Chapter 69: Sticking Together
Two months had elapsed since Ranveer's discharge without any more shockers or incidents. Once Ranveer had been discharged from the hospital, he was confined to a strict fifteen day best rest and one month of compulsory physiotherapy that everyone made sure that Ranveer completed.
Unlike the previous time, Ranveer and Ishaani were much well adept in dealing with the effects of their nightmarish experience. Somehow, the two of them were more comfortable not discussing it entirely until they were ready to confront it whole, but till then, they decided to focus on the sole task before them - the wellbeing of their unborn child.
As Ishaani steadily progressed into her second trimester, her condition got tricky enough to handle, serving as an excellent distraction for the couple. The two of them made a mutual pact of not discussing the night at all, for it was much more distressing talking about it than trying to forget about it altogether. Martin and Claudine continued with the same policy as well. Nobody tried to pretend that the thing never happened, but all were content in letting the unsaid things remain unsaid. But the three instrumental people in helping everyone overcome the shock of the incident were Fred, George and Timmy.
Timmy barked his head off when Ranveer had finally returned home after three weeks, trying to lick him from all angles and wagging his head wildly, before Ishaani and Claudine pulled off the overexcited dog off of him. Freddy and George seemed just as happy to see him, happily cooing and giggling while seeing him, he doing the same.
Martin and Claudine sat huddled in a conversation one fine evening, when a five month pregnant Ishaani descended from the stairs in discomfort, her hand over her bump protectively.
"Is everything alright?" asked Claudine worriedly. Ishaani took a seat beside Claudine, who gave her a sympathetic look.
"Claud, I salute you. It's so difficult for me to manage myself at times with the bump! And you've had twins, for crying out loud!" Claudine chuckled at the horror in her voice and spoke in an understanding voice.
"Oh come now, Ishaani, it's pretty much alright. And trust me, you are really an angel with all the hormones. I was such a devil back then." Ishaani and Martin gave each other an all-too understanding smile, the former now speaking reasonably.
"And I don't blame you. Besides, I have to take care of Ranveer as well, so tantrum making is off my list." Claudine gave her a sweet smile, while Martin spoke for the first time, his tone overly-enthusiastic.
"Madame is most understanding." Claudine gave Martin a questioning look, and he flushed. Turning back to Ishaani, the former smiled slyly.
"Well, every one's nine-month journey is different. Luckily, you were done with your worst in the first three months of your duration. I wasn't so lucky till my 7th month." Ishaani looked confused before she remembered the one-month estrangement between Martin and Claudine and gave the couple an awkward look. Martin however, didn't look abashed; only guilty.
"That is perhaps the only regret I will have lifelong," said Martin, as he now chose to admire the pair of shoes he wore. Claudine took Martin's hand in her own that was a prompt enough for Martin to raise his head up. The couple stared at each other with a blazing look in their eyes before Claudine spoke strongly.
"No, I do not regret it. For it was because of that one month that you finally learned to live, cher. If anything, I am thoroughly thankful for it."
Martin and Claudine immersed themselves into a deep eye lock with each other, and Ishaani smiled. Just then, Ranveer and Martha entered the hall and stooped at the threshold to observe the scene before his eyes with utmost interest. Ranveer cleared his throat noisily, breaking Martin and Claudine's trance. Ishaani walked up to Ranveer and he hugged her as much as the bump permitted him to do.
Breaking apart, Ishaani gave Martha a bear hug as well, before the three of them walked back to the couch where Claudine and Martin were seated. Ranveer plonked tiredly, while Martha took her seat gracefully. Ishaani quickly asked one of the helpers to get Ranveer and Martha a strong cup of coffee. Ishaani had been seeing Martha after two weeks for she was now on her maternity leave.
"So, how was your day?" asked Ishaani, who had just taken a seat beside Ranveer. He gave her a dejected sigh, speaking into a monotonous tone.
"Horrible. The markets are shut for another week until the bail offs don't happen." Ishaani shook her head in disappointment, now turning her head towards Martha.
"And how's the library going?"
"Never better. It's like the place has been given a new life. Ever since the fire, things have only been thriving! More people, more books; the crowd has increased just the same. I've had to hire two more assistants in addition to the other one to handle the working.
"I miss the library so much…"
"You can return back to it any time you want."
"But, you know, it puzzles me some times. What was the point of the fire? In life, I always believe that everything happens for a reason. But here... I could not see any."
