The sun was shining for a welcome change and the temperature was just perfect.
Arnav had genuinly surprised Khushi when he told her that he had planned a picnic...
He never really liked the outdoors, but he knew that Khushi loved it...
She’d dressed as best as she could that morning, not knowing what they were going to do.
In the end, she’d picked out a simple green dress with a coordinating cardigan to wear over it.
Walking with the Arnav across the grass of the park, she was trying to concentrate on the moment, not the past.
“What’s in the basket?” she asked him, nodding her head towards the picnic basket he carried in his hand.
His other hand hung limply by his side, nearest her.
She wondered if he was going to grab her hand and hold it as they always had done.
Her heart sank…
SO much of what they used to do was broken…
She pushed the memories from her head altogether, not wanting to scar the lovely day with such heavy thoughts.
“Our lunch,” he replied...
She rolled her eyes at him, knowing just how much he loved to annoy her with his vague answers.
Soon they arrived at his intended destination, a grassy private area overlooking the rose garden.
The significance of the roses wasn’t lost on her and it was a little on the corny side but she appreciated the love he was trying to show her.
She helped him to spread out a large blanket for them to sit on.
Perching on one side, she watched as he opened the basket.
Sandwiches, cheese, fruit, crackers and bottles of water.
"You did all this?" she asked brightly...
He lifted his eyes, checking to see what she thought…
Khushi wasn't sure whether to cry or smile…
This was beautiful…
Just them...and a romantic lunch…
Arnav interrupted the beginning of her thoughts and passed her a plate of food…
They enjoyed each other's company, pausing to chat idly about things that didn’t matter.
They were still dancing around their issues, but right then in the dappled sunlight, she was okay with that.
Khushi knew that she needed the relief from the days of pain she had been suffering from…
This was about her learning to be comfortable with one him again.
And she loved him enough to try…
It was working too, she could feel herself physically relaxing as the meal drew to a close.
Setting aside her paper plate, she lay back on the blanket, looking up at the sunlight filtering through the leaves over their heads.
She closed her eyes, listening to Arnav tell her about the mess he had made in the kitchen when he prepared all the food…
Khushi just rested, enjoying the rise and fall of his voice as it washed over her.
She ceased to even hear his words, to understand them, instead finding herself lost in the sound of him.
This was the sound she had missed this last week.
Never had she missed a sound more, she only ever missed him.
Khushi became aware that he was no longer speaking and she lifted an eyelid open to look at him.
He was staring down at her with such a look of naked emotion in his eyes that her breath caught in her throat.
“What?” she asked, shaken by his expression.
She felt it, as hot as fire...his aching, his sorrow, his remorse…
Trying to lighten the mood she quickly said... “Do I have food on my face?”
Arnav didn't dare to move, frightened to break the moment…
He shook his head, still watching her. “No, you look gorgeous,” he said, his voice soft.
She opened her eyes fully... “I...I want to,” she began, “I want to thankyou...
His eyebrows raised, obviously surprised. “What the? For God's sake why!?”
“I appreciate you being honest with me,” she explained... “...I mean, you could have hidden it...I may never have found out...but you chose to be honest...that means a lot to me.”
He flushed, feeling humbled... “I always want to be honest with you, Khushi...I...I couldn't hold the guilt inside me...It was literally destroying me...”
Khushi looked deep into his eyes as he spoke…
"I had to tell you...I had to...You're my wife...you're my best friend...I tell you everything...I…" his voice deepened…"I am sorry. My soul is in pieces over what I have done...I...I love you…"
She believed him.
Realization washed over her so fast that she became scared…
She was starting to forgive him...
The honesty in his expression was shattering...
He could see that this was a monumental mistake on his part.
He was learning from it, not to put himself in that situation again.
Perhaps she could find herself trusting him again.
Maybe she was already trusting him again.
Suddenly, she wanted very much to take him in her arms and put this whole thing behind them.
She wanted to come home and make all new memories together.
But that's when her heart bled a little…
The betrayal was still there.
She was also unsure how to move forward.
Maybe she needed some time alone to think about everything before jumping ahead?
