Chapter 26

Silence.

Not a word was spoken by anyone present in the living room of Shantivan. Their feet glued to the floor with their eyes stuck on the same place Arnav had carried Khushi from. They were shocked to see Khushi running like this in the house, to witness the joy that radiated from her face. She was no more a walking dead body who needs support to even stand properly, who had the permanent lost look etched on her face. She was Khushi whom they have first met, whom they had lost so many nights ago. They were surprised to see Arnav, known as arrogant ASR to the world chasing his wife without a care, and oblivious to everything around him, he carries his wife back to their room. They, at last, when all this shock and surprise mellowed down, were confused with these changes in Khushi, and why they were not informed about it, from when it was hidden from them?

“Was…was it our khushi bitiya?” Nani broke the silence.

Anjali and Nk looked at each other, their eyes mirroring their confusion. As Nk had said earlier to anjali about Arnav spending his whole time with khushi, arnav was hardly seen by any of them these days. Knowing, how hard he trying to bring his wife back and what the real situation is, Nk and payal had convinced all to not disturb khushi, as what she need the most this time was arnav, and arnav needs to be with khushi every second for himself as well as to take care of her. So all the family members had not seen arnav and khushi for a whole week, including NK who had not disturbed his nannav . But this was…was not expected by any of them. Is it the reason for arnav for not allowing HP to serve his and khushi’s food in their room? Had he not wanted anyone to know about the improvement in khushi? But why? “”

___________________

Kicking the bedroom door open, Arnav carried a slightly red and breathless Khushi inside. Gently placing her on the bed, he hovered above her, hands either side of her head, he stared at her eyes, full of joy, remnants of laughter still lingering in their depth, devoid of the blankness he had seen in them not a so long ago, and just this sight lifted a burden from his chest he had not known, he was carrying with himself, even after they both have confessed their love to each other. He can now breathe freely, without any burden on his chest suffocating him, knowing His Khushi is no more trapped in the black hole which was trying to suck her in, which was taking her away from him.

She was still panting from her earlier run and the adrenalin rush filled in her knowing he was chasing her. Taking deep breaths to calm her racing heart, she looked in his eyes as he just stared at her, not saying anything. “What are you looking at?”

“Nothing.” He uttered, Still mesmerized by the light in her eyes.

Not able to handle his intense stare at her, she tried to divert his attention. “Don’t think you were able to catch me. I deliberately let you win. No one can catch me if I want. ”

His lips curved up, looking her cute side. “Uh-huh! But no matter how fast you run, I will catch you khushi, I will catch you- Always!”

Her heart thudded at his admission. He will not leave her. No matter what.

“I know.” She accepted.

His face got closer to hers. “How?” He asked in his husky voice.

“I just know…” Her eyes closed as her lips parted.

His lips touched hers slowly. His hands roamed over her body as his lips moved over hers gently. Was it because their position or the new found happiness, they don’t know. But whatever it was ignited a long buried fire in them, causing arnav to kiss her with abundant passion for the first time and khushi to pull him closer to her, responding to his passion, roaming her slender fingers in his black soft hairs.

Breathless, he pulled back. It is too soon. There are so many things, they have to talk about. She has just recovered. She has not fully healed.

“S..sorry.” He mumbled, backing away from her.

She opened her eyes and looked at him confused. Soon her confusion vanished looking at his lowered eyes, clenched jaws. He is angry at himself for losing control.

With sigh, she stood up in front him, “Arnavji?”

No response.

“Look at me.”

“Did I stop you?” She asked.

His head snapped up. What.

“Khushi, I am…”  His apology died in his lips as her lips captured his.

“I am not sorry.” With that she went to poolside, showing him his Bluetooth, she still had with her. He smiled in relief. He had not made her uncomfortable.

______________

“I am going upstairs.” A teary eyed payal rushed to go upstairs to meet her sister. A silent understanding passed between NK and Anjali. Nannav had clearly wanted them to know this. There has to some reason for him to hide this big thing from them, especially when he knew how desperately everyone want to see their Khushi healthy and chirpy like before. They cannot let anyone meet Khushi, not until Nk know the reason for Arnav to do this.

“Yes, I am also coming with you.” Nani took steps forward to follow payal.

“Payal babhi, Nani, Stop!”  Hearing Nk’s urgent voice they stopped.

“Nk bhai, why are stopping us?” Payal wiped her tears. “Didn’t you see khushi just now? She is healthy and happy. I want to meet my sister. I am so happy that she is alright now.”

“Payal babhi, I understand and we all want to meet khushiji. But you have to understand, now is not the time to meet her. Didn’t you see how happy she is with nannav. We must not intrude. We should give them time to heal. Both of them. They need it badly. And when they feel right, they will come to down to meet us by themselves. Khushiji is, as she is now, because nannav was with her every second. Only nannav.  We could not just barge into their room. Khushiji’s mental state is fragile, she could get scared or may react badly otherwise. She is happy with nannav now. Let her be comfortable with all the things that had happened. Let them solve their issues. And I am sure nannav will himself tell us to meet khushiji, when she would be comfortable to meet all of you.”  Nk desperately tried to stop all of them to meet khushi. He have feeling inside, if they meet khushi, the consequences will not be good.

“But..”

