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A/n: There you go! Chapter 16! For those of you wanting updates in my other FFs, they'll be up as soon as I get the time to type them up!
Chapter 16: A Conversation, A Consolation and A Confession; sort of
"Di, please calm down. Jijaji will come back, I'm sure. Why are you panicking? Di please …" Arnav looked at Khushi in desperation. "Anjaliji, Shyamji is on his way; he will get here soon …"
"But he said he won't return until I called him; he said …" seeing that Anjali was once again about to delve into her state, Khushi used a last resort, "Bhabhi …"
That certainly caught Anjali's attention and help her oblivion away for a moment. Khushi held Anjali's chin and looked in her eyes and told her in a soft, firm tone, "He will come back, trust me …" Anjali nodded tearfully and hugged Khushi. As if to fulfill her vow, Shyam appeared at the door, completely frazzled yet he hardly seemed bothered. His eyes were fixed on Anjali who smiled for the first time that morning. Khushi stood back as did Arnav and together, they left the room, leaving the couple to their own.
"I think he told her," Khushi blurted out, not able to take the silence any longer; Arnav's frenzied pacing was giving her a headache; his agitated face was making her restless. "What? That's absurd," Arnav shot down quickly. Their talk halted as they saw Shyam come down, his face relieved and sad in equal measure. Khushi stood up hurriedly and stood between the two, shielding one from the other in case a fight broke out; she could sense a storm brewing.
"Di?" Arnav asked abruptly and Shyam replied in a worried tone, "She's sleeping; she's going to be alright."
"But how the hell did she become this way in the first place?" Seeing Shyam's unresponsive face ignited the temper he had so far held in check for his Di's sake. "Answer me, dammit! Why was she slipping into … a trance? What happened? What did you tell her?" Khushi placed a restraining hand on his shoulder but Arnav shook her off, too angry to see any sense.
"The truth," Shyam replied stonily, facing Arnav's eyes for the first time. Sorrow shone through it but so did truth; there was guilt in them but so was honesty; there was worry but so was there relief and a realization, "I told her everything."
"What?! Why the … ? Are you mad? I'd thought we agreed not to tell Di anything1 How could you? How dare you? I'll kill you for doing this to Di!" Arnav was about to attack him; Shyam made no move to defend. It was Khushi who had to pull Arnav back, "Arnavji, Di. She'll be shattered if she knew you hurt him. Please, don't. Think for a moment, Arnavji. Anjaliji's health will get worse; you … you saw how she was today …" Khushi placed both her hands on his shoulder, trying to get him to look at her. When he finally did, they were deathly calm.
"He hurt Di, Khushi. Do you expect me to compliment him?" He scared her; his expressionless voice terrified her but she held strong. There was a lot of feeling behind that wall; he was just being defensive. He doesn't want to be vulnerable. Khushi shook her head, "Atleast give him a chance to explain, for Anjaliji," Arnav calmed down, his eyes closed as he brought his temper under control, taking a couple of deep breaths. Khushi's hands slackened, resting on his shoulders loosely.
When he opened his eyes again, they were back to normal; intensely brown and filled with concern. Khushi breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm okay, Khushi," he said casually. Khushi nodded, smiling lightly. "Will you let me go now?" he asked, amused even at such a situation. Realising what he meant, Khushi removed her hands from his shoulder hurriedly, busying herself with looking at the engaging surroundings of the house.
"You," Arnav said, directing his words towards Shyam, "Have got once chance; once chance to explain why you broke Di's heart. What was the need for you to? Did you do this to get back at me? For revenge? I told you, I warned you not to hurt my sister. I told you to leave her the hell alone! It was me you should be hurting, not her, dammit! She's had enough suffering in her life! Quite enough! Why did you have to go and shatter her life? Her picture perfect world where everything reolves around happiness? Why?"
Khushi listened, astonished; she'd never thought Arnav could have such a deep understanding of people, of emotions that he spoke so cynically about. Anjaliji had had enough suffering? What about him? Who was there to protect him, shield him from the world the way he had done for Anjaliji? Khushi could feel tears prickle her eyes and looked down lest he notice them. He'd definitely ask her the reason and she didn't know how to explain the surge of protectiveness she felt towards him. She wanted to hug him tight; guard him from the world that seemed out to get him; try its best to break him. Her feet took unconscious steps towards where he was standing rigid, an undefinable look on his face. He seemed to be flickering between anger and worry, hate and affection, anxiety and aloofness, betrayal and cynicism; his eyes flitted between the raging feelings, making his eyes seem blurry and unsettled.
