The week was slipping by too quickly for Khushi. She tried to think about what Arnav had said, but somehow first of her two days slipped by quickly. On the third night, Khushi put her kids to sleep and sat thinking, outside on the verandah of her house. The same questions that had plagued her since the day Arnav had gone came back to her again. After a while, she went into the living room and sat down on the sofa.
Was she being unfair to her own children? In trying to find justice for a boy, had she been the cause of injustice to others? Had she hurt people she’d loved the most- Arnav, Naniji and her own parents? Had she taken a wrong step all those years ago?
She was so confused. Arnav wanted her back, but when she asked about Aparna, he wouldn’t say anything about her. The least he could do was tell her what happened to her, and his son. Had she- No, she shook her head. She still didn’t think that she’d misjudged the situation then. She knew she had to leave.
Perhaps it had been wrong of her to not have told Arnav about their sons, but she had a valid reason, didn’t she? Now that he knew of their existence and wanted to be with them, would it be right of her to keep them apart? And if she – she shuddered as she thought of it- if she let her sons live with him, go with him- would she be able to keep her distance from him, knowing he belonged to someone else in her mind? It didn’t matter what he said, what their marriage certificate said. What had mattered to Khushi, still did in fact was that Arnav had another son, and had been claimed by another woman long before she’d ever even known him. These thoughts went round and round in her head, until she fell asleep right there on the sofa.
Next morning, she woke up with a crick in her neck. Realising where she’d slept, she groaned out loud. Still yawning, she went to her door and opened it to get the newspaper lying outside.
As she took the paper inside, she glanced at the headline on the front page. The newspaper fluttered from her hand and fell on the floor, as shock took hold of her body. Right on the front page was a picture of Arnav, attending an Iftar party with a couple of leading politicians. Along with him was his son, Vishal. The headline screamed, “Tycoon ASR announces the return of his wife and sons.” As if in a trance, she picked up the paper and started reading it, absently going into her room and brushing her teeth.
The newspaper spoke briefly about the party, politicians from various political sections attending the party with details followed on the next page. Khushi turned to the next page which went on about businessmen attending the party, in particular Arnav Singh Raizada, who was said to be close to the upcoming and leading politician, who was in line for the post of the Prime Minister of the country.
It said that upon being questioned about the young man who accompanied him, Arnav had formally and finally introduced the press to his adopted son, twelve year old Vishal Singh Raizada. Vishal had been suffering from walking disability some years ago, but he had bravely overcome it.
The writer reminded his readers about how five years back, media had widely reported about Arnav Singh Raizada’s separation from his much loved wife due to reasons still unknown, and addition of an adopted son in his life. The reason for separation was rumoured to be the boy who had been adopted by ASR. It had also been said that he was in fact ASR’s illegitimate son, born to his ex-girlfriend; a claim which Arnav had vehemently refuted. Mr. Raizada had opted out of personal functions and Page 3 parties, attending charities and other political for business functions only. Mrs. Arnav Singh Raizada’s whereabouts are still unknown to public at large.
Tonight ASR had smilingly volunteered the information that soon his estrangement with his wife would come to an end. Not only that, he mentioned that he had two sons from his wife and nothing more would please him than to have all three sons by his side. However he gave his usual “no comment” reply on the whereabouts of his adopted son’s mother. His son added to his announcement by saying that both father and son were happy with this new development. He furthermore added that he remembered Mrs. Raizada well and looked forward to calling her Mum soon.
The article ended with a note, that the reporter had no doubt that even after all these years, Arnav Singh Raizada carried a torch for his long separated wife.
“How dared he!!! He had no right to announce this while I’m still thinking about it!! Arnav Singh Raizada, you stupid, dictatorial Laad Governer! Wait till I get my hands around your neck. I’ll squeeze the life out of you!” Khushi swore loudly as she got ready for her shower. “I hate that man! I’m going to teach him a lesson. Soon be joining be damned!”
Her anger had not dissipated even after she’d sent children to school and started preparing sweets for the day’s business. Her thoughts were focused for some time on the piece of information she’d read in the newspaper, about Arrnav adopting Vishal as his legitimate son. Khushi was happy about it, even though a little mystified about Aparna’s whereabouts and Arnav’s refusal to accept Vishal as his real son, even though illegitimate. A part of her mind tried to process this information, but it was the other part which had her total attention- the part which was still outraged, that Arnav had declared that they were back together again.
