He drove home as fast as he could. His own words ringing in his ears. 'I wish I had never met you!' ' I wish you had never come into my life'. Swallowing hard, he tried to cut through the traffic, but it was moving too slowly for him. In front of his eyes, he could see Khushi falling off that cliff. The moments when she wouldn't breathe. Her in the white sari, no it was the blue salwar, no the white sari. The fireflies. The bangles. She loved bangles. Maybe he should get some bangles.
But he knew that bangles wouldn't help him tonight. What he had done was beyond a simple gift. What had he DONE? He groaned in despair. Finally the gates of Raizada mansion came into view. He squealed to a stop in front of the house, running up the stairs and through the door. And stopped.
It was mostly dark, just some light coming from the puja room. He took a deep breath and started on the long walk to his room. Running through his mind were all the scenarios that could happen. But there was only one that he kept pushing away, avoiding it with growing dread.
The room was dark. He pushed open the door, and entered. None of the lights were on. He closed his eyes. His worst nightmare was coming true. She was gone.
She sat in the temple alone. The family had gone to bed, but she knew Arnav was not home yet. She had cried at first. Deep silent sobs wrenching through her throat, but silently. The agony in her was refusing to go away. After a long time, she calmed down. She looked at the Goddess ' impassive in stone and understood that this was the price she would have to pay for Arnav's life. She had asked for his life and safety ' and her life was not part of the equation. That's why she had not died. That wasn't what the Goddess had wanted from her. Now was the time that she paid her dues. She had to live with his regret. But she wasn't going to let him do that to her again. No more. No more tears. She sat lost in thought for a long time. At some point she heard the front door open. She knew what she wanted now.
He couldn't blame her. Guilt was rushing through him in torrents. He switched on the lights and looked around, suddenly hating the bare look of the room without the stars and lights and thewind chime and even missing that Salman Khan poster. Almost fearfully he opened the closet. All her brightly coloured clothes hung neatly. The relief was overwhelming.
She hadn't gone!
He let out the breath that he had unconsciously been holding. In the truest sense, he had stopped breathing, and his heart was still beating ' slow, long heavy thuds. He made his way to the pool. There was no one there. This was their own private haven. This was where he'd finally admitted to her what he felt ' although he doubted she'd remember it. She had been so drunk. He gave a small wan smile at the memory. This was where he'd almost kissed her and finally stolen that little kiss on her cheek. The memories were flooding back now. The kiss on his cheek. Her payal in his hands, her hand on his shoulder.
There was a hand on his shoulder a second after he heard the tinkle of her payals. He whirled around. She stood in front of him looking searchingly into his haggard face, the scar still livid on his cheek. She wore no jewelry, except her mangalsutra. There were no traces of tears on her face, it was clean and scrubbed, not even the little kajal she normally wore.
'What are you doing here?' she asked. There was only curiosity in her voice.
He looked into her eyes trying to fathom them. For the first time, he couldn't read them. A cold hand clutched his heart.
'Khushi,' he cleared his throat. 'Khushi ' I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. I never meant to say those things.' He looked for a sign, anything, in her face. She just continued to look at him curiously a little frown on her face. 'I didn't mean any of it. Khushi,' he didn't know what to say.
She stayed quiet for a moment and then she said, 'You always say that. You think saying sorry will make everything go away?' her voice was even with no shred of emotion in it. 'Every time, you say something and every time you say sorry. I know you didn't mean it, Arnav', no 'ji at the end of his name, he noticed. 'I know how worried you are about your di, but that '.' She stopped.
'But what?'' he asked, suddenly wanting to know what the end of that sentence would mean.
She looked down, thoughtfully, and then looked up at him. 'I can't leave till the six months are up. And I will. But in the meantime, I will have to stay here because I have nowhere else to go. I have no money and I can't be a burden to my buaji again. I will stay because I need a place to stay for now.'
She paused and then continued., 'So that I can find way of supporting myself when I leave here.'
Every word she said came completely out of the left field for him. 'I understand you need to be with your di. She is your only priority', he noted the 'only'. 'So you have to look after her. She needs time and you, to get well.'
'Khushi, stop. Stop this. Now. Please.' His voice broke. She looked at his tear-filled eyes, but her own remained dry, her face impassive. He clutched her upper arms, trying to draw her closer. She didn't try to get away. Just looked at his dark fingers against her milky white skin.
He dropped his hands. She picked up the pillow and blanket from the bed and went towards the pool. 'Khushi, what are you doing?'
'Arnav, I am only doing what I should do.'
For a moment, she paused, then looked at him over her shoulder. And finally he read it in her eyes. Pity. Pity for him, Arnav Singh Raizada. 'I'm sorry, Arnav,' she said softly. 'I'm so sorry for you.'
He understood. He'd finally broken her ' his Khushi Kumari Gupta no more Singh Raizada.