"Yes," she thought…"...time to think is a good idea, it is the sensible thing to do."
Still, she wanted very much to kiss him.
The loss of contact between them was making her feel as if she'd lost the sense of touch itself…
The emptiness was becoming too much to handle…
She sat up and leaned forward towards him.
Arnav didn’t move.
She was close.
He could smell her.
He could breathe her in…
Khushi studied him briefly, his eyes, the curve of his nose, the rough shadow of stubble...
She didn't know who moved in, but their lips finally touched…
Their mouths brushed against each others as they felt that familiar electric tingle and sizzle…
Her nervous system was shaken at the contact.
Arnav was startled by her move and it took him a moment to relax as he gently rested his hand on her waist...
He kept the kiss light purposely, not wanting to lose her... but wanting her to enjoy the closeness.
Never asking for more than she was wanting to give, he loved her slowly and softly…
She unknowingly stroked at the back of his neck with her fingertips…
Arnav felt a tsunami of emotion consume his heart and his body gave a small shudder...
Khushi felt it race through him.
She instantly pulled away with a dazed expression.
He panicked and quickly spoke…"It's okay” he said gently... “It's...it's...it's okay...”
"I don't know why...why I did that…"
Her voice held another tone to it...something that made her vulnerability shine out…
More than anything, he wanted her to rely on him, to be close to him again…
Her phone began to buzz and she thanked God for the distraction as she lifted it up...“oh...right...” she said, sitting back and stretching her legs out in front of her... “Buaji asked if...if you would like to come for dinner...tomorrow...only if you want...”
His cheerful expression grew brighter, but he resisted the urge to scream with joy... “Well, I’ve already spoken to them,” he said, rubbing his jaw.
Khushi blinked at him.
“I suppose it’d be safe...” He grinned at her again.
“So that’s a yes?” she asked, feeling a little surprised.
In the past, it had never been this easy to convince him to spend time with her family.
It touched her that he was making such an effort.
“Yes,” he murmured, brushing a lock of hair off her forehead with his fingers. “I’ll follow you anywhere, Khushi.”
When Arnav had dropped her back home after their picnic, he was gifted with something that replayed over and over again in his memory…
"Shall I walk you to your door?" he asked feeling hopeful…
Khushi faltered, but grabbed her bag and shook her head…"Thankyou for lunch...I will tell Buaji that you will come for dinner...is that okay?"
Arnav smiled…"I wouldn't miss it...I only miss you…"
Her heart skipped and she quickly exited the car…
He watched as she walked away, and just before she disappeared…
She looked back…
Their eyes met…
And then she was gone.
"She turned back…" he uttered in pure disbelief…"She…" he began to laugh…"YES! I have a chance! I know I do!"
Later on that night, Arnav pushed through the doors of the bar he had gone to only a week before.
He felt uncomfortable in his own skin, just being there again.
But more than anything, he wanted to get to the bottom of this...and this did seem like the best way to get some answers.
He was especially determined, now that it seemed Khushi was nearly on her way to trust him again.
Regardless of whether the answers would mean something to her, they would mean something to him.
She might be ready to forgive him, thinking he’d been unfaithful, but he was never going to forgive himself.
No matter WHAT the outcome was.
HE got drunk.
HE left with a woman.
And whether he slept with her or not, HE woke up in her bed.
He had to know what happened.
He stepped up to the bar and settled on a stool.
As people whisked by, he looked back at the booth NK was in…
He indicated to him to just watch and point out if anyone familiar came into view…
Arnav was worried that he wouldn’t recognize the girl if he saw her.
He was about to get up and make a circuit around the room to see if anyone looked familiar when he heard a voice at his elbow.
“Well, I didn’t think I’d be seeing you back here so soon,” the voice said, sounding distinctly feminine and a touch amused.
He swivelled around on his seat to see a young woman with wavy blonde hair and green eyes smiling at him.
Yes, she did look familiar.
“Um...Hello...are you?...” His voice trailed off, not sure where to go with that sentence.
