Khushi woke up in the morning and stretched herself with a smile on her face. The smile disappeared though the moment she realized where she was. She was in the drawing room, sleeping on the sofa. It took only a second for previous evening’s events to come back to her and she sat stiff on the sofa, wondering what would happen the next. What would she do if – heaven forbid- she found out that Arnav was serious about keeping the kids with him? Why was he doing this? What-
“I see you’re back to deep thinking. I missed you in bed.” The mocking drawl brought Khushi up short from her musings. Her heart gave a lurch as she saw Arnav standing on the stairs, his hair ruffled. Above his trousers, he was bare chested and looking as sexy as a handsome man could in the morning.
“Where can a man find spare towel in this house?” He asked coming to stand close to the sofa. Khushi scrambled on to her feet. Belatedly she realized that was a mistake, since now Arnav was very close to her, standing a mere inches away. Stammer took hold of her tongue as she said, “Y-y-you can find it in the cupboard below the stairs. I must rush, I need to wake the kids and get them ready for school.”
“School?” Arnav raised puzzled eyes from her body to her face.
Khushi’s face flamed at his blatant eye wandering but she kept her wits about her this time. She said, “They both are in play school right now. They will be in a proper primary school the next year.”
Saying so, she almost ran away from him, scared and at the same time annoyed with herself for being scared. Truth be told, she wasn’t scared of him, never had been much, but she was most certainly scared of her own reactions to him. Last evening had proved to her already how weak she was where Arnav was concerned. She couldn’t let him roughshod over her- not at any cost! Her life was set here, with her sons and he was not a part of it. A sadness welled in her at this thought but she fought it away with grim determination. Yes, he had no part in their lives. He had a son and long lost love with him and they were his life, not she and her sons.
She kept on chanting this thought in her mind, deliberately hurting herself inside as she got her sons ready. No body looking at her getting her sons ready for school could say that she was not cheerful.
She packed the lunch boxes into their bags and filled their water bottles, looking disheveled. Although the day was only beginning, she felt as if she’d been up for hours and yet, she had been neat an hour back, when she’d bathed and dressed. But that’s what happens when you run behind kids, thought she with a smile. As Aayush tried to ruffle his hair, Khushi automatically reached down and smoothed his hair back into position. He groaned and glared at her but didn’t say anything and Khushi smiled wide. “Okay now, you’re sure you’ve got everything needed for today?”
“Sure Mommy!” Cried both
“How sure?” Khushi raised her eyebrows and asked naughtily. This was their daily routine and they all loved it.
“Two thousand times sure.” They replied back, grinning.
Khushi gave them both a smacking kiss on their cheeks and said, “Alright, time to scram. Go, go, go!”
Both the kids rushed out as Savita hollered from outside. It was her turn today to take her daughter and Khushi’s sons to playschool. But something weird happened then, that Khushi had not expected.
They turned back, and looked around. Khushi looked at them, puzzled. And then, she felt Arnav behind her. She turned to look at him, her breath nearly catching in her throat. Arnav had just taken a shower and had a towel round his waist. Save that, he was all man in his glory; water clinging at places on his body and his hair. A wave of desire rose inside Khushi but she stemmed it immediately, knowing if Arnav saw it, he’d take his chance.
Arnav came to stand beside her. In an instant, the kids came to him. Aarush was a little slow but Ayush had no such doubts. He flung himself in Arnav’s arms as Arnav bent to hold him. A hug and a kiss was given to Ayush and then, not wanting to be left out, Aarush also came forward to be hugged and kissed. Arnav ruffled their hair and said, “Get going dudes. See you later!”
Aarush looked at him intently, “You’ll be here? You won’t go away?”
Aranv nodded his head and said, “Yes, I’ll be here.”
“Good. I want to show you my books when I come back.” Said Aarush and then they both went off.
