Chapter 6: The Tale of Mr. Martin
"What!?" Ishaani half fell, half slumped on the chair in shock. Martin stared at her apologetically while he handed her the glass of brandy.
"Sorry, Madame, I did not intend you frighten you. Perhaps it is best that you do have some brandy to steady your nerves." Ishaani stared at him stupidly for a couples of moments before she accepted the brandy, her hands shaking slightly and drained the glass in one go.
She felt the brandy warm her up and felt the heat come up her throat while she relaxed back in the chair. She was accustomed to having a glass of brandy from time to time, which now worked as an advantage for her not getting drunk too easily.
She blinked her eyes several times before motioning Martin to take the other remaining seat opposite her. Martin sat down reluctantly and Ishaani spoke once again.
"How do you know?" She knew it was a very stupid question to ask, or rather the question was framed quite stupidly, but she did not care. Her mind was exhausted and she had no strength for speaking in riddles anymore.
"Monsieur had told me about it."
"I want to know something from you, Mr. Martin."
"I want to know how you and Ranveer met." Martin smiled at the use of Ranveer's first name from Ishaani while he nodded.
"Do you want to know everything?"
"If I have your permission then?"
"You see, when Monsieur first came to Greece, I was just a poor peasant from rural France, who came here in search for a job. I had no family and no money. One day while I was walking aimlessly on the road, trying to find for a job and starving for two days, I became weak and I was hit by a car. I would have died had it not been for Monsieur who saved me at the right time. He brought me to a hospital and paid for all my treatment. Once I became fit, he asked me all about myself. I was ashamed to tell him, but I did nonetheless. Monsieur decided to give me a job."
Ishaani nodded her head at him solemnly. Martin continued.
"Monsieur used to stay in a rented apartment back then, near Athens. I used to stay with him and drive him around to his work and do all the household chores too. He would pay me well and was trusted me a lot. Very soon, Monsieur and I became very close and he began to treat me like a brother."
Ishaani smiled. Even in these three years, Ranveer was precisely the same, even though he had been through so much. She looks at Martin affectionately, happy that her love had finally found a friend who he could trust blindly.
"I worked hard so that I could live up to his trust and hope to repay him back for all of his love and affection. Monsieur was happy with my services and would always speak most highly of me. And then, Monsieur did something that made me forever indebted to him. During one of his business tours in Zurich, we came across a woman during our stay. She was a beautiful woman, independent and earned well. She used to stay in the same hotel as us. During that time, she and Monsieur became acquainted well enough.
Ishaani observed Martin for a few moments before a knowing smile crossed her face.
"You fell in love with her now, didn't you?"
"Mais oui, Madame. She was not only physically attractive, but was a very gentle, humorous and intelligent woman. Everything I aspired to have in my wife. But naturally I couldn't tell her that, for I was nowhere near her standard."
Ishaani cringed at the bluntness of the statement. A tear escaped her eye as she pictured Ranveer's face in front of her, the first time he confessed his feelings to her 6 years ago, and how she had not believed him and had severed away all ties with him for 2 years. She looked at Martin guiltily as he smiled at her painfully for a moment before he continued.
"But Monsieur found out about it. He reprimanded me for not telling my feelings to Claudine, the girl who I desired to be with for the rest of my life. He warned me that if I would not tell her about how I felt, he would go talk to her about the same. I was frightened. You see, in all those months, Monsieur knew everything about me and understood me so well, but I didn't know him at all. He would ask me for my counsel always, yet I didn't know why he would remain so unhappy and troubled, for even though Monsieur would not say anything, I knew that he was suffering from some painful emotion."
Ishaani shut her eyes and let Martin's words wash over her for a moment. This was the closest she could ever get to know how Ranveer was in those three years. She needed to take in every word that Martin spoke. Composing herself once again, she asked him curiously.
"What happened then?"
"Well, stuttering and stammering, I told Claudine the next evening the whole truth. I expected her to laugh and jeer at me or simply slap me for my daring. She did neither. Instead, she commended me for my honesty and simply hugged me. She told me that she was willing to get married to me."
Ishaani smiled triumphantly while Martin smiled at the thought of that memory.
"That was the most beautiful day of my life, Madame. Even more beautiful than the day we got married. I returned back to my room and simply hugged Monsieur and broke down over his shoulder. He, ofcourse, got worried, until I managed to tell him that Claudine and accepted my proposal. He was even happier than me, though he did scold me for scaring the daylights out of him."
