Arshi FF : Without You

without you: chapter 22

and i, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
i wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on a wind.
~~~ pablo neruda, poetry ~~~

she stood by the dark still pool. no breeze in the air tonight, ripples didn’t chase each other across the surface.
 
yet a storm rose in her, tossing her sense of peace, lashing into her; and in its violent whirling winds she heard his voice, only his voice, raw, smiting, riven… its shards tore at her.
 
“that I LOVE YOU dammit!”
 
she heard again the angry, raging words that made her wince each time. for she could hear what lay beneath the anger, the frustration, the fury.
 
she could hear the hurt. a terrible terrible hurt. and she was the cause of it. khushi swallowed, feeling wretched.

in all the months they’d been together in their strange, compelling yet impossible to harness in words relationship, never had he ever even looked at her in a way that crossed a line. the cleanest of anger, the purest of nafrat, the deepest of love, but not a hint of anything impure, anything unworthy, lascivious, unclean, ugly.

even while he hated her, he never let anyone cast a wrong eye upon her. her shield, her protector, her husband.

standing right here he had told her he hated her… and she had hurled back, she hated him too… you are not capable of being loved… but her heart had known even then… she was only lying.

and it had hoped, perhaps he was lying too?

yes, he had thrown her out right here, khushi looked around remembering, here on the poolside, banished her from his room, and stayed up nights watching her sleep on the flagstones. he hurt himself more when he tried to hurt her.

arnav ji, where are you… come back, please.
 
khushi walked back into the room and looked at the bed. flowers, just look at those lovely flowers…

no, she who thought she understood people, feelings, who valued these things, certainly more than money… she had not understood. when he had wanted her so much, when he’d rushed her to come up to their room after the puja, when he had stomped scowling downstairs and in front of everyone commanded her to hurry up.
 
her laad governor, he didn’t like being kept waiting. but for her how long he had waited…
 
khushi’s eyes shimmered with tears. why had she not realized? why had she let everything get to her so much? why had she let dadi ji’s arch comments, her unnecessary jibes and taunts affect her like this? hadn’t arnav ji held her hand in front of his grandmother and said where she was not welcome, he didn’t believe he had a place either. she was his patni, his wife.
 
khushi’s heart almost exploded when she recalled that moment. she respected her elders as did he, but dadi ji had been a conundrum, refusing to have anything to do with khushi from the moment she stepped into shantivan. constantly berating and questioning her every move, her very place in the family.

for years, ever since her son’s death, subhadra malik had lived in an ashram and met no one from her family. then after almost 14 years, the day after rakhi, she had come to shantivan.
 
she had been most upset to hear shyam ji had been thrown out while di was pregnant, shyam ji’s truth somehow did not seem to matter to her. and of course, dadi ji had not taken to her at all.

khushi sighed. she had let everything get on top of her. even that silly contract marriage. it didn’t bother her anymore, not really, but when arnav ji used it to keep her from leaving shantivan, she had suddenly felt fragile, naked. she knew she was his wife and he her husband, her heart told her that, his eyes never let her forget it, uff arnav ji really. so why did he talk about that piece of paper? khushi frowned. she had been so wounded that night he’d suddenly flung it at her…

she toyed with her mangalsutra unconsciously, missing him, his words echoing in her, filling her with remorse. and funnily, a thrill.

he loves me, she thought, he loves me and that is all that matters…

she felt a lilt of happiness at the thought of the man who was her husband. she wanted to run to him and hold him in her arms, but he had left… and if she knew him at all, he was out on the road, driving. she hoped he’d find some peace soon… and return to her.

come back, arnav ji… i need you… i want you…

why dadi ji disliked her she didn’t know. and she’d tried not to let it get her down. yet somehow it did make her feel tense and unsure, kept her on edge. arnav ji had been teasing her a lot lately and making her so aware of him, no doubt trying to ease her discomfort…

she so wanted to be happy with him. no, she corrected her thoughts, happy or sad or anything, she wanted to be with him. only him.

it was janmashtami today, and when she had come upstairs at last and he’d thrust a packet at her telling her it was a gift from him, she’d been surprised. then she found a dreamy dark pink and red lehenga inside and felt a rush of anticipation. he wanted her to wear it and show him… but where was the dupatta?

she’d come out of the dressing room in the beautiful lehenga choli, shy and vulnerable, peering at him from behind the door. what was that light in his eyes as he looked at her!

