Chapter 40: The Falling of the Veil
December was always Ranveer's favourite month. The white blanket that the month covered over Mother Earth was always something that caught his fancy and this year was no different. He stared out of his window as the snowflakes fell slowly, a serene calm overcoming the entire atmosphere. He stared at the sky, his mind falling in a peaceful meditation, when he heard a door knock.
Turning around, he saw Martha standing near the door, a small smile on her face. Ranveer beckoned her in and freed her off her overcoat and hat, while Martha took a seat opposite his table.
"Good Lord, it's snowing so heavy. I just hope that we don't have a blizzard on the way." Ranveer gave her an apologetic look before speaking to himself more than her.
"It looked so peaceful from high up here though."
"It always does." Ranveer smiled at her and she took a seat. "Snow still has the same effect on you now, doesn't it?"
"Oh yes. Obviously I don't relate myself to it anymore given the changes my life has been through in these seven months, but it still feels peaceful." Martha nodded her head in understanding and spoke shrewdly.
"That's true enough. In these seven months, I've got to know a different Mr. Vaghela altogether. And thankfully, I got to know the real one." Ranveer frowned at her and asked, his voice laced with confusion.
"What do you mean?" Martha smiled lovingly and understanding dawned over him.
"I think you understand."
"Well, you've been with me in these three years. So naturally, you must know the difference between me being as cold and aloof as the icy nature of snow, and being as warm and pleasant as a flowery spring. Martin and Claudine tell me the same thing as well."
"I couldn't have explained that better." Martha gave Ranveer an impressed look and the latter smiled sheepishly.
"Glad I could help. So how did the hearing go?"
"The hearing went pretty well. The final verdict will be out on the 24th." Ranveer sighed heavily and gave Martha an earnest look.
"I just hope that I manage to set atleast one thing right." Martha stared at him deeply for a couple of minutes before she spoke cautiously.
"Still stuck on to the nightmares?" Ranveer gave her a helpless look and shrugged her shoulders.
"Yeah. I spoke to Ishaani yesterday, and she shares my frustration. Goodness knows what's to happen now." Martha gave Ranveer a sympathetic look and Ranveer sat opposite her, a perturbed look on his face. He offered her refreshments, all of which she politely refused. After some time Martha spoke again.
"I don't understand." Ranveer gave her a bewildered look.
"What's the problem?"
"What do you mean?" Martha sighed and gave Ranveer a curious look.
"Things are alright between the two of you now. Infact from what I've been able to sum up, your spiritual bonding with each other has only strengthened. Then why the demons? Why the insecurity?" Ranveer gave Martha a guilty look and the latter understood.
"I put her through hell and revisited a different hell of my past altogether." Martha nodded her head and now asked him inquisitively.
"Agreed. But what's with the veil?"
"Veil?" Ranveer looked confused for a moment before his eyes widened in realization. He felt the colour creep up his cheeks before he asked swiftly. "Wait, Ishaani spoke to you about our conversation?"
"Yes. She wanted an extra understanding on the matter." Ranveer felt his throat burn and gave Martha a shrug.
"I don't know. It’s like we have the security of being in love with each other. We know that we are soulfully bonded and that nothing can do us apart. Maybe, perhaps death." Martha narrowed her eyes and Ranveer could see a strange light dance within them.
"You know that failed." Ranveer caught on to Martha's implied meaning and let out a hopeless huff.
"Which is why the added frustration. It's like we are giving each other the best of our soulful assurance, but it isn't enough. It's as though we need to assure each other with our physical presence. She needs my presence around her. I see her eyes wander about when I'm away for more time than necessary. I can hear the despair in her voice when she asks me whether I can make it home early today. And it's not just her. I have the same reaction. And ever since Martin told me what nearly happened, I can't stop thinking about it. It's as though both of us are living in this constant fear of losing each other. And it's really stressful."
"I'm sure you guys will figure it out." Ranveer nodded his head and Martha spoke again. "When do you intend to tell Ishaani about this?" Martha pointed towards the case file in her hand and Ranveer took a minute to answer.
"Once the final verdict is out." Martha stared at Ranveer intently and mustered her courage again.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Go ahead, Martha."
"Why haven't you told her about it?" Ranveer gave Martha a deep look before he confessed truthfully.
"I didn't want to get her hopes too high." Martha smiled at his childish honesty and continued.
"Ranveer, you know very well that our chances look good." Ranveer smiled at her innocently and Martha could sense the love in his voice.
"I do know that, but still don't want to take any chances. Which reminds me, does this make for a good Christmas gift?"
"Oh yeah, it does. Kind of celebrates the spirit of Christmas now, doesn't it?" Ranveer smiled and Martha gave him a meaningful look again. "Make sure to have things sorted out and let the veil fall." Ranveer smiled to himself as he remembered the countless times he had confided things to Martha and taken her suggestions. He could see the same thought running through Martha's mind and he grinned.
