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Hello, guys! The next chapter finally comes up and I hope it's going to be worth your time. :)
Ishani paced to and from in her room, frantically looking out of the window and biting her nails in anxiety. Falguni had been out ever since the breakfast and had messaged Ishani saying she will be home by noon and with a surprise for her. Ishani never believed her mother's surprises could be of her liking and she only grew impatient as noon drew nearer. To her another dismay, Ranveer had again been unavailable and this time none of her messages worked on him. Neither threats, nor casual ones and nor the simple ones about "I want to talk to you." Rishi as well had not answered her calls while for once he replied with a single message RV sir is very busy and I doubt if he will be available for a long time.' The "long time" term had put Ishani into unease, her fears and doubts surfacing up once again in ugliest of the possibilities. Here was her mother, brutally forcing her own ideals on her and there was no sign of Ranveer's. She needed him.
The noon sun clambered up as Ishani heard a little knock on the outside door. She hurried towards it and saw her mother standing, smiling at her. Ishani could not guess what amused her so much.
"Is everything alright?" Ishani asked suspiciously, inviting her mother in.
"Yes." Falguni did not elaborate. The last night's encounter had indeed caused an unpleasant distance between the mother and daughter, and surprisingly, neither bothered to make up for it. A crevice which had long ago been established when Chirag had set his foot in their lives had now only widened. Neither Ishani nor Falguni said anything as Ishani went on to do her work.
"I thought you were going to confess your feelings to your true love today? What's wrong?" Falguni asked dramatically. Ishani could see her mother enjoyed the little victory she had been blessed with.
"No," Ishani said, her eyes not meeting her mother's. "He's busy."
"Busy?" Falguni feigned a gasp. "I thought true love didn't know or see things beyond your partner. I can see where your love is going to."
"Maa, please!" Ishani implored. "If Ranveer has said he's busy, there must definitely be a reason he has not responded yet."
"Rubbish!" Falguni replied angrily. "Don't you see it yet, Ishani? He is not interested in you!"
"You will never understand him, Maa. Never," Ishani said firmly.
Falguni looked away. "You are making the same mistake I did," she said after sometime. "Your superfluous love is going to break your heart one day. Ranveer will break your heart one day, mark my words! I can already see it."
Ishani smiled faintly and shook her head in dry amusement. "Only if you knew things better about him, you wouldn't say something like that," she said.
"I have seen the world. I have experienced much more than you and, Ishani, you are still nave and childlike. You don't know these men. They-they're spurious in their love. They want women to love them and-" Ishani could feel her mother's struggle to keep tears from falling as she turned her eyes away. Nothing of the past that happened to her had been erased from her memories yet.
"Maa, Papa loved you," Ishani said, coming closer and resting her hand on her shoulder. "He loved more than anything. You do remember it, don't you?"
Falguni inhaled deeply and shook her head. She didn't want to talk about her husband. "What happened with Chirag?" she asked finally.
Ishani gazed at her mother with questioning eyes and spoke after sometime. "I'm afraid if it had been for him, I might have ended up like you," Ishani said, hoping her words would melt her mother.
"But he loved you!" Falguni answered, as if to convince herself.
"He didn't. And you knew it, Maa, didn't you?"
Falguni stared at Ishani, guilt rushing through her eyes; but she was too obstinate to admit her mistakes. "How could it be? He was there by your side all the time!"
"No, he wasn't," Ishani said, and walked towards the window, staring outside. Her mother had listened to the entire story twice since morning but had refused to believe anything. After a while it felt hopeless to convince her. "What was the surprise you were talking about, Maa?"
"It didn't work and I doubt if it's of any use anymore."
Ishani frowned at her mother. "What was it?"
"Who' was it. Chirag," Falguni said, while Ishani gasped.
"You wanted him to come back? Maa, how could you? After all, you know, he's done... just how could you?" Ishani fumbled while Falguni gave her a careless glance.
"He isn't allowed to leave India, and..."
"Thank God!" Ishani mumbled under her breath while Falguni looked at her sharply. Ishani smiled.
"See, even law doesn't want Chirag in my life anymore. And trust me, Maa, I'm happier without him."
"Damn!" Ishani slammed her hand on the table. It had been the evening and Ranveer had not yet responded to any of her messages. To her both surprises and disappointment all her threats had stopped working, for never for once her phone's screen gleamed with the message of his name, and she wondered if he had checked his message at all or not. Ishani shook her head, frustrated, and decided to visit him wherever he might be right now.
