To say Miss Khushi Gupta had been stumped for the first time in her life would be the understatement of the century. She hadn’t been able to sleep well the entire night, much to the grumbling discomfort of Anu who finally took her pillow and retired to the living room couch. She was so shaken up with the revelation of Arnav being the A.R. who had sent the flowers that she had actually forgotten everything about the real A.R. a.k.a. Akshay Rastogi whom she had blasted at like a nuclear explosion.
Khushi had been mindful of not keeping the flowers anywhere in direct line of sight from her position in her bedroom. However, their aroma had already overpowered the air in her apartment and every time she had tried to close her eyes, the vision of Arnav looking concernedly at her framed against the elevator doors came flying into her mind. Despite every mean little thing that she had done to him in the past, he had been still kind and considerate to send her flowers. And that too thinking she had actually been sick and recuperating!
Needless to say, the guilt was eating into Khushi’s conscience big time. Maybe, tomorrow I’ll call him and apologize to him, she considered. Yeah, that’ll have to do. I’ll thank him for the flowers and… I’ll apologize for my eccentricities. He’ll come around… won’t he? YES! He will! Yeah, I’ll just call him first thing tomorrow morning! And with that determination, she finally sank into a fitful sleep in the early hours of the morning.
A few miles away, a sleek black Mercedes pulled up outside the Arrival gate of the New Delhi Domestic Airport. Arnav was sitting in the back seat fiddling with his phone, thankful for his presence of mind to put on two alarm clocks that morning. After all, being late to pick up Anjali Bhasin from the airport would have been synonymous with him jumping off the top floor of AR Towers and plummeting to his death.
It had been difficult waking up, Arnav realised, because he had been having a beautiful dream involving a familiar woman dressed in a flirtatious grey and blue dress, with unbelievably amazing legs. The alarms had blared right when he was about to see her face. Nevertheless, he was immensely proud of his steely determination to not have hit snooze on either one of the alarms.
“Shirley,” Arnav spoke into his phone, “I won’t be coming into office today. Also, I’m switching my personal cellphone off for the weekend. My sister is here and I don’t want to be disturbed for the weekend. So take messages and drop me an email with only the urgent ones at the end of the day. And yes, speak to Aman. I’ve left all the relevant details with him for the upcoming Board Meeting for next week. That’d be all,” he concluded his monologue and snapped his phone shut for he had just spotted his sister in the barrage of the unknown faces streaming out of the gate.
He got out of the car, a small smile playing on his lips seeing Anjali’s beaming face. Even though he had been initially irritated when she had first informed him of her plans, he couldn’t suppress the feeling of affection now arising inside him. After all, this was his dearest sister, however loopy and obsessive she might be.
“You had to be on the first flight out, hadn’t you?” he asked cheekily the moment she was within earshot and engulfed her into a bear hug. Anjali giggled.
“Chotay!! You know I don’t want to waste a single minute of our time together!” she replied gaily hugging him back. “Oooh, new car?” she said looking over his shoulder. Arnav smirked.
“Yep, brand new. Bought her just last week,” Arnav lied, smiling charmingly at her as they broke the hug. And quite expectantly, she immediately pouted.
“Show off! You have more cars than I have holidays with you in a year,” she scoffed mockingly. Arnav shook his head in amusement as the driver put her bags in the trunk of the car and she got inside. This was an old game that the siblings always played. She’d ask the same question every time; if he replied in negative she’d tease that his business wasn’t going too well.
“So how’s my dear brother? How is everything going on?” Anjali shot as soon as the car started moving.
“I’m fine dear sister. Everything is going great. Work is hectic as usual. I just bagged a huge contract with a delegation from Singapore just recently-”
“Yeah yeah, fine,” Anjali cut through his response impatiently. “I’m not interested about that and you know what the “everything” meant,” she added pointedly. Arnav stared at her in disbelief. Yep, he knew that “everything” meant only one thing – a girl in his life.
“You just got here woman!” Arnav exclaimed. Anjali shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly in response. “Look, let’s just get home and settle down first. I’ve planned a wonderful day for my wonderful sister,” he said trying to distract her dippy sister. Sure enough, it worked like magic. Her eyes shined with happiness.
“Ooooh! I can’t wait! What are we doing? We simply have to hit the antique market! I’m running low on dried flowers and my friend Geeta told me that apparently there was going to be a furniture sale as well,” she replied excitedly. Arnav sighed in relief. Phew, crisis averted for now. As long as he stuck to the spa, antique market, and the exhibition at Crysol Theatre he knew she’d stay distracted enough not to bring up his love life again.
