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FF:Back to Newton’s Laws-3...part 46....

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spln

IF-Sizzlerz

spln

Joined: 06 December 2007

Posts: 11036

Posted: 01 July 2008 at 11:38am | IP Logged
ps: i notice there is some issue with the IF search it doesn't show all three threads of newtons... and also, something with the first two threads wont let me edit a thing... so i'm posting here, this being the only thread which shows up in search, the three links...


thread 1: http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=944870

thread 2: http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=961753#16665583

thread 3: http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=983393

hope that helps!!

cheers,
nj


gosh....third thread...what can i say folks....um graced with ur love ....n awsome response....just keeps me going...well this one seems to be going too long now....should try n wrap up soon....but il resolve n settle down all issues before i do that....so here for a while atleast....

ok gona stop blabbering i just never end....

welcome to the new thread all of u...will be posting the new part soon i think....

Edited by spln - 16 June 2009 at 7:37am

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spln

IF-Sizzlerz

spln

Joined: 06 December 2007

Posts: 11036

Posted: 01 July 2008 at 11:39am | IP Logged
~Part 33~


"ridzy..." she turned around lost in thoughts, but smiled as she saw him....offering his hand, he pulled her to the dance floor as she looked a bit reluctant....but soon she was tapping and moving in rhythm to the fast dance number opposite him, and he said "thanks a ton!" she looked at him curiously and he explained "i know i know....all the credit to muskaan....the cake, the food, the party, the decor, everything....i love the crazy girl to bits with or without her putting in these efforts....but when she does stuff like this i know she feels exactly the same....although um also sure u must have been tremendous help for all this set up...." as she smiled he continued "cause that useless ammy is worse than muski...."


ridhima said "u dont have to thank me reg....ur a special friend....muski did a swell job cause she wanted to do it for u, not cause i was there to pass orders....and armaan actually was quite a lot of help too, he didnt let me touch a thing, n helped muski in all that kitchen work he so isnt cut out for...." rahul grinned then shaking his head he said "exactly....thats what i said thanks for....for coming into his life....he is so himself now...." he pointed to where armaan stood dancing with another girl from the cheerleaders across from them and said


"u see him there???hes smiling....but observe him for a wile....he cant stop himself from looking at u every few moments....a beautiful lady in his arms, who is obviously keeping no secrets about how much she would love to seduce him....he is as indifferent as can be...well to be honest hes always been indifferent now for years....but the reason has changed....earlier it was his inner resolution to keep distance....n now its his proximity to the only girl in his life which keeps him away from the rest....he loves u so much ridzy, n um so glad its u he chose to spend his life with...he deserves nothing less than the best....."


ridhima smiled graciously at rahul, in the couple of months of interaction, rahul had always expressed all his feelings in few words if ever, although he made them obvious through actions, but today he was being downright honest with her...perhaps the occasion n the champaign....she knew what he meant to armaan, n she had looked up to their friendship, but today she knew why he held that place in his life like no one else....she looked back at armaan, who was now dancing with sandra, n found him staring at herself the very same moment, realizing she noticed, he gave her a quick smile, then turned back to sandra.....she smiled to herself, thinking....after a couple of seconds she spoke up


"reg....even if armaan kept his distance, did none of the girls from ur circle ever get serious about armaan???" rahul rolled his eyes, then looking back at her he smiled "how do u define serious ridz???one thing i can tell u is their serious n ur serious isnt quite the same....but to get facts in place yeh most girls hit on him....THE ARMAAN CHRISTOPHER BENZ effect u know...many have even dated him....is that what u mean by serious???i bet not...." ridhima shook her head and said "no i mean...u guys are all not just friends but professionals working on the team together as well....when he turns down a girl, isnt it hard to maintain the same cordial connection???i mean doesnt it get awkward or rough for him to handle that????n now that he claims hes committed how do they receive the fact???dont think um spying on him....i just...well i want to be in his life as a growth factor, not to make him run head on into trouble cause of my presence....u know what i mean????"


rahul looked at her a for a couple of moments then closing in a bit on the distance between them he held her hand and squeezed it with a sigh, "u r his strength ridzy...his true strength...." letting go her hand he explained looking towards armaan and sandra..."see sandra there with him now???she been a persistant one, for over 4 years....she claims they are together to everyone who's a big shot....being ammy's girl is quite an image to flaunt....but does she care about him never acknowledging her statement???nah....while she goes out n sleeps with the rest of the team, she never fails to exert a chance of owning him in places it would matter....would u ever call that serious???she aint the only one, just the oldest with us, the rest of them too, leave no stone unturned to draw advantage of being with him...thats all any of them care about, as far as being connected with him is concerned....but never did anybody ever hear armaan give his opinion about the projected relations....he prefers staying quiet, u can never check gossip by putting effort into correcting it, so he let it be....


but after u came along, he made it publically known....now that was definitely news...it killed any rumors that have ever been, cause one thing they all know about him is he says it only if he means it....the boys have been trully happy for him....they all look upto him without doubt n want to see him happy...the girls have been pretty cool about it....they never loved him, all they seeked was publicity by being hooked with him even if just for a rumor....guess they all are now busy figuring out the next eligible bachelor they can be linked with....they are his team...n there arent any hard feelings, he always claimed to be a friend, n he is that to each one of us on the team....girls n boys alike....beyond that he claimed nothing...if they dated him, they knew it was all benefit for them, and a friendly gesture from him....personally i think they are positive about u n him....hes been a great captain n a true support, and everyone without an exception admires him for that...." then holding ridhima's hand againg he finished with a meaningful voice...."u want to help him???just be with him....thats all he needs....."


ridhima smiled at him reassuringly....n then the rotation happened seeing muskaan heading towards them she took his hand and urged him towards her....he oblidged happily with a friendly wink at her, and she found herself paired with a guy called Scot....smiling at him deeply....rahul's words echoed in her head....unknowingly she had indeed wanted to discuss this topic with someone, to be sure she was working on the right outlook....n she was relaxed after the chat....she was indeed bang on target....had decided a week ago to be there with armaan, as he was with her, always....


she had decided to be positive about the female attention he got....she looked at him as the next rotation took place and he was a spot away from her, as she danced with Alex, and he was with janice....he was a gem, she ought to be proud of him, n not insecure about him, as he presented no reason for that....she wanted to be, as rahul had just said, his true strength, n would be just that, without letting any negetivity ever come into picture again to create doubt....


n by throwing this party she had taken her first step....she looked at alex as he pulled her aside slightly keeping her hand away from the girl dancing on their other side, she smiled at him....it was working great so far, as she put in efforts to get out of her comfort zone n interact with both the boys n the girls, she felt them receive her well, not just for armaan's sake, but as a gesture in return for hers....some of them, a couple of girls included, even complimented her on being a wonderful host along with muskaan, and she felt thrilled....


at the next rotation minutes later she found herself in the only pair of arms she prayed to have around her for the rest of her life....she was paired with armaan....n smiled at him, with nothing but love and happiness.....armaan returned a dazed stare, for a few moments he couldnt draw his eyes away, but as the slow romantic track made its presence felt he averted his gaze.....


"I know just how to whisper
and I know just how to cry
I know just where to find the answers
and I know just how to lie"


~flashback~

he decided to talk out his guilt with her walking into the kitchen, but the moment he entered he saw her trying to pick up the trays he rushed to her n pulled them out of her hands.....the brush of her skin at that moment broke his resolve again, n he said looking at the many things which had to be moved out "u go n send muskaan in...we will get this fixed in place..." he hated himself hoping she wouldnt be hurt or misunderstand him but he just....needed the right moment...he had to sort this out....n he just felt so....awkward???....she doesnt even know what was gona happen....cant i just let it go???its fine i will not lose it again.....at that moment she kissed him lightly on his cheek n whispered "thanks honey...." and left the kitchen, leaving him even more guilty n unsure....would it really not happen again???oh man...i should have just told pa i want to get engaged...no actually married right away, he thought....dam....this is gona kill me....i just cant be close to her again without all those thoughts flooding me....no no no....dude...u have to talk to her....at that moment muskaan had come in to help.....

~flashback ends~


"And I know just where to touch you
and I know just what to prove
I know when to pull you closer
and I know when to let you loose"




as he caught up with the lyrics....he saw her in his arms again....shes such an angel....n me???....relax armaan...ur not a bad guy right???its human...he told himself...i just love her desperately....n this test of time is really going to drive me crazy.....should i tell her now???but she looks so happy...what if she gets mad at me or thinks i dont honor her ideals???....no she wont think that way....she knows me....but...perhaps i should tell her after the party....but should i delay this anymore???its killing me inside....



"And I know the night is fading,
And I know that times gonna fly
And Im never gonna tell you everything
Ive got to tell you
But I know Ive got to give it a try"



"sweetheart???" he looked at her hearing her sweet voice, her expression concerned n her face soft...he gulped n she said "armaan whats wrong honey....i feel like something is troubling u....look u dont have to worry...muski barged into the room but she...didnt see....i mean...its ok....seriously"....he wanted to run away at that moment....OMG! she thinks um awkward coz muskaan walked in on us....oh no....how the hell will i ever explain this to her....and what exactly do i want to explain....ridhima, sweetheart...i cant take the distance anymore...can we go to bed???yeh sounds perfect, n il never see her face again....god i really dont wana hurt her but she needs to know the real me...someone get me out of this mess....



"But I dont know how to leave you,
And Ill never let you fall;
And I dont know how you do it,
Making love out of nothing at all"



"no um fine...just...the drinks i think...had a bit too much...u know how that can be....anyways...u enjoying???happy with the party u wanted???" he said it all without a pause...she looked at him n broke out grinning, nodding her head she kissed him lightly on his lips....n said "its all perfect...." tapping her feet her eyes shut, as he stared at her......



"Every time I see you the rays of the sun
Are streaming through the waves in your hair;
And every star in the sky is taking aim
At your eyes like a spotlight,
The beating of my heart is a drum, and its lost
And its looking for a rhythm like you"



i love u sweetheart, he thought....i love u so much....its not lust i promise.....i mean....you look breathtaking....n that is a factor....but.....i never felt this way with the countless women who looked out of the world.....the way i felt in the bedroom....the way i feel now with u in my arms.....yes armaan.....its just her, cause u love her.....u will understand that honey, wont u???



"I can make the run or stumble,
I can make the final block;
And I can make every tackle, at the sound of the whistle,
I can make all the stadiums rock..."



she whispered her eyes still closed..."wow those lines so fit you..." n opening her eyes locking her arms around his neck she continued, as he felt enervate with her beauty, the moment n her soft voice..."my superstar!!!" n gave him a quick peck on his lips again....he was too stunned to react....she wasnt going to make it any easier for him to tell the truth was she??? n the proximity....he just wanted to grab her n get out of this place where he could....."n by the way, i know ur lying...." he was knocked back to the world of mortals, totally startled by her words.....ok now she going to give me what i called for....."u just had a glass of wine, even a two year old cant get drunk on that....n u say ur high???".....huh??what is she talking about now.....and she continued, softly putting her hand on one side of his face "honey???will u tell me the real trouble???"


phew! she doesnt know....well not yet....but i have to tell her...."ridzy...." he took in a deep breath...."i need to get a drink....u want something???" she looked at him her eyes narrowing a bit, then slowly shaking her head she let go of him, n saw him walk off the stage, as the next rotation took place....after moments of dancing with a pre occupied mind she politely excused herself.....with half mind she started walking towards the drinks corner, but midway, she changed her mind, and climbed up the stairs to go to the terrace....


armaan cursed himself as he picked up a shot....she was right....he wasnt drunk at all....perhaps he needed to get drunk so he could just blurt out the truth...it doesnt seem likely for me to gather the guts to do it while still in my senses...as he drained off the shot, turning around, he saw her going up the steps in a hurry.....first he stared...why was she going up????her room was downstairs.....then he ran to follow her.....on his way, he hastily grabbed a plate with a piece of the birthday cake.....


*************


bracing herself against the cold wind, she looked upwards into the sky, with the moon n the stars trying to distract herself from any reason to cry....and she spoke addressing the nothingness around her..."ridzy why do u think so much????you werent tracking him through the party....maybe he did drink more than what u noticed....n anyways....what are u bothered about...." then lowering her voice she answered the self proclaimed question "well hes not ok....so um worried....shouldnt i be???whats wrong armaan???everything was going perfect...." she smiled remembering his words....'iv had enough now....i wana get married right away....'....she blushed whispering "um smitten by ur style lord benz.....u almost proposed me for a wedding there didnt u???"....then her smile turned to a slight frown n she said "so whats wrong now????a perfect moment like that, n u havent even looked at me straight ever since....did muski make u that conscious???are u embarresed of us together sweetheart???"


and she sighed....of course not ridzy she thought....he just got awkward....wouldnt u get so if it had been reg instead of muski....perhaps....gosh!armaaaaan....ur worse than girls....to think the heart throb image is a camouflage to such sheer shyness.....she thought shaking her head....and she shiverd lightly again.....with the cold wind, and the touch on the bare shoulder.....turning around she saw him....."why didnt i guess its u.....who else would creep on me like that...." he smiled at her then turned to face the sky, just like her, standing by her side....."a penny for ur thought my lady..." he said after a few quiet moments passed by....she retorted without a glance "cheapstakes dont befit lords like u....a penny???too less...." he grinned at her pluck....then bringing the plate with the cake before her eyes he said "does that make it worth wile???" she took it from him n biting into it nodded...then said finishing her bite "my thoughts are same as yours....only....um stuck with the question, while ur gamble with the answer...." he asked making her face him "u mad at me???" n she questioned back "should i be???" he lowered his gaze n whispered "i dont know....but i hope not....."


she didnt like his tone.....putting the plate aside she waited for him to continue....n he said "i uh....i think i got...."....cupping her face in his hands he said closing his eyes "carried away....in the bedroom i mean....i didnt....i didnt intend for it to happen ridzy it just.....did..." and he opened his eyes to look back into hers....she seemed puzzled for a bit....then she gave him a cheeky smile "i didnt think id live to see the day ur lordship would be embaresed to confess that he found me attractive...." he raised his eyebrows at her....then letting her face go he held his head in his hands for a moment grinning helplessly....then looking back at her...."embarassed???hell...no...." then holding her hands he said "i mean...no ur getting this wrong...." as she looked at him curiously expectant now n opened her mouth slightly to ask what he meant she found his gaze piercing through her.....it made her blush unintentionally and the question just lingered in her look.....as she lowered her eyes, he pulled her close n kissed her parted lips intensely....kissing him back, she felt a different level of passion in his hold on her.....the kiss, the grip around her waist, n the other hand in her hair....it was possessive, and demanding....like he was urging her to understand something.....but she could hardly process a thought....she felt weak in her knees, then he softly parted, maintaining the touch n she smiled in his feel....he whispered "i want you...." a couple of seconds went by...then she jerked open her eyes n stared back into his , as he stood so close....she felt blank n so were her eyes n expression.....


************

~Part 34~


For the initial moments armaan stared back into her eyes, his look steadfast....but as the seconds ticked away, he felt restless at not getting any response....his eyes wandered in minute scrutiny of each subtlety in the softness of her face, desperate to detect even the hint of variation of expression which may reveal her thoughts at that moment....but she remained unfathomable....his lips still brushing almost close to her mouth, he dared not break his hold on her to move out of the overwhelming closeness which enveloped both of them, to a certain extent clouding their logic....


for he feared what any physical disturbance to this stillness might consequence....if he had invited trouble, which he felt he most certainly had, breaking this spell might hasten its arrival n for then, though his anticipation was rising by the second, he preferred the moment of proximity, just him n her...would last an eternity.....but it could not....anticipation was giving way to anxiety....n ultimately after the lapse of a many inactive seconds frustration towered over him n he could contain himself no longer...why didnt she speak????was this the advent of his worst fears coming true????


he managed a barely audible hoarse whisper, each word greater effort than the one before as he spoke "now....u are mad at me...." he had meant that as a question but perhaps the answer had been obvious to him, for it appeared to her as a flat fact he had stated after resigning to its acceptance....and as her first reaction in over a minute, she shook her head, so instantaneously that he was shocked..."UR NOT???" he blurted out much louder this time arching his eyebrows sharply....then his gaze flickered a bit trying to grasp the realization, n looking back at her with an after thought, he spoke in a lower voice again "so ur...uh....not offended???" trying to make sure he was getting this right.....she shook her head a second time, almost mechanically it seemed to him since her poker faced expression had remained steadily unaltered.....


"u mean...."he stopped unable to aptly word his thoughts and lowered his eyes with a slight sigh, then looking back he tried again "i meant....so u want......" he stopped not quite able to say exactly what he thought she meant...she isnt angry that's all...but doesnt that imply she...feels like me???no armaan, dont mess this up anymore u said what u had to n she not offended god alone knows how not, now dont try her tolerance.....but i want to know he thought feeling desperate....NO...whatever it is she may feel, i dont have the right to take any liberties....just...just forget it man...yeh forget it.....BUT HOW???


She could see the battle raging within him, as it reflected crystal clear in his eyes....and also cause she was under a similar one of her own....NO I AM NOT MAD AT U....she almost wanted to scream out but her voice had deserted her....how she wished so would her power to reason.....how she wanted to tell him she felt the same each moment she was with him....especially now.....she was having a hard time keeping her head clear of his essence his warm breath on her cheeks, his lips so close to hers.....n yet if only it would stay this way forever....and deep within she hoped she would lose this battle of self constrain n not be questioned by her conscience.....she wasnt offended, not in the least....


how could she be when she wanted him too...had wanted him in every moment they were close, perhaps without even the conscious realization of what exactly it was she wanted.....but when he said it she knew that was it.....but how could she be thinking all this let alone not being offended???shouldnt she feel like he was being outrageous????n here she was feeling.....ALMOST HAPPY????n the feeling was rising within....like a surge of emotion unchecked.....she finally lowered her eyes.....oh my lord....forgive me....is it a sin to feel so for the one i love???the only one it will ever be????i almost feel happy to the extent of jubilation about him saying it n feeling my way....but this guilt.....please god... rid me of one of the two emotions for how can i face the two extremes together, in a situation which is hard enough without this dilemma.....n she wished, it would be the guilt that left her......


"um sorry ridhima" she looked up again hearing him whisper the words....n in his eyes she saw a confusion floating...there was guilt, but the confusion was glaring at her....his apology had almost been a question....and as she looked into his eyes without blinking the strain made them water slightly.....the strain of not flickering her gaze even for a second, and the strain of her mental debate.....but the moment armaan saw the tears swim in her eyes, his confusion was gone n he cursed himself in his head.....for what he didnt know..for telling her???no he had to or he couldnt even be around her without the burden inside....for feeling this way???yeh that was it, but how could he help that....he was at the end of the day all but human wasnt he???but now he had made her cry....thats not it...she is perhaps deeply anguished by my thoughts, and trying to not show it but now its apparent....


at long last he let go of his grip on her moving some steps back, creating a distance he wouldnt want between them whatever the price....but he had to, he was at a total loss of understanding her, himself n his wish for the moment....he thought he wanted that proximity to stay n grow....but it was so obviously hurting her....how could he want that....he looked down, his feet and hands slightly shifty n his eyes shut momentarily in the effort as he repeated this time not as a question "um sorry....i dint mean it.....like this...." in an even lower whisper if that was possible....and turned to go letting out a deep sigh, his heart heavy with the mount of countless bottled emotions n unspoken words.....in fact they could both perhaps count on their finger tips the words they had uttered in the past couple of minutes....correction...the words he had spoken, for she uttered none, despite his silent urging to her to do so....n he walked away....


hes sorry???but why???he knows um not offended....is he sorry about feeling this way???what the.....whats wrong with this guy....one moment he makes me feel so wanted n special....n the next he says he didnt mean it???she let out a deep sigh, a bit restless, and extremely disturbed running her fingers through her hair n pushing them back she covered her eyes and forehead in her hands for a few moments...then on an impulse she ran after him as fast as she could manage on her strappy heals into the house...the blaring music hit her again....

halfway down the corridor he felt her hand on his arm...a tight grip....he realized why as he looked curiously at the hand then turned half way to face her, she was yanking off her sandles holding onto his arm for support....he stood still not knowing what was happening.....n then realizing she was struggling with them with her injured hand , he stopped her n bent down to undo the strings...a moment later they were lose n she yanked them off almost too roughly he thought....then looking at him as he seemed puzzled she yelled over the blast of music "where are u going???u havent heard me out yet...." as if their conversation had never been interrupted by this short lapse.... the temporary distraction forgotten, his expression turned grave again...at first looking into her eyes, and then lowering his gaze in resignation as he tried to figure out what that tone she spoke in implied...strange but it didnt sound angry.....or was it????....at least shes finally speaking...n well i called for it....just dont say u wont forgive me honey....everything else i will take without question....n then he felt her pull his arm , he looked up to see her pull them into his room....n as she shut the door the noise from the bash was blocked out considerably.....n then she turned around to face him, he heard her soft low voice again n it sounded as he should have expected, quite hurt....


"why are u sorry???" he looked up startled at first, then uncomfortably he looked down again....sweetheart do u have to make me spell it out for u???please dont make it so hard he pleaded in silence, thinking of how to say it yet again....as if in response she said in agonized urgency "ur sorry cause u love me???" that made him look up at her again, after a couple of moments which it took for him to realize her question he shook his head uncertainly....that wasnt what he was expecting....now what could she possibly be trying to get at....she replied his unspoken question again


"then ur sorry about being honest???or are u sorry u feel the way u do????would you rather you didnt feel this way???" he was baffled by her tirade she shot at him her voice slightly cracking towards the end.....and slowly he lowered his eyes hit by her words....that was a question indeed....would he rather he didnt feel that way.....ridhima on the other hand had no clue whatsoever of what she was saying....it wasnt as if she was asking him...it was like she was questioning herself out loud....and she didnt know what her answer was....did she regret either of them feeling so???not quite....no, not at all....but should she feel ashamed of her desires????..."no" he answered at that moment....and she wondered almost shocked if he was reading her mind, but he continued to explain..."no its not that i would rather not feel so...." now he looked into her eyes, n gathering all of the guts that still remained in him he moved much closer, and held her face from the cape of her neck, his fingers in her hair, looking into her eyes as she looked back...


"how can i be sorry to love u sweetheart????n being honest about...my desire for u....no u had to know it....but um sorry cause i hurt u..." he let the last part linger like a question cause he felt unsure once more of what exactly her thoughts at the moment were....a part of him wanted to believe that she reciprocated his want of her....n the other part feared what this whole talk was leading them to....she asked in a low yearning whisper "n what if u didnt hurt me???" he looked at her first curiously, then waiting for her to conclude the statement she had made, cause he didnt think it was he who was expected to answer....but as she continued to just look at him he realized she was waiting for an answer....n he whispered uncertainly "i didnt???"


she shook her head and raised her hand to caress his cheek gently, he pulled her into a kiss....he didnt know what made him do it, at that moment of all possible times....but as he kissed her with flooding relief n passion, he realized she had urged him to it....cause she kissed him back with a desperate craving....n he felt she didnt want him to let go....as he pulled her tighter, without letting go her hands gripped the back of his neck, her cold fingers sliding under the collar through his shirt sent a sensuous chill down his spine, and as an instantaneous reaction his hands caressed her bare back through her hair....he felt his desires heightening much over any sense of reason, his mind clouded by the sensation her touch brought about....."armaaaan..." she gasped breathless as they broke apart, "i love u ridhima" he whispered on her lips his own brushing against them, n the last shred of constrain seemed to be leaving them both.....as he kissed her again with bare seconds to recover some air.....n then she hit the edge of the bed n as she lost her balance they both fell on it, armaan on top of her causing them to break out of the kiss.....


"AAAAHHHHH"...the speed at which armaan jerked back was miraculous hearing the pain in her scream....he moved away quickly staring at her, completely shocked.....n then he saw the reason....she was holding onto her bandaged hand agony etched over her face.....his senses flooding back, he pulled her hand towards himself gentle despite the sudden tension gripping him, n saw that the bandage was showing a small reddening spot.....OMG, the wound must be bleeding again he thought frantically, and he realized she was clutching his wrist that holding her hand, hard, her nails digging into his flesh, and her eyes shut tight in effort to not scream again, her lips trembling, and she let out a shallow gasp close to a cry "armaaaaan....its.....aaahhhh" she groaned in pain again a few tears now trickling down her eyes.....he got up immediately pressing her forehead against him in urgency n whispered "um coming" and reluctantly let go of her hand, running out of the room to get her nursing kit n medicines.....


he was back within less than a minute, though it appeared to ridhima to have been much longer, and saw her sitting the same way her eyes shut, clutching onto her own hurt arm, with silent tears of pain.....he rushed to her n started undoing the bandage.....as the wound revealed itself he saw one end of the stitches were covered in fresh blood.....he brought the hand closer for observation n realized with an inkling of relief that none of the stitches had broken apart....the bleeding must have occurred due to stretching of the hand n strain on the stitches which meant he must have fallen....on her hand.....he cursed himself gritting his teeth....then as she moaned in pain again ever so softly he hurriedly brought out the ice pack n pressed it gently but completely against the affected part to cause the blood to clot.....


the pain must have numbed out cause as the moments passed by she felt her frowns slowly easing away, and then finally she opened her eyes to see him bent over her hand..."armaan..." she whispered again n after a pause he said without looking up "is the pain any less???" she was shocked by his voice it sounded so faint....not getting a reply he finally looked up at her and she saw his eyes were red with unshed tears....but he lowered them the very next instant and continued without her answer..."the blood will clot pretty soon n we just need to re bandage it with extra ointment n disinfectant....the stitches are thankfully still intact....if um not wrong....hopefully it was atleast not a re lapse...." his words sounded distant and she didnt know what to say or do.....after a few moments she lifted his face to herself again but he averted his gaze....


"there u are.....where the hell have u both been???" ridhima faced rahul at the door while armaan quickly looked down at ridhima's hand again concentrating on the ice....rahul followed his gaze n saw the blood soaked bandage lying on a side n armaan holding an ice pack to her hand, where a few dried drops of blood were visible....he rushed inside in partial realization "omg....what happened to her ammy???" armaan struggled to sound normal n started "she....uh....we....." muskaan entered that moment "guys everyone is...." she stopped at the sight facing her....n within seconds she too was kneeling down besides armaan as she said "how the hell......" then facing her frowning hard "RIDZY???what happened???" armaan opened his mouth to speak but ridhima answered first "i stumbled on my heels in the corridor n hit the hand against the wall so...it started bleeding again....n armaan..."


muskaan interrupted yelling "ARMAAN IS ALWAYS RIGHT WHEN HE INSISTS WE SHOULD BE STRICT WITH U N I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO HIM WHEN HE SAID NO FOR THE PARTY.....R U INSANE????RIDZY U KNOW HOW SEVERE THIS INJURY WAS????N AS IF ONCE WAS NOT ENOUGH WITH THAT LAB CUTTER THAT YOU....HAVE U FORGOTTEN HOW TO WALK NOW????" armaan jerked up his head to interrupt but ridhima lightly squeezed his hand holding onto her injured one with another stab of pain n said in a low voice "um sorry muski....i just....tripped over something i think...its just....um sorry...." n she lowered her eyes to meet armaan's n silently pleaded him to not correct her.....


he looked away in desperation.....she was covering up for his lack of control....why the hell was she saying.....oh god.....i just have to.....he spoke aloud without knowing what he wanted to say "muski actually it wasnt her fault.....i...." muskaan interrupted "no armaan....dont cover up for her....how can u be so careless ridzy.....but il deal with u later...first both u guys go down n see off your gang...they are leaving soon....." before armaan could speak up rahul said "muskaan u come with me....let armaan stay..." he sensed there was more to the issue...n muskaan was losing it over ridhima....it would perhaps be a good idea to let them be for a while....n he pulled her away.....


for a couple of moments they both sat drowned in awkward silence....then armaan spoke up "ridhima why did u...." she interrupted him in a soft voice "because it was the right thing to do....." ...he sighed deeply running his free hand through his hair and them looking bac at her hand he removed the ice pack....the blood had stopped, deft from years of sports and injury handling, he re did the whole dressing in silence...which was getting to ridhima....the he got up n filled out a glass of water for her n handed her some pills without meeting her eyes....she took the medicine still looking at him.....was he not going to say a word after all that happened???? she broke the silence at last..."armaan are u angry cause i lied???" he didnt answer....this was getting so unbearably uncomfortable.....


"armaan i had to....i mean....it was our matter...n i....uh....didnt want to discuss with anyone before we talked.... n i think now....." ..."ssshhhh" he whispered turning around...then walking back to her he gently made her get off the bed then lifting the comforter, he motioned her to get into the bed, she oblidged obediently, her eyes not leaving his face, hoping he would at least look at her.....then he tucked her carefully making sure she would be cosy n said "now go to sleep...." his voice still distant, neither commanding nor requesting...


"armaan i...." ...."ridhima we will talk tomorrow....please....u need to rest for now...." then patting her head gently he added "sleep well" and he turned around to leave she held onto his wrist and whispered in a pleading voice "can u stay.....please" the emotion of her voice wrenched his heart, n turning around as he looked at her ever so briefly she did not miss his tearful eyes and he gave her a small smile with great effort nodding.....then gently removing her hand off his wrist he turned off the light n slumped on the couch across from the bed.....shutting his eyes he finally let the bottled emotions flow back into life sighing deeply.....


his mind raced with thoughts...what was i thinking.....actually...WHY WAS I NOT THINKING....the bedroom thing was a premonition, n i preferred to overlook it...in fact i took it for an indication to the start of a new something.....i didnt regret a thing even for a second, i was only worried about ridhima's reaction, n the moment she let me off the hook, i was back to square one....WHATS WRONG WITH U MAN???this isnt just a relationship....she isnt just a girl ur attracted to.....how can u forget everything n everyone that matters.....u know where this was headed???but she gave her consent....she wanted the same n i love her....n um going to spend my life with her so whats the problem.....


PROBLEM?????u took the responsibility, then who is answerable???there is something called faith which was placed in u by many....or have u forgotten the word???but what should i do with the way i feel???cant a human have a weak moment???U KNOW WHAT UR WEAK MOMENT JUST DID???GOD KNOWS WHAT SAVED HER HAND FROM ANYTHING MORE THAN STRAINED STITCHES....ok fine..... it was wrong timing....i was wrong....but not in the way i feel....cause she is the one....THE ONE....


"exactly..." he whispered wording out his thoughts at long last....saying each of the next words slowly with great emphasis to prove to his inner prude self how much he meant them..."she...is...the...one"...then after a pause he got up n started pacing around the dark room....ENOUGH....he thought.....I CANT TAKE THIS ANYMORE....i dont want to wait n prove to myself, to her or to anybody else that this relationship is meant to be....i know it...she knows it...i have seen enough of her n i dont care about what more there is to be seen....because i know nothing will change my mind....n i know she feels the same....pa u said lifelong decisions should be made in their good time....but u also said i should take the decision on my own terms....i have made up my mind now....i just have to get this relationship moving, n give it the place in my life it is meant for....


he walked towards ridhima on the bed n sat down beside her on the carpet not making a sound since she might just have dozed off....he controlled his urge to cuddle her as he saw her soft features in the streak of moonlight hitting her face from the opposite window.....for many seconds he just sat staring at her.....n then lightly brushing her hair away from her eyes he whispered in a voice full of love "sweetheart, this isnt just about me n my life....its about us....we will talk tomorrow....i have made up my mind but i want to know what u think....."


then placing a light kiss on her forehead he added "i am sorry about today....i had no right to take that step....i respect what ur family as much as my own.....but i just feel so trapped....neither do i have it in me to ensure constrain.....nor do i wish either of us to feel guilty of a feeling so pure....i love u honey.....n thats all i care for.....the last word however, i leave to u.....whatever u decide, i shall stand by.....but would it be too much to ask of you to not put me to test anymore???" and he looked at her willing her to reply right away....knowing she wouldnt, he held her bandaged hand softly in his own n kissed it...."sweet dreams princess"...then resting by his head by her side he closed his eyes, still clutching onto her hand....

she opened her eyes after several minutes when she was sure she couldnt sense his gaze on her, n indeed she saw his eyes closed, as he rest his head by her side.....her eye felt moist and she shut them to stop any threatening tears....i love u armaan....for all the reasons i know....n for the many i discover with each passing moment....she snuggled closer to him.....wide awake, her eyes staring at him without blinking....

***************

"good morning princess!!!how does ur hand feel????....be ready by 11am....we need to go see the doctor....had to leave early for practice....sorry about that but hated waking u up much as i wanted to.....n i also have some work at school after that so wont be home for breakfast....but how about a lunch date???u can decide where....see you soon...love armaan..." she read n re read, n re read the note yet again.....and she pulled the comforter closer snuggling into it, feeling his essence in the bed which essentially belonged to him...n she closed her eyes remembering the events from the previous evening n blushed unknowingly....then she jerked open her eyes....11AM....and she sat up in the bed the very next moment.....its already 9:30....as his last words from the night before came back she muttered...."what should i wear today????it should be special....cause hes gona....PROPOSE ME" she whispered blushing..."OMG I CANT BELIEVE ITS GOING TO BE TODAY......LOVE U ARMAAN...." n she jumped out of the bed, kissing the note he left her....n left the room to get ready for a day she thought would be hers to remember her whole life....

***************

as he won the 15th round of 'jump 24' rahul said "dude???what side of the bed did u wake up today....u havent missed a single shot...whats gotten into u????i mean ur always bloody brilliant, but today is like....flawless...." armaan grinned at him tossing the ball away...then moving close to rahul he slid his arm around his shoulder n said "just so u know...i didnt sleep on the bed last night....but yeh....there is a code secret for the impeccable success as u call it....come on i gota show u something....."

"so what do u think???" he asked as rahul looked zapped staring at the screen of the laptop....turning to face armaan he said in a strict voice "first u tell me what happened last evening..." as armaan frowned at his question rahul added "dont deny it....something obviously did.... to make u wake up n order a solitare by express delivery online early morning....i mean u couldnt even wait to take her along n let her chose the ring from the traditional shop in london which is usual for ur family????" armaan blushed sheepishly...

it was hard to escape his best friend...he knew him too well....aloud he said "well lets say nothing happened, but thats exactly what made me realize i cant wait no more....she can always get the main ring later when we hold the official ceremony in london right???n who are you to comment....at least um buying her a new one....u didnt even wait that long....just took off one from ur finger n gave that to muski for starters remember???" rahul shook his head grinning...and armaan persisted "i am going to collect the ring in half an hour from the store before i go and pick up ridzy from the apartment.....now tell me what do u think of it???" rahul hugged him tight n said "um so happy for u bro....u better make this day special for her...."

***********

"OUCH!!!" they both turned around stopping in their tracks as they were walking to their cars, and ran back in a haste as they saw sandra holding her leg sitting on the ground...."what happened sandy???" said rahul rushing to her followed by armaan...."AAAHHHH" she moaned, sticking her leg out towards armaan and they saw her knee was scraped n bleeding ....."how did that happen" asked armaan kneeling down to examine it and she said "duno how i slipped from there...." and she pointed to a slightly raised platform close to the court....as they both looked back at her she said in a painful voice "i think i sprained my foot too..." armaan frowned feeling her ankle and said

"no i dont think u hurt that too bad or else...." ..."AAAWWWW" she moaned again as he pressed it at a point "right there....it feels so sore...um sure i sprained it AB...." he felt it again seeing her eyes tearing....dam...we need the cheering squad ready by the end of this week for the play offs next week...n now the lead says she sprained her foot....why doesnt it feel too wrong though....apart from the bruise on her knee....the ankle doesnt seem swollen...at least for now....but if she insists its sore it must be i guess....and he sighed ever so slightly....god these girls....just a sprain n the fuss they make.....thank goodness ridzy isnt one of them....

ridzy...oh man i have to leave if i wana meet her in time.....n he looked at rahul nudging him slightly and who said taking the hint "its ok ammy u leave i know u have a class...il take sandy to a doc...." n he winked at armaan slightly wishing him luck....but as he got up to leave sandra groaned again much louder "aaaahhhh AB please dont leave....how important is your lecture????um hurt so badly, n ur worried about a class???atleast take me to a doctor...how can u leave it all to reg????what if i need two people at the clinic for helping me around n stuff???i most certainly cant walk on that foot....r u forgetting um the lead" armaan turned back frowning....was that a threat????shaking his head as she made a sorry face, he gave her his hand to help her get up, n she stumbled onto him in the process.....as he helped her balance again, armaan shot rahul a helpless reluctant look, n rahul in turn frowned at sandra.....what timimg, he thought....

