Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Heart's A Mess: Chapter Twenty Three Part I

Three Years Later. 

"Stop." The command came out, barely a whisper. Desperate, devastated and disbelieving all at once.
This was a conversation that she had prayed would never transpire. She had stared out the wall of windows for the past hour, the voices filtering in and out in muted waves. Sunlight trickled through the porous expanse of grey cloud hovering above the city, an occasional light shower painting the windows with liquid murals; dozens of droplets eddied upon the glass. Here, on the twentieth floor, Khushi felt that if she just stretched her fingers, just enough, just past the glass, she could reach the cloud.

"Khushi we need an answer." Danes pressed her, his demeanour tired and grave.

She stood beside the windows, staring straight ahead. Dread seeped under her skin, taking her nerves hostage. Slowly but surely it's creepers climbed up the cable like bundles, clawing their way up her throat, till finally its long bony extensions wrapped around her windpipe. She struggled to breathe; gasping, every breath short and sharp. There was an overwhelming need to purge her stomach of its contents as nausea staked its claim, constricting her chest. This wasn't supposed to be happening.

Not like this.

Not so soon.

"Dr. Gupta your presence here is simply a gesture of good will. We will proceed as we see fit."

Khushi felt empty inside. How long had she been fighting this? Life seemed nothing but a continuous struggle to scavenge time. Every month she had come into this boardroom with steely resolve; Arnav was not going to be placed into hospice. She had fought, debated, cajoled, convinced and begged for the board to look into new avenues: clinical trials, experimental drugs, holistic treatment.


But now, after this morning, she felt her strength leaving her. It was time to surrender to the inevitable and move forward with as much dignity as possible. She had been Arnav's shield this long and she wasn't going to stop now. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and addressed the clinical co-ordinator in a fractured voice.

"Actually it's Dr. Riazada now."

The severe woman blanched momentarily and answered in haste. "Regardless, we are here to make a decision that is in the best interest of the patient." 

"I'm sure we can all agree that Khushi has Mr. Raizada's best interest at heart." Oliver interjected politely yet forcibly.

The woman grit her teeth. "Her interests, whatever they maybe, are clouding her judgement. The LVAD has been sustaining him thus far but the incident this morning cannot be ignored. Correlations between ventricular arryhthmia and morbidity in CHF patients are still unclear."

"My position as a wife has not miraculously made me an incompetent doctor." Khushi bit back. "I beg you to remember that I am one of the youngest fellows on this board and remind you to address me with due regard."

The board held it breath as the tense atmosphere turned hostile. To the world Khushi looked worn. Frayed at the edges. Unravelling at the seams. And honestly no one knew how much longer she could keep it together. There was only so much a person could take. Today the entire transplant team was present, putting forward their professional assessment of the patient: transplant surgeons, transplant physicians, surgical nurses, psychologists, social workers, financial advisors and the two transplant co-ordinators.

"I think what we all need is some perspective." Timothy, the procurement co-oridnator, tried to diffuse the situation. "We are here to assess and rank the deteriorating health of the patient. We have a patient who is in chronic heart failure with Mitral valve insufficiency and a history of Rheumatic heart disease. 12 months ago he was inserted with a ventricular assist device that markedly improved his worsening symptoms. Leaving aside the episode of sudden cardiac arrest this morning we predict that the LVAD will continue to support him in the short to medium term."

Dr. Parker added to the assessment. "The sooner we can advise UNOS the better it is. This morning's episode will put him in a better position if there is a viable heart. Ambulatory care is no longer a viable option."

Hannah, the clinical co-ordinator, snorted. "Why are we pussy footing around? Anyone?"

"I would ask you to remain professional Ms. Rodriguez and watch your language." Danes, the most senior member on team flexed his authority.

She waved her hands, exasperated. "Look all I am saying is we can pretend that this morning didn't happen till the cows come home but it doesn't change the facts. Sure, the LVAD is doing great and he could have another year or two on it. But he still is on immunosuppressants increasing his risk for infection compounded by the fact that he has a history of Rheumatic Fever. Not to mention LVAD patients are at a high risk of developing infection with a high rate of mortality. So he is three times as likely to develop an infection than any other cardiac patient."

Taking a breath, she sighed. "We don't even know the chance of a repeat episode of v.fib." Scoffing, she continued on sarcastically. "Since everything is so obviously going in this man's favour let's just assume it's skyrocketed."

Matt ground his teeth, frustrated by the lack of empathy on display. "You could say things worked in his favour. Dr. Raizada was with him at the time."

Hannah raised an eyebrow at the territorial show of support for his female colleague. "Sure. But what about next time? Honestly, at this stage, the guy should be dead."

Everyone stilled and reflexively turned to look at the wife of said man. Khushi, it seemed had finally reached her limit as she turned from the window and ran out the room, her vision blurring.


"How long do you think I'll be stuck here this time round?" Arnav whined flopping back onto the bed. 

Khushi rolled her eyes, her back turned to him. Unpacking his night bag, she reached up on her tiptoes to put his shirts on the top shelf and threw a hospital gown blindly in his direction. "The same amount of time you are usually stuck Arnav. Stop asking me galactically stupid questions."

Arnav, in typical fashion, had a quick quip as she wandered in the bathroom. "You know ever since you became a wife you've become so critical. I preferred the old Gupta. Women. You're all the same. You only show your true colours after marriage." Shouting out, he craned his neck, trying to see her response from the ajar door. 

Khushi laughed softly, organising his toiletries. Her heart did a flip. It was little moments like these that she lived for; the witty banter between them. Two years and seven months. That's how long they had been married. Looking at herself in the mirror she swore she looked like a newlywed. Flushed cheeks, a shy smile and wide bright eyes. All it took were few words, a sly glance...a brush of the fingertips. The man could wield her emotions at will.  

Biting down on her lip, to stop a bubble of laughter she yelled back. "You know ever since you became a husba..."

A loud crash drowned her out.

She froze. 

Stumbling over her own feet Khushi ran out to the room. Arnav lay crumpled on the floor, his limbs rigid as he convulsed. His skin was deathly pale almost tinged blue; a superficial laceration on his forehead dripping blood onto the white lino. Her gaze lingered on the toppeled over meal trolley, silver cutlery splayed out on the floor. He must have hit it on his way down. Years of training clicked into gear and she moved with seamless grace. Hitting the button behind the bed Khushi activated the code blue alarm. 

