Joined: 14 May 2006
'...Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock, Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring, Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun, Now the jingle hop has begun...'
Khushi Gupta twisted her mouth in annoyance, as yet another happy Christmas song played on the store's PA system...if it wasn't this, then its bloody Rudolph or its that stinking wonderful christmas time... "Arrrgghhh" she thought as she mumbled under her breath about people going crazy over shopping and gifting in this month and making her life hell...well, it wasn't such a merry time for her!
"Hey Khushi...if your done stacking those Santa piggy banks, can you go over and start interacting with the kids at Santa land? Mick should be down any minute! Oh and Merry Christmas!!!" her supervisor, Kendall trilled out for the 100th time that day making Khushi frown at her as she made her way to Santa's wish corner, set-up on the ground floor
Today the place was extra packed as it was Christmas eve, and all those parents who could not bring their children in earlier were now lined up, waiting for their beloved Santa to make an appearance...or Jolly old Mick, their obese administration head to be exact.
Now, in case it wasn't mentioned earlier, Khushi and the rest of the lovely staff at the Huge Up-Market store, Brekindales...one of the finest and best in New York city were dressed up as cute lil elf's in line with the Christmas theme, which probably only Khushi detested the most...why? Umm...let's see...
a. She was stuck doing this shitty job (in her opinion) for the last two years
b. She was stuck in this job because she had to pay for the expensive lessons at Juliard (Her parents wanted her to become a doctor like them and refused to pay for her music degree which they found to be a hobby and not a job)
c. She had just broken up with her boyfriend of few weeks...he was one of the cute accountants' (What an irony right?) at the store, who was so sweet at first but then turned out to be a cheating scumbag (she found him in the basement parking lot, making out with Julia, their new HR intern)
d. Her flat mate had asked her to move out from her sharing flat, since she was moving in with her douchebag of a boyfriend, which left Khushi, a few more weeks to find a decent place to move into...within her budget (Yep. Its NY!)
e. Her best and only friend in New York had just relocated to France! Bloody France!! Leaving her all alone in the big bad city<sniff> Khushi wasn't really social and most of her friends were back home in DC...Except for her fellow classmates at Juliard...who were more acquaintances then friends.
f. She had just spent more than an hour putting back the stupid Santa piggybank stack, which some moron kid had knocked down...twice! Yes, two times already!
g. She was stuck playing Santa's personal elf today alongside Mick who was just too jolly and little bit too drunk on Chritsmas spirit...oh the joy!
h. Its Christmas eve and she has no place to go, nothing to do...<sigh>
Yep...life sucked for Khushi Gupta! Big time!
"There he is!!!" the kids around her screeched, as she suddenly came out of her trance and was nearly thrown off balance as the kids rushed taking her along with them in their haste.
Khushi tried to get out of the crazy throng, but suddenly lost her footing and nearly fell down, only to be held in the warm and fuzzy arms of their resident Santa...only he was not Mick...definitely not Mick! "Who the hell are you?" she asked, as she straightened herself and looked into warm caramel eyes smiling down at her
"I'm St Nick! Ho ho ho!" he said as all the kids cheered and went back to stand in line for their turn to sit on Santa's lap "No you bloody well are not!...where is Mick?" she asked, whispering now, as the new Santa sat down on the huge throne while Khushi stood glaring down at him
"Khushi, maybe you should not stare at me so frighteningly...the kids may get startled...and as far as Mick is concerned...he is completely drunk and off his head right now...so admin sent me here in this costume" he said, stretching his neck to whisper into her ear...the thick beard around his mouth tickling her ears and nose
"Oh...ok fine...you do know what you have to do, right?" she asked him with a frown, as he smiled at her again and nodded "Sure I do...now lets get this party started!" he said as the first kid came bounding up on the makeshift stage and sat on his lap, making him laugh at the rush of excitement on the child face "So little one...have you been naughty or nice this year?"
Khushi felt an unbidden smile crop up on her lips, as she heard him listen carefully to the children and their crazy wishes before answering them in a fun and promising way...he would console the sad ones and become a child with the exited ones...he definitely knew how to charm all those kids who just would not want to get off his lap
When they were halfway through the long line of children, Khushi suddenly realized that he knew her name...wait, how did he know? He definitely wasn't anyone from the shop floor...there was no way she would forget those eyes...or that smile...and most definitely that husky deep voice...nope, she did not know this man, but for some reason, he did...
Which sort of unnerved her...how did he know her? Did Kendall tell him that she's his elfin helper today? No...he just took over from Mick, plus Kendall has nothing to do with Admin staff...so that seems unlikely...was he one of those stalkers or psycho's? She shuddered as she remembered this one guy in college who used to stalk her friend...
