Too impatient to even wait for the elevator, Arnav dragged Khushi down all the seven floors via the stairs his hand never leaving her, in a firm unyielding grip. She stumbled along, trying to match his long strides down the stairs, lest she fall and tumble down.
Dumping her into the passenger seat roughly, he slammed his own door shut and reversed out of the complex, the tyres burning the road with a loud screech. Khushi shut her eyes firmly, her fear for fast cars surfacing with every press of his foot on the accelerator.
A stony silence enveloped the car as they sped onto the highway in the dark of the night. It was only after about half an hour that he sensed her fear and looked towards where she sat, eyes tightly shut, hands clasped in her lap and obviously chanting something, that he recalled her sharing her fears with him at Lavanya’s party. Cursing inwardly, he slowed the car, instinctively wanting to reach out and comfort her.
It was a traffic jam that he saw up ahead that diverted his attention from her and on to the cars all around him. Glancing swiftly at his watch, and the confusion on the road ahead, he turned sharply and headed for their farmhouse instead not wanting to spend the next two hours on the road.
Khushi opened her eyes, when she felt the car come to a halt and heard his door slam shut once again. She sat in the car taking in her surroundings, as she realized that they were in the driveway of the farmhouse. She turned towards the house and saw him striding away from the car to ring the doorbell, walking in when the door was opened.
She pursed her lips in anger, at his rude behaviour, and got out of the car herself, weighing her options as to which was the lesser of the two evils – spending the night here, or going in and hearing his ranting! ‘He takes off for one whole month, with no call or anything to me … and now comes back out of the blue, to be all arrogant and …’ she fumed, as she banged the door shut and followed him into the house sulkily. She’s rather face his wrath than stay here alone in the dark, she had decided on second thoughts.
Khushi entered the house, looking about her anxiously. Where was he? Where was she to go now … her earlier room or his room? Questions flittered in and out as she started walking in the general direction of their rooms.
As she neared his room, though the open door, she saw him standing with his back towards her near the glass windows. As if sensing her presence he slowly turned to watch her standing nervously near the door.
‘Get inside,’ he said coldly, eyeing her quizzically.
As she walked into the room slowly, her hands clutching each other, as there was no dupatta to tweak, Arnav looked at her properly for the first time in the evening, wondering what was different about her today. She was like a vision for his sore ‘Khushi-deprived’ eyes. He hungrily took in her pretty feet encased in flat gold strappy sandals, up the navy churidaars that did not look like her usual churidaar at all, but more like fitted pants he wondered a frown appearing in his brow, up towards the short full sleeve kurta that was also unlike her usual embellished ones. What was this, he questioned, unsure of what was different about her? Where were all the pom poms that used to hang all over the place… this kurta had a perfect a-line cut, and fell sensuously down her slender frame ending somewhere mid thigh. The modern zigzag stripes in earthy hues were accentuated only by a slim gold linked chain belt that hung loosely on her slim hips. Even though her clothes now covered more of her than her short kurtas and sari’s used too, Arnav started with incredulity at her sexiness in the outfit. His eyes roamed further up towards her slim neck where he saw with some relief the outline of his mangalsurta hidden under the collar. It was when he reached her pale face, bare of any makeup but for her kajaal and lip-gloss, his eyes widened further in shock.
‘WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO YOUR HAIR!’ he bellowed, walking up to where she was standing. Jeez … she was looking like a college student!
Khushi took a tentative step backwards, shuddering at his temper. Had she really forgotten in the last month what it felt like to stand there and be screamed at? Thankfully he had not grabbed her as yet, she thought dryly, remembering the wonderful month she had actually spent just with his thoughts! The Arnav in her romantic dreams was so much better than this rakshash! And here she had been constantly thinking of what he would say when they met finally, how he would react to the more stylish her … okay so trimming the hair had not been her idea and also one that she had only grudgingly agreed to when Shakshi had taken her along to the parlor. But it had only been trimmed about a couple of inches and styled around her face in uneven steps, so why was he getting all het up about it. Even she had thought at first that it had been cut too short, and was surprised when she was shown that just by a little styling, how different she was actually looking.
‘Humne kuch nahin …’ Khushi began tentatively, her first reaction as usual to stammer in his presence.
‘WHY HAVE YOU CUT YOUR HAIR?’ he came up and grabbed her upper arms in the all to familiar painful grip. ‘AND WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO SINCE I LEFT?
Up to? Thought Khushi incredulously. Here she had missed him so much and tried to change herself, to be able to be his ideal wife and companion, and he…
‘MAINE TUMSE KUCH POOCHA …’ he shook her with each word he ground out.
Khushi shut her eyes to stem the tears that she felt welling up in her eyes. No! She would not cry. Who did he think he was, walking off and returning as he pleased?
‘Haath hataaiye,’ she opened her eyes slowly and stared at him militantly, trying to free herself from his grip.
Hearing her calm and collected voice, Arnav, taken aback, looked at her sharply before releasing her with soft push. He checked covertly, incase he had bruised her arms again. What was going on here, he wondered again frowning, moving away from her slightly, to look her up and down again.