The speaker system echoed around in a dulcet female voice. 

Code Blue. Code Blue. All medical personnel please report to the fifth floor. Code Blue. Code Blue. All medical medical pers.....

By the time she dropped down next to him the seizures had ceased. Her fingers searched for his pulse. 


She screamed out into the hall. "SOMEBODY GET ME A CRASH CART

Delivering three large precordial thumps, she frantically palpated his neck. Finding no pulse she began to resuscitate him. Fingers interlocking with one another she put her entire weight behind the compressions. 

"Come one baby. Come on." Khushi murmured willing him to open his eyes and look at her. Looking down at her hands she noticed just how small they were on his broad chest. How could such small hands possibly revive this giant? Several surgical nurses and an intern ran into the room. She barked out a series of well practised commands. " Jeff get a central line in. Susie take over compressions. Dom page anaesthesia now, I'll try and intubate him in the meantime."

Susie paused, unsure. Khushi looked up as she gloved herself. "What!? What the hell are you waiting for an invitation?"

"We can handle this. Dr. Parker is on his way. You shouldn't be doing this."

Khushi continued the intubation unphased. "Susie, I am currently the most senior member in this room and if you try and get in my way I will gut you. Are we clear?"Shocked at the unusually harsh outburst from her colleague, Susie took a second to gather her wits and resume compressions. Trying to find a clear passageway, she heard several other people entering the room and preparing equipment. Khushi kept mumbling. "You're so cold. So cold."

Somewhere in the chaos Khushi registered Danes voice booming. "Let's get him on to the body board and up on the bed. Parker monitor his vitals. Can someone tell me WHY is he not hooked up to the ECG yet?"

The heart monitor came to life and started beeping incessantly. Parker yelled out. "His sats are dropping. We're at 95." Paper spilled over from the ECG machine and Matt ran the strip in his hands analysing the electrical waveforms. "He's in V.FIB"

Danes looked to find Khushi struggling to find a clear passageway, her hands shaking as she mumbled to herself. He cursed. Addressing the anaesthesia fellow he quietly asked..."Take over intubation from Dr. Raizada."

Emmanuel tried to pry the laryngoscope and tracheal tube from her hands. She pulled back violently. "I've GOT it!"

"Step back from the patient Dr.Raizada." Danes ordered.

"No." Khushi continued to try and put the tube down the trachea. "Damn it! It keeps getting stuck." she cursed.

"Dr. Raizada you are harming the patient's wellbeing. STEP BACK."

Khushi ignored him and continued to peer down the laryngoscope. Danes nodded to the two security guards at the door. With as much gentility as they could manage, they pulled her back from Arnav.  She looked up in shock. "What....what are you doing? LET ME GO! I said... LET ME GO!" They continued to drag her from the room as the doctors and nurses focussed on reviving the patient. Oliver tried not to look as his mentee screamed in desperation. "NOOOO! NO! LET ME IN!" Khushi banged against the glass. "I NEED TO BE THERE! LET ME IN!" She sobbed and wailed, begging to be let back in.

Her screams pierced the heart of everyone in the room. It was not easy witnessing her pain. Khushi pressed her face and hands against the glass windows of the room looking in from the hallway; her chest wracking from sobs she no longer noticed. Every statistic and paper she had ever read came back to her and she imagined the worst possible scenarios. The odds were not in their favour. 

"Sat's are stable." Parker called out. Emmanuel had managed to intubate him in seconds and stood compressing a large blue bag on the end of the tube. 

"How long since we began compressions?" Danes asked.

Susie looked at the wall clock. "Six minutes."

Danes watched the amplitude of the heart's waveform decrease with every passing minute. "Charge to 200J. Shock him."

Parker yelled out "CLEAR!" Pressing the button he delivered the electric charge to the heart. Khushi watched as Arnav's lifeless body raised a few cm from the bed and landed back down with a thud. She watched as her peers delivered cycle after cycle of CPR followed by electric shocks. She watched as the love of her life slipped away from her with every passing minute. Then without warning the small amplitude waves ceased all together. 

"We have asystole. He's in cardiac arrest!" Parker yelled out to Danes.

"Push another round of epi and atropine."

Suddenly it dawned on Khushi, as she stood pressed up against the glass, that Arnav was dead. From that moment Arnav was quite literally dead. He was gone. In a panicked frenzy she began to bang at the glass screaming. "WAKE UP! WAKE UP! YOU PROMISED ME CHILDREN YOU BASTARD. WAKE UP!"

Emmanuel pushed in the extra epinephrine. Everyone watched as Susie continued compressions. They could only wait now. 

Questions of science, science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart

Tell me you love me, come back and haunt me
Oh and I rush to the start
Running in circles, chasing our tails
Coming back as we are

Nobody said it was easy
Oh it's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard

Thirty seconds later Matt held his hands in his head. "We have normal sinus rhythm."

Author's Note.

Hey guys! As usual let me know what you think. I really appreciate your feedback. It's going to be heart wrenching from here on. There will be some happy moments. Only two more updates then the epilogue. I will tell you that NOBODY has actually guessed the ending. A couple of people have come really close. Only half right though. 

So hold on tight. 

I really would appreciate if you could take out two minutes to view this video. It was what inspired me to become a doctor and the scene form 22.42 to 26.00 minutes will show you what really happens in a situation like Arnav's. I tried to portray it the best I could. 


Friday, 15 November 2013




“When love beckons to you follow him, 

Though his ways are hard and steep. 

And when his wings enfold you yield to him, 

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. 

And when he speaks to you believe in him, 

Though his voice may shatter your dreams... 

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. 

Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your 

tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, 

So shall he descend to your roots and shake them 

in their clinging to the earth......

But if in your fear you would seek 

only love's peace and love's pleasure, 

Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness 

and pass out of love's threshing-floor, 

Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, 

but not all of your laughter, and weep, 

but not all of your tears. 

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: 

To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. 

To know the pain of too much tenderness. 

To be wounded by your own understanding of love; 

And to bleed willingly and joyfully.” 

                                                                        ― Kahlil GibranLe Proph├Ęte




It is that with a full heart and an easy mind,

I set sight upon the eve of dawn.

Fading nets of light, cast out upon the seas of heaven,

tangle the last of my uncertainty;

drowned with the dying star.

Fate, no longer my master,

Fear, no longer my captor,

Death, no longer my enslaver;

I am a free man.

