A week after the entire incident saw Khushi in a completely different mode. She was deeply immersed in a conversation with some friends. They were sitting in the canteen, planning and making arrangements for the camp. Khushi was an active member of an association that participated in social service activities. Summer was the time of the year when one could see all types of activities happening in and around Nainital for various social causes. Khushi attended the blind kids summer camp every year as a volunteer although very few of her Delhi friends knew that. She acted as mentor to the new volunteers and guided them on how to help children who came to the camp for mental, physical and spiritual enjoyment. It seemed as if the planning was coming to a close as they all got up and shook hands with each other.
Khushi smiled at one of the guys and said, “I’m sure you’ll be very happy when we’re back and feel as if you’ve done something constructive this holiday. As you have already heard from others, it will be our job to ensure that the kids learn about their hidden, undeveloped talents and try to develop it. It is our job to actively help them develop self-confidence. Some of them are weak physically because they don’t get out much. We have to develop their physical vigour. You being a certified fitness teacher, I’m sure you’ll do a great job towards the last one.”
The guy smiled at her, a kind smile though sadness lurked in his eyes, “I hope to God I am able to be of help. I wish I had known of this earlier. I may have been able to help-“
“There is no point in looking back George. “What if” and “if only” don’t help us move on further in our lives. You’ve made the right choice by joining the summer camp this year as a volunteer. You’ll be amazed by how brave and smart these kids are. I’ll see you the day after tomorrow in the morning with 10 children. Be ready!” Khushi put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it lightly. She smiled and started walking. The guy who was standing within the circle, talking to another guy moved forward to walk along with her.
“So Khushi didi, as usual, Sat tal is the final destination, right? I should speak to Hari and make arrangements for the tents and he stay?”
“Yes Sayahm, please do. Tell Hari I’m looking forward to seeing him again. If you have any questions, call me at home, okay? I’m off home.” Khushi informed him and waved every one goodbye.
Arnav thought about Khushi while he sat in his office in New Delhi. Things had not gone as well as he’d expected during his visit to Nainital. Of course, he should’ve known that Khushi being the stubborn creature she was wouldn’t forgive him easily but he was ready to do anything to get back in her good books. He knew he would have to work hard towards gaining her trust but first, he would have to work out a plan so that he could spend more time with her.
He thrust a hand in his gelled hair, making it untidy as he sighed, loosened his tie and opened the first two buttons of his vest. He was restless and the only thing he wished for was to get back to Nainital; to get back to Khushi. His eyes were blood shot as if he hadn’t slept well in the last couple of days, which truthfully he had not.
Every time he tried to sleep, there were memories that kept coming back. Memories of how he had first fallen in love with Khushi, the time they had spent together and of the days before and after the engagement. Nightmares of Shyam molesting Khushi while he had stood aside blaming her haunted him. His remorse made his moods black every time he thought about it. How cruel he had been to her and how he had stupidly and carelessly thrown away the only thing in life that he had ever achieved for himself — Khushi and her love for him. He gritted his teeth and banged his hand on the table.
He had come back to Delhi the day after Mallika’s engagement due to work and meetings pressure. Now that he’d cleared his diary for the next fortnight, he had instructed his PA to hold back all the important decision making projects that would need his presence or signature by a month and delegated the semi-important projects to Aakash and the rest of his management team. He was now free to woo his love-Khushi.
A smile started at one corner of his mouth and slowly widened when he thought about his plans to stay in Nainital for a month. She wouldn’t be able to resist him, no she won’t. If he closed his eyes, he could still smell her hair, he could still taste her lips and – he opened his eyes and flinched. He could still see her eyes and the tears in them, the hurt that he had put there, the distrust. Pain stabbed at his heart. He had put that distrust, that pain and those tears in her eyes. He could still see the shock and hurt she felt the day he had told her he didn’t really love her. Of course, she should have seen it for the lie it was, but then they were riding on emotions that evening. He could forgive her for thinking ill of him when he had behaved like an absolute bastard that he was.
He shook his head to dispel these thoughts away. He would win her back; he would win her love back. In fact he was sure she loved him still, just as much as he loved her. Beneath all the hatred and fights, there was love that bloomed like rose in their hearts. He spoke regularly with Mrs Gupta senior and Payal to get information on how Khushi was faring in the last week. He had already found out that Khushi was going to be away camping for a week. It had come as a surprise to him that in the 9 months that he had known Khushi, he had not known of the volunteer work she carried out for several charities, including the one in Nainital. His Khushi certainly had a heart of gold.
The phone’s insistent ringing broke his thoughts. He picked it up and barked, “Yes?”
“Sir, your sister in on the line and insists she must speak to you immediately.” His PA informed him.
“Put her through.” Arnav smiled as he thought about his Anjali di. She was another gem of a woman that shone like a beacon of love in his life. Anjali was a double major in English and history and currently engaged to her long-time boyfriend Dean. They both worked together in Royal Holloway, University of London as professors. Anjali taught history while Dean worked with the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures & Cultures.
