Thursday, July 12, 2012

Walk the Line: Chapter - 12

Monday morning, breakfast at the Raizada household. Khushi had packed her stuff already, and made her way to the dining room.

‘Khushi,’ smiled Naniji. ‘Come, sit down.’ She looked approvingly at Khushi. Here was a girl who wore Western clothes, but maintained the modesty of her Indian upbringing. Today she was in a grey skirt that was pencil thin but flared at the knees in soft ruffles, a pink full-sleeved shirt, and high heels. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail that swayed as she walked. So far, all she had been wearing were ethnic clothes, but now, she looked like a woman with a successful career. Exactly the kind that Arnav needed by his side.

Khushi smiled back at Naniji and seated herself. Arnav was already there, drinking tea. Soon they were joined by the rest of the family. Anjali and her husband, Dilip, who’d arrived the night before, came down the stairs. They made a very cute couple, and were obviously very much in love.

‘Nani,’ Arnav was looking at his grandmother. ‘I am taking Khushi in to the office. Can you please have her bags sent to the hotel?’

‘Of course, Arnav, but why couldn’t she continue staying here?’

‘Nani, her boss arrived last night. There’ll be a ton of work that she will have to do, mostly with her boss. It makes sense for them to stay at the same place,’ he explained. He sipped his tea, ‘and then when her family arrives for the engagement and the wedding, they’ll be staying there as well, so ….’ He shrugged.

‘Khushi,’ Nani reached across and touched her hand. ‘We’d like you to spend time here with us whenever you can.’

‘Nani, it’s a business trip for her,’ he protested.

‘Chotey,’ she cut him off, ‘I’m not asking you. Are you telling me that she will be working the next few weekends, too? Do you want to work her to death?’

‘Nani,’ he sighed and gave up.

Khushi was smiling inside. So. There is one person in the Raizada household that didn’t get the ASR what-I-say-goes treatment. In fact, that’s probably where he got that stubborn trait from. She raised dancing eyes, and he glared right back at her.

They drove to the office in silence. No music in his car, she thought. Akash sat in the back going over some files. The offices of the AR group of companies were located in a tall glass and steel building. She followed them into the office to find Sergio waiting at the reception for them.

‘Sergio,’ ASR walked forward and shook hands. ‘My brother, Akash,’ he introduced him. ‘Come on up to my room.’ The four of them walked up the curved staircase to his cube. Glassed in, it gave a complete view of the cubes below. They sat down and began their day.

The day passed in a blur. By six o’clock Khushi was already trying discreetly to massage a crick in her neck. She had been given a desk in a room with AR’s Operations Director, Lavanya. Lavanya was tall and willowy and gorgeous. She was also the consummate professional. She had helped Khushi getting set up with what she needed for work.

ASR popped into the room. ‘Khushi?’ She looked up at him. ‘Let’s go. I’ll drop you off at the hotel.’

Lavanya raised her eyebrows at that. ASR doing a personal favor, so not like him. And he hadn’t even acknowledged her presence in the room, his whole attention focused on Khushi.

Khushi nodded and gathered her things together, slinging her back pack on one shoulder. They walked out of the door, failing to see the faint smirk on Lavanya’s face. Oh dear, ASR, she thought. You have it bad!

She walked into Akash’s cabin and stood with one hip resting against the door. He looked up at her and said, ‘Lavanya, come on in’.

‘Hi, Akash!’ she smiled showing off her dimples. Sitting down across from him, she crossed her ankle. ‘So… tell me about this Khushi girl. What’s going on with her and ASR?’

Akash was surprised at her astuteness. He’d known Lavanya for about as long as ASR had done. He’d known about her crush on him. But she had quickly realized that the way up the ladder at AR Group wasn’t via the bedroom and so had decided to use her brains instead, to get her what she wanted. And she’d been rewarded equally well for her efforts – monetarily as well as a with lasting friendship with ASR.

‘I don’t know what you mean, Lavanya,’ he parried.

‘Oh come on, Akash. You know that’s not true.’

He shook his head and said, ‘ASR will have our hides if he found us talking like this.’

‘He’s already left with Khushi’, she pointed out. He couldn’t help the small grin on his face at the memory of his brother’s very public kiss with that same Khushi. She didn’t miss it. ‘Give, Akash!’

He shook his head again. ‘Can’t Lavanya. Company policies.’

She raised her eyebrows, got up and sashayed out of the room.

***

ASR pulled up at the hotel and the doorman ran to get her door. He headed into the reception area where almost everybody came to attention at the sight of the owner walking into the hotel.

‘Is Miss Gupta’s room ready?’ he asked the obviously crush-ridden receptionist.

‘Yes, sir,’ she stammered, handing over the keys. ‘Her luggage has already been taken care of.’ The manager hovered in the background, smiling servilely.

Khushi was getting used to this now, people bowing and fawning over him. What is wrong with you people? She thought. He’s just a man.

