Saturday, August 4, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 21

Khushi came back to the living room, dressed in jeans and a simple blouse, and looking a little better. It was almost ten o’clock, and there was a trolley of food sitting next to the small dinette. The lights had been lowered so only pools of light illuminated the room. She could smell the food and suddenly, she realized how hungry she was. Arnav was standing at the windows, gazing out over Delhi. She went and stood by him, their reflections next to each other. He looked at her in the window. ‘Hungry?’ She nodded. ‘Me, too. Shall we eat?’

They sat down at the dinette. The waiter who’d been standing by came up and helped serve the food. Arnav looked at him, ‘Thanks, you can leave. I’ll let you’ll know when to pick up the dishes.’

‘Yes, sir,’ he said and went out of the room.

It had been cathartic for her to tell someone the whole story. She felt like a weight had come off her shoulders. Watching her eat, he saw the lightness in her face and felt a similar sort of lightness inside him. The imp picked up a newspaper, shook it, opened it, all the while looking at him over it. He just smiled.

‘Khushi?’

‘Mm? She looked up from her plate. There was small smudge of yogurt next to her lip. He resisted the urge to wipe it off and instead said, ‘This Anahita Malhotra and Debolina..?’

‘Banerjee’.

‘Yah. Do you keep in touch with them?’

‘No. Not after what happened. Their parents were unwilling to let me be around their daughters,’ she remembered how hurt she was when that had happened. But she’d understood why they had done what they did. ‘And then afterwards… I just didn’t keep in touch,’ she finished lamely.

He opened his mouth to say something, stopped, and shook his head. ‘No. It can’t be,’ he muttered.

‘What can’t be? Our parents did forbid us from contacting each other again!’ she said.

He shook his head impatiently and said, ‘Not that.’ She looked at him like he’d gone bananas. ‘You applied for an internship at AR Fashions, and we delayed responding to you? Which idiot in my employ did that?’

She laughed out loud, then raised her eyebrows and made a small moue of her mouth. He looked at it, swallowed then focused back on the conversation. ‘I don’t know who it was… it was a weird name. what was it?.... Oh wait, I remember…. it was ARNAV SINGH RAIZADA! Yeah, that was it. It was him!’ Triumphantly she pointed a finger at him!

He looked at her and all he could do was shake his head ruefully. ‘Stop it, Khushi!’ He was entranced by her dancing eyes.

She sobered up a little and let him off the hook, ‘No. I don’t really remember who it was. It came after I’d already joined my first job, so, I didn’t take it.’

‘Anahita,’ he said.

‘Annie? What about her?’ She was confused by his sudden topic changes.

‘That’s it! Annie Malhotra.’ She looked at him as if had gone completely mad. ‘She’s Annie Chopra now, right?’

She stared at him. ‘How do you know that?’

‘Khushi,’ he couldn’t believe this was happening to him. He’d never believed in fate. But this was way beyond coincidental. He didn’t even know if he could tell her this one thing that he’d sort of not ever told anybody. You mean, secretly hankered for her, don’t you? asked the imp. Shhhh! he said.

She watched him trying to get the words out and the myriad of expressions passing over this face.

Finally he looked at her. ‘I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we’ve met before’, he blurted out.

‘Ummm.. yes..we have. Or we wouldn’t be sitting here having dinner’.

‘I mean, before San Francisco.’

She raised one of her eyebrows at him and cocked her head a little to one side.

He nodded.

The eyebrow went higher. The head cocked a little more.

He pursed his lips. ‘Yep’.

‘Do tell’.

‘Annie’s house’.

‘What?!’

‘The last time you were at Annie’s house, you said the grooms folks had come, right?’ She nodded. ‘Did you come out to the balcony at one point?’

She was searching her memory. ‘I don’t remember, it was so long ago… I …’ she remembered looking down and seeing… the groom? Passing by him on the way to the gate … with his phone… in his ear…‘You?’

He nodded.

A huge grin went across her face. ‘You had come to see Annie?’ She broke into giggles again. He smiled mostly because he couldn’t get enough of her smile and those giggles. ‘Oh my God!’ she was gasping now. ‘But wait a minute, why didn’t you marry her?’

