Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chapter Five

One Step Closer

Arnav’s hand reflexively reached for Khushi’s face…. as his hand came closer to her face, Khushi opened her eyes… she was breathing heavily.. her heart started racing as his hand came closer… she knew… she decided that she was not going to fight it anymore.. she decided not to push him away anymore… and she closed her eyes once again.. her lips quivered even more… in anticipation of his touch on her face… Arnav’s hand stopped briefly close to her face. He looked at the mesmerizing beauty… his eyes took in her restless, blushed face in… his heart now became restless… anticipation ensued.. he also decided not to fight it  anymore…he gently placed his hand on her face… Khushi’s body shivered as if an electric current passed through.. she opened her eyes… as Arnav moved away stray hair from her face.. she gazed into his eyes… Arnav’s eyes started speaking to her and she could not move her gaze away…. Khushi allowed herself to get drowned in those intense eyes.

Arnav’s jaw had relaxed… his face calmer… his gaze soft… his eyes caressed Khushi’s face, every inch of it… his hand lingered on her face and then settled briefly on her cheek; as he was about to pull back his hand, Khushi reached for his hand and held it gently, snuggled her face into his hand…. Intense longing on her face and in her eyes… it reflected in Arnav’s eyes as well… As Khushi placed her face in his palm, his face turned even softer,,,

Arnav leaned forward and asked in a husky voice, “Khushiii…did you miss me?”
Khushi opened her eyes briefly, tears filled up to the brim in a jiffy… her twinkling eyes shined through her tears and a smile of relief broke on her face as she again held his hand and pressed it against her face… she nodded ‘yes’…The time froze for them in that moment… Arnav’s face became softer, vulnerable… something that Khushi had never seen before… his eyes got moist and Khushi’s tears started trickling down…Arnav’s hand in her grip, that had her face snuggled in it, caressed her face ever so gently…

They might have stood there like that longer but just then, they heard a knock on the door. Khushi quickly let go of Arnav’s hand, gathered herself… all of a sudden turned shy… and rushed to open the door not making eye contact with Arnav..

It was Lovely at the door. She said, “I am sorry, I hope I am not disturbing you, ASR!” as soon as the door opened…She looked up to find Khushi at the door instead of ASR…
Khushi said, “Not at all. Come in, please!”

Khushi brought Lovely by poolside where Arnav was..
Lovely said, “Hi, ASR.. Can we talk about tomorrow a bit? It will be nice to have….”
Arnav interrupted her, “Sure.. why don’t we go downstairs..” his eyes darted at Khushi who hesitantly looked at both of them, her discomfort was quite obvious. ”Khushi will not be disturbed… and for us too...”
Khushi’s gaze briefly met with Arnav’s. Khushi was puzzled whether he meant it in a nice sense or he was just trying to avoid talking in front of her…
Lovely and Arnav stepped into the room and started walking towards the door.  Khushi kept watching them leave with a curious restless gaze…

Arnav turned around before leaving and gave Khushi a tender, affectionate look…. Khushi blushed vigorously as she had images of him asking her if she missed him, run through her mind…and that touch… Khushi closed her eyes as her body still could feel Arnav’s affectionate touch and longed for more…


Next morning:

Everyone had gathered at the breakfast table. Lovely was in a salwar suit today, upbeat and modern styled yet traditional.  Khushi admired Lovely’s dressing sense as she poured tea for Arnav.
Anjali asked, “What’s the plan for today, Chhotey?”

Arnav looked up and said, “Di, Lovely, I , and Aakash are going to the office. You know that Lovely is in designing too.. so, we have much to…” he chose not to complete his sentence, instead added, “We’ll be back by this afternoon! Why, did you need something?”

“No, I don’t! But, yes, it will be great if you can come back home for lunch!” Anjali said smilingly.
Khushi became restless again. This little tiff in her heart would not let her breathe easy. She did not know why she felt like that. She looked at Arnav… Now it was her turn to be surprised, he was observing her keenly, not being herself. His eyes asked her “What… what’s wrong..?” Khushi shook her head and looked at him as her eyes said hesitantly, “No…. nothing…” However, her eyes mellowed down.. started welling up…  Arnav looked at her puzzled. He knew that something was bothering Khushi big time.

Just then Mami asked, “Wheresh Damadji, Anjali bitiya? I have not seen him this morning.”

Anjali said casually, “Mami, you know, he had something important to take care of so he left early in the morning today.”

Lovely asked, “Shyam…, correct? So, Mr. Shyam is a lawyer? What kind of law does he practice? I mean, criminal law, civil justice or business…or…” Anjali interrupted her, “He only takes cases of people who need help and have no one to help them. He loves to fight for people who need help but cannot afford. He loves top help people more than fight for money!” Pride overflowed Anjali’s eyes as she talked about Shyam.

Arnav’s facial muscles tightened as Anjali talked about Shyam with pride…

Khushi saw Arnav’s face getting firmer, she immediately reached for his hand, held it gently though he initially tried to pull it out from her grip. Khushi gave him a squeeze… Arnav pulled his hand out of her grip again but Khushi held it tight, she brought her other hand to wrap around his hand… she kept gazing 
into his eyes  with a gaze so affectionate that Arnav could have gotten lost in it… as Arnav looked at her with slight irritation… Khushi whispered… ”Promise,. Remember the promise; you would let me do whatever I want. Right?” Arnav  could care less as his rage mounted, he still pulled his hand out of hers..

