Banner by 18shabbo
Khushi woke up dreading what she would see, crying and almost still screaming - No! But what she saw slowed her heart rate down and then sent it racing again. She was clinging on to Arnav, with her head buried in his neck as he lightly snored against her, hugging her around her back and waist. She could hear a burnt out fire crackling lightly behind her. The sky outside was a light gray, having just passed dawn with the snow bringing out more light than there was.
She could smell his aftershave just under his chin where she rested, his pulse warming against her skin. He was alive, he had a pulse. She stayed ever so quiet and listened to him breathing, the sound that had almost deafened her a few seconds ago, a sound which she never wanted to stop. It brought all the images of her dream flashing back through her mind.
She held on to his shirt tighter as she reached up with one hand and wrapped it around his neck, pulling him into a slight hug as the tears from her eyes fell against his neck. Feeling him next to her, alive and safe, was one of the best feelings in the world. She never wanted it to go away.
"You're here" she whispered. She thought she had lost him forever. It was just a silly dream ,she reminded herself. Just a silly dream.
The feel of her lips on his neck jolted him awake from his sleep and he instinctively tightened his grip around her, stopping when he realised that her face was buried in his neck and she was shaking.
The sound of his voice only made her hold on tighter, and he let her lie in his arms, crying gently.
After a while she started to sniffle "Sorry" she sat up slightly, using her fingers to wipe away the wetness from his neck, he closed his eyes at her touch only to raise his arm a few seconds later and place his hand on hers, stopping her "It's okay"he said, thinking she was crying after what had happened last night.
"It's not your fault" he paused, looking down as he continued "I should have been more careful."
Khushi was sitting in his lap, confused at what he was saying "That you didn't get out of the way?" she said, tears in her eyes again as she thought of his blood soaked shirt.
"That I didn't watch out for you"
"But it didn't hit me" she whispered "It hit you, right in the heart" raising her hand and placing it over his chest, calming down when she felt it beating, it was like she constantly needed reassurance.
"What are you talking about?" he asked, concerned that the cold might have messed with her head. Feeling her forehead he asked whether she had a cold.
Khushi suddenly realised that she was sitting in his lap as he felt her forehead to check her temperature. She jumped out of her seat and stumbled, correcting herself awkwardly.
"I...I'm ff..fine" she stammered, as her cheeks and ears suddenly went very hot as she thought of how she had been crying.
"I'm going to..." she twirled in her place, to see nothing but the small room they had stayed in, sparse and empty "make breakfast" she managed, smiling at her attempt.
Arnav rolled his eyes "Are you going to cook my brains? You are halfway there already"
She looked at him angrily, surprised at his ability to keep this up in any situation and realised that he was right, they didn't really have any food. Her stomach grumbled as she thought of a tray of hot breakfast and juice.
She ran out to the car to grab some snacks which she always kept in the back, using the excuse to get away from him and breathe and was surprised to see the car almost buried in a few centimetres of snow. The storm had been strong and the road was no where to be seen, it had calmed down now, only lightly dusting snow on her but it would take few hours for all of it to melt away enough for them to be able to drive.
"Devi Mayya really? Really?" she said, looking up at the sky.
He was on the phone when she got back so she waited for him to finish before telling him about the car and offering him a packet of salted peanuts. He refused the food and went out to check himself, the sun had almost risen fully by the time he got back and he angrily picked up the half eaten packet as he wondered how much longer he would be stranded without civilisation.
"Did you not sleep well?" she asked after seeing him yawn for the third time.
"I slept fine"
She watched him browse through his phone as he resumed his seat on the single sofa and she sat on the bed. She watched him closely, wanting to see proof that he was alive, breathing and absolutely fine. He could feel her gaze on him, but he chose to ignore it becoming more engrossed in his phone. The sound of her voice brought him out of it.
"When you asked me to marry you, were you angry?"
Arnav looked up from his phone as she thought back to what Anjali said about him doing stupid things when he was angry or frustrated.
"Yes" was all he offered, thinking back to that moment in the gardens.
Khushi wanted more. "Do you regret it?" she tentatively asked, afraid of what the answer would be.
If she had asked him that question last week, he would have answered yes without hesitation. Not because he would have meant it, but because he would have wanted her to think he did. Today was a different story, as much as he wanted to show that he didn't care, he didn't want to hurt her. Even more, he didn't want her to think he didn't care. He was tired of faking it, he had fallen too far in to pretend he didn't care anymore. Letting the wall down was not as easy as he had thought, so he looked up at her, anger evident in his eyes. Frustrated with everything.
"I want to know" she said slowly.
He put his phone down on the fireplace next to him with a bang and marched out of the door. Khushi was left shocked, sitting on the bed for a few seconds before she went running out after him. He had covered a large distance in the few seconds she had contemplated but she ran through the snow which froze her feet, finally reaching him as he reached the edge of the woods grabbing on to his arm.
"I want to know" she repeated as he stopped walking at her touch. She forcefully tried turning him around when he didn't respond and when that didn't work she walked around him to face him. Tears in her eyes "I need to know."
In that moment, he decided he could not break her heart "I don't regret it" he said as he watched her eyes slowly release their dread and scrunch up in joy "but I wish it had been different."
She wasn't exactly sure what he had meant by that, different circumstances? Different person? But it was good enough for her "I'm sorry for asking so many questions. I just needed to know" she said, looking down as she flushed with colour again at her own outburst.
He only looked at her, not knowing what to say.
"What do you mean different?" she finally blurted, unable to stop herself.
"Khushi!" he warned.
"Ok, Ill shutup, come back inside?" she pleaded, she did not want to be out in the snow and she decided she had stressed him out a bit too much already.
As they silently walked back, him in front of her again, the sun had fully risen, throwing out rays of shine across the snow and into their little cottage. They got back inside and she watched him slip onto the bed and start to snore softly a few minutes later. He was tired, as was she.
She had slept comfortably in his arms all night, but she had woken up so early from the horrible dream that she could not keep her eyes open any more. She shivered slightly in the sofa and decided to move to the bed where the sun was sending out rays through the window. It felt luke warm against her cool skin so she laid down near him, wisely deciding to face away from him as she realised that she would not be able to sleep looking at him, facing the warmth from the window instead.
He shifted towards the sun as he slept. He felt her next to him and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her closer to him so that her back was pressed up against his chest. He smiled from the contact as he buried his face in her hair that smelled like a summer's day in an orchard.
He decided he hated pillows and that he could definitely get used to sleeping like this.
He finally woke up later in the afternoon when the sun was no longer sending warmth towards them from through the window. She was still breathing slowly next to him in her sleep so he took the moment in, holding on to her and watching her sleep.
When she opened her eyes she saw Arnav standing next to the bed.
"Let's head out" he said avoiding eye contact, handing his jacket out to her, making sure not to touch her hand when she reached out for it. Her touch was doing crazy things to his mind.
"What do you want me to do with this?" she asked groggily as she rubbed her eyes.
He only looked at her frustratingly as he thought of how he had held on to her earlier and walked out of the door towards the car without answering her question.
She stumbled along behind him in the snow, wondering what had him on edge.
"That's snow" she pointed out at the layers of white jacket around the car when they finally got there. He only looked back at her indicating what a silly thing that was to say.
"What are you doing?" she asked a few seconds later, confused as he started to claw at the snow on the hood of the car.
"I'm getting out of here today, I can't stay here any longer" he said, thinking of what the single room in the snow with Khushi was doing to him. She sighed as she watched him trying to get rid of all the snow, slipping into his jacket that she was holding, she went up to help him.
"That's good enough" he said, admiring his work as Khushi looked at the tiny space she had cleared out.
He sat in the car and she followed, watching him rub his hands together, trying to warm them so he could start driving. Khushi reached out, holding both of his hands between hers, and rubbing, warming his hands up from both the friction and the sensation of her touch.
When he pulled away she took off his jacket and placed it around the back of his seat. He started the car and began to turn around, struggling to get through all the snow, Khushi decided not to question him in case he got angry again but after a few minutes of driving in the wrong direction she finally spoke up.
"Where are you going?"
"Where do you think?"
"But this is the wrong direction."
"I came here to get Di, Di is fine, I don't see the point in joining them up there, we're going home"
Khushi thought back to her dream, seeing Shyam standing with a gun with a hateful expression on his face, pointed straight at her chest. She couldn't leave Anjali up there, with him.
"It's either four hours back home or just an hour the other way, we have come so far, it will make Di so happy" she tried.
"I am not in the mood for a holiday Khushi."
"Stop irritating me Khushi."
"Shyam is there, with Anjali ji, we shouldn't leave her there."
He stopped the car abruptly, and turned to face her as she sprung in her seat from the force "What makes you say that?"
Khushi nervously fidgeted with her fingers and stopped when he slowly placed his cold hands over hers "Tell me Khushi."
"Something isn't right about him, he lied when he said he would change, he isn't going to, I know how much you wanted to keep Di safe" she thought back to the night when he had first found out about everything, how he had broken down telling her that he couldn't bear it if anything happened to his sister "I know you wanted to save her from it all, but I think it is time to tell her."
He stayed motionless, with his hands still resting on top of hers. "What makes you say that?" he repeated, controlling his voice.
"We will find a way to make her understand, maybe make it hurt less"
Arnav kept his eyes locked on hers, as he silently asked her the same question with his eyes.
"He didn't do anything to me" she said, as his grip on her hands loosened and he calmed down. "It's just the way he has been acting, and what he has been saying"
He looked back up at her as she went on. As much as he wanted to shelter his sister, he knew she was right. He had known it from the moment he had seen Shyam turn up at his house the day before his sisters birthday, but he was avoiding it, hoping it would go away.
Keep it short Khushi, she thought. "He just asks me whether I am happy, what I see in you" she nervously looked up at him as he flinched "and he makes me feel wrong and ... look, it's not important okay, what is important is that we stop this lie now, while we still can, let Anjali ji know what is going on, she has a right to know. It's not right to keep this from her."
Arnav only slightly nodded his head in agreement and turned the car around. They drove in silence until they reached the hotel they were staying in. Khushi stepped out of the car to face a grand stone building, dressed in wires of tiny lights, covered in all directions by a forest of white trees. As they walked towards the entrance, Khushi admired the view, knowing that it would look like a palace later on in the night when they switched the lights on.
Anjali greeted them in the main hall, apologising profusely for the mean trick she played on them.
"Shyam insisted, we both really wanted you to come, you just missed him, he said he had to go buy some things, but I am so happy you're both here."
They had looked quickly at eachother at the mention of his name, having not decided on the best way to tell Anjali about him yet. She took them upstairs and proudly presented bags full of their clothes for them, smiling at her own cleverness. Khushi smiled at her innocence, she was so wonderful, life was being unfair to her. Her trust and faith had taken advantage of her.
She sat on the bed in her and Arnav's room, having taken a long warm bath which she had needed since the night before. She didn't want to wash the smell of him off her, but she smiled knowing that he would still be there around her. Shyam had been out since the afternoon, Arnav and Anjali had gone out to see the town, Di had insisted that Khushi come too but she said that she was tired, she knew they needed some time between the two of them and Arnav suggested she get some rest.
But she had not managed to.
She had come into her room, admired the view and then rushed to take a shower. Changing into a deep blue dress she sat on the edge of her bed and contemplated. She had forgotten about everything that had been going on in the world around her when she had stayed in the mountains with Arnav. She had forgotten that they all still had problems, problems they would have to face at some point. Her hair was dripping all over their bed sheets, but she was too preoccupied to notice, wondering what Anjali would feel when they told her the truth.
She felt so angry at Shyam for what he had done to her, to the both of them.
She waited for them to come back, leaning back from where she sat so she was lying against the bed with her legs dangling over the edge staring up at the ceiling.
Meanwhile, Arnav walked around in the cold with his Di, catching up on talk that they hadn't managed to have in a long time. He watched her, being ever so careful of her fragile heart. He had seen it broken once before, when their parents had died, he didn't think he could watch her go through pain like that again. She was his angel, his saving grace. Everything he had done, he had done for her, and he had failed at keeping her safe, away from all the pain she was going to have to go through. He decided that the longer he postponed it, the worse he was making it for her. He decided he was going to tell her the first chance he got.
He opened his mouth to speak as she wandered aimlessly through the snow only to shut it again. How do you start a conversation like that? Di, your husband has been lying to you? No. He should say that he has something to say to her. Before he could think any further and decide against it, he spoke up.
"Di, I need to talk to you."
She looked up and placed her hand on his shoulder "That's what we've been doing Chote, talking" she stopped walking "Tell me, is something bothering you?"
Arnav tried speaking up again only to find his tongue was paralysed, he couldn't get it out.
"Urm, Di, I just wanted to say, well no, I've thought about this, and Di I want you to know that I'm always here for you. You know that right?"
She nodded at him, wondering what he was getting at.
"And I'm going to stand by you no matter what?"
She nodded again, waiting.
"Rani Sahiba!" a voice called behind him.
Shyam ran up to them, Arnavs fists clenched at the sight of him as every muscle in his body itched to beat the hell out of him. He had asked Khushi what she had seen in Arnav. How dare he question their relationship, how could he act like he had some sort of ownership over her? Khushi was his, and only his. No one was allowed to question that.
"Chote?" Anjali pressed as Shyam approached them.
"Nothing Di, it wasn't that important, I will talk to you about it later" he said, brushing the topic off as Shyam joined them and smiling at her to let her know he was going to fix it all.
A few hours later Arnav walked into back into their hotel room having reluctantly left Anjali and Shyam to see Khushi with her back on their bed, staring up at the skylight from which she could see the sky that had begun to slowly drop snow. He hair was damp and soaking through the bedsheet as the light from the window above her lit her face up, making her look heavenly against the dark blue dress she wore.
He watched her for a while before joining her on the bed, feeling like he needed her and staring up at the sky as it slowly lost light.
"It's lovely feeling so warm inside when you know it is so cold just outside"she said after a while of silence.
Arnav chuckled "I think you appreciate this more after yesterday."
Khushi smiled "Are you laughing at me?" she jokingly pushed at his shoulder.
He sighed, and the smile slowly left his face "Khushi, it's going to break her"his throat felt dry and cracked like it had the entire afternoon he had spent with his Di.
Khushi reached out for his hand with both of hers, still looking up as he lay beside her "I know" she said as she held his hand, squeezing reassuringly"but she will be all right in the end."
"How do you know?"
Khushi kept staring up at the skies as the window to their side lit up from the lights around the hotel being switched on making the snow now look like little drops of light as they fell.
"Look at us" she paused, wondering how best to put it "Didn't you feel like everything was over when you first found out, like the world was crashing down and we could only stand by, watching as everything fell apart."
"Yeah" he finally whispered.
She turned to look at him as he did the same, the tiniest smile escaped her lips "Look at us now."
Arnav took that moment to appreciate the world around him and thank whoever was responsible for giving him his Khushi, he knew that she would always be there for him, support him and stand by his side like he had told his Di he would for her. She pulled his hand up and placed it at her abdomen with both of hers wrapped out his. It felt good to have him so close, he seemed to make all her worries melt away, and even though she knew it was only temporary, that she would have to get back to the world soon, it felt wonderful to float away from it all. Even if it was just for a moment.
He let her hold his hand as they both went back to looking up at the sky through the high ceiling.
Whatever happened, they had eachother. That's all that mattered.
The light from the ceiling disturbed her from her sleep and she scrunched her nose from its annoyance, trying to turn her face away from it, feeling the stiffness in her neck as she did.
Finally opening her eyes she moved her fingers as her palm was sweaty only to find that she was still holding on to Arnav's hand as they had both fallen asleep where they had lay yesterday. She slowly lifted herself, being careful to not wake him and went to freshen up in the bathroom, changing out of her dark blue dress and into a particularly expensive red, black and copper one that Anjali had picked out for her.
She stared at her reflection in the mirror, deciding to leave her hair out as it was and applied a bit of make up to freshen out the hollowness the last few days had left on her face. She admired herself in the mirror as she lightly traced her skin, he seemed to make her glow. She contemplated whether or not to wear some jewellery, deciding on opting for a light necklace in the end, she didn't know why she suddenly felt so self conscience, well she did have one idea.
Walking back into the room she stood by the bathroom door and watched him as he peacefully slept. He still had his hand clasped where she had been holding on to him against the cream and silver duvet cover. The carpet, a dark maroon, spread beneath her feet up until the two large windows at the edge of the room that were showing signs of the slowly rising sun, dawn again. They hadnt switched off the fairy lights yet and Khushi waited until they did before she decided to go and get coffee for him from downstairs.
She met Anjali and Shyam on her way down. Stopping when she first saw him and then forcing her feet to move forward. He gave her a smile as she passed him and she found herself boiling up in anger as he did. She wanted to burn his eyes, to teach him a lesson for all the wrong he had done and continued to do. She hadn't seen him since that morning at the breakfast table when he had first announced the trip.
"Good morning Khushiji! You have come out so early! You must come with us today, and convince Chote too, we were going out around town, shop a little and we wanted to have dinner out too at this wonderful place we discovered yesterday night" Anjali flustered at her as they finally got to the hotels own dining area.
