Chapter Nine (All parts up)

 

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Chapter Nine



Part One






From  Khushi <KhushiArnavRaizada01@gmail.com>
To:  Arnav <ArnavSinghRaizada@arcorp.com>
Date:  Tues, June 24, 2014 at 2:55 AM
Subject:  Sheetal



Arnav,

I know what Sheetal said.And I know that you heard it.I was leaving our room when that bird yelled out what she had heard only about an hour ago from my lips.Yes, it was me.And no, this wasn’t  how I wanted you to find out.But now that you have, I find that my only regret is that you never really knew exactly what I’d said and why. And that’s why I am typing this tonight, although I know that you are still on your flight and probably won’t see this until tomorrow at the earliest, when you finally reach the Hilton in Brisbane. Thank you for that text message about the name of your hotel, by the way. 
So before I lose my nerve, here’s what really happened. I had taken Sheetal outside with me because I was tired of staying indoors for three days in a row. Escaping my own thoughts had never felt more pleasurable, you know?And as I walked out towards the stables,  a memory came back to me. The one where you fell off the horse, and injured yourself.I don’t quite know  why and how, but that triggered a reaction in me. I realized that if anything like that were to ever happen to you now, I wouldn’t react the way I had then. Quite frankly, I would be a wreck . I know that now, and I knew it when you walked in with your gun to check if there was an intruder in the Tahoe cabin.And that got me thinking…just why do I suddenly feel this way?
The answer came to me in  a sudden burst of insight, and the words just spilled from my lips.A woman feels as if her world would end if anything happened to her man…only if she loves him.
And that is when I said, I think I am in love with you, Arnav.
Yes, I did use the word ‘think’. Not because I’m not sure of what I feel, but only because the newness of it all still overwhelms me.This is the first time I’ve felt this way, and I am not quite sure how to deal with it.
And soon, an urgent concern overrode my own worries.
I wasn’t sure how you would deal with this at all.
From the very beginning, you have made your expectations and beliefs very clear. This marriage was supposed to be one of mutual convenience, based on a shared conviction in the notion of practicality above all else. On the way, we discovered that passion exists between us as well, and I have to admit that I was swept away by it for a while.
But beyond that, you have never asked for more. In fact, you have made it clear that emotions have no place in your life, and that you believe that they are meaningless.That led me to ask myself…will you think the same of what I am feeling at this moment?
Will you dismiss them as just a reaction to what has occurred over the past few days in my life?Will you think that what I feel is just gratitude for all your help and support?
Or will you put it down to the fact that this realization has happened after our honeymoon, a phase in my life that has taught me about an intense passion that I had never expected or anticipated?
I have no idea how you were going to react to this when I eventually told you.
Yes, I was going to tell you, because I have promised myself that I will not keep anything from you anymore.
But now that you know, I don’t quite know how I feel at the moment.
I did not expect you to suddenly burst out with a declaration. I wouldn’t have believed that, I think.But neither did I expect you to leave, to seek an escape with the urgency you displayed tonight.
Am I disappointed?Yes, I am.Because I expected you to stay, to question..and maybe try to understand why I’d said what I did.
Do I understand why you went away to a conference you hadn’t planned on attending?Actually, I do.
Because sometimes, I wish that I could escape from the intensity of all that you make me feel.I would want to get away too..to think about it, to come to terms with it…to decide what I am going to do about it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury…but you do.
I understand, Arnav. 
But I want you to know that I would rather have you back as soon as possible, because everything feels empty without you here.And I also want you to know that I don’t want you to feel obliged to say or declare anything, just because I have.
I just want you back, in this home that you have given me…in this room that we have made our own.
In my arms, because that is where you truly belong.

And when you do get back, I want you to know that I will be very, very happy if I could stay with you after this year ends…for as many years as you want me to.
The question now is, do you want that as much as I do, especially after you’ve heard what I had to say?

Come back home and tell me…I’m waiting.


-Khushi.



_________


I pause with the cursor poised over the ‘send’ button, not sure if I really want to do this.In the next instant, I remind myself just why it is so important that I do.
As the email goes through, I sit back in my chair and close my eyes, savoring the wave of relief.
A soft knock at the door snaps me out of this in a hurry, though.Walking over to the closed door, I open it and stare at my mother, who looks tired and very, very anxious.

¨Amma? I thought you were asleep!¨

She comes in , and I close the door behind her.

¨I tried, but I couldn’t, bitiya.¨

¨It’s the jet-lag, Amma. It will take a few days before you…¨

My voice trails off as my mother stares at me with that worried look still on her face.

¨It’s not the jet-lag…we need to talk, Khushi.¨
I sigh inwardly, knowing that this moment was inevitable.

¨I know, Amma. But I thought it could wait until the morning when…¨

My mother steps forward, and cups my cheek in one hand, then draws me towards the chair with the other.When I am seated there, she pulls up the other chair, and I know that the time for the truth is finally here.

¨It has already waited for far too long, Khushi. I wanted to talk to you about this ever since Arnav bitwa told me the truth about your marriage the other day over the phone, but he requested me to wait until I got here. And tonight…I had to wait until I had visited Payal…¨

I look away immediately, unwilling to be reminded of that little detour on our way home from the airport. When Amma had landed at San Francisco airport, she had surprised me by asking me about Payal. I had told her that I assumed that Payal and Akash were back home in Bangalore, but she had then informed me that they had never gone back at all. Apparently, Payal had been admitted to a hospital in Palo Alto , where she was being treated for severe clinical depression and anxiety disorder. When I had heard of this, I had reluctantly allowed my mother to call Akash, and she had then gone to the hospital to see my sister. Although I had accompanied her there, I hadn’t been able to make myself go inside.The wounds were still too fresh, and no amount of  concern for my sister’s well being could make me forget that.
Instead, I had waited in the car for my mother’s return, but a few moments later , I was taken by surprise when Akash had approached me there.My astonishment had mounted when he had gone on to apologize for his wife’s behavior. Even could clearly see that he was overcome with guilt at that moment…guilt for ignoring his wife’s irrational behavior and not following up on her suspicious activities, even when she had suddenly insisted on an American honeymoon that he could barely afford at the moment.I was surprised to feel a tinge of sympathy for him, especially when he revealed that despite everything, he was still determined to stay by her side…even when his own mother had tried to force him to give up on an unstable, irrational woman.
His confessions were interrupted by my mother’s return, and it had taken only one look at her devastated face before he had turned back the way he had come, leaving us alone in the car.
And then we had both wept together…for the wreck that our loved one had become.
Despite the fact that she had almost succeeded in causing irrevocable harm, I still wished that she did not have to suffer…that none of this would ever have happened in the first place.
My mother had felt all the guilt…all the agony of seeing the breakdown too, but together, we had started on the slow, painful road to acceptance and healing.
In that moment, I had found myself immensely grateful to one enigmatic, intuitive man who had arranged for me to have my mother by my side at a time like this.
On our return to the mansion, I had insisted on her going straight upstairs for a shower and some rest, but apparently that wasn’t possible.
As I look over at her now in the muted light of my bedroom, I know that I have no other option but to talk this out with her. After the events of three days ago, there was no way that the truth about our marriage could be hidden any longer…from her, at least. Arnav had told her  about the contract in general terms, but it was upto me now to explain what had happened since.
¨Amma…there are some things you need to know about this marriage…¨

I spend the next few minutes telling her most of the truth about the past few weeks, leaving out the intimate details and focusing instead on why I had initially married him…and what exactly had changed now.
When I am done, she looks at me for a long moment, then shakes her head sadly.

¨Khushi…after listening to all this…and seeing  what has happened to Payal…I know that I have failed as a mother.¨

The guilt on her face is something that I cannot bear.I drop down to my knees before her and pull her hands into mine.

¨Don’t blame yourself for all this, Amma…we…¨

¨What else can I do, Khushi? I didn’t even manage to give you the confidence to share your cherished dreams with me…about the PhD, and about marriage. And Payal…I cannot even count the number of ways I have failed there…¨

¨was responsible for that, too. And you know that, Amma.¨

She looks away towards the open window, and I wait for her to say something…anything.
When she finally does, it is not what I expected.

¨Do you know something, Khushi? I don’t want to fail anymore.¨

¨What? Amma, I…¨

¨No. You listen to me, Khushi. The only thing I can do for Payal now is to stay out of her life. It is the only thing that will allow her to focus on getting her life back on track…by herself. Do you know how many times I questioned myself if I was doing the right thing by visiting one daughter who has made the other suffer? But in the end, I couldn’t stop myself…because I am her mother, after all. But it ends here, Khushi. Thankfully,  she has a loyal life partner…and I will trust him to take care of her. There won’t be any more interference from my side. But then…then there’s you…¨
She runs her hand through my hair, and I rest my head in her lap again.

¨You, Khushi. The daughter who has given up so much…I want nothing more than to help you in any way that I can. And now that I know the truth about your marriage, I only have one question for you…¨

That brings my head up in a hurry.

¨…do you still want to stay in this marriage?¨

Her anxious eyes are fixed on mine, but I answer immediately with no hesitation.

¨Yes, I do. ¨

She stares at me for a long moment.

¨Why?¨


How do I answer this?
How do I put these new feelings into words…the ones that I am still struggling to understand?

And yet, I know that  I have to try.

¨Because I know that this marriage can be the one I have always wanted. We…we may not be there yet…but Amma, I want to try.¨
I take her hand in mine again.

¨This is my shot at happiness, Amma. I can feel it.¨

I wait with bated breath for her reply, but she doesn’t answer me in words.Instead, she reaches out and pulls me into her arms, holding me securely against her heart.

¨If you are happy, then I am too, bitiya. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.¨

But then she draws away before pulling me up as  well.

¨But there’s something I want you to know, Khushi. At any moment, if you decide that this is no longer what you want…please don’t hide it from me. I’m strong enough to handle the truth, even though you think otherwise. So promise me…promise me if God forbid, that ever happens…you’ll come back to your Amma.¨

Tears burn the backs of my eyelids as I hug her close again, nodding my head even though I know that will never happen.

