Sunday, August 26, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 24

Arnav and Khushi arrived at Raizada Mansion and he helped her out of the car. They walked up to the door together, a slight awkwardness between them. They would be living in the same house for the next few weeks, in front of family and friends, under the same roof. They’d meet for meals, and conversations. The imp grinned slyly - but no ‘us’ time, dude! He turned away.

He fidgeted a bit, as they waited for the door to open.

‘Ummm...’ She looked at him expectantly. He took a deep breath and tried again. ‘I’ll have to go out after lunch. Got some work. I’ll be away all afternoon. Will you be okay?’

She nodded her head, just as the door swung open. Hari, the servant looked at them expectantly.

‘Hari, Khushi’s bags are in the car. Put them in the guest room,’ he instructed, before he strode in ahead of Khushi. Anjali was waiting for them in the lounge.

‘Khushi!’ she exclaimed, with a genuinely happy smile. ‘I’m so glad you’ll be staying with us now. Finally, Chotey has made the correct decision.’

He raised his left eyebrow questioningly. Really, di?

Nani joined them and they all moved to the dining room for lunch. Khushi sat across from him, looking everywhere but at him, conscious of his eyes on her every now and then. Anjali watched with amusement in her eyes, their constant eye contact not lost on her. Nani looked at her with raised eyebrows and she gave a slight nod. Yes. These two definitely had something going on.

‘Di, I have to go out for a bit,’ Arnav said. ‘I’ll be back late,’ his gaze flicked to Khushi who had her head bent studiously studying her plate. Feeling a little irritated, he stood up and walked away, slamming the door shut on his way out. Khushi jumped at the sound.

Nani reached out and touched her hand. ‘Don’t worry, Khushi, dear,’ she smiled reassuringly. ‘Chotey is always like this - surly, grumpy... but he has a heart of gold.’

Khushi smiled back, her tension a little reduced by the gentleness that she saw in the wise eyes.

Arnav pulled up at the sleek glass and concrete building that housed his offices. Once in his office, he pulled out the files he would need for the afternoon’s meeting. ‘Aman!’ he called. His personal whipping boy, Aman showed up, apprehension written all over his face. For a moment he stared at him and then started giving him rapid fire directions!

At about two in the afternoon, his next appointment arrived. The fashion show to launch the Madrid-Raizada line would need models. There was no one better than Gauri Virdi in the world of modeling. She had only top models in her stable and they stayed there because she was the best at what she did.

Arnav stood up as she walked into his cubicle, her high heels adding inches to her height. Her hair was pulled back into a severe French knot on the back of her head, and a sleek business suit showed off her long, toned legs and torso. She held out her hand, and he shook it, surprised as how much strength there were in a pair of ultr-feminine hands. The nails were cut short, french-manicured with a clear coating. He waited till she sat down before sitting down himself.

He was aware that she was looking at him much like a cat that looks at a bowl of cream. He was used to women looking at him that way, and it didn’t affect him. The imp smiled. Yah. There’s only one person who could look at you like that, eh, lad? He closed his eyes to get rid of the imp.

Their discussion lasted about an hour, going meticulously over each and every profile that she had brought. It was a good meeting. Arnav was glad he was getting what he wanted. Gauri was a shrewd business woman, and knew that having her girls associated with this brand would probably launch a few of them into the international arena. This was good for her business, too.

Finally, she leaned back in her chair and said, ‘So ASR, tell me. What’s going on with this Khushi girl?’

His head had been bent studying some papers on his desk, so she couldn’t read his expression. He went still and then looked up, his face schooled into the blank mask he wore at business meetings. A mask with opaque eyes and expressionless features.

‘Khushi? You mean Ms.Gupta, right? She’s Sergio’s associate,’ his tones were clipped, the voice even and devoid of any nuances. She smiled at him. He continued looking at her blankly.

‘Ah! Yes. Of course,’ she said. ‘I should be going.’ She stood up.

He nodded and walked over to the door, holding it open till she walked out. If she’d looked over her shoulder she would have seen the little vein ticking in his forehead, and the clenched jaw muscles. ASR did not like having his personal life questioned by acquaintances. Personal life now, is she? the imp smirked. He reached out to grab it by the throat.

***

He didn’t get home until after dinner. Di, Khushi and Nani were sitting chatting in the lounge, while he could hear the TV running in the next room, obviously his brother and uncle were watching the news. He barely greeted them, not stopping till he’d reached his room. For some reason, he felt out of sorts. A quick shower and change into a pair of cargo pants with a full-sleeved tee, before he headed downstairs again.

There was nobody there. ‘Hari!’ he called. The servant came running out from the nether regions of the house. ‘Dinner, please,’ he said, heading to the dining area.

‘I’ll have it ready for you in five minutes, sir,’ Hari ran to do the master’s bidding.

Khushi had been sitting in her room, staring at her open laptop. She was a little surprised that he’d barely spoken to any of them on his way in. What was wrong with him? Was he always like this? She jumped as she heard him call Hari in an irritated tone. For a minute she sat there, wondering if she should venture out. Then she did.

He was sitting alone at the dining table. Most of the lights in the larger living areas had been killed. He was leaning back against the chair, eyes closed, his face showing lines of fatigue in the harsh light above his head. She could hear Hari in the kitchen doing something, getting his dinner? Her heart did a strange flip-flop at the sight. There was a loneliness in him that reached out to her. She wanted to run her fingers on his forehead and wipe out those lines. She wasn’t even aware that she’d started moving towards the dining area until he straightened up and looked right at her.

He watched her coming towards him. She was dressed in a simple white salwar suit, her long, loose hair stirred gently by an errant waft of breeze, around a make-up free face. A vision for his tired brain. A small smile tugged at his lips as he saw the hesitation in her steps.

