Chapter 31: Home Sweet Home
Ishaani and Ranveer opened the door of their car and sprung out from it. Martin was waiting at the entrance, a broad smile on his face.
"Monsieur! Madame! It's so good to see you!" Martin gave Ranveer a bear hug and kissed Ishaani's hand politely. Both of them smiled at him broadly.
"Martin! How are you doing? You look thinner."
"Oh, Madame, you worry too much. But I must say, you are glowing!" Ishaani popped up her ring finger up and Martin gave out a shout. "Aha! I knew it!" Martin ushered both of them inside, as Claudine came to the hall. Ishaani ran towards her and gave her a hug, careful enough to mind her tummy, while Ranveer gave her a side hug.
"Oh my goodness, Claud, is it me or has your tummy grown in these ten days?" Claudine blushed and Ishaani chuckled. Ranveer sniffed around and Martin smiled.
"Monsieur, you must be hungry! I'll just set up the table right now. Also, Mrs. Brandt will be here any minute."
"Oh wow, Martha will be here too?" Ranveer and Ishaani looked happily towards each other.
Martha came over after another 10 minutes and the greetings continued. Ranveer and Ishaani opened suitcases eagerly and handed out souvenirs from the trip, while excited banter continued. After another forty-five minutes, Martin had the table set up and all of them made their way to it.
Martin had prepared Spring Rolls, Turkish Chicken Kebabs, Chicken Wonton Cups and Panzenella Salad for hors d’oeuvres, which was sumptuously followed by Duck with Orange, Lasagna Bolognese, Smoked Turkey Breasts, Mushroom Tagladite and Chicken and Rice along with Bon Pies, Strawberry Shortcake and Tiramisu Cake. Wine and champagne flowed about freely (except for Cluadine who was restricted to fruit juice) and along with it light chatter ensued.
Ranveer and Ishaani then sat down and narrated their trip on Vegas. Martha, Claudine and Martin heard the two of them intently, as they started with their initial sight-seeing and the basic tourist attractions. Martha and Claudine guffawed however, at the mention of the casino incident, while Martin laughed politely, afraid to hurt anyone's sentiments.
All the three of them made for an excellent audience as they 'oohed' and 'aahed' the perfect places and gave suitable reactions. They were shocked when they found out that Ranveer and Ishaani had almost gotten married but heaved a sigh when they weren't. Ranveer and Ishaani were both quick to see a note pass from Claudine's hand to Martha's, with the former's expression sullen and the latter one's triumphant.
Ranveer was however quick to also notice the fact that Martin was surprising subdued in the evening than his usual chatter, and Ranveer could see distress in his eyes. He mentally made a note to talk to Martin about this. Ranveer and Ishaani proceeded to talking about Ranveer's birthday and the surprises Ishaani had planned for him and the note from Martha's hand found its way back to Claudine.
Both the women had tears in their eyes when Ranveer mentioned about his proposal to Ishaani and Martin had a proud smile on. Martha left the house three hours later, while Ranveer and Ishaani made their way to their respective rooms before kissing each other goodnight. Martin had already sent up their suitcases and Claudine had retired for bed, given that she felt a little ill suddenly.
The next day, Ranveer took off for his office early while Ishaani headed to the library. Ishaani took a deep breath as she entered the library and smiled. She felt as though she had truly returned home as she took a walk around the shelves and smiled. Martha came in fifteen minutes later and handed over the ledgers to her for the day, whose records were to be entered in for the day.
Ranveer and Ishaani happily settled back into their life happily enough and were happy to get back into the groove of their normal life. Their own family issues took a backseat as work kept both Ishaani and Ranveer busy and they barely got time to interact except during breakfast and after dinner times. But Ishaani was happy that life was at its rosiest for her.
Three weeks flew by swiftly and November counted off its first fifteen days quickly. But as time passed, Ishaani realized that things were not as rosy as they looked. She noticed that Martin and Claudine barely spoke to each other these days and just stuck on with cordial conversation. Ishaani confronted both of them separately on the matter but both refused to say anything on it. If things at home were fishy enough, she realized that things at the library was just as mysterious.
