Joined: 15 June 2010
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Joined: 15 June 2010
Chapter 16 - The Stuff In Between
The exams were drawing nearer and nearer, and everyone was now busy in their free time, revising, or doing extra duty. The excitement of Abhi and Nikki had already drowned within the week, while the interns could think of nothing but diseases their cures, various viruses, etc. Grudgingly, Armaan saw that his birthday was also looming up, unfortunately at a time everyone was too busy, so a party would be out of the question. In fact, everyone was so caught up in their own work that no one had even thought of discussing it. Time at the locker room was limited, and time with the one you loved was even more so. While Abhi and Nikki took to late night duties, and started pouring over books together, Riddhima and Armaan normally got away from the hospital area as soon as they could, and sat together in a coffee shop, or at Atul's house when no one was there, cramming the names of different drugs and muscles. Fights were getting more and frequent between everyone because of the over head tension and snappiness between everyone.
Muskaan and Rahul had not fought for what seemed like ages, however, they had not talked either for the same amount of time, which created a great aura of stressed conversation between the interns, when they had five minutes to themselves. No one could fail to notice the glowering looks between the couple, or the disappointed, longing vibe that sometimes travelled between them. But it seemed that their ego was a huge factor in prolonging this never ending cold war, where each tried to out do the other and prove them wrong. The mission to bring them closer had failed every time. That included setting up random dates, where one couldn't make it which caused another issue, locking them up in the store 'by mistake' which caused further arguments about how to get out, each thinking the other's suggestion was wrong, and random things such as leaving them at the canteen table alone, where one would just ignore the other blatantly and walk away. Things did not look good. Especially when a heated argument could be heard in Rahul's car, that had been bottled up inside throughout the day and not let out, simply because Keerti had banned them from talking in the hospital if the only thing they were going to do was provide entertainment for the staff and patients.
But it was not as if everyone's motive was only to bring Rahul and Muskaan together. As much as they all wished that, each had their exams, which would come up in a month's time, to worry about. The only people who were their usual cheery self were Atul, Anjali, and the other resident doctors, who had no fears of repeating their internship. Even Sid, to that extent roamed around with a forlorn face, not being able to stand Muskaan's sour moods, and others' seriousness. But he had a good six months to get through. So why would he be worried. However, with the absence of his friends, and the absence of their jokes took a great toll on his mood. He would often be found sitting alone at the locker room, staring thoughtfully into a space, and once when Nikki and Muskaan could just about spare three minutes for him, they came to a conclusion that he was lonely and needed someone with him. They turned to Riddhima, who turned to Armaan, and as usual, he had a plan ready in his head, which he refused to tell the others about it. Fair enough, they didn't need more on their mind. Especially now that Dr Keerti and other doctors, including Atul here, were breathing down their necks with the work load. But Armaan's secretiveness turned out to trigger another row between himself and Riddhima.
"Armaan, how much will you handle?" she literally screamed at him one day. "You don't take me seriously, we all have exams coming up, you're the only one who's still trying to bridge the distance between Rahul and Muskaan, and now you're trying to sort out Sid's problem all by yourself. You're not Superman you know!" Her tirade ended and she just found him giving her one of his grins, which did nothing to improve her moods. She was heck worried. Worried about everyone and everything, but mostly worried about the pressure Armaan was taking up on himself. How could he not see what he was doing to himself?
"I'm fine Basket, seriously, and I can handle it." His usual reply came back, which snapped Riddhima while she shut the locker door with a bang.
"You know what, FINE! Tujhe jo karna hai karo. I have never met someone as stubborn as you, and if all this ends up killing you, fine! Go die then!" and with that, she swept out of the room, muttering curses at her incorrigible boyfriend, whom she wanted to shake hard to knock some sense into. They barely had the required eight hours of sleep, and on top of that, Armaan had stayed up the whole night doing night duty, got some four hours sleep and now that he finally had time to rest for an hour again, wanted to go out to sort something out of Sid!
"Basket.." she heard him calling as he followed her to his car.
"Armaan I don't want to listen to anything. Tumhaare yeh stupid sa dimaag mein jo bhi aaye, karo. Mera kya. I don't think you understand that Sid is old enough to look after himself. Or that Muskaan and Rahul will one day sort out the differences between themselves, as they're adults. Or maybe that if you don't sleep well, get enough rest, you might fall sick. And what will I go through if you fall sick?!" She kept interrupting him, not letting him get a word inside.
"Armaan just shut up and drive! I'm in no mood to listen to your stupid excuses. Khud ki fikar hai nahin, aate ho doosron ki madad karne ke liye." She muttered the last sentence.
