Chapter 51: Love Me Like You Do
Ishaani stared at him in stunned disbelief. She couldn't believe what she had just heard but somewhere deep down in her heart, she realized that she knew it all along. She always knew that she shared a connection with Nitin, something much closer than there should have been, but she knew it now. She couldn't understand what she should have been feeling in that moment, but she knew that she felt hollow. Devoid of any emotion except for the fact that her world had gone dark, her demons suddenly overcoming her senses.
Her world suddenly erupted into a fit of darkness, where Ishaani no longer knew what to do next. Any step she decided to take seemed to drift her across several miles behind, yet she stood stationary, letting the moment flow by. She had never felt more afraid as much as in that moment, her breath getting choked out of herself in suffocation as she felt her demons create a strong wall around her, drowning any hope that light would ever break through.
As though her mental agony was brought out in the light, Ishaani felt a zap of current course through her veins that dissipated the darkness and threw a cold splash of reality against her face. She looked at Ranveer, who gave her a penetrating look and she blinked at him dumbly. She looked below to see his hand over hers, instantly understanding the source of the sensation of being shocked.
She looked up again to find Ranveer staring at her seriously, some unknown emotion in his eyes that somehow made her heart fall cold. She had only ever seen that look in his eyes once when the two of them had come face to face at Martha's party after their estrangement, and the memory of it wasn't what she fancied.
Ranveer kept his hand over her own continuously, and Ishaani suspected that it was the only thing tethering her to reality - the warm touch of his skin against her own. Ranveer let some time pass by before he spoke softly.
"Don't do it. Please." Ishaani stared at him bewildered, at a loss as to what Ranveer meant to tell her before he spoke passionately. "I can read you. You just let your demons loose. Lock them up before they engulf you whole."
Ishaani nodded her head weakly before the room fell silent again. Ishaani distantly fell Ranveer pull her into his arms as she shut her eyes, ready to fight a battle that she very well knew that she would lose. Somehow, Ranveer's warm embrace kept her tethered to reality at the same time, her heart constantly reminding her that his warmth was still enveloping her.
Ishaani finally snapped her eyes open, surprised at the change in the ambience of the room. Ishaani could make out that dawn would break out at any moment. Yet her mind pushed aside that information, for it was now involved in developing her senses.
Ishaani could still feel Ranveer's arms around her, his breathing even. She slowly writhed her way out of his embrace that made his arms jerk in surprise, both of their gazes meeting in the process. Ishaani noticed that Ranveer had been waiting for her to speak all that time, making sure that she had his shoulder weighing her demons as well.
She looked up drowsily and sighed, as he placed a small kiss on her temple. She spoke absent-mindedly.
"You know, as a child, when Maa told me why he left us, I hated it. Him. For me, he never existed because I had Papa with me. I never felt the need to know about my other father. He raised me as his own, nurtured me with his values, always treated me the best and above all the other children of the family. It was only when he... passed away that I realized what I had lost. What he had sheltered me from. I was lost, broken. I'd lost you first, and then him. I forgot what it was to be independent because all these years, I had been thriving over the love the two of you gave me. By the time you came back into my life, it was too late. I'd lost my innocence and was thrown into a world which I was not ready for. Somehow, you gave me a newfound strength to pull on. To live life, rather than simply survive. But when I was made to believe that you were the reason my father was no more, I was mad with rage. I couldn't understand how you dared to take my father away from me. We both know what happened next."
"If you are talking about that night," Ranveer looked at her helplessly, but Ishaani continued in the same dazed tone, that somehow seemed to frighten Ranveer more than anything else.
"No, not that night. The previous one. The one where I told you that I hated you." The reaction was spontaneous over Ranveer's face as he flinched in pain, as though suddenly burned. Ishaani sighed painfully and continued.
"I broke the base of our relationship that night. Trust, friendship, communication, love... everything. I should have known you better, I should have trusted you better, and I should have known that if you were keeping the truth away from me, there would be a good reason. But I didn't. I sought to believe my mind over my heart. And I screwed up big time." Ranveer now looked abashed, the facts of the night painful enough for him to revisit.
"Ishaani, you don't have to-" Ishaani cut him like she didn't hear him.
"Even though I crushed your heart and lost your trust, you gave me the closest thing to a father that I could have at that time. Nitin Uncle and I formed a close bond in those days and I came to consider him as my father-figure. Funny, how ironical it was." Ranveer shook his head in panic, as he realized that Ishaani was taking it as bad as he was expecting her too. He strengthened his hold over her hand and Ishaani's eyes glazed, the blank look leaving it. Ranveer mentally heaved a sigh of relief before he spoke hoarsely.
"Ishaani, I never meant to keep the truth away from you," Ishaani shook her head, a tear now escaping her eye.
