Chapter 49: The Valentine Fever
Ishaani and Ranveer were lying beside each other in bed that night, Ishaani stroking Ranveer's hair lovingly. After cutting the cake, during which a lot of the cake found its place on her face, all of them pushed off to the dining room where a sumptuous meal awaited them, courtesy of Claudine and Martin's combined cooking skills. The party ended two hours later, with Claudine and Martin retiring to bed along with the kids and Martha staying back for the night.
"This was probably one of the most extraordinary birthdays I've ever had." Ranveer smiled as he kissed her fingers.
"I'm glad it could be that way," said Ranveer gladly. Ishaani couldn't help but speak in a childlike tone.
"The dinner Claudine and Martin cooked up was amazing! And the cake! Wow! When did you get the time do all this?" Ranveer gave her and mused look before speaking modestly.
"I asked Claudine to get the helpers co-ordinate with the decorations in the morning. She got to cooking half of the meals for dinner and Martin got back from his interview and got the rest done. The lanterns were pretty much ready to be put into use from three days. And as for the cake, it was Martha through and through." Ishaani smiled broadly and both of them remain peaceful for a couple of minutes before Ishaani spoke again.
"I'm glad that his interview went well. I just hope that the response two days later is a positive."
"I hope so too," said Ranveer softly, while Ishaani let out a deep sigh before speaking knowingly.
"You'll miss them a lot now, won't you?"
"More than anything else." Ishaani nodded her head in acknowledgement, now speaking lovingly.
"I'll miss them too. But then again, I'm happy that you're well equipped to accepting changes the way you do." Both of them smiled in mutual understanding and Ranveer spoke lovingly.
"I'm glad that I could make your day memorable. You really did set the bar pretty high enough with what you did for my birthday." Ishaani narrowed her eyes in a playful manner.
"I hope that we are not in a competitive spirit now." Ranveer gave her a sheepish look before he spoke slowly.
"Ofcourse not. But that reminds me - you do know what comes next week now, don't you?" Ishaani blinked her eyes in confusion before it struck her.
"Valentine's Day." Ranveer stared at her intently which made her smirk.
"I'm glad you remember. I hope what you have for me is pretty good enough. Coz my gift is pretty much high on bar, you know." Ishaani stuck out her tongue.
"Not a chance. I've already decided what to give you. Your gift doesn't stand a chance against mine."
"That's not possible."
"It’s true." Both of them stared at each other in a determined look before both of them chuckled, amused by their childish antics. Both of them took some time before they sobered down. Smiling at each other, Ishaani scooted closer to him, while Ranveer sighed.
"Did you really think that I'd forget your birthday?" Ishaani gave him a hesitant look before speaking truthfully.
"I knew it in my heart that you didn't forget it, but I just... I don't know why..."
"You were afraid, weren't you? Not used to things going on this smoothly without a hitch?" Ishaani shook her head in shame before admitting it.
"Something like that, yes." Ranveer nodded his head in understanding and Ishaani smiled. Brightening up, she spoke happily. "On a lighter note, Martin, Claud and Martha really put up a good show. Such accomplished acting."
"Well, what can I say?" Ishaani saw a flustered look on his face and suddenly got up, looking attentive. "What happened?"
"Uhm... let's just say that only Martin knew about this." Ishaani burst out into a long series of uncontrolled laughter as she could imagine the hell that Martha and Claudine must have rained over him before he let them on to his plan.
"Well, it serves you right in a way. But, you more than made up for my early morning upset." Ranveer nodded his head in agreement.
"True enough. Funny, that reminds me about a certain board meeting you had. What was that about?" Ishaani once again gave him a winning smile, before she spoke excitedly.
"They, uh, promoted me to the core board members group. Made me a part of the Top 7, given that Ms. Greene had to retire." Ranveer grinned at her happily.
"Hmmm... doesn't that call for a celebration?" Ishaani now cocked her eyebrows in skeptical consideration.
"Depends. You still have this surprise gift of yours that you aren't letting out."
