"No Priya it's not like that, just listen to me..." Ram's hand flung through the space between them to grasp her hand and caress it as he spoke but she cunningly kept it out of his reach like a rare commodity.
Stretching the boundaries that divided them she spoke harshly in a raspy tone. "Listen? That's what I did and look where it got me." she flared her arms spontaneously, inching it away from the core of her body. "Actually I was the stupid one to think that you were telling the truth about marriage counseling. I forgot for a second that you are THE RAM KAPOOR. Aapko toh dono haath mein ladoo chahiye na?"
"Eyy chokri, you better watch your mouth when you talk to my baby."
"Babe please� You're making matters worse. I appreciate your help but I can handle this myself." Requesting humbly, Ram set his gaze back on Priya aiming to clear the black cloud of rage that hampered her judgment. The air was palpably tense matching the constriction in Ram's head. Wincing for a split second he opened his eyes only to be greeted by her distant and hazy retreating figure. Alas, his vision was a sorcerer playing the cruelest of tricks on his vulnerable heart. Since the distance it recorded was mere inches away in reality. Babe intently monitorend the growing arrogance that resonated in Priya's every move. Priya's behavior surpassed any reasonable explanation in Babe's mind and with a simple pivot of her neck she turned to face Ram.
"Moody mu..." her words choked her as if they were being restrained by a more critical sentence surging it's way to the edge of her tongue. "RAM WHAT HAPPENED." Babe hollered and at the drop of a hat Priya was by his side, sitting next to him on the sofa trying to sooth him with her touch. Despite being flustered by a rapid swirl in his head Ram kept pushing Priya's hand away, his actions out of sync with real time.
"Ram? My baby what's wrong?" Babe asked holding onto Ram's left hand. Priya couldnt help but notice the fact that Ram mimicked her grip.
"Can you leave? I can handle this. He is my husband." She leans across Ram's lap unfastening his grip on Babe's hand, determined to succeed.
"No it would be better if you leave. Might i remind you that YOU and your damn arrogance has done this to him." An angry request triggered a painful reminder that set off an avalanche of disputes.
"I HAVE DONE THIS TO HIM? Everything was going fine until we came here to meet you! WHY DONT YOU JUST GET OUT OF OUR LIVES? Let's go Ram!" Priya tugged at Ram's forearm, unaware of the spaced out glare in his sorrowful stained dark brown eyes.
Striving to outdo and to not be outdone Babe snuggled her fingers around his left forearm. "Ram is not going anywhere with you! It's better if you leave Priya...Go be with that person who matters the most to you, Ashwin or whatever his name is..."
"ENOUGH! Who the hell do you think you are to point your finger at me? Since when does a home wrecker have the right to talk about love and relationships?"
"Your thoughts are disgusting Priya! The same thoughts that killed your daughter is killing my baby as well. Like you, i understand the pain of losing a child and so you can bet your life that i would not let you do anything to my son. I raised Ram; he is the closest thing that i have to a family and to a son. You questioned our relationship? It's as pure as it gets but this purity could not pass through the web of your dirty thoughts that you yourself have woven in your mind without probing further. And today when Ram brought you here entrusting his painful past in your hands all you can think about is yourself. How you have been hurt? How you heard Ram talking to me on the phone? How you have been tricked into coming here? But the truth is, the only person tricking you is yourself. The biggest trick you are playing is that of love. From the moment I stepped into this room i never saw that love in your eyes for Ram that I have seen in his eyes for you."
Their conversation sounded like muffles that progressively got higher in pitch. Exacts words were incomprehensible to Ram but he tried to sketch out it's direction. Ram was a man who wanted to know all especially in matters that concerned the people that he cherished. So this confusion was a strange debilitating pain in his mind that stemmed from his helpless state. No matter how many times his eyelids srunched to a slow shut and rapidly opened the hazy shadow that stalked his vision grew in speed and size. Wanting desperately to sandwich his skull in between his palms but the restrainsts of their grip on either side of him handicapped his desire.
