Chapter 50: The Key to the Truth
Ranveer entered the room the next day to see Ishaani sitting in the armchair, reading the book he had written to her. Smiling, he gently cleared his throat. Ishaani looked at him vibrantly as he sat at the coffee table.
"Liking it so far?" Ishaani smiled as she kept a bookmark within and shut the book.
"Yes, it’s extraordinary." Ranveer smiled and asked curiously.
"How far did you reach?" Ishaani shrugged her shoulder, giving the book a casual glance before she got up and kept it back into the drawer.
"30% of the book." Ranveer felt his jaw drop in surprise, before he regained his composure.
"That fast, huh?" Ishaani gave him a non-committal look as Ranveer got up, and came to sit right beside Ishaani, who now sat on the bed instead.
"I was curious to know. You know, I've read thousands of books in these three years, but this one beats it all. Its feels so... surreal. Reading about us like this."
"Yeah, it certainly is surreal." Both of them gave each other a look of mutual understanding, before Ishaani asked animatedly.
"Which reminds me, when would you get time to get this written?" Ranveer gave her a keen look.
"For the first two months, it was easy, given that we stayed at different places. Once you started staying with me, I had to be a little careful given that you popped up at the most bizarre times." Ishaani gave him a flustered look.
"My apologies for those." Ranveer jerked his head in acknowledgement.
"Accepted. But these past two months were the trickiest."
"But I managed it nonetheless." Ishaani smiler at him sweetly, before she gave him a curious look.
"I noticed something funny today." Ranveer frowned at her, his tone now taking on a bewildered note.
"When I opened my bed side drawer in the morning and removed both your book as well as my copy of Hamlet, there was a minute where the wind swept in and sent the pages ruffling. It was when the pages settled back and co-incidentally stopped over the opening page of both the books did I realize it. My copy of Hamlet says 'Ishaani Parekh', but the copy you gave me has it as 'Ishaani Vaghela'. This book that you've given me - it’s not just about our story now, is it? It’s also my journey from Ishaani Parekh to Ishaani Vaghela. Am I right or am I right?"
Ranveer gave her an impressed look.
"The latter." Ishaani grazed his cheeks slowly, before kissing him.
"You are too mysteriously attractive." Ranveer felt himself turn red, while Ishaani chuckled at his reaction.
"That's the fun in it. Speaking of fun, you have all the arrangements in order now, don't you?" Ishaani nodded her head solemnly, now taking on an authoritative tone.
"Yes. I've sent out the invites and got the decorations ready with the helpers. I've kept the gathering small enough, just like you wanted it." Ranveer nodded his head appreciatively.
"Good." Ishaani stared at Ranveer deeply for a few minutes before she asked hesitantly.
"I've noticed something." Ranveer looked puzzled.
"You never keep any business parties here. You attend a lot of them, taking me along most of the time, but you never host them here. Why?" Ranveer smiled sheepishly before shrugging his shoulders.
"I don't know... maybe, fits the profile I've made about myself. Nobody knows me and my personal life. I'd prefer to keep it that way." Ishaani nodded her head in agreement, before she smiled.
"That's sensible enough, I guess."
That evening, the mansion took on its glorious avatar once again, the house sufficiently decorated to please the eyes, the view never becoming too loud. Ishaani sat in front of the mirror, struggling with the bows of her stunning red gown, when Ranveer entered the room, his eye instantly catching her breath-taking attire.
They smiled at each other through the reflection of the mirror and Ranveer walked up to her, leaving a small kiss on her cheek as she stood up. Ranveer couldn't help but admire the way the gown floated about her. Ranveer smiled as she blushed a little.
"Need some help?" Ishaani pulled her perfectly set-up hair to the side, tilting her head towards the untied strings of her gown.
"Just tie up the bows please. I'd have called Claudine, but she's feeding the kids." Ranveer nodded his head and slowly caught hold of the strings that needed to be tied up. Adjusting them through the loops properly, he spoke tentatively.
"So... are you ready?" Ishaani let out a sigh.
"I guess so. How is Martin doing?" Ranveer smiled, the question expected to him.
"Oh, he's fine." Ishaani nodded her head before she remembered something more important.
"Did he get the appointment letter?"
"Oh yes. Just came back from the office with that. He'll be starting work from tomorrow. The company he's working with luckily is with a multinational UK-based firm, so atleast the depressive markets won't be a major setback for his job." Ishaani nodded her head as she felt Ranveer tightly pull the bows around her dress, so that it stood perfectly. Ranveer gave her an apologetic look as she winced slightly.
"What about the accommodations?" Ranveer pulled the next set of bows carefully, replying absent-mindedly.
"Martin says that he's currently on a six-month probation period. Once he becomes a permanent employee, he'll receive the accommodation as well. It'll be a two-bedroom condo in Vouliagmeni."
"So atleast we have them over for the next six months. It's good enough."
"True." Both of them remained silent for a few minutes before Ranveer spoke slowly. "There is something I need to talk to you about."
