Timeframe: Written late July 2012. Unlike my other work this one is set sometime in the future and was just my mind wandering… and hoping! Enjoy x
The first thing Arnav saw when he opened his eyes was the flash of silver hovering right above his nose. His sleep muddled brain identified the sharp object sluggishly and after an initial moment of shock, his body reacted and he slid out from under it; leaping off the bed before turning around angrily, ‘What the hell Khushi? Kya kar rahi thi tum?!!’
His wife, he saw, didn’t even have the decency to look guilty. She simply rolled her eyes and stood up from where she’d been leaning over him with a lethal looking pair of scissors and he got the distinct impression that she had no intention of putting them down, let alone apologising.
Khushi raised an eyebrow and gestured with the scissors till it dawned on him what she’d been about to do; his hands flew to his hair to check she hadn’t succeeded and he was relieved to find he didn’t suddenly have a bald patch. ‘How could you Khushi?! Tum aise hi mere baal kaat le thi?’
Khushi ignored the exaggerated hurt and outrage her husband was throwing her way, knowing it was a ploy to distract rather than anything else. She’d been asking him for weeks to cut his hair but he liked to be difficult and now she’d had enough – this was the day those long gel-covered locks were going down, however she managed it!
‘Toh? Aap toh aur logo ki tarah baal katwa the nahi hai…’ She twirled the scissors she’d recently swiped from HP around her fingers and shrugged almost casually, as if a home cut in his sleep was the only logical alternative.
‘Wow, you really are completely crazy…’ He seemed utterly mystified by her but she was on a mission and having none of it. She marched over to him and held the scissors up between their faces to make her intentions clear, ‘Dekhiye, aap humme behka ne ki koshish bhi mat kijiye – aap ko aap ke baal kaat ne hoge, bas!’
Arnav raised an eyebrow and folded his arms, ‘Oh really? Bas?’ He tilted his head to one side to emphasise his point, ‘And if I don’t…?’ He stepped closer to her, fascinated by the crazy glint in her eye but the days when she was scared of him were long gone; instead of moving backwards she stood her ground and pushed her face into his, ‘Toh aap ki kair nahi Mr Raizada.’
They stared at each other with narrowed eyes, each trying to determine how serious the other was until finally Arnav relaxed and shrugged before looking at her challengingly, ‘I am not cutting my hair Khushi Kumari Gupta-Singh Raizada. Kar lo jo bhi karna hai…’
He smirked and kissed the tip of her now delicately pink nose which only made her eyes shoot sparks and then he heard her spluttering incoherently to herself as he walked into the bathroom and shut the door behind him, ‘… Laad Governor!’
Arnav’s smile widened, ‘I heard that!’ And then his smile turned into a full throated laugh when something that sounded suspiciously like scissors hit the bathroom door before clattering noisily to the floor.
Arnav frowned at the report he was reading – or trying to read – while Khushi moved around their room, folding things, moving others and generally distracting him with her presence.
It was late afternoon and he was working from home, feeling surprised and faintly disappointed that she seemed to have given up on her challenge so easily. He wasn’t really too attached to his hair – in fact he’d been meaning to get it cut for the past week but hadn’t had the time. He just hadn’t made her aware of that fact… it was more enjoyable that way.
‘Khushi, woh..’ Whatever he’d been about to grudgingly admit about his hair flew out of his head as Khushi walked out of the bathroom and passed him on her way to the dresser, wearing a red saree that looked like it was made of tissue paper.
‘Whaat…?’ The file he was reading slipped to the floor unnoticed as he watched her brush out her hair and then start to fill her wrists with countless tinkling bangles, not seeming to notice him at all.
Before he knew what he was doing he was already standing behind her, reaching out for her shoulders when he looked up at the mirror and saw a triumphant gleam reflected her eyes.
He paused for a second, wondering if she was up to something, just as she reached up to fasten some earrings and he quickly decided that he didn’t mind if she was. ‘Here, let me…’ He reached down and brushed her hair aside, letting his fingers linger on her warm skin as he helped tie up her necklace.