"Yes Khushiji, it wouldn't be the same without you" he added, admiring her beauty as she swayed.
She looked up at him angrily, disgusted at how he could keep this up in front of his wife.
"I'll go and ask him if he is up for it, he seems really tired after yesterday" she said, looking only at Anjali as she spoke. Before she turned around to head back upstairs she remembered she had come here to get coffee so she walked past them to the table where the coffee cups were, taking care to avoid him as much as possible without making it too obvious.
"I'm just going to grab my purse from our room and then we can go have some breakfast out? How does it sound?" Anjali asked a disconnected Shyam.
He smiled sweetly back at her "Perfect" With which she started towards the elevator. Without even looking to see if Anjali was out of sight he followed Khushi to the table where she was putting together two cups of coffee. As she reached out for the milk he placed his hand on top of hers, smiling at the feeling.
She yanked her hand away.
"What do you think you are doing?" she said, a little too loudly for a friendly conversation.
"Don't make a scene Khushiji" he said, in his usual manipulative tone, faking innocence. He started to pour out the milk in each of their cups.
"People are going to think something is going on."
"You are sick" she spat at him "I've told you once before, stay away from me"confident that she was standing in a room with a few other people. She angrily grabbed the two cups of coffee and turned on her heel, trying to put as much distance between them as she could only to be stopped by Shyam roughly grabbing her arm and pulling her towards him.
"Khushiji, why the angry tone?"
"Let go of me!" she flared as his hand only tightened its grip on her arm. The pain through her right arm made her hand release the coffee she was holding and it fell to the ground between them.
"Khushiji" he said with a smile stretched across his face, in a sickly sweet voice that made Khushi want to tear her own ears off.
"You don't have to lie for him, I know how you really feel, you can tell me the truth, I'm going to fix all of this."
He raised his free arm and lightly stroked Khushi on her cheek, she flinched away from his touch and almost felt the steam rise out of her ears as she defensively flung the remaining cup of coffee at him. She missed by the most part but did manage to scald the arm that was holding her slightly, he winced from the pain but it only made him hold on tighter.
Tears filled up in her eyes as her confidence slowly began to seep out of her, like the blood was draining from her arm where he held on her. This man was crazy. She struggled against his grip until they heard the ring of the elevator and he let go slowly, just in time for a smiling Anjali to start walking over towards them.
A shaking Khushi ran away from him before Anjali got them, she only had one half empty coffee cup in her hand as she went running up the stairs and through the door to their room, locking it quickly and breathing with her back against it, slowly slipping to the ground. She couldn't tell whether she was over reacting because Shyam scared her, or whether he really had lost his mind.
Arnav had closed the curtains so only a little light filtered through them, reflecting off of the dark carpet and making the room look like it had faint red lanterns on.
He walked out of the bathroom and panicked when he saw her sitting on the ground, her beautiful features painted a picture of worry and her eyes were wet, shivering from fear. He had missed her when he had woken up that morning and he ran up to her, dropping to his knees and taking the coffee cup from her hands, placing it on the table behind him.
"Khushi! What happened, are you okay?"
He pulled her hand off of her arm where she was holding it and almost lost his mind at the sight of a hand shaped bruise and small burns from where she had splashed some coffee on herself. How dare he touch her, how dare he touch his Khushi, how dare he even think about her.
I was listening to this when I wrote the next bit, it sets the mood so do listen to it as you read :)
He grabbed Khushi's shoulders, trying as hard as he could to not be too rough and lifted her off the ground, moving her a step to the right as he reached out to unlock the door and punch Shyam square in the face. He didn't care who was looking, he wasn't going to let Shyam get away with this, he had done too much, stepped too far. It was time to end this.
But Khushi reached out for his arm clinging on to him, this wasn't the way they could allow Anjali to find out, if they owed her anything it was atleast that much. This man, the man that they both despised, was her husband. She had lived with him and loved him for years, it wasn't fair to her to let it all go out in a moment of anger without giving her any consideration. They had to bear this for her, it was only for a little while.
"Don't" she pleaded.
"No good will come of it" she added, her voice breaking towards the end. It was her only outlet for all the hate she felt, she didn't know how to deal with Shyam without hurting Anjali. The tears that were welling up in her eyes, for Anjali, finally fell down her face and Arnav immediately stepped up to her, cornering her against the wall as he wiped them before they could mark her face with any more sorrow.
He wanted to take it all away, all the pain she was feeling, all the pain that Shyam had caused her, along with the pain that he had added. He knew that she was innocent, as much a victim as his sister was, but he also knew that she felt guilty, for what her presence had done and he hated that Shyam made her feel that. He closed his eyes as he thought that he had added to that feeling with the way he had treated her up till recently, he had been wrong.
He was still shaking from fury and she raised her hands to his shoulders to calm him down. He looked up at her eyes as she looked down at her hands, watching her as she slowly stroked at his shoulders, taking away all his anger with a touch.
He leaned in closer to her, slowly and steadily, watching her eyes as she slowly raised them to meet his, he was right up against her now, his lips almost touching hers. The red glow coupled with her dress made her look heavenly, her soft hair cascaded down her shoulder and back, he let his eyes take her in.
She took a breath in to feed her heart from the fear that it would stop beating and he took advantage of that moment to press his lips to hers for the second time. It was different, but just as wonderful.
The first time, it had come out of no where, the urge to touch her lips had taken over everything else and he had shocked hem both. This time is was thought through, he had leant in slowly, waiting for her reaction, for her approval and he had gone through with it the first signal he had got from her. Breaking down his barrier was worth all the moments he got to share with her when it was gone.
Khushi's hands flowed along his shoulders and up his neck where she clutched at his hair as he kissed her and he brought his hand up to her cheek in response, pulling her in towards him.
He released her lips, breathing heavily as she looked up at him, still holding on to him as he took a step forward, her back hit the wall behind her and he took her lips in his once again. She pulled on his hair and he knew if she continued doing that he wouldn't be able to control himself so he grabbed her hands, pulling them away from his neck and pinning them against the wall behind her. He let go of her lips and slowly trailed a line of hot kisses down her jaw and neck, finally resting his head on her shoulder.
She was breathing heavily against him, struggling to get her mind back together. What was going on? Whatever it was, she didn't want it to stop. He breathed her name against the skin of her neck and she gasped as he made his way back up her neck to her ear, kissing her along her jaw till he was back to her lips.
He closed his eyes, trying to keep everything under his control, but that wasn't easy, when he could feel her lips quivering against his "Khushi" he said, in a voice barely more than a whisper "Khushi, I can't" he admitted to her.
She remained still, unsure of what he meant, holding his hands that had hers pinned against the wall and slowly bringing them down, placing them around her waist as she let her own drop to her sides.
As he kissed her lightly at the corner of her mouth, she let out a moan, prompting him to tighten his grip around her waist and pick her up, holding her against the wall as he stood between her legs and began to furiously kiss her again, losing all the control he had managed to retain. He pushed himself closer to her, pressing up against her body as he kissed every part of her lips, forcing them open with his tongue. She cupped his face with both her hands, responding to his actions.
He ran his hands up her waist and along her body, holding her with one arm on her waist and one on her back, he lifted her off the wall and carried her to the bed, gently putting her down as he positioned himself on top of her, placing his weight on his elbows and taking in her breathtaking beauty.
She held her breath as he leaned in to her and tugged at the string that held her dress together behind her neck, kissing her nape. Undoing it, he continued to kiss every inch of her skin that he came in contact with, giving in to his desires as he pulled at her sleeve, taking her dress off slowly.
Khushi closed her eyes, as she felt his fingers trace her skin. She held him with her arms enclosed around his back.
He had his head buried in her neck and had been in the middle of pulling her second sleeve off her shoulder when there was a knock at the door. Khushi's eyes flew open and Arnav froze.
They heard Anjali's voice, muffled slightly by the door "Chote? Khushji?"
Arnav buried his head in Khushi's hair as he heard his sisters voice, letting out a groan, God he did not want to stop, he could hear her heavy breathing and feel her chest rise and fall beneath his skin. He whispered her name in a fluster, softly brushing his lips against her earlobes.
Arnav, panting heavily, slowly raised his head, his eyes meeting Khushi's who was looking right back at him, shocked by what had just happened so spontaneously, but he saw the desire in her eyes and knew that his own were probably dark with the same emotion. Arnav felt his heart jump deep in his chest as he pondered whether she wanted him as much as he wanted her, he did not want to go anywhere, all he wanted was to be right there with her.
He slowly looked around him taking in their surroundings and quickly took his hand off her bare shoulder, picking himself up off of her as she remained still, taking a deep breath to compose herself.
"Hello? Are you guys in there."
"Yes Di" Arnav replied, coughing as his throat was rough.
"Sorry, Chote were you sleeping?" Anjali asked through the door.
Arnav looked back at Khushi who had fixed her dress back up on her shoulders, straightened it out and was now looking up through the skylight at the gray light the sun was shining, her skin a fake shade of red from the glow through the tinted curtains coupled with her blood rising in her cheeks.
"No, No Di I'm not sleeping"
"So am I going to stand out here all day?" she called.
Arnav swiftly stood up and walked over to the door, unlocking it and watching Khushi hastily sit up from the corner of his eyes. Anjali was leaning against the door, feigning yawns to exaggerate the amount of time he took.
"Chote! Atleast fix your hair when you wake up in the morning" she said, leaning over and straightening out a few pieces of his hair, he looked down, too embarrassed to admit that he had brushed it just a few minutes ago. Looking back he saw that Khushi had run into the bathroom so he ushered his sister inside.
"I would come inside but I only came up to tell you that you both should come out for breakfast with us, we can just go straight from there."
"Didn't Khushiji tell you? Where is she?" she asked, popping her head into the room.
"Yeah, yeah, she did tell me" Arnav lied, trying to avoid his sisters questions. He looked back at the bathroom door where she was, turning back to his sister and thinking of an excuse.
"Di, I think we should just stay in today, we're a bit tired."
"You wouldn't be up if you were that tired, this is my birthday present, I will have no excuses" she said, turning on her heel and walking back down the corridor yelling "No excuses" again as she did.
He waited for a while before slowly walking up to the bathroom door and knocking once.
"Di said that we sh..."
"I heard" she said through the door, interrupting him.
Arnav was thrown aback, had he done something wrong? He stood by the door for a minute and then grabbed his sweater from the wardrobe before heading out angrily to meet his sister and brother-in-law downstairs.
Meanwhile Khushi sat on the floor in the lavish bathroom, staring at her reflection in the mirror. The lipgloss she had applied was gone, kissed away by him. She stood up on shaky legs and fixed her makeup so that you couldn't tell what had just happened a few minutes ago and pulled on a warm jacket that covered up the mark on her arm before following Arnav out the door.
He was sitting across from them in the main reception area, eyeing Shyam with an angry look when Khushi walked in. They all stood up on her arrival and started walking towards the door, Shyam was careful, only talking to Anjali when he had the chance but sneaking looks at Khushi all morning through breakfast, making her feel uncomfortable.
Conversation was minimal at the table as Khushi tried to act like she didn't exist and Arnav thought of the best way to tell his sister that her husband was cheating scum while trying to juggle the fact that he had fallen head over heels for his own wife whilst also trying to control his temper urges every time he saw Shyams eyes fall on Khushi who was sitting next to him. By the time they had finished eating Arnav could feel his head throbbing from the pain of all the thoughts that were swimming around in his mind.
Anjali insisted that they walk instead of drive, what was the point of snow if you could only enjoy it from inside closed doors? They settled on driving out to different places and then walking around most of the time.
As they drove away from the the restaurant, Khushi and Arnav sat in silence, avoiding eachothers gaze after what had happened that morning. How had they both lost control like that? Arnav found that everytime he looked her way, he could feel her lips on his and he could hardly control himself, so he tried to look at her as little as possible. Khushi was just too embarrassed to look him in the eye because everytime she did she was reminded of how she had pulled on his hair and and held his face closer to hers.
They stopped when they found a line of little stalls which excited Anjali who was jumping at the chance to buy some cute things for the family back home. She dragged Khushi along behind her leaving Shyam and Arnav standing by the cars.
"What are you doing" Arnav questioned as soon as they were out of earshot.
"Stop this nonsense, it is not working on anyone"
He chuckled slightly "Ji, you and Khushiji both seem to be questioning me even when I breathe."
Arnav stepped around to face him before he had even finished speaking grabbing his collar and clenching his jaw.
"Don't say her name" he said through clenched teeth, thinking back to the bruise on Khushi's arm and it took a lot of his strength to release his collar "And don't you dare touch her again" he said, shoving Shyam against his car. He forced himself to walk away, this was not the time or place for something like this. He reminded himself of Khushi's words, no good will come of it.
They waited in silence, Arnav breathing heavily trying to control his urge to hit Shyam until Anjali returned, dragging Khushi behind her with a bag full of accessories. Arnav reached out for Khushi before she had got to him, holding her by the arm "We're going Khushi."
"Huh? What? Where?" she said in a rush, looking nervously over at Shyam as though he would provide some information on what had happened, jumping at the shock she felt when Arnav's skin came in contact with hers.
He didn't miss her reaction but walked her around to the car, opening the door for her.
"Back to the hotel, I'm too tired for all of this nonsense."
"Hey! This is not nonsense" Anjali called pretending to be offended. When he didn't react she called out to him again "Chote, you promised me dinner!"
Sitting in his seat, Arnav put his window down slightly, looking at his sister "We'll go out for dinner later. I'm not going to walk around for hours until then."
He needed to get away from Shyam before he gave up to his urges and beat the living daylights out of him. As he drove away from his sister he reminded himself that Shyams presence was short lived, he was going to be out of all of their lives soon, he wasn't letting that man near anyone he loved anymore.
Arnav stormed up to their room leaving Khushi sitting in the car as he tried to empty his head of all the thoughts that were making it spin. He tore off his sweater and threw himself on the bed out of frustration "Dammit!" He sat up, needing a way to vent out his frustration at the world. He threw the box of tissues lying on the side table at the window, followed by the alarm clock and water glass, that shattered against it, spitting out the little water that was sitting in it. Arnav held his head in his hands and tried to breathe in and out slowly. He wanted to hit something, more specifically, he wanted to hit Shyam.
Khushi jumped at the sound of her ringtone. She had been idly sitting in the car for a while, not knowing whether she should go and face Arnav, both because she thought he needed a bit of time alone right now and because she was still too embarrassed to even be around him.
"Are you planning on staying in the car till dinner?"
It was him.
"Should I tell the truth?"
"Well, I don't mind stayi.." she slowly said, understanding his angry tone.
"Khushi, stop being ridiculous."
He turned the phone off on her before she even got a chance to respond. She waited for a few minutes before slowly making her way back up to their room.
She closed the door behind her silently and stood by the doorway, not certain of what to do. She could see broken glass strewn over the carpet near the window, it hadn't been there when she had left that morning. Knowing that whatever she said, he would probably find some way to take out his anger on her she remained quiet.
He was lying on the bed having covered his face with his hands.
After waiting a while to see what she would do, he spoke, his voice muffled by his hands "Why are you standing by the door?"
She took a few steps into the room until she reached the corner of the bed, and slowly sat down on the edge, looking back over at Arnav who was still buried in his hands.
He wasn't making an effort to start a conversation, or clear up what had happened between them that morning. Of course, she thought, he had much more important things to think about. I should just forget about it, we'll deal with it later. I need to help him and Anjali first.
"Khushi Kumari Gupta, you can handle this no problem, you need to be strong for them right now, remember Payal jiji , Khushi you can do anything you set your heart to" she whispered to herself looking up at the skylight thinking of her parents, causing a confused Arnav to look over at her. Was she talking to herself?
Khushi plastered a smile on her face and walked over to the shattered glass pieces on the floor.
"You broke a glass?" she looked over finding the front cover of the clock on the floor"And the alarm clock?" she gasped "I really liked that clock."
"Oh well, it doesn't matter" she continued, picking up the broken pieces and throwing them away as he watched her from where he lay "They will charge you for it though, Oh, I forget" she said, slapping her forehead "You're Arnav Singh Raizada, a clock and a glass is probably the same as a grain of sugar to you" she looked up at him quickly "Not that I am making fun of you, I mean being rich is a good thing.." she stopped "Not that that is a quality I look for, I mean sure it helps, but you know, its more about sufficiency than quantity, wait no, I don't mean it like that" she walked over to the dustbin throwing away another set of glass"I mean, sure, this hotel is nice, and I'm sure not everyone can afford it, but you can enjoy yourself in places that don't cost an arm and a leg, not that I think you don't have good taste" she added in, hoping to not offend him "But I'm sure that doesn't mean much to you, because it's not like you booked it anyway, that was Shy..." she stopped her tongue before she said his name out loud, but the damage was done. She had been blabbing.
"Shut up! Khushi Kumari Gupta, Shut up!"
He looked over at her in surprise.
