Part 20 : Glimpses of the Past
He locked his car and strode towards the door. With a breath and a small smile,he looked at his watch. 8.Thank God he wasn't late. Chuckling at her already known response, he rang the bell. There was no response. Maybe she is on the phone? He rang the bell again. The response still wasn't there. She knew that he'd be coming at that time...but Still...had she gone to the washroom,perhaps?
Armaan rubbed his hands and decided to wait.For the third time, after five minutes, he rang the doorbell again.There was no rustle of footsteps,nor Muskaan's voice.His mind started racing with worry.He took out his phone and dialled her number. The ring was complete,but she didn't pick up. Infact...he thought he could hear the sound of her ringtone from outside the house.
He panicked. Feeling sweat down his forehead,he took a breath in and out,and then suddenly remembered the extra key. She kept it buried in the sand of the artificial flowerpot outside (and he knew exactly where) for emergencies. As quickly as he could,he rummaged with the key and hastily opened the door.
"Muskaan?",he called out,hoping to get a response. There was pin-drop silence.And it all the more made him feel uneasy about the whole situation-it was so unlike her.
"Muskaan? Where are- ", his voice cut off abruptly,his feet halted near the sofa.
She lay down there motionless,her hands together on one side-her long curly hair scattered near her figure. Her eyes weren't even flickering, and the way she lay there,made him go cold for a few seconds.
He felt the colour drain from his face. His mind had stopped working for a minute or two- and he knew exactly why. Doing his best to calm himself down,Armaan felt himself kneel down to the marble floor beside her. Cupping her face in his hands, he whispered her name again, but there was no response. Her face felt so cold in his hands. He couldn't think of anything else, but picking her up to the sofa.
It was like she was oblivious to everything. Not a inch of her body moved in response,and he could feel his heartbeats racing faster. Very gently,his hands inspected her pulse,thankfully it was there, but low...Had she even eaten anything? He cupped her face once again and shook her,hoping that atleast she would respond.
"Muski? Muski please...Shit,please be okay,please be okay...Muski..",he muttered to her,only to get no response.
His doctor-senses all had seemed to vapourize.He knew he was always like this when someone like Muskaan was considered.
Feeling his head throb with pain, he dialled the number which he could never forget.
Riddhima signed out from duty, and walked towards the parking lot, when her phone rang. Fidgeting with the car keys, her apron and her stethoscope, she took out the phone, and smiled at the caller's name. Armaan.
"Hi Armaan.", she said happily, hoping like a kid that he too was that glad in calling her. But seemed he wasn't.
"Riddhima.", his voice cracked in saying her very name, it was shaking.
Immediately, the frown on her forehead deepened, and her heartbeats quickened. She didn't have a good feeling about this.
"Armaan? Are you okay? Why is your voice..", she began, but his shaking voice didn't let her complete.
"Riddhima, I...Can you come to Muskaan's house r-right a-away? P-P-Please? I don't know what to do...I...I...Riddhima please..I Need...You. Please-"
If she already wasn't dying with worry, she did at that right moment. It was long, very long since she had heard Armaan's shaking, broken voice...layered with helplessness and tension. She knew his shoulders were shaking, and coincidently hers was too. This was serious.
"Armaan whats wrong?", she said, walking towards the car, and trying to keep her voice steady,"What happened to Muski? Is..everything..O-Okay?"
"I..I don't know. Riddhima, she isn't opening her eyes."
"I'll be there." Please be okay,Muski.Please.
She cut the call and got into her car, placing the things in her hand on the passenger seat as fast as she could. The car engine sprung to life,and she was on the roads,not really caring if she'd break the traffic limits today. Muskaan's home wasn't that far, about 10 minutes from Sanjeevani, but even that distance seemed to look like a 100 miles when she halted at the traffic signal.
More than anyone else, she was worried about Armaan. Somehow,she knew that maybe it wasn't something major, and she'd fainted because she was pregnant,but as much as she knew Armaan, she knew he'd be panicking as hell. And Armaan panicking, that also for someone who was so much important to him, was not good. Definetely not Good.
