Ohhh God ! This ff of your make me sooo much cry you know but its seriously amazing i don't like sad sad AR but you have write it sooo beautifully that it made me stuck with it and litreally you shows everyone 's emotions and all so beautifully but plzzz AR ko jaldi milwa dana because I can't see them apart for sooo long sooo plzzz
Tamanna & Aniket confrontation.
Track 34 - f**king Perfect, P!nk
Everybody sat at the dining table, playing with their food and not eating a single morsel. The events of earlier still on the forefront of their minds.
After Aniket and Adhiraj had left, Tamanna had sobbed, right there, on the living room floor, for felt like hours, with Armaan, Rahul, and Jaanhavi's arms all wrapped around her tightly. When she'd fallen asleep, still in tears, Armaan had gingerly picked her up in his arms and taken her upstairs to her room, with Rahul & Jaanhavi hot on his heels.
The three of them had stayed with Tamanna all day, reassuring her that it would all be okay, loving up on her and making her feel safe. She'd been so strong in front of Aniket, but now the force of what had happened hit her and she was shaken. It had been a long road for her from the night she'd come home with Armaan to getting where she was today and it hadn't been easy. For any of them. And, while they'd all stood by as Tamanna faced the demons of her past, they were all affected too. The need to protect her from that man had been primal in all of them, having seen her dealing with the aftereffects of living with him. So, the little family of four had spent the evening reassuring each other that things would be okay and had only emerged later in the night to eat.
On the other hand, Sid was bowled over everything that happened and didn't know how to react. It was clear to him that Tamanna wasn't married anymore and her ex had been abusive, but why? What had gone so wrong that her marriage had ended with her so called husband landing in jail? The few interactions that Sid had had with Aniket always made Sid feel like Aniket was a nice, genuine guy and that he would do his best to keep Tamanna happy. Knowing that had been the only reason that Sid had been able to let Tamanna go. He knew that Tamanna's husband would keep her happy. But, said husband had obviously failed spectacularly in fulfilling his husbandly duties. Why?
He just wanted to make sure that Tamanna was okay. That she had found her footing again after living with an abusive partner. But, he was afraid to say anything. He hadn't spoken to Tamanna since that day at the airport, almost 8 years ago when they'd said their final goodbyes. Since he'd come to New York, he had of course, exchanged pleasantries with her, but the two had not spoken to each other about anything apart from a couple short conversations. Not knowing where they stood, he didn't want to make her uncomfortable by asking such personal questions.
Turns out, he didn't have to ask, because Naina, being the thoughtlessly blunt idiot that she was, asked, "Tamanna, how did you get here? I mean, after Aniket."
For a few minutes, there was absolute silence in the room, everyone staring at Naina in shock. No one could believe that she'd actually outright asked Tamanna what had happened.
Tamanna squirmed in her seat, not knowing what to say. Armaan, noticing her discomfort, held her hand in his and squeezed. "It's okay, Tammy. You don't have to say anything," he assured her.
"No," Tamanna disagreed vehemently. "I don't mind telling them. It's the truth. This is who I am and I'm not ashamed."
Rahul looked at her, beaming with pride and pressed a quick kiss to her temple. "I'm so proud of you!" He told her. Tamanna passed him a quick grin.
Turning back to Naina, who was looking extremely guilty, she said, "Don't feel so bad, Naina. You can ask me. We're friends."
Naina smiled at that.
"Aniket and his family, they... They... They abused me," Tamanna said, fumbling a little. "Verbal, mental, physical, and sexual. For almost 2 years, before Armaan saved me."
There were gasps across the room, all of them looking at Tamanna with wide eyes. Sid closed his eyes and looked away, not wanting anyone to see his tears.
Those 2 years had been a living hell for Tamanna. Every moment was torturous. There were days when even breathing freely felt like a luxury. She'd never even imagined, even in her worst nightmares, that Aniket and his family could turn into such beasts. And that too because of something that wasn't even her fault.
At times, she was still unable to believe that that life was behind her. That she was a free person now who could do as she pleased. That she had a family that loved her, truly loved her, for who she was and not for what she could give to them.
Armaan, who was sitting beside her, took her in a tight hug and comforted her, as tears leaked out of the eyes of everyone in the room. A few minutes later, Tamanna pulled away, wiped her tears and continued.
"It had been happening for almost a year and a half when Aniket got a job offer and we moved to New York. I started working at Sanjeevani, and as fate would have it, Armaan was my reporting doctor. That's when it all began to change. We grew to be friends quickly. I don't know what it was about him, but I started to trust him. He noticed that things weren't right within a couple of weeks of us working together, but, by then, I was so conditioned to lie about it, that I did it again.
