‘Yes, you are right. As much as I wanted to pick out weaknesses to keep you all longer at my place, I can’t for there are none. It is a wonderful house. A haven in the Delhi.’ Payal remarked as she looked around the place.
‘No not haven, but rather an owaisis in the middle of Delhi.’ Khushi beamed, as she went on to the back porch, smiled at the breath-taking garden. Whoever had worked on it, their passion for it showed. It was magnicient.
‘That is how he described it.’ NK echoed behind her. Smiling at how both hers’ and Arnav’s thoughts were alike.
‘Who?’ Khushi turned to ask.
‘Urmm….my friend. The one who told me about this house. It belonged to his grand-father. They lived in it for quite some time, but now that his family has left the country they basically want a decent family to live here and take care of it, hence they are not fussed about the rent. But I said, you won’t accept without rent so they said you could decide the rent yourself.’ NK related, pleased with himself for not letting it slip who exactly the friend was.
‘That is very generous of them.’ Payal now joined them. ‘But we should not take advantage of this generosity, we will get the realtor’s to come quote a price for this place and that will decide the rent.’
‘Yes. That is how it should be decided. Just because they are being so beneficient doesn’t mean we should cheat them.’ Khushi agreed.
‘Uh… really, you want to get a realtor?’ NK asked, feeling backed-up against the wall, with their righteous attitude. But then Khushi wouldn’t be Khushi if she wasn’t a pillar of honesty and Payal being her sister meant she too would share that principal. But that was the last thing Arnav and he wanted, for this place would cost a fortune and that was without Arnav’s amazing gardening, add that and the quotes for the place would sky-rocket; for it was like they both had described it, an owasis in Delhi. It was a-one-of-a-kind place that would have anybody fawning over it. He needed to stop this from happening, from them ever learning the true value of the place as that would make them drop any thoughts about the house, even with the handsome salary Khushi was receiving as designer at LaANK, besides most of it was going for her father’s treatment at NHC.
‘Um… well how about I get the realtor I know on it and then let you guys know what she quotes, yeah?’ Yeah that sounded like a good plan, this way they would not get the real price and could quote a believable and yet convenient price for the Gupta’s.
‘Oh would you Nanhe ji? That would be great, would save me the trouble of finding one.’ Khushi’s face lit up at his offer.
‘That’s the plan.’ NK smiled back glad she had taken him up on his offer.
With that Arnav and NK quoted a reasonable price to them, which they didn’t question and happily signed the lease to move into the house. The next two weeks went by with the moving process. Khushi and Aakash travelled to Lucknow for four days in order to sell her father’s bakery, pack up the house there and shift the furniture and things they wanted to Delhi by truck. While Payal, Garima and Madhumathi inspected the house and made a note of things they would need to get. NK, Anjali and Nani visited them bringing them house warming presents along with Khushi’s clothes which she had asked Anjali to pack (using her being in Lucknow as an excuse for not coming over to do it herself, not that Anjali questioned her but Khushi felt the need to let her know of her excuse anyhow); while Arnav kept a low profile as promised, much to his chagrin.
Finally, the day Arnav had been waiting for arrived. A week after Shashi had been discharged and the Gupta’s had made a great home out of the summer-house they had rented. It was a Sunday, Payal and Aakash were over, like they had been every weekend therefore not giving Khushi any room to suspect anything. She was in the kitchen with her sister when the Raizada’s with NK, arrived. Even then Khushi didn’t deduce anything, as Nani and Anjali had come by often during the moving process and she loved their presence as it was, whilst NK was always welcome company. It wasn’t until she went to shut the door and found that she couldn’t due to someone obstructing it on the other side, that did she begin to heave, for the one holding the door open was none other than Arnav Singh Raizada. Who knowingly or unknowingly had placed his hand exactly over Khushi’s to stop her from closing the door.
‘I know you’re not my biggest fan these days Khushi Kumari Gupta, but I didn’t take you to be an unwelcoming hostess.’ Arnav stated softly, to which she only managed to gape at him. ‘I mean to not even let me in your humble home, now I didn’t expect that from you Ms. Gupta.’ He smiled his devilish smile, as he gestured her blocking the entrance with his eyes.
