Central Park, New York
Eight Years Later…
“Why the hell is this taking forever today? Come on Khushi, stop complaining and get to the finish line. Just a few minutes more…”
For the next fifteen minutes, I continue to push myself until I reach my stopping point. Trying to steady my breathing, I take a seat on the bench, and lean back.
There was nothing energetic about this run today.
Why do I feel more tired now?
Are those aches throbbing on the soles of my feet?
“Damn it! Only five miles in one hour. How is that possible?” I gasp, looking at my reading on my iWatch.
This has to be broken.
Yes that explains it, my time is much better than what this dumb device is saying. But before I can ponder further, I am interrupted.
“Here you go Mrs. Raizada.”
“Thank you, Mohan.”
He smiles in acknowledgement as I take the bottle of water and hand towel from him. I can’t help but smile as he walks away and stands further away in the background keeping a distance while watching over me. Mohan, my bodyguard!
Who would have thought I would have a bodyguard when I first to came to New York over seven years ago? Not me for sure, but back then I never imagined my life would turn out the way it has.
But I guess this is the price one pays being married to a billionaire, not to mention an overprotective, control freak, bossy husband. Now that is one thing that has not changed in all these years. Though, it’s not only me with a bodyguard, he is also forced to have one for my peace of mind.
After drinking some water to quench my thirst, I wipe my face and arms with the towel.
As I look around the familiar surroundings, I realize how peaceful and content I am whenever I am here. Which, unfortunately, isn’t much anymore, despite the park practically being my backyard. But my priorities have changed, leaving very little time to myself, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Thanks to my husband, and the warm weather that has made an appearance today, I am here this afternoon sitting in the same spot I did the day of my interview at AR Corporation as Vice President of Marketing. The day that changed my life forever, when I fell into his arms both professionally and personally.
I smile as I pick up my phone, hearing the familiar text alert.
“Hi Sweetheart 😉 Are you done with your run? If so, I was thinking of joining you at the park.”
“Hi baby 😉 I just finished, and am sitting on my favorite bench. Should I wait for you here or do you want to meet somewhere else?’
“You can wait there, I am walking out of the building now so will be there in ten minutes. See you soon.”
“I love you.”
“I love you more.”
“I suggest you not use ‘more’ since that is questionable. At this rate, I would think we are equal.”
“It might be time for another debate, maybe tonight. Winner gets meetha the way they want it 😉 What do you say Mrs. Raizada?”
“It has been awhile, challenge accepted, Mr. Raizada. Oh and put the phone away, I can’t have you getting into an accident texting while walking. There is too much at stake.”
Placing the phone against my chest, I whisper.
“Mr. and Mrs. Raizada.”
That is what we have settled on calling each other in the office. He is not a fan of me calling him that, claiming it makes him feel old. But I love it so he has no choice.
Though as Mr. and Mrs. Raizada at AR, we are a force to be reckoned with, and unbeatable in the marketplace. The way we have worked together in building AR internationally as a Global entity crossing the billion dollar mark in less than three years after I started working for him, has been extraordinary. It was his career aspiration for a long time, which is something I was set on helping him accomplish.
It was something we both worked hard and aggressively to achieve. Both of our expertise in different areas combined was what made us a great team to be successful in a short timeframe. We tend to have our differences, but are always willing to talk through them. He continues to be the CEO, while I became the Co-CEO six years ago.
When he offered me the position after we crossed that milestone, I was reluctant to take it for several reasons. I didn’t want the work pressure since we had decided to start a family soon. And I didn’t feel it was necessary, being content with my COO position at AR.
But in the end after several debates, he won, leaving me no choice but to accept the position. He kept insisting that he wanted me by his side, which I already was. But he wanted to officially make me as his equal at AR. As we argued, it became apparent, me taking this position was important to him.
Just like how I wanted to help him achieve his career goals, he wanted the same for me.
I smile recalling those two pivotal moments in our professional life.
“Khushi, I just the got the final numbers from finance for the quarter… wait why are you smiling? You know?”
He stands up from his chair raising his eyebrow, walking over to me as I walk inside his office.
“Congratulations Arnav! You did it! AR is officially a billion dollar corporation. Not a bad accomplishment for your 30th Birthday. Happy Birthday Baby!” I smile widely unable to contain my excitement with his dream coming true.
He pulls me into his arms, and I wrap my arms around his neck,.
“Thank you again for the birthday wish and this. It’s the best present, correction you are my best present I have ever received. Though this one comes a close second. This is all because of you. It wouldn’t have been possible had you not joined AR three years ago. I am so glad I overpaid for that company, that led me to you.”
“So am I… how does it feel being the head of a billion dollar corporation?”
There is a glimmer in his eyes, a bright smile adorns his face but I don’t expect what he does next.
I gasp as he lifts me up in his arms, and spins me around, as his voice bounces off of his office walls.
“I am the happiest man right now all thanks to my beautiful wife!”
“I know you are not sleeping, Khushi. You can’t keep avoiding making this decision, it’s been two weeks. I want you to take the Co-CEO position. Why can’t you do that for me?”
I sigh in frustration at this topic as it always ends in us arguing, which is why I went to bed while he was working late in his study. And it’s time, once and for all to end it. He needs to accept my decision.
I turn on the side light, and sit up as he continues to lay on his back with his hands under his head.
“Arnav, I don’t want this position right now. We are trying to start a family, and I don’t want this to come in the way. If and when we have a baby, I don’t know what I will want to do. Why can’t you understand?”
“We are not having a baby tomorrow, that you have to turn down this position today. And when we do have a baby, I will support whatever it is you want. Whether you want to continue working or stay home with the baby. But for now, this will be a great experience for you, even if it’s for a few months. Why don’t you see that? It’s something you have always wanted. If you can help me achieve my dream, why can’t I help achieve yours. You deserve this, and it’s not only me but the board as well.”
I lean against the headboard looking towards the window seeking answers from the night sky.
