“Didi?” a boy of who looked to be about three called, tugging on Khushi’s pallu.

Khushi looked up, hurriedly wiping away her tears, unfolding her arms and pulling the kid into her lap.

She plastered a fake smile onto her face, and inquired, “What do you want Ashu?” she touched his nose, making him laugh.

But a second later, his laughter disappeared, and with as much seriousness as a three year old could muster, he asked “Why were you crying didi?”

He wiped away the stray tears Khushi didn’t catch with his tiny hands, and patting her cheek, as if he was trying to make her laugh.

Come with me, or I will have no choice but to inform your parents of our contract marriage.”

It is all your fault! I wish I never met you.”

It’s good that your parents are dead! They don’t have to look at you!”

Marry me…for six months. Otherwise I’ll stop Payal’s wedding.”

It all jumbled in her mind, till all she could hear him say was that he hated her, through his words, and actions.

Ashu shook her lighly, bringing her out of her daze, and he pushed her hands away, wanting to climb out of her lap.

Khushi unwrapped her hands from around him, and watched him run away into his house.

She came to the temple to clear her head, and to think of a way to get back to GH without alerting her parents of her and Arnavji’s deception.

As she was lost in her thought, she didn’t notice Ashu running towards her, until he plopped himself down in her lap again.

“Take this didi.” he thrust the raakhi into her hand and extended his right hand, waiting impatiently for her to tie it.

“Ashu, didn’t your sister tie this to you?” Khushi asked, indulging him by tying the raakhi around his tiny wrist.

“She did. Amma told me that because jiji tied it to me, I need to protect her. Now, you tied it to me too, didi! I will protect you!” he touched her cheek and pronounced with a proud smile. “I won’t let you cry.”

Khushi hugged him to herself, tightly, reveling in the love of an innocent child.

How amazing would it be, if everything was that simple?

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

When Khushi returned from the temple an hour later, she found Arnav staring at the pool from the french doors in their bedroom.

“Arnavji?” Khushi called out, afraid of what had him in such deep thought. Hoping it wasn’t something she had done, directly or indirectly.

Arnav jerked, awakening from his daze, and turned around to look at Khushi.

And, look at her, he did. For the first time in a long time, he really looked at her, and saw beyond the facade she put up for others’ sake.

“Khushi?” he asked as he walked towards her. “Are you happy?”

“Wh..what? Why are you asking me this Arnavji?” Khushi stuttered, unsure of how to answer his question. Was she happy?

“Just answer me Khushi.” he sighed.

She plastered a fake smile on her face, and answered, “Of course I am. Arnavji, I don’t know where you get these ideas from.” she started rearranging the pillows on the bed, and moving things around, so that she wouldn’t have to look him in the eyes.

“I was at the temple.” he said, stopping her in her tracks.

“I saw you crying Khushi. I saw the way the boy tried to cheer you up.” he whispered, as if speaking the words out loud would solidify his thoughts. “I was an idiot Khushi. All these months, I have been the sole reason for you pain, and I didn’t even realize it.”

“Do you know what I realized today? When I saw the kid promising you that he would protect you, the only question that went through my mind, is what would I have done if someone did to di, what I did to you.” he choked on his words.

“I would’ve killed him.”

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

“Arnavji.” Khushi tried to console him. No matter how much he hurt her, she couldn’t see him in pain.

“No Khushi. Let me get it all out. I need to.” he pleaded.

“And as if torturing you over the last six months wasn’t enough, I have been forcing my love on you now.”

“I don’t know what love is Khushi. I only ever knew my love for my sister, and with her my love along with my tantrums were always received with open arms. Which i why, when I had to win your love back, I failed so miserably. I realize that now.” he paused, dreading his next words.

“Which I why, I decided to let you leave, if that is truly what you want.” He closed his eyes, unable to digest what was about to happen.

O can’t you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

“I…you want me to leave?” Khushi asked, shocked at the turn of events.

“I don’t want to Khushi. But I understand, if you want to leave.” he hurried to explain, lest she think that he doesn’t love her.

“But…the contract?” she asked, making sure that there were no loopholes in this “deal”. She wasn’t naive enough to think that he would let her go so easily.

He cringed hearing the doubt in her voice. But, after all he did to her, was he really surprised that she would react that way?

“Forget about the contract, Khushi. It’s null and void. There is no catch.” he said, completely handing over the reigns to her, to do as she pleased.

—-

“Khushi, I’m sorry.” he whispered in her ear, as he hugged her one last time.

“I know Arnavji. I just need time.” she told him, before she turned around and left.