Nani ji said pleasantly, “Lovely bitiya, Anjali bitiya will never get tired of praising Damad ji!”

Just then Shyam walked in, “What are you all talking about? Someone tell me, please!”
He quickly gave Anjali a shoulder hug bending down in the chair and said, “How are you, my dear Rani Sahiba, this morning?”

Arnav’s face got tense again… Khushi jumped to her feet immediately, and walked over to Arnav pretending to shed off something from his shoulder. She looked deep into his eyes as his puzzled gaze steadied on her face. She then reached for the lock of hair on his forehead and moved it aside ever so gently that her fingers caressed his forehead, distracting Arnav. His heart longed for more…

Mami instantly widened her eyes and said, “Phati saree… has the sun risen from west today? Arnav bitwa is in a very different mood it seems..”no gussa dayss’ howat hai ka aaj…. Is it a no anger day today?” She smiled as if she cracked a big joke.

Mama ji jumped in, “Arey Mannu, why are you making a mountain out of a mole? Let it be!”

 In the meantime, Khushi’s right hand still was resting on Arnav’s forehead as she put her left hand on his shoulder. She looked at Mami whose eyes were wide with lots of surprise as Arnav reached for Khushi’s hand on his shoulder and about to take it off when Khushi’s affectionate eyes urged him not to do so.. reflexively Arnav steadied his hand on hers.
Nani, Anjali, Aakash and Payal smiled at each other… They had never seen Arnav like this before. Baffled somewhat and his eyes puzzled at Khushi’s display of love. Somewhere his face depicted that he liked it though he was fighting it.

Shyam got extremely irritated and gave Khushi a pointed look. Khushi instead looked at Arnav, who noticed that she was not looking at Shyam, instead her gaze was focused on himself. Arnav seized the opportunity to play along to show off to Shyam. He held Khushi’s hand on his forehead and guided her to the chair next to him, once seated; he said to Khushi in an affectionate soft voice, “Now, have some breakfast!”
“Jiii…. Yes..” Khushi’s eyes became wide with amazement; as she saw affection oozing from Arnav’s eyes and a slight smirk appear on his face as his eyes twinkled. Her heart missed a beat as she looked at this Aranv… She wanted to hold her heart so bad as it started racing and color filled up her ckeeks…. Anjali and Nani nodded happily. Shyam clenched his jaw muscles, twitches on his face become more frequent… Arnav liked what he saw from the corner of his eye…. He turned to Khushi again and held the glass of orange juice to her lips… Khushi had no idea what was happening  to her… she thought she was losing her mind with giddiness… as she gazed into his eyes her face turned vulnerable… her heart reflected through her eyes.. drowning Arnav into them..

Just then Lovely said, “Anjali, do you know that ASR had made a bet with us at the business school.. his ‘shirt’ and him! You know what he has lost the challenge!” 
Anjali asked enthusiastically, “What bet? What challenge?  Come on, tell us, please!” Anjali chucked with mischief as Khushi and Arnav’s spell broke..

Khushi blurted out reflexively, “Kya…? What? Arnav ji never loses any challenge!” As soon as she finished her sentence she and Arnav looked at each other,  he gave her a long inquisitive stare, Khushi’s eyes finally gave in… she averted his gaze as if “I know… I know… I should not have said that…” a little smile flickered on her face..

Arnav then looked at Lovely and said, “Lovely, is it necessary to announce it to everyone? I don’t think we need to discuss it here!” he added sharply..

“What are we not discussing here?” Karan said in a jovial mood as he walked in, “Arey bhai, will someone tell me what we are talking about?”
Karan then turned around and winked at Anjali as he said, “Hi, Sweetheart!” Anjali was taken aback; smiled at him as she thought that he was joking. Shyam did not like it. Mami said, “Hello Hi Bye Bye.. what a trend it is these days! …har kissi ko sweetheartszz bulane padi… Anyone calls everyone sweetheart these days!”
Everyone smiled.. Arnav did not think much of it, Khushi just gave a casual curious look to Karan.
 Lovely though looked at him for a bit with inquisitive stare; then she said, “Karan, Good Morning! I did not know that you would make it here on time! That’s a first now..!” She then turned to Arnav and said, “ASR, Karan is a habitual late arrival…Anyway, I was talking about the bet you lost! I now must collect those one thousand dollars from you, ASR!” Arnav just nodded with a soft face.

“Okay, sis, go ahead, tell us! ”Karan said in jolly tone as he stuffed a piece of parantha in his mouth… and gestured to Anjali that it was very good with his ‘Thumbs Up” sign!

Lovely made a gesture as if she was about to announce something huge… cleared her throat… then said in a dramatic way, “ASR had wowed never to get married!...... He also had said that he would never ever fall in love.. because it was non-sense!” then she gave a broad smile and looked at Arnav as she said, “But..the TV channels.. the news reports.. have informed us that you got married .. secretly..... and that too in a haste!” Lovely now had a mischievous smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye as she said, “We won’t ask you ‘why’? Because… I can see that you are in love with Khushi.. so, I guess the marriage is not a surprise! BUT.. you lost the bet! You lost the challenge, ASR!”