He knew that I was lying, but he didn't push me to talk about anything. Instead, he helped and supported me as best as he could. It was sort of a silent agreement between us. He would purposely make me work at the hospital till late so I wouldn't have to spend more time at the house. He made sure I ate properly. It got to a point where he would be sending someone with food every couple of hours. Fruits, soups, juice, coffee - all of it. Many times, he'd insist I take a nap in the on call room before going home, so that I could have some rest. Whenever Aniket or anyone from his family hit me harder than necessary, and I bruised, he'd tend to all my wounds, no questions asked. Like this, 6 months passed away. I started getting better, staying with Jaanhavi, Armaan and Rahul, who'd taken me under their wing and become my closest friends. But still, I never spoke a word about my situation, and only Armaan suspected what was actually happening.
Then, one evening, I left the hospital early, despite protests from him, because Aniket's elder brother, Adhiraj was visiting. He lived in Seattle because of his job, so we didn't get to see him often. He was someone who I had always adored and looked up to, as an elder brother. Because he didn't live with the rest of his family, he'd never abused me, or stood by silently and witnessed as someone else did. This made me even more eager to see him, thinking that till the time he was here, Aniket wouldn't do anything. Oh, how wrong I was! Adhiraj was even worse than Aniket. That night, I would have died, had Da..." She trailed off.
"Had Maani not gotten there in time," she finished, looking off in the distance, as if remembering what had happened.
Armaan wiped away the tear that had fallen from his eye when Tamanna said Da. That word, the incomplete, seemingly inconsequential word meant the world to him. Because he knew what she was going to say before she caught herself. It gave him hope that someday soon, she'd be ready to say it again.
He looked at Rahul, who'd already been staring at him, and the two of them shared a smile as they both understood the gravity of her slip up, and what it meant. To both of them
"Armaan saved me from those two monsters. He brought me home from there. He convinced me to file an official complaint against them. Jaanhavi, Rahul, and him looked after me after that. They helped me at every step of the way. Hospital check ups, therapy, police enquiries, court hearings. They were there through it all. They've given me a family, helped me move on from it all, start life afresh with people who love me for me. If not for them, I don't know where I'd be today. Maybe dead in a ditch somewhere," Tamanna finished.
"Tammy!!" Armaan, Rahul & Jaanhavi chorussed sternly on hearing her say that.
"How many times do I have to tell you?" Armaan asked. "Don't say things like that! You have us, all of us. And you always will. We're your family!"
"Tamanna... You're... You're so brave! Looking at you, no one would be able to say that you've been through so much. You really are inspirational," Nikki spoke softly. "I'm really proud to know you."
Tamanna smiled in gratitude.
"Not just Nikki. All of us," Muskaan seconded. "I'm in awe. You're a fighter."
"Thank you," Tamanna replied.
Naina and Yuvi hugged her tightly, whispering just how proud they were of her. Atul, with tears streaming down his eyes, held Tamanna's hand and told her that he would always be there for her, no matter what, that he still thought of her as his sister, like he had when they were interns together. Tamanna grinned on hearing that and hugged him tightly.
But, hearing the entire story had disturbed Anjali greatly and she started sobbing really badly. She hugged Tamanna hard and praised her, but her tears didn't stop. Not at all. So, Atul took her upstairs so that she could get some rest
In all this, Sid stayed away, still unable to come to terms with what had happened. Tamanna had been abused. By her family. For years. And he hadn't even known. He'd been living a blissful life with his friends, getting up to mischief at the hospital, dating girls and just having a blast. And here, Tamanna had been living in fear of her life, every single day. The guilt made him want to wretch.
He cursed himself for not knowing. After his annulment with Riddhima, why hadn't he tried to look for Tamanna? Why hadn't he tried to make sure she was happy? Even if just as a friend, why hadn't he checked up on her? Why had he tried to forget her? That she'd ever existed? She'd been his first love. His only love. And he'd left her to die as he moved on in life, forgetting that once upon a time, he'd dreamt of spending his entire life with her. How could he have been so ignorant?
The rest of the night passed in a daze for all of them. No one said much, all of them still processing what Tamanna had revealed to them, the horrors in her past, her helplessness, her fight, all of it impacting them deeply.
Being doctors, none of them was ignorant to domestic abuse. They'd seen many such cases at work, and they would continue to do so in the future, but this... This was different. It was so very different because this time, they knew the victim. It wasn't some patient, a statistic on record, someone who they'd treat and then promptly forget about in a week or two.
No, this was a woman who they knew personally, who they'd spent time with, who some of them were very fond of. And that changed everything. It changed their outlook on the situation, it changed their reaction and most importantly, it changed how they felt about the entire situation.
Sensing the mellow and sombre mood, Tamanna joked, "Who died?"
"Tammy!" Armaan rebuffed. "This joke is not funny, okay? Especially in this context. So, keep quiet," he told her sternly.
"Fine," Tamanna replied, making a face. "You just have to ruin my fun, don't you? All the freaking time! Can't let me enjoy life, even a little."
Armaan rolled his eyes. "Drama Queen," he muttered under his breath.
"Well, I did learn from the best," Tamanna bit back.
"God! You're so insufferable at times!" Armaan exclaimed.
"Again, I learnt from the best, Tamanna repeated.
"Okay, I don't want to talk to you right now," Armaan announced.
"I'm not asking you to, either. You're the one who started this!" Tamanna told him.
