FF : Plot twist

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Mar 28

Part - 31 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 39 times)



The night had fallen and the sky was inky with specks of twinkling stars shining all over it. The cool breezes hit the two figures who sat, relaxed, on the floor, revelling the serenity. While one was talking away the night, the other was admiring the beauty opposite him.

"I still cannot believe, NK, that it has already been 10 days since we've arrived here. I've had tons of fun! Seriously, I spent 3 years during my graduation here in Sydney and there was so much more left unexplored. I've covered all of it now, though. Thanks to you," winked Lavanya.

NK was looking at her dreamily.

"Also, I have to admit, you are a very cool boss. I noticed when you took me to your office that your staff seemed very free and comfortable working under you. It's a wonder that you, a brainless idiot, are managing the huge PR constructions effortlessly," she joked, hoping to get a reaction out of him.

Lavanya flushed slightly under his unwavering gaze.

"And your parents are just amazing and lovely. They've made me feel home. See this," she held up her hand to show a shimmering white bracelet, "Your mother gifted me. Isn't it just beautiful? And your father gave me the chicest shades in the world. Wearing them, I'd look like a total badass B! He's just the coolest man on earth!"

NK continued to gaze at her unblinkingly.

She snapped her fingers and said, "Hello, boss! I'm going back to London tomorrow. Are you going to sit this way all night like a statue? Say something."

"I love you," said NK.

That was the last thing Lavanya expected to hear from him at that time. Nevertheless, her heart skipped a few beats, stomach fluttered excitedly and eyes twinkled. She was unaware of this reaction.

NK was taken aback by his own words. It just slipped out of his mouth. He never realized that he was in love with Lavanya, but at that moment, he did.

Lavanya remained still, gaping at him.

Looking deep into her eyes, he leaned forward inching closer to kiss her. He waited for her to stop him or just slap him but instead, she closed her eyes and pressed her lips to his. Their breaths mingled, heart pounded rapidly as they deepened the kiss.

He cupped her face, tracing her pretty dimples and repeated, "I love you."

Lavanya suddenly broke the kiss and pushed him at the chest. Both of their trances were broken. NK looked at her, confused. Her face reflected her inner turmoil as she stood up. He followed her suit hastily.

"Lav, what happened?"

"No, NK. This cannot happen," she whispered.

"What? Why not?" He came forward and gently held her by the shoulders, "I love you, Lavanya. I've been in love with you for a long time. I just realized it."

"This is wrong, NK. We cannot do this," her voice trembled.

"What do you mean?"

"Ju... just don't prod further!"

"Don't block out your feelings, Lavanya. You also love me. I can feel it," smiled NK.

"No, I don't love you!"

"Then why did you let me kiss you? Why have you responded to it?"

"I.... I.... I don't.... It doesn't mean anything, NK. You are just my friend. We cannot do this. I don't love you!"

He wiped her tears away and whispered, "Then why are you crying?"

She gasped, surprised, and touched her cheeks. They were wet. She didn't realize that she was crying.

Seeing her state, he gently led her to a chair, made her sit on it and knelt before her.

"It's alright, Lav. Take your time. Just analyze your emotions, and then you'll also realize that you love me," said NK, hopefully, with a smile.

"No, NK. It must not happen. You are a forbidden territory," she mumbled.

"Forbidden?"

She took in a shuddered, deep breath.

"I was almost engaged to ASR months ago. I am his ex-girlfriend. I was the one who attempted to have a live-in relationship with him. I was in love with him, but I broke it off because I realized that he loved Khushi. You are his brother, which is why we cannot get into any relationship!" she said it all in one breath as if she had been meaning to say it for a long time.

NK was stupefied at the revelation.

Lavanya then told the story of how Arnav and she got into a platonic relationship, how he took her to Shantivan for live-in to prove Nani wrong, how Khushi was hired to train her, how she changed and why they had broken it all off.

After she was done speaking, she searched his face for a disgusted expression, as if expecting him to throw dirty looks at her. But NK's mouth formed an 'O', and there was a pleasant enlightened expression as if he had just understood a complex Integration formula.

"That's it? The suspense you've maintained all these months, I thought you were a secret terrorist or something," he said, chuckling weakly.

"NK, please. This is not a joke!"

"I'm serious. I seriously suspected if you were an assassin who spied on our family before Khushiji changed you into a good person," said NK, earnestly.

Lavanya chuckled through the tears despite herself.

"You are impossible," she clutched his collar and collapsed on him, crying.

NK just let her. He kept rubbing her back until her weeping subsided and she composed herself.

"Do you now understand why we cannot be together?" she asked.

"No, I don't," he said with a straight face.

"What? I've just told you! ASR was my boyfriend!"

"So what? Do you still love him?"

"NO!" she screamed.

"Then I don't see any reason why we cannot be together."

"I dated many guys. Top mostly, I almost got engaged to ASR!"

"I've had girlfriends too!" He raised his voice for the first time. "But they are in my past, Lavanya. I see you in the present and I want YOU in my future, no one else."

"ASR is your brother!"

"Just why the **** are you stuck to that unreasonably stupid point like a maniac"

He was cut short as he received a slap.

"Get it inside your head, you are out of bounds! We cannot be together," declared Lavanya before running away.

NK watched her leaving figure, crestfallen, and collapsed down. He knew it was over before it had even started.

He woke up with a jerk and clutched his pounding heart. It had been a couple of weeks since that incident took place but he still couldn't forget it. How could he? Now that he got drifted far away from Lavanya, he realized to what extent he loved her. It was torture thinking about her, dreaming of her, seeing their future together but getting rejected his every message, call or any method to contact her by her. She completely shut him out and it was killing him.

'Good morning, Lav. Your Sharma's awake now and he'll be eagerly awaiting for your reply. Have a lovely day thinking about me ;) Love- NK.'

He hit send, wiping a tear that escaped his eyes. NK knew she wouldn't respond to him, but nevertheless, he couldn't stop trying or hoping.

As he finished that daily ritual, he quickly showered and went downstairs. Everyone else was having a great time, their laughter was echoing in the house. The Guptas were there too. The elders were having talks about the impending marriage of Arnav and Khushi.

NK along with his parents, Preethi and Raj, landed in Shantivan 2 days ago. The wedding was just a week away. The preparations began with a full swing and the pre-wedding rituals would be taking place in the upcoming days. He made too many plans to enjoy these moments, but at the moment he was feeling too empty and hollow.

The past 2 days he had spent locked up in his room not wishing to speak with anyone. He would come out and take a few morsels of food just for the sake of eating and would disappear into his room giving an excuse of jet lag. Rest of the time, he would try his best to get into contact with Lavanya and failed every time.

He bit a piece of toast and declared that he'd had his fill, before joining the others in the drawing room.

Khushi and Payal were being forced by the sweet Preethi to choose jewelry and sarees from the piles before them. On the other side, there was a display of holiday/honeymoon destination plans by the cool Raj. Their pleading expressions were shrugged off by the other ladies.

"Maaji, please. This is so unnecessary," said Payal, trying to wriggle out of Preethi's hold.

Preethi caught her tight and declared, "Nothing doing! I couldn't attend your wedding due to some emergencies. I still cannot believe I missed MY Aku's wedding! You HAVE to accept these presents."

Trying to sneak off, Khushi muttered, "Take your time, Mamiji, I will leave"

"Where do you think you are going?" Preethi caught Khushi. "You are going to be my Arnav bitwa's wife. You also cannot be spared!"

Payal and Khushi sighed in defeat.

"Rao-ji, show some more models. These are not great. I need the best for these two beautiful dolls," said Preethi, pinching their chins with a smile.

"Dear daughters, if you are bored, come and explore these wonderful destinations. Choose one, two, or even many!" chirped Raj.

"Hello Hai Bye Bye, this subject is not in the syllabus for my Bahus. Approach Arnav and Akash bitwa," said Mami, checking her make-up in a mirror.

Arnav and Akash, who were pleasantly discussing business, was ruthlessly bombarded by Raj.

Preethi, who had just noticed NK, said, "Nandu, when did you come down?"

NK gave a weak smile, "Just now."

"Have you eaten anything? Are you feeling better now?" she asked, concerned.

"Yes, Mom. I've eaten and am feeling loads better," lied NK. "I'm just too drowsy. Let me rest for a while."

Everyone watched him walk away weakly and felt worried at his unusual behavior, though no one voiced it out. They resumed their respective businesses.

Arnav came and sat beside Khushi.

"Done with the selection already?" asked Khushi, surprised.

"Nope. I avoided it and dodged it to Akash," grinned Arnav.

Khushi glanced at a very reluctant yet obedient Akash being assaulted by Raj's affection.

Raj and Preethi were genuinely warm and sweet. The only con was they shower everyone with too much affection to the point that they wouldn't notice other's discomfort. Raizadas and the Guptas shared the same notion.

"Done with your business talk that you've suddenly remembered me?" whispered Khushi.

"You are always on my mind."

"Even moments ago during your business talk?" she mocked.

"That was an exception."

Khushi rolled her eyes and reached out to take a necklace box, but Arnav stopped her.

"Not that," he leaned over and took an antique gold necklace. "This one."

Arnav trailed his fingers over her cheeks, to her collar bones, and over her neck, causing her to quiver, before clasping the hook. He nuzzled into her nape and rested his chin on her shoulder, pretending to examine the necklace on her from the mirror in front of her.

"Perfect," he breathed, his lips brushing against her jawline.

Khushi quickly glanced around and found everyone determinedly not looking at their direction, but their expression gave away that they all were suppressing smiles. Khushi sighed for obvious reasons and Arnav smirked.

Preethi called HP who was passing by, and asked, "HP, had Nandu really eaten anything?"

"No, Mamiji. He just took a small toast. Not just now, Mamiji, he's not been eating properly since you've arrived here," answered HP.

Preethi frowned, mumbling, "What's wrong with him? He's being very off lately."

"Mami, I think he is just tired. Don't worry, he'll be fine soon. It is not my NK bhai's style to remain dull," assured Anjali.

"No, Anju, he's been like this for weeks. To be precise, since his friend Lavanya left. Something is bothering him."

Khushi and Anjali quickly exchanged glances and nodded. The next minute, they were seen sitting before NK in his room. Indeed something was bothering him badly. They'd never seen him that gloomy and dispirited. It pained them seeing him that way.

"Tell us, Nanheji, is something wrong?" asked Khushi.

He shook his head in 'No', eyes downcast.

Anjali moved close to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, patting there in a comforting manner.

"You do realize that you cannot hide from us, don't you?" whispered Anjali.

NK slowly lifted his gaze to her, she was smiling softly.

"We are your sisters and we love you."

The warmth in their eyes melted something in his heart. His eyes turned moist.

"Please, tell us what is hurting you, Nanheji," said Khushi, weeping soundlessly.

NK wiped his tears and said, "Why didn't you tell me.... that Nannav and Lavanya...."

Anjali and Khushi gasped. They were suspecting that NK's dejection must have something to do with Lavanya, and he had just confirmed it. They already constructed a couple of foolproof plans to bring NK and Lavanya together when they returned for the wedding and made speeches to boost NK up. All of that hard work probably had gone useless now.

"Just what happened?" asked Anjali.

NK then retold them the events of that night.

"Why didn't you mention it?" he asked them. "I always suspected that something must have happened to her in here given that she was always evasive about some certain details in her life. She took care not to let slip anything."

Anjali and Khushi remained silent, not knowing what to respond.

"Not that it matters to me, but why didn't you tell me about her relationship with Nannav?"

"I never thought it was a wise idea to bring up the bitter past," muttered Khushi. "She was hurt when she left and it was partially my fault."

Anjali clutched her hand and said to NK, "It was hardly a good news that one would announce it to the world."

"We were meaning to tell you, Nanheji, believe us. For a long time, we sensed something must be cooking between you both and even made plans to bring you together, but you just shut yourself inside."

"It's alright, I understand."

"No, you must get it! Chote never had a proper relationship with her but she—She expected more from him and hoped-"

"Di, I know my brother, he's sometimes a thick head and acts like a jerk," NK chuckled weakly. "And I know my love. She is clearly over him and she reciprocates my feelings. It's just that she feels it is wrong to be with me because of the history with you Raizadas."

"What? No, this is ridiculous! I... I will talk to her. Di and I will convince her.... You don't take the stress, Nanheji. She will-"

"Come to me? Yes. I know it," he said. "It's just a matter of time before she acknowledges her feelings towards me, leaves behind the insecurities and comes running to me."

"No, let us do som"

"Di, no. Please, don't do anything. At least for now. She has to analyze on her own," stated NK.

Anjali was about to say something but Khushi held her hand and signaled her to remain silent. Anjali nodded.

"We will take your leave. You take rest, Nanheji," said Khushi as she got up with Anjali.

As they were leaving the room, NK said, "Guys, I really do appreciate your willingness to help. Please don't take me wrong. I just"

"We understand."

They closed the door behind them and headed downstairs.

"What do we do now, Khushiji? We have to do something! Let me call her now"

"Di, wait. We will not do anything as Nanheji requested. We must respect his wish."

"But he is hurtin"

"Just for a few days, or a couple of weeks. Did you notice him before? He was so hopeful and sure that his belief reflected in his eyes when he said she'd come to him."

"I noticed, too. But if we just talked to her..."

"Please, Di, for me. Don't force her. I have snatched her future dreams from her once before, I do not wish to ruin it another time."

"No, Khushiji, don't think like that. That was not true. You weren't at fault at all and you know that! You don't have to be guilty."

"Maybe..." mumbled Khushi. "But I cannot rush her though. At least not until Nanheji or Lavanya needed my help."

Anjali smiled assuringly.

"Anju! Come here quickly, please!" came a voice from down below.

Sighing, Anjali said, "Now it's my turn to face Preethi Mami's love."

Khushi giggled and scanned around from above. Raj and Preethi's onslaught hadn't stopped. They were now attacking the others, offering their generous presents, not taking any 'No'. Arnav, Akash, and Payal sat together away from everyone, laughing, apparently making jokes about the condition of the others.

"Oh no!" said Anjali.

"What happened, Di?"

"Chotu has just snuck into Chote's room, I've seen him. He always enjoys slipping into Chote's cupboard and nibbles on his files. Khushiji, please go and get him, or Chote will get raging mad."

[For those who don't remember, Chotu is Anjali's pet Guinea Pig]

Khushi rushed to Arnav's room and as Anjali predicted, Chotu was feasting on some official documents. She dashed to the cabinet next to the cupboard and picked him up from the downmost drawer.

"Chotuji, didn't you find anything other than my Arnavji's stuff to feast on? Now go, there is Buaji's bag in the hallway. Enjoy yourself," said Khushi before setting Chotu down.

Chotu galloped away with a piece of paper stuck to his mouth.

"Hey Devi Maiyya! What if that was something important?"

Khushi knelt down and hastily pulled open the drawer to check on the documents. Her heart dropped seeing bits of brown envelop everywhere in the drawer. Everyone knew how much Arnav valued his files and would store them carefully. If he found this, Chotu along with Anjali, and Khushi would be gone!

She took out the contents of the envelope and scrutinized it. It was a photograph.

'Retributive Justice' was written on the back of it.

Curious, Khushi flipped it and what she saw shook her to the core. One glance at the picture, her whole form trembled with terror. Sweat beads formed, hands shivered and her heart raced wildly. Suddenly feeling a violent wave of nausea, she made a dash to the washroom and threw up. After emptying her stomach, she wobbled her way out and collapsed down on the floor leaning against the cupboard.

Moments later, Arnav walked in. His heart dropped looking at her state and bolted towards her. He knelt before Khushi and gently clutched her by the shoulder, patting her cheeks.

"Khushi, what happened? Have you fallen down? Are you hurt? You are shivering, do you have a fever?" he asked, checking her forehead.

Khushi swatted his hand away and steadily got to her feet.

The look of terror on her face and disbelief in her eyes confused him.

"Khushi, is something wrong?" he asked, tentatively.

She produced the photograph, flashed it in his face, and questioned fiercely, "What is this?"

It was the picture of Ankush Malik with fatal burns and wounds, whip impressions all over the body, severed limbs and tongue, lying in the pool of his own blood.

Blood drained from Arnav's face. He began to hyperventilate, his heart started thudding violently. Unable to meet her eyes, he turned away, but Khushi caught him by the shoulder and twisted him to face her.

"And what is this 'Retributive Justice'?" stressed Khushi.

He opened his mouth but no words came out.

"Answer me! Did you do this to him?"

"Where did you find it?"

"First answer my question!"

"Don't you know that it's bad manners to peek into other's stuff?" his voice was low but underlying fury could be sensed.

"Did you torture him?"

"Being my fiancé doesn't give you all rights over me. There are some certain boundaries!"

"Is he dead?"

"Well, yeah what else can I expect from a woman who has a cheap mentality of a low-class scum!"

That hit her.

"Wha... what did you say? Tell me you don't mean it," he voice broke.

"Of course, I do mean it!" his voice was strained.

"Please, Arnavji, I am trying to help you. Don't shut me out this way."

He gripped her wrist tightly and yanked her close, "I don't need any ****ing help from you! This is my life and I do what I want! You are no one to control me!"

"Arnavji, let go, it is hurting," she pleaded, tears streaming down.

He dragged her and pushed her out of his room.

"Just go away!" he yelled before slamming the door on her face.

Khushi stood trembling, wiped her tears and rubbed the spots where Arnav clutched her harshly, leaving red marks on her fragile skin.

Everyone came rushing to her.

"Khushi bitiya, what happened? Are you okay?"

"We heard Chote yelling."

"Say something, Khushi. Have you had a fight?"

"Oh God! You seem very weak! Did he hurt you?"

"Chote, come out this instant!"

But Khushi stopped Anjali.

Still looking at the door, she whispered, "I need to leave."

##

Yeah, yeah, I'm still alive! I've survived the war but took too long to recover.

Jokes apart, sorry for being very late. The exams are over and they went well. It took me a couple of weeks to overcome that hangover.

Another sorry for the ****py update. My mind's just blocked and I'm being unable to think properly. Some of you might feel down reading this sad chapter, but I promise I'll make it up to you. Just trust me.

Since almost all of you wanted to go my way with the story, I've decided to go by it, which is I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to write! But trust me I will end this torture soon and wrap up in a couple of updates.

##

Apr 3

Part - 32 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 53 times)

Making as less noise as possible, Khushi opened the door and tiptoed inside Arnav's room. The whole room was dark, eerily silent, and still. The dull lamps in the poolside were the only source of the provision of light. Plants swaying in the gentle breeze of the cool air did not soothe Arnav who was gazing into the non-being. Khushi inhaled deeply as she approached him.

"I thought you wouldn't come back," he said before she could even announce her presence.

Though surprised at his ability to sense her presence, she quickly composed herself.

"And what made you think like that?" she asked.

"You know, after what all I had called you yesterday," his voice cracked.

"Well, I would have disappeared the next moment from your life had you really meant it."

Khushi heard his sharp intake of breath but there was no change in his position. She approached and sat next to him, looking intently at his face.

"What makes you think that I did not mean it?" he asked, his eyes shut tightly.

"2 reasons," said Khushi. "One – You wouldn't have snuck into my room last night and apologized to me believing that I was asleep."

She softly smiled at him as he snapped his head towards her.

The previous night, Khushi was wide awake when Arnav sneaked into her room. She pretended to be sleeping to see what he'd do. Repeating the words "I'm sorry, Khushi" in a whisper over and over again while kneeling down before her sleeping form on the bed, he departed. She swore she felt some wetness on her cheeks when he kissed her forehead before leaving.

"And two – Unfortunately, for you, I presume I know pretty well on how your brain works. It's mostly possible that I know you too aptly."

His eyebrows furrowed.



"I noticed the look you have on your face as you slammed the door on me. I remembered the same look in our past before you would hurt me, for example - Diwali night. You only have admitted to me many times that you cause me pain emotionally to guard yourself and your heart. You would hide behind ASR because you were scared."

Arnav gazed at her, amazed. He was marveled realizing the deep synchronized connection of their hearts. How could one understand anyone this well?

"I saw the same fright hidden deep in you and sensed some odd panic, which I've never noticed before. I assumed there must be something big frightening you, and left without uttering a single word to anyone. "

Arnav exhaled deeply and visibly eased up hearing her confession.

"Needless to say, I am very disappointed in you, Arnavji," she stated with a stern expression.

That melted away his moment of relaxation as he hung his face down, eyes shut tightly.

"Please, Khushi. Please say anything but that. I will die... literally, I will die of shame! No, please, no" he pleaded getting hysterical.

Khushi gently held his hand and said,"I am disappointed because you let ASR take over you once again. You went back to your formal self as you were when you hated me."

He opened his mouth to protest but she didn't let him.

"Has nothing changed? Have I not changed you, not even one bit? Are we back to how we were before, cold and distant? You decided to bury dark secrets in you when you could have confided in me. When confronted, you basically ran away from the situation by pushing me away. "

His face was reflecting his inner turmoil and Khushi relented. She turned his face to her and softly asked, "Everyone says you've gone into isolation since yesterday. I asked them to give you some space. Are 30 hours enough or do you need more time?"

Arnav chuckled weakly and she smiled.

"Do you want to talk?"

He, at once, laid his head on her lap, and whispered, "Just tell me once that you don't hate me. Please."

"I will always love you, no matter what," she pecked his forehead.

Breathing in sharply, "I was scared, Khushi, I was terrified. I disregarded my morals and brought hell upon Ankush, punishing him fatally just in the name of avenging our family. Did it satisfy me? Yes! It hell did! Every time I remembered the cruel way he destroyed our life, I would come and see this picture and reminisce the torture I inflicted upon him. It numbs the raging demon in me. It comforts me..."

Khushi flinched at the savage sadism that was making Arnav happy. Her stomach churned as the picture flashed through her mind. She felt sick remembering it.

"But since I have put aside my principles to torture him, my guilty conscience is suffocating me. I knew that none of you would be proud of me for that. I wouldn't be able to bear seeing the disappointment in your eyes. What if you compared me to him? What if you called me a monster, that he and I are same? I would die."

Arnav's voice cracked, his heart thumped wildly at the mere idea of that.

"That's the reason I never told anyone," looking straight into her eyes, "Not even you. It's not because I didn't trust you enough or I was the same ASR, I was simply scared of losing you. I still get nightmares, Khushi. My parents and grandparents would curse me in them. Their expression shattered me even if they were just my dreams, and I couldn't withstand the same look in everyone. Especially you."

A tear leaked out as looked at her.

"I'm really sorry, Khushi, for hurting you knowingly, yet again, with my sharp tongue and pricking words to chase you away before you told everyone. I admit that was cowardly and selfish of me. I'm sorry. Please forgive me."

Khushi held his hand and nodded her head, and he knew he was forgiven. Arnav thought he couldn't get any luckier. As he looked at her, his heart swelled with love.

"This will remain between us both," she declared as she hugged him.

He couldn't want anything more.

Moments later, hand-in-hand, they together descended to their family. Everyone looked gloomy and apprehensive. It seemed as if they all were discussing all the possible reasons on which Arnav and Khushi might have fought about, but he was no more afraid as he knew that his secret was safe with Khushi.