***************

she looked at the watch for the nth time pacing the floor of the living room....it wasnt like him to get late....n he had called her half an hour ago to confirm if she was up n ready....n now....he was 10minutes late already.....as the lapse closed to 20, she tried his cell for the 5th time....switched off....armaan????where are you....the doc wont be pleased if i dont be there in time for the appointment...."ridzy???u still here??? i thought u said u will be gone by 11...." ridhima shot her a troubled look n said "i dont know whats delaying him muski....he is getting quite late, i dont think il make it in time for the appointment if he doesnt come in the next 5 minutes...." muskaan looked at her calmly n said "so call him ridzy...." which made ridhima frown at her "u think i wouldnt have done that already???its switched off...." tapping her fingers for a moment muskaan replied thinking "alright....he must be stuck with something unannounced yet important...il take u....um done with classes till afternoon anyways...." ...."but muski..." ridhima started to protest, muskaan cut her off "i know u said u guys going out for lunch....lets go see the doc at least then we can focus on tracking ur highness lord benz....fine???" ridhima nodded reluctantly n followed muskaan out of the house....

***************

~Part 35~


"i love u armaan" he replied hugging back..."i love u too honey....i always have" and as she lifted her face from his shoulder, ridhima was stunned to see who it was.....SANDRA???


She woke up with a start...sweating profusely.....her breathing fast, n heartbeat rapid....in a hoarse voice again she whispered the name that had haunted her sleep...."sandra...."...as the seconds passed, she pushed herself to calm down, and shut her eyes lightly....then opening them again she looked around her....she was in armaan's room, still in her party dress....as she ran her fingers through her hair pushing back the lose strands, she felt the stab of pain in her hand....and looking at the fresh dressing she knew she had not dreamt it all....but....she shut her eyes taking in a sharp whiff of air....as the random scene of sandra falling over armaan flashed back from her dream....she opened her eyes again, her breathing now close to normal but her expressions confused n grim...n scared....


she looked around, but did not see any trace of armaan....had he not slept by her????had she dreamt the words he had whispered??? no....of course not she told herself though quite unconvinced....yeh....i think i dozed off staring at him and....as her eyes fell on the wall clock she saw it was 7AM....and he must have left for his early morning practice.....EARLY MORNING????and she shut her eyes in terror as the dream flashed back....oh no....why did i dream this now....early morning dreams are supposed to.....she couldnt bring herself to even think about the age old superstition of morning dreams coming coming true...what rubbish ridzy she chidded herself....ur a science student...talk sense....its all just....complete crap....besides he was gona propose.....he bought u a solitaire...wasnt that all part of the so called morning dream???let it come true then....by the way ridzy....what imaptience even in ur dreams...which online express delivery sends solitaires in less than 4 hours???!!!


n she braved a small smile slightly shaking her head....but she couldnt help thinking...why though, did i dream the latter part???i mean....after the beautiful night....his honest confession....the words he whispered.....could i still be....insecure about him???no...absolutely not....there's nothing like that....dreams are never logical....its ok ridzy relax....yeh deep breathe......ok good girl....and she opened her eyes with a greater effort at smiling....just a silly dream...thinking so she made to move out of the bed...but then sat back, snuggling into the comforter...his comforter...his bed....his room....and she smiled a bit blushing....his girl.....right???yeh of course right.....did he whisper those words last night???about talking to me???i hope they were real n not something i dreamt....anyways ridzy....whatever the dream, stop thinking negative...u promised urself u wouldnt....n now of all the times???remember what reg said....JUST BE WITH HIM.....yeh its all cool....n she slid off the bed, forcing her mind to get over the inkling of uneasiness by humming a cheerful tune loudly.....

*************


"all right boys....lets call it day...." as he saw everyone nod their heads, giving him a high five on their way off the court one by one....he gave them a smile, wiping the sweat off his brow n made to move out of the court himself after tossing the ball for a last 3 pointer for the morning...."AB..." he turned around to see sandra walk towards him...he smiled at her lightly and said "hey sandy! ur early for rehersals..." she nodded then shook her head...then walking closer she said in a cheerful voice..."early yeh, not for rehersals though....." he looked curious.....and she came closer putting her arms around his neck which now made him frown...."i came for u..."


as he appeared flustered n visibly irked by her action and words she slid her arms back "gosh! look at u AB....like um gona bite u...." and she laughed in a frilly way, he gave her a blank look now, not knowing what she meant....and she spoke again "mum n pa are throwing an evening cocktail party at our mansion tonite....some of dads associates are visiting from europe.....n so they wanted me to call my friends there too, i passed the message to everyone....but the captain deserves a special invite right???" armaan relaxed a bit as she said that with a naughty winking smile.....sandy n her weird styles he thought.....n she added "it would be great if you bring ridhima along as well..." now armaan was pleasantly surprised n smiled at her warmly.....


"some of the associates are from london itself, n i guess they would love to meet the lady who claims jr. lord benz as her beau....." armaan shook his head smiling lightly "correction...she doesnt claim it....i am her beau....n hopefully by tonite i will have been promoted...." it was sandra's turn to look surprised and armaan said with a light laugh "well if certain things i need to ensure fit well, i plan to propose, n if my lady is gracious to say a yes, wouldnt u agree i'd be promoted???" her asked perking his eyebrows in a questioning way with a gleeful smile....she somehow managed to smile back spiritedly n as she slid her arms around his neck a second time he didnt quite object....


she said "wow AB that sounds like quite a plan...i am positive ur lady will say yes ...why dont u surprise shoot the question at the party itself???we can have a double celebration there n then...." and hugged him....armaan hugged her back for her words, somehow they wiped off any apprehensions on his mind....and in sheer excitement thinking about ridhima's reaction, breaking from the hug but still holding him around his neck she added "good luck..." and gave him a swift peck on his cheek...then pulling apart, she smiled at him again in a fancy way and walked off turning around once to add "i will wait for u..." he replied "will be there...."


as he stood shaking his head with a smile he felt a hand on his shoulder, turning around he saw rahul...."reg....um so excited bro...." as he hugged him rahul hugged him back absent mindedly, his eyes focussed at the disappearing sight of sandra with a slight frown, remaining silent....armaan not getting the obvious question from rahul pulled apart n said in a complaining tone..." ur supposed to ask why...." rahul looked back at armaan with the frown still there "huh???" armaan shot him an exasperated look "dude???whats on ur mind???" rahul scratched his forehead slightly not speaking yet n armaan repeated, not giving his lack of attention much thought for then "i said um so excited...n ur supposed to ask why...but its ok, il tell u anyways....um gona ask ridhima shashank gupta tonite if she would like a change of name to ridhima armaan benz...."


rahul saw the radiance on armaan's face as he said the name savoring each word....he felt happy but for the moment he frowned at him and said in a solemn voice "um hurt ammy....i thought ud say cause its my birthday...." as he finished with a naughty grin armaan punched him lightly n spoke on "yeh right....muskaan's excitement fills up for all of us....u dont need me for that now....." then getting a bit solemn he said "she will say yes wont she reg???" rahul shook his head at armaan's innocent question but realizing what armaan thought his reaction must have implied he nodded vigorously and said "of course she will mate.....if she had to avoid the disaster she would have done so at the taj, but since her lesser mind took over then, i dont see u getting dumped now!!!love really is devoid of reason i guess...." ..."in ur case blind too....wonder what muski saw in u...." n he ran away dodging as rahul picked up the ball n aimed at him....


*************


"so birhday boy....where are u taking us for lunch???" armaan yelled over the sound of the shower....."who said um taking u???didnt u have enough of invading on a couple's privacy last night???it was meant to be muski n me....n there u were the whole gang of drunks...." rahul yelled back from his adjacent shower stall.....armaan laughed out loud.....then he remembered the events from the evening....he felt a shiver run down him, as he remembered her touch....shoving his hair back he closed his eyes letting the cold water run down his smiling face.....everything about that morning seemed extra beautiful n cheerful....just how a special day should begin.....rahul realized armaan was lost in thoughts again n so he quipped teasing "dreaming again captain???"


armaan grinned coming back to the moment glad rahul could see him blushing at the moment and said fumbling a bit "no...uh...of course not..." after a pause he yelled again before rahul could take his chance on him further "i was thinking of how to get a treat out of a miser like u....i mean c'mon its once i year i ask u for one...." rahul laughed hearing his make up excuse and said "yeh right....u were thinking that, and angelina jolie dumped brad pitt for me....." armaan retorted back "u wish...." rahul yelled back "i dont actually....but, if as u claim, u were thinking of how to get a treat out of me, which i believe in the least....here's my condition....ur welcome to join muski and me at Palo Alto's corner cafe if ridhima's ring finger isnt bare...." armaan broke into a wide dimpled smile, blushing...."reg i could kiss u for that....."


...."eeeewww....please dont" rahul quipped disgusted, turning off his shower....armaan waived off his taunting interruption and went on turning off his shower too...."but i liked sandra's idea...." rahul frowned stepping out of his stall n looked at armaan shaking his hair to shed off the water drops...."sandra's idea??she knows???" rahul asked at long last....armaan looked up surprised at his tone and shrugged smiling "yeh...dont be jealous mate" winking at him,


then in an intended tone he said walking over to rahul n looking him in the eye "i wanted u to be the first to know....but when she came to invite ridhima n me for the party i just couldnt contain the excitement....i told her just before u...and she was so sweet....said i should surprise shoot the question at her party tonight...n i guess i would love to....like before them all....ridhima is my life....n i feel like i cant wait to tell the whole world how special she is to me....so i thought her idea was fab....."


armaan noticed rahul was still frowning to himself.....he deserved to know first thought armaan with a guilty sigh...."reg???what do u think man???" he finally looked back at armaan ...."if u really wana know ammy....i kinda disagree with sandra's plan....." armaan looked at him curiously, waiting for him to complete...."i think u should ask her alone....talk it out with her....n all of that before the party tonight...." as armaan now looked at him his eyebrows raised questioningly rahul continued


"theres all the time in the world to make public announcements....n a benz getting engaged cant just be passed off without making headlines anyways....but before anybody else....she deserves to know....just u n her....i think....." armaan stood deep in thought pondering over rahul's words scratching his hair....then looking back at rahul he nodded slightly and said "il keep that in mind...." and pulled rahul into a light hug "thanx man....for being there...."


rahul hugged him back "i will be...always....ridzy is the prefect girl....um so happy for u ammy..." pulling apart armaan gave him a mock tired look n said with a sigh "for the zillionth time reg....ITS ARMAAN....when will u begin to remember...." rahul laughed back "not as long as we' re buddies...so i guess not within this lifetime..." and they both walked off to the changing rooms...


************


"oh so 8PM is final???ur sure to have it ready???n make the packaging exactly as i want it...great...yeh il get a check for the remaining dues with me...thanks alot...i appreciate...."...flipping his cell close he walked down the stairs....and knocked on ridhima's door fishing something from his wallet and said absent mindedly "honey are u done yet????atleast let me in....reg invited us for lunch today, not a year from now...." ridhima said from inside "u can go without me if ur that late ur highness...its hard to fix my hair with that good for nothing hand....n no...u cant barge in....i dont trust u after...." she bit her tongue before saying anymore....


her initial disappointment was changing to slight irritation caused by the fact that he made no mention of the previous night, since he got back home, except asking how her hand felt....perhaps she was expecting too much thanx to that crazy dream....beyond all reason, she had searched the room to find a note from him in the morning but found none, discarding that as a whim she had secretly without even admitting to herself, waited for him to bring up the topic of some kind of a date at the breakfast table, but he never came home for that...


instead he called to tell her to be ready for lunch, but the moment she smiled excited he added with muskaan n rahul...he couldnt be proposing there of course....to top the whole situation he mentioned they were going for an evening party at sandra's house....a formal occasion....great, she thought, thats all i need....she couldnt even ask him whether or not the words she heard him whisper last night were a dream indeed.....cause if they were real she would rather he thought she had no idea..n if they were a dream....i hope not, thats all she thought....


now hearing no response, she cursed herself thinking she did indeed say too much...i dint mean it that way honey she thought rushing to the door n opened it hastily....and saw him frowning in concentration as he wrote something on the wall....perhaps he had missed her unintended words....moving out she saw he was writing on a small card...."whats...." she started he interrupted without looking at her "for reg....n muski....its a gift card from this travel company....for spring break trips to florida....what do u think???" he finally turned to face her and she looked at him, the fact that she was touched by his thoughts evident....and whispered "wow...when did u.....i mean...." she hugged him, her agitation at his projected insensitivity towards her forgotten that moment...."its...very thoughtful....reg n muski will love u for this...." she said simply....


he is such a wonderful person she thought admiring him with complete love for his thought n gesture.....she was just getting messed up with that silly dream....n she must have dreamt him saying the stuff....last night was just....a moment they got lost in....but everything had to wait its own good time, n armaan was probably going to stick to the word he gave her father....too bad she wanted not quite that.....armaan meanwile was having a hard time acting normal so she wouldnt doubt for a moment that he had plans for the day....not letting her see through his sky high excitement level was quite a task....


he just wanted to kiss her right away n tell her what had been on his mind all of last night, n all through the morning...smiling she let him go n he said...."they will LOVE US sweetheart...its from u n me..." ridhima looked at him for a moment then said "i got him something from us as well...." and she pulled him into the room n pointed to a gift bag on the bed.....shrugging at him with a little smile "not quite so grand....but i think he will like it...."


as armaan picked it up she took it from his hands "no let him be the one to open it....please...." armaan let go of the bag reluctantly, disappointed to not be let in on the secret then said "not like i was gona tell him..." she giggled at him pouting his lips n gave him a quick peck on his nose and said "aaaawww my superman angry with me???....i know u wont...but the charm of a surprise is in the moment its revealed...let the mystery stay till then!!!!!" his frown eased out instantly, but he hid his smile, as he thought of the surprise he had planned for her....the revealing moment indeed he mused happily inside...as he saw her looking at him curiously he pulled a long face again and said a bit indignantly"alright fine....are u ready now...."


she turned hastily to the mirror n muttered looking at her lose her hair as she tried running her hair brush through them with difficulty..."yeh i guess, for now...." looking completely unsatisfied....he grinned at her expression then moving ahead took the brush from her hand "may i???" and he brushed her hair, the best he could...trying to not pull hard at the tangled parts which luckily were not many, and she stared, her eyes fixed on his face as he changed expressions with each passing second, in deep concentration.....when he looked up into her eyes in the mirror finally done he raised his eyebrows in question and she laughed....then turning around she crossed her arms around his neck n said "not bad sweetheart, ur picking up the tricks!!" and she kissed him lightly on his lips.....


************


"u got reg some red roses as well???" she said in a cheeky voice to not show her delight at seeing them, as she fluttered her eyes in sarcastic innocence to tease him, lifting them off the passenger seat she got into the car.....he made a face at her....n retorted "u jealous???" taking the flowers away from her he shut her door walked to his side of the car....she grabbed them away from him indignantly showing him a defiant look warning him to dare take them away from her, n inhaling the fresh sweet smell she said smiling as he sat tying her seat belt..."thanks honey...i love them...uh..." he inetrrupted "they arent your favorite right???" she looked at him for a moment, then nodded sheepishly, as he looked back at her...then looking puzzled she asked "how do u know???forget that...if u do know why did u get me these???"


he grinned turning on the ignition, then shooting her a challenging look with a naughty smile he quipped "why dont u try guessing???" she looked at the flowers wondering, then looking back at him said in matter of fact tone "cause they indicate love???" he shook his head rolling his eyes at her then said laughing "strike one honey....u think id ask u to guess a reason that obvious???" she made a face at him and then looking back at the flowers she frowned , n then sighed..."why else would u get them???" he looked momentarily, grinning at her confusion, n said looking straight ahead in a solemn tone "cause they cost me least...." ...."WHAAAT???' she bellowed glaring at him....."i dont care if u dont spend a penny on me....but if thats ur reason, um disgusted...AARRRRGGGHH"


n as she punched him on his shoulder he pulled her close still looking ahead now laughing, her efforts to push him off futile n whispered rustling her soft lose tresses lovingly "honey, 2nd obvious line u fell for???strike two...." then giving her a quick kiss on her lips he let her go....she looked at him blushing slightly, n suspicious, he winked back, she shot him a childlike pleading frown to give her a hint, but as he ignored it shaking his head at her she looked back at the flowers completely confused making faces, as she ran the fingers of her right hand through her hair straightening them out unconsciously....after a few moments he said "still guessing....n here i was thinking i found a rare beauty with brains...." she looked up at him whining "armaaaan???!!...."


then after a pause she added "i dont care about the reasons....or about favorites....atleast u got me flowers, u never got me any before...." then in a quieter prudent way "is it....a speacial day???" he looked at her with an intended look n rolling his tongue inside his mouth he looked back ahead n said "yup....it is...." she waited in hopeful anticipation her lips slightly parted, n eyes wide, n eyebrows arched...not breaking her gaze by blinking even once....."i got u red roses....cause no matter what flowers u get a girl, even if they are the rarest species, available in like one part of the world, the only flowers which make her think undoubtedly that the intended feeling is love, are red roses....woman psyche i guess...its a bull's eye thing, red roses, n its impossible that they think out of that obvious track....so did u remember!!!....n thats why sweetheart...though they arent quite my personal favorites either, i got them for u....the only lady i ever got them for...."


she continued gazing at him with a cute pleasantly surprised smile n whispered "armaaaan...how do u......think the way u do???" then resting her head against his shoulder she continued "ur right....there is something special about receiving red roses....even if they arent favorites...." then linking her arm with his she lightly shut her eyes as he smiled looking down at her fiddling with with his shirt unintentionally....after a couple of moments she opened her eyes in recollection n asked "so what is the occasion??" he smiled naughtily n said "there wasnt one...but i think the moment looks right to propose u for marriage...what do u say???" she stared at him, even though she was expecting, well more like hoping for him to pop the quetion, this was....so....out of the air.....was he....even serious???no...guess hes joking....um just thinking too much cause of that dam dream....he couldnt propose in such an outright fashion...i mean...it would be...special, n planned...not just....like this???or could he be.....she was interrupted as he snapped her fingers before her eyes n said laughing at her reaction


"yo ridzy???u didnt answer me???oh hang on..." he said in a mock teasing frown.."u not suddenly becoming one of those shy indian girls are u???embarresed to be asked such a question???" he broke out laughing as she blushed hard, giving him an indignant look....perhaps she isnt blushing but angry at me he thought really amused by her reaction barely able to contain his laughter....she was indeed getting furious at him....he was...MOCKING A QUESTION LIKE THIS????how could he be so....AARRRGGGHHH...this guy is beyond my understanding and she just turned the other way to stare out of the window.....he stopped the car, in the next couple of moments n she realized they had reached the place....


as she made to move out, he auto locked all the doors....she turned back giving him an angry look "armaan open the door....this is not funny...." he shook his head in a stubborn way then bending over closer he kissed her full on her lips taking her by surprise for the initial seconds, but found her giving in n kissing him back soon enough....as they broke apart, he didnt quite move to make more space, but stayed bent over her looking into her eyes as they stared back at him innocent, n questioning...oh god....i love her so.....so so much...he thought running his hand through his hair he moved back into his seat, which surprised her even more.....what in the world was going on, could someone explain to her????he spoke again that same moment looking at her "u still didnt answer honey...." then winking at her he said "whats so hard about saying a plain yes???"


as she continued to stare at him unbelievingly, clueless about what to think he gave her an exasperated look n said with an impatient sigh "ok lets make it easier....if its a no, say it now, cause i want to know that right away....but if its a yes...then id like u to save it as a surprise for me for later...." as she still remained silent he punched the air in an excited way, n giving her another quick kiss on her lips he said "i knew it was a yes....oopz...i mean...ur supposed to surprise me with a yes...il wait" and he winked at her baffled expression...unlocking the doors, he jumped out of his side, moving to hers, as she sat transfixed to the spot...WHAT????hang on....was this, or was this not a proposal????n if it was...did she or did she not say a yes....she didnt say anything...but thats yes for him...no thats a surprise answer for him...huh???surprise???but if he knows its yes whats the ....oh god....um losing it....what the hell is...n he swept her off the seat giving her a quick kiss in her hair n said "dont think too much princess....i can handle it for both of us!!!" and put her down on her feet, turning to lock the door.....


**************

Part 36~


muskaan was completely bewildered with the way rahul had been either silent in thought, or saying incoherent bits of whatever it was that vexed his head....one thing she knew was that this was the last way she wanted to celebrate his special day....if only he would explain....."reg, darling i dont understand what are u unhappy with....i mean u say hes gona propose her, n then u say there are trouble summons in the air....how can u say those two things in the same sentence???" presently, rahul finally decided to comply n explain..."well they fit in the same line when the linking part is SANDRA KNOWS ABOUT IT...."he said acting quotes for the emphasized latter part of the sentence....


muskaan still looked confused..."and???....i mean they all have known for ages now about armaan n ridzy together....whats the deal with her knowing about the proposal...." rahul continued almost to himself as if he hadnt heard her words "n she even suggested he should do it at her bash tonight...i just hope i managed to knock some sense into him..." muskaan now had enough of his silent musing n confusing incomplete utterance of facts..."that is so sweet of her reg....whats the problem????i dont see why u are so freaked out..." rahul shook his head then looking at her he rolled his eyes upwards n said "its ok...i dont expect u to see why, if that gullible idiot captain of ours couldnt see through...." looking at muski in the eye now he said in a grim tone "i duno whats on that scheming mind of hers, but the name sandra is synonymous to trouble in ammy's life...."


"why am i not surprised to hear the word 'TROUBLE'....i mean we are here to celebrate the blunder god made on this day over two decaded ago!!!...trouble indeed...." they both turned around hearing armaan's voice as he walked up to muski, looking supremely cheerful, n resting his arm on her shoulder lightly gave rahul a teasing look with a wink.....as muskaan giggled, rahul snorted at armaan making a face to indicate he thought not quite highly of the intended joke, n retorted "yeh u heard trouble, for i had this intuitive premonition moments ago, about u making an appearence on the scene soon...." then hearing a laugh behind him he turned to see ridhima grinning at the two of them n he said, giving her a light hug "teme how u put up with him ridzy....i havnt quite found my way in so many years....."


ridhima giggled more n armaan pulling her away from reg indignantly n towards himself said looking at muskaan..."tell him to make most of the remaining hours of his birthday to make all those wisecracks....um not sparing him a second past 12AM tonight...." rahul showed him a thumbs down n retorted yet again "was that supposed to scare me captain???didnt quite work...." then without waiting for armaan's reply he turned to ridhima who sat between him n armaan n lifting her left hand cautiously he said "so hows ur hand doing now...." n shot armaan an intended look with raised eyebrows, not seeing what he had hoped to see.....armaan managed a quick assuring nod before all them were drawn by muskaan's comment, as she gave ridhima a stern look "no reg dont show concern....she doesnt deserve it this time.....whatever in the world she was upto when she hurt it again....." but instead of the expected guilty look or apologizing manner, muskaan was surprised to find ridhima blush hard at her words looking uncomfortable....she turned to rahul to comment on the observation but found him staring at armaan n as she turned her attention to him, HE TOO WAS BLUSHING???


"happy birthday reg..." they both said, offering gift bags together....before muskaan could make any sense of what was happening, or question them about it....rahul broke out laughing at the simultaneous spontaneity from armaan n ridhima to escape something he had noticed the night before too, unfortunately he didnt know what...YET...muskaan joined him grinning forgetting their reaction to her comment moments ago....n armaan ridhima gave each other a sheepish quick glance still blushing, and turned back to their friends as rahul grabbed ridhima's gift n muskaan took armaan's...."OMG!!!" armaan smiled deeply hearing muskaan's reaction, n turned towards ridhima happily.....


to catch her staring at rahul...n he followed her gaze, rahul looked zapped.....n then a small smile started breaking on his face, until he was grinning hard...as he faced ridhima she said "u can lock in one at a time....there's 7 of them...one for each day...." he shook his head laughing out loud now, and managed to utter in between "ridzy....awsome....omg.....thats...so cute" armaan n muskaan couldnt handle the unexplained point between the other two, n while muskaan bent over leaning on rahul's shoulder....armaan swiftly got up from his seat n bent over rahul from behind him....rahul hid the thing in his hands n said "will u both gime some air???" as they moved back reluctantly rahul gave it to ridhima n said "why dont u explain the technicalities u might best do that..." grinning at her again....


armaan n muskaan got back to their seats n all four of them bent onto the centre of the table an saw a pocket sized flat plate like thing about an inch thick.....n ridhima explained...."it works like a kaleidoscope...only different in its image creation...its got a hologramic base....with...." she tilted it and they saw an image of rahul n muskaan in the rainbow shades as the hologram changed angles....then as she twisted it slightly they saw a different image ...of rahul n armaan with same effects....n she twisted to show the 7 different picture holograms she had used...one with four of them...one with pictures of rahul n muskaan from when they were kids clubbed together....one of aryan minnie rahul n muskaan from the wedding....one of rahul and ridhima....n then finally one of muskaan alone with a captivating sweet smile as she seemed unaware of being caught by the camera....as she turned to look up at all of them muskaan grabbed it from her hands curiously to see it again n ridzy said immediately "CAREFUL MUSKI....its...."


...."beautiful...." armaan completed her sentence not quite the way she had intended to n she turned to see him staring at her awe struck...."thats incredible....i mean...i loved it n...." rahul interrupted laughing "n its mine....she made it for me..." armaan looked at him narrowing his eyes as rahul stuck out his tongue at him teasing him n armaan turned back to ridhima with a whinning look n complained "RIDZY????" she shook her head laughing at his expression then ruffling his hair she turned to rahul n said sheepishly "that one is actually andy's work...i mean i havent been in the lab for almost three weeks now cause of the hand...i did the templates n the protocols for the holograms cause i had the creating software on my laptop....but andy did the physical construction in the lab....we do holograms for our project all the time so it wasnt quite hard....but the kaleidoscope idea took more effort, n that andy worked out...."


then turning back to armaan she linked her arm with his n said "guess the first one i make will be for u sweetheart...." n then looking back at rahul..."but reg....u will be knocked out by armaan's gift....its...." muskaan quipped looking up from ridhima's gift...."unbelievably thoughtful...." handing rahul the card she moved to armaan's side n hugged him "thanx armaan....its just....i duno how to say this....but um so touched...." armaan hugged her back patting her hair lightly n said "anything for ur beautiful smile muski...." ...."ahem ahem..." they parted as rahul looked at them both with raised eyebrows...then grinning he said to armaan "ammy...." and he put his hand forward which armaan grabbed n they both smiled at each other deeply....no words needed.....


**************


"women!!! i guess they spend half their lives in the washroom..." rahul laughed out hearing armaan's irritatedly muttered comment and said "dude u really need to learn patience....by the way i have two questions....one might be harder than the other...which one first???" armaan looked at him a moment n said "il answer one....i asked her....i mean not directly but in a way....i mean i got her answer without letting out the surprise....n she said...." ...."yes....obviously...." interrupted rahul "but armaan u sure u didnt want to discuss it with her in detail???" armaan smiled at reg n said "relax dude....ur more worried than i am...she gona say yes i know....but i really want this to be special for her....n me....for us....its once in a lifetime right???"


rahul nodded his head with a sigh...armaan had a point there....just his apprehensions....on an impulse he said "so whats the plan???" armaan looked in the air dreamily "the charm of a surprise is in the moment its revealed...let the mystery stay till then!!!!!" looking back at rahul he grinned n said "she said that....was that ur second question???" rahul shook his head after a moment of the answer sinking n said "no...the second one..." breaking into an evil grin n sliding his arm around armaan's shoulder he continued "is the harder one....how did ridhima injure her hand again last night???" armaan looked at rahul a bit shocked then looking down he shut his eyes lightly n the moment flashed back...he jerked open his eyes n said in a low voice scratching his hair n without looking rahul in his eye "i...uh...."


...."oki here we are...." they heard ridhima's voice, and armaan let out a sigh....she saved him an explaination a second time...even without conscious effort....he smiled at her deeply n she smiled back walking towards him....rahul whispered "reherse ur answer.....ur savior wont come each time!!!" and winking at him he moved towards muskaan....armaan grinned shaking his head....as they moved towards their respective cars muskaan turned around stopping rahul as well n said to ridhima louder to be heard over the distance...." ridzy i forgot....they were playing ur song on the indian short wave station in the morning today....did u hear???"


ridhima gave her a quizzical look n muskaan said with a wink....."UR SONG ridzy....anji, u n me???remember???" ridhima looked back still puzzled a few moments n then smiled suddenly in realization n said "really???wow muski u still remember???i totally forgot....that was almost 3 years ago...." muskaan smiled n said...."i think its time u sing it for armaan...." ridhima retorted "remind me after u sing urs to reg...." muskaan said with a loving look towards reg "i did....at the right moment..." then turning back to ridhima she said "i think its the day....special...right armaan???" armaan who had been lost with the coded conversation between the two girls gave muskaan a surprised look, n then realizing rahul must have told her, he gave a slight shake of his head n said with a forced laugh "for u muski....ur guys birthday....special for u...." n with that he steered ridhima towards their car finishing with "see u both at the evening party, if u decide to make a public appearence after the long drive u heading for now!!!"


*************


"so whats this UR SONG U SHOULD SING TO ME HONEY???" ridhima looked at armaan blushing slightly as he asked the expected question settling into the car..."its just...just this silly talk we once had....muski, di, n me....duno how muski remebered...was so....long ago....we three were still undergrads, anji di in senior year, n muski n me sophomore year....." armaan looked at her as she stared dreamily ahead, n couldnt avoid teasing her "oooohhh girls talk....so how do songs come into picture???" ridhima looked at him again and said giving him a sheepish look "armaaan...its just....too girly....chuck it....." ....steering the car out of the parking, he pulled her closer n whispered each word delibeartely "i...dont...think....so....i think u just avoiding to sing a song for me....." n kissing her hair, made her look up to face him, then urged her with a silent look....


"honey...it was just....a silly girls night out chat we had...." ..." and???" he said looking at the road ahead as she paused...."and well....we were discussing....armaan this is so...embarrasing...n silly...." she said whinning...." silly silly silly...oh c'mon...now u got me curiously hanging from the edge of the cliff...." she let out a sigh blushing more n looking at him again she said "ur not gona laugh????" he changed his grinning face to a solemn one immediately looking at her a moment then looking back at the road n said "absolutely....the word of a lord...." she looked away, straight ahead n playing with her own fingers she spoke reluctantly n sounding obviously embarased


"well....we were thinking if we had to....u know...ummmm....propose a guy...." he raised his eyebrows n wiped off his grin the moment she looked at him...."the bollywood style...." she finished...."bollywood???u mean..." she interrupted nodding "the indian movie industry....have u....ever seen a hindi movie???" he thought a moment before nodding n then said "yeh...i mean....not like a whole hindi movie, but bits of some here n there...mum loved many of them....so dad had to watch with her....i thought they were like less a movie n more of a musical....i mean too many songs...."


...."exactly..." she interrupted hinting him to understand....pausing a bit he added "wait on.....songs???" and he shot her a questioning look if he was close to understanding her point????she nodded with a slight smile, blushing more...."the song n dance....a complete performance..." she explained ....."what???i mean...hang on...u mean....like propose with a song???" he let out a chuckle n as she glared at him he added "sorry i didnt mean to...." n bit his lip to not laugh n she said making a face at him "well thats exactly how u did propose at the taj mister...it aint quite so funny...." he let out his grin n kissing her on her cheek he said


"yup....n was i embarased????not at all...not even before the strangers...." she realized what he was getting to n spoke before he went further "well um not about to reciprocate for that spectacular performance now...." and she pushed him away with a meaningful expression....he made a face n muttered "why not???doesnt a guy deserve to hear his girl sing for him???u didnt even make me a kaleidoscope....all um asking for is a song...." and he looked grumpy facing the road, she said "well ur a star singer....um an engineer....n engineers dont sing n propose....il make u kaleidoscope...n i did not make the one for rahul...andy did...."


he still looked grumpy n faced the road....and she cursed muskaan for the situation n said "u never let me have my way..." he gave her an incredible look at that n she muttered "no i mean...." ..."u mean u always get ur way sweetheart..." he said completing her sentence his way again....n looked ahead.....he wasnt angry at all....but just to tease her he maintained an aloof look, knowing she was thinking of how to make up to him...let her think he thought....i should be pampered once in a wile too....


n inwardly he let out a silent chuckle patting himself mentally winning over a point for once....she felt miserable thinking she upset him....but singing....AAARRRGGGGHHHH she thought wanting to whack muskaan for this....oh man....why singing.....why cant i just.....think ridzy.....as the car came to a halt, she was still thinking and he opened the door for her....having a hard time keeping a straight face when he wanted to roll all over laughing at her expressions....but no....he really wanted to see what she would do to appease him.....it was his chance for almost the first time he could remember.....bring it on sweetheart...i cant wait to see u plan....


**************


he handed her the glass of water n medicines with obvious silence as she pleaded him wordlessly to at least spare her a glance....at last she said in a requesting voice "armaan why u being so stubborn over a whim" as he shot her a nasty look, she added in a timid voice "i mean...i dont even remember the song....n how can i sing....like...." he took the glass back from her n looking at her he said "sing like u did in the demo for anji n muski 3 years ago....um not asking u to....forget it....u dont need to....um the entertainer between the two of us, why should u have to bother right???" with that he turned his back n let out a soundless laugh the same second....oh god it was hilarious to see her trying to make up to him....i just have to try this more often man....


"armaan..." as he heard her tone he felt a tinge of guilt, stop being a sadist man, he told himself....n turned around with a solemn but less harsh look....she stood facing him with an apologizing expression and said in a meek voice "i didnt mean it that way honey....um just..." giving him a helpless look she stood on tip toe moving closer to him and kissed him on his lips....feeling her passion he kissed her back until moments later he realized....oh boy....what a move....now she beating me at my own game...women i tell u....all right sweetheart lets play fair....


and he kissed her back harder, just as she was about to let go....he could feel her surprise, but she didnt pull away....and he felt her hand in his hair, and the other resting lightly on his shoulder, he held her close around her waist.....as he finally let go, she whispered "i love u honey....." he smiled at her lowered eyes n whispered back "i know....me too....but u have to prove it...." as she looked back at him he gave a naughty yet firm look n moving back letting her go he said walking off to the door n looking at his watch "u have until the party tonight to prepare ur performance!!!...." as she opened her mouth to speak he blew her a kiss n shutting his ears to anything she might say, he said before leaving the room "love u sweetheart!!" winking at her.....


**************


he opened the door to her room almost irritated....her cell had been ringing for the past five minutes n if he could hear it all the way up in his room, while he was on the phone with chris telling him his plan for the evening, why couldnt she hear it lying next to her....he knew why the moment he entered....."OMG.... i'l call u back dad...." n he flipped shut the cell whispering those words into the phone....picking up her cell, silencing the ringer he sat across, as she sat her eyes shut, the headphones plugged on n the volume he was certain at the highest since he could hear hints of the tune even outside.....n he heard her humming with it....not loud, nor in a whisper....just soft n deep, tapping the laptop surface with her fingers to the beats n a small smile playing on her lips.....as she started by whispering the words....