She let out a unsteady breath when she reached. Locking her car as soon as possible, she fisted the key in her hands,and walked swiftly towards the door. Boy, was she tensed. Her heart was beating this fast, and she fervently prayed her Armaan and Muski both to be okay, while she rang the doorbell.
In about 2 seconds, the door flung open and a devastated looking Armaan stood- his eyes searching and meeting hers in fervent hurry,and then calming down a bit.
"Riddhima.",he choked out,"Finally..."
"Are you okay?",was the first question she asked when she enetered the house.
He nodded weakly and almost-frustratingly,"I'm fine..Its Muski.."
He didn't have to complete. Muski lay in the sofa, and almost her heart gave a horrible lurch that made her shiver. Riddhima knelt down beside her, quickly checked her pulse, and then in fast succession,her eyes and her forehead.
"Armaan.Water. Quick.",she almost yelled the words,and heard Armaan rush towards the kitchen.
There was smoke everywhere. Not blinding,but yeah,there. He reached for the water bottle he could see nearest to him, grabbed it, and came out coughing. Riddhima turned at once.
"Armaan are you-"
"I'm fine.",he finished with another cough,"There's-there's smoke in the kitchen.",he said,holding out the water bottle.
"So that's why..",she said, nodding.
"That's why?",he said,puzzled.
"Armaan its nothing major. She has slight fever, but the fainting wasn't due to this. I'm guessing she didn't realise that she'd burnt the food,and when she went to check,it was already too late and there was smoke everywhere. Knowing her,she must have tried to switch on the chimney, and by that time the smoke had already affected her.",she sighed,"Muskaan must have been coughing, and it took a troll on her. Since she's pregnant,she must have passed out because even the slightest infection can cause harm.", she finished.
Armaan looked in awe at the girl he loved. Ofcourse, her prediction sound real as hell. And moreover, he hadn't even thought about sprinkling water on Muskaan's face as he watched her doing. He was so,so hell scared. And Riddhima?Well...It made his heart swell with pride, and a smile adorn her face. Muski was in safe,secure,and well-known hands. He wasn't scared anymore...Somehow half of his worry had disappered when he'd seen Riddhima at the door,he gathered.
He watched as Muskaan's eyes fluttered slightly,her face adorned with her favourite frown as if she had been waken up from deep slumber,before they finally opened. She looked around once,blinked rapidly,then gazed at Riddhima and Armaan in confusion.
"Guys?",her voice was somehow rasp.
"Hey its okay. You fainted, and Armaan was hell panicked,he called me up so I'm here,and we all are Okay.",Riddhima grinned,summarising it up for her.
Muskaan smiled a weak,but relieved smile,"This idiot.",she muttered to Riddhima,and then to Armaan,"You idiot, nothing happened to me,See?", she smiled.
"I was scared.",he knelt down beside Riddhima, clasping Riddhima's hand over Muskaan's. Riddhima at once glanced at him,and Muskaan smiled at her hand and theirs,together.
"I know.But..Oh my,why do I feel so weak?"
"You haven't eaten for long,have you?",the pediatrician in Dr.Riddhima Gupta was back.
Muskaan slowly left their hands and sat up. "I was just making pasta,Oh..it burnt and then I fainted...Crap.Thats what happened.",she smiled her signature-SheepishMuski smile.
"I'll get you something to eat.", he said, getting up. Riddhima in a swift motion caught his wrist.
Surprised,Armaan looked at her,"Armaan...I'll get it. Why don't you take Muski to her room?", she suggested.
"Yeah,anyway I want something that tastes like food.", Muskaan said, her ever-chirpy voice back, and grinned at Armaan. He
shook his head and laughed.
"Okay baby,lets go to your room!", before she could retort, Armaan had Muskaan securely in his arms, with the latter hitting his shoulder.
"I could walk,you know.", she scowled.
"I know.", he grinned now, relieved,happy and playful as he carried her to her room.
Riddhima couldn't help but smile as she watched the duo. Good God, this man gave her no chance to even forget that she was so, so much in love with him.
