Chapter 33: Swept Away, I'm Stolen
Ranveer stood in front of his wardrobe, trying to decide what suit he was going to wear for today's meeting. He rubbed his chin in confusion when he heard a light knock on his door. He muttered an absent-minded 'Come in' and Martin entered the room. Ranveer gave Martin a smile while the latter gave him a sheepish look.
"Monsieur, I got the file you were asking for."
"Gee, thanks,” said Ranveer graciously. Giving up the task from selecting between the three conflicting colours of suits, he turned to look at Martin helplessly, pointing out the three candidates. “Which suit would look best over a plum-coloured shirt and grey pants?" Martin remained silent for a few minutes before he replied back.
"A grey coat?"
"Oh yeah, sounds perfect." Ranveer removed a grey coat from his wardrobe and kept it on his bed, along with his other attire. He looked at it for a moment before he gave it a nod. He looked towards Martin, who had already kept the file on the coffee table and was standing silently.
"Does Monsieur want anything else?"
"No, nothing. I think this should do." Ranveer nodded his head but saw a hesitancy in Martin's eyes. He smiled knowingly and spoke kindly. "Sit."
"No, Monsieur, it's alright. You are busy... I can come back some other time as well."
"I still have fifteen minutes on my head. Relax." Martin nodded slowly and took a seat on the coffee table and Ranveer occupied the other.
"Monsieur... I just wanted to thank you. For what you and Madame did for Claudine and me. We are both really grateful." Ranveer rolled his eyes as he saw Martin twisting his fingers in anxiety.
"Martin, how many times do I have to tell you to be a little more informal than that? Besides, what exactly are you thanking me for? For helping you or slapping you?" Martin chuckled and Ranveer gave him an embarrassed look.
"Monsieur, I deserved it. I was indeed a prat, so why must you feel bad?"
"Well, you have a good point as well." Martin and Ranveer shared a common look of understanding and both of them got up and gave each other a hug. Separating after some time, both took their respective places back on the table and smiled.
"Monsieur, I wanted to talk to you about something else as well."
"Thought as much. What is it?"
"It's about Madame." Ranveer looked confused and asked Martin carelessly.
"What about her?"
"Have you told her about what's happening at Neapolitan City?" Ranveer's smile faltered and an uneasy look replaced his features.
"No I haven't. Not yet."
"Monsieur, I know I don't have any right saying this," Ranveer gave Martin a glare and the latter quickly proceeded with the next part of his sentence, "-but I think you should tell Madame about this. You will have to tell her sooner or later anyway."
"I can't get myself to do it."
"Monsieur, Madame and you have been through a lot of turmoil in your relationship. Now that things are finally going perfect between the two of you, I don't think that you should hide this from Madame." Ranveer gave Martin a guilty look a spoke softly.
"She won't be able to take it."
"She won't be able to take it any time you tell her. But you must be reasonable, Monsieur. You're betraying her trust by not telling her. And now that Madame trusts you so blindly, please don't fail her trust." Ranveer widened his eyes in fear and spoke hesitantly.
"I'm not failing her trust. It's just... she's been through a lot and now that she's finally getting some happiness, I can't take that away from her."
"But having her live in false security is far more wrong than pushing her into real danger."
"Martin, I... I don't know. You know, every day I think that I'll tell her everything about it but her once smile makes me go against my decision. I always think and make excuses that maybe things won't go as bad and I don't have to tell her anything at all. Then I'm knocked back into my senses and I feel guilty and treacherous that I didn't tell her about it and decide to do it the next day. But I never can."
"Monsieur, you are a practical person. You told me the odds yourself."
"I know. That's why I also know that I'm running out of excuses now."
"Monsieur, I know you don't want to break Madame's heart. But you will have to tell her someday. Besides, it's best that she learns about this from you directly rather than from indirect sources. It'll break her trust from over you. And trust me, Monsieur, hell hath no fury like the scorn of a woman."
Ishaani roamed about the library, a trolley in her and a booklist alongside. They had to donate books to Vari's public school for their annual fair and Ishaani removed the books one by one and placed them steadily. She was going to lift off a few books from the Western section when she saw Mr. Ambrose walking towards her.
"Oh hello, Mr. Ambrose. How are you doing?" Ishaani smiled brightly at Mr. Ambrose and the latter gave her a small smile in return.
"Nothing's really good these days, dear. But I love seeing your spirit and dedication to the library. Gives us all hope to fight." Ishaani's smile faltered and she now looked bewildered.
"Gives us all hope to fight? What are you talking about, Mr. Ambrose?"
"Oh come now, dear. I'm talking about the library, ofcourse! Don't you know that the library is going to shut down?"
"What?" Ishaani gave him a disbelieving look and Mr. Ambrose looked confused.
"Didn't Mr. Vaghela tell you about this?" Ishaani felt her breath get hitched in her chest and barely managed to throw out the next words.
"No, nothing. What's happening around this place anyway? Nobody tells me anything these days!"
