Chapter 68: The Enchantment of Love
"Male, Indian, late 20's, several lacerations, superficial second degree burns, traumatic bleeding in the head! Need stats ASAP!"
"Still not breathing, no pulse!"
"Amp up the extra O2 and get me five milligrams of atropine!"
"Keep the defibrillator on standby!"
"Keep backing up!"
"Clear at 190 Joules!"
"Everybody, clear! Clear at 250!"
"Nothing, no sign of a rhythm!"
Ishaani shut her eyes and tried to strain out the foreign voices that kept hitting her like the sharp blades of a knife, driving her headache to another edge. Yet somehow, everything felt disconnected. She could not understand what was happening to her, neither could she fathom why she felt so lifeless. She distantly felt someone hoisting her up somewhere but she didn't know where.
All that soared through her mind was one thing, one name that she knew would solve everything. She did not know why the name kept leaving her lips in a continuous mantra but it did. In that moment she could not place the name anywhere, but she knew that it meant everything to her, a name that completed her and she completed him - Ranveer.
The world was a dark place, quiet, serene, but she figured it was because she was some place safe. She groaned slowly as she felt herself drifting away from the calm, trying to hold on to it forcefully. It only resulted in the peace slipping away from her, introducing her to a new world.
This world was dark as well, but she knew that light would only come if she opened her eyes. She didn't want to, for she felt extremely comfortable, yet her heart felt a distress that she couldn't place. And then her mantra returned back to her, the same name escaping her lips softly even though she should barely whisper.
Knowing that she had to inevitably open her eyes if she wanted to learn more about her curious surrounding, she gently opened them, blinking several times to clear her vision. She looked about the room curiously, the white, mundane walls of the hospital room greeting her with its usual whiff of antiseptics, while she noticed several wires attached about her.
The rhythmic beeping of the machine beside her was calming, but she no longer felt calm. Opening her eyes had meant retuning back to reality, returning back to the memories of the tragedies of the previous night. She kept chanting Ranveer's name in a stronger voice, but stopped abruptly as she turned her head to her side and saw Claudine staring at her tiredly.
"Shhh... give your voice some rest. It's quite an ordeal that you've been through."
"How long have I been out?"
"Eighteen hours. I'll be right back." Claudine stood up and left the room, leaving Ishaani behind to stare at the window. The sun way now streaming into the room brightly and Ishaani couldn't help but notice how peaceful it was after last night's chaos.
Claudine returned back with Dr. Phillipe, and Ishaani groaned. The doctor gave her a small smile as he checked her stats and made notes on his clipboard. Ishaani looked at him nervously as he gave her a reprimanding look.
"Didn't I tell you that I didn't want to see you over here again?" Ishaani disregarded his statement. He gave her a serious look. "It's a miracle that you survived it at all, given the condition that you are in. Luckily enough, your bruises weren't deep, so it was alright. The wound in your back was bad, but given that the paramedics treated you in time, you luckily did not catch an infection. We pumped out the major aspects of carbon monoxide from your lungs, although your vocal box is still sore from all the smoke inhalation. It will take a week for it to get alright."
Ishaani nodded her head solemnly as a very chilling thought struck her mind like an ice-knife.
"What... what about..."
"Your child?" Dr. Phillipe gave her a sympathetic look, while her fear only increased manifold.
"Yes." Dr. Phillipe gave her a serious look, his voice just as grave when he spoke next.
"When we brought you in, you looked bad. You were over-exerted and in emotional shock, and we were almost certain that you had miscarried from the way things looked. But you didn't. It wouldn't be wrong for me to say that your child had a stronger heartbeat than yourself when you were brought into the ER, and that your child is the reason that you are alive. Both you and your child are now safe, but I would suggest a lot of bed rest from now on. If any more strain falls, a lot of complications could arise in the next two trimesters of your pregnancy."
Ishaani shut her eyes in silent prayer and heaved a sigh of relief. But the most important question overtook her senses now that she was assured that her baby was fine.
"And what about Ranveer?"
"The paramedics managed to revive him, although things didn't look as good for him. His case doctor tells me that it is nothing short of a miracle that he pulled through it all, in spite of the CPR. He had lost a lot of blood and his lungs wouldn't take in any air. We gave him artificial respiration for 12 hours and a blood transfusion before he began stabilizing on his own. He has suffered from second degree burns that would take two to three weeks to heal, but otherwise, he will make an overall recovery eventually."
"Is he completely stable now?"
"Yes, he is." Ishaani gave him a small smile, but she noticed that the usually optimistic doctor looked deep in worry. Before she could ask anything further, Claudine asked in a worried voice.
