I agree. Are you free tomorrow afternoon?
Even if I wasn’t, for Khushi I can postpone anything. Aakash will return tomorrow morning, we both will come in the afternoon.
Ok, see you then….And Payal, don’t worry, together we will make this work. We all love Khushi.
Reading Anjali’s final message, Payal wiped her tear-stained face and forced hope inside her heart. Yes together, all of them would find a way to help Khushi build trust in love again. They would have too, the girl who would help strangers in their relationships, the girl who had made sure that she and Aakash had become one from two today and soon may be three (if the signs she had been heeding were correct, she still needed to get confirmation, but regardless of whether it was true right now or not it would be one day) all thanks to Khushi; they owed it to her, for without her they may never have come together. The girl who had inspired love in so many, would have to believe she had been blessed with it too. She just would!
Payal pressed her lips on Khushi’s forehead, as she slept peacefully next to Payal on her bed. Khushi had been sleeping with her, while Aakash was away on business. After giving a long look at her slumbering form, she finally turned to place her cellphone on the bedside table, turn the lamp off and close her eyes to welcome mind-numbing sleep. Tomorrow, would be a new day, bringing a way to help Khushi out of her misery, this thought embedded in her mind, Payal finaly fell asleep.
‘Oh. Jeeju said they had something very important to do and would meet us at NHC.’ Khushi replied, still trying to decipher the reason behind Payal’s shifty-eyes. If the two of them had something to do that was fine by her, but why did that something cause Payal to not meet her own sister’s eyes. What was going on? Something about the way Payal hastily said good-bye made Khushi’s stomache churn. She couldn’t help but fear that Payal was up to something, something that regarded her.
‘Mmmm…ok. Then let’s get going shall we. Come on Thithaliya run along ahead and stop a taxi while me and your Amma make our way down.’
‘Uh…no. We don’t need a taxi. I mean Jeeju left the car and driver for us and took a taxi.’ Khushi related, still trying to understand what was going on.
‘Really? Oh Aakash bitwa…always so considerate. Discomforting himself just to make sure we are comfortable. Oh Jiji, we are so lucky to have such a caring son-in-law. Now if only we could find one equally great for Khushi.’ Garima whispered that last bit quietly to Madhumathi, to avoid Khushi hearing it, as she knew her daughter was still sensitive about marriage, not that she blamed her for being sensitive about it, but she just prayed that her wounds would heal and that she would see that not everyone was like Shyam, not everyone would betray her, so that she could give the insitituation of marriage a chance.
Madhumathi nodded in agreement. She too worried, greatly about Khushi. She wasn’t like Payal, she would never let them know what was going on inside her heart; she would always paste her beautiful smile on her face and fool them into believing she was happy, when in truth she was far from it. They never knew, how much she was breaking from inside, a reason why it took them so long to realize what had actually occurred between her and Shyam and just how much courage it had taken her to not just attend the wedding but make it a night-to-remember for everyone who attended it. While she admired the bravado in her neice she feared it too, for it masked her true feelings, which meant that no one would ever know exactly how much pain she was in. Take the last week, for example, she had been home everyday after work instead of at Shantivan, now they knew something was up, something was bothering her, but as always she had masked it in front of them and any chance they tried to trudge her reason for being at Payal’s she would change the subject. It was times like these she really didn’t know what to do, how to approach her, that is why they decided to take her to Shashi, for he alone could get through to her.
‘Thithaliya…are you going to wait for the pandit ji to take out a mauhrat for us to descend the steps and sit in the car, or shall we proceed.’ Bua ji snapped at Khushi, to bring her back to her bearings and get Khushi going, without suspecting their alterior motive of going to NHC today; and just like that, the momentary lapse in her mask of happiness subsided and she was back to smiling and chattering as she helped her aunt and mother down the steps, thinking that they had not noticed her worried state moments before.
‘No thank you, Di. We’re good for now.’ Payal replied, softly as she took her seat.
‘Ok. I’ll just get Nani and Chotay.’ She said as she turned to head into the house.
‘Umm Di?’ Aakash halted her.
‘If you don’t mind would it be ok if I went to get Arnav?’
‘Sure, why not? It will save me the trip.’ Anjali smiled. ‘He is in his study. Which is the room next to the room Khushi stayed in when she fractured her leg.’ Anjali reminded.
