(Part one of the story can be found here)
After few awkward sentences like this, the talk turned the design of the house and immediately Arpita got into her professional mode and asked his requirements and any specific demands. Arjun appreciated her dedication to work and explained how he wanted his house to be. By the time he finished he saw that Arpita was making copious notes about his requirements and at the same time firing specific items required to her assistant. He waited for a few seconds for her to finish and when she finished she gave him a huge smile and said that it will be done. He was amazed at her confidence that she can carry off all his demands within such short time.
Arpita was amazed at the exact requirements he pointed out, like he painted a picture in front of her eyes as to what he needs. She was also amazed that although the whole house was to reflect modernity, savvy, classic black look, he needed his bedroom to be warm and colourful. She didn’t understand the duality of all this. For herself her whole house was riot of colours and things. She shrugged to herself remembering the weird demands of lots of her customers.
When her assistant went off to arrange the things required, he asked her if she was satisfied with their accommodations and if she needed any thing else. She answered “I have no idea about that yet, I drove here so I just arrived sometime back. My bags are all in my car still, but don’t worry am sure everything will be comfortable and I have your secretary’s number if I need anything.”
Arjun put on his shades and said “Good then, It was nice to meet you. I have to leave now on some important meeting, but you need anything you can call my secretary or me. Here is my card and that is my direct line. Feel free to call if you have any difficulty”. He gave her the card and walked off from there. He didn’t look back until he reached his car and sat inside. Then he let out a huge breath. He didn’t know how he controlled his excitement from an hour with her and not tell her that it was him. He laughed at himself thinking he is acting like a teenage boy with his first crush. He drove himself out forcefully thinking about the upcoming meeting.
But no matter how much he forced himself, he was sitting without giving any attention in the meeting with Arora. This didn’t go unnoticed by anyone present over there. By the time the meeting was over Arjun was surprised as to why he felt like this, all through the meeting his thought was riveted on Arpita. He needed to see her again, he felt like she was some kind of magnet pulling him towards her.
He sat in his conference room well through the night thinking over all these. By morning he had decided on a course of action. He knew that somewhere they both were connected to each other and he wanted to understand that connection, explore that bond. And for that, he needed to be there.
So early next day he was packed and well on his way in his car when he called Shaila to postpone all the meetings which can be postponed to after the housewarming party. When Shaila told him about some meetings which cant be postponed he told her that he will commute from his house for those meetings and warned her not to disturb him anymore until he indicates so. And he also requested to shift Arpita’s accommodations to the outhouse built with the house.
Arpita was in the first floor and she could see his car before it reached the house. She was still wondering as to the passenger of the car when it reached the house and Arjun got down. She immediately noticed how T-Shirt and Jeans had transformed his professional look into a sweet boyish look. She smiled to herself before snapping herself back and chiding herself “Arpita mind your manners, you are his employee, you can’t ogle about him.”
Arjun knew she was watching him; he had noticed her standing in front of those huge French windows on the first floor and looking at his car and later at him. He was smiling to himself when he went inside the house.
He encountered her on the stairs; she was looking at his bags in a questioning manner when he answered “I have a few days free so I thought I will be here, so that you don’t have to wait till you get my approval from there. I can be here and oversee your work immediately. So we can finish fast. And by the way did my secretary call?”
“Oh, yes she did, but I don’t understand why am I being shifted to here. What about my team?”
“If you are near the house you can finish it fast, and I really need it to be done fast. And the outhouse quarters has 4 small houses in general, I will be staying in one, you will be in one and your two assistants can have the other two, and remaining 10 people of your team will have to commute.”
Arpita was surprised at his assumption that she has to make do with whatever he wanted. But somewhere even she acknowledged that the more near she was to the house better it would be, not only the work will be done faster but lots of expensive items being bought from various places needed security.But she didn’t want to show that she disapproved his arrogance.
She just perked herself up and answered “It doesn’t make much difference, but if you are comfortable with these arrangements, I will oblige.”
He was smiling in understanding manner thinking, how she thought that he is being high handed with her. But he could not help it; it was in his nature to take control of everything.
Everybody settled down as he planned and the work started with great gusto and excitement. Arpita had lots of ideas to improve his designs and more than often he rejected them and stirred her back to his designs. Which irked Arpita to the point of screaming sometimes, but she controlled herself. But apart from all those confrontations they had, they both couldn’t deny to themselves that they were attracted to each other. When both of them were in same room, it felt like air had an electric quality around them. Every time their eyes met each other, felt like they are strengthening the unknown bond by making silent promises. They didn’t even have to touch each other, they could just stand sharing the same air and their heartbeat would rise to a high tempo.
