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The name 'Arnav' escaped from Khushi's mouth, and she immediately got up from bed with a jolt, excited at the idea that she would meet him tonight. Only few hours had elapsed since his departure, but she felt the time was eternally long. But then her eagerness had merged with an emotion she had never experienced before … was it anxiety, fear, nervousness? Having led her publication house at a very young age, Khushi had always faced the most complex and stressful deals with serenity. But meeting Arnav's family had aroused in her a newfound apprehension that she couldn't explain.
It was still early morning, but the only thing that occupied Khushi's mind was the upcoming dinner at Sheesh Mahal. She opened her cupboard and pulled out cloth hangers one after the other, displaying them on the bed for a lengthy selection process. Her eyes swiftly moved from one dress to another, trying to figure out which one would be most appropriate for the occasion. She had learned that Arnav came from a very rich family, consequently it was in her best interest to choose a dress that would neither be too classy to give a show off impression nor too casual, and she finally settled for one that found its place midway.
As soon as the dress selection had been ticked off her checklist, it was now time for matching jewellery and accessories. As Khushi was engrossed in finalising these little details, she did not even notice when her Jiji had come and was standing staring at a multitasking Khushi who seemed overwhelmed by a mixture of excitement and restlessness.
"Khushi, do you need help?" Payal asked, her voice bringing Khushi back from her world of thoughts.
"Jiji, you! When did you come?" Khushi asked, removing the bangles from the jewellery box.
"Are you so eager to become that house's Bahu, Khushi?" Payal teasingly let out.
Bahu … did she just say BAHU? As if I wasn't stressed enough that now Jiji is talking about this? OMG Bahu! I need to make good impression on Arnav's family! What if they don't like me? Heck, I didn't even talk to Arnav about my feelings.
Noticing the sudden change in Khushi's facial expressions, Payal slowly approached Khushi and both sat on the bed.
"My sweet little sister! There is nothing to get scared of! I still remember the first day I met Akash's family…I was dead nervous but then I knew I had Akash by my side to get rid of all my fears! And as it is, we all know how much Arnav loves you, right? When your love is with you, you have no reason to be worried" Payal gently explained her.
Things had drastically changed over the last few days, but the one thing that she was sure of was that she could always rely on Arnav's support. Paying heed to Payal's words, she regained herself and pushed away negative thoughts, only thinking about her greatest desire of the day, that of seeing her love, Arnav. As seconds flew, she couldn't refrain herself from hastening everyone to get ready, earning her surprised looks and even comments about how she was becoming crazy day by day. Khushi could just no longer wait.
Still lying in bed, Arnav's eyes were wide open, staring dreamily at what he wished to always see every morning: Khushi. He kept contemplating at her in the photograph that he had managed to pick from the family album the other day, tracing his finger all over her face and smiling at her smiling face. A flow of loving words had naturally made its way from Arnav's mouth, words that clearly showed the extent to which he was missing her, words that reflected his love for her.
Arnav slowly closed his eyes thinking of Khushi when he suddenly felt the picture from his hands being nicked away. Opening his eyes, he found his Anjali Di grinning at him and on the verge of looking at the picture. Arnav quickly got up to snatch the photograph back but he wasn't quick enough when he heard Anjali whispering how curious she was to see her Chotte's love.
"So she is the one who has snatched my Chotte's sleep! Chotte, you have very good taste…Khushiji looks beautiful and I am sure that she is the one made for you!" Anjali said, while patting Arnav's right cheek affectionately.
"Di, I am sorry that I hid you the fact that I had come to Lucknow! But actually…" Arnav tried to say before getting interrupted.
"There's no need to say sorry or anything else, Chotte! I only want your happiness and you have found your happiness in Khushi! There's nothing more that I want! Now I can't wait for the day when she will come to this house forever" Anjali added.
"Me too Di" Arnav thought.
Arnav had been wrist watching since the last hours, that had luckily subsided into minutes, and now seconds. He had witnessed his family rushing everywhere to make it sure to welcome the Gupta family in the most cordial and warm manner. Pacing outside the room that led to the stairs, he kept looking at his phone, outraged by the fact that Khushi had not called him a single time today. What if she had finally decided not to come? She had made a fuss about him not calling her on the eve and now she herself hadn't even bothered to place a small one-second call. But he soon finally heaved a sigh of relief.
