It was barely past 5 minutes to 5 when she felt her phone vibrate in her hand...
Lifting it up to her vision, she read the message…
I’m 2 minutes away
I can’t wait to see you.
Khushi felt a bolt of happiness rise inside her and hurriedly tried to tamp down the feeling.
She knew how easy it would be to let it all go and end up in bed with him and she was determined not to go down that road.
Her heart hurt…
Hurt beyond anything she thought she could possibly feel.
Nervously, she smoothed her hair and checked her reflection in her mirror.
That's when she heard the knock at the door.
Buaji and Garima greeted Arnav…
He had been a nervous wreck as he journied to the Guptas.
And he felt his own knees wobbling as he walked up to the door…
Now facing her family felt like an even bigger slap to the face.
He had hurt their daughter.
He was no better than Shyam.
Trying to keep his voice clear, he said a polite hello, and bowed his head…
Buaji grabbed his chin and lifted his face up…"Don't look down. You are going to fix things with Khushi...and that isn't a request..." her eyes narrowed…"You WILL fix this, because I've never heard her cry her heart out so badly in all my life!"
Arnav's heart shuddered with fear of her family, but what was worse, with the knowledge that he had broken her heart…
But before he could dwell on that, he saw Khushi appear…
When Arnav saw her, his pulse went bezerk.
Khushi tried to calm her nerves as she walked out of her room.
Why was she even nervous, she wondered.
It was Arnav.
But consciously, she knew why this date was different.
As soon as she saw him, she felt such a sense of 'coming home' that she wanted to cry…
She barely heard any 'goodbyes' that were aimed at her as they kept a safe distance walking towards his car.
He looked as if he might want to hug her, or kiss her, or just touch her in any way but was making a conscious effort to hold himself back.
She appreciated that.
Having him touch her was a frightening thought.
Would she want more?
Would she wretch at the thought of him touching another?
Shaking her head, she tried to drown out her own thinking...“Where...Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise,” he said as he smiled softly.
He opened the car door for her and waited for her to arrange herself on the seat before closing it and rounding the car to the driver’s side.
As he started the car and steered out into traffic, she couldn’t help but notice the smell of him, a smell she hadn’t even thought to miss until this very moment.
It was warm and spicy and eternal.
And the sense memory she got from it put the box of jalebi from earlier to utter shame.
Which reminded her…
“Thank you,” she said. “For the Jalebi...”
He smiled. “You’re welcome.”
The Jalebi had been divine inspiration on his part.
He’d wanted to do something special for her, give her a little gift to both soothe her hurt feelings, remind her of him and remind her of a happier time.
He glanced over to see her smiling prettily over the memory.
But then she fell quiet and he glanced at her again.
The expression on her face told him that maybe she was thinking on their happy times together...
Oh, he was having such a hard time not reaching across to rest his hand on her knee like he would normally do.
Just like he’d struggled not to run and embrace her the second she walked into his view.
He wanted so badly to feel her.
His body was so focused on touch and sensation and her.
Needing to touch her consumed him constantly.
But he knew he had to proceed at her speed and let her set the pace.
He pulled up in front of a little restaurant.
She was looking up at the restaurant with interest.
“Yes... The Purple Orchid…"
She beamed at him as she remembered…
Her smile set his nerve endings ablaze.
He offered her his elbow and she hooked her arm through his.
Together, they entered the restaurant and Arnav gave his name to the hostess.
A moment later, they were shown to their table.
Khushi’s smile as she took in the scene soothed his nerves.
This was the right thing to be doing.
Now he just had to concentrate on not pushing her too soon.
They kept the conversation light through dinner.
He helped her order something that she would enjoy, and they both had sparkling water…
They talked about work, and about the weather, and the news and he asked about her family and she asked about his.
They avoided the topic of his infidelity, both of them trying so hard not to upset the fragility that now existed between them.
But at the same time, they weren’t getting anywhere.
They were just running in circles around one another.
When their meals were finished, Arnav saw that there were a few couples slow dancing as the band played…
“Would...would you like to dance?” he asked.
Khushi's eyes darted up.
Arnav began to worry that he'd asked a terribly wrong question.
But to his surprise and hers, she nodded.
Khushi couldn't think of an answer.
But her automatic response was to nod.
Arnav was overjoyed...
The soft music grew louder as they nervously stood up and approached the other couples that were already swaying together.