He sits up, and takes my hand in his.
“What if it becomes too much?” I whisper, more to myself than him. I shake my head hearing his husky laugh.
“Work… becoming too much for Mrs. Raizada? I don’t think that is possible. You already started the position a couple of years back after we got married by being by my side and helping me bring AR where it is today. We have done this together. The difference is you didn’t have the title. It’s time you accept it, for me, please? I am asking you to do this for us and our company.”
I look over at his eager gaze, waiting for a response and resign. He smiles curving his lip since he knows I can never say no to him.
“That’s my girl!”
“But I have one condition, when we have a baby and if I want to stay home, you will not stop me. Is that a deal?”
He puts out his hand towards me, which I shake.
“Deal! Congratulations, Khushi Singh Raizada, CEO of AR Corporation!”
He pulls me into his arms, but I take it a step further as I straddle onto his lap.
“Thank you.” I lean down to kiss him as he caresses my thighs. “But now it’s time for you to take off your clothes…”
I wink at him, as I stroke my fingers down his face.
“I am ovulating, and it’s time you deliver on the promise you made me a few months back.”
He smirks as his gaze darkens, with his hands splayed out over my hips, pulling me closer to press against him.
“You ask and I shall deliver. The next few days will be dedicated to making our baby.”
Hearing a sweet, familiar voice, I come out of my thoughts and smile. My life and reason for living are walking towards me. Arnav with our two children, Aryan and Amaya.
I pick up my iPhone, turning on the camera app and quickly take a picture.
A precious sight, one that I need to capture like the thousands I already have.
Aryan, our active little boy is riding his scooter, while Arnav has our baby Amaya strapped onto him in a carrier facing her out. But she has her eyes on her father, looking back up at him smiling as he is saying something to her. I don’t think my husband can look any sexier than he does now. A man in every sense of the word as he confidently walks with his children.
But I can’t observe any further.
“Beta, slow down!” I quickly stand up as Aryan picks up the speed on the scooter approaching me.
My heart is about to come out my chest as he is about to collide with a jogger, but Aryan’s instinct kicks in and he swerves away laughing.
“Sorry.” He says to the jogger before the poor man walks away flustered.
He rides up to me, with his lip curved in a smug smile getting off the scooter. Aryan is an exact replica of Arnav. The only thing he has inherited from me are my hazel eyes.
“Aryan, what was that? You know you’re not supposed ride the scooter so fast. Should I take it away again this week?”
“Really Mumma? I know how to ride the scooter. It was that man’s fault for not looking when he was crossing the path. And… I said sorry while he ran away.”
I smile, picking him in my arms, and he hugs me. He does have a point, how can one argue with that?
“Just make sure you don’t ride it too fast, okay?”
He nods, placing a kiss on my cheek to distract me, which he succeeds. Just like his father, he can easily charm me. I place kisses all over his face, making him laugh.
“Did my baby miss Mumma?”
“Uff, I am not a baby anymore, I’m almost four years old.”
“Oh yeah, how can I forget that your birthday is next month? Should I tell you a secret?” I squeeze him tight, as he looks at me, eagerly nodding his head with a bright smile.
“You will always be my baby.” I whisper into his ears.
“That’s not a secret! You tell me that all the time.”
We both laugh as I tickle him, and Arnav and Amaya join us.
“That was a nice save, buddy! Good job!” They both give each other a high five, while Amaya wiggles around excitedly seeing me, then closes her eyes looking up at Arnav.
“Hi my Amu! Are you getting shy seeing Mumma?”
I lean down to kiss her chubby cheeks and she puts her hands on my face then moves it towards my lips looking for more kisses. As I blow some on her hand, she squeals, bursting out laughing.
Arnav and Aryan both chuckle as she tries to talk in her own baby language. Aryan also joins me, kissing his sister. Her face lights up, and she moves to grab a hold of his face.
Feeling Arnav tugging at my arm, I look up at him. He smiles, leaning down to place a kiss on my forehead.
“Hi.” His husky voice comes out in a whisper.
I wrap my free my arm around his waist moving closer to him. But before I can say anything further, Aryan decides kissing time is over.
“Oh oh… I forgot to show what I found Mumma.” He squirms in my arms, gesturing me to put him down.
I sigh, smothering one last kiss on his face before he slides down, then we walk towards the bench.
“Aryan, do you need help taking it out of your pocket?”
He shakes his head at Arnav, and focuses on his task as his little hands go further inside his pocket.
We both watch Aryan struggle as he continues to fidget around. He loves to do things on his own, so all we can do is wait. It’s then I realize that my two boys are matching today, wearing a white shirt with their sleeves folded up to the elbow and jeans of almost the same color.
“He insisted on changing the clothes you made him wear earlier after he saw me.”
His ability to know what I am thinking, without me saying anything still surprises me even after all these years.
And I should have known that Aryan would change his clothes, since he loves to dress like his father. This has become a habit now on the weekends, which is why I have started to buy them the same polo shirts or anything that I can match up for them.
“Here it is! Look at this ancient rock I found. I think it might be thousands of years old. Right Papa?”
“It has to be. Based on the colors on the rock, I think… it’s at least six thousand years old compared to our Princess who is only six months old today. So how old does that make Amaya in years?”
I examine the rock he holds up proudly as he thinks hard about the question, furrowing his eyebrows.
Aryan’s mind is like a sponge with math, anything that we tell him or teach, he absorbs it, learning it quickly. So it has become a habit of ours to teach and ask him questions throughout the day with examples he can relate to.
“A half year old. In six more months she will be one because half and half is one and one year has twelve months.” He says nonchalantly in one breath, staying focused on his rock.
“Wow! That was really good, Beta. You remembered. And I think Papa is right about your rock. It does look very old, it might be the oldest rock you have in your collection.”
His eyes widen at the possibility, and he covers his mouth in astonishment, looking down at the rock.
He smiles showing off all his little perfect white teeth.
