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Fateful Love by Tina
"I will always find my way to you," vowed Arnav, pressing kisses to her tear-streaked cheeks and finally her mouth.
Khushi drew him on top of her, needing him desperately. "I'm not the kind to wait, as you know. I'll chase after you if I have to, Arnav. I won't let you forget me."
His tongue stroked hers as he murmured between more kisses: "That will never happen. You know very well I can't live without you. We will be together."
He sounded utterly convinced and yet both couldn't help but worry. Holding him to her heaving chest, Khushi closed her eyes in prayer. Everything was against them, but their love had to be enough. It had to be..
Fateful Love by Tina
Chapter 20: Epilogue
Twelve Years Later...
A cloud of dust and fumes curled into the humid summer air as the school bus rolled to a stop. Over twenty high school students stepped off, smiling and talking with a palpable sense of excitement--mostly caused by having an excuse to skip their afternoon math class. Some were fingering through books, others pulling out their cameras. A few in the rear could be heard complaining.
"What kind of school trip is this? To some old house?"
The boy beside the brunette made a face. "Not just old, I've heard it's haunted."
"Class!" their teacher shouted. "Keep up!"
His friend rolled her eyes heavenward as they stepped through a massive wrought-iron gate. Engraved with foliage motifs of coiled leaves and vines, it had to be quite old, but the metal shone under the glare of the afternoon sun as if brand new. The grass beside it was the brightest of greens, well-trimmed, and as the group crossed toward the main property, the gravel crunched beneath their feet.
The hedge ahead gradually curved, lowering in height in a sweeping finish. Beyond it was an endless stretch of gardens, flowers of every hue, tall willows and areas of picturesque beauty that looked ideal for a summer picnic.
There was a collective gasp as the group turned right and the main building rose before them in all its glory. Towering and majestic, there was an old-world charm about it. Although it looked incredibly old, one could see that it was diligently looked after. The ivory, brick, and mortar were spotless, and the windows had been polished till they shimmered, reflecting a stunning view of the gardens.
"Sheesh Mahal," breathed several.
The teacher nodded, gesturing toward the edifice. "The house was originally built in 1799 by a wealthy family of merchants, the Raizadas. At that time, its scale and grandeur was unheard of. Look at the architecture, the attention to detail."
"Was it always so beautiful?" asked a girl in front, diligently taking notes.
"No, not always. From its creation till the early twentieth century, the Raizadas' spared no expense in its care. There were countless servants, cooks, drivers and even a butler. But around 1926 or soon there after, everything seemed to fall apart. The exact details are not known, but the house was eventually boarded up and locked. It remained like that for almost a century. Then in 2013, after several complaints from those who lived nearby concerning its unkempt state, a caretaker was hired by a board of trustees. It was a nominal gesture and not much funding was provided."
"Then how did it become this?" a boy in glasses asked. "This perfect?"
"It came into the hands of its current owners, descendents of the original Raizada family," the teacher explained. "It was only about ten years ago that proper restoration of the property began." She paused mid-step, turning to the group. "Before entering Sheesh Mahal, we'll first take a slight detour to the back of the house. I think many of you will understand the reason for that once you see it."
The students didn't have to ponder too much over what that statement exactly meant. Because before they reached the back of Sheesh Mahal, the breeze provided a hint, carrying an unmistakable, familiar scent. Roses, scarlet red, magenta and every shade in between, bloomed in droves.
"Welcome to the rose gardens, class. These are some of the most extensive and beautiful gardens in all of Lucknow."
Several at the front nodded excitedly, flipping through the book in their hands. "This is where they were reunited, isn't it? Once RSA's memory returned?"
"And where his mother tended to the roses."
"Don't forget about Valentine's Day," added another. "Her first gift to him."
The teacher ahead was explaining something, but the two friends dallied behind.
"What are they all talking about? I haven't yet opened it," murmured the girl, frowning down at the cover of Fateful Love.
"Me either. I hate reading."
"Reading is magical," a third voice broke in. "You can go on countless adventures, across space and time, to magical lands and beyond."
The pair turned with surprise, their eyebrows crunching as they considered the girl who'd seemingly stepped out of the shadows. Dressed in a light blue summer dress, her hair pulled back in a single, thick braid, she was tall for her age, with an impish face, and brown eyes that sparkled behind large-framed glasses.
