His eyes ran over the page once again, this time trying to
understand what was about it that made him feel lifeless. As if he was drowning
and his lungs were screaming for oxygen, even though he was still breathing.
The letter slipped through his fingers, as he stared around the room, his eyes
travelling from one thing to another.
His perfect bed, on which she once slept like a
child... His perfect wardrobe, which no longer held her clothes... His
perfect bathroom, which she would never use again. Everything was
perfect, except his mind which couldn't wipe her thoughts away. It seemed like
even the air held her scent.
Why? He thought, closing his eyes. Why did you
The answer was obvious. Their contract was over, and frankly
he knew this would happen the day he dragged her to the temple and forced her
to circle the fire with him. But six months ago, this day seemed like a gift,
when he would no longer have to listen to the twinkling of her bangles or the
feel the pull of her eyes. But now, it was different. Very different.
But how was that possible? Didn't he establish six months
ago that he detested this being named Khushi Kumari Gupta?
Singh Raizada, his mind added. It was habit now.
"Khushi?," came Payal's voice.
The voice of his sister-in-law seemed to bring Arnav back to
the problems at hand. Problems much graver than his mixed up feelings.
"Erm... Arnavji?" Payal said. "Do you know
where Khushi is?"
Arnav stared at Payal, trying to figure out what to say. It
was only a month ago that his family finally seemed to forgive his 'marriage'.
But how they will react, upon finding out that it was not made to last, was
something he didn't not want to find out.
He hoped that by now things would get settled. However, his
brother-in-law only seemed to have gotten worse and his sister, more delicate.
Not only was she eight months pregnant, but seemed to need her husband for
everything. What was he supposed to do now? How was he supposed to explain his
wife's absence until the delivery? And what was the guarantee his sister would
be able to accept the fact that her husband is a cheat, when the baby in her
tummy moved to her lap?
Arnav mentally kicked himself for hoping too much. How did
he not see this coming? How did he get carried away in his anger that he didn't
think about the conscequence? He laughed at others who let their hearts rule
their decisions, but was he any better than them?
Pretending you can fight your feelings is not going to
change the truth, his mind whispered.
Yes, it will. It has to.
Payal was confused to see the blank stare she received in
response. Deciding that maybe Arnav was caught up with some business, for Akash
too seemed to be stressed out lately, she turned to the door, when her eyes
fell on the letter.
Instantly recognizing Kushi's hand writing, she picked it up
and began reading. Her shock upon finding out the truth was nothing comparable
to the reactions that were going to follow from the rest of the family.
"Six months?" she said, thunder-struck.
Arnav was jerked out of his thoughts to see a disbelieving
Payal staring back at him with questions. He snatched the letter from her
"Its nothing," he muttered. "It's a
He did what he was best at - locking away his heart. In that
situation, he found only one solution. Bring Khushi back, until he figured out
what to do with his brother-in-law. His anger, hurt and an unexplainable ache
in his heart were all secondary issues.
But Payal wasn't fooled. "Misunderstanding?"
she fired back. "My sister just left this house and you are saying its
"Look," he said. "I don't have time for this.
We will talk once I come back."
"No," Payal said, putting her foot down. "You
aren't going anywhere until you explain what you did to her!"
Arnav was surprised to see the determined Payal. She
appeared angry, and the way she blocked the doorway, reminded him sorely of
"Yes," he said. "This marriage was only for
six months. Anything else?"
"Because she deserved it," he answered, shrewdly.
"She deserved everything she got."
Payal's distressed face cleared, as rage took over at his
harsh comments. Yes, she was guilty of accusing Khushi for the past six months,
but now it became a matter of justice. She watched her one and only sibling go
through too much in her life, to let one man, whoever he may be, ruin
everything they struggled to re-build. "Where is she?"
"I don't know," he continued in his business-like
She let out a sarcastic laugh. "How come? You know
Arnav's eyes flashed, which was not unnoticed by Payal.
"Getting angry?" she asked. "If you are
getting mad at such a small thing, then do you have any idea what she would
have been through in these six months?"
When Arnav didn't reply, she said, "What kind of a
person are you? Does it not bother you in the slightest? How do you even face
yourself in the mirror?"
"Enough," Arnav bellowed. No one
talked him in that tone. "I don't know where your sister ran off too. Its
not the first time she did, but trust me, I will find her and bring her
Payal flinced at his raised voice, but didn't back down.
With every passing second, Khushi's pain seemed to stab her even more sharply.
