He edged towards his balcony and peered towards her desk in the D-Squat. There she was, standing over her chintz, rummaging through her purse as Mike reinacted some hilarious encounter infront of her, that had happened over the weekend with him. As she stood up and brushed her hair away from her face with her hands, his heart skipped a beat. She was beautiful. She wasn’t wearing anything extraordinary, a simple shalwar suit, deep mauve in colour, adorned with dull gold sequins around the body and her signature pom-poms on the edges of her sleeves that lightly bounced against her arms as she moved them. Her hair was out and covering her whole back until she straightened up and pulled it into a loose braid, tying it with the hair-tie she had just fished out of her purse. Yes, she looked completely ordinary to an on-looker but to Arnav she looked absolutely dazzling.
‘Khushi.’ He cried out hoarsely from the balcony. Now that she was here, he was suddenly very nervous. Which was definitely a first, for he was never nervous, but then again all this time with Khushi had taught him at least this much that when it came to her he never felt the way he ever did, he always experienced something new.
As soon as she heard her name from his lips, her stance stiffened as her smile froze on her lips. She knew he would be here, but had hoped that he wouldn’t be or that somehow she could avoid him. She didn’t want to meet him.
‘Khushi.’ He repeated again, he was sure she had heard but considering she hadn’t responded he called out again, ‘Khushi I need you in my cabin.’ He stated, calling her here to avoid the rest of the office becoming an audience during a private moment. But she didn’t respond, instead she completely ignored him and turned to take her seat on her desk. She didn’t want to meet him and so would not go no matter how much he called.
He only stared at her, completely confused by her attitude. Why was she ignoring him?!! She had heard. He knew it, he had seen her body react instantly to his voice. Then why was she choosing to act like she hadn’t heard him?!!
‘Uh… Khushi? ASR just called you, did you not hear?’ Mike, who was standing next to her asked, he too confused by her behaviour. His question quenched any amount of uncertainty Arnav may have had about her hearing, for if he had heard then she must have heard too considering he was the same distance from him as she was.
‘Hunh? Oh yes. I will go later, got work to do right now.’ She replied with a forced smile and gesture towards an empty desk, for she hadn’t even taken her things out yet. What the-?!! Was this some kind of joke to her?!! He had been going crazy with not having heard a single thing from her or heard any news of her ever since she had bolted the night before and now that he was calling her, she was ignoring him?!!
Anxiety turned into rage as he turned on his heel and stormed down from his room above, to the D-Squats. If she was going to play hard-to-get then she had chosen the wrong man to play it with! He would not spare her, she would have to respond to him, he had tried to do it the easy way but she clearly wanted to go about the hard way!
‘Erm…ok…’ was all Mike replied to her unusual behavior, as he turned for his own desk, but he hadn’t even made it over when Arnav thundered over and grabbed Khushi by the arm, forcing her up from her chintz.
‘Ouch, Arnav ji.’ she flinched. He acknowledged her pain but did not loosen his grip on her, she had asked for this by not coming up herself and so would have to endure it now.
‘Ugh, Arnav ji, let go of me.’ She complained as he started to drag her by the arm upstairs to his office space. She tried to wrestle with his grip when he shot her his deathly stare silencing her complaints and her attempts to loosen his grip. He was determined and she could see it, the only thing her efforts would do was worsen the situation, for he was prepared to do whatever it took to get her upstairs and have his talk, whether that meant her walking up silently with him or him carrying her in his arms in front of everyone, who were all staring at the two of them trying to decipher what had happened between them. Everyone knew they had a rocky relationship but this was a first.
Once in his cabin, he let go of her arm and turned away from her, as he bawled his fists, trying to calm himself down.
‘What is the meaning of all of this? I thought you didn’t like creating spectacles so what was all that downstairs?!’ Khushi asked tersely, as she rubbed her arms. If she was going to have to bear this then she wasn’t going to be on the defensive.
‘Don’t! Don’t start with me Khushi!’ he wasn’t planning to be on the defensive either. He turned and was back in her face, trying very hard to keep his rage checked, but she was making it very hard for him to do it. ‘I didn’t want to do any of that,’ he pointed towards the ground floor, ‘you forced me Khushi! You! So don’t!’ he pointed at her now as he walked closer towards her, making her go further back and hit the glass wall next to the door of his cabin.
‘I didn’t force you to do anything. You could have taken my silence to mean exactly what it did, instead of making a scene!’ she blared, determined not to back down, even when cornered. He wasn’t the only one who had a right to be angry, she did too. He had hurt her badly!
‘You could have come like I asked you to, instead of having me do what I did not want to!’ he glared at her.