Lady liberty my shadow; watches over me now.

Her hand entwined with mine; she walks beside me now.

My heart, love's chalice; she fills me now.

Happiness; my saviour now.

With abandon we dance through the inferno;

and through the ashes we emerge virgin.

Flames surrender; pain, the final renegade.

The devil; he must dance for us now.

No night now shall I know without her;

each dawn witness to devotion.

Life has just begun; my birth her deliverance.

Upon bended knee I bow before her, a single promise.

A journey together; the question I lay.



So I'm really nervous about this because I tried a different format. I had a scene planned with conversation as well but then I thought it was good as is. I know its short but that's the point. 

Thank you for the AMAZING response to the last chapter. I love you all truly. 

Please drop a line and let me know what you thought. I need to know if you understood it or not otherwise I will supplement it with a note that explains what I was trying to say.

Love Sasak.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Chapter Twenty Two

Anjali walked with an added bounce to her uneven gait. No amount of physical exhaustion was going to bring her down today. Today was Diwali. And that meant something damn it! It meant the dawn of a new era; a celebration of the hope and light that was to emerge from the depths of all that had cast a shadow over their lives. Not that Arnav was Ram or anything. Ha! What a thought. Though, she supposed that Khushi had freed him from his self imprisoned exile. And together, they had found their way home....where they belonged.

Placing small candles along the banister, Anjali hummed a happy tune. The smell of fresh marigolds, hung in cascading streams, infused the air with an earthy smell as the house glittered with the flickering of small flames housed in freshly made clay candles.A frustrated hurumph managed to catch her attention. From the corner of her eye, through the slit of a door, Anjali spied Khushi glaring at yards of red chiffon on the floor. Her natural instinct was to offer help but the tension between them still lingered and she was hesitant. Anjali had been dancing around Khushi's volatile mood, desperate to remain in her good graces.

I want her to have a family. This family. 

Well that settled it. If she was going to be apart of this family then Anjali would just have to treat her as such. Tension or not, Anjali was older and had every right to charge into that room just as any sister would. And so, she did.

"Stuck?" Anjali offered as a conversation started. A wry smile, stretched across her face at the flustered Khushi.

The other woman, not expecting anyone, let out a startled shriek. Placing a hand over her heart, she accused..."You scared me."

Anjali walked forward and expertly gathered the material, sliding it between her fingers. "You looked like you could use some help."

Khushi stood awkwardly, trying to cover her abdomen, unable to protest. Tucking one end of the saree into her petticoat and partially around her waist, Anjali made light work forming a series of pleats, she looked up and teased..."You know if you don't breathe you'll probably pass out." Khushi had been holding her breath, her muscles taut, uncomfortable with the physical contact. A light frown creased over her forehead as she stared down at her waist. "I've been trying for ages. They keep slipping."

"It's like doing your first sutures. They seem tricky and slippery at first but after a while you can do them in your sleep." Holding a few safety pins in her mouth, she pinned the pleats together and helped Khushi with the palla. Letting out a deep breath, she declared her work done. "All done. Now hurry down the pooja is about to start. Chote won't make it. He won't tell me why but he says he's somewhere important." Anjali walked to the door, with the intent to let Khushi finish getting ready.

"Thank you." she said hesitantly.

Anjali turned and caressed her face lightly. "You know, you wouldn't have to thank me if you just called me Di."

There was a hesitation in her features and a flicker of pain in her eyes that made Anjali's breath catch. But in a blink of an eye it was nowhere to be seen, her affect once again unremarkable. Instead of letting it go, Anjali felt the need to know, her voice worried..."What? What happened? Was it something I said?"

Khushi stared at the woman before her, torn between the pull of her heart and mind. It would be so much easier to just deny and pretend....to move on. But Khushi had always valued interaction based on honesty. Not honesty of action but honesty of character. Pretending, scheming, manipulating, putting on a facade...simply was not in her nature. Anjali had hurt her in a way that was most likely beyond her comprehension. It was not fair to hold on to an anger that she could not understand.

"I'm angry at you." Her voice cracked.

Anjali's face fell. "I know."

Khushi smiled softly. "The thing is...you don't."

Anjali went to speak only to be interrupted by Khushi. "Not that it's your fault. You don't know because you don't know me. Intentionally or unintentionally you broke my heart. More than Arnav in some ways." The confusion on her face spoke volumes. "I guess its mostly my fault. I've been alone all my life. With Arnav I began to dream of a future. For orphans the future is a dangerous place. Full of hope. Hope...the sweetest of liars" Nostalgia held her eyes captive, bitter resentment seeping from its pores. The room was silent, the gravity of the situation taking hold. Anjali held her breath knowing what she was about to hear may determine the future of their relationship.

Khushi sighed..."But I dreamed. I couldn't help myself. I dreamt of lazy Sundays, of school runs, of birthday's...and somehow....in between all those silly little daydreams... I made a place for you."

"Oh god..." Anjali let out in a devastated breath. The pieces were beginning to fit.

"The thing is..." she said with a wry shrug of the shoulders. "...that day you came to meet me in the hospital; the day you gave me your blessing with your kajal ... I, the sentimental fool that I am, made you the maternal figure in my imaginings. I thought we would be co-conspirators against Raizada, that when things happened that were beyond my understanding I would have you to turn to. That if you just placed your hand on my head all my fear would melt away. And then it felt like you betrayed me only for me to remember you can only really betray someone you have a relationship with and yours, it was with Arnav... not me. "

What supposed to be a bitter laugh from the young surgeon, morphed into a sob, as she furiously wiped away at her tears. "It's a joke isn't it? The pragmatic, reserved doctor Gupta is so starved for affection that she attaches herself to any sort of maternal figure that happens to come along." Khushi paused, taking a breath as she turned to face the other woman. "So you see, the person I am really mad at is myself; for being the fool of my own fantasies. And for that, I owe you an apology. You really had no hand in my anger at all."

A curtain of water fell, dousing the hazel embers of her eyes, and she stared out into the distance. Quiet breathing diffused into the emotional aftermath as both women sat reeling from the effects. Khushi felt stripped raw, her breath ragged. The spiel had not been planned or thought out in aching detail as most confrontational conversations in her life were. She had given voice to her every fear. Fears that had held her captive, held her back. What had started as a conversation had somehow become a soliloquy; a cathartic release. More for her own benefit than Anjali's. The feeling was terrifying yet liberating. She was naked and exposed but free from her own judgement.  And that had to be worth something. Taking a deep breath, she let go. Khushi blinked and became aware for the first time in minutes (hours?) of the visceral input around her.

