Chapter 57

Arnav, now angry, “What do you mean Khushi, without any rhyme or reason? Of course there is a reason, how could she say that nobody would want to marry you, how could she say you are ‘paraya khoon’ and all that rubbish when you were the one who went around sacrificing your life for their happiness, you may have forgiven them but I haven’t.” He turned away.

Khushi stared at him surprised, “How do you know, she called me ‘paraya khoon’?”

“When I called them over to the office to spell out in full detail the true background of our hasty wedding, she was the one who kept saying ‘and I called her paraya khoon,” revealed Arnav curtly.

Khushi swallowed, “So what if she thought or said something like that, even you thought badly of me,” her voice broke a bit.

He turned around almost savagely grabbed her by the arms, “Yes I did and I will never forgive myself even though I could claim that I was blinded by my love for my sister and misled by that snake or that I hardly knew you, but your family, Buaji, what excuse do they have? They knew you since you were a baby. Why did they have so little faith in you? Why did they not even try to find out, why did they not question you? If not then, maybe later they could have tried to get to the bottom of the matter. But no, they were just too happy to have got rid of an unwanted burden, relieved they didn’t have to spend a penny on their adopted daughter’s wedding, so long as she was married it was fine, who cares if she is happy or not,” Arnav raged.

Unable to deny the kernel of truth behind his tirade, Khushi stared at Arnav dumbly and then tried to rally around by saying weakly, “Nahi Arnav aisa nahi hai; that was just an initial shock, they did come around later, they did forgive me,” it sounded hollow to even herself.

“Khushi,” Arnav’s voice softened and his grip slackened and he pulled her closer, “Khushi look at me and tell me the truth, can you honestly deny that their behavior, that of your Amma, Buaji and even Payal did not hurt you? It is one thing to forgive and accept, but quite another to ignore something all together. Did they not know that you could never take such a step on your own volition? Why did nobody even question you? I agree your amma did ask you but you could pull wool over her eyes so easily? Why do I get the nagging feeling they just saw what they wanted to see, because that was convenient, and because they didn’t want to risk disturbing their other daughter’s married life? Could they not see how unhappy and disturbed you were, when…when even I could see it? When you behaved so strangely, even by your standards, while at Laxmi Nagar? They deliberately chose to close their eyes…”

Khushi could no longer control her emotions and clung to him weeping. Arnav cradled her in his arms and cursed himself, damn, he had hurt her, again, he should have kept his mouth shut; there was no need to break all her illusions. She had been hurt so much as it is – a tear slipped out and fell on her arm.

She slowly hiccupped to silence and looked up to him and said in a shaky voice, “I never thought of it like that, but I don’t hold any grudges and hope that you will not either, neither against them nor against yourself; it was all DM ki marzee.”

Arnav hugged her tightly; to console her, he nodded and agreed. But the damage was done. The seed of doubt had been sown.

In Lavanya’s room a serious discussion was ongoing between the two on the strategy to be adopted for hijacking the shoes and more importantly hiding them in a foolproof place. Lavanya seemed to have been caught up in the spirit of the game or she had taken offense to ASR and Khushi’s dismissive attitudes, but whatever the reason, NK was in heaven. It was with great difficulty that he managed to come back to earth and try to speak coherently and provide brilliant ideas to Lavanya lest she dismiss him as a fool.

He racked his brains, “I have an idea! Why don’t I wear Jijaji’s shoes? Like ‘hunt the thimble’ game? You know the story where nobody thought of looking for it on mother’s finger?” he said excitedly, floored by his own brilliance.

Lavanya gazed at him with (adoring?) admiration and squeaked, “NK! You are brilliant!”

NK blushed as his chest swelled with pride (till he was almost ready to burst like the proverbial frog in the well).

During the wedding ceremony, both kept glancing at each other, waiting for an opportune moment to flick the groom’s shoes. These silent (heartfelt) aankhon hi aankhon main isharas did not escape Khushi’s eagle eyes, she grinned to herself and let the two go ahead with their plans; Kishu Bhaiyya could take a bit of a monetary loss in the name of love, she decided.

Finally the duo saw their opportunity and nicked the shoes and rushed to NK’s room to switch shoes. But as with the best laid plans, theirs too flopped, Kshitij’s shoes were too small for NK! No matter how much NK struggled, they just wouldn’t fit.

Now what? The two stared at each other in consternation.

NK had another brainwave, “You wear the shoes, nobody will notice under the lehnga!”

Lavanya was awestruck, “Wow NK! You really are very intelligent!” (Ahh well love works in mysterious ways, pyaar main kisi kisi ka dimaag ki batti jalti hi nahi aur kisi kisi ka overtime kaam karta hai…kyon? sahi bola na! 😉 )

NK blushed and shrugged modestly and tried to look suitably humble but failed. He gallantly helped Lavanya slip on the shoes which were of course too big for her and it was rather difficult for Lavanya to walk while wearing them. NK, at his brilliant best, stuffed a sock or two and offered his arm in support; Lavanya almost as besotted as NK graciously accepted and they stepped out of the room, as a couple. As they were so obviously hanging on to each other, whoever saw them presumed that ‘kuch to hai’ even Di through her veil could make that out; hence the shoes remained safely hidden underneath Lavanya’s heavily embroidered and gorgeous lehenga.

Khushi threw several suspicious glances at them while hunting for the shoes, but wisely decided to steer clear of them; they were both so oblivious to the world, only emerging once in a while to giggle at the hectic activities of the search parties, consisting mostly of Khushi and Anya, though Payal did do a cursory search. Khushi thought it best to let the ‘kichdi’ simmer till the dal and chawal could no longer be distinguishable.

Finally, after the ‘searchers’ admitted defeat, NK and La graciously accepted a generous bundle of cash from Kshitij. Everyone crowded around them as they smiled coyly at each other and Lavanya delicately raised her lehnga to reveal the elusive shoes. Laughter and applause followed. While Lavanya took off the shoes and passed them on to Kshitij, NK rushed off to get Lavanya’s shoes from his room. By the time he came back, the crowd had migrated to the newly wedded couple and Lavanya sat alone.

NK soon appeared with Lavanya’s shoes and bent down, “May I?” he asked hesitantly. Politely but firmly Lavanya refused and put on them on herself.

***

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