The next day, Arnav gazed around his new office.
A new company to construct.
It was nothing new to him though, since the search for Khushi had ended, he swamped his life with work...
The weeks after the search was called off, he life felt bleak...meaningless...
Every hour of every day he withered further away...
His thoughts and dreams were haunted with memories of his wife...
When he met her, when he touched her, when he made love to her...
"Chote, Khushi bitiya would WANT you to move on with your life! She believed in you!"
He bowed his head, his back beginning to hurt from the length of time he had been sitting on the floor..."I have no life without her."
Anjali quietly left the room, unable to bear her brother's pain...
Garima knelt beside him..."Arnav bitwa...I know my daughter..." her voice broke..."she wanted your happiness more than her own..."
Arnav lifted his head and blinked, sending tears he wasn't aware of down his face..."I don't deserve happiness..."
"Chote, you DO! If you don't believe us, believe KHUSHI! SHE said so!"
Leaning his head back against the wall, he prayed that sleep would take over..."Nani...I...I just..."
And the anguish began once again...
But with continuing support and encouragement from both families, he had made his way to the top of the business charts once again.
And now, 'ASR' was more ruthless, punishing and prosperous.
He squeezed his eyes shut...
I didn't want to have this alone...I wanted it with Khushi...my wife...
A knock on his door interruped his thoughts...
Seating himself behind his desk, he answered..."yes."
"Goodmorning, I'm Ms. Gomall..."
Arnav narrowed his eyes, recognizing her as the interviewer from the day before...
"Goodmorning. I need all the books from the last quarter, schedule a meeting with all our manufacturers, and get me a black coffee."
Ms Gomall was already scribbling in her notepad, and when she looked up, she was stunned to see exactly how good looking he really was...
He turned, quickly growling...“Was there something else you intended to say?”
The woman cringed..."I'm sorry sir, I just...I guess I'm a bit nervous..."
"No need. You are my assistant. So as long as you do what I ask then things will run smoothly...Plus, I retained only the staff I thought were good enough."
She turned to leave, but stopped short when Arnav called to her..."Ms. Gomall?"
He could see that she was nervous...
But around Arnav Singh Raizada, women were always gobsmacked as well as anxious.
He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and finally said..."The woman you hired yesterday, as your secretary..."
"Yes, did you need me to let her go?"
Arnav stood up abruptly..."NO. But I saw that...that she has a daughter..."
"Yes sir. I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything by hiring her, I know that she is a single mother..."
That caught his attention..."She is?!"
"Yes, I thought that was why you were asking about her..."
Arnav sat back down..."No...I just wanted to say for you to go easy on her...I can see that she's working to support her daughter..."
Ms. Gomall was shocked at his request, but she nodded, "Yes, she told me that she'd been away for a long time, and has moved to this area for better work prospects..."
His heart began to ache and he motioned for her to be quiet..."Leave."
Hearing his curt answer, she quickly disappeared out the door...
The second he was alone, he rested his head in his hands...
Not a day went by that he didn't breathe her name...
He longed to hear her voice again, to hear her argue with him, to hear her off pitch singing...anything.
"Why can't I find you Khushi...? I...I miss you so much..."
Ms Gomall looked up to see Khushi's bright smiling face..."Goodmorning Miss Gupta..."
"Oh," Khushi waved her hand, "You can call me Khushi..."
The assistant smiled..."Then you can call me Anne..."
They exchanged grins and Khushi looked around..."It seems as though the takeover is going well? Everyone seems to be working amiably together..."
Anne nodded, "Yes...the boss is quite a handful though..."
Khushi's chest tightened, but her hands rested on her hips..."I am well acquainted with tyrants for managers."
"Your previous boss's?"
Her eyes turned sad, "No, my bosses over the last few years have been quite good and accomodating... they understood my situation and were able to adapt my hours to suit with my daughters needs..."
"Oh your daughter is absolutely beautiful..."
Khushi smiled..."She sure is...now, SHE is a handful..."
Anne smirked..."No, really? I can't believe it!"
"Oh but she is, she's a lot like her fa-..." Khushi paused..."She is an angel...I love her..."
"It must have been quite difficult on your own..."
Her expression turned sad..."It was very hard. I can't deny it...but I had help from a few friends..."
"Your family weren't around?"
Anne waited for Khushi's answer, but then saw her eyes welling up...
"Oh no no honey, I'm sorry..."
Khushi blinked, grabbing a tissue from Anne's desk..."It's okay...My family don't know where I am...It was a difficult situation, one that I had to escape from...but I see small characteristics of them in Libbi...so in a way, they're still with me..."
When Khushi looked up, it was Anne who now had tears in her eyes...
"Goodness, now I've made workplace morale take a hit! How about I get you a coffee?"
Anne pulled Khushi into a hug and whispered..."Please know that I am here to be a friend to you...I have two children of my own, both in high school now, and I found it hard enough to cope WITH a partner, let alone without one..."
Khushi pulled back, "You have two kids? That's wonderful!"