Now he looked at her like she’d gone mad. ‘What the -?!’

‘Well, I remember aunty telling us that the marriage was fixed,’ she swallowed.

He distinctly remembered going for the wedding. He remembered looking around, hoping to spot her, the girl with the legs. He hadn’t seen her then. He remembered feeling sort of let down because she wasn’t there! He hadn’t wanted to ask anyone about her, either. They’d have thought he was hallucinating, asking about someone whom he’d never seen. Yeah! And dreamt about at night too, the imp cackled.

She was looking at him with something like pain in her eyes. Even something that never happened between him and another woman.. she pushed the thought aside…

‘Khushi, I was there with my friend Rajeev Chopra, his support system’.

‘And I was Annie’s. And now they are both married,’ she trailed off.

‘…to each other,’ his voice dropped. His left hand covered her right, eyes never leaving hers. He raised his napkin with his other hand and wiped that drop of yogurt. Dropped the napkin, and continued stroking her lower lip with his thumb.

She closed her eyes, heart thumping in triple time.

His eyes roamed over her face drinking in the sight. ‘What was the perfume you wore in those days?’ he whispered.

She opened her eyes in surprise, and blinked at him. ‘D&G’ she said. He remembered? How?

He smiled and trailed his thumb on her lower lip one more time, mesmerized as she closed her eyes again. Getting up he answered in her ear, ‘I still do’, before leaving her sitting there, eyes still closed.

The first soft strains of ‘No sé tú’ whispered into the room.

She opened her eyes in surprise. He was standing in front of her holding out his hand. She put hers in it and allowed him to draw her up, his arms going around her, as if they’d done this a million times before, comfortable, and just right. Her right hand rested on his chest, his left arm holding her close around the waist. Her left hand snuggled into his right. Her head was on his shoulder, he dropped his face into the fragrant cloud near her ears.

‘No sé tú Pero yo no dejo de pensar
Ni un minuto me logro despojar
De tus besos, tus abrazos,
De lo bien que la pasamos la otra vez.

He whispered the lyrics into her ears in perfect Spanish. She looked at him with her ‘O’ expression. ‘Do you know what it means?’ she whispered, as she translated in her head:

I don't know about you
But I can't stop thinking about you
Not for a minute can I forget
Your kisses, your hugs,
Of the good times we had before.

Luis Miguel’s honeyed voice dripping with passion provided the background as he whispered the next verse, this time in English,

I don't know about you
But I would like to repeat
The tiredness that you made me feel
With the night that you gave me
And the moments you created with our kisses

She hid her face against his shoulder as a crimson tide of a blush rushed up her neck. His cupped her cheek in his palm, his thumb under her chin tilting her head up. He looked into her eyes and the rest of the lyrics ran clean out of his head. It didn’t matter. He bent his head and finally kissed her. She sighed contentedly, one arm around his waist and one around his shoulder. He cradled her face in his hands, taking his time, sipping her lips slowly. Eyes closed, for the first time ever, Arnav Singh Raizada, completely gave in to a kiss. He poured his heart into it, letting her know with his tongue, his lips what she meant to him. He kissed her eyes, her nose, the corners of her lips. She took her time at his throat. He threw his head back to let her explore as much as she wanted, his breath catching as she pressed her soft lips against his Adam’s apple. He lowered his mouth. He wanted those lips under his so badly. His fingers splayed out on her waist, moved restlessly over the shirt she had on, coming in front to find the buttons. Her hands had slipped underneath his collar, stroking down his chest as she undid a few buttons of her own.

