'It was gaining Momentum...and then there was a leap!'
Palpitations..yes those irregular Dhak-dhak's...or to say better in medical terms...Lub-Dub!...Khushi felt her heart running at a speed of 460 horsepower as they all sat in the living room eating hot pakora's and tea. She knew she'll faint in a few more minutes if her condition remains same..and the person responsible for this state wasn't even in the room.
Yes, Mr Raizada had arrived half an hour ago. Khushi was helping anaya arrange all her books in a chronological order when she heard his voice in the corridor outside, she winced in pain as the huge encyclopedia fell from her hands on to her dainty feet as his voice carried across anaya's room. Damn that freddy!
She knew he had no ides of her being here since no one had got a chance to tell him yet; but maggie...the dear soul that she was, had assured her that he will have no problem with khushi staying over...Stay over...with that man across the corridor! She cursed the weather for putting her in this situation. The flooding had gone to an alarming level and red alert was decraled all across the city making it impossible for her to leave now.Khushi was doomed.
"Khushi, can i serve you some more dear?" maggie's kind voice drifted over khushi's jumbled thoughts; she shook her head and smiled "No..thanks maggie...I think i've eaten enough!" she said keeping her plate on the coffee table. She dabbed at her mouth as a small burp escaped her mouth making both anaya and maggie laugh.
"Looks like you really enjoyed the pakora's!" maggie said gleefully as anaya gobbled up one more "I foo lub thees alod" anaya said with her mouth full making khushi laugh "Anaya!.you should never speak with food in your mouth..your words come out all garbled!" khushi giggled as all burst out laughing again.
Great! Now i'm imagining her laugh! As if it would be so beautiful...she probably cackles! Sabrina...Arnav thought as he descended the stairs...he was too tired and irritated with the weather. He hated rains. Period.It made things more complicated...that's why his imagination was running amok making him imagine ms Gupta's laugh!
"Oh Anaya..." he heard them as he stepped into the living room making him stop in his tracks. There seated on his favorite chair was the petite ms gupta sipping on tea while his daughter rolled in mirth in front of her, a plate of pakora's sitting comfortably on the thick carpet by their feet. Maggie sat perched on the couch fondly looking and very obviously enjoying their talks.
He was truly not shocked anymore...guess the many odd shocking situations he was put in in the last three days, had made him immune to receive any more...but what did shock him was anaya's laugh, he had missed this aspect of his daughter, she was so like her mother when she laughed. He wondered how ms Gupta had maanged ot get so close to her in just three days. He took a deep breath as he walked in and cleared his throat.
"Ahem...anaya, I hope you have finished your homework?" he asked as all three heads turned abruptly towards his stern voice, he purposely avoided looking at those hazel-green eyes lest he start acting like a bumbling idiot again, stammering and flirting for no obvious reason.
"Yes papa...i did most of it, but since its the weekend...i'll finish the rest tomorrow" she said as she lowered her eyes and spoke softly, all traces of her earlier happy self diminished "Ok..uh...i'll just be in my study..." he said turning back as maggie's voice stopped him "Arnav...I..uh...Ms Gupta is staying back here today...since its rr" she said nervously as arnav nodded his head still looking at the other side
"Off course...I figured; Its horrible outside. Maggie please make sure she's comfortable" he said as he walked briskly to his study without giving them a second look. Maggie was pleased that he did not say anything untoward but was also concerned and annoyed at his indifference...she knew khushi would have felt bad. She smiled at her as she turned towards her and anaya.
"See, i told you he will have no problem dear...why don't you go up and rest for a while? Dinner will be at 8:30" maggie said kindly as khushi's mouth wobbled with hurt. She knew that they were not on great terms, but to ignore her so crassly was very rude and downright hurtful. She pasted a smile on her face and followed maggie to the guest bedroom with anaya in tow.
Arnva banged the study door as he stepped inside, What was wrong with him! How could he act so callously towards her...He had no right to ignore and treat her with so much indifference just cause he can't control his raging hormones when she's around.
But he also knew that for his sanity, he had to stay away from her, even if it meant keeping her away with his hurtful actions. When he had seen her in the living room, he knew that she had stayed back due to the bad weather...a part of him was overjoyed with her presence while the other was paralyzed with horror...He'll go mental if he stayed in the same room as her for more than a few minutes.
He sat down on his chair and opened his laptop; the best thing to do was avoid her at all costs. He closed his eyes as he once again remembered the difference he saw in anaya over these days, she seemed more at ease, happy even...a lot more than she had been in over the year..he knew that whatever ms gupta analyses, her presence in anaya's life had changed her for the good.
"Wow! Alu-methi! Its my favorite!" khushi exclaimed as maggie served her and anaya, they had been waiting for arnav to join them but he was busy on a call and it was already past their usual dinner time, "Its my favorite too!" anaya said as both dug into their food making maggie smile.
"I can't remember the last time anu ate with so much gusto!...she's always so fussy, but yes alu-methi is her favorite" maggie said as she served more food onto khush's plate "Please maggie...no more! I'm going to put on 10 kg's by tomorrow if i keep eating this way" khushi moaned as arnav's voice cut through their giggling.
"Yes, its fine monique..hope you feel better. I'll talk to you later ok" arnav said in the phone as he slid on to his chair at the table. He ended the call and started serving himself, once again ignoring khushi completely "Was that monique?" maggie asked pouring water into his glass.