The smooth elevators took them to the twenty-first floor. A large floor to ceiling window opened up to a vista of Delhi. On the other side corridors led off in both directions. They set off to the left. She noticed that each of the rooms had double doors. He stopped at one midway down the hall, slid in the card key and held open the door for her.

She gasped. The room was a suite. The living room was modern, decorated in grey-blues with ebony colored furniture. A large screen TV hung on one wall. A study table with full setup and a phone stood against the opposite wall. A single red rose stood in a thin, tall vase on the coffee table surrounded by plush sofas. A plate of cookies and chocolates sat next to it, along with an envelope. A set of double-doors led to the bedroom. A large king-sized bed dominated one wall. The floor to ceiling glass windows continued here with the same view of Delhi. One wall was a closet with frosted glass doors and a recessed luggage rack in which sat her bags. A robe had been laid out on the bed. There were more flowers in this room, all red roses.

She turned around and looked at him. He was watching her.

‘This is beautiful, Arnav,’ she sighed.

‘Thank you,’ he replied softly. ‘I hope you enjoy your stay.’ With that he moved to the door, turned back and said, ‘We’ll be going for dinner at seven-thirty.’ He raised his eyes, ‘can you be ready by then?’

She nodded. He let himself out. She turned back to the room and looked around. Kicking off her heels, she walked over to the cookies and picked one up. The envelope caught her eye. She opened it. It was a standard welcome letter for guests of the hotel, signed by Arnav Singh Raizada. But at the bottom in his slashing handwriting she read, ‘One month is over, Khushi’.

She closed her eyes and bit her lip as her heart beats quickened. Like so many times in the past month, she relived that kiss - the smell of him, the feel of his soft lips, the taste, the sight of his darkened eyes, blazing with passion, the rough touch of his stubble and his thumbs on her cheeks. The whispered promise. One month was over. What now? In the past three days, never once had he encroached on her space, not once had he tried to speak to her privately. All these unsaid things between them. What was it?

She shook herself from her reverie and hastened to the bedroom. Her bags had already been unpacked, her clothes neatly hanging in the closet and her lingerie in the drawers. She retrieved her handbag from the living room and pulled out the jewelry case at the bottom, along with her passport. She tucked them into the safe and locked it.

By the time Arnav got home that night, it was almost eleven o’clock. He had dropped Sergio and Khushi off at the hotel first. He walked into his room and started undressing. Well? Said the imp. Well what? He asked. Well, me lad, how was your evening? The imp cackled. Shut up! Shut up!! SHUT UP!! He didn’t want to think of the evening. Tearing off his jacket, tie and waistcoat, he paced in his room. His shirt felt too confining, and he unbuttoned the collar, the sleeves, rolling them up, pacing all the while.

All day, he’d had to force himself to focus on his work. She was a singular distraction that he couldn’t take right now. But flashes of her beautiful eyes came into mind at the most inconvenient moments. He spun around. And then this evening! He swallowed, closing his eyes. She had worn black. A simple little black dress, except it showed off the creamy expanse of her shoulders and not much else. Full sleeved and down to her knees, it was perfect on her, the clingy material revealing her curves and yet not revealing anything at all. What was happening to him? Why couldn’t he stop thinking about her?

In typical ASR fashion he decided to take stock. She wasn’t beautiful, not in the conventional sense of the word. She was definitely not his type.

No, said the imp, she’s ethereal, that’s the word you’re looking for.

She was smart, no doubt about it. It had amused him at first when he learnt how much about the fashion world she knew. But then she started having a counterpoint to almost every point he brought up. Sergio had sat back, smiling as his protégé took on ASR. So yes, she was smart.

The imp nodded sagely.

And goofy, he hadn’t forgotten the ridiculous dance in Monterey. What was she thinking?

Not much, said the imp, she was feeling and expressing herself! Something you would know little about.

She loved music. He preferred silence.

Sometimes there’s music is silence and silence in music, pontificated the imp.

And she was traditional.

That she is, agreed the imp.

I don’t like traditional. I like modern.

Yeah, right.

Nani and di like her.

Yes, they do. They see more to her than you do, agreed the imp.

She is annoying. She argues with me.

That’s cause she isn’t afraid of the great ASR, na-na na-na na na, said the imp.

He was exhausted. He threw himself on the bed and passed out like a light.

5 comments:

  1. "there’s music is silence and silence in music" .. i'm in love with your imp.

    and i love how arnav did not mention the promise until that exact moment when he did.. and even dinner was strictly business..and yet, both of them know that he acknowledged their relationship.. because that is what this surely is.

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  2. O god what have i done...........what a bad time to start this FF and now i cant seem to stop...Its 2.30 in the morning and i am still not willing to shut down my laptop,

    Liza

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  3. Is the imp called Arnav? It seems to be his inner god... cheeky one at that. I must say im loving your writing! The story is definitely a page turner.

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