FF : Plot twist

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Aug 29, 2017

Plot twist - 21 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 55 times)

Part – 21:

 

“Chamkili!! Hey, Chamkili!!!!” Shaking Khushi, Lavanya shouted.

 

“Hmm.” Khushi gave that sound, very unaffected, while doing something on her phone and devouring Jalebis.

 

“Jeez!”

 

Fed up, Lavanya snatched Khushi’s phone and threw it onto the bed.

 

“What have you done, Lavanya?! I was about to send a message to Arnavji!” Khushi shrieked, reaching for her phone.

 

Lavanya swatted her hand, “Your Arnavji can wait for your message until after you guys are engaged, which is in 4 hours,” Turning Khushi’s head towards the clock, “See! We all have to leave in 60 minutes, and look at your state!”

 

Hair disheveled, mouth stuffed with Jalebis with syrup dripping down her mouth, eyes wide and still in her night wear Khushi looked around and gasped.

 

“Hey Devi Maiyya!!! It is 4 AM already?!” Khushi screamed, as she got up to fetch her toiletries, “It is all that Laad Governor’s and your fault, Lavanya! Why didn’t you warn me?”

 

“What? My fault…… Umm, Yes, it is, and I am sorry.” Lavanya apologized, sarcastically, keeping up a mock face.

 

Unable to look into her eyes for how she blamed her without any mistake, Khushi dashed into the wash room.

 

Chuckling, Lavanya began tidying up the room.

 

She landed directly into Khushi’s house from London the previous night and was feeling really exhausted, but all the tiredness flew away thinking of her BFF’s big day, and someone else.

 

“Arre, Lavanya bitiya, why are you doing all this?” Garima said, who had just entered the room  along with Buaji.

 

“Haan, haan, NandaKis****! Why are you taking trouble?” Buaji said.

 

“Oh come on, aunty! What am I doing? Just cleaning up the bed for my best friend, so that she could rest right away after coming back home. And PLEASE don’t behave formal with me. Consider me equal to Khushi.” Lavanya said, heartfelt.

 

Garima and Buaji smiled listening to her. From what they knew, Lavanya was never like this. She was now transformed into a complete different person, and they were happy that she was Khushi’s best friend.

 

“Alright, dear!” Garima said, cupping her face, “First gather all your things, we will be leaving soon.”

 

“Okay.” she replied.

 

“Hai re Nandakis****! Eyy, Sanka Devi! What are you wearing?” Yelled Buaji, seeing Khushi who just stepped out the washroom.

 

“What?”

 

“What ‘What’? Why are you wearing this salwar suit and not saree?”

 

“Offo, Buaji! Amma told me that I will be getting ready at RM. For now, I’ll leave like this.” Khushi assured buaji.

 

2 minutes later, the Guptas along with Lavanya and the nurse were seated in the drawing room, looking at Khushi with amu****t who was busy running here and there in the house complaining about everything.

 

“Jiji, someone told me a couple of days ago that all things for engagement were set and done. I wonder who that was.” Garima said, teasing Khushi.

 

Everyone laughed. Buaji caught hold of Khushi and made her sit with them.

 

“Titaliya, relax! Have this tea.”

 

Sulking, Khushi took a sip, “What is all this? It seems like a tornado had hit the house!”

 

“A wedding is happening in the house. It is justified to be messy.” Garima said.

 

“Acha? During Jiji’s marriage, the house was all neat and more than well organised. What happened now?” Khushi retorted, “I have to look after everything in the house.”

 

“Oh really, NandaKis****? Look around, the whole house is neat and more than well organised, except your room!” Buaji retorted.

 

“Maybe your’s would have been too, if you have not stayed glued to you phone, texting your to-be-hubby.” Lavanya winked.

 

Khushi turned red as they all laughed.

 

“Okay, now stop bothering my Khushi bitiya.” Shashi came to her rescue.

 

“My Babuji!” she said, hugging him and stuck out her tongue at Lavanya.

 

Shortly, Mohan came to pick them up and all left to Shantivan.

 

~*~*~

 

The entire Raizada mansion had been decorated with fairy lights, flowers, diyas and balloons.  A huge dais was set up in the middle of the drawing room where the ceremony would take place. Large number of banquet tables were organized in round groups for the guests. It seemed as if a festival was happening, which in reality, it was. Their Prince Arnav was getting engaged!

 

“Namaste!” Nani, Mami, Mama and Anjali greeted the Guptas.

 

“Namaste, namaste!” they reciprocated, smiling brightly.

 

Khushi took blessings from them and hugged Anjali. Standing at the door itself, her eyes began scanning every nook and corner of the house hoping to catch a glimpse of Arnav. People around Khushi laughed as she was not paying attention to any of them, busy in searching for her prince charming.

 

“Khushiji, don’t even try sneeking a glance of your Arnavji. You won’t find him,” Anjali laughed, “He is being strictly guarded by his 2 brothers in his room.”

 

Khushi blushed.

 

“Stop it, Anjali bitiya! Don’t start with your teasing from now itself.” Mama said, smiling.

 

“Yes, yes! We will be having many more opportunities in the future, hello hai bye bye!” Mami grinned.

 

“Okay now, Payal bitiya, you take Khushi bitiya to the guest room opposite to Chote’s room,” Nani said, “Madhumatiji, is it okay if you take the guest room down here?”

 

“No problem, Nandakis****!” buaji replied.

 

Soon, Khushi was taken upstairs by Payal, Anjali and Lavanya, where as Garima, Madhumati and Shashi settled in the room downstairs. While Shashi was being rested, Garima and Madhumati freshened up quickly and joined the rest of the elder Raizadas, helping them with the arrangements and receiving guests.

 

In Khushi’s room :

 

“No, no, no! I am not giving you your phone!” Lavanya chided Khushi.

 

“Why not?” Payal asked.

 

“Oh, you have no idea, Payal! If given, she’ll stay glued to it.”

 

“But…” Khushi tried to speak but stopped when Lavanya glared.

 

“Alright, Khushi. Pooja starts in 2 hours. You take rest for half an hour, okay?” Payal said.

 

“There is no necessary for it…”

 

“No one asked you. Bye!”

 

Payal and Lavanya left the room shutting the door behind them, taking Khushi’s mobile and went to check on what was going on in Arnav’s room.

 

While going, Payal said, “We should have left her phone with her.”

 

“Trust me, it wouldn’t be a great idea.” Lavanya replied.

 

“Khushi hates phone. She never uses it. What is the big matter?” Payal asked.

 

“My dear Payal, time and necessity has changed for her, darling!” Lavanya replied, winking.

 

Still confused, Payal with Lavanya, ran into Anjali.

 

“Oh, Di! We were just coming to you. Everything done? Is Arnavji ready? Do you need anything?” Payal asked.

 

“My lovely brother is sleeping.” Anjali said, calmly.

 

“What?!” both asked, perplexed.

 

“Yes, the groom to-be is sleeping with his engagement’s a couple of hours away.” Anjali said, shaking her head.

 

“How?”

 

“What should I say? These days his mobile has become his essential to live. 24 hours he keeps texting or talking with Khushiji on phone, yeah, exception when he’s working. I requested him so much to get good sleep at least last night, but no! Whole night. On phone. With Khushiji. Now he’s sleeping!” Vexed Anjali, ranted.

 

Grinning at Payal, Lavanya said, “Now you get it why I took Chamkili’s mobile?”

 

“These two are behaving like teenagers.” Payal said.

 

They laughed.

 

“Let them rest for a while.” Anjali said, before they all went downstairs.

 

~*~*~

 

“They both left me to take a nap, but how will I get sleep? Today, I am getting engaged to my Arnavji”

.

.

The Laad Governor who didn’t bother replying to my last message!”

.

.

Devi Maiyya! Lavanya is right. These days I am using my mobile a lot! I should stop it. He is introducing me to weird habits!”

.

.

“I wonder what he is doing now!”

.

.

“Should I go help everyone with the arrangements?”

.

.

“I’m so tired, will just close my eyes for 5 minutes!”

 

And 1 hour later, Payal barged into the room startling Khushi to the sky.

 

Eyes drowsy, “Wh..what happened, Jiji?” she asked.

 

“Get up fast and get changed! Panditji has arrived and pooja will start soon!” Payal replied, shoving dress into Khushi’s hands.

 

“WHAT? I slept in!!! Why didn’t you wake me up?” she jumped up.

 

“Err, sorry.”

 

Singing ‘Devi Maiyya’, Khushi went and got changed into the saree in less than 2 minutes. She just sat on the chair like a doll, while the ladies were busy embellishing Khushi. Pinning up her hair in an elegant bun with flowers adorned in it, minimal makeup, accessorizing with matching traditional jewelry; everything happened with Khushi trying hard not to fall asleep.

 

“And done!” Anjali, Payal and Lavanya squeaked, jerking Khushi into full consciousness.

 

She stood up and admired herself in the mirror. Her eyes teared.

 

Payal whispered, “Khushi, you are looking just like…” 

 

“My Amma. I know.”

 

Payal gently hugged from behind, consoling her. Garima and Buaji smiled.

 

Anjali and Lavanya, not grasping the small exchange between them, decided to lighten the thick atmosphere.

 

“Okay, okay! Don’t emotional now, her make up will smudge, and it’ll be very hard to get my sleepy head best friend awake again.” Lavanya chirped, and everyone laughed.

 

“Khushiji, let’s go down? Panditji is calling for you.” Anjali said.

 

Soon they all went down.

 

Khushi sat down before the Havan kund with her hands joined together, praying for her prosperous future with Arnav. For the first time, she was being restless for a pooja to finish as it had been 3 days since they last seen each other.  While the mantras were being chanted by the pandit, the guests gathered around and sat in the pooja.

 

“Nani, why are you looking at Khushiji like that?” Anjali asked, noticing Nani who seemed to be recalling something scrutinizing Khushi.

 

“Voh…Khushi bitiya is reminding me someone familiar, who was once very dear to me, but I can’t remember who.” Nani replied.

 

“Don’t think much, Nani. She is just dressed up in our traditional style and is looking like old heroine.” Anjali winked to which Nani smiled, still thinking deeply.

 

“Bitiya, you go and get changed into these clothes.” Pandit said, giving Khushi a silver tray on which the dress was on.

 

Khushi went to her room and soon got dressed into the main ceremony’s attire, and waited for the time they’d call her down.

 

~*~*~

 

“Di, you stay here. I will get him.” Payal said, and went to Arnav’s room.

 

“Who locked the door from outside?” she wondered, opening the door.

 

“Arnavji, Pandit….” Payal started, entering the room but cut short when Arnav almost pounced on her.

 

“Payal, why isn’t Khushi answering my calls?”

 

“Uh…well….umm…..Because we took it from her?!” She answered, unsure.

 

“And where did that monkey NK go, confining me in my own room?” Arnav shouted.

 

“First, he woke me up one hour ago shouting in my ears from my deep sleep and forced me to get dressed into this stupid kurta by blackmailing taking Khushi’s name, and ran away locking me up in here….”

 

“Arnavji, Arnavji, calm down!” Payal said, holding his shoulder.

 

“Do you even remember that your engagement is going on downstairs?”

 

“Of course, I do! It’s just…”

 

“Relax!”

 

Stilling for a moment, he inhaled deeply. Having not seen Khushi for 3 days made him snappy enough, and top to that these ridiculous ritual rules and his siblings, mainly NK’s, jokes on him.

 

Arnav was sure who unleashed NK on him. Khushi. She always did that whenever he angered her.

 

“These 2 best friends will murder me one day.” he thought furiously.

 

“Shall I call Di here, Arnavji? Actually, Pandiji is calling you down since it is time for your pooja.” Payal gently asked.

 

“I don’t want to spoil my mood on my engagement. Will deal with them both in my own way later.” he promised.

 

“Not needed, Payal. We will leave.” He said, smiling.

 

They both headed down.

 

“Oh God, Chote, you are looking very handsome.” Anjali exclaimed.

 

He was wearing blue and white designer kurta. Everyone looked surprised seeing him in that attire as they all knew how much he disliked classic wear, yet he wore it just for Khushi to make her happy. But the damn ritual rules didn’t even allow each other to at least see.

 

Still grumpy, he sat before the havan kund and joined his hands due to compulsion of his over-traditional family, tried to pretend praying.

 

“Okay, this is weird! I don’t believe in all this stuff, still I’m doing this for my family. Mainly for Khushi. Devi Maiyya, I don’t know if you really exist or not, but my Khushi is your biggest devotee. Just look after her. She has faced so much in life, and I want nothing but to fill her life with every happiness I can find in the world, because she is my life.”

 

Without his knowledge, he prayed to God.

 

“Alright, now, all that was a bit too cheesy for me. Sorry, I couldn’t help it. What am I meant to do? Sit here like this with my eyes closed? Am I supposed to chant something? Can I open my eyes? No, everybody’s eyes are on me……”

 

There, Arnav was behaving inside like a lost paranoid child, and here, all the guests and his family were admiring the changes in him. They were so content that Khushi brought those changes in him and couldn’t be more delighted.

 

NK signaled Lavanya to come to the terrace.

 

“Uh, Payal, I will just come.” Lavanya informed Payal and followed NK up there.

 

“What’s the matter, NK….” She started but stopped when he hugged her.

 

Surprised, she stilled for a moment and later hugged him back happily. Two souls who had missed each other so much were rejoicing their embrace wishing the time would stop. Both still had to come a long way, starting from realizing their true feelings. After filling in their scents, they parted, no wanting to make the other feel awkward.

 

“Hey, Lavs! Long time, no see. How are ya’ doin’?” NK said, masking his true emotions.

 

“I am good, thank you. What about you?” she replied, calmly.

 

“Oh, come on, Lavs! Cut the formal talk? We are good friends, right? Be free with me once again!”

 

“With pleasure!” Smiling, she twisted his ears.

 

“Oww, ahh! Lavanya, what are you doing?” he asked, yelping in pain.

 

“I am being free with you as you said, Nanda Kis**** Sharma!” she glared.

 

“Hey, I told you many times not to call me by my full name!”

 

“I will call you however I wish when I am angry. What will you do?”

 

“Why?”

 

“‘Why’? Gave no response to my calls nor to messages, and yet got the guts to ask ‘Why’!” she growled.

 

“Oh…that I….Well…”

 

What was he supposed to say? That he missed her like hell, but was hurt that she wasn’t willing to share with him what was bothering her, or that he was trying to curb his emotions for her. That wasn’t the time to come clean with everything because neither of them were sure of their feelings.

 

“I was having adventures.” he squeaked.

 

“Huh?” she frowned.

 

“I….I was busy having fun with Nannav. You know, right? One must be super alert after messing with Nannav.” He blabbered rubbish, which was actually half true.

 

“Weirdo!”

 

“That I am.” He said, proudly.

 

Lavanya awfully failed at keeping up a straight face and slowly broke into unfeigned laughter. NK’s heart skipped a beat seeing her beautiful dimples. He would bear any sort of bizarre name and become a clown for her just to see her genuinely smiling, and that would make him happy.

 

“Gosh, I missed you, NK!” words slipped out without her knowledge.

 

“I missed you more.” he whispered, sincerely. “And sorry, Lavanya. I was really busy with all the wedding stuff that’s going on.”

 

“It’s alright! I understand.” she replied, smiling. “Why did you bring me here anyway?”

 

“You know, just to talk to you properly. There’s a lot of commotion going on down there, isn’t it? That’s why!”

 

“Okay, now that we have caught on about our daily business, can we go down?” she asked.

 

“Sure, sure! They could be looking for us. Nannav’s pooja must have been finished by now as well.”

 

Lavanya smacked NK.

 

“Ow!” rubbing his head, “What was that for?”

 

“You very well know there’s a huge ceremony happening in the house. Is everything funny to you? Why did you lock ASR up in his room?” she shot.

 

“What? I would never do that to my brother…”

 

She glared.

 

“How did you find out it was me?”

 

“Payal told me.”

 

“How did she know…”

 

“Doesn’t matter, NK! Why did you do that?”

 

“For fun. I…I mean, I have an obligation towards someone..” he stuttered.

 

“So Chamkili, right?”

 

“Hey, it’s not her fault. Nannav did something big that irritated her and she simply requested me to poke jokes at him, but I am the one without barriers is testing his limits irrespective of time or place.” he confessed.

 

“Here comes the savior of Chamkili’s mischief!” she announced, “You know, sometimes I envy you because you STEAL my best friend from me!”

 

NK laughed.

 

Though she said that mockingly, only she knew how much she adored the attachment both Khushi and NK shared, 2 of her most favorite people. The bond was something so pure and special, but that didn’t mean she approved of NK occupying her place in Khushi’s life. Heck, Lavanya became Khushi’s BFF first, not NK!

 

“Be wary of your actions because pissed-off ASR could kill not just you, but also MY best friend.” she warned.

 

“Oh, dear Lavs! No ways! I know my brother. He loves Khushiji way too much to be mad at her, and he doesn’t ever show it but he loves me too as a brother. I’m sure of it.” he confidently said.

 

She couldn’t help but chuckle.

 

~*~*~

 

“Oh! Everyone see how my Chote is looking at Khushiji! So much love!!” Anjali purred.

 

It was now time for the main ceremony, and finally Arnav and Khushi came face-to-face after 3 long days! Raizadas, Guptas and the guests gathered around the dais, admiring the couple.

 

Khushi flushed heavily with everyone’s teasing, and Arnav’s intense gaze was not helping her much. Coming to Arnav, he just didn’t care anymore. He was so done with all their teasing comments and decided not to give any heed to them. So, he just stood there  taking in his fill of Khushi, enjoying her shyness.

 

“We shall start, the muhurat is here.” Pandit announced.

 

Raizadas and Guptas got up on the dais and went near Arnav and Khushi. As the Pandit started chanting mantras, happy chattering of guests had dropped down and they gave full attention to the function.

 

“Apply tika.” Pandit instructed.

 

Anjali smiled brightly and applied tika on Khushi, caressing her cheek fondly. Khushi returned the smile even brightly.

 

When Garima reached Arnav, he swiftly bent down and touched her feet. She blissfully gave him her blessings. She hesitated to apply tika to him, knowing very well that he didn’t believe in the rituals. But surprising her and everyone, Arnav smiled and lowered his head, gesturing Garima to continue. Beaming, she applied tika on Arnav.

 

Arnav extended his right hand.

 

“What are you…” Garima asked, unsure.

 

“I know you want to tie a dhaga. I don’t mind, Aunty. In fact, I will be very pleased to do so because this would make Khushi so much happy.” Arnav said.

 

Everybody was awestruck, especially Khushi. They couldn’t believe this was their Arnav. As the astonishment abated, elation filled up.

 

Garima affectionately patted his head and tied the Raksha Dhaga on his hand.

 

“Chote, how did you know?” Nani asked.

 

“I just….found out.” he said, shrugging.

 

“Hello Hai Bye Bye, you did investigations about the rituals, Arnav bitwa?” Manorama asked in her signature style.

 

“Yes, Mami. For Khushi’s happiness, I will learn about anything!” he said, looking into Khushi’s eyes.

 

“NandaKis****, you love her so much!” Buaji squealed, waving her hands around his head.

 

“That I do.” he whispered, side-hugging Khushi.

 

Everyone went awe to the extent their eyes teared in glee seeing his love for her. Khushi was totally blushing and overjoyed on receiving this guileless affection from Arnav, but something didn’t seem right to her. She became suspicious at his PDA, because this was ASR here, and on scanning him thoroughly there was a mischievous glint in his eyes. But for now, she decided to shrug off the feeling.

 

Pandit had been saying the mantras in Sanskrit, but now switched the language and said, “The auspicious date has been set for the wedding on 12th of April.”

 

Everyone squealed in glee, where as Arnav frowned.

 

“12th of April? That’s more than one month away!” he growled.

 

“Shh, Chote!” Anjali whispered, looking around making sure no one had heard him. “Put up a normal face! It won’t look good seeing the groom sulking in his engagement.”

 

He decided to put away the matter for now. One glance at smiling Khushi, his lips curved up, too.

 

“Pooja is finished and the muhurat has come. Now, it is time for the rings exchange.” Pandit announced.

 

The whole atmosphere lit up instantly.

 

Looking at Arnav with her eyes twinkling, Khushi took the ring. He readily lifted hand and she slid the royal gold band on his finger. Without waiting another second, he took her hand and made her wear a stunning platinum ring. Arnav lifted her hand and gently pecked. As everybody around erupted into roars of merriment, Khushi shyly hid herself in Arnav’s embrace, who in return hugged her tighter with a huge smile on his face.

 

 Anjali went to them, “Finally, you are engaged! I think I am the most excited person for this day, besides you both, of course!” She patted their cheeks, “Khushiji, from this very second, you must and should call me ‘Di’.”

 

“With pleasure, Di.”

 

Anjali gathered a beaming Khushi in her hug.

 

Only Khushi knew how long she had been holding herself from calling Anjali ‘Di’. She wanted to wait till she officially became Arnav’s fiance, and here came the moment!

 

Soon, Arnav and Khushi were blessed, hugged and congratulated by both their families and all the guests. With elders watching merrily, all the youngsters began dancing joyously, pulling as many people as they could to dance. Their blissful moments were captured by the wedding photographer. After showering the new couple with gifts, everyone went to have the sumptuous feast.

 

Amidst the celebration, Arnav and Khushi kept glancing at each other longingly, waiting for the moment they’d be alone together.

 

~*~

 

“Stop, stop!!! Now zoom it!” shrieked Manorama. “See, I’m looking so beautiful in this picture. Not that I look bad in other pictures…”

 

“No doubt in that, Masi.” NK whistled.

 

Manorama blushed making everyone roll their eyes in amu****t.

 

It was now evening. After the celebration, leisurely the guests  took leave. Time had passed in a blink and now it was almost 5PM. Munching on snacks and sipping evening tea, Raizadas and Guptas were seeing the engagement photographs on TV which NK took from his DSLR.

 

“Wow! Khushiji is looking just fabulous!” said NK.

 

In the picture, Khushi was doing pooja with her eyes closed, palms joined, praying to her Devi Maiyya.