“Can I please go show Mohan Uncle? He knows a lot about rocks. Last time he told me stories about big rocks he saw when he went on vacation.”
He jumps up holding his two hands together pleading to Arnav who looks over at me, and I nod to agree.
“Okay but only for a few minutes then we are going for a walk.”
Before Arnav finishes, Aryan rides off with his scooter towards Mohan who waves to him. Aryan is fond of Mohan, who dotes on him and helps fill in the blanks with his passion for rocks.
Most kids love the latest toys and tech gadgets, but our son loves adventure and nature. He can easily be entertained for hours with rocks and tales about Superheroes, specifically Spider Man. For awhile we went through the costume phase, where he would wear his Spiderman costume all day.
Arnav and I were glad when that phase was over.
I turn back hearing Amaya trying to get my attention as she screams. Though she’s a daddy’s girl, she still needs to see me around. And after not seeing me for a couple of hours, she wants me to hold her. And I want the same. How I have missed holding my baby girl.
Her shimmering molten chocolate orbs reflect her father’s. While I see the both of us in her, everyone insists she looks exactly like me, especially my husband. She, in every sense, is our Princess being the youngest and the only girl in the family. At times like now she lives up to the title, fidgeting to get out of the carrier by whining to her father who is at her beck and call.
“Hold on one second, Princess. Let me unstrap you, and then you go to your Mumma…”
I notice Arnav having a hard time with the strap which is stuck, so I go by his side to help with the belt.
“Mrs. Raizada is looking very nice today. It’s been awhile since I have seen you in your fitted workout clothes. You still look the same as when I bumped into you for the first time at the park.”
I smirk, shaking my head, as he tilts his head and pulls me closer by wrapping an arm around my waist, while holding the baby with the other.
“And Mr. Raizada needs to behave while holding our daughter. Otherwise I will call you know who over.”
We both look back at Aryan who seems to be in search for more rocks with Mohan.
“The Prince of Killing Romance, who won’t let me touch his mother. Which is why I am taking advantage of our time alone. My princess doesn’t mind me complimenting her Mumma, do you?” He leans and kisses her forehead as she scrunches up her nose, wondering what is taking forever for us to take her out, kicking her legs out. “It seems he is occupied with his second love… rocks. Seriously, this obsession is getting out of control, and I think we have enough rocks at home- we need to stop this.”
“Here we go! You look so pretty in your pink dress. Amu wants to come with Mumma?” I take her out of the carrier holding her up in my arms, and she instantly puts her head on my shoulder. “Aww my bacha, what’s the matter are you tired or is that a special hug just for me?”
She looks back up at me, then at Arnav who is caressing her hair. Soon enough she is back to her smiling self which means all is well in her little world. We sit down on the bench, making her sit up on my lap as she looks around cooing as people pass by.
“Yes, I agree this rock obsession is getting out of control. Can you believe he had a few underneath his pillow the other night when you were in California? Luckily I went to check on him before going to bed and noticed one sticking out.
He nods leaning back on the bench, and continues to look over at Aryan.
“Amma told me last night when I got back into town. She insisted on warming up some food for me, then kept me company while I ate filling me in on Aryan’s latest adventures. I felt bad as it was late, and I knew they were leaving early this morning to Boston for the wedding.”
I smile, hearing him calling my mother Amma, which happened a few months after we were married. Though it took him awhile to call my father Babuji, but he eventually did.
And their relationship truly reflects one of a parent and child. For someone looking in from the outside, would never know whose real parents they were. It warms my heart to see the people who mean so much to me being close.
And it’s because of that relationship and Arnav’s insistence, that my parents agreed to move to the States and live with us after Aryan was born. That was the only way I had felt comfortable going back to work, since we didn’t want a nanny raising our child full time with our demanding schedules. We had settled on me being physically in the office a few days a week, and working from home the other days limiting my time away. We do make them go back to Delhi twice a year and have them travel on vacations to give them some freedom.
“I had Mohan take my parents and Nani to the airport this morning. They told me not to wake you since you got in late last night. Oh I also extended their stay to a week since they wanted to go visit a few people from Lucknow there- it will be a nice break for them. How did your meetings go with ACL? Are we closing on them soon? With all the craziness with these two in the morning it had slipped my mind.”
He’s watching me intently, as I rock Amaya back and forth on my lap. This man knows me well, but now is not the right time to have this discussion. I am not sure how he will feel about a decision I made while he was away traveling this week for business.
“It looks like someone else needs a break as well. What’s the matter sweetheart? Did something happen?”
I sigh, making Amaya stand facing us and she begins to bounce up and down. She giggles looking at Arnav, trying to get him to look at her but he is facing me. When I gesture for him to look towards her, he turns and smiles at her.
“Look at my baby go! I think my Princess is going to be a gymnast with those strong legs. Come here you… it looks like your Mumma is going to avoid talking to me about what is bothering her. But that’s okay. Papa will get it out of her tonight. So you and your brother have to go to bed early, okay?”
He takes her from me, throwing her up and kissing her tummy as she continues laughing away with him. I take a deep breath and sit back, wrapping my arm around his back and rest my head on his shoulder, finding comfort being close to him.
For now I take in the sight of Arnav in true Daddy mode. A memory that I will forever remember is when I told Arnav he was going to be a father the first time on Father’s Day.
“Khushi… what’s all this?”
He looks at the dining table where I have set-up his favorite breakfast which includes pancakes, eggs, fruits and different juices.
“I think it’s obvious, people refer to this as breakfast. You know the first important meal of the day. If you would do the honors, sit down and begin eating- so we… I can eat as well.”
He crosses his arms across his chest, and cocks an eyebrow at me.
“Oh really? I didn’t know that- thanks for the lesson on the meal. Don’t be a wise ass! For the past three years after being married, we never eat a big breakfast on Sunday during the warmer months. We go for our run, then I get to take you in the shower before going out to lunch. Why is there a change in plans today? What’s up with all this?
