She drove in absolute silence, the car stereo uncharacteristically muted despite the fact that at this time of morning (or night depending on the kind of person one was) there would be only songs and no ads or annoying RJs on any of Bangalore’s radio channels. But then, it had also been an uncharacteristic move when Khushi had asked Raagini if she would lend her car for the weekend. To Raagini, it hadn’t been a question that needed any thought especially since she had been completely forbidden to drive on Bangalore’s non-existent roads after in her condition.

So here she was, at close to four in the morning, driving at the fastest speeds that Bangalore would ever deign to allow, heading towards the airport to meet – and surprise – Arnav Varun who was at this very moment on his way back from Los Angeles via Dubai. Of course, Arnav had no idea she was going to be at the Arrivals hall to meet him. She herself had no idea she’d be either brave or resourceful enough to arrange this little indulgence for herself as much as for him. It was during one traffic cribbing session in the office that the idea had come to her and refused to leave her side. One moment Raagini was claiming joyfully the happy side-effect of her bad back given it was keeping her away from losing her mind to traffic insanity. The very next moment brought with it the realization that Raagini’s eight month old hatchback was presently unused and uncontested for. It had taken twenty four hours for Khushi to fight and overcome inertia as old as she was – thankfully, her effort was lost on her friend.

The quiet in the car and the absolute stillness of the darkness outside, disturbed only sporadically by fellow airport-goers – presumably mostly those headed to meet clients, family or friends alighting from international flights, was a welcome respite from the mad rush of euphoria that had been her blood stream for the past forty eight hours. It had indeed a lot to do with the eagerness in Arnav’s own voice which Khushi had to admit had been its own brand of potent intoxication as she struggled to keep her mind focused on work. Khushi had finally been forced to wonder rather grumpily, why life couldn’t pause and let one enjoy the subtle seduction of a new romance. Now, with the weekend only just rolling in and bringing it with the man – once of her dreams, now of her reality; of her past once, her present now and of a possible future perhaps sooner than she’d imagined…

The thought brought the serenity in her head to a screeching halt as questions and doubts that she’d battled in many winning and losing wars came rushing back, ticking in her head like the blinking green turn signal on her dashboard. She had to actively push herself to ignore the negativity at a moment that deserved nothing but the love she carried in her heart and still refused to declare to he had been waiting for almost three and a half months now.

Thankfully, by the time she parked the car at the airport parking and made her way through the well-lit lot, now teeming with a host of inhabitants of the airport ecosystem – taxi drivers, airport shop owners, airport officials, security personnel and of course, receivers and travelers, nerves in her fingertips had been replaced with butterflies in her stomach.

———-

She still managed to jump when her phone started buzzing in her hands even as her eyes were trained on the continuous exodus of people through the doors. She was standing well behind the first line of defence that was the taxi drivers waiting with printed name boards and bored expressions, which meant that she found herself rising on her toes rather often to scan the exiting crowds. It was during one such tip up her toes that the phone started buzzing. An unfamiliar number flashed on the screen but she didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out it was Arnav.

Shiv-ji, she whispered as she watched her phone and stepped away from the noise. She didn’t even have his India number stored on her phone. How had so much changed in such little time?

“Hi,” She spoke into the phone as she answered the call and waited to hear his voice.

“Address.”

“I might have been sleeping, you know.” She quipped as she turned around to face the glass doors and craned her neck again to get a better look.

“That’s precisely why I am being pithy. Give me your address and I’ll let you get another hour of sleep.”

“I am surprised you didn’t ask Arjun for it.” She said even as her heartbeat quickened in anticipation. “Where are you?”

“Immigration.” He replied. “And I forgot. Rather Arjun Agarwal decided he had to take the first available flight out to God knows where without spending as much as half a second to even say mundane things like thank you.”