He was breathing raggedly as he ran his hands up and under her blouse. Her skin felt as silky as he had imagined it would, his hands wandered restlessly from her stomach to her back, until it touched the scar. He stopped. She felt him stop knowing what he had felt. She swallowed and tried to move back but he pulled her back to him. His eyes held hers as he slowly shook his head, and turned her around, but his hands never stopped touching her. He gently draped her hair away, pushing it over her shoulder to her front. His hands touched the collar of her blouse, and slowly peeled it away. The single raw scar stood out on that milky skin slashing diagonally from left to right. She stood with her head bowed, her hair hiding her face. He traced a finger down the scar, his pulses thudding with anger. How dare someone do this to her? But he needed to channel that rage elsewhere. Right now was not the time. His lips followed his finger, his tongue trailing fire along the scar. He felt the sudden stiffening of her back, her breathing intensifying. The blouse dropped to the floor. He traced his fingers up her back, and followed it with his lips as a small moan escaped hers. He kissed the nape of her neck, slowly laying a fiery trail under her ear, moving to her collar bone, his right arm wrapped around her waist, his left crossing over to hold her right shoulder, his bare chest melding into the smooth curves of her back, his right hand moving up her stomach, slowly tracing the lower edge of her bra. Her finger nails were digging into his forearms, her head thrown back. He knew he was this close to completely losing control.

But this was not the time. He stopped. He had to stop. He turned her around. She raised questioning eyes to his. He rested his forehead against hers, willing his breathing to slow down. Raised his head and swallowed as he looked into her eyes. His hands cradled her face and he kissed her softly. He bent down and picked up her blouse, and held it for her to put on. He buttoned it up, but not before he stole one little kiss in the center of her breasts. She gasped.

‘Khushi,’ his voice was a whisper.

‘Mmmm?’

He looked at her trying to say what he wanted to say. That he didn’t want what they had to be a sordid one-night thing in a hotel room, never mind that it was the Maharani Suite at the Raizada Hotel. That he didn’t want her to ever feel used. That he didn’t want either of them to have any regrets. That he didn’t want the first time to be a passion filled night only.

So do you know what you want? asked the exasperated imp.

I don’t know. I just know that I want her to be happy. I want to see her smile all the time. I want to be the one to put that smile on her face. I want that first time to be the first time of the rest of our lives.

Her eyes were searching his. He turned away. ‘I should go. It’s late.’

Right on cue, his phone rang. It was Naniji. He put it on speaker so she could hear the conversation.

‘Yes, Nani.’

‘Chotey, where are you? You ran out so suddenly, and then no phone call, no nothing.’

‘No, Nani, it was an emergency. I had to attend to it.’

‘Has he eaten?’ he could hear his di in the background.

‘Yes, Nani. Tell Di I’ve eaten and eaten properly.’

‘You ate properly during an emergency?’ Nani was surprised.

A small smile played on Khushi’s lips. Nani was sharp. He put his arm around her and drew her close, planting a kiss on her forehead. She blushed. He was kissing her in front of Nani!

‘Yes .. I .. ah.. ‘ his lips were against her cheeks.

‘Is everything okay, Chotey?’, she tried to pull away but he held tight.

‘Ya, Nani, everything is fine now. I’ve taken care of the emergency’.

‘Well, that’s good, then.’

‘I .. ah… I’ll be back in a bit. You’ll don’t need to stay up for me.’

‘Okay, Chotey. Take care.’

He turned the phone off and put his other arm around her.

‘Will you be okay tonight?’

She nodded, ‘yes’.

He placed another soft kiss on her lips, picked up his jacket and left. But not before taking a last look at her standing in the center of the room, with her arms wrapped around her middle, her long hair mussed and the just kissed look to her lips. The imp sighed and he left.

****

Arnav sat alone in one of the conference rooms at AR Group. He had a sketch pad in front of him, and was totally immersed in his work, head bent, focused. Lavanya was just headed up the stairs when she spotted him there.

She knocked and walked in, ‘ASR? Wow! Are you designing something?’ when she spotted the sketchpad in front of him.

He looked up and gave a tiny nod. ‘Yah’.

‘Can I see?’ she held out a hand. ‘You haven’t designed in like, forever. What’s with the sudden inspiration?’