"What about his respiratory system?"
"Just like in Ishaani's case, we've filtered out most of the carbon monoxide from his lungs, but he will be on extra oxygen for the next week as well so that his lungs can make a quicker recovery. Also, it's best if he doesn't use his voice as well for the next week. That should help heal his voice box as well. But otherwise, he is now stable and his vitals are increasing." Ishaani looked at Dr. Phillipe's face and knew instantly that something was wrong; that he knew much more than he was letting on.
"Why do I feel that there is something more?" Phillipe and Claudine shared a tense look before Claudine nodded her head in assent. The doctor continued.
"Yes, there is something else as well," taking a deep breath, he spoke swiftly. "He's suffered from a mild-traumatic brain injury or a concussion, as you would better understand." Ishaani's eyes widened fearfully and Dr. Phillipe continued in a grave tone. "Considering the fire that he was rescued from, there was absolutely no chance of him to survive. But he did, and you must be thankful for that. Judging by his injuries, we are suspecting a post-traumatic amnesia, one of the classic symptoms of an MTBI, but we cannot say anything until he regains consciousness."
Ishaani did not understand how to respond to this and settled for the easiest question.
"Is it permanent?"
"Not really, no. Most patients regain their memory back within three weeks of their accident, but it may be more than it, varying from person to person. In either way, he should make a full recovery within the month. So if he doesn't remember you or anybody else, don't feel bad. Just remain patient and loving with him. He may repeat questions several times, may tend to get confused easily or may become disoriented at times, but just be there for him."
Ishaani remained silent and Claudine overtook her again.
"Is there anything else that we should be worrying about?"
"He may have a problem with his motor functions, but given that he doesn't have a spinal injury, the problem should get rectified once the effects of the concussion subside. Other than that, he's fine."
Ishaani looked at the doctor blankly, her voice croaking yet balanced, even though her heart was now swimming in constricting ice.
"When will he wake up?"
"We've kept him on high sedatives now, so he shouldn't be up until tomorrow."
"When will you discharge me?"
"Your vitals are perfectly alright and I’ve just got the reports from your sonography. Your kid is doing just as well. The growth of the foetus is happening at a healthy pace, which is a very good sign. I'll just keep you over for another night and I'll sign your discharge papers in the morning." Ishaani nodded her head and the doctor made his way out from the room, while Claudine now gave Ishaani a tired look.
Ishaani looked at Claudine as hot stinging tears now stemmed from her eyes, falling over her pillow in feverish rapidity. She did not bother to control her sobs and Claudine quickly raised up her bed, so that giving her a hug was much easier. Even though Claudine was highly uncomfortable, she let Ishaani cry openly, rubbing her back in soothing circles, stroking her hair alongside.
Ishaani felt as though her world had been transformed into dust in that moment, as the images of Ranveer's lifeless form kept flitting into her mind and the thought of how close it had been only frightened her. But along with it, the sight of destruction that the library withheld had scorched her heart with the same intensity as the fire did.
Separating from Claudine once tears failed her, she looked at the other woman beseechingly, her voice no louder than a croaking whisper.
"The library... the library... all the books... the knowledge... burnt... everything ashes... it's wrong... wrong..." Claudine suddenly gave her a curious look and Ishaani stopped speaking halfway. Ishaani looked at the relief on Claudine's face, which looked rather misplaced, but even as Claudine spoke absent-mindedly, there was a relief in her voice.
"It must probably be the only good thing that happened." Ishaani looked stunned, and her look of misery quickly changed into one of revulsion and disgust, her fried voice depicting the same.
"How could you say that?!" Claudine gave Ishaani a confused look while the latter now refused to meet eyes with her.
"Why wouldn't I say it? The books are perfectly alright." Ishaani gave Claudine an indignant look.
"No, the books are burnt." Claudine gave Ishaani a smile and repeated her statement in a strong voice.
"No, they are perfectly safe."
"I saw them-"
But even as Ishaani gave Claudine a determined look, she couldn't recall the memory of seeing a single book, ashes or ruined, in the library. On giving it more thought, all that she actually recalled was seeing the destroyed bookshelves, and the tables and chairs that has been reduced to ashes. The library did feel like a vacant building in spite of the smoke, and suddenly, Ishaani's spirits were slightly better, realizing that what Claudine was saying was true.
"How did it happen?"
"Shortly after the two of you left in the morning, Martha called us and informed us that there was a short circuit in the library, and a small fire had broken out. I and Martin rushed over to the library, but luckily, Martha had managed to put out the fire and nothing was damaged. We told Martha to carry on for the fair, even though she was adamant not to go, but we assured her that we would handle the matter."