"A penny for your thoughts" Santa said as Khushi looked down into his eyes "Who are you?" she asked in a daze as the kid sitting on his lap slapped her forehead "Duh! Lady, Its Santa...you are his elf, you should know!" she said with an exasperated face, as the said Santa let out a huge rumbling laughter...making Khushi too join in with a few chuckles of her own...the question conveniently left unanswered for now.
As the last few kids remained, it was already past 9pm and the line nearly thinned out. Most of the shop had quieted down by now and much of the staff celebrating the festival had already left to continue the remaining celebrations at home.
Khushi sighed as the last child got down after giving Santa his 100th or 200th kiss and left gaily with her parents. She looked down to see him move his neck about and around and stretching a bit before getting up from the chair
"So...you want to know who I am?" he asked her as she nodded curiously, while he got down from the stage "I'm just someone who works here too" he simply said as she frowned at him "I haven't seen you around here and you seem to know my name" she said suspiciously as he chuckled looking at her cute expression
"That's cause I don't work on the floor...I'm in Admin like Mick, and as for your name, its my job to know who works here...so I know your name...not many Indian's working here you know" he said as she seemed to be satisfied with his answer for the time being.
"I had no idea this could get so tiring" he said as Khushi shrugged "You did a great job...much better than Mick actually...I mean I've seen him being Santa last year and this year, but you were way better...if you want, I can put in a good word for you" she said as he smiled at her and adjusted the big black belt on his bloated tummy
"Thanks Khushi, that's very kind of you...and in case I haven't told you before, my name is Arnav" he said as they shook hands "Nice to meet you Arnav, are you Indian too? I can't really see your face amongst all this fuzz" she said as he laughed again and nodded "Yes, I'm Indian...but born and brought up here...just like you I presume?" he asked her as she nodded
"Yep...that's right" she said as they started walking along the brightly lit store towards the back rooms where the staff and recreation area was located "You were a great elf...but somehow I don't see a lot of holiday spirit in you" he said as she rolled her eyes at him
"Am I that obvious? Well...my parents stay in DC and usually I go back for the holidays, but this year they are out on a cruise...plus my best friend just moved to France and sadly I don't have much of a social life here...and the extra sweetness of the season kind of makes me gag...like what's so special about it anyways?" she said as Arnav observed her
"You know what? Can we hang out tonight? I mean, I too don't have anything to do tonight...my family is back in India for the holidays and I don't have any plans...so let me show you what's so special about this season and especially tonight" he asked her with a warm smile which she returned fully "I'm tempted to say yes, but what if you turn out to be a crazy stalker...or an axe murderer? And I haven't even seen your face yet!" she said as he laughed at her comical expression
"Well...I'm definitely not any of those things you just called me...but as for my face...let me change and then you can decide...how's that?" he asked her as she giggled and nodded "I'll meet you outside by the revolving doors" She said as she turned around and went to change into her normal clothes...God knows how much she wanted to burn that stinking elf outfit!
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Joined: 14 May 2006
Khushi (see below for attire) stood outside, rubbing her hands together near the huge revolving door of the store, which was shutting down for the festive night. The carols and seasonal songs that were playing around her, did not seem all that irritating to her now...well, almost!
Wait...what was she doing? Trusting a total stranger to spend Christmas eve with! Was she that fed up and desperate for some time out?! Ok...hold your horses Khushi...you may not even go with the guy...what if he looks like her scary neighbor, Mr Ramsey?...with a huge scar across his cheek and warts all over?
Nah...she knew that somewhere in her mind, it really did not matter...she had felt an odd connection with those warm caramel eyes and smiling lips...and somehow the prospect of spending some time with him, made her go all tingly and excited; Speaking of which...where the hell was he?
She twirled around to look for him while tightening her jacket and scarf around her to keep in the warmth...it had suddenly gotten very chilly and it really wasn't all that pleasant waiting in the cold...did he decide to ditch her or something afterall? Maybe he only asked her out of sympathy, but was now re-considering...
