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The moment her eyes posed on Arnav holding his luggage, the smile which was plastered all over her face soon faded away to make way for worried expressions. His words "I am going Khushi!" kept echoing in her mind as she moved towards Arnav, with a sudden feeling of emptiness overpowering her. She wanted to know why. She had the right to be given an explanation, at least this is what she believed. What question did she not ask herself?
What had happened? Was it because of me that he wants to leave? Have I done anything wrong? Did I hurt him? Does he think that I want him to go?
Summoning courage to hear him reveal it all, Khushi broke the ice and asked him the reason for such a sudden departure.
"Why? How? When? I mean did anything happen? Are you going back to Delhi?" Khushi asked impatiently.
"Relax Khushi! So many questions! Else, I will have to believe that you care for me, should I?" Arnav said, raising an eyebrow and smiling.
"Yes'no'I am just concerned about why you are leaving!" Khushi replied.
"Yes or no? Anyway, I am not going back to Delhi! I will be very much in Lucknow'just going to my house Sheesh Mahal for some time!"
"But you said that you were not eager to go there because of Dadiji!"
"Right! I still don't feel like going because of Dadi, but things have changed now!"
Still pondering about what was that thing that had changed, Khushi suddenly found herself trapped in Arnav's arms that had surrounded her into a tight hug. That single hug had the magic of bringing her smile back'it was a peaceful and comforting hug that anyone would look forward to. Khushi now knew that nowhere would she find the same solace that she always found in Arnav's arms.
"Khushi, I am going to be Mama! Di is pregnant!" Arnav announced excitedly.
Khushi reciprocated the hug and congratulated him wholeheartedly, before both realised what they were doing and distanced themselves from one another.
"Di needs me ' after Maa and Papa's death, I had promised to always take care of her! And now that she is going to be a Mom, I need to be by her side! I want to share her happiness! And Jeejaji is also on a business trip and he will come back in few days, so my presence is needed! It will give her the greatest joy to see me back home, at least for some time! But Dadi'" Arnav expressed.
"Everything will be fine'am sure!" Khushi replied, showing a concerned and reassuring look, while thinking "I trust you!"
Few minutes later, everyone had gathered in the hall to bid goodbye to Arnav : it was a unanimous feeling for all that Arnav had succeeded in creating a special place in this family within only a few days, and it was obvious that all did feel sad. Pari had been sulking throughout the series of byes that were directed to Arnav and finally clutched his hand asking for a huge goodbye hug without forgetting to tell him how much she would miss him. With everyone asking him to come back soon, Arnav felt a lump down the throat and kept looking at this family who had showered him with so much love.
Before leaving, he glanced at Khushi who accompanied him till the car.
"I need to go now! Planning to reach home before it gets too late! Bye Khushi and thank you!" Arnav said.
"Why thank you?" Khushi asked.
"Thank you for having made me part of your family'I will never forget my stay here!"
"Do tell me how things went on with Dadiji! And ' when are we going to meet again?"
Without answering, Arnav opened the car door, murmuring to himself "Soon'very soon!" before driving off, leaving Khushi standing and staring at the car disappearing at distance.
Sheesh Mahal was no less than a King's palace, where luxury and comfort were abundant, with the exterior and the interior looking like a masterpiece. The gates opened and Arnav mentally prepared himself to meet the family that he had not seen since long. He was about to press the door button when it already opened with his Anjali Di standing at the threshold holding a Thaal in her hand.
"Chottey!" Anjali let out emotionally, gently hugging Arnav, and wiping the tears that had escaped from her eyes.
"How are you Di? And how is my little nephew?" Arnav asked, pointing towards Anjali's stomach.
"Now that you are here, we both are fine!" Anjali smilingly replied, and without losing any second, conducted his Arti, with the whole Raizada family witnessing the scene.
Arnav was soon bombarded by greetings and embraces coming from his Nani whom he had missed so much, the one who he respected the most in his life, her pillar; then his Mamiji and Mamiji who had brought him up like their own son, and finally he saw Dadi standing afar looking at him affectionately, yet with an air of authority that he always despised.