 

When the next picture came on the screen, Khushi’s eyes went wide in astonishment.

 

It was the picture of Arnav in the similar pose as Khushi in the previous one, except what surprised her was that he wore traditional kurta-pajama, and he was praying, too.

 

Excited, Khushi turned to Arnav, “You wore it!!!”

 

All the time, Arnav was in his own world, not paying any attention to his surroundings. He was busy savoring Khushi who was sitting next to him. She realized he was lost in her, and his intense gaze brought color to her cheeks.

 

“What are you doing? Look at the pictures, not me.” Khushi whispered in his ears.

 

Arnav inhaled deeply and said, “You will come to my room now.”

 

“Impossible,” Khushi hissed, “Look around. Everyone is here. What will they think?”

 

“Not my problem,” leaning, he pecked on her cheek, “I’m giving you 5 minutes. After that, I’ll come and carry you up there myself.”

 

Arnav got up, announcing, “I’ve got some work, I’m going to my room.”

 

No one said anything but nodded silently. He went to his room, not before winking at Khushi.

 

Khushi sat like a statue feeling anxious knowing very well Arnav would do what he said without caring about anyone.

 

“Uh… Umm…”

 

She tried thinking of excuses but none of them were unsuspicious. Everyone would definitely figure out that she went to meet Arnav, resulting in endless teasing from everyone, and she couldn’t risk that!

 

“Devi Maiyya, what do I do?”

 

Khushi was panicking so much that she didn’t realize people around her also remained frozen, breaking into giggles and murmuring jokes among themselves. They waited and waited, a couple of minutes had passed and Khushi was still there. Suddenly everyone shouted together.

 

“Khushiji, go! Your Arnavji is waiting for you!!”

 

Startled, “Huh?” she shrieked, clutching her heart.

 

“What ‘Huh’? Your Prince Charming is waiting for you!”

 

“It is not good on your part to make my Arnav babua wait for you. He loves you so much!!”

 

“If not, why would he declare it openly before everyone?”

 

“Bhai stepped out of his comfort zone to make you happy, Khushiji. And you are making him wait?”

 

“Very bad indeed…”

 

“Khushiji, spring up or Nannav will go 'Hulk mode' on everyone.”

 

“Is it too much to ask? We only want you two love birds united in this very instant, Chamkili…”

 

Putting up their best ingenuous face; Payal, Buaji, Anjali, Akash, Garima, NK and Lavanya started pulling Khushi’s legs. Without delaying anymore, Khushi dashed to Arnav’s room. Everyone’s laughter echoed in Shantivan.

 

~*~

 

“I knew it! I knew it!! I sensed something fishy at the way you talked about me during rings exchange. It is to make everyone tease me for a life time, isn’t it?” Khushi screamed, entering Arnav’s room.

 

“Do you really think I faked all that with Aunty and everyone?” he asked innocently.

 

“No! You really meant what you said about the rituals and you heartily let Amma apply tika and tie Dhaga, but the way you expressed your love….it was a trick for me, wasn’t it?”

 

“You know me too well, Khushi. I’m honored and impressed.”

 

“Stop grinning! Do you know how much they’re teasing me now? I ran from there to escape the embarrassment.”

 

“What’s there to be embarrassed about?” he asked.

 

“You won’t understand! Nobody’s ever teased you before.”

 

“You’re mistaken. I’ve been subjected to teasing by my family uncountable times since we’ve told them about us,” he said, briefly recalling those haunting memories. “I’m now done with all that mockery stuff, not gonna care anymore.”

 

“But it’s not the same with me! I am a woman! I cannot ignore them, unlike you. It was our engagement today and you are…..”

 

Unmindful of her rantings, Arnav swiftly snaked an arm around her waist and brought her close. Khushi gasped at his sudden act. Her eyes widened and breathing labored. So did his.

 

“Exactly,” he whispered, “You want to fight even today?”

 

“But…You…you…..” she pouted, “Why do you always do this, Arnavji? You always seem to obtain maximum enjoyment by seeing me all flustered, don’t you?”

 

A chuckle escaped Arnav.

 

“Yeah, laugh, laugh, you Laad Governor,” she muttered, swatting him. “All this is because of the discussion we’d had last night when I requested you once to wear the Kurta suit, isn’t it?”

 

“Instead of ‘discussion’ and ‘requested once’, I’d term them ‘argument’ and ‘pestering endlessly’. And no. That’s not the reason.” Arnav clarified, calmly. “You unleashed your partner in crime, NK, on me! He annoyed me to a point I wanted to murder him!”

 

Khushi fought hard to keep herself from laughing and succeeded, but the triumphant glint in her eyes did not go missed from Arnav.

 

“I know that one of your worst nightmares is getting teased by our family because you are too shy. So, I took my revenge.” He revealed, wiping out her glint. “NK can expect a pay back from me at anytime.”

 

“What! You……….”

 

“Oh, shut up!” he groaned, dragging Khushi to the poolside. “We can fight later! I’m in no mood for that now.”

 

He sat down with Khushi in his lap, hugging her as close to him as possible. The awkwardness soon ebbed away, and she relaxed more into him. Minutes passed, both enjoyed the moment to the fullest in silence. They still couldn’t believe that they were engaged and soon would be married.

 

Kissing on her nape, “Almost 2 months!” he hissed.

 

“Arnavji, don’t fuss.” Khushi said giggling. “Trust me, our wedding day will come in a blink.”

 

“I hope so…” he breathed. “By the way, you don’t look that bad in this color as well.”

 

She was wearing a simple bright yellow saree.

 

“Why, thank you. But you look boring in this normal suit of yours.” she added cheekily, to which he rolled his eyes.

 

“I’m comfortable in suits rather than in those Kurtas and Sherwanis.”

 

Mustering courage, Khushi turned and kissed him on the cheek, lips lingering there for a while. Pink filled her cheeks instantly.

 

“Voh…that…Tha…thank you for wearing Kurta-suit today for pooja.” She mumbled, eyes lowered.

 

He tipped her chin up and said, “Would wear them more often if this will be the reward.”

 

She swatted his hand away, blushing under his naughty gaze. Laughing, he kissed on her forehead.

 

“Okay…okay. Here,” giving her some documents and pen, “read them thoroughly and carefully, and sign wherever there’s a tick.”

 

Not wasting a second, Khushi straightaway put her signature on every page wherever they’re required.

 

Surprised, “Khushi! Why didn’t you go through it?” he asked.

 

“I trust you with my entire being, Arnavji.” she whispered.

 

After the astonishment subsided, Arnav smiled and showed her some photographs. They were the pictures of a huge villa facing beach, providing a spectacular view.

 

“This is amazing, Arnavji!!! Look at it; bright sunny day, trees on either side of the house, blue water of the beach not far away, it looks magnificent!” Khushi said.

 

Arnav couldn’t help his grin, “So, do you like it?”

 

“What are you asking? I love it! Do you remember? I once mentioned to you that I would like us to spend a day at a place. This would be perfect!” she squealed.

 

“That would never be a problem now, Khushi. With your wish, not just a day, we can spend weeks and months over there.”

 

“I don’t get you, Arnavji.”

 

“That’s your villa now, Khushi.” Arnav announced, “What did you think the documents were? It’s your engagement gift from me.”

 

Khushi remained speechless until her tiny brain processed on what he had just said. When it dawned on her, the proud look on his face made her furious.

 

“You bought a house on my name?” she said calmly .

 

“Villa. And yes. I did remember you mentioning your love for beach once.” he said, pleased with himself.

 

“Are you insane?!!” she shouted, getting up. “That’s not called a gift!”

 

Frowning, he also got up. “What happened? You seem angry.”

 

“I seem angry? Of course, I am. I’m furious!” she yelled. “You think you can do whatever you want?”

 

“Lower your tone! Why are you mad at me?” he growled, his own temper flaring.

 

“How can I not be mad? That’s not a small thing, Arnavji, it’s crazy! A gift would generally mean something likable to the interests of the person.”

 

“You yourself told me once that you love such places. Then what’s your problem?”

 

“That doesn’t mean you buy me a house..”

 

“VILLA!” he clarified.

 

 “I don’t care what’s it properly called! Who gave you the right to gift a property on my name?!”

 

Stepping dead close,”You are Arnav Singh Raizada’s wife! My wife will have everything she fancies, be it a cheap crystal or this whole damn city! I will make sure of it.”

 

Her heart skipped a beat at the declaration. This was an extremely intense statement.

 

Composing herself, “I am not your wife yet. We are just engaged..”

 

“I don’t care if we’re yet married or not. You became my wife the moment I realized that I love you.” he proclaimed severely.

 

Khushi was speechless again. What would she say after that bold statement? She knew her Laad Governor too well, he just intended to make her happy in his own way but this was too extreme.

 

Inhaling deeply, “Arnavji, don’t you think you are being a bit—er—stupid?” Khushi asked, cupping his face. “I am a simple girl who finds merry in small delightful things. But this…… Don’t you think I will feel, what to say correctly, suffocated?”

 

Tilting to side, he kissed her palm, “I know, Khushi, I know. But this how I am, I promised myself that I will make everything in my power to keep you happy lifelong.” he revealed.

 

“For me, being happy means staying with the people I love, living a content life, not extravagant presents.”

 

“Yes, I know! This is the quality of you I love the most.” he said, eyes shining. “But it gives me satisfaction in ‘being stupid’ for you.” he grinned, “So, be prepared. I won’t change.”

 

“Wha….” She started, irritated that he wasn't listening to her, but he cut her in.

 

“I am bored and tired of this argument.” he said. “Let’s re-enact a scene.”

 

Mischievous glint was back in his eyes as he stepped forward. Instinctively, Khushi took a step back, their current disagreement flew out of her head seeing his now-hunger expression. Both traveled back to the Diwali night, the only change was that their eyes now reflected pure love with no dilemma. They continued moving until Khushi was caged between wall and Arnav.

 

He slid his arm around her waist and pulled close making her grasp his shoulder. Unable to bear his intense gaze, she closed her eyes in shyness. He tucked away the tresses that were teasing her forehead, leaning in, he placed a warm kiss there. His lips still brushing her skin while moving, he dropped feather-like kisses on her cheeks, eyes, chin and nose, which he always found it cute. With their chests plastered together, both could feel the frenzied pounding of their heart.

 

Sensing no moment from him, she opened her eyes and met with his desirous ones. With his hand fondling her waist, she shivered and stirred more close to him. Khushi knew he wanted nothing more than to kiss her to his heart’s content. She wanted that, too, but she was fighting between her love for Arnav and morals she had been taught since childhood.

 

Suddenly, the way Arnav declared how he was considering her his wife flashed in her mind, and she decided. If he could abide to the customs he didn’t believe in just for her, she also could keep aside her principles for him, loving him with no barriers or guilt, and putting an end to her plight. It was at that moment her heart accepted something.

 

“Arnav Singh Raizada, my husband.” She whispered and placed her lips on his, her hands cupping his face.

 

He was surprised at her sudden, unexpected move. Slowly he registered what she had called him and smiled against her lips. Being the first kiss for both of them, they leisurely proceeded to explore the art of kissing in an unhurried manner. One arm around the waist and the other angling her neck for more access, he took control of the kiss and soon it turned from a soft, loving kiss to a passionate, demanding one.

 

Arnav nipped at her lip, causing her to gasp. He ran his tongue in that area, soothing the sting. She parted her lips and gently sucked on his, making him groan and pull her by the waist more close if possible. She was driving him crazy, so was he. They were now fighting for dominance. Khushi moaned when Arnav plunged his tongue into her mouth, intensifying their hot smooching session even up further. Sensing their need to take oxygen, he eased the kiss and parted with some gentle pecks.

 

He rested his forehead on hers, breathing in deeply. A few moments passed in silence with Arnav and Khushi regaining their composure. He opened his eyes to look at her, but she was still not looking up at him. Recalling the manner she put aside her morals and first initiated the kiss gave him immense contentment that she also loved him as much as he did. His respect and love for her multiplied.

 

Tipping her chin up, he urged her to look at him.

 

“This was what I wanted to do that night.” he whispered, his thumb rubbing her swollen lips.

 

Her eyes widened and  her pink cheeks turned red. Hitting lightly on his chest, she launched herself into Arnav’s embrace.

 

-##-

Thank you note :

 

Everyone who hit TQ and commented on the last part, Thank you :)

-##-

Nov 6, 2017

Part-22 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 43 times)

Part-22 :





Spending some more quality time together, Arnav and Khushi were now descending down to their family. It seemed as if a red shade had been permanently imprinted on Khushi’s cheeks and Arnav showed expression which was nowhere close to hers.  No sooner had they appeared before the family, rounds of applause had been heard.



“Welcome back, lovebirds!”



“Khushi literally sprinted towards her Arnavji. I suppose that is what unstoppable love’s called.”



“Was your rendezvous well spent?”



“Look, look! Her cheeks are crimson!”



“She must be feeling too hot. Somebody turn down the temperature.”



Naughty young batch didn’t want to miss another chance at having fun. Arnav exhibited no emotion but his eyes screamed that he was enjoying this fun, only because it was Khushi who had been their target this time. Khushi shot a furious glance at Arnav who took the brilliant decision of not meeting her eyes, suddenly interested in scanning the patterns of walls. 



“Alright, alright, stop for a bit!” Akash started, “I’ve got something to say.”



He gently led Payal towards Arnav and Khushi and stood next to them.



“Bhai, Saali/Bhabiji, you’ve taken enough of limelight today,” facing everyone, “Now it is our turn.”



They frowned, not getting what Akash was saying.



He whispered to Payal, “Shall we reveal?”



She nodded, blushing, eyes locked to the floor.



“We are going to be parents!” Akash announced.



The next second, Shantivan erupted into squeals of merriment and laughter. Everyone rushed to congratulate the to-be-parents. As Akash and Payal stood smiling, Buaji joined Nani in warding off evil eyes; Mama, Buaji, Garima and Shashi heartily blessed them, Mami was crying in happiness; Arnav, Anjali, NK and Lavanya hugged them both. Khushi, on the other hand, was jumping nonstop in joy. 



That day couldn’t get any better.



“Now why are you sad?” Mama asked Mami who suddenly fell silent.



“Will….will they call me, this ever-young Manorama, ‘Dadi’? Our Grandchildren?” Mami stuttered in his ears, taking care nobody around her listened to what she had said.



“Obviously!” Mama said cheerfully to which Mami shushed him urgently.



NK shouted on the top of his lungs, “My dearest Masi has been promoted to Dadi!!!!!!!”



Everyone laughed. 



Mami’s flying slipper chased NK all around Shantivan.



~*~ 



It was now past 9. The Guptas and Lavanya had left long ago. Raizadas had had dinner and retired to their rooms. Everybody was thoroughly exhausted after the long day, but that weariness stood no chance before the contentment they all felt.



“He would love to help you, Buaji. No Problem. Good night,” entering NK’s room, Arnav hung up the call.



“Was that Buaji, Nannav?” NK questioned warily.



“Yes,” he said, standing right before NK who was munching on chips. “She is planning to go somewhere tomorrow. There’s a lot of work and she doesn’t want anyone to help her.”



“Oh, poor, stubborn lady. One word from her mouth, I would lay down my life to help her,” NK drawled, obviously did not mean it.



“I know, that’s why I requested her to take you along. And she is delighted,” said Arnav.



“What? No, you did not!” NK screeched, sitting up properly.



“Yes, I did. You are going to GH tomorrow at 9 and take her wherever she wants to go. Spend the whole day with your dear Buaji, NK. Night!”



“Nannav, you cannot…”



But Arnav had already left NK’s room, smirking. He knew that NK was terrified of Buaji and her affection. What would be a better revenge other than making NK spend an entire day with Buaji? That would teach him a lesson, not to mess with ASR.



Arnav was passing by Nani’s room when he heard some voices. Curious, he stopped outside and peeked into the room. He released a breath of relief when he caught the sight of Anjali and Nani, talking, their faces brighter than stars. He was about to walk away, but he caught his name in their conversation.



“Yes, Nani, I have never seen Chote this happy. Khushiji came as a blessing in his life,” said Anjali, wiping her tears.



The other side, Arnav smiled. He couldn’t agree more.



“Shall I tell you something, Nani? Many times I was afraid whether I would get back the Mamma’s Chote or not. On countless occasions I cried seeing what my brother had turned himself into; cold, distant, rude and heartless. But he is back, and I wish that he would remain this way,” said Anjali.



“Don’t think much, Anjali bitiya, Devi Maiyya will look after Chote. He has Khushi bitiya’s protection,” said Nani, sending a silent prayer.



At that, Anjali’s face turned sardonic, but she said nothing. Clearly remembering the times she performed Poojas and observed fastings for the well being of her name-sake husband. What did Devi Maiyya do? How could she let that happen to her dear devotee? Did she even exist?



“Maybe Chote is right,” Anjali mumbled.



“Did you say something?”



“Nothing, Nani. I-I just wish Mamma was here.”



Sighing, “I wish, too.”



Arnav clenched his fists, eyes closed in pain. If only his mother was alive! Today would have been perfect. No joy would have matched hers seeing her Chote getting his love, her calm and dear nephew was going to be a father, both families radiating with utmost happiness. If only…



“I want to go to Sheesh Mahal,” said Anjali suddenly.



“What? Why? Chote will not allow…”



“I don’t bother what he thinks! I miss my parents, Nani, and that house is the only place where we have memories of them. Lately, I keep remembering Mamma. Since Shya…...”



Anjali trailed off, her eyes shut for a fleeting second. But quickly recomposed.



“I need her, Nani, and I need Papa’s reassurance. I want to feel their presence! Why doesn’t Chote let me visit…”



“Enough, Di! You are not going there, no one is!” yelled Arnav, entering into the room.



Although momentarily surprised on seeing him, she recoiled, “Give me one reason, Chote! It has been almost a year since you brought us back our home. I keep pleading you to allow me to go there for months and months, but you just don’t care! Why?”



“This, SHANTIVAN, is our home! Forget about that place.”



“Neither you go there nor do you let anyone go! Our Sheesh Mahal!”



“Chote! Anjali bitiya! Stop it. Why are you fighting now? Calm down!” Nani intervened, not understanding why Anjali had suddenly turned violent.



“Why should I calm down, Nani? Ask your grandson to ponder over the reason, if there really is any, why he isn’t letting me go to OUR HOME,”



“Di, don’t call that place our…”



“Maybe you consider it just a place where we used to live, but for me, it is a temple filled with the memories of Mamma and Papa!”



“Do you really think I see it just as bunches of incredibly aligned bricks?” Arnav asked, his tone entirely changed; face reflecting pain.



Anjali then realized that she had unintentionally hurt Arnav with her words. She knew he had been more attached to their mother than her, and that he considered every tiny detail regarding their mother precious. But why was he being adamant?



She went near him, cupping his face, “Sorry, Chote. I didn’t mean that,” she whispered, “I just miss our parents.” 



“I do, too,” he said. “Just trust me, Di, I don’t do anything without a reason. It pains me everytime you plead, but nothing is more important than your safety..”



“Safety?” asked Nani, alarmed.



“Yes.”



“Can you explain in more detail?” questioned Anjali.



Arnav took a while before responding.



“I…uh…well…. I know, I should have told you before. This is really hard, for you, to take in. You wouldn’t believe me but this is the truth.”



He looked at his sister and grandmother, both faces anxious.



“When I bought back Sheesh Mahal from Ankush Malik, our Chacha, I got background checked about everything that happened all those years we were away. The reports didn’t shock me much as I had expected something similar. Ankush had been doing all sorts of illegal activities shielded behind the actual business. Like; drug trafficking, smuggling, etc,” Arnav’s face twisted in shame and disgust, “He had even done business….using teenage girls and women.”



Nani and Anjali gasped in horror.



“Yes, police have everything under control now, but I don’t think it is safe for us with Ankush roaming freely somewhere over there. I believe he’d still be in contact with some of his old henchmen who would be ready to act on his command to harm us if we are seen in Sheesh Mahal.”



Nani’s face showed utter terror, whereas Anjali was grim.



“But why haven’t police caught Ankush?” asked Nani.



“He just disappeared after I took over Sheesh Mahal and his business. The evidence of his illegal activities came out too late. He is currently in hiding somewhere.”



“Devi Maiyya!” Nani clutched her heart.



“Nani! Please relax….”



Anjali supported her while Arnav handed a glass of water. She gulped it all down, still shaking.



“Ankush- Never imagined- I just-I thought he was just after the properties! Illegal business- He would have never dared to do so under your father’s nose!”



Arnav stiffened.



“Oh, he did. In fact, my fath..” he couldn’t even say the word, “Arjun Malik had done illegal activities too.”



“What rubbish?” yelled Anjali. “Shut up about Papa!”



“I am not lying, Di. It had been going on when he was alive, too. Ankush completely took over their criminal business after Arjun Malik died…”



“Use the word, Chote, ‘Papa’,” yelled Anjali, “‘Papa’! He was our father! You surely still cannot be under the false impression that he’s guilty.”



“No. I still am, and that is the fact. He killed Ma!” he also shouted back.



“Stop it you both!” said Nani.



But they didn’t bother listening to her.



“Unbelievable- I thought you have left behind the past, moved on. But you are still stuck to your impossible theory that he killed our mother!”



“My theory?” he bellowed. “It’s not just a theory! I was there! They were fighting before it happened!”



“You started taking the worst of Papa ever since he and mamma began fighting on trivial things, same happened that day too. You just assumed it!”



“What, you? Okay. He didn’t kill her,” he lowered his tone, “Then how did they die? Who murdered them?”



At that, Anjali fell silent. They used to argue over this topic years ago before giving up of proving each other's point, but fought like this, never! Anjali couldn’t answer this particular question. What really happened that night?



“Bitiya-Chote- You both..”



“See, Nani, Di has no answer,” to Anjali, “For a change, you better change your assumption and accept it.”



Moments of silence passed with everyone reliving their worst day. It was not broken until Anjali spoke.



Eyes red, face determined, “Tomorrow early morning I am leaving to our house in Lucknow. I want to feel our parent’s, especially Papa’s, presence.”



