Posted: 03 May 2008 at 12:34am
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He stepped out of the hall, after 2 hours of that grilling final....this was the last one....it was taking a wile for the feeling to sink in....finally armaan...ur a law graduate....its all done....welcome to the real world....he smiled to himself...instinctively he looked at the diamond ring in his third finger....he looked at it smiled and said "hey honey, ur husband just became a law graduate....wont u give him a congratulatory kiss???" following his impulse he kissed the ring, wishing it was ridhima herself....he did not stop to wonder or correct himself as to why he thought that way, nor did he try to refute his feelings....his impulses had been reigning over his better judgements for quite a few days now....unlike before.....n he was really happy right now...and the only person he wanted to see was her....to tell her he had made it....to hear her sweet voice expressing happiness for his success....his success...their success he thought blushing....for the first time in life he felt his achievement had a true meaning because there was someone with whom he just could not wait to share it....someone who would be happy not just because he succeeded but simply because he was happy about it...he walked towards the parking fast, knowing ridhima would be waiting there for him, like she had been at the end of each one of his exams...but reaching there he frowned slightly not finding her BMW anywhere in sight....oh well....she might be caught in traffic he thought she will be coming soon....he had missed her wake up call in the morning today because he woke up early and was in the shower when she called.....and somehow he just could not manage to get through to her again, her phone had been engaged for ever it had seemed....he wondered who she could be talking to so long early morning, but the exam was greatly on his mind and he left that thought to browse over it later....for then he had just played her voicemail over and over..."hey honey i called to wake u up....why dont u answer the call???um just gona hope it is coz ur already awake and elsewhere and not cause ur still sleeping and cant hear my call....anyways call me back when u get this...its a special day...i really want to hear your voice" and after a slight pause, "lov u armaan" remembering her words his smile deepened, and at that moment, following his impulse again, he said ever so softly, "love u too ridhima",he stopped short, a bit suprised at himself....did i just say that????but amazingly, having said those words..he felt like he had not felt in weeks....like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders....and then he thought....armaan??r u serious buddy....yes...yes....absolutely....for the first time in my life....i am serious about it like never before...yes thats it he thought getting excited....thats it....i love her....i love ridhima....he smiled n then told himself.....u know what armaan....dude u should have said this earlier....what were you thinking man....ok be reasonable...u were right about not falling in love all this time and all that...but couldnt that be because u had never met a girl like her???i mean ok armaan...u did not mind rahul and muskaan falling in love did u....just because of that one case between your parents....how could you ....do this to urself....more importantly ....to ridhima.....how could you just let her fill in single handedly for the love which you both share....ridhima....yes i am going to tell her today how much i love her....yeh baby....today itself...um sorry sweetheart i should have done this ages ago....but i promise i will make up for all lost chances....love u dearest....and he felt like his joy knew no bounds he wanted to dance all over the streets and scream and tell everyone HE WAS IN LOVE....WITH THE BEST GIRL IN THE WHOLE WORLD....having finally accepted the truth that had been staring him in his face for weeks now, he wondered why he had deprived himself of this feeling for so long....any hatred that he had ever felt for the word love, completely vanished when he said her name along with it in the same breath....he felt like he could never get enough ofsaying the words 'love u ridhima' over and over again, to make up for all the times he had stopped himself from doing so.... to feel the words on his lips, as he had so wanted to for the past weeks....
but where is she he thought, frowning all of a sudden...now this is the limit....how can she not be here today....oh i mean she will come of course but why is she not here on time like always....interrupting his thoughts he heard his cell ringing...there u go he said flipping open his phone and shooting right away "ridhima!! where r u honey??? i have been waiting for like..." "hello son its me..." interrupted samrat from the other side....armaan was disappointed ....n then immediately got conscious...had he said too much????what would faher think???? aloud he said, trying to sound normal and happy "father!...congratulate me father....i just turned into a lawyer....officially!!!" samrat however had not missed armaan's tone from his opening dialogue, but not wanting to push things at this moment itself he replied back in a seemingly cheerful voice "thats why i called you son...i figured you would be done by now...but looks like you forgot to call me today???" he could not refrain from saying that last statement...just to see his son's reaction....armaan was caught off guard, n thought OMG how could i have not remembered father even for a second back then....was so absorbed in ridhima he thought blushing but replied in an affected voice "actually i did try calling u first thing father but somehow i could not get through....anyways...now that we are talking thats what matters...thanx for wishing me father...." and then not wanting to answer any further questions that might come up he said "coming duncan....father um sorry but u will have to excuse me, everybody out of the hall now, n you can imagine what the atmosphere is like....they will kill me if i dont get back to them now....bye father" with that he cut off the call....and heaved a sigh of relief....o hell armaan thats has to be the first time you lied to him....and two lies in a row....u were gona so be in deep trouble today....but anyways....where is this girl....why has she not come or even called till now...call....o yeh he thought and flipped open his cell again to speed dial her number....."the number u r trying to reach is currently switched off"..what the f***...switched off???ridhimaaaa????where are u angel....please call me....um so worried.....just then he felt he was swept off his feet..n then realizing he really was...he saw a whole bunch of his friends from class had lifted him in the air...in his confusion he had not noticed until now that everybody was out of the hall and celebrating his own friends so excited...cheers to armaan...top of class of 2008.....n they gave him high bumps catching him back before putting him back on his feet at last... he smiled at them, hugged them n gave hi fives...while his heart longed to catch just a glimpse of that one person alone whom he wanted to see so desperately right now....where r u ridz he thought again, looking at his ring he wished it was a magic stone which would bring her to him if he kissed it....
while the atmosphere around him was all perked up, everybody in a complete mood to get drunk and party, armaan sat with a fake smile on his face, tying to concentrate on what his friends were saying....he had waited for her in the parking for over an hour past his exam making lame excuses, and would have stayed longer, but for his friends who did not listen to him after that and just shoved him into the car, drove to the biggest club in town....but his mind had not ceased to think of her for a moment....he had gone out of the basement where the big bash had been arranged and tried calling her countless times since there was no network in the basement but the answer remained unaltered....her phone was switched off....and now his friends had taken his cell away from him so he would not ditch them anymore but just sit with them and have fun.....they were all already quite drunk and would not listen to any reason he gave for trying to get his cell back....frustrated he just sat there not knowing what else he could do....but wishing for only one thing at that moment....to be with her and to tell her what he knew she had longed for him to confess....his restlessness was growing on him....at last he gave in....picked up the vodka shots lying before him one after the other until hew was done with the whole tray of 16 shots....cheers ridhima, he said putting down the last one....love u darling.....where r u?????
As they drove on the streets, all with the exception of Atul, the guy driving, were quite drunk, singing out loud, armaan sat in the passenger seat grinning aimlessly....he was still in senses enough to understand completely what was happening around him, and to still be able to think of nothing but her....however his worries had numbed out thanx to the amount of liqour he had consumed, and so his frown from before was now a silly grin plastered across his face....while atul kept driving stopping at certain points to drop of all the guys in his car one by one....finally when it ws just him and armaan left...he felt a tap on his shoulder,and turned to look at armaan, who said "atul....have u ever been in love, not with ur plants of course????like not the dating n silly stuff....but real crazy love????like when its just that one person in the world you care about, and even when u r with everybody who matters to u, her absence makes you mad and lonely????when you wish for every moment of the day to be with her....just sit watching her without saying a word for hours?????like.....u know what um talking mate???? atul stared at him, he was sober, but hearing this statement from armaan, he thought to himself....um pretty sure i told the bartender to give me NON ALCOHOLIC LEMONADE....i couldnt be drunk....but did i just hear armaan talk about love????? still shocked he said "sure i know what u mean buddy....but i dont think u know what ur saying right now....wow!!!ur talking like rahul....i know ur missing him and muski but still....u really are drunk today ammy....its ok....i will put u back home safely dont worry..." armaan continued to grin at him and said again "i know why ur saying that....but i mean it....i am drunk....but i know what i am saying....um in love champ.....and its the best feeling in the world mate....."and then suddenly looking crestfallen he said "but where is she....for the first time i want to tell her the truth....and she just is not there....champ...please u have to help me.....get me my ridzi....i need to talk to her....find her buddy....please....."saying this armaan went back into a daze....and atul stared at him....ridzi????did he mean ridhima the girl he was engaged to????
atul and rahul were cousins, and these three had been friends since they were playschool kids...in later years the three of them went to the same all boys boarding school, while armaans sister muskaan went to the contemporary all girls boarding...they had grown to be closest of friends...and rahul had fallen for muskaan at a very young age....but for years he hid this fact from ammy and him....because whereas rahul had been the emotional one, smitten in love, armaan had been the 'none of this love nonsense' guy...atul meanwile had been the bridge between the two...he loved having the 2 of them as best friends and knew how much they cared about each other and him despite the essential diferences amonst the 3 of them....in fact rahul had been so unsure about armaans recation to his love for muskaan that when the truth had come out eventually it had been muskaan and him who had told armaan, not rahul himself....they fought over this that whole evening, hugging each other in the end with tears in their eyes.....n then looking at each other saying....wow man....we are gona be related now....and then armaan had set himself to mission RM and had gone out n fixed the ridhima rahul issue quite swiftly, and ultimately the two had been married off....he thought ....this is the first time we are talking properly in about a month now....ever since rahul gave his exams early and left with muski for their honeymoon post their wedding, atul and armaan had been crazily busy with their own exam work...and being totally different fields of study, armaan being the law guy and atul being a botany major they never did have common study sessions which rahul and armaan often had...end of term was always insane....they had met at basketball games, and of course at armaans engagement, which had come as a tremendous suprise to atul, until armaan had explained the deal thing to him.....having not seen armaan much over the month he had not had a chance to witness armaan's change, and his comments about love in this inebriated state now totally took him by suprise...shock he corrected himself....when did this happen?????he had noticed how uncomfortable armaan had been at the bash today right until he got drunk on that tray of shots....following which he had been in this daze....it was just not like him thought atul....the only time he had seen ridhima had been at the engagement and he had thought she was rather a nice girl, more than that he knew nothing....well buck up dude he told himself...its time i get to know her....if she could make THE ARMAAN MALIK fall in love, she must be something.....softly he ruffled his dear friends hair seeing him smiling slightly in his half asleep mode.....he said to himself....sure buddy..i will help u out of course...um so happy for u armaan...if ur finally in love.....
