She caressed the glossy newspaper slowly with her fingers..feeling its texture or more precisely the content written within the texture..sub consciously repeating the process over n over again. Her mind pre occupied with some other thoughts in a faraway land, was totally unaware of her surroundings and a light smile that was plastered on her lovely face was very well n very expertly hiding those myriads of emotions going inside her.
Yes..the sudden play of emotions spinning within her entire being just confirmed the bitter n the cruel fact right on her face that left her shocked to her very core and she felt the few pieces of her mask crumbling down.
It was very unlikely for someone like khushi to wear a mask..totally opposite of her nature that was. For a person like her whose smile instantly radiated in her eyes, making them glow like two light bulbs, a smile so pure n so genuine that used to colored her cheeks in a bright shade of pink, it was hard to believe that person just lost the urge to afford a smile like that.
Yes..the smile was still dere but a lifeless one it was..one that was purely for the sake of others..one that had helped her in escaping questioning glares..one that had ensure that she can play along..perfectly, just the way that was required!
cuz as they say, “smile is way better than explaining why you are sad“.
and to much extent she was even successful in achieving that too. On the morning after that incident when her wounds were still raw n fresh, she was left shocked when out of the blue Di questioned her why she was looking pale..or did they two had a fight or something?
it was then she realized that her face was capable of displaying her each n every emotions very clearly. she had looked at him from the corner of her eyes and found his straight face indulged in reading the business news..and eventually she decided to follow his lead in this game that he was playing n alongside expecting her to do the same.
She had feigned a smile at that very instant n formed some kind of a teasing reply. the way anjali di’s shoulders loosened up on hearing her answer, emitting her pent up tensions, just confirmed that she had done the right thing..she had convinced every one on the dining table having breakfast n teasing n giggling that all was well in their paradise where as truth was far,very far from that. It was when anjali di asked again not buying her reasons, she felt her facade loosening up n the emotions she had a hard time dealing with, since last night overflowedsuddenly.
suddenly a bile started rising up her throat and with tears clouding in her eyes, blurring her vision alongside, she dropped her lashes n replied in an extremely cracked voice, bunching her dupatta in her fist,
“di..m fine..v…vo aaj babuji ki bahut yaad aa rahi hai …”
It wasnt that she was lying..she was genuinely missing someone who can hug her n calm her down..someone who can caress her n put her to sleep, for peacefully once..someone who can assure her that what she just heard last night was not true..at all. some one who doesnt question her. Someone, under whose wings she’ll felt secure n protected. someone, with whom she doesnt have to put up this facade. someone, who know her better than anybody else in the world and above all, someone who dont judge her by her status or bank balance.
and that someone was undoubtedly, her babuji.
and then there was arnav’s decision that helped her eventually in this process. She was having her breakfast or rather more or less playing with it when he decided what need to be done..just like the way he must had done numerous time in his boardroom. He gave his verdict of sending her away for a week, without consulting her or anyone else..not that she would have question him. On the brighter side, it was what she wanted. acting all right n feigning a smile was rather easy in front of the family members but acting like that in front of that one person who hold the power to affect you in the best n worst possible ways, wasnt easy and unfortunately or fortunately, that position was now occupied permanently by none other than her temporary husband.
He had got up from his seat, bade good byes n kissed her on her cheeks..their PDA kiss that was. Anjali di had looked at them with a dreamy look in her eyes n a happy smile on her face, but she had clearly missed khushi’s gestures. Her nails were digging in the flesh of her palm under the table..trying very hard to inflict some pain that would eventually drag her attention elsewhere.
On any other day, it was that part of the morning khushi always waited desperately for. She dint knew since how long she had started looking forward every morning to their breakfast sessions. It was merely a peck on the cheek that was more or less for the sake of others at the dining table..but even that simple gesture left her with her toes curling under the table..and she couldnt hide the sudden rush of blood to her cheeks, glowing them more in a shade of crimson red..and then the best part was when after that their gaze connected for a mere 2 seconds, the depth of emotions she witnessed there in the pool of his eyes everyday, just helped in strengthening n building her hopes. With each such morning from past these months..every day she had build her air castle..some more.
but on that very day, the last thing she wanted was to look into his eyes..Her castle was just destroyed cruelly n she couldnt blame him for that too..she was still in a process of gathering her wayward emotions. she cursed herself n her stupid heart for still skipping a beat when he had kissed her..Clutching her fists tightly as a way of punishing herself for still acting so childish,she kept her lashes down through out,perfectly avoiding that 2 seconds staring session of theirs..NOT that she hated him now..hate was one strong emotion she had hardly came across in her life..and one thing she was sure of, she could never associate that emotion with him in any ways possible.
she dint looked up into his eyes cuz she was afraid of witnessing the same ‘hatred’ in his eyes..that she got a glimpse of last night..she would rather prefer to stay away from him as compared to be the receiver of his hatred.Whatever she had experienced last night was enough to long for a life time and she would rather not step into that path,ever.