Everyone was sort of stunned at her reveal… though not surprised… just restless as they knew about ASR’s attitude. They all looked at Arnav, there eyes waiting for him to get angry. Mami muttered under her breath, “Hello Hi Bye Bye.. that’s the end of it! Arnav bitwa is going to get so angry that the skies will be brought down!..skyszz the limitz..” Mama ji gently put his hand on hers and gestured her to calm down..

 Khushi looked at Arnav with a soft gaze… her face became more tender, eyes shimmered… as she quickly stole a glance at Arnav….Arnav happened to be looking at her… his mind was occupied with the sad, painful memories of forcing Khushi into the marriage… how she had cried when he put the sindoor in her maang.. parting of her hair. His gaze oozed deep pain. He immediately got up and started walking towards the stairs. Khushi jumped to her feet reflexively… restless…she looked at Anjali and said, “Di, I will go… see...” and followed Arnav…who had already disappeared up the stairs..

Lovely watched Khushi promptly follow Arnav and turned to Nani and Anjali…. said, “ I think I am starting to get it! There is something very special in Khushi.. that has ASR’s heart entwined with hers!”
Everyone nodded happily except Shyam… who got angrier.. twicthes on his face got more dense and frequent…


Aakash and Payal.. in their room..

Payal said to Aakash, “Give me a call before you leave for home at lunch time so that I can keep everything ready!”

“OK, Payal!” said Aakash.

“Shall I say something?” Payal asked. As she saw an ‘Yes’ in Aakash’s eyes, she said, “This Karan..ji… I mean.. He is so jovial and so carefree! Really like a breath of fresh air! Have you known him for long?”

Aakash played with his lips, curled them in a dismissive manner and said, “No, not at all! This is the first time I have met him.. but, seems like a great guy!”

Payal said, “Why is he not staying with us? Why is he staying in the hotel?” a smile flickered across Payal’s lips as she remembered him say ‘Sweetheart’ to Anjali..

“His choice!” Aakash answered, ”OK, Bye!” as he left for office...


Khushi walked into the room… looked around for Arnav as she stood at the door.  Arnav was standing next to the pool, holding on to the recliner… his back at the door…

Khushi closed the door behind her. She slowly walked up to Arnav.  As she stood next to him, she looked at his face… he was in agony…. His face tense, his jaw muscles tight… his teeth clenched… his hand curled in a fist… he banged the fist on the metal of the recliner…as he clenched his teeth tighter... his eyes were moist… as his hand hit against the metal, Khushi went, “sssssss..”  She rushed quickly to get hold of his fist and looked at him.. Arnav averted her gaze…

Khushi did something unexpected… she held him by both his arms just below the shoulder… just the way normally Arnav held her usually… her affectionate eyes looked in to his eyes…  she said in a soft voice, “Arnav ji… aap thik toh hai?... are you alright?”

Arnav said nothing… briefly looked her into the eye… his eyes welled up… he looked away… his hand still curled in a fist… Arnav’s mind was playing images of Khushi crying as he placed Mangalsutra around her neck…

 Khushi moved very close to Arnav, still holding him by sides, “Arnav ji.. kuch toh boliye… say something…” Words escaped Arnav… he did not say a thing.. did not look her into the eye.. Khushi pleaded again, “You will have to share your grief, Arnav ji… I cannot see you in such agony.. this anguish…” Her eyes filled up to the brim with tears…

Arnav’s eyes returned to Khushi. As he looked into her eyes, his eyes said, “Kis mitti ki bani ho tum, Khushi?.. What are you made up of, Khushi?” Khushi knew at that moment why he was hurting… she consoled him through her eyes… as a precious tear trickled down her eye, Khushi hugged Arnav, rested her head on his chest and let her tears roll down… Arnav’s arms gradually come up and enveloped her in a gentle embrace…. he rested his chin on her head…. as a precious tear trickled down his eye... he gulped… He could feel his heart beating with Khushi’s.. it seemed like he was about to stop breathing….he snuggled his face against Khushi’s hair as he tightened his embrace..

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chapter Four

The Mystery Guy Casts a Shadow On Shyam's past

Lovely and the guy hugged each other tight and for a long time…
Everyone looked at them with surprise. Payal tugged Aakash’s hand. Her eyes asked Aakash if he knew who he was. Aakash nodded in negative, curled his lips to let her know that he had no idea either.

Finally they separated.. Lovely said, “I missed you so much!”
He responded, “I missed you too!”
Anjali stepped forward and asked smilingly, “You…?”
Lovely immediately answered, “Oh, sorry! Let me introduce… This is Karan, my cousin brother! He has just shifted his base to Delhi from Mumbai.”

Anjali smiled. Aakash moved forward, shook hands with Karan and, introduced himself, “I’m Aakash and this is Payal, my wife!”
Payal put her hands together in ‘Namaste’ with a smile..

Mami ji interrupted, “It’shhh me you knows…, Maorama ..Mami..”
Karan smiled, put his hands together with a ‘Namaste’ to her.
Lovely then introduced Karan to Nani, “Karan, this is Nani ji!”