"Well, what are you looking at? Shall we continue the plans for the Sangeet? We have a very short time," he said very casually.

~*~

There were only 5 days to the wedding, and today was the Sangeet. They were going to conduct Sangeet, Mehendi, and Haldi on the following days without any gap, leaving one day free before the marriage. They took a whole two months just for planning the pre-wedding rituals, yet the time wasn't enough.

Shantivan was magnificently embellished with sparkling varieties of bright colors of fairy lights, confetti, and balloons, and a huge dais had been set up in the middle of the drawing room. All the guests were being served with beverages; they couldn't stop gawking at the lavish arrangements for the Sangeet. But the Raizadas and the Guptas were in a complete chaos.

At first, Khushi thought to keep the theme of Sangeet as 'Women VS Men' as opposed to Payash's sangeet 'Raizadas VS Guptas'. Arnav was totally fine with anything Khushi or anyone suggested as long as he didn't have to participate in them. This theme was almost finalized but the male population had had second thoughts regarding their dancing abilities and canceled it stating that there was female domination in both the families.

Khushi insisted that the theme should be light-hearted and cheerful considering her best friend's condition who was getting gloomy with every passing second. After many chaotic discussions, 'Duets' had been finalized. They wrote down the willing participants' names in papers and picked them up. Nani and Anjali, Akash and Garima, Payal and Manorama, Raj and Manohar, Madhumati and Preethi, and many other family friends were to dance in pairs.

No matter how hard Khushi tired, she couldn't avoid everyone turning their Sangeet into a fierce competition. To make matters worse, they persisted Arnav and Khushi to be the judges. People practiced their dance performances in secret in order to ensure no one copied one another's talent. All Arnav and Khushi ever wanted was a smooth, enjoyable evening; not some war and the war was about to begin soon.

Sulking, Khushi was waiting in a guest room as she was strictly ordered not to step out of the room. She couldn't even talk to Arnav because he was on an important business call. On one hand, she was wasting away due to boredom, and on the other hand, she was dreading the upcoming "competition" since she had to give scores for the performances. Being a selfless girl, she didn't want to disappoint anyone. But in the end, she ultimately had to pick a winner.

NK suddenly barged into her room.

"Khushiji!" he screeched. "Lavanya gave me a ring but before I answered it she had cut the call. She's not responding to my calls or messages again. Have you heard anything from her?" asked NK, panting.

"No, Nanheji. Nothing from her," replied Khushi feeling bad for him.

NK became disheartened at once. He was losing hope with passing time. Receiving a call from Lavanya made his heart skip beats in anticipation, but it all came crashing down. Khushi wanted to help them in any way possible, but she did not want to risk Lavanya's happiness once again. All she was waiting for was one word of a request from Lavanya. It was getting intolerable to see a hurt NK.

"Can... can you check on her?" he asked tentatively. "Don't mention me at all. Just ask when she was coming. Was she even coming?"

"Yes, she was supposed to be attending all the rituals from my Sangeet."

Khushi rang her thrice but every call went unanswered. Moments later, she received a message from her-

'Sorry, Khushi. I'm caught in the middle of something important, hence I cannot come to your Sangeet. I shall talk to you once I get free. Enjoy your day :) Love you.'

NK read the message Khushi showed him. His heart swelled in dejection reading 'Love you' from Lavanya. Oh, how he wanted it directed towards him!

"Nanheji..." whispered Khushi cautiously.

"I... I'm okay, Khushiji," he turned away too late as Khushi had already seen tears in his eyes. "Come on, this is your Sangeet. Brighten up!"

She gently placed a hand on his shoulder, "Are you alright?"

"Me? All cool since I'm not giving any performance tonight. No pressure. I'm just gonna sit relaxed, cheer every team, and have fun. Let me go and check the arrangements once more!"

He hardly took 4 steps forward before turning back and said, "If only everything was right, Lavanya and I would be dancing to the song 'Teri Meri' tonight. We got the same costumes you and Nannav wore in Akash's Sangeet. She said she wanted to recreate the magic you and Nannav created that night as a surprise. We practiced together a lot.... One of the beautiful memories of her."

Khushi felt a painful sting in her heart. He sounded devastated and wounded. As NK opened the door, Arnav appeared. He felt an unfair displeasure seeing Arnav for being related to him, though distant. But he knew that was an irrational notion and Arnav had nothing to do with Lavanya's stubbornness.

"NK, why are you still not ready?" asked Arnav.

"I am."

"You will perform dressed in a tux?"

"I'm not performing, Nannav. My generosity has been crammed full and I'm giving others an opportunity to win. NK's the host tonight," he flashed a rueful smile and went away.

Khushi quickly wiped her eyes as Arnav entered the room.

"Is something wrong with him? He's being very... unusual," he asked Khushi.

"Don't worry. He's just running a temperature and needs to rest," she lied, not wanting to worry Arnav.

He shrugged, still unsure, and said, "Okay. It's time. Shall we go?"

"Sure," she took his hand and together they descended the stairs.

Khushi was awed seeing the arrangements of the mansion. The fairy lights, balloons and confetti momentarily pushed away all her worries and awoke her inner child. She was squealing with joy clutching Arnav tightly. NK came forward and led them to the ceremonial sofa right in front of the dais and hopped onto the stage.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I welcome you all to this glorious evening to celebrate the Sangeet of my dear brother Arnav Singh Raizada, and my best friend Khushi Kumari Gupta! We all have constructed a marvelous plan to make this evening enjoyable. I hope you all will be a part of this celebration"

His tone was very formal and was missing the signature jubilant. People who knew NK could tell it that much.

"—Let the fun begin!" it then started.

The first performance was from Nani and Anjali-

Nani was dressed up in a classical Kuchipudi costume, started dancing to a traditional song, worshipping her deity, and everyone felt as if they were in a spiritual program and they hoped they weren't. Anjali entered unexpectedly wearing a rowdy costume, lips and tongue painted red, mustache drawn on her face. She danced to 'Khaike paan Banaraswala'. The whole dance, mimicking to be a real rowdy, Anjali teased Nani who was playing an innocent heroine role. It was a classic, entertaining performance.

Next was Akash and Garima-

Startling everyone, Akash came on the stage dressed up as a little boy, and Garima in her routine attire, playing an affectionate mother role. The song sequence was 'Chanda hai tu, Mera suraj hai tu'. Akash was refusing to go to school making Garima take the job to cajole him. The concept itself was hilarious because no possible person could picture Akash, the man lighthouse, as a little boy. It cracked up everyone, but Arnav cringed.

Raj and Manohar-

It seemed as if both middle-aged men had forgotten their age. They wore hippie costumes, threw on some shades, pipes in their mouths, and fake tattoos on the bodies wherever skin was revealed. They rocked the stage as they danced to the song 'Jashn-e-Ishqa'. By the end of the performance, they were proud of getting the most cheers from women, mainly young girls.

Manorama and Payal –

Manorama had totally forgotten to dominate and demonstrate her power as the mother-in-law on Payal. She had one goal: give a better performance than Madhumati. Payal and Manorama stepped onto the dais wearing a glittering, eye-catching attire and danced to the song 'Sheela ki Jawani'. People were clapping and whistling the whole time. Manorama twisted her mouth at Madhumati discreetly before getting off the stage.

Madhumati and Preethi –

Since Madhumati was tricked into having a spiked drink last time by Manorama which resulted in giving the poorest performance, she was tremendously determined to outperform Manorama. Preethi, being a dancer since childhood, complemented Madhumathi and both gave a spectacular performance to the song 'Chikni chameli'. Madhumati proved herself to be an extraordinary dancer. Manorama wasn't pleased.

Raizadas and Guptas thought to give the audience a real dance entertainment as well. So, amidst of their performances, they brought upon some talented family friends who could actually lit the stage on fire with their stunning performances. Hence, the conclusion of the "Competition" turned up, and it was now time for the judgment.

"What the f" half-swore Arnav.

"What happened?" asked Khushi.

"Khushi, you gave everyone a 10! EVERYONE!"

"Yes, so?"

"'So'? Then it makes ME the ultimate judge who decides the winner! You cannot simply give everyone a 10, damn it! Change your scores. You cannot deny that most of the performances were awful."

"How could you say that? They will be heart-broken! I want to make everyone happy which was why everyone was awarded 10 from me."

"I play every role I'm given with precision, hence I gave my judgment accurately based on their performances, showing no partiality. In my opinion, Aman's sister Jyothi and her husband Balaji who danced to that dreadful song 'Pehli bazar mein'"

"It's 'Pehli NAZAR mein'."

"Whatever! They deserve to win! I gave them an 8."

"Then, they are the winners. Your marks are final."

"No, idiot! Your opinion counts, too. Change your marks!"

"I won't. Our families will be disheartened that they lost and I can blame it all on you as you've given judgment with precision. Congratulations, Arnavji, you are about to break their hearts and confidence."

"You sadistic woman! I won't be able to take their drama after this ended! This was why I dreaded our Sangeet."

"If it bothers you that much, why don't you also give everyone a 10?"

"I'm a judge with precisi"

"Oh, come on! What is this, Dance India Championship? Everyone has gathered here to enjoy the evening. You are the only groom in the world who is judging the fun in his own Sangeet."

NK joined Arnav and Khushi at the back of the stage.

"Dinner's over, everyone's returning. It's time for the judgment," said NK.

"Ask him," said Khushi, suppressing her smile.

"Well? Who is the winner?" asked NK.

After pondering for a while, Arnav said, "Screw it! You picked an easy way out of this misery. So will I!"

Khushi laughed.

Moments later, after everyone had gathered, "So, people, it is time for the crucial judgment. The bride and groom revealed that they were mesmerized by every performance. So, they announced everyone as the winner!"

The whole mansion erupted into roars of triumph as if their country had won gold medals in the Olympics. It appeared as if Arnav and Khushi alone had considered it as Sangeet and not some competition.

"The lights are dimmed, music is on, and the floor is all yours. People, come on and dance!" said NK and straightaway disappeared to his room.

Everyone but Arnav and Khushi was dancing. Arnav was doing something on his phone and was not paying any attention to her. Khushi was not happy with that.

"Nice," she said curtly.

"What?"

"You are so thoughtful."

"Always picks the best for you," he replied proudly.

Khushi scoffed and turned her face away.

"Isn't it a bit too noisy and crowded here?" said Arnav, Khushi royally ignored him.

Smirking, he took her hand and said, "Come."

"What, where?" asked Khushi, taking long steps with him.

He took her to the terrace. The whole place was illuminated by the soft moonlight. Both of their faces were glowing under the full moon. He snaked his arm around her waist as he pulled her close. Khushi held his shoulders and eased into his embrace. Arnav hugged her closer and started moving their hips together in a dance to the gentle whooshing of the cool breeze.

"See, I always pick the best for you."

As they gazed into each other's eyes, they did not notice the reducing distance between their lips. The feel of his warm hand on her sensitive waist, tender massaging of his scalp by her magical fingers, and a perfect, passionate kiss was enough to transport to their world of sweet love.

-##-

• Almost all of you cursed Arnav for hurting Khushi and wanted me to punish him. I'm sorry, guys, as much as I love Arnav wooing Khushi, this story has enough drama already. Sorry to disappoint you all.

• I will soon wrap this up in 5 chapters and relieve you from this torture.

• Also, sorry for giving you the worst Sangeet.

-##-

May 9

Part - 33 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 48 times)

Can you stop sucking on your thumb?" growled Arnav, slamming his laptop shut.

"Oh! Sorry, Bhai," said Akash. "I got used to it since the dance last night."

"Well, it's over now. Come back to your grownup self!"

Akash gave a sheepish smile. Though everyone else found his act as a child in 'Chanda hai tu' hilarious, he could simply tell Arnav just tolerated it. His brother had a low sense of sportiveness most of the times.

HP knocked on the door and stepped inside, carrying a tray full of food.

"I brought hot samosas and masala chai for you," HP addressed Akash and NK. "Arnav Bhaiyya, your coffee."

"Thanks, HP," Arnav took his mug of black coffee. "What is the situation down there?"

"It is almost over, Bhaiyya. Just 3 more hours."

"3 hours? That's nowhere near a finishing position!"

"Bhai, it is the Mehendi function. Obviously, it takes a lot of time," replied Akash, dismissing HP to save him from Arnav's wrath.

"I don't know. All the ladies have turned against us and strictly ordered not to step outside," said Arnav.

"Yes, Bhai. I have never witnessed such unity among women before," remarked Akash.

"Well, at least I have my computer with me. I got most of my work done. But that doesn't change the fact that we have been stuck in this buffoon's room since early morning."

Akash laughed at Arnav's joke on NK. They both stole a glance at NK who was sitting on a couch far away from them, gazing into oblivion.

Disappointed at not getting any response from him, "NK Bhai," called Akash.

"Hmm," said NK weakly.

"Do you remember my Mehendi? I mean not mine, Payal's Mehendi during our wedding."

"Hmm."

"We both wore sarees and snuck in during the middle of the function just because I was desperate to see Payal. God, that was an adventurous feat, wasn't it?"

"Yeah."

Akash and Arnav exchanged glances at his lack of response.

"Now, don't go about planning the same stupid stunt, NK. Yes, I want to see Khushi but I can wait," said Arnav.

"I won't."

At this point, their concern for NK multiplied. What was wrong with him? He was never this unenthusiastic! Yes, Arnav never openly showed his affection towards NK, unlike Akash, but he was still dear to him. Could he do anything to make him feel better?

"Do you know what's wrong with him?" Arnav whispered to Akash.

"No," shrugged Akash.

"I am kind of worried for him."

"Khushiji must certainly be knowing something."

"She said things would get better today."

"What does that mean, Bhai?"

"No clue, damn it! She occasionally loves to speak in riddles," rasped Arnav.

"Actually, I noticed this morning that most of the family was particularly excited about something."

"The Mehendi function, genius."

"No, Bhai. It's not about Mehendi. Di was literally shaking in delight. When asked, she simply said to keep NK Bhai occupied, like talk to him or something, while the function goes on."

"Well, that's why we're here, aren't we?"

"Even the great ASR attempts to lighten his annoying brother's mood," chuckled Akash.

"Yet no response."

Akash and Arnav spent some more time trying to make NK better but not at all succeeding as he just replied by giving uninterested monosyllabic answers.

HP knocked on the door, "Bhaiyya, you all can come down now."

"What? Is it over already?" said Arnav.

"It seems so, Bhaiyya," answered HP, unsure.

"Don't you know what '3 hours' is?" mocked Arnav, annoyed.

While leaving, Akash asked, "NK Bhai, aren't you coming down with us?"

"No."

"Come on, brother! Everyone is here. They'll ask for you."

"I'm tired."

"Weren't you the one who was exhilarated and over-excited, other than Khushi, about my wedding? What, suddenly not interested in participating in your Nannav's wedding?" said Arnav.

NK was silent.

"Now are you coming down or not?" he said sternly.

NK took his time to reply, "Give me 5 minutes. I'll be down."

"Good," said Arnav, as he went down with Akash.

One hour had passed, NK did not move from his room. He was rummaging in his room, collecting things that were filled with the memories of Lavanya and placed them on his bed, reliving the pleasant incidents. A particular shimmering object caught his attention, a golden gun. He was transported to the memory when he and Lavanya were strolling through the city.

"Whoa.... Look! How cool is that gun?" said Lavanya.

Laughing, NK asked, "Wait, what do you need a gun for, anyway?"

"I've always wanted to be like Lara Croft from the Tomb Rider, a total badass B who can take on the world single-handed! And when crooks attack me, I will be able to protect myself. My all-time fantasy, that is!"

"Alright, cowboy! Lemme get you your weapon," chuckled NK.

"No, that's just a toy. I want a real gun. Maybe I will get a license for a real gun soon," she headed forward, muttering to herself. "Why didn't I think of that before?"

NK gave a mirthless laugh recalling it. He bought that gun without her knowledge as a token of remembrance of her wild avatar.

"Oh, I love you, my tomboy," he collapsed on the bed, all the items surrounding him.

A knock on the door disrupted him.

"I'm coming out! Give me some time!"

But the knocking grew louder and aggressive.

Grunting, irritated at the disturbance, he made his way to the door and said, "Can you stop banging on the door!"

"I now can since you have moved your lazy bum," said Lavanya, grinning at him.

A gobsmacked NK stumbled backward upon her sudden, unexpected entry. He simply stared at her as she entered his room and stood before him with a small smile dancing on her lips. She looked at him with deep adoration, and that perplexed him. He reached out and touched her cheeks to make sure she was really there and not just another one of his imaginations.

Lavanya held him, "You tryin' to stain my face, huh, chocolate boy?"

At once, NK launched himself at Lavanya, hugging her to him as tightly as he could. He registered that she didn't hug him back and merely patted him on the shoulders, but he shrugged that notion away.

"Yo... You're really here? Here with me? In my arms?"

"Yes, dummy, I'm really here."

"I... I cannot believe... I thought I was imagining.... You'd disappear always.... You will not disappear this time, will you?"

"I won't," she mumbled deeply.

"All these weeks were torture to me. It was nothing less than hell without you, Lavanya. I missed you, oh, I did! Couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, couldn't focus on anyone or anything. I was slowly going insane. You haven't talked to me for weeks, but I did not lose my hope. My love wasn't weak. I knew you'd come back one day and you did! You came back for me..."

"Uh.... I actually came here just to attend Chamkili's wedding," interrupted Lavanya.

"What?" they broke apart.

"Yea.."

"Not for me?" he mumbled looking at her face, hurt clearly evident.

"No, NK. It's been a couple of hours since I have landed here and immediately got immersed in the Mehendi function. In fact, my Mehendi design is almost done. I even got my lover's name written in my palm."

"Lov... what? You are in love with someone?" whispered NK, color drained from his face.

"Yeah, see," she opened her palms, grinning.

A grief-stricken NK attempted to avoid looking at her hands but she insisted intently, "Dude, come on! It is the most beautiful design ever. See these tiny flowers and ethnic patterns in which his name is written on.."

NK turned away to hide his tears.

"Nanda Kis**** Sharma. The name seems even more special in my palms, doesn't it?" said Lavanya, smiling brightly.

Time stood still as silence prevailed the whole room for a while until NK caught on what she had just said. His breath stuck in his throat and eyes grew wide. He looked down at her hands where his name was beautifully written across her palms in the design. His heart thudded wildly as he saw Lavanya move towards his bed to inspect the items.

"I... You... Do you... It means...You..." he stuttered, breathless.

"You see, NK," began Lavanya, picking up the golden gun, "I don't really think I need a gun to protect myself from crooks when I have my man to take on bullets for me."

Tears were rolling down his cheeks and his lips curved into a small smile.

She pointed the gun at him, "This man took a gunshot for me, it struck my heart and I fell for him. Foolish of me that it took a while to voice it out."

He fell down on his knees and cried openly, but these were the tears of relief and happiness. NK opened his eyes as he felt someone cupping his face, only to find Lavanya also kneeling down before him with a pool of tears in her eyes.

"Sorry, I made you wait, NK."

"Say it. Please, say it."

"I love you, too," Lavanya smiled through tears.

NK collapsed against her, crying, but she held him close in her embrace, "I love you so much, NK."

"I was miserable, too, all these weeks," she began, rubbing on his back, "But I don't regret that distance between us because it made me realize your importance, the vital place you have in my life. My eyes were finally opened and everything was crystal clear. I missed you, everything reminded me of you."

"I never gave up hope. I believed you needed some time to come back to me," said NK.

"True. Did you know? I've been in love with you for a very long time. I realized it months ago."

"What? Then why-"

"I was scared, NK. I was scared of your reaction when you would find out about my past with ASR; I was scared at the mere idea of sharing my emotions with our families, fearing they would look at me with disgust; I was scared because I doubted myself whether I was rushing things like before when I mistook my strong attraction to love; Mainly, I was scared of losing you. So I decided to avoid getting into this mess called love altogether. What a stupid idea it was!"

"Very stupid indeed."

They both chuckled.

"I knew how irritated you got at times when I would suddenly distance myself from you. The reason was me reminding myself not to get too close to you. I believed you deserve more, NK, you deserved someone whose mind wasn't a complete mess. You did not want a chaotic woman. I hoped you wouldn't fall for me, but look at the fate."

"You are perfect for me, Lav. Never say that!"

She continued as if he never interrupted, "That night when you professed your love, I ran away because all my fears and insecurities swam before my eyes. I thought if I broke all means of contact from you, you would forget me and move on with the passage of time, and I would come back to normalcy, get over you. Damn, you made everything a million times worse for us both with your persistent attempts to win me. Even I was going insane. Neither could I sleep nor eat! I had to give in, NK, I had to put an end to this torture and give in to what I wanted."

They both looked at each other, love reflecting in their eyes as they leaned in and shared a kiss of love, a kiss of promise.

Breaking apart, Lavanya remarked, "Oh, boy! Look at your state. You're a complete wreak! See what love did to you, transformed from a cheerful young man to a Devdas."

"But love is a happy pain," he chuckled.

Lavanya stood up with NK, "Come on, we need to go down."

"Can we just stay here longer, alone?"

"Everyone must be waiting for us, NK. We have to talk to them, and later I'm all yours."

There was a moment of dawning realization, "You know? I lost the track of time, place, and people around me. My mind almost disregarded the reality that it was my brother's wedding. Khushiji must be very disappointed in me."

"Definitely not, NK. She is such a sweetheart. Last night when we talked over the phone, I shared my insecurities with her. She gave me encouragement and reassured everything would be alright. By the time I got here, Khushi and Di convinced all of the family members. Even my parents approved."

"So now we have everyone's wholehearted assent?"

"Yes," she said,

But NK noticed something similar to worry on her face as she answered. Together they went downstairs to face the family.

Since it was the Mehendi, NK expected an army of relatives attending the function, but he was surprised to find only the Raizadas, the Guptas, and his parents in Shantivan. Everyone was smiling and their eyes were twinkling as he and Lavanya appeared before them. It was obvious from their expression that they were happy with this new relationship development.

His eyes sought Preethi and Raj.

"Ma, Dad.... I..."

"You don't have to say anything, beta. All we want is your happiness. And since it's my dear Lavanya," said Preethi, smiling at them fondly, "I cannot ask for more."

They beamed.

"So, that was the reason behind your mood-off," joked Raj as he came forward and patted on NK's shoulder. "Is my son back to his energetic self now?"

"You could say that!" grinned NK.

There were roars of cheers and laughter as most of the family rushed forward near Lavanya and NK. The elders gave them their blessings in their own way; the youngsters congratulated them with a warm hug; Arnav, though happy for them, awkwardly kept bobbing his head unable to say anything; the Prakash brothers clapped in delight; Laxmi bleated her consent, and Chotu feasted on Arnav's shoes.

Anjali and Khushi broke apart from NK and Lavanya, wiping tears of joy from their eyes.

"I cannot express in words how elated I am!" said Anjali. "It has been really hard for me and Khushiji on being unable to help NK Bhai even when we know the solution to his problem."

"Blank it out, Di," said Khushi. "Nothing matters now that my best friends are happy and together."

"I wouldn't have gathered enough courage without your support, Chamkili. Thank you," said Lavanya.

"No 'Thank you's are accepted in friendship."

