He turned and walked straight into someone whose head slotted right next to his heart. ‘Ow- Khushi…do you ever stop to look before you walk?!!’ he grumbled, not even bothering to check who it was, for he knew only one person had the capability of doing such a thing, not to mention it was only her head that fit so perfectly in the nape of his neck.
‘Excuse me?! I’m not the one who walked into you, you walked into me thank you very much!! I was just about to tap your shoulder when you turned without warning!’ She bolstered, as she disentangled herself from him.
‘Khush- nevermind!’ he started but stopped, seeing as no matter what he said he knew she would pin it on him. He pushed passed her to get NK, when she stopped him.
‘Hey. Wait, where are you going? I came here to talk to you.’ she said, snubbed that he was walking away from her.
‘Exactly, Nanhe ji-‘ she cut across, only to find herself stop short by someone else.
‘HELLOOOO?!! IS ANYONE THERE?!! PLEASE HELP ME!! MUJHE BAYCHO!! MUJHE BAYCHO!! (sell me) PLEASE!!’ NK’s strangled voice came from the corner of the room.
‘Nanhe ji?!!’ Khushi gasped in shock as she approached the door to the changing room. ‘Nanhe ji is that you?!’
‘Khushi!! Oh thank god you’re here Khushi. Please help me out of here Khushi. Mujhe baycho Khushi, please!!’ he screamed in relief.
‘Baycho, nahi, bachao Nanhe ji.’ (save not sell) Khushi corrected.
‘Oh, sorry, Mujhe bachao…’NK corrected himself on the inside. While Arnav just stared at the scene, dumbstruck. May be they were made for each other, considering how they both completely lacked in common sense: instead of helping NK out she was correcting his grammar and he was letting her instead of asking her to get him out!! They were both absolutely crazy!
‘Umm, Khushi may be you should let him out before you go correcting him.’ Arnav pointed out seeing her not doing anything about it.
‘Oh right.’ she reddened, realizing her mistake and opened the latch to the changing room door, thereby helping a very disheveled NK out of it.
‘Oh gawd Khushi…I thought I would die of heat in there…’ He breathed a sigh of relief heavily.
‘Are you ok Nanhe ji? Here have some water.’ She gave him her bottle of water that had been sitting on the dressing table from before.
‘Thanks.’ He took it appreciatively.
‘Nanhe ji, how did all of this happen? How did you get locked in the changing room?’ Khushi asked while he gulped the water down.
‘I don’t know Khushi. I came in here to change before I walked out with you and – OH MY GOD KHUSHI!!’ he suddenly thundered, causing both Khushi and Arnav to jump. ‘The show! We must get going, you-‘ he yanked her arm and began striding towards the door.
‘Nanhe ji relax. I already went out, its’ done.’ Khushi informed him, as Arnav unwrapped NK’s hand from her arms in a very controlled manner.
‘You already went?’ NK pouted, clearly put-out about the fact that she had gone on the ramp without him.
‘Yes. Sorry I couldn’t wait for you, the models were out and I needed to be out too…’ Khushi trailed, not knowing how to console him.
‘Right of course, the show must go on!’ he stated sadly.
‘Nanhe ji, I…so how did you get stuck in here?’ Khushi changed the subject.
‘Hunh? Oh I don’t know. Nannav, d-‘
‘Excuse me. Have you completely lost it NK, why would I lock you in the changing room?!’ Arnav demanded, angry with himself for having done just that; however, he may have done it but he would never fess up to it! Besides no one had seen him, so no one would know!
‘Uh…chillax, Nannav, I never said you locked me, I was just asking if you knew who did?’ NK clarified, as he eyed him closely.
‘Why would I know who did it, NK? I wasn’t even backstage!’
‘Waow. Why so jumpy Nannav? I was just asking, that may be you saw, but clearly no, so nevermind. But it is a mystery isn’t it? Who would want to lock me in? I think there is a conspiracy being played out amongst us. You know a chalak. (schemer)’ NK stated to no one in particular.
‘Chaal.(scheme)’ Both Arnav and Khushi corrected him at the same time.
‘That too.’ NK affirmed not realizing they had corrected him.
‘NK, I think you’re over reacting, it was most likely a mistake. Someone probably didn’t know you were in and locked the door. Don’t dwell on it too much.’ Arnav added off-handedly.
‘Hmm….may be.’ NK agreed, although not entirely convinced, then, ‘Oh gawd Khushi, I’m so sorry, my getting locked in meant that you had to walk out alone. I’m so sorry, you didn’t want to do it alone, but I-‘
‘Oh no, no, its’ ok Nanhe ji. Actually I didn’t end up being alone.’ Khushi explained, ‘Arnav ji came to my rescue.’ She revealed happily.