Karan did a ‘Namaste’ to Nani and then turned to Anjali who was standing next to Lovely. Karan said flirtatiously in Lucknow style Urdu, “Aur aap Mohtarma?... And you miss?”

Yeh hai humari Rani Sahiba!..... This is my Rani Sahiba!” a voice interrupted. Everyone turned around to find Shyam walk in. He had his poisonous sweet smile on his face. As he walked over to Anjali, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and said,” Humari Rani Sahiba, humari Zindagi….My Rani Sahiba…. My Life!  And… me.. her hubby!” Shyam held her close and tight. Shyam’s gaze was fixed on Arnav as he talked and hugged Anjali, a shrewd smile had spread over his face.

As Anjali smiled and blushed, Arnav’s face turned firmer. His jaw muscles tightened, his temples started heating up… his hand curled in a fist… tight. Khushi followed Shyam’s gaze fixated on Arnav and noticed Arnav’s anger mounting… She slowly reached for Arnav, grabbed his hand and held Arnav’s fist wrapped up in her hand, then she gently took her other hand and soothingly folded it over Arnav’s tight fist…
Arnav gave Khushi a stern look. Khushi leaned slightly and whispered, ”Promise.. Remember the promise…” Arnav looked at her puzzled for a brief moment, then his eyes darted back to Shyam. Shyam’s gaze was full of  disgust now as he saw Khushi hold Arnav’s hand so gingerly, so affectionately……
Arnav’s anger started mounting as he watched Shyam look at Khushi.
Khushi sensed Arnav’s stiffness. She gave a gentle squeeze to Arnav’s hand. Arnav looked at her… simultaneously he felt his tension melt. His face relaxed. He looked deep into Khushi’s eyes as they stood next to each other. Khushi’s eyes consoled him, asked him to relax. Arnav’s heart calmed down… finally some solace.. his anger started evaporating.. he felt very different.. Arnav and Khushi kept gazing into each other’s eyes …oblivious to others.. Rabba ve..

Just the, Karan took a few steps forward, extended his hand to shake Shyam’s and said, “Hi! I am Karan, Karan Kumar Saxena!”
Shyam shook his hand and said with a broad smile, “I am Shyam! Advocate Shyam Manohar Jha! And this is my wife, Anjali Jha!” Shyam squeezed her shoulders in his arm wrap once again. He once again fixed his gaze on Arnav. Arnav’s face turned stern. Khushi was still holding his hand. She felt his hand become stiff again.. Khushi lifted her hand that held Arnav’s hand, brought it close to her heart, her other hand caressed his hand ever so affectionately that his mind got distracted…
Arnav looked at Khushi with subtle question in his eyes,  she shook her head to imply, “No, do not react…” The urge in her pure affectionate eyes touched Arnav’s heart.. his body immediately relaxed as he felt the tension leave his body. His face relaxed, but his mind now started racing… The urge in Khushi’s eyes started chasing him.

Karan immediately responded to Shyam, “Shyam Manohar Jha! I have heard this name before!”
Lovely chimed in looking towards Anjali, “So this is your husband! Namaste!”
Anjali smiled, and said to Shyam, “You know that we have not met in a few years! Now you will get to know her...”

Nani ji added with a smile enthusiastically, “Lovely bitiya, Damad ji is also from Lucknow, just like us!

Karan immediately fired up, “Where are you from in Lucknow?”

Shyam cleverly changed the topic, “Arey bhai.. Are we goijng to keep the guests standing in the hallway only? You guys have just arrived.. We will talk later, let us first get you settled. You must be tired. Relax! Come on in!”

Arnav stepped forward, shook hands with Karan and said, “I am Arnav Singh Raizada!” Then he turned toward Khushi and said, “Meet Khushi, my wife!” Karan responded with a broad smile and said, “Oh, so you are the Arnav Singh Raizada! I have heard so much about you… from Lovely!”
He looked at Lovely as he finished his sentence. Khushi became uneasy as soon as she heard that…she looked at Arnav. Arnav’s eyes were steady on Lovely, his face relaxed..
Karan then looked at Khushi, Khushi let go of Arnav’s hand and put her hands together in “Namaste”.
Arnav then lead everyone towards the living area, ”This way…..”

Khushi and Payal were in the kitchen. 
Payal asked Khushi, “Khushi, this Lovely knows everyone in the family quite well!” “Yes, Jiji! Aakash Jijaji must have told you all about her!” Khushi said with slight curiosity. Payal’s answer did not help either, “No, he didn’t even talk about her… Well, you tell me! Arnav ji must have told you about her! After all, she seems to be close to him.” 
Khushi started munching on the Jalebis at a faster rate as she said, “No, Jiji! You know him…..” 
Khushi controlled her tongue and thought, “Laad Governer.. forget about him telling me anything! I must find out though.. about this Lovely… Who can I ask?” Khushi kept thinking as she gulped down couple more Jalebis, suddenly something dawned upon her, “May be Mama ji .. or may be Mami ji…”she smiled to herself, picked up the serving bowls and walked out of the kitchen…


At the dining table:

Khushi chose to sit next to Arnav. Lovely sat opposite from Arnav, Karan next to her.. Shyam was next to Anjali, in front of Mami ji…Nani ji was at the head of the table..
Khushi served Arnav carefully.. Lovely watched her closely, then said, “ASR, does Khushi ever eat or does she only feed you?” Everyone around the table laughed...except Shyam… Khushi, embarrassed, quickly dropped the parantha in Arnav’s plate and started helping herself.  Her eyes did not leave her plate. Arnav looked at her from the corner of his eye with a stern face.
Anjali jumped in as she watched Arnav’s reaction, “Lovely, you know our Khushi ji is just like that! She always puts every one else first.. She takes care of all of us!” Anjali threw an adorable look with a smile at Khushi.. Khushi looked at her nervously..