"You're just a little kid," said the boy dismissively.
The girl smiled, a dimple appearing in one cheek. "Age has nothing to do with wisdom."
They looked at her as if she was strange, and she smiled all the more. Her mother had told her there was nothing wrong with being different. Sure, people looked at you funny, but how boring would it be if we were all alike? Her dad had agreed, telling her she was perfect just as she was. Her younger brother had not said much, pulling on the end of her braid and running away.
"Siblings," she muttered under her breath, rolling her eyes.
The confused look in the high schoolers' eyes intensified. "Are you--"
Jaanvi never heard the remainder of that sentence. Because at that same moment, the teacher shouted, in a too loud timbre:
"Come on, everyone! You can all take more pictures inside!"
Jaanvi wanted to ask the boy what he'd been about to say. She hated it when someone did not finish his or her thoughts. Because, as she saw it, the ending of a sentence mattered just as much as the beginning.
Had the high schooler been about to say: Are you always so brilliant? Or had it been the start of another jibe?
She might have confronted him and demanded an explanation but she didn't want to be caught. Technically, she was intruding. And then, as if to prove it, two familiar shapes--mirror images though one was tall and the other quite short--rounded the other end of the house.
With a yelp, Jaanvi scurried to hide behind the students, joining the very back of the tour. At the main door, she glanced over her shoulder. The two were now hunkered down by the magnolias, spades in hand. Knowing she hadn't been caught, she exhaled, smiling once more.
The high school students were fascinating in an odd sort of way. They commented on things she'd passed all her life, but never noticed: like how the grand chandelier had exactly 26 lights, how the patch on the burgundy curtains appeared hand-repaired, and how the marble of the fireplace had to be from the Stone Age. The last comment was whispered by the same two friends who'd been complaining outside, and she had to bite her tongue to stop herself from correcting them. She couldn't risk the teacher spotting her.
The group stayed near the marble fireplace for a few more minutes and then took the main route to the library. The double doors, with two circles embossed on the smooth mahogany finish, appeared heavy, but opened up with relative ease.
The library was Jaanvi's favorite place in all of Sheesh Mahal. It was warm and airy, with large stuffed sofas, bookshelves upon bookshelves, and bay windows that offered a dramatic view of the rose gardens.
The teacher appeared equally impressed. "Just like the rest of the home, this room has also been restored to perfection. Spotless, isn't it?"
"Except for the carpet stain." The words escaped Janvi before she could stop it. Clapping her hands over her mouth, she ducked behind one of the taller girls.
"Who said that?" The woman gazed about, an eyebrow arching.
No one answered, and talk soon turned to the line of portraits on the wall. "Just like in the book," said the tall girl in front of Janvi. "Where's RSA's?"
The teacher sighed patiently. "Class, the book is heavily inspired by this house, but it is a work of fiction. Not every detail will be the same."
"So there's not a canopy bed here? No initials on the door?"
"If there is, we won't be seeing it. This is the last part of our tour." A knock sounded, and the teacher motioned everyone to quiet down "Everyone, take a seat."
Jaanvi crouched behind one sofa and the two students she'd spoken to her earlier, noticed, staring at her as if she was more than a little strange.
Are you-- had definitely been the beginning of a jibe, she thought, wrinkling her nose at them.
They looked on the verge of saying something, but their teacher cleared her throat then, smiling brightly. "Everyone, let's all welcome our very gracious host and the author of Fateful Love, Mrs. Khushi Raizada."
Jaanvi joined in the applause, resisting the urge to whistle. Her mother, dressed in the emerald green saree she favored so much, looked as lovely as a Spring day, her warmth and inherent grace evident even from across the room. Smiling, Jaanvi shifted out of sight. It was a bit dusty behind the sofa, but it was more than comfortable.
"Hello, everyone. Welcome to Sheesh Mahal." Khushi smiled. "Once a month, my family and I open our home to school groups and other visitors. It is one of Lucknow's historical beacons and almost fully restored. Now, in presentations, usually questions come last, but I like to do things a bit differently. You've all read Fateful Love, you've made that journey right alongside the protagonist, and now you've toured the home that inspired it all. Do you have any questions for me before we begin?"
Several hands shot up.
"I believe you were first," Khushi said, pointing to the girl who'd finally set aside her notes.