“NK bhai is right Nani.” Anjali supported NK. “Payalji, please wait for some days. Your khushi will come to meet you. But not now. Her condition is fragile. And we should be happy that our khushiji is back.”

Reluctantly payal took her steps back, her eyes staring up longingly.

I have to talk to Nannav. Now! Thought NK.

“Di, let me take you to the room.” Nk looked at anjali and she understood that he want to talk to Arnav.

Anjali nodded and Nk helped her to climb the stairs.

“I need to talk to him di.”

“I know. Just don’t go in front of khushiji.” Anjali cautioned.

Nk left anjali in her room to go to Arnav. As soon as he stood out of the room, he heard the sound of laughter. Khushi and Arnav’s laughter. He peeked inside the room from the slightly ajar door. He stood rooted on the spot for the second time of the day. There they were, arnav tickling khushi as she tried to save herself from her husband’s tickling hand continuously moving her body from one side to another on the bed. But Arnav didn’t stop. He continued to tickle her till tears escaped her eyes.

“Ar…na…vji S…to…p!” She tried to speak between her laughter.

“NO!” Came the pat reply.

“Please. Ok sorry….i…i..will..never..never!” She squeaked “N..ev..er Tickle you!”

At last Arnav showed mercy on her and stopped. She was still laughing. Smiling at her red face, he kissed her. “I love you.”

“I lo…ve yo…u t..o…too” Arnav laughed at her attempt to say it coherently and pecked her cute nose.

With a smile on his face, Nk left from there. He can talk to nannav later. Now definitely is not the time. Atlast they were happy!

Chapter 25

Nand kishore malhotra is a fun-loving guy – true. But every human being present on earth persist every shade of nature known to the world. It’s in the hands of the people itself, which part inside them  would dominate the rest and ultimately which would define who they are and would make them who they are. Some people are short tempered, some are shy, some are funny, some are serious and some are evil. But that is not the only emotion or nature or trait whatever may one call it, they have. They have every part of nature earth inside them but in less quantity than the traits which defines their respective behavior. As they say that the human beings are made up of the combination of the five elements of universe: Earth or Prithvi; Water or Jal ; Fire or Agni; Air or Vayu and Ether or Akasha.

NK is not just a funny charming guy. He infact, being brought up in Australia, have many friends or contacts which can’t be called as good company. That does not make him bad. Everyone in their lifetime meets or interact with so many different kind people. And NK happens to know people who are – as one can say Bad people.

And now, it’s time to take their help.

To help his family.

___________

“Di?” Shocked, NK could only utter this.

“This is the only way out, NK bhai and moreover this is what I want!”. Came the quick, confident reply without any hesitation that NK was sure he would be able to find, no matter how much Di try to hide it. Instead he found none.

“Do you know what it means? Do you HAVE any idea what you are asking me to do?” Is this some kind of sick joke? He cannot think, cannot even imagine Di asking him to do THIS. “Di, you should rest. You are not in the right state of mind. We will talk later about this.”

“I WAS not in the right state of mind NK bhai. Now… now I AM! Afterall, the blind from my eyes have been dropped. Now I am thinking straight, as a normal human being, who can differ between a truth and a made up lie, as a daughter, who wants to protect her family, as a elder sister, who wants to give his baby brother the happiness, he deserve. I am not out of my mind NK bhai! ” Anjali smiled, a smile of acceptance, a smile of guilt, a smile of determination. “Every time single time you ask me, my answer will be same. My mind will not change, there is nothing to change, no reason to change my decision.”

But why this only? There are many ways to protect themselves, to free this family from shyam. Then, why ONLY this? “Why, this? Is this some kind of revenge DI?” NK eyed anjali with sharp eyes. This is not only about her. He will not help her to take her revenge.

“The other ways does not remove him from our lives for forever. He will come back. You have not lived with him for so many years NK bhai, I have. I know his ways. We can use the money. But he will use his contacts, his clever advocate mind. We should not underestimate him. He is dangerous, NK bhai. I want gone from our live. For forever! I want chote, khushi and me and my baby to live freely without the constant fear of him. That he could return one day again to destroy us. You have seen what he is capable of doing with your own eyes. So, tell me, can you let him free?. So, he can come any day to destroy us?”

There he saw it. The honesty behind her every word. She was not after some kind of revenge. She is just protective and with her experience with that man. There is only one way to throw him out of their life.

Throwing an arm around her, Nk smiled. “Don’t underestimate me Di. I too have my contacts.” He winked at her. He turned serious, “But now is not the time. I know that you won’t change your decision. But for my sake, just think about it for some days. I don’t want you to regret your decision anytime in your life! And this is not easy for you, I know that. That’s why you have to think about it with clear mind.”

Anjali agreed. “So, how is your nannav?”

“Ah! Don’t ask me di! He is with his lady love. He is stuck to her all the time. I think he has glued himself to her with fevicol! He is such a child when anything comes to her. He does not even let hari prakash make the plate of food for khushiji! So much of possessiveness?! For him, we do not even exist! I mean I am his brother! He is mera bhai. He should spend some time with us also!”  Nk pouted, conveying his displeasure.

“NK Bhai! You are crazy!” Anjali could not stop laughing looking at Nk’s expression of a sulky child. “And stop pouting! I know that this is what you wanted. Chote taking care of khushiji or else..” anjali pretended to think something. “What you said to him…yeah! ‘Arnav Singh Raizada, the day you married her, she become my sister and who better than you know the protectiveness a brother feels for his sister.’ ” Anjali mimicked him perfectly.