‘I didn’t want to come, can’t you take a hint?!’ she stared back.
‘Why the hell not?! And where the hell have you been?!! You left without a word. You didn’t come home all night and you left your bloody phone at home!! Do you know how worried I have been?! The thoughts that came into my mind! Where the hell were you?!!’ he grilled her, as his hands cupped her face with concern.
‘I sent Di a message, from my Jiji’s phone, that I would be spending the night at Jiji’s.’ She said jerking his hands away from her face. ‘Besides, why does my coming home or not bother you so much?! Why are you so concerned? Why does it matter to you?!’
‘Why does it matter?! Why does it matter to me Khushi?! Are you seriously asking that?! What did you befall some sort of accident at your Jiji’s resulting in temporary amnesia that you’ve forgotten last night? Or did you get drunk again, resulting in lapse of memory! You know exactly why me needing to know your whereabouts matters to me?!!’ he barked at her.
‘I have perfect recollection of last night thank you very much….but I still don’t know what last night has to do with my whereabout being a concern for you! Why do they matter Mr. Raizada? Enlighten me.’ She baited him, frostily.
‘What?! Khushi, have you completely lost your mind? Why are you treating me so coldly? You know you’re important to me, I told you exactly why last night!’
‘Yes, we had a heated discussion last night, but I recall you telling me no reason behind your concern.’ She stated boldly.
‘NO REASON?!! No reason? Khushi I told you I love you, what more reason do you need?!’ he asked, exasperatedly.
‘So what?’ she asked, unkindly.
‘So what? What do you mean so what? I love you, Khushi.’ He avowed again.
‘Yes. So what? So what if you love me? What do you want me to do about it? It’s your problem, not mine.’
‘Problem?’ he choked out. ‘Are you for real Khushi? I tell you that I love you and it means nothing to you?’ His anger now gone as despair gripped him. Did his love mean nothing to her?!
‘No. It does not.’ She declared, dryly.
‘Why?’ he croaked out.
‘Because it means nothing: love means nothing to me. It is a fake notion conjured up by men who wish to dupe women into believing that such a thing exists in order to get them to do their bidding. And so it means nothing, for it does not exist. Never has.’ She stated blatantly. Slapping Arnav hard on the face with her bitter words and icy stare; rendering him completely speechless. She didn’t believe in love.
‘Hey hello? Don’t you guys have any work to do? I know this office exercises a relaxed atmosphere but that doesn’t mean no one does any work. Come on, let’s get going, just because we pulled an amazing fashion show over the weekend doesn’t mean we don’t have any work to do now, in any case there is a lot more to do now. Our lines need to go into production.’ NK jostled everybody out of their audience role and got them to get on with their work.
He had walked in moments ago, to find the whole office at a standstill. All staff trying to listen hard in to the heated conversation that was occurring between Arnav and Khushi upstairs. They could hear their elevated voices but very few words managed to actually float down for them to hear. Thus coming instantly to the aid of his two friends, he ridded them of an audience and then calmly made his way upstairs to understand what had already gone wrong in the new love-birds relationship.
‘Hey guys what’s up? Already had a lover’s spat hunh?’ he said jokingly, to lighten the tension he saw between them. For when he entered he found Khushi backed up against one of the glass walls and Arnav inches away from her looking completely gobsmacked.
‘We’re not lovers’ Nanhe ji.’ She corrected him curtly, all the while not breaking eye-contact with Arnav. ‘And explain to your friend that if he continues to force me against my will, I will be forced to file a harassment case against him and I hope I don’t have to remind either of you that the Indian court does not take such cases lightly. So if in the future he does not have any business related issue to discuss with me he better not call me!’ With that she shoved Arnav and stormed out of his office, leaving Arnav and NK staring bewildered after her.
‘Waow. What just happened Nannav? Why is Khushi so mad? Did you do something?’ NK asked trying to understand what had made Khushi so angry.
‘I told her that I loved her.’ Replied Arnav blankly, still trying to digest the conversation they had just had.
‘Hunh?’ NK stared at him in confusion. ‘You told her that you loved her, so she got angry?’
‘That makes no sense.’
‘Exactly. But that’s why she is angry. That’s why she has been angry since last night.’
‘I don’t know. She says she doesn’t believe in love.’
‘I don’t know NK. I’m still trying to make sense of it all. I thought she would be happy, when I finally told her. Two nights ago I had reason to believe that she may love me too….but now…now I don’t know anything.’ Arnav confessed as he slumped into his chair and held his head in his hands. Trying to understand what Khushi had meant by that last phrase, that love was a made up notion. Why would she think that? Why did she not believe in love? Didn’t every girl dream about love? That’s what Anjali had always told him.