Hello everyone! Thank you for all the comments. I did read all of them but couldn’t reply as I’m a little busy. Hope you understand.
Looking at Riddhima’s apprehensive expression, Ishani said, “Come on babe, you don’t need to act all shy as if it were your first time. We all know that kissing, making love and the likes, everything has already been done between the both of you!”
Riddhima let out a sharp gasp. “What the hell!”
Vansh, who had also become mortified because of their scandalous banter, spoke angrily.
“Shut up you two! Do you’ve any shame left or not?”
“But what is there to be ashamed about Bhai?” said Ishani. “You both are engaged and are even expecting a baby together. This much of PDA is allowed….”
“Just because a couple is engaged or married, doesn’t mean that they get the rights to flaunt their love publicly and shamelessly like that,” scolded Vansh. “And at least have some consideration for Ishaan. He’s still below eighteen, a minor, and you girls are continuing to talk so immodestly in front of him?”
At this, Ishaan piped in, “Jiju, if you are getting worried for me, then let me tell me you that when I’ve already seen quite a few adult-rated movies, then watching a kiss between two consenting people is like cakewalk for me.”
Riddhima opened her mouth in amazement. “You saw what? When did this happen?”
“When Mumma and Papa used to leave us at home by ourselves, and you used to be busy in your big, fat books,” Ishaan replied sheepishly.
Riddhima looked horrified. “That means on the pretext of watching sports matches, you used to watch this?”
“Yes,” he grinned. No sooner he had said that, she started beating him.
“Ouch! Is that your hand or a hammer?” Ishaan winced in pain. “Jiju, you better be careful of her. She looks soft and delicate from outside, but actually even a single smack from her hurts like hell!”
“Shut up!” Vansh chided him. “You didn’t feel ashamed to watch such indecent films at this age?”
“So when should he watch all of that? When he comes to your age?” teased Ishani.
Riddhima said, “You people are so filthy-minded! When any such scene comes up, I shut my eyes tight.”
“And when any such scene comes up before us, we widen our eyes even more!” laughed Sia, giving a high-five each to Ishani and Ishaan.
Vansh shouted, “Enough of all this rubbish! I won’t tolerate this anymore.” Everyone suddenly became quiet.
“Jokes and pranks when done within the boundaries of decency are fine, but not fine at all when they cross those very boundaries. You people don’t realize, but you’re not only making me, but also Riddhima very uncomfortable. I will not carry out that dare. In fact, I won’t play this game anymore too.”
Realizing that perhaps they had gone quite overboard with the dare, they tried to apologize and convince him to join back into the game.
“What if, instead of this one, we give you another dare?” quizzed Ishaan.
Vansh paused for a while. “Fine with me. As long as it isn’t along the similar lines as the previous one.”
“No, no. This one would be completely different. But you have to promise that you’d do it. At any cost.”
“Ok,” Vansh agreed.
“You won’t back away from your words later on?” asked Ishaan.
“VR never breaks his promises!” Vansh remarked with pride.
“Alright. You’d have to gulp down a bottle of wine in one go. Okay?”
Riddhima was shocked. “Are you crazy? That’s dangerous!”
“I am ready,” came Vansh’s prompt reply.
Riddhima tried to put some sense into his mind. “Listen, this is not funny anymore. I’m a medical student and I know how dangeous this can get. Vansh please, for the love of God don’t do this stupidity. Ishaan is a kid, he doesn’t know what he’s asking you to do.”
“Firstly, I’ve already given my word to him and cannot back away from it.” Looking into Riddhima’s eyes, he continued, “And this is only one bottle. To see the love and concern for myself in your eyes, I can even drink myself to death.”
Ishani brought out a large bottle of wine for him. Ishaan and Sia cheered on when he put the bottle to his mouth. Riddhima looked on half-disgusted, half worried.
It took him less than three minutes to gulp down the entire bottle. As soon as he did that, he slumped down on the sofa, completely inebriated.
“Vansh!” Riddhima darted towards him in concern. Cupping his face, she started berating him, “Told you not to drink this much! But no, you wouldn’t listen to me at all. For you, your pride and ego is much more important than my worries.”
Caressing her face, Vansh slurred his words, “Nothing is more important to me than YOU.”
Ishani, Sia and Ishaan howled in happiness.
“I guess, we better leave these two love birds to themselves. Have fun sweethearts!” Ishani waved at them and took Sia and Ishaan along with her.
Riddhima called them out, “No, don’t go! At least help me to take him back to his room. Ughhh!”
But it was too late. They were already gone.
She exhaled in exasperation.
“Come, let me take you to your room.”
She tried to pull him up, but he wouldn’t budge a bit. He mischievously smiled at her.