To say that Khushi was astounded was an understatement. Her sons were so much like him, and them together like this—it made Khushi very emotional; emotional and scared. She had almost cried when Arnav had hugged Ayush and Aarush with love. No one could doubt his love for them or their acceptance of him; and yet they’d only met yesterday evening. She knew Aarush was still hesitant but Ayush – he had accepted his father in his life completely. Oh, to be a child and accept everyone unconditionally!
It scared Khushi; this feeling. Feeling wary of his next move, she moved a little away from him. As it was, she could smell the spicy notes of his aftershave; she knew he preferred The One from D&G. She remembered the time when he’d put it on and smile his shark smile. She loved kissing him after he’d put it on; loving the scent of it on him and then rubbing on to her. They’d always ended up in bed. She gulped and tried to not stare but couldn’t help herself.
“I’m your husband Khushi. It is your right to look at my body and covet every inch of it, but when you do that, I can’t resist you- you know that.”Arnav’s husky reminder put Khushi back on alert, with her nose and cheeks going red.
She turned around so that her back faced his front and said, “Go, get dressed. I need to open shop. You can go now, back to where you came from.”
In a millisecond, she was caught by her shoulders and turned around, to face an angry Arnav.
“I told you yesterday night what I wanted and what I meant to do. In case you had any doubts, let me repeat Khushi Singh Raizada. I’m your husband-legally wedded husband and it is my legal right to see to it that my wife and kids are with me.”
“Wh-what are you talking about? Surely you can’t be serious Arnav!” Khushi tried to get free of his hold, “Chhodiye humain!”
“Not happening.” He said and pulled her closer to him. When Khushi pushed him, he let her go for a second. In the next instant, Khushi was upside down, like a sack of potatoes on his shoulder. She pummeled his back with blows, saying, “Put me down this instant Arnav Singh Raizada.. or else!”
“OR else?” Arnav’s chuckle reverberated through her backside as he held her firmly and walked upstairs.
With each step, Khushi’s breathing got faster. What was he doing? Where was he taking her? Surely not— !!! HE wouldn’t dare! She fumed and growled, “You put me down now! This is not your house, samjhe aap!”
Arnav had almost reached Khushi’s room when she spoke. He stopped immediately and put her down. Her words had cut him but he didn’t let it show. She tried to turn away from him but he caught her again by the waist and pulled her close to him. There was not a single part of his body that wasn’t demanding release at this time, yet his heart was hurting. His amber eyes were icy now with anger as he looked into her eyes and saw her flinching, her body in his arms, trembling.
He said, “Khushi Singh Raizada, yes- this is not my house but it isn’t yours either. Your house is with me- in New Delhi. Your home is Shanti Van, not this two floored building. I will make sure you learn some obedience before we go back.” Khushi opened her mouth to refute but he merely said, “Make no mistake my wife, this time around I’m beside you and you will come home with me, even if I have to resort to other measures to do so.”
“What are you trying to tell me?” asked a horrified Khushi. Her mind seemed to have seized up to understand the implications of his statement. Surely he didn’t mean what she thought he meant?
“You heard me well Khushi Singh Raizada. I’m not going to divorce you. What’s more, I want you where I can see you, with my sons.” Arnav walked towards her, his stride determined.
Khushi was almost hysterical. She thought, this is the same old cat and mouse game; he moves ahead and I behave like a scared mouse, moving back. Indeed, she had already started taking a step back with each of his advancing steps. She looked up and saw mockery in his eyes.
“When will you stop stepping back the moment I step forward? I’m not going to eat you Khushi… at least not yet. I do remember how much you like it when I – eat you.” That last bit came out in a husky voice, desire clouding his eyes as if he remembered the taste of her.
Khushi’s eyes widened at this passionate onslaught of words on her senses. She gasped as her back felt the wall against her. With nowhere else to go, she stood rooted to the spot, her eyes following Arnav as he moved towards her. Soon he was close, very close. She gasped as he lifted his hand and trailed his finger across her lips, his eyes intense with passion.
“S-stop.” Khushi whispered, but her throat closed up as he bent and she felt his breath on her face.
