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Thank you all for your feedback on the last chapter. I'm trying my best to give you more frequent updates. I don't insist on comments, however, I would really like to know your opinion and thoughts. Each one matters.
Banner Credit: vfordonkey
She rested her head atop his bare chest listening to his steady heartbeat, her fingers playing softly with his hair as he held her tight.
"I can't believe you talked me into coming here again... and that too on a working day. We were here just last weekend." she said smiling. They were at the farmhouse again; Arnav had called her that afternoon at office during lunch and asked if she could take the rest of the day off. She had been hesitant at first, but she agreed later at the thought he could use a break; she had noticed he had been extremely stressed the last few days. Moreover, it was unlike Arnav to request something like this on a weekday, and she didn't want to refuse this one time he asked something from her. He had been insatiable since they got to the farmhouse; he had been slow and languid in his love making, again something uncharacteristic of him. She had let him take her the way he wished to, having come here with the mind to let him have his way and soothe his worries in whatever way she could.
"So, what brought this about?" she asked after a few minutes when he didn't speak at all.
"What is the matter, Khushi?"
That startled her and she looked up, resting her chin on his chest. Here she was, hoping he would share what was worrying him. "What are you talking about, Arnav?"
"You and I both know what it is, but if you still want me to elaborate... You've been awfully quiet and lost since we returned from Vighnesh's place that evening. I know you too well to assume it was that little argument with Shekhar that has affected you this much. There is something more. Won't you tell me about it Khushi?"
It made her sigh. She had been restless the whole time, yes. But she hadn't taken any conscious note of it, at least not when she was with him since he himself looked like he'd been carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. She had agreed to come out today hoping it would allow him a chance to open up, instead here he was inquiring about her well-being. She looked at him and smiled brightly.
"I ask you what is worrying you, this certainly wasn't the reaction I was expecting." he said looking at her intently. She raised herself up on her arms and brought her lips to his, her kiss telling him what she couldn't find words for. She fell back on the bed next to him, tucking her head under his arm. "I thought we came here because you had a rough week and wanted to relax, instead you ask me why I have been quiet." she said softly.
He shook his head slightly and turned around to face her, wrapping his arm around her waist in a gentle grip. "I'm okay Khushi, theres just too much work on my hands right now, that's about it. You tell me, what is it that's bothering you?"
She averted her eyes away from his before she answered, "Its nothing, really."
"Its just..." she resumed when she saw Arnav giving her a stern look, "You know when I was helping out Mrs. Sridhar before we left her place, she mentioned something to me." her fingers tracing imaginary patterns on his chest. He caught her wrist in his hand placed it on the duvet atop her thigh. "We can't have a conversation when you're touching me like that." he offered as an explanation, making her smile. "Where were we? Yes, what did Mrs. Sridhar tell you?"
She shifted her head slightly over his arm and turned to face him properly and replied, "Her nephew, Vighnesh's cousin... it seems he owns this publishing house based out of Pune. Its not big, but she says they are looking for new writers, and that she has spoken to Vighnesh about this. He can put me in touch with him... and see if we can work out something."
The joyous spark in his eyes was instant. "And you waited so long to tell me! This is brilliant, isn't it?" he beamed. Noticing the lack of excitement or joy on Khushi's face, he probed, "Why do you look so mellow, Khushi? I'd think you'd be over the moon...Tell me what the matter is." he added when he noticed Khushi still looking doubtful. She hated it when he used that voice, it rendered her incapable of denying him anything.
"I don't know Arnav, and honestly I'm being quite silly" she said, her voice a notch higher, the frustration evident in her timbre. "Let me the judge of that, you tell me whats going on in that pretty head of yours." he said as he placed a kiss on her forehead. She closed her eyes at that and let out a soft "hmmm". She was quiet for a minute, collecting her thoughts before she spoke. "It's like I just don't have it in me try anymore at this point, Arnav. I was really excited about JNU, and look how that turned out. I'm afraid to get my hopes up again, its easier to let to go right now than to get my hopes up and then having to give it all away. I don't know how Papa will react to this. You don't even like my story and these days I can't even get myself to rework on my manuscript... I just cannot get myself to go through with this right now Arnav." she finished, her last words a mere whisper. He noticed the sheen on tears in her eyes and felt the pain in his chest, he had never seen her look this defeated and it scared him. He gathered her close to him and ran his hands along her back trying his best to comfort her; he felt like she was losing a part of what defined her " her spirit and optimism. He'd be damned if he let that happen.