With her arms akimbo, she said, “Vansh! Stop acting like a stubborn kid and help me a little. Don’t trouble me.”
Vansh pulled her arm, causing her to fall beside him. “I trouble you? You are the one who always troubles me! In fact, no one has ever troubled me as much as you did.”
“Stop laughing, it is not funny,” said Vansh making a face.
Riddhima like an obedient child put a finger to her lips.
“And what lies were you spewing in front of Dadi yesterday? You said that I wanted to get close to you in spite of the doctor’s instructions?” Vansh twisted Riddhima’s hand in a playful manner, causing her to laugh even more.
“You should know that I would never do such a thing. I’d never do something that can harm my baby, our baby,” he said.
Riddhima suddenly turned quiet. “Our baby?” she echoed his words. “But I’m not pregnant in real…”
“I know that. But no harm in imagining something right?” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
He held her hands in the most earnest way possible. “I’d take utmost care of both of you. I’d handle all of your tantrums and mood swings. I’d fulfill all your desires and all your midnight cravings too. I’d do everything to keep you and our baby happy, safe and sound….”
Growing increasingly uncomfortable with this conversation, Riddhima stood up with a jerk.
“Why are you talking about something that is not real and can never materialize in the future as well?”
Feeling hurt by her words, Vansh started grumbling to himself. “This woman….she neither lets me live peacefully, nor lets me fantasize peacefully!”
Saying this, he reached out for another bottle of wine, but Riddhima stopped him.
“I’ll listen to you, only if you sit down and listen to what I’ve got to say,” said Vansh, acting like a grumpy kid.
Unwillingly, she gave into his demands.
He rested his head upon Riddhima’s shoulder. “If we’ve a daughter, I’d name her Vidhi. And if we’ve a son, I’d name him either Ridhan or Rivan. Do you know where did I get these names from, sweetheart?”
She shook her head.
“These names are nothing but different amalgams of your and my names. Do you like them?”
She remained silent.
Vansh continued, “And this time, I promise that I’d be a good father, unlike how I was at Nandu’s time. Because now, you are there with me, and I know you won’t let me falter….”
Riddhima became a little overwhelmed seeing Vansh’s ordeal. A drunk man never lied, which meant that Vansh had actually envisioned a happily ever after with her. Maybe some things weren’t just meant to be….
“Now can I escort you to your room? Please?” she asked, trying to sound as patient as possible.
Vansh got up and Riddhima supported him, her arm wrapping around his back.
As he was being led upstairs, he suddenly asked, “If Dadi ever asks you what complications you’re facing in your pregnancy, what would you say?”
“I don’t know, I’ll think of something,” she replied.
“I can name a few complications though if you want.” He started citing quite a few obstetric conditions in front of Riddhima, thoroughly surprising her.
“How do you happen to know that?”
“Oh, I had crammed up almost all the pregnancy books when Ragini was expecting…..” His words trailed off.
Riddhima’s eyes moistened. It seemed that Vansh must have done everything within his ability to keep Ragini and the baby happy and safe. How hurt he must have felt then when he saw his trust and dream getting shattered before his very eyes?
Was this whole pregnancy drama triggering the pain from his past again?
Riddhima helped Vansh to lie on the bed. She took off his shoes and socks. She adjusted the pillow below his head and pulled the sheets over him.
As she turned to leave, she felt a sudden force yank at her hand, causing her to fall right on top of Vansh.
“I won’t let you go away so easily from me, Riddhima,” he said softly, wrapping his fingers around her hair.
“You’ve beautiful hair, beautiful eyes, beautiful lips, a beautiful mind, a beautiful heart……why are you so beautiful Riddhima?”
Riddhima tried to get up, but his hands were firmly enveloped around her back.
“Thank you. But I already know that I am beautiful, so kindly let me go,” she requested.
He cupped her face and brought it uncomfortably close to his. So close, that she could feel their breaths mingling with each other’s.
“I love you, Riddhima. A lot. In fact, I don’t think that I’ve ever loved someone to this extent in my life. Not even Ragini…..”
Riddhima felt a wave of happiness pass through her. He loved her more than Ragini? Really?
But then thoughts about her mother started haunting her again.
“If you haven’t loved anyone else to this extent as you did with me, you also did not hurt anyone to this extent before as you did to me….” she thought sadly.
Vansh’s words broke her from her thoughts. “Do you love me?”
Riddhima was taken aback by this upfront question. She looked away, not wanting to see how hopeful his face looked at that time.
“It’s getting really late. Let me go,” Riddhima said with a whimper.
“Not until you answer my question. Is it a yes, or no?” he asked, his grip and voice getting firmer.
“I don’t know,” she finally said after a lot of coaxing.
