‘Urgh….my head…’ Khushi groaned as she got up the next morning to the sound of something breaking.
‘Ahh! What the-?’ she yelped as her foot pressed on something sharp. She tried to focus in on the scene before her, but for some reason this morning it was a lot harder than usual. Her head continuing to swim did not help with the process. Finally, she managed to zero in on what had stung her foot and found broken glass and water on the ground. That explained the breaking sound. But where did the glass come from though, she didn’t remember putting it on her night stand, come to think of it she didn’t remember much about last night. How had she gotten home? When had she gotten home, it was all a blur.
‘Ugh’, first, she needed to get hold of some aspirin before she tried to make sense of what had happened the previous night. But somebody had already arranged for that. As her eyes darted around the room to see from where to climb down from, her eyes caught sight of a box of aspirin on her bed side table, on top of which rested a sticky note. Next to which was a numb ring on the woodwork, no doubt left by the glass that now covered her floor, she must have knocked it over in her sleep. She picked up the box and peeled the sticky note off of it to read. Oh gawd the writing was horrendous…add to that her blurred vision, it took her a good fifteen minutes to decode the message left.
These are soluble tablets, drop two in the water and drink it down, it’s going to taste foul but will help with the nasty headache you have.
She stared at the note and then at the tablets, who had left these? Wait she knew this script, had seen it before….but where? Ugh forget about who at the moment Khushi and cure this unbearable headache!
‘Argh!’ she had stepped on to the broken pieces of glass again. Now, paying closer attention to the glass she shuffled across her bed and jumped off from the edge to avoid the glass bits completely. She hopped into the kitchen, as her right toe was bleeding now and poured herself a glass of water, then as instructed dropped two of the round tablets into the water. While they dissolved with a fizz, she equipped herself with a band-aid and applied it on to her bleeding toe. That done she picked up the now aspirin-water and took a gulp and then nearly spat it back out again. Urgh, it really did taste horrid! How was she to finish the rest of it?! She stared at the glass, had she not taken a big swig of it just now, then how was it still that full?!! Was the medicine making it multiply or something?!!!
‘Ok Khushi Kumari Gupta, come on you can do this. One big swig that’s all….come on…’ she cheered herself on as she dreadingly brought that glass nearer to her. Shutting her eyes and clenching her nose she downed the glass as quickly as possible and then leaned over the sink in the kitchen incase the disgusting concoction threatened to come back up her throat. Thankfully it did not and she turned to pour herself another glass of water to wash away the terrible aftertaste of the cure provided to her by her well-wisher, only she was wondering whether they really were her well-wisher, having made her drink the awful mixture, but then again they had warned her had they not, so she really shouldn’t begrudge them.
She was in the middle of munching her breakfast, across the table from Arnav and next to Anjali, when she finally remembered and blurted out, ‘Uurrrnaff jih!’ Only it came out all muffled due to the piece of toast she had been chewing.
‘Khushi? Are you ok?’ Anjali inquired as she patted her back.
‘Yes, yes. I just finally realized. It was Arnav ji!’ she repeated, after she swallowed the bite she had been chewing on.
‘Excuse me?’ Arnav stared at her quizzically, over his half buttered toast.
‘It was you. Your writing. You left the note. I recognize it now, it’s the same scrawny script with which you wrote the measurements of the male models back in my internship week.’ She announced happily. Relieved for finally managing to figure it out, it had been bothering her all morning.
Arnav looked like he wished to be anywhere but there. It wasn’t that she knew it was him, for that he had assumed she would have figured the moment she read the note, it was the fact that she had broadcasted it over the breakfast table. He never liked being put in the light about anything and especially not when he had done something good for someone. He had been long cast in the abnoxious, uncaring role in front of the world and preferred to stay put init, rather then let it slip that he had care couped up inside of him; a lot of care. He preferred the role of the silent, anonymous well-wisher not the highlighted do-gooder. Because when people realized you were capable of good, they expected you to always be good and he never liked the idea of having to live life by someone’s expectations, because expectations were always broken and they left only misery and hurt in their wake, that was something he knew too well, for life had given those to him on every turn.
‘Note? What note?’ Nani asked, intrigued by this new development in her grand-son’s “secret love affair”.
‘Yes what note did you leave Khushi, Chotay?’ Anjali too asked, enjoying every moment of Arnav’s embarrassment, may be now he would finally confess, so that she could celebrate the joy of it with him.
‘I have no idea what she is talking about? I don’t think even she has a clue.’ Arnav said through gritted teeth.
‘Of course I know what I’m talking about. You left the note, to tell me to take the aspirin. How did you know I would have a headache?’ Khushi asked, for that had been the second thing bothering her, how did the person know she was going to feel like a train-wreck in the morning, therefore left the cure for her.
‘You’re unwell, Khushi bitya?’ Nani now asked with concern and pride in her voice, on better understanding what the note had consisted of. It had more in it then she had guessed, it showed just how much Arnav loved her. The fact that he had known about her headache, when she herself didn’t remember telling him and had provided her with the means to treat it showed just how much he cared, how much Khushi’s love had changed him. It illustrated that it wasn’t just an attachment but rather the real deal. Her grand-son had finally fallen in love!
