Where Happiness Lives
Chapter 1 - You Already Know
Chapter 2 - Is it Love?
Chapter 3 - Imperfections
Chapter 4 - Strangeness
Chapter 5 - Spectrum
Chapter 6 - Monsters in the Dark
Chapter 7 - The Little Things
Chapter 8 - Revolving Doors
Chapter 9 - Heartlines
Chapter 10 - Where Happiness Lives
Click Here to go to Post 2 with the next chapters
Chapter 10 - Where Happiness Lives
Click Here to go to Post 2 with the next chapters
Hi Hi! This is Hayley and I'm back! I got lots of wonderful suggestions and the best I could collectively pull out from all of it was that you guys desperately wanted a less gloomy story than my SS : Holding On and Letting Go and the end of my FF : Tearing Ourselves Apart So I thought I would write something a bit more happy (with its own ups and downs of course). Anyone wanting emails for updates, please email me at email@example.com because I am not sending PM's anymore, even non I-F members can send a request :)
So this story is just something for everyone to read when you need some ArHi time, I haven't planned the story and will make it up as I go along, so don't expect an elaborately planned plot! This one is for good reads and (hopefully) enjoyable words about our favourite two characters.
It starts out sometime after the new year in ArHi world, place it where you like, it's quite open... Pleasant reading folks !
Chapter 1 - You Already Know
I have a knack of adding in songs to my updates which for me really set the mood and let you in on my mindset so please do listen to them as you read along !
Her eyes flew open, images of her incomplete dream making their last run across her mind before they wisped away to become distant memories she could not recall anymore. All she did remember, was that he had been in them again. He was intruding into every space around her, filling her head with thoughts that she did not want to think, well, that is what she told herself anyway.
With a sigh, she lifted herself off her blanket and watched the children across the street from the window laugh and play with each other, smiling at their innocence. Her sister was gone and the sun was high in the sky, its heat, beading her head with droplets of sweat that should not have been there in the month of January. Suddenly realising that she had overslept by a large margin she fluttered out of bed and dashed towards the bathroom, walking around with a fizzing foam of toothpaste in her mouth as she grabbed things that she needed and flung them into the colourful fabricated bag at the foot of her bed.
She was supposed to go and help Anjali with decorating the house for the function they were holding that night for Aakash's last birthday as an unmarried man, despite his reluctance. She knew that Anjali would be too busy to even notice that Khushi was well over reasonably late, but that was not the reason for the jittering butterflies in her stomach.
He hadn't seen her for about a week and he was glad to have had that many days to recompose himself, if anything, he thought they were insufficient. He stood facing his wardrobe, looking at the different colours in front of him, trying to decide which one to wear. After realising what the reason behind his sudden self consciousness was, he turned away and roughly grabbed at a dark red jumper, pulling it over his head like a child angry at his mother for making him dress for school and started marching downstairs to help his Di put decorations up.
He found himself whisking around the pillar he was working on every few minutes to check on the door and then back at the clock again to complain internally why she wasn't there, and every time he did, he felt like stabbing himself out of anger. Why did he care so much? Why was he always so aware when she was around? He shook his head violently as he thought of how she had looked lying next to him, removing the image of her beautiful eyes that haunted him, even in his sleep.
His heart drove through his head, reminding him of what he had felt when he had seen her.
Want and desire tore at him as he thought of how much he had wanted to touch her. Feel the softness of her skin against him, let her warmth take over him and taste her lips...
He shook his head even more violently than last time, stumbling as the sudden movement made him unstable on his feet. As he fell forward he caught a glimpse of dark red, feeling the elated sensation he did whenever she was close.
Why did everything always go so wrong when she was there?
He let his quick reflexes stop him short of falling flat on his face and looked up to face her wide eyes staring right back at him, stopping him from breathing. He wasn't sure if she was real this time, because somehow, she looked even better than the last time he had seen her, and he didn't think that was even possible.
He started slowly walking towards her as everything around him seemed to melt into something that didn't matter, into nothingness. All that he saw was her and he had waited long enough.
Before he even knew it, he was standing close to her, staring into the eyes that were looking right back.
She inhaled sharply, as he watched her, suddenly making her feel very aware of herself. The intensity of his gaze had her lost so far away that she wasn't sure she would ever find her way back. All she knew was that he was getting closer, and he ended up being so near that she could feel his body heat radiating out towards her. If she closed her eyes, she was sure she would be able to hear his rapidly beating heart, but she knew if it was one thing she could not do that very moment, it was closing her eyes.
She realised how easy she found losing herself completely when he was around. His strong jaw and handsome features made her heart melt, but it was more than just that. It was all of him. Everything about him made her want him to steal her heart, and she would offer no defence. Only stand by watching as he took everything that was dear to her, because despite everything that he had done with her, she was sure he would guard it with his life. She didn't know how she knew that. She just did.
That voice brought both of them reeling out of where their minds had been, landing harshly back on the ground.
Arnav rolled his eyes in frustration as he heard his cousins voice. He had been annoyed at NK's flamboyancy and loudness before, his affection for Khushi had made him angry and the fact that he touched Khushi when they danced made him hate his cousin with a passion. It did not help that he had shown up with a bouquet of red roses for her at midnight.
How dare he?
He turned, still breathing rapidly from his encounter with Khushi and watched angrily as NK made his way towards them arms stretched out wide, preparing himself for a hug. He imagined NK holding her close, his arms wrapped around her back.
Khushi looked nervously from NK, approaching her with arms open, back to Arnav who caught her eyes for a split second before stepping away from her. She felt her heart drop in disappointment as she tried to think of how to get out of hugging NK, for fear of it being very awkward.
She didn't have to though, because as she watched Arnavs retreating back, she saw him swiftly stick a leg out, bringing NK falling down to the floor. He threw his arms out and fell towards her, and Khushi closed her eyes and braced herself for the collision that never came. Instead, she felt a familiar warm hand grab strongly on to her arm and pull her sideways before she hit something solid with a lot less violence than she had imagined.
She didn't want to open her eyes because she knew she would give in once she looked up at him holding on to her. The feel of his hand pressed up against her back, pulling her closer into him was enough to make her forget everything, she didn't need the added pressure of his eyes looking at her too.
"Are you...I mean, watch what you are doing!" he scowled, taking advantage of the fact that she was not looking at him.
"OW!" NK shouted, holding on to his ankle and frowning in pain.
The sound made Arnav flinch and he let go of Khushi as she kept her eyes closed, watching her for a second before turning and briskly walking away from the pair of them.
"Ow! My ankle, Khushi Ji, Oh Khushi ji, please help me" NK begged, looking up at Khushi as her eyes flew open and she looked around herself in confusion, searching for something before finding him sprawled on the ground.
"Nanhe ji!?" she exclaimed, bending down to help him up.
"I'm really sorry I won't be able to help you decorate the poolside like we planned" NK sadly said, more disappointed at the fact that he wouldn't be able to spend time with her rather than the fact that she would have to do all that work on her own.
"It's okay Nanhe Ji" Khushi smiled, her old Khushi smile "You rest your ankle, I can manage the decorations, you just make sure you get it better before the sangeet so we can perform together."
NK's face dropped for a second "Oh, I forgot about that! Don't worry Khushi ji, my ankle will definitely be okay by then, it's only a sprain."
Khushi sent him a reassuring smile and left NK's room, thinking of why Arnav would trip his own cousin. She made her way down to the kitchen, picking up a box of decorative lights, flowers and floating lanterns helpfully labelled 'poolside' by Anjali before climbing up the stairs towards the place where she held so many memories with him, convincing herself on the way that maybe the whole fall had just been an accident.
She watched the dancing reflections of light from the floating lanterns as they hit the water interphase in the pool, shimmering and changing forms as it glowed along with the hundreds of tiny light bulbs that gracefully adorned the tree's making up his beloved poolside. She admired her work, looking at every single flower, carefully placed around the open space, filling it up with the scent of a wild forest, clashing against the hazy yellow light cast by the glowing bulbs.
She looked over at the box where there was a few lanterns and a line of hanging lights left and she rubbed her hands together eagerly reaching down towards the box when a voice made her freeze.
"What are you doing here?" he called, surprised to find her.
She looked up at the man that made her breath catch in her throat and stood up straight, flattening out her dress as he looked on at her incredulously.
"What are you doing?" he repeated.
Khushi only looked at him, not understanding why he was so confused. She looked around at the decorated poolside "I was putting up the..." she said absentmindedly, pointing up around her at the lights before she remembered his tone "not that it has anything to do with you" she finished, as he furiously snapped up at her.
"THIS IS MY HOUSE" he strained through a clenched jaw, trying his best to keep his wild rage in check.
"And this is my Jeeju ji's birthday" she shot back, turning around in a huff towards the box only to find Arnav hold on to her arm roughly and turn her back around to face him, anger evident in his eyes.
He took in the feel of her against him, before letting the anger take over.
"Khushi Kumari Gupta, don't you dare speak to me like that."
"What!? What are you going to do about it?" she replied confidently, matching his anger with her strength.
He clenched his jaw to refrain from shouting at her like he had when she had slapped him "Don't push me Khushi, you know that I can do anything."
Khushi gulped, trying her best to swallow her fear, breaking her strong exterior as the words he spoke set in, she knew it was true, but would he ever do anything to intentionally hurt her..?
"Now get out" he said, voice barely above that of a whisper, with all the menace of its missing loudness.
She shook her head unconsciously, not realising how that small action made him furious. He tightened his grip around her wrist, pulling her closer to him so that her face was only inches away from his, heat radiating around them from all the anger and intensity of their unidentified emotions.
"What part of get out don't..." he was interrupted by a voice calling out towards them and he was thankful that it stopped him spewing his venom words at Khushi again.
"Khushi ji!" Anjali called, walking towards the poolside where they stood.
Arnav pushed her away, watching as she stumbled and took a step backwards to steady herself. The yellow light around them made her eyes shine like bright honey orbs, calling him in towards her, making his anger fade away, replaced by pure awe.
Khushi tore herself away from his gaze, turning to face Anjali who had just walked in and took her time to admire the work they had done.
"You both did this?" she said to herself, looking around at the open space that looked like a little piece of paradise, the cool blue water setting a disparity against the calmness of the trees and lights.
Khushi was too busy thinking of Arnav to respond to Anjali who continued to speak after having taken the view in.
"You both really work well together" she murmured.
Arnav's head snapped up, about to speak up and say how he could never work with someone like Khushi and actually do something productive when she got there first.
"A...Anjali ji, I should probably go, I'm glad you like it" she smiled, starting to walk past her, away from him.
Anjali held on to her arm softly, so different from her brother she thought. She felt a pang of guilt at the news she was hiding from Anjali. The fact that her husband was unfaithful and cheating, and as much as she worshipped him, he didn't give a damn. The guilt clawed away at her insides but she put it away, remembering how she was taught as a child that hiding the truth was the better option sometimes, if someone was going to get seriously hurt.
"Khushi ji, what are you saying, I didn't invite you over to come and work and then go home! You are staying for the party."
Khushi anxiously looked over at Arnav who was looking back at her intently before looking down at what she was wearing.
"But Anjali ji, I didn't bring, I mean, I didn't even think about that, I don't have anything to change into, and I can't go in this" she indicated down at her dark red dress which she had been working in all day. She hoped the excuse would be sufficient to get away, from him, because she wasn't sure what she would end up doing if she stayed around him for too long.
"Di, there is no need for her to..." a stern look from his older sister silenced him immediately and he stomped off with one last look at Khushi, making sure to express his disappointment, quite the opposite of what his heart was thinking.
"Khushi ji, I would give you some of my clothes, but you will probably think they are really old fashioned, but we have some of Lavanya's new clothes that she left behind, you can just wear what you like from there!" she said excitedly, dragging a hesitant Khushi behind her.
Arnav stood at the top of the steps leading away from the poolside, holding his chest over his heart which was thudding loudly in its place. His world was spinning, and he found that that seemed to happen surprisingly often, well, since he had met her.
He closed his eyes, only to snap them open when all he saw through the darkness was the picture of her bright eyes. He thought he was going crazy, what was he going to do? He didn't know why he had become so angry seeing her. He couldn't think straight anymore, he couldn't control his senses around her. His mind took him places he didn't want to go, because he knew he could never unsee what his mind showed him. He could never unwant her once he had imagined what it must be like to have her.
He could never remove the image of those luminous eyes when they looked at him, back with the same ferocity he knew he felt.