Everything was going on as smoothly as possible with two strong forces in work, when Arjun had to go back to his office for an important work, he was still working from here through phones and mails. But this required his personal attention; since he had a resort opening immediately after the house warming ceremony. The two days absence of him made Arpita very fidgety and restless, she couldn’t imagine why she was missing him so much. Everywhere she went in the house she would remember his voice, his smell, his presence. She felt cold without his warmth, she felt lonely without his presence.
The day Arjun arrived she was working on his study room design, she was alone in the room pouring over the plans when he walked into the room. He didn’t make a single sound but she immediately knew that he came.
Arjun was mesmerized with her image when she turned around, there was a smile on her lips and stars in her eyes. “Could she have become more beautiful in two days” he thought. There was joy in her expression which he concluded was because of his return, he was overjoyed with her silent welcome. But both didn’t betray their feelings.
This time while driving back Arjun had decided that he will tell her that he remembered her, no matter how much of a fool he looked. And when he walked towards her to express this, Arpita suddenly was in a professional mode and started telling him about her plans for the study. Arjun was surprised with her changed behaviour when he was about to ask, he realized they were not alone, he turned back to see that one of her assistants were inside the room taking measurements.
He thought with frustration “I can’t have any privacy here.” He listened to her ideas carefully, adding few more pointers of his own. He had started to approve more and more of her ideas recently. He could see that she was talented in an obvious manner, but other than that she had a unique eye for detail which intrigued him to know her.
That evening when everybody had wrapped up the day’s work and had gone to put an end to their long hard day, Arpita was still working in the balcony. She was looking out to see the most beautiful sunset in her life. When she turned towards her work, she noticed Arjun standing at the threshold, leaning his shoulder on the door frame and watching her. To her surprise a blush spread up to her cheeks at seeing him look at her. She smiled at him and all he could do was look at her. Her cheeks were blushed and behind her the sunset and its wonderful hue made her look divine, and he just went on looking at her till she asked “Did you need something?” He realized then that she was feeling uncomfortable under his gaze. He averted his eyes and said “No, am just admiring the view”. There was a smirk on his face which she didn’t understand, and she didn’t quite also understand whether he was referring to the sunset or her. After she started working here, not once did she experience that easy comradeship which she had found refreshing on her first meeting 3 years back. But what she experienced now was more complicated, he intrigued her, attracted her, made her feel absolutely furious at one point and thoroughly encouraged the other. She didn’t know what to feel about him, but after all these days she had understood that she wont be satisfied with only an acquaintance or just a friendship with him, she wanted something more. But she was not ready to remind him of that day, until she was sure that he felt something for her. If he didn’t feel anything then she would part as his designer and nothing more. Her mind was still whirling with thoughts when she started her work again.
Arjun came to sit beside her and he noticed that now a days his nearness was making her a bit nervous. Oh she was that same confident designer still but, now he could notice a hitch or pause when he was near her. He so wanted to tell her that he knew her, but he was not so sure about himself or her yet. Somehow that small meeting which should have been insignificant if told before, was now like a looming secret over his head. They both had covered up that incident with ignorance which made accepting now a matter of pride. And ARJUN TALWAR was a very proud man, but more than pride he didn’t know if she was the same person whom he had glimpsed 3 years back. Because he was interested in that woman, if she had changed in any way he was not sure he could handle to break her image in his head. Because that day that meeting had made him come out of his depression and laugh, when he was sure there was nothing left to smile about in his life.
They both were comfortable in the silence and their own pondering, when Arpita collected her things and while getting up to leave she said “Well good night then, am off to a long night of sleep”. He smiled back and when she passed him, he caught her hand and said “You know you are very good designer”, She looked at her wrist where he had caught her and said him “Are you asking me that do I know am good or telling me I am good?” Arjun burst out laughing, but all her attention was on his hand. Even though he had not held her tight but his fingers were warm and she felt like he is branding her. She had put all her bravado to ask that one question because she wanted to appear nonchalant. While she was looking at his hand, Arjun had stopped laughing and was looking at her with a smile still on his lips. He waited to see if she would try to pull her hand or would she let him pull her to him. When she didn’t look up, he slightly pulled her to him. He knew she was surprised because she looked up to him immediately, but she came when he pulled her again. But at that time, one of the workers walked in the adjoining dining room to store a huge piece of timber and before Arjun could recover Arpita had snatched her hand back and left the balcony in almost a run.