khushi shivered as she remembered his eyes. all the irritation had disappeared, instead a maddening heady possessiveness and love gleamed in them. she wanted to go to him, belong to him.

oh but she did belong to him, didn’t she.

her lips had trembled as she breathed in the feeling. then she saw the bed with its strands of rajani gandha and rose, pristine white petals nestling against flaming red velvet… petals and flowers were strewn across the bed… how beautiful… but… why…

and she’d looked into his eyes, he seemed to be waiting for something. that’s when she understood, he hadn’t been joking about the suhag raat.

khushi’s legs almost turned to water, how… hey devi maiyya… when she’d told him, it was sad that they hadn’t had proper pheras, he had asked her about the customs and rites of marriage. after hearing the long list of things to be done, he’d looked at her in acquiescence and said, he was happy to do all that just to please her, but… they would start with the suhag raat.

she was about to tell him that came right at the end, way after the all the traditions, especially the pheras and havan, when she’d seen his eyes. he was again teasing her.

she’d made a face and walked off, she could hear the low rumble of his laughter behind her.

but now he stood in front of her and his face had never been more serious. in his hand she saw the dupatta that had been missing from the ensemble. as she watched, he stepped up to her looking at her all the while and held her hand, he pulled her gently toward the bed. his eyes had a note she’d never seen before. he drew her to the centre of the room and stopped. there he turned her to face the mirror, then with something close to almost reverence, he lifted the diaphanous dupatta and with a curious sombreness placed it on her head.

he was tender, careful, precise.

if you make me your husband, he’d told her once, i wouldn’t mind. he seemed to want her, to make her his, not take her for granted, not force, coerce or demand.

she felt an intimacy in the moment that made her want to weep almost. she stared at him, willing to go with him wherever he led. he returned her gaze silently and then the sweetest embrace. she stood motionless, her suhag raat was here… after more than six months since that night they got married, devi maiyya and fire as their witness. when the winds had sung the mantras and the bells listened… when he had touched her parting with angry vermillion and tied her to him forever with a brusquely thrust mangalsutra.

she let her head rest against his, he picked her up in his arms and took her to the flower bedecked bed, laying her down ever so gently, yet she could feel his bated anticipation. in her she could feel a sudden frisson of fear and worry mixed with excitement. her heart was hammering, her head felt jammed. she wished she knew a little more about these things. what was she supposed to do!

she looked up at arnav ji’s face as he lay down by her side, he lifted a hand and stroked her cheek with the lightest touch. he was trying to put her at ease she knew. yet at that touch, something inside her unshackled.

she began to struggle, he was taken aback, concerned.

“khushi? you okay, baby?” he asked in that incredibly tender way of his.

she couldn’t bear it, she leapt out of bed and said, “no, arnav ji, i can’t…” and as he looked on astounded, taken aback, nothing quite registering, she blurted out perhaps the most hurtful thing of all, “we are not married properly, you are not my pati… i am not your patni.”

khushi’s hand gripped her mangalsutra tight as she remembered the harshness in her voice and the shock on his face. and the destruction of a moment almost sacred in their room.

unable to bear the accusation and the hint of illicit liaison in her voice, he turned to his ally in all difficulties… anger. he lost his temper. gussa came in to give denouement to the night, for love was suddenly lost in a forest of fears and dense misgivings.

“we aren’t married properly? you are not my wife! then what are you doing living with me in my home all this while… what is needed to make this marriage “proper” in your eyes? tell me, khushi!!” he was shouting at the top of his voice.

“but we haven’t had pheras and…” before she could finish, he’d dragged her by the hand up the stairs to the terrace. his rage flew all around him, there was heat in the air… and as she stared scared and horrified, he broke a couple of wooden stools, poured fuel on them, and struck a match.

the flames gushed up, he turned to her and lifted her in his arms with a harsh movement… then he started circling the fire.

“okay, here are your pheras… go on, take them with me… will this make you feel you are my wife!!! if this is all it takes…” he was beside himself with anger.

she whimpered and struggled in his arms. hysteria rose and engulfed everything. she pushed hard at his chest and managed to free herself.

“how can you do this!” she screamed, “why are you like this? why does nothing mean a thing to you? kissi cheez ka kyun koi matlab nahin, arnav ji? kyun?? if traditions, customs, rituals, nothing matters… what does matter?”

