Arnav stood ramrod still, her words kept reverberating around the room as he steadied himself to not react; to say he was shocked to hear those words was an understatement. He felt frustrated.. because on one hand he wanted to take her in his arms and tell her that they should forget whatever happened and start anew, he was not angry that she lied about her being katarina, at least she was honest enough to admit that she did it for the money, but then on the other hand he was now completely unsure of what she felt for him.
Things were getting way confusing for him and Arnav Singh Raizada did not like confuse, he could not believe that just this morning he was thinking that maybe there was something more solid to this fake relationship, he had finally come out of his shell and was ready to explore what lay before them, he had wanted khushi in his life because he could not imagine a life without her sunny smile, her thrilling touch and her lilting laughter, he felt he could not survive...
He still felt the same things for her, and he realized that it had actually not mattered to him that she was an escort, what mattered to him was khushi herself, her place in his life...and the fact that she had permanently etched a place in his cold heart. He felt tears sting his eyes as her words kept repeating in his head "you plan to break this up soon so you only have to bear me for a few days more", did he want to break it? Did she?
He knew she was expecting some sort of response from him, and whatever he had thought of saying few minutes ago, went completely out of the window. Arnav squared his shoulders as his eyes took on a hard and cold gleam, he looked her straight in the eye and spoke to her in an emotionless voice "Fine, whatever you did, can't be taken back. I needed someone to act as my fiancee and you did that, quite well i must say! What a great actress you are!" he clapped sarcastically as his eyes bore into her.
Khushi flinched as she heard his cold harsh voice, she was surprised with his change of attitude when just a minute ago he seemed guilty enough to accuse her of being a spy; she had thought that he would be terribly angry but understand her predicament, the arnav she had come to know since the last few days seemed to have vanished, she looked with foreboding as his words cut through her already bleeding heart, a heart which held him very close. She turned her face away from him as he continued.
"So now, since you cannot pay me back, and since there are close to 200 people waiting for us downstairs, we can continue with this 'act' of ours and as you said, be 'civil'! to each other." arnav started walking to the door, he needed to get away from her otherwise he would break down in front of her, he looked at her back one last time and said in that same emotionless voice "Don't worry, since its so difficult for you to bear this, i'll plan our break-up soon, just like we planned. I'll see you downstairs" he swiftly closed her door shut before walking briskly towards the balcony, into the cool air.
As soon as arnav left the room, khushi slumped down on the carpeted floor, suddenly exhausted. She rested her head on the bed as silent tears rolled down her smooth cheeks, she closed her eyes shut to clear them of the treacherous tears and wiped her cheeks of the dampness, she had said what was right. Arnav deserved to know the truth about her, she wanted to see how he would react to it and how they could get past it, because she wanted more from him...much more.
She knew that their relationship had found a depth in the last few days and maybe if things were different they would have been getting engaged for real, 'Dream on Khushi!' she thought to herself, big tycoons like Aranav did not care about escorts, and even though she was not one, it would have probably been better if she was, at least she could have consoled her heart. She had really thought that when he comes to know about her truth, he would have seen her in a different light, maybe more than a fake fiancee?
But she had been wrong, when he did come to know the truth he had accused her of being a spy, the fact that they had shared such intimacy had not mattered to him. She was just another figure in his vast rich life, used and discarded. But she was not accusing him and she had no right being angry with him since he had been clear from day one what all this was, it was supposed to end bitterly and that too mutually, so why did she deceive herself, why did she let her heart rule her senses. Why? She thought sadly.
She got up slowly and went to the bathroom to fix her makeup, anjali or maya would be up anytime to take her down, she had to fix her make-up and plaster on her fake smile, which was something she had not done in a long time. Somehow she had imagined herself amongst these wonderful people, a part of their family. Oh how delusional she had been. She took a deep breath and stepped out of the bathroom as her room door opened and Anjali walked in.
Khushi was worried to see a dejected looking anjali, did arnav tell her about them? she thought as she neared anjali and stood right in front of her, she lifted her chin up and peered in her sad eyes "Anji, whats wrong...did arnav..uh...say something?" she watched as anjali's looked up suddenly and gave khushi a small smile.
"No bhabhi, its nothing I just had a fight with my guy..you know the one i told you about?" anjali said adjusting khushi's dupatta over her shoulders. Khushi gently held her wrists and looked at her with concern "What happened anji? Did he say something? You know i think you should tell you brother about this guy" khushi watched a horrified expression cross anjali's cute face.
