Here is Chapter 32. Once again sorry for the delay. Busy in the last minute edits of the book. BTW I would be very very grateful if you go here and comment. Please, if you love these stories then please take out a minute and help me. As a first time writer all this is going to be very helpful for me. ANd I would keep you updated with what is happening on publishing front, the book covers, formats, give aways etc. It would be really awesome to share this new journey with all of you, my first readers. 🙂
Chapter 32: If Autumn comes….
‘Bhai…Khushiji is here. Talk to her,’ Akaash said suddenly.
The next voice was hers. ‘Arnavji.’ Khushi. How long since he had heard her. Arnav took a deep breath and closed his eyes. The noise of traffic, the whirr of the car faded. Her words fell like a rain on his parched heart and he soaked in them ‘Are you.. are you ok?’
He swallowed working his mucles, trying to respond.
‘Arnavji,’ she seemed breathless.
‘Khushi…shhh. I am ok.’ He heard her take a deep breath. Was she worried about him? Why did the words not come to him when he needed them so much. He wanted to ask …so much. Did she ever miss him…like he did, every single second? Did she think of him kindly…was there…..Was she…will she ever be ready to come back? The questions jumbled up in his mind, words twisted around. And they were all encompassed in the words that fell from his mouth, involuntarily.
‘I love you, Khushi.’
He never meant to say them…never meant to weigh her down with his feelings.
She did not reply. Was she….Had he been too fast. Did she not like it? Did she still not believe? The thought…her silence it wounded him with each passing second. Perhaps it would be best if they did not talk till she….till she came to a decision. Arnav disconnected, taking a deep breath to ease the pain somewhat. It did not help.
Khushi handed back the phone in a daze. Her heart beat a dull staccato. The memories which had been playing a truant for last one year now returned with a vengeance. Scotland trip, new deal, days without any news and then one phone call.
‘Scotland,’ she whispered. ‘Why is he going to Scotland, jeejaji?’
‘For business, Khushi,’ Akaash answered. ‘It’s ok. I booked the tickets myself. He is going to be fine.’
‘But…but then…why…why did he disconnect…why did he not speak to me earlier? Did not message.’
‘Khushiji…’ Akaash put a consoling hand on her shoulder.
But the words were lost. Behind them, Anjili sat on the couch with a thud, her eyes bearing a haunted look.
‘Khushiji is right, Akaash. We should not have left him alone. He…he is going to Scotland. I should have stayed back.’ Anjili wrung her hands, her worried eyes moved from Akaash to Khushi. ‘He is not well…and he is unhappy. He isn’t looking after himself…The last time he went…what if?’
‘No,’ Khushi whispered.
This couldn’t be happening. She couldn’t let it happen…There was so much she had to say. So much to tell him….They…they had a life …a life to live. Together.
The answer emerged clearly…an answer to all her questions, his questions –the answer, in all its beautiful simplicity. That they were meant to be together.
And now the cycle of time was turning again, ready to take away her happiness. Why, Oh why had she been so stubborn? Why did she delay so much? Two months! Had it been that long since she had seen him.
‘I…I need to meet him, Jeejaji,’ Khushi grabbed Akaash’s hands. ‘I need to see him. Before he goes to Scotland. I have to see him’
‘I…I..’ Akaash was stumped. His wife’s stupid plan had worked. Despite all its over the top emotional drama, it had worked. And Khushiji! For a moment, he was tempted to give it all away. She looked so distraught and worried – a victim of her own phillumi-ness.
The thought must have shown on his face, for his wife immediately appeared on his side, with her soft firm hand on his arm.
‘I think Khushi should see him. He is going for two weeks. She will stew here. And who knows, how he will fare there,’ Payal said softly willing her husband not to destroy all this hardwork. ‘Akaash,’ she shook his arm. ‘Khushi should go to Delhi today. Arnavji’s flight in the morning. He would be in Delhi in the evening.’
‘Yes. Yes, I should go today.’ Khushi looked around for support.
Lavanaya watched her friend’s distress. ‘Go with Aman then, Khushi.’ She said. ‘He is going to visit his family, bring them here for the wedding. He can…he can accompany you.’
‘Yes,’ Akaash finally found his tongue. ‘I will make the arrangements.’
‘And I will help you pack up,’ Lavanaya drew Khushi towards ther room ‘No point taking away everything. You will be there for the wedding. ASR has promised Aman. And I am not getting married without you. So you better be back soon…and I would….’
Lavanaya chattered, allaying Khushi’s anxiety with another recital of her wedding plans.
As the two girls left, the room burst with whoops of self congratulatory celebration. Akaash shook his head as NK presented an imaginary award to Anjili and his wife applauded on.
Arnav threw his jacket on the lounger and then gave in to the temptation. The house was too lonely, too empty. Cold dinner waited for him downstairs.
He needed a drink….a drink to forget the mess that he had made of his life. Darkness had homed in in his heart eversince that phone call on his way to Mumbai airport. Khushi still did not want to hear him. Never, never had he felt so hopeless…she was slipping away, leaving him behind and he could nothing but watch her walk away from him, his life – long, empty and dreary as this house.
Arnav made his way to the poolside and sat on the deckchair, just as he had done months ago, swirling the whisky tumbler, taking a sip, waiting for the drunken stupor to bring in the numbness.
A doorbell startled him. Who could it be….it wasn’t that late…only 7pm. But he was in no mood to entertain guests. Hariprakash could take care of them.
But whosoever was ringing the bell did not believe in the virtue of patience,…two rings
or courtesy…another continuous ring
or plain simple good manners…the bell went on chiming.
‘What the hell,’ Arnav rushed out to give the intruder a piece of the famously-angry-ASR mind
And then…. His heart beat stopped for a while only to resume its dhak dhak with an intensity that echoed through his entire being. The words…the voice…the breeze that touched him, carrying the perfume of her presence.
‘Hariprakashji, Arnavji aagaye? Is he ok? Has he come from Mumbai? Where is he?’
As you can guess, there is going to be one more chapter, and then probably an epilogue.
Once again, go here and answer the question.