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"And, I would like to make an announcement as well" Arnav made sure to stare at Khushi throughout.
Khushi looked on, wondering what announcement he would make.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for my beautiful fiance" Arnav stretched out his hand as Khuraisha walked up the stage in the champagne, pink and silver sari that he'd designed.
Khuraisha tried her best to hold in her breath. The blouse was too tight for her, it was uncomfortable.
Khushi pinched herself. She stared at the scene in front of her. She felt as her pulse pounded in her neck, against her chest, in slow motion. Her eyes lost focus. Her hearing buzzed, faded away until she felt she'd gone deaf. She pinched herself again. Wake up, Khushi.
But she was awake. She was very much awake. For a moment, everything else ceased to exist. She watched helplessly as Khuraisha walked up on stage to stand beside Arnav, her Arnavji. She saw as Khuraisha smiled, wearing the sari that Arnavji had designed for her. She noticed as Arnav held Khuraisha's hand, bringing her by his side. What was happening?
"Khushi, Khushi you okay?" Rakesh asked worriedly as he came to stand by her. She was pale and still. He swallowed hard and his gaze flickered to Arnav. Rakesh pursed his lips in displeasure. Arnav Singh Raizada.
Khushi didn't react. She stood still, not knowing what to do, not knowing what was happening. Rakesh's question seemed to float around her, as if coming from a distance. What was he saying? She blinked. She looked down to the floor. She took a deep breath. But it didn't help.
Slowly, the cheers and shouts of congratulations reached her ears. Her senses returned. She felt like she'd just stopped spinning; all woozy and disoriented. She was confused.
Ritesh watched Khushi from a distance. He smiled in victory.
"Yes. You people are the first to know about this. I don't usually advertise my personal life like this but.. Can't help it. Everyone, my wife to be." Arnav put his hand around Khuraisha who looked proud, smiling widely at the crowd. Khuraisha glanced at Khushi who looked on, her face stoic. Poor girl was probably in shock.
Khushi stood there as still as a statue. Khushi's breath hitched. No. No, this couldn't be happening.
"Say a few words, why don't you." Arnav passed Khuraisha the microphone. Khuraisha took a hold of the microphone and elegantly swept her hair back away from her face.
"I just want to say that I'm very happy today. Feel very blessed to be with this man. Thank you all for your wishes." Khuraisha smiled, putting her arm around Arnav's waist.
Khushi watched as Arnav put an arm around her shoulder. She looked away. She expected to feel her heart being broken, have tears in her eyes. But at the moment, she was in shock. How could this be happening, she wondered, watching another woman beside her Arnavji, wearing the sari Arnavji had designed.
Khushi saw him saying something to Khuraisha who looked surprised at ASR's visit. Khushi frowned. What were they talking about? Why hadn't he called her? Why hadn't he told her he was back? Didn't he realize how worried and anxious she'd been? Khushi saw him talking to Khuraisha who looked utterly confused. Khushi watched as Arnav passed Khuraisha the package in his hands. Khuraisha took it, looking at it curiously. Nodding at whatever ASR said, she turned to walk away in a daze.
" Do you have a minute?"
Khuraisha looked at him, confused. "Sure, what can I help you with?"
"I've been trying hard, fighting this attraction that we have. That's why I threw you out of my office that day. But, I realize now that it's wrong to run away. I want to make this right. Will you do me the honors of being my wife?" Arnav asked with his usual blank face. He did his best to infuse some sincerity in his otherwise emotionless voice.
Khuraisha stood there, shocked, confused and unable to understand what was going on. He was proposing to her? Out of the blue? After throwing her out of his office during their meeting? What was happening? Hadn't he been ignoring her all this while? So what changed?
She froze, looking at him for a long moment. Despite her disbelief at the current situation, Khuraisha couldn't help but explode with happiness internally. Her work had become so much easier now, with him proposing. She wanted to ask so many questions.
But, greed blinded her. She was so close to having what she wanted, who she wanted. ASR.
"If you wear this tomorrow,"Arnav passed her the present. She took it without hesitating, looking at it curiously "I will take that as a yes to my proposal" Arnav told her.
Khuraisha was flooded with victory, excitement and joy at successfully having gotten ASR that all she did was nod and leave in a daze. For the rest of the day, Khuraisha remained in a trance, not caring about the abruptness of the proposal.
After all, who could resist her?
She went to Ritesh, telling him about ASR and his proposal. Though Ritesh had been skeptical, he realized that Arnav probably knew by now that Khushi was the mole; that their plan of framing her had worked. ASR probably decided to ditch Khushi and go for the stylish Khuraisha. Ritesh smirked. Now Khushi would be his.
