Joined: 01 December 2013
Arnav stared out over the gardens. It was still early in the morning, and the air was cool and slightly misty. He twirled the pen in his hands, fiddling with the cap.
It had been a few weeks since Anjali's wedding, and Arnav had only become more certain of his feelings.
He wanted Khushi in his life, forever.
He couldn't stop the smile that broke out over his face at the thought of her. Her laughter rang in his ears, the image of her with a shy blush etched in his mind. Just the thought of her was enough to counter the chill in the air, warming him from the inside.
He felt elated, his heart light as the warmth bubbled up, coursing through his veins. He had never understood it when his friends would turn down the offer for drinks, instead opting to go home to their wives.
He hadn't understood when he had seen his sister glowing when Aman had arrived with the shagun, wondering why people made such a big deal out of a ceremony.
He had laughed at Aman's awestruck expression, not understanding why he had lost all power of speech.
He would put off working so he could spend time with her, in the garden. He hated pani puri, but he would eat them solely so he could see the smile on her face. He could sit next to her for hours on the roof, simply enjoying her presence beside him.
It all made sense.
He took a deep breath. He had the urge to pull her out of bed and tell her all of it. He wanted to tell everyone about her, about how happy he was when he was with her.
He murmured her name, a grin pulling at the edge of his lips.
"You're up early today, Arnav."
He turned to see his father limping slowly out towards him, and immediately ran to give him a hand. His father resisted, pushing him away, but Arnav didn't budge, determinedly helping him until he had grasped the railing.
They stood side by side, their resemblance striking. From the back, they could have been the same person, the same straight back, their hair gelled back in the same way. There was only the distinguishing mark of the streaks of grey, the slightly frailer figure of Ashok.
"It's odd, without Anju, isn't it?"
Ashok studied Arnav carefully. His son seemed different, a sense of contentment that he hadn't seen in years on Arnav's face. The restlessness was gone, leaving a peacefulness on his face.
They stood in silence for a while, with only the occasional sips of Ashok's chai breaking the quiet.
"You know, your mother wants you to get married as well."
"She's made that clear."
Ashok chuckled at the wry statement, noting the small smile on Arnav's face.
"Are you planning on getting married?"
There was a long pause as Arnav visibly stiffened, his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed. He looked away from his father's disconcerting gaze.
"If there was someone, I would, yes."
"Is there someone, Arnav?"
Arnav took a deep breath. He had never been this nervous, his father's knowing, penetrating gaze unnerving him.
He wanted to tell his father, desperately.
But something held him back. His palms began to sweat, his pulse hammering against the inside of his wrist.
He was never nervous.
If he told him, this would cement their relationship, and Arnav knew there was no backing out if he told him.
Was he ready to do this?
He closed his eyes, and immediately, he pictured Khushi, a shy smile and sparkling hazel eyes coming into view. The thought made his heart thud against his ribcage, and before he could stop it, the words were out of his mouth.
"Yes. There is someone."
There was a poignant silence as Ashok waited for Arnav to continue, his son struggling to collect himself after the words that had spilled out of his mouth.
"I would like to marry her. B-"
Arnav broke off uncertainly, trying to figure out how to express himself. Ashok waited patiently as Arnav stumbled, quietly observing him.
"But I... we're... different. I worry that I'll hurt her. She deserves better."
"Why do you worry that you will hurt her?"
Arnav avoided his father's gaze. For a minute, Ashok could see the little boy he had been, vulnerable and a little scared. He could see that Arnav was torn, his heart longing for one thing but his mind telling him another.
"We believe differently. She's... probably better off with someone who would be similar to her."
"Would you let her go?"
Arnav trembled. The answer was immediate and fierce, and Ashok noticed that Arnav himself was shocked by the determination in his answer.
"I... I'm selfish, Papa. We could hurt each other, but... I... can't give her up. She means too much."
Ashok nodded, placing a warm, reassuring hand on Arnav's shoulder. Arnav turned to his father, his eyes desperately pleading for a straight answer.
Ashok wished he could tell his son what to do, just as he had when he was younger. He wished he could tell his son what was the right decision, and have Arnav follow him without questions.
But he knew Arnav had to figure this out on his own.
"Arnav, no matter what decision you make, make sure you respect her."
"I will, Papa."
"And what about your job offer?"
Arnav froze, swallowing nervously.
He had been avoiding thinking about it. It would require him to move back to England, and this time...
It didn't only depend on himself.
Arnav turned to his father in surprise, not knowing that he had heard about that. Ashok smiled wryly, shaking his head at the fact that his son still hadn't realized that his parents knew more than he assumed.
"Yes, I know about it, Arnav. It's a promotion, isn't it?"
Arnav took a deep breath, nodding.
"Yes. One step closer to being where I'd like to be."
