Story : Friendship or Love (Chapter 8)

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Chapter – 8 [Truth]

Her phone rang. She picked it up, still walking with Arjun and Adarsh. Mom and Dad had left earlier and now they were leaving too. Adarsh held the marriage certificate and Arjun kept a poker face. He was still upset that she had got married to Adarsh.

“Yeah. Sugar plum?” Sam asked, answering the call.

“Sam, you… need to… be here, in the city hos.. hospital.” Radhika stuttered through her sentence. Sam froze. Hospital?

“What happened? Is everyone alright?”

“No.. Uncle… Aunty is coming too. Please Sam, hurry up.” And with that, she cut the call.

Sam stumbled. Dad! God! Nothing should happen to the old guy. He was her prized possession. She couldn’t afford to loose her Dad.

“Arjun, we need to go to the city hospital. Dad’s not well.” Sam said running for her car. Adarsh and Arjun followed her.

***

“Don’t worry, Uncle. I’ve called both of them. They’ll be here in a few minutes.” Radhika said and Samrat smiled. He knew, this wasn’t right, but this was the only way he could stop Sam from marrying Adarsh.

“Thank you, Radhika. What you’ve done, means a lot, seeing you don’t lie.” Samrat said, folding his hands.

She immediately stopped him. “Uncle, you’re a father for me. If Dad had asked me to do the same, do you think, I would’ve denied? You’re doing this for their happiness. How could I not help you?”

***

“How’s he, doctor?” Sam asked as soon as the doctor came out. She had arrived a few minutes ago. And Radhika had told her everything. Apparently, Samrat had suffered a minor heart attack, a few minutes later she left for the court. And now, she was pacing outside the I.C.U. waiting for him to gain consciousness.

“He’s better. But, I suggest you not to stress him. Though this time, it was a minor attack, the next one could be a major one.” The doctor answered, but ostensibly, that wasn’t true. The patient, Samrat Khanna hadn’t actually suffered a heart attack. Instead he was as fit as anybody around his age could be. He looked at the girl, Samaira Khanna and the guy, who with black hair, standing a few feet away from them. He recognized him immediately. Neil Malhotra.

“Thank you, doctor.” Samaira said. He nodded as went to his cabin.

He couldn’t understand why his colleague, Dr. Radhika would ask him to do this. But, she had been a good friend and when she asked for a small favour, he couldn’t deny.

Outside, Sam introduced Adarsh and Neil. When Radhika called her, she left both of them and moved towards Radhika.

“If you hurt her, I’ll make sure you know how it feels like.” Neil warned, turning around to go but Adarsh caught his arm and replied, “Easy on the threats bro, I won’t hurt her. She deserves much better.”

Sam and Neil went inside the hospital room. Samrat had been shifted here from the I.CU. half an hour ago. When he gained consciousness, he had asked for Sam and Neil, asking to be left alone with both of them. And now, they were here, inside the room. When he suddenly started speaking, “Sam, Neil, I have considered you my own kin. And when I see you hurting, it cuts me deep. I don’t think I am going to survive more than a few days…”

“Dad.” Both of them warned. Samrat chuckled. “God! kids, at least stop with it now. And listen both of you.” He said asking them both to come near him. Neil helped him sit on the bed, keeping a pillow behind him. He took both of their hands, making them both glance at each other and then continued, “You know, Prerna had been Piyali’s best friend since their college. And even after their marriages, they both kept meeting each other. I and Shiv had been friends too. And then..” He stuttered to which Sam handed him water saying, “Dad, we will talk later. You should rest now. I too have to talk to you.”

“No, Sam, let me. God knows if I’ll get this chance ever again.”

“Don’t say that.” Neil intercepted. Samrat smiled at him, but continued, holding their hands together, once again.

“So I was telling you how we all were a group. Ajay, Nandini, Dilip, Mala, Prerna, Shiv, Piyali and me. We were just like you four. But over the years, Shiv had become a close confidante of mine and I, his. Maybe because, we were still in the country while Arjun’s and Radhika’s parents went for tours around the world.” He paused, creating the effect. “Shiv and I were like the ‘dostana’ couple, apart from the confused s*xuality. Like the ‘bros before hoes’ friends.” He said, chuckling. Sam and Neil smiled too. “We were like a close knit family. I still remember him pampering you like his own daughter. He had always wanted to have a daughter too, but..”

“Mom couldn’t conceive, again.” Neil added softly. Samrat shook his head.

“That’s what we told everyone. Prerna was fine. They didn’t want to conceive because they realized it was better not to.” Samrat said.

“What does that mean?” Sam asked.

“Not now, Sam. I’ll tell you when its time.” But Neil had warning bells go off in his mind. His cerebrum flashed a scene.

“It was bound to happen some day or other.” Shiv had said, the day they died.

Samrat squeezed his hand. “You too, Neil. I’ll tell you, but not now. Don’t go around digging the past. Trust me this once.” Neil nodded.