But Khuraisha hadn't realized he intended to make a public announcement of their engagement today. Everything was happening so fast. Seemed like ASR couldn't wait to marry her. Oh well, she would not complain. This was her plan all along anyway.
Arnav dug around in his pocket and took out a small red velvet box. The crowd's excitement grew. Khuraisha took a deep breath. She wouldn't be surprised if ASR had gotten her a 20 karat diamond ring. She looked down at her fingers. Oh, how pretty would that diamond be on her fair, manicured fingers.
Silence filled the air as Arnav opened the box slowly, taking his time. Anticipation filled Khuraisha; she couldn't wait to see the big shiny rock. She adjusted her blouse, feeling the lines along the blouse bite into her skin. It was rather tight. She pushed those thoughts aside and waited excitedly for the ring to appear.
But her spirits fell the next moment when Arnav pulled a plain ring out of the boxed cushion. It had a tiny diamond in the middle of it.
She frowned slightly. The multimillion dollar business man was giving her such a cheap ring? She was careful to hide her expression. She could demand for a bigger ring later on, in private.
"I would have gotten a nicer ring, but I can't spend so much." Arnav said sadly, looking at Khuraisha, hoping she'd understand.
Khuraisha looked at him, not understanding. Couldn't afford it? He was one of the richest man in India.
Arnav lifted the ring for everyone to see.
Khushi couldn't be bothered with the ring. She was bothered by the person holding the ring.
"This is a half karat diamond ring. It used to belong to my mother. I want you to have it." Arnav said earnestly.
Murmurs broke out in the crowd, many calling ASR romantic for presenting his mother's ring. Khushi tried not to flinch at that.
"Okay.. um, what did you mean by you couldn't afford one?" Khuraisha whispered to him.
"Oh! That reminds me. I have another announcement to make" Arnav spoke into to microphone, careful not to look at Khushi/Khushboo.
"I have decided to donate 90% of my wealth to charity. The remaining 10% will be for my retirement." Arnav declared. The crowd had mixed reactions; some puzzled, some happy.
Khuraisha's mouth fell open "What?!" She almost screeched. "What..retire.. how.. Why??" She asked incredulously.
Arnav shrugged. "I have got enough. It's time for me to contribute to the society." Arnav commented.
Khuraisha started to get angry. What he crazy? He was throwing away money?
"Would you please excuse us, I would like to speak to my fianc privately" Khuraisha flashed a sweet smile to the crowd while simmering with anger internally. No way would she allow her lottery ticket to be taken away from her.
Arnav stood at his place, refusing to move. "But darling, we should share the good news with everyone here."
"ASR" She struggled to not shout. "Charity is good" She forced herself to say " but.. will 10% funds be enough for us?" Khuraisha asked in a strained voice.
"Us? Probably not. But it will be enough for me." Arnav smiled at her. Khuraisha stood dumbfounded.
She opened her mouth, but her voice was stuck. Arnav decided to help her out.
"You can continue to work after marriage. I know you're the strong, independent type of a woman. I wouldn't dream of stopping you to work after marriage. "Arnav said thoughtfully.
Khuraisha was close to fainting. The whole point of getting ASR was so that she could lead a work free life. And here this man was pushing her to be a business woman? Screw independence!
"By the way, before we get engaged, we should work out the formalities. " Arnav spotted Aman in front of the stage. "Papers" Arnav asked. Aman handed them over. Khuraisha gulped. There was more of this nonsense?
"What.. what is that?" Khuraisha asked in a low tone.
"Prenup" Arnav said casually. Khuraisha's eyes widened.
"Here, sign it" Arnav handed the file to her. Khuraisha clenched her jaw. What was this? What was he doing? Was this some sort of a joke?
"C'mon, sign it quickly. Then we'll get engaged" Arnav waved the ring at her. Khuraisha looked at the ring with contempt. Her lips curled in anger. She looked at him, disgusted. She forgot all about the crowd watching them.
She took the file from him and chucked it to the ground where Aman was standing. The crowd gasped. Then she snatched the ring from him and stared at it. She looked at him furiously and tossed it at him. The crowd buzzed with puzzled murmurs. Arnav watched as the ring hit against his chest and fell harmlessly onto the carpeted stage.
"His mother's ring!" someone spoke from the crowd.
Arnav decided to shift this elsewhere. "Please excuse us. It seems like I will have to placate my fianc. Allow us to take our leave" Arnav dragged Khuraisha away. Aman silently grabbed Ritesh and pulled him, ignoring Ritesh's questions. Rakesh pulled a stoic and silent Khushi along. They stopped short at one of the rooms nearby.
