'Going to be late. The keys are under the doormat. Love you'
Armaan read the note and smiled, his eyes lingering on the 'love you' part more than anything else. He sighed and bent down to pick the keys up from under the mat. He opened the door to their apartment and entered.
It had been two months since they had shifted to their apartment. Life couldn't have been better. True, they had their petty adjustment issues, but which married couple didn't? Fighting over small issues like clothes, food and cleanliness was almost a weekly routine. But they had slowly grown to love those little fights. Armaan walked towards the fridge to take a bottle of water out. It had been a tiring day. He was the head neurologist at Sanjeevani and it was not just physically tiring, but also emotionally draining to deal with disease struck patients every day.
He sighed as he sat down on the sofa and closed his eyes. One of his patient's face swirled in his mind. He had parkinson's, second stage. Armaan had been his doctor right from the beginning, and he had seen the degenerative disease sink deeper and deeper into his very being with each passing year. No matter how much Armaan tried to maintain a professional relationship, talking to that man always took an emotional toll on him.
He sat there for a long time before he realized that he was hungry. There was no cooked food since Ridhima hadn't returned, so he decided to fill in for her. There was no conventional work division in their house. 'If you're hungry, then cook and eat' ' was the motto they lived by.
While he was preparing what he prepared best ' pasta, he heard the door open and looked around.
"Hey", said Ridhima in a tired voice as she dropped her keys in the key basket. She walked towards him and hugged him from behind. Armaan smiled at her touch and turned around to embrace her properly. He kissed her forehead and placed his chin on her head.
She nodded slowly in his arms, "I hate being an architect"
He smiled. She said that almost every day.
"You could always drop that and you know...become a full time housewife, look after the kitchen and that sort of stuff..", said Armaan in a teasing tone. Ridhima looked up at him and gave him a 'really?' expression, "you think I'm going to let your inner chauvinistic pig feel satisfied? Never"
Armaan sighed, "My poor male ego"
They looked at each other and chuckled. Ridhima slowly broke away and looked at what Armaan was cooking, "Looks yummy. Now I'm hungry. Why don't you set the table while I go and change? Thanks darling. I love you"
She said all of that in a second and strode away without a second glace. He stood there gaping at her, "Hey, what the hell? You're supposed to help me out!"
She replied without turning around, "Sorry. Looks like you're all alone today"
He stood there with a 'what-the-hell' expression on his face for a long time, before he shook his head and a small smile broke out on his face. Moments like these made him forget all his worry, tension, stress and distress.
After half an hour, Ridhima walked down the stairs, now in a pair of pyjamas and a simple T-shirt. Armaan had almost finished garnishing the pasta when she plopped down in the sofa and yelled, "Am I going to sleep on an empty stomach tonight? Jeez, men are so damn slow", she said, her voice laced with fake anger and irritation.
"What do you expect? Men are not supposed to cook traditionally. It's not my fault that my wife is a lazy bum", he replied cheekily.
She pretended to yawn at his response and sunk further into her sofa, "Whatever. Either bring the food or else I'll put your bum on fire"
Armaan smiled, "Yes, ma'am!" and picked up the two plates and walked towards Ridhima. He sat down next to her and held her plate in front of her face, "There you go, lazy bum". As the smell of the pasta penetrated her nostrils, she quickly sat up and snatched it from his hands. He inwardly smiled at her childishness.
"You know, I don't think we need to have a child", he said casually.
She looked at him, a bit startled, "Why is that?"
"You can compensate for one quite well"
She pursed her lips as he chuckled.
"You think I'm a kid?"
He quickly stifled his laugh, straightened his expression and shook his head. The effort seemed to last only for a while though, because he started laughing again the very next second. In annoyance, Ridhima lifted a cushion and threw it at him, "Thanks for the subtle reply"
He continued to laugh despite her annoyance. It was a pleasure to watch Ridhima throw a tantrum due to irritation. She continued to eat quietly whilst inwardly calling him names. After they had finished eating, Ridhima picked up the plates, walked to the kitchen sink and rinsed them with water.
"I need to talk to you about something", Armaan said, breaking the silence.
She turned around and stared at him, "First you accept that you were just joking"
"About me being a kid"
"Ofcourse...", she started to smile when he completed his sentence, "..Not"
She frowned once again and turned around. Armaan laughed and walked towards her. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he whispered in her ear, "But I still love you"
This time, she couldn't stop herself from smiling. He smiled too and kissed her cheek.
"What did you want to talk to me about?", asked Ridhima, her annoyance now completely forgotten.
Armaan sighed and buried his face in her shoulder. She sensed his tension and turned around. Cupping his face in her hands, she lifted his face up and looked into his eyes, "Armaan what's wrong?"
"You remember my patient Raghav? I told you about him last month"
She racked her brain to place the name on a face, and suddenly remembered the Parkinson's patient Armaan had been so worried about last month.
"The man who has Parkinson's, right?"
He slowly nodded and let out a sigh, "He's...not getting any better Ridhima. We've tried everything, but nothing seems to help him. We can't find a definite cure" He paused for a moment to collect his thoughts, "He's sinking into depression now"
Without saying anything, Ridhima pulled him into a hug and held him firmly. Like a small child seeking comfort and protection, Armaan allowed himself to be pulled into a strong embrace and wrapped his arms around her. She kissed his shoulder and gently rubbed his back to soothe him, "It'll be alright. I have faith in you. It'll all be okay", she whispered softly.
They held each other for a long time. The fact that he had someone to fall back upon at all times, that there was someone who would hold his hand and tell him that it would be alright calmed him down immensely. Closing his eyes, he tried to let go of the emotional dent that the day had left on his conscience. He slowly broke apart from the hug and looked at her face. Her eyes held concern for him, but with a trace of hope and faith. He smiled and said, "I love you"
"I love you too", she replied with a warm smile, "And now I need to get some chores done"
He let out an exaggerated sigh and shook his head, "Looks like I'll have to start looking elsewhere for my personal satisfaction"
Ridhima's jaw dropped and she stared at him, dumbstruck by what he had just said. He burst out laughing and slowly started backing out of the kitchen. She turned towards him with horror-filled eyes, "What did you just say?"
"Uh-oh. Am I going to die?"
"You're a dead man Armaan Mallik!", and with that, Ridhima sprinted after him as he ran away from her. She continued to throw curses at him all the while. But even while she called him names, Armaan once again thought of how lucky he was to have her by his side.