Joined: 29 April 2009
Because I do not want to spam your inbox and also to make my life easier, I will out PMs only to those who have commented on the last two updates. So, if you want that PM, let me know you are still reading this FF by commenting(or a reserve). If you stop commenting, then I automatically assume you do not want PMs for whatever reasons., which is perfectly fine! And precisely why I don't want to spam.
Sometimes though this goes awry too as those that got multiple PMs would know.Advance apologies for that nuisance, but it happpens
Joined: 29 April 2009
Joined: 29 April 2009
Nothing prepares you for the unexpected. It was no different for
Arnav, and Khushi's barely audible whisper "So?" in
response to his harried confession was all it took. The initial rage that
coursed through him ebbed away against the sheer veracity of that word, and
left him reeling. How the hell was he supposed to respond when words
were so hard to come by?
Arnav gazed across the room starring at Khushi who stood motionless and eerily quiet - and suddenly that gulf in between seemed bigger than a mere few strides. Would it take a lifetime to traverse this divide?
They wouldn't realize it of course but while Arnav stood in the dark corner of the room perhaps fittingly, Khushi stood closer to the light source bathed in its warm glow with the cover of a million simmering stars in the background behind her. If only Arnav believed in mysticism, he could have interpreted this as some divine providence, but he did not have a mystical streak or believe in higher powers that be. Khushi on the other hand was still miffed with her Devi Maiiyaa, so divine interventions were outside her current radar. May be someday they could re-discover those divine ties together, may be.
From her end, she saw the outlines of a man she could barely recognize, his face hidden partially by shadows that fell across his side of the room; Khushi had not missed anything, not even how his stance had gone stiff at her response. Used to Arnav's aggression, this restraint - this man was new to her too, and it took her by surprise. In the days to come, she would scrutinize it and come to accept albeit begrudgingly that she did not like this version who was neither Arnav Singh Raizada nor that Arnavji, but it wasn't time for that yet. For now, she had no clue, how damaged this man truly was from inside out - the hard exterior was nothing but a mere faade used to mask his inner vulnerability.
As the depth of his words registered in her mind, she was seized
by a flurry of questions, "So?" had escaped almost reactively, while
her mind had asked, why now? She stammered, not able to string
coherent words together, "why..." And shut her eyes trying to calm
herself down, "What does it matter now?" Khushi realized she had been
holding her breath only once those words were out.
Arnav watched her intently, studying the play of emotions on her face, her features that were accentuated magnificently by the light yet all he noticed was the missing sparkle in those eyes, that mischievous air that defined who she was, that Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada who defied him at every step she could. He hated it, all of it just like he hated her indifference; because the woman who stood before him now was a pale shadow of hisKhushi. In a desperate attempt to hold on to what little he could, Arnav inched towards her, in slow - deliberate but determined steps; and before she knew it, he was by her side and she had nowhere to run.
"What do you mean by that?" he asked hurt dripping through each stilted word, his hands itched to hold her close, and eyes that could not seem to get enough of her; he would have given anything to hold her in his arms and kiss her senseless! Patience was not one of his virtues and her close proximity did not help his cause any further.
"It doesn't matter anymore" Khushi repeated as she stared back at him impassively, "None of it matters..." She spoke with as much conviction as she could muster up against his over-powering presence, "Nothing?" He asked as her denial egged him on, the hurt all too palpable. Drawn to her like iron fillings to a magnet, he closed in on the remaining distance between them and this time, he could not restrain himself any longer as reached out and pulled her towards him, and instantly a surge of familiarity invaded both their senses as their bodies came in contact, "So nothing matters to you?" his touch was gentler and his harsh voice caressed her face, "Nothing...Khushi?" He shook her slightly upon getting no response, "Nothing?" his control close to snapping at every denial she hurled at him.
"Yes" she said loud and clear, "Nothing matters anymore" and pushed him away, freeing herself from his grip and took a few steps back increasing the distance between them, "You made that very clear before you boarded that flight...why this drama now, what are you even doing here anyway?" she wasn't done yet, "When I've put everything behind me, you come back expecting answers?" her eyes aglow with a fiery ablaze demanding an answer back, "I'm no longer answerable to you. Why can't you just let me be?" she closed her eyes trying to gain some composure, "And just let me be..." it came out more as a plea.