"Oh god. The doctor was right I shouldn't have taken the painkiller without food." Ram thought to himself searching in the corners of his drugged mind for an exit strategy. Ever since Priya left in the morning Ram only toyed with his food. His favorite dishes tasted bland as if his taste buds sat adamantly on the base of his tongue refusing to work until Priya was home. Absolutely against tasting anything until they had a taste of her lips, their motivation. The hazy clouds became darker consuming the vision from his eyes. Ram quickly stood up, his knees staggering his balance and alarming Babe and Priya of his worsening condition.
"RAM" Ram was able to make out his name but was unsure of who said it. The next second he felt squished securely between two warm bodies. Guided by Priya and Babe, he stumbled until he felt the pressure on his sides relieved and replaced by something soft rubbing against his skin. That was the last he heard, saw and felt; Ram was out cold.
Babe instructed, "Priya here is Ram's phone." She passed it back to her taking it out of his jacket pocket. "Call Ram's doctor. In the meantime I will try to wake Ram up."
Priya left the room and did exactly as she was told, no arrogance, no arguments. Immediately after she hung up, Ram's phone rang. She hesitated fearing bad news but she was inclined to answer.
"Hello Mr.Kapoor. This is the investigating officer on your attack. As you notified us this morning we have arrested Sam and Wilson. But Ashwin managed to escape; we are searching for him everywhere. We suggest that you take extra precautions in case he returns to finish what he started. After all he was the one who shot you and so he might try again." after a brief silent pause the officer continued. "Hello...Mr.Kapoor??"
"This is Priya...Mrs. Kapoor. What did you say just now?"
"Sorry Mrs. Kapoor we are not authorized to share anything with you. Mr. Kapoor forbade us from doing so."
"Ashwin escaped? He might try hurting Ram again? This is entirely your fault. If that night your officers didn't come to my apartment to get me Ashwin would not have been alerted. I haven't told Ram anything yet but I am sure we both know what will happen when he finds out that your mistake set off his escape. From now on I will handle this situation, I will find Ashwin but make sure Ram does not know. Call me with updates on this case and most importantly send some undercover officers to protect Ram."
"Yes M'aam. Our priority is Mr. Kapoor's protection and for his safety we have to find Ashwin."
"Don't worry, I won't rest until I find him. I am sure he will respond to my calls and when he does you guys can nail him."
She hung up the call finally realizing the severity of her actions, the consequences playing in front of her eyes like a slideshow that she didn't want to view. Love makes us do stupid things but hate makes us stupid. Treading back to the room she stood by the door with a hollow feeling in her heavy heart that carried the burden of her remorse. There was nothing that she could offer to Ram and Babe was right his love for her exceeded all heights in comparison to hers. Ram never told her about Babe but when he wanted to she didn't have the courtesy to listen. Suddenly the hollowness in her heart started to fill up with utmost unworthiness. She truly believed that Ram deserved better. His attempt to woo her constantly collided with her ungrateful reaction. His genuine confession of love was insulted by her spews of hatred. When all was said and done the premise on which her hate was based on was simply a misunderstanding. She was so lost in her moment of anguish that she was completely oblivious to the knocking on the door. Babe walked past her frozen stance, witnessing the tears of a statue before she opened the door and greeted the doctor. Resting her hand hesitantly on Priya's shoulder Babe stated, "Priya the doctor is here. Nothing will happen to Ram." Babe's words had a soothing intent but it stabbed its way into Priya's ears mocking her for her behaviour. She moved aside allowing the doctor to enter the room, Babe followed fully aware of Priya's apprehension but definitely not willing to force her.
"Doctor Ram suddenly became ill. We brought him to the room before he fainted."
"Did anything stressful precede this event?"
"Oh Yes!!" Babe looked at Priya and than back at the doctor. "He had a bit of a fight with his wife."
"When was the last time he ate anything?" he asked while assessing Ram's pulse.