“He’s flying to Mumbai. I think…” She cleared her head. “Tripti is participating in some business pitch contest in one of the local b-schools before she can join work later this month.” The fact that Arjun was flying directly to meet Tripti first, the fact that Tripti still refused to talk to her about Arjun, the fact that…

“Damn!” Arnav’s swearing ended her little trip down Trip lane. “The line I am in has to be the slowest in the history of queues. The man is chatting with everyone like he knows them all on a first name basis.”

“Actually,” She chuckled at his atypical petulance. “He does know them on a first, middle and last name basis. I mean he could given…”

“Khushi,” He warned. “I am not in the mood, right now. Just give me your address and then go sleep. I will see you in an hour.”

“More like ninety minutes even if your luggage shows up quickly.” She countered, enjoying the fact that she was able to tease him so. “And don’t…you must be tired. Go home, freshen up and get some sleep. We can meet for lunch…”

“A public place meeting after two months. Not a chance.”

Uh-oh, she thought to herself with a small coy smile. Someone was going to be very disappointed. “Okay. I will text you my address as soon as I hang up.”

“Hmm. Looks like I might be able to get my passport stamped in this lifetime after all.” Arnav said softly. “See you soon. And…if you cannot go back to sleep, let me know. Fifty-two kilometers is a long distance to cover in anticipation. Talking might help.”

Khushi smiled. “Bye…” And then on an impulse she didn’t identify with herself, she spoke again. “Arnav, today’s song…”

“If it is not Mera piya ghar aaya, I’ll be very disappointed?”

She laughed out aloud, not even bothering to be surprised that he’d guessed correctly. “Bye.”

“Bye.”

——–

She saw him immediately, of course, completely undermining her worry of missing him in the ever increasing milieu around her. Even after an almost twenty hour journey, he looked as collected as anyone could. When she’d made the same trip, walking out of the airport had her dropping things, pushing away errant hair from her face, worrying about having left her phone on the airplane…in short she’d been a mess. And he…

She pulled out her phone and dialed his number. He answered immediately as he turned to walk towards the taxi hailing zone and she walked behind him, a good hundred metres and several people of varied shapes and sizes, separating them.

“I cannot tell you how glad I am that you aren’t able to go back to sleep.” He said, his voice a lot more relaxed than it had been twenty minutes ago.

“You woke me up. And you didn’t even apologize.” She pointed out as she continued to trail him.

“Nearly two months since we last saw each other, Khushi and sleep is what you crave? I am…”

“Ha!” She snorted. “Look who’s talking about sleep. I am neither the one who falls asleep after promising to meet by riversides nor the one who panics because he overslept and…”

“Ouch…that’s a sharp tongue you have, my love. I’ve missed it.”

She blushed and looked down as she quickened her pace. She couldn’t wait for him to turn around and look at her. Gosh, her heart was about to give out in the next five minutes if…

“Fuck! There’s a kilometer long queue for cabs.” He groaned. It amused her to no end that he was edgy as he seemed to be. “I hate this city. How did I ever think I missed it?”

“You are cursing. That must be one long queue.” Khushi stepped slightly to her left and realized he was right. The line of people was snaking all the way out of her line of sight into the distance where cabs were still nowhere to be seen. She smiled to herself. “I should have come to pick you up.”

“Hmmm…As nice as it would have been, it’s too ungodly an hour for anyone to make an airport pickup trip. Plus, you don’t have a car, do you?”

“I could have borrowed Raagini’s.”

“Hmm…No it’s good you didn’t. It’s…It’s just an hour extra.” His voice almost sounded disappointed. Like it was a thought that had never crossed his mind but one that now troubled him because it hadn’t been either evaluated or executed. “Plus, as I said, I am not ready to meet you in a place teeming with people. Not before I’ve had enough kisses to make me forget about every opportunity we’ve missed in the last two months.”

Khushi’s face flooded with warmth as her fingers tingled and her feet stumbled. He was…”Tch, tch.” She whispered hoarsely – what was the point of clearing her throat – he was going to make her blush again anyway. “I could have helped you carry that duty-free bag. It looks heavy.”

