Chapter 53: Conflicting Souls
Ishaani opened her eyes swiftly as the sunlight fell over her face, sleep now nearly impossible to reclaim again. She raised her head slowly, her eyes instantly falling over Ranveer's tired yet blissfully calm features. She smiled and looked at the clock beside her. 6:30AM. She was surprised that it had only been an hour since she fell asleep again, when she felt like it had been an eternity.
She separated herself from Ranveer's strong embrace and got ready, making sure not to disturb him in the process. She quickly wrote a note and left it on the bedside table, following which she called Ranveer's secretary to inform her that he won't be coming in for the day. Ishaani redirected her next call to Martha, describing the situation as briefly as she could and informed her that she would reach the library at 9 and rescheduled her meeting with the Board for 11.
Sighing to herself as Ranveer's pale features glowed luminously in the glorious sunlight, she headed towards the kitchen. Cooking him up a breakfast of a French Omelet and a few slices of toast along with a mug of steaming hot coffee, she asked the helper to serve it to Ranveer when he woke up. She quickly rushed back to the room once again to grab her purse and left a lingering kiss over Ranveer's forehead. She quickly shut the curtains of the room so that Ranveer's sleep remained uninterrupted and she shut the door silently behind her.
Ishaani quickly grabbed her overcoat and made to leave the house when she heard someone call her from behind. Turning around, she saw Martin walking hurriedly towards her, his tie askew.
"Madame! I was hoping to see you before you left." Ishaani looked at him confused.
"How come you are still at home?"
"I have a meeting scheduled for 11. My boss told me to arrive straight for it." Ishaani nodded her head in acknowledgement and Martin took the time to rearrange his time properly.
"Is that why you were back home early yesterday?"
"Yes." Martin gave Ishaani a guilty look before speaking to his shoes. "My most sincere apologies, Madame."
"For what, Martin?"
"For giving you Brotine-Zero yesterday." Ishaani smiled understandingly and Martin gave her a frightened look.
"It's alright. Besides, I guess it did do more good than harm." Martin looked at Ishaani slowly and smiled hesitantly. When Ishaani gave him a tired smile, he studied her face more closely before speaking curiously.
"How is Monsieur doing?"
"He is alright now. But he was in a bad shape a few hours back. For a moment there I was afraid that he was having another anxiety attack." Martin nodded his head slowly before speaking shrewdly.
"Madame, you must not take responsibility on your head." Ishaani looked at him tearfully and Martin gave her a hug. Ishaani hugged him back, speech leaving her before she was aware about it.
"All this time, I knew you were there for him, to hold him when he was vulnerable, to understand him when he refused to let anyone within those boundaries. But now that you are not going to be around after the next couple of months, I don't know what I'm going to do. Our voice of reason is leaving us. I don't know what to do, Martin. I'm at a loss." Martin awkwardly separated himself from her embrace and saw Ishaani's face stained with tears. He wiped them away and smiled sadly.
"The transition isn't easy for me too, Madame. But this is how life is. Besides, you are a strong woman. You have nothing to fear. Remember, you were the pillar of support when we had all given up on Monsieur's life. You gave us hope and you taught us all to be better warriors. What happened last night was simply Monsieur's will to fight that fell weak. But you must remain strong. Remain strong and see how Monsieur is blown away with it. Monsieur ensured that you were there to hold him when he fell and here you are. All you need to do is be there for him, Madame. Trust Monsieur to do the math."
Both of them chuckled slowly while Ishaani spoke softly.
"Yes, I'm sure he must have done the math. It's just like him." Martin and Ishaani smiled at each other before the former kissed the latter's hand.
"You love Monsieur more than anything else in this world now, don't you?"
"More than he realizes."
Ishaani returned back home at 6 in the evening to find Ranveer in the room, looking at the box curiously. She knocked the door softly that got Ranveer's attention. He looked up towards her and his face broke out into a broad smile and Ishaani could have sworn that the day could not have been brighter. She walked inside and smiled at him while he patted the bed as a signal. Ishaani sat down and ruffled his hair and he shut his eyes at the touch of her hand.
"How was your day?" Ranveer shrugged his shoulders with disinterest.
"Boring. How about yours?"
"The same. The Fair got pushed into May. The Board says that there is a monetary crisis because of which the Fair has been pushed to the next month." Ranveer clicked his tongue and shook his head resentfully.
"Oh. One relief for you temporarily. But the crisis in the whole of Greece is pretty bad. The rents are skyrocket high and the bailouts aren't working out at all. If nothing works out soon enough, there is going to be some ugly consequences. I've already called over three unscheduled meetings with the BODs this week alone." Ishaani smiled to herself slowly and she could not understand why she was doing so.