This shaadi is what I want most in the world.
And I am determined to fight for it.




Over the next four days, my resolve is sorely tested.
After I had sent that email, I wasn’t quite sure what I had expected from him.When he had first called me after reaching the Hilton in Brisbane, it had only been for a few minutes, just enough to let me know that he had reached there safely.
But on the next call, he finally acknowledged that he had read the email.I still remember that anticlimactic conversation…

¨Khushi…I just saw your email.¨


¨You…did?¨


¨Yes.¨


¨And?¨


¨I think it’ s something that should be discussed in person…and not when I am miles away on the other side of the world.¨

¨I…that’s fine. I can wait.¨


¨I have to go, there’s a dinner with some of the delegates.¨


¨Sure. Talk to you later.¨



And that had been that.
Following that call, every other conversation of ours had been short and to the point…except that it wasn’t really the point I wanted to discuss. We spoke about the conference that was being held at the Brisbane convention center, and the city of Brisbane.I told him about the only outing that my mother had agreed to, and how the sight of the spectacular Golden Gate bridge had managed to take her mind off her worries for a few hours.
But we never talked about the issue that was looming large in my mind…and hopefully in his.

I have spent the days with my mother, grateful to have this chance to catch up with her .But the nights have been the hardest.I find myself pining for my husband, in a way that I had never imagined.

I know that the conference ends today, and that he is due to return tomorrow. We had spoken in the wee hours of the morning, but there has been no call since then.I have reached for my phone several times through the day, but I have refrained from calling him, knowing that he needs his sleep before heading out for yet another day at the convention center.

But the restlessness continues unabated.Despite my brave words in that email, I know that in my heart of hearts, I do crave for more.
And that might never happen.

Anxiety over his reaction wars with the constant issue of Payal that still tortures me at times.Desperate for relief from my own troubled thoughts, I drag my mother out for dinner at a nearby Chinese Bistro. When we return, it’s almost ten, and my mother heads upstairs at once.

For some reason, I find myself unable to do the same.
I decide to spend some time outside, and turn around to walk back through the front door.As I do so, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror by the entryway, and I pause, arrested by the sight.

I had dressed hurriedly earlier, and it is only now that I notice the vibrant beauty of the pale blue tiered chiffon skirt, paired with a sleeveless top in a darker shade of blue. Strappy white sandals and a wide bracelet complete the look, and although it is  a fairly simple one, it is still a new experience for me.
This outfit is one that I had purchased for my honeymoon, although I had never had the chance to wear it then. I don’t quite know what has compelled me to wear it tonight.
I have styled my hair differently too, the long  length now lies in waves down my back.

I suddenly realize that my clothes aren’t the only things that have changed about me these days.
As I stare at myself in the mirror, I know that I look good.For the first time in my life, I allow myself to acknowledge that fact.
And it is all because of one man, who looks at me as if I am the most beautiful woman he’s ever set his eyes upon.Although he has constantly reiterated that he finds me attractive, it is not his words that have finally convinced me.It is his touch…the way he holds me as if he can never let go.It is his gaze…the way he looks at me as if he never wants to look away.
There is no reason for him to fake those things…and now I am sure that he hasn’t.
I realize at that moment that no matter what else happens between us, I’ll always be grateful to him for allowing me to be confident in my own femininity for the first time ever.
I also know that it is that confidence that gave me the strength to bare my soul to him on the Golden gate bridge…and allowed me to give myself to him physically…in a way that I never had before.
The woman I am today is someone I have discovered since meeting him.
Has he managed to erase the scars of my past completely?
I don’t think so…not entirely, at least.
My insecurities continue to come back at unwelcome moments…like this one.His refusal to speak about my email has brought them back to the fore, and I find myself battling conflicted emotions as I wonder if even the new me is enough to hold a man like him.
hope so…and I know that I have seen the evidence in his eyes.
But in the dark hours of a night like this, can one really be sure?

Unable to face the agony in my eyes, I turn away from the mirror and wrench open the door, not stopping until I reach the gazebo. I fall back into an armchair and stare up at the moon, wondering what he’s doing at the moment in Brisbane.
Does he think about me at random moments like this?

Does he wonder what I’m doing, just like I am?

The wind blows across my face and I close my eyes…just for a moment…



My dreams have never been particularly vivid or memorable.Recollections of vibrant colors and patterns are the only things that I can recall when I wake up, and even that is quite rare.
But this dream seems to be breaking all those rules.
The first thing I feel is a gentle caress on my leg, easing the sandal off my foot before moving upwards, my chiffon skirt no longer a barrier as it is raised steadily out of the way.
Yes, strange as it may sound, I know that I am wearing a gauzy blue chiffon skirt that floats across my ankles.Or used to, anyway.
I also know where I am, that knowledge hasn’t been diminished by this unusual dream. 
I am seated in one of the upholstered armchairs in the gazebo outside our home, and it is dark outside. I know that even though my eyelids are closed…
That strangely familiar touch now rests on my waist, a heavy, comforting warmth spreading out from the point of contact. I shift a little in the chair, a new restlessness taking hold as my movement dislodges the hand, and it now moves upwards until it rests right below my breasts.
My breath hitches in my throat as I wait for the hand to move higher, right where I need it the most.
But it doesn’t.
Instead, the warmth is withdrawn abruptly,  leaving  me vaguely unfulfilled.

What exactly is happening to me?

Everything feels so real…and yet I can feel that my eyes are still closed.The yearning is unabated, though.
I crave for something that has been missing for days now, and I know exactly what it is. My mind shies away from giving it a name, knowing that the pain will be unbearable, even if this is a dream.
Instead, my senses focus on what I can feel.
The cool night air blows across my arms, raising goosebumps across the exposed skin.The rustle of the leaves and the sounds of the crickets permeate the surroundings, further giving credence to the theory that I am still in the gazebo, which is were I fell asleep.
But even as my minds takes this in, I am conscious of a presence beside me.
The touch may be absent, but the air shimmers with the vitality and a banked fire.
I hear him move around me , and then I suddenly feel a touch on my hair.I have left it loose tonight, and he takes advantage of this by lifting the heavy mass in one hand before moving it off my shoulder.
And then I shift again as I feel his lips against the bare skin at my neck-line, a fleeting touch that is over before it has truly begun.
His hands let go of my hair, and then slide down my bare arms before he moves away yet again.

More than anything else, this fact convinces me that I am still dreaming.Because in real life, the only man who has touched me intimately is always impatient…always hungry for more.
This gentleness…the fleeting caresses…these aren’t something I’ve ever experienced before.
I know now that this is the product of my hopeful heart…because this is the touch of a man in love.

Even as the thought passes through my mind, he comes back to me again.
His hands hold both of mine in his, and somehow, I know that he is now kneeling before me.As he leans forward, his breath fans across my face and I move towards him involuntarily.
He kisses one fluttering eyelid, and then another.
His warm, caressing lips now move down to the corners of my mouth, the transient touch leaving me wanting…craving for more.
He raises one hand, and I wait with bated breath to see what my dream lover has planned for me now.
But his next move takes me completely by surprise.
He touches my chest, right above my heart.His hand lingers there for a moment, and is then replaced by his lips.

Even in my trance, I know that this means something…that this is significant in some way.

But that thought is short-lived, because now, his lips finally touch mine.
They are gentle as ever, the caress is ephemeral .
When he moves away, his fingers come up to my mouth, touching them for an instant before he moves away completely.
My heart calls out to him, not wanting him to leave.
If I can never have this in real life, I will gladly take the Arnav in this dream…the one who is saying that he loves me without even speaking the words aloud.
He doesn’t need to.
His touch is reverent, he has touched me as if I am precious.
It is all I have ever wanted.
As I acknowledge that fact, a distant corner of my mind also recognizes the pain…the trauma of knowing that this might never come true.
And even as I try to stop that awareness from spreading through my system, the agony supersedes all else.

A single teardrop makes it’s way across my cheek, and it confuses me for a moment.
The moisture is real.
And so is my distress.

For the first time tonight, I ask myself a question…

Was everything else real as well?

As that thought hits home, my eyes fly open.

The disappointment hits hard as I see the empty space before me.As conscious thought returns, I know that he cannot possibly be here.
The last day of the conference is underway, and there’s no way that he can…
The thought stumbles to halt and I freeze as a shadow comes alive before my stunned eyes.

Arnav.

It is him, impossible as it seems.

He steps forward, and I meet his gaze, shock still holding me in place.
In that moment, I am suddenly filled with the knowledge that the dream was real.
As real as the man standing before me now, his eyes filled with shadows and craving and an unknown something…

Before I can process the implications, before I can ask him how he’s here when he’s supposed to be in Brisbane, he holds his hand out to me.
And instinctively, I place my hand in his.
He draws me towards himself gently, and I am reminded of the caresses and touches of a moment before…something that I had never expected from him.
He lifts me up into his arms, never breaking eye contact as he steps down from the gazebo.He walks across the darkened lawns towards the tall evergreens that border one side of the property, the only light coming from the widely-spaced ground lamps in the perimeter.
When we finally reach the furthest tree, he puts me down against it, then leans in close.Neither of us has said a word yet…and somehow, speech becomes superfluous for the moment.
Instead, I focus on his lips as they descend towards mine, continuing where he had left off in the gazebo.This kiss is as gentle as his earlier one, and I slowly raise my hands to wind around his neck, pulling him close.
Time ceases to exist as he kisses me again and again before moving down my body in a journey that is familiar…yet new and unexpected at the same time.
I don’t allow myself to pause and think and analyze just why that is so.Instead, I give myself over to his touch, and the incredible sensations he is able to arouse in me.
When he pulls away, I tremble with a vague sense of loss until I realize that he is taking off his jacket. Laying it down on the lawn behind the tall tree, he pulls me down gently until I am lying down on it,my body shielded from the worst of the rugged ground by the heavy fabric of his jacket.
He pulls down my top before finally placing his mouth on the aching peaks, and I am lost.
In moments, he has the rest of my body aching for his with equal intensity, and I reach for his trousers with urgent, fumbling hands. But before he takes me, he kisses his way across my chest and neck, his mouth leaving trails of fire in it’s wake.
His hands mold my breasts even as he parts my legs with one knee, while his lips take mine again.
This time, when he finally enters me, the fullness is different too.
I clasp him close, determined to make him a part of me…just as I have become a part of him.
He takes my lips in a searing kiss as he begins to move, and yet he is careful, placing his hands below my hips as his pound against mine with increasing force and depth and passion.
The climax hits hard, and I know that I have taken him with me this time as my body bursts into a blinding firestorm of passion.
As I lie back against the jacket breathing hard, I hold him close again, afraid for some unfathomable reason that he might leave me…again.
But my fears prove to be unfounded.
After a while, he helps me right my clothes, then pulls on his jacket before taking me into his arms again. He walks back into the house and doesn’t stop until we are in our room.
There are so many questions begging to be answered…and yet the insomnia of the last few nights begins to catch up with me, my eyes drifting close even as he undresses me before placing me under the covers.
My last thought as he pulls me against his chest is that  I will get my answers tomorrow.