I pout then stick my tongue out at him for his bullying attitude that always has to ruin my surprises. He smirks, amused at my reaction.
“Seriously, you can be annoying sometimes. God forbid someone tries to surprise you, at least sit down.” I mutter as I walk to the chair next to my seat pulling out a gift box wrapped with a ribbon tied around it.
I take a deep breath handing it over to him as he sits down, waiting anxiously for him to open the present as he stares at it for a moment.
“For me? Wait did I forget an occasion?”
“No you didn’t forget anything. Please open it and see what’s inside…”
I sit there patiently watching him slowly unwrapping the bow and then the paper. My heart starts beating faster, as he opens the box and his eyes widen seeing what’s inside.
He looks at me, and I stop breathing for a moment seeing the glint in his eyes as he takes out the frame from the box which holds a sonogram picture of our baby. He holds up the frame with his trembling hands, and without him saying anything, I know he needs to hear it from me.
I walk over, sitting down on his lap and take the frame from his hand, placing it on the table. My eyes fill with tears as I take his hand, placing it on my waist and whisper into his ears.
“Happy Father’s Day, Arnav!”
“I am going to be a father… you a mother… we’re having a baby! Our baby…”
Both of us unable to contain our excitement, as we laugh and cry about finally starting our family. A dream we have been weaving since we got married, but waited for the right time which is now here.
“What are you thinking about, sweetheart?”
I gaze up at Arnav, and smile.
“Remember when I told you I was pregnant with Aryan, your reaction is something I will never forget. It was such an incredible experience finding out we were going to have our first baby.”
He nods, then chuckles looking at Amaya who is cozying up inside his arms. And I know exactly what he is going to say next.
“The best was when you told me about her, that was priceless. I wish we had that recorded on video.”
“That was very comical, how can I forget?”
“Arnav! I am late…”
I storm into his office, slamming the door shut behind me and walk up to his desk.
“Okay, what are you late for? A meeting or something?”
He stands up coming around to me, as I frantically pace back and forth. I still as he touches my shoulder, and glower at him.
“Get your hands off of me! This is all your fault! I am late because of you… hai Devi Maiyya. What is going to happen?”
“Khushi, what the hell are you talking about? You aren’t making any sense… please tell me what happened…”
“Do you really not know what I am talking about? Why would it matter to you anyway? It doesn’t affect your body. Oh my God… stop fucking looking at me like that! I am not CRAZY!”
He throws his hands up in defeat, obviously having no clue what’s going on in my mind as I try to deal with this shocking news that will change our life.
“I think I am pregnant…”
“Oh now you get it. Seriously, I can’t believe I had to spell that out for you.”
“But how did this happen?”
“Well it usually starts by you and I kissi-“
“Khushi! I know how you wise ass, but I thought you were on the pill!”
“I told you I had to stop taking them since I was going to try another method after my doctor’s visit. So we had to be careful for a month… but no, you didn’t remember those few nights coming home late from work when I was asleep. Now what?”
He smiles, pulling me into his arms.
“Sweetheart, why are you so stressed? This is great news! Now I can finally get my baby girl that looks like you.”
“But Arnav, Ari is still a baby. How are we going to manage all of this?”
“Our son is going to be three in a few months. As much as you want him to remain a baby, the fact is he isn’t. And look at Payal and Aakash their two boys are only over a year apart. It will be nice for Aryan to have someone close to him. Khushi, we will figure this out together, like we always do. Come on, let me see that smile, Mrs. Raizada.”
“Congratulations Yummy Mummy!”
“Thank you, Khushi for giving me these two beautiful children. I know it wasn’t easy, being in labor both times for over eighteen hours. It killed me watching you in pain.”
“It was worth it, and I would do it again to have another symbol of our love. They are the light of our life, and I couldn’t imagine our life without them in it. How our priorities have changed having our children, hain na?”
“Just when you think you can’t possibly love something more, but holding them in your arms you realize the meaning of unconditional love. I am richer today because of these two, which is all thanks to you. And, I don’t mind baby number three, but we will plan for that later. Right now, I want to spoil my two Princesses.”
He wraps his arm around my shoulders pulling me closer, and places a gentle kiss on my lips. We laugh when Amaya sits up clapping her hands excited seeing us close together, but her brother has the opposite reaction. Oh boy he does not look happy, riding his scooter approaching us.
I try to get out of Arnav’s hold, but he won’t let go noticing Aryan’s frown directed at him. I brace myself to witness ASR and mini ASR ready to go at it, all for me.
“What the… Papa? Please take your hands off of my Mumma…”
“Excuse me? Are you allowed to say ‘what the…’?”
Aryan shakes his head, and then mouths a sorry. I know it was a slip of the tongue for him which he has realized was a mistake. It’s apparent in the way he sincerely apologizes to Arnav looking him straight in the eye.
My motherly instinct wants to say something, but Arnav is adamant about disciplining Aryan when he does something wrong without interference from anyone. Which in the end, is for his benefit. But regardless I want to take my baby boy in my arms.
“And she is my Khushi. You need to learn to share your Mumma with everyone.” Arnav winks, and then smirks at Aryan while continuing to hold onto me. That lightens the mood to start the back and forth banter between father and son.
“But I do share her with Amu equally fifty percent, sometimes more since she is a baby and can’t do things by herself. I also let Mumma sleep with you at night in your room.” He pouts trying to sit in the middle of us, pushing Arnav away.
“Like father, like son…” I murmur under my breath.
“That is a fair point. But I didn’t see my Khushi for three days since I was in San Francisco, so I just wanted to hug her. Look at Amaya, she is happy seeing Mumma and I together. How about you join us and we both can hug her?”
He smiles but there is a mischievous gleam in his gaze, and I bite down my lip to prevent from laughing.
“Okay I will share her, Papa, but only if you watch the Spiderman movie with me when we go home. Is that a deal?”