"And I'm sorry for being inactive in the rituals till now, Khushiji," said NK.

"'Sorry's too," said Khushi.

They all laughed.

"Hello Hai Bye Bye! Let us get them married right after Arnav bitwa's wedding!" suggested Manorama.

Lavanya gave a start and her eyes went wide with unknown anxiety. NK simply squeezed her hand.

"No, Maasiji. We need some time. Please don't rush us," said NK.

Lavanya looked up at him with gratitude for understanding how she felt without her expressing it to him.

"But why not?" pried Manorama.

Before NK could speak, Arnav stepped in, "Mami, it's their life, their wish. No one will force them into anything. We will not interfere in their matter until they asked us! Am I clear?" he declared.

"Yes, Chote. You are absolutely right," agreed Nani.

Manorama twisted up her face in disappointment. Everybody resumed their work.

"Lavanyaji, NK Bhai, you guys are free to go now. But leave through the back door," winked Anjali.

"But what will they"

"We will manage them, Nanheji. You both just go! Lavanya is done here too," said Khushi.

Slowly, NK and Lavanya escaped from Shantivan through the back door.

"Now that they're gone," started Nani, smiling knowingly at Khushi and Anjali, "Shall we resume the Mehendi function? Guests will start coming any moment now."

"Right!"

All the ladies settled down comfortably on the mattresses laid in the middle of the room, the Mehendi artists came back from their break.

A gobsmacked Arnav asked, "What?! It's still not over?"

"It did not even properly begin, Chote," laughed Anjali seeing his stunned face.

"Then what the bloody hell went on all the morning?"

"Language!" chided Nani.

"Sorry, but why was I locked up in the room the whole morning?"

"Oh, we wanted you and Akash to give NK some company while we made arrangements for the ritual, and talked with Lavanya," answered Preethi.

Akash left the scene, chuckling, knowing what was going to happen next. But Arnav did not give up, he stayed to fight.

"But Khushi's Mehendi is done, isn't it? See!"

"Only a couple of fingers," said Anjali.

"I saw a full design on Lavanya! Why isn't Khushi's done first? These ladies are incompetent who don't even know the priority! Who hired them?" growled Arnav, irritated.

The artists froze in spot, wide-eyed, at his accusation.

"I'm sorry. Please don't mind my brother," Anjali whispered to them.

"Chote, the guests are here. You have to leave," said Nani.

"We thought she would want to spend time with NK Bhai, that's why she got a simple design with his name, whereas Khushiji is the bride. It will take a minimum of 8 hours to finish up her Mehendi."

"8 hours?!" said Arnav in horror.

He turned to the artist who was doing Khushi and warned, "If it's not done in 10 minutes.... You won't want me to finish the sentence."

She gulped.

"Arnavji! Stop, you are scaring her," Khushi, who was enjoying his plight till then, chided him. "I will meet you soon right after this finishes, okay? Just give me a few hours."

He flashed Khushi a ferocious look.

"Your furious face won't do, Chote. It's time you leave, the ladies are here," reminded Nani.

"No! This is ridi"

"Bhai, wait," Akash came back sensing that Arnav wouldn't be letting go easily without reducing every Mehendi artist to tears.

"Akash!"

"Just come with me, Bhai," he said, pulling Arnav up the stairs. "We'll find a way to sneak in."

"What? Never! I'm not desperate," declared Arnav.

"Of course, not," Akash suppressed his smile.

Akash managed to bring Arnav to his room with difficulty since he was very annoyed at the unexpected dragging of the Mehendi ritual. They attempted to work for a while until Arnav shut the laptop in irritation, unable to concentrate anymore as his need to see Khushi was growing stronger by every second.

Manohar and Raj joined them a while later followed by HP bringing their lunch on a trolley. Except for Arnav, the 3 men had enjoyed their meal whilst talking, cracking up jokes and laughing. Our Arnav's frustration was alarmingly increasing. Sensing that, Manohar and Raj left downstairs, promising that they'd persuade Nani to let men join the function. They never returned.

"Marvelous! It's been 4 hours since both Mamas went to convince Nani. What could have happened?" yelled Arnav.

Akash was slipping into a peaceful slumber on the bed but got zapped into full wake at Arnav's roar. Fright consumed him on registering the blunder he made.

"Oh, that, Bhai, Uh... actually, Papa and Mama tried talking into letting us in with Nani but she denied, and they went straight to take an afternoon nap."

"You mean to say that they've been asleep for hours leaving me hanging in here," stated Arnav calmly.

"Yes," lied Akash, not looking forward on being clobbered by Arnav for forgetting to convey this information.

"Screw it! I'm going down," declared Arnav, stepping out the room.

Arnav held the railing on the top floor as he surveyed the events taking place down below.

Women everywhere. Everywhere. There was not even a single male visible. Songs were playing in the background and the ladies were dancing together exuberantly; Snacks were being abundantly served : Chai, Samosas, Namkeen, Sweets, Juice, you just name it, everything was there; Elderly women gathered in groups and were probably discussing about pilgrimages; Most of the ladies had gotten their Mehendi done and were chatting away joyously. Only one wasn't finished. Khushi.



When his eyes fell on Khushi, his mind blocked out every other noise, vision, and people. He was completely focused on her. She looked ethereal for him in that silver and blue lehenga-choli; her long locks dancing with the moment of her head, her expressive eyes twinkling while she laughed merrily, and her every-lovely smile. Her lehenga had been raised up to her knees as the mehendi artist worked on her feet, and for once he was glad that no men was allowed for he'd murder any prick who eyed his Khushi that way. An overwhelming need to see her, hold her, and kiss her consumed Arnav.

He was darting downstairs when Anjali ran into him.

"Chote, you?"

"Di, I cannot wait anymore. I want Khushi."

He tried to walk past Anjali but she caught him by the shoulder.

"Please, Chote. Don't go. Nani will get Angry. It is ladies' function."

"It is MY marriage and I need MY bride."

"You've waited this long, right? Can't you wait just a little longer?"

He sighed at her requested but relented, "You do know that I don't believe in these rituals, don't you?"

"You should. If not for yourself, then at least for Khushiji's sake. She holds high of these rituals, they mean the greatest to her."

"Isn't that why I agreed to this long wedding in the first place? If I had my way"

"I know what my khadoos brother would have done," she cut him in, laughing. "Just so you know, every ritual has a meaning behind it."

"Whatever," he sat on the stairs, and Anjali joined him.

To brighten him up, Anjali showed him her hands, "Chote, how is my Mehendi?"

He turned to her and smiled seeing it, "Not that bad..."

Anjali elbowed him.

"Oww! Okay, Di, don't hit. It's good!" he said, rubbing his arm. "Wait, 'C'? What does that mean?" he asked, noticing the alphabet in her palm.

" 'C for 'Chote', and another C for 'Chotu'. My two darlings," she beamed. "This cute little face is you, and this tiny figure is Chotu."

Arnav pulled his hair.

"One more complaint, that pig"

"It's NOT a pig!"

"Alright fine! That creature chewed up another pair of my shoes. You better train your pet well, Di."

"He's such an obedient sweetheart. What do I do if he finds your stuff interesting?"

"Di"

"Okay, baba! I'll buy you a new pair as your wedding gift," she winked in a teasing manner.

Arnav suppressed his smile. A small weight in his heart was lifted. His sister had no demons of the past haunting her. He side-hugged Anjali affectionately.

"Anju beti, can you come here once? We need to strike out the optional out of the essentials!" called Preethi.

"Coming, Mami!" responded Anjali.

"Essentials?" he asked.

"Oh, it's for the journey tomorrow. Almost everything has been sent to Lucknow already. We are just double checking things!"

"Di, please don't work too hard. We hired people, didn't we? They will do things for you. Don't take too much stress, okay?"

"How can I not? There is a wedding in the family, not anyone's but my dear brother's wedding. Everything should be perfect in your marriage. If family lets outsiders arrange things for the wedding, it doesn't bring the wholeness on the inside or any satisfaction. We cannot be some mere guests attending it."

Arnav smiled.

"Also, I'm very happy, Chote, that you are getting married in Sheesh Mahal. It will be like"

"Getting their blessings. And will feel their presence. Yes," he wiped a tear that leaked out of her eyes. "Khushi knows the best for us."

Anjali nodded in agreement.

"Most of the time, at least," he added remembering all the demented incidents that happened with her.

Both laughed.

~*~

"Stay where you are and you should be in that position only where we left you when we returned! Understood? Don't move! Don't touch anything!" yelled Buaji on the phone.

"Can I at least breathe?" joked Khushi on the other side.

"Sankadevi!"

"Fine! Fine! I promise I won't cause any disaster while you are gone," said Khushi. "But, Buaji, my Mehendi's all dried-up. I could"

"No, you WILL NOT do anything! You are going to sleep with it all night! That poor girl worked very hard for hours on your Mehendi, and you WON'T mess it up! Am I clear?"

"Yes," Khushi did not want to rile Buaji up further.

"Payaliya fed you dinner and helped you change into comfortable clothes. You will be fine. Don't go dancing around in the house! Just watch the T.V. quietly."

"Ussh! Okay, Buaji. I will hang up"

"NO! I will do it. You just don't touch anything."

"BYE!" yelled Khushi as Buaji hung up.

Khushi looked around the dimly-lit house and sighed. It was pitch-black outside and there was no way any foreign person would recognize it to be a house. She was currently in her neighbor Vimala Mausi's, house since the whole neighborhood was busy in arranging a special ritual for Khushi in her house that would take place the following day, and she was left there alone with Salman Khan's movie playing on the T.V.

"I could be helping them! It wasn't as if no one else had gotten Mehendi done. They all did! They washed it off and I'm not allowed since I am the bride with the 'special' Mehendi. Buaji is too much!"

Khushi reclined on the sofa, relaxed, in front of the cooler. Her hair was put up in a messy bun and she wore a sleepwear Lavanya forcibly lent her in order not to ruin any Mehendi on her hands or legs. The shirt was sleeveless and the trousers ended an inch above her knees: the only reason Khushi was glad that she was alone.

The front door banged open making Khushi startle in fright and a figure emerged from the dark.

"Who are you? Get out of here this instant!" yelled Khushi despite her fear as the person locked the door behind him.

"I... I will shout! I will make a huge ruckus that everyone will come running here in a jiffy. Get out!"

The person kept moving forward towards her.

"Stop right there! You don't my fiancé! He will see to your end on my word. Do you want me to tell him?"

The person switched on the lights as he spoke, "Yes, do tell him."

"Arnavji!" she squealed in surprise as she saw his face.

Grinning, "Go on, tell him. I'm waiting," he said going near her.

"Stop it!" she exhaled deeply. "My heart stopped for a moment."

Arnav laughed as she settled down on the chair next to her.

"How did you know I was here?"

"My dear sister-in-law seemed to have taken pity on me as everyone kept us apart the whole day and suggested, without anyone's knowledge, that I should stay with you since you are all alone."

"Jiji? It is very unlike her," wondered Khushi.

"Hmm, maybe she did this favor as a token of gratitude for bringing Akash and her together."

"Hello, it was my genius plan, alright! How come she helped only you?"

"Why, aren't you happy seeing me?"

"No, please don't think like that. I'm the most delighted on seeing you. I have missed you the whole day."

Arnav leaned forward and pecked her lips. She blushed, and he smiled at her shyness.

"I wanted nothing more than to take you into my arms and hide from everyone."

"Besides our separation, everything went fantastic today, didn't it? We all ladies had so much fun, Mehendi turned out amazing, oh, and the highlight was Nanheji and Lavanya," said Khushi, beaming.

"I did not see that coming at all! Why didn't you tell me before?" he asked sternly.

"I was not sure how you would take the news. Suppose Di and I have shared it with you, how would you have reacted?"

"I wouldn't straight away agree, I have to admit that. I have hurt her once before. And had NK hurt her in the future, that'd be my fault, too, since he's my brother, and once again I let my family hurt her emotionally. That's the only thing I'm scared for her. Apart from annoying me constantly, NK is a great guy, but anything could happen, right? I don't want her to go through that pain again."

"But, Arnavji, they love one another. You have nothing to worry about. Trust me," assured Khushi.

"I do," he said. Wanting to change the topic, "You haven't shown me your Mehendi."

"No. You are only supposed to see it after our marriage. Your name is written somewhere in this design and you must find it. Only then you will be allowed to touch me in our Suhaag raat."

"Yeah, as if that'll stop me," he muttered.

"What?"

"Nothing. Hey, you are watching Salman Khan again," he said, eyes twinkling.

"Oh, the batteries in the remote died and the T.V is stuck in that channel. Just turn off the T.V, I'm not even watching it," blabbered Khushi not wanting to get him jealous.

Arnav smirked and just put the T.V on mute.

They spent some time in comfortable silence until Khushi breathed, "In just 2 days."


"Yes. 2 days," he repeated looking at her. "After that, you cannot escape from me, Mrs.Raizada."

Her heart fluttered hearing Mrs.Raizada in his husky voice and his deep gaze on her frame was not helping at all. She realized with a jolt how scantily she was dressed and kept shifting in the place in an attempt to hide from showing skin.

"S...So, are you all packed up for the journey?" she brought up a topic.

"I think so," shrugged Arnav. "And on our flight tomorrow, you will be sitting next to me in the private aisle."

"I would definitely have but since we will be going separately, I cannot."

"What?"

"Why? Has no one told you? You will leave in the morning. I have to perform a pooja at home, and we will reach by night. After this night, we will only meet at the wedding alter. Didn't you know?"

And she found out that he didn't when she saw his nostrils flare up in frustration. She should have guessed that others had kept this from him fearing this reaction. Stupid.

"But we have the Haldi ritual, damn it!"

"Bride and Groom will have it separately at their own houses," she answered tentatively.

Arnav cursed under his breath.

"Arnavji, look at me," she requested gently and gained his attention. "This is all a part of the traditions."

"Yeah, right!"

"No, listen. You see, distance only brings us closer together."

He stared at her.

"Only 2 days. Please promise me you will do everything Naniji says without getting angry."

"I"

"For me," she added sweetly.

He pondered over the matter for a while and there appeared a huge smirk on his face and Khushi immediately sensed trouble.

"I will if you do what I told," he said.

"W...What?" she asked getting suspicious.

"We will play Haldi right now," he declared with a smirk.

"No way!"

"Then I will defy everything Nani says."

"Arnavji, don't.... Please."

"What? You know I damn will."

"I don't know where to find Haldi in this house."

"Something says otherwise."

And conveniently enough, there was a bag of grounded turmeric lying in a corner of the room with many paper bowls next to it. Khushi remembered with a jolt that Vimala Mausi owned a Kirana store.

"But what about my Mehendi?" she threw her last bait.

"Oh, yes! Your hands," he thought for a moment and Khushi grinned in triumph. "You don't need them."

"What do you mean?" she frowned.

"You can make use of your nose, cheeks, chin.... Anything," suggested the devil.

"No."

"Fine. I won't be having Haldi at all. Nani will be very pleased"

"Okay, fine! We will do it. But no one can see the turmeric stains," said Khushi.

Arnav agreed the most delighted than ever.

He quickly made a paste of turmeric with water in a bowl and helped Khushi up in a sitting position convenient to her. He was trying hard to avoid focusing on her attire. Keeping intense eye contact with her he started unbuttoning his shirt.

"Wh... What are you doing?" squeaked Khushi.

"You said so yourself that no one should notice the stains. What place else is better than my chest? Well, there are better places, actually, but it's not the appropriate time," he winked.

Khushi was not innocent to not get his hidden meaning, but she acted as if she didn't understand him.

He tore away his shirt from his body and sat before her, enjoying Khushi drooling over his naked torso. He was glad that years of fitness did not go in vain.

"So, what will you use?" he asked.

"Uh... I think the nose would take less area to get stained," she said, unsure.

"Cool!"

He smeared a small blob of turmeric paste on the tip of her nose and waited for her to make a move.

Khushi was clearly hyperventilating as she began leaning in. His delicious torso was injurious to her health, so she closed her eyes when she went near his neck.

"No, that's far too up," he said as she touched his neck. "A little lower."

She moved a bit lower...

"Lower..."

Slid over his collarbones...

"Lower..."

Reached the top of his ****bone...

"Lower..."

She traced a path over his sternum. Since she was not using her hands to support herself, Khushi jerked and almost fell on him, but Arnav caught her by the waist. Her eyes were locked with his, hearts were beating in synchronization, and both were breathing deeply. His hands slipped inside the shirt and caressed her satin smooth skin, his fingers trailing up and down in a feather-like touch.

"Khushi," he whispered.

"Hmm?" she mumbled.

"Will you do something?"

"Hmm."

"Write your name over my abdomen."

Lost in his spell, she just leaned forward to do as he asked without saying anything.

"Wait," he smeared another blob on her nose and stood up facing her so that his abdomen was at her face level. "This way it's easier for you."

Khushi leaned and began tracing her name on his abdomen with the tip of her nose while he held her by the shoulders as a support, "K-H-U-S-H-I," all the while, her lips were coming into contact with his skin causing him to shiver and clutch her harder. Once finished, she admired her tiny art on his torso and looked up at him with glazed eyes.

He, at once, knelt down, grabbed her and took her mouth into a hot, sensual kiss. His hands were roaming all over her; almost every inch of her face was smeared with turmeric paste. She moaned into his mouth when he plunged his tongue inside, taking their wild kiss a notch further up. Khushi forgot everything, especially that she had Mehendi on her hands, and gripped his face, tugging at the hair. He broke the kiss when he felt sandpaper-like feeling on his face.

Both were panting sharply and he lunged forward and breathed against her lips, "My turn now."

Khushi merely nodded still lost in the magic.

Arnav took his time in tugging open the top buttons of her shirt without breaking the eye contact. He bent down and smooched on her cleavage as he began tracing the letters with his finger across the upper swell of her ****s.

"A-R-N-A-V"

The turmeric paste was made too fluid-like, and it was trickling down her chest. Arnav placed his palm right over it to stop the paste from dripping further down. He could feel her heart thudding wildly. She was just enjoying his touch and feeling his caress with her eyes closed. The sight was maddening for him.

Arnav didn't stop just there. He pushed her back slightly to make her lie down and once again knelt by her side. This time, he unbuttoned her shirt from the bottom up until he reached her under bust and swiped the fabric away to reveal her petite but striking midriff. He nuzzled into her stomach, his hands slipping up higher and higher to her ****s but not properly touching her. Dropping many kisses on her midriff, making Khushi the canvas, he resumed his art with the turmeric paste.

'S-I-N-G-H,' he traced the letters right below her ****s, teasing her with his unfulfilling touch.

'R-A-I-Z-A,' the letters were sprawled across her midriff. He did not miss a chance to fondle or rim around her navel.

"Oops. I ran out of space," he muttered. "Now where do I write the remaining letters?"

He mumbled against her mouth. Khushi had to fight the urge to pull him into a sizzling kiss.

"I know just where to draw."

His hand slipped down, caressing her thighs, toned calves, ankles and her feet. Khushi was somewhere floating in the clouds at his sensual assault. He reached up back to her thighs and traced, 'D-A,' on each side.

"The canvas is more tempting-I mean, beautiful, than the actual art," he remarked as he got on top of her.

Once again, giving a no damn to her Mehendi, Khushi pulled him totally on top of her and did what she had been wanting to do. Evidently, she got completely immersed in the sensual spell they unwittingly created together and was kissing him madly. Arnav was enjoying it but he knew the spell would break soon, and so it did.

Coming back up for air, he whispered, "You provide a fine sight."

At his words, Khushi got jerked back into reality as she remembered him uttering the same words to her that night in Vizag while drunk. Things were spiraling out of hand, and this time none were drunk. What the hell was she doing! They were about to get married in just 2 days, and how could she lose control and behave wantonly! Idiot.

She gave him a soft push to break the kiss, and he knew that this was it. She was back. He was disappointed, he wanted more; he was also guilty, he took advantage of the situation. They both were equally aroused, though. Arnav looked at Khushi, she appeared to be embarrassed. Oh, hell no, should she be feeling that way!

"Alright, enough for now. We'll save some for our Suhaag Raat," he joked.

Khushi turned bright red.

His breath stuck in his stomach seeing her condition. Lucky that Khushi couldn't see herself because if she had, Arnav would be murdered. Her hair came undone, the turmeric stained her skin wherever it was visible, she was almost disrobed, her face was fully flushed. He wiped away the stains with his handkerchief in an attempt to salvage the situation but it was not getting wiped off, instead, the stains worsened. He put up a poker face.

Buttoning her up properly, "You look perfect now," he lied on her face to save himself from her wrath.

Khushi smiled, her eyes downcast in shyness.

Arnav dropped a loving kiss on her forehead, "You have all rights on me, you know?"

She hid in his embrace. They stayed like that for a long time in comfortable silence. The shrill ring of the phone from Payal with the alert that they were coming to take Khushi home separated them.

He looked at her total disheveled state one last time and said before leaving, "Meet you on our wedding day."

Moments after Arnav took off; Buaji, Vimala, and Payal entered the house. Payal looked relieved that there was no sight of Arnav, but looking at Khushi's state she somewhat guessed what took place between them and suppressed her smile. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with Buaji.

"Oi, Sankadevi! What have you done to yourself?!" shrieked Buaji in horror.

It was just her hair, right? Khushi gave a little shrug.

Furious, Buaji dragged Khushi to a full-length mirror, "How did this happen? I specifically told you now to move!"

No word came out of her mouth for she was thunderstruck herself on seeing her condition.

"I will kill this Laad Governor," she vowed.

##

•Yup, I'm late again. Terribly sorry. Everything was going crazy at home and April had been a hectic month.

•I know most of you would have been bored reading NK's part, but I wanted to dedicate a small part of my story to him since he is my most favorite IPKKND character. And I hope you are relieved that he got his love.

•I do not know what **** I have written here. I just don't know, man! It went from a sad beginning to a detergent adverti****t. My brain is blocked.

I know I'm not following the wedding rituals properly and the reason is I don't accurately know how North Indian weddings happen because every state in our country has different customs. And please bear with me while I invent my own rituals :P

##

May 22

Part - 34 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 54 times)

Khushi, Payal, and Lavanya were sitting in Khushi's room in the Guptas' house, chatting nineteen to the dozen. Or, at least, Payal and Lavanya were talking; Khushi was busy battling with her phone because Arnav was not answering her calls nor was responding to her messages since the previous night, and that made her super furious at him. Arnav flew away to his safe house after getting Khushi into trouble with Buaji and had not contacted Khushi since then.

Lucky that her Mehendi did not get ruined, or else Khushi and Buaji would have spent a lovely night together with Buaji chasing her all around Laxmi Nagar to whip her behind with a rolling pin. Coming to the turmeric stains, Khushi came up with a ridiculous story, "There was a sudden earthquake, Buaji. I rolled down onto the floor and that cooler blew the turmeric powder all over me. I was sweaty, so it stained my skin."

The 2 elderly ladies bought Khushi's excuse but that did not save her from Buaji's wrath. Buaji awarded her with a large dose of tongue-lashing while Vimala Mausi searched every nook and corner of the house to sweep away turmeric power, but to her confusion, the only thing she found in yellow other than her turmeric bag was Khushi. Laughing at the 2 gullible ladies, Payal took pity on Khushi and rescued her away to their house.

