Neapolitan City

Chapter 62: Temple of Refuge

Ishaani threw the blanket off of her and stared about the room anxiously. Her body ached, while her throat felt parched. She looked towards the bed stand beside her to find the jug empty, and groaned. Taking a painkiller along with her, she got up from the bed, her feet taking her easily towards her destination, even before she was aware about it.

She entered the kitchen and filled the jug, drinking a glass of water immediately, and sighed. As much as she was happy that she was pregnant, there were many moments when it was more pain and testing than enjoyable, and today was amongst those days.

Taking the painkiller that she had carried along with her to the kitchen, she yawned softly. Arching her back as her muscles ached her badly, she carried the jug with her and headed towards her room, her mood suddenly in an upheaval. She reached near the staircase, her mind lost in some abstract thought, before she noticed one of the doors on the left-hand side to be open. Curiosity getting the better of her, she walked towards the room and swung open the door. She felt a long sigh escape her lips involuntarily as she realized that she had reached her place of refuge, the place that held thousands of her secrets, thousands of her tears and silent prayers.

She looked around the place and realized that the store room had been cleaned up as well, something that she was thankful for. The room was just the same as she remembered it - large, accommodating and homely. She could get the smell of must, but somehow, it did not bother her. Looking about the room, she saw several boxes lying around the corner and her heart seemed to beat faster.

She set aside the jug on the table nearby and walked around the room, opening some of the boxes. A smile would cross her face every time she saw a familiar thing in them, sweet memories from the good old days rejuvenating her. She realized that the boxes were still intact from the time when they had vacated the house six years back during her father's death. She now opened some more boxes with vigour as she found several of her things from the prime time of her youth - boxes, gifts, keepsakes.

She walked over to the one box at the corner of the room and opened it, to find several of her things from her childhood. She stared at it confused, before actually realizing what they were. She emptied the contents of the box and skimmed through the things curiously. Six years ago, those things didn’t matter to her for her friend had betrayed her trust that night. But now that life had given them much more to cherish, Ishaani was curious as to what keepsakes Ranveer had kept of hers as a child.

Out came from the box a pink teddy bear, several of her broken clips and pieces of artificial jewellery, along with photos of hers long forgotten. She smiled as she skimmed through them quickly, to find several of the gifts that she had gifted to him as a child on his birthday, and smiled as she remembered how Ranveer would only accept her gifts. Her mind curiously went up to the events of Ranveer's last birthday and she blushed, before bringing her mind back to task.

She racked her brains next as to when and how those things were a part of their lives before she came across a dusty frame. She quickly wiped off the dust with her hand and gasped. The frame contained a photo of herself and Harshad Parekh, both smiling into the frame carelessly, Ishaani's arms around him in a side hug. Ishaani's eyes watered up at the memory of him, her fingers trailing along his face, tears splashing down over the glass of the frame in rapid succession.

She did not know how long she sat staring at that frame before Ishaani felt a pair of arms wrap itself around her and pull her into a warm embrace. Ishaani did not need to look behind to see who it was, for Ranveer's strong pair of arms were answer enough. She took in his scent as she clutched his sweatshirt, the frame falling limply on her lap, while Ranveer kissed her head lovingly, rubbing circles on her back simultaneously.

"It feels like I was over here just yesterday when he passed away, seeking refuge over her once last time before my life changed forever. And here we are today." Ranveer kissed her head lovingly.

"It's alright. It's alright. I'm here. I'm right beside you." Ishaani nodded her head vigorously before speaking in a small voice.

"I miss him so much." Ishaani looked towards Ranveer beseechingly, her face blotchy and her eyes puffy. Ranveer sighed tediously, looking at the frame with a pained expression, his voice now a nostalgic whisper.

"I miss him too." Both of them remained in the same position for several minutes, letting the silence of the store room calm their bout of painful memories and nostalgia. After the pass of half an hour, during which Ishaani half-cried and half hiccoughed, she let Ranveer wipe away the tears from her eyes, and he made her turn around. Ranveer rubbed his thumb over her cheekbone in an affectionate touch and she shut her eyes like an upset child, her tone now a mixture between cross and inquisitive.

"How did you find me?" Ranveer gave her a warm smile, his tone amused.

