It was a magical night and Khushi wore a dreamy expression as she went about her chores the next morning. Arnav too was affected and he hovered impatiently in their room as Khushi flitted in and out of their room – RM echoed with ‘Khushiiii’ and of course ‘Mommmm!’
Khushi’s cup of joy overflowed – all was well with the people in her life, bas usse aur kya chahiye tha?
“Khhhushi,” Arnav finally cornered her in their room after she had packed off the children to school, soothed Nani’s very sore throat with Buaji’s special kadha, enquired after Shakuntala’s son and rushed back to call Arnav for breakfast, “You never have any time for me,” he complained.
Trapped between the wall and him, she stared up at him and her breath caught in her throat – oh how she loved this man! Her heart thudded just like it had years ago – she blinked at him, “True,” she mumbled softly as she broke free of his vice-like clasp, “But as if you have time for me!” she said reproachfully, even as she slid her arms around his neck.
He shrugged and pulled her close, “Yeah maybe, but at least I am making an effort,” he protested, “while you,” he looked away.
“Aww Arnav,” Khushi raised herself on her toes and kissed him, “But you know this is the children’s time,” she leaned against him a hand on his heart, “Aapko toh pata hai, they are growing up fast and soon they would have flown the nest,” she looked up at him, “I don’t want to miss out on any time with them or,” she made a face, “have them complain that we don’t have any time for them,” she narrowed her eyes at him, “besides I have to compensate for your share of time as well.”
“Ok ok fine,” grumbled Arnav and pulled her back into his arms and kissed her as he found himself on shaky ground, “How about you and I go away somewhere for a couple of days?”
Khushi stared at him, “Aise kaise Arnav,” she exclaimed, “Nani is not well, HP is absent, Shakuntala is as good as not there, the kids,” she raised her hands helplessly.
Arnav sighed frustratedly, “Damn,” he hissed irritably, “How about dinner then, just the two of us,” he looked at her – mana karke toh dekho expression.
Khushi clamped down on the numerous objections that sprang to her lips and nodded, “Dinner’s sound great,” she smiled.
Arnav looked at his watch, “Just look at the time! Yeh bhi koi faltu baat karna ka time hai Khushi, I have to rush,” he grabbed his bag and walked out.
“Aapka breakfast!” Khushi ran out behind him.
“Time nahi hai,” he waved away her protests, “I have a meeting in twenty minutes, I hope I can make it,” he glared at her, “Sab tumhari galati hai,” he squarely placed the blame on her, “Haan jaldi gaadi nikalo,” he barked into the phone as he swiftly descended the stairs.
“But you can’t go without breakfast,” Khushi protested, “Let me pack something!”
“Bola na no time,” he strode off, leaving Khushi crushed – he had taken his medicines, he couldn’t afford to miss breakfast, she better call Aman and make sure there was some food for him at the office nahi toh…
Arnav relented and paused at the main door, “It’s a breakfast meeting,” he grinned before vanishing.
Khushi instantly revived – he was such a tease, she frowned and totally irresistible while in this mood, her heart thudded – she couldn’t wait for dinner.
Khushi had a hectic and busy day – Nani’s fever was still high and Khushi forcibly confined her to bed on threat of hospital admission, HP was still missing though thankfully his son was better but cranky – Shakuntala made a few guest appearances, enough to give Khushi some scope to breathe and make a couple of quick phone calls to her parents and catch up with Di and Anya.
And all too soon it was time for the children to be back home.
“Hello Guddu, hello Chotti,” she smiled happily as they trooped in, scruffy with their bags and bottles trailing behind them.
Unlike other days, Chotti just silently brushed past her while Guddu was clearly on a high, “Mommm! Guess what!” he said excitedly throwing his bag on the nearest chair and kicking off his shoes.
“What?” Khushi asked blankly looking at Chotti’s dejected retreating back with a sinking heart, isse kya ho gaya she wondered.
“Momm!” Devansh shook her, “Guess what I have been selected to play the lead role in the school play for the annual day!” he was clearly over the Moon.
“Wow!” Khushi was suitably impressed, “That’s really great!”
“Yes isn’t it?” preened Guddu, “Aapko pata hai, there were at least 7 contenders for the role, two of whom are my seniors,” he boasted.
“That’s nice,” Khushi said distractedly, “Yeh Chotti ko kya hua?”
“Who knows,” shrugged Devansh his mind on other more important matters, “One of her moods I suppose, you will help me rehearse wont you?” Khushi nodded distractedly, “what’s for lunch Mom?” he raised the lids off the serving bowls at the dining table, “Guddu!” Snapped Khushi, “Go and wash up first,” she shooed him off; he obediently rushed off to change and freshen up.
Khushi went to Chotti’s room but met her half way through, “Kya hua Chotti?” she asked concernedly.
“Kuch nahi, I am hungry,” she said distantly. She had a quick perfunctory (silent) meal and vanished to her room. Khushi served Guddu and carried Nani’s lunch to her room and coaxed her to eat, all the while worrying about Chotti, “Kya hua Chotti? Tabiyat toh theek hai?” she knocked on her door when Nani had finished her meal.
Chotti opened the door about six inches and said distantly, “Haan theek hai, I want some space please let me be,” she shut the door and locked the door.
An irrational fear clutched Khushi, instantly she banged on the door, “Don’t you dare lock the door dammit! Unlock the door this instant Chotti otherwise I promise you there wont be any door,” a panic stricken Khushi yelled through the door.
“Oh Mom, you are such a drama queen,” Chotti unlocked the door, “Ab theek hai? May I be alone now?” she shut the door again on Khushi’s face.
Khushi stared in dismay at the resolutely closed door. But having won that round, Khushi thought it prudent to back off even though she desperately wanted to hold her little baby and wash away whatever was hurting her – my poor little baby hey Devi Maiyya isko toh kasht mat dijiye, she pleaded.
“Momm! Arent you coming?” It was Devansh, “You promised you would help me,” he reminded her impatiently as he looked at his watch, “I got maths tuition in an hour.”
Khushi nodded reluctantly – maybe a little later Chotti would be in a better frame of mind to talk, she sighed and went along with Guddu and helped him memorize his lines and rehearse his act. Theatrics was of course right up Khushi’s street and she spent an enjoyable hour or so, even though her thoughts strayed often to Chotti’s gumsum face – pata nahi kya hua and ab tak toh she should have come to find out ki Mamma kya kar rahi hai Da ke saath – most unlike her not to investigate, Khushi thought with a sinking heart.
After about an hour or so, Khushi knocked again on Chotti’s door but there was no response. Dread filled Khushi’s heart, she hurriedly turned the knob – thankfully the door swung open and Khushi entered the room only to find Chotti fast asleep. Unpleasant thoughts crowded and suffocated Khushi yet not wanting to be an alarmist, Khushi gently brushed away the tousled curls away from her face – she had clearly been crying, “Chotti?” she roused her gently unable to be a silent witness to her daughter’s pain any more, “Kya hua Chotti?” she coaxed softly.
Click here for Chapter 420