Khushi grumbled inwardly while she finished her work that evening. She was quite happy in the shop, talking to other people, doing business- and with quite a bit of profit too- basically happy to be away from the disturbing presence of Arnav Singh Raizada in her house. He was still in there somewhere, talking on the phone via his Bluetooth. It was one habit which irritated her then and did so still. She was still quaking from the aftermath of the effect of his embrace and his words.
“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.”
They were making her nervous; his words. She knew Arnav to be ruthless in getting what he wanted. She was wary of him and his moves right now. What she couldn’t understand was- and it was mighty frustrating- but she couldn’t understand why he wanted her sons when he had one of his own, with his ex-girlfriend.
As if her continuous thoughts were in sync with him, he came right in front of her and stood by her. She looked up at him and deep in her belly, a fire started burning. He lifted his hand and pushed a strand of hair away from her face, cupping her cheek. Khushi closed her eyes, knowing his intent, cursing her body for being so weak, so pliable in his hands. Her body tingled with anticipation as she felt him bending down. She felt his breath on her lips and then, the touch of his lips on hers. She was lost as he kissed her expertly, his hands molding her body to his.
When he let her go, Khushi could hardly stand up by herself. She held on to his the collar of his shirt and slowly opened her eyes. His stare made her gasp. It held well known tenderness and hunger that she remembered from the past. She tried to step away from him but he held her fast by the waist, pulling her closer if that was possible.
“I’m glad you haven’t forgotten.” When Khushi’s brows wrinkled in confusion, he smirked and tightened his hold on her waist. “that I love to kiss you senseless when we’re back together at the end of the day.”
Slow blush crept over Khushi’s cheeks as she remembered the days when their passion got the better of them once Arnav was back from work. There was no getting out of the bedroom until their hunger would sate a little. Only then would they join the rest of the household.
Arnav smirked at the small victory. He knew what she was thinking about- she was thinking about their times together, their evenings when passion ruled. Tender love making came later in the night, when they had had their fill of passion in the evenings. He had missed those evenings with an intensity all these years. Anger at the loss of time was still burning in his heart, but he was clever enough to know that now was not the time to show it.
“Where are the children?” He asked, moving away from her deliberately, giving her time to adjust her mind to the conversation.
“Er- they- they would be at Sarita’s place. They come back when I’ve closed shop. Sarita kind of – babysits them for me.” Khushi replied, slapping herself mentally. She should have remembered the children and used it as an escape instead of drowning into his eyes and that kiss!!!
“I’m not surprised to see you in a Mishthaan Bhandar and running it successfully. You always did have good business acumen and were a good halwai.”
“Well, I am a halwai’s daughter. What do you expect?” Said Khushi.
Arnav nodded in understanding and said, “And a businessman’s wife. I expect no less from you sweetheart.“
Before she could retort to that, he said, “I’m going to go upstairs into your room and take a shower. I can’t make do with the small bathroom in the guest room. I’m a little tired after back to back meetings today.” A devil prompted him to say, “You coming? “
Khushi glared at him. He simply grinned and said, “No? Alright then. I’ll make it quick and help you out with laying the table for dinner.”
Khushi snapped, “Koi zaroorat nahi hain. Hum khud kar lenge. I’ve been doing it by myself all these years and I can still do it, without your help.”
“Tch tch.. you’re angry. But you’re magnificent when you’re angry.” He winked and said, “I’ll be back soon.” making Khushi’s heart ache as he climbed up the stairs and disappeared into her room. She muttered “Laad Governer kahin ke!”
She slapped her forehead with her hand and mentally castigated herself within a few seconds. How could she have forgotten the kids? What if Aarush and Ayush had come back while they were still in each other’s embrace? It was horribly irresponsible of her to – to let Arnav kiss her like that.
As if the thought of kids had conjured them up, Aarush and Ayush came running into the house, screaming, “Mommy!!” The bright smile that she reserved for her kids came back on, as she hugged both her children.
Aarush looked around as he hugged her and asked, “Is- has he left?”
Khushi hid her pain for her children. They knew just as much as she did that he won’t stay forever, no matter what he said. He had his obligations somewhere else and sooner or later, they will call him. For the moment, it was important that she pacified the kids. She ruffled Aarush’s hair and said softly, “ He’s upstairs. He had a long day and he’s tired.”
Ayush’s mouth drooped. “So we can’t talk to him? He won’t play with us? I wanted him to help me with my homework.”