"Well, alright. You'll have your surprise gift too." Ranveer slid out from the bed and smiled at her teasingly. Ishaani couldn't help but bite her lip in excitable pleasure as to what was to come her way. "Meet me here ten minutes later... wearing only your ring." Ishaani felt her mouth fall open in shock, before she gave him a goofy smile. Ranveer winked at her before speaking roughly. "The clock's ticking, Mrs. Vaghela."
The next week passed off without much event, except that Ishaani’s workload at the library had doubled due to her newfound duties. Claudine seemed to have got the hang of finally managing the kids efficiently and was pretty happy with the way things were going. Martin had received a call stating that he had managed to get the job that sent about another set of celebrations in the house.
But the most awaited day of the week was the upcoming Valentine's Day. Ranveer and Ishaani sat in their room, the former going through some files while the latter was reading a book. Finally shutting it close as she couldn't concentrate anymore, Ishaani asked curiously.
"So!" Ranveer looked up from his file and gave her a curious look.
"So, what?" Ishaani shrugged her shoulders and sighed.
"Well, it's Valentine's Day!"
"And I never noticed it, even after that romantic breakfast that you made me." Ishaani threw a pillow at him and he sobered down instantly.
"Funny. But as I said, I'm curious to know. What have you got me?" Ranveer clicked his tongue in mock disapproval and Ishaani huffed impatiently.
"Oh, Sunny. It’s just 4 in the afternoon. You must be patient." Ishaani gave him an indecisive look before she decided to remain silent. Ranveer stared at her intently before he smiled.
"It’s just four hours more to go." Ishaani smiled at him nervously, while he kissed her forehead slowly.
Dinner was a tense affair as Ranveer and Ishaani had the house solely to themselves after nearly two months. Martin and Claudine had gone out for dinner while the kids were with Mr. and Mrs. LeBlanc. The helpers were given the day off and Ranveer and Ishaani enjoyed the precious silence that the house offered after a noisy three weeks.
Dinner getting done with quickly, Ranveer slowly led Ishaani back to the room, while Ishaani looked surprised. Ranveer smiled at her lovingly.
"Well, I think it’s time for your gift." Ishaani looked at him curiously as he slowly brought out a gift wrapped packet from the cupboard and handed it over to her. Ishaani looked curious and tore open the packet with equal gusto. Out fell a book from the packet.
Ishaani looked surprised as she opened the book, noticing the name Ishaani Vaghela instead of Ishaani Parekh. Smiling, she quickly brushed through the pages, her mind confused. She looked up at Ranveer in confusion, before he spoke softly.
"That's us. Our story. Till yesterday." Ishaani gave Ranveer a blank look for a few moments before it hit her. She gasped, as she brushed through the pages once again, this time paying more attention. Instantly, she could see all the incidents play out that had happened with them in the past eight month, and she stuttered in stunned fascination.
"This is... extraordinary. Wherever did you get the idea from?"
"It was the day you left your copy of Hamlet with me. I had decided that day that I'd re-write our story. And I did." Ishaani stared at him in shock before she spoke finally.
"Where on Earth do you even get such bizarre ideas from?! It’s lovely!" Ranveer gave her a flustered look.
"Told you. You can't compete with it." Ishaani smiled slowly, her features suddenly sharp and more confident as ever, as she slowly pulled out a small giftwrapped box from her drawer by the bed stand. She handed the box over to Ranveer, a deep look in her eyes and the latter opened it a newfound excitement, before a small box was visible. Burrowing his eyebrows as he opened the box, he saw a key looking back at him.
He raised his head to look into Ishaani's dazzling pair of onyx eyes, his own ones projecting confusion.
"Sunny, a key?" Ishaani nodded her head and spoke softly.
"It's the key." Ranveer looked puzzled for a couple of minutes before understanding dawned over him. His eyes widened in shock as he stared at the key in a revered devotion, raising his head up once again to affirm his question with Ishaani. The latter nodded her head, a loving smile on her face.
"Six months ago, I entrusted you with a box. A box that contains my past. I told you that day that I was entrusting you with a locked past. The day we have each other's trust whole, you will be able to unlock it."
"And, you entrust me with the key?"
"No, I entrust you with my trust. There is no one that I trust more than you, Ranveer. Not even myself."