That night was restless for both of them and at some point Arpita knew she cant have her “long night of sleep”, so she decided to work on her plans and atleast finish some work. So she made a huge thermos of coffee, picked up her plans and went to the main house. As nobody was staying there, putting on lights wouldn’t disturb anybody. With this thought when she was about to switch on the sitting room lights, she saw the lights in kitchen were burning still. She was still scolding the handyman for his carelessness in a low voice as she entered the kitchen to see that Arjun was sitting at the dining table with his laptop and working.
Arjun looked up to see a disheveled Arpita due to tossing and turning in the bed, standing there with plans and huge thermos in her hand and looking at him with her big beautiful eyes and it seemed like she was like a deer in headlights. He could see the she didn’t know what to do now. He wanted to put her to ease, but he thought ‘god she looks absolutely delightful with those confused look and huge eyes’. But he smiled and said “I couldn’t sleep, so thought that atleast I will finish up some work rather than waste the night with tossing in the bed.”
Arpita was confused to see Arjun there but his words put her at ease, she said “Same here, so I just made a huge thermos of coffee and came here to finish work”
“You can work here if you don’t mind me, I would love some company in this silence”
Arpita tried to find a reason to say no but she couldn’t, so she just accepted and sat down across him at the table and spread her notes and designs all over.
Then she asked “Coffee??”
“No, I drink Tea”
Arpita didn’t know if it was an honest answer or was he hinting at something. But she didn’t think anymore on that and started her work.
After an hour of rustling of papers, drinking from their mugs and stealing glances at each other, Arjun closed his laptop and looked up and said “Do you want something to eat. I am famished”
Arpita smiled at him and said “Do you want me to fix something for you?”
“Can you. I don’t want to be a bother”
“Sure why not, give me 10 minutes I will be back”
Arpita left to her quarters and Arjun was smiling. He wanted to stop working and talk with her and this was the best way to make her do it.
Arpita returned with sandwiches on a plate and offered to Arjun “Here, that’s all there was to make.”
Arjun took a bite and said “Mmmm, this is delicious. What did you put in this”
Arpita smiled and said “Some flavoured yogurt, my sister taught me this trick”
“Sister?, younger or elder”
“Who else are there in your family?”
“Mom, Sis and myself. Dad passed away many years back, sis is married now. So only myself and mom. What about your family”
“Well, My family is bigger. I have an elder brother and younger sister. Both are married and settled out of India. Dad and mom are right now staying with my brother. Maybe at the end of the year they will come to stay with me.”
By the time the plate of sandwiches were finished, they both had closed their work and were comfortably sharing experiences with each other. Their childhood, schools, colleges, friends, family, habits, vices………
Arpita was realizing one thing that this rigid-business man-exterior had a very boyish-prankster in him and Arjun realized that this Beautiful-slender woman had a steel core and determination in her. Both laughed at each others pranks, smiled at their foolishness and in between all this, both had constantly thought to tell each other that they remember. But as they shared their lives, telling became more and more difficult.
When they finally fell silent with smiles on their faces, it was nearing dawn and the first ray of light was splashing colours on the sky. Arjun thought “I have shared sunset and sunrise with this woman and never have I felt so free.”
Arpita was enjoying the sunrise and thought “Am I falling for him?”
Three days were left before the house warming ceremony and Arpita was busy with final arrangements. The only place which made her anxious was Arjun’s bedroom, about which she was not still fully sure. He had left all the decisions to her regarding his private sanctuary while he interfered with everything else. He had not even seen the room while it was being arranged.And today was the first he was going to see it. Arpita had designed it in different tones of blue with assortment of colours in accessories and she was very nervous about his reaction.
As soon as Arjun entered his bedroom, the first word he thought was elegance. The room was epitome of elegance, but all over the room the little splash of colour added by a painting or vase or pillow made it look very warm and homely. Arpita was standing behind him so had no idea what was his reaction. She was still biting her lip in anticipation when he turned back and hugged her fiercely and said “It is wonderful, I love it”. Even though she was disoriented by his hug, she was happy to see his approval and more over she was amazed to see the boyish happiness on his face. And that moment she felt that his appreciation meant a lot to her and somewhere along the way she had given her heart to him piece by piece.