he stood quiet, seething, his nostrils flared, his breath was hot, she could see his eyes were glowing, an insane fire in them…

(why does nothing mean anything, arnav ji? why??)

“tell me!!!” she couldn’t stop her rant, “what matters then… kis cheez ka koi matalb hai?!”

(what has any meaning then?)

his eyes bore into hers, he lunged forward and gripped her shoulders, and shook her as he said into the fire, the heat, the darkness, the light…

“that I LOVE YOU dammit!”

the decibel blew her mind, and as the words started to seep in, their meaning slowly filtering… her heart began to run amok.

she stared in anguish at him…

he had already left her and started walking away.

khushi walked into her bedroom from the poolside remembering every detail of what had just transpired. arnav ji, where are you, her every step asked. please come home… come back to me, said her breath.

***

“khushi!!!” asr called out again, but the little room by the dhaba was silent, there was no sound from the courtyard outside either.

fear began to rise rapidly, threatening to choke him. the last time he’d felt like this…

he was running down the corridor, the shehnais played, di was looking lovely but now there was trouble in her eyes. something was badly wrong, he had to be there. maa… if only he could run faster, be there. somehow.

asr whirled around and came pelting out of the room, down the steps and out onto the road again… she must be here somewhere.

he began running down the road, looking around… “khushi!!” “khushi!” “khushiii!” he called again and again.

he dashed into the woods by the path; among the trees, he searched; was she sitting in a ditch and eating pakodas? he shook his head to clear his mind… maybe that ridiculous thought came along just to save him from the panic that was impossible to contain now. his hands had gone icy cold, there were prickles swarming up his legs… on the back of his neck the hair stood.

he knew he’d find her bangles before he actually saw them. they were lying right in front of the gate of the dhaba compound. in the late afternoon sun, the curved pieces of glass shone and gleamed… cobalt blue.

he closed his eyes, this agony… she was wearing blue today. and she had struggled with someone right here… trying to wriggle her arm out of a grasp… and escape?

khushi was grappling with someone? she was in danger?

he thought he’d stopped breathing.

***

she glanced at the folds of dark pink and red silk against her skin, he had chosen colours he knew she liked… she wanted to dress for him, she wanted to be beautiful for him suddenly.

arnav ji, i want to wear your colours today.

she yearned to be merged in his shades tonight, feel his hues, be part of him in every way. she wanted to take that terrible hurt away, tell him, he it was… he alone that mattered to her too… nothing else. ever… only he.

what colour should i wear, she wondered… the water outside rippled ever so lightly, “black” it seemed to say.

a jet black chiffon saree with the narrowest edging of silver sequins lay in her wardrobe, he had bought it for her on her birthday, and she had refused to wear it. oh why was nothing ever uncomplicated between them…

she took it out now and stroked the sheer, sensuous fabric. how soft and floaty it felt against her fingers. she pulled off her lehenga and with care draped her saree, she put on the silk and chiffon blouse with its low (too low, she had said when he had given it) back and satin dori strung with tiny little black beads.

she opened her hair and brushed it till the auburn sparkled and it fell in a swathe across her back, up to the gentle rise of her hips. a little kajal highlighted her hazel eyes, a glimmer of dusty rose pink was all she wanted on her lips, and a tiny sparkling bindi on her forehead. she wore the long elegant diamond earrings he had given her along with the six simple bangles studded with glittering diamonds. finally, she slipped around her waist a sleek silver chain, it fell across her naval and tickled her a bit. she shivered, giggling.

“khushi! khushi! where are you?” he called out…

arnav ji liked simple lines, solid colours, minimum fuss. he had told her never to change though she loved things that possibly made him cringe. she thought of her shiny gota, her multicoloured churidar kurtas, her bright palate, pompoms, embroidered mojris, mirror work jhola bags…

and she missed him till her whole body almost shook with the longing.

where are you? come back to me, said the swirl of her long chiffon pallu.

***

“khushi! khushi! where are you?” he called out…

she was running between the pillars of sheesh mahal… they were all so tall, so wide… and wasn’t that maa behind one of them? khushi’s lehenga swished and swirled as she moved, she was running toward him, her arms outstretched, she was smiling, but there were tears running down her cheeks… then there was a sound… a gun shot… he had to stop the bullet… the pillars started moving… khushi!!! maa…

he realized he was panting audibly, sweat covered his face, his neck, his shoulders…

he also realized panic could cost him, them, all of them. and khushi needed his mind to work right now, not his emotions to go haywire.