"A penny for your thought...again" she heard his now familiar husky voice, as she turned around and tripped on her shoes, only to be held again in those arms...the warm, fuzzy and tingly feeling was back, as her eyes travelled from his flat stomach (Thank God the belly wasn't real) to his strong chest and shoulders, his throat that was all corded muscles to finally his face...his oh so handsome face...which looked kind of familiar, but still it was a face she could stare all night and day, and still not get enough of...<sigh> (see below for attire)
"You ok?" he asked her as she suddenly straightened up and left his arms, that she was seconds ago clutching with a death grip...she swore she could see a look of disappointment on his face as she stepped away and composed herself before looking back up into those warm eyes and smiling face "So...you're Arnav..." she drawled, ordering her eyes to stop staring at him"You know, you look kinda familiar...like I've seen you somewhere" she said as an afterthought, as he stood awkwardly while she gave him a once over
"I should look familiar to you Khushi...like I said, I work here...so you must have seen me around...and I hope I don't look like an Axe murderer or a stalker or one of those things you spoke of earlier" he said with a cute smile as Khushi shook her head "Well...looks can be deceptive...but I'll take my chances with you" she said as he left a huge sigh of relief
"Umm...so, where are you taking me? You wanted to show me why this season was so magical right...so lets go!" she said as he chuckled and asked her to follow him "You don't mind walking do you?" he asked her as she shook her head and followed him...
They both walked a few minutes in silence along the brightly lit streets, when Arnav finally turned towards her and asked a question that was bothering him since a while "So...why don't you like Christmas? I mean...everyone loves it...even people who don't celebrate it, love it...so why don't you?...if its not too personal, that is" he said as Khushi looked thoughtful for a few seconds, before sighing deeply and looking up at him
"No, I don't mind...and its not that I hate this season or festival...its just that traditionally my family never celebrated Christmas and as a child I used to love Christmas time with my friends, which was nice and all but I wanted to celebrate it with my family too" she said as Arnav listened intently
"...So my parents got me a tree one year, which I decorated and also asked our cook to make a lovely Christmas dinner, that I helped prepare..." she said as a sudden sadness seeped into her eyes"Only my parents never made it for the Christmas eve dinner as they had a party to attend...and I was left all alone at my huge home...staring at the twinkling lights and eating cold dinner" she said as Arnav raised his eyebrows
"Yeah...don't be shocked...that's how they have always been...busy busy busy...I did not even get any presents as they had promised...and I waited for bloody Santa all night, but nothing and no one came my way..." she whined as Arnav tried to imagine a young Khushi and the sad Christmas she must have spent that year
"My school mates told me that I must have been a naughty child and that's why when I decided to celebrate Christmas with a tree and all the trimmings, Santa did not even come to meet me. That affected me somehow...and ever since then, I haven't celebrated Christmas...I mean, I know there is no Santa and all that...but, I guess I just did not want anymore disappointments in my life..."she said as Arnav nodded in understanding
"God! I have never spoken about this to anyone...and I'm sorry if I bored you with my sob story" she said as Arnav smiled at her...one of those gooey warm smiles "No...its ok...its good that you took it off your chest...but now, I really want you to see that there is more to this season than just Christmas tree and Santa Claus!...so here we are...our first stop" he said as Khushi looked at him wide eyed
"Skating rink? Are you mad? I have never skated on ice before!"she said as Arnav held her hand gently and led her to the skating shoes counter "Don't worry, its just like normal skating...and most of the people have left by now, so we have a lot of space to skate on...plus it really isn't all that difficult...come, let me show you"he said as he rented two pairs of skating shoes
He made her sit down and wear the skates, while Khushi nervously looked at the huge ice rink with couples and kids alike enjoying...she then looked sideways at Arnav who after tying up his laces was re-checking hers..
"Ok...all done...now hold my hands and let me lead you into your first ice-skating experience" he said as Khushi smiled nervously at him...she skidded the first few times as he took her slowly to the side of the rink inside and made her hold onto the edge as he explained a few things to her
"So, I'm going to hold your hand and help you skate till you get a hang of it...ok" he said to her as she nodded and went along with him...she held on his hands in a death grip as he made her do some simple leg movements
"Ok, now I'm going to teach you to balance...uh...do you mind if I hold you by your waist? It will be easier" he asked as a slight blush marred his cold cheek making Khushi smile "Sure...I don't mind" she said, now suddenly enjoying the skating lesson immensely
He came on her side and let his one hand glide across her back and hold her tiny waist as he tucked her warmly by his side "Ok...now concentrate and just follow me" he said as Khushi nodded...already feeling breathless at his proximity and effect that he was having on her (Concentrate? Yeah right!)
They skated together for quite a long time before Khushi felt confident enough to skate on her own...after a while Arnav left her side, making her feel cold again, but she skated along side him, laughing and enjoying her first skating experience as Arnav looked on fondly...
