“Kya decide kiya?” Arnav put Devansh down and asked Khushi as they reached their room.
She shook her head, she just couldn’t decide, she dithered and swung from one to the other like a yo-yo.
She sighed, irritated with herself, “Achcha choose one finger,” she ordered Arnav and held out two fingers; she closed her eyes, muttering to herself.
Arnav rolled his eyes, amused, “Tumhari amma na ek cartoon hai,” he informed his son as he chose a finger, “What the!” he burst out.
Khushi had instantly jerked her hand away, “Nahi nahi, phir se kariye!”
“Khushi,” Arnav was surprised and curious, “Kya choose kiya tha? Batao?”
She shook her head, “Nahi, aap phirse choose kariye, best of three karenge,” she held out two fingers.
Arnav shook his head, “Nahi, go with the one I already chose, or tell me what it was,” he insisted.
Khushi shook her head, “Nahi aap rehne dijiye, hum Naniji ko poochte hain,” she turned away but Arnav grabbed her arm and swung her close to him. She grimaced and squirmed as a deeply interested Devansh peered at them, “Chhodiye hume,” she hissed while an amused Arnav took in her flushed countenance, awareness flashed, his eyes softened, as he declared confidently, “Oh I know what I chose! I chose the finger for Devansh but you want to go with me but are too egoistic and embarrassed to admit it! Hence the best of three!” he crowed, thrilled to bits.
“Haan toh,” Khushi tried to cover up and escape, but Arnav wasn’t about to let her go off so easily, “Say it Khushi, say that you want to go with me,” he commanded softly.
She sighed, defeated; she sank against him and mumbled into his shoulder, “Hume jaana hai aapke saath,” Arnav was overwhelmed; it was music to his ears, not a spare wheel after all!
He tipped her head up by the chin and murmured, “I love you Khushi,” she buried her face in his shoulder and muttered, “And I hate you for making me say it.” He laughed triumphantly as he enfolded her in his warm embrace.
Khushi yielded to her wishes, not that she had much choice, for once her LG knew what she wanted, woh toh dilakar hi chhodega na! After feeding Devansh his dinner, as Khushi sat before the mirror putting on her makeup, she could hear Arnav explaining, requesting and consoling Devansh, “Don’t feel bad, it is just for a couple of hours, I will bring her back to you theek hai, now be a good boy and don’t grudge me this time with her. Haq hai mera, biwi hai meri, tumhari amma hone se pehle se, yeh mat bhoolna!”
Khushi smiled mistily and hastily blinked away her tears, saara makeupiya phir se touchipiya karika padi!
A soft-hearted chap, Devansh wavered at his father’s heartfelt plea and besides the fact that his Babuji bothered to ask his permission made a big impression on him, kam se kam hierarchy toh maintain kiya! Conceding the deal, Devansh allowed Arnav to rock him to sleep and put him in Nani’s room.
Arnav came back to their room to get ready for the evening, he stopped in his tracks, Khushi stood there looking gorgeous in a rust colored flowing evening gown, her hair was clipped up on one side and fell in cascades down her left shoulder; he slowly blinked at her and trailed a finger down her pink cheek, “You are looking beautiful,” he murmured huskily, Khushi smiled tremulously, “Not fat or like an amma?”
“Hmm,” Arnav stepped back and gave her a look over critically and offered, “A beautiful fat amma?” he raised his eyebrow blandly, Khushi made a face, well she had asked for that! She shouldn’t have pushed her luck. She looked into his eyes and froze, like so many countless times, his eyes belied his words; her heart went dhak dhak, for one wild moment she thought let’s not go! But then sanity returned, and Arnav too ruefully nodded his head, “Yeah, itna mehnat kiya hai, let’s go,” he turned away before he changed his mind.
Khushi made a moue and mumbled under her breath, “Aapke liye mehnat kiya tha, party ke liye nahi.”
Arnav didn’t give any indication that he heard, though he did wear a triumphant smirk.
The party was the usual business dinner, with a lot of people who came up to congratulate them on their baby and welcome her back to circulation. Khushi greeted everybody cheerfully, made the right noises and had her dinner but her heart wasn’t really in it, she worried about her son and even more for Nani; poor thing was so frazzled in the morning.
Finally, she called up Shakuntala and was relieved to know that all was quiet and both Nani and Devansh were fast asleep. She sent up a prayer of gratefulness to her DM and set out to finally enjoy the party.
Arnav came up to her elbow and murmured, “Khushi, we can leave if you wish,” she turned and flashed her brilliant smile at him, “Nahi ghar par sab theek hai, abhi baat hui thi Shakuntala se.”