“Chhotte!?” Anjali’s calm voice penetrated Arnav’s surroundings while he put it on speaker. A smile lit his face at hearing the voice of his beloved sister.
“Hi Di. How’s it going?”
“All is well here Chhotte. How are you? You sound exhausted.”
“Di, I’m fine. Had a lot of work to finish before I –“
“Did you meet Khushi Chhotte? You told me the last time we spoke that you knew of her whereabouts now and planned to meet her.”
Arnav sighed over the phone, “Yeah Di, I did. I met her.”
“And- Do I have to extract it out of you? What happened? Did she speak to you? Did you try to explain your side of the story? Not that she’d forgive you that easily but –“
“How you do love your pound of flesh!”
“Arnav Singh Raizada, mind your manners!”
“Sorry di, but yes, you’re right. She says she can’t forgive and forget what happened. She refuses to see me anymore or speak to me anymore Di.”
“Chhotte. I’m sorry to hear that. Really. But you’re not going to quit persuading her, are you? You – you love her Chhotte?”
Arnav closed his eyes as he placed his head gently on the table. He couldn’t seem to hide his feelings for Khushi from Anjali. “Yes Di. I feel very strongly for her. I am not going to let her go.”
Anjali smiled at the other end. “Sacche pyaar ki raah hamesha se mushkil rahi hain Arnav. Uspar chalna sabke bas ki baat nahi hain. (The path to true love is not easy Arnav. Not everyone can walk this path.) You have be willing to leave your ego aside and do whatever it is that your love wants you to do. Are you ready to go through it?”
Arnav rolled his eyes. Anjali di and her dramatic dialogues! “I don’t know about all that Di. All I know is that I am not going to let her go. I was a fool to ever have doubted her and I’m going to do everything it takes to make things right between us.”
“My blessings are with you my brother. Dean wants to talk to you. Hang on.”
A man’s voice came over the phone. His voice sounded deep and husky as he spoke over the phone to Arnav, “Hi Arnie, how are things shaping up up in yoga land? Anjali tells me you’re trying to convince Khushi to forgive you. Is that right?”
Dean Winchester was probably the only man on this planet that Arnav was comfortable with. Dean was older to Arnav by five years but they shared an amazing rapport. With Dean he joked, laughed and had even shared some fun times as a playboy. Though Dean was into academics, he was gorgeous and totally fun, not like the stuck up prigs geeks normally were. They were long –time friends and when Dean fell in love with Anjali, Arnav was only too happy to accept Dean into his family. Dean could hear the smile in Arnav’s voice when he said, “Yeah, if she’ll have me back again.”
Dean laughed, “I owe you the biggest “I told you so” dude.”
Arnav laughed too. “Too right but I’m going to make sure she falls for my charm this time around again. I’m not going to lose her Dean. I can’t.” He picked up the bottle of water kept on his desk and took a gulp.
“I sure hope you’re telling me the truth. I mean if she ever doubts your word, tell her I sent her a message. Tell her I said, “He’s really sorry sweetheart and means it when he says sorry. He’s got more conscience any day than I did before Anjali. I mean as a young punk, he felt guilty searching the Internet for porn.”
“Dude!” Arnav choked on water, only to hear Dean laugh and say, “Here’s Anjali again. You take care. Cheers!”
Anjali came back on the phone. “What’s he laughing about? Anyway, we are planning to go out this evening so I need to get ready. You take care, okay? Eat on time and don’t moon around.” Anjali said while a man’s voice in the background asked her to hurry up.
“Say Hi to Dean from me di. You guys enjoy the evening. I’ll take care of myself. Tomorrow am going to Nainital for a fortnight. Hopefully I’ll have something good to tell you the next time. ”
Arnav hung up after exchanging good byes, a smile stuck on his face. He felt refreshed after talking to Dean and his di. He was ready to get, set and go.
The evening before Khushi was supposed to leave for the camp in the morning saw her walking Sophie in the garden. The weather had turned especially chilly this evening and Khushi kept on rubbing her hands over her arms to warm herself. She was simply loitering with no agenda of the next morning in her mind. Instead her mind was occupied with the only man who – well, the only man who had ever made a place in her thoughts was Arnav. Much as she hated to admit to herself, she couldn’t help but remember him. His kiss had brought back memories of their time together, the day when she accidentally bumped into him at the National Gallery of Modern Art on Dr. Zakhir Hussain Road in New Delhi.
My original intention had been to include flashback history of Arnav-Khushi and the summer camp happenings, however when I started writing the chapter, things changed.
Due to the fact that I needed to give Anjali her space in the storyline, this chapter has been kept short. Couldn’t help but add one of my other favourite characters of the TV world. 😛 Trust you enjoyed this part of the story. Chapter 11 comes tomorrow with sole focus on Khushi and Arnav.