Chapter 52: Till Death Do Us Apart
Martha walked about the library impatiently when Ishaani entered, looking highly flustered and harried. Martha gave her a disapproving look, while Ishaani quickly straightened out her dress, giving the former an apologetic look.
"Martha, I'm so sorry!" Martin shook her head firmly and gave her a scrutinizing look.
"Sweetie, its 10 am. Would you care explaining why you are this late?" Ishaani gave her an embarrassed look before she stuttered.
"I... we... I mean, I..." Martha clicked her tongue in disapproval, while Ishaani bent her head low. However, Martha couldn't help but let a smile twitch on her lips, indicating a give-away.
"Hmmm... so do I take it that you've overcome your predicament?" Ishaani looked at Martha awkwardly before nodding her head ashamedly.
"Yes." Martha gave her a smile before speaking admiringly.
"Ranveer is a master, I must say." Ishaani blushed furiously while Martha smirked. "Well, you are such an introspective person. It takes talent to break through that stiff brain and façade of yours." Ishaani rolled her eyes in Martha's direction as the two of them walked towards the desk.
"Must you exaggerate it this much?"
"It's true, you know." Martha took a seat at the desk while Ishaani quickly ran through the records of the day. After some time, Ishaani spoke softly.
"I'm really, really sorry that I'm late. It won't happen next time." Martha gave her a keen look before giving her an acknowledging nod.
"Good. Now just call Sebastian and ask him about the copies of The Kite Runner that were supposed to arrive yesterday. I've already had a reader asking me about it today." Ishaani nodded her head swiftly and Martha handed over a list in her hand.
"Alright, I'll get back to him."
Ishaani returned home at 4 in the evening, shivering thoroughly. Claudine had just left the kitchen, wiping her forehead swiftly when she saw Ishaani's shaky silhouette. She swiftly rushed over to Ishaani as she saw the latter collapsing over the sofa, muttering something inaudible.
"Ishaani? Ishaani!" When Ishaani didn't make to respond anything except for stare wide-eyed at her, Claudine bit her lip in worry. Quickly making up her mind, she yelled out in the direction of the study room. "Ranveer! Martin!" Within the next minute, both of them rushed out into the hall to see Claudine giving some instructions to one another helper, while Ishaani sat dumbstruck on the couch.
Ranveer quickly rushed to sit over the sofa and pulled Ishaani into his arms, rubbing her back in fast circles. Martin and Claudine shared a look of common understanding before he left the hall slowly. Ranveer separated himself from the hug and took Ishaani's hands in his own, only to realize that they were icy cold. He cupped Ishaani's cheek and looked into her eyes soulfully, his tone worried.
"Honey, what happened? What's wrong?" Ishaani felt tears escape her eyes and Ranveer felt afraid. "Sunny, I cannot help you unless you tell me what's wrong." Martin returned back to the hall with a glass of brandy in his hand. He handed over the glass of brandy to Ranveer, who made Ishaani drink a sip of it swiftly. The brandy seemed to have done its work, for after a couple of moments, Ishaani clutched at Ranveer's shirt tightly, her eyes staring into his own panic-stricken ones.
"Sebastien." Ranveer looked at her confused, her reply completely unexpected.
"Sebastien? You mean, the library's supplier, Sebastien?" Ishaani nodded her head, speaking hoarsely.
"Yes." Ranveer gave her a bewildered look, still oblivious to where the conversation was going.
"What about him?"
"He's no more." Ranveer felt a cry of shock escape his lips and more tears flowed out from Ishaani's eyes. Ranveer looked at Ishaani with a newfound comprehension dawning over him, understanding what had got her in such a state. "Didn't he get married to Carla two months ago?"
"Yes... yes! Do you see it, Ranveer? Do you see it? They loved each other so much! Carla has a child on the way! But death did them apart, Ranveer, death did them apart!" Ishaani's grip over Ranveer's shirt slackened as the two of them shared a glance that spoke a thousand words of worry, fear and uncertainty.
Ishaani blinked her eyes a couple of times as she found her vision blurring steadily. Ranveer stared at her frozen for a couple of moments before she passed out in his arms. Ranveer pulled her into his arms once again as he felt a tear leave his eye, before he lifted her up bridal-style. He carried her over to his room and laid her on the bed, covering her up swiftly.
Claudine and Martin entered the room as Ranveer now sat beside Ishaani, stroking her hair softly. Both of them silently took their seats on the coffee table before Ranveer spoke softly.
"What did you give her?" Claudine sighed and spoke regretfully.
"Brotine-Zero. She wasn't receiving to the shock well." Ranveer shook his head sadly and sighed.
"How long till she wakes up?"
"It'll be after 12-14 hours. She'll have a slight headache and a bit of disorientation as well, but it will do." Ranveer nodded his head and he sighed.
"Can I get a bit of that too?" Claudine gave him an outrageous look before shaking her head reproachfully.
"Don't be absurd. You are perfectly alright."