She hoped to find him in his office, if he indeed was there, and within half an hour Ishani found herself in his cabin. The room was empty as if no living being had been there at all for a long time. The files kept on their right places, the computer shut down, and the lights of the cabin put out. There was no one there. Consternation about her fears in her heart grew stronger and Ishani quietly walked out of the cabin. To her surprise, Rishi was not seen anywhere either and none of the employees knew where their boss or Rishi had been to. What could be secret no one knew about?
She needed to visit his house where probably some of her questions will be answered. At least his parents would know where he was and why he had to keep himself away from everyone- even those very close to him. Ishani, however, could not trust her luck anymore and thus marched on the quest without much hope. It was quite late in the evening: the air was considerably warm and stars in the sky shimmered like pearls strewn over a fervently gleaming black ocean. The sounds of the vehicles had died away as Ishani drove towards the final street before the sight of the familiar building of RV Mansion met her eyes. Ishani gave a sigh of relief: on the front door stood Emily, her hands in the pockets of her gown, and smiling at herself.
"Emily!" Ishani advanced further and greeted the old woman. Emily's face brightened up. "How are you?"
"I'm good," Emily said, not elaborating further. "I hope everything is alright with you?"
Ishani hesitated little and then continued, "I want to meet Ranveer. I need to talk to him. It's very urgent," Ishani said breathlessly.
"He's not here," Emily said slowly. In the way Emily stated her words, Ishani's heart sank deeply. "He's been to..."
But before Emily could finish her words, a voice rudely interrupted her, making Ishani's heart beat wildly as though her fear had come true. She was afraid and understood not why. Ishani looked at the direction the voice came from and saw Ranveer's father approaching them while she drew a sigh of relief. Emily bowed a little and left. Ishani touched Kailash's feet and smiled as he stood in front of her.
"Kaka, I'm sorry for turning up like this, but it was urgent."
"Is everything fine?"
Ishani nodded. "I'm good. And glad that you came back soon. Ranveer must be feeling better now... he was feeling so lonely when you weren't here. He was upset..." Ishani fell silent as she saw Kailash looking at her curiously. "I mean..."
"I know," he answered. "He is the reason we had to come back soon."
"Kaka, I want to talk to Ranveer. He hasn't come to his office today and hasn't picked up any of my calls. I don't know... I feel something's not right."
Kailash smiled lightly, one of the unease ones which Ishani remembered he did when he had nothing to say. "He has been out of town for a week," Kailash said after a while. "There was an emergency in the projects he took recently and they needed immediate attention."
"I should take everything is fine then? I hope it is," Ishani said, hoping for the best; for her heart said something she couldn't even comprehend.
Kailash nodded lightly but did not say anything more.
"Thank you," Ishani said, "I'll see him once he comes back." Though why he wouldn't talk to her phone was still a mystery to her.
As Ishani turned back, she heard Amba's voice calling out for her husband. "Let's go," she said, a desperation in her voice. "It's already late. We must reach the--" She fell silent as soon as her eyes fell on Ishani.
Ishani smiled at Amba lightly and touched her feet. "How are you, Kaki?" Ishani asked while Amba only gave a cold smile.
"She's fine, but little tired. I'm afraid this journey has not done too much good for us." Kailash smiled. "Oh, and we must be leaving..." he paused. "We're to attend an event in half an hour and it wouldn't be good if we're late," Kailash finished the last words as an afterthought.
Ishani saw the driver escorting the couple to the car waiting for them on the front gate and saw them leave. No matter how hard they had tried to look convincing, their spirits did not look like as if the ones going to attend a celebration ceremony. Where were they leaving for and at this hour? She wondered if she should have questioned them more, but it didn't feel right. After all, it was a matter of their privacy.
"You should come in." Emily's voice broke Ishani's string of thoughts and she was brought back to reality.
"No, I'll be leaving now, Emily."
"Don't worry about Ranveer," Emily said, and Ishani smiled slowly. Emily seemed to have sensed Ishani's dilemma as she put her hand on her shoulder.
"You must be worried about him since you both haven't seen each other for so long, but trust me, he also wanted to see you desperately. Only if it wasn't an urgent business, he might have called you up. But don't worry."
"He told you this?" Ishani asked, anticipation in her eyes.
"Before leaving he gave me this." Emily produced a piece of paper and as Ishani snatched it eagerly from Emily's grasp.
"What's in it?"
"I haven't seen it. But seems like he left you a letter."