"You don't mean that..." he said and she snapped her eyes open, the hurt all to visible in those eyes - too obvious for him to ignore, "I came back Khushi... "his voice went alarmingly soft, "But you were gone" as if that was reminder enough, his jaw clenched and he closed in on her again, "How could you just walk away like nothing mattered?" reducing the gap between them - dangerously close, trapping Khushi between the glass windows as he hissed "Do you even know what I've gone through since then...trying to ... Wondering if..." And the next instant she felt his hands cup her face, his touch so gentle and nearly fleeting almost as if he was scared she would vanish at any moment if he held on too tight, "I thought you..."
But when he got no reaction from her, he lost his patience, "Khushi..." His hands which were gentle on her so far suddenly gripped her firmly and brought her petite frame flush onto his, "Khushi say something dammit!" his voice fanned her face, the familiarity irked her as did her passivity to his aggression. Knowing it was useless; Khushi stopped struggling and matched his stare with a piercing gaze of her own. The sheer intensity in those eyes told him in no uncertain terms what her words had not yet.
"Why does it always have to be about you?" she hissed back matching his aggression with her own, "Khushi..." but she cut him off, "No, let me" she demanded, "It was always about you" he couldn't decipher that look in her eyes, " It was always your Di, your family, your reputation, your this...your money...well guess what?" she pushed at him again, but he was in no mood to let her go, their physical struggle was reminiscent of their ongoing verbal spat with both refusing to let an inch, "I refuse to be a pawn again, because unlike what you may think, I hurt too, my family hurts too...and we may not be as rich as you but ... " she checked herself and stared at him scathingly, "You took away everything...everyone...you made me a pawn because you couldn't deal with the truth" his movements stilled as her words hit home, "You didn't want to hear a word that day when I had so much to say and today I have nothing to say. We are done"
Emotion, sharp and clarifying clenched his stomach at her words and that look of pure contempt on her face, he let her go of his own volition. Khushi instantly staggered away from him but she was far from done, "I don't know what to say anymore... because everything has changed. I know I was a naive fool who thought ..." But she quickly steered away from that quicksand, "Can't you see, I'm trying to make something for myself, away from everything, everyone...why can't you just let me be. Why did you even come here Arnavji?"
May be it was her question, or the fact that this was the first time she had called him that ever since they had met again, he softened. It was like a trigger that roused something dormant. Khushi saw him reach for his wallet and take out a few notes all the while his eyes never left hers, and before she knew it, he had them placed on her palms, "I came because you called me Khushi...and don't bother denying it because, you are a terrible liar" his eyes locked with hers, and it was Khushi who averted hers this time, unable to refute. This man would be the death of her one day; Khushi Kumari Gupta was at a loss of words for the second time in less than an hour.
"So will you stop pretending, that nothing matters?"
he asked warily suddenly feeling depleted of all strength, his will to fight
diminishing every second, this was not what he was here to do, "We need to
talk Khushi, can we at least be civil about it?" someone had to wave the
white flag first, and if it meant getting her to listen to him, he was all game
for it, "I can't fight you anymore" he said, looking deep into her
eyes hoping she could see his sincerity. "I..." But the moment was
lost when the loud shrill of his cell-phone startled them both and they stood
there just staring at each other as the phone kept on buzzing.
He wasn't keen on receiving the call but it was hard for him to ignore Khushi's expressive eyes as they stared back, aren't you getting that?Annoyed at this disturbance, he took out the phone from his pocket and answered gruffly, "What?"
"What the f**k?" he swore, "Now?" Arnav looked up at Khushi with a somber expression, "Sure?" he said. Khushi kept her eyes on him as he answered in grim monosyllables, "Fine" and he paced the room anxiously, "I'm here" and cut the call. Obviously something had come up, she concluded because his face had visibly paled by the end of that call.
Khushi was too preoccupied to notice or just too caught up in the moment, and the reality of it all, that she missed the loud knock on the door. It wasn't till, she saw Aman enter, and looking hassled only to halt momentarily at the threshold upon seeing her that she realized what had just happened.
"Ma'am" he greeted her with a surprised smile and she returned it with a courteous nod of her own. When he turned towards Arnav, he looked rather apologetic to have interrupted him at this hour, "Sir, I apologize but...this is urgent" And looked over at Khushi, "You need to see this Sir ...erm..." he hesitated. Sensing his discomfort, Arnav spoke, "Khushi will you join us at the table, this is important" surprising both Aman and Khushi in the process. She walked over holding on to the three hundred rupees in her hand.
A few minutes later, all three were seated on the dining table, "Sir, these are the pictures from Paradiso" Aman was treading cautiously; "Earlier in the evening" Aman chose his words carefully afraid at the reaction the revelation would bring. He was well versed with Arnav's anger, and this he knew was one touchy subject for his perpetually hot headed boss.
