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Khushi began walking when she suddenly stopped at the sound of the heavy wooden doors being opened. She heard the light footsteps approaching her but she did not turn around. It was too soon to let herself hope again. But when she felt the comforting hand on her shoulder, she couldn't help but face him.
"You're not alone Khushiji. You never will be. I will always be here for you."
"Nanheji saved me that day Aarav. I don't know what would have become of me without him."
Nanheji. An unfamiliar name. Until that moment, Aarav had not realized exactly how little he knew. Anjali's denial, Arnav's betrayal, Khushi's desolation.. it was all new to him. He had not bargained for such a story when he had asked his mother a simple question. It was only now that Aarav began to realize that there were always secrets to uncover if only he just delved deep enough.
Not noticing her son's preoccupation, Khushi continued. "I was all alone that day and it was Nanheji who stepped out the doors of Shantivan to be with me. He was constant, steady, while Arnavji was volatile and unpredictable. It was Arnavji I loved but Nanheji was the one I came to trust. And I began to value that trust more than the love I had for Arnavji. Nanheji took me back to Buaji's house and from there we went back to Lucknow. I didn't want to return there, even though it was once my home. People hadn't forgotten, you see. They all remembered the fashion show, that day when I had first seen Arnavji and fallen right into his waiting arms. It was all still fresh in their minds and they never lost the opportunity to taunt me, someone they had once called their own. But Nanheji taught me to hold my head high. He taught me that as long as I could live with myself, it didn't matter what others thought. He taught me to love myself again and it would have been so very easy to fall in love with him too. Buaji was already besotted with him and it wasn't long before she began to emotionally blackmail me into marrying him. But I didn't yield this time, as I had done before. I didn't want to punish him for my error in judgment. It wouldn't have been a bad marriage; I would have been content with Nanheji but I wouldn't have been happy because the heart never forgets, even if the mind does. Arnavji was still imprinted in my heart. I tried' I tried so hard to push him out but I couldn't. It was almost as though I knew that my prince would come for me. And he did. He was late but he came and that was all that mattered, at least to me. Di had finally seen reason; she had finally acknowledged the truth. And Arnavji hadn't wasted another moment. My prince came and I thought I would finally get my happily ever after. But Devi Maiyya was not done testing me. There was still so much more to come and so much more to lose."
Khushi took a deep, shuddering breath. It was so easy to go back, relive those memories again, for she had never tried to erase the past from her mind. Those moments had made her the woman she was today. They were painful, but facing that pain was her pitiful attempt at repentance. He would never have wanted her to be unhappy; he would much rather she forget. But she would always remember. She owed that to him.
Aarav watched as his mother's eyes unfocused again; she had gone back into that world to which he had no access. There were so many emotions flitting across her expressive face. Pain. Sorrow. Regret. Gratitude. He had so many questions, and she had the answers. But he would have to wait. With patience. That had never been one of Aarav's virtues, but he was a great believer in trying new things. And so he kept silent, patiently waiting for his mother to begin speaking again.
It was the fairytale wedding she had always dreamed of. The decorations, the lights, the colors, the people, the food. Everything she loved, from the vibrant pink and green banners hanging around the mandap to the heaping platters of freshly made jalebi. But she was much too nervous to eat, as she unnecessarily smoothed down the lehenga of her dark red wedding dress, which Arnav had designed especially for her. She smiled, remembering his proposal. He had said the two words she had never expected to come from her Laad Governor's mouth.
"I'm sorry Khushi. Can you forgive me?"
She had shaken her head, unable to speak, the tears streaming down her face in rivulets. He had taken her gesture for rejection and his pleas had become frantic.
"You saw Di's condition Khushi. How could I tell her the truth then? She is not strong like you Khushi. She could not bear the pain. I know I hurt you and I promise never to do it again. How can I Khushi? Hurting you would be hurting myself and I'm selfish. But Khushi, you have to try and understand. After.. after Amma died, Di was all I had left. She is family, the only family I've ever known. And to see her like that.. I just lost it Khushi. I know you needed my support but there were others for you. Di had only me. Can you understand that? And can you forgive me? Please?"
She had never been able to refuse him and when he had looked up at her, remorse in his chocolate-brown eyes, she had melted. She knew he would always give his sister priority over her but she had never minded that. She had only wanted a small portion of his love, not all of it. And now she was secure in the warmth of that love. She knew he would always be there for her now; he would not desert her again. That was enough for her. And so she nodded, just once, and he understood. He got down on one knee then and opened the small box he had been carrying around in his pocket for weeks now, the weight comforting him. He opened it now, and her eyes widened in shock.
"Will you marry me Khushi Kumari Gupta?"
She had not hesitated.
He slid the ring onto her finger, and she blinked rapidly, trying to clear her vision, which had suddenly blurred. The diamond twinkled up at her as she gazed at it. Shyam's ring had always felt like a clamp on her finger, but this was ring was a promise. A promise of his love to her.
She stroked the diamond now, reassuring herself it was real, and not some bizarre hallucination she had envisioned.
"Khushi? Khushi! Where are you?? It's time to go now."
Khushi looked up at the sound of her sister's impatient voice. She got up as Payal came into view.
"Do you or do you not want to get married today? Let's go, we're late as it is!"
Khushi slowly made her way downstairs, where Arnav was waiting for her. The moment had finally come. Her dream was coming true. She sat down next to Arnav at the mandap and all the other sounds faded away. Akash and NK's catcalls, her Amma and Buaji's happy sobs, the inconsequential blabber of the wedding guests. Everything else was forgotten as she looked into Arnav's eyes. She didn't have to search anymore, as she had done so many times before. The love was shining from his eyes, ensconcing her with security and warmth.
"I should have known better than to believe it would be so easy. I should have known Aarav, that no peace can be attained without some loss. It's almost as if you have to pay Devi Maiyya her dues before you can collect your happiness. I learned that lesson the hard way."
She had been lost in Arnav's eyes and so she did not immediately realize when the din of the wedding hall subsided and only silence remained. But when she heard the unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked, she slowly turned, afraid to see what was in store for her.
"You didn't think I would give you up so easily did you Khushiji? Don't worry, I'm here now. I'll save you from the clutches of Arnav Singh Raizada. Just like the hero saves the heroine from the villain. I'm the hero Khushiji. Why can't you see that? But I have faith in my love. One day, you will love me just the way I love you. I just have to get rid of the villain first. Goodbye Saale Sahib."
He pointed the gun straight at Arnav's heart then and two people moved, running, with only one intention in their minds. There was silence again in the wedding hall, which had been bursting with noise only minutes before, with the sound of racing payal and steady footfalls, the crack of the gunshot ringing through the air, and the subsequent thump of the falling body hitting the marble floor.
*THIS IS MY OWN WORK. PLEASE DO NOT COPY OR REPRODUCE.*
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Pm Me The Nxt Part PlxZWww
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