Khushi watched her husband’s hooded eyes in the mirror and smiled to herself for a second before getting distracted by his wandering fingers. He was already leaning in to kiss her neck when she mentally shook herself and stood up, turning around to look at him. She kept her gaze focused on his jaw because she knew the heat in his eyes would melt through her resolve as easily as a hot knife through butter. He reached for her wordlessly, his intent very clear but she held up a hand firmly, ‘Hum pooja ke liye tayyar ho rahe hai – aap ke liye nahi.’
The indignant look she received in return was enough to make her laugh but that laugh died in her throat as his gaze travelled over her in a way that made her want to look down and check she was still wearing clothes… ‘Tum yeh pehen ke pooja mein jaogi?!’
Khushi frowned at his dubious tone and looked down at the gorgeous deep red net saree she was wearing, the delicate yet intricate work she adored with the simplest of bronze borders. It was a favourite and she knew very well what he thought of it… ‘Haan toh..? Aap hi ne toh di thi humme!’
Arnav watched her run her hands over the folds of the saree distractingly, sorely tempted to rip it off and claim back his gift. He let out an impatient breath and shrugged; all thoughts of ulterior motives on her part forgotten. ‘Fine but pooja aaj raat hai, we still have hours…’ He pulled her into his arms but before he could even lean in she pushed against his chest and her eyes gleamed again and in the next instant she was glaring up at him mutinously.
‘Nahi. Bilkul nahi… jab tak aap apne baal nahi kaat le the.’ Khushi tried to keep herself from smirking as her words sunk in and his eyes widened in disbelief and then his brow twisted sceptically, ‘What the… Really?!’ Khushi nodded and folded her arms resolutely to show she meant business.
His narrowed eyes darkened as he moved towards her slowly and Khushi had no choice but to move away till she was leaning back over the dresser. She closed her eyes as she felt his lips travel across her cheekbone, along her jawline and to the sensitive spot beneath her ear. At the same time his hands trailed an equally fiery path down her back and she struggled to keep her senses as he breathed, ‘…really?’ She held her breath and gritted her teeth against the shivers running down her spine, ‘H-haan…’
Arnav sighed as he pulled back and looked down at his wife appraisingly, taking in her erratic breathing, her flushed face and the determined set of her jaw. He knew he could easily turn her to mush if he wanted and it would even be fun but instead he watched her thoughtfully as he let his fingers trace the long line of her neck, before he curled them around her necklace and gently pulled her towards him, making their noses brush.
‘And if I said I’d cut it first thing tomorrow…?’ He watched her eyes light up at the victory and felt a shot of warmth in his own defeat. ‘Sach?!’ Arnav nodded and Khushi let her arms wind themselves around his neck as his lips found the corner of hers, ‘So… deal?’ he asked distractedly and Khushi just had enough time to nod before he sealed it with a slow, lingering kiss which she wholeheartedly returned, vaguely surprised that he’d toppled so easily.
A short while later she felt his fingers pulling impatiently at the strings of her blouse and she pulled herself back from the edge and broke the kiss. ‘Ek minute!’ she said breathlessly, covering his mouth with a hand when he tried to kiss her again and trying to regain her balance at the same time.
She ignored his muffled groan and shook her head to clear it. ‘Aap baal kab kaatenge?’ Arnav blinked in dazed confusion and after a few seconds she felt him say ‘kal’ against her palm at which point she raised an eyebrow. ‘Toh…?’ She could feel his mouth fall open as his eyebrows shot up, ‘Seriously?!’
Khushi nodded and part of Arnav marvelled at the sheer depth of her stubborn streak while he shook his head and muttered ‘Khushi Kumari Gupta..’ through gritted teeth. She sighed and smiled up into flashing molten bronze eyes; happily unperturbed as she removed her hand from his mouth.
She reached up to smooth down his open collar where she’d scrunched it up earlier and then stretched up against him, letting her body rest against his for a moment as she whispered ‘-Singh Raizada..’ slowly into his ear before she brushed her lips over his cheek lightly and spun away, making it to the door with a laugh.