Chapter 2 - Is it Love?
"This!?" she exclaimed, holding up what looked like a very elegant saree, adorned with intricately woven multicoloured beads travelling around the edge of the fabric, outlining the delicate black form of the remaining dress. She could imagine herself in it, but she felt like it was too much. This was Lavanya's and it looked expensive. She should just go home.
"Anjali ji, I can't..."
"Khushi ji, no excuses what so ever, you are the sister of my future sister in law, stop acting like you are not family" she said firmly, pushing Khushi down by her shoulders "Now please let me get you ready? I love dressing up!" she smiled widely, pulling out the hair tie holding her plait together.
Anjali looked at Khushi who struggled to pull on the beaded top of her saree, admiring how well she had put her together. Her hair fell in soft waves down her back, her pale skin eminent against the dark fabric that clung to her. Her bronze eyes stood out against the dark eye make up Anjali had applied, making her seem more beautiful than even Anjali had thought she could pull off. She wobbled as she stepped into a pair of high heels, complaining of how she would never be able to walk in those for an entire night and turned to catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror.
She stopped short, never having imagined that she could look this good. Blushing profusely as she saw Anjali watching her admire herself she turned around quickly and smiled at her.
"You look perfect, but...wait...just one more thing."
Khushi's eyes opened in fear of what was about to be done to her, her expression received by Anjali rolling her eyes. She stepped behind Khushi and fiddled in her wardrobe for a minute before turning back to face Khushi with something in her hands. They were bangles, gold bangles.
"This completes it" Anjali said, slowly slipping the loops of metal through Khushi's slender hand, letting them rest on her arm where they looked just right.
"Oh no, I could never take thi..."
"It's just for tonight, don't worry, I'll take them back from you tomorrow!" Anjali warned Khushi with her eyes, making her stop midway through her sentence and pulled her along behind her, towards the slow murmur of conversation in the hall where guests had arrived.
Song for this update :)
She looked around fearfully, hoping that he wasn't there, yet at the same time, yearning to see him. She missed the warmth of his hands against her skin where they always seemed to hold her close to him.
Anjali excused herself to go speak to some guests, joined shortly afterwards by Shyam who wrapped his arm around her. Khushi watched as he did, feeling her stomach churn from queasiness, and she did a double take when he looked over at her, an infatuated expression on his face. Khushi stepped back, feeling uneasy on her feet having him watch her like that.
She had felt good having seen herself in the mirror, but she would give it all back to have Shyam look away from her. The lust in his eyes made her sick so she slowly eased out of the room avoiding his gaze and not looking back.
"Dammit" he scowled, pulling the tie he had been attempting to wrap around his neck off to throw it on the floor in frustration. He was so angry at everything but most of all, at her. She had an effect on him which he had boasted so long of not being possible. Now, she was breaking through all his barriers, all the protective walls he had meticulously built, making it as strong as could be. And she had walked in and broken it to pieces so small, he couldn't even attempt to put it back together, without even trying. How did she do it?
How did she find a way into his heart? The heart that he had kept so secretly hidden from the world.
He decided that he didn't have the concentration to put a tie together so he let it be, straightening out his Armani suit, he strode towards the poolside door and pulled it open.
When he saw her, his heart stopped dead in his chest. This couldn't be Khushi Kumari Gupta.This couldn't be the naive, innocent and sometimes irritating young girl he had a strange affection for. This was an angel. Fallen from heaven, stripped of its wings, clouded with eternal beauty of a level he could never comprehend.
This wasn't Khushi Kumari Gupta he decided, this was a fallen angel. But maybe, he thought for a second before his mind numbed completely, maybe, they were one and the same thing.
The steps he took towards her, were that of a lost man. He could see her in front of him, bending down placing the few remaining lanterns out into the water, lighting them along as she did. Watching so peacefully as they moved along with the water, playing against the light of everything else to cast a flittering shadow of yellow under it.
He could see the image of her, but that was it. It felt like his mind was only able to take so much, and the way she was looking crossed all his thresholds. He knew if he thought of anything, it would take his concentration off her. And he couldn't do that, he didn't want to.
How had he kept away so long? How had he not given up to the urges he had felt so long. Had she always looked like this?
He gulped, swallowing his fear as he approached her and crouched down on the floor next to her. She looked up at him and he took in a sharp breath, her eyes tearing his heart out from under his chest all over again.
She hadn't noticed him behind her, and he didn't usually catch her off guard like that from so close, so she froze, staring up at him, her mind doing a complete reversal after having being lost in thought over Shyam and Anjali and whether what she had chosen to do was the right thing. Those thoughts were catapulted to the back of her mind. There were much more pressing matters at hand, like Arnav right next to her, staring at her with a look that made her shudder.
He reached out towards her, an expression on his face that she had never seen before. He was at peace, and she loved the way he looked in that moment.
He traced her skin ever so lightly, as though it would tear if he kept his fingers on her for too long. Along the side of her cheek, brushing away a stray strand of hair from her eyes, he continued down her jaw, finally finding her lips. He felt her take in a small breath as he traced her lips with his fingers, warm and sticky from lip gloss. He wondered what it would taste like.
He leaned in towards her, slowly closing the distance between them until he could feel her lips quiver against his along with the dampness of her gloss.
"Arna..." she started, fearing she would not be able to control herself if he got any closer.
"Shhh" he breathed, not wanting to ruin the moment.
There was nothing tonight. No Lavanya, no mystery fiance, no family, no intruding cousin. Just his pride in the way, and he was more than willing to give that up if her could have her. Keeping still as stone he lifted his hand towards her cheek and cupped her face, pulling her in towards him so that her lips crushed into his.
He kissed her softly at first, careful of her reaction, but when she did not retaliate it turned desperate. He kissed her hungrily, unheedingly. Like he had waited for this from the moment he had laid eyes on her. The sweetness of her lip gloss and softness of her lips were more than he could take so he pressed against her even more, holding her face with both his hands so she could not get away even if she tried.
He didn't want to stop for breath, he didn't want to break away. But the small hand pressing lightly at his chest made him back away. He looked at her, taking her in. She was breathing heavily, as was he, with her features portraying a look of deep astonishment, as though this was the last thing she would have imagined happening.
He could see her lips begin to blister from the force with which he had held her, and it made him want to kiss her all over again. He leaned in towards her, about the catch her lips with his when she closed her eyes and turned faintly so that his lips pressed against the corner of hers instead, tasting the berry lip gloss spread on her skin.
"W...we..I mea...You...you can't" she stammered, wanting nothing more than to turn back around and hold on to him.
"Khushi, please" he pleaded, not being able to bear the loss of contact. He softly turned her chin with his fingers, bringing her lips to him once again so that he kissed her, with more passion than the first time.
She tried to hold back, but her attempts were in vain. Losing herself to his touch she held on to him, running her hands through his hair, pulling him in closer to her as she wrapped her arms around his neck. He travelled along her skin, places hot kisses along her jaw, slowly starting to make his way down her neck until his lips were placed between her neck and shoulder.
He leant over and pulled her long wavy hair across her back and over one shoulder, exposing the back of her neck. He started to make his way back up her neck, burying his lips just under her ear.
Khushi bit her lip to restrain from letting out a moan as Arnav caressed the skin at her neck.
Somehow, somewhere inside of her snapped. She gasped audibly and her eyes flew open as she swiftly stood up, leaving Arnav frozen in position.
"What are you doing?" she asked softly, not sure what was going on.
Arnav looked up at her for a long moment, before standing up and taking steps towards her until he cornered her against a tree near the edge of the wall.
"I don't know" he replied unconfidently.
He traced his fingers slowly up her arm hanging by her side all the way till he reached her shoulders, making her shiver from the coolness of his touch. She shook her head violently, stepping away from him as he reached out towards her again.
"This isn't right" she whispered, nervously avoiding his gaze by keeping her eyes shut tight. Before he could reach out for her again she went running, leaving the fabric of her saree floating along behind her in a daze as he only looked on.
He took a while to compose himself, fighting to urge to run after her and corner her up against a wall so he could do what he had wanted to do for so long. After a while of contemplation, reality dawned on him.
What had he done? He had promised himself after Diwali night that he would never become that weak again, not around her. It had ended in a disaster last time, he couldn't take that risk again. Closing his eyes in frustration he saw her eyes against his dark eyelids, causing them to fly open mere seconds later in fear.
What if he had ruined everything? What had given him the right to do what he had? He didn't know whether what he had done was right or wrong, but whatever it was, it felt perfect.
He thought back to the moment when he had taken her lips in his and his whole body shivered with desire and a feeling he had locked away for so long.
Chapter 3 - Imperfections
Song for this update, please do listen as you read!
She spent the next few hours trying her best to distract herself from his thought, so lost in the view in front of her that she did not notice the set of prying eyes watching her every move.
Shyam held on to Anjali, but payed her no heed. Not when Khushi was looking the way she was. He had tried to look away at first, for the sake of people around him becoming suspicious, but he did not care anymore. All he wanted, was the sight of her.
His eyes twitched as he saw a black clad form step infront of his line of sight. Arnav.
Shyam sighed loudly, annoyed that he couldn't see her anymore, but not worried. He knew how much they hated each other. He was probably there to bother her again, probably ask her to leave.
Little did he know, it was that very intensity between the two of them that had torn Khushi away from him.
Her eyes flew open, staring out with a look of shock and fear plastered over every feature of hers. She looked like she wanted to melt out of sight, disappear in to thin air to avoid this conversation.
She turned to face him, her knees quivering against the seat, telling her that standing up would probably not be a good idea.
"Y..you?" she stammered, looking around for an exit. There were plenty of ways to run, plenty of space to make a dash. But she did not trust her legs.
"I need to talk to you" he said softly.
The way he had said it made Khushi not care about the weakness in her knees anymore, she wanted to run away. She didn't care how much of a fool she would look doing it.
She stood up swiftly, and strongly, surprising even herself with her confidence. But a single step had her buckling towards the cold marble floor.
He caught her.
His warm hands pressed against her bare stomach as she fell forwards on to him and he supported her weight. The touch making her flush a bright red, not visible in the dimly lighted room. She breathed heavily as she pushed herself straight and before he could make another sound, she rushed away from him, towards the corridor that led outside.
"What the?" he exclaimed, as he found her slipping away from his grip in less than a second. How did she do it? Either she moved lightning fast, or she seemed to slow down his senses whenever she was around.
Letting out an exasperated sigh, he followed her steps.
He saw her walking away from him, looking back hesitantly over her shoulder and quickening her pace. She didn't want to face him, she needed to sit down some more.
"Khushi wait!" he called as she complied, stopping in her tracks and letting her dark saree sway around her body along with her long hair.
"I said I need to talk to you" he called, waiting as she started to move away from him.
"DAMMIT KHUSHI JUST STAY PUT FOR A MINUTE!" he shouted, making her wince as she started to pray to her Devi Maiyya, stopping again as she realised she didn't have a choice. He would find a way to talk to her someway or another, there was no point in running.
He caught up to her in the corridor.
"I need to talk to you about earlier tonight" he whispered against her as she looked up to finally meet his eyes, unsure of what was to come.
He stood frozen for what seemed like a long time. Staring out into space over her eyes, lost in thought over what he wanted to say. It seemed so easy in thought, to just let it go. Tell her what he had been thinking for so long. What he had repressed inside of him for fear of what it would leave him as. Slowly, she had eased that fear, because there were times he realised that all he wanted was her. And nothing else mattered.
But actually doing that, was alot harder that he had imagined.
He opened his mouth multiple times, only to close it again for fear of lack of words. How do you start something like this?
Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up! She thought as he stood in front of her. With every passing second, she could feel her knees get weaker and weaker. She could tell from the way he was looking that this was hard for him to say. And whatever it was, it was different from what he was used to. It was like he was worried of her reaction, which is not what normally bothered him, and that excited her. Could it be? Could it possibly be that he was going to put into words how she felt about him? All this time, after all this time pretending it was nothing, maybe, just maybe, it was everything to him.
She didn't mean nothing, she meant the world to him. All she needed was to hear him say it, and she knew she would go flying in his arms, forgiving him for all the hurt and all the pain. Because he could give her more happiness that the entire world put together.
Her heart started to pump loudly, butterflies in her stomach jittering up against her abdomen, making her feel awfully wheezy. She watched a determined look flash across his eyes as he opened his mouth to speak again, and she couldn't help but smile before she heard him.
Her smile faltered.