"Hold me let me feel you
In my arms again
Softly you whisper my life
My best friend"


a smile broke on his face hearing those words....n it widened as her singsong voice grew louder than a bare whisper n she sang on.....


"A moment is all i am searching for
Just a moment in love with you
A moment so special so beautiful
In a moment my wish comes true"


he saw her smile widen n deepen intensely, and he thought he could view the images flashing behind her closed eyes, cause he saw the same......


"Save me from the future
Take me back in time
the words they have no meaning
Without you in my life"


he sighed bracing himself just staring at her, wishing he could hear her that voice for ever second of his life from now on.....it was no singers voice ...even slightly hoarse at the higher notes....n there was no music to support it, since she was on the headphones n he couldnt hear the background score.....but the melody in her innocence, n perhaps that the fact that she was feeling each word inside was the spell which bound him at the moment.....


"Let me walk the rainbow
In times of sweet surprise
To when i was a little girl
And had you in my life"


he grinned n wondered if she remembered singing the last two lines....they were indeed together even as younger high school teens, even if not quite.....


"I see the magic all around
Shining down on me
With you my life would be so right
If only it could be"

he smiled to himself blushing slightly n got up from the couch and moved closer to where she half sat half lay on the bed her eyes shut all through....resting her back on the pillow against the wall hugging he now realized, a picture of him.....he kneeled down by her bedside....

"May be this world is a mystery to me
But if you could be here for eternity"


he wanted to cuddle n kiss her at the last words....but he didnt...realizing she was almost done since her voice reduced to a whisper again as if singing the final scores.....


"A moment is all i am searching for
Just a moment in love with you
A moment so special so beautiful
In a moment my wish comes true"


there was a stillness as she stopped n he sat staring at her for a couple of moments till she opened her eyes.....the moment she saw him, she shut them again....n he saw her smile turn to a frown which made him chuckle....she opened her eyes slowly again one at a time n still frowning but not looking at him she yanked off the headphones too roughly to hide her embarasment.....almost furious at she knew not what.....he was here she thought....omg i thought he wasnt even home....armaan didnt speak a word her voice still echoing in his ears, and he smiled at her changing expressions as she no doubt was talking in her head.....when she finally looked at him not getting any response, he held her hands n kissed them looking back into her eyes....she smiled lightly more at ease....n then lowered her eyes again


"armaan...when did u...." ...."ssshhhh!" she looked back at him as he got up n pulled her closer into a hug her head resting against his waist and he bent down to kiss her hair....and she hugged him back burrying her face into shirt so she wouldnt ahve to look at him quite yet.....n he said in a low voice..."wow....um.....falling in love again honey....." he felt her grip tighten n she looked down at her...how he wished he had the ring in his hand n he wouldnt have to wait another couple of hours....."so was that ur surprise yes to my question??" he asked in a whisper...she stayed still for a couple of seconds then realizing what he was refering to, she moved back to face him with a questioning look....and he kissed her lips lightly n said "i love the style princess..."


the moment was interrupted as he felt a vibration in his hand n saw her phone ring again....flipping it open he said "hello?" hearing no reply he repeated "helllllo??" looking at the phone he saw it was a private call, the number not showing, then the call was ended....he shrugged at her puzzled look....and then the phone vibrated, he answered the call again "hello??" getting no answer he frowned looking at the cell this time n saw the call get disconnected...."its a private call, the number isnt showing" he said answering her unspoken question ....then with a mock suspicious look he asked "hmmm this better not be another boyfriend or the poor guy wont live too long got that???" and was going to hand her the cell grinning now when it vibrated a third time he frowned seeing the words private number on the screen again n was going to answer it when his own cell started ringing...seeing his dad's name flashing he gave vibrating cell to her n answered his own call "yeh dad, sorry i cut the call abruptly, i just couldnt miss...." and she didnt hear the rest as she flipped open her own vibrating cell.....her smile at his teasing jealous remark, soon faded....as her frown deepened with each word on the other side......


**************


~Part 37~

"c'mon dad whats the surprise????alright, tell her then....i know how to extract info out of her...did u decide to disown me now that ridhima is into the family picture, will be i mean???dont forget she there coz of me.....ok fine....il just pass it to her shes in her...." he stopped at that, opening the door n seeing the room empty..."hang on dad....she isnt in the room...leme check she must be around here...this girl....never listens to me...n the word REST is not a part of her english vocab...." chris grinned on the other end and said " yeh well someone had to come into picture to fix the brat in u....shes perfect for the role..." armaan shook his head chuckling n retorted "yeh right...i shouldnt really be expecting u to back me up against her, i dont see that happening...."


with that he paused frowning slightly as he checked her room thoroughly n even the area around...she really isnt here.... he thought almost as an unspoken question he was posing expecting chris to answer it anyways, he walked towards the kitchen now preparing his attack launch if she had dared to go there yet again despite his repeated warnings....as he entered the kitchen though he found himself wishing she had been there....cause she wasnt...."dad i have an incoming call, il get her back to u...." n he cut the call abruptly a second time not knowing what made him lie to his dad the first time ever for an unknown reason....


"ridzy???" he started at a normal volume...."sweetheart????....RIDHIMA???" he said in a booming voice now which echoed back to him....looking into each possible room n corner of the two floor house n basement...."where are u honey???dad wants to talk to u...." he said that in a lower voice knowing inside she wasnt hearing the words, but saying them nonetheless as if a mention of chris would tempt her out of her hiding spot....


as expected, he got no response n went back to her room again....a more studied look around told him her cell phone n shades was missing, in fact, he noticed, so was her handbag....but the laptop just lay there...n was still running....he went to the shoe rack close to the door on an impulse n spotted a vacant spot where a pair of her running shoes should have been....


he frowned deeper now, a crease of worry making an appearance, as he narrowed his eyes n flipped open his cell...."hi this is ridhima, sorry um unavailable at the moment but do leave ur message or a number...id love to call u back....thanks, have a good day!" he heard the whole of her recorded voicemail message hoping she would interrupt it n speak for real....but as it finished, he flipped the cell shut, almost slumping down to the nearest couch....


it was hard to say if her cell was out of reach, switched off or just busy cause it always went to the voicemail with the settings she had....no it has to be busy of course he told himself....looking at his wrist watch he thought....guess i was on the call with dad for just about 25 minutes....she couldnt just disappear into the thin air so soon....


he ran his fingers through his hair nervously, the worry beginning to grip him....then folding his hands he rest his chin on them n shut his eyes.....relax armaan...u know her....she can never do as she is told to...think now....she must have just....gone off for a walk....he half got up....then sat down again thinking....she could have told me....but then i would have stopped her she knows....doesnt she always tell me even if its something i wont approve of....she would have told me....n...why the handbag????...


he got up....n started pacing the living room floor to vent out the restlessness.....maybe she had that sudden chocolate ice cream craving again???....dont be silly dude...she makes those sudden demands in the middle of the night only to get back at me....when i scold her...n even if she wanted to, impossible though it sounds after that huge lunch, she would have asked me to get it right???worst case she would have insisted on coming along....she wouldnt just walk off....wait...should i call muski n ask???maybe she knows....but they are out for a long drive, ridhima cant be with them...n why would she tell muski where she is going n not me when um in the house....i mean she just like...left unannounced???


he stopped holding onto his waist his expression worried n grim reflecting the thoughts which he was forbidding from entering his head ...yet...he shut his eyes again stretching slightly backwards n then jerked back...picking up his wallet n bunch of keys he ran out to his car, locking the door behind....whatever she is upto, she couldnt have gone far....as the car roared to life he steered it out of the driveway, n then after a moment of debate he turned it right....the closest bus stop...


i mean she would obviously ask me for a ride if she had to go far....but...i have to start somewhere....he wiped his brow unconsciously wiping off the beads of sweat which had appeared even in the chilly pre spring windy day....ridzy....ur so...how do u just walk out on a running laptop, n me in the house without a mention...if this is a joke um so not sparing u for it....but deep inside he prayed it would be nothing more than that, trying hard to subdue the rising gut feeling of impending trouble, his years of stress management techniques on a game court all seemed to be failing him in this real moment of test.....ridzy, baby...where are u????


**************


she sat listlessly clutching an envelope, staring at nothing as she looked unblinking straight ahead, riding the bus back home.....although that was the last destination she was aiming to go to that moment....she couldnt face him till she sorted herself out.....the last hour had been the most tormenting in her life she thought....and yet it might astonish her much later how calm she had been through it all...well calm was perhaps not quite the word....reactionless could be more precise....


as thoughts stormed furiously inside her head battling the equally outrageous emotions in her heart, her face remained devoid of any tell tale expressions, she might have been practicing to take up a shift at guarding the queen's palace in london, it was unaltered to that extent....


as she continued staring ahead, her eyes registered an old man standing just in front of her, not looking much at ease having to stand n balance on a moving bus, she realized the bus was quite full, rarely though it happened, for now it was so....she got up as a courtesy, offering him her seat, the thought of doing so spontaneous n random....


it was almost like she couldnt handle the inactivity of her body by sitting still anymore, in stark contrast to the massive tornado like state of her mind....the lack of physical reaction highly imbalanced the mental reaction n was going to cause her dizziness soon she felt, it was getting on her nerves, n standing up instead of him, seemed a place to start some movement.....


as he tipped his hat in a thanking gesture, she smiled back mechanically acknowledging the greeting, some mannerisms are inbred n reflect even when we are least aware of our outward reactions to the world around n its people....her mind stuck to its preoccupying thoughts....she closed her eyes momentarily now, n opening them again she started running the string of events in the preceeding hour, one at a time in the order of occurance....


**************

~flashback~

"n i would like to meet u at...." she flipped close the cell without letting him complete his 6th sentence frowning hard....which wasnt surprising considering the first 5 had been total crap coming as a random crank call from a self proclaimed well wisher who refused to identify himself....as she shoved the cell away, she could feel its repeated vibration on the bed for atleast 3 calls, till she decided, avoiding the caller wasnt working for her.....


not like she believed him....but he had to be stopped from...uttering the non sense he was trying to sell off to her as facts to know about....she picked the call...."miss gupta before u cut the call, i realize um not going to hit a point with mere conversation n u are not likely to meet me for the trust of my words, so i just mailed u a document....on ur yahoo id....do check....u can call me back if u wish to after that, the number is in the email...." n he cut the call before ridhima had much chance to react....


she stared at the cell...the look slow changing to a glare, n this time she threw her cell away as an impulsive reaction....n shoved the laptop off her lap...but a couple of minutes was all she could endure....n she picked it up again opening her email window....as she opened the mail she knew he was referring to she couldnt stop wondering who the hell he was n how he got hold of her email id....it wasnt hard but he had to have put in some effort for it....why should a stranger wana do that????as the email showed a picassa link she clicked on it, after only seconds of debate.....


the next few seconds felt paralyzing....cause she should have had a strong jolt of reaction, but she sat still keeping it in....the adrenaline rush wasnt much help....n from no where she felt the pain in her hand much more intense than she had even on that night in the lab....she got up n walked to where her cell had crashed down on the floor, opening up....she wasnt quite the angry impulsive girl, why then did i....


i mean its just a crank call...n the picture???oh come on ur a science student...optics to top that...forgotten what tricks photography is capable of???as she denied any inkling of rising doubt, she couldnt stop her hands from pickling up the pieces of the phone n reassembling the battery, sim, back cover, n turning it on....n she called back, despite the sharp negation to her action from every inch of her body n mind.....


" i knew u would call...see u at the address i just sent u in a second email...." click.....she let the buzz of a disconnected call ring into her ear for moments before she slumped to the floor by the bedside....why did i call him back,...i dont believe a word of that trash....nor the worthless photograph....nor the seeming fact that the voice sounded real n true...no nothing at all....as she shut her eyes hard, the photograph from her laptop vivid in her mind the effort making her clench her fists hard which caused her to jerk open her eyes in pain instantly, n she let out a gasp holding the injured wrist tightly from the arm to stop the throbbing pain from traveling....


the cell dropping from her hands breaking apart again.....slowly she got up n refreshed her yahoo mail page....she could feel a battle within....delete the mail ridzy...dont read it...u dont care....this is all fake...n planted...n unreal....n crass....n as she deleted the mail without reading she felt a strange sensation..certainly not happy or relieved but like she was trying to escape a situation....was she???....


she closed her eyes again, n this time the images from her morning dream flashed back....she jerked open her eyes....."what the...." she stooped midway from cursing....how in the world did i remember that now????i never remember dreams more than a few minutes after waking up..but...is this just plain coincidence???yeh of course....that trash email....oh god....um losing it....she held her face in he hands helplessly, trying to fight away any negative thoughts which were threatening to make their presence felt....


help me lord....i am not feeling anything like this....no...of course um not....it was just a silly dream....n this is just....somebody's idea of a prank....cheap stakes.....no no no....i dont believe any of this....its all untrue....why the hell did i call him back...no why the hell did i even pick his call a second time....she opened her eyes again lowering her hands.....pushing the stands of hair off her eyes roughly she banged shut the laptop screen....


"show me the way god...." she whispered in desperation...."whats the hell is happening.....armaan....." as she uttered his name first time in the past less than 8 minutes, she felt a sense of intermittent relief....she opened the laptop again....why am i thinking of all this as doubting him...of course not...thats not on my mind....u going to clear off this....this whole issue....yes....i know there is no reality attached to any of this....yes i just have to....tell this man to mind his own business....


i have to....opening the trash folder in her mail id.....go meet him...n she restored the deleted mail, n memorised the address.....this is another one of those low acts by that.....no ridzy dont call anyone names....relax....il go tell this man to keep off...never call me or try to get in touch with me again...n tell that scheming mastermind woman behind all this to STOP PLAYING HAVOC IN MY LIFE


....why the hell cant she.....calm down ridzy....its ok...just go n tell this guy what u have to.....she smirked in a nasty grim way reading the last line of the email "dont mention this to mr. benz yet...." as if i was going to....i love him n trust him....u think id go talk to him about ur low acts???so he thinks i was insecure n doubting him???u...sick woman.... aaarrrrgggghhh.....no ridzy no calling names....n she ran out of the room with her bag, shades, n the pieces of cell phone reassembling them, but in her flustered hurry she forgot to switch it back on.....


~flashback paused~


*************


why is this happening god....why me....armaan....she felt a tug at her heart as the name hit her hard....she shut her eyes momentarily again...."are u alright young lady???" she opened her eyes slowly as the words registered in her mind n saw the old man she had offered her seat to, hold her arm with gentle concern.....she looked back blank....alright????u ask me if um alright????when my life seems to be crashing down like a castle of cards....


something in his eyes stirred the unshed tears of agony n pressure....she looked away....somehow his manner reminded her of....chris....dad....i wish it was u n not this man.....i wish i could just....cry in ur lap....armaan....dad could he have...???she was ripped out of her thoughts by the repeated question "young lady????" n she looked back at him.....nodding slightly she managed to utter her first real words in past few tens of minutes..."yes i am sir...just fine...." as she looked away with a trembling sigh.....


*************


~flashback resumed~


as she sat fiddling with her hands, each passing moment seemed an eternity....where was this man now????seriously if this was a joke she would....she sighed....please god...make it a joke....just say um dreaming like the morning....its a nightmare again....she took in a sharp deep breath closing her eyes....ridhima...its not a dream....its a score u just have to settle with sandra once n for all....whoever this guy helping her is, il ensure he refuses to recognize the name sandra after i talk to him.....how dare he say all that about armaan....um gona...make him regret teaming up with that woman...trying to set up armaan, now that she cant seem to unnerve me any other way...how low will she fall....feeling a brushing moment past her she opened her eyes....

"this is for u ma'am" as ridhima shot a questioning look to the waiter speaking those words he continued "a guy left it for u at the reception..." ridhima looked at the envelope... then back at the waiter..."when???n who???" she got up from her seat as he answered "him...." pointing to a direction behind her...a minute ago i think he said ...." ridhima rushed without waiting to hear the waiter out...she followed the direction he had pointed to saw a certain someone's back as he rushed towards the park lot....she absorbed the obvious details...full length unisex overcoat, collar puled high, a huge rim hat....basically it was impossible to catch any feature of him she might recognize later...she ran much faster, catching up n closing on the distance....as the person turned around she caught a quick glimpse, which revealed nothing extra....

whoever it was now unlocked a black porsche n got in, the ignition turned on the next moment, and with the last burst of energy she reached in time to see the car swerve past her, as she stared desperately into the deepest pair of blue eyes she had ever seen...almost as if someone had added color to them to become unrealistically blue.....she felt like she had seen them before...but couldnt think where....they were different than any ever, yet strikingly familiar....she cursed in an undertone, to have lost the one person she had come all the way to meet....then remembering the envelope she rushed back to the table, n saw it lying same place, untouched....slipping into the seat she picked it up...then with a deep breath she tore it open at one end.....a handful of colorful pictures fell out of the packet, not unexpected she thought glaring at them but avoiding to see them carefully...she looked into the packet again feeling it wasnt empty n realized there were some papers in it....she pulled them out....a letter???

"Dear Ms. Gupta

I know what i said on the phone or what i am going to tell u now is the last thing u want to hear from me, or anyone in the world...but truth doesnt come in fancy feel good packaging....its about armaan n sandra as i already mentioned....n have nothing but my word to take for all the pictures in there as true....u may ask why i, as a complete stranger want to get involved with any of this....its quite a story, n i assume u will take the time to read it if u came all the way for facts....i have known sandra for many years now...in fact, ever since we were little kids....u can say we grew up together....n through the years i have seen her get what she wants whatever may be the way....captain benz, well has always been top of her list, since she started cheerleading for his team over 4 years ago in freshman year....n why not....the captain, n the lead cheerleader, its a pair no one can really object to....

captain benz however i admit in all honesty, has known his limit with the sensuous beautiful women surrounding him all the years i knew him....which are the same as sandra for i know him through her.....she has had uncountable affairs, often with a new guy each time, but two people in her life have remained constant....armaan n me....armaan, her guy to be, as she always imagined....n me the fall back each time she needs support....we have been best friends all these years before anything else, and in all her frustrated moments the vent is me....i love her unconditionally, n so does she....but not quite the love way.....despite that knowledge, i have never been able to stand up for myself, when she comes to me broken or hurt.....she has to say a thing n i cant deny....

n for many many years i thought it was love....well it probably was...n is....but now i know another thing which i never before saw, until i realized about this....relation between captain benz n sandra today....i always thought all her relations n actions were an open book....but for once in her life shes been discrete....n when i confronted her about all this recently she told me about her plans.....i did not take them seriously trusting armaan to be what he has proved to be over the many years....now i regret....n all in can offer u is my sincere apology for no forewarning to u, or to him....she did it again....i mean...she has this strange control over men in her presence....she knows how to tackle each of them....armaan isnt the one to go for, u know sheer lust....so she must have worked her way around that....he is a soft hearted guy....she probably started that way....but she knows how to get her targets n the right moments to do so....n no man alive can survive her once she decides to have him....

i mean....armaan is not the kinds to cheat on u....i have heard her talk about how he has lost it n thinks he is serious about u....but i know he is serious cause its the first time he claimed a relationship in years....but well...we are all human....n each man has those weak moments....sandra knows just how to extract them n then exploit them....thats what she did....i dont want to go into anymore of it....but the pictures i included are from today morning....when it all....um sorry....i would hate to hurt a beautiful lady like u, um sure u must be a gem for getting armaan to fall in love....i would want to punish sandra for all this, but um still weak in her love...but i thought u should know all this....

armaan is not a man to cheat i repeat myself on that....n perhaps this mistake he will never be able to face or admit, cause he didnt mean to, n its something which can cause cracks....n he can hide his weakest emotions well...i never knew in the many months of knowing him initially about his pain for his mother's loss....when i did learn about it somehow, i was shocked its incredible how well he can hide emotions n never let them be seen....he probably will do that with his guilt for this mistake....but....well...i dont see what justifies u not knowing it.....if i know him even a bit he will do all to make up for it as well...i wont be surprised if he asks u for marriage soon, cause he is serious without a doubt....

i should probably have left this unsaid, as it is sure to create trouble, but its my guilt at being partially responsible in a way which couldnt stop me, n after all whats a relation with facts like this unrevealed.....its for u to believe my earnest confession or not believe it....pictures can be fake....so can be my words....its probably asking for too much to trust the word of a stranger against the man u love...but then again, what motive could i have in exposing the acts of a girl i love so dearly, except that this action of hers has been unethical in a way like none of her actions before.....i just feel like i could have checked her from growing into this kind of woman all these years if i had not harbored her wrongs but been firm....like i said....i apologize....although that will not delete the.....um sorry ms. gupta....n i did not have the courage to face u n say this in person....i hope u understand....

regards

a name not quite relevant to the point here....."

she had read the letter three times, before folding it in folds too hard n neat, but no other reaction had escaped her....she did not glance at the pictures....she didnt know how she would ever maintain herself in a public place if she did see them....who knows what she would see....n god alone knew she couldnt bear it....she packed it all into the envelope and had walked away wordlessly....whatever she had expected to face n handle to have come here, was not quite what it was turning out to be.....she just did not know what to think for many minutes, as she walked aimlessly down the sidewalk out of the cafe....mechanically she took the bus from the nearest bus stop, clutching onto the envelope....

~flashback ends~

**************

where should i go now???back home????to him???no i cant....not quite yet....he doesnt seem to have missed me anyways...not even a call from him i havent been in the house for about an hour an a half ....without saying a word to him, n he still hasnt called to check on me...her hand reached for her cell in her pocket, but she let it be at an afterthought....do i really want him to call????i dont know what i want....she pulled the stop cord seeing they were approaching a stop....she wasnt thinking where, but she had to get off...this was just the last stop before the one she was accustomed to getting off at....as the bus rode away she hugged her shoulders the chilly wind hitting her bare skin of the neck, she had not carried a scarf....where to now ridhima gupta she asked herself wordlessly.....


as if in answer she heard a voice from behind her...."could i ask u for another favor???" she turned around n saw the old man she had relinquished her seat to looking at her with a slight smile, his manner gentle the same way.....frowning slightly she didnt answer immediately....something about his look made her feel she had been his object of observation for the duration of the journey since she offered him her seat....n now he got off at the same stop???coincidence???he hardly looked like a stalker....


sensing her suspicious demeanor, he continued "i duly apologize for sounding like a random stranger intruding more than i should....but...i am just new to the place, here only for a weekend over some business concerns....my car broke down which is why i had to board the bus, but unlike the chauffeur who was accompanying me i have no clue about the ways in this town....n there is some place i need to reach on time.....would i sound imposing to ask u for help???"


she looked at him in acute observation, his clipped english accent was unmistaken....he belonged to the continent midway between america n india, nothing would deny he was a hard core brit...if being a Hugh Grant fan all of her teen years wasnt enough to identify this fact, the presence of the name benz in her life most certainly was....thats hardly an accent i can miss she thought bitterly.....


and she would have made some random excuse, viewing interaction beyond a limit with a complete stranger with some suspicion.....but his whole persona was honest, gentle n quite like an honorable elder gentleman....quite like chris, she thought feeling the similarity a second time....how i wish.....her desperation to gain temporary distraction was heightening.....she nodded in agreement, against the prudent claims of her better logic....somehow, it didnt feel wrong....anyways she thought gritting her teeth, i have gone by my gut feeling about listening to strangers for the past one hour, theres nothing to make life worse for me at the moment....helping him wont kill me....though for once i think i wouldnt mind that.....

**************





Edited by spln - 03 August 2008 at 11:38pm

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Posted: 01 July 2008 at 11:39am | IP Logged
~Part 38~


he slammed the cell on the dashboard, as he brought the car to a shrieking halt slamming the brakes, and jamming his fist hard into the steering wheel....where are u ridhima???how could u....he had looked all over the town driving aimlessly on every street he could looking at anyone remotely looking feminine with almost an offending gaze....but it was a futile clueless search....he couldnt even make a wild guess about where she could be....he had called andy, she wasnt in the lab, hesitantly he had even called rahul n muskaan n in general one minute conversation he gathered that they had no clue about her whereabouts....he even called up the library though he knew it wasnt a likely place....


when chris had called again some 30 minutes after he had cut his call at home, armaan had to fight his urge to answer the call n pour out his troubles like always....bitterly he decided it wasnt quite the moment to worry chris, not yet at least....he sent back a text, saying ridhima had left a note for him n she was with a friend, n that he himself would call him later as he was currently engaged in a video conferencing call with a couple of his classmates for a project....both though convincing were complete lies of course...he knew taking the call was suicidal , there was no way he could keep the worry in his voice from giving himself away to the man who knew him more than he himself....


n so here he was now....facing the whole thing alone....feeling life drain out of him with each passing moment....his initial agitation had turned to worry in a short time, but now, he was frantic....he couldnt help thinking of the night he had found her in the lab, her hand cut....he tried hard to push the images away, of that night, n of the night in india when she had been missing for several hours unaware of having consumed a doze of sleeping pills....why was she such a trouble magnet....those two nights seemed nothing compared to the moment now....where are u sweetheart his heart cried for her....what if.....no no nothing has happened....but....her sudden disappearance n no answer to the calls n voicemails wasnt helping at all....he had not given up....but he just didnt know what to do next....where to look for her...what places had he still not covered....he pressed his hands hard against his eyes to keep the threatening tears back....


***************


"thank you so much ms.???" ..."gupta...ridhima gupta...." she answered trying to keep her voice casual n courteous as it would be for a normal someone....he nodded smiling n handed her phone back to her "riddeeema guptaa??i am Arthur William Dumas" she shook his extended hand as he continued "thanks for the phone my european connection doesnt work here i realized too late....but i have called my colleague, the man who's place um staying at for the weekend he will send in someone soon...." he paused waiting for her to respond but she remained quiet n distant trying hard to hide, not willing to interact anymore than was necessary....


she seemed familiar to him somehow, like a faint blurring image he had seen before....but he wasnt quite good with keeping track of faces, n often mixed them up.....as she said nothing, he spoke on an impulse..."are u in a hurry to be somewhere??" she looked at him blank for a bit, then slowly shook her head "do u need help with something else" she asked politely, constraining any other emotion from entering her voice, as her head n heart were still completely hooked only to one issue in her life right now....


he smiled at her deeply, she seemed to be a warm person, but his wizened head n seasoned eye from years of practicing psychiatry told him she was in deep trouble....he said "no you have been great help already, i was wondering if u would join me for coffee while i wait for the car to come n pick me...just...my way to say thanks, if you will please..." at any other point of her life she would have called her next reply unthoughtful, rash, even insane, but there she was, saying those words..."i would love to, thanks..." n walked with him to the nearest starbucks....


he noticed how quiet n absorbed she was for a few minutes, then broke the silence..."so ur a student ms. guptaa??" she nodded n he continued "in what field??" ..."engineering" she replied quite mechanically as if sitting in an interview, saying not a single redundant word, unasked for....he realized he should hit the point "so who are u trying to avoid???" she looked up at him shocked, her expressions quite as he would have expected..."um sorry???" she said a bit indignant but mostly curious...."i beg ur pardon if i sound intrusive, but i observed u through the bus journey...n now u handed me a cell which was switched off....something tells me ur quieter than ur usual self...n all of this leads me to conclude it might be my chance to rescue a lady in distress???"


she gaped at him as he rattled all of that...she should have felt repulsive n offended by the way this stranger was trying to get personal....but as he looked her in the eye his gaze confident, relaxed, crystal clear, she felt none of what she should have...in fact....his way was almost welcoming for her to let out the pent up emotions she was getting nauseated with as each moment elapsed into a new one.....for several moments she was quiet then she said "i did not know my cell was switched off....but...i am avoiding someone....something actually...a situation i guess....n i dont think anyone can really help me out of it....but thanks for the concern...i appreciate...."


he smiled deeply....she was a lady indeed, in all rights...her words though toned down immensely depicted how much pressure she was under, but he was impressed not only by her stoic bearing, but also by her accurate analysis....she didnt look like a girl who would talk out troubles with strangers....but even her troubled mind seemed not to have clouded her perception of people....was this their nationalized trait he wondered, remembering the only other indian lady he had known well in his life....he was pleased with her....he spoke again "perhaps i cant help u out....n perhaps i can???u never know the real truth unless u give it a chance to open up completely...."


she heard his words, as general speech initially....but then the last words hit her....n he continued "nonetheless um glad u did not just walk away hearing my words....um guessing u dont want to discuss anything for now...n i dont blame u, seeing we are nothing but strangers who know each others names....but um pretty sure its not about me, its more like u dont want to talk it out with anyone, perhaps thats like u....but, unasked for though this may sound, i have an advice....sometimes if with no one else, we must discuss the issue with the person concerned....though that maybe the hardest thing to do....confrontations are not meant to be pleasant....but often, if not avoided they make life easier, unlike what most people would think....at the very least, make sure there are no misconceptions before u take any decisions in life...."


then pausing he said lightly patting her hand "do i sound like a preaching old brit???perhaps...it just happens to be something iv done for years now, old habits are hard to escape at this ripe age!but i assure u its completely earnest as it would be to my own daughter who is about ur age...." ridhima smiled despite herself.....she often heard of god sent angels from her mum....perhaps he was one....although it had been her helping him out, his words seemed like something she would be indebted to him for the rest of her life.....she got up immediately n said "would u mind if i left u earlier than i committed myself to staying here???my....someone will be awfully worried for me at home...." he smiled his approval at her, and as she fished for cash in her bag he said "please....allow me....it was a pleasure to meet you young lady!" she sighed then smiling back at him she replied before leaving "thank you so much...it meant a lot..." and she rushed out of the cafe flapping open her cell.....


***********
"RIDHIMA...." his voice stood for all his unspoken words, with him uttering just that one name....not like his anguish had been any less evident in the 8 voicemails she heard before she finally called him....if her pain had been unbearable, perhaps she would never have words to describe his...."ridhima....where are u sweetheart, u know what iv....." she interrupted him "armaan....can u pick me up from the bus stop opposite the diag???" he sighed deeply...."il be there in 5 minutes um just couple of streets away...." he paused then said in a low whisper "just....r u ok???" she shut her eyes hard supressing her tears at his voice n all she managed was a whisper "yes i am...now...." he didnt probe her further, having already started the car not wanting to waste another second.....he just needed to see her....to know for sure all was fine...."love u" he said before flipping shut the phone.....

ridhima stood clutching her bag, which contained the envelope....she had finally seen the pictures...they were indeed from today, at least the date on them said that....they were clips of sandra with her arms around armaans neck....one where she even kissed him, as he hugged her back....what disturbed ridhima wasnt sandra's actions reflected in the pictures, but the fact that armaans face seemed supernaturally radiant....also...the pictures looked like they were from the basketball court....not like they were at a formal party or get together, what could have occasioned the close gestures even if they were just formality???she didnt even looked dressed for rehersals....

the words from the anonymous letter resounded in her head...she gets what she wants....her way....she certainly wanted armaan, she left no chance to prove that fact....but...had she succeeded???had armaan indeed....???ridhima had taken minutes to make up her mind about a decision which before the words of wisdom form the old man had seemed impossible to make.....she wouldnt trust anyone to doubt armaan unless she heard it from him...no matter what that man thought, she knew armaan could never hide his true emotions from her....more like he wouldnt....she trusted him for that....it was his answer she would believe n nothing else....if she couldnt trust the word of the man she loved, how could she ever bring herself to entrust her whole life to him....

n beyond that she did not want to think for now, but ideas crowded her head nonetheless...if it was all a framed lie, she hoped desperately thats all it was despite the pointing evidence, she couldnt ask for anything more...if it indeed was...true....she shut her eyes thinking....weak moments....anybody was capable of losing it to them...had both of them not almost lost it the night before itself???why did he not even mention it once again???n...he dint come for breakfast saying he had work....could he have been with...her???n...he did propose..well in a way....it almost seemed...like mockery though....oh man this is soooo...ridhima looked up into the sky n murmured "i know u never plan ill for any of us god....if he did make a mistake....make me forgive him....i want to....i just....want him to tell me the truth....whatever it is....let me face this god....please...."

she was ripped from her thoughts as she heard the honking unusual to the roads in this country....before she even realized what was happening she was pulled into a violent hug, and found herself crushed in his embrace, as she hit his chest hard.....she could feel his racing heartbeat in the extreme closeness....n then...she was shocked for she felt him....crying???as the moments extended, she was sure she could sense him having broken down into silent sobs...strangely, she had to put no effort into not crying, the tears were not coming, though moments ago thinking by herself she had felt them hard to check....it had always been the other way round, n in this moment she knew how he handled her break downs....she felt a new surge of energy inside as he entrusted himself to her, his shattered outburst urging her to take control....n she knew she could....

she caressed his back n ruffled his hair gently, quiet for a wile, n then whispering at last as he seemed to be atleast partially at peace "armaan??u...ok???" he let out a deep sigh and as he finally broke apart she saw him look at her with agonized, tearful eyes, full of questions....thank god, she thought as he lowered his gaze on the pretext of wiping off his tears, for she did not know how she would have controlled her urge to kiss him if those seconds of eye lock had extended anymore...but she had to wait....at least till she cleared all of this out....she was prepared to accept him in her life as she had been before any of this happened, with or without the shadow of that alleged mistake.....for life without him was now not even an option to consider for her....but this was not a topic she could forgo....

she whispered again "armaan should we...." she stopped as he looked back at her, no less tormented it appeared than he had been a couple of minutes ago...."ridhima...." was all he could whisper asking all his questions without a word....she let out a sigh....n took the keys from his hand....then linking her arm with his she walked them both to the car, him to the passenger seat....n then walked to the other side, n started the car.....he gripped his head in his hands....then feeling her touch his shoulder he looked up first at her n then straight ahead...."what did u think u were doing ridhima???u have any idea what i ..." he paused running his hand through his hair n looking away...n she said "i do....but before i explain anything i need to know some facts armaan....there is something we need to...."

she was interrupted as armaan's cell started ringing on the dashboard, armaan ignored it so ridhima picked it up n saw 'sandra' flashing, swallowing her immediate urge to curse out loud at the name she extended it for him to answer....he cut the call without a glance...."armaan it was..." ..."i dont care" he cut her off roughly, then taking a deep breath he said in a softer voice "u were saying something...." looking up at her again....she nodded, feeling a sudden wave of relief, true he didnt know who's call it was that he cut, but....that was the point he didnt care for anything more than what she had to say....he could never have....she stopped her chain of thoughts from drifting to the inevitable again...

"i wanted to say that there is something i need to ask u....its....not quite...." the ring of armaan's cell interrupted again, but he cut it off in a single ring without looking, neither could she this time....well how hard is it to guess who that is she thought with a feeling of disgust....but as she found armaan staring at her, she realized he was waiting for her to continue...."armaan i wanted to ask about today morning...." as the cell rung a third time ridhima couldnt check herself from letting out an impatient sigh, cursing mentally....but that wasnt half as bad as armaan's reaction she realized the moment she heard him yell into the phone....

