Chapter 18: A New Way Back Home
Ishaani sat on her desk, a sullen look on her face. Martha stared at her helplessly while Ranveer leaned against one of the bookcases.
"This is not working out. This simply isn't," muttered Ishaani morosely. Ranveer looked at her sadly.
"I'm sorry, Ishaani. I've tried everywhere, but whatever houses they have are pretty high on the rents. It's the rent crisis in Greece. I really am sorry. I would have willingly bought that flat up in Naxou had you not intervened."
"I told you Ranveer, as much as I appreciate you wanting to buy me the house, this isn't right. It's taken me time to come to terms with our relationship and now that I'm on par with it, I don't want anything happening that deters it."
"But Ishaani, tomorrow is the last day. Then what? Where are you going to stay?" Ishaani shook her head in a deranged manner and threw her hands in the air.
"Don't you think that I know that? Oh God, this is all a mess!" Ishaani threw her head over her arms and buried it while Ranveer looked at Martha dejectedly. At that moment, Martha looked up at the two of them, her eyes alight.
"Ishaani, why don't you stay over at Ranveer's place?" Ishaani looked up at Martha, an incredulous look in her face.
"You heard me. The two of you are technically married, so it isn't that you are doing anything wrong." Ishaani groaned and spoke swiftly, as though everything was beyond her understanding.
"Martha, this is insane. This would be as good as Ranveer buying me a house. This is crazy, right Ranveer? Ranveer?" Ishaani snapped her fingers at Ranveer, who had not uttered at single word for the past few minutes.
"Ranveer, are you even listening to me?" Ranveer walked up to her and looked at her steadily.
"Yeah. And I think Martha is right. You should stay over at my place."
"Ranveer, no. I couldn't. I wouldn't." Ranveer gave her a frustrated look and turned towards Martha for help.
"You don't have a choice, honey."
"Martha, please. I could stay over at a... a hotel or something."
"The rents are twice as expensive at a hotel on a daily basis." Ishaani looked at the two of them angrily.
"There has got to be something!" Ranveer sat down and looked at Ishaani hopelessly.
"Ishaani, please. Think logically. My house it technically yours as well. And besides, it’s a 25-room mansion! Stay wherever you like! It's completely your wish! But please, stop getting so stubborn over it."
"Ugh alright! Just stay with me for the time being alright? Till you get a suitable apartment. Now you can do that much atleast, can't you?" Ishaani looked torn halfway between arguing back and giving up.
"Fine. I want to go home. Please, take me home." Ranveer sat on his knees and cupped her cheek. He looked at her lovingly before speaking.
"Ishaani, will you listen to me?" She nodded at him, tears escaping her eyes unwarranted. He wiped away her tears and pulled her in for a hug while she sobbed in his arms.
"Hey. Shhh. It's alright. It's alright. I'm here for you. I'm here. Come home, Ishaani. It's been far too long that you've strayed away. It's been three and a half years since you last stepped home truly in essence. Please, come home, Ishaani. Come home."
Ishaani looked at him, her eyes flowing steadily while her lips quivered.
"Why do things never go right for me, Ranveer? Whenever I try to make a new start, I'm always thwarted back by life. Don't I have any right to being happy? Don't I deserve another chance at setting things straight? Why, Ranveer, why?"
"Why do you think this way? Why don't you see that life is giving you a second chance? This is precisely the second chance we wanted, Ishaani. Remember, our friendship bloomed its best when we lived under the same roof. Besides, this is for our best. Remember, Ishaani, whatever happens, happens for the best. The best wasn't written for us three years back, it's written for us now. Stop looking behind. Just hold my hand and walk with me. You said you trust me. That's all we need. Trust me and I promise that nothing will go wrong. Not this time."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I cannot predict life, but I can hope. Hope for us. Hope for the best. Just because we were denied happiness all our lives doesn't mean that we are never going to get it."
"You must be sick of me. I keep pulling up the same wound every now and then. Every time you remain positive and hopeful, I tear you apart with my stupidity and cowardice."
"Don't you dare call yourself a coward. I don't blame you. This will happen to every person who has seen life as harsh as yours. Even I live with the fear of things not working out each day, Ishaani, but my hope for our future and my faith on our love is much stronger than my fear of failure. That's why I'm sure about us. I've conquered my fear every single time. It's about time you conquered yours."
"Take me home, Ranveer. I can't bear to live under the same roof with that cow any longer."
Ranveer drove towards the main gates of the mansion, Ishaani's luggage in the car. Ishaani was on the passenger's seat, staring idly out from the window, a surly look on. She had regained her composure and her hysteria from the morning had faded away, only to be replaced by a brooding silence. Ishaani wasn't happy with their current situation, but she had decided to go with the flow on this one, unable to come up with any better alternative than Ranveer or Martha.
Ranveer and Ishaani entered the house while the helpers brought in her luggage. Martin and Claudine came to greet them and Ishaani and Claudine hugged each other before the latter's pregnancy became the matter of discussion. Martin smiled benignly at Ishaani and instructed the helpers about the luggage and took off Ranveer's overcoat. In those two months, Ishaani had noticed the change in Martin's behavior, a glow on his face such like never before.
Martin cleared his throat and asked Ishaani softly.
"Madame, which room would you want me to keep your luggage in?"
"I don't know Martin, this house is huge." Pondering over it for some time, Ishaani made up her mind. "Uh, why don't you do one thing? I'll stay in the same room that I stayed in last time I was here. That room was pretty comfortable."