Definitely…tomorrow…

But when I wake up the next morning, I am alone…the only evidence of his presence being a small white note on a pillow.



Part Two






Let’s eliminate ‘think’.


-Arnav.


I stare at those three words for a long, long while, my sleep-fogged mind refusing to allow me to process them immediately.
Holding the note in my hand, I wrap the sheet around my body and walk over to the window, where the first thing that catches my eye is the row of tall trees that were a mute witness to the passion of last night.

The silence hadn’t been limited to the trees, either. No words were exchanged between us last night, I realize that now. There hadn’t seemed to be any need…but in the bright light of the morning, I know that the time for explanations is here.
The sheet slips a little and I draw it up securely, my cheeks flaming as I recall the unrestrained lovemaking on the lawn. I have never thought of myself as a woman who could possibly do something like that…and yet, nothing had seemed more natural last night.The memory of yet another passionate interlude makes my blush deepen as I remember our first time in the log cabin. A sheet of glass was all that had shielded us from the outside world, and yet, I hadn’t given it a second thought until later, when Arnav had explained that boats were prohibited from approaching private property within a certain distance across the lake.
My desire for him has opened my eyes and made me see a whole new side to myself, one that I hadn’t even known the existence of until recently…
The crackle of paper draws my attention and I realize that I have been crushing the small note in my hand.Smoothing it out gently, I read the words…then read them again as I realize just what he is responding to…

And that is when I said, I think I am in love with you, Arnav.


So now he wants to remove the ‘think’ from that sentence…thereby eliminating any hint of uncertainty and making it a powerful declaration and a commitment, all in one?
And just what is he offering in return?

My mind is buzzing with questions, and I realize that only one man can give me the answers.Dropping the sheet, I rush into the bathroom and stumble to  a halt as I realize that the shower is still warm from his recent bath. Hurrying through a quick shower myself, I dress quickly in a cotton kurti teamed with jeans and head towards the stairs without bothering to dry my hair.On my way down, I twist the length up into a knot and secure it with a clip, completing the task just as I enter the dining room.
My mother is seated at the table with a cup of tea in her hand, and she gives me a strained smile when she spots me.

¨Good morning, bitiya.¨

¨Are you alright, Amma? Is something wrong?¨

I hurry across to her and sit down beside her, my gaze moving over the lines of strain on her face.


¨I…no, nothing’s wrong. It’s just that…Akash had called, to let me know that Payal will be discharged today.¨


When I don’t respond immediately, she quickly continues.

¨Akash is going to wait for the paperwork he needs to file for reimbursement of his travel health insurance…and once he has that, they are going to take the first flight out to Bangalore.¨

I look away for a moment, unwilling to allow myself to even feel the slightest concern for Payal, but knowing that my mother may not feel the same.

¨Do you…do you want to see her before she leaves?¨

My mother looks away too, but then squares her shoulders and turns back to me with a determined look in her eyes.

¨No. I’ll probably visit her once I’m back in Bangalore…but for now, I’ll stay right here. This time is for you, Khushi. I’m not going to let anything ruin that.¨

My eyes widen in surprise, and I realize that for the second time in my life, I am someone’s first priority again.

And then my heart stills as I hear the voice of the man who had first given me that gift.

¨Coffee?¨

I look up at him to find that he is holding out a cup for me, while his own rests on the countertop against which he has been leaning. In my rush to reassure myself about my mother, I had completely missed the sight, and now my surprise must have shown on my face because he gives me a wry smile.

¨I’ve been waiting for you to come down.¨

As I take the cup from him, I notice that he is already dressed for work in a navy suit . 
His eyes search mine for a moment, and I realize that he seems to be waiting…for something.

At exactly that same moment, I become conscious of the fact that my mother seems to have withdrawn from the conversation entirely.
Turning back towards her, I notice her stiff stance and wary posture as she looks away towards the gardens framed by the large bay window.

¨More tea, Mrs.Gupta?¨

Arnav gestures towards the gleaming silver teapot, but my mother barely glances towards it before rising from the table.

¨No, thank you. I think I’ll…I’ll just take a walk in the garden.¨

And in a moment, she is gone, walking out through the sliding doors and disappearing into the rows of rose bushes that border this side of the lawn.
And it is then that I realize what should have been apparent earlier.The easy acceptance and developing camaraderie between my mother and her son-in-law has now been ruined by the revelation that a contract was the basis of this marriage. She may have decided to support me in this, but her view of Arnav has changed forever…and I don’t quite know what to do about that.
As always, the man himself has the answer.

¨Give her some time, Khushi. She needs to see how things stand between us, to reassure herself that everything is going to be fine.¨

That gives me the opening I’ve been waiting for.


¨I’m not entirely sure of that myself, Arnav.¨

He looks up in surprise, then moves across to take my hand in his.

¨Didn’t you find my note?¨

¨I did. But I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.¨

He stares down at me for a long moment, then pulls me close.


¨There’s so much I need to say…but now isn’t the time. NK just called me about some rumors regarding the merger that have been floating around the city today, and I need to get there in an hour to attend a hastily-arranged press conference.¨

I look away, dejected.The warmth of his embrace is scant solace at the moment, and he  realizes that immediately.

¨Khushi…you know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice. I’ll make it a point to come back soon tonight…¨

I nod once, but he isn’t convinced.Bending down to place a swift kiss on my lips, he raises my chin until I’m looking up directly into his simmering brown gaze.

¨You listen to me, Khushi Arnav Raizada. I didn’t come back a day early from Brisbane just so that I could rush back into the office without talking to you. This is important to me, I want you to know that. Only a crisis at work could have drawn me from your side today, and unfortunately, that is exactly what has occurred.¨

I take a deep breath, calling on all my reserves of patience as I answer.

¨I understand. I may not like it, but I understand. Just hurry back home…and explain that note to me.¨

He smiles, but it isn’t as carefree as before.

¨Tonight, then.¨

And with yet another brief kiss, he turns around and leaves through the front door.
Once again, I find myself immensely grateful for the presence of my mother. When she comes back inside, I ask her if she wants to visit the Stanford campus and thankfully,she agrees.I change quickly, glad to have this chance to escape my own muddled thoughts.
Despite my preoccupation, we manage to spend an enjoyable day on the beautiful campus of Stanford. I show her the famous quadrangle with it’s sculptures and cathedral, and then we make our way down to the art museum. Finally, we stop by for dinner in University Ave, and she appears to enjoy the hustle of the street and the glimpses of student life as we devour our delicious  wraps in a mediterranean restaurant.
Pleasantly exhausted by our trip, we return home at eight, and I am astonished to find that Arnav is already home. Although he had promised to be back early, I had assumed that he would need more time in his office after I had caught glimpses of news shows that seemed to be talking about the troubles faced by the  A.R Corp merger.
But as we enter the house, he is already there, seated in the living-room with his laptop open before him .

¨Arnav?¨

He looks up with a smile, then rises from the couch.

¨Hi.¨

¨I…I didn’t know that you would be back…¨

¨I told you I would, didn’t I? And now that I am here, we can all go out for dinner…¨

¨But we…we’ve already eaten…¨

He looks from me to my mother, and I know that he is disappointed…even though nothing changes in his expression.

¨That’s okay, Khushi. We can always go some other day. Did you like the Stanford campus, Mrs.Gupta?¨

My mother looks up at him reluctantly.

¨I…yes, it’s beautiful. And very well maintained, of course.¨


¨It is. I’d like to hear more about your day…would you like to join me for dessert while I eat?¨

My mother looks torn, and I open my mouth to accept but she turns away first.

¨Not today, if you don’t mind. It’s been a long day and…¨

¨Mrs.Gupta.¨

She already has one foot on the stairs, but something in the implacability of his tone makes her pause.


¨Yes?¨

He waits until she turns back to face him , and I find myself holding my breath.

¨I didn’t want to bring this up…not when you already have so many things to deal with. But I have no other option…¨

He walks over to her, and I follow him, unsure about what exactly is happening here.

¨Mrs.Gupta, I completely understand why things are strained between us now. After being told that her daughter’s marriage is based on a legal contract that she wasn’t even aware of, I’m sure that every mother would have reacted this way. But despite all that, I’m asking you to please…try and see that this isn’t what you think. There is no force or compulsion involved,your daughter is here of her own volition. But this…this is going to affect her, Mrs.Gupta. In fact, this is probably the kind of thing she feared when she decided to hide it from you in the first place.¨

¨I know what my daughter wants, Arnav. It’s the only reason why I’m still here.¨


¨I know that. But your physical presence isn’t enough. She needs more from you, and while I know that this may take some time, I’d like to do anything that might hasten your acceptance of this situation.¨

The ball is now in my mother’s court, and I try to think of something that might make her see things my way…and his.
Her gaze stays on his for a long moment, and then she turns to me, but I am still racking my brains for anything that might ease this situation.
And then she turns away abruptly, breaking my heart .As she climbs the stairs, I realize that it was too much to hope for…this is obviously going to take more than a few weeks, the breach is too wide. She hasn’t figured out how she is going to deal with the man who made a business deal with her daughter, and I have to accept that…
But then she pauses after a few steps, and slowly turns towards us again.Her gaze drops to my hand which is now tightly clasped in his, and then she takes a deep breath.