Arnav looks at him, then at me incredulously and I shrug my shoulders not wanting to get in the middle. If I have had to watch the movie with him a hundred times, I think it’s fair that Arnav has to as well.
“Buddy, can’t we watch another movie? You have watched Spider Man so many times.”
Aryan looks down with a sad face, and I glare at Arnav for not giving into my baby’s little request. He sighs, handing Amaya to me and places Aryan on his lap.
“But you only watched it with me five times, since you are always busy with work.” He whispers, raising his hand to show his five fingers.
I squeeze Arnav’s hand, feeling a twinge in my heart. This is the first time he has said something like this. Arnav and I both make it a point to carve out time for him during the week, and our weekends are always dedicated just for them. Part of it has to do with the fact that Arnav’s travel schedule has kept him away this month and I didn’t realize it was affecting him. This explains why he has been clinging to me the past couple of weeks.
“Buddy, you know I am never too busy for you. It’s a deal, we will watch Spider Man in the theatre room, just the two of us.”
My heart melts seeing the wide smile on Aryan’s face as Arnav puts his hand forward. They do their special handshake with fist bump, before Arnav engulfs him in a hug.
“Oh my little boy, Papa loves you so much.”
“I love you too, Papa!”
Arnav takes a deep breath as they pull away, and then places a kiss on Aryan’s cheek. I can see he is feeling guilty as he gives me a sheepish smile.
“Da da da da…”
It seems daddy’s little girl is feeling a little jealous. She gets everyone’s attention back on her putting her arms out towards her brother and father.
“That’s not fair, where is our hug? Princess and Mumma want a hug too.” I pout, putting on a sad face.
My two boys look at each other curving their lips in a smile, and then come closer engulfing us into our typical Raizada family hug.
These are the moments that I cherish beyond anything else in my life.
After our usual walk through the park stopping for a few minutes at our favorite bridge with the kids, we head back home.
How much has changed since I had first walked into the Penthouse almost nine years ago.
After finding out I was pregnant, we talked about buying a house and moving out of the city. But in the end, we agreed to stay in the penthouse close to the office giving us the flexibility and convenience while working at AR when our baby arrives.
What I didn’t expect was Arnav to purchase the top floor, and convert this into a two story Penthouse with traditional modern warm decor. Our home now reflects both of our personalities, and while it can overwhelm by the sheer size, it feels comfortable for our family. The main floor is the spacious open living area with a large kitchen, dining room. Along with Arnav and my study, two master suites for my parents and Nani who stays with us majority of the time. The second floor has our master suite, two suites for the kids, along with two guest rooms.
Now our home has become the go to place for both of our families on the weekends, breaks and holidays. We all have now become one family, where our relationships have gotten stronger. It’s no longer his or mine, but our family. And this is how I want to raise our children to value and respect their relationships and have a close bond with everyone.
Anjali, my best friend has also become Di for me, who has been by my side every step of the way supporting me as a little sister. She loves her new role as Bua, just as the kids adore her. Aditya who no longer is a Chotu Bachu even though he always will be for me has grown to be one remarkable smart kid, and taken to his role as big brother. Arnav and I continue to spoil him, probably more than our kids at times when he comes over some weekends and breaks. But then again he was the first baby of the family.
Aakash and Payal, now have two boys, Rahul is seven and Rohan is six. I continue to give my Bhaiya romantic ideas, even with them in Delhi. It looks like they have worked, having kids back to back. They all live in Shantivan with Mama and Mami. They insist Nani come live with them, but now that her only great granddaughter, her Rajkumari is here, she has no intention of going anywhere.
With holidays, vacations, tied with business travel we all see each other frequently in the States and Delhi. We have also taken a few family vacations together, any excuse us women have to get together we make it happen. Just like Aryan, his Papa has had to learn to share me.
Our families continue to be an integral part of our lives, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But there is something special when it’s the four of us, like this weekend. It gives Arnav and I time alone with the kids. Especially since he has been busy the last couple of months with AR.
Hearing all the noise coming from the family room, it seems like they are having a party as I finish cleaning up after dinner and bake cookies to surprise Aryan. Who am I kidding, I will probably eat most of them with all the anxiousness I am feeling right now.
How will Arnav react when I tell him about my decision of not going back to AR?
When Amaya was born, we discussed me taking a six month leave, which was the same thing I did with Aryan. Though with Amaya, I have been working from home on a couple of high profile acquisitions that Arnav is closing out in the next few weeks.
But my priorities have changed. The Khushi that came to New York with a goal to reach the top with her career, is not the same Khushi who is a mother now. I want to focus on raising my children, who come first with work being second. I know I can do both with the help from our family, but it’s not the same.
I also need to be a wife to my husband, which seems to be slipping away being occupied with work and kids. At work we both are busy, once we get home it’s all about the kids and once they go to sleep we go our separate ways to continue working.
There aren’t any problems in our relationship, since we understand. It’s time we don’t have for one another. Both of us need to correct this before it becomes a barrier in our relationship.
Right now, I need to give my kids and husband all of me instead of trying to divide my time professionally and personally.
Will he support me with this decision?
Am I letting him down by wanting this for myself?
What about AR, which is also our baby?
It’s time I talk to Arnav tonight and tell him how I feel.
Woman it up, Khushi!
But first play with the kids, put them to bed, which is a mission on its own, then finally Mumma and Papa alone time. In that order. Oh let’s not forget about sex tonight, it’s been awhile. And I plan to get lucky!
As I am placing the cookies on a plate, I hear Arnav screaming out my name from the family room.
A moment later, Aryan comes running over breathing heavily, and tugs on my kurta before grabbing my hand to take me along with him.
“Mumma, Mumma, come really fast. You have to see what Amu is doing…”
But then he pauses, with his mouth wide open as he stares at the plate, I shake my head at his antics.
“STOP! Are those cookies for me?” His squeals out, licking his lip with tongue, hypnotized by the cookies on the counter.
