The shrill ring of the phone cut through the intense silence, but failed to dispel the magic.
Languidly Arnav dug out his phone, flicked a glance at it and touched the ‘mute’ button, bent his head and whispered in her ear, “Tonight, Shantivan, our room…whenever you are free.”
Holding her captive with his eyes, he took the call, “Yes Aakash… no not Room 423, it is Room 432.”
The telephone went dead and the only sound in the room was Khushi’s ragged breath as she attempted to achieve a semblance of normalcy.
Just then Buaji came barging in, “HRNK ab kaisan hai Shashi babua?”
Even though it had been decided that only Garima would be coming back, Buaji insisted on coming along to make sure he was indeed fine.
A little while later Shashiji was wheeled into the room and efficiently settled in the private room. He looked a bit pale and tired, but otherwise seemed well and was happy to see all of them and indicated by gestures that he was fine.
Soon the doctor came and checked him and left instructions to the sister and requested family members to let him rest and assured them that he was on his way to recovery.
Satisfied, Buaji made preparations to leave, while Aakash offered to stay a little longer so that if anything was needed he could take care of it.
Buaji went along with Arnav and Khushi who made sure she was safely home. Eager to leave, they were drawn back by Buaji’s string of HRNKs.
“HRNK, arre eee deikho, Garima forgot her medicines. Now what? HRNK, she has high BP and suppose she also falls sick, HRNK, troubles never come singly HRNK.”
Arnav and Khushi calmed her down and offered to drop the medicines while on the way back. Buaji reluctantly agreed as she was loath to trouble daamdadji again but she couldn’t see any other option. Just then Happyji dropped by to ask about Uncleji and if any help was required. Buaji pounced upon him like a drowning man and ordered him to go and give the medicines to Garima. Happyji was only too happy to comply.
Before leaving, Arnav called up Aakash to find out if everything was ok; Uncle was no doubt fine, but Aakash had car trouble. Another round of discussion followed and it was finally decided that Arnav and Khushi would drop Happyji at the hospital where he would deliver the medicines, check up on Uncle, have a look at the car and if possible repair it or and drop the car at RM or make arrangements to have it towed to the garage, while Aakash would go home with Arnav and Khushi.
Happyji was excited to be travelling in such exalted company and talked volubly while Arnav replied in monosyllables, and uncharacteristically Khushi was silent and sat stiffly throughout, stealing glances at his chiseled profile ever so often.
When Happyji’s incessant chatter became too much, Khushi switched on the car stereo, strains of ‘Teri Meri’ filled the car. Arnav turned to look at Khushi and she forgot to breathe, she felt dizzy with tiredness, hunger, and anticipation. She reached out to switch off the song, Arnav’s hand snaked out to catch her hand, and flicking a quick look in the rear view mirror, he planted a kiss on her hand. Khushi’s insides melted as he mouthed ‘I love you’. Oh how she wished they could be immediately transported to their room.
The journey from the hospital to RM after picking up Aakash was no less intense. Attempting a breather, Khushi insisted Aakash sit beside Arnav while she slid into the seat behind Arnav. Not one to be thwarted, ASR adjusted the rear view mirror and held her captive through the mirror. Each time she looked away she was irresistibly drawn back to see if he was still looking at her. He was. It was a miracle they didn’t have an accident.
The songs, ‘Desi girl’ and ‘Salaam- e-ishq’ kept up the tempo between the two. Aakash was surprised. “Bhai, I didn’t know you liked these songs so much that you have a CD compiled”.
Arnav grunted and when Khushi stared at him through the rear view mirror he looked away but not before he caught her dawning look of realization.
By the time they reached home, Khushi was coiled and taut as a highly strung instrument, Arnav seemed to be faring no better. Aakash kept asking him if he was okay. Arnav fobbed him off by saying he was hungry. Then they had to sit down to dinner. Arnav ate quickly and vanished to his room, but not before turning Khushi’s already shaking legs to poorly set jelly. “Khushi, you must be tired too, come, leave all that, let HP clear up.”
Khushi, nodded her head, without looking at him, afraid her longing would be visible to all, “I…I am just coming.”
Arnav changed quickly and restlessly paced the room. Where was Khushi? He called her up, damn, yapping away on the phone. He went out by the poolside and attempted to calm down.
Khushi was talking to her Amma, making sure everything was alright, as she walked into the room a little while later. She disconnected the phone and put the phone down and turned to look for Arnav.
“Where the hell were you Khushi?” A large shadow growled. Khushi squeaked, tripped and fell, into his waiting arms. She trembled with the sudden shock as she gazed apprehensively into his angry eyes. Her eyes dropped to his lips and fluttered back to his eyes.
Life completed a full circle as they both were reminded of their first ever meeting.
A new chapter began.
He gently set her back on her feet, as his eyes softened and became heavy lidded. They stood there gazing into each other’s eyes. Khushi was the first to break the spell; she cleared her throat and said, “You wanted to talk to me?”
Arnav shook his head.
Khushi stared. “You said you wanted to talk.”
Arnav again shook his head, “Happy to just look at you.”
Khushi exasperatedly, “Pehli baar dekh rahe hain kya?”
Arnav, “It has been so long since you met my eyes. Each time I looked at you and you looked away, my heart broke. And then it broke some more as I realized how often, how callously and how easily I must have broken your heart, over and over again. You have such beautiful honest frank eyes; I don’t know why I couldn’t see that earlier. Forgive me Khushi.”
Khushi swallowed, “Just now you said you didn’t have anything to say. And I told you, I don’t want your sorry or your thank you.”
Arnav shrugged, “I don’t know what else to say or do to make amends.”
Khushi was in a quandary. Whilst she had always dreamed of a suitably chastised and repentant Laad Governor, yet the sight of an emotionally charged maudlin Arnav Singh Raizada was intolerable and quite heart-breaking. How she hated to see him like this. She bit her lip; clearly it was up to her to make the first move.
Hesitantly she moved a step towards him and said, “Arnavji, please close your eyes.”
Arnav stubbornly shook his head.
Khushi sighed and raised her hand and closed his eyes. She took a deep breath, resting a hand delicately on his shoulder for support, reached up and placed an awkward clumsy kiss on his lips.
Khushi removed her hand from his eyes and looked expectantly at a frozen Arnav.
Hungry for more and impatient at the delay, Khushi slid her arms around his neck and kissed him, till he took over.
There was ‘jadu’ there was ‘nasha’ there was ‘madhoshiyan’ and of course whatever else you may like to add (But mind you, there was absolutely no hand-holding – fandom khush?).
Click here for Chapter 10