¨We could go out for dinner tomorrow . Just make sure that it is an Indian restaurant this time.¨

And with those words, she continues towards the landing, leaving me speechless.I know that it’s just a start, but it’s more than I had hoped for and I feel the unwelcome sting of tears in my eyes, just as he begins to pull me towards his study.

¨Arnav, what…¨

My words die down as I finally catch the look in his eyes, and the combination of determination and tender passion there renders me speechless once again . He closes the door behind us and flips the light switch that immediately bathes the room in a soft, white glow.
I have been in this room before, but only for a brief period of time.
A huge mahogany desk is the centerpiece, with tall bookshelves on either side and leather armchairs placed beside a stone fireplace.
He comes up to me before I can say anything, and takes both my hands in his.


¨It’s time, Khushi. This isn’t about Payal or your mother or anything else…this is going to be all about us.¨

Fear and joy battle for supremacy as I realize that I finally have what I have been waiting for…even as I am unsure if I will actually like what I am going to hear.

¨You can start by explaining why you came back  a day early. And why you didn’t tell me about it.¨

He smiles wryly, and I firmly clamp down on the surge of hormones that threaten to overpower my common sense.

¨I didn’t tell you because I didn’t really know that I was coming back…not until the last possible moment. And then, I just knew that I had to get on that jet and come back here…because I finally knew what I had to say to you.¨

¨And you did not know this when you left?¨


¨If I did, I would never have left, would I? I heard what Sheetal had to say and I…I ran from it, Khushi. I felt like I was out of my depth…it was an act of cowardice, one that I am not particularly proud of. But one of the reasons was that I really didn’t know what to say at that point.¨

¨I wouldn’t have asked you to say anything. I don’t want a forced confession or a reciprocation just because you think that it’s something I need to hear, Arnav. I even said so in my email…¨

¨Yes, you were very generous, weren’t you? You even gave me an inbuilt excuse…just why did you do that, Khushi? You have never shied away from fighting for something you want…you even did that on our first night in Tahoe when you got me to admit that it had never been just sex between us. So why now? Why did you express what you were feeling ,but made sure that I did not feel the need to say the same? Why did you give up before it had really begun?¨

¨I gave up on nothing, Arnav. I know that there’s more than sex between us. I think I’ve always known that. But until that night, I hadn’t been able to give it a name. That realization came to me naturally, no one had coerced me into admitting that…and that’s why I wanted it to be the same for you.¨


He shakes his head before walking towards the armchair, and I find myself hating the fact that I cannot see his face.


¨There’s a problem here, Khushi. I don’t think that I can grasp what you are saying, really. That was part of the reason why I ran…I just don’t get it

He turns back to face me before continuing.

¨This notion of love…it’s foreign to me. When I first heard it from Sheetal…and then when I read it in your email, I wasn’t sure quite what I should make of it. Was it just a reaction to the passion we shared, just like you suggested? Was it because of what we’d shared after that incident with your sister? Every doubt that you had written about…those were the things I thought about while I was in the Hilton…and you know what I finally realized?¨

He smiles again, and walks back towards me, not pausing until he has me back in his arms.

¨I remembered that I had married a woman with exceptional intelligence. One who was perfectly capable of telling the difference between mere desire…and a more steadfast, lasting emotion. One who would never say she was in love…if she wasn’t really sure about that fact. If she admitted that she might be in love, then had to accept that such a thing might actually exist, even if I did not understand it yet. And that was when I realized that I needed to get back to her…to tell her that I am willing to try. That I want to try…if she will allow me to.¨

¨Allow you to try what, exactly?¨

¨This love thing, of course. You were absolutely right in your email, I did begin this marriage with the hope that  I had married a woman with the same practical outlook that I had. But things changed between us, and I will freely admit that this took me by surprise. And now…you even have me thinking if I have been foolish to disregard the very notion of love up until this point.¨

¨I was taken by surprise too. I wasn’t exactly expecting to…feel this way about you.¨


¨Do you regret that it happened?¨

I smile up at him for the first time since I have entered this room, a burst of hope flooding through me.

¨No. I wouldn’t give up this feeling for the world.¨

He kisses me once, and then moves away slightly, although he still has his arms around me.

¨Call me selfish, Mrs.Raizada…but I find myself craving that now.  I want you to be a wreck when you think that I am injured. I want you to miss me when I’m gone. I want our room to seem lonely without me there.¨

Another kiss, another shared deep breath.

¨I want you to love me, Khushi. I want it all


¨And that’s why you wrote that note…about removing the ‘think’?¨


¨Yes. Clearly, I’m a selfish jerk, because I want you to give me everything you have…and I don’t even know what I can promise you in return.¨


¨Have you ever heard of the term unconditional?¨


¨Not in the business world, I haven’t.¨


¨I’m beginning to realize that this ‘love thing’ might follow rules of it’s own, Mr.Raizada. They certainly aren’t written in any contract.¨

¨What do you mean?¨


¨It means that even though you can’t promise me anything at the moment, I find that it changes nothing about the way feel . There are no conditions here, I need nothing in return…at the moment, anyway. All I want is for you to accept this and just…keep an open mind and let this take us in an entirely new direction.¨


¨I can do that…but it isn’t going to be easy. I can’t just change what I think overnight and become some kind of mushy, emotional sap who writes you love poetry and…¨

¨Love would change to laughter very soon if you turned into an emotional sap, I think.¨

¨I’m serious here. I want this to work, but I am also going to admit that this is making me very uncomfortable. I don’t quite know what you expect, but I do know that I don’t want to disappoint you in any way.¨

It strikes me then that for a man who says that he knows nothing about love, he certainly seems to say all the right things.That thought makes me smile again, and I wonder just when he is going to realize what is rapidly becoming apparent to me now.
Winding my arms around his neck, I press myself against him.

¨You aren’t going to disappoint me. And I don’t want you to change. I just want you to see where we could go with this…experience this relationship like I am. That’s all.¨

¨For more than one year?¨

¨Do you want it to be?¨

¨I don’t think I can ever let you go.¨

¨Are we renegotiating now?¨

¨I’d give you anything…do anything for you, if you’d only remove that think…¨

His smile makes me laugh, and I kiss him this time.

¨You’ll have to work to make that happen.¨

¨Oh I will. In fact, let me get started right away…¨

This time, the kiss isn’t brief.With an intensity that leaves me breathless, he parts my lips and delves deep, his hands moving down my back as he begins to lower me onto the rug before the fireplace.
When I am lying beneath him, he moves his lip to my neck, then lower.Even as I lose myself in the maelstrom of passion, I realize that now, his caresses are a delicious combination of the gentleness of last night, and a hunger that sets me ablaze.
Seized with a  sudden desire to feel his warmth against me, I reach up for his jacket and pull  it off, barely registering the sight of the white sheet of paper that flies out as the jacket hits the floor.
As he lowers his head towards my aching breasts, I cannot suppress the involuntary gasp of pain as his belt buckle digs into my skin.Rearing up at once, he moves away slightly and begins to pull it off.
I don’t quite know what makes me look toward the floor, but some instinct draws my eye towards the crumpled sheet of paper and I find myself absently reaching for it with my free hand, even as I try to battle the raging need within my body.
But when my eyes focus on the words, all thought flies out the window.

I sit up abruptly, and he looks over at me in surprise.

¨Khushi?¨

I hold the paper out to him.

¨Why do you have this in your pocket?¨




Part Three



He looks down at the white sheet that shows clear signs of wear and tear, and I realize that he has been carrying it around for a while now.
But why?

I wait for his answer, but  he leans back against the armchair before saying anything.

¨Why do you think?¨

I move over until I am able to lean back against his shirt-clad chest, and look down at the paper again.

¨I really have no idea, Arnav.¨

He sighs.

¨It’s very simple. I printed it out because it is the single most important email I have ever received.¨

I look up into his eyes, startled by the obvious sincerity there.


¨It…is?¨

He smiles down at me, then raises one hand to sift his fingers through my hair.

¨Without a doubt. And I wanted it with me at all times because I wanted to read and reread it…because it was almost like deciphering a foreign language to me.¨

I tear my gaze away from his and look down at the paper, trying to understand just why those simple lines I’d written were so very difficult for him to grasp.

¨What exactly were you trying to understand?¨

¨I told you, this whole love business is something that I had never once considered…not in terms of my own life, anyway. And even now, it seems like a bizarre, unfathomable concept.¨

¨But why does it seem that way to you? It cannot be so very foreign after all. You do love your family, anyone can see that. This is just a different type of that same emotion and…¨

¨I respect my family. I trust them, and I will admit that doing things for them and giving them what they want makes me happy. But that’s all there is to that. I have certainly never thought about it as loving them, and why should I? Is it really necessary to give it a name? And if so, is it necessary to use that one? That’s what I don’t get.¨

¨Why shouldn’t that term be used? Make me understand, Arnav. What do you have against it, or any other emotion anyway?¨

The ensuing silence makes me look up at him, only to find that his gaze is fixed on the fireplace.Then suddenly, his arms tighten around me and his gaze turns to mine, and I know that he has reached  a decision of sorts.

¨It’s all about control for me. It always has been, ever since I realized that power and success comes only to those whose self-control and self-possession are second to none. A person who isn’t in control of himself and his surroundings will be trampled in today’s world by those who are. And that’s the truth. ¨

Realization begins to dawn on me.

¨And you think that emotions undermine that control?¨

¨I think that they can destroy it, but only if someone gives them that power. And so I have consciously chosen to stay away from all attachments that threaten my hard-won control. But then…you came along.¨

¨Me? I didn’t do anything to you, at least not in the beginning. It all started out as a contract, remember?¨

¨That isn’t true. You have always made me do things that went against what I had always believed in. I wanted to make you mine from the very first time I set eyes on you…that very thought was something that I’d never had before..about anyone. If I had still been in control, I would have walked away. But I couldn’t. ¨

Astounded by this revelation, I struggle to get my head around it.