"You said Sheesh Mahal is almost restored. How much more work remains?"
"Just one room. It's finishing up sometime this week actually."
"Can I ask you one more question: Why is the narrator never mentioned by name in the novel? Is that deliberate?"
Khushi nodded. "Of course, it is. Everything in the book has been carefully planned. There are several reasons for it, but I decided this suited the story best and made it more personal."
"Would you ever consider releasing a version in third person? With names?"
Khushi smiled thinking of just such a copy she kept in the bedroom. She'd only ever shared it one with one person. "No, there are no plans of that and I'm happy with the novel as it is. How about you, in the red?"
The girl smiled. "Mrs. Raizada, is RSA based on a real love of yours? Perhaps Mr. Raizada?"
Khushi grinned. It was truly amazing how very few people noticed how RSA was ASR backwards. Those who did pick up on it, shrugged it off as coincidence--though it was anything but. "Every good story is founded on some truth. I love my husband dearly--just like the protagonist in Fateful Love."
"But time travel can't possibly exist," said the boy in glasses in an exasperated tone.
The teacher looked at him warningly. "Mrs. Raizada has actually studied physics and teleportation. Many scientists research the subject still."
"That's true," Khushi said. "I eventually shifted to raising my children, writing, and overseeing Sheesh Mahal's upkeep, but in college, time travel was something I was highly interested in."
"And you're not anymore?"
Khushi shrugged. "It fascinates me still, but I don't find searching for answers important any longer. What matters is the present--at least for me," she said with a warm smile.
"The novel ends with a baby being born, but you don't mention a name or its gender."
"Some things are cut at the editing table," Khushi explained. Truth was, her concern from the start had been to write the novel as realistically as possible, but with the necessary privacy for her family. Her husband had read the first drafts himself, and though he liked the public version, she knew that he, like her, was partial to the version they kept to themselves--the one with all the details.
"But was it a boy or a girl? I've been wondering about it ever since I finished the book."
Khushi didn't get a chance to answer. Another voice--one she knew all to well--did: "It was a girl, of course."
Jaanvi could have kicked herself as every head turned her way. She heard footsteps near and wished she could melt into the sofa and disappear. But her mother found her as always.
"Again, Jaanvi?" Khushi murmured, looking not the least bit surprised. "I've told you to stop doing this."
Khushi pulled her to her feet, smoothing away the dust in her hair. Standing beside one another, the resemblance between mother and daughter was striking.
"Next time, tell me if you want to listen in, okay?"
Jaanvi glanced away, nodding meekly. "Okay."
Khushi squeezed her hand. "Go on and clean up, you've gotten dust all over you. We'll talk later."
Sighing, Jaanvi stepped toward the library door. "Sorry for the interruption," she heard her mom say. "Where were we?"
Instead of going to her pink bedroom on the opposite wing of the house, Jaanvi headed toward the kitchen. It smelled and sounded the same as always: filled with tantalizing aromas and the usual squabbles between Buaji and Ms. Anita.
"Jalebis today," declared Buaji with ringing finality, slamming her palm on the countertop. "Sanka Devi must be missing them. It's the perfect choice for dessert."
"But what about Arnav dear?" countered Ms. Anita. "Sugar-free jalebis are tasteless and gummy. A cake would be best."
Buaji started to argue, but Janvi stepped forward, stopping her. "Can't we have both? A cake and jalebis?"
The two women smiled, bending low to hug her on either side. "Perfect plan, dear. Just perfect."
Buaji clasped the hand of her dear Sanki. A month after Jaanvi's birth, she had moved to Sheesh Mahal from Delhi and Ms. Anita had arrived after the youngest Raizada's birth. Though Arnav and Khushi had invited both to be part of the family, the old housekeeper was reluctant to let go of her ways. It had caused a bit of a tussle with Buaji, but everyone knew that despite their constant bickering, the two women had forged a deep friendship.
"Sanki, are you hungry?"
"There are sandwiches from the picnic earlier, dear. Would you like some?"
Nodding, Jaanvi smiled. "Just one."
Of course, they gave her a plate with five. She was eating and chatting with them when the back door opened and the two shapes she'd noticed earlier in the gardens strode in, stomping their muddy boots on the thick mat.
"Hey, that's my sandwich!" said her brother the moment he spotted her. "Not fair, Di!"
