Joined: 26 November 2011
He caught a glimpse of the time on his Audemars Piguet. It was half past ten and everyone was in their respective rooms, giving him the perfect time to talk to her.
He walked into the kitchen and saw her instructing the other servants and the Head Chef and waited for her to come out so that he could get some private time with her.
After about few minutes, she was done and all the servants were dispersed, and she began walking towards him. During that time, she hadn't noticed him but now when she got closer to him, she observed his shoes first and noticed him leaning against the door.
He saw her freeze for a minute in her spot when her eyes finally met his.
"I wanted to talk to you." He said, taking a step closer to her. He observed that she didn't take a step back and let out a sigh of relief.
Noticing that they were the only ones in the kitchen, he continued. "I'm sorry. I'm here to apologise for my morning's behaviour. I definitely stepped a line there." He said and waited for her to say something. But she remained silent.
"Look, I never intended to hurt you." He apologised once again.
Khushi finally spoke. "No need to apologise Saab. I know things like this keep happening in your big societies. And I knew that you weren't going to hurt me. I know when someone really wants to hurt me." She said with a strange haunt in her voice.
"No Khushi." Ranvijay said, letting out another sigh. "I was just trying to casually flirt with you and it didn't strike me that you might be offended by my actions. I'm so used to girls roaming around me for attention that I times, I forget that not all girls are like them. Believe me, I didn't know you were Arnav's friend. Otherwise, I would have never stepped the line and we could have avoided what happened in the morning."
"Saab, even Chotey Saab himself doesn't remember I was his best friend. So I can atleast pardon you for that." Khushi replied and Ranvijay didn't miss out the depth of pain streaked in her voice.
"He does remember Khushi. Otherwise, that glass wouldn't have shattered in his hand today morning. You and I both know it." He said, looking at her direct in the eyes and saw her hazel orbs widening with shock for a minute.
At that second, Ranvijay could see what others hadn't. He saw a lot in the unseen and heard a lot in the silence.
"So does that mean I'm forgiven?" he asked quickly, not wanting to put her go through the agony of responding to him and she smiled and nodded at him.
"I know you were a good friend Khushi, to both Anjali and Arnav," he said, stressing a bit more on the latter name, "and I hope we can be friends too." He said patting her shoulder. "Good night, Khushi." He turned around and walked back to his room, hearing a "Good night, Saab," behind him, bringing a small smile on his face.
"Chotey, you are late for Church. Your Dadi will definitely not be happy with this." Naina Singh Raizada told her son, as she served him breakfast. Arnav quickly looked at the wall on the clock. It was already 8:55 am and his weekly Sunday mass was about to begin at 9. His Dadi, dad and Anjali had already left to the church and since he had woken up late, he was the only Raizada remaining behind.
"Thanks Ma. Bye." He said, grabbing the pancake and hurried to his car, parked in the garage beside the house and getting inside it, he quickly drove as fast as he could, hoping that the mass hadn't begun.
But alas, the typical curvy Mussoorie roads could only take a certain speed and however fast he tried to reach, he ended up after the mass had begun. Getting in through the side door of the ancient church, he looked out for his family and found them seated right in the front on the second bench. However, to add to his woes, the church was full of people and the possibility of getting a seat next to them seemed bleak.
Great! Now he was going to stand for the next one hour, he sighed and leaned against the door. First of all he was late and on top of that, his head was throbbing with pain, making it hard for him to stand straight.
His eyes wandered to the people standing next to him, wondering if he could recognise any of them after fifteen years. Most of them were unknown faces, but there were few who he was well acquainted with.
And it was then that his eyes had suddenly stopped at a figure in maroon coloured Salwar suit with a white shawl covering her head. He didn't even have to see her face to know it was her. It was as if his heart could simply recognise her even in the ocean of crowds.
But what was she doing here? As far as he could remember, Khushi had never attended the Mass before. Atleast not fifteen years ago.
He didn't realise he was awkwardly staring at her until she suddenly looked up and their eyes met. And within a second, she looked away, down at the floor as if she was unable to look at him in the eye.
Maybe she was still upset with his words, he realised. Afterall, he had really been a jerk to her.