His pout turned into smile. “Each and every word I said is true Di! Yes, nannav is my brother but when it comes to khushiji, every relation fades away, and I feel only protectiveness towards her. So between nannav and khushiji, khushiji will always win! He is taking good care of his wife and I hope that he would be successful in bringing his wife back to life!”

“He will NK bhai, he will! Don’t you know who he is? Arnav Singh Raizada!” anjali spoke exactly like arnav.

NK laughed out loud.“You should opt mimicking as a career Di! You are very good at it.”

“I’ll think about it for sure!” she said with all the seriousness she could, and broke into a hearty laugh with NK.

___________

 

Where is it? He once again roamed his eyes over his around his room, hoping to his eyes would catch its sight this time. This time also he found nothing. His room was a mess now. He upturned his side of bed sheets; all the drawers and cupboard were open. He had kept it on the top of the file on the table before he entered the washroom. He remembered it clearly. Then where the hell it had disappeared all of a sudden? As his eyes turned to khushi, who sat on her side of the bed, turning the pages of magazine. It’s been one week, but she had refused to go down. Happy being with him in their room. Considering the effect all the past incidents have left on her, and her fragile condition, arnav didn’t persuade her to meet everyone else in the family and he decided not to tell them about the improvement in her condition knowing that they would want to meet her and will be hurt when he’d tell them that their khushi is not ready to meet them.

He noticed her looking at him from the corner of her eyes, her lips twitched slightly upward, proof that she trying very hard to control herself from laughing. His lips automatically curved up, realizing that she is behind the disappearance of his Bluetooth. Schooling his expression to one of frustration, he approached her. “Khushi, did you see my Bluetooth? I had kept it on the top my file, but I couldn’t find it now.

She looked up at with wide eyes, and then shook her head in negative very innocently. He narrowed his eyes at. He was just few steps away from her. “hmm…why am I having this feeling that you have my blue tooth.” Immediately he noticed the change in her posture. She was ready for a run.

“No, arnavji. Why would I take your Bluetooth?” His eyes followed her hand as she placed the magazine on the bed. Arnav Singh Raizada get ready for a long run!

He took a long step towards her just as she ran across the bed towards the bedroom door, showing his Bluetooth to him in her hand. He ran after her, always ready to chase her.

Khushi, in order to not to be caught by arnav, took the stairs leading to the living room where everybody was present. But khushi, who was in her own world, didn’t noticed them or where she was running to, didn’t notice as all of them stood up in shock to see her running down the stairs, as they heard sound of her payal.

All of them stood shocked, and just stared ahead as arnav came running after khushi, as he scooped her up in his arms just as she was at the last step, making her squeal in surprise. Arnav and khushi didn’t notice as each pair of eyes turned moist, looking at the happy faces of them, the smile of arnav’s face or the joy radiating from khushi’s face, as arnav, without any backward glance took her back in their room.

 

Chapter 24

Arnav stared at khushi as lay on his chest, her one hand clutching the lapels of his shirt. His heart was at peace knowing that she loves him but his mind, it was full of questions- things he couldn’t understand and only she could answer all of the questions he has in his mind. But is it the right time to ask, when she has just came out of her shell. He was afraid that she could go back into her shell if he remind her of those days, but he know and know for sure that all those things that he has in his mind were connected.

Why did she refuse to go down?

She was not willing to see even her sister. But why?

He decided, it cannot wait. He has to know this, if he wants her to be normal, to see his old chirpy khushi back.

“Khushi..” he whispered stopping her star staring session. She lifted her questioning gaze to him. Smoothing a hand down her hairs, he spoke, “Can I ask you something?”

Receiving a nod from her, he prepared himself to ask her the thing that was haunting his mind day night from the day she opened her eyes in the hospital. “Khushi..you..i..why you..why you were only looking at me and..and not any of your family members in the hospital and..and in home also your..your eyes were only on me, you didn’t even looked at your sister, payal. Why?”

He could not understand the emotion that flashed across her face at the mention of her sister, but he does not have to wait for long as she opened her mouth to speak and what she spoke left him stunned.

“Because you are the only one that I could call mine arnavji…”

“What..?” He could say nothing else. “Khushi, you have your family, you amma, babuji and payal!”

“They are not my family arnavji. They never have. I have always been an adopted child but for some year, I forgot that reality, and started living in an illusion but an illusion cannot last forever and it break at the night of our marriage. ” Arnav flinched at the mention of that night. He wanted her to stop saying more. He never wanted her to relive those days or that night in particular. But she stopped him.

“Let me speak arnavji. Please, let me take it out of myself.” He tightened his hold on her as she once again started pouring her heart out.