"ummm� Actually..." Babe glanced up at Priya hesistanting to speak up.
"Mrs Kapoor...Can you tell me when he ate last?" Priya looked at the doctor like a deer in headlights.
Babe quickly piped in, "This morning- the last he ate was this morning...My sister called a while ago and said that he didn't eat that much even then..."
"That explains it�I am sure he must have taken a pain killer atleast once throughout the day. It is very important to take such medication with food because they are very strong. His vital signs look good but he still has a slight fever. As soon as he wakes up, make sure that he eats�If there are any other problems than please call me�"
"Okay doctor I�We will get him something to eat."
Babe walked the doctor out purposely to give Priya some time to collect herself. Priya moved slowly into the room, watching Ram from about four feet away. She felt the same weight of Babe's hand on her shoulder.
"Priya�Go sit next to Ram."
"I can't�I don't deserve him Ms. Chopra."
Babe tilted Priya shoulder maneuvering her with a gentle tug. "It is not up to us to decide who or what we deserve or don't. That's up to god. I know you made a mistake, stretching things to far but Ram also hurt you and in your defense you were only protecting yourself."
"Yeah but what Ram did was different. My foolishness nearly got him killed. And that phone conversation I heard that night, if I didn't act so harshly than maybe our daughter would still be�" Priya's throat choked with emotion Babe hugged her, rubbing her back. "I am so sorry Ms. Chopra. I suspected your relationship with Ram, jumping to conclusion."
Priya sobbed on Babe's shoulder holding her so tightly that it took an extreme effort from Babe to break her seal. Curving her index finger Babe nudged Priya's chin and wiped her stream of tears. "Nobody is perfect Priya. That's the greatest lesson from all this. Everybody deserves a second chance but not everyone gets one. You and Ram are fortunate so why waste any more time away from each other. And what did you say? You killed your baby and practically killed Ram? No Priya don't be so hard on yourself. We shouldn't have been talking like that unless you knew about me. Unknowingly I created doubts in your mind. No loving wife can bear her man talking to another woman the way that you heard us talking. A wife who didn't love her husband would not care so long as they live luxuriously. Have a seat on the bed next to Ram I will clear all your questions. This way when my baby wakes up, you two don't have to be bothered by this nuisance."
Babe led Priya to the bed gesturing her to sit against the headboard and than she sat in front of her.
"Priya, sorry I was a little harsh earlier with the whole Ashwin thing�"
"No� please Ms. Chopra�Don't humiliate me by apologizing."
"Why do you keep calling me Ms. Chopra? It makes me feel old�I am barely 60 years olds." Priya smiled listening to her dramatic reasoning. Babe spoke truthfully; she did indeed look very young for her age�"Priya, Ram was right. He says that you have a beautiful smile. According to him, it's your second best feature, the first is your big heart." Priya's heart illuminated, she glanced at Ram. This man drove her over the cliff of insanity with the way that he made her feel and that too with one look.
"Sorry�from now on I will call you Babe�" Priya snapped back into the scheme of things stating in a joyfully firm tone afraid that her shyness will spill out of her if she didn't pay attention.
