Anjali found another reason to smile and laugh, one that stayed with her even when she was alone at home. Often she would be smiling at some comment made by Anya and that brought a sparkle to her eye and her smile was no longer forced. These changes did not go unnoticed at home and initially they were too happy and relieved to get their old Anjali back to question further. But then as she started spending more time out of office and home even on weekends, Khushi for one became worried. She checked with the lawyer and confirmed that Shyam was still behind bars; still she confronted Di one day.
“Di”, said Khushi hesitantly, “How come you come so late from office these days. In fact you leave office earlier than before yet you come home late.”
Anjali smiling, “Haan, I made a new friend, and I go everyday to meet my new friend.”
Khushi surprised and worried, “Friend? Par kaun?”
Anjali said cagily “Hai koi”, then she laughed and took pity on Khushi, “Come with me tomorrow, I will introduce you to my friend. Nahi toh I am sure you will follow me.”
Khushi blushed at being caught.
Khushi was charmed by Anya and overjoyed to see their genuine affection for each other and thanked DM over and over again for making Di happy again.
“Arnav, guess what, Di had found a friend!” Khushi burst out the moment Arnav came into the room that evening.
He stopped in mid-stride, “Friend? Par kaun?”
Khushi polished her nails, “Hai koi.”
Arnav, rolling his eyes, “Khushiii…”
Khushi unable to hold it in, “Her friend is the cutest little girl of about 6 years of age. They meet at the park.”
Arnav’s reaction was not as Khushi expected it to be.
“Little girl? Who is she? And why would she be interested in making friends with Di. Doesn’t she have friends of her own age?” He frowned. “I wonder if somebody is planning on manipulating Di’s emotions. She is so emotionally vulnerable right now. May be I should make some enquiries.”
“Arnav! Why are you so suspicious! For heaven’s sake, she is just a little girl. Must there always be a ‘hidden agenda’. I have met the little girl, she is a darling and since she has recently come to India, she doesn’t have any friends due to language issues; besides she is rather mature for her age. If Di finds pleasure in her company, what’s the big deal?” Khushi fumed.
Arnav, equally annoyed, “And what if there is a ‘hidden agenda’? What would Di do then; she would again be hurt and I will never allow that. Both you and Di are such innocent babes in the woods; you don’t know how mean and ruthless people can be to achieve their own selfish goals.”
Khushi aggressively, “Oh really! I don’t know how ruthless people can be? You amaze me Mr Arnav Singh Raizada. When you should have investigated you didn’t and now you want to keep tabs on a little girl!”
Arnav, clenched his hands, “It is because I was so trusting then that I don’t want to take any chances now. And don’t deliberately get me wrong, I am not accusing the little girl, just feel that her parents should be investigated.”
“Trust you to make such a fuss about a non-issue. Do what you like, just don’t transfer your concerns to Di till you have some solid proof,” Khushi stomped
Blissfully unaware of these concerns, Di continued to meet Anya and everyday she would update her on the happenings of her school, her Dad, her nanny, her friends, her wants, her fears everything. Anya jumped and danced around so much all the while jabbering away that sometimes Anjali felt dizzy and she had to beg Anya to sit down.
One day Anjali got stuck in a meeting and was late in coming to the park. Anjali knew it was too late and that Anya was likely to have left but still she decided to have a look just in case.
And sure enough she was waiting, she was alone with her nanny and the instant she spied her, she ran and threw her arms around Anjali’s waist and burst into tears.
Anjali was shocked, “Sweetie, what happened darling, stop crying little one, tell me Anya?” She looked worriedly at the Nanny.
Nanny shook her head and said, “Don’t worry maam she is fine, she was waiting for you, initially she was angry that you were late and then she got it into her head that you must have gotten into an accident or something like that. I wanted to leave because it was getting dark and everybody had left and it is not really safe, but she wouldn’t listen. I was just about to call her Dad but I am glad you came.”
Anjali’s heart broke for Anya as she hugged her tight “Sorry Anya, I am so sorry, look I am fine. You should have listened to your Nanny and gone home, it is late and not safe to stay in the park alone. Ok here, take my address and phone number so that in case I am ever late again, you can call me ok?”
Anya sniffed, nodded her head and said dolefully, “I wanted to show you my new pink shoes, but it is so dark now.”
Anjali wiped her tears and took her hand, “Toh kya hua, come let us go near that lamp. Come hurry up, I want to see them too. Wow they are really pretty, whose choice was it?”
Anya cheered up, “My choice, but Dad said that he would get them for me only if I could get a star in Hindi class work. And I got two stars today so I called him at work and he allowed me to go with Nanny to buy these shoes.”
Anjali was impressed, “Two stars in Hindi and in such a short time, very good. That means I should also give you something.”
She rummaged in her bag, while Anya looked on eagerly and impatiently. Anjali triumphantly fished out a small plastic packet with two tiny pink clips.
“Here”, she said giving them to Anya, “See even our choices are similar! Don’t they match your shoes?” She had spotted them once while shopping and bought them on a whim for they had instantly reminded her of Anya.
Anya jumped up and down excitedly and then suddenly gave Anjali a tight hug, “Thank you thank you, they are really pretty.”
Anjali the ice around her heart slowly but surely melting, “Entirely my pleasure darling, now cool down; let me drop you home and never stay back so late in the park, otherwise your Dad will be very angry won’t let you come at all. And he would be right in doing so, understand?”
Anya solemnly nodded her head, “I promise Anjie.” She did another impromptu dance before getting inside the car. Anjali shook her head and followed her along with the Nanny.
The next day, Anya was very quiet and subdued. She gave back the clips and said, “Daddy was very angry with me for taking this. He really scolded me and said that it’s bad manners to accept gifts from strangers without giving anything in return.”
Anjali was cut to the core, “I am not a stranger!”
But she could understand her father’s concerns and the lesson he was trying to impart. But she was in a quandary, she so hated to see Anya so sad and upset.
Anya said in a small voice, “Maybe you could keep it, till I have something to give you in return?”
Anjali’s heart nearly broke, but she said brightly, “What a good idea!” and started to ask about her day at school to distract Anya.
Anya cheered up slightly as she told Anjali that she would be participating in an upcoming school play and maybe Anjie could come and see the play.
Anjali was happy to direct Anya’s thoughts in this direction and Anya was soon talking nineteen to the dozen.
Anya showed Anjali a friendship band that she had made during their craft class and Anjali was impressed with the neat design. Pleased with the praise, Anya tied the band around Anjali’s wrist.
Anjali admired the band, but then regretfully shook her head, “Thank you dear, but I can’t take this. You see it is bad manners to accept gifts from strangers without giving anything in return.”
Anya looked at her speculatively, nodded her head, and held out her hand.
Anjali solemnly placed the clips in her hand and they both started giggling at having won this round.
Click here for Chapter 15