Arnav caught his seven year old's hand before he could charge forward. Grasping his hands, he hunkered down on the kitchen tiles so they were eye-level. Chocolate brown eyes, the same shade as his, stared back at him. "What did we just talk about, Yash?"
"Not pulling Di's hair."
Yash thought hard. "To be nice?"
Arnav smiled, the lines of his face relaxing. "Exactly. Now there are more than enough sandwiches for everyone. So there's no reason to argue, is there?"
"Good, now go on and ask Jaanvi nicely this time."
Yash scampered toward his sister, his voice extra polite. "Can I have a sandwich too?"
"Sure." Smiling, she passed him the plate and kissed his baby-soft cheek before he could quite react.
"Eww, Di!" He wiped his cheek furiously.
As Jaanvi giggled, Arnav shook his head, his eyes lighting up as he watched his kids split the sandwiches and talk animatedly. Though his son was definitely going through a phase this year, the bond between the two was palpable.
"Are you hungry too, dear?" asked Buaji.
Arnav shook his head, washing his hands. "Not after that huge breakfast this morning. I think I'll head to my room and clean up." His clothes were muddy and dirt-streaked.
"Did you plant the new flowers?"
"Yeah," confirmed Yash, his mouth stuffed. "All of 'em."
"I wanted to help you too, Daddy."
He kissed the top of Jaanvi's head. "I was going to call you, but you looked more interested in the school tour."
Her cheeks reddened. "You saw me?"
Arnav tried not to laugh at her guilty expression. "Of course, I did. I can spot my children anywhere."
"I just wanted to know what they were all saying about the house. Their teacher didn't notice me, you know. She thought I was a high schooler."
"You have a while to go till high school." Inwardly, Arnav sighed with relief. His little girl was going to be a teenager soon. Thirteen in a matter of months. There was no stopping time, he knew that better than most, but he still couldn't help but wish otherwise.
"Ma looked so pretty. I heard even some of the students say so."
Buaji smiled with pride. "Sanka Devi doesn't seem to age, does she? She is as beautiful as ever."
A fond smile curved Arnav's mouth. "She was always beautiful. Always will be."
Yash swallowed a rather large bite. "Daddy, did Mummy really ask you for piggy back rides when you both were my age?"
"Who told you that?"
Arnav ruffled his hair. "Yes, and she still does."
As everyone laughed, he headed toward the door, smiling. Outside the library door, he paused for a moment, his ears picking up on the faint murmurs of conversation. He wondered how much longer Khushi would be.
Though they both worked from home and distance was never an issue, he always longed for more time with her. Forever was not even going to be enough, it seemed. Not for them. Over the years, their love and friendship had only deepened.
The bedroom was warm and sunny as he entered, and the canopy fluttered slightly. Before anything else, he first took out a small green book from his back pocket. It was dog-eared, its binding close to falling apart, but still readable. Khushi had found it long ago, and when she'd shown him it, he'd recognized it at once. He'd seen his mother reading this gardening book countless times all throughout childhood. Her initials were on the first page.
The memories of his family, of all that had happened in the past, were never far from his thoughts but Arnav had learned to focus on the moments that made him smile wistfully rather than breakdown. Though the pain never completely faded, he made it a point to do his best not to dwell on it. He wanted to live for the present. To make the best use of this miracle they'd been granted.
Untying his boots, he set them aside, turning on the AC. Cool air washed over him. Though he found some of the modern-day inventions silly, some certainly had their uses. Drawing off his shirt, he tossed it to the laundry pile and stretched his back. The door behind him opened so quietly he didn't hear it.
Khushi smiled much as she always did as she glimpsed her husband. He stood with his back to her, his legs braced apart and his muscles glistening with a faint sheen of sweat. With the heat, his hair was extra wavy and his pants clung low around his hips, smudged from dirt and grass. Even after all these years, he took her breath away.
Arnav froze as he sensed her and then spun her way. From the front too, he was as handsome as ever, and though there were fine lines at the corners of his eyes, even those signs of age only added to his arresting aura.
"Tour over, jaan?"
Nodding, she walked right up to him, her intention to embrace him. But Arnav backed away, holding up his arms.
"I'm all muddy and sweaty."
Khushi looked at him up and down and then smiled. "I don't mind."
