Timeframe: Written late March 2012 – I wrote this on my iPhone notes app whilst being bored to death in a waiting room for a couple of hours. I was missing the show and I guess this was what I hoped was happening..
Storywise it occurs on the day Arnav got a crick in his neck from sleeping outside – enjoy!
‘cos you know there aint no rest for the wicked…’
He entered the room carefully, taking care not to disturb the ridiculous wind-chimes and hoping against hope it was empty. The day had been long, painful and exhausting and for a second, thinking about the miserable night ahead he almost walked back out.
No, he thought, he’d be damned if he let her drive him out of his own room! ‘You’re already sleeping on the floor outside, how more out can it get..?’
Arnav tried to shake his head angrily at the annoyingly accurate voice in his mind but he ended up groaning in pain as his stiff neck protested, sending shooting pains down his back. He threw his laptop bag onto the recliner and ripped out his earpiece. At least the room’s empty, he thought, angling his head round as much as he could before removing his jacket and waistcoat.
He went to the mirror and tried to move his head experimentally; it was a little better than this morning, painkillers had helped and he could hold it almost straight but he still couldn’t turn to the right without pain. Now he tried rubbing the sprained muscle, turning his neck as he did so but he couldn’t manage it and ended up yelping in pain as he closed his eyes and gave up, thinking he needed professional help.
‘Arnavji… hum aap ki kuch madath kar de?’ His eyes flew open and he saw her in the mirror, standing behind him a little uncertainly; she must have been by the pool he thought. He turned slowly to look at her, frowning.
‘Meri madath… tum? Kyu? Tumhe toh maza aa raha hoga!’ She looked put out but he was too fed up to care, ‘Sab ka gala daba ne ka itna shokh hai ya main koi special case hoon?!’ He saw annoyance flare in her eyes as she folded her arms mutely and he moved around her to the wardrobe to look for his night clothes, holding his neck with his left hand while he used his right for everything.
He heard her take a deep breath behind him but didn’t turn until she spoke, ‘Dekhiye, hum sach mein aap ka madath karna chahte hai, humme… bhura lag raha hai…’ Arnav watched her face warily as she spoke the last part hesitantly, looking for any hint of mischief in her eyes; he wouldn’t put it past her to try something. But he only saw worry and a hint of regret so he waited while she walked to the wardrobe and rifled through weird looking bottles and jars, picking out a few, ‘Look Khushi, it’s ok – main kal doctor ko dikha doonga-‘
‘Kya? Itni si baat ke liye aap doctor ko pareshaan karenge?!’ She ignored his glare and told him to wait 5 minutes and she’d be back with something to fix his neck. He watched her go with a happy smile on her face and spring in her step, her chirpy ‘do minute mein aap ka gala hum yun hi teek kar denge!’ rang in his ears and he wondered what he’d let himself in for while he struggled to remove his shirt and get changed as he waited.
‘Aap ka shirt..?!’ Khushi froze in her tracks when she came back to the room and turned back from shutting the doors only to see Arnav sitting on the recliner wearing only his black track pants, a grey tee shirt in his hand. She felt her heart thud; she really hadn’t thought this through…
At her words he looked up sharply and winced before he took in her red face and rolled his eyes as he stood up, ‘Forget it Khushi, it’s fine really and I’m tired anyway.’ He threw a pillow outside and began to pull on his tee shirt slowly and watching him struggle with it made Khushi’s mind up.
‘Nahi! Hum ne kaha tha na hum aap ko teek kar denge?’ She held her ground when he pulled off the tee and walked towards her slowly, suddenly seeming much bigger than normal as he towered above her, deliberately trying to make her uncomfortable, ‘Really..?’ he asked with an eyebrow raised.
Khushi swallowed hard and steadied the small bowl she was holding, trying to ignore his half nakedness as she pointed towards the bed commandingly. ‘H-haan! A-aap ja ke waha betiye!’ She’d been going for firm but her voice still came out trembling slightly and he considered her for a minute before giving a one sided shrug and moving to sit on one side of the bed, looking up at her expectantly.
