Timeframe: Winter 2011, I was praying for it to snow over the Christmas period and I was thinking how it’d be a beautiful setting for Arnav & Khushi too and this story is a sort of a mixed result of that..
In context, it’s around 5 weeks after Arnav & Lavanya broke up & she left for London. Akash & Payal’s wedding prep is ongoing on but this is set apart from all of that.
Part One: ‘First Snowfall’
‘Bas…thoda sa aur…’ Khushi gave Arnav a murderous look as he turned back with a slight smirk to emphasise his smug words and then carried on walking. She knew he was probably loving her discomfort at being here and reminding her of that fateful journey of theirs to Nainital was just the icing on the cake. ‘ASR’s right Chamkili, there’s a store just up ahead. Hum waha se tumhare liye kuch kapde khareed lenge – ok?’
Khushi tried to tell Lavanya that she was fine and he was just being annoying but her teeth were chattering too much. She saw Arnav look back again and now she could see he was concerned but she glared at him again till he muttered something like ‘so damned stubborn’ and turned back.
Maybe it was stubbornness that had made her refuse the offer of his jacket but she’d rather freeze! A little voice in her head reminded her that both Arnav and Lavanya had warned her it would be cold and maybe even snow but she hadn’t listened, only bringing a couple of sweaters – although neither of them had counted on this much snow.
As she trudged along behind Lavanya and Arnav, she remembered following him in the jungle and thought it was ironic how back then she’d been dying to see snow… and now after the initial excitement and an hour of being half buried in it, the novelty was beginning to wear off even though it still looked achingly beautiful.
It was ok for him to say it wasn’t much further she thought, watching him stride easily through the fresh snow, not even slightly fazed by it. He looked just as at home here in his thick grey jacket, dark jeans and winter boots as he did in his perfectly cut business suits and she was a little surprised at how well the rough outdoorsy look suited him. Unwillingly she started thinking about the way his hair had gotten that untamed windswept look about it when suddenly a gust of cold air blew some snow up into her face and she shivered as she blinked out of the day dream she’d fallen into.
She pulled the sweater she was wearing around her tightly and couldn’t help thinking a little longingly of his warm looking jacket as her teeth began to chatter again… ‘You should have made her wear appropriate clothes – even socks are better than those shoes!!’ Khushi came out of her thoughts as she heard Arnav arguing with Lavanya up ahead.
‘That’s not fair ASR, she wasn’t comfortable and it wasn’t even meant to snow! Aur tumhari baat bhi toh nahi maani uss ne!’ She smiled; feeling pleased that since they’d broken up La had at least got better at holding her own in an argument with him and often scolded him when he needed it, which in Khushi’s opinion was a lot!
She was still smiling till she heard Arnav reply sharply and felt the words dig into her painfully, ‘Toh?! Usse saath laa ne ka stupid idea tumhara tha Lavanya, mera nahi!!’ after which her bad mood was well and truly back. Why should she care what that rakshas said, she thought angrily, blinking away sudden tears and telling herself it was just the cold.
She wished could burn a hole through his thick skull with her eyes; she didn’t even know what she was doing here, she’d only come at Lavanya’s insistence and she didn’t care one bit what he thought! She fixed the strap of the small duffle bag she had with her more securely on her shoulder and wondered how she was going to get through this next day and half.
‘Come on Chamkili, we have to get you out of these wet clothes – aur mujse zyaada argue mat karna main bilkul mood mein nahi hoon!’ As they walked into the warmth of the little store on the edge of town, Arnav heard Khushi reply to Lavanya, saying something he didn’t understand through chattering teeth. He watched her follow Lavanya around a little forlornly as La pulled out some jeans and boots and he called her back, ‘Khushi! Tumhara bag mere paas chod do.’
Khushi frowned, hesitating and Arnav rolled his eyes; there was stubborn and then there was Khushi. He strode over to her and took the bag off her shoulder, ignoring her weak protests and feeling a stab of worry when his hand brushed over her frozen fingers. He frowned at her and she looked at him a little confused till he looked away, refusing to think about why he was so worried, ‘Lavanya, make sure the clothes are warm!’
He turned away from her and walked over to the counter, picking up a pair of red gloves as he went. This was going to be the worst business trip ever he thought, as he checked for reception on his phone and found none. The man behind the counter confirmed his fears as he said that the freak heavy snowfall had cut some power lines.
He went on to tell Arnav conversationally that they hadn’t had such heavy snowfall in over 20 years and they hadn’t been prepared which was why the roads were so bad. ‘Figures,’ he muttered to himself, ‘yeh toh hona hi tha!’ Khushi was with them so he wouldn’t be surprised if there was an avalanche next. ‘You’re being too harsh… she’ll be fine…’ He frowned at the voice in his head, telling himself he wasn’t really that worried.
To distract himself he told the guy about the hotel they were staying at and was a little relieved when he was told it wasn’t far and that they should have working phones and Internet access. They were meeting with a client and it wouldn’t do to have technical problems even if it was an established company with whom they’d dealt with before. He was meeting the rest of his team there and he hoped they’d already arrived as his mind wandered over to the two women he was travelling with.
He’d been more surprised than anyone when Lavanya had returned to India a month after their break up and had been ok to carry on working with him. It had been a relief actually; when she was on the ball, she was good at what she did and right now she seemed more level headed than she’d ever been when they’d been together. He’d been happy when she’d told him a little self consciously that she’d met someone in London; someone who’d been a childhood friend and she did seem much happier and more relaxed than he’d seen her in the past.