"It was nothing, so don't go home imagining that there is something between us. You don't matter to me. You never have, and any little ki..." he stopped, registering the pain in her eyes "anything that happens isn't going to change that. Understand?"
She tried to speak up, try and throw it in his face how he had been the one to throw everything her way, how dare he act like this was all her? How dare he act like she had been the one to make all of this happen? She had been innocently decorating the poolside when he had come up to her out of nowhere. How could he?
But she could not find her voice.
She was numb, down to the core. The only feeling, the saline droplets of wetness making their way down the skin along her cheeks.
She looked up at the man standing before her and found that she didn't have any sympathy. So what if it was difficult to say? SO WHAT, her mind screamed. That did not give him the right to treat her like he had. Use her like a rag doll, playing around with her emotions like they had meant nothing.
She tried to put it all into words and throw them back at him, to hurt him as much as he had her, but she found she could not. It hurt too much.
As the image of their kiss played across her mind, a quiet agonising moan escaped her lips as she threw her arms up at his chest and shoved him away before turning on her heel and running.
He stumbled from the force, wanting to retrace his words through time. Go back and change it. Say what he had intended to, instead of the useless, meaningless words he had uttered.
He felt his heart shatter with every broken step she took away from him making him realise something only Khushi Kumari Gupta could make him feel.
That he was wrong.
He stood watching the door in front of him, ashamed of the way he had acted a few days ago when he had, standing in the exact same spot he was standing in now, taken her heart and thrown it away in the dirt.
Hurting her, over and over again, was more painful for him that he had thought. He used to feed of off things like that, other peoples misery made him feel good. It made him feel like he was in control, but with her, every time a tear formed in her beautiful eyes, he felt like the weakest man on earth, for not being able to take away her pain.
Everything was so similar to that night, the music blasting away in the background through a decorated hall. Gleaming lights blinding those who stepped into the room.
He stood with his family, waiting for the Gupta's to arrive for the sangeet and he watched the door, with bated breath, to see her.
He wanted to know she was alright.
He found himself flying down the corridor when the doorbell rang, to open the door to an enthused Buaji. He tried to be polite, saying hello to every one of them as they filed into his house.
All but one.
Where was she?
"Khushi?" he muttered slowly, causing Payal who was the last to enter to turn around surprised by his misplaced concern.
"Ji Arnavji?" she inquired.
He looked up, surprised that someone had heard him.
"Where is Khushi?" he asked again.
"Khushi..." Payal looked around uneasy "She, wasn't feeling well, and she said she couldn't come" she said slowly, hurt in her eyes at having to leave her sister behind. Khushi had insisted every one go, she just couldn't do it herself.
Catching Aakash's eye, she smiled and walked towards him, leaving behind an empty man in her wake.
Arnav looked around at his family before making a quick decision.
He was panicking. He thought back to how she had pushed him away in a rage when he had told her so brutally that she still didn't matter. His heart fluttered fearfully. Had she had enough?
He was so used to always finding her back with him, and now she wasn't there. She wasn't with him, had she given up? He looked outside, taking in the cold breeze as he thought of the hurt in her eyes.
This was his Khushi Kumari Gupta. This was the eccentric and beautiful girl that had captivated his heart. This was the girl that saw the tiny glimmer of care in him through all his deceit. Who had managed to find the smallest ray of love through all his hate. Who always managed to smile through whatever he threw at her.
After everything he had done, she had always, always come running back to him.
He looked down at his empty hands, a horrible hollowness started to creep up in his chest.
No. He was not having this.
Payal approached Aakash as she heard a door slam behind her. Looking back, she found the hallway where Arnav had stood empty, with only the lingering breeze that tickled her skin remaining drifting through the corridor.
Khushi stood watching herself in the mirror. She had been pretending to be ill for 2 days, curled up in bed just so she could avoid seeing him and now that everyone was out, she could finally stretch her legs. She had put on the green lehenga from Payals first marriage, watching the fabric glint against the light, just so she could remember the day she had first met him.
The sound of the doorbell made her jump through her skin and she bundled up her dress in her fists, making her way out to the door.
Chapter 4 - Strangeness
"Who is it at this time?" Khushi complained as she started towards the door. She had been in a foul mood for days now. Ever since he had... She stopped herself from thinking about it again. The moment when he had insulted her again had played out in her mind countless times. She remembered, when she had been crying against the door of her room on Diwali night, how she had told herself she would never let this happen again. With every tear she told herself that she wouldn't ever let him take advantage of her again and throw away everything that was dear to her. Make her feel like she had no worth.
She felt so angry for putting herself in that position again. She wanted to go back to that moment by the poolside and push him away before he had a chance to hold her. Push him away and embarrass him for what his heart felt, just like he had done to her.
However, she knew, even through how much she wished, that even if she went back to that moment a million times, she would never be able to push him away.
Lost in her thoughts of him she didn't notice the table right in front of her on the way to the door and her leg collided with the edge in a loud bang. The force of the collision had her falling backwards to hit the ground beneath her as a glass from the corner of the table joined her path and shattered on the ground next to her, sending shards of glass flying all around her.
He heard the sound on the other side of the door and panicked. He knocked on the door powerfully, impatient to hear from her.
"Give me a minute" she called, distressed at the mess she had made. She picked away at the small pieces of glass cutting her skin until there was nothing but a few scratches left on her hand. She lifted herself up, cringing at the pain in her forearm where she had broken her fall and went to open the door. She fixed her bangles along her arm to avoid the scratches. They were the same bangles Anjali had given her, she hadn't gotten round to returning them yet in all her attempts to avoid Arnav.
She swung the door open and the person she saw standing before her made her react so unpredictably, because she would have never thought to see him, especially tonight.
"Y...you?" she stuttered, trying to find her voice. When she met his eyes, all the memories of what he had done came flooding back to her at once.
"What are you doing here?" she shouted "Go away! I HATE YOU" before stepping back and shutting the door right before him.
She leaned against the back of the door, breathing heavily and closing her eyes as she realised what she had just done in the heat of the moment. The image of him just seemed to send such furrowing emotions through her, she couldn't help it, not after what he had done.
He knocked on the door again, surprising her with the calmness of his knocks. She would have thought he would be pounding on the door after what she had just done. She took in a few large gulps of air before turning back around to finally face what she knew she could not avoid.
I love you. There, I said it. Now can you can stop being angry at me?
Look, I'm sorry about what I said, about everything I have ever said to you. I was wrong, almost all the time, and I don't think I've ever been sorrier in my life.
And neither have I ever been so in love.
I just, I don't even know how you did it, but the way you made me feel, all the things you made me feel made me want to hate you. And when I couldn't, even when I tried my best to, I took the frustration out on you.
I never knew how you found it in you to forgive me all of those times. To come back and let me off with a fresh beginning each time. I admired you for it, and yet, I was jealous of it at the same time. And I realise now, that every time you did that, you made me love you even more. How you never gave me the opportunity to hate you, even though I looked for one high and low.
And now, when you didn't come, I don't know what had happened. All I knew was that it was my fault, because it couldn't be yours. I know you too much to know you would give up on anyone so quickly. You find the good in people, you find the good in the world. You found it in me Khushi, and you let me see it. You let me see it every time I'm around you, and I don't ever want to let that feeling go. You make me feel like I'm not the horrible, hateful, arrogant man that I know I am. It's the goodness in you that brings the goodness out in me, and you are the only one to have ever done that. I can't let that go, I can't let you go.
Please, just promise me you will always be there, promise me you won't ever not turn up like you did tonight. Promise me you will always find a way back to me.
When the door in front of him flew open he saw her, and his mind blanked completely. All the thoughts he had put into what he was going to say turned into a wisp of smoke in his mind and dissipated as he took in the image in front of him. She looked beautifully familiar.
"What..What are you wearing?" he said, instead of the speech he had put together in his mind seconds before.
Khushi steamed at his words. After what he had done, this was what he had to say. She stepped back for the second time, ready to shut the door on him a second time when he threw out his arm and stopped her.
"Wait" he commanded.
"What?" she said, outraged. He was still barking orders at her? This man was unbelievable "No, No I am not going to wait, you wait, outside, for however long, an hour, 2 hours, all night, I really don't care" she shouted, turning around.
"You don't care?" he asked, so fearfully, so quietly, that she couldn't even be sure that he was talking to her. He reached out for her arm, about to touch her skin when she flinched back from the painful bruise that had rapidly appeared under her skin.
He looked down at her arm and held on to it, looking down at the purple mark swelling under her cold pale exterior.
"What happened?" he asked, confronted by a surprised look from her.
Not only did this man have the ability to hide almost every emotion he felt, but he had the strangest reactions that she just could not comprehend. One minute he was angry, the next, he was smiling, then he was arrogant, only a second later to have his ignorance replaced by concern. She couldn't take it, he was driving her up the wall.
"What does it matter to you?" she spat at him, remembering the look in his eyes when he had told her a second time that she didn't mean anything.
"Khushi!" he pleaded, as she stepped back inside, stopping the door with his hands"I just need to talk to you"
"Well I don't want to talk to you, how is that for a change? We'll do what I want"
"Just stop for a second dammit"
She looked at an imaginary watch on her wrist "There, it's been a second" she said smartly "Goodbye"
"Khushi..." he urged, pushing the door open and stepping inside so he stood in the door frame.
Her heart was giving up. Why did he have to torture her like this? She felt her throat clog up from all the memories that were running back to her, all the thoughts of what she couldn't have.
"Look, I ... yesterday.." he began as she felt her eyes burn.
"Khushi, I didn't mean to hurt... what I mean is, you shouldn't have to miss out on your sisters sangeet because of me. What I said... I shouldn't have. It was wrong, what I did and .."he looked up at her, ready to apologise fully when he saw that she was crying.
"Khushi wait" he said, stopping as she stopped in her tracks too "I need to talk to you"
"And this ..." he said, running his hand down along her arm "is my house" he continued, brushing his fingers against the burning skin along her waist "I can do what I please, stare at whoever I want"
"What happened?" he asked, confused.
She cursed her tears, always letting her weakness show.
"Nothing, nothing" she muttered. Every time he spoke to her, she wanted him to say it. She had never thought about him so clearly before, but since that kiss. Since she had felt how much he wanted her to, she just needed to hear him say it. Why wasn't he?
"Look, please don't cry, I'm sorry okay, I didn't mean to..."
"It's not that" she choked, wanting him to leave, she didn't want him to see her crying while he boasted about how he was always right. She lifted a hand to wipe away her tears roughly.
"Just leave, please" she pleaded.
He grabbed a hold of her hand as she was lowering it.
"What happened to you?" he enquired, staring at the cuts along her skin. What had she done to herself?
"Nothing" she tried pulling away "I just fell that's it" she sniffed.
"God dammit Khushi, can you not even take care of yourself" he scolded, holding her fingers ever so lightly.
There it was again, that side of him that gave away that he still had a heart. It might have been cold and frozen, but it was there.
"Please, just go" she whispered through quivering lips, she wanted to go to her room and cry her heart out. She had felt like it for days now, and she couldn't hold it back any longer. That's what happens to you when the person you love doesn't care, and he throws your love back at you, because for them, it isn't worth keeping.
He couldn't believe she was asking him to leave, just like that. She had tears running down her face, because of him. As much as he hated those droplets of misery, he always seemed to be the reason to cause them. Why couldn't he make her happy? He wondered what she felt right now, did she hate him for what he had done? He tore his eyes away from hers, unable to stand the hurt they portrayed.
He sadly looked down at her hands again, hovering above the cuts along her skin and up her arm until his eyes froze over what he saw, his breath catching, his grip around her wrist tightening.
They were there, the rings of vibrant gold that clung to her silky skin, making the slightest of tinkling sounds when she twitched.
His mothers bangles.
Chapter 5 - Spectrum
"What is this?" he asked, eyes misted over in what seemed like an undeniable look of nostalgia as he watched the gold trinkets run along Khushi's arm. How had his mother's bangles ended up with her?
"Where did you get these?" he said through tight lips, controlling his anger.
He felt a sudden wave of possessiveness, he didn't want anyone else adorning what his mother used to wear, she was still so close to his heart, the heart which he had locked away from the rest of the world.
He felt the fury take over him when he saw them, but when he looked up, prepared to lash out, he saw Khushi, and he realised that he didn't mind all that much. The feeling of relief washed over him, sending him somewhere unfamiliar.
They were his mothers bangles, and they had found their way to her. That had to mean something?