“yeh tumne kya kar diya mere saath, khushi” he thought, wishing he could pull her into his arms right now. he was the man of dimaag… who smiled sardonically at talk of dil and love and the one girl who will make your heart race. when did all that change? when did dil begin to make such a headway in him? arnav singh raizada… hadn’t he said, “asr ke seene mein nahin hai dil”? but khushi, she just wouldn’t listen, would she? she had to make him find his heart and then make it race at this ridiculous pace. “khushi!” he breathed out on her name, feeling her in her syllables and consonants.

(what is this you’ve done to me, khushi?)
(there’s no heart in asr’s breast.)

arnav smiled ruefully and picked up his phone. he would talk to sheila chatterjee, he had a hunch he knew who was behind this. but how, that was the question.

“hi arnav” sheila sounded worried, “i was about to call you, i have just been informed that shyam managed to get some time off from tihar, said he wanted to get married…”

“what!” asr whipped out.

“i know, i know, arnav, but you know the state of things in delhi… don’t you… he seems to have connections, some minister’s son came to pick him up from jail…”

“no no, i am sorry, sheila… khushi is missing, and i had a feeling… thanks, you’ve been of great help…” asr was about to disconnect when he heard sheila chatterjee say, “arnav, let me know if i can do anything… where are you? should i send…?”

“sheila, i have to go… but in case i need help, my assistant aman will be in touch… thanks again,” he rang off swiftly and dialled captain raina’s number.

“captain? i need to get to lucknow… now. i think it’s best we use the chopper. pick me up, i’m sending the coordinates…”

***

he came back almost two hours later, he let himself in quietly and was making his way in the dark to the walk in wardrobe, when he saw a movement from the corner of his eyes. he turned swiftly thinking there was an intruder, his eyes scanned the bed quickly, he wanted to make sure she was alright, but she wasn’t there… where…?

he felt a weight on his shoulder and spun around. a gust of wind came up from nowhere and a gossamer light touch caressed his face, a fragrance wafted in the air… he inhaled instinctively and closed his eyes. then he opened them, mystified.

khushi was standing in front of him, her skin ivory in the moonlight, highlights of auburn shone in her hair where the light from the poolside fell, lights seemed to sparkle on her ears, her arms, her forehead, and she was wrapped in the colour of the night… black.

black chiffon.

the fabric he could never resist. she was wearing the saree he had given her.

arnav looked at her in the near darkness of their room, and longed silently for her. but he did nothing… she had been vehement earlier, it had driven him to a painful place inside… had she said she was not ready he might have understood, but in her words was a suggestion of impropriety… asr couldn’t bear that… ever since pita ji… 

he was tired after hours spent driving around the city, trying to come to grips with the tumult. at last he had calmed down and he knew what had to be done.

he started to turn away.

and just at that moment, the first strains of music filled the room…

it was a song he didn’t know… in hindi… he stopped and slowly turned back.

she had lifted one arm and was softly swaying to the beat. her bangles glinted with every move of her arm. as he watched she turned in a graceful circle and lifted her other arm, then she floated into a dreamlike dance… gliding, pirouetting, her arms describing languid arcs and waves, her body light and ethereal… there was something transcendent about it all…

he gazed captivated.

she was dancing for him. she was trying to tell him something… he knew what it was perhaps or maybe he didn’t… he could feel his heart beat pick up pace. and in the centre of his being a dark passion begin to stir. he breathed in deeply, not saying a word.

she twirled in slow languorous motion around him and came closer… the words of the song started to register…

how strange, she had chosen a song sung by a man… there was a beautiful plaintive sound in the singer’s voice, he could feel the pain, the imploring, even before he could make sense of the words…

“apne karam ki kar adaayein
kar de idhar bhi tu nigaahein”
(do what you are supposed to do
turn your gaze this way too)

khushi twirled, her arm arcing…

“sun raha hai na tu…”
“you’re hearing me, aren’t you..”

something in the singer’s voice seemed to pierce his heart… he almost jerked at the impact. khushi had stopped right in front of him and was looking at him with her large hazel eyes, a thousand emotions in them… he wanted to name each one yet he knew they were all called by just one word… the only word that meant anything to him at some unknown unseen level.

