Chapter 11: Rekindling a New Friendship
Next day back at the library, Martha was busy pondering over a notebook, scribbling away rapidly while Ishaani was arranging some of the books in their proper order, lost in thought. Ishaani was living in the memory of hers and Ranveer's dance at the party once again when Martha's voice cut through.
"Darling, what do you think of Shakespeare as a person?"
"He was a mental fool really." Ishaani replied absent-mindedly, while trying to stuff one of the copies of The Bourne Identity in its place.
"Ishaani!" She spun around quickly and saw Martha staring at her, her mouth wide open, her cheeks puce. "I won't have you voicing such views about Shakespeare in my library!" Ishaani slapped herself mentally as she remembered Martha's fanatic love for Shakespeare and her 'zero-tolerance' policy for anyone who bad-mouthed him.
"I'm sorry! I was thinking about something else and I-"
"Darling, I really love you, but had this been someone else, I'd have banished them from this library for life."
"I'm so sorry. I was lost in thought and I don't know... it just... sort of came out." Martha didn't look impressed in the least and Ishaani rolled her eyes at her.
"I said I'm sorry! And besides, why couldn't you have framed your question better asking about his good qualities rather than a general view!" Martha looked like she would explode while Ishaani looked afraid, knowing that she'd gone too far.
Martha stared at Ishaani, observing her face for a few moments before she composed herself. She could see that Ishaani's eyes were red and puffy, while she had light, purple bags around her eyes. Her cheeks were blotchy and her nose was red. Martha looked at her shrewdly through her spectacles before speaking placidly.
"It's my bad. Besides, it's a pity Shakespeare got to the wrong side of your books. But he isn't the only one now, is he?" Ishaani looked at Martha for several moments, a blush creeping up her face that was soon replaced by indignation, before she huffed out.
"He dismissed me from his room! How dare he! I'm supposed to be his bloody wife!" Martha took a deep breath, her face returning to its normal colour once again.
"Now, now, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Tell me everything that happened." Ishaani came and sat by Martha and narrated their entire conversation from the previous day. Martha listened to her patiently, speaking only once Ishaani finished her narration.
"Is he alright now?"
"Martin says that he has been confined to a strict 3-day bed rest. And all this just because I spooked him silly with my appearance in the party."
"I don't really blame the guy. He's bound to be upset."
"I can't believe that you'd side with him!"
"Darling, you know the scenario best. So don't go about fooling yourself in silly grudges. Besides, I don't blame the guy for getting an anxiety attack! Had this scenario happened with me seeing my dead husband, I'd be pretty sure that I'd die in shock!"
"Martha!" Ishaani shrieked reproachfully.
"Oh alright, alright. Don't get yourself worked up now. Anyways, the library will be shutting at 1. Go over to his place and visit him. I have to head over to Athens for my seminar as well." Ishaani's expression softened as she hugged Martha lovingly.
"Do take care of yourself Martha. I'm gonna miss you."
"I'm going to miss you too, honey. Do make sure that you take care of yourself and of Ranveer as well. And please, I want to see something pleasantly surprising when I get back." Ishaani cocked her eyebrow up in confusion, while Martha smirked.
"Martha, you're just going for 3 days. What on Earth do you expect will happen in these three days?"
"Well, that's the thing now. Surprise me." Ishaani rolled her eyes at Martha while the latter smiled and kissed her on her cheek.
"You sure you'll be able to manage the library now?"
"Good." Just then, Martha's eyes fell on a bunch of boys, who she remembered were the same bunch of ones she had thrown out of the library the previous day. "Oh look, those boys again. Ishaani, do shoo them away from here before they throw ink all over the place again."
Ishaani rang the doorbell once again. The door opened within five minutes, with Martin at the door. He smiled brightly at the sight of Ishaani as he ushered her in happily. She looked at him and shook her head, embarrassed at his unashamed display of happiness before she asked him.
"How is Ranveer now?"
"He isn't good at all, Madame." A frown crossed Ishaani's face as she asked him, her tone worried.
"Monsieur is in a very bad temper. He won't allow anyone enter his room, not even me." Ishaani drew out a long breath of relief while she glared at Martin.
"You scared the hell out of me just now." Martin looked at her embarrassed before mumbling a sincere apology. Ishaani felt highly amused by the situation, while a playful smile came up her lips.
"So Claudine hasn't lifted the ban yet?"
"No. She is quite firm over it."
Ishaani nodded her head, barely managing to control her chuckles as she made her way over to Ranveer's room. She gently knocked the door, a strange happiness erupting in her heart, driving away all the negative thoughts and pessimistic approaches of life and settling her mind on the bliss of some unknown happiness.
"Martin, go away. I don't want to talk to anybody." Ishaani could make out that Ranveer was in a foul temper and that Martin had not been exaggerating. She only smiled and continued.
"It's me." A small silence continued, before she heard a soft tone replace the irritated one from the other side of the door.
"The door is open." Ishaani turned the handle and entered the room, the sunlight hitting her face with full force, but she was ready for it.
