Arnav looked at her in disbelief, he knew something had happened to Khushi, but….. rape? He loathed the man who did that to his Khushi. To make his chirpy Khushi hate her own self, to live in recluse. Yes, his.
Though he knew who could have done that to her, the name escaped his lips before he could give it more thought, he said more than ask, “Shyam..”
Khushi began weeping more profusely and he engulfed her face in his hands and pulled her close and hugged her tight. He muttered to himself, “I’m going to murder that bastard.”
She was looking up to him and it wasn’t him who was wiping tears of her face, but the other way round. It was Khushi who with her Dupatta, was wiping off the tears that had formed at the corners of Arnav’s eyes.
Tears came before he could stop them, boiling hot then instantly freezing on his face, and what was the point in wiping them off? Or pretending? He let them fall.
“Arnav, no, I have risen up from that incident. I don’t want us to do anything with that man, ever. He wil serve his penance in jail.”
“But Khushi, how can I live with that? First with you, then Di? It isn’t fair.”
“I know, life isn’t fair. I want to put it in the past now. I want to help Di.”
“Khushi, how can you be so…. How can you not want him killed for all that he put you through?”
“ Arnav….Let it go.”She was on her toes now, and she kissed Arnav on his forehead.
Still in an embrace, of lovers, of friends, of two people in pain, they sunk to the floor. Khushi on Arnav’s lap, in a tight grip, a shield of his arms – protecting her from the world.
“Khushi, is this why you thought you can’t meet your family in Lucknow? Khushi you aren’t the one who’s impure..”
She looked up at him, and he looked at her, their eyes met, their noses touched, they felt the moistness on each other’s faces, their cheeks rubbed.
It was Khushi who broke down now,”How can I face them Arnav? I…feel so disgusted… images from that night come flashing back to me every time I’m alone in the dark…his hands over me…” The sobs grew louder and more uncontrolled and incessant.
Arnav brought his fingers to her mouht to shush her. There was no way he could see Khushi go through that pain, ever again. To think of it, she had beed living with it for over five years.
“Khushi, I don’t want you to think about it ever. I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise to protect you.”, he said while rubbing a fand along her back to comfort her.
She didn’t look up to him, she just lay there, in the corner of her hotel room is the safe haven of Arnav’s arms, sitting in his lap, with her head resting on his chest. They lay like that a long time. She was toying with a button on his shirt when she said, “You know, I haven’t slept with the lights off since that day?”
Arnav had no response to give. He blamed himself for a lot that happened to his Sister and Khushi.
He enveloped her other hand in his and rubbed his thumb along her palm. His eyes bore into her’s and he said, “I’m sorry Khushi, I didn’t look out for you when I should have. I’ve lost so many years already when I could have cared for you, loved you. I haven’t met another person like you. You came up to help Di even though we are to blame for what you went through. I love you Khushi, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Khushi, will you marry me?”. He finally said all he had to say to Khushi that night, when everything went wrong.
He brought his lips to her, she opened her’s for him. She had not let herself free for one moment, to think of the possibility of actually having what she wantd in life, not since that day. She knew in her heart she had wantd this, a life with Arnav. They kissed a long due kiss.
Well, how was it? I’m writing after an eternity, I know!