Her eyes opened wide in fear "No, no I mean, I didn't mean no to you, well, I did, but not to shutting up, I'll shut up"
He stood up from the bed and walked over to her grabbing her by the shoulders and giving her a slight shake, he was way too confused for more of this "What are you talking about?"
"I mean that you said it wrong"
She looked down, embarrassed, not wanting to say what she had thought seconds ago"My name" she looked back up at his eyes "Isn't Khushi Kumari Gupta anymore"she finished, thinking about how she had been calling herself that since their marriage just over two weeks ago, but hearing it from his lips had sounded wrong to her.
He dropped his arms, thinking for a moment. He hadn't noticed, he had been trying to convince himself for so long that they weren't husband and wife in the conventional sense, he had almost forgotten that they had actually married each other. He brushed away his mistake, unable to think straight with her standing so close and picked up the remaining pieces of glass before lying down on the bed again.
Khushi decided that disturbing him was probably not the best idea so she busied herself in unpacking all their things, hanging them up in the wardrobes and then she settled herself on the window pane, staring at the snow outside as the tiny snowflakes landed and melted against the warmer glass, running along it to the base. She smiled when the sky became dark enough for the fairy lights to come back on again, tracing her fingers along the light that made the glass glow.
It was all so beautiful.
He watched her, thinking the same thing.
Anjali appeared not long after it had become dark, knocking at the door reminding them of a promise they had made about dinner. Arnav had tried his best to get out of it to no avail. His sister had perfected the stubborn act over years and years and practice with him. He couldn't say no to her, she knew that and planned to take full advantage of it.
"Anjaliji, you go ahead, I'll go and quickly change into something else and meet you downstairs" she said, slipping softly off the window pane and landing on the carpet.
"Don't" he said, without thinking.
"I mean, whatever, just don't waste time" he flushed slightly and quickly slid past his sister out the door. Anjali only smiled at her brothers back as rushed away down the corridor and walked in the room to hold up Khushi's chin with her hand.
"Khushiji, I know you will look beautiful in anything but I know my Chote too and he has difficulty in being ..." she thought for a second and decided there was no point in sugar coating it "... in being nice to people." She looked Khushi up and down in the dark red and black dress she was wearing, hinted with bronze metallic beads, soft dark brown hair falling down her back and her face glowing against the light that made her eyes look like beads from her dress, bronze and shiny. She looked more than appropriate for dinner.
"He loves red, it is his favourite colour and I'm sure he likes it even more on you, so I think you look perfect the way you are."
Khushi smiled back at Anjali, blushing furiously, holding her hand and bringing it down from her chin.
"Thank you Di, if you insist I would love to go wearing this."
"Chote is so lucky he got a beautiful wife like you." She said, patting her head and letting her hand flow through Khushi's soft hair. She was like the little sister she never had.
"You look so pretty, I told you this dress would look wonderful on you."
Khushi looked back in to Anjali's sparkling eyes, she wanted to cry in her arms because of everything that was happening, but she composed herself, and put a smile on her face like she had so many times before.
"You don't look too bad yourself" she replied, looking at Anjali clad in a beautiful dark saree, her hair held up in a bun high on her head.
"I think we should ditch the guys and go out just you and me" Khushi joked, wiggling her eyebrows at her sister-in-law.
Anjali only laughed and ushered Khushi out of the door in front of her. Khushi kept up the facade of being normal cheerful Khushi as they made their way downstairs, only letting the elastic smile fall when Anjali moved in front of her, allowing release from the pain of keeping her face so joyous. Everytime she looked at Anjali, she felt her heart drop knowing what they were about to do to her, and it hurt her even more to think what Arnav was feeling. In the short time that Khushi had known Anjali she had befriended her, forgotten about all the differences in class and status that seemed to even come between her and Arnav. She was a good woman.
It was true that bad things happen to good people.
Arnav stood transfixed as Khushi walked towards the car in tow with his sister. He had spent all day avoiding looking at her and thinking of so many things he had been afraid that his brain would have fallen to pieces. He shuddered as he thought of the two hours he had spent watching her stare out of the window in the dim lighted room, but here she was, in the centre of all the brightness the fairy lights were drowning her in, a faint glow against the dull snow of the forest behind her. The red and black she wore stood out against everything else and he wasn't sure whether it was because the colours brought such a stark contrast against the white snow and yellow lights or whether it was because his vision around everything but her seemed to go hazy.
Anjali smiled at his reaction but decided to keep it to herself, her little brother did not like being called out in situations like this and she hadn't missed the tension between her usually civil and friendly husband and brother. Deciding to let it go she sat with an unusually fidgety Shyam in their car and watched a frozen Arnav stand against the door of his car as Khushi approached him.
She looked cautiously behind her, worried about what he was staring at. Finding an ever serene hotel and nothing else in her wake she turned back around to find he was still lost somewhere.
She wasn't sure whether to watch him daydream or do something about it as he kept on looking at her as Anjali and Shyam's car drove away.
She waved her hand in front of his face and watched him blink and fall back to earth as his expression changed instantly from mesmerised to angry.
This is not normal, he thought to himself as she waved him back to reality.
"Get in the car."
They drove in silence for a short while before pulling up to a little wooden building, adorned with the same lights that made their hotel look magnificent against its backdrop. Here it had a slightly different effect, making the small restaurant look cosy and warm against the cold snow that surrounded it.
Arnav walked in muttering things about how ridiculous his sister was being for dragging them all the way out here even when there was perfectly good food back from where they had come from. Even more so, why where they even here, he wanted to go home, it was cold, and damp, and everything made him shiver, well she seemed to have that effect on him too he added to himself. When Anjali offered him no heed after a few long minutes of complaining he decided to stop, it wasn't helping the pounding in his head at all to be speaking so much so he left the conversation to everyone else., trying his best to control the clenching of his jaw every time he saw Shyam look over at his wife.
"Ahhh this is such a beautiful song" Anjali exclaimed after dinner as the waiters cleared out a small dark wooden space for dancing as a slow song came on in the background. She turned around expectantly to Shyam who stood up immediately thinking of a plan that sounded great in his head. He held his hand out to Anjali who stood up a second later and then looked over at Khushi and Arnav who were uncomfortably avoiding eachothers gaze.
"Only if you both get up too" he said to them, receiving a shocked look from Khushi and a furious one from Arnav. If it hadn't been for his sister smiling next to him and nodding in agreement Arnav would have stood up and thrown Shyam against the dancefloor in an instant.
"No" was all he said, they were not getting this out of him.
Anjali sat down in a puff, pouting in disappointment and looking at her little brother.
"Birthday" she said, expecting him to understand that that should be sufficient to convince him. When he didn't respond she continued.
"Chote, look, you came here, and now you are being stubborn"
"You are the one being stubborn" he shot back.
Khushi looked back and forth between the two stubborn siblings, immediately being reminded of her and her older sister, she avoided looking up to where Shyam was standing around the small round table and spoke up.
"Anjali ji, I don't think that is such a good idea, I..I don't even know ho.."
"I'm not having it, I'm not taking any excuses, I want to dance with my husband and brother and sister, get up get up get up" she said, taking no excuses from the pair of them whatsoever as she waved her hands at them.
She had seen how they had been a bit awkward around eachother, she didn't really mind dancing or not, but she wanted to give them a chance to talk properly, she didn't want to get involved too much but it was her duty to at least see that they tried to sort it out.
Arnav looked back at his sister who had put on a face on concrete, she was going to get what she wanted, so he stood up and offered his hand out to Khushi as she reluctantly took it, seeing Shyam watch them as he lead a stumbling Khushi onto the wooden floor at the centre of the dimly lit room.
The only light provided was by the candles in brackets against the wall and littered across tables, the dark sky outside had begun to dust snow down around them and they could feel the cool breeze make its way through a few cracks in the numerous large windows that made the candlelight flutter against it.
His breath hitched as he stood so close next to her and the room around him went hazy again so he could only make out the outline of Shyam and Anjali following them, everything apart from her seemed to just fade away into the distance as he placed his hand around her waist and carried her hand to place it around his shoulder. She was looking up at him with shaking eyes, asking him what he was feeling, but he didn't want to talk, he just wanted to be there, with her, in that moment as he let the music around him fall into his ears.
I was listening to this as motivation when I wrote the next bit, it fits in really well and normally I don't insist so much but this time I really think you should listen to it! Otherwise it just seems really sappy and silly. So please do!
He started to move and she nervously shook her head, stopping him.
"I can't, I don't know how to, not like this" she stuttered.
He saw his sisters shadow behind Khushi and he knew she was probably watching them along with all the other people in the room, Arnav reassuringly tugged at Khushi's waist, bringing her closer to him as he placed her second hand around his shoulder and whispered to her.
"Take my hand, and don't worry, I can teach you."
She only looked at him confused by what he meant for her to do next, staring into his deep eyes as he looked right back, unshaken by her lack of confidence but by her proximity.
"Let me lead?" he asked, getting only a shaky nod in response as he felt her nervously twitch.
"Here, step on my feet"
He lifted her up slightly by the waist placing her feet on top of his and winding his second hand around her before she could protest. He could feel the heat from her body radiating towards him against the cool breeze from outside, the fluttering light allowing him only glimpses of her beauty.
She closed her eyes as she felt him begin to move to the music around them, she could feel the eyes of everyone in the room on her, but she let it go, taking in the moment as she could feel Arnav's pulse in his wrists around her waist letting him carry her around the room so she felt like she was weightless and floating in bliss.
Everything was changing so quickly, she was feeling things she had never felt before in her life and the man responsible for all of it was holding her close to him, carrying her around the room, making her forget all that was going on. She had another moment where she could feel all her surroundings melt away from the heat of his touch. All her worries, all the expectations of the world were now only fleeting memories of the past, ones she could not recall.
All that mattered was the here and now, how he held her close and kept her safe from the world, all the prying eyes, and all the evil it had to offer. She was safe, here with him and even though she knew at the back of her mind that she had much more to worry about, at that single moment, that is all that seemed important.
He let the feeling of her in his arms take over as he moved to the music and let the room around him dissolve into nothingness. He could feel her delicate eyelashes flutter past the skin of his neck as she opened her eyes from the shock of feeling him rest his head against hers as she swayed to the melody that seemed so very distant in the background. He loved how she felt against him, so small and fragile, something that he wanted to keep safe and to himself forever. He smiled against her skin as he felt her relax in his arms against everything else and shiver from the cold that the large windows were throwing at them, so he closed his arms tighter around her, wanting to shield her from it all.
He felt all the moments rush back to him, when he had watched her stare at the stars and fall asleep on his shoulder later that night. He had brought her back up to the room and watched her milky skin shine against the moonlight. That morning he had woken up to find her sleeping inches away from him and had stared right back at her as she peacefully slept. How she had laughed when he had missed her when hurling snowballs her way, the taste of his lips against hers when he had kissed her for the first time against the snow. How the fire had felt infinitely warmer with her lying in his arms, shivering from all the cold he had put her through. How he had lost control when he had seen her hurt and crying, and kissed her senseless against the wall, what if his Di had not come in? Then again, when he had lost control of himself when he had seen her step out earlier this evening, in a dress that made her glow brighter than any star she had loved.
It was them, against everything else. But the fear was gone, all of it disappeared in the small gap between them as they moved across the room. She nervously trod on his feet unsure of whether he was okay.
"It's allright" he whispered against her ear, feeling her relax back into place with the calming tone of his voice.
"I know" she whispered back and he wasn't sure if she was talking about them dancing any more but he didn't want to question it and ruin the perfect moment so he just held on to her, right up until the song ended and he found himself not wanting to let go when it finally did.
Shyam had watched them lost in eachother and he felt everything that he had worked for slowly slipping from his reach. Arnavs hands were wound around her waist and he could see how Khushi was breathing hard against his chest in the dim light, holding on tightly to his shoulders as he rest his head against her cheek.
Arnav was not going to steal her away from him. He had spent so long planning it all, gone through the trouble of juggling two lives for her sake. So that he would end up with her. He had not done all of that to now be staring at her dancing with some other man.
"Rani Sahiba, who knew Sale Saab was such a good dancer."
Anjali looked back from where she was to see her brother resting his head on Khushi, moving swiftly and slowly across the room. They looked perfect together.
"They look so sweet together" She smiled.
Shyam chose to ignore her comment, he was not in the mood to hear more about how Khushi fit perfectly into Arnav's arms. That much he could see for himself, and it did not please him.
"You should ask Sale Saab for a dance" he suggested.
Arnav jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder and he subsequently felt Khushi's weight lift off of his feet as she stepped down and away from him. He almost reached back out for her, disappointed at the lack of her touch but he turned at the insistence of the hand on his shoulder to find his sisters expectant face, holding out her other hand towards him, asking for a dance.
Before he could say anything she had pulled him towards herself.
"I am not begging you for a dance c'mon."
He looked back at Khushi, an apology evident in his eyes as he walked away from her and Shyam, being dragged along by his sister. He kept looking back at them as he saw Khushi start to edge away uncomfortable from the dancefloor.
"Dance with me?"
Khushi turned to see Shyam holding his hand out to her, exactly the person she had been trying to subtly avoid was now asking her to dance. She nervously looked around her to see that a few people were looking at them, so was Anjali, her eyes fixed in their general direction as Arnav faced away from them.
"You have lost your mind" Khushi muttered at him through sealed lips, hoping that nobody caught her remark.
"Khushiji, don't take everything so negatively, look.." he pointed up "your husband is dancing with my wife, I am your brother-in-law, just a friendly dance" he said, reaching his hand out to her again.
"I said NO! And it doesn't matter how sweet you try and make your voice sound, I am not changing my mind, get away from me!"
Arnav heard her voice behind him and he turned to see Shyam holding his hand out to Khushi and her backing away. He let go of his sisters hands.
"What happened Chote?" she called before he could walk away.
He quickly looked behind him as he saw Shyam take a step towards her, he could feel the anger start to build up inside him, bringing back the throbbing in his head that he had only just been rid of after his dance with Khushi.
She placed her hand back around his "Give me a spin?" she asked as she picked up his hand and playfully twirled under it.
"Don't touch me, how many times do I have to say it before you understand me? Which part don't you get?" she harshly strained at him.
"Khushiji you are overeacting, it's just a dance, I told Rani Sahiba we were going to dance, what will you tell her?" he said, lying through his teeth.
She looked nervously at Anjali who was busy laughing and twirling under her brothers hand. What she wouldn't do to keep her happy for as long as possible. She shook her head, this was too far.
"No, I don't care what you said to her, I am NOT dancing with you, leave me alone, your act is getting old, I don't know what you want from me anymore."
His patience was wearing thin, who was she to refuse him so many times when he loved her, he was being nothing but nice, did she think she was above him? She was his and she didn't have the right to refuse that. He roughly grabbed her by the wrist, ignoring her protests as he dragged her along behind him and took the few steps onto the wooden clearing.
"Let go of me, I said let go of me! I swear to you I will scream out loud."
"It's just a dance Khushiji" he said, knowing that it was an empty threat as he turned around grabbing her second wrist, staring at her beauty enhanced by the flickering candlelight and reflection from the snow through the windows. She struggled against his hands.
A laughing Anjali twirled again under her brothers hand as he looked around to find the spot where his wife had previously stood empty.
Arnav quickly turned back around at the sound of his sisters cry as she threw her hands up to her hair, watching as it tumbled out of the pin that was holding it up in its bun as she had hit it against his arm. She looked up at him.
"Chote, just give me a minute please, I need to fix my hair, I won't be too long" she said as she walked back towards the bathrooms, holding her hair up in her hands.
Khushi watched Anjali walk away as she continued to struggle against Shyams hands, why was this so important to him? It was just a dance, like he had so sweetly put just a few moments ago.
Arnav felt his rage bubble over as he finally spotted them in a corner of the clearing after having frantically scanned the dimly lit room, Shyam was holding Khushi by the hands and he could make out her angry expression against her fear. Covering the steps between them in a just over a few strides he leant back without thinking even for a second and landed a strong punch straight against Shyams jaw who fell back from the force of it, still clinging on to Khushi.
He had been waiting to do that for so long.
He didn't care what the consequences were, the feeling he had was worth it.
He watched as Khushi began to fall over along with Shyam who was holding on to her and he reached out, grabbing her before she toppled over and he straightened her up as she shook from the sight of him.
Arnav looked over her quickly, checking if she was okay and was shocked by the pair of hands that grabbed him from the side and shoved him away from her before feeling the striking pain as something slammed against his jaw.
Khushi gasped as she watched Shyam punch Arnav back as he was ripped away from her. What was going on, everything was happening so quickly. The next thing she knew she saw Arnav leap at Shyam and she only watched helplessly as they both landed straight on to a table, crashing it to the ground along with all the glassware that lay on its top that shattered to the ground in a mess.
She nervously looked back at up the door to the bathrooms and quickly prayed that it remain closed as Arnav and Shyam rolled around on the floor in a fit of fists and shoves, Anjali could be out any moment. They needed to stop this.
She looked apologetically at the restaurant staff who were shocked by all the commotion, bending down and tugging on Arnavs shoulder who was on top of his brother in law now, holding him by the neck.
