Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Walk the Line: Chapter - 5

Evening fell like a softly drawn veil across the hills. The house had been transformed with fairy lights. A white canopied pavilion had been set up near the pool. The gazebo, deck and pool glittered in the lights, warm and welcoming. Soft music played in the background.

The four young men came down the stairs together in their gorgeous sherwanis – Akash, NK, Arnav and Rahul. They made a handsome quartet and any young lady’s heart would have swooned at that sight. The ladies in the family room looked up at them. All were dressed in gorgeous sarees or lehengas. Brilliant colours dotted the room.

‘Chotey,’ Anjali got up at the sight. ‘You look so good in a sherwani.’

‘Yeah. Thanks, Di,’ he smiled.

‘All of you look so good. And Rahul! Nia is surely a lucky girl,’ she said as Nia walked over. ‘Or maybe not. Rahul is probably the lucky one,’ she noticed that he couldn’t take his eyes off his fiancée.

The doorbell rang and guests started arriving. Every year, everyone on the block was invited to the Dutt’s Diwali party. It had become an annual affair on their street now. Most people arrived with gifts and/or sweets in their hands. Drinks were flowing, music was playing and people were starting to make inroads into the canapés and hors d'oeuvres passed around by smartly suited wait staff. The guests were spilling over onto the deck and the pool area.

Arnav stood in a corner, nursing a glass of orange juice.

The doorbell rang again, and the Guptas arrived. Mr. Gupta was in a conservative kurta-churidar, and his wife was in a pale aqua saree. As they stepped inside, the two daughters stepped in. Payal – it must be her, he assumed, was in a bright green saree with gold embroidery. She wasn’t as tall as Khushi, and the heart-shaped face bore little resemblance to the pixie-like looks of her sister.

She on the other hand, was in a red saree, the color of vermilion. It was almost free of embellishments, except for a glittering crystal brooch on the shoulder holding the pallu to her choli. Her hair was loose, with a matching brooch on the back of her head he saw, when she turned and smiled to greet someone. An elegant understated necklace and matching earrings finished her look. The imp sighed and placed its hand on its heart.

She had been aware of him in the corner of the room, ever since she walked in. He was in a dark colored sherwani, she couldn’t quite make out the color of it. Did he always wear dark colors? He seemed to be looking straight at her with a soul-searching gaze. For a minute she met his gaze, and then she turned away and went to look for Nia. She missed him coming forward and introducing himself to her parents formally.

Two hours later she was thoroughly enjoying herself. The music had gotten faster and the younger folks were getting out there and dancing by the pool. It was a fun night, and the elders weren’t holding them back. She’d even gotten up and danced with NK and Rahul. She missed the small smile on Arnav’s face while she danced. After all that dancing, she was feeling thirsty and decided to go get some water. As she walked towards the kitchen, her phone rang. She lifted it to her ear without checking the number. ‘Happy Diwali, Khushi,’ the voice whispered. She froze. ‘I wanted to wish you earlier but’- she hit the End button. She turned around and started walking fast towards her house. She entered through the kitchen and let it swing close behind her. As she headed into the living area, the kitchen door slammed open. Arnav strode in. His face was stormy, eyes narrowed and lips tight. He followed her into the dimly lit living room and walked right up to her.

‘What the hell is going on, Khushi?’ he growled. For a moment she looked at him and then flung herself onto his chest, sobbing. Her sobs were like tiny mewls, whimpers of a wounded animal. He was stunned for a few seconds. Then his arms came up, gently wrapping her in them. He let her cry for a bit before moving her away. Her hands still rested on his chest. He held her face in his hands, his thumbs gently wiping her tears away. She hiccupped. He looked at her. And then he did the only thing a red-blooded male would do with a gorgeous woman crying in his arms. He leaned in to kiss her. Her eyes fluttered close.

Except, she froze as a familiar voice said, ‘Nannav! What the hell do you think you are doing?’ They jerked back from each other. NK and Jaime stood there both looking angrily at him. Jaime put a protective arm around her. ‘Jaime, take Khushi upstairs!’