He loosened his arm around her and lifted her chin up so she would look at him but her eyes were downcast. "Look at me, sweetheart." he beseeched. Eyes still misted with tears, she bit her lip to stifle a sob. He cupped her cheek with his palm; wiping the tears that made their way out the corner of her eyes with his thumb. "Don't do this to yourself, Khushi. You've stuck to your decision of not going to JNU so gracefully, don't treat it like a mistake now. I supported you in your earlier decision because I was certain you wouldn't regret it. Just like this time I am certain you will. Things may be working in your favour once again, don't let it go. Just speak to this guy, we'll see how it goes from there?"
"I don't know what to do any more, Arnav. Even if I speak to this guy, what do I tell him? I haven't worked on my story in weeks, I don't have anything solid that's ready. And I sure as hell won't find any time to pursue this for another year, till I finish my degree. Why should I set my up for another heartbreak, Arnav?" she sounded anguished.
"You've never been the one to give excuses Khushi. And I won't allow you to do that now. You'll find time if you want to, you know that. And you're thinking too much. Just... take one thing at a time, okay? Wait for Vighnesh to put you in touch with him, speak to the guy and see what it leads to. We'll cross the bridge when it comes to it."
"What if he doesn't like it at all?" she said after a minute. "What if after reading it he says it's a load of crap? Even you don't have a particularly high opinion of it. Maybe I'm just being foolish, chasing something that isn't - "
"Shhh, Khushi!" Arnav interjected before she could continue. It disturbed him deeply to watch her lose hope in this manner. "Don't go there, Khushi. You know that's not how it is" his fingers at the back of her neck playing with her tresses. "I only pointed out one small aspect I thought was missing when you asked for my opinion... when have I ever said I dislike your story? Its your baby Khushi, don't lose faith in it. No matter what anybody says. What is the worst that could happen? He doesn't like it. If that is the case, you look into his suggestions and see what you can do about it. Or he does like it, then you are one step closer to being a published writer. You have nothing to lose, either way. Don't get so worked up, dear." He finished hoping his little diatribe would reduce her worries.
She looked a little less distraught now, the creases on her forehead fading gradually as her body became less rigid in his embrace. She looked up at him now, her eyes finally devoid of any tears and gave him a small smile. "I'll think about it." she said and the relief on Arnav's face made her chuckle. "You're right though. Maybe I am thinking too much. Its just... theres so much going on. This internship is more intense than I first thought, we'll know what projects we've been assigned to tomorrow. I also need to decide what I want to do for my final year dissertation...most of my classmates already know what they want to do, some even have their proposal ready. And I am here drowning in a pool of cluelessness. I can't get myself to completely normal with Papa anymore, I know he is hurting. And now this... I guess I'm just really tired" she finished with a inelegant "Hmph".
"Well, I'm not the one to blame today", he said. Glad that she was in a better state of mind, he wanted her to forget about her problems for now. "Huh?" she said in surprise at his statement. "Blame for what?" she asked.
"For your tiredness, of course. I did all the hard work today, didn't I?" he smirked. Finally getting what he was hinting at, she decided to play along.
"Indeed, you were exceptionally generous today. But I assume that was my reward for the other weekend?"
"I thought you were amply rewarded immediately, before we left the farmhouse last time?" his hands making his way under the duvet to stroke her bare thigh.
"Was I? I can't really remember. My best memory of that weekend is the ravioli we ordered from Quattro." she said trying her best to sound saucy, her fingers caressing him, leaving a scorching trail down his chest, his stomach, his navel... before he caught her wrist in a firm grip with a low growl and rolled them over so he had her pinned under him.
"You don't play fair, Khushi." he said, his voice dangerously low making her tremble with anticipation. "And we need to refresh your memory" he whispered before swooping down to take her lips in a kiss that took her breath away, as his hands roved all over her body leisurely, making her whimper with desire. Her pliant body delirious with pleasure under the ministrations of his nimble fingers, he did what he promised to do, taking them both to the brink of heaven.
Arnav placed the receiver back, having called the kitchen and asked to bring them coffee and snacks and turned around to face Khushi. They lay there panting, their legs entwined and hands around each other. She heard him wheeze slightly and asked with concern, "Do you need to take a puff, Arnav? I have your spare inhaler in my bag." He looked at her, incredulity writ all over his face. "You have to stop doing this Khushi, its really weird. I was mildly asthmatic a long time ago, a really long time ago. I am diabetic already, when you ask this question every time after we have sex, I feel like an old man." He finished with a pout, making Khushi giggle.
