Chapter 48: The Days of Our Lives
Ishaani paced about the various shelves of the library, her mind running into an overdrive. One of the readers walked up to her and handed over a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Ishaani absent-mindedly kept the book on the shelf. The reader smiled at her and thanked her before making her way out. Ishaani stared at her simply, before she slammed the copy of The Big Four on the table in frustration, frightening the few readers sitting in the vicinity.
Quickly giving them an apologetic look, she kept the book back on its respective shelf before walking back up to her desk. Martha saw her apparent irritation and clicked her tongue in disagreement.
"Sweetie, must you make such an issue about it?" Ishaani looked close to retorting heatedly before she fell silent under Martha's gaze. Letting out a breath, she spoke grudgingly.
"You won't understand." Martha shrugged her shoulders.
"Maybe." Ishaani sighed and spoke in a childish tone.
"A simple 'Happy Birthday' would have done." Martha gave her a shrewd look.
"Ishaani, look at me." Ishaani couldn't help but turn a dejected pair of eyes in her direction, feeling extremely ashamed of her behaviour. Martha smiled. "Were you expecting too much from Ranveer just because you outdid yourself during his birthday?"
Ishaani gave Martha a flustered look and the latter smiled wisely.
"Funny, how that happens." Ishaani gave Martha a blotchy look and she smiled. "Sweetheart, such things happen. Besides, you must never expect so much, neither must you take such things to your heart. It happens with all couples at some point of time or the other."
"But this is Ranveer..." Ishaani smiled at Martha sadly before speaking half-heartedly. "I guess you're right. I'm being really stupid." Martha smiled warmly and Ishaani gave her a hug. Breaking out from it after a few moments, Martha smiled sweetly.
"Now that's like my girl. So tell me, how are little Freddie and George doing?"
"Oh, they are perfectly alright. Those two are the whole and soul of our house now. Which also reminds me, Claud and Martin made us their godparents!" Martha beamed at her as she could sense the joy in Ishaani's voice and kissed her forehead lovingly.
"Sweetheart, this is great! Godparents! Rare are those who get this opportunity. Make sure that you seize it to your fullest." Ishaani nodded her head religiously and smiled.
"Yeah. Ranveer and I are thrilled about it." Martha patted her cheek affectionately and spoke softly.
"Which also reminds me. Is Martin prepared for his interview?"
"Yes. He did look confident enough." Martha gave an approving nod.
"Good. And what about you?" Ishaani cocked her eyebrows up in question.
"What about me?"
"Are you ready for the meeting?" Ishaani's features relaxed as she let out a huff.
"I guess so." Giving Martha a calculative look, she spoke astutely. "You've been stressing on it far too much. What's going on?"
"You'll find out soon enough. Put on your overcoat and ring the bell out. We don't want to reach Naxou late, especially in this kind of traffic."
Ishaani strolled about the library, arranging all the books in their respective shelves, a small smile on her face. Her birthday had not been ruined entirely in her opinion, especially after the meeting with the committee members. The library was empty save for herself, and she hummed a small tune as she went about her tour around the library. This was her favourite time of the day, for the library's dim, yet sufficient lighting would have a strange element of romance that took her to another world altogether.
Somehow, she felt a strange euphoria burst in her heart that evening, even though she didn't know why. It was when she was keeping the copy of The Shining in the Horror section did she feel someone's arms curl around her waist from behind. She gasped as felt a huge smile break over her features involuntarily even before she even turned around. She revolved around slowly, her eyes meeting Ranveer's own fiery ones as he smiled at her broadly, a blazing look over his features, and Ishaani could feel his gaze melt her whole.
She felt him lead her backwards softly until her back hit the wall. She looked at him curiously, her arms automatically finding its way around his neck. He smiled at her seductively.
"I was hoping to catch you unawares."
"It never gets old, does it?" Ranveer shrugged his shoulders sheepishly and Ishaani look confused. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
"I just left from work, so I thought I'd give you a ride along." Ishaani nodded her head averting her eyes from his own alluring ones.
"Oh alright. I though Martha gave you a call or something."
"Curiously enough, she did. But all she told me was that you were upset for some reason. Why was that?" Ishaani gave a confused look, pretending to rack her brains.
"Oh, I don't know. Perhaps there was something important today." Ranveer gave out a theatrical gasp, and Ishaani couldn't help but feel her lips twitch.
"Oh my, was there really?" Ranveer stared at her intently, but somehow, Ishaani could see the glint within the camouflaged blankness that suddenly sprung up in his eyes.
"Martha told you now, didn't she?" Ranveer wrinkled his brows, before smiling slowly.
"Why would Martha tell me something I already know?"
Ishaani's eyes widened in surprise as Ranveer smirked. She made to speak, but decided against it as she could feel Ranveer give her a gleaming look. Ishaani realized that the two of them were close enough, so that she could now feel the heat of his body warm her own, hearing the soft whisper of his breath as he exhaled.
She inched closer, and felt his hand encircle her waist again. Ishaani looked up at Ranveer, his soft brown eyes already locked on her own, while he ran his fingertips up her forearm, leaving a trail of goosebumps blooming in their wake. He brought his hand up to cup her cheek, his thumb running along the curve of her cheekbone while she nestled into his hand, feeling his warmth seep into hers.