She watched as he fished about for her medicines. God,when will Armaan stop worrying like crazy for her? She smiled at thethought,at how lucky she was. Only thing was, she wanted someone else at the spot. Rahul...she sighed at the remembrance of his name, and faintly wondered where he was. Did he remember her? Did he miss her? Like she did...Was he okay?
"Here.",she looked up to see Armaan holding out her medicines to her. Frowning, she took them and mechanically gulped them up with the glass of water he offered her. They still tasted horrible.
"Yuck.",she said, bringing out her tongue and making a face. Her friend laughed.
"Well, this wouldn't have happened if you kept yourself proper.",he said, his voice carrying that little scolding tone.
She rolled her eyes,"Whatever,Armaan."
"Maggi! For everyone!", came Riddhima's voice, chirpy as ever. She held a large tray with three bowls of steaming noodles,and Muskaan's stomach rumbled in approval. Armaan took the tray from Riddhima like the ever-gentleman, and placing a bowl in
front of Muskaan, he passed one to Riddhima on the other side of the bed, and then helped himself.
"Finally,Something good after those yucky medicines.", Muskaan said between rapid intakes of the food.
"Muskaan! Slow. I get it that you're humgry,but we don't want you choking, do we?", Riddhima scolded.
"By God..", Muskaan finished the spoon-full that was in her mouth and said,"You too are like meant for each other. Dono pure mummy-daddy ke tarah daante ho!", she complained.
Riddhima watched as Armaan hesistantly munched his noodles as he heard her, and she passed a sad,slow and knowning smile to him. Yes, Muskaan...we are meant for each other.I wonder when Armaan will understand that...
"Uhm, so.Muski you wanna watch a film?",she changed the topic.
Armaan watched expectantly as Muskaan scowled. "No.",she said,"I thought...I would sleep early today.Do you guys mind?I mean I.."
"You don't have to explain,you know.",he said,matter-of-factly.
"Oookay.",Riddhima streched out the word and rose to take the bowls,"So, you sleep and we're going home.",she told Muskaan with an air of authority.
"Riddhima, let me.", Armaan took the bowls from her before she could retort, and in the briefest moment their hands touched, it sent that familiar shiver down her again. Their eyes locked for a flicker of moment,her eyes gazing at him almost questioningly. He broke the eye contact quickly and strode towards the kitchen.
"Ridzi!",Muskaan hissed impatiently,"Come here!"
Her half-mind trying to process his actions,she sat beside Muskaan and asked,"What?"
She sighed before answering and smiling a bit,"I know you know,so I won't repeat it.What he feels for you. I was just going to say..Take care of him,please. He's going to be shaky today."
Riddhima couldn't help but smile at this amazing girl,"You really love Armaan,don't you?"
"Yes.",she retorted,grinning,"But not the way you think. He..",she paused,"Can't take Rahul's place. Nobody can.",her last words were a whisper.
"Muski...",Riddhima began, holding her hand and squeezing it slightly,"Don't.Please.He doesn't deserve it."
"Sometimes I feel even Armaan doesn't deserve you.Can you stop loving him?",she asked,her eyes teary.
Riddhima had no choice but look down at the rhetorical question.Ofcourse she couldn't. If she could...? Well,that was not something she could answer.
She saw Muskaan wiping her tears and squeezing her hand in return,"Ridzi.I'm sorry...I mean,I didn't mean to spoil the mood. Its just..too-", she broke off.
Riddhima shook her head at her,"You don't have to explain,you idiot.",she said, and gave her a lingering hug.
"Hey,where's my share?",Armaan demanded from the door,making both the girls laugh.
"Come 'ere.",Muskaan said,and he enveloped her in a large bear hug. He retreated after a few moments and kissed her forehead,"Take care,Okay?",he whispered gently.
"Haaa okay. Now go away,you too. Miss Kumbhakaran is getting back to form.",she said, shooing them away.
Armaan gave Riddhima a look,and she nodded, getting up to leave. Slowly they walked to Muskaan's doorway, and yelled a goodbye to her,as they shut the door. Riddhima realised he wanted to say something,but was hesitating.
