“Ohh yahin honge,” Jatin said casually and put on some loud music, “Don’t you just love this band?” he swayed energetically to its beats, “Come on join in!” he pulled her hand.
She thrust him away fiercely, “Stop this nonsense immediately,” she snapped, “I want to go leave right away, I don’t think your parents or anybody is at home,” she accused with sudden certain knowledge.
“You are right,” grinned Jatin, “Aur meri jaan tumko agar jaana hai toh, jao,” he plucked her phone from her hand, “Jao na!” he mocked her helplessness.
Chotti went hot and cold all over – it was a set up and she had walked right into the trap.
“Jatin!” she snapped even as fear crawled up her spine – phone bhi le liya, her only lifeline! “Behave yourself, this is not funny huh, give my phone back immediately,” she made a lunge for it.
He gave a wicked laugh and held it over his head, “Sure! Here take it!”
“Jatin!” she screamed, absolutely frustrated and slowly panicking, “Why are you doing this?”
“Mujhe na, mujhne na,” he leaned towards her, his hot alcohol-laden breath fanned her cheeks, she blenched and turned her face away, “Tumhare saath ‘ghar-ghar’ khelna hai!” he burst into raucous laughter, “That’s a favorite game for girls isn’t it?” he sneered and tried to pull her into his arms and kiss her.
Chotti stiffened; she thrust him away and tried to run out of the door. Eyes watchful as a hawk, Jatin grinned creepily as he picked up a remote – the door shut automatically with an ominous click.
“Ok fine you can run around all you like, your phone and escape route sab mere haath main hai,” he held up the remote and her phone chillingly reminding her of her immensely vulnerable situation.
Just then her phone rang, she sprang up in relief, “Give it to me, that’s Mom calling,” she ordered peremptorily but Jatin just muted the call and set the phone on silent.
“Relax Angel, kuch nahi hoga, just listen to me, I really really like you,” he said soulfully as he held her by the shoulders, “par tum ho ki koi bhav hi nahi deti, always going around with that Abhishek chappie,” he said unhappily, “just agree to be my special friend phir sab theek ho jayega,” he smiled winningly.
“What do you mean by ‘special’ friend?” Chotti asked with trepidation throwing off his hands, “I thought we were already friends?”
“Arre itni bhi bholi na bano, you know ‘special’ right,” he said slyly, “Special friends with special privileges,” he said meaningfully, “Like you give to your other special friend Abhishek?” he sneered demeaningly.
Chotti clenched her fists as she seethed with impotent fury and disgust, “What nonsense!” she snapped, “Aisa kuch nahi hai, let me go Jatin tum achcha nahi kar rahe ho,” she warned, “Later you will regret this for the rest of your life,” she promised him dire consequences but he just laughed.
He touched another button, “There, the CCTV has been switched on and now everything will be recorded and put on the Internet,” he paused and said reassuringly, “but only if you force me to do so,” he again looked meaningfully at her.
Chotti stared at him barely able to grasp what he was driving at.
“Look,” he said reasonably, “There is nothing to freak out over, like I said I don’t have anything against you really, in fact I am quite fond of you and I don’t want to hurt you, honest,” he paused.
She stared at him dumbly.
“So, here’s the deal, lets make a pact to be special friends for always, you stay quiet and all this,” he waved his hands, “will be our own special secret,” he leaned towards her as he made her a chilling offer with the utmost sincerity and generosity, “deal?”
Chotti stared at him in horrified shock as the full implications sank in. Her legs gave way and she sank down on the nearest couch, she felt faint.
“Deal or no deal?” he snapped.
At the hospital
It had been an awful day for Khushi. News from Lucknow was depressing and worrying. Buaji was so dizzy that she couldn’t get up from the bed and the doctors had advised hospitalization. Babuji ki tabiyat bhi theek nahi hai, ab Amma akeli kaise manage karengi worried Khushi – if only Arnav was in town I could have gone to Lucknow for a few days, at least while Buaji was admitted. But Arnav toh hai hi nahi, maybe I should leave Chotti with Di, she brightened, haan yeh theek rahega, Di would love to have Chotti waise bhi woh akeli hain. Khsitij had gone to the States for a conference.