It was the next morning and very soon Khushi would be sitting through a special ritual that was unknown to her. She was done with Arnav as it became clear to her that he was in no way going to respond to her, and vowed to make him pay. It was then curiosity took birth in Khushi and she began pestering her sister for information.

"But, Jiji, what kind of a special pooja am I supposed to sit through now? I don't remember you performing this pooja during your marriage," said Khushi.

"Of course, you have no clue about this ritual," answered Payal.

"Why not?"

"Because unmarried women are not allowed to take part in it. Do you remember, Amma and Buaji sent you to Shantivan to deliver Akash's wedding dress? Mine took place then."

"But we have no such ritual in our customs, do we?"

"No, we don't. You know Sarada Dadiji, the eldest woman in the whole of our Laxmi Nagar?"

"Yes."

"It is her belief that every bride must be subjected to this ritual in order to lead a perfect married life. Every household in our area performs it before the wedding, out of respect towards Sarada Dadiji."

"Oh," Khushi processed the details deeply. "How long is it going to take?"

"The ritual finishes up very quickly, don't worry. But mind me, those few minutes will feel like an eternity of awkwardness."

"Really? Exactly what is this ritual about?"

Suppressing her laughter, Payal answered, "You are going to get the talk from our elders, Khushi."

Khushi frowned in confusion whereas Lavanya, who had been a silent spectator till then, spat out the drink she was having.

"The talk? You mean the actual talk, Payal?" said Lavanya, her eyes twinkling.

"Yes. I mean, sort of," giggled Payal. "Don't expect it to be straightforward. It's not even close. They technically played dumb charades with me during my ritual, and it was even more embarrassing because I somehow got the gist but they were trying very hard to educate me of that aspect without using their mouths."

Lavanya collapsed and started to laugh like crazy while rolling all over the bed.

"Hello! I did not understand anything!" said Khushi sharply. "What is 'the talk'?"

"Aww, poor Chamkili! She's up for a great time," said Lavanya and doubled up with laughter.

Seeing Khushi's puzzled face, a red-faced Payal said while giggling, "You will find out soon. Also, they will counsel you on how to become an ideal wife and daughter-in-law."

"WHAT?" Khushi's mouth hung open.

"Yes, you will find that kind of repulsive but don't react; just blush and nod your head even if you get them or not, even if they offended you or not. Trust me, it will be easier that way."

Lavanya sobered up and said, "Since Chamkili is very expressive, this is going to be a tough task for her."

They both laughed and Khushi still wondered what the talk was going to be.

Garima and Buaji entered the room.

"Khushi, come out with us, bitiya. Everyone has arrived," said Garima.

"Ey, you did not utter even a word to Sankadevi, did you? Brides are not to be given hints beforehand," Buaji narrowed her eyes at Payal.

"Buaji," squeaked Payal.

She neither admitted nor denied, but Buaji took it as a 'No' owing to the faith she had in her obedient Payaliya. She grabbed a platter of flowers and exited the room.

Garima said to Lavanya, "Sorry, bitiya. Unmarried women are not allowed to this function. Otherwise, we would not-"

"Come on, Aunty, this is too much. You don't have to apologise me, I totally understand! I won't step out of this room," said Lavanya, smiling.

Patting her cheeks fondly, Garima went outside instructing Payal to bring Khushi. Lavanya bid her adieu with a naughty wink.

In the living room there were about 30 elderly women, and when Khushi appeared before them, they eyed at her as if they had all the answers to the universe and were about lend some of their precious knowledge to Khushi. She settled on the couch in the middle of the room and immediately every lady in the room galloped to Khushi and circled up around her. Khushi took one last glance at Garima, Madhumati, and Payal whose eyes were screaming 'Good luck' to her, and braced herself for anything she was about to experience.

Everyone, at once, began whispering incoherent sentences together to Khushi, stopped midway and would simply burst out into giggles with their eyes twinkling naughtily, blushing slightly. She had no clue what was going on around her. Were they going to sell her? Because the way they were looking at her made that a possibility. Were they teaching her an alien language? All she could hear was, 'Vuss', 'Chak', 'Sru', 'Tik', 'Pak', 'Kri', 'Pur', 'Vub'. Was she supposed to dance to their alien tune? It could be it. Khushi bobbled in the seat while lightly smiling at them.

Their sensational speeches ceased at once. Everyone gaped at Khushi with wide eyes. She felt as if she had committed a murder right before their eyes.

The eldest lady, Sarada, pinched her cheeks rather painfully and said, "Naughty, very naughty!"

Everyone broke out into uncontrollable giggles.

Another middle-aged lady declared, "Khushi bitiya understood everything!"

What? Just what? The only thing she understood was that it was wise to act as Payal advised and get over with it fast.

"Now to the next chapter," said another lady.

More? There was more? She grew more anxious when all the ladies turned bright red and nudged each other mumbling, "You do it."

At last, one bold Aunty stepped forward with a sunflower in her hand and placed it right in front of Khushi's face. The topic which they were trying to educate Khushi became crystal clear to her when another lady began mimicking a bee around the flower.

She just wished she had the ability to vanish into thin air. Khushi herself felt turning crimson. So this was the talk. Couldn't her sister be more specific? Then again, it was a miracle that Payal attempted to hint her context of what was about to hit her since her sister was always shy.

Lucky that Arnav wasn't there. If he was, she would have melted into mushy goo unable withstand his heated, wicked gaze she was sure he would give her.

She had a faint idea of what would happen during Suhaag raat owing to the embarrassing, shameless discussions she overheard her classmates had had in the 10th standard; and some specific scenes from the movies.

Alright! Could she just wake up from this nightmare?

"Devi Maiyya, this cannot be happening. Let this be over soon!"

Perhaps, Devi Maiyya thought Khushi needed more of the illustration.

The ladies brought a plate of Jalebis. At that sight, Khushi dreaded what she was about to witness. A lady selected a Jalebi that had a small hole right in the middle and began inserting the stem of the sunflower through the hole. In and out, in and out. Everyone, even the lady who was performing the deed, closed their eyes shut, turning redder if possible.

That was it. Khushi's mind went blank. She could not take it anymore. How dare they disrespect her Jalebis like that! She launched the safe act. Khushi bent her head down and nodded slowly pretending to be shy but in reality, she was just too embarrassed.

Sarada whispered to Khushi but her tone was loud enough for everyone to hear, "Suhaag raat is over."

Life returned to Khushi at her words.

"Now it is time to make you the real woman, wife, and daughter-in-law."

Khushi sighed inwardly. This certainly couldn't be worse than the talk.

Fortunately, Sarada Dadiji received an urgent call from home, so she had to leave early. Other ladies did not think it was appropriate to continue the ritual without her, the sole reason why they were doing it in the first place. They hurriedly scribbled their own personal tips to transform any woman into the perfect woman in papers, gave hearty blessings to Khushi and scurried away.

The second they left, Khushi marched to her room and collapsed on the bed.

"Whew! Chamkili, how was it?" asked Lavanya excitedly.

Khushi slowly turned to Lavanya and muttered, "The worst 15 minutes of my life."

At Lavanya's constant persistence, Khushi filled in the details of the ritual; blushing uncontrollably, pausing mid-way, and refusing to make any eye contact with Lavanya.

"As if 10th standard biology wasn't awkward enough," sighed Khushi.

Lavanya evidently enjoyed the whole incident Khushi narrated for she showed no signs of stopping her laughter.

"Yeah, laugh. You should have been in my shoes. It was a terrifying experience," muttered Khushi.

"Oh, come on, girl! Don't be so embarrassed. It's just **** - a process through which we create another life with our significant other. How beautiful does it sound! Don't make it such a taboo," said Lavanya and then added suggestively, "Sometimes for fun, too."

Khushi flushed.

"Alright, how much knowledge you have on this subject?" asked Lavanya. "Do you want me to give you the talk?"

"Do you want me to run away through that window," shrieked Khushi.

Lavanya giggled, "Chamkili, your wedding's tomorrow, wedding night is tomorrow. Do you even have the basic knowledge of how one consummates a relationship?"

"Of course, I know," said Khushi and immediately blushed.

"Like, to what level do you rate your knowledge? Elementary level, high school level, or college level?"

Khushi hesitated for a while before replying, "Uh... Preschool level, I think. Just the Jalebi and the stem part."

"Sweet," mocked Lavanya. "Sweetie, preschool level will not be enough for men. You did not even enter school properly and are aiming directly for post-graduation."

Khushi whimpered softly in embarrassment.

"You see, generally men expect kinky stuff from us and they wish to do kinky to us. They need spice in their physical life, bland food will not suffice."

"One question."

"Yes?"

"How do you know so much about, umm.... it?"

"Say it, ****."

"Shh! Please, someone will hear us."

"So?"

"Uff, never mind! You are not married, right? Then how- Hey Devi Maiyya! Have you... Did you...... without marriage?" shrieked Khushi.

"God, relax, Chamkili. No. I haven't yet. Although, I have to admit I was engaged in some wild activities during college which I am not very proud of now," answered Lavanya casually.

Khushi stared at her in stupefaction and said, "Then?"

"Listen. There will be a time period for everyone in life where the hormones will be raging, curious about their bodily changes and inquisitive on some restricted topics. Naturally, people, mostly teens, take advantage of this intriguing phase and do their own private research through the internet."

"I do not want to hear any more. This is so wrong," squeaked Khushi, covering her ears.

"Okay, I get it. You are feeling too shy and you being you, I understand," Lavanya gave up.

"Thanks," muttered Khushi.

"By the way, have you packed your bags?"

"Yes, and you are currently sitting on them."

Lavanya looked down and immediately got up, "Oops, sorry. I thought they were stools."

"Because you were ardently intent on sharing some brazen facts with me."

"The reality of this generation, darling. You are better off oblivious on how people make use of the internet. Not everyone is innocent like you," smirked Lavanya.

"I am happy being me," said Khushi proudly.

"Yeah, and I admire that about you."

Khushi smiled at her.

A delicious, wholesome lunch and 2 hours of jibber-jabbering later Khushi again began her battle with Arnav while Lavanya rummaged through Khushi's closet.

"Chamkili, when I gave you this dress yesterday, it was white. How come it turned yellow?" asked Lavanya.

Khushi turned red, "Voh... I am sorry. I should have been more careful as it was your dress, but I..... I promise I will launder it properly"

"Oh, don't be silly!" admonished Lavanya.

"What are you doing, by the way?" asked Khushi.

"I am searching for your lingerie."

"My what?"

"Lin- Uh, undergarments There, I found them!"

Lavanya grabbed the undergarments and dunked them on the bed.

"WAIT, STOP!"

Khushi dashed towards Lavanya and pulled her away.

"Come on, darlin'. I'm a girl myself and you shy away from me?" laughed Lavanya.

Khushi flushed.

"Yup, I'm right," said Lavanya, scrutinizing the contents. "No lace or satin. Nothing ****y is detected."

"I feel comfortable in cotton," said Khushi in defence.

Lavanya pondered for a while and said, "Come on, let's go."

"Where?"

"Just come with me!" said Lavanya, dragging Khushi outside. "Aunty, Khushi and I are going out. We will be back very soon."

"No problem, Bitiya, but be back soon. We have to leave to Lucknow by 6," permitted Garima.

For obvious reasons, Khushi, Garima, and Buaji were refusing to make eye contact and continued with their work nonchalantly.

~*~

Lavanya parked her car in the parking lot, and she and Khushi stepped into the store together. A lingerie store.

A mortified Khushi asked, "Why did you bring me here?"

"Don't fret, Chamkili. No one is forcing you, just try out some lingerie. "

"I... I don't think this is a good idea. I am scared."

"There is no reason for you to panic. We are here just to have some fun together."

Khushi sighed, "Okay. But I will not buy anything if I am not comfortable."

"Cool!" smiled Lavanya. "See, I can tell where your comfort zone is. But I just want to gift you something ****y as you are getting married, and every woman should own at least a pair of ****y lingerie."

Khushi gave a little shrug. They were greeted by a young lady.

"Hello, how may I help you?" she asked.

"My friend here needs a lingerie make-over, and she is getting married soon. Get us something ****y, but she doesn't like too much revealing. She never wore bold lingerie. So, keep in mind that she should be comfortable," instructed Lavanya.

"Sure, Ma'am," she answered, and requested Khushi, "Ma'am, could you please come with me?"

Khushi nodded and followed that lady.

"I'll be there if you need me. Just send me a word from her," called Lavanya.

Khushi was led into a fitting room. She was glad that there were very few people in the store and since it was very large, she felt less shy.

"Ma'am, do you know your size?"

"Uh... 34," whispered Khushi.

"And the cup size?"

"Huh?"

"Your cup size, Ma'am."

Khushi did not know what the hell cup size meant, so she simply shook her head.

"No problem, Ma'am, we will see your fitting now," the lady said and got a measuring tape and took the fitting. "You are a 34C, Ma'am."

"Oh," mumbled Khushi.

"Excuse me, I will go and get you some lingerie sets to try on," the lady left.

Khushi breathed in relief at the privacy.

"C for Cup. That's why I am a 34C," she thought.

The lady returned with her hands full of undergarments and hung them in pairs on the hooks.

"Ma'am, try them and let me know if you need anything," saying that, she left.

Khushi was flabbergastered seeing the translucent, lace lingerie. It was better she roamed around naked! And wearing this before her Laad Governor? His gaze was enough for her to feel stripped. But since she was there, she decided to try them on just to see how she would look in them.

Khushi undressed her torso and selected the least revealing red lace bra to try on. Red. Her Arnavji loved her in red. She blushed at the thought. The material felt very soft, she liked it. She put it on and turned to see herself in the mirror, only to see the reflection of a completely transformed woman.

The red colour complemented her fair complexion perfectly; the underwire provided her with a great support and gave the push-up her ****s required, resulting in a sight of a delicious cleavage. Though the material was sheer, it did not feel much odd for her. She bit her lip as she admitted to herself that she liked it.

The next one she tried on was a black satin bra. It was not as ****y as the previous one but definitely felt more comfortable in this one since it was not see through. Just as she hung both bras on the 'Yes' hook, someone knocked on the door. She quickly put on her kurti and spoke through the closed door.

"Yes?"

"Ma'am, have you tried them all. Did they fit correctly?"

Khushi let the lady in and smiled, "They fitted me perfectly. Thank you."

"Don't mention it, please," she said with a smile. "Here, I brought you some more models."

Khushi looked at the pile of lingerie in her hands, dumbfounded. She had only tried 2 from the previous dozen, and now, this lady brought another dozen to try. Khushi felt bad as she thought she was wasting the lady's time by troubling her unnecessarily, not realizing it was her actual job.

"Thank you, but I am done with my selection. Sorry for bothering you," apologized Khushi.

"No problem, Ma'am. We are happy that you are satisfied with our products," she responded sweetly. "I will take away these bras. Are you sure you are taking just these 2?"

"Yes."

"I will pack them with the sets while you"

"Sets?"

"Yes, Ma'am. These come along with panties."

"How sweet! They are giving an item free with the purchase," thought Khushi happily.

"Your friend insisted you try on this negligee," she hung a baby doll on the hook.

"THIS?" shrieked Khushi.

The lady smiled at her reaction, "Yes, Ma'am. You deserve this the most. It is your wedding after all."

"Uh... Can you call my friend here, please?"

"Of course," she left to send Lavanya.

Khushi inspected the purple negligee in lace and silk material with spaghetti straps, wide-eyed. As she touched the material, she found it too soft and nice. But this looked too revealing in a scary manner to her.

"Chamkili?" Lavanya knocked on the door.

Khushi let her in.

"How can I wear this?"

"Normally, like how you wear your kurti," joked Lavanya.

"I am serious. What made you think I would wear this? Uh... B...B...Br...."

"Bras," encouraged Lavanya, amused.

"Yes. They are fine. I would wear them underneath my dresses, but this thing will be the only handkerchief-like material on me."

"Relax," stepping out of the fitting room, "Just try it on once."

Sighing, Khushi locked the door once again and undressed herself leaving only her bottoms on.

Once she wore the negligee, she was too hesitant to look herself in the mirror because she felt air hit her skin everywhere and concluded that it was a bit too revealing. Eventually, she opened her eyes and realized that she was wrong – It wasn't just a bit revealing, it was far too revealing for her taste. The fabric was only covering her bosoms and femininity, all the other places were too sheer and clung to her body that it felt as if she had purple skin. The upside was it reached her knees.

Knocking, "Are you done? Let me in!"

"Never!"

"What?"

"I am very exposed."

"Just let me see, Chamkili!"

"No."

"Alright. Just take a picture on your phone and show me, okay?"

It seemed less risky to Khushi.

"Okay."

Khushi opened her camera and took a picture of her reflection in the mirror, taking care to focus on everything but her frame in the picture but still, it didn't help her much. The picture came out pretty well. She was exposed.

Khushi slightly opened the door and shoved the phone in Lavanya's hands, making her almost drop it.

"That's it! I am done. I am changing back and we will leave," declared Khushi.

"Damn, you look bomb, babe!" said Lavanya.

Khushi was too embarrassed, "Please, we will leave soon. Also, I don't want this handkerchief."

"Good joke, but you are getting this hot piece."

"This is not fair! You said you wouldn't force me if I was uncomfortable."

"Yeah, whatever," Lavanya disregarded Khushi. "I will get the bill while you changed."

"What? No! You are not paying"

"Take your time, Chamkili, while I buy some tiny presents for my best friend."

Khushi put on her clothes at a record speed and sped outside to the billing counter to stop Lavanya from paying for her but the payment had already been done.

"I told you not to," muttered Khushi sharply.

"What? Let's assume you were me – How would you feel if I declined even a small present from you?"

"Hurt," answered Khushi after pondering a bit.

"Do you want to hurt me?"

"No," smiled Khushi in acceptance.

"Then let's go," winked Lavanya.

"Thank you for shopping with us. Have a great day," called the Lady as they exited the store together.

In the deserted parking lot, Khushi suspected something.

"When we bought only 3 pieces of undergarments, why are there 7 bags?" she asked.

"Oh, I got you 6 more lingerie sets as a surprise – different materials, many varieties. Oh, I just love lingerie shopping the most! Be it mine or someone else's," said Lavanya excitedly.

Khushi sighed in exasperation as they got into Lavanya's car.

"By the way, I accidentally sent your picture in the negligee to ASR."

"WHAT?"

Khushi felt her stomach drop. Leaving the planet seemed the only sane option to her rather than to face Arnav.

"Just kidding," laughed Lavanya.

"You almost gave me a heart attack!" Khushi swatted Lavanya.

As Lavanya laughed Khushi wondered if this day could get any more embarrassing.

They drove half-way through home when Lavanya pulled over and went into a store to buy something special for Khushi. Honestly, she felt she had had enough of specials for the day. She fearfully wondered what catastrophe was coming at her now. Lavanya came back pretty quickly and handed Khushi a small cover.

"What is in this?" asked Khushi doubtfully.

"Oh, just a small book which will provide you tonnes of wisdom," replied Lavanya as she started driving.

"Really?" exclaimed Khushi excitedly. "Is it Bhagavat Gita?"

Lavanya bit her lip uneasily, "Can't say that. Why don't you see for yourself?"

Khushi ripped open the cover eagerly to see what it was. The second her eyes fell on the book's cover, she let out a horrified shriek and sent the book flying in the air. It hit the windshield and ricocheted back into her lap. She pushed it away in disgust.

"WHAT IS THIS?" she yelled at Lavanya.

"What?" said Lavanya, suppressing her smile.

"Why on earth would you give me this... this.... stupid book!"

"Come on, it's just 'A beginner's guide to pleasure her man'. Would be very helpful to you since you do not look up to it on the internet."

Khushi shot a glance at the cover which had a very graphical image of a couple in an intimate position and immediately covered her eyes with palms.

"The cover itself is very obnoxious. I would never open this book," declared Khushi.

"Just keep it with you, might come in handy anytime."

"Never."

"Will you appreciate me telling Aunty and Buaji that you bought this book by flashing it in their face?"

"I shall keep it."

Lavanya laughed loudly while Khushi swore she would hide the book somewhere deep down in her secret chambers where no one would find it.

~*~

"Hey Devi Maiyya! This piece of fabric is 3,500 rupees?"

Khushi sat in the privacy of her room, exploring the lingerie Lavanya forcibly bought her, and much to her shocking discovery, she found them quite expensive.

"And I was happy thinking they gave free panties with the purchase. We were looted! With the price of this one bra, I would have bought a dozen normal pieces."

She was very offended that she fell into their trick, buying their over-sweet smiles. She was all set to head back to the store to get into a fight with them but stopped because she did not have time since they were to leave in an hour. She made a mental note to tell Lavanya of the store's deception.

Keeping just the red lingerie, Khushi hastily hid her recent purchases in a hidden shelf in the bottom of her closet which happened to be her secret chamber.

Her bags were sent to Shantivan by Mohan, only the essential items required for the wedding the following day was with them. They were waiting for Mohan to come back so that they would leave for the Airport to land in Lucknow on Arnav's private jet he insisted them to journey on.

Payal entered Khushi's room, "Khushi, everything set?"

"Yes, Jiji."

"Good," smiled Payal. "Fright is consuming Buaji."

"Why? From our evening snacks to the Haldi ceremony early in the morning tomorrow everything is set. I have checked multiple times. There is no reason to panic."

"Pre-wedding jitters are impossible to avoid during a wedding in the family, Khushi. Besides, she is not worried about that."

"Then?"

"Our upcoming flight journey."

Both sisters giggled thinking of their Buaji who would behave all stoic but would be having a nervous breakdown at trivial issues.

"Here are your tips to become an ideal woman," said Payal, dumping the chits on the bed that the elder women wrote to Khushi that morning.

Khushi eyed them suspiciously.

"Are they safe? I mean, I need not deal with the... umm, the morning topic, do I?"

"I guess so," muttered Payal. "Where is Lavanyaji?"

"She is in the backyard talking to Nanheji over the phone."

"I will go and see her," saying that, Payal scurried away.

Khushi suspected Payal had something to do with Lavanya's way of counselling all day since her sister was too shy to do it herself.

As she had nothing much to do, Khushi, feeling adventurous, decided to take a look at the crucial pieces of wisdom in the chits –

"We were born to become mothers. We have to dedicate ourselves to our husband and in-laws, no matter the consequences."

"Never say 'No' to your husband. He owns you."

"You belong in the kitchen. The delicious food you cook is the key to your in-laws' heart."

"Give birth to children as soon as possible. You are worthless otherwise."

"Never raise your voice against your husband even if he was killing you. That is the true spirit of a wife."

"The moment he ties the Mangalsutra around your neck, you will become his slave."

Everything was so absurd that her mind refused to read another note! Reading them made Khushi's blood boil in disgust. Didn't women had no worth or self-respect? She knew all those ladies had been raised in a restricted environment and were illiberal, but that didn't help Khushi from shedding angry tears at their narrow-mindedness.

"I basically did your job all by myself and you are saying 'No' to my only request," Lavanya told Payal as they both entered the room.

"I am not denying you totally. All I'm asking is a little time Oh, Khushi! Are you crying?" said Payal.

