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"Payal sent you here, didn't she ?" he asked with an amused smile on his face.
"She may have requested me to check on him, if possible. She may also have reminded me about this request about a hundred times." she drawled.
"Oh I am going to have so much fun with this... and he's all better now. Nothing to stop me from riling him up" he said rubbing his palms in excitement. He looked up when she didn't respond and found her staring at him intently, her brows furrowed.
"What?" he asked.
"You look... happy. And you're smiling. A lot. I haven't seen you like this for a while now.. And to be honest its freaking me out. Whats going on, Arnav?"
"I'm always happy around you sweetheart." he looked positively goofy now.
"You better tell me what it is and fast" she said and was not amused when he continued ginning at her. "I was talking to Aakash and you forced me to come to your room as soon as I can. Now that I am here you're making small talk and being all... creepy."
"Creepy?" he said with mock hurt, his palm on his chest "Your words hurt you know?"
"Oh enough with the drama. Tell me what this is ab-"
"I'm ready" he cut her mid sentence.
"Huh?" what was up with the man!
"I said I am ready" he said again, this time with a genuine smile.
"Ready for what?"
"For my very first case, Khushi." he said softly.
It took her a minute to fully comprehend what he had just said, and when it did she felt herself being consumed by a wave of joy. Not wanting to waste another second, she embraced him in a tight hug and he lifted her off the floor just as she had expected. She slowly wound her legs around his torso and his hands tightened their grip around her waist, firmly hoisting her to him. She raised her head from under his chin and looked at him, her face aglow with happiness and pride. "Really?" it was a mere whisper, one he would have missed had she not been this close to him. In response he placed hard kiss on her mouth. "Yes" his voice barely concealing his excitement. He walked the both of them to the plush barcalounger placed near the door to the balcony and sat them down, her arms and legs still wrapped around him. She made a move to get up, a move he resisted by pressing her closer to himself.
"We're going to talk now, Arnav. Sure you can do that in this... position?" she tried to raise an eyebrow the way he did and failed miserably at it.
"Leave the smirk and the eyebrow raise to me, Khushi. That's my forte. And yes, I can talk just fine. You're staying right here."
"Yes boss!" she exclaimed with and gave him a mock salute. "So tell me, when did you decide? And have you told Aman about this, the poor guy must be worried sick!"
"I decided last night, I believe I am prepared Khushi. I've done my best and I don't want to delay this anymore. I've discussed it with Sinha this morning, he was more than supportive. Aman, I've tried calling him on the number he gave me, its been out of coverage all this time."
"Maybe something is wrong with his phone?"
"Yeah. I'll wait till tomorrow or I'll just go to his place. It's a Sunday, he should be home. I want him to file a case and get his sister out of that hell hole as soon as possible."
"Wait, she is still staying at her husband's?" she gasped.
"Yes, they've threatened her saying they'll have Aman bashed up or something if she leaves the place. It's a mess Khushi, I'm going to have to take this one step at a time. "
"And you've planned it all out, haven't you?"
"Yes, these things are unpredictable but I know what I need to do. And I don't want to waste any more time, don't want things to spiral out of control. But first I need to meet Aman."
"Don't be so tensed about it Arnav. He hasn't heard from you for so long, he probably lost hope. Or maybe he is too busy or there could be a problem with his phone. Don't worry unless you have to, okay ?" she said sweetly.
"I won't." he said and leaned in to kiss her; his kiss demanding as his hands cupped her derriere, pushing her closer to him..drawing strength from her. Her fingers too found their way inside his shirt, tracing invisible lines on his back with her nails. She broke the kiss to catch some air and his lips traced her jawline down to her neck, lightly nipping at the pulse beating at the base of her throat, smirking to himself as he felt it skip a beat. "Arrrnaavv" she moaned as she threw her head back, all thoughts flying right out of her mind as he took over her senses with deft fingers and his wicked mouth. She didn't realise when his hands slipped inside her shirt or when they unhooked her brassiere, but a rather harsh squeeze on her breast brought her out of the daze. She tugged at his hair to get his attention, but he seemed to have taken that as encouragement and with a growl continued his ministrations. Getting herself together with great difficulty, she leaned back and placed her palm on his mouth. He paused for a second and raised his eyebrow in question.
