Khushi straightened as she squeaked, “Aa…aap? Soye nahi ab tak?” she put a hand to her aching back and tenderly massaged it.
Arnav’s lips tightened, he looked at Devansh, “Why is your mum doing your project?” he asked in a steely voice.
Guddu blanched and looked at Khushi, “Nahi bas ho gaya,” she rushed to defend.
“I am asking him Khushi,” he flicked her a blank look and raised his eyebrow at Devansh.
Devansh rustled the papers on his table and straightened reflexively, “Too many deadlines at the same time,” he said rather incoherently.
“Then you should just learn to manage, prioritze and plan better isn’t it rather than just dump it all on your Mum?” Arnav continued in an even tone, “And its time you cut down on your football at least for the next year or so, ok?” Arnav cracked the whip.
Devansh flushed, “Yes Dad,” he mumbled.
“Khushi tum jaao, so jaao, I will finish it up here,” he said peremptorily as he leaned over and pulled her up by her arm and gave her a gentle push towards the door, “But Arnav, I am almost done…” Khushi protested.
“Just go will you?” Arnav looked at her, “You look beat,” he said abruptly and turned to the chart paper, “Haan Devansh batao kya karna hai?” he knelt down.
Khushi came back but Arnav waved her away, “Devansh and I can manage, Khushi,” he said in a voice that brooked no opposition, “Right Devansh?”
“Yes Dad,” Guddu shut his book and hurried over and pushed his mom, “Good night Mom, thanks Mom!” he gave her a tight hug and whispered, “Chotti ko toh main kal dekh loonga,” he mumbled darkly before turning back to his project, instinctively knowing whom to thank for this unexpected nocturnal visit.
Khushi stood helplessly by the door trying to fathom Arnav’s mood, feeling a bit apprehensive – kahin Guddu ko scold kar diya toh? So what, after all haq banta hai, he was his Dad and Guddu also did need to brush up his time management skills, cut down on football but meri sunta kahan hai, perhaps he would listen to Arnav. Bechara karei bhi toh kya kare – schedule bhi toh jam-packed hai uska.
But what if ASR cut her poor baby to pieces with his tongue? What if…bas kar Khushi, she smacked her head as she forced herself to walk away – aise behave kar rahi hai as if sirf tera hi beta hai and his father is some big bad wolf.
Wolf bhi aur teen naam wala rakshash bhi, she thought darkly.
As she entered her room, her eye fell on the file on the table – oho file toh reh hi gaya or was that why Arnav came to Guddu’s room in the first place, so that she had time to look into it? Was it that urgent? She wondered as she chewed her nail worriedly, what if subah phir time nahi mile – after all she had scheduled the file work for the afternoon and she had hardly had time to breathe!
Nahi, nahi, why risk it? Better do it now, waise bhi she wasn’t sleepy, just that her shoulders were aching from being hunched up over the chart paper on the floor – at least here she could sit on a chair. She sat down and pulled the file towards her and painstakingly began going through the row of numbers.
It was almost half-an hour before Arnav could wrap up the project, that too with Devansh’s help (of course that did not include clearing up the mess on the floor in Guddu’s room – by mutual [silent] consent they agreed that if they ignored it long enough it would vanish by itself – sooner or later. And in case it didn’t well – neither was going to lose any sleep over it).
Arnav came back to their room only to find Khushi fast asleep on the table with her head on his file. He walked over to her softly and stood there looking down at her with a twisted expression. He leaned over and gently swung her into his arms with a slight grunt – damn he was getting old or Khushi was getting heavier – a grin tugged his lips as he imagined Khushi’s round eyes and affronted expression.
He lay her down on the bed and slid in beside her, she squirmed and groaned softly as she stretched, “Ouch!” he reached out and briskly massaged her aching shoulders, she opened her eyes and stared drowsily right into his eyes, “Aa…ap?”
He flicked her nose, “Don’t you get tired of saying that? Or were you expecting someone else?” he raised an eyebrow, she punched him and sat up with a jerk, “Owww,” she moaned.
He pulled her back into his arms and kneaded her tightly bunched up muscles, “Khushi tum kab samjhogi tum sab kuch nahi kar sakti?” he spoke right into her ear, she turned to look at him. His glance seared her and she hastily looked away, “Aisa kya kiya humne?” she said archly.
“Bata nahi sakti thi that you had a particularly hectic day?” he questioned incredulously, “And now instead you sit up and work on my file, what are you trying to do, fall ill?”
Khushi shook his hand off; she turned around and faced him aggressively, “Kab batati? Did you give me a scope to explain? You are always so quick to accuse and never give any scope for defence,” she fumed.
It was his turn to look away, “Khhusshii,” he began placatingly.
She sat up on her knees and wagged a finger in his face, “Don’t you ‘Khushi’ me with that ‘little lost boy’ expression, aap hamesha hi aise karte hain,” she was madder than a wet hen and spitting fire.
But that just seemed to amuse Arnav as he looked at her flaming eyes and said innocently, “Kya karta hoon?” he leaned forward and stole a deep kiss straight from her lips – leaving her speechless, “Kya hua?” he raised his eyebrows and said facetiously, “Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada ki bolti bund! Toh chalo hum keh dete hai – what the, what the, what the,” he sang out suddenly in a high falsetto.
Khushi glared at him, desperately holding on to the fast slipping shreds of her dignity, annoyance and her myriad grudges but was rather unsuccessful – she burst out laughing and collapsed into his arms.
Arnav gathered her close and fell back on to the pillows with a triumphant grin.
The sad RV, which had been humming mournfully on and off in the background for quite a few months now, froze in horror – and the real RV which had been chafing under its gag order instantly swung into the gap and swept away Arshi (and fandom) in its intoxicating heady flight through the stars and the moon.
Click here for Chapter 419