Beyond words

When eyes and souls connect

Chapter 34: Check and Checkmate

on May 21, 2013

The morning rose bright and sunny.

Arnav walked down in his usual impeccable suit flanked by Akash. Anjali sat at the dining table waiting for her brothers to join her for breakfast. Nani looked with pleasure at the happiness that seemed to have descended on their house with the impending nuptials. Mami’s head swum with the number of lists she had going. Did her husband have to pick this week to go out on business? NK looked lost in his own world.

“Di, I forgot to mention but I asked Aman to drop his daughter off at our home for Mehndi and Sangeet. Would you mind keeping an eye on her?”

Anjali looked at her usually morose brother. This was getting interesting.

“Of course Chottey. I liked Anya. She seemed very wise for a 6-year-old. It was nice of you to offer Chottey.”

“It’s nothing Di. Actually I have some work for Aman.”

Arnav looked at his sister.

“Di, Did you want me to hire the same choreographer from our cousin’s wedding for this Sangeet?”

Anjali looked like her eyes would pop out.

“Chottey, What is with you? You never dance. You hate anything to do with music and dance. The last time the choreographer was here, you kept complaining all through. What is with the sudden interest in dance?”

Arnav looked around trying to keep his voice casual.

“Well! it is Akash’s wedding and I figured these things need to be taken care of. If you are not interested, that is OK.”

Anjali’s face fell.

“No! Not that Chottey. It is not that. Of course it will be fun to get a choreographer. You know what, we should invite Payal ji and Khushi ji too. They love to dance.”

Arnav smirked when he realized he had hit target.

“OK Di. If you want it I can arrange for her.”

NK’s voice rang out.

“Actually can we call Lavanya too? She is with Khushi ji and Payal ji till the end of the month. Am sure she will like to dance too. Perhaps we can have some duets…”

NK lapsed into his dream world.

Anjali suppressed a smile and said “Yes NK Bhai, we can call Lavanya ji too and yes we can have duets.”

Breakfast over, Anjali picked up the phone to call Khushi.

The phone rang at the Gupta residence and Khushi picked the phone.

“Khushi ji, This is Anjali. Can you stop by home sometime today? I need to discuss some wedding shopping and sangeet preparations with you.”

Khushi paused a moment, mentally reviewing her calendar.

“Sure Anjali Di. I can stop by evening.”

“See you evening!”

Arnav stopped halfway to the door listening to his Di.

“Evening huh?”

He resumed striding to the door and the world looked a tad brighter.

Khushi stepped out of her Bua’s landlord’s home confusion writ large on her face. Somebody had bought the home they were living in? And they wanted to be anonymous? They wanted no rent?

Khushi felt a stab of fear. Images of Shyam crossed her mind. He was behind bars wasn’t he? Did he manage to buy the house so as to have a measure of control on their lives? But didn’t Akash ji say he had no money of his own? Who could it be and why would they not want rent?

She hailed an auto and directed him to drive to her kitchen. She had to figure out who bought the house. The house should have been registered with the government. There had to be a way to figure it out.

Thoughts still pounding her head, she got off and was welcomed with a smell of jalebis being fried for dessert. Biting into one, she decided she had to do it that afternoon after delivering the food to Shukla ji.

Lavanya sat in her office rescheduling meetings and rearranging calendar invites for ASR and Akash for the next week. NK had called her excitedly about preparations for the Sangeet. He had been so cheerful and insistent that she had given in. She squirmed at the thought of being in the Raizada Mansion again for the festivities.

After lunch she had to go to sign the lease on her new apartment. Another week and she would have her own place. While living with the Guptas was fun, she had started to crave her own space and own bed. She looked at the calendar. Her parents were visiting in the next couple of weeks. For the first time since she had moved out, she felt relief and happiness at their impending arrival. Living amongst people who placed much value on familial ties had rubbed off on her.

Khushi pushed the doors to the cafe to see if Manju aunty was there. Shukla smiled seeing her and called out that she was probably in the store-room. Khushi made for the storeroom. Didn’t Manju aunty’s son work for the Building Development Authority?

Arnav hunted for copier for his printer. He looked at the phone. The peon would be in the cafe for lunch. He had no time to wait. He would get it from the store-room himself.

