Joined: 20 May 2012
"Star gazing, Miss Gupta?"
Khushi jumped when she heard his voice behind her. She turned to see him sitting by her side, his back against the stone walling of the fountain and his long legs stretched in front of him.
"Beautiful, aren't they?"
She kept staring at him but her heart was already racing in the dhak-dhak she had become familiar to. The dhak-dhak that started whenever he was near, he talked, he looked at her, or even when she made the mistake of thinking about him. What was wrong with her?
"Miss Gupta? Are you alright?"
"You know, the other day, when I had seen you, I had never thought you could have this... Indian side to you."
Her eyes widened at his smirk. So, had the media been wrong all these days? She had read everywhere that Mr Arnav Singh Raizada never smiled the least bit. But every time she had met him, he had always given her one. How come?
"Yeah... umm... I... I was born here... and... I... umm... I was raised here too..."
He smirked wider. "Why is it that each time I talk to you, you cannot talk straight?"
"You stammer, Miss Gupta. When I talk to you, you stammer. Why?"
Khushi felt herself blushing. What would she tell him? That she was scared of him? She lowered her gaze to her fidgety hands.
"I... I don't know..."
He chortled. "You're doing it again, Miss Gupta! Nevermind! What are you doing out here? Aren't you sleepy?"
His question reminded her why she was out. And also that she had been crying. She hoped she had wiped all her tears and that he would not realise that. What would he think of her?
"N-n-no... I could ask you the same, Mr Raizada."
Arnav smiled. At least there was some improvement; she had spoken one whole sentence without tripping over her words once.
"I had filled out my quota of sleep during the afternoon. And if I'm not sure, you had not."
She rested her head meekly on her hands which she had clasped on her knees. "I can't sleep."
"Why?" He knew why, but he could not tell her that.
She sighed and closed her eyes briefly. He used that to his advantage, watching her. The moonlight played on her, giving her already milky skin and greyish pearl glow. Her long eyelashes fanned her face nicely.
"Yeah... I have them too sometimes."
She opened her eyes, and he saw they were filled with tears. Before one slipped out Khushi stood up hastily.
"I think I... I should go now... Good night, Mr Raizada."
"Good night, Miss Gupta."
She had already turned towards the Sheesh Mahal but she paused when he had wished her.
"Please, call me Khushi. Miss Gupta make me feel old!"
She was smiling now. Unbelievable! One moment, she looked like she would burst out crying, and the next, she was smiling at him. Ulka had been right about her.
"Call me Arnav then. Mr Raizada suits my dad!"
She giggled shyly and left. Arnav sighed and smiled up at the galaxy above him. This could be the beginning of something for him... Nothing serious, of course! Arnav Singh Raizada never got serious with any one! But it could perhaps just be an ordinary friendship, with an extraordinary girl...
He watched her retreating figure, his heart aching for her. He understood her well enough. Garima may have adopted her, she may have raised her with a lot of love, but it would never be the same. He knew what it was like to grow without a mother.
Arnav got up, and stared at Sheesh Mahal for a long time before he returned to his room.
Sheesh Mahal... where everything in his life had started... and ended...
As per her habit of early riser, Khushi Kumaari Gupta was on her feet by six o'clock, even though she had not had an ounce of sleep the whole night. But she she looked fresh and joyful as she always did.
She ran down the stairs of the huge palace, to her sister, Payal, who had just arrived. The sisters hugged each other tight.
"Kaisi hai, Khushi?" (How are you, Khushi?)
"Jaise hamesha hote hain! Aap?" (Like always!)
Payal did not really need to answer, her smile said everything. Khushi welcomed her brother-in-law, Akash, with her loud squeals. She snatched her nephew from Akash's arms, cooing at him gently.
"Aap dono jaayiye, humein apne Laddoo ke saath rehna hai!" (Both of you can go, I want to stay with my Laddoo!)
She looked up from the boy in her arms to nod at his cousin with a smile. He had been right. She had an affinity with children. She loved them. He smiled too. Well, she was one herself, from what he had witnessed of their previous encounters.
The Denny and George scarf. Arnav chuckled. She had not been good enough at fooling him. He had already realised she was just lying. She was a mysterious little thing, like a maze it was difficult to understand her. Almost a challenge. And he loved challenges.
He knew that someone else would not have caught the lie. She had looked so innocent that in the begging he had started to fall for her story, but he had been able to realise her trick somehow. But she was good at heart. Now he feared, she could be too good, too naive. And that would hurt her one day.
Hold on! Why did he care? He did not know her for so long. He never had a proper conversation with her. Then why was he trying so hard to solve this living mystery? Why the hell was he even following her from afar?
"Here, jiji! Take your Akshay. He's so cute."
Payal shook her head and kissed her son's plump cheek.
"Missed Mamma, Akshu?"
Khushi laughed when the one-year old said some incomprehensible gibberish words. The two cousins talked for some time, until Akash came back to the room. Khushi left the small family, letting them spend some time together and went out on the terrace, hoping it to be desert. However, she found Mr Raizada there, pacing and talking actively on his hands-free. She turned to leave, her mind already searching for places where she could be alone.
He was just trying to get rid of one of his clingy female clients when he had spotted her, walking towards the stairs. He had called out her name and she had swung around in surprise. He raised his hand and smiled at her.
"Miss Brown, I'll talk to you later."
He disconnected without waiting for an answer, his eyes still on the orange-clad girl before him as he walked to her. And as the surprise on her face grew, he felt his smile widen too...