"Erm, we haven't left the bed since we got here, and its not because we wanted to nap. That should be enough to make you feel all young and virile, no?" she teased, earning a small bite on her shoulder. Just then they heard a knock on the door. Arnav instructed the help the leave the food tray outside the door and go home. He got off the bed and put on trousers before getting their coffee from the door. He arranged their food on the coffee table as Khushi got dressed and freshened up. She walked out of the bathroom, her face scrubbed and cleaned. "What? You gave no chance to freshen up once we got here!" she exclaimed.
They settled on the couch and finished their coffee and sandwiches in silence. Khushi noticed Arnav lost in thought, much like she had seen him several times throughout the week, though he looked considerably more relaxed at the moment. She wanted to ask him what it was that was bothering him, but wondered if she should let it go right now, he was looking calm and she didn't have the heart to take away the few minutes of peace that he had found. She had waited all week for him to open up, including this afternoon when he had requested her to come away to the farmhouse, but he had kept quiet, always dismissing it as tiredness. Arnav noticed the play of emotions on her face, he knew she wanted to say something and was holding back. She was biting her lower lip and fisting her palms " tell tale signs of her trying to hold her words back. "Spit it out" he said suddenly, taking her by surprise.
"Say what?" Surely he couldn't read her mind that well.
"Yes, I can read your mind like an open book. Now tell me what you've been wanting to say all this time." he said smirking. "Stop being cocky" she snapped. "And you are the one who needs to talk."
"About what Is going on with you. About what are the weekly highlights of your restless little grey cells. You may read me like an open book Arnav, but you aren't exactly inscrutable. In fact when you called me here I thought it was because you wanted to vent. You've been visibly stressed all week, not paying attention to anything. No matter how fetching that stubble looks, I don't like this package deal. Tell me what the matter is?" she asked sweetly.
He didn't say anything for a long time and she waited patiently. He closed his eyes and rubbed them gently with his palms. "Come closer" he said patting the spot next to him on the couch. She shook her head lightly, "You come closer" she requested patting her thigh. He gave her a small smile before lying down on the couch, placing his head on her lap. She ran her fingers softly through his hair, knowing very well the calming effect this had on him. He closed his eyes, basking in the beauty and serenity of the moment before getting back to her question.
"I couldn't convince Sinha to take up Lavanya's case." He said with a tired sigh.
"Aman's sister. The one I told you about?"
"I remember. Arnav you can't blame yourself for this, I'm sure you tried your best."
"I did, in fact I even looked into all the cases Sinha is handling at the moment to see if I could convince him to make some time. But he was right, he is really tied up for the whole year."
"Maybe you should reconsidering taking up the case yourself?" she asked tentatively, she didn't want to put him under more pressure.
"Yes, as a matter of fact even Sinha suggested, this time a lot more directly, that it might be time for me to take the leap."
"That is great, Arnav" she cheered. "He is right, you've been his apprentice for a long time now and you're more than capable of handling a case yourself. This way you could also help out your friend... what have you decided?"
"I want to be sure I am prepared before I commit" he replied after a long pause. "I am studying old case files and going through everything else that Aman gave me to hand over to Sinha. Once I am ready, I'll speak to Aman. I don't want to make any false or premature promises."
She bent to kiss him once on his lips.
"Its funny isn't it?" she remarked. "Both of us are at the same place, where all we need to do is have faith in ourselves. The only difference is that I have all the freedom to take that chance. You on the other hand, I wish things were the same but they aren't...you cannot afford to lose."
"You're not helping, Khushi" he warned.
"Sorry" she said sheepishly, but gathered her words quickly. "But you don't really need words of reassurance Arnav, I can give them to you if you wish but they will be futile. You do your homework, and when you are confident of your preparedness, go talk to Aman. Though I would suggest you at least call him and tell him of your intension, can you imagine how worried he must be not having heard from you?"
"I don't think I can do that Khushi. That anxiety is better than false hope. I will certainly call him when I am ready; just need a few more days."
"Your call, Arnav. But I am so very happy for you, your very first case." she was now rubbing her palms in glee. He could only smile at her excitement, it made him forget him worries at that moment. In her warm presence, her fingers weaving though his hair soothingly, he allowed himself a few minutes of peace and quiet, leaving behind everything, including the unease that was gnawing at his heart the whole week.
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