"That was exhilarating! I never knew that ice skating could be this much fun!!" Khushi exclaimed as they handed over their skates and went back to putting on their normal shoes "I'm glad you liked it" he said as Khushi smiled widely "Liked it? I loved it! And the atmosphere really was magical...what with the songs, Christmas lights and lovely cool weather and you" she said as she realised what she had just said
Arnav chuckled as Khushi turned a bright tomato red while she finished putting on her boots "So, you agree that things can get magical today huh?" he said as she turned her face away and got up "I don't know about magical...but I surely am hungry!" she said trying to change the topic, as Arnav got up and followed her out...a grin etched on his handsome face
"I know the perfect place to eat" he said as Khushi shivered in the cold that had increased a bit since they went in for skating...she saw Arnav stepping closer to her, as his arm came around her back and pulled her a bit into his warmth "Better?" he asked her huskily as she nodded shyly and snuggled more into him as they walked on
"Oh my God!" Khushi moaned as she bit into her cheesy grilled cheese sandwich while they stood in front of the happy yellow food truck called Gorilla Cheese NY'. "Its simply awesome" Khushi said as Arnav wiped the cheese stuck on her chin with a tissue while she blushed prettily "Sorry...I'm a bit of a klutz" she said as he shook his head and finished off his sandwich
"I never knew this truck existed...but anyways, I hardly get time to explore the city...too busy with school and work" she said as Arnav raised his eyebrows "Oh sorry...I never told you...I'm studying for my advanced music course at Julliard...in my last year now...will probably have to leave work in a few months to concentrate on my solo project" she said as Arnav seemed impressed
"Julliard huh? Wow! Now, that's some feat...I know many who can only dream of studying there..." he said as Khushi flashed him a quick smile "Its luck I guess...but apparently I'm pretty good" she said with a giggle as he joined in "I play the Violin...I mean amongst other instruments, but Violin is my one true love" she said as Arnav nodded and took the remains of her completely devoured sandwich to throw in the bin
"I want to hear you sometime...will you play for me?" he asked her as she smiled and automatically nodded "I'd love to" she said surprising herself once again at the instant replies her mouth seemed to be forming without getting her head involved
"I'm still hungry...can we have something sweet?" she asked him with a cheeky grin, at which he sighed "I thought you'll never ask...I cant not have something sweet after my meal" he said as she pinched him and said "Ditto!"
"But I have to take you to one more place in the next few minutes...would you mind if we take it along?" he asked her as she nodded "Depends on what we are having" she said as arnav gave her his killer smile and whisked her away to the huge ice cream truck at the other end of the street
"Church?" Khushi asked him as she finished lapping up the remaining ice cream before noisily crunching on the crisp cone...eating ice cream in the cold was just another one of the magical things she had discovered "Yep...since its Christmas eve...I felt it's the perfect place to end our little hanging out session" he said as Khushi felt her spirits dampen...the night was surely coming to an end
She smiled at him as he led her inside the huge St Patrick's Cathedral...she could hear angelic voices singling the carols and the wonderful music from the deep resonating organ, mingling perfectly with the charged atmosphere inside the church
This was the first time she had ever stepped inside a church and it truly was a magical experience, with gaily dressed people and little alter boys swaying and singing together with the choir...Arnav led Khushi towards the last pew as they seated themselves amongst the festive crowd.
She felt tears prick her eyes at the soothing notes of Silent night' as goose bumps erupted on her skin...she was grateful for the warmth that Arnav's arms provided her as they sat with fingers entwined while listening to the choir...being a music student, she was ashamed that she had never heard a live choir before
She sighed contentedly and snuggled deeper into arnav's side, when she felt a sudden shift in the air, she looked sideways to watch Arnav as he looked at her with so much care and something akin to a feeling she did not want to name, it scared her...it mesmerized her, making her lean more into him and towards him, when the realization that they were in a Church suddenly hit her
She pulled back as she saw people getting up to receive their blessings before the priest took over the congregation...everything that she just felt seemed so surreal to her and made her suddenly shy at the way her thoughts were heading towards
What was it about him that made her trust him so much? He was still a Stanger to her, in fact in the entire time she was with him, he had hardly told her anything about himself. He just listened to her, asked her about her life...but she had not felt the need to know more about him
But now she did...she really did want to know more about him...where is he from? How come he has nothing to do on Christmas eve? Why does he make her feel so special? And his arms...why does she feel so at home in them?