‘Hi,’ her voice was soft.

‘Hi,’ he replied back. He watched as she seated herself at the table next to him. Hari came in from the kitchen, bowls and a container of puris balanced on a tray in his hands. She reached out and poured Arnav a glass of water. He watched her in silence. Hari set down the tray and she pulled it towards herself, overturning his plate for him.

He was bemused watching this side of her, this domestic side of her. Feels good, doesn’t it? said the imp. She serving you dinner? For once, he had nothing to say to the imp.

‘Thanks,’ he said to her instead.

‘At home, Ma never allows us to eat alone,’ she said, putting food on his plate. ‘She says its not good for your digestion.’ Hari departed silently seeing how Khushi madam was taking care of the head of the family. She smiled at Arnav. He smiled back and began eating.

They continued with small talk as he ate. He told her of his day’s work. She told him about the shopping spree his sister wanted to go on. He didn’t know what he ate, but whatever he put in his mouth seemed to taste better than ever before. They discussed about the upcoming fashion show. All things and nothing at once.

Finally, he was done. ‘Khushi, why didn’t you go to bed, yet?’ he asked.

‘Well, the family gets in today, and I was hoping to go to the airport and meet with them,’ she said a little hesitantly.

He looked at her, his brows coming together in a frown. ‘Khushi, their flight gets in at one in the morning. Just how were you planning on going to the airport?’

‘Taxi, of course,’ she said.

‘Taxi.’ He breathed in deeply, a slow simmering anger rising in him. ‘You’re going to take a taxi at this hour to go to the airport?’ he bit out.

She was startled at the anger in his eyes.

‘Yes... ‘, she stammered out.

‘Khushi, this isn’t America. This is India. Girls don’t wander around at one in the morning, in a TAXI.’

‘I’m not’ air quotes ‘wandering around’, air quotes , ‘Arnav,’ her temper was starting to flare too. ‘I’m going to the airport to meet my parents’.

‘No, you’re not. I’ve arranged for the cars to pick them up. You can meet them in the morning.’

‘Oooh!! who’re YOU to tell me what I should be doing and where I should be going?’

‘Have you forgotten WHY you’re here? in this house?’ They were both standing up now nose-to-nose, their voices hadn’t raised, but the anger between them palpable to anyone who would’ve seen them. They both stared at each other, neither willing to back down.

‘No I haven’t’, she said, ‘but I’m not gonna let some stupid .....asshole... ruin my life’. 

‘They already tried once, Khushi. They know you’re here. I’m just trying to take care of you.’

‘Who asked you to? Who gave you the right to tell me what to do?’

There was dead silence. She breathed out loudly, knowing she had gone too far.

‘You. Are. Not. Going. To. The. Airport,’ he bit out. ‘And that’s final!’

She turned and stomped away to her room, wiping away the angry tears from her eyes. What a jerk! she thought.

He watched her go, his fists balling in frustration. Why does she have to be so goddam stubborn? he thought. I hope she doesn’t plan on still going to the airport. He sighed, the anger draining out of him. He headed back to his room.

It was almost 12 am, he lay in bed, unable to sleep. Dammit! He thought. It had been so good to see her when he got home. But she had to go and... he shook his head. Finally, he sat up and picked up his phone.

She was still wide awake, laying in her bed, still fuming. She heard the whooshing sound of an incoming text. She picked up the phone and looked at it. Arnav. ‘Be ready in 5 mins. Meet me in hall’. A small reluctant smile crept across her lips. Evidently, this was Arnav Singh Raizada’s attempt to apologize!

They entered the hall together and for a moment just looked at each other. He was still dressed in his casual clothes, but she’d changed into a pair of blue jeans and a red tee-shirt! Her hair was still loose. Unconsciously, the corner of his lip went up as he walked towards her. As he came close, he smelled it again. D&G! He understood and accepted the apology.

‘Shall we?’ he said, dangling the keys in front of her eyes. Eyes dancing, she nodded. They headed out the door together.

***

6 comments:

  1. U know this is called lessening the pace .. every story requires it .. Gautam & goddess Gul shud read this .. the pace slackened here .. the passion was left to simmer .. but the chapter left a mark .. each word drew u in .. SUPERB Madhu ..

    it was a restful write up .. but to the mark .. & what a lovely way to made them move forward in the relation .. & i see a new ENTRY to .. am i making the right guess ??

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  2. Good one Madhu!!!!

    My imp is getting more screen space & dialogues......m a good negotiator no.....;)

    Arnav & Khushi.....a step forward in their new relationship......loving it!!!

    Phew.......this lady business colleague of ASR......

    Payal.

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  3. Why do I feel this Gauri Virdi is the Rani Sahiba...

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  4. awww (shucks. cannot rein it in.)

    his apology, her apology.. thats adooorable! oh i wanna hug you right now. i cannot know how you mix up a knife-edge thriller with a candyfloss romance.... that does not feel too sweet, I love how arnav is not a simpering bitwa, but a strong man who found his perfect aashiyana.

    and i love that the private moments between them are PRIVATE.. not even nani or anjali can pin anything on them. i feel that akash was privileged to witness that kiss at the airport.. and somehow, akash has given it the respect it deserved. middle of the night, behind closed doors, on a long drive alone... that is just perfect for the type of person ASR is..

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  5. Yep this Virdi woman has to be Rani Sahiba, sfter all how does she know about Khushi?
    I loved her getting up keep him company , whilst he was eating.. I think the imp thought so too!

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  6. i dont like that Rani sahiba and arnav working together..
    aww arshi are cute together!

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