Armaan threw his arms in the air in frustration and walked out of the room, muttering under his breath, dinner forgotten. He knew she was doing it on purpose - annoying him - so that he'd walk away to cool down. Any other time he wouldn't have done it, but right now, he could use some cooling down, what with such disturbing images in his head.
"Really?" Rahul asked, once he'd left.
Tamanna shrugged. "If he's mad at me for annoying the heck out of him, he won't think about Aniket."
"All these years," Rahul sighed. "Why must you do this everytime?"
Tamanna laughed. "Cause I'm so good at annoying him!"
Rahul smiled. "Yeah, you are. Almost as good as someone else, who could annoy him at the drop of a hat," he said, looking at Riddhima, who looked away the second Rahul turned to her.
Memories accosted her at Rahul's words. All the silly little pranks, the stupid arguments she'd get into with Armaan, their fights, their little tiffs - all of it annoyed both of them to the core, but neither of them ever gave up, if only to show the other that they were better.
And then, how neither of them had realized when those annoying little fights became the one thing they depended upon to get them through their day. How fighting became so important that nothing else mattered. Because, they didn't realize it then, but they'd fallen in love and those silly arguments were the only way they knew to communicate.
"You mean I'm not the best?" Tamanna gasped out over dramatically, pulling Riddhima out of her memories.
"You really are one big drama queen, aren't you?" Rahul laughed.
"Like I said, I did learn from the best, right Jaanhavi?" Tamanna asked, turning to Jaanhavi who was still lost and picking at her food instead of eating.
"Jaanhavi?" Rahul called loudly when she didn't answer.
"Huh?" Jaanhavi looked around, dazed. She'd forgotten that she wasn't alone.
"What?" She asked.
"You okay, sweetheart?" Rahul asked.
Jaanhavi shrugged. "I guess," she replied. "He's gonna be fine, right?"
"He's always fine, isn't he?" Rahul asked Jaanhavi, all his attention directed towards her. Jaanhavi was really possessive about Armaan, especially after staying apart from him for 7 long years. She wasn't really able to handle it when everything wasn't fine for Armaan, at least in her eyes.
This was the reason why Armaan didn't really open up to her when there was something wrong, because he knew that doing so would worry her a little too much, and Armaan never wanted to cause any issue to Jaanhavi, no matter how small. Even after Jaanhavi repeatedly begged him to tell her stuff, Armaan never did it, because he didn't want to trouble her.
Armaan was Jaanhavi's elder brother, the one person she was closest to. She'd always looked up to him, loved him, and respected him. He'd also been, for all intents and purposes, her best friend.
So, Jaanhavi never had any secrets from Armaan, and she would tell him everything about herself, no matter how inconsequential. But, more importantly, she'd always tell him when she was in trouble, because he was her big brother, her protector, who she thought would fight the world for her (and Rahul knew that Armaan absolutely would.) She used to jokingly call Armaan her Superman, because he was always saving her, protecting her, and because he'd always been partial to that comic book character.
But, Armaan shied away from sharing his problems with her, and it made Jaanhavi really mad at times. She knew why Armaan did what he did, but sometimes, she would just get angry at him for not telling her and it would result in them fighting. Rahul had seen them fight only a handful of times in these years, but all their fights had been ugly and nasty.
Of course, they made up hours after they fought but to Rahul, those hours seemed like centuries, because a world where Armaan & Jaanhavi were mad at each other was dark, cold, and uninviting. He didn't even know how, but the house seemed dead everytime they fought. Their home which always seemed to throw around love and warmth and comfort would become quiet and silent and you could hear the rustling of leaves, and the crunch of footsteps.
Rahul abhorred that. He absolutely hated it. So, he always tried to mediate between the duo to keep disagreements to a minimum, just like he was doing now.
He didn't want Jaanhavi walking up to Armaan and asking him to talk to her because he knew Armaan would never. And then, Jaanhavi would get mad and they'd fight and everything would be dark.
Jaanhavi nodded miserably and kept her head on his shoulder. Rahul smiled softly and hugged her close. He kissed the top of her head before saying, "Don't worry about him, okay? I've got him. He'll be fine, I promise."
"Okay," Jaanhavi replied. She knew that if someone could make sure that Maani was okay, it was Rahul. In the last few years, Rahul had grown really close to Armaan. Almost as much as Nikki once had been, but of course, no one could ever replace Nikki in his life. It was just so sad that things had happened between Armaan & Nikki the way they had. She was still kinda mad at Nikki for everything that had happened in the past, but she knew it hadn't entirely been Nikki's fault either, so she was trying to make things work.
In all these years, both her and Armaan had missed Nikki a lot and now that she was back in their lives, Jaanhavi hoped that they could work everything out and go back to being the way they had been earlier.
As Tamanna looked at the two of them (Rahul & Jaan), she allowed a small smile to grace her face. Her cute little family was adorable. Maani, Rahul, and Jaanhavi. They really were her family.
Once Jaanhavi had calmed down a little, Rahul turned to Tamanna. "And you," he said, bringing her out of her musings. "Don't overthink it. It's all good. Okay?" He asked her.