I laugh seeing the drool coming out of this mouth, as I place the cookies, his glass of milk and Amaya’s bottle on the tray.
“Um, woh… YES, they are for my Ari! Come on we better hurry and go see what is happening.” I say walking quickly out of the kitchen towards the family room as he excitedly leads the way.
I gasp putting the tray on the coffee table looking at the condition of the room. It’s a mess with toys, pillows, and blankets scattered all over. But I quickly forget about the tornado like conditions, hearing the song that’s playing, and my baby girl moving around in a circle as she sits up on her own dancing.
Amaya loves music, and dancing but this is the first time she is sitting up on her own without anyone holding her, dancing away. She looks so proud of herself smiling with her mouth open, her one tooth sparkling. Arnav’s tender gaze is on her before looking over to me, as he proudly gestures at her accomplishment.
radha on the dance floor, radha likes to party
radha likes to move that sexy radha body
radha on the dance floor, radha likes to party
radha likes to move that sexy radha party
“Oh my Jalebi… sho shweet my bacha.” I sit down next to her, and kiss her chubby cheeks as she continues to show off shaking her head, moving along with the beat.
“Why are you calling my daughter, Jalebi? She isn’t your favorite meetha. You know I am actually afraid you might eat her one of these days.” He leans back with his gaze fixed on me, gathering a couple of pillows and placing them around her.
I raise my eyebrow, as he gives me an amused smile shrugging his shoulders.
Time for some fun!
“Oh I won’t be eating our daughter. It’s you that I plan to eat, Mr. Raizada. Be ready tonight.” I whisper into his ear.
Before he can say or do anything, I stand up and start dancing twirling around my dupatta. Aryan takes his cookie, sitting next to Amaya as they both smile, watching me sing and dance to their favorite song.
mathe pe pankh mor kehte hai makhan chor
bajaye bansuri bada aaya chitt chor
but radha wants more
dhundungi charo aur milega koi aur
dungi main hatho me mere dil ki ye dor
because radha wants more
The next thing I know, Arnav comes up close to me, taking the dupatta out of my hand and wraps it around his neck. My heart races, looking at his penetrating gaze as he pulls me by the waist close up to him, and smiles wickedly. My eyes widen when he winks at me, taking my hand as he spins me around and then starts singing and dancing with me.
o radha radha bholi deewani hai
o radha radha do pal jawani hai
o radha ko sambhalo koi ise bata do
ke milega naa koi sanwariya
o radha teri chunri, o radha tera challa
o radha teri natkhat najariya
o radha tera jhumka, o radha tera thumka
o pichhe pichhe saari nagariya
Both of the kids scream in glee when Arnav carries me and spins me around.
“Do I get some extra points for showing you my finest dance moves? I deserve some extra special meetha for what I just did.”
“Nice try, but you need to work on your moves… dance moves that is.” I wink at him. “However, you do get some points for effort. I think you deserve some meetha… sugar free dark chocolate mocha cookies work for you?”
We both burst into laughter as he places me down. When we look over at the kids, they are intently watching us, probably wondering that their parents have lost it. But then Arnav and I glance at each other, and with unspoken words we rush over to the kids. I pick up Aryan, while he takes Amaya into his arms, and then complete our dance with them. The kids’ laughter fills the room as both of them find it highly amusing.
Now this is my version of entertainment, entertainment, entertainment on a Saturday night!
After finally getting Amaya to sleep for the night in her room, I walk into our bedroom and notice Arnav standing in front of the floor to ceiling window gazing outside. He turns his head around slightly, and smiles before facing the window again.
My feet move towards him, and I wrap my arms around his shoulders. For a moment, I stand there in silence burying my face on his back as he covers my hand with his. Both of us enjoying the companionable silence we continue to share in our marriage.
“Was Aryan alright falling asleep?”
He turns around, and takes my hand, leading us towards the chaise to sit down.
“He was tired, so was fast asleep by the time I was on the sixth page of On The Night You Were Born. It looks like he has that book memorized, though I would like to believe my son knows how to read.”
“I also think he has his favorite book memorized, only because it’s the first book you bought and have been reading it to him since he was born. Though we’ve been working with him with words. It’s remarkable how many he knows just by looking at the flashcards. He’s going to be one smart kid.”
“Like his mother.” He whispers, squeezing my hand.
“No, like his father. He is exactly like you in every way, even in the anger department. Another ASR in the making, though this week he wants to designs cars like his Nanu.”
“Who could blame the kid? That is one amazing career, though I do hope he follows our footsteps and takes over AR one day. Then we can both retire early and travel the world, like we did before the kids were born.”
“Yes our mini vacations throughout the year, then our annual long vacation at the end of the year for our anniversary were memorable with the two us. But now, its family vacations and the way our kids love new places we can create new memories and show them the world together. Seeing it through their eyes is a whole another experience altogether.”
He nods, placing a kiss on my hand Feeling content with the light conversation, I put my head on his shoulder. I can’t remember the last time we just sat here and talked.
“From the sounds of it, looks like Amaya wasn’t too happy falling asleep. Let me guess, she didn’t want to take the bottle.”
“She is so stubborn at times…”
“Oh really? I wonder where she gets that from.”
“That is not true.” I smack his arm, and he laughs. I can’t help smile knowing he is right, but I am not admitting it to him. “Arnav, she just won’t take the bottle. You’re the only person that can get her to drink from it.”
“We will have to figure something out soon, since I am assuming you will start working after everyone comes back from Boston. Also, Di said she could come stay with us for a couple of weeks to help with the kids when you come back to AR.”
How ironic for this topic to come up, though I was hoping to have this discussion later. But no better time than now to lay the cards on the table.
“What if I don’t want to come back to AR? What if I want another job?”
He stiffens, anger flaring up in those brown depths as he stands up abruptly. It’s obvious he has misunderstood my words, since I doubt he would react this way if he knew the real reason.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?! You don’t want come back to AR?”
“It means I want to stay home to be with our children and be a wife to you.” I stand up, crossing my arms across my chest.