"Ready to go?" he asked her as she came out of her thoughts and nodded...they walked alongside all the people who kept shouting Christmas greetings to them. Khushi smiled as she saw families with kids enjoying the night in lanes lit up in christmas cheer...the smells and sounds really did look magical now that she thought of it
They walked into the Metro station as Arnav turned her towards him "I'd like to see you home Khushi...just to make sure that you'll get there safe and sound" he said as Khushi smiled and nodded...they walked towards the Metro line that went to Khushi's stop and waited till the metro approached
Both were silent throughout the 15 minutes of metro ride, relishing and reminiscing about the few hours they had spent together...but both disappointed to say their good byes
When they finally reached her stop, Khushi held onto his hand on her own and got out, pulling him along with her "My house is just a five minute walk" she said as he nodded and walked along side her as they finally reached the small apartment block that Khushi lived in
Arnav walked her to the entrance and held on to her hand much tighter as she turned to put in her key "I had the best night ever Khushi...hope you did too...if not best, then average at least" he asked hopefully, as Khshi looked at him with a lovely blush and downcast eyes
"I did Arnav...it was truly the best and most magical night ever...wish we had more time...and I'm glad I trusted my instinct with you" she said as Arnav pulled her closer to himself, making her breath hitch at their proximity
"Well then I need to thank your instinct...but would you trust mine?" he asked her as she looked on confused, while he pointed to the mistletoe that was strung on top of the doorway where they stood...where had that come from? She wondered as the full impact of what he was asking hit her...making her blush harder
"Would you Khushi?" he asked her huskily as he stepped more into her space and pulled her gently towards him...his one hand going to her soft cheek, while the other held her gently by her neck "Yes...I would" she replied, her mouth responding for her mind yet again...a mouth that was now intimately pressed against his as he kissed her, his lips moving tantalizingly slow over hers, tasting her sweetness and coaxing her to give in and take, and give in she did...
Khushi found her hands sliding along his sweater covered chest to hold him tightly by his neck as she pulled him more into her, deepening their kiss...she felt her toes curl as his tongue hesitantly touched the seams of her lips which she opened up, inviting him in...but as soon as the kiss got more intimate, they pulled apart as someone walked towards the door, giving them weird looks
"Hey Mrs Gomes" Khushi said, slightly breathless as the old lady looked on suspiciously and walked in, leaving both Arnav and Khushi alone...both wondering how a simple kiss had become something so explosive
"Arnav...I...I would have invited you in...but" Khushi said as Arnav smiled and pulled her back in his arms as she gasped at the sudden heat in his eyes "If I come in, I would not be able to leave" he said as he tucked in a wayward strand behind her ear and slowly stroked her cheek "I hope you don't regret kissing me" he asked her with a slight quiver in his voice
"No..I don't..." she said as he smiled and kissed her lightly on her forehead"I'm not in town tomorrow Khushi...but I want to meet you at the store day after...I know its going to be crazy with shoppers attacking from every corner, but I have to meet you" he said, as she nodded happily "I'm sure I can squeeze in some time" she said as he chuckled and stepped back
"Merry Christmas Khushi...and I hope you will start loving this season a little bit more from now on" he said as he walked backwards while Khushi leaned into the door frame "Merry Christmas Arnav, and I'm already falling for this season..." she said as he blew her a kiss and walked away...looking back till she disappeared from view...Khushi sighed as she walked in a happy daze into her flat before slapping her forehead "Shit! I forgot to take his number!"
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Joined: 14 May 2006
"It's the most wonderful time of the year..." Khushi sang, as she entered the store at dot 4pm to start her evening shift. Today she did not have classes in the morning due to the holidays and after spending a lazy Christmas day watching her favorite movies and stuffing her face with delicious Christmas goodies she had picked up from the market, she had woken up very late and then proceeded to once again dream of Arnav and their magical evening together
Only the fact, that she would be meeting him today at the store had made her get up and get ready for work. She had spent extra time today on her hair, styling it differently and then spent more time doing up her eyes, making them look large and luminous.
"Oooh...look at your, singing festive songs, looking all pretty, what's the occasion...and where's your guitar today?" Kendall asked her as Khushi rolled her eyes, but smiled at her supervisor "Just feeling good...and no lessons today morning, so had a lazy day...oh and it's a Violin not a guitar..." Khushi said as Kendall laughed, seeing her usually grumpy assistance, in a joyful mood
"Well, whatever it is...hope to see more of you in this mood than the usual charming one you are in" Kendall said as she patted Khushi's shoulder and walked away with her clipboard, leaving Khushi smiling behind her...maybe if she wasn't such a grump, she would have made more friends.