"It doesn't matter; I didn't need you to make her happy in the past; I don't need you now. I know how to keep my Di happy again …" Arnav muttered furiously.
"I'll try to …" Shyam began but Arnav held his hand up, "You'll do nothing, understand? Nothing. I gave you one chance to set your actions right; once chance you spectacularly messed up. This is the end of the road for you, Shyam Jha. I've had enough of you playing around with my sister's heart. I'll leave it to Di to decide what to do with you."
With that, Arnav walked away and back up the stairs without a look back, leaving a stunned Shyam and a restless Khushi behind.
Khushi stood outside the closed door to Arnav's room, trying to give herself the courage to knock. He'd definitely be furious enough to kill her; she was surely in for a rare treat of the choicest of his harsh words and then they'd probably walk away from each other's lives forever if Anjaliji chose to separate from Shyamji. Khushi wouldn't blame her but it hurt that these people who had come to mean so much to her would ignore her because of her association to Shyam. Arnavji had probably already made up arguments to make her the cause for all of this; and he would be right too. But hadn't he said, just a few hours ago that she wasn't to blame? That would have all changed now, for sure … she knew Arnavji, his mind stopped working when he was angry …
"Come in," Arnav's voice held a rigidity that had her flinching; steady yourself Khushi Kumari Gupta, do what you came to do and leave she chanted repeatedly as she opened the door with one hand, a plate of food in another. He was seated on the bed, his head resting on the head board, his eyes closed and his posture frigid as stone.
"What is it, Khushi?" There was the emotionless tone again, the one that shook her to the bones. She who had feared his temper now wanted him to react, just to know he was still himself. "You didn't have dinner, so I brought something," she replied calmly, steadily approaching where he was seated. It took her all of her composure not to let her footsteps falter and show away the hammering her heart was giving her rib cage. A bland smile crossed his lips before his face closed up with worry once again, "Di?"
"I made her eat too; she didn't ask many questions. She fell asleep immediately," Khushi assured him and he nodded, still not opening his eyes. Realising the question hanging in the air, Khushi added, "Shyamji is in the guest room for now. I thought it would be best considering …"
"Hmm," he murmured and Khushi sat beside him on a stool by the bed, waiting for him to react. She reached a hand to touch his shoulder and he shot up, looking disorientedly at her. "Dinner?" she reminded and before he could object, placed it in his hands and gave him an imploring smile. He gave her an incredulous shake of the head before he began eating. Khushi observed Arnav's face; it was distraught with fear and anxiety. She had only ever seen him this way when Anjaliji had gone missing. His smoldering eyes were red and lifeless; not even the sharpness seemed to have survived. Her heart cried out for her to do something; anything, to get him back to normal. She'd take a hundred taunts and yells from him, if it meant he would become Arnav Singh Raizada again; the one she loved to hate but couldn't seem to stay away from.
"Can I come to the office tomorrow, Arnavji?" she asked, trying to build up a conversation. Arnav shook his head, "Its Sunday tomorrow; even I have no work there."
Silence fell again and Khushi rambled to break it, "Amanji called; he asked me to tell you that he had returned. He called you but you weren't picking up your phone. He seemed worried and …"
"I spoke with him," Arnav replied shortly; having finished his dinner, he stood up and left. Khushi was seated at the same place when he returned after having changed into his casuals.
"Are you going to say whatever it is that is on your mind or will it take another year?" he snapped, bringing her out of her trance. She hurriedly let go of the Dupatta she had been wringing, sitting up straight. Arnav sat back on the bed, watching her with folded arms, waiting for her reluctance to crack.
"Nothing; nothing at all. I just came to … I think you should give Shyamji another chance," she blurted out, looking down at her fingers that traced the design on her Kameez.
"No, Khushi. This discussion ends this minute. I'm throwing him out of the house; and my Di's life. He no longer has the right to be a part of it," Arnav shot back in his most definitive voice, leaving no room for arguments.
"Don't you think it's for Anjaliji to decide that?" she asked equally hotly; what did he think? She knew he cared naught about others' choices but not even his sister's wishes?