“Oh… I thought you meant something else.” He smiles, and shakes his head.
“I know what you were thinking, really Arnav? Would I ever leave AR to work for another company? I just want to be a Mom and Wife. Our kids need one of us around them and we need to give more to our relationship.”
“I am sorry, I really don’t know what came over me. But Khushi, what about your career? That has always been important to you, and it’s part of who you are. I don’t want you to feel like you have to give it up. We managed with Aryan, and we can find a way to make it work going forward.”
I shake my head, taking his hand in mine and make him sit down. This is what I had expected him to say, I knew it would be about me, and not AR.
“I know we can find a way, but Arnav, after having Amaya my priorities have shifted because I chose to change them. Aryan was such an independent, easy going baby, that it was okay to leave him with my parents. But you know how attached Amu is to me, she needs me, and to be honest, I need her. Even Ari has started to cling to me, thinking I will get busy and not have time for him. I don’t want our kids to feel this way. And I am enjoying being their mother by staying home with them. It has been so satisfying to see them grow in front of me and give them my undivided attention. I want to do this…” I take a deep breath, unable to fight back the emotions that I have kept inside of me for the past few months to come to this difficult conclusion.
“Why didn’t you say anything before? It seems like you have kept this bottled up. Khushi, we have always been open with each other. Did you think I wasn’t going to support you?”
“I wanted to be sure before I said anything. And in a way I was feeling guilty letting you down.”
He shakes his head, as I look up at him with my eyes brimming with tears.
“Sweetheart, didn’t we discuss no matter what our family comes first? If this is what you want, then I will support you. I just don’t want you to ever look back thinking you had to sacrifice your career to stay home.”
I smile, as he wipes away my tears. A wave of relief washes over me, for the burden and the apprehensions that I had been holding back are gone. My heart is overwhelmed with happiness, as he wraps his arms around me pulling me closer to him.
“It’s not a sacrifice when this is what I want for me, them and us. Plus I am not giving up my career forever. Once they are older in school, I can always come back. That is, if you want me back. And knowing me I will still meddle and provide my input from home.”
“Mrs. Raizada, your office will remain vacant until you decide to come back. And your Co-CEO position, I don’t plan on sharing that with anyone but you. Damn, I am going to miss working with you.” He takes a deep breath, before continuing. “But you are right, we do need to make some changes. I also need to slow down to give our kids and you some time. How about once this acquisition gets closed out the four of us take a vacation? Maybe we can take Aryan to the Grand Canyon, there are plenty of rocks there.”
“Now that sounds like an awesome idea. Can you imagine the rocks he would want to bring home from there?”
I shake my head at the thought, and can’t help giggle. But when I look over at Arnav, he is staring at me. I raise a questioning eyebrow.
“Do you know how beautiful you look when you laugh?”
I close my eyes, feeling the warmth on my cheeks as he caresses my face.
“You always know how to flatter me, don’t know?”
“I can’t help it, if I have an attractive wife…”
I get up from the chaise laughing, since that is far from the truth at the moment.
“Look at me Arnav, I am in my old dirty worn Kurta, no makeup, and my hair is tied up in a mess. And this out of shape body after having two kids is not appealing at all. Bottom line, I am not the Khushi Kumari Gupta you fell in love with.”
“Right, that’s because now you are Khushi Singh Raizada, the mother of my children and my wife, who doesn’t need to impress me with fancy clothes or makeup. It’s your natural beauty and what’s inside your heart that makes you beautiful to me. As for the body, are you kidding me? You have bounced back to your old self. You still wear the clothes that you did before giving birth, right?” He pauses, and I nod. “Thought so!” He gets up and wraps his arms around my waist, leaning down to place a gentle kiss on my lips.
“Do you mind if I go take a quick shower?”
He nods, then kisses my forehead. As I walk away I can feel his eyes on me, before he sighs turning to face the window.
I know he is taken aback with my decision, but with time he will adjust knowing this is best for our family. Though I know this will affect him professionally, since we have been working together for over eight years. At work we have become each other’s habit, so this will be a drastic change for both us.
As I come out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, I notice he is laying on the bed typing away on his phone. A corner of my mouth curves up, making my way inside our closet with one thought in my mind.
Tonight is about adding some much needed spice to our relationship that has become bland the past few months.
“Time to put the phone away.” I order walking out of the closet, and then close the bedroom door.
“Give me one min…”
He looks up as I snatch the phone away, putting it down on the nightstand. Taking the remote, I push the button to close the automatic drapes. I can’t help but smile inwardly as he stares at me with his mouth widened in shock taking in my appearance.
“Baby, we’re just getting started. You should see what I have on underneath. Shall I remove my robe?” I push his chin up to close his mouth, and he nods.
He shifts up, moving to sit up at the edge of the bed facing me as I slowly untie the belt of my new very short silk black robe. I open it slowly to give him a slight peek of the top to see what I am wearing.
“Do you like what you see, Mr. Raizada?”
“I most definitely do, Mrs. Raizada. Can I help take the rest off?” He says trying to stand up, but I shake my head, gesturing him to sit down.
“You see I figured it’s time for me to bare all today.” I pause, as his gaze darkens with anticipation for what is next. “Arnav, you have helped strip my emotions to be the person I am today. And it’s only you that I will strip bare for, emotionally and physically.”
I slide off my robe, dropping it to the ground to puddle around me. He lets out a soft moan, and I smile at him. Only this man can give me the confidence to stand in front of him in barely anything, exposing my flaws with the dim light glowing from the table lamp.
The pink satin and black lace combination seductive babydoll lingerie hugs my curves, with a flyaway front exposing my waist. The matching see through thong barely covers my bottom.
There is blatant hunger in his eyes as they caress my body. That alone sends shivers down my spine, but his soft voice nearly brings my heart out of my chest as it beats erratically.
“Now that is one hot sexy body that I would like to take over and over tonight to make up for lost time.”