Both hurried to her and Payal immediately understood the reason.

"God, Chamkili, what happened?" asked Lavanya patting Khushi.

In response, Khushi pointed at the scattered chits on the floor. Lavanya collected and started reading them.

"Don't cry, Khushi. You know their insularity, right? Most people think that way," said Payal.

"Yes, and that's what upsets me," replied Khushi, sniffling.

Payal kissed on her forehead in a way of comforting her and stepped away to get something.

"Man, this is so nasty and messed up! The one who needs counselling is every single one of them," stated Lavanya. "It does not seem as funny as the talk, I have to admit."

A sudden sputter of laughter escaped Khushi amidst tears at the way Lavanya displayed her anger.

Payal came back and said, "At least, you hadn't endured this face-to-face with them when they whispered these tips in your face like I did."

"If that had been the case with me I would have given it straight to them, shrugging off the elderly regard."

"I bet you would," Payal agreed and handed Khushi another note. "Here, read this one."

"Jiji, no"

"Your Arnavji insisted that I give you this note only after all the ladies have bestowed you of their intelligence," smiled Payal.

"Arnavji? He wrote that to me?"

"Yes," said Payal and beckoned Lavanya to come out with her to give Khushi some privacy.

Khushi opened the note –

"Khushi Kumari Gupta, your life is about to take a big shift in one day. Be prepared, you have to be the woman I want you to be. Be a Khushi, always. Now, I don't know what all those ladies said but Payal hinted that it would not be very nice. So, here are the requirements to be my wife :

 You should always remain the same lively, carefree, and pure woman I fell in love with because your character is what I value the most in you.

 If I ever behave like a jerk with you, feel free to show me my place using all your wifely rights as you will be literally owning me the moment I tie the Mangalsutra around your neck.

 Be it tiny or big, share all your dreams with me and I promise to support you to ensure they all come true.

There is so much more to say but I am afraid this letter turned out cheesy enough already, and this is totally out of my character. The one thing I am sure of is all the Raizada ladies also would be agreeing with my views regarding my wife. I L... Lo... Umm... You get the point, right?

Eagerly awaiting the moment we become one.

Your Laad Governor."

Khushi was smiling through her tears reading the letter. He'd never fail to assure her by assessing her future moods. Oh, she would give her life for her man. And before she knew, Khushi sent him a message –

"I love you."

Not one minute had passed and she got a reply from him.

"Yeah, same."

Khushi laughed. Quite the Laad Governor her man was, wouldn't even say the 'L' word. Then she remembered that he had been ignoring all her calls and messages since their exclusive Haldi the previous night.

"Oh, now you respond, huh?"



##



Excuse me for all the gutter stuff that has been written in this chapter. 



The Haldi ceremony would be taking place separately and there'd be nothing much to write about it. Do you still want that ritual?





Jun 29

Part - 35 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 39 times)

The days were up, the hours had trickled by, and it was finally the big day. The moment everyone had been eagerly waiting for was at last there. Everyone had been yearning for this day for a really long time and when it was ultimately here, they couldn't believe it. It was the wedding day of Arnav and Khushi.

Twinkling stars were spread all over the dark ether and the crescent of the moon enhanced the natural serenity of the sky. The Sheesh Mahal was dazzling in its real glory after many years. A mandap was set in the middle of the garden around which, at a distance, some couches had been arranged for a very limited number of guests as they wanted a private, simple wedding ceremony. The whole marquee was elaborately embellished with traditional diyas, mesmerizing fairy lights, and varieties of celestial flowers.

The Guptas, with a very few, close friends/relatives, were anticipating the arrival of the Raizadas any moment. They were waiting at the humungous guest quarters of the palace. Pretty soon, they heard a chord of music with shehnai and tabla, indicating the arrival of the bridegroom's side. Everyone greeted each other warmly. Arnav was nowhere to be seen. They stood conversing to kill the time until the auspicious moment to begin the wedding came.

Inside the quarters, Khushi's whole form was shaking in a pleasant anxiety. She was adorned in a rich red lehenga-choli that Arnav had designed for her with matching heavy jewellery and wearing a minimal amount of makeup. She was feeling very agitated as wanted to hide in that room forever, and run outside into her Arnavji's embrace at the same time; two very contrary cases.

"Khushi, relax a bit," mumbled Payal, rubbing her shoulders.

"No, I... I can hear the shehnai. They are here, he is here! Then why am I still here?" gasped Khushi.

"ASR is yet to come, Chamkili. You need to calm down or else you would lose all the natural glow you attained from the haldi this morning," quipped Lavanya and went outside to check on the situation.

"He still isn't here? Why? Did he deny his haldi? Are they still carrying out the ritual there? We have no time! This Laad Governor always doe-"

"Khushi, give your wild imaginations a rest! And no, he has consented to haldi in the morning," assured Payal.

"How do you know? He makes a big fuss out of everything! I am sure they are still doing the ritual-"

"Everyone has applied the turmeric paste on him. Including me! Now just relax. We are waiting for the muhurat."

Smiling, Lavanya came galloping back in and covered Khushi's eyes.

"Wha... What are you doing?" asked Khushi.

"Shh, just walk."

Lavanya beckoned Payal to follow them and slowly led Khushi through the huge building, still covering her eyes. The moment Khushi stepped outside, she heard cheers and giggles from the people around her. She was then allowed to open her eyes. Both families along with some close acquaintances were all smiling at her.

Every second she endured suspense from anyone's silence, a deep, dark part of her mind alerted that something was wrong. Was it really? Why was no one speaking?

"Why aren't we going?" she squeaked.

Anjali came forward and said while turning Khushi around, "We were waiting for you to hop onto your vehicle."

The moment Khushi twirled to the other side, the sight that greeted her left her spell bounded. There was a wide pathway made of rose petals with diyas aligned as an outline all the way up to her Arnavji who sat on a magnificent white stallion, dressed in a royal cream sherwani and wearing a pagdi. Delighted at her astonished expression, he got down and walked to her, and extended his hand.

"Please allow me to be your prince-charming and sweep you off your feet to our destination of togetherness," breathed Arnav.

Khushi gasped softly at his words which were highly unlikely to be uttered by him but he did that just for her. She lived most of her life in a fantasy that a Prince would come flying to her and take her away to a paradise. Although, she had learned real quick when ASR barged into her existence to remind the harsh reality of life. But now she was witnessing the same ASR in the avatar of a prince-charming she had dreamed of. Khushi feared she would pass out in the excitement.

"Shall we?" said Arnav.

"I don't know how to climb up a horse!" blurted Khushi.

The last thing she wanted, being her clumsy-self, was to ruin everything that Arnav had planned for her. It was highly possible that she might scare off the poor animal, or push her groom off the horse, or she could fall along with him breaking both their spines. Many terrifying scenarios swam in her head. She was a born catastrophy.

Arnav gave an amused smile and began leading her along the pathway. He swiftly mounted the stallion and extended his hand to her.

"I won't let my princess down. Trust me," he said.

There was no reason for apprehension now. Smiling, Khushi placed her hand in his and he guided her to mount the stallion with her seated sideways on the front of him. As their cheering family members proceeded to move towards the wedding altar, Arnav took hold of the reins and gently thrust forward in his seat to make the stallion move ahead.

"You know how to ride a horse?" asked Khushi.

"Papa taught me when I was about 8," he replied.

Khushi smiled and rested her head on his chest. She knew what it meant to him, to her, and everyone, marrying at his ancestral home. It meant receiving the blessings of their loved ones and getting bestowed upon by their presence.

The Bharat choir had once again begun with a full swing and everyone was dancing joyously to its exuberant tune. There was an eye-feast with the display of fireworks being launched into the sky filling its darkness with shimmering bright colours. The journey to the mandap was not short for the palace occupying a large area of land but no one seemed to be weary of covering such a long distance on foot, instead, they were being livelier than ever.

At last, they had reached the altar. Arnav dismounted first and then helped Khushi down. Her eyes were twinkling so brightly that the stars would be put to shame. She grabbed hold of his arm when he attempted to move forward.

"What happened, Khushi?" he asked.

"This... I... You on a horse... I cannot... Like a Prince-charming... My childhood dream... You-"

Khushi couldn't put her feelings into words. She had no clue how to thank him back for that surprise.

"You landed like a prince. Thank-"

"Shh!" Arnav put a finger on her lips. "Dare you thank me. This beautiful princess deserves the best," he mumbled cupping her face, "I am the best," he jokingly added with a wink.

Khushi's mouth opened wide in 'O' at his blatant boasting and playfully swatted on his chest. Both of them laughed.

"Nandakis****, you can laugh all you want after the wedding is over! Come here before the auspicious time passes!"

Arnav and Khushi together reached the small crowd of their family, smiling.

Anjali and Payal applied tilak to Khushi and Arnav respectively and sprinkled fragrant water on them. Garima, Preethi, and Manorama joined the two with thali and did aarthi to Arnav and Khushi. All of them joined their hands to perform a small prayer and seek blessings from divine before the ceremony began. When it was time for the Jai Mala ceremony, the Pandit came forward and everyone gathered around the bride and groom who stood facing each other.

"Please exchange garlands," the Pandit instructed, handing them the garlands.

Arnav raised his arms to put the garland on Khushi but she was making it hard for him by leaning backwards, jerking out of his reach. He flashed a deadly smirk at her giggling form and not caring about the people around him, he winked and ****ily blew a kiss at her. That got Khushi. She gasped loudly and remained still, which made it possible for the garland to land around the wide-eyed and 'O' mouthed bride's neck.

Except for Khushi, everyone burst out into hoots of cheers at the proud look on Arnav's face.

It was now her time to struggle. He was already much taller than her which would have been hard enough for Khushi, and him jumping out of her reach made it even harder. He simply shrugged at her when she flaunted a cute-pouty face, not giving in to her tricks. Then NK and Akash came to her aid and lifted her a couple of feet off the ground which helped Khushi in making Arnav wear the garland. She grinned triumphantly at him.

The Pandit led Arnav and Khushi to the Mandap, followed by the family members, whereas the guests settled down on the couches.

"Traitor, NKji! You cannot help Khushi today in any way," Payal said to NK.

"Rubbish! Why can't I?"

"Because we are on Arnavji's team."

"Says who?"

"Says the chits we picked this morning."

"But I cannot betray my bes-"

"Shh! Kanyadaan ceremony is about to begin," said Anjali, having overheard them.

Khushi and Arnav sat facing each other and there was havan kund in front of them. As instructed by the Pandit, he extended his right hand and she placed her right hand in his. Their hands were tied by a sacred thread. Flowers, betel leaves, and coins were being placed on top as the Pandit kept chanting mantras. Shashi came forward and cupped Khushi's face.

"I can now never worry about you, Bitiya, as I am putting you in the safest hands," whispered Shashi, and Arnav nodded at him with a small smile.

Shashi placed his hand on top of theirs and poured the mixture of Ganga water and milk over their joined hands, all the while repeating after the mantras chanted by the Pandit. It was done. Khushi now belonged to the family of the Raizadas. Before Arnav was told by the Pandit, he instinctively placed his free hand on Khushi's shoulder and spoke to Shashi, not knowing this was supposed to happen as a significance of him taking over the responsibility of Khushi from then onward.

The Pandit then truly believed that their fates were entwined from the beginning, and heartily gave them his blessings.

"You can trust me with her, Uncle. I will never let you down," he promised.

Shashi patted him on the shoulder and stepped away.

Arnav and Khushi stood up to take the saat Pheres. Still holding hands together, they began circling around the havan kund amidst the chanting of the holy hymns and reciting the mantras, making the seven vows to each other, making the holy fire a witness of the purity of their relationship. People showering flowers on them, the echo of mantras, and the chitter-chatter around them were not reaching their ears as their heart was beating in a union and their vows were resonating within themselves through their locked eyes.

"Beta, take the mangalsutra," said the Pandit.

Arnav did not need telling twice. His eyes made one last promise to Khushi as he tied the mangalsutra around Khushi's neck and filled her maang with sindhoor. Everyone around them showered flowers on them one more time and erupted into thunderous claps in cheerfulness. When Khushi lifted her head, her eyes were brimming with unshed tears. Arnav cupped her face and placed a long kiss on her forehead.

"I love you," he whispered, wiping away the tears.

"I love you, too," she said croakingly and collapsed into his embrace. "We are finally married. I cannot believe it."

He looked down at her and softly whispered, "You have to, Mrs.Raizada."

Khushi smiled radiantly at her new name. It sounded too beautiful to her ears.

"I won't be responding to your 'Khushi Kumari Gupta's from henceforth," she whispered back with twinkling eyes. "You have to get used to yell 'Khushi Arnav Singh Raizada' at me."

"It won't take long for me," he grinned proudly.

It occurred to them that they weren't alone but amidst of a crowd in their own marriage, so they silently conceded to carry out their conversation later. They now had had a lifetime, ultimately.

Arnav and Khushi first went near the photo frames of their parents which were placed on a table facing the mandap. They together knelt down with their palms joined before the frames and somehow struggled to fight back the tears that were threatening to leak. Oh, how different would it be if their parents were here, alive!

"Ma, I finally got my Khushi. The Khushi you hoped I'd get. Your wish has been fulfilled, Ma. I can never ask for more," thought Arnav.

"Amma, Papa, Maaji, and Papaji... Oh! Dadaji, Dadiji, Nanaji... Umm, everyone; I suppose we were destined to end up together since birth, and now I am married to Arnavji. I cannot wish for more except your blessings throughout our lives," thought Khushi.

When they got up, they were surrounded by their family members and other relatives. They received a tornado of blessings and greetings along with some bonus hugs from their siblings –

"Congratulations!"

"May you both be happy together leading a happy and prosperous life."

"Wishing you stay with each other providing support through the ups and down, and conquer all the obstacles together."

"Finally, you are married!"

"May Devi Maiyya shower her grace upon you!"

"Congratulations, brother!"

"I wish you lead your life happily filled with joy."

"We will be waiting for a good news soon."

.

.

.

.

Amongst the variety of blessings from all ranges of age, NK's greeting stood on the top –

"Come on, make it fast! Don't tire them out even before they got to celebrate their first night."

~*~

"Alright now, I want my shoes back," said Arnav.

"That easily, Bhai? We took a huge effort in hiding them. Ask your team to search them for you," said Akash.

Arnav turned to Anjali, Payal, and NK with an exasperated expression, and before he could open his mouth, Anjali interrupted.

"Don't worry, Chote. We will find them for you."

"Yes, Arnavji, you just wait for 2 minutes," said Payal.

NK alone was grinning foolishly at the challenge thrown at Arnav's team despite himself being in that team.

"NK bhai! Come and help us search!" yelled Anjali.

He begrudgingly joined the shoes hunt while Khushi's team booed at them.

What the matter was, as Arnav and Khushi were extremely dear to all of the young batch, they fell into a serious dilemma about whose side they should take during the wedding games. Elders chided them for taking the fun games as if they were the Olympics but that didn't help with their predicament. So, Akash, Payal, Anjali, NK, and Lavanya wrote down Arnav and Khushi's names in some chits and decided to take the side of whomever they had picked. Elders assured that they would see games as games and not wars, and enjoy the rituals taking both sides.

Unfortunately for our dear NK, he realized that he wanted to take Khushi's side no matter what only after he picked Arnav's name in the chit. He was compelled by Anjali and Payal, who were also on Arnav's team, to help them. Lavanya and Akash happily took Khushi's side in the games with no confusion or second thoughts.

A disheartened NK became a trouble to Anjali and Payal as he wanted his best friend's side to win and he became a black sheep in his own team. He noticed Akash and Lavanya stealthily taking away Arnav's shoes at some point during the wedding but he made no effort to stop them. And now, during the shoe hunt, he was deliberately misleading Anjali, Payal, and the others, secretly guarding the hiding place.

"Sharma, I know you are doing this on purpose," Lavanya rasped at NK lowly.

"What are you talking about?"

"We know your loyalty forever lies with Khushiji but just this once, stop misleading if not help them," joined Akash.

Now that NK was in the clasps of Lavanya and Akash, Payal spotted the shoes in less than a minute. Khushi's team also cheered with Arnav's team whereas NK sulked. Everyone made their way to the mandap. There sat Arnav and Khushi, holding hands and conversing within themselves, oblivious to the world outside them.

"Ahem, Ahem!" Anjali cleared her throat.

Khushi blushed before the teasing gazes while Arnav stared back at them.

"So, my shoes?"

Payal proudly presented his shoes to him, "Here you go! We saved you the trouble of losing a bunch of money-"

Arnav took the shoes from her and put a section of 500 rupees notes in her hand before walking away with Khushi without saying any word.

"I reckon this as a tip for us for leaving them both alone while everyone participated in the game," Anjali muttered to an open-mouthed Payal.

~*~

"Bye, Buaji," said Khushi, happily waving at the Guptas.

"Sanka Devi, brides generally weep during their vidaai, and look at you laughing like a Hyena."

"Arnavji is with me. I just cannot cry," replied Khushi softly.

Shashi patted her head as Garima hugged Khushi, and Buaji smiled at her answer.

"But yes, I do am going to miss you," her voice croaked.

"No, no, no! I don't want you to start crying now. We will miss you too, Bitiya. You are always welcome to visit us," said Garima.

"I know, I don't have to say this since Arnav bitwa will look after you," said Shashi, "but do take care of yourself, Bitiya."

Khushi said one last bye to the Guptas and watched them leave the palace with the Raizadas in a van. Arnav wrapped his arm around her.

"Are you okay?"

She smiled, "I am with you."

He kissed her forehead, "I'll get our car," and stepped away to call the driver.

An elderly lady approached Khushi, "Malkin, congratulations on your wedding."

She bent and took blessings from the lady, startling her.

"You cannot do that, Malkin! I am unworthy."

Khushi held her hands and said, "You are not just a caretaker of this palace. You are almost a part of the family. Arnavji has told a lot about you, he holds very high of you. You have every right to bless me, Kaki."

Happy tears leaked out of the lady's eyes, "You are everything Ratna Malkin was. May you live a long life happily with your husband."

Khushi smiled. They noticed Arnav coming back with the car.

"Naniji said that Panditji advised not to do my Gruha Pravesh in Sheesh Mahal. So we are going back to Delhi," said Khushi. "But remember, Kaki, this is also my home now. We will keep coming here often."

Giving a few last instructions to the caretakers, Arnav led Khushi into the car and sat next to her in the back seat. One click and there rose a partition between the driver and them. Now they had complete privacy. As they started their journey to Delhi in the car, they did not realize when they fell into a deep slumber, resting their heads on one another.

The Raizadas and flew to Delhi on the private jet and arrived at Shantivan many hours before Arnav and Khushi to make necessary arrangements for the post-wedding rituals in the Raizada Mansion. Guptas went with them but they were dropped at their house on the way. Once done with the arrangements, everyone had taken a small nap while waiting for the bride and groom.

6 hours later, they had finally arrived home. Thanks to the brief period of rest they had gotten for everyone was feeling refreshed and could thoroughly enjoy the upcoming rituals/games with no visible traces of being tired.

Arnav and Khushi were welcomed by their whole family at the entrance.

"My children have finally arrived!" said Nani.

"Are you ready to enter your new house, Khushiji?" said Anjali.

Manorama stepped forward and applied tilak to both Arnav and Khushi, and did Aarthi. Khushi gently pushed the rice kalash with her right foot and stepped in the coloured water. She took a couple of steps into the house leaving behind red footprints. Arnav briskly caught her when she stumbled and almost fell. Not caring about anyone, he took her in his arms and carried her inside the house and landed her carefully on a foot mat.

"Chote, you are not required to carry her inside. This is unnecessary," pointed Nani.

"Of course, it is! She almost tripped," he remarked hotly. "Are you okay, Khushi?"

Everyone was in awe after seeing his care for Khushi.

"Nani, this is very nice," said Anjali. "Groom carrying the Bride inside during Gruha Pravesh. This should become our family tradition from now onward."

Khushi blushed the colour of her feet.

"Chote, Bitiya, come here. We shall begin the wedding games," said Nani.

Everyone gathered around Arnav and Khushi who sat facing each other in the middle of the drawing room amidst various vessels, threads, and liquids. A huge vessel of liquid consisting of milk, turmeric, and rose petals was presented to them. Arnav looked at it with a thrill of horror.

"There's no way we are going to drink that!" he stated firmly.

Everybody laughed, including Khushi.

"You need not drink that, Chote, don't worry," assured Anjali, giggling.

"Then?"

"There are some pebbles, coins, nuts, bolts, and your engagement rings in the vessel. The person who finds both the rings will have the upper hand in your marriage," explained Nani.

"That's it?"

"Yes."

His eyes met Khushi's and both threw the challenge at each other. Arnav smirked at her and Khushi shrugged back, grinning.

"I am ready," said Arnav.

"So am I," declared Khushi.

They raised their hands above the vessel, ready to dive in at the signal.

"Now!" yelled Nani.

They plunged their arms inside at the same time and began searching frantically for the rings. Khushi's face contorted in concentration while Arnav did not lose his grin. Maybe it was due to their hurry to find the rings that whatever they got hold of felt like rings.

"Come on, Chamkili! Find it, you can do it!" cheered Lavanya.

"Chote, quick!" said Anjali.

"You have to win, Khushiji! We placed a bet that you'd win the games," said Akash.

"Arnavji, come on! You can do it!" yelled Payal.

But NK was stuck between, "Yaayy, go Khus—nnav! I am sure you can win Khu-nnav!"

Khushi got alarmed seeing the relaxed look on his face. She hastily felt his hand and discovered to her anxiety that he had already found one ring. She swished rapidly around the liquid to locate the other ring. But Arnav was making no move to find the other one. He was just chilling with his hand dunked in the liquid, lightly caressing her hand when she neared him.

She, at last, found the other ring, and much to her surprise, it was right beneath Arnav's hand. Their eyes had had an unspoken communication and both raised their hands together, Arnav clutching Khushi's ring and she, grasping his.

"You both won!" said Nani.

Arnav slid the ring on her finger and kissed it. Khushi shyly repeated his action, minus the kiss, of course!

Nani tied a sacred thread around Khushi's wrist and made more than 10 knots. Khushi extended her hand to him.

"Chote, you have 3 minutes to untie all the knots using only one hand," said Nani. "Who unties the quickest will win the game."

As the game began, Arnav struggled to unknot the knots since he had got short fingernails. His frustration grew with every passing second as he battled to untie the little devils called knots. People were cheering around him but his eyes only sought Khushi, she was amused. Hell no! Arnav Singh Raizada could not lose to some stupid knots and have his wife tease him using this for the rest of his life.

"10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5-"

He did it! He managed to unknot all the knots when there were only 5 seconds left. He grinned at Khushi.

"Bravo, Arnav bitwa!" said Mama, "I couldn't do it at my time."

It was now Khushi's turn, her eyes were smiling at him and he was sure she'd win for she had got long fingernails. When the timer began running, Khushi seemed to struggle more than Arnav in unknotting the knots. 2 minutes ticked by and she had managed to untie only 3 knots. He suspected whether she was doing this on purpose and his suspicions were confirmed when she picked up a rapid speed at the last 30 seconds and unknotted the last knot when there were exactly 5 seconds left.