"And you were telling me not two seconds ago that I should give him a chance?" he asked snarkily, and Khushi realized he had her cornered with that argument. She couldn't let him do it, though. Anjaliji would only get worse and though he might claim otherwise, Khushi knew Arnav would come to regret it later. Oh yeah, your determination has nothing to do with your fear of never seeing the Laad Governor again, of course a lilting voice belittled her in her head and Khushi had a hard time pushing it aside.
"I'm just saying you should let things rest for a bit, Arnavji. People take rash decisions when they are emotional; they regret later. Maybe Anjaliji will calm down in a few …" Arnav's chuckle, devoid of any amusement, made her halt.
"Calm down, Khushi? Really? Who are you fooling? Didn't you look at her? She is devastated; beyond redemption. Do you think her to be the kind of person who would take her husband's betrayal so easily? Do you think she'll wake up tomorrow with a smile on her face and do Pooja for his long life? Di isn't like that; she's delicate, fragile. She gets broken with almost no effort at all. Like glass; she is like a crystal doll, Khushi. She might look deceivingly strong but she isn't. She needs someone to look after her, take care of her. And I was supposed to do that. It was the only thing, the only duty I had in life and I failed, Khushi. I failed utterly and completely. I don't blame him; it was my carelessness. My blindness paved way for Di's hurt. When she told me she was in love and wanted to marry him … I should have delved further into his history. But I didn't know, did I? Di used to be interested in various things; and I was used to fulfilling her likes; getting her her preferred items. This saree, that jewellery; this house, that husband … Will you believe me, Khushi, if I told you that I thought I could replace her husband too? Di was never attached to any of these. She'd admire them for a while before they would lose their novelty and become mundane. I didn't think he would matter so much to her. She got too attached to him; I should have known a husband would mean more to her than just things. I should have anticipated her sentiments. I should have done this better … I must have, darn it!" Arnav's breath came out in ragged rhythms, the last word echoing in the room which was silent except for his labored breathing. He didn't utter a word for quite sometime after that and Khushi dared not ask him for fear that she might get him started again. If he was calming down, her speaking might provoke him. Not that she was any stranger to his temper, but this sudden vulnerability that seemed to shroud him, the doubt and confusion in his eyes as he met hers made her fear; made her realize how much the entire family, she included, had depended on Arnav to be the rock against the storm. Here he was, facing a crisis he wasn't able to work through; probably for the first time in his life. It showed in the motionless bafflement that seemed to emanate from him. He had no idea what to do; anger was the only thing making him go on. Behind it, she knew, he was completely wrecked; blown to smithereens and still he wouldn't let it show.
"Such a huge burn and not even an 'Oof' will come out of his mouth." Anjali's words from long ago echoed in her ears. He was in pain again, and yet, he wouldn't say how much it hurt him; how excruciating it was for him to see his sister this way. No, it was all about how much his Di was going through. Tears clogged her throat; and she'd called him a Rakshas, someone who didn't care for others, someone with a rock for a heart.
Did he seem like the Khadoos tyrant she had labeled him to be now? She couldn't ever place the Arnav before her with the despot she had presumed him to be. "Chote isn't as bad as you think him to be," again, Anjali's words came back to haunt her. She had brushed them aside as a sister's partiality then, but she couldn't, not anymore.
She hadn't known him before, Khushi was sure she still didn't know who Arnav Singh Raizada was; but she was sure of this, she cared; he mattered to her. After all the times she had denied, both to herself and to him, that he was worth anything at all to her, Khushi basked in the realization, feeling her heart lighten, her breath become easier and her conscience ease with having the truth out. Along with the overpowering awareness came the overriding sense of protectiveness she had kept banked for so long.
No longer could she even attempt to control the barrage of feelings that rushed through her, but one overcame everything else. She had never been sure what she had wanted for so long; now, in the wake of her comprehension it was painfully clear. All she needed was for him to feel serene; she had to ease his guilt, somehow; make him smile that elusive half quirk of his, if possible.
"Its not your fault, Arnavji," was all her lips could form to say and even that, Khushi was sure was lost in the rush of emotions that overflowed and drowned out her words. She had always prided herself on being wonderful with words but Khushi realized, belated though it was, that not every situation could be handled with mere vocabulary.