"We've gotto stop, Arnav," she said panting. "Naniji is home... And, oh God... I had promised Amma I would help her with dinner. I totally forgot about that!" she remembered and with that she tried to get up, but Arnav held her wrist, her palm still on his mouth. She gasped as he nibbled lightly on her palm. He placed a soft kiss on the same spot before releasing her wrist. "Alright, go."
Her phone buzzed before she could finish straightening her clothes; "It must be Amma" she squeaked and received the call. Arnav looked at her with a teasing smile on his face as she held the phone between her ear and her shoulder awkwardly and tried to hook her brassiere with her hands. "Its Jiji" she whispered to him and continued struggling with the hooks. He gestured her to come and stand in front of him as he heard one end of the conversation between the sisters.
"Yes, Jiji. Aakash is well now."
"Yes he is taking his medicines. And OP's kadha" She felt him hold her waist and turn her around. He pried her hands away from her back and quickly did the hooks with ease.
"Jiji, you can just come in the evening and ask for yourself, you know" she said in a irritated voice even as she turned around and mouthed a silent "Thank You".
"I'm still at their place, was just about to leave. I have to help Amma with dinner."
"Bye, Jiji. And Aakash is doing just fine, okay?"
She cut the call after that; collecting her handbag , she walked to Arnav who was still sitting comfortably on his chair. "I never thought I'd say this, but she's cute." he said casually.
"Yes! Look at her all worked up about Aakash, she isn't even trying to hide it."
"Its not new Arnav, she can take everything else but she cannot see anybody in pain. And this isn't just restricted to family. She cares a lot more than she lets on."
"What?" she probed when he didn't say anything to that.
"Nothing, I'm just happy for Aakash." he smiled.
"You should be, my sister is a keeper. Oh, but don't let her know you thought she was 'cute', or you're dead meat."
"Trust me Khushi, no one knows that better than me.. The Wrath of Payal Gupta. She is more terrifying than Khan."
"We'll discuss the scary super-human strength of my sister later. Now I'm going home. I'll say goodbye to Naniji and then leave. You let me know if you're able to contact Aman, okay?"
"Sure" he said, and his entire frame straightened up at that.
She held his hand and spoke softly, "Good luck, Arnav. I am so happy for you... this is a big day. You do what you need to do and don't worry too much. And I'm always there, okay?"
The smile she gave him after that managed to wipe the frown from his face. Unable to say anything much, he just nodded. "I know, Khushi. I know."
The pencil in between her teeth, she placed the newspaper aside and cracked her knuckles and stretched her feet. She did love Saturday nights, she could stay up doing her puzzles all night long and not worry about the next morning. She took the pencil out of her mouth and stifled a yawn; picking up the newspaper again, she got back to her puzzle.
"Khushi" she heard a familiar voice at her door followed by a knock. "Come in Jiji" she said and straightened out the bedsheets to her left to make space for her sister. "You weren't asleep, were you?" asked Payal as she walked into the room and sat down next to Khushi on the bed. "No, I was just doing my crosswords. Did you just come back from the clinic?"
"No I left the clinic in the evening. I was at the library after that, came home about half an hour back. And before you ask, yes, I've had dinner. And yes, the gas is turned off and so are all the lights and fans." she smiled at her sister.
"Why did you eat alone? I didn't hear you come in, or I would have given you some company."
"Its okay Khushi.. Dinner was delicious though. What did you make?"
"I just helped with the preparations... and the cutting and chopping. Mom made everything herself. You know how she likes elaborate dinners on weekends. We missed you today"
"Yes, I wanted to be there too... I know Amma is particular about spending time together on weekends and I was away all day. I had taken off on Monday.. I wanted to make up for that. And my exams are coming up, so I've gotto start studying... I haven't studied all week."
"I'm not surprised, Jiji. Afterall, something, sorry, someone has kept your mind quite occupied all these days" said Khushi, tongue firmly in cheek.
"Khushi" she tried to admonish, but failed to stop the rosy hue that adored her face now.
"I swear to god, I never imagined you two to be the cheesy kind. It seems Aakash has been grinning and humming songs, and here you keep blushing at the very mention of his name. Who are you and what have you done to my sister!"
"Its nothing like that" Payal schooled her face to look serious, she wasn't particularly successful. "I've just been worried because he was so unwell. His temp was at a 103 for two days straight, Khushi!"