Ishaani couldn't help but notice that Ranveer and Mr. Ambrose's visits to the library were getting more and more frequent by the day and the three of them spent several hours in the cabin in meetings that Ishaani had no clue about.
Neither Ranveer nor Martha let her on to what was going on and kept telling her that they needed a meeting on major changes to be made on the library, but Ishaani knew that it was something else altogether. Martha remained upset these days and Ishaani had caught her cry secretly at more than three occasions.
Ranveer looked worried and stressed but Ishaani trusted him enough that he would let her on to what was going on. On more than several occasions, Ishaani was tempted to have a glass of brandy to steady her nerves from all the indirect stress.
On one such night during the second week of November, Ishaani roamed around her room, irritated with another failed attempt at getting Martin to spill the beans and growled. She quickly walked over to her cabinet and pulled out an empty glass and a bottle of whiskey.
Pouring out a small measure, she quickly took a swig from it and felt the alcohol soothe her throat. She felt some of her worry get obliterated and took another swig hurriedly. Making up her mind, she got up and made her way to Ranveer's room and swung it open. Ishaani realized that Ranveer was talking to someone on the phone. He abruptly stopped talking at her sight.
He looked exhausted and annoyed both but his expression softened nonetheless at her sight. He quickly told the mysterious caller that he would call them back and hung up the call. He gave Ishaani a guilty look and realized that she had taken a bit of brandy.
"Ishaani! Why are you standing there? Come sit." Ishaani walked towards the bed and plonked over it.
"I'm sorry to disturb you."
"Oh no. It's alright. It wasn't an important call anyway. It was Ritika."
"Ritika? Our Ritika? How is she?"
"She's good. She stays in Singapore now and works as a fashion designer."
"But the company-?"
"She sold her shares out. She had just as many bad memories over here, so she wanted a new start. She had her friend working for an haute couture in Singapore and she decided to join her. She has a daughter, Maira."
"I can't believe Sharman never claimed that kid. How could he?"
"Uh... that's again debatable. I just got off the phone with Ritika. Like I said, the news about the two of us spread like wildfire. Maa must have called her up and told her about it. So she called me up to see whether it was true or no. But our conversation ended up turning into a very interesting one. She was in a confession mood and ended up confessing that the kid wasn't Sharman's." Ishaani stared at him agog before she asked meekly.
"Wait, so if that kid wasn't Sharman's, whose is it then?"
"Um, she tells me it is Chirag's." Ishaani stared at him disbelievingly and lost her balance from the bed. She near toppled on the ground, her fall being broken by Ranveer catching hold of her last minute. Ishaani stared up at him and muttered hoarsely.
"That was precisely my same reaction, but when she told me why, it didn't seem that impossible again."
"What do you mean?"
"Chirag had been following her during their bachelorette party. This got a little out of hand with all the girls there and... I think you'll get the idea." Ishaani looked nauseated and turned her face away.
"That swine has ruined all of our lives! He didn't even die in peace. He made sure that if he couldn't separate us when we were alive, he'd do it with his death. That son of a-"
"Sweetie, what did I tell you about the old wounds?" Ishaani disregarded this but put forth another question of her own.
"But how did she find out about this?"
"It was the same day Chirag died. Somewhere between after I left and before you found him dead, he had called her over to reveal the truth of her child. Ritika and he had a heated conversation and things got ugly. But she tells me that he was still alive when she left the place." Ishaani looked shaken up and Ranveer rubbed her shoulders gently.
"I want to talk about him anymore. His death doesn't matter."
"Alright. We won't talk about it. But I don't understand one thing. In these three years, I admit that I must have spoken only three or four times with Falguni Ma, I must have barely spoken twice with Ritika and I talk to Maa once in two weeks. I understand Maa not telling me the truth about you being alive, but why Falguni Ma and Ritika? Why did they keep me away from the truth that you were alive?" Ishaani gave him a sad smile and spoke.
