Khushi clutched a cushion and chewed her lips in agitation; despite all good intentions, negative images repeatedly reared their ugly heads and terror seized Khushi. She was in the grip of a full-fledged panic attack, what if something had happened to Arnav, nahi nahi, hum seh nahi payenge, she shook and trembled with the force of her fear and anxiety too panic stricken to even cry or seek comfort in the release of pent up emotions. Memories of his being kidnapped assaulted her, those dreadful torturous days returned with a vengeance and what she had securely buried and trapped under the carpet swirled out like a whirling dervish engulfing her, suffocating her. What if, what if, what if, she couldn’t, she wouldn’t think beyond this, even this was too much, a dreadful leaden bogged her down.
She sat alone frozen in fear in the huge lobby of RM with only her worry for Arnav as company, the baby too was silent. The electricity went off as nature unleashed her fury, but Khushi hardly noticed, all emotions forgotten in her worry for Arnav. Hey DM, raksha karna, unka dhyan rakhna, unko sahi salamat humare paas bhej dena, bas hume kuch bhi nahi chahiye, kuch bhi nahi DM, kuch bhi nahi. A huge lump clogged her throat and heart thudded dully, her stomach twisted into knots, Arnav Arnav Arnav she chanted silently alternately pleading begging threatening, warning DM. It was possibly one of Khushi’s most trying couple of hours, for she was ill-suited for inactivity, and visions of the last time Arnav disappeared haunted her. What if he was in some danger? She could feel her heart pounding in her ears, her back felt as if it was on fire, waves of low non-specific cramps assaulted her at regular intervals, but her thoughts were focused on Arnav and DM.
There was an faint rustle that could be heard over and above the torrential rain, a crack of lightning revealed a shadow that stood in the middle of the RM lobby, just inches away from her; she looked up dully uncaring, who cared, let the intruder do his worst, where was Arnav her heart screamed, DM humare Arnavji jahan kahin bhi ho unko sahi salamat rakhna, DM raksha karna, she was on her own trip, “Khushi,” the shadow spoke softly and moved towards her, she froze, her heart stopped and then began beating furiously again, her breath came in short gasps as the iron control she had exerted on her emotions deserted her, reflexly she stood up and burst into gut wrenching sobs after she managed to utter the only thought in her head, “Arnavji.”
Arnav swiftly moved forward and gathered her into his arms, as she cried noisily inconsolably, Arnav tried to shush her but she was beyond consolation, the fear, the pain and the anguish of the last couple of hours were not so easily hushed, she hugged him fiercely, unable to speak, when finally she could speak, all she said was Arnav Arnav Arnav, Arnav.
It spoke volumes of her mental state that not once did she attack or accuse Arnav for being so late or being so inconsiderate as to not let her know of his whereabouts, he was safe, he was home, she was in his arms, what more could she ask for, yes the baby should be fine too.
He too hugged her back fiercely, his heart swelling with pride and love. Her legs buckled and he hurriedly led her to the sofa and sank down beside her, soothing her, caressing her, massaging her back. Concern overtook him, she would fall ill if she continued to cry like this, “Khushi ssshhh sab theek hai, look I am safe, I am not even wet, the traffic was murderous, there was no way I could come home earlier and just before I got into the car my mobile fell into a puddle and it was only later I noticed that it had conked off, so I couldn’t even call you Khushi, come sweetheart calm down, relax, not good for the baby you know,” he murmured softly as he tenderly cradled her and rocked her in his arms. Indeed Khushi could feel waves of dull cramps squeeze her baby and the baby’s kicks suddenly intensified, she hurriedly clamped down on her rush of emotions, and her prayers gratefulness and thanks turned into fresh pleas of mercy from her best friend, Raksha karna DM, baby ko sahi salamat rakhna, Arnav ko sahi salamat bhejne ke liye lakh lakh shukriya, ab baby ko bhi dekh lijiye DM, sab aapki kripa hai DM, she continued to pray long and hard as she soaked in the comfort and relief of being in the arms of her beloved.
It was a touch and go, but thankfully her cramps eased as did her back pain under Arnav’s considerate ministrations and she gulped, sniffled and hiccuped noisily into Arnav’s brand new coat. She stayed in his arms like that for a long time, still shaking and shivering at the force of her emotions, she would clutch him fiercely murmuring Arnav over and over again, at regular intervals as if to reassure herself. Arnav let her be, his heart too overflowing with a myriad range of emotions.
Call of nature forced Khushi to visit the washroom, but she refused to let go of Arnav and dragged him along with her and made him wait outside and was out in a flash. HP too came and announced that dinner had been served. As Khushi continued to clutch Arnav’s hand with both her hands, still shaking, Arnav fed her with his free hand; not talking much, letting her recover at her own pace from the trauma of the last couple of hours, there would be time enough for post mortem and recriminations later.
Dinner over, Arnav led Khushi to their room and helped her lie down, he sat down beside her, he tenderly brushed her hair away from her face, “Tum theek ho?” he asked gruffly.
Khushi looked at him, her face pinched drawn and pale, her eyes filled with tears, she bit her lips in an effort to control her emotions, she shook her head, still unable to speak. Concerned, Arnav slipped in beside her and held her close and whispered soothingly to her, yet shudders shook her body.
“Khushi,” Arnav laughed softly as he tried to draw her out of her morbid thoughts, “Aisa kya ho gaya ki tum itna parashaan ho gayi? I mean mana ki main teen ghante late hoon, but you knew the weather is terrible and in this weather Delhi traffic ka kya haal hota hai, and even ASR is not immune to it!” he looked down at her hoping to see a lightening in her expression. But she sat there, leaning against him, clutching his hand tightly and kissing it repeatedly.
Arnav was starting to get worried; he had expected Khushi to be worried of course, but also madder than a wet hen. For the past couple of hours or so as ASR sat helplessly ‘kidnapped’ by the infamous Delhi traffic jam and he realized that his phone was not functioning, he had resigned himself to a long drawn out tirade from his feisty beloved. But he had not expected Khushi to fall apart like this! That was his prerogative! “Hey Khushi,” he called softly, “Kya ho gaya Khushi? Talk to me Khushi, say something Khushi.”
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