"Armaan has already gotten a restraining order, Tammy. Don't worry. The next time they even try something like this, we'll be reporting them," he reassured her. But somehow, it had the opposite effect.
"Armaan... Maani... He knew? He knew that... that they were out?" She asked, aghast.
"Tammy..." Rahul tried to explain, but she wouldn't hear it.
"Don't Tammy me, Rahul," Tamanna replied. "Yes or no."
Rahul sighed. "Yes. But, he only found last night!"
"I should have known!" Tamanna replied. "He hasn't been so worked up over a nightmare in ages. And... He... He slept in my room last night. I don't even remember the last time he did that. You... You slept in there too, didn't you? And... And you knew what was going on!"
Rahul looked away, not wanting to answer, because he knew she was right.
"Don't look away, Rahul Grewal. Tell me. Now," Tamanna demanded.
"Yes, I knew. I kinda made him tell me after you went to sleep last night. And yes, both of us slept on the floor in your room last night. It was like old times. You know... You still sleep like the dead. Armaan & I must have talked for hours and hours, but you didn't even move. At one point, I'm sure our voices were much, much, much higher than whispers," he tried to joke.
Tamanna looked at him and shook her head. "Both of you are such nuts! Why didn't you tell me?" She asked.
"We... Uh... We thought we'd tell you after the wedding. You were so happy with everything around you, and neither of us wanted you to worry about it. But, I promise, we weren't going to hide it forever. Just till the wedding," he replied.
"You swear you were gonna tell me?" Tamanna questioned.
"Yes. I do. We were," Rahul confirmed.
"Fine! Just this once. And only because I think you're telling the truth and you would have told me eventually," Tamanna said.
"Thank you, Tammy!" Rahul exclaimed, hugging her sideways.
"Yeah, yeah," Tamanna waved him off. "But, the next time something of this sort happens, you better tell me immediately, no matter what you think. Okay?"
Rahul hesitated, and didn't say anything.
"Okay?" Tamanna pressed.
When he still didn't say anything, Tamanna glared at him murderously.
"Fine!" He finally agreed.
"Good boy!" Tamanna replied, kissing his cheek.
Everyone at the table watched this interaction between the trio and smiled at the obvious and genuine love and affection they had for each other.
Once dinner was done, they were all lounging around the house, not wanting to sleep just yet, apart from Tamanna, who immediately went to her room, wanting to catch some sleep. After the day she'd had, no one said anything.
Armaan sighed as he sat on the patio, overlooking the pool. After his heavy workout, this was exactly what the doctor ordered. He'd taken to exercising and working out as a way to get his anger and frustrations out as opposed to kickboxing and driving as he used to earlier, courtesy of Jaanhavi, of course. She'd made him promise that he'd never hurt himself purposefully again, and so, he hadn't.
Exercising seemed to be a better outlet anyway, because after one intense workout session followed by a shower, he would always feel way better about the situation than he did earlier. Maybe, the fact that he didn't end up having any sort of accident that would land him in the hospital helped, too.
He looked up at the sky, smiling. You could see the stars tonight. It wasn't often that you could do that in New York. And whenever, the sky was lit with stars, Armaan camped out on the patio, staring at them all night long, talking to them, relieving his worries, sharing his feelings.
Today was no different. The entire day had been a little too heavy for his liking. So much had happened in the past 24 hours, it seemed like yesterday, when he'd spent a fun evening with Riddhima, had actually happened years ago. He wished he could go back to that moment when the two of them were just goofing around, having fun, joking and laughing. But, it was impossible, because everything had changed in these few hours.
"Hey," Riddhima whispered, taking a seat beside him, pulling Armaan out of his thoughts.
"Hey," Armaan replied. "What are you doing here?" He asked good naturedly.
Riddhima smiled. "I came to check on you," she said. "Are you okay?"
"Of course, I'm okay," Armaan replied immediately. "Mujhe kya hona hai?"
Riddhima smiled knowingly. "I know you, Armaan. Yes, it's been years since we saw each other, but on the inside, you're still essentially the same person. Which means, I know that everything that happened today has you reeling. So don't try to lie."
Armaan smiled softly. "Hmmm. I guess."
"You can talk to me about it, if you want to," Riddhima told him. "I know you don't want to trouble Jaanhavi or Tamanna with it. And, Rahul, well... He's not around right now. So, I'm willing to listen, if you're willing to talk."
"I don't even know what to say," Armaan replied.
"You do," Riddhima countered. "You're just too afraid to say it. Or maybe you don't want to say it to me. And, that's fair. I don't want to pressure you or push you into talking. How about, both of us just sit here and enjoy the night sky?"
Armaan smiled at her gratefully. They both laid down on the pool chairs and looked up at the sky.
"It's so beautiful, nahi?" Riddhima asked him.
Armaan nodded. "Yes."
"It's not often that we stars in Mumbai," she told him.
"It's not often we see them here, too," Armaan replied. "Maybe, today is special."
"Maybe it is," Riddhima agreed.