She smiled and stuck out a small hand to grab his, her fingers sparkled with glittering rings. “Hi! And yes, I am the girl whose bed you passed out on last week,” she said, grinning saucily.
He pulled his hand from hers…
She let go and perched on the seat next to him at the bar.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I caught your name last week,” he told her, shifting his attention back to NK.
Nk just nodded, letting Arnav know that he was there if he needed him...
She chuckled, “No, you didn’t. I'm Anna. And you are?”
“I'm...it doesn't matter who I am...” he told her...
“Ohhhh. That's alright...I like a bit of mystery...”
He tried to resist the urge berate himself...just how drunk was he that night?
“So Anna, I’m sorry for how this sounds... but I’m actually here tonight looking for you. I wanted to ask you some questions... about last Saturday night.”
“Oh? What’s on your mind?” She smiled and began to shift closer...
Arnav moved back, showing her that he wanted to keep away, and said...“Well, what I wanted to know is... er... I mean, what I was wondering is...” he stammered.
He paused and took a deep breath. “Did we? Together? At your flat?”
He watched her eyes widen.
She started to giggle. “Oh mercy! You thought that we had sex? After the way you got pissed that night? Just that one kiss with you was whiskey strong enough!”
Arnav winced. 'I NEED TO KNOW...”
“Oh honey,” she said in a softer tone, “I can assure, I was the perfect gentle-woman…" She winked at him.
He raised an eyebrow, unsure of what to say to that.
“Listen. I may have brought you home with me, but only because you couldn't remember who you were let alone how to get home! You passed out just as my brother walked up to me...we were lucky to be able to lift you to the car seat. We drove back to my place, John, that's my brother, made you comfortable and then I ended up spending the night on my sofa,” she said, ruefully. “You’re welcome, by the way.”
He began to hyperventilate.... “So, we didn’t?”
She shook her head... “No. We didn’t. Not that I didn’t want to...”
Arnav's back slumped…
The relief that was washing over him was almost palpable... “Oh, thank God...Oh my God...” he groaned.
Anna studied him curiously... “Well, you sure know how to flatter a girl. I like to think that I’m not half bad,” she said, sounding insulted.
Hardly caring about what she thought, he quickly offered her an explanation...“Anna...I'm married. I'm IN LOVE with my wife...so damn much... And you have no idea how horrible I’ve felt all week thinking that I could have...that I could have done something with you...I destroyed the trust in our marriage...and I...I still can't live with myself... She means... everything to me,” he explained.
She smiled sadly at him before patting his arm and withdrawing her hand.
Standing up, obviously ready to retreat, she said... “I should have known...when I took you outside, you were babbling about some girl...saying sorry...sounding like a right wreck...” she remarked... “Good luck with your Wife.... I can’t say I’m not sorry, but I do wish you the best.”
“Thankyou...so much for clearing it up...” he told her.
She smiled again before moving away from the bar and disappearing into the crowd.
He turned back to NK who had moved closer, and obviously heard everything...
As Nk tried to speak to him, Arnav was in another world…
More than anything else he felt fantastic at finally knowing what had happened.
He felt vindicated that his belief that he wouldn’t ever cheat on Khushi was finally proven.
But even so, he was still a right shithead for putting himself in this situation at all.
Joining his friends for a drink was fine, but did he have to drink himself into oblivion?
Did he not have any better control on himself than that?
Giving Khushi time to cool off from their argument was not a bad idea, but he should have been back at their home that night to talk it out.
Arnav was about ready to jump up and leave when he heard NK say, "...now everything is fine! You can tell Khushiji that you did nothing wrong and your fight will be over!"
Primal fury exploded inside him and he bolted up, fisting NK shirt…"How can you FUCKING say that!?"
"What's wrong!? I may not have slept with her, but I was the one who got drunk wasn't I!? I was the one who kissed her wasn't I!? I was the one who ended up passing out like a no good drunk and waking up somewhere else wasn't I!?!"
A bar worker quickly intervened, approaching them both and roughly moving them towards the exit…"If you want to fight, take it out here!"
Nk was shaking as Arnav let him go…
"Get in the car Nk."