He blinked away the thought, wondering when on earth he started to believe in things like that.
"A..anjali ji gave them to me. I was going to give them back.. I just forgot to and then I didn't come tonight and I..." she stopped speaking through the tears that were still running down her face.
Arnav let go of her arm slowly as she stepped away from him, taking a step back into her house as he followed, not letting her put any distance between them. The air suddenly thickening from the friction between them, creating heat that couldn't dissipate fast enough.
She closed her eyes, wishing that he would just disappear. Her heart would not be able to take another impolite word from the mouth of the man she cared so deeply for. She braced herself, ready for the hit.
"Why are you here?" she said quietly, pleading with him to leave.
He felt the pain in her voice and moved closer to her, wanting nothing more than absorb all of her sadness. She felt his hand touching her skin along her cheek as he caressed her face, and she thought back again to Diwali, and then to a few days ago, when he had taken advantage of her loss of awareness when he was so close.
She swallowed, pulling his hand away from her face, before stepping back again, feeling the breeze from the open window off to her right hit her, cooling down the heat that pooled around her centre. He stepped closer, shielding her from the cold.
"They look perfect" he whispered in a voice so close to falling apart it scared Khushi enough to cause her eyes to fly open. It was like they were hanging by a thread so narrow it would break with the weight of even the lightest feather. She looked over at his sad face staring down at her arm, calmly tracing the gold metal with his fingers, not daring to move, incase she broke the moment.
The light sound that the bangles made sent a shiver along her spine as she felt the sharpness pierce her ears.
"They were my mothers."
Khushi stood unexpectedly horrified at the words he had spoken. She felt so intruding, like she had snatched something that was so close to him, so personal away and she winced from the feeling it left inside of her.
"I..I'm sorry, I didn't know" she said quickly, suddenly feeling the metal sweltering hot, burning her skin away. It scared her to have something so important to him so close.
He shook his head, not wanting to hear her apologise.
He closed in to her, letting his mind become consciously aware of how much he wanted her. He wouldn't gain anything if he denied it, and something told him, that if he let this moment go, he may never get another chance.
"You wore this" he whispered "the first time we met" tracing his fingers lightly across the beads that sat just under her top, grazing her bare skin lightly.
She smiled softly, but sadly, remembering the moment "I didn't know you observed me so closely" looking up at him, hoping with every ounce of her being that this time would be different than all the others. She could see him backing away at the next sign of closeness, but she was willing to take that risk.
Just one more time.
He was more than worth it, and she knew she would regret it afterwards, just like she had the last time she had let him through to her. She couldn't be that unreachable, distant desire for him, isolated from what he could obtain, because she didn't want to unreachable. She wanted him to hold her, and that feeling would triumph over all others whenever she was in a situation like this.
She shyed away when she felt his hand run across the bare skin of her stomach, not knowing if the pounding in her ears was from his beating heart, or her own.
He stood, in the exact same spot he had stood in days ago watching where she had been dancing in practice for tonight before her Buaji had given him a piece of her mind. She had looked determined and strong. So independent, he had thought.
And now he watched her stand so close, so close to him. He thought they had hated eachother, and now, all of a sudden, Arnav had left his brothers sangeet to come and see her? Khushi was his and his only, and his jaw clenched from rage as he saw Arnav skittle his fingers on the belt along her waist.
He crushed the rose he held in his hand, the petals too weak to stand up against his strength, they went running down his hand to hit the floor below silently, crushed out of life.
How could she do this to him? How could she?
He would make her pay for this. He had been nothing but patient with her, giving her time to adjust to him. He had been planning so much, trying to get rid of Anjali so that she could accept him and she was running around with another man.
The thought of how her skin must feel sent a ripple of pure jealousy through him as he thought of what his brother in law had. It made him feel restless and vacant. He looked at them before turning on his heel and walking away, vowing to make her repay him for the wrong she had just committed.
Khushi looked up to him and immersed herself in the strength of those two words when spoken by Arnav Singh Raizada. The way he had said it, so simply, with no explanation, no accompanying words, took her breath away. And she would bet on her life that he meant it from the heart.
"About what" she asked, not quite sure of what he was talking about.
"Everything" he replied, exploring her waist with his fingertips, feeling the heat at every touch. He traced in little swirls along her milky skin, finding her lower back
"Stop" she managed, breaking them both out of their daze.
The wall she was building around her heart was on its way, preparing itself to match his years of hard work.
"Please, don't ..." she thought aloud, please don't hurt me again, she added in her mind.
Arnav watched her fidget uncomfortably, but he kept his hand firmly placed around her and pulled her in closer.
"I am not going to hurt you again" he breathed against her eyelashes that hid her precious eyes.
"Khushi" he ordered "look at me"
Khushi eyes fluttered open sending Arnav a butterfly kiss that made his breath catch. Her eyelashes were so soft, just like the rest of her.
How had he kept away from her so long? His self control astounded him, because in that moment he wanted nothing more than to pull her lips in to a deep kiss, feel the heat from her body and make her feel like she had never felt before.
He took in a deep breath, controlling his thoughts as she stared up at him with bright eyes.
"I really am sorry about the other day, can you forgive me Khushi?" he asked so politely, she couldn't help but nod her head automatically, even though she didn't want to let him off so easily. His hand fit so perfectly along her slender back, holding her to him supportingly.
"What if I lied?" he asked, pausing as he watched her eyes release all her resistance "What if it wasn't nothing?"
Khushi tried to stop herself, but found that she couldn't. A small smile crept up on to her face. So this was the best he could do?
It would be enough for her. She knew how hard it must have been for him, and she would treasure those words, because she knew how deep the care in his heart must have run for him to be able to say it out loud.
Arnav hid his emotions from the world, and to hear a piece of his heart, would always be enough.
Shyam looked down at his hand, a single petal sat just above his wrist, pressed into his palm from the relentlessness with which he had treated its softness. He picked it off, trying to control his fury shaken fingers as he thought of her silky smooth skin, her long soft hair like rays of the darkened sun, rays which someone else was running his fingers through.
He stood on the bridge passing over the lake, roughly flinging the innocent petal over the edge, watching as it joined the endless flow of water below.
He knew now what he had to do.
He just had to find a way to do it.
A short music clip to accompany the next scene :)
He let go of her as the colour flushed to her cheeks, feeling his own ears turn hot at his sudden retrace from ruthlessness. He had said something to her that hadn't made her cry, the thought, sending a swell of joy inside of him.
It felt so good to have her look up at him, admiring what she saw rather than the look that told him she wanted him to peel away another layer of his disdain, because she still hadn't reached what she looked-for.
"Khushi" he spoke, breaking what seemed like an endless pulse of silence between them.
"Come on, let's go" he said, about to turn.
"What? Where?" she asked, suddenly scared that he was about to do something again.
He looked at her impatiently, not because of her inanity, but because she was still standing so far away from him, with only but a layer of intense heat connecting their gazes.
"You are coming to your sisters sangeet are you not?" he questioned.
She smiled a smile of relief and looked down at herself "Can you just give me a second to change?"
Before she could take a step away from him he delicately held onto her arm, spinning her around towards him. He teased the light green fabric by her lukewarm neck with his other hand.
"You know Khushi, red used to be my favourite colour" he said tenderly, making her blush in memory of Diwali "but green, I think I like green a lot too, and this colour doesn't look all that bad on you" he smirked, watching her freeze for a moment.
She looked up at him in astonishment, had Arnav Singh Raizada just sent her a compliment? Her mind threatened to shut itself up on her, so she opted to just say as little as possible.
She pulled gently away from the heat of his touch, taking a step back to clear her thoughts.
"I c..can't... I urm, I've worn this to... I'll take just a minute, promise"she stuttered, walking backwards while looking at him, before disappearing out of sight.
As he watched her walk away he felt the sense of her skin lingering on his fingertips. He smiled to himself after what seemed like a long time.
He had all the colours of the world at his fingertips, the colours of her and her happiness. The colours of her skin and her smile. They all set ablaze, illuminating the vision before his eyes.
The colours of happiness.
Chapter 6 - Monsters in the Dark
She looked over at him driving, eyes glued to the road ahead of him, and pondered whether she should put words to her thoughts.
"What did it mean then?" she asked, careful to not look at him when she did.
"What?" he asked.
"You said it meant nothing" she looked down, hiding the colour her cheeks had turned in the illuminating flashes of streetlights around them "I mean, you said that it didn't mean nothing, so I was just wondering what you meant by..." she trailed off, regretting having spoken aloud in the first place.
Arnav looked over at her pryingly, taking in her pink clad form, a string of multicolour lying in a criss-cross along her side tying up the anarkali dress like a corset. She was nervously shuffling her hands her lap, making an active effort to keep her eyes staring out of the window.
He smiled at her anxiousness "You look nice" he said, watching amused, as she reacted in a flutter.
"Th..thank..y..ou.. I, I mean, that isn't what I asked" she said, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear "Not that that was an answer to anything, I mean, you avoided what I asked and.." she looked up at him as he smirked, tearing his eyes away from her he watched the road, still aware of every little movement she made from the corner of his eye.
They drove over to his house in silence, both scarily aware of eachother. Arnav wiped his sweaty palms against the steering wheel more than once as Khushi tried to decipher the maddening thoughts squirming through her mind. This couldn't be one of his games again, because if it was, she wasn't sure if her fractured heart could take it.
She looked over nervously at him, to see that he was looking right back, and he snapped away, suddenly embarrassed at being caught.
"You know, you tell me I'm strange all the time, but you.." she watched him wipe the sweat off his palm and resume driving "you are so different"
Arnav chuckled "Different?"
"Yes, different" she continued "the way you always hide your emotions, but then let them all out at once, and I don't know whether you mean to or not, and how you never care about somethings, but then sometimes, you care too much, and it always surprises me. And at first I thought it was just me, but you surprise everyone all the time, its like, you are not sure who you are, and who you want to be" she said aloud, more thinking about it herself that telling him.
"Is that what you think?" he asked, pulling up to his driveway "That I am not sure who I am?"
Khushi looked at him, suddenly aware of his deadly gaze making her shuffle in her seat.
"No, not like that, just that you don't really know whether you want to hate me or..."
"Or what?" he asked, suddenly amused by the conversation "Or what Khushi Kumari Gupta?" he asked.
Khushi watched him, lost for words, when the sudden sound of him opening the door behind him caused her to jump. He rounded the hood of the car, appearing by her window in less than a few seconds, opening up the white door for her.
"Thh..anks" she stammered.
He held his hand out for her, and she looked at him, watching his expectant face, before she slipped her hand into his and let him drift her towards the house. His moist hand pressed against hers, entwined fingers playing teasingly against her slender ones.
"Khushi!" Payal called, causing their hands to fall apart abruptly.
"You came! but you said you were ill, how did you..?" she chimed, as Khushi acknowledged that Arnav had come to pick her up. Before Payal dragged her away into the hall, he ran his finger gently across her arm to catch her attention before whispering against her ear as he brushed past.
"Ill see you soon"
His raspy voice sent a shiver down her spine and she watched him walk away with the gait of a strong, proud man, admiring him silently, unaware of the set of eyes that watched her from behind.
Shyam ignored Anjali as she questioned him over where he had just been, giving her answers that he knew she would believe in a second. The stupid woman was too busy praying to even realise if everything around her was falling apart. He sulked away from her as she wondered to herself why he usual perky husband was so dull today. Shrugging it off as perhaps another work stress, she rejoined her family in all the active festivities of the evening. Laughing and singing along with everyone as the performances ran across the stage.
Shyam found himself a quiet corner to watch her from. He searched the room, finally finding her standing next to NK, laughing that bright smile of hers that lightened up an entire room. He watched her eyes, eyes that he wished looked at him with a look full of love and desire, things that he had not yet seen from her. But he was hopeful, all he needed was to get his damned wife out of the way.
Suddenly, those very eyes looked lost, searching the room for something, and the look in her eyes at the moment reflected exactly what he wanted her to look for in him. He rose in yearning, only to find the object of her attention, sending a heat of fury through him.
Arnav stood leaning coolly against a pillar, arms crossed, looking over at her. Shyam watched him wink, and looking back at Khushi he saw her blush a deep red. He curled his fists into balls of rage, trying to control the urge to throw something. He saw Arnav make his way slowly across the room towards her as she watched him from the corner of her eyes, attempting to concentrate on the music.