Everyone was enjoying food when Karan suddenly said, “Ah, I remember now! Mr. Manohar Jha… the great hotelier.. he owned many top hotels many years ago! Are you related to him in any way? Are you his son or what?”

Shyam’s face immediately turned angry and surprised at the same time,.. he wanted to avoid this conversation at all cost.. He spilled soup on his hand, “Aww.. Oh… “  
Anjali immediately jumped in.. quickly grabbed a napkin and started cleaning his hand.. said worried, “You!.. You can be worse than a child at times!”

“Now, Rani Sahiba.. It's you who has me spoiled!.. with your love!” Shyam did not forget to throw a poisonous, challenging smile at Arnav..
Arnav clenched his teeth as his jaw muscles tightened...Khushi immediately placed her hand on his arm,  looked at Arnav and shook her head to say “Do not get worked up..” Arnav’s eyes asked her, “Why? Are you out of your mind?” Now Khushi wrapped her arm around his and leaned on his shoulder with her gaze steady, her eyes looking deep into Arnav’s.. urging him to calm down... Arnav did not realize when he put his hand over Khushi’s arm.. he felt the tension leave his body once again as he gazed in her eyes..  All of a sudden he averted her gaze… what was happening to him? Why did he feel so drawn into Khushi’s eyes.. why did his heart calm down at her touch? He wanted to shake these thought off but, he could not.
Shyam’s eyes filled up with anger as he watched Khushi and Arnav communicate through their eyes… 
Just then Anjali called for HP, loudly…”Hari Parakash Ji, bring the first aid box quickly!” HP came running, “Right away, Anjali Didi!” rushed off..

Mamiji in her room:
She was fixing her nail color..Mama ji focused on reading the news paper…
Mami said enthusiastically, “I like this Ms Lovely a lot! She got me the make up from overseas you know!”
Mama ji said, “Yes, she is a great person! Straight out of her family’s legacy.. I still remember, when Babuji, my father, was alive we always used to visit her Dada ji.. they were very close friends!”

Mami changed track as she held her hand to check if the polish went on right or not, “I was thinking…” Mama ji cut her off, “Na, Mannu! Why are you torturing your brain? Don’t think, dear!”
Mami fired back, “Hello Hi Bye Bye! Why shouldn’t I think?”
Mama ji said suppressing his smile, “Oh, I am just saying that why bother so much and torture your brain?”

Mami did not pay attention to what he said, instead she looked around and said thoughtfully, “I felt bothered by one thing, you knowsss….. Damad ji .. he did not answer a single question that Karan asked him…”
Mama ji also nodded, it occured to him that she was right, “You got that one right, Mannu…”
They both looked at each other and then Mama ji said, “Let us just not talk about it for the time being!”

Mami said to herself, “hume toh daalwa mein, in lentil you knowszz, kuchh blackwa nazar aawat hai.. hume toh investigationia karni padegi…” “I see that something is very wrong here.. I must investigate!”
Mami got up and left swaying her hips in her usual style …

In Arnav’s room: at nighttime..

Khushi entered the room. She found Arnav watering his plants, he had changed into his casuals. Luckily Khushi saw Laxmi by poolside… she stepped out… held Laxmi, got down on her knees next to her.
Khushi started talking loudly but as if she talking to herself, ”Arey, Laxmiji, where were you until now? You missed the chance to meet with our guest, Lovely ji!..... Oh, what?... You want to know who Lovely ji is?...... and some more?............ Hmmmmmmmm…. Even I don’t know that…. Sorry, Laxmi ji, I cannot help you there!”
She kept fixing Laxmi’s outfit.. all of a sudden she felt ‘his’ presence … As she looked up, her eyes went wide.. Arnav was standing right next to her.. his gaze was fixed on her and he was playing with his lips curling them occasionally…
Khushi quickly jumped to her feet.. unsteadily…. Averted his eyes… … intermittently looked up and then finally she managed to say, “Jiiii?” 
Arnav looked at her with a stern face, and said in his matter of fact voice, “What do you want to know?... Ask me!”  