At first, he didn't know what to do…
He was almost terrified to touch her…
Khushi looked just as uneasy…
She was just about to say that dancing was a bad idea when he made his move.
He couldn't hold back, he had to touch her.
Even if it was for a moment.
He took her into his arms, resting his hands around her waist, pulling her up against him.
Her arms flew up around his neck but she avoided meeting his gaze as they began to move to the music.
He lowered his face to her hair and breathed in the scent of her.
It had been less than a week.
Less than a week and he already was aching for her like it had been months….
“I miss you,” he murmured in her ear.
He felt her involuntary shiver against him and he held her closer.
“I miss you, too. But…” she paused, and he pulled back enough to see her bite her lip.
“I can’t just let this go, Arnavji...What happened- I can’t forget it...I want to...but...”
“I know...I do...I want you to believe that this… that what I did- It isn’t me. I don’t do that. Not to you, not ever. No EVER to you...”
“But you did. You did. You walked out on me and you did that. You left me, and...and went to...her...” Her voice shook dangerously.
He wanted to vomit in disgust at himself...“Khushi, I- Tell me what I can do to help you, to fix us….I need to...I NEED to...”
Her eyes shut...“I think it’s just going to take time.”
He sighed in frustration, feeling as though his heart was wrapped in barbed wire…
“I am RUBBISH without you, Khushi!”
She suddenly felt dispair...“I...I’m not so great without you either, if you must know. And being here, tonight, with you…”
She looked up into his eyes and touched her fingers to his face, tracing along his jaw...“I...I SO want to be held by you...but that only give me more pain...”
He could feel his heart slamming in his chest at her touch.
He knew he couldn’t say what he wanted to, that it would be pushing her too much and too soon.
Still, his heart was ruling his body, and he leaned his head down to hers, pausing for an exquisite moment, before brushing her lips with his own.
He expected her to push him away, but instead her body trembled and he felt her fingers drift up in to his hair, holding onto his head as she returned the kiss.
Arnav could feel the raw pain radiating from her heart.
He wrapped his arms around her, one hand cradling the back of her head as he touched his tongue to her lips.
She granted his unspoken request and he plunged his tongue into her mouth, stroking and teasing.
The exquisite taste of her filled his senses and he heard the roaring of blood rushing in his head as he groaned into her mouth.
The sound of him suddenly startled her senses, and in the next moment she removed her hands from his hair and was pushing against his chest.
Brimming with agony, and close to tears, he broke the kiss reluctantly as she gasped helplessly.
She kept pushing against him until he stepped back but he continued to watch her closely.
She lifted a hand to her mouth and he noticed her fingers were shaking.
And then her tears pierced his heart...“I-I need to… I’ll be right back.”
Khushi turned and hurried into the ladies room.
He swallowed thickly, trying to resist the urge to beat his own body down onto the floor.
He returned to their table, paid the check and waited.
He deliberately kept his mind from the kiss as he stood by the entrance of the restaurant and waited for Khushi to emerge from the restroom.
She came out a moment later, looking freshened up but he could see her reddened eyes.
She didn’t meet his eyes but gratefully nodded a 'thankyou' as he held the door open for her…
Silently, they walked out to the car…
Once they were in the car and underway back to her former home, he felt he would explode if he didn't hear her talk... “I’m sorry, Khushi. I shouldn’t have done that so soon...”
He couldn’t see her face in the dark and that unnerved him.
“Well...I...I kissed you back, didn’t I?”
He tried not to smile at that. .. “Yes, but I shouldn’t have pushed. I wanted to, so badly. I...I crave you...need you...But you said you need time. I need to give you time.”
Arnav sensed her turning to face him and again wished he could see her face...
“Yes, you do. But... I can’t deny that I want to touch you to.”
His heart thudded painfully in his chest at that.
“Maybe we need- Perhaps our next date should be… chaperoned.”
Much as he hated not having her alone, he just didn’t know if he could keep his hands off her if they were.
He could hear the smile in her voice and he relaxed.
She was on the same page as him.
She wanted to work this out and she was struggling much more than he was…
As he pulled into the driveway of her parents home, he reflected that maybe he had no right to a second chance...
Maybe he could be patient and maybe she could forgive him, but is that what she really deserved?
Khushi was still quiet as he turned the car off.
"I'll walk you to -"
"Goodnight Arnavji. Thankyou for dinner."
