"Hello? Di...?" He sounded angry, but she did not care.
"Hello, Chhotey. " She had begun to cry now.
"Hello? Di, what happened? Are you alright?" His anger had changed to anxiety.
"Come home... I will tell you..."
Then NK yelled to her, "No, not home Di. City Hospital," as he and Akash, with Mamaji's help carried Khushi slowly down stairs.
Arnav spoke again. "Di-?" She cut him off mid-sentence.
"No, not home Chhotey. Come straight to City Hospital..." She said amidst tears.
"Di, are you okay?" He asked her, his voice drowning in concern.
"No, Chhotey. I am fine...it's not me...Come quickly... Its Khushiji!" Anjali's voice broke. She cut the phone and was about to leave to the hospital, when she saw a glint of light coming off her doormat, which had stains of blood. Anjali frowned, and carefully, with her left arm over her belly, she bent down and very very gently, brushed her hand against the doormat. She felt something prickly. Frowning even more deeply, she picked up one edge of the doormat, and slowly shook it. What she saw shocked her; there were tiny pieces of glass. They had caught light and reflected it, causing reflection and catching Anjali's attention. It dawned on Anjali, if Khushi had not come out first, fully hurt, she would have entered and would have hurt her leg in the process. But who would sprinkle the pieces of glass on HER doormat... she did not have to think much because the minute the question had formed, she already knew the answer. In fact, she had always known the truth deep down... she had been nurturing hope that she was wrong... But she knew... She would deal with him later... She pursed her lips, and hurried to catch up with the others.
Well, now that she thought about it, she had dealt with him later, and dealt very well. She smiled, feeling satisfied. But the smile was a dark smile... of the darkness that had haunted their time since then...
Arnav took the photo, wondering what was the relation between this 'Pari' and 'Khushi'. The minute he saw the photo, memories flooded in. He dropped that photo as if electrocuted. "That is not Khushi...!!! That is...That is..." Arnav remembered her now. Very clearly. "That is PARI!" He still remembered that little girl... how her happy smile had slowly turned into blank expression. Those fear-filled eyes and helpless innocence she had radiated... he remembered very well...
- Eighteen Years Back-
Ten-year-old Arnav and sixteen-year-old Anjali were sitting on the porch and chatting about school. They heard a familiar noise; a Ferrari pulled up into the driveway of Sheesh Mahal. Their father was here. The brother-sister duo exchanged an understanding, and quietly left to their rooms. Neither of them wanted to talk to their Dad. They hurried upstairs, and just as Arnav had reached the last step, his father entered. Arnav looked over his shoulder, surprised to find a little girl with him; she must have been about seven or eight; he could not tell. She looked very happy. Then he saw Ma coming out of her room and looking down at his father and the little girl. His mother's eyes widened. He knew Ma had recognised the girl...Who was she? Then shrugging it off as none of his business, he went to his room. As he closed the door behind him, he heard his Mom say, "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS?! SHE IS YOUR FRIEND'S DAUGHTER!"
Arnav closed his ears, disgusted. They were fighting again. Worse than kindergartners! He did not like his Dad, neither did Di. Both knew he put Ma through tortures. Their father, the great Madan Rathod Mallik, had many dark secrets, which he did not know, but was aware of their existence. Di had told him that he was still too young to understand such things. Pah! 'young'! He knew that his Dad came home drunk and beat his Mom, but she kept quiet. He had once complained to Anjali, who had said very sadly, "She is doing it for us Chhotey..." Arnav did not understand. From then on, his Mom would always be a little worried, scared, anxious and desperate. He did not see that girl for nearly two weeks, until one day...
It was midnight, and Arnav was thirsty. He tiptoed down to the kitchen and drained a bottle of water. As he was about to go upstairs, he heard a noise. A small one. Puzzled he tilted his head. He felt as if it was coming from right under his feet. He heard it once more, so he went down the few steps he had climbed. This time, the noise was coming from infront of him. Soon enough, he realized that the noise was coming from the broom closet under the stairs. When he went to it, he found it locked. Thats surprising! He thought. But he heard the noise again, and was sure there was something behind those doors. Arnav tiptoed to the key stand, and pulled out an old key. Quietly, he opened the broom-closet... He was shocked to see what he saw. Huddled in one corner, was a small girl... the same girl... She was gagged, and shabby.
He immediately rushed upto her and untied her gag. She began coughing almost immediately. He calmed her and asked, "What are you doing in HERE?"
She replied sniffling. "Bad Uncle! He bring Pari here! Say nice things, and give her nice room. Night he come and take Pari away and tie her mouth..."
Arnav stared at her, shocked. "Which bad uncle?"
"Tall man, with glasses... big black paint around chin, YUCK!" Arnav froze. Tall, glasses and beard (big black paint)His dad had done this to her... He felt more disgusted than ever...
"Are you sure?" Pari nodded in response.
Arnav sighed. "Have you eaten anything?"
"No. Meera Kaki come give Pari food." Meera Kaki was the cook. Pari frowned. "I think today she forget!"
Arnav tugged at her arm. "Come. I will give you food."
Pari hesitated. "Mamma says no food from strangers."
Arnav would have been amused, if it was not for the situation. "I am Arnav. Arnav Mallik. Now you know me."
"Yeah I do. I am Pari. Pari Kapoor" She said imitating his style.
She had her dinner, and as Arnav watched her, he decided to help her. That night, he took her out along with him and with her directions, he took her to her house. He just left her at the gate of a large house and ran back as fast as he could to Sheesh Mahal, not wanting to confront her parents. He had never given her much thought later after that... But chaos surely had been created.
"And that is all I know about Pari, Aunty. I have never seen her again after that." Arnav finished.
Garima looked at him, and simply said, "That is not true. Pari was my sister Purnima's daughter. You HAVE seen her, and quite amazingly, you were married to her six years ago..."
Arnav's head began to reel. That girl he had save was HER? His Khushi? But he still had so many questions!!! Why was DADI upset about this? Why was Khushi taken away from him?
Garima saw several questions in Arnav's eyes. She told him, "What your father did that day, caused our family to shatter..."
PRECAP- "Why are you asking me this Aunty?" Arnav asked puzzled. Did they know what he had accused her of?
"Yes Mr Raizada. I am asking you this because... you remember that day at the hospital, the Doctor had called me aside?"
"Yes..." Arnav said warily.
"He had asked me the same thing... because before Khushi bitiya had stepped on those glass shards, she had consumed poison. The doctor found traces of poison in her blood. In short, Mr Raizada, my daughter had attempted suicide that day..."