"Ram I will stay with my dad for a few days...Distance is just a measure we are so close that it can't define us." Priya stated with a relieved smile on her face hoping that her enthusiasm would penetrate through his tense expression.
"Whatever! Let's go..." Ram stated indifferently clearly not affected by her attempt to clear the tension. Priya gave it another shot, not wanting to end the beautiful night on a sour note. "Uh dessert?" She managed to stammer in the nick of time.
"No thanks. I'll take a rain check." Ram's facial expression radiated an aura of attitude that outshone the stars with its glowing presence.
"Ram please, don't be mad. This is just as hard for me as it is for you." She huffed in despair feeling suffocated with the predicament but paralyzed to do anything constructive about it.
"If you want to go to your dads house now is the time. Stop playing around with me...If staying away from me is as hard as you claim than we wouldn't be having this discussion right now. And quite frankly at this point I don't have the whole night for you to make up your mind. I'm a business man, I have plenty of other things to do with my time." Delivering the last blow, Ram's ego stood back smirking at Priya who was set ablaze by the sudden rudeness that struck her. "If you're so busy than forget it I won't take away anymore of your precious time. I am an independent woman who can find her own way home." With that she was about but he insisted, "Don't be stupid. I never said that I wouldn't drop you off."
"You might as well have said that. I got your underlying message loud and clear. Bye Ram!" She went off like a broken record turning around to leave when it was all said and done. Ram followed her furiously she could feel him breathing down her neck with each step she took to and into the elevator and out through the finely decorated lobby. But just as she was about to side step the parking lot he made a move that he seemed to have been contemplating all the way down. Grabbing her hand he jerked her toward himself, she landed bulls eye on his chest staring up into his infuriated gaze that never steered off her. He took a rapid sip of a breath in through his clenched teeth and spoke in husky tone enraged tone. "I said I will drop you home." Her lips just parted incrementally to reject his proposal when he objected. "No! Don't say a word." And with that he pulled her along by her hand to his parked car with his driver standing by the hood of the lustrous black BMW still shining in the darkness of the night. "Baldev I am taking this car to drop off Priya. When the other driver comes to pick Babe up you can go with them."
And with the driver's genuine acceptance of his boss' command, Priya was gestured into the passengers seat of the car against her egotistic will. Ram drove crazily well beyond the speed limit despite being fully aware of Priya's fear of his reckless driving. The BMW engine purred showing off its caliber softly enough for Ram to still be able to hear Priya's silent sobs. Skidding on the paved road the tire screeched its finale in front of her apartment. The anger, fear and sorrow between them combined into a poisonous residual element that lingered around them. He felt guilty for driving so fast but couldn't see past her rejection. She felt sad to leave him but was unable to voice the reality. Wiping what she had hoped would be the last set of tears from her face with her sweaty palms she glanced at him gripping the steering wheel refusing to meet her eyes. Sensing that she was unwanted Priya opened the door and made her way up to her apartment. She purposely walked slowly, yearning for him to stop her. But the tires screeching its exit drifted dirt on her desire. Priya felt the pressure in her tears ducts warning her of the impending waterfall. Playing it safe she took the stairs fearing that someone might catch on to her sorrow. She was in no mood to explain the reason behind her grief to nosy neighbours. Besides she had to get a hold of herself before she went into her apartment to meet the most skilled detective, her dad. Her feet felt heavy treading up the cemented stairs. She made it up one flight of stairs wondering why her happiness always came in spurts. She only wanted the best for Ram but she knew she couldn't blame him either being fully aware of the potency of desire from her own experience. However, she couldn't neglect his immense rage that pushed the limit when he drove like a maniac to spite her. Love has so many faces it brings out the best and the worst in people. And now she felt so dumb with how little she knew the man who she had thought she knew inside out. His overreaction was partly justified, it underlined his need for her but she hated the fact that he didn't follow through; she hated feeling so heartbroken and worst of all, knowing that she was equally responsible for her own condition.