Ishani opened the envelop with bated breath, not knowing what would be in it that Ranveer had to leave a message instead of directly talking to her. She looked up at Emily. "Thank you for the letter. I'll be taking a look at it soon," Ishani said and left the mansion. She needed time to prepare herself for anything that seemed to be coming her way, and for some reasons she felt she was not ready yet.
Ishani drove across the highway and from there to the church, her strength worn out as often tears rolled down her cheeks. She felt frustrated. The church was the only solace, for God had listened to her before and she knew her prayers would be answered once again as well. The questions, however, kept growing in her mind: What could be so important that her Ranveer was ignoring her? Why couldn't he talk to her just once? Her heart thumped strongly against her chest as she eagerly wiped the tears away from her eyes. She held the letter in her hand tightly as though keeping a last memory of Ranveer by her side. She entered the church quietly. Thanks to late night, there was no one else inside the hall; not even Father who would always come to check in at least once, and it was a relief that the place wasn't yet closed. The candles burned gloriously on their pedestals and a blow of thin breeze passed through the windows, stirring the drawn curtains erratically. Ishani bowed before Jesus and sighed, and sat on a bench nearby, reminiscing how on such an evening few months ago she finally had been able to win her friend back; and now she wanted her life back. Her Ranveer. God listens to you even if you don't say anything and she hoped her wish to have him back was granted, for without him there was no existence of hers.
Wiping the tears away that the old memories brought, Ishani opened the letter, her heart beating strangely as she saw his clean handwriting once again. She did not hope to find her answers right away, but a tiny gleam of hope would keep her from going insane.
"Dear Ishani," Ishani read the letter aloud as she smiled sadly. She wished instead of the letter, she were talking to him. "I know you have many questions, and everything that happened the last night has made you much more vulnerable; but you can't go weak. And you don't have to worry about anything. Falguni Maa might try to get you back to home and perhaps before I can come back, you will be gone. I cannot have any contact with you right now because of the network coverage being weak in the region I am in (yes, there are few remote places here like that as well and I'm in one of those), and I'm barely going to have a little time to think. This is very a important deal and its failure will cause a homogenous trouble and loss that I don't want to afford now. Do not force yourself for anything and do what you heart says and wants. It will show you the right way. I'm leaving now with the hope that you will be content with this letter, though I know you are going to have many questions and no answers at the moment. I'm afraid I cannot answer them right now. My sincere apologies. And always remember that whatever happens I love you and will do until my last breath."
Ishani wiped the tears away from her face and turned the page, but there was only the blankness of the white sheet that met her eyes. She read the letter again and again as if doing so continuously would give her that little strength to go on which she required dearly right now. "I love you, too, Ranveer," she whispered as she read the letter the last time and kissed it gently. He was so close to her and yet so far away. She sensed some fear, but it could very well be her own agitated feelings that worked that way because she couldn't see him and wouldn't be able to for an entire week. Ishani stood up. If Ranveer had left this letter to make her feel better, she could not disappoint him. A smile passed through her lips as she remembered her mother's words. Though she had not believed her mother for a single moment, she could now proudly tell her that her Ranveer did not abandon her and nor would he. And she was not leaving for anywhere if that was what her mother wanted her to do. She belonged here with Ranveer and a world without him was as alien and hostile as a land far away in an unknown galaxy.
Ishani hurriedly stood up and, feeling light and better now and rushed towards her car. As she emerged the building of the church, she saw the black clouds gather aloft in the sky. It didn't rain so frequently in summer the way it did these days, Ishani thought, and it was surprising. She quickly started the engine and drove across to the same path she had come from, but now feeling better in her heart.
She hadn't come long when she heard the quiet pitter-patter of the rain that in a few moments fell harder. As she drove swiftly tearing the thick curtains of the rain, Ishani's eyes fell on someone drenched in rain and standing as if waiting for someone. The car halted and Ishani peeked her face out.
"Can I help you?" It was Shreya, the same girl who seemed to have crush on Ranveer back when they had met and Ishani remembered herself behaving rudely with her, though now she felt ashamed.
Shreya looked down, looking confused, but at the realization in the next few moments, she beamed at Ishani. "It's Ishani Parekh!" she exclaimed while Ishani smiled back.
"Yes." She nodded. "What are you doing here? It's raining, and you--"
"My bad!" Shreya said. She looked annoyed. "I had come here for a meeting and from there was to join my mom for shopping. My driver was to come but he's stuck somewhere. Now I only have to return back home since my mom wants me back there."
"I can drop you," Ishani suggested while Shreya looked at Ishani, clearly surprised.
Ishani nodded. "Come. I'll drop you home."
"Thanks," Shreya said as she settled herself on the seat.