"I can see that you are trying to lighten my mood, but please," Anne chose her words carefully..."if I'm not asking too much, can I ask where her father is?"
And at once the air around them turned cold...
Khushi no longer looked despairing...
She looked as though she had accepted her fate...
"He did not want me...I do not know where he is..."
Anne was devastated over Khushi's circumstances and felt awful for bringing it up...
She took her hand, leading her to the cafeteria..."Here, let's have some cake..."
Khushi's eyes lit up, "Do they have jalebi?"
"Um..." Anne's eyes searched the glass cases of food..."I don't think so, but I can tell the chef to make or order some..."
Khushi shook her head, "Oh no, I'm starting to be too much trouble and I haven't even been here an hour yet!"
Anne laughed..."Don't be silly, it's just jalebi...I'll go ask now, you just order some coffees..." she leaned in and whispered..."put it on my account..."
Anne peeked through the doors to the kitchen, "Hello?"
The very animated chef bounded up to her..."HELLO!!!!! What can I owe this pleasure?!"
She stepped back momentarily and gripped the bench behind her..."Um..I was only going to inquire if you were able to make jalebi? Or order some? There has been a few requests."
He scratched his chin, deep in thought..."Ahh, a traditional sweet...I haven't made any in years..."
All was quiet for a moment when suddenly he snapped his head up and click his fingers..."I've got it!"
"AH!" Anne's hand was clasped over her chest...
"I shall call our new boss and ask if I may order some from a divine shop I have heard about, but I shall also start to practice!"
Nodding fast, Anne backed away..."Oh...great...great Idea..." and she quickly made her escape.
Khushi burst into laughter when Anne returned to the table..."What...wh...what has happened? You look like you've been in a brawl!"
Anne took a seat and drank down a swift gulp of coffee..."That chef..." she pointed towards the kitchen..."Is INSANE!"
Khushi giggled like crazy once more, "He's insane? Did he think Jalebi was 'chicken' or something?"
This time it was Anne's turn to laugh...
"You want to order WHAT?"
"Jalebi sir! Everyone is requesting it! You have no idea how divine it tastes! It will probably increase the rate in which your employees work and..."
As the man continued to chatter away, Arnav felt like all his emotions were stunted...
Now Jalebi!? What else!? God is this your way of punishing me!? Is it not enough that I cannot see the woman I love!? I live with this guilt every FUCKING DAY OF MY LIFE!"
When his senses returned, he realized that the chef was still talking...
He grabbed the phone and yelled..."Just do what you want and shut up!"
Leaning back in his seat, he pulled out his mobile phone...
Hitting speed dial, he waited for an answer...
"Ahhh, Arnav babua! How is the new office? Have you moved in yet? Have you been eating?"
Arnav finally broke down...
Why did her family forgive me?! I couldn't even forgive Khushi for something she DIDN'T do...
Buaji heard Arnav's muffled sobs through the receiver...
"What has happened? Did they get your coffee wrong?"
He laughed through his pain and tried to respond..."Thank...thankyou for making me smile...you always do..."
"I...I couldn't find her..."
"Ahh...you need to let that go...she does not want to be found..."
"I want to tell her how sorry I am...how much I love her..."
"Babua, it has been years...all we can pray for now, is that she has found happiness, wherever she is..."
He shot another glance at her photo in his wallet that lay open on his desk...
He stared it for at least five minutes as Buaji asked about his eating habits and whether his employees were frightened of him yet...
"I miss her..."
Buaji went silent.
Arnav sighed..."I'm sorry...I...I can't cope..."
"You HAVE been coping...you tried your best to find her, and you had all our support..."
"...Buaji, there was...there was a beautiful little girl in here the other day with her mother, one who could have been the perfect mixture of Khushi and myself...and I realized once again my heartbreak...I should have tried harder to find her...I should have continued the search..."
"Arnav...Khushi loved you, and she would have wanted you to keep living, and to move on..."
Arnav was overcome with rage and he launched his phone at the wall in front of him and slammed his clenched wrists on his desk..."Don't talk about her as if she were dead! She's NOT! SHE'S NOT! AND I WILL FIND HER!!!!! I WILL!!!"
Buaji heard every word he said.
She felt no anger, just deep sorrow...
"Let her go...Take care Arnav dear..." and she hung up.
Khushi and Anne nearly jumped out of their skin when the chef approached them...
"My God!" Khushi exclaimed..."Thank goodness the news is 'good'..."
Anne laughed..."Yes, I'd hate to think of how he delivers bad news..."
"I have been given, rather rudely, permission to order the jalebi!"
Khushi and Anne squeeled with happiness...
But Khushi's smiled soon turned to a frown, "Rudely?"
Anne made an 'I told you so' smirk towards her...
"If he is so rude, then why take it?! From my experience, you should stand up for yourself! No one should be treated with such disrespect!"
The chef clicked his heels and began clapping..."BRAVO! BRAVO!!!!!!!"
And the strict scowling mood was lifted once again...