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He walked to her in a way she was sure Anji would have qualified as 'a sexy swagger'. Shit! Anji! She had totally forgotten about her! God! Anji would be so angry! She had to go! Quick!
She managed a tiny smile but her mind was already playing different scenarios of her best friend's reaction. Her eyes unfocused from the present to the ideas in her mind, as the thought of the amount of scolding she would be receiving from her. Her hand unconsciously went to her mouth and she bit on her index fingernail. Anji would kill her for sure.
"Khushi? Are you alright?"
"Huh? No... I mean... yes... I mean no... Yes... No... Oh shit! I'm dead!"
Arnav watched in amusement as she stammered, as her eyes danced with fear. This girl was really a wonder and he doubted he would ever understand her. Could even her family do that? He didn't quite think so. She turned around abruptly for them stairs, her hair whipping his face and she ran away in panic.
No, seriously! She was mad! What the hell was wrong with her?
Had he scared her? No. Then what?
"Unbelievable!" he muttered before walking back to his room.
"Listen to me, na, Anji!"
"No Khushi! You listen to me! Just come back here and you'll see what I'll do to you! You know what? First I'll strangle you, then I'll drown you, phir tere chhote chhote tukre kaantungi, chat pe sukhaaoungi, tera achaar banaaoungi aur tujhe khaaloungi! Samjhi?" ( ...then I'll cut you into small pieces, dry you on the roof, make your pickle and eat you up! Understand?)
"Sorry, Anji! I forgot, yaar!"
"Shut. The. Hell. Up!"
"I'm sorry. Really very sorry!"
What the-? He stopped to look at the eighth wonder of the world who was busy begging for apologies on the phone.
"Hello? Hello? Anji? Hello?"
She looked at the cordless with a miserable scowl and eyes full of tears. He smiled. Maybe that's what he freaked her out. Her eyes fell on him and widened with shock.
"Tum theek ho?" he fired before she could say anything. (Are you alright?)
What the hell? Arnav Singh Raizada was starting a conversation? Something was definitely wrong with him. Maybe he should consult a doctor or something when he returned to London? He did not know what to expect of her. She was so confusing. But her expression softened.
"Haan... shaayad..." (Yeah... maybe...)
He found himself smiling gently at this little creature, supposed to be a woman, but her actions made her nothing more than a child.
He led her to the balcony where he knew there was a wide wooden swing. He used to love sitting there as a child. It was far from the noise and problems of his house- he couldn't say home, he had never had one really...
To his surprise, she followed him obediently and sat down beside him, her ankles crossed and her hands on each side of her knees. She afternoon sun shone on her beautifully and arose a question in his mind.
A question he would never have an answer for.
Why did she have to be so beautiful?
Why had she followed him?
Oh, yeah, right. She needed to talk. Fighting with Anji was not new, but she considered her more as a sister than as a friend. And every time they fought, Khushi's heart broke.
She jumped at his voice, then she shook her head. "It's my friend. I promised her I'd call when I'd reach here... but I forgot and now..."
He chuckled. "Oh... don't worry. It'll be fine."
She smiled slightly. Maybe he was right. But Anji took time. She could buy her something. A gift perhaps? Anji loved gifts. And besides, Anjali Jha could never stay angry with her friends for too long.
Why did he feel better when she smiled?
Maybe he was truly going mad? She looked back at him as he looked at her.
"So... what had happened earlier?"
Curiosity killed the cat. It was true. But at that precise moment, curiosity was pricking him and he wanted to know why she had run away so brutally. Thinking of that, he could still feel her soft hair on his face.
What the hell?
Confusion clouded her face, but then suddenly, she remembered.
"Oh! Earlier! I was looking at y-" Shut up, Khushi! You can't tell him you were looking at his swagger! "Actually, it clicked in my mind that I had to call her..."
They both turned at the voice. It was Payal.
"My sister must be looking for me. Bye." She skipped off.
"See you later."
He was smirking. Khushi smiled back. As she walked to her room, from where Payal's voice had come, she thought about him. 'See you later' he had said. That meant he wanted to see her? Did she want to? Well, he wasn't as bad as she had thought earlier, was he?
"Khushi! Where were you? Amma has been looking for you since a while! Come downstairs for dinner now and go to sleep early. You know that we have to go shopping tomorrow morning, right?"
Khushi nodded enthusiastically. Shopping! Here was one thing Khushi Kumaari Gupta enjoyed to the fullest!
"Aaj mausam hai suhana, shopping karne ka hai bahana! Lala lala lala!" she sang under her breath as she pranced down the stairs the following morning. She was excited. Finally, some shopping! She had spent the whole night dreaming about the types of clothes she could buy for the wedding. Hopefully, she would find what she wanted...
A group of children was playing on the stairs. She smiled. Kids! Suddenly, she stepped on a ball they had dropped there carelessly. Khushi gasped and tried to grab the banister, but it was too late. She was already falling. Her eyes scrunched shut as she awaited the crash on the floor, expecting to roll down the remaining steps. But all that never came.
Instead she felt herself fall in a pair of arms, holding her, protecting her from the fall.
"Khushi? Be careful."
She was still a bit shocked but she nodded. Tanishq smacked the top of her forehead.
"Paagal!" (Mad girl!)
"Kaun hum?" (Who? Me?)
He laughed and continued on his way upstairs. "I'll just come in a few minutes! I forgot my mobile."
Khushi was just going her way too when she bumped into another person.
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