It was the ring of a mobile phone that broke the silence as they stood staring at each other like adversaries in an arena.
Khushi reached out into the pocket of her slim pants and pulling out the phone, whispered a soft hello. ‘Haan, hum theek hain,’ she assured Shakshi, ‘kal baat karenge aapse.’
Disconnecting the phone she looked up to see a disbelieving Arnav staring at her with his mouth slightly open, eyebrows raised. Now what! She wondered further irritated, throwing the phone on the bed nearby instead of returning it to her pocket.
‘You also seem to have collected some interesting friends, while I was gone,’ he sneered instead. ‘Couldn’t wait to get …’
‘JUST SHUT UP’, Khushi had had enough. So livid was she by now, that she failed to notice Arnav step back startled, at her tone and her use of English.
‘Now, YOU listen Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada,’ she pointed towards him, walking nearer as she spoke, switching to Hindi as comfortably, ‘I have not done anything you are accusing me of. It was naniji who suggested that I groom myself a bit. All this to be fit enough to be called Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada’s wife! (Rolling up her eyes) … I’m sure you have not shared with anyone the reason why you married me, as it’s not something either of us wanted in the first place … first you force me into this marriage … then you force yourself...’ she fumbled for words a slight blush stealing over her, ‘er … and then you leave like a Lord Governor, as and when you wish, with no call or information when you are returning or anything, and you expect me to sit and wait like a dutiful wife, that you will return and …’ she paused to get her breath back as she came to a halt near where he was standing absolutely still.
‘And furthermore,’ she continued before he could react, ‘my ‘friends’ as you call them, have made me very happy this whole month that YOU have been missing,’ she poked his chest, ‘they have treated me as a friend and accepted me for what I am… not wanting me to change to be fit to be called Mrs. Arnav Singh Raizada…’
‘Like taking you to watch strippers, I suppose,’ he cut in coldly, ‘I’m sure that must have given you a lot of happiness … watching naked men dance for you.’ He mocked angrily.
Unbuttoning his shirt he continued, ‘and since you are happy with naked men dancing around you,’ shirt buttons now open and off his broad shoulders while he continued to sneer at her, ‘why don’t we give you what …’
‘STOP THIS,’ Khushi screamed at him, not wanting to get swept away by the visions he was conjuring up in front of her. This time she needed to have her say, and not get swept away by her wayward emotions.
Arnav again, stopped startled, shirt halfway down his arms that he slowly pulled up leaving the buttons open.
Khushi shut her eyes and said a silent prayer, asking not to get affected by his muscular abs, that she admitted grudgingly, she had missed terribly. She longed to reach out and touch him …
‘It was just a party for one of the girls who is getting married next week. In case you had not noticed, there were only girls there, it was a bachel… bachelo…,’ she stammered looking for the word that Shakshi had told her when she came to ask nani if Khushi could go with them.
‘And for your information, I did not know that there would be … er …er … those men … humne soocha ki sangeet ke jaisa…’ her voice trailed off recalling her own horror when the two young men had started stripping.
‘But what about YOU,’ she came back to stare at him angrily, ‘you just storm in and ALWAYS think the worst of me … you behaved like a … like a …,’ her mind searched for the English word for rakshask, ‘a … a… a… MONSTER’! She finished triumphantly.
Khushi stopped suddenly, her eyes widening with fear, as she saw the cold steely glint of fury in his eyes. She gulped as she watched him look down at her still pointing finger, inches away from his exposed chest, then up at her face again.
She hastily withdrew her hand, and retreated from his looming angry presence, knowing that she had gone too far this time. No one spoke to Arnav Singh Raizada like that; No one opposed him; Sassed with him; or cut him down mid sentence. And inspite of knowing all of that, she had gone and vented all her frustration and hurt at him without a single thought.
Finding herself at the doors leading outside, she stumbled out backwards her panic stricken eyes unable to break contact with his furious ones. The cool night air hit Khushi as soon as she steeped out and she wrapped her arms around herself, wanting to escape his penetrating gaze. This was not how she had imagined meeting him on his return, she thought hysterically.
Khushi felt herself in his grip again as he held her shoulders and gave her a sharp shaking … ‘kya kaha tumne? toh mai tumse door jaaunga toh tum kissike saath bhi dosti karogi? kahi bhi jaaogi?’… He hissed pushing her backwards.
Khushi mustered all the courage she had and dislodged herself from his grip, jumping backwards, away from him, her only thought to escape right now.
It was when she felt the ground beneath her feet disappear; that Khushi realized something was terribly wrong. Before she could react to the shocked expression reflected on his face she felt the cold water of the pool behind her envelope her into its dark depths.
Arnav watched in horror Khushi fall back into the deep end of the pool, her wide eyes staring at him as he watched her go down into the water completely.
The chilled water hit his taut body the second he sliced into the pool after her. She had gone down completely when he reached out and caught her hand in his steely grip pulling her up towards him. They were still underwater when he brought her close to his own body and held her by her waist against him, as he pushed them both up towards the surface. The coldness of the water making him numb, but his only thought to get her out of there.