"WHAT WILL IT TAKE ME TO EXPLAIN TO U UM BUSY N CANT TAKE THE CALL????" as she looked at him taken back by an outburst so unlike him....but his next words n tone completely shocked her..."um...i apologize i didnt realize it was.....no its just....yeh....8PM i remember of course how can i forget" he voice became normal with each passing word, at the end of the last word he even gave a weak laugh...."actually um with her right now n...." was it her or did he sound....nervous n ...guilty????like he was hiding something????..."yeh exactly....might get late....an unannounced issue came up..." ISSUE???thats how he described the situation????an issue???n who was that...sandra to ask him where n who he was with???n even if she did, why was he explaining all that to her????ridhima thought she would burst trying to control her surge of emotions, anger, frustration, desperation...n jealousy???no why should i be jealous, armaan loves me n....n what was this call all about then???what about the letter, the pics, the.....no ridhima...no...let him explain...."8:30PM????great....see u then....yes, i...really appreciate...." he finished flipping the cell shut....

and as he saw her look, he averted his gaze scratching his head n started "ummm that was...." ..."sandra???" he looked up at her shocked at the tone, n also at the name she suggested....sandra???now why did she think it would be...."so what was so important that she called thrid time in a row???" he narrowed his eyes trying to understand what n why she was saying stuff....then with a start he realized....it must have been sandra when i first cut the call, n so shes thinking its her again....perfect...."yeh it was her" he said, trying to sound normal....it was hard to lie to her...."she uh....wanted to...yeh...uh she wanted to remind us for the evening party.....it was...at 8PM...but i tiold her we wil be late...."

he didnt know what all he was just making up at the brink of the moment....but he was glad he wasnt blank....she was still unaware about his surprise, n now she was back to being normal.....at least she seemed so...angry n frowning...yeh that was certainly normal for her...wait....was that why she left unannounced????he frowned in thought.....was she angry with him about something????well i will make up, whatever she is angry about.....she will love the surprise....oh man, its so hard to not tell her everything...should i just tell her now, forget the party n all....but the ring....8:30pm...armaan...dude just another 45minutes, n all is in place....

"is that all she said???" he looked up at her again....why did she sound like she was interrogating him...dam...i bet she can read through me....she can probably see um lying....trying to sound more cnvincing he said casually "yeh...of course...what else would she talk about???" ridhima looked at him in silence a couple of moments before looking at the road ahead again....after a few silent moments of wanting to yell at him n tell him to stop pretending n lying to her, she managed in a more civil voice "about the morning of course...." she saw him shoot her a look with raised eyebrows from the corner of her eyes "you met her in the morning???" he was getting bewildered by her questions, which seemed incoherent n irrelevant to the topic...."yeh what about it???sweetheart...can we get back to what u were saying before the call???"

he asked, cautiously....then in a more confident yet stern voice he continued "cause after that u have to answer my part of the questions....if this was a crazy idea to rebel and....." he just sighed not wanting to put in words n go over what he had gone through....relax armaan....shes with u...next to u...n normal of course, more than u are anyways, shes the one in control while u broke down there on the road, n now shes driving instead of u n ....hang on "RIDHIMA????" she stared at his voice....now what????she was supposed to be angry n mad at him...no much more than all that...why was he yelling.....

"stop the car....right now...." she stopped the car at the nearest point where she could let it stay without blocking the traffic or inviting trouble from the cops...n glared at him....n yet curious "what???" she asked....."ur driving????when will u listen to me???actually....how the hell do i even expect u to....i mean driving with that hand is nothing compared to disappearing for an hour n a half without a word, i mean why should it matter to me to know where u go n what u do n when n....."armaan..." he faced her as she looked at him with a serious intense look....something is not right but what he thought.....

"is there something u want to tell me???" as he gave her a questioning look, she sighed n explained "u met up with sandra in the morning....n now she called for the party reminder....is that all????u sure there is nothing else u want to tell me???" armaan forgot his side of questions momentarily thinking of what to say.....could she know about the surprise????but how could she???then what does she want to know about me meeting sandra...it was just the invite....n that i told sandy about proposing her....it obviously isnt the invite...did she guess somehow or.....

"ridzy???why are u asking me all this honey???i mean....it sounds like ur...." ridhima interrupted in an intended tone "my question first armaan..is there something else....something i dont know, but should???" armaan looked into her eyes for several long moments....she sounded genuine about the question.....strange though it was, he couldnt overlook her eyes as they looked back into his expecting him to answer with no make up excuses....he took in a deep breath looking down for a bit, then looking back at her he said "yes there is....." then holding her face in his hands gently he kissed her forehead n resumed "but can i reveal it at the right moment???i will tell u....the complete facts....can u give me time....until sandra's party????"

as she felt his intense gaze boring down into her....she nodded slightly not quite conscious of what she was doing, but she never could say no to him, least of all when he asked in such a sheer earnest way.....he smiled at her deeply n she could see the curves of his face ease into the dimples....he stared at her few more seconds then pulled her into a liplock.....she kissed him back her defenses useless, not knowing if she shouldnt....but why not....letting her go finally, he whispered "thanks....i promise u wont regret it....." she felt weak under his influence as always....but that did not stop the raging emotions within....

there was relief at his honest acceptance....there was a bitter stab of pain at the realization that the accusation had indeed been true....she knew it was something she would take a lot of time to overcome, n perhaps never forget.....but there was grim determination to accept him as she had decided, humans made mistakes, n he had confessed his, well almost....she was relieved that they shared a bond where such confessions were possible although she hoped n prayed desperately to have to face no more of such instances....he said she wouldnt regret giving him a chance, she knew she wouldnt....there was disgust at sandra's act, and the fact that she would have to face that unethical woman knowing facts....but she would....in fact not only will i face her, but i will show her my love n faith will overcome any trouble she plans for us....she took advantage of things once, but never again....for once n for all i need to end this....

she was ripped out of her thoughts as she felt herself lifted off the seat..."armaaaan??" she looked at him n then at people around embarrased yet a helpless smile breaking on her lips inevitably...." what are u doing???" she asked n he gave her a stern look n taking her to the other side of the car put her back on her feet "get in now....i am completely capable of driving back home...." and with that he went back to the drivers seat, n looked at her, before starting the car he said "ridzy....u still havent told me....."

she interrupted "about the last 2 hours....lets say um learning my lessons in life....n some just come the hard way....but i promise to never desert u like that again.....armaan it was just....u know what....i too will explain it all at the right moment....only, i dont know exactly when that right moment will come.....but....um sorry....i know u must have been totally wrecked n.....can we leave it for now????" he looked at her as she spoke each word....

yet again he remembered shashank had said about ridhima not talking her real troubles.....he sighed.....n thought to himself, it might take me sometime sweetheart but i will take this relationship to the level pa wanted....n u will ever after that talk out to me, every single worry in ur mind....but i guess u need time....."il wait....." he said aloud n gave her a small smile.....then turning on the ignition, taking her left injured hand which was on his side he looked at the dressing covering her ring finger....

she wondered what he was examining so seriously and as he frowned she asked "something wrong????" he placed it to his lips easing his frown n kissing it he said "nothing...." then letting go leaving her puzzled he added "remind me to re do that dressing when we get back home....." she looked at him weirdly, shaking her head....i will never understand when n what he starts thinking out of no where......then as she looked at him again she found him smiling to himself.....as always it was infectious n she found herself smiling too....linking her arm with his she rest her head on his shoulder n whispered "love u armaan...."...he kissed her hair n said "love u too princess, dont leave like that ever again, whatever the reason....." she nodded closing her eyes, inhaling the scent of his presence so close.......her hold on his arm tightening possessively as he pulled her closer to him....

************

he glanced for the nth time at her grim set face.....she smiled when he talked to her, responded normally....but he knew she was far from being normal at the moment...she had not even asked him where he was going when he told her to be ready n he would be back in 20minutes....he had to collect the ring n had racked his brain thinking of what to tell her but she never asked him....now she sat beside him in the car....

looking mesmerizing in her red n black evening gown, off shoulder, going down to cover her legs a bit below the knees, n black stylish heels....light delicate accessories, n hardly any make up except the kohl in her eyes...n light lip color, merging with her skin......everything was perfect....n yet.....he knew what was missing...her real chirpy smile...something was weighing on her mind heavily, n he desperately wanted to know what...it had everything to do with her sudden disappearance he was sure.....if only he had atleast a clue.....

ridhima glanced at him as he faced the road ahead driving in silence....is he feeling guilty n thinking about how he will finally confess his....weak moment bwith sandra????should i just tell him i know???but that might hit him worse.....oh man....armaan i dont want to make this hard for u....i mean....when iv decided to give my best shot n forget it all why should i want u to be pondering over it so deeply.....but i bet that two faced woman is not going to make it easy for u to forget.....

u know what honey....il be there with u....n we will face this together....oh god, if only i could strangle her to death......facing her tonight of all mights is going to be so.....she closed her eyes momentarily n sandra's image flashed into her mind....could anyone looking into those deep blue eyes figure what was cooking behind them in that plotting head of hers....she is such a.....wait a minute....blue eyes.....sandra has blue eyes????of course she does, thats perhaps the first thing anyone would notice about her.....deep blue eyes....for some strange reason her eyes flashing in her mind made ridzi uncomfortable.....something was trying to click in her mind but what......

"sweetheart???" she looked up at him hearing him speak..."huh???" she said snapping out of her thoughts...."are we there??" he shook his head n said "no but we are close...i was just...uh..."....as he fumbled with words she felt bad for him....that woman had caused him so much guilt...but she wouldnt let this work.....she decided to give a different shot "armaan....if i made a big mistake....like really grave....would u forgive me????" she asked simply, not knowing what had caused her to ask it.....

he too stared at her curiously.....something really serious was unknown to him....first she just left the house....n ever since she got back shes been talking in riddles....did she mess up something????i dont care....um always there no matter what....n its time i make u elieve that......aloud he said "ridhima....there is no mistake in the world big enough for me to not forgive u for......but would u tell me if i asked why this question????" she looked at him....he had meant every word he said....bending towards him she lightly kissed his lips, for a second sandra's face flashed in her head...had she too kissed him like....she pulled back looking away.....

feeling him grip her arm, she turned to face him, slight tears in her eyes and he slowed the car down to a side again.....holding her face in his hands he pulled her closer n said...."ridhima....i love u....." pausing he took a deep breath n let go of her, turning to face her completely...."will u ....." he lowered his eyes a bit....then looked back at her with a deep set smile sure of what he wanted to do....."will you marry me??????" her initial surprise, gave way to complete bafflement as she saw a ring case extended towards her, a beautiful shining solitaire sparkling bright...awaiting acceptance.....

**************


~Part 39~

Ridhima looked at the ring for moments
totally dazed....OMG, was her first thought, this time i made him even propose with that same solitaire???...ridzy, u lovestruck idiot, STOP DREAMING....after quite an effort, still reluctant to avert her gaze from the shining stone, she made herself look up bracing herself mentally to let go of her deeply desired illusion....but she found herself staring into his expectant eyes...WHAT???no way.....could this be...REALLY REAL??? her surprise was now evident as his question showed signs of beginning to register .....

he had waited long, n had prepared for it to be much more grand than this....but he just couldnt see, what would be a more right moment...perhaps an appropriate ambiance was missing....but she needed this assurance...n now...n even if she could wait, he couldnt any more....anyways, he thought, no moment with her n me together can be wrong....this is it....He looked at her in anticipation of her reaction, even though she had given him the answer the same afternoon...
his look was steady- raised eyebrows, lips parted slightly in a smile but the anxiety hard to miss in his wide crystal like hazel eyes, holding his breath....

the gnawing worries which had seemingly plagued her mind just couple of minutes ago deserted her in these moments completely, there was no place for anything else, her mind if ever capable of multitasking wasnt quite going to manage that for now....if she pushed herself to think his words were merely wishful dreaming, his look had rendered that doubt baseless....an overwhelming surge of emotions, a disarray of thoughts, n complete frenzie over what was real n what not, was a combination of a lot more than she could have prided herself of handling....

she had prepared for these simple words coming from him, almost rehearsed her response, but now they had such tremendous effect she forgot it all....perhaps not the words themselves for they were not anything she wouldnt have expected, but his sudden move at saying them now.... n this time....he definitely wasnt mocking....
will u marry me??? he actually did propose??? now???when i resigned myself to assuming i was expecting too much too early???? "armaan...." she barely managed to whisper the word, still fearing his next words might burst her dream bubble....

he let out his withheld breath, and his face muscles started to relax, though not hearing her speak, for she still had not uttered the 'YES' he was awaiting, but by her dazed look reflected in her innocent soft features.....close to his expectation of her reaction....as she continued staring at him, he felt like she was waiting for him to answer the only word she uttered.....he smiled in deep meaning at her, as he put his hand out to caress her cheek she shivered ever so slightly at his touch....n he saw her look down at the ring again....


oh god, that touch was real....the ring hasnt disappeared, she looked back at him, n he is asking me to marry him???....
THIS IS ALL TRUE N HAPPENING???....without much realization of her actions she impulsively flung her arms around him into a sudden hug, n would have knocked him off his seat had the door behind him not supported cause he was caught totally unaware....."ARMAAN???r u really....i mean....um not dreaming again???u did ask me what i heard right now????or did u not n......"

....armaan broke out in to a heartfelt laughter caused not just by her incessant rattling but by the sense of content relief at finally getting the answer, exactly what he wanted n much more....hugging her back he spoke over her tirade of questions "ssshhhh....sweetheart???will u leme answer???omg....ur such a kid...."
finally managing to pull her apart n looking at her, his smile wide n dimpled, he said cupping her face "n i love u for being so....yes honey it is real....i work out all my nerves to ask u for ur hand....so i can hold it in mine n make my life long vows....n u think u dreaming???" he paused looking into her eyes in a cheeky way, yet with eyes deep n shining in sheer happiness....

then with an after thought he continued "wait...did u say u dreamt of this???.....wow ridzy, n here i was thinking um the one desperate to marry....n of all the ways in the world..." he paused then slipping the ring into the intended finger he said softening his tone, his voice sensuous n deep...."is this how my fair lady will grace me with a yes????...." he stopped as she looked back at him, slower at registering n absorbing all that was happening, than the pace he at which he called shots....

a yes of course, what else could he expect from me.....
she thought turning red in her face not just blushing but radiant with joy....oh god, this is like a dream come true....like literally...n she lowered her eyes now.....the morning dream.....how true could it.......she paused her racing thoughts n heartbeats as he, noticing her latest expression of enveloping conscious shyness,continued, now in a teasing voice "finally someone remembers that ladies are meant to ACT all hustled n coy n hesitant when proposed, not jump out of joy even if thats the obvious reaction for any girl id propose!!!"

grinning, as he lifted her face n bent forward to give her a kiss to seal their perfect moment, he felt her pull back, now he frowned n was surprised to see her shoot him an instant questioning frown....her sudden change puzzled him.....wait now....what???.....he thought, not quite sure.....is she teasing me back????.....n said softly "i was just joking princess....i adore ur innocent display of emotions, n i never want u to camouflage them under what anybody else may perceive as suitable...." n he cupped her face gently looking deeply into her eyes....her next question however was quite unlike any he would have expected..."which other girl WOULD u have rather proposed armaan???"

it wasnt just the question, he would have taken the joke if only her tone had implied one, but hard as he tried, replaying the question in his head, the words seemed as honest n spontaneous as her hug had been moments ago...."why would i propose another girl ever ridhima???" he managed at long last in a hoarse whisper uncertain of what to expect....she broke her look momentarily n then looked back at him after a couple of seconds to herself n said almost warily "armaan...please honey, its....its ok...i mean i understand....no actually i dont quite yet but....i mean um ready to....." as she paused armaan said really confused n definitely not comfortable with her words

"ridzy....sweetheart i was just kidding...i mean seriously....u cant even begin to imagine my ecstasy for this moment, it was so hard just containing myself with all this, n i just couldnt wait to...propose....n to see u just as happy about it all...its just..." he paused seeing she still wasnt back to her smiling....sighing, he held her hands in his n kissed them lightly, then pulling her closer in he whispered "u r happy arent u???" in complete earnest n ridhima just wanted to forget all that was weighing on her mind again, let him take charge n relax in his embrace....fighting that urge she said solemnly again

"are u doing this just for my happiness???" armaan now panicked inside, what kind of questions are these????he answered immediately "yeh of course...i mean no...not just urs....it for us....dont u..."he paused his next words coming hard but he had to know...."dont u want it sweetheart..." he whispered very softly, holding her face under her chin from her neck his hands in her hair, as he brought her closer still...."of course i do armaan...." he relaxed a bit since her words were instantaneous n candid...."but" she continued n he frowned again..."not....not this way....i mean...not just....to make up to me....i mean i dont want this moment to be a consequence of any guilt for weak moments or uncontrolled...feelings n....u know what um saying right???" she asked cautiously, not wanting to hurt him or burden him with guilt yet telling him that she, like he said, would forgive him anything for what he meant to her was beyond all that....

but that, like that informer had said, she didnt want him to have to commit in a sense of compulsion....armaan at that moment lowered his eyes for seconds.....she thinks um doing it cause of yesterday nights guilt???i mean....yeh that was instrumental in making this happen....but, its been coming to me anyways....i dont know how to wait any longer....but does she....i thought last night it wasnt just me who wanted to take that new step in our relation, it felt like she had granted her consent too...but could i have....read her wrong???..."ridhima do u....i mean....do u need more time???i just....i know u were not prepared n this was sudden, but i dont want u or me to ever feel remorse for our beautiful relationship n emotions..n after all that happened, i thought a lot n it seemed like the right thing n time....but i...i totally understand if u....i mean if u....this isnt like an imposed thing....ok???" he posed the big question precariously, knowing he would abide by her decision, but if only she...follows her heart....why do i feel like it wants the same as mine????

she looked into his eyes n found he couldnt have meant it anymore....her heart had missed beats when he said he thought this was the right thing after what happened....no remorse....she had said the words before about him not having to take a step in guilt but deep down she knew she was hoping desperately he would still refute it all n say he was doing it, only cause he felt the need for it like she did.....here he was now being downright honest....confessing it all as she had wanted....n leaving the decision in her hands....

she thought a few more moments then making up her mind she asked the last question before sorting it all out taking a deep breath "armaan....is this what u wanted to tell me at ....sandra's party?????i mean the something u said u would tell me in its good time???" armaan nodded after a few moments of just staring at her in rapt attention, unsure of her words n tone n not quite able to nail down the reasons causing it all explicitly.....it was like he knew random bits of the whole thought process n that too was mostly his analysis, not admitted by her.....she closed her eyes....not wanting to fall weak, for the decision, though hers after thought n the only one she wanted to take, was not coming to her easy....regaining her remaining nerves she said opening her eyes again "armaan i....much as i would want this to be it...i..." she gently made to remove the ring from her hand lowering her gaze on the pretext for it was becoming impossible to this looking into his soulful eyes, saying "i do need sometime because...."

....."ssshhhh...." he silenced her holding her hand to prevent her from removing the solitaire....he let out a deep breath looking away, fighting his tears threatening a second time that evening, n his surge of emotions at the way all this had gone, if only.....he looked back at her again solemnly, n kissed her forehead, venting out his passion n emotion letting his lips linger on for several moments....then letting go,
he looked into her eyes yet again n with a small smile n pulling her closer he said "keep that....its yours....u need time....but..." taking a deep breath he tried to look happier n said in a more cheerful voice "u do plan to say nothing other than a yes....right???"

his effort at humor was
as fake to her as to him n she knew he was as serious about his question as he could ever be....she couldnt hold back anymore....n pulling him into a hard hug she she nodded vigorously, then realizing he couldnt see she let him go n looking at him with moist eyes she said "it can never be anything else armaan...." n she pulled him into a kiss, full of desperation, it was impossibly hard to have taken the moment of her life this direction....he kissed her back with equal ardor his hands finding her bare delicate neck n caressing her soft skin....why dont u just say yes baby he wanted to scream, but he couldnt say that...he didnt want it to be a forced one sided decision when it involved the two of them not just him....

so
he let his kiss do the talking.... pulling her in deeper, not letting go even when he felt the breathlessness taking over....please sweetheart....why are u doing this....why are u expecting this from me its...going to kill me now...this wait....please just....say yes....n he could feel the heat in the passion was rising to almost violent levels, but somehow, as the night before, he felt it wasnt just him....last night....he finally let go...slowly n reluctantly....but when he saw her eyes, they were like mirrors to his own....he just couldnt be reading her so wrong could he???then why was she....asking for time????

he looked away breaking the look, it was driving him into an insane torment of contradicting thoughts n he held his head in his hands gripping it with intense force....moments later he looked up feeling her touch on his shoulder, n without facing her he whispered in a crestfallen miserable voice "um sorry ridhima....i didnt want this to turn out...the way it did...i just...duno why i thought it was the right moment....n to think...i was actually going to confess at the party n then it would have been so.....reg was right....i should have talked to u about it all.....anyways....." he turned on the ignition without having looked at her yet, "um glad to have not...had a unintended scene there...." with that he steered the car back onto the road.....pushing all thoughts out of his mind n facing the road in intense concentration as if he was driving for the first time.....

ridhima felt completely broken.....if i am doing the right thing, why does it feel so wrong.....couldnt i just say yes, but...he is just having to do this to make up, he admitted....n...wait...reg knew about it too????why didnt he...well he told armaan to talk to me....which is perhaps the only right way....how i wish....god can i just say i dont care about anything n love him no matter what n am ready to accept his proposal....all of that is true isnt it????no i want it to come from his heart as it does from mine n not a consequence of any remorse....guess um incredibly hopeless at reading him, for he seemed as earnest about it as me, until he said it was the right thing after all that happened....i almost thought he was.....she looked at her ring....n let out a bitter smirk....what irony.....n then looked out of her window, anything to not face him right then....it was hard enough to have to control her emotions sitting next to him so close....

as he pulled the car into the driveway he saw her glance at the vanity mirror on her sunshade flap to check if she looked fine.....he smiled despite himself, grim though the smile was....he knew she wasnt the one to be stuck to mirrors, she was only looking for any tell tale signs of what had transpired between them minutes ago......he spoke at last "ur fine....dont worry....." she looked at him startled, then realizing he knew what she was doing she blushed slightly n gave him a small smile.......

then frowning slightly she bent forward n said "but ur not..." n he felt her thumb rub against his lower lip making him stare at her...."lipgloss" she explained a bit flustered, then giving a weak grin she added "glitters on lips....not quite the boys thing u know....." and he broke into an inevitable grin himself, shaking his head at her.....then getting out of the car he went to her side n offered her his arm opening the door....as they moved closer to the main door, sensing she was still not quite normal, just like him.....
he whispered "think i forgot to say...u look gorgeous.....but i miss the smile...." she looked at him n he looked back with an intended look, n her lips curled into a gradual smile....he gave her a light peck on her cheeks n finished "love u..."....

*************

she looked around with the fake plastered smile her facial muscles begining to ache with the effort of maintaining it....barely half an hour had passed since they made appearance into the party....n the strain was getting unbearable....if that woman thought she would make life miserable for armaan n her, she would have tough resistance without doubt....sandra, as expected, had been unnervingly warm to them, especially armaan...n in a polite cheerful yet indicative way which was hard to miss, had asked ridhima's 'permission' to take him around n introduce him to some people who had been anxiously awaiting his arrival....armaan hoped ridhima would make some excuse since he couldnt think of a way to turn this down, but she nodded with a slight smile.....not wanting him to think she was trying to change things in his life for his one mistake....if she had given him the chance she would give it with complete trust no matter what....

all that time however, she couldnt help but stare helplessly, as sandra locked her arm with armaan's n took him around....she was repulsed to the innermost nerves, n she was certain she could see discomfort written all over armaan's face....but that was not unexpected....he regretted his mistake...n the proposal had not quite helped him get out of it either....had she, by saying no, made him think she did not forgive him???she sighed...her mind was a turmoil n she was getting suffocated in the sophisticated airs of the people around her....well it was more of a socialite gossip place ridhima thought, with a fancy facade of elegance n stature....she looked at her watch for the nth time....if only at least reg n muski would come, it would be so much better....

she had been touched by how warmly the team mates had treated her, not leaving her alone too long, realizing they were the only ones she knew...but for then she wished to be alone....at least not with people who thought her smile was real....she knew they were trying to make her feel a part of the place....but that was the whole point....this wasnt where she belonged....it wasnt about the societal n stature difference alone....it was about how unreal people were being, how fake each word they spoke was.....is this like armaan's real world??? she wondered....how will i ever manage to fit into it.....

"lets go ridhima...." she turned around hearing his voice....his expression was an exhausted n frustrated one...."leave???....like right now????" realizing how her voice betrayed her relief at his words she immediately covered up..."i mean....armaan...shouldnt u...." he interrupted...."yeh i should stay....complete all obligations....look normal n happy....greet everyone as suitably should be done....but i cant....um tired ridhima....." his last words were an extremely hoarse whisper,
his voice pleading her to understand without explaination....which wrenched her heart as she knew she was somewhere partly responsible for his state...."dont ask how i finally found an escape excuse n now i just want to get out of here....please???" she felt the same herself....but as she was going to answer they heard the chirpy voice interrupt again,

"there u are AB...." armaan shut his eyes gritting his teeth before turning around with a forced smile....and ridhima turned around with him....
she found herself dreading that this voice would from now haunt even her dreams she was so vexed with it...while sandra continued "there is a certain someone special who has been waiting to meet u all day....he got caught up with some unexpected hassle n therefore got delayed....but he is here now....n asking for u" ...armaan spoke, trying hard to keep the agitation out of his voice "who is it sandy???another business delegate???i have my hands full when i go back home, i dont want america turning into another london for me...." sandra smiled holding onto his arm, n ridhima clenched her fists still keeping the calm look on....

n she said "oh apparently he wants to surprise u, n demanded i keep his name to myself till u meet him, n no sweetie he isnt quite the typical business delegate...why dont u come along...."
as she fluttered her eyes at him coyly, ridhima found it hard to maintain constrain....those deceptive blue eyes again....um just gona strangle this woman.....she caught armaan's fleeting reaction, n even from the corner of her eye she knew he would not be able to face this much longer....she answered before he could...."thanks sandra, its so kind of you to let us know...." turning to armaan she said "lets go darling, i wana meet this someone special too..." and squeezing his hand she smiled at him warmly reassuring him to follow her lead.....and she felt armaan relax almost instantly as he interlocked his fingers with hers.....smiling back at her n nodding he said "perfect....where is he sandy???"

sandra swallowed her anger at her attempt being foiled n smiling outwardly at both of them she said...."come right along...." they had walked only a few feet when ridhima's cell rang....she saw the caller id a bit puzzled....'private number'....again???she thought...could it be....now what....she cut the call....but it did not go unnoticed by armaan "who was it ridzy" he asked just as an obvious curious question, but before she could answer the cell rang again, same call, ridhima frowned at it but as she was going to cut the call a second time she saw sandra looking at her curiously.....ridhima impulsively clicked the answer key, n letting go of armaan's hand she looked at him with requesting eyes n indicated she would be back in a bit.....armaan's gaze followed her disappearing
back for moments until sandra quipped cheerfully "AB, shall we???" and he looked back at her, resigning with a shrug he indicated her to lead....

"hello???HELLO???why dont u speak up???" ridhima flipped close her cell with obvious irritation, from cutting the third blank call....she glared at it waiting for it to ring again but it did not....finally she looked back up n around trying to find where armaan was so she could join him before that woman made any more moves.....she scanned the room end to end .....and then as she was giving
a cursory glance to each passing face, she stopped short.....n turned her eyes back to a group of four she had just seen....there he was....red shirt n black suit....as she made her way towards him hastily, easing her face into the same fake smile....the sight caused her to slow down....

armaan stood with his back, laughing heartily....n so did an elderly appearing man....who somehow seemed familiar....but that wasnt what made her gasp the very next second.....she narrowed her eyes as she saw the man, around who's neck sandra slid her arm laughing her usual fluttery way.....OMG....she thought....and she closed in a few more feet between her n the group, their words now audible....as sandra said "exactly sir....thats what i keep trying to knock into Ben's head....but u know how brothers can be???the one person he pays no heed to is me...." BROTHER???....
n she stood rooted to the spot, unable to move on as she heard the voice of the source of her focus....if she could have even remotely doubted her recognition of those deep blue pair of eyes, which, as before looked too blue to be real, the voice confimred it....

only this time it didnt sound plain earnest n true, but also eerie in a marked way perhaps cause of the words he spoke...."o c'mon sandy....i dont pay heed to u???then no one does, is there ever a thing i havent fixed for u , as u have wished for it to be done????" n ridhima felt a piece fall in place....familiar he was indeed, she thought
as her eyes darted from one pair of blue eyes to the next....she concentrated again hearing armaan speak up next..."thats true sandy i agree with ben..i mean ur just a couple of minutes elder than him, n he is the one who trully plays the role of being a twin sibling...." ...TWINS???no wonder i thought....the resemblance was striking....

she had heard enough....as she walked up towards armaan with a warm n confident smile, she had no idea of why she suddenly felt at peace n in control....she did not know what was going to happen next, but her intuition seemed to assure that certain issues were going to be resolved out here soon.....they all turned around as she spoke in her lovely soft voice "armaan???" she saw his smile widen causing the dimples to flash as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder bringing her into the group n said facing the old man..."alright now....this is....." he was interrupted "ms. gupta....so we meet again....."

ridhima could have jumped for joy, she did not quite know why though, seeing the man who had been her god sent angel n she spoke the happiness in her voice magnified, her face glowing suddenly "Mr. Dumus....what a pleasant surprise....i..." she too was cut off as sandra interrupted the happy reunion which wasnt quite appealing to her "its SIR Dumus ridhima..." she said, with an edge to her cheerful voice which did not escape her target but before ridhima could reply the gentleman did "actually...i think Arthur would be best, befitting our encounter from this afternoon...if u would please,
ms.gupta..." ridhima smiled deeply, not just touched by arthur's gesture, but by her victory over sandra....trivial though it was, it seemed to her at that moment that the turning of tables had only just begun.....

aloud she asked  "UNCLE Arthur..????" stressing the first word as a question, as he nodded in approval, she continued smiling..."its ridz for those who are special to me....." ...before she could speak another word, armaan came out of his pleasant daze, n said, in an excited voice "wait on....how do u both...." he left it at that, the question obvious, and arthur explained "i met her this afternoon, when my car broke down....she was tremendous help..." ridhima smiled at him graciously, realizing he had skipped the latter part of their meeting.....as arthur continued "but u tell me my boy...is she the girl your father hasnt stopped boasting about ever since he got back from India????" armaan grinned nodding while ridhima blushed slightly at the outright compliment....armaan now said "yes sir, she is...." tightening his grip around ridhima, nad kissing her hair slightly he continued "ridhima gupta....my gi...."....."ARMAAN'S FIANCE...." ridhima said simply, cutting him off, with complete emphasis on both word's....as the 3 heads other than arthur turned to look at her in complete shock....for different reasons of course.....ridhima smiled radiantly, winking at armaan ever so slightly.....

**************

~Part 40~

ridhima knew she would never forget all her life the look on armaan's face at that moment....it was an image captured to be stored forever by her heart....even in his struck look, the feeling that was rising within him was surfacing into expression....as he stared at her without blinking unable to absorb her sudden move, she almost found herself cursing even through her smile, her previous words in the car....

she had flashes of his reaction when she hugged him, n then how she drained each bit of that momentary jubilance from him with her following words....i know i never wanted to turn him down she thought, but i didnt want to be an imposed obligation.....but look at him now ridzy....if u really were all but a consequence forced by his self remorse would he reflect this wordless ecstatic emotion so flawlessly???

n she knew as she saw his lips worded her name soundlessly, with a hint of smile,
the love in his eyes boring down into her, that she had finally made the right decision, n needed no approval for it, she felt like a burden had been lifted off her suddenly, her heart warming smile now came easily, n reaffirmed her stance.....to both him n her.....

he had jerked his head to look into her eyes as an inevitable reflex to her words....ARMAAN'S FIANCE.....the words were echoing in his head, he did not dare blink, just in case this was a figment of his imagination he would rather he lived in the illusion forever....but...wait a minute, he thought
...she just winked at me??? will someone explain whats happening here???? or is it just me losing it.....she...she said that??? did she....i mean, could she have....meant it the way it.....OMG...what the.....SHE SAID SHES MY FIANCE??? but when did she decide n.....i mean...is that all the time she needed???

hang on, shes teasing me right???or was it her teasing me in the car???oh god this girl gonna make me a total nutter....but...no she looks serious about it....n this is hardly her style or place to try her hand at such caustic humor....no she means it....then why didnt she say it minutes ago when it was just her n me n....oh c'mon armaan....SHE JUST SAID THE YES YOU CRAVED FOR LIKE CRAZY....what else do u care about....but...she really does...????

he tightened his grip around her again much more than before, waiting anxiously for her to shrug it off if any of this wasnt intended the way he thought it was, but as she let it stay n smiled back deeper, he wanted to scream with joy....it was impossible to contain the eruption of emotions, n there was no way to vent it out....the feeling was sinking in fast now, spreading a warm gushing sensation to each one of his nerves, as one would experience with sudden extreme consumption of liquor....if only it had been just the two of them....RIDHIMA SWEETHEART....OH GOD U DONT KNOW WHAT U HAVE GIVEN ME PRINCESS....


n her name escaped his lips but there was no sound as he continued staring at her hoping for some move, though he didnt know exactly what more he hoped for her to do now.....these but few moments which seemed like stilled into eternity were brought back to the word of moving time when they were both pulled into a hug....n heard arthur speak in an affectionate voice..."god bless u both.....here i was, thinking of surprising u with the sudden visit, but u just returned it to me manifold...." then letting them go he said with a cheeky look specially to armaan "chris doesnt know this yet does he???....think il break the news to him during our next saturday golf round, the sudden announcement will guarantee my victory! AHA! perfect!!"

at any other time armaan would have added a couple of his own wisecracks to the comment but he wasnt quite aware of much around him except her....so ridhima spoke up to get a filler into the conversation n not make his reaction obviously rude, blushing slightly...."i would guess armaan told dad about this" she said looking at him
still smiling for the convenience of others in the group but getting embaresed now with his lack of reception to the surroundings...

n he jerked out of his daze as she stepped on his foot in a subtle way, unnoticed by the rest, to make him react..."aaaahhh" he said instantly his glazed lovestruck look replaced with a slight frown and as she gave a stern look with her eyes ever so slightly adding with her constantly maintained smile "didnt u honey???
" immediately he covered up "aaah i mean aaah yeh...i did tell dad...i was going to...uh propose...."

then he looked at arthur and said "but ur the first one who knows she accepted the ring...." in an undertone he muttered audible only to ridhima n himself "even before me...." she would have wanted to glare at his remark but he said it in such sheer innocent way linking his fingers into her right hand, that she couldnt help breaking into a bright wide smile again.....