"Wow! You both won the two games, that means you both will have equal control in your marriage," said Anjali.

They knew it. They would support each other in everything be it a huge thing or a trivial one and would not let them fail.

~*~

Khushi sat in the middle of the stunningly decorated bed in the dimly lit, heavenly embellished room, watching Anjali, Payal, Preethi, Mami, Nani, and Lavanya making final checks to make sure everything was in order and was perfect enough for the newly-wedded in the aspect of romantic ambience. The elder three ladies left after sharing some short, vague tips with Khushi while the younger three stayed back.

Lavanya whipped out an alarmingly tiny bottle from her bag and began spraying it all along the room. They got a whiff of a distinctive pleasant fragrance of Rose, Citrus, and Vanilla that was deliciously alluring their senses.

"Oh, this smells so good, Lavanyaji. What is it?" asked Payal.

"This," Lavanya came back and sat down beside Khushi, "is an aphrodisiac room spray."

Anjali gasped loudly and they both giggled.

"Which means... that... Uh, that?" asked Payal mousily.

"Yep, that!" winked Lavanya.

"Does it help you with hunger?" asked Khushi innocently.

The three stared at her in astonishment. Clearly, the aphrodisiac aroma was having a completely divergent effect on Khushi.

"Are you feeling hungry?" quizzed Payal.

"No, I... It just reminds me of food," chirped Khushi.

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Anjali in amu****t. "Do you feel at least a tiny bit different on the inside inhaling this aroma? The tiniest bit?"

"Well, I can feel the blood rush in my body and it is exciting... and hot. I feel this way when I am hungry. Maybe I am feeling hungry again after all," grinned Khushi.

"God, help my crazy sister!" muttered Payal, covering her face.

"Chamkili, an aphrodisiac means... umm, something that stimulates ****ual desire in people," explained Lavanya.

"Hey Devi Maiyya!" shrieked Khushi.

"Now you know it's not hunger," said Anjali. "Well, technically, it is hunger, but not for food."

The three giggled as Khushi flushed the deepest shade of crimson under their naughty gazes. She couldn't help a shy smile forming on her face.

"Oh, look at my dear sister-in-law. Look how she's blushing," remarked Anjali.

"Di, please," mumbled Khushi.

"Okay, okay!" laughed Anjali.

"So, are you ready?" asked Payal.

Khushi knew what she meant, so she timidly nodded.

"No questions, no fear, nothing at all?"

"I have no reason to fear when my Arnavji is with me," thought Khushi and nodded at Payal.

"I didn't think my sister would be this brave. I was terror-stricken during my Suhaag Raat, and I had every reason to be terrified," revealed Payal shyly.

What? Khushi didn't understand why. She was aware of the fact that it would hurt a little, but it couldn't be that bad, could it?

"Oh, I hear footsteps! I think Chote is here," squeaked Anjali.

Lavanya grabbed her stuff and darted to the door with Anjali. Turned out it was not Arnav but Laxmi, but they both decided to stay there guarding at the door. Payal was about to join them but Khushi stopped her.

"Jiji, why were you terrified?" asked Khushi.

"What do you mean why? I, with no doubt, loved Akash then but I hardly knew him back at that time. Also, I didn't have any idea what to do. You know, right, how shy I was. I mean, I still am but back then it was different. I had no one to guide me properly, or give me tips."

Khushi simply stared at her without blinking.

"And I am sorry, Khushi, for shying away yesterday and have Lavanyaji helped you instead of me. I hope she came of use to you in anyway pos-"

"How did that night go for you, Jiji?" Khushi asked hurriedly, cutting Payal in.

"Oh! Uhh... As I said, I was scared to the core. I had no help. I wasn't sure what to do, how to... umm, please Akash. I never undressed before my mother or sister, and think how I felt at that moment," said Payal, averting eye contact.

Panic began settling inside Khushi.

"You're giving your sister the talk now?" Lavanya barged in, "Well, it's too late. The book I gave her must have come as a help to her more than you or I have been."

"Is it right, Khushi?" asked Payal.

Poor Khushi could only nod as her mind was busy processing new information which could be mentally troublesome for her in a few moments.

Lavanya set a glass on the nightstand and spoke to Khushi, "That's the milk, Anjali Di asked me to give you. And, Payal, she's asking for you."

Payal gave Khushi a light hug and went outside to join Anjali.

"Let me guess, you haven't even touched the book, have you?" stated Lavanya, seeing the lost look on Khushi's face. "Pity, loads of tips have gone wasted."

Khushi looked straight at her and mumbled, "I'm scared now."

Lavanya covered Khushi's face with her veil and said, "I can only say good luck. Bye."

Just like that, the three ladies left Khushi alone in the room to battle with her inner panic-stricken self after unintentionally, but successfully, made Khushi bid adieu to her confidence and composure. She had always trusted Arnav with all her soul to treat her with an absolute care that she had conveniently over-looked the details regarding her Suhaag Raat that could be potentially demuring for her. Khushi hadn't given much thought about their upcoming night together as she was focused on getting married to him first.

"Hey Devi Maiyya! What do I do now? I don't know what to do. I want this night to be special for us both but what if I ruined everything with my lack of experience and knowledge? What if I failed to please him? I love him so much but I do not want to disappoint my Arnavji. Will it really hurt? What if it doesn't work for us? And oh my God! I have to entirely bare myself tonight! Noooo! I cannot do this. I love him but I just can't do this. Is there no other way to do it? How do I escape from here?"

Meanwhile downstairs –

Arnav was sitting in the drawing room with Akash and NK waiting for the ladies' signal to allow him into his room – their room. He lovingly traced his engagement ring, thinking about how Khushi made sure they both won the 'Untying the knots' game together; of course, he did the same thing in the 'Fishing out rings' game. He couldn't help but feel proud at how their mind and heart were attuned together in synchronization. He was lost in his blissful world until the rasping whispers from NK and Akash became too much to bear.

"What's eating you two?" asked Arnav sharply.

Akash and NK ceased their supposedly silly argument and stared at Arnav, frozen, taken aback by his sudden question.

"What are you both seriously whispering about?" he asked again.

"Akash is dying to give you some wedding night tips," blurted NK.

"No, I'm not! Bhai, no, don't believe him!" screamed Akash in horror.

"Yes, he is!" declared NK. "Why are you shunning now? Weren't you the one who insisted that it was a good idea to share some tips with Nannav because you were experienced?"

"Absolute lie! I never said that! NK did and has been persisting me to talk to you about it!"

"He thought it was a good idea to help you considering the fact you have zero experi-"

"Oh, shut up! Bhai, whom will you believe? Me, or this manipulator?"

"Of course, me-"

An amused Arnav was looking at their faces as if a tennis match was going on when he received a text from Anjali that he was now allowed to come upstairs. He looked at a totally red-faced Akash and the obvious liar, NK.

"Alright, quit it, you two," said Arnav, making his way upstairs, "I'm going up. Night!"

NK ran away before Akash murdered him.

Arnav came face-to-face with Anjali, Payal, and Lavanya, and sighed seeing their determinedly wicked faces.

"Honestly, it's been such a long day and I am really tired. I believe you are too. Please, let me through," he said.

"Not until we get our-"

He produced three sections of 1000 notes from his pocket, shoved them in their hands, walked right past them and shut the door in their stunned faces.

[This was set in the year 2012. 1000 rupee notes were accepted back then.]

After a moment of silence, Payal said, "He walked past us. Just like that."

"How does he even carry that much money in his pockets?" wondered Lavanya.

~*~

Arnav stepped inside a room that had been beautifully transformed into black and red, decked with flowers and candles, and was effusing intoxicatingly tempting fragrance. And on the bed sat his gorgeous bride, face hidden behind her veil. Khushi, his wife. She finally had become Khushi Arnav Singh Raizada.

A wave of anxiety hit him as he reflected over the upcoming night. Arnav waited eagerly for this moment to show how much he loved her through pleasure but he couldn't help himself feeling nervous. Yes, it was true that he had no experience but he was sure this night was going to be perfect. His love would guide him- them together to the heights of ecstasy.

He went and sat in front of her and lifted up the veil to uncover the angelic face of his wife. She was incoherently muttering to herself with her eyes shut and her form shaking. As he placed his hand on her, jerked back on the bed with a start and stared at him fearfully.

"Hey, it's me, Khushi," he said, cupping her face. "Are you alright?"

"Y... Yes."

"Are you sure? You seem... strange."

"No, I am f... fine."

Arnav lovingly smiled at her and took her hands into his, "These were my mother's bangles," he slid them over her hand, "Now they are yours."

"These are beautiful, Arnavji," she said looking at the bangles. "Thank you."

Arnav kissed her knuckles. Upturning her hand, he began staring intently at her palm.

"What are you doing?" asked Khushi.

"Oh, I am just finding my name. You said so yourself that I cannot touch you until I spotted it," he said, examining her hand. "Ah! There, I found it!"

In the bottom corner of her palm 'Arnavji' had been written on it, cleverly camouflaged in the pretty design. He kissed his name written in her palm.

"I suppose I am now allowed to proceed further," he whispered as he leaned forward to take her lips in his.

Khushi pushed him hard at the chest with all her might that sent him backflipping on the bed, landing on the floor, and she hastily got onto her feet. A petrified Arnav stood up and stared at her, rubbing his behind.

"So... Sorry, Arnavji. I didn't mean to do it! It just happened," she apologized fervently.

He held her by the shoulder, "It's alright, it's alright. Relax, I am fine."

"I... I was supposed to give you milk. I suddenly remembered it and I reacted that way. Devi Maiyya, are you hurt?"

"Khushi, relax. I am alright."

"I'm sorry, Arnavji. I-"

"Just give me the milk, can you?" he said to distract her.

"Of course, of course!"

In her hurry, worry, and panic, she took the glass and instead of giving it to Arnav, she splashed it right in his face, drenching him with the milk and completely ruining his sherwani.

"What the hell!" yelled Arnav.

"Hey Devi Maiyya!" Khushi gasped, horrified. "I am so sorry, Arnavji!"

"What is wrong with you, damn it?" he shouted, wiping his face with a towel.

"I didn't mean to do it, I am so sorry, Arnavji. Please, forgive me. I am sorry," she said, collapsing down on the floor.

Arnav hurried to her and cupped her face.

"Hey, shh! Shh! Don't worry, it's nothing. I am not angry," he said, rubbing her back. "Please, stop it, Khushi."

"Sorry, sorry-" tears were leaking out of her eyes.

"Damn it! It's nothing to cry about," he yelled, wiping her tears. "Please, Khushi, listen to me. I am alright."

He carried her to the bed and took off his sherwani. All the time Khushi kept apologizing, shaking uncontrollably. To cut her penance, he grabbed her face and took her lips into a soul-stirring kiss. Shocked at his sudden act, she froze in the spot for a while before she relaxed and responded to the kiss. One kiss and all the fears/insecurities flew away from her mind. Sensing that she was now composed, he broke the kiss slowly, ending it with some pecks on the mouth.

"Sanity came back to you?" he whispered against her mouth.

Khushi nodded, "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me-"

"Shh! It's alright," he said. "You need to relax a bit, hmm?"

"Yes."

"I will go and freshen up first and then you can go. We will go straight to bed later, okay?"

She tried to protest but he interrupted her.

"I think you need rest, Khushi. It has been a long day, and you do not seem ready for it."

"No. I am totally ready," she stated firmly, and then added, "I mean, I am a bit scared."

"We don't have to do this tonight itself."

"But I want to. I want you, Arnavji," she whispered. "I want this day to end perfectly in the way it's supposed to end. I do not want my fears to come in the way of it."

She leaned in to kiss him but he stopped her.

"Let me go and take a shower first," he pecked her lips and got up.

"But-"

"You will get your perfect day, Khushi," he turned back and said before entering the washroom, "Also, who am I to deny my wife's wishes?"

Khushi blushed under his grin and began removing her jewellery. Fright started to fill her once again, but she firmly said to herself, "I won't let my fears become a hindrance and disappoint Arnavji."

Arnav stepped out of the washroom after 15 minutes, grinning like a fool, freshly showered, and ready for the night.

"Khushi, you can go and shower now," he said but got no response. "Khushi? Khushi, you can go."

She wasn't responding. He went forward only to discover her sleeping peacefully on the bed, all her jewellery scattered everywhere around her, clad in only choli and lehenga. Disappointment was an understatement to explain what Arnav felt at that moment. Why encouraged him in the first place when she ruthlessly crushed his hopes herself?

He gathered all the jewellery, piled them on the nightstand and gently patted her, "Khushi? Khushi, wake up."

She was comatose.

"Khushi, you better change into some comfortable clothes," he said.

Still in the coma.

He noticed from behind that her choli was too tight and decided to at least remove the choking piece of clothing. Arnav picked a loose fitting hoodie from his closet and tried to wake her up one last time but was unsuccessful. Sighing, he dimmed the lights and covered her form with a quilt and gently got her up in a sitting position, her head resting on his chest.

She stirred in her sleep and mumbled, "Jiji, the work on this dress is pricking me."

"Khushi, wake up," he tried one more time.

"Yea, keep it in the fridge. I will eat it later," she muttered and went into the coma again.

Arnav didn't know whether to laugh or cry at his eccentric wife.

He undid the hooks of her choli and looking to the other side, gently removed it from her body. He slid his hoodie on her and fastened the zipper from the front. That hoodie was so big that it reached her knees. Arnav covered her with a quilt, came over to the other side and laid down next to her. He brought her into his embrace, inhaling her sweet scent.

Khushi stirred again, "I hate this too," she kicked away her lehenga.

His wife was in his arms, clad only in his hoodie, snuggling in his embrace and rubbing her soft form against him to search for a comfortable position. This was a torture for him. He pitied himself at his state.

"You sure are a disaster, Mrs.Raizada," he said and dropped a kiss in her hair.

##

•I'm sorry for being late. Again. I promise I will finish this off soon.

My brain has been blocked. I have no idea what **** I have written here. Please don't hate me.

•Also sorry for disappointing you without giving them a proper night.

•And I think I invented new rituals in this chapter. I hope I did not offend anyone. Just so you know, I don't know much about north Indian customs.

##

Sep 2

Part - 36 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 25 times)

"Don't come any closer. I know karate!"

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"Arnavji!"

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"Please, don't do it. I am scared."

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"I loved how you showed me your love tonight."

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"Arnavji, I love you but I need some time."

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"Come here, come closer. I love the way your lips feel on mine."

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"Arnavji, please, no! It is hurting."

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"Our wedding was perfect, so was our togetherness tonight."

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"You don't care about my feelings, do you?"

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There sat Arnav on the recliner with elbows rested on his knees and face cupped in his palms, eyes heavily drooping, nevertheless staring at Khushi who was thrashing around on the bed, tangled in the quilt, bellowing the above sentences clearly in her sleep, tossing aggressively as if trying to make an imprint of her form on the mattress.

The whole night Arnav hadn't slept a wink as Khushi was kicking away and pulling close; loving verbally and pleading helplessly; caressing fondly and scratching defensively, giving out contradictory and mixed signals to him while asleep. After bearing that torture for a few hours, Arnav had had enough and came over to sleep on the recliner, however, sleep was still miles away from him. He spent the entire night gazing ruefully at his wife.

Soon, the sunrays peeked inside the room from the french windows and kissed the face of the newly-wedded bride. She stirred, stretched lazily and sat up straight on the bed, smiling goofily. Her fingers closed over the soft petals and took a loving whiff of their enticing scent. Her eyes were twinkling with glee, recalling that she was now married to her love, and it soon got replaced with horror when she realized the blunder she committed the previous night.

"Hey Devi Maiyya! What have I done? How could I simply fall asleep like that!" moaned Khushi, hitting herself on the head. "What kind of a wife are you, Khushi Arnav Singh Raizada? You arose hopes in your husband and then unmercifully shattered them yourself! Buaji is right, I really am a Sankadevi."

Khushi sat dejectedly on the spot, cursing herself for the mortifying feat she pulled on Arnav the previous night. Where was her husband? He was nowhere to be seen. Was it possible that he got a bit upset? Well, wasn't it supposedly obvious? She then came to a conclusion that Arnav was raging mad at her and hence did not even wish to see her face for he had vanished from the confines of their room. Seriously, what a splendid start to her marital life!

She whipped around her head at the click of the washroom's door.

"Oh! I forgot to check there!" she self-chided once again.

Arnav appeared in the room clad in nothing but a towel riding low around his hip, water droplets running the length of his chiselled torso and disappearing at the waist. Khushi would have secretly enjoyed the sight her husband provided but at the moment she was exceptionally guilt-ridden that she took no notice of his drool-worthy physique but his tired demeanour and sunken eyes.

"Oh, my poor Arnavji. Looks like he had stayed up all night in the hopes that I would wake up. What have I caused him!"

She pushed aside the thick quilt and got onto the floor. Immediately, Khushi screamed on the top of her lungs on seeing what she was wearing, the hoodie barely reached her mid thighs when she stood up; and it was then Arnav registered her awaken state. She made a run for it and slipped inside the quilt once again, pulling it up to her chin. Arnav began coming towards her.

"Thi... This... Ho... How did I g..get into this?" she stuttered.

His pace remained unrushed, eyes boring into her petrified ones. Looking at his composure, Khushi was sure he would explode the moment he neared her and braced herself for his volcanic fury, eyes shut tightly in fear. However, two hands cupped her face softly and she felt a dip in the mattress.

"Relax, Khushi," he sat before her on the bed, "You felt very uncomfortable in the lehenga-choli and were completely exhausted that you fell straight asleep without even changing. My hoodie seemed easier to change you into than your nightwear. So, I slipped this on you," explained Arnav in a gentle manner.

Khushi looked at his face. He did not seem even a tiny bit angry or upset; instead, there was understanding and assurance in his eyes. That fact made Khushi drown in remorse even more.

"And don't worry," he said, "I looked away."

"Devi Maiyya, how sensible he is! He cares for me too much, and see how I repaid! I somewhat know how much he longs for our union and still, I technically beguiled his hopes unintentionally, despite myself."

Her eyes reflected the inner self-reproach as she gazed solemnly at him.

"Arnavji, I am-"

He placed a kiss on her forehead.

"I will get dressed and attend to some calls while you get ready, and then we shall go down together."

He dropped quick pecks on cheeks and disappeared inside the walk-in closet. Only then had Khushi registered the changes that took place in the room -

Sections of the dull colours were replaced with bright ones; Flooring was now wooden and furnished with a sumptuous carpet that complemented the whole room; Pictures of them and their family members were hung on the side wall of the room. In short, the once-boring-room had now been transformed into a lustrous one with a blend of their tastes mixed together. Since it was dimly-lit the previous night, Khushi hadn't noticed these changes.

As she was taking in the transformations, Arnav walked out, fully dressed, and grabbed his mobile, "I'll be out by the poolside making some business calls while you get ready."

Khushi entered into the walk-in closet that was as big as her bedroom at the Gupta house. The width of the walkway was about 5 feet having shelves and drawers on either side, and a brilliantly illuminated vanity area installed at the end of the walkway with all the necessary accessories they'd ever need. Arnav's clothes were arranged on one side whereas Khushi's dresses on the other.

Except, she could hardly spot any dresses she had sent to Shantivan. She concluded that Arnav had stocked her cupboards with brand new collections of many styles of designer outfits. There was even a door installed in a corner of the walk-in closet that gave access to the washroom. Wondering when had all these changes taken place, she left to shower after grabbing a yellow saree with a simple border that was conveniently placed at the front.

Minutes later, Arnav was greeted with the sight of his wife frantically searching every nook and corner of the room for something. He took in the features of Khushi who looked ethereal in that saree with no makeup at all, wearing just the mangalsutra and his mother's bangles; her long, wet tresses dancing behind her with every step she took. He noticed something missing and immediately understood what she was looking for.

"I have it with me," he said.

She whipped around, startled, "You—What?"

"You are looking for your Kumkum box, aren't you?" he said. "I took it with me so that I could apply sindoor on your forehead, lest you put it on by yourself."

"What did you think, I would have my husband missed the chance of applying sindoor on his wife in the first day of marriage?" she said, approaching him.

"Knowing how erratic you are, yes, I did think so," he winked.

Khushi playfully hit his chest.

Arnav produced a small silver box and filled her maang with sindoor. While doing so, some kumkum fell on her nose. He tried to wipe away the powder but Khushi caught his hand.

"Don't wipe it!" she said.

"What? Why not?"

"It means you love me."

"You found that out now?" he grinned.

"No, Arnavji, I mean, when some kumkum gets on a wife's nose when her husband applied it, it means that he loves her a lot. It also indicates luck."

"My actions don't but your so-called dark Mehendi and this kumkum prove my love for you, huh? I don't believe in them."

"Laad Governor," she mumbled under her breath.

He laughed and kissed her forehead, "You look beautiful, Khushi. I hoped that you would wear this saree. Thanks."

"You could have simply told me, Arnavji."

"I didn't want to impose any decisions on you."

"This transformed room says otherwise," she giggled.

Arnav went behind her and slid his arms around her waist, resting his head in the crook of her neck.

"I wanted to surprise you. Why, didn't you like it? You can always change it according to your liking, Khushi. This is our room now."

"I... I like it this way, Arnavji," she whispered, blushing, as he was showering kisses on her neck.

Khushi swiftly turned to face him in the hopes of getting a real kiss, but he moved away awkwardly and said, "Uh... Yeah, we should go down now."

She cursed herself again. It was bad enough that she made him suffer the previous night, and now Arnav mistook her when she turned around that she wished to maintain distance from him when in reality it was quite opposite of what she wanted. Khushi was about to apologise and clarify her actions but he had already opened the door, waiting for her.

Khushi decided to let go of their misinterpretations for now but made up her mind to entice her husband soon and please him.

~*~

If there was anything that Khushi excelled at, it was without any doubt, cooking. So, this Pehli Rasoi ritual was just a piece of cake for her. After performing pooja and seeking all the elders' blessings, she was asked to prepare delicious dishes. Khushi insisted on making various varieties of items and took down a long list of every individual's favourite food.

While she was preparing a full course meal, Payal and Anjali kept loitering near the kitchen premises, smiling oversweetly, and when asked they simply gave answers that made no sense. It was not until Lavanya made a call to her to inquire about how the previous night was, did it dawn on her the reason behind their unusual behaviour.

"Khushiji, Payalji and I were thinking-"

"-whether it would be a good idea to launch 5000 notes!"

Entered Payal and Anjali.

"Why don't we have everything but 100 rupee notes cancelled?" responded Khushi.

"WOW! That's a great idea!" both of them replied, plastering a plastic smile.

"Jiji, Di, please stop," said Khushi. "I know what's eating you. I-"

Khushi's phone rang again.

"Why are you being evasive, Chamkili? Be open!"

Lavanya's voice resounded in the kitchen as Khushi put the phone on speaker.

Even though her cheeks were turning flaming red, she firmly told the 3 ladies, "Please, nothing happened last night. We were very tired and went straight to bed."

"Oh," came the dull, disappointed responses from the 3.

"Now can you not pounce on me for details and let me cook in peace?" said Khushi, joining her hands together.

"Okay, bye, Chamkili," Lavanya hung up.