"Done? Can I.."
"No you can't talk, just shut up!" she nearly shouted, and put the radio louder so that she could divert her mind off the fact that she had just thrown all her building temper, and frustrations at him. As soon as they got to Riddhima's house, she slammed the door in his face, and walked off, evidently pissed of at the lack of concern he had for himself, and still not realizing it.
Armaan, for the time being, let her be. She was right to be concerned. But he didn't want to burden her as well with others' problems. And the only reason he was so willing to help others was because he was worried for them. Just as she was, or would have been hadn't the exam pressure taken a toll on her like it was doing now. He was hoping she would not let it prolong, and called her as soon as he got home.
"I'm sorry Armaan.." she whispered into the phone as soon as she picked up. "I don't know why I throw my anger on you all the time these days."
"It's ok Basket. Did you hear me complain?" he asked her with a smile on his face. Oh, he loved her so much.
"No, but I really am sorry. But please, please don't take so much upon yourself. Please have enough rest," she begged him.
"Riddhima who told you I'm not having enough rest?"
"You look pale, you look weak, you look tired. And I can tell! And it's worrying me so much."
"Riddhima, No fear, when Armaan's here." He joked. "Trust me, I'm fit and fine. Nothing to worry about."
"Armaan, don't give me anything to worry about. Else I'll murder you." She clenched her teeth and replied back, making him chuckle.
"Okies, sweetheart. I love you.."
"I love you too." She whispered back, feeling at ease with herself, after her guilt that had been biting her from the inside about shouting and refusing to listen to him. But what could she do? He was taking so much upon himself. And it wasn't like she didn't have anything other to do besides worry for him! She found herself walking, talking and sleeping with Armaan constantly on her mind. Wondering whether he had enough sleep, whether he was fine, whether he looked a bit pale or feverish, whether he had done enough revision for the day, whether he was back from one of his stupid set up plans for Rahul and Muskaan that failed every time! And it wasn't even because his plans didn't work. It was because the couple themselves had other things on their minds, so much that they never gave each other and their arguments priority. Then if they would never try and take the step what made Armaan think he was some super powered human being, doing so much in one go? And since he never cared for himself, it was her responsibility to look after him, force him to have his lunch, battle with his lies and uncover the secret behind how much (if any) breakfast he had had that morning! Like she didn't have other things to be doing? Keerti's workload, her dad's constant advices and pressure about the exams, the mere fact she had to pass them or repeat a whole year!
"A whole year?" She had mouthed un-believably when she first heard about the consequences of failing them. And maybe Sanjeevani wouldn't even allow them to repeat the year here, which meant whoever failed had to leave everything and everyone behind. And she wanted to pass. But more than that, she wanted Armaan to pass as well. And not only pass, but pass well. But with the way everything was going, yes she knew Armaan was a smart guy who didn't need much revision, she was afraid she might just lose him once again. One more thing. Her dad didn't like failures, especially at crucial stages like these. And this should be a thing for both of them.
* * * * *
She sat at the coffee shop, exhausted with the day's work. Just when she thought she was done with school work sort of stuff! Now they had to give exams, and that too in half a month's time. What if she failed for once? No, she couldn't let that happen! Her father would be so disappointed in her! And Anjali and Atul? They would too! Putting her head up again, she opened a book and Armaan returned, placing a cup of coffee next to her.
"Basket, enough for a while. You've been at this same topic for over 2 hours. It's complicated, so just let it go." He told her as he sat down next to her.
"No, Armaan, I can't. I just need to get it in my head, I'll be fine, honest.." she whispered, placing her head on his shoulder. He kissed her hair and slid his arm around her waist.
"Fine, rest for now then come back to it in an hour. You look so drained!" he commented, while sipping his own coffee. She felt herself relunctantly agree, while all she wanted to do was close her eyes and let Armaan drag her into this amazing world where exams, tension, stress, and everything of that sort did not exist. Ignoring her own mug, and took his from his hand, placing it on the table after taking a sip herself.
"heyy..coffee chor! Tumhaari coffee yahin par hai." He remarked, with amischievous glint in his eyes. She found the sugar level in her system build up and felt more energy in herself too as she replied,
"Aur jab tum meri chocolate churate ho? Uska kuch nahin, Mr Selfish Mallik."
"Chocolate is different, this is Coffee."