Arnav grinned as she curled her arms about him, resting his chin on the top of her head. Their bodies aligned perfectly--as if they had been born to entwine like this.
Rising up on her tiptoes, Khushi stretched to him. He pressed a long, firm kiss to her lips, his hands descending over the silkiness of her hair and arms to her waist. There was a slight bulge there already, and in the coming months, it would grow, a sign of their third child.
"You know what this means?" he asked, smiling against her mouth.
"What?" she breathed, catching his bottom lip in hers.
After a very thorough kiss, the kind that made her legs feel unsteady and her heart yearn for more, Arnav moved slight aside. "You need a shower too now," he said with a wink.
Khushi laughed. "Do I?"
"Yes, darling." Lifting her up in his arms, he walked to the adjacent bathroom.
They undressed leisurely, taking the time to kiss and love every inch of exposed skin. As he sat in the marble tub, holding his hand up, Khushi curled her fingers around his, laying flat against the muscled planes of his chest.
"How did gardening go?" She laved his smooth skin with soap.
Arnav tipped back her head, kissing her with simmering passion. The darkening in his eyes gave away how much he really longed for her.
"I don't want to discuss gardening right now."
Khushi straddled his waist. "Me either," she said, slanting her mouth over his. Her hands and mouth were everywhere, and so were his: the hollow of her throat, the fullness of her breasts, the swell of her stomach. Khushi clutched him closer, gasping as their love stole her very breath, the most powerful, soulful love enveloping them.
They stayed in the tub long after the water had grown lukewarm, talking and discussing everything and anything. If possible, the years had brought them closer and though they had largely been blissful, there had been challenges too.
After Jaanvi's birth, Khushi had gotten pregnant rather quickly. They'd been overjoyed, and Arnav had been particularly happy that he'd get to be with her every step this time. Only Khushi knew how much he regretted missing those lost months with Jaanvi.
Things had gone well initially, but then at the end of her first trimester, there had been a unexpected event: a sudden and devastating miscarriage. Though no one cause had been identified, Khushi had been racked with guilt. She'd battled depression, and if not for Arnav's support and Jaanvi's giggly innocence, she might have never overcome it. But they had slowly made progress, taking it day by day, hand in hand.
When she'd gotten pregnant again, they'd both been extra vigilant. Yash, named after her father, had been born full-term, completely healthy. Khushi had burst into tears when she'd held him for the first time, and just like with Jaanvi, Arnav had been there beside her. His eyes too had been wet.
Since then, Khushi had everything to be grateful for. The ArHi Group was flourishing online, her book had been well received by readers around the world, and even the old resentments between her and Garima had finally thawed. In fact, they had grown close over the years, and though Khushi never pushed for more, she saw a lot of her mother in Garima.
The yearly trips to Canada had become tradition. Arnav was still a bit guarded around the Guptas but even he had to admit that the only reason Khushi had arrived at Sheesh Mahal all those years ago had been because of them. For that reason alone, he behaved with politeness. Moreover, Jaanvi and Yash enjoyed meeting their cousins and Khushi loved her family dearly. And so he never complained too much, standing off to the side, and chatting with Akash's descendent.
Payal's husband didn't quite have the wit and humor of his cousin, but he was a good man and they'd become friends.
"Jaanvi snuck into the tour again," said Khushi with a small laugh as he drew her out of the water, drying her with a fluffy towel. "I would have too if I was her age so I didn't say too much."
He helped her into a thick bathrobe. "I saw her. She reminds me so much of you at that age. The same mischievous nature, generous spirit, and sense of compassion."
Smiling, Khushi rose up on her tiptoes to towel-dry his hair. "And many of your best traits too, just like Yash."
"We really are blessed, aren't we?"
"Very much so." She pecked his lips. "You know, one of the students asked about Sheesh Mahal's renovations. I wanted to say they were complete, but there's still that last room."
Arnav tried not to smile. "It is complete."
"I found out just after breakfast today, but didn't get a chance to tell you. You were already in the library."
Khushi's eyes twinkled as she clutched his hand. "I want to see it, love. Please can we go?"
"We can, but shouldn't you dress first?"
Khushi stared down at her robe and then at him, leaning forward for a quick kiss. "I should and so should you." Her fingers trailed along his waist, playing with the edge of the towel. "Though you do look very handsome in just this. I'd have no problem, but poor Buaji and Ms. Anita might faint."
