Thom Yorke's falsetto sang at him from his trouser pocket, echoing in the empty house. Shoving his hands in every available pocket he frantically searched for his phone. As a fleeting thought, it occurred to him that Thom would probably kill himself if he realised he was ringtone. Iphone in hand he ran down down the steps with soft thuds and whispered...
"Chote? What the hell? Why are you whispering?"
"Ohhhhhh" she said understandingly. A split second later... "Wait...wait! Khushi!" she squealed. "As in Khushi Khushi?"
"No as in dukhi Khushi. Of course Khushi Khushi." Exasperated by his sister's idiotic questions he quickly made his way to the living room resuming a normal pitch.
"Wow! I knew you were boring but this is a new low even for you."
"What crap Di? What are you talking about?"
"You put her to sleep?" she cackled.
Rolling his eyes. "Did you call to pull my leg or is there actually a reason for your inane preamble?"
"Is there ever a reason?"
"You're right. When has there ever been a reason? Please do continue..."
"God...touchy! Accha tell me did you reach safe?"
"Well I'm talking to you so obviously I did."
There was an extended pause. Arnav could almost imagine his sister pursing her lips in frustration. "Must you always be so insufferable?"
He sighed. "Sorry. I'm just tired."
Anjali felt helpless hearing the weariness in his voice. Arnav never took care of himself. Then a thought crossed her mind. "Khushi's sleeping?"
Arnav almost lost it. What was wrong with his sister today? "Yes Di....for the millionth time Khushi is sleeping. What is wrong with you!?"
"Exactly where is she sleeping Arnav?" Arnav rarely heard his name from Anjali and whenever he did it meant trouble.
"In her bed." he replied warily.
"And where are you?"
"In her living room."
"Chote....you better NOT be doing what I think you are doing. She is the best thing to happen to you in a long time and I will be DAMNED...."
"DI!" He stopped her before she went further It's nothing like that. She finished her shift at 5.30. We had breakfast together at her place. She fell asleep. I put her in bed. End of the incredibly boring story."
"Hmmm...well good. Keep it boring!"
"Yes Maa." he let slip unintentionally.
There was an awkward silence and Anjali cleared her throat. "Are you taking your medications?"
"Di! I have been taking them since birth. Seriously I think you became a doctor just so you had an official excuse to nag me!"
"You know why I became a doctor." she said quietly.
Arnav felt like a right idiot. "I'm sorry. You know I didn't mean..."
"How are you Di?" he said hesitantly, knowing just how much of a toll this was taking on her.
Anjali knew what he was really asking and wasn't prepared to answer. So instead she did what she did best."I'm fine if you are happy." There was a long pause as they processed just how lame her humour really was. "You know...Khushi? Get it?" she giggled.
"Ok I'm hanging up now!" he said grumpily.
He cut the call abruptly, Anjali's laughter ringing in the background. Shaking his head he looked out the window. It was still raining heavily. Deciding to wait the rain out, he perused through the extensive book collection in Khushi's living room. Rows upon rows of books lined the side wall. Some older, faded, and well loved and some relatively untouched. The topics were random at best description. A gothic romance could find itself sandwiched between a well reputed medical journal and an autobiography of a sports personality. There was no real method to the madness other than the obvious fact that this woman had a thirst for knowledge and loved to read.
Skimming his fingers over the worn out spines, he found himself being drawn to a particular title. Carefully extracting it from its highly compressed position he poured himself the remaining tea. Kicking off his shoes he sat back, making himself comfortable on her couch and began to read, the storm still raging outside.
No. No. No
Khushi groaned as her alarm beeped. In the fogginess of her sleep, she flailed her hand around, hoping to come into contact with the damned device. She had been in the peaceful realms of her dreams, floating upon marshmallowy clouds, her body a weightless entity when that god forsaken sound had sent her crashing back to earth. Every muscle screamed out in protest, begging her not to move from the sanctuary that was her bed. Covering her ears with her pillow she prayed for the gods to have mercy on her. By some miracle, divine or otherwise, the unbearable beeping had stopped but Khushi knew that it was only a matter of time before it would resume once more.
Now wide awake, she huffed in annoyance, collapsing back into her rather plump pillow. Twisting her spine, she revelled in the crisp, freshly laundered linen that engulfed her petite body. Cuddling her duvet, she felt as snug as a bug in a rug. The rain was yet to relent its assault, hammering against the window panes, its howling cacophony surprisingly meditative. Yawning, she pushed herself up and sat up against the headboard. The large wall clock stared back at her.