Vansh laughed. “Normally, you tend to know even about those things that you aren’t supposed to know. But you don’t know this? Whom are you fooling, me or yourself?”
Riddhima struggled to free herself from his clutches. But instead he allowed themselves to roll over so that now he hovered atop her, caging her between his arms.
“You give me an answer, and I’ll let you go,” said Vansh.
“What if I say ‘no’?” asked Riddhima, her voice shaking due to the close proximity between them.
Vansh’s eyes bored into her. “I don’t know about that. But I do know about what I’d want to do if your answer is a ‘yes’.”
“I’d want to kiss you.”
Riddhima blushed and remained at a loss of words. “I said I don’t know…..” was all she could manage to say.
Vansh groaned. “If yet another time you say that you don’t know girl or you choose to keep your mouth shut instead, I’d happily take your answer to be ‘yes’. And then you know, what happens after that….”
She completed the sentence for him. “You’ll kiss me?” She looked mortified. She tried to reason out with him. “You are drunk! Does it befit you that you kiss a girl against her wishes in such a state?”
Vansh’s expression showed that he was hurt. “Do you think so lowly of me that I’d be willing to do something like this? If you don’t love me, don’t want me, just say ‘no’ and I’ll never, ever put you in such an incriminating position ever.”
Gathering enough strength, Riddhima shoved him away. Not able to contain her emotions any longer, she broke down.
“Do you think all this is easy for me? I’ve already so much going on in my life, and instead of lessening my problems, you are hell bound on further piling them up!”
“I’m increasing your troubles? Seriously? All I’ve ever strived to do is to make you happier,” said Vansh frustratedly. “And I’m just asking a simple question. Why can’t you answer it, damn it? Why are you so confused?”
“I was absolutely clear with my feelings for you,” Riddhima cried. “But you messed everything up and confused me. You are the reason for this confusion!”
Vansh’s eyes softened when he saw tears flowing down Riddhima’s cheeks. He brought his lips close to her cheek and kissed her tears away.
Embarrassed by this intimacy, Riddhima quickly retreated with a gasp.
“If I’m the reason for your confusion, might as well, I be the one to clear it for once and all,” said Vansh, circling his arm around her waist.
“Vansh, just listen to…..” She was stopped midway by Vansh covering her lips with his.
The second he did that, she felt as if she had been transported to some other world. A better and merrier world, free from all the trials and tribulations of this cruel world.
Half of her wanted this to continue and never end, while the other half felt guilty as she remembered about her mother’s ordeal.
Riddhima was tired of fighting away her feelings for Vansh and couldn’t hold herself back any longer. Pushing all her inhibitions away, she clung onto him as tightly as possible.
There was a whiff of his signature perfume intermixed with alcohol coming from him. But that didn’t seem to bother her. Because she loved him.
“Yes, I love you Vansh,” she murmured. “But I don’t think we will ever be able to be together…..”
“We will be together, Riddhima. And that is my promise to you,” Vansh whispered back with so much confidence, that Riddhima almost felt like trusting him on that.
“Yes,” she replied softly, while Vansh continued to kiss her fervently.
They were broken out of their trance by the ringing of the phone.
Vansh frantically searched his pockets for his phone, when Riddhima handed it over to him.
“It was on the table. I think something’s important. Or else Angre wouldn’t call you at this hour.”
Vansh received the call. “Hello Angre! What’s the matter?”
Angre who heard his Boss speak in a slurred manner, asked, “Are you drunk?”
“Yes, I guess. But not much, I think. I just gulped down one bottle of wine in one go.”
Angre understood that Vansh was not in a condition to think or act properly. He realized that he’d have to handle this matter for the time being until his inebriation wears off.
“Fine Boss, you take care. I’ll manage everything over here, don’t worry. But is there anyone to take care of you?”
Vansh smiled when his gaze fell upon her. “Riddhima is there with me. No worries.”
“Ok Boss. Take proper rest. We’ll discuss everything in detail tomorrow morning.” He hung up.
Vansh gave his phone to Riddhima asking her to keep it back on the table.
But in the process, Riddhima’s eyes landed upon Angre’s message, that popped up in the notification list on the screen, in spite of the phone being screen locked.
It was sent fifteen minutes before the call and it read :
Emergency on the island!
The doctor said that the patient is serious and must be taken to a hospital immediately. If you see my message, call me up.
Riddhima looked on shocked. The island….that means it wasn’t empty and someone was being treated over there secretly? Now it made sense to her where that footprint on the island had come from, and why Vansh was acting all weird and tight-lipped about it.
But who was this patient that Angre was talking about? A feeling of dread started hovering over her as she realized that it could be possible that it was her Papa. She wasn’t sure of it, but whoever it was, she knew she had to get to the bottom of the truth.