Aakash nodded, then turned to give Payal a consoling smile, when her gaze inquired as to what he was upto and then was off after Anjali. Thus both Anjali and Aakash left her alone in the lounge, making her suddenly feel very uncomfortable. Or that may be the result of the new somebody that was growing inside of her. She looked down and smiled as she patted her abdomen. She had just received the confirmation from the doctor. Payal and Aakash had gone straight to the hospital after they had left the mandir, where after two hours the lab had given her reports back and the doctor had happily announced the good news to the happy couple. She still couldn’t believe it, she was pregnant and would soon be a mother, Aakash a father. A grin played across her face as she thought about their near future. She couldn’t wait to tell Khushi. But that would have to wait, before she could tell her, she needed to figure out a way to let the happiness that was waiting on Khushi’s threshold enter her life without her sister kicking it out, due to her unfortunate past.
Khushi’s sadness and what they were going to do began haunting Payal again. She had spent the whole car ride over, in fact, the very moment since Aakash had come back from his business trip, relating this worry to him. Poor Aakash, she thought, he must be really tired of hearing her worry over Khushi, but he was too sweet to say anything, instead had listened very patiently and had calmed her over in the loving manner he always did when she went into panic-overload. But why had he gone to get Arnav, what was that all about? Uffo…what was taking everyone so long… She got up and began pacing the lounge as she waited for the rest to come, unable to sit still on the couch.
‘A lawyer in Lucknow…ok. Is in a partnership. Ok. Yeah tell me-‘ Arnav froze in mid-sentence as he heard a knock on the door.
‘May I come in?’ Aakash asked at the door to Arnav’s study. Arnav stared at him, a little puzzled and then beckoned him in.
‘Actually, send it to me on email, along with the rest of the details. Cause I can’t jot them down at the moment. Once I have read it I will let you know if I need anything else. Thank you.’ Arnav said, ending his call. ‘Aakash, hi. Sorry, work stuff.’ He said gesturing to the phone in his hand. ‘Di told me you guys were coming, I was actually thinking of coming over myself, needed to talk about somethings, but you’re here, so great. Shall we proceed into the lounge?’ Arnav invited as he came around the table and began towards the door.
‘Actually, before we go into the lounge and discuss this situation with Khushi, I was hoping to have a chat with you.’ Aakash said, stopping Arnav.
‘Umm…sure, ok.’ Arnav halted and then turned towards the sofa in his study, all the while keeping his eyes on Aakash, trying to calculate what exactly he wanted to discuss “man-to-man”, and acutally how much of the conversation he had heard, he hoped not a lot, for he didn’t want anyone to know about what he was setting into action, Khushi and her family, least of all.
‘I’m going to come right to the point, I don’t see any sense in beating around the bush and I respect your intelligence enough to not talk in innuendoes.’ Aakash stated as he kept his eyes pinned on Arnav.
‘Thank you. I prefer talking to the point too, saves a lot of misunderstanding and time.’ Arnav replied, not breaking the eye-contact, yet controlling the amount of intimidation in them. Aakash was Khushi’s brother-in-law and so he had no intention of scaring him or driving him away due to hostility on his part.
‘Payal tells me, you love Khushi.’
‘I do.’ Arnav agreed.
‘Really? How much? Enough to want to marry her?’
‘Actually yes. That is why Di called you over, this is what I wanted to talk about, with you all.’
‘Really?’ Aakash, seemed a little taken aback by his ready answer. He hadn’t expected him to say yes, he thought that he may take a little convincing.
‘Yes. I love Khushi very much. But she doesn’t believe me, what with her past and my unruly behaviour towards her, when we first met. Which I am ashamed of, I completely misjudged her; and so I understand her mistrust towards me. But I think marriage would change that. So even though I didn’t want to go straight into marriage and would rather have had a certain amount of an engagement period, for her to get to know me, I can see that to her it will only be more reason to not trust me and my love, thus I think we should get married, as soon as possible, for her to understand I mean what I say. That I’m not playing any games, I do love her and it is for life. But we weren’t really sure of how to proceed, so Di suggested we should all meet up to discuss it before we officially come to ask for Khushi’s hand. Plus, of course, we needed to know whether you would consider our proposal or not.’ Arnav added, as he realized he sounded too pretentious for supposing that it was only Khushi’s decision that mattered and not her family’s, for of course that was not the case. The way to Khushi’s heart was through her family.
Aakash just stared at Arnav, as he related his whole take on the situation. Throughout the car ride, he and Payal had discussed as what the best plan of action would be. What would make Khushi realize this was for real and they had both arrived on the solution of marriage. They both realized if the Raizada’s came with a proposal then Khushi would come around and believe it to be real. It still would be hard work, because of course Shyam too, had offered marriage, only to back out on his promise most brutally, thus to convince her the same wouldn’t happen this time round would take a lot of convincing, but at least if she saw that Arnav was planning on marrying her, part of her would start believing him and his love. It was then he had asked whether Anjali had suggested marriage or anything else and Payal had replied in the negative. After that he had gone quiet, for a new thought began growing a seed of doubt in his mind, which he chose not to share with Payal, for he didn’t see the point of worrying her more than she already was. But ever since Payal had related that the Raizada’s had not mentioned anything about a marriage, he had been plagued with the suspicions his dear saali was having, of whether Arnav really was in love with her or not? Rumours about his reputation had circulated the business world and although he wasn’t one to take heed of any rumours, this was regarding Khushi, he wasn’t going to take any chances.