And then, after few minutes, she had once again looked back up at him and when the priest asked the people to sit down for the sermon, she immediately moved a bit to the other side and Arnav could see a small space made for him on the wooden bench.
He didn't say a word, nor did she. Arnav didn't even realise when he had walked towards her and sat beside her.
As he sat close to her, he became aware of the entire left side of her body pressed against his. She didn't move or flinch, showing that she was not uncomfortable with him.
He slowly observed her from the corner of his eyes, but her white shawl was obscuring the view of her face.
Her fingers were fidgeting with the hem of her shawl and he instantly knew she was nervous.
At that minute, he wanted to reach out and envelop her nervous hand with his strong one, to assure her that it was alright. But he couldn't.
So instead, he tried hard to focus on the sermon delivered by the celebrant in front of him. Throughout the mass, if his eyes had been focussed ahead, his other senses were with her. He could hear her whispering the prayers, he could smell the some perfume she had worn. And as time passed by, he had subconsciously grown comfortable with her presence.
And when it was the time for Communion, she had sat behind and moved aside to make way for him to move across the bench and while he returned, he found her kneeling down and praying, at the same time singing the hymn playing in the background.
My God loves me.
His love will never end.
He rests within my heart
For my God loves me.
His gentle hand
He stretches over me.
Though storm-clouds threaten the day
He will set me free.
Her eyes were closed, while her lips were melodiously singing out each word with fervent devotion and instead of praying, all he could do was stare in awe at her.
There was something eerie about the music that made the entire hair on his back and arms stand up. His throat choked and his eyes stung as the realisation of her loneliness, her desperate wait for him for these fifteen years hit him.
He noticed her opening her eyes and looking at him. And what he saw in those hazel orbs simply tugged his heart.
Pain and hurt, of their broken friendship, of rejection and his haunting words dwelled instead of the smile. But she had looked away and the rest of the mass had continued, until at the end, all the people had started getting up from their places to leave the church after the service.
However, she hadn't moved. She had sat there right next to him, basking in his comfort and so had he. Just two souls, two best friends, sitting with each other just like the old times.
Maybe they would have sat silently with each other, forgetting the entire world, if it hadn't been for his family now walking towards him.
"Arnav!" he heard his Dadi's voice and before he could react, he saw Khushi get up and walk out, disappearing into the crowd.
"I know, I was late. But I made it to the entire mass." Arnav quickly replied, before he could be admonished for his delay.
"Next time, be punctual. Now, let's go home." Dadi ordered, taking the lead. Arnav noticed his father standing quietly next to her. He could still see that he was upset with him and wanting to stay away from him for sometime until he cooled down, Arnav instead replied. "Dadi, you go ahead, I'll come back later. I have some work."
"Bhai, are you sure?" Anjali asked, suspiciously looking at her father and brother.
"Yeah." Arnav nodded and led them out, while his eyes went on a hunt in search of her.
He could hear the old priest's words echoing in his ears as he turned back one last time to bow down before the alter.
Don't hold back yourself. Listen to your conscience and it will guide you.
And right now, his conscience was seeking for her.
But Khushi was nowhere to be found. Had she left so early? Did she want to avoid confronting him? So many questions barged into his head, but only she was the one who could give him answers.
Getting into his car, he drove off in the probable way she would have taken to reach their house. And within few minutes, he found her maroon coloured outline walking beside the road, all alone.
She gazed back with surprise when his car stopped right beside her and he lowered the tinted window to meet her eyes.
"Chotey Saab?" she asked curiously, wondering if he needed something. But this time, he could sense the absence of cheerfulness in her voice, letting him know about the exact extent of damage his words had inflicted upon her.
"Khushi, get into the car." Arnav ordered, opening the door for her.
She was looking at him with utter confusion written all over her face. "Do you need any directions or did you need something from me?"
"No, I don't need either. Just get into the car." He nearly barked out a bit loudly than required.
"If you intend to give me a lift to my house, then I have to politely refuse your help, Chotey Saab." Khushi immediately shook her head. "I can go home by myself."
Using all his self control to not snap back at her, he instead pleaded with her. "Please Khushi, get into the car." And whatever it was that was holding her back had snapped open at his plea and she had reluctantly stepped into the car, sitting beside him.