¨So you…you have been experiencing some of what I have…and you have been fighting against it too, haven’t you?¨

¨Of course. I did not want to give in then, and I find it very difficult even now. The whole notion of handing over the reins of your life to another makes me cringe and I…¨


¨But why do you think of it like that?¨

¨What?¨


¨Why do you think that giving in to what lies between us equates to ceding complete control? Why do you think that it will diminish you somehow? Why is it all or nothing, Arnav? Can’t you see that there is a middle ground? Feeling this way about someone also means that you know that you are capable of this bond. And giving in requires strength too, you know. It wasn’t exactly easy for me to write what I did, but I went ahead anyway. And that did not make me feel rudderless and out of control. All I felt was relief that everything was out in the open. And now…knowing that I feel this way about you satisfies me on one level. To know that I am capable of feeling this way about my husband…it gives me joy. How can that be bad?¨

He stares down at me for a long, long moment.


¨It can’t be all that bad…especially when it puts that look in your eyes, Mrs.Raizada.¨


The kiss that follows is indescribably sweet, there’s just no other word for it.But when we break the kiss, his eyes are serious once again.


¨I just need time to think about all this…to accept this change, Khushi. You understand that, don’t you?¨

I nod once, then look back down at the note…and so does he.

¨Mind putting that back where you found it?¨

I look back up at him, startled once again.

¨What?¨


¨I still need it. Unless you plan on writing me another  one anytime soon?¨

A surprised laugh escapes my lips as I suddenly comprehend the reason behind his request.Despite all his arguments, there is only one reason why he wants this piece of paper…and it is the same reason why I have hoarded all his notes in my jewelry box.

I fold the piece of paper and place it back in the pocket of his jacket before turning back to him, only to find a wicked smile on his lips now.

¨I’ve just realized that I have yet to hear those words from your lips.¨


¨And I have already told you, you will have to work towards that, Mr.Raizada.¨

In one swift move, he has me pinned under him the way we had been moments before, and the passion simmering below the surface roars back into life again.


¨Have I ever told you that hearing ‘Mr Raizada ‘ from your lips turns me on?¨


¨What? That sounds kind of…kinky.¨

He lowers his lips to mine and brushes them slowly back and forth.


¨And kinky makes me think of silk ties and handcuffs and blindfolds…none of which we have tried yet.¨


His lips move down towards the pulse point at the base of my neck, and I struggle to focus on his words.

¨I am not getting tied down by you.¨

He smiles against my skin.


¨Why not, Mrs.Raizada? Weren’t you the one who was just extolling the virtues of giving up control?¨

¨I…that’s not what I meant!¨


He moves lower, and now his lips close around one taut peak through the fabric of my top, and my breath catches in my lungs as he begins to suckle in earnest.

¨Fine, then. Forget about being tied down for the moment. I still think you’ll like the blindfold, though. You seemed to enjoy my touch last night, even while your eyes were closed…¨

Speech is getting progressively more difficult now, but I force the words past my lips.


¨I…I thought that I was in a dream.¨

He raises his head, and that wicked light is back in his eyes.

¨You must have some pretty explicit dreams, then. Want to tell me about them?¨

I shake my head, my cheeks burning with a mixture of arousal and embarrassment as he moves his hand between my legs. His gentle touch burns through the layers of fabric and I clutch at his shirt, but then my eyes fly open when I hear his low, amused laugh.

¨It’s amazing how you can be so very bold in some ways…yet so shy in others. I , however, have no such inhibitions. Do you want to hear one of my fantasies  that involve you?¨

I narrow my gaze on his amused countenance.

¨Are you saying that only some of  your fantasies involve me?¨

If possible, he looks even more amused at that.


¨No, that’s not what I am saying. You star in every single, explicit, dream, Mrs.Raizada. I just wanted to know if you wished to hear one of those.¨

I realize that he is expecting me to shy away from this as well, and so I raise my chin in defiance.


¨Tell me.¨

His eyes widen, just a little.

¨Are you sure?¨


¨Yes.¨


My heart starts thudding in my chest as he pulls back slightly, then allows his hand to  move slowly down my body.

¨I have thought about it all, you know. Sex with you blindfolded, or tied up. Sometimes, I dream of you with chocolate all over you…that probably started after that time on the Pier.¨

I can feel a startled laugh emerge from my lips, but my body is mostly preoccupied with his wandering hand…while my mind is whirling with the images his words are conjuring up for me.

¨I have fantasized about doing it outdoors..that’s what last night was about, in some ways. And yes, I want you beneath me in the back of the limo…preferably without Dhruv in the front seat.¨

My breathing goes haywire at the raw lust in his eyes…and yet, tenderness tempers the sharp edges, making it something beyond desire.

¨So yes, I have thought about it all. But do you know what my biggest fantasy is? The one that drives me crazy whenever I allow myself to think about it at all?¨

I stare up at him, hoping against hope that it isn’t something that I am unwilling or unable to do.want to give him this…I only wish that I can.

And so I reach up to him, winding my arms around his neck as I whisper again…

¨Tell me.¨

¨It isn’t complicated. I just want to take you…without any preliminaries. Without any foreplay.¨

¨What?¨

He lowers his lips to my ear, whispering his scandalous desires even as his hand moves back to the aching place between my thighs.

¨Yes. I want you to be ready and wet for me…without my ever having touched you. I want you to reach that point just by the anticipation of what is going to happen between us. I want to look at you and know that you are ready to take me inside of you…¨

He bites my lobe gently, and I writhe under his muscular frame, desperate for release.


¨And then, I want to come over,  tear off your clothes and drive myself inside, just like that. That’s my biggest fantasy. Maybe someday…¨
I close my eyes, wondering if such a thing is even possible.His caresses and kisses have always been satisfying and arousing in equal measures, and it is hard for me to imagine that one day, I will be able to do as he has just described.
But the one thing that I cannot deny is that the thought arouses me ,as well.To know that just his gaze can make me mindless with desire…it is a heady thought, and I keep thinking about it even as he undresses me now.

Soon, however, I lose myself in the touch that is so very familiar to me now. His mouth moves down my body and I draw him close, feeling as if I am poised on an edge now.
When he finally rears back and holds my hips down before plunging inside, my release is swift and intense.He follows soon after, his his body shuddering against mine as he collapses against me.
So much has happened between us…so much has been said.My mind is a muddled mess of thoughts and feelings and sensation, yet one clear thought emerges as he carries me upstairs and settles down beside me in bed.
More than anything else, I want to make his fantasy come true.
The only question is…how?



I have no time to think about that over the next few days, as life once again settles into a routine that leaves me  with very little time for myself. Arnav is still working long hours at the office, since the merger is now in it’s final stages and nearing a conclusion even while there are new talks of an international partnership on the horizon.I spend the days with my mother, and we make several day trips to nearby towns and beaches. This is a long-awaited holiday for my mother, and we both make the extra effort to focus on each other and not allow thoughts of what brought her here to invade upon our hard-won peace.

It is really hard, though.Years of caring for Payal cannot be forgotten in a  hurry, and I listen in to the only conversation my mother has with Payal after her return to Bangalore. Payal is now being treated there as well, and she sounds subdued on the phone, leaving my mother anxious and worried for a while. But then she pulls herself together and so do I, and we are aided in this by the return of Anjali Di and Shyam, who are finally back from their trip.
I have invited them to dinner tonight, and Arnav is already home. From the past few days, he has always made it a point to come home early, and although it doesn’t always work out that way, I make sure to tell him that I appreciate his thoughtfulness. We have even gone out to dinner with my mother a couple of times, and things look hopeful on that front as well.
Things between me and Arnav have changed,although the change is subtle and imperceptible to others.There is now an ease…a comfort in our relationship that wasn’t there before. 
I smile to myself as I think about what this had started out as…

Separate lives and rooms?

That is so far from where we are right now that the thought seems completely foreign to me.
I glance across at Arnav, who is busy on a phone call . My mother is seated beside me, looking over some sightseeing brochures while we wait for the Jhas to arrive.
I smile again, and this time, Arnav glances up in time to catch that fleeting expression.
Turning off his phone, he walks over to where I am seated and smiles down at me, just as the doorbell rings.

The next few moments are spent in a flurry of greetings and hugs as Di meets my mother, and soon we find ourselves seated at the dining table, listening to Di’s outpourings of gratitude and sympathy.

¨Oh, Auntyji, we heard that Payal fell sick while she was here and had to go back? That must have been terrible for you! ¨

¨Yes, bitiya. She is being treated in Bangalore now.¨

I look across as Arnav catches my eye, and he shakes his head slightly, reminding me of the falsehood we have agreed to propagate. Although we weren’t comfortable with the whole idea of lying to Di yet again, we have decided to tell her that Payal was sick, and nothing more. The whole story would result in the contract being brought up yet again, and Arnav did not want that to happen.My mother was ever more reluctant to lie, but somehow, I have managed to convince her that this is for the best.

¨That’s good, Auntyji! Oh, and Khushi, thank you so much for taking care of my little Sheetal! I can’t wait to take her home, I’ve missed her so very much!¨

Her husband mutters something under his breath about not missing abominable creatures, and I look away before I give in to the laughter.
The rest of the dinner passes in easy conversation as Di talks to my mother about her family and Lucknow, and soon , it is time for them to leave.
Arnav, however, seems to have disappeared.

Clutching Sheetal’s cage against her side, Di looks up at the stairs.

¨Where is he, Khushi?¨

¨I don’t know, Di, let me go and…¨

But Arnav walks in at that very moment, and to our surprise, he is holding another cage in his hand.


¨Here, Di.¨

Di takes the cage automatically, and then her eyes widen.


¨What is this?¨


Everyone looks at the cage, and then up at Arnav…who arches one eyebrow.


¨It’s another parakeet. A male one. A bird expert told me that Sheetal’s obnoxious behavior could be the result of being a solitary bird, and suggested that we get her some company. So here he is.¨

¨You…bought a husband for my little darling? Oh, Arnav!¨

Arnav rolls his eyes even as Di hugs him close, then looks down at both cages while her husband stares at Arnav in disbelief.