He kissed the corner of her mouth. "Can't have that."
They might have fallen back on the bed, but Khushi was eager to see the finished room, the last puzzle piece to slide into place. Helping each other dress, they were ready in record time.
Hand in hand, they walked across the hall to the pink bedroom. Yash was playing with a toy car and at the window seat, Jaanvi sat hunched over a book. For a moment, Khushi was reminded so strongly of Payal and her own childhood that she paused.
At the sound of their footsteps, Yash looked up and forgetting all about his new toy, he ran to her, wrapping his small arms around her waist. "Mummy! I missed you during the gardening."
She bent down to kiss the top of his wavy-hair. He was the spitting image of his father. "I missed you too, baby."
"I'm not a baby." He looked very seriously at her stomach. "That's a baby!"
"You're both babies," drawled Jaanvi, not looking up from her book.
"Mummy! Daddy! Did you hear that? I'm being a good boy, like you said, but she's..." He rolled his eyes.
Setting aside her book, Jaanvi smiled. "I'm just joking. You're a kid and I'm a teenager."
"Not yet. You're still twelve."
"Your father is right, Jaanvi," agreed Khushi. "Being a teenager is nice, but it's not everything. Enjoy your childhood, it's never going to return."
"Time is unstoppable," said their daughter with wisdom beyond her years.
Arnav and Khushi shared a smile, taking each child by hand. "There's something we want to show you both."
The children paused at the door that they had for years been not allowed to come near. The construction signs were finally gone.
"What's in here?" Yash asked, glancing at them.
Squeezing his hand, Arnav pushed open the door. "Sheesh Mahal's ballroom."
Khushi gasped alongside the kids as they stepped inside. Her gaze flew over the walls, memories of another time flashing past her eyes.
The chandeliers above glowed brightly, the murals had been completely restored, and the marble floors gleamed as if they had been newly installed. It was no longer the dark, hollow shell it had been the last time she'd seen it. It had transformed, aglow with light and a haunting splendor now.
"It's all so beautiful," Khushi whispered. "Just like before."
Arnav embraced her, knowing just what was on her mind. Their children too were stunned by the mammoth space.
"We could have our own ball," said Jaanvi, spinning in a slow circle.
"Or a car race!" Yash pushed his toy car across the floor.
"I like dancing better than racing. Ma, Dad, you must dance. Please! Like a true prince and princess. "
"Yes," agreed her brother. "Please!"
Khushi started to decline, but Arnav held his hand out to her. "Will you dance with me, Mrs. Raizada?"
Her throat constricted at the soft glow in his eyes. She could never deny him. "Always."
As their kids watched and clapped, Arnav swung Khushi into his arms, slow dancing with her. They danced as they hadn't been able to dance at Anjali's wedding so long ago, Khushi no longer an apparition only he could see. They laughed and spun on the tiles. Music wasn't important. Being together was more than enough.
The ballroom was a huge hit with Buaji and Ms. Anita as well. And together, they all had dinner right on the fine tiles.
"A fancy picnic," Yash remarked, biting into a jalebi.
Khushi hugged him to her. "Very fancy and very special."
Across from her, Arnav had been engrossed in a conversation with Jaanvi and Ms. Anita about classic literature, but at her comment, his eyes rose to hers. He smiled, a smile of pure bliss, love, and the warmest of affection on his face. Khushi felt her heart squeeze as she smiled back.
By the time the moon rose in the sapphire blue sky outside, both children were yawning. Arnav and Khushi tucked them into bed and then went across the hall to their own room. Khushi's thumb moved over the engraving above the door handle by habit. ASR+KKG.
Arnav helped her under the blankets and Khushi caught his hand, drawing him down beside her.
The canopy bed carried a lifetime of memories, of love, sadness, hurt, and turmoil, but as Khushi wound her arm around her husband's waist, molding her body to his, she was grateful more than anything else. Some days, she still could not believe that Arnav was truly with her. That this beautiful reality was no wishful dream.
"I love you, Khushi," he whispered, his adoring gaze washing over her.
She pressed her mouth to his, caressing his stubble. "And I love you, Arnav. I always have. Always will."