“What? No! Di….”



But Anjali had already left to her room and banged the door shut on Arnav’s face who followed her.



“Chote..”



Ignoring Nani, he also furiously dashed out of Shantivan, seemingly went on a long drive.



“Devi Maiyya, please look after them,” Nani sent a prayer.



~*~



The next evening :



Khushi entered Arnav’s office and made her way to the reception desk. There was that stupid woman, Sim, immersed on her phone, did not even acknowledged Khushi’s presence even after she tapped on the desk.



“Gosh, Sim, put away your phone and come to my cabin,” Pam reached there, “Come help me do my hair. Party starts in 2 hours…..”



She trailed away catching the sight of Khushi. Petrified, she hastily smacked on Sim’s head. Sim got up, rubbing her head. 



Khushi gave a plastic smile.



“M..Maam, that…. I... We….Actually, I have finished all the work. That’s why…” Pam stuttered.



“I am done too, Maam…” Sim joined.



Both appeared to have learned to respect their boss’s fiance for they didn’t say any word to insult her. But this was not just respect. This was terror. Terror because their previous humiliation caused by Arnav for abusing Khushi was etched in not only Sim and Pam’s mind but the whole staff. Which is why Khushi was treated with utmost regard by everyone whenever she visited his office.



Khushi held up her hand.



“If you are done, can I see Arnavji?” she said.



“But sir said he is not to be disturbed….” Sim started.



“Of course, Maam, please, this way!” Pam squealed, cutting Sim in.



“No problem. I can go on my own,” said Khushi. “You both continue your real work.”



Khushi normally never appreciated if anyone treated her as a superior, or was frightened of her, but those two women deserved her rude behaviour. She made her way to Arnav’s cabin, on the way greeting people warmly who respected her genuinely, and stood outside, peeking.



Arnav certainly seemed to be in a foul mood. He was massaging his forehead, gazing intently at his computer, his eyes unfocused.



Khushi knocked on the door.



There was no change in his position, he yelled, “You are fired. I gave instructions not to disturb me.”



Khushi suppressed her laugh. This serious Arnav looked like an errant child, which she found it cute. Without thinking she marched her way up to him and gave a small kiss on the cheek.



“WHAT THE ****!!!” 



He instinctively pushed her away, not noticing it was Khushi, and wiped his cheek with a kerchief, “HOW DARE YO…. Khushi?”



She stood a couple of feet away from him, blushing. Her face showing surprise and amu****t.



“Not bad. Now I am convinced you wouldn’t let any women, other than me, near you,” she teased.



“Shut up,” he mumbled, face visibly relaxed a bit, “I’m not in the mood to take your horrible jokes.”



She giggled.



He reached her and gave a long kiss on the forehead after a warm hug.



She was grateful that the binds are shut.



“What brought you here?” he asked, though there was a knowing look on his face.



“Why? Can’t I come and see my husband?” she demanded. “I haven’t heard a word from you since I went home last night.”



“I have been……busy.”



“Busy? Your work is more important than me?” Khushi started her dramatic rant. “I knew it! The 5 elements of the earth have warned me not to fall for this,” pointing at Arnav, “Machine. Now I’m seeing the results by my own eyes even before our wedding….”



Rolling his eyes, “Come on,” he dragged her out of the office, not paying any heed to his stupefied staff, and pushed her into his car.



Khushi laughed all the way.



~*~



“Oh, we’re going to our spot!” exclaimed Khushi excitedly. “The weather is really nice this evening!”



Arnav was taking her to their special spot at the outskirts of the city. He had been in a rather grim mood since he and his sister, Anjali, had a row the previous night. He most definitely did not want their past to ever crop up between them, not when he was engaged the day before and did not get to live in the post-betrothal euphoria of belonging to Khushi.



Amidst his worry about Anjali the whole day, Khushi came to lighten his frame of mind; and he could feel himself getting off his tensions listening to her carefree babbling. She never failed to bring a smile on his face.



“…..And Buaji informed that she was having a wonderful time with Nanheji and that he was being really helpful. But he, on the other hand, I strongly believe, will be swamped by her excessive affection by the time he reaches home. Poor Nanh- LOOK! A PUPPY!”



Alarmed by her sudden scream, he hit the brakes and then looked around. Lucky no one was around on the road. Next to him, Khushi was curling up in the seat, her heart entirely melted and eyes filled with tears seeing the stray puppy.



“Don’t you EVER scream like that,” he hissed, “Especially when someone is driving!”



“But…. The cute puppy…”



“Shut up!” he started driving again.



“Hey, that puppy reminded me of something!” said Khushi.



“Yeah?”



“Di has been asking for a pet, hasn't she?”



At the mention of Anjali, his face hardened. But as Khushi was not at all talking about the previous night, he was fine.



“Yes. So?”



“‘So?’,” she said, “How can you be so heartless?”



“Please! She was the one who troubled me, still is troubling me, giving lectures about animals and their life history whenever possible. She’s become obsessed with them ever since she had been to pet therapy classes when we went to London. It’s honestly so annoying.”



“You were the one who said she had found solace spending time with animals. Why don’t you get her one cute puppy.”



“Well, the problem is,” he pulled over at their secluded hill view spot, “She doesn’t want a dog.”



They both got off the car and settled down on a bench. He draped his arm around her, pulling close. She rested her head on his shoulder, playing with his tie.



“I would have gladly accepted a dog but she is adamant on wanting a cat or a guinea pig,” said Arnav.



“Guinea pig?” Khushi started doing something on her phone. “Get her a cat.”



“I HATE cats.”



“Then get her a guinea pig.”



“I don’t want any pigs in my house.”



“Devi Maiyya! That is not actually a pig,” holding up her mobile, “See. It looks so cute, like a rabbit.”



He glanced at the fluffy, small creature, which seemed like a fur ball, and gave a thought. The cute, fluffy fur ball didn’t seem like it would be causing him any sort of disturbance at home. 



“I know….. But still, its name has got a pig in it.”



“What? You are being irrational!” laughed Khushi. “Give her this pet as a gift and apologize. Don’t you want to conciliate Di after your fight last nigh…”



She stopped abruptly.



“Go on. Finish it,” he said calmly. “I knew why you came. To be honest, I half expected you to show up in the morning itself.”



“Then… Are you okay to talk about it?” asked Khushi tentatively.



“No. Drop the subject,” his voice became serious, “Di is still at home, she didn’t go to Lucknow unlike she declared last night. Problem solved.”



“Then I assume you must be already knowing that it was me who met Di at a temple and talked her out of it.”



His eyes widened in surprise. Arnav turned to Khushi, face held a questioning look.



Taking a deep breath, Khushi started, “Early morning I got a call from Naniji and she explained the situation briefly. I called Di right when she was about to leave and requested her to come to Laxmi Nagar’s temple to discuss.”



“Why didn’t Nani tell me?” he asked, to which Khushi shrugged.



“We met at the temple,” she continued, “And Di shared all her years together pent-up grief with me. I tried to comfort her.”



Arnav closed his eyes in pain imagining the state of his sister.



“She dropped the decision of going when I promised her that I would convince you into taking her to Sheesh Mahal.”



“Break your promise, that will not happen,” he said sharply.



“But Arnavji….”



“You don’t entirely know what happened all those years. So, don’t try to impose your theories on me!” he yelled.



It was just a minute before they were normally discussing random topics and now the air became severe.



Khushi placed her hand on his shoulder, “Of course, I don’t,” she said softly. “I don’t know what all you went through and neither I am trying to prove anyone’s point.”



“But Di thinks…”



“What Di believes, or you believe, about your father is not of importance at the moment,” she said, “It is in the past and no one can change it. Don’t be hard on yourself thinking too much about it and put stress on your relationship with Di.”



“So, I should just let her continue thinking highly of my murderer of a father?” he snarled.



“No, Arnavji,” she whispered, “You are taking me all wrong. See, I am not judging anyone now, nor from your past. It is not about that at all!”



He turned to her.



“What I am trying to say is Di emotionally has been through so much these past few months and desperately wants to go to Sheesh Mahal to feel…”



“…Our parents’ presence. I know!” he snapped, “And trust me, I feel the same too!”



“Then what…”



“I know, she must have left out this part!” he said sarcastically. “Ankush Malik, our Chacha, the criminal who committed many crimes blah blah blah.. is still roaming freely out there.”



“And you suspect he might harm your family,” she stated.



“Yes, I cannot take any chances, okay?”



“I think you are over-thinking things unnecessarily, Arnavji. In your agitation, you are hurting Di and yourself when there is simply nothing to worry about.”



“Nothing to worry about? He dealt with drugs and weapons; and used to have henchmen, or maybe still has got some!”



“If he really wants to harm anyone, it won’t be that hard to operate on it from miles away.”



“I have better security here…”



“You can have even more over there!” she said.



“But…”



“Look, Arnavji,” she began, “I know how precious Sheesh Mahal is to you and how much you long to properly treasure your time there after years. Don’t hold yourself back just because of a threat which probably doesn’t even exist.”



He fell silent for a moment, then responded, “I still don’t think it is worth taking risk. Di is fine now….”



“She left us no choice!” Khushi yelled, suddenly looked miserable. “If we won’t give in to her, she’ll be gone tomorrow and will be out there fully exposed to danger with no protection at all. I’ve seen the determination in her eyes!”



Arnav was startled by her sudden outburst.



“Please get this into your thick-head,” she drawled, close to losing patience, “Either Di goes there under the best protection of her brother in a safe environment, or let her be placed in peril and still go there. Choose which is better!”



The Khushi succumbed into a mumbling spree where he caught words like, “No choice”; “Stubborn”; “Crushed innocent soul”; “Siblings after all”; “Go mad” etc. but he wasn’t interested in her riddled-ramble, instead, he deeply contemplated for about quarter-of-an-hour whether it would be okay to go or not. Khushi proved her point and it was true. He knew how head-strong his sister was.



A long time later, he finally appeared to have come to a conclusion.



“Khushi, you go sit in the car. I’ll come in a minute.”



As she walked away, Arnav made a call, “Hello, Aman.”



~*~



It was almost 10 at night. Anjali was in her room looking at some albums, her face wearing a sad smile. She was disturbed by a knock and looked up to see who it was. Arnav.



A frown immediately appeared on her face seeing him, remembering the row they’d had. But she couldn’t help noticing the worn look on his face and sunken eyes.



“Chote, you look so tired! Are you okay? Have you eaten anything? What about your medicines?” she said without her knowledge.



No matter how much they fought, the basics of their relationship would never change. Both would be the parent and both would be the kid, too.



Arnav smiled at her concern and walked inside, his hands at his back.



“Thank you for not leaving today, Di,” he said.



Her frown reappeared, “Don’t be too happy. I haven’t changed my mind just like you haven’t. Tomorrow morning I am leaving for sure!”



Arnav rolled his eyes and said, “No problem. But if you wait for 2 more days, we could go together with our whole family and spend the week over there. What do you say?”



Realisation dawned immediately and she beamed with glee.



“What? Really, Chote?” she said. “I knew you would agree!”



“Yeah, if my stubborn sister and my persuasive wif… er, fiance, insisted, I had to give in,” he said as a matter-of-factly, kneeling on the floor before her.



“I love you, Chote,” she said, cupping his face. “I had hurt you last night a lot, hadn’t I?”



“Di, no…”



She kissed his forehead, “I’m so sorry. I was suddenly overcome with…… emotions. Sorry.”



“I caused you pain too…. For that I am….. I didn’t mean to…. I…. You know.... S.... I...” he paused.



Anjali smiled mischievously, “You are not trying to say the ‘S’ word, are you?”



Irritated, he placed the basket he had been hiding behind on the bed with a grunt. His version of ‘Sorry’.



Anjali screamed so loud seeing the basket that Arnav almost lost his hearing ability.



“Well….. I hope you are happy.”



But Anjali wasn’t listening to him anymore. She was gushing over the baby Guniea Pig with light brown and white fur that fit in her palm, curiously gazing at Anjali and checking its surroundings. She was talking to it as if it were a baby, a human baby. 



Minutes later Arnav felt ignored and left to his room, sulking.



Almost an hour later after she disturbed everyone’s sleep and fed her new baby, she returned back to earth. After months of pleading, begging and demanding; she got what she wanted only after a big fight. At that moment in the euphoria of getting a new pet, she’d do and agree with anything her brother said. To his misfortune, he was unaware of it.



Blinking of her mobile caught her attention and she checked it.



“Di, you were unfair to me this morning. I had to use my full brain and come up with many intellectual logics and emotional extortion to convince your brother (which had not been fun at all). I still stand by Arnavji and would never forgive myself if anything wrong happens to you in Lucknow. Good night.”



Reading that message from Khushi, Anjali felt a tiny bit of guilt for blackmailing her. She could tell by the text that Khushi was in so much distress because of her but she had no choice. Khushi was the only key to induce her dear brother. 



Like Arnav, Khushi also felt it unsafe and risky. Anjali was under the impression that they were both being over-protective for no reason at all and warned Khushi that no matter what, she’d be fleeing with or without anyone but it would be better if it was with Arnav. Seeing no other way, Khushi surrendered.



But Anjali’s guilty conscience died out when she thought of her old house where her parents existed.



“Don’t worry, Khushiji. Everything will be just fine.”



## 



 

 









  























     



  











 













  

 


  

Nov 16

Part-23 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 36 times)



Arnav looked around. Anjali was deeply occupied in playing with her pet; Akash and Payal sat snuggling on the back most seat, discussing about baby names; NK, wearing headset, was doing something on his laptop; Mama was reading a business magazine; Buaji and Mami were trying their best to keep calm, putting up their best brave faces and failing miserably whenever there was turbulence; Nani, and Shashi, supported by Garima, were resting in 2 separate private cabins.

He grimly shifted his gaze to his side. There was Khushi whose face was glued to the window. He held her hand but she swatted him away.

“Look, look!” she squealed with excitement, “Birds!”

“Yeah,” sulked Arnav.

The Raizadas and Guptas were on their way to Lucknow on Arnav’s gigantic private jet plane. As Anjali wanted, Arnav agreed to take everyone to Sheesh Mahal and the whole family was more than delighted at the idea. Arnav gave in to his family’s decision of vacationing in his old home for some days.

The question is, why are the Guptas here?

The answer? Simple. Would Arnav allow anything that kept him and Khushi away? No. So, he persuaded the Guptas to come along.

He had hoped to romance Khushi on air, but after her initial fear of flying had disappeared, she busied herself exploring the earth with childlike enthusiasm from altitude, much to his disappointment. He made passes 10 more times but all went in vain. Khushi appeared to be thoroughly enjoying the flight, so he let her be. Her naive excitement melted his heart. He kissed her head and decided not to disturb her anymore.

They all landed in Lucknow an hour later and soon set off for Sheesh Mahal. The atmosphere was so alive but Arnav was edgy. He was still not mentally prepared to accept this new reality in Lucknow, plus the possibility of Ankush’s malice towards them put him on high alert. They were being escorted by a security team of about 20. Security had been increased at Sheesh Mahal too. Overwhelmed, Arnav’s hands were trembling.

A warm hand held his shaking ones. He turned to look at Khushi.

She smiled at him and said, “It will be okay.”

He gave back an unsure, half smile.

At last, they’d reached the destination. Only Raizadas. Guptas insisted on going to their own place, Gomti Sadan, politely refusing Raizadas’ generous offer to stay at Sheesh Mahal.

“I will come to see you later for sure,” Khushi promised Arnav. “Sorry, but I have to go and help Amma with our house here. Since Jiji cannot come, I…”

“Khushi, it’s alright,” said Arnav dismissively.

He watched her go somewhat in relief as he needed no one with him to get used to this new familiarity.

Everyone happily scurried inside but Arnav stayed back.

“Anyone suspicious wandering around, I am to be told. Understood?” he said.

“Yes, sir. We’ll guard the whole surroundings round the clock,” said the head security man.

“If anything wrong happens…” he left the sentence hanging in a warning tone, making the guards gulp in nervousness.

Arnav took his time in going inside. The last time he had been in Lucknow, when he had won over Ankush, he didn’t dare to go inside. The memories were too precious but painful at that moment. He had stayed at a guest house.

His heard pounded wildly when he stepped inside. 



.

.

.

.

“Chote, don’t run like that, you will stumble!” his mother, Ratna, was yelling.


The next moment, he tripped and fell, and prepared himself for an all-day lecture.

“I told you!”

.

.

.

.

“ Dada, Nana, Stop him! He is running away with my books,” yelled the 12-year-old Anjali.

Laughing, 2 old men caught the 8-year-old Arnav and lifted him in their arms. Nana handed Anjali his books and saved little Arnav from Anjali’s wrath.

“You are getting more and more disobedient day by day,” said his Dadi, trying to be stern.

“Sumi, he is just a kid. Let him enjoy his naughty-phase in life,” said Nani, laughing.

“Okay, now tell me, my lion,” said Dada.

“Why were you running with Anju’s books?” finished Nana.

Grinning, “She always reads. I don’t like it if anyone reads for more than 10 minutes,” replied Arnav.

Everyone laughed.

.

.

.

.

“What is this?” said his mother sharply. “It is not done. You are taking advantage of my leniency, growing naughtier every day.”

“Yes, Ma. He always troubles teachers at school. No.1 troublemaker, his classmate told me,” said Anjali with a smirk, fuelling his mother’s temper.

Arnav glared at her.

“Don’t look at your sister like that,” shot Ratna.

“What happened?” queried Arjun, his father, who had just entered.

“See this,” holding up a paper, “Your son’s report card. No one scores this bad!”

Arjun looked at little Arnav, started saying sternly “Chote, you…”

He could not speak further for Arnav had unleashed his get-away-from-any-trouble tool.

“No, not this time!” screamed Ratna. “No one is going to melt seeing your innocent, round-eyed, puppy face. Arjunji, say something!”

“Right! You are a package of trouble….” he trailed away. “Well…. But…. My Chote is a genius,” said Arjun.

“Yeah?”

“The teachers are plotting against him. They don’t want him to shine,” he grabbed Arnav and both ran away from Ratna and Anjali before they could yell anymore.

.

.

.

.

“No, no. You should not cry,” said Ratna, consoling Arnav.

Sniffling, “But Nana and Dada…” said Arnav.

“See,” pointing up at the sky. “They are up there.”

“Where?” asked Arnav, searching for them.

“They have become stars,” said Ratna.

“Stars?”

“Yes,” she smiled through teary eyes. “See those two stars, they are Nanu and Dadu.”

“But..” said Arnav, “the stars are not bright.”

“Exactly. If you are sad, how can they twinkle?”

Wiping his tears, he smiled, “Nana, Dada, see, I am not crying.”

The two stars twinkled brightly. Ratna kissed his head.

.

.

.

.

“NO, NO, NO!!!” yelled Arnav. “I won’t let anyone take my Di away from me. She cannot marry.”

Ratna smiled, “Okay. We won’t get her married.”

“Really?” asked Arnav, hopefully.

“Then who will be with her throughout her life after Arjunji and I are gone?”

“Ma!” covering her mouth, “Don’t ever say that!”

“Chote,” started Ratna, smiling, “come to practicality. No one lives forever, neither you nor me. One would need a strong reason, a will to continue living even after their loved ones are gone.”

“Ma, please don’t say that,” said Arnav, sadly, not wanting to have that discussion.

“When Dada and Nana passed away,” she continued as if he didn’t talk, “I was really shattered, so were everyone. But we all have moved on, haven’t we? How? Because we have a family, I have a husband and two children, they became the reason to carry on.”

Arnav listened to every word with rapt attention.

“Same way, Anju will need a husband who will love her to the sky, and you, a wife who multiplies the happiness in your life.”

After what appeared to be a lot of self-debation, “Okay. She can get married,” he said as if she was waiting for his approval.

Laughing, “And my Chote doesn’t need to worry about it right now. She is still very young. We were just talking casually. You will surely have your sister with you for 2 more years,” said Ratna. “But Promise me, you will always be there for your sister.”

“I promise. But she must not lecture me all the time,” he added jokingly.

Both laughed.

“Ma, will I ever get a wife who makes me happy?” he asked.

“Of course! You will get the Khushi who completes you,” she added to herself, “If all goes well, the Khushi I want.”

.

.

.

.

Happy memories flashed before his eyes.

He hastily ran to his former room in the palace, lest anyone saw his tears. Once inside, he slumped down on the floor and let himself cry.

If only his mother was here today.

After his parents’ death, after being ruthlessly thrown into the actuality of life by his namesake uncle, he had become successful and conquered life. Yet he failed to be the Chote he promised his mother, the complete opposite of what he had been taught by her. His cold, arrogant and merciless persona had been taken after Ankush, and remained that way until he met Khushi.

Though he had broken his word, his mother hadn’t. She sent Khushi to him.

~*~

A few days had passed, Arnav felt a thousand times better and happier. His family, the Guptas included, played a major role in the betterment of his mood. They tried their level best to re-create the happy memories whenever possible 

He still would get hit by waves of gloom, but they were slowly being replaced by the new memories his family had created with him. He then understood what it felt like to move on with one’s loved ones gone.

It was one fine evening, the Guptas have visited when the Raizadas insisted on having dinner together in Sheesh Mahal, ignoring any hesitant, polite refusals. Dinner had been the most joyous affair with everyone telling many old stories and their own tales of adventure. Among the famous childhood history of Anjali, Arnav, Akash, NK, Khushi and Payal; Khushi, surprising all, Arnav, and NK stood out in the top positions in mischief.

After dinner, the elders had settled in the enormous drawing room, while the young batch scattered away to do their own fascinating work; NK, to facetime with Lavanya; Akash and Payal to spend time as if in 90’s duets; Anjali had dragged Khushi away with her to show some of their childhood photo albums. But Arnav stayed in the same room, though seated a bit far from the elders, and speaking business over the phone with Aman.

Quarter-of-an-hour had passed, Arnav was still hoping to obtain some silence, wishing NK, Khushi and Anjali, despite being floors above him, would stop being extremely boisterous. But Alas! He knew he was praying for a miracle.