She was making jalebis when her phone beeped. Khushi looked at her phone and her anger boiled over. It was an SMS from Arnav saying, “Trust you’ve reached to the right decision. See you in four days. “
Khushi’s eyes misted red as she read the message once again. Without a second’s hesitation, she deleted it and called up her lawyer, asking him to draw the divorce papers and send it to her husband’s residence. That would teach him a lesson!
By afternoon, Khushi had received news from her lawyer. He had drawn the divorce papers and sent it across to ASR’s residence; Raizada House. Arnav would be served papers by tomorrow morning. Khushi thanked her lawyer and continued to work.
By late evening, she was a mass of nerves. She went to the park with the children, played with them, gave them dinner and put them off to sleep. Her anger had cooled down sufficiently now to make her nervous, as she thought of Arnav’s reaction after seeing the papers. She had no idea what she would do if he filed for the custody of children. She had not enough money to fight him. Maybe she’d been too hasty in her anger, but – she justified in her head- she had also been right. He had been trying to force her to do his bidding. He had tried to twist her hand by that announcement to the press. Khushi Kumari Gupta would never be dictated by anyone! She would make sure that the children would never be harmed due to any of her actions- or his. She went to sleep, reassuring herself again and again.
“KHUSHI SINGH RAIZADA!!” Arnav’s bellow reached her ears before the doors burst open with a loud crack and an angry Arnav strode in to her house the next afternoon.
Khushi gasped as she saw Arnav striding towards her, murder in his eyes. She was in the shop, setting things to right, having served the last of her customers before lunch. His eyes gleamed with rage, so much so that Khushi wanted to run as far away from him as possible at that moment. But of course, her pride wouldn’t allow her that. So she clutched the pallu of her yellow sari, trying to gather her courage, as she stood her ground.
Arnav reached her in a few steps and took hold of her shoulders. He was so angry he could throttle her!!! As it was, he shook her hard as he roared, “How dare you send me those vile divorce papers!!”
Khushi’s head swam as he shook her. She stammered, “A-Arnav, I-“
She never got a chance to say anything as she was picked up in his arms and on his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried into the living room, up the stairs and into her bedroom. She squeaked in outrage as he tossed her down on the bed, and stood over her.
“Enough of this nonsense! I thought if I gave you enough time, you’d come to your senses. But no– Khushi Singh Raizada has no sense whatsoever! Even after I explicitly told you that I’ll never divorce you, you send me the divorce papers! Pack your bags. I’ve had it with you. You and the children are coming back with me right now!”
“If you think your bellowing like this and ordering me about is going to change my decision in any way, you’re mistaken Arnav Singh Raizada!” Khushi spat back, very angry at him now. She continued, “How dare you come round here and start dictating me as if I was a subordinate of yours! I’m a person in my own right, an intelligent person at that. I can take my own decisions and if I feel I don’t want to come back with you, I won’t!”
“Oh yes you would, you headstrong fool of a woman!” Arnav said in a tight voice, his eyes gleaming with an unholy look, “Unless you want us to fight for our sons’ custody? I will make sure I win Khushi, and I’ll also make sure you never get to see them again- ever!”
“You wouldn’t! “ Khushi gasped at his cruelty.
“I would and you know it. I thought giving you time would make you realize that I’m not such a bad bet. But did you even think about coming back?” Arnav bit out.
Khushi looked away from him and sighed. Then she looked at him again and said calmly, “Yes I did. I thought about it and was – had almost reached the decision that we could get back together again.” Her eyes lost their softness and became hard as she added, “And then I saw the newspaper.”
Arnav became still as she said that. Khushi continued, trying to keep emotion out of her voice, “ I saw the picture of you and Vishal. I’m glad he’s able to walk now.”
“And?” Arnav waited, sitting down by the edge of the bed.
Khushi’s eyes flashed, “You had no right to announce to the world that we were coming back together again, especially since I had yet to say yes! How could you!”