"So, our mental traumas are not the only things that are pitiful." Ranveer stared at her intently, his tone now curious.
"How are you doing?" Ishaani contemplated the question deeply.
"Alright, I guess. What about you?"
"Never better," said Ranveer theatrically. Both of them smiled, while now Ishaani spoke lightly.
"You look good enough to me. So, did you eat your breakfast and lunch?"
"Yes, Sunny. I think I told you that twice over the phone." Ishaani shook her head and a few flicks of her hair fell over her face. She smiled shyly, her voice a supple whisper.
"My bad." Ranveer pulled aside the hair obstructing her face from his vision, before remembering about the incidents of the previous day.
"How is Carla doing?"
"Still reeling from the shock. They have his funeral tomorrow." Ranveer nodded his head uncomfortably and Ishaani spoke softly. "It's a small service only for family members. I've paid my respects already on your behalf as well. So we need not have to go tomorrow." Ranveer looked at her appreciatively. He titled his head slightly, wondering whether to put forth his question or no, before he decided in favour of it.
"How did he die?"
"Road accident." Ranveer shut his eyes momentarily before making up his mind.
"Can I ask you something?" Ishaani looked at him keenly before nodding her head.
"What happened to you yesterday?"
"I think you know the answer. It was a very uncanny scenario. I panicked." Ranveer could hear the tone of justification in her voice and smiled.
"I'm not being judgmental." Ishaani relaxed back considerably as she saw the understanding in Ranveer's eyes. She continued.
"Good, because what you did yourself wasn't too bright." Ranveer averted his gaze away from her face and chose to stare at the ring on his finger instead.
"You weren't meant to figure out this much."
"I thought you knew what you were doing when you gave me your heart." Ranveer looked at Ishaani and saw her giving him a smart look. He shook his head like a child not used to being held wrong and spoke insistently.
"I'm not used to being the one who is pacified."
"We all need someone to save us at some point of time. You have been our hero and have rescued us from several situations. Isn't it about time someone rescued you as well? After all, every hero needs to be saved every once in a while." Ranveer looked upwards to see Ishaani's eyes brimming with love for him and he felt a smile break out.
"Touché, ma cherie." Ishaani laughed at Ranveer shamelessly while the latter looked at her sheepishly before joining her in her bout of laughing. Sobering down after some time, Ishaani looked curiously at the box.
"What are you doing with this?"
"There is something funny with the box." Ishaani's brows contracted with confusion, her tone evident of the same.
"What do you mean?"
"I was removing something from the drawer when the box almost toppled. It clinked. I removed the box and emptied the contents yet it keeps clinking." Ranveer shook the box as an example and the box clinked. Ishaani smiled mysteriously and Ranveer looked at her suspiciously.
"I'm glad you found it out. I was almost certain that you wouldn't find it."
"Tinker with the box. I'll freshen up in the meanwhile." Ranveer looked at her curiously as she got up and headed to the washroom with her night clothes.
Ishaani left the washroom half an hour later, rubbing her hair with the towel vigorously. Ranveer looked at her, smiling from ear to ear, a wind chime in his hand.
"I didn't know that you still have this." Ishaani smiled broadly as she saw the black and gold wind chime shimmering in the glorious lights of the room, clicking with the same soothing sound like it always did.
"This was such a key instrument of our past. How could I let it be, especially when you had gifted them to me?" Ranveer smiled at her lovingly before Ishaani questioned inquisitively. "Where are the chimes that you'd gifted me for my 15th birthday?" Ranveer gave her a dazzling look.
"It's in the kids' room." Ishaani looked taken aback before she asked curiously.
"The kids' room? But I never noticed-"
"It's because I placed it over there just yesterday when you were asleep. Those chimes were in my office cabin previously. Somehow, I felt that the chimes went well with the kids' room, so I brought it home with me yesterday afternoon." Both of them looked at each other and smiled radiantly.
"These chimes always remind me of the way we healed our broken hearts." Ranveer correctly her immediately.
"These chimes were our broken hearts."
"Which we successfully healed." Ishaani gave Ranveer a meaningful look and he smiled in agreement.
"True enough. Can I ask you something?"
"How did you know that much?" Ishaani chuckled mentally, knowing that Ranveer couldn't let something like this drop. She answered truthfully.
"The diary." Ranveer gasped in surprise, while his eyes widened. He stuttered a bit before framing his sentence whole.
"The diary? But I barely let anything out..."
"No, you didn't. But then again, you left subtle hints. I got the perfect idea when you were mentioning your accident phase and how death was so close to you again."