"ahem ahem" as sandra cleared her throat, ridhima realized the other two present there must have been taken back as strongly as armaan, only for them it must have been an awful shock....she didnt know what exactly was wrong n where....but if this informer was sandra's twin, he could be no less trouble could he???following her instincts again she decided to play her next card, not knowing where any of this was headed....

but now she n armaan were in it together, like literally together, and he was the unaware team mate so she just had to handle it alone, for now atleast....she spoke up with a bright smile, matching the fake ones she had encountered all evening, her tone just as artificial..."oh how crass of me...i apologize....but i think i missed an introduction here...." saying so, on the pretext of her right hand linked with armaan's she extended her left contrary to the usual with a mock apologetic look, but ensuring the ring would not be missed...."hi, um ridhima...ridhima gupta...."

then as he took her hand uncertainly she added with a frilly laugh "its weird that i feel like we dont need an introduction...have we met before???" pausing she finished "anyways, nice to meet u" that was the prefect shot, she knew with the look he returned, shocked at first, then his eyes narrowed a bit, but he composed himself within seconds n conveyed his pleasantries in a tone matching hers

"the pleasure is all mine....Benjamin....Benjamin Courtez.....n to answer ur question, id love to claim iv known u from the past.... but alas! um certain i have been deprived of the pleasure of prior aquaintance with a lovely lady as urself, for i
ts hardly like me to forget a pretty face iv seen before...." as he bent slightly to kiss her hand in polite gesture she cringed with inward disgust, glad that it was half covered in bandage which she would change at the first chance now....

she would have pulled her hand away had she not been placed in a situation requiring self constrain....and he looked at her with his creepy blue eyes just before letting go, his look intended, n its intention obvious to ridhima now....armaan didnt know why but could sense some discomfort in
the tightening of ridhima's fingers interlocked with his own.....so he merely squeezed her hand in reassurance....

none of the unsaid words n speaking expressions escaped arthur, he knew all wasnt as right as it was being projected....he remembered the tormented state ridhima had been when he met her as a complete stranger that afternoon....when he saw her now with armaan for minutes he thought her problem had been solved, but instincts told him now not to go by that assumption....and so he said as if passing a witty remark. to try n judge the situation here

"now now ben....its hardly a gentleman's way to pass flirtations at a lady who's taken.....there are many pretty singles here...think we should find u a suitable match for the evening!" before anyone else the unusally quiet sandra defended her brother, miraculously her tone still betraying nothing except charm "Ben can just never pass a chance to compliment beautiful ladies sir dumus....um sure he meant nothing more....its just typical of him...." turning to armaan n ridhima she added "no offense right???" armaan smiled back nodding but ridhima just gave a small smile, before looking at arthur gratefully n was surprised to find him observing her already....

the looks and smiles were interrupted as they all turned hearing two familiar voices speak together "doesnt seem like we were missed much huh???" n the very next moment arthur found himself wrapped in a hug by one of the two new people who spoke in an excited voice "omg....uncle arthur....this has to be the best surprise i got today....." as he let go, arthur said grinning back at him "happy birthday reg!"

giving him a pat, then turning his attention to muskaan he added with a mischievous smile "there now.....my day to meet the wonderful ladies iv been hearing so much about.....but u have excuse me, um terrible with names...." she stepped forward to meet his extended hand uncertainly, not knowing what was expected of her, n who this man was, claiming to know her well yet not remember her name...."muskaan chadha...." she said aloud with a polite smile n arthur replied "Arthur William Dumus....pleased to meet u....um a close friend of chris....n have seen these boys grow up before my eyes like my own children...."

turning to rahul n armaan he added "if either of u ladies need to any data about their past records um the man u should come to....know them more than their own dads would...right boys???' they both broke out laughing and rahul explained "everytime we were denied stuff at home, or likely to be grounded for pranks, we knew uncle arthur was our only respite...hes been our partner in crime, much to the horror of our families!!!they were only too glad when we both were sent away from london but do they know u tracked us down here as well???" arthur broke out laughing as the four of them gleamed with happiness.....ridhima was the only one unable to miss the exchange of looks between the twins who were present yet momentarily forgotten....what's cooking in their heads now she thought....i have to get to the depth of facts here...n fix this issue once n for all.....

*************

"ummmm....this or this....." muttered ridhima undecided between the choices she faced....venesse coffee flavored ice cream cake n the truffle eclairs....the gloomy loss of apetite from an hour ago had been transformed completely....this was her special night n she was going to enjoy, no matter what or where.....the four of them with arthur had been engaged in long fun chats with sandy n ben making unwanted but insignificant appearances on and off....

rahul n muskaan had been thrilled to see the ring in place and after the rounds of hearty congratulations, one topic of discussion among the group had been of how n when to inform everyone back home, n also where the couple was going to treat after all was fixed....
until they got up to disperse for dinner....

realizing that armaan had wanted to talk to her alone desperately she decided to tease him a bit longer now, n on the pretext of using the ladies room pulled muskaan to join her....muski would have protested but catching ridhima's warning eye she shrugged apologetically at armaan and went with her....

ridhima giggled her eyes dancing with mischief, as she loved to to see armaan first warn her with a quick glare, then shoot her a helpless frown with pleading eyes as he struggled to keep a straight face n pay attention to the conversation at hand among the men....

"neither..." she smelt the engulfing cologne even before she heard his voice, as he whispered breathing down her bare neck.......n as she turned around to face him, he stuffed a strawberry tart into her mouth without giving her a second to react, n then grinned back at her with raised eyebrows, n a content smile of sweet vengence....as she covered her stuffed mouth lightly with her hand trying to gulp down the huge piece,

 as she rolled her eyes at him in disgust, he broke into a hearty laugh his head falling back n then looking back at her sweetly he winked, n hissed closing in towards her "crowning urself as the only smart prankster???think again princess, ur up against the master himself....." as she finally managed to finish the tart, she narrowed her eyes at him, n then showing she was affected by the juvenille prank, she turned back to the desert section tossing her hair hard across his face....

he smiled at the feel of the soft tresses, n the floral fragrance of the shampoo...but seeing her about to pick up an eclair he slid his arms around her waist n held back her hand....."no i dont think so..." he whispered into her hair close to her ears....n as she turned in his arms with a puzzled look more than a furious one he explained in a matter of fact tone, but the mischief in his eyes evident "sweetheart that yummy strawberry tart in enough calories for the day, no more deserts for u tonite....."

as she frowned "i dont want my FI-AN-CE turning into a fat pig...." she glared at him with daggers in her eyes at the way he authoritatively emphasized the word making his point obvious n he continued "i mean at least not before the wedding, people can severly misinterpret that u know, n uh...i mean...just dont want it to get awkward for u...." as she fumed in anger now as his tacky indicative joke on her, her face turned red n he chuckled and giving her a quick peck on her nose he went on

"i mean personally i dont care...i love u anyways....but if u really wana get out of shape, why dont we do it the right way.....i mean deserts ....are not half as fun u know....." and he winked at her horrified expression now, as she turned crimson not just in anger but also embarassed....."ARMAAAAN" she hissed at him, struggling to get free as he held her firmly with a mock innocent look of one hanging onto her  each word, his eyebrows raised
in rapt attention....

she looked at him a few moments n realizing he wouldnt let go she smiled at him instead....he was taken aback n narrowed his eyes in suspicion when she explained her smile looking beyond him n saying "what desert did u take uncle arthur...." he let go of her spontaneously turning around 180 degrees caught guilty....but the very next moment he realized what an obvious trick he had fallen for, she swiftly slid through his arms n winked at him as he turned to look back at her grinning n moving away into the crowd.....letting out a sigh he smiled deeply blushing and shaking his head heaven wards, then ran after her to catch up.....

finally managing to grab her wrist he turned her around full swing pinning her against the closest tree as their chase led them into the much darker lush lawns surrounding the mansion....."armaan" she gasped still out of breath from evading him....."i love u..." he whispered, breathless himself...."i love u so much honey...." then pausing as he finally was catching his breath back he continued in a more audible calm voice "thank u...." she looked into his eyes which shone in the dim moonlight, reaching them only partially through the cracks in the clusters of the trees leaves....before she could think of what to say he had pulled her into a liplock.....

n as he caressed her neck n back, infusing deeper passion into her than ever before, she felt his kiss was for once demanding rightful ownership....she kissed him back with the same ardor, wanting him to know she was all his forever.....as they broke apart after several long blissful moments he saw her eyes were still closed, her lips slightly trembling.....he moved back a little and holding up her hand with the shining ring he whispered the question he had been dying to ask....." why did u.....i mean.....um not complaining ...in fact....um delighted to an extent i cant express in words...but.....
um lost ridhima....i feel like um missing pieces here.....n i want to know now, whats on ur mind.....please....can this be your right moment to tell me everything???"

**************

~Part 41~

she stayed quiet for several long moments not even thinking much initially, but just caught by the intensity of his look as his eyes searched her face for her reply.....she knew this would come....she had to tell him she had known all along about him n sandra....why did she think those happy moments inside were going to spare her this awkward acknowledgement......more so for him than her....the issue was a closed chapter now as far as she was concerned, cause the moment she had claimed herself his fiance it had felt so right n it didnt matter why....but now he wants to talk of it again n allow the guilt back into his head, wasnt my public acceptance of his proposal, redemption enough????couldnt he just let it be???


he moved slightly back seeing the reluctance looming large in her eyes....relaxing his grip on her making it a gentle hold but not breaking his look he spoke again in a voice softer still, but well conveying his urgency n need "ridhima.....i know u asked for time n i said il wait....but its....its just eating me inside.....i mean its not just about this or tonight.....it was the night u cut your hand....it was few nights after that when u broke down....n it was today when u disappeared.....n its about now...the sudden public declaration.....i would only be too happy to believe if u said this was just ur way to surprise me with a yes as i had asked u to in the afternoon in the name of but a joke....n i could conveniently believe all the reasons u gave me for those unexplained times before....." he paused

...."but il be honest....we both know theres more to it....only, u know what that more is n um still waiting for u to tell me.....why dont u just let it out honey???i mean....
u know there is nothing to hide between us....when i wanted to read ur diary we agreed i could just ask u for what i wanted to know instead of sneaking ways to know it???ridhima....i have stuck to my word...there never was n never will be anything i keep from u n u should not have to keep facts from me either baby...dont u trust me to understand???" he paused for her to reply....ridhima was still quiet, but there was
a sudden change of expression as she frowned slightly.....

why was he going back to all that now???it doesnt quite need to be discussed especially now that he n sandra.....if he knew how hard sandra had tried to demean me, he would regret his one time stand with her even more.....she cursed the twins mentally....first they tried to get to my weakness by proving me not worthy of him....n well they would have succeeded had armaan not been with me n made me realize he loved me for being me the night i broke down.....then they tried the second way....she exploited his weak moment n her brother tried to prove armaan isnt worthy of me???

n much as id like to not believe a word of the accusations those crooks made, armaan admitted himself in the car tonight that he fell for the trap.....but the point is he did propose u ridzy....n he admitted the truth....he wouldnt do any of that if it was an intentional mistake....intentional....exactly...maybe he didnt even know....i mean....what if...WHAT IF SANDRA HAD ACTUALLY GIVEN HIM DRUGS OF SOME SORT???n then accused him of it n made him feel all guilty....shes capable of anything....ok why am i even thinking all this...i dont care anymore...he was always with me when i made impulsive mistakes....i will be with him.....in fact i am with him.....they will never mess with us again.....i wont let them.....i will tell him they set him up n i know that so he doesnt have to ever blame himself...who knows they might try to blackmail him next, since i managed to work my way out of their bait for me....

armaan meanwile tried to read her mind as her frown deepened, her expression seemed to be varying in degrees of the gravity of her thoughts....remembering her words from earlier that evening he spoke again "honey....look....even if its what u think might be the most unforgivable mistake u made....just tell me...." he opened his mouth to say more then shut it again undecided....  "i mean...."
but she interrupted this time jerked out of her thoughts with what he just said "mistake???ME???what did i do???" armaan didnt miss the sudden defensive edge to her voice....maybe he was talking this out in a wrong way....

he said "u asked me if i would forgive u for any mistake u ever made....in the car remember???n...." she interrupted him again "armaan???that was....cause of u....i mean....i just....u know it was like this struggle within i wanted to forgive u, n told myself i had done that, but somehow....i mean its just....the unseen images of what might have taken place between u n her....u know it was hard to fight my imagination from running wild....it..just wasnt easy....i know u regret it n never meant to....so now i want u to move on as i just did....cause u love me n would never let it happen again n i know that n trust u for it.....with sandra, or with anybody else in the world....right???"

armaan looked at her incredulously now.....forgive me???regret it???move on???what....wait a minute..."SANDRA???ridzy....sweetheart....why do u keep bringing her between us???....i mean we are discussing more important stuff here....why are u stuck about her ....
"  she was taken back by the slight irritation in his voice as he said the last part.....a bit agitated herself now she said "well thats what i wana do.....not be stuck about her armaan....thats what i did an hour ago by forgiving u n accepting ur proposal right???what else do u expect from me???" armaan moved back releasing her, struck by her words....then running his hands through his hair he shut his eyes shut momentarily, while she cursed herself for the unintended harshness in her last words....but what was he expecting from her???briniging up the topic, n yet not mention sandra????how did he think she could do that???

armaan said now in a clearly troubled voice "ridhima???what are u talking about???what did u forgive me for???no i mean...i know its about last night but i thought u would understand after i proposed that i am totally serious about our relationship n that last night though not how i had intended it to be, was definitely not just a mere temptation....i gave considerable thought after all that happened n it felt like the right thing to do was to ask u for our wedding....um sorry about getting carried away in that moment but....i just.....it felt like u almost wanted me to go on n....but i know i should have still held back n didnt.....n its not even like i believe i can trust myself to not lose it again....which is why i dint think i wanted to wait anymore but i also did not want to be presumptious on ur behalf, n so it seemed most appropriate to ask u if you were as ready to commit as i was....but when i asked u in the car i felt like....i mean i was asking u for ur answer i know, but i was expecting only a yes....when u said u needed time it was just like a bitter fact i had to reconcile with for the time being.....
n then within 30 mins u made up ur mind n announced it before all....i cant tell u what that moment felt like, perhpas the best in my life i can remember.....but....it isnt like u to be oscillating in two minds.....so i conclude there must be some reason which um missing on n...."

he had to stop as ridhima interrupted silencing him "armaan...." she whispered before he could continue further....she could no longer make sense of where n why this conversation was headed.....in a more audible voice she spoke on "u ask me to give u facts, though id rather we forget it all....n then u tell me to not mention sandra....n now why r u digressing from the topic to last night???how are the two things connected, none of this is making even remote sense.....i mean u r right...i did not want u to stop in the least....it felt like u read my innermost....desires....but then u just never mentioned it again all of today n i was almost upset thinking it didnt mean to u what it had meant to me...n that u were avoiding what had been for me the most beautiful moment between us expressing ur earnest confession of passion....but i put it off my mind somehow until i learnt about the events of the morning n realized they were what caused u to suddenly evade the topic....i was hit hard.....i would have actually fallen for ben's trap n had been ready to call a time out on our relationship had i not run into uncle arthur n...."

"WHAT????" armaan was close to yelling this time as he gripped her shoulders hard, pulling her towards himself forcefully
...."A TIME OUT ON OUR RELATIONSHIP????RIDHIMA WHAT THE HELL ARE U TALKING ABOUT???" seeing her terrified look he stopped, with a sharp intake of breath he said in a voice controlled with tremendous effort "what events from the morning .....ridhima....i think there is something really wrong here....will u explain in explicit terms what u mean by THE EVENTS OF THE MORNING WHICH MADE U EVEN CONSIDER CALLING QUITS.....BETWEEN US???" he said with heavy emphasis on the last words trying to vent out his shock over what she had said without his desperation taking control....how could she have even....dreamt of something like this....n....oh god....why is she even saying any of this....we are now formally engaged for heavens sake, he thought in frustration looking at her.....

as his fingers dug deeper into her skin with his effort to not lose control, his grip was beginning to hurt her, but that didnt hit her half as much as his words....he had never yelled at her in this way.....n now....of all the times for no fault of hers.....why was he back tracing his own words....she had forgiven him n now he was contradicting his own confession...or was she misunderstanding him???....she shut her eyes fighting back her threatening tears, from the physical n verbal pain he was inflicting upon her....i have to tell him i knew it all from scratch....n she spoke in a hoarse whisper, not opening her eyes..."i knew about sandra n u...before u actually told me urself, about how u both....."

she paused again n opening her eyes which reflected her pain as she spoke on her voice cracking "why are u making me word this armaan....isnt it hurting u as much as its hurting me???" even as she posed the question hoping for him to just pull her into his arms n say the topic was closed, she found him close to doing nothing like that.....his eyes were a like raging storms while his voice almost in contrast sounded broken n helpless...."hurting me???YES IT IS.....IT IS HURTING ME DAM IT.....TO THINK U COULD EVER HAVE THOUGHT OF ENDING WHAT IS BETWEEN US....n instead of telling me the reason ur talking in riddles n asking me to let u go without an explaination???"

ridhima looked at him dumbstruck by his most recent words.....I AM TALKING IN RIDDLES???n he is hurt....but um not supposed to react or be broken by his action???she said the anguish evident in her voice "armaan if it had been me who....who cheated, even if unintentionally....would u let me go??? perhaps u would but how can u expect me to think of it n take it in an easy stride as well....here i am ready to forget it all, cause i know it was sandras trap for u, n ben joined hands with her....n because um not willing to sacrifice u, n me....us together...to one mistake n create a crevice in our relationship.....n u say um hurting u???"

as armaan stood still rendered speechless by what he could infer from her words she resumed trying to explain with somewhat more control, but it was coming hard to her now...."it was the initial shock of seeing the picture ben emailed, n then reading his letter telling me stuff...all that made me impulsive, but would that not be an obvious instant reaction???didnt u react much the same way when u thought i was with aryan n i had cheated u???but after uncle arthur met me accidentally as a stranger i decided i wasnt going to believe any of it until i hear it from u, n u alone.....but u....confessed...n" she stopped knowing another word would break her down, shutting her eyes the strain was making her weak now....why are you doing this armaan....to me, to urself...to us...we are together now...is that not enough???

armaan interrupted her chain of thoughts...."sandra n me???" his disbelieving tone forcing her to open her eyes....n she saw now that it wasnt just disbelief that showed on his face, but there were hints of indignation, n deep rooted pain....."u think....sandra n i....are....together???" he said at last....not knowing how he managed to piece the words in to a sentence n speak them aloud, but this seemed to be the only fact he could conclude from her words.....deep inside he was desperate to see her laugh next second n tell him how he fell for her joke....but as his logical mind would have expected she didnt even hint a smile, her face was still as clouded with tormenting emotions as his own.....


then he saw her shake her head in denial to his words....n it raised the tiniest ray of hope in him....he waited as if hanging on the edge of his life as he heard her unsure voice..."of course not armaan if i thought u were with her would i accept your proposal???" she paused n he let out a deep breath....thank god he started to think but a little too soon he realized as she spoke again, "i know whatever moments u shared with her were a complete mistake, which u never intended but she must have worked her way through u with some crook trick.....but i dont want to know what n why...i just know u love me too much to have cheated on me, n that is enough for me to forget this issue n move on n....." he covered her mouth with his hand, and his grip did not exactly feel gentle....it was not firm either....just trembling n desperate....

he spoke lowering his hand from her mouth with the last efforts he could gather in the exact words that were smoldering through his head n heart "u think....sandra n i....we...." he clenched his fists n she spoke before he could resting her hand unsurely yet gently on his cheek "armaan please just drop the topic, its all over for me i assure u....honey, why do u have to speak stuff which is hurting u...n me so much???" he lookd into her eyes his own tearfully red now with an unparalleled intensity from ever before and said with gritted teeth "why am i saying this???BECAUSE U WERE THE FIRST ONE TO THINK THIS STUFF RIDHIMA???how could u think id ever....is that all the trust u ever placed in me???"

ridhima moved her hand back....he was actually....refuting his self claimed mistake now???this is it...."i refused to believe it till u owned the mistake armaan....n even when u did i kept hoping u would say it was just a prank....but u were all serious about it n..." armaan backed off forcefully "R U INSANE????what the....why would i ever claim anything like it, when...when iv done nothing..." running his hands through his hair trying hard yet in vain to stay calm he spoke again "ridhima....i cant believe um actually having to not only state my innocence but also justify my words....whats wrong with u???" he could see she had now started crying but for once he did not move forward to stop her....he just had no sense left in him of anything else except that she had believed all of what she said.....

"u said u dint want to feel remorse in our relationship....n that after all that happened u thought it was best to propose....n that....." she stopped suddenly....as he continued staring at her waiting for her to complete, but something struck her suddenly now for the first time....why had she not seen it in this possibility.....as she repeated his words from earlier that evening out loud, a piece just fell in place.....AFTER ALL THAT HAPPENED he had said.....n now he had said the same words just a few minutes ago again....but this second time he was referring to the previous night's events between him n herself....could he have been doing the same before???could he.....like all he meant was.....neither of us actually ever precisely mentioned sandra n him.....perhaps we both have been talking about....different things....could it really be.....

she looked back at him to meet his waiting gaze as she ran the conversations n thoughts from early afternoon in her head.....he gripped her shoulders moving forward again as the ghastly expression on her face scared him "ridhima???" he whispered expecting her to respond with something now....why did she just stop talking???n he heard her gasp ever so slightly that he would have missed it easily but for his complete attention to even the slightest hint from her..."omg....." he tightened his grip concerned n repeated "ridhimaaa...???" shaking her lightly n urging her to speak all of what she was thinking....she must have read read his mind he thought as she finally spoke "nothing happened between sandra n u this morning???" she asked finally in almost her first rigid voiced firm sentence in the past many minutes....he looked away sighing then looking back at her with an intended look he replied with studied calm "no....n i have nothing but my word to make u trust me, n even if i did, i intend to offer no proof for...."

she silenced him by her fragile touch on his lips in an urgency....suddenly her face n eyes showed a tremendous surge of emotions she seemed to have undergone within less than a few seconds....n they must have been many for he could really read nothing in a turmoil....n he heard her whisper again almost to herself this time...."u didnt do....anything....she couldnt trap.....he lied.....omg.....why did i not see this before....." ....armaan was tired of having to work his way through her jumble of unexplained thoughts n words n said in an exasperated voice "didnt see what.....ridhima....will u please tell me what exactly is going on???i dont understand half of this, least of all the fact that u accepted my proposal when u thought i....i mean....just explain urself now...this is more than i can bear....."

the resignation in his voice didnt escape her notice, n it felt to have made her realize how tired she herself was feeling suddenly....she slumped to the ground resting against the tree looking in the thin air ahead, as her mind raced with everything there had been, n everything that had not.....slowly she she covered her face in her hands n rested it on her knees, n in the next few moments he realized she had broken down into sobs.....he knelt down beside her, not knowing what to say n console her, for not only was he equally shattered, perhaps more, but also still felt clueless about what exactly had caused any of this....whatever in the world could have made her doubt him, it felt like a stab in his heart that she could have let the thought even enter her mind....

but as he now saw her tremble with the incessant silent sobs, he put her hand on her head....."ridhimaaa" he whispered uncertainly....but she looked up at him through tears.....n she flung her arms around his neck before he knew what was happening n he heard her say "armaan i....they just.....the plot....perfect plan....but i still thought.....armaan how could i.....n u didnt.....i should have....."...."ssshhhhh" he finally interrupted her incoherent effort at speech.....n pulling her away he said looking at her...."hush honey....listen...." he paused.....he knew he was anguished by her accusation deep inside.....but before dealing with any of it he had to clarify things....he didnt know if he could ever come to terms with her misunderstanding, or justify why she would doubt him....with an act so.....hideous....but she was right, had he not doubted aryan n her???he had to let her give him the facts atleast....."stop crying first baby.....please....we will sort this out....but u need to calm down......" and he pulled her head onto his chest running his fingers through her hair as she, breathless with crying withing minutes, was having a hard time regaining peace with the thoughts that had infested her mind....

no wonder i never trully felt like his mistake was hurting me she mused....for all of the evening while i was putting effort in to forgiving him, it was him i was more worried about....n when i said we are engaged it felt so right....cause he had not made the mistake...i didnt know that....but somewhere i guess i never felt like he had done anything....yeh i never trully felt....even before i met uncle arthur i was not able to convince myself it was so....n never for a moment did i feel like i wanted him to be punished even after he confessed i was feeling so rotten having said no....guess it was my gut feeling which wouldnt let me hold him responsible, n now i know why....CAUSE HE DID DO NOTHING AT ALL.....to think of it....he could have never faced me if he had really been with her....i just so easily fell for ben's words thinking he was making up with a proposal....would he have ever managed to propose if he had committed that mistake even unintentionally????thank god i at least decided to support him, or i could never lived with the guilt.....

at long last, after several minutes he felt her move, n she pulled herself back....wiping her tears with lowered eyes she knew his eyes were on her, as he waited for her to speak up....n finally she knew what she had to tell him....looking up into his eyes, which were indeed locked on her she said in her best attempted steady voice  ever "armaan....i have to show u something....it still may never justify me to u....but u deserve to know...i should have told u before n perhaps we would have had none of this but i thought i would handle stuff, i knew what sandra is for the team n did not want any misunderstanding between u two only because i came into your life....but i never thought she would....i mean...she stooped lower than where even my thoughts could have gone.....n ben....oh god, if i had known before he was the informer perhaps i would have seen things for what they were n not for what they were intending me to see n...."

...."RIDHIMA..." she stopped hearing armaan's tone....he didnt sound pleased in the least....infact he sounded reproachful....n he continued with an edge to his voice "ridhima first u doubt me....n now ur blaming it all on those two....not just sandra but ben as well...u just met him for the first time an hour ago" he sighed in frustration getting up...."ridhima i dont know why u have this insecurity issue all of a sudden but....stop talking like a....." he paused n she got up too....his words pierced her, but she was too determined to let it go now....she gripped his hand n said...."come with me armaan...u can get mad at me all u want after u see what i have to show u....please....u cannot deny me this one chance, its my right, if u ever loved me trully...." n then she moved ahead of him, as he tugged behind, his hand in hers....looking at her with no discrete thought....he just didnt know what to make of anything anymore.....

*************
she rummaged through her handbag which had been with her overcoat in the coat rack at the enterance....but she there was no trace of the envelope....the zipper of the bag had been open when she first looked at it n that had made her suspicious, but now she was furious....she slammed her bag on the floor....her hands resting on her waist as she thought, those crooks....they must have taken it away now to wipe off all proof....she tunred to armaan who stood there behind her his arms folded across his chest as if he was all calm, but his face betrayed his emotins....he looked at ridhima, shocked by her anger, n some what skeptical of what she was getting at, but waiting nonetheless.....

"armaan i thought it was..." she started just as they were both interrupted by an uproar "CAPTAIN!!!" he swept his hands over his face n through his hair before turning around while she too did the same following his lead....n as soon as they stepped out from the rack corner armaan was pulled away by his team who were almost yelling "hail to the victors....cheers captain....lets hit the dance floor starting with u...." as he looked at her helpless n desperate expression....and ridhima realized with towering grimness that the lights had dimmed out n were all but focussed on the stage in many colorful beams as the boys danced to the latest tunes armaan in the centre....

she could see his eyes searched for her, but obviously could see not much in the dark, so she decided to join them n rescue him out of this for now....she just had to tell him everything.....he will trust me....even without the proof...but what if he doesnt n.....she got restless trying to push the negetive thoughts out as she moved towards the stage but tha same moment she felt herself being pulled as someone yanked her arm roughly.....n she looked in horror as she came face to face with the intense blue eyes, even the dim lights did nothing to fade that color from them.....n he hissed "whats the hurry babes....how about a dance???time to show u some real moves...."

****************




Edited by spln - 03 August 2008 at 11:34pm

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spln

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Posted: 01 July 2008 at 11:39am | IP Logged
editing



Edited by spln - 03 August 2008 at 11:35pm

123abc123

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aw congratz
third thread big achievement
n u deserve al the comments
ur wrk is great
congratz Clap

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Posted: 01 July 2008 at 11:40am | IP Logged

~Part 42~

Finally managing to mingle in the dancers he made his way out without making it obvious or there was no way they would let him go.....it must have been just about 15 minutes but each second had passed like an eternity n now he weaved his way through the people in the dark, who were not dancing, his eyes searching her in every possible spot....where did she disappear....ridhima he thought with frustration not again please....why dont u just stay put for once n explain it all....god this is so becoming an unbearable strain now......her words echoed in his mind again....

"U AND SANDRA"....could he ever be able to accept everything as normal after her accusation???one thing was that she doubted sandra but it quite another that she doubted him as well...although even the former was unreasonable, the latter was almost hard to ignore n overlook....but there wasnt an option here....i cant live without you either can i???....what happened to u sweetheart when did u get so negative n suspicious....n now....WHERE THE HELL DID U GO????as he stood close to the bar running his fingers through his hair in frustration about to move into the opposite direction he paused, hearing the familiar voice, but what
caught his attention was that it sounded different....it must have been the first time he heard it devoid of its sugar coating.....his eyes narrowed in concentration as she spoke....

"Ben where did u take her???" he heard her yell, but it was a barely audible voice over the music.....he frowned, not knowing why at that moment n closed in as he heard the cold edge to her raised volume n curiosity got the better of him....she resumed in an impatient voice apparently unaware of his presence with her back towards him....

"no ben....i just want her out of the way for a wile so i can get him drunk n out n then make our story real....cause once guilty he will never go back to her.....the principles of a LORD BENZ u know....i wont let him forget his mistake n desert me for the benefit of that b**** ever again,
cause she is too smart for her own shoes, n seems to trust AB too much if she didnt even buy ur story about him n me despite how genuine it looked with pictures n all....there is no option but to make it come true right away.....this anyways is one part of the plan il love" ..she paused to give an evil laugh, n he stood rooted to his spot as deep inside his whole world had just become a whirlpool of emotions....

now she said in a warning voice "but why that drug its too strong.....if something happens to her, n AB comes to know even the guilt wont keep him away....dont use ur brain or ul ruin the plan...." she paused again before continuing in a panicking tone "WHAT???but how....i told u to just use simple chloroform n only if needed....was it an overdose???....then how the hell did she???....BEN! i told u we cant afford any more mistakes....what do u mean u were just....now go back n stay with her n stop messing around with the good for nothing geek,
ur capable of having much prettier women in ur bed anyday.....shes beneath ur standard even if only for......."

armaan did not wait to hear the rest as the last words would have brought him back even from his grave....n he swiveled the chair she was sitting on with such extreme roughness that for a moment she thought the seat would dismantle from its base.....her eyes widened in horror as she took in the face before her...."ben...." was all she managed to word soundlessly into the cell, before it slipped out of her hands as he crushed her shoulders with his grip.....
"WHERE IS SHE???" he yelled in a murderous voice n she knew he meant business as she tried to think of a way out, her senses not quite answering her desperate calls as he was breathing down her face with a deadly look on his own....

she started attempting in her sweet tone again with an impression of being puzzled hoping against the obvious he might have not heard it all "armaan what are u talking....."
n she gasped shutting her eyes as she felt her cheek burn in pain the next instant before she could complete her sentence....opening her eyes, she looked at him in horror, in fact terrified now, she had never seen even the hint of a violent streak in him, n he just hit her??? he repeated in steely voice with a grim intended look, his volume controlled but his eyes showing the ferocity raging within "WHERE...IS....SHE???" but before she could answer armaan felt a hand on his shoulder n heard the familiar voice gasping for breath "armaam....ridhima...."

**************

"let go of me" said ridhima in a professionally calm yet cold voice having overcome her initial reaction to his sudden action, not looking away from his eyes for a moment the anger flashing in her own.....he gave a half smile then shaking his head he put his free hand on his heart n said in a mock hurt voice "o c'mon....thats a hard command ur giving me girl.....why dont u ask for something else.....a wish from a beautiful lady i would fulfill" he paused and ridhima's eyes narrowed at him getting closer as he maintained his grip on her arm which he had pinned behind her back securely....

as she was forced to turn her face sideways to avoid having him inches away he hissed completing is sentence "no matter what extent i have to go to....." breathing down her neck, and she felt her adrenaline rising in fear at whatever the hell his tone n action were implying....she tried once again with a studied hardness in her voice to mask her feeling of panic

"mr. courtez....armaan is going to be...." he cut her off turning her to face him forcefully "please....call me ben.....n lord benz can be in quite a fix himself soon...." as she jerked her head back to look at him her eyes widening he went on his own wicked smile getting wider reflecting no humble intentions "i warned u ms. gupta....sandy gets what she wants, any way she has to....but u paid no heed to priceless words of advice...."

she gulped her rising sensation of nothing but trouble and said "u stole my envelope with the pictures n the letters right???" there was a flickering hint of an expression which ridhima thought indicated something other than his steadily maintained poise on hearing her words...surprise or confusion???before she could analyze further, he was back to himself...."wow! beauty with brains....i have to give it to him, lords have class indeed....u two do make a pretty sight i wont lie....but alas....if sandy eyes something, i just get it for her....n she is adamant on her demand for lord benz....."

then pausing a bit he added as a casual after remark "so what were u intending to do with the envelope???show it to armaan???" she did not respond so he went on "ms. gupta, u can make this easy for us or hard.....either way
i am going to do what i have to...." she still did not speak....somehow knowing he wasnt done with his part of the conversation yet....

"armaan can be saved alot of trouble if u just come with me else....well he is among his team mates unaware, um certain, of any intentions sandra n i have....he would be an easy prey .....all it takes is a couple of drugs....n this time the news will be real n the victim role will be reversed n the proofs will not be limited to ur knowledge...that should ...."SHUT UP!" she said furiously looking at him with eyes which could kill....he gave her a mock scared look then broke out in to a sinister laugh....giving her a creepy chill which ran all the way down her spine....

she took a deep breath n said controlling her mixed emotions of fear, anger, anticipation n sheer resigning helplessness...."whats the deal..." he gave her the crooked victorious smile again n she thought if he didnt stop she really would slap him hard the moment her hands were free...
he said enjoying each word..."i need u someplace else.....lets go...." ridhima stood still for a few seconds....someplace else....this was a lot more than she could ever imagine.....i cant go with him.....but she saw his eyes move away from her face to something past her n she turned around to see what he was looking at....she saw armaan smiling as his team had him on their shoulders......she shut her eyes momentarily....oh god....please....

"shall we??" she heard him speak close to her ear again....opening her eyes she said without looking at him, quite sure the terror would be evident in his eyes, n he was too close to face him anyways "i am coming, but u let go my arm first...." surprisingly he oblidged almost immediately n the moment he did ridhima felt a pain shoot up to her elbow....his grip had been tight n so the pain from her only partially recovered hand had been numbed out....but now as he let go the blood rushed back into the veins n she felt like needles were piercing through the wound which had been almost reopened just the night before....he said "ladies first....hurry up ahead of me now, n turn as n when i tell u to...."

***************

"oh yeh???lets get best of three here....we can get armaan to be the third vote....." rahul looked back at her with a sarcastic smirk hearing her words n with his eyebrows arched he retorted "really! n il bet my entire inherited fortune on being the last one on the list of those ammy will ever side up with ....if hes on the electorate so will ridhima be....n aryan....n atul...." ....muski now returned his look n said "guess we shouldnt leave anji n minnie out since they are my league n not ridzy's n hence likely to support me on who will cook in the kitchen after marriage n ....."

she paused since he pulled her closer to him as they danced to a slow number he whispered in her ear nuzzling her neck "darling....why make a public vote for a personal decision...um telling u the perfect division of labor scheme...u work in the kitchen, il manage the bedroom...." she pushed him away slightly with indignation blushing more than just a bit n kissing her softly on the curve of her neck as he looked up to face her his eyes fell on an unexpected sight......

"whats distracting u more than me honey" muskaan said in a demure voice but with a cheeky smile as she saw rahul's eyes wander n narrow a bit, but her smile faded gradually as she saw a frown build on his face....she turned around to follow his gaze but unable to detect his object of divertion in the middle of such a discussion, she, turning back to look at him, began "reg what......" ....."ridzy with ben???" she was interrupted by his whisper....now she looked back n saw what he was staring at n turning back rolling her eyes she said with a mock sigh

"now that hurts my ego bigtime....the least i would hope should distract u away is an UNATTACHED hot chick...." then getting back to her cheeky voice she said "hey reg, please not ridzy sweetheart, i mean its good for me if we swap, il get the stud captain, but i dont think armaan will be too pleased with u n..."as rahul looked back at her she saw in his eyes that he had not heard a word of what she said, instead he looked....serious??? so she said with solemn concern now "reg???honey what happened...they are just dancing, armaan isnt the possessive jealous guy why are u....."

she paused remembering their conversation from the afternoon just before lunch n said as if trying to put the pieces together "hang on....now u have problems with ben in addition to sandra???you know ur making me think its something about u n people with blue eyes...." she finished having meant the last line as a witty pass but it didnt quite sound like one since her tone got grave seeing his expression....

"muski....i dont trust.....wait....where is he taking her now???" as muskaan turned again to follow his look this time she too frowned, if she wasnt seeing extra in the dim lights, ridhima's expression had been not quite usual....she stuttered "she...reg...is it....could...i mean....trouble???" rahul nodded uncertainly n taking her hand weaved way through the crowd for the two of them not losing sight of the two ahead....