Keeping all other thoughts at bay, Khushi got busy getting into the store's usual outfit for staff, beige trousers and blue polo t-shirt. She checked her make-up and hair one more time before wearing her usual nameplate and making her way out to start her day's usual work
"Khushi...you want some coffee?" one of the staff members asked her, as she shook her head and headed to her boss's cabin...she wanted to speak to Kendall and ask her about Arnav, and if she could have fifteen odd minutes to run a personal errand...aka, go and meet Arnav
After looking all over the place, she finally spotted her boss smoking outside in the small smoking area overlooking the back parking "Hey Kendall...can I speak to you for a minute?" Khushi asked from the doorway as Kendall stubbed her ciggy and walked in "Yeah honey, you need something?" she asked, as Khushi hesitated
"Umm...I was wondering...do you know an Arnav in the Admin dept?" she asked as Kendall tried to think where she had heard this name "Umm...I'm not sure, but I feel like I've heard it somewhere...mind you, its not a very common name around here" she said as Khushi nodded "Yes, its Indian...and he works in admin and was our Santa yesterday" she said as Kendall gave her a strange look
"Are you sure sugar? Cause as far as I know, it was Mick who always plays Santa...I saw him getting ready in the outfit before I left" she said as Khushi shook her head and smiled "Well, he had quite a few yesterday, so Arnav took over...listen, can I get like 10-15 minutes for some personal work?" Khushi asked as Kendall nodded
"Sure, no problem...but not more than 15 ok...and if this Arrnav is the reason why you were singing earlier, I say go and find him...on second thought, you can take a few more minutes if 15 is too less" she giggled as Khushi blushed and gave a quick hug to Kendall before making her way to the Admin department
As Khushi entered the air-conditioned area of the Administration department on the upper floors of the 7-storied store, she took a deep breath and quickly checked herself in the big floor-length mirror in the foyer area before walking in. She could see few people sitting on one side of the office; a conference room filled with few more people and an elderly man sitting on his own on the left...she walked up to him and cleared her throat
"Hi...I'm from the floor staff...can you let me know where Arnav sits?" she asked him with a nervous smile at which the man frowned "Who?" he asked as she took another deep breath to calm her nerves "Arnav...he works in Admin" she said as the man looked her over once, before twisting his face "I've been working in Admin for the past 10 years and there ain't no Arrnav here missy" he said as Khusi felt a chill run up her spine
She saw the old man turning away from her and shaking his head as Khushi felt her throat dry up...was she duped by a total stranger? He didn't even work here? She shook her head, knowing that her heart had trusted him and his words...what if this old man was lying or senile?
She turned away and walked towards some of the other people who were working furiously through paper work...she asked them the same question and they too did not seem to know any Arnav, but she still did not completely believe them...she thought it was best to check with HR, when a booming voice stopped her
"Hey...Khushi? What are you doing here?" Mick asked her getting out of the conference room along with few more people, greeting Khushi with his usual toothy grin as she looked at him in relief.
"Mick...Thank God, I actually wanted to speak to you about day before" she said as the people in the room turned to look at them in surprise "What about?" Mick asked her, a bit perplexed as he led her to his cabin "What's going on Khushi?" he asked her as she bit her lower lip "I'm not sure actually...you know, on Christmas eve, when you were supposed to come down as Santa...for the Santa's wish thing...you didn't make it" she said as Mick turned a bit red and coughed
"Uh..yes, I was not feeling well...but someone else took over right?" he asked as Khushi let out a sigh of relief "Thank God! I was thinking that I imagined it all...so Arnav took over from you right? Where does he work?" she asked him as he looked at her quizzically
"Arrnav? Umm...I'm actually not sure who took over...last thing I know was someone asking me to sit down and giving me some water to drink...and then I was led into a taxi to take me home...that's all...don't know who it was though" he said as Khushi gaped at him "What? How can someone just take over? You are head of Admin...how can you so calmly sit there and not panic over which Stanger took your costume and pretended to be Santa" she said loudly as Mick cringed
"Hey! Calm down...I wasn't that drunk you know...I mean, I was ill...you know, drunk on meds...anyways, the point is, the person who took over works here...I'm positive...he had an employee card and said he had come to speak to me...but I'm not sure which department" he said as Khushi felt like sitting on the floor and crying
What was going on! Where was Arnav? Her heart could not be so wrong about him...he had honest, caramel eyes...his smile was genuine...his warmth was genuine...that kiss they shared...it still made her toes curl.
"Khushi? Can I get you something? Listen if you want, we can check the security tapes to see who it was...but it will take some time, did he do something to you? Did he you know..." he said as Khushi shook her head "Nope, he didn't do anything to me...its ok Mick, thanks for the help...I have to get going, its way over my break time now" she said dejectedly as she made her way down to her floor
"Good night Khushi!" her colleagues shouted as they made their way out of the changing rooms...Khushi gave them a slight smile and went back to putting on her boots...she picked up her bag and closed her locker before stepping out into the main store, to walk out
"Khushi...wait!" Kendall said as she ran to her "Yes Kendall" Khushi said in her usual grumpy voice as Kendall came to a stop in front of her, breathing hard "What have you done Khushi? You are wanted in the GM's office...like now!" Kendall said as Khushi's face paled
Had the admin people complained about her? "I have no idea why they have called you? Plus Mr Rupert never directly calls anyone like this..." she said as Khushi shook her head "I'm not sure either...I'll go" Khushi said as she got into the elevator and pressed the button for the top floor...damn you Arnav! Now I'm in trouble with crazy old Rupert...she shuddered as she recalled the only time she had met their grumpy Geneal Manager at their annual store party.
