She was standing at the entrance. She was waiting for him. Arnav walked up to her and asked her to follow him, and she did.
Arnav didn’t drive to the hotel, and when Khushi had asked him, he hadn’t responded.
The car came to a screeching halt at the gates of Shantivan. Arnav got out of the car but Khushi sat in a few minutes to decipher his actions. She didn’t understand.
She followed him, she was about to step into his room when Khu caught up with her.
“Aunty! Aunty!” She reveled in joy as she hugged her, wrapping her arms around her knees.
One look of the child, whose presence had irked her earlier, now worked to take away all her worries. She pulled her by her hand and took her to her Badi Nani, who was about to tell her a story. She sat and listened to the entire story, and thankfully, there wasn’t much awkwardness this time.
Little Khushi made Khushi sit with her for lunch, demanding to be only fed by her, and no one else. It was when Khushi was feeding her, she realized how much the child was like her mother, she did care for everyone, and tried to lighten spirits, and how she craved for love and attention. Or maybe it was a child who was deprived of her mother.
But, no, she didn’t think Arnav ever let Khu feel anything was amiss, he was capable of making a person feel loved when he wanted to, and otherwise, like a piece of shit. She had been on both sides.
Khushi’s eyes searched for him around the house, as her mind had wandered onto him again, and while she held a bite of Indian bread in front of Khu’s mouth.
She didn’t see him the entire time.
She tried to refuse to lunch when Nani ji requested her to eat, as it was getting late, but gave in and sat for lunch with her. In the small talk they had over the table, she gathered that the all-pervasive Mamiji had gone with Mama ji to visit the four teerths for some peace in this house. She was certain, a bad omen had befallen her house, and only prayers to the Gods would work to sort things out.
Khushi left the woman to her musings, and walked to Arnav’s room. She noticed Khu sitting on the bed with picture frame of Anjali’s held in her small hands. Khushi went and sat besides her, as she didn’t spot Arnav around.
She didn’t say anything, but Khu held out the picture to her, “This is my mother.”
Khushi smiled at the innocence of the child.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” she asked.
Khushi pulled Khu into a hug, into her lap, so that she didn’t see the sudden pool of tears that blurred her vision slightly. What fault was it of the child’s? The entire, bloody situation?
Khushi lowered her head to plant a kiss on her hair.
“She’s beautiful, and you’re just like her.” Khushi said.
“You know her?” Khu asked.
Khushi nodded, uttering a, “Mmmhmm.”
Khu said, “Tell me something about her.” as she settled herself, so that her head lay in Khushi lap. Khushi pulled the covers onto her before she started telling her of the time she first met her mother.
Khu fell asleep in the middle of it, and Khushi had transferred her onto the pillow. She was just bending to kiss her once again before getting up and leaving when she heard heavy footsteps approach the room. She turned around as she heard the door open.
It was Arnav. She wasn’t even embarrassed to be in his room without his presence though their relationship had definitely estranged over the years. Arnav just shot her a glance and walked straight to the poolside.
Khushi followed him swiftly, and shut the glass door behind her, so as to not wake Khu up.
Khushi walked up to him, he was standing with his back to her. She noticed he was holding something to his myth, and then there was a puff of smoke. Was he smoking? He exhaled another plume of smoke that made her cough, and that’s when he noticed her behind him.
He spun around on his heels and stubbed the butt of the cigarette in the ashtray that lay on the little table there. She hadn’t noticed he had an ashtray over here earlier when she had been here.
“So, you smoke now?” She asked innocuously.
Arnav snorted and ignored her. He asked her, obnoxiously, “So, have you ‘thought about it’?”
The sarcasm in his tone pinched her.
“What did I ever do to you that you need to talk to me like that? Don’t you forget, you are the one who needs me here! You are the one who wrote me that desperate letter! You are the one who came crawling to my house Mr.Arnav.Singh.Raizada!” She said in a low, but a serious tone, not wanting the child to witness this. Otherwise, there was no stopping her shouting at him this time. She didn’t have the time or the patience to satisfy this man’s ego, especially when he should be the one thankful to her.
Arnav charged up to her like a bull. The earlier Khushi would have been scared and moved backwards until she was pinned to the wall, but this Khushi had seen too much of the world to be scared, she stood firm to the ground.
Arnav caught hold of her hands and twisted them so that he held them behind her back, with a firm grip of his own hand and pulled her close. And he said in an icy, indignant monotone,” You think you are some paragon of virtue, running away like that? Khushi, why did you run away then when you knew you were the one being wronged?”
“Leave me Arnav, you are hurting me.” Khushi said, while purposely not looking at him nor making any attempts to free herself. She didn’t want to let him think for a second that he was successful in making her struggle.
“Fine, tell me what made you come back, was it my letter?” He asked, while not loosening his grip on her.
“I said leave me.” Khushi said through gritted teeth.
Arnav loosened his grip on her with a start that made Khushi slightly fumble.
“You want to know? For starters, yes, it was your letter, but no, it wasn’t you who made me come here. It wasn’t even Anjali entirely. It was my own past and for the sake of that little girl sleeping in your room.” She bawled at him.
Arnav pursed his lips into a thin line as he heard those words. He knew he had unnecessarily been connote, but something just brought it out of him. Maybe, it was irritability at the fact that she hadn’t got up at once and said that she would do all that she could to help Di recover.
But now when he thought of it, there wasn’t any reason for him to hold such high expectations of her. And Khushi had said it, it was he who needed her, and he needed to show some gratitude.
“Khushi, I Am..”
“Don’t say sorry unless you mean it.” She cut him.
“I’ll help with Anjali, as much as I can. I know what she has gone through.”
“What do you mean?” Asked Arnav, confused by her words.
“Nothing. Just let me know.” She said as she turned to leave.
She caught hold of the frame of the door with both her hands, before she turned herself by her waist, to say, “Arnav, everyone doesn’t have the lily white lives you think they do.”