Chapter 42: The Secrets of a Snowy Christmas
Vari went into a hustle as Christmas Eve came around the corner, happiness and warmth high in the crisp December atmosphere. Like all the others, Ranveer and Ishaani were taken by the flow of the season's festivities as well, Martin, Claudine and Martha accompanied.
Ranveer and Ishaani now found things rapidly going back to the way they used to be in the next week of their newfound therapy. They barely had nightmares and were no longer on the edge, but instead were much calmer and more composed.
As much as Ishaani tried, Martha found out about Ranveer and Ishaani soon enough just by one look at Ishaani's face. Ishaani didn't bother trying to contradict her but simply gave her a smile and hugged her.
Ranveer and Ishaani's happiness seemed to effect the atmosphere just as much. The mansion now became a lively place, along with the preparations of the upcoming arrival of the two babies in full swing. There was a month and a half to go for the same yet everyone seemed just as excited.
It was the 23rd of December. Ranveer returned back home early in the afternoon due to a heavy snowfall. Ranveer entered the pathway to the mansion and got down at the gate. Before he could make his way inside, he saw Martha walking up to him quickly, her fur overcoat making her look like an adorable bear while her boots slowed her pace.
"I was hoping to find you here."
Ranveer led Martha inside the house. Martin was in the living room, dusting the center table when he saw Ranveer and Martha and hastened up to them to rid them of their overcoats. Ranveer took Martha to his study room and shut the door.
Martha and Ranveer took their seats opposite the desk and Ranveer offered her a glass of brandy that the latter willingly accepted. Taking a swig from it, Martha smacked her lips appreciatively and smiled at Ranveer.
"Mr. Ambrose and I have got everything ready. Just need you to sign over a few things." Ranveer accepted the file that Martha handed over to him and quickly read through it, before smiling at her and signing the documents.
"I'll have my appointments cancelled tomorrow. The hearing is at 12 now, isn't it?"
"Ranveer, you don't need to have any of your meeting cancelled. Mr. Ambrose and I will handle it."
"Ranveer, please." Ranveer sighed and reluctantly spoke.
"Alright, if you insist." Martha nodded her head, before her eyes fells over the window that overlooked the garden behind the house and she smiled. Ranveer turned behind to see what Martha was smiling at and felt a loving smile cross his face. Ishaani stood outside in the garden area that now resembled a snow land, and was simply enjoying the snow fall.
"She looks like an angel now, doesn't she?" Ranveer smiled proudly and shrugged his shoulders.
"My joie de vivre." Martha smiled and stood up, walking near the window while Ranveer did the same.
"How are the two of you now?"
"Healing. Atleast we no longer have the nightmares. That night certainly worked its therapy." Martha nodded her head in acknowledgement.
"Good. Have you told her about the library?" Ranveer shook his head, his attention still over Ishaani.
"No. Not yet."
"She'll like the gift." Ranveer tore his gaze away from Ishaani at long last and turned to look at Martha now. She gave him a motherly smile and Ranveer spoke honestly.
"To be honest, I think this gift comes as a saviour for both of us. I just hope that things work out well enough tomorrow."
"Don't worry, they will." Both of them stood silently for some time as they saw Ishaani enjoying the snow, cupping the snow in the gloved hands and then hurling it in the air. Martha chuckled and Ranveer spoke softly.
"Don't you miss David?" Martha looked at him in shock for a moment before she composed herself. Sighing, she spoke heavily.
"Every single day."
"And you never tried-?"
"Trust me, we were better off apart. And he did roam the world leading a luxurious life, making a name for himself even before he met me." Ranveer shook his head disappointedly.
"Luxurious, but not happy. And it did kill him eventually." Martha gave him a blank look, speaking with curt resignation.
"Ranveer, this isn't the time for all this." Ranveer gave her a defiant look before he replied back.
"This is precisely the time for this, Martha. Especially when I've just found out who the owner of the library is. And to think I've been approaching the Aubergine Estate from all these days and thinking that I had their support when the owner has been right beside me all along." Martha looked at Ranveer in stunned silence for a few moments before she composed herself.