A minute later, he slammed his laptop shut and threw his phone at a wall in irritation, patience finally snapped, when Anjali and Khushi came running down with an old album, shrieking all the way. NK, Akash and Payal also came rushing there, hearing the commotion.

“What happened?” asked Nani.

Before the panting and super excited Anjali or Khushi could speak, Arnav cut them in.

“You better damn have a freaking good reason for this intrusion,” he snarled.

“Oh, shut up, Chote!” said Anjali hastily, and showed Nani a photograph. “Nani, see this!”

It was an old, black and white photograph of two girls.

“Oh!” exclaimed Nani. “This picture was your mother and her best friend's, taken during their high school. Such a charming girl she was, Priya. Almost like a sister to Ratn….”

Nani gasped suddenly, her eyes widened. Everyone around her became alarmed, except Anjali and Khushi, whose face held questioning expression.

“This…. You….. You are her daughter! Priya’s daughter!” said Nani.

Khushi nodded.

Nani joined her hands, sending a quick prayer, “Devi Maiyya, YOU are Ratna’s Koo-Koo!”

“Maaji, Ratna as in Ratna Singh Raizada?” asked Garima, as she glanced at the photograph. “Oh! It is Ratna didi, Jiji’s best friend!”

Everyone kept quiet unsure of what was going on.

Nani came near Khushi, cupping her face, she said, “You resemble your mother a lot, yet it took me so many months to recognise you.”

“Excuse me? Explain?” said Arnav, feeling impatience.

“Look at this,” said Garima, smiling, “Your mother and Khushi’s mother. They were both best friends since their childhood. Both were pretty much inseparable until Ratna didi got married and Jiji chose to go to Mumbai to work.”

Puffs of surprise broke out from everyone.

“But how come we didn’t know her?” he said.

“From what I know,” began Garima, “they were not on speaking terms for many years due to some disputes.”

“What? Why?” squeaked Anjali.

“That was not the whole truth,” said Nani. “Decades of thick friendship could not be broken up just like that. Ratna didn’t hide the fact from me that they were still together and were very much happy and undisturbed by the circumstances.”

“But what happened, Naniji?” asked Khushi.

“Your father, I believe, was a police officer, wasn’t he?” said Nani. “He had many times attempted to arrest Ankush Malik, claiming that he was doing some illegal things…”

“Which we now know that he did,” said Arnav.

“Yes, but Arjun was dead opposed to those accusations. He said that Khushi’s father, Pradeep, was just after his money and that he was trying to shut down his business and all, and downright refused to listen to a single word against Ankush..”

“Yeah, because Arjun Malik was also involved..” started Arnav.

NK nudged him, “Not a great time for this.”

Arnav relented, not wanting another fight with Anjali.

“The two men saw each other as no less than enemies. Arjun demanded Ratna to break off her friendship, but she didn’t. Ratna and Priya met occasionally with no one’s knowledge but mine.”

“Even I had no idea,” said Garima. “Since Ratna didi got married early, Jiji became cordial with Ratna didi’s husband too. She had thought nothing could be a barrier to their friendship, but was really cut out when... situations distanced them.”

Silence followed. Everyone was too surprised at the revelations to talk, especially Arnav, Khushi, and Anjali.

“Well… isn’t this a happy reunion?” said NK jovially, breaking the awkward silence. “Let’s celebrate!”

Eventually, they all smiled.

~*~

“Khushi, slow down! You will fall….”

“Ow!” she squeaked, rubbing her behind.

“I told you!” said Arnav, reaching out to help her.

“The floor was wet,” whined Khushi. “What happened? Are you alright?”

Arnav clearly got transported to a fond memory and smiled.

“It’s nothing,” he shrugged.

They settled down on the garden swing, her head rested on his shoulder, admiring the Sheesh Mahal.

“This used to be a hotel,” said Khushi.

“Yes, and I even wanted to demolish the whole palace once…. because of memories. But couldn’t.... because of memories.”

She squeezed his hand in support.

“To be honest, I am glad to be back. Wouldn’t live here every day, but occasionally, definitely,” he revealed. “Look, don’t tell Di. I cannot bear seeing her ‘I told you so’ face.”

“Hahaha!” she laughed. “But wouldn’t it be fair because you troubled her endless all during your childhood?”

“I don’t fancy it though,” he grinned.

“I still cannot believe you were that big troublemaker, even worse than I was. Now I see what everyone has been saying, ‘Our old Chote is back’”

“I am not totally my old self, Khushi,” he said. “Some lessons in life would change you entirely that it’d be hard to revert back to one’s former self.”

“Yes,” said Khushi, wanting to lighten the mood, “but at least you don’t yell ‘Shut up’ or ‘Get out’ at me every 10 seconds.”

This clearly saddened him, “I’m sorry, Khushi. I…”

“Please, no more sorry!” she shrieked. “You have to know that as much as you had hurt me in the past, I took my childish acts of revenge too. I’d had great fun annoying you.”

“I cannot deny, I enjoyed some,” seeing her grin, “About 2 or 3 of your silly stunts.”

Khushi pouted.

“Don’t sulk,” he kissed her hair, laughing. “You are the missing happiness in my life.”

“That’s very touching,” her eyes all teared up, suddenly.

“Okay, I don’t want this conversation to be any more dramatic,” he said, wiping her tears, “but I remember my Ma telling me once about my future wife that the Khushi she wanted or something. Maybe she referred to you at that time.”

“Ooh! Naniji said that our mothers had joked many times that they’d get their kids, us both, married so that they’d become related in real life,” screamed Khushi, and gasped in a very filmy manner, “Wow! This could be a Bollywood film!”

She got up onto a nearby bench, and said dramatically, “Bhaagy(Destiny)”

To get an even more theatrical effect, she twirled around in that small space and tripped over. As always, Arnav was there to catch her.

“Do you remember?” he said, gazing into her eyes, “This was where we first met.”

“I fell into your arms,” she said softly.

“I’m glad you ruined my show,” seeing her glare, “which was unintentional, of course!” he added quickly.

“You didn’t look glad, though,” said Khushi. “I was terrified! Your eyes spoke too much; there was fury, coldness, and wonder; as if you were seeing something…. out of the world.”

Smiling, he said, “You looked like an alien.”

“WHAT?”

“Yes, alien. Too pure and too naïve soul is rarely found on earth.”

She blushed.

He starting moving across the garden yard while still carrying Khushi in his arms.

Arnavji, put me down. Someone will notice, there are guards everywhere,” she whispered, struggling.

But had Arnav Singh Raizada ever bothered?

He carried her to a dimly lit room, dropped Khushi to feet and latched the door of the room. Turning around, he discovered Khushi exploring the room with intense interest.

“Hey!” squeaked Khushi, “You locked me up in this same room that day and broke my…” she trailed off, cheeks going red.

“Broke your what?” said Arnav, moving forward, smirking.

“N…nothing,” stuttered Khushi, moving back.

“But I do remember breaking, or to say, ripping, something of yours.”

He had successfully pinned her to the large, full mirror which was built in the wall.

“W…Why did you bring me here?” she asked, shivering under his intense gaze, in an attempt to divert him.

Arnav, clearly not sidetracked, wound his arms around her waist and hauled her to him, causing her to hyperventilate. She gasped when his one hand leisurely trailed up her back sensuously, up to the Dori of her blouse. His head dipped to her neck started nuzzling, kissing there at intervals.

“I ripped your Dori that night, didn’t I?” asked Arnav, gently tugging on the strings.

Khushi nodded, her eyes shut, still breathing heavily. He swept his gaze on the reflection of her back in the mirror and his desire intensified seeing her form.

Arnav now pulled open the Dori, one hand caressing her almost bare back, “You look stunning in sarees,” he breathed, “especially in red.”

Khushi clutched his shoulders for support.

“And sarees are very convenient when you wear them,” his other hand fondling her midriff, “for me.”

As he continued kissing here and there, she unconsciously ran fingers through his hair.

“Ar…Arnavji, please…. stop.”

“I didn’t bring you here for nothing,” muttered Arnav, giving soft pecks on her mouth. “With our gigantic, intruding family around, I hardly get privacy to romance you.”

He then pressed his lips full on hers, catching her small gasp. Angling her face to his convenience, he nipped gently gaining entrance inside her sweet cavern and explored the depths of carnal heaven, while she simply allowed him to do whatever he wanted.

“Kiss me back,” he rasped hastily.

She complied, willingly, after her momentary shyness abated.

She gave back to him with the equal fervour matching his, catching him by surprise but also thrilled at her response. Somewhere in between their sensual actions, Khushi’s pallu and Arnav’s shirt’s buttons had come off. When hit skin on skin, they got jerked back into the present and knew, much to their (Yes, Khushi also) discontentment, that they had to stop.

Khush, her full form gone red, hurriedly adjusted her saree and was thankful that Arnav turned away while she did. Suddenly, she felt miserable when the future had hit her. Nonstop teasing from everyone. One glance at them both and they’d figure out their little passionate encounter.

A chuckle escaped Arnav, clearly having read her mind.

“Please,” she shot angrily, covering her eyes, “button up your shirt!”

He laughed openly.

~*~

Minutes earlier, somewhere hidden from the view, a pair of hawk-eyes was observing a carefree Arnav carrying the blushing Khushi across the yard.

Ankush Malik smiled mirthlessly, “I see, Chote babu appears to have found his new life at last!”

“Just one chance….” he said, face turned grim, “I’m waiting for the one chance when I would snatch his life and scar him totally forever.”

-##-





Now, before I go into hiding for writing that unnecessary small romantic scene (I don't why I was tempted to) Lemme tell ya'll one thing, this was supposed to be in the previous chapter but I was too weak to write at that time. 

Character sketch for reference :

Dada and Nana - Arnav and Anjali’s grandfathers. Died in an accident. They have no actual part in the story, so I didn’t trouble my tiny brain to name these characters.

Dadi/Sumi – Real name is Subhadra. Nothing to worry, she wasn’t like in the show. Arnav and Anjali’s grandmother. If you remember, she’d survived until Shyam’s true face caused her a heart stroke, and then died.

Arjun Malik – Arnav and Anjali’s father. Was a loyal and fun-loving son, brother, husband and father. Or was he? He supposedly had killed his wife and then himself due to stress. Also had disputes with Pradeep Pratap.

Ratna Singh Raizada/Malik – Arnav and Anjali’s doting mother. Big-hearted, kind, if necessary, stern woman. Loved her family, especially Arnav. Was Priya's best friend. Dead.

Priya Sharma/Pratap – Khushi’s biological mother. She was livelier than Khushi, and a journalist. Revealed to be the best friend of Ratna since childhood. Died in an accident.

Pradeep Pratap – Khushi’s biological father. He resembled ASR’s character. Super strict DCP. Had disputes over Ankush with Arjun. Also died in an accident with Priya.


Ankush Malik – This b@stard is still alive. Y’all know him, still, Imma tells you! Arnav and Anjali’s uncle who threw them out, taking over their everything. Arnav conquered him, and now this swine is after them.



-##-



Dec 21

Part - 24 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 58 times)

Note: This is the shortest update ever. I'll explain why at the end. 


##


Arnav pushed open the door only to find his 2 brothers' faces gleaming from laptops' light. When Akash and NK looked up, he thought he was looking at over-sized meerkats seated far away from each other.


"What in the world are you both doing in this dark room at 4 in the morning?" asked Arnav.


"Voh, bhai... I... I was just browsing to buy something for our baby without Payal's knowledge and surprise her," said Akash.


"She is just 2 months pregnant Akash," said Arnav. "You have a plenty of time for that."


Akash blushed, "Well... I.... I wasn't feeling sleepy anyway."


Arnav hid his smile. He knew how excited, yet terrified, Akash was about becoming a father. Akash was always easy when handling kids, so he couldn't understand what was there to be anxious about. At least, he had a lot of time to think about that, but again, he was getting married to a kid, Khushi.


"And you?" he asked NK.


NK, covering the mike piece of his headset, and said, "Facetiming Lavanya."


"Why here?"


"I'm trying to be discreet. No one can hear anything happening in this room," said NK.


Arnav rolled his eyes. He was there because he heard noises.


"Do you want us to leave?" asked Arnav, beckoning Akash to come.


"No, that's alright," said NK. "You guys are no harm. It is our ladies I should be wary of."


"What do you mean?" asked Akash.


"My genius brothers don't possess the brain."


"Excuse me? The brain?" asked Arnav, offended.


"Yup! What did I say I was doing here?" said NK in a challenging tone.


"Chatting with Lavanyaji," replied Akash, bemused.


"You got your answer," grinned NK and went back to the call. "Yeah, I'm back..."


Deciding to ignore him, "Go to sleep, Akash. Nani said that today's going to be a long day," said Arnav. "And tell that eccentric idiot the same."


"40 rooms in the palace and these fools chose none other but this ancient storeroom!" muttered Arnav, looking at the dirt and cobwebs in distaste.


While leaving, he accidentally kicked a box and its contents fell out. Curious, knelt down and rummaged through them. He was surprised to find some project files which belonged to his father; 'Project Dridha', 'Welfare for Anadh', 'Scheme for Kisan' etc...


He vaguely remembered that his father had participated in many social activities and undertaken numerous programmes for the betterment of people. His family had been so proud.


Why would Arjun Malik take up projects for noble causes?


"Lies. Just a show. To cover up all the felonies he and his brother, Ankush Malik, were engaged in," his mind readily answered.


Arnav was staring at the family picture that was taken in his childhood. Devyani, Subhadra, Ratna, Arjun, Arnav, Anjali, Manohar, Manorama, Akash, NK, Preethi and Raj (NK's parents); They were all laughing, happiness radiating in every face. How perfect they all were! Ruined. Everything ruined just because some were money greedy.


"Bhai, what are those?" asked Akash.


Though momentarily startled, Arnav smiled. Akash and NK, clutching laptops, were looking at him curiously. He suddenly saw a mental picture of them both as kids, who many time had been victims of kid-Arnav's shenanigans.


"An old photograph."


The 3 brothers smiled.


NK pointed at a corner while they were exiting the room, "Hey, is that the same vase Akash had broken but Nannav and I had to endure everyone's wrath?"


Arnav elbowed Akash playfully, "The exact one."


"How can you even see in this darkness? Besides, that was only once," said Akash, fastening his pace.


"And the bugs thing?" asked Arnav.


NK and Arnav laughed seeing Akash sprinting to his room.


~*~


"No! That day you scared my friends away wearing that stupid grim reaper costume when they came over to study," screamed Anjali.


"Only because you got me into trouble with Ma!" retorted Arnav.


"But... It was Akash that accidentally let slip that Nannav released the boxful of bugs in the classroom," piped up NK.


Akash, who was eagerly trying to feel his baby inside Payal, abruptly walked away from there. Payal laughed.


"It didn't matter, NK," growled Arnav. "Di always had been so keen on telling me off before Ma..."


"Can you kids stop your silly, little quarrels at least today for a few hours?" yelled Nani. "And Anjali bitiya, come and help us. Panditji will be here any moment."


Anjali shot one last furious glance at Arnav and came over to where Nani, Buaji, Garima, and Khushi had been looking after the pooja arrangements. Payal was strictly ordered not to even move by Mami, who claimed that she was concerned only for her grandchild, to which everyone smirked.


"Di, please come and take a look at the rangoli at the entrance," squealed Khushi, dragging Anjali with her.


"Yes," whispered Nani, watching Khushi leave, "as I was saying, Ratna was really devastated when... when Priya had gone forever."


Garima sniffled.


"And not even one year had passed, Ratna got reunited with her best friend up there," said Nani, wiping her eyes quickly.


Anjali and Khushi returned, both giggling.


"Nani, Khushiji's rangoli is magnificent," said Anjali.


Elders smiled. Anjali and Khushi both settled down and started sewing garlands.


"But you still haven't told me why we are having a Pooja today."


"Today is an auspicious day. Our family is together back at home after many years. That's

why I thought it will be best to perform Satyanarayan havan," explained Nani.


"Very thoughtful, NandaKis****!"


~*~


4 hours later :


"Thank you, Panditji," said Nani, as he was leaving.


The havan had gone on smoothly, except for Arnav who sulked because he had to sit through it continuously for many hours, much to everyone's amu****t. Since couples were supposed to do it, Akash and Payal performed the main pooja for the well-being of the to-be-mother and child.


"Here," said Anjali, carrying a tray.


"I already took prasad," said Arnav.


"Not for you, Chote," she said, placing the tray in his unwilling hands, sitting beside him. "This is for my Chotu."


Arnav's face turned red as he saw Anjali take Chotu, the Guinea pig, and fed him a tiny portion of prasad. He was irked enough without his sister pampering her dear pet, disrupting his attempting-work in the process.


"Di,' he growled, "how many times do I have to tell you not to call this pig like that?"


"Why? You are my dear brother, 'Chote' and he is my dearest pet, 'Chotu'," said Anjali, blowing air gently at her pet. "And it's NOT a pig!"


The vexed Arnav heard Khushi giggle nearby and when his eyes spotted her, she ran away, calling, "Coming, Naniji!"


Lunch was a joyous affair, the most lively Sheesh Mahal had been in years, with everyone around. Later, they settled down doing one's respective work; Arnav, actually working; everyone else, happily chatting. Shashi was sent to rest in a guest room.


"Jiji," whispered Khushi, frowning, "did you hear that?"


Laughing, "Huh?"


"The noise!"


"What noise?" asked Payal.


Khushi looked around. Everyone was blissfully immersed in respective conversations, and Arnav, sat far away, talking to someone over bluetooth and working on the laptop.


"I will go and check what the commotion is outside."


"No, wait..." but Khushi was gone.


Payal, though participated in the talks, kept an eye out for her sister. 10 minutes passed and still, Khushi had not returned. Worried, Payal started to move from there, hoping no one would notice.


"Do you need something, Payal?"


She stopped in her track and turned around, wishing for the first time people would stop giving her special attention. It was Arnav who asked her. Apparently, he had been done with his work and chosen the wrong time to come to his family. Payal knew how agitated he was with them staying there and the last thing she wanted was to spoil the atmosphere, worrying everyone.


"Oh, I... I was..."


"Payal, you seem strange," said Akash, frowning. "Are you alright?"


Trying to smile, "Of course, I am!"


"Where are you going, Bahu?" asked Mami. "I don't want you troubling my grandchild by moving unnecessarily."


Payal was never a great liar. "Voh, Maaji... I.. I was going to look for.."


"Where is Khushi?" yelled Arnav suddenly, looking for her.


"She is here," said a cold voice.


Everyone jerked around to find Khushi in the hold of a sneering Ankush Malik.




##




Three times. THREE times the chapter had been deleted while trying to publish this, had to re-write the WHOLE thing. I don't know how or why it happened, and I can only apologize. This wasn't how I planned but I will update as soon as I write the remaining part. 

P.S - Sorry if you cannot comment. Had to block a creep.



Dec 27

Part - 25 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 57 times)

Disclaimer - Contains a little violence and profanties



Everyone gasped in horror seeing the state of Khushi; lip bleeding, handprint on the cheek, several long scratches running the length of her arms. She looked close to losing consciousness, swaying wayward. She moaned in pain when Ankush dragged forward by her hair.



“This little bird took reflexes after her father. I’m impressed, she gave me a hard time capturing, but… this is Ankush Malik,” he laughed madly. “The predator was hatching a trap for his prey, and see his luck, it fell into the trap by itself.”





“Ankush Malik, let her go!” yelled Arnav, hurrying towards them.




“Stay,” warned Ankush, but Arnav didn’t bother. “I said STAY!”




He slashed Khushi’s arm with a broken bottle and she howled in pain. The sight of her spilt blood made Arnav and others halt.




“No one is to move or do anything,” said Ankush, “or I’ll cut this little bird’s wings.”




“What do you want, Ankush? Please let her go!” cried Arnav, his fists clenched. 




“Call me ‘Chacha’,” he said.




“Never!”




“I said,” pressing violently on her wound making Khushi cry, “call me ‘Chacha’.”




“Chacha. Chacha!” said Anjali, when Arnav couldn’t utter the word. “Please, take whatever you want but don’t hurt her. Please!”




“What do you want?” said Mama.




“Me? Oh, I don’t want anything. Chote babu had snatched every single thing from me. There is nothing left which is mine now. Police will catch me one day, I know it. I’d rather go to hell than to prison.”




The maniac grin on his ugly face sent shivers down their spine. One look at him and it was evident that in the past many months he had lived in the worst conditions. He looked quite nasty; hair grown past shoulders and beard levelled with it, there were more patches than clothing, face covered in soot. His nose was bleeding, clear that Khushi punched him.




“No, I’ll talk to them. You can be free. Just let her go!” said Arnav.




“However,” continued Ankush, ignoring Arnav, “I am here to scar you all, ruin what you’ve been building all these years before quitting.”




Then entered a policeman, whose sight filled everybody with relief. But that feeling got replaced with stupefaction when he went and stood next to Ankush, sneering at them.




“It’s done, sir. The security won’t be of any problem for 30 minutes. They are sent away from this area, I’ve seen to it,” said the policeman.




“Good,” smiled Ankush. “Do you know this man?” he asked, pulling Khushi’s hair, looking at her, “Yadav. Your father’s greatest friend who betrayed him for money. Not just once, numerous times.”




Despite the agony she was in, Khushi’s eyes flashed with fury and she mouthed words, “Brutes, you both!”




Ankush ignored them with a sweet smile.




“You lot, listen. I’m about to reveal some small secrets. Do not interrupt me…” he said, going towards Payal.




In a flash, he smacked her across the face and pushed her with a heavy force so that her stomach hit the sharp edge of a table and collapsed flat on the cold floor, bawling unable to bear the pain. He kicked away the mobile next to her and stomped hard on her stomach once before stepping back, still dragging Khushi by her hair.




They all remained paralysed in terror until Akash dashed to her, not caring Ankush’s warnings.




“No!”




“You monster!”




“****!”




But Ankush bothered none. He looked straight at Akash, who was cradling a whimpering Payal and shrugged in a non-apologetic manner.




“Sorry, Aku beta,” he said, “She, I assume to be your wife, was calling the police, I suppose. Had to do that.”




