Arnav was sitting in the car in ignition, parked at the entrance, waiting for Khushi. She got into the car and he drove off in silence.
Just as they were out of the crowded streets, and there was a silence around him, he said, “Khushi, I’m sorry that all that was brought up today.”
Khushi didn’t glance at him; she was looking at the guild of birds flying in a guild in the sky. Horrendous, torturous memories resurfacing, which could not easily by contained by any other person. A bevy of emotions.
All of it, creeping back to her. Everything that she had contained with herself for so many years. Not a hint of it was ever exposed to anyone, but herself. And, that’s what it was time to do again. She wiped the small tear, at the corner of her eye, ready to trickle down. The calm composure overtook her, and she replied,
“It’s alright Arnav, it’s in the past.”
He looked at her more intensely this time, as he brought the car to a halt at a side. “Khushi, I can’t tell you how sorry I am for….. For not believing you that time..”
“It’s alright Arnav, it’s in the past.” She replied in a monotone, as she pressed a stone against her heart, beating painfully in her chest, while leaning her head against the cool window of Arnav’s SUV.
“Khushi, all that you’ve gone through, because of us…. Me.. I’m sorry.”, stammered Arnav apologetically.
Khushi repeated, “It’s alright Arnav, it’s in the past now.”
“Dammit Khushi!” Arnav said irritably, as he punched a fist into the steering wheel. “You can’t just say it’s fine, when it’s not.”
“Well, you want to know what’s not fine?” Khushi lashed out at him.
Arnav looked at her with eyes full of uncertainty. What else could have happened? What did he not know? Khushi had hinted at something before too.
But, what followed was silence. A few tears rolled down Khushi’s cheeks, as painful memories came flooding back to her.
Khushi stuttered through her sobs, “Please drop me to the hotel Arnav.”
“But, Khushi, tell me, what is it?” asked Arnav.
Khushi shook her head in disagreement.
“Fine, let’s get to your hotel, then we’ll talk?” said Arnav.
Khushi didn’t respond to that, and Arnav took that as a yes.
He drove in to the hotel, Khushi got off the car before him and he had to run to catch up with her, as giving the car to the valet took an extra few minutes.
Khushi left the door to her room open; Arnav entered and shut it behind him.
Arnav stifled an urge to just shout at Khushi, demanding to know what was wrong. But, his heart advised him better. This wasn’t one of those old times where he could scare Khushi into doing as he instructed, and he didn’t want to.
Something told him, the matter at hand was delicate and he didn’t want to press Khushi into telling him. Rather, she tells him when she was comfortable doing so.
He tried to change the topic, lighthearted small talk not really being his forte; he used Khu to his rescue.
“Khushi, ever since Khu saw you dance, she has been badgering me for dance lessons.”
Khushi felt a faint blush trickle her pale cheeks as she smiled at Arnav, trying to show him some gratitude for not pressing.
“Really? She never mentioned it to me.”
“Maybe she felt shy.” Said Arnav, trying to cover up.
“Shy? I don’t think so.”
“Khushi, will you please teach my niece some dance?”
“What? You mean, like taking classes? Isn’t she too small?”
“Yeah. And small? No way. She has got the brains of a grandmother. Moreover, it will keep her busy, and she’ll learn something out of it.”
“Hmmm.” , Khushi murmured as she gave it some thought.
“We’ll keep it professional. I’ll pay you on a class basis.”
“What? I’m not going to take money from you! And not for teaching the girl who shares my name.”
Khushi furrowed her eyebrows at him and gibed, “Arnav, why did you name her Khushi?”
There was a shy smile on Arnav’s face. He inclined his head slightly to her side, and began tracing circles with his thumb on his wrists. “Khu told you.” He said weakly.
Khushi leaned her head on Arnav’s shoulder and entangled her arm in his like kids. “I thought she was just kidding.”
Suddenly the tone of the day changed and the world seemed a brighter place. They sat like that for a few minutes until Arnav’s Blackberry began ringing arduously.
Arnav pressed the Bluetooth button, walked up to the windows to take the call. “Aman, I’m not coming to office today. Manage everything. I don’t know how, synchronize with Akash, do video conferences, but I should not get another call from you today.” Arnav Singh Raizada just delegated, on the mobile, an entire day’s work.
On the other side of the phone, Aman was a man probably more confused than anybody else. This had never happened before.
“Why aren’t you going to work?”, asked Khushi.
“Because I don’t want to.” Was his plain simple reply, as he fiddled with his Blackberry.
“And, why, may that be?”
“Because, I want to spend the day with the girl I like.” Fully aware of the magnanimity of what he was saying.
Khushi’s eye widened into saucers as she realized Arnav was actually flirting with her.
“But, I’m not free like you, I have work to do.”
Arnav sprang up, surprised, “What work?”
“I talked to the School I did a workshop with, and they said, they would want me to hold afternoon classes for the kids.” She explained.
“But, why? I mean you could have..”
“No, I want to, that’s why. And, I need something to pass my time too. This isn’t home.”
Arnav moved away. That hurt him. Delhi isn’t home anymore?
“Khushi.. I… I wasn’t talking about you.” Arnav stammered, trying to cover up once again.
“Really?” Khushi asked saucily.
“Really.” Arnav repeated with a smug smirk. He gave himself a mental pat on the back. That was a good cover up Raizada.
“Who’s the other girl you like?” Khushi asked, as she felt a tingling sensation of nervousness in her heart, slightly apprehensive of what his answer may be.
“Your namesake, my niece.” replied Arnav, and Khushi for some reason felt relieved.
“But, I was actually hoping you’d come along too.” Arnav added.
She pursed her lips as she thought how she could work that out, not negating the possibility of it. “Maybe, I’ll join you after the Dance Class.” She hadn’t been to Shantivan since that day, but something, made her feel at ease today, comfortable going there.
Arnav beamed a happy smile, “Good, let’s get some lunch. And I’ll drop you then?”
Arnav sauntered out of the room and gestured Khushi to follow.
Khushi was surprised to see this side of Arnav today. He was being nice and friendly, not too demanding. She was not complaining.
Arnav was surprised with himself too. He had smiled a heart happy smile today, after many days. The girl who could make him smile was back, and he was determined to make her stay.