“Arnavji, that night, amma didn’t only slap me, but she made me realize my place. She reminded me that i was and will always an adopted child, the one who was thrown at her when her sister and her husband died. No matter how many things I do for them, no matter how hard i try to make place in their heart, but couldn’t because I will always be an outsider. I can never be their daughter. I will always be her sister’s daughter for amma and an unwanted guest in her house for payal jij-”

She was not crying. Her eyes only held acceptance. “If it would have been payal in my place that night, surely amma would’ve slapped her also but they could never in their lifetime disown her like they disowned me, you know why? Because she is their daughter, no matter what she does. And funny thing is that they reacted as if I have not eloped with you but with some stranger or someone who they hate and not the jethji of their daughter. As if, I haven’t married in the same house as their daughter.” She let out a short hollow laugh at that. “That night I wasn’t slapped once but many times arnavji. Their reactions were hard slaps on my face.” She smiled a sad smile. “But it was a good thing though. They dumped me to reality and it is better to live in reality than in an illusion because when illusion breaks, it hurts more than living in reality.”

“But then why..if..you..then why you agreed to stay with me in this house even after all this for payal?” Arnav voiced out the first question that came in his mind.

“Because you were the only one that I had arnavji. Even if you hated me but at least had your name attached with mine. At least I could call you mine and could say that I belonged to you. I was never here for payal arnavji, not after we came in the house after our marriage.”

Not a able to digest the facts, he could only stare at her, not knowing what to say. What could he say after all this, after knowing how deeply she felt for him even when he was nothing but a beast to her, always hurting her.

“…and then in hospital, your eyes were my only solace in the dark pit in which I have fallen into because even if my mind was forcing to stay in that pit and not come out, my heat only wanted to see you as it knew that you were the only one that I have in this world. I didn’t know that you loved me but even then I considered you mine, because the love that I felt for you was not out of any obligation that I had for my adopted family or the love that I bound to have since my birth for my parents who gave birth to me. My heart felt that love for you without any obligation, it just loved you without any condition.”

Overwhelmed with love for her and guilt at what he had done to her, he crushed her to himself. Peace and content like he had never felt before seeped through him as he felt her arms around him.

How come he has her in his life? An angel?

And for the first time, Arnav Singh Raizada thanked god for giving him an angel in the form of khushi, who loves him so much and promised to love her with all his soul, with his whole being and to her protect from the world.

Chapter 23

As NK entered the room, he was shocked as complete darkness welcomed him.”Di!” he called out carefully making his way inside the room. After a while the silence in room broke as the light burst inside the room.

“I am here NK bhai.” He turned towards the voice and saw anjali on the couch, looking frail physically but as he looked into her eyes, he saw steely determination and a realisation. A sudden terror gripped him. What had happened..?? Did she..?? No! It couldn’t be ! There was no way she could know.

Nk walked towards her. He gently spoke as he sat next to her.”Di hp told me you want to talk to me. Is everything ok..??” he place his on her shoulder giving her support.

Anjali said nothing instead she handed him the papers. Confused, he took the papers and start reading. With every line he read, the fury that was building inside him shocked him for a second as he was never a person who lost control over his temper. As he finished reading it , he heard anjali speak which froze him, making him stare at her in disbelief.

“End him!” the words spoken in calm voice without any emotion rang in his ears.

“wh..what di.. what are you saying..??” NK for the life of him could never believe what he heard and from whom. And for the first time since he entered the room anjali looked at him. He was shocked to see the resolve she had in her eyes. She meant what she said.

“You heard right NK bhai. End him! Its high time that i take up my responsbility towards my family that i do something for my family , and most of all for chote.” Nk opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out of his mouth.

“Don’t look so shocked NK bhai. When you were confronting chote i was there and i heard everything. It took me some time to absorb these cruel reality of my life. That my husband is a cheat , that he was lusting after khushiji , that he is the reason that chote has to kill his love for the only woman he ever loved and forced her to marry him, that he to had choose between me and his love of life.”

Her filled with pain as she spoke.”Chote had done everything to see me happy but it should have been me to look after him, to make him happy. But what i did , because me , he denied his only chance at happiness–Khushiji. All this happened because i was too blind in my so called happy life. But this has to end. Now its my turn to give my chote a happy life, to act what i am–his Di.”

Nk was surprised, amazed and proud to see a strong anjali. This woman is now arnav singh raizada’s sister in true senses.

“I know how protective you are of chote and believe me or not but you have a important place in his life. What you think of him matters a lot to him. He heard what he never wanted to hear, for which he even changed his surname, and that too from you. You compared him to that man whom chote hate from his very being. You don’t know how much hurt he must have felt to hear that from YOU. I am not saying what he had to khushi was justifiable. He deserved every bit of what you said to him but please do not ever compare him to that man.” Anjali requested him.

“I never intended to hurt nannav but as a big brother and moreover as a friend, it was my duty to make him realise that he was in the path of becoming the man he hate the most.” Nk explained anjali what he was trying to do.

Anjali nodded slowly.”I want my chote to have a happy life with khushiji. Will you help me NK bhai, to make our younger brother, our chote happy, to give him the happiness he deserve..?”

Nk placed his hand on her. “Ofcourse di. You don’t have to say it. I will do anything for your chote. But he will always be nannav for me, not chote.” he said making anjali smile a little.

Shyam manohar jha your end is near!

——————————————

Arnav look last time at his work. Yes everything is perfect! Now just one thing is missing. Presence of khushi.

Khushi stood at poolside, thinking about arnav. His confession.

I love you sweetheart..

And then their first kiss. Is it all real..?? She thought. From the time she got know the real reason behind their marriage, she had felt dead. She was dead from inside so what was use of living. So she decided to end herself. She was giving nothing but pain to her loved ones and most of all to arnav.