“So where was I? Yeah, you too grew up hating each other’s guts. We were worried. We had always wanted our kids to be like us. Creating another example of friendship extraordinaire.”

“That’s why you sent me to his apartment, in Delhi?” She asked.

“No, that’s not really the reason. After what happened in Bangalore, We didn’t want you to be alone. And Shiv suggested that you both stay together.”

“But Dad wasn’t…” Neil stuttered. Talking about Shiv and Prerna was still difficult for him. He had moved on, yet not wholly. When ever, they would talk about his parents, his heart would palpitate. His nerves, caught in frenzy. His brain, playing images that would haunt him forever. And then he would be the same, broken nineteen year old guy, who cried his guts out seeing their bodies. He would become the same nineteen year old who had been too stubborn to eat his favourite ice cream. The same immature bastard who could do nothing but watch his parents die a slow death.

“We had discussed it long back. There were a few things we kept from you.” Samrat said while Sam squeezed Neil’s hand.

“But we didn’t like each other. Why would you think that sending me there was a good idea.” Sam queried.

“I thought so, but apparently that wasn’t the case. Shiv told me that you guys didn’t hate each other, right Neil?” Samrat teased to which Neil stiffened turning towards Samrat, “He told you that?” He asked surprised.

“I told you, we knew about each other’s life like our owns.” Samrat mused, smirking while Neil scoffed.

“You, old man, are surely something.” Neil said, amused.

Samrat rolled his eyes. “Anyway, our dear Neil didn’t hate you, princess. Instead he was very fond of you. So much that he loved riling you up, teasing you and….”

“Ugh, continue with what you were saying. Not with how fond I was of her. She got the picture, right Sam?” Neil asked, looking at her. Although curious, she nodded her head.

“I am glad you were, Neil. You know Prerna used to say that both of you will come along, one day. Because she believed that hate was another form of love. And then, we decided that we will see what happens. That’s why we got Arjun and Radhika together.

“But…” Sam protested.

“You think we didn’t see it. We knew they were in love even before they knew.” Samrat replied smugly.

Neil scoffed, “Sure, even before they knew.”

“Oh, dear, we could see it. When they were in denial. And that was the very reason Dilip and Mala didn’t say a thing when Radhika decided to call off the wedding. They wanted to give her time to re-analyse things.”

“I can’t believe we are talking about this with you.” Sam muttered.

“And you two, we knew what you were up to.” Samrat said ignoring Sam. “We thought you guys wouldn’t be like those idiots. That you would have enough guts to speak up, but…”

“Dad don’t.” Sam warned. “It’s no use going back there.”

“I asked you to tell him, but you didn’t.” He said pointing at Sam. “I asked you too, and thankfully you did, but my dear stubborn daughter wouldn’t agree.” He said pointing at Neil next.

“Dad, let’s not talk about it.” Neil said getting up.

“Not so soon, boy. Sit here. You know Sam, we had always wished for you two to be together. Shiv and Prerna loved you so much that sometimes I felt my love was nothing when compared to them.” Samrat said.

“Dad, it wasn’t like that. I never compared you guys.” Sam interjected.

“I know. And you, idiot, I have always treated you like my son. It was hard not to. You know they had always imagined you guys to be together, with our grandkids.” Samrat chuckled.

“It was their only wish and it’s mine last too. I want you guys to be together. Give each other a chance. Forgiving isn’t easy, but holding grudges isn’t easy either.” He said putting both of their hands into each other’s.

“We will talk about it, Dad. You should…” Neil started but Sam cut him off. “We won’t, dad. We are not going to get together. I have Adarsh now, I can’t betray him.”

“Sam..” Neil warned.

“Tell him about you guys, he will understand.” Samrat said.

“Yes, we will.” Neil said trying to drag Sam out of the room when she suddenly screeched, “What the hell, Neil? I told you yesterday too, we are not getting together. Why are you giving him false hopes?”

“Why can’t you try, Sam? Why are you so stubborn?” Samrat asked, looking torn.

“We’ll talk it out, dad. She’s just hyped. Once she calms…” Neil said only to hear her shouting again, “No, I’m not hyped. Why don’t you get it? I am tied to Adarsh, I can’t leave him just like that.” She asked, flailing her hands.

“He will understand.” Samrat said, looking at Neil who was busy dragging Sam out.

She stopped Neil and turned around, “Stop being childish, dad. We have signed the marriage papers. There’s no going back now.”

“No.” Samrat said, looking at Neil.

“Yes.” Sam said.

“Please tell me…” Samrat started but a sudden constriction in the left side of his chest left him speechless. he let out a loud grunt and Neil was immediately by his side, rubbing his chest. “Dad, don’t get worked up. Calm down.” Samrat felt it again. The sudden constriction. His chest pained. No, she couldn’t do that. He couldn’t believe he had failed his daughter again. The pain was increasing now and Sam was buy his side, crying, “Dad, are you fine?” She asked. He smiled a small one. He didn’t want to die now, when they didn’t know the whole truth. No, Shiv and Prerna weren’t here and it was only him who knew the whole truth. He couldn’t die with secrets.

