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Hi, everyone! So finally the next chapter. I know, I know it's going to have many questions and too and they will be answered in the next chapter(s).
Ishani looked at her mother, agape, her senses numb for the moment and her eyes barely blinking. Ranveer was sure her mother was going to take her back to India? But how had he known this?
She gulped. "Maa, you know I'm not leaving and that's my final decision," she said softly, her arms folded.
Falguni laughed dryly. "You are coming back to India," she commanded in a cold voice as if threatening Ishani with usual the venomous reviles, but Ishani shook her head.
"Maa, you can't distinguish between what you want and what is right. I might not have seen the world like you did, or I might not have experienced things like you did, but I know my Ranveer. He loves me and right now he needs me." She did not know why she said he needed her.
"He was the one who asked me to take you back to India," Falguni answered.
"No!" Ishani shrieked loudly. "He would never do that! He has been out of town... and, and... when he comes back--" She suddenly felt panic rushing through her skin.
"He isn't coming back for you," Falguni interrupted rudely. "He is not interested in you; don't you get it, Ishani?"
"Maa, you don't know Ranveer," Ishani declared, not bothering to elaborate any further, but was interrupted again.
"Oh, I don't?" Falguni jeered. "You wouldn't believe the things he said to me."
"What?" Ishani asked.
"I went to him to know the full details of what he had done to Chirag and why but got to know much more."
"And what did he say?"
"Anything I can do for you, Falguni Maa?" Ranveer asked calmly, though his voice felt unsteady as he struggled to keep himself composed. But why, Falguni could not tell.
She stared at Ranveer for a few moments. "Has anything been wrong with you lately? It seems--"
"I'm alright," Ranveer interrupted immediately, a failing rudeness explicit in his tone. "I just came here because you wanted to talk to me something important. I hope the business is finished soon enough since I'm to leave for a trip." He did not look into her eyes as he spoke.
"Well," Falguni started. "Why this grudge against Chirag? Why did you have to get him arrested in Mumbai when you had your revenge done in here already?"She couldn't really pretend to be calmer than she felt for so long.
Ranveer laughed softly which soon turned in a disoriented array of irregular coughs and he shook his head. "I did nothing for revenge," he said, while Falguni fumed. "I had another intention. Carrying fake passports is crime in every country, is it not?"
"Why would it matter to you if he carries a fake or a real passport? You just found a way to ruin my Ishani's life once again! You used that one thing to do what you wanted, did you not?"Falguni spat.
"You hate me, that is fine," Ranveer said, "but please don't forget what he tried to do to your daughter. Please be careful when you choose people in her life."
"And who might you be to warn me about that?"
"None, perhaps," Ranveer admitted, and smiled feebly. There was a long silence broken by the sounds of the vehicles coming from outside the restaurant.
"If I ask you to do me a favor, would you do that for me?" Falguni said at length, looking at Ranveer in anticipation and hope.
He nodded. "Anything."
"Fine." Falguni smiled delightedly. "Would you let Ishani go away if I ask you to? For the sake of a better life for her?"
Ranveer frowned at the demand but relaxed himself in a while as if a truth had dawned upon him. "Why do you need my permission for that?"he asked suspiciously.
Falguni opened her mouth to continue but fell silent. It was better not to tell him what Ishani felt for him, otherwise he would make sure she never left, and Falguni could never afford that.
"Because you have been an important part of her life for many years, and she has grown extremely fond of you in these couple of months as well. But you know, Ranveer, the gap of our status that had existed between us can never be filled. The fact that you were our dr--"
"I know," Ranveer answered quickly, as though afraid to listen to the word being uttered.
Falguni nodded, her usual venomous smile back to her lips. "That's like a good boy," she said. "So, what is your answer?"
He nodded dejectedly, and gulped. "I also want her away from this place so that she might never know of... me again," Ranveer said.
"That's what I wanted to hear!" Falguni smiled joyously while Ranveer lowered his eyes, dejected. "I'm glad and surprised that you didn't take so long."
Ranveer did not look up.
"And now, anything I can give you as a reward? I can't be so ungrateful even to you," Falguni said, delight implicit in her voice.
"Yes." Ranveer slowly nodded his head. "Please never let Ishani know about my condition... and that I--"
"I understand that," Falguni said. It was clear something was terribly wrong with him, but it was none of her own business.
"I need to leave now," Ranveer said hurriedly, as he tried to stand up but could not.
