Khushi's heart:

Khushi looked at Arnav standing still near the locked bedroom door, arms hanging loose, fists closed. His blank look and pale face ate into her determination to present a calm front while making her way out of his house and his life. The six months were over. Her marriage...temporary, contract, time-bound...whatever it was, was over.

She had found out the reason behind their hasty marriage...his Di, of course. Anjaliji's marriage, her health, her safety had to be protected. Her husband had to be made to stay with her, if possible. If not, he had to be plucked out of their lives and thrown away, like a weed from Arnav Singh Raizada's beloved garden. Khushi had been terribly upset on finding out that Shyamji had succeeded in damaging her life and future by lying to Arnavji about her nurturing romantic dreams about him and being party to his attempts to wreck Anjaliji's life. She had cried, yelled at a silent Arnavji, and finally maintained a stoic silence during the couple of weeks it had taken for the six months to be over.

Over this time, she hadn't fully forgiven Arnavji. But she had been able to appreciate the stress he had been under, the wrong impression created by the hug he had witnessed on the terrace...How easy it must have been to believe Shyamji's lies...After all, her own family had fallen for every falsehood he had spouted for months...How could she blame Arnavji for a lack of judgement when her own judgement about Shyamji had been flawed?

The sneaking thought that she should have just told Arnavji about the machinations of his Jeejaji when she had realised that Anjaliji's husband and her mangetar were the same man had done much to cool her ire. She was not totally blameless in this debacle. Moreover, had she been in Arnavji's place, had her Jiji been in Anjaliji's plight, then ...maybe she would have behaved as rashly as Arnavji had done. Maybe she would have done more stupid and outrageous things...It was a discomforting thought.

Night after night of reflection and her innate sense of fairness had forced her to concede that both Arnavji and she were to blame for the sorry state of affairs. And also that...that what had hurt the most was that...he hadn't trusted her...had believed that she would steal Anjaliji's husband...that she was immoral...and that when it had come to a choice between his sister's and her wellbeing, his sister had won. Arnavji had set out to rebuild his sister's life at the cost of hers. Well, at least his priorities were clear...

She looked at him, so dear to her, standing straight near the door, dressed in his white shirt and dark pants, his face darkened by his stubble, his eyes fixed on her.

"Arnavji, it is time for me to go. Our six months are over.."

"Khushi..."

She would never hear him call her name again. She would never see him sitting in his garden, working. He would have a life she wouldn't know about. He would sleep, eat, jog, work, meet people, talk to his family, shout ...feel sad, tired...be ill...without her knowing anything about it. He would never smile at her again. His eyes, his beautiful brown eyes wouldn't rest on her after today. He wouldn't care enough to scold her...or challenge her...or make her angry...

And she...longing for him...every moment of every day...How would she live without seeing him? Without knowing if he was well or not? Without hearing his voice? Without his slow, rare smiles...seeing his eyes with its naughty glint at times... Without touching him, feeling the warmth of his body as he brushed past her, or touched her hand in passing, or caught her when she tripped and fell...Without breathing in the musky fragrance of his skin...

Now she would have to live an entire life of being Arnavji's wife, but without her husband. She wouldn't remove his mangalsutra from her neck. Nor would a day pass without his sindoor on her forehead. Even though her marriage had never really drawn breath, never started, had been a lie from the very first day...

The fingers of her right hand touched the delicate black beads around her neck...placed there by him..in anger...but still placed there by him...

But he wouldn't know. He wouldn't want to know. The mangalsutra and sindoor meant nothing to him. She meant less than nothing to him. She would have to bear this curse of a life...living on..half-dead...He didn't want her in his life...He wanted his freedom...She had no choice. She had to be strong. For him...

The last couple of weeks had given her ample time to think about her future. She had to return to her family, explain the reasons for her elopement and marriage, make her family understand and accept that Arnavji was not at fault, that he had in fact protected her from the lecherous advances of Shyamji...She had no desire to speak the truth and drive a wedge between the Guptas and the Raizadas, or spoil her Jiji's life, or alter the high opinion her family had of Arnavji. She wanted her family to love him...have the freedom to show that love to him...After all, he was Jiji's Jetji...They had the right to love him...but she...

"I have packed my clothes...and my chappals...and bags...and stars", she said, determined to be cheerful. "Will you drop me off in Laxmi Nagar on your way to the office?"

"Khushi..."

"I know you don't have the time...but your family and mine will ask less questions that way..." She was not up to seeing Naniji's tears...Jiji's shock...or Mamaji's disappointment...She would have enough trouble with her family in Laxmi Nagar...

The day she had fallen into his arms in Lucknow, she hadn't known then that he would become her world one day. She had cursed him when he had broken the string of pearls holding her blouse together, when he had been rude to her in his office, when he had hurt her innumerable times with his taunts and his actions. She hadn't known then that he would take up residence in her heart, that every thought of hers would revolve around him, that every line on his face would become dear to her, that every dhadkan of hers would be determined by his, that she would find it impossible to breathe without him. Devi Maiyya had an odd sense of humour...

It was time to go. She blinked her tears away, and smiled at him, slightly. She had lots of practice smiling while her heart was crying.

She turned to take her bag from the bed, and paused midway. The wind chime. It had to come down. She did not want to leave any trace of herself in the room.

She quickly dragged his laptop table to the door. Arnav stepped aside, watching her, confused. She clambered on to the table, and stretched her arms up to take it down.

"I know you hate the sound of this wind chime. I put it up just to rile you. Now...it is time to get rid of it..."

Arnav looked at her, perched precariously on the tiny table, wrestling with the knot high above her head. He strode towards her with a purpose.