As he opened his eyes slowly, a sharp pain shot across his head, which made him scrunch his eyes hard...with effort he opened them again, and realized, he was..AT ATUL'S HOME???exactly at that moment atul walked in with a cup of hard black coffee and a painkiller....handing over both to him and grining at armaan he said..."so ammy, leme guess....this must be the worst headache of ur life, considering that tray of shots was not the only thing u were drunk on!!!!" tha tablet literally got stuck in his throat and he choked hearing what atul had just said....he looked up in complete shock..."atul what are u " interrupting him atul said "ok no digressions i know u lawyers get paid for ur words.....straight to the point....u didnt think it worth to tell me about ridhima right until u were too drunk to keep it inside anymore????" now armaan almost fell off the bed, but not quite since atul held him with a stabalising hand still giving him a stern questioning look....for once he thought um playing your role ammy, the strict guy in charge here....armaan replied slowly, slightly stammering, and completely embaresed "ummm atul....r r ridzi...i mean ridhima... i mean i....its just that....well i never figured i loved her until after the exam today...."he said finally speaking an entire sentence....and then got completely shocked as atul pulled him into a back breaking hug...."OMG armaan, so u did not just say stuf under the influence of alcohal....u really are in love...OMG OMG why r muskaan and rahul not here right now...to see the perfect professional hate guru so smitten by a woman...just a simple woman....hahahaha....god save that poor girl though...i hope she knows what trouble she is in for to have a guy like you fall for her....OMG OMG" he just could not stop laughing...meanwhile armaan was choking in the tight grasp and finally succeeding in pushing off atul he yelled "CHAMP!!! r u going to kill me with lack of oxygen before i even make a confession to her????" then seeing atul's face...trying so hard to not laugh, he burst out himself, and soon they were both rolling over with laughter, and at the end they hugged again..."um so happy for u ammy....finally...the cupid struck that almost dormant organ on the left side of ur body!!!"as they broke off armaan got into a solemn look....then as he looked up his eyes fell on the clock on the wall behind...8pm...."OMG atul what time did we get back and how many hours have i been knocked out????and where is my phone???ridhima must have called....."atul signalled for him to stop and said "u will be suprised to know that even with 16 shots inside u, uv been out for only 3 hours...her love has super effect i must say!!!!n no she did not call....there were no calls or messages on your cell.....was she supposed to????and before we get to any of that....tell me the whole story....n god help u if u miss any single detail this time fooling me around with that so called deal u put forth as a reason last time...." and so armaan explained to him, the whole sequence of events beginning from their very first meeting, blushing at several points, and at others just talking as if he were in a dream.... and finishing up at his realization after the exam today...."there now...u have it ....any idea why she might have disappeared from the scene just when i got both my head n heart in the right place????" asked armaan, hoping earnestly that atul would have some answer to console him..."well my best bet would be asuming she fled from the scene sensing the impending danger of bearing with a lover like u on her back "said atul cheekily, but seeing that the last thing armaan wanted right now were his mindles jokes he pulled on a serious look and said "ok....u said u tried calling and her cell was off....did u try calling her home phone????" hearing that armaan jumped out of the bed yelling...."OMG atul why did u not say that before....hell no....why did i not think of that before....her home phone of course...." saying this he finished dialling the number and heard the ring going...for like ages, and just as he was going to cut it he heard a voice saying "hello gupta residence.....may i know who is calling..." "hey is ridhima there????" "well yeh she just got back from the party like a moment ago with all her friends, i will give her the phone may i...."*cut*....maria looked into the phone wondering what was that all about....meanwile armaan had not waited for her to complete the sentence, cutting the call pulled atul off the bed and dragging him out said..."c'mon champ, we are going to the gupta mansion" in an excited voice....after 5minutes of being in the car armaan suddenly quipped up "hang on.....maria said party????ridhima was at a party with her friends????when she knew it was my last exam today???n she never bothered to even tell me, infact her phone was switched off all day....oh no wait...it had been busy before that all morning too...champ....who could she be talking to????and...."getting a bit angry now "how could she party out leaving me all worried like that....i mean i waited for her for an hour....and actually i would have waited even more had it not been for the gang....and she...WAS OUT PARTYING ALL THAT TIME" he was literally yelling by the end of his sentence....his initial peace and happiness at learning that she was at home was now replaced by a complete outburst at the truth of her whereabouts for the whole day...."calm down ammy....there must be a reason...why are u getting angry without even talking to her about it....we are going there now right????control urself until u hear the truth from her" atul reasoned with his furious friend....."o i see and what motive could maria have in lying to me????c'mon champ she was out partying and how she possibly have a good reason to back up that for her disappearence for the whole day...????" somehow, he had lost all sense to reason....he continued "thats why i never wanted to fall in love....o god why did i have to????see what happens????trouble from the moment u utter the word love...." atul looked at armaan...he looked completely out of wits in his anger....and at the same time helpless and cheated....."ammy all i am saying is what you heard from maria may not be the complete truth....you cut her call midway right..." armaan shot him a blazing look and said "well yeh of course what more was there to hear anyways...you know what champ....just turn the car back....um not going to go and see her and ask her how much fun she had with her friends...nah lets go out champ....we graduated today, u and i....lets go out get drunk and party man....c'mon" he said urging atul to take a turn but atul just brushed him off "no ammy....dont be insane....look....u have to give her a chance to explain....we are going thats it"...but armaan had made up his mind "atul man....listen to me...turn the car around.... i dont want to see her right now....lets go....ok wait...theres a new bar a block from here i know....lets go there...c'mon...." atul looked at armaan in anger and realized his resolve was final...he also figured that the way armaan was reacting right now, he might do or say something to ridhima which she did not deserve and then regrets later on would not help....somehow, his unbiased thinking told him there was more to the story than armaan knew...but since he was not ready to listen right now, atul decided to go with his plan...."alright we will go there....but u are not getting drunk again....for heavens sake armaan...16shots was enough for today....just some social drinking and we end at that...ok????" armaan just nodded without listening to a word of that...all he could remember were maria's words....ridhima...party....friends....he swore hard....why he asked himself....why did u ever think love could do u any good armaan????all he wanted was to get in there and drink over his anger right now....
"champ i will just be back....said armaan after they had barely been there for 10mins....and saying so armaan walked up to a gorgeous blonde, dressed in skimpy clothes and swinging her around with his arm around her waist guided her to the dance floor....if she can party so can i, he thought.....atul meanwile could see where this was going....oh please god, do something he thought....just then he heard a cell ring...he fumbled in his pockets only to realise it wasnt his....and then he saw beneath the stool armaan had been sitting on his cell buzzing with a flashing light....grabbing it he saw the caller name 'ridzi home' flashing...he picked up the call and before he could speak up he heard a voice "oh thank god armaan finally....i am so sorry honey...the battery of my cell went out since i was getting calls all day and i only just got back home and called u first thing after getting my friends out of the room....i mean...how was ur exam armaan???" atul spoke up "hello ridhima...i mean bhabhi...this is atul....dont know if you remember me but"...cutting him mid way she said "of course i know u atul....armaan talks about rahul n u all the time...but...where is he...n how come his phone is with u...." atul sighed...not wanting to tell her everything on the phone, and then suddenly he thought of course thats it...into the phone he said "bhabhi can u come here???i mean we are at the new german bar in town...heidelberg's cavern...armaan and i....can u come here and i will explain...and u can meet armaan here too whatsay????"sure atul i wil be there in 20mins its not too far from my house...see you then" putting the phone down, ridhima wondered why she had not liked the tone in which atul had invited her to the bar...he had sounded tense...if she got that right....but putting off that thought from her mind, she picked up the huge truffle cake she had bought for today...and smiled thinking that finally she would meet armaan and they would cut the cake together....she was dying to see his expressions when she gave him the suprise gift she had got for today....the day when he would finish his exams and also because...well today was special she thought to herself.....and smiled....strangely they had never talked about this she thought, in a month of being engaged....checking herself one last time, she thought she looked pretty, wearing a knee length halter neck dress and dangling hoops and slight heels...all in his favorite color, black....personally ridhima liked red, the color of love, but she figured armaan was not super fond of it....he had however mentioned sometime that black was his favorite and so she had bought a dress for this special day in the same....
as the next song came on, armaan politely led the girl he had danced with for less than 20mins off the floor, and excusing himself...he swore again...dam man....wats with you...why can you not get her out of your head and enjoy.....she was doing that all day...but all you can do is see her face in every girl you dance with...how lame is that armaan....but somewhere beneath his anger, he felt a stabbing pain....how could she do this to him he thought????and why did it matter so much...because u love her u fool his innervoice replied....shaking his head he walked back.....atul meanwile was pleased to see this....having called ridhima here the last thing he had wanted was her seeing armaan with some cheap babe, trying to get cosy with him him on the dance floor...as he saw armaan approaching, the look on his face did not escape him...it was a mixture of anger, helplessness and...guilt....atul felt bad for his best buddy...but he knew somehow that once ridhima was here all would be fine...that less than one minute talk with her had somehow compelled atul to admire armaan's choice when he finally fell in love...she had sounded loving, gentle and concerned...he just knew without knowing her as a person that she was the one for him...."champ....can we just go back home????" he heard armaan say the moment he slumped into the stool next to atul...."yes we can....but give me 15minutes i just saw a friend...i will be right back" saying this atul walked out...he realized the two of them would need to talk one on one and his presence though wasnt likely to bother armaan might not be comfortable for ridhima...and he was sure she would be there in under 15minutes from then....
She looked around her eyes searching for him in the crowded noisy place....o boy...for today atleast i wanted a nice quiet romantic spot just for me and him....what a contrast this is...anyways...where is armaan now...and then suddenly she saw him....his back actually but she knew it was him.....she smiled and decided to suprise him....went to a waiter gave him the cake, and pointing to the table armaan was on, asked him to bring it there in 5mins....then she walked towards him and closing his eyes from behind whispered in his ears "guess who???" giggling, BUT...????she was shocked as armaan roughly shook her hands off his eyes and swung her around hard to face him....looking at her, he just could not hold his anger anymore and said "how was the party ridhima???um sure you must have had awsome fun....and omg look at you....you look gorgeous darling..so which boyfriend took you out for a date...oh sorry...it might be private considering you had your cell switched off the whole time...i apologize...none of my business...."and saying that he shot her a blazing dirty look....ridhima on the other hand was just shocked beyond words....as the words registered in her mind, she felt tears stringing her eyes as she spoke almost in a hoarse whisper "what are u saying armaan?" he shot her another piercing look and said in a steely voice "oh i am sorry...did i get wrong information????were you not at a party all day???? "yes i was armaan but that was because... " "he cut her off..."no need to explain sweetheart, i dont want to know...its ur life do what you want...we are just getting married day after tomorrow not tied to each other...." hearing his last statement she just could not control her tears anymore and as she turned to leave she alomst banged into the waiter who had got the cake...without looking at him she walked out...while the suprised waiter put the cake in front of armaan and said, thats for you from ms gupta sir...saying so he walked off and just as armaan was going to throw the cake off the table in sheer anger, he was shocked by what it said...."TO THE NEW GRADUATE FROM THE BIRTHDAY GIRL".....