Khushi could feel her throat go dry… she could not think clearly..
Somehow she managed, “K..y..a..? W...h… a…t?”
Arnav now said in a little bit rough voice, “You wanted to know something… about them. Right?”
“Ji, the person… about….. who…..I….Me…” Khushi could not speak coherently… she thought that she had irked Arnav…
Arnav then said, “Lovely..right? You want to know more about Lovely? Correct?”
He took a step forward.. Khushi realized that she was standing very close to him.  She tried to take a step backward but there was no space. She looked up with her innocent eyes, Arnav’s eyes had a twinkle she had never seen before…

Khushi felt her throat go dry… her lips quivered.. she closed her eyes… …. it was difficult not to get drowned in those intense eyes…

Arnav looked at her.. her hands were trembling… she nervously squeezed her kurta with her right hand.. eyes closed.. lips quivering.. the breeze blew and threw a lock of hair on her face.. Khushi opened her eyes to find Arnav still looking at her.. his eyes had never left her face.. she closed her eyes again.. Arnav reflexively reached for Khushi’s face…. as his hand came closer to her face, Khushi opened her eyes… she was breathing heavily.. her heart started racing as his hand came closer… she knew… she decided that she was not going to fight it anymore.. she decided not to push him away anymore… and she closed her eyes once again.. her lips quivered even more… in anticipation of his touch on her face… Arnav’s hand stopped briefly close to her face. He looked at the mesmerizing beauty… his eyes took in her restless, blushed face in… his heart now became restless… anticipation ensued.. he also decided not to fight it  anymore…he gently placed his hand on her face… Khushi’s body shivered as if an electric current passed through.. she opened her eyes… as Arnav moved away stray hair from her face.. she gazed into his eyes… Arnav’s eyes started speaking to her and she could not move her gaze away…. Khushi allowed herself to get drowned in those intense eyes.
Rabba ve………..


In Nani ji’s room:

Lovely sat down on the floor. Nani ji was at the edge of the bed.. Nani ji started putting oil in Lovely’s hair…
Lovely said, “Ah, Nani ji… how this reminds me of my childhood! All those happy times… when you and Nana ji used to come over to our place with the family! We all used to have so much fun …”

Nani ji remembered those happy times as well. That brought a smile to her face. She said, “Yes, bitiya….“ then she added with a sigh, “Those were the days…”

All of a sudden Lovely asked, “Nani ji, I could not come for Anjali’s marriage. Now it is more than three years since her wedding! Tell me more about her marriage, I missed it all!” Dark shadows loomed over Nani’s face… her face changed to sad and unpleasant, as if someone had just opened her unhealed wound!

Nani ji controlled her emotions and said, “Bitiya, it’s too late at night.. we must go to bed now.. We will talk later, okay?”

Lovely said “OK”, wished Nani “Good Night” and left her room…
She could not get Nani’s worried face out of her mind  as she walked away…


 Link To IF:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chapter Three

“Promise me!”

Arnav was getting dressed for the day. As he started putting on his vest, he called Aman on his Bluetooth, “Yea, alright!..... Aman, I want every damn thing in order within an hour! This is not acceptable….. Tell the client to accept every condition of ours, otherwise cancel the damn deal!”

Khushi was busy folding clothes, her mind still restless, preoccupied…
Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Khushi looked up, “Jijaji, aap?” It was Aakash. Arnav looked up with questioning eyes. Then said to Aman on his Bluetooth, ”Just a minute, Aman! Call me back later!” He hung up, looked at Aakash…

Aakash had his usual simple smile on his face, warmly said, ”Bhai, I need to discuss a few things about Lovely!”

Khushi immediately looked up, her senses awoke as she heard Lovely’s name. Arnav asked Aakash, “Huh?”

“Shall I go to pick her up or would you like to go.. or…” Arnav interrupted him, “I’ll go, I think..”

Just then his phone rang.  ”Hello, ARNAV Singh Raizada here!”
He listened intently, said intermittently, “No, it won’t be a problem..”
”No, it won’t be a bother..”
”Fine! As you wish!” Arnav finished the call.
Then he looked at Aakash and said, “Well, as it turns out, neither of us would be going to pick up Lovely! That’s what she prefers! She said she wants to meet all of us together.”

Aakash smiled… shook his head and left.

Arnav started working on his laptop. He did not fail to notice that Khushi was intently listening in on the conversation and had been observing him carefully… each and every movement he made… She was trying to hide her restlessness, quite unsuccessfully.

Arnav looked up at Khushi. She was trying to put the folded clothes inside the closet but her gaze was steady on Arnav… deep in her thoughts she did not even realize that Arnav was looking at her for a while now…Arnav was amused by her behavior but he preferred to say with a dismissive gesture, “What?”

Khushi.. startled..said, “Did I say something?…. I… I… ”

Arnav smiled to himself. He remembered how smothering it felt when Khushi was completely withdrawn… though not back hundred percent to her chirpy style, at least she was more relaxed now.. he heaved a sigh of relief… Khushi said softly, “What happened?”

Arnav looked at her, surprised that she caught him sighing, said, “What? Did I say something?.. Did you hear me say anything?” He gave Khushi a sharp look. Khushi shook her head in negative then turned around to put clothes back in the closet. Arnav had a little smirk on his face.


Mami as usual was up to her own tricks around the house…. Peeking around… She noticed that Shyam was standing in front of Arnav’s room deep in his thoughts. She walked up to Shyam and demanded, “Damad ji, what are you doing herewa…?” She startled Shyam. Cunning Shyam quickly brought a sweet smile to his face and said confidently, ‘Nothing, Mami ji… I was just.. I was just thinking about this new guest… she will be coming today, right?”

“So.. then why are you standing here?....Her plane is not landing here!” Mami laughed on her own joke….then added, “You have not seen her before anyway! So.. why are you thinking about her?” Shyam, of course, had no answer for Mami. Mami waved her hand and suggested, “Let’s go downstairs and wait for the arrival of the guest!”

