Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Walk the Line: Chapter - 1

San Francisco airport was its usual bustling self. There were crowds around the baggage carousels all trying to get to their bags as the conveyor spat out one large bag out after another. NK dragged Khushi along behind him, dodging around people, carts, children.

‘Come on, KKG,’ he said, ‘what the heck took you so long?’

‘Not my fault, NK,’ she protested. ‘I couldn’t find a parking spot.’

‘Yeah,’ he paused, ‘and then you parked right next to me. Seriously, KKG’, he shook his head and scanned the baggage listing quickly. ‘Oh look, their bags should be at carousel 7. Come on,’ he resumed dragging her along.

Arnav Singh Raizada sighed impatiently. He should have ordered a limousine, he thought. But no, his mamiji’s sister had insisted that NK would pick them up. The bags had arrived and there was no sign of NK. Typical NK, he thought. Looking around impatiently, he scanned the area from his six-foot vantage point view. He spotted him about a hundred yards away, dragging someone along behind him. He narrowed his eyes wondering who she was. She was tall, thin and fair with large light eyes. That was all he could make out at this distance. And then he saw her hair. Long, shiny, black, straight and flying loose behind her, fanning her face and creating a sort of dark halo around it. She was gorgeous! He thought and immediately squashed the imp dancing around in his head.

‘Nannav!’ NK skidded to a stop in front of Arnav. KKG ran straight into Arnav. She looked up at the owner of the broad chest and the two very strong hands now holding her upper arms in a vise-like grip. He was beautiful! was the first thought in her mind. Her gray-green eyes met a pair of caramel ones. Long lashes on hooded eyelids, a firm chiseled jawline lightly covered in a day’s stubble, a long aquiline nose and high cheekbones. She held her breath.

He looked down into big, round eyes framed in impossibly long lashes. Pale creamy skin, lightly dusted with pink on the high cheekbones, soft, petal like lips rounded in a perfect ‘O’. For a moment he had an irresistible urge to touch those lips. Then he stepped back. She was dressed in a white retro blouse, high necked and ruched, slim back jeans that fit low on the hips and sneakers. A white denim jacket completed the outfit. A small Gucci bag (original, he noted) was slung across one shoulder.

‘I’m so sorry, ‘ she said in perfect Hindi. He nodded curtly as he reluctantly let go.

NK was bouncing around like an agitated monkey, he thought. He introduced KKG to everyone. ‘Masiji, this is KKG – sorry, Khushi,’ he said. ‘Khushi, this is my masi, mausa, Akash my bhai, Dadiji, my di, Anjali’, hugging her, ‘ and Nannav, sorry Arnav, Di’s brother’, he finished breathlessly, gesturing towards him. ‘Everybody, this is Khushi. She’s our neighbor and offered to drive some of you back. Actually, thing is, the car won’t fit so many people, so she offered to help out.’

‘Namaste,’ Khushi said with folded hands, all the while uncomfortably aware of the head-to-toe scrutiny she’d undergone. ‘Welcome to San Francisco’.

Naniji and Anjali smiled in approval.

‘Shall we?’ Arnav asked gesturing for them to start walking.

Akash, Arnav and NK pushed the three carts with their luggage to the parking lot, while the rest followed behind.

‘So, Kushi, why does NK call you KKG?’ Asked Anjali.

‘Actually, my name is Khushi Kumari Gupta,’ she said, ‘so NK calls me KKG for short’. She was unaware that Arnav was tuned into the conversation; he raised one eyebrow when he heard her say her full name.

‘But Khushi is such a beautiful name, ‘exclaimed Anjali. ‘That’s what we’ll call you’.

‘Thank you,’ she said a little shyly.

By then they had come to the parking lot and NK led the way to a Cadillac Escalade. Next to it stood a low slung steel grey Mustang Shelby GT convertible, with a back and gold racing stripe down the hood and trunk. Arnav eyed it approvingly. He loved muscle cars, although he himself drove a white SUV back home.

The men started loading the cases into the van, as the women chatted. Finally finished, NK turned around and said, ‘one of you is going to have to go with Khushi.’

‘I’ll go,’ said Anjali, ‘come on, Khushi. Where’s your car?’

‘It’s right here,’ she said gesturing to the Mustang.

Arnav looked at her in surprise. This little chit of a girl drove this monster of a car? Interesting. ‘Di,’ he said, surprising even himself by his words. ‘I don’t think you should be riding around in..in.. THAT,‘ he pointed to her car. ‘It’s not safe!’ KKG turned around and looked at him in astonishment! What was wrong with her car? And he didn’t even know her – so how the heck was he commenting on her driving? What the f***?! Her lips thinned in anger. ‘I’ll go, ‘he said firmly. Everybody stared at him in surprise. ‘We should have got the limo,’ he grumbled, moving to the passenger side.

Khushi unlocked the car and they both got in. She turned on the engine, the deep growl always a satisfaction to her ears. They belted in and Arnav stole a quick look at her. There were those flags on her cheeks again. She hit a couple of buttons and the soft top slowly folded back down. She reached into the glove box, and pulled out sunglasses, wrap-arounds with the telling Oakley ‘O’ on the sides. He smirked. Matched her expression, he thought as he put on his own aviators.

‘Ready?’ she asked him. He nodded. She did a quick single point reverse and drove through the lot. Once on the 101, she headed north rapidly picking up speed on the freeway. He glanced at the speedometer, 75 mph, not bad he thought. They had been silent for about ten minutes before she spoke up.

‘Have you been to San Francisco before?’ she asked. He pursed his lips and nodded.