"I left that life twenty-five years ago. The only reason why I chose to reveal my real connection with the library was because it was the need of the hour. You mustn’t go around talking about this. This secret is now only between you and me. Not even Mr. Ambrose knows about this." Martha took Ranveer's hand in her own and gave him a meaningful look.
"You have my word." Martha nodded her head in satisfaction, while Ranveer's features turned into one of confusion. "But I'm curious."
"About what?" Ranveer studied Martha's face carefully before he put forth his question.
"Why did the two of you part ways?" Martha sighed. Ranveer was almost certain that she wouldn't answer his question before she did.
"Time, fate, destiny, circumstances. Name it and you'll find your reason. Ranveer, I was born into a very rich family as a child. I was just the child with the silver spoon in her mouth. It provided me with the world's greatest luxuries and comfort but I was never happy. If I were to be honest with you, I hated my life. The only happiness that I ever had in life was when I met David. We had a good run for two years before we got divorced. This library was his parting gift to me. He went his way after that and I my own. He gave me the power of attorney for the library and we never contacted each other from that day. The next time I ever got any personal news about him, it was his sister informing me of his death."
"Martha, I'm sorry."
"Yeah." Martha gave him a painful smile and Ranveer felt something breaking in his heart. Letting out a deep breath, she continued speaking. "I was considering calling him up and telling him that I wanted to reconcile with him and maybe we should give the divorce a second thought, given that we were still in the six-month probation period. Kind of a rude shock to me. The divorce got nullified given that we were still married, so I became his widow. From what his sister tells me, I was pretty much what killed him." Ranveer pulled Martha into a hug and spoke softly.
"Oh Martha, I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you." Breaking the hug, Martha looked at Ranveer's downcast face and smiled sadly.
"It's alright, Ranveer. I have accepted the fact and have learnt to live with it."
"But why didn't you ever reveal this to any of us?" Martha replied nonchalantly.
"Because I didn't want to. Truth be said, when David handed over the ownership of the library to me, I wasn't keen on it at all. It’s only when I spent several nights in a row entrusting my guilty secrets within the hearts of the countless books did I realize what David had actually given me. He was always the kind - cared more about me than himself. You and Ishaani always remind me of myself and David."
"But Martha, you didn't-" Martha narrowed her eyes at Ranveer and the latter fell silent.
"Shhh. I don't want any comments about this. Neapolitan City may have had several stories connected to it, but for me, it was always the symbol of our incomplete love story. That's why I'm now handing it over to you, so that you can complete your story with Ishaani." Ranveer gave Martha a blazing look, while the latter met his gaze with a fiery look of her own.
"Martha, you didn't have to do this."
"Ranveer, think of this as my payback for what I put you and Ishaani through. You may have been noble enough to take my blame over your head so selflessly, but I'm afraid my conscience won't let me. It was my mistake that I'd given your vote in favour of the decision in your absence without consulting you. I don't see why you should pay for it,"
"But Martha-" Martha cut Ranveer as though she did not hear him speak and continued.
"And you shouldn't have told Pierre to stick on to that concocted tale of yours either. His story to Ishaani did a good lot of harm and zilch of good." Ranveer let out an exasperated huff and stared at Martha ruefully.
"Let it go, Martha. It isn't going to do you any good holding on to it." Martha narrowed her eyes at Ranveer, realizing that the sentence did not quite fit in, while understanding the true intent of it a moment too late.
"And what might that mean, young man?" Ranveer gave her a meaningful look.
"Martha, you are wise enough. So I'll be direct with you. Don't let his memories bind you." Martha smiled painfully.
"It isn't that easy. You, of all people, should know this."
"Yes and that's why I'm telling you. You need to let him go." Martha averted her gaze away from Ranveer's powerful ones and spoke silently.
"Don't bring this up. It’s painful enough thinking about it without you talking about this so bluntly." Ranveer looked at her and spoke wisely.
"You should never have waited in the first place."
"Ranveer, you and I both know likewise. So stop wasting time over this. Please." Ranveer could hear the despair in her voice, yet he continued.