"What happened then?"
"We called the electrician, but he told us that there was some kind of major leakage from the washroom's main plumbing line, which intersected with the main electricity line of the library that were causing the wires to spark off. They told us that it was a major job that needed atleast a week to rectify so that the lines could be separated. They advised us to empty the library so that there wasn't any damage to the inbuilt property of the same during the maintenance and repair works, given that it was a complicated job. Since it was already late afternoon by the time we came to know about it, we only had time to cart off all the books. We were supposed to take away the bookshelves and other furniture tomorrow, but then this happened."
Ishaani looked at Claudine in surprise, clearly stunned at the proceedings of the day, but a strange relief spreading over her knowing that all the books were safe.
"Where are the books right now?"
"In the basement of our house." Ishaani gasped in relief, before breaking into a racking fit of coughs. Claudine rubbed her back and gave her some water drink, that soothed the latter's throat instantly. Once Ishaani had managed to gather her strength, she spoke in a stronger whisper.
"Oh God... Claudine... I... How can I ever thank you both?"
"Hush. It was pretty lucky that we carted off the books, or else it would have been very awful. Besides, don't speak like an idiot about thanking us, or else..." Ishaani smiled slightly at the look on Claudine's face and quickly changed the topic.
"Where is Martin and Martha?"
"He's with Ranveer right now and Martha is with the kids, along with managing the situation about the library." After a few contemplative moments, Ishaani asked slowly.
"Can I see Ranveer?"
"No, not today. You can see him once you are discharged, alright? And you've spoken enough for one day so don't strain yourself, and take some rest now. You still look worse for wear."
Ishaani was discharged the next day, with a list of explicit warning with Phillipe and her gynecologist, but otherwise alright. Claudine led her towards the room where Ranveer was, and the two women met Martin, who had just finished his conversation with the doctor. Martin saw Ishaani and gave her a hug, and Ishaani could feel half of his worry fading away as he shivered in her arms.
Pulling himself away after a few minutes, Martin gave Ishaani a strong look, his voice much stronger than he looked.
"It's good to see you alright, Madame."
"It's good to see you too." Ishaani tried to see into the room through the window but the blinds were pulled down. She looked at Martin imploringly. "How is he?"
"The doctor says that Monsieur has just gained consciousness and that they're just doing a few tests before they let us see him." Ishaani nodded her head as Claudine made her sit down on one of the chairs and the three of them waited. Fifteen minutes later, the doctor left the room and gave Claudine a meaningful look.
"It's just like we feared. Retrograde amnesia."
"It isn't permanent though?"
"I shouldn't think so, no. He should regain his memory once the effects wear off. He does have a problem with his motor functions, but luckily, he doesn't have a paralysis, which is a very good sign." Ishaani looked at them blankly, not taking in a word they spoke. She only wanted to see Ranveer awake, the one sight that would dim the fire of guilt and pain in her heart.
"Can we meet him?"
"Yes, but one at a time. He shouldn't get distressed in any way and seeing too many foreign faces may trigger a side-effect." All the three of them nodded and the doctor gave a smile to Ishaani. "I've heard a lot about you from Claudine and I've seen the way you fought for his life back during his accident. You are a brave and courageous girl. Just remain strong and love him the way you do. He will be alright." Ishaani smiled at the doctor while he gave her a reassuring pat on her back.
Ishaani, Claudine and Martin sighed as they opened the door to his room. Ranveer lay before them, staring vacantly at the ceiling, looking like a patched up rag doll. His arms and feet were completely covered in plaster, while a turban of bandage sat on his head gingerly. Several monitors were attached to him by means of wires, and as the doctor has mentioned, he was still on the extra oxygen.
Martin and Claudine silently backed away, wondering whether to enter first or no, but Ishaani knew. She walked forward towards Ranveer and took a seat beside him. He turned towards her and gave her a bewildered look, but somehow it did not deter her spirit. He was hers, and nothing could take that away from her. She smiled at him gently as she took his injured hand in her own, speaking in a soft voice.
"Welcome back." Ranveer stared at her blankly for a few minutes, before giving her a small smile, nodding his head slowly in acknowledgement. Ishaani gently gave him a kiss on the back of his hand, and looked at him dead in the eyes, speaking soulfully.
"I love you." She didn't expect an answer because she knew he wouldn't remember her. But it felt good to say it nonetheless. Ranveer struggled for a minute, trying to get his mind working. Finally getting through with it, he said something that surprised them all.
"I love you, too."