Khushi pressed the bell at the entrance of the executive floor office and waited till the door opened with a pop. Her employee card did not work here. She walked inside to come across a beautifully designed wood panelled office where a pretty secretary sat typing something on the keyboard
"Hi, I'm Khushi Gupta...Mr Rupert has called me in?" she asked politely as the girl looked up and smiled at her "Off course, Ms Gupta...please go right in" she said as Khushi smiled slightly and walked into the cabin the girl had pointed at
"Hello Sir...may I come in?" she asked tentatively as the chair swiveled around, making her face the man she had been dreaming about for the past two days "You!" she said as Arnav got up and buttoned up his immaculate three piece suit before making his way to her
"Khushi...finally...I missed you" he said as he came around to hug her when she pushed him away, surprising him "Missed me? What...who are you? What are you doing in Mr Rupert's chair? Oh my God..if he knew, he would kill you...and then fire me!...you have no idea how strict he is...and why are you wearing this suit...Arnav..." she said as he chuckled and laid a finger against her lips, which shut her up instantly
"Come.." he said as he led her to the comfortable sofa in the corner of the huge cabin and made her sit before he sat next to her...he held her hands and took a deep breath as Khushi once again took a fill of his handsome face...her Arnav had turned out to be some kind of a lunatic who liked dressing up as other people and pretending to be them...Why did she have to fall for such nutcases!
"Khushi...I know, you have too many questions, but let me start by properly introducing myself first" he said as Khushi looked on suspiciously "My Full name is Arnav Singh Raizada or ASR as everyone knows me here...and my mother's side, the Mallick family, owns this store...along with a few more scattered all across the US" he said as Khushi's mind stopped processing information
"I was handling our chain of stores in LA, till a few weeks ago, but shifted my base to New York as most of my family is settled in Boston and I wanted to be close to them...my cousin Aakash is looking after those stores now.." he said as Khushi still looked befuddled
"The first day I joined in...about three weeks ago, I saw you walking in with a violin case and was intrigued about my employee who seemed to be musically inclined...we also shared the elevator that day, but you seemed to be preoccupied with something..." he said as Khushi tried to remember the day when she had shared the lift with him
"Then my curiosity increased more and more as I came down sometimes in casual clothes to observe the floor staff...everyone seemed to be happy and in groups...except you...you always kept to your own, never mingling with anyone but just minding your own business...you intrigued me..." he said as Khushi continued to listen to him
"One day I asked my secretary to inquire about you, and she told me that you take morning classes at Julliard...I was very surprised and curious to know more about you...I'm not a stalker I swear, but something about you always pulled me...it was just something I could not explain" he said as he tightened his hold on khushi's hand
"I went to your school one of the days in the morning and saw your practicing...you were amazing and you enchanted me...I think I started to fall for you...don't know why...or how...I just did...and that was when I decided to come and speak to you...but I saw you one of the days with a guy who I recognized from our accounts department...you both were hugging and looked like you were together...so I didn't come forward" he said as Khushi took a deep breath, trying to process all the information she was being fed
"Then last week, I saw your boy friend kissing another girl...I was so angry and wanted to punch him, but you did it before I could think of it...it gave me a kind of relief and also pity for the guy who lost you...so I decided to dress like Santa and spend time with you, when I knew you were the elf assigned to Mick" he said with a cheeky grin as Khushi looked at him with her mouth open
"Don't look so shocked Khushi...I know this is too much to take in, but its all true...and spending Christmas eve with you, just made me more determined to pursue you more. You have no idea the kind of restraint it took me to stay away yesterday, but I wanted to come clean with you in the store today...and here we are...so the question is how you feel about me...and if...you know..." he said as Khushi shifted away from him and looked genuinely confused.