Ashok squeezed his shoulder, pride shining in his eyes.
"I'm very proud of you, Arnav. You've done well."
Arnav's heart warmed. His father was rarely so expressive, believing that being grounded was essential. Praise from his father meant a lot, and Arnav felt the pure satisfaction at having made him proud.
"Would she want to move?"
Arnav stilled, his father's pointed question making him go cold. His father was forcing him to confront the one thing that was pressing at the back of his mind, and he didn't want to do that.
He pushed the thought out of his mind, not wanting to concentrate on what could go wrong.
Ashok watched his son carefully, worried by the way Arnav was brushing it off. Arnav had a tendency to make decisions for others, thinking it was in their best interest.
But he knew she wouldn't see it that way.
He braced himself mentally, preparing for the worst. He hoped Arnav would take her into consideration, but that was all he could do.
He turned on his heel and walked out, his eyes lingering on the stricken figure standing in the corner, holding two cups of chai.
How much had she heard?
Anjali slipped off the heavy bangles, allowing the weight to rest in her hands. She felt her throat tightening as she fingered the intricate design, tracing her hand over the grooves.
They were her mother's, ones that Sakshi had given her shortly before her wedding. She felt the tears spill over as she recalled her mother's soft, gentle voice, breaking slightly at the end as she had cupped Anjali's cheek.
She brushed away the tears, giving the mirror a watery smile as she shook her head. She suddenly wished she could curl up in her mother's arms for a hug, longing for the comfort in this foreign room that was now hers.
She was thrilled that she was married. She couldn't have been happier, but she couldn't help the sharp pang of nostalgia that hit her. She couldn't deny the nerves that pulled at her stomach at the idea of an entirely new life, a new beginning.
She took a deep breath, and found herself assailed by the familiar, warm scent of Aman. Her heart skipped a beat, and she inhaled again, the smell calming her nerves. She touched the mangal sutra that rested on her chest, a smile curving at the edge of her lips as she thought of him.
She glanced up in the mirror, catching sight of the person she had just been thinking of. Her cheeks warmed and she hastily looked back down, busying herself in removing the rest of her jewelry.
Aman stepped into their room at the end of the night, catching sight of Anjali standing at the mirror. She was removing her earrings, her thumbs expertly spinning the backs off. Her hair was swept over one shoulder, revealing smooth skin that set his nerves on fire.
She looked up in the mirror, smiling briefly before reaching her hands back to the clasp of the heavy necklace. She fumbled with it, muttering quietly underneath her breath as the jaw clip refused to come loose.
He stepped up behind her, his fingers brushing against the sensitive skin on her neck as he moved to unclasp it. Anjali bit back a moan, leaning back against the now familiar touch of her husband.
"What are you thinking about?"
His voice was low and husky, the desire unmasked as he looked at her with dark eyes, leaning down and pressing a kiss to the side of her mouth. She pouted when he pulled back all too soon, her lips pursed temptingly.
He dropped the necklace onto the dresser, taking her lips in a deeper kiss. He felt her smile against his lips, winding her hands around his neck. She sighed contentedly when he pulled back.
Aman gave her a teasing smile, stepping out of her grasp and over to their closet. Anjali turned her gaze away when he moved to remove his kurta, her cheeks warming as the heat spread through her. She heard his amused chuckle behind her and scowled, staring determinedly at the wall.
"You know that... we're married, right?"
"Haan. But can't you change somewhere else?"
"It's not like there are any... secrets between us."
Anjali whirled around to protest, but it died on her lips, her body going up in flames at the sight. Her husband stood in only a well fitted undershirt, his back to her as he shuffled through his night clothes. Anjali's eyes trailed over the bronzed skin, swallowing audibly as her breath quickened.
She didn't even realize when he had turned back around, an amused glint in his eyes when he saw the way his wife was staring at him. She finally pulled her gaze back up to his and flushed deeply, mortified at being caught staring.
"I'll just... be back."
She fled into the bathroom, clutching her sari tightly to her chest and shutting the door, leaning against it. A smile curved her lips as she reached up, touching the gold chain that rested against her chest.
She slipped out of the bathroom to find that Aman was sitting in bed, reading a book. She found that she liked the sight, the way he was slouched comfortably against the pillows, his head bent forward as his eyes scanned the page.
She slid into the bed next to him, trying to keep a respectable distance. He looked up at the feeling of her weight sinking into the bed, glancing down at the distance she had kept with an amused tilt of his head.
She ignored it, adjusting the blankets around herself, trying not to stare at his profile. She felt herself blush when he caught her looking surreptitiously out of the corner of her eyes, and mentally cursed herself for being so indiscreet.
She hastily tried to cover by changing the topic, cutting him off before he could say anything. She had been meaning to talk to him about this for some time, but had never gotten the chance to, with both of them caught up in wedding preparations and the movement.