"Yeah right it's different, if I want to drink coffee from your cup I will. Dekhti hoon kaise rokoge mujhe." And she took another sip from his cup daringly. She looked at him victoriously smiling, when she noticed his look had changed to an adoring one. Feeling her face flush scarlet all of a sudden, she looked down as he placed his lips on her forehead, letting them linger there.
"I love you." And those words forced a deep smile on her face.
It was weird how three simple words from one person could make you the happiest being on this planet. How the same three words were said so often, that they lost its charm after a while, but never the inner spark they caused within someone.
"I love too. So much." She replied contently, knowing that this mini banter of theirs had gotten rid of all her exhaustion.
Yet, she didn't go back to her books. She remained in the same position, letting all her energy rush back inside herself. He could make her smile and turn her worst nightmares into beautiful dreams. Heck, who needed dreams when Armaan was there? He had the potential to turn reality into such a gorgeous, surreal, intoxicating fantasy with his mere electrifying smile, that most of the time, she just fell short of words to express how much he meant to her. But he knew, or she thought so, because so many times, she had caught him staring at her like was the only living being on the planet. Obviously not at the most convenient times, which resulted in a scolding sessions from Keerti if she caught him, or endless teasing from their friends if THEY caught him. In all honesty, Riddhima did not know which was worse.
But that was beside the point. Armaan's aura of care freeness and mischief always struck a warm glow somewhere inside Riddhima, that refused to ever become dim. Instead, it just brightened up with every meeting. That was of course when they didn't fight. And sometimes, when she would be down in the dumps, when she wanted to just sit in a corner, and take all this frustrations and pressure out of her, one thought of him and the whole world would sail away into an invisible ocean of nothingness. She and he were the only living souls in the entire universe, her universe. But then again, insecurities would cloud her mind. Normally, she would just put them aside, but that thought lingered. What if he left her? What if something happened? All these 'what if's of recent, were doing her head in. She blamed her cycle for that. But when that didn't prove to have a hand in it, she blamed the pressure. However, there was no denying that these insecurities had been buried deep down inside her, ever since the day she had accepted him again. And the pressure she was going through was just bringing everything to the surface as though a giant of terror had gripped her and was suffocating all her happiness out of her.
Stupid. He was here to stay wasn't he? Wasn't he? Maybe that was why she fought with him so much these days. Maybe she never would be able to ever let go completely of everything that had happened, even if she could live with it. Maybe that was why he would one day leave her again. And maybe that was the thought that was worrying her most, when in actual fact, it shouldn't be. Armaan's birthday was coming up the next week, and though he hadn't mentioned it, she remembered it. She had it on her mind for the past few weeks and by looking at the time, a party was out of the question. However, there was a perfect gift planned for him.
* * * * *
Armaan frowned as he quickly shot off to Anjali's cabin where Anjali had paged him. Apparently, there was a very important case she had to discuss with him and it couldn't even wait till duty finished, hence shortened his lunch time! He was not in the best of moods right now, because his Basket had turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to everything today! It was on facebook, some nurses had wished him as well, and yet she hadn't said a word. Not as though he was expecting something, but a simple wish from her with a kiss would make his day. He understood, exam pressure was on, but even a small wish? A kiss, to let him know she knew? Ok fine, he agreed, birthdays weren't a big deal, but she had actually been avoiding him the whole day!
"I mean, you don't turn 25 everyday do you?" he whispered to himself and knocked on the door. When he didn't hear a sound, he turned the handle and stepped in to find Riddhima already there, facing him with a huge smile on her face.
"Basket?" he asked, unsure of what she was smiling at. "Where's Anjali?" Riddhima gave him one of charming, amused smiles, looking stunning in her grey and silver chooridar, as she replied,
"Bhuddu, maine tumhe bulaya." His brain clicked finally but he didn't want to believe it. Why did she call him? Part of him guessed it, but he didn't need to contemplate further when she stepped aside, revealing a creamy, yummy, average sized black forest cake on Anjali's desk with a few candles glowing. And his face immediately split into a smile, telling Riddhima she was successful in her small surprise. He walked over to her, his dimples deepening, and took her in his arms.
Just that shine, and affection in those blue oceans of his that she had missed the whole day told her all she needed to know. She could probably live to see him looking at her like that every day. She didn't mind giving him these small surprises for a lifetime as long as he ended up giving her one of those electrifying smiles that made insides warm up as though she were on fire. Anything, to see him happy.
"Happy Birthday Armaan.." she whispered in his ear as she slid her arms around his neck and pulled him ever so closer to herself.
"Wow basket, I thought you'd forgotten about it!" but she shook her head almost immediately.