And instead of driving back to their home, he took a diversion taking them deeper into the woods on the mountains.
"Where are we going?" Khushi immediately panicked and his heart nearly broke seeing her like this. He hadn't replied, but noticing his surroundings, he had stopped the car right in the middle of the forest road.
Maybe it had just been one minute of silence, but it had seemed like eternity and all he could hear was the low buzz of the car engine and their low breaths, as if in tandem with each other.
Khushi was the first one to speak. "Chotey Saab?" she asked curiously, stretching out her hand to touch his shoulder, only to retrieve back immediately a second later.
"I didn't know." Arnav finally replied, looking at her.
"What?" she asked in confusion.
"That you were going to Church." He explained.
"Oh!" Khushi gasped, realising what he was talking about. She was silent for a few seconds, until she finally began. "I know by the end of what I'm about to tell you, you will think I'm a very stupid girl." She let out a laugh looking at him. "But then, since I'm no longer your best friend, I really don't matter to you anyway and thus, my words may mean nothing to you."
And Arnav felt his heart ache with her words. Why did she always talk that way? Why did she make him feel even more guilty with himself if that was even possible?
"You know Chotey Saab, remember how you used to bring me here some days to play in the Church compound? Well you may not remember but I very well remember those days." And he saw a faint smile curving up her lips.
"Well after you left to London, I had no one to talk to. Even Anjali Memsaab had got new friends at school. So I used to go to all our favourite places and spend my time there thinking about you. See, I told you how foolish I was." She let out a laugh, but the pain buried in those words didn't miss out his eyes.
"But then, I realised that instead of spending all that time there all by myself, which was actually quite boring without you, I thought of coming to the church and praying to your God to send you back to me soon. How silly I was!" she said smacking her head.
"I prayed everyday, coz your Dadiji had said that if we pray with true devotion, our wishes will always come true. But you never came back and I thought that maybe my prayer wasn't enough. So I started attending mass." Khushi said, looking out of the window into the wilderness, lost in her own thoughts.
"But you still didn't come. I didn't know how that one year had turned to fifteen years."
Arnav didn't know when his eyes had moistened at her words. He simply continued to listen with silence, feeling loss at words.
"And when you finally came, you don't even remember me." She said, looking at him once again in the eye. "Tell me Chotey Saab, wasn't my prayer worthy enough to be listened by God?"
He bowed down his head with shame, unable to look at her in the eye. But her next words, completely shook the ground beneath him.
"Or are you that ashamed of my status that you refuse to remember your best friend? Because if it is the second reason, atleast I can sleep with peace knowing that God indeed hears my prayers." Khushi continued without any hesitation.
"You preserved all my old books for the past fifteen years." Arnav simply stated, not knowing what to respond to her questions.
"I had too. I knew how dear they were to you. I still remember you reading out stories for me, my favourite'"
"Hansel and Gretel." Arnav completed it for her, confirming the fact that he did remember her and a huge smile broke out on her face.
How couldn't she? She still remembered those days as if they were just yesterday.
"Annyavv?" The six year old Khushi tugged the pants of her best friend to grab his attention while he was busy engrossed in some book. "What are you reading?" she asked with her squeaky voice, climbing on the bed beside him and tried to peep what he was reading.
"Hansel and Gretel." He told her, making place for her to lie down. "You can also read." Nine year old Arnav pushed the book towards her, so that he could share the book as they laid on their fronts with their legs up in the air.
"Oh Annyav, these are too many words for me. I cannot read them." Khushi explained after few minutes of attempting to read the book. "And you read so fast." She frowned at him.
"Oh!" Arnav exclaimed feeling sad that she couldn't read the story and enjoy it. But his clever mind had come up with an instant solution. "So what if you cannot read Kukku. I'll read it for you." He smiled and Khushi immediately flashed the cutest smile she could summon as Arnav began to read out the story for her, while she lazed beside him and listened to it.
And from that day onwards, it had become a routine for her to come to his bedroom and laze beside him while he narrated stories from his entire collection for her.
"Thank you." She said, breaking his reverie while looking at him, her eyes moistened with tears.