"Arnav let's go, let's go" she pleaded.
"You son of a ... I told you, I bloody warned you" he shouted in his rage.
She tugged harder and he slowly let go off Shyam, standing up as his head rushed from the sudden flow of blood to it. His lower lip was bleeding and he had a few marks on his skin where Shyam had hit him.
Arnav looked over at Khushi as he stood up, grabbing her by the shoulders "Are you okay?"
She tutted in response, how could he ask that when he was the one who had just broken a few glasses, a table and got punched more than once?
She held on strongly to his shoulders in reply and half pushed him towards the door, avoiding Anjali before she managed to come back outside. She knew they didn't have to worry about what she would think, Shyam had become way too good at lying to not be able to hide this from her, he would make up some excuse, better than anything they would have been able to think of.
Arnav took a huge breath in as the cold air hit him, cooling his anger and redirecting the pain away from his bruises as he stepped outside. The throbbing in his head was back so he started walking towards the large clearing of trees and snow across the road, persuading an erratic Khushi to almost jog to keep up with him.
"What was that?" she furiously shouted at him from a few paces behind so that he could hear her through the wind and snow.
He only continued walking, taking in the cold air and letting it rid him of his headache as she struggled to keep up with him through the snow.
"Hey!" she called out to him, heeding no response.
He finally stopped and she came to a standstill behind him, wondering what was going on.
"What was that? You can't just attack people like that."
"He isn't just anyone."
She stood still, surprised because he didn't sound as angry as she had expected him to be. He turned back around, a relieved and very small smile slowly playing across his face.
"You have no idea how long I waited to do that."
He watched her expression change from anger to annoyance, she looked stunning, the colours of her dress in a stark contrast to her skin and the snow around her.
Khushi ran up to him and hit him on his shoulder "You hit him because you wanted to? Arnav ji, you can't just go around doing things like that"
"You just hit me" he pointed out, looking her up and down.
Khushi rolled her eyes "You know it's not the same thing."
He only looked down at the snow, happy to be rid of his headache after such a long time.
She watched him think as he gazed as the snow under his shoes. Slowly, she raised her hand up to his face, lightly tracing his cut lip with her cold fingers. He froze as she continued to trace the edges of the light bruises that were starting to build up around his forehead and cheeks. He flinched when she brought her hand back down his bleeding lip.
She looked him in the eyes as he did the same, sighing as she let her hand drop.
"We should go back, get your cut cleaned up" she said, turning around and walking back towards the car without even checking if he was following her.
By the time they saw the road again Shyam and Anjali's car was gone, so they took their time settling in to their own.
"Are you okay to drive?" she asked, concerned as he only looked back at her annoyed.
"I am not aksing for you Mr Arnav Singh Raizada, I know you are some sort of superhuman, throwing people on to tables and throwing punches whenever you like, and car accidents may not affect you, but some normal people" she looked over at him "like me" she pointed out "don't like to put ourselves in life threatening situations for no reason."
He started the car with a tiny smile on his face, muttering to himself.
"You are so far from normal."
"Did you say something?"
Arnav only shook his head as he continued to drive through the snow.
After they had been driving for a while and were fast approaching the hotel, Khushi felt her curiosity get the best of her.
"Why did you hit him?"
Arnavs hand tightened their grip on the steering wheel as he only stared straight ahead in silence.
"I mean, he is still Anjali's husband, you can't lose control like that"
He slammed on the brakes as he parked the car, turning in his seat, anger evident in her eyes.
"Don't tell me what I can and cannot do" he shouted, shaking from anger as he remembered all that Shyam had done to her. Why did she have to question him like that? He didn't need to be reminded of all the harm his brother-in-law had caused and he didn't need a lecture on how to behave. He was not a child.
She froze from the shock of his unexpected anger and only watched as he stepped out of the car and closed the door behind him with a slam.
She, however, was not one to be outdone. This was not just any old Arnav anger, this was Arnav, her husband, angry over something he could not control. She knew him too well to be offended any more by his anger outbursts, it was a part of him, a part of him that she would have to come to love.
It was just like his mother had said in the sweet letter she had written to her future daughter-in-law. Deal with his anger and return all his love.
At the time she had not understood, it was because she had only seen the anger and never felt the love. She had felt so upset that she was taking away all the dreams his mother had seen for him, she had probably been watching down on them when he had married her out of requirement.
Today, it was different. She had seen both sides, and she was more than ready to accept it all. She wanted him, all of him, every part. The good, the bad, all the anger, all the pain, and all the trust, care and love that accompanied it.
She ran up to him, keeping up with his fast pace.
"You were right" she said, shocking him with her words.
"What are you talking about?"
"What you did was right, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have questioned it."
He looked over at her, wondering what she was getting at as they walked through the corridor to the door of their room. He let her step inside before following her through the door.
Khushi watched as he went to rest on their bed, closing his eyes and breathing heavily, if he didn't have his forehead creased from worry, she would have mistaken him for sleeping.
A shocked Arnav opened his eyes at her words, What the hell?
"Please?" she quickly added as she saw his face begin to show anger, she was holding a small first aid box she had spent the last few minutes searching for, having finally found it in the bathroom cabinet.
"I'm fine" he said, resting his head back down and closing his eyes as he felt the pain from all his bruises.
He was surprised when he felt her small hands hold him by the shoulders, slowing easing him up against the pillow. He knew as she started to settle herself in the small space on the bed next to him that there was no point in arguing with her so he watched as she started taking out the things she needed from the little box, tending to the cuts on his face and bottom lip.
He flinched when he felt the cut burn and she worriedly looked up at his eyes, he could tell she was still a bit angry from what he had done and he appreciated that she was keeping it to herself. Knowing Khushi, he understood that keeping quiet was a feat.
"You have got to be more careful."
"Spare me the lecture Khushi, I don't need it."
She sighed as she finished up, going to put the box back. Once she closed the door she sat on the floor, kneeling with her arms wrapped around her knees. Resting her head against the wall behind her she closed her eyes and started to think of him.
Song I was listening to when I wrote the next bit, have a listen if you like as you read x
How far they had come from when they had first met, it seemed like so long ago, the night of her sisters engagement when she had fallen right into his arms. She had seen anger that night, and it was all she saw for a very long time. He was cruel and ruthless.
She couldn't pinpoint when it had all changed, she had hated him for so long but then all of sudden, she didn't anymore. It took her long to understand it, mistaking her feelings for all the dhak dhak and acidity. Those memories were wonderful, when she could feel herself falling slowly for him, everything he did was different, she wanted him around, and he always seemed to be there when she had needed him.
It had all changed when she had told him about Shyam, she didn't know where they would have ended up if she had never found out about him. He might have succeeded in his plan to destroy both her and Anjali's life.
Thinking back, she felt she could not even remember how her life had been without him. Every moment she remembered was somehow linked to him. One thing she did remember, was herself.
Khushi Kumari Gupta, or Chamkili as Lavanya had put it.
She missed that carefree girl, who always spoke her mind. Deep inside she knew she was still that Khushi, but she didn't like the feeling of having to live in fear of Shyam, she despised herself for it. She hated that she couldn't be like her old self anymore as much as she tried and it brought a smile to her face everytime she felt she was reminiscent of that girl.
She reassured herself that it was all going to be okay, she would be that Khushi again, she still had the heart, and the tongue, she added, laughing sadly to herself.
"Chamkili" she whispered, smiling to herself. She liked that name, she felt it suited her. She felt a hollowness inside her as she started to miss her old life. She wouldn't take it back, because she knew that would mean giving up Arnav, but she missed it.
She missed her sister and her parents, all the moments she had shared with them, all the conversations she had had with her Jiji under the covers at night, how they had poured their hearts out to eachother and laughed until their stomachs hurt. How they had woken up each morning to eachother, cared for eachother, loved eachother so much. She missed Lavanya, all the fun they had had, all the times they had spent, learning so much from eachother. It was all gone and she wanted it back.
She was not made for this life, a life full of lies and deceit. Where she didn't know what to do, whether she was even important. She wanted to rest in her Babuji's arms, have him pat her head and tell her it was all going to be allright.
She stood up, with a heavy heart and walked back in to the room, watching him breathe with his eyes closed and his hand resting on his chest. She knew he was worth it all.
Turning the light off she went to rest next to him on top of the bed covers, turning to her side and watching him as she struggled to take in enough air to breathe. Her chest felt so heavy and constricted. The only light in the room was the faint glow from the fairy lights bordering the large windows, she watched him as she slowly snuggled closer and closer to him, wanting to feel his presence next to her even when she closed eyes.
He saw her when her eyelashes fluttered, feeling them against the skin of his arm and he looked next to him to find her lying inches away from him, curled up. He smiled to himself, cringing at the pain in his lips when he did. He felt her shaking hand press against his arm, prompting him to slowly wrap his hand around hers and pull it over his chest, bringing her along with it so she was now lying across him.
She only kept her eyes closed, warming up at the touch of him on her, feeling her skin rush with blood as she blushed and clutching at his shirt, holding on tight like she had to know he was there, so she could feel how much her life was worth with him in it.
He rested his chin on the top of her head as he wrapped his arm around her back, holding her back with just as much strength.
"Are you allright?" he whispered in her hair, thinking she might still be shaken up from the fight earlier.
She nodded against him "I just feel tired of it all."
"Me too" he agreed.
The lay in silence for a while, both thinking that the other was sound asleep when Khushi's whispering voice broke the silence "Arnavji?" she asked nervously.
He pressed his hand against her back in response to show he was listening.
"What do we do?"
He thought for a minute, finally making up his mind, opening his eyes to the darkness.
"Tomorrow" he whispered back "We tell Di tomorrow"
She only held on tighter to him, in fear of what was to come, as she fell asleep in his arms.
In the early hours of the morning Shyam sat on the corner of his bed, feeling the remnants of yesterdays fight, the bruises and cuts on his face. His knuckles were throbbing from the force of the punch he had thrown at Arnav, smiling at the thought of the damage it must have caused to his jaw. He heard Anjali breathing behind him as she was asleep on the bed, he had told her in a rush how Arnav had got in a fight with someone else because he couldn't let his pride go, and he had only jumped in to help, admiring his luck for having such a brash brother in law to make the story plausible.
"Rani Sahiba, there was nothing I could do, the staff asked both your brother and the man he fought with to leave."
"Is he allright?" she had asked, worried, only to be reassured by him that he only had a few scratches and that he had gone with Khushi to walk it off.
He knew Arnavs patience was wearing thin, from the look of things yesterday, he could feel his time slipping through his fingers, like sand through an hourglass, and he felt like the more he tried to hold on, the faster it slipped away from him. If he was going to do anything to get Khushi, he would have to act fast.
Arnav felt her stir in his arms and he opened his eyes to find himself holding on to her. She was lying on his chest, breathing against him, with her face buried in his shirt.
Slowly, and cautiously, he lifted her up and placed her down on the bed so that he could gather himself. After pondering on what to do after waking up so early in the morning he ended up sitting in the lone chair next to window, watching her sleep, clutching at the bed sheet beneath her.
Her question yesterday had been fair.
"Why did you hit him?"
He had made a decision the day he had confronted Shyam about what he had done. Looking back now, he knew it was the wrong one, but at the time he didn't know that, and he had decided to let him go. He hadn't had to deal with him for the two weeks approaching his marriage to Khushi.
If only Shyam had been around then, he would have found out sooner, and maybe he wouldn't have had to shatter Khushi's dreams the way he had. He knew how sacred she thought the bond of marriage was, she had lectured him about it countless times. And he had taken that very bond that she admired for its strength and turned it into something she would hate and admonish for its weakness.
Staring at her now, still clad in the dark red and black clothes from the day before, watching her skin pulsating from the blood beneath it, her hair against her face, her cheeks flushed, her lips so soft, her beauty, her innocence.
He knew that he was in love with her, and he wasn't hiding it from himself anymore.
The feeling that had taken over when he had seen Shyam touch her had only confirmed what he knew he felt towards her, why did he care so much when he touched her? Touched the very skin that sent a jolt of electricity through him everytime he felt it. Why had he hit him? He repeated her question from yesterday to himself.
Because she was his, and Shyam had touched her. That was reason enough, it was plenty of reason and he didn't regret it, not for a second. If given the chance, he would go back to the garden at the party a month ago when he had first found out about Shyam and beat him to within an inch of his life.
For all the pain he had caused the two women he loved most in his life. And for the pain he was about to cause.
"What are you thinking about" she asked through the silence, shocking Arnav who thought she was fast asleep.
He quickly brushed off her question and walked out of the room, leaving a dumbfounded Khushi wondering what was responsible for that look on his face, it was a look she had never seen before.
Late in the afternoon Khushi decided that she wasn't just going to sit on her bed all day, it was exactly this sort of behaviour that was upsetting her. The old Khushi would never just sit around and sulk in a room waiting for him to come back after having left in the morning. So she decided to get dressed up and go out with Anjali, she browsed through the wardrobe where she had hung all her clothes, taking a quick shower and changing into her favourite dress from the lot, a white full sleeved anarkali dress, hinted with gold borders.
To give you an idea, I mean something like this
She let her hair dry, waving it slightly with her hairbrush and she put on makeup, complimenting her lips with pale lip gloss and highlighting her bronze eyes with dark mascara. She smiled at herself in the mirror, she really did look good. She never really thought of herself as pretty, she had never thought about stuff like that at all, it was all the effect he had on her.
The sound of the door slamming made her jump out of her thoughts and she slowly stepped out of the bathroom to see Arnav walking in. His breath stopped at the sight of her, her dress beautiful in its simplicity, just like her.
She was just like the snow outside, pure and loving.
He snapped himself out of his daze, not wanting to repeat last night when he had watched her walk up to him, unable to move.
He looked around nervously, at anything but her warm eyes "D..Di... Di wants to go.. and...e..eat ..out" he spluttered, finding it difficult to string a sentence together.
She looked up at him, questioning him with her eyes whether Shyam would be there.
He understood her plea, and replied with a nod, watching her face drop from an emotion he couldn't quite make out.
He walked up to her as he saw fear in her eyes and entwined his fingers around hers, giving her a little reassuring squeeze before walking outside with her behind him.
They parked their cars at the edge of a lonely road upon Anjali's insistence and had started to walk through the sparse forest down a decline into what looked like a valley, everything covered in white.
Khushi kept herself behind Arnav as they walked through the cold snow, the sky a dull grey, spotted with a few scattered rough clouds that threatened to pour flakes down on them. Arnav was aware of the fact that she was using him as a shield and he felt like ripping Shyam apart when he thought that he made her feel that way. Anjali kept her chatter at a constant high, happy that she could have people so important to her so close by, she looked over at Arnav and Khushi, surprised that they were acting so quiet, especially Khushi who was normally so hyper. She mistook it for the fact that her brother had been in a fight yesterday and they probably needed some time to warm up. Thinking of warming up she shuddered as she took in the snow around her. It was beautiful, but gosh was it freezing.
They stopped about twenty minutes later when they reached the edge of the lake, it was untouched apart from their few footsteps, everything was covered in the purest snow and it was on the verge of freezing over. It looked like something out of a fairytale. "Lunch spot?" Anjali chimed, hands on hips.
Everyone looked over at her like she was crazy for suggesting that they eat out in the cold.
"Don't give me that look" she played, concerned about why the three of them were so silent, they weren't even looking at eachother.
"Di, we are not eating out here" Arnav argued.
"Do you suggest we go to another restaurant so you can end up fighting with someone else and getting yourself kicked out?" she argued back "It is so beautiful, okay, maybe a bit cold, but we have food with us" she said, pointing at the bags Shyam was holding.
Arnav looked over at him, hate reflecting in his eyes, only nodding his approval at his sister because he didn't know what else to say.
He had told Khushi they were going to tell his sister today, and he had tried to muster up the courage all morning and afternoon, to no avail.
Arnav noticed, for one more time than he could take as Shyam looked over at Khushi again as he handed a single black bag over to Anjali and Khushi shuffled behind him. His eyes filled with anger as he grabbed Khushi, spinning her around him so that she was standing in front of him, facing Shyam. He wrapped his arms around her waist and felt her jump against his cold hands as Shyam watched on. He pulled her closer into his chest, and rested his head on her shoulder, looking Shyam in the eye showing him what he could do as Khushi flushed a bright shade of red.
"What are you doing?" she furiously whispered to him, surprised as they had hardly spoken since the morning.
"Letting him know that you are mine" he replied against her soft hair and cool skin.
Anjali happily took the bag that Shyam was holding and started to straighten out the plaid picnic sheet she had brought with them over the snow, unaware of what was going on around her.
Shyam looked on as he wrapped his arms around her and touched her. He was touching his Khushi. He started to shake from rage. She whispered something to him, and he replied with something that made her go a deeper shade of red than she already was, they looked comfortable, he shuddered at the thought of Khushi with someone else, how dare she do this? How dare she even think about someone else? When he loved her with all of his heart?
