Khushi opened the door and let Arnav in, “So late?” she frowned as she reached out for his bag.
Arnav pulled at his tie, “Bachche kahan hai?”
Khushi made a moue, “Just look at the time, its past 9.30 pm and its Tuesday – Guddu ka football practice tha, you know he gets tired and falls asleep by 8 aur yeh Chotti ko toh bahut mushkil se abhi sulaya,” she shook her head, “She wanted to wait up for you but then she has to get up at 5.00 am…” she was talking to thin air as Arnav dashed off upstairs.
Khushi busied herself with laying the dinner table. Arnav peeped in at his fast asleep children and half asleep Nani before changing. He came down to the dinner table and sat down, “Poo bhi so gayi kya?” he hungrily grabbed a chappati.
Khushi served him sabji and then herself, “Woh ghar aayee hi kahan hai?” she sniffed, “Just sent me a text a little while ago ‘will be late, don’t wait for dinner for me’.
Arnav stared at Khushi, “Itna kya kaam hai?”
Khushi looked at him, “Achcha! Yeh aap mujhe pooch rahein hain?! Aap hi ne toh bheja tha usse Aman ke paas,” she took a sip of water, “And because of that I also got late today,” she said half-accusingly.
Arnav shrugged defensively, “Main kya karta? Aman ne hi bola kuch extra work hai, only Poo could manage and if I could spare her for the week,” Arnav reached out for some more sabji (achchi bani thi karele ki sabji).
“Aman ne bola?” Khushi chewed her food thoughtfully, “Achcha toh yeh baat hai,” she slowly nodded her head with growing conviction, “Ab to shaq yakeen main badal gaya hai! Pucca kuch chal raha hai dono ke beech,” she said excitedly.
Arnav looked at her questioningly, “kuch chal raha hai dono ke beech?” he repeated, “Kin dono ke beech? Aur kya chal raha hai?”
Khushi’s eyes twinkled mischievously; she leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, “Aman aur Poo ke beech main,” she dropped her bombshell.
Arnav stared at her, “Aman aur Poo!” he expostulated, “Are you crazy?”
Khushi shook her head, “Hum crazy nahi,” she pointed her spoon at him, “Aap blind! Naak ke neeche se kya kya chal raha hai aur aapko pata hi nahi,” she said pityingly.
Arnav helped himself to some salad, “What nonsense Khushi,” he said dismissively, “aisa kuch bhi nahi hai, you and your imagination.
“Mera imagination nahi hai,” shot back Khushi confidently, “aapko pata hai Poo was so worried when Aman wasn’t well, arre yaad nahi hai?” she shook her head at Arnav’s blank expression, “Jab hume Kolkata jaana tha? Haan tab se chal raha yeh,” Khushi nodded her head firmly, “Tabhi main sochoon itna kya hua? Ek cold hi toh hai, pata hai, uska bas chalta toh she would have forced me to visit Aman and of course I would have but then I had no time and I sent Poo instead, hmmm,” she chewed her food thoughtfully, “I wonder kya hua tha uss din?”
Arnav rolled his eyes and continued eating but Khushi was on her own trip, “Aur jab Jaipur se phone kiya tha tab toh bahut khush thi but then when she came back from Jaipur she was very low,” she recollected, “Pucca on the way back she must have had an argument with Aman, tab se hi munh phula kar ghoom rahi hai, I tried to question her as well but usne taal diya and now,” she turned excitedly to Arnav, “Aman must have gathered courage to sort out their issues,” she clasped her hands ecstatically, “Arre wah isse kehte hain ek teer do nishaan,” she hurriedly thanked her best friend.
“Oh please Khushi! Aman! Aur woh bhi Poo ke saath! Ho hi nahi sakta,” he dismissed Khushi’s fanciful notions, “kitni baar kaha hai ki zyaada dimaag mat lagaya karo in sab cheezon main, kuch hota toh hai nahi bas tum shuru ho jaati ho,” Arnav rued, “Pass the dal will you.”
Khushi’s face was a round O, she squinted her eyes at him fiercely, “Lagi shart?”