Arnav looked down at her with an unfathomable expression; he put his arm around her and quickly made their excuses citing ‘child trouble’ and quickly left the party, “Kya hua Arnav, aap thak gaye kya? Ghar jaana hai?” Khushi was taken aback, “Abhi toh party shuru hi hua tha aur ghar par bhi sab theek hai, pata nahi LG ko kya soojhi?” she muttered in a sotto voce.
He helped her into the car and placed his finger on her lips, “Shhh,” then as if unable to resist, replaced his finger with his lips for an all too brief but intensely sweet moment and walked to the driver’s seat. He drove off with a flourish, while Khushi looked at him wonderingly.
Arnav seemed to be in the grip of some strong emotion, Khushi too was not unaffected and she sat silently through the car ride. He stole a few glances at her, of which she was initially unaware but then as she stole another look at him, she caught his eyes and then neither could look away.
He slowly brought the car to a halt; content to just drink in her visage, like the lost traveler in a desert, who finally finds his oasis. She felt as if she was drowning in his eyes and an indescribable feeling of love, tenderness and oneness stole over them. No words or even gestures were necessary; their eyes were enough to say all that was in their hearts.
Almost reluctantly Arnav got down and helped her down from the car, it was then Khushi realized he had brought her to his mother’s garden. He put his arm around her as they strolled around the garden under the moonless starlit sky, a gentle breeze caressing them, softly humming the RV. It was spring and the garden was in full bloom and even though they couldn’t really make out the flowers, their sweet scent hung over them, teasing their senses. Away from the cares and pressures of daily life, they found each other once again, reaffirmed their love for each other and above all, soaked up the supreme bliss of this stolen moment in each other’s company and stored it in their vault of prized memories.
It was, needless to say, one of the most magical evenings of their lives.
The truants came back home very late and as Khushi’s feet were killing her (heels itne din baad jo pehne the!) Arnav picked her up and tip-toed past Nani’s room, where all was quiet and peaceful.
Khushi was all for bringing back Devansh immediately but Arnav said he would bring him as soon as he was changed. But then as he came out of the washroom, Khushi asked him to help her with the zip which seemed to be stuck. And errr…as he went to help her, apart from the zip, a lot of things came ‘unstuck’; he was naturally distracted, and of course, one thing led to another, so it wasn’t until the wee hours of the morning that Arnav found time to bring back Devansh to their room.
Khushi was all sleepy and heavy-eyed in the morning; Nani was most sympathetic, “Bahut lambi chali thi party?”
Khushi shot a glance at Arnav and mumbled, “Ji Nani, aap pareshan nahi toh hue na?”
“Naahi naahi bitiya, bilkul bhi pareshan naahi kiya. Waise party achchi rahi na?” Nani smiled.
Khushi blushed and mumbled, “Ji Nani.”
Arnav shot a bland look at Khushi, “Arre Nani, Khushi ne toh party bahut enjoy kiya, wapas hi nahi aana chah rahi thi, hai na Khushi?” He slid his hand under the table and squeezed her hand, “In fact Nani, woh toh Devansh ke baare main bhool hi gayee thee! Akhir mai hi wapas laya Devansh ko, bechara Devansh!” Arnav shook his head mournfully.
Khushi blushed and glared at an unrepentant Arnav; he smothered a laugh and excused himself from the breakfast table, leaving her to salvage her reputation as best as she could, “Nahi Nani aisa kuch nahi hai, Arnav aise hi keh rahe hain, unka woh matlab nahi tha etc etc,” she too made her excuses and rushed off after him with Devansh in her arms.
Arnav was busy fixing his tie with a huge smirk on his face, “Yeh sab jhooth bolne ki kya zaroorat thi?” Khushi attacked.
“Kya,”Arnav turned around and asked innocently, “Maine kya jhooth bola Khushi? Maine toh kaha tha ghar chalne ke liye par tum ho ki maani nahi, aur phir mai toh jaa raha tha Devansh ko laane par tumne hi zip ke bahane rok liya mujhe.”
Khushi flushed a bright red and glared at him, “Aapko bahut mazaa aa raha hai na?”
“I can’t deny it,” Arnav shrugged, “Mazaa toh mujhe aa raha hai,” he put his arms around Khushi and pulled them closer, “Mujhe kal pata chala, chahe kitne bhi Devansh ho, I just have to crook my finger and you will come running,” he said rather arrogantly, “Yeh toh mera badappan hai that I ‘allow’ you to take care of my son, nahi toh…”
Before Khushi could respond or Arnav could complete his boast, Devansh butted in, he had had enough, zara sa badappan kya dikha diya, ek permission kya de diya, apne aap ko boss samajhne lage! He caught hold of Arnav tie and gave it a strong pull letting out an ear-piercing shriek that had a remarkable resemblance to an old war cry, ‘lagi shart?’
Arnav and Khushi froze and then burst into laughter. Point made, Devansh clapped his hands and joined in.
Click here for Chapter 194