He lifted his face up to find Arnav and NK being restrained by elders.




“Nice job. You don’t want this little bird even more wounded, do you?” he smirked. 




“You ****ing scoundrel!” bellowed Arnav.




“Yeesh! Bad language, Chote babu. Didn’t your mother, my bhabi, teach you manners? Oh, I just remembered, she must be alive to do that!” he laughed.




“You did not ****ing dare say that!!” 




“Why the **** are you here?” growled Arnav and NK, control lost.




“I am here to shatter you once again and scar you forever. And for that, I simply have to narrate a small story,” he said leisurely and added to Yadav, “Get me a chair.”




He settled down on the chair Yadav brought with Khushi knelt at his feet, “Now, to the tale…”




“There lived 2 great businessmen who were best friends from childhood. One had 2 sons and the other one, a son and a daughter. They all were living the best life possible with their children, the business flourishing. Like everyone, they had a minus point which is favouritism. They loved and nurtured 3 kids; the son and daughter of one, Manohar Singh Raizada and Ratna Singh Raizada; the elder son of the other, Arjun; leaving out youngest of all, Ankush Malik.”




“Yes, it is my story,” he was smiling but there was a great contempt radiating from his every muscle. 




Everyone held there breath, anxious to listen what he wanted to say, but couldn’t stop hoping for a chance to save Khushi, and Payal, who lost her consciousness in the arms of a panicked Akash.




“I think I was 10 when I’ve had enough of their partiality. I wanted them all to myself, my namesake brother, Arjun, didn’t deserve that. So, I started putting myself in dangerous situations willingly to get their attention, and I did. I was suddenly their everything. I simply had to play my cards to get what I wanted. Ankush Malik was an innocent, sweet boy in everyone's eye but no one knew that he killed people when he was just 13 for the sake of fun, or to win in… some sort of games.”




“Years passed, Arjun got married to Ratna; and Manohar,” pointed at Manorama, “to this joke-box. The end results are you, my obstacles,” waving at Anjali, Arnav, and Akash. “But I was young and still rocking, if you get the in-depth idea,” he said, grinning, not caring the disgusted faces, “It wasn’t like I didn’t want to get married, I did, but my interest, for years, was in someone who was hard to get,” said Ankush, looking down at Khushi, “who quite resembled like this little bird.”




Khushi lifted her head up to see him, wanting to convey him revulsion through her eyes.




“I tried all charms I possessed to get her, but she was stubborn as ****. Said things like; ‘Didn’t want to ruin relations’, 'You are too young for me’, ‘Last warning’, ‘Not good for you’ and **** like that,” he started to sound violent at that point. “I didn’t give up on that ****y vixen, wanted to have her at least once…”




“You sick man!” yelled Buaji, and everyone looked close to shouting foul stuff at him but controlled themselves for Khushi.




“I shouldn’t have done that…. No, I shouldn’t.... Why did I do that? Your mother was partially a reason I didn’t get what I wanted,” he said to Khushi, taking her hand, “Time to pay for her mistake.”




In a blink, he slit Khushi’s wrist.




Screams echoed. Arnav and NK were fighting for release as they were being held back by the weeping ladies.




“Please, see Payal bitiya. You cannot let him do the same to Khushi bitiya,” said Mama. “For them, stay, just for a while…” he added, glancing up.




NK stopped but Arnav didn’t, he took hurried steps forward.




“No, Chote babu,” said Ankush calmly. “Do you want me to cut her throat this time?”




Seeing the swooning Khushi in the hold of Ankush who put the broken bottle at her neck, he halted.




“Good. Wrist buys you more time than the throat, you know?” joked Ankush.




“Why are you torturing her? She has nothing to do with this!” cried Anjali.




“We will get there later, Anju beti. Let us focus on the running story for now,” he said.




“While I was wasting my time to get Priya, my father and his best friend did the worst thing that I had always feared. They decided to retire and hand over the entire business to Arjun and Manohar. According to them, I was too young for the responsibility and told me to enjoy my phase of life without duties for a while. What they didn’t understand was money was my topmost desire in life and I enjoy it.”




“I played my card and said that I wanted to start my own business, but I sort of went overboard and said with my own money and talent, which I possess neither of them. Then I trapped a rich woman, married her and then killed her after getting her transferred all of her properties into my name. God may her soul rest in peace! It wasn’t enough. I wanted all of what was rightfully and only mine.” 




“I acted like I was miserable without my wife and that I lost my will in starting my own business. Everyone bought it and felt very sad for me, didn’t you?” he asked Nani and Manohar. “I hoped at least then I’d get the entire business responsibilities to fulfil my wish, but no,” there came a sudden maniac glint in his eyes. “Accidents. The easiest way to get away after committing murders. Yes, I killed your Dadu and Nanu the same way I murdered my filthy brother, Arjun, along with his wife, Ratna.”




Everyone got petrified by the revelation.




“Yes, that credit goes to me,” he said proudly. 




“I worked years under my brother but carried on my illegal work right under his nose. And he didn’t even doubt me for the problems that arose in business because he loved and trusted me dearly. I was his baby brother. It was fun, oh, it was fun seeing Ratna bhabi and Arjun fight over me every day. Also yes. I caused rifts between them.”




“See my luck, I got the perfect opportunity to take my revenge on Priya for rejecting me. Her husband, the DCP, kept getting information about my wrongdoings by this Yadav, which were all true but I covered up all the evidence on time, and the strict DCP couldn’t do anything since I was shielded by my namesake brother. I convinced him that Priya was merely doing that to get me in trouble because I was once upon a time interested in her, and he believed me blindly.”




“One day Yadav informed me that Pradeep collected all evidence against me. I got my men chased him and Priya to the outskirts of the city, before he submitted the proofs, and killed them making it seem like an accident. But I didn’t know that they were still alive, getting treatment in a village and were in a coma. Yadav, again, told me their whereabouts as soon as he found them. This time, I took my pleasure in murdering them with my own hands.”




Garima collapsed onto the floor, weeping.




“A year had passed. Everything was going great, for me at least. It was Anju beti’s wedding day. I don’t think I made any mistake, except for one, and that was carelessly leaving the evidence Pradeep had collected against me lying around in a storeroom. The person who had found them was none other than Ratna bhabi. She wasted no time in taking them to Arjun. He finally found out my true face.”




“They were together yelling at me, not at each other as you,” pointing Arnav, “believed. I had gotten a perfect opportunity to kill the person I loathed the most, Arjun. Sadly, Ratna bhabhi had to die with him too. You know the whole story of had happened after that, don’t you?” said Ankush, as though asking the weather forecast.




A long silence followed after that. There was a pool of blood where an unconscious Payal and a collapsing Khushi laid. 




“Your parents and I had doted you unconditionally. You mistook our care and concern for favouritism and partiality. All that chaos for money and your abhorrence towards Arjun. Why did you hate him the most?” asked Nani, tears in her eyes. 




“You know why!” snapped Akush.




“He was your brother…” said Anjali.




“NO, HE WASN’T!” he yelled and stood up. 




Khushi passed out.




“He was never my brother, he wasn’t a Malik!” he rounded on Nani, “You didn’t tell them?”




“We treated him as equal,” she softly answered.




“Yes, you did!” 




Now to Anjali and Arnav, “Your father was adopted into my royal Malik family. My father took him in out of gratitude when his biological father died saving mine. Arjun Rana, the filth-blooded insect! He got everything which he never deserved, and I had to live the past year a life he should have lived in! And who was the reason? That nasty bug’s son!” 




He spat at an immobile Arnav.




“With much difficulty, I got into contact with Yadav. I am here to share this soul-shattering truth with you all before I do what I wanted to do.”




Ankush signalled Yadav, and he handed him a gun.




“No, no, no!!!” everyone yelled when he pointed the pistol at Khushi’s head.




Arnav, who seemed paralysed till then, roared, “Ankush, no! I will kill you if you do that!!!”




Ankush smirked evilly, “That was my original plan.”




“What did you think, I would turn myself into the police?” he grinned. “I will first send your life up and I’ll soon join her there. I will die with the satisfaction that I ruined you all once again.”




Arnav dashed forward, not caring the clueless Yadav’s threats.




*BANG*




Gunshots were echoed.




They opened their eyes to see Ankush and Yadav on the floor, clutching their legs. Police and the security team scurried in. Relief filled everyone. Some ran to help Payal and some to Khushi. Payal’s saree was totally stained with blood. Akash lifted her unconscious form and dashed to the car. Arnav tied a cloth tightly around Khushi’s wrist and did the same as Akash.




A policeman addressed Nani, “A man named Shashi Gupta informed us what was happening.”




There stood Shashi supported by his crutches on the second floor. 




~*~




Hours Later :




“That was just a normal heart pain, she is fine. Please, keep her away from stress or it may lead to further complications,” the doctor informed Anjali.




“Nani, are you alright?” asked Anjali, her voice breaking.




Lifting her teary eyes, “Are you?” asked Nani.




Anjali dashed out of the room, crying, leaving Mama to console Nani. At the corridor she found the entire family waiting for her.




“Nani is fine,” she told them.




They all breathed a sigh of relief.




“Anything about them?” she asked NK.




“Khushiji has lost a lot of blood. They are currently transfusing blood into her system. No news about Payal bhabi,” NK’s voice cracked.




Anjali went near Akash.




“Nothing will happen to my Bahu, Akash bitwa. You have Manorama’s word,” comforted Mami in her own way.




Anjali gave an assuring smile to the Guptas, “Nothing will happen to them,” she hugged a crying Garima.




She glanced at Arnav. He sat far away from everyone alone, did not even utter a single word to them.




A doctor came out, “Khushi?”




Arnav was the first to reach her.




“Her condition is stable now, but you cannot see her until tomorrow. She still needs to be in the ICU.”




As if waiting for only that sentence, Arnav released a breath of relief, spun around and went away. No one saw him after that.




One hour later, another doctor stepped out, “Payal?”




Everyone looked hopeful.




“She is out of danger, but I am sorry, we couldn’t save her baby.”




It took them a few moments for the matter to sink in, when it did, there was no single eye which wasn’t teary. Just hours ago they performed a havan for the wellbeing of the baby, but now, it’s no more.



##

Jan 10

Part - 26 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 47 times)

Note :

• Last part was my first try in writing violence and I did think that I sort of went overboard with violence after publishing it. Sorry for the pain. I just wanted to show how cruel Ankush was. Also sorry for killing the unborn, the choice was between Akask and the baby.

• No one's comment had hurt me. I just felt bad seeing you all feel bad.

• This chapter also contains mild violence and very light cussings.

##

"Khushiji, we are here!" said Anjali, waving her hand.

"Namaste, Naniji, Di," greeted Khushi.

Garima and Khushi sat on the steps of the temple beside Nani and Anjali.

"Have you taken darshan?" asked Nani.

"Yes, Maaji," replied Garima.

Whenever they met, there would a joyous atmosphere around them which was absent now.

"Payal bitiya?" asked Garima, breaking the gloomy silence.

"She is slightly better now, Aunty," said Anjali. "Mami is taking great care of her. Why don't you visit her today? It is always Khushiji and Shashi uncle that drops by."

"Jiji and I cannot see her without crying, and that would only upset Payaliya," answered Garima, sniffling.

"Garimaji, I cannot apologize enough for..." began Nani.

"Maaji, please. Don't be sorry for something which wasn't your mistake."

"But the disputes with Ankush was ours, still Payal bitiya had to suffer without any of her fault. Even your family got dragged into this."

"I thought our family was one," said Garima softly.

They all smiled in agreement.

It had been 2 weeks since the incident took place which blew every one. Ankush, Yadav, and some of his men were sent to prison. Everyone returned to Delhi and were trying to get back into normalcy. But was it easy?

Payal and Akash were traumatized at the loss of their unborn. Mami and Mama were trying their best to comfort them. Mami didn't hold Payal responsible for the loss, instead, she and Payal grew closer. Slowly they had accepted the agonizing truth, grateful that at least no one else got harmed.

Not a single day had passed without Nani or Anjali breaking down. They couldn't help but curse Ankush Malik for destroying their families and other innocent people. When Arnav remained silent during the court hearings, it was them both who took the matter into hands and made sure he got a lifetime imprisonment.

NK was the only one who handled people at Shantivan and worked in the place of Akash, and Arnav, when he wasn't in Delhi. He was the only reason why everyone wasn't mourning 24/7 and why Shantivan hadn't turned into a depressed asylum.

The Guptas were no better. Garima was devastated on knowing that her sister and brother-in-law were murdered; and also the loss of her unborn grandchild crushed her. It was once again proved that in hard times you would only have your family as support and they would provide you the strength to go on, just as Shashi, Buaji, Garima, and Khushi did.

In those 2 weeks, no one had heard from or seen Arnav much. It was like he went back into his former ASR-self; cold, distant, and emotionless; but this was even worse. He became completely withdrawn. His family preferred ASR to this stoical Arnav. He was bottling-up his emotions about the whole incident. That, his family could tell!

"Has Chote...?" Anjali asked Khushi.

Khushi shook her head defeatedly, "No, Di. Not one word."

Nani sighed, "He is doing that again. The same thing he did all those years ago, suppressing his emotions," she closed her eyes in pain. "When will he realize that hiding would never help, it only worsens!"

"You know him, Nani. He never shares his pain."

"Which isn't a good habit! He really needs to open up. Didn't learn much from his past experiences."

"Yes," sighed Anjali. "Chote must see how we are coping up. The truth did shatter us into bits, but we are coming together, aren't we?"

"Why doesn't anyone talk to him?" suggested Garima.

"Oh, we tried, Garimaji! We all put our best efforts; me, Anjali, Akash, Manohar, Manorama, and even Payal bitiya, who herself was in a great agony, but nothing! He remained cold and refused to speak with anyone." ranted Nani.

"I don't even know where he would be these days; some days at work, some days in Lucknow, and most of the time no one knows," said Anjali.

"And 2 days ago he went to Lucknow because he got a call that Ankush had escaped prison," said Nani.

Garima and Khushi opened their eyes wide in horror.

"We didn't even know about it until last night when he came home with blood-stained clothes. When confronted, he revealed why he went to Lucknow and simply said that everything was under control now before storming off to his room. No more details were given," huffed Anjali in annoyance.

After some silence, "It took him 12 years to come out of that trauma and now again...." wept Nani. "Past memories are scarring him once again!"

"It stabs my heart imagining what my brother is going through now that he knows how we lost everyone..."

Garima gently placed a hand on Anjali and Nani to console them.

Khushi, who just sat there listening to them silently, spoke, "He needs a change of environment."

The teary-eyed 3 ladies turned to her and said, "What?"

"I... I just think he should go somewhere away for a while.."

"Bitiya, that is what he is doing. Running away. The thing we are complaining about!"

"No, that's not what I meant," said Khushi. "I mean he needs a break. Visit a new place, explore the country... I read it somewhere that travelling helps people who are.... er...."

"Miserable," said Anjali, looking straight at Khushi. "You are right, Khushiji. Maybe that might help him. It worked for me after Shy.... Never mind."

They knew what she was saying about but no one said anything.

"Yes, Di, but he should not go alone. Why don't you or someone else take him to London again? Or maybe Australia to Nanheji's place?" asked Khushi.

"Impossible. He is refusing to even look at me, let alone others. And Sydney? I don't think it will be a good idea to visit relatives. I believe he wants some solitude," responded Anjali.

Khushi looked downcast.

Nani gave a rueful smile, "It is a surprising fact that in such a short span you both got immensely attuned to each other. We cannot manage Chote like you do, Khushi bitiya."

"Then Khushi will go with him," said Garima.

The other 3 got surprised. Nani and Anjali looked at each other, unsure, and stared at Garima. Khushi's frown disappeared and her eyes twinkled.

"But.... Garimaji, how can we send them together? They are not yet married," said Nani.

"True, but...."

Anjali caught on, "Oh, come on, Nani. It will be fine. We trust them to behave, don't we?" said Anjali brightly.

"It's not that...."

"Then what? Don't think much. It is fixed! She is the only remedy. Khushiji and Chote will go... somewhere," declared Anjali.

Exasperated, Nani looked at Khushi and Garima who were smiling at Anjali, understanding her desperation to do something to make her brother better.

"Yes, Maaji," said Garima. "Right or wrong, the customs.... Everything comes after his happiness."

Nani sighed, "Alright."

Anjali squealed happily, "At last! Chote will be okay soon!"

"Are you fine with it, Khushi?" asked Garima softly.

They had high expectations on her. Little did they know, the Laad Governor would always give her a tough time. But Khushi, who wanted nothing more than her Arnavji out of that misery, agreed without a second thought.

"But who will convince him?" said Nani.

Anjali gasped, Garima sighed, but Khushi replied, "Leave that to me."

~*~

Arnav stormed inside Shantivan; his face cold and eyes torpid. It was 11 at night, so he did not expect anyone to be around. Even if anyone was there, he would simply escape from the scene just like he had been doing for the past many days. But something caught his attention. Someone was curled up on the couch, head rested on the couch's armrest. And when he went near the person, his heart lept after many days.

Arnav gently patted on her shoulder, "Khushi?" She woke up startled and clutched her heart. "Sorry! I didn't mean to... Sorry."

Khushi smiled and got up, "No, it's okay. I was waiting to see you, but guess I fell asleep."

She launched herself into his arms, hugging him close to her, "I missed you."

Arnav pulled her desperately into his embrace and closed his eyes, relishing the instant feeling of solace Khushi provided with her mere presence. He craved for this support yet he had stayed away. 2 whole weeks it had been since he last saw her, or to be precise after he had admitted her in the hospital.

He parted and swept his gaze over her. His fingers automatically moved to her lips and cheeks, and he gently ran his hand over the arm and wrist; his eyes closed shut in pain, recalling the torture she had been inflicted upon by Ankush.

"No," she whispered. He looked at her. "Don't let your thoughts go there. I am fine now, so is everyone," she smiled.

Arnav kissed her forehead, "I missed you, too."

"I know," she said. "Have you eaten anything?"

"Yes," he lied. He did not remember when was the last time he'd had a proper meal.

"Oh," frowned Khushi. "I was waiting.... I thought I could have dinner with you.... No problem. It doesn't matter."

"No, no," said Arnav. "I'm feeling hungry again. We'll have dinner together. I will be right back."

Khushi grinned as she watched Arnav march his way up to his room. She certainly did know how to play her cards with him.

10 minutes later, a freshly-showered Arnav was watching Khushi serve them both fresh, hot food. No matter how comfortable he was with her, it still felt awkward to be around people after many days of seclusion. After a lot of pondering, he finally decided to break the silence which Khushi seemed in at ease.

"So... You... Today... here? I mean..."

"I visited to see Jiji, and also you if I was lucky," said Khushi, figuring out his question.

He felt his heart become heavier.

"How is Payal?" he asked tentatively, harking back ashamedly to the day when he had slammed door in the face of a puny Payal who had come to give him some words of comfort.

"She is doing fine now, slowly forgetting the.. er... incident. Sometimes she remembers her lost unborn and dissolves into tears," said Khushi, her voice wavering.

Arnav felt a lump in his throat. He was running away from his family who needed his support in this time of distress. He cursed himself for acting like a coward, but he knew he couldn't help much.

"You have nothing to feel guilty about, Arnavji. We understand," said Khushi softly.

"Wha—I'm not feeling gui—I'm totally fine!" he said and drank a glass of water.

"Of course, you are," smiled Khushi. "But I am not."

Arnav looked at her with his red eyes.

"I cannot breathe here, Arnavji. Unlike everyone, I am being unable to move on from the harsh actuality. It is too much to bear, too hard," tears leaked out.

Arnav got up and hugged her placing himself in a kneeling position.

"Shh, Khushi. I can understand,"

Yes, he could as he was feeling the same.

"That's why I am going away somewhere for a couple of days," said Khushi, sniffling.

He looked sharp at her, "What? Why? Where? With whom?"

She gave a throaty chuckle despite herself, "Why- I need some space. Seeing anyone in the family reminds me of it, and it hits me hard and suffocates me. Where- I don't know; and With whom- No idea, preferably alone. I wish to run away to somewhere calm and peaceful otherwise the overwhelming emotions will choke me."

Arnav reflected on what Khushi had said. He exactly felt the same way like her. Due to the crucial affair he should carry on, he had not flown away to a serene place to maintain his sanity, but now that the task was over, he could do whatever he wanted pausing his duties towards the family for a few more days.

"I immersed myself in work 24/7 in an attempt to shut it out. I never considered this option," he said to himself. "You are not going anywhere alone, Khushi," stated Arnav.

"What?" her eyes flashed fury. "I thought you'd understand me! Who are you to stop me? You cannot.."

"We will go together," he said calmly.

"You... Oh," her mind took in what he said.

"I will drop you home now and we'll leave tomorrow morning."

"Actually, I came in all packed-up with bags intending to set off somewhere tomorrow morning from here. Everyone's okay with me."

"Fine," said Arnav. "Now, go to sleep. I'll see to our arrangements."

Just as he went out of her sight, Khushi whipped out her mobile and texted Anjali :

'Done, Di! We are leaving tomorrow morning.'

Instantly she got a text back :

'I knew you could do it! Cure my Chote, Khushiji, please... Where are you going, by the way?'

Khushi replied :

'No idea.'

~*~

Arnav looked down at the person who was getting beaten up mercilessly by no less than 5 people. It wasn't enough. Whiplashing this man for 2 hours without any break wasn't enough. He deserved worse, and before Arnav would implement the worst, he decided to enjoy the show, seated comfortably on a chair right before Ankush Malik.

"Ch.. Chot..e babu—Ahh! Pl..... Please ask... them to-stop! Ahhhh! I... cannot... ahh.. take this any... AHH—anymore! I- beg you...."

Arnav held up his hand, eyes cold, face pitiless but giving a wry smile. The people who were thrashing Ankush stopped stepped away and knelt down, shivering. Ankush was rolling on the dirty ground unable to bear the pain. There were whip impressions all over his body.

He got up and crouched next to Ankush, "So, how does it feel to get beaten up by your own henchmen?"

"Please... please, I cannot take any more," clutching Arnav's feet, "please, show some mercy.."