"As you wish, Madame." Martin issued another set of instructions to the helpers and they immediately followed suit. Ranveer and Ishaani silently sat on the sofa while Claudine made herself comfortable on the armchair. Her bump could been seen slightly now that her first trimester was almost drawing to an end.
"That bump's getting pretty big, Claud."
"Oh do be quiet Ranveer. Don't piss me off." Claudine glared at Ranveer while the latter smirked.
"How is your morning sickness, Claudine? I've heard that they are at their worst during the first trimester. "
"Yeah, they are pretty terrible. Plus the back aches and all the sudden emotions." Ishaani looked at her apologetically while Ranveer seemed to be enjoying himself.
"Yeah, she’s been a real nightmare in these two months. Martin should be given a medal for putting up with all the tantrums." Ishaani and Claudine both cocked their eyebrows at him and he recoiled under their gazes. Ranveer looked abashed and turned his attention towards Claudine while speaking.
"Alright fine, fine. And stop giving me that look. I know what you're going to say." Claudine looked at him curiously, even though she looked positively mischievous.
"And what is that?" Ranveer spoke blindly without thinking twice.
"That I'll also have to support Ishaani the same way when she gets pregnant." A sticky silence ensued during which Ranveer and Ishaani blushed and avoided looking at each other and Claudine laughed and smirked simultaneously.
"C'est la vie, mon ami!" Ranveer rolled his eyes at her while Ishaani looked at Claudine embarrassed.
"Oh, whatever." However, Martin approached them, interrupting the moment, which came as a saving grace for both Ranveer and Ishaani.
"Madame, your room has been done up. And today I have a French onion soup, a kidney-bean pie roast dish, a choucroute and a vinaigrette salad along with a strawberry tart and lemon mousse. Is that alright, Madame?" Ishaani smiled at him gratefully.
"Perfectly alright, Mr. Martin."
"Please call me Martin, Madame."
"Alright, Martin. And yeah, you are part of the family. The mister sounds formal." Martin smiled and looked at Claudine.
"Is the menu fine by you, ma cherie?"
"Perfectly, mon amour. Besides, don't pamper me so much. You will only end up spoiling me."
"You're going to give me the world's most prized treasure. A bit of pampering and love won’t hurt." Claudine beckoned Martin closer and kissed him slowly while Ranveer and Ishaani smiled at the two of them, their fingers interlocking unconsciously.
"Ahem. Get a room, folks. On second thought, I'll take Ishaani up to her room." Quickly getting up, Ranveer pulled Ishaani up and led her up the staircase, their fingers still interlocked. Reached the floor landing, they walked towards Ishaani's room and entered it, a warm, orange glow soothing along with the dim lamps lit on the bedside.
"I'll be right back after some time."
Ranveer left and Ishaani slowly sat down on the bed, taking in the realities of their life. Now that her hysteria and worries had somehow faded off, she didn't think that it was such a bad idea to be living under the same roof with Ranveer once again, though she did have certain apprehensions in regards to their current status of relationship.
She quietly got up and unloaded her suitcase, clothes soon finding their way into the cupboard with order and method, and before 15 minutes, her clothes were all perfectly arranged. She unlocked her other suitcase that had several pieces of accessories, jewelry and possessions that found their way around the room in their respective positions.
When Ranveer returned back half an hour later, he was surprised to see the elementary transformation of the room, the main change being that it looked homely. Ranveer had a box in his hand, the same box, Ishaani noticed, that she had given Ranveer. He came and sat next to her once again before handing over the box to her.
"What do you want me to do with this?" Ishaani simply shrugged her shoulders.
"Keep it with you. It's yours now, anyway."
"But funnily enough, except for the bullet chain, I have no clue what’s in the box and it's pretty heavy."
"The mistakes of the past are always heavy and going to weight you down."
"But I don't understand. Why give me the box? Besides, it doesn't even open without the key."
"I've entrusted you with a locked past. The day I am ready to take the next step, I'll hand you the key to this box."
Ranveer smiled at her and kept the box aside while he simply pulled her into his arms. She nestled her head over his chest and took a deep sigh.
"Are you all right?"
"You are on terms with everything, right?"
"Yeah. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but it doesn't seem like such a bad idea afterall."
"Yeah. These three months have been quite a rollercoaster ride for us now, hasn't it?"
"Sometimes, I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking that it's all a dream and maybe none of this ever happened but then I see the ring on my finger and know that it's all true."
"Yeah, the changes can get pretty overwhelming. It’s a surprise how we never happened to meet each other or even know about each other's whereabouts in these three years." Ishaani looked at him guiltily.
"You can't exactly say so. There were articles about you in the papers quite often, carrying out deals in several different countries, but somehow, I could never track you down. So, I decided that praying for your good health and success was the best I could do." Ranveer nodded his head while they simply sat like that for several minutes, enjoying each other's company.
"I didn't know that you eat non-vegetarian food as well," remarked Ranveer suddenly. Ishaani broke from their hug and shrugged her shoulders.
"Yeah. I don't eat it often, but it does make for a good change."
"But I thought that you were strongly against having non-vegetarian food."
"Yeah, I was. But in these three years, I came to realize that when we inflict so much harm upon other human beings without worrying about morals or values, I don't think the type of food we eat is going to make pretty much any difference at all."
"That's true. Funnily enough, I have the same view on the topic." Ishaani looked at him and smiled.
"Changes are good." Ranveer nodded at her, a mutual understanding passing between them.
"They indeed are."