"I'm surprised that Mr. Vaghela hasn't told you already. But I can understand. This was supposed to be known only by the trustee members and the owner until the verdict was out and given that it isn't, they were right not to tell you." Ishaani felt her blood freeze at the thought of what exactly was going on and how much was being hidden from her.
"Mr. Ambrose, please. Just tell me what's going on over here." Mr. Ambrose sighed and continued.
"Technically speaking, you are on a need-to-know basis. I shouldn't be even telling you this. But since I let slip the fact, I think it'd be unfair to not tell you the whole thing now. It was during the time you were in Vegas. The Government wanted to make the library the part of the National Historic Monuments, because the library will be turning 53 this year. The board had to take a unanimous decision. It was a 50-50."
"What happened then?"
"Mr. Vaghela returned back a week later and his decision would mark whether it was for or against. Mr. Vaghela gave it in favour of the decision." Ishaani stared at Mr. Ambrose dumbstruck, as she felt her world collapsing around her. She could not believe that Ranveer would have given his decision in favour of the library being shut. Her voice barely rose above a disgusted whisper as she spoke accusingly.
"How could he? How could he do such a thing?"
"Ms. Parekh, you must not be this harsh. Even I and Mrs. Brandt were for the decision. It's why Mr. Vaghela cast his vote in favour too. But we were double-crossed. None of us knew that converting the library into a monument would mean the actual shutting down of the library. The moment Mr. Vaghela found out about it, he used his veto power to challenge the case."
"I can't believe that you all... would... would agree for such a thing." Mr. Ambrose had an uneasy look on his face and Ishaani felt ill.
"Sweetie, you must not be this judgmental now." Ishaani couldn't think about anything else except for the fact that the library was going to shut down and Ranveer had kept her away from the truth.
"And Ranveer didn't tell me a damn thing!"
"Now, now, honey, you must give him credit. He has been putting day and night together to save the library. But frankly speaking, the odds don't look good enough and I don't think that Mr. Vaghela's money and goodwill are going to be enough. Not this time." Ishaani felt numb as she stared at Mr. Ambrose fearfully.
"When is the verdict coming out, Mr. Ambrose?"
"Today. At 4pm." Ishaani stared at him dumbly before she nodded her head.
"What happens if we lose?"
"The library shuts down. Probably by the end of the next month." Ishaani stared at Mr. Ambrose teary-eyed and spoke with anguish.
"How could you all let such a thing happen? How could you all do this!? This is absolutely wrong! Wrong!" Mr. Ambrose gave her a guilty look and sighed.
"Sweetie, we were all at fault here and we are guilty as charged, you have that. But we're trying to do our best now. I can understand that you are in shock and you loved this library a lot-"
"Loved this library? This library is my home! My refuge! How could you all take this away from me? How could Ranveer have let this happen?!" Ishaani felt hot, angry tears escape her eyes and she did not bother wiping them away. Mr. Ambrose gave her a sad look.
"Honey, I know it's devastating. Mrs. Brandt and I have given 25 and 30 respective years of our lives to this library each as well. And Mr. Vaghela revolved his entire life over here. But we must not play the blame game over here. We are all at fault and we are all sorry that it had to come to this. But maybe this is what destiny had for us." Ishaani gave Mr. Ambrose a heartbroken look and he patted her shoulder consolingly.
"Go home, darling. You need to calm yourself down a little. You can have the rest of the day off today."
Ranveer returned back home, his heart heavy and his mind still reeling with the final verdict. He knew that he had to break the news to Ishaani for there was no point in delaying the inevitable. He slowly made his way up to her room and knocked on the door. When no reply came back, he opened the door and saw Ishaani sitting on the bed, a stony look on her face.
Ranveer knew that something was drastically wrong, for Ishaani's face was red and puffy and her mascara was smudged badly.
"Ishaani? What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong. Not according to you anyway." Ranveer knew that Ishaani was in a dangerous mood and knew that it was the worst time to tell her about the library. Yet somehow, he knew that he had to get it done with in that moment. Taking a deep breath, mentally hoping that Ishaani took it decently, he spoke hesitantly.
"I need to talk to you about something." Ishaani cocked her eyebrows up coldly and Ranveer felt an unknown fear creep within his heart.
"What is it?" Ranveer couldn't frame his sentence clearly for he could see cold anger in Ishaani's eyes, something he had never seen before.
"I... uh... I..."
"Let me save you the trouble. Is it about the library being shut down?" Ranveer gasped and instantly understood the reason behind Ishaani's sour mood, while the latter stared at him sarcastically. Ranveer could hear Martin's words from earlier in the day ringing in his ears and he knew that Martin had been right.
"Ishaani, please. It's not like you think it to be." Ishaani curved her lips upside down in a mock impressed manner and Ranveer tore his gaze away from her icy ones.
"Oh, really? Then please do care to explain it to me. I'd love to hear what you have to say for yourself."
"Ishaani, we all made a mistake. But you must understand-" Ishaani's eyes suddenly flickered and Ranveer was glad to see the coldness leave them.
"Look, this can wait. I want to know about the verdict first. What happened?" Ranveer gave Ishaani a heartbreaking look before he whispered slowly.
"We lost. The library will be shutting down next month."