“roh raha hoon main…”
“i am crying…”

the singer reached up and out with a cry from his soul.

asr felt anguish rise in him. khushi! he reached out urgently and caught her and pulled her into his arms, holding her tight, crushed against his heart. he buried his face in her hair and breathed in, a sense of khushi swirling gossamer light around him, in him.

“no, my darling… you don’t have to cry, you don’t have to apologise… it’s okay, it’s okay…” he crooned tenderly as he rocked her.

she let her arms slide around him. she had no idea what she was doing really… she didn’t know how to tell a man, tell arnav ji, things like this, so she had…

“why didn’t you choose a song from your salman ji’s film?” he whispered teasing her, “you were feeling shy, my sweetheart?” she nodded against his chest. he hugged her closer.

“do you know i love to watch you dance?” his voice was so loving and gentle she thought she’d start weeping.

“i admit it is an unconventional way to start a suhag raat… ek… baar… phir,”  he was laughing, but there was only happiness in his voice.

(a… gain)

“and black is not exactly the colour in which a bride comes to her husband… but, ” his voice grew a little seductive, as he brushed his lips against the hollow of her neck, “if it’s not completely unconventional, a little bit pagal and absolutely cute, how would it be khushi?”

(if it’s not completely unconventional, a little bit crazy and absolutely cute, how would it be khushi?)

khushi’s hand slid up his back and she stroked his neck, then tugged him slightly toward her…

“are you asking me to…?” he narrowed his eyes, flirting with his wife… and let his lips clamp down on hers. he kissed her slow and long, nibbling, biting, tasting, teasing. she stood on tiptoe, straining against him, telling him with her arching back, her willing lips, her hungry hands, things she could not say to him.

at last he lifted his head and said, “did you call me when i was away… did you say, please come home, come back to me? and then did you ask me, what colour should i wear?”

“and you said, black…” khushi replied with a curious smile.

“you heard me?” he stroked the curve of her innocent childlike cheek.

“hamesha…” she touched his cheek, feeling his impeccably groomed stubble, as she felt peace returning to her.

he laughed again, “hum log kitne…”

she finished his sentence, “ajeeb hain?”

(he said: we are so…
she completed: strange?)

his lips started lifting in a familiar lopsided smirk. she remembered the very first time she’d seen that smile and her heart had gone on a giant wheel ride… she had put mango juice in his shoes that morning and he’d squelched all the way downstairs busy on his blue tooth, completely oblivious of the juice gushing out of his shoes… mami ji and di had ragged him a little, had his childhood habit returned?

khushi giggled at the memory… then blushed.

he picked her up in his arms and lay her down on the bed. she felt the petals soft and moist against her skin, on her back, her waist, her neck… a strangely arousing sensation.

asr lay down beside her and looked at her, “are you scared, khushi?” he asked.

khushi buried her face against him. her ears were going red now. and she could feel all sorts of strange new yearnings racing inside, every part of her body seemed to have something to say. she lay still.

“i won’t hurt you, baby… i promise… trust me?” he was serious and loving in a way she had never seen him.

his eyes fell on her skin shimmering beneath a layer of sheer black chiffon, he pushed the fabric aside and let his hand slip over her stomach, her naval. khushi’s muscles went taut and she swallowed hard. his brown calloused hand roamed her ivory white delicate middle, he was looking for the clasp of the chain she wore on her waist, he found it and opened it, removing the ornament. he leaned over and kissed her just above her naval, she shivered involuntarily.

one by one he removed all her jewellery. he gently nipped her ear after removing one ear ring, the bangles came off and he turned her arm to kiss her on the wrist where a pulse beat fast and erratic. he brushed his cheek against her soft inner arm.

he turned her till she faced away from him… then she felt his lips on her scapula, just where the black dori started from her sculpted black choli. he kissed her shoulder, the hollow of her back and all the way to the other side along her dori… the tenderest kisses that seemed to say i am sorry, seemed to say i love you, seemed to say i am going crazy just wanting you…

khushi arched her back, giving him the “yes” he sought. he pulled the string and slowly took the blouse off. shyness overcame khushi. she crossed her arms over her bare chest and lay with her back to him.