But he saved her. He love her. This made her feel alive once again. She doesn’t want this feeling to end , she just want him and nothing else.

She yelped in shock as she felt herself lifted up. Clutching his shoulders she said breathlessly.”What are you doing..?? You scared me! Arnavji put me down.”

She looked up to see his smiling face and for a moment she was lost in him, in his eyes which twinkled with child like excitment.

He kissed the tip of nose to bring her back.”You denied to go downstairs, so i am taking you on the terrace. ” As he started walking towards poolside stairs leading to terrace she started to wiggle out of his arms.”Arnavji put me down. I can walk.”

But he tightened hold on her more.”I know but i like to carry my wife around.” that shut her mouth effectively.

My wife..

He had never caller her his wife. She thought and let him carry her where ever he want. When they reached the terrace, she had face buried in the crook of his neck.

Stopping he kissed her cheek and whispered in her ear.”Turn your head khushi.” She first look at him and when he gestured with his eye, she turned and looked head.

Arnav slowly put her down as her arms losened around his neck. Khushi couldn’t believe her eyes. The terrace was lightened up with so many lights. The sun was still visible, just on the verge of going down causing darkness to take over the world. But not here. This place was filled with lights ,so many of them. Darkness can’t even touch her. She turned around and hugged arnav tightly who was watching each and every expression of her.

Immediately his arms wound around her petite form. “Thankyou arnavji.” he heard her mumble against his chest. Dropping a kiss on her head he spoke.”Hey, why are you thanking me. Its nothing khushi. I want to do so much for you.”

He knew her fear of darkness but did he know that the fear had gripped her from the time she had been unconcious in the hospital. He had just reassured her that he would never let darkness anywhere near her. Khushi thought as she hugged him tighter.

“Ok now lets go and sit there.” He spoke breaking the hug and pointing towards the black mattress laid on the floor. He again carried her in his arms and this time she didn’t protest.

He gently lowered her on the mattress and she sat down with her legs stretched in front of her. Arnav brought a tray and placed it front of her. “I thought you would like to have a tea as the air is getting chilly.” he spoke as he made tea for her and khushi just stared at him. She took the cup from him and looked ahead to see sun disappearing and as the stars starts appearing in the dark sky , iilluminating it with their light.

“You know khushi , when i was small i used to love this time of the day. Ma and me used to watch as sun disappears and stars starts shinning in the sky with the slightly cold breeze blowing.”

Khushi looked at his eyes which were happy at the same time had sadness. She gripped his hand and placed it on her lap.”Its beautifull arnavji.” she whisphered and got a smile from him.

Cold breeze touched her skin making her shiver. Arnav felt it and immediately wrapped a blanket around her. After a while she opened her arms silently asking him to come inside the blanket. He lifted her up and setteled in between his legs. Her back touched his front. He wound his arms around her wrapping both of then with blanket.

He felt her stiff for some minutes but as he made soothing circles on her the back of her hand, she put all her weight onto him. As she snuggled more into his chest, he he tightened his hold on her, dropping a kiss on the side of neck he whisphered.”I love you.” Khushi turned and hugged him tightly burying her face in the crook of his neck. “I love you too..” she whisphered against his neck.

Shock, joy and so many emotions ran inside his body. He leaned back to look at her eyes, her face. But she was looking down. He tilted her face up and said his voice filled with many emotions.”Khushi, please say it again. ”

Khushi looked up at him. His eyes were showing how much vulnerable he was feeling right now. She surprised herself as well as him when she leaned forward whisphered against his lips “I love you arnavji” and placed her lips on his , kissing him, reasurring him that she loves him. He pulled her closer till she was sitting on his lap. Khushi encircled her arms around his neck as he pulled her closer to his body, making her feel protected in the warmth of his body, he kissed her, gently and tenderly, not taking anything just giving her, his love .

Wrapped in the warmth of the blanket, they kissed each other under the stars as soft breeze blew around them.

Chapter 22

Her hands trembled as she searched each and every corner of her room. Cupboard, every drawer , searched through the all the clothes, below the mattress, behind the bed, not even a single place that has not been searched by her.

Her eyes roamed frantically all around the room, desperate to find a clue, a proof , even a small proof against him. Prayers left her mouth constantly , hoping that she was not too late.

As if her prayers were heard ,her eyes caught the one place that she had not yet searched. Slowly walking towards her cupboard ,she stood on her toes, running a hand on the top of the it. She felt it , the end of the paper just grazed her fingertips. Streaching her hand as far as she could , she managed to bring the paper slowly towards herself and caught hold of it atlast.

Taking deep breaths, she stood with the papers in her hand and for a moment just stared at it.

A lone tear escaped her eye as she finished reading it, but there was a peace settled inside her heart.
Its time that she take the responsbilities that she has neglected for so long. She has to come out of her own world and face the truth –that is life.

“Why are you doing this..??” Arnav heard her speak as he turned to put the plate of food back on the table. It has yet not sunk to him that she is talking. Everytime he hear her voice it always gives him goosebumps, his heart picks up speed and he closes his eyes to absorb the feel of her voice as it fell to his ears and straight goes to his heart and spreads to his whole body.

He turned and looked at her questioning eyes.”I am doing what..??”