Her hands wrapped around his shoulder, holding him upright when he would have slouched; she was supporting his entire weight on her frail shoulders. The hands that wound around her were weak; she could have broken away as simply as if he hadn't held her at all. The remnants of his self control seemed to snap and he hung onto her like a child would to its mother. His words came tumbling out, jumbled and without making any sense. These were what were troubling him; what had shaken him to the core, Khushi realized.
"She's my sister, the only thing in life that still matters to me. But I've made her collapse; just like I pulled our family home apart. Destroying is all I ever seem to do; I can't ever seem to make even one person happy. Di, what am I going to do now? Di …" his words trailed off into silence as his shoulders raked in a dry sob. There were no tears; just his sorrow escaping the constraints of the iron hold he had so far had on his emotions. He was coming apart before her very eyes; Khushi knew not what to do, what to say so she stayed where she was, in the circle of his arms, watching his face intently, hoping against hope that she could find something to ease the pain and guilt that seemed to be eating at him from the inside. He looked up at her finally and started; as if he hadn't expected her to be there, with him, near him. As if he had presumed she'd run away at the sign of how weak he actually was.
Khushi had, in the later stages of her life, wondered why she had been so annoyed at his surprise; why the fact that he didn't think her being there as natural bothered her so much. But right at that moment, all she wanted was prove him wrong; no, Khushi Kumari Gupta wasn't just another of those long line of girls he had seen in the past; ones that he had left no opportunity to compare her to. She merely held onto his shoulders when he would have pushed her away, resting her head where his heart beat, listening to the thumping that slowly evened out after sometime.
Khushi knew she couldn't have held on much longer if he had tried to push her away; she had never been too good at clinging to anyone. Her inborn complex of being an adopted daughter had always plagued her; refraining her from taking liberties with her own family. But Arnav seemed to give up on his fight far too soon for her to assume that he wanted her gone. Khushi held no illusions that he wanted her to be there for him; if anything, Khushi knew better than anyone else that she was the last person he'd want to open up to. She knew he'd recuperate quite soon and would ever deny the connection that she could so strongly feel between them then, as if it was something tangible, something more than mere fleeting emotions.
She saw in his eyes that he did too; but he wouldn't admit. All he would do was rest his head on her shoulder, leaning on her as he gathered her closer to him, as if he couldn't bear to have anything keep them apart. All she could see was the dark maroon of his shirt and all she could hear was the soothing melody of his breathing. She ran a soothing hand along his hair, her voice reducing to an incomprehensible whisper that formed no words. His muttering slowly died out and the shaking smoothened out. His eyes seemed to close of their own accord; fatigue and mental strain draining him of the stiffness he seemed to carry around with him at all times.
Her heart, which had always insisted on trying to beat its way out of its confines each time she came face to face with him, was oddly silent now. It was thrumming out a steady tune as it had finally synched with the beats of his heart, making her smile. So this was the cure to all her Dhak Dhak and acidity she thought with a silly smile as her eyes fluttered shut, her mind relaxing its hold on her body completely as she plunged into the world of dreams where a pair of coffee colored eyes awaited her.
A/n: Not much happened in the chapter, I know; its just the setting for the next ones to come!
The next update may take a few more days because I'm tweaking the storyline a bit; my mind has only just come up with the missing link that I'd been searching for.
My pathetic story writing aside, I do so hope everyone liked reading the story! I mean, being an ardent reader of FFs (thought not recently) I know exactly how it feels when a story you'd been following for so long is massacred.
I really don't want that happening to any of my works so I hope that if anyone is feeling like the story if going away from reality or is too OTT, don't ever hesitate to tell me.
I really do want to make changes, even if they are minor ones, to make my writing better.
Thanks to everyone who has so far followed the story; do continue to give me your support and suggestions because readers make or break a writer!
"Don't call me Rani Sahiba… I'm nothing to you, you mean nothing to me," Anjali's face was uncharacteristically contorted into a scowl as she uttered those words and quickly walked away from where Shyam was stood …
"Don't worry, Bhai; Anjaliji will come around, I'm sure," Khushi comforted as she hugged him. She knew she was giving Shyam the recognition she had so far withheld; that of a brother, of family.
And she also knew nothing but more trouble was going to come of it; if the livid eyes boring holes into hers was any indication to go by …
Do like and review and I might update faster!
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