"You know, in the past few years, I've started looking at the moon a lot. It brings me so much peace," Riddhima told him.
Armaan smiled. "I know what you mean. I do it, too."
They stayed silent for a few minutes after that.
"I'm sorry!" Armaan blurted out suddenly, without preamble.
This was important for Armaan. He needed to apologize for his atrocious behaviour. He knew, in the past, there had been many times when he'd behaved less than appropriately with Riddhima - hurting her with his words and his hands. He'd been mean and nasty at times, held her too tightly at others, and he'd been the forbearer of a lot of physical and emotional pain in her life.
It wasn't what Aniket had done to Tamanna, but in it's own way, Armaan now understood that his behaviour had been abusive and he shouldn't have done what he had.
He'd always had anger issues, stemming early on in his childhood, which Dr. Reynolds assured him, were perfectly normal given how he'd grown up. He didn't want to use his upbringing as an excuse and had tried to revolt against what his therapist had said, but Dr. Reynolds was able to assure him that his childhood didn't excuse his behaviour, only explained it, and helped in understanding where and how Armaan could improve himself so as to not fall prey to such tendencies again.
It had been really difficult for Armaan, but he'd heeded to Dr. Reynolds' advice and worked to get his anger in control - trying everything from meditation to yoga to anger management classes - and it had proved fruitious as slowly but surely, Armaan had been able to channel his anger elsewhere rather than hurting people in his vicinity - physically or emotionally.
Ever since he'd realized how he'd behaved, he'd felt guilty about it, and had wanted to apologize to Riddhima for what he'd done wrong, but it had been too late and there really wasn't anything he could've done then, short of getting in touch with her and telling her how he felt, which of course, was a big no no earlier.
But now, she was here, and they were friends again. Armaan didn't want to sully their friendship, but it was important to him that Riddhima know that he had realized he error in his ways and that he felt guilty for treating her badly, even if the instances had been few and far in between.
The sudden arrival of Aniket on their doorstep, followed by the conversation, confrontation really, between that... that waste of space and Tamanna, had brought forth his memories of those incidents with Riddhima full force, and his guilt had magnified.
He couldn't go without apologizing for even one more second. So, he didn't.
"What?" Riddhima asked confused.
"I'm sorry," Armaan repeated.
"Whatever for?" Riddhima questioned, still not understanding the reason behind this sudden apology.
"Oh, so very many things," Armaan told her. "But, firstly, and most importantly... I just... I know that... There were... uh... There were a few situations when I... um... I... I lost... Uh... I lost my temper when it was just the two of us. I mean... I wasn't always the... Um... I wasn't always a good colleague, friend... or... Uh... Um a good... Uh... A good boy... boyfriend," he added the last part hesitantly, not knowing if he should reference to their previous relationship, but he really needed to do this.
Like he said, there'd been so many instances in their time together when he'd lost it badly and hurt Riddhima, even if that had never been his intention - holding her too tightly, twisting her arm roughly - and none of it was right. He never should have done that. Ever. No matter how bad things got between the two of them, no matter how much Riddhima had hurt him, it didn't make what he did right. It wasn't as bad as what had happened to his little sister, but it was in the ballpark of abuse/harassment and he felt sick knowing that there was a time he'd actually done things like that.
"Armaan?" Riddhima whispered painfully, bringing him out of his memories of panic attacks, nightmares, and self hatred.
"Yeah?" He whispered back.
"You were saying?" She asked.
"Oh, yes," Armaan smiled thoughtfully. "I just... I'm sorry. There were many times when I got too angry and things went sour. I know there was more than one time when you were scared of what would happen. I still remember the look on your face that one time... I... I don't exactly remember what had happened, but I was really mad. I'd pulled you in the fire escape and we'd had this shouting match and things got really bad, I got angry and I just... I raised my hand to punch the wall, to get my frustration out. But, you... you thought... You thought I might hit you. You were so scared. And... And even after I'd punched the wall, it was too close for comfort. I could... I could feel you shaking. The look on your face, your fright... It's embedded in my very soul, I think. I... It haunts me. I've had nightmares about it.
What... What I did, it was absolutely despicable, Riddhima. And not just that once. I know that there have been many times I've crossed a line - holding you harshly, twisting your arm, shouting so loud it scared you. None of it was right. I shouldn't have done such things. Ever. It was wrong. It was harassment and abuse and I just... I'm really sorry."
"Armaan!" Riddhima exclaimed. "It was... it wasn't like that."
"Don't..." Armaan responded. "Don't make excuses for me, Riddhima. We both know that it wasn't right for me to behave the way that I did. I got too aggressive at times and I regret that. But, my regret doesn't excuse my actions."
Riddhima sighed but nodded. "Okay. Yes, I agree. There were... There were times when things got a little out of hand. But, you're forgetting that those few times, it hadn't been just you. I was at fault too. You only did those things after I said or did something particularly nasty towards you, if I hurt you."
