Chapter 15: The Creaminess of a Soupy Afternoon
Ishaani opened her eyes slowly. She felt slightly ill, even though she could not understand why. Her vision was blurred and it took her some time to get adjusted to the bright surroundings. She could see someone's blurry silhouette what she supposed was sitting next to her bed, but she did not have the strength to recoil. When her vision cleared finally, she could see Ranveer sitting on a chair beside her bed, staring at her.
"How are you feeling?" Ishaani looked at him in a daze before replying slowly.
"Horrible." Ranveer shook his head before replying viciously.
"Serves you right."
Ishaani shut her eyes, as her head throbbed. She tried to sit up, but lost her balance, hitting the pillow awkwardly. Ranveer quickly got up and made her sit up, holding her back and massaging it gently. She felt better by the passing minutes and turned to look at him, confused.
"What are you doing here?"
"Long story. But that can wait. I'll go get something for you to eat. It doesn't look like you have had anything to eat since yesterday afternoon." Ishaani stared at Ranveer, whose eyes had bags under it and looked like he was had not slept the whole night. His lips looked dry, as though he had not had anything to eat or drink in hours.
"It doesn't look like you yourself have had anything to eat for that matter. Or gotten any sleep for yourself, in that case. You look terrible." Ranveer stared at her sheepishly before shaking his head.
"Fine, I'll make us both some brunch. Happy?"
"Brunch? Wait, what time is it?"
"12:30 in the afternoon."
"What? I slept through so much! Oh God, I didn't even inform Martha and she gets so angry when people-"
"Relax! I called Martha in the morning and told her you won't be coming since you're unwell. She has given you a three-day sabbatical leave."
"But how on Earth did I sleep through so much?"
"Well, call it the magic of drinking too much scotch." Ishaani looked at him shocked and stuttered for a few minutes before falling silent under his gaze.
"Don't even say a word. We'll have a very delightful conversation on this once I get the food ready." Ishaani glared at him but kept quiet. Ranveer helped her get up from the bed so that she could freshen up herself.
He left the room after helping her back to the bed, returning back 15 minutes later with a tray carrying a plate filled with sandwiches and two bowls of steaming vegetable soup. Ishaani looked at him happily and accepted the plate of sandwiches that he handed over to her and took a bite from it hungrily.
Ishaani and Ranveer both had their lunch quickly, their hunger getting the better of them. After 20 minutes, Ranveer took both of their empty plates and bowls and disposed of them in the kitchen and came back while Ishaani sighed contentedly.
"That was one amazing soup. When did you learn to cook so well?"
"Well, let's just say that I've been spending my low time in productive ways." Ishaani shook her head, disgruntled by his reply.
"From how long have you been sitting here?"
"Since 8 last night. You had a fever, so didn't want to leave you and go anywhere, just in case you needed something."
"You're insane, you know that right?" Ishaani smiled at him while he let a quick smile appear on his face before he turned a stern look towards her.
"I know that. And funnily enough, it reminds me about our conversation." Ishaani's smile faded away, replaced quickly by a frown.
"What are you even doing here in the first place?"
"You weren't picking up the landline and your cellphone was switched off. I grew worried. I came here to check up on you but found the main door open. I rushed in to see whether you were alright, given that I thought you had been mugged or something along those lines. But what do I find? You fallen on the ground, half-unconscious after having had half a bottle of pure scotch, when you can't remain normal after even less than a quarter. Care explaining what was it about?"
Ishaani stared at him embarrassed and confused at the same time.
"I don't remember anything about what happened last night. The last thing I remember was having my third glass of scotch. After that, my memory is a blank until today afternoon when I woke up."
"Ofcourse." Ishaani looked at him guiltily before cupping his cheek, her tone pleading.
"I'm sorry, Ranveer. I know I was so stupid. You told me to trust you and-"
"Ishaani, you know what's the worst thing? I do understand what happened yesterday. And funnily enough, I do really understand why you took the blame on your head three years ago. I understand it." Ishaani looked into his eyes deeply, as though hoping his eyes would betray what he just said. But she could see that he clearly meant what he spoke.
Nodding at him feverishly, she caught hold of his hand now.
"I've never come to terms with what happened that night. If you could never come to terms with it for one reason, I have never come to terms with it for another."
Ranveer looked at her and kissed her hand. Ishaani shut her eyes at the touch of his lips and smiled softly.
"I know. And I was pretty stupid enough to bring up the one thing that you have been trying to fight against for so long." Ishaani nodded her head and looked at Ranveer curiously.
"Can I ask you something?"
"How did you live these three years, knowing that I'm dead?" Ranveer caught on the meaning of what Ishaani was trying to say and smiled.
"Somewhere deep down, I never believed that you were no more. I always believed in this and I will continue believing in this that the day you indeed die, my heart will stop beating then and there. My heart has always been with you and it will always be with you. My life started when I saw you first and it will end when I'm seeing you for the last time. It's as simple as that."
"But that anxiety attack? You kept saying that I'm dead."
"I don't know why I kept saying it, if you ask me honestly. That night is still a blur with me." Ishaani did not look entirely convinced and Ranveer laughed slowly.