"I know, but it was there nonetheless. I would always wonder why Nitin Uncle had much more access to our house than all your other associates, who you always treated as professional acquaintances, nothing more. I should have known... I should have known that there was more to what I could see." Ranveer felt something break within him as he saw Ishaani's distress dance in her eyes with a manic and reckless glint.
"Ishaani, look at me. Please." Ishaani turned a pair of teary eyes in his direction and spoke slowly.
"Papa made you promise him, didn't he? He wanted you to make sure that Maa and I forgave him." Ranveer nodded his head slowly, glad that Ishaani saw things from his point now, unlike the last time when tragedy struck them. He saw Ishaani's lips quivering for words she was no longer capable to derive before he pulled her chin up, her eyes meeting his own again.
"The main question now is not what happened in the past. It's what's to happen now." Ishaani's teary-look faltered to be replaced with that of a puzzled one.
"What do you mean?" Ranveer braced himself for what arenas his question was about to open, taking the plunge swiftly.
"Will you be able to forgive him and accept him in your life?" Ishaani stared at him silently for an infinitesimal amount of time before she answered blankly.
"I don't know."
Ranveer nodded at her solemnly as the dawn's first rays broke through the room, illuminating the glittering frame with the quote. The flash caught the attention of both and they looked at each other, sighing tiredly. Ishaani slowly laid her head over Ranveer's lap and shut her eyes, letting the light in the room wash over the darkness clouded in her mind. Ranveer stroked her hair gently, whispering soothing words to her and she curled up closer to him, her fists catching the material of his sweatshirt in a frenzied grip. Ranveer kissed her head gently, before Ishaani asked him drowsily.
"Why is life this harsh with the two of us? Why can't time and fate ever let our wounds heal?" Ranveer shrugged his shoulders simply, his mind still running over the new facts they'd discovered about each other.
"It's because some wounds don't need time and fate to heal them. All they need is a reason to get healed, so that it can learn to live, rather than simply survive." Ishaani looked up at him and gave him a tired look, while Ranveer smiled sheepishly.
"Oh shut up." Ranveer smiled at her sadly, as she snuggled closer to him.
"I'm glad that it helped." Ishaani shut her eyes once again and felt herself drift into another world altogether, Ranveer following her almost instantly.
The next few days passed without any event. The house now grew silent, as Martin would leave early in the morning along with Ranveer and Ishaani and would only return back at 7 in the evening. Ishaani and Ranveer barely got time with each other as their schedules had begun getting the better of them, both of them only getting sufficient time to spend with the kids.
Claudine had now overtaken Martin's duties at home, taking the fullest of her maternity leave and making sure to manage the house's responsibilities single-handedly. Ranveer and Ishaani were more than grateful for the help they had been getting and made sure to atleast pay her back by giving the kids their fullest.
But apart from their schedules, Ranveer knew that Ishaani had found a newfound distraction in her work that was steadily helping her overcome the shock of what she had discovered about her father. Ranveer was happy that she was not angry with him and that she was in fact thankful and proud of his that he had the guts to tell her the truth.
But then again, he knew that even though Ishaani kept reassuring him that she was on terms with everything she had found out, the fact remained that she was using her work as a distraction to reel in everything. Ranveer kept silent, afraid to bring up anything with her that would put her off, but he knew that he would have to intervene soon enough.
However, it was during the last day of February when Ishaani woke up suddenly in the middle of the night in cold sweats that Ranveer finally decided that he would have to put his foot down before history could repeat itself in an ugly recurrence.
The dawn of the February morning was warm and was the first one that marked the arrival of the upcoming, blooming March. Both of them were having a quick breakfast, when Ranveer decided to bring up the point.
"Sunny, I need to talk to you." Ishaani wiped her mouth over the napkin piece and nodded her head in acknowledgement.
"What about?" Ranveer drained his glass of juice and spoke swiftly.
"What I told you two weeks ago." Ishaani stared at him silently before she sighed.
"Can it wait till evening? I have an urgent meeting with the Board today." Ranveer studied her features closely before he got the message. Rubbing his temple ruefully, he spoke grudgingly.
"Alright, but I need to talk with you in the evening. Period." Ishaani looked at him unsure, but she nodded her head nonetheless.
Evening quickly turned into night, and Ranveer entered home late, cursing his luck at the sudden notice that had come from the Government stating about the temporary change in the economic policies due to the countries steadily depleting markets. Ranveer made his way straight to his room, sure that he had lost the chance of having a conversation with Ishaani when he swung open the door and stood surprised.
Ishaani stood in front of the mirror, wearing a navy blue taffeta dress that came up to her knees. She was tying up the bow behind her dress when she saw Ranveer staring at her. She smiled at him as he entered, his mind dazed with her attire's effect on her, his tiredness and irritation seeping away instantly. She walked up to him and kissed him lovingly as he pulled her into his arms, his mind evaporating into another world altogether.