"You amuse me, Martha. You were the one who taught Ishaani and myself the importance of our relationship in its true sense. I don't like reverting your advice back to you." Martha sighed and replied.
"You know Ranveer, when I saw Ishaani for the first time, her aura reminded me of someone very close. It was halfway through my interview that I realized that it was you. The two of you are the halves of the same heart. The two of your cannot live without the other for it is your connection with each other that keeps you alive. But it was only when I got to know her did I realize that she was the miniature version of me. We practically had everything alike in our stories, except for the fact that she had a family who refused to take her back, while I never went back to them. It was in that instant where I decided to reunite her with her husband and not let her become another me. So you can imagine my true joy when I found out that you were her husband - estranged, yet meant to meet again by fate."
Ranveer and Martha stared at each other for several minutes in silence, before the former spoke silently.
"I wish I could help you."
"You can. By giving Ishaani all the happiness in the world and by making sure you never let go for her. No matter what happens. The two of you owe that much to each other."
"We owe it to the three of you all well." Martha cupped Ranveer's cheek and smiled.
"Good. Now go and enjoy the snowfall with her. It’s not always that you get such moments in life." Ranveer gave her a shrewd look and the latter kept her gaze steady.
"You are a mysterious woman, Martha Brandt."
"Well, David wanted a woman whose mystery he could spend the rest of his life solving." Martha looked up to see Ranveer smiling at her triumphantly and she blushed. "But nice try. It didn't work."
"Oh it worked like a charm, Martha. It worked like a charm."
Martha scowled at him and Ranveer smiled. Sighing, both of them exited the study room and put on their overcoats again, making their way to the garden. Ranveer made his way towards Ishaani firmly while Martha slowly faded away into the shadows.
Ishaani looked at Ranveer approaching towards her and smiled happily. Reaching up to her, Ranveer cupped Ishaani's cheek and grinned.
"Aren't you cold?"
"Naah, not really. I love the snow." Ranveer gave her a confused look.
"Since when did you start liking snow?"
"Ever since I saw the first snowfall in Vari. Its beauty took my breath away." Ranveer gave her a bemused look while Ishaani blushed under his gaze
"You have certainly changed a lot in these three years, Ishaani Vaghela." Ishaani smiled at the surname Ranveer used for her and he gently grazed her cheek with his fingers.
"That I have. But I like these changes."
"Yes. Changes are certainly good." Ishaani looked to the ground, smiling unabashedly.
"Sometimes, when I go to think about it, it shocks me."
"Yeah, that's true. The Ishaani I knew three years ago hated alcohol and couldn't stand anyone consuming it near her yet the Ishaani now beats me in a vodka-shot competition."
"Oh Good Lord, don't tell me you are still sore about it."
"Oh, I'm not. Just noting. Again, the Ishaani back then hated non-veg and certainly wouldn't wear the clothes she wears now."
"You make me sound like a daredevil."
"But it’s only true. You are one." Ishaani smiled and gently pressed her lips against his, and Ranveer caught her to himself tightly to keep her a little warm. Separating after a few minutes, Ishaani smiled at Ranveer sweetly.
"I like snow for a reason."
"Well go on."
"You know, when you cup snow in your hand, it’s all cold and aloof and icy. Makes you feel numb and it passes along the iciness of its own self to the other one. But the moment it begins feeling the warmth from the hand, it melts away, turning into water, purer than anything. The icy demeanor fades into a thirst quencher."
"Wow... that's deep."
"It does remind me of you too." Ranveer looked at her and smiled unashamedly, kissing the bridge of her nose.
"You are indeed an angel." Ranveer pulled her into an embrace once again, Ishaani a little surprised, before Ranveer whispered softly. "I love you." Ishaani smiled against his fur coat and looked up to meet eyes with Ranveer. She kissed him slowly once again before she replied back soulfully.
"I love you too."
Martha looked from behind the wall and saw the two of them in a tight embrace. She smiled to herself, a tear escaping her eye before she cupped a little slow in her glove.
"Je t'amours toujours, mon cher."