He finally got to her, whispering something in NK's ear, who swiftly turned around and walked towards the kitchen. Shyam stood, shaking in his surveillance spot as he saw Arnav touch her hand, roaming his way up to her shoulder, he held on to her and pulled her closer to him, whispering something into her ear.
Shyam didn't know what he had said, but he could imagine how his lips must have brushed the skin along her neck as he did, he punched the wall behind him, not caring if anyone saw, lucky that the commotion in the room left his act completely unnoticed.
Arnavs hands ran up to the string running along her waist, undoing the neat little bow before pulling the fabric tighter around her form and tying it back up, his heated fingers touching her waist with nothing but a layer of flimsy fabric keeping her warmth away. Khushi swayed lightly against his hands, watching him closely as he worked.
He almost lost it when Arnav grabbed her lightly by the elbow, ignoring her light protests, taking her away from the room and up the stairs to the left. Khushi looked back a few times, nervously glancing around the room before quickening her pace behind him.
Shyam didn't take a second to think before he marched after them, finally stopping by the windows where he stood in the shadows, providing him with a clear sight of the poolside where they both now stood.
They spoke for a while, hesitantly watching eachothers features, careful of what they were saying. Shyam cursed the double glazed windows for not being able to hear their words, but he could make out what it must be like from the expressions they both wore.
He had never felt so angry before, and when he saw Arnav take a long stride towards Khushi and cup her face in his hands, landing a soft kiss against her jaw line, he felt himself lose all control. He growled in anger, kicking at the small pot near his feet, sending it smashing powerfully against the wall to his left.
Khushi flinched from the sound, stopping her gasp halfway as she felt Arnavs hot mouth leave a kiss unexpectantly against her jaw. For a moment she had forgotten everything she had promised herself a few days ago. Her face went red, suddenly aware of his lips placed on her skin before she whispered urgently.
"Someone is here"
Arnav whipped back, his heart letting out a rumble of disapproval. His vision had faded black with desire for a while, he shook it off, taking in his surroundings to check for anyone. As lost as he had been, he had also heard the unmistakable sound of someone close by.
Shyam slipped back in to the darkness watching as Khushi nervously looked around her, trying to see what had caused the sound.
This was all her fault. He felt like he had been cheated on. He had offered this ungrateful little girl protection, and love. He had saved her when she had been nothing but a disgrace for her family. How dare she repay him like this? She owed him her life. She owed him the right to do what he liked with her. He would get her back for this... he would show her what he could do.
She looked back at Arnav for a second, smiling at him slightly, she spoke something softly, and then scurried away, leaving Arnav with his arm outstretched, yearning for her touch.
Shyam followed her steps, telling himself as he still shook all over from absolute rage, that he would offer her one chance to explain herself. He would be the kind and generous man that he was, offering her an opportunity to accept his love and realise where she truly belonged.
Catching up to her in the corridor far away from the poolside her reached out for her hand quickly.
"Arnav ji!" she squealed, turning around with a wide smile that quickly replaced itself with a hard glare.
She wrenched her arm out of his reach just as he scratched her silky skin.
"YOU!" she scowled, feeling a surge of hate "How many times do I have to tell you to stay away from me?"
"Khushi ji, calm down, I only want to talk to you" he said, controlling his anger.
"I don't want to talk to you, not now, not ever!, Stay away from me!" she spat, about to turn on her heel when he grabbed her painfully by the shoulders, making her gasp, terrified of his touch.
"Let ...go" she struggled, unable to free herself of his hold.
"Khushi ji.. why are you doing this to me? Why are you doing to this to us" he said, causing her eyes to fly open "I don't know why you are doing this, but I am ready to forgive you, just tell me it is nothing and we can be together, nothing can keep us apart, not Rani Sahiba, not Sale.."
"WHAT!?" Khushi screamed, incredulous beyond belief "Are you crazy? Forgive me? Have you actually lost your mind? When are you going to get it through that I DON'T WANT TO BE WITH YOU, what is the matter with your brain"
She took advantage of his numbed hands to yank herself away from him, retreating quickly as she continued to speak "There is something seriously wrong with you, how dare you, how dare you tell me to ask for your forgiveness, have you forgotten what you did, after everything, how dare you even look at me. DON'T YOU DARE TOUCH ME AGAIN" she screamed, shuddering at the thought of his hands against her skin "STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM ME!" she finished, rounding away at the corner before disappearing out of sight.
Shyam looked on a her, shock and disbelief running through his system at equal measures with jealousy and wrath. So she had made her choice, she had decided to pick someone else over him. His mind wasn't ready to accept it, but the tingling in his fingers where he had held her told him a different story. Her words echoed in his mind.
Don't you dare touch me again...
I don't want to be with you...
How dare you even look at me...
Shyam followed her into the party after having finally made up his mind.
He was going to make her pay... or die trying.
Chapter 7 - The Little Things
The deep pink fabric running along in swifts along her knee line swayed with her as she ran through the hallway, putting as much distance between herself and the monster she had just left behind. Her shaking hands fidgeted around her hair, tucking and retucking a strand of mess prone hair near the front of her face, desperately trying to distract herself from the friction generated burns on her upper arms.
She cringed at the thought of his hands on her again, and took one last observant look behind her to check that he really wasn't close by, before joining everyone in the room she had left not so long ago.
Her jawline was still heated and she could make out the shape of Arnavs lips as they had softly kissed her skin. It was different from the heat in her arms, this was warm and moist, whereas the latter was rough and scathing.
"Khushi ji? Are you okay?"
Khushi turned to face NK holding out a glass of orange juice for her which she gladly took, downing it in a few gulps she handed the glass back to him and sent him a friendly smile which he reciprocated.
"How is your leg now Nanhe ji?" she asked kindly as he responded with an enthusiastic nod.
"Much better, especially now that you are here"he smiled.
Why couldn't they all be as easy going as him, she complained internally before abandoning him by the side of the room to lose herself in the mix of bodies and sound. She needed a distraction.
She let it take over her, falling into the rhythm of the waves around her was so much easier than contemplating over everything that was wrong, everything that was right and everything that was just a swirly white mess of something unknown in between.
She knew he was back in the room but she didn't dare look up. No, she wanted out of it all, just for a few secon...
"Running away from me?" said the husky voice she had been thinking of.
Arnav held her hand in his, and pulled her closer by the waist, causing her eyes to snap up and meet his dark ones, desire running deep through their striated colour.
"What are you.." she started.
"No one is looking" he said confidently, pulling her closer to him, starting to move with the music, watching her as she shifted close to him, aware of everyone's gaze.
He was wrong. Even though they stood in a secluded corner of the room, where the light from the overbearing chandelier just ran short, Shyam stood with his eyes glued to them, noticing every touch of their skin, watching how she melted in his arms, responded to his touch, and lost herself in a world of his eyes.
That was not the way she looked at him.
Arnav leaned in to her, closing his eyes and breathing in rapidly. The devouring scent of her skin drove through his mind, tearing away at his sanity, and her innocent eyes looked up at him, giving herself to him, trusting him completely. He had never felt so blessed before.
He had made so many mistakes with her, and he would be forever grateful to whoever brought her close to him. He had always thought he made his own path and that he was the master of his own fate. But it was different with her, he knew he could never have dreamed of something, someone as brilliant as her. This was someone else's doing.
He smiled against her hair and she felt it over the overbearing thoughts of trying to keep her heart from popping out of her chest as the warmth from his hand spread through her lower back.
"What happened?" she asked into his ear, questioning his smile, brushing her soft lips slightly against his rough stubble.
"Nothing" he laughed quietly, stepping away from her only to pull her back, sending her in a twirling frenzy until she fell against his chest, breathing heavily. The lights from the room dimmed as the stage prepared itself for the next performer but Arnav and Khushi were not aware of the rest of the room.
He knelt down towards her, giving into his animal temptation of taking her lips and sealed them with a kiss, deep and wanting, hungry and forceful, taking her by surprise. Her breath caught in her throat as he sucked on her lips, and the next thing she knew, he pulled away, sending her a quick wink before disappearing out of sight as the music stopped and the track for the performance began.
Keep it cool and composed Arnav, he encouraged himself as he ripped himself away from her, his heart and body screaming NO!. But his mind knew better, if he held on to her for much longer, he wouldn't be able to stop himself from taking it further. And this was not the time, nor the place for something like that. He yearned for her touch as soon as she was distant, and watched her rapidly blistering lips and pulsating neck that called out for him.
He managed to get away and he marvelled at his self control before striding to the opposite end of the room to settle himself on a chair, pretending to watch the stage, when his eyes kept darting back to her.
He didn't know how he had managed to stay away from her the whole night, it had taken every ounce of his self control, but he had done just that. When she was about to leave, lingering longer than needed by the doorway, he saw her and went up to her, wanting to have a moment to say goodbye, but his family got in the way, not letting him take her in his arms like he wanted.
He caught her eyes and sent her an apologetic smile which she warmly returned, her heart starting to beat loudly in her chest, before she coolly slipped out in to the cold air, feeling all warm and humid from the heat that emanated from his gaze.
Her family ushered her in to the car that was dropping them home and she looked back at the house once before she left, taking in the sight of his home so she could keep it with her until the next time she saw him.
Arnav spent the next day trying to think of a good enough excuse to go over Khushi's house to see her, and finish off that goodbye that had been haunting him for hours, stealing away his sleep. He had twisted and turned in bed for hours, thinking of the feel of her lips against his, the sound of her heart pressed against his chest, the warmth from her satin skin that sent desire plummeting through him.
The thought of her could make his heart race.
The way she had looked at him, the way she always looked at him from that close. With her innocent shining eyes, always took his breath away.
But it was Payals mehendi today, which meant that he couldn't go and see her. He wasted his day off at home, helping every now and then with decorations for the following night, watching the door impatiently, hoping that for some reason she would come.
But she didn't.
He had never imagined that he would miss someone so much after having spent an entire evening just the day before watching them.
He glanced up at the clock and called his sister, telling her that he would be over to pick her up despite her protests of being able to get home with the driver he had sent. He left through the door, smiling.
Khushi sat next to her sister, admiring the intricate flow of dark paste along her slender arms, decorating her for one of the most important days of her life. She watched Payal with awe, hoping that she would be as happy as that one day, rejoicing with her family, upset to leave behind a life that had offered so much love, only to start one that had even more.
The thought of Arnav ran across her mind as she thought of marriage and she snapped up, correcting herself as there was a knock on the door. She got up absentmindedly, thinking of how her thoughts could take her to crazy places. All he had said was that he was sorry, and that it didn't mean nothing.
She was lost in thought as she walked over to the door, stopping just short of it. Not meaning nothing meant that it had to mean something right? She tried convincing herself. But who said that something had to be substantial, what if he meant it wasn't nothing, but it just wasn't a big deal either.
Her mind ran wild over all their moments following yesterday night when he had turned up at her doorstep. He had been behaving differently. He was behaving quite similarly to how he had been just before Diwali, and how had that ended...
She shook her head, No, this time was different, he had kissed her again, and it was with full intention. No mistakes, no spur of the moment. Just Arnav and her. In a crowded room filled with the loudest music that had felt like it was empty with nothing but their beating hearts. He had leant in to her, slowly and deliberately.
The pounding on the door went unnoticed by Khushi as she raised a worried finger to her lips, biting it as she thought. How had she even considered marriage, her head was not in the right place if she had been day dreaming of marriage and Arnav together. Suddenly worried, she realised that she had not even been paying attention to what she had been doing. What was she thinking?
What if he wasn't serious? He didn't think of marriage as the sacred bond that she believed it to be. This could all fall apart, this wasn't right. Just when she thought everything would slowly fall in to place, it could start to fall apart.
"Sanka Devi!" the voice pierced her thoughts "Are you deaf? Open the door"
Khushi turned towards the door that was almost being punched in at this point. Irritated at the interruption to her very important line of thought, she threw the doors open and ferociously stepped out.
"WHAT IS IT!? CAN'T YOU JUST WAI..." her tongue froze in her mouth as she faced him.
Arnav Singh Raizada, standing completely unphased on her doorstep. Again, she thought.
"What are you doing here?" she shot defensively "You can't just show up here when you feel like it, this is the mehendi, you are not supposed to be here"
Arnav looked at her confused by her reaction, this was not how he had expected to be greeted.
His eyes turned hard "I am here to get D.."
"You are always making excuses, well, I do not want to hear them" she stepped back in, colour burning under her skin when he held the door open with his hand. She looked up at him for a second, lingering on his gaze, trying to figure out what he wanted from her.