‘Really? Nannav….good going dude!’ NK appraised him.
‘Whatever.’ Arnav muttered, uncomfortable by the sudden attention and most of all, NK’s compliment considering that was the last thing he deserved from him at this moment.
‘I’m just saying…never pegged you to be the hero type Nannav, but coming to Khushi’s rescue like that, that was-‘
‘I’m no hero NK. You weren’t there, so someone had to go on stage to make sure Khushi didn’t fall over herself in front everyone out there, or worse cause the models around her to fall with her.’ he deflected.
‘Hunh! Excuse me?!! You didn’t need to come on the ramp. I was doing just fine without you. I didn’t ask you to join me!’ Khushi snapped haughtily at him, all the gratification she had felt towards him moments ago melting away, as her pride stepped in.
‘No. No you didn’t and maybe I should have taken that to mean what it did instead of trying….’ Arnav muttered angrily, under his breath. With that he walked away from the two before he said or did something that he couldn’t fix.
She hadn’t chosen him, why would she? He had never given her a reason to choose him. To feel safe around him. Maybe he should just back-off before he did something worse then locking NK in the changing room. Besides if NK was giving Khushi attention that was a good thing for her, she deserved happiness. And NK was a nice guy, he couldn’t deny that, irritating as he found him, NK was a great guy, just the kind of person Khushi needed in her life, happy-go-lucky, not a monster like him, who had too many skeletons in his closet.
‘A-Arnav ji…’ Khushi called him from behind, but he didn’t stop. What was his problem?! First he picked the fight and then stalked away from it. Why was he so….so complicated?!
‘Great. Then I’ll be off.’ Arnav said, as he got up to leave, after settling the accounts with the Plaza.
‘Enjoy the party sir.’
‘Party? Oh, I’m not attending it.’
‘You won’t join the party your partner is throwing upstairs, to celebrate the success? Are not all your employees there?’ he referred to the after party NK had arranged in the villa on the top floor.
‘Exactly, they’re all there.’ Arnav murmured, thinking only of the one person that was there who he desperately wished to be with but knew he would have to distance himself from her now, for she made him do absolutely crazy things. ‘Naah. I’ll pass. NK’s there to entertain them all.’ Arnav said as he turned to leave.
He was in the middle of the deserted lobby, when a voice stopped him in his tracks. ‘Laaaaad Governorrr….yoooohooo….Laad Governor jiii….waaaaiit…’ he turned to find a flushed Khushi in white jogging up to him. ‘Found you….hah!’ she cackled like a child as she jabbed his arm once she reached him. His heart faltered, she looked like the angel she was, in her off-white attire and dark brown hair falling down to her waist, swaying with the rhythm of her hips.
‘Khushi….are you ok?’ He looked from the soft punch on his shoulder to her, something was not right with the way she was behaving.
‘F-fine…’ she slurred and then he understood.
‘Khushi, are you drunk?’ he asked, surprised that she would drink.
‘Hunh! Absolutely not! How dare you accuse me of such a disgraceful act! I don’t drink Laad Governer!’ she huffed, clearly drunk.
‘Umm….Khushi, you are drunk. I can smell the alcohol on you.’ he stated.
‘I am not! What’s with you today accusations centre, right and left…no wait right, centre and left…no still not right…left, centre….oho…point being accuasations from you, at me!’ She pointed at herself first and then him, huffing furiously, or what she thought was her furious face only it looked like she was trying really hard to blow a bubble that was not in her mouth. ‘And if you must know I had this incredible pink drink, it was really bitter at first but got better after a few sips. What was the name…’ she tried to remember.
‘Pink cocktail?’ Arnav answered for her.
‘Yes.’ She smiled, like a child again, tugging at his heart-strings.
‘Have you had it before? Its’ delicious, a watermelony sort of a taste with a kick init…’ Khushi described it with sparkly eyes. She had gotten drunk without even realizing it. Only Khushi was capable of doing that, drinking without even bothering to check what it was. Arnav smiled at her.
‘Shall I take you home Khushi?’ He asked kindly.
‘Hunh? No. I came down to say something to you…’ she snapped, trying to master her angry face only getting quite distracted by a stray strand that had landed on her face and therefore forgetting to be angry.
‘Ok…’ Arnav waited.
‘Ummm….wait, let me try and remember.’ As she tried to remember she found the stray strand again and began blowing at it, making her giggle seeing the strand float in the air.
