“Khushi?” Anjali asked, looking at her friend’s pacing form. “Would you stop it? You are giving me a headache!”
“I can’t believe…,” Khushi mumbled, “…the pure nerve of that ass-hat.”
“Who are you talking about, Khushi?” Anjali asked, shaking her head at her friend’s behavior.
“Who else?” Khushi asked, frowning. “That good for nothing…”
She was interrupted by her ringing phone and Anjali breathed a sigh of relief at being saved from Khushi’s angry mutterings.
“Hello?” Khushi said, picking up her phone. “Khushi Kumari Gupta here. Who is this?”
“The Jerk,” came the reply, confusing Khushi for a second before she remembered her parting statement.
“You!” Khushi yelled, starting to pace again. Anjali took one look at her, and left the room before she could start ranting again. “How did you get my number?”
“You gave it to me, actually,” Arnav said, and she could hear the smirk in his tone, which only infuriated her more.
“I did no such thing!” she sputtered.
“You did, when you called my office to get an appointment with me. That was sneaky, by the way. I admire that quality in people,” he said, controlling the urge to laugh.
“I don’t care what you admire. Never call me again or I’ll slap you with a harassment suit so quick your head will spin!”
“Fiesty,” he said, letting out a chuckle. “Another quality I like in a woman.”
“I am hanging up,” Khushi said, but halted with her hand on the red button when she heard him hurriedly yell out a “Wait!”
“You wanted to tell me something about Mr. Jha?” Arnav asked, steering back to the topic she wanted to discuss.
“Yes,” Khushi said, narrowing her eyes in suspicion.
“You were right,” Arnav said. “I can’t discuss the case with you, but I can, by all means, listen to what you have to say about him…”
“Oh,” Khushi said, surprised. “I’ll make another…”
“…over dinner,” Arnav said.
She hung up on him.
“You need to eat the food, Anju,” Khushi said. “Not just move it around the plate.”
“He doesn’t want a divorce,” Anjali said, staring off into space. “Why would he say that? It’s not like he loves me, he made that clear enough.”
“Because he thinks you are his lucky charm. His company took off after he married you,” said Khushi, stabbing the piece of curry on her plate. “And the fact that he married an orphan works to gain him the Boy Scout image in his social circle. Also, imagine the media scandal he would have to go through if you went public with the information.”
“That’s it!” Khushi said, looking at Anjali excitedly.
“What?” Anjali asked, confused.
“I need to make a call,” Khushi said, and left the table, leaving a confused Anjali behind.
“Mr. Raizada?” Khushi asked, as soon as the person on the other end picked up.
“Khushi?” Arnav asked, confused, before realizing who called him. “Khushi! I knew you would change your mind.”
“Yes, I’d like to go on that dinner date, if the offer is still open?” she asked, rummaging through the stack of papers on her desk.
“Of course,” Arnav said, typing out a message to his secretary to make reservations. “May I ask what brought on this change of heart?”
“You will see,” Khushi said, smiling, finding the card she was looking for.
“Okay. Does 8PM at Purple Orchid sound good? It’s a new restaurant that opened in Worli, and it has raving reviews,” Arnav asked.
“Sure, sounds good,” Khushi replied.
“Great! I’ll pick you up at 7:30 then.”
“No need. I’ll meet you there,” Khushi said, and before he could protest, hung up on him again.
Immediately, she dialed the number on the card she was holding.
Arnav looked at his phone in disbelief.
She was the first person ever to hang up on him…him…twice in the same day.
Unbelievable, Arnav thought.
Arnav handed over the keys to the valet and stood to the side as he drove the car to the parking lot.
I’m here…he sent a message to Khushi and left to wait inside the restaurant.
Be there in 2…came her reply, as he took the table the hostess showed him to.
“Mr. Raizada,” he heard her voice and turned to look at his date, and felt his breath whoosh out of him.
She was dressed in a black anarkali, with her hair pulled up into a messy updo. If he thought she was beautiful before, she looked ethereal now. His eyes were drawn to her swan-like neck which was exposed, thanks to her hairstyle, and he felt a new kind of hunger start in him. A few wisps framed her face, and highlighted her hazel eyes, which were looking at him, bemused.
“Mr. Raizada?” she called again, snapping her fingers in front of his eyes.
He leapt up from his chair and pulled hers out for her, like the perfect gentleman that he was.
Khushi looked at him, and tried not to stare, but failed miserably. He was dressed in a black suit, and he had foregone a tie for the occasion, exposing his neck and a small part of his chest. She felt her mouth water at the thoughts running through her head and chastised herself.
Remember why you are here, Khushi.
“You look…beautiful,” Arnav said, continuing to stare at her.
She averted her eyes and tried to stop the blush from spreading across her cheeks, in vain.
The waiter walked over to them, providing them both with a much needed distraction to get their bearings. Once they had placed their order, Arnav turned to Khushi and tried to make small talk.
“So…you never replied, what brought this on?” Arnav asked, genuinely interested in the cause for her change of heart.
“Anjali,” Khushi said, not beating around the bush. “You have fairly more connections under your belt than the lawyer representing her, and Shyam has enough money to spend getting a lawyer like you. I know you can spin the story in a way which would make the entire divorce process a long, tiring ordeal.”
Arnav sat back in his seat and folded his arms, sighing in disappointment. Looks like it will be a strictly business dinner after all.