"Alright, alright!" said Payal.

"Are you sure you don't want any help, Khushiji?" asked Anjali.

"No, Di. I am certain that I can manage on my own."

As she was once again left to the solitude with the company of no one but food, she could freely allow her thoughts to flow not only in her mind but also out of her mouth. Now, how would one appease their husband? Through stomach, i.e; food? It was being done! How about outing? No, they were newlywed; rituals wouldn't permit them. Endless apologies? Arnav wasn't giving her any chance for that. What say, seduction? Yes! But how?

It was time she constructed some strategies on the subject in which she had no apparent knowledge.

Khushi knew that she sort of behaved rudely with them but it was only because she was afraid that they would hear her plans to cajole Arnav in their bedroom which were most likely be said out loud by her, resulting in an embarrassing situation. They already seemed too willing to give advice on that matter, very likely through Lavanya, and she most certainly didn't want that.

Soon, the full course meal had been served. Everyone praised the delicious food and thoroughly enjoyed it. Khushi prepared oil-less dishes and sugarfree desserts separately for Arnav. The newly-wedded was asked to feed each other – Arnav did so without any hesitation but Khushi took her own sweet time, owing to shyness in front of Arnav's shameless gaze. Khushi got rewards from everyone for winning them over in the ritual.

Later that day, Garima and Shashi came to take Khushi to their house as a part of the pag phere ritual. Khushi was supposed to spend a few days at her maternal home but the elders knew better of Arnav and suggested he took her back after a couple of hours. What disheartened Khushi was that Arnav didn't seem sad when she was leaving and that didn't help with her guilty-conscience at all.

Khushi let herself enjoy her time at the Gupta house with her family to the maximum. Hours went by with Khushi pulling Buaji's legs, spending memorable time with Garima and Shashi, meeting her fellow neighbour aunties, playing with her little friends (Kids), evading Sarada dadi's batch, and visiting her favourite mandir in Laxmi Nagar. She didn't know how the time had passed and at last, Khushi was back to dealing with the issue at hand.

Arnav had called Khushi and told her that he would be there soon. His tone was very stoical, not giving away how he was feeling at all. She had no clue if he was mad or happy or psychotic currently. In the morning, he seemed all casual and alright; during lunch, he was naughty; while she was leaving he seemed indifferent, and now dull. What, was he unhappy to have her back, or angry?

In her experience, this type of behaviour from him was never a good sign. Maybe he would punish her in his own way this night. Or soon. Or never. Well, her Laad Governer was always unpredictable. But whatever would happen, she'd be fully prepared in her own ways to coax and tackle him. For that, she required some special things.

And that was why, Khushi paid a visit to the friend in her own room, the secret chamber. Who knew the things she stashed away in embarrassment would be what she needed for the same purpose she was presented them! She brought all the stuff out and dumped them on the bed, not before locking her door and drawing all the curtains.

"Hey Devi Maiyya! Why is this happening to me? Couldn't you have spanked me with Buaji's belan last night and kept me awake! Had I not fallen asleep and disappointed my husband, I would not be touching all this forbidden stuff now!"

Khushi went through the lingerie sets Lavanya had bought her a few days ago. Checking out the black negligee, she blushed uncontrollably at the mere thought of wearing that before Arnav. If looks didn't please him, actions would. Her mind wavered to the erotic guide and thought that she could use some of the tips from it. But one look at the cover page, she launched the book flying in the air.

It would take mountains amount of bravery to actually open the book, and she had no courage to wear the lingerie before Arnav either.

"Devi Maiyya! What do I do? How do I please him? Help me!"

There was a sudden knock on the door and Khushi felt her heart skip a million beats. Hastily dumping all the contents into a bag, she opened the door.

"What were you doing?" asked Garima.

"N... N... Nothing!"

"Arnav bitwa has come."

"Oh! Good. Nice. It was so brave of him!"

Garima eyed suspiciously at her daughter, "Brave? Pagli! Talks rubbish all the time. Now come with me!"

"Y... Yes! But let me lock my room first!" said Khushi, wriggling out of Garima's hold.

"Lock?"

"I mean, what if air gets inside?"

Garima just stared at her lunatic daughter and marvelled on how they had managed to remain sane all those years in Khushi's company, and fervently wished the best for the Raizadas. Especially Arnav.

Though he had stayed there for a little while, the Guptas were granted enough time to pamper their son-in-law to their hearts' content. Arnav revelled in the special treatment he received with no complains at all; however, Buaji was another case. Khushi and Arnav were showered with many presents by the Guptas as it was the first time the newly-wedded visited them after the wedding. Both of them sought their blessings together before departing.

Khushi did not forget to grab her precious bag while leaving.

"Why the long face, Khushi?" asked Arnav, making their way out of Laxmi Nagar in the car. "You can stay at your maternal home for as long as you want. I won't mind. I didn't object in the morning either. They just assumed-"

"It's not that," she mumbled.

"Then?"

"You are behaving differently with me."

"What do you mean 'differently'?" he asked softly. "I am being my usual self."

"No, Arnavji, I mean, I feel like you are being... erm, distant from me," she said and hastily added, "But not in that way. It's like you are not sharing... I mean, you are..."

"Khushi, just relax. I think you are worrying about something too much. Are you alright? Please, share what's bothering you."

Taking a deep breath, "Are you not mad at me?"

"What? No! Why would I? What made you think like that?"

"Maybe I am just overthinking," thought Khushi.

"Khushi?" called Arnav, pulling the car over. "Are you okay?"

Khushi stared at Arnav who was looking at her with his eyes full of concern, and self-reproached for making him worry unnecessarily. She unlatched the seatbelt and launched herself into his embrace, settling in his lap comfortably. His arms closed around her form and gazed intently at her.

"Khushi, is anything wrong?" he inquired once again.

"Nothing," she replied. "I just love you so much."

She rested her head against his heart and sighed listening to the steady, rhythmic heartbeat that always synchronized with her own. Still concerned, he gathered her more into his embrace in an assurance of the unknown.

##

• This part was ****py as heck, I know. I lost the track of my own darn story! Had to go through a couple of chapters to write this one. It didn't help at all because I forgot the plot I originally wanted to write.

• This chapter was turning out longer and took more time to draft, so I cut this one short and published 70% of what I intended to write. I'll publish the remaining part in 2 days (Not breaking the promise this time for sure). Mind you, the next part will be very small.

Storytime :

• And that's what happens when your girl got suddenly stuck in the middle of a ferocious cyclone called life. Yes, I am late. Again. And Yes, I have appeared here after a couple of months. Also Yes, I have been hiding from some of your angst messages and comments for a while. But people, I have a valid explanation-

I started college 2 months ago, and that was far away from my hometown, so I had to stay in a hostel. I overcame with homesickness (been a house cat my whole life), Food poisoning due to the damn hostel food, frustration because the University wasn't good at all (Main reason), and depression coz' I wasn't allowed even a phone or a laptop. Hence, I decided that doing UG while staying away and living like a caveman wasn't worth it and shifted from there to my sweet hometown.

The college had already begun here a month ago, and I had to catch up with all the classes that I had missed. Hehehe, this was easy peasy (Not bloating, but I'm a moderately clever student). The part that killed me was doing 6 freaking assignments in 10 days. My whole school life went by with me doing no work at all. Always had my family or friends do it for me. But now, I was a lone warrior. Had to finish them all in a week. (Was sure I went a little crazy towards the end)

I thought the storm was calming down, but I was wrong. A few days later I had to sit through exams. Damn it! When would I be freeeee! I would be so tired after coming home that I just couldn't get any energy to draft the story. In fact, I skipped college the past 2 days only to draft a chapter, but my mind was just blocked and had no idea what to write.

• Sorry, guys, for keeping you waiting ?? I hope you understand my laziness and forgive me _/\_

##

Sep 30

Part - 37 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 43 times)

Note - No proofread, utter **** and contains lots of unrelated and nonsensical stuff. Please, don't kill me.

##

They knew that one of the topmost business tycoons in Asia tying the knot in a simple manner privately would drive everyone, especially the media, crazy. Which was why the Raizadas had held a very grand reception at the finest conventional hall in Delhi the day after their wedding. From business partners to long-lost distant relatives, everyone they knew had been invited.

There were no excuses for Khushi this time, she had to look her best at the wedding reception. Anjali, Payal, and Lavanya convinced Khush into getting the best makeover possible by one of the most professional cosmetologists in the country. Though she took a lot of time in doing the makeup when she was done, Khushi was hardly recognizable.

Wearing a designer teal blue color saree that has intricate, heavy work and a dazzling silver blouse along with matching diamond jewelry and accessories from head to toe - hair was done in an elegant bun with pattern of plaits atop her head, some curled locks let loose; Smokey eyes, contoured features, and bold red lipstick; Khushi's transformation was stunning.

The makeup artist felt proud seeing the over-enthusiastic reactions of Anjali, Payal, and Lavanya. But Khushi was literally stunned and wasn't moving at all as she was almost threatened by her cosmetologist to not ruin her art after discovering how clumsy Khushi could get.

"Oh my God! Chamkili, you look fabulous!"

"Really, Khushiji! Everyone will be left speechless seeing you."

"Say something, Khushi!"

"How do I move?" the voice barely got out of her mouth, yet they caught it and suppressed giggling.

"Just move usually," said Anjali.

"No! Move carefully. Do not smudge anything," told Payal.

"Yeah, or else, that artist might just murder not just you but all of us," warned Lavanya.

The four of them sneaked a glance at the MUA (Makeup artist) who sat in a corner dauntingly, doing something on her laptop.

"I am really scared. I have never got dressed up this extremely. How will I manage the whole function?"

"It will be alright, Khushi. Don't worry much," Payal patted her shoulder.

"Yeah, you really should look very poised today. You will have to face the media, Chamkili. They will just write all sorts of rubbish if you goof-up even just a tiny thing."

"Stop scaring her," chided Anjali. "It won't be that long. You just have to show your face to the reporters and meet the guests. That's it."

Khushi hated the media after she was published to the world in a very humiliating manner a year ago. Now the time had come to face it again. She knew it was unavoidable because being the wife of a prominent personality had it's own setbacks, but she could not let Arnav's reputation get tarnished due to her graceless nature.

"Cheer up, Khushiji!" said Anjali. "You will get to meet our extended family today!"

"Yes, Khushi. I have met some of them. They are very nice, you will love them," uplifted Payal.

Khushi smiled.

The cosmetologist approached them with all her stuff packed, "Alright now, I shall leave."

They could only nod before her intimidating attitude.

"And Mrs.Raizada, congratulations once again," she said and strutted away from there.

The next second, Khushi collapsed on the couch, settled down comfortably and began sipping a glass of cold water with a straw. The three ladies left from there to check on the situation outside leaving Khushi alone to get adjusted to her totally transformed appearance. Apart from keeping her makeup from smudging, she had to deal with another obstacle; namely heels.

Considering her exclusive ability to trip over things even on barefoot, she had got a tough task ahead. Hence, she resolved that it was time to get some practice to walk about on heels like a normal person. A while later when she was positive that she would survive the night, Khushi walked over to the full-length mirror to admire herself. Yes, the makeover was extreme but she liked it.

With a sudden hustle, someone threw open the door, released a sigh at Khushi's sight and leaned on the doorframe.

"Oh, I'm sorry, could you tell me where my wife is?" came the voice.

Her eyes spotted the source of the voice on the mirror's reflection and blushed under the person's heated gaze. Her heartbeat picked up speed when he pushed himself off the door frame tantalizingly and began advancing her.

He proceeded forward till he was directly behind Khushi, her back pressed hard to his front, and let his fingers trail up and down in a gentle caress on the exposed skin of her back, making her skin erupt into goosebumps. He snaked his arms around her waist from behind while he rested his head in the nape of her neck, his hands skimming across the satin skin of her petite waist.

"A..Arnavji," Khushi breathed, her head leaning back and eyes shut tightly at the alluring touch.

"You look breathtaking, Khushi," whispered Arnav, his lips lightly brushing her against nape.

She tilted her head slightly and their eyes met, both exhibiting the same love and desire. Arnav pressed his lips gently to hers, his hands continuing the sensuous caress on her stomach, his strokes moving up higher and higher as the kiss went on and groaned when Khushi ran her hand through his thick hair tenderly massaging his scalp with her fingerpads in a soothing motion, tugging him closer.

But at once, Khushi pushed Arnav away and hastily checked herself in the mirror to see if any makeup had been smudged. Thankfully, everything was intact. Though fleetingly relieved for an instance, she vehemently hoped that Arnav did not misinterpret her action but the abashed expression on his face confirmed her fears.

"Uh... I'm sorry, Khushi. I did not want to make you feel uncomf... Nevermind, I am sorry," he said.

"No, Arnavji! It is not what you think. My make-"

"I know, I know, I totally understand," he said, smiling at her.

"No, you don't! I was just worried abo-"

She was interrupted as someone knocked on the door. Before Khushi could react, Arnav went ahead and let them in. She couldn't reproach herself enough. Seriously, what was happening? Everything she did kept backfiring in a terrible manner and Arnav failed to understand the actual reason behind her actions. Just one chance to clear herself before him was all she desperately needed.

"Hey, Nannav, it's time, brother," said NK, marching inside the room.

"Yes, we ar-"

"Oh, my Goodness, Khushiji!" screamed NK after spotting Khushi, "You look gorgeous indeed! Lav swore that you look enchanting and she's not wrong!"

"Thank you, Nanheji," she replied timidly.

"Now, if you both are ready, come down. Everyone is waiting for you guys," informed NK and left.

Arnav looked at Khushi and extended his hand, "Let's go?"

Khushi was apprehensive on the prospect of facing too many high-class people and the media as Arnav Singh Raizada's wife. Her face gave away her anxiety, and Arnav tipped her chin up to meet his eyes.

"Don't worry," whispered Arnav, "I am with you."

One look into his eyes and she knew that he got her back, he would take care of everything. There was nothing to be worried about when her Arnavji was by her side. Reciprocating his assuring smile, she placed her palm in his, and Mr and Mrs.Raizada stepped out together to commence the wedding reception with their presence.

~*~

As they glanced down from the top floor, the aerial view of the conventional hall was visible which was as large as of a stadium. Every inch of the hall was magnificently decorated with different lighting styles such as sparkling lanterns and dazzling chandeliers; soft colour flowers of divergent varieties; contrasting mix of vivid drapes and curtains; exquisite antique showpieces adorned with flashy ropes along the boundaries of the hall... In short, it was the most majestic room Khushi had ever seen.

People of different generations could be spotted, of who all were merrily mingling with each another seated together in different groups on the guest couches and chatting away with their friends/relatives while being served beverages and snacks by the attendants. Different types of entertainment activities had been arranged to keep all the guests entertained, but this factor was mostly being utilized by the kids.

Arnav led Khushi along a long corridor and past an elevator that would take them down the floor. Outside of a door, they located Aman and some other people unknown to Khushi. Aman greeted Khushi which she acknowledged kindly and nodded at the other people when they wished her. She wondered why Arnav brought her there when everyone was waiting for them down in the reception hall.

"Arnavji," called Khushi, "What are we doing here? Why are we not going there? Nanheji has infor-"

"I thought it would be better if we dealt with the press first and get over with it before the reception begins."

"Now?!" shrieked Khushi.

"Yes, now. Is something wrong?"

Khushi shook her head, mumbling to herself, "I am not mentally prepared yet."

Arnav tenderly held her hand and gave a soft smile. Both entered through the doors into an enormous room where over 10 rows of seats had been occupied by the media reporters and many more photographers were zealously clicking pictures of Arnav and Khushi. The flashes from numerous cameras were blinding her vision which caused Khushi to trip over her heels, but Arnav caught her by the waist from falling.

"Hey Devi Maiyya! What a great entrance before the press. Again. It is exactly what I wanted," Khushi flinched in embarrassment and hid her face more into Arnav's chest.

"Are you okay?" asked Arnav, pulling her into a proper standing position.

Khushi softly nodded and plastered on a nervous smile as she posed with Arnav for some photographs. Pin-drop silence enveloped the room for a moment as some people had recognized Khushi from that infamous incident. Her heart grew heavy when she noticed a few people whispering among themselves while staring at her.

Arnav snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her a bit closer, leaned towards her ear and whispered, "This colour doesn't look that bad on you, Khushi. Why the long face?"

She recalled a particular memory and laughed heartily as she looked at him grinning at her. At this point, the photographers must have taken innumerable pictures in their desired poses of Mr and Mrs.Raizada but their thirst for more never ended. So, Arnav simply took a cordless microphone and cleared his throat, making everyone in the room fall hush.

"Good evening, everyone," he began authoritatively, "The reason you have been summoned here is that I would like to make an official announcement about a major update in my life." Arnav stepped sideways near Khushi, "I have tied the knot to this gorgeous woman beside me, Khushi Arnav Singh Raizada, less than 24 hours ago in my hometown."

Khushi joined her hands together and greeted them with a smile. Arnav handed the mike to Aman and gestured Khushi to be seated and joined her shortly after.

"You may now ask Mr.Raizada only on the needful subjects. And quickly, I must request," said Aman.

A reporter stood up, "First of all, congratulations, Mr.Raizada and Mrs.Raizada."

Arnav merely nodded at him but Khushi responded with a bright, "Thank you". Her mind convinced her that if she behaved sweetly like her usual self with the reporters, she could be spared from the sharp questions they would ask. But the first question itself cleared that notion and she learned that there was no escape from the media's savagery.

"Could you tell us if your marriage was a love marriage or an arranged one? Are you certain that you weren't forced into this marriage by your family?"

"Are you new to the news related to the business world in the country?" questioned Arnav.

"No, sir."

"Then you must certainly be knowing that no one can force Arnav Singh Raizada into doing anything."

That shut the reporter and another one got up, "Exactly what made you decide that Mrs.Raizada should be your life partner? There must be at least one solid factor that compelled you to succumb to her."

Khushi's brain popped although she managed to keep up a calm face. Were they seriously implying that she must have blackmailed Arnav and manipulated his family by administering 'low-class' tricks to get him? How sick! She was sure that in no time they would bombard her directly with such cutting questions.

Arnav slid his hand in hers and gave a gentle squeeze. His eyes were spitting fire at the reporter but calmly responded, "Yes. There was one solid factor..."

Their eyes shone in excitement.

"...called love."

Disappointment flashed in their faces.

Arnav took one serious glance at everyone and said, "I may have to ask you to keep in mind whatever my manager instructed you before we stepped in. For your own good."

The whole room took in a deep breath, alarmed, bobbed their heads very slightly. Khushi didn't understand what had just happened and was flabbergasted the next second as the topics they asked took an abrupt shift.

"When are you launching your new fashion line, sir?"

"In about 3 months."

"Have you decided who is going to endorse your new clothesline?"

"Yes, I have."

"Can you reveal their name?"

Arnav glared at the reporter who asked that question and she grasped his answer.

"You have always produced the most clicked fashion brands ever. What theme are you going to launch this time?"

"Ethnic."

"Traditional wear is something you've never endeavoured before. Are you going to try something new this time?"

"Yes, a clothesline after my wife Khushi who loves, and mostly prefers, traditional outfits."

Khushi's jaw almost dropped not only at Arnav's recent revelation about his fashion line but mostly because the media went off-topic all of a sudden. When had this press meet become Arnav's business related conference from their wedding subject? She remembered Arnav taking her outside when someone asked the question, "ASR, do you think we are all going to die this December?"

[Remember the whole 21/12/12 'the world will end' fiasco? That one. This story takes place in 2012, in case you've forgotten]

Arnav answered his phone stepping out of the room with Khushi, "Yes, Di, we are coming. 2 minutes..."

Khushi went near Aman.

"You don't have to worry, ma'am, they won't bother you. None of the reporters could get to the reception area. They will be dispersed from a different exit-"

"Amanji, what instructions did Arnavji talk about in there before? How did the rapid shift in topic happened?"

"Oh, that! ASR made us all give strict instructions to the reporters that no one could directly address to you or ask any questions that may make you feel uncomfortable."

"What?"

"Yes, ma'am. But you've seen how they are, haven't you? Despite the commands, they began poking their noses into that malign incident, indirectly referring you. Only ASR's direct threaten shut their dirty mouths up."

"Threaten?"

"Which meant if they didn't stop hinting ill about you, they would ruin their life with their own hands. ASR actually quoted a sentence like that in the invitation email to their respective channels."

"How can I be surprised? Arnavji has his ways to protect me. I love my Laad Governor to the moon."

Aman left as Arnav returned to Khushi's side. He frowned seeing her impassive face.

"What happened, Khushi? Are you okay?" he asked. "Come on, don't take them seriously. They only dig for juicy gossips and controversies."

"You took care of it. You shielded me from their harsh questions, but it's not it, Arnavji."

"Then what?" he asked, utmost concern etched on his face.

"Do you really think the world will end this December?" she said.

"I- What?"

Seeing his bemused face Khushi burst out into peals of laughter and he rolled his eyes, saying, "Unbelievable," and grinned.

~*~

Minutes later, as Arnav and Khushi walked along the passageway in the hall, hand in hand; everyone showered flowers on them, elders clapped, youngsters hooted, many clicked pictures, some envied the charming couple and some admired their happiness. They got onto the dais and joined their family.

"Good evening! Thank you so much for gracing us with your presence. Most of you have come from great distances just to bestow your blessings upon the newlywed. We hope you would have an amazing time here with us!"

After Anjali's welcome speech ended, a couple of hours flew by with the guests greeting Arnav and Khushi, giving them presents, taking photographs together, retelling some stories associated with either of the couple etc... The guests' number was not small at all; relatives, friends, business partners and associates, popular models, a few actors, and actresses; it felt as if the whole state's population attended their wedding reception. Khushi was gradually growing tired, and Arnav, impatient.

.

.

.

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"When she was 6, Khushi climbed a tree and stayed there the whole day feasting on mangoes!" said Khushi's relative.

"Arnav beta did the same thing, except he got on top of a tower to skip school," said Arnav's relative.

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.

.

"Khushi bitiya makes sure everyone around her is happy. She has the heart of gold," said a neighbour.

"ASR does everything he can for his family," another neighbour stated.

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.

.

"Our Arnav was a state champion in basketball!" said an Arnav's admirer aunty.

"Our Khushi was a gold medalist in college!" announced a devoted uncle.

.

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"Dude, learn something from my bhabhi. See, she is so cool!" unknown teenager.

"And my brother completes her personality! They both finish each other's puzzle pieces," – unclear how Arnav was this girl's brother.

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.

.

"Who are these people? I have never seen most of them," whispered Arnav in her ears.

"Shh, Arnavji!" warned Khushi with her eyes.

Taking pictures with the guests was over and they were now scattered in groups near the stage and began telling stories about Arnav and Khushi. Their family was nowhere to be seen as they were busy attending to other guests and entertaining them. A group of adolescents came up to them and took a picture with the couple.

"This was why I never allowed myself to be a part of functions," said Arnav.

"Arnavji, can you stop whining like a child?" giggled Khushi.

"But it is past midnight!"

"And it is OUR wedding reception!" stressed Khushi. "Now smile. Smile as if 'What the' has been declared as the national phrase."