Ishani started to drive as the rain outside fell wildly, as though wreaking a havoc in the town like a monster liberated from the chains of misery.
"So, you too had been to a meeting?" Shreya asked after sometime, her voice low due to the intensity of the rain.
"There were a few important things to be done," Ishani said. "I was busy with them."
"You look tired. I hope all is well."
God, did she look this bad that everyone knew she was not well? Ishani nodded but fell silent again. How could anything be well when, in her heart, things appeared to be falling apart and she was helpless? However, a thought a stuck her and she needed its implementation.
"Shreya," Ishani said awkwardly. "Well, I know our first meeting was not very pleasant but I should have behaved differently. I want to apologize for whatever happened there back then. I really meant no wrong to you, I was just--"
"Relax!" Shreya smiled. "Jealousy does make people behave that way, and you could not be an exception."
Ishani looked confused, as though caught off guard. "What?"
"If I saw my love with someone else so unexpectedly, I am bound to get jealous," Shreya said dreamily.
"What...? You knew?" Ishani murmured. "How... Not even... No, no."
"Not in that instant." Shreya's voice brought her back to the present. "Everything happened so fast that I couldn't think anything about you two. It was at night when I reached home did I ponder over you and Ranveer, and realized what could have made you get so much annoyed by my unnecessary presence and that too with Ranveer."
Ishani smiled awkwardly. The whole world could see she loved him, but she herself had never admitted so. What a fool I am, Ishani thought to herself.
"Why did you refuse to marry Ranveer? I think you liked him, didn't you?" Ishani asked, trying to clear away the confusions that had long lingered in her mind.
"Oh, it's impossible not get enchanted by him, is it not?" Shreya chuckled while Ishani looked at her uncomfortably. Noticing at Ishani's unintended frowned expressions she subsided and continued, "Well, I was ready to marry him the moment I saw him, but it was him who refused to. He said, he already loved a woman and would either marry her or no one."
Ishani smiled as her wave of love and guilt passed over her. "And you agreed?"
"I had to," Shreya said, slightly disappointed. "He had a good point as well that he couldn't marry someone he didn't love and I had no right to insist at all."
"Thank you," Ishani said and continued to drive while Shreya instructed her the way her house lay.
"For how long you two have known each other?" Shreya asked, slightly confused, wondering if she should ask a personal question like this.
"Childhood," Ishani answered, smiling. "He was 9 and I was 7 when we first met."
"And he has loved you for that long?" Shreya gasped.
Ishani nodded and smiled at the memory of the day she had first come across him. It was still as clearly painted in her mind as if happened a few moments ago. Ishani sighed. "And I never knew it."
"It happens. Sometimes we don't know how blessed we are to be loved so deeply, but you are lucky to have realized it on time."
"That I am," Ishani agreed. "Hey, what's that?" Ishani looked at the ring gleaming in Shreya's ring finger.
Shreya gasped lightly. "I'm engaged and getting married this week," she said, her tone happiest in the last 15 minutes.
"Congrats!" Ishani said, and somewhere deep down gave a sigh of relief. These insecurities. "I wish you all the happiness and a very beautiful married life ahead."
"Thank you," Shreya said. "And, oh! Look, here we are. It's my home. Thank you, Ishani."
Ishani smiled in return as Shreya gracefully stepped out of the car. "It's been a nice meeting with you. And I hope you and Ranveer do attend my wedding. I'll be really glad if you two turn up together."
Shreya left while Ishani felt her cheeks turn red. People were already treating her and Ranveer as a couple. "I can't wait to tell you, and that moment has to be the most special for both of us," Ishani whispered to herself and drove away.
Ishani reached her home late at night, and made her way towards her room when her mother's voice suddenly broke through the darkness.
"Maa, you're not asleep yet?" Ishani asked.
"You were supposed to be home early today. I have waited for you for so long," her mother's low voice answered as she switched on the light.
"I was stuck somewhere," Ishani said.
"Looking for Ranveer?" Falguni smirked. "He isn't coming back."
Ishani felt her blood boil, for there was a viciousness in her mother's tone that frightened her; but it could be her own thoughts tricking her like they entertained themselves with these days. Ishani kept silent for a while. "It's late and we'll talk later."
"We won't have to do that," Falguni answered nonchalantly.
"Pack your bags. Tomorrow morning we're leaving back for India. And I want no excuses anymore."
Ishani felt her heart go cold as her mother's bitterly glinting eyes met hers while she saw her placing the tickets of the flight on the table and leave without looking back.
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