"You know Priya, Ram was the one who gave me the name Babe and than everyone started calling me by that. Actually he couldn't say mausi and since I called him baby he always addressed me as babe not quite being able to say baby. When Krishna had Ram I was going through deep depression but his one smile pulled me out of the dark world where I had settled after losing my child through a miscarriage. That is why I can relate to your pain. There is no greater happiness than giving birth to a child. But on the flip side, there is no greater grief than losing your child. When Krishna and Amarnath got married I met a man whom after spending some time with, thought was the man of my dreams, my soul mate. But if ever in my life I was most mistaken about someone it was him. After the marriage I stayed in touch with him, we spent close to 2 years together, meeting frequently. He made me a million promises, none of which he kept. The promise that broke all promises was that of marriage. Naively I gave myself to him on the basis that he would marry me but of course that never happened. Eventually I found out that I was pregnant and I tried to contact him but he never replied. At that time Krishna was carrying Ram in her ninth month so I did not want to tell her or ask her for advice. I decided to get an abortion and went to the clinic. Everything was ready to go but at the last minute I backed out. But god had other plans for me, the stress of the break up, being kicked out of my parent's house, all of these circumstances made life unbearable. The stress took its toll on me and I lost my baby. After labour Krishna found out about what happened and she was so angry. My parents refused to take me back so Krishna convinced Amarnath to let me stay in the mansion. With nowhere to go, I had no other option. Most days I stayed in the guest room in the dark trying to sort things out. And than one day Krishna brought Ram in my room. His smile lit up my world; I became his full time baby sitter. Baby Ram slept with me in my room, Krishna was so sweet to allow it even though Ram was her first child. Staying with the Kapoor family for 13 years I was fully aware of Amarnath's bossy nature. His business clearly came first above his wife, his mother and his son. In fact, I don't remember a time when he held Ram for more than 5 minutes, played with him or even talked to him. But I watched Ram struggling to define himself in a manner that would make him more likeable to his father. As the years past by Krishna and I raised Ram together, taking him to the park, to doctors appointments and wherever else he needed to go. But he craved his father's love and money was the substitute for his father's time. When Ram was 15 Siddhant entered our lives, amongst the constant bickering the love was still there between Krishna and Amarnath. But for a child to see his parents fighting constantly and usually over the lack of time his father spends with him takes a toll on a child's mental well-being. 1 year later Natasha was born however the fights never stopped instead they got worse. That year was one of happiness and great sorrow. The fights reached its peak to a point where Amarnath raised his hand to slap Krishna but stopped seeing Ram standing at the doorway of their room. That day I saw hatred in Ram's eyes for his father for the first time. He stormed up to his father screaming how dare you try and hurt my mumma. Hearing him scream I ran into the room. Amarnath slapped Ram a couple of times telling Krishna what a lousy job she did raising him. He even went as far as saying that Krishna has turned Ram into a spoiled brat just like Babe. Ram charged towards Amarnath but I intervened holding him back. It was that day that I decided I would leave; maybe the fights weren't about Ram it was about me as well. I had packed my bags and was going to inform the whole family that I was leaving. But destiny spiced things up once more. When Amarnath returned home from work he was evidently wasted. Along with him came his mistress Niharika, Amarnath's personal secretary. The truth unfolded and Krishna was only slightly shattered as if she knew that this day was coming. Within an hour she packed Sids, Natasha and her clothes. Ram packed his own bag. Amarnath wanted to stop her from taking the kids but Niharika objected and of course he obliged with his tail between his legs. What goes around comes around. Amarnath was quickly striped of his wealth and company went bankrupt, he came knocking on the door of our 2 bedroom flat where Sid, Natasha, Ram, Krishna and I lived. He made his way back into everyone's life. Krishna put on a smile for her kids but Ram knew how she truly felt. He didn't want to see his fathers face but the fact that he was working to fix Kapoor Industries spoke for itself about what his father still meant to him. When Ram was ready to accept him it was too late. His father passed away and Ram didn't get a chance to say goodbye. He didn't get a chance to hear his father tell Krishna how proud he was of Ram and how much he loved him. Remorse comes at the worst time when Ram craved for his father Amarnath did not care and when Amarnath wanted to see Ram, he wasn't there."
Priya clutched Ram's hand squeezing in attempts to take his pain away. All this time she was living in an illusion where she felt she was right. But now this bitter truth subdued her ego drowning it in an ocean of guilt. Assumptions are silent killers so alluring at times yet on closer examination it is the root of all evil. If only she knew but now she knows why he never told her. The night he did she was too drunk to remember and when she was sober he didn't have the strength to penetrate this reality through her insensitive front. They got off on the wrong foot but now it was up to her to make things better.