"Am I?" Both of them shared a look of mutual understanding and Claudine spoke wisely.
"That depends upon how you take it."
"I'm tired, Claudine. And I was fearing this particular day. And it's here." Claudine sighed, afraid that the day had come finally and that would mean more agony for the two people she loved the most.
"Just because death was there the last time, it doesn't mean that it should be there this time as well."
"I don't know, Claudine. It’s much less about that and much more about the reason behind why it kills her the way it does."
"Ranveer, Ishaani has worn out her ability to bearing any shock that relates to the two of you. Martin mentioned this point when you were hospitalized as well. Those four days have claimed her sense of security. And things around her make her paranoid. Especially death. You know as well as I do that she hasn't been able to overcome her fear of death. It's why she reacts the way she does."
Ranveer looked at himself reproachfully while Martin and Claudine shared a look of concern, experiences from the past coming to them uncannily.
"I hate that fact that I'm the cause of her misery."
"Ranveer, I really don't like preaching your own advice back to you. So please, don't do it. You know that your own fears are on the verge of cracking, ever since you told her the truth. So don't do it, please."
Ranveer looked at Claudine absent-mindedly and nodded. He was about to speak when they heard the sound of both the babies crying. Claudine shook her head and quickly rushed to the other room, while Martin looked at Ranveer sadly.
"What's on your mind, Martin? You've been strangely quiet all this time."
"I don't know what to say, Monsieur. Except that I'm afraid." Ranveer frowned at him, as Martin's cornflower gaze penetrated through his own brown ones.
"The two of you have conquered almost all your fears. All of them but one. I don't know why, Monsieur, but I can feel the clouds gathering again." Ranveer spoke absent-mindedly.
"I think it's what has been distressing her as well. I've noticed that she has become a little restless once again ever since I told her the truth about her father. The nightmares have returned, and she has been posing a calm that she doesn't even remotely feel."
"Monsieur, the two of you have fought through a lot. Your love has fought against destiny. All the two of you need to have is trust over your love. It will sail you through." Ranveer smiled at Martin ruefully and the latter knew that he was fighting a losing battle.
"It's not that easy, Martin. It never is."
Ishaani opened her eyes slowly, her mind eerily calm. The newfound peace of mind felt strange to her, as though she was blocking out on something big, something that needed to return to her soon enough. But she was happy to feel devoid of worry.
Yes, that's what it was. The memories and emotions came back to her automatically, filling her up whole, until she felt suffocated and nearly drowned in them. She tried to breathe but her breath was restricted, until she felt her eyes snap open. Ranveer sat beside her, staring at her sleeping form with his own share of worry on his face before he noticed that she was awake.
He smiled at her and she smiled back, still at a loss as to why she was asleep. The last thing that she remembered was... she tried to rack her mind but it wouldn't occur to her. Somehow, instinct told her that it'd occur to her eventually and she shut her eyes, letting the deep silence of the room calm her. She snapped her eyes open and saw Ranveer staring at her eerily, his eyes having a strange look.
Something about the way he stared at her frightened her greatly, and she quickly swung herself up, mentally cursing herself at the speed with which she hoisted herself that caused her to blackout for a moment. She caught on to something solid and opened her eyes after she felt strong enough, and realized that it was Ranveer's arms.
He stared at her in agony, his eyes haunted. She cupped his face in her palms, letting him sink within them, before he broke. Ishaani sat stunned, as she felt warm tears fall swiftly over hands, and she pulled his face up. Both of them stared at each other for a moment before Ranveer fell into her arms, his head slumped over her shoulder.
Ishaani caught him protectively in her embrace as she felt her basin of worries and fears emptying itself, replaced with an urgency to absorb Ranveer's own ones. The events of the day came back to her as she rubbed circles over his back, whispering soothing words and love and trust to him. She didn't know what pushed him to the level to crack, but she knew that she had to be there for him. She couldn't let him burn through the fire that she had burned through, and she would make sure to steer him away from it.
She did not know for how long he remained motionless in her arms, before a panic began stirring up in her chest. She gently separated him from herself and noticed that his figure had gone limp in her arms. She quickly lied him down on the bed, and rubbed his palms swiftly, slapping his face at the same time.
Ranveer stirred slowly after a few minutes, his breathing shallow. Ishaani quickly took the intercom in her hand and made to dial when Ranveer caught hold of her wrist.
"Ranveer, you are not well."
"You weren't doing that well either." Ishaani frowned at him before she touched his forehead slowly, tracing her fingers along its width.
"I'm sorry for scaring you the way I did. I was unreasonable." Ranveer remained silent for a few minutes, his eyes constantly drooping and then opening alertly. Ishaani tried to make a call several times, but in vain. Ranveer's grip on her wrist was strong enough to keep her intact. After some time, he spoke hoarsely.
"Do you know how it feels... to die?" Ishaani gave him a frightened look, as though the flame of his question had scorched her. She shook her head slowly, her eyes wide, a strange instinct taking over her senses, enhancing them enough to make them sharper.
