Chapter 244: Arnav Eavesdrops

I know all relationships are special and different, isn’t your dad’s and mum’s relationship? Take mine and Mamu’s for that matter, but age is a huge factor which you cannot discount!” Arnav could hear Khushi walking about restlessly, once she even came close to the window where he was standing, he drew back into the shadows; he didn’t want to interrupt, not now, when they were finally talking, even though Khushi would understand and possibly welcome his presence (err would she? Hmm socheka padi), Anya would probably not thank his interference.

Arnav shared Khushi’s agitation and anguish; he knew what she was thinking – she was thinking about him, he had been 14 when…but then how old had she been when she was orphaned? He shook his head angrily; life had no consideration, no mercy for age.

Arnav felt rather than heard Khushi sigh, “Anya, sweetie, don’t blame your parents please; it is pointless, for not only are they hurt and upset but you are too!”

Anya,” Khushi’s voice held conviction as she walked up to Anya and said, “Perhaps you are right, perhaps you are justified in thinking they don’t understand you, but the question is do you understand them? Are you old enough, mature enough to understand their fears and concerns? For if you were old enough and mature enough, you would understand them, and if you did understand their viewpoint, then you wouldn’t be mad at them! And if you don’t, then well that means you are exactly what we think you to be, too young!”

Arnav was amazed at the way Khushi neatly put the ball back into Anya’s court. He knew Anya prided herself in being just and fair and now apparently mature as well; Khushi had used those very personality traits which Anya valued the most to make her point! Admiration flooded Arnav as he silently applauded her, way to go Khushi! Anya now had no choice but to either accept that she was too childish to ‘understand and forgive’ her parents or was ‘mature’ enough to accept and forgive her parents!

There was a brief silence as Anya clearly wrestled with that one, “Thank you Mami, love you Mami,” he heard her squeal followed by loud resounding smacking noises, intermixed with Khushi’s squeaks and protests. A tender smile creased Arnav’s face, his heart was full, trust Khushi to ease the situation; his arms and heart ached to hold her, crush her, soak in her essence, fill up his senses, kiss her senseless; he had to clench his hands, to hold himself back, to stop himself from giving in to the almost irresistible call of his heart!

He heard Khushi speak again, “I want you to promise that you will never think of us ‘adults’ as your enemies! You must know that we just want you to be happy,” there was a pause, “and whatever the issue, never close us out, we are always there, come and talk to us, no matter what, I am sure we can sort it out!”

There was no sign of the rebellious mutinous Anya as she readily promised, “Yeah, I guess you are right, thanks Mami,”

“Also promise me that you will never lose focus of your goals, your career, studies will take precedence over any other relationship, this time that you have will never come again, so make the most of it for you have the rest of your life to build relationships,” there was a pause and Arnav was once again struck by the depth of Khushi’s thoughts, her maturity and wisdom, “And if you ever find that he distracts or diverts you from this path, he is not the man for you, understood?”

Arnav sort of held his breath, impressed, and amused; he immediately guessed what Khushi was hinting at in a rather convoluted manner, he grinned to himself, even as he accepted the truth behind her words; but would an innocent little girl like Anya ‘get’ the message?

His Khushi wouldn’t have!

She hadn’t got the ‘message’ which he thought had been loud and clear on that fateful Diwali night; he had made his intentions clear, all but spelt it out, laid bare his helpless overwhelming attraction and fascination for Khushi; but did she get the message? Nope not a chance! He had fallen at her feet, revealed his best kept secret, that ‘ek ameer ladka uske payal ko seene se laga kar rakkha tha! He had even nearly kissed her dammit! And she still wanted clarification! She had needed to ask, ‘woh kya tha?!’ He had thrown a fit and all but confessed ‘farq padta hai’ when he had gotten to know of her engagement, but had she got the message? Nope not a chance!