"How do I let it fall without knowing what it is?" Martha gave it a good though before replying slowly.
"Let things unwind themselves. It will fall off on its own."
"Easier said than done."
"Touché, but then again, I love the spring-essence Ranveer much more than the snowy one. Same goes for my girl as well. I like the bubbly and lively one far more than the quiet, pleasing-to-the-sight one." Ranveer smiled as Martha got up and quickly walked up to make her wear her overcoat. He smiled to himself as he admitted bitterly.
"I must have been pathetic to handle in those three years." Martha turned around and took her hat from his hand and put it on. Patting Ranveer's shoulder, she spoke admiringly.
"For all I know, you inspired me far more in life than I could help you. You are a fighter, Ranveer, and it's your love that has brought you this far. You and Ishaani are both survivors. You both have survived and fought off a lot in life with nothing but love. I'm sure you both will fight this out together." Ranveer smiled and Martha patted his cheek. "I'll take your leave now."
"Alright. Keep me updated on the situation."
Martha nodded and gave Ranveer a reassuring nod before she left his cabin. Ranveer once again took to staring outside the window, a smile now etched over his face as the raw sunlight cut through the icy snow.
Ranveer entered the house and saw Ishaani's head drooping over the magazine. Ranveer's worried expression dissolved into one of relief and he walked up to Ishaani. Ranveer patted her shoulder and Ishaani gave a startled jerk, before seeing it was Ranveer. Smiling, she got up and gave him a hug and he hugged her lovingly. They swayed in the same pose for several minutes before they finally parted, Ranveer still holding her by her waist.
"How was your day?" Ishaani let out a soft yawn and Ranveer grinned shamelessly.
"Boring as usual. What about you?" Ishaani smiled at him and took off his coat.
"It was pretty eventful."
"How come you didn't call me today? Your phone was switched off as well." Ishaani could see the tiredness on his face and gave him a reproving look.
"That can wait. It’s a pretty interesting story. Freshen up and I'll get the dinner warmed up for you." Ranveer pouted childishly and Ishaani smiled, putting her arms over his neck.
"Can we have it in our room today? I feel lazy to come down all the way for dinner again." Ishaani narrowed her eyes as Ranveer gave her a puppy look, her gaze faltering after a few minutes under his appealing ones.
"Alright, I'll get the food up." Ranveer smiled and kissed her forehead lovingly, before making his way up the staircase. Ishaani looked towards his retreating figure and smiled, making her way to the kitchen after five minutes.
Twenty minutes later, Ranveer and Ishaani both sat together in their room, discussing trivial topics. Ranveer was halfway through the dessert when he remembered the main topic of discussion and asked curiously.
"So tell me, what happened today?" Ishaani chuckled before speaking quickly.
"In the morning, I missed falling from the staircase."
"What?!" Ranveer looked aghast and Ishaani smiled.
"Don't worry, I caught my balance at the right time. My phone slipped out from my hand and fell the length. Poor thing didn't survive." Ranveer gave Ishaani an angry look and she shrugged her shoulders innocently. "Don't look at me like that. It wasn't my fault. My pantaloons got caught up in my stilettos."
"Why do you have to wear such long ones when you can't handle it?"
"You don't expect me to roam in knee-length nightgowns now, do you?" Ranveer was about to retort when he fell silent, his cheeks burning.
"You are impossible." Ishaani gave him an approving nod and continued.
"Well, that was just the start. Martin and the one of the helpers had an ugly argument."
"Apparently, when dusting your brilliant life-size Iron Man, the helper dropped it whole. The thing cracked from the feet." Ranveer could hear the badly suppressed glee in Ishaani's voice and scowled at her.
"What did Martin do with it?"
"Oh, he has treasured it for you. Says he will get it rectified." Ranveer shook his head in disappointment and Ishaani snorted, Ranveer distinctly catching the phrase 'boys with toys'.
"What happened next?"
"Claud went into labour." Ranveer choked over his strawberry jelly and stared at Ishaani dumbstruck.
"What! And you are telling me this now?"
"Oh, relax. It was a false labour. Claud got the contractions pretty bad, but the water bag hadn't burst. Then too, Martin and I took her to the hospital. Over there, the doctor checked her up and told her she was having a false labour. Ever since that, Claud has been in a bad temper."
"Why? She should be happy that it wasn't a premature delivery. Atleast she is doing great so far."
"Go figure. Martin and I got good lectures from her about how we handled the situation most poorly."
"That's insane! Besides, how on Earth would you know that it was a false labour? We haven't even had kids..."
Ranveer trailed off his sentence to look at Ishaani, who suddenly took to staring at her bowl of lemon mousse. She looked up and gave him a blazing look while Ranveer reciprocated it with equal intensity. After a few minutes, Ranveer spoke softly.