He groaned and Khushi giggled at his irritation. She loved seeing all these people gathered in one place to wish well for their happy life ahead and enjoyed the drama going on around them, but Arnav, not so much. A while later, he answered a call and looked at Khushi with a smirk.

"What?" she asked.

"Oh, Aman just informed me that one of the brand ambassadors of 'Khushi' clothing line has just arrived."

"Nice! But where are they?"

"In a room upstairs. We have to go and meet them personally since they cannot come down due to some security reasons."

"But here-"

"It's already done here, Khushi. Look around you, everyone is spending time with one another. We're just standing here like some stupid showpieces."

"Arnavji, shh!"

"I don't care!" said Arnav. "I have just texted Akash, he said he'll take care of situation down here. Come, let's go!"

Arnav grabbed her hand and hauled her to him. She sneaked one glance around; everyone was indeed immersed in their own world, having fun and enjoying the feast. No one seemed to care about the newlywedded anymore.

"Why this hurry, Arnavji?" she called, following him along the deserted long corridor behind the stage.

"Just come."

"Is that a she? Who is she? Is she any actress crush of yours?" joked Khushi.

"Yeah, right!" chuckled Arnav.

They reached a secluded room on the first floor and knocked on its door. Khushi was completely perplexed seeing Arnav constantly throwing I-created-the-universe type smirks at her.

"Come in," answered a familiar, deep voice from inside the room.

As Arnav and Khushi entered, the person inside the room started saying, "First of all, I am extremely sorry, ASR, for causing such inconvenience to you in your own reception! I am in a rush, actually, due to which making public entrance is time-consuming at the moment."

"No problem, Mr.Khan, we totally understand," said Arnav, shaking hands with him.

"'Mr.Khan'? Come on, ASR! So formal! I thought our relationship was more than just business related."

Arnav vaguely nodded his head and turned to Khushi," Khushi, this is the man who is going to endorse 'Khushi' clothing line."

From the moment she entered inside, Khushi remained glued to the spot and kept staring at the man in front of her in incredulity.

"Hello, Khushi. I have heard so much about you from your husband. He says that you are my biggest fan," said Salman Khan.

Khushi held her breath, still no change in her posture. Arnav and Salman Khan exchanged glances in uncertainty; one in anticipation and another in amu****t.

"Khushi? Khushi!" growled Arnav, shaking her. "Respond, damn it!"

Salman Khan chuckled, "This is a reaction I've never seen or expected to see, before."

He went near her and snapped his fingers before her face, bringing her back to the present. The next second, she screamed on the top of her lungs, jumping up and down, whirling around the place like a maniac, which would have surely attracted the attention of the entire city had the room not been soundproof.

"Hey Devi Maiyya! This is real! Really real! Salman-ji is here! He is actually here in this room with me! Is this true or just my imagination?" shrieked Khushi, pivoting on her feet.

Salman Khan caught her by the shoulders and said, chuckling, "Yes, Khushi, yes. Your Salman-ji is indeed before you."

Khushi fluttered hearing him, but Arnav frowned. He was not happy at all. He wanted to see Khushi excited and thrilled by this surprise, only that, and not her decades-long crush calling her, his wife, by her first name and his hands on her shoulders.

"Do you know, Salman-ji? I have watched each of your movie at least a thousand times! I can repeat every and any dialogue of yours! I can recite your movies list in different chronological orders! I have a huge collection of your movie posters in my room! During college, I was always the one to play your movie characters in dramas! I follow all your charitable initiatives! I even-"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Khushi! Relax and take a deep breath," said Salman. "ASR is right, you indeed are my biggest fan!"

"Yes, I am!" declared Khushi, proudly.

"As much as I'd love to spend more time with you, I have some unavoidable places to be," he said, looking intently. "But don't worry, Khushi, we will meet again. Heard that you make delicious dishes. Would visit you over dinner one day. What say, ASR?"

Despite the raging beast inside Arnav, he managed to respond, "Of course! You are welcome anytime."

"Brilliant!" He turned to Khushi, "It was an experience meeting you, Khushi. Hope to see you soon."

"It would be my greatest honour, Salman-ji!" beamed Khushi.

Arnav sighed in relief watching Salman Khan walking away but internally groaned when he returned.

"Oh, I almost forgot!" he said, producing a huge gift box, "The reason I am here in the first place."

He handed the present to Arnav and Khushi, "Hearty congratulations, Mr and Mrs Raizada! Wishing you a lifetime of love and happiness."

"Thank you so much, Salman-ji!" squealed Khushi.

Arnav never felt more satisfied hearing someone say 'Mrs.Raizada'. And even more satisfaction seeing someone leave. His untamable jealously was calming down slowly, but Khushi's over-enthusiastic reaction caused him to reconsider his choice of celebrity to endorse his fashion brand.

"Did you see, Arnavji? Did you see? Salman-ji was here! Salman Khan!" squealed Khushi, swooning on her feet while Arnav sat grumpily on a couch.

"I have never imagined that I would meet him in person in real life! My second biggest dream came true!"

"Yeah," responded Arnav, unenthusiastically.

Khushi came running to him and settled herself comfortably on his lap, garlanding her arms around his neck, taking Arnav by surprise.

"But do you know what my first biggest dream is?" she asked, gazing at him lovingly.

"Live in a house made of Jalebis?" said Arnav indifferently.

"No," she said, "It is to have you by my side, Arnavji. Always."

His gaze turned warm hearing her.

"And I can only be certain of fulfilling this dream after 60 or 70 years. Will you make this happen too?"

Arnav's lips curved up into a full-blown smile as he nodded his head vigorously and cupped her face in his palms, kissing her cheeks.

"Well, I shall think about it," he joked.

Khushi lightly grabbed the bow tie of his tuxedo and pulled him closer by tugging on it, "Laad Governor, now you are in a mood to joke, huh?"

"What do you mean? I always am when I am with you," he said pulling her more close by the waist.

"Not so much when I was going gaga over Salman-ji minutes ago," she quirked her eyebrows at him.

"Why in the world would I-"

"I didn't stop noticing you out of the corner of my eyes."

"How would you expect me to feel then, seeing my wife verbally expressing her obsession over another man to that guy himself in front of me?"

"Ah, jealous?"

"Of course, yes, damn it!" roared Arnav. "I just wanted to surprise you by launching a fashion brand of your preference after your name and have your favourite actor endorse it. Didn't expect the repercussions though!"

"You look so cute when you are jealous," she said, pulling his cheeks.

"Wha- Stop!" shoving her hands away, "I am not a child!"

Giggling, she leaned forward and hugged him close to her, resting her head on his chest. Arnav wrapped his arms around her tight.

"What is that I hear? Hmm... Ha! Your heartbeat stabilizing. Why is it happening now?"

"Because you are in my arms," he said, inhaling deeply of her fragrance.

"Correct! And now it is synchronizing with mine," she said, pressing her ear harder against his chest. "Yes, it is totally calm now."

"Khushi, what are yo-"

"Shh! I am trying to talk to your heart, Arnavji, and assuage its fear."

An amused smile adored Arnav seeing Khushi talk so seriously to his heart as if it was a separate individual.

"Oi, my Arnavji's heart! Stop making him anxious, alright? Salman-ji just occupies a tiny part of my mind, but my Arnavji totally owns me, and every inch of my soul. Get that into your thick head, okay?"

It was not possible to love her more, but he always loved her more with each passing second.

"Khushi, it worked! It said it wouldn't be such a jerk henceforth, but is demanding your undivided attention no matter who is before you," said Arnav.

"Fine by me!" beamed Khushi and embraced him again.

~*~

A couple of hours later, they had finally arrived home. Everyone straightaway retired to their rooms giving in to the terrible exhaustion not before stashing away the piles of wedding presents Arnav and Khushi received in a room since everybody other than the newly wedded was more excited to open them.

Arnav had freshened up first and waited for Khushi to come out. She took a lot of time selecting what to wear to bed. Despite the tedious post-wedding rituals, 'entice Arnav' plan never skipped her mind. She was completely worn out but still determined to please her husband. But she began to doubt herself as she was taking forever just to pluck up the courage to put on the negligee.

"Khushi? Everything alright? You have been in there for a long time!" called Arnav from outside the walk-in closet.

She hurriedly stowed away her lingerie in panic and put on a long, sleeveless satin nightgown, "I... I am coming, Arnavji. One minute!"

"I cannot show climax even before the movie started! Remember, Khushi, there is always a tomorrow. You can wear the torn dress some other time, but now there is no backing away!"

Taking a deep breath, she stepped outside. One look at him lying on the bed, all the moral boosting said hasta la vista. If only she hadn't wasted time in picking nightwear and gone through that forbidden book fully and not stopping at page one. Well, bygones were bygones! She put the stumbling, unprofessional catwalk of seduction into action.

"What took you so long?" asked Arnav.

Khushi halted mid-way in an awkward pose and stuttered, "I... I... didn't fi... find my clothes."

"I hope you are comfortable in this new nightwear. If not, I will help you find your normal-"

"No, this is nice. I feel good, Arnavji."

He took one full glance of her form, "Well, I am glad. You look really good in it."

Arnav led her near the bed and went behind her. Khushi's heart picked up a rocked speed when he began trailing his fingers on her arms and rested his head on her shoulder. She thought it was the perfect time to execute a tip she read in that book and she could literally visualize the page in her mind.

"A man always finds a woman who plays with her hair, pouts her lips, puts on a ****y expression and breaths heavily when neared attractive. No man would be immune to it, ladies ;)"

She literally followed the tip step by step and results turned up nowhere close to ****y, instead, she appeared as if she was carrying a heavy monkey on her back after being attacked by it. Arnav immediately turned her to him in concern.

"What happened? Are you feeling sick?" he asked, checking for any sign of fever.

"Wasn't that attractive?" blurted out Khushi incredulously. "Hey Devi Maiyya, Am I that bad at being ****y that Arnavji mistook me to be unwell?"

"What?" he was confused.

"No, I mean, I miss having stars above the bed," blabbered Khushi.

"Oh!" said Arnav, believing her.

He hauled her into his arms and carried her to the bed, laying her on it and joining her after switching all the lights in the room off.

"Arnavji, what are yo- Please, put them back on, it is so dark!"

Arnav rubbed her arms in assurance and handed her a remote, "Click the button."

"Why?"

"Khushi, just do it," he repeated calmly.

Unsure, she hit the button on the remote and watched the screens emerge from the ceiling and walls of the room. In the screens, billions of tiny, twinkling dots appeared from all sides of the room and a full round white circle appeared on the ceiling with a soothing melody playing all around. Khushi was awestruck seeing their room transformed into the dark sky at night.

"You like it?" he asked.

"I love it! This is mesmerizing! Devi Maiyya, it feels like we are floating in the sky!"

"Not just that, you can have any kind of weather you want; Sunny, cloudy, rainy... anything, any time of the day. Just don't forget to shut the blinds."

"When did you do this?"

"Got this installed while renovating the room."

"This is perfect, Arnavji. Thank you so much."

He kissed her on the forehead and she moved more into his embrace. Both remained like that comfortably watching in the serenity of the night sky in calming silence until a ding in Arnav's phone disturbed them.

"24 hours to our marriage," he said.

"Yes, exactly 24 hours," breathed Khushi looking into his eyes, hoping he would make a move.

"We should go to sleep."

"What?"

"You have that Mooh Dikhai ritual tomorrow morning, don't you?"

For the first time, Khushi hoped there were no more rituals and instead, spend uninterrupted time with Arnav.

"Yes," she said lazily, "And the last one."

"Thank goodness! I was slowly going crazy with these never-ending rituals."

"Weddings are never easy."

"So, no need to change my plan?"

"What plan?"

"Oh, I forgot to tell you. I preplanned a trip for our honeymoon without actually knowing when the post-wedding rituals would end."

"Honeymoon?"

"Yup, and we'll be leaving in 3 days."

"Really?" she asked excitedly. "Where are we going to? Nainital?"

"Nainital, seriously? I could take you to the moon, Khushi! But for now, let's stop with another country."

"But where to?"

"Surprise!"

##

My semester exams start from tomorrow ?? I desperately want a break already! Wish me luck and be patient ??

Oct 29

Part - 38 (By Priyanjali) (Thanked: 45 times)

Note - Very short update and one or two cuss words have been used. 70% of this chapter has no conversations.



##



The past many days had been incredible. Arnav and Khushi were having the time of their life, discovering undiscovered angles in their significant other every day. Arnav had certainly picked a marvellous destination for their honeymoon which was one of the topmost luxurious and romantic destinations in the world, Bora Bora. Having located halfway across the globe from India, Khushi had had a divergent cultural experience and totally enjoyed it.

They set off to Bora Bora 2 days after Khushi's Mooh Dikhai ceremony in a first-class suite on the airliner. Landing directly in their destination, they resided at a private overwater villa where Arnav made sure they had gotten as much privacy as they possibly could get away from the other resorts, therefore, ensuring no other person could reach their premises unless summoned.

Khushi loved their magnificent villa and the mesmerizing sceneries they got to experience daily; especially the underwater bedroom suite that had different varieties of fish swimming around their room. Though she had expressed that it was a bit over-the-top considering the huge villa was just for the two of them, Arnav pointed he would always give her the best and that their honeymoon should be one of their most cherished moments in life, and must derive utmost enjoyment.

The following days they had covered many exhilarating locations starting with a luxury cruise tour where they visited the nearby popular tourist attractions like – Rangiroa, also called as 'infinite lagoon', where they spotted extremely rare aquatic creatures and Khushi fell in love with dolphins; Mount Otemanu, at which they both had had an adventurous time hiking up this extinct volcano; Matira beach, where Khushi almost fainted seeing its scenic beauty of the white sand stretches and crystal clear water; and many other majestic places.

Upon Arnav's insistence, Khushi had participated in some tamed activities like windsurfing, kayaking and jet skiing that she had thoroughly enjoyed doing them with Arnav; and some extreme water sports (for her taste) like scuba diving. Despite receiving excellent training, Khushi still panicked going into the deep with different gears and means. But Arnav gave persistent boost and support that once she got a hang of it, Khushi refused to come back up and kept exploring divergent varieties of marine life up close in awe.

Arnav felt that Khushi had had a bit too much of water activities and decided to remain on land for a while. So they went to Vaitape, the main town and wharf of the island, to attend the biggest annual festival called Heiva. All of the colourful display of traditional Polynesian costumes, its sports competition and skills, cultural singing and dancing, and the craft demonstrations came as a whole new refreshing experience to Khushi. Apart from all that, Khushi particularly loved its vegetation and Arnav, the famous Bloody Mary's restaurant.

One day, a cook-off was held nearby and Khushi demanded Arnav to take her there. There was a presentation of many varieties of multicultural food in that competition. She tasted each and every one of them as long as they were pure vegetarian and encouraged all the contestants, complimenting their dishes. Eager to help some of the contestants, she provided them tips on how they could spice up their food and her pieces of advice worked like magic.

Khushi lost her marbles when they spotted an Indian taking part in that cook-off and immediately befriended them. Unable to control herself, she joined the competition, teaming up with that Indian, and made heaps of Jalebis while the other Indian made special Samosas. The combination clicked off really well and everything got sold off like hot cakes. It was not a surprise that Khushi won the competition. Seeing the never-fading glow on her face, Arnav was glad that he had taken her there.

A few days later, after they had covered almost all of the popular tourist attractions, Arnav rented a motorbike and they explored the local sightseeing places. Having never travelled on a motorbike together, this was a whole new experience for both of them; also which reminded Khushi of many classic flirtatious romantic scenes from the movies.

Arnav deliberately sped up swiftly or slammed brakes unnecessarily on the road causing Khushi to wound her arms around his torso from behind in a tight grip with a blush that in turn had Arnav friskily smirk at her mousy reactions. Gentle air and occasional sea sprays hitting their faces and them gliding through the enthralling routes; they both, especially Arnav, felt like teenagers.

Coming to the physical aspect of their relationship, they hadn't yet consummated. It was not as if romance died out or something; it was still there. Carnal and Passionate. Making out became a ritual every night before hitting the bed and oftentimes out in the public sneakily. But the reason behind their incomplete intimacy was quite a bit complex to evaluate and neither of them had any idea exactly why.

During the past many days, Khushi had gotten close to her own private acquaintance which was none other than the forbidden book of pleasure that she still hated so much. She hated it because the content in it was galaxies out of her comfort zone but she needed it to please Arnav on a subject on which she had almost null knowledge.

Khushi would lock herself up in the washroom for hours, going through a couple of intimacy tips listed in that book and practising it solo while blushing like crazy and trying to pluck up the courage to actually implement them on Arnav. It was like cracking the toughest exam in the world for her. She applied the rote learning method here and would just recite the pleasuring tips on her tiny journey from washroom to their bed.

Once Arnav initiated intimacy, Khushi, instead of letting herself enjoy and live in the moment, would apply those tips in a step by step order with a stony face as if she was executing a military mission. He would eventually back down, peck her forehead, gather her into his arms and fall asleep. That frustrated and disappointed Khushi endlessly but she never said anything because she would rather give up Jalebis for the rest of her life than ask him to proceed further.

Numerous nights had passed in the same manner and it was almost time they'd be leaving. So, Khushi was feeling particularly determined and adventurous that night yet barricaded by her shy barrier. Since the last hour, she had been trying to step out of her protective cocoon but she just couldn't get her feet to move. Finally dressed in that ****y black negligee, her bestie book gripped tightly in her hand, Khushi was almost having a meltdown.

"I will see how he'd be able to resist me today!" she stated. "Tonight is your night, Khushi! Everything will go as you prepared!"

"We'll see... Been saying the same thing every night and the results are always fruitless," retorted her inner self.

"But tonight will be different!"

"Then step out now."

"Nooo!" she began biting her fingernails. "Let me recite the steps 5 more times and then I will go."

5 gave birth to 25, still, she didn't move from the spot. Her heart skipped a million beats and the book went flying in the air when the door suddenly burst wide open and Arnav entered inside. He froze instantly after discovering Khushi was in there.

"Oh, I am sorry. Thought you were out at the patio, talking to Di-"

Words got stuck midway when he took in a fill of her appearance. His gaze swept over her long smooth legs to the petite waist shielded by the sheer material where her navel was playing peek-a-boo, up the lace that clung in a snug fit to her voluptuous curves providing a deep cleavage and finally her innocently astonished face that always allured Arnav.

In a blink, his eyes turned the darkest shade of black and the facial expressions emanated untamable desire that was threatening to explode. Khushi just ran to him and hid in his embrace, face digging into his chest. Arnav grabbed her shoulders and slightly moved apart and took one deep gaze at her form making Khushi squeal in shyness. She lifted her eyes to him and chewed the bottom lip in anticipation.

That did it! Arnav surged forward and took her lips in a fierce kiss, leading sideways and lifting her up by the hips, making Khushi sit on the counter. She responded with equal enthusiasm, threading her fingers through his hair and tugging gently. Arnav trailed downward still kissing hungrily on her cheeks, jawline, neck, collarbone, and cleavage. At that, Khushi released a muffled moan with her eyes shut tight, enjoying his ministrations.

Arnav made her wound her legs around his waist and carried her to their bed without breaking the kiss. Once when her back hit the bed, she became aware of her surroundings and recalled her book and her determination to please her husband in the right way. She stopped responding while trying to remember step by step order of pleasure. Arnav halted briefly at her lack of response and gave her an inquisitive look.

Khushi shook her head and pulled him closer once again for a kiss, hence commencing the first step. Then she began caressing his strong arms and torso over the T-shirt that made Arnav nip at her lips and suck at the spot to ease the sting. Khushi started raking over his back and shoulders, applying an adequate amount of pressure and moved her hands to his front, slipping them inside Arnav's shirt and her fingers rimmed around his hard nipples.

Arnav pulled away with an uncontrollable groan and took off his shirt in one smooth move, which was Khushi's next step. She did not appreciate the change in plan when Arnav performed the step she was supposed to do and the blatant dissent on his action was clearly visible in her expression.

Looking at her expression, Arnav released a sigh but smiled assuringly and placed a kiss on her forehead. He laid down next to her and attempted to pull Khushi to him. But she swatted his hand away and got onto her feet, glaring aggressively at him and nostrils flaring out. He immediately got up and went near her.

"What happened, Khushi? Is something wrong?" he asked with concern.

"Oh, I don't know. You should ask that question to yourself."

He frowned, "What do you mean by that?"

"What do I mean by that? You should know!"

"What?"

"What!"

"SHUT THE HELL UP AND TELL ME YOUR PROBLEM, GODDAMNIT!"

"Amazing, Mr.Raizada! You have the audacity to yell at me even after considering the fact that you are the one who is having a problem with me."

"Problem with you? Khushi, what are you on about?"

"Yes, you have a problem with me that you... you..." she flushed red and finished in a low tone, "You would abruptly stop every night."

"What the-"

"Yeah, that! That is not happening!"

"Wait, you didn't want to-"

"Do you no longer find me attractive?"

"What? No-"

"No?! I knew it!" she spun around on her heels, clutching her head. "I guessed it! Seeing all those naked women around you must have made you compare me to them and obviously the hotter lady is not me."

[By naked, Khushi meant women in bikinis at the beach]

"Have you lost it, Khushi! Have I ever averted my eyes from you outdoors? Even indoors?" he said through gritted teeth.

Both of them were glaring at one another with their eyes spitting fire, neither was ready to back down.

"I am indeed crazy for believing that I would impress you by wearing those stupid jeans and T-shirts. How could I tempt you when you had delicious treats all around you."

Arnav yanked her close and made her look straight at his furious face by grabbing the back of her neck, yet taking care not to cause her any pain.

"You looked adorable and ****ing ****y in your bright, pom-pom salwar suits, those flowing skirts, and especially in those sarees that arouse me like hell when I sneak a glance of your exposed skin!"

None of it seemed to have convinced Khushi so she kept glaring relentlessly at him.

"Even now, in this flimsy clothing, I want nothing more than to rip open it and devour your bo-" he stopped speaking as he realized he was turning a bit violent and exposing his inner extreme desire for her.

Not wanting to scare her away, he loosened his grip and cupped her face tenderly. Khushi was still breathing fire and chose to ignore everything he had said.

"Khushi, do you really think I would look at other women when you very well know that you solely have the hold of my entire being?"

"Then why didn't you proceed further till now?" she asked indifferently.

"Because I-"

"I know why," she said sharply, "You don't like the way I... I... respond. Not wanting to mock straight on my face at my lack of experience, you kept rejecting me!"

Arnav pushed her away and exclaimed, "Unbelievable."

He grabbed his shirt and darted out of the room furiously.

Grunting, Khushi stomped her way to the door, locked it and returned to their bed, "Shows his anger on me without my fault. Insensible Laad Governor!"

##

• But is he? Really? What do you think?

• I was actually supposed to wrap up their consummation and this story in this chapter but it was turning out a bit longer and I have no time right now because I have an exam in 10 hours. Did not touch a single paper till now. 

• I feel terrible for teasing you and ArShi this way but it simply keeps happening. Next chapter. For sure. I promise. You'll get long romance, hopefully steamy, possibly a bit mature. And yes, the next chapter is the final chapter. You will be freed from this curse. (ME) 

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