LUKA CHUPPI – PART 6
Riddhima pressed the bell to her house and stood against the doorframe, tiredly. She’d tried roaming around the city to distract herself and get rid of those thoughts, but they’d continued resurfacing in her mind. Moments later, when her mother opened the door, she noticed the wave of happiness that fleeted on her face.
Riddhima (kicking off the shoes): What’s the happiness about, Ma?
Chanchal: Why, hello! You’ve come around after so many days, can I get a greeting?
Riddhima: Sorry, I’m just tired. I just thought, I’d come spend some time alone.
Chanchal (folding her arms across herself): You could’ve done that in your apartment too.
Riddhima: Ma, can you please let me get in? I’m in no mood to argue right now.
Chanchal (moving away): I should’ve believed when I was being told that you’re going to come here in a sullen mood then.
Riddhima walked inside the house and dumped her purse on top of the foyer unit, willing to retire to her room very soon. She tied her hair into a loose bun and turned toward her mother.
Riddhima: And who’s making these future predictions for you?
Chanchal: There’s someone to meet you. I can’t believe you’ve grown-up this soon, you know?
Her mother held her hand gently and guided her toward the living room, beaming in happiness. She couldn’t understand her mother’s excitement, but she didn’t want to – not yet, at least.
Riddhima: I don’t want to meet anyone, right now. I’m too…
She held her silence and looked at the guests in the living room, wanting to evaporate into thin air. She didn’t know why she’d thought of coming back home for the evening, but it was clearly a bad idea. If she’d scooped up in her room back in the apartment, she could’ve at least cried alone, because of the memories.
Uma: Hello, Beta! How are you?
Riddhima (nodding her head): I’m good, Aunty. Just a little tired, so um, I guess I’ll be in my room for a while.
Ishani stood up from her place and quickly walked up to Riddhima. She smiled at her slyly and held her by her shoulders, before making her sit down. She sat down on the armrest beside Riddhima and laced her own hands together.
Ishani: How can the bride not be here while we discuss about the marriage?
Riddhima: Excuse me?
Ishani: Oh yes, we were just talking about your marriage before you came. But now that you’re here, we can know what your opinion is, too.
Riddhima (looking at her parents): But Kabir…
Rudra: Don’t worry, Riddhima. Ishani told us what happened between the two of you, and it is okay. Some things are just not meant to be.
Riddhima (taken aback): It is okay? Papa, Kabir…
Ishani (interrupting hurriedly): Yes, I was just telling Uncle and Aunty about how Kabir was going to move out from here and so, the two of you mutually decided to call off things.
Riddhima (turning toward Ishani): Oh! So, Kabir is moving out of the city, right? (seeing Ishani nod her head) Right!
A quietude slowly enveloped the living room as everyone sat in the space, silently. As Riddhima looked around, she noticed how Vansh’s gaze was settled on her, observing each of her nuances. She settled in her place uncomfortably and looked away, wanting to ignore him. After the thoughts had begun returning to her, she didn’t want to talk to him – not until, she could forget them and dump them somewhere again.
Riddhima: Wait! Then, whose marriage are we talking about now? If you’ve told Ma and Papa about Kabir, then who else is getting married?
Chanchal: Actually, your Uma Aunty…
Uma: Let it be, Chanchal. I’ll tell her. (turning toward Riddhima) Riddhima, I know what’s happened in the past wasn’t right and things should’ve been very different by now, if not for then. But despite all of that, I’m still here to ask you, if you’d want to marry Vansh.
Riddhima: Aunty, I…
Uma placed her palm atop Riddhima’s and pressed it gently to assure her. When she looked up at Riddhima, a small smile curved her lips despite the sadness that dissolved in her eyes.
Uma: This time, I’m here to ask you, because I don’t think Vansh can ever find a better girl than you. It’s not just because the two of you like each other, but because I love you – because you’re still like my daughter.
Riddhima: Aunty, but…
Rudra: What is it, Riddhima? We all are your family, tell us what is bothering you. I’m sure all of us can help you.
She looked around, noticing everyone’s expectant gaze and looked down at her lap, threading her fingers together. How could she tell the woman she loved so much, that she didn’t want any of this anymore? How could she tell her parents, whom she respected so much for bringing her up, that she didn’t agree to this alliance anymore?
Riddhima (softly): I need time to think.
Rudra: But Riddhima, if you and Vansh like each other, where’s the problem? Our families have known each other for years, now.
Riddhima: I don’t know.
She ran inside, refusing to answer any more questions. She couldn’t find the answers her family wanted from her. She couldn’t find the answers she wanted from herself, either. She didn’t know, why running away from Vansh always seemed so much easier, but once she did, it suffocated her, almost allowing the last breaths of air within her to evaporate.
She knew, Vansh was her sanctuary. But she didn’t know, if she wanted to return to him. What if her sanctuary was relocated elsewhere, again?
Vansh walked inside Riddhima’s room several moments later and saw her sitting on the window ledge, staring outside at the moving traffic of the city. She seemed exhausted from all the worries and tensions, and he wished, he hadn’t been the reason, somehow. He’d hurt her so many times unwantedly, yet he felt guilty for ever having troubled her.
He walked over to her and stood before her, waiting for her to acknowledge his presence. After seconds passed by, he bent down and slowly wiped the tears from her face. She turned toward him and he looked into her eyes, his finger lingering on her face. He gently caressed the contours of her face and looked into her eyes.
As Riddhima continued looking at him, she noticed the brown freckles in his eyes and noticed the emotions that dissolved into his orbs. Her gaze fell upon the freckles on his nose and she noticed how they were scattered across his skin – something, she’d never noticed before.