Arnav’s eyes flew to hers, “What!” he smiled (half-smiled) disbelievingly, “Shart? Are you sure Khushi? Soch lo, yaad hai na main kabhi shart harta nahi.”
Khushi raised her hand, “Haan haan bahut dekha hai humne,” she said loftily, “Kisi aur se jeet te honge, humse toh shart haar hi jaate hain,” she preened.
“Oh really?” he raised his eyebrow, “Main kab hara shart?”
“Achchaaa!” Bhool gaye?” she fired up, “Ya phir sathiya gaye,” she said slyly, Arnav looked at her ruefully, “Kya?”
“Woh Di and Khsitij bhaiyya ke chakkar ka shart? Aur woh Sangeet wali shart,” she shook her finger at him, “yaad nahi hai kya?”
“Excuse me Khushi,” Arnav said arrogantly, “I let you win that, agar main nahi aata na dance floor par toh tum toh kahin ki nahi rehti.”
“Achcha?” blustered Khushi, “toh nahi aate, hone dete insult, aapko toh achcha lagta na?” she hotly accused him.
Arnav looked at her tenderly helplessly, “Kya karta, aana toh tha hi na?” he said softly.
Khushi melted; her eyes softened and reached out for his hand.
The long forgotten and packed away RV yawned and unfolded itself in anticipation but then HP achanak tapak padha aur bola, “Aur roti laaoon?” The RV squawked a few hesitant protesting strains before sliding back to hibernation.
Khushi hurriedly picked up her glass of water and shook her head, “Nahi bas ho gaya,” Robot-like HP began clearing up the table.
“Abhi karna zaroori hai?” snapped Arnav, “dikh nahi raha abhi khana khatam nahi hua?”
HP withdrew and Khushi glared at him, “Aisi kya baat ho gayi ki iss tarah usse baat kiya aapne? Bechara kitna upset ho gaya,” she looked worriedly towards HP’s retreating back.
“Achcha!” Arnav was furious, “Uski feelings ki chinta hai tumhe, aur mere feelings ka kya?” Khushi looked at him incredulously, “Aapki feelings? Aapki feelings ko kya hua?”
Arnav glowered as he viciously jabbed the table with his forefinger, “Jab bhi apni biwi se deal clinch karne ja raha hota hoon he turns up like a rotten tomato,” he said scathingly (lagta hai purani yaadein taaza ho gayi thi)
Khushi relaxed and let out a muffled giggle as she gave his hand a quick brief reassuring squeeze her eyes full of promise, “Achcha chhodiye na, yeh bataaiye shart laga rahein hain ki nahi? Same terms and conditions,” she waggled her eyes at him.
“Shart?” Arnav unwillingly relaxed, “Rakh lete hain,” he smirked, “Jeet toh sakti nahi, aur waise bhi,” his grin widened, “waise bhi tumhe terms and conditions ka fayda uthana hi nahi aata, toh jeetoonga toh main hi na!”
“Achcha! Yeh kaisa logic hai, zara samjhayenge?” Khushi challenged him.
Arnav helped himself to curd and added salt and pepper, “Ok, what happened last time? Chalo maan bhi lete hain that you won the ‘shart’,” he conceded as he stirred the concoction and attacked it with gusto, “and just think of the possibilities kuch bhi aur tumne kya kiya?” he shook his head incredulously, “Ek sawal par sara opportunity par hi fritter kar diya, aur poocha bhi toh kya – choodiyan maine kharidi ki nahi” he looked at her pityingly, “You know I almost felt sorry for you, wasting such a golden opportunity.”
Khushi made rueful face and hastily looked away, then as if unable to resist, “Kyon kharida?” she asked in a small voice.
Arnav raised his eyebrow, “Excuse me?”
“Ab toh bata dijiye aapne humare liye choodiyan kyon kharidi?” Khushi pleaded.
Arnav’s lips twitched, “Terms and condition fulfilled, deal done, mujhe ab bhi tumhe sab kuch batane ki zaroorat nahi hai, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada,” he said arrogantly.
Khushi made a moue and pushed her chair away from the dining table in a huff, “Theek hai, mat bataiye,” she said loftily, “Waise I already know,” she swished away to the kitchen.
Click here for Chapter 371