¨Saale saab, this had better work, or we’ll be stuck with two terrors and  not just one!¨

I look over at the other green bird, trying not to laugh.And at the same time, I know exactly why Arnav has done this for Sheetal.

¨Di, what are you going to call it?¨

It takes her all of two minutes to come up with a name.

¨I know! Arnav, do you remember that goat we had back in Lucknow when we were little?¨


¨The one who drowned in the pond?¨


¨Oh God, don’t remind me. But yes, that’s the one I’m talking about. I’ll name this little parakeet after our poor, dead Lakshmikant.¨

I cover my mouth and pretend to sneeze, but I don’t know if I have been successful in covering my grin.Arnav’s eyes are amused too, and I catch my mother smiling as well.


¨So…Lakshmikant and Sheetal?¨


Di smiles, then holds out both bird cages.


¨Yes! Or in true Lucknowi tradition, they can be Lakshmiji and Sheetalji!¨







¨It’s been two weeks, Arnav. Can’t you even admit now that you bought Lakshmikant because of what Sheetal repeated that day?¨


¨I bought it because the expert asked me to. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Now, have you looked over those tickets to New York?¨


¨Yes, everything is in order, and I’m all set to fly out with you next week. And you are changing the subject.¨


¨There is no subject. Both those birds are happy and probably having great sex all the time, isn’t that enough for you?¨


¨Why does everything come back to sex with you?¨


¨Because I’m married to the sexiest woman in the world.¨


¨That’s a little too much, even for you. ¨


¨It isn’t flattery. Don’t tell me that you still don’t believe that, even after I’ve spent most of last night buried in…¨

¨Sshh! We’re almost there!¨


¨Yes, we are. It’s just over an hour before your mother is due to leave for the airport, so can we please drop the parakeet nonsense? And while we’re at it, stop distracting me with sex talk.¨


¨Me?! I wasn’t the one who…¨


¨Bitiya?¨


I look up in horror as my mother rises from her chair, but one look at her face assures me that she hasn’t heard our conversation.
But then I notice the serious look on her face, and so does Arnav.


¨Mrs.Gupta? Is everything alright?¨


¨I have been trying to figure out exactly that from the past few weeks, bitwa.¨

Arnav and I look at each other, unsure where this is going.


¨Both you and Khushi have been very open and honest with me from the time you told me about the contract, so now can I return the favor?¨

¨Of course,Mrs.Gupta. Please feel free to say whatever is on your mind.¨

My mother looks uncomfortable, yet determined. I walk across to her and take her hand in mine, and she rushes into speech.

¨After I found out about the contract…I was disturbed. I didn’t know what to think, or expect. My foremost concern was Khushi, and what this meant for her. But over the past few weeks, I have certainly seen enough to convince me that this isn’t anything like  a contract marriage anymore.¨

Joy blooms in my heart, and I clutch her hand in mine.

¨Amma, I…¨

¨Wait, Khushi. I know that you both look upon each other as true spouses now. But I am a mother, after all…and I can’t help but worry about these things. And so I want to know, what has happened to that contract?¨

¨The contract?¨

¨Yes, bitwa. Does it still exist? After one year, will this marriage still be legal?  Or will you have to remarry?¨

¨Our marriage has been registered under Hindu law, Mrs.Gupta. It is legal and will remain so, until we decide to evoke the terms of the contract. Which we have no intentions of doing, of course. And even then, the contract does provide the option of staying with each other beyond one year.¨

¨If you have no intention of bringing it up, then why haven’t you destroyed the contract? The fact that it still exists concerns me, and that’s why I have brought this up.¨

Arnav looks over at me, and I can only manage a helpless shake of my head.I have no answer for my mother…in fact, I realize that I would like to hear the answer to that myself.

¨And one more thing that worries me…even if you tear up the contract, will you both be able to really move on and forget what this started out as? Will things be…normal, like they are for every other couple out there?¨

My mother cups my face in both her hands, and I am alarmed to see her eyes fill with tears.

¨Khushi…I told you that I am willing to do whatever it takes to help you, to support you in this. But these things plague me, bitiya. I cannot stop worrying, and now that it is time for me to return, I just had to voice these thoughts. You understand, don’t you? It isn’t my intention to cause any problems here…¨

¨I completely understand, Mrs.Gupta. You don’t have to worry, I will handle this.¨

My gaze meets his, and for the first time in weeks, I feel the tiniest tear in my bubble of joy.My heart fills with foreboding and I stand up slowly, unable to understand just why I am feeling this way.

A question makes it’s way to the forefront of my mind, and I close my eyes, unable to shut it out completely.

Were things too good to be true after all?


Or am I just allowing my imagination to run away with me?




Part Four 


By the time we accompany my mother into the airport, I have managed to push the issue to the back of my mind.It is the only way that I can function, the only way that I can focus on my mother, who is growing increasingly teary-eyed as we approach the security line.

¨Take care of yourself, bitiya. I will miss you…¨


¨I will miss you too, Amma.Hopefully you can make more trips out here once you are retired…¨


My mother smiles, but there is sadness in her eyes.


¨There’s still the house in Bangalore, Khushi. And then there’s…¨

Payal.

She doesn’t say the name, but I hear it anyway…because I have been thinking about her too.It strikes me again that no matter what has happened between us, concern for Payal continues to be at the back of our minds.

¨Amma…if you hear any news about Payal, you will let me know, won’t you?¨


¨I…I will. I don’t think I will visit her too often, though…at least not after her treatment is complete. ¨


¨I understand, Amma.¨

I put my arms around her and she holds me close…and then suddenly, it’s time to leave.After a few words of farewell , Arnav steps aside, and mother and I share a final hug before she steps inside the security gate.I watch her until I cannot see her anymore, and then turn around and walk away.After only a few steps, I feel Arnav’s hand sliding into mine, and I look up with eyes blurred by unshed tears.
He says nothing, just grasps my hand firmly as we follow Dhruv into the elevator that leads into the parking garage.
It  is only when we are on the freeway leading home that he finally breaks his silence.


¨It’s going to seem odd now…returning home without your mother there.¨

I try to smile, but my face feels frozen.

¨I’m trying not to think about that.¨


He starts to say something more, but then looks over at Dhruv and presses the button that raises the privacy screen between the driver and passenger sections of the Limo.


¨We need to talk, Khushi.¨


I know what he wants to talk about,but something in me is almost…afraid.And yet, I know that we need to address the issue at hand.


¨About the contract?¨


¨Yes. Will you believe me when I say that until your mother brought it up, I had almost forgotten it’s existence? Since that time in my study when you told me that we would still be together after a year, I never even gave it a second thought. But that was a mistake. Your mother is right, we need to figure out what we are going to do about it.¨


¨Do we…need to do anything at all? I know that we are legally married and the contract will not come into affect until we want it to…so  do we have to do anything at all? ¨
He takes a deep breath, and I instinctively know that I am not going to like what he has to say.

¨It isn’t that simple, Khushi. Our marriage is legal and will remain so, of course. Only divorce could dissolve that…in India, that is. But the contract we have signed has been created under U.S law, and that will remain in force until we nullify it in a proper legal manner, or enter into a new contract. We cannot just put it away and forget it’s existence. Plus, there are some safeguards in there that were put in by my attorneys…mostly to protect my interests and those of A.R.Corp.¨

¨I do know about those safeguards. I have read it too, remember? ¨


¨I know that, Khushi. But there’s one in particular that I am referring to. The one that says quite specifically that this contract cannot be changed or altered in any way until we have been married for a period of six months at the very least. Neither can a new contract be created until then…¨

Those words come back to me now, and the breath leaves my body in a rush.Months ago, I had read that part of the contract but I had barely paid any attention to it at that point, convinced that I was in this for only a year and the question of changing or altering anything would never arise.
But now, those terms have just made our current situation more complicated.

¨So what you are telling me is that we need to wait for a few more months before the current contract can be nullified? And until that happens, the current contract remains in force?¨

¨For all legal purposes, yes. But that doesn’t change anything between us, Khushi. We have decided that the contract means nothing to either of us anymore…haven’t we?¨

He takes my hand in his and pulls me close, and I look up into his questioning gaze.

¨It doesn’t. I want us to…try and make this relationship into what it should have been all along, a partnership that has no expiry date. But still, I would have liked to be able to just tear that contract and forget that it ever existed…¨

¨And you can do just that, after a few more months. It’s just a matter of time.¨

I sigh once before resting my head against his shoulder.

¨I know. Being reminded of that clause in the contract came as a nasty surprise…but it’s just a formality, and I’m well aware of that. But what I did not know was that we would have to actively proceed with the legal process of negating this contract after a period of six months. That was a surprise, as well.¨

¨Again, it’s just a technicality, Khushi. It’s nothing to be worried about. And the only reason why I didn’t tell your mother about it just then was because she was already worried and emotionally distraught, and I didn’t think that it was the right time, not when you both were already anxious about the impending separation. But rest assured, I will call her after a few days and tell her that when we hit our six month anniversary, we will sign the papers that will get rid of that contract once and for all.¨

I look up into his eyes, knowing that the conversation is not likely to be an easy one.I also know that honesty compels me to admit that I am not entirely at ease with this entire situation.

¨Arnav…while I was aware of all these terms and conditions, I also know that…that this whole thing leaves me feeling vaguely troubled. It feels like…unfinished business. And I don’t think my mother will cease worrying, either. Not until the six month mark, at any rate. Isn’t there another way out?¨


¨There isn’t. I know this because I was actively involved in drafting the contract, and my attorneys made that clause so that my financial interests would be protected. Since there was no possibility of changing anything before the six months were up, they could be assured that I would have sufficient time to get to know my bride before altering anything for her. ¨

¨They were protecting you from my gold-digging claws, is that what you are saying?¨

¨never believed that you were after my money, not for a minute. But they didn’t see it that way, and I didn’t want to waste any time in futile arguments. But all that’s water under the bridge now. The bottom line is this:I will instruct them to draw up new papers detailing the end of any contract between us, and we will sign it on our six month anniversary. This is my promise to you…you do trust me to do this, right?¨


Trust?