“Dad, I’m so sorry.” Sam said. Her voice was like a whisper. He looked at Neil helplessly, trying to say something. Neil got up immediately, running out of the room, calling for the doctor. Samrat looked at Samaira for the last time, before closing his eyes, as his body gave up to the pain.

***

“Is he fine? He was acting, right?” Radhika asked her colleague, Dr. Ashutosh.

“No, Dr. Radhika. He isn’t fine and he wasn’t acting this time. He suffered a heart attack, a real one, this time.”

“No, that’s not possible. He was fine., then how?” Radhika asked, as tears threatened to drop down her eyes. She couldn’t believe it really happened. They had planned that Samrat would fake a heart attack to get Sam and Neil together, but this wasn’t the part of the plan. She felt as if it was all her fault.

“I don’t know what your friends said to him, but Dr. Radhika this isn’t funny anymore. He is unconscious right now, but I advise you to keep your friends away from him.” The cardiologist said.

“They are his kids, I can’t tell them that.” Radhika said, as a tear slipped down her lash.

“I’m sorry Doctor, but we have some rules and regulations here. Earlier, it was just an act, but now it isn’t. He needs to de-stress himself. Although, I don’t think that stress could be the only reason for this sudden heart attack, but you know..” The doctor said, turning around to go out of the room.

Radhika turned around to go after him but stopped when she saw Arjun standing outside the cabin. He entered and came near her. She looked down, unable to meet his eyes and wiped her tear. Suddenly, she was engulfed in a hug, strong arms caging her in her solace, firm hands caressing her back and she broke into tears, saying incoherent words in between her sobs. “Shh..” He said caressing her hair. “He’ll be fine. It’s not your fault, Radhika.”

After crying her hear out, she suddenly realized whose embrace she was in. So, she jerked him off. His face fell but he was swift to wear the mask again.

“Why would uncle act about having a heart attack?” He asked.

“We didn’t want Sam and Adarsh to get married.” She answered.

“But..”

“Neil and Sam love each other, but they are too stubborn, more like Sam is too stubborn to accept it. So he thought that instead of failing her again, he would get them together.” She continued.

Failing Sam again? What was she talking about? And Neil loved Sam? He knew about Sam but Neil?

“He never told me he loved her.”

“He never told anyone that he loved her.” Radhika said.

“Then how did you..?”

“I was observing him since a long time. That day, on the farmhouse, I was going to tell you about it, but apparently I was too busy in prostituting myself that I didn’t get the time.” She said recalling those words he had flung at her.

“Radhika, I never said that.” Arjun said, trying to tell her he really didn’t mean it.

“Oh, you didn’t. But you implied it very well. Now, if you’ll allow me…?” She asked pushing him aside, as she went out.

Arjun sighed. He never knew. It all came back to him and he closed his eyes, trying to gulp the bile down his throat.

***

Samrat had been discharged. He was on medications now. He had come to accept his defeat, once again. He had lost everything.

And now, he was going to tell Neil everything before his time was up. He couldn’t keep secrets anymore. So, here he was, in Neil’s apartment, waiting for him to get off the call.

“He was poisoned.” Said the guy on the other side and Neil froze. Who would poison Samrat? And why would anyone?

“What type..” He started but stopped realizing that Samrat was sitting on the sofa, near him. “I want the details soon, I will talk to you later.”

“Neil, what happened?” Samrat asked, seeing him tensed.

“Nothing. You wanted to tell me something?” Neil said, trying to change the subject.

“You can tell me anything, you know?” Samrat asked, patting his shoulder. Neil smiled, nodding.

“I don’t know where to start from.” Samrat mused. “The beginning?” Neil offered. He didn’t now what Samrat wanted to tell him but he knew it was important. Samrat nodded, picking up a big album and placed it on his lap. The first few photos were of Shiv and Prerna, of when they were younger.

“These are from our college days.” Samrat said, turning the pages and then there were more people. Samrat, Piyali, Ajay, Dilip, Mala and Nandini.

“We were a group, you know that, right?” He asked, while Neil took it all in. His mother was beautiful. And his father, none the less.

“It wasn’t just eight of us.” Samrat said turning the page and Neil saw a guy he hadn’t seen all his life.

“This is Saral Magotra. He was our friend too. But he had his eyes on Prerna. He loved her enough to let her go when he realized that she loved Shiv.”

“Mom never told me.” Neil said.

“You know we were happy that he understood. But, our happiness was short lived. It wasn’t soon before he became obsessed with her. Though he had let her go, whenever he saw Prerna with Shiv, smiling and laughing he would stiffen and scoff. And eventually leave the place, burning in jealousy, I guess.”

Neil wanted to interrupt Samrat, to ask him why was he telling him all this now, years later, when neither Shiv nor Prerna was here. But Samrat was in a haze of his own, speaking profusely.