He stared at the cake dumbstruck for several moments, and it felt like the world had stopped for him....DAM IT he thought....birthday????its her birthday today????thats why she was....OMG....what did i do....shit and all that crap i just said to her instead of what i had been waiting to tell her all day and....dam dam dam....saying this he ran out of the bar grabbing the cake swiftly and going out carefully making sure nothing happened to it.....ridhima in the meanwile had rushed towards her car in the parking lot colliding with many on the way out since she was blided by the streaming tears. she was greatful, to see it was dark outside and not many people around to see her in that state....as she finally reached her car she got in and slumped on the seat her head on the steering and burst out crying....she felt completely broken...how she had longed all day to see his expressions when she gave him the cake and then the gift....the gift....remembering it was still in her bag, she ripped it open and looked at it for a long moment before opening her window and throwing it out.....but....instead of hearing the crashing sound she had expected she just heard a familiar "OUCH" and turned around just in time to see him trying to catch the gift with one hand, balancing the huge cake with the other, and slip hard on the pavement in the effort of doing so. as he opened his eyes, he saw the cake had fallen messing up his clothes, his hair and even parts of his face, but he had managed to save the gift from breaking....as she rushed out of the car instinctively to help him, he saw what it was....a huge glass frame with their picture from the celebration on the last day of the performance of troy, him giving her a peck on her cheek, his arm around her, as she stood smiling but blushing in her greek outfit....painted below in her tidy writing were the words "LEGALLY YOURS!!!" smiling inevitably, at her innovative and deep thinking for planning his suprise, he looked up to see her put out a hand towards him, he was going to grab it to get up, but instead, she snatched the frame from his hand and tossed it away again, but he sprung up and caught it a second time just before it crashed on the ground...."whoa girl...um not practicing to enter the cricket team yet, take it easy sweetheart" hearing him say that she gave him a fiery look, and putting the frame on top of the car, he just stared back feeling completely guilt ridden seeing her tear strained face and thought how could i hurt her so much....and then...she looks so beautiful today.....and instintively he first looked at himself in complete mess with the cake, and then looking at her again, pulled her into a hug, wrapping his arms around her in a tight embrace....first she struggled to get out of his grip, but realizing she would not succeed, she just gave up, and wept softly with her head resting against his bare chest where the top few buttons were open....."hush hush" he said, softly stroking her hair, and feeling more pain inside with each new tear he felt flowing from her eyes upon his chest....."hush honey.....i know i should be punished for even uttering these words but please forgive me darling.....i just spent the whole day so worried about u, and then when i learnt about the party i just lost it totally....atul said i should talk to you before getting impulsive but no, how i can ever listen to anything that makes sense....um really really sorry princess......u were always right about me....um a complete jerk, who knows everyway to hurt the woman he loves...."...ridhima, who had been crying silently hearing all those words suddenly turned stiff....the woman he loves???had she heard him right???feeling her stiffening in his embrace he losened his grip and pulled her apart to look at her.....as he gazed into those innocent questioning emerald eyes, he knew why he had fallen her for her so completely and wrecklessly, and he promised himself to never let another tear enter the eyes of his lady love again....ridhima finally gathered her wits and said..."what did you just say???? grinning at her he said "me??? i said i am sorry sweetie" "no no after that" she asked him impatiently, "well i said forgive me for being a jerk" he said teasing her more...."and????"she persisted "o god what did u hear?????" he said with mock irritation while she looked confused and crestfallen and said "no i just thought...." and then remembering that she was angry with him for how he had behaved with her minutes ago in the bar, she pushed him and said "let me go armaan....see what u did...spoilt my new bday dress and now i have cake all over me and incidentally i had bought it with the idea of eating it not using it to decorate ourselves and...." "and i love you" said armaan putting a finger on her lips to silence her....seeing her expression go from irritated to dumbstruck to embaressment and finally settling down to a blush, he continued "is that what you thought you heard me say????you heard it right....i did say, would u forgive me for being a jerk to fall in love with you????" as she shot him a dirty look again he smiled at her naughtily and said...."well wouldnt you agree????i have to be a jerk to fall in love with a girl as wonderful as you, and then expect you to love me back too!!!" pausing he said in a more serious tone "i mean look at me...dont know the first rules of how to treat the woman i love like crazy, and look at you, not just tolerating me but doing so happily????why are you the way you are ridhima????how do you stand me????" seeing that he had been serious about this question she felt bad about the way the events had taken place....she realized how her sudden absence must have worried him and then knowing about the party without its cause had just knocked off his senses....but she realized the whole reaction had resulted only out of his sheer love and concern, so she decided it was her turn to lighten the mood... she said "well lets say ur macho looks play a vital role and turn me on???" and saying that she winked at him....he was bowled over for a few seconds, but recovering almost instantaneously, he flashed his gorgeous smile and said in a low seductive voice "really???" and saying so he pulled her closer again and stared at her intensely, causing her to blush and lower her eyes, while he raised her face holding it gently with her chin causing her to look back at him and said "i love u ridhima....its been coming to me for ages now...i guess from the first time u hugged me at the jewellery shop, and i should have said it much before this moment.....but could u just forgive me once and for all, just add this to the endles list of mistakes i have made and hurt you with, and i am ready to take upon myself whatever punishment u think befitting.....but i love you sweetheart....i really do...."and not finding another word to express what he had been dying to tell her all day he just looked at her hoping she knew how deeply he had meant those words, letting his eyes complete his extremely procrastinated confession....she finally found the courage to look back into his eyes, they spoke volumes, and she let her silence answer back in affirmative, implying that she knew what he meant and that she felt exactly the same way...aloud she said "would you expect me to say i love u too???if yes then your punishment is that i wont say it...because not only did u yell at me inside, but u also did not praise my gift for u...u did not notice i was wearing ur favorite color, and to top it all u spoilt my dress and my hair and the cake all at the same time....that gives me reason enough to punish u and not say what u want to hear...."and she looked straight into his eyes with a fake indignant look...."hmmm" said armaan, then pretending he was thinking by looking in the thin air he said "ok never mind saying those words as long as u act upon them, and saying so, he pulled her closer and gently kissed her on the forehead...."seeing her blush he continued whispering seductively close to her ears "besides i do have a solution to fix the problem of ur messed up looks....."and saying this he gently kissed off a small bit of cake from the side curve of her neck.....as ridhima gasped, he proceeded to kiss off the cake from all over her face and finally coming close to her slightly trembling lips, he paused to look at her, seeing her eyes closed but her expression calm yet expectant, he kissed her, ever so softly on her lips, and then as he felt her reciprocating, he kissed her with much greater passion, not wanting to ever let go, making up for all the times he had checked himself from doing so in the past few weeks....when they finally parted, he looked her with a serious expression and lifted her face till she looked back at him and asked in an extremely grave tone "mmmm yummy!!!what flavor was that cake ridzi???iv decided to never to eat a cake unless its the same flavor????i have to admit uv got an incredibly tempting choice....a guy like me...and a cake flavor like that...good good....i never have to think about chosing stuff anymore, i trust ur choice blindly now!!!" hearing his words she grinned, while blushing, and hit him on his chest...then said "armaan ur worthless sense of humor i tell you....cant believe you ended that romantic moment with a cheesy joke like that..."and seeing his expression turn soulful she thought perhaps she said too much????"armaan???i was just joking..." and brightening up again he retorted "well thank god then...for a moment i thouht u meant it when u said that was the end of the romantic moment" and he burst out laughing by the end of his teaser....she was completely caught off by this second joke and she thought this guy can never let me remain sad for long...he is so full of life that with him in my life i will never feel low again...this has to be the best birthday of my life and armaan is the best gift you could have given me god...thank u so much....seeing her lost all of a sudden he snapped his fingers before her eyes saying "hey beautiful???who's the lucky one on ur mind????" she looked back at him not really having heard what he had said, and just quipped "i love u armaan...""ah there u go " he said.."yipee punishment over...but u know what if thats the way i have to apologize everytime only to be rewarded by an i lov u at the end....um ready to be punished for the rest of my life"blushing deeply now she said "gosh armaan...ur beyond any limits...incase u forgot we r getting married in less than 2 days, and look at you...flirting with the girl ur engaged to....ur just impossible" giving her a cheeky look he quipped "well would u prefer it if i flirted with girls i wasnt engaged to???i dont mind seriously....u just have to mention it ur greek highness, ur wish is my command, infact " he continued, "say it quickly cause i just saw an amazing brunette chick come out of the bar right there" as ridz turned to look in the direction he had pointed to he quickly kissed her on her cheek and winked at her as she looked back at him with a 'u really are impossible' look....what could she do???it were exactly these charms of his she had fallen for....now she just had to live with them, she thought smiling....like forever!!!!
"well mr.malik....have u really decided to starve me on my own birthday????the cake is ruined as it is...atleast take me out for dinner um simply famished" "absolutely madam" he replied bowing in front of her and asking her to lead the way....she walked ahead towards the passenger seat after handing him the keys to her BMW....
"so why was your cell switched off all day ridz?" asked armaan between mouthful of the pasta she had made for them both....after sitting in the car and arguing for 15minutes of where they could go they had decided to head back to the malik mansion where ridz would just cook them both something, or as armaan had corrected her, practice doing what she would have to continue doing for the rest of her life two days from then....ridz had been hesitant to go to her future home with cake all over, but armaan mentioned that dad was out for some work and wasnt expected back until the nex day...he did not mention radhika as usual, and she stopped herself from asking, deciding they had seen enough action for the day already and now she just wanted to spend a peaceful fun evening with him.......coming back to his question, she answered "well i had been getting so many calls all the time ever since early morning, that soon after we reached the hotel where my suprise party was organised the battery died out....and when i asked my friends for a cell so i could call you they refused saying that for the duration of the party i was going to stay away from the phone since i had spent enough time on mine all morning....." as she finished armaan realised a second fact too"oh so thats why ur phone was engaged in the morning too....and i was wondering who u were on the phone with in those early hours...."ridz looked up at him with a funny look and said "oooohhhh do i sense somebody got jealous????" he shot back "of course not....but i did notice someone getting jealous on the mere mention of a brunette chick!!!"and they both laughed, thinking simultaneously, that this was the beauty of their relation....since they had started out as friends, they trusted each other....ridz thought, even when he was worried about me having disappeared all day he did not doubt where i could be...it was just plain worry for my well being....while armaan thought "she knows me so well....and has seen me flirt all the time...but the best part is that even before i confessed she believed with complete faith, that she was the only girl i trully loved...i love her for the trust she places in me, n i will never ever break it" he thought....but as he smiled at her he saw a picture of him and his dad from his first basketball game on the wall behind her, and he remembered the one truth she still did not know....the truth about the deal.....looking at her happy relaxed face again he vowed to tell her all about it....and very soon...but right now he reasoned, they had had enough for a single day, and he just could not see her sad for another moment on this special day of hers, most of which he had already spoilt.....later for sure...at the right moment...he told himself....she will understand when i explain the whole thing....for now she knows that i love her.....and putting the disturbing thought aside with its new found solution, he continued chatting with her, joking, laughing, blowing each other kisses and sharing cute short eyelocks!!!!
"hmmm that was a scrumptious dinner...um full now" armaan sighed with satisfaction "yeh i sure hope so....u have been eating for like the past half an hour...um sorry eating is an understatement, uv been hogging on the pasta for the past half an hour....teme something armaan do u always eat this much????" ridhima said with mock concern in her voice while she had a sly teasing look in her eyes...armaan looked at her, and said "yeh well mostly just this much, but occassionally i get hunger pangs... then i eat more..."grinning at her as she gave him the 'u must be kidding' look, he continued "but dont worry u have emerged victorious in the stiff competition among the many applicants i had file in for this post, so ur hired for the job of my personal assistant at home, to cook all three of my meals, along with just 6 mid snacks, and other general chores that have to be taken care of in the bedroom....congratulations ms. gupta u must be excited about your new job...." she now stood gaping at him and then coming back to her senses finally retorted "fine mr. malik but u have to know that to hire perfection u will have to part with high monthly salaries....i am going to be an expensive assistant to pay....i hope ur fine with that????"armaan saw her immitation of shrewd professionalism which in contradiction actually resulted in adding to her innocent cute look, n smiling once again for the billionth time that evening thanked god to have her in his life, but not losing focus for his chance to win the argument he said "of course madam...so how would u like to be paid..."he said getting up from his chair and moving towards her, continuing "in cash " he paused as he got closer still, enjoying the effect of their proximity on ridhima as her face dropped the naughty look and started changing color to shades of red, and he went on "or in kind... perhaps????" he whispered the last words in a slow seductive drawl close to her ears and his dimples deepened feeling her blush hard now....she looked at him, but not able to stand his hazel eyed gaze too long she turned her head and moved to get up from her chair to regain her composure, but armaan had decided otherwise....he held her wrist, and slowly she turned around and he pulled her into his arms...kissed her forehead softly and said again "so what did u decide????personally i believe i can pay higher wages in kind....in fact i dont mind going bankrupt paying you ur high wages" and saying that he tried to kiss her again but even though she was melting by the minute, she decided to not let him win so easy...pulling out of his hug and looking at his quizzical look at her sudden reaction she said "ummmm....well neither....i quit.....i figured as ms gupta and future mrs malik i will be rich enough to hire you for the same job instead...what say???r u game????" armaan smiled shaking his head...OH MY GOD he thought.... i am definitely not marrying a chick i can simply flatter and win over with pure charm...she is up for competition....alrite baby...lets bring it on then...."sure darling" he replied "i dont mind....but the conditions are the same only positions reversed, and i have decided i want to be paid in kind......and..." he said moving close to her "and..." closer still "and....as a daily wager if you would please...." and he got the kiss she had moved out of just a moment ago...slowly and softly...he left a trail of kisses from her eyes towards her ear, and letting his lips stay in light sensuous contact with her earlobe he resumed "so what would you want me to begin with madam, the man is at ur service eagerly awaiting his orders so he can get paid fast....!!!!" ridhima felt she was fighting a lost battle, all she wanted at that moment was to relinquish this game they had started and just have him kiss her, without teasing....just kiss her hard....as he moved a little back to catch the effect of his latest hit, she hastily tried to regain herself...not quite though.....it was her turn to shake her head at how he never gave up, and then she reasoned...hes a law grad ridzi, the last thing they do is give up in a game of words!!!so she decided to handle this fun war another way, her way...in her domain of expertise..."right, have it your way, i want thai soup and some japanese sushi please...." "oooohhh somebody is on strict diet food huh???"armaan teased her not missing any chance to earn points in these verbal rounds of war...."yeh u guessed right....avoiding oily food you see....this bloke um engaged to, is forever flirting with other woman....i cant afford to lose my savy looks and figure or he is most likely to desert me on the night of the wedding itself!!!!" hearing this they both burst out laughing and between the fits of laughter armaan said "u know u should be so glad i dont do that for real.....woman would kill to cling to armaan malik....but too bad....i just resigned from the part time playboy job to a full time servant to serve the love of my life" he ended the statement smiling yet in a seriously intended tone, with a look in his eyes which told ridhima that he never stated a greater truth in his life...she smiled back at him, thanking heartily whatever stars had conspired to bring them together, then squeezed his hand with love, standing up on her toes gave him a quick short kiss on his lips and said "well thats ur advance payment mr. malik, get down to work, lets see how much you are capable of earning in kind from the lady who loves u more than life itself...