"What are you doing, I told you once, you shouldn't be here and..."
"DI!" Arnav called behind her, throwing her a smug yet irritated smirk.
Khushi could almost feel the steam rush out of her skin as she heard Anjali behind her call out to her brother.
"Chote? Just give us a minute, we will be out soon!"
Arnav raised an eyebrow proudly at Khushi who watched him horrified. This was beyond embarrassing, she needed to learn when to keep her mouth shut.
Before he could get another word out, Khushi turned on her heel and ran into her room, icing down her cheeks with a glass sitting idly on her desk. She paced in her room and watched him leave through her window, her heart jumped when he looked back at the front door with a look of longing before driving away.
Why couldn't he just tell her what was in his heart she whined, settling down on her bed in a puff. It would make all of this a whole lot easier. At least she wouldn't have to search his eyes for answers, she had learnt that he was very good at keeping his heart hidden.
Arnav walked furiously back inside his house, annoyed at both Khushi and himself. Why did he have to spend all day thinking about her, and why on earth did she have to react that way? There was something in her eyes that was unnerving him. It worried him that she hadn't looked quite right, like she was uncomfortable about him being there, like she was unsure.
He busied himself in working, flipping through files like he would always do when he found that he was consumed by her thoughts. The darkening sky outside soon reached a midnight blue, alight with the strong illumination set out by the moon. He waited, forgotten files lying by his feet, staring out into the poolside by his room when Aakash walked in. They spoke about business for a while before the topic steered out and Aakash confided in how he was a bit scared of getting married. He wasn't sure Payal would be happy, even if he tried his best, what if she fell out of love with him?
Arnav looked at him, thinking that whatever it was, at least he had the guts to try and get married. He gave him a motivational talk, telling him how no one would ever fall out of love with him, if such a thing as love existed he added, thinking to himself how he hardly believed his own ideals any more.
"But Bhai, I mean, I know every girl wants to get married, but what if, after marriage, she doesn't feel the same"
"Don't be silly Aakash, you and Payal were meant for eachother" he closed his eyes, cringing at the use of words that she had taught him to say. Suddenly, his eyes flew open.
"I have to go" he said to Aakash, grabbing his jacket and throwing it over his dark blue pull on sweater.
"What? Bhai, but it is almost midnight"
"I'll be back soon" Arnav called behind him as he walked.
He grabbed the car keys off of the dining table and walked down the corridor towards the door, Aakash's words ringing in his ears.
...Every girl wants to get married...
He should have noticed before, he thought to himself. She was probably scared of what he felt, that is, if she knew whether he felt anything or not. She had no idea how serious he was, if her damned gleaming eyes would just stop getting in the way every time he got close to saying it out loud, maybe they wouldn't be where they were. He started the car, driving out into the night without a clue of what he was going to do once he got to where he was headed.
Chapter 8 Revolving Doors
He drove, attention focused on the wire of thoughts that ran across his mind at an increasingly rapid rate. It kept breaking, stopping, speeding up, reforming, turning around and running the other way. It drove him crazy, until he slammed his foot on the brakes, mere metres from her house, parked by a large tree running its roots deep into the ground. He stubbornly wiped away at the small droplets of perspiration that had found its way to his forehead.
Dhak Dhak, Dhak Dhak
He looked down at his treacherous heart, what the hell? Years of taming and isolation and this stupid block of flesh and muscle betrayed him, for that girl. He looked down at his chest, almost wanting to stab his own heart, just so it could stop pounding against his ribcage, reminding him of the effect she had on him.
He closed his eyes, thinking past the thumping, reminding himself why he was here. He jerked up suddenly, determined as ever as he had thought of what it had felt like when she hadn't come to him, the night before at the sangeet. He wouldn't give her an excuse to leave.
Khushi stood by her window, staring out at the stars, upset yet elated at the same time with the intensity of everything she felt. It was all too much.
Her phone buzzing in the pocket of her beige sweater over her dark kameez snapped her out of her daze and she buried her hand in her pocket to pull it out, for fear of waking her sister up with the noise. Tomorrow was the Haldi ceremony, and then the wedding. Payal needed her sleep, and as much as Khushi wanted to stay up all night and talk to her, she knew she shouldnt. So she let her sister get her beauty sleep whilst she worked away at her insomnia by the window pane, staring out at the stars she believed were her parents, talking to them instead, pouring her heart out.
"Hello" she whispered.
Beep. She heard the phone flat line and scowled at the screen.
The phone vibrated in her hands again and she answered, curious as to who it was at a time like this.
"Hello?" she called again, only to hear the same irritating noise telling her the person on the other end had cut the call. She looked at the screen again in annoyance, telling her that it was almost 1 in the morning now.
She turned on her heel, tucking her phone into her pocket, thinking that going to bed was probably a good idea when she felt the buzz of her phone in her pocket again.
She heard a small "Hi" before unleashing her displeasure "Who is this?" she heard a sharp intake of breath "Why are you calling me again, only to cut the phone off again, is this really that important? Can't you wait for the morning? What is wrong with yo.." she froze, her mind registering the voice she had heard as soon as she had picked up. It was him.
She bit her tongue, and raised her palm to place it against her forehead, starting to panic. Why was he calling her? Why did she always have to lash out at the wrong moments, she whined to herself.
"Urm, I was just, I mean, I wasn't speaking to you, I.. uh... Payal was.."
"Payal is asleep" he said calmly.
"Huh?" she said surprised, turning to watch her sister asleep in her bed, how had he known?
"Don't lie to me" he said, more reassuring than accusing.
Khushi blinked, trying to tame her mind that was growing foggy. What on earth was going on?
"I'm not lyin.." she sighed, giving up "Fine, I'm sorry"
"I'm sorry too" he whispered sadly, making Khushi straighten up, suddenly alert. She felt like he was close by.
"What are you apologising for?" she asked.
He ignored her question "Khushi, you need to come outside."
"What?" she exclaimed, rushing back to the window pane, searching.
"Near the tree" he helped.
Her eyes ran along the fence across her house, settling on the large tree in the distance, and sure as hell, there he was, standing strong next to the hood of his clear white SUV, faced towards her.
"What are you...?" she asked, looking out at him, just able to make out that he was looking at her.
"Just come outside" he ordered, before snapping his phone shut.
Khushi huffed at the phone in her hand, what did this man think of himself?
"Now?" she asked herself, watching him nod across the distance, how did he know what she was saying? "I.. I can't, look at the time, I can't just leav..." she muttered to herself, all the while watching his image, still as stone, eyes set determined in her direction.
She looked around herself, checking that her sister was asleep before swinging one foot out of the window pane, struggling to get the other across when she heard her phone start to buzz again.
"What is it?" she asked, not bothering to wait for his greeting.
"Why.. Khushi.. Why are you climbing out of the window?" he said, disbelieving as he watched her attempt to crawl out.
She snapped up at him, bringing her hand up to enlighten her situation "So what do you expect me to do? You come her at 1 in the morning and ask me to come outside, I can't just strut through the front door now can I?"
Arnav scowled at her, grunting in disapproval before turning the phone off on her for the fourth time that night.
Once she had gotten both feet across noiselessly, she almost fell out of the window, making him jump forwards in his place, only to see that she corrected herself awkwardly, rubbing away at the dust that had settled on her shirt from the fall.
He clenched his fists as she walked towards him, what had he gotten himself into.
"What? What is it?" she asked, feeling anxious all of sudden, what did he need to say that was so important.
"Hmmm" he hummed, lost in thought.
"What?" she asked again "Why are you here?"
Arnavs eyes focused back on hers "I..." he looked at her "don't know" he finished.
Khushis eyebrows scrunched up in worry, before she strode up to him, placing her cold palm against his forehead.
"Are you okay?" she asked, flipping her palm over.
He stepped away from her "Yeah, yeah I'm fine" suddenly embarrassed. He wanted to get in his car and drive away, pretending that this had never happened.
"Are you sure? Your blood sugar isn't low is it..?" She asked, concerned.
He snapped up at her "I said I am fine, I am not a child" he bickered, surprising her with his tone.
She felt that wrenching feeling again, just like she had the night of Diwali when he had broken her heart into a thousand little pieces. The feeling of not being wanted.
Why did he always manage to evoke that feeling in her? Was it because he didn't care? Or was it because she was so aware of him, and she wanted him to care so badly that it hurt when she thought he didn't.
"Well, you sure are behaving like one, if you didn't want to say anything, I don't understand why you came" she spat, turning around and marching away from him across the road.
He caught up with her quickly "Stop getting so upset" he shot through a clenched jaw.
"Stop making me so upset" she said aloud, regretting it as soon as the words were out. She flushed a bright red, which looked a hazy pink under the streetlamp glow, continuing to walk, with him right next to her.
"Khushi" he warned "stop walking" he ordered with no response from her "I said stop walking"
She stopped for a second, turning to face him "Well, I said stop acting like.."
"Like what.." he pressed on, when she froze, turning away to walk again.
Like you care one minute and then you don't. Like you are the person that I have dreamed of, and then acting like the person I wish I had never met, she thought.
"Nothing" she said frustrated at how hard it was to get things across to him.
"Khushi, I said stop walking"
"No!" she almost shouted, close to the fence around her house now, she reached out to open the lock when she felt his warm hand enclasp her wrist and turn her around to face him.
"How many times.." he started, only to be interrupted by her irritated voice.
"Do you have to tell me not to speak to you like that?" she finished for him, raising her eyebrows "about the same number of times I have to ask you to let go" she said, indicating her arm.
He pursed his lips, letting her arm go reluctantly.
She kept her eyes locked on his as she opened the lock on the fence, walking inside towards the front door. He followed her in, speaking out a second later.
"Khushi wait" he said, stopping as she stopped in her tracks too "I need to talk to you"
Finally, she thought.
She turned to face him, her heart beginning to pump loudly after looking at how he watched her.
"W..what is it?" she asked, desperate to hear his words.
"HAI RE NANDKISORE, where is this light switch" they heard Buaji's voice call across the closed windows from the front of the house.
Khushis eyes flew open, her heart starting to beat erratically for a whole different reason. She looked at Arnavs calm features for a split second before jumping towards him, grabbing onto his arm, and pulling him down with her onto the floor against the wall.
A few moments later they heard Buaji switch on the lights, flooding the path above their heads with lights flowing out of the window.
Crouched on the ground, Khushi mimicked a quick 'Shhh' to Arnav and crawled on the floor until she was under her window. She had to turn and convince Arnav to follow her after he had rolled his eyes at her suggestion, prepared to stand up, illuminating his image for Buaji to see. But he succumbed to her requests, fuming as he crouched on the ground.
They waited in silence, Khushi watching with wide eyes as the lights finally switched off and the door to her Buaji's room shut with a muffled thump.
When he was sure there was absolutely no one there, he looked over at her menacingly, blaming her for the marks on his expensive trousers.
"Look..." he accused, nostrils flaring.
Khushi surpressed a giggle, before leaning over and lightly brushing away the dust from his knee. Breaking out in little giggles as the adrenaline filtered through her veins, she looked up at him, eyes smiling in volumes as she thought of what had just happened. She had gotten Arnav Singh Raizada, mighty business tycoon, to scurry around the walls of her house on his knees. She couldn't help but laugh.
He tried his best to hold back a smile watching her, but he was sure it was visible on his face. He stood up, acting like none of this meant much, and she followed, finally biting back her laugh.
He started to walk away before she called out.
He turned at her command, before she pointed up at the window.
"How am I going to get back inside?" she asked, worried because the window pane sat at a height just below her shoulders, she would never be able to heave herself in.
He contemplated for a moment before taking two confident steps towards her and placing his hands strongly at either side of her waist, not bothering to extract her reaction, before picking her up and placing her like a little rag doll on the window pane, her legs hanging below her.
She stared at him shocked, unable to scurry inside to hide away the flush of her skin as he sent her a small smirk and walked back to his car.
"Wait" she called again, surprised at her own confidence.
He looked back at her "What is it you wanted to tell me?" she asked nervously.
He stared at her image, taking in her flustered state.
"It can wait" he saidbefore walking towards his car, hearing her make no move behind him.
Later on in the night Arnav settled himself in his bed, smiling widely in the dark as he thought of his recent encounter with her. So he may not have been able to clear her thoughts about what he felt towards her, or let her in on the magnitude of his feelings for her. But he had gone to see her, she had to know that counted for something.