“So…I am here to change your mind. I will explain the truth to you, the one I came to your office to tell you, before being inappropriately proposed to.”
“There was nothing inappropriate about it. You are single, and so am I. And you are not my client, so I did nothing wrong,” Arnav interrupted, frowning.
“Be that as it may, I did not come there looking for a boy-friend. And since you offered to listen during this date, I would request you to not interrupt me until I am done saying what I have to.”
“As long as you don’t digress,” Arnav interrupted, again, before saying, “Please continue.”
“I am not sure what lies Shyam fed you, so I will start at the beginning. Anjali and I grew up in an orphanage.” Looking at his sympathetic expression, she hurriedly explained, “It wasn’t that bad, actually. Buaji, that’s what we called our warden, took good care of us, and Anjali and I had found a sister in the other. We studied hard, got into good colleges and once our education ended, started working for non-profit organizations, to pay it forward, so to speak. That’s where Anjali met Shyam. He was one of the sponsors for the non-profit she worked for, a company that provided shelter and career opportunities for victims of domestic violence. He only made small donations, but for Anjali, it was the thought that counted.”
They were interrupted by the waiter, and once he had placed their dishes in front of them and left, she started speaking again. Neither touched their food.
“He expressed an interest in her after a month of knowing her, but Anjali didn’t reciprocate right away. After a while, he started pursuing her seriously, and even proposed to her. I was over the moon; he was a good man with a stable income who helped people in need, what more can one want for her best friend? I…I might have pushed her a little, and so did Buaji, and Anju finally accepted his proposal.”
“Everything was rosy as f**k for a couple of months,” Khushi said, getting aggravated. “Anju moved in with him after their marriage, naturally, but we still kept in touch. I used to visit her often, and as months progressed, I started sensing that she was distressed for some reason. I never understood why because whenever I was there, Shyam was cheerful. He spent time with us, with me, which should have raised a red flag, but me being an idiot thought of him as my brother. On one of my visits, I found Anjali sobbing in her bedroom, and confronted her. She confessed that Shyam had been having affairs since a few months into their marriage, and when she confronted him, he acted like it was her fault, that somehow, she didn’t give him enough time and attention, which wasn’t true! She loved him!”
Arnav silently passed her a glass of water, and she took a sip of it before putting it aside and continuing.
“Anju, she is not like me. She never had enough confidence to begin with. She’s fragile, you know? I asked her to have a serious conversation with him, to tell him that his behavior was unacceptable, and that if he didn’t stop, she would need to get a divorce. Again, I pushed her into it. I shouldn’t have. But she did as I said, and Shyam…he…he’s a beast. I went to their home the next day to find her covered in bruises! That monster, that douche-bag had hurt her!”
She was crying at this point, and even though Arnav had the strongest urge to comfort her, he knew that she needed to get it off her chest.
“I called one of my friends and asked her to come pick-up Anju at once to take her back to my place. I stayed back to pack up her stuff. There was no way I was letting her stay there for another second. I was almost done packing when he came home. At first, he was pissed that Anjali had left, but then he changed…his eyes…” she shuddered. “Said he was waiting for an opportunity to be alone with me for forever, that Anjali kept coming in the way, and it was good that I stayed behind. He tried to…well, he tried to force himself on me,” Khushi said, as if she was discussing the weather. She wiped away her tears, and looked directly into his eyes, and found his furious gaze staring back at her.
“I kicked him where it hurt and ran away. The next day, Anjali filed for divorce. We discovered, after the fact, that, he was, in fact, not having affairs. He was coercing women into sleeping with him, the woman from the non-profit Anjali worked at. He threatened them that he would reveal their locations to their abusers. They are still frightened that he would do as he said which is why no one is willing to testify against him. And without that, we don’t have anything against him. The officer who took Anju’s statement seemed to have conveniently “lost” it and completely forgotten about it. Now, Shyam is insisting that he doesn’t want a divorce, and you are helping him with it.”
Arnav clenched his fists in anger.
“But I will not let you. Do you hear me? Maybe you’ll argue for him, and maybe you’ll win the case, but I will not let that douche-bucket so much as glance at Anju. If you don’t convince him to agree to an amicable divorce, and to never agree to bother Anjali again, I will go to the press with everything I just told you. I have a reporter awaiting my call, and believe me, they’re chomping at the bit to bring a company like Shyam’s down. Imagine the riot women’s right activists will bring down on not only Shyam, but on you. Both your companies’ shares will tank and your reputation will be in the mud.”
She stared right at him as she delivered the threat, and Arnav had to applaud the gall of the wisp of a woman sitting in front of him.
“However, I don’t want Anju to go through the press circus, which is why I agreed to this date, to resolve this issue with minimal damage. The ball is in your court, Mr. Raizada.”
Arnav stared at Khushi for a second before replying.
“As of now, Shyam is still my client, and understand that I can’t discuss anything about him, with you.”
Before Khushi could start ranting at him, he continued.
“But by this time tomorrow, I will take care of it. You have my word, Khushi Kumari Gupta.”
Khushi stared into his eyes, and found nothing but sincerity reflected back at her.
She nodded hesitantly.
AN: Looks like it will end up being a Three-Shot afterall! Haha. Thanks for all the lovely comments!
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Index : Blooming world