"Aman, have you noticed anything about Arnav and Khushi?"
Aman paused, slowly lowering his book before turning to look at her.
"Your brother and Khushi?"
"Haan, they're... close."
Aman gave her a look, and she smiled slightly at the fact that he had picked up on her vague wording, looking for more.
"I believe that they have an interest in each other that goes beyond friendship."
Aman regarded her for a minute before speaking, treading carefully.
"Does that bother you?"
She looked up at him sharply, shooting him a glare.
"Of course not, no, I would love nothing better than for Khushi to become a part of our family in one more way. However..."
She paused, trying to find the words to express her fears.
"You worry that Arnav will break her heart?"
She shook her head, smiling ruefully, worry playing in her eyes. She sighed heavily, staring at the back wall as she pulled her lower lip between her teeth, her head tilted slightly.
Aman reached over and took her hand, and she looked at him. She swallowed audibly, worry creasing the corner of her eyes. He leaned down, pressing a kiss to her forehead and pulling her close.
She curled into him, leaning against his shoulder, allowing the tension to drain into him, the worry slowly slipping to the back of her mind as her eyes fluttered shut.
Arnav glanced at Khushi through the branches of the rosebush, jittery with nerves. He opened his mouth and then closed it again, a strange sense of restlessness sweeping over him.
She brushed her hair behind her ear, the strands sticking to her forehead in curls. His eyes followed the delicate hand, noticing the way her fingers curled as they pushed it behind her ear.
Her cheeks were a dark pink from the heat, the beads of sweat sliding slowly down her neck. She bit her lip as she tugged at a weed, a small huff of frustration escaping her as it remained stubbornly in place.
He was content to simply sit back and observe her, the way she was calm and efficient as she gardened. Her entire body was relaxed and happy, her lips curved into a small smile that brought out a tiny dimple in her left cheek.
She raised her gaze to his, tilting her head in question. He shook his head with a smile, gesturing for her to continue with her task. She looked at him for a moment, before turning away shyly.
He took a deep breath, working up the courage. He could hear his heart thudding against his ribcage, his stomach twisting uncomfortably with nerves.
He broke off, and she looked up at him, searching his face curiously. He barely bit back a growl of frustration, looking away as he tugged harshly at a weed. She leaned back on her heels, waiting.
Why was this so difficult?
He took a deep breath, trying again.
He broke off again, his nerves pulled taut with tension as his stomach churned, his heart clenching and unclenching. His hands were suddenly clammy, and he looked down at them as the shovel slid loosely in his grasp.
He looked up at her again, but she had gone back to her task, brushing away the extra dirt. Her lashes pressed against her cheeks as she stared speculatively at the hole she had dug. He sucked in a deep breath, and then the words spilled out all at once in a jumble, sounding foreign on his tongue.
"Mujhse shaadi karogi?"
As soon as he said the words, he felt his breath come otu in a whoosh, his breathing seeming to stop entirely. The words felt strangely familiar and comfortable to his mouth, sounding natural to his ears.
He saw her freeze, her gaze snapping up to meet his. Her mouth parted, a soft gasp of surprise slipping out. He fidgeted nervously with the spade, pushing the dirt around absentmindedly, avoiding looking at her directly.
She couldn't believe her ears, wondering if she had heard him wrong. She stared at him through the thorny branches, the blood rushing in her ears sounding like waves crashing against the shore.
"Marry me, Khushi."
It wasn't so much a question as a statement, the matter-of-fact tone hiding the tremble of nervousness. Khushi gaped, looking down to the ground and off to the side, everywhere but him. She opened her mouth and closed it, trying to form words.
He stood up and her gaze followed him as he came closer, kneeling down in front of her. He took her hands in his, and she felt a sharp tingle shoot up her spine, her heart slamming against her chest.
She stared at him, her hazel eyes swirling with innumerable emotions. He could pick out the nervousness tinged with elation, the joy marked by wariness, the surprise cloaked in disbelief.
"Marry me, Khushi."
His voice was more urgent this time, pleading with her to say something- anything. She took a deep breath before pinning him with a piercing gaze.
Her voice was a whisper, but it sounded as if she had yelled it, the words ringing in the silence. He could hear the raw emotion behind her voice, the simplicity of her question unnerving him.
It was one, three letter word that held so much meaning, so much hope as she looked at him, hardly daring to breathe.
He could tell her that this was what made the most sense. He could tell her that it was what his father desired, what was expected of them.
"Because I love you."
He had never been so certain of the words that spilled out, rolling off of his tongue. He hadn't intended to say them, but he found that he didn't want to take them back.
There wasn't anything else that would fit into that space, the words filling in every little crack.
They satisfied him, contented him in a way like no other words had.