"Thank you," Falguni said, standing up as well, and Rishi made his way to the table and gave Ranveer his hand for support so that he could stand up properly on his feet. "But I thought you loved her, why do you want her out of your life?"
"I cannot let you know that," Ranveer said, his balance failing while his eyes blurred the vision before himself as he cleared it rubbing his eyes, and saw Falguni moving away.
"Sir, we need to hurry!" Rishi said, holding Ranveer by his arm and shoulder tightly. Ranveer gulped and nodded, his strength gradually worsening.
"One last thing." Falguni turned back. "Why don't you tell this all to her yourself? She'll understand things better if you tell her this."
"You want me out of her life, right?" Ranveer said breathlessly. "I- I'm not coming back. Take her... take her... to a better life that you... you have to offer. Love, care... and affection. That's what she deserves. Please... never let anyone hurt her. And... I-I'll never show my face ever again." He finished bitterly.
"Thank you." Falguni left and she remembered an uproar of the voices being issued out from the restaurant she had just escaped. She was, however, too happy to notice the mayhem in the world that she was supposed to leave behind.
"Maa?" Ishani's voice brought her back to reality.
"Huh!" She looked around her to realize she was in her house along with Ishani and arguing over how to get her back to India.
"What did Ranveer say?" Ishani asked slowly, her tone both nervous and suspicious.
Falguni drew a huge sigh. "All he said, I can summarize is in that he wanted you out of his life, and so much so, that he didn't bother seeing you at all."
"Lie!" Ishani roared, hideous tears now forming up in her eyes. "He'll never do that!"
"Don't you see it, Ishani?" Falguni said. She realized she had to be careful and omit out few facts not to ruin the well prepared plan. She after all had to fulfill Ranveer's promises too.
"No, Maa, it's you who can't see it! It's you who can't see the obvious! I know there-there's a reason he can't talk to me. He's done this before too and is doing it again."
"You want to talk to his father?" Falguni said. "Here. He will answer all your questions, and then you will know." She dialed a number, and handed Ishani over her phone. "It's Kailash Vaghela. Talk to him."
Ishani hesitantly took the phone; the call on the other side was received within seconds. "Kaka, Ranveer... is he alright?" she asked nervously.
"He is fine," Kailash whispered gravely.
"Why do you sound so tense?" Ishani asked, unable to trust him.
"Nothing, Ishani," Kailash said. "Anything urgent you want to talk to me right now? I'm busy somewhere else."
"Kaka, Ranveer is coming back soon, right? He knows I'm waiting for him and--" Ishani asked, her tone carrying a childlike curiosity.
"Ishani," Kailash interrupted her. "We did talk a while back and he asked me to inform you that whatever your mother says, please follow. If she wants to take you back home, just leave. Even if you consider him your friend and want his happiness just leave!"
Ishani disconnected the call, distressed. She couldn't listen to everyone telling her what she needed to do and why. Ranveer asked her to follow her heart, and not her mother's orders and advices. She will follow her heart which said be with Ranveer'.
"Even now, I'm not leaving," Ishani retorted, looking at her mother while she sighed.
"No! You are not staying here. Your Ranveer, who you are going to die for did not even once question me, or showed no objection to my wish to take you home. It's not likely at all he loves you the way you do," Falguni said, but Ishani cut her short again.
"It is so, Maa. It is so!" she shrieked, not knowing if she said anything at all. She wanted to scream, shout and let her mother know what was right for her. "Do you remember you once had said if someone can give up on you for your happiness, that love is true? You can't even fathom the times Ranveer gave up on me for my own happiness. If he said something to you, I know there's a reason and I'll find that out at any cost and for that I'm not leaving!"
"Maa, you were betrayed once in love and never felt love again, did you? Not all men are like him!" Ishani said, tears madly cascading out of her eyes. "Papa loved you so much. How can you be so ungrateful to him? How can you not acknowledge what he did for you and me and Disha? You carry the scars of your failed love but you don't see how Papa healed you! You think I can't see it? I can see the fear in your eyes when you talk about Ranveer. But trust me, Maa, if Papa were here, he would never have doubted Ranveer for an instant. If Papa protected his Ishani from the cruel world until 2 years ago, he had Ranveer given this responsibility after that. He knew Ranveer loved me. Loved me so much to do anything for my happiness. How do you doubt his choice when you were one yourself?" Ishani gulped while Falguni stared at her, aghast, tears falling from her own eyes.
