LUKA CHUPPI – PART 7
“Why are we going to the outskirts of the city?”
Riddhima twisted toward Vansh from the passenger seat and looked at him, quizzically. She’d been holding onto her patience for the past few minutes and had tried distracting herself by participating in their conversation, but she’d been getting worried, now. She wondered, if they’d entered a wrong destination for the navigation.
Riddhima: You sure we’re headed the right way?
Vansh (nodding his head): Have you charged your phone?
Riddhima: Yes, Vansh. You’ve asked me that a couple of times by now.
She looked outside worriedly and stared at their surroundings. The surroundings didn’t consist of cityscapes anymore and they’d slowly begun turning picturesque. She loved nature and scenic views, but the uncertainty that crawled within her, terrified her. She didn’t want to be stuck somewhere unknown.
Moments later, the car halted and Riddhima turned around Vansh, her brows furrowing quizzically. She saw him unstrapping the belt and the tension boiled within her. Had they gotten stuck for real?
Vansh (locking the steering): Okay, we’re here! You’ve network on your phone?
Riddhima (unfastening her belt): Where are we? Why did you stop in the middle of some forest?
Vansh snatched the unlocked phone out of her grasp and tapped on the screen, trying to open and check through a few things. After a few moments, he unlocked the car and the two of them got down, scrunching the dry leaves on the ground. Riddhima looked at the mix of green and red around herself, and softly smiled to herself.
Riddhima: What did you get us here for?
Vansh handed her the phone and gently wrapped his fingers around her upper arm to pull her through the rows of trees. He looked down at the phone display occasionally, following the route of the map and guided themselves through the dense forest.
Seconds later, Riddhima’s phone dinged and she looked down at her phone, looking for a notification. When Vansh’s grip on her arm loosened, she felt the absence of an unusual warmth and she began missing his aura that had been clouding her so closely. She looked up at him and clenched her face in confusion.
Vansh (grinning): There’s something for you here.
Riddhima (in a surprised tone): What?
Vansh: You’d get it, if you follow the map.
Riddhima looked at her screen and followed the map to reach the cross-mark. She didn’t know what surprise was awaiting her, but she couldn’t hold onto her excitement. She’d always liked surprises and for a brief period of time, Vansh had surprised her with small gifts, which she’d stored and taken care of over the years.
When her phone began dinging continuously, she looked down at the ground and knelt down, before clearing the heap of leaves. As her fingers brushed against a rectangular solid, she picked it up and saw one of her favourite classic literature novels, ‘Pride and Prejudice’. She turned around toward Vansh and smiled at him broadly, the memories from before slowly uncoiling within her.
Riddhima: This is for me?
Vansh: Yes. But for now, (turning the book around) scan this code and let us get started.
Riddhima scanned the code on her phone and as the screen blackened, slowly letting a few letters flash on the screen, she held the device in her hand in anticipation. After she’d challenged Vansh, she knew he’d go beyond her imagination to do something for her. When the screen slowly brightened, she looked up at Vansh, her eyes gleaming in happiness and disbelief.
Riddhima: You remembered it all these years?
Vansh (scratching the back of his head): Uh, yeah… I’d been thinking of bringing you here for all these years, but it never happened. I found out about this location the last time I was here, and I knew yesterday itself, this had to be the place.
Riddhima: I’ve visited the official website of geo-catching a lot of times, but I never found one near ourselves. (walking closer to him) Thank you, Vansh!
She wrapped her arms around him, feeling a jolt of exuberance within herself. But as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to himself, she felt a wave of gratitude lapping within her. As his woodsy cologne sifted through her nose, mixing with the smell of the fresh and dry leaves, she couldn’t ignore the warmth within her. He’d always been such a significant portion of her existence and she didn’t know how she’d managed to steer away from him for so long.
Vansh (softly): Shall we continue?
Riddhima: Yes, yes! Do you want to find the next one?
Vansh (shaking his head): No. I’m going to be there with you, but this game of geo-catching is for you.
Riddhima stepped away from him and the two of them began walking away, following the route of the map. She had wanted to play this game for so long and she was so grateful that Vansh had planned it for her.
When her phone dinged again, they stopped and she cleared the lines of bushes to reach the cross-mark. She found a loose piece of paper stuck against one of the pine trees and she pulled it off, willing to see the contents on it. As she flipped the paper, she saw a photograph of her and Ishani, and she turned around toward him, her eyes slowly moistening.
Riddhima: But why did you put this here?
Vansh forwarded his hand and pulled her out of the bushes, before beginning to walk ahead along the route. While walking,
Vansh: This was the first time I saw you, Riddhima! I remember being so reluctant to pick Ishani from the beach that day, but I saw you there – being surrounded by kids and even though, you were completely drenched, you were playing with them. It was something I’d seen very few people do and I’d just smiled seeing you, standing at a distance. Back then, I didn’t even know you and Ishani were friends, you know?