Khushi surfaced spluttering and gasping for breath as she clung on to his shoulders, still panicking at feeling no ground beneath her feet. The cold night air seeped into their drenched bodies, and Khushi, her teeth chattering, moved closer hanging onto his safe arms as he swam towards the edge of the pool, with her in tow.
Hoisting her up by the waist, he sat her down on the edge of the pool, and with one fluid movement jumped out himself beside her.
‘Tum theek ho,’ he questioned gently, as he knelt on one leg beside her, watching her nod and shiver all together. He stood immediately; his first thought to get her inside the house and warmed before she caught a chill in that flimsy kurta that was now clinging to her in all the right places. Shaking the thought roughly out of his mind, he held out his hand, and sighed gratefully when she did not decline his help.
Khushi took the support of his outstretched hand to stand on her now quivering legs. The shock combined with the cold was now making her unstable, and she again clutched at his open shirtfronts to steady herself. She noticed that the shirt was completely plastered to his chest, his muscles visible under the now transparent fabric. Since he had left it unbuttoned during their last argument, Khushi saw her hands leave his shirt front and move to touch the exposed skin that fascinated her.
Arnav drew in a sharp breath, as her cold hand came in contact with his … equally cold flesh, he thought suddenly. He had to get them inside immediately, he realized. Picking her up suddenly and flinging her on one shoulder in a fireman’s lift he strode towards his room, ignoring her gasps coming from behind his back.
Once inside, he carried her straight to the bathroom and setting her down on the cool tiled floor. He saw that she was standing still with a glazed look, hair all straggly and framing her pale face; the shock of the entire incident obviously taking over her. With a muffled curse, he reached out started peeling off her wet clothes gently one by one. Arnav suddenly smiled when he reached the lacy and now transparent lingerie. A welcome change, he thought sardonically, remembering the functional white cottons he had encountered on their wedding night. Well, her new friends had certainly helped her more than he gave them credit for!
The chill seemed to seep into her as she now broke out into shivers, her teeth chattering, and legs giving way. Suddenly he picked her up and carried her to the shower. With urgent hands, he pulled off the rest of her garments and pushing the knob of the shower and adjusted the water till the hot water tumbled over her neck and back, reviving her lassitude. She looked up and watched his drenched masculine body as admiration flooded her and she felt another clench.
Arnav watched painfully as his naked wife stood in the shower looking at him like she wanted to devour him. He felt a tingling rush of blood engorge him at the thought of being inside her. She shuddered under his penetrating gaze.
As if drugged, Khushi moaned and reached out to drag a perfect glossy polished fingernail over his chest. That was all the encouragement he needed and looking at her now a rush of possessiveness overtook him, and he slammed her up against the shower wall, covering her with his body.
Her frantic fingers removed his shirt, moving instinctively towards the buttons of his trousers. Once they had the barriers of their clothes removed he lifted her off her feet, bracing her with his arms, as he pushed himself into her, claiming her.
Hot water pounded his back as he pumped her up and down, their bodies slipping, him full and slick inside her. He couldn’t leave her with one doubt as to whose she was; every stroke to remind her. Her feet knocked a staccato on his back, her back pressed against the tile
Her voice came out in gasps. “Please.”
He growled as he watched as she once again reached the culmination of her frenzy. Elation poured over him. He made her feel like that. He did that to her.
Her head fell back on the tile wall and he kissed the hollow of her neck. He gave her one more thrust and lay his head on her chest.
He didn’t know what to say. That he loved her? That he wanted her forever? That was his problem. He never knew what to say. He kissed the underside of her ear and traced his tongue around its curves.
“Do you want to stop?” he whispered instead … Well, that didn’t come out right either.
She was speechless, as she shut her eyes in embarrassment, thinking of her crazed wanton behaviour once again. What was it with her, when she came close to him? Was it her intense love that made her loose all rationality?
He let her legs down slowly, one at a time ... Bed ... They owned a king sized bed which they never seemed to use, and he wanted her on it. Showers were fun for thrills but he wanted her close to him tonight.
The water was now getting cool so he turned the knob. He lathered up some soap filling the steamed shower with its bright citrus smell and gave her a once over, nibbling her ears and lips as he washed her down.
As his fingers spread the lather all over her, she moaned and moved towards him. Water ran down his handsome face as he shook his head under the stream. Turning the water off he then grabbed the towel off the rack. It was thick, soft and he wrapped it around her as he rubbed her dry.
Kneeling, he appreciated how her legs tapered down into trim ankles and pale pink toenails. He gently lifted her foot, drew a toe into his mouth and sucked. She clutched his shoulders as a fresh rush of feelings was drowning her once again. Stopping when he saw she might topple over, he stood up to dry himself. She watched him, stealing covert glances under her eyelashes. She loved what she saw. Sensing her watching him he looked at her questioningly, as if expecting her to run out.
She realized that she should. But she didn’t want to. The urge to flee was almost as strong as the anticipation of staying. As another gush of emotion swept over her at his look, he watched in satisfaction as she clutched the sink for support. He felt pride in making her want him.
His warm, palm found the small of her back and pushed her into their dimly lit bedroom.