"Maa, I never wanted to be like you. I wanted to be like Papa and marry someone I loved, and not be with him because I had to compromise with my life. And here life gives me another chance to win my love back. To be with him, heal him and spend our rest of the life together. Is it too much?"
Falguni sighed. "So you choose Ranveer over me?" she said, her voice perfectly low.
"Don't make me choose either of you. I love you both," Ishani pleaded resignedly. "After Papa, I have only you two. How do you expect me to live without either of you, Maa?"
"Whenever you are tired, and broken and need your mother again, you will find your home welcoming you anytime." Falguni picked up the tickets and put them in her bag.
"Maa, you're leaving now... You can't. Please..." Ishani requested but was unheard by her mother who began to keep her belongings back in her case. "Maa, please!" Ishani ran after her mother but in vain.
"Kids grow up, and it's been proved by you today," Falguni smiled sadly at her daughter and left, ignoring Ishani's requests and pleads.
"Maa, please listen to me!" Ishani said one last time, following her mother hastily as she exited the house, and did not turn back. Ishani saw her finally taking a taxi from the nearby stand and then disappear away out of her sight.
"I didn't mean to hurt you, Maa," she said, closing her eyes as tears freely escaped her eyes and the memories of their old times together flashed back in her head.
She never wanted any of this to happen. Not to her mother. Not to Ranveer, and not to herself. She had wanted to see them happy, but ended up hurting them both. Ishani sobbed harder, slowly sobs taking form of loud hiccoughs, and the bed sheet she lay upon getting wet of the tears. The time passed gradually, slowly slicing every inch of her heart and reminding her the failures in relationships that had been caused. Ishani swallowed hard and wiping her tears away, she stood up. She needed her answers. Ranveer. Why did he ask her mother to take her away? What was another sacrifice he was making, disguising it as his selfishness or as her mother had put it?
"Ma'am, you can't meet him right now." Ishani heard Puneet say, forgetting the fact that she had seen him after an entire month.
"Puneet, please!" Ishani folded her hands in front of him. "Please let me see him once. Please let me know where he is. It's killing me!"
Puneet shook his head. "None of us have the authority to defy his orders. He'd rather have you done what he told you earlier."
"You think you all will lie to me and I'm going to let go of it all? Not at all! Let me know where Ranveer is or I have better ways to find out the truth."
"I'm not sure what truth you're talking about," Puneet said calmly. This calm seemed more painful than his anger that Puneet expressed. "RV sir is out on a business trip and why on earth he should be disturbed by any of us?"
"Then what brings you here sooner than expected?" Ishani retorted, her eyes fixed on Puneet while he looked at her uneasily. "You were supposed to be coming here next week, weren't you?"
"It's the busin--"
"It is not the business thing, Puneet!" Ishani roared. "I know it! Please tell me where he is... I know he is in some trouble... something he wanted to hide from me. Can you please give me the address of the town he has been to? I'm sure he'll talk to me once he knows what I want to tell him."
"Ishani, I'm sorry, I can't," Puneet said with finality, but not unkindly.
"NO! I want to see him right now!" Ishani screamed with all her might, grabbing the attention of all the employees working in the room.
"I'm sorry," Puneet apologized to them and looked back at Ishani. Her eyes felt red and swollen.
"When is it I'll get to know about him?" Ishani asked, her tone carrying a dangerous resignation that promised to sway away everyone that came across its path.
Puneet hesitated. "I'm not sure." He lowered his head. "but you know him--"
"And you know me," Ishani interrupted. "One week. And I want to see Ranveer back."
"You know what I can do, Puneet. Sooner or later your boss' secrets will be unveiled, and then what?"
"Alright," he said at last. "I will take you to him but it'll be the next week. Before that I cannot say anything."
"Thank you, and it will be better if this secret is known to us only." Ishani didn't know how his parents would react if they found out about her madness.
Even if Puneet agreed to finally take her to Ranveer, Ishani could not help but shoot a sharp suspicious glance at him, for the way he spoke, it was not convincing at all.
"Ishani." Ranveer walked into her room as Ishani woke up from her sleep, light from the moon falling upon his face so fiercely that she could at once see his face.
"Ranveer!" she exclaimed, excitement running through her spine like blood rushing across her veins. "Where had you been all along? I was looking for you... they didn't let me see you. Maa left today. I'll convince her... make her understand everything... don't worry. Where were you? I- I was so afraid that I'd lost you. But thank God you came back." Ishani looked at him eagerly.
