Chapter 8: Hangovers of Drunken Love
Ishaani groaned in her sleep steadily as her head kept pounding, feeling as though her skull would explode. She woke up sulkily, her eyes getting adjusted slowly to the brightness of the room before she realized that she was sleeping in the room she was given for the night. Surprised, she quickly dialed the intercom and called Martin in her room, anxious and curious about the happenings of the last few hours.
Martin knocked and entered the room within 5 minutes, a glass of lemonade in his hand along with an aspirin. He handed over the glass to Ishaani, who took it gratefully and sipped it, making a face alongside.
"Ugh, it's too strong!" Looking at Martin raise his eyebrow at her, she quickly added. "But quite refreshing, you know."
Ishaani's eyes suddenly widened at the similarity of the phrase, until she stared at her lemonade, a small smile coming up to her face.
"Is everything alright, Madame?"
"Oh yes, everything's fine. I just remembered someone who had spoken this exact line to me a few years back." She looked up at Martin and saw understanding reflect in his eyes. She realized that he was quite quick to grasp facts hidden in words and phrases and had brains that complemented his carelessly handsome looks perfectly.
"How is Ranveer now? Is he alright?"
"He is perfectly fine, Madame. I've served him a good breakfast and given him his medicines too, even though he protested quite a bit about it."
"He was never quite a one to abide by medicines, really." She looked around the room and asked Martin quizzically. "How on Earth did I end up back over here?"
"I carried you back here, Madame. You fell asleep on the armchair in Monsieur's room, so he asked me to bring you back here." Ishaani nodded her head while she absent-mindedly played with her ring.
"Is Ranveer free now?"
"Claudine is checking up on him at the moment, Madame. The delegate party will be leaving soon, so I don't think that he'll be free now. I think that he should be free around noon most probably."
Ishaani nodded her head and Martin left the room quietly. She kept the lemonade aside and stared at the ring, a tear escaping her eye at the sight of the two doves perched on it, kept intact in spite of so many hurdles. This ring had been her solace each day, giving her hope that Ranveer was somewhere, living and successful, even though she did not know where. She had not seen him since the day the court had first given its judgement on her execution and had made a point to not see him again once she had left Mumbai for good.
She had gone back to the Vaghela mansion once her sentence was pardoned at the last moment, courtesy of her friend and defense lawyer Shikhar. She had hoped Ranveer would there, see her, hug her or even be angry with her, for she had wronged him in so many ways that were unfair. But karma had made sure she went through the same abandonment from all her loved ones just like how she had abandoned Ranveer.
The moment she reached the threshold of her house, Amba had made sure that she was thrown out of the house as unceremoniously as she could be thrown while she blamed her viciously for being the reason why Ranveer had left Mumbai with nothing but a letter that said that he was going to start life anew, away from everything that reminded him of her.
She had then gone back to her own family, tear-stained and heartbroken, but their reaction was even worse than the one that she received from Amba. None of them were willing to see her face and threw her out of the house, yelling that she was dead for everyone and she just stood up to everyone's claims of her being illegitimate and never a part of the family. Her own mother had refused to see her.
She had tried visiting Ritika and Sameera but both of them refused to acknowledge her, ashamed for what she had done and refused to stand in her company for any more than 5 minutes. It came as an ugly shock to Ishaani that Ritika was pregnant with what she assumed was Sharman's kid, but he refused to accept her and the kid and the engagement was called off.
She was lost in that insane world consumed with grief and shock alike when she gained a slight solace in Shikhar. He had agreed to give her shelter in her house for a few days and took good care of her as a friend but she could not bear being there anymore. She wanted to start life fresh and all over again, away from there and somewhere quiet and secluded; a place that would be big enough to accept both her and her guilty heart.
Shikhar suggested shifting to Greece, where he had a cousin sister residing. He helped her with her passport and visa, and a month later she was sitting on a flight to Greece, not knowing where life would lead her and what life would give her now. The only thing that she held on to from the past was her ring, Ranveer's only gift of their marriage and love apart from her mangalsutra that she no longer wore, for she was certain that they must no longer be married after signing the divorce papers.