She smiled as Ranveer lowered down the book he was reading, a broad smile coming up his face. She could not remain angry on him anymore. It was as though life had given her a second chance to be with him, to re-live all those moments that were lost within the endless realms of loyalty and sacrifice, to hold him in her arms forever and never let him away from her for another moment again.
"Ishaani! What are you doing here?" There was sheer joy in his voice, as though those three years had never happened, as though there had nothing been wrong between them away. They might have been living in the world of 5 years ago, where their friendship was the sole reason to live each day so fully in each other's company.
"I came to see you. Martin told me that your health had relapsed a bit. Are you alright now?"
"I'm perfectly fine, unless you count going mentally insane by being locked up in a room." Ranveer looked at Ishaani smiling at him happily and a similar smile crossed his face within a matter of moments. She still had the power to revolve his mood from anger to simple happiness and it was for the first time after three years that he had got to see her smile so carelessly.
Beckoning her inside through his eyes, he sat up on the bed alertly, while Ishaani occupied the armchair from two nights ago, a warm smile on her face. They smiled at each other for several minutes, before Ranveer initiated the conversation.
"Thanks for coming to see me. And I'm sorry about yesterday."
"I'm sorry about yesterday too. But there are a lot more things that I'm sorry about. But I'm not sure that it's going to be enough. Not this time, I guess." Ranveer sighed before speaking.
"You're right. Both of us have done far too many mistakes to ask forgiveness for."
"What are you talking about? What did you-?"
"If I've been complaining about you not treating me right yesterday, then I think I was being pretty hypocritical given that I didn't treat you any better back during our whole misunderstanding phase. And there is no point defending each other's actions because we both know that whatever happened, no matter what the circumstances, was absolutely wrong right from the start of our marriage."
Ishaani simply shrugged her shoulders, while at a loss of words. Ranveer continued.
"I gave a lot of thought to everything you told me yesterday. And I've come to a conclusion." Ishaani nodded her head in acknowledgement and looked at him curiously.
"I've come to realize that our relationship has suffered far too much damage to be taken through any further. Maybe it is best if we just end it here, yesterday's conversation being the final point."
"Wait, what? That's it?" But somehow, Ishaani still felt that same euphoria in her heart bubble even stronger, as though a new ray of hope was steadily cracked through the dark, lost corners of her heart. She tilted her head slightly on one side, before speaking once again, a curiosity peaking in her tone. "Why do I feel there's much more to what you have to say?" Ranveer simply stared at her and laughed.
"You amaze me really." Ishaani felt colour creep up her cheek while Ranveer laughed at Ishaani's reaction cheerfully, his first own true laughter in those three years, before he got a grip on himself and continued.
"And yes, there is more to this. Along with the end of this relationship, there'll be the start of a new one."
"A new one?"
"I've come to realize that the main problem in our relationship was trust. Somehow, both of us have a lot of issues trusting each other with secrets, which has more than often cost us a part of our life. So, the first step to our new relationship will be establishing trust, the same blind trust that we had over each other before I left the Parekh mansion. And I know just the right way to go about with it."
"I'll tell you. But first, I need you to answer something for me." Ishaani's curiosity increased steadily, as she stared at Ranveer. His eyes were now afire with those same pools of love and passion that she used to see for herself and she gazed at him transfixed. She could finally see her Ranveer back in those chocolate eyes, not the cold shell that she had seen two days ago, who would still give her a shiver down her spine every time she thought about it.
"On what basis did you come to visit me today? As my wife or as my best friend?"
"Best friend." The answer slipped away from her lips even before she consciously thought about it. Ranveer smiled at her and continued.
"I was banking on this answer. You see, our relationship so far has been pretty... complicated. We were friends first, then estranged, then got married out of the blue, then I came to hate you, you came to love me, we both fell in love and then separated for good. You see, there isn't any proper graph to our relationship."
"What are you getting at?"
"Simply this. With the start of our new relationship, I want the two of us to bury all past history between us and begin our life afresh, starting from the point of friendship. We both love each other and that love will be our beacon of light in this relationship. The mistakes we have made will be our experiences. And we will only now ascend to the next level of our relationship when we both think we are ready for it."
Ishaani gave this considerate thought before smiling at him.
"I think I'd like that. For once, I want a relationship between us that is as simple and innocent as our friendship used to be back then. I'm tired of aching this bad. I just need the comforting arms of a friend now. A friend who knows me and understands me. And I don't think I could find anyone better than you."
Ranveer smiled at her and got up from his place. He came and stood beside the armchair and extended a hand towards Ishaani.
"So, friends?" Ishaani stood up and ruffled his hair playfully before extending her hand, holding it in a firm handshake.
Both of them stared at each other for a minute, their hands held within each other's, a calm bliss taking over them, before Ishaani felt herself fall into Ranveer's arms once again, holding on to his sweatshirt, while his arms wrapped around her back. She smiled sweetly against his chest, taking in his scent, while he rested his head over hers. She didn't know whether it were minutes or hours that passed by, before she lifted her head and looked into Ranveer's eyes, enchanted at the way they glowed in the sunlight, before whispering.
"It feels good to be back home."