“Make me.” Arnav whispered back before taking her lips with his own. Khushi’s moan died on her lips as his mouth captured hers, demanding passion. Unable to control her bodily reactions, Khushi responded back, giving kiss for a kiss.
Arnav deepened the kiss and groaned her name. It had been so long since he had tasted her mouth and yet it felt as if no time had passed at all. Their bodies moulded to each other like they had never parted. Somewhere in Arnav’s mind this truth rang a bell. It was true after all- not a single moment had gone by in all these years when he hadn’t missed her, when he hadn’t wanted her. He silently vowed to never let her go away from him again. Whatever her reasons, once she told him about it, he would find a solution to their problems and forever be with her and their sons.
Slowly he lifted his lips from hers, gazing at her closed eyes. She looked so much at peace in his arms; he saw smugly. She would be, he thought- that’s where she belongs. She opened her eyes and he smiled at her.
Khushi opened her eyes slowly, still caught in the web of passion. Arnav was the only man in this Universe who could make her forget everything and everyone. Nothing had changed between them physically at least. She still adored the way he kissed her, she wanted him to continue until they were both one once again and he filled her with is seed.
His seed- her sons!! Khushi’s eyes grew wide in dismay this time as she remembered them, too late. She looked up at Arnav, disgust for herself and her lack of control apparent in her eyes. Arnav’s smile slipped from his face, leaving it cold as he saw the revulsion on her face. He mistook it for disgust at him and yet, he couldn’t let her go.
“Let me go, please Arnav.” Khushi pleaded quietly and Arnav immediately let her go this time. His heart ached at the pain he saw in her eyes. He wanted to shout out that he had never betrayed her, had never wanted anyone else but her, but he kept quiet. Time enough for all that. Right now, his main object was to get her back with him and take her home with their children; take her where it was her right to belong.
“How could you?” Khushi asked, her heart broken. It wasn’t that she didn’t want him or his kisses. Indeed, nothing would make her more happy than to spend her life with him. But how could she forget that there were more people involved in this case than just him and her? How could she forget the other woman and her son that was Arnav’s son as well? How could HE forget that? Jealousy tore her heart apart; did he kiss that woman too the way he kissed her, with so much passion?
“It is very simple.” Arnav said, his tone amused. “I put my lips on yours and we kiss. You enjoyed it too Khushi and you’re my wife. Who else would I kiss if not you?”
“Not me. I don’t want you to ever touch me again. Go and get your lust sated by someone who enjoys your attention. As far as I remember, you had no problems forgetting that I was your wife before.” Khushi said angrily, moving away from him. Trust him to turn the knife where it hurt the most. Who else indeed?
“Khushi—“ Arnav turned her around and took her arm firmly in his grip. She struggled but he held her firm. He tipped her chin up and she met his eyes. They were cold and dark, as the night in summer, gleaming with some emotion Khushi couldn’t define.
“Just go away Arnav and leave us alone. We were much happier without you and we will be again when you leave us. Get out of my house and never come back again.” Khushi met his eyes and quailed at the look in them.
He inched closer and growled, “Get this firmly in your mind wife. I’m not letting you and my sons get away from me. And you had better get yourself used to me around.”
He let her go abruptly, moving away from her and looking interestedly around the room, “It has been a long day for me. I travelled from Lucknow for a meeting here. I need to take a shower and sleep. I’m guessing- but I think the bed room is upstairs, with a view of the garden ?”
Khushi gaped at him. Then shaking her head as if to bring sense back, she gritted her teeth, “You have no room in my house. If you want to sleep, go somewhere else. There must be a decent hotel who’ll take you in.”
Arnav turned to her, amusement gleaming in his eyes. His tone was silky as he asked, “Where else should I go and why? I am your husband and I will sleep with you.”
Saying this, he quickly moved to the stairs before Khushi could get words out of her mouth and disappeared along the corridor and rightly, into her room.
