“No Mamma, it’s nothing really, Da was just telling me how you and Dad hardly get to spend any time to spend together…” she trailed off.
Khushi was touched as well as a bit skeptical – Guddu ne aisa bola! Unbelievable that he would come out of his own duniya and worry about his parents love life or lack of it, unless, “Chotti tumne Da ko bata diya na uss raat wali baat?” she looked at Chotti penetratingly.
Chotti’s blush was answer enough, “Ek baat peith main nahi rakh sakti?” Khushi sighed and shook her head.
“I just told Da,” protested Chotti meekly, “I didn’t tell anyone else, not even Maami,” she said self-righteously.
Well that was something to be grateful for Khushi thought and too much to expect from Chotti, “Mamma, can I help you get ready?” Chotti tugged her hand.
“You can, but you may not,” Khushi flicked Chotti’s nose and laughed as her face fell ludicrously. They spent a pleasant couple of hours going over her wardrobe, choosing a saree, matching jewelry (in between visits to the kitchen) and of course, some much needed personal grooming – for which Khushi had the brainwave of calling someone home.
Finally, both dinner and Khushi were ready – Arnav still hadn’t landed up.
Khushi wondered whether or not to call him – yaad bhi hai that he had insisted that they go out for dinner? Ab batao who had no time for whom?
Khushi eyed the clock, almost dinner time, she sighed, she may as well serve dinner to the others – ek kaam toh ho kar rahega and she wouldn’t have to worry, khaya ki nahi.
But Chotti shooed her away, “No Mom, I told you, I will serve dinner! I don’t want your clothes to get spoilt,” she looked critically at her mother, “You are looking like a Maharani, hai na Da?”
Devansh looked up from his PSP and his eyes widened, “Oh wow Mom, you are looking gorgeous,” he said almost dazedly.
Khushi smiled and glowed – but where the hell was Arnav?
Just then Arnav strode in – he stopped short as he caught sight of Khushi. He couldn’t tear his eyes off her and wore a dazed mesmerized expression and something else as well – he had evidently forgotten about their date.
But Arnav made an almost instantaneous recovery, “Sorry Khushi, just give me a few minutes will you?” he took the steps two at a time intending to just freshen up. But then when he saw his suit all laid out on the bed he gave in and changed as well. Waise he too had had a long tiring day and all he wanted to do was grab some dinner (in his pyjamas) and slid into his corner of the bed – but he couldn’t do that to Khushi – not when he was the one who had insisted, not when she was looking so beautiful, hopeful, expectant and the worst was that fleeting expression of resignation when she had realized he had forgotten – she had been ready to forgo their date. In that instant he had decided he couldn’t disappoint her, not again and so here he was – wearing his new blue suit topped with his trademark half smile.
Khushi all but melted in a gooey puddle at his feet, “Chalein?” he asked huskily.
Khushi nodded dazedly – dammit – it wasn’t fair how he still made her heart race!
“Kya?” Arnav raised his eyebrow as he held the door open for her and shut it behind them.
“Samajh main nahi aata,” she fumbled; he waited patiently content to drink in her beauty – it was yesterday once more – itne saal baad bhi kuch bhi toh nahi badla, wohi Khushi, wohi innocence, wohi beauty, wohi purity, wohi pyaar…
“Kaise, abhi bhi jab bhi aap paas aatein hai, dil ki dhadkan abhi bhi tez ho jaati hai?” she echoed his sentiments.
“I love you Khushi,” he breathed softly before literally stealing her breath away under the stars and the moon.
Arm in arm, smiling and talking softly they walked up to their car and drove off to a posh restaurant for a simple, elegant and quiet dinner, “How come you were late today?” Khushi asked.
Arnav shook his head as he sank into his seat, “It’s a madhouse at the office, the new trainees are a big pain, sometimes I think it’s easier to do it by myself than try to make sense of whatever nonsense they bring to me,” he sighed frustratedly.
“Surely they are all not so bad?” Khushi exclaimed.
“Yeah two of them are decent,” Arnav grudgingly admitted, “But the other two, just hopeless,” he toyed with his glass, “Maybe I should just get rid of them and manage with these two, pehle there was just Aman, ab there will be two more, right?” he mused.
“Arre nahi nahi, what about their jobs!” Khushi was aghast, “Aise thodi na hota hai, what about their families, their livelihoods?”
Arnav glared at her, “Achcha toh if you had a cook who burnt the sabji everyday, you would still allow him in the kitchen?”
Khushi looked away, “Na…ahi,” she admitted reluctantly, “But maybe you can shift them to another department?” she hurriedly added, “how about making them report to the other two new guys, let them train each one?”
Arnav leaned back in his chair, “Hmm not a bad idea but then there is likely to be ego clashes as all four were hired on same terms and conditions.”
Khushi shrugged, “Well terms and conditions can change, according to capabilities and deliverables, if they don’t like it, they are welcome to leave,” she sipped her kala khatta from a wine glass.
Arnav raised his eyebrow and his lips twitched, “Ahh a ruthless cutthroat businesswoman eh?”
Khushi shrugged modestly, “Itne saal aapke saath hoon kuch toh seekhoongi?”
Arnav laughed and raised his glass to her – she preened and smiled back at him.
“Nani itni bimaar hai bataya nahi?” Arnav abruptly changed the topic.
Khushi looked warily at him, “Haan, nahi abhi better hai,” she fumbled and then came clean, “She didn’t take the antibiotics tabhi yeh haal hai,” she shook her head, “Maan hi nahi rahi thi, I threatened to inform you phir jaakar mani woh bhi after playing the emotional card,” she paused, “Pata hai woh Mamaji ko bahut miss karti hain and I don’t think Mamaji calls very often,” she hesitated, “Ever since the unfortunate business between you and Jijaji, their phone calls have become very rare and infrequent,” Arnav’s lips tightened, “Pehle toh phir bhi koi na koi for some reason or the other phone kar hi leta tha, and of course Jijaji used to come over phir mulaqat bhi ho jati thi, par ab,” Khushi shook her head, “And now this sudden ominous silence is eating into her peace, she suspects something is wrong,” she looked pleadingly at Arnav, “Hume bata dena chahiya.”
Arnav stiffened and glared at her, “Nahi,” he said curtly.
Khushi looked at him helplessly, “Please Arnav humari baat toh samajhne ki koshish kariye, it is better to know the worst than to wonder, dread and blame yourself,” she reached over and squeezed his hand, “I know you want to protect her from hurt and think that if she knows Jijaji and by default Mamaji ne kya kiya, she wont be able to take it, par trust me aisa nahi hai,” she said earnestly, “She understands how money can change people but she cannot understand what she has done wrong that her family cannot be bothered to even make a phone call to her?” Khushi’s voice broke.
Click here for Chapter 422