Chapter 9: The Battle of Wills
Ishaani rang the doorbell to the mansion while she hugged herself and stared around the place, its scenic beauty calming her nerves slightly. She still felt embarrassed and distraught over her outpour on Martha, but she could not deny that she felt much better after it. A serene calm had taken over her buzzing mind, all thoughts and fears obliterated, her mind only focused on having her conversation with Ranveer.
The door swung open and Martin stared at her, momentarily taken aback before a smile crossed his face. He led her into the house once again before he asked common courtesies of being seated or having something to drink, all of which Ishaani refused. She smiled at him tensely before she asked.
"Is Ranveer free right now?"
"Yes, Madame. He is free now and in his room. I'll be up in my quarters if you need anything."
Ishaani smiled at him a bit more relaxed and thanked him while she climbed the stairs to the first landing. Her heart beat faster with every step taken towards the room while she looked around nervously. There was not a single soul in sight and the house was as quiet and secluded as it could be. The Canadian delegates had already been seen off.
Bringing her mind back to task, Ishaani sighed. This was going to be her first conversation with him face to face after three years. There was so much to be said and so much to be done. The memory of their last conversation kept creeping its way back up to her mind while she angrily dissed off the thoughts. She could not let that conversation cross her mind now, for the memory of it stung her hard and knew that this precise memory had been among one of the reasons that Ranveer had suffered his anxiety attack from the previous night.
Yet somehow, she felt hollow and empty. Every time she thought about all the things that were to be said and clarified, she drew up a blank. Martha had given her the day off on account of going and sorting out things with Ranveer, but she herself had no clue how to go about with it. She mentally made a note to herself to leave the key conversation to Ranveer.
Reaching towards the door of his room, she knocked the door twice before a resounding 'Come in' came back as a reply. Ishaani entered the room, which now looked majestic with its being completely bathed in sunlight while the walnut-colored furniture gleamed gorgeously. Ranveer was sitting on the bed, some files strewn across on the blanket while his head was buried in one of the files.
Ranveer raised his head up to see Ishaani standing there and shut the file slowly. The world seemed to have disappeared as Ranveer and Ishaani now stood face-to-face, with nothing around them except each other's solitary presence, the golden light in the room making the moment surreal.
"Hey." Ishaani smiled at Ranveer meekly while he smiled back at her slowly.
"How are you feeling now?"
"Better." Ranveer had half a guilty look on his face before he whispered slowly. "Sorry that I frightened you yesterday."
"Shouldn't that be my line, given that you had the anxiety attack because of me?"
Ranveer looked at her and smiled while she smiled back, the first true smile in these three years. Ranveer no longer had that cold air about him. Instead, he looked at her curiously, his eyes still empty and calculating, reflecting the same aura that Ishaani had about herself. He titled his head slightly before speaking.
"Martin told me about last night. Thank you for saving my life." Ishaani nodded in acknowledgement but did not reply. She looked at him blankly, thinking about what to say. She stated simply after a few moments.
"My sentence was pardoned." Ranveer stared at her intently before speaking.
"Why are you telling me about this now?"
"I though it mattered to you." Ishaani looked at him puzzled while he returned a blank look.
"Does this matter now?" Ishaani cocked her eyebrow up in response. It took her a few moments before she replied, her answer dipped in sarcasm.
"For someone who was yelling his head off that I was dead while hallucinating, your reply doesn't seem really truthful." Ranveer stared at her, his face torn between confusion and embarrassment. Ishaani studied his expression carefully before speaking once again.
"You don't remember anything about last night now, do you?"
"No." Ranveer replied honestly while he looked at her, anger suddenly bubbling inside him. He did not know why he felt so angry all of a sudden, but he did. Ishaani's calm, detached behavior was now getting to him slowly.
"Sit." His tone had a rough demeanor about it, which caught Ishaani's attention immediately. She smiled sadly at the anger visible in his eyes while she sat down at the coffee table. Ranveer sat down on the bed once again, waiting for her to speak first while playing with his ring irritably.
After spending the next 15 minutes in silence during which all the two of them did was stare at each other, trying to read something, anything, within the depths of each other's eyes, Ishaani finally spoke.
"I never loved Chirag and I did not kill him."
"That was pretty obvious, given that you are still wearing that ring on your finger." Ishaani looked down at her ring and saw it gleaming powerfully in the sunlight.
"You noticed." It was more of a statement than a question and Ranveer simply nodded.
"Pretty much, yeah." He narrowed his eyes at her before he continued. "I must say though, you played your part perfectly back then. Mixing lies and truth together so effortlessly. I must really commend you for it. You knew just the right buttons to push now, didn't you? And I, like a fool, fell right for it. Ingenious, really."
Ranveer's tone had unconcealed venom, yet Ishaani simply stared at him blankly, her eyes not betraying the approaching storm in her heart. She replied nonchalantly.
"I did what I had to do." Ranveer nodded his head in mock approval before putting forth his next question.
"Ishaani, do you love me?"
Ishaani felt the breath get knocked out of her on hearing the question. For the first time in three years, she had heard his voice. The same voice that was always filled with love, along with a desperation and insecurity latched with it. The question disarmed her false calm instantly, leaving her heart exposed to him through her eyes, raw and wounded.
"Yes... yes, I do." She breathed out slowly, pouring in as much of emotion as she could while staring at him hopelessly, her eyes begging his now-cracking, cold ones to understand.
"And do you trust me?" This question had so much pain attached with it that it made Ishaani's heart bleed.
"Yes, I do. With my life." She answered slowly, still not quite understanding where this conversation was headed, even though she knew that the answer was dangling right before her eyes, obscured by a veil.