"Whatever happened never gave me the right to manhandle you," Armaan replied. "You're a good person, Riddhima. You always... You always see the good in people and ignore the bad, no matter how much they hurt you. It's that very nature of yours that's making you say all this, but it still isn't right. I will not deny that there have been times in the past that your words and actions have cut me deep, have hurt me really badly. But, you're only human. And you made mistakes. Just like I did. Getting physical with you, shouting at you like that, grabbing your arms so tightly, all of it. It was wrong. It was always wrong, no matter what the situation. And I just... I want to apologize for behaving so badly with you."
"I accept your apology, if you accept mine," Riddhima countered. "I'm really sorry for taking you for granted. I realize that unconsciously, I did that a lot, because believe me, I never wanted to do that. But, looking back, I can always see how I undermined your feelings and took everything you said at face value. I shouldn't have done that. And I shouldn't have been so vindictive with my words. I know that it always hurt you a lot, but I just kept going on and on and I'm sorry."
Armaan gave her a small smile of acknowledgement. "Apology accepted."
Riddhima grinned at him.
"Moving on," Armaan said. "There's actually one more thing I want to apologize for. You know, since we're doing this thing here."
Riddhima looked at him curiously.
"Uh... Remember that... Remember the New Bombay Sanjeevani Project?" Armaan asked sheepishly.
Riddhima was sucked into a world of memories - her repeated attempts to get Armaan to understand the situation, Abhi's humiliation, the boxing match, her issues with Armaan, her selection for the project, more issues with Armaan, his possessiveness, the Pari incident - it all came rushing back.
"Vividly," she told him.
"So... Ah... I... Uh... Yeah, I'm sorry about what a jerk I was then. That ultimatum, making you quit the project... That was really unprofessional of me. I should never have asked that of you. I was a controlling SOB, talking to you that way and I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry," he said.
He'd been an idiot to not notice how his abandonment issues had been rife even then. Growing up with absentee parents, the deaths of all those people he loved dearly at a young age and then Jaanhavi and Nikki leaving him had impacted Armaan more than he ever let on. All those incidents had instilled in him a fear of losing everyone he was close to, which made him absolutely possessive of them. It was the reason why he was so possessive of Riddhima, why he crowded her so much, why he got controlling at times. He was always afraid that one day, she too might leave him. (The fact that his fears turned out to be the reality of his life was a story for another time, but he had let that fear rule his relationships for far too long.)
"I... I... Um... Wow... This... Uh... This is not how envisioned our conversation when I got here!" Riddhima laughed.
"I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable by bringing up our past," Armaan immediately apologized.
"No, no, no! It's... That's... I didn't mean it that way," Riddhima replied. "I just meant that I thought that we'd talk about Tamanna and whatever happened with her and how that's affecting you. I know you're trying to put up a brave front but you're really shaken about what happened and I just wanted to be your sounding board. But... That... That in no way means that I don't appreciate this. Really, Armaan. I... This conversation is incredibly important to me. And I can't emphasize enough how much it means to me that you've said all this. Thank you. Really.
And, of course, I accept your apology. I understand that you only behaved that way because you were worried about me, especially after Nikki. You were doing it out of concern for me and my well being and it means a lot to me that you cared so much. Yes, maybe you shouldn't have gone about it the way you had, but I also know that Abhi did that to push your buttons after you'd humiliated him with those bangles, so I guess that I got caught in the crossfire."
"He did what?" Armaan almost shrieked. "Really?"
Riddhima smiled sheepishly. "Shucks! You weren't supposed to know that. Please don't speak about it to Abhi. Ever. He... he confided in me a few years ago. And, before you ask, yes, he apologized. I forgave him. It's all water under the bridge. Don't bring it up again because I've moved on from it."
"But... Riddhima! He used you!" He exclaimed.
"Yes. I know. But... Armaan, what you did wasn't right either," she tried to placate him.
"Two wrongs don't make one right, Riddhima. I'm just... I'm more disappointed than mad. No matter what issues I had with Abhi, I never thought he'd be this petty!" Armaan cribbed.
Riddhima sighed. "Look, like you said, we all made mistakes. And, what Abhi did was wrong, he absolutely shouldn't have done that. I agree. But, he's my friend. I care about him. And I forgive him. It's my forgiveness to give."
Armaan nodded warily. "You're right. It's your prerogative and if you think forgiving Abhi is the right thing to do, then that's that. But, maybe don't leave Abhi alone with me for a few days till I come to terms with the entire thing. Okay?"
"You've got yourself a deal," Riddhima grinned.
Armaan smiled in response. "Since we're on the apology tour," he said, "might as well also apologize for being such a dick and always lying to you about stuff. You know, about Muskaan and then Pari and my parents and whatnot. I thought I was protecting you."
"Just like you were protecting Tamanna?" Riddhima asked.
"What are you talking about?" Armaan questioned.
"I was there when Tamanna came home last night, Armaan," Riddhima explained gently. "I couldn't sleep so I was lounging in the garden when I heard you call for her. I tried to ask you what was wrong, but you were in a stupor and didn't notice me. I heard your entire conversation with Rahul. You were really worried. It was because you knew about Aniket, wasn't it?"