"No. But how does it feel to die?"
"Its... warm. It’s like you are being taken away from a life full of sufferings into something much better, much homelier. It’s a momentary switch, you know, your world is filled with pain in that moment and all of a sudden, you feel a pair of warm arms encircle you, as though you are their progeny. You are pulled out of misery, to be taken to a better place, a satiation filling you up like you have never felt before. That's what it feels like." Ishaani looked at him curiously as the question slipped from her lips even before she was aware of it.
"And how did it feel like to get shot?" Ranveer's trance broke and he now looked at her aghast.
"Ishaani, don't open wounds for me again."
"I'm not opening a wound. I'm only bringing out a wound that was conveniently pushed aside to accommodate my wounds. It’s about time that you healed this wound for good." Ranveer gave her question a good thought, before he replied shakily.
"It's a… curious sensation. At first, it's just like a prick - the pain isn't evident; it's as though nothing happened to you. But the next moment, it’s as though you are swarmed by pain. Its hurts more and more as the blood leaves your body, excruciating pain such like you have never known. You are numb, disoriented, and aware in that fraction of a second about what has happened to you and about the person who is standing opposite to you before you start drowning. Drowning in the ocean of pain that has no shore. The pain pulls on to eternity, yet it’s just an infinitesimal amount of time. Your world dissolves into a one of darkness, where all you can do is beg for the pain to stop, before relief washes over you and you are pulled away to oblivion. But in those moments, all you can think and feel is pain. Pain that makes you bleed and that overwhelmes you to the extent where thoughts are obliterated. Your mental and emotional agonies are fused with your physical ones so that the three of them are strong enough to knock the breath out of you whole. It's ugly, the most brutal way to die..."
Ishaani looked at Ranveer painfully, her hand holding his own in a firm grip, while tears openly escaped her eyes. She shook her head, staring at him ruefully as he looked spent.
"You shouldn't have done it."
"What do you mean?"
"All these months, you were so involved in healing me that you left your major wounds untended to."
"Ishaani, your need was greater than mine."
"Wrong. The only time you showed me your weakness was the time you had your anxiety attack. That night when you kept saying that 'you died', you weren't telling me that, were you? You were telling that to yourself... you were telling it to the Ranveer that was suppressed underneath your cold and indifferent attitude. It was the same Ranveer who was shot that night, before you gave me another Ranveer altogether till we got separated. I'm right, aren’t I?" Ranveer stared at her aghast and he shook his head vehemently.
"No... You don't understand..."
"That's the problem, Ranveer. I do."
"Ishaani, let it go. Don't stick on to it..."
"How can I let it go?! You are a fool! Do you think I don't know the sacrifice you gave by revealing the truth to me?! Do you think I don't know what demons you have been facing since the past 15 days?! Do you think I'm oblivious to the fact that you needn't have told me the truth, but you did nonetheless, and burned yourself through and through trying to protect me?! Huh? Don't stare at me like that! I want an answer, Mr. Vaghela!" Ranveer felt the tears escape his eyes openly as Ishaani looked at him teary-eyed. He turned his face away from her in shame, abashed by the fact that Ishaani had seen through his strong façade and had seen the maimed and frightened Ranveer hiding beneath it.
"You deserved to know the truth."
"Not at the cost of rubbing salt over your already brutal wound. This was one wound that was an exception to you first aid rules, and the only one that could be healed by acceptance. You claimed that I was ready was it, but the fact remains that you weren't ready. It’s why this got to you so bad. You accepted all the events of the night except for the one where you died. We both have problem accepting the same incident. We both refused to acknowledge it at different points of times. We both faced it together at two points of life, both of which we were ambushed by. It was uncalled and entered our lives like a storm, one from which we could not walk away unscathed. If I am to be honest with you, we both have problems accepting death. The only difference between us is that where death has taken your fancy, it has become my greatest nightmare."
"I never realized that you knew so much."
"Then I think you have underestimated my abilities. You forget that if you can read me like a book, I can read you just the same. We have each other's hearts, remember? So, you've been spilling your secrets to me." Ranveer smiled at her lovingly, feeling light-headed suddenly.
"And you ask me why I love you so much." Ishaani smiled sweetly and both of them stared at each other for several minutes as the rays of dawn broke out into the room. Ishaani kissed his nose and spoke softly.
"Telling me the truth. You knew that you would be bringing to light the biggest wound that your heart holds, something that could very well maim you but you took the risk for me nonetheless. You knew that you were going to come across the most painful moments of your life by telling me about Papa but you did it." Ranveer looked at her drowsily before Ishaani looked at him defiantly. "Promise me something, will you?"
"Never burn yourself to save me again, do you get it?" Ranveer smiled at her coyly before Ishaani slept over his chest. Both of them smiled at each other before Ranveer kissed her forehead.
"Till death do us apart." Ishaani shut her eyes and whispered slowly before both of them fell asleep.
"Till death re-unite us again."