"No way bhabhi! Bhai will first kill him and then lock me forever! Anyway it's not that big a deal..see my boyfriend wanted me to click an engagement pic and send it to him, he said since he was not invited i should at least send him a pic of you and bhai" anjali said as she sighed and started twirling khushi around to check for any creases in her dress.
Khushi felt odd about that request and for a moment forgot about her and arnav's situation, giving full thought to anjali's problem, why was this guy insisting on their engagement photo? That too so much so that he had a fight over it, a fight that it made anjali so upset?
"Why were you not giving the photo by the way anji? He is your boy friend right?" She asked anjali casually. Anjali giggled as she answered "Cause bhai has asked all of us to keep this totally secret, even guests are not allowed to bring in cameras and have been told to refrain from taking any photos on their phones, bhai has absolutely forbidden it "
Khushi gave a small smile to anjali, touched by arnav's gesture. She knew he had done this for her, and she was grateful for it but anjali's next words struck her odd "Plus he is kind of my bhai's competitor..so even though i love him...i'll never betray my brother..na ah!" anjali said as she now looked at herself in the mirror, adjusting her own jewelry before holding khushi by the hands and dragging her towards the door
"C'mon bhabhi, ma will kill me! I was supposed to bring you down ages ago! Lets go...everyone's waiting for the ring ceremony. All other rituals must be over by now" anjali said as she dragged khushi out of her room. Khushi stepped out gingerly and walked behind anjali holding her heavy lehenga, she glanced down from the upper floor towards the living room and her eyes immediately went to a dark brooding figure of arnav, like fate planned it, he looked up at the exact same moment and their eyes locked.
"Oh my God, you look so beautiful khushi beta" Maya gushed as khushi came and stood next to arnav, who had somehow gotten very busy on his phone. Khushi looked sideways to try and catch his eye, but he had more or less turned completely away from her and was busy texting and talking to mamaji about some work deal. She found herself getting royally pissed off by his behavior. What if someone caught their awkwardness? It was their engagement for God sakes!
She was relieved when dadiji and maya took her around to introduce her to the guests, at first it all seemed very odd and uncomfortable since it was just a pretend engagement for her but then she started enjoying herself mingling with the people, most of them were family and close friends and khushi was surprised to find almost all of them very agreeable and not at all stuck up. Even arnav's friends from the other day had come and she was just catching up with girls when maya came to take her for the ceremony.
Arnav tried to look everywhere but at her, but it was too difficult for him. She was the life of the party, her laughs resounded around the room, everyone seemed to love her and many of his guy cousins and friends kept giving her admiring looks; if only he had a machine gun. He watched her discreetly as she chatted with all the guests and seemed to genuinely enjoy herself. But he knew better than that, all this was just an act for her. He quickly took a glass of scotch from a passing waiter and gulped in one go, he had to have more than that if he was to get through this day.
He had just about to gulp down his thrid scotch when his mamaji snatched the glass away from him, "Arnav what is wrong with you? You should not be drinking right now. And why are you brooding here? You need to mingle with your family and friends, they are here for your engagement. At least have the decency to say a quick hello to the people" mamaji scolded him as if he was a two year old.
Arnav looked pissed, "Why shouldn't i drink huh? This is my engagement party right? And i am getting engaged to the woman of my dreams so why shouldn't i celebrate mamaji? Plus when have i ever been the one to say a 'quick hello'! Khushi is the actress here, let her charm everyone like she always does and then let her make them fall in love with her, like she always does oh and then let her crush their heart, like she always does!! arnav said quite audibly, but luckily no one seemed to catch it. He gave one more hard look towards her and walked away.
Mahendra was shocked to see arnav's behavior, he knew that khushi was acting as his fake fiancee but over the last few days he had seen a change in Arnav, he seemed more gentler more like his old self when he was with her. Mahendra knew that arnav harbored strong feelings for khushi and she did too, but he never knew that his nephew had gone and fallen head over heels in love with her. And as his typical behavioral pattern went , he was now denying it.
Mahendra could make out that something was not right here, they both seemed distant and he could feel the tension between them. But whatever it was, both seemed very stubborn to rationally think and work it out. He knew that arnav planned on breaking up with her soon as he had told him when he spoke to him in London, but now Mahendra was not so sure about that.