‘Uh. No, not anymore. Just had a really bad headache in the morning, may be the music from last night caused it, but the aspirin, Arnav ji,’ she stressed his name, ‘left me helped. I’m much better now.’ She smiled, all the while keeping her eyes on him, but he didn’t give anything away, for he didn’t meet her eyes. Although that pretty much confirmed any doubt she may have had, but she wanted him to fess up.
‘Aww Chotay that was very nice of you, to tend to Khushi’s headache. Didn’t know my brother was capable of that sort of care for anyone other than Nani or me.’ Anjali jibed, making him more uncomfortable by the minute.
‘I don’t!’ he said getting up, he was not going to agree to it, especially not infront of them all, for then that would raise more questions, which he definitely did not want to answer, not yet anyway. Khushi may have implied in her drunken state that she too had feelings for him, but she clearly did not remember this, plus she herself did not know what it meant for she had been asking him so how was he supposed to just drop the charade and proclaim his love for her, when she herself was unaware. ‘I mean I don’t know why you are thinking that I left you the aspirin because I didn’t Khushi, ok? Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got work to do.’
‘What? Chotay you’re leaving, but it’s Sunday. I thought you said you were going to change and spend it with us like you did two weeks back. Now last week you had the fashion show prep so we understood, but the fashion show was last night and went brilliantly. So what work do you have now?’ Anjali asked a little put out that he was bailing before they could get the confession out of him.
‘Di, LaANK isn’t the only company I run under AR Group of Companies. I have a bunch of others too, for which I have many ongoing projects. And relax, I’m not going in to the office, I’m just going to my study to look over the water-plant project I have started in Nainitaal, I haven’t checked its’ progress due to the fashion show, now its’ time to pay more attention to it and my other projects. Plus, I need to phone your contractor, the building should at least be standing by now and not just it’s foundations. They are taking way to long to build the institute. I’ll get a hold of Mr. Mehta and give him an earful to get him moving faster….’ Arnav trailed, giving more information about his works than he ever did, making Anjali and Nani smile as they saw it was all a cover to get him away from the table.
‘Hah! I have evidence!’ Khushi barged into his study twenty minutes later, all red.
‘Hunh?’ Arnav looked up from the project file he had been trying to study. ‘You ok Khushi? You look like you just ran a marathon.’ Arnav observed.
‘What? Oh yes, fine. Fine.’ She said off-handedly as she wiped her sweat with her dupatta much to Arnav’s amusement. ‘I just….it took me quite a while locate it but I found it.’ She said indicating to some paper in her hand.
‘Found what?’ he asked, leaning back in his chair.
‘Evidence.’ She smiled triumphantly. ‘See.’ She waved the piece of paper in front Arnav until he took it. ‘That’s your writing.’ She said as he inspected it.
‘Yes it is.’ He agreed.
‘So you agree?’ He nodded. ‘Now you have to agree that the note I found on my side table this morning was by you too.’ She folded her arms smugly.
‘Actualy, I don’t.’ He stated simply.
‘How can you deny it? You just said that’s your writing.’ Khushi huffed.
‘Yes, this list of measurements is written by me…but you haven’t provided me with the note you wish for me to acknowledge to be mine…so then how can I agree to it?’ He pointed out smartly.
Khushi opened her mouth to retaliate but then closed it again, he had a point. She had only presented the evidence not the case. She held up her index finger, indicating for him to wait as she fetched the other piece of paper with which he could compare the scripts and then have to agree that they were the same and that he was the one who had left her the note. With that she left before he could say anything else, he had been in the mind to accept that it was him without her producing the said note.
Minutes later she arrived back, short of breath, note in hand, which she thrust into his. ‘Now… how…can…you…de-ny…it?’ she uttered between each breath, clutching the stitch in her side.
‘If you had waited to hear me out then you would have heard my consent, instead of having to run back and forth.’ Arnav replied without even looking at the note, for he was busy guiding her towards his chair where he sat her down and poured her a glass of water.
‘Wait. You agree, that this note is yours?’ She asked, with a surprise, after taking the first gulp.
‘Yes.’ He affirmed, as he leaned against his desk, opposite from her.
‘Then why were you giving me so much attitude over breakfast?!!’ she said suddenly getting up and coming close to his face, which was level with hers’ for a change as he was sitting at the edge of his desk.
‘I just wasn’t in the mood of consenting to it then.’ He said contently. Enjoying her anger, it brought such a spark in her eyes.
‘Excuse me? Wasn’t in the mood?! Why?!’ she exhaled noisily, coming closer to him.
‘Because I wasn’t. But why are you so interested in getting me to fess up? You already knew it was me did you not?’
‘Yes, but I wanted you to say it!’
‘I…uff…how did you know I would have a headache? And if you left the note and medicine then you were the one who dropped me home too, weren’t you?!’