“A couple of bottles of…” He began and then stopped in his tracks. She knew then that her words had found their mark. She kept walking as she watched him turn around even as he continued to hold on to the trolley.

His eyes found her almost immediately. She saw his eyes widen as his hands left the trolley and he watched her in what had to be growing realization. A second later, he was walking towards her, his gait purposeful as much as hers had become tentative. In less than a few seconds, he was standing in front of her, his eyes scanning her face urgently, an unfamiliar flash of insanity glinting intermittently in his eyes as he stepped closer and put an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. “I thought you weren’t good with sur…” He didn’t allow himself the luxury of finishing that statement as his lips hovered over hers, brushing against them ever so slightly. It sent a shiver of longing down her spine and warmed her blood stream under her skin.

“I have to keep up, nah?” She whispered against his mouth as his right hand curved against her cheek and his thumb traced the bone of her jaw. She shivered and only partially because of the nip in the open airport air.

“This is torture, Khushi.” He replied as his lips moved to the corner of her mouth.

“Jo haal dil ka, idhar ho raha hai…” She answered with a smile and then breathed in deeply to step away from him.

He was smiling at her, one hand still curved around her waist as the other dropped and slide down her arm. “You just upped the ante, you know. Now this surprise thing is a thing. It’s going to get tricky.”

Khushi chuckled. “I think I’ve exhausted my lifetime supply of creativity. So I might as well concede defeat right away.”

With that they collected themselves and stepped away from each other, both wearing inexplicable smiles in her eyes as they rerouted their paths and walked towards Raagini’s car that was waiting in the parking lot.

The ride back was as peaceful as the ride to the airport was not. Silence in the car had been replaced with music that served as the right punctuation to a conversation that meant nothing and everything at once. Arnav insisted on Khushi taking the wheel as a result of which, it turned out to be Arnav asking questions and Khushi answering even as she battled the wave of awareness that seemed to crash against her as often as she found his eyes fixed on her. By the time they were walking into Khushi’s apartment an hour later, the symphony of distance had built up into a crescendo that eventually led to a battle of lips and tongues.  eventually will power that won over desire. Again.

———-

The streaming sun in her eyes seemed to want to remind her of something important. It couldn’t be the pinch of her tortoise shell frame against her nose – that had happened too often in the past. So, she smiled and closed her eyes again, it had to be the warmth of a beating heart next to hers. She turned her head to her left and opened her eyes again when the soft rush of his exhalation brushed against her cheeks. It wasn’t the first time they’d slept like this, in each other’s arms and still burning with unfulfilled desire. But there was something about the fact that this was her home, her room that was now permanently imprinted with his presence.

She rose slightly and bent her head to place a small kiss on his lips, softer than the brush of hair against skin. As she did, her wrists jangled with the feather-light clink of the delicate watch he’d bought her. Her first romantically intended gift – one she’d been thrilled and utterly devastated to receive. Clearly he was used to gifting delicate things to the women in his life. But her…she was big-boned and broad shouldered. Small silver dials suspended by minuscule links were not meant for women like her. No, she corrected herself, she couldn’t generalize. They weren’t meant for her specifically. The watch made her aware of how wearing it made no dent in her appearance except to persistently hammer at the smile that she plastered on her face when she opened the box.

She was a good actor though. She must have been given the sigh of pure joy that had escaped his mouth when he’d watched her put it on. It was in that moment, she remembered, that she had promised to come clean with him. Yes, she told herself again, she needed to speak to him and she needed to tell him that she was finally willing to do what she knew he deserved. That she had already started her journey and that as hard as it was, she would make it through. She’d battled her weight related insecurities all her life – she’d blamed every bit of unhappiness she’d felt over the years – real or imaginary – on the weighing scale. She’d gorged on food, precisely because she knew she shouldn’t. She’d used it as a crutch, as a wall, as her spear and mace, her tears and her smiles. She’d even let it make her believe that she didn’t deserve him – this man who didn’t seem to give a damn about it – well except…

She shook her head as if to clear it and gently made to step out of her hastily pulled up duvet when she felt a tug against on her shirt. That she fell clumsily, half on top of him with her hair falling all around their faces like a curtain of privacy they didn’t need at the moment, was no surprise. Of course he was awake. Of course he’d felt the kiss on his lips.