If these two kids were so blind to not see true love staring at them, then they needed a huge push. And mamaji was the one to do it. He knew the loss that comes from letting true love go, he had experienced it. He would be damned if he let arnav and khushi go through it.He smiled slyly as he picked up a glass of champagne, many different new plans had already started formulating in his mind.
Khushi held on to maya's hand as she made her stand in the middle of the room on a large round podium, then she looked around and told one of arnav's friends to call him. After a few minutes arnav came towards them, he seemed to be in an ok mood, at least he was not sulking anymore. Khushi maintained a smiling face as all the guests turned to look at them. Maya took both their hands in hers and said in a proud voice.
"Friends and family, if someone would have told me a month ago that i would be standing here today and giving this speech at my son's engagement party, i would have probably told that person to go and get himself checked at the nearest mental hospital!" maya said good naturedly as everyone laughed loud.
She then continued in a more sober voice "As you all know that after my husband passed away, my arnav was thrust with too many responsibilities, my boy was forced to turn into a man in a span of one day. Since that day he has only worked hard and harder to bring our company to this position today and provide his entire family with such a lavish lifestyle" her voice broke as she took a deep breath.
"I always wanted someone who would understand my chotey, who would be his strength when he was weak,his light when darkness beckoned. Someone who would share his sorrows and multiply his happiness, and today i am probably the happiest and luckiest woman alive when i see my khushi standing proudly next to him. She is my son's soulmate and i came to know that the first time i spoke to her." she winked at khushi as she said it. Arnav did not fail to notice this.
"I can't thank God enough for sending her to us, but i just know that they are both meant for each other. Please give your love and blessing for this wonderful couple, Arnav & Khushi" maya said loudly as the whole room erupted in a cacophony of claps and hoots. Khushi's moist eyes went to arnav as he slowly looked up, they seemed to stare at each other for ages. They both were very affected by maya's speech and did not know how to react.
Finally they broke the stare as anjali came and thrust the heirloom ring in his hands while maya gave khushi a simple gold and diamond men's ring. The entire room suddenly seemed to fade away, there was no maya, no anjali, no family, friends...not a sound or soul at all. All there was in the room were arnav and khushi, both lost in each others eyes. Both trying to control their emotions amongst such an onslaught of deep love.
Khushi felt shivers down her spine as arnav gently held her hand, his thumb making slow circles on her palm, she looked down at her hand as he slowly eased the beautiful ruby and diamond ring into her finger, it fit her perfectly as if she was meant to wear it. Arnav looked on as a beautiful smile lit up her entire face, it was as if only they both existed; all the hurt and despair forgotten, he felt his body puff up proudly as she slipped the ring in his finger, holding her gaze as she shyly returned his.
Arnav felt his mouth curl up in satisfaction as he clasped her hand in his and lifted it up to graze a fleeting kiss across her knuckles, he saw as her mouth opened in a slight 'o' at his gesture. She could clearly see the love he held for her, but then why was he being so adamant about it, why did he not say anything to her. Why did he hurt her so much! As soon as that thought came to her she remembered their conversation from earlier.
Its an illusion Khushi, he's only doing it for his family. This is just acting, please don't fall into this abyss of dreams again. She quickly averted her eyes and pulled her hand from his. By now the entire family was throwing themselves at them, hugging them, congratulating them. Khushi tried to catch arnav's eye but he seemed to have vanished.
Arnav was getting slowly sucked into the same vortex, her eyes shone with untold emotions and...love?...he let himself hope again. He hoped against all odds that maybe what happened earlier could be righted, maybe it was meant to happen this way. He let himself hope...but then just as suddenly that hope had surfaced, it was crushed once again. The perfect moment of their exchange of rings a few seconds ago was shattered as khushi pulled her hand away. She did not even want to look at him, he could feel her going stiff as she turned away from him.
Arnav had had enough, he would not be played with again. He should have known that all she was doing was just an act, to seem like the perfect fiancee in front of his family and friends, she was the epitome of perfection, his soulmate, as his mother thought, He wondered what made her think that, suddenly arnav started feeling suffocated. He had to get away from there, he could not act like the happy gent anymore. He quickly said a few excuses to the people hugging him and shaking his hand and passed un-noticed out of the hall.