The weather was an open invitation for her to laze about. A smile crept its way on to her face as she realised it was her rostered day off and she was at liberty to do as she pleased. What she wouldn't give for a warm cup of tea and a good book right now.
She spoke the word aloud over and over, letting it roll off her tongue. As if somehow the kinaesthetic process would reveal the broader association of that word. Tea. Thé. Chai. She tried saying it in three different languages and still remained none the wiser. What was so important about this particular word? The last time she had...
Khushi froze, sitting up abruptly.
The cogs of her mind, which had slowly been shifting into gear, were now operating at full speed. The last she remembered they had been in the living room. Then how had she gotten to bed? Had he carried her upstairs...tucked her in? Groaning, she hid her face in her palms, embarrassed by her behaviour. It was unlike her to behave so freely with anyone, let alone a man she had met a grand total of three times. Khushi was a fighter. She always had been. Growing up the way she did left her no choice. Life was no fairytale and to harbour any such fantasies was only asking for heartache. She was the type of woman who neither required nor wanted a man to carry her to bed. In short she was no damsel in distress. Yet the idea that Arnav had carried her to bed was not entirely unwelcome, dare she say, it was almost endearing.
If anything Khushi was honest to a fault. It did not take her long to determine that her mind and heart were at odds. This man had managed to turn her very organised and compartmentalised life upside down in a matter of days. Gone was the cynical and cautious Dr. Gupta. In her place was a woman she barely recognised. The chemistry she could quantify, after all physical compatability was no knew phenomena. What terrified her was how she could abandon all her self imposed shackles and allow him to live her secret dreams despite knowing that it would most likely end in heartache. Her tummy rumbled loudly interrupting her self analysis.
Throwing off the covers she padded downstairs in search of food. Walking past the coat rack she did a double take. His coat still hung next to hers.
Looking at her reflection in the hallway mirror, she frantically rubbed the sleep from her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair. Pausing for a second, she ridiculed the fact that somehow, this man had morphed her into the type of woman she had previously mocked. Rolling her eyes at her behaviour, Khushi made her way to the living room. Upon entering the room it took all her will power not to laugh. Here she was worrying about how she looked and sprawled out on the couch with a book over his chest was Arnav Singh Raizada...fast asleep.
Soft snores filtered out into the otherwise silent room and her lips quivered with mirth. Somewhere in between waiting out the rain and reading he had fallen asleep. His head lolled back uncomfortably, partially resting on his shoulder. Coat and vest lay discarded on the floor, his arms hanging limply on either side. Arnav looked as if he hadn't slept in days, dark circles and gaunt cheekbones dominating his otherwise handsome face. Gently lifting the book from his chest, Khushi turned it over to read the title. It was oddly telling; the book a person chose to read from her collection. A character evaluation of sorts. Some chose to impress, some chose to probe, some chose for the sake of choosing but very rarely did anyone choose just to read. Reading the title she couldn't help but smile. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. ...
She had all her answers.
Putting the book down on the coffee table she manouvered him slowly so that he was lying on the couch. Supporting his neck, she gently slid a pillow underneath his head and covered him with her favourite woollen-knit throw rug. Tucking him in, she fondly stroked his cheek, stubbly hair tickling her palm. Leaning down, she gently kissed his cheek, her lips lingering...savouring the feel of his skin. As the gravity of what she had done registered, heat flooded her face, staining her cheeks red.
Biting down on her lip, Khushi stood up and began to pace up and down, wearing out the carpet of her living room. Every now and then she threw Arnav a furtive glance from the corner of her eye, almost as if he would magically disappear the next time she looked.
The presence of another individual in her personal space was a foreign concept. Having lived alone for the major part of her life she was not used to the dynamic of having another person around. Any ordinary movement or sound would make her jump a mile high. She tried reading but was distracted by the noise of his breathing. She wanted to watch a movie but was afraid the noise would wake him. Tip toeing around her own house she felt like an intruder. Huffing at her indecision she narrowed her eyes and glared at him in frustration, deciding the best thing to do was therapeutic baking.
Blissfully unaware of his host's discomfort, Arnav slept with his face buried into her pillow, lips parted, snoring softly like a child. Slowly he began to stir. Turning on to his back he stretched his arms upward and yawned. With one eye open he tried to place his surroundings. What hotel was he in now? The blurry outline of a tea cup and book caught his attention. Checking the time on his wrist watch he realised that it was five in the evening. He frowned. That couldn't be right? Surely? Rubbing his eyes, he sat up and yawned again. Faint sounds of clamouring utensils could be heard from the kitchen.