"So finally you have decided to come! I knew that without my support, you would fail! Now that you have seen your dreams crash, you have come back home! But as they say, better late than never!" Dadi said haughtily.
"For starters, my dreams haven't crashed! I have just put them on hold because right now I want to share Di's happiness'and I will never end my battle whatever happens! So, it's a huge misunderstanding to think that I came back due to failure!" Arnav retorted.
"You have come to Lucknow for your Di or for that girl?" Dadi suddenly asked angrily.
Dumfounded by Dadi's words, Arnav asked: "Which girl are you talking of?"
"Khushi..the reason why you came to Lucknow! The reason why despite of being in Lucknow, you ignored us!! Thankfully I met Mr and Mrs Mehta yesterday and they told us about how they met you, and under which circumstances! Didn't you think it was your duty to inform us about it?"
"Dadi, I don't think I owe you an explanation! It's my life and I do whatever I want!"
"You already were one spoiled child, and now you are becoming stubborn day by day!"
"Enough Dadi! Chottey is here after such a long time, at least don't argue today!" Anjali said.
Dadi paced to her room, leaving the rest of the family alone in the living room. Everyone looked at Arnav with questioning eyes and sly smiles, that made him feel awkward.
"What?" Arnav let out, sensing the questioning gazes on him.
"Who is Khushi, Chottey?" Anjali asked.
"Simply the one Dadi spoke of" Arnav said, shrugging his shoulders.
"I know! But I want to hear it from your mouth who she is!" Anjali said teasingly.
"Hello Hi Anjali bitiyaan, Arnav turned out to be good at keeping secrets! We didn't even know when he fell in love!" Manorama mami replied.
"Di, Mamiji, actually'" Arnav was thinking about telling them the truth, rather the lies that he and Khushi had been saying but there was a bigger truth, that now he truly loved Khushi. So, he remained silent, letting his family interpret the situation in their own way. Maybe in this way, things would work out better, he thought.
"I think that we should invite Khushi bitiyaan and her family for dinner tomorrow! After all, she is our Chottey's pasand, so we need to meet her! Tomorrow first thing in the morning I will phone her family!" Nani informed, much to the happiness of everyone present in the living room, and more precisely Arnav who rushed to his room.
Khushi had been pacing in her room for the last ten minutes, glancing at her phone each second, eagerly waiting for the name "Arnav" to appear on the screen.
"He forgot me'he doesn't care for me!" Khushi murmured to herself, with tears threatening to flow.
She suddenly felt the phone vibrating and frantically pressed the answer button to hear his voice.
"Khushi'" Arnav said.
"Is it now that you got time to phone'.it's been more than three hours since you left home and you didn't have time to call me for a single second! Never do this to me again! I got scared! You know how I was getting worried thinking about what could have happened'whether you reached home safely'whether things are sorted between you and Dadi'whether you are fine'" Khushi unleashed at a go, relieved to hear Arnav but at the same time angry at him for having been late.
"Only if you stop talking will I be able to answer your questions, right?" Arnav said, amused by Khushi's blabbering "Everything is fine! I couldn't call because things were a tad bit heated! And why should I have phoned you anyway? How does my life matter to you?"
"Hmm ' Amma and Babuji were asking!" Khushi replied, patting the back of her head.
"Liar" Arnav thought and added "Okay, cut the phone! I will speak to Aunty and Uncle!"
"No'no'actually it's already too late! They have gone to sleep'so you tell me and I will pass the message!"
"Dadi and I got into another argument, but I don't care! But there is something else I need to tell you, that's principally why I phoned you!"
"In the same way that your family thinks that we are a couple, my family thinks the same! They learnt it from Mehta uncle that I was staying at your house"
"Now your family also has learnt it?"
"Yep'and the thing is that everyone wants to meet you! Since it's late now, Nani will phone your family tomorrow morning ' you are all invited tomorrow for dinner!"
"They want to meet me?" Khushi asked feeling worried.
"There's nothing to get scared of Khushi! Just like I met your family, you will meet mine! Simple! And it's just the matter of a day'"
"Okay, I will be ready!"
"Great'so see you tomorrow Khushi! Good night!"
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.
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