Ranveer kept quiet.
"Ranveer?" Ishani said again, but he did not move. Ishani couldn't understand why he behaved so weirdly today. She wanted him to take her in his arms and hold her until the end of time. She wanted to feel her soul melt into his arms and bleed out all her sorrows until there was nothing but happiness for them. She wanted to embrace and hold him so close tightly so that none of the heartaches ever haunted him, and his sufferings were thrown far, far away. She wanted him by her side, feeling their heartbeats together mingled in a melodious song that never ended.
"Ishani," he said after sometime while Ishani nodded her head. "Can you please do something for me?"
"Does it make you happy?" Ishani asked nervously. Everything happening since morning and Ranveer's sudden appearance barely seemed to making sense to her. But he was there was the biggest thing.
"Completely." Ishani saw his lips slightly twitch which she felt was the ghost of a long lost smile.
"Anything that makes you happy," Ishani said, a dread suddenly creeping over her.
"Just leave me," he said in a cold livid voice as Ishani felt her heart break, tears burning in her eyes vehemently. She clutched the pillow tightly in fear as the white moon that illuminated his garish face descended down as if mangled by the interminable weight of something unknown; and any sign of Ranveer's presence felt like a memory of yesterday.
"No, I won't do that!" Ishani shouted as loud as she could while along with the gloom crawling in, Ishani felt Ranveer disappear. Behind him, he left a darkness, coldness and fiery agony that Ishani could not cope with.
"No! No! NO!" Ishani found herself screaming loudly. "Don't go please! DON'T!" But it was too late, for there was no Ranveer anymore. Ishani looked about her as she felt her skin perspire and breathing incredibly heavy. She quickly switched on the lights as she gained back her senses and realized the room was exactly how she had left a couple of hours ago, and there was no sign of Ranveer's arrival or departure. He couldn't have come here like an intruder and left her just like that. He would never abandon her.
Ishani dialed Ranveer's number and the response was that of leaving a message. She had done this hundreds of times before since yesterday and yet he hadn't responded. Ishani sniffed, her heart beating too loudly to focus on anything. All the time before it beat so differently feeling him so close to her but tonight it felt like bursting with fear and torment. She couldn't take it anymore. Not at all. She needed him. Business meetings, business trips... all were bloody excuses, Ishani felt. Real reason was never known; not to her. All were hiding something like she was a child who could not be told the secrets before she were properly grown up. Ranveer! He had already hidden so much from her and she, like a fool, had believed all his facades, and lies. She needed to find him. She needed to talk to him.
Ishani dialed Puneet's number who after a couple of minutes picked up her phone.
"Puneet," Ishani sobbed, "Have you heard anything from Ranveer?"
"Ishani, are you alright?" Puneet answered, ignoring her question.
"I said, how is Ranveer?" Ishani yelped loudly as she felt her forehead sweating once again, and her head spun. "Don't you get it, Puneet? I want to talk to Ranveer! I want to talk to him. Please!"
"I think we had agreed for a week already," Puneet said nervously. Ishani swallowed hard.
"Ishani, trust me. For the first time I have decided to disobey my boss; something I have never done before. Can you please understand that?"
Ishani nodded her head. "We'll see him the next week. Alright!" Ishani said as she sank back in her bed. She was going mad and if she did not meet him, she would most definitely need things to keep her senses in control. Ranveer was not out of the town, she felt, and now more clearly so. There was a distant feeling, as if he were right here and yet so far away from her where she could not reach. But why?
She couldn't wait. This one week was going to be death for her. Ishani cursed herself. She felt so selfish after all that had happen to him. She was being punished for her own mistakes. How once she had left Ranveer to wander in the same dismal lanes of loneliness without her and never looked back, so how could she hope for everything getting perfectly well so soon? She hadn't looked back at him and those mistakes of hers still haunted her hours. The mistakes she must never have made. But, no. It was not the hour to lament over the long gone past, rather welcome what future had in store for her; or at least be prepared for it. It couldn't be without struggle, yes, but as long as she had him by her side, she would even fight with death to keep them together.