"You know what the problem here is, Ishaani? You haven't been able to come to terms with the events that happened with us in those few months of our lives before we separated three years ago. There were far too many things to come to terms with. That's why you cannot move on from it. I came to terms with it two years ago, when I broke down in front of Martin that night. Oh yes-" Ranveer smiled when he saw Ishaani's guilty expression, "-I know that you know about it. I'm sure Martin must have thought it his duty to tell you about it, because he has been far too concerned about my aloofness. He thinks that I don't know about how worried he remains about it, but I do. I only choose to do nothing about it."
"He was kind of afraid that you might get angry with him if you knew that he had told me about that night." Ranveer gave an affectionate look.
"That's Martin for you. But coming back to my point, Martin was there for me like a friend and brother, where I confided every single fear and assumption I had, every single shred of pain and hopelessness. And he just comforted me the whole night, without expecting anything in return. Martin never knows it, but I've confided a huge part of myself and my existence in him. He saved my life that night. And since then, I learnt to accept what happened with us and I decided to survive on what my heart believed - that you did indeed love me and you were alive somewhere."
"But that night-"
"I'm getting to that. I did not get the anxiety attack because I saw you alive. I got the attack because of what was to come next." When Ishaani cocked up her eyebrow, Ranveer sighed and continued.
"Don't you see? I was afraid. In these three years, I had survived on a hope that could have very well been false, a hope that could have been snatched away from me at any moment. It was a pathetic way of survival, but I clung on to it nonetheless. That night when I saw you, I was afraid, much more afraid that what you were. I was afraid that you would push me away again and I knew it that I would not have been able to take it this time. The only thing I have ever been afraid of was you abandoning me. I was a coward that night, afraid to face you like I should have, rather than try and fight battles in my mind."
Ranveer stopped speaking and looked at Ishaani, a strange, frightening guilt smeared across his face while he stared at her beseechingly, his eyes begging her to understand. Ishaani in turn, smiled at him and ruffled his hair slightly while she understood where his reaction had come from. She realized that in a way, both of them had been living in denial for far too long and facing the facts had become difficult for them to accept when they needed it most. She looked at him and absent-mindedly whispered.
"And I was afraid that you would never accept me back." Ranveer's expression relaxed back as he saw understanding and compassion in her eyes for him and he smiled a little.
"Funny, how we feared the same thing, yet we never dared to voice it out." Taking a sigh, he continued. "Anyways, we had our conversation the next day. It gave me a new hope. I was ready to shed behind our past and start over a new leaf with you. Somehow, I realized that you were reluctant, though I did not know why and I couldn't understand the reason behind it either. That was, until yesterday, when you clung on to me, holding that bullet in your hand, as though trying to protect me from it."
Ishaani looked at him surprised, her lips apart, as though flustered at being caught in some guilty secret. She looked below to see the chain hanging from her neck while the bullet gleamed dully in the light of the room. She unclasped the hook of the chain and caught it in her hand, shutting her eyes. Finally opening her eyes after an infinitesimal amount of time, during which Ranveer gripped her other hand strongly, Ishaani looked at him and took her hand out of his grip.
She got up and brought a box that was lying idly on her dressing table and sat back on the bed once again. Tossing the chain into the box without even glancing at it once, she looked at Ranveer who was, in turn, looking at her quizzically. Ishaani handed over the box to him.
"I'm ready to let go." Ranveer smiled at her slowly and accepted the box while he observed Ishaani's expression. Her face had a newfound glow about it. Her eyes were still slightly hesitant, but there was also a determination along with it to accept the past.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. I have to let go of it sometime. So why not today? Besides, I don't want to let you out of my sight ever again." Ranveer smiled at her and threw his arms out while Ishaani hugged him, the same feeling of being complete and at home enveloping her.
"Will you promise me something?" Ishaani hummed slowly, not letting go of her grip on him. "Never give me such a fright ever again. You really scared me yesterday." Ishaani looked up at him before replying soulfully.
Ranveer left her place at 6, after Ishaani called Martin and asked him to take him home, for Ranveer had put up a tantrum of not leaving her alone, even though she was perfectly alright. Martin came along, a dazzling smile on his face, with a strange glow that was much different than the one he usually had.
"How are you now, Madame?"
"I'm perfectly alright, Mr. Martin. But what is up with you? You look really happy." Ranveer noticed Martin's happy expression and look at him curiously.
"Yeah, Martin, what's up?" Martin puffed his chest as his excitement could not be restrained anymore.
"Before coming up here, Claudine just told me." Taking a deep breath, he exploded. "We are expecting a baby, Monsieur!"
"What!" Ranveer and Ishaani were stunned for a minute before Ishaani went and hugged Martin.
"Congratulations Martin! I'm so happy for you and Claudine!" Ishaani separated from the hug and Ranveer thumped Martin on the back fondly.
"I knew there was something wrong with Claudine when she unnecessarily confined me to that three day bed rest."
"Ranveer!" Ishaani nudged him sharply and Martin chuckled happily. Ranveer looked at Martin and gave him a bear hug.
"Congratulations, mate. I'm so happy! This certainly calls for a toast." Ranveer ran into the kitchen and came out 5 minutes later with two glasses of scotch and one glass of fruit juice. Handing Ishaani over the fruit juice, he and Martin took their respective glasses of scotch. Ishaani stared at her glass confused before turning towards Ranveer childishly.
"Hey! Where's my glass of scotch?"
"Wasn't yesterday enough?" Ishaani glared at him and grudgingly accepted the fruit juice while Ranveer raised his glass in a toast.
"To Martin Jr.!" Ishaani and Martin smiled before repeating after him.
"To Martin Jr.!"