Chapter 29: Aerial Pop-Ups
Ishaani sat in the living room, tapping her feet irritably. She had been sitting on the couch for the last fifteen minutes and Ranveer was still in his room.
"Oh, c'mon! How much longer?" Ishaani stared at the door to Ranveer's room angrily as Ranveer's voice ensued, an apologetic tone in it.
"Just a minute!" Ishaani slapped her head and yelled back, barely managing to stifle a yawn alongside.
"You've been giving me that answer for the past 15 minutes! Just get out already or I'm going to pull you out by your ear!"
"Alright, alright! I'm done!" Half a minute later, Ranveer exited his room in a navy blue jacket, white T-shirt and beige corduroy pant combo and Ishaani cocked up an eyebrow in his direction.
"Seriously? Getting into this took you 15 minutes?" Ranveer looked flustered and Ishaani crossed her arms.
"Oh don't be silly. I couldn't decide on what to wear." Ishaani cocked her eyebrow up at him suspiciously and Ranveer hastened to continue. "I mean, I wanted to wear something good. It's not every day that you go for a hot air balloon ride now, do you?"
Ishaani continued to stare at him and his gaze faltered.
"What's going on?" Ranveer coughed uncomfortably, while Ishaani gave him an expectant look.
"What do you mean?" Ishaani shot him an exasperated look and Ranveer shuffled his feet.
"You've been acting weird since yesterday, ever since you sent that stupid collectible by courier." Ranveer smiled at the irritation in Ishaani's voice at the memory of the Iron Man suit but controlled himself, seeing as Ishaani let go of another yawn swiftly.
"No, I haven't." Ishaani narrowed her eyes at him and he tore his eyes away from her.
"Come on. Out with it." Ranveer spoke quickly, perhaps a little too quickly, setting Ishaani on the trail.
"Oh Sunny, you're just overthinking stuff." Ishaani gave him a mock impressed look and spoke in a dead-pan voice.
"Huh. And I thought that overreacting over me wearing that orange dress was normal." Ranveer rolled his eyes at her while Ishaani clicked her tongue in disapproval.
"Sunny, you know well enough that you look much more amazing in this yellow dress. Sunny looks… well, sunny!"
"Ha. Ha. As much as I appreciate the compliment, trust me, 5 in the morning is not a good time." Ranveer threw his hands up in the air.
"Sunny, it's a sunrise balloon ride. What do you expect?"
"You could have atleast told me before shaking me up awake like that! Besides, why on earth did you have to go in for the sunrise ride? We could have gone for the sunset one as well."
"Well, it's a surprise. So don't get all cranky. Besides, it's our last two days in Vegas. Be happy." Ranveer waved his hand in the air while Ishaani understood the curt dismissal of the topic.
"Fine. But this better be worth the wait." Ranveer's eyes widened in surprise momentarily and Ishaani was quick to catch on to it. She however, chose to remain silent except for letting out a small growl of frustration. Ranveer shrugged his shoulder simply and gestured her to make her way to the door.
Ranveer and Ishaani reached the spot within another 15 minutes from where all balloons were to take off. They walked up to of the pilots and the manager, who were busy in an animated chat. The pilot and manager saw Ranveer and gave him a broad smile, which only seemed to puzzle Ishaani more.
"Ah Mr. Vaghela! All the preparations are done. And you're in luck. The weather is perfect and the air cool. It should be a fun ride." Ranveer smiled meaningfully at the two of them and Ishaani felt slightly irked at her sleep being disturbed so rudely for the same. Ranveer quickly walked over and signed the waiver form and returned back to Ishaani.
"Here's the form. Sign it."
"What is it?"
"It's a waiver form, disclaiming that should anything happen to us during the ride, it's entirely on our risk and not the company's."
"It is standard procedure, sweetie. Doesn't mean anything is going to happen." Ishaani gave Ranveer a disgruntled look and signed the paper while Ranveer looked at her happily. Handing over the paper to the manager, Ranveer walked back towards Ishaani while the pilot walked up to them.
The pilot led the two of them into the carrier and took his position. Ishaani stared around as her sleep finally washed away and was replaced by curious excitement. The pilot gave Ranveer a thumbs up as he started the helium in the engine. Ishaani stood by Ranveer's side as the balloon took off slowly, soaring through the air effortlessly and the view of Vegas came up before them.
The sky was still dark enough that the city lights remained on and Ishaani felt the same feeling of euphoria in her heart again. She looked towards Ranveer, her irritation from before rapidly fading away and pulled his arm around her shoulder. Ranveer smiled at her as he cuddled her, both of them enjoying the cool air whipping their faces.
"Liking it so far?" There was a strange deja vu about the question that Ranveer just asked her, but she could not put her finger on it. She simply looked at him and smiled.
"It's beautiful. But how come you went for the Sunrise Balloon Ride?"
"I felt it would be something memorable to both of us. Starting off in the dark and getting off at light." Ishaani smiled and stared ahead, her mind taking in the view before her. The balloon had now passed over the Red Rock Canyons and had taken a turn around the suburban city.
Ishaani looked at the city lights before her happily as she could see the sky changing its colours from indigo to purplish-blue. She knew that dawn was still half an hour away but it felt extraordinary. Ishaani could mentally define this experience as being stuck in a limbo between night and day.
Just as she was about to mention how beautiful the night lights looked from above, the view before her blacked out. She recoiled for a moment, afraid of what had happened and her voice trembled slightly.
"Ranveer?" Before he could reply, some part of the lights returned in front of her eyes. What she saw next however, stole her breath away. The lights that had reappeared were in the form of a huge heart for nearly a minute, before the complete set of lights returned back.