"Hmm?...yes, that was her...she's not well so won't be coming to the gala tomorrow night" he said looking down into his plate and staring at the sabzi and dal as if they were his only salvation, he forced himself not to look to his right where she was sat eating; her gorgeous floral smell floating over the dining table. No...stop...!
"Oh, thats too bad...who will you take now? Isn't it mandatory to go with a partner?" maggie asked as she watched arnav fidget with his food, which was quite a disturbing sight in itself since arnav never fidgeted with his food...he was a very easy eater and finished whatever was on his plate precision, he must be stressed.
"No..its fine..we are the main sponsors of the event...who will question me if i come single?" arnav mumbled as he chomped on his food without actually tasting anything. He wanted to finish his dinner as soon as possible, but somehow even eating a simple meal was difficult with her sitting on the other side.
"Idea! Papa...why don't you take ms gupta? You need a girl right? So take her!" anaya said innocently as if the solution was so simple, but her sweet gesture made two people very uncomfortable, making one gasp while the other choke.
"Anaya...please don't talk while eating...and you should not concern yourself with what us adults talk about. Eat your food quietly now" arnav shouted as he felt his food now going down the right pipe. He had nearly choked on his food at anaya's suggestion and however tempting the solution was, ms gupta's gasp and horrified face showed what she though of it.
"Fine! Since i'm not needed here, i'm going to my room...not hungry anymore!" anaya shouted as she pushed her chair back and ran towards the stairs, her tear streaked face sad and angry. Khushi felt very bad at the way arnav had reacted with her. So what if anaya had suggested something so preposterous...it wasn't her fault, she was just a child and had spoken the first thing that came to her mind.
Khushi knew that shutting off children about speaking their minds was the first 'Not to do' thing in good parenting. She looked at arnav angrily as she too got up "Mr Raizada..forgive me for saying this, but the way you behaved with anaya was very wrong! Whatever she said, however disgusting you thought it was...should not have been dealt with so much callousness..you need to care about other's feelings too." she said as she too excused herself and went behind anaya.
Arnav sat still at what khushi just said to him, he admitted he was wrong in the way he reacted, but he thought that khushi will take offense at what anaya suggested, plus he did not want to give her the wrong impression by being too mild on the subject. But now looking at the way ms gupta reacted, he wasn't sure if the feelings she meant were for anaya or herself.
Khushi entered anaya's room to find her sleeping face down on her bed. She quietly stepped towards her to stop at anaya's soft voice "I'm fine ms gupta...i just want to be alone" khushi sighed as she ignored her and came ahead to sit by her on the bed. She caressed anaya's soft hair, her heart going out to the little girl "I know you are fine anaya...after all you are a big girl. But i really think you should have finished your food...its not nice to leave it half eaten" khushi said softly.
Anaya turned her head around towards khushi and sat up on the bed. Khushi helped her rest her head on the pillow behind her back and poured her a glass of water from her side table. Anaya gulped down her water as khushi's heart broke seeing her red rimmed eyes, freshly washed of with tears.
"Thanks ms gupa...and i'm sorry. I know i should not have left like that, but i was very upset...I don't know why but since dadu passed away papa has changed a lot! He never used to shout at me like that...he was always at home, we played together..we did everything together...he used to wake me up and tuck me in at nights...i miss my papa, i'm afraid he'll leave me too like my mom and..." she said sadly as fresh tears made way down her chubby cheeks.
Khushi's eyes filled up as she moved forward and gathered the child in her arms, she held her tightly as she stroked her back, making her calm down. She could feel her kurti getting wet with her tears, but she knew that anaya had to let it all out "Shh...its ok baby girl...cry if you feel like it , just let it all go" khushi said softly as anaya sniffed and hugged her back.
After a few more minutes, she pulled back as khushi wiped her tears and took her hands in hers "Listen anaya...don't ever think your papa will ever leave you...sometimes, we adults act in certain ways which are difficult to explain to kids...now i know you are a grown up girl, but maybe there are reasons why your papa has changed...there might be work stress or other problems which he may be facing, which obviously he does not want to burden you with" she said as anaya looked on.
"As a parent, he will always want you to be happy...to be away from all problems and difficulties and he is trying his best. Yes, he may shout at you or get angry for no apparent reason...but you know he loves you a lot right?" khushi asked her as anaya nodded slowly.
"So don't let such things matter honey...i know for a fact that everything will be ok..your papa loves you, maggie loves you, even HP adores the ground you walk on...you have the best family ever! And as for friends, you just need to be more proactive...i'm sure you'll make new best friends soon!" khushi said as anaya's face broke into a beautiful smile.
She lunged forward and hugged khushi who laughed at her sudden enthusiasm "Thank you ms gupta...you are the best! I know that everything will be ok now..." she said as she pulled back and awarded khushi with yet another huge smile "Ms gupta? Can we be friends too?" she asked shyly to which khushi smiled and nodded "We are friends already!" she said as anaya hugged her once again.
Khushi tucked her in bed and switched off the main light keeping the bedside lamp on. She waited till anaya fell asleep before leaning forward and lightly kissing her on her forehead "Good night sweetheart...and sweet dreams" khushi said softly as she wiped her tears while another pair of eyes weeped silently as he witnessed his daughter's pain. If only he could...