"I am so sorry Babe. Thinking about the way I treated Ram because of what I heard is making me sick. And I also mistreated you by throwing you in the mix of my misunderstandings. Do forgive me, if you can."
"There is only one way I can forgive you. Don't ever let go of my baby's hand." She encased Ram and Priya's hand within hers.
"I promise I will never let him go. But I just need some time, until Sid and Ayesha get married and than I will return back to the KM."
"Babe relax. When I was finished calling the doctor the investigative officer assigned to Ram's attack case called him. Thinking I was Ram he told me all the details of the case, which Ram forbade him from doing so. They caught two guys who did this to him but Ashwin escaped. I want him to be behind bars too. The officer said that Ram might be unsafe with him still on the loose. I know for a fact that I can trap him. In the meantime Ram will have two undercover officers with him at all times especially during the hectic wedding."
"Priya if Ram finds out or if anything happens to you he will be very mad."
"I know Babe, that's why I need your help. Please don't let him find out what I am doing. Ram would have done the same if my life was in danger. Please?"
"Okay Priya, but make sure you are careful."
"Thank you! And don't worry I will be careful. Can I ask you a question, if you don't mind."
"I mind that you're asking if I would mind. You can ask me anything."
"Why didn't you ever get married?"
"I told you Priya. Not everyone is so fortunate to get a second chance. When Ram was younger he used to say that I was his first love and so how could I get married and leave him. That was his complaint whenever a marriage proposal came for me. And I was not keen on leaving him either but in reality I was too hurt to allow anyone else to get close to me. After Amarnath's death Ram bought another mansion. Although he had his eyes set on the Kapoor mansion, Niharika and his brother refused to leave. Eventually they spent all of their money that they stole from Amarnath when they kicked him out and that's when Ram snagged the Kapoor mansion. Ram had so many bittersweet memories in that mansion and those experiences changed him for better and for worse. He adopted a zero tolerance approach in his workplace making sure that no one ever manipulates him and puts his family at risk. It goes without saying that Ram actively opposed relationships and similar to me he had decided to live the rest of his life for his family. Due to business obligations the child in Ram died. I never saw that genuine smile on his face and even my sister smiled half-heartedly. Ram's dadi decided to stay with Krishna and her kids feeling guilty that she wasn't there for them when they needed her. Knowing that Krishna was in safe hands, I thought I would go and build a name for myself. After all how much longer would I live undefined? Amarnath and Krishna's broken relationship gave me the drive to pursue a career in marriage counseling. Those who can't do, teach. I knew for a fact that I would never get married so counseling was the closest, comfortable distance to marriage. And look, it paid off I got a chance to help Ram and his Priya�"
"Why weren't you at our marriage?"
"Ram never told me�It was Krishna who delivered the good news to me. Don't get me wrong I knew about Ram's plan to hurt you from the get go. He told me not to waste my time coming to the wedding and that's when I knew something was definitely brewing in his mind. But I also knew that any woman who could change Ram's mind about marriage had the potential to awaken the feeling of love within him. And I was right! 6 months later Ram called me to talk about his feelings for you!
Ram: Hi Babe, how are you?
Babe: I am shocked!
Babe: I thought you had forgotten about me�I am shocked to hear your voice after 6 long months.
Ram: Uhhh It's nothing Babe I was just busy with work!
Babe: business work ya phir personal work
Ram: both! Babe I am so confused about Priya. And there is no one else I feel more comfortable talking to about this than you�
Babe: Let's do the look fear in the eyes exercise.
Babe: OMG! Don't tell me that you forgot! Remember when you were a little boy we used to do this thing when you were scared or confused about something?
Ram: Oh yeah!! Get your worst fears about the situation out in the open and than you will be able to see how silly it really is when you look at it� That's a great idea!
Babe: Okay Start!
Ram: (exhales) I don't love her babe I only love you. She was a mistake but you and I we were meant to be. Remember growing up, we had promised each other that we would get married when we finished university but than my dad�(he paused)
Babe: Ram stop fooling around. I know I am very young and the flattery is really tempting but this is not a joke� And as for your dad, he has nothing to do with your relationship with Priya. If you want we can talk about your dad, if that's what's eating at you?