She instantly stumbled back and made some room for him. He gave a curt bow and then walked right past her, leaving her staring behind him. What was it with him these days?! The past few weeks he had been annoyingly formal, always with the Ms. Gupta when addressing her, leaving a wide breath in his wake whenever near her, weirdly focused with his work, never did she spy him standing next to his glass wall staring down at her, like he had done in the past and rarely calling her up to his office and on the off occasion when he had called her it was to do with work nothing else. Granted she had given him an ultimatum to not discuss personal affairs with her, but since when did he ever listen to her or take a threat from her or anyone for that matter?!! His behavior had been driving her crazy this past month. It irritated her so much: his indifference. She didn’t understand it. And then there was the side of her that got mad at her for caring, why should she care, hadn’t she made it clear she didn’t want anything from him so when he was fulfilling her wish why did it bother her so much?! This infuriated her more than when he had shown interest in her, that had hurt her but now when he was portraying disinterest it hurt her evenmore, what was that all about?!! Why couldn’t she be happy with it? What was the problem?! Why did he have to be so complicated?!! Or was it her who was complicating things?!! Ugh she didn’t know anymore and now was not the time to dwell over that inconsequential debate, but rather go in to the lounge and decipher why Arnav Singh Raizada had crossed the professional line he had drawn himself after a month and entered into her personal zone.
Payal was serving tea to the room as she entered. Wow had she been standing at the door for that long, that tea had been made and was being served… Khushi checked her wrist watch, it had been only five minutes, so then, oh of course the two girls had been making tea when they had arrived so of course it was ready and Payal probably didn’t see the point in letting it cool thus had served it instantly. God Arnav really messed with her mind making her forget even the simplest of things like what she had been doing.
‘No Jiji!’ She suddenly blared, as she grabbed the cup and saucer in Payal’s hand before Arnav took it, causing the whole room to stare at her. ‘He’s diabetic and this has sugar init.’ Khushi explained, as she turned to look at Arnav questioning him with her eyes as to how he could be so irresponsible and take tea with sugar. He inturn only cocked his left brow.
‘Uh… Khushi, I know. That’s sugarless.’ Payal informed her, as she straightened up. Khushi only stared at her and then at Arnav, whose lips had now cracked into his teasing smile.
‘May I have my tea… Ms. Gupta.’ He added the last softly so only she could hear, just to irritate her.
‘Oh…. urm…. yes.’ She replied awkwardly, as she handed him the cup. Which he took with a grand gesture of gratitude and then just for her winked slyly, making her redden.
‘Well, I don’t think I need any proof to see just how much my daughter cares for him. They are clearly made for each other. Garima, Jiji sabka mu meetha karaiye… hamari bitya ka rishta huwa hai.’ Shashi broke the awkward silence with his sudden acceptance of Arnav and Khushi’s marriage. Only it wasn’t sudden, not for anyone else in the room but Khushi.
‘Wha—at?’ Khushi coughed up her own tea. ‘What rishta? Who’s rishta?’ She asked urgently to her Bauji.
‘Your’s and Arnav bitwa’s dear. That is why they are here, they have come for your hand and I know how much you love Anjali bitya and Devyani ji. The only thing I was unsure about was what you feel for Arnav bitwa, but your little tea-episode here just proved how much care you have in your heart for him, so I have no reservations with this rishta. You don’t either, do you? Because you know bitya I will never force you to do something you don’t want to.’ Shashi added and now the whole room stared at Khushi, whilst Arnav’s wind-pipe constricted and he experienced difficulty in breathing. This was the moment: this was the moment that they all had dreaded, when they had initiated the plan.
Everyone knew that Khushi’s answer would decide Arnav and Khushi’s future. That regardless of all the things they had done in the past month, getting a house, Arnav keeping his distance and getting Shashi to agree was all subsidiary to what Khushi said in this moment. For while Khushi’s answer depended on her father’s decision, her father’s decision depended on her answer. Like he had said today, he had said back in the hospital to Aakash, that no matter how much Arnav may love her and how much he thought Arnav was the right person for Khushi he would never force her to marry him, because at the end of the day it was her life and so her decision of who she wanted to or whether she even wanted to marry or not.
Thus it all came down to this moment, where they all looked at her for her answer of whether she had any reservations towards the marriage, whilst Arnav closed his eyes and prayed with every fibre in his body for Khushi to say yes, even if it meant for her to take it back the next moment or fight him every step of the way he would be fine with it. As long as she said yes in this moment, in the moment where her heart would speak, due to being put in the spot and not her mind. The heart that had already chosen him.
‘I…I….umm….I…na…’ Khushi felt like her mouth was suddenly a stretch of desert land, sparse of any water. She couldn’t formulate a single word. ‘I…I…’ what was she supposed to say?