Ranveer leaned in, his lips parting slightly, his eyes flitting down to rest on her lips. Ishaani was barely aware of what was happening to her in that moment, as she felt his lips leave a gentle, lingering touch over her own, a hesitation on both their parts as they touched, as though both were taking the time to memorize the feeling before they parted. Ranveer and Ishaani gave each other a momentary look, before he crashed his lips over her own once again, this time in a heated lip lock, Ishaani's fingers locked within Ranveer's hair while his arm remained around her waist protectively, the other one slithering its way through her back, while they moved back and forth steadily.
Breaking apart reluctantly after a few minutes, both of them looked at each other in a mesmerized way, before Ishaani spoke, her tone uneven.
"You are really getting good at this. But this doesn't mean that you are forgiven. Understood?" Ranveer gave her a tantalizing look and she blushed.
"Yes ma'am. Just give me a chance to redeem myself and I won't disappoint you." Ishaani narrowed her eyes at him as he forwarded his arm out. Ishaani shrugged her shoulder and locked her arm within his and spoke, shaking her other finger threateningly.
"This better be worth my wait, Mr. Vaghela."
"Don't worry, it is."
Both of them got down from the car, Ranveer smiling from ear to ear, while Ishaani had a conflicted expression on her face, sometimes irritated, other times simply curious. Ishaani made to enter the house, but Ranveer caught hold of her arm. Ishaani looked confused.
"Not now. We have a small detour to be made first." Ranveer smiled mysteriously and Ishaani sighed.
"Must you be this mysterious?"
"Well, given that you were disappointed that I 'supposedly' forgot your big day, I thought you'd be more excited than this." Ishaani gave him a bewildered look.
"I thought so too, but I just... I don't know." Ranveer gave her a scrutinizing look and smiled.
"Don't worry. I don't think I've ruined your mood entirely. And even If I have, you'll love this." Ishaani couldn't help but get more curious over Ranveer's confident approach.
"Gee, I can't wait for it."
"Good." Ranveer led Ishaani along with him slowly towards the garden area. Ishaani, for the life of it, couldn't imagine what Ranveer had in store for her. It was only when they entered the garden did Ishaani feel the breath get knocked out of her. Hundreds of sky lanterns surrounded the area, placed carefully so that it didn't damage anything. The garden now had a heavenly golden glow that dazzled Ishaani with its beauty, while all the shrubs below were lightened by the lanterns.
Ishaani walked around the length of the massive garden, admiring the effects with a fascination she had never felt before. She understood now why Ranveer was so calm about her liking his present because it was amongst one of her fantasies to celebrate her birthday in an area full of sky lanterns. She could only imagine the amount of preparations Ranveer must have done to have those many lanterns set up in so short a time.
She felt embarrassed for having her outburst at him and turned to look at him apologetically. He walked up to her and took her into his arms slowly, both of them enjoying the calm bliss of the night. Breaking off from their embrace slowly, Ranveer spoke softly, making sure to look into Ishaani's pair of hypnotizing eyes.
"Happy Birthday, love. Did you like it so far?" Ishaani felt at a loss to frame her sentence, mouthing out the only word that crossed her mind.
"Yes." Ranveer gave her an admirable look and whispered softly.
"Good. Look up."
Ishaani looked up to see several hundred sky lanterns flowing through the air, the night suddenly much more illuminated that before. She looked at Ranveer and saw him staring at her stunned features with a satisfaction of his own. Ishaani could have sworn that the night was as clear as water ten minutes earlier when they had arrived at the mansion, yet the scene before her was nothing short of magical.
Before she could say anything further, she felt Ranveer's form diminishing out of the corner of her eye. She turned to look in his direction, only to see that Ranveer had gotten to his knees, a velvet box in his hand. Ishaani gasped as the speech on her lips died away while Ranveer opened the box to reveal Martha's gift ring. Smiling at Ishaani with his eyes emanating the same pools of love and passion, he spoke earnestly, taking Ishaani's hand into his own.
"Ishaani Harshad Parekh, will you marry me?" Ishaani smiled broadly through the tears that flowed down her face, while she replied soulfully.
"All you had to do was ask." Ranveer nodded his head in embarrassment and spoke cheekily.
"I'm going to take that as a 'yes'." He quickly slipped on the ring over her finger, while Ishaani smiled, still dazed with what had happened to her in the last few minutes. Ranveer got to his feet and enveloped her into his arms once again, this time both of them swaying slowly. Ishaani could have sworn that she heard a distant wolf whistle from somewhere close, but all she could do was goofily smile into Ranveer's chest.
Separating slowly, she smiled at Ranveer coyly, while he slowly pushed her hair behind her ears. Ishaani slowly opened her purse and removed a similar velvet box from her bag that contained the other half of the band that Martha had gifted them. She slowly slipped over the ring on Ranveer's finger, while both of them admired their rings, the heartbeat all around it shining in the glow of the lanterns, while the diamond over the heart glowed luminously.
Both of them made their way to the house, enjoying each other's silence that spoke volumes of what the other was thinking. The house, doused in darkness as they entered it, quickly became bright, streamers and balloons falling over them along with confetti. Ishaani felt the next few minutes a blur as she felt Martin, Claudine and Martha hug them turn by turn, while Claudine pulled her excitedly to the middle of the hall, where a huge cake stood. Fred and George looked at everyone curiously from their prams that stood beside the cake table, confused at the cause of commotion.
Cutting the cake as everyone sang for her, Ishaani could only feel the same euphoria burst in her heart in glory, a strange satiation filling her up as Ranveer stood beside her, staring at her with love blooming in his eyes. She was finally having the days of her life.