He pushed the door open and ran smack into Khushi.

His eyes widened and he fell back closing the door behind him. Khushi rubbed her eyes adorably and her mouth made a perfect O in surprise.

“Aap?”

“MmmmMain”

They looked at each other awkwardly. Arnav broke the silence first.

“What are you doing in the store-room?”

“I came to look for Manju Aunty. Her son works for the DDA. I need to find out who bought our home…”

She realized she was letting on more than she had intended to. Why did it always happen that Laad Governor either made her tongue-tied or made her say everything on her mind. Chiding herself mentally, she tried to move past him to the door.

He put a hand out blocking her way.

“I did.”

Khushi looked at him her irritation giving way to surprise and bewilderment.

“You did? Why?”

“Do I have to explain all of my dealings to you?” Arnav asked smirking.

He loved watching her squirm and get all bothered.

She looked at him digesting what he had said, the questions still swirling.

“Why won’t you take rent? It makes no sense. What are you trying to achieve?”

Arnav’s eyes softened seeing her troubled. He reached out to her, taking her elbow gently.

“Khushi. I meant it the other day when I said I was sorry. My actions in Sheesh Mahal impacted your family in many ways. I am trying to make amends. I am not good with words. This is the only way I know how. Please let me.”

His tone had become quieter and his eyes pleaded with Khushi.

Khushi looked with amazement at how much he had changed. Gone was the arrogance, the place of power from which he operated. She felt the need to reach out, reassure him that it was OK.

Stepping a bit closer, she looked into his eyes and giving him a quick hug, and a quick peck on the cheek. It felt natural. The way she felt with her family.

KhushiKissingArnav

Stepping back, she realized what she had just done. She looked up at Arnav’s eyes. He looked surprised and something other than tenderness had crept in. Sensing the change in the atmosphere she quickly said “Arnav ji, I did not mean it that way. I don’t know why I did…”

She could say no more as his palm covered her mouth.

“Hush. Say no more.”

With that, he turned, opened the door and walked out.

Khushi tumbled out in the sunlight a jumbled mass of nerves. The day was not going right at all. She had not meant to kiss him. All she wanted to do was reassure him that it was OK. She would not tell Bua. She of all people understood the burden of gratitude. She understood his need to even the score.

She looked at her watch and realized she had to meet Anjali ji before she got home. Hoping she would not run into Arnav ji there, she rang the bell.

Anjali who had been expecting Khushi, opened the door. The two exchanged hugs and made their way to Anjali’s room which had a mass of sarees and jewelry spread out. Anjali took her by hand and cleared an edge for her to sit on. Carefully bending her impaired foot, she made herself comfortable. The next hour sped by with them making selections and checking off items on their respective lists. Just as they were about to wrap up, Anjali frowned at something on her list.

“Khushi ji, I missed the Kangans Nani had kept for Payal ji. I have them in a safe in Chottey’s room. Let me get them.”

She made to rise when Khushi held her arm.

“Anjali Di. Please sit. I can run and get them.”

With that, she made her way quickly to Arnav’s room. Her brain was on overdrive processing the plans Anjali ji had shared with her. The choreographer would be there every morning till before lunch. Payal, Lavanya and she would have to rearrange their schedules to make it. Amma and Babuji would reach Delhi this weekend and she needed to arrange taxis for them.

Having been in and out of Arnav’s room many times before, she had no trouble finding out what Anjali ji had wanted. Clutching the bangles, she was about to step out of the room, when an arm grabbed her and pulled her to the poolside. She was about to scream when Arnav ji’s hand covered her mouth.

“Shh! Don’t scream. I did not mean to scare you.”

She nodded and he took his hand off.

Even as she watched, he deliberately bent and kissed her on her cheek.

arnavkissingkhushi

Stunned to react, she looked at him questions in her eyes.

Arnav looked at her with a mix of amusement and tenderness.

“I did MEAN it.” He smirked as he reminded her that Di was probably waiting for her.

Khushi walked back in a daze not knowing what hit her.

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2 responses to “Chapter 34: Check and Checkmate

  1. loving the naughty asr so cute beautifully done loved that she heard him out before she reacted and arnav is setting up anjali and aman very nice

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