She didn’t turn around, if she did, she would have seen him whisper a broken “I love you” to her.

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I’ll be watching you

Whoever thought, Arnav Singh Raizada would lock himself in his room, and mourn her loss for all eternity, was wrong. Arnav did do that, for the first week after her departure.

But then he realized that, he didn’t have to imagine what she was doing, picture her face or wonder where she was.
He was Arnav Singh Raizada, he might not be able to talk to her or hold her, but no one will keep him from seeing her.

With that in mind, he tracked down her whereabouts in a day, and followed her every move from that day on.

He knew that she had shifted to mumbai after she left Shantivan, not able to see her parents’ sadness over her fake marriage.

He knew that she went to devi mayya’s temple everyday, attending the morning aarti, and staying for another hour to bring her friend up to date with her previous day’s events.

He knew that she had gotten herself a job, as a sous chef in a fairly well known sweet shop. She was a halwaai’s daughter after all.

He knew that the only luxary she indulged in was a coffee every morning, from a homey little cafe across the street from her work.

He knew that she always called her parents exactly at 10 am to check if her bauji had taken his medicines.

He knew that she always made sure that there were sugar-less sweets in the store, demanding her superior that she be in charge of preparing them. (He hoped she was thinking of him while making them.)

He knew that she always stopped by the orphanage on her way back from work, playing with the kids. He noticed that this was the only time she truly looked happy, in turn making him happy.

He knew that she carried a picture of him with her. He had seen it when she accidentally dropped it from her bag on her way to the mandir. And he had made sure it was waiting at her doorstep by the time she got home from work. (He didn’t miss that she was less enthusiastic while playing with the kids that day, or that she made jalebis for her devi mayya the day after.)

He knew that she always talked to her parents before she went to sleep.

He knew that she cried herself to sleep most nights.

Since you’ve gone I been lost without a trace
I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around but it’s you I can’t replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby please

Although he had followed her every move for the past four months, his heart still ached to feel her. Hold her in his arms and never let go.

He wanted to be part of her life. He wanted to go to the temple with her, even if he doesn’t believe in her gods. He wanted to drop her off to work with a kiss that would go over the propriety of a goodbye kiss. He wanted to go visit bauji with her, and have buaji and amma hover over him and pamper their damadji. He wanted her to feed him her sugar-free jalebis as he tried to get naughty with her.

He wanted to play with the children along with her, maybe one day have some of their own. A daughter with her mesmerizing eyes, and his charm, and a mini ASR.

He wanted to talk to their parents, together, every night.

He wanted to make love to her every night, and fall asleep holding her.

And his heart ached, knowing that all his dreams would never become reality because he was too stupid to realize what a treasure he had, when he had it.

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I’ll be watching you

He was following her to work, like he did everyday. He went into the coffee shop and found himself a corner seat, and ordered a black coffee, opening his newspaper and pretending to read as she stood in line to order hers’.

She took her coffee, and thanked the waitress, before turning around and walking towards the door.

He noticed that there was something different about her this morning, she seemed contemplative, as if she was deciding on something big.

He shrugged it off and started to follow her, maintaining his distance, when she turned abruptly and pinned him with her gaze, before heading straight towards him.

He panicked, but realized that he had nowhere to hide.

“No catch?” she smirked. “You said you would let me go Arnavji.” she stated, as if least bothered by the fact that he was caught following her.

“I…um…I was just around…” he trailed off, his lies sounding pathetic, even to his own ears.

“You thought, you would follow me around, and I wouldn’t notice it?” she questioned, sounding a little insulted.

“No!” he yelled, trying to explain. “I couldn’t live without you Khushi. I thought, as long as I didn’t interfere with your life…” he sighed. “It seemed harmless to follow you around, as long as I didn’t interfere in your life.” he said with his head bowed in despair. He realized with a start that, this time he would lose her for real, not even having the comfort of seeing her everyday.

“I am ready to talk.” He looked up at her, surprised, trying to curb down the budding hope that he might actually be getting a second chance.

“I cannot promise anything.” she continued, hurriedly. “But I am miserable without you, and I think it’s time we start over. A fresh start wouldn’t hurt, right?” she trailed off.

“No, it wouldn’t.” he smiled. “Coffee?” he offered, extending a hand of…relationship? Friendship?

Whatever it was, he was happy to have her back in his life.

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5 thoughts on “ArHi OS : Every Breath You Take

  1. a sweet story. Moments like this in life are meant to be cherished, treasured and loved.

    And thanks for reminding me that life is not dull and among talented writers around, no one is alone , yeah.

    Love

    Anna

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