Priya was so lost in her own world that she did not know when exactly he tugged her hand, when he propped her to the wall and when he fused his lips to hers. It all happened at once, in a blur that in her mind bordered on the thin line between reality and fantasy. She knew it was him with the way in which he kissed her but the aggression was strange yet erotically contagious. He felt her scrunch his jacket in her fist on each side of him. Taking a breather he paused inches away from her throbbing lips panting soothingly over it. "I hate that you have so much control over me without even trying. I hate that you are so stubborn because I am used to getting my way. But than I love that you control me because I trust that you will never hurt me. And I don't mind if you are so stubborn about things just as long as it makes you happy I will give in to all your wishes. But Priya I don't get why you don't want to be near me? Why you keep pushing yourself away from me? All of this that you're doing is making me doubt that you even love me..." He stared hurtfully in to her eyes capturing the same mirror image of the pain that resonated in his soul.
"Just stop it Ram" she gave him a nudge and began storming up the stairs. He blocked her path, running up in front of her as she reached the top of the stairs on the fourth floor.
"Why should I stop? Just answer me! Do you love or not?"
"Ram I am insulted that you would even ask me that. What kind of woman do you think that I am to let you touch me if I didn't?" She answered him with hints and rhetorical questions that he was in no state of mind to unravel. And so he responded with a possibility for her to sink her teeth into. "Maybe you are just compromising because we are in to deep for you to turn back now."
"Ram I respect you a lot and you are angry right now. Don't say anything that you will later regret." She pushed past him and opened the door trying to speed walk to her flat before he drilled her with further questions. But nothing was going her way today; he once again blocked her path when she was just a foot away from the door to her flat.
"Respect and love are two different things. I want to know if you even love me�"
"What do you want me to say Ram? Do you want me to say that I love you? Okay fine, I love you... happy? Is that proof enough or do you want me to do something else? How do you want me to prove myself??? Huh? Why are you being so anal about this issue? Just because I decided to stay a few days away from you and now you have to wait to have me? Is that what bugs you?"
"What? You think my love centers only around this physical intimacy? You think that the reason I can't stay away from you is because I must have you?"
"No Ram I didn't mean it like that�"
"You know what Priya? You say that you forgave me but your mentality and take on love shows me that you are still unable to forget the past."
"Ram please I am over that!"
"No! You're not...You don't trust me Priya. And you are the one who said that love is about trust more than anything. If you think that I am touching you all because I am desperate to sleep with you or something than you are wrong. I love your company and that's why I can't bear being away from you. And if all of this that we were doing was too fast for you than why didn't you tell me to stop? Honestly I just want my Priya back...you have turned into the person who I was before I met you. Insensitive and cold. And don't worry if you think that physical intimacy is the defining factor of my love for you than I won't touch you anymore just to convince you that it is you who I love, not your body."
"No Ram I didn't mean it like that... I don't know what I was thinking but what I wanted to say was..."
"It's okay Priya... You don't need to justify what you said. Now all your excuses make sense to me...Take as much time away from me as you need. But I hope one day you come back to me but only come back when you feel for me what I feel for you." Ram's heart fainted on his diaphragm creating a suffocating feeling in his lungs. He knew he was falling apart but he refused to shatter to pieces in front of her. So he immediately pivoted towards the exit and leaped down the steps of the staircases faster than he had ever imagined that he was capable of doing.