Shyam looked both ways. He did not want to leave as he wanted to see what Khushi was up to… frustrated, he muttered under his breath, “So, Mami ji, now you won’t let me check on Khushi ji.. Wonder what is going on between Khushi ji and Arnav!” Just the thought of leaving Khushi alone with Arnav in the same room had been torturing him since Arnav’s return.
When Shyam noticed that Mami was looking at him with narrowed eyes, he gave a broad smile and said, “You are right, Mami ji! Let’s go!”


Three hours later…

Arnav was once again on the Bluetooth.. talking to Aman, “Aman, not acceptable.. It’s been three hours! .. and no information yet?.... Dammit!... Call me when you do!” He jerkily took off his vest, unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt… hastily reached for the glass of water on the bedside table and gulped it down… Then he sat on the chaise and started working on the laptop…
Just then Khushi entered the room, with his juice … Arnav kept working on his computer.. Khushi put the glass of juice by his laptop and lingered… Arnav looked up..”What?”
“Now what?”  He demanded…

Khushi took few steps towards the bed.  Hesitantly she sat down on the edge of the bed and said, “I.. I need to talk to you!”
Arnav’s jaw became firm. He started clenching his teeth slightly...almost gave an alarmed look and said, “Not again! Not again, Khushi!”

“Arey, at least first listen to me…, Aranv ji!” Khushi urged in a calm voice… that alerted Arnav… ”This better be good!” he thought to himself.

He carefully looked at her face, realized that Khushi was serious. Arnav’s mind tugged with his heart for a few moments… then he almost gave up into his heart and said in a somewhat softer tone, “Khushi, bolo.. !.. What is it? Tell me. Just don’t tell me that same stuff again..”

Khushi nodded quietly and said in a soft voice, “There are two more months left!” Flag went up in Arnav’s mind as soon as he heard Khushi bring up the contract. “In two months.. the six month deal will be over. Since I have to stay here for these two months anyway,  I want to utilize the time better… so that I can…. I mean, Shyam ji…”

Arnav clenched his teeth and interrupted her, “Not again!.. Not  again, Khushi!... I told you! I don’t even want to hear his name… Dammit!”

Khushi was taken aback. She quickly gathered herself… said in a mellow tone, “Please.. don’t be angry, Aranv ji! At least let me finish what I have to say… Please!”

The urge in her innocent eyes made Arnav go weak, “Whatever... go on!”

Khushi thought for a moment, she looked Arnav into the eye and said, “I want something from you!”

Arnav was stunned… Khushi had never asked for anything for herself before. He reminded himself, it could be about Shyam…
 “Now what..?” Arnav asked with frustration..

“I need a promise from you!” Khushi’s words made Arnav’s eyes go wide first… then narrow…
“?”Arnav at Khushi with his eyes asking a question…
“You promise me first.. then only I will tell you!” Khushi said in a straightforward manner… looking him into the eye intermittently.

“First you have to tell me what it is about. I don’t want to get involved in another one of the stupid plan of yours again!” The moment these words left Arnav’s mouth, he knew he said it wrong. He looked at Khushi, her eyes showed hurt.. her face mellowed down..

Arnav felt bad that he had hurt Khushi again. His hand folded in a tight fist behind his back. He averted her gaze briefly… his eyes mellowed down..

He got up from the chaise, took couple steps towards Khushi. She immediately jumped to her feet. Arnav looked deep in her eyes.. his eyes were searching for something… Khushi was lost in his gaze for a moment..
“Okay, I promise…” Arnav said in a very soft whisper, his gaze still focused on her face.

Khushi’s face brightened with hope. She said in a calm voice, looking him into the eye… “These two months, I am going to try my best to bring the truth forward… not half… but full. Truth and nothing but the truth!”
Khushi’s voice got heavier as her eyes welled up, “I feel crushed under the burden of truth….I cannot breathe easy till the truth is revealed..” she looked at Arnav with pleading eyes..

Arnav struggled not to burst with anger.. Khushi had brought up Shyam despite his warning, “Listen, Khushi! Tell me NOW what this promise involves.”

Khushi looked at him.. collected her thoughts.. started hesitantly but then said confidently, “This month.. you will do as I say!” “Excuse Me?” Arnav said surprised.. shocked.. Khushi did not stop, she continued, “You won’t ask me any questions no matter what I do.……Just let me do it my way.. whatever and however I do it!”

Arnav exclaimed, ”What the!”
Khushi replied, “ I do not mean to be a trouble but I have no other option. Please.. let me do this my way...” Then she looked Arnav deep into his eye and said in a soft emotional voice, “I cannot do it alone, Arnav ji! I need you to be with me!”

It was sinking in. Arnav realized that Khushi was asking for his help… it melted his heart.. his defenses were down… Arnav took few steps forward… Khushi stayed in place, aware of his advance… looked intermittently at him. Her heart started beating faster…her breath started getting shallow and heavier… Arnav came very close to her. His warm breath was touching her face, he looked her into the eye and said, “One month…. One month is a long period… You promise me that you won’t create any new drama… think of leaving Shantivan.. or.. something like .. what was that.. Yea! That ‘Swami’ thing..”