As liberating as the monologue had been for Khushi, it had effectively served as a slap in the face for Anjali. Anjali a mother, a sister, but most importantly a daughter had failed to understand Khushi. Khushi whose fears, hopes and dreams were just as real as hers had been when she had lost her Maa all those years ago. Anjali supposed that in someways she complemented Khushi. As tough as Khushi appeared on the outside she was a broken girl on the inside. But Anjali, despite her overt display of maternal affections and penchant for histrionics, was a grounded woman, accepting of her own weakness and empowered by her fears.

She knew she was fiercely loyal and protective of her family unit, even more so when it came to her brother. Perhaps it was this that had blinded her toward the needs of the young woman who had brought her brother peace. Because in reality Khushi wasn't really family. Family was Nani, Arnav, Aman and Neha. And even then, there were times Aman could not understand the bond that tied Arnav, Nani and her. Their shared experience, years of suffering and hardship, had bound them in a way that was beyond the understanding of any outsider. The world was a cruel place and crawling out of the slums had taken sacrifice; of morals, of justice and of dignity. It was all too easy to loose ones sense of self. And it was in then, in the time when one's foothold of reality began to waver, that the other would guide them back.

It was almost unfathomable to Anjali how one could have gone through it alone. But that was what Khushi had done all her life. There was no one for her to fall back on. No one to fight for her happiness and let the rest of the world be damned. And that was what Anjali had done for Arnav. Fought for his happiness and let Khushi be damned.

Because Khushi wasn't family.

Suddenly her composure gave way to silent tears of shame.

Khushi's vision cleared. Anjali sat on the bed next to her, still as a stone, silent tears leaving tracks in her makeup. "I really do mean it you know." she whispered. "I wasn't being sarcastic or anything. I truly was angry at myself. I don't want you to feel bad. You really couldn't have known. My anger was misplaced and it wasn't fair on you."

She watched the other woman for a sign of response. She got none. Anjali seemed to be deep in thought. Her face still but her eyes determined. With a no nonsense brush of her face, she cleared her throat and acknowledged Khushi. It was a surreal moment that passed between the two women; an inherent understanding of the sanctity of what had been said here tonight.

Anjali tucked a stray strand of hair behind Khushi's ear and cupped her face. "Chote hates daliya." she said. The utter bewilderment gave rise to a little bubble of laughter that Anjali Raizada Mathur was famous for. Swiping at her now ruined eye liner, she placed a dot behind Khushi's ear and taking advantage of the momentary paralysis she then proceeded to place loud sloppy kisses all over the younger woman's face. A brief reprieve from the onslaught allowed a moment of clarity for Khushi.

I thought we would be co-conspirators against Raizada. 

The day you gave me your blessing with your kajal ... I, the sentimental fool that I am, made you the maternal figure in my imaginings

And just as she realised what Anjali was trying to convey, the other woman in between a flood of tears hiccupped a heart breaking....

"Sorry. I'm so so sorry."

With that Anjali gathered Khushi in her arms as she broke down again. It didn't seem possible to have any tears left. In the embrace the women found forgiveness and hope. Khushi clutched on to Anjali like a lost child, unsure and afraid of the world. And Anjali, in return, gave her all the love she had, cradling her in her arms and wiping away her tears.

"Bas. That's enough crying for today." She fixed the crumpled palla of her saree. "This is going to take time and its not going to come immediately. But for better or worse you are apart of the family now. Feeling like one will take some time and adjustment. You don't just form those kind of attachments over night. Familiarity needs time. We'll just have to be patient. And as for me....I can't change what has happened in the past but I sure as hell will be by your side from this moment on. You can count on me. You can be angry at me. You can be disappointed in me. You can learn to expect things from me. To rely on me. Because it is your right. Because you are family. And I in turn will expect the same from you."

Khushi nodded, still a little overwhelmed by the onslaught. Something quite remarkable had taken place. Anjali now looked at her with a strong, silent and fiery determination. In that moment Anjali knew that this instinctive protectiveness had nothing to do with her brother and his request. Her maternal instincts had just decided that the world could be damned. Anjali Mathur was now in Khushi Gupta's corner fighting against anyone or anything that came in the way of her happiness. Khushi was now her responsibility.

"If ever you need anything, or feel alone or scared. You come to me. No questions asked. Capiche?"

She nodded. Anjali's eyes softened. "I know loving Chote hasn't been easy. I know staying by him must be even harder but he loves you. He loves you with a zeal I haven't known him to possess. And I know you do as well. But even then there will always be somethings you won't be able to express to one another. At those times I've always found comfort in Nani and now I hope you will find comfort in me."

She held her hand gently in support. Khushi looked down at their hands and sighed.

"Sometimes I'm afraid....I'm afraid that one day he'll wake up and resent me."

"What?" The idea sounded ludicrous.

"That one day as this beast takes hold of him, he won't recognise himself in the mirror. That he will fall in his own estimation as a man. That when he will look at me he will remember all that he's lost. That he'll remember what could have been and will push me away. I'm not sure what I'll do that day. I'm not sure how I will be able to handle his hate."

Anjali looked at the worry in Khushi's eyes and smiled knowingly. "Relationships are never simple. But I know Chote. So I know that you are right. He will push you away and he will be bitter. You have to know though his resentment and anger will have nothing to do with you. He could never blame you. Never."

"He'll blame himself." Khushi muttered, understanding what the other woman was trying to say.

"And it will be up to you to love him enough for the both of you."

Khushi nodded in silent contemplation.

"You pushed him away so many times in the beginning but he came back every time. Fought, every time. He fought till you had something worth fighting for. And there will most likely come a time in the near future where his circumstances will make him forget all this and then you will be the one who has to fight. Fight to remind him of what you both have. It won't be easy but when it becomes too hard, you'll have me to lean on. That much I can promise."

"Didi, Naniji aap ko neeche bu la rahi hai." (Sister, Nani is calling you downstairs.) OP interrupted them, with a brisk knock on the door, bring an end to their conversation.

Anjali acknowledged him with a quick nod. Squeezing Khushi's hand she said "Come. It's your first diwali. Let me see a smile."