That is the one thing I have never doubted.Even when it came to believing my sister’s word over his, I had chosen him.

¨Of course I do, Arnav. But I can’t help wishing that we didn’t have to wait…¨


¨It’s just a piece of paper, Khushi. Can’t we forget it for the next few months?¨

I stare up at him, then nod reluctantly before accepting his tender kiss.

Just a piece of paper.

Why do I have trouble believing that?





The matter is pushed to the back of my mind when we fly out the very next day, landing in New York’s La Guardia airport after a long flight that leaves me exhausted. We are here on a week-long trip that Arnav has been planning for weeks now. A group of entrepreneurs he met at the Brisbane conference are here for the next few days, and they have evinced interest in a long-term partnership with A.R.Corp. One of Arnav’s goals for his company has been international expansion, and these meetings will allow him to take that first step towards fulfilling his ambition.When he had asked me to come along, I hadn’t been very enthusiastic to begin with. Staying alone in a hotel room all day while he attended his meetings did not sound like an appealing prospect to me, and I had only agreed when he had promised that his commitments wouldn’t take up more than half his day at any given time.
In the end, it isn’t even a hotel room after all. His Manhattan condo is where his driver takes us, and I am once again reminded that there is so much about my husband that I don’t know yet.

¨Why do you even need a condo in a city you don’t live in?¨

¨It was a sound investment. And it isn’t all that big, is it?¨


¨What does size have to do with it? I’m sure it must have cost a ton, and you don’t even use it all that often!¨


In one swift move, he whirls me around and has me pinned to the massive king-size bed before I can draw another breath.Taking my hand in his, he moves it slowly down his own body.

¨Size has everything to do with it. Haven’t you learned that yet?¨


I roll my eyes, even as my hand makes contact with his obviously aroused flesh.



¨Do we…really have time for this?¨

He leans over and kisses my neck once, and I close my eyes as a rush of sensations leaves me breathless yet again.

¨My meeting with the Prakash brothers is scheduled for later tonight. We have plenty of time for what I have in mind…¨




And that passionate afternoon pretty much sets the tone for the rest of our stay. As he had promised, his meetings take up only a few hours each day, and the rest of the time is spent in exploring New York, a city that is entirely new to me. During the day, I take in the magnificent sight of the State of Liberty, and then we move on to Times Square, a place that I have always wanted to visit. We dine at various top-end restaurants and he even convinces me to buy a ridiculously expensive pair of red Louboutins when we go out shopping the next day.And each night is spent in sensuous exploration that never grows old, and leaves me wanting more…

I am apprehensive after our return, afraid that the magic of those seven days will wane when we settle back into our routines. After the break with my Mom’s visit and the New York trip, I really need to get back to my books and the Stanford library again. And I am also sure that Arnav’s work will occupy all his attention, leaving me alone in my constant battle against loneliness.
But all my worries are unfounded.
Something has changed in our relationship, and it looks like the change is here to stay.And Arnav is the major catalyst for this change.
He makes it a point to come home early every day, and often surprises me in the middle of a working day with an invitation to lunch that I can never refuse. We spend our weekends at nearby beaches and sometimes hike up the trails in the Redwood parks that abound in this part of the State.It is as if he has made it his new aim to spend as much time with me as he possibly can, and I revel in all the attention.
And it isn’t the only change, either.
I sense a gradual lowering of barriers between us as he begins to talk about his work more often, telling me all about his frustrations and hopes as we lie in bed each night. Sometimes, he speaks about those early days in Lucknow, something that still causes him pain.In return, I tell him about my own plans for the future, and share the fact that I would love to teach some day. The painful parts of my own past aren’t hidden from him, either.
There is a certain comfort level in this relationship that wasn’t there before, and that gives me the confidence to share the news that comes in from Bangalore as well. Payal has apparently made tremendous progress, and my mother informs me that she has even gone back to work now.Arnav appears to share my joy and relief, and even takes me out to a special dinner to celebrate that fact.
We receive yet another wonderful piece of news, the fact that Anjali Di has finally decided to go ahead and sign up with an adoption agency makes Arnav and me ecstatic.
Since my term begins soon and I have a meeting with my admissions advisor scheduled for next week, I decide to invite Di and Shyam home for brunch on Saturday before I end up getting swamped with work.
But the day doesn’t work out as I had planned.Since Arnav had taken some time off during the week to take me to a music concert in Santa Cruz, he has had to go in to work today. When I call him around lunch time, he tells me that his meetings are going to last all day. I inform Di that the brunch will now be dinner, but that doesn’t happen either.Arnav is delayed yet again, and I end up having to cancel the dinner entirely when Dhruv shows up instead, calmly informing me that Arnav will have to stay in the San Francisco penthouse and has asked me to join him there tonight.I go there with the intention of taking him to task for missing out on dinner with his sister, but all my plans are derailed when I see just how exhausted he is. We spend the night there and return after a day spent at the Golden Gate park, recharged and renewed for a new work-week.
To my relief , I am accepted into the Stanford PhD program this time, and awash with joy, I call my mother and Arnav in quick succession. My mother congratulates me and I can hear the tears in her voice, making my own throat clog up with unshed tears as well.Arnav surprises me that night with a beautiful charm bracelet, and I laugh when I see that one of the charms resembles a parakeet, while the other is a replica of a box of chocolates.That night which is filled with laughter and passion quickly becomes the pattern for the next few weeks, something that doesn’t change even when my days get busy with my new coursework.
Frequently, I find myself pausing in my daily rush to thank God for blessing me with everything that I had ever desired…including a husband who treats me as if I am the most precious thing in the world to him.
And even though he never says those three words that I still long to hear, there are other things that tell me the truth that he isn’t able to voice.
Like the bouquet of roses that appear on my pillow after we have had an argument.
Or the fact that he waits for me to come down to breakfast every day.
Or even the phone calls in the middle of a work day that serve as a reminder that I am never far from his thoughts.

Or the way he declares that everything I cook is delicious, even when I know that I have forgotten some essential ingredient.

And most of all, I see it in the honest emotion in his gaze…and in the shattering intimacy we share each night.

Yes, my husband doesn’t tell me that he loves me.But I hear it all the same, in everything he does.
Through the weeks that follow, I start thinking of these things as an integral part of my life, something that has now become a part of the fabric of my existence.

Which is why the sudden withdrawal comes as a cruel, unbelievable shock.I feel as if I have been plunged into an unreal , hellish world…after months of living in heaven.

It isn’t really sudden, of course.The changes in Arnav are gradual, and in the beginning, I put them down to the pressure of his increased workload.
The first thing that becomes obvious is the time he spends at work these days, coming home later and later each day…and sometimes, not at all.He calls me to inform me about these delays…but more often than not, he forgets to do so, leaving me on my own in a huge, empty house where I pace around all evening, wondering when he’s going to be home.
And when he does, it is obvious that he is distracted and withdrawn. The easy conversation and shared pursuits quickly become a thing of the past, and I find myself wondering if work is the only cause…
We still go out occasionally, but it just isn’t the same anymore.
The one thing that remains relatively unchanged is the desire that still thrums between us. We still come together each night in a passionate interlude that leaves me confused in it’s aftermath.I just cannot understand how a man can be this intense one moment…and so detached the next.The fleeting touches and embraces are all but absent when we are not in bed, and that makes me apprehensive too.
I find myself thinking about this to the exclusion of all else, and to my horror, my coursework begins to suffer.After a particularly grueling day at the University, I come home to find that Arnav is still not home…and something inside me snaps.
Reminding myself that honest conversation used to be one of our strengths, I decide at once that I will not allow this to go on any longer.The anxiety , apprehension and dismay at the gradual unraveling of this relationship is beginning to take a toll on me, and I know that I have to tackle this head-on…and I have to do it tonight, before my nerve fails me.Turning on my heel, I walk towards the front-door…just as it opens and Arnav walks in.
We stare at each other for a long moment, and I realize just how weary and exhausted he looks.Before I let my compassion overshadow everything else, I decide to take the bull by the horns.

¨Arnav…we need to talk.¨

A cynical smile curves his lips, and I find myself hating it.


¨That’s funny. You just stole my words.¨

¨What?¨

¨Not here, Khushi. Shall we go into my study?¨

Heart pounding with terror and nerves, I follow him into the study and watch him as he shuts the door behind us,and it is  only then that I notice the file in his hand.
A strong sense of deja-vu grips me as I stare at it, and with a sudden lurch of my heart comes the realization that it is six months to the day that we had married.
He catches the direction of my gaze, and sighs.

¨I guess there isn’t going to be any beating around the bush tonight. Here.¨

He hands me the file, and I take it with trembling fingers.
And when I read the first page, my world comes to a halt.



¨What…is this?¨


Another sigh, and this time it is tinged with…pain?

¨It’s a new contract, Khushi. Today is our six month anniversary, remember?¨


¨I know that. But I was under the impression that we had decided to…nullify the existing contract, and not create a new one in it’s place?¨

¨I’ve changed my mind. And if you will read through those terms, you will find that they are more than generous. And in any case, none of it really matters. This marriage is for life, that contract in your hands is just a formality.¨

I throw it down on his desk and walk up to him, anger rising to the fore now.

¨And I refuse to sign. At least until you tell me what’s really going on here.¨

Our gazes clash for a long moment, and he is the first one to look away.

¨You aren’t going to let this go, are you?¨


¨Damn right, I’m not. I’ve had enough , Arnav. I want to know what has just changed between us. I deserve to know why my husband has changed so drastically over the past few weeks. Honesty above all else, have you forgotten that?¨

¨No…I haven’t. Come here…¨

Leading me over to the armchairs before the fireplace, he sets me down in one before seating himself in the other. Leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, he pins me with a forthright gaze.


¨You are right, I have changed. Because I just couldn’t live like that anymore.¨


I feel slightly dizzy, but I force myself to speak.


¨What…do you mean?¨

¨It’s not easy to explain, Khushi. It’s just that…do you remember when I returned from Brisbane all those months ago, I promised to try things your way? To open myself up to the possibilities…to allow myself to feel as you did?¨

I manage a shaky nod, and he continues.

