After an eon which seemed like a second, Arnav moved to look down at her, he wiped away her tears; she smiled and wiped his damp cheeks with his sleeve. His lips twisted as he took in her attire, “Fancy dress party?” he said huskily.
She shook her head and said equally huskily, “I was feeling cold.”
“Liar,” he accused lovingly.
“Haan toh aap bhi bata dijiye, kyon pehna hai humne?” she challenged softly.
“You were missing me,” he stated without a shadow of doubt.
“Haan toh isme nayi baat kaun si hai, I always miss you,” she laid bare her soul.
His heart melted, he kissed her tenderly at this heartwarming confession.
Feeling suddenly warm, too warm, she struggled to pull off his sweatshirt off her head, he gave a low laugh and helped her, “Kya hua, not cold anymore?” He took in her flushed countenance, his lips twisted, he gently brushed back her locks, “Pehle toh kabhi nahi dekha aise mera shirt pehente huye, aaj kuch khas baat hai kya?”
“Saare sawal aap hi poochenge kya? Aap toh der se aane wale the, aap bataiye aaj kuch khas baat hai kya,” she softly questioned him, her eyes shining with love.
“Haan,” Arnav nodded and looked around the poolside, “Kuch khas baat hai.”
“Kya?” came the soft whisper.
“Khushi,” he said gruffly as he held her hand, “Tumhe mujhse shaadi karni hogi, aaj abhi issi waqt, warna…”
“Warna kya,” Khushi had to swallow hard to force the words past the lump in her throat.
“Warna,” Arnav cupped her face in his palms, “Warna main ji nahi paaoonga Khushi,” her cup of joy overflowed as he crushed her in his arms, “Aapko yaad tha?” she hiccuped much later.
He nodded, “Tumne jawab nahi diya Khushi?”
She smiled tremulously at him, “Aur hume filmy kehte hai!”
“Mujhe mera jawab chahiye Khushi,” he said sternly.
“Hume sochne ka mauka chahiya,” she pouted.
His lips thinned and was clearly about to lose his temper, Khushi put her hands on her hips and sighed exaggeratedly and then shook her finger at him, “Dekha dekha phir se gussa! Ek puraani galati sudharte waqt bhi gussa! Hmmph Laad Governor kahin ke!” she crossed her arms and half turned away, hiding her mischievous expression.
Arnav relaxed and turned her back to face him, “Kahan gussa kar raha raha hoon?” he said ruefully.
“Abhi toh kar rahe the, aisa naak phula rahe the,” she copied his flared nostrils, a crack of laughter escaped him, victoriously Khushi continued, “Aur waise bhi aapko pata hai na, hum shaadi shuda ladki hain,” she batted her eyes at him, “Woh bhi ek Laad Governor se jisko anniversary wish karna bhi bahut bhari padta hai,” she crossed her arms and turned away huffily, she turned back to glare at him, “Itne saal ho gaye phir bhi zara se bhi nahi badle! Hmmph Laad Governor kahin ke!”
“Khushi,” he turned her around to face him, “Tumhe pata nahi hai Khushi, tumne mujhe kitna badal diya hai!” Arnav pulled her down to the recliner as he narrated the incidence at his office (with the two boys) and as expected Khushi was thrilled, she couldn’t stop preening, “Chaliya shukr hai, kuch toh badle, humara kuch toh asar hua, nahi toh hum samajh rahe the ki hum hi sirf badle hain!”
“Achcha! Tum kya badli ho? Tum toh waise ki waise ho! Sanki bilkul pehle ki tarah! Actlly Khushi,” he grinned at an old memory, “Tumne pehle bhi mera shirt pehna hai and then tore it too!” he shook his head at her smiling questioningly, “Khushi what the hell were doing in my shirt that day?”
Khushi blushed as she remembered, she shrugged and pouted, “Main kya karti, my blouse tore and I didn’t have anything else to wear! Shirt hi pehna pada! But,” she raised her hand and declared, “Hum toh bilkul badal gaye! Dekhiye na, hume kitna pasand tha yeh sab dance, party, celebration, ab nahi achcha lagta,” Khushi hugged him back, happy to be in his arms.
Arnav looked down at her ruefully, regret written in his eyes, “Woh toh tumne mere liye ‘adjust’ kiya, mujhe pasand nahi isliye…”
“Nahi hum sach keh rahe hain, hum woh sab bilkul bhi miss nahi karte; na hi expectations rakte hain aise celebration ka,” she smiled her brilliant smile at him and murmured softly, “Aaj ka surprise ‘celebration’ best laga hume,” she looked at him speculatively, “waise meeting main vyast ASR ko humari yaad aa kaise gayi?” She waggled her eyes at him.
Arnav stood up and thrust his hands into his pockets and shrugged, “Woh do meeting cancelled ho gayi thee….”
“Ahhh issliye chale aaye ghar aap?” Khushi looked at him.
“Aur kya! Tumne kya socha tumhare liye aaya main? Tumhari yaad aa rahi thi issliye, tumhe miss kar raha tha issliye?” he taunted softly.
She shook her head, “Nahi kabhi nahi, Laad Governor humare liya ghar aaye, aisa ho hi nahi sakta,” they mechanically carried on their usual banter even as their eyes continued their own parallel distinct heart to heart conversation; he gave in to the call of his heart, held out his arms, she slid into them with a soft sigh, “Pata hai Khushi, I met Vipul and his wife; I realized today, once again, how lucky I truly am to have you as my wife,” he looked down at her with an inscrutable expression, he gently brushed his thumb over her soft cheek, he seemed to be struggling to say something, “Khushi,” he stopped, she waited patiently, quietly, “Khushi,” he tried again, “Khushi, tum sach keh rahi ho na, andar hi andar tumhe zyaada bura toh nahi lagta na, ki main yeh sab anniversaries vagerah formally celebrate karne main vishwas nahi karta,” he swallowed and dropped his hands and moved away from her as if rejecting her before she could reject him.
Khushi stared at him, emotions overwhelmed her, love and tenderness for this complex man filled her, this was the closest to an apology she would get even though she had just admitted she didn’t really care about such hollow and tutored expressions of love; not when she had the real thing, who cared about a worthless bauble when with just a glance he could put her on the top of the world!
Nothing, no gift in this world could ever compare to what he could make her feel, with just a look, a smile or his mere presence; oh how she loved this man! She felt giddy, she wanted to cry, she wanted to fly, she wanted to laugh like crazy; she closed her eyes and attempted to rein in her emotions.
She walked slowly and carefully over to him where he stood stiffly with a grim expression on his face. He reminded Khushi of a naughty little boy who knew he had done something wrong, was sorry about it, but he was dammed if he would say he wouldn’t be doing it again, because that would be lying so he just stood there, defiantly ready for any punishment that would be meted out to him.
Click here for Chapter 212