Arnav dragged his feet away, "Don't touch me with your filthy hands!"

"Please... please!" Ankush looked at the officers, "Please save me from him! Take me back to prison!"

"Just like that?" asked Arnav. "I paid them a great sum to get you, my once-upon-a-time-dear-uncle, to me. And you don't want to spend even a couple of hours with me?"

"Just kill me! Kill me!!! I cannot take this torture anymore!! Please, kill me!!!"

"Kill you? Never. I will give you something worse than death," said Arnav softly.

"Your father would have forgiven me, your parents would have shown mercy on me!"

Arnav's face hardened at once, there came a violent glint in his eyes.

"Maybe...." he said, signalling Yadav something, "but I am not them."

Ankush twisted on the ground.

"S..sir," called Yadav.

"Oh, thank you, Yadav, my would've been father-in-law's betrayer," he took the vessel from Yadav and gave a small yelp. "Whew, the oil is way beyond the boiling point."

Arnav set the burning vessel on the bare stomach of Ankush who howled and rolled so that the oil container dropped down.

"Oh no, see what you've done Ankush, you spilt the oil," admonished Arnav, his eyes revelled on the sight of Ankush's burnt, red belly.

Yadav got another vessel and set it on the ground.

"Thank you, Yadav," said Arnav, and turned to the other 5 henchmen, "Repeat the whiplash treatment to this guy also till I say stop."

Yadav tried to run away but the policemen caught him and threw him towards the henchmen.

Arnav held the boiling oil container, "I suggest you close your eyes, but I will be the happiest if you didn't."

"What are you going to do? What are you doing?!" yelled Ankush in panic.

"Nothing much. Repaying you for your nasty services."

He moved to Ankush's feet and slowly poured off a considerable amount of the hot, boiling oil there.

"AHHHHHHH!!!!!"

"This is the same leg that had stomped on Payal, who had nothing to do with our clashes, whom I consider as my little sister," he spoke through gritted teeth, "and yet you had hurt her!"

He moved to where Ankush's hands laid, "My Khushi, my everything!" spilling oil on one hand, "You slapped her, dragged her by the hair, slit her wrist and arm with this same ****ing hand!"

"NOO! Please, stop..."

Arnav didn't bother, "Dadu, Nanu; mine and Khushi's parents; and who knows how many innocent lives you have taken with this same hand!"

"AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!"

Arnav was pleased with the reddened and bleeding skin of Ankush where he had spilt the boiling oil, but this wasn't enough. It was time to give Ankush a life which was worse than death.

He looked at the police and nodded.

The next minute, yowls of pure agony had echoed in the dark, secluded barren land for Ankush's one leg, one full arm, the other forearm, and his tongue had been chopped off by the henchmen.

Arnav turned around to see the yelping Yadav and the henchmen flinching away from Ankush. Normally he would have retched at the sight before him, but this was revenge, his own revenge taken on behalf of the destroyed families. So, the sight of limbs-less Ankush howling in the pool of his own blood soothed Arnav.

"Officer, what happened to this man?" asked Arnav, eyes not shifting from Ankush.

"He had escaped from prison but met with a fatal accident which was why his limbs had to be amputated and tongue had been eaten by a wild animal. That man, Yadav, had also escaped the prison and planned to run far away with the help of those 5 people, but we, police caught everyone on time," explained the officer.

"Good."

He went near Ankush and snarled, "This is the last time we will ever meet. I wish you enjoy your life like this in prison till you die."

He walked away from the howling Ankush.

"ARNAVVVVV!!!!!!!"

Arnav woke up with a jolt in the darkroom, his body drenched in sweat. For a moment, he didn't realize where he was, or what was going on around him. The horrifying, disturbing dream had shaken him to the core.

"Just a dream. That was just a dream," he said to himself. "But the dream was real."

He got down from his bed and opened the binds, letting the sunshine wash every surface of the room. He scrunched his eyes as the light hit him and looked at the soothing view of the blue beach, but even that couldn't calm the brewing storm inside him.

"Am I too a monster? Like him?" he wondered as he slipped on a shirt.

"No matter how vile the person is, I wouldn't punish him like that. But I did that to Ankush... Am I no different from him?"

"Ridiculous! He deserved that! Stop thinking much about him, Arnav."

He went out of his room and found Khushi deeply immersed in a conversation on phone, sitting in the sun on a deckchair on the patio, enjoying the beach view.

"I told you many times. No. We are not sharing one room, we sleep in separate rooms! Why, Di? This is hardly a jolly trip to steal some moments. You know why we are here, don't you? Joking? You just don't joke about stuff like that, Di..."

Khushi noticed that Arnav was there and quickly hung up the phone, "I'll talk to you later. Bye."

She hopped her way to him.

"Finally! Good morning, Mr.Raizada. You are up so early, just 11:30 in the morning," she crossed her arms.

Arnav who was still thinking about the dream, rubbed his forehead, "Khushi, don't shout."

"Shout? Excuse me, I am not shouting but I should be!"

"Shut up," he growled.

"That was what I have been doing these past 3 days, Laad Governor! You just shut yourself up in the room all the day and only come out to eat, that too I have to force you. Why are we even here then? I am locked up in this house and cannot even go out leaving you because I love you. You monster.."

Arnav marched up to her and grabbed her arms tightly.

"Yes, I am a monster! What do you expect me to do? Dance with you or build some stupid sand castles? Huh? I am not crazy like you Khushi Kumari Gupta! I'm Arnav Singh Raizada, a monster! Just stay freaking away from me!" yelled Arnav.

He turned on his heel and stormed off to his room leaving behind a hurt, teary-eyed Khushi.

~*~

The day went on with the house maintaining absolute silence. Arnav did not come out of his room, but Khushi made sure he had eaten something. She would place food on a table right outside his room, knock the door and leave. Arnav was too occupied with nightmarish notions to realize how he had hurt Khushi.

She was used to this behaviour of him and completely understood that something was bothering him which caused him snap at her. She did not disturb him again that day.

"Why, Chote, why?" said Arjun, floating around him. "Why did you punish him like that?"

"Now you made yourself his equal," said Ratna.

"No, don't say that!" said Arnav. "We are not same. He killed people. I didn't."

"You as good have killed him, killer," said Dada.

"A disappointment!" said Nana.

"NO! I am a good person. Please believe me! I loved you all, that's why I avenged him," cried Arnav.

Everyone had disappeared but Arjun, who landed before Arnav.

"You loved everyone but me," stated Arjun. "Why did you hate me, Chote?"

"No, Papa, I did not hate you. I tried to because I believed you murdered Ma."

"Easily misunderstood. Am I that bad father, Chote?"

"No, Papa..."

"I loved you more than this world, Chote, and you hated me, just like the person whom I considered my brother hated me.."

"Please, Papa, don't compare me to him!"

"It killed me to see you hate me all these years, Chote.."

"No," Arnav showed his phone, "No, Papa, see these pictures. You were also there. I loved you too..."

"My heart drowned in acid...."

"You know me, right, Papa? I am temperamental, jumps to conclusions. I committed a huge crime by misjudging you, Papa. I am sorry..."

"I can never rest in peace..."

"Nooo! Papa, don't say that! Please!" cried Arnav.

"Arnavji!! Arnavji, wake up!! You are dreaming. Wake up, Arnavji!" Khushi shook him hard jerking him into reality.

He opened his bloodshot eyes and looked around. He was once again drenched sweat, once again relived the nightmare that had been haunting him since he found out the truth, his father.

"Shh, shh, it's okay. That was just a dream. You are fine," whispered Khushi, running her fingers through his hair.

He looked at Khushi who sat beside him on the bed and sobbed into her lap.

"He hates me, Khushi. My father hates me," he hiccupped. "I was a terrible son to him.."

"Shh, Arnavji. No one hates you," said Khushi.

"No, he must be very disappointed in me. I hated him all those years with no fault of his. I even refused to use his name with mine..."

"Your family loves you..."

"Di was right. I am a thick-headed scoundrel who avoided to even consider a theory where his father wasn't the culprit. I see stuff and immediately assume things up..."

"Arnavji..."

"I knew deep down that my father was innocent, but chose to bury that notion. How will I ever make eye-contact with Di, how will I see Nani, how will I meet our family? I am not worthy of love..."

"ARNAVJI, LISTEN!" yelled Khushi, tilting his head to face her.

"This was what Ankush Malik wanted to do. He knew you would collapse like this and damage things furthermore. His original plan was to scar us all, mainly you! Would you allow it to happen? Would you let him succeed?" asked Khushi.

"He lost, Arnavji, we didn't let him win. Nani, Di, Jiji, Jiju, Mama, Mami, Nanheji, and my family are moving on. It had happened years ago, no one can change it. We have accepted it. Yes, it would hurt when we think about it, but we all have accepted the actual past. We didn't let him scar us. Now if you break down like this you will let him win, resulting in making our efforts drown in vain."

"It's not that... Papa, our family hates..."

She wiped his tears, kissed his eyes, and rested her forehead against his.

"No one could hate you even if they wanted to. You have a beautiful heart and soul, Arnavji. If one understood you, they would never leave you. We all love you; your grandparents loved you; your mother, mainly your father loved you dearly. Don't think too much, hmm?"

"I loved my father, Khushi.." he murmured, eyes drooping.

She kissed him on the head, "Sleep," he fell dozed off in an instant.

Khushi understood what actually had been bothering him. He was feeling guilty that he had misjudged his father. Her poor Laad Governor, he was just like a coconut; hard on the outside and soft on the inside. She rested her head on the headboard and fell asleep with a triumphant smile that she now knew the key to make Arnav better.

##

Jan 17

Part - 27 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 51 times)

"Arnavji, this is so much fun! Come on, join me!" squealed Khushi, jumping, when waves hit her.

Arnav perched on the sand far away from water. The sight of Khushi enjoying herself with a carefree abandon in the beach brought a huge smile on his face. They were currently near Visakhapatnam, apparently, that was the first destination that came to his mind to escape with Khushi from facing his family.

The first couple of days for Arnav were filled with some tranquillity which he had fairly revelled in, ruling out the periods of his emotional breakdowns he had spent locked up in his room. At times, he had forgotten that Khushi was also there with him in the secluded, private guest house situated many miles away from the city.

But the other night when he had opened up to Khushi, his heart became lighter. It felt as if tons of weight had been lifted off him. From then onwards he seldom got night terrors, and so started spending time with her. He had even talked to everyone who assured him that they were all fine and were only concerned about him.

One long, heart-to-heart conversation with his family and he almost became alright. They all had agreed to continue onward leaving behind the bitter and heart-rending truth of the past, moving ahead only with the precious memories. The only thing that was troubling Arnav was his guilt-conscience of apprehending wrongly about his father, which was taken care of after that night. The last 3 days had been somewhat pleasant for him.

"Khushi!" he called, but she didn't hear him.

Sighing, Arnav went near her and stood at a distance from water.

"Enough now, Khushi. How much time will you keep kicking at the waves? It has been hours now."

A-fully-drenched-in-water Khushi laughed, "But this is so much fun! I can never get tired playing here like this!"

"You aren't a kid, idiot! It's sundown already. Let's get back inside before you fall sic- What the!" he yelled as she splashed water on him.

"Not, 'what the', Laad Governor. It's water!" laughed Khushi.

"Urgh, this is salty. Khushi, it went into my mouth, damn it!" he yelled.

She splashed more water, soaking him completely.

"You boring man, I want to have some fun. Let's play a game which I'm sure gonna win!"

Arnav's annoyance had vanished at the challenge thrown at him and a new resolution shone in his eyes as he smirked naughtily.

"I'm all up for it," he said before chasing the giggling Khushi into the water.

4 hours later, freshly showered Arnav and Khushi sat in the dining room waiting for the steward to place their food on the table.

"We will serve ourselves, thank you," said Khushi kindly and dismissed him.

"I didn't notice the time, or I would have prepared our meals like always," she said to herself, serving Arnav his mushroom-stuffed Rigatoni (Italian food).

"Thanks, Khushi," said Arnav.

"What for? It's a wife's duty to serve her husband" blushed Khushi, serving herself spicy Indian thali.

"Thank you for getting us both sick," clarified Arnav. "We've caught a cold and that credit goes to you."

"Buff ve injoid," she said through a mouthful of food.

Arnav suppressed his smile and agreed, "Yes, we did enjoy."

After finishing their dinner, they sat on the rooftop swing with Khushi in his lap, basking in the pleasant serenity. The calmness was disturbed when Arnav got a notification. He took out his mobile phone and sighed looking at the picture he received.

"What was that?" asked Khushi.

"The usual from Di," huffed Arnav, showing her his phone.

'Chote threw a huge fit again. He was angry with me all day because I forced him to go to school today. He had no idea that we were decorating the whole palace for his birthday and surprise him. God, was it hard to manage my furious son! But it didn't matter. I enjoyed every moment of his temper tantrums. I knew he'd come back to me once his anger ebbed away, and I would love him like always..'

The picture contained a page from a diary with that matter written in it. There was also another text.

'See, Chote. Papa knew how you were. He would have loved you unconditionally even if you misunderstood him. You don't have to feel guilty!'

"Just another daily dosage of Di attempting to eradicate my self-condemnation," he said, smiling.

"You know, we all care for you," said Khushi. "We are trying in our own ways to lessen the trauma."

"I know, Khushi, and I appreciate that. You cannot imagine how strong I feel when anyone of you showers your concern and care for me."

She pecked him on the cheek.

"But you have to admit that this is ridiculous. Di must stop going through Papa's old diaries to find stuff that would motivate me!"

They both laughed.

"Like seriously! Being the adored daughter doesn't give her the right to rifle through her father's personal affairs."

"Yes, it does. Daughters have a special privilege of their father's belongings," she said.

He rolled his eyes and sent a message to Anjali, 'Di, I am very fine. Don't worry. Good night.' 

"I just wish I knew more about my father," she whispered.

Arnav sensed the hidden pain in her voice and hugged her tightly. He at least got to spend half of the life had spent with his parents, but Khushi had lost hers when she very little. She barely had memories of them.

"Amma told me all about my mother; her interests, attitude, adventures, childhood; everything she knew of. But I know very little of my father; where he's from, his side of the family, where he lived..."

She sniffled, "Do you know, Arnavji, why I said that I loved beach-side environment? Because my father used to bring me and amma for a couple of weeks during summer holidays to such places, I remember that vaguely. Apart from the knowledge that he was from Andhra Pradesh, this very own state, I don't even know where he was properly from."

Arnav gently rubbed her arms in a soothing way to comfort her. Soon they had gone downstairs to their rooms.

"Khushi, we are going to an important place tomorrow," said Arnav.

"Where?"

"Just... somewhere. Don't ask questions."

"Okay," said Khushi.

"Hey," called Arnav, seeing her going into her room.

He reached her as she turned around, "Tomorrow will be a special day for you. We will explore the city, go on a long drive and enjoy. I spent the past week confined in here and you had to tolerate all that."

"Arnavji, that's nothi..."

"Shh. I promise you a great day tomorrow," he said and she smiled.

Arnav bent his head and took her lips in his. What started as a gentle kiss turned into a passionate one in a jiffy. His hand slipped underneath her kameez and caressed her soft skin. They both moved backwards until Khushi was caged between Arnav and the wall while still kissing hotly. She moaned into his mouth as she felt his hand moving up to her heaving chest. That was the cue! She held his hand and broke the kiss.

Arnav grinned proudly as she turned red. It had been many days since he saw her this way.

"I don't see why we cannot sleep in the same ro..."

"No," she stated firmly, getting a hint of where he was going. "You still have to wait one month to get the license for that."

"License?"

"Marriage."

"Alright, alright! I just don't want you afraid, okay? You are scared of the dark," he whined.

"I have gotten used to it. Plus, I made my own arrangements for that. Now, good night," said Khushi and dashed into her room.

Arnav smiled before retiring to his room.

"Monster!"

"Merciless beast!"

"Hates his own father!"

"Who punishes like that?"

Arjun, Ratna, Nana, and Dada floated around Arnav who was looking at them in a boring, almost disinterested way.

"I do. A-That swine deserves even worse, and B- I do NOT hate Papa," he stated.

"You belittled our royalty! You dare declare proudly of your monstrous crimes! He was your uncle!"

"Actually, I support Arnav. He did justice," said a dark shadow of a man.

"I don't know who you are, but thank you," said Arnav.

"Khushi's father. You are welcome," replied the shadow.

"You have no business here! How could you justify Arnav's crimes! He hates me and also made his uncle's life worse than death!" yelled Arjun.

Arnav rolled his eyes at his father.

Pradeep winked and whispered, "Your father is a stupid man when it comes to his so-called brother. I'll take care of him, you don't worry."

"You thick fool! Sorry to break this to you, but it was Ankush Malik that murdered all of us and made Arnav misunderstand you."

"WHAT?" yelled everyone.

Arnav woke up sweating lesser than usual. He'd had quite a good and full sleep last night. It felt good seeing his formless father-in-law defending him from his own family members. He now dared to say that his horrifying night terrors had officially gone on a break.

"Today is Khushi's day," he said determinedly.


##


Note - Sorry, this was a small update.

Jan 21

Part - 28 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 57 times)



"But why?" whined Khushi, hitting the dashboard.

"You don't know the route," said Arnav, rolling his eyes at her childish behaviour.

"You can give directions!"

"I don't trust your driving ability, Khushi, since I have never seen you drive before," explained Arnav calmly.

"You are refusing to let me drive just because I am a woman? You are a ****ist!"

"Call me whatever you want but I still won't allow you to drive. And no, I am not biased towards women. In that case, Di drives better than I do,"

They ranted halfway to their destination until Khushi gave up and began enjoying the route, greenery that surrounded them, and the beach-side driveway.

It was 6 in the early morning, and they now got into the ghat road. Squealing, Khushi rolled down her window and stuck her head out, ignoring Arnav's reprimands. When looking out they could see spectacular views of fog suffused environment, the sun rising from between mountains, as they were ascended about a mile on the ghat road. Pretty soon, Arnav set off down the mountains and drove a few miles until they entered a small town.

"Arnavji, where are we going?" asked Khushi.

"Just see," he responded.

Her spirits went high again as she spotted the beach down a steep he was driving into. Mesmerised at the rise and fall of the tides, she did not notice Arnav stopping until he came over to her side and opened the door.

"Are we going to play in the water again?" she shrieked excitedly, beaming at the beach.

Shaking his head, Arnav caught her jumping form and whirled her around so that she faced the building in front of her.

"Hey Devi Maiyya!" she gasped, eyes went wide and mouth formed an 'O'.

"Yes, Khushi. This is your villa."

She gaped at the not-so-recently-built building before her; the paintings were worn off, trees grew wildly on either side, glasses cracked on the front elevation; to say bluntly, not the greatest looking house. This was Arnav's choice for her and she knew that he always picked the best out of all when choosing something. But what got her confused was why would he buy this 'old-villa' for her which was hundreds of miles away from their home.

"I.. It's beautiful.... But this looked a bit different in the picture you showed me," she whispered, eyes narrowed.

"Come," he simply said, taking her towards the house.

The more she drew nearer the building, the more ill-defined memories stirred inside her. Arnav brought her closer to him as he opened the front door.

"Do you remember anything now?" he asked.

Khushi looked around the battered, wooden-floored, large room, and suddenly, she saw a picture of it all clean and illuminated in her head.

.

.

.

.

"Khushi!" yelled her father. "Priya, come here right away!"

Priya came running to the hall with the 4-year-old Khushi hiding behind her.

"What happened, Pradeep?" she asked.

"Ask your daughter!" he growled, glaring at the chuckling Khushi.

"Uff, don't shout, okay? She'll get scared, just a kid!"

"Kid? Right!" he muttered.

"Khushi dear," said Priya, bringing her to the front, "Why is your father shouting?"

"I don't know, Amma," said Khushi innocently.

"You don't know?" said Pradeep. "Fine, I will tell you."

He picked up a huge, clear plastic container from the ground where there was a pistol frozen in the middle of it, "This!"

Priya gasped.

"Yes, your daughter froze my favourite gun!"

"Oh God, Khushi! Why did you do that?" asked Priya, kneeling down in front of her

"I watched a movie yesterday and when the hero fired the gun, smoke emitted from it. I know, smoke comes from hot stuff, and I don't want it to burn papa's hand. That's why I poured water in it and kept it in the freezer," explained Khushi.

Pradeep anger melted away at her cute answer. Sighing, he came and knelt before her.

"But, baby, this is dangerous. You cannot be near this thing, okay?" he said.

"Yes, dear. Promise me you'll never touch guns or any of your Papa's office stuff," said Priya.

"Okay, Amma. I promise that I will never touch Papa's things again," promised Khushi.

Pradeep looked at his frozen pistol and muttered, "If it doesn't work anymore, this would be the 5th gun I've lost, and this time not during a mission. What do I answer my superiors now?"

His attention turned to his wife and daughter.

"I didn't mean it that way, dear," said Priya, taking Khushi in her arms. "You can mess around with Papa's clothes, hair, face, favourite gadgets, food; just basically attack him if you want to. Oh, don't forget his moustache! I hate it..."

He looked petrified at the ideas his wife gave his daughter.

.

.

.

.

Pradeep seriously looked at her, "Okay, you took your mother's advice to the heart and; smashed my grand piano, daily mixed salt in my tea, tore my clothes to bits, used my face as a painting board, the list is endless! Just do this one help, deal?"

"Deal," said the 6-year-old Khushi.

He marched into the water and watched as Khushi ran towards the house, yelling, "Amma, Papa is drowning!" and smirked seeing Priya came hurrying outside. He sank deep into the water and played dead on the surface, observing his wife from the corner of his eyes.

"Sweet revenge," he grinned.

His grin faded away when he saw Priya collapse down, clutching her heart. Pradeep galloped and cradled her limp form. Khushi looked at her mother suspiciously.

"Priya! Priya, please wake up! I am fine, see! Open your eyes, Priya!" he screamed, tears formed in his eyes.

She opened her eyes and laughed, "State champion in swimming and he expected his wife to believe that he was drowning."