It took two days to remember everyone's name. Three days to remember how to read and write. Five days to get out of bed and a week before Ranveer could walk around the ward. Eight days to get rid of the slur accompanying the concussion. Nine days to remember what happened to hospitalize him. Ranveer had become just as hysterical about the library as Ishaani was when she had woken up, but once she told him the whole thing, he relaxed considerably.
On the eleventh day he was dangerously close to relapsing, but on the twelfth he showed everyone how strong he was. On the fifteenth day he began to grow antsy, wanting out of the hospital as soon as possible, Ishaani, Martha, Martin and Claudine now fed up of his unreasonable talk. On the seventeenth day, he attempted a shot at trying to escape from the hospital, bored by its mundane atmosphere, but was caught by a fuming Ishaani. She didn't talk to him for the whole day before he emotionally blackmailed her into doing the same.
"Fine! Don't talk to me... I'll just sit here and die of boredom."
"It's a real pity that the doctor has asked me to be loving, or else a slap on your face should have been answer enough."
"I'm perfectly fine! See? Perfectly alright!"
"Save the speech for Dr. Anthony, not me."
"Alright, fine! I'm sorry. I won't do anything like that again, promise."
"You better be sorry." Ranveer stared at Ishaani sympathetically as he saw her eyes welling up. "Come here." Ishaani refused to meet eyes with him, but let him take her in his arms nonetheless. She let herself cry in his arms, happy that she could now be weak and let Ranveer take care of her. Separating from the hug, Ranveer wiped away Ishaani's tears and smiled.
"What's happened has happened. Let it go. Our love emerged victorious against death, it's what kept us alive. Let it go."
"I would have died if anything would have happened to you."
"Shhh. We have had enough conversations of the same. You got stabbed, third time of facing death for me, but the end point is that we both fought it out. Our child as well. So let it go. I know that it's easier said than done, but we needn't worry. It's over now, Ishaani, it's just going to be a part of our past. Don't jeopardize our present and future for it. We've conquered our fear of death, so don't let it haunt you again."
"I wish I had never said that blasted thing." Ranveer understood what she implied, and he smiled ruefully.
"I wish the same, but let it go. It's time for my medicine."
"Medicine? I just gave them to you."
"Not that medicine, stupid, that one." Ishaani blushed furiously and smacked his arm lightly.
"You are getting none of that, mister. Consider it as your punishment for your brilliant escape attempt this afternoon." Ranveer pouted his lips childishly, while Ishaani left the room with an evil grin.
On the twentieth day he started to work again secretly from the hospital, against doctor's orders. On the twenty-second day Ranveer's wish came true; he was released. Ranveer and Ishaani smiled at each other as they finally left the hospital building hand in hand, secretly glad to get shot of the place, even though they were more than thankful for all the services that the doctors had given them.
Ranveer and Ishaani sat in the car, Ranveer enjoying the scenic atmosphere after three weeks of confinement, when he realized that the car was not heading home. He looked at Ishaani in confusion, but the latter just mouthed the word 'surprise'. The car came to a halt after ten minutes and Ranveer gasped in shock, Ishaani thoroughly enjoying his reactions.
Ranveer and Ishaani got down from the car and stood in front of Neapolitan City that looked as grand as it did before the fire. It was as though the fire had never happened, the place had never burned down. The glass panes and exterior of the cathedral like structure looked as majestic as ever, the only difference being that it looked cleaner.
The two of them entered the library and Ranveer felt like he was bowled off his feet. The library functioned as usual, all the furniture and books restored, the library packed with people. The only difference that the place had was the flooring, which was now maple wood instead of cherry, and the bookshelves being brand new ones. Everything else, including the same mysterious aura of the library, felt identical.
"How did you do this?"
"Once we realized that the books were safe, we all got our spirits back. We called over the electrician and got the matter resolved, that is replace the old electricity box with a new one and make sure they have the lines separate. A week after that, we got the whole thing painted, the same shade as we had renovated it with some time back. The smell of the smoke thankfully subsided and we ordered for the tables, chairs, lamps, curtains and bookshelves. We got the delivery within five days and once that was done, we re-installed the books back. The library was opened to the public three days back. Martha's cabin got working yesterday.
"And the windows?"
"That's because I'd sent an order for a new set of the same panes for replacing them with the old ones last month, remember? Well, it helped." Ranveer smiled at Ishaani as he kissed her gently, claiming his lips with her own in a magical moment, pouring all of his emotions into her. Breaking apart, he smiled and spoke in a soft yet awestruck voice.
"I couldn't have asked for a bigger surprise. The aura... atmosphere... it's perfect. It's just like magic." Ishaani smiled, as she ruffled his hair gently.
"It’s enchanted with love."