“Abhi na jaao chhod kar,” He whispered against her lips.

She smiled to herself. “Such a cliché.” She tsked, her blood buzzing with energy that was at complete odds with her verbal response.

He stared at her silently for a long second, his eyes still like they hadn’t been in the few hours they’d spent before sleep staked its claim on their sense. It was a moment of thick, unexpected discomfort – one again that was all her fault if she were honest to herself. Why did she do this? Surely there was a point when it stopped being coy and just plain hurt.

“Tell me you love me.” He said as his hands let her nightshirt go and curved around her waist.

Not for the first time, she curled her fingers into his T-shirt and prayed for the first moment for him to not be put off by the bulges that were curving into his fingers. She let the moment pass and breathed in deeply. “Five…”

“Tell me you love me.” He repeated, his voice gruffer and more insistent against her lips. “Or I am going to kiss the damned words out of you.”

“Tempting,” She teased, biting on anxiety that was spilling into her fingers. And then, more to stop herself from thinking and ruining everything, she dipped her head and kissed him, hard. She forced her way into his muffled groans, nipping at his lips with more force than she knew she was capable of. Just about the moment when her own strength began to worry her, she found herself pushed back against her pillow, his lips holding on to her mouth even as she was preparing to let go. He was kissing her like he meant every word of his warning. He kissed her like she’d never imagined herself being kissed at all. It filled her with joy and dread in equal measure. She was going to disappoint him. It was going to happen. Now. Today.

“I love you,” He reminded her as his mouth hovered over hers. “Tell me you love me…”

It was one time too many. And she heard the thread around her heart snap as it expanded in a rush before squeezing back into its shell painfully. “I do.” She whispered and then looked right into his eyes. “You know I do. I always have. I love you. I hate that as much as I love it. But I love you.” Her eyes prickled and her heart struggled against her teeth. “I love you.” She whispered again and closed her eyes.

“Khushi,” He called out a long moment later. There was no pleasure or joy in his voice – how could there be when there was none in hers? When she opened her eyes, his eyes were brimming with regret and bewilderment. And it was her fault. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to rush you…” He said softly.

“Didn’t you?” She asked, the words slipping out of her head sooner than she could rein them back in.

Damn! She had ruined it. Just as she’d known she would. She had ruined their bloody story.

She watched as hurt flashed in his eyes behind still glinting remorse. She waited as he let her go and pulled himself away from her, sitting up and allowing her to jump off the bed.

She had no idea what she was supposed to do or say now.

 

River Song, Music and Lyrics

Song Title: Cheeni Kum / Mandram Vantha

Album: Cheeni Kum / Mouna Raagam

Singers: Sherya Ghoshal / S.P. Balasubramaniam

Music: Ilayaraja

Lyrics: Sameer and Manoj Tapadia / Vaali

Khwaab rangeen hain, iss jahaan ke

Dekhle, dekhle, tu sajaake

Apne saaye se, tu nikalke

Dekhle, dekhle, tu badalke

Rangon ke hain mele, khushiyon ke hain rele

Dhadkan pe pehra kyun hai, kyun?