Aarush gave a snort, “Of course he won’t. Why would he? And Ayush, we don’t need him to entertain us either. We have Mommy who plays with us and helps us with our homework.”
Khushi couldn’t see Ayush so heart broken. She smiled at him and said, “You can ask him nicely if he will help you today. He’s very intelligent you know. But Aarush is right, and you know that, don’t you?” At Ayush’s reluctant nod, she continued, “We can’t let him stay with us. I had explained it to you guys earlier, had I not? He has other duties that must come before us. We have to understand that and let him go.”
“But I want him to be with us. He’s our father!” Ayush burst out, tears appearing in his eyes.
“Ayush, my son! I understand that, but you know we can’t – he can’t live with us.” Khushi desperately tried to make him understand.
A thought occurred to Khushi, but she hastily wiped it away from her mind. No, it was not possible. She was not the kind of woman to claim her right on him, even if he was her husband. He was first and foremost someone else’s father. That someone who needed Arnav more than anyone else, it was not his fault that he was born out of wedlock. Even if Arnav couldn’t see it, she could and she would never let any injustice happen to that child. She had her sons and they had her. They didn’t need him.
Aarush took Ayush by the hand and said, “Do you want to live with him, knowing Mommy will be alone? He will take us away from Mommy. What will we do then if he doesn’t love us ?”
Ayush shook his brother’s hand away, “I want a father and mother both, like all other children in my class. That is all I know!” and saying this, he ran into his room, sobbing. Aarush had tears in his eyes too, as he looked at his mother, “I want him too you know, but I will be strong for you.”
Khushi took him in her arms and hugged him, her heart breaking into two. She kissed him and said, “Go and change your clothes. I will lay the table for dinner. And help Ayush with changing too, will you?”
Aarush nodded and slowly went into his room. Khushi got up from where she had sat down and absently started laying the table in the dining room. Her thoughts were more tormented than ever. She was glad Arnav had not been a party to that scene. She had no clear idea what game he was playing, but she knew she couldn’t allow him to stay. Her sons will grow more attached to him if he stayed any longer than a day. What will she do then if they decided they will go with him and not stay with her? She trembled at the thought of life without her sons. NO! She wouldn’t let that happen.
Her hand stilled while she arranged the table mat on the table. Was she being unfair to them? By keeping Arnav away from his sons, was she actually doing injustice all around than just with Arnav and Aparna’s son?
She remembered the day she’d found out about Arnav’s son from his ex-girlfriend Aparna. Aparna and she had met quite by chance at a party and developed a slow friendship. Khushi knew that Aparna had a son; Vishal, who was physically disabled, but she had been shocked to hear that Aparna had not married.
Aparna had confided that though Vishal’s father was alive, she had no intention of approaching him. She came from a poor background and didn’t consider herself suitable enough for him. Khushi had cried for Aparna when she had been told, that Vishal’s father was a rich tycoon and married. She had tried to make Aparna see reason. Vishal’s increasing sullenness, his emptiness, his constant need for a man’s attention- all those things had upset her. Khushi, who belonged and believed in old ideas thought it unfair on the child to not have a father and tried to reason with Aparna.
But Aparna had been adamant- until the day she and Arnav met and Khushi’s world fell apart.
“I’m waiting for an explanation Khushi. You left me with a bread and water note and no explanations. You’d better have a good excuse- for leaving me and keeping the identity of my sons from me.”
Khushi flinched as she faced Arnav sitting on the long worn sofa in her modest house. She supposed she could be thankful that he had not raised the subject sooner- in the presence of the boys. She reflected upon the evening that had been spent together with the boys.
Arnav had behaved impeccably in front of boys so that they had started melting towards him little by little. She had also realized by the end of the evening that no matter how hard they wanted to believe they didn’t like their father, it wasn’t true. She had seen it in the way they had looked at him when they were talking amongst themselves about some car they had seen the previous day and wondered which brand and model it must have been. They normally didn’t involve Khushi or asked her questions on this particular topic since she was quite ignorant of such things. They despaired that for their mother all cars were the same- simply cars. The only distinction she granted them was–all cars were either big cars or small cars, wide cars or narrow cars.
