Chapter 5: A Surge of Anxiety
The rest of the drive passed in bearable yet awkward silence. After a few minutes, the car entered into the gateway of a mansion. Ishaani's mouth dropped a bit at the sight of it - a magnificent structure emitting a pearly white glow in the moonlit sky, the gardens on either side of the place richly kept with an assortment of flower shrubs, trees and bushes that made for a beautiful scenic beauty in the day time.
A fountain stood in the middle of the gravel-made gateway, sprouts of water flowing high in the night, the soft splashing of the water calm and gentle right in the middle. The mansion had the feel of a palace about it.
Ishaani looked at this view and smiled. This was precisely where she wanted to see Ranveer reach in life and he did. She looked across towards him, where their eyes met for a moment and Ishaani gave him a genuine smile. He smiled at her, this time with more ease, though it still did not remotely light up his eyes.
He rubbed his temple absent-mindedly and his hold on the steering wheel became much stronger, his knuckles shining white in the combined light from one of the lampposts and the natural light from the sky. Ishaani noticed this and was about to say something, when Ranveer shut his eyes and took deep breaths and snapped them back open.
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I think so."
Ranveer parked the car in front of the mansion and got down, Ishaani following him quickly. When she entered the house, an involuntary gasp left her lips that did not go unnoticed by Ranveer. The house had an uncanny essence of the Parekh mansion, only much more grand and exquisite, with the furniture of the living room chosen with careful selection, precision and good taste right from the sofas to the cherry wood furniture and from the elegant paintings to the walnut colored armoires.
She noticed that there were no family photos on the walls.
The house was nearly dark, save for the dim lights that were kept on till Ranveer's return. Ishaani turned towards one of the walls, where an old grandfather clock stood tall and firm, its hands sitting at 12:30.
A butler by the name of Martin came forward, tall and healthy looking, with an easy smile on his face and his cornflower blue eyes kind and courteous, his suit neat and dapper. Ranveer gave the butler his instructions to lead Ishaani to her room for the night while he silently walked away from the living room, ascending over the staircase, his pace slow and having a slight stagger. Ishaani knew that there was something bothering him but she could not say what, that made her feel uncomfortable.
The butler led her to her room, which was on the first landing, a moderately well-furnished room with mahogany furniture, a fireplace that was emitted low orange-ish glow in the room and an attached washroom alongside. She thanked the butler, who left her graciously, advising her to call him in need for anything and shut the door quietly, wishing her a good night's sleep.
Ranveer got up from his bed once again, angrily rubbing his throbbing temples. He felt a discomfort spread over his fingers, a slight numbness tingling them. Switching on the lights, he walked across one of the armoires and removed a painkiller from it. Gulping it down in one go, he paced around the room for a few moments before his knees suddenly buckled below him and he crashed on the floor.
His breathing came in sharp gasps and he could feel white lights pop in his eyes. The memories from the past kept hitting him with razor sharp clarity, as he felt his head hit the carpet, his chest constricting and darkness creeping in around him from all angles. His breath was getting more and more hitched by the moment, and any form of inhaling was getting difficult.
He tried to get on his feet once again, but it only resulted in him falling over the carpet once again, his hand having caught hold of something, that crashed alongside with him. He tried to shout out, but it only resulted in a gurgling noise being released. He moved his hands about to catch hold of something, but he felt disoriented.
He could hear Ishaani's voice streaming in the room and could see several moments of their past flashing in his mind like several hundred buzzing bees together, but he could not understand anything. He was stuck with the past.
He caught his head in despair as tears and sweat dropped from his face alike, his mind begging of the torture to stop while he felt his breathing get more and more difficult. His world was in a swirling mist of darkness and light, his mind continuously flitting between the realms of the present and the past, a strong pain erupting in his chest now.
His body felt paralyzed by this sudden ailment and he could do nothing except re-live all those moments in his life which he so wanted to lock up and escape while he felt a strange numbness spread over his body.
Ishaani felt restless. She was sitting on an armchair by the fireplace, reading a tattered version of Hamlet, when she felt something dreadful erupt within her. The discomfort only grew prolonged over the time, until she finally kept the book aside on the coffee table nearby and decided to have a walk around to calm her nerves.
Wrapping a shawl around her night gown, courtesy of Ranveer's driver who had brought her attaché kit from the car, she got up and left the room, making sure to make as little noise as possible. Looking at the mantel piece on the wall of the corridor, she saw that it was 2 in the morning. She did not feel remotely sleepy despite having a tiring day though her mind wanted to crash.
Ishaani heard the faintest noise from across the corridor and stopped dead in her track. The house was doused in darkness and all the rooms were dark, except for one at the farthest corner. She walked unconsciously towards the door, her feet carrying her quickly, even though her mind protested doing so. There was some kind of instinct that was pulling her towards the door, even though she knew that it was wrong to pry around the house at this time of the night, especially since this wasn't her house at all.
She reached towards the door and tried to listen for a noise. She could hear the labored breathing of someone from within the room, as though that person couldn't draw enough breath. Concerned, she knocked over the door thrice and waiting for a reply, but none came. But what she heard, made her blood freeze. It was the faintest whisper of her name.
Swinging open the door violently, her eyes took time to get accustomed to the blinding brightness and she turned blindly here and there, until her eyes fell over Ranveer fallen over the ground. Running over to him, Ishaani tapped his face in rapid succession trying to get him to open his eyes. His eyes were rolling behind his head while his chest now rose and fell in hard intakes of breath, a rasping noise echoed along with it.