"It's because I am dead for them. Atleast you have spoken with them a few times in these three years. I haven't even spoken to them once. Not even once." Ranveer pulled Ishaani into his arms as she sat silently, her mind too full to cry yet too empty to feel anything.
"That's why I never wanted to mention your family until I knew you were ready. And I was wrong. You would never be ready for this." Ishaani looked at him painfully.
"I don't blame them, Ranveer. I brought humiliation not only upon my whole family but on yours as well. It's obvious that they would disown me."
"And that's why, let the past be. You weren't correct, but they weren't either. Not once in three years did anyone bother to keep contact with you. Okay, I understand Baa and Falguni Ma being upset. But what about your brothers? They were the ones who cared for you so much. Yet their egos were far more than their acceptance. It's not done Ishaani, it's not done. The same goes for my family as well." Ishaani could hear the same contempt in his voice that she had heard in the flight and she understood why.
"Ranveer, it's alright. I'm used to life being such a fiend." Ranveer stared at her intently before speaking again.
"Did I tell you about Disha and Manas?"
"No. What happened?"
"They are divorced. Disha wanted something else from life and the child's responsibility was more than she could handle, so she left Manas and pursued her dreams." Ishaani slapped her head and groaned in frustration.
"That girl is the world's biggest moron. How could she leave her husband and kid for a career?"
"Go figure. So, Manas has been taking care of the kid. It's a boy, by the way - Aditya. Disha returned back and filed for a divorce and gave Manas the full custody of the kid."
"This is insane! What the heck was more important to her than her family?!"
"Being an airhostess? I've heard that she's working for a big airline company. I was glad that we didn't have her over in our airlines or else we'd have been in for a rude awakening." Ishaani smiled in spite of herself and Ranveer heaved a sigh. They sat together for a few minutes before Ishaani spoke again.
"Why does life have to be so testing?"
"I wish I had the answer to that, but I don't. All I think is that maybe hurdles are important to keep life interesting with adventures making its way in our lives from time to time."
"They get a bit too adventurous in our lives though."
"Oh yeah, totally." Ishaani chuckled ruefully and spoke again.
"Speaking of which, what's wrong with Martin and Claudine? They're pretty off with each other these days."
"So I'm not the only one who thinks that." Ishaani and Ranveer shared a knowing look.
"Have you spoken to them?"
"I've tried. But they're too tight lipped. Jerks."
"Alright, alright. But I'm just saying. We have enough worries without more piling up."
"Which reminds me, Martha is pretty upset these days. What's up with her, too? She again, refuses to tell me anything. Nobody tells me anything these days." Ishaani could see an uneasy look over Ranveer's expression and his eyes lurking in guilt. Ishaani narrowed her eyes at him and spoke in a dangerously low tone.
"And you are included in the list as well." Ranveer gave her an apologetic look and he stroked her hair, she letting herself cuddle up to him.
"I know I'm being a prat. But I promise I'll let you know. Someday."
"I do hope you know that someday is always a code word for never." Ranveer rolled his eyes at her before yawning slowly. Ishaani looked at the clock and gasped.
"Oh my! I never realized it was this late! I think we should go to bed. We'll continue our conversation tomorrow." Ranveer nodded his head and saw her off to her room. They both wished each other goodnight while Ishaani yawned sleepily. Ishaani was about to close the door when Ranveer suddenly swung it open and kissed her. Ishaani was momentarily surprised before she kissed him back and smiled against his lips.
Separating quickly, Ranveer looked at Ishaani and muttered softly.
"I love you."
"I love you, too." Ranveer smiled and Ishaani kissed him on his cheek once again.
"Don't worry. I'll answer you back every time you tell me that you love me." Ranveer gave Ishaani a coy smile before speaking.
"You know Ishaani, someday is not always a code word for never, because these days with you were a someday for me too at one point of time." Ranveer smiled at Ishaani and both of them shared a meaningful look. Ranveer hugged her once more before he made his way to the room, while Ishaani made her way to her bed, lost in thought.
It was indeed a someday in their lives.