He reached into his pocket when Anjali interrupted his thoughts "Can you please pass that bag over there" she said, pointing near his feet at the second bag he had brought down.
He couldn't take this anymore, he wasn't just going to stand by and let this happen, he couldn't watch his Khushi become someone elses.
"We forgot the drinks, Sale Saab, why don't you help your sister with the food, I saw some shops back up near the road, Khushi ji can come along and give me some company" he said, looking her in the eyes as he spoke as Anjali continued to take out food she had brought with them.
Khusi froze and Anjali turned to protest when Arnav spoke up first, he had felt Khushi's back shiver against him as Shyam had spoken.
"I'll go" before anyone else could say anything, what the hell was this man thinking? He had had enough, he was going to tell him to take the car and leave, leave his life, leave Khushi's life, leave his sisters life and never come back, or he was going to make sure himself that he never got to breathe again. He was going to let him off for all the pain he had caused because he knew it was what his sister would have wanted. He had the courage now, nothing was more important to him than the two women that stood near him.
Khushi raised her hands to his which were wrapped around her, he held on to her hand as he turned her around and kissed her lightly on the cheek "I'll be back"making sure that Shyam was watching, atleast he got the pleasure of inflicting a bit of pain, watching as Shyam visibly flinched and shook from jealousy.
She only nodded in response, feeling the touch of his lips lingering on her cheeks as she looked at his eyes listening to him go on.
"I'll take care of Shyam, I'm not going to let him hurt Di anymore, Im not going to let him near you. Can you stay here with Di? I'll explain things to her when I get back, I think she should hear it from me and we've had enough of all these lies."
Khushi squeezed her cold hand to his to let him know that she would do what he asked taking a deep breath as she prepared herself for what was coming, he had told her he would do this today.
"Be careful" she whispered back.
Shyam gave her one last look before reluctantly starting the walk up and Khushi watched them both walk away. The sky started to become darker as the sun started its descend from its point high in the sky.
Khushi busied herself in helping Anjali out with the food they had brought, taking everything out and arranging things on the sheet. Finally done, she sat down in the snow and looked up at the sky.
"It looks like it is going to snow" she said to Anjali as Anjali also snuck a look up to the skies.
"Khushi ji, have you ever had food out in the snow? It makes everything taste so much better."
Khushi smiled back at Anjali and squirmed in her jacket "We'll try it out in a bit then and see if you're telling the truth."
Looking back out towards where Arnav and Shyam had disappeared she got worried, Arnav had said he would take care of Shyam, what had he meant? Was he telling him that he should just leave now, or was he telling him that it was time to tell Anjali the truth. She couldn't imagine Shyam taking that lightly.
As they made the lengthy walk back up to the road, Arnav and Shyam were both lost in thought. Arnav wanted to beat Shyam up before sending him on his way, but his rational thought told him that was not the best idea, he should just tell him to leave, tell him that he had run out of patience, that he had wasted his second chance, it was over for him, but he wasn't sure he could manage that.
Meanwhile, Shyam shook, masked by the cold, from anger as he kept seeing Arnavs hands wrapped around Khushi, as her dark eyelashes fluttered from shyness against her pale skin, her dark brown hair flying against the wind matching perfectly with the gold borders on her angel like dress. He wasn't just going to stand by and let him take over her. He had set his eyes on her first, that made her his. His brother in law had no right over her. Marriage was a small thing compared to how much he wanted Khushi.
He dipped his hand into his pocket, tracing his thumb lightly across the blade.
"Khushiji, why do you keep looking back, don't worry, Chote will be back soon!"Anjali teased.
Khushi absentmindedly turned back around, thinking of him as she did. For some reason she didn't feel right, she wanted to see him.
"Oh no!" Anjali exclaimed.
Khushi turned around to find her sister-in-law holding the bag that had previously lay next to Shyams feet.
"What is it Di?"
Anjali slowly lifted out two bottles, bringing her hand to her forehead "The drinks are right here, they're walking all that way for no reason!"
As soon as Khushi had seen a hint of the drinks in Anjali's hands she had jumped to her feet, not looking behind her as she ran as fast as her legs would allow her...
As she moved, her feet froze from the snow beneath them as her hair blew against the wind, her mind throwing her back to two weeks ago...
She looked up from where she was sitting on the small chair, seeing her reflection stare back at her from the dressing table mirror in her room. Tears etched her face from her eyes down her cheeks as she thought about what was happening, her sister in a rush of words behind her, was beyond confused.
"Khushi! Khushi why are you doing this? I don't understand" Payal rushed.
Khushi cleared her throat, watching as another tear made its way down her cheek. She wasn't happy, but she wasn't upset either. She didn't know what she was.
"Jiji, I told you, I just have to, can you trust me?"
Payal looked at her sister angrily as she shone in a beautiful and heavily decorated lehenga, her scarf hanging over the decorative bun that sat high on her head. Dark Silver jewellery embedded with rubies clashing heavenly with the red flush under her skin as two strands of curled hair framed her face.
Payal had fixed the makeup running down her face countless times in the past hour as they waited, Khushi's eyes were bloodshot through her beauty and Payals stomach was churning from nausea.
"How can I trust you when I have no idea what you are doing?" she almost shouted, watching Khushi flinch back from her sisters angry voice, feeling guilty she went and sat at her sisters feet, leaning on her knees as she looked up to her beautifully sad face.
"Make me understand Khushi" she pleaded.
"Jiji..." her voice broke, unable to see the hurt in her sisters voice, shaking from the tears she slid down on the ground next to her sister who was dressed in a embroidered dark green dress.
Payal looked up at her sisters sadness, she was so hurt and so angry that she could do nothing to help her, she had dreamt of this day since she was a little girl. Whatever they had imagined, they never in a million years thought it would end up like this.
Khushi threw herself around her sister, pulling her into a close hug as she wept against her shoulder.
"Jiji, I'm nno..ot sure...eith...er but ..but I h..have to do thi..s b..but I c..cant ...I need you Jiji... please...please...I cant do this...not..not without you...please Jiji"she choked between sobs.
Payal quickly wiped her tears as a few made their way down her face, holding Khushi up strongly by the shoulders she tried her best to smile at her.
"Khushi, you crazy girl! Listen to me" she insisted, raising Khushi's crying face with her hand under her chin.
"Now I know I can't convince you to stop this madness, but you need to know something, I am going to be there for you no matter what."
Khushi looked up at her sisters eyes, still crying as she went on.
"Khushi, I didn't go through years and years of your craziness to give up when hope looks so low, I am here, I am with you, and I support any decision you make, whether I like it or not. Don't you ever feel alone, because you never will be, I am here, always in your heart, it doesn't matter how far away you go. Understand?"she asked, beginning to cry as Khushi weakly nodded.
"I don't know what is making you want to do this, but whatever it is, I trust that you are doing the right thing, just remember that you are my little sister, my little bed buddy" she smiled "I love you more than anything in this world" she finished, watching as a sad smile crept up on Khushi's face.
Khushi suddenly felt like everything was a little bit better, she mischievously looked up at Payals face.
"Even more than Akashji?"
Payals eyes flew open from shock, she picked up the pillow on the floor next to her and playfully threw it towards Khushi as they continued to laugh through their sadness.
She took in a sharp and painful breath hearing Anjali call her name behind her as she ran. She tripped over little hill of snow, losing her shoe behind her, quickly looking at it a few meters away and deciding she didn't have seconds to spare, so she continued to run barefoot through the freezing ground as it cut through her soles like tiny knives.
She looked down at the ground at her cold feet as she stepped into the gleaming lights in the hall around her knowing that the only reason she could keep walking was her sisters arm holding on to her tightly by her side. Her Buaji had shouted how she had brought shame to their family name as she stepped out of her room earlier that evening, how could she turn away a man that was perfect for her?
Her mother had come to see her by the door, along with her Babuji, in his wheelchair who gave her his blessing with what she could make out as a small and hopeful smile. Her Amma ji had held her in a hug and told her that even though they could not go tonight, she should remember that her mother and father still loved her no matter what. They were with her in spirit.
"Khushi betiya, I have never been more sorry about anything before, I know I should be there with you, for your wedding day, I hope you will forgive us"
Khushi held on to her mother, shaking her head at such a silly thought.
"As long as I know you support me and are with me Amma ji, that is all I need" she said, pulling her and her Babuji into a final tight hug, convincing them of something she wasn't sure she believed herself.
She looked back once at her house before stepping in the car, waving sadly at her parents standing in the doorway as a fresh set of tears began to pour down her face, at the life she was leaving behind.
Arnav had spent the whole day worrying, he didn't know if what he was doing was right or not. He had not seen Shyam since the night two weeks ago when he had punched him senseless, he could still see the cuts and bruises remaining from that encounter on his fist, and now he couldn't tell whether the decision he had made was just in the heat of the moment of whether he should go through with it.
Walking in to the hall in tow with Akash and his sister, wearing a dark collared sherwani he felt his heart break at the sight of a gorgeous Khushi, looking more stunning than he could have ever imagined, sitting nervously with her sister next to her, holding her shaking hands.
She looked up to him, eyes red and teary, shaking from fear as he felt the broken pieces of his heart start to tear away at his chest. He wanted to run over to her and shield her from everyone's gaze. He stayed with his vision locked on her, her quivering lips, painted a deep shade of red were calling him in as her skin seemed to flutter against the two strands of wonderfully twirled hair. He could only see hints of her natural blush under the lush powder that highlighted her loving cheeks but it was her eyes that took his breath away, her dark honey eyes, highlighted with dark mascara and eye shadow that made them shine like golden orbs in the darkness.
They were asking for him.
"Wow, she looks stunning" he heard a woman next to him say as she looked at his bride, thinking that the lady was right as his eyes seemed to freeze on her image.
This girl, he reminded himself, trying his best to block every emotion he was feeling, was responsible for everything that he was going through. She had almost ruined his sisters life, how could he even think about her like this? She was not innocent, she was not hurt, or angry, she was getting what she wanted, marriage to a rich man and a comfortable life.
He tried to convince himself, but he knew it was pointless, he knew Khushi, he knew the real Khushi, and he knew it was not her fault.
As he walked up to her and settled himself in the seat next to her he thought to himself, if it was not her fault, why was he doing this? To punish her? To punish himself? He allowed the intoxicating smell of her perfume to take over him as she sat straight in her seat, sneaking nervous glances at him.
Song I was listening to when I wrote the next bit, do listen !!
Arnav didn't realise what his heart had done, hiding all its intention from his mind.
He had married her because he knew she belonged to him and he wanted to be there for her and keep her safe from people like Shyam that wanted to shatter her innocence, as much as he wanted to keep his sister safe. It would be long before he realised that, for the moment, he was trying his best to show Khushi that he didn't care.
When he saw a teardrop swirling with black kohl fall from her eyes onto her folded hands in her lap he realised that he could not just sit and watch her like this.
"Are you okay?" he whispered close to her ear, trying his best to sound distant as he realised he could not control himself this close to her when she looked like that.
She looked at him, surprised that he even wanted to speak to her, only nodding shakily in response.
Later on in the night she sat on his petal strewn bed, taking in the decorations around her. Correction, she thought, their bed. She shuddered in nervousness, wondering what was going to happen next. She wasn't ready, not even a little bit. Her dress was so full, her hair and makeup still sitting heavy as the jewellery around her chimed with every movement of hers.
When he walked in through the door, he angrily pushed aside the flowers mentally reminding himself to tell his sister off for doing all of this.
He spotted her when he had taken a few steps into his room. Correction, he thought, their room. He shuddered with nervousness, what did that mean? He didn't think he could control himself with her so close. Adamant on ignoring her as she shifted her gaze to look outside he decided he was just going to go straight to bed, act like she wasn't even there, that was the easiest thing for the both of them he decided.
He took back that thought as he walked around the bed, and she looked down at her shaking hands, he could not control the urge to get closer to her so he walked up to her and sat down on the bed next to her, taking the image of her in as she nervously fiddled with her fingers.
He lifted his hand and carefully placed it on her shaking ones, picking her left arm up he started to slowly take off her bangles and place them on the side table next to their bed, moving on to her other arm when he was done.
Waiting to see how she would respond, he continued by leaning in to her as he felt her breath hitch, taking off each heavy earing she wore in turn and then grazing the skin at her neck as he leaned in even closer to undo the ruby necklace around her neck. He could almost feel her pulse quicken as he lifted his hands to the scarf draped around her head, bringing it off of her hair and exposing her beautiful hair tied up in a decorated bun.
She looked up him with shaking eyes, asking him what he was doing with her expressions.
He was lost in the moment, unaware of what else was going on as he traced his fingers along the nape of her neck up in to her hair, pulling out the pin that was holding it together and watching as her hair cascaded down her back.
He moved in closer to her, fascinated by how perfectly her face seemed to come together, it was like he was dreaming. Just to make sure she was real, he lifted a finger to her cheek and slowly traced her skin down along her jaw and onto her soft lips, feeling them quiver against his fingertips.
It was then that Khushi nervously twitched and the sound of her anklet ringing against the silence between them snapped him back out of his thoughts. He was surprised to see that his fingers were resting against her lips, sticky with gloss against their dark colour. Quickly snatching his fingers back he stood up walking away from her, stopping when she quickly moved her legs from in front of her, swinging them over the side of the bed as she moved to stand up.
She froze as he stepped back in front of her, slowly kneeling down to the ground and placing her foot on his knee as he gradually lifted the hem of her dress. She remained frozen as he looked back up meeting her eyes and slowly followed her foot to her ankle where he unclasped the thick silver anklet she wore around it.
She was beyond confused, she didn't even know how to react.
"Wh...what.." she started.
"Don't drop all of your things around the house everywhere, keep them in one place, I don't want to walk around seeing your jewellery lying everywhere" he harshly snapped at her feeble attempt at understanding the situation.
She only looked back down, not knowing what to say or what to make of him anymore.
He went to lie down on the bed, waiting for Khushi to finish sobbing quietly in the bathroom where she had been for a while, he was so tired from everything that had happened that day but he couldn't go to sleep without knowing she was okay.
When she came back he looked up at her cautiously.
"What is wrong?" he couldn't stop himself from asking.
She weakly smiled at him "Nothing, nothing is wrong" she said, not knowing that the dark lines of mascara running down her face gave away her sorrow.
When she sat back down on the bed he swiftly turned to his left, turning off the light and throwing the room into darkness as she sighed and slowly slipped down against her pillow to lie flat against the bed, watching his back as he purposefully faced away from her.
After a while of just lying still, knowing that they both lay wide awake, Arnav frustratingly stood up, scaring Khushi as he collected all the pillows in the room and threw them between them before lying back down, feeling better knowing that he could flip sides without thinking that the image of her would send his thoughts into overdrive.
Arnav awoke in the morning feeling more tired than he had been the night before. His first morning as a married man, he groaned at the thought and sat up, catching a glimpse of red to his left.
Of course, being married meant that he had a wife, he had almost forgotten in his morning daze that she was right there, all the thoughts of the night before came rushing back to him in less than a second. Her lips and eyes, at his disposal, the thought made him shudder.
It had taken him so long to fall asleep knowing that she was so close, he looked over at her, still dressed in her heavily embroidered dress, shaking his head he wondered how she had managed to sleep in that and he watched her breathe heavily as he admired her and her strength.
If he had done this for his sister, she had done it to support him and his decision.
He suddenly felt drowned in sadness as he thought of all she had given up for him.
He had done many horrible things to people in his lifetime, but what made it all the worse with Khushi was that he knew that she was the one person in the whole world that he could learn to love.
Khushi looked up at the cold skies as Anjali's voice continued to echo in her ears.
"Devi Maiyya, keep him safe"
She silently prayed, as she continued to run.
Do listen to the song I was listening to when I wrote this bit, it sets the pace nicely...
Khushi made her way through the snow, leaving behind her a trail of quick footprints marking her path.
Arnav looked ahead at the few hundred metres of ascent left above him and Shyam , he could just make out the line of dense trees that bordered the road where they had parked their cars. He stopped where he was, not able to continue walking with Shyam next to him. They had moved quickly in silence for about 10 minutes both of them lost in their own angry thoughts.
"Leave" was the one word Arnav said to the man whose back was towards him, he was clear when he spoke.
Shyam stopped where he was and turned around to face Arnav, looking at the face of the man who was stealing away the girl that he loved, if it wasn't for him, he would have her already, he would have had her weeks ago, he bitterly thought as the image of Arnavs arms wrapped around his Khushi kept flashing through his mind.
Shyam knew what he meant by it, he could tell from the expression Arnavs face wore, but there was no way he was giving in so easily.
"What do you mean?" he said, unintentionally raising his hand to one of the small scars on his chin left over from their fight yesterday night.
"Stop playing this stupid little game of yours, you are not fooling anyone, I said leave, you know what I meant by it, don't make me repeat myself" Arnav scowled angrily.
"Sale saab, I really don't know what you mean, honestly, both you and Khushi ji always seem t..."
With the sound of her name from his lips Arnav took two furious steps towards Shyam, stopping a few feet short of him, controlling the urge to pounce on him. This was not the time for something like this, he reminded himself for what felt like the hundredth time, all he needed was for Shyam to leave.