"So you can force her to live as your fake wife again?"
Arnav didn't answer. What excuse he was going to use to
bring Khushi back was something he was still working on.
"I don't understand why you would even get married in the
first place?" Payal continued, her tone angry. "You don't believe in
these relationships, so why would you pretend?"
"That's none of your business."
"Of course its my business! This is my younger sister's life!"
"Please," he said, holding up his hand. "Stop
this emotional drama! Know your sister's truth before singing her praises to
"As if you
know her!" Payal retorted. "What did she ever do to you that you are
punishing her like this? Ever since she met you, all she faced were problems.
First it was your office, then your girlfriend and now this! But she never said
a word... she took care of you and your family like it was her own!"
Anger flared in Arnav. "Like her own?" he spat.
"Yeah right! All she did was break my family! But what more can I
expect from a person like her?"
Payal was now outraged. "Yeah, you can't expect
anything, because you don't deserve to understand my sister. You are so
arrogant, that you don't even know what you lost."
Arnav glared at Payal.
"But I am so stupid," she said, sarcastically.
"I forgot that I was talking to Arnav Singh Raizada, who can't see
anything past someone's status."
Arnav didn't react to the comment. He lived with his family
long enough to know how they act in a fit of anger, and unfortunately Payal
seemed to be going through the same. But he couldn't care less, because he knew
he was right... he always was.
"But you know what," Payal said, cutting through
his thoughts. "I accept it - It was my sister's fault. Its only Khushi's
fault she loved a man like you and more than that loved this family. It was for
your sister's sake she kept Shyam-"
Payal stopped in mid-sentence, just catching the truth that
was about to slip out of her mouth. But the damage was already done.
Arnav, who began to make a list of places Khushi could have
gone, was caught off guard at the mention of his brother-in-law. "What
about Shyam?" he asked.
Payal didn't answer.
"Tell me Payal," he urged. "What about Shyam?"
When she remained quiet, he took a step forward, towering
over her petite figure. "I swear Payal," he said in a dangerous
voice. "If you don't tell me-"
He didn't need to finish the threat.
"Fine," Payal said. "You want to know the
truth right, then listen. The son-in-law everyone praises, in reality just
wants money. Your money. He doesn't
love Di. In fact, he betrayed everyone. He lied and got engaged to Khushi, and
when the truth came out, Khushi kept quiet for the sake of your sister. Because she knows how much Di loves him and more than
that she knows how much hurt you will
be knowing the truth. To save your
family, she put with everything Shyam did."
Silence followed Payal's words. Arnav stared blankly, his
mind refusing to register her ringing voice.
He lied and got engaged... does that mean, for the
first time ever, he was wrong? Was he too hasty?
"What were you saying?" Payal continued, taking Arnav's
silence as his surrender. "She deserved everything she got? Then tell me,
did the girl who lost her parents, deserve to be played with? The one who
valued love and marriage more than her life deserved to be engaged to a married
man and wedded to someone else for a six-month contract?"
"No," Arnav whispered, the truth finally sinking
While some part of him, the rational half, was
relieved to finally understand why Khushi's behaviour never matched up to
his reasoning, the rest of him was scrambling to hold up the weight of reality.
"Happy now?" Payal asked, sarcastically. "Khushi
Arnav's legs buckled as he landed on his knees. All those
hurtful things he said to her, all pain he caused her, only to find out she was
"No," he repeated. "That's... that's not
Payal was shocked to see her brother-in-law on the floor and
more so as she listened to the jumble of words stumbling out of his mouth. It
was not normal to see a man of such power, tormented. With every word he
uttered, he seemed to be breaking down even further. As if all his walls came
tumbling down. As if the great Arnav Singh Raizada was nothing but a mere
mortal, whose heart wasn't a stranger to the pain life offered.
"Arnavji?" she called, worried. She didn't know what
she said that caused him this much pain.
But he was in a world of his own, where finally, his
emotions burst through his restraints and took control of his body.
It was fate's way of getting back at him for evading its
offerings for too long.
"She has to come back," Arnav whispered at last.
It seemed as if he aged a hundred years in the last five minutes.
Payal gazed at him, not knowing what to say. All her rage
was washed away, for her anger at him was nothing compared to the fury
he had for himself.
So, he picked up his car keys and made his way out of the
room, only to see Anjali sprawled on the floor, unconscious.
It was on the way to the hospital, that Arnav finally
understood what that letter meant.
I lost you Khushi...