Khushi managed a feeble, watery, sorry excuse of a smile. Anjali sighed, standing up. "I guess that'll have do for now. Now let's go before Nani has our heads."


It had been a fruitful day. Harrowing but fruitful. Arnav had started to notice changes in himself. Nothing major but still, noticeable. He knew that the activities of today should not have tired him out so. Two years ago and he would still be good to go till the wee hours of the morning but somehow midnight was creeping up on him and his body had voiced its protest. Still he wouldn't let it keep him down. Managing to get his little top secret mission underway and missing diwali pooja had meant two birds killed with one stone. Besides, Arnav much preferred Diwali once everyone had gone to bed. He felt it was perhaps the only time he could enjoy the festival of lights the way it had been intended; in silence. The flickering of several hundred oil lamps into the night was really a beautiful sight to behold; one that brought him peace.

The only downside to his little adventure today was not being able to see Gupta rocking a desi outfit. Di had been dropping hints the whole week of the outfit she had bought his girlfriend. Girlfriend. The word sounded foreign...empty. Not enough.

Arnav walked into his room quietly, trying not to disturb the sleeping family members. As he opened the door to the poolside, it felt as if the gods he had so rudely rebuffed earlier this evening, had heard his silent prayers. Out by the poolside was his Khushi. Surrounded by concentric circles of lamps she looked other worldly; their glow falling softly on the angles of her face, lending an aura of mystery, of intrigue and of seduction. A red saree was slung low on her hips, its palla shamelessly flirting with her taught creamy, abdomen. The very next moment the wind shifted a fraction, tickling her hair and she looked up, caught by his eyes.

"Hi." he managed. His voice a husky whisper.

"Hi." she replied, hers equally breathy.

Kneeling down he held her gaze, drinking in her beauty.


Khushi blinked herself out of her stupor and looked around. She had caged herself in a ring of lights. "Mmmmm."

Arnav navigated the lights with ease till he reached her. Slipping her hand in his, he leant her his support as she struggled to walk with the saree. It still amazed him, how enamoured he was by this woman. Hypnotised. Captivated. He watched the sway of her heavy jhumka's precariously attached to her butter soft lobes, the concentrated frown upon her brow, the sparkle of her eye, the loose curl of hair at her nape...he was enthralled by her every move, her every thought, her every breath.....her very existence. Still, what amazed him even more was her response to him. They had left the candles a while back, but her hand lay in his, her eyes wide and earnest locked with his own. He had unconsciously started to view himself through her eyes, believing that he really was all that she believed him to be. She had allowed him to stop hating himself, to stop hiding under the facade of his success, to love himself as she did. What had he done to deserve her?

He smiled lazily at her inability to do anything other than blink her eyelids.

"Hi." he said.

"Hi." she repeated.

He grinned at the silliness of it all. And she smiled back at him. An impish, childish sort of smile that made his heart sing; her bottom lip caught on her top teeth, her eyes dripping with mischief and her dimples on proud display. Arnav had never seen her so carefree and open before. He wished he could capture time but for this moment.

"Someone's happy."

Khushi wrapped her arms around his neck and they began to sway gently with the breeze. "Hmmmm."

"Do I get to know why or am I just going to hear you purr tonight. Not that I mind by the way." Arnav teased, unable to wipe the smile from his face as she mock slapped his chest.

"It's my first diwali and it's everything I imagined it to be. I'm in a saree, there are candles everywhere, I went to a pooja, I'm dancing with you and I made up with Di."

He raised his eyebrow. "You have had a busy day. And Di? Miracles will never cease. Maybe I should just leave you two alone more often."

"Shut up."

"You really only say that when you don't have a good come back. Anyway I'm glad you and Di are sorting it out. She's not too annoying when you get to know her. But seriously what happened?"

Khushi sighed. "We talked and I decided I'm done worrying. What has to happen will but I'm not going to let it get in the way of what we have. I'm going want to enjoy every moment with you. Live in the now."

Arnav stopped swaying and hesitated before saying a quiet ... "Thank you."

Khushi knew it was more than a simple expression of gratitude. He was saying thank you for giving them the chance to live. For giving him the chance to live. To really live.

"I find open communication delivers the best results with the Raizada siblings."

Arnav chuckled. "Don't let Aman hear you say that. He insists she's a Mathur."

Khushi shook her head. "Na-uh. Today I found out 'once a Raizada, always a Raizada."

His affect stilled as he studied her carefully. And then, in the space of a heartbeat the atmosphere became electric; the static a drug.  Swinging her around, he slammed her against the side wall unable to contain his desire. They paused a second, as her eyes frantically searched his trying to make sense of the madness. The longing in his eyes was naked. Not waiting any longer, he swooped down to claim her as his own. She managed a soft gasp before his lips were upon hers. Time seemed to stop for them and they clung to one another. It started as a caress, lips brushing against the other, gentle but captivating. A rush of butterflies began their ascent from navel, erupting in her chest.

He tasted salty but still sweet. Standing on her tip toes she drew herself closer to him, letting her eyes fall shut. She was safe. With him, she was safe. The breeze whipped around them, his shirt fluttering against her hands. The kisses grew more urgent and she felt the blood pool at her centre, her core pulsing with need. Hands did as lips do, their exploration more urgent, trailing down her back, pulling at her dori. Hers gripped at his shoulders, her leg trying to go around his waist as he lifted her up on to the wall.

Desire gave way to need and they parted but for a second; their breath short and ragged.

Looking up, his eyes dangerously dark he whispered against her neck...

"Indeed. Once a Raizada, always a Raizada."


Khushi's Saree

Author's Note. 

First of all I can't believe we made it to thread three. Thank you so much to all the lovely and very patient readers of HAM. I know it can be difficult to follow a story when the updates come once every month. But I thank you for following nonetheless. If it weren't for your constant badgering I probably would have given up on it. My life has been very difficult lately and I have been focussing on myself, something I have neglected for a very long time. So writing has been put on the back burner for a while. Not completely forgotten though. I sincerely thank all those who have sent me their best wishes. Sometimes your lovely PM's make me cry. It's easy to forget their are good people out there.

 And on that note, thank you to all the lovely people who have told me how much they love YLME; old readers and new. I have decided that I will indeed finish the story. only because I went back and read all the chapters and realised what a waste it would be not to. The Khushi in that story I think deserves her happy ending. Also I have NOT written more than 54 chapters so don't worry about it. But I won't be finishing YLME till HAM is done. 