Arnav had quietly listened to the boys talking about the car amongst themselves and stated the right model and brand apparently when they described it to him. The boys had looked at him with new found interest and smiled together. Khushi realized belatedly that the boys had already known the make and model of the car but were testing him. Apprently Arnav had passed the test and they had hesitantly but firmly started a conversation on cars. That had been the beginning of the non-stop talk about cars between Arnav Singh Raizada and his sons.
She had felt envy at the ease with which Arnav and their sons had bonded and had felt guilty for feeling so. It was only fair that she gave all of them their due. After not knowing their father for so long, the kids would be naturally curious to know more about him. As for Arnav, she could see him bewitched with her-their sons and smiling at them. For Khushi, he had no smiles.
The atmosphere had been strained between them at the dinner table until as usual, the boys had started acting up. It was always a bit of a tussle between her and boys when it came to food.
“But Mommy I don’t like this subzi! Can I not have some stuffed paranthas? Or why can’t I simply eat chocolate for dinner? “
“Ayush, chocolate is for after dinner, not for dinner and you know it very well. If you want to grow tall and look handsome, you’d have to eat healthy.” Khushi had tried explaining and then after a look at Arnav said, “Look at your father. Ask him if he likes this subzi and he’ll tell you it helped him grow tall and handsome.”
Both the kids had looked at him and Arnav had nearly choked on his food, while Khushi had almost smiled. She knew that if he was honest he could tell them that he hated French Beans too and would definitely prefer Paranthas. However to her surprise, he had meekly agreed and given his positive voice to her opinion.
After that episode, Aarush had stayed quiet throughout dinner; eating what was put in front of him and looking at Arnav as if he couldn’t stop himself. Khushi could read doubt and anger both in her son’s eyes but she knew he would be unable voice them out loud so soon. Khushi prayed Arnav would be on his way; away from them all soon and she would sit down to explain everything to the boys.
The boys had quickly followed the daily regime and gone off to sleep, but not before Ayush had caught hold of Khushi’s hand and asked her, “Is he going to stay Mommy?”
Before Khushi could have replied back, she heard her elder son say, “Why is he here Mommy? He looked angry every time you spoke to us or to him. Is he going to take you away from us?”
Khushi had held both her sons in her arms and assured them that no one and nothing could take her away from them. She could see that they weren’t fully assured but they took her reply as the final word for now. They had taken longer than usual to sleep and Khushi herself had felt exhausted after reading two bedtime stories.
And yet she sat there, opposite him while he demanded an explanation. And just like that, Khushi became angry.
“You want me to give you a reason for keeping my sons away from you? How dare you Arnav ! You should be thankful that I left you when I did and let you sort your life out. What do you care why I left you and kept my sons away from you?”
“Our sons Khushi. They are mine too.” Arnav replied, keeping a tight rein on his temper.
“And if I remember correctly, you also have one more son. I should have thought you would be happy enough to let things be. In fact I more than welcome the idea of our divorce. I’m sure your ex-girlfriend would want to become your present wife as much as I want to become your ex-wife.”
Khushi’s reply cut Arnav to the bone but he kept quiet on this front. There was a lot more to that story than Khushi knew and he didn’t really want to get into it all right now. It touched a painful cord in his heart and his anger abated for a few moments. From her perspective, he could see reasons- reasons due to which she may have decided to leave him. Khushi had always been foolhardy. She’d believe anything and do anything for the happiness of others- even if she had to sacrifice her own happiness.
While he knew where she came from, a part of him still couldn’t forgive her for the fact that she had had their sons all by herself and kept them from him. His anger returned and so did his determination.
All of his attention was on his sons; his flesh and blood. At the same time he couldn’t deny that a part of him was also very attentive towards Khushi. Right from the first moment when he’d seen her on the road, his body had leaped with want. He’d ignored that as foolishness then. But when she’d looked at his sons lovingly, he’d felt a pang of envy. He wanted her to look at him the way she used to- with want, with love.
He found to his shock that all these years had had no effect on how much he desired her. When their eyes had met on the dinner table, he had seen the reflection of his want in her eyes and burned with it. It had made him angry enough to not look at her again. Even now, he found it difficult to keep his eyes away from her fidgeting form. If he gave way to his primal instincts, Khushi would be on her back right now with him plunging deep into her.
He moved to hide the signs of arousal, annoyed with himself and with her. His gaze, when it met hers, pierced her; his voice cold, as he advanced towards her, “You may wish for anything but the fact remains that you are my wife and will remain so. I’m not divorcing you Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada. Not now, not ever.”