“He became so obsessed with her that he started stalking her, threatening her to leave Shiv. But she didn’t. She loved Shiv wholly and wasn’t afraid of anyone. And then suddenly all of it stopped. He left her. He left us alone, or so we thought. A few years later, we all were married. Piyali was pregnant and Prerna too. Piyali delivered a few days before Prerna.” Samrat said.

Neil looked at Samrat. What was he saying? Neil was elder to Sam. Maybe it was just a slip of tongue.

“Piyali gave birth to a boy and Prerna bore a girl.” Samrat continued.

What? Neil couldn’t understand what Samrat was saying. Seemed like the old man was making up things or was old age finally catching up to him?

“And that’s when he came back. When Prerna and Piyali were discharged and at our place, we got a letter one day.” Samrat said as he took out a white folded sheet from the back of the album and handed it to Neil.

The letter read-

“My dear Prerna,

Heard that you delivered a kid, a few days ago. Won’t you introduce us, Me and your daughter? Oh, its alright if you won’t. One day, my son will. You know, I have a son two years of age? And I’m waiting for the day your daughter will be my son’s wife.

What I couldn’t do, my son will do. And that sweetheart, is a promise.

Yours

S.”

Neil looked up at Samrat. He couldn’t believe that his mother was chased by some crazy guy. Or the fact that his mother had delivered a girl, not a guy. He could make the connection. But he didn’t want to admit it. His whole existence was now at a question mark.

“And that was the beginning of everything. The reason of swapping the kids. I promised Shiv and Prerna that I would take care of her, Samaira, like my own daughter. We changed the documents, forging your birth dates, bribing the authorities to change the records, so that everyone would believe that Prerna delivered a boy, not a girl who Saral’s son could marry.”

“But what if he didn’t really have a son? What if he was just scaring you guys?” Neil asked, still unable to believe whatever Samrat was saying.

Samrat chuckled humourlessly. “You think we would swap you kids, just like that? That we would give you or her away just like that? As much close we were, the bond that a kid shares with his or her parents can’t be forged. It was difficult handing you to them and taking her with us. It was difficult for all of us, but it was much required. And then, along the years, our love for you kids grew. You were so much a son for them, as much a daughter Sam was, for us.”

“Saral was dangerous. And we all knew it. Money or power couldn’t stop him. His craze was ahead of everything. So it was very necessary to keep Sam away from him or his son. He wanted the girl, to teach us his lesson. And I couldn’t see Shiv breaking. I know it sounds contradictory, but he was like my own blood for me. I could do anything to help him and he, to help me.”

“I.. I..” Neil fumbled for words as reality hit him. He wasn’t a Malhotra. He was a Khanna. Shiv wasn’t his Dad and Prerna, his mother.

“It’s hard for you Neil. I know, but don’t doubt their love for you, ever. They loved you as much as they loved Sam, maybe much more than that. And we loved you too. That’s why we all had to separate. We all went our ways, a few months after you birth. And then, when you all were a group, you introduced us to each other. It was purely co-incidental but much required. We were glad that we had a reason now, a cover.”

“I don’t…” Neil said, running his hand through his hair.

Samrat hugged him saying, “I know, son. It’s difficult. But yo have to accept it. You are not any different from them. I may be your biological father, but you are a copy of him. And her too. You are a Malhotra, not by blood, but by your characters. And character defines you, not your bloodline.”

***

Jogging down the park, she was disturbed by a kid who came running up to her and handed her a bouquet of white roses with a card tucked amongst the roses. A ‘WILL’ was written on the front side. Opening the card, she saw a picture of hers smiling on one side and on the other was a note scribbled in beautiful calligraphy. It read-

‘Remember the way you smile?

I think I have lost it now.’

She resumed her jog thinking it would be Neil, trying to make her smile. He had been doing this since weeks. Trying different methodologies to please her.

She was in her clinic when Tia, her assistant came inside her cabin saying, “Mam, there’s a bouquet for you.” And handed her the bouquet.

This time, yellow roses. She sighed and looked for the card. This time it was a ‘YOU’ written on the front. And inside, another picture of hers pouting. And a note saying-

‘Remember the times we enjoyed together?

We need to do that again.’

A smile tugged at her lips as she recalled her times with Neil.

Neil was doing too much. She thought.

It was in the evening that she realized it wasn’t Neil but someone else when the third bouquet came. She was at home then. Her mom, Mala had handed her the bouquet of lilacs and lavender with another card tucked inside.

On the front was ‘FORGIVE’ written in the same font. She ransacked her brain to think about why Neil was apologising but seeing the picture inside, erased all her queries. There he was, holding his right ear with his left hand making a sincerely guilty face. It was then that everything came back. His accusations. Allegations.

She read the note while her fingers trembled.

‘Remember the times you accepted my apologies?

I think I need to capture those memories.’

She crashed on the bed. He was trying. After more than two months. More than freaking two months! Was he hibernating the whole time? Seriously. He was the jerk.