"When I didn't see you beside me, I grew worried. I came down, but you weren't there. So I guessed you must be here. This place was always your temple of refuge now, wasn't it?" Ishaani nodded her head slowly and Ranveer let her head fall over his chest tiredly. He smiled as the scent of her hair bewitched his mind for a few minutes, his trance broken by Ishaani's statement.

"You saved my life."

"What?" Ranveer gave her an uneasy look as Ishaani raised her head once again from his chest. She spoke significantly.

"You saved me... from the fire. You saved my life." Ranveer stared at her blankly, wondering why Ishaani was bringing this up at the moment, before he understood. He spoke in a surprised tone, but he knew that Ishaani could see right through his soul.

"You knew about that?" Ishaani smiled in exasperation.

"I figured it out long ago. I was stupid enough to believe that Chirag could do something that chivalrous, but then again, you always let people take credit for what you've done." Ranveer gave her a sheepish smile, shrugging his shoulders with resignation.

"I just wanted you to be happy." Ishaani kissed his cheek, her tone loving.

"We are now." Ishaani went back to resting her head over Ranveer's chest and spoke after a few minutes. The latter sighed, as he looked around the room fondly, remembering the times when he was always the shoulder she had to cry upon in times of need. They both sat silently for the next few minutes, letting the events of the day play before their eyes, during which Ranveer spoke in a satiated tone.

"I'm happy that we reconciled with our family today. The happiness on everyone's face was... endearing." Ishaani nodded her head but remained silent. Ranveer knew that she was contemplating something in her mind and surely enough, Ishaani posed her question soon after.

"Can I ask you something?" Ranveer nodded his head, not realizing that his arms had now securely wrapped her in an embrace.

"Sure."

"Is it easy to let go?" Ranveer felt like his breath was stolen away from him, though he did not know why. Snapping himself out of his shock before Ishaani thought that something was wrong, he spoke honestly.

"Not always. Why?" Ishaani hesitated for some time before she sighed irritably and tried to frame her sentence cautiously.

"It's just... you know, everyone today were so... warm and welcoming. It was nice that we sorted things out well. But..." Ranveer smiled in understanding as he saw that Ishaani was seeing this practically.

"It feels silly, doesn't it? Almost unfair? That in the moment that you needed them most, they turned their faces away from you and they welcome you so warmly at a time when you well-established." Ishaani nodded her head shamefully and Ranveer gave her a sympathetic look. Covering her face in her hands, she spoke in self-reproach.

"You know, when I said I want to make amends, I wanted to do this not only for our child, but for the two of us as well, so that tomorrow, when our child demands to know about its family, we are not guilty or ashamed of anything."

Ranveer could see that Ishaani's hormones were now taking a turn that was disturbing her immensely. But he also knew that she had to speak her mind out for it would eventually gnaw at her mind entirely. He rubbed circles on her back soothingly before he asked meaningfully.

"Easier said than done?" Ishaani groaned helplessly and spoke in a defensive tone now.

"Yes. It’s not like I don’t love them. I do. Dearly. But its feels... surreal. It’s as though it went off too easily compared to the hell we went through four years ago." Ranveer pulled her face to his so that their gazes met. Ranveer gave Ishaani a strong look, now speaking in a heavy tone.

"No. The reason why it feels wrong to you is because you feel that had our families been this sensible all those years back, we wouldn't have had to face the hell that we did. You feel it’s treacherous on their part to be so welcoming when things are so smooth now."

Ishaani looked at him uncertainly for a moment, wondering whether both of them had been knocked silly or whether it was the emotional strain that was getting the better of them. But Ishaani was thankful that Ranveer understood her and she wasn't sounding demented. She looked at him guiltily and she could see him giving her the same look. She sighed.

"Something like that, yes. God, it sounded so stupid when you put it that way." Ranveer threw his hands up in the air and spoke tiredly.

"I know. The truth does sound stupid and moronic at times, but that doesn't change the fact that it's the truth." Both of them stared at each other uncertainly for a few minutes, partly revolted that they even felt like that and partly defiant of the fact that they had good reason to feel the same. Time trickled by and Ishaani spoke dejectedly.

"You were right. There is no way we can walk out of this without leaving behind the scars of our old wounds." Ranveer smiled in spite of himself and spoke in a slightly sarcastic tone.

"And I thought you were having the time of your life." Ishaani looked at him before slapping his shoulder in mock irritation.