***************

"I CANT BELIEVE WHAT A BAREFACED LIAR U ARE...." she yelled into his face as he finished off with tying her to the chair securing all her limbs as tightly as he could....now he cocked his eyebrows at her his typical way, his blue eyes emphasized in the most eerie way possible n said "u really cant believe???guess i over estimated ur intelligence...."

she glared at him infuriated but with her effort was directed into letting that be the only expression on her face....camouflage her anxiety at what he would do, n the overwhelming pain shooting from her hand...somehow his action of tying her down had helped her overcome if not much at least a little of her terror, for one she tried to convince herself that her fear of what he might do to her was perhaps all but baseless or why would he tie her to a chair n move away indifferently like his work was done???

she had this gut feeling suddenly by his mostly detached n hasty body language that he wasnt intending real physical harm....at least not quite yet she told herself trying to stay calm....yes ridzy his only intention is keeping you away from the party downstairs....he wont do nothing to u.....deep inside she knew however that there was no proof, or reason for her to ever believe that either of the courtez twins couldnt stoop any lower than their previous personal set record levels....

but with a silent plea to god, she decided to accept her intuition....after that inkling of calm set into her head she concentrated on thinking fast....n realized she needed to get information out of him...of what they had planned for armaan...he doesnt even know what they are upto.....i have to get him out of this trap....god please please please dont let anything.....no...focus ridhima.....n so she had started with the random yelling accusation....

he resumed "nonetheless um impressed by your senseless bravery to actually come with me....." then coming closer to her again as she tried to maintain her angry look he added "wish it was me u doted on, what wouldnt i do for beautiful...." she felt he made even that word sound like an insult as winking at her he moved back n added "n
when did i ever lie to u babes???"....she gave him a disgusted look but somehow she felt quite sure he was only trying to having fun mocking at her....that made it at least somewhat easier to play along ...

she retorted with sarcasm in her voice which wasnt hard to come by, only she had to fight the panic from surface appearence "oh yeh???u want me to mention like just a single time???how about starting with the letter...." he smiled at her sweetly, which reminded her of sandra's smile....dam these twins....she thought while he said

"when did i lie...
i said i have known sandra like forever n love her which is all true....i said she loves me not the love way though, true again....n i said armaan n sandra....but i didnt say what between them did i???u just assumed too much there not my fault....guess the pictures may have kindled the doubt, but u know what....not one of them is fake....only they werent as u were lead to think...." he paused giving her a challenging grin....

as he rambled on gloating about the plan she wanted to listen to each word with complete attention but somehow, even more than the anxiety n tension, she was experiencing this weird sensation....it started with numbness in her limbs, especially her hands n arms and was now beginning to cause dizziness all over gradually....she tried to clear her head n think again....he didnt gime any pills or prick any needles....what could it be???

she noticed he just finished off n was waiting for her reaction with a smug smile on his face....to cover up for her lack of attention completely at random she popped whatever came to her head as the next question hoping he had not already addressed the point...."but u also said she gets what she wants n she didnt...armaan proposed me n we will soon be married...." he broke into a loud laugh n it only added to ridhima's increasing uneasiness....

he continued after having a good laugh "well that is perhaps the biggest n straightest truth i mentioned in the letter babes....n u know why???cause she will have him within the next hour....wrapped around her little finger in fact....thats why ur here to not barge into the make out sequence.....but dont worry um keeping our deal the news will never be out...it is only to make our great lord too ashamed to ever be able to show u his face again......n that i can bet is one thing u can trust sandra will manage....."

despite her loss of major sensation ridhima felt a feeble alarm in her mind hearing his words.....no i cant let this happen...armaan....she struggled to think.....but at that moment he came closer once again, only this time she didnt even feel upto turning away from him, she just looked back somewhat dazed n he whispered in a low meaningful voice tracing the profile curve of her face with his index finger "but u dont have to worry....ur welcome to come to me anytime u miss the presence of love in ur life....i will gladly oblidge....in fact....we dont have to waste time at all....how about...."

he stopped....as he saw her eyes drop close...."babes??" he said the question genuine....he shook her lightly but she did not open her eyes....was this a trick??...he said, trying to sound as confident as before "ms. gupta if u think um going to fall for this worthless gimmicks u got me all wrong....u wana sleep go ahead....but feign stuff....by the way i still havent told u something about that missing envelope....i never stole it....in fact i have no idea where it is...."

as he finished off triumphantly sure to get a reaction from her for this....but she didnt respond at all....now he frowned hard....what happened to her he thought???i dint even give her any chemical dosage....DAM IT....did she just pass out thinking i was going to take her to bed....oh man....these spineless virgin women....sandy will be so mad...n i was only passing time scaring her off.....saying so, he flipped open his cell n moved towards the open terrace out of the room...."yeh sandy....she is with me...."

**************

"MUSKI???" armaan turned 360 degrees to face her n let go of sandra the moment he saw muskaan n the look on her face n the 2 names she uttered.....but they were both distracted by sandra's cell ringing again....armaan snatched the cell off the floor n gripped sandra's arm with the other hand roughly again as he flipped open the phone without seeing the caller certain it was ben again..."sandy she just disappeared....i cant find her in the room or around....the cords are all untied n lose i think she was acting n the moment i left the room she....." armaan cut the call flinging the cell away with all his force....his grip fastened on sandra's arm he looked at muski who rattled off without even being asked

"armaan.... ridhima...ben's room....reg n me saw him leave n got her free but....." ....armaan interrupted sighing with a flooding relief for an instant as he shut his eyes for a flickering moment "oh thank god shes safe...." then opening them he said with the urgency seeping back "muski reg n she...." muskaan cut him off this time "armaan she fainted....n reg sent...."..."WHAAAT???" he yelled...."take me to her muski....oh god she tried to tell me about......" he turned back to sandra with a fatal look.....n said "if he has done her any harm......IL KILL U BOTH...." sandra gulped as she looked into his eyes n knew he meant it.....then she found herself being yanked along as she struggled to get free from his grip he shot her a warning look n she followed after that, terrified.....

***************

~Part 43~

Arthur spoke gravely taking in the scene before him "il take care here armaan....u 3 get ridhima to the doc without further delay..." looking with almost miserable disgust at sandra .....he had been a psychiatrist it seemed all life n yet he could never understand the human tendency of being evil....of why people bore malign intentions.....they made the world a mess n their own lives too...what was the point when it alwaz ended in trouble for one and all....

armaan's face reflected a turmoil of expressions as he looked at ridhima in his arms, willing her to open her eyes n speak to him for anything she would ask of him in return.... rahul shot arthur a grateful look glad that muskaan had thought of informing him after armaan as well....he had feared armaan would insist on handling ridhima alone....n asking him to stay back n tackle the twins since he was so obviously not going to spare them.....even in his completely wrecked state with the unconscious ridhima in his arms armaan's body language n looks had made it clear within a couple of minutes that they were going to pay for this....

Not quite listening or speaking for the moment preoccupied with tormenting thoughts armaan kind of nodded absent mindedly trying to get the car keys out of his pocket his eyes not leaving ridhima's face, rahul took it out for him but didnt hand it over, instead signaling muskaan to follow he said moving to the driver's seat "um driving ammy get into the back seat...uncle is right theres no time to lose....." before armaan could have a change of mind over any of this....he knew what this was doing to armaan n it wasnt the moment he could afford being all by himself with ridhima in this state....unconscious for an unidentified reason.....

armaan did not protest, he had not really registered anything around him post the moment he had spotted rahul supporting ridhima's limp body in the parking.....he had run n taken her into his arms hugging her body....but her lack of response for obvious reasons had just reaffirmed the fact of the moment to him although that did not keep him from whispering to her "ridhima....open ur eyes princess....please.....um...um here baby n i....i believe u.....n...." as she stayed still he said in a choking whisper "um sorry honey i should have....." and rahul had seen the look he gave to sandra without finishing off the sentence as she stood just short of trembling.....he still dint know what the hole issue was, but the basic was not hard to guess.....

as armaan carefully tucked her into the back seat he saw her expression suddenly change to a deep frown, n he realized her hand stuck in the gap between the front seat n its door....he pulled it free gently, sitting down himself her head in his lap caressing her cheek with love regret n anguish just wanting to draw some response from her.....as he was going to rest her hand by her side wondering why she was still frowning he knew the answer the very next moment...

cause he realized with a start that the dressing was damp, n turning the hand around he saw a dark reddish mark.....
it was her silent expression of pain...."omg....." he exclaimed inaudibly.....and immediately he started undoing the dressing, hasty yet thoroughly gentle.....as the wound revealed itself he gasped so sharply that muskaan turned around n rahul looked into his rearview to get a look at what had drawn this reaction from armaan while keeping focus on the road ahead too....

before armaan, muskaan spoke up having followed armaan's gaze "oh god that brute....the ropes were so tight.....but the blood...???? " armaan'e eyes just widened seeing the blue gray mark on her wrist vein just a bit beyond the point where the cut showed dried blood collected over the stiches.....he tried to think of how both those signs showed themselves together, although he was completely lacking a clear head to reason n work out ideas.....but he at least knew why she had fainted now.....

blood loss at the cut....n then lack of blood supply to the same wound....the intensity of how short she must have been on blood was obvious from the deep shade of blue mark which had not faded despite the fact that she had been released at least 10 minutes ago if not more...blood shortage, from loss or blockage could actually be fatal for this spot.....but how the hell did the wound bleed when the flow of blood to the hand was so completely constricted he thought frowning hard???

her hand was a nasty picture, he lifted the second hand n saw the similar blue mark, but much lighter, n no red of course.....he held her hands in his biting his lips as he looked upwards to hold back the tears...muskaan saw him helplessly n looked back at rahul who looked back gravely himself, then said to armaan looking at him in the rearview again "ammy...we are taking her to the doc....please relax..." armaan shut his eyes lowering his head again sighing deeply n spoke in a hoarse voice half to himself...."if only i had known before...." looking at rahul now he continued "reg i....she tried to tell me n i...i dint believe....reg its..." lowering his eyes to look at her beautiful face with soft features, but pain etched across them...."its all my fault...." he finished  bending down to bury his face into her hair.....

muskaan turned back facing front again feeling more helpless n lost by the minute....it was something with sandra of course, ben was involved n rahul had anticipated whatever it was....but she couldnt really figure out what had happened....why armaan n ridhima had not been together n why ridhima had gone off with ben....they had just committed a couple of hours ago, what happened to create trouble in such a short span....much as she wanted to have her questions answered, this wasnt the right quest for the truth moment she knew....n as she turned slightly to check on them again, he jerked back up n said in an uncertain almost scared tone....

"reg what if...." muskaan interrupted squeezing his hand slightly with which held ridhima's hands..."she will be fine....she is a fighter armaan, n never gives up, didnt she prove that to u enough times by now???" armaan let out a miserable smirk looking at muskaan who slowly retrieved her hand with a reassuring smile.....he lifted ridhima's hand now n kissed it placing it to his lips for a few moments just staring at her face....lowering it gently he whispered inaudibly again "please....be ok....i cant....cant live without....." he stopped himself...no armaan....she...she will always be with u....

"wont u honey???" he whispered again....wishing desperately she would answer, n at that moment she felt her grip tighten on his hand as her frown deepened n she groaned ever so slightly.....he saw her lips part a bit, n his own let out a hint of a smile even though he could comprehend her action indicated severe pain....but at least.....as his eyes looked uncertain yet hopeful he said a bit louder "reg....i think....i think shes....." he stopped n muski turned around again to look at ridhima but saw no difference so she looked at him waiting for him to complete what he was going to say not knowing what to expect cause his voice was hard to interpret....he finished off  with a different thought "drive faster reg....please...."

*************

As she bent over the car seat she finally found the hospital reports in the side holder of the passenger side door as armaan had said....the doctor had been very polite not mentioning how inconvenient the hour was for them to just drop by n barge into his housealthough rahul had called him on the way....but when he started to look at the wound he asked for the case history reports n armaan remembered they were in the car....muskaan voluteered to get them convinced that rahul had to be with armaan for then....as she pulled out the packet another envelope which seemed to have been sticking out at an awkward angle fell down....

she would have shoved it back, but as it fell something from its contents that spilled out caught her eye....as she picked it up, her eyes widened slowly in comprehension....and soundlessly she worded "armaan n sandra???" hastily she picked up the whole envelope....as she went through the contents she forgot everything else including the fact that the doc had asked for the reports immediately, as the shock engulfed her, until she was jerked out of it by her cell ringing...answering the call she spoke in a grave voice gritting her teeth..."um coming..." n shut the cell before rahul had a chance to say a word.....

armaan rushed towards her, as she entered with the reports but he was taken back by her brushing past him n handing the reports to the doctor...."muski did u....." she interrupted facing the doctor "sir these are the reports...n thank you so much to have allowed this late night call....we wanted to bring her to the same doctor who she had been visiting all along so...." the doctor nodded with a small understanding smile, n as he browsed through the reports armaan and rahul looked at him in anticipation....the doctor spoke again...

"this might actually be kind of serious, relapse is bad idea n this looks more than just that....we need to do some xrays of course which i cant right away since um not on duty but if u goto the emergency, i can refer u to one of my collegues n brief him up about the case so he will take care....of course there will be some paper work as usual, needing my permission to transfer the case, n ur consent to the same so if Mr. Benz u would...." muskaan interrupted again "i will sign the papers sir, if thats alright with u...."

the doctor paused giving her a strange look as armaan n rahul stood staring at her shocked...."we actually need a family member of the patient n mr. benz..." she spoke again "i beg your pardon sir,  but no one here is a relative of hers..."n giving armaan a side look "nor family....i have known her longest....for over 15 years so if its ok i would like to take resposibility...." he nodded slightly giving the guys a shrug n proceeding to his room to get the papers....

the moment he left rahul spoke even before armaan could "muski what was that all about???" she said in a matter of fact tone looking rahul in the eye "i told him no one here is family whats wrong with that???" rahul frowned deeply now n was going to answer but this time armaan spoke before him "muski???" then stepping forward to face her he spoke in a soft voice "its ok u can sign cause thats the last thing that matters right now....but why are u talking like this....please dont muski.....I AM FAMILY....even officially, cause she is now my fiance...."

he was shocked to see muskaan's enraged look, her eyes livid with...ANGER??? muskaan meanwile remembered armaan's words in the car..."its all my fault...." she shrugged off his hands and said in an indifferent yet piercing tone...." we will discuss who's trully family later...." n as rahul stepped forward now getting angry himself armaan stopped him with a hold on his arm n a slight shake of his head....and the doctor re entered the room....

************

as rahul drove out n hit the main road, with armaan n ridhima in the back seat as before, muskaan spoke again "reg drop armaan back home first....we will take care of ridhima...." as armaan looked up hearing her curt remark totally shocked now, rahul slammed the brakes extremely hard...."MUSKAAN...." he yelled giving her a furious look....."i kept quiet inside cause he stopped me n cause it was not the place to sort out personally created problems....but not anymore....how dare u talk to ammy like that???"

muskaan shot him a dirty look as well this time, n said with a sarcastic yet hurt smile..."great....why the hell did i even think u would ever not support him, right or wrong....n i spoke to him in the way he deserved....stop yelling at me...n u both can go home for all i care...i can handle this alone....we were pretty much alive n fine even before u guys came into our lives...." ...."SHUT UP MUSKAAN" he yelled much louder this time....

but before either of them could say another word armaan spoke up between them..."STOP....stop it both of u please....ridhima cant afford anymore delay....n muskaan whatever ur mad at me about, like u said we will sort it later....BUT I AM COMING ALONG....
n so is he....can u please drive on now reg...." he finished looking at rahul who started the car again glaring ahead but that wasnt the end of it for muskaan....

she pulled out the envelope that had accidentally revealed things to her n thrust it in to armaans hands saying "no ur not coming....u can stay with ur chicks....i wont let anyone mess with ridhima's life....not even u lord benz....DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR????" this time neither of the guys responded, not because they accepted her statement though....armaan didnt even hear the very last bit as he had pulled out the contents of the envelope when she was still mid sentence.....

now as rahul enraged by muskaan's sudden outburst though he was, got curious n looked into the rearview again, still driving, he saw armaan's eyes widen in horror, then slowly they narrowed as he seemed to be reading something off a paper, n rahul knew that look better than anyone...its was the same which he would bear when an opposite team on the court tried playing rough n get their way unfairly....he never spoke....but his face would give him away n after that they were never spared.....armaan's present look was more intense than ever before....

rahul shot muskaan a heated glare before he looked ahead keeping track of the road as well....but she ignored him, and when he looked back at armaan within seconds his look had changed a third time.....rahul almost held his breath for a second seeing armaan's expression now...it was pale n unreal n he saw armaan holding his forehead from one side his fingers in his hair n running them through his hair n down to cover his mouth...then he covered his eyes with the same hand the next second...

rahul said, his anger forgotten, n nothing but panic inside at armaan's reaction "ammy...what happened...." as he remained speechless his eyes still covered rahul saw silent tears run down his face....n this completely alarmed him....before he could speak again muskaan spoke in a voice full of loathing "yeh armaan tell reg what happened...i really wana see if he would still be yelling at me after that...." rahul shot her a disgusted look n said again "ammy....dude what...."

but muskaan meanwile had pulled out the envelope from armaans hands n its lose contents n shoved them into rahul's lap.....managing the car, he glanced down to see what it was n looked back at up....n then shocked as he realized what he had seen he looked down again....spontaneously he slowed the car, n looking up ever so briefly pulled it aside n turned on the emergency park lights.....now he grabbed the pictures....n looked through the photographs twice almost to convince himself he was seeing right....

n then he realized there was a paper too....as he skimmed through within less than a minute his expression turned livid with anger....n muskaan understood his reaction was same as hers n said in a softer voice this time "reg this is why i dont want...." she paused as he gave her a warning look to stop right away n he said in a hard yet low voice "dont say another word u will regret muskaan...." she gave him a totally broken look now her eyes moistening as she looked away from him....

n then turning towards armaan rahul looked at him as he was staring at ridhima's face, blank n still crying....."ammy..." he looked up as rahul held his hand n said in a choking voice hardly capable of speech..." reg she.....she still said yes...." rahul squeezed his hand to stop him n said "we are almost there....she needs a doctor first...." and he turned around to drive again....

within the next couple of minutes they had reached n rahul n muskaan both almost jumped out of their seats at the same time....as they supported ridhima, rahul looked up at armaan puzzled realizing he had withdrawn his hands....armaan indicated with a pleading look that they should go on....

n muskaan did not wait for rahul to react just took ridhima ahead with considerable effort, rahul stood for a couple of undecided seconds torn between the two n then he rushed to help muskaan as he saw her not quite managing to support ridhima alone yelling back..."ur not moving from here ammy, thats a promise on ur mom...um coming back...."

*************

"where are u going??" asked muskaan though she already knew the answer....and rahul said looking at her with intending eyes "um going to get armaan.....cause this is where he should be...." then lowering his eyes for a second he looked back at her again into her eyes n said "muski....u dont know the facts....all this was planted....ammy....its just ridzy for him...he cant even think of anyone else....this is what i had feared sandra was capable of...."

muskaan now looked somewhat confused but said in a persistant voice "he said it was his fault n he didnt even deny the pictures n...." rahul gripped her by her shoulders n said "muski....HE PROPOSED HER FOR MARRIAGE....why would he do that if he was two timing..." then sighing deeply he continued

"lets leave details for now cause even i dont know the whole story....but
trust me baby.....dont jump to conclusions u will regret...n for now ridhima's welfare is our priority....the last thing she needs is 3 of us fighting.....armaan hasnt done anything he shouldnt, he would die before cheating on ridzy....now um going to get him....u take care here, il be right back....n u will behave yourself for my sake...n if for no one else...then at least for ridhima...."

saying so he left, as she looked at his disappearing back almost dumbstruck.....she sighed deeply closing her eyes for a moment....then she opened them again deciding to put everything off her head for now...one thing was right for sure...their priority for now was ridhima....as she peered through the small glass window in the door she prayed in her head....please be ok girl....

he looked about his eyes searching n within seconds he spotted armaan....he was sitting on the ground his back resting against the bumper, his head burried in his knees....and rahul knew this was not going to be easy, but he was relieved to have found him there at least.....armaan looked up now, as he felt a hand on his head, and seeing rahul before him he jumped up anxiously n holding his hand he said..."how is she reg???" he whispered.....

"they are doing the tests....but they did look grave...." as armaan tightened his grip on rahul's hand n he continued "she will not be fine till u are by her side....." then after pausing a bit he spoke again "this isnt the moment to fall weak n break down...she needs u ammy....." but armaan pulled his hands off looking away n said with tears still flowing n the frustration n remorse in his voice obvious

"i...i dont....deserve her.....i blamed her....for...for not trusting me....n....she was.....reg i....how will i ever face her again.....i told her she dint trust me....n when she tried telling me about the plot i....i dint trust her myself...i mean....i actually thought she was being suspicious n insulting our love n....n all that time....it was me.....she had all that obvious proof against me....all of that....did u see the stuff????"

rahul nodded as armaan almost fought within his voice anguished....."n she still...said yes...n when it came to me....i dint believe her....it was her word against my blind faith.....n i didnt take her word.....muski is right....i messed up her life....n i" rahul interrupted "muski doesnt know the whole truth ammy thats why shes being unreasonable she only feels as strongly about ridhima as u do n...."

..."exactly my point reg....muski doesnt know anything except the proof....wasnt that all of what ridhima knew as well???muski is not being unreasonable...ridhima gave me an undeserved chance.....n she is in all this mess just because of me...."

"ammy....saying yes was her decision....what u think was an undeserved chance might have been to her an indispensible relationship she couldnt let go for anything....the least u can do is respect her decision n choice....her life without u is as meaningless as urs without her....now....can we sort all this later please.....if she regained consciousness ur not being there will do her no good....would u be able to live with the fact that u deserted her in a moment like this???" armaan shook his head slowly taking in each word....n said at last...."lets go...."

*************

~Part 44~

He looked up from his position beside her bed as he sat his head held in his hands n eyes shut, as he now felt a familiar smell....n a presence around n opening his eyes he saw a cup of coffee..."um fine reg i dont....." he started in a low whisper, tired n worn out, ....."muski???" he lipped soundlessly, realizing it was her holding out the cup to him....he gave her a second long confused look before looking down again....as they both stayed quiet for the following several seconds, both were in their own mental turmoil.....muskaan did not retrieve he cup, n armaan finally looked back at her, his expression blank but his eyes gloomy yet questioning....

"have it..." she said at last in an emotionless yet soft voice.....as he continued to stare she just made him hold the cup, the heat from which perhaps brought him back from his chain of thoughts...looking in to the cup to avoid looking at her he finally spoke "you...i mean reg...." she interrupted "uncle arthur called....hes gone to get him cause he insisted....on seeing ridzy once...." armaan nodded without looking up....then suddenly realizing she was still standing he got up from his seat n beckoned her to sit as he pulled another stool for himself....."um glad u could arrange for her to be shifted into a private room at such a short notice...."
she said trying to begin some small talk her voice still distant.....rahul's words were echoing in her mind, as he had claimed armaan's absolute innocence over his own life .....she couldnt take any of unexplained chain of events anymore...she had to get some answers now...even if the moment wasnt quite set for it.....

he gave a small nod n she added...."the general emergency ward was going to be uncomfortable for this long night...." he stayed quiet....not knowing what to say with all the guilt weighing him down.....n why is she talking to me???has she...maybe rahul said something to her about ridhima n she decided to put aside issues for now.....n....ridhima.....he thought his thoughts wandering back to her as he looked at her with a deep unconscious sigh....why dont u wake up sweetheart, just....say something....u can yell at me order me around accuse me be mad at me....just....say something???he cried inside pleading, he stared into the coffee again stirring it without a sense of doing so continuously.....i cant take this silence anymore......

n the silence was broken...."armaan???" he jerked up, then realized it was muskaan who had spoken again....tentatively he looked at her.....n she continued looking back at him "what happened???" he was quiet for a few seconds before he grasped her real meaning.....she was asking him to narrate the whole series of events.....he lowered his eyes...."muski i.....u wana know...." she interrupted realizing she wasnt going to be able to make much sense of those random words...

"armaan reg said those pictures are not fake....n then he said u havent done anything....n i....dont know what to think or believe...i dont even know what i want to think or believe anymore....i just know, ridhima is suffering as of now....but this pain wont even be a speck of what she will go through when she.....i mean...all the contents of that envelope....if she comes to know about it she would be shattered n...." she paused taking a deep breath "i cant see anything happen to her armaan shes....." she paused again shutting her eyes....

armaan looked at her as she opened her eyes again he gave her a tight smile his lips pursed...."she knows....." he said quietly looking away a moment after saying the words....as muskaan now shot him an incredible look, which he was aware of he continued focusing unconsciously on stirring his coffee again though it wasnt quite that hot anymore, to avoid meeting her gaze....."she was the one who received that package.....obviously....cause she was the one who should have known all this....n she saw those contents before any of us....." muskaan now spoke totally angered but her emotions did not let more than a hoarse whisper escape her lips....

"so it is all ur fault then as u claimed in the car???" she questioned her tone accusing n hurt......he looked up at her again n said in a solemn tone..."yes but now the way u think....." he paused as she looked ready to interrupt but she stopped as he explained......"reg is right....the photographs are real....but the letter....i mean.....its not what its intended to look like.....the allegation is just, portrayed flawlessly'    ...." muskaan now looked completely confused....

he continued "sandra came to invite ridhima n me for the party in the morning n the pictures are from then....her plan for the photographs must obviously have been in place, i just gave her the perfect moment...n expressions....in my excitement about.....about proposing ridhima...." he paused putting the now cold coffee aside, not having taken a real sip.....with a deep sigh he took out the ring from his pocket....the doctors had to remove it for the tests....looking at it he thought of how bitter his most beautiful day in life had become n clutching it tight he closed his eyes....

"she was....framing u???" muskan whispered uncertainly, the harsh truth which pierced armaan who wished he could turn back time n act with more prudence this time.....n as he looked at her he saw a combination of anticipation, n hope....as he stayed quiet a few more seconds just looking at her then lowering his eyes then looking back at her he saw her expression had changed to one of shock n regret....n yet, her now moist eyes could not hide the sudden gushing relief n her deep concern for ridhima all along made him give a small smile....as she whispered "armaan???" he nodded to seal his unspoken answer, and was almost knocked out of breath as she crushed him into a hug the very next moment....

as the shock of her sudden action wore off him in the next few seconds he hugged her back.....feeling her sobbing he couldnt stop his own tears, n shut his eyes again....."um...um sorry armaan...i...i said all that n....u just...." he pulled her apart...."ssshhhh" he whispered....."its ok....i know...." wiping her tears as she looked in to his eyes he said with a little smile "i still havent figured how i will face ridhma cause she is going to have enough reason to beat me up even now when she comes around, i dont want reg to team up with her seeing i made u cry....." she smiled despite herself at his intention to ease her guilt by that far fetched effort at humor, not failing to indicate his own hidden fears about what he was in for, fears which he had fought to keep away for the moment.....

....with an after though she frowned n said ..."what enough reason???" he took in a deep breath looking upwards for a second then looking at ridhima he said in a low voice wishing with each one of his words that he could do someone thing to undo them "cause i dint believe her when she so needed me to...." muskaan was puzzled yet again....but she waited knowing he would explain on, n he did "i still dont have the whole story there are parts only ridhima can explain.....all i know i that she said yes to me when she still thought i was guilty....that was her intensity of faith in me, she had this absolute belief that i had been trapped into something....."

he paused, n lifting ridhima's still limp hand kissed it gently looking at her his eyes tearful again as muskaan looked from armaan's heart wrenching guilt to ridhima's unaware poise....her gaze stayed on ridhima longer as she wondered in awe how she had taken a decision so crucial n at the same time bound by such sheer uncertainity.....then he continued still looking at ridhima's face "n when she finally figured stuff out, i was still clueless, n didnt believe a word of what she tried to tell me about...."he paused n muskaan withdrew her eyes from ridhima n noticed his expression changed from a deep rooted regret to a cold yet fiery look....."about sandra n ben" he finished with gritted teeth fighting the strong urge to curse as he felt his insides boil in rage....

muskaan just sat reactionless....here she had been thinking of how in the world ridhima being the kind of person she was, would face knowing what she muskaan thought was the truth....but never could she have even in her wildest dreams imagined ridzy was capable of such hard willed decisions, facing the brunt of it all alone, cause she had not even let armaan in to it until it was, perhaps too late for him to be much support......she got up to move to the other side of the bed n kneeling down
muskaan just stared at her, her  best friend for as many years of her life as she could look back into, n felt she was looking at a new someone she had never managed to know....it was like she was looking at a complete stranger....

n the very next instant they both saw her stir, ever so slightly, and jerked up to see if the other had noticed it too....recognizing confirmation in each other they looked back n saw a slight frown formed on her face, which told them they had indeed seen what they thought they did...."RIDHIMA" they both said together n armaan rushed out before muskaan could even bat an eyelid.....within under a minute she saw him reappear with the doctor handling the case.....muskaan saw ridhima's eyes scrunching now n slowly she opened them....as the doctor carrying on with his regular checks said "hello ms. gupta...." muskaan heard her whisper almost inaudibly but not low enough to be missed by muskaan who's gaze was fixed on ridhima...."armaan...."

muskaan looked up realizing a lack of reaction from him in response to ridhima's call n realized suddenly that he wasnt in the room.....she looked back at ridhima who had shut her eyes tight again, in pain perhaps but opened them as the doctor addressed her "ms gupta...how do u feel...???" she gave a feeble nod, not quite upto much speech n then as her eyes fell on muskaan she gave her a questioning look.....muskaan overwhelmed by some activity from her after those long still tormenting hours blurted with an emotional look...."r u...r u fine ridzy???" ridhima blinked her eyes in a yes....n muskaan knew she wasnt quite fine, but her yes meant she was going to be.....

n then she saw her soundlessly word again "armaan???" this time not just an unconscious word but a question....muskaan thought only for a couple of seconds before she said "he is here...just coming.....had to run an errand for u...." the doctor done with whatever checks he had to for then said interrupting them " ms. gupta, its a good sign that u regained consciousness, but i would, as i had informed ur friends earlier, want to keep u under observation atleast 24 hours....to make sure the blood levels and other essentials will not cause trouble...that was a close call, it could have been a lot more serious but...i guess ur lucky, as ur previous dcotor confirms u were even with this ugly wound u suffered from, a couple of weeks ago....take care, il be back every two hours to check on u...n yes....rest might expediate recovery so stick to that as much as u can....." with that he left after giving muskaan a quick courteous smile....

ridhima turned back to muskaan scrunching her eyes in pain again as she mumbled "muski....armaan....how did i....get here???" muskaan held her back firmly as she tried to get up n said "stay.....how u got here long story....but everything is under control....everything...." she stopped emphasizing her repeated word n also saying the next words in a studied way so ridhima wouldnt catch her lying "n armaan just left to get some stuff for u....il send him back n get it myself....but only if u promise to stay put....."

ridhima nodded much more obviously than her previous hard to notice movements n muskaan said "just one thing....no stress..no talking....only rest for now...." she nodded again, the tinge of impatience surfacing "muskiiii..." and muskaan left after giving her a light hug...."um so happy ur ok rishima....u really had us all scared out of wits.....silly girl...." ridhima saw her disappearing gave a small smile at her words, then she remembered armaan again, the ver next moment....oh god....i wonder what all happened....i hope armaan did not fall for their trap or.....

he pulled her to face him the moment she stepped out "muski is she fine???" muskaan heard the depth of emotions in his voice....now looking into his eyes she said "she regained consciousness with ur name" as she paused to see his reaction he released his hold on her, then lowering
his eyes he said "i wish i had been with her muski...she needed me...." ...."she still does, n always will.....she is waiting for u inside n wants to see u right away...." armaan lookd at her with a helpless look "how can i muski.....she....i mean i was so presumptious n....i feel so rotten muski....." she interrupted before he would continue with his self reproaching remorse.....

"i too wish i had not been so impulsive in all that i thought n said to u armaan....but no matter what i do or say i cant undo it can i????" armaan looked at her with a passing expression n said "i told u muski forget it i know what u were going through n it was a complete misunderstanding....its not like u wouldnt usualy trust me...." muskaan gave him an intended smile as he looked at her n said

"exactly my point armaan....u dint intend to hurt her...it was a complete misunderstanding n not like u wouldnt trust her intentionally....sometimes circumstancial  evidence can blind us to other latent possibilities right???ridhima just faced things with more sense than either of us....like reg.....stop blaming urself now, i dont think she would ever want u too....and even if u think u called for it i think i made u pay for much more than u deserved.....please....she wont rest till she knows u are there with her armaan ???" she finished with a warm urging smile.....

unsure yet anxious as he was, armaan complied to the wish, n taking a deep breath he opened the door to ridhima's room......

*************

"no uncle i think we should leave that to ammy.....u have taken care of a lot here anyways...." said reg as he drove back to the hospital, arthur with him this time in the passenger seat, flipping through the contents of the
culprit envelope....his look turning a greater level of intensity with each passing piece in there.....now he spoke "i would have filed the case even if i knew there was no circumstancial standing for our side, but with all of this i will ensure my lawyer gets them stuck into much more than what they could have ever bargained for....n i guess ur right, i should let armaan do the talking with chris.....hows he taking it reg???" ....

"hard" pat came the reply, rahul's tone grave...."but i think the situation is too crucial for him n he knows he has to pull through....so he will....." arthur let out a deep sigh then said in a soft tone "i still remember those months chris had me take professional sessions with him....the boy is so unlike anyone there ever could be....he is this impossible to penetrate person from outside, n inside he is a complete reversal, so vulnerable...." he paused again before resuming in almost a tone of regret.....

"but hes too much of a gentleman....forgetting n forgiving anyone n anything....the one person he never forgives is himself....n he holds himself responsible for all that ever goes wrong in and around him....first he blamed himself for letting his mother go without being there for her in the last moments, then he blamed himself for putting his father through hell in the months that followed....next he blamed himself for not living up to the standards of his family name n so he opted for business school...he had me pull some strings to ensure he got through without letting chris know cause he wouldnt approve at all, but hes lived it up so well that i still get calls from those who obliged me....the boy is just....a package too much to know in a lifetime.....i dont see why god puts him to these trials....he doesnt deserve it in the least...."

rahul spoke up now as arthur went into a musing pause...."well thats why god's given him people like chris uncle....n ridhima now in his family.....she will pull him through this much easier than u can think uncle, shes done this magic on him.....hes so....not himself....n yet trully what he is when he is with her.....i think god made up for all the unfair times in his life by bringing her into the picture....i mean its such an unusual n unexpected relationship n yet, it falls into place like nothing else ever could....." arthur nodded n said

"she reminded me of Indeera herself when i met her this afternoon" rahul looked at him a bit surprised "u met her before the party??? how did u know it was her???" arthur smiled remembering the encounter "i didnt....i met her as a stranger....n she will be able to tell us better, but i think she had already seen this stuff before we ran into each other...." said arthur as rahul pulled the car into a vacant parking spot...."ok here we are....i hope ridzy is awake now....its been quite a wile...." and they moved towards the hospital as rahul lead the way, auto locking the car behind with a click of his key remote....


***************

she opened her eyes feeling his presence about n saw his back as he shut the door behind him....quickly she shut her eyes again on a sudden unexplained impulse.....armaan made way to her bed with slow steps n a heavy heart....but seeing her eyes closed he took in a silent breath of relief....as soundlessly as he could manage he sat down beside her on the stool again, n for several moments he just stared at her....."ridhima...."

she heard him whisper at long last, after the long moments she could feel his eyes on her n didnt know if she could hold her act without him seeing through....but had she known how numb to the obvious he was right then she would have been more at ease.....not getting any response from her he frowned ever so slightly....he moved his hand towards her uncertainly, n after another few moments of battle within he put it on her forehead.....ever so softly, but even that did not fetch him a reaction....

he almost relaxed n frowned at the same time.....bending towards her he lightly kissed her forehead....he was sure he felt her reaction at this touch but her eyes still remained closed, "guess she drifted back into her sleep...." he thought though believing he was relieved to have got more time, he was disappointed as well...he couldnt wait to hear her voice, n knowing she had actually come around n spoken n he missed it made him restless now...."ridhima...." he whispered again....

he just held her hand n locking it between his own hands, he brought them to his lips....and she could feel the warmth of his breath....n then she had a damp sensation on her hand ....she opened her eyes instantly, but saw that his eyes were shut n slow tears traced his face....before she could move to wipe them she heard him whisper his eyes still closed..... "how will i face u sweetheart....." she closed her eyes again.....her baseless intuition that he needed space for now, seemed to have been reaffirmed by his statement...." he looked at her the next moment with a mess of emotions in his eyes....