Separating reluctantly, Ranveer leaned his head against Ishaani's own, before the latter spoke softly.
"Had a rough day?" Ranveer shook his head in a disgruntled manner, and Ishaani clicked her tongue sympathetically.
"Don't ask. How was your meeting with the Board?" Ishaani smiled gently, something she had done for the first time in that fortnight. Ranveer smiled in return, her smile infecting his distressed mind within seconds.
"Oh it was good. They wanted me to represent Neapolitan City in the Summer Book Fair Camp that'll be hosted in April." Ranveer gave her a broad smile as he could see how it made her happy.
"That's great!" Ishaani looked at him suggestively and then at her dress. He gave her an impressed look before frowning slightly. "But what's with the dress?" Ishaani smiled coyly.
"Oh, I was just trying it out. I bought it for the Fair." Ranveer nodded his head happily while Ishaani glowed in the halter neck that made her arms stand out milky-white in the dim glow of the lamplights.
"It looks beautiful." Ishaani blushed freely and hugged him suddenly. Ranveer was momentarily taken aback before he enveloped her whole, taking in the scent of the strawberry essence of her hair.
"I'm glad you liked it." Both of them stood satiated in each other's arms before Ranveer spoke softly.
"How come you are still awake? It's almost 11:30." Ishaani sighed slowly before she purred drowsily.
"I was waiting for you." Ranveer slowly broke the hug and gave Ishaani a bewildered look.
"Because you said you wanted to talk to me." Ranveer stared at her queasily for a moment, before he spoke tiredly.
"Sunny, what’s going on with you?" Ishaani looked at him guiltily, averting her eyes away from his own for the first time that evening.
"Ranveer, trust me, I'm alright."
"Is that why you were sobbing in your sleep in the night?" Ishaani remained silent for a few minutes before she spoke softly.
"Then give it a shot." Ishaani gave him an obstinate look but Ranveer only stared at her pleadingly. She sighed in resignation before speaking sadly.
"I want to leave this behind me. Both of us have given up our pasts so that we can live in the present. Somehow, I find myself incapable of doing that in this case."
"Why?" Ishaani gave him a haughty look.
"What kind of a question is that?"
"Ishaani, tell me the truth. What's going on?" Ishaani gave him an uncomfortable look and Ranveer smiled, knowing that he had finally hit the right spot.
"What do you mean?" Ranveer gave her a shrewd look before speaking finally.
"This is not entirely about your father. If you were cross that I had kept the truth away from you for all this time, you would have not been speaking to me. And somewhere along, this isn't even about him. Because from what I've been able to surmise, deep down, you'd made the connection long ago. All you needed was for the veil to fall. You are upset, yes, but it's not the entire cause of the misery you have been in these days, try as much as you to hide it from me. All I can think about is that it's something got to do with us. Or rather, about the dynamics of our relationship back then."
Ishaani gave him a guilty look before she spoke softly.
"I broke the first aid rule." Ranveer shook her head and corrected her statement.
"You re-opened a wound that did not exist. That's why you are this conflicted." Ishaani let her fingers run through her hair, while she shut her eyes in despair.
"What am I going to do? I feel lost... disconnected. It’s as though I can see my life getting wasted in front of me, yet I'm not ready to let go of something that doesn't even exist. I think I'll go mad if this continues." Ishaani opened her eyes and saw Ranveer staring at her painfully, his voice now restricted to a whisper.
"If you feel like that, then give me your pain, your demons." Ishaani shook her head vehemently, a look of terrified fear on her face.
"I cannot do that."
"You have your own share of demons waiting to engulf you... I will not have it on my conscious to let you take over my own ones as well." Ranveer's eyes widened in shock as Ishaani gave him a scrutinizing look. He gave her a hesitant shrug before speaking with a newfound yearning.
"Then let me heal you." Ishaani looked at Ranveer guiltily before she shook her head.
"Why do you love me so much?" Ranveer look surprised.
"What kind of a question is that?"
"Alright. It’s because you are the best thing that ever happened to me. You were the best gift God could ever give me." Ishaani gave him a disapproving look and Ranveer smiled at him sheepishly.
"You let me get away with too much."
"Maybe, that's because you are worth it."
Ishaani slowly pulled Ranveer's face close to her own, so that their lips met in a secure touch once again. They felt a strange comfort as their lips moved in sync, as they felt their minds fading away into the oblivion of love, the demons suddenly vanquished. Both of them smiled against each other's lips as his hand made its way to her bare back, the ribbon of her bow in his hand.
Parting away once again, Ishaani looked at him sweetly, biting her lip.
"Can I ask you something?"
"If you love your gift so much, would you mind unwrapping it?" Ranveer couldn't help but laugh as Ishaani turned her back at him. He pulled out the ribbons of the bow, before he spoke tantalizingly.