The drive home was long, and in silence…
As he finally pulled his 4-wheel-drive into the driveway, he turned to NK…"I'm sorry...I shouldn't have got so angry at you…"
He lifted his hands, trying to show his innocence…"I know Nanav...I only wanted to help…"
"And you did...I didn't want to go there alone. I feel like I'm a stupid teenager…"
"Nanav, you NEVER have reacted well during a fight with Khushij...I know you were missing her, I know you were angry…"
Arnav turned off the ignition and rested his head in his hands…"And then I went and did that…"
Nk gave him a pat on the arm and reminded him, "She's is your wife...and she loves you…"
Arnav nodded, and they both quietly exited the car…
He retreated to his room, falling down onto the couch…
"Khushi…" he sighed…"I miss you...and I love you so...I just...I'm so sorry…I don't know what else to say…"
"Khushi will be here…" he kept chanting to himself as he drove towards the Guptas the following night…
Knowing that Khushi's family had already expressed their wish for them to work things out made him feel less terrified.
But he hadn't spoken to Khushi since the previous day…
He had spend a long, tedious day of …
"What DID I do today…?" he muttered to himself...
Rolling his eyes he realized the predicament he was in…
Without Khushi, he was completely useless…
The great Arnav Singh Raizada was a baby puppy dog, who literally couldn't do anything but mess around.
He shook off any remaining nerves, parked his car, and strode up to the doors.
Garima, answered the door…"Goodevening…" she said without any form of snarl, and beckoned him to come in.
The house was empty and quiet.
Or at least, it was quiet for all of 6 seconds until Buaji came bustling in.
“Arnav babua, I wasn’t sure whether you would come of not...” she greeted him.
She didn’t embrace him like she once had, but she didn’t slap him either.
He considered that a good sign.
“Well, I rather hoped that you had gotten the slapping out of your system already,” he admitted, trying a charming smile on her.
At first she scowled, but then as she looked to Garima, they both began to relax and give a smile…
"If Khushi didn't love you like we know she does, we wouldn't have let you in the house, let alone be hopeful that you two work things out…"
Garima heard something boil over on the stove and quickly excused herself…
Buaji turned back to the kitchen and said...“Khushi is in her room, said she was going to read before we have dinner...Why don’t you go in and say hello. The meal will be served in about 15 minutes,” she told him.
He readily leapt at the opportunity, not wanting to put himself into contact with crazed cooking women...
He just wanted to see Khushi...he could care less for food...
The door to her room was barely ajar so he nudged it open...
He didn’t see her at the desk or lounging on the bed reading.
Perhaps she was the one who was trying to escape this meal.
"Well tough…" he thought…"I'm not leaving…"
He’d simply wait for her here.
He entered the room, pulling the door shut behind him, before crossing the room to the window.
He’d been in this room many, many times before but he always loved to look at all the crazy and interesting things Khushi had collected and kept here.
He heard a noise behind him and turned around to see Khushi quietly tiptoeing into the room.
His heart nearly stopped at the delectable picture she was…
Obviously fresh out of the shower, her hair hanging in damp waves around her shoulders, her skin dewy and glistening.
She was holding a towel around her body and he caught just the barest glimpse of her skin, uninterrupted, from thigh to shoulder as she pulled the towel closed.
She spotted him at just that moment and her mouth fell open in a gasp.
He stared for about 2.6 seconds before he realized he was staring and cleared his throat... “I... uh... I was, uh... Buaji said... and I came in... and you were... and then....” he stammered inelegantly, the sight of her skin still flashing in his mind’s eye in a way that was completely and utterly distracting.
But Khushi didn't make a move...“Relax...Arnavji...” she said...
She pulled open drawers and chose some clothes
“It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.”
“I...I know that,” he replied, trying to regain his composure.
He closed his eyes and remembered the barest hint of the curve of her breast as the towel was drawn across...
There was silence as he kept his eyes closed and listened to the soft sounds of her dressing.
He felt such a surge of arousal that it surprised him with it’s intensity.
It had now been over a week since their fight and over a week since they’d last made love.
The sexual tension between them had always been off the charts.