"What is it?" Seeing a crease of worry appear over his features, Ishaani spoke with concern. "Is everything alright?"
"It depends upon once I tell you." Ranveer knotted the bow together and Ishaani turned around. She cupped Ranveer's cheek lovingly, before speaking with an assurance in her voice.
"Don't worry. I'm sure we'll figure it out."
The evening progressed animatedly as Ranveer and Ishaani took rounds amongst the guests, making sure they were comfortable and were enjoying the party, while making sure to have Martin and Claudine well-introduced to the guests who were neither family nor friends of the two.
It was after considerable time passed on that Ranveer walked over the stage, a glass of champagne in his hand. He clinked his glass loud enough so that it caught the attention of all the guests.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please?" Conversation ceased in the room as everyone turned their attention towards Ranveer. He smiled graciously, before speaking in a booming voice.
"I have three announcements to make. First, we all know that this party has been hosted in the honour of Martin and Claudine, who have recently become proud parents of twins." A round of applause flew about the entire room while Martin and Claudine were bombarded with new waves of good wishes for the kids. The crowd sobering after some time, Ranveer continued.
"Second, Martin has recently been hired as the Chief Economic Analyst at the Billiton Centre." Another huge round of applause went around the room like an electric wave, everyone pouring their well-wishes over Martin, while a few whistles accompanied the announcement. Martin could be seen left flustered, and both Ranveer and Ishaani chuckled over his harried yet pleased face. The excited chatter took some time to stop before Ranveer spoke again.
"And third, Ishaani and myself have been married for five years now," Conversation continued once again, this time much more abuzz, while Ranveer signaled Ishaani to come and join him. Ishaani walked over towards him, a coy smile on her face, while Ranveer held her hand in his own. He continued. "Circumstances forced us to separate three years ago, but fate has been kind with us now." The guests fell completely silent, waiting for the next part of the sentence. "The two of us will be getting married again soon enough."
A huge round of whooping went around the living room, most of it accompanied by catcalls and wolf-whistles. Ranveer and Ishaani were swarmed by most of the guests who were curious enough to know how it all happened, and it took both of them nearly half an hour before the guests sobered down.
"Now, now, we will certainly tell our story. But first, let us celebrate the three reasons as to why we have gathered over here today. Let's have some music!"
"The party was a sure hit." Ranveer looked at Ishaani, who looked exhausted as she finally crept her way up over the bed.
"Oh yeah. I'm glad it turned out well. Wanted the babies to have their little celebration. Even Martin actually seemed to have a good time." Ranveer nodded his head in agreement, while he slowly drained his mug of coffee.
"Yeah. And I'm glad that he has finally shed behind his past and walked towards the future." Ranveer smiled in understanding.
"Funny, how a child can change so much." Ishaani gave him a distant look, some unknown memory cropping up in her mind.
"It's how parents are. They'll face hell themselves, but won't let anything touch their kids." Ishaani turned to look at Ranveer and smiled at him. However, her smile faltered away when she noticed his disturbed look. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, actually." When Ishaani narrowed her eyes in his direction, Ranveer sighed. "You touched upon the matter upon what I wanted to talk to you about." Ishaani frowned at him, her tone hesitant.
"You want to talk about kids? Or rather, do you want to talk about us having a kid?" Ranveer felt a blush creep up his face before he spoke quickly.
"No, none of the two."
"Then what is it?" Ranveer gave her a pondering look before he spoke slowly.
"I want to talk about Mota Babuji. About what happened to him that night." Ishaani's pallor paled slightly and she looked at Ranveer fearfully.
"Ranveer, are you sure this is the right time for it?" Ranveer gave a decisive look, his gaze meeting her own in a new defiance.
"It cannot be any other time." Ishaani gave him an unsure look before she admitted ashamedly.
"It's just... I don't feel ready to know the truth." Ranveer held her hand in his own, rubbing it affectionately.
"You are ready." Ishaani looked at him puzzled.
"How can you say so?"
"You trusted me with the key." Ishaani's bewilderment was evident as she phrased her next question.
"And how does that relate to this?" Ranveer stroked her cheek and smiled lovingly.
"When you mentioned about the box and the past related to it, I was certain that it was only the day you would give me the key to the box only when you were ready to face it. And last night, you proved my theory. You walked beside me through our memories of the past and walked out of it unscathed. I know that you are ready. All you need to do is stand your ground." Ishaani's look of fear crept back over her features and Ranveer could feel that shiver in her tone.
"And what if I can't?"
"Then know that I'm standing right beside you. Trust me." Both of them stared at each other for a couple of minutes before Ishaani nodded her head vigorously.
"Alright." Ranveer kissed her hand, before asking gently.
"Okay. Now tell me, what do you want to know?" Ishaani gave the question a good thought before she spoke firmly.