"Sweetie, there were loads of reasons. The two of you had been fearing a lot of things before the fire broke out. You walked out of it unscathed. You conquered your fear."
"But why the library?"
"My mother always told me that a place always thrives on the base of its ruins. You can see the living proof of that. The books were unscathed, knowledge was preserved, but the library got a new life altogether. You always told me that you could guess the different sections of the library without knowing what they were on the basis of their aura. You were right. A library survives of the basis of its aura, not infrastructure."
"It always stood as a symbol of love for me."
"I always told you that Neapolitan City was a symbol of my incomplete love story with David. But when I handed you and Ranveer the library, I told you that this library would now be the symbol of your complete love story. Your love story was complete, the phoenix of your love interlinked with the library had reached its prime of life, and it caught fire. But it took birth again from the ashes of the past. Neapolitan City had to turn over a new leaf as well, and it did."
Everyone let Martha's words sink in as they sat in silence. Ranveer and Martha sipped over their coffee silently while the rest of them preferred sitting in tranquility, as the incidents from three months ago played in their minds. Martha now took the initiative to break the quiet of the mansion, and questioned Martin gently.
"How is work at your place, Martin?" Martin had a similar look of resignation on his face, his voice holding an undercurrent of worry, apart from hopelessness.
"It's just as bad, Madame Brandt. Everything depends upon the bail offs now." Martha nodded his head gravely, before asking him further.
"What about your job?"
"My company managed to divert most of their funds away from Greece at the right time, so the company is still trying to stay afloat. They are happy with my work and assure me that come what may, I'm to stay." Ranveer, Ishaani, Claudine and Martha gave him relieved looks, Ishaani now taking the lead.
"Martin, what about the housing arrangements?"
"It will happen next month, Madame." Ishaani nodded her head satisfactorily, as she questioned further.
"And where will your next residence be?"
"In Vouliagmeni, somewhere around my office complex, most probably. My boss tells me that it was be a spacious two-bedroom flat provided by the company." Ranveer and Ishaani smiled, but it quickly faltered as they noticed the uncomfortable looks of Martin and Claudine's face. Ranveer questioned tentatively.
"Nothing." When Ranveer gave the couple a skeptical look, Martin spoke decisively.
"We are not moving."
"What?" Ranveer and Ishaani spoke in unison, stunned disbelief clear on their features. The two of them stared at Martin and Claudine agog while Claudine shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly.
"Yes, I and Martin have mutually decided that we won't be moving until you have your delivery. I was thinking to stay back for another four months as well. The months after a woman's pregnancy are very crucial." Ishaani looked at Claudine like she was insane, before speaking with finality.
"Are you crazy?! Ofcourse not!" Claudine gave her a stony look, her voice now dipping low with sharp sarcasm.
"Do you want to kick us out of here?" Ishaani flushed, but not standing down as well.
"No! But you needn't do this for us! The two of you have started over a new life, we don't want to be the reason why you are holding back." Claudine gave her an exasperated look, while Martin now spoke in a patient voice.
"We are not doing this because of anything else, we are doing it so that we can ease your tenure sufficiently." Ranveer gave the couple a deep, scrutinizing look, catching the twitch in Martin's eye instantly. Smirking slightly, Ranveer now questioned with utmost delicacy.
"Why do I feel that this is something else entirely?" Martin made the mistake of making an eye contact with Ranveer in that moment and he faltered horribly.
"We... we..." Ranveer turned his attention towards Claudine, as Martin gave him a terrified look.
"Claud..." Claudine spoke placidly.
"Let's just say that we do not trust the two of you entirely to leave you alone." Ranveer and Ishaani gave her a mixture of bewildered and outraged looks, while she gave them a bland look.
"What? We aren't... oh!" Ranveer flushed deeply, Ishaani instantly catching on to the meaning. She gave Claudine an irritable twitch, Claudine throwing her hands up in a surrender.
"Don't look at me like that, you are trouble magnets." Ishaani glared at her, before trying to play defensive.
"Come on, what happened three months ago wasn't our fault! We... well..." Ranveer however, jumped in at the right time, picking up from where Ishaani left her statement.
"It wasn't our fault. We had no clue that the riots were going to break out or else we would have headed home much earlier." Claudine and Martin gave each other uncertain looks, before Martha spoke for the first time in all those minutes.