Both Ranveer and Ishaani smiled at each other distantly, their own set of thoughts suddenly overcoming the light atmosphere of the room. Both of them sat together silently, staring at everything and nothing, making sure to keep their eyes averted from each other. They did not comprehend what overcame them all of a sudden, but they both felt vulnerable, something that they were both unprepared for. They could read each other's thoughts in the open air, as though the other one's mind was a transparent book and for once, they needed seclusion of their thoughts.
After what felt like an eon, when reality had only let gone of half an hour, Ranveer spoke distantly.
"It's two times that I've evaded death." Ishaani looked at him sharply, looking at the drowning look in his eyes. She could suddenly feel their conversation touching dangerous waters, as though their conversation from the previous night was not as merry and calming as it seemed.
"What's your point?" Ranveer looked at Ishaani suddenly and the latter could have sworn that her soul shivered at the look in his eyes.
"Ever heard of 'third time being a charm'?" Ishaani glared at Ranveer angrily, her face going red with rage, before she spoke defiantly.
"Yes, and I will tether you back to life every time. Talk about this one more time and I swear I'll-" Ranveer looked at her frightfully and cut the conversation short, afraid that he was rubbing her off on the wrong side.
"Shhh! Alright, alright, don't talk anything bizarre. I still haven't gotten over that ridiculous statement of yours about getting stabbed and falling in my arms." Ishaani nodded her head with finality, before speaking curtly.
"Good, so shut up." Both of them were absorbed into another period of painful silence before Ranveer couldn't restrain his thoughts any longer.
"But just so to speak, something like that happens to us again. What then?"
Ishaani's pallor paled considerably and she felt stunned. She couldn't understand why Ranveer was being so insistent and kept talking about death in a revering fascination. She cocked her eyebrows at him, getting an expectant look in return. She could not decipher what he was up to or how best she should go ahead with the conversation, while she could feel a heated frustration begin to froth within her. Sighing, she went for the safest answer.
"I don't want to talk about this."
"But just to say-" Ishaani felt her frustration swiftly blend into a newfound anger and she retorted heatedly.
"What is wrong with you?! Why are you so fascinated with it?!" Ranveer looked taken aback by her more than hostile tone but stood his ground nonetheless. He stared at her helplessly.
"It's not fascination. I'm just trying to be realistic." Ishaani rolled her eyes, her anger getting the better of her judgment. She distantly heard Martin's words from earlier float in her ears about being strong and helping Ranveer overcome his demons, but she found Ranveer's stubbornness unnerving.
"Our life hasn't been realistic or idealistic, the least to say." Ranveer looked at her pleadingly, but she refused to meet his eyes, afraid to drown in his fears, knowing that she had to be strong enough to pull him out of the rut, not drown into it with him.
"Drop it." Ranveer gave her an annoyed look that Ishaani returned with equal intensity.
"But-" Ishaani felt her restrain crack and exploded.
"Enough! Some months back, you told me that I wasn't letting our wounds heal because I always kept screwing up by talking about things that are way in the past." Ranveer took on the offensive and glared at her.
"So do you mean to say that I'm screwing up now?" Ishaani sprung up from the bed and shook her index finger at him threateningly.
"Something like that, yes. Stop fancying death! It's turning into an obsession with you now!" Ranveer sprung up alongside, a manic fire burning within them.
"You won't understand!" Ishaani gave him a sarcastic look, distantly wondering where their cheerful mood from before had evaporated.
"Understand? Understand? From what I understand, you've started forming an eerie bond with it! It's like you enjoy it-" Ishaani stopped at her statement abruptly as she saw Ranveer's face lose all expression. She knew that she had crossed a limit and made to speak, but words failed her. Ranveer looked at her blankly for several minutes before speaking nonchalantly.
"You've had a long day. Go to sleep." Ishaani shook her head fearfully, afraid that she had gone too far.
"Alright. If you want to stay up, it's your choice. I'm exhausted. Goodnight." Ranveer made to sit down again, but Ishaani firmly caught hold of his wrist.
"It's 5 in the evening."
"So much the better. I haven't slept the whole last night and I barely slept for four hours in the day." Ishaani threw his wrist back and Ranveer laid himself down quickly, covering the blanket up till his shoulders. Ishaani felt hot tears spring into her eyes, terribly upset by what had happened.
"Damn you, Ranveer! Must you behave like this now?" Ranveer looked away from her as he shut off the lamps.
"I'll be damned if I don't."
"Fine! Do as you please! As you said, I've had a long day and you need to figure out a lot of things for yourself. I'll be in the other room if you need me."
Saying so, Ishaani glared at him angrily as she walked towards the door, before slamming it behind her harshly.