Ram: You know I don't really like to get into that (Babe interrupts: than get serious! Ram continues) but that night I don't know why I exposed myself entirely to Priya. First of all I tipped the waiter to get her drunk, praised her falsely but in my mind I was fuming. I thought why not strip the honour of the woman who tried to strip the honour of my company, the last thing I have in memory of my dad. But Babe trust me I never meant to actually sleep with her it just happened. Her support was comforting that night and one thing lead to another and the next thing you know she's pregnant with my child. I don't want this child but what can I do. It would be so easy for me to ditch Priya and ruin her reputation but now that a baby is in the picture it's so difficult. Not a day goes by in which I don't think about my stupid mistake that night. I tipped the media to come to my room in the morning so that they could see Priya leaving. But than the pity for a woman clouded my judgment and I distracted the media so that she could leave my room with her honour intact. What can I say Babe I am not ready for a child that too with a woman that I will never fall in love with. (Priya leaves at this point dropping the plastic bag package that she had in her hands) Those are my fears Babe� I feel bad that my child would be born into such an unstable environment I know what it's like to see your parents fighting and it's the most hurtful feeling. I think I love Priya but I am not sure whether I actually love her or that I am trying to love her so that my child does not grow up watching me hate her.
Babe: Where is Priya right now?
Ram: Babe, Madam is at her TOEFL classes. It's so late and she probably hasn't eaten anything. When I called her to ask if she wanted a ride home, she didn't answer.
Babe: I see that's very bad�Well she'll come when she has too. You go and have your dinner.
Ram: Babe!!! How can I eat without her?
Babe: (excitedly replies, this was exactly the response that she wanted to hear) Awww my baby has fallen in love!! Ram whether you accept it or not I can tell that you have fallen for Priya. Push away all your insecurities�Don't think with your mind, think with your heart. Tell Priya how you feel about her tonight! She is probably on her way home, surprise her with a romantic dinner. I- I am sooo proud of you Ram� So after all you have found true love. I can't wait to meet Priya, she must be a miracle worker.
Ram: (feeling shy) Babe please, nothing is confirmed yet. I will tell you how things go�Bye!!
"I waited for his call that night but it never came. Instead I called him but he didn't answer. It was only after I called Krishna that I was informed about what happened. After finding your package on the floor Ram knew that you had came home. So he went in search for you and found you on the street badly wounded. Ram cried copiously when he heard that you lost your baby but he was told to stay strong for you and so he did!" Babe stated, clearing the final chapter of the understanding.
"How will I ever make this up to Ram?" Priya asked sadly, she knew she had her work cut out for her.
"It's easy to make something up to the person that loves you so much. All you have to do is try! Stay with Ram, I am going to go tell Krishna what happened�" Babe provided a perfect answer smiling reassuringly at Priya before she left the room with her cell phone in her hand.
"Ram...I am sorry..." Priya lay down on her side resting her head on one hand while running the other through Ram's thick gelled hair giving it a messy style. "I can't ask why you never told me because you knew that I wouldn't listen. Why do you love me so much that it leaves me feeling inadequate? And why are you so stubborn, just because I went home you didn't eat all day?" Priya propped herself with her elbows biting into the mattress. She hovered over his face running her fingers down his cheek as she placed a slow, rough and sensuous kiss on his forehead. In the process tears fell from the corners of her eyes racing down both sides of his face. She felt his lashes tickle her neck as he slowly opened his eyes and murmured, "Priya..." She whispered a soft yes against his forehead.
"Don't touch me." Ram completed his sentence with a firm and wounded tone.
Peeling her lips of his forehead she stared hurtfully in to his enraged eyes. Pushing the boundaries she leaned close to his lips to kiss it, her first step to redemption but he turned his face to the side.