She had packed her bags n akash had dropped her here. It was more than a week since then. A whole week in which khushi had done every single thing except thinking..she had successfully kept herself busy in cooking, reading, looking after her home, taking care of her babuji’s needs and what not..but still in between those things, her mind kept wandering to that forbidden territory on its own accord. She couldnt say she was happy, but yes,she was trying..or more specifically she was still reeling. Its been 10 days since she had seen him or talk to him. Though every day she had called anjali di, who so happily narrated whatever happened in raizada house daily, never forget to mention that they all are missing her like anything and that she should come soon asap. From Di only she came to know that he was extremely busy in his work nowadays, coming home at late nights,avoiding meals sometimes and though she knew it sounded foolish but she always ended the call after requesting di to take extra care of him in her absence to which di always ended up giggling n teasing her. not even once he called him, not that she was hoping for that but couldnt deny the fact that a very small part of her was still expecting it to be true.
and likewise khushi followed him,here too.She had made a conscious decision of faking her emotions when necessary, like the way he does various times. If, he can..so could she. He wanted to keep it simple..fine, she will give her cent percent to help him achieving that. Expressing any emotion or building any kind of hope was a self made forbidden territory for khushi now. He wanted her to follow the rules of the contract n server her term, fine she’ll make sure, he get that only. he called her gold digger,fine..she’ll not lay a finger on even a single penny that comes from arnav singh raizada. He appreciated his acting skills, okay..he’ll not get a chance to get a glimpse of ‘real’ khushi now.
by far, every was going perfect. The distance between them helped her in putting those emotions back in their place, in a secluded corner,deep within her heart. Her babuji was the most happiest person when he came to know that she had came for a whole week and his happiness made her forget her sorrows for the time being. She couldnt afford to burden him more as the man had gone through a lot in his life already..plus the non stop chit chat of her buaji kept the loneliness of her otherwise silent home at bay. Since she arrived,khushi took the charge of taking care of her babuji’s health..from giving him meds n meals, to going on a walk with him every evening. From entertaining his group of friends by serving delicious meals every day..she could say she was performing better.One such evening, when they both were sitting on their terrace, enjoying the sunset,her babuji had asked her, was she happy with her in laws, in her married life?..and that sudden question caught her off guard. For a fraction of second, she thought maybe he knew about the truth, but looking deeper into his eyes she realized it was a genuine concern of a father for his only daughter..at that time she wore a smile, a real one in this case n expressed all her feelings about her new family..her husband..everything, carefully skipping that incident.at the end she was so overwhelmed after verbally expressing how much love n affection she had gotten from her in laws,that she was literally on the verge of tears..happy ones in this case n after a very long time. The satisfaction n peace, she then witnessed in her babuji’s eyes, calmed her soul too. He dint said a word but lovingly caressed her hair, as she placed her head on his lap. Both father daughter duo, sat there silently, now content with the knowledge that the other was happy.
Since then, She had always tried to put up a brave n happy front for her babuji’s sake..n she was quite successful in it too. She had dealt with her stupid emotions a lot maturely n at the right time. Since then, the old happy, bubbly n care free khushi was back, for the time being.
Or that’s what she had thought.
Khushi kumari gupta just got an reality check when after finishing her daily cleaning n dusting, she handed a cup of tea to her babuji..n taking hers along, sat on the sofa..started shuffling the newspaper..carelessly going through the headlines of the sports section, entertainment section n business section..when this one article caught her gaze..and instantly her otherwise dead heart started pumping louder n louder.
It was a latest interview of Arnav Singh Raizada, regarding the launch of his upcoming spring collection..along with it, there was his picture also, looking immaculately prefect in the role of a business tycoon as ever, posing for the camera in a Charcoal grey, pin stripped suit, with his signature crisp white shirt underneath..and diamond cufflinks completing the look..his hair in place, expertly pulled back with the help of gel n the light stubble on his face doing proper justice to the title of Greek god, often quoted by the media in his honor. it was the look that left women drooling over him and here even his wife was no exception.
He was charming as ever, there was no denying the fact.. but what caught khushi off guard was the intensity with which the emotions came back, clouding her thoughts.
as if they always there..she felt like as raw n vulnerable as she was on that night.
as if she was back to square one.
as if the last one week was just nothing.
as if he still holds the power to affect her..no matter the time n space..with more intensity now.
as if he had moved on n she was still there.
She was still caressing the newspaper, lost in her thoughts..when she felt something wet on her finger tips. it was then she realized that tears were trailing on her cheeks all the way from her eyes n falling on the paper..eventually meeting their destination..him.
The door bell that rang, brought her back to present n she quickly wiped her face.
NO..i cant let him do that to me again..not now!
she squared her shoulders n exhaled a deep breath, putting the paper aside she got up from the sofa n made her way to the door, when her babuji said,
“Khushi beta, bagal wale sharma ji honge..kal keh rahe the tumhare haath ki jalebi khani hai…”,
she looked at her babuji, wearing a smile, remembering how its now a daily routine when her babuji’s friends visits them daily,every evening for the chit chats..or more precisely to have delicious n healthy snacks she prepared for them.
“jaroor babuji..aaj unhe itni jalebiyan khilaenge jitni unhone puri zindagi me nahi khaai hogi..“, she chuckled at him n opened the door, displaying her bright white teeth to welcome her dear uncle.
The full fledged smile that was on display immediately faltered the next instant
cuz it wasnt the next door aged Sharma ji..but a still immaculately handsome n undoubtedly charming, looking as fresh as ever, Arnav singh Raizada at their doorstep.