The next day kicked off with commotion in the Sharma and Kapoor household preparing for the evening engagement ceremony for Ayesha and Siddhant. With relatives over for this joyous occasion Priya didn't have a minute to think to herself. Both Ram and Priya excellently executed a happy front, masking their despair behind a fake smile. Evening came in the blink of an eye and sharma's arrived at the KM on cue. Ram stepped forward to greet his in laws with his mom. He could not make eye contact with Priya but he was the first to silently marvel her beauty in the pink and blue saree that she wore. Babe felt chills from the cold front between the two lovers and thought, "oh god, now what happened? Yesterday these two were fine and now Ram is refusing to even look at her. Chal babe time to investigate. Looks like all the hard work I put in last night has been flushed down the drain." She moved close to the pack and introduced herself to the Sharma's hugging Shipra and shaking Sudhirs hand. Natasha flung herself into her embrace and Karthik extended his hand towards Babe as a kind gesture. The bitterness still resonated in his heart for Ram after what he did to his sister. And Sudhir had only told Shipra about Ram's past just to tame her attitude at the engagement.
"Ram, doesn't Priya look gorgeous?" Babe threw him a bone waiting anxiously for his reaction. Ram pretended to scan Priya and nodded with a forced smile shaping his lips.
"Let's go inside." Priya observed Ram's distant behaviour sadly holding back her tears and walking into the mansion that was once her home.
Priya hung out in crowd with the other females watching Ram sit at the bar with Vikram downing two drinks in a matter of minutes. The unenthusiastic demeanor he displayed in Priya's presence set off an alarm of suspicion in everyone's mind. Surely there was something wrong and there was no way that either Ram or Priya would openly disclose the problem. So after the ring exchange ceremony Neha and Babe decided to get the to-be married couple on the dance floor with married couples. Everyone took to the idea very well with the exception of Ram and Priya who stood on opposite ends of the dance floor. Losing all hope it was time for Plan B, Dadi. All it took was a whisper in her ear and she donned the character of a helpless old lady playing the part at an Oscar worthy level. She waddled towards Priya and took her hand in hers for support. Emphasizing the struggle in her steps she set out a trap that Ram fell into perfectly. He rushed to her side to help her unaware that he was on the dance floor. And when he did reach Dadi she handed Priya's hand in his and pleaded with the most sad and sorrowful look of desperation in her eyes. He was a sucker for that look and it didn't help that he also wanted to dance with Priya. But keeping in mind their conversation last night he swayed cautiously to the slow song with her making sure the placement of his hand was not directly on her skin. Babe immediately rushed on the dance floor escorting Dadi back to her seat. The minute they had gone back to the sofa celebrating their victory along the way, Ram leaned close to Priya's ear and whispered, "give me a minute...I will make some excuse for this to stop." But Priya did not want it to stop in fact she was enjoying this proximity and was hoping to squeeze in an apology to bridge the gap. She knew she had to act; it was now or never. But just as she propped herself up on her toes to reach his ear he let go of her and began scrambling through his pockets. Pulling out his phone he looked in Dadi and Babe's direction to ensure that they were watching before he mouthed to Priya, pointing at his phone, "Sorry...I have to get this!" And with that he was gone leaving her in the middle of the dance floor with the sound of her heart breaking drowning in the music.
The evening blossomed into a curious night. Ram did not make an appearance at the party again. He locked his room door and tried to distract himself by scrimmaging through a stack of past due files. The decreasing noise level was indication for him to come out of his room. He knew she was gone and he was happy he didn't see her leave; it would have triggered the same feeling of painful solitude that he was actively suppressing.
"Ram!" Babe knocked on his door furiously.
"Great! Now I have to give an explanation for my behaviour. Just what I need..." He thought sarcastically as he clicked open the door. Babe stood with her arms folded across her chest.
"Done with your 1 hour important business call?" She asked entering the room.
"Yeah I was just about to make my way back down..." He lied
"Well everyone's gone now..."
"Oh okay. Well than I'll just eat and sleep..."
"Priya didn't eat anything." Ram listened worriedly with his back turned to Babe. She could always tell that he was lying by simply looking into his eyes.
"Hmmm... Maybe she wasn't hungry." He tried to act uninterested.
"Well I am off to bed now Babe� Suddenly I am feeling really tired. Good night." Ram stated making his way to the change room.
"Wait didn't you say you wanted to eat first? I'll tell Bansi to bring something up for you while you finish changing."