A small gasp escaped Khushi's lips even before she could comprehend, and she tried in vain to stifle it with her hand but the damage was done as both the men looked up from the screen and to her, "Relax Khushi..." Arnav spoke and placed his hand over hers reassuringly, Khushi tried to pry her hand away but his grip was relentless. Aman was too engrossed to notice this ongoing battle underneath the table, "So you were telling me the truth?" relief washed over her as the truth sank in, despite his claims, there was a lingering doubt at the back of her mind about how he may have manipulated things to have her there so this was a pleasant shock, for a change. She kept looking at him suddenly aware that this threat posed by the media - the circus was very much real and not just something he had conjured up for his convenience. Having experienced the brunt if it back in Lucknow, she knew what an ugly beast it was. And so was grateful for this reprieve.
He nodded in confirmation and spoke about gravely, "There is more Khushi...apparently" There was an ominous air to his voice, almost like he was preparing her for some bad news, "The press has always been at my back, there is nothing new to that. In the past, I had things under control but" he let out a tired sighed as he rubbed his forehead, "Recently, we had come to suspect that someone is behind all these incriminating articles"
Annoyed at the direction of her thoughts Khushi sought to keep a tab on her emotions the best way she could, "How does any of that concern me?" she asked defiantly much to his irritation. To his credit, he did not show it. By now, Arnav Singh Raizada knew, he had wronged this woman, his wife, and so in his mind, her grievances were valid. Hell, he would have loved nothing more than to see that feisty Khushi who fought him tooth and nail back. But still, her words hurt because it reminded him of how badly he had messed up everything. And Khushi was constantly fluctuating between two extremes, making it hard for him to preempt her. It wasn't easy being Arnav Singh Raizada.
"Sir..." Aman spoke bringing him out of his thoughts, "This was not Lavanya Maam"
"Lavanya?" Khushi butted in perplexed at the direction of this talk, "What's going on here?" she turned towards Arnav for an explanation, "We recently found out that Lavanaya may have been behind all the tabloid crap on my supposed affairs" The detachment with which he spoke surprised Khushi, "But why?" Lavanaya was her friend, she was a good girl, "Why would she smear her own name like this?" and this time, both the men looked up from the screen at her surprised with her naivety.
"What does she get from doing all of this?" Khushi
asked still not ready to believe a word against Lavanya, "People have
sinister motivations Khushi" Arnav's response was almost didactic in ways,
"Sometimes, money, fame..." and he noticed the way Khushi's eyes
stung at the mention of money, " or revenge" he
concluded. He hated himself more that very moment; of all the things he had
called her - gold-digger being the most prominent. What was he thinking
driving her away like that, why did he fear what they had?
"I refuse to believe it" Khushi said, "We parted in good terms, she would never do this...she was the one who told me..." and then she stopped because she couldn't say the rest out loud, not now, not ever, her inner voice reminded her. "ASR doesn't understand but Khushi you are smarter..."Lavanya's parting words rang in her ears, "It's true Ma'am, we have proof" Aman interjected, "But...its" Khushi was at a loss of words now, it was so unlike the girl she had known, Lavanya did not seem like the type to hold on to malice in her heart. It just did not add up.
"There is more..." Aman took out a brown envelop and placed it on the table nervously and pushed it towards Arnav, "Its' from..." he looked at Khushi, "From?" she asked suddenly feeling jittery about everything.
"Mama's kitchen" Arnav's voiced his displeasure as he handed the pictures to Khushi, his gaze still fixed on the color photo "It's you and..." only Arnav knew how he had controlled an inexplicable urge to break something at this point, it's the camera angle, he kept repeating in his head. Khushi wasn't...no. What were they doing so close? Sharing recipes? Damn! He really wanted to snap that Raul's head off at this point.
"Raul!" to say she was surprised would be an understatement; "Haii...these are from this morning!" she looked up embarrassed, "What's going on?" her initial embarrassment with the photograph was quickly replaced by this gnawing fear as she looked up at the grim faces staring back at her.
Aman was the first to break the uneasy silence, "The police
are interrogating the photographer right now"
"Photographer?" Khushi felt lost at this point, "Police?" What the heck was going on here?
"Ma'am" he looked at Arnav, who signaled him to carry on, "We were investigating the leads on Lavanya Ma'am when we stumbled upon this. Apparently, this guy was hired to keep tabs on your whereabouts..."