But. Yeah there was a huge but in between. And it was. Ugh. Why did she have to be so understanding? To know why he was who he was? Why God?

She draped the covers over her trying to doze off. But couldn’t. She kept tossing in her bed the whole night thinking to forgive him or not. He was repenting. That she had seen at Sam’s place. He was genuinely sorry.

When she woke up in the morning, she was alone at home. Walking out of her room, she headed towards the kitchen to make some coffee for herself. A knock on the front door made her tread towards the entrance. Still clad in her shorts and baggy ‘hello kitty’ t-shirt, she opened the door and saw Sinha Uncle standing with a sorry face.

Sinha was their guard who had been with them ever since Radhika could recall. She had grown to consider him family. His uncut beard, had frightened her as a kid, but now, that shaggy cluster of greyish spickle spackles helped her identify him even from farther away.

“Good morning Uncle.” She greeted the old man.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, Radhika. But that delivery guy out there isn’t ready to listen to me.” Sinha explained.

“No need to apologise. And let’s get that man straight. What did he say?” She asked as she came out and headed towards the gates.

“He has a delivery for you. When I asked him to give it to me, he denied saying the sender had asked to hand it over to you only. I told him about the system here, but that kid, he didn’t want to understand.” Sinha said as they both crossed the garden that led to the gates. Being millionaire’s only daughter hadn’t helped her. Radhika had been kept in special care and under tight security ever since. But when her alliance had been fixed with Arjun, she had stubbornly asked her parents to lessen her security and fortunately for her, they had agreed, ever so reluctantly, she might add.

Now walking along the stoned pathway, she felt being watched over. She had got used to the security and now when there was no one, she felt as if every bad would happen to her. She wasn’t afraid of death, but there were many other things she was afraid of and that’s what scared her the most. Being a neurologist and a psychiatrist too, she knew not to let negativity cloud her senses. But she was a woman after all and it was a known fact that a woman’s hunches shouldn’t be so carelessly tossed around.

She ignored the feeling once again, trying to concentrate on the task at hand.

As they reached the gates, she saw a guy, maybe in his early twenties. He wore a white jersey which stuck to his body, his faded blue jeans complimenting his look. Not bad. She took in his appearance and waited for the feeling to reappear, but it didn’t and that was good.

“Radhika Mishra?” The guy asked as soon as he saw her. She nodded and he forwarded a big parcel. Judging by the way he lifted it, she concluded it wasn’t much heavy. Though it was bigger than the size of a single door refrigerator.

“This is for you, Mam.” He said as she took the parcel. It indeed was light weight. Seeing the around five feet tall and a feet wide parcel, she hadn’t thought it would be this light. It wasn’t feathery either but must weigh around four or five kilograms compared to the expected ten or twenty.

“That I gathered.” She answered smugly as Sinha went inside to keep the parcel and the guy handed her a clipboard. A sheet was clipped to it on which were the details of orders delivered. She signed next to her name but something caught her eye. The name Mira was written just above her order and the address was just a few bungalows away. She seemed to recall having heard the name. As she returned the clipboard, she saw the other guard come and stand near her. God! This high profile security was going to smother her. Sighing, she turned around and the feeling was there again. ‘Nothing’s gonna happen. Everything will be fine.’ She kept on telling herself keeping her fingers crossed.

When she went inside, she saw the parcel placed near the dining. Treading slowly, she thought of the possible items in the big parcel. She opened the parcel, tearing the taped ends. A card was resting on the inner flaps of the big box. On the front was a ‘ME?’ written and she immediately understood who the sender was. Of course, he would want the parcel to reach only her, preventing any chances of anyone else knowing what was going on. He was a such an ass.

Opening the card, she saw three pictures of hers on one side. All were of the day before, at the three times she had received each card. How could he get those without her even knowing about it? Oh, he had sources and connections and blah blah blah. Didn’t he?

The other side was inscribed in the same calligraphy. The note read-

‘Remember you said you love me…’

What the hell? Where was the other line? She turned around the card and on the rear, she saw it. Written in his hand, she saw those words. She wouldn’t have seen them if not for the shaded heart at the end of the sentence.

‘….Maybe I do too. <3.'

Maybe? Seriously? But then again how could he say those words properly? His cockiness would have gone down several notches if he said that he loved her. After all, he had the ego not less than that of Mt. Everest.

Keeping the card on the table, she opened the flaps. As her hands touched something soft and fluffy, she turned her head in. Inside was a white fluffy head and she instantly knew what it was. A big white teddy bear.

A squeal escaped her lips as her hands worked out at the cardboard box, tearing it up, revealing a cute teddy. In its forearms, was a single red rose tucked along with the heart shaped cushion with a 'Smile' written on it, stitched in the middle, on the its tummy.

It was thoughtful of him to do so much for her. She knew how hard it had been for him to come out of his shell and do all this. She was euphoric to see him making efforts to mend their relation which had previously been on a standstill.