"Not on your life mister!" and chuckling he tightened his arms around her feeling like his day was finally complete.
She split apart and narrowed her eyes at him.
"Now before you get too happy over such a small gesture, I suggest you look behind the cabinet." Armaan frowned in confusion as he heard that. What more did she have in store for him?
"Armaan..go, look! At least listen to me today without questioning everything." She pouted cutely at him, and he couldn't help, but kiss her forehead. Walking round the desk, his eyes fell on a complete beauty, encased in a thick black box, which was leaning against the corner, with midnight blueish velvety surroundings. His felt his mouth drop open at the sight while his heart nearly stopped beating for a second. He forced himself to tear his gaze away from that gorgeous gift, to his much more gorgeous girlfriend, who was now glowing after seeing his face and eyes shine.
"Wow, Riddhima!" he whispered as he ran towards it like a kid, and took it out of the case. "Electric guitar?! This is so cool!" he was amazed at how she had managed to get it for him. It must have cost her a fortune, as he was sure it hadn't been bought locally. Yes, the make was Gibson, USA, one of the best in the world. He took a close look at the thick casing, and on the side, the model was engraved: Les Paul, Melody Maker. Wicked! How the hell had she known that he had wanted that very thing?
The hot red on the edges had blended with the black in the center, and everything about it screamed 'ROCKSTAR' at him! This was the best birthday gift ever, he was sure. He examined every inch of the guitar and turned to Riddhima, his eyes glittering with excitement. She just continued observing him, with a small smile playing on her lips after seeing his reaction. It meant the world to her.
"Wow, this must have cost you a fortune!" he whispered as he made his way towards her, after carefully putting the guitar back in its case, then snapping it shut.
"Nearly." She considered. "But one, you aren't the only one who has savings," her eyes twinkled in mischief as her smile widened. He couldn't help but nod in agreement. "And two, Anjali and Atul chipped in on their behalf."
"And you can thank us here," Anjy's voice came as she stepped into her own cabin, followed by everyone. "But the whole idea was Ridzy's, so you have to give her full credit."
"Thanks guys!" Armaan found himself exclaiming as he hugged both, Anjali and Atul.
"Heyy Hero, Don't forget me." Muskaan cut in. "Happy Birthday." She gave him a long box, and when he opened it, there was a classy tie looking back at him, which immediately widened his smile.
"Or me." Rahul narrowed his eyes, back at Muskaan, which caused a slight tension in the atmosphere. Before anyone could say anything however, Armaan had ripped open the wrapping paper, in a small rectangular box and gasped when he saw a sleek, ebony Parker Pen urban sitting inside. Everything about that pen defined class and elegance, and when he looked back at the others, he could see a hint of envy touch upon their faces.
"If you ever lose this, or borrow a pen from me again for a good five years.." Rahul added threateningly, before Armaan managed to interrupt him.
"Dude, don't worry.. it's safe here. Thanks yaar. And Muski. Love you guys." He stored the pen safely in his jeans pocket, while everyone laughed. It was a known fact around the hospital: Armaan had a habit of losing pens, borrowing others' and losing those too! Actually, he was the only reason the pen jar in the nurse station was empty till date, and they all knew better than to come with only one pen to the hospital. Especially when bad luck assigned them for duty with Armaan.
"And this, suits him doesn't it?" Sid added as he threw an unwrapped t-shirt to Armaan, who caught it grinning, knowing there was definitely something behind that.
"Perfect!" Muskaan said, laughing as Armaan held up the sky blue t-shirt on himself. Everyone burst out laughing as they read the bold lettering in the front which said 'Hands off girls, I'm taken!'
"Should please Riddhima." Rahul put in.
"Sure does. Thanks Sid. I owe you one!" Riddhima blew a flying kiss at Sid, who winked back.
"Thanks buddy. Good way to get all the girls for yourself." Armaan replied, narrowing his eyes in a joking manner.
"My pleasure, bro!" Sid teased back, as he watched it being folded and put aside carefully with the tie.
"And this is from Abhi and I," Nikki gave him an average sized box, which contained a Rolex watch, with a note that said, 'Wear me only on special occasions'. Armaan, who needed to learn how to keep time as well, put it on that moment while Nikki groaned and Abhi beamed. Trust Armaan, Riddhima mused as she saw him turn towards her, touched at this unexpected gesture.
* * * * *
I honestly thought you didn't remember." Armaan said as they both sat in the fire escape, exhausted with the day's work. She linked her hands with his and put her head on his shoulder.