The whole Raizada family soon gathered in front of the door to welcome the guests that had just arrived. And as soon as Khushi stepped one foot in Sheesh Mahal, Arnav instantaneously felt that she had reached, and he immediately rushed to get a glimpse of her. He had not seen her for a whole day, and could no longer bear the torture of being far from her. From the top of the stairs, he noticed Khushi in a white Anarkali suit looking as angelic ever, with her eyes roaming around, seemingly searching for something, or maybe someone, until they seemed to settle on his. Arnav wanted to run towards her, take her into his arms and cover her with kisses, but he realised they were not alone. Not only his family was here, but also hers.
As Arnav walked down the stairs, the Raizadas were greeting the Guptas, and he smilingly noticed how Khushi was bending to take everyone's blessings. But instead, they had given her affectionate hugs that already meant that she had become part of the family. However, Dadi was a totally different picture, and soon Khushi understood from her nasty looks and cold behaviour that Arnav was right about his Dadi. She gave her blessings only when Anjali had prompted her to do so to prevent any issues. As everyone was getting settled in the large living room, Arnav approached Khushi who was still standing.
"Hi" Arnav let out.
"Hi" Khushi replied.
"You are looking very beautiful today." Arnav exclaimed, triggering the reddening of Khushi's cheeks, who was about to thank him shyly, when she noticed Arnav welcoming Pari in his arms.
"Thank you Arnie. Do you know how much I missed you?" Pari revealed, before whispering in his ears "But I think Maasi missed you the most! She was ready since 8 in the morning." Arnav smiled at this revelation, and double smirked at Khushi.
"So it was to Pari you were saying this?" Khushi said, looking utterly disappointed.
"Saying what?" Arnav feigned ignorance.
"You are looking very beautiful today. You said that to Pari, and I thought…" Khushi replied, her eyes downcast.
"What did you think of Khushi?" an amused Arnav asked "You thought I was telling you that you are looking beautiful? Do you want me to tell you this?"
"No" Khushi retorted, pretending to look unaffected.
Khushi joined the rest in the living room, and found a seat next to Anjali. While the elders were having discussions about family and Lucknow, Anjali had already started to grow a strong liking for Khushi and they rapidly started sharing a sisterly relationship. They talked of silly nothings. However, Khushi was still feeling uncomfortable, and the reason was evidently Dadi, who was not only silent but also looking at her from time to time with deadly looks. This had not escaped from Pari's and Arnav's sight, and immediately Pari murmured to Arnav.
"Arnie, is she the wicked witch?" Pari pointed to Dadi, to which Arnav smiled and replied "Little angel, she is supposedly my Dadi, but she is no less than a wicked witch", a secret sealed between the two of them by a high five.
"Chotte, why don't you make Khushiji visit the house? You have seen hers, now it's her time right?" Anjali said, winking at Arnav.
Arnav mentally thanked his Di for having come up with such an ingenious idea since he had been wanting to spend some time alone with Khushi.
"Khushiji, dinner will be ready in 15 minutes! Why don't you go with Chotte for some time?" Anjali told Khushi.
Khushi followed Arnav, as he made her visit every corner of the house, and she thought Sheesh Mahal was getting bigger and bigger by each passing second. Apart from Arnav telling her what room they were visiting each time, there were no discussions going on between them. Khushi was still holding a grudge against the fact that Arnav did not tell her how she was looking today, and Arnav knew it. Who would have thought that one day he would have seen her pouting over this? He inwardly laughed at the idea but also promised to make amendments.
"And finally this is my bedroom" Arnav announced.
Khushi did not realise when she started blushing at the word 'bedroom', and she scrutinised the whole room which was no less than a five star hotel room. She was about to leave when she felt Arnav hold the tip end of her dupatta.
"Fifteen minutes are nearly over … we should be going" Khushi said, sensing that Arnav kept on pulling and twisting her dupatta around his hand, causing her to come closer to him.
Noticing that Arnav played the deaf, in an attempt to break free from his hold, Khushi made her way to the door, but she wasn't quick enough for Arnav who had already blocked her way. At the same time, she discovered that her dupatta was no longer covering her neck, but instead was in Arnav's hand.