Ranveer stared at her silently for a couple of minutes in deep silence, before his eyes became moist. He could see Ishaani's eyes moist as well and gave her a hug. The next ten minutes passed on with both of them in each other's arms, silently taking in the other's scent while they basked in the glory of what they were entrusted. Knowledge and trust were both imparted to each other, and all they could do was thank their stars in appreciation.
Breaking apart from their embrace, Ranveer and Ishaani smiled at each other, before he made her sit down on the bed. He walked over to the cupboard and brought out the box that Ishaani had entrusted him. He kept it in between them and slowly put the key inside the keyhole and turned it. The lock clinked, and Ranveer smiled nervously at Ishaani. She, however, simply held his hand and gave him a reassuring look.
Ranveer opened the lid of the box and suddenly felt a mixture of emotions that he had never felt before - a thrill yet a fear, an elation yet an apprehension, pride yet shame. Ishaani's grip on his hand became stronger and Ranveer looked up to see Ishaani give him a strong look. He nodded his head and removed the first item from the box, her mangalsutra. Ranveer shut his eyes and ran his fingers through it as the chain evoked several memories in his mind, both pleasant and vice-versa. He opened his eyes and saw Ishaani give him an unsure look and he spoke reassuringly.
"Don't worry. I won't reopen my old wounds. Because they no longer exist." Ishaani smiled in understanding and Ranveer proceeded.
Ranveer pulled out his chain with the bullet locket attached to it. He quickly tossed it aside without giving it another look and Ishaani sighed. Next, he pulled out a small box of kumkum that he quickly realized was her sindoor. He kept it aside with care and noticed two different pairs of a few broken pieces of bangles, both having dried blood over them. It didn't take him a moment to figure out at what point of time they belonged to.
Sighing, as regret welled up in his chest, he removed a dried rose along with two movie tickets from the box, and he smiled, distant memories playing in his mind. Keeping them aside, he removed the two letters that were placed carefully in the box.
Taking the first letter in his hand, he opened it and soon realized that it was the last letter he had written to her before their life took a turn for the worst. He smiled as the emotions behind the letter stirred up in his heart, his mind still ablaze with the emotions he had written them with. Smiling distantly with the bittersweet thoughts, he kept it aside and opened the second letter.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Ishaani flinch slightly. Raising his head up, he noticed that Ishaani's pallor had paled slightly. He gave her a concerned look and she shook her head vigorously
"Love, if you don't want me to read it, it's completely alright."
"I trust you with it." Ranveer gave her an unsure look but she now gave him a determined now. Nodding his head, he opened the letter, reading it slowly.
It took him barely two moments to surmise that the letter was written by her mother to her during her initial days in Greece. After reaching the end of the letter, Ranveer looked up in pain and Ishaani gave a blank look.
"It's the only letter Maa replied to out of the dozens I've written to her. She told me that the only time I would truly gain her forgiveness was when I set things straight with you."
"Why hasn't she replied in those six months then?"
"Because she knows I have someone who loves me unconditionally now." Ranveer and Ishaani looked at each other guiltily and spent the next few minutes in a sticky silence. After a few minutes, Ranveer spoke slowly.
"I notice that you have no particular keepsakes from your time in Greece."
"All the keepsakes are in the room. The only keepsake that I have from before my time here is Nitin uncle's clock that he'd gifted me four years back." Ranveer gave her an empty look for a few moments before he spoke hoarsely.
"This is a terrible yet beautiful privilege."
"Isn't everything now?" Ranveer and Ishaani gave each other a meaningful look before they kissed each other slowly. Breaking apart, they smiled at each other, before Ishaani spoke softly.
"Always." Ishaani smiled at him and quickly helped him rearrange the box back in order before Ranveer kept the box back in the cupboard along with the ring. Ishaani kept the book in the side table drawer, where she noticed a certain Hamlet copy that wasn't in her drawer till the afternoon.
Smiling at Ranveer as he saw that she'd noticed the book, he slid into bed while she did the same. Shutting off the lamps, they cuddled up to each other before both of them fell asleep the same way.
The Valentine fever had certainly begun to abate.