 

 

Notes:

  1. The two songs here, musically similar and lyrically quite different, came to me in a moment of pure inspiration. The Cheeni Kum version seems to suit the moment for Khushi but I’d like to think Arnav Varun would understand the Mandram Vantha just as much at this time (if he could understand Tamil, i.e.) Hope you like both!
  2. Next Update: Monday, Nov 20, 2017, late night IST

 

265 thoughts on “Chapter Twenty Six: In The Heat of the Moment

  1. I loved the fact that khushi went to go pick him up and the whole surprise.

    But khushi seriously has self confidence issues. I don’t know of she is truly going to overcome them as they are so deep rooted but until she does then it doesn’t look like their relationship will move past tgis stage. Khushi will always end up ruining the mood or moment. I guess she doesn’t still feel accepted by arnav…like she doesnt get how he has fallen for her. Maybe it is upto arnav to show khushi her self worth. If he succeeds….well that’s a different matter altogether.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. :):) I feel strangely comforted by that. Thank you :) {I’m having serious withdrawal symptoms. I was listening to an Udit Narayan playlist yesterday and I couldn’t. I had to turn it off. Sigh.}

      Liked by 7 people

      1. I was in a similar spot a few years ago. I wasn’t able to listen to any song from the six hundred odd ones in my playlist without itching to pass or turn it off. I remember because I was devastated. It was a list of all the songs I loved, I was supposed to be faithful to them! But I just couldn’t listen, even to my most favourite ones (The ones I’d previously never disgraced by pressing the next button while they played). Luckily for me, the feeling passed. Even now, when on some random days it returns for a particular song or two, I listen to some of the atrocities of recent times that are the remake/remixes of old Hindi songs which were perfect on their own. (Please tell me you feel it too and it’s not the fact that I’m getting old and jaded!). It never fails to make me appreciate things a little more.

        But as I was watching Hangover, without paying mind to the visuals as usual, I only wondered and laughed a little at my hopelessness. Two months back, this song would’ve been flicked away without a thought. And look at me now. :) This… for a song that was never in the Special List. So just imagine my condition for all the songs that were special already before you made them even more, Meera. I’m sure, it is even more potent for you.
        Thank you for these memories. No matter what the state, I only hope that feeling, that rush of them linking and scrolling through the mind screen as familiar notes power and play, never goes. Ever.

        PS: On Udit Narayan – there was this song from CID Moosa which he sang. When we first heard it I told my Mother that it was him- Udit Narayan, a Hindi film playback singer (one of the favourites), singing a Malayalam song.
        She refused to believe me, of course. I do remember we fought bitterly but I don’t remember who took up the vow of silence, first. And then after a few days, she found out that it was indeed him.
        I was 10 years old.
        It was, and still is, the proudest day of my life. :)

        Liked by 4 people

        1. I can’t believe i’m saying this, but I listen to sallu bhai’s songs with a certain fondness now, because of the river connection😄
          P.S: hello hi bye bye, thangal malayali aano, engil namaskaaram🙏🏼

          Liked by 5 people

      1. It would be nice if we just moved forward in a nice straight path, worrying about only now and tomorrow. But life has us going in circles, taking us back every now and then to where we started, teaching us some humility, right. I feel for Khushi. If one would expect her to just roll with it, it would be highly pompous yeah? Ten years or even five is a long time. I’m sure you revisit pasts like this until it’s just another story you don’t remember. There’s a grand canyon wide gap between them in terms of emotional strength and stability. There are some gaps that Arnav can never close, especially ones that are a result his doing (hopefully they will find humor in their shared pain eventually), and there are others he can fill with his love, tenderness, and confidence. It’ll be interesting how he helps her slay her demons. For someone who seems tone deaf (and blind) about her glaring insecurities, it must come as a blow to know the depth of it, and stunned to know how the people in her life unknowingly pushed her to a sedentary existence.

        It’s still Sunday here and I’m proud of I could deliver. And no worries, before you say anything about not feeling obliged to write something, I’ll say I love writing a little note for your selfless effort. This gets better and better Meera. Can’t tell you how much I love this stage. The excitement of knowing your lover in very basic ways, steps they were denied in the past. And then the past still catching up to knock the wind off them, making them gasp and yet forcing them to not veer too off course. They know what they have, they just need to find ways to preserve it. But dang it, she couldn’t hold it for 5 months…he is most definitely high handed…grrr…

        Happy Week 🤗🤗

        ” Love arrives
        and in its train come ecstasies
        old memories of pleasure
        ancient histories of pain.
        Yet if we are bold,
        love strikes away the chains of fear
        from our souls.