‘Ok. Why don’t we sit down while you recall.’ He suggested as he took her arm, seeing her laughing make her stagger.
‘Yes….No. Don’t patronize me!’ she jerked her hand away from him.
‘Ok. Ok. I won’t.’ Arnav surrendered, letting go of her arm but keeping his hands near her to catch her just in case.
‘Good. Hmmm….’ She started playing with the strand again.
‘Yes?’ she looked up innocently.
‘You wanted to say something to me.’
She stared at him, assessing what he said. Did she want to say something to him? Yes, she had….only what was it? ‘Ugh…my head hurts….I think the music was too loud upstairs.’ She winced.
‘Khushi, you’re not feeling well, let me take you home. Please.’ Arnav advised.
‘No. I want to say something to you.’ she stood her ground like a stubborn two-year old.
‘Ok. But can you at least sit down.’ He motioned towards the sofas in the lobby.
‘Ok.’ She consented and let him help her to the seating area. Once she had sat down, she let out a giggle. ‘Heh. Why do you do that?’
‘Do what?’ he asked, not following.
‘Look after me.’ she stated sweetly.
‘Khushi…I….I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Arnav averted his gaze.
‘Why does my well-being matter to you so much?’ she didn’t let the question go, instead made him listen to it as she cupped his face into her soft hands and turned him towards her.
‘Khushi, I…’ What was he supposed to say?
‘How is it that whenever I’ve needed you, you’re always there? Everytime I get in trouble, you’re there to help me out. Even when I didn’t know you, you came to my rescue. That night, in Sheesh-Mahal, my being in that room with you…jerked me out of what that evil man had done…oh Arnav ji I was so sad that night, completely broken but you, your being there made sure I didn’t sink into the hole I had created for myself, instead you kept me fighting making the darkness stay at bay. I was so scared that night, scared of what you could do that it made me realize that there was still something to live for, still something worth saving inside of me…my dignity, although I didn’t realize it that day but it had registered inside somewhere, it was only when Jiji and Di made me see it that I remembered that night and how I had been afraid for my sanctity…you saved me that night Arnav ji, by making sure I was still afraid, by making sure I hadn’t lost it all, by making sure I still cared about my family and my respect….you Arnav ji, it was you….’ she ranted, the alcohol allowing her to discuss things she herself had never dared to think about when conscious.
‘…And today, even today you were there…how Arnav ji? I hadn’t asked you to be there, but you were…my heart cried for you and you came, it wanted you there and you came. How is that you’re always there? How is it that whenever my heart beat escalates you’re the only one who manages to calm it? Why is it that when I’m scared my eyes only search for you? You’re one look, one touch manages to completely create a haven for me? When you’re by my side I feel safe….how does that happen? How Arnav ji?’ she implored into his eyes, looking for an answer, but all he managed to give was a tear that dropped from his eyes and she caught in her palm.
She stared at it long and hard, then cupping it in her hand, she turned back to him and without warning brought her face closer and pecked the eye from which the tear had dropped. Moving back again, she looked into his face, ‘Arnav ji…I…I’ve never felt this way before. I don’t know what’s happening all I know is that, when you’re around, when you are with me, I…I…’ but she didn’t finish her sentence for at that moment the alcohol took full toll of her and she passed out in his arms.
As she lay there, he stared helplessly at her. She looked completely angelic. How had he been so lucky to have this angel come into his life? What had he done to deserve such a beautiful being? She may not have said it, for she didn’t understand it yet, but could he be so bold enough to believe that she….she loved him too. That somehow, by some miracle she had fallen for him, just the way he had fallen for her (only him falling for her was not a feat for who wouldn’t? But she falling for him that definitely was something…). Her queries suggested that she felt something for him. She had been trying to ask him why he made her feel all the same things that she made him feel. Why he cared for her? How he was always there for her? How did he manage to hear her heart’s cries?
‘Because Khushi, when your heart calls, my heart answers. I don’t know when it happened, I don’t know how it happened, all I know is that when you’re hurting I hurt too, when you need me I need you too. That when something happens to you it matters to me: it matters a lot. Because…Becasuse Khushi I….I love you.’ he declared, as another tear escaped his eyes and landed on her cheek. The sudden numbness, made her stir. A peaceful smile broke on her lips as her hands found the folds of his shirt and she snuggled closer to his heart.
He cradled her body lovingly in his arms, as he got up and carried her out of the lobby and into his car. Uncertain of how this good-luck had befallen him but cherishing init nonetheless.