Ishani wiped her tears and closing her eyes, folded her hands in prayer. "Papa," she whispered to herself, "you know everything. You know I'm not wrong. You know Ranveer and I are made for each other, right? Do you think him shunning me out like this when perhaps I should be with him is right? If you were here, you would have asked me to stick by his side and be with him, I know. I know in my heart that you think what I'm fighting for is right. My love is right. You know, Maa still has not been able to get over the loss she felt years ago. But don't worry, Papa, she will be fine." Tears rapidly trickled down her closed eyes. "I don't think she doesn't acknowledge your love and affection. She's angry because after the betrayal she felt long ago, she lost you as well, and she has not been able to get over that. Our assurances were never enough. She misses you terribly. But, Papa, you do trust me and Ranveer, right? I know I hurt Maa today. I lost control. Can you please forgive me for that? Perhaps I don't deserve that either, but I need it; and I need you, Papa. I need you." Her words faded and were replaced by soft sobs increasing with time.
Hurt, pain and torture. That's what she had given those who loved her. Ranveer and her mother. Ishani shook her head and gulped deeply, swallowing in the last remains of the words that her guilty heart fancied to spurt out, and drifted into a sleep full of dreams and nightmares that somewhere waited to become reality in her mind.
One week! Ishani, as was promised, was going to meet Ranveer today. She put on her simple red salwar-kameez that Ranveer always loved her in, and no makeup. He always said she looked gorgeous when simple, and she wanted to make sure things were perfect when they met once again. Another time, she felt, destiny had played its ugly game to separate them but this time she would not let the fate win. Whatever hindrance came in her path, trying to shear apart her Ranveer from her, she will fight back. Ishani smiled softly. The only thing making her features look radiant and alive being her eyes, filled with life once again as they sparkled brilliantly back at her.
Puneet had looked rumpled when she again had demanded him to take her to Ranveer, but having promised her already, he was left with no choice but to fulfill her wish. Ishani's heart beat loudly and anticipation of what future had planned for them made her stomach lurch with another agonizing sensations. Why, she could not tell. She couldn't wait to see Ranveer anymore. Every single moment passing in the day felt like a lifetime that refused to have Ranveer in it. One week had proved to be much more tiring and gruesome than the two years she had spent without him did.
Ishani had not seen either Puneet or Rishi in one week at all even if she visited the office everyday, and the last time she saw him was yesterday, tired, as if he had been participating in a competition for a lifetime. On asking, Puneet had only informed her that he had to join Rishi for a meeting of an important deal that he was not allowed to reveal anything about. There was some trouble in company. The business stats, according to Ishani, were brilliant as she had always seen them and the excuses in that regard did not go down well with her. Despite her enthusiasm, she felt herself painfully shiver as she thought of seeing Ranveer again, wondering how it all was going to turn out.
Whatever it was, she was going to be by Ranveer's side and that was the most important thing. Finally the wait of the eternity was coming to its end and she did not want to waste it any longer. Ishani rushed to the front door as she heard a car screeching noisily outside. Puneet gestured her to come outside as she swiftly made her way to him.
"We're getting late," Ishani said breathlessly. "He must be waiting for us!"
Puneet only nodded and the car swiftly slunk away.
"Mr. Gregson." Amba stood up at the sight of the old man emerging from the cabin.
"Mrs. Vaghela." Mr. Gregson sighed. "We're trying our best. The delay, as we feared, has gone quite against the cause and I'm very much afraid it might not be very fruitful and might cause some terrible damage."
"But why no one tells us how he is? He's been--"
"Mrs. Vaghela," the man said sympathetically, "we're trying our best, but he is not responding well enough to our inputs."
Amba gasped. "But he is a fighter," she said firmly, signs of tears not going amiss from her eyes. "He will fight and--"
"I know he is a fighter," the man said calmly, an encouraging smile on his lips. "I have known him for a year, but right now it seems he has no will to live... in the examinations he seems... to have given up... not exactly, but close. I don't know what to say... but it seems as though there's something that's keeping him from fighting against this odd. The results are not as good as we had expected from him... they have somehow worsened ever since he returned for the treatment. As long as he doesn't gain this will back, I'm afraid things cannot get better."
Amba gave a little cry, and gulped, trying to keep her sanity alive. "You-You're going for the surgery, right?"
"That is the only thing we can rely upon. But I will ask you to have faith in God, and He will make everything alright."
Mr. Gregson left, leaving Amba lost and dejected, as she felt her face bathed in tears. Hopelessness. Despair. She couldn't give into it. Not now when her family needed her the most. She needed to be by her family's side. And perhaps she knew the remedy of the calamity of his was something much more than what the doctor had just suggested. But by now she would be far away, unaware of what she had left behind.
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