"Take your stupid papers. And your tiny ring. Do you think Khuraisha Raichand will settle for you after knowing you want to give away your money? Do I look like an idiot who will allow my lottery to be taken away from me? I would rather stay single" She spat out, taking a second too late to realize what she'd just said.
You fool! Now he knows you're just after his money..
Arnav looked at her with narrowed eyes. His balled his hands together to make fists. It took a lot to not shake this woman in front of him. "I know Khuraisha Raichand won't want to settle. But Khushi Kumari Gupta would." His gaze rested on Khushi/Khushboo who looked at him blankly before blinking once.
Shocking everyone, Arnav stepped forward to grab Khuraisha's arm. She glared at him.
"Bahut shauk hai na tumhe to take Khushi's place in my life? That's why you did all this right?" Arnav looked at Khuraisha murderously who now looked at him with wide, fearful eyes. He couldn't possibly know.
"I Did.. did what exactly?" She tried to move away from him but his grip on her arm tightened even more. They stayed silent now, looking at the scene unfolding in front of them with great interest and curiosity.
"You know what you did." Arnav growled. He looked at Aman. Aman nodded and handed him the file.
"I know who really leaked my designs. I got the surveillance tapes from that restaurant and I saw you there. I saw what you did." Arnav's rage shone in his eyes. Khuraisha swallowed hard. Ritesh tried to take a step back but was pulled back by Aman who stationed himself directly beside him.
Khuraisha had been there that night at the restaurant. She'd seen Khushi and ASR together. ASR had been showing her some designs.
When he walked away to use the toilet, Khuraisha went over to their table to say hi to Khushi. She accidentally' spilled some water on the floor. Khushi being the ever so nice and polite woman started to clean it up. Khuraisha took the opportunity to take photos of the designs that were spread across the table.
"You wanted me to think that Khushi did it." Arnav looked at Khushi who stared at him silently in confusion. Her wide eyes were questioning. So now he knew she was Khushi.. how?
"But you paid our rival to tell me that Khushboo did it. I knew that very second that something was wrong. No one is stupid enough to reveal their name when committing fraud." Arnav squeezed Khuraisha's arm tighter and she gulped. She was sure he would leave a mark on her arm.
"Rakeshji graciously allowed me to view the cctv footage from your office. I saw you taking the photos." Khuraisha stiffened, snapping her head to glare at Rakesh who looked back at her in disgust.
Arnav glanced at Khushi who stood there, taking it all in. Khushi blinked. She hadn't even realized that the designs had been leaked, that she'd been framed.
"And those photos. How dumb can you get? You obviously were trying to make me think something was going on with Khushi.. and Ritesh" He spat out; even saying their names together filled him with hot anger and possessiveness.
Ritesh gulped, looking around, trying to make an escape.
"She obviously wouldn't have sent them to me herself." Arnav wanted to shake her and maybe throw a couple of punches. But he didn't hit women. No matter how low they sank like this woman in front of him. He smirked as she stayed silent. What could she possibly say anyway?
"You must be wondering why I gave you this sari, why I made this engagement announcement, why I'm doing this in public." Arnav pulled her closer, his eyes narrowed into dangerous slits, nose flaring, lips tightened, face emanating pure fury.
"Did you ever stop for a second to think what would happen to Khushi, her reputation, if those photos got into the wrong hands? Huh? No. You are selfish. So now you can get a taste of it. Your reputation will now be tarnished. We will deal with the crowd and hold a press conference later to inform them that my engagement' has been called off as evidence points to you being a fraud. You wanted to trap her right? Now you're trapped in your own game. You wanted to create a rift between us. You wanted to take her place right? So here you are. Wearing the sari I made for her. It doesn't fit, does it?" He asked, having noticed her fidgeting with the blouse that was too small for her.
Khuraisha looked at him absently. She could feel the door to her lottery, to her money ticket shutting. She could see her future crumbling before her very eyes. She could sense the upcoming doom that ASR had surely set for her.
Arnav nodded at Aman who moved to the side and opened one of the doors. Three police officers came in with handcuffs. Rakesh and Khushi watched, fascinated, as if they were watching a live show, a play.
"Take her away. Make sure you charge her with fraud and the other accounts that I've told you. Be sure to take Ritesh Shonza into custody too. He's involved with her." Arnav ordered, letting go of her arm, almost pushing her away as if disgusted by her touch. He watched in satisfaction as she stumbled and looked lost, staring into space as she was arrested. Ritesh tried resisting, but to no avail. Before she was taken away, Arnav came up to her.