The next update for HAM will be an interlude and then we will be on the home straight. I think after the interlude there will only be three more updates and then the epilogue. (Might have two parts.)

So please stay with me till then. I really value those who comment. I know it is after a long time I update but it still requires that same effort and time. Having said that, this update took me ages and I'm not quite as satisfied as I have been with some of my other updates. But it is super long and in the universe now and I hope you enjoy it. 

Lots and lots and lots of love Sasak. 

Also something I wanted to share. It is haunting but so beautiful.


Monday, 16 September 2013

Chapter Twenty One

"Tell me, have I missed something or do you all of a sudden hate Khushi?"

"Di with all due respect... shut up."

"You can't give someone respect and then tell them to shut up Chote. That's counter intuitive."

"Then just shut up."

Khushi couldn't agree more. They had been bickering since morning. How two adults could conduct themselves worse than children baffled her. Though usually endearing, this day was stressful enough without the added drama of their juvenile sibling antics. A dull headache that had blossomed over the course of the day pounded against her temples. Suppressing a groan, she willed herself to zone out of the conversation behind her and concentrate on the double doors ahead.

"I'm only looking out for both of you."

Arnav, not quite as adept as Khushi, did groan out aloud. "Di...we can't do anything about it now. So quit nagging."

"Nagging am I? It wasn't so long ago you were the one nagging me to do your shoe laces. You didn't hear me complaining."

Khushi snorted. My god had this woman missed her calling in life. Bollywood didn't know what they were missing.

"Di....." Arnav whined like a child. Khushi shook her head in disbelief.

"Di...." Anjali imitated back. "I have ammunition that I can choose to fire at a moments notice. Don't ever bring me to the stage where I have to inform your darling Gupta of your childhood habit."

Both Khushi and Arnav turned to face Anjali, brows furrowed in confusion.

"You know the one where you needed my help in the middle of the night...after a particularly scary..."

"DI!" Arnav bellowed cutting her off. "You wouldn't!"

"Wouldn't what?" Khushi asked her curiosity getting the better of her.

"Just try me." Anjali smiled with disturbing cunning. "Anyway..." she segued breezily. "...are you trying to make this fail? I told you she should be wearing a saree."

"Khushi can wear whatever makes her feel comfortable."

The girl in questioned sighed heavily and turned to press the door bell once more leaving the sibling to continue their bickering. While she was grateful for Arnav's support of her autonomy she sorely wished in this case that he had considered sharing his sister's advice. Standing in front of his house, waiting to meet his grandmother, wearing faded blue jeans and a kurti top, she felt woefully inadequate. Uncharacteristically, she clutched the corner of the cotton top desperately trying to calm her racing heart and frazzled nerves.

Khushi Gupta always approached situations with calm, calculated precision. In her professional life, there was very little she knew not of; affording her control of any unpredictable variables if the need arose. However, this, was an untested arena. Family. It was obvious that people did not play by the same rule books here. Here boundaries were crossed, limits pushed and privacy breached. All in the name of a bond determined by blood.

Haq. (Right)

It scared her. The idea that you could surrender a part of yourself to another person made her squirm. It meant relinquishing the strings of control that kept her well engineered life together. But wasn't that what Arnav required from her? What he had taken from her? What she had given unknowingly yet gladly? Secretly, in some hidden part of conscience, she was happier knowing that someone else was watching out for her, caring for her.Being the puppeteer of her own life had ensured that it would never come crumbling down. And now, she was exhausted. Her life could be thrown into imbalance at any given second but she couldn't care less. She was happier than she had ever been but also sadder and perhaps even a little scared. All for the love of a man.

No. The love of the man.

A soft smile flitted upon her lips and she lost herself in the memory of his love. And that was how Devyani Raizada first saw her Chote's Khushi.


Devyani's eyes crinkled in amusement. Khushi Gupta had gone from nostalgic to horrified in a split second. Her doe eyes were stretched wide open, making it apparent that she had been startled. Which really made no sense, as she had rung the door bell to begin with. Behind Khushi, her two grandchildren were deep in argument none the wiser of the matriarch's presence. With a finger upon her lips, she signalled Khushi to remain quiet. Handing her the pooja ki thali, she walked with a quiet grace toward the sibling duo. Then, with a practiced ease she grabbed the ears of both offending parties and gave them a sharp twist.

"Aaaah! Nani!" they chorused.

"Are these the manners that I have taught you? Fighting like street urchins in front of my future daughter in law?"

Behind them, Arnav spied Khushi turning tomato red. He grinned, still bent down at an odd angle. "What's the saying Nani? You can take the urchin out of the street but not the street out of the urchin?"

His ear was twisted just that bit tighter.

"Ok ok! Sorry!" he grimaced.

"Hmmm." Letting go of their ears, she stared at them sternly. Arnav and Anjali looked at their Nani, turning on the puppy dog charm. Then with impish grins they threw themselves in her arms, hugging her close. Khushi felt her heart tighten with longing.

"Now then. Let's have a look at you shall we?" Devyani stood in the entrance once more with, prying the thali from Khushi's frozen fingers; her eyes darted from place to place unsure of where to rest.The young woman in front of her was clearly terrified and strangely enough it endeared her further in Devyani's eyes. There was very little Arnav had told her about Khushi save for the love that dwelled in his heart. In these short moments Devyani took stock of what she could.

Despite her nervousness, Khushi stood tall in her petite frame. She was dressed modestly, complimenting the aura of understated beauty that beguiled the eye of the beholder. Her hair was long but pulled back in a no nonsense pony tail, while two simple pearl studs adorned her lobes. The dia flickered as it went circled round her; it's warmth reflected in large orbs of emerald green. Here she revealed herself for those who took care to notice. And so, Devyani took care. Love blossomed in gardens of green, fighting off the elements; uncertainty, fear, heartache. But it's foundations lay in something below the surface. Behind the turbulent seas of terrified eyes, a quiet strength called out to the Devyani. And she knew that it was this strength her Chote so desperately had clung on to. That he so desperately needed. The strength that would see their love through.