With an angry grunt, Pradeep put her down and started walking away. Khushi cheered, clapping while jumping up and down.

"No one can prank the queen-prankster, husband," called Priya. "Baby, you learnt your lesson?" she asked Khushi.

His lips curved at his crazy wife and daughter.

.

.

.

.

"Gotcha, little birdie!" exclaimed Pradeep as he caught Khushi.

"Papaaaaa, stop tickling me!" giggled Khushi.

"I told you, right, not to stay in the water for that long? You could catch a cold," he said as he started patting Khushi with a towel.

"But Amma also—"

"Your Amma is mental. It is time you stop taking everything she says seriously."

"Excuse me? Did you just call me mental?" said Priya, turning up with her whole form drenched.

"Here," he threw a towel at her.

"You disrespectable-" began Priya.

"Come on, baby," he picked up Khushi, ignoring his wife. "Let's go inside. We'll have your favourite, hot chaat."

"I am talking to you—"

"And call your mother, 'crazy' for me, can you?"

"Crazy Mummy!" said Khushi, sticking out her tongue at Priya.

"Baby, how could you change your teams for food?"

.

.

.

.

"Papa, why is Amma crying? She never usually cries," asked Khushi.

"Because your Nanu talked to her after many years, and she is not crying. They are called happy tears," he explained.

"Are you sure she is not crying because I broke her favourite antique tiara, or the jewellery set you gifted her, or that expensive vase? Did she find out about them?" she asked innocently.

"Oh, so you are the behind those ruckuses! Not a surprise since your mother kind of encourages such chaotic stunts," he smiled instead of scolding Khushi for damaging exorbitant items. "And no. Not because of that."

"But there are tears in her eyes!"

"I told you, they are happy tears."

"Why happy?"

"Because she is happy."

"Why?"

"Sweetie, I'm not the man for emotional talks, okay? You are not old enough to understand," he said.

"But I want to know!!!"

Priya came out and took them both in her embrace, shedding happy tears.

"7 years, Pradeep. It has been 7 years since he talked with me," said Priya.

"Shh, I know..."

"Who talked and why?" piped up Khushi.

Priya chuckled, "Your grandfather, dear. He has been angry with me and your papa. But now he forgave us."

"Oh, I get it now. You struggled to tell just that," she added accusingly to Pradeep.

"I said I wasn't the man for that," he raised his hands.

"We have to start packing, Pradeep. Babuji is not feeling well."

"What, nooo!" whined Khushi. "I don't want to go back to Lucknow. We only come here for holidays and it's been only 5 days this time."

"This won't be the last time. We will come back again," said Pradeep.

Khushi pondered over for a bit before saying, "Promise?"

Priya and Pradeep smiled and said, "Promise."

.

.

.

.

"But they broke their promise," whispered Khushi, her eyes filled with tears.

"What?" asked Arnav.

"Nothing. This was"

"Your father's house. The place you used to come to during vacations with your family," he smiled.

"H... how do you"

He wiped her tears, "Do you remember, on the day of our Shagun you told me what you found out about your parents. I got some basic information about your father from an agency. Yeah, and you put up a fight with me that I was travelling 2 days before our engagement. Guess where I had gone?"

"Here?" she gaped at him.

"Yes. I came here to buy it back on your name from a greedy bloke who illegally took over this building since this had been empty for many years. Happy? I didn't gift any random property for you but your own. "

Khushi did not take in what he said but looked around the house as if in a trance, recollecting vaguely some of the fond memories she had made with her parents in the very same house. How many mischievous antics she and her mother had played on her father? How many times her father, the serious DCP, tried to out-prank them both and failed? How many vacations the 3 had joyously spent here?

"Do... do you know any... anything more about m... my father?" she choked as she said that.

"Yes," replied Arnav softly.

He could understand her harrowing feeling of getting to know about her own parents from others. How breaking one would feel when others knew more about their parents than they did?

"Your father was the son of the revered chief of this town. His mother died giving birth to him and he lost his father when he was just 15," he broke off as a sinking feeling hit him since Arnav himself had lost both his parents at that age.

"He struggled for money, didn't he? All alone, no family to look after him," her voice wavered at the thought.

"Uh... no. He is the only heir of the wealth accumulated by his ancestors, and now you inherited all those properties. I had Mr.Roy prepare the documents for it. One signature and everything will be transferred to your name"

He registered that Khushi wasn't listening to what he just said, and made herself busy looking lovingly at the family portrait of the 3 of them, smiling longingly. How could he forget that she wouldn't be interested in knowing that she was a very rich person now? He laughed inwardly at his stupidity.

"Umm.. Khushi?"

"I am listening," she said, examining the long corridor full of portraits of her family.

"Oh, uh... According to my sources, he finished his studies here itself and became an officer. Worked here for years before he got transferred to Mumbai where he had met your mother and.... You know the story from there."

She did not respond to him but continued seeing the pictures silently. He walked with her along the corridor which didn't seem to end for a long distance and found himself enjoying the photographs of her childhood that were hung on the walls.

Most of them seemed like some precious memories; Khushi and Priya laughing at Pradeep, Pradeep sulking at them both, Khushi standing in a corner with her head hung low and Pradeep looked angry, Father and daughter laughing at pouting Priya who had some burnt food in her plate, and so on... One look at a picture and he could tell the story behind it.

At last, they stopped before a picture where Pradeep and Priya were both kissing a giggling Khushi on the cheek in a beach background.

"Now I can see how much you resemble your mother," he said in an attempt to get a response out of her.

"You know when I first came to check this place out, the whole place was so filthy inside which was why I didn't enter inside then. I didn't want it to happen this time, that's why I got this whole place tidied up at midnight last night. The maid will come soon again."

"This is the first time I saw the face of your father. Finally, I can get to have his face instead of a shadow in my dreams," he joked.

But she still kept looking at the portrait, silently shedding tears. He went near her, gently placed a hand on her shoulder and turned her to him.

"Khushi, say something," he requested softly. "Did you not like this?"

At once, she took him in a bone-crushing hug, sobbing, and spoke, "How can I ever thank you for this?"

"Did I thank you for providing your constant support all these days despite yourself being devastated?" he gently chided, smiling.

She looked up at him without breaking the hug and said, "I love you," before kissing him full on the lips. This wasn't a desirous or hot kiss. It was a kiss full of gratitude and love.

When they broke apart, he said, "I'm glad, you liked my surprise."

##



Jan 29

Part - 29 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 57 times)

Note -

• This chapter is slightly mature.

• Salman Khan fans, I apologise beforehand. Everything written about him in this chapter is Khushi's and Arnav's opinion.

• Please don't hate me.

##

Khushi and Arnav had both spent the entire day at her father's, now her, place. She explored every inch of the 3-storey building with Arnav, narrating her childhood stories she remembered while touring room to room. Arnav was more than interested in knowing her early life; he noted that he was more like his father-in-law, calmer, and she was like his mother-in-law, cracker. Couldn't wait to see their life ahead.

Khushi was all set to clean-up the whole building with the help of the house's caretaker and spend a few days there. But Arnav downright refused her saying that they would start a new life in that house only after they were married, at which she was astounded at such display of "sentiment" from Arnav. They returned to Vizag promising to visit sometime after their marriage.

"Today was one of the most memorable days, Arnavji! Thank you so much," she leaned over the table and kissed him on the cheek.

He quirked his eyebrow naughtily and then Khushi blushed, realizing that they were at a roof-top, open restaurant, and people were watching them.

"Uh, what will you eat?" she said hastily, changing the topic.

"I'll have a vegetarian Panzanella, please, also get me some sparkling water," he said to the attendant.

"Panda?" she shrieked, horrified.

"Not panda. Panzanella! It's a type of salad," clarified Arnav.

"Weird food, weird names, but I'm not weird," she muttered. "Okay, I will have the jumbo Punjabi thali. Ooh, and 5 plates of Jalebi, 4 Gulab Jamuns, 2 Kulfis, and one extra sweet Lassi."

The open-mouthed attendant tottered away unsteadily whereas Arnav shook his head in amu****t. She and her appetite! If he wasn't rich enough, he would have to rob a bank to feed her stomach-full. (Sorry, I exaggerated a bit)

Soon, they had been served hot food; Khushi dived in straight away but Arnav began having food at a leisure pace, yet he was the first one to finish eating. She was still at her 4th butter roti when the server came to attend to them.

"Sir, do you need anything else?"

"No," replied Arnav.

"And ma'am?" he asked.

She swallowed heavily to answer, "Not yet."

He hurriedly told Arnav, "Sir, we have a fine collection of wine; Madeira, Grover-Zampa Chêne, Fratelli Sette- "

"I don't want any alcohol now," said Arnav, cutting him in.

"Oh, yes, you will!" declared Khushi. "I am not the type of wife who would throw a huge fit about such trivial things... You can drink, I permit you."

"Khushi, I don't normally drink except at parties. You really don't have to do that."

"I most definitely do, alright! Consider this as a mini treat from me for this lovely day. "

"No, I"

"Nothing doing! Please get a drink for him," she added to the attendant. "Keep it in your mind, he must enjoy totally!"

"Sure, ma'am," he gave a determined smile and scurried away.

"I don't think I should drink tonight. You see, I get intoxicated pretty quickly," said Arnav uncertainly. "Are you even listening? Khushi!"

"Waf? Leme et pharst! (What? Let me eat first!)" growled Khushi with food stuffed in her mouth.

Arnav was granted a fair bit of entertainment as he watched her gobbling down the varieties of desserts without giving any break.

"It never fails to amaze me. With the quantity you eat, how are you still skinny?" he asked, chuckling.

Gulping water, she replied with a proud grin, "Born blessed."

The attendant came back with a bottle and a tiny bowl of olives, "Sir, this is a 12-year-old Palo Cortado Sherry wine. Shall I pour you some?"

"12 years old?" shrieked Khushi, terrified. "Why are you serving him ancient beverages? Should I complain to the manager? What is your intention behind this cheap action? Is this a trick of your restaurant to get rid of old stuff?"

The attendant froze midway at her interrogation while un-corking the wine bottle.

Arnav came to his rescue, "Khushi, actually wine tastes better with age. The older it is, the best kick we get."

"Really?" she said, eyeing suspiciously at the server.

"Yes," he took the now-opened bottle and dismissed the attendant.

"Are you sure?"

"I'm pretty sure that I have more knowledge on this subject than you do," he said, pouring himself a glass. "Cheers!"

Khushi clinked his wine glass with her lassi tumbler and smiled, "Cheers!"

She watched him sipping wine in what seemed for her to be an unusual way and curiously asked, "Is it good?"

"Mighty fine," he responded, taking another sip of the mahogany-coloured liquid.

"AHH!" she screamed suddenly.

He spat out his drink, startled, "What happened?"

She pointed at the TV right behind him and squealed with pleasure, her eyes twinkling, "Salman Khanjiiiiii!!!!"

Dreading, he turned around only to discover a movie trailer of Salman Khan's playing amidst of adverti****ts in a music channel.

"Khushi, that was just a teaser-"

But she wasn't listening to him. Khushi whipped out her phone and immediately made a call to Payal.

"Jijiiii!!! Do you know what I've just watched? Salman Khanji's movie trailer of Wanted!!! It has been so many days!!!"

"Huh?"

"What an amazing film it was!!! He did an outstanding job, didn't he?"

"Khushi, what"

"He dances amazingly!!! It never fails to make my heart go crazy!!"

"Can you stop"

"You always reprimand me for my craze towards him, right? Just recall the movie once, who doesn't fall for him after seeing his perfect taut abs and chiselled body?"

"Have you gone mad?"

As there was a conversation going on over the phone between a fully excited Khushi and an irritated Payal; Arnav sat in front of her, trying to control the arising demon inside him. He knew she was a hardcore fan of Salman Khan, but this crazy behaviour was not acceptable, especially when she was drooling over another man's looks and body right before him.

5 minutes had passed and Khushi was still going gaga about Salman Khan over the phone, and Arnav wasn't sure if Payal was still there on the line listening to her demented gibberish. He did not realize when he had finished off more than half of the wine bottle, owing to his untamable jealously, when in reality he only wanted to sip a glass or two.

"he takes off his shirt during a fight-"

Arnav had had enough. Standing up, he slammed his glass hard against a wall, bringing Khushi back to the planet. She was startled to discover Arnav in a very inebriated state.

"Hey Devi Maiyya! What happened to you?" she quickly rushed to his side to support his teetering form.

"Oh, you st.. still rem..ember me?" he asked lazily. "Go, just go a.. and chatter away ab... about your hero."

"What are you sayin"

"Shut up! 10 mi.. minutes I tried to mm...make you notice me, b... but you were busy wit... with him!" he was slurring in his words.

"That was nothing! I am sorry"

He buried his face in her neck, "Mmmmm.... You sme.. smell so good. Why do I even n.. need alc.. alcohol when I have you to int... intoxicate me?"

He placed wet kisses on her neck but she moved away quickly as people around them were watching the scene.

"Arnavji, we will have to get home now. You are drunk!" whispered Khushi.

The attendant came running towards them.

"Ma'am, is something wrong?"

"Something? You got him a stupid drink and he is now super drunk! He did not even finish half of the bottle. How did he get tipsy to this extent?" she said angrily, still trying to support Arnav and keep distance at the same time.

Khushi was irritated with herself for her limited and most probably inaccurate knowledge about alcohol and the effects. 

"But ma'am, you said that he must totally enjoy. That's why I got the wine which has 17% of alcohol. Normally, the level of alcohol must be"

"Look, I don't know all your alcoholic calculations!" she screamed, panicking, as Arnav hugged her by the waist tightly and making them both almost trip over since she was wearing a long, peach-coloured skirt. "Get me the check quickly!"

"You bill is already put on Mr.Raizada's tab, ma'am. You don't have to pay," he replied calmly, not realizing the dire situation Khushi was in.

Without another word, Khushi dragged the drunk Arnav to their car with much difficulty while attempting to catch as less attention as possible from the on-lookers; luckily the parking lot was all deserted.

"Arnavji, stop! What are you doing?" she yelled at him because he was trying to unbutton her white tunic blouse.

He gave her a toothy grin, "You look hot in this *hiccup* attire. Dasly, (Sadly) this has to come *hiccup* off coz' I cannot wa.. *hiccup* wait till I get my license."

"What license?" she asked, pushing him into the front passenger seat and fastening the seatbelt.

"Our marriage," he said with a dreamy look.

"You are just drunk-talking," snapped Khushi, came over to the other side and settled down on the driving seat.

"Devi Maiyya, please help me. I am driving a car after a really long gap and ran out of practice. Don't let me crash into anything as a punishment because I behaved a bit rudely with that poor attendant," she sent a quick prayer before starting.

Their guest house was just 10 minutes away, and luckily she remembered the route very well. But Arnav made her life a never-ending nightmare throughout their drive home, and it was a miracle she managed to get to the destination without actually making a multiple vehicles collision.

"You are a very *hiccup* disobedient wife... I've been asking for a kiss since forever and *hiccup* you just ignore me like this?" offended disbelief was clear in his tone.

"Ahh, stop pouncing on me and put on your seatbelt!" she shrieked as she almost collided into the road divider.

"Just one kiss"

"Arnavji," she began cajoling him like a child, trying to keep calm, "wait till we get home, and then you can get as many as you want."

"Deal?"

"This Laad Governor! Deals even in this state," she muttered before saying, "Deal!"

To her relief, they soon reached home. And Khushi had a misconception that her first ever experience with a drunk man, which was her would-be husband Arnav, came to an end. She was wrong.

"Ah, at last!" she exclaimed after unlocking the door.

Grabbing a water bottle on the way, she steered her way to his bedroom supporting with much difficulty a wobbling Arnav who kept groping her. She dropped him on the bed and removed his shoes.

"My kiss..." he asked, lying on the bed.

"First have some water, you are hiccupping nonstop," she handed him a glass. "Better now?"

"Yeah, I can see clearly now too," he drawled as he finished drinking the water. "Now, gimme ma kiss."

Sighing, Khushi tucked him up in bed, "Go to sleep, Arnavji. You are not in your senses."

Dimming the bed light, she went to the door to get out of the room. There was a faint click reverberated in the darkroom before she pushed the door, but it didn't open. Another click and the whole room lit up brilliantly. She turned around only to find Arnav leaning against the wall, holding up a tiny remote controller, his eyes piercing into hers.

"You cannot get out coz' I've locked the room," he said.

Arnav started taking steps without any stagger at a dead-slow pace.

"Wh.. why? Just l... let me out, Arnavji..." she stammered, looking at her predator.

"You promised me a kiss, Khushi, and you tried to break that deal," he stood right before her. "That is unacceptable. Now I will take what I wanted.... with interest."

Arnav leaned in but Khushi tried pushing him at the chest, "No, stop! You are drunk, Arnavji, stop!"

In a blink, he hauled her over his shoulder, moving towards the bed, "You can drool over that Salman Khan, blow kisses at him and admire his body, but you cannot kiss me? I'm your husband!"

"No, I-"

"Who makes your heart pound wildly by mere presence, him or I? Who causes you to hyperventilate, him or I? Whose heartbeat synchronises with yours, his or mine?"

"You-"

"10 times, Khushi, 10 freakin' times I had torn up that stupid poster of his into bits in your room, yet it just keeps popping up, doesn't it?" he growled as he dropped her on the bed. "You won't put his poster in your room again!"

Shocked, she sat upright, "So, that was you! How dar- Wha... What are you doing?"

Looking directly into her eyes, he was unfastening his shirt buttons with a devilish smirk, "Proving you wrong."

He threw away his shirt and flexed his torso making his hard muscles protrude, "Look at this body, Khushi, which is all yours and only yours."

Khushi admired, open-mouthed, at the deliciously hot sight in front of her for she had seen his naked torso for the first time. She couldn't help turning off her innocent conscience and selfishly gawk at her striking fiancé, secretly thrilled that this ****y man was really hers. But his next words broke her trance.

"I'm better than that Malsan Khan (Salman), aren't I?" he said, now hovering over her.

"Come on! You are being unreasonably stupid, Arnavji. All this jealousy for no apparent reason-"

She was cut short as he slammed his lips full on hers. At first, she tasted something sour yet sweet and it took her a few seconds to register that he was actually kissing her, and immediately she tried to break it by pushing him at the chest but he wouldn't budge. Just as her hand came in contact with his bare chest, Arnav gave a low guttural groan and deepened the kiss even more.

"Mm... You taste so sweet," he said, sucking on her rosy petals.

He grabbed her resisting hands and held them up on either side of her head with his one large hand and proceeded down to her neck, brushing his lips against her sensitive skin. She gasped loudly when he nipped at her collarbone and peppered wet smooches, making his way to her slightly visible cleavage while his other free hand began unbuttoning her top. Fleetingly relaxed, he released her hands as he kissed the upper swell of her bosom.

"Arnavji, no-" she gasped sharply.

He immediately shut her with a kiss with his hands slithering underneath her top, fondling the satin skin. She let out a moan at that sensual caress. Smiling, he increased the pressure on her lips making her open lips to allow him to drink her sweet nectar. Soon, Khushi also gave in completely and responded with ardent passion, the kiss went on and on for what seemed like an eternity.

They moved apart and Khushi discovered Arnav's eyes had turned to the darkest shade of black, his blatant desire for her was palpable, and that alarmed her. When she tried to say something, Arnav quietened her by placing a finger on her lips and he trailed a hot path down her clothed chest to her uncovered midriff, looking deep into her eyes. Arnav then followed the path his finger drew with his mouth, alternating between kissing and licking till he reached her navel.

Holding her in place by grasping her petite waist, he showered wet kisses there and blew air on it causing her to shiver. He plunged his tongue into her belly button and teased her sanity as his hands crept up and cupped her full bosoms. Foreign sensations assaulted her as no one had ever touched her that way before. She pulled him up and took his lips into another sensual kiss, his hands fiercely playing with her ****s making her whimper under his seductive ministrations.

During the smooching session, her hands roamed over his solid frame, strong shoulders, and chiselled chest; her wanton part of mind wanted to explore more and more of his bare, ****y torso. Just as her fingertips lightly brushed his nipples, Arnav puffed out a stifled breath and sat up in a straddling position with his legs spread on either side of her form.

She came back to her senses.

Taking her hands, "Touch me, Khushi. Please, I need your touch," he rasped.

"No, we must sto-"

He turned a deaf ear to her half-hearted plea and brought her hands and ran them over his sternum. Within no time, Khushi caressed his chest with an intention to satisfy him a bit. He threw his head back with his eyes closed and released a shuddered breath; gauging this reaction, she glided her fingertips, occasionally raking her nails gently, making him hiss violently in pleasure as she stopped where his jeans started.

Khushi realized that he had been craving for her and this hunger would only become more intense as the time passed. Only because of his intoxicated state his deep-buried desire burst forth and she knew that he would never cross his limits when sober. As much as she wanted intimacy with him, she couldn't do that now.

Her brief reverie changed into horror when Arnav ripped open her blouse and leaned in to kiss her again while palming her ****s.

"You provide a fine sight," he said, his eyes roaming over her almost-naked torso, gawking a couple of seconds more at her bosoms which were bracketed by a nude-coloured brasserie.

"Arnavji, No!" she shrieked in between the kiss. "This is getting.... out of hand, you ha... have to stop!"

"Oooh!" she let out a loud moan as Arnav stroked her tight peaks through her bra.

Pushing his hands away, "Please, stop!"

"No. Nothing is going to stop me tonight, I will show you how much I love you," he declared, digging his face into her ****s.

Khushi scrunched up her eyes admitting defeat, decided to give up and enjoy this experience to her heart's content without any restrictions.

About a minute passed and nothing happened. There was a heavy but pleasant weight on her chest where his face rested.

"Arnavji?" she shook him. "Arnavji?"

She carefully lifted up his face and much to her disappointed relief, she found him asleep. Taking care not to wake him up, she unwound herself from him and collapsed on the floor. She stared, stupefied, at his sleeping form on the bed, recalling the pleasurable catastrophe that took place moments before.

Lying on the floor, Khushi vowed to herself that she would never encourage Arnav to drink again.