And then Di fell and fractured her toe. She was in great pain and Khushi had to rush to her. Worse, Arnav, who was in Singapore, ko pata chal gaya and Khushi was hard put to convince him that things were under control. Of course woh mana nahi (Khsitij bhi nahi hai, how will Khushi manage alone was what he thought) and cut short his trip (to be with his Di, mere liye aate kya was what Khushi thought a bit resentfully and rather unfairly).
Khushi was in a fix, pulled and pushed from all directions and on top of it aaj hi driver ke wife ko labor pains hona tha – Chotti ka kya hoga? Should she send Di’s driver, but he was such a duffer, would he be able to find the place? Khushi doubted his abilities, phir usse dhoondhne kisiko jaana padega, she chewed her nails and wondered what to do.
Tabhi Chotti ka message aya ‘‘Coming with a friend, may take a while, there are other friends to be dropped as well’
‘Ok,’ Khushi signed off in relief, that was one tension less; she thanked Devi Maiyya and set about concentrating on taking care of Di and hospital formalities.
Within a couple of hours, Di’s toe had been plastered and now she was back in her room. Anjali was irritable and in pain, she was nauseous as well and refused to eat anything and was in general behaving quite like a baby. Khushi had her hands full trying to humor her and soothe her whilst intermittently worrying about Chotti, why wasn’t she here yet? Abhi toh almost half an hour may be more than that since her last text; she should have been here by now. Khushi called Chotti but there had been no response. A dreadful feeling grew at the pit of her tummy – Phone bhi nahi uthaya, call back bhi nahi kiya – Khushi’s heart sank, Chotti aisa toh kabhi nahi karti.
Kahan jaaoon usse dhoondhne? Giving instructions to the attendant to keep an eye on the dozing Anjali, Khushi sneaked off to the hospital lobby to see if she could catch Chotti, kahin hospital main hi toh ghoom nahi rahi? She scanned the milling crowd agitatedly and then walked out to the porch peering into the shadowed darkness Chotti kahan ho tum?
“Di theek hai?” Arnav spoke gruffly over her head.
“Arnav!” she squeaked in relief, “Haan Di theek hai, she just dozed off, the…the attendant is with her,” she said a bit defensively.
“Tum yahan kya kar rahi ho?” Arnav asked curtly shooting a keen look at her drawn anxious face.
“Woh…woh,” Khushi twisted her fingers agitatedly almost wringing her hands is despair, kya boloon kaise boloon Arnav will throw a major tantrum, she put a hand to her head, I can’t take it right now but I can’t not tell him either, Chotti was what mattered…
“Angel kahan hai?” he asked abruptly,
“Oh Arnav,” Khushi’s face crumpled, let him yell at me I don’t care, at least he could bring back Chotti, “Wohi toh hume nahi pata woh kahan hai, its been two hours since her class got over…”
Arnav stared at her, Khushi braced for a barrage of abuse.
But unexpectedly and uncharacteristically Arnav maintained his cool, “Relax, bahut traffic hai maybe that’s why,” he said gruffly, “Main abhi driver ko phone karta hoon,” he dug out his phone.
“Nahi,” Khushi shook her head, “Wohi toh problem hai, the driver’s wife has gone into labor so he dropped Chotti to class at around 3 and went off to attend to his wife.”
“Toh Angel kaise aa rahi hai?” Arnav was suddenly alert.
Khushi was back to twisting her hands agitatedly, “She texted that she is coming with a friend, thoda time lag sakta hai as there were other friends to be dropped, but that was around 6 pm abhi toh its almost 8 pm! Aap Singapore se aa gaye but she couldn’t come from class?” she fretted.
“Kaunsa friend?” Arnav asked, “Abhishek?”
Khushi shook her head guiltily, “Pata nahi,” she said in a small voice, “Tab Di was in a bad shape and the doctors wanted some special nail which wasn’t available here,” she trailed off, ab pucca Arnav would attack her, she thought dolefully, as if I haven’t got enough on my plate as it is.
But thankfully Arnav was still on his best behavior; he pushed her gently, “Jao you sit with Di, main dekhta hoon, phone kiya Angel ko?”
Khushi nodded, “haan but she is not picking up her phone, kitni baar phone kiya,” said Khushi beginning to panic once again, “Woh aise karti nahi hai, she is very prompt in calling back, she knows we will worry otherwise, I don’t know what to do,” she clutched Arnav in desperation, “Kahan jaaoon usse dhoondhne?”
Click here for Chapter 475