Here were two individuals in desperate need of love. Different kinds of love but love nonetheless. Devyani knew that the love of this woman had finally made Arnav Raizada a man, just as his love had made her a woman. Her nathi (grandson) had become quieter but more determined. No more was he using his work to escape his reality. No longer was he running from his responsibilities with the excuse of a life cut short but living as though forever was no longer a foregone conclusion. And here this girl was worried about whether Devyani would approve of her dressing sense!

Then, there were the other changes. Changes that made the blood in her cold and withered veins pump with renewed vigour. Years had gone by since she had seen Arnav act so carefree and juvenile and Devyani felt her heart burst with joy. His share of happiness had always been weighed down with the heaviness of his fate.  Though she feared that this burden may have now been placed upon Khushi's shoulders she could not help but feel a sense of peace. Khushi, like her name, had returned the happiness that had long left the wrinkled corners of the Raizada's eyes.

And the gods above would not be so cruel as to take away her own.


Khushi literally had to clasp her hands behind her back to stop them from shaking, as Nani took her aarti. Never in her life had she been so nervous. Her logical mind told her she was being ridiculous. Infront of her was an old petite woman with kind eyes. What was their to be afraid of? Her traitorous heart replied with a self satisfied smirk. "She's important to him. So what she thinks of you is important to you." Her mind rolled its eyes and replied with a succinct..."Oh just shush!" A warm hand subtly slipped its fingers through hers, giving her the silent support she needed and Khushi sighed. He always knew just what to do.

A small tika being applied to her forehead brought her attention back from the two sided pull of her heart and mind to the woman infront of her. Devyani placed a gentle hand, cupping her cheek.

"Welcome to our home."

Khushi smiled wanly, as she was ushered inside.

The size of the house bewildered her. It was probably five or six time the size of her own. The light floor and interiors gave the illusion that the open living plan house was larger than its already magnanimous size while the natural light streaming in from the wall to wall french doors made the otherwise intimidating structure, inviting. The decor, however was classically indian and somehow fit in with the modern interiors. Garlands of flowers and curtains of lights were littered over various floor spaces and hired help moved in and out of the house with intent.

"Diwali preparations already?" Arnav murmured to himself.

"What to do you mean already Chote? The puja is tomorrow." Anjali chided.

Devyani turned to Khushi as they walked through the foyer. "He always forgets these things. You should probably get used to it."

Though she smiled, Khushi felt her stomach lurch. The idea of getting used to Arnav meant that she needed to accept he would be around. No! She couldn't afford to think like that. It had been a few weeks since their argument in the hospital and she had slowly come to terms with her anger. Though she could no longer blame Arnav for the turn of events it didn't mean she wasn't bitter. There wasn't even anyone to blame.

Every brief moment of happiness was inevitably followed by the thought...how many more of these moments will we have? How long before he can't walk unassisted? How long before this fine specimen of a man becomes a shell of what he once was? The worst of it was not imagining the pain she would feel. It was the thought of Arnav falling in his own estimation. How could she help him then? Would her love be enough? The hospital gown was only the beginning. What next? How long before their next fight over something so seemingly inane?

"You will come to the puja won't you?" Devyani paused waiting for an answer.

Suddenly Khushi realised that she had been talking to her this whole time and she hadn't heard a word. "Yes of course!" she replied clumsily.

Great. Another thing she had to worry about. Diwali. Having no family meant having no idea about any rasam's or traditions. Could this get any worse?

"Maama! Maama!" A girl of about two years came running at full speed toward Anjali. This, she assumed, was Neha. Running faster than her chubby legs could carry her, the toddler was at risk of falling over and Khushi found herself laughing at the youngsters innocence. A shocked Anjali, quickly gathered her wits and ran forward to scoop the child in her arms, saving her from an untimely fall.

"Nehu! My bigidy boo! Where did you come from?" Anjali's voice became sugary sweet and high pitched as she tickled her daughter's tummy and showered her face with kisses.

"Do you really need the bird and the bees talk Di?" Arnav quipped. He was answered with a quick slap to the back of the head.

"She came from me." A deep male voice responded teasingly.

Arnav smiled broadly hugging his best friend and brother in law. "Thank god for that. If she was all Di...can you imagine the terror?"

Aman went to his wife and kissed her chastely on the lips. Khushi raised a silent brow. Perhaps the Raizada's weren't as traditional as all that.

"Oh come on! We don't need to see that." Arnav complained placing an arm around his Nani.

"I quite agree." Devyani replied, her eyes twinkling.

Somehow in the whirlwind of activity, they had seated themselves in the lounge. Steaming chai and snacks awaited them. As the tea was poured and passed around Khushi took a moment to breathe. Here she was in the middle of Arnav's family drinking tea as if it were just another day. As if she belonged. The strange part of it was...she felt as if she did. In these few moments they had made her feel as if she were part of the family. Their easy banter and familiarity made it easy to live in the delusion. Leaning back into the chaise, she sipped slowly, letting the delicate flavours rest on her palate a moment before swallowing the liquid. Conversation ebbed and flowed around her and no one felt the need to purposefully include her in the conversation. Her silence was comfortable.

In actual fact she was glad for the reprieve of attention. The heavy brunt of emotions hitting her were overwhelming and her mind felt like grabbing the remote of life and hitting the pause button....hard.

"Why does Neha smell like oil?"

"Because it's good for her hair Chote." Devyani replied. "It will make her locks beautiful and strong. Won't it Neha?"

Neha nodded enthusiastically. Arnav made a face.

Aman scoffed. "The only reason you're making that face is because of that one time you knocked over the entire bottle of coconut oil on yourself. You smelt of the stuff for weeks."

"Blech." Arnav shuddered at the memory. "I was so....slimy."

Anjali clapped her hands together and laughed. "That's right. I think we have a photo of that somewhere. Infact I'm pretty sure the family album has tonnes of blackmail materialSo what do you say Khushi?"

"Huh?" Khushi looked at Anjali confused for not the first time that day.

"I said what do you say about pulling out the old photo album's and humiliating your boyfriend over there?"

Khushi chocked on the tea she was drinking, glaring at Anjali for using the 'b' word. Devyani handed her a napkin laughing. "Don't worry bitiya. I have heard the word before."

She looked over to Arnav who seemed to be enjoying her torment. That's it. Enough was enough. "You know what...in that case, let the humiliation begin."

Wild cheers erupted from the other family members as Arnav made a face. Cradling his niece his arms, he turned his nose up in mock disgust. "You know what princess? You and I don't need to be here to witness your Mamu's humiliation. Humph."