As they cooked in the kitchen for the next couple of hours, it was for ridhima the most fun birthday she had ever had....she just could not seem to get enough of being with armaan, who himself, could not remember the last time he had experienced such effortless pure fun and love...however the romance did no good to the cooking itself....he followed the instructions she gave him for the food she had 'ordered' in an inevitably clumsy way, breaking the eggs to hard, crying while chopping onions, forgeting to turn off boiling milk which just overflowed, struggling to open the new bag of rice and spilling it all over the floor in the process, until the kitchen looked like a a devil's playfield, and the so called food he cooked a complete disaster! finally armaan slumped on the floor, all tired, giving up, but as ridhima sat down beside him, and ruffled his hair with affection, he smiled looking up at her...."um sorry....thats not even edible stuff...but hopefully i will improve with time as a trainee under ur highness???!!!" she hugged the messy him, and said " what crap....i think um gona be bankrupt paying u in kind for the very first job u did, if u improve i will just have no ways to pay u anymore!!!" then breaking away from the hug and looking at him earnestly she continued "i love u armaan...i never thought i would meet a man who would go to such extent just for my happiness....i lov u and trust u like i never could ever before....all my life i thought what wouldnt i give to get a life where i could do things my way by my wish....but now i think i found the man i can blindly submit to and follow, without thinking of the consequences, because now till he is with me, nothing can go wrong...."and as her eyes got moist saying this she got up and moved towards the garden outside, not wanting to cry and spoil the moment....armaan followed her outside and running after her, finally came and stood in front of her....then gently wiping off her tears he gently walked her towards the two seater swing in their garden and made her sit on it, while kneeling down facing her...and said..."i will never let you down....and i will never let anything go wrong....i love u sweetheart...i never thought these words could ever hold significance in my life, but with u, it seems everything else is insignificant except the words themselves" and saying so he pulled her into a tight hug, staying like that for what seemed an eternity.....
lost in their own world in those moments, they did not hear when a car drove into the driveway of the mallik mansion...nor did the notice the man who got out of the car, and about to walk away when his eyes caught the couple in the garden...samrat malik could not believe his eyes...he had just happened to finish his work earlier than expected and came back home only to see this????was that really armaan with ridhima he thought????the same armaan he had raised numb to all emotions???for a few moments he felt like his existence had refuted him to the core....the as the whole scene registered to him, he thought, with anger swelling inside him, NEVER......I WILL NEVER LET THIS HAPPEN....if armaan falls for that girl so aimlessly he will not concentrate on the empire the same way anymore....but thats not the worst....if that girl gets to control armaan, SHASHANK GETS TO CONTROL THE ALLIANCE INSTEAD OF ME.... no way armaan i havent raised u all these years to see u drift away to enemy camp when i need to play my game with u as the trump card....no way....i have to stop this....n soon.....thinking this he went inside, to formulate a plan immediately to with deal the problem at this novice stage.....
As the early rays of the dawning sun started to show up, ridhima shifted a bit and then slightly opening her eyes saw armaan's head in her lap, sleeping away, in about the same position as they had sat chatting in late through the previous night, him on the ground before her, while she sat on the swing.....she smiled deeply, then blushed remembering the events from her birthday eve....then suddenly she jerked out of it seeing the time on her wrist watch as 5am, started shaking armaan gently to wake him up....armaan in his sleep just grabbed her hand and holding it more securely pulled it under his head for support....ridhima saw him and hated the idea of waking him up, so slowly pulled out of his grip and tiptoed inyo the huge mansion to find her car keys so she could go....as she grabbed them from the table and made a move to leave she thought of leaving armaan a note....so she started looking around for a paper and pen, when she heard the familiar gentle voice "good morning beta" she turned around to see radhika standing there in an elegant black gown smiling at her....ridhima immediately felt panic...oh god, had sasu ma been there all night....what would she think of me now....but radhika gave her another reassuring smile, which gave ridhima just about enough courage to ask "hello aunty...i mean...mumma....i mean...i did not se you around last evening" she finally lurted out, and then cursed herself, as her words made it obvious that she had been there all night.....further more ridhima realized she was still in her black dress which after the cooking disaster session did not have just cake but several other varieties of tit bits on it.....she kicked herself mentally for not having come and changed into clean clothes last evening....but she recalled also how hungry they had been and so never thought of it and the post dinner series of events left no time to appear mor presentable....she stood there just wanting the earth to gobble her up so she would not have to face her sasu ma in this state.....but radhika who stayed in her room all the time, had not missed the fun laughter and the love which had adorned her house after many years, not wanting to interrupt their fun she had refrained from showing her presence....now, sensing how awkward ridhima was feeling she moved forward and hugged her lightly....saying "no beta i only just got back from a social work errand a couple of hours ago....but i am so happy to see you....i hope you both had a great time celebrating armaan's grad eve...." pausing a bit, and feeling that ridhima now seemed a little bit eased out she added "thank you so much beta....you have given armaan the true happiness he has long deserved....god bless u both with a happy married life" then releasing her from the hug "were u looking for something beta????" quite at peace now, ridhima knew now why her intuition had always supported radhika, she was a wonderful and warm woman, and her last few minutes putting ridhima at ease, realising the whole situation, without appearing to do so proved it, n this strengthed ridhima's resolve to solve the issues between mother and son, once she was a malik officially....getting back to the present moment she answered "well i wanted to leave a note for armaan so " ridhima interrupted "il fetch u paper n pen"....as she handed the note to radhika, and turned to leave after bending to take her blessings, radhika gave her note back n said, "it would be better if u just tuck the note into armaan's pocket perhaps, god bless u beta" saying that she left....ridhima took the point and doing as she had said drove to her house, hoping shashank was out for a jog, and would not notice her absence....
meanwile, the whole saas bahu love scene had not escaped samrat, who fumed now, and frowning said to himself...."i am sorry armaan, but um just going to have to do this....u forced me into it, i cant sacrifice my rule for ur mere silly love....."
what in the name of heavens were u thinking ridzi, staying over with armaan the whole night....great!! now bear the consequences, have fun at mehendi tonight with an impending insomnia attack to hit u any second, and since no bride can ever sleep with her legs and arms full of wet mehendi, stay up yet another night, and then god save you from fainting in the mandap of ur own wedding the following evening....awsome....and lets say u are lucky to survive that too, with your eyes somehow kept open, what about the wedding night....wow....armaan will love me for being the first bride in the world who slept on her own suhaag raat before her husband even entered the bedroom...uufff shut up ridzi what are u thinking...."bhabhi are u ok???" atul quipped interrupting her thoughts....armaan, ridhima and atul were in the mall completeing some last minute shopping for the mehendi tonight, and the wedding tomorrow....he had come over for lunch to ask armaan about the previous evening and if things were right with ridhima, and just when armaan was ending his naration, leaving out the extremely personal parts of it, ridhima had come along.....atul had not wanted to barge between the two lovers, but armaan had insisted blackmailing him, "as it is rahul is not here yet, how can i do my wedding shopping without both my brothers"....seeing his still unconvinced look ridhima had added...."please atul, u have to come, atleast i should get to know one of my devars well before the wedding, after all you both will have to side up with me when armaan fights with me right???!!!!" resigning to their protests he had accompanied them....and now, in the last showroom they had to visit, while armaan was in the fitting room trying on a sherwani, atul had noticed the expressions on ridhima's face change with every passing second within the last 5mimutes...first she had displayed a range of sleepy expressions, then she gave some wierd irritated looks, then suddenly she looked like she was cursing herself and regetting something at the same time, and now the most recent one looked like she was trying not to blush....not for the life of him could he imagine what string of thoughts could result in that sequence of expressions....giving up on trying to guess anymore he had therefore asked her the reason directly....looking at atul waiting for her answer she gave him a blank look, in her head trying to figure out what she could say....and then she said "of course atul, dont worry about me...um...um just...just fine....nothing wrong, what could be wrong...hehe" she ended with a silly grin, knowing without doubt that he wasnt convinced with her reply in the least....then seeing armaan come up in a sherwaani he had gone to try she pouted and said pointing at him impulsively "its all his fault..." both armaan and atul looked at her then at each other and then back at her with a question mark printed all over their face for obvious reasons...."what did i do now" "what did he do now" came the same question, from both of them together....ridhima glared at armaan and then turning to atul with a pitiful look seeking help said in almost a cry baby voice "u know devar ji, he got me all sentimental last night and blackmailed me into hearing him talk god knows what worthless stories all night and so i have not been able to sleep a wink, and now with the mehendi tonight and the wedding tomorrow, god knows when i will sleep again....what if i faint in my own wedding when he's trying to put the garland in my neck????actually serves him right for not letting me sleep...." she finished off, and while atul burst out laughing, armaan just went from looking shocked to looking angrily at ridhima for the unfair and untruthful blame she had imposed on him..."ammy???bro why did u do that man" atul asked trying hard to control his giggles!!!ridhima, seeing atul wasnt noticing her winked at armaan mouthing the words "thats check honey!!!" armaan blurted "what non sense ridhima when did i tell you stories, we were just....." and he stopped in his tracks...then blushing slightly and scratching his head he looked down on the floor cursing ridhima for putting him in this vulnerable spot with atul, and then suddenly getting an idea he looked back up cheekily at ridhima, and with a mock innocent look towards atul and said "champ, c'mon man we are getting married tomorrow i thought i should be honest with her and tell in detail about all the girlfriends i have had in the past, the best kisses, the dates, the.....you know all that stuff...i thought it would be good for her to know all that beforehand wats a man to do if his lady doesnt appreciate his honesty???" atul looked at armaan and nodded slightly "well yeh i guess....but still if bhabhi was sleepy u should have let it be for then u know...." armaan , looking at ridhima who looked ready to strangle him hearing the words 'girlfriends' 'kisses' and 'honesty' replied, with a fake sorry look "aaawwww sweetie i did not realize i was tiring u out so bad....i thought u were listening to each word i said with great interest ....my sincere apologies darling..." saying this he pulled the by now fuming ridhima into a hug and whispered so that only she could hear "check and mate sweetheart!!" atul grinned shaking his head...he had figured out the game the moment it had started, since armaan had already narated the events of the evening to him, but he pretended innocence to watch the cute couple play about, and deep inside he felt trully happy for armaan to have found a girl like ridhima, they were 2 imperfect people perfect for each other he thought!!!"ahem ahem " hearing atul, armaan broke lose, and stood grinning at ridhima, who slightly embarrased said "and he still has not given me my birthday gift" hearing this atul looked at armaan armaan looked at ridhima and then looked down as if implying that now he was caught cause she was right....he had indeed not given her birthday gift, smiling slightly to himself he muttered under his breath "well not yet that is" and he looked back at her with a solemn look saying..." i thought my confession was gift enough, wasnt it" saying that he giggled seeing her pretended smile and said...."ok guys lets buck up now....and then glancing casually at his wrist watch he he almost yelled "omg champ....i think u will have to make a move if u r picking up rahul and muski from the airport they should be landing soon now...." hearing this atul too saw the time, hurriedly giving ridhima a hug and armaan a hi five said "see you later then....and ammy....bro get her some real gift man for heavens sake" winking at them both he left for the airport.....
