Chapter 32: Sticky Conversations
The next morning, Ranveer and Ishaani were both seated on the dining table when they saw Claudine and Martin leave the room, both of them looking upset. Martin quickly made her sit on the table and left her side before anyone could say anything and started serving the breakfast. All the three of them ate their breakfast in silence and Ranveer and Ishaani constantly kept shooting furtive glances at each other, trying to form an idea to find out the cause behind their friends' misery.
After fifteen minutes, Martin cleared off the table and was about to leave, when Ranveer caught his hand.
"I need to talk to you." Martin looked confused for a moment, before his eyes widened in understanding.
"Monsieur, I- I..."
"Now." Martin didn't need to be told twice to know that Ranveer was reaching one of his rages. He quietly followed Ranveer to his room, as Ishaani saw the scene unfold. She sighed and got up from the table, phoning Martha and telling her that she was going to be late for work. She took a death breath, before she made her way towards Claudine's room.
Ranveer shut the door behind him and Martin stared about nervously.
"What the hell is going on?"
"What are you talking about, Monsieur?
"You know what I'm talking about."
"Monsieur, really it's nothing."
"Look, Martin, I have a hell lot of stuff on my mind right now without you making me guess riddles. Out with it this instant." Martin gave Ranveer a hesitant look before he sighed.
"I had a fight with Claudine."
"I figured that out, funnily enough." Martin gave him an irritated look before sighing.
"I didn't mean to get angry. I just..."
"Martin, just tell me the whole thing."
Ishaani entered Claudine's room and shut the door. Claudine looked up hastily and Ishaani could see that she was crying. Claudine looked up in Ishaani's direction and quickly wiped away her tears.
"Ishaani, I don't want to talk about this."
"I didn't come up here for your grand permission." Claudine glared at her, but Ishaani kept her gaze intact.
"Martin has driven me off my mind without you adding more to it."
"I thought we were past the stage where you couldn't trust me because you thought I was trying to make a run for Ranveer's estate?" Claudine rolled her eyes, while Ishaani gave her a sarcastic look.
"In my defense, I had no clue about your true identity back then and it was only for a week! So stop whining." Ishaani gave a satisfactory nod and continued.
"I'll stop and you start." Claudine let out a frustrated sigh and Ishaani gave her a defiant look.
"So you won't take no for an answer?"
"No." Claudine and Ishaani stared at each other for several minutes before the former finally accepted defeat.
"Fine! I'll tell you everything!" Ishaani sat down beside Claudine and patted her knee gently.
"Now that's a good girl."
"It was two days after you left for Vegas with Madame. Claudine looked a little worried and wanted to have a conversation with me. I sincerely regretted getting into that."
"Why was it that bad?" Martin hurled out the next sentence in one go.
"Claudine wanted me to quit this job." Ranveer stared at him for a few moments and gave him a confused look.
"She wants me to give my career another shot."
"Wait? That's it? That's what you fought with Claud for?" Ranveer gave Martin a deadpan look and Martin's gaze faltered underneath it.
"Monsieur... it's hard to explain."
"Then give it a shot."
"That day, I'd taken Claudine to the bakery shop because she wanted to have pastries. Over there, we ran into my Roi."
"What? That- that rascal of a master of yours? What the hell is he doing here?"
"I don't know, Monsieur, but he spoke a lot of harsh things about me. Claudine made to retort back at him but I just caught her hand and took her away from there. We came home and Claudine was really angry at me for not letting her speak and then the conversation went from one thing to another."
Ranveer gave Martin an incredulous look.
"You have been estranged from Claudine since a month! The Martin I knew wouldn't be upset with anyone, far less Claudine, for more than a day! And that too for a reason like this! What is wrong with you!?" Martin gave him a pained look before he threw out the next few words from his mouth is disgust.
"Monsieur, I regret marrying Claudine and having the children with her!"
Before Ranveer knew it, he felt his hand fly across Martin's face in a harsh slap.
"And he told me that he regretted marrying me and having kids with me!" Ishaani gasped and gave an outraged look.
"How dare he!?" Claudine continued like she had not heard Ishaani and spoke venomously.
"So I told him that I regretted marrying him because he was a coward and didn't deserve me!" Ishaani let out another audible gasp of shock and shrieked.
"Claudine! How could you? Knowing what he's been through?!" Claudine gave her a childishly defiant look while Ishaani felt like someone had slapped her on her face.
"He's the one who started it!" Ishaani narrowed her eyes and spoke through her teeth.
"And do you intend to be the one ending it?"
"Ishaani, I'm tired. I've tried and tried and tried to get him to move on from his past, but he just doesn't want to even give it a shot! It's like he's burrowed himself a hiding spot in his past where he cowers away and hides!"
"Claudine, you know how traumatic his past has been." Claudine looked at Ishaani angrily before she half-yelled out.
"That doesn't mean that he has go about screwing up his future!"
"Martin! Say that one more time and I'll personally disown you!" Martin now turned a pair of deranged eyes in Ranveer's direction and fell to his knees, crying unabashedly.
"Claudine deserves much better than me, Monsieur! Much better! She doesn't require a tainted man who can't stand up for himself and can't take care of himself! My Roi made me realize that. I'm not good enough for her, not nearly good enough. And now, we... we have children on the way and- and- they’ll always hate me for being what I am... and-"
"Excuse me, but do clarify one thing for me. What are you?" Martin looked up towards Ranveer and he could see anger swimming in his eyes such like he had never seen before.