It was almost as if time stopped for just that moment. It was a surreal experience. A ghost whispered in her ear.

"Hurry up Gupta. My balls are freezing and that won't be good for our future children."

Her stomach did a flip flop as her mind skipped foot loose and fancy free watching him hold his niece. For a fraction of a second she imagined her Raizada with his little Raizada. Another baby girl who had him wrapped around her finger. His eyes and her button nose. His smile and her unruly hair. Their daughter.

Her breath hitched. Their daughter. Kids. With Raizada? Was that what she wanted? Looking at the little girl in his arms she knew the answer. She wanted kids with him. She wanted everything with him. She wanted a future. And in that moment it became clear. Arnav Singh Raizada wasn't going to die. He was going to be the father of her children after all. She simply wouldn't allow it.

The little day dream was ruined when the man in question walked past. "You can fool everyone else Gupta but I know the only reason you're so eager to break out the baby pictures is so you can see me naked." With that he smoothly exited, leaving her grinning like a fool. Trust him to ruin such a pivotal moment in their life.


The evening found the ladies sitting in Nani's room. The nostalgia party had eventually bored Aman. Having heard the stories 101 times he decided to go in search of his best friend and daughter. So Deyani had requested that she rest her legs on her bed as they flipped through the photo album. How the day had turned to night, Khushi would not know. Wrapped up in the childhood of her lover, she hung on to every word living vicariously through his experiences. The stories were funny and bitter and fond and sad. His family was incomplete and their history torrid but after all of it they still had one another. That was all that mattered.

At some point, Anjali had come with some hot oil and requested her Nani to apply some in her hair. Khushi watched as she leaned back with her eyes closed. Weathered hands massaged her scalp and any tension that Anjali had been holding fell away from her as she became a little girl just for that moment. It was unlike Khushi to be jealous but the pain in her heart was so deep that it could not be helped. For years she had begged for just such a moment. A moment where someone would hold her and tell her that everything would be alright. That she didn't have to be scared because they would tackle any demons that came in her way. A moment where someone could be a mother, a sister...a nani.

The room was silent and Khushi blinked away hot tears; berating herself for getting overly emotional. You couldn't miss something you never had. Right? Slowly Anjali's hair was braided and she stood up. With a loud stretch she softly claimed..."I'm going to check on my baby. Make sure she's still alive."

Devyani looked over to Khushi. "Come bitya. I will put oil in your hair."

Khushi felt like a deer in the headlights, fumbling over her words. "Oh...no..no...its ok. I mean I don't need it. It's very kind of you to offer. It's just that...

"Come. Sit."

There was something so authoritative in her tone that Khushi dare not argue. Warm oil drizzled onto her scalp and practiced fingers kneaded and rubbed, sending warmth radiating down her back. It was a welcome relief after the self induced stress her body had subjected itself to. Still Khushi could not let herself relax. There were so many questions she had to ask this woman. Silence hung uncomfortably, waiting for a catalyst to shatter its fragile hold. But where would she start? She didn't even know how to address this woman.

Then as if, she had read her mind...

"You should call me Nani bitiya. I would prefer it if you do."

"Oh." Well done Dr. Gupta. Great answer.

Silence reigned once more.

"My mother always told me that the best way to unburden the heart is to burden the tongue." Khushi craned her neck to look up at Devyani. Sighing, she decided to ask what had been eating her up inside.

"Are you happy with me?"

Devyani smiled knowingly, screwing the cap on the oil bottle shut. "Why wouldn't I be happy with you?"

"Don't you want someone more traditional and cultured for Arnav?"

"In what way?"

"It's only that I don't know anything about prayers and religion. I rarely practice my faith. I don't know how to wear sarees or what any of these festivals are about. How could you be happy with me a  daughter in law for your only grandson?"

Devyani furrowed her eyebrows and thought long and hard about what she was going to say. Turning Khushi to face away from her, she began to massage her scalp. "Life can be fickle. Beliefs I held as a woman of wealth faded away in the face of poverty. There is nothing like a hungry stomach to put life in perspective. In the end, without the complication of money, life is what we surround ourselves with. The people we surround ourselves with. Being traditional and cultured doesn't make you any better than the next person. It gives common ground between two people but it cannot ensure happiness. I measure the wealth of a person by the love in their heart. You make my grandson happy. There is no bigger wealth for me."

The simple explanation left Khushi somewhat disappointed. She had been expecting a battle with this woman. A display of territorial rights over the sole male heir. Never had she thought is would be this painless. But she could not fault her logic.

"As for tradition and culture. It can be learned. It is supposed to be learned. You are not just expected to know it. That is why elders to pass on this knowledge. As for everything else, it will come with time. You just have to be patient enough."

"I guess. It's just that everything seems so uncertain. I'm not sure how much patience I have left."

"For certain is death for the born and certain is birth for the dead; therefore over the inevitable, thou shouldst not grieve." Devyani smiled. "That my dear girl is from the Bhagvad Gita."

Khushi smiled and instinctively rest her head in Nani's lap. 

Outside the door Arnav watched quietly as his Nani ran her hands lovingly over Khushi's head. It was not long before her soothing voice had lulled the younger woman to sleep. When asleep, Gupta was just Khushi. An innocent. No more and no less. Seeing her in the embrace of the woman who had protected them like a lioness gave him peace he had not known for sometime. 

Anjali walked by with a sleeping Neha in her lap. Arnav gently pried the young girl from her mother's arms rocking her back and forth. 

"What are you doing?" she whispered. Arnav signalled her to be quiet and gently pointed out to the scene inside the room. Anjali poked her head in through the crack and spied Khushi asleep on Devyani's lap. She smiled and looked up at he brother. 

"It's time that girl got a little happiness."

"Hmmm." he concurred. The sibling duo stood there in the dimly lit corridor, silently observing. 

"Di...will you promise me something?"


"When I'm not around...."


"No Di. I need you to listen."

"You're not going anywhere." Anjali whispered fiercely, unable to stop her tears.

"When I leave Di, I need you to promise me you will look after her. Not as my girlfriend or anything like that. But as a part of this family. If I can give her one thing then I want it to be family. I want her to have a family. This family."

Anjali looked as if she were ready to hit her brother. "Nothing is going to happen to you."

"Di..." he begged. "Please. I need you to promise me."

Anjali looked away closing her eyes. "I promise."