as he disappeared armaan turned to see ridhima staring at him while tapping her foot on the ground...."what now" he asked "stop acting innocent um serious....what was all that girlfriend and kisses stuff about????and where is my gift????" "o c'mon ridzi....i just beat u at ur own wicked trick....admit it now!!!n what gift...we are not high school kids anymore....what do want...flowers???chocolates????teddy bears????ok lets go to a gift shop and you can pick what you want alright????" ridhima got really mad now "what????i took like ages to think of what to get you and u think i am silly to expect u to do the same...." saying that she pouted in anger and turned her back on armaan, who grinned behind her back then pulling a serious face said "uufff seriously u girls and ur tantrums....ok fine baba il get u something by evening lets just go home now...um getting tired..." saying this he started walking out of the mall...while ridhima more angry than ever before just followed him out in silence....as they finally reached the car ridhima kept silent in her anger, while armaan kept driving, humming 'mysterious girl' knowing it was irritating her....then breaking the silence when they finally reached her home, he asked "are u going to stay angry forever just because i did not get a gift for ur birthday?" "yup" came her curt reply "oh alright then.....look under ur seat...its there" ridhima eagerly looked under her seat to find a bunch of flowers, again an assortment and she realised she still had not told him her favorite, lifting those she saw a box which she pulled eagerly and ripping it open she saw chocolates and a stuffed teddy....."flowers chocolates and teddy...do u lik it?????asked armaan with an expectant face....though slightly disappointed she did not want armaan to feel bad since he had atleast got her a gift, so she smiled at him, the best she could and hugging him said "thanx honey i love them of course..." meanwile armaan was now having a really hard time controlling his laughter....aloud he said, in as controlled a voice as he could..."are u sure sweetheart...u do like those things right????i mean all girls do so i thought u would as well ridzi" he had known she would react this way....these gifts could have pleased any girl in the world....any girl except her and he knew that...which is why he had started with them....but ridhima said again "of course armaan i really like them thanx a ton...." and saying that she pulled out of the hug and made a move to step out of the car fearing armaan might read her face and realise she wasnt quite truthful....he turned her face around and said "then you wouldn't want this would u???saying so he pulled out a box from under his seat.....which she snatched out of his hands and said gleefully"is that another one for me????" armaan grinned at her innocent excitement and said "well if u insist on taking it go ahead" sticking her tongue out at him she got back to ripping the wrapper of the box...as she opened it, she found inside a basketball.....except that it wasnt just the usual plain orange color....seeing it closely, she realized it had something written on it in silver permanent marker.. she read aloud turning the ball all around to read the whole sentence " our...relation...is ...like....this....ball....no....matter....what....it....alw ays....bounces...back.....:)" for a few seconds she just reiterated the sentence she had read in her mind again...while thinking of what a deep reassuring message it held for their future in such simple words....then slowly she looked up at him her eyes getting moist again.... and before she could speak he said "please....dont say ur gonna cry....it cant be that bad a gift honey......" hearing him she started laughing with a couple of tears which had formed rolling down....while she, at a loss of words just hugged him again, this time completely meaning to.....armaan stroked her hair and whispered "do u like it???? i had to think alot after you dozed off last night of what to give u.....but couldnt think of anything to match your gift....but during the b'ball practice in the morning after i woke up, i was missing u...n our games...n then suddenly i had this idea....n i thought since i always keep messing up, seeing this ball when u r mad at me will remind u that um just a jerk...but i still lov u...n then u will melt n forgive me....wat say????" he asked her grinning....she looked back at him and smiled saying "oh so ur already warning me that u will be a and that i should consider this ball as your redemption ticket....well u know what....u win mr malik.....i love the gift....so i guess u will be forgiven!!!" as she spoke those words armaan just gazed at her ....he couldnt stop himself from giving her a soft kiss on her lips....and then before he could pull back, he found her gripping his hair softly and kissing him with deep intensity.....he kissed back, really happy that she had taken initiative and realizing that it was her way to reaffirm that she had indeed liked his gift for real this time....as they parted....she blushed and without looking at him, started running towards the gate, while he yelled "lov u honey cant wait to see u in the evning....!!!"
Most of the guests had left by now....just family members remained....as they too started to depart their own ways, ridhima stood next to a window in her room thinking about the evening while looking at her mehendi....the sangeet had been awsome fun, ridhima and muskaan had seemed to gell well from the word go.....while ridhima felt like she had suddenly found herself a younger sister, muskaan told her she would now be her permanent partner in crime, while cribbing that the notorious boy gang never included her in their acts....pouting cutely she said "meri to sirf bhabhi hain" while sticking her tongue out at the three of them....rahul had shared a cute moment with ridhima, while completing his role of putting little mehendi on her hands and had said..."bhabhi, u cant imagine how delighted i am for armaan and u...he has always been such a rigid jerk when it comes to love, that i still cant believe he got this lucky....but mind u bhabhi....if he ever troubles you, i am the one u need to call, n then god save him from me!!!!" saying this he had put a small pack beside her saying "thats from atul, muskaan n me bhabhi...i hope u like it....atul meanwile had pulled her out for a dance, and while dancing asked her almost screaming over the loud music....did u like the birthday gift bhabhi????as ridhima looked at him with a questioning look, he replied...."he told me before u even came about it....." ridhima smiled at the bonding between these, thinking wishfully how lonely her own growing years had been...but now she thought, finaly i am getting a real family....where people love each other and care for each other...and then as her thoughts travelled to the man who had made this dream come true for her, she felt his hands over her eyes, while he said "ridzi quick make a wish " caught by suprise she begun "what in the " armaam interrupted "oh complete that favorite dialogue of urs later....just make a wish quick" silenced by him she just thought "i have nothing more to ask for...just for armaan.... make all his dreams come true....i love him!!!!" then as she opened her eyes armaan turned her face in the direction of a shooting star just falling down.....then he said....."wont ask u what u wished or ul fire back that old bollywood dialogue about not telling ur wishes" he said turning her around with cheeky grin....and then getting just a bit serious he added "but i just hope whatever u asked for comes true!!!!"...as she smiled he quipped...."oh yeh just remembered....show me your mehendi now, muskaan said u got my name in it???" shying a bit ridhima said "yeh, every bride does that...." not taking time to admire her mehendi armaan searched like a lost child for his name, then looking up at her completely puzzled he said "where is it????are u sure u got it there.... i dont see it....." ridhima grinned and said...."thats the point....i told her not to write it as a single word but to scatter the alphabets all over in the pattern," then pulling her hands away she continued "but thats ur challenge for tomorrow night" "WHAT????" armaan was not liking her tone....and she confirmed his fears by saying "yes mr.malik, you dont get to even kiss ur bride until u find ur name in that...." "NOOOOO WAY ridzi....look sweetheart....i dont intend marrying a new girl every year ok...this is the one n only suhaag raat i will have....N THIS IS WHAT U EXPECT TO KILL TIME WITH????"he said the last words in a childish frustration, trying hard to persuade ridhima first by pleaing then by anger...anything...so she would change her mind....but ridhima grinned ruthlessly shaking her head in a no...."that or nothing armaan....its final" as he gave her a puppy look, giving a last shot, she just could not help but poke his dimples and give him a quick peck...."ahem ahem" they both turned around not quite pleased at the interruption in their cute romantic moment only to find samrat standing there smiling at them both....he said"um sorry kids guess i chose a wrong moment....but i am so happy beta, i just had to come n tell u both the good news"...."whats that dad" asked armaan getting curious as his dad walked past them to turn on the TV to the breaking news....."well" said samrat hugging armaan "um proud of u son....we did it see????as he read the headlines flashing as a footer on the tv screen, armaans expression turned grave, with a nagging fear, he forced himself to glance towards ridhima and the horrified, shocked, numb look on her face confirmed the worst to him.....as he stepped towards her samrat intervened hugging armaan and said "today because of your forward thinking in chosing ridhima as your life partner, we have finally formally set up the biggest alliance in london....the gupta-malik-grewal collaboration, ridhima beta," he said sparing her a glance at last, "i would definitely have hugged you but i dont want to ruin the mehendi thats inauspicious....but i want you to know beta, how happy i am that u agreed to marry armaan in order to let this dream of his come true, it had matters so much to him" saying this he patted her on her head and left....just beforemaking a final exit from the room, he turned around with an evil grin and said to himself "mission break up AR accomplished...samrat u r a genius!!!!"