‘Oh’, she said. She was working her lower lip between her teeth, holding back the question she wanted to ask him. Finally she blurted out ‘why didn’t you want your sister in my car? Is it that bad? And what do you know about my driving that you’d say it’s not safe? Not SAFE? I’ll have you know that I’ve been driving for five years and I’ve never had an accident or a ticket, touch wood,’ she touched her head in absence of any real wood in the car. He stared at her in astonishment as she continued her outburst. ‘And do you know that this is a Mustang Shelby GT500? It’s got..’-

‘550 hp at 6500 rpm, 510 lb-ft torque,5.4 ltr-V8 engine, 0-60 in 4.4 seconds,’ he drawled.

Her mouth made that adorable ‘O’ again, as she looked over at him. Adorable?! What the **!

‘Careful’, he said, putting his hand on hers on the steering wheel. The corner of his lips lifted in a slight smile. ‘So what did you think? Just because I live in India, I don’t get cars?’ Behind the shades he could see her blink! ‘I studied here, in the US’, he added. ‘So I GET cars!’

She remembered what NK had told her about Arnav, ASR – whatever! The guy was a Harvard grad, had gone home and built an empire out of nothing and today was listed as one of India’s wealthiest. He’d been featured in Forbes as one of rising stars in the world of business. His AR group of companies was founded on the flagship AR fashion line.

‘That.. that’s not what I meant,’ she stammered. Then collecting herself, she went on. ‘I’d heard about your studying in the US. …. But ….What made you say it wasn’t safe? I mean, you don’t know me at all, and yet you make this snap judgment about me’. Her lips thinned again.

‘It’s not that,’ he said in a slightly more reconciliatory tone. ‘It’s just that DI is pregnant and the doctor has advised caution. So, riding around in a muscle car might not be the best thing for her.’

She nodded. That sounded more plausible. She turned on her iPod and the opening bars of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake surrounded them. He turned to look at her in surprise! Classical music in a muscle car? This girl was a surprise a minute!

They drove in silence for a while until they came to a stop at a light on Van Nuys. Another convertible slid into the lane next to them. The driver looked over at them, then slid his sunglasses over his head and focused at Arnav’s profile – the interest apparent in his eyes. Khushi had been watching this from the corner of her eyes, while Arnav was staring disinterestedly ahead. Her lips twitched as the man checked out Arnav.

‘You have an admirer,’ she murmured in Hindi. He raised his eyebrows and turning, looked at her. Her eyes flicked to the man behind Arnav. He caught her meaning and turned to look. She could hardly keep from grinning now. He looked at the man and spun around to look at her.

‘So you find it funny, huh?’ he said a low tone. He stretched his left arm along the back of his seat, leaned over and tucked her hair behind her ears. Another ‘O’ moment! She was frozen. He smirked. The man in the car looked disgustedly at him, and moved on. ‘Khushi,’ he said. ‘It’s green.’ She freed herself from his hypnotic gaze and focused on driving again. He looked down at her slim fingers as she swiftly and smoothly shifted gears.

They reached the Golden Gate Bridge in record time. The day had been sunny with fluffy white clouds in an azure sky. The sun had started dipping now, sending long shadows into the golden evening light. A cloud had come down on the bridge, and the tall red pylons stood above the white clouds. It was a spectacular sight. Traffic had been light and Khushi drove into the cloud. It wrapped them like a white screen and it seemed like they were the only two in the world.

Arnav was surprised at how suddenly he wanted this moment to last. Just the two of them, alone in a white cloud. The little imp clasped his hands and blinked his eyes. He frowned. No, that was never going to happen. He, Arnav Singh Raizada was not going to let that happen. He was here for a few days. He had a busy schedule in the US, and letting a girl – correction, JUST a girl upset his life was never gonna happen. Not now. Not ever. Never. Nix. Nah! Satisfied with his inner pep talk, he focused on the scenery ahead, for they had now come out of the clouds.

21 comments:

  1. LOvely start.
    Water from IF

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  2. Just came across this FF. And I absolutely love your writing. Can't wait to read more of Arshi.

    Varsha-

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  3. Started reading this one now. Loved the first chapter.

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  4. Hello :-)

    I have just started with this story of yours and this is interesting :-)

    I didnt understand the car bit ad I have no idea about cars :-D


    A typhoon named Khushi has alread hit him and he cannot escape her :-D

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  5. Tks to rasgulla, i am here on the first chapter, with lots of catching up
    to do.
    Its interesting, l am loving it alr and l cant wait to read the rest if them.

    Goguma
    IF

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  6. Tks to rasgulla, i am here on the first chapter, with lots of catching up
    to do.
    Its interesting, l am loving it alr and l cant wait to read the rest if them.

    Goguma
    IF

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  7. Awesome...khushi drives a heavy car and arnav went with her...


    Thanks to saiyuu..

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  8. Love this story so much. Reading it again.
    IF(1chilly)

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  9. Loved the start and extra loved the car...

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  10. Oh by the way, I've been meaning to read this particular FF from quite some time now... But the push came to shove only thanx to Rasgulla... There, Saiyyu dear, if u ever read this, I gave u ur due credit;)

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  11. Just started reading this.... !!! I love Khushi' car....:) Arnav can give himself all the pep talk he wants... I highly doubt he'l be able to stay away from her..

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  12. oh cool...just got to read this today. Loved the car ride..lovely

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  13. Have started reading this today..after more than a year u published this chapter....better late than never :)....it's a cracking start!!!

    Sarahjac - IF

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  14. Madhu, this must be the story I've read the maximum amount of times. Just love it.

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  15. Brilliant, and totally get Arnav being a car man. But Khushi driving/oowning a mustang! Good for her! Brains to use, and but the looks of it a passion to go after what she wants! Wahoo!

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  16. just found this. am sure its gonna be another gem of yours. i dont know much about cars n weather but khushi has already met Arnav and from here on all his plans will never work accrding to his will.

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