He looked into the eyes of the man that was responsible for so much trouble in his life, for fear in Khushi's life and for so much grief in his sisters. He wanted to hurt him, show him what it felt like to play with people's feelings
"You don't have to worry about my wife" he said, emphasizing on the last two words "Khushi is more than happy with me, she is none of your concern, she doesn't seem to mind the thought of never seeing you again, so like I said, don't make me repeat myself" he warned.
The anger that Shyam was trying so very hard to control was bubbling close to the surface and he began to panic from the thought of losing it all, his brother in law seemed determined to see the end of him.
"Sale saab, you seem to be mistaken if you think she is happy with you" he shot out in panic, hoping to buy some time.
Arnav took a few steps forward, clenching his fists, standing right in front of Shyam as he looked him in the eyes and slowly said.
"She is happy" he paused "with me, not you, she is mine, not yours, she loves ME, never you" watching satisfactorily as Shyams face contoured into one of rage as he rapidly pulled out something silver from his pocket and lunged himself forward at Arnav.
He had not been expecting the force and so he felt as though the wind had been blown out of him as he went flying through the air to harshly hit the cold snow beneath him.
"What the..?" he exclaimed, making out the shape of a blade against the gray sky above them as it nicked him on the arm, scratching him lightly.
"Khushi isn't happy, she isn't happy, you need to stop lying to yourself, she doesn't understand, you don't understand, none of you get it! I loved her first! I don't care what you have to say, do you hear me? I said do you hear me!?" Shyam shouted at Arnav as he held on to his arms, fighting off the dagger he was holding.
He finally managed to get a strong enough hold of his wrist to flick it away, watching as it whipped through the air and landed a few feet away from them in the snow. They looked at eachother in surprise, Shyam pausing for only a second too long as Arnav heaved him off of himself. He scrambled up quickly, reaching out towards the direction where the dagger lay, only to have Shyam pull him down again, throwing a punch against his jaw. He retaliated by forcing one right back to the side of his head.
They continued to struggle against eachother against the cold snow.
"Khushi ji ! Khushi ji! Where are you going? Khushi ji? Don't run all the way up there Khushi! We can just phone them" Anjali called after Khushi watching her retreating back. Something wasn't quite right, everyone had been acting so strange since last night.
She looked around her and the picnic sheet filled with all the food she had brought, not sure of what to do.
We can just phone them, we can just phone them.
Anjali's distant words echoed in Khushi's mind as she continued to run up the hill. Phone. Her mind clicked, Phone!
She almost stopped running for a second to clutch against the pockets in her jacket, feeling the sting of her tears rise up in her throat as she found them empty, she must have left her phone in the car. She felt nothing but frustration and worry as the tears began to make their way down her cheeks.
Arnav growled in rage as he threw another angry punch against Shyam, watching him fall back against the snow, clutching at the deep cut he had managed to tear open just under his chin. He didn't waste a single second to look over at what Shyam was doing, he didn't have time, he looked around frantically, catching the blade glint in the snow against the sun now low in the sky, he scurried towards it cringing at the pain in his chest from all the tiring blows he had received.
He manged to nip his fingers across the base of the dagger but before he could hold on to it tightly he felt Shyam grab him by the neck and turn him around. He roughly pulled away the arms that were holding on to him only to have Shyam punch him against his head, the pain of the hit sending blood rushing to his head. He fell down from the force, hitting the blade in the process with his foot, sending it skidding across the snow far away from them down the hill.
His head collided with the ground first and he felt everything black out for a second, he could hear Shyam wheezing above him, casting a shadow over him and then he felt the brightness of the sky as the shadow disappeared and he heard Shyam starting to rush in the direction where he had kicked the dagger.
Arnav painfully turned to lie flat on his back staring up at the sky, everything in his vision was starting to blur, the pain was spread over everything so evenly, he almost felt completely numb. The sound of his phone ringing deep in his pocket hardly reached his ears as he looked up at the dull sky, the only thing he could feel was the tiny flakes of freezing snow that melted against his warm skin from the sky above him.
Anjali frowned up at the sky that had started to lightly shower tiny snowflakes over her and their picnic sheet, she sighed at the phone against her ear.
"Why is he not picking up? I bet he saw it was my number so he is ignoring it, I know he would pick up if it were a business call" she complained to no one but herself.
Looking up she realised that she could no longer see Khushi running in the distance, what was going on? The horrible feeling at the pit of her stomach was only getting worse and worse, she could not just ignore it anymore.
Khushi, panting and gasping from the pain in her stomach dropped down into the snow as her knees gave away. She was close, she knew she was close, she had the same feeling she had always had whenever he stepped into a room but she had lost all her energy, she had been running in the cold for so long, she could hardly breathe let alone move.
"You can do this, come on Khushi get up" she said in motivation to herself as she pushed herself up against the snow. She tried to take a fast step forward, only to find she couldn't get past more than a few paces before collapsing again.
"I can't, I can't" she cried, tears gushing down her face as she shook from frustration.
Suddenly, she thought back to the dream she had had about Arnav, the one where she had been running and running, not getting any closer to him. He had been bleeding, so horribly, there had been so much of it just gushing out of his chest, and she had not been able to help, she had only run as she watched his breathing stop. It was going to be different this time, she thought, she was getting closer, she wasn't just running to no end. She was running to him.
With the image of a dying Arnav in front of her eyes, she picked herself up and began to sprint once again with her frozen feet.
Arnav could hear her screaming his name, frantically and fearfully with a voice that sent shivers down his spine. He couldn't tell how close she was, he had lost that perception with the blood rushing between his ears, but he could tell that she was there.
Shyam was unaware. The pounding of adrenaline in his ears and the hunger of revenge had drowned out all of his surroundings as he walked up to where Arnav lay, holding the dagger so tightly in his hands that he could feel it cutting into his palm, his hands were completely numb from the cold and the force he was applying, which is why he flinched them open when he felt something collide with the back of his body.
"Leave him alone!" she screamed, as she shoved him as much as her small frame would let her, she was terrified of what he had done to her husband, he was lying with his eyes closed and a tiny trickle of blood running down his face. He was breathing heavily though, giving Khushi the confidence to know he was alive and not in any immediate danger.
Arnavs eyes flew open and his vision slowly began to sharpen, his head wasn't hurting as much anymore, either that, or he was too distracted by what was going on near him.
Shyam watched the dagger fall from his hands as he rounded up to face her, he was to angry to deal with this right now. He watched as Khushi ran up to Arnav, falling in the snow next to him and holding his head up in her lap.
"Arnav ji? Arnav ji? Get up, please?" she asked, terrified as she could make out Shyam start to walk towards them, why wasn't he getting up? He needed to get up, and now.
Arnav slowly blinked, coming out of his reverie as Khushi wiped away the small trace of blood against his skin with her fingers.
"Please? Please get up Arnav ji!" she frantically asked, looking up to see Shyam closing in on her.
Arnav turned his head towards her, burying his face in her clothes "Khushi" he slowly whispered against her as he started to remember what was going on.
Khushi felt Shyam hold on to her arm, grabbing her roughly and pulling her away from Arnav.
"Don't worry Khushi ji, I will take care of him" he gently said, pushing Khushi away as she started to protest.
Arnav saw her tumble down into the snow from the force. He blinked rapidly, casting away the daze that he had been in after he he had hit his head and he managed to grab Shyams hand before he lunged the dagger into his chest.
"What are you going to do?" he threatened Shyam "after all of this, what is your plan? Kill me and then what, what will you have achieved?"
"Khushi" Shyam replied.
Khushi looked up, more terrified than she had ever been as she saw them struggle in a game of powerplay against the dagger Shyam was holding.
She ran up to them grabbing a hold of Shyams shoulder and tugging at him with all her strength.
"Let go of him, let go of him" she repeated, as Shyam looked around at her in response and tried to shake her off his shoulder.
Arnav took advantage of that moment to punch Shyam square in the mouth, watching as blood began to gush out from his lip. In his daze, he loosened his grip on the dagger letting it drop to the ground beneath him as he followed its motion down into the snow.
Khushi let go of Shyam and stepped back, watching the angry glint in Arnavs eyes as he threw another punch at Shyam, knocking him out as he fell.
She was shaking from the cold and fear, running up to Arnav she pulled at him, taking him a few steps away from Shyam as she held him by the cheeks, trying to focus himself on her. She could tell he was angry, she needed to calm him down before he did something stupid.
"Look at me, look at me Arnav" she tried to be assertive, shaking his head as she did and blushing as she realised she had just said his name without adding a 'ji' at the end.
"It's okay, it's done, he can't do anything, he can't hurt us anymore"
Arnav looked over at her in a panic, running his hands along her to check she was allright.
"Im fine" she muttered, admiring him for his ability to be caring in even the most dire situations.
"Di?" he asked, in a slight daze.
"She is fine, she is still back near the lake" Khushi replied, watching as Arnav angrily looked back at Shyam lying unconscious in the snow.
"No, don't look at him, it's ok, he can't hurt anyone anymore" she whispered, in her attempt to control his rage.
Arnav rested his head on Khushi, closing his eyes from the pain that had snuck back into his head, he felt as though he would pass out at any moment.
It was done, the worst was over, well almost anyway. They just had to tell his sister, but that was it. They had managed to get through it, they had made a decision to let the truth out, and there were going to be consequences, because the truth wasn't always the easiest thing to deal with.
They stood in silence, Khushi holding on to his head, watching him breathe heavily against her.
His voice brought them both crashing back down to earth.
"If I can't have her..." he harshly whispered through the blood in his mouth. Grabbing onto Khushi's shoulder he roughly turned her around as Arnav stumbled from the loss of support to his head.
He slashed the blade he was holding in rage across her stomach, cutting her dress and skin open with a deep gash, leaving a train of blood droplets spraying against the purest snow beneath them.
"Then you can't either" he smugly finished, watching as Arnav looked on in horror at the blood that had begun to pour over Khushi's white dress, the colour clashing so terrifyingly with it.
He couldn't even speak, he felt as though his heart had just stopped in his chest which restricted around the dead mass, not allowing his lungs to expand. He couldn't take in the air around him, no, anything but this, anything in the world but this.
"Khushi" he said, with a breaking voice, holding onto her as her knees collapsed beneath her, dropping down into the snow with her in his arms. He was so scared he even forgot to be angry.
"Khushi, please, please no" he cried.
Shyam looked down at the pair of them, finally smiling in triumph as he slowly stepped away, he knew this was the best victory he would manage to get, it was enough for him, to know that no one else had her, as much as it had pained him to snatch her life away.
Before the smile had reached his eyes he felt something snatch from his hands and a second later a horrible pain near the middle of his back, he froze from the mind numbingly cruel sensation it sent through his body.
He turned around as he fell, catching a glimpse of his wife's tear stained face sprayed with blood all over her front. His blood, he realised, as he fell against the snow that sent the dagger deeper into his back.
Anjali's mind was racing at a million miles per hour, she didn't know what had happened, but she had come in time to see what her husband had done to Khushi, she couldn't believe it, she wouldn't. But something had taken over her when she had walked up to him and stabbed him in the back like he had her.
This man was trying to steal her brothers happiness from him, who was he? This couldn't be the man she had married. Looking up at her brother clutching on to Khushi, she realised what had motivated her to do that, the heartbroken expression on Arnav's face spoke a thousand words to her. That image tore at her heart more than the man that was lying at her feet.
She was in pieces, she could feel one half of her wanting to collapse and scream, scream and cry until she disappeared, but the other half of her wanted to be there for her little brother.
She took one last look down at the man dying near her feet, the man that had taken her love and thrown it away like something so invaluable, she loathed the way she had worshipped him, before stepping over his bleeding body and rushing up to where her brother was.
Here is the song, it fits so perfectly with what I wrote (for me anyway) I insist you listen to it as you read, it is a beautiful song...
"No, no, no, this can't happen" he muttered, clutching onto her failing body as she let herself go in his arms.
He felt a horrible wail escape his throat from deep in his chest as he felt the warm pool of deep red blood against him, it was staining the snow beneath them. How was there so much blood? She was so tiny, she couldn't afford to lose this much.
"Khushi" he panicked "Khushi, stay with me please" he grabbed her cold hand with his, squeezing it tight as he saw the blood under her skin fade away, replaced by paleness.
"A..arnav..." she managed, shocked at what had just happened.
The sound of her dying voice brought a new wave of dread over him, he couldn't lose her.
"Di" he shouted "DI!!"
"Khushi ji!" Anjali said, dropping down to her knees beside her brother and sister in law.
"Di, Di please, do something, please save her, don't let her leave" he cried, looking up at his sister, warm tears making their way down his cheeks.
Anjali put her hand on Khushi's head "It's going to be okay Khushi, hold on for us okay?"
As much as she wanted to break down, she knew she had to be strong for her brother, she had never seen him like this, not even when their parents had died.
"Chote, Im going to go up to the stores just up there on the road and ask them to call the hospital to send an ambulance down, I know there is one close by because of the skiing area, hold on Chote, she is going to be okay" she kissed Khushi on the forehead, knowing that her words were just that, words. She knew they had not helped her brother, they both could see the deep cut stretching across Khushi's stomach and her blood pouring out onto the white snow beneath them.
She prayed as she ran up the hill through the snow.
Arnav pressed a hand to her cut, not knowing what else to do to stop the bleeding. It used to be his favourite colour; red. Now, he realised that it was the colour he despised the most in the world. It was the colour that was tearing her life away from her, taking her away from him.
She scrunched her features up in pain when he brought his hand down.
"Sorry, I'm so sorry Khushi, this is all my fault" he whispered against her.
"Shhh..." she weakly spoke "this isn't your fault, don't be silly."
Her words only raked him with guilt, he had treated her so badly and she still had it in her heart to give him peace when she was dying in his arms. He buried his head in her hair, kissing her wet and salty cheeks "You didn't have to come, you should have stayed with Di, why did you come Khushi?"
He could feel her lips curve into a small smile against his skin, and she slowly forced his head back up to look at her.
"You're Arnav Singh Raizada remember?" she weakly smiled "If anything happened to you, who would take care of the business?" she giggled lightly, stopping when the pain from the movement coursed through her body. Her brave front was nearing to an end, she wanted to cry, she was so scared that she was going to die, but seeing Arnav cry like how he was, scared her more than that.
Arnav choked a small smile through his tears, this girl would be the end of him. He felt it, deep in his core.
Something he had gotten very used to since he had met Khushi, he regretted the decision he had made to block out his feelings for her, he regretted trying to hurt her so much when all he wanted was to hold her close, he regretted deciding to marry her in such haste, he regretted letting Shyam live, he had hoped things would be allright, but they were not. Nothing was allright, he should have killed him, right then and there, when he had first found out.
He regretted every decision he had made to lead him to a day where he was holding her in his arms as her life slowly left her.
She closed her eyes leading him to shake them back open "Khushi!"
She looked up at him annoyingly like he had just woken her up from a deep sleep.
"I'm tired" she insisted as her quivering lips tasted his falling tears "It hurts Arnav, I want it to go away."
"No, no Khushi I won't let you" he pleaded, looking down at his hand that was now fully covered in red "Please Khushi" he begged, hugging her close to him.
"A..arnav ji?" she whispered against him.
He held on to her cheek, wiping away her lone tear to let her know he was listening to everything she was saying.
"Can I ask something of you?"
Arnav shook his head in fear, no, he would not let her act like this was it, this wasn't the last time they would speak, he couldn't bear the thought of losing her forever. He kept on saying no as he started to shake from crying, all his bottled up anger from the years seeping away at the sight of her.
She could feel her heart breaking at the sight of him like this, she didn't want to end it this way.
Clutching back at his hands to let him know she was still there she whispered"Please Arnav? Please listen to me?" fighting through the pain she felt.
He looked back up still shaking his head as she continued.
"I want you to be happy, I want you to smile... do you even know how wonderful you look when you smile?" she said lightly, raising her fingers slowly to his cheek, wiping away his tears as fresh ones stained his skin red against her bloodied hands.
"I want you to know that I am going to be a star up in the sky, just like our parents, and I am going to watch over you."
"No, no Khushi, No."
"I love you Khushi, I love you so much, I love you more than my life, please just shhh and stay with me" he cried.
Khushi smiled at the words she had waited to hear for so long, but they did not come as a surprise as she had thought "I know" she replied, finding it difficult to keep breathing "I love you too, more than you will ever know."
"Khushi, please, just keep breathing, Di has gone to get help, just stay here, stay with me"
"Arnav?" she asked in despair, as she felt her lungs collapse from weakness. Her voice made Arnav shiver from dread, it felt as though it was the last time she would ever whisper his name.
"No, no Khushi, shhh"
"One last thing" she slowly said, forcing him to look at her by pushing him up lightly with her fingers against his cheek.
"Always remember me" she smiled at him, her breath hitching as his eyes froze in fear on hers.