¨Well, I tried that for a while. I gave it my all…and then I realized that I was probably giving too much. My life was centered around you for those weeks, Khushi. You were all I could think about, even while I was at work. All I wanted to do was be with you…do things with you, take you out…it became all about you. You took over my life completely. Not that I minded then, of course. I was perfectly happy and was even beginning to congratulate myself on fulfilling my promise to you…but then I realized what I was giving up to do so. A.R, Khushi. A.R was beginning to suffer. I have made some very bad decisions over the past few months, and my judgement has been questioned more than once. Even that deal with  the Prakash brothers was a wrong decision on my part. A.R’s stock has fallen, and now even N.K has handed in his notice.¨

¨What?!¨

¨Yes. And that’s not all. I have even been neglecting my own family during this time. I cannot even recall the last time I called Nani or spoke to Di, and…¨


¨…and you’re blaming me for all this?!¨

¨Not really. I am blaming my preoccupation with you, to the exclusion of all else. This isn’t me, Khushi. This isn’t the man I am. I can’t just throw away everything I’ve worked for and allow myself to get sucked into an attachment that rapidly takes over all else.¨

¨You have to be kidding me, Arnav. This doesn’t even make sense! What happened between us after Brisbane is something that all newly-weds go through, a period where they exist in their own little bubble and push everything away for a while. I can’t believe that you are blaming this for what’s happening with A.R! Things eventually settle down into a routine for all couples, Arnav. And when they do, we can work together and find some middle ground where you can concentrate on work and family as well as…¨

¨This isn’t just a newly-wed thing, Khushi. I know myself. When I commit to something, I give it my all. And that wasn’t somewhere I wanted to be…not when it meant the destruction of everything I have achieved so far.¨
I stand up suddenly, pointing towards the contract.

¨And this is how you deal with it? By making a new contract? By withdrawing yourself from me and becoming the man you were six months ago?¨

¨Yes, damn it! I have to withdraw, I have to take a step back! Don’t you see why it’s necessary? I need to detach myself from this…this craziness that I feel whenever I am around you. It’s vital.¨

¨Well, I’m not going to sit back and let that happen.¨

¨What?¨

¨You heard me. I’ve had enough, Arnav. You’ve said your piece, now it’s my turn.¨

He crosses his arms in a defensive gesture, and nods once.

¨Go ahead. But let me warn you, you aren’t going to change my mind.¨


¨That is becoming obvious, actually. But I’m not going down without  a fight. I can’t take anymore, Arnav. I have made one compromise after another…but not anymore.¨

¨Compromise? Is that what you are calling this relationship now?¨

¨No. I’m talking about the compromise I made with myself when I decided to enter into a contract marriage in the first place. And then I compromised by giving in and admitting that I had fallen in love, even when you had never given any indication that you felt the same way about me. I even compromised on your response, and gave you time to try and work towards feeling that way. But you know what, Mr.Raizada? I am not going to compromise on anything anymore.¨

¨Khushi, I’m not asking you to compromise on anything. You were happy before Brisbane, weren’t you? If I could be that man again, what’s wrong with that? We could start over, nothing will change, Khushi. I would still be committed to you and this marriage, it’s just that I would…¨

¨…maintain an emotional distance like before? I’m sorry, but that is unacceptable to me. And do you know why?¨

I brush away the angry tears clouding my vision and walk over to him, pulling him down by  his lapels as I continue.

¨Because I have seen what you are capable of. I have seen the man you can be when you let down those barriers…and that is the man I want. That is the husband I deserve, and I am not settling for less, not this time!¨
He detaches my hands from his jacket and pushes me back into the chair before kneeling in front of me.Taking my hands in his, he enfolds them in his warm, strong grasp.


¨Khushi, please…don’t do this. Don’t make demands that I cannot fulfill. Don’t let this drive a wedge between us. I…I need you in my life, Khushi. I need your laughter and your light and your smile. Don’t take that away just because you want me to…be someone I’m not.¨


¨You seem to be under a misapprehension here, Arnav. I’m not leaving you, so don’t talk as if I am. I am not running away. I am going to stay back and fight for something I want. For something that I have had in my life…for a very brief time. I am going to fight for you…for the real Arnav who’s hiding behind all these excuses and terms and contracts.¨

He lets go immediately, then stands up with an abrupt movement.


¨This is who I really am, Khushi. You’ll just have to learn to live with that.¨

I shake my head, undeterred.


¨That’s called compromise, Mr.Raizada. And I’ve told you already, that word doesn’t exist for me anymore.¨


We stare at each other for a long, timeless moment, neither willing to give in to the other.
And that is when it finally dawns upon me that we have a stalemate.

This shaadi has reached a crossroad.



***********************************



A/N:

Asli duniya commitments will prevent me from posting the next update until the latter half of this week, sorry about that!
Chapter Ten will be the last chapter of this story, and it will be followed by an Epilogue in two parts. I just can’t believe this incredible journey is nearing its end!
I am  unable to decide whether Chapter Ten should be written from Arnav’s or Khushi’s POV. Please let me know what you would prefer in your comments 🙂

If you wish to comment on IF, here is the link to the latest ‘Baaraatis’ thread #7:

http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4011050#p105879939


PMs for this update will be sent out over the next two days.

Happy reading!

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315 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mahrusweety
    Nov 16, 2016 @ 08:36:52

    Superb amazing part

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. nik1310
    Oct 15, 2016 @ 16:35:42

    There might be intimate passionate scene that you write with a lot of class here, but I am totally wowed by the way you describe the ‘head matters’…the thoughts & feelings that flit through both their minds. Brilliant stuff, very real. for Eg that email Khushi wrote to Arnav in the previous part was just perfect. The way we would really feel. She says to Arnav I am unable to run away or escape from facing. admitting it… (the exact words i forget as i type this out). I have felt like that several years in my married life, whatever it is no running away just face it head on. Likewise expressing my thoughts and opinions good or bad, i just do while the guys just don’t , they need that time to ack, admit & share even if they feel all that. The words take time coming.

    The crossroad is very interesting now, waiting to read the next update.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Bibliobibulus
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 08:36:22

    Laxmiji and Sheetalji hooking up just had me cracking up! Where’s the rofl emoji when you need it?? And loved the cameo by the Prakash brothers.. 😀

    Oh Arnav, what are you doing? Poor deluded man.. You’ll wake up to the truth soon enough.. I’m glad Khushi’s not backing down on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. jasbinji
    May 01, 2015 @ 21:41:32

    What was that?
    Every thing was going good then why?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  5. bluemystique
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 15:54:36

    Juhi, I have said this before and I will probably say it many more times, but it is amazing how many emotions you can make me go through during one chapter. This update was like being on a roller-coaster, but not the one that goes up and down, but the one that makes you feel like you are plunging to your death.

    I love the honesty of your characters, that they don’t hold anything back and face whatever they have to face with their chin-up and head held high. I loved that Khushi didn’t stew in her emotions, but did something about it, and sent him an email that detailed what had happened.

    I loved the part where he came back. I went through the emotions with Khushi, when she thought it was all a dream. The bitter-sweet heartache she felt at knowing that he would probably never return her feelings, but having the courage to tell him what she feels for him, even when she knows that he wouldn’t say it back was impressive.

    The conversation about the contract made me hopeful, that even though this had started out as a contract marriage based only on attraction on Arnav’s part, it was turning into much more than either of them had anticipated. But all good things do come to an end, don’t they?

    The last part was heartbreaking. I belong to the branch of very few people who would rather not have loved at all, rather than to love and have lost. And this was incredibly painful.

    I hope Arnav sees the light of the day in the next episode, because Khushi is not someone who will settle for anything less than she deserves.

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  6. Fuzzy
    Jun 03, 2014 @ 03:42:53

    Arnav is scared to love….IM glad Khushi wouldnt be giving in so easily… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. SUDHA GUDA
    May 16, 2014 @ 09:43:45

    Juhi sorry for late comment
    I didn’t expect Arnav’s note would be “Let’s eliminate “think”
    Loved how Arnav convinced Khushi that he would not leave her and go to office if not for the crisis in office.
    Loved Arnav and Garima’s convo and the way Arnav asked Garima to give their relationship a chance
    Loved Arnav’s selfishness of wanting Khushi to love him all the time
    Loved how Arnav Kept printed mail of Khushi with him and how he openly confessed his fears and thoughts to Khushi.
    Loved their Sensual, sizzling, passionate lovemaking and Arnav’s fantasies.
    Loved how Arnav brought Laxmikanth for Sheetal 🙂
    Garima is great mother and loved her concern for Khushi and I don’t blame her for raising a valid point of Arnav and Khushi’s contract which they forgot and how Arnav assured that he will handle it
    Loved their New York trip and how after coming back Khushi felt his love from his actions eventhough he never said he loves her.
    Arnav suddenly detached himself from Khushi and said he couldn’t take proper decision in business because he always thought about her in last few weeks and gave another contract papers. Khushi now knows how much Arnav can give her and didn’t sign contract papers and said she won’t compromise again and loved how she stayed strong and decided to fight for him, her and for them

    Waiting to read next part in Arnav’s POV

    Sudhareddy
    IF

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  8. adhiti
    May 15, 2014 @ 03:29:13

    Sorry for the late comment. Asli Duniya made me busy 🙂

    Honestly I didn’t expect such a twist. I never thought Arnav could take such a step or a reverse gear. I mean I’m shocked. Ok, I knew he would not be forthcoming in this relationship, but this is utterly ridiculous what he is speaking.

    If I was in Kushi’s place I would have left him to make him understand what is he going to lose because of such an insane thought of his.

    Arnav should be the one who should suffer from dread, not Kushi.

    I;m happy that she is able to fight him and not withdraw like that. I’m happy that she didn’t go into monologues and mute tears. Good going Kushi.

    He said he needed all, he needed what Kushi was offering, then why does he want to backtrack? Was it just sex for him throughout?????

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. sruthick
    May 14, 2014 @ 04:09:09

    Amazing update
    Lovd it
    Wat happn 2 Arnav??
    He s running away frm her,frm his feelings

    Liked by 1 person

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