"So can we talk about it now?" Ranveer and Ishaani gave each other tentative looks, knowing that their pact had broken. Ranveer gave Martha a deep sigh, now speaking in a resigned tone.
"I suppose so." Claudine nodded her head, she could feel the atmosphere of the room tense up. She directed her first question to Ranveer.
"I've been meaning to ask you this for a long time. In fact all of us have." Ranveer gave her an unsure look, but obliged nonetheless.
"Why did you enter the library when you knew the entire place was ablaze? It was not as though a single man could have done it all." Ranveer gave a shaky look to the other four, knowing that this was an overdue question. He answered blankly.
"I went in because I expected the aerial sprinklers to work and put out the fire, or atleast part of it. I thought that if I could control the fire from within, it could be put out." Martha gave him a confused look.
"But the sprinklers couldn't have been working."
"Because of the fire that same morning, yes. But you can't blame me, it's not like I knew." Martha gave him an understanding look, but Ishaani looked slightly confused.
"Wait, I don't understand." Ranveer gave Ishaani a nod before speaking slowly.
"The library has got an automatic fire defense mechanism that I'd installed three years back. If a fire if to break out, the smoke would hit the sensors and aerial sprinklers would immediately be brought into effect. The short circuit in the morning disabled the sensors and the sprinklers because of which the defense mechanism went a fail. Before I knew that there was something wrong or I could escape, there was another miniature explosion. The last thing I remember is crashing into something hard, before I got up straight at the hospital." Ishaani nodded her head in complete comprehension, before gritting her teeth in evident frustration.
"But I don't get it, when I asked you to do something, I meant for you to call for help, not dive into the burning building!" Ranveer gave her an irritated look.
"I was in a frenzy, alright? You were injured and were barely able to form words... what the hell were you doing by the car anyway?"
"I wanted water!"
"Why didn't you tell me?" Ishaani gave Ranveer an incredulous look, momentarily taken aback by the lameness of his question, before she retorted heatedly.
"What do you mean by 'why didn't you tell me'? You were out of my sight and busy with Mr. Rodgers. Besides, I didn't know that I would be attacked by a bunch of lunatic protesters now, did I?" Ranveer glared at her before blurting out abruptly.
"Yes, and your collapsing in my arms the way you did didn't help me either." Ishaani flared, her response instant, dripping with painful sarcasm.
"Yeah right, as though seeing you all singed, bruised and heavily bleeding was a treat for me." Ranveer gave her a resigned look before speaking grudgingly.
"Ugh, it was better than we didn't discuss it at all!" Ishaani nodded her head and the two of them re-instating their pact, while Ishaani now looked at the other couple gravely.
"Martin, Claudine, look, what happened three months ago was neither of our faults. And it's not like we invite trouble... it just finds us." Ranveer nodded feverishly, backing her up.
"I agree, and this is something both of y'all have worked for. Please don't let the two of us hinder it." Claudine gave the couple a thunderous look at Ranveer's last statement, now taking on a new pact.
"Do you have a problem if we stay here?"
"Do you think we are intruding over your privacy if we stay here?"
"Do you think we are acting like people who love staying for free in a huge mansion?"
"Ofcourse not, we-"
"Good, so we don't want an argument. We're sticking together." Ranveer and Ishaani gave each other a beseeching look, but knew instantly that the argument was lost. As a last resort, Ishaani turned her head towards Martha.
She, in turn, gave them a firm look.
"Look, the two of them are right. Besides, they will not be staying with you forever now, are they? They will be moving out after some time."
"But look at Martin's state! He is fagged out! And Claudine wanted to celebrate the kids’ first birthday in their own house!"
"Look Ishaani, you always call as family and you two have always stood by us time and again. This is what families do. They stick together. We have our dreams, but they can wait. The two of you are more important. We wouldn't have been where we are today if wasn't for the two of you. So let it be." The attempt with Claudine being a failure, Ranveer turned towards Martin.
"Monsieur, when I asked once how I could ever repay you and Madame, she told that I couldn't, because it was what family stood for. If you ever considered us truly as your family, let go." Finally beaten completely at the argument, Ranveer and Ishaani gave disgruntled looks to the three of them, before Ranveer muttered darkly.
"This is totally not cool." Martin gave Ranveer a brave smile before speaking in a heartfelt tone.
"And we have your backs as well."