Chapter 8

Arnav got down from the car and opened her door and helped her out. She looked questioningly at him.

“You heard what Aakash and Payal had to say,” Arnav said gently, “your father is in capable hands and now perhaps it is time to ask your best friend to work her magic. Waise bhi, a long time ago, somebody told me that without DM ki ‘marzee’ nothing can happen.”

“Aap…” Khushi said wonderingly.

Arnav shrugged nonchalantly. “Haan main bhi, after all I can hardly ignore my wife’s best friend can I?”

Smiling through her tears, Khushi shook her head, “Of course not.”

Khushi had come to this temple countless number of times, yet today was special. Arnav’s thoughtful gesture of bringing her here and more importantly, willingly accompanying her touched her to the core. As she bowed her head in heartfelt and humble gratitude, she felt blessed. With such ‘friends’ by her side, nothing ‘wrong’ could happen to her.

After receiving ‘Prasad’ and a couple of flowers from DM’s feet, they left the mandir. While they were donning their shoes, Arnav muttered, “Ek minute,” and dashed back up the stairs, while Khushi looked on in amazement.

He was back in a jiffy and they left in the car for the hospital. Khushi looked at him speculatively, but as she was again beginning to feel worried about her father, she didn’t question him.

Soon they were at the hospital. The news was good and the atmosphere cheerful. The test reports were encouraging and Babuji had responded to treatment and was out of danger. He was likely to be kept under observation for a day or two before being discharged.

An emotional Buaji went HRNK all over Arnav babua for his timely intervention and quick thinking, while Arnav blushed and ineffectually tried to brush away all the effusive praise and gratefulness of Khushi’s family. His eyes pleaded with Khushi to rescue him, who stood aside silently watching Amma and Buaji again and again thank Arnav.

Heart in her eyes, she looked at Arnav ‘openly’ for the first time since Arnav blamed her for Di’s condition.

Arnav noticed the change in expression and suddenly they were alone in the melee.

As she stood frozen, she yearned to hug him, thank him and cry her heart out on his shoulder within the protective circle of his arms.

Arnav moved forward and gently gathered her to him. She burst into tears and he let her cry while he held her tenderly.

“I am sorry Khushi,” he muttered several times.

As the strains of Rabba Vey faded, Khushi self-consciously moved away from Arnav, but he refused to drop his arm from around her shoulders. Holding her firmly by his side, he instructed Aakash to take Garima and Buaji home.

Arguments and counter-arguments ensued, finally it was decided that Aakash and Payal would take Garima and Buaji home and after a couple of hours or so, Aakash would bring back Garima with necessary stuff for stay at the hospital.

As Babuji was out of danger but doctors wished to observe him for some more time, Arnav would arrange for a private room where Garima would also be able to spend a comfortable night.

The Sister ushered Arnav and Khushi into the swanky hospital suite and requested Aranv to come to the office and complete some pending formalities. Arnav nodded his head and said curtly, “I will be there in just a bit.”

She nodded and disappeared.

“Khushi, tum theek ho?” Arnav asked gently.

She nodded her head shakily.

Arnav touched her briefly on the shoulder and said, “I am just coming”.

Just as he reached the door, “Arnavji”, called out Khushi hesitantly.

He looked back at her.

Khushi, “When..I was…I mean, a little while ago…when I was crying…why did you say sorry?”

Arnav looked away, fiddled with the doorknob, shuffled his feet a bit and said, “Woh..I …last time…when your father was taken ill…at the hospital, when you sought comfort and reassurance from me…I…I couldn’t….…I didn’t hug you back.”

He turned to leave, then swung back to look straight at her, ” but I really regret it…I wish I had,” he vanished through the doorway, leaving behind a quivering mass of emotions.

He came back in a while, accompanied by a uniformed man carrying tea and snacks.

Khushi sat quietly while they sipped their tea, Arnav looked worriedly at her downcast and pale face.

He rose and moved to the seat beside her and took her hand in his, “Khushi, don’t worry, he is fine, I just talked to the doctor again.”

Khushi shook her head, “I know, thank you.”

Arnav dropped her hand and looked away, “I don’t want your ‘thank you’.

Shyly and hesitantly Khushi cupped his face and turned him back to her and said softly, “I love you.”

Arnav stared at her unbelievingly and enfolded her in a fierce hug and muttered, “Thank you”.

Khushi moved back, “I don’t want your ‘thank you’.

Arnav shook his head, “It is my day of ‘thank yous’ so you will have to take it. Thank you for loving me and forgiving me for laying all blame at your door not once but twice. I don’t know if in your place I would have been able to forgive and forget, leave alone love. So thank you.”

Khushi, stood up angrily, “Humne kaha na, I don’t want your ‘thank yous.’

Arnav too stood up and as he gazed at her beautiful flushed face, Khushi saw intense pain and longing in his eyes along with a determination to make amends, to set things right.

Arnav’s lips twisted as he tucked an errant lock of hair behind her ear, swallowed and said huskily, “Khushi, tum se baat karni hai”

Khushi froze, “Kya?”

Arnav, “Bas karni hai”

Khushi stopped breathing; time stood still as her nightmare ended. She was back at RM, it was Payal and Aakash’ wedding day, she was standing in front of the mirror while Arnav’s stance and flirty smirk played havoc with her heart and mind.

***

Click here for Chapter 9

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