Rumour had it that Arnav didn’t have a heart, that he wasn’t capable of love and the little love that he may have imparted on people had long been quenched since his fiancée’s untimely death. Thus it was imperative for him to know whether he was init for real or whether he was just playing around with Khushi’s heart, if that was the case than he wouldn’t spare him. Unfortunaley he hadn’t been able to do anything to Shyam, for when he had learnt about his character they had been in separate cities, but Arnav was in front of him and so he would do everything in his power to punish him if he hurt Khushi.
However, judging from everything Arnav had just related and from the earnestness in his eyes, he was coming to the conclusion that this wasn’t a game on Arnav’s part, but that he truly did love Khushi and was hell-bent on finding a way to make her see it too. If that was the case then they were on the same page.
‘Umm…Aakash, you ok? You’ve been silent for quite some time now.’ Arnav called him back to the study.
‘Hmm…I just…this isn’t some cock-and-bull story is it? Look just because I’m not her brother by blood doesn’t mean she isn’t a sister to me. Khushi is very precious to me, to all of us and she has had her heart broken way too many times. Life has been incredibly unfair to her, she lost her parents when she was eight and then the her best-friend and fiancé, turned out to be a fraud who never cared about her but had only entertained her all these years, just to let her drop her guard and allow him to get what he wanted from her. So you better not hurt her, because if you do I swear you will have me to deal with!! Unfortunately I wasn’t there to deal with that ******* but that doesn’t mean I will let you off. I will hunt you down if I have too, but I will not let you go.’
‘Waow…you won’t have to Aakash, because I will never hurt Khushi. The very thought of someone hurting her pumps venom in my veins against that person. So you can be assured that I will never let anything bad even come near her, let alone touch her.’ Arnav assured him, while a glint of pride lit up in his eyes for Aakash, up until this point he had respected the man now he held sheer pride for him, for caring so much for his Khushi, to harbour similar murderous feelings when her safety was in concern. ‘And as for that worst-version-of-a-man, well he will get his comeuppance, be sure of that!’ Arnav added, in a low repugnant murmur, but Aakash caught it.
‘Uh…no…I just mean that, what goes around comes around. He will pay for his crimes, I’m sure of it.’ Arnav stated hastily, trying to cover up his sudden lapse in control over his emotions.
‘Hmm…yeah I sure do hope so. But the guy is freaking untouchable….I tried to get hold of him, this time round when I was in Lucknow, but his security didn’t even let me through. He knows he has made enemies out of us and so has hired guards to keep us away from him!’ Aakash spat out in frustration, before he could help himself. ‘I mean not that I intended to do anything fatal to the guy, but I just….’ Aakash tried to think of something to cover-up his near slip-up of the murderous thought that had led him to Shyam’s firm in Lucknow, something he had not even told Payal about.
‘Hey don’t sweat it…I think after the converstation we have just had, about how our blood boils at the very thought of how he completely broke Khushi, a sight we both witnessed and one that still keeps me up at night, I think it’s safe to say I will not think wrongly of any hazardous thoughts you may have regarding him.’ Arnav winked at him.
Aakash smiled, ‘Yes but the women in our live’s may not be too happy about it…’
‘Yeah I guess not. So, your secret’s safe with me, as long as mine is safe with you.‘ Arnav laughed.
‘Definitely. And speaking about the women in our live’s, I guess we should head out before they come here looking for us.’ Aakash said getting up.
‘Yup. We cool?’ Arnav asked, as he brought his hand out towards Aakash.
‘We’re cool.’ Replied Aakash taking it and shaking it, like the brothers they had just become. They both walked out in polite conversation about each other’s business, as they made their way to the lounge. Both revelling in the new friendship they had just entered. It had been a long time for either of them to find such a genuine friend. While Arnav did have NK and he did appreciate his friendship, even though recently he had questioned it, while he had been jealous of NK and Khushi’s intimacy, he had come to realize it was just that, jealousy and not that he didn’t like the guy, even with his whole carefree attitude. But with Aakash, this was something new entirely. There was an easy companionship with him, they both were very alike in many forms, especially when it came to matters of the family and so it was an amicable friendship, where they both trusted and respected the other and shared a common ground, Khushi. And just like that Khushi was yet another reason for happiness in Arnav’s life.