“Yes Di, we’ll do everything you want. I promise,” Arnav promised smiling. “It’s good to have you back,” he added fondly. Anjali smiled back at him in reply.
“It’s lovely to be back Chotay. We’re going to have so much fun. I can just sense it!” she replied happily.
Yep, they were definitely going to have lots of fun!
“What the hell do you mean you can’t connect me to him?” Khushi yelled on the phone, her hair fuzzed up making her look like a giant hairball. “Listen girly… okay Shirley, SHIRLEY! Fine! Shirley, look, I’ve some VERY urgent matter to discuss with Mr. Raizada and I’ve been trying his cell phone all morning but I can’t get through for some GODFORSAKEN REASON!”
Khushi paced in her living room holding the cordless phone to her ear and its stand in her free hand, listening to whatever story girly Shirley was feeding her.
“Look you-,” she started angrily but then stopped, figuring these anger bursts weren’t going to help her. “Shirley,” she muttered sweetly, much to amazement of the secretary on the other side of the phone. “I know he’s busy and so are you. But it really is very important for me to speak to him.” Khushi said impatiently.
“Miss. Gupta, I have told you that I can’t connect you to him. It’s not about him being busy; he’s unreachable because he wants to be,” Shirley, Arnav’s secretary tried to explain. “However, like I offered before too, let me connect you to his Manager, Mr. Aman. I’m sure he’ll be able to help you out with your concerns. Please hold,” and before Khushi could respond, her call had been forwarded to Aman. Yet again. But before the call could connect, Khushi slammed her phone on the stand and sank down on to the sofa grunting loudly.
This is what had been going on since the time she had first picked up her cell to call up Arnav late in the afternoon and it was now evening already. When she had initially encountered the automated response about his phone being unreachable, she had figured maybe he was in transit. But when she continued hearing the same after the tenth time, she had started getting irritated. That is when she had contacted his office number only to be told off by his secretary that he was out of office and Khushi could speak to Arnav’s manager. She wasn’t used to being the person who was ignored like this! And especially when she had explicitly told Arnav on their first meeting that he needed to be available on the phone at all times. This was plain ridiculous!
Suddenly the phone started ringing. Khushi lunged for it hoping it was Arnav. “Hello?” she breathed eagerly.
“Hello Miss Gupta,” came an amused voice on the other side. “This is Aman Mathur. I believe you have been trying to locate Mr. Raizada?”
It was a no brainer for Arnav as to why Anjali used to come all the way from Mumbai to visit the antique market in Delhi. Come to think of it, he never really understood her fascination with antique in the first place. Why would any person in their sane minds want to purchase a 50 year old chair that exudes a blanket of dust every time you beat the cushion with a bat?! But then, we were talking about Anjali Bhasin here, not just any other sane person.
Thankfully, Arnav’s early morning jogging sessions kept his legs fit enough for hours of coursing through the maze that was the market without feeling exhausted. Figuring that any activity that was good enough to keep his sister distracted from discussing his love life was good enough for him to indulge into as well.
“Oh this I love!! Have you ever seen a finer teak wood comb, Chotay?” Anjali mumbled excitedly as she picked up an ordinary looking comb from the assortment of things in one of the stalls. The shopkeeper smiled toothily at having recognized a prospective customer and started talking to Anjali in revered tones showing her around the other baubles he had. Arnav rolled his eyes seeing his sister’s awestruck expression. Thankfully they were due to leave for the Exhibition at the Crysol Theatre shortly and that would be the end of this ordeal.
“Oh thank goodness! I found you!” a relieved voice from behind made Arnav turn around perturbed. Standing in front of him was a tired but pleased looking Khushi.
Arnav’s jaw dropped an inch on seeing her and his expression of subtle surprise was quickly replaced by utter bewilderment. Of all the places in the world and at the worst possible time, he had bumped into her?! “Kh-Khushi!” he gasped in response, his stunned mind unable to wring two words together. Oh my God, what the hell is she doing here?
“I called and called but your phone was unreachable. You are one tough person to get hold of. Do you know how hard it was finding you in this maze of a place so late in the evening?” Khushi asked.
Arnav went on gaping at him, his mind slightly registering a query that how the hell did she come to know his whereabouts in the first place? He frowned wondering if his secretary had leaked the information. He made a mental note to give her a piece of his mind when he’d next see her in office.