The day of house warming ceremony came and the house started to fill with guests and friends. Arjun had to be at 10 places at once and today Arpita was free to enjoy, as her work was not only over, it was thoroughly appreciated by everyone. A huge party was arranged in the evening and Arpita went to get ready for it. When she entered her room, she found a huge packet along with a single white rose and a card which read “I would be honoured if you accept this and wear it for me”. She opened the packet to find a beautiful dark blue gown. Arpita was grinning looking at that beautiful gown.
When Arpita entered the room in her beautiful blue gown, Arjun’s heart skipped a beat. He forgot his surroundings and all he could see was her. It took him sometime to notice that almost everybody was looking at her and by the time he got through the crowd she had a group of admirers around her. And for the first time in his life Arjun felt how jealousy feels like.
Arpita could see that Arjun was impressed, she was flattered at his gift but now she felt beautiful when he looked at her like that. She couldn’t evade the people who gathered around her to congratulate her about the house. And then she saw fire in his eyes. That sent a shiver through her body, it felt like he was jealous and his jealous was glorifying her even more.
By the time the crowd moved on and Arjun stood before her, both of them knew that they cant just put words to what they felt. So they just stood by each other and let the evening go by around them in a haze.
By the time the party was coming to an end it was well over midnight, and Arpita was bone tired with all the smiling, talking and socializing. Arjun could see weariness in her eyes. He just took her hand and led her out of the house towards her quarters. Arpita opened the door and looked up to him. Arjun wanted to say so many things, but demons of doubt were still in his head, now he knew that she was perfect for him in almost all the ways but the most important was yet to be proved and for that he needed to know that she was still the same. He took a step back and while walking backwards told her “I guess what you need is a deep sleep and early morning tea. Good night” and he walked away.
Arpita smiled at his reluctance and went into freshen up and crash on her bed. She was almost drifting off to the sleep when she mused on what he had said while saying good night. It seemed odd the way he told. Even though she was very tired she couldn’t sleep, she was still wondering over his words when she realized what he might have hinted. She sat on the bed and thought “He said he guessed and he mentioned early morning tea. Could it be possible that he remembers me?” She checked the clock to see that it was 2:15 a.m. And she knew that the tea stall was an hour drive from here. Her body was very tired but her mind was wide awake, it was ready to solve this mystery and finally find out. She thought about everything, if he was not there, if he was there, if she reached first, if he reached first. But everything concluded to one thing. If he remembers her then that is the man she wants to give her heart to, even she knew she had already given several pieces of her heart to Arjun. But he doesn’t remember then she didn’t want to risk her heart to him. She can’t make the same mistake twice in a lifetime.
Arpita was already driving out of the gate before the clock struck 4. Her hands were trembling and her heart was ready to pop out. Finally when she reached the tea stall it was still 4:45 a.m. and the tea stall was still not open. She didn’t want to get down from the car and see what her future held. By the time she took courage and got down from the car, the tea stall was being opened. She hesitantly walked over to the tea stall to see that old chacha had started his preparations. She looked around to find no one there, she was about to walk back to her car when she heard his voice “Wont you have cup of tea with me, chacha makes wonderful tea and the buns here are just divine. But yeah if there is only one bun then I am not sure I will share it.”
Arpita turned around to see that Arjun was beside the tea stall standing in the darkness.He had watched her all along, waiting how she would react. When her car came, he was jubilant with joy but when she didn’t get down immediately he got his doubts. He was not sure he could handle this when she started walking towards the stall, so he moved back to the darkness beside the stall. When she started to go away, he felt like she was walking away with his heart. He reasoned with himself thinking “what if she hesitated, she had come, she remembers me”.
Arpita looked at his face and said “Aren’t you an epitome of chivalry. But don’t worry am finished with MCP’s in my life”. His face broke into a huge grin when she said this.
His eyes were smiling with happiness when he said “Looks like you got a new one this time”.
Arpita said with stars in her eyes “Well I don’t know if he fits the bill, but he did share his bun once with me”.
Arjun pulled her near him and said “Well what would you say if he wants to spend all his lifetime sharing sunrise and sunsets with copious amounts of teas and buns with you”
Before Arpita answered him, Chacha asked “Madam, Chai?”
Arpita was still looking into his eyes with all her love in her eyes, when she said “Yes”.