"Five minutes are still left…" Arnav said, and noticing how Khushi was looking uncomfortable, he meticulously placed the dupatta back on her head.
Khushi smiled at this respectful side of Arnav…he never failed to disappoint her, never. And here they came again…Khushi's heartbeats had been beating like a drum for the past few minutes and she deeply wished there could be an 'Off' switch to stop it all. There was no way they could slow down, especially after what was coming next.
Arnav grabbed her hand and brought her to the poolside that was just outside his room, making her sit on the recliner. Khushi could not understand what Arnav was trying to do, and she speedily adjusted her dupatta, not failing to twirl its end around her fingers out of nervousness. The twinkling stars and the shining moon were reflecting in the calm water of the pool, creating a soft and magical ambience.
"Four minutes…" Khushi let out.
"Put your foot further on the recliner" Arnav told Khushi, who just uttered "Excuse me?"
Within a second, Arnav slowly took out from his pocket a glittering object that looked like a payal. Khushi immediately recognised her payal and glanced at her ankle to realise it was missing.
"My payal…where did you find it? It must have got loose! Thank you so much! It is my favourite!" Khushi voiced.
"In the living room" Arnav said in his husky voice.
Khushi tried to grab the payal that Arnav left hanging from his hand, but Arnav had clutched it tightly in his fist. So, she extended her hand waiting for him to give it back, but Arnav was in no mood to pay heed to her demands. Instead, he moved his hands towards Khushi's right ankle and brought it towards him.
"What are you doing?" Khushi asked, surprised by Arnav's gesture.
"Sshhh" Arnav tried to quieten her, while he started tying the payal. Khushi could feel his fingers brush against her soft skin, and breathlessness was the only outcome. She closed her eyes as she felt shivers running down her spine, and opened them back when she heard Arnav say it was done. Khushi shyly retracted her foot from Arnav's grip and got up from the recliner.
"Fifteen minutes are over now" Khushi said, trying to control the butterflies that were having a party in her stomach.
"How I wish they never were!" Arnav exclaimed.
"Meaning?" Khushi asked.
"As if you don't know what I meant"
"How would I know what you mean when you yourself don't tell me what you meant?"
"Not what…what the!"
"So you really don't know what I meant?"
"I told you no"
"Does this mean that Khushi Kumari Gupta cannot decipher what I was trying to say? I said I wished these fifteen minutes had never got over because I…"
Arnav reached out to her waist and pulled her towards him. He drowned his gaze into hers and run his finger from her forehead to her cheek which had by now reached the darkest shade of red.
"You look even more beautiful when you blush!" Arnav said.
Khushi naturally brought her hands to her face trying to hide her red cheeks, but Arnav moved them away and whispered in her ear "You will have your answer tomorrow! And you yourself will give the correct answer".
"Me? Tommorow… why? What is there tomorrow? What will happen tomorrow?" Khushi asked.
"Fifteen minutes are over Khushi, remember? We should get down" Arnav smirked.
As Khushi was walking in his room towards the door, her eyes posed on his dressing table and she smiled at what she had found. She was now sure her feelings were reciprocated, not that she doubted it, but this came as a confirmation.
In Arnav's and Khushi's absence, everyone in the living room had been talking about only thing, and as they came back, silence suddenly prevailed. While Khushi did not pay much attention to what was happening due to Arnav's words about tomorrow, Arnav felt something was weird and from Anjali's smile, he sort of got the hint of what was being discussed. He had heard Khushi's parents reveal that they needed some time before taking a decision, and that they would surely reflect about this after talking to Khushi. It was high time Arnav took things into his hands, and thought that everything would be sorted tomorrow.
While the dinner was going on smoothly, Arnav and Khushi kept stealing glances from each other every second. And before the Guptas took leave, Arnav approached Khushi and whispered:
"Remember…tomorrow! Be ready at sharp 9 00 am."
"What? Are we going out? This you didn't say." Khushi retaliated.
"But now I am saying it! If you want an answer, you will surely accept, right? I'll come to pick you up" Arnav expressed.
"Where are we going?" Khushi curiously asked.
"It's a secret" Arnav let out.
"Okay, I will be ready" Khushi said before saying bye and leaving.
I LOVE YOU
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