Riddhima: You’d seen that? I don’t remember really, but I think, I’d been waiting for Papa and Ma, so I’d decided to play with them. (pausing shortly) Now, that I think of it, maybe I should’ve changed first. (laughing) I’d caught such a severe cold afterward, and Ma had gotten so worried.
Vansh (gently clenching her palm tighter): You were just being yourself.
Riddhima (chuckling): Yeah, but being yourself doesn’t have positive outcomes all the time. Like, all these years, you know I was being myself, right? I just…
Vansh stopped and turned toward Riddhima, slowly placing a finger on her lips and quietening her. He saw her widening her gaze and smiled to himself, before stepping closer to her. He sidled his hand to the sides of her face, slowly placing them below her ears and tightening his hold around her neck. The loose wisps of her hair curled over his fingers and he slowly bent down to kiss her forehead.
She muffled a sound at the base of her throat and grasped onto his hands, her fingers wrapping around his wrists. Despite the happening of the moment in an open area, it still felt so special and intimate to her, and she couldn’t bring it in herself to step away. Vansh lowered himself and pressed his lips against her cheek, while his fingers drew circles at the back of her neck. She felt the muscles in the pit of her stomach clenching and an unusual contentment unfurled within her.
When his breath fell upon her lips, she stepped closer to him and slowly shut her eyes. She inhaled a deep breath inaudibly and stood on her tip-toes. As she began moving closer to him, he moved away from her and laced his fingers with hers, gently pulling her forward.
A few moments later, she jumped out of the reverie and stared at him, disbelief coursing through her veins. She didn’t know if he hadn’t understood her, or he’d just overlooked the moment in the flow of the game. As a small smile curved the corners of his lips, she determined herself to not go with the flow anymore. She decided, this was going to be her method of punishing him.
The two of them continued walking through the forest, finding a few more hidden treasures while Riddhima continued enjoying the game. Vansh had known she’d wanted to play this game since so long, especially after she’d read about it in one of the books in the library. He remembered the way her eyes had gleamed that day, and when he’d seen that sparkle in her eyes again today, he knew he’d gotten it right.
Riddhima: So, this is the last?
Vansh: Apparently. Let’s see what’s in it?
Riddhima (bringing up a small box to him): You want to open this? I found out all the others.
Vansh (shaking his head): No, you must open this. Go ahead!
Riddhima nodded her head and slowly unwrapped the flimsy sheet of paper wrapped around the box. As she removed the last strip of adhesive from the sheet, she looked at the velvet box in her hand and slowly, opened it. The box contained a simple silver ring, embedded with a small stone of ruby that was enveloped within a crown-shaped design.
She stared at the sparkle of the stones in the crown-shaped design and looked up at Vansh, her eyes glistening in happiness. The thought of him trekking here ahead of time just to surprise her overwhelmed her, almost flooding the insides of her with happiness. How had she ever looked over his love?
Riddhima: This isn’t a geo-caching site, right? (walking closer to him) You took the effort of coming here before and setting up the entire game, na? Just because I wanted to play it and the surrounding is my absolute favourite, right?
Vansh (smiling): Well, I’d to take the effort, right?
Riddhima: Will you not make me wear the ring?
Vansh chuckled and pulled the ring out of the box, before kneeling down in front of Riddhima. She looked at him, the corners of her eyes moistening with the jolt of exuberance within her. She couldn’t think of the last time she’d felt so special, but after seeing Vansh kneeling before her to make her wear a ring, her mind had begun numbing – almost throttling the thoughts in her mind.
Vansh: Will you…
Riddhima (forwarding her hand): You don’t even have to ask that, Vansh. When I said it yesterday, I never meant it. (appreciating the ring on her finger) But why this ring, particularly? You could’ve gotten something simpler, na?
Vansh: That stone you see in the middle represent the colour of love and Riddhima means a person who’s full of love – which I guess, is essentially true. And Vansh means the empire of a king, so that’s what the crown represents. This ring would continue reminding you that from here on, you’d never be alone anymore. You will always find me beside you, whether you want or no.
As the words slipped past his lips, Riddhima let the tears roll down her cheeks and she knelt down before him, pressing her lips against his quickly. She couldn’t let go of him, anymore. Not after he’d promised to be with her. Not after he’d seen her this vulnerable, yet loved her.
Not after, she’d ruined herself in this love.
That’d be it for this part. I’m honestly not sure the kind of response I’m expecting from this update, because it probably isn’t as per a lot of your choices or expectations, but simpler and meaningful dates are always my go-to. On that note, do let me know what you thought of this part. And of course, thank you for reading!