“You gave me your mother’s mangalsutra, kangans and you..you saved me..why..?? You should have let me die. Why did you save my life..?? I remember you shouting my name before it was all dark. You should have been happy that you are going to finally get rid of me and not save me.” Atlast she asked him all the things that he’s been doing.

In an instant he was next to her. He shook her as all the horrfying memories of that night flashed in front of him ,shaking him to the core.”I should have been happy..??” His eyes held disbelief as he said this.”Khushi if..if i had lost you that night, i would have followed you. Do you understand me. I would have not taken a single breath if you have been not in this world.”He tenderly cupped her face and asked in a desperate tone.”Why..why khushi why tried to take your life. You would have left you family alone here..?? You babuji..?? ”

She didn’t answered his question but asked one.”Why you would have followed me arnavji..?? You hate me.”

“I don’t hate you khushi. I never did. I would have followed you because i love you…”he placed her palm above his heart.”because it would have stopped beating without its other half.”

Her eyes lifted to his in utter disbelief.”You love me..?? ”

“I love you khushi. Please believe me. Please give me a chance to prove it to you.”He looked straight in her eyes praying that she could see the love in his eyes for her.

“You love me..”She repeated again and then there was it–the dhak dhak. She felt it. Her heart pounding in her chest and once again she felt alive.”Please say it again.” she pleaded him to once again feel her heart , to feel alive.

Her eyes , it was sparkling again, like they used to. She was coming back , his khushi was coming back to him.

He heard her plead to him to say it again, the words that he could continously say it every with breath he take. Gathering her in his arms, he whispered in her ears.”I love you..”he felt her shudder as his lips grazed the shell of her ear. His lips moved to her cheek. He said it again as he placed a kiss.”..I love you khushi..” Her small hands clutched his shirt in fist, her heart racing. She closed her eyes, her breathing heavy as felt his warm breath on her lips.

He paused just above her lips , giving her chance to back away if she want to. He felt her hands go around and clutch him from the back tightly. This was all he needed.
“I love you sweetheart..” he said before he gently placed his lips on her. He kissed her softly, it was his promise to her to never leave her, it was to reassure her that he love her, that he is very guilty about all the times he had hurt her.

They broke the kiss with khushi looking down, not able to look at him, her face red. This sight made arnav chuckle and tighten his hold on her. He placed a kiss on her forehead.”I love you always.”

Khushi put her head on his shoulder. She absorbed these words in heart. She ,after so many months is feeling something, she is feeling her old self after so long and she didn’t want this feeling to end. “Promise me..” she heard him say.

“Promise what…??” she asked.

“Promise me that you will never leave me..” She him shaking slightly as he took a raggered breath.”I will never leave you arnavji…i promise.”

Arnav relaxed , his head on the crook of her neck and he kissed her there and smiled as she responded to his touch by clutching him more
tightly.

“Lets go downstairs.” He said breaking the hug.

Khushi immediately shook her head, her eyes loosing its shine which was there few minuter ago.”Hey what happened…?? Don’t you want to meet everyone. They have missed you so much…missed their crazy khushi.”

He saw her eyes , they held betrayal. And again she shook her head.”Please can we stay here..??”

He just smiled and nodded at her. He know that there are many questions that has to be answered. Many things that he needs to say to her , many things that he need to know from her. But these things can wait. For now he just want to relish the feel of her in his arms. Want to enjoy the feeling of love that has enveloped them both. Be relieved that his khushi, his old crazy is coming back.

Chapter 21

The sun rays made their way into the room through the space between the curtains announcing the arrival of a new day. Arnav stirred and squinted his eyes as the sun rays falling on his face disturbed his sleep.

He froze as he felt something crepting up towards her neck. He looked down and saw as khushi stirred in her sleep , digging her face more into his neck as her hand clutched his collor ,she exhaled and returned back to deep sleep.

His breath stopped ,as for the first time neither his mind nor his heart were able to believe what his eyes were seeing. He had khushi in his arms as she slept peacefully. He had visioned this million times but he knew that it would never become reality. Her fringe fell over her forehead making her eyes flutter slightly. Not wanting to wake her up, he gently moved her hair behind her ear.

Still not believing that this moment is real not his imagination or a dream ,he continued to stare her face with his heart chanting only thing with every heart beat.

I love you…

I love you…

I love you so much…

Over and over again…

Closing his eyes, he leaned forward ,pressed his lips on her forehead as his heart uttered.

I am so sorry…

She felt something soft pressed on her forehead and slowly opened her eyes to look into arnav’s eyes which were filled with love and guilt. She closed her eyes to snap out of whatever hallucinations her mind was conjuring as she knew her love would never be reciprocated. Arnav hates her! There would only be hate in his eyes for her. Never love! Never!

But another memory came, of him kneeling down in front of her and his hand clapsing her mother’s Payal on her ankels once again cofessing why he had her payal with him, of him filling her maang with sindoor and a soft whispher that came out from his mouth.

Forever…

Forever…

This word echoed in her ears forcing her mind to accept that that was reality not her imagination.

“Goodmorning. Are you ok khushi..??”

She heard him say and she felt the rumbling against her cheek that rose from his chest. When she raised her eyes to look up at him, she found her eyes glued at him or specifically at his lips. He was looking down with his lips curved into soft smile.