‘You don’t want to marry him?’ Shashi asked, even though he hoped with all his heart she would say yes, but he had heard an indistinct no from her lips.
‘No….I…’ She shook her head, why was this so hard to say? Why wouldn’t the words comeout, why were they stuck in her throat? Choking her. Making it so difficult for her to breathe.
‘No you don’t want to marry him? Or no you do want to marry him?’ Shashi asked again, his heart, like Arnav’s, was in his throat now.
‘Ya….I…I…d-…I-‘ but she couldn’t complete her sentence for the weight of her decision took a toll on her and she collapsed in the middle of the lounge, but before she hit the ground Arnav was by her side and the cradle of his arms broke her fall.
‘Khushi!! Khushi!!’ They all screamed as she lay unconscious in his arms.
‘Water… bring me some water.’ Arnav called out urgently, to the circle around him and Khushi. Someone thrust a glass in his hands and he sprinkled the liquid on her face.
‘Oh god Nani, did we go too far? May be we should have given her warning before hand? Instead of springing the question on her like that.’ Anjali’s guilty voice came through the worried sobs of Khushi from the crowd formed around them.
‘Aakash… why isn’t she waking up?’ Payal bellowed from next to Khushi to an Aakash who had no answer to the question.
‘Oh God Nannav, what should we do? Khushi tho josh main hi nahi aa ri hai…’ NK’s voice boomed from behind Arnav.
‘Hosh.’ Khushi’s raspy voice suddenly quietened the room.
‘Khushi.’ Arnav’s said dryly next to her, as he stared at her face which began showing signs of consciousness as she coughed, sputtered and then scrunched it to open her eyes and see the blurred face of the only man she could count on to break her fall.
‘Arrnaff ji.’ She coughed again.
‘Yes Khushi.’ He leaned in closer as she focused in on him.
‘Why do you want to marry me?’ She asked, earnestly, unaware of both the Gupta’s and Raizada’s encircling them.
‘Because I love you.’ He replied, simply.
‘Okay.’ She nodded and then instantly shut her eyes as she held her head. The nod had made her head spin. In that moment everyone around them broke into a wild cheer of her accepting the proposal and it wasn’t until she opened her eyes again to see everyone hugging each other and Arnav smiling down at her did she realize what she had done, causing her to sit up with a jolt, only again, she shouldn’t have done that as her head was still spinning from everything that had happened ever since Arnav had walked into her home.
‘Hey…relax. You’re still wired, you should rest. Come let me get you in bed.’ Arnav said softly as he picked her up in his arms. ‘Alone. Without me. Just you in it.’ He clarified suddenly, as he saw the look on her face and then recalled his last words of taking her to bed; and with that he carried her further into the house and into her room, where he lay her down on her bed and then turned to place his index finger on her lips as she opened her mouth to say something. ‘Sshh. Rest. You’ll have plenty of time to say things to me afterwards, when we’re married.’ He winked and then left her staring dumbfoundedly after him.
That evening, after the Raizada’s had left, everyone excitedly talked about Arnav and Khushi’s wedding and what was to be done, as Khushi snuck away from them and went into the lawn. What had she done? Why had she agreed? She had been desparately trying to say no, but the words were stuck in her throat and just wouldn’t comeout. She didn’t understand why. They had put her in the spot light, just like that, no time to think only react; she wanted to say no but couldn’t when they all had agreed, when they all were so happy. But she couldn’t say yes either, for she didn’t believe him, did she? She trusted him to have her back, she had known she was in his arms even before her eyes had seen him, so if she trusted him to protect her than why did she recoil at his love? Why didn’t she trust him? Or was she right to not trust, her past had shown her how dangerous it was to trust a man when they said they loved you. What was right? What was wrong? She didn’t know. It was all very confusing.
Perplexed she looked up to the starry sky in hope to get an answer from the heavens above. From her parents. Her DM. ‘Did I do the right thing by agreeing….or rather by not disagreeing then and also when Jiji came and asked me afterwards? Am I right to distrust him? Should I go in there and cancel the whole affair or should I let it play out? Does he really mean to marry me or is this some elaborate scheme to get me to do his bidding?’ She contemplated aloud. But received no answer, how could she for her questions were all raised at the wrong persons, she needn’t ask her parents or DM, she needed to ask these to Arnav Singh Raizada, for only he could answer whether he truly meant to marry her or not? As this realization dawned upon her, a form of tranquility found her mind, for now she knew where to go for her answers, first thing tomorrow she would berate him with them, until then she would let her family enjoy the “happy” occasion.