‘Possibly.’ He purposefully baited her, enjoying her frustration of not being able to remember the night before.
‘What do you mean possibly?! How can you not remember whether you dropped me or not?!!’
‘Well I can ask you the same thing, can’t I? Don’t you remember how you got home?’
‘No! I can’t! That’s why I’m asking! If you dropped me then its’ ok, but if someone else did…’ she trailed off, unsettled by the thought that she may have come home with someone else. Ugh why couldn’t she remember….if she couldn’t remember who dropped her, god only knew what else she didn’t remember.
‘Why would my bringing you home be ok, but not someone else’s?’ he asked softly, even though he knew the answer, for she had given it to him last night.
‘Because with you I know I’m safe, but if you didn’t then…’ she answered absent-mindedly, lost in her thoughts about the previous night and what may have resulted in her memory lapse. If she had been focused she would never have let him know that she felt safe around him.
‘Really, you feel safe with me?’ Arnav asked brazenly.
Khushi stiffened. His question brought her back to her surroundings making her acutely aware of how close his face was to hers’. Her heart began pounding in her ears as she only stared at him, helpess with what she had let slip due to being lost in her thoughts. He stared back. Cherishing the moment in which she had let her feelings prevail without realizing. He had heard her say it the night before too, but it felt good to hear it from her lips again, when sober. It made it all the more real. All the more special.
‘Don’t worry yourself too much Khushi. I was the one who brought you home last night.’ He said soothingly, as he spied her strangling the corner of her dupatta again. He rescued it from her hands, sending shivers down her back ending in the pit of her stomach with his touch.
She stumbled back and then sat in to his chair. ‘Why can I not remember last night Arnav ji?’ she asked, not meeting his eyes.
‘Because you had alcohol at the after-party. That’s why you had a really bad headache this morning.’ He explained to her, not having the heart to toy with her anymore, for she looked so scared.
‘What?! Alcohol!! I would never.’ She shouted, appalled by the thought of having drunk it.
‘Ah...relax Khushi its’ ok. It happens. No one will blame you.’ he tried to calm her.
‘No way, I don’t drink!’
‘But you did. That’s why you don’t remember.’ He said reminding.
‘But how could I…’
‘Someone must have given it to you.’ Arnav suggested, deciding it was best not to tell her what she had told him in her drunken state; that she had taken the drink herself as she had liked the way it looked. Pink.
‘Who would do that? Wait you didn’t did you?!!’ she turned at him, aware that he liked to play games with her.
‘What? I wasn’t even at the party Khushi,’ Arnav retaliated. ‘Besides I know you don’t drink, so I wouldn’t, even if I had been there.’
‘Right. You wouldn’t.’ she agreed, realizing that he may tease her every now and then but he would never make her do something she was dead against. ‘Then who?’
‘I don’t know. May be the drinks got mixed up and you drunk someone else’s.’ Arnav theorized, all the while swelling with pride that she trusted him, knew that he would never force her to do something she didn’t like.
‘May be…’ she agreed after a while lost in thought. ‘Ok, I will leave you to your work, I guess.’ She said getting up from his chair.
‘You ok, Khushi?’ He asked just to be sure.
‘Yes.’ She smiled and left the room only to come back in moments later. ‘Oh gawd, Arnav ji!’ she shouted from the door, worry in her face.
‘What? What is it?’ he came over, alarmed.
‘I…I….umm,’ how was she supposed to ask this?! ‘I…last night…I mean….we...I didn’t…’
‘No Khushi. You didn’t do anything wrong. I took you home after I found you and you were already asleep before we got home, I left you in your bed. Nothing worrisome happened.’ Arnav related, understanding her question.
‘Ok. Good. I’ll, umm, go now.’ Her cheeks burning red with embarrassment for last night, she turned to leave, only to turn around at the door again.
‘I…umm. Thank you.’ she smiled shyly. ‘Thank you for bringing me home last night.’
‘Khushi we live at the same place, so no need to thank me.’ He said, voice thick with emotion.
‘Yes, we do. But still thank you. And thank you also for walking down the ramp with me, I didn’t get a chance to thank you last night for it. It meant a lot to me that you came, when Nanhe ji didn- OH MY GOD NANHE JI!!’ she suddenly blared, ruining the moment for Arnav.
‘What about him?’ Arnav asked sourly.
‘He will know! He will know who gave me the alcohol!!’ Her thoughts turning murederous once more towards the person who had given her the drink she left his study in a rage. Leaving Arnav very happy for a change at the thought of her going to NKs’, for this time he knew it wasn’t a social call but rather her going over to yell at him.
It wasn’t until she had actually left the house, that a new thought entered his mind causing his happiness to shimmer away. What if NK proposed to her? He had been wanting to the night before had he not, so why wouldn’t he do it today? Now he may know that she had feelings for him and he for her, but she didn’t know. She was still unaware of his and her own feelings towards each other. What if in that confusion she said yes to NK, because like Anjali had said they liked each others’ company and he knew her to be naïve enough to let that be reason enough to marry him!