when he didn’t turn her toward him, she was surprised… where was he? she felt his hands on her shoulder, they were reassuring and firm, she allowed them to raise her up and sat quietly facing him… he lifted her chin with fingers that were gentle and featherlight, and made her see him.

his shirt was gone, he was wearing only black pyjamas. his chest rose chiselled lean and strong, muscles and sinew crested and fell across his bare torso and arms. bones were etched against stretched skin, sweeping collar bones, tantalising angles and planes of the shoulder, the ribs, the wrist. he was so beautiful, she forgot her shyness, her arms dropped to her lap revealing her firm lovely breasts.

asr looked at her breasts sitting absolutely still. in the moonlight, the shadows and rise of her breasts looked pearlescent… a vulnerable expression came over his face… he was no stranger to sex, but had he ever made love before… it seemed to him he had never seen such perfection in his entire life… he felt a gratitude he hadn’t ever, a joy he couldn’t describe.

he slid down to the floor and knelt before her, looking at her with such wonder she could do nothing but just stare at him, all her longing, her desire, her acceptance in her eyes.

still kneeling, he put his arms around her waist and laid his head on her lap…it felt as though this is what he had longed to do all his life… this is the moment he had waited to arrive forever. a sukoon, a peace he hadn’t felt in years came over him.

she bent forward and drew him up, and took him in her arms, their bodies at last touched… her firm taut skin, gentle and soft against his toned, hard, crisp maleness… the springy hair on his chest tickled her downy skin…

she kissed him smack on the mouth and in a slightly sanka infected voice whispered, “hum bhi aap se i love you dammit!”

(i also love you dammit.)

asr smiled at the bundle of madness that had descended upon him in a pool one sunny morning. he grabbed her in his arms and lay down on the bed…

“show me!” he murmured and started to take off her saree.

they made love again and again, hungrily, without shame or embarrassment, through the night.

***

the chopper took off in an arc from a field near the dhaba. asr sat looking grimly ahead. he wondered what new plan shyam had come up with…

the phone rang, it was di…

***

next morning, he took her by the hand and marched into the living room where everyone was sitting. even before they’d reached he was calling out, “di! di! nani ji… dadi ji… mami… i would like to marry khushi again, with pheras and every ritual she would like, please will you start making the arrangements.”

while khushi stared at him jaw dropping, nani ji and di smiled with sheer happiness. payal got up and ran to khushi giving her a tight hug… she was so happy for her little sister, khushi had gone through too much, and all for her sake.

mami ji muttered with a cheeky smile, her upsized jewellery jangling, her head shaking and hands echoing every uttered word, “hain arnav bitwa! you becomings phamily man… no longer the daalhi’s hattest bachelors, now he wanting to marry, not one one times but two two times… after aall he eej arnav singh rajadaa. hello hi bye bye.”

(oh my arnav! you’re becoming a family man… no longer delhi’s hottest bachelor, now you want to marry, not just once, but twice… after all, he’s arnav singh raizada! hello hi bye bye.)

***

“chhotey, how are you? everything alright?” for some reason anjali had felt extremely restless today, she wanted to hear chhotey’s voice.

“haan, di!” asr had to shout over the chopper’s hum… “all ok,” he lied.

“oh! okay… take care then, and give khushi ji my love.. woh theek hain na?” she sounded anxious.

(she’s okay, isn’t she?)

“yes di…” asr tried to sound nonchalant.

***

they were sitting by the poolside on the bare floor arms around each other.

“khushi” he murmured.

“hmm?”

“i know you want a proper wedding, so we shall have one, but i wanted to give you something here, where there’s no one else, but us… and our…” he looked up and pointed at the stars…

she looked at him wondering, a little smile playing on her lips.

“just wait,” he said getting up gracefully and walking into the room.

he came a few minutes later and sat down next to her. in his hand were two beautiful gold bangles.

he held out his hands and she placed hers in them.

“khushi, these are my mother’s kangans, she had wanted my wife to have them, to wear them… will you be my mother’s bahu and wear them, khushi, for me?”

the tears came to khushi’s eyes without any notice, he slipped the bangles onto her arms, one on each, then he held both her hands and kissed them.

he pulled her to him and they sat there by the water where so much had happened in their lives, looking up at the twinkling stars.

they both felt now they had khushi’s parents and arnav’s mother looking down on them, loving them, blessing them, protecting them.

INDEX

without you chapter 23

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