He loved her. That was exactly it.
It all suddenly made sense.
The blurry confusion that had plagued him as he tried desperately to figure these foreign emotions had suddenly cleared, all of the emotions, the feelings that had been pressing against him becoming certain.
He loved her.
He heard the sharp intake of breath, her gut sucked in at the brutal honesty in his words. He hadn't coated it in sweetness, justified it with flowery statements about her.
It was a fact, stated as such.
He loved her.
There was an endless silence that stretched between them, a poignant pause that was filled with unsaid words.
He loved her. He loved her, he loved her.
The words filled her with an unparalleled sense of happiness, joy flooding through her like a river let loose by a crumbling dam. Her heart pounded in her chest in sheer elation, his words etched in her mind.
She knew she should pay attention to the little niggle at the back of her mind warning her of their differences, telling her it could all break.
But she didn't want to.
She searched his eyes, drowning in the swirling caramel depths that made her shiver with anticipation, the insidious, slow warmth seeping into every pore, every crevice of her body until she couldn't take it anymore.
In that moment, everything ceased to matter, her mind only focused on him.
This was about them.
Arnav and Khushi.
Their names seemed to meld together, fitting together like two shards of broken glass, the jagged edges squeezing themselves into the crevices.
They shouldn't have fit together.
But they did.
Her hands tightened around his and she couldn't seem to stop herself from leaning in, her face just millimeters from his as her eyes fluttered shut. She could feel his warm breath fanning her face, the heat of his body radiating, warming her all the way through until she thought she would combust.
She leaned in further, her nose just barely brushing his, moving her head to avoid the crook of his glasses. She waited there, her breath shallow and quick, her eyes closed, asking him to close the distance between them as they remained frustratingly apart, the seconds feeling like days.
And then he touched his lips to hers in the most tentative of touches, as if he was terrified that this moment would shatter.
His hands were still grasping hers tightly, their dirt covered knees touching as the strands of grass marked their skin with a tangle of imprints. Her toes curled in the grass, cracking slightly as she melted into the gentle press of his lips against hers.
They had done this hundreds of times, in this very same spot even, but today felt... different. It was as if the air crackled with anticipation, the kiss filled with a sense of novelty and wonder.
His hands reached up to cup her face, his thumbs brushing in a small arch down her cheeks, streaking them with dirt. The dark powder felt cool against her cheeks, but that wasn't why she shivered, the touch of his tongue against hers sending a tremble through her.
Her hands slowly slid up his chest, staining the pristine, white kurta with dark brown, her hands crumpling the fabric, pulling him closer.
They broke away from each other, his lips still hovering above from hers.
"I love you."
He murmured, the words ghosting over her lips. She curled into his touch, allowing her head to lean against his shoulder as she sat beside him, contentment sweeping through her. She listened to his steady heartbeat, feeling the beat against her cheek. She burrowed her nose into his chest, breathing in his scent.
They looked away from each other, letting the doubts stew in their brains, lurking in the shadows. They glanced at each other surreptitiously, each dreading the conversation that they knew would happen.
Her gaze lingered on his strong profile, her eyes drawn to the long fingers that scooped up a stray piece of grass, wrapping it around and around until it snapped. She reached up and touched her warm cheeks, looking down at the dirt that stained her fingers, feeling the way his had ghosted over her cheeks.
Why didn't he tell me about the job offer? What about me, what I want?
Her throat tightened and she looked away, not wanting to think about it.
He stole a glance at her, taking in her flushed cheeks, feeling the way her palm fit perfectly within his. He looked down at his now dirtied kurta, stained with urgency of her response to their kiss. Her eyes followed his down to the stain, and he raised his eyes to watch a flood of red rush to her cheeks.
He could smell the faint whiff of her perfume and he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.
How will I tell her about the job offer? She won't want to move, but...
They sighed heavily, hating the way the thoughts lingered, slowly seeping into their brains.
Khushi looked up at Arnav, her fingers tightening imperceptibly around his as she held on, not wanting to let him go.
He looked down at her, sweeping his gaze over the small upturn of her nose, before looking into the worried, hazel eyes that scanned his.
He squeezed her hand gently, a faint smile on his face. She regarded him for a moment before leaning in, this time nestling closer until her head rested against his chest. He wrapped an arm around her, pulling her into him as his free hand slipped into hers once more.
For that moment, they pushed away the nagging monsters in their mind telling them that this wouldn't last.
For that moment, it was just them.
Note: And that's where I'll leave you for today! Thank you all for waiting- I decided to change something major in this chapter, and it took me a lot longer than I expected. If you can, please let me know what you think with a like or a comment- I love hearing your thoughts!
As always, please follow @ipkchotidesi or PM me your email for update notifications.
Thanks again for waiting!
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