Khushi gulped down… afraid that he could hear her heart beating so loud and fast…she cut him off and asked in a heavy voice, “And… what if I try to be Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada…?”

“What the..” Arnav looked at Khushi puzzled…
“Leave it to me…” Khushi said with slight that her heart was under control…
“See, Arnav ji… I already have promised you that I will stay here for these six months… to do whatever you want me to do… Are you willing to let me do things my ways for this one month? I promise that I won’t cause any trouble...”

Arnav was somewhat frustrated; he did not understand what she meant. He said, “Whatever, Khushi! Do whatever you want… Stay assured though that if it becomes intolerable, I will take back my promise….! Is that acceptable to you?”

Khushi nodded in affirmative...
“Okay, then!” Said Arnav and he turned around… as both of them rushed to move, they stumbled on their feet and ended up grabbing onto each other….. they ended up in a tight embrace….

Rabba ve…. None of them was in a hurry to break the embrace….. their hearts had taken over their minds…as their hearts beat in unison.. they both were lost in each others eyes… Khushi could not help getting drowned in Arnav’s passionate gaze…


Everyone in RM was downstairs in the living room. Having tea. Arnav kept working on his laptop… Khushi brought him his coffee..
Nani ji looked at Khushi with an adorable gaze, said, “Bitiya, won’t you have some chai?”

“Ji, Nani ji, I will… ” Khushi answered. Before moving aside, Khushi reached for Arnav’s face… gently moved his hair from his forehead…let her hand linger over his hair briefly.. A sweet sensation ran through Arnav’s body.  Surprised he muttered, ‘What the…”.. Khushi quickly made an eye gesture that told Arnav to stay calm… Arnav looked down and started working on the computer again…he kept stealing gazes at Khushi from the corner of his eye… her gentle touch had stirred something deep inside him.. Anjali and Nani ji looked at each other happily.. raised their eyebrows as mischievous smile flickered across their lips.

Just then the doorbell chimed. Aakash jumped to his feet, “Looks like Lovely has arrived!”
Arnav moved his laptop aside, stood up and hurried to the door with his long strides.  Everyone else followed him with their eyes…
Arnav opened the door. A beautiful, sophisticated woman dressed in a spaghetti strap blouse and a sexy chiffon saree entered RM. With a beautiful face, shoulder length wavy hair, delicate diamond jewelry, stilettos, a bracelet in one arm and delicate watch on the other wrist… she walked in through the door exuding confidence. As soon as she saw Arnav she screamed happily, “A S R…” She spread her arms and hugged Arnav. Arnav hugged her back.., “Hi, Lovely!” 
By this time everyone was at the door. Khushi could not help but notice that Arnav’s face was lit up with a happy smile.

As they pulled away, Lovely said, “Wow, you haven’t changed, my dashing handsome friend!... ASR, nothing seems have changed about you…!”
Then she gave Aakash a quick hug… ”Hey, how are you?” 
Lovely looked at Nani ji and bowed down to touch Nani ji’s feet to seek her blessings… ”Be happy, Bitiya!” Nani ji blessed her with an affectionate smile as she caressed Lovely’s face gently.  
Anjali was standing next to Nani ji.. all smiles. Lovely and Anjali hugged each other. Lovely said, “Yes, I have to yet meet your husband…“ “He should be around…,” Anjali said as her eyes searched for him… That made Anjali and others aware of Shyam’s absence.

Mami ji stepped forward, “Hello Hi Bye Bye! Ms Lovely – we are here too.. you know...”
 With a wide smile Lovely opened her arms and hugged Mami ji, after a kiss… kiss on either cheek… they burst out laughing.. Khushi and Payal were observing Lovely keenly… Khushi looked at Arnav who still had a faint smile on his face… something hurt big time inside Khushi’s heart.. . she moved closer to Arnav..

Just then, Lovely turned around and asked Arnav, “ASR, introduce me to your wife now!” Mami ji interrupted… with wide eyes and a surprised look she said, “Arey, Ms Lovely, how come you have all the news?”
Lovely gave a cute smile and said, “Well, we are talking about the wife of THE ASR… everyone is bound to know... I saw it on the TV…” Lovely’s searching eyes went around the room… her gaze stalled over Khushi standing next to Arnav. Khushi seemed a little lost. Lovely took a couple steps forward as Arnav extended his hand and said, “Lovely, meet Khushi….. my wife!”
Khushi looked at him uneasily… then she looked at Lovely, put her hands together and said with a hesitant smile, “Namaste!”
Lovely rushed over enthusiastically and hugged Khushi saying, “Let me give you a hug.. sirf ‘Namaste’ se kaam nahi chalega…. Just ‘Namaste’ won’t do!”
Khushi smiled at her shyly… Then Lovely turned to Aakash and asked, “Your better half?” Aakash introduced Payal to Lovely…. “Payal, this is Lovely…. Lovely, this is Payal!” Lovely gave Payal a warm hug too as Nani ji provided information, “Lovely Bitiya, these two are sisters……Khushi bitya and Payal bitiya..”
Anjali was all smiles as she said, “Let her come in first!.. Come, Lovely!” Everyone moved to the lounge area..

Just then walked in a handsome guy through the main door of RM, well dressed, tall, and confident with a smile on his face…he announced, “Lovely dear, I am here!” Lovely ran and hugged him….