She had successfully cut him off, showing her need for distance once more.
Feeling low, empty, and stricken with saddness, he forced a soft smile and said, "Khushi...I love you...sleep well...I love you…"
Without saying another word, she exited the car and walked inside, without looking back.
Feeling as though he had the strength to attack the entire planet, he drove home with determination.
Storming into his house, he screamed out, "NK! NK! Where are you!? Here! NOW!"
Nk rushed into Arnav's view…
"Whoa, Nanav, are you okay? How was -"
Arnav had enough…"You, in my car, RIGHT NOW!"
Nk was nervous as Arnav joined him back in the car, and slammed his door shut.
As they began to drive away, he wanted to scream…
He missed Khushi.
He'd only JUST left her, but he missed her...
"Nanav, um…how was your date?"
He sighed…"Promising, but frustrating…"
He’d gotten just enough of a taste of her to set his nerves on fire and whet his appetite.
But that wasn’t just it.
He missed her… her smiling face being the last thing he saw at night and the first thing he saw in the morning… the playful banter in the bathroom as they both got ready for work, brushing their teeth in unison and making faces at each other in the mirror… the way she would pack a lunch for him, making sure to include a nice, ripe banana and his favorite sandwich… the way she’d kiss him goodbye…
His life was so empty without her.
“...so what are we doing out and about?”
"We're going back to that bar."
Nk was shocked…"Nanav, but...what? I…"
"I don't want to drink NK! I want to find out what the HELL happened!"
Nk cringed...“What about it?”
“What do you remember?”
“What do you remember? I think that’s the important part.”
Arnav slammed his foot on the brakes, and struck the steering wheel...“That’s the thing. I don’t. Remember, that is.”
“What, do you mean ‘anything’? You don’t remember anything?”
“I remember drinking with you and Aman and I remember...feeling lower than dirt, and then...then...flirting with this girl.” He swallowed back the urge to throw up…"And then... things started getting really fuzzy.”
“Well, you did have quite a bit to drink.”
“I remember standing up and feeling the room spin around. And the girl… God, I don’t even know her name… she grabbed my arm to steady me. I remember her leading me away from the bar and I remember being outside. The fresh air really hit me hard, and I...I wanted Khushi...but as I tried to walk again, she led me somewhere... I think she put me in her car, because I can remember looking out the window and seeing street lights whipping past. Then I think we were at her place? I think she kissed me. And that’s it. That’s all I’ve got.”
Nk was getting angrier...“My GOD Nanav! I didn't know you were THAT drunk! And even so!"
"I know!!!!" he yelled louder than loud…"I am a fucking piece of scum for doing this! But I need to know what the HELL HAPPENED! I...I can't hardly believe this! I..I can't!"
Trying to keep calm, Nk asked... “But you don’t remember anything else? You don’t remember… doing anything?”
Arnav shook his head. “Not a thing. Next thing I knew, it was morning and I woke up in a strange bed. She was in the kitchen when I walked out…and I just...I just felt ill..."
Nk started to think... “Were you undressed?”
Arnav growled... “I had my pants on, but that’s it.”
“Any condoms? Wrappers or anything nearby?”
He blinked and tried to remember. “I don’t remember anything. I don’t think so. I don’t know.”
“And you were alone in the bed? What did she say when you spoke to her?”
“Not much… I found my clothes, she had folded them and put them on the chair next to the bed, and I just put them on and got out of there as fast as I could.”
“Your clothes were folded, you say? Did you notice any… evidence… on yourself?”
Arnav felt sick, “I didn’t really take the time in her flat to look, you IDIOT! I just wanted to get out of there. And I didn’t take a shower here until after Khushi walked out. I needed to tell her the truth! It never even crossed my mind to NOT be honest with her! I didn’t pay too close attention to anything else at that...that woman's flat...but I don’t recall anything extra-ordinary. Why are you asking me all this shit that I wish never happened?”
“Are you sure you slept with her?”
Arnav’s jaw dropped open. “Well ...well...for what other reason was I there?”
“...you were pissed out of your skull Nanav. It almost sounds like you got to her place and then just passed out. She undressed you, set you up in her bed and that was that.”
Arnav felt a heat spread across his chest, and for the first time in days he began to hope…"Do...do you really think so?"