"Uh no it's okay. I thought I was hungry but now I am not."
"Because Priya didn't eat?"
Ram turned around quickly looking down at the ground he forced a soft chuckle and said, "no it's not that."
"Liar... You were always so bad at lying and you still are. Look me in the eye and say those exact same words...you can't do it...it's hard for you to lie looking me right in the eye and that's why you're stealing glances."
"Well what the hell am I supposed to do? You told me that Priya still loves me but I highly doubt that."
"OMG are we having the same conversation again. We have been through this already Ram."
"Last time I believed you and look around is Priya by my side? She knows we are on the brinks of a divorce and in order to avoid it we have to convince the judge that we still feel for each other. I do! I still feel for her but she keeps making excuses to be away from me. Can you explain that?"
"Ram I don't know about that." She stated avoiding the topic. "But I know Priya loves you."
"Just saying it isn't enough Babe. If her actions don't coincide with her words than how could anything she is saying possibly be true?"
"It is true... She wouldn't be putting her life on the line if she didn't feel anything for you." The truth that Priya had forced her to conceal slipped through the cracks of his persistent questioning.
"What did you say?" He walked towards her eagerly waiting for an explanation.
"I've already said to much! Just know that she does love you." Babe moves to leave but Ram was not about to let her, not until he received an answer to his question.
"Babe please tell me!"
Sensing no other alternatives she spilled the beans on Priya's scheme to have Ashwin arrested. "At the hotel when you fainted she answered a call on your phone from the police officer investigating your attack. He told her that Ashwin escaped and Priya said that if there was anyway to catch Ashwin it was through her. The police suspected that Ashwin would come back to finish what he started with you. And so Priya vowed that unless Ashwin is behind bars she would not come back to the KM feeling guilty that you warned her about Ashwin and she didn't listen. Priya didn't want me to tell you."
"Babe how could you have allowed her to do something like this?"
"Ram she needed to do this. And besides Ashwins target is you not Priya. The police will be right there with her as she meets Ashwin."
"I can't believe this. Babe, he is playing a huge game with everyone. Priya IS his actual target. He told me himself that same night."
"I'll explain later but first I need to know where Priya is."
Grabbing his phone off his bed Ram frantically dialed Priya's number before he realized that her phone was broken. The second option was Sharma's landline and luckily composed Sudhir picked up the phone,
"Hello Sir it's Ram. Can I talk to Priya."?
"Ram beta how are you? Where did you disappear of too?"
"Sir, no disrespect but that's not important right now. I really need to talk to Priya� it's urgent."
"Is everything okay?"
"I am not sure. First I need to talk to Priya."
"She is not home beta."
"Yeah we dropped her off to Shruti's house. They were planning on going shopping for Ayesha's wedding first thing tomorrow morning and Shurti suggested that it would be easier for Priya to sleep at her house�"
"Uh! Do you know Shruti's number?"
"Y-yes i do." He flipped through the address book lying next to the phone. "It's 123 456 7890."
Ram hastily jotted it down on his hand not being able to find a piece of paper on time. "Thanks sir."
"O-okay beta�But please let me know if anything is going on. "
"Don't worry sir� If anything were to happen, I wouldn't let it." He hung up, making a promise he was unsure of whether he would be able to keep.
"She's not home." Ram informed Babe who stood worriedly throughout this whole disarray.
"Where is she than?"
"At her friend Shruti's house?"
"That's good at least she is safe."
"Shruti is Ashwin's ex-girlfriend." He burst her bubble of hope so that they were on the same page and finally after the third attempt he got through to Shruti's phone.
"Hello Shruti is Priya..."
Before he could finish his sentence he was forced to hear the voice that he dreaded. "I told you she would find me. You lose Ram... All the money that you have couldn't stop Priya from walking into my death trap."
"Ashwin I swear to god if there is even a single scratch on Priya." Ashwin disconnected the line promptly shutting off the phone so that Ram could not reach him.