CHAPTER 28

Arnav waited for everyone to leave the kitchen before grabbing Khushi’s hand and taking her up inside their room. As soon as they entered inside Arnav locked the room and took Khushi in his arms. Not a second later he felt her tears socking his shirt as she wept quietly. He closed his eyes and tightened his hold on her, his heat tightening in his chest for every drop of the tear that spills out of her eyes.

“Shh…Khushi…” Arnav tried to stop her crying, whispering in her ears softly. “It has to be done. ” He loosened his arms from her. “Look at me Khushi.” Looking at her face wet from tears split his hear into two. He took her chin in his fingers and made her look up at him. When her wet eyes met his he said, “Khushi, I can’t say that I can understand how you are feeling. How much you must be hurting now, but I know that it must be hurting a lot. I can’t even imagine what you must be going through right now. But Khushi, do you really wanted to have this hurt and anger to be bottled up inside you? Hurting you with every breath you take?”

Khushi looked away from Arnav not allowing him to see the evidence of the truth he had spoken. “Hiding your eyes from me won’t make it any less true than it really is Khushi. The first time you fell into my arms, I saw the sadness lurking behind your eyes. And I have seen it every minute you spent with me after that. But it was smashed into my face when you only responded to me in the hospital Khushi. That day it became clear to me what was really in your heart and that you are tired of making everyone happy at the stake of you happiness.”

“Why can’t they just let me be? Is it my fault that I am an orphan?” It was that Khushi had never asked anyone. Had never thought of speaking out loud.

In a second Khushi was crushed in Arnav’s arms. “No…no! It is not your fault! Do you hear me? ” His own voice was shaking. His own demons of the past trying to take him down into dark place that had always made him terrified after his parents death. He had survived that but there was also a price to pay but he can’t let Khushi go through this. Never! He won’t let that happen!

“Khushi, It was an accident! It could have happened to anyone. If its anyone’s fault, then its of that person who drove carelessly and crashed his car to yours. Its not your fault…not your fault.” Arnav kept whispering in her ears not letting another thought enter her mind.

“But I survived…” Khushi spoke in barely audible voice.

Arnav’s heart lurched painfully. God! All this time…all this bloody time she had survivor guilt!

Holding her close to his chest…painfully close to him, Arnav tried to speak urgently and calmly, both at the same time.”Khushi, you survived because of your parents love. They loved you so much that I am sure they must have prayed to god for you to be safe even if they won’t. They wanted you to grow and have a beautiful life. The life they must have always dreamed of for you. ” Her breathing relaxed and she was intently listening to him. “You talk to them, don’t you? Every night they come to see you, to give you their love. Tell me Khushi, is that bad thing that you survived? That by living and growing up to be a wonderful woman that you are now as they wished is a bad thing?

Khushi shook her against his chest. “They are happy don’t they?”

Arnav smiled down at her, his eyes reassuring and full of love for her, “Why don’t you ask them yourself tonight? And I think its been many days since you’ve talked to them.”

Khushi gave him a wobbly smile. She seems to be composing herself inside. “I will talk to them tonight. Will you be there with me? ” She wanted him with her, she need him with her at that time. It was all in her eyes.

“Of course, I will,” Arnav tugged her to the bed, making her sit on it. “And you have to introduce someone to them,” He kneeled in front of her and took her hand in his.

“Who?”

“Me, Of course!” Arnav gave a surprised look before smiling knowingly, “Or did you talked about me to them already?”

Khushi’s cheek turned pink making Arnav’s eyes go wide. “You have! And is that blush I am seeing on your face?” He slowly grinned but that turned into chuckles as the colour of her cheeks darkened more. “So tell me what did you tell them?” She won’t look at him in the eyes. Her eyes firmly stayed on his collar. “It would be definitely bad, no? That I am a bad monster that wants to eat their sweet little daughter?”

Khushi shook head. That surprised Arnav. Finally, she looked at him. “I first told them your name and that instead of blood arrogance runs through your veins. ” She smiled mischievously at him. The trauma and pain of the past hour seemed to fade away. “Then when we came to Delhi I told them I see past through your exterior, all the arrogance and anger. That I didn’t know if I was right or not but something inside me told me that it was not all of you. That you’ve kept a bigger and important part of you hidden from the world.”

Arnav sat still. He was completely absorbing her words about him. He wants to know the man she sees in him. “And…?”