She’d been back barely a week when this trip had come up and he’d been totally baffled when she said she wanted to bring Khushi with them and refused to budge on the matter. Things had been awkward enough between him and Khushi with the constant clashes during Akash and Payal’s wedding preparations and he didn’t need this added complication on top of it all; it didn’t fit in with his plan of avoiding her – although when had that plan ever worked, he thought with a sigh.
The trip had been fine till they’d got to the outskirts of town and suddenly all they could see was a fresh white blanket of thick snow blocking their way. Arnav felt his lips curl up in an involuntary smile as he remembered Khushi’s shriek of excitement as they’d got out while he wondered what they were going to do with the car. A few seconds later she’d dragged a laughing Lavanya with her and started throwing handfuls of snow around, watching it fall around her in amazement. She’d looked so innocent and care-free with joy written all over her face, as pure as the snow. He’d watched her, mesmerised for a long while till she started shivering and practicality had kicked in.
He was still remembering the way she’d looked while the snow glittered around her when he turned and saw her walking towards him with Lavanya and he had to hold back a laugh.
She was walking uncomfortably, wearing navy blue skinny jeans tucked into a pair of sturdy looking, tan coloured furry boots and there were what looked like two fluffy pom poms on each one but that wasn’t what was making him want to burst out laughing.
Lavanya had found her a puffy bright red jacket and although it seemed to be her size, it still made her look like she was drowning. She’d let her hair out of its usual plait and La had added a woolly red hat over it, again with a fluffy pom pom dangling down from each side and all that was visible were the pink cheeks and huge hazel eyes glaring up at him as she pulled on the end of the jacket, trying to make it longer.
He turned away, stifling another laugh as he paid for the clothes before walking over to them noticing there was a red scarf too, peeking out from under the jacket. ‘This is ok naa ASR? I couldn’t find a thicker jacket…’ Khushi turned to Lavanya with a mournful and slightly scared expression, ‘Lavanya ji, aur kitne kapde pehnaogi humme?!’
Arnav tried to keep a straight face, ‘No this is great Lavanya, she looks – great!’ His eyes twinkled as Khushi made a face and tried to fold her arms but it was difficult with the puffiness of the jacket and he couldn’t help the smile that crept onto his face. He cleared his throat and held out the gloves. ‘Yeh lo – don’t argue Khushi!’ he added the last bit as soon as she opened her mouth and she took the gloves reluctantly, pulling one on and then struggling with the second.
He sighed and took it off her, lifting her hand and pulling on the glove carefully while she watched him. She actually looked really cute he thought as he smoothed over the glove and pulled her jacket sleeve over it gently, it was more the look of long suffering indignation on her face that made him want to laugh. He looked up and ignored her surprised expression as he pulled the zipper on her jacket up higher and then he couldn’t help himself from pulling on the pom poms on either side of her hat, to cover her ears more fully.
He reached up and tucked some hair back under her hat slowly, ignoring the tingles that shot through his fingers… at least her face felt warm now and her cheeks were all pink as she stared up at him wordlessly. Suddenly he noticed Lavanya watching them with a funny little smile on her face and he realised what he was doing. He lowered his arms and cleared his throat, speaking in a gruff voice, ‘Come on, there’s still half an hour’s walk to the hotel.’ He headed out of the store, leaving a dazed looking Khushi to follow with Lavanya.
Khushi was just about getting the hang of walking through the snow in the boots Lavanya had picked out for her when she walked right into the back of Arnav and gave a little shriek, ‘Aap aise ruk kyu gaye?!’ she asked as she tried to scramble away from him. He turned around before she could fully step back and she wobbled on her feet about to fall till he grabbed her gloved hand and pulled her towards him.
She was wearing gloves and had on the thickest jacket she’d ever worn in her life but she still felt shivery when he held her hand and her heart fluttered uselessly when he pulled her close to steady her.
‘Dekh kar nahi chal sak thi kya…’ The words died on Arnav’s lips as he was suddenly aware of how close they were, their noses just millimetres apart, her misty white breath mingling with his in the cold air. His brain was screaming at him that she was too close but all he wanted to do was get closer and Khushi didn’t seem to be moving either… They stared into each other’s eyes, unaware of anything else around them till Khushi suddenly blinked something out of her eyes and looked up in confusion.
Arnav looked up too and realised it was snowing, the huge white flakes falling softly and silently around them. Khushi suddenly gave a delighted laugh and held her face up to it and Arnav watched in wonder as a bubble of happiness rose up inside him at the sight of her laughing face. There were snowflakes stuck to her face and on the tip of her nose and he had the sudden urge to kiss them all away… He moved closer and Khushi looked at him in surprise with a soft smile still playing on her lips…
‘ASR, Khushi, tum abhi tak yahi ho? I’ve already had our bags taken up to our rooms!’ Khushi blinked and looked over as Lavanya went back inside and Arnav came out of his trance letting go of the hand he was still holding. He watched her quietly while she moved away and looked around and up at the hotel a little self consciously. He spoke in a soft voice, wondering what he’d let himself in for, agreeing to bring her with him, ‘Issi liye ruk gaya Khushi; we’re here.’