Timeframe: Diwali 2011, just after Arnav has announced his engagement to Lavanya in front of a heart-broken Khushi but before he returned to her house with her purse.
I wasn’t too happy with people’s assumptions of Arnav at the time & I felt like I had to write this – it was actually my first ever piece of writing on Arnav & Khushi.
He stormed into his room and ripped off his suit jacket, throwng it onto the bed furiously. He pulled off his tie and the waistcoat went the same way. He was trying to escape something; he didn’t know what, maybe himself. He slammed the doors shut behind him and leaned against them trying to take a breath; he felt like he was suffocating out there in amongst all those people he didn’t give a damn about…and one person he didn’t want to give a damn about.
His eyes closed of their own accord and he saw her face again; he’d hurt her so badly this time, scarred her innocence as he himself was scarred. Her tears burned behind his own eyelids and her eyes held so many unanswered questions; questions that moved him deep inside, making him feel guilty, uncertain… scared.
He opened his eyes at the last thought, feeling anger at himself for thinking it and anger at her for making him think it. No he was not scared. He would not be that person, he would not let himself be that weak! He had decided that long ago and nothing was going to change that, least of all one tiny slip of a girl.
He was Arnav Singh Raizada and nothing – and no-one – was going to make him weak.
‘ASR?’ Arnav looked up in annoyance at Lavanya’s sugary sweet voice – was he really going to have to live with that voice for the rest of his life?! The thought made him ill but he pushed it away, he had made this decision, it was his and his alone and he would live with it. Lavanya was a friend, she was nice, everyone liked her now too, she would be the perfect wife… ‘and she’s the safer option isn’t she?’ an unwanted voice whispered in his mind and he shook it away as he stood up feeling the need to escape again – but this was his room, where else was he going to go…
‘What’s the matter Lavanya, can’t you see I’m busy?!’ He pointed at his open laptop which he’d been staring at blankly for the past 20 mins. Before she could answer, he heard another voice, ‘Chotte, tum Khushiji ko ghar chod do ge please?’ His whole body jerked at the sound of her name and he hated how his stupid heart leapt, what the hell was wrong with him?!
‘Kyu Di, ghar mein aur koi driver nahi hai?!’ His voice was unnecessarily harsh but he couldn’t help it; it didn’t seem to bother Anjali though or deter her, she rolled her eyes and made excuses which got drowned out by his racing thoughts; he was going to drive Khushi home and she would be sitting barely a couple of feet away from him… in that red saree which seemed to draw him to her against his own will, and what was a few feet in such an enclosed space…?
He gritted his teeth and told himself to get a grip, he was not some little schoolkid – he was in full control and to prove it he said fine, he would take her home. He went to get the car and then waited for her with his hands gripping the steering wheel and his eyes staring straight ahead; he made his mind blank by sheer force of will but he couldn’t help his eyes from turning to find her face as she got into the car.
‘Chale?’ Arnav blinked and realised he’d been staring at her for the past minute and now she was giving him that too bright smile that stabbed away at his chest – because it wasn’t real. The tears were long gone, replaced by the smile which didn’t reach anywhere near her eyes; they were still full of pain and ushed tears, she couldn’t hide them from him. He didn’t understand; he had given her that pain, deliberately crushing both of their hopes so why was it bothering him now?
He started the car and remembered the way she had behaved a little while after the announcement; that’s when the smile had made its first appearance. The smile which fooled everyone except him.
And to go with that, the extra chirpy voice – the voice that was right now nervously chattering away about some nonsense or other and was hurting him because all he could hear was the unspoken pain behind it. He forced himself to drive carefully ‘because you don’t want to scare her…’ he crushed the voice in his head and realised this had been such a bad idea.
‘Khushi…just stop talking’ his voice was soft, he didn’t want to lose it but he couldn’t bear to hear her hiding her pain behind the forced cheer. Being Khushi, she didn’t stop. She went on and on about how she hadn’t even congratulated him or told him how happy she was for him and that incensed him to no end and he didn’t know why, ‘Toh tum khush ho?!’ he asked through gritted teeth, feeling like the steering wheel would crack under his hands.
She looked at him then and he finally got what he wanted but it made him feel even worse. He saw the pain she’d been hiding all night and it killed him because he had put it there, on that face, in those eyes, eyes which even now were questioning him while she never said a word.
‘Haan, hum khush kyu nahi honge? Hummara toh kaam ho gaya naa? Yahi toh hum chahte the…’ her voice started off quiet and then faded away as he parked up outside her house and closed his eyes.
He turned to look at her and watched a tear slide down her cheek and felt it scorch him on its way down, ‘Khushi…’ he couldn’t stop himself from reaching out to touch her cheek but she moved her head back at the last second. ‘Aap ko bhi toh khush honi chahiye…’ he frowned at her and she continued in a voice that no longer did anything to hide her pain.
‘Kya kaha tha aap ne? Leave me alone? Ab se hum aap ke ghar nahi aayenge kyu ki Lavanya ji ko toh kuch sikhane ke liye bacha nahi hai naa, toh aap ko meri shakal bhi nahi dekhni paregi…’
Arnav felt his heart sink lower and lower with her every word and by the time she finished and was turning away, he felt as though he had lost a part of himself even though she was right there. She opened the car door and he instinctively grabbed her wrist, ‘Khushi wait! Tum…’
She turned to look down at his hand in shock and he felt himself get drawn into her eyes again; he moved closer to her and neither of them breathed… but he never knew what he’d been about to do or say because her front door opened and the lights came on and she jerked her wrist out of his hand and slid out of the car and out of his life while he stared after her helplessly.
‘Chotte…! Hua kya hai?!’ Anjali looked alarmed as Arnav stalked past her without saying a word. He barely heard her, all he could hear was Khushi telling him he’d never see her again and he couldn’t bear it. He got to his room and then went out to the poolside and closed his eyes.
He waited for the peace that he got when he was here but there was nothing. Only more pain… and her. Everywhere he looked he could see her, from the diya’s she’d so lovingly arranged to the lights she’d put up in such a tangle; she was everywhere…
He turned back and he was standing right where he’d almost kissed her… he could still feel her nervous breath on his face, feel the softness of her cheeks under his fingertips. He closed his eyes and wondered what would have happened if the phone hadn’t rung and he hadn’t flown into such a rage…
He leaned back against the glass doors and let out a breath; he saw her shattered face again as he made his announcement; why had he done it? He felt her eyes pierce him again with accusng questions but this time his anger didn’t help him and he knew that nothing would. He closed his eyes, leaned his head back and whispered the one word that gave him the most pain as well as the most relief, ‘Khushi…’