~ Part 15~
"Biggest Alliance in the history of LONDON-GMG: Gupta Malik Grewal collaboration announced, as planned, on the eve before the couple Armaan Ridhima tie knot....our congratulations to the families for this double celebration occassion" ridhima had re read that footer countless times standing before the TV in the past less than 2 minutes....somehow, though her head could comprehend what it meant, her heart was just not ready to comply....but for then she was so numb with shock, that there came no reaction.....as armaan moved towards her the moment samrat left, he suddenly saw ridhima swaying slightly and then holding on to her head she just almost collapsed, except that armaan caught her in time....getting really tense now, he yelled for maria while lifting her gently, taking care to not spoil her mehendi he put her on her bed, and yelled for maria again...who came rushing in at that very moment...."quick call a doctor...NOW....ridhima just fainted....HURRY UP MARIA....not a second to waste" while getting back to ridhima, armaan said, shaking her face with an extreme gentle touch "rid...ridhima plzzz honey....wake up....ridzi u gota react baby....OMG what did i do....ridhima if something happened to u i would just....OMG....no no relax armaan....nothing can happen to her....god will not do this to u...."even while saying these words he wondered if they were right because god it seemed to him then, had been ruthless to him in the last 10minutes...."ridhima plzzz sweetie....look...u have to wake up.....cause...cause um saying so...me armaan....ridhima plz honey ....o god....why did u...." before a now completely shaken up and tearful armaan could say another word, maria brought in a neighbour who was a doctor by profession...she had called the family doctor who was on the way, but not wanting to wait she had aloso called this man, Dr. Norris....ridhima was loved by all the people who served the gupta household, and maria could not hold her tears now seeing armaan in that condition and ridhima unconscious...why god, she thought, just when she was finally getting real hapiness in life...u have to make this right..." as the doctor gently asked armaan to move a bit and started his check up, maria patted a now unconsolable armaan.."she will be fine sir, dont u worry..." NO NO NO armaan wanted to yell...u dont know what just happened...oh god....y did i not tell her myself before....ridzi sweetheart, look u can kil me for this, an i wont make a sound, i deserve worse than dath....but plz honey....just get ok...let her be fine god.....and as he stood slumped against the wall with his eyes closed, praying each moment, the doctor said aloud "where is mr. gupta?" armaan moved forward to speak but maria said "he had just left for the celebration of the deal with mr.malik Mr. Norris, but u can talk to sir here, Mr. armaan Malik, her fiance...and taking armaan aside the doctor said "dont worry mr. malik....she is fine...just seems to be tired, i guess all this wedding excitement, she seems to have not slept too much, so i would say a good rest will make her just fine..other than that....her BP seems a bit low...now though it could be just with exhaustion, but i would not rule out her anxiety as a factor too...u know new brides and all that....just make sure she doesnt stress too much mentally, she should stay happy, and thats it...not much to wory about....have left some general prescription and the dosage, and the bills by her bedside....have a good one young fellow...and congratulations...a beautiful wife and a deal like that...u must be a happy man...take care...." armaan could bring himself to say nothing more than a hoarse good night to him while seeing him walk off...he rushed back to ridhima....told maria to leave and said "oh if the family doc comes tell him its ok...infact give him a call and say its all fine....i will take care, trust....trust me" he fumbled on the last 2 words....and could not think how he could ever say them again to ridhima in his life....had he lost that right already he wondered....but then deciding that for now he would just devote himself to taking care of her, till she woke up, he sat by her bedside, stroking her hair gently, and speaking softly..."honey the doc said u r fine....u will be fine...look sweetheart....just get ok quickly and wake up.....just say something to me once....and u can sleep again after that....i know u were joking about fainting on the wedding due to lack of sleep...but so soon honey????no no u cant do this to me...c'mon now wake up princess....i cant stay too long without hearing u talk....and as he was still speaking these words, ridhima slowly came back, and was about to get up but armaan held her back..."no sweetheart, just stay put...the doc said u have to rest tonight...and..." he could not bring himself to say the words 'not take stress' realizing he was the cause for that....ridhima looked at him a bit dizzy at first....but then everything came back in a crash....she pulled her hand out of his hands and said "i am fine...dont worry....u can leave....good night" armaan heard her distant voice, and saw how hard she was struggling within to not react at him and said holding her hand again "no ridzi how can i go back, when ur not fine...i am staying....even ur dad isnt home cause he is out for...."dam he thought stopping in his tracks while ridhima loked at him with an impassive look completing "the deal i guess???thats ok...i am not used to him sitting by my bed taking care of me anyways...maria is here u can go armaan...i can manage fine..." and seeing him about to protest again she said a little more rigidly " i want to be alone.....just leave for now....il see you at the wedding tomorrow....good night armaan."saying so she said a bit louder "maria....??" as maria came rushing in she started off "ridhima baby...r u alright..i got so worried...how did u just faint baby???i mean u are so good at staying up for nights at the end and now this.... for your own wedding....were u really that tired???" ridhima replied looking out of the window "yeh of course...just tired...u know the excitement of getting married and all...."emphasizing the word excitement in slight bitter sarcasm which did not escape armaan "dont worry am fine....wont u see armaan sir out...turning to him she said with the same impassive look "good night armaan...ummm and yeh ummmm i still havent congratulated u for the alliance have i...um sorry...i just kinda passed out at a wrong moment....congratulations dear....take care!!!" armaan looked at her as she said all that and he could not believe how detached she sounded...he had expected her to yell at him, get completely mad at him....be really upset but...definitely not this stoic....she just was not reacting it seemed......and now by calling maria she left him no option but to leave, he moved forward kissing her forehead and she puled back ever so slightly, so maria would not notice, but the reaction was equivalent to him of having her scream out the question 'how could u do this to me' ...he looked at her through tears....his eyes pleading her to let him stay and explain.....but he knew without her saying she would not let him......not now.....so he left with that....while maria who was still standing there, found it wierd that the two of them for the first time in almost a month, had parted without passing any teasers at each other....she gave it away to the fact that ridhima was not well and armaan was really worried....and let it go at that....she left the room saying "call me when u need me ms. gupta i will be around here....." to which ridhima gave an absent minded nod....
Armaan just could not stop crying all the way back.....miraculously he reached back home without any accidents....and leaving the car on the driveway with the keys still in th door he ran to his room and shutting the door beside him just slumped to the floor completely enervate....he still couldnt believe this was all happening and kept praying it was all a nightmare....but somewhere his head refuted and said , it wasnt, every bit was real....he just sat there for what seemed like ages just sobbing.....he couldnt think of what to do....he had feared this catastrophe all along, and thats why had decided to tell ridhima the entire truth himself....but he had never thought it would happen this way...and then cursing whatever had made it happen, he recalled samrat....and thought how could dad do this???but then again with whatever little reason he was still left with, he realized how he himself had always insisted to his father that the whole relation was for him just important in terms of the deal....how he wished, with absolute desperation, that he could change those words....he felt like he had thrown his own life away in deep dumps....the deal he had at one point thought of as his dream, now seemed like a curse....as he got up to move towards his bed his eyes fell on the newly done lilac mauve wall of his room....the wall he had got done to match ridhima's taste and to suprise her....on it hung the frame she had given him last evening.....looking at it he couldnt believe how much had happened since after his exam yesterday morning.....i just need ridhima by my side he thought....and thinking so he pulled off the frame, hugging it tight, cried again........
ridhima, now alone in her room burst out, controlling herself in past minutes which had seemed never ending, had taken its toll and she felt she could keep them in no longer.....she cried for a wile without thinking anything at all...when she finally got out with all the piled up emotions, she started thinking again....the deal.....she could not get it out of her head....all this time....it had just been the...THE DEAL?????omg she thought how could i be so naive....i should have realized it the day armaan first mentioned this marriage...the way he did it....telling his mum like that...why did i not see how unusual that was....why was i so engrossed in my own love for him that everything he did seemed like love to me...and all this time....it was for him....JUST THE BLOODY DEAL????ridzi, how could u even hope for something better have u not seen enough this politics in ur lifr to have fooled again....but by him...armaan...as she thought about him she cried in anger desperation and lost love.......the wedding she thought....oh yeh....the wedding....should i call it off????still thinking she walked to the window to let the cold night air hit her so she could clear her thoughts....as she reached the window her eyes fell on the small pack rahul had given her....though in complete grief, she could not withstand her curiosity, and opened it, it was a thick rolled up chart....as she let it unfold she gasped cause it was long enough to fall down to her feet, then looking at it she read the words on the top...."FOR THE NEW MEMBER OF OUR FAMILY.....WELCOME BHABHI!!!" her eyes welled up as she read the words....it was a collage of pictures of the four of them....atul rahul muskaan and....with a stab of pain she thought, armaan....right from when they were little kids to the time of muskaans wedding....there were comments in markers, pointing out from various pictures, describing what was happening.....it was a beautiful gift....a few hours ago ridhima would have thought that....but now....it seemed like a new reason to make her cry....n just as she was about to shove it away her eyes fell on a picture of atul n muskaan dancing at her wedding, but what caught her eye was the highlighted scene in the background...it was armaan n her talking...n she recalled how he had spilled the drink over her saree....it said, 'BLOOMING LOVE ;)' she couldnt see it anymore and walking and trying to roll it at the same time she tripped, well almost did, n looking down to see what it was, she saw the basketball armaan had given her in the afternoon....n she remembered its words....'OUR RELATION IS LIKE THIS BALL NO MATTER WHAT IT ALWAYS BOUNCES BACK' picking it up she thrashed it to the ground with all the force she could muster, taking out her bottled frustration on it, and then catching it just in time barely escaped being hit by it, AS IT BOUNCED BACK.......
~ Part 16~
As the early morning sun shined down upon her tear strained face, ridhima frowned a bit, and then almost at the same moment the strong fragrance of the mehendi on her hands, reached her....as all the memories from the night before came back in a flash, she sat up in her bed wide awake now....and looked at her hands....slowly, with tears in her eyes, she traced the letters of the name on her hand, thinking of the resolve she had made last night before finally dozing into a disturbed sleep.....initially her impulse had driven her to decide to break off the wedding in the morning itself...but then as she had sat down, just sorting out the million thoughts which were swamping her head, she had realized with resignation, that this had to be it....she reasoned, hard though it had been in that state of mind...that as the gupta heiress this fate had been decided the day she was born into the house...her marriage, whoever it was with, would never be the kind of fantasy she had wanted....it would be a deal....the only thing that could be changed is the names involved in the deal....and so she told herself, as she had for everything else in her life....to just take what comes to her....she knew it would be extremely hard, because she had to live with the truth that the man she had loved, and still did she admitted swearing aloud for the first time in her life....was the same who had cheated her....and was marrying her for a deal....a marriage cum deal would be painful in any case....but this was probably the worst way it could have happened she thought....but still....too much had been arranged and announced....she had compromised her happiness all life, what was the issue in doing it now....yes she reasoned....she would just do it the way it had been planned....and then smiling bitterly she remembered the wish she had made on the shooting star and said to herself "u wished for this to happen ridzi....for his dreams to come true....there u are then....true they have come indeed, are u not excited mrs. malik????" saying this in the most hateful tone possible she started laughing insane....ultimately ending in sobs.....then when there were no more tears left, she spoke up yet again in a hardened wife "so u married for the deal mr. malik....well have it your way....the deal will be all u ever get...for thats what u married...a deal...not a woman......"then softening a bit "dont worry honey, i will never again impose this one sided relation on you...never again will my love hinder ur path to success...."
He saw her fake smile hidding the stone expressions beneath it well enough for the whole world....except him..he alone knew what it felt like to her at that moment, for he was undergoing exactly the same heartbreak, the same helplessness, the same impossible to bear torture....for different reasons of the same cause....the wedding...the day he had dreamt of as a dream come true with her, had been worst than a nightmare...and now as the group of the five young people sat together inside the malik mansion, going through the fun games for thw newly weds, all armaan could wish for was for all this to get over so they could go their room and he could finally talk to her....he alone knew how hard he had tried to see her and talk to her all day, but one statement from ridhima when she finally took his call had stopped his further efforts...he remembered with a stab of pain her cold voice "armaan...no groom should see his bride just before the wedding...its inauspicious, and though all that does not and never did matter to you, i would appreciate if you maintained the sancticity of the ceremonies...i will see you in the evening...have to go now..."saying so she had cut the call....and he had just stood rooted to the spot for minutes, until rahul had pulled him along firing a tirade of questions and comments none of which he heard....now as they finally let him go after he paid them, whatever few thousands he had in pocket, he entered his room, which was decorated the perfect way....he would have smiled, knowing muskaan had done it for them all by herself, but the scene in that beautiful surrounding ripped off whatever was left of his heart....slowly he walked towards her, as she, having already changed, and without realising he was there, was fixing a seperate bedding on the couch across from the decorated master bed....putting his hand out to hold her, n then not sure, pulling it back he just spoke "what r u doing ridhima????" ridhima turned around without much expression said "o ur here, sorry did not hear u come in....iv taken out ur night wear, its on the bed....n suzzane, thats her name right, she left the milk too....do u need something else??" he tried to read the look in her eyes but there seemed to be none...."yes there is something....i want to talk to you....please....ridhima you have to give me one chance to explain....and why r u putting this bedding here???" armaan asked, hoping to not get the obvious answer from her.....she sighed, then looked up again "armaan please....i want you to know, that its fine...i felt bad about the deal....very bad...but thats not your fault....its just me, i dont think logically n lucratively.....everybody in our status thinks professionally n so did u....u are smart at ur work n will make an outstanding professional, there was no reason to have given up a deal like this one.....theres nothing u have to explain.....n about the bedding, well we are both grown up matures....i would hate to see you wasting your time in worthless obligations of a relation which has a complete professional basis....you dont have to bother about pleasing me anymore, i can see the situation clearly now, and dont intend being an obstacle in ur growing success....and dont worry....we have had a legal public wedding, i know how to hold the grace of that relation in the world outside this room....but in here....i will give your space, and you leave me to mine....n well, i have to wake up early tomorrow morning to make breakfast for everyone, its a tradition, so ummm....good night!" n as she was going to sleep in the make shift bed, armaan pulled her back n said, "NO! u dont seperate our space into ur n mine, do u understand that????" "ur hurting me armaan, if you actually could anymore, just let me go" n she struggled to pull herself out of his grip, he let her lose, pulling her hand back she said..."you are right, there isnt your n mine here, its all yours...." and saying so, tears flowing down her eyes she moved out of the room before he could stop her and quietly made her way downstairs, glad that most lights were now out, n everybody had gone to bed....as she was sliding down the last hallway leading to the garden, an arm pulled her into a room and she turned around shocked to see...."mumma???"
armaan just fell on the carpet like a bundle....sobbing uncontrollably, his head in his hands cursing himself for his very existence in her life, for ruining her dream...for taking away every smile from her face....unable to think for the life of him how he could ever win her back into his life, if he could......
