Arnav rolled his eyes. “Ok fine!” he hissed resignedly, “Its not your fault ok? I understand, the kids have the first right,” he said rather grudgingly, “Ab chalo bhi!” he hustled her out, “Chotti ko bhook lagi hogi,” he muttered guiltily.
Khushi laughed, “Aap bhi na! Ek din karela kha legi toh koi aasman sar par nahi gir jayega! Waise bhi you know her, big drama queen,” she murmured fondly, “Now that she knows I am with you and not at work, she is just looking for excuses to call us back home,” she looked up at Arnav as they entered the elevator, “After all woh ASR ki beti hai, she thinks she has ‘first refusal’ on my time,” she paused and then said thoughtfully, “Actually not first refusal, first claim – I should just sit there and be available, in case I am needed, and in fact that’s true for everybody! Chahe woh Guddu ho Nani ho ya phir,” she rounded on him, “Ya phir aap,” she shook her head, her eyes soft and tender, her heart full of love for her family.
“Okay okay, I get your point,” Arnav admitted sheepishly, “Its ok Khushi, you look after them first, I can wait,” feeling generous today.
Khushi looked at him skeptically, “Oh really! Dekhte hain and don’t fool yourself, they want and need your company as well.”
Arnav conveniently ignored her, “Ek kaam karo, you carry on ahead, I will come a little later, I have another meeting lined up in,” he looked at his watch, “Fifteen minutes or so.
Khushi nodded and then the penny dropped – she rounded on him ready to tear him apart but suddenly she recollected herself as she realized they were at the lobby with people milling about them. She controlled herself till they reached the porch and while waiting for their car to come, she hissed angrily at him, “Oh so all that drama about ‘no time for me’ was just to make me feel guilty right? Aapki toh pehle se hi meeting fixed thi na?” she accused hotly.
Arnav had the grace to blush, “haan but I will be free in another hour or so and we could have had the rest of the night to ourselves, but then in any case all that is a moot point as you need to go home in any case,” he defended himself stoutly.
Unconvinced, Khushi glared at him and looked away only to catch the eye of the man who had escorted her to Arnav’s room earlier – she seethed at the contemptuous knowing leer in his eyes, “And you call me to a hotel aur ab pata nahi what people think I am,” she lashed out at Arnav in an angry whisper.
Taken aback, Arnav turned around and caught the expression as well just before the man smoothed it out into a blank obsequious mask; anger flared almost instantaneously and a furious Arnav started forward with the intent of strangling that **** but Khushi hurriedly stepped forward, “Arnav!” she hissed urgently, “Humari baat toh suniye! Just drop it, it doesn’t matter what he thinks or doesn’t think,” even though she felt degraded and cheapened.
Whether or not Arnav would have given in to her appeal would never be known for just then, “Mr Raizada! And Mrs Raizada! Aap yahan aur bataya bhi nahi? What a pleasant surprise and an honor that you graced our hotel,” the hotel manager rushed forward to greet them, “Are you leaving? Have you had dinner?” he asked courteously as he shook Arnav’s hand warmly and greeted Khushi with folded hands.
Arnav shook his hand, “Yeah, no dinner thanks, Khushi is just leaving, I have another meeting lined up and then I will leave as well,” he said a bit curtly.
Alert, the manager instantly responded, “Everything ok sir?” he asked solicitously with a hint of trepidation in his voice, “Anything I can do?”
Arnav’s lips thinned and his nostrils flared; overcoming her inhibitions (and giving in to the need of the moment) Khushi slipped her hand in his and squeezed it warningly, he turned to look at her, she shook her head slightly at him a plea in her eyes, he sighed and gave her hand a tight squeeze, and nodded at the manager, “Nice place you have here,” the manager smiled and bowed, “But you need to train your staff better, after all you are in the business of hospitality and on no account should a guest be made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome,” ASR turned and glared at the culprit; he slid his arm around Khushi and ushered her into his car and waved her off before striding back, his BG score loud and clear.
Quick on the uptake, the manager severely castigated the ill-mannered escort for his preconceived notions, prejudices not to mention his ‘himmat’ in offending the great Mr Arnav Singh Raizada and his beloved missus. The unfortunate employee was taken aback and begged his boss’ pardon first denying any culpability and then later sulkily admitting he had thought she was his mistress – he got another lambasting from his boss that his was not the place to decide who was who or what was right and what wrong – they were all guests and it was his job to treat them courteously and make them feel comfortable. Finally he was let off on the condition that if he wanted to retain his job, he needed to acquire ASR’s forgiveness. Panic stricken, the man apologized profusely to ASR who was in a good mind to thrash the man for his transgression but only the fact that Khushi wouldn’t have approved restrained him and he was lucky to retain his job – as the parking attendant in the basement (oho DM bhi na pata nahi kya kya lekar shuru ho jaati hai).
Just before Khushi reached home she received a message from Arnav, ‘I too will have pasta’. Khushi made a wry face – killing two birds with one stone huh!
Ek toh he was trying to soothe her ruffled feathers for ‘fitting’ her in between appointments and assuring that Chotti and Guddu were not deprived of their favorite meal because of him – samajhte kya hai apne aap ko Laad Governor kahin ke – Khushi thought but without much heat, the RV still echoing faintly in the background.
Ab time to soothe ruffled feathers at home, she sighed ruefully as she got out of the car, after all everything had its price – including that for sneaking out to meet her own husband.
Chotti was overjoyed to see her while Devansh was disappointed to see her alone and stomped off muttering ‘he never has any time’. Khushi quickly put the pasta to boil and gave instructions to Shakuntala to dice the vegetables.
Khushi hurriedly washed and changed, Nani ko bhi dekhna hai aur strange Poo bhi nahi dikh rahi – had something happened in college today, was Chotti right? Was she upset about something? She had been so happy in the morning, she recalled with a pang.
Khushi quickly rustled up pasta just the way her kids liked it and soon a thrilled Chotti and a mollified Devansh (he was just hungry poor baby) were digging into hot fresh pasta greedily. Now that Khushi was home, and Chotti had regaled her with her day’s events, she allowed Khushi to check up on Nani who wasn’t well. She was running a slight temperature and was cranky to boot, “Jaao jaao tum aaram karo, hum theek hai, waise bhi tum toh bahut hi bijee ho, tumhare pass time kahan hai gharwalon ke liye?” she sniffed disapprovingly.
“Nani rehne bhi dijiye,” Poo protested, “Bhabhi kabhi kabhi hi toh jaati hain,” she stoutly defended Khushi.
“Haan abhi kabhi kabhi jaawat hai phir kauno din roz roz,” Nani trailed off and then started again, “Chotte bhi nahi ab ghar ki bahu bhi naahi toh ab hum akele akele sab kuch kaise,” she closed her mouth as if determined not to say anything more.
Click here for Chapter 355