“Chamakili.. What are you doing here?” Lavanya was shaking her. She got up from her trance. Thousand rupees with three zeros vanished. She looked around.
“Umm.. Nothing!” she said. Lavanya seemed to be still high. “Dinner?” she asked Khushi. Khushi didn’t know what to answer. “Not in conference… so I may have to pay for my dinner…!” she thought seriously.
“Ok, I will order!” said Lavanya turning to move in. “Umm Lavanya ji.. Is it .. I mean .. Included in conference fees?” she asked stuttering.
“No! We have to pay for this..!” Lavanya said. “Why?” she asked.
“No.. I am not hungry..I had in the conference !” lied Khushi. Thousand rupees still dancing in front of her eyes, she went in with Lavanya. And then to cover it up said
“You can have your dinner with Sir! He has returned!” she said brightly, happy with her idea.
“I was going to do that only, Chamakili..!” Lavanya didn’t like Khushi giving her the idea.
Khushi sat on her couch lost in thoughts. “Chamakili, I am going to have dinner with ASR!” said Lavanya and left. Khushi took a sigh of relief. She darted in, took out her bag and took out the box of Laddus and namakeen packed by her Jiji. She smiled broadly. “My tummy is in this box..!” she said smelling the laddus with satisfaction. She had her own time and space to fill her tummy with her favorite laddus and namkeen…!
She switched on the TV and stuffed a full big laddu in her mouth and the door banged open.
“TUM KHANA KHANE KYUN NAHI AA RAHI HOAN?” Came a rude question.
ASR was at the door. She looked at him blankly with puffed cheeks. He surveyed her and her surroundings , with two Tiffin boxes, full of Laddus and Namakeen on the couch and a remote in her hand.
“Woh… Shrrr!” she got up with a jerk, spraying particles of Laddu from her mouth. His eyes twinkled. “Carry on!” he said turning his back on her and went out closing the door behind.
Late in the night Lavanya returned wrapping her hand around his.
“Wish only we two were here, ASR!” she planted a kiss on his cheek. He opened the door for her and gazed down at the couch. Khushi had curled up like a purring cat in sleep. He couldn’t take his eyes off.
“Oh.. I told her to sleep on the bed… but she refused…!” Lavanya justified. ASR didn’t bother.
“Lavanya give me the pen drive… I am waiting..!” he sent her in.. To have a better look at Khushi…? May be…! Lavanya came out in a few minutes… !
******** ******** *********
ASR returned to his den, kept working on his laptop for a long time, sitting on the couch and then shutting it down.. Rested his head back. He closed his eyes drifting away in sleep on the couch.
“No… I am not an earthen pot. I can resist temptation..He was holding his mother’s hand…. He was at the mazaar looking at the falling water filled pot …. She was holding it saving it from breaking …. Earthen pots came crashing down on his pool side…. A gunshot reverberated…. She was falling down… Khushi was falling down…!” He got up with a jerk shrieking… “KHUSHI..!”
He wiped off sweat from his forehead. He drank the glass of water in one gulp.
“No..! I have to put an end to this, before it goes out of my control…!” he thought gravely. He pulled his laptop, to continue his work…!
********** ******** **********
"Woh.. That man was constantly staring at me, stalking me everywhere..!" Khushi shuddered even while telling it to Lavanya.
"They are flirts, floating people, Chamakili.. We just have to ignore them...!" Lavanya was very casual. "Hmmm!" Khushi kept quiet. Lavanya spoke after some time...!
“You know Khushi… I had so many romantic plans for this trip..!” Lavanya said sulkily, next day morning, getting ready. She was taking her won time to get ready as she had a task of compeering the closing ceremony. Khushi had prepared placards for her and arranged them neatly per the schedule.
“Lavanya ji, these are your cards… and all the best!” she said genuinely. “Thank you, Chamakili..! You have been a great help!” Lavanya reciprocated.
“I will wait outside!” she said and came out. She had got ready in just a few minutes and knew, Lavanya will take more time. She was looking at the mountain peaks engulfed and embraced by the clouds. The rain had stopped completely.
