He was comfortably talking to those people putting his hand around her shoulder. She tried to break away, his grip tightened. The moment those three moved away, he pushed her back glaring at her angrily.
She looked at him with hatred.
“Why? Didn’t you like being held like that? Enjoying their company weren’t you?” he asked disdainfully. Her rage went over the edge. She gritted her teeth for a moment and then started mumbling. He looked at her bewildered not knowing what was she doing. He was expecting an equally disdainful response from her.
“What?” he blurted.
“Counting the numbers, Mr. Raizada! … Before I hit you!” she said clenching her fists. His eyes flashed.
“Hit me? will you?” he gripped her wrist again.
“If you continue to misbehave, I will!” she hissed in rage.
“Oh, really? Let me see!” he challenged her, twisting her wrist behind her back and closed the gap between them. Her knees gave way. “Leave me!” she said with quivering lips. He stared at her, holding her, without bothering about the crowd around. She felt weak…
“You... you are scaring me!” she said frightfully.
He released her immediately and took a step back. She stood there glaring at him. He looked shocked. He turned his back and merged in the crowd. Khushi sat on the nearby chair, completely shaken. She wanted to run away, go back to the cottage…! She searched for Lavanya, who was busy networking with people and had no time for Khushi. ASR had vanished somewhere, she couldn’t find him. She moved around in the crowd aimlessly. As the time passed, she grew panic. ASR and Lavanya both were nowhere to be seen. That Ramanand was again staring at her..! She tried to hide herself in vain.
“Hello Ms Gupta! So, you are working with AR Group! Great!” he came near with a glass of wine. He offered her one. “No!” she refused and tried to move away.
“Why not?” He followed. She was nervous. He persisted.
“I work for a Bangalore base garment company, Jakarta!” he went on. Khushi was not at all comfortable talking to him. She fidgeted.
“Ms Gupta, you seem to be new to such conferences..! These are meant for networking with people..!” he was again advancing. She paced backwards smiling nervously. She looked around praying her Devi mayya and saw him.
ASR was talking to someone with his back on her. She desperately moved towards him and without any inhibitions, stood next to him gripping his elbow. He looked at her surprised.
“Umm.. Hello!” she looked at everyone smiling. She was safe, with her Monster! He took her aside “What?” he asked her bewildered.
“Known devil is better than an unknown angel..!” she said grinning at him. “What?” he flared up and came on to her. She dodged and moved out of his reach. He turned his back on her moving away.
“No! Wait!” she ordered. He turned and raised his eyebrow. “Please?” she pleaded. His lips curled up in a wicked smile. She frowned.
“I want to go back!” she declared. “So?” He asked her. She was furious.
“So? You want me to go alone? With that person following me everywhere?” she asked him directly. His eyes flickered. “You are scared of me and still want me to come with you?” his eyes spoke. She understood.
“Ok! Fine!” she saw Lavanya. She went hurriedly towards her.
“Lavanya Madam..!” she pulled her hand.
“Chamaki.. I mean Khushi? Where were you?” she asked still holding a glass of wine.
“Lavanya Madam, you are not well. We should be going back!” she said taking the glass from her and keeping it on the table.
“Oh! Yeah! I forgot! That’s why! I was wondering, why I am feeling so weak!! Right, I am not well!” she said blurting. She had lost it completely.
“Come on! Let’s go!” Khushi started walking with her.
“ASR… where is ASR?” Lavanya now remembered.
“I told him, already!” Khushi said glancing sideways. He was glaring at her.
“ASR!” finally Lavanya saw him.
“ASR! This Khushi says, I must go back!” she said wrapping his arm with hers. He nodded. Khushi had a wicked smile. “We are going back!” she said and left the venue with Lavanya, looking back at him raising her eyebrows, grinning victoriously!
“Pagal!” he turned and merged into the crowd.
******** ******** *********“Sham… are you trying to double cross me?” Rattan was furious on the other side of the phone.
“No, Rattan Saab! Try and understand.. Eliminating her won’t solve the problem.. What we need is to stop the inquiry!” Sham tried to convince his boss.
“I assure you, they cannot trace it back to you or me! It was fool proof plan!” Sham was confident. Rattan seemed to be not convinced.
“Look Sham, any finger pointing at me will be cut off… If you can’t handle it, I will do it..! Either stop the inquiry or eliminate that girl…!” he threatened.
“Rattan Saab! Have patience. My plans never fail. We have done it before. We are hollowing out his finances from within. Don’t worry!” Sham tried to pacify Rattan.
“What happened to the property in Lucknow? You said you will get it at throw away price..!” Rattan was furious again.
“Umm yes! I am trying for that!” he gave false hopes. That property, “Gomati Nivas” was bought by someone already, he didn’t know who!