"For what?" he asked, surprised hearing those two words.
"For remembering me, all throughout those fifteen years, Chotey Saab." Khushi replied, pulling open the door to step out.
"I didn't mean any of it." Arnav immediately said, panicking that she would walk out on him. It seemed to work, because Khushi stopped midway, turning around to face him.
"I know it Chotey Saab." Khushi said, knowing that he was referring to yesterday's verbal spat between them near the brook. "Look, it's totally fine with me if you are ashamed to hang out with me. Afterall, you are the Arnav Singh Raizada and I'm nobody to you. But atleast for once, don't pretend like I'm a stranger. Don't make me feel as if those five years meant nothing to you." She gazed into his eyes, her own eyes stained with hurt.
Nobody to you'
Those three words hurt him miserably.
He had wanted to cry and hug her saying that even fifteen years hadn't changed anything between them, that he gave a damn to the world about their friendship, that her class and status meant nothing to him.
That it was not the reason he was staying away from her.
But how could he explain the guilt that had made him stay away from her if she was pretending as if nothing had happened?
Or his worst fear that she couldn't remember what had happened to her that fateful day?
Maybe he had lived with the guilt for fifteen years but it looked like she had moved on from that day. And there was no way that he could tell her that he knew about that day, that he had seen her that day.
She didn't know that he had seen her that day.
Because that would mean opening up an entire Pandora's box that would devastate each and everyone close to him.
That his entire world was still in one piece only because of his silence.
Arnav was so busy lost in his thoughts that he didn't realise when Khushi had opened the door and walked out of the car. Alarmed with her sudden decision, he immediately honked the horn, observing her retreating back from the rear view mirror. Panicking, he instantly reversed the car and blocked her way.
"Khushi, it's too far away from home. I'll drop you home."
"Don't bother Chotey Saab, I can find my way home. I may appear weak, but I'm lot stronger than I seem to be." She replied cheerfully smiling at him and he couldn't stop a faint smile curving his lips at her cheerfulness. It was as if the girl couldn't be put down by anything.
"And I may appear smart, but I'm a lot stupid than I seem to be." Arnav immediately said, surprised at his own comeback. "I have no idea about the way to get back home." He confessed, looking around the huge pine trees surrounding them.
And the smile Khushi flashed at him at that moment made him forget everything else, his 'five year old Kukku' was standing in front of him and the 'Eight year old Annyav' simply smiled back at her as she got into the car, the smile simply not fading away from either of their faces.
Maybe this was one tiny step to make amends with her.
"We are home finally." Khushi sneered, looking at the huge manor in front of her, the smile still hanging in the corners of her lips.
"Yes, we are." Arnav looked at her warmly and smiled at her.
"You look nice when you smile Chotey Saab." Khushi added, before stepping out of the car and walked towards her cottage. "Thanks for the ride." She waved at him.
Arnav watched her disappear behind the manor and his eyes now focussed on the Rosary hanging on the centre mirror of his car and for the first time, felt a bit eased and relaxed after a long, long time.
God indeed worked miracles in mysterious ways.
Next update ---> I don't know. It will be on any of the next three days depending on when I'm free.
And someone had told me that she doesn't get Arnav's behavior. Why did he try to forget Khushi if he knew she was the victim?
The reason was because guilt is a very powerful feeling. He was so consumed with guilt that he was ashamed to look into her eyes. It is a very natural reaction. Imagine you have wronged one of your closest friends and that person doesn't know about it. You were supposed to help her and yet you didn't. You will then naturally feel guilty about it. And that guilt haunts you everytime you see that person. So Arnav was going through the same thing. He didn't know how to overcome that feeling.
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Nice update... In the beginning it seems like the person was Arnav, but turned out to be RK... Even though he apologised, I am still having problem in accepting him as a good guy, may be the first impression and all...
And the rest, about Arnav and Khushi I don't know what to say... Each and every scene was filled with love, concern, peace, understanding and what not... In one word it was Ethereal...
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Superb update and happy one
That was huge surprise for me from ranvijay's part hoila he is so good
This update is for amends, ranvijay, khushi and arnav, khushi
Feeling happy that finally they talked properly and arnav said what was in his heart and khushi too
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