"I don't really think so." Ranveer looked at her, a tear escaping his eye, a resentful bitterness reflecting through it. Ishaani sprang up from the chair and was about to speak, when she recoiled at the look in Ranveer's eyes. He had the same look that he had in the moment he was shot before he fell back into the pool.
"No! You've... you've got to understand!", exclaimed Ishaani as she pleaded with him, tears finally springing in her eyes, her voice shaking with the hurt that Ranveer's statement had inflicted upon her. Ranveer smiled ruefully at her, seeing the effect his simple statement has caused.
"What do you want me to understand, Ishaani? From all I could conclude at the end of our last conversation, I was always your servant first and then your friend and somewhere remotely about, your husband."
Ishaani's eyes bulged with tears as Ranveer's words struck her harshly once again while a sob escaped her lips freely. Ranveer looked at her painfully, another tear escaping his own eyes and whispered.
"That hurt, didn't it?" Ishaani looked at him hard while the storm finally broke within her heart, a fury such like she had never known blowing her mind into a frenzy.
"It hurt, but not as much as when you said you wished I was Papa's own child." Ishaani smiled at him bitterly while Ranveer was taken aback, his mouth a big, wide 'O'. Recovering quickly, his expression changed into that of furious indignation as he muttered with disgust.
"So, you're trying to hide your own wrong-doings behind the skirts of my bigger ones?"
"Oh no, I would never do that. I just don't understand why you are so hell bent on wanting to believe everything I told you, even though none of it was true except for the fact that I love you!"
"You know what really hurts me, Ishaani? That even after knowing me for all these years, you don't trust me enough. You didn't trust me enough to see this through on my own."
"There was no bloody choice! There were witnesses who had seen the two of you fight! I had to save you from going to jail, I could not let you go to jail, not at my expense again!"
"What are you talking about?" Ranveer looked at her, his brows contracted in confusion.
"Chirag was my mistake. Had I seen through his ulterior motives and his characterless nature before, none of this would have ever happened! You had warned me several times against and about him, but I chose to believe him over you. See how that worked out, huh!?"
"Well, then in that case, I should blame myself for all of this chaos because I was the one who brought him in your life! What do you have to say for that, huh!?"
"I don't know why you can’t understand my point! I'm not saying what I did was right, but I thought at least you, of all people, would understand me!"
"Understand you? Hell, I feel like smacking you! Had you not intervened, I would have managed everything! Ishaani, you don't know what you've done and I see that even after three years you don't realize your mistake!"
"When the hell will you get to the part where you understand why I did it?!" Ishaani's voice had reached a peak and she flared at Ranveer, her anger obliterating all thoughts of sense from her mind.
"Why can't you get it into your damn head?! Do you realize the number of lives you destroyed just by your one stupidity? Don't you realize that you ruined not one life, but three families instead?"
"What do you want me to do now? Die? Rot in hell? Go drown myself? Because no one is going to accept me back again and I certainly don't want to receive any more crap treatment than I already got three years back."
Ranveer stared at her, his anger fading away, leaving behind an aching heart that had no more will to fight. He walked up to Ishaani and put his hands over her shoulders while tears openly escaped her eyes. He continued speaking much more calmly once he was assured that she wouldn't throw his hand off her shoulder.
"Ishaani, what happened three years ago wasn't anyone's fault. Neither yours, nor mine. It were the circumstances that weren't in our favor. But the scars that were given in the process are going to be in our hearts forever now, isn't it? Besides, your sacrifice only tore us apart more, with neither of us truly living in these three years. What good did it really bring out for us, Ishaani? You tell me."
"But I didn't mean to-"
"I know, Ishaani, I know!" Ranveer's exasperation was returning back, though his voice was tired. "But you scarred me for life that day. I knew it that you loved me and this has been the only driving force that has kept me alive in these past three years. But you don't know what your death did to me, Ishaani. You have no idea."
Ishaani stared at him silently for a few minutes before she spoke once again.
"Will you be able to forgive me ever, for what I did?" It took Ranveer a minute to ponder over the question before he replied sincerely.
Ishaani smiled at him painfully, her anger ebbing away completely, the cold hand of common sense falling over her once again. She now spoke with a resignation in her voice.
"That's why I love you, Ranveer. You always give people chances even though they don't deserve them. You may love me enough to forgive me, but I don't think I will be able to forgive myself ever. Not after seeing what I've done to you."
"Shhh." She pressed her finger over his lip while she spoke softly. "I understand what you are saying. And you're right. I've done far too much damage and I was stupid enough to try to make you see my reasoning."
"Ishaani, please let me-"
"No, Ranveer." Ishaani began walking towards the door before she stopped and turned back, speaking once again. "But just so that you know, if I were given the chance to do the same thing a thousand times what I did three years ago, I would do it happily as long as it buys you an extra breath, even at the cost of my own. No matter whether I'm ousted from the society or rejected by my own family and friends."
"Ishaani, stop. You're taking this the wrong way. You don't understand what I-"
"Just tell me one thing Ranveer. Can our marriage ever go back to the way it used to be? Can we ever go back to what we were?" Ranveer looked at her doubtfully while Ishaani smiled, her eyes filled with tears.
"That's why it's best if we stay away from each other, because all our lives, I've only brought you pain. I don't want to do that anymore. That's why it's best if we part ways. We've parted ways legally, and now, it's best if we do it mentally as well." Ranveer looked confused before comprehension dawned upon him.
"No, stop. You've got this all wrong!" Ishaani turned back to look at him one last time before she muttered slowly.
"It's over, Ranveer. We're done."