"Okay." Taking a deep breath, Ranveer spoke slowly, choosing his words with care. "The first thing that you must know is that Mota Babuji's death was an accident, it wasn't a murder." Ishaani sat still for a few minutes before she muttered a weak 'Oh'. Ranveer shut his eyes painfully.
"If you don't want me to continue-"
"No. As you said, I'm ready. It’s about time I know the truth. The whole truth," stressed Ishaani, and Ranveer nodded his head, reassuring himself. After a few moments of hesitation, he spoke strongly.
"Okay. As you know, it was Diwali night. Mota Babuji was working late in the office," Ishaani held up her hand slowly, an embarrassed look on her face.
"I don't mean to keep cutting you like that, but who called him to the office that night?" Ranveer sighed heavily before he replied, his voice barely above a whisper.
"I did." Ishaani stared at him wide-eyed for a moment before she composed herself.
"Because Mota Babuji had told me to call him the time the shares of my company were listed in the IPO." Ishaani's eyebrows burrowed in confusion.
"I don't get it." Ranveer nodded his head and started his narrative from a new point.
"After I left the Parekh house, I started working as an assistor for shares and finance for a company. The share markets were getting into depression. Companies couldn't afford to invest into shares anymore so I lost my job. However, I wanted to start my own venture in the stock market, for which I needed finance. I had made several contacts in those three months who were ready to finance me but I still needed more funds.”
“And then one day, I ran into Mota Babuji. We hadn't seen each other in those three months after he had bailed me out from jail. But somehow, once we got to talking, I came to know that he was facing losses due to the share company crisis. I told him about my idea. He was ready to buy the shares of my company. That night, I called him saying that the shares had been listed in the evening stock market. He called me over to his office. I went there, he gave me his blessings and I opened up the portal for him from where he had to buy the shares."
Ishaani looked at him frightfully, as though afraid the truth would scar her.
"What happened next?"
"I left. But from then on, what I know is a narrative." Ishaani nodded her head once again, before mouthing the next words slowly.
"Go on." Ranveer continued cautiously, weighing his words carefully.
"After I left, as you know, someone else was with Mota Babuji. It was your father." Ishaani gave him a blank look before it turned into one of stricken horror. Ishaani barely managed to find her voice before it left her in a hoarse whisper.
"Yes. Your father came to meet Mota Babuji that night." Ishaani looked aghast, her pallor now reaching grey.
"He wanted to talk about you." Ranveer could make out the slight contempt in her voice as she spoke reproachfully.
"After all these years..." Ranveer cut Ishaani hastily as the latter's sentence trailed off abruptly.
"Before conversation could happen properly, the electricity went off. Your father went to the circuit room to see for the switch board while Mota Babuji was arranging the wires. When your father switched on the circuits, Mota Babuji was arranging a live wire in his hand. You know what happened next. It was an accident." Ishaani shut her eyes as she felt a tear escape her eyes. She asked in a soft voice.
"All these years, his existence didn't matter because Papa was always my father. And he always will be. But him..." Ranveer sensed the line of argument that was coming his way and he spoke honestly.
"Mota Babuji asked me to reunite you and Falguni Ma with him as his dying wish." Ishaani looked at him silently and Ranveer continued, sighing deeply.
"Your father tried to revive him but he had lost consciousness. He rushed him to the hospital, where the doctors tried their best, but it didn't work. Mota Babuji lived long enough for me to reach the hospital and to give me his dying wish. Your father was horrified with what had happened. He was ready to own up to the police, but it would lead to much more procedures and legal cases.”
“I asked for a special autopsy. They told me that there was no sign of foul play and gave me evidence supporting it. It's why I requested the doctors to let him give you the ROD as cardiac arrest. Didn't want more trauma or any more investigations into something that would very well turn ugly unnecessarily. You, on the other hand found out the truth. And in a way, I was right. The truth did lead to a lot of mess."
Ishaani stared at him aghast before she gulped guiltily, truly understanding in essence her grave errors and her mistake in judgements.
"I'm sorry." Ranveer gave her a confused look as Ishaani refused to meet eyes with him.
"Because I screwed up this bad without knowing anything. Oh God, this is bad." Ranveer raised her chin up so that her teary eyes met his own tired ones.
"Ishaani, don't do it. Don't open wounds that are nearly non-existent now. Please." Ishaani looked like she was fighting a thousand battles within before she nodded with difficulty, her eyes brimmed up. Ranveer pulled her in for a hug, the two of them remaining in the same position for more than half an hour before Ishaani spoke.
"My father... do you know him?" Ranveer looked at her curiously, aware of the fact that the time had come.
"Yes. In fact, you know him very well too. I'd say even better than me." Ishaani couldn't help but keep the shock out of her voice as she questioned him disbelievingly.
"We've met before?" Ranveer gave her an intent look.
"Yes. Several times. Curiously enough, he has been your knight in a shining armour in the time you needed a loved one the most." Something clicked in Ishaani's mind as she asked him fearfully.
"Who is he?" Ranveer shut his eyes in a silent prayer as he finally spoke out the name.