"Oh!" Khushi didn't bother suppressing her shock this time around. And even then, Aman was not done, "The police just confirmed that the guy was not a professional photographer but a petty criminal who was out on parole" Sensing her anxiety, Arnav ripped the tab off a bottle of chilled sparkling water and poured it in a glass and handed it to Khushi. And knowing that all this was too much for her to take in at once, he gestured Aman to stop and turned towards Khushi and took both her hands in his, "He gave us a lead Khushi and the police are trying to track it down" his hands were firmly clamped over her shaky ones, trying desperately to assuage her fears, tell her that she was not alone this time. This time, he made no attempts to hide it from Aman nor did she try and pry it away.
"Sir, I've beefed up security everywhere" the emphasis on everywhere was not lost on Arnav, there was no way he was letting Khushi walk around without security with a stalker on the prowl.
It wasn't till Aman was gone that Khushi spoke up again even as she watched Arnav lay out the food on the table, "Why is someone taking my pictures?"
He stilled, knowing very well, it was his fault. He had brought this upon her once again. If only he hadn't come to Mumbai and tracked her down, Khushi would have been happy and possibly away from harm's way. He carefully placed the plate before her and sat down next to her, "Let's eat first Khushi, we have the whole night to talk about this"
"No I want to know..." she was adamant, "Now" she demanded upon getting no desired response and pushed the plate away. She was done dancing to his tunes, "If you don't have the decency to tell me who is behind this. I refuse to stay here any longer, I am going home" He held her back before she could get up. Khushi waited for him to speak, noting the way, he closed his eyes before he looked back at her, "Do you suspect anyone Khushi?"
"No, it was just that Manager but you..." she was thinking hard at this point, there was no one else who had bothered her in these past three years, "They've ruled out the manager" Arnav spoke grimly and in that moment they knew, he didn't need to say it loud but both of them had the same man in their mind.
And with it, an ominous foreboding of fear gripped her,
effectively immobilizing her. Images of her struggle from that day flashed
before her eyes, as the maniac came onto her, and to think that he could have
been following her the past few days unsettled her greatly. If Anjali had not
walked in on them that night and saved her from his clutches, "No..."
Khushi did not want to think about that monster again, not now, not ever! She
sank back on the chair and spoke, her eyes focused on a speck of dust on the
table, "It can't be him..." she looked at him hopefully, "I
thought he was in..." trying desperately to make sense of all these
revelations. Arnav stared back stoically; he did not have the heart to tell her
that Shyam had been released from jail already. Heck, he didn't even know how
to broach the topic of Shyam, who was the source of everything that had soured
Ten minutes later, Khushi was still starring at the food on the plate, she wasn't scared per say but the idea of him being out there unnerved her slightly. It couldn't be anyone else, she wasn't important enough for random strangers to start stalking her. It felt like dj vu again, everything was coming back, at breakneck speed.
"Khushi, its getting cold" Arnav spoke hoping to snap
her out of her troubled daze, "Khushi..." he spoke again, her
excruciating silence and the faraway look in her eyes scarred him. When he did
not get any response from her, he leaned towards her and flicked her nose
gently and it did the trick as she looked at him a little startled,
"What?" and immediately jerked away finding him too close for
comfort. Why can't this man keep his hands to himself!
He looked at her plate and then back up to her teasingly, "I thought food was your best friend?" Hoping he could irk her enough to keep her distracted, Arnav set about doing just that, "What?" there was a frown on her face, "Its Italian food" he said, had he missed something?
She shrugged taking him by surprise.
"But you are a professional chef in an Italian restaurant?" he said, you don't cook that stuff day in and day out if you don't like it, he meant to say. Why else would you specialize in this cuisine? He wanted to know.
"So? Are you saying a butcher has to eat meat all the time?" he nearly choked on the pasta as the incredulity of her words hit him and then for the first time in many days he smiled because Khushi was beginning to sound a little crazy which was actually a good sign, so he decided to meddle with her mind further, "You know Khushi, my first instinct after finding out you were a professional chef would have been to scour all the sweet shops in Mumbai..." he deliberately left out the last part knowing very well Khushi would fill in the blanks.
"What do you mean?" Her head snapped up and for a moment he saw that familiar spark back, would she take the bait? He wondered and when she spoke next, he knew she had, "Are you implying that I am good enough to make jalebis only?"
He smirked, welcome back Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada.
Thank you to all my readers. I know I haven't been able to respond to the comments for the previous part as I usually do. But I will get around to it eventually. I've read each one of them, and just want to let you know, that I really appreciate you guys taking time out and responding.
Joined: 22 September 2012
Congrates on the new thread ...waiting for the update
Joined: 25 August 2008
Joined: 10 January 2007
Joined: 28 May 2012
Joined: 06 July 2005
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