He closed his eyes, falling into a deep sleep with the thought of her large sparkling eyes and the feel of her lips against his.
Chapter 9 - Heartlines
Thick silver threads, the colour of moonlight, ran diagonally along her, marking a barrier to her untouched yet bare skin. Beads, intricately woven between the wires against a soft white fabric covered her bodice, wrapping her slight frame in folds of willowy material. A thick french braid ran across the top of her hair, filled in with daisy flowers, holding up her tresses in a loosely curled bun atop her head.
She stood against whitewashed doors, worn out from age, disparity against her young beauty. She was smiling at him slightly, large honey eyes locked against his darker ones.
He wasn't sure if she was real or not, this had to be a dream. But could he imagine such beauty?
Her smile suddenly transformed into a pout, childlike and longing, before she let out a disparaging sigh, dropping to the ground, settling herself within the many folds of the dress beneath her. He couldn't help but smile at the image.
He had never loved someone so much.
She sighed loudly, playing lightly with the feather light material flowing from her waist, looking up at him, forcing him to register her annoyance.
He smiled "What is it Khushi?"
She tutted at him, like he should have known what was wrong instead of asking.
"Come here" she asked, using the allure of her eyes to draw him in.
He took a few small steps in her direction, looking down at her.
"Closer" she sulked.
He stood just over her, and she innocently patted at dress sprawled beneath her, indicating for him to sit down "Closer?" she asked.
Arnav hesitantly took a seat, pushing the fabric out of the way, settling himself on the hardwood floor. Before he had enough time to recompose himself she leaned forward, closing the gap between them in mere seconds, with lips placed only a few centimetres from his ears.
"Do you love me?" she breathed, smiling against his stubble.
He was left aghast, surprised to find her suddenly so close. The intoxicating flowery aura around her threatened to choke him in its sweetness, but it made him feel all warm inside.
"Khushi?" he exclaimed, surprised at her sudden proximity, pulling back from her.
He watched the narrow wires of silvery fluid across her pure skin, making it look angelic. It was like they were telling him what he couldn't reach, her pureness hidden behind a cage, he looked away, unable to bear the sight of her looking so beautiful.
He couldn't help but glance back in her direction, the need of having his vision filled with her overtaking every other decision he had made, to find that her perfect features had contorted into a frown. Sadness loomed around her eyes, and he watched wide eyed as a few large droplets of salinity brimmed over her lashes, carrying along with them a dark track of mascara, tarnishing her faultlessness.
"You don't love me?" she accused, as he quickly tried to rectify his mistake.
"No.. No Khushi..I mean.. Yes" he stammered, as her eyes remained stunned at his first word.
"So you do?" she said softly, voice ringing through the eerie silence, reflecting off the hard surfaces around them.
He could only nod, unable to find any better words.
She smiled briefly, before turning angry again, lifting her light arms up against his chest she shoved at him hard, causing him to topple over slightly at the completely unexpected force.
"Wha..?" he started.
"So then why won't you tell me?" she cried again "Why won't you open up to me? You love me, but don't you want me to love you back? Don't you want to spend time with me, laugh with me and cry with me? Don't you want to hold me in your arms, and make memories, memories that will last a lifetime? Don't you want a life with me? Don't you care enough? Does none of this even matter to you, does it make no difference!? Do you not want to give me your heart like I have given mine?" she took a deep breath in, choking from tears as he straightened up, horrified suddenly as he watched the dark tracks along her skin thicken "I can't breathe Arnav, I have given you my heart, all the way, you handed it back the first time, and you broke it the second time, and then when I put it away, telling myself I would lock it away, you came back and you stole it from me, without giving me anything in return"
"Khushi..I" Arnav started again, overwhelmed by everything she was saying. He watched her start to shake, the daisies in her hair now littered between her locks as parts of her bun began to fall away.
"I can't breathe Arnav" she said again, taking in heavy raspy breaths "You took my heart, I can't feel anything, I need something in return, I can't do this. Give it back Arnav, give me something back please, it hurts" she cried, clutching at her chest, letting out heart wrenching sobs mingled with her cries.
He reached out for her in an attempt to help ease her pain, but her skin scorched him and she pushed him away.
"Why are you doing this to me?" she whimpered, her irregular breathing becoming louder and louder through his ears like the beating of an incessant drum.
What had he done? Why had he marred her perfection? He had taken the image and ruined it all, torn it to pieces, and now he couldn't fix it. This needed to stop, someone needed to make her stop, or he wouldn't be able to bear it.
He woke up breathing in short irregular gasps mimicking the sound of what had been beating against his eardrums mere seconds ago.
"Khushi.." he whispered, thinking back to earlier in the night when he had gone to see her.
He sat against his headrest, thinking back to his dream. A dream, he thought, thank goodness. He watched the early morning light filtering through his window with a new resolve. The next time I see her, he decided, the next time I see her, I am going to tell her why it all makes a difference.
Khushi watched her sister clad in a bright yellow dress, the same tone as the Haldi against her skin. This was the last day she was with her sister, where she was the most important thing, she would be a married woman tomorrow.
A part of her life that she knew she would cherish forever for its innocence and carelessness was soon to come to an end. The thought of that left her feeling nostalgic and vacant, it was too soon, it was all much too soon. She wanted to stay like that with her sister forever, stay in those endless light moments of understanding and care, because they gave her a warmth so strong and so filling, that its absence would surely ruin her. She stood in the doorway to her room, silently watching Payal as a few tears found their way to her eyes, threatening to fall.
That would be her one day, spending her last days with the family she had grown up with. She wondered what it must be like to get married, to say goodbye to her Amma ji and Bauji, to say goodbye to the memory of her real parents, as they remained in the little star decorations above her bed. Goodbye to her Buaji and their crazy antics. She chuckled slightly, reminding herself to always look back at her life with fondness, and try to not let the sadness of losing it take over.
But why was it, that through the mind numbingly dull pain in her chest that told her she would have to say goodbye to the one person she had shared every smile and tear of her life with, she still found her mind wandering back to the night before when he had been waiting for her outside her house in the dark night.
How could she still be thinking about Arnav at a time like this?
Why was she still thinking about him at a time like this?
Shyams face contoured into a grimace watching his brother in law walk through the decorated house amongst people making arrangements for the function later that night. The glazed over look in his eyes told him all he needed to know, that he was thinking about Khushi. He knew that feeling well, he had often found himself doing the same.
He wore his usual black suit, crisp straight fabric running over his lean body, oozing a confidant aura. How he would like to throw everything back in his face, ever since he had gotten married to his sister, he had lived in this mans shadow. Arnav had everything, he controlled everything. Shyam had to put on a facade of emotions for the family to care, whereas Arnav got all the same, without having to make even the slightest efforts. He watched Arnav snap up hearing NK utter Khushi's name about something, and watching his reaction made Shyam angry.
I found her first, I claimed Khushi first, he thought furiously. Who did his Sale Sahaab think he was? No, he was not going take Khushi from him. He wouldn't let that happen. So what if it may take a while for him to make himself available to her, he sure as hell wouldn't let anyone else get to her in the meanwhile, especially not Arnav.
He would never let him have her, not if he had a say in the matter.
She looked at herself quickly in the mirror the next evening, taking in the sight of her long straight hair running down her back, fixing the second silver earring that matched the thick beaded border of her dark blue lehenga. She smiled at her reflection, he was going to be there, she thought, before running out towards her Buaji's calls. Today was her sisters wedding day, and he was going to be there.
Arnav watched her flutter around in her dark blue lehenga, yards of its soft fabric caressing her satin like skin, running along her as she moved, teasing him. This girl was perfection. Bright illuminating eyes, setting apart their honey glow from her delicate features, calling him in whenever he would look at her. He sent her a smirk, watching as she nervously shuffled under his gaze, reciprocating his smile, distracting herself with the crowd.
He cleared his throat as Aakash approached him.
"She looks beautiful doesn't she?" Aakash said, staring out towards his wife adorned in a deep red dress on her wedding day, looking shyly towards him.
Arnav nodded his head and whispered "Stunning" staring out at the figure that stood right next to the bride, shining just as brightly.
Aakash scowled, looking over at his usually stone hearted brother, surprised by his reaction "Sorry Bhai?" he asked, more confused than offended.
"She looks..." he started, when Aakash interrupted him.
"No, no it is okay Bhai, you don't have to tell me, I know .." he said awkwardly, before rushing away. He had said it as a statement, not an actual question. He shook his head as he walked towards Payal, his brothers words leaving his mind at the image of his bride.
Arnav snapped out of it as Aakash walked away, cringing as he thought of what it must of looked like. He wanted to tell Aakash that he had meant Khushi not Payal, but looking at his brother had him realising that Aakash had too much to think about tonight to ponder over this.
He watched her stand by her family and greet people as they arrived, leaning against a strong pillar with his arms confidently crossed before him, adorning her with his gaze like it was his right. He would watch her as much as he pleased. She caught him a few times, blushing profusely as he kept his eyes locked on hers, even when she caught him.
Khushi muttered furiously under her breath "Silly Laad Governer, what does he think of himself? Staring away like no one else is here, he can't just do that" dabbing off a bead of sweat from her forehead. It was like he was sending heat waves her way, everytime she looked at him staring back at her, she would almost feel the room heat up by a few degrees.
"That stupid grin! And all the stupid things he says, 'It can wait' " she mimicked his words to her the night before "Well, if it isn't that important and can wait, then why can't he just look awa.." she mumbled to herself, turning towards the white clothed table with drinks.
"What Khushi?" Buaji inquired.
"Titaliya, what are you blabbering away to yourself? People will think you are crazy" she said, swatting away at her niece as she walked away, shaking her head in disapproval.
Khushi scowled, her face setting in displeasure and annoyance as she yanked a glass of cool water from the table infront of her, downing it in a few large gulps, easing the heat away, calming her nerves, before she marched over towards him.
He unfolded his arms, features set in a determined state as she started talking before she was even within a few metres of him. He had told himself, he would do it the next time he saw her. This was it.
"What do you think you are doing? You can't just stand here and watch me like that.. What are you even staring at?" she said furiously, taking the steps towards him, fast approaching his steady form.
Just as she was about to stop he leaned forwards, taking a step towards her, holding her by her arms, rapidly turning her around the wall, away from every ones looks, locking her against the wall and his iron chest.
Her breath caught in surprise at being whisked off her feet. She took a moment to regain her breath, leaning against the wall behind her as the temperature just shot up again.
"Whh.." she began, standing still as stone.
"Shhh" he said enticingly, lifting his cool finger to her sweltering lips, quivering against his touch slowly, letting all his resignations dissolve in the sweltering air between them.
"How many times do I have to tell you not speak to me like that?" he asked softly, different from all the other times he had uttered the same words. He wasn't commanding it today, he was pleading, asking why she wouldn't just listen to him.
"And this ..." he said, running his hand down along her arm "is my house" he continued, brushing his fingers against the burning skin along her waist "I can do what I please, stare at whoever I want"
"No" she managed, not knowing how else to day she disagreed. Between his hands against her lips and waist, she was a prisoner. Collecting all the broken pieces of her sanity she shook her head, trying to get herself back down to earth, rubbing her gloss against his fingers in return.
He fought against the animal instinct in his mind that told him to devour the sweet creature standing before him as he looked at her shocked eyes. They stole his heart all over again. The dark blue of her dress under the yellow hazy lights made her look beautiful. The thick silver borders shining just as brightly as her eyes, setting a contrast against his black tuxedo.
Anjali walking past them in search of her husband caught a glimpse of Arnav towering over Khushi who looked up at him with just as much resignation, countering her brothers personality with equal measures of flare and ferocity. She smiled to herself before walking away, she was right, she had known her brother had felt something for Khushi. Feeling a little mischievous she cornered the corridor, slipping her hand slowly on the light switch, throwing the two frozen bodies into a sea of darkness. She giggled away, turning back towards the hall to continue looking for her husband.
Little did she know, he stood in the very shadows that she had just created, watching with a seething rage as Arnav and Khushi stared into eachothers souls.
Chapter 10 - Where Happiness Lives
Arnav didn't even bother to look up or see what had caused the lights to go off around them, all he knew was that Khushi stood close to him, humid suffocating air surrounding their bodies, choking their hearts. The silver of her dress reflected in the barely there light, lighting up her skin in a glow.
The hand resting against her stomach had warmed up considerably, and he snatched it away for fear of scorching his skin.