Martin chuckled and Ishaani smiled at him fondly. She was started to like him more by the minute and he began feeling like a family member more than a butler in a mansion.
"Three weeks later, we came to this house, married and happy while Monsieur had a kept a housewarming party as well as a reception for the two of us. Her parents were happy with our marriage and had given us their blessings, something which I was quite afraid about and she had taken a transfer to the hospital over here in Vari after our marriage."
Ishaani nodded approvingly while she now asked him the question she had been yearning to have an answer to from quite some time.
"When did you find out about me from Ranveer?"
"It was nearly two springs ago, Madame. One night, Monsieur visited my cabin, when my wife had her night shift at the hospital. When I opened my door, he was standing there, half slumped over the wall and too drunk to know anything. Never had I seen him this distressed and Monsieur was even crying. I brought him into my cabin and made him lie down and asked him about what had upset him so much. He told me everything, without even keeping a single detail from me. He even showed me your photo."
Ishaani's mind took some time to register what he had said, for her mind was stuck on the term 'two springs ago' and it struck her. It must have been around what Ranveer considered to be her first death anniversary. Ishaani nodded at him and asked once again.
"What did you do?"
"I listened to Monsieur the entire night, sometimes crying, sometimes mumbling about what had happened to him and why he came to Greece. I tried to comfort him in every way possible but never in my life had I been more afraid for Monsieur, for he looked like he would go insane. Finally towards dawn, Monsieur fell asleep in my room but I was distressed. Distressed about his health."
"What happened then?"
"Monsieur got up around noon the next day. I naturally never had the courage to bring up the topic about last night. I knew that Monsieur used to go to Mrs. Brandt's library since that past one month as a type of therapy for his cracking depression, but I did not bring anything up. Monsieur came up to my cabin once again that evening, but he simple hugged me and thanked me for listening to him last night and for being there like a brother for him. We never mentioned that event ever since."
But something else was clicking into Ishaani's mind now.
"You say that you were afraid for Ranveer's health. Did he have a similar type of panic attack that night? Or does he have it often?"
"No, Madame. That night, he simply had a nervous breakdown. Monsieur has never had an anxiety attack of this level before. He only had it once, a year ago when he thought he saw someone who looked alike you. But that was a very minor one. Just profuse sweating and nausea. My wife, obviously, didn't know the reason behind that attack, but Monsieur let me know about it later on."
Now Ishaani understood what had brought upon the anxiety attack to this level. Her suspicion was exact and Ranveer's prolonged ignorance to face the fact in the party that night had led to the build-up of such a severe attack.
"Mr. Martin. I don't know how I could ever thank you for being there with my husband at a time where he was alone. You are truly part of the family now." Martin looked highly happy at this remark and smiled at Ishaani. Taking the empty brandy glass in his hand now, he got up slowly.
"Madame, if I may take your leave now. You have also had a rough night. Some hours' sleep should do you good." Ishaani nodded at him before stopping him once again.
"Mr. Martin, I hope that our conversation tonight remains between us only."
"Mais oui, that goes without saying, Madame."
"And one more thing."
"Can I sit beside Ranveer for some time? It wouldn't trigger another... attack of any sort, would it?"
"Rest assured, Madame. Monsieur is alright now and asleep. Though if you do want to sit by him, it is alright. Bonne nuit, Madame!" Ishaani smiled at him and wished him goodnight while she headed towards Ranveer's room once again, the tattered copy of Hamlet caught firmly within her fingers. She swung the door open cautiously and entered the room.
The bedroom lamp was dimly lit while Ranveer was fast asleep, his features much more relaxed than the convulsed ones she had witnessed nearly two hours ago. She took her seat on the armchair that was kept near the bed and cuddled up in it, until she was comfortable enough to begin reading. Opening the copy of her book where she had bookmarked it, she began reading the book, until she mind refused any more intake of words.
Shutting the book while a frustrated sigh left her lips, she glared at the picture of Shakespeare that smiled back at her from the cover and slammed the book on the coffee table, making sure not to make much noise. She now instead took to staring at Ranveer sleep peacefully, his breath even and calm as the thoughts of love floated around her mind, along with the names of Shakespeare and Hamlet once again.
The only thing she could manage to conclude properly was that Prince Hamlet was an unhinged crackpot before she fell asleep on the armchair.