Khushi took a deep breath and moved forward – she could do this, ‘It’s just like when you fix Buaji’s neck sprain..’ she told herself as she settled onto the bed behind him cross legged, glad he couldn’t see her flaming cheeks.
Except Buaji had never looked like this, she thought, gulping again as she took in the broad expanse of his shoulders, the lean muscles rippling distractingly as he put his tee shirt to one side and waited. His skin looked silky smooth and bronze-like in the dimly lit room and Khushi suddenly wished she’d put on the overhead lights…
‘Stop it,’ she told herself, ‘just do what you said you’d do and make him go sleep out there again!’ She didn’t even know why it was bothering her so much to see him in pain – he deserved it after everything he’d done! But it did bother her every time he winced or there was that horrible flash of pain in his eyes and it didn’t feel right or good to carry on with her plan till he was at least feeling ok. She just couldn’t be that heartless.
She shook her head and dipped her fingers into the slick herbal mixture she’d whipped up quickly on the stove, ignoring the rest of him with difficulty and focusing on the left side of his neck which looked slightly swollen. She placed one hand on the warm skin of his left shoulder blade to steady herself and felt his muscles tense up under her lightly placed fingers before she said a quick prayer and placed her right hand on his neck.
Arnav let out a sharp gasp when the piping hot mixture hit his skin and Khushi’s hand tightened on his shoulder, ‘Thoda garam hai lekin isse zyada asar hoga..’ She tried to sound soothing but her voice was unsteady and she closed her eyes while she continued to massage his neck steadily, going by feel alone and she was happy when she felt the knotted muscles slowly start to relax under the warmth of her deft fingers. She heard him sigh and his whole body started to unwind from its earlier tension and she opened her eyes to see him tilting his head to the other side slowly, giving her better access to his neck and shoulder.
Khushi could see from the side of his face that his eyes we’re closed and his lips were turned up in a small smile and she felt warmth spread through her at the sight as if there’d been an anxiousness inside her that she could now let go of. She continued to work on his neck, getting almost lost in the feel of him, her fingers firm and confident and she found she no longer felt as self conscious and everything was silent between them for a while.
A little while later Khushi’s fingers scraped the bottom of the bowl and she realised she’d used everything up when she suddenly felt her arms go heavy as he leaned back into her, ‘Arnavji..?’ Her arms held his weight automatically and feeling startled, she looked down at his face, now resting on her shoulder and saw his eyes were closed and he was fast asleep.
Khushi’s heart skipped a beat as she watched his completely relaxed, sleeping face closely. He looked young and surprisingly innocent, not a trace of the wound up, short-tempered man she was used to seeing. His long eyelashes fluttered and Khushi blinked and looked around, wondering what to do when he remained sleeping. She knew she should wake him, his neck was ok so he could go back outside; and she could go back to her plan of annoying the hell out of him…
But another look at his face and she felt her resolve waver for a second and making her mind up, she held him up for a minute as she moved her legs from under her and tried to lay him back on a pillow. Somehow though, she let him go too fast and ended up falling with him and half on him; she froze, feeling her heart beating a mile a minute, with one arm still around him and one hand on his chest, her face millimetres from his, her breath stirring his eyelashes.
How did these things always happen to her she thought wildly, feeling the air around her burning up, wanting to jump back but not wanting him to wake up and find her like this either. So she waited, making sure he was breathing evenly before she slowly eased her arm out from under him. He turned towards her on the pillow and remembering how he slept, Khushi thought fast and placed a cushion in his arms as he turned and she sighed in relief when he hugged it and carried on sleeping.
She shuffled away quietly and sat back on the bed, surveying her handiwork as she bit one of her fingernails nervously, wondering if she’d done the right thing. It suddenly occured to her that here he was, the bane of her existence, resting peacefully and she was the one sitting awake; how had that happened again?! She sighed and crossed her legs, resting her chin on her hand as she watched him, unable to stop herself from melting at the sight or stop the soft smile from creeping across her face when few locks of hair fell across his forehead endearingly.
It’s fine, she told herself; however wicked he may be, it was ok to let him rest for a few hours – she could yell in his ear later to make up for it…