"Uhm..Riddhima,can we,um...go to the beach?I'd.."
"Like to talk?",she finished,and he nodded. He had tried to think he'd be fine,but still...he couldn't stop himself from saying that he wanted to talk.Whatever she had done for Muski...after that,he felt he had a lot to explain to her.Which was odd,but somewhere it felt right.
They both climbed on to their respective cars' driver seats,and drove towards the beach.Riddhima couldn't help but smile, realising Muskaan was right.Somewhere down even she wanted him to talk,he had been so silent while she and Muski had chattered away. When the respective cars reached, they both took their time to come out,lock it and find a space to sit. She passed a hesitant,small smile to him,to which he smiled back,half-heartedly.
Once seated,Riddhima unknowningly smiled as the breeze,cool, but calming hit her nostrils.She inhaled,closing her eyes for a second or two. This place did amazing things to her.So many memories she had. Endless of them.
He hadn't realised he was staring at her. She was so beautiful. She always had been.And sitting on the side of the beach,with her eyes closed,she looked every bit of his Basket he'd fallen heeds over heels in love with. Somehow it did the trick for him and calmed him down, streching his lips to curve into a small smile. She opened her eyes and looked back at him.
He was almost embaressed at getting caught. He looked away,and she sighed. Waited.
"I was scared.",he finally broke the silence, staring into the darkness of the sea infront of them.
Not knowning what else to do,she placed her hand on his,slightly squeezing it,as if giving him reassurance. He was surprised,but did not make any move to remove his hand from hers. He somehow felt better that way.
"You know,when I saw her today...lying like that,unconcious,cold and unmoving...it somehow,reminded me of..",he gulped and paused, closing his eyes. She knew who he was talking about.
"Mom.",he completed,holding back the evident tears. She squeezed his hand once again.
He shook his head and gazed up at her,"I..I'm fine.",he said,slowly,answering her unasked question,"With Mom...I can't explain. I mean,I knew that there was nothing that I, or anyone for that matter, could do to save her..but still when I held her in my arms and knew that she wasn't breathing,that she wasn't even going to respond when I call her,it felt like someone had snatched away my entire life infront of my own eyes and I was helpless.",his voice cracked.
"It wasn't your fault Armaan.",she whispered back to him,and he nodded.
"I know...but still,I always felt, what kind of a son was I? I was studying medical already,and if I'd paid enough attention,maybe the cancer would be detected way earlier. And maybe..."
"We can't stop the things that are meant to happen,Armaan. It was not your fault.Rajeev uncle loved you. Ananya aunty loved you. You love them, and always will.They were proud of you,Armaan. If they were here,they would almost hit you for saying this.",she said,slightly pushing his forehead sideways with her free palm.
A smile crept upto his face despite himself. "I know.",he said softly,"But I still wish I could do something.",he paused,"You know,Riddhima...I was more sure,more than Muskaan,that Rahul cannot leave her. I mean, seriously...Rahul? He was like a brother to me. He was that guy who used to pine away for Muskaan silently,even in school days. He was that guy who would sometimes cry on my shoulder and tell me that he knows he's hurting Muski,but he cannot understand what she saw in him that she still wanted to stay with him. When he spoke of her,Riddhima...his eyes used to brighten up.It was like every word he spoke,told me how much he loved Muski.",he sighed.
"But when his resignation letter came in after the third day,I was devasted.It was my trust,my friendship that had been shattered to pieces without any explanation.I hate the fact that I cannot hate him,no matter what he did.I'm angry,hell angry at him...for what he did to Muskaan.That girl who loves him like her life. Or maybe more than her life. I want to hit him, shake him and ask him what the hell went wrong when I see tears in her eyes.", he ran a free exasperated hand through his hair.
"After that,I always looked upto Muskaan as my responsibility. I still think,somewhere, it is my fault that she is this shattered.She still believes Rahul will be back, and it was practically me who made her think her that, in the initial stages where my friend-instinct refused to believe that he could do something so gravely wrong as this. But today..."