Ishaani felt the blood drain out of her as she saw him trying to catch hold of something blindly, his eyes open yet not seeing anything and she swiftly caught hold of his hand.
"Ranveer, keep your eyes open! I'm getting you some help."
"No... No... You're dead... dead..."
Ishaani looked at him painfully, as he let go of her hand once again and threw it upon his head. Ishaani sat stock still, trying to control her own fear before practicality came back to her. Getting up, she flew towards the intercom on the side of his bed and dialed the number Martin had given her in case of an emergency. Martin picked up the phone immediately.
"Mr. Martin, this is Ms. Parekh. I need you to get over to Mr. Vaghela's room immediately! He's collapsed and -"
"I'm on my way, Madame!"
Martin cut the phone and Ishaani walked back to Ranveer while she now pulled his head over her lap. Martin entered the room within a minute, his night dress askew, and his feet having a combination of the wrong slippers. Ishaani looked at him a whispered frantically.
"Help me get him over the bed! And we need to call a doctor!"
"Ma'am, I'll bring my wife up here. She's a trained professional."
Ishaani nodded as Martin left the room, just as swiftly as he had come. Ishaani sat on the bed and started rubbing Ranveer's palms that were as cold as ice while she simultaneously stroked his hair. Even though his eyes were open and staring at her fully, now a little aware of his surroundings, Ishaani could make out that it wasn't long before he slipped into unconsciousness. She tried her best to keep him awake.
"Ranveer please... keep your eyes open... please... we're getting you help..." Ishaani looked at him ashen-faced while he stared back at her, barely able to string his words together now.
"No... You died... you died... it can't be... this can't be..."
"Ranveer! I'm not dead! My sentence was pardoned on the day of my execution! Stop saying that!" Ishaani looked frightened while her eyes brimmed with tears at the words that were being told to her, words that somehow felt as sharp as though arrows were being hurled at her.
"But in these three years... I thought... you were dead..."
"I never died..." Her eyes pleaded with him to understand, but in vain, for Ranveer's eyes were already half shut now.
"You should know... I never lived."
Ranveer eyes shut fully as he let out a final gasp, his body falling limp. Martin and another lady entered the room with a medical kit in her hand, who Ishaani assumed was the butler's wife. She walked up to Ishaani and patted her shoulder before she spoke gently.
"Darling, he's in safe hands now. Wait in your room. I'll check him up and send word with Martin."
It was 3am now. Martin had led Ishaani silently to her room while his wife had started on the treatment immediately. Luckily, none of the guests in the house were awakened by the events of the night, which Ishaani was grateful for. She would not have been able to bear all the questions and answers, and tactful handling of the guests. Not at a time where she needed someone to handle her in the first place.
Ishaani paced about the room furiously, desperate for a word of news while she was lost in thought. Her glass of brandy was untouched on the coffee table that Martin had cooked up for her on Mrs. Martin's orders for remedying shock. Suddenly, a knock on the door brought Ishaani out of her worrying thoughts and she rushed rapidly towards it.
Opening the door, she saw Martin standing over there, a small smile over his face.
"How is Ran- Mr. Vaghela? Is he alright? Is he awake? Is he sleeping? Will you please say something?" Ishaani breathed hard, her heart fluttering with anxious await for his answer.
"If Madame permits me to speak, I shall tell you at this moment how Monsieur is."
"Sorry, Mr. Martin. Come in." Ishaani flushed slightly for her harried behaviour and beckoned the butler inside. He smiled at her, a knowing look in his eyes.
"I see that you have not had your glass of brandy yet, Madame."
"That's not important right now. How is Mr. Vaghela?"
"He is absolutely fine."
"But what happened to him? He looked like he was having some sort of seizure! I was afraid he might be going into cardiac arrest!"
"Precisely my wife's first view." Ishaani turned pale, but Martin spoke quickly. "But that is not the case, Madame. Do not worry. My wife tells me that Monsieur has suffered from something known as an anxiety attack. Its symptoms are almost like a heart attack." Ishaani exhaled a long breath that she had been holding in from quite some time.
"My wife has given Monsieur a sedative. He should be nice and awake by tomorrow, though there might be some weakness."
"But is he alright otherwise?"
"Completely fine, Madame. He has got a fever though, but my wife is tending to him right now. But apart from that, no worries. You called me right on time, or else, Monsieur's condition could have become very serious." Ishaani looked at him and nodded blankly. She had a shrewd suspicion about what had brought on the anxiety attack, but she did not want to think about it now.
She turned towards Martin and could see that there was a question on the tip of his tongue, but he wasn't asking it because he thought it was rude.
"Do you want to ask me something, Mr. Martin?"
"Uh... not really, Madame." He looked at her curiously for a couple of minutes before he couldn't restrain himself any longer. "Was Madame searching for something she needed?"
Ishaani did not have to think two moments to know what he was implying. She knew that this question was bound to be asked eventually.
"I wasn't getting sleep, so I wanted to take a walk around the corridor. It calms my nerves, you see. And then I heard a sound from Mr. Vaghela's room and I rushed to see what happened." Martin smiled at her sheepishly and muttered softly.
"I hope you wouldn't tell Monsieur about my impudence to question you, Madame. Monsieur is most kind and treats me like a brother, but he does have a terrible rage." Ishaani laughed at Martin while he chuckled slowly at the absurdity of his own statement. She noticed that even though he spoke fluent English, he had a slight French accent at the same time.
"Don't worry, Mr. Martin, I won't. Besides, you saved his life today. I'm forever indebted to you."
"No, I am forever indebted to you.
"For what, Mr. Martin?"
"For your return, Madame Vaghela."