He tugged her close and then opening the nightstand, pulled out a much-read, wrinkled manuscript. So far, they'd shared it with no one else, but perhaps one day they would. With their children and grandchildren and perhaps other very special people. Those close to their hearts.
"You haven't read it in so long," he said.
"You know the story by heart though."
His smile was warm. "I never grow tired of it. It is our story after all, jaan."
"Our story." Pecking his lips, Khushi cuddled closer, opening to the first page. Her voice was bright, hopeful:
"Sheesh Mahal, Lucknow. Summer 2013. Eight-year-old Khushi Kumari Gupta was the first to reach the wrought iron gates. Having run the entire distance from the rickshaw, she was out of breath, her small hands curving around the rusty, antique rods for support.
Following close behind were her parents, sweat beading their brows as they pushed aside the waist-high weeds that dotted the pathway. It was an unpleasantly warm day. And though the journey from their small house on the opposite corner of Lucknow had not been excessively lengthy, traveling with two children as well as several boxes and one battered suitcase was tiring nonetheless.
Lagging the most was Payal. As she climbed over a grassy slope, finally facing the main building, her face furrowed with unease. Taking her time, she jumped over some broken glass bottles and torn newspapers, clutching a tattered book to her chest.
'Coming, Khushi.' Payal's soft voice lacked any excitement. She sounded utterly miserable.
Khushi though was smiling, her doe-like eyes shining as she gazed through the iron rods. There it was--just as Babuji had described to her, an actual castle in the midst of the bustling city: Sheesh Mahal..."
***Fateful Love by TINA!*** 08/13/13-06/14/14
It's always a bit bittersweet when a story finishes but we've come full circle and I'm really happy that what began as my dream has shaped into something I'm really proud of.
Thanks to all those who commented, left reviews, and made some gorgeous banners. It really means a lot to me. This one has been a rollercoaster, a journey from childhood to parenthood and beyond, and though ArHi were separated longer than any of my other works, no one ever really complained too much about that. I think you all had faith in this love story too--just like they did.
Before we jump to the promised surprises, could you all do me a favor? Could you please keep your eyes open for any copies of this material online? The only place the full chapters should be posted is here on my blog. If you see any part of this material on any other site or any other account in ANY way, please report the person and inform me ASAP. Fateful Love is my original work and it's really close to my heart. Part of the reason I leave my blog public is so that LOTS of eyeballs can see it. We're nearing 3,000,000 hits so I'm hopeful that any shady person out there will be deterred. Because people will remember FL I'm guessing.
ps. there are a couple videos that were made for Fateful Love. I will try to repost those soon. Just a lot going on at the moment.
Till then, here is some bonus material:
Till then, here is some bonus material:
Something a reader messaged me. Credit to maker. Please contact me if you made this, I would love to credit the right person!
Some words from a great friend, Jyo:
"A tale of love ... a battle of destinies ... a space where the timelines blurred ... a mark in the history of the impossible happening .. passion like never seen before ... sacrifice at its purest ... trust unconditional ... faith reborn ... agony personified ... trials that put to shame Inferno itself ... creation at its purest ... emotions raw and earthy ... innocence that brought 2 souls together to bind them forever in the hallmark of eternity ... a tale that gave a new meaning to LOVE itself ... Fateful Love."
The final timeline for Fateful Love:
1914--Arnav and Khushi meet in Sheesh Mahal; age ~9 and 10
1922--Arnav and Khushi admit their love. Arnav leaves. Age 17 and 18
1925--Changed date on Portrait. Arnav Returns. Consummation. Age 20 and 21.
1926--Original date on Portrait. Year of Arnav's "death" (January 21, 1926).
1944--Ram Jha/Mathur born.
1975--Anjali's death at age 75
2013--Khushi enters Sheesh Mahal, age ~9
2022--Khushi, age 17 meets Ram, age 78.
2025--Ram's death, age 81. Arnav enters Khushi's time. Arnav age 22, Khushi age 21. Janvi Raizada born. Khushi graduates college.
2026--ArHi group relaunched. Sheesh Mahal's restoration begins.
2035--Restoration completes. Arnav and Khushi's third child, a daughter named Madhu (after Buaji) born without any complications, full term.
Until next time,
Rabba ve always,
Rabba ve always,
ps. Jalebis for everyone!!
Feel free to leave your final thoughts on Fateful Love below