"No..." he uttered, his breath stopping as he saw her arm give away, dropping her stained hand into the snow beside her, all the life taken away in the flow of molten rubies beneath her as her beautiful bronze eyes looked right through his soul, lifeless.
"KHUSHI!" he screamed, shaking her roughly. This wasn't right, this couldn't happen, he wouldn't let it, he had to hold on to her, she had to hold on back, she had to.
He felt his own soul bleeding into the pool of red under him, it sunk into the snow making it look like crystals of the brightest red that burned his eyes under their heat. How had this happened? How did it escalate to this so quickly? Only a minute ago he was resting his head against her, she was there for him, his support.
Now she was leaving and he couldn't do anything to stop it, heart wrenching sobs escaped his throat as he thought of never seeing her again, never being able to see that smile or that sparkle deep in her eyes, never have a pointless conversation, never be mesmerised by her beauty or left in awe of her pure innocence.
He wanted her back, he couldn't imagine life without her, she was his life, if she died, he died right along with her. He brushed away all the tiny flakes of snow that landed on her, angry at them for stealing her warmth, he wouldn't let them take it away from her.
"Please, God, please bring her back to me, I can't ... I can't ... I don't know how to live without her" he whispered, hugging her limp body close to him, the rush of the wind and the sound of his own wails in his ears masked his hearing making it difficult for him to make out a heartbeat.
He rested his cheek on hers, scared to death that she would be taken away from him, and he might never get to hold her close.
He cried along with the howling wind, along with the falling flakes, along with the soft snow and along with the darkening sky as he remembered every moment ever spent with her and felt it slip right through his fingers, away with her soul.
His heart tore at the thought that all those blissful moments would remain just that - memories.
"How long?" she frantically called into the phone.
"Give us ten minutes Ma'am"
He saw her fingers twitch against the snow, leaving him still as a statue, staring at her hand, praying to a God he didn't believe in, that what he had just seen was real.
"Come on Khushi, please just move your fingers, please just move your beautiful little fingers and let me know you are still here with me" he begged reaching out for her hand and waiting for what felt like a lifetime.
When he felt them hold on to him lightly he felt a sudden rush of overwhelming emotions he couldn't quite make out, but most of all, he felt hope. He didn't hesitate before swiftly standing up with her in his arms, afraid that he would hurt her, carefully but quickly making his way up to the road.
"Hold on Khushi, just stay with me. I'm here, please just stay with me okay?" he choked through.
When the ambulance arrived Arnav hopped up in to the back with his sister right behind him, feeling an aching pain of loss when they snatched her shivering form from his arms, so he held on to her hand, letting her know he was still there and that she shouldn't even dare to think about leaving.
They both ignored the second line of men that ran past where they had come from to tend to a dying Shyam, Anjali had watched them from the corner of her eyes, unsure of what she wanted for her cheating husband.
He watched in horror through the glass pane in the wall as they punched holes through her delicate skin and cut through the dress that made her shine like an angel to start cleaning up the wound around her abdomen. The sound of her struggling to breathe through her face mask reached him through the narrow window, it made him want to hit something, break something, anything. His sisters hand on his shoulder made him turn around and drop into her arms, crying softly in frustration against his Di, he wanted Shyam to be alive, just so he could kill him himself.
"She is going to be allright" Anjlai tentatively said to her little brother, stroking at his hair caringly as she watched the doctors in the room hook the IV up to a blood bag and begin to stitch up the tear in her skin as the monitoring screens around her beeped and flashed.
"Chote, come on, come back here, sit down, you don't need to see this" she softly said, as she saw them roughly attempting to put her together like a torn rag doll.
"No, Di, what if I go and she.."
She stopped him from turning around, shaking her head at him, letting him know that this was one of those times when she knew better and that he should just swallow his pride and follow her.
He reluctantly complied, sitting down on the small wooden bench near the oak doors that led into the small hospital. He rested his head on his Di's lap who rested her own head on the wall behind her, sighing as she felt her little brother relax against her.
He was so tired from it all, he just wanted to sleep and wake up to find out it was all a bad dream, but he was so scared that if he closed his eyes, he might wake up to find her gone. He couldn't bear that thought.
"When did you find out?" she asked, breaking the long minutes of silence between them.
Arnav turned his head in his Di's lap "I'm sorry Di."
"I didn't ask you to apologise, I asked when you first found out" she replied, causing Arnav to flinch from fear, his sister had never spoken that way with him before, she was always childish, playful or upset, never hateful, rarely angry.
"A month ago..." he paused, not knowing what to say or do "I am so sorry you had to find out this way, I am sorry, I didn't kno.."
Anjali sighed heavily, placing a hand on his head "Chote, I didn't ask you to apologise."
"Di, I should have handled it better, you wouldn't be in pain... Khushi wouldn't be dying" his voice broke at the last word.
"I am stronger than I look Chote" she said "I knew something was wrong, I was stupid and blind to have not seen it"
Arnav shook his head against his sister's lap, telling her it wasn't true, this wasn't her fault.
"You were wrong to hide it, and you were wrong to take it out on Khushi, don't think we didn't notice all that tension Chote, you need to step keeping all your anger bottled up, because it is all just going to come out in one rush and people will only get hurt" she stopped, knowing this wasn't the time and place for a lecture"but thank you Chote, thank you for caring enough to go to such lengths to keep me happy, I guess I expected too much of you"
"No, Di, please don't sa..." he started, only to be shushed by Anjali patting his head lightly.
"I'm not upset Chote" she lied through her teeth "I am proud to have a little brother like you, but don't you ever feel like you have to hide something like this from me again to keep me happy, I would rather be in misery that live with someone like..."she stopped before her voice gave away, allowing the tears she had held back for so long to finally flow down her cheeks.
He waited in silence, knowing that she was only saying these things to make him feel better, even if she did really feel them. His heart was already in so many pieces from having seen Khushi be snatched away from him, he couldn't handle seeing his sister hurt as well.
"You really love her don't you?" she asked, once again breaking the silence between then with a question he didn't want to answer.
He nodded against her, unsure of whether his voice was strong enough.
"I love her, I love her more than I can say, and..." he stopped, taking in a deep breath " and I don't know if I'll even be able to say it..."
"Don't" she looked down at him angrily "Don't think like that"
They waited in silence, Anjali finally letting a flood of tears escape her eyes and Arnav, feeling the void deep in his chest grow wider with every passing moment without her.
One of my favourite songs, fits this scene wonderfully, so do give it a listen !
It all felt so familiar, the smell of poppies, their vibrant colour against the dull but enticing skyline.
He was there, just like before, standing, with the most beautiful smile stretched across his face. There was no cut on his forehead like she had remembered there being the last time she had seen him. She felt the familiar elated feeling in her stomach. Wait, her stomach? She threw her hands up to her waistline, surprised to find that she was still wearing her white dress, unmarred by tears and snow and blood. Still as pure as ever.
"I wasn't lying" he spoke up.
Khushi looked up from her stomach to the man standing in front of her.
Arnav Singh Raizada, looking breathtakingly handsome in one of his sleek Armani suits, standing out amongst the clear fields of high flowers.
"About what?" she asked.
"When I told you I loved you, I meant it" he finished, blushing ever so slightly to match the deep red flowers around them, but still standing as confidant as ever.
Khushi beamed at him, she had never felt so happy before and so light and feathery, like nothing mattered. She ran up to him, enclosing her arms around his neck, feeling the warmth that his touch brought as he responded by picking her up and twirling her in the air so that her feet lightly brushed the tips of the strong flowers in the plain. She could feel his pulse beating under the skin of his neck.
It was all so horribly familiar, something didn't feel right.
"What is it Khushi?" he asked, concern etched across his face as he placed her down watching her face crinkle up in worry.
"Shyam" she whispered "He comes and he.." she turned around looking behind her to see that it was empty "he had a gun and..." she turned back around and collided with a figure, broader, less lean, and she felt the elated feeling in her stomach vanish, replaced by a weight coupled with the moisture from the air around her again. No, this could not be happening again.
The image of the gun, the sound of its shot, all went ringing through the air in front of her eyes again. She screamed aloud as soon as she heard it, her voice disappearing through the fields in mere seconds.
It was floating, right in front of her eyes, dripping with blood curling around the edges of its soft petals, the poppy Arnav had given her.
Arnav, she thought.
"No, please not again, I can't watch this again" she thought, turning around when she felt his presence,with dread clawing away at her. He was standing there, like before, but something was different. There was no blood, just a smile on his face as he looked at her and admired what he saw.
"Arnav?" she asked slowly, too scared to have too much hope.
She turned back around to where Shyam was standing, seeing that he was looking at her, confusion spread across his features, the swirling smoke from the barrel of the gun he was holding wisped away in the air as it dropped to the ground along with the man that was holding it, his chest torn open from a deep wound staining his clothes a dark red.
She watched him for a while, hand over her mouth as he struggled to breathe. The same way she had heard Arnavs loud breathing hard against her ears, she heard Shyams. But she wasn't terrified of it stopping, on the contrary, she wanted it to stop pounding through her ears, marring the beautiful picture she had painted for herself.
His breathing died down after a while, enough so that it was only a feathery mumur low in her ears, not getting in the way anymore. Finally over the shock of seeing him fall before her, she turned and began to sprint her way through the flowers towards the man she loved.
It wasn't like before, he wasn't getting further away, strangely, he was getting closer and closer faster than she had thought until he was only a breath away from her. His perfectly aligned features sent her a crooked smirk that warmed her heart, holding his arms out, ready to catch her.
Just as she was about to collide with him and hold on like he was the only thing that was keeping her breathing, her eyes flew open.
Lights, and noise, and beeps and flashes.
She could make out the blurry images of a crowd of people frantically moving above her, breathing in sharply she felt the awful pain shoot around near her midriff, it was like they were tearing her skin apart and throwing in acid, making it burn beyond all feeling. Tears escaped her eyes as she searched the room for him, she tried moving her arms to find that she couldn't, she wanted it to stop, she wanted them to stop fixing her if it was going to hurt so much.
She couldn't remember what had happened properly, the last thing she remembered was the image of an angry Shyam holding a rough dagger in his hand as he turned her around.
Her mind was racing, fighting through the pain she tried to remember what had happened, she tried to remember where Arnav was, not knowing whether he was ok or not scared her so much. If he hadn't made it, she wanted them to stop fixing her and just let her die, if she was close to it already.
She didn't want life if she couldn't have Arnav.
Just as she was about to give up, stop trying to breathe through the pain, she heard him.
"I love you Khushi, I love you so much, I love you more than my life, please just shhh and stay with me."
She felt the words against her ear, ringing through them like he was standing right next to her, so close. She closed her eyes and let that feeling take over as his voice repeated those words over and over in her smiling mind, letting her know that she had to hold on, for him.
Arnav looked up expectantly and lifted himself up from his sisters lap, standing up in less than a second to face the old man before him.
"What, what is it doctor? Is she okay, is Khushi okay?" he rushed.
"Mr. Raizada, please calm down, take a seat and.."
"No, I don't want to sit dammit, just tell me if she's okay" he said, anger rising in his voice, he didn't have time for this, she was either okay, or not okay, and he needed to find out now.
"Chote.." Anjali whispered, holding on to his arm, he only shook her away lightly, looking at the doctor with anger slowly rising in his eyes. Didn't they know how painful every second was, he didn't care if he was sitting or standing, he needed to know, he couldn't hold on any longer.
The doctor looked at Arnav, understanding that he was scared for his wife, he placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"She is going to be allright."
Arnav felt his knees give away beneath him with the sound of those reassuring words, he fell back onto the wooden bench beneath him.
The doctor gave Anjali a 'I told you so look' as she smiled, watching as Arnav buried his face in his hands and started to laugh and cry at the same time. He had never felt so relieved before, it was like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders.
He looked back up "Can I see her?"
"Mr Raizada, your wife has suffered severe blood loss and internal bleeding, she is unconscious at the moment and I suggest you let her rest before going in to see her, the nurses are going to move her from the operation theatre to one of the private rooms on the ward."
Arnav nodded reluctantly.
"Mr Raizada, you should be proud of you wife, she was strong and fought through the pain. She looks like an eccentric young woman, I trust you will take good care of her after this, she has had to have quite a number of stitches to put her back together, so she will need plenty of bed rest and limited movement to let it heal."
Arnav nodded, he wasn't going to let her out of his sight, he wouldn't let anyone harm her in anyway, he would keep her safe, near to him, and treat her like the fragile porcelain doll that she was.
Anjali held on to her brother's arm and squeezed tightly, letting him know that it was all okay.
As the doctor turned to walk, he suddenly remembered something else.
"Oh yes, I almost forgot, forgive me."
They both looked up at him in surprise.
"The man that they found with you, the doctors have managed to reduce any permanent effects caused by any spinal injury to his back, he looks like he should be okay with no severe permanent damage, Mr Raizada, I also wanted to let you know that the hospital called the police on arrival, they should be here for questioning soon."
Anjali stiffened next to her brother as they watched the old doctor walk away.
"I want to go home Chote" she suddenly said.
Arnav looked up at his sister, understanding what she was going though, "then I will get you home."
When the police arrived, Arnav told them everything. They spoke with Anjali for a while before leaving. It was a pretty clear case, they had an eye witness, a victim and a criminal. No questions asked, no suspicions raised. The man would be arrested upon his full recovery and convicted for attempted murder.
Arnav stood just outside the large oak doors in the dark night watching as the flashing lights of the police cars disappeared into the distance, he turned around, dialling a number and looking inside at his sister, still sitting on the small bench they had spent the last few hours on.
"Aman, send a helicopter up here, there is a landing spot near the hospital, I'm sending Di home, make all other travel arrangements for her" he spoke into his phone.
"Sir? You want me to send a helicopter up there?"
"Aman.." Arnav warned, not in the mood to deal with questions.
"Ok..Oo..k" he stammered across the line
Arnav turned the phone off as he began to call another number, staring at his sister, she was tired and frail and needed to get away from it all, back to all the love and care everyone would give her at home.
"Nani ji?" Arnav called into the phone.
"Chote? Oh hello Chote, I haven't heard from you and Anjali in a long time, how is the holiday going? I knew Anjali would find a way for you to go!" she laughed into the phone.
Surprised by the silence, Nani became concerned "Chote? Is everything okay? How is Khushi ji and Damaadji?"
Arnav swallowed the lump in his throat, he didn't want to have his Di have to deal with all these questions when she got home, it was better to deal with it now.
"Nani ji, I have something to tell you..."
She had shouted into the phone, angry at him and Khushi for hiding something so big, how could they have pretended like it was all okay? She had then stood, stunned in silence by the phone as he explained what had happened to Khushi. His voice shook as he spoke of what Shyam had done to her.
"Chote, send Anjali home right now, stay with Khushi, and as soon as she gets healthy enough to move, you come right back as well."
Arnav closed his eyes in relief, it felt so good to have someone else take charge, he felt as though he couldn't handle it anymore, he didn't want to hold the responsibility of everything that was going on when he felt as though his world was falling apart already. All he wanted was to be with Khushi.
"I can't believe this, Damaadji? Something so disgusting?" she almost spat in to the phone.
"I'm sorry Nani, you were right, we shouldn't have hid it, this is my fault"
"Chote, this is not your fault, if this was your fault then where does Shyam come into this? You may have not always made the best choices but I understand that it must have been difficult, do not blame yourself, just do as I say"
"Thank you Nani" he replied, tucking the phone away in his pocket after he had ended the call.
SONG I WAS LISTENING TO WHEN WRITING THIS NEXT BIT, DO LISTEN
He continued to stare up at the dark sky littered with stars, finally seeing a flashing light approach him from the sky.
Turning around he saw that his sister was no longer sitting where he had last seen her. He asked at the main desk where she had gone and followed her down the corridors until he reached a small room bordered by glass on two sides where she stood.
Anjali waited, looking down at the man she had given her life to. His eyes were open and he was breathing deeply, looking back up at her, pleading.
She gave him no heed, he didn't even deserve the smallest of mercy.
She only walked up to him slowly, limping because of her leg and stood next to him. She opened her mouth to speak, only to find that she couldn't find the right words, she didn't even know what to say, how to act. He didn't deserve a reaction from her or even a single word.
She looked down at her ring finger as the images of her time with him went through her mind, every moment spent with him, every moment spent thinking about him. She pulled back her tears, refusing to let him see her upset about this, she slowly pulled off the gold band around her finger that served as a reminder of all she had held dear for so long and gently placed it in his hand.
Without speaking a single word, she turned and left the room, only allowing the first tear to drop along her lashes when she was far away from the man who had given her life, and the man who had taken it away.
Arnav gathered his sister as she began to weep silently, and led her outside to the helicopter where her bags had already been loaded from the hotel. Anjali wiped away her tears, telling herself that she was not going to handle this like she had handled everything else in her life; with tears.
"Chote, take good care of Khushi, and give her a kiss from me okay?" Anjali shouted through the sound of the helicopters blades riling through the air as she caught Arnav in a tight hug "ON THE CHEEK" she added pulling away, as she watched Arnav look down in embarrassment.