"Gah! A glass of brandy would have been heaven." Ranveer looked at her sharply and gave her a deadpan look.

"You aren’t getting any of that for the next seven months, missy." Ishaani rolled her eyes at him as she let out a cry.

"It doesn't matter! We are talking like a bunch of frustrated drunkards anyway." Ranveer sighed, knowing that Ishaani was frustrated with her own conflicting emotions and her ranging hormones. Before he could say anything, however, Ishaani spoke in an exhausted tone.

"We've forgiven them, but can't forget about it." Ranveer gave her a wisely look.

"These things take time. Eventually, time will heal all wounds." Ishaani nodded her head as she scooted closer to him, letting herself get lost in the basking warmth of his embrace that made her cold, frightened heart melt.

"It’s feels so nice in your arms." Ranveer smiled before he gently placed his lips over her own, Ishaani's arms wrapping itself around his neck. He let his lips kiss Ishaani's own ones in a slow yet passionate lock, while Ishaani smiled against his lips, her thumb now brushing against his cheek. Separating after a few minutes, Ranveer smiled, his voice hoarse.

"It certainly does." Ishaani smiled, her mood suddenly changing into a lighter one. Remembering something intriguing, she gave Ranveer a curious look.

"I'm surprised that you didn't tear apart my brothers today." Ranveer gave her a modest look and Ishaani chuckled.

"Well... I didn't want to make a scene in front of everyone when things were smooth." Ishaani gave him a keen look and he returned an innocent one.

"But you didn't spare them entirely now, did you?" Ranveer gave her a non-committal jerk of his head.

"Let's just say that we did have a very illuminating conversation."

"And can you enlighten me about what knowledge you imparted?" Ranveer smiled from ear to ear and Ishaani could not help but smile.

"Ah, it was nothing much."

"And to think that Sharman, Devarsh and Prateik left the house with mortified expressions on their faces." Ranveer gave her a notorious smirk and Ishaani smiled in spite of herself.

"Well, a little bit of threatening did go into it, if that's what you want to know." Ishaani gave him a deadpan look, her tone a mock threatening.

"What I want to know is that what you told my brothers."

"I told them that if they were the reason for another drop of tear leaving your eye, I would make sure to rip them apart from limb to limb and make them pay hell for the same." Ishaani blushed slightly, seeing the passion in his eyes, before she controlled herself quickly, bringing her mind back to task.

"What did they say?"

"They kinda chuckled at first but them saw my face and let’s just say that it smacked the smiles off their faces. And while I had the chance, I gave them a piece of advice as well." Ishaani's expressions turned into a curious one, while he gave her a plain look.

"Did you now?" Ranveer nodded his head, before he spoke with a finality in his voice.

"Yes. I told them that as much as they are enjoying their 'space' away from their families, they ought to pay more attention to them as well." Ishaani smiled, admiring the loyalty and love that Ranveer held in his heart in spite of all he felt. She kissed him again before speaking sweetly.

"Well, you've got a point." Ranveer looked surprised but gave her a warm smile.

"They thought so too. Apparently, the two of us have drowned our families in guilt from what they tell me." Ishaani gave Ranveer an uncomfortable look, her tone indicating the same.

"Well, it's not like this was entirely our fault." Ranveer nodded his head and the two of them spent some more time in silence. The clocked chimed three times from somewhere and it snapped the couple back into reality. Ishaani looked at Ranveer sleepily and Ranveer smiled. He got up and carried Ishaani into his arms, bridal style, and took her up into their room. He tucked her in comfortably and she smiled at him, half asleep already. He made to get up from her side before Ishaani caught his wrist strongly. Ranveer looked confused, while he sat back down by her side, waiting for Ishaani to speak.

"Thank you."

"For?" Ishaani smiled at him, her eyes almost shut, as she spoke sleepily.

"Being you." Ranveer kissed her on her forehead, before whispering back to an already-asleep Ishaani.

"Always."

Getting up quickly, Ranveer made his way back to the store room to bring back the jug that he noticed was kept on the table. Quickly clearing up the mess in the store room and arranging the items back into their respective boxes, Ranveer shut the door to the store room and came back to the room. Setting the jug beside Ishaani's bedside, he gave a small smile to the now peacefully asleep Ishaani, sleep claiming him just as easily even before his head hit the pillow.


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