        We are weaned from our timidity
        In the flush of love’s light
        we dare be brave
        And suddenly we see
        that love costs all we are
        and will ever be.
        Yet it is only love
        which sets us free.

        – from Touched by an Angel by Maya Angelou

        Liked by 4 people

  2. Ahaaaa what a lovely surprise by khushi -I am happy that she has done it for Arnav – she is fighting and trying her best for Arnav
    I loved the Mera piya ghar aaya part and khushi pulling arnav’s Legs on the sleeping part – I was grinning when I read that –
    Happy to know that my Arjun has rushed for tripti’s contest – hope I will get to read about them soon meera – I miss Arjun
    Coming to the I love you part – I don’t want to judge both of them and their actions –
    Loved the update thoroughly meera – songs were amazing – Mouna ragam is my all time favorite- all the songs are amazing- nilaave vaa tops the list followed by this song.
    Thank you meera for this amazing update – will wait for 20th.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just caught up with last 3 chapters… sorry for going mia but life is going very hectic…
    amazing updates.. loved khushi’s surprise to arnav.. but i think she needs to remove this insecurity from her mind.. arnav truly loves her.. hope they will talk about it…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s reunion after 2 months separation. Their reaction to each other and the surprise of her visit letting him know how much she missed being in his presence. But the insecurities of her finally rears its head. If she thinks she’s the only one with insecurities in their relationships she’s completely wrong. Even he’s his own package. He’s trying not to make the same mistakes he made with Saira. So he’s being expressive about his feeling for Khushi and want to hear the same from her. In her own insecurities she’s fail to notice his. One thing is for sure they do best when express their feeling with borrowed lines. Because both of them suck at the real one😅. Best he would have used
    Meri soni meri tamana song

    Even now it’s not late for Khushi to use.
    Loved both the river songs. Mount ragaam is my all time favorite.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. New look to the page? <3

    Wah! Khushi had taken an effort to surprise AV! Loved it!

    ^^ These words were typed last week! I had more to say, but some emergency came up with my boys, and then a week flew by! -_-
    I'll comment on the next update..
    P.S. : Totally agree with Mandram vanda…. one of the golden hits! <3

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Song selections superb Meera….Though the romance made my heart yearn painfully, it was beautifully written… I can totally understand how much courage Khushi had to drum up to plan and execute such a surprise….and the last part, you left it a cliffhanger…didn’t you? Sigh! Love is a pain in the ass! I loved the way you penned down the tug of war Khushi undergoes with her emotions and thoughts…That’s brilliantly presented…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The title was so misleading Meera. You have your way of teasing darling. Khushi’s surprise appearance at the airport was infact very surprising to say the least. I am really glad that she is making those little attempts at making such memorable moments. I guess the much needed conversation between the two will follow next. Although I was disappointed with Khushi’s reaction at the end, I am happy that she will now share with Arnav what she has battled her entire life and probably Arnav’s assurance will help her. It’s better they get over with this at the earliest.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Khushi’s pleasant surprise to Arnav was really something..

    Arnav says I love u n hopes to get her say the same..
    Something is holding Khushi too ..

    Can’t wait to see them not holding back anything..

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Khushi thinks too much and gets herself into trouble. But human psychology is complicated. Even though it is what we want to do, if someone says the same thing we don’t like it. She was prepared to say I love you to him anyway. But, when Arnav asked/insisted, the outcome was something entirely different.
    But I loved Khushi’s surprise visit to the airport. That was a pleasant surprise to Arnav.
    Cheers……

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mera piya GHAR aaya
    Jo haal dil ko
    Abhi naa jao chod kar
    AV is much more filmy than all of us fandom
    Kh has to have the talk before they proceed with their Prem kahaani
    They will overcome her fear with the help of AV, I am sure

    Like

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