He always thought that he was a man of profound control...but the minute he saw Khushi, his control was in serious question...
When the truth about Shyam had finally come tumbling down on him three months ago, when he had finally realized what he'd done, and how wrongly he'd perceived things, he had been ready to beg and grovel to get her to forgive him...but like the angel she was, she understood his reasons…
He had been astounded at her selflessness.
He hadn’t known he could feel desire like that and finally making love to Khushi had been more than he ever could have imagined.
He’d been nearly bursting that night and was more than a little startled to find himself nearly to that point here again, after only a week.
This is why he had been so shocked of his infidelity…
Because WHENEVER he thought about making love to someone, he thought about making love to Khushi...ONLY KHUSHI.
It was her hair that he pictured spread out on the pillow, her eyes gazing into his as he touched her, her mouth falling open, her scent, her taste...
This wasn’t helping his arousal situation at all.
“I’m impressed you came,” Khushi said, breaking the silence.
His eyes popped open, and saw she was finished dressing.
He felt a little relief to be out of the uncomfortable situation but he felt even more disappointment at not getting another look at her amazing skin.
She was dressed comfortably in a light pink color, and it didn’t matter if she was dressed or not...She still look good enough to eat.
“Wha-” he asked, feeling dazed. Did she just say what he thought she said?
“Came to dinner! I’m very impressed. And thank you. It means a lot to me that you’re here,” she said. “I know this can’t be easy or comfortable for you.”
“Well,” he said, tugging on his ear, “I’ll do anything you want me to do, Khushi. ANYTHING.”
She smiled at him, crossing the room to stand in front of him. “I...I appreciate that, I really do.”
“I miss you,” he told her, unable to keep himself from reaching out and holding her face...
“I miss you, too,” she breathed, stepping closer.
All he had to do was bend down, tilt his head and capture her lips with his.
His gaze flicked to her mouth and he watched as her tongue nervously darted out to moisten her lips.
His hand reached back to twine his fingers into the hair at the base of her head and was just dipping his head down when...
“Arnav! Sanka Devi!!!” Buaji’s shrill voice cut through the silence and they leapt apart...
Khushi couldn't hold back her smile... "Best not to keep her waiting, else she might come looking for us...."
Arnav nodded...but he found, as they left the room and walked out together, that he was very much looking forward to the day when he wouldn’t have to steal any more moments with her.
He looked forward to the day when she would give him the moments freely.
Anger at himself welled up inside him once more…"Stupid bastard…" he abused himself…
Dinner was just about as awkward as he’d expected it would be.
Still, it appeared that her family were willing to do anything for Khushi's happiness...
For this he was grateful…
The night of their forced marriage, her family had attacked and disowned her, but now, they were standing up for her…
Respect for them had now been heightened…
Instead of lectures or even a punch in the face, he was now only receiving a series of hard looks.
Certainly, the glares were easier to handle but they weren’t doing any favors for his nerves.
Thankfully, Khushi and Buaji kept up the small talk and Garima continued to ask politely about his work...
He breathed a sigh of relief when the meal was over and even leapt up to help Buaji clear the table.
However, as they carried plates back into the kitchen to be washed, Buaji cornered him against the counter next to the fridge.
He swallowed nervously.
Maybe he was going to get that slap after all.
“So what’s your plan?” she asked, not bothering with any preamble.
“Uh... plan?” He ran his hand through his hair nervously.
Buaji rolled her eyes. “With my crazy neice! When are you going to convince her that you are a stupid lug and that you're sorry? I’ve seen her here, I know she loves you and wants to go home.”
“I’m not going to force her to come home. That has to be her decision. I want her to come home more than anything, but only when she’s ready.” He paused, scratching at his neck awkwardly. “I miss her like crazy. I’d bring her back tonight if I could.”
She smiled at him sympathetically. “I’m glad to hear that. You haven’t given up on her and I don’t thinks she’s given up on you.” Her expression changed a little as she watched him, hardened a little. “Just... why did you have to do this in the first place? What were you thinking? I honestly will never understand!”