As Vansh continued to drag circles on her skin, she couldn’t ignore how warmth coursed within her body and the muscles in her stomach clenched. Every time he was around her, he made her realize what it felt like to be entrapped in an aura you’d so deeply fallen for. He made her realize that she couldn’t go anywhere beyond him, despite her attempts to escape.
Vansh (shushing her): Stop crying! If you want, we’d leave from here.
Riddhima (moving away): Why did you come here after all that had happened? To prove to me, that you can still overpower me and things can still go the way you want?
Vansh: No! I’d never do that to you, Riddhima. I just want ourselves to give us another chance. That’s all I’m asking you. I know, what I’ve done in the past isn’t right. But I can’t go back in the past and rectify what’s done. (softly) I don’t want to see you in pain.
Riddhima: You think by returning each time I’m trying to push you away, things get better, right? You’re thinking that reduces my pain?
Vansh: It does. But you don’t want to acknowledge it, you know? You’re hell-bent on trying to push me away.
Riddhima: And that’s my fault?
Vansh: Okay, if I’m the one hurting you all the time, then I’d leave. I’d try and ensure then that I don’t keep coming back to you. Okay?
Riddhima looked at him as he turned around and began walking away. A pain jostled within her, almost piercing through her and she knew she couldn’t let him go. Despite what had happened in the past – knowingly or unknowingly, she couldn’t let Vansh leave once again. He could call her a fool for now, but she knew, if she let him go that day, she’d call herself a fool for all her life.
He continued walking away, determining himself to ignore Riddhima’s voice. After all, he was needed to ignore her all his life now. Riddhima stood up from the ledge and began walking toward him.
Riddhima: Vansh, you know this has always been your problem, right? You’ve never been persuasive. (stopping briefly) You’ve never tried to convince me, that Riddhima would be lost in the crowd without you. That you, will always be the light of my life and I’d keep returning to you.
Vansh stopped in his tracks, willing himself to leave. But as Riddhima’s words echoed within the room, he couldn’t ignore the ecstasy that filled his insides. He’d loved her for so long, ever since they’d lost touch, that he didn’t want to leave her anymore.
Riddhima (screaming): Vansh! Please don’t leave me.
When Vansh turned around toward her, she sprung on him and pushed him to the ground, quickly throwing her arms around him. As his cologne began clouding her, fleeting through her nostrils, she realised how she’d missed him over the years. His woodsy cologne lingered over her and she couldn’t explain how terribly she’d missed everything that belonged to him.
Vansh slowly wrapped his arms around her, after processing the sequence of events and smiled softly. His chin rested over her head and he recalled the times they scooped up in a corner of the library, to sit next to each other and read. After he’d moved out of the city, he’d missed their times together terribly and sadly, he’d never gotten to share those moments with her over phone calls, either.
Riddhima (looking up): You’re still using that age-old cologne? I’m sure, it must’ve expired by now. You’ll have skin allergies then.
Vansh pulled her closer and looked at her closely, as her breath slowed down and he brushed away the strands of hair from her forehead softly, caressing her skin. Riddhima shut her eyes and leaned in closer, feeling Vansh’s breath fall on her lips. A pleasantness unfurled within her and Vansh pressed his palm against the back of her neck to pull her closer to himself.
Vansh (mere inches away): Now, I’ve you to take care of me. Why do I have to worry?
Riddhima blinked her eyes open and stared at him, trying to decipher the meaning behind his words. She’d lost herself in a trance and as the words began settling in her mind, she looked at him squarely, squinting her eyes.
Riddhima: I never said, I’m going to marry you yet.
Vansh: What do you mean? What was all this about?
Riddhima: I could’ve stopped you as a friend, too. How do you know?
“But I know better!”
Riddhima and Vansh looked up at Ishani and quickly stood up to their feet, leaning back against the bed edge. Ishani looked between the two of them and walked inside, a small smile curving the corners of her lips.
Ishani: Thank the Lord, you two have finally realized sh*t. I was growing really tired.
Vansh: Who asked you to intrude? We could’ve done it ourselves, too.
Ishani: Very nice! This is how you treat the one well-wisher you have, na?
Riddhima (interrupting suddenly): Sorry, but hold on for a second, guys! We still have something to take care of. (turning toward Vansh) Remember those letters I’d been telling you about? We should do something…
Ishani: By the way, just to clarify, I wrote those letters to you…
Riddhima and Vansh (together): WHAT?
Ishani (with a disinterested look): Since the two of you were being so dumb, I figured I’d to do something. So, I wrote those letters first and when that didn’t work, I kidnapped you guys, so…
Vansh (pulling her ears): You see? This is what annoys me about her.
Riddhima (dragging away Ishani): At least, she made some efforts. Not like, someone else who was just expecting things to fall in place.
Vansh: That’s not true! I wanted to give you time.
Riddhima: Without doing anything…
Vansh: But that doesn’t mean, I can’t do anything.
Riddhima and Ishani (laughing): Let it be, Vansh!
Vansh tugged at Riddhima’s wrist and pulled her closer, quietening her. He looked at her sternly and then smiled softly, “I’ll pick you up in the morning tomorrow. You’ll see what Vansh Raisinghania can do, then!”
[UPCOMING: Vansh and Riddhima on a date.]
That’d be it for this update! I think, this one got really lengthy, so sorry about that. But in that retrospect, I also wanted to ask if you guys would want the date in one single update, or you want me to split it into two? Also, do let me know what you thought of this part. Like always, thank you for reading!