"Keep this" He held out the ring. "It's fake. I bought it at some roadside shop for 50 rupees. Take that as your tip for your hard efforts in trying to separate us. It has only brought us closer. So thank you for that" He moved behind where her hands were joined together, handcuffed. He pried open her fingers and thrust the ring into her fist. Khuraisha gritted her teeth. She remained calm as she was dragged away, tripping on the sari time and again.
Arnav moved to stand in front of a handcuffed Ritesh who looked murderous. Khushi gasped, as in less than two seconds, Arnav managed to deliver a punch to his face so powerful that she could've sworn she heard bones crack.
"That's enough Mr Raizada. We'll take it from here." One of the officers said. Arnav raised his hands up, as if surrending, but moved forward, stepping into Ritesh's personal space. Ritesh's right eye started to swell and his cheekbone was burning with pain.
"This isn't nearly enough." Arnav said referring to the punch. "But it'll make you think twice before trying to frame an innocent woman." Arnav said in a low, dangerous voice.
He watched, satisfied as they were taken away. For the next few moments, no body spoke. Everyone, especially Khushi, was trying to understand what had just happened. She'd never felt very comfortable with Khuraishaji, but she would never have pegged her as someone this manipulative.
"Thank you Rakeshji" Arnav avoided looking at Khushi who stared only at him. "If you hadn't allowed me to see the tape of that woman clicking the photos.." Arnav expressed his gratitude.
Arnav recalled how he'd gotten Aman to dig around for background information once Rakesh had told him about his mother planning his wedding to her best friend's daughter. He'd been blown away when he saw Khushboo's face in Khushi Kumari Gupta's background file. He'd then called Rakesh and informed him about this engagement plan to defame Khuraisha who'd set out to hurt his Khushbo- Khushi.
Rakesh was happy with the way ASR had handled things. But then he glared at him. "We should have told Khushi everything about this plan. You should've seen her face when you announced your so called engagement." Rakesh put his arm around Khushi's shoulders. Khushi turned to look at him. Rakeshji knew.. this whole time.. that this was all an act?
"Let me explain to you Khushi beta. The thing is, Arnav and I-" Rakesh started.
"No need to explain, Rakeshji" Arnav looked at Khushi, his gaze filled with anger, hurt and betrayal.
"The one who should have explained chose to remain silent all this while. We do not have to answer to anyone." Arnav's intense gaze made Khushi shiver. She tried to say something but couldn't find her voice.
"But beta, didn't you just say that Khushi is innocent, that this had brought you two closer.." Rakesh tried to do some damage control.
"I said that to hurt Khuraisha's ego. Ms Gupta here may not have known about being framed. But she isn't totally innocent, is she?" Arnav bit out. His fists clenched. What the hell had she been thinking, keeping her identity from him?
Khushi's heart clenched at hearing him call her Ms Gupta. She wanted to take away the pain on his face, pain he tried to hide. She felt ashamed of herself. He'd done all this, unknowingly clearing her name, bringing her out of a mess she hadn't even known she was in. She had so many questions. How did he know she was Khushi? Clearly Rakeshji had something to do with it..
Looking at her hurt. Even before he had to leave for the US, he was already looking forward to coming back. To seeing her. And she had? The entire time, she'd fooled him. Now that he was finally looking at her, he didn't want to see her face at the moment. He turned to leave when she called out to him.
"Arnavji.. please listen to me-" Khushi finally spoke, panicking to see him leave. She had to explain. Her throat was dry, having kept quiet for so long.
"Aman, get my car." Was all Arnav said as he walked away, ignoring the pleading voice of Khushi who was held back by Rakesh.
"Arnavji" She whimpered, hugging herself, laying her head on Rakesh's shoulder as the first of the many tears started to fall.
PS: I refuse to let Arnav be as impulsive and dumb as he was on the show. I love him on the show, but hate that he jumped to conclusions without finding out the truth, without trusting Khushi. So, in this version, I wanted to portray Arnav as someone with brains :D
It's safe to say the things from here on will focus on bringing Arshi together. I predict about three-four chapters till the end of the story. Perhaps an epilogue to wrap up the story. This story was fun to type.
But I've already started a new story that is more fun, more Arshi-like; with a moody yet playful Arnav and bubbly, cheerful Khushi and I hope to post it soon enough once this story is done. Maybe I will post a preview and you can let me know what you think of it. Hope to keep having your support. Good day!
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