She went upstairs to get refreshed. As she stepped inside her room, she turned on the stereo. Her current favourite blasted through the system while she took her own sweet time to get her clothes. Swaying her hips to the beats, she got in the shower after brushing. She kept on dancing while still in the shower. Getting ready into her long flowing skirt with her beige coloured shirt, she stepped down the stairs, two at a time. She was pleased. Smiling.

He kept pacing in her lobby, waiting for her to come down. He had thought about gazillion different ways to apologise and in the end, he had resorted to Sam's idea of gifting her flowers and teddy. Well, he too knew about her love for teddy bears. Hoping that she could forgive him this time too, he turned towards the stairs once again.

There she was, in her usual attire. Long skirt and contrasting shirt. She looked pretty shocked to see him standing in her house.

She froze. That idiot was looking at her. He held his ears apologising.

"I'm sorry, Radhika. For whatever I said. I really am." That's it? Wouldn't he say something else?

Oh, stupid, how could he? He's an idiot. And an arrogant one. But those few words were more than enough, for her.

So she leapt at him hugging him with all she had. His arms wrapped around her on their on own accord and his head dipped in her hair.

"I missed you." She said into his chest. It came out muffed but he didn't say anything. He sighed a minute later pulling her more closer.

"Don't go out wearing shorts." He clipped and she craned her neck upwards still in a daze to understand what he meant.

"Huh?" She asked.

But then she realized he was talking about the morning probably when she went out for the fourth card.

"You were there?" She asked again looking up at his face for any emotion.

"I was." He answered shortly.

It was then she recalled what he had written on the card and she felt heat rising inside her.

"Maybe. Seriously Arjun?" She snapped pulling back. He got her a second later and kept on with his act replying, "Yeah." Her anger rose. Was he really apologising? She was sure he wasn't. He was supposed to try hook and crook to please her. But he was being the cocky jerk he was.

"After all this, you still think maybe?" She argued referring to the cards and the roses. She knew he did love her. But she wanted to hear him say that. What was the harm anyway?

"Maybe, certainly." He whispered pulling her closer. His black orbs locked with her brown ones hypnotising her in a trance. She snapped out of it when his words registered in her mind.

"That's downright ridiculous. They are antonyms for God's sake." She countered still in his embrace.

He chuckled. She cocked her brow and that sobered him up. "Maybe antonymously I do too." He offered. She gasped at his audacity. "Antonymously? Is that even a word?" She asked dumbfounded at the lengths he would go to dodge saying it to her face. He just chuckled at her question. He seemed to enjoy it all. Couldn't he just say it? What bad would happen if he did? Jerk. She had said it. Couldn't he too?

"Arjun." She complained.

He tucked the strand of her hair behind her ear and cupped her cheek while his right hand still rested over her waist.

"I conveyed it all. Didn't I?" He asked looking straight into her eyes. His eyes said it loud and clear. Her heart fluttered seeing the intensity of the emotion flaring inside them. Was it care? Affection? Or was it love all along? She just nodded acceding to his statement without even knowing what it meant. He continued, "The first bouquet. 15 white roses. I apologised."

"The second was yellow roses. Eleven. I respect what we have."

"The third was lilacs and lavender. Your favourites, remember. And the fourth was the single rose with the teddy. You know what it means." He concluded, his forehead now resting on hers. She smiled through her tears. She hadn't realized when she cried but seeing him try this much to apologise even after so long didn't help with the tears. How could she not forgive him? It wasn't about her love but her friendship with him. She had known him inside out since these years and she was ecstatic seeing him make the efforts.

"Could have said it aloud. Couldn't you?" She asked chuckling.

"Nope. It would have been sappy." He answered.

"And this wasn't?" She inquired sarcastically.

"More than that. But it saved me the expense of saying it. Didn't it?" He smirked having won the argument.

She snapped out of the moment at that. Expense. Really? A single 'I love you' would have costed more than the roses and cards?

"Its unfair. I hate you." She groaned walking out. He caught her wrist. She was about to snap when he clipped monotonously, "Do you, really?"

She turned around and saw hurt flashing his eyes. Guilt pricked her and she moved closer wrapping her arms around his waist. He didn't reciprocate but she could sense the hurt. So she didn't let go. Gazing up at him, she cupped his face making him look at her. He was still intent on keeping the mask up. It hurt him. And her too. To see him like this.

"No, I don't. I don't hate you." She said softly looking into his eyes trying to decipher what was in those black orbs which were staring her.

"I love you, Arjun. So much that it hurts seeing you hurting. And it hurts even more when I am the reason." She sniffled her tears. There was something in those eyes which passed away as quickly as it came and he sagged into her touch, hugging her. She cried. For him. And for herself too. She sobbed recalling all that he said. She knew it wasn't deliberate. Yet it was. Things were as they were. She cried in his embrace while he kept rubbing her back, soothing her, providing her support. Emotionally and physically.