“And so you sent me the divorce papers to challenge my announcement.” Arnav thought out loud. Khushi shook her head, trying to not shed any tears at the hurt she still felt at Aparna’s announcement about Vishal and her relationship with Arnav.
“I’m happy for Vishal and convinced that he can be a good son to you. Why you feel the need to hide his parentage has nothing to do with me. It is between you and Aparna of course, but I think it is time you did the right thing and married her. All those years back, I-I had already given you guys my blessings when I left.”
“So you deliberately left me and decided to raise our sons by yourself. You didn’t give a chance to our relationship.” Arnav’s statement, said in a deceptively soft voice belied the seething rage he was in. He looked at Khushi.
Khushi quaked with fear inside but put up a brave front. She gave him a calm look and her voice was just as controlled and quiet as she said, “I thought it was for the best. You already have a son so you definitely don’t need mine. I thought the divorce papers would have made things easier for you; easier to marry your long lost lover and adopt your son. I thought-“
“You thought wrong. You knew I loved you, yet you left me behind with some woman and her son. You broke my heart. You never asked me about her, just took it for granted that since I and Aparna were together before, we had to be again. You did not once ask me what I wanted. ”
Arnav’s voice was icy as if he was near the edge of a precipice. He spoke through gritted teeth, his anger evident,” Not satisfied with that, you took four years of my sons’ lives from me. You shall pay for it Khushi Singh Raizada; starting now.”
Before Khushi could make a coherent reply or even guess what he would do, he pulled her towards him, in his arms and kissed her. When he let her go, Khushi could barely contain her body. Her mind was clouded with want, her body screaming at her to be one with him. Her mind struggled as she became divided between her love for him and her own decision.
Arnav took deep breaths to control his breathing. He held her close to his chest as he said, “Make arrangements. Close your business and your house. You and our sons are coming home with me.”
“I won’t.” Khushi replied, pushing him away and like a child shaking her head, bringing her knees close to her chest and laying her head on them.
Arnav shifted close to where she was sitting on the bed. She looked up at him, startled. He bend close to her face and said, “I will not leave you alone anymore Khushi Singh Raizada.”
Khushi shivered as she felt his breath on her face. She cursed inwardly. Now was not the time to feel the desire. If only her body would listen!
As if Arnav couldn’t help himself, he caught her hair tied into a plait in his hand and brought her mouth close to his. Khushi’s breath hitched in her throat, the pulse at the base of her throat throbbing visibly. She tried to avert her head but Arnav pulled it back with her hair in his hand, bringing tears to her eyes. She cried out,
“Why don’t you marry Aparna and end this all!”
“I can’t. I am married to you.” Arnav spoke softly, a smirk on his face, still holding her hair and keeping her head close to his. He so badly wanted to kiss those juicy lips again, but he had to bide his time. The mention of Aparna helped calm down his libido and focus on the matter at hand. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt her if she knew a bit of the truth- thought he.
“I told you, I can free you. Y-you should do that for Vishal.” Khushi’s voice had almost turned to a whisper now that Arnav’s mouth was so close to hers. She had to force herself to keep on talking of Aparna, keep herself away from temptation of placing her lips over his. Her lips felt dry and on fire. He was looking down at her lips and she couldn’t help as she licked them, and then quickly put her tongue back in her mouth as she saw his hunger flaring. She looked down and closed her eyes to avoid his gaze, trying to stay calm. “I-I c-can free you to be with Aparna and Vishal.”
Arnav tipped her chin up and brought his lips closer to hers, whispering against them, “Listen to me wife because I will keep on repeating until you get it through your thick head. I have only ever loved you, still do. You’re stupid and downright blind at times but I still do love you. And I know you love me too. ” Before she could object, Arnav kissed swiftly and got up, saying,
“You’re intelligent enough to know that when things seem confusing, there’s another side of the truth hiding from you.”
Khushi looked at him quizzically and he sighed, ” Pack your bags while I see to the children. And while you’re doing that, start joining the dots Khushi. You’re going to regret the day you left me once you have reached the final truth. When you do learn the truth, I want you to also learn to trust me and listen to me before you become a martyr ever again. For now, I can only tell you that neither Vishal nor I want Aparna with us. We only want you. Come back to us.”