Arnav watched her go with narrowed eyes, knowing he’d created a monster but unable to stop the smile that was spreading across his face.
‘Haan Hari Prakashji, aap Di se pooch li jiye – hum aate hai!’ It was later that evening, all the pooja preparations were complete and Khushi was rushing as she checked and re-checked every last detail.
She’d been worried about running into Arnav again after she’d left him high and dry in their room but to her surprise she hadn’t seen or heard from him since. She was on the middle floor, re-arranging a few things in the living area when she turned around and bumped into someone coming down the stairs, knowing who it was even before she smacked into his chest nose first.
‘Careful!’ As his arms shot out to steady her, Khushi rubbed her nose and noticed absently that Arnav had changed into black jeans and a dark grey top, missing half of what he was saying in the process, ‘..and why are you always in such a hurry?!’
Her smart retort about him being the king of impatience died on her lips when she looked up and realised his hair was still wet from a shower – and it was magically and beautifully cut short and completely product free! An instant smile lit up her face but she pretended to appear puzzled as she poked a finger at his temple tentatively, ‘Hum sapna toh nahi dekh rahe… aap humare Laad Governor hi hai na?!’
Arnav rolled his eyes but couldn’t help smiling as she suddenly ran both hands through his hair and giggled to herself as if she’d won a prize. He took the opportunity to slide his arms around her waist and pull her close. ‘Happy?’ Khushi nodded and smiled to herself as she brushed her fingers over tops of his ears which were now peeking out at her endearingly.
It was silly but seeing him like this made her eyes almost well up. It brought back vivid memories – memories of their uniquely strange journey which she could finally look back on without any twinge of pain or regret. Because all of it had somehow led her here. To him.
She was still lost in her musings when suddenly she became very aware of his hands sliding across her bare back and she remembered where they were. ‘Arnavji! Chodiye humme, koi agaya toh?!’ She struggled and looked around but he held on, not ruffled in the slightest, ‘Who cares Khushi? And anyway, sab pooja mein busy hai…’ She remembered the pooja and panicked, somehow managing to wriggle away from him as she rattled off a hundred and one things she needed to do but Arnav stopped her in her tracks by placing two fingers over her lips.
‘Shhh! Shut up Khushi – I have a few things to say.’ Khushi made a face but waited and he continued in a low, husky voice that played havoc on her already heightened senses, ‘First – the deal’s off, maine apne baal aaj hi kaat diye, so no deal. Agreed?’
Arnav watched with some satisfaction as his words sunk in and first she looked confused and then he tried not to laugh when he saw a flash of disappointment darken those bottomless hazel depths. But he waited till she nodded before he carried on in a softer voice, ‘Good because I want you to be very clear about one thing…’
Khushi had no idea where he was going with this but he seemed deadly serious all of a sudden and she held her breath as she blinked up at him, getting lost in eyes now a dark shade of burnt bronze and filled with promise. ‘Joh bhi main ab karoonga woh kissi shart ya deal ke waje se nahi hoga Khushi Kumari Gupta-Singh Raizada…’
He moved his fingers from her lips and gave her a heart-stopping smile and before Khushi could even form a coherent thought he’d reached down and lifted her over his shoulder in one smooth move, leaving her breathless.
For a second Khushi was stunned into silence but she couldn’t help the surprised shriek that escaped her lips as he turned on his heel and carried her unceremoniously up the stairs and towards their room, ‘Yeh kya kar rahe hai aap?!! Chodiye humme… Laad Governor!!’
She could hear the smirk in his voice as she punched him half-heartedly on the shoulder, knowing it was no use, ‘Not so loud Khushi… koi agaya toh?!’ She shook her head at his accurate imitation of her earlier scandalised tone and buried her face in his back as she laughed in exasperation and let herself get lost in the feel of being in his arms.
She held on to him tightly as they went, no longer caring where they were going, beginning to feel almost drunk and light-headed as she breathed him in. She let one hand slide up his back and across his shoulders till it reached the now clean nape of his neck and she sighed contentedly, running her fingers through his hair as they reached their room and he shut the doors firmly behind them…