He knew she was grieving over what he had said. He knew there was no explanation for what he did. But he was truly sorry. He regretted everything already. He regretted it the moment he said it aloud. Gosh! He regretted it the moment he thought about it. But now there was no going back. Was there? There was no way he could travel back in time to stop his mad self from hurting her.

~~~

"Why are we in this copter?" She asked once again. Currently, they were in a copter, which he was driving and she didn't know where they were headed to.

"Patience is a virtue." He countered. She had been asking him numerous questions since morning, when he asked her to get a dress or two, as they were going out.

"This is a surprise?" She tried again.

He smiled to himself before answering, "Maybe."

Radhika cringed. What's with this guy's obsession with maybe? He was using that blo*dy word in every sentence possible, trying to irritate her. One hell of an idiotic best friend she had.

"Arjun." She whined.

"Radhika." He mimicked.

"Shut up." She articulated, frustrated.

He raised his brows in turn. What was with Radhika? She was getting irritated at the smallest of things.

"On your periods?" He asked feigning seriousness to which she gasped hitting him over his shoulder, calling him a jerk.

~~~

"Wow." Was all she could utter seeing the scene in front of her. Beside her, he smiled hugging her from the rear.

"Nice?" He asked, resting his chin over her shoulder. She accessed it once again. Indeed. It wasn't just nice but beautiful.

On the hilltop, was a small wooden cottage, different shrubs decorating its path. There, around the hut were those pink, yellow and orange frangipanis. This alone was enough for a wow, but then there was more. A few steps down the slope, at the mid of the hill, was a pond, near the waterfall. The waterfall wasn't big. But just a small stream of water gushing down the other hilltop. The cottage was well camouflaged with those big Pines and Ferns. The hill which had the cottage, had steps going down, towards the pond which was connected to various pipes.

[ i don't think i did justice to the scene i had originally imagined. My words ain't tha good. but i hope you get the picture ]

"Radhika?" He called her again.

"Um.. sorry, I zoned out." She replied.

A chuckle escaped his throat and she frowned as they headed towards the cottage. They had landed the copter a few feet away and now they were dragging their luggage along them towards the small hut.

❤❤❤?????????????????????❤❤❤

So i'm back. Ha, evil eyes.

After a long time. Have missed you dearies. Wanted to come earlier, but couldn't. Just underwent endoscopic septoplasty and then were studies. And have exams later on.

So how was it? Well, i wasn't planning on the kid swap but as i started writing, it came eventually. it was spontaneous. But now, its going to be fun reading ahead.

i know i left it hanging, but u see, its 1:30 in the night and tomorrow i have a mock test for AIPMT in my tuition classes. So..

I have got another story, i am posting it too, read and tell me how it was, if time permits.

Don't be angry.

And we'll talk in the comment section, promise.

i am dedicated this song to you guys. listen to Bieber's 'Pray' and 'Demons' by Imagine Dragons.

love u all, take care, be healthy and happy.

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22 Comments
  1. Brin

    Outstanding episode, big shocker was the baby swapping, love it to the core, Anu-Annie you nail it, well done. 🙂

    1. Anu-Annie

      thank u akka. baby swap toh was spontaneous. i was writing and then i thought why not? let’s see where this takes and now i can relate it all. its gonna be interesting.

  2. Shree

    Wohohoho.. back you are .. to the headbanging… Lol.. ok..

    Samrat plan backfired… Married… So not a Malhotra Neil is? Swapped… Saral has no other work kya? Obsessed.. this major downhill games n all.. Sam n Neil stupid… Confess ya.. lol Arjun.. ek aur kamchor kaheka.. one I love you would have worked.. Roses… Lilacs.. Lavender.. teddy.. “maybe”?! Kidding me?! Poor girl… he loves riling her… Neil and this one toh soulmates only… Helicopter.. cottage.. beautiful view.. naah you didn’t spoil it.. don’t say bad at words.. me toh negative then.. Arjun you better make this good..

    Yey!! Out of hibernation!! Hi5 me too back.. loved it.. was just reading without blinking… Beiber be a baby.. he sounds female at times.. but I love the song.. ik I’m crazy lol… Demons wow.. radioactive rocks.. *grins wide like an idiot*..

    All the best.. do well.. rock the mock test.. make it run

    Take your time to update.. Love you loads ??

    1. Anu-Annie

      yup, dear Neil’s not a malhotra. but Samrat said it right.Characters define us not our bloodline. Don’t we go on calling people that ‘he’s the other Gandhi’. it doesn’t mean that he was born into Gandhi family. we link his characters with Bapu.

      so, sry i got flowed away above. and Saral, well couldn’t think of any other name for the villian, so… Neil sam toh aap rehne do na, they are both idiots. And Arjun well he’s got his ego, he is hellbound on nt saying those words, but i promise you he will. The thing is dear Radhika won’t be able to hear it then. ‘Cause the pain will blind her. *That’s one spoiler i gave you. its gonna come up in the next two or thre chapters.*

      And you i thought Beiber loked cute when i saw his cover photo on all around the world, but then my friend was like, ‘have you ever seen him? he looks and acts like a female.’ and i was like, don’t kid me. few days later, i checked it on google. his images and blo*dy hell, i laughed like no tomorrow ’cause all of them were hilarious, he looks like a stray. *no offence to beliebers, though* you got the picture, right?

      take care, love ya truckloads.