"Take care Di" he said loudly, hugging her back "We'll see you when we get home."
After he had watched the helicopter disappear into the distance, he retraced his steps back along the corridors and waited outside his soon to be ex brother in laws room before sighing loudly to help vent his anger and stepping inside.
He thought he would have been able to control himself, after having seen how gracefully his sister had handled the situation, he thought he could pull this off with ease.
He had been wrong.
The sight of this man sent all those images flashing through his mind again, the images of Khushi as she fell, blood pouring out of her, draining away her life. He couldn't handle it, rage blinded him as he rushed up to Shyam lying in the bed and wrapped his hands around his throat, watching as he struggled to breathe.
"I warned you, I bloody well warned you, I gave you a chance, and you, you son of a..." he spoke through a clenched jaw as he tightened his grip around Shyams neck.
"What did you think? You thought I would let you touch her? How dare you even think about her, she is mine, she is my wife, Goddamit.." he spat, pushing Shyam away from himself, running his hands through his air as he watched Shyam struggle to regain his breath.
Khushi wouldn't want this, neither would his sister. He didn't deserve to be killed, because that would be an escape.
He turned, pointing his finger straight at Shyams face in warning.
"I told you I would make a compromise last time, if I was forgiving, I would kill you right now, but you don't deserve that, enjoy your life behind bars" he said, leaning back "Jeeja ji" he snidely added before turning on his heel and walking away.
He waited outside on the same bench he had sat on waiting for news with his sister, taking deep breaths with his head rested against the wall. He needed to calm down from his recent encounter with Shyam.
He didn't know what he was going to say to Khushi and he didn't know how to act around her. Would she be angry? All that he had put her through, all the hurt and pain when he had met her had been enough to make her despise him, all the blame and guilt he had made her feel when he had found out about Shyam, all the pain that she did not deserve. Would she hold it against him, finally give him what he deserved?
No, that was silly to think, his Khushi was always there to make everyone else smile, she had it in her to reassure him even when she thought she was dying, she wouldn't blame this on him, as much as it was his fault. He didn't deserve her love, he thought, fiddling with the stem in his hand, what had he done to deserve someone that loved him like Khushi? So purely and unconditionally? She was his blessing, no longer in disguise.
He remembered all the times he had seen her smile and how wonderful they had made him feel, when he had snuck in two silver coins in her packets of detergent just so she could feel hopeful and feel that someone out there was watching over her, when she had playfully smirked at her plan of keeping him with her on their way to nainitaal, sparkling in a dress that brought out her innocence.
He smiled slowly as he headed in the direction that the nurse had pointed him in, thinking of how wonderful it felt having said those words to her and to have heard them back even through the haze of everything else. All that he had been afraid for, for so long, had been nothing. It shouldn't have taken something like this to get them across, but whatever the case, it was done now.
He wanted to see her, see the smile on her face every time she saw him, hold her tightly in his arms, safe and away from all the bad that the world had to offer. He wanted to finally give into the urges he had felt since the first time he had met her, to kiss her soft skin, kiss her soft lips, caress her silky hair and lose himself in those beautiful shining eyes. He wanted to apologise and make up for every moment of pain he had caused, show her how much he loved her, hold on and never ever let go.
As he pushed the door to her room open, all the thoughts of want swimming in his mind, he looked straight ahead, the single red poppy he had picked from the vase in the waiting room fell lightly from his fingers as he let go.
All the thoughts of want slowly melted away with the rush of blood to his head as he stared straight ahead at an empty room.
Two weeks. It is funny how your life can change in the shortest amount of time. It took two weeks for everything to change. Two weeks is nothing. Nothing more than a collection of what seem like passing moments, but they leave an impact, far greater than you can imagine at the time.
How did this happen to me, she thought. Out of more than 7 billion people in the world, how did this happen to me? My life was so uncomfortable, like it didn't belong to me, cutting and frail, now it was different, wonderful, and strangely familiar. It was like she was living her own dream, but somehow, it was all still too distant. Like she was watching it from far away.
She was back full circle again, like she had been to hell and back. But where was the happiness? That horrible void deep in her chest was present, ever longing and painful. What was missing?
She knew what it was, she knew what she wanted, what she needed.
It was him.
He was missing, and it felt as though her lungs collapsed with every breath she took without him.
Her legs felt oddly numb, whether it was from the cold or from the painkillers, she could not tell.
But she continued to walk, holding on tightly to Anjali's light purple sweater that had been left in her room for her, face buried in the stripy light pink scarf, shielding her lips from the freezing cold as she dragged her feet and fragile form clad in a hospital gown through the snow.
"Khushi!" he called softly into the room, what if they hadn't brought her in yet, he frantically throught.
Looking back around him through the corridors to find them empty he stepped inside the room. The bed sheets were ruffled, they had been slept in. He searched the room for hints, where could she have possibly gone in such a state, she was injured so badly.
Thoughts of Khushi with blood running down her length rattled his brain and he rushed out of the door hoping that she was okay.
He ran to Shyams room to find him still lying as before in his bed, eyes closed this time, sleeping. He made his way back to Khushi's room and called her name out again. Retracing his steps he checked along both ends of the corridor to find a door on the right creaked slightly open, allowing a cold breeze to run along the length of the halls.
He froze when he saw little dents in the snow, filling up fast with a fresh layer showering down from the grey morning sky. He followed them, calling out her name as he ran.
Khushi groaned as the pain began to set in, she could almost feel the effect of the painkiller melting away, replaced by an awful striking pain hitting her chest from between her midriff. She took in several sharp breaths, holding on to her chest as her knees gave way. She felt like she needed the pain to distract her mind from the thought of him.
She had waited all night, from the moment her eyes had opened, searching the room for any trace of him. She remembered hearing his voice and holding on to dear life for him, but he wasn't there when she had woken up, he wasn't there when she had waited, all through the dark night, with nothing to accompany her but the flashing machines and needles piercing her skin.
On the first sight of light she had ripped them out and run as far as she could.
It was no use, he wasn't there, he wasn't anywhere.
She buried her face in her hands and began to sob, crying out loudly and holding her chest to help with the pain.
He was gone.
She didn't think she could handle how much she wanted to see him, so she let the tears fall down her face, choking in for air when she felt the need, she wanted to touch his warm skin and ruffle her hands through his soft hair like she had done before.
"I held on for you.." she paused "and you left" she accused, looking down at the snow, stained red now from the droplets of blood seeping their way past the tears from her stitches.
Arnav saw her huddled up on the floor, face buried in her hands, her voice masked by the wailing wind. The frozen lake beyond her stretched far into the horizon towards the slowly rising sun.
He ran up to her, as fast as his feet would allow, only stopping a few feet away when he could finally make out the sound of her crying.
"Khushi?" he breathed.
She froze, face still buried in her hands and took a moment to recollect her breath. Slowly looking up to meet his concerned eyes, she was shocked to find them almost in tears.
He awkwardly looked around him, he thought he would sit next to her for a while and recompose himself when she was asleep, this was too sudden.
"I..uh.. I had a ..uh.. a poppy for you" he managed through his rapidly beating heart. He thought it would pop out of his chest at any moment.
She looked at him as the tears on her cheeks dried quickly with the sharp wind.
"I hate poppies" she smiled, as she felt the happiness swell from under her chest, filling up the empty void in under a moment as she stood up on her weak knees and closed the gap between them in a few shaky steps, responding to his concern by wrapping her arms around him and snuggling in close to his neck, the warm beating of his pulse sending a shiver of warmth through her. He was alive, safe, and with her.
He kissed the top of her head and wrapped his arms around her tiny form as she continued to shiver.
"Khushi?" he quietly whispered, never having been so glad before.
"Did you mean it?" she breathed hotly in to the skin of his neck.
For once in his life Arnav knew what she was talking about.
"I meant it" he whispered into her soft hair.
She pulled away from him, far enough to be able to look into his eyes, and watched as he flushed a deep red.
"That's my job" she whispered touching his cheek briefly and smiling as she hoisted herself up by holding on to his shoulders and pressing her cold lips against his warm ones.
Arnavs eyes flew open from the shock of her touch and he stared at her closed eyes as she held on to his lips.
He smiled against her, feeling her cold nose press against his, holding on to her tightly as she ravaged through his senses. He found it amazing how one touch from her could make him forget everything, even where he was, and who.
She pulled back after a while as he reluctantly let go, feeling embarrassed at her sudden move, blushing an even deeper shade of red than he had.
He smiled at her innocence "I guess it is your job" he teased. Holding on to her cheeks he leaned in towards her so that his lips were brushing against her ear.
"I love you, I love you, I love you" he whispered slowly against the wind.
Two weeks, Khushi thought, it had taken two weeks to change her life forever. But the moment that had made everything change had been a singularity. A single fleeting moment which Khushi thought she could not forget in all her life, even if she tried her best to.
This was that moment.
She closed her eyes, taking in everything around her, and told herself that no matter what happened she would always hold on to this moment. Hold on to the way she was feeling right now.
"Khushi?" he breathed against her ear when he got no response to the words that had once felt so hard to say.
"Mmm?" she silently hummed back, before letting her weight drop into his arms, resting against his neck.
He thought she was hugging him until he felt the coldness of her cheek against his neck "Khushi? Khushi are you allright?" he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back to see that her eyes were closed, blood creeping through her purple sweater, dripping below onto the white show beneath them.
He tried to shake her eyes open, only to find that the only thing he got out of that was his own heart starting to pace from fear. He effortlessly lifted her up and carried her back through the snow into the warm hospital halls, with each step increasing the wave of panic that hit him. He was afraid he would hurt her when he gently laid her back down on her bed and ran to get the doctor.
"Mr Raizada, I told you, bed rest in necessary, at least to let the wound heal initially."
Arnav only nodded as the doctor continued to speak, after having spent an entire night thinking she was going to die, nothing seemed as bad anymore, but the thought of anything hurting her, hurt him more.
She awoke late in the afternoon, having slept through most of the morning as the nurses had redone a few of her stitches. He was sitting in a hard wooden chair crept up close to her bed, with his eyes closed from exhaustion, breathing heavily, yet peacefully.
She watched him for a while before leaning up and wincing from the pain. She slowly lifted her hand to his face, pondered for only a moment, and started tracing his skin lightly across his jaw, down his nose and along his lips. He was real, every part of him. All the emotion, all the care, all the love. It was real, and it was right here in front of her.
"What are you doing?" he whispered cynically keeping his eyes closed, causing her to gasp audibly.
She waited for him to open his eyes, not knowing what to say.
"Tired?" she asked, watching his sleepy eyes blink. She knew he had probably not slept all night.
He refused to answer her question "You should rest" he said, turning over slightly in his chair and closing his eyes again.
She reached out for his hand, and pulled at him.
"Khushi.." he started.
"Shhh!" she harshly replied, pulling him out of his chair and onto the bed with her.
"What are you do.." he started again, only to find himself being shushed by her angry glare.
She pushed down slightly on his shoulder, making him lie down next to her, resisting his protests she turned around and shut the blinds on the window, throwing the room into darkness, before lying down closely next to him on the single bed.
"You never thanked me" she whispered after a while.
Arnav had been watching her face from close, and smiled when she had spoken.
"For what?" he curiously asked.
"For saving your life."
"You? Saving my life?" he sarcastically asked.
"Yes, if I hadn't of come exactly at the right time, who knows what would have happened to you. So I'm pretty much your hero" she continued, eyes closed, close to sleep.
Arnav smiled, and put his arm around her, snugly fitting into the small bed.
Without whispering another word, he snuggled into her hair and fell asleep within seconds.
It had been four days since then. Arnav had agitated Khushi close to madness, not allowing her to move for the smallest of tasks. He would help her sit up, lie down, stand up, walk, move, breathe, everything. She had begged him to take her out, atleast let her leave the room for a bit, but he was adamant on letting her get bed- rest, nothing more, nothing less.
He walked in to the room with a cup of cold water she had asked for after having complained that the water from the jug in the room was too warm for her liking, to find it empty for the second time.
He sighed heavily, not being as worried as the first time and put the glass down on the table to his right.
He had walked in two days ago to find Khushi trying to sneakily climb out of bed after having sent him to get her something sweet to eat. He followed what he knew to be her steps outside in to the cold and along the path that led down to the frozen lake.
She was standing with her back towards him, looking out into the horizon at the setting sun, not noticing when he crept up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, being careful to not hurt her.
She smiled at his touch, hoping to avoid any thing harsh he probably had to throw at her in his anger. She knew she probably shouldn't always stand out in the snow but it wasn't her fault that the room she was staying in was surrounded by it on all four sides.
"We can go home tomorrow" he whispered into her ear, as though having read her thoughts.
She turned around in his arms, gleaming "Really?"
"I spoke to the doctor, he said you are good to go" he smiled at her happiness, not that he hadn't seen alot of it lately, all she seemed to do these days was smile, even when she was annoyed to the edge of sanity, he could tell she was happy, and that made him happy in return.
One Last Tearing Ourselves Apart Song :)
She held his hands in hers, twirling her fingers in the spaces between his and turned around to face the setting sun along with him, resting her head lightly on his shoulder.
"You scared me, you know that?" he said, still looking straight ahead.
Khushi looked up at him, watching as she recognised a hint of pain flash across his handsome face.
"There was a moment back there, near the lake, when I thought you had left, and I.." his voice choked up and he looked down, trying his hardest to not remember those moments between watching her hand slip away from him and seeing it move later on.
Khushi took a few steps back, still holding on to his hand and pulled him back along with her, she stopped after a few moments and rounded up to face him, waiting for him to look back up at her, tapping her feet loudly against the snow in impatience.
"Arnav ji!?" she exclaimed, after he seemed lost in thought "look, what happened was in the past, and there is a lot that has happened between us. Believe me when I say that what happened a few days ago was not a bad moment for you, it isn't even close to the worst you have done. Remember when you said I would do anything for money? And when you ripped my scarf with your car, and then when you left me in the middle of the road? That was bad. And that time you dropped me from your office window, I could have died, well, maybe not died, but something tells me you didn't know those cardboard boxes were there, and when we first met, that was horrible, when you ripped m.."
The angry glare that Arnav gave her made her swallow her last words, maybe she had been babbling again, Arnav didn't need reminding of all the wrong he had done.
At least he was looking at her again.
"I love you" she blurted, flushing a dark shade of auburn as she looked up to meet his eyes "too" she added in a rush, to remind him that he had done it first.
Arnav stood shocked for a while, before letting a small smile spread across his face.
"Is this your favourite place?" he asked, unsure of what else to say.
Khushi blushed deeper as she knew they were standing in the exact spot he had whispered those words to her at. She had deliberately moved back so that they would be. Closing the gap between them with a small step she crept up close to him and cautiously placed her hand over his chest, where she could feel his rapidly beating heart, giving away the pretence formed by his cool and calm demeanor.
"No" she paused, pressing slightly against his chest "this is" she whispered, indicating his beating heart.
"How did this happen?" he asked faintly as it began to snow.
"When it gets cold enough, the water turns to ice and then.." she stopped as Arnavs ever warm fingers brushed her lips silent.
She jokingly pressed her cold fingers to his nose "I know you meant us" she teased, laughing at his relentless expression.
He caressed her cheek as she began to shiver "Are you okay to stand?" he asked, worried, checking her up and down for any signs of pain.
"I'm fine, better than fine actually."
He stood staring at her bright eyes, glowing in the light snow that surrounded them, at a stark contrast to the darkening sky around them. He lightly brushed away a few snowflakes that landed on her cheeks as she began to sniff.
"I don't want to go home" Arnav confessed, prompting Khushi to look up at him curiously, the heat from his body radiating towards her and warming her up instantly.
He smiled as he whisked her off her feet and held her close to him, leaving a faint but lingering kiss at the edge of her lips.
"There is this little cottage not too far from here, its dark and grimy, and there are no sockets to charge your phone.."
Khushi laughed, holding on to the man she loved around his neck as he turned her around in the air, her soft hair caressing his face as it flew around in the light wind, snowflakes making the moment just that little bit more beautiful.
She threw her head back, closed her eyes and stretched her arms out so it felt like she was flying, the voice of both their laughter was left ringing through the air. The sound, something so temporary against the feeling of permanence that emanated between them.
Arnav looked at a smiling Khushi as she felt the individual snowflakes land across her outstretched arms.
They say each snowflake is different. Different in the way it looks, and forms and feels. Different in the way it catches the light and remains etched in memories. Different in the way it falls and makes its way down to the grounds to join the endless banks of ones that have fallen before, different, yet somehow all so devastatingly similar, each so beautiful in its own respect. Each one worth dying for.
Much like the endless moments they spent following that day, lost in eachothers arms...
And that is it everyone! Thank you so much for the journey ! It has been an awesome ride, it has made me feel warm and fuzzy inside to read all of your kind words over the past few weeks. Love you all for your support and time.
I urge anyone who has been a silent reader to comment or drop by a like at least, it is the last take and I would love to hear at least once what you have thought of the story, it would be lovely to hear from all of you.
Keep smiling everyone : LOVE HAYLES
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