He had fallen asleep in Gupta's house. A string of choice swear words were muttered under his breath. Looking down he noticed that a blanket had been thrown over him. Arnav tried to recall what had happened. Last he remember he had talked to Di and then sat down to read about....whatever the magic kid's name was. However, at no point in time had there been a blanket. Arnav couldn't help but smile as he realised that Khushi must have tucked him in. Suddenly the thought of falling asleep on her couch didn't seem as disconcerting.
Smiling like a fool he made his way over to the kitchen. Khushi had her back to him, vigorously mixing large volumes of silky chocolate batter in a large bowl. Music drifted from the speakers at a very low volumes, presumably for his benefit. He watched as she sang in a hushed voice and wiggled her hips, pouring the batter messily into muffin tins. Time slowed and his breath hitched as she bent down to open the oven door, sliding the tray in, giving him a rather ample view of her behind. Humming to herself, she stood up and proceeded to scoop the remaining batter onto her finger, licking the bowl clean.
There was only so much a man could take.
Walking up behind her, he slid his hands on to her waist and whispered in her ear. "You don't plan to do that alone do you?" Well that's what he would have said. The second his hand touched her waist she stomped on his foot and elbowed him in the face.
"Argggh! What the hell Gupta?" he screamed out in agony holding on to his nose. Blood began to seep through his fingers as he doubled over.
"Just keep applying pressure." she instructed.
Having thoroughly washed her own hands she made him sit down on a chair. "I need you to let me look at it."
Arnav glowered at her. "I know it hurts but please let me look." Still pissed off at having been attacked for no good reason he refused to talk but did remove his hands so that she could examine him. The gauze was now a stained with his blood, but nonetheless had managed to initiate the clotting process keeping the bleeding at bay. She winced as she saw that the alignment of his nose was no longer straight but askew; the surrounding skin torn and bruised. Thankfully though it seemed to only be a simple fracture.
Looking at him she gulped nervously. "This is going to hurt like a bi**h but it will help with the breathing." Before he had a chance to ask her what she was talking about, she grabbed his nose on either side for traction and in one quick move, realigned the cartilage.
"F***********k you!" he screamed in agony.
Khushi laughed. "You know you want to." She winked and went to the freezer. Using a clean tea towel she packed it with ice and walked toward him. Before applying the ice, she popped two painkillers and handed him some water. Having swallowed the analgesic he looked up at her, still annoyed. His long legs spread out on either side of the chair and she walked in between them gently icing his nose. Looking into his eyes she watched the anger ebb away as his facial muscles relaxed. Very gently she pushed back the lock of hair, irritating his eyes. Skimming her fingers over his forehead she traced the outline of his eyes and caressed his cheek.
"I grew up in a tough neighbourhood." she softly confessed, continuing to stroke his cheek. Arnav watched as her eyes took on a distant quality, his heart beating painfully fast as he reacted to her touch. "I lost my parents when I was young and there was no one to look out for me. As I started growing up I got unwanted attention." Her voice was no louder than a whisper. "I've always been petite so knowing how to protect myself became a priority. Anyway I'm so used to living alone that when you touched me I reacted on instinct. I didn't mean to..."
Arnav put a finger over her lips, silencing her with his eyes. There was no need for her to apologise.
The conversation continues and Arnav knows how to cook?
I know it short...LOL! I love how I say its short when in fact its probably the length of an average update on India Forums. Anyway the reason is this. Heart's A Mess has consisted of writing that I have been very very proud of. In terms of the fast paced rhythm and flow of the story. It has been written, in my opinion, very concise and snappy. However in my excitement to share Chapter eight with you all I feel I compromised on the second half of the chapter. It was very...'heavy'. Almost laboured in stead of effort less. There was no sense of flow and I really hate reading over it especially because all the other chapters are so 'flowy.'
I know many of you may disagree but its really been eating away at me. I really regret posting it before it was ready and now I don't know what to do. I am really tempted just to write that bit of the chapter again. Ufff.....I am a perfectionist I know. I cannot tell you how many times I edit and re-edit. Every word is chosen for a particular purpose. It takes a lot of effort for it to seem effortless.
Anyhoo there may be an update of Skyfall tonight if anyone actually cares. It will be on the blog and not on IF.
P.S I didn't elaborate on the Harry Potter metaphor because I feel my readers are intelligent enough. None the less it is meant to draw comparisons between two characters who loose everything at a young age only to find themselves excelling and discovering themselves in a world they did not know existed. It's about growing up and doing the right thing. It's about sacrafice and destiny. And lastly its the fact that he felt confident enough to pick up the book and read it not caring about what she might think.