Her hand rose on its accord to trace his lips that was curved up with her fingers to make sure that he was real.

Everying stopped for arnav as soon as he felt the touch of her fingers and for khushi, her eyes locked with his as she felt the softeness of his lips and the words escaped her mouth.”You are here! You…You really are here!”

Arnav looked at her eyes filled with uncertainity and her voice clearly showing her doubt she has in the reality of him being with her. He closed his hand around her hand which was on his lips and placing a gentle kiss on her palm, he spoke in firm voice.”I am here khushi and i’ll always be here. With YOU!”

As his words registered in her mind and with it came the dream.

Everything was dark and there was no source of light. Her heart was thudding loudly. She had always been afraid of dark.

She called out the one person that had always saved her ever since he entered in her life.

“Arnav!!!” her voice shaking with fear. She whipped her head around praying that he will come for her rescue as he always had.

“ARNAV!!!” She screamed again more loudly this time.

She breathed a sigh of relief as she saw him. Arnav. But what she saw made her scream out loud in absolute terror.

She saw arnav, his eyes brimmed with pain and guilt and his shirt red from blood. She saw him backing away from her and heard him.”I am sorry khushi.”

Running towards him, arm stretched she screamed for her life.”ARNAV!!!!” and the next moment she found her enclosed in his arms as he assured her that it was just a nightmare.

The dream felt as real as it could. Terried to hell, she threw herself more at him constantly murmering.”You..you are safe. Nothing happened to you.” Backing away slightly she ran her hands on his body.His abdomen, his chest and his face, reassuring herself that he is safe, that nothing happened to him. He is in front of her safe and sound.

Arnav realised that she was talking about the dream that she had last night. Desperate to calm her, he wound his arm around her, his hands rubbing her up and down to sooth her.”Shh calm down khushi. I am safe. Nothing happened to me. It was just dream. Relax.” He felt her breathing getting regular as she clutched him more tightly. He continued to rub her back and dropped a kiss on her hairs with a thought haunting his mind.’Why is she concerned me? ME? Why?’

After sometime he gently untangled himself from her. Standing up he leaned down and swept her up saying.”You should shower now. You can stand on your own no..?? Or i could fill the tub..” he stopped as he realised what he was about to say. Images flashed in front of his eyes.

Tub filled with blood…

Her blood…

Quickly correcting himself he said.”..or i could call payal for your help.”

His heart jumped in joy when she shook her head in denial.”No.”

He gently made her stand on the floor in front of the bathroom door still not leaving her hands. “Could you please leave the door unlocked. Please. If in case you won’t be able stand on your own then i could call payal for you. ”

She nodded and dispeared inside the bathroom closing the door but not locking it.

The time she took inside the bathroom were the most painful for arnav. There was a feart in him that she could try to take her life again but the sound of the shower and the thing that there was nothing sharp inside relaxed him a bit but then also he had fear in his heart.

Relief, immense relief that was what he felt when he heard the sound of opening of the door and looked up to see her walking out of the bathroom, her hair wet clinging to her cheeks and neck. She is so beautiful.

Grabbing the towel that lay on the bed, he strode towards her. Holding her wrist he led her towards the dressing table and made her
sit on the chair. He stood behind her gently started drying her wet hairs. He knew that she was staring at him from the mirror but he kept her down, he just want her to believe that this all real.

Once her hair dried,he dropped the towel on the recliner. Grabbing the small pot from the table, he took a pinch of sindoor and filled her maang with it.

He made sure that he was looking in her in the mirror all the while. He opened one drawer and took out mangalsutra. Slowly he brought it to her neck and clasped it around her neck.”Its of my mother khushi. She told me to give it to my wife when i’ll fall in love with her.” he confessed indirectly that he is in love with her.

Kneeling in front of her, he took her wrist in his hands and traced the marks of the cut on them. His heart clenched at the sight of them as doctor’s words came into his mind.

The cuts are very deep as though she didn’t want herself to be saved.

Shoving away the memory at the back of his mind, he took his mother’s
bangels and slid them in her hands effectively hiding the cut marks on her wrist.”…you know when i first made you wear them, i felt as though ma is now very happy, that her bangels got the right owner atlast.”

He looked up in her eyes and saw confusion and denial in them but he swore that he will remove this confusion from her eyes and make her believe that everything is real, that he is real.

Chapter 20

Everybody on the dining table were unnaturally quite. Tension hung in the air of the house. As if something bad had occured last night. Not that the day succeding that horrible night have been normal but today it felt the darkness have made its way to the deep in the house. Nk, who had tried to maintain light atmosphere in this house with his jokes and wrong hindi, was sitting quiet on the table playing with his food. He was not the only who had lost his appetite this morning. It was same with anjali and payal, while others were forcing the morsels of food down their throat.

All were busy in their thoughts but their thought process halted as they listened to the sound that the house have been devoid off from many days.

Chhan…

Chhan…

Every head on the table turned towards the stairs and every pair of eyes froze at what they saw.

They can’t believe their eyes. Khushi was walking very slowly downstairs with arnav supporting her by shoulders.

Chhan…

Chhan…

They heard it again. Nk was the first one to
recover from the shock. Pushing the chair back , he stood up and strode towards the stairs with everyone following behind him except payal. She was too shocked to see her sister like this, that she didn’t want to move or blink lest it comes out to be her hallucination.