Arnav had never seen NK take charge, and yet here he was, doing just that. He spun around, and headed out of the kitchen. NK followed him out, ‘Nannav!.. Nannav!! What the hell was going on?’ He caught up with Arnav and held his arm. ‘Were you kissing her?’ Thankfully, he’d kept his voice low.

ASR being ASR knows that the best way to deflect an incoming is to provide a good offense. ‘What the hell is going on with her, NK?’ he said. ‘I noticed those phone calls. She gets them and then she’s terrified of them. I’ve seen her on at least three occasions now. What is the deal with the calls? And you know something about them.’

NK was diverted. There was no hint of the happy-go-lucky persona on his face. He was deadly serious. ‘Nannav, you don’t want to know. There’s something, yes. But I promised her I’d never tell anyone.’ He sighed. ‘Just leave it, Nannav.’

‘Leave it?’ He didn’t know why he was making such a big deal out of it. But he would sort that out later. ‘Dammit, NK, she’s had four calls that I know of.’ He made a dismissive gesture with his hands and strode away. Taking his phone out of his pocket, he dialed. Aman was going to get an early wake up. Well, that’s what he paid him for.

‘Aman, he said, when the phone was picked up by his EA. ‘I need you to do a background check for me,’ he paused. ‘Khushi Kumari Gupta. Find out everything you can about her. She moved out of India about four years ago, but before that, she lived in Lucknow and Delhi. Get the best investigators on the case. I want the information yesterday.’ Another pause. ’And Aman, I want you to handle this yourself. It’s completely confidential. No one and I mean no one, is to hear of this. All reports must come to me. Is that clear?’ He turned his phone off. He was going to get to the bottom of this. Why? Said the imp. Shut up, he replied.

Khushi went up to her room, while Jaime stood guard below. She washed her face and re-applied her make up. She looked at herself in the mirror and looked into her own eyes. What had come over her? How could she have thrown herself in the arms of a man that she barely knew? What must he think of her? Oh God! She had come across as a weak, clinging female. So what? What did it matter to her what kind of woman he thought she was. She sighed. This was too confusing.

She went downstairs again, and joined the party. Jaime stuck with her through the rest of the night. He had taken away her phone and switched it off. Arnav was nowhere to be seen. She wondered why she should feel so miffed about it. But then she spotted him, out on the deck, chatting with a pretty girl in a blue lehenga. She turned around and headed to the pool. She looked over her shoulder, and his eyes were on her. Then he looked back at the stupid girl hanging on his every word. She turned away and went to find NK.

The party wound down and about 2 in the morning, it was over.

She sat by the window in her dark room, her pale face looking up at the stars. She wasn’t ready to sleep. The evening had left her unsettled. Sighing, she got into bed and curled in.

In his room, Arnav lay staring at the ceiling. Sleep was far away. A pair of grey-green eyes refused to go away. He sat up. No. This would not do. He was getting too drawn to this girl. Perhaps, if he tried to conjure up the other girl who had been speaking to him, those eyes would go away. But he couldn’t even remember the face – just a nameless blob. Shit! What the heck was happening to him? He had to stop. He was Arnav Singh Raizada and he didn’t need a woman in his life. Not now. Not ever. Tomorrow he had to be in Atlanta. The flight was at 10. He sighed. Better get some sleep while he could.

4 comments:

  1. whaddya mean any redblooded man would kiss a crying girl? hmm maybe a redblooded ASR with an imp on his shoulder.. hmm. but khushi did not know, right? she did not reflect on it...

    awww its so obvious she has a stalker. I sure hope ASR becomes all cold and calculating on him..

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  2. You know who I like the best till now??? ASR, nooooo, not him... The imp... I love this imp sitting on ASR's shoulder, or wherever he's perched... Interesting character... Keeps our Arnie boy in check... Lovely update..

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  3. I love ur cutey imp soooooooo much.i can visualise it better than anyone else

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  4. Blob of a girl! Hee hee, no one stands a chance over Khushi. The is definitely something drawing them together, maybe she has her own imp. NK is ver protective of her, just lije any brother should be. Im suprised Jamie fidnt land one on Arnav, after all he is thecreal brother.

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