"i let u down.....asked u to trust me with the rest of ur life, n failed miserably at the very first stumbling block....i know it will all work out, u will forgive me....we will get back to being the same happy us....like all hard moments this will pass us by even if its worse than any before.....
but.......the whole thing......it just forces me to think....if it wasnt an indication of how undeserving of u i am.....so much to have decided il never let a tear come into ur eyes again....what i put u through was worse than hell.....u never abandoned my side, i never was there for u when u needed me most.....n so i....i need to etch this moment um with u....the only one when il dare to admit that i deserve to be told to never show u my face again, n the only moment where um almost hoping u do banish me to that punishment so atleast i could rid myself of this abyss of engulfing guilt.....its like ....the albatross"

he paused taking in a deep breath then said with a melancholy smile appearing on his lips....."u know sweetheart, mum said everyone has their cross.....i guess....
this will be mine honey, being with u every second of my life knowing i never earned it in the face of a real test....perhaps u hear me subconsciously perhaps not....but i dont know if i can ever say any of this again n explain it the same way with u looking into my eyes.....so um saying it all now.....i feel like um beyond redemption in every way possible, i accused u, then i chose not believe u, n i was somewhere inherently responsible for all this physical pain u are going through....n now i dont have it in me to see you in the eye n say any of this, um not scared of admitting my wrong....um scared of.....how i will ever face myself after u just let it all go n forgive me....i dont think i could take a simple 'its ok' from u after all this n i know u wouldnt put me through trial cause u didnt even do that when i was framed so obviously before u for....."

he stopped again....n this time he couldnt continue right away.....he burried his head his eyes closed, into the cape of her neck n her soft tresses on his side of the bed....."um....um sorry ridhima....." he started mumbling but stopped again as he was sure he felt her gasp.....frowning slightly he lifted his head slowly, n found himself staring into her eyes, wide open n alive with emotions....for a moment he shut his own moving back his head lowered....then he looked at her again as he felt her trembling hand on his face...."armaan...." she whispered as they looked at each other...

he wanted to look away cause holding her gaze was taking a toll on his reserves now, but he couldnt, it was the spell of just hearing her speak at long last....for that moment there was gushing relief, which now made him feel almost weak with the tremendous stress he had been under....it was like her voice had magic n it would make everything fine.....he now almost wanted to whack himself to have been trying to escape this moment all that time.....how could he have ever thought of evading her.....

she, single handedly just by her presence could ease all of his troubles n he had been hesitant to face her???the guilt on his overworked nerves had not abandoned him but it just seemed so easily tractable all of a sudden.....and he pulled her into a hug, gently yet with possessive firmness.....just to have her in his life forever, he would ask for nothing else ever again...."ridhima..." he finally spoke out aloud as she gave him a weak hug back, but the best she could manage with her low level of strength.....as he finally let her go he said cupping her face "how does my princess feel???"

she was struck by is sudden mood upliftment from moments ago, n so didnt react immediately.....n he repeated "ridzy???how do u feel now honey???" which made her finally smile back feebly in response....."um....fine...." she uttered putting effort to make her words louder than a whisper....though all outward expressions were taking a toll on her frail condition for now, her mind was as active as at any other time...she wanted to talk to him, to help him shed off the so called cross he had proclaimed....she wanted to console him n tell him that this whole incident had not been just what he was seeing it as....

there were substantial lessons for both of them in it, he was restricting his outlook to a single perspective of viewing it.....she started "armaan i....want....to say.....some...something....i...." he bent forward n kissed her forehead to silence her stuttering....."later sweetheart...." he whispered....
then looking into her eyes "i know theres alot we have to sort out....but it can wait....for now....." he said it softly n yet the tone was clearly authoritative n final, which drew a spontaneous smile from her......

even when totally worn down by circumstances n in complete admittance of himself being in the lesser spot, he would never let go of a chance to show who's boss.....as he gave her a questioning look for her sudden smile, wondering what exactly had sounded so funny to her she whispered "yes....captain...." and as she giggled ever so slightly he broke into a smile himself, a genuine one...one smile, n she had dispelled the gloom that had been lurking around clinging to them all inseparably.....she was indeed his infallible panacea....n effortlessly so....

she continued to smile but he felt her draining energy reflect in her tired face, n he moved his bedside seat closer n gently caressing her forehead, he neatly worked his fingers through the lose hair on her face, tucking them back, n then started slightly patting her head whispering in a loving voice "think the doctor told u to rest princess.....how about trying to be a good girl for once????close ur eyes n go to sleep....." she winced slightly in effort as she tried to move her hand towards his, but he realized n moved his hand to hold onto hers.....

and she whispered again, the words spaced as before...." u...wont go....be here???" he nodded vigorously n said "of course honey, i wont leave u for a second....just go to sleep n um here by ur side....." saying so he bent forward to place a light kiss on her lips....."ARMAAN...." he jerked back before he could, n she narrowed her eyes to focus on the door from her straight lying on her back position, as reg walked in followed by arthur n muski......

***************

"ur the first one aryan......" she paused then added in a low sheepish voice "after reg, muski, uncle arthur, dad, ma n pa.....n armaan of course" sshe finished off trying to make a wisecrack n divert the obvious oncoming thundering speech from the other end....all in vain she thought as aryan said in his usual diabetically sweet sarcasm which was employed when he was really mad at someone...."oh....so that's FIRST in ur number line frisco???like 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,1....is that someway the families of lordship in london are supposed to count???cause until now i thought one thing u never lost urself with were digits??? or did newton start getting innovative ideas in math now??" ridhima had to fight her urge to retort n hold herself sober or aryan was likely to whack her through the cell phone.....

" i meant ur the first from among our gang....like all of us in India...." before aryan could counter she added "c'mon aryan, um telling u even before anji di...she going to send a terrorist squad after me if she comes to know i told u before her about her only sibling getting engaged....but i just had to tell u first...." ridhima finished in a suave buttering voice hoping aryan would call it quits on his counter taunts, they were really hard to answer back whenshe was in the guilty zone....."now that u mention it, thats a good idea, think il......" he stopped, n then said in a rushed tone "frisco
i have to run got an emergency page.....but dont think ur off the hook....get back to u later" saying so aryan shut the phone before ridhima could say a word.....

sighing she flipped shut the phone n turning back to see armaan as he too did the same his expression told her he had faced the same fate with anji....seeing each other's expressions they both broke out laughing helplessly for an unknown reason....after literally rolling off the couch when they finally got sober, armaan said, a bit breathless "so...bet aryan yelled at u before congratulating huh???" ridhima nodded still giggling "yeh he
would have sent me back to grade 1 for math lessoons had he not been interrupted by an emergency page....."

armaan chuckled then said looking at her with a cute yet unfathomable smile...."well anji was not too delighted about knwoing it from PM instead of us either...." he paused then said in a mysterious voice...."she asked me to inform u that she had to tell u  she just found last night that she is expecting, but now she wont mention it to u...." ridhima literally fell off the couch again as she yelled "WHAAAAT???...." then pulling armaan in to an excited hug she squealed "omg omg omg.....di is expecting..... armaan....shes...." pulling apart looking all red with the excitement of the news she continued "um going to be maasi....yayyyy" n she strated jumping about the place....

for the initial moments armaan just sat zapped by her reaction unable to tell her to stop before she exhausted herself completely as she wasnt 100% recovered....but he just sat watching her the smile reaching his eyes....then as she jumped about now talking to anji on the phone his eyes fell on the handycam lying on the electronics rack next to the couch, swiftly he picked it up to catch that in a video.....he couldnt think of another time she had been so happy, this had beaten even her reaction to when he proposed her n he just had to capture it.....proposed.....as the cam was now active in movie making, armaan's mind wandered to the events of that night less than a week ago.....

**************



Edited by spln - 03 August 2008 at 11:44pm

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Posted: 01 July 2008 at 11:40am | IP Logged



~Part45~

~flashback~

she opened her eyes slowly......it was dark n it wasnt until a few seconds were past that she remembered where she was....then while adjusting to the night vision mode she opened her eyes wide trying to gaher her surroundings, n wondered what time it was n how long she had been sleeping.....before another thought could enter her mind she met his gaze as she heard him whisper..."ridhima???....." 

surprised, she turned her eyes in the direction of his voice n found herself looking into his eyes, as they stood out in the darkness due to the thin stream of light creeping from under the door n shining off them....he sounded anxious n prompt , yet the exhaustion was not completely masked.....not getting a reply he spoke on....."what happened honey???why did u wake up...are u comfortable???" her eyes having completely adjusted to the darkness, now broke from the look, and she started, trying to move up from the lying position "i duno.... just... just woke up...."

.....he stopped her from moving placing a firm hand on her shoulder ,then turning around he walked close to the door n turned on the lights fumbling a bit at first, she shut her eyes tightly the same instant, in reaction to the sudden flooding brightness....then opened them a moment later feeling his hand on her shoulder again....he smiled at her questioning look nodding, as he helped her sit up.....

as she rested against the bunch of pillows n the sheet tucked all around despite the central heating he asked softly, caressing her cheek "so u arent sleepy anymore???" she shook her head n he realized with relief her movement was less enervate....n then she spoke, the increased steadiness in her voice reconfirmed his assessment

"um bored sleeping...."
she said with a cute pleading smile hoping to melt him as he broke into a helpless smile giving her a 'how-weird-do-u-get' look...."in fact i think u need a shower in addition to some sound sleep...." she added with a naughty look...he shot her an indignant look, though inside he felt glad she was speaking full sentences, even if her voice was still not much more than a whisper....there was a noticable improvement, the drips and drugs were sure acting fast.....now he retorted " is that a hint from my girl....u think um not presentable enough???"

and he ran his fingers through his ruffled hair, then stood up
n turned around for her inspection ...as she ran her eyes top to bottom, she looked at him with teasing 'need-i-say-much' look.....the tux of course had come off, also the shoes, the tie knot loosened ....n the red shirt with top few buttons undone wasnt quite perfectly tucked in....

but that was just him....whatever he may be dressed up as, or even messed up as, she couldnt deny the obvious....he could carry off any look, yet maintain the magnetic appeal...as he found her smile widen as she shrugged at him n he narrowed his eyes with a mean smile assuming she was mocking at him......

he looked at himself, and straightening out his shirt a bit, n creasing out the pair of pants  he looked back at her with raised eyebrows.....and she said in jovial resignation waiving off his effort "its ok...il manage with the unkempt look for a wile...." making a face at her he sat down his arms folded across his chest n she added in a cheeky voice...

"that gives me a reasonable excuse to eye the doc....i found him kinda cute....what do u think???" he narrowed his eyes at her again in a warning as he said in a grumpy voice "not only do u put forth ur CUTE opinions about him....but u have the cheek to ask me to RECOMMEND HIM as well???"

she broke into giggles hearing his words "n
um the one who hasnt slept a wink all night, worried about u, thinking ur unwell...." she didnt miss the last words even though he had muttered them in an almost inaudible disgruntled undertone.....as she put her hands out towards him, he obliged immediately pulling his bedside seat closer....n she ran her still slightly shaky fingers through his hair continuing in her cheeky voice, but a tinge of concern was evident..."can we exchange positions for a wile???"

as he gave her a questioning look she gently urged him to lay his head in her lap n still fiddling with his hair "u rest n il sit staring....." she said with a coy smile.....if only he would not ask her to sleep again.....he looked at the wall clock....it was still an hour before the doctor's next round n before reg n muski would come....he had told them to take uncle arthur back home after he had seen ridhima n been assured she would hold through....reg wanted to stay but armaan insisted they would switch in the morning.....

looking back at her, he got out of his seat stretching n then nodded saying "yeh i think thats a good idea...." ridhima was surprised he consented so fast n then seeing him abandon his seat she said in a puzzled tone "armaan...i dont think i can change positions like literally...i mean, the chair might be...." he interrupted "ur not shifting to the chair....." winking at her he continued

"um moving to the bed...."   her eyes widened as she raised her eyebrows.....he crawled into the bed by her side, snuggling in laying his head on her lap as she was sitting up....the bed was a regular queen size hospital bed, not the largest, but it wasnt too bad.....she stared at him for a few moments her initial surprise at his sudden move, now melting to love and concern as she saw the weariness clearly etched across his face, though he smiled even with his eyes closed....

"are u seriously sleeping??" she asked not succeeding at fighting the urge to be silent n let him rest.....he grinned his eyes still shut "i was self betting on how long before u spoke up...." he opened his eyes to see her turn red with a combination of slight indignation n embarrasment....n before she could say anything in her defense he added with a teasing look n matter of fact tone "women n quiet....there are some girl traits which even newton couldnt save u from i guess!!!" they both broke out laughing and she said in between "armaaaan...why are u always so bent upon pinning him down with mindless wisecracks....poor soul resting away peacefully somewhere in his grave....how in the world that bothers u is beyond me....."

...."honey u just made the point by defending him....i feel like um having to share my lady's love with the geek...n u expect me to take that in the easy stride???" he gave her a mock hurt n anguished look n she chuckled...."i dont go passing comments on all those chicks u hang out with forever n....." she stopped seeing the sudden change in his expression n realized why immediately...."i didnt mean it like that armaan..."

she said hurriedly to correct any misinterpretation of her unintentional jovial teaser....he lowered his eyes looking away n said in a low voice "i know....but ur right...." then looking back at her as he smiled she could see the effort put into it....n he said "ur supposed to be giving me a break...so leme sleep now....i cant afford to miss on ur sudden generous offer u know...." he said trying to change the topic, n he shut his eyes without waiting for her consent to indicate he really wanted to sleep....

but she wasnt going to let it go this time....."armaan...we need to talk...please...." he opened his eyes in resignation n looked up into hers..."right now???" he asked although he knew the answer before she even nodded...."alright....go ahead...um listening...." he felt she might have expected him to actually start but...he just didnt know where to begin....perhaps it was going to be better to let her take the lead she seemed more sure of herself....

ridhima however had indeed wanted to start since she had, unaware of this though he was, already heard out his side of things....."i....was awake when u initially came to the room to see me last night....." she started and his reaction as he shot up to face
her, wasnt unexpected....he lowered his eyes a couple of seconds later realizing he had heard her right....

"hmmm" was all he responded with, now he absolutely didnt know what to say....she knew what he had to anyways.....there wasnt anything more he could add to that....in a way its good he told himself trying to ease out his sudden rising anticipation, i dint have to say it to her knowing she could hear, n now that she did hear it all i dont have to repeat....gosh....i wonder if she realized how easy she made that for me???i always had a hunch she could read my mind....

she interrupted his thoughts as she saw his face had gone through a series of expressions n perhaps his mind through several thoughts, but obviously he wasnt going to say anything more yet....."armaan i want to clarify something ur getting totally wrong.....u think u made a mistake n um just gona say its ok...n let u go....n chapter closes between us???" it made her look at her in shock a second time, n then he looked down again gulping.....it was like he didnt know what was coming, and he dint know what he preferred should come his way next....

she continued..." u know the night i cut my hand....sandra had come to see me at the library just before u did....." he gave her a baffled look...of the 3 statements she had spoken so far, each one coming as a shock...this undoubtedly took the gold...."and she said she was ur girl, n no one else could take that place n i was....just.....another one u were hanging out with for a wile...." ridhima tried to use subtle language compared to sandra's real words.....

armaan got up from his lying position now, n though he controlled his expressions she could see his fists were clenched....she didnt think she had to elaborate the conversation, or how she cut her hand anymore, but he said in a quiet grim voice "n u cut ur hand thinking....she was right???that....shes such a scheming....cant believe i didnt see through her right away....." she knew telling him all of this early morning wasnt going to make his day, but to make her point she had to go through the nasty parts....

"actually i thought for a wile, n concluded i couldnt believe what she said about u messing around....with me....but...." he looked at her in anticipation....relieved she had kept faith in him, but what else then..."well i just....duno her words made me....kind of get insecure about....whether i really...deserved to be with u....i mean....the difference is so stark n....."

she paused again not knowing how to put her thoughts to words cause they now sounded more naive than ever before....she shifted slightly, trying to rest her back better, she was still a bit tired, n this certainly wasnt a cheerful conversation, much as it was needed now.....then she saw his expression change from confusion to one of sudden realization

"omg....
thats why...." he started, then said in a hard voice "n she didnt leave a chance did she......u know ridhima....i just could never understand why u broke down the night u did, considering it should have been a welcome respite for u to have had ur friends visit u....but she knows exactly what to do n when...the nerves of that......." he was leaving things unsaid only to avoid cursing in ridhima's presence.....she sighed then gave him a loving smile....

"but armaan....u were just....it was like after u talked to me, all my insecurity faded away...i just....i mean u handled it so wonderfully, n to think u did it when u were totally clueless...." she paused..."well ur words were all the assurance i needed i guess n i decided to change nothing in ur life from what it was before, but fit into it, ignoring things i knew could never be true....n so i wanted u to throw the party for reg at home, to make my new start with people who were in ur life before me....i just...decided i could handle it, and started by giving everything n everyone what i thought was a fair chance....."

armaan looked at her, then breaking his look he ran his fingers through his hair....Pa had been right...she really could keep everything inside n never let it surface unless she wanted to....if only she had.....had he known it all along, things could have been so much easier for them.....why did he not persist on knowing when all the symptoms indicated trouble.....ridhima went on...." then after the....events from the night before....i mean...u n me...."

she blushed slightly, but he was just intent on what she had to say ahead...."
i duno i was expecting too much i guess....n u didnt even mention anything all morning except...in the car....n it just felt like....i mean u lead me to believe it was just a light humored teaser for then....anyways after we got back from lunch remember i kept getting calls from an unknown number...." armaan nodded with a grim expression....

"leme guess that would have been ben with his proofs...." she nodded "yeh, except that he dint let me in onto his identity....not hard to guess why not...." armaan sighed in frustration then cupping her face in his hands he said "u just walked out, on a complete strangers summon???ridhima....this could have been so dangerous do u realize???..."

pausing he softened his tone to ask the obvious question which had been hurting inside now for the past few minutes "why did u not tell me any of this right away???...." as she paused she was going to answer but he spoke again, in a low voice, questioning yet full of remorse...."i know this is the last thing i should even dare to ask u after last night, but....did u not trust me to understand...."

she looked into his earnest eyes, then lowering her own she said "exactly....i should have told u everything from the very first time....u deserved to know....but thats me....think um too smart n can handle it all alone....dont need to share the trouble....i duno armaan....it was just like...a lot of reasons actually...i didnt want u to have issues with people u had been with so long, only cause i came into ur life....n i told myself since i dont care about any of it, telling u would almost be like...like indicating i did believe her somewhere....n then....ur just....i mean u always supported me even without knowing what the problem was n i decided the relationship had to be balanced with my contribution for a change...i just....thought i was going to be ur strength n be with u....n...."

armaan interrupted in a hoarse whisper now, looking away, she guessed he was avoiding the tears..."n u were...u were with me all through, even when he gave u such a glaring proof....u actually said yes despite what u thought had been my confession to the mistake....n i didnt even....i mean...why would u ever lie like that, but i blamed it on ur insecurity n turned a blind eye to how contradictory that was to the obvious trust u had shown by accepting the ring...."

ridhima spoke up the moment he paused "armaan, i didnt say i never lost my trust.....the proofs were glaring n obvious to fall for as u said....n i did fall for them...well almost did but then i ran into uncle arthur yesterday afternoon...he is master at his job i guess he read me as a complete stranger n knocked sense into my head without actually probing me about the problem....n i duno what it was about him at that moment but he seemed like a god sent answer to my cloud of doubts n so i called u....n i think u can guess the rest...i said yes at the party so quickly despite the car conversation coz i recongnized ben from his eyes, n....i didnt know all of it...but....it just seemed like the rightest thing...." making him look into her eyes she said what she had been trying to show him the past almost 25minutes....

"n it was, the only right thing to do....armaan....its not like i trusted u really...i did think u had made a mistake...i only didnt think i could let that come between us...n i would have reacted like u if i thought u doubted me for such a...such a low act....the problem would have never have become this messy had i had talked to u right away...u blame urself for not being with me when i needed u....honey....u were always there with me...even when i wouldnt let out anything to u....i never gave u a chance to actually resolve the problem....if u were wrong to have not taken my word, how could u ever justify my keeping secrets from u...isnt that in a way a trust issue i had between us???" she paused letting her words sink in....and his mind raced with all she had just said.....folding his hands he lowered his head resting his chin on the interlocked fingers, deep in thought.....

tired from the long conversation she just sat staring at him first, then slowly she leaned her head on his shoulder, as he sat by her side...."armaan..." she whispered n he looked at her, sliding his arm around her to let her head rest on his chest now...."i will never keep anything from u ever again...." he nodded...she had indeed shown him the whole picture in a way he was unlikely to have perceived it...it did not lessen his mistake, but he still felt light all of a sudden....at least the guilt had abandoned him he knew "promise???" he asked looking into her eyes, all his emotions weaved into that single word...she smiled in affirmation n said " i promise il tell u everything....except...."

he looked at her frowning with raised eyebrows...."except about my secret dates with newton on full moon nights...." she said faking a look of being lovestruck....seeing his expression change rapidly from confusion n anticipation to a mean nasty look with narrowed eyes she burst out laughing....he looked away rolling his eyes then looking back at her still laughing with no inclination to stop at her own lame joke, he pulled her close suddenly which silenced her right away, he said looking at her without blinking in a studied tone of passion streaked with cheekiness "now
ur making me pity the poor ghost sweetheart....its time u let go of his overtimed soul n let him romance someone his age...."

feeling his warm tingling breath, she was unable to retort, even think straight at that moment....n he whispered brushing against her lips now...."i think we can indulge in more attractive options for full moon nights between the two of us" closing her eyes, she found herself drawn into a kiss.....for those several minutes, she forgot everything in the world, even the sense of her ownself...n how tired she had started to feel just minutes ago.....he kissed her with a burning passion feeling an exhilaration take over him, his spirit at last felt carefree and he underwent boundless emotions feeling her essence seep deep inside him as she kissed him back with an equalizing sense of the need this moment....

~flashback ends~

***************

"OUCH!!" he yelped as she pinched him hard, n rubbing his arm he glared at her....."what was that for???" she gave him a sugar sweet smile, which was worse than a murderous look as she replied "cause my dear hubby to be...U DO NOT UNDERSTAND HUMAN SPEECH, IV BEEN YELLING FOR FIVE MINUTES TO GET MYSELF SOME ATTENTION N IT APPEARED LIKE MY VOICE JUST BOUNCED OFF UR EARS...." she finished standing across from him her hands on her waist as she tapped her foot indignantly waiting for him to explain....he looked at her top to bottom, n lowered his head grinning, then looked up again as he heard her say in an agitated voice "u can share the joke, i could sure do with some laughing...." getting up he picked up the video cam which was still recording n moved towards her....

as she gave him a quizzical look wondering what had come over him suddenly now, he held up the camera across from them trying to focus the approximate frame into which they would both fit, the looking back at her to find her staring at him incredulously her mouth open to speak but not knowing what to say....he kissed her full on the lips catching her unaware n pulling back just as she gave in n said winking..."love u princess!!" then raised his eyebrows in question with a naughty look on his face as she broke into a blushing smile n then suddenly realizing he was recording that she jumped to snatch the cam out of his hands, but the height could never play to her advantage....

"ARMAAAN..." she yelled as he swiftly moved out of her reach running backwards, still filming her as she chased him all over the living room throwing things at him n warning him to stop the cam...he couldnt stop laughing and yelled over her screams "no way sweetheart....um going to play this video at our wedding...." n ducked for the nth time as she flung another cushion at him, n this time his leg hit a couch n he lost his balance falling on it, and she, having been quite close to catching him fell over him in her attempt to pull the camera out of his hands....without losing a moment armaan zoomed the camera onto them again n said "c'mon now....quick...ur turn to confess ur love for lord benz...." she looked at him giving up on the camera n said "lord benz is an absolute jerk....."

...he retorted "it takes one to know one....but ridzy, sweetheart dad might be hurt to think of what opinions u hold of him...." she realized a couple of seconds later what he meant n hitting him on his chest she grumbled "ur the jerk....LORD ARMAAN CHRISTOPHER BENZ....." he looked at making a face n she continued "n ur right, um one as well of course, how could someone in their right minds fall in love with u???" before he could retort she kissed him on his cheek n getting up before he did she pulled the cam out of his hands...successful at long last...."ridzy please...dont delete....please please please...."

he said trying to get it from her, but she dodged him just as well as he had...."really???so u can play it at the wedding....um not as insane as u make me out to be...." as she looked at the cam now he tried another way "oki great go ahead its got videos of some of my ex girlfriends n ul never get to see any of that now....works well for me...." she blew him a kiss n said "u really do take me for an idiot dont u honey???" he nodded unconsciously then shook his head almost violently...."no no no....oki....ur right...." edging closer but she moved away herself keeping the gap....

"ridzy....sweetheart....please dont...fine....il do anything u say...i need that video...." he said in a resigned matter of fact tone, not moving to chase her anymore....she cocked up her eyes n an evil grin broke across her face "ANYTHING???" he nodded, not liking her look or tone at all...." great....lets see...." saying so she turned the cam to her face n spoke in it...."first i want a choco coffee cake for our wedding...no strawberry...." n she turned it back to him to record his answer for proof....he groaned but as she shrugged with a threatening smile he nodded hastily..."alright...now can i have the cam???"

she turned it back to herself n rolling her tongue in her mouth enjoying having an upper hand she said "u will sing a song for me with the guitar for once, on our wedding...." he nodded with a smile this time into the cam....but as she made to turn it back to herself once again he said with a frown "hey hang on....i said il do anything, but it wasnt supposed to be a list of demands....no one asked u to frame a new constitution of laws governing armaan's behavior after he gets married slash imprisoned slash enslaved slash grounded...." she glared at him n said "are u forgetting i still have the cam on me...."

..."as if" he mumbled knowing he was not in the position to set rules for now...."what else ur highness to be" he asked now....n she said more solemn this time, even forgetting to face into the cam..."i want to go to london once before our wedding...." he nodded with a questioning look and said "sure....any special reasons???" she nodded back....then said with a smile again "n last...u promise me to NOT PLAY THIS VIDEO AT THE WEDDING, OR UM GOING TO DELETE IT RIGHT AWAY...." he broke out laughing..."i was just kidding sweetheart...dont worry, its our little secret..." ....walking over to him she finally handed him the handycam, n then slumped into the couch tired....he sat down by her side, wrapping him arm around her and she said resting her head against him

"um so excited armaan....us engaged...anji di expecting.....aryan n minnie tying the knot in 2 months...." then pulling back she said in a hyper voice again "oh aryan said he talked to uncle aunty about muski n reg too...but he will surprise her himself.....n muski n reg still dont know abt anji di....gosh i cant believe all this is happening for real....." he smiled at her as she looked in to the air dreaming....pulling her close he gave her a quick peck on her cheek n said "by the way...what do u think about playing the video for the reception...or...better still...for that sing song dancing ceremony...what is it called...???" ...

"ARMAAAAN..." she punched him on his shoulder...."u said its our little secret..."...he looked at her innocently n said "yes honey...OUR secret...i didnt define the OUR did i....i mean...just aryan anji minnie atul reg n muski....family only...OUR SECRET u know...." n he ducked as she made to hit him again....."um going to break ur neck if u do that...." ...."omg...so much violence....n i grew up hearing india was a land of peace loving people....guess whoever thought so didnt get a chance to meet u....oh wait...i bet they disowned n deported u to america...."

and she made a face at him looking away scowling....he grinned at her look and said "ok peace..." as she looked back at him still frowning he pulled her lips into a smile n said "
just kidding....its our secret...just u n me...ummmm...perhaps il show it to our kids..." as she shot him another nasty look he added "only when they are 18+ of course...." n she couldnt help but break out laughing, so did he.....then catching back their breath after a couple of minutes he held her hand fiddling with her fingers n said looking at her...."so whats with the london visit...."

as she looked back at him he read a new kind of emotion in her eyes....n she said in a low voice with a warm smile...."dont u want to tell ur mom about us???" she felt his smile flicker as he gave her a blank look his grip on her hand tightening...she put her other bandaged hand on his cheek n said " i think we should place the first invite in her room, personally, n get her blessings...." it took him only a couple of seconds to react, before he pulled her into a tight embrace....."ridhima..." he whispered in a heartfelt voice...."ssshhhh" she said, knowing what he had to say, but she didnt think those words were needed between them to define the moment.....he probably felt the same cause she heard him whisper simply "love u honey....." and she replied smiling widely herself..."love u too....

***************

"dinner time guys...." she walked into the room n heard armaan say "yes uncle....reg n i completed all the papers n formalities...i think we have them roped in now, Steve agrees right???" rahul heard her voice, n looked up from the papers he was working on....hastily he walked towards ridhima before armaan, still busy in the conversation with arthur, could say much more n he said "we'll be there in a minute ridzy...." ridhima shot him a questioning look, her eyes travelling from him to armaan n back to him...."just the case...." then changing the topic he said "
u both go ahead n start if ur hungry...." she said "no we'll wait for u...come soon..." n saying so she left....

she knew why rahul had been eager to send her away...it wasnt like muskaan or she were not told about the case on sandra n ben....but though the guys had outlined the whole scenario to them, they preferred to keep the girls away from the legal mess of the proceedings....when ridhima insisted, armaan agreed to let her attend the hearings as an when they would be announced, she had to be a witness anyways.....but only after she promised him to put the issue off her mind...."give me my delayed chance to resolve the issue once and for all sweetheart" he had said...n she knew it was the wise to follow his advice.....

armaan had decided to maintain a low profile on the problem, n no one in the families knew yet...he figured they would tell them all in the good time after it was put to rest, n with arthur a part of the plan it wasnt as if they were doing this unguided....it just seemed like a good idea to talk out n explain in person at the right time instead of on the phone, moreover he feared they would all suggest he let go of the matter since everything was in place....even ridhima had suggested that option....he assured her he would keep a tab on the media but he wasnt letting them off the hook....

they had managed to frame the case such that the courtez family had no option but to face severe humilation or settle out of the court.....armaan had known they would opt the second n so the condiitions he got their lawyer steve to work out made sure the twins would never come into their lives again....they had been too shocked n defeated to have tried anything more anyways...apparently the fact that armaan stepped into the scene had been enough to scare sandra out of her life, n he knew there would be no more trouble ever.....

at the end of the day, she was but a brainless cheerleader....n her parents though influential did not want the news to blow up.....amongst the various terms, the twins had to leave the city right away n change schools....she smiled thinking of their dinnertable joke for the past few days....muskaan had suggested that armaan should demand them to be sent to their real home, the jungles of africa which had the four of them in splits.....but of course they limited the legal terms to more plausible conditions!!!

"dinner time ammy..." rahul said as armaan shut his phone smiling with satisfaction.,,,"all fixed as u wanted i guess...." armaan nodded.....then looking at rahul he said " oh did i mention, we got tickets to london for next friday, the same day as you n muski leave for florida...." rahul smiled n said "igreat, i was worried u might tag along with us to florida too!!!" then grinning he added "think we could all well do with this break, with everything sorted out now..."  armaan smiled looking down, then facing rahul again he said

"reg....i cant even say i owe u one for all that uv done n be over with it....n thanks is almost meaningless....n anyways, it isnt just this time....uv just always been there....." rahul looked at him with a solemn expression n said "i think there is something i want in return this time though...." armaan looked at him curiously n he said with a naughty smile " first, stop reminding me to call u armaan from now" armaan gave him a 'omg-thats-hard' look n said "as if my reminders over the past 4 years have bothered u in the least...anyways deal sealed....ammy it is for u...."

rahul smiled then said "wait not sealed, i didnt say um done..."...armaan narrowed his eyes n said "what??wait on...i bet ridhima trained u for this...shes the expert at forming an instantaneous DEMANDS FROM ARMAAN list, its like a never ending thing...n now ur joining the club....why am i not surprised...i really need to call on muski's support soon....anyways...what else...." he finished giving in....rahul said grinning..."no ur safe it isnt a list...just one more....u still havent told me why the hasty proposal to ridz....."

armaan jerked up...then quickly made a funny face with a cute smile....n then pulling him into a friendly hug, his arm around his shoulder he said "reg...mate....whats with the interrogation.....i just felt like it....i mean....couldnt i???" rahul nodded supressing his urge to laugh said seriously, showing he believed each word "of course u could...." then pausing he said with a mock thoughtful look...."but then u wouldnt mind me asking ridzi whats her take on why you might have suddenly decided to propose when u had decided to take a years time....right???" saying so he pulled himself free from armaans hold, before he could realize n ran down the steps yelling "RIDZYYYY....i was wondering if u could tell me something...." and armaan ran after him...skipping half the steps to catch him in time before he was the joke on the dinner table that night.....

**************

note: oki people much as ive tried i cant fix the issue with the horizontal bar, so i published the part as a google docs page online n heres the link

http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=dgqx8jf7_60gx7bhbcr&hl=en

thats the link to part 46 n epilogue only...if u still have issues let me know....


~Part 46~

~FLORIDA~

"who's the lucky one???" she snapped out of her thoughts n broke her gaze stuck mid air at nothing in particular as reg snapped his fingers in front of her eyes...."huh???sorry did i miss something...." she asked looking at reg as he looked up at her, his head in her lap......as they sat relaxing n lazing, muskaan resting her back against a sea shore rock....the beautiful beach, the glorious weather n the spring sun and the waves periodically flowing into their feet n back.....florida was indeed a favored spot for spring break....rahul smiled n said "no i think um the one missing stuff here darling....wats the occupying thought???" she smiled back lowering her eyes then grinning she said "hmmmm....u really dont wana know....."

he narrowed his eyes at her but said in a naughty voice "oh yeh i do....i know it was me, but um just faking modesty to hear it from u n see u blush!!!"he stated plainly making an arrogant expression n she rolled her eyes giving a 'yeh right' smile ....as he waited for her to go on...she spoke up in a solemn tone...."it wasnt u...." as his smile faltered ever so slightly but she finished "it was us...." ....he got his look back...then sliding an arm around her neck he pulled her down n closer n kissed her lightly on her lips, as the strands of her hair which had come lose from the bun tickled his face softly, he whispered..."and???"

..."and i was thinking, how nothing in life is ever an incomplete story....its like a full circle...ending where it all began..." she looked in to his searching eyes, waiting for an explaination, there faces only inches apart n the proximity overwhelming yet comforting like nothing else....she leaned in closer smiling at him yet her look dazed as she ruffled his hair...."do u remember the very first time we met???"

she paused, but not long enough to really let him think back n then went on "i was just 7 n we lived in mumbai at that time....n u and and ur family had come to India for a visit, the first time ever after u were born...." he interrupted..."i thought it was when we were in high school n u stayed at our home for a week
???"  then pausing he added as an after thought "i must have made quite an impression....u actually remember that first time?????" he said incredulously....

she looked up into his eyes n said with a grin..."dont be flattered...i dont....mum told me this cause i was visiting ur family, almost a decade later...i wasnt too keen to stay with strangers so she tried to convince me that i knew u all...ridzi was schooling here as an exchange student n she was missing home terribly so mum n pa sent me for the duration of the summer holidays....aryan n anji had medical enterances that year....u probably dont recall but i..." he cut her off as he whispered in a tone of sudden discovery...