Arnav indicated everyone to behave normal with his eyes. He want to make her feel normal in the house like before that nothing has changed, everything is same.

Nk understood what he wants to do, so he stepped forward as they descended down the last step and wore his charming smile one his face and greeted khushi.

“Khushiji ,aayiye aayiye. You know your favourite aaloo puri have been made. I can sniff its delicious smell also. We were waiting for you. I am very hungry, lets go and have breakfast.” he rubbed his hand on his stomach.

Arnav took towards the dining table and sat her down on the chair. Sitting on the chair next to her he was about to make her plate when payal said.”Arnavji..i..i will make her plate.” arnav
nodded as he know how she must be feeling now.

Payal filled her plate all the while holding back her tears and handed it to arnav. Khushi never looked at anyone even for once, her eyes were down all the time but when arnav took her name softly, she looked at him and he started to feed her while she ate silently.

At some point to she didn’t open her mouth to eat. When he thought she wasn’t hungry any more and was about to pick the glass of water for her, she slightly pushed the plate towards him, silently asking him to eat.

His heart filled with joy at same with pain seeing her so concerned about him when he did nothing but to hurt her and.. No! Don’t think about that now. Just think about khushi. She’s slowly coming out , is now becoming normal. Thats what matter the most.

He took a morsel and ate it. Next he feed her and like this they finished their breakfast. He leaned towards Nk and whispered in his ears.”Where is shyam..??”

“He is out of town again. Let khushiji stay down
Only. He will not be here.” Nk whispered back.

Standing up, arnav bent forward sliding his arm around her shoulder he urged her to stand up.”Come. We’ll sit in the living room.” He held her hand, which clutched tightly and stoop up slowly.

She sat on the sofa with payal next to her.

But when arnav tried to leave her she held his wrist tightly not letting him go. He put her hand on his thigh squeezed it slightly, reassuring her that he is not leaving her.

Everybody tried to talk to her but she remained slient, not responding to them. Some hours later her medicine kicked in her system and she slowly rested her head on arnav’s shoulder. He let her be like that until she was deep in sleep.

“I am taking her up in the room. ” he scooped her up in his arms taking care not to disturb her sleep. He proceeded towards the stairs not before signaling NK to follow him.

After settling her on the bed, he moved towards the poolside with NK. He turned towards Nk after closing the door.

He looked straight at Nk Nk and said.”I don’t want Shyam in this house. He should not enter in this house, i cannot let him be near her.”

“Don’t worry it will be done. But till when..?? What you would say to di about his absence. You should tell her nannav. She deserve to know about him.” NK questioned him.

Arnav sighed. He was tired of hiding this from di. As much as he want to tell her everything ,everytime the thought of her unborn child stops him. He couldn’t risk her life.

“I want to Nk. I very badly want to. But di is pregnant NK , i can’t take that risk. It will be too dangerous. She will not be able to take it.” Arnav spoke his helplessness clear on his face.

NK placed his hand on his shoulder and said.”I will say one thing nannav. Don’t take di’s pregnancy as her weakness, but the strength with which she will be able to face the truth and would be able to live her life for her unborn child. Think about it.” Nk left arnav deep in thought.

Arnav stood at the poolside gazing at the ripples of water Forming in the pool by the morning breeze. He couldn’t take any decision. There was too much at risk. Di will not be able handle the truth, then shyam is a dangerous man, if his real face would be exposed than he could do any harm to anyone and he can’t let that happen. Khushi is too vulnerable, if shyam tries to harm her. No! He could never let that happen. There is too much of a risk. Shyam’s game will end but not now. I will end him at right time.

The rest of the day went well, khushi with arnav’s support walked around the house, saw her jiji making food in the kitchen.Nani feeding lakshmi green leaves and hariprakash runnin around the house doing various chores.

Arnav was resting on the chair on the poolside. Leaning his head back ,he closed his eyes, listening to the sound of leaves of the his plants ruffling as the cool night breeze passed by him. He inhaled deeply as the cool breeze carressed his face, making him feel refreshed, letting his mind to stop his thought process For a moment. The peace was broken by khushi’s shriek.

ARNAV!!!!!!!!!

He ran inside the room and saw her sitting on the bed with horror struck eyes as she stared into emptiness, sweting profusely. Rushing towards he hugged her. Trying to normalise her rapid breathing. He rubbed her back sothing her, calming her as he continously murmered in her ears.”Shh i am here.. I am here khushi.” She clung to him tightly, her fingers gripping his shirt from the back.

After sometime her breathing got normal and he pulled back to look at her face. “Khushi what happened..?? Tell me. Why were you so scared. Saw a bad dream..??” he wiped her tears gently and caressed her hairs.

Not saying anything she buried her face in his chest and hugged him tighty.

“Hey its ok. I am here. Don’t be scared. I am here.” he murmered softly and laid down on bed gently and patted her head.

He was to stand up when he saw her breathing deeply but she clutched his wrist stopping him. “Khushi i…”
She tugged his Hand bringing him down on bed beside her. She rested her head on his shoulder, draping an arm over his torso. He hugged her close to him and closed his eyes, not believing that he is holding khushi in his arms as she slept. He soon drifted of to sleep as his heart was finally at piece, holding his love close to his heart.