And then when he thought she had had an accident….oh the list was endless; any other girl would have had him jumping through the hoops…

But she was such a tubelight, Arnav shook his head indulgently, such a rare innocent, naïve darling, his lips twisted; he had been so embarrassed and agitated that he had laid bare his vulnerable side, all but shouted from the roof-tops that he was crazy about her! And when fate had offered him a ray of light, an escape route, he had grabbed it, thinking only of salvaging his pride and ego, the cruel words and gesture a desperate cover up for what he thought was rejection and indifference; hurt and confused beyond words he had retaliated reflexively and reclaimed his mask of superior indifference.

He sighed regretfully, it was his fault he acknowledged; Khushi had never claimed to be anything other than innocent and naïve, but it was he who mistrusted her, he was a man of the world wasn’t he? He should have known better, he shouldn’t have… he hurriedly pulled himself out of his reverie for Anya was speaking again, “Sure, of course I know that, I am not going to jump into bed with him or anything like that! I am not that naïve or foolish, even though some of the girls in my class are!”

Arnav pulled a face and raised his eyebrow, impressed at the clearly not so little girl’s perceptiveness and candor, “You know the other day all the girls were discussing that men have only one thing on their minds, even Aisha thinks so! But I don’t think believe such rubbish, besides Sherry has never given me any indication that he has ‘that’ on his mind! We share a very ‘intellectual’ relationship!” Arnav shook his head, ahh not so worldly wise after all! “Tell me Mami, what you think? Do you think men only have one thing on their minds, did Mamu too have only one thing on his mind?”

Anya dropped her bombshell and Arnav almost choked in his attempt to silence the crack of laughter that nearly escaped. His shoulders shook alarmingly; he dearly wished he could see Khushi’s expression! Through the silence, he could ‘feel’ her horrified amazed shock. Unable to resist, he slyly peeked in and hurriedly moved away, clutching his aching stomach. Her expression was exactly as he had pictured it to be, he couldn’t wait to hear how Khushi would extricate herself from that one, she was sure to fob off Anya with some excuse or the other, he thought disappointed. Come on Anya, he exhorted her silently; don’t let her off the hook so easily.

Anya yielded to Arnav’s silent request and exhorted, “Come on Mami! Now please don’t go all shy with me! Just a while ago you were ruing my reticence weren’t you? Come on Mami, you owe me, I was honest with you wasn’t I?” Anya insisted.

“Haan toh big deal,” Arnav heard Khushi mumble as she prevaricated.

“Mami! Are you blushing? I do believe you are!” Anya clapped her hands.

Arnav’s smile broadened, his curiosity intensified; he too was keen to know what Khushi would say, and he could very well understand Khushi’s dilemma here; if she said No then Anya would take that as tacit consent and crow, ‘See I told you not all men are same and Sherry too is different!’

So that meant she would have to say yes! But did she believe that of him, he suddenly wondered, and would she be able to say yes, if she didn’t truly believe it? How well did she exactly know him, he was intensely curious to know; he couldn’t remember a time when he had had this much fun! She must be furiously blushing by now as she fumbled to find the right way to say it, tenderness stole over him; the urge to hold her in his arms, and keep her there forever overwhelmed him.

“Nahi toh, aisa kuch nahi hai” Khushi’s voice choked with embarrassment floated across to him, “ it’s just that your Mamu and I had a very different and unique relationship where this did not come into play so the question doesn’t apply to us, perhaps you can ask Anjie?”

Arnav held his breath, would Anya buy it? Please don’t give up now Anya!

Thankfully, Anya was not so easily distracted, “Sure I will,” she said thoughtfully, “but then didn’t you just now say every relationship is special and I want to know about yours. And I always did wonder about the ‘rajkumar’ and the ‘rakshash’ bit.”

“You remember!” Khushi gasped.

Arnav too was surprised as he remembered that incident many years ago; actually come to think of it, it was the same setting, they had been talking and he had been eavesdropping shamelessly. Myriad emotions, love, tenderness, remorse, guilt, appreciation, pride, ownership assaulted him as he recollected how neatly she had covered up for his unforgivable transgressions; he swallowed hard and once again regretted not being able to hold her close to him.

***

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