Khushi seems to understand his sudden need to know about him from her, so she continued. “And then I told them about how you helped me in small things subtly and though you didn’t want me, but still I know that it was you. I told them that you had hurt me whenever you have …”

Arnav cringed at that, “…But I never told them what you did. I just let them know that I was hurt.”

Arnav looked down, “You should have.”

“No. It was my choice not to tell them. It was between them and me and I got to choose what to tell them and not.” Suddenly her voice took a hard edge.

“but…”

“And I told them I am married now..”

When she didn’t say anything, Arnav asked her, “You told them who you are married to? How you were married?”

“No.”

“Why?”

It was clear from her face that she was not liking this conversation now, “I told them that I am married and I married the man I love. And I not talking about this any more.” Her displeased expression turned into peace. “I will introduce you to them tonight. So brace yourself, you will be interrogated tonight.”

Arnav laughed at that. He kept silent about the things he wanted to say to her. How she should have told them all the things about him. How he had forced her to marry him. For six months.But She will not listen to him now. She will not see him look guilty of the things he had to here in the past.

“Have I told you that I love you deeply?”

Khushi shook her head, pouting. There seems to have certain peace around her, like a huge burden had lifted from her shoulder. And it has. She has spoke her heart out. Poured out all the things she has felt and had kept mum about. But it was out from inside of her and she is looking so live and carefree. “You didn’t” She said.

Arnav eyes twinkled, looking at her. “I love you Khushi Singh Raizada. I love you more than anything in this world. I love you with all my heart. I love you more than my life!” Arnav leaned closed and took her lips in his to her how much love he really has for her.

****
Everyone had tried to talk to Payal. But she had been inside her room, the door locked from inside. No amount of coaxing made her reply. She didn’t say anything, all they got from the other side was silence. Akash was pacing outside the doors. Occasionally banging on the door, pleading Payal to just talk to him. But the door never opened. Only one person could answer all their questions. Arnav. He had been in the room with Khushi and NK has efficiently stopped anyone who were even thinking about going to him. They may not understand or were simply ignoring the truth that had been laid before them by Khushi. She has only talked about her family had done wrong with, but everyone here knew that they were nor far from her family in treating her. They knew how he had behaved with Khushi after marriage. They are just running from their conscience, not really accepting they were better than the Guptas.

“Nk bhai, what do you think will happen when Khushiji’s family would be here?” Anjali whispered to him, standing next to him.

Watching Akash and others hovering before his room and their flicking upwards, Nk spoke, “They will have to listen to the hard truth. They will have to face what have done to Khushi all these years. They will have to face their doings. And…they will loose their daughter tonight, if they ever thought of Khushi as theirs.”

As Anjali sighed, the door opened to reveal a distressed Garima and frantic Buaji running inside. Immediately, Anjali guided them towards Payal closed door. Before saying anything, Ajali asked, “What did Payalji told you aunty?”

“She was crying and was mumbling Khushi’s name over and over again. Khushi is fine? She is fine, no? Had something had happened to her? Payal was rambling about us coming over here and Khushi’s name again and again.” Garima looked at front then up the stairs then all over the living room. Her mind already in conflict to which daughter she should go first. “Tell me, had something happened to Khushi?” Her eyes flickering and troubled. Her voice shaking.

“She’s fine aunty.” Anjali saw relief wash through her, before the distress came again. “But then why was Payal crying? ” She took a step towards the room and knocked. “Payal? We are here!”

The room doors burst open a second later revealing a disheveled Payal with swollen eyes and tear stained face. She threw herself in her mother’s arms sobbing, fresh tears leaking out of her eyes. “Maa, Khushi. She…” She couldn’t complete her words, sobbing after each word.

Garima looked everyone silently asking what had happened, when Payal spoke, “Khushi…Maa, Khushi, she broke all relations from us. ” And just like that Garima’s face turned white while buaji’s mouth hung open.

It was buaji who asked the most important question, “But how? She was not responding to anything less talk!”

Anjali stepped forward, “She can talk now buaji. Not only that she can walk smoothly.”
“Why?” Garima whispered.
But said nothing. It was not in her to speak one coherent sentence.

“You should talk to Khushi, Garima aunty. ” Nk said. She nodded, dazed.

“I’ll call her down.” Nk walked upstairs.