"omg...ridzi....ridhima gupta....ammy's mentor....omg...how did i never fit this part before.....oh yeh...u had dad n me drop u over to a friends dorm like almost 5 times during that week....until u left for the west coast with the same friend....ridhima gupta....dad did say her name...i just didnt know who she was until she tutored ammy in our senior year of high school....oh boy....i cant believe i completely forgot all of that....."

then turning to muskaan suddenly with a shining smile he said "omg muski we all knew each other from much before a just a term ago.....n wow....i actually knew u from the age of 7!!" then with his smile becoming dim he added "dam...to think we could have been together all those years..." she interrupted "oh no please....ur so much better now...." as he gave her a stern look she chuckled n said "god u were unbearable then...like so hard to talk to....gosh i hated it when uncle aunty would ask me to hang out with u when i wasnt with ridzi n at first i was like, yeh well hes cute....but then i was like, only till he doesnt talk n stays away....when i met u again at stanford i was seriously amazed at how much more civilized u had turned.....like polite to make conversation even though it was obvious u would rather be elsewhere....at least u dint just walk through me like i was transparent.... "

as he glared at her now she grinned n said "what???u have any clue how vain u were
when we met as teens, as if labeled with an XXL size ego???" he made a face at her n looked away frowning as he muttered "yeh right...." then looking back at her he said "i was always a nice guy....the gang bet me on hooking with u, n i put them down right away...."...it was her turn to frown as she grumbled "why u thought u were too good for me???" her offended interpretation of his prudent intention made him roll over his face inwards in her lap as he broke out laughing and embraced her waist.....

which made her frown harder as she punched him hard on his shoulder pulling out of his grip...."ouch!" he pretended rubbing where she hit him but she stuck out her tongue at him...he finally spoke grinning "it wasnt that...i mean i didnt even think on the lines of what u were like...dad would have killed me for messing up with u muski....i wasnt gona hurt mom n dad for a silly bet...." she looked at him, partially glad, partially disappointed he said he hadnt even given her a thought n said in a low voice "so u would have played the prank if i was just somebody else...."

he concentrated on looking elsewhere as he thought of the precarious question...then said "i wont say iv never messed with girls...for bets n dares...n even generally....but....." she looked at him intently as he paused...."but...it was different with all those girls....it never meant anything to me, neither wrong nor right......n nywaz.....funny as it may sound....ammy just kept me out of trouble....i mean....for the most messy issues of his life, he has been impulsive, immature,  inaccurately conclusive, n always needing me for a fall back, um always the one playing he elder brother role.....but its like, when its about anyone other than him, especially me, he has this sudden spell of clear headed precise decision making, n relentlessly accurate ideas...."...rahul paused thinking.....

"he first saw u at the orientation in the beginning of fall term last year when we just happened to run into each other......he asked me about u saying he had observed us from a distance while getting his papers in place n he had this strange smile.....which i didnt like one bit, i couldnt figure why not though....n i was like ur a family friend's daughter, n i only just came to know ur here in stanford n that u are not his kind of....n he looked at me rolling his eyes n said i was a fool but didnt elaborate anymore....n i kept wondering why he talked in riddles....." he paused again n muskaan listened in rapt attention...

"but as months went by, u would come to the games n all....
he kept asking me more details about u each time he saw u, n even if we were just having general chats at dinner n all.....i duno...its was like...i started getting so used to the fact that i would see u around me somewhere that if i dint id wonder where u were.....when u were around i made sure i was with enough girls for u to not approach me....i just....had no way of figuring out why i even gave u a thought when we never had obvious interactions, beyond those of formal aquaintances.....n u know the gang teased me about u being a die hard REG FAN....n id retort back n sulk but.....ammy was right.....he asked me what i was offended by, the light hearted teasing or them calling u just a mere fan, for u meant more.....of course id answer back in defense....but..."

he looked into her eyes...."i duno...i couldnt ever convince myself much, so making my point before him was hard....i knew something wasnt just the usual normal sorts....n i wanted to get rid of the unknown consciousness i would feel even in ur distant quiet but observing presence, n yet, i was the one not fighting it out really....n everytime we made formal small talk u would mention wanting to meet ammy, i would make baseless excuses.....he is that extraordinary magnet.....most people love him for his obvious outlook....but in ur case i feared u might....i mean i know hes such a gentleman deep inside....n i had built that casanova image before u, n i feared the consequences if u compared between the two of us....he teased me about u all the time, but he also really paid attention to u being there almost as much as i did n i was....just somewhere insecure i guess....
what if u both liked each other....."

...he paused longer this time, sighing, n muski did not interrupt seeing him in deep revelation.....
"i just made things so complicated for myself muski....i mean, i wasnt ready to accept i had something for u, n i wasnt ready to let it go either...i wanted u to not make ur presence obvious, n yet i couldnt stop feeling happy inside thinking of the attention i got from u....it was different n it meant alot more than any moves from all the girls i was forever hanging out with....then id ask myself why was i avoiding the obvious spark....n i would justify myself with what ammy called my infallible excuse...dad...id tell myself it was just a silly inkling at max, n i cant mess in this case n let dad down.......i wanted ammy to help me out, but then i feared him n u....but it was all in my head....self built fears n notions....somehow...that very first time u both interacted...at the airport....it was like....why did i not let this happen all these months before.....n well.....u know the rest....."

he looked up to see her anxiously n found her staring back at him, he could feel how engrossed she had been as she was holding onto her breath....her lips slightly parted, n the lose strands from the bun falling over her eyes.....he let out a sigh n smiled deeply.....lowered his eyes a bit, then looking back at her he moved out of her lap...n sitting by her side, put his arm around her shoulder pulling her close.....lightly he kissed her hair n whispered...."muski???honey....um done with the narration....wouldnt i receive an applause???"

as he finished teasing her yet attentively capturing her expressions with each word, she reacted most unexpectedly, as he felt her lips on his own, her arms wrapped around his neck, andn finally getting out of the sudden shock, he kissed back with the same arduous passion pulling her closer in the embrace, as her fingers trailed the back of his bare neck beneath his hair......finally letting go he looked at her breathing down her skin, as she felt breathless n weak her eyes shut initially, then with passing moments they both relaxed, he
nuzzled into her neck her curls covering him in, n whispered...."muski???" ....

"hmmm" was all she managed, resting as close as they were in each others arms at that moment, she didnt want to talk......"he looked up into her eyes which were still lightly shut, he blew at them n she opened them ever so slightly irked at being distrubed in her blissful moment n he said as she looked down into his eyes "what took u back to so long ago???" she lowered her eyes with a smile, then he saw her look ahead towards the beach....n she said...

"i duno...just the scene...its just like the pictures mum showed me, of us....when we kids....playing at the shore right by our house in mumbai....she showed me those when i was coming to visit u, just in her talk of reminding me who u n ur family were.....n iv never seen them again, but....the beach again, n u n me....it all just came back....." as she finished still looking ahead she was forced to look back at him as cold drops hit her face  n she realized he had splashed her....before she could react, he lifted her off the sand n ran to the incoming wave....n it wasnt long before they were screaming n splashing...running n chasing each other all over the beach like 7 year olds again.....


*************

~LONDON~

They had been in london 2 days, n were there for 2 more after today, before they flew back to the states for the post spring break part of the term....back to work, assignments, exams, n so they wanted to make most of their time here, with each other, with chris n arthur...ridhima just couldnt get over the excitement of seeing her future home, n the place where the man she loved so dearly had spent so many of his early years....

his childhood was apparent in the house, especially in his play room, which his mother had personally designed n set up he told her.....as she had placed the card close to her photograph, she could feel more than ever why he, and chris, were as close to her as she had seen them to be....n almost regretted not having had the chance to ever meet her in person.....but she promised herself, n the lady in the picture before her at that moment that she would leave no stone unturned in making the Benz mansion the happy home they deserved to be.....

Now as they stepped out of the restaurant after a light lunch holding each other's hand armaan groaned looking at the sky...."oh man not again, the bloody city n its unpredictable weather....this is one reason i cant stop running away from here..." he said frowning as his voice matched the low grumbling n growling thunderstorm which was building enormously in the sky which had been crystal clear n sunny when they had left home two hours ago, to spend the day sight seeing.....while chris n arthur stayed back to give the two some time alone....

she looked at him rolling her eyes, she knew he was referring to the rain that would be lashing down soon without doubt....she couldnt figure his endless obsession with bright sunny days, anything that caused a break was an unwelcome intruder.....as the strong wind blew through her hair, however she broke into a wide smile n forgetting everything she walked ahead prancing light footed onto the sidewalk, tapping her feet into a light rhythm..."oh i love the wind through my hair, its like i could fly...."

he gave a small smile to himself shaking his head slightly at her  but then hearing the rumbling clouds again he tugged at her arm with urgency, to walk back fast to the park lot, which was, he thought with a weary sigh 4 blocks away....no rain please....not now, he hoped....inevitable though it appeared, the storm was all set n right above them....as he rushed literally running her off her feet, she pulled back on his grip n said...."armaan???ur not on a race track...whats the rush???"

but before either of them could speak another word, the rain drops, big n heavy came down....it didnt start the usual light way building into a downpour, it was like a relentless outburst struggling desperately  to fall free from whatever had been holding it back so far.....within moments they were dripping wet, and armaan frowned hard his mouth open looking up towards the sky then at himself,  before his eyes finally came to rest on ridhima....he saw through his semi open eyes n partially shielding eye lashes, with water drops trickling through them.....

she was grinning as she shrugged with raised eyebrows at his expression, n seeing his look turn nasty
now in response, she broke out laughing....linking her arm through his she pulled him close snuggling in....."c'mon ridzy....lets get out of here fast..." he spoke at last, realizing she was all prepared to soak to the skin without a thought in the world......he would smile at her happiness but it was pouring like crazy, they were drenched, n not only was she was being knowingly oblivious to his dislike of the situation, but was also making it more than obvious how much she was loving it....how could anyone, all dressed n dainty become a mess n love being so.....

instead of replying she started whistling some tune he had definitely not heard before...."RIDHIMA???" he spoke loud, over the sound of the rain, n she turned to face him, still whistling the tune giving him a naughty look n not breaking the gaze despite the raindrops making it hard to keep the eyes open....as he was now more confused than irritated...n then he was totally taken back as she started singing....

"Halki Halki Mulakaate Thi
Door Door Se Baatein Thi..."

he stared at her, not even hearing the words she spoke....but as she paused between the lines
he saw her break the look n walk ahead in a dance like trot, n he moved to catch up
with her as she sang out loud drawing the attention of the few on the street who were
victimized by the downpour....

"Halki Halki Mulakaate Thi
Door Door Se Baatein Thi
Dheere Dheere Kya Ho Gaya Hai Main Kya Kahoon...."

as he held her by her waist to make her walk straight she pulled out again n sang looking at
him defiantly

"Kyon Ladkhadaye Dhadkan
Kyon Thar Tharayen Tan Mann..."

and twirling in a circle around him.....

"Kyon Hosh Mera Kho Gaya Hai Main Kya Kahoon..."

realizing they would soon be entertaining quite a few interested viewers soon, he pulled her off
 the sidewalk to walk behind the row of trees which ran along it.....
as she kept singing....

"Kyon Ladkhadaye Dhadkan
Kyon Thar Tharayen Tan Mann
Kyon Hosh Mera Kho Gaya Hai Main Kya Kahoon"

"RIDHIMA???" he said looking at her as she wouldnt stop dancing about like crazy to her own
tune....she put a finger on his lips "sssssshhhhh" n sang on with a twinkle in her eye....

"Kuch Naa Kaho Kuch Naa Kaho
Kuch Naa Kaho Kuch Naa Kaho..."

n he couldnt help but break into a smile shaking his head at her n as she sang on he finally
 heard the words she was speaking

"Sab Mere Din Sab Raatein
Tumhare Khayalon Mein Rehte Hai Gum..."

his smile widened hearing the words, n interpreting them as what he thought they must mean
 she was literally enacting them out in her unruly dance.....

"Kehni Hai Tumse Jo Baatein...."

n she forced him onto the wet ground beneath a tree, then made him look at her as he frowned
 again at the mess n and she sang

"Baitho Zara Ab Sun Bhi Lo Tum....
Kya Mere Khwaab Hai Kya Hai Meri Aarzoo...."

n taking a twig he saw her scribble something on the ground all the while looking at him and
singing

"Tum Se Yeh Daastan Kyon Na Kaho Ru Ba Ru..."

then moving aside she indicated the words she had written out n he got up n read them aloud,
slow n unsure......

"kuch...na...kaho???" he shot her a questioning look n she jumped out of joy gave him a
sudden hug....which he thought must be for having read the words..right???n

holding his hands in a firm grip she twirled around in circles
making him do the same this time
as she sang the same words.....her voice not professional in the least, but ,chirpy n
melodious n full of life.....

"Kuch Naa Kaho Kuch Naa Kaho
Kuch Naa Kaho Kuch Naa Kaho...."

slowing down she sang looking at him moving closer

"Jazbaat Jitne Hai Dil Mein
Mere Hi Jaise Hai Woh Bezuban..."

n he felt something stir inside him as she looked at him, unblinking, her eyes deep in love....

"Jo Tumse Main Keh na Payi
Kehti Hai Woh Meri Khamoshiyan..."

n as she lowered her eyes blushing slightly, he moved his hand to caress her cheek, the
moment having completely drawn him, n he forgot about the rain, n the mess, n the scene
he was worried they would create.....
but she snapped out of the temporary dip in her craziness levels n pulling his cheeks n ruffling
his hair she sang in a cheeky challenging voice snapping her finger at him.....

"Sun Sako To Suno Woh Jo Maine Kaha Nahin
Sach To Hai Kehne Ko Ab Kuch Raha Nahin


Kuch Naa Kaho Kuch Naa Kaho....." .......n she paused as he put his fingers on her lips this
 time n said "kuch na kaho!"
winking at her, confident of the words this time....
n they both broke out laughing.....then he pulled her closer....n cupping her face in his hands,
as she still grinned he smiled deeply n gave her a quick yet passionate kiss on her lips...
she held his hands on her face n said looking into his eyes, her voice cheeky....
"omg....lord benz.....public display of affection...what will people think???" he rolled his tongue
 inside
his mouth his eyes narrowing as he said

"yeh right, like that was a thought even remotely on ur mind when u were putting up the act all
over the place....gosh ridzy...u such a clown...." he said laughing...
then before she could retort he said "but i cant believe it was u doing all that....ok tell me the
 truth....where did u hide my innocent princess????u cant be the
ridhima gupta i know....wait a second..." n he came closer sniffing then said scratching his hair
in the mock confusion act "no alcohol on ur breath, no body gets drunk on lemonade
anyways.....omg....honey are u being possessed by a spirit???or is it...."

...."STOP" she said indignantly pointing a finger at him n said "u insensitive, non appreciative,
good for nothing, crass, unchivalrous, unethical
, pseudo lord benz ....
i will never sing for u in my life again....hmphh!!" n as she turned around her back towards him
 she couldnt help blushing hard...god ridzi, she thought to herself....hes right....
what the hell....dam...rain n snow n me....boy!did i have to prove um a certified idiot....
OH MY GOD I WAS SINGING N DANCING ON THE STREET....RIDZI U JERK....
UR AN ABSURD RIOT INJURIOUS TO THE WORLD OF THE SANE.....

he turned her around firmly before she could reprimand herself in her head anymore....
n she found him looking deeply
into her eyes, n he said "i love u...." saying so he pulled her face closer, his hands in her hair,
n kissed her lips, gently yet full of love...n as he let go looking at her,
she snuggled her face into his chest to not face him , n he pulled her tighter into the embrace,
the soaked clothing serving only a bare minimum barrier between their bodies
as they stood under the tree, the drops of rain still finding their way to witness the moment
they had helped eventuate....
**************

~about 2 months later- INDIA~

Holding her picture in front of his eyes he blew it a kiss n smiled...."minnie" he whispered with love....same as ever, he thought admiring her perky look n sunshine smile....images from the past flashed through his head, as he remembered the stages their relation had gone through.....nasty archenemies....professional rivals....unwilling team mates....awkwardly formal colleagues....inseparable friends n pranksters....n finally the smitten in love couple....

whether against him or with him, he had never ceased to be a silent admirer of her spark.....the exact matching spirit....it was her defining trait, as it was his....n had become the identity of their relationship....n tomorrow, they were finally tying the knot.....his eyes wandered around his room,  his familiar territory felt strange n lonely....like something was missing, alwayz had been....but for the first time he realized how incomplete his room was without her....although he knew not what it would be like with her....

but he knew he just couldnt wait to see that transformation he had long awaited....n he had this sudden urge to be able to fast forward time to 24 hours ahead...when she, the missing element in his life would be there...with him....dam....how the hell do i pass this time now he thought.....n then suddenly he narrowed his eyes....his lips broke into a mischievious smile n he jumped up to get hold of the phone...."its ur prince charming honey...." he said in a cheeky voice, as his heart warmed hearing her speak on the other side.......

*************

as she stood anxious n shy with a hint of a sweet smile, he grinned n muskaan handed him the garland....wow minz, u arent a player to be underestimated at all, he thought.....but then the 'good' n the 'better' was always less than the 'best' he told himself ......now he moved forward to slip the garland around her neck.....her sudden but slight gasp passed everyone unnoticed, except him....

her deep crimson blush was mistaken for glow n shyness
, as he sensuously caressed the soft skin along the cape of her neck while slipping in the garland around it n smiling for the convenience of the guests n family n the cameraman of course but his challenging look did not escape her as he cocked his eyebrows ever so slightly with the hint of a crooked smile n she cursed him mentally....he had not missed a single chance to remind her of the dare between them....n was using every unfair trick to get his way she thought as her fast mind was processing counter ideas now, remembering their conversation from the previous night....

**************
~flashback-the night before~

"oh yeh???" she said in a sarcastic tone as she rolled over the bed the phone held close to her ears...hearing him laugh on the other side she continued "u think cause um marrying u, um always going to let u win aryan????forget it....this is minnie ur dealing with...minnie joshi....n although i always let u win to pamper ur male ego, i think its time to show u who's the real mastermind...."

aryan chuckled n said "ooohhh now u scared me, ms soon to be minnie aryan chadha.....i hope ur not going to resort to the usual girl thing.... whining n complaining to mum about me to get ur way!!!" n he broke out laughing....rolling her eyes at his lame jokes she said now "u know what...why dont u just bring it on, whatever u have in mind....its a bet i cant handle u say....why dont u tell me what...or are u fearing getting beaten at the hands of but a mere lady???"

things were beginning to get interesting now, with still a whole day to go before they were pronounced man n wife....he had to keep himself humored with something....."u know minz....i cant deny ur pretty good....like the best ive known at this game of bets n dares....the best yeh, but only after me....aryan is invincible honey.....but just to prove it fair n square yet another time heres my take....u will maintain all through the wedding, without a seconds break, the perfect indian bride image...u know the shy, the humble, the 'my hubby is my god' , the totally non-minnie kind of bride image????" she smirked n said "thats a dare???u disappoint me sweetheart..." she quipped in a sugar sweet tone....

n he retorted "um all but half way through my statement honey....u have to get me to voluntarily bow down before u in submission, like bow down physically
in front of everyone, n the ethics of the bride are to be observed all through this...." he paused n she said "aryan, ur losing it honey.....if ur my hubby, my god" she said immitating hi tone with mock reverence, "how can i let u bow down before me???its either one or the other....." aryan shrugged on his side n said "well its that or u accept um the best....which i am anyways....c'mon minz....just admit it sweetie.....its not that hard really, just repeat behind me....ARYAN....IS.....INVINCIBLE...."

...."ur on....il do it" she snapped before he could say anymore.....he self congratulated himself....now the wedding was gona be fun....afterall it was once in a life thing, how could he let it be all but plain tradition...no there always had to be a gameplan!!! he knew minnie would never put down a dare, n she didnt let him down....."n u will admit um the best after i win the challenge " she said cutting through his thoughts in the voice of a fellow competitor....his smile deepened as he said simply yet with absolute confidence"IF u win sweetheart...only IF....n u wont...."

...pulling her phone away she looked at it, as if she were facing him, n rolling her eyes at him n she muttered "dream on...." putting the phone back to her ear she said "much as id hate my dearest hubby to take the first step into our new life together in the face of a defeat, ur the one calling for this....il see u at the wedding tomorrow sweetheart...good night!" ...."love u minz...." he said hurriedly before she cud cut the call n it made her pause, as she blushed....."not like i left u an option!!!" she said with a cheeky voice n cut the call....flipping his own phone shut he sat ruffling his hair n dropped back on the bed with a deep sigh.....

~flashback ends~

****************
Now as she tried to complete the exchange of garlands by putting the one atul handed her around his neck, he stood his full height moving his head out of her reach....she tried once more in vain, n suddenly she felt herself lifted off the ground n she saw atul n armaan had held her higher than aryan...but to the surprise of everyone she pulled her hands back without putting the garland in place...."c'mon minz go on n rope ur guy!!!" said armaan with a naughty smile but minnie shook her head with a shy solemn look....quite confused now, atul n armaan put her back on the ground n she bent forward to whisper with a nervous held back expression to atul n armaan bent forward to hear her request....

as eveyone around started whispering, the elders moved forward n aryan narrowed his eyes trying to guess what exactly she could be upto....before anyone could interrupt atul n armaan looked at aryan n atul started "aryan minnie is...uh..." armaan continued "she says this game of evading the garland is ritualistic but she wants to let u win....cause...." atul resumed in a tone which showed he wasnt quite convinced himself "cause she says an indian girl is always happiest in the victory of her man...."he left the last part almost hanging in the air like a question, his own facial expressions showing he couldnt believe minnie had said all that.....

...."so she wont put the garland by force with us helping her to be higher than u, but only when u after winning the ritual will consent to have her place the garland around ur neck...." armaan finished shrugging....he was quite surprised at minnie's hesitant demand himself....n ridhima anji muskaan looked at each other n then at minnie...n then at the boys.....but aryan was dumbstruck by her check n mate move as his mum said "oh c'mon now u guys....aryan ur so stubborn about winning see now minnie the sweetheart she is, let u have ur way....go ahead n let her do her bit of the garland exchange....the auspicious time is ticking away we still have to have the laavein n phere...."

as aryan moved closer looking into her eyes she gave him a small yet evident victorious smile n he bent before her to let her place the garland, as the crowd erupted into a round of applause n cheers he whispered..."masterstroke honey....ur humble servant accepts his defeat!!!" and this time as she lowered her eyes smiling n blushing he knew it wasnt just for the people to see....beaming himself he wished the wedding would get done fast, he couldnt wait to be with her alone.....oh god...we are really getting married....n as he saw her look up into his eyes he saw his emotions mirrored....

***************
~Apollo, Private Ward, Gynae Unit, 7 months later~

"c'mon anji we had a deal here.....i dont care how u talk bro outa this now.....um sticking to my part of the bargain....i mean u know how hard it was to wait this long for the wedding....especially as one after the other u all tied knots???n ur smart sister never leaves a chance to get her way by blackmailing me n complaining that i dont want to marry her n thats why um delaying....i still did it only cause u said u wanted ur child to be a part of the last wedding in our gang....
how can u go back on ur promise now....i mean i know if u really wanted u could make atul agree to anything....women always win...."

...anjali looked at him with a helpless shrug as she thought...yeh right, like um winning against u right now....for the first time she had to agree ridz wasnt exactly exaggerating when she cribbed about him being quite a handful when he got into these stubborn spells, rare though they were....he wasnt wrong about keeping his word, but it wasnt like she was going back on hers, in fact it was just a perfect fit....atul's demand n armaan's condition both could work out if only they would listen....where the hell are u when i need u ridzi....

as she saw him pouting at her with his arms folded across his chest like a little child who was swindled out of half a chocolate from a bag of 20 she tried one last time to show him reason....."c'mon AJ....we agreed if u n ridz marry after my delivery, then i let u name the first born of our family....n um letting u do that right???it was never about naming them both cause we didnt even know that early that i would have twins .....n u get to name the boy cause hes older by a whole minute n hence the firstborn in real sense....what can i do if atul said he wasnt letting anyone except himself name the girl.....not even me...."

giving him a crestfallen look now she added trying her last technique of emotional blackmail  "in fact i feel like he doesnt love me ever since he became a dad...its like hes always with his daughter...calls her princess, n doesnt even call me 'honey' anymore just plain anji n....."..."hey sweetheart...." she almost jumped out of her skin shocked as atul addressing her that way just the very next moment walked inside with a bunch of red roses n handing them to her n gave her a quick peck on her cheek....as she shot armaan a guilty look he returned a sarcastic sugar smile.....

looking at atul he said with an intended tone for anji "red roses....sweetheart....hey anji...i think bro has just forgotten what it is like to show love to his lady love right???" as anji gave him a sheepish smile, atul looked from one to the other n back with a confused look.....then looking at armaan he said "look if ur trying to instigate anji against me, so u could get ur way with the name issue i told u all chapter is closed...um naming my princess...be happy um letting u name the boy atleast, only coz she promised u...." armaan glared at them both....

then he said in a grumpy tone "i almost flunked my finals cause of the hours i spent all of last month in looking up like a zillion books of indian names for boys n girls n then understanding what each one meant.....i learnt enough to name the whole billion plus population of this country, all um asking for is the permission to name 2 kids???n u say no even to that trivial plea???" he finished in a hurt voice looking away from both of them hanging his head in misery.....anji felt guilty seeing his face even if she knew he was over dramatizing all of this....

n said again "please AJ its like...."...he cut her off "no no no....dont AJ me now....it wont work....um really hurt n upset....." anjali now frowned, clearly not patient anymore ...."alright Armaan Jeeju.....if thats how u prefer it....n Atul Patidev....u know what...u both are sick...here i am....not fussing in the least over getting the chance to name my own babies....just to keep u both happy....but no...bad idea....u both....typically guys...insensitive selfish men....decide n name them whatever u want....um out of this....i mean how do u care, if it was me who bore not one but 2 kids for 9 whole months, the pain the trouble the.....just....forget it...." they looked at each other in alarm now as she pulled her sheets over herself moving out of her sitting position with effort....."ANJIIII"....they both said at the same time as armaan jumped off the couch to help her while atul was already by her side, at it.....

she glared at them both, as they shot her a guilty sheepish look then looked at each other in quiet affirmation, n armaan spoke scratching his head "what do u think of ADIL for my little buddy???" ....."n AANYA for my princess....???"..."adil aanya..."she whispered, n couldnt help but smile deeply as she spoke the names of her babies for the very first time....."adil n aanya.." she repeated getting the feel of the names on her lips as her eyes slightly moistened n atul sat beside her pulling her into a loving hug....
anjali said "lets call home n tell them right away....adil aanya....my babies...." armaan grinned at them both n quipped cheerfully "atul anjali adil aanya.....the 4 A's!!!" n the three of them beamed at one another....

*************

~EPILOGUE~

"HIBA....." ridhima entered the room n sighed as she saw her 16 year old daughter chatting away on the phone as usual....without doubt she knew who it was on the other side n walking into the room she took the mic from hiba's hand n said "adi....um going to have to borrow my daughter for a bit....she needs to dress up n look presentable for her birthday party in an hour from now....n if u dont want to attend the bash on video conferencing itself, i suggest u get going as well or ul be the last one to reach....n i dont think Hiba will be pleased with that.....the two teens looked at each other on the screens nodding reluctantly n cut the call....

now as hiba turned around, ridhima shook her head as she saw her flashing the same endearing smile, dimpled n adorable, just like her dad's....as she said in a pleading sweet voice "mumma..." she started in her clipped british english, "dont be angry now please....adi bhai n i were discussing how to help karan propose aani di n..."..."WHAT???" ridhima couldnt help her loud voice....karan and aani???did she mean reggie's elder son karan n her niece aanya???aanya was actually a few months elder than the boy although they were in the same year....hiba gave a cheeky grin nodding her head n said "yeh karan asked her to be his partner for the prom next week n he will confess his love the same night...isnt that awsome..."

ridhima gaped open mouthed n then shaking her head she said "oki all this later hiba....u dont want to keep grand dad waiting for u after he planned out this ball night for ur birthday do u???" as the beautiful teen shook her head she moved to give ridhima a quick hug n then ran to her walk in closet....n ridhima sat on the bed thinking...karan n aanya...
omg....how time has flown by.....wasnt it just yesterday when Apollo transferred a group of 10 doctors to their british unit here, and anji di, atul jeej, aryan n minnie had moved to london.... n then the kids had started elementary school together....anji di n jiju's twins, reg n muski's sons karan n kavin.....aryan n minnie's son ketan n her own precious angel hiba....well she wasnt quite the girly angel all the time....

it had been obvious even when they were young kids that hiba was best herself with the guys....adil, adi as she called him was were favorite among all cousins she had in london n india....n karan n ketan were her best buddies....the two of them reminded her of aryan n herself....aanya, nicknamed aani was the typical elder sis....she was balanced, pretty, mature....n she n hiba shared the expected sister bond, shopping, gossip, girls night outs, wardrobes n shoes, dancing n music classes, watching romantic late night movies....n kavin was......

"there u are sweetheart....iv been looking all over the place for....." she turned around to see armaan, as he walked in dressed smartly in the black tux, with a crisp white shirt, she knew what he came for as she saw the missing bow...."can u??" he said handing it to her....as she nodded and stood on her toes to fix it for him, he noticed her dressed in a beautiful maroon evening gown n her smile was special...."u look like u turned 16 urself again honey...." he said in a deep husky voice giving her a light peck on her lips....

n she said looking into his eyes smiling deeply but shaking her head slightly "armaan???u most certainly beat ur all time personal low record at the most cheesy line ever....all these years of marriage n u never leave a chance to make me wonder what i was thinking when i fell in love...." even as she said the teasing words armaan could see the deep feelings in her crystal eyes....the same look which had remained unchanged from the time of grad school....their love had only grown with each passing day, n she had become such a perfect part of his home...their home.....she was indeed the best thing to have happened to him, n he could never thank god enough for her in his life....he pulled her closer n kissed her forehead as she finished tying his bow.....

"ahem ahem!" they both looked up at the same time as hiba stood before them, dressed in a beautiful deep blue satin evening gown, enhancing her teen aged curves with utter perfection, as her face glowed in her beaming smile, ridhima stood her eyes wide n starting to moisten, while armaan just stared...as his eyes locked with her anticipatory gaze, waiting for his comments, he smiled, she had the same spell bounding deep expressive eyes as her mother....he spoke at last "HIBA...." he whispered n she moved forward as he extended his arms for her, and then holding her gently from her shoulders he said looking at her "u look beautiful....my precious angel....prettier than the real ones in heaven...."

...."pa..." she said cheerfully but blushing slightly, her smile reaching her eyes, n dimples flashing to match his own...."more beautiful than what mum looked like when u confessed ur love to her at the TAJ???" she asked in a naughty voice...."that may be a bad question girlfriend...." all three of them turned to see chris enter the room, she rushed into his arms as he hugged her n said "hey hey hey....wait, u gota act like a lady when u dress like one missy...."

and she pulled back bowing down gracefully held her gown in the perfect posture n said with an arrogant smile "like that???" n all three of them broke out laughing....ridhima stepped forward n couldnt keep herself from putting a tiny black spot of kohl from her eyes behind her ear as hiba looked up to see armaan's reaction n saw him chuckle as he winked at her, then pulled a straight solemn face as ridhima caught the moment between them n turned to face him with a 'u got a problem?' look, n he quickly put his arm around her shoulder n said to chris....."think its time to make a move if the family moment is over....right dad???" n the four of them moved down to the hall.....

**************
As he saw her twirling in and out of chris's arms gracefully armaan couldnt stop smiling for a moment....now feeling a hand on his arm he looked up to see ridhima by his side n said "she looks just like u sweetheart....gorgeous n graceful....." ridhima smiled back n said "n smiles just like u....." as he looked at her sideways she added "n of course, thanks to way u n dad pamper her, she is a total brat just like u...." he laughed then said, each word with studied notoriety....."well shes a honeymoon baby, they are supposed to be brats mum said....dont blame me...."

she replied "yeh n a honeymoon baby girl was ur demand for a wedding gift....how are u not to blame...." he held her around the waist pulling her closer n said grinning "i always wanted a daughter....although u did break my heart when u said u were going to name her....i feared u would name her after some lady physicist...." ridhima shot him a nasty look n he broke out laughing....but then getting solemn he said "but when u said u wanted to name her HIBA, cause it means a gift.....i was just....she is my perfect gift ridzi.....thank u so much..."saying so he kissed her hair pulling her close....as they stood looking at her dancing away with arthur now....

****************
he moved by her side as she stood grinning at something she was observing keenly....."hey beautiful...." breaking away her gaze from where she saw karan n aani dancing.....
"kav...." she said a new shine in her eyes the moment she saw him.....then she made a face at him n said "finally u decided to grace my party with ur presence....reg uncle n muski aunty been here for ages....which girlfriend were u caught up with tonight???"

he grinned at her outburst n then pulled her into a hug....."um sorry honey...." n he pulled back she said "hiba....thats my name for u mr. kavin, since cant even make it in time for me one day of the year..." she retorted still angry....."n what will it take for me to be called kav again honey???" ....she looked at him then said after a thought "wheres my gift???" he grinned n said ...."my name is HIBA.....a gift.....thats what it means n thats what i am...." he mimicked in her voice n as she narrowed her eyes at him indignantly he said "i remember someone telling me that when we all but 5 years old, i asked for my birthday gift...."

n pausing as she frowned at him he added "a gift for a gift????" she made a face at him n said "its 'A ROSE FOR A ROSE', not a gift for a gift....forget it....i hate u....first u dont come on time....n now u try to sell me those good for nothing cheesy lines n get away without getting me a gift???" saying so she made a move to walk away as he held onto her wrist, she felt a sudden cold metallic touch on it.....as she turned to look at it....she saw a delicate silver RADO watch on her wrist....looking up at him she saw him working on his watch, and as she pulled his wrist she realized he had a matching male watch of the same set.....she looked back at him n he smiled at her deeply....

"kav???" he nodded...."yeh the heartbeat watches....do u like it???" she nodded slowly then looking at her watch n back at his she said "thanks....its....its really special....."....his smile widened n he asked putting his hand forward "so do i get to dance with the lovely birthday girl???" she nodded giving him her hand and he guided them to the dance floor.....as they danced she said "hey kav....can i ask u for another gift???" he looked at her strangely but nodded n she continued

"I am going to visit nanu n nani this winter.....will u come with me to india???i want to go see the TAJ MAHAL....." he looked at her for several moments to make sure he heard her right, n if he did, was she joking??? he knew what the taj meant to her n why.....could....could she be indicating what he had lately been feeling every time were together.....could it be the beginning of something more than......slowly he nodded his head n said "i would love to....." and seeing her smile as she continued dancing in his arms he felt his own smile widen in a happiness he felt only with her.....

***************


hey friends... a super long part 46...n the epilogue....hope that makes up for the tragic delay thanks to my brain dead cells refusing to behave themselves n cooperate....i hope u all like it....parts of course are too happy n dream like, i would like to make them more real, but everytime um ending i cant help but make it all perfect thats the only way i like things to end....n yeh....wud want to say i wanted this to be the last part as it is 46...exactly double of 23 which was the number of parts in the previous fic um a digit freak, which isnt hard to guess fro geeks i guess!!!....i hadnt expected this to be so long but.....well u guys make anything possible i guess...thank u so much for the tremendous support iv got from u all....its great writing on this forum....me enjoyed every bit of doing this immensely...hopefully so did u....love ya all.....!!!



Edited by spln - 04 August 2008 at 11:42am

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jia..

Joined: 26 December 2007

Posts: 6327

Posted: 01 July 2008 at 11:51am | IP Logged
NSMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!! CONGRATUlATIONS!!!!

Very very well deserved yaar!!! Hope many many more to cum........threads and ff's i mean!! LOL

Will be waiting
Love u tonss
Jia

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