"yes ridhima...i need to talk to you...i should have done this ages ago, but i will now, hoping that the damage my silence has caused is not irrepairable....will u sit and listen please?" not knowing if she really had another option, and also because for the first time she realized what she needed so badly right now was a mother, ridhima just hugged radhika, completely breaking down....while the latter just patted her head, in a comforting way and slowly made her sit on the bed, hushing down her incessant sobs gradually....and then at long last she spoke again "are you ready to hear some hard facts ridhima????i hope you are beta, because you alone can now save this house from doom....and i am really counting on u for that...." ridhima was listening, disturbed though she was, she had now for quite sometime had high regards for this neglected lady of the house, and she was sure she wanted to hear out what her mother in law had to say to her....and anyways she thought, nothing radhika was going to tell her could be worse than the truth she had learnt over 24hours ago...."yes mumma, um listening, and i am guessing whatever ur going to tell has something to do with reason um here right now crying before you, instead of my husbands bedroom..." that one sentence reaffirmed to radhika that she had indeed not overestimated this young girl when assuming she could solve the troubles of her home...so she started telling her the story, from a little less than 3 decades ago, going back to her grad days at oxford....she told ridhima everything, each truth that had been long burried but not lost within her for years now....as the night went on, ridzi could not stop herself from thinking, n here i was thinking i am the most tradegy stricken person in the whole wide world....more than ever now, she admired the lady, she had silently accepted as her mother just weeks ago.....as the story rolled towards the past one month, radhika continued giving her facts....and then at the end she said "ridhima beta, i will not deny that armaans initial idea about this wedding was indeed nothing but the deal, thats the way he had been groomed....but i have not missed a single chance of observing the rapid transformation in my son, since u entered his life....and believe me when i say, i am not saying this as his mother, but yours, he trully loves you....i was watching the news last evening when he got back home....and though he is not aware, i was the only one in the house other than him, and stood outside his room for several hours, hearing him break down....i had thought when the engagement was first announced of telling u all this, but seeing the change in him so obvious in just that one week preceeding the ring exchange, i admit having got selfish, n seeing that u were the only hope for armaan n this house now, i stayed quiet. but now i know what a big mistake that was...its just that i never thought, having got the deal in his hands, samrat would ever bother himself with ur married life anymore, n since i could see how happy u both were together i decided what was happening was for the good...please forgive me beta for this grose misjudgemennt, which seems to have ruined so much in just " "no mumma" said ridhima interrupting her the first time in several hours now..."things could have been ruined is what u should say, had u not shown me this reality....omg i cant believe i was shoving a life like that away from me without giving it a second try....and when armaan tried so hard to....."and her sentence trailed into a silent mournful gap....but within moments she had a new determined look about her....she looked at radhika and said "thanks mumma....i had always wished for a mother....a family....love....and finally when i found the man who gave me all that, i did not take a moment to drop my trust on him....it took just a headline for me to let him go....omg...what was i going to do....but not anymore mumma....ur rite....i will fix this thing....and i know exactly what to do.....i should get going now mumma...there's alot to do and very little time" saying this she hugged radhika a last time and went quietly to her room, only to see armaan cuddled up on the floor next to the couch....clinging onto the frame she had gifted him....she hated herself in that one moment for having done this to him....but then remembering her resolve, she again looked determined, smiled a tight smile....and as she went to move him, with tremendous effort finally lifting him to the couch, she looked at him for a while....then softly she kissed him on his forehead, and said "i wont let you down armaan...i promise...never again..."
~ Part 17~
As she stood there looking at him, armaan, with all the movement that had been caused, finally woke up, and suprised to see her just standing over him, stared into her emerald eyes, willing her to say that she had forgiven him, whatever she would expect in return he would do, but just this once.....ridhima meanwile could not hold his gaze too long, for she felt equally guilty now....knowing the whole truth....she could see how armaan had just been used by his father for his benefits, and knowing how high armaan held his father in his life she just couldnt see how he would face the truth....but she decided, i am going to be with him now...i wont let the news break him, i will be his strength, as he has been mine all this time....as she made a move to go, he held her wrist, and his touch made her weak, made her wish to turn around and tell him that she knew he needed her, and that she was indeed with him....but not the way he wanted right now....no she told herself....ridzi be firm, its just a little more wait till you fix the issues in this house, and then its just u and him forever.....and hard as it was, she knew if she just turned around and told him he was forgiven she would never be able to implement the plan she had in mind....so she just turned around with the same expressionless face and removed her wrist from his grip.....it killed her to see the hurt in his eyes when she did that, and she knew what it felt like to him then....but the toll it was taking on her to do this was much greater, and so she just could not stop herself from saying in a much softer tone "armaan, i will be preparing the breakfast shortly....do get ready and be there on time...." and saying that she left to freshen up....armaan meanwile just sighed closing his eyes ....he remembered distinctly that he had not slept on the couch so she must have helped him onto it....and the tone she had just spoken in????it was not the one from last night...it was not forgiving but it wasnt impassive and detached....he could see that he still mattered to her, and that gave him atleast a moment of relief....but then he thought...what should i do to win her back....i just have to....and while he was making and cancelling all possible plans he could think of to earn back her trust, he suddenly felt the air around him smell really pleasant...opening his eyes impulsively he saw her drying her freshly washed her hair....oh its her he thought...fresh out of a bath....no wonder i felt so good....wow so thats how my room gona smell every morning now, he almost smiled giving her a lost look without realizing until she noticed him looking at her like that, and getting conscious....just cleared her throat aloud to snap him out of it saying "is something wrong????" he just looked down feeling guilty again....oh man!he just could not rid himself of the guilt...he wanted to tell her how mesmerizing she looked, but he just was not sure of what he could or couldnt say to her anymore.....the only thing he knew for sure was that he did not want her to leave him alone in that room again like last night....and if that meant that he should not speak around her he wouldnt...atleast she would be in the same room before his eyes he consoled himself....and looking back at her he said "nothing....can i use the bathroom if you dont need it anymore???" she nodded, and as he moved out of the couch catching his bathrobe and going in to the bathroom, she looked at herself in the mirror and said with a small smile "thanks honey " acknowledging his unspoken compliment now that he was not there...in the name of heavens, she thought, it was going to be so hard to be like this with him, when he just submitted to all her ways in his guilt....buck up girl ...its for his and the family's ultimate good.....and picking up her cell she went towards th balcony, to ensure he would not be able to even accidentally overhear her call....as she put the phone down, a small but satisfied smile was playing on her lips, and with that she moved out of the room to go on and prepare the breakfast....
"dude i can bet last night must have been heavenly, but did it kill your hunger in the process???" armaan looked up from his almost untouched plate to see atul grinning at him in a naughty way...armaan gave him a solemn look "ummmm no, its not that...just....havent gone for practice today...dont seem to have built the apetite for an early breakfast" he replied hoping desperately that atul wont see through his lie.....but to not provoke more questions he just started eating the kheer in his bowl....and couldnt believe how yummy it was...he looked up at ridhima, and as he caught her looking at him, gave a small smile wanting her to know that he thought the kheer was awsome...ridhima just gave a slight nod in response and went back to the kitchen to fetch more pooris....rahul meanwile licking his fingers said "wow bhabhi yummy food! " and then winking at armaan "u lucky dog!!!bhabhi makes such awsome food....guess its time u fired all the cooks in here...." hearing this armaan almost choked, remembering the proposal he had offered ridhima for the same job a couple of nights ago....as he coughed a bit more slight tears formed in his eyes from the choking and ridhima came rushing out of the kitchen to give him a glass of water, while slightly massaging his back and said in a concerned voice "armaaan! why do u have to gobble down food... its not running away from the table...." and then suddenly stopped, remembering what she had said to him about hogging food...as they looked at each other, muskaan did not miss her chance to tease "oooohhhhh love is in the air....watsay rahul????" armaan looked at her with a 'dont act smart with me look' and said "of course kid.....considering u just got back from a honeymoon...which um sure must have been sizzzzzling, all u will feel is LOOOVVVVEEE in the air right rahul????" while rahul and armaan hi fived, hearing this muskaan blushed hard and looked towards ridhima for support "bhabhi see???bhai and rahul always team up like this against me..." ridhima smiled at the display of sibling love and deep friendship and said "dont bother about them muskaan...they are helpless....lawyers u see....they just hate to lose an argument...." as she said this muskaan hugged her...and armaan looked up at her...he loved the way she had already become a part of the family like she had been there forever....with quiet determination he thought to himself...u r right honey, armaan malik hates to lose...in fact he does not lose....i will win u back sweetheart, no matter what that takes....and smiling a bit more than he had in the past almost 36 hours, he started enjoying the food she had cooked...
"thank you so much Mr. Lester..i appreciate the fact that you could do me this favor at such a short notice....i hope papa, i mean my dad, and armaans dad, and armaan himself dont know about this yet????i want to give them all a suprise you know...armaan had mentioned doing something like it and i thought it would be a perfect after wedding gift...." as she smiled at the senior lawyer from her fathers firm, who was now a part of the new allaince, he replied "of course gupta...um sorry mrs malik...no problem at all...and it is indeed going to be an awsome suprise when you and armaan sir release the papers at the reception tonight...i should take your leave now...there is alot of pending paper work i have to complete..." saying so they shook hands, and he left...while ridhima smiled deeply....with a confident look on her face....
she still had not decided exactly how she would be saying this to armaan, but she left it for the moment itself...and getting into a faster pace walked towards their bedroom, knowing armaan was in there getting ready for the reception....as she opened the door she was suprised to find it dark inside and as she felt for the light switch on the wall she heard the famous C21 number play from the music system lying in the far end of the room....