“Yes, okay I know you are mad at me,” Khushi continued reading his facial expressions correctly but comprehending it wrongly. “I know I stepped over the line. But you were supposed to be available on the phone the whole time… that was rule no. 1!” she exclaimed, glaring at him.
Arnav suddenly looked visibly uncomfortable; as if he was the kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Uhm… I…” he stuttered clearly unable to come with a proper response. Just then, Anjali walked from behind him, clutching a jute bag and looking very happy with her exploits from the shop. Suddenly she stopped dead in her tracks and stared at Khushi who had not seen her join them.
Anjali’s gaze hovered over Khushi, and then followed to Arnav and then flitted back to Khushi, her expression shifting from mild confusion to gradual interest. When she realised that both her brother nor this pretty charming young girl were locked in their own entranced gaze thereby not noticing her presence, she cleared her throat audibly.
“Oh, yes. Yes,” Arnav suddenly blurted looking sideways at Anjali, her grunt having snapped him out of his reverie. “Uhm, this is my sister. Anjali Bhasin,” he said introducing Anjali. Khushi stared at her wide eyed just for a moment and as the realisation seeped in, her face lit up with a polite smile.
“Oh, Mrs. Bhasin. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you!” Khushi said, shaking Anjali’s hand, who looked surprised to hear that. Arnav too was looking at Khushi with confusion now. As far as he remembered, he had never talked to Khushi about his sister. What is she playing at?
“That is really sweet, thank you. Oh, and it’s just Anjali,” Anjali replied politely, smiling back at Khushi. Then she turned to look at Arnav with an inquisitive raised eyebrow.
“I do believe your brother has forgotten to complete the introduction,” Khushi continued smiling. “I’m Khushi Gupta. His thera-”
“My g…girlfriend!” Arnav butted in just before Khushi could finish.
The stunned silence that followed was enough to drown out the noise that was enveloping them. Khushi’s smile had disappeared to be replaced with a look of open mouthed bewilderment. Anjali too was looking utterly astonished at the prospect of his brother actually being in a functional relationship. Arnav suddenly realised what he had said and immediately kicked himself mentally.
“Your… girlfriend?” Anjali repeated faintly as soon as she got her senses back in place. “Since when do you have a girlfriend?” He smiled awkwardly back at his sister and shrugged.
“Uhm… It’s been close to… uhm… three weeks now,” Arnav invented wildly. “Right… sweetheart?” he asked Khushi who was still gaping at him.
“Huh? Whaa-?” Khushi’s incoherent answer was cut half way as Arnav quickly walked next to her and hugged her sideways, rendering her speechless once again.
“I’m sorry Di that I didn’t tell you anything about this today morning. I just wanted it to be a surprise,” he said. Anjali looked thrilled.
“Oh my God! This is why you wanted me “settled down” first. My brother has finally settled down!” she exclaimed happily. She quickly walked to Arnav and Khushi and engulfed both of them together in a bone crushing hug. Khushi hung awkwardly between the brother-sister duo wondering how in God’s name had she got into this situation. Not to mention, the anger that was rising slowly inside her for such an outrageous claim made by her client! Anjali let go of the “couple” with a beatific smile.
“I’m so happy for both of you!” she gushed and pinched Arnav’s cheek. Khushi smiled at Anjali in response, although it made her look as if she had toothache. “Okay, I’m going to go and get this billed and then all three of us are going out for dinner. I need to know everything. How did you two meet, who proposed to whom? Oh this is so exciting!”
Khushi’s brain finally kicked into action. “Oh no Mrs. Bhasin – Anjali,” she corrected herself immediately. “This… was… wonderful indeed, meeting you here. But I… I really can’t… I have… some work to finish. And this isn’t the best time,” she stuttered looking imploringly towards Arnav for help.
“Yeah Di. Khushi’s really busy. You know it’s a workday today and she needs to… well, go work,” Arnav added lamely. “And besides, we have that Exhibition to attend tonight. I have tickets already booked!” The sooner she could leave, the sooner he could steer Anjali away from this hell hole of a place and maybe do some damage control. Anjali pouted at both of them.
“Oh look at you two, party poopers,” she said looking down crest. Arnav and Khushi both shrugged their shoulders together and mumbled something inaudible about work being a pain and smiling at her at the same time. Suddenly, Anjali slapped her hands together and squealed.
