as a feather.
"What happened?', he asked looking intently at her wound.
She tried to find her voice.
"I....you know how clumsy I am.......I accidentally dropped some hot water on my hand."
She couldnt tell him that she had been musing about him and Riddhima.
He let go of her hand and nodded.
Getting out of the car, she inhaled the fresh air to calm her traitorous nerves.Honestly Shilpa.......you are acting like a teenager. He has held your hand many times before.
But it had never felt like this before,
her inner voice spoke up.
She shook her head......Great! Now I am talking to myself.
Walking inside the greenhouse-like shop, she was instantly hit by a hundred different fragrances.
She smiled to herself, her worries temporarily gone.
Walking randomly around the area, she picked up a few flowers for herself...........she was so lost in the beauty surrounding her that she didnt notice a man staring unabashedly at her.
He moved behind two big flower pots so that he watch her without her awareness.
She picked out a red rose, the colour matching what she was wearing.
A smile appeared on his face......she had always looked good in red,
he thought to himself.
She seemed to be in her own world as could be made out by the smile on her face.
A thorn pricked his finger, which had involuntarily touched the flowers in front of him, reminding the reason he was here.What was he doing?
He had come here to get some flowers for Riddhima who happened to be waiting outside for him.
He shook his head and looked up to see that Shilpa had disappeared.
He looked around but couldnt spot her anywhere.
It was better that way, he thought.
Every time she came in front of him, she was making him feel things he shouldn't be feeling....she was reminding him of how it had felt when he had first fallen in love with Riddhima.What did that mean?
Holding Riddhima's bouquet in his hand, he walked to the counter to find Shilpa talking to the owner of the emporium.
There was no other customer in sight....he had to go stand behind her.
He had just reached her when all of sudden she turned.
Her eyes widened.
Riddhima got out of the car wondering why it was taking Armaan so long.
She was debating whether to go inside and check on him or not when suddenly she spotted a man a few feet ahead of her on the opposite side of the road.Sid.
Her heart swelled with excitement.
He was leaning on his car, his dark head turned away from her, looking at something.
She didnt know why she felt so excited to see him.........her feet had taken one step towards him when suddenly she stopped.Armaan.....
Her fingers crushed her dupatta, desperation coursing through her.
She wanted to go talk to Sid but Armaan would come out any minute........
She heard the far away horn of an approaching truck and an idea struck her.
It was dangerous and stupid but she had to find out.
No matter what the situation he had always saved her....he had always come to her whenever she had found herself in trouble.
A determined look came into her eyes.He would come to her today too.
......she was sure of it.
Suddenly he turned and looked directly at her.
For a few seconds they simply looked at one another.
After the initial shock wore off, Shilpa discovered that she felt nothing but a small amount of surprise at seeing him after so long.
That meant he was finally out of her system.
She felt satisfied that she had finally grown out of the rejection he had gifted her.
"How are you Shilpa?"
She raised her eyebrows....was he actually
talking to her?
She had assumed that he wouldnt want to considering the way she had mocked him in the last conversation that had occurred between them six years back.
A detached look came over face.
"I am fabulous", she replied with as much attitude she could muster.
He smiled. "That's good to know. I am happy to hear that."
"Are you really?", she tilted her head at him surprised to find genuineness in his eyes.
He felt uneasy at the cold vibes coming from her. "Look Shilpa..... I know its too late but I.......I am extremely sorry for the way I behaved with you. I........what I did was inexcusable."
She couldnt say she didnt feel satisfaction at the sight of guilt on his face. But at the time she was curious to know why he was apologizing to her now...when so much time had passed.
"It is weird hearing this from you Armaan..........I have long forgotten you."
He didnt know why he felt so disheartened hearing that she had forgotten about him.
"Now if you'll excuse me.......I have to go. Sid is waiting for me outside."
She walked away from him and he felt an indescribable fury rise within him upon hearing that name.
"Are you going to buy those, Sir?
He came out of his angry bubble and proceeded to pay for his purchase.
It was like history was repeating itself.
They both were standing on the opposite sides of the road.
They both were wearing the same colours they had worn that day in Panchgani when he had saved her from being trampled by a truck.
She slowly started walking on the road, purposely diverting her eyes away from him making it seem as if she was heading towards the fruit juice stall opposite her.
Sid watched confused as she stopped right in the middle of the road and searched for something in her purse.What did she think she was doing?
He spotted the truck making its way towards them.
But she didnt seem aware of it.
Nostalgia hit him like a brick as he was assaulted by the memory of that fateful day when he had saved her in Panchgani.
Suddenly he saw Shilpa exit the shop and walk towards him.
One hand was holding her phone to her ear and the other was covering her other ear to hear the person she was talking to.
She seemed completely unaware of the continuous honking of the now fast approaching truck.
He felt as if his insides had frozen.
His vision blurred till Shilpa and Riddhima were just two red patches before his eyes.
It was as if his whole body was paralyzed.
Images flashed before his eyes........saving Riddhima from that truck, saving Riddhima from the goons that had attacked them in the jungle, saving Riddhima from freezing to death by transferring his body heat, saving Riddhima after she had consumed poison on their wedding day..............
He was gripped by the same fear that he had always felt whenever Riddhima was in danger......the same fear that had always clutched him at the thought that something could happen to her.....the loss he would feel if something were to happen to her.......
Propelled by that thought, he felt life come back to his limbs.
He screamed something but he couldnt hear himself because of the loud ringing in his ears.
Pushed by that exact fear of loss, he ran.
-------------------------------------------Note : I am soooooooooo sorry but that cliffhanger was just too hard to resist.On a serious note, this was needed considering the way the next chapter is shaping up.
Edited by sidsk - 08 March 2011 at 11:32am