Armaan sighed and nodded. "I found out last night. But... It was just... It was such a big thing. And Tammy was so happy. She's been really excited about the wedding because Jaan is her best friend and she absolutely adores Rohan. I've just... I don't think I've seen her so happy since the day she found out that Rohan had proposed. She's been over the moon with the wedding - y atmosphere at home and I didn't want to bring her down by telling her this. But... I was... I was gonna tell her everything as soon as the wedding was done with. I mean, it's what 16 days away. That's... That's it. Only 16 days. I never really thought he'd show up here first thing."
Riddhima nodded in understanding. "Again, you were coming from a place of concern. You know... You're really protective, Armaan. It's one of the things that makes you such an amazing person. You care so much. But, it's necessary to let people fight their own battles. You can't always protect everyone from everything. You're only human yourself."
"I know," Armaan mumbled. "But, it feels like I've already let her down too much."
"Whatever are you talking about?" Riddhima asked him.
"I just..." he began, but trailed off, not knowing how to express himself.
"Take your time," Riddhima assured him gently, understanding that what he was about to do was a huge thing for him.
Armaan sighed in thanks and began again, taking a deep breath. "I feel like... Whatever I did... Um, however I helped Tamanna... It wasn't enough."
"Armaan! That's not..." Riddhima began, absolutely stunned that he would think this way.
"Stop," Armaan interrupted. "I know, okay? I know. Technically speaking, I did everything I could. I gave her her space, I made sure she ate and slept properly, I nursed her wounds. And, I was there with her, every step of the way when she finally decided to make it public, from telling people to filing for the divorce to the court case and then the imprisonment. I supported her in any way I could - therapy, nightmares, anxiety attacks, anorexia - I was there for it all, we were there for it all. But... But it still feels like it wasn't enough because she's scarred. She's scarred for life because of what he did to her. And I could have stopped it all so much earlier than it actually stopped and I hate myself for that."
"No! Armaan!" Riddhima whispered, her voice leaking every ounce of hurt that Armaan felt, as silent tears fell from both their eyes.
"I know... I know that... That if I'd tried to pressure her into something she wasn't ready for, even if it was for her own good, she'd... she'd find no difference between me and that animal who abused her. She was fragile and impressionable, absolutely trusted no freaking one, closed off and isolated from the rest of the world, somewhere believing that she deserved what she got. Telling her what to do would have had the opposite effect. It would've been worse if I forced her to talk when she wasn't ready. I know that, okay? I know all of that. But... it still... It still hurts, you know? Knowing that she was being abused, right there, under my nose and lying about it. Everyday. And yet, I just... I kept quiet. Didn't do anything to stop it," he told her, sobbing the last words out.
"No, no, no! Absolutely not! Armaan!" Riddhima whisper shouted. "This... This isn't... it's not.. You're wrong!"
Armaan looked up at her, his eyes pleading with her to make him believe it when he so clearly didn't.
"Armaan that's... That's not true. You... You have no idea... Can you... Do you even comprehend what you've actually done for Tamanna? You... You were her safe spot, Armaan. You cared about her, you made sure she slept okay and ate properly. You... You did everything in your power to keep her away from that abusive situation. When things got too far, you're the one who saved her. And then, you helped her stand back up on her own. That's... doing all that, being so supportive, so understanding and caring... It means a whole lot more than just getting the abuse to stop. I mean, any NGO or social service worker could have done that for her. But, would they have made sure about the rest? That she got proper care, that she ate and slept, that her therapy was going fine, that it was helping her? I don't think so. You did that for her. And so much more.
She trusts you, Armaan. Because you did all that. Who knows if she would have trusted you so much if you did something differently. And, what would have happened then? What if she didn't trust you enough to come live with you? To let you help her with everything? So much could have gone wrong. But it didn't. Because you did the right thing. And it was enough. In fact, I'd say it was more than enough," she told him, holding him by his shoulders and looking him in the eye. It was extremely crucial for Riddhima that Armaan know that she meant every word of what she was saying.
Armaan nodded to what she was saying, but didn't look entirely convinced. "I guess you're right," he murmured, almost too detached. It was clear that he didn't believe what she was saying, and only said that to placate her. "Rahul thinks the same way. As does my therapist. Dr. Reynolds is very vocal about it, too."
Riddhima chuckled lightly. "So, therapy, huh? How's that working out for you?" She asked.
"Meh," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "It's really great, actually."
"It is?" She confirmed.
"Yep. It's really helped me evolve as a person, you know? Especially emotionally," Armaan told her.
"That's nice," Riddhima commented. "How long have you been going?"
"Almost seven years now," he told her.
At Riddhima's surprised expression, he continued, "I started a couple months after I came here. Jaan convinced me. And well, I can't really say no to her."
Riddhima smiled. "If it's helping you, I'm glad you did it."
Armaan nodded his thanks. "It really is. It helped me understand all the signs I'd always ignored. I mean, my issues didn't crop overnight, you know? I just chose to overlook it all."