"You're hot" he breathed.
Khushi shivered and his arrogant grin had her livid as he leaned back, still cornering her against the cold wall.
"Let me go" she ordered lightly, all her resolution melting away as she watched him slowly and deliberately bite his bottom lip. She could see it against the light flowing through the hall across the corner.
Arnav watched her for a moment, deliberating what he should do next. He had her, and the darkness to accompany it, alone. The sound echoing from the hall felt so far away, he could get away with anything. He could lift her off her feet in less than a second and carry her to his room, he could kiss her right now, she wouldn't know what had hit her. He remembered the way she had looked the last time she had kissed him. The memory of her lips made his mind buzz from a thick warm hum.
But he knew when to back out. His own heart had fallen victim to her naivety, he didn't want himself to lose control with her. Not when she meant as much as she did. And he had yet to accomplish telling her how he felt, that was number one on his list.
He finally decided on letting her off, for now, but not before he got one more thing.
He sent her a crooked playful smile, before leaning in towards her cupping her sweltering hot neck with his hand, against the edge of her soft jaw near her ear like he had done the last time he had seen her by the poolside.
Suddenly feeling like she would dissolve into the pure heat rising between them, she pushed away at him slightly, not before he placed a kiss on her neck just under her ear, stealing away her warmth. She gasped, sending a low growl through him, he bit his lip to resist the urge of biting the soft palpable skin along her frame.
He held on her arm as she attempted to escape, pulling her back up against him before she managed to get away.
"Meet me on the terrace in half an hour" he whispered against her hair.
She pushed away at him with more force, knees weak and shaky, before running towards the light in the hall, what was wrong with him? He couldn't just corner people like that, leaving them all flustered.
He was left standing in the darkness, the feeling of her warmth enveloping him as he smiled at her silhouette running against the light. He loved her more than he could put into words, now, all he had to do, was find the next best way to tell her.
Shyam watched Khushi run. The shadow of her form against the light looked flawless, but it wasn't his. She wasn't his.
He kept his balled fists at his sides, feeling his nails dig in to his skin.
This was the last straw.
She stared at the clock that hung high on the wall for the next twenty minutes, whispering furiously to herself how she wasn't going anywhere. If it was that important, he would tell her straight away. He would have told her the night before when he had come to see her.
She busied herself with her family, sending comforting smiles to her Jiji, who sat nervously staring at her to be husband.
But she couldn't help it. Ever since she could remember, she thought of him. She couldn't even remember how life used to be when she hadn't met him. It was all so empty, so meaningless. Because now, whenever something happened that she cared about, it had to do with him. Her life had changed. Whether for better or worse, she didn't know. But it had changed. It had turned upside down since that day fate had sent her flying into his strong arms.
He had caught her then.
Would he always catch her?
She glanced up at the clock again.
5 more minutes to go.
She looked around the hall, he wasn't there. He hadn't been for a while. Closing her eyes for a split second, she told herself this was it, all she had to do was make one decision.
Forgive him for all the mistakes, or forget him.
She smiled to herself as she thought about how that was hardly a choice at all.
Meet me on the terrace in half an hour.
His words ran across her mind as she made her way up the steps, heart beating frantically against her chest, leaving her light headed and breathless. She nervously clutched at the fabric running along her length, careful not to trip over her own nervous feet as she remembered the look in his eyes when he had told her to meet him.
She pushed open the door, a small nervy smile playing away at her lips and then she saw him. Standing amongst the little fairy lights decked up against a dark sky. A cold terrifying wave of dread hit her squarely in the chest, making her falter slightly as she looked on, at a man void of all emotion she had seen just minutes before.
She didn't dare move, she was much too afraid.
Arnav watched her, trying his best to keep the anger away. He wouldn't let it show. He wouldn't let it come in the way of the decisions he had to make. He stared at her blankly watching as she hesitantly took a few steps towards him, coming to rest in front of him.
She waited for him to speak, and when he didn't, she did.
"Y...You wanted to talk to me?" she said nervously, avoiding his blank stare, it was piercing her soul. What was wrong?
"Is it true?" he strained through a clenched jaw, starting to shake now, the intensity of anger starting to break through.
"What?" she asked, afraid to know what he meant.
"Is it true DAMN IT" he roared, grabbing her by the arms, shaking her roughly.
Khushi felt the sting in her eyes before he had even grabbed her, she felt scared and confused, and heartbroken all over again. She couldn't do this yet again, he had drained all of her.
"What? What are you talking about, I don't understand.."
"Tell me it isn't true Khushi, or I swear to God I'll.."
She still didn't know what he was talking about, his strong grip against her arm started to sent bouts of pain striking against her, she didn't even realise when she had started crying. The saline droplets of warmth and wetness tracking their way down her skin, betraying her weakness.
"I don't.." she started, stammering, before he pushed her away, sending her stumbling slightly.
He turned around, unable to look at her, running his hands through his hair. No, no he had made this mistake much too many times before. He didn't only want this all to be a lie, he needed it to be a lie.
"Arnav Ji.. please.. I don't know what you.. I.." she started sobbing, as he turned back around to face her. She couldn't believe how quickly everything had started to fall apart, combusting spontaneously all around her, out of her control.
He took a few steps towards her, holding her shaking shoulders, lightly this time, before forcing her to look at him.
"Tell me it isn't true Khushi, about Jeeja Ji and you, tell me it isn't" he pleaded with her, just managing to control his voice from breaking down in desperation.
Khushi's eyes widened in shock, surprised that he knew about Shyam andastonished that he seemed to be suggesting something other than what had actually happened.
That one reaction of hers had him roaring in rage as he pushed away at her again, clenching his fists in order to stop himself from breaking something. He looked back at her, standing still as stone, eyes wide open, the face of someone who was guilty, before unleashing his anger on the string of lights hanging behind him, causing the entire row of bulbs and the vase it held to come crashing down to the ground.
She jumped from the noise, already terrified at what was happening. She didn't know what he knew, she didn't know what he thought, and she wanted to talk to him, but he was just so angry, it scared her. What if he knew the truth? What if he hadn't heard some gruesome twisted form of it, and he still wanted nothing to do with her?
He furiously kicked at a table set off to the side of the terrace, watching as it tumbled to the ground along with everything on it. The smashing sound of glass and porcelain sending Khushi flinching against the sharp noise.
She was breathing heavily, watching as he lost all control. Everything was wrong. His Di, the one person he had cared for his entire life with more love than anyone could have imagined, would lose all meaning to her life if she found out. It would kill her, and that would ruin him.
Song for this update, please do listen to it as you read :)
All because of this girl that stood before him, the girl that already changed everything about his life.
He couldn't stand to look at her, he didn't think he could do it anymore.
He started to walk away, and that is when she panicked, reaching out for his arm when he passed her, he shrugged her off violently, but she sobbed loudly and rushed up to him again, standing in front of him, blocking his path.
"No, No Arnav Ji, please don't leave, please I didn't mean to.." she started again, when he pushed her out of the way, sending her flying against the wall.
But Khushi was determined to get her story across. She didn't care if he still didn't want anything to do with her after he heard her out, but she would not let him leave like this.
"Arnav Ji! Please, believe me.." she cried, holding on to his shoulders "Please, I tried to tell Anjali Ji, I really did, I promise you I did but I coul.." she stopped mid sentence as he stopped trying to push her off him, it surprised her into silence.
He looked at her, contemplating hard. Shyam had come and found him, and told him that he loved Khushi, and that Khushi loved him back, only, his sister was in the way. His Jeeju, the person who he had admired for all the love he gave his sister, was nothing but cheating scum and the way Khushi spoke his sisters name, full of love, made him sick. How could she?
"Don't you dare, Khushi Kumari Gupta" he said, eyes raging with anger so prominent, she had to let go of his arm.
She flinched back, she couldn't stand to look at the man she loved speak to her with so much hatred in his voice.
She started crying harder, silently letting the tears flow down her skin, carrying along with them a feeling of numbness.
Before he stepped away from her, she grabbed on to his hand. This was the man she loved, she told herself. She would never forgive herself if she let him walk away so easily.
Running her slight fingers over his knuckles, she felt a trace of swollenness against his bruises, before clasping her hands tightly in his.
"I know you hate me, I really do. And I am sorry this is all happened, I am sorry you had to find out this way"
Arnav felt his throat choke up. So it was true, but then why, why did the feeling of her hand entwined in his feel so right? So breathtakingly perfect?
"I never wanted to marry him, I don't know if you will believe me, I can only hope with all my heart that you do, I never loved him, everything.." she sighed sadly"everything was just falling apart, and Buaji thought, she thought it would all be better, because he.. Shyam, he acted so nice to everyone, and Buaji said it would make Babuji happy, I didn't know what to do. And you were engaged to Lavanya at the time, and gosh.." she said, starting to break down in tears as all the memories of her life in flames came rushing back to her.
Arnav stood shocked, listening to her words. What was she saying? Shyam had not told the story this way. So he had been engaged to her? Her family knew about this?
It all started to click, memories of their past, memories that he had seemed to overlook in his fury. Their paying guest, the one name Shyam, the one that had been engaged to Khushi. The man who had broken her, the man who had betrayed her whole family. He looked down at her, everything suddenly falling back into place.
"It all ended when I found out the truth, I am sorry, I am so very sorry Arnav Ji, I didn't want to hide it all, but I couldn't tell you, I couldn't tell Anjali Ji, I couldn't break her.."
"Please.." she begged, squeezing his hand.
Arnav looked down at her, skin alight through the distance lights, long wavy hair flowing down her back, thick moist eyelashes fluttering against her soft skin as she tried to stop her tears.
Even if it were the truth, he knew that he would never have been able to fully accept that his Khushi was someone elses. Not if he remembered everytime he had seen her the past few months, not if he remembered every moment he had spent with her, taking her in, learning about her, realising all the good she possessed. There was no way. She was either very good at lying or she had been a victim to this all.
He closed his eyes for a moment and told himself this was it, it all came down to this, he just had to make one decision. He could either choose to trust Khushi, the girl whose kindness overwhelmed him, the girl whose innocence left him stunned, the girl who he loved. He could forgive her for hiding the truth for the sake of his sister or he could forget her.
He smiled sadly, opening his eyes, thinking... That was hardly a choice at all.
Khushi couldn't believe her ears, she looked up at him, eyes still glistening from wetness. She drew back, but didn't let go of his hand.
"What?" she asked, perplexed by his sudden change. Her heart jumped up in her chest again, relief washing over her as she saw the hate in his eyes now replaced by concern.
"I couldn't.. why?" she asked, surprised by his sudden outburst.
He let go of her hand, making her crave his touch as soon as she lost it. She almost cried out for him, when he raised his hands to cup her face, holding her steady as he bore into her eyes.
"Khushi Kumari Gupta, Marry me" he almost commanded "because I love you" he whispered.
His mind had been racing with a startling pace, but he knew in that one moment, when he had whispered those three words and watched her eyes give away a world of emotions, that he would never regret this moment, because she would never give him a chance to. He wasn't doing this because of Shyam, he wasn't doing this for his sister. He was doing this because he loved her.
How close, how close he had almost gotten to losing her, countless times, but he wouldn't let it happen again. He had learnt from his mistakes. He felt her quiver under his touch, and then she moved towards him, crushing herself against his iron chest, wrapping her thin arms around his waist, clinging on to him like life itself. She cried into his chest, not being able to stop herself, nodding against him in acceptance of his request.
Arnav felt her crying, and for the first time, he wrapped his arms around her small frame, taking in her shaking body to protect it from all the harm that was ready to damage it. He would keep her safe, because she was so precious and so fragile, he couldn't bear the thought of anyone hurting her.
He was scared, and he was confused, and he wasn't sure what he was going to do next, but feeling Khushi next to him, made him forget all that worried him. He would marry her, he would tell his sister about her lying husband, and he would teach his Jeeja Ji a lesson. He would make him regret ever hurting the two women that meant the world to him.
He buried his face in her hair, rubbing his hand comfortingly against her back as she continued to weep into his chest, they were so far from it. Happiness.
They had so much to get through, they had so much to fight, so much to evil to battle against. If he took a step back and looked at it all, he knew it would all look like it had fallen to pieces, shattered and broken. But that is not what it looked like from where he was standing.
He breathed in the flowery scent of her soft tresses, it was all so hazy, all so far away with more than a million miles to go, but he still knew, that even through the feeling of having lost it all, he had found it.He had found Where Happiness Lived
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