“Well, you were alone in bed, for one thing. You were wearing pants… if you’d had drunk sex you probably wouldn’t have had the thought to put them back on. You didn’t notice any evidence on yourself the next morning, didn’t see any condoms or wrappers about. Your clothes were folded up waiting for you to put them on. And the biggest hint of all: you don’t remember it.”
Arnav could see his point, but still, he was afraid to hope that what he was suggesting could be true.
“How could I know? For sure?” he whispered.
Nk leaned forwards and pointed straight ahead... “I suggest you find that girl from the pub and ask her...”
And the sour feeling returned…
Seeing that girl again was about the last thing he wanted to do.
But he also wanted to know…"Yes. I'm going to find out. Because I know...I KNOW in my heart that I could NEVER cheat on my wife...No FUCKING way!"
He nodded started the car…
"Nanav, please...not like this...you're completely fresh from seeing Khushi...and you look like you're out to cause mass destruction...just calm down, and I will come with you tomorrow night…"
Arnav stalled for a moment, but eventually made a u-turn and felt emotions begin to strike…
NK was hurting for his brother, but also for Khushi…
Even HE didn't know what had come over Arnav to become so unglued…
"Tomorrow night?" Arnav said brokenly…
"Yes Nanav, I'll be with you, we'll figure this out."
They returned home…
If anything, at least he had made some progress with Khushi…
It was 7am and Arnav lay wide awake in his empty bed, he wondered if it was too early to call her.
He quickly suppressed the thought.
But he wanted to talk to her, wanted to hear her voice.
And he wanted to make sure that he stayed in her thoughts as well.
Plus, he wanted to see if he could talk her into seeing him again soon.
He pulled his mobile out of his pocket and dialed her number.
“Hello?” her voice said after a moment.
“Arnavji... I wasn’t expecting you to call.”
“I missed you. And I wanted to thank you for last night.”
“Thankyou too...I enjoyed seeing you...and...I miss you too.”
His eyes began to well up...“I didn’t call too early, did I?” he asked.
“No, just sitting here in bed, listening to the birds...”
"Can I see you today?”
She didn't know if she could see him again so soon…
He heard her sigh. “I don’t know...”
Khushi fidgeted and swallowed…"I...I just…"
He raked a hand through his hair in frustration. “Khushi, please...please give me a chance. I can’t make this better if you don’t at least let me try...let me try...please...”
Her response was instant...“I know...but I’m scared.”
He blinked. “Scared? Of what? Of me? Khushi, I would never, ever in my right mind want to cheat on you. You mean the world to me...you ARE the world to me...”
“I’m scared of how you are… that it went this far...that you let it go this far...”
He sputtered...“Khushi, she means NOTHING. I was shattered and in a bloody panic when I rushed out of her flat!”
“Yes, but you were THERE! And you DID flirt with her!” Her voice rose defensively.
“I was...I was drunk...” he shook his head…"No excuse...but SHE kiss ME!"
“You mean you kissed her?”
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
"I...I remember up to there. I remember NOTHING after that…"
Khushi instantly broke down…
He pressed his hand to his heart as hard as he could…
Her pain making him seethe with anger for himself…
"Did...did it feel the same?"
He winced and went silent with sorrow…
"Did it!?" she spat out…
He choked and sat up straight…"Khushi...It was numb. It had NO FEELING! I had NO feeling left in me... Damn it...I just...I am so sorry..."
Arnav sighed and held the phone tighter in his hand, wishing it was her... “I'm...I am so so so sorry...”
"I hurt...so bad…" she said quietly…
"Khushi...if I could...I would gladly and willingly take all your pain into ME! You, YOU of all people deserve the most love and happiness, and look what I did...I...God...Damn it, I miss you so damn much!"
“I miss you too.”
She paused and he could tell she wanted to say something else.
A moment later, she continued and her voice was so low that he had to strain to hear her...“I, I feel so alone...so deserted...I want your arms around me...”
He was mentally calculating how long it would take him to drive over ... “I could-“
“No,” she said quickly. “No, no... But I- I would like to see you...but not today...maybe tomorrow.”
He deflated but kept hope.
At least she wanted to go on another date.
That was progress from where this conversation had begun. “How about I pick you up about 11am? We’ll make a day of it.”
Khushi felt her her mind tell her to say no, to break him down, to destroy him…
But her heart loved him…
And love could overcome anything…………..couldn't it?