She was about to leave when Vansh caught her hand and said with pleading eyes, “Don’t leave. Please stay…..here….with me….”
She nodded reassuringly and sat beside him holding his hand and running her fingers through his hair. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep. Soon, Riddhima could hear his breathing become deeper and slower, indicating that he was in deep slumber.
Careful not to disturb him, she freed her hand from his hold as gently as possible. Switching off the lights of his room, she said to herself, “I need to go to the docks. Right now.”
When Riddhima went towards the gate, she found the guards standing there.
“Oh no! How will I ever be able to get past them?” she thought in despair.
An idea struck her. She picked up few stones from below and threw them in the other direction. In a bid to catch the supposed trespasser who was doing this, the guards ran in the direction of the sound, thus clearing the way out for Riddhima.
Once out of the VR Mansion, she walked for about 1km to get to the main road. She hired an auto and directed the driver towards the docks.
Once Riddhima reached the docks, she stood afar and watched the scene from there. She could see Angre and his men carry a stretcher into an ambulance.
Riddhima couldn’t make out who the patient was because of the white sheet that was placed on top.
“Who is that? Is that Papa? Did something happen to him?” she thought with shudder.
She instructed the same auto driver to follow the ambulance in front of her.
But she also warned him to not make it very obvious.
She was surprised to see the ambulance drive past many good hospitals in the city, and instead head towards the outskirts.
“What is happening? Where are they going to?”
After an hour or so, the ambulance finally stopped at a hospital which was located quite far away from the city. The hospital looked okayish from outside, but it was not somewhere a Raisinghania would be expected to visit.
Angre and his men personally carried the stretcher inside. Seizing this opportunity, Riddhima got down the auto and paid the driver his due fare.
Hiding her face behind her stole, she ventured inside the hospital, and headed straight towards the reception.
When the receptionist rudely denied to divulge any details, it was at that time that Riddhima realized that she had indeed acted stupidly by directly questioning her like that. She decided to search each and every room around.
All of a sudden, she felt someone twist her hand from behind. When she turned around, she turned pale to see Angre in front of her.
“What are you doing here Riddhima?” he asked furiously. “How dare you trick Boss and come over here against his will? Now you see, what he’ll do with you!”
“Whatever he might do, but I’m sure that he can never harm me. I trust him on that,” Riddhima said confidently. “And Vansh trusts you, so I don’t think that you can harm me either. So there’s no use of threatening me like that.”
He rolled his eyes at her. “You’re coming with me to VR Mansion right now. Understood?”
She crossed her arms across her chest. “No! Not unless you tell me what exactly going on around here.”
When Angre started biting his lip in nervousness, she assured him.
“You know very well that I am not an enemy and in fact only mean well for Vansh and his family. You can trust me with the information.
Tell me, who is that person whom you have brought over here? Is it my Papa?”
Angre was becoming very irritated. All this girl had ever done was to bug him with questions about her parents.
“You needn’t know that,” he snapped at her.
All of a sudden, the lights went out. They came back on after a few seconds, but till then, Riddhima was already gone away from the sight.
“This girl!” Angrw muttered angrily. “She is not only driving Boss crazy, but she’s driving me also crazy with her stubborness and unnecessary spying.”
Riddhima was strolling through the corridors of the hospital, making sure that none of Angre or his men caught her. She had to find out the truth before any of them caught her again.
She passed by two ward boys discussing about some ‘important’ patient.
She continued to eavesdrop upon their conversation. “Room no. 308,” she noted it down mentally.
When she saw Angre appear around the corner, she turned on her heels and ran away. She took the fire exit and headed down to the third floor.
The board “Room 308” flashed before her. Without wasting a second, she barged inside.
She was half disappointed and half relieved to find an old woman lay unconscious on the bed instead.
But what shocked her beyond words was when her eyes landed on a person fully covered in black jumpsuit and black headmask, about to inject something in the patient’s drip.
With a swift movement, Riddhima charged at the intruder and tried to stop him from injecting the drug.
She attempted to pull off the mask to see who it was, but before she could do that, the masked person pricked the needle into her hand. Riddhima stood aghast as she felt the drug being injected into her. She knew she’d stumble down with the effects of the drug within few seconds, but she did not want to give up still. She tore the masked man’s gloves off, before he could run away.
Soon enough, the effects started to wear on. She started feeling dizzy, palpitating and perspiring heavily. Everything started to blur around her and she dropped down to the ground.
“Riddhima!” She heard a familiar voice ring in her ears. It was Vansh.
He straddled her in his arms and tapped her face to help her gain her senses.
“This syringe….” she weakly pointed towards the ground. “It has the finger….prints of that person….”
Saying this, she collapsed in his arms.
That is it for today guys. Do comment below.