You are stuck in my heart
Like counting a million stars
For that many reasons you are
Can't you tell
you've been all over me like a spell - I know
I never wanna let you go
Can't you see
you've been changing the world around me - I know
I never wanna let you go
If you hold me close enough
I can whisper you the words
If the distance is too far
I can't do nothing, cuz
You are stuck in my heart
and we can go anywhere
whatever the reason you are
so stuck in my heart
like counting a million stars
for that many reasons you are
so stuck in my heart......
as the song faded dim lights came on and ridhima saw room full of flowers...all kind of flowers again and she thought omg i just have to tell him i like daisies best...or he will keep getting all kinds of flowers everytime...and armaan noticed a small smile touched her lips as she looked around, trying to find the master planner of this set up....so he crept from behind her and closing her eyes said...."come i have to show you something please dont say no...." as she moved without much repulsion holding on to his guiding hand she thought...great...this fits perfectly into my plan....love u armaan...even without realizing u are always the solution to all my problems....now i know exactly what to do....and just then she felt his hand move away from her eyes and he said..."u can see now" and she opened her eyes she found herself in a dark room not quite dark and as she looked around her she saw many many many shimmering flourescent stars shining all over the ceiling and the walls and she read the words in the centre.." I PROMISE AS MANY TIMES AS THE NUMBER OF THESE STARS TO NEVER EVER BE A JERK AGAIN....PLEASE FORGIVE ME :( "she turned around to face him as he switched on the lights. trying hard to hide the feelings which were overflowing in her heart now, by his gesture....she said "armaaaan..." but he silenced her putting a finger on her lips and said "please ridhima.....i know u are mad at me...and u have all the reason in the world to be...but please give me just one chance to atleast tell u my side of the story...." seeing that she had not interrupted or moved away he resumed with a little more confidence "i will not deny that when dad had first proposed this marriage the deal was all i had thought of....but all that has changed now ridhima....u have changed me, my life, my dreams....infact i shouldnt say u have changed me...u have introduced me for the first time in my life to the real me....and i dont care about any deals or alliances...i would give up the world just to have you by my side....i mean every word of it...please trust me...." she looked at him for several passing moments....all she wanted right then was to be kissed by him, and be in his arms forever...but she sparked back to reality as she felt him take hold of her face from her chin, and very reluctantly she moved back....he looked at her, hurt again, and not sure of how much longer she could maintain this distance she said "trust you????" he looked at her and saw that she was not taunting him so he said "yes....i will prove my love whatever way you want" so she said, chosing her words carefully but not looking at him "are you sure????whatever way i want????without asking me for reasons????" without thinking even for a second, considering she was ready to give him a chance he said in an excited voice "yes honey...whatever u want....just tell me what u want me to do"...ridhima thrust a file in his hands and said "sign these then" as he took the file from her she willed him with her eyes to see it...and so he opened it not knowing what to expect....and his eyes widened in complete shock as he finished reading the document...and looking back at her in helplessness he pleaded "ridhima please how can i do this????and how could u even sign these papers????how can u expect me to put all my shares in the alliance .....and put your own too.....in the name of that woman..." "shes your mother " ridhima retorted silently "well only to say...look sweetie i will put everything in your name , muskaans name, rahuls name, anybody else....but not her....how can i????see honey u have not been here too long and u dont know the people of this house ...." interrupting him again she said "for once armaan u r wrong...i think i know them much better than u....anyways i dont want to argue about this....if you want me to forgive you and accept our relation, this is the only way...." she said with finality in her tone...armaan gave a last helpless shot "ridhima u dont know what she did to dad....omg dad....how can i do this ridhima...what will dad think....look u dont know everything here...and i am ready to explain...this is not what u want me to do, trust me...." interrupting him the last time she said "no armaan i cant....trust cant be single sided....u cant expect me to trust you when you are not ready to trust me...if i am asking you to sign these papers, despite knowing ur views about mumma....you should realize i have my reasons...which u cannot ask for right now....but if you trust me then sign these papers....and only then can u expect me to ever trust you back again...." armaan realized that there was no way ridhima would turn back on her words....he closed his eyes thinking with a million thoughts zooming in his head while ridhima spoke again "its ok you have an hour until we leave for the reception to think about it....if you decide to trust me, trust us, let me have the signed papers by then..." as she was walking out she heard him say "wait...." and walking up to face her, "i dont know why u r doing this....and i know how gravely i will hurt dad by signing these papers....but i trust u and i trust us...."saying this he signed the papers, and handing them over to her he said "i really hope u know what u r doing darling...." and with that he walked out of the room....she smiled sadly behind his back "thank you so much armaan...i know how hard this was for you.....mumma was right....you do love me in the earnest or you would not sign these papers even if god asked you to....not only have u helped me in implementing my plan, but u have also proved to me that my trust on u is not baseless....u were right....our relation will always bounce back....lov u armaan!"
~ Part 18~
"Let me get that for you" said ridz as she saw armaan pick up the black tie she had chosen for him to wear with an elegant red formal shirt inside a black suit...red and black together was what she had wanted him to wear....same as the combination of her saree....now as she tied the knot of his tie, she could feel his gaze on her, his silence emaphasizing the on going battle in his head....asking her the unspoken doubts...what was on her mind and why could she not share it with him in plain words.....finishing the knot she looked up into his hazel eyes, with a calm look, squeezing his hand she said..."armaan.....i know i did not put you through a pleasant test in there....n i know what making that choice meant to u....but now i want u to know....that i am doing this for the good of your family...beg your pardon, i mean our family....alot will be happening tonight....and you are not likely to receive it too well....but please remember...i am with you.....today and forever"....saying this she stood on tip toes, and gave him a quick yet passionate kiss on his lips....as if reassuring him of how seriously she meant the words she had just said....and hugging him she said " i love u armaan...not because u signed those papers....my love for u doesnt need reasons and conditions....but i also feel the same unconditional love towards the family u have given me, since i never had one for real all these years....and what um doing is very important for the people u and i both love....you will get all your answers before the night is over, but until then thank you so much for trusting me....your love and trust is the essence of my existence....and somehow, without them, the last couple of days had been meaningless days of my life..." as she felt armaan lightly pat her back, and not return her hug wholeheartedly, she felt a bit disappointed, but this was going to happen she had known beforehand....she broke out of the hug, to leave when he held on to her wrist....suprised she turned around and saw him smile at her and he said offering her his arm "wont u let your husband escort you for the evening mrs. ridhima armaan malik???"as she happily locked her arm into his he pulled her slightly close, and lifting her hand he kissed it deeply...and said...."u look breathtaking honey....um bowled over...."and blushing, she looked at him to see him wink at her and then in a more serious tone he said " i trust you completely sweetheart....and you have my consent and support in everything that you do for my family, since now it is indeed as much yours as mine....." and then smiling again signalling with his hand he said "shall we????" feeling confident and peaceful now, to have heard those words from him, she walked with him matching his step down the spiral stairs, into the huge hall where the party had been organised....
Samrat's eyes widened in horror, shock, and all other synonymous emotions as he read the document in the file which had just been handed to him....looking up he searched for the waiter who had given it to him, but as expected the guy had disappeared into thin air...it was an impossible search in such a huge gathering, with atleast a 100 waiters in the same uniform....looking at the document again to make sure it was not a figment of his imagination, he frowned deeply now and looking around to make sure nobody would notice a short lapse of his absence he went towards the room he had not bothered to even glance at in years now....he however did not escape the pair of eyes which had been on him for the past one hour, waiting for him to make exactly this move....slowly ridhima made her way towards armaan, who was at that point the victim of several witty teasers from his law school gang who stood surrounding him close to the bar....as he saw ridhima approach them, he spoke over their voices...."there she is....how about asking her in person what she plans to do with me during our honeymoon....darling, come along fast i hate being victimized by these ruthless guys without my partner in crime...." ridhima approached them and smiled warmly at all of them, and then stood trying hard to conceal her impatience as armaan introduced her to the whole lot of them....sensing something was not right he hastened the introductions and then said...."n now guys, as much as i hate to interrupt this intriguing discussion, u have to excuse ridhima and me....oh man! the price u pay for marrying a beautiful woman.....cant be an irresponsible bachelor like u lot anymore"....as they all laughed giving the couple way to move, armaan swiftly steered two of them into a slightly less crowded corner and getting serious immediately asked "what happened ridhima?" she just stared at him for a few seconds wondering how he could read her like an open book, and then not wanting to waste anymore time she said with urgency in her voice, "armaan can you come with me????there is something you must see....i have talked to muskaan she will handle the guests if they miss either of us...." and without another word she started walking with armaan following her close behind, confused but realising it wasnt the moment to ask her the reason for this sudden action....but somewhere inside he realized he was close to getting answers to all his doubts ....as they reached closed to radhika's room, both of them could hear the familiar male voice from inside the room, not sounding happy at all...as armaan, now too curious, was about to question her, ridhima silenced him by gripping his hand tight....and then with her eyes signalled him to see and hear the conversation inside in silence.....and armaan just complied as he had to all her other demands in the last two hours....and they both heard samrat say in a voice louder than usual " i thought the past had taught u not to mess around with my work, n just mind your own business....but no....just as nosy as your late father arent you????" "so you think questioning your own employees about suddenly missing millions from the company is being nosy????" "listen woman, it would be a great idea to not drag the past in....the old man was too clever and interfering, i could not have grown in my career had he lived any longer than he did....just tell me how you talked armaan into doing this????he can never do this without someone poisoning him about me, n who other than you would ever do that????specially noticing, how lucrative that has proved for u as per the conditions in these papers...." while samrat seemed to be losing his temper with each passing dialogue, radhika did not react, speaking in a calm tone again she said "you pretty well know i dont care about properties and millions samrat....or i would have never signed the power of attorney in the name of the man responsible for my father's death....and as far as poisoning armaan's brain is concerned, u seem to have done it so well over the years that he even denies me the right of being his mother.....if i had to poison him, i would have told him the real truth long ago, but just for his and muskaans happiness i let them live with the manipulated truth u sold him half a decade ago...." samrat now livid in anger said " i did not have to kill your father he was an emotinal fool with a weak heart and " interrupting him radhika reminded him slightly perturbed by the painful memories again, "any human father would get a weak heart knowing his daughter had married a man, whose only interest was her property....the property he would go to any extent for.....but you wouldnt know that would you samrat....you gambled with the happiness of your own son for some mere business profits....the same son who worships you before his god....i fear the moment when he would learn of your real designs....he devoted himself and his life to you, and you played that dirty politics the night before his wedding????when you had the deal on why did you even bother with his personal life i dont understand...." giving a soft evil laughter samrat scorned "oh so u guessed the news headlines was my gimmick...great radhika finally living in the same house as me for so many years has rubbed off some of my brains onto you as well...but not enough i can see or you would understand how essential it was for me to drive that scapegoat gupta girl out of armaan's life....he is my trump card in this deal...i rule over the other two partners because of him, and if i had let her silly love control him, i would have lost the reign to that loser lover of yours, shashank gupta....i was not about to lose that hand for the blossoming of a fantasy love story....." hearing these words armaan who had initially been numb with shock was now outraged, and ridhima had to hold onto his hand tight to keep him from giving away their presence..."but now u " said samrat getting furious again " have the audacity to drive armaan against me and get him to sign these papers????and you think i will let u win this game....never radhika....if i could drive your father to an ultimate death, u r a much easier target...." radhika retorted still calm, "do what you want to samrat....i am living a dead life anyways....i still regret the day i fell in love with a man, who is not even fit to be called human, leave alone..."samrat raised his hand to strike her across her face before she could complete her sentence, but was shocked as something held his hand back....as he slowly turned around, he saw armaan, whose face was visibly livid with anger now, but keeping a control on his voice he spoke in a warning voice, which implied he meant business "no you dont do that.....not anymore...." roughly throwing his hand back, armaan gently held radhika's hand and said...."c'mon mother, ridhima and i need your blessings as we cut our wedding cake outside...its almost time the guests would be waiting....." radhika just gazed at him as he said the word mother, with her eyes getting moist, and as he moved towards the door still holding onto radhika's hand samrat spoke in a shocked voice "armaan beta..." armaan looked at him with daggers in his eyes and said "mr. samrat malik...i am sure u dont want to create a scene with so much press outside...i know ur dying to talk to me right now....believe me i am just as eager for there is quite a few things i really want to clear out here....but lets postpone the discussion to the moment when it can stay within the family...." saying so he moved out with his mother, while ridhima followed the two of them with a look you have when you win only to realize how much you lost in the process....
part 18 frends...i know this one is short...but it is perhaps so far the most crucial part to the story i built over the week...not the best in terms of a fun read....but it settles down most questions i guess....u know um not sleepy so i might just update once more but no promise...till then enjoy part 18....
Edited by spln - 10 May 2008 at 12:54am
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