She turned her attention towards Ranveer, who was looking at her keenly, a shy look on his face. Ishaani looked at him, her eyes glistening with tears, as the skylight around them steadily grew lighter.
"I know it's pretty corny, but I couldn't help it."
"So this is why you were so anxious for everything to be perfect." Ranveer gave her a simple look and she clasped her hand over her heart.
"So how did you like it?"
"I... I don't know what to say. This is so overwhelming."
"Then let me do the talking." Ranveer got to his knee and Ishaani stared at him, stunned. "Ishaani, I don't need to tell you since when I've loved you and from how long I've loved you. You know that. You know the whole story. But that's the past; book we've closed together. In these five months that I've re-lived life with you, I just want to tell you that you've made me fall in love with you every single day. In the three years of our separation, I only though about how I could hate you or detest you for what you did, yet when my eyes met yours for the first time after our years of loneliness, all I could think was 'How could I ever hate you?'”
“You're the reason I live. You're the reason why I pull every breath. You're the reason why living makes me feel alive. I made a fool-proof plan for our new story and it has worked just how I wanted. We established trust, friendship and communication between us. Now I want to establish love. I think the two of us have been ready to move past the friendship phase since long and take our relationship to the next level."
Ishaani stared at Ranveer transfixed as the first rays of the now rising sun broke through the horizon.
"I love you. And I know I'm stupid enough to confess this way, but I just want you to know that you are to me what the first rays of sunlight are to the night. I just want to make you my own for eternity."
"Shhh. I know. That's why I'm proposing to you, not for wedlock, but for being my love. Will you be it?" Ishaani looked stunned for a couple of moments as the sunlight hit her face in full force, before she whispered softly, tears now openly streaming from her eyes.
"Yes. Yes, I do accept to be the love of your life. I love you, too. And I want to be yours for eternity as well." Ranveer got up and let his lips claim Ishaani's softly, as he could feel her lips trembling against his own. He hoisted her into the air as his arms caught her waist securely and her arms were around his neck while their lips met with a passion such like they never knew.
Gently bringing her down again, both of them smiled at each other for several minutes. The ring over Ishaani's finger sparkled strongly in the sunlight and a teardrop fell from her eyes over the heart.
Ranveer slowly pulled her chin up, so that they were staring into each other's eyes.
"Don't ever let another drop of tear come between our hearts." Ranveer rubbed the tear tracks from her face and held her close to him. "We're done with this. We're done with crying over everything. I only want you to know happiness with me. A smile is all I ask in return for my anguish."
Ishaani smiled at him and let his lips cover her own once again as they slowly felt the same excitement grow inside them, a strange warmth tingling their nerves. Yet somehow they felt the difference this time, for there was something magical about the way their lips met and parted, where every time a strange bubble of elations burst in the pits of their stomach.
Separating from each other slowly after savoring their moment, Ranveer looked at Ishaani, a blissful oblivion fading away everything else from his view.
"I love you." Ishaani put her hand over his heart now and felt it thumping through her fingers. She smiled and looked at him.
"I think you have my answer as well, given that it's my heart beating within you. But just so you know, I love you, too." Ranveer gave Ishaani a warm smile as the balloon now glided over the Red Rock Canyon once again.
The balloon descended after another ten minutes and came to halt at the same spot from where it took off. Ranveer and Ishaani left the carrier hand in hand, a warm smile on their faces. The manager walked up to them and smiled.
"Sir. Madam. Allow me to lead you towards our small marquee where we organize our breakfast meals for the flyers." Ranveer gave him a cursory nod as the manager led the two of them to the marquee. Several small tables lay there and the manager led them over to one of them.
Ishaani and Ranveer sat comfortably as a waiter walked over to them after five minutes, two glasses of champagne on it along with the customary breakfast of bacon and eggs and a plate of Belgian waffles. Ranveer raised his glass in toast towards Ishaani and she smiled and did the same.
"To the next level."
"To the next level."
Ranveer took a sip from his glass of champagne and Ishaani did the same. Ishaani had barely taken a sip when she had a weird expression on her face. She kept down the glass and peered inside it. Confused, she took the fork and put it inside the glass, removing the foreign object that had touched her lips. She stared stunned, however, when she realized that it was a ring.
Ranveer stared at her keenly, watching every expression minutely before Ishaani turned to stare at him and laughed. Ranveer looked abashed.
"Seriously, Ranveer? The world's most cliché method of proposing?" Ranveer flushed and Ishaani smiled. "Well, I like it. I'm pretty corny that way." Ranveer heaved a sigh of relief and gave her a warm smile.
Ishaani handed over the ring to Ranveer and he cleaned with the tablecloth. Ishaani stared at Ranveer intently as he removed the previous ring from her finger and slipped on the new one. The new ring was similar to the first, except that the new ring had two hearts with diamonds embedded in it and a thin band of silver running around.
"Honestly speaking, do you intend for me to have an entire collection of rings by the time we reach the altar?"
"Something like that, yes," chuckled Ranveer. When Ishaani gave him an incredulous look, he smiled and continued. "The first promise ring was the sign of established trust. This one is established friendship. So by the time we reach the altar, you'll have rings enough to symbolize all the different bases of our relationship that we achieved."
"But what if something goes wrong?"
"Then these rings will show you the light." Ishaani smiled at him, comprehension dawning over her as Ranveer gave her a loving look.
"You're the most amazing person I've ever met.""Mutual sentiments." Ishaani chuckled and Ranveer continued. "But we can save that conversation for some other time. For now, Bon Appetit!"