He blew out a sigh and wanted to stab himself in the heart...“I didn’t, Buaji...I am still an absolute idiot, but...I didn't...”
“What do you mean, you ‘didn’t’?” she asked, narrowing her eyes. “What are you on about now?”
“I mean, I talked to NK and then we went to the bar and found the... the girl. I didn’t cheat on Khushi. I got too drunk and passed out. The girl and her brother brought me to their flat...” he explained, feeling embarrassed.
Buaji gaped at him, a slow smile dawning. “Thank God!!! Have you told Khushi?”
He shook his head... “No, I haven’t and it’s not that simple. It’s not just what she thinks I did, it’s that she thinks I could do something like that. I lost her trust and I have to earn that back.”
“Tell her!” she urged. “That will help her trust you, I know it will!”
“I want to earn her trust...but I don’t want her to think that I’m saying this just to get her to come back home. I want her to believe me. I will tell her...but when the time is right...” he told her.
She rolled her eyes at him. “Bloody stubborn idiot...” she muttered. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
"I do…" he stated firmly…"I love your neice. And I will NOT lose her."
“I’m glad though,” she said, eyeing him with a considering expression. ..“I’m glad that you didn’t cheat. Honestly, I had a hard time believing that you would. I know how much you love her... how much you’ve always loved her.”
He flushed and felt two inches tall. “Thanks. I’m glad too, and for the same reasons. I knew I wouldn’t consciously ever do something like that. Khushi... she’s my life,” he admitted.
Buaji pulled him into an unexpected hug. “You daft man. Don’t give her too much room, okay? She's crazy...”
He smiled…"I love her...crazy as she is…"
Buaji pulled back and then left the kitchen.
He remained in the kitchen a moment longer, thinking.
Buaji seemed to think he should tell her, but he didn’t want to make it seem like he wasn’t... what? Contrite?
He was desperate to prove to her that he was, in fact, hers, and hers only.
If he told her what he’d learned now, what if she thought he was just saying that to get her back home?
Would he make her think she didn't have a choice?
Khushi had never agreed to a marriage with him from the start.
That alone had broken her heart.
That final removal of her choice had been a particularly cruel move on his part.
He continually thanked God that despite all of this, she still loved him…
Not even a minute after he had begged her forgiveness from the whole Shyam debacle, he vowed not to remove her freedom of choice again.
She had every right to choose what she wanted.
She deserved everything...
Khushi wandered into the kitchen and came up to him... “Buaji didn’t yell at you, did she? I didn’t see any flames coming out the door,” she said, her eyes twinkling...
Her sudden amusement made him grin at her... “No yelling. Just some... erm... advice,” he said, picking his words carefully.
“You? Taking advice? I need to write this down!” she exclaimed.
He poked her on the arm and she backed away, giggling.
Arnav followed her out, wishing with all his heart that he could just take her in his arms…
As much as he craved her body, he wanted, more than his next breath, for her to look at him as she used to…
"Well." Buaji bellowed out…"You can leave now. If you want to call Khushi you are welcome to, but it's getting late."
Arnav could help but be amused that he could be so easily kicked out of someone's house…
Khushi walked him out to his car, he was anxious and hopeful that he may get to kiss her…
Never before had he felt so out of control…
He breathed a sigh of relief once out in the fresh air, having made it through the evening.
Khushi looked happier, and that was why he’d done it.
“Will I see you again soon?” she asked quietly…
And he was stunned...
She was WANTING to see him?
He couldn't believe that this was all happening…
“Is tomorrow too soon?” he replied, leaning close to her.
She shook her head and her smile was almost shy... “that would be okay” she murmured.
“Sounds good,” he said quietly and bent his head to brush his lips against hers.
He kept the contact light, not wanting to press her for too much and not wanting to excite himself too much when he knew he had to release her
and return home alone.
But he knew, feeling her exhale against his mouth, that he didn’t want to wait much longer before he had her back with him where she belonged.
His mind screamed tell her!
And yet, as much as he wanted to, he didn't want to make her feel as if he were forcing her...
His heart was heavy as he thought..."I just want her to come home..."