Arnav stared blankly into the void of space where Khushi had been standing only a few moments ago. He was going to get her this time. He wasn’t going to let her walk away from him. He was going to talk to her.
Khushi’s heart skipped a beat as she felt Arnav’s hands around her foot, slightly lifting her ghagra, putting on her mother’s paayal, which he had kept with him safely.
Arnav took off each string of the fairy lights so gently, as though, wanting to elongate the moment himself.
Khushi tugged on to her dupatta as Arnav held on to it from the other end, pulling her close to him, before bending down to kiss her.
Khushi hugged and kissed Nani, she hugged and kissed Anjali, and before she knew it, she hugged and kissed Arnav!
Khushi kept taking small steps backwards as Arnav kept advancing towards her, until she was pinned against the wall.
‘Khushi..?’ came his voice in a whisper.
Khushi’s woke up from her sweet dreams with a start as she felt her phone vibrate within the clutches of her hands; she had fallen asleep holding on to it. She rubbed her eyes as the phone stopped vibrating and pressed the green button to light up the screen.
21 Missed Calls.
11 New Text Messages.
All from that same number, which that little girl had dialed from her phone.
The little girl who had run and wrapped her arms around his knees.
The girl who called Arnav Singh Raizada — dada.
Arnav waited patiently at the other end of the line as he heard the phone ring. He prayed, yes, he prayed, that he would at least hear her voice. His heart pained each time the phone rang the entire 90 seconds. He lay his phone aside on the table and hit his fists hard against the wall as he heard the phone ring another 90 seconds until that annoying recorded message started, “the number you’re trying to..’.
No, he wasn’t going to let anger come in the way this time. He had lost too much already. And he wasn’t going to let her go. Not again.
Khushi sat up on her bed resting her back against the headboard, and pulled up knees close to her. She scrolled down to the first message.
‘KHUSHI, IT’S ME, PLEASE ANSWER.’
She scrolled down to the second message before her phone started vibrating again.
Khushi’s fingers numbed as her fingers froze over her phone. He was so incessant. She hadn’t seen him this desperate ever.
Why did he even care?
Who was that girl?
He was non-existent in her life now. She wasn’t going to give him another chance to ruin her life. No, definitely not. It had taken her long enough to put her back together from the million piece he, and his family had shattered her into. She didn’t have the courage to go through it again. Nobody would.
The entire world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts. He, and his family had all the parts they had to play in her life, and she in theirs. There was so going back now. NO.
Khushi switched off her phone, pulled the covers over her head and buried her head into the pillow, praying that the sandman would blow some dust into her eyes and drift her away in her arms in sweet, sweet sleep.
She ran as fast her feet could carry her, for as long as they could sustain her. Arnav’s words kept ringing in her mind, and the thunder of the slap. She refused to slow down, sprinting to her house. And then, in the middle of the forest, in the middle of nowhere, a stranger’s arm yanked her effortlessly. She freed herself from him and tried escaping. But then the monster’s other grotesque arm spun her around and held her tight.
She was shocked into stillness as she came face to face with the demon himself. She couldn’t believe he had followed her there.
A heinous act of blasphemy committed that night, in that one hour.
He had left her there after using her body to please him in every way. He had had every part of her he had lusted for so long. Now, he didn’t care whether she lived or not. He left her in the dumps to rot.
She had curled herself into a ball and lay there like that. She felt so impure. So, dirty. So, sick.
‘Nooo!’ she woke up with start, screaming into nothingness. She opened her eyes and looked around disoriented. It was deep into the night, almost morning; a little bit of sunshine had made its way into the otherwise dark room. She started sobbing again, waiting for at least some sense of comfort to seep into her.
The dream of that night haunted her often. It was the reason behind her nightmares, her sleepless nights.
She had vowed to herself to never go back to any of it and tried to forget it as one, extremely bad nightmare.
The next morning, Khushi woke up with a throbbing headache. So many years she had stayed away from Delhi, just for one reason, and that reason presented before her, on her very first day. She hated Delhi. She hated him.
He was the reason. The reason behind that lost smile, that hadn’t made its way back to Khushi’s face ever since that fateful night. He was the reason for those sleepless nights.
She didn’t have time for all these mind-numbing thoughts. She was getting late for the real work she was in Delhi for. Khushi hurried for school. She was in Delhi for a dance workshop.
Dance became like meditation for her. When she tapped her feet on the ground, or moved so swiftly on the stage, she felt free of everything. She felt some comfort. She didn’t think of people watching her, she had stopped caring too much for the world, all it did was eventually hurt you.
Dance was the hidden language of her soul. It was the language of her body, which it spoke so eloquently.
Yes, the workshop would be like therapy for her, help her overcome the emotional turmoil she had been put through in the last 24 hours.
Arnav reached office and put Aman to work.
“Take down this number. I want the subscribers name and address within 1 hour. I WILL NOT take any delays.”
Aman was prompt, he hadn’t seen his boss like that in a long time and AR had missed him. He entered Arnav’s cubicle within an hour with an entire file with all the details. He was shocked to see some his findings himself. Was it possible that Khu..?
Arnav snatched the file from Aman’s hand and dismissed him. He had to see this immediately, and he didn’t need Aman lurking over him.
Arnav gawked at the sheet of paper before him, as he read the information on it,
Name : Khushi
Age : 25