He hesitated and then handed it over to her. She raised her eyebrows when she saw what he had drawn. It was a wedding dress. The skirt was a midnight blue. The bottom edges were the raw glory of the morning sun. Sunrays shot upwards from this horizon. Moons, tiny crescent ones, were patterned in the middle of the skirt. From the waist downwards, a hundred stars showered downwards becoming fewer and fewer as they got to the moons. The blouse – or choli – had stars moving up from the midnight skies of the lower part of both the body and the short sleeves. The colors once more melded into the morning glory of the neckline. Tiny sunrays fingered their way to the bust. The veil was the deep red of sunset, and all it contained were stars. The faceless figure wore a single necklace – sunbursts with a ruby in the center. On its hair parting was a tikka – tiny crescent moons. And from her ears hung the stars of different sizes unevenly clustered near the collar bone – fewer on top and full at the bottom.

She looked at it and the dimples came out. ‘Wow ASR, you haven’t lost your touch. It’s magnificent! Tell me, is this for Payal?’ He shook his head. She smiled knowingly. ‘So what was the inspiration? Or should I ask WHO?’

He gave a short laugh. ‘No. I saw this necklace and somehow I wanted to make it into .. this!’ he waved his hand at the drawing in her hand.

‘It’s gorgeous, ASR. We should use this,’ but before she could go on, he gently took it out of her hands.

‘Nope. I was doing this just because. It’s not for the collection, Lavanya,’ he said.

Her face mirrored her disbelief as she raised an eyebrow and tried not to smirk at him – not very successfully.

‘What?’ he was getting irritated now.

‘Nothing, ASR. Nothing at all,’ she turned around and walked away. But not before he heard her snickering.

‘OMG, Akash!!’ she burst into Akash’s room.

‘What? Lavanya, what happened?’

‘Did you know ASR is designing a .. a… wedding dress?’ she was choking with laughter.

Akash was taken aback. Wow! This Khushi Kumari Gupta was really wrapping herself around his brother’s heart! But he didn’t say it. ‘Really?’

‘Come on, Akash. You have to tell me now. What happened in San Francisco?’

He pursed his lips and said, ‘I don’t know, Lavanya!’ But she could see from the barely contained smile that he knew more than he was letting on. ‘Fine,’ she said. ‘Be that way,’ before she walked away.

8 comments:

  1. hahahah Thank you Thank you .. for finally letting the cat out of the bag . knew i was over analysing .. Oh the passion was to drool over in this one .. superb .. & asr is love .. is really yummy ..

    once again waiting ....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh wow oh wow oh wow!!!!! meri saanse ruk gayi yaar!!!!

    & m so glad it wasn't another potential stalker but ASR himself!!!!

    & my darling imp was reading a newspaper.............so like ASR...;) I think he has more tricks up his sleeves......what say???

    ReplyDelete
  3. Loved cut!!!...exciting griping, enchanting... Look forward to more delicious reads!!!-Jhalak

    ReplyDelete
  4. I njoied Arnav here, using his Harvard brain, instinctive,,, much more than IPK-Jhalak

    ReplyDelete
  5. ASR in love. The feeling itself is great! I really loved the update! Awesome and thnks for the pm. Cannot wait for the update now. Awesome work!

    ReplyDelete
  6. awwww the mighty ASR, in love, and what does he do? he designs his lady love a wedding dress! you know what that is? that. is. perfect! sigh... thank you for the beautiful scene.. and thank you for having lavanya be a supercool employee about it. and the details in the dress.. the details in the kiss, the details in his emotions and actions when he decided that this was not to be one night stand in a hotel room-even if it was the maharani suite of Hotel Raizada!

    i've fallen in love with this chapter.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Totally beautiful, he remebered her perfume, the first sight of her. His first kiss where he didnt think or stratagise, but just her. How he kissed her scar... just beautiful. His brain may not have decided on marriage, butvhis heart and the imp are already planning her trousseau. Based on the one necklace, that he has already gifted her. Simlly beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Awesome chap... im so glad she shared with arnav...but i think arnav should have told her that he knew...
    oh he shared that he could smell her...haha
    oh arnav created a dress matching the necklace...wow
    haha la is having fun!

    ReplyDelete

Please leave a handle with your comments if you are commenting anonymously.. so that I can thank you, and PM you when I update.