"But if Claudine as a doctor couldn't make it out, how could you have done it?"
"Actually all three of us got a bit carried away. False labour is pretty common during a pregnancy but given that Claudine was having the contractions for three hours straight, we knew that it was too long for the false labour and took her quickly. And it was a false labour. Martin and I were relieved but Claud got a bad swing of hormones. Trust me, it’s been hell trying to pacify her. Both of us gave up in the end."
"Good Lord. Pregnancies are such testing times for a woman now, aren't they?" Ishaani gave Ranveer a curious look before she smiled at him sweetly and replied.
"Yes they are."
Both of them stared at each other intently, before Ishaani got up and cleared off the dishes. Ranveer sighed and made his way to the bed, his mind still reeling with all the conversations he had had in the past twenty-four hours.
Ranveer felt his sleep break abruptly. As much as he was relieved that he hadn't had his usual dreams, he knew that the one he had was just as strange. He could only recollect someone crying and the continuous sound of water pouring, similar to that from a shower.
He felt disoriented as his surroundings had changed rapidly, but the sounds still remained. It was after several minutes that he realized that the sound of the shower was still there. He quickly turned over to his other side to see the bed empty. Worried, he quickly got up and walked up to the washroom. He could hear a slight sob from within and he grew tense.
He knocked on the door thrice, but there was no response. Pushing open the door with hesitation, he entered the washroom and felt a pang hit his heart. Ishaani sat hugging herself in the shower area, drenched to the skin in her sleeveless satin blue gown. She looked up to see Ranveer and shook her head.
Ranveer entered the shower cubicle and sat down, letting himself get drenched as well. Both of them sat silently for a while before Ishaani spoke slowly, her voice cracking.
"It's feels like there's still blood on my hands. And it won't come off." Ranveer put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer to him, taking her hand in his own.
"Let me see." Ranveer brought her hand close to his lips and gently sucked on her fingers one by one. Ishaani let her other hand fall freely and she cuddled herself closer to him. Ranveer looked at Ishaani and spoke softly. "Better?"
Ishaani nodded her head and let Ranveer cuddle her whole, while they both sat in silence. After an infinitesimal amount of time, Ishaani spoke again.
"I have become very irrational these days, haven't I?"
"I don't say that I blame you. I have my own set of fears, but yours are cruder. It was precisely why you shifted in with me now, didn't you?"
"I couldn't let you out from my sight. Your presence gives me the security that my dreams are not reality." Ranveer nodded his head slowly.
"You must be cold." Ishaani nodded and Ranveer made her get up slowly. Both of them stared at each other for several moments before Ranveer spoke cautiously. "You shouldn't let what happened in the ER affect you this bad."
"We will talk about this the day I'm stabbed and fall in your arms." Ranveer pinned her to the wall, his finger over her lips as the water falling over them increased. He glared at her, outrage evident in his voice.
"Don't you ever dare say stuff like that in front of me again or God help me, I'll kill you myself." Ranveer stared at Ishaani angrily, his soul shivering at the words she had spoken so carelessly. He removed his finger from her lips after a few moments and stared at her frightfully, realizing that they were in this close of a proximity after nearly a month.
Ishaani stared at him wide-eyed for several minutes before Ranveer felt her pull him to herself, her eyes shut and head tilted. He felt his own breath cease as their noses brushed against each other's, and shut his eyes before he felt his lips meet her own.
There was a raw element in the way they kissed each other; a strange, fiery passion ignited within their hearts as both of them let the water falling over them wash away their insecurities. Ranveer let his arm curl around her waist while his other hand traced over her neck that managed to have Ishaani moan softly against his lips. Ishaani, in turn, let her hand wander over his sweatshirt while her other hand interlocked itself over his hair, her touch working its magic over Ranveer. He could get the scent of vanilla essence from her hair, while her lips has its usual soft, strawberry touch.
Ranveer let his lips capture her own in a strange urgency, as things began unravelling itself in his mind. He let himself unwind as he let his emotions overcome him and kissed her with a passion such like he had never known, the tension between them reaching a new point. Ranveer could feel Ishaani crushed between him and the wall as their lips now met for a dominant battle, his hips grinding against her own, while she let her arms now feel his back. He felt his heart feel the balm he had been yearning for all those weeks and smiled against her lips before he let his lips make a detour towards the crux of her neck.
Separating finally for air after several more minutes, Ranveer and Ishaani looked at each other and smiled coyly before their lips met again for a peck. Ranveer and Ishaani let their heads rest against each other's as they both gasped for breath, Ranveer's hand gently finding the knob behind him and turning off the shower.
Ishaani gave him a hard look and gently locked her fingers within his own, while Ranveer felt his heart ablaze. Sighing, she led him back to the room slowly, while both of them let themselves drown in the daze of the moment that had just happened between them.
But for all they knew in that moment, the veil had begun to fall off at long last.