“Oooh! I have the perfect plan! Khushi, let’s meet for lunch tomorrow!” Anjali gushed. “And yes, I get it you both are busy working people but you both obviously don’t work on Sundays right?” she laughed gaily. Khushi and Arnav exchanged a wary glance with each other. Arnav knew in his heart that he was not going to be able to worm his way out of this one. Khushi again started mumbling something but was instantly shot down by a wave of Anjali’s hand.
“Hush! I’m not listening to anything. We’ll have lunch tomorrow at our place and I’ll cook!” Anjali announced with a tone of finality in her voice.
“Okay,” Arnav and Khushi conceded together. Anjali flashed a victorious smile and caressed her hand lovingly on Khushi’s cheek looking positively elated.
“Okay,” she repeated. “I’m going to the cash counter to get the billing done. I’ll meet you outside in the car park.” Anjali suggested. Arnav nodded at her in response and with one final hug shared with Khushi and a dippy smile flashed at the duo, Anjali walked away muttering happily to herself.
The moment she was out sight and out of earshot, Khushi broke away from the hug and pushed away Arnav with all the might that her tiny hands could manage. He looked taken aback at her sudden violent reaction.
“What the-?” he started.
“GIRLFRIEND? I’m your girlfriend? Really Mr. Raizada?” Khushi hissed angrily. The people around them looked in their direction, distracted by her loud voice. Arnav looked around warily and then took Khushi’s arm in his and walked her away from the people. She immediately started protesting.
“Keep your voice down, Ms. Gupta! People will think I’m kidnapping you,” Arnav muttered disapprovingly. Khushi grunted in response.
“Well, I’d like to see you try!” she retorted caustically. Arnav pivoted her around on the spot making her crash onto his chest.
“I’m going to say this one time and I’ll say it nicely,” Arnav warned. “I don’t like people shouting at me. So don’t, okay?”
“Oh yeah? And how many of those people have you declared to be your girlfriends?” Khushi challenged back. That shut up Arnav for good. He suddenly noticed the proximity of their bodies to each other and releasing her arm, stepped away from her. Khushi rubbed the part where he had gripped her.
It was such a strange thing how the tables had turned instantly; from Arnav being mad at Khushi for turning up in front of his sister to now Khushi raging over him for his slip of tongue, the situation had taken a 180 degrees twist.
“I’m… I’m sorry, Ms. Gupta. I didn’t really think before speaking,” Arnav said. “I couldn’t let Di know that you are my anger management therapist. Nobody in my family knows about it.”
“Oh, so the easier way out is to tell her I’m your girlfriend?” Khushi countered incredulously.
“I told you I wasn’t thinking!” Arnav retorted, raising his voice. Khushi grinded her teeth.
“Oh no you don’t!” she pointed a finger at his face warningly. “You do not get to shout at me after making a mess of monstrous dimensions! Do you realise what can happen if someone heard your pretty little announcement? I could lose my frikkin job Mr. Raizada!” Khushi stomped off towards the parking lot alone.
Arnav stared at her retreating back and then looked heavenwards in exasperation. Finally, he trudged behind her. “Ms. Gupta!” he called out.
When she didn’t turn around, he caught hold of her hand and made her stop. Hearing a faint sniff, he walked to face her. To his utter surprise, she was crying!
“Oh God. I’m so sorry!” he said in an urgent voice, gently squeezing her shoulder. “Look, my sister is here just for this weekend. She will leave tomorrow night and you’ll never have to see her again! I promise. No one will find out about this. Please don’t be upset Khushi, please don’t cry,” he murmured softly.
“AAARGGH! I’m not crying because I’m upset! I cry when I’m angry!” Khushi retorted between her sobs, impatiently brushing the tears away.
“Oh.” Arnav muttered and awkwardly removed his hand from her shoulder. Just when he had thought he was getting a hang of the women species… Nope, turns out, I still have a lot to learn, he thought.
He fished out his handkerchief from the depths of his pocket and offered it to her in a gentlemanly gesture. Second time in two days – way to go Arnav! Khushi glared at him for a moment before taking it from him. After she seemed to have calmed down a bit, the two of them walked towards Khushi’s car.
“112358,” he said, once Khushi was strapped in the driver’s seat. “The code to my private elevator. You’ll need it when you come over tomorrow.” She merely nodded at him.
“Oh I forgot,” she suddenly said and handed over Arnav’s now soiled handkerchief to him. When she saw the disgusted look that came on to his face seeing it, she irritably added, “Never mind,” and pulled out of the parking slot.
Anjali pushed a trolley full of antiques wrapped in bubble sheet and gaily waved at Khushi as she drove by her.
“Chotay! Some help here?”
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