“Yes, Di! I am Fine! Don’t worry….! Yeah… She is fine! Yeah Di… I will take care… ! Yeah… We will leave Tomorrow Morning…! Yeah Di, take care…!” ASR was on phone busy talking to his Di.
Khushi’s eyes flashed. A great idea just hit her. She smiled broadly and realizing that he was gazing at her, turned her face embarrassed. He looked confused. “She is up to something… Warning, Arnav! Keep a watch on her!” He knew her well by now. He would never let that happen, what she was up to. Smirk appeared on his face, his eyes twinkled…
“What? Smirking? He is up to something, Khushi Kumari Gupta… beware! Don’t let him know about your plan…!” Khushi warned herself, warning bells ringing in her head.
“G..Good Morning!” she greeted. He still was looking at her with a smirk. They both waited for Lavanya without a word engrossed in their own thoughts.
Lavanya came out. She was looking stunning. Khushi gaped at her with bright wide eyes. “You look so beautiful…!” she complemented smiling broadly at her. ASR gaped at Khushi!
“I am beautiful, Chamakili..!” declared Lavanya smugly. She sounded like ASR. Khushi looked startled.
She nodded saying… “Yeah! You are beautiful! But you look stunning today…!” she looked at ASR to know the effect of Lavanya’s beauty on him and shuddered looking at his eyes gazing at her.
She got nervous. “What have I done wrong? Am I not supposed to give complement to Madam?” she was confused and looked away avoiding his glare.
“ASR!” Lavanya wrapped her hand around his and he brought back his gaze to her.
“What?” she looked at herself raising her eyebrows. “Good!” he responded. Lavanya felt happy.
Khushi walked behind them gazing at both of them. He was back in his black everything business suit and she was complementing him with White backless gown. She was carrying herself so well.
Khushi admired both of them. “KITANE ACCHHE LAG RAHE HAIN DONO!” She mumbled smiling.
Inadvertently she looked at her dress. She was wearing a white skintight churidaar, a deep blue Anarkali with a lot of girth and glittery embroidery on her white dupatta! She smiled sending her wavy hair back by jerking her head. A few still wandering curly locks lingered on her forehead. She ran behind them to keep up the pace.
“Lavanya ji!” she held her hand pulling her back before entering the conference hall, clutching the program schedule in one hand.
“What is it, Chamakili?” Lavanya looked confused.
“Here… I have a plan…!” she whispered in her ear for some time.
“Really..? That will be great!” Lavanya said dreamily.
“Shhhuu! But he should not know about it!” Khushi warned her. She nodded.
“It’s your responsibility..!” Khushi raised her finger.
“Yeah! Done! Thanks Chamakili!” Lavanya was excited.
“Now Go and All the Best!” Khushi raised her thumb. She hurriedly occupied a chair at the back realizing that ASR was glaring at her suspiciously.
“You won’t know, Mr. ASR SIR! But you will be happy!!” she muttered.
****** ******** *********
Lavanya was flawless, witty, well rehearsed. Her placards played a major role. There was no question of jumbling up. It was a short, one and half hour long valedictory program. Khushi kept on looking at the watch. ASR was at the front. Khushi was happy, initially! But then she saw the seat next to her is occupied and she shuddered.
“Planning for something?” he asked her with gritted teeth.
“Who..? What..?” she asked with an innocent face and then frowned.
“ISS RAKSHAS KO YAHI AAKE BAITHANA THAA! Of all the chairs this Monster found this place only..! Octopus..!” she muttered under her breath.
“SUNA MAINE!” he was deadly enough to send shivers through her spine. “HAAN TOH??” She put up a brave face.
There was a little time left for the program to get over. Khushi fidgeted. The participants and the dignitaries were felicitated. Arnav Singh Raizada was specially felicitated for his Key Note Address. He rose from his seat and went to the dais when his name was announced by Lavanya! Khushi grabbed the opportunity and vanished.
He came back after a while to see the vacant seat next to him. He looked around. She had just disappeared.
Khushi’s name was also announced among the other participants… but she had gone. No one knew where!
“What the? Where is she?” he thought looking around.