"I know very well, Jiji. You must have mentioned that.. Erm, I don't know, about a million times? How his temp wouldn't come down. How weak he was. How he refused to eat anything. How he-"
"I get the point Khushi" Payal stopped her mid-rant, and Khushi couldn't help the giggle that escaped her mouth.
"Show me your puzzle, we can solve that together" said Payal in an urgent attempt to change the topic. She knew she'd given her sister a lot to tease her about, but she sure couldn't take all of that in one night!
"Nice try Jiji, but I will let it go this time. I have the whole Sunday to see you blush."
"The Puzzle, Khushi!"
"Fine. I need two more words - one is a 7 letter word for "to climb or get in or out of something in an awkward and laborious way" Third and fourth letters are a and m. Any guesses?"
"Clamber?" she thought for a bit and then asked.
"Jiji! Perfect.. Thank you!" she gave her sister a quick hug. "I've been racking my head on this for so long.. The answer was just this simple. You are right, I complicate things in my head. Bas, now last one. 7 letter word for self-contradictory. Fourth letter is a. Go on. "
"Hmm, Irony wouldn't fit. What else ?"
"I was thinking Oddity, but even that won't work." said Khushi biting her nails. "Let us get to the start. Self-contradictory.. the would mean the statement would be ambiguous - neither right nor wrong."
"Or both right and wrong. Wait, I got it. Paradox! It would fit, right ?" said Payal, the shrillness in her voice giving away her nervousness."
"Jiji you are genius!"
"Chup pagli, I was just doing some guess work." she shrugged.
"You never just guess Jiji, you do everything very sincerely. That's the one thing you and Arnav have in common, you never take anything lightly." she said as she folded the newspaper carefully and placed it next to her pillow.
"I don't know about myself, but yes, Arnav does take everything seriously. It worries me sometimes, he is too hard on himself." she sighed.
"I don't want to talk about this Jiji, I won't get any sleep tonight. I've talked to him about this with him so many times, he just won't let himself off the hook. He is not like his siblings, and his family, however wonderful they are, have failed to make him feel that that is okay. Naniji is the only one who has always been by his side."
"And you, Khushi. You too have been there for him all this while."
"I've tried my best, Jiji."
"That reminds me, you mentioned there was a case he was worried about? Something about his friend, what happened to that?"
"There is good news on that front. Arnav has decided to take up the case himself. Independently. Isn't that wonderful?" said Khushi, unable to contain her excitement.
Payal smiled and placed her hand on Khushi's, "I am happy for him. I hope he is successful. This is important for him, and I'm not talking about his professional life here."
"I know what you mean Jiji" Khushi have her an understanding nod. "He needs to have faith in himself, and I hope this case helps him do just that."
"You know, even Aakash worries about him. You are right when you say they don't fully understand Arnav's insecurities. He didn't ask for advice so I didn't offer any, but do you think it's a good idea to tell Aakash about this? Would it help Arnav?"
Khushi took a minute to gather her thoughts before she replied, "I don't know Jiji. I don't know how Aakash will take it, and the last thing we want is for him to become condescending towards Arnav. And Arnav is an astute man, if he figures out whats going on, that will be the end of it; he will shut everybody out. I don't want this to become another 'family issue' that everybody discusses during get togethers. It is very personal for him, and I want us to respect that. I told you because you already guessed what was going on. But I don't think it's a good idea to tell anyone else... we aren't even certain if they can be of any help."
"Fair enough. I won't say anything, don't worry. Its an internal battle for him, I guess. He will have to get though this on his own. You will just have to support him through this."
"Of course, Jiji. Arnav has been my anchor these past few years.. even now. Its my turn this time." she said seriously.
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Haaye! You are killing me right now alright! The beginning scene flowed out with such ease and artlessness, I was clearly bowled off! And I am kind of blushing! That could be one of the reasons why I don't want to dwell on commenting on that scene or their talks any longer!
Moving forward...Arnav is ready to take up his first case and the pure joy, confidence and satisfaction is clearly evident on their faces! Oh I am loving this! Waise, there is something fishy about Aman, or am I reading too much in between the lines?
The crosswords are back! And I couldn't be happier at the prospect! Payal could be mind-bogglingly evasive but well, anything for love sweetheart! Paradox?! I wonder what that calls up for!
Loved this update to the core! You write brilliantly, as I've already told you before!
And now after all of this, here my next question - Agla update kab aayega?! *puppy dog eyes*
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