Riddhima egded closer to him,and placed her other hand on his, their hands enveloped in one other's. She stared for a moment at their hands,then her eyes met those gorgeous gray-blue eyes that had gone even a darker shade of grey, with slight redness peeking at the sides.
"Armaan.",she said,"You know its not your fault. And I am not judging you for how you reacted today.It happens with everyone. You know that...and moreover,Muskaan believes that Rahul can be back because we girls are like that.",a grin appeared on her face,then she continued,"And you've taken such good care of her.We all know that. Please,Please don't blame yourself and feel bad.We all love you.",she whispered the last bit, and he blinked,immediately understanding the layers to her words.
"Thank you.",he whispered,and suddenly,in a moment which shocked both himself and her, he left her hand and enveloped her in a hug. She felt his warmth radiating to her body,and as the smooth material of his shirt came in contact with the cotton of her kurti,she felt shivers run down her. Closing her eyes,she let her hands roam to his shoulders,and then his back as he held her,sighing. It felt so,so right.
For the first time ever since she was back,he did not retreat awkwardly.He had felt so good after he was done talking, and now holding her made his senses go calm and content.He felt...happy. He knew what he was doing, and the day had just made him realise that he could never,ever stop loving this amazing woman.
Riddhima almost skipped to her cabin the next morning. She had this amazing smile on her face that she couldn't get rid off,and she knew it was because of the previous night. Armaan had,in a way,told her that she still meant the same for him as she did years back,and it made her feel as she could squeal in delight at the thought.
"Dr.Riddhima?",she heard Dr.Keerti calling her.
"Um..Actually you asked me for the file of the patient on bed 25 yesterday?"
"Oh yes,then I forgot to collect it. Sorry mam.",she smiled sheepishly,and Dr.Keerti smiled.
"Its okay.Its in my cabin,and its labelled...could you collect it from my desk?I have to rush to OT now.",she explained,and Riddhima nodded, walking towards Dr.Keerti's cabin.
She pursed her lips seeing the stack of files on Dr.Keerti's desk, and then sighing, she looked through,and finally found the file she was looking for. Gently trying to place the other files back, she dropped them all.
"Awh,Crap.",she muttered in her breath,and placing the required file on the side-couch, she bent to pick up the files. A certain long-white envelope caught her attention. First she shook her head and placed it back with the files, but something made her look back, and take out the report out of it.
Her eyes widened as she read. Her breath quickened,and she re-read in disbelief,her hands shaking. She had to tell Armaan.
Her file forgotten,she raced her way to his cabin, her hand flying to her mouth to stop the sudden tears that threatened to spill. Oh God. Oh my God, she could only think.
Armaan had just returned to his cabin after a long,tiring operation and just removed his stethoscope,when he heard someone behind her. She looked pale,and her shoulders were shaking.
"Riddhima!",he exclaimed in worry,"Whats wrong?"
Wordlessly,she handed him the report.He gazed at her in confusion,then at the report,and back at her. Still not leaving her gaze,he took the report in his hands,and unsurely fleeted his eyes through it. As in practice,his eyes by its own accord,fell on the disease reports and the diagnosis.
"Hmm.Brain Tumour. Its benign,Riddhima.But why has this guy still not agreed to the operation?",he muttered in disbelief,"It could become malignant! Hey,wait. This report is not from Sanjeevani...",he trailed off, sensing Riddhima hadn't still spoken up.
Finally,she spoke in a rasp tone,"Read the name of the patient,Armaan."
Confused,he gazed down at the report again, and as he did...he knew why she was behaving like this. He looked at her,his eyes widening in disbelief.
His lips finally uttered,"Rahul Grewal.."
Second installment starting- darkened.
Now you know why I said this- If I were you, I'd be excited for the next bit. But oh well. I want comments and likes please!
I hope this doesn't bore you,though.
Love you <3
P.S. No one can imagine the pleasure it gives me to use my purple font after so long EEE :D
P.P.S. This was for Anamika and Tashu <3 Love you guys.