Two kids stood by the door of the kitchen, quietly watching the woman making jalebis and muttering to herself. They looked at each other, their expressions identical and grinned at each other, “Looks like Mum is again thinking about us and has stressed herself.”
It was just yesterday when the playschool where both the kids went to had called Khushi. The kids were too naughty, they said. Obviously Khushi being Khushi had shouted them down and told them in no uncertain terms that her sons were angels personified. They couldn’t ever hurt anyone’s feelings. The playschool teacher had warned her that if the kids would continue to be naughty, especially to girls, they would have to be punished.
Both Aarush and Ayush were well aware that the teacher would be doing nothing of the kind. They were their father’s children in that way. One smile and one look from them, a small request made politely worked wonders with the teacher-always! But their mother, Khushi Singh Raizada was unaware of her sons’ abilities.
For once, Khushi was not stressing herself out by thinking about her sons. She stood by the stove, dipping the jalebis into sugar and muttering to herself, “I should have never opened that damn box. I should have simply forgotten what day it was today instead of going into the attic, opening the box and crying my eyes out remembering him. I need to be sensible about everything. Past is in the past and my future—“her eyes misted again as she thought of her sons “-my future lies with bringing up my sons and making them capable and smart—like their father.”
“She remembered the PTA meeting from yesterday and despite herself grinned. Her sons were sure hell to manage but she wouldn’t have them any other way. Charmers and absolutely brilliant. She admitted to herself that she may have behaved a little hot headedly with the teacher but then, which mother could hear her sons being called naughty monsters? She knew they were naughty but they were like-pixies. Naughty and yet possessed a good heart.
She took out the last of jalebis from the pan and turned off the stove. Suspicion had crowded her mind. The house was just too quiet considering the fact that both her sons were at home. Fearing the worst for her work room and the study, she moved out of the kitchen and at first, peeped into the work room. To her relief, everything seemed to be fine. Now for the study where Khushi kept most of her books, her cherished memories of Amma and Babuji as well as Payal and Akash. They were the last of the photos she had of them. The children knew of course who they were, with the exception of their father- a photo she kept hidden from them at all times, in her study table drawer.
Not finding them in the study either, Khushi was intrigued. It was unlike the boys to be so quiet. Could they be in their room perhaps or had they-heaven forbid! Despite her warnings gone out of the house with their dog Sandy. She hurried up to their room and let out a breath of surprise as they found them on their respective tables, studying!
She looked at them lovingly from outside the door. Aarush and Ayush both were four years now and so much like their father in looks and manners, only they had their mother’s smile and her eyes. At the noisy breath she exhaled, both the kids turned to look at her with smiles on their faces.
She felt an ache in her heart to again realize that Arnav would never know that he had sired two sons-so much like him. They were just as uppity when someone challenged them or hurt them, they never showed off their intelligence but used it when required and possessed a great sense of understanding. They both loved humour and good music. They preferred English music to Hindi and -Khushi sighed soundlessly. They sometimes made fun of the songs she liked-just like their father used to. Oh Arnav! If only things were different, we’d be with you right now.
“Hi Mommy! We’re ready for the walk with Sandy.”
Khushi entered their room cautiously, knowing they always winded her up. Parents do when they know their kids loved a laugh. She was a grown woman and yet her sons were as smart as their father in winding her up by their arguments and their pranks.
“We’ll leave in some minutes. What are you two up to?”
“Oh we just thought we’d finish the homework this evening so that we can enjoy the weekend.” Aarush replied sunnily, his smile bringing an instant reply from Khushi.
“This weekend is the zoo and picnic weekend. Of course!” Then she added briskly as she opened their wardrobes, “All right. When you’re done with your homework, come down and we shall go for a walk. Make sure you wear the sweaters I’m laying out for you right now when you’re down. It’s almost winter and it’s starting to get chilly.”
“Yes Mommy.” Came two replies. Khushi ruffled their hair and gave them a kiss each on the top of their head and left them to go downstairs.