Snapping back to reality, Ishaani hastily wiped away her tears of loneliness and bitter resentment that was steadily rising up her throat. She drank the lemonade swiftly while she gulped down the aspirin alongside. She quickly got up and freshened herself, so that she could head back home, then to the library, and if time permitted, back here later to finally confront old wounds. If luck would have it, she would be able to seal them away forever.
Ishaani entered the library slowly while Martha was ushering one of the noisy groups of teenagers out. She looked at Ishaani and frowned at her lost expression and pulled her straight into her cabin. Shutting the door behind her, she made Ishaani sit down quickly while the latter looked up at her, her restraint breaking steadily.
Martha pulled her into a hug while Ishaani held on to her and cried her heart out. Martha rubbed circles on her back and calmed her with soft and soothing words. Separating from the hug once Ishaani's sobs were reduced to hiccoughs, she cupped her cheek while sitting on her knees.
"Honey, what happened?"
"I cannot take it anymore. I simply cannot do this anymore."
"Honey, look at me. Is this about Ranveer?"
Ishaani looked at her and nodded. "Darling! Why didn't you tell me last night! I had a feeling that the two of y'all knew each other from somewhere and had some history from before. Had I known that he was your husband-" Martha looked at Ishaani guiltily while the latter shook her head.
"It isn't that Martha. I've killed him with my love! Three years! Three years he thinks I'm dead and tries to re-piece his life back together and yet the moment he sees me, he still goes back to caring for me and my happiness! Hell, he didn't let me sleep on the armchair just because it was bloody uncomfortable! Why does he have to care for me so much!? Why does he have to love me so much that even though he has locked up emotions in some forgotten corner of his heart, he still manages to show it through actions?! Why did he have to fall in love with me of all the people in this world? Look at me, Martha! Ever since we have been friends, all I've ever given him is pain and misery! Only pain! And yet he keeps loving me so much! I cannot take it anymore Martha, my heart can't live with this anymore!"
She caught her head in despair, her fingers interlocked in her hair while tears streamed openly from her eyes. Martha stared at her for a few moments before she pulled Ishaani's chin up so that blue eyes met onyx ones.
"You listen to me, girl. I've known Ranveer for the past three years and let me tell you something. If anyone knows him after Martin, it's me. I've had him up in my library since three years, where there have been more than several nights where I've sat up with him all night and heard him cry and nurse his heart from your death and absence. You don't you even dare to play the blame game here." Martha took a deep breath and continued.
"If anyone has ever given him any happiness in life, it's you. You have never been able to grasp the fact and sadly this was the main reason why you ended up doing what you did three years back. And regarding what he has done for you, darling, unconditional love never knows return. When Ranveer loved you as a kid, he was ready to live with his one-sided love without ever expecting anything in return from you. That will be his love for you all his life that will never ever change no matter what. He may repress that love with anger, resentment and prejudice, but he'll always love you no matter what. And he will put himself through hell thousands of times even though he will get simmered and burn in that same love that will only leave his ashes behind. That's love. Ask yourself. Won't you put yourself through the same hell that you went through three years ago just so that he could escape punishment? When you get your answer to that, go face him and tell him what you told me."
Ishaani looked at her surprised for several moments before she asked her shakily.
"How did you come to know that Ranveer is...was my husband?"
"He told me so 15 minutes ago. I called him to check up on the job vacancy thing and he told me that you were his wife. He had his suspicions ever since I mentioned your name in the reports. That's why he was so anxious to meet you. He told me he would tell me everything once he saw you and he told me about it on the phone right now." Staring at Martha absent-mindedly, she continued.
"How can you be so sure of how this story is going to end, Martha?""Because I've heard both sides of it. All you need to do is talk to each other now. This conversation may make it or break it, but either way, this will finally help y'all move on in life. The two of you have buried and hidden yourselves far too deep into the past. It's time the two of you came out from your hiding places and confront the truth for once, head on."