##


Feb 17

Part - 30 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 40 times)

Please read the note at the end.

##

Arnav woke up feeling groggy. The time said it was 10 in the morning. He wondered why he was still feeling drowsy and tired despite having slept soundly. He stretched, still sitting on the bed, and smiled hazily. Air hit him as he removed the covers. Confused, he looked around his almost wrecked room and scanned his messy bed. What had happened?

His hand found pieces of white cloth in his quilt, his lips felt slightly swollen, and his chest felt oddly tingly. Looking down, he was startled to discover himself shirtless with some faint nail scratches on his chest. He picked up a bit of the cloth and upon extensive scrutinization, everything that had happened last night came back to him.

"Oh no," he whispered, holding his head.

Arnav surely felt guilty for losing control over himself. Though nothing much had happened except him making it to the second base, there were some certain boundaries he wouldn't cross had he been sober. Not that he was extremely drunk and senseless, but he was intoxicated enough to lose his self-restraint and expose a tiny part of his desire to her.

He wasn't regretting one bit, it was Khushi he was worried about. If she was sitting in her room, shaken, for what took place, he would be done! He wouldn't forgive himself. He constructed a plan to bring Khushi out of her apparently miserable state and apologize right away.

A small squeal attracted his attention. Looking up, he found a floating eye at the door. What, floating eye? He rubbed his eyes and scanned thoroughly. It wasn't any floating eye, it was Khushi. She was peeking into his room, her whole form hid behind the wall.

He was so pleased! If she herself came to his room, then it was possible that she wasn't eminently upset.

"Khushi?" he called tentatively. "Please, come in."

As she entered, he did not expect to see her that way. She was wearing a salwar suit that covered her entire body; only her head, palms, and feet were visible; her face was all red and lips were visibly well-kissed; she was holding a glass of liquid in her trembling hands; and foremostly, there was a huge, tight, nervous, fake smile etched on her face.

"I... I br... brought lemon j... juice for you," she stammered, trying hard to maintain a straight, plastic face.

His guilt increased and he needed to apologize, "Khushi, last night-"

"N... nothing happened!" she shrieked, wide-eyed.

"No, I"

"I am telling you, right!" she dashed and sat on his bed, "Nothing happened last night!"

"But-"

"You just had a glass of wine, you drove us home and we went straight to bed in our respective rooms. That's it!"

"Huh?"

"Yes," she nodded head vigorously. "I know you won't be remembering any of that because you'd had some alcohol. Your head must be hurting terribly, doesn't it?"

"What?" he asked, confused.

"Offo, Arnavji! I watched countless films where people consume alcohol and they don't remember anything happened while they were intoxicated and wake up with a splitting headache. Same happened to you also, don't worry," she handed him the glass.

"Have this, it's lemon juice. It will take care of your headache," she explained, putting up the fakest smile possible.

Arnav processed what she was thinking. His naïve Khushi thought that everyone would suffer from mini amnesia when they consumed alcohol, and she now firmly believed that he didn't remember anything that happened the previous night which could be why she was still before him, attempting to maintain a casual composure.

His mood became considerably better because he was now sure that Khushi wasn't upset but just shy. It was time for some fun!

"You're right, Khushi. I remember nothing," he said, gauging her reaction.

She sighed in relief and visibly relaxed,"Thank God!"

He frowned.

"I mean, thank God, I guessed it right," she corrected.

"You always are," he winked. "By the way, why are you dressed from head-to-toe?"

Alarmed, she squeaked, "I feel cold!"

"Really? But you are sweating too."

"It's also hot!"

"Why are your lips swollen?"

"I drank boiling tea."

"Why am I shirtless?"

"Maybe you'd taken it off during sleep."

"Any idea about these strange marks on my chest?"

"Could be an insect bite or allergy!"

"That's the blouse you wore yesterday, isn't it? Why is it torn and lying in my room?"

"I... Well... I... Enough of questions, Arnavji! Freshen up and come out, we'll have breakfast!" she almost ran out of the room.

Arnav fell back on the bed, laughing.

"Uff, Devi Maiyya, it's so warm out today! Wish I could wear my normal suits, but I can't! Because that Laad Governor has given me stupid hickeys! If he noticed them, I will be unable to answer his questions. I'm glad that he doesn't remember anything or I would die out of embarrassment."

Khushi was talking to herself while arranging breakfast after 15 minutes, unaware that Arnav was listening to her.

His heart swelled with love for her hearing her innocent self-talk. He decided he wouldn't reveal that he knew their previous night's passionate adventure and make it awkward for her, at least until they were married. He now started to feel slightly bad for putting her in this situation.

Arnav came and wrapped his arms around her from behind, resting his chin on her shoulder.

"Ah!" shrieked Khushi, startled.

"Hey, it's just me. Relax," he said.

She seemed to struggle for a bit but eventually eased up in his embrace.

"Sorry," he whispered in her ears.

"What for?" she squeaked quickly.

"For... scaring you," he replied, concealing his real reason for apologizing.

Khushi smiled, "It's alright."

He pecked her cheek and turned her to face him, "I love you, Khushi."

Arnav placed a sweet, loving kiss on her forehead.

"I love you, too," she whispered.

They sat at the table, serving food.

"So, what do you want to do today?" asked Arnav.

"Anything you like," she shrugged.

"Well, let's watch a movie. Your Salman Khan's movie came out. What say?" he looked straight at her, challengingly.

"No!" yelled Khushi at once. "I mean... He is not that important, not anymore. We'll spend time here together, but not together in that way, I mean, just talking and stuff, nothing else- Just cut off the movie plan. Especially his movie!"

Arnav had a hard time controlling laughter and keeping up a straight face, "But he's your favorite hero!"

She pretended drinking water and spoke through the tumbler, gulping down her sentence, "Ay don't ker mach bow!"

"What's this sweet aroma that filled the house?" he asked, suspiciously.

Khushi froze for a moment. What would she tell him, that she had stayed up all night making mountains of Jalebis, trying to distract herself from reliving the sensual rendezvous?

"I made them in the morning because I've been craving Jalebis like crazy!" she lied.

"But you just had them last night, a total of 20 pieces," he pointed. "Where did you get the ingredients from, anyway?"

She pestered the resort's management at midnight, but replied, "Magic!"

"But"

"In the name of Devi Maiyya, can you please remain quiet for a while, at least till we finish breakfast?" she begged, joining palms together.

Arnav snorted into his plate.

~*~

An hour later, they both settled down in the media room, watching Arnav's choice of programs, which was news, because Khushi was totally bored watching the same movies of Salman Khan and very generously gave him the power to control the TV, but he just kept checking his phone and that irked her.

"It is time," he muttered.

"Time for what?"

"You'll see."

The next second, a bell rang.

"Who could that be?" wondered Khushi.

"Go and see for yourself."

Curious, Khushi went downstairs to answer the door whereas Arnav stayed back and stood in a corner.

"AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Khushi screamed as she was engulfed in a group hug by Payal, Anjali, and Lavanya.

"What? How? When?" squeaked Khushi, letting them inside the house.

"A surprise!" exclaimed NK, hopping towards her.

"Nanheji!" said Khushi, shaking hands with him enthusiastically. "It is so good to see you all!"

Tears formed in her eyes.

"Please, Khushiji, the last thing we want to do is make you cry," said Akash, patting her shoulder.

Khushi looked at them all and gave a dazzling smile. Anjali, NK, Akash, Payal, and Lavanya; their unexpected visit took her by a pleasant surprise.

She wondered where Arnav was and soon spotted him on the first floor. He concealed his form from everyone's sight but kept peeking at them and failed at hiding his anxiety. Khushi watched Anjali also look for him. She caught Anjali's eye and nodded towards where Arnav was.

Anjali smiled gratefully.

"This place is really gorgeous. Let me give you a quick tour!" said Khushi, dragging everyone but Anjali to the backyard porch.

Anjali made her way up to Arnav, "Won't you greet us, Chote?"

Startled, he whipped his head around, "Di! I didn't see you coming."

She just pulled him into her embrace, "We are fine. We've been through this. You must eliminate your guilty conscience."

"It's hard, Di," he said, hugging her back. "It is really hard. I ran away from my family during the time of distress. This feeling.... that I neglected my duties, it's eating me up from the inside."

"You are very selfish, do you know that?" she said, moving apart.

Arnav scrunched his eyes in shame and muttered, "I know. I sought only my solace without bothering about others."

"No, idiot," she chuckled. "Selfish because you are determined to be the pillar of support to the family from the beginning. You never gave any of us a chance till now. So, this was a first and there had to be a first for everything!"

"You're joking! So, no one is upset with me then?" he asked like a child.

"Ask this question one more time, I'll smack you hard across the face! God, numerous times we've assured you and you still ask!"

Arnav broke into a smile at his sister's exasperated expression.

"Seriously, Chote. We know you are the most affected, and it is okay not to be the head of the house for once and give the position to your sister."

"Di, come on," he laughed.

"What? I'm not joking," she laughed. "You have always been there for us. Now, be a good boy, wipe out all of those rubbish notions from your mind, and get back to your normal self."

"It will take a while, Di."

"I know," she cupped his face, "we are waiting."

Arnav smiled and pecked her forehead.

"Shall we go and meet the others now?" asked Anjali.

"Sure."

"Oh, God, I almost forgot!" she said loudly.

"What?"

"I collected papa's diary entries from many diaries about how much he loved you. I brought them with me now," she said, digging her hand into the bag, "in a hope that it'll assuage your remorse."

Arnav was mortified.

"Here," she produced a bundle of papers from her bag and handed them to Arnav.

"Di, please!" he stepped backward. "Never, I mean NEVER make me read ANYONE'S personal diary entries, even Papa's. Also, I plead you to abort this freaky mission."

"What? I thought this would help" said Anjali, dashed.

"I don't need this help, for goodness' sake!" he joined his palms together. "Take them out of my sight, I beg you!"

Anjali burst out laughing and put the bundle back in her bag.

She knew it was wrong to read someone's diary, but she was simply desperate to help her brother in any way it was possible to her.

"Whoa, what's all this laughter?" said a voice.

The quintet joined Anjali and Arnav.

"What happened, Di?" asked Khushi.

"Nothing, Khushiji," replied Anjali, controlling her laughter.

NK launched himself at Arnav.

"Nannav, how's this surprise, bro? Aren't you delighted I'm here?" he yelled in Arnav's ears.

"I knew you guys were arriving, Aman informed me. And no, I'm least delighted that you're here," said Arnav, pushing NK apart.

"Oooh, sneaky Nannav! Never admits that you adore me," said NK, poking in Arnav's stomach.

"Whatever," Arnav hid a smile.

He went near Akash and Payal.

"Are you both alright?" he asked softly.

Akash swiftly hugged Arnav and replied, "Better, now that we are together."

His gaze moved to Payal, "I'm sorry, Payal, Akash.... Your baby... I couldn't do anyt"

"It just wasn't the right time, I think. But I strongly believe that she will come back to us, Arnavji," Payal assured him.

His heart felt lighter.

Everyone settled down in the drawing room and immediately began jabbering; they all seemed way better than the last time Arnav had seen them. He was delighted to see them chattering away nineteen to the dozen about every nonsense topic found in the world because that was how his family would be all the time.

5 minutes later, Khushi emerged from the Kitchen with a mountain of Jalebis, jugs of tea, and piles of hot pakoda. Arnav concluded that Khushi indeed had spent the whole night cooking. He must be feeling bad but somehow he almost died trying to keep laughter in check, recalling the rendezvous.

Wasting no minute, they all right away dived in while catching up with the things they missed in either place.

"We were about to get back to Delhi tomorrow night anyway. You all should have come a few days earlier; we would have had a blast here. This place is amazing!" said Khushi.

"Yeah, Di updated about happenings here," said NK. "We'll roam around every place today!"

"Oh, Khushi!" said Payal. "You really went to Maasa's, I mean, your house yesterday?"

Khushi's eyes twinkled, "Yes, Jiji. Arnavji gave me the most lovely surprise," she said, looking adoringly at Arnav.

"I wish I was here yesterday, would have been really great! Maasa was always ready to bring me here during the holidays with you but Nanaji didn't allow me," sighed Payal.

"Ow, we will surely visit some other time, Jiji. And then I will share my adventures there."

"Guys, why don't we all go there now?" yelled NK.

Lavanya smacked his head, "No need to yell, Sharma."

"Come on, it'll be fun!" said NK, rubbing his head. "We get to explore the city and check out the house at the same time. We have nothing much to do here anyway."

Except for NK, everyone apprehensively looked at Arnav for him to say something.

"Alright. We'll start in 10 minutes," he said, putting NK to rest since he was practically shaking with exhilaration at the idea. "It'll be one hour drive and we'd reach there by 12 PM"

Arnav trailed off because everyone just scrambled away to get their bags, only Khushi stayed.

"Are you sure? You didn't want to stay over at night yesterday," she said.

"I still say the same. We would start back by 6 PM so that we'll get home safely by 7-"

She rushed away too.

"Right, great co-operation."

~*~

They soon headed off to Khushi's place, packed up together in a 7-seater Innova with Arnav driving the car. Their constant yapping, high-pitched debates, and shrieks of thrill gave him a mild headache. He constructed a plan for the day and wanted everyone to act according to it too, but would our batch pay any heed?

Arnav had to pull over often as they wanted to click pictures of themselves and the breath-taking scenery. It seemed okay at first but later he was demanded to stop while in the middle of the Ghat road, not once, every 2 minutes. He got so vexed that he yelled at everyone and threatened them to shut up or he'd drive off the mountain. That held them back for a maximum of 5 minutes until Anjali wanted to see the waterfall on the way.

The waterfall trip had swallowed 2 hours of Arnav's perfect-one-day-tour schedule and that pissed him. Lucky that they took pairs of extra clothes because everyone had taken a dunk in the water; NK and Khushi took the pleasure to pull Arnav in with them. He allowed himself 10 minutes of fun in the water; splashing water at the others, the natural waterslide race with his brothers, and playing-dead, almost causing Khushi and Anjali's heart fail.

Once back in the car, they complained how sore their muscles became and vowed that next stop would be only at Khushi's place. After 20 minutes of a peaceful and silent journey (for Arnav), everyone begged him to draw up at a nearby dhaba as they were "starving to death". Unlucky for Arnav, that dhaba happened to be near an amu****t pier. One glance and he compromised himself a minimum of another 2 hours.

Consuming only a tiny portion of food; NK and Lavanya set off to parasailing together; Akash and Payal went on a stroll traversing through the stalls; Khushi and Anjali took on the amu****t arcade section and romped as if they were having the time of their life. Arnav waited and waited and waited and finally joined them at the pier. Once the 7 met up back together, they went on some of the rides before deciding not to provoke Arnav further and obey whatever he said henceforth.

They were supposed to reach their destination by 12 PM and now it was 6 in the evening. Arnav indeed had had a great time, but he was disappointed as they were very behind the schedule and it was too late when they got to Khushi's place.

"What happened, Chote? Why the long face?" asked Anjali, tapping on his shoulder.

He sighed, watching the others galloping inside the house.

"I wanted everyone to have a good time, Di. And see, here we are hours delayed."

"You must be joking!" said Anjali in disbelief. "We were delayed because we actually enjoyed during the journey. What did you think we'd do coming here, stare at each other's faces in the dark for hours?"

"But, but" he stuttered, blinking, at the dawning realization.

"You are sometimes stupid, dear Harvard-genius brother. This was the most fun we've had in a long time."

He watched Anjali join the others in the building.

Later, they all spent time exploring the building with Khushi narrating the stories she remembered; seeing the long corridor of family portraits; digging through chests they'd discovered in the rooms; finally, the prank NK and Khushi pulled attempting to scare everyone disguised as ghosts and failed miserably. She got told off for playing such a terrible joke in the house where she got back her childhood.

As the night ascended, Arnav eased up and suggested that they spend the night there and start the journey back afresh the next morning leisurely. But NK insisted they return to Vizag that night itself. After having a tummy-full of food at a restaurant, they began their way back home.

"Oh my God! I'm too exhausted and too sore," said Lavanya, pressing her limb joints.

"Same here," said Akash.

"Me too," agreed Payal and Anjali.

Arnav stole a glance at Khushi who was trying her best to put up a pleasant and I'm-not-at-all-tired-this-is-normal face and smirked.

"Had you guys not jumped into everything in the name of fun like crazy, maybe you wouldn't have been this worn out," he remarked.

"But Nannav, we had loads and loads of fun. That is the point," said NK, moaning in pain.

"So did I. But am I whining like a puppy? Next time, draw a line and do not allow yourself to enjoy beyond the line."

"We're not saints like you to hold up. We just live in the moment," said Khushi.

"And whimper like a wounded animal later," he grinned.

"For your information, I'm totally fine," said Khushi.

"Yeah, I can see that," retorted Arnav.

Before they could continue their argument, Anjali decided to cut in, "I'm gonna hit straight the bed once reached home."

"Yea..." came responses.

"There are 4 rooms in the guest house. Akash and Payal will take one; other ladies will share the master bedroom coz it's got the biggest bed; NK will bunk in the other room," said Arnav.

"No way, dude. I'm not gonna sleep in a room by myself. This is a new place, I cannot get any sleep when I'm alone," said NK.

"You have your own room at Shantivan."

"That's home. I pay a visit every year."

"Then it's your problem."

"Can I sleep in your room, Nannav?" asked NK cutely.

"Not a chance."

"Why not?"

"Coz' you ugly," laughed Arnav.

"But I'm the youngest brother!"

"You are older than Akash."

"He's not sleeping alone!"

As Arnav opened his mouth to retort, Khushi cut them in.

"Hey Devi Maiyya! Why are you fighting over sleeping arrangements?"

"We're not fighting"

"He's being mean"

"NO. Not one word," said Khushi. "I've got a better idea."

~*~

"Thank you, Divyaji, Charanji," said Khushi, dismissing the house-attendants.

"Khushiji, this is a really awesome idea," said Anjali, sitting on the mattress and everyone agreed.

It was almost 11 at night and they Khushi got the resort management to arrange mattresses on the terrace for everyone so that they could enjoy the night under the stars.

"Yeah, cool atmosphere, twinkling sky, moonlight kissing your beautiful face, I like it," whispered Arnav in her ears, making her blush.

"Khushi, do you remember we used to sleep like this during power outages in our childhood?" said Payal.

"Ha, Jiji! Amma used to tell us stories."

"She would try. You always interrupted her asking silly questions and I would fall asleep listening to your stupid queries instead of a bed-time story," said Payal.

Everyone laughed.

"Man, today was incredibly wonderful," said NK. "I love our family but it was a good thing they went on a pilgrimage. See, we are youth, okay? We have to have fun with people of our age rather than oldies like Masi."

A ding was heard.

"NK, bhai. This recent statement of yours has been sent to Mami," said Anjali, giggling.

They all burst out laughing.

"Oh, Di, no, you did not!"

"Yes, I did," she winked.

"I'm damned, she'll kill me! Well, at least I'm flying off to Sydney tomorrow, I'd be safe," said NK.

Except for Khushi and Lavanya, everyone fell sad at that.

"What? You are leaving?" shrieked Khushi.

"Yes, Khushiji. Me and Lavanya together. It's been many months since I've come to India. Ma's really mad at me. I'll go for a couple of weeks and will return before sangeet with Ma and Dad."

"But no one told me!" yelled Khushi. "Even you, Lavanya?"

"Ha, Chamkili. NK promised me to 'show' Sydney around and very royally brushed off the fact that I'd spent 3 years of my life there to graduate. I'd stay a week and take off to London to my family. But I promise I'll be back before your wedding."

Khushi looked close to tears. Her 2 best friends were leaving.

"Aw, don't cry."

Lavanya came near and hugged her sideways.

"I.. I will miss you," hiccupped Khushi.

"So will we, Khushiji," said NK, coming to her side and sitting next to her, pushing Arnav away.

"It never occurred to me that you would leave."

"We'll be back soon, Chamkili," said Lavanya.

"You promise?"

"Do you really think I'd let go of my chances to torture Nannav?" said NK.

Khushi chuckled through her tears.

"That's it. If messing with Nannav would bring a smile to your face, I'd keep doing that," declared NK.

"I'll break your nose," warned Arnav.

Everyone burst out into laughter at that.

"What time is the flight, NK bhai?" asked Akash.

"Tomorrow morning at 10."

"Oh, then we'll have to start by 8. After you left, we would take off to Delhi. Have to alert them to keep the jet ready"

"Can you not make plans for a while?" rasped Khushi.

"Okay, as a farewell treat, let's have some drinks!" said NK.

"I'm down for it," said Lavanya.

"NO!" yelled Khushi.

Except for Arnav who knew the reason, everyone else was startled.

"But Khushiji, why not?" asked NK.

"Yes, Khushi, why not?" asked Arnav innocently. "You forced me to drink yesterday and declared that you weren't the type of lady who'd make a fuss out of it. What happened now?"

"I made myself clear!"

"Please, Khushiji, the weather's awesome and this is a great time," said NK.

Khushi melted at NK's request.

"Only if Di and Jiji"

"They're free to enjoy," they said together.

Sighing, "Fine."

"Yaayyy!" NK and Lavanya went to order in drinks.

"You are not drinking!" growled Khushi in Arnav's ears.

He held up his hands in surrender, hiding his grin.

"Khushiji, come here," signaled Anjali.

"Yes, Di?" asked Khushi.

Anjali pointed at NK and Lavanya who were laughing.

"They're cute together, aren't they?" purred Anjali.

"Devi Maiyya! I always thought the same! Are they together?" she asked.

"Not yet, but I've always observed them. They obviously are into each other but never opened up. It is very visible."

"We've got to do something, Di."

"We sure will do."

##

NOTE –

• There's nothing much to continue the story further. I was actually supposed to end it by 20 but here we are in 30. Do you also feel like I'm dragging this up? Should I end this quick or take it a bit slow?

• I cannot give any updates until March 15th because I have my boards coming in 2 weeks. If any of my family members caught me on my computer, that's it, I'm grounded. Please bear with me and wish me good luck to survive this war.

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