*********** *********** *********
“This Sham won’t be able to do much. We have to do something.” Rattan spoke to his man. The man nodded in acceptance.
“If the matter is dug out further, I am sure they will trace it down to us!” Rattan was serious.
“Shall I?” his man asked. Rattan didn’t speak. The man took a step back.
Two persons were trying desperately to save Khushi; Sham from Rattan, knowingly and ASR from Sham unknowingly…!!
Khushi, oblivious to the conspiracy against her, was enjoying her stay in Nainital!! Her Devi Mayya was always there with her..!
****** ***** ******** ********
Lavanya and Khushi came back to cottage.
“Lavanya Madam, you take rest!” Khushi said picking up her blanket.
“Chamakili, umm.. You can sleep here!” Lavanya said thumping on her bed. Khushi looked up at her. Then said resolutely.
“No Lavanya Madam.. I will sleep on the couch..!” she smiled at Lavanya.
“Look Chamakili, I am sorry!” Lavanya apologized.
“No Madam, please.. I am used to sleeping alone. I will be uncomfortable here..!” Khushi lied. She had never slept alone. She was scared of sleeping alone. Her Jiji was always used to be with her.
“Chamakili..!” Lavanya looked hurt.
“No Lavanya ji, you sleep here. I will be there on the couch. Call me if you need anything… and take this.. Your medicines..You have to fit and fine for tomorrow!” she said smiling.
“Ok!” Lavanya took the tablets from her. Khushi came out. Rain had stopped completely but the skies were overcast. “Hmm!” she sighed looking up in the sky.
************* ********* ********
She sat on the cane chair in the verandah and dialed Rekha’s number..!
“Hello, Rekha Madam! Sorry couldn’t contact you yesterday… actually caught up in an emergency..!” she said. Rekha spoke something excitedly from the other end. Khushi giggled.
“Yeah! Your phone rang in the middle of the conference… but you know.. It helped…!” she said bursting out in laughter remembering ASR’s furious face.
“ Rekha Madam.. How was the party? Regi Sir must have had a shock!” she went on asking the details.. And Rekha described everything in detail and how they all missed her. Khushi laughed and giggled responding to the descriptions..!
“Khushi, is everything ok with you? Are you alright?” asked Rekha in a concerned tone. Khushi fell silent for a moment and then smiling from ear to ear, said
“Everything is just fine, Rekha Madam, it’s only that I missed you a lot!!” smiled on her face was fading. She missed her office.
“Khushi, you know, what name Regi registered for his daughter?” Rekha asked stretching Khushi’s curiosity.
“What?” she asked in excitement. Her phone beeped in the middle of the conversation…!
“Oh! Rekha Madam, Sorry! No balance..! Will call you later..!” she hung up, frowning. She didn’t know from where to recharge her mobile.
She saw a pair of shoes on the floor and then gazed up to the person wearing those shoes. She got up with a jerk hiding her cell behind.
He took out his cell and held it to her.
“Use this!” he said plainly. “No!” she paced back refusing his favor. A surge of rage ran through him. He clenched his fists. She took out her phone from behind and said weakly..
“ Woh Recharge Karana Tha…” before she could complete her sentence, he snatched her phone. She gaped aghast. He pocketed it.
“I will recharge it!” he was normal. She gaped at him in disbelief.
“Will you? Really?” she asked. “Yeah!” he said looking at her.
“Wa.. Wait!” she ran inside and brought a fifty Rupee note.
“Here, Forty Rupees Recharge and ten Rs. SMS pack..!” she held out the note. He stared at her smirking. Realization dawned upon her, and then remembering what happened to her phone earlier…
“No, please…! Don’t take it away…! Please.. This is my Babuji’s phone!” she urged helplessly. He smirked. “Please…!” He turned, ignoring her.
She ran forward and stood in his way.
“Give my phone back!” she said threatening him raising her finger.
“Haath Neeche!” he hissed at her. She looked at her finger and took her hand back.
He took out his hone, pressed some keys frantically. She gaped with open mouth. Her phone beeped. He took it out and looked at the screen.
“Recharged!” he gave it back to her. She checked her balance.
“Are you ..? what.?” She screamed bewildered. “One thousand rupees?” she sat on the cane chair with a thud.
“I…I don’t have that much money..!” she said aghast. He turned to leave..
“I will deduct it from your salary!” he said and she raised her hands to strangle him in rage.
“EK KAAM BHI THIK NAHI KAR SAKATE! He can’t do a single thing right… LAAD GOVERNER!! POORE SAAL KA EK MAHINE MAIN KHATAM KAR DIYA…! He exhausted my one year budget in one month!! “ She muttered furiously clutching her head! One and three zeros were dancing in front of her…!