  3. arti viswanathan

    Anu-annie darling superb,excellent,marvelous,outstanding,mind-blowing episode…… I loved it to the core….. I liked all the scenes… I liked the way arjun tries to apologize to radhika and she too forgives him was awesomely written dear…tc loads of love to u from me and teddy hug to u….

    1. Anu-Annie

      thank you arti, you toh went on a string of compliments. thank u for liking it.

      truckloads of love to you and gorilla hugs.

      take care, you too

  4. Hi anu… it’s awesome n is Adrash saral Son? Omg, if it so, the plan was successful on their part… can’t wait for the next update… take care anu…

    1. Anu-Annie

      heya, that’s one surprise. you’ll know,

      next part, toh i donno. will try.

      take care, you too

  5. Jewel

    nice chapter annie… arjun’s apology through gifts was really nice part…. nesam, they swapped the kids becoz of saral. adarsh is saral’s son?? …. waiting for next one, post soon…

    1. Anu-Annie

      thank u. apology part toh i had decided in another way but that looked cliche, so this one.

      adarsh ka toh is a suspense.

      next one, will try

      take care.

  6. Loved it… Want more ardhika scene… Waiting for next…

    1. Anu-Annie

      thank u Saran, you new here? just saw u for the first time am glad u commented. Ardhik next part will not be the happy one. cause u see, i am evil.

      haha..

      take care

  7. Gianna

    This went from shocking to funny then to major shocking and ended with a romantic scene and I loved every bit of it.
    Sam married Adarsh, oh but why? The child swapping was like an avalanche of shock, did not expect that at all, and now am wondering what if Saral knew too of the child swap and that Adarsh is his son who has done what he had promised them long ago? Biting my nails here.
    Happy that Arjun made the effort to gain Radhika’s forgiveness though he took caution that his ego doesn’t get hurt. He said his feelings in action rather than in words but I still want to hear him say those three words to her. My wish.
    OMG this is getting long now, loved the update and stay blessed

    1. Anu-Annie

      u made my cheeks heat up with the first line only.

      Sam married Adarsh cause years of living without Neil’s love [in the romantic way, of course] made her think that she could move on. She married Adarsh cause in the last month she had realized thathe wasn’t as bad as they thought him to be. that guy hadn’t run away when she said she loved someone. he helped her. so she think that this is her chance to be happy, when Neil almost confesses, its too late, ’cause she doesn’t want to hurt Adarsh.

      hope u undestood? i am not that good at explaining.

      child swap toh me too never thoght to put in, but it came to me and i wrote,. purely spontaneous it was. Adarsh ka genetic toh is suspense. U know i am trying to build it up like u do. but ican never compete you.

      He’s gonna confess soon, but the situations are gonna be dire,, ’cause i am the very incarnation of lucifer. LOL.

      take care, stay hearty happy and healthy.

  8. outstanding , mindblowing update………..

    1. Anu-Annie

      thank u subha di. take care, love ya. *wink*

  9. Sreee

    Beautiful update dear… really wonderful that apologising scenes were….awwwwy…. and that secret was like gosh.. and that saral’s son..god, when will he come?……superb narration dear..love u …post soon..??

    1. Anu-Annie

      thank u sreee di, Saral’s son will be out soon.

      waise when’s ur b’day.

      will try to post soon. but let’s see.

      take care, love ya loads. muah.

      1. Anu-Annie

        and that kiss was for pikachu. i loved pokemon.

  10. Roma

    Wowwww. ..awesoooooome anu…very lovely narration n very nice going forward…..nesam were swapped in childhood…wow. …the truth…is out…but how will sam react of it….ardhika were fantabulous. …so adorable. ..arjun did all the efforts to ask apologies from rads but never confessed….wowwww so smart. ..but conveyed it so beautifully. …the last scene was very lovelyyy n beautiful. …loved it soooooooo muchhhhhh. …keep it up honeyyy. . Love you loads. muaaaaahhhhhh Bear hug ♡♡♡♡♡♡ 😉

    1. Anu-Annie

      there’s more truth which is gonna spill sonon. and i am gonna finish this story in ten chapters. lol that’s too much.

      maybe less.

      Ardhika toh are boen fantabulous. l

      love u too. loads and loads. say my hello to haider, tarana and farhan. tellthem if they irritate you, their mausi is gonna eat them off. lol. i am pure veg, waise.

      1. Roma

        Lol….kids are saying hello to you tooo…..they will love to see you and play with you my dear…..where will they find this lovely mausi….take care sweetheart. ..muaaaaahhhhhh Bear hugssss ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡》;)

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