"I'm not sure what to say Arnav...its too much to process...I mean, on one side you lied to me, kind of stalked me...not in a bad way I know, but you still did...and on top of everything you are this...big shot businessman and not a simple man who I thought you to be...plus your amongst the store owners, where I work!...I'm not sure how this will work" she said as Arnav shifted back closer
"Khushi please...I am sorry to keep this from you, but it was the only way to know if you will like me for me...I have known girls to like me for my bank balance more than me, and it has made me very cautious...and though I somehow knew that you weren't like them, I wanted to meet you as just Arnav'...and I am just Arnav with you, please tell me that you will at least think about us before saying a no to me" he said with saddened eyes that pricked Khushi's heart
She looked into his honest eyes, the warmth in which, still made her feel something very potent in her heart...yes, he had a odd way of coming into her life, but he had his heart in the right place...plus he said that her music enchanted him and she too was restless without him yesterday... "Khushi?...what are you thinking?" his voice brought her out of her thoughts as she suddenly stood up
"I need time...its all too sudden...you need to give me some time to think about this...us..." she said as Arnav sighed and hung his head "Off course Khushi...take all the time you need...but please don't make me wait for too long..." he said as she nodded "New Year's eve...I'll let you know, promise...but till then, we will not meet...I need to figure things out" she said as he seemed taken aback at her request of not meeting each other but nodded his head as she gave him a small smile and turned to leave
She glanced back one more time to see him watch her with such passion and intensity, that it burned her with a longing to go in his arms, but she resisted and walked out. On her way out, she saw a huge photograph of Aryaman Mallick' the owner & Chairman of the store and Arnav's maternal uncle...that was why he looked so familiar...the eyes, they were the same! She shook her head and made her way out...she had a lot of thinking to do
New Year's eve - Arnav's Apartment
"Yes, I'm fine Akash, sorry had my phone switched off since the battery ran out...I'm staying in today, didn't feel like partying" he said as he glanced at the clock that showed 15 minutes to Midnight "You guys have fun and I'll see you all in Boston next week" he said as he wished his cousin a Happy new Year in advance and threw the phone on the plush couch in his living room
He plonked down on the couch and waited for the last few minutes of 2014 to go by, as he watched the minute hand on the huge clock tick slowly. It had been 5 days and he had not met Khushi, though he had seen her a lot...but she had turned away every time, making him confirm in his head that she wanted nothing to do with him
If only he had approached her directly instead of roundabout way he had, maybe things would have been different...but when she didn't acknowledge him even today, when she had said she will let him know by 31st, he knew what her answer was...she did not want what he did...but how will he survive now? Being in the same store and not be with her, touch her...kiss her...
The constant ringing of his bell got him out of his thoughts as he glanced at the clock now showing ten minutes to midnight...he got up wondering who had come up to his apartment without the security informing him...he ran a hand through his disheveled hair and switched on the camera, viewer but was left stunned to see the person standing outside
He yanked the door open to find a flushed Khushi, standing in his doorway with a bottle of champagne in her hand and her violin case in the other "What is wrong with your phone?" she asked him as he stood away in a daze while she walked into his apartment...was this an illusion or was she really here...at his place
"Arnav, its me...and yes, I am here...now will you please close your mouth and the door? Its freezing outside" she said as he shut the door and proceeded to take her coat as she kept the case and champagne on the table in the foyer
"Nice place you have, but terrible security...no one was there manning the door, so I got here directly...good thing though! Got to see your shocked face!" she said as he continued to stare at her which made her giggle "Arnav...I'm sorry to barge in like this, but I was trying your phone since a while and when I couldn't get through, I thought it was best to hope against hope that you will be at home on today of all days and I can finally meet you...It took me a while to find your address though, so got late getting here" she said as Arnav took a deep breath, finally believing that she is here...in his apartment
"Khushi..." he said with such a longing that she felt herself blush to her roots, while they stood merely few inches apart "I thought you did not want anything to do with me" he said as she looked on amused at him before stepping closer to him "How could you think that Arnav? It was very difficult for me too, to stay away from you when all I wanted was to tell you that I too am falling for you...in fact, fell hard for you on Christmas eve when you showed me how wonderful life can be...with you by my side...but I needed some time to figure out things...all of it was so sudden" she said shyly as he took another step towards her and held her hands
"So you are saying that..." he asked her tentatively as she gave him a dazzling smile and came forward to wind her arms around his neck "I am saying that I want to walk further with you...I want to take that leap with you and run with you as life paints beautiful colors around us...be it the white of Christmas, green of spring or ambers of autumn...I want to be with you Arnav...just you" she said as Arnav pulled her by her waist and kissed her...his lips pressing against hers as she smiled and opened her mouth for him;
They hardly heard the loud chime of the new year rolling in as the young lovers, sought comfort and solace in each others arms, their parched lips taking in a fill as they finally found what they were looking for
"So...where do we go from here?" Arnav asked Khushi as he held her securely in his arms after a few more kisses to seal the deal, as she giggled and tightened her grip on him, while leaning her head on his chest...the erratic beating of his heart in symphony with hers
"How about, we drink our champagne and I play something for you?" she asked as he picked her up in his arms and took her to sit on the couch "I can't think of a more perfect start to the new year" he said as he once again took her smiling lips in his.
A/N on Pg 11
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