"Yes, Martin. I'm waiting for an answer. What are you? Even I would like to know that." Martin stared at him blankly before Ranveer sneered. "You know what you are, Martin? You are the world's biggest prat. You have a beautiful and loving wife who cares nothing about where or what you come from, except that you have a golden heart. You have two of the most prized possessions on their way, yet you regret that. If that's not a prat, I don't know what is."
"Let me speak. You've spoken your share. It’s my turn now." Martin could sense the cold anger in his voice and he knew that he had crossed a limit. Ranveer continued. "I have told you a thousand times that it does not matter what you are born as, but what you grow up to be. When we take birth, we don't have an option to choose the circumstances around us. It's only as you grow that you truly can be the change you want to see. So please, cut me some slack over here."
"Monsieur, you don't understand."
"I don't understand, Martin? I don't understand? Martin, of all the people in the world, I'm the only one who understands! So don't you dare pull that on me!" Ranveer glared at Martin and the latter buried his face in his palms.
"I love Claudine too much, Monsieur. I want to give her the world. But I can't get past my past, Monsieur. I can't let go. And I'm afraid that I'm pulling Claudine with me in the darkness. That's why I-"
"Wanted to set her free?" Martin looked ashamed that Ranveer had read his thoughts so transparently. "Martin, listen to me." Martin looked at him teary-eyed and Ranveer sat down on his knees at well.
"Please, just listen to me. Setting Claudine free isn't the solution over here. Setting your own self free from your past is what matters. Martin, you can't keep living in it. And do be honest with me - is Claudine wrong if she wants you to give your career another shot?"
"No, she isn't, but-"
"So you admit that much. She has full right to have this discussion with you and she has full right to express her disappointment with your decision. You are worth ten more of that moronic master of yours and you deserve as much of a new beginning in life as every one of us."
"But I'm not ready."
"Then start preparing yourself. Start throwing yourself out into the light. Rather than dragging Claudine with you into the darkness, let her lead you out into the light. I don't know what happened that day with you, Martin, but if you keep letting yourself drown back into past, you can never move ahead. I want you to go and apologize to Claud right this moment and clear this mess up. I have too much on my head, without having this extra worry. And for crying out loud, do learn something from Ishaani. That girl turned out to be much smarter than you."
Martin looked abashed before Ranveer calmed down a little.
"Martin, when Claudine decided to marry you, what did she say was her reason behind it?"
"She said that she commended me for my honesty and daring."
"Exactly my point. She didn't care about your social status, but cared about what lied beneath those eyes of yours and what lied inside your heart. That's who Claudine fell for. So never, ever give me that crap about not being an equal or a tainted man. Do you understand?" Martin nodded his head slowly and Ranveer helped him up. "I hope we never have this conversation again. And I'm sorry that I slapped you. Though if it does have the desired effect over you, I'm not really sorry again."
"Ishaani, I love him. With all my heart. But he just can't keep cutting me out from his life every now and then. It hurts."
"Honey, what Martin said was wrong. Very wrong. But trust me. It's something they'll never manage to pull their selves through. It's why they shine out so strong."
"But Ranveer accepted it."
"Only because he wanted my hand for marriage. He thought that the only way he could be my equivalent was if he was rich enough. So he blended himself well. Once we got married, he didn't even know at times whether I would love him for who he was or for what he had become. I think it was only six months back that he realized that I've always loved Ranveer, my friend, not the business tycoon RV. And I'm glad he understands. Give Martin some time. He'll get around eventually."
"Ishaani, I feel so afraid these days. I just don't know what Martin is up to. He has never stayed away from me for so long and every day seems harder and harder to pull off without him."
"Then why don't you take the first step?"
"I tried, but... he keeps pushing me away by ignoring me or by simply seeing right through me. I don't even know what to do anymore!"
Claudine and Ishaani both turned to look at the door and saw Martin standing over there, a harried look on his face. Ishaani got up and gave Claudine's hand a reassuring squeeze before walking towards the door. She patted Martin's shoulder consolingly, before she saw Ranveer standing behind him. She gave Martin a silent push inside the room and now took to standing beside Ranveer, who was glaring at Martin.
Martin walked inside, unstable on his feet before he stumbled and Claudine caught hold of him. One look at her and Martin felt tears openly escape his eyes, and Claudine pulled him into her arms till what her bump would permit. Both of them cried unabashedly, constantly alternating between apologizing and telling each other how much they meant to the other.
Ranveer pulled Ishaani into a side hug and both of them looked at Martin and Claudine with tears in their eyes. Martin gave Claudine a deep kiss and Ranveer wolf-whistled from behind, along with Ishaani smacking his shoulder playfully. She pulled Ranveer away from the scene and brought him into the living room, giving both Martin and Claudine some alone time.
"Well, we finally got those two idiots to shed their ego."
"We're kinda experts in this field now, aren't we?"
"Trained professionals." Ishaani pulled Ranveer by his tie and latched her lips over his while Ranveer felt himself turn crimson. Ishaani separated herself and smile at him notoriously. "What happened, Mr. Vaghela? Afraid of a little fire?"
"You are one wild cat now, aren't you?" Ishaani winked at him while Ranveer felt the blush creep up his neck.
"You have no idea." Ranveer gave her a dazed look as Ishaani gave him a kiss on his cheek.
"You're such a tease." Ishaani threw her arms over her neck, before she smirked.
"That I am." Ishaani slowly freed herself from his grip and ascended the staircase, while Ranveer saw her retreating figure, a coy smile on his face.