“Nannav…??” Nk knocked on the door. “Come in Nk.” Came Arnav’s voice.

NK opened the door slightly. Nannav was sitting on the floor with Khushi on bed, hilding her hands. He can see she’s been crying. “They are here.” He said simply.

Arnav felt Khushi’s hand go still. He tightened his hold in turn, giving her the support she need to go through this.

“We are coming.” Arnav stood up, walked towards the door, Khushi’s hand in his while Nk waited by the door.

They all three walked down the stairs together. Anjali watched as they walked down the stairs, Khushi between Nk and Arnav. In this moment she had all the protection she needed. With her husband and her devar next to her nothing can harm her.

Khushi didn’t even spared a glance at Garima and buaji. She walked straight ahead and sat on the couch.

Garima and buaji came running to her but Payal was behind, her eyes trained on Khushi. Khushi jerked back and slid closer to Arnav who was sitting next to her when Garima tried to take her in embrace, happy to see her healthy.

“Khushi…” Garima stared at her wide eyed and that was when Payal’s words came into her mind.

Khushi…Maa, Khushi, she broke all relations from us.

“Please sit down Garima aunty. We need to talk.” Khushi calmly said all the while she crushed Arnav hand in her.

It was like a blow on her that Garima slumped on the couch behind her. Buaji opened her mouth to say something, but Khushi stopped her. “Please, I have to say something first.” And motioned buaji to take a seat next to Garima.

“First of all I want to thank you for taking care of me all these years. ” Khushi spoke with no emotion in her voice at all. Like she’s making a business deal. At this moment she reminded Arnav of himself. “I was orphan…I am an orphan that you took in care and nurtured me and made me who I am today. And I thank you for that. You also gave me your name and I am very thankful of that but Now I would like to take my name back. I can’t be Gupta anymore. ” Khushi spoke looking straight to Garima. Her voice never wavering, never giving giving the pain she was feeling inside her.

“You both know that I was never Gupta to you. It was just on paper, on my mark sheets, on my certificate. Just in papers. So, now I want to take that burden off you. Now, I am Khushi Singh Raizada. Khushi Mehra Singh Raizada, a wife, a daughter in law, an orphan.” Khushi looked coldly at buaji,.”I don’t have a father, a mother. They died when I eight and i don’t have any sister. ”

Khushi didn’t even flinched when Payal broke into sobs right in front of her. “But I an request. I would like to visit bab… your husband. If you allow, that is.”

Khushi sat waiting for them to say something. But they didn’t. Garima continued to look at Khushi silently urging her to tell that it was all a joke. That never happened. Khushi stared at Garima’s eyes letting her see the truth in her eyes. Arnav held hand through out, his other hand making small circles at the small of her back, comforting her, encouraging her.

Garima hung her head in resignation. She had seen the truth in Khushi’s eyes. Had seen the pain in them which had inflicted by them. She hadn’t said anything but she knew. Looking into her eyes she knew, that she somewhere she has lost her daughter the night she of her marriage, the night she she broke all the ties with her daughter. It was all a facade. The days she spent in their house, smiling. Today she had shed that facade and now she had broken all the ties with them not the other way around. It was all their fault.

Garima looked at Payal, telling her that no amount of crying can bring her sister back. They have lost her. Khushi will only be her jathani, her sister-in-law. Atleat she will get to see her daily.

When Garima remained silent, Khushi stood up. “I think I got my answer. Thank you once again for all the things that you done for me. But I should leave now.”

“Take me upstairs,” Khushi whispered to Arnav . She was breaking down from inside. Arnav was leading her away from them, when suddenly Garima stoped Khushi. “You can come to meet him anytime you want. Our house will always open to you. And I…I have a request…” She hesitated before saying, “Can I hug you.. for the last time?”

Khushi stood silent for a minute then nodded. Garima gingerly wrapped her arms around Khushi before firmly embracing her. “Please Khushi…” Garima whispered brokenly into her ears. Then only Khushi lifted her arms and hugged her.. Khushi abruptly broke the hug. She can’t take it more. She breaking and she is breaking fast.

“I am sorry…I have to go!” And she raced back upstairs with Arnav running after her.

Garima watched Khushi running away from her, the same girl who used to run towards on small feet ten years before. She watched as her daughter left her and becoming a stranger to her. She watched her daughter Payal’s jethani up stairs.

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