"Yeah well, that was the whole point." She replied smiling mischievously. "Oh, and if you ever give that guitar more importance than me, I'll..I'll.."
"You'll..?" his eyebrows arched as she frowned wondering what she could do! Urgh, that was what too much work did to you. Made your mind go blank at the most important times!
"Uhmm..I don't know. I'll figure that out later." And though she wasn't exactly looking at him, she could bet his dimples were etched into his face.
"As you say.." he kissed her once more before he got up.
"Where are you going?" she asked, the loss of his body warmth affecting her more than it ever had before.
"Dr Shubhankar. I've got a few questions to ask him. Wait by the locker room for me. I'll srop you home as usual."
She got up, smiled forcefully and let him leave. What was wrong with her now? Somehow, her insecurities were bubbling up again. After pushing them down for what seemed like ages, what was happening? She made her way to the locker room, frowning to herself. Did she even have time to think of all that? That sinking feeling inside herself didn't help at all. But she had to talk to someone about it. And the first thought was her mother. But alas, her mother was out of town at the moment, and Riddhima was home alone.
This heavy feeling did not leave her until she invited Armaan inside her empty house when he dropped her. After leading him to the kitchen, where he was free to get anything he wanted, she got lost in her usual turbulent thoughts, while biting the bottom corner of her lips. That was until she felt his arms snake around her waist, almost making her jump in shock and bringing her back to earth.
He turned her around to face him, and brought his hands up, framing her cheeks.
"Ok, what's the problem?" he asked, whispering. She got caught for a moment, wondering whether or not she should tell him.
"Nothing." She forced a smile.
Armaan observed her carefully. He could tell that over the past few days, something had been eating up inside her and she still hadn't found a solution to waver it off. At first, he had thought it was just exam stress, and the building tension, however, there was something more to it than that. He was sure, but what exactly it was, he couldn't figure it out. Was it because of his carelessness? Or maybe lack of seriousness for the upcoming torture they were going to face? Somehow, he didn't think so. There was something more. Something she didn't show and covered up really well!
"Don't insult my intelligence. Please." He replied softly. She found that she couldn't even look at him therefore, the ground was her best hope at the moment. Instead, he leaned forward and kissed her eyes, before taking her into his arms to comfort her. She turned her face into his neck, as though soaking up his presence which was a sure sign of insecurity. What was bugging her? If only she would open up and let him in. He would clear away all doubts. He would change everything if he could. But only if he knew what was the problem. Only if she would tell him. That suspiciously made him think it was something to do with him. But what exactly?
"Basket, agar tum mujhse nahin kehna chahti, then it's ok. But lying isn't an option."
She looked up at him, and this time a natural smile enlightened her face.
"I'll tell you. If and when I can. But at the moment, it's not important. Plus, I got something else for you."
"More gifts? Basket, are you sure you have been revising enough?" he joked as she poked her tongue out at him from the door, and rushed upstairs to her bedroom.
Within two minutes she was already down panting slightly, when she saw him in the living room.
"It's not a birthday gift exactly, but I couldn't think of when else to give it to. And it's not much. But you're interested in it and you barely get time to sit through even half of it.."
However, Armaan did not even let her complete half the sentence before he smacked his lips onto hers. The box was a set of DVDs containing the complete six seasons of Criminal Mind, a show he had become almost obsessed with, but rarely got the time to catch it on the TV.
"Pagal," she whispered, as they finally split apart, and he pushed his forehead against hers. They both shut their eyes in pure bliss, knowing that words were not needed between them at all to express their hearts desire. Somehow, the other always figured out what one wanted. Was that why everything was so perfect between them once again? Was that why he couldn't help but adore her every single time he so much as glanced at her? What had she done to him, he wondered as he felt her steady breath creating havoc on his lips. How could he love someone so much? Armaan Mallik, who never thought he'd fall in love, was smitten by Riddhima Gupta. Head over heels in love with her. And though he'd made mistakes, unforgivable ones, he knew he'd fallen more deeply for her than before.
Riddhima shuddered as she felt his fingers caress her cheeks. She was a bottle of insecurities, and it didn't help that so much pressure was on her at the moment. But when he looked at her like there was no other on the planet, when he kissed her like there was nothing more important to him than that moment they were sharing then and there, she could safely say that despite all his flaws, despite all her flaws, if ever he would walk away, turn around and come running back, she would always be there for him. She direly hoped that would not happen ever again, because she didn't know if she had the strength to remain standing. And one could call it weak, one could call it hopeless, but only someone who had loved and received love, like she had, would know the real meaning behind these words.
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