Riddhima nodded. The signs had all, always been there. His overprotective nature, his possessiveness, his people pleaser attitude, even his anger issues. Things she'd written off as just his nature and never given a second thought were all actually a manifestation of his abandonment issues. She'd been just too naive and ignorant to think otherwise.
"I'm glad it's helping you," Riddhima said.
Armaan nodded. "It is. It really is. You know, I've slowly become on of those people... the one who is always harping on and on and on about how good therapy is. And, how it can have such a positive impact on your life. I mean... sure, it's not exactly easy to bare your soul in front of a stranger and then have that person pick your life apart and tell you how to improve yourself, but a few sessions and you start to appreciate just how much those things help. Look at me, for example. I've changed so much. A lot of it is because of therapy. This conversation we just had? I'm not sure it would've happened otherwise."
Riddhima chuckled lightly. "Good to know."
Armaan smiled. "This was good, wasn't it?"
"What? Us talking about things like mature adults?" Riddhima asked rhetorically. "Yes, it was good."
Armaan laughed. "If only we'd been mature enough to do the same during our internship days. We could've avoided a lot of fights."
"But the fights were the best part!" Riddhima countered.
"They were, weren't they?" Armaan replied. "I have to admit, I spent an embarrassing amount of time to come up with ways to annoy you."
"I did the same, Riddhima answered. "That look on your face when I bested you was always so fun to see! And I got to see it all the time!"
"Not all the time," Armaan fired back. "I got you good many times! I mean, with the ketchup prank. And the morgue one. Stroke of genius really."
"Fine, 80% of the time. And you can toot your horn all you want, but nothing is ever going to beat how I sent so many of your ex girlfriends on a date with you that was actually supposed to be with me," Riddhima laughed.
"That... that was really cruel. I'm still salty about that one," Armaan told her.
"Eh, you've lived with it for so long, you can live with it for the rest of your life," Riddhima declared.
"Do I have any other choice?" Armaan asked.
"No, you don't," Riddhima replied.
"Well then it's a good thing that I've learnt to live with it," Armaan lamented. He looked at Riddhima and both of them burst out laughing.
"Thank you, Riddhima," Armaan whispered softly, a few minutes later, looking at Riddhima gratefully. "You know, for listening."
Riddhima smiled. "Don't thank me. I was happy to help. It's the least I could do."
Armaan grinned. "Still. I am really grateful. I can't even express in words just how much."
Riddhima chuckled. "You don't have to. We're friends, Armaan. This is what friends are for. I am always here for you, no matter what. If you ever need a friend, you can count on me."
"Well, I hope you know you can count on me, too," Armaan replied.
"I do," Riddhima answered. "It's getting late. I should head to bed."
Armaan nodded and Riddhima walked back in the house, leaving Armaan behind.
Armaan couldn't help but laugh at the irony. After telling him that he could count on her, she left, just like she always did. It didn't matter though, because now, he was used to it.
Before entering the house, Riddhima turned to look at Armaan and grinned at him brightly. And then, Armaan couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe, he could count on Riddhima this time round.
Ahhh, another emotionally charged one. But, this was an important conversation and also, long overdue. Armaan was a great friend and boyfriend, but he wasn't perfect and he behaved badly with Riddhima on more than one occasion. It was important to me that this be addressed because Armaan manhandling Riddhima was never okay.
Also, TDBU HAS OFFICIALLY COMPLETED THREE YEARS TODAY! WOWZA. THIS IS HUGE.
I know it annoys us all that it's been 3 years irl but not even 3 weeks in the story. For that I am sorry. I shall try to update more so that we can get AR back together soon. I promise.
But, I hope you guys liked this one! Thank you so much for sticking around for so long! It means a lot to me. :)
Made a wrong turn, once or twice
Dug my way out, blood and fire
Bad decisions, that's alright
Welcome to my silly life
Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood
Miss "No way, it's all good", it didn't slow me down
Mistaken, always second guessing, underestimated
Look, I'm still around
Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever ever
Like you're less than f**kin' perfect
Pretty pretty please, if you ever, ever feel like you're nothing
You're f**kin' perfect to me!
You're so mean, when you talk, about yourself
you were wrong
Change the voices in your head, make them like you instead
So complicated, look how big, you'll make it
Filled with so much hatred, such a tired game
It's enough! I've done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons, I've seen you do the same
Oh, pretty, pretty please, don't you ever,
Like you're less than f**kin' perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel like you're nothing
You're f**kin' perfect to me
The whole world's scared, so I swallow the
The only thing I should be drinking is an ice cold beer
So cool and limed and we try, try, try
But we try too hard and its a waste of my time
Done looking for the critics 'cause there everywhere
They don't like my jeans, they don't get my hair
Exchange ourselves and we do it all the time
Why do we do that, why do I do that?
Why do I do that?
Oh, pretty, pretty please, don't you ever,
Like you're less than f**kin' perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel like you're nothing
You're f**kin' perfect to me!
You're perfect, you're perfect
Pretty, pretty please,
if you ever, ever feel like you're nothing
You're f**kin' perfect to me
- f**king Perfect, P!nk
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