I untie the string of the babydoll near my breast, sliding it off as I walk over to him standing in between his legs. He gestures me to straddle his lap, which I oblige.
“I think we should get started then, tonight is about us.”
My breath hitches when his thumb slides over the straining peaks, before he molds them into his hands. He takes his time teasing each one at a time, causing me to arch.
“Arnav.” A heated wave of sensation spears through me, as I feel his arousal rub against my core.
He stands up, taking me up with him, and I immediately wrap my legs around his waist.
“I have missed you so much, my love.” His huskily whispers in my ears, then his lips move to my neck setting me on fire.
“I want you to kiss me.” I say softly as his heated gaze looks up at me.
“Your wish is my command, my dear wife.” He smiles, laying me down on the bed, taking my lips in a searing kiss. My arms wrap around his neck, pulling him closer to me wanting to feel his touch.
He grunts out loud to catch his breath. And my head sinks into the pillow with his hands moving down my body, his touch turns passionate with both of us craving for more as his lips move around my body.
I let out a soft moan, as he slides off my thong, and then quickly removes his pajama pants and boxer briefs.
“I need to be inside you now, Sweetheart.”
I nod, touching his arms, holding them tightly as he enters in one swift thrust. He stills as I cry out his name, coming down to kiss me with sheer intensity as he picks up his pace moving further and further inside of me.
Both of us lose control, increasing the force as his hips pound against mine. He pushes me over the edge as my core throbs around him, blinding me with pleasure. The desires, craving and love that I have been seeking fulfilled by the man I love with all my being.
I clutch him closer to me as he stiffens, letting out a deep husky groan as he finds his release, falling apart in my arms.
The sound of our heavy breathing filling the room, as he lays on top of me burying his face in my neck. I open my eyes feeling sensual kisses on my sweaty neck, bringing a smile to my face.
He raises his head looking into my eyes with his passion clouded gaze.
“Now that was explosive and intense. Even after eight years the spark, the attraction between us is present. Did you feel it?” He caresses my hair away from my face, then strokes his fingers across my cheek. I run my fingers through his hair, pulling him closer to my face.
“My heart and soul, both felt it.”
He gazes down at me smiling, and then leans down to kiss me.
He slides off of me, leaning to the side to check the kids video monitors before turning off the lights. My eyes adjust to the darkness as he pulls the comforter over us and then lays down next to me turning on his side to face me.
“And Mrs. Raizada, I can promise it will be still there when we are eighty years old.”
“I will hold you to that, Mr. Raizada.” I pause, caressing the mark above his eyebrow.
“Arnav, will you still love me when I am old and wrinkly?”
“I know I will love you more.”
He opens his arms, and I move closer finding my usual place close to his heart where I belong. Both of us holding each other tightly, drifting off to sleep as I whisper.
“And so will I, hamesha.”
My eyes flutter open hearing Amaya’s soft cry, and I slowly shift out of my husband’s arms, who is fast asleep. I lean over to check the video monitor to find she is sleeping.
As I feel the mattress dip, I look over to see Arnav shifting to lay on his side with his legs sprawled out and his hand underneath his pillow. He has pushed the cover off of him, and even after all these years, the sight of him with nothing on never fails to make me blush, awakening the heated desire inside of me.
Lust is what I feel, but then I look up at his serene face and I’m overwhelmed with love.
Pulling the covers over him, I get out of bed to go check on my two babies.
A few moments later, I walk inside my princess’s room, slowly making my way to her crib to find her sleeping on her back grasping on to her blanket with her little hand. The innocence on her sleeping face, which is peaceful and tranquil makes me want to keep her this way forever.
“Amaya.” I whisper her name which means “night rain” in honor of the night she was born. I place a gentle kiss on her forehead, and she smiles in her sleep. My heart warms at the sight seeing my baby girl, and all I wish for her is nothing but happiness. And I hope she will grow up to be a strong, compassionate, independent woman to mark her place in this world.
When I walk inside my little boy’s room, I shake my head, smiling seeing him sleeping on his big boy bed just like his father. I sit at the edge of the bed, and push his hair away from his face, before placing a soft kiss on his forehead.
How did my baby boy get so big?
Becoming a mother for the first time, and holding him in my arms was when I felt complete. And seeing him grow, makes me proud of the way we have raised him thus far.
He is living up to the meaning of his name, “warrior, honorable”. He is his father’s son, another Arnav in the making. What more can this mother ask for but want for him to become a perfect man who treats women with respect and loves them unconditionally?
As I walk out to the hall, I stand at the landing overlooking the open two storey living area with the massive floor to ceiling windows through which the city lights and night sky shine upon our home.
I walk down the stairs, thinking about the journey I started over eight years ago, coming to this big city where it’s assumed you get lost in the crowd. But this big city gave me a reason to live and move forward from my past, which is a faded memory now.
This is where I found myself, becoming the woman I am today. All thanks to a certain Arnav Singh Raizada. I flourished with my career as my dream of being a CEO was fulfilled. As a wife and mother, I have learned the meaning of love and what it means to be loved.
My gaze falls on a picture frame that has our family portrait, taken a couple of months after Amaya was born. I pick up the frame, walking over to the window as I caress the photo. I am cradling her in my arms as she looks up at us with her eyes open. Arnav is leaning closely on my right shoulder holding Aryan as they look down at her.
Looking at this picture, I see what that love has given me.
A family of my own.
I kiss the picture, before placing it close to my heart.
“You are my happily ever after.”
And there you have it, the journey of Stripped coming to an end…
It was a joy to be able to polish up my first story after growing as a writer, at least now I won’t cringe reading it. But even more fulfilling was to be able to stay true to the original, by keeping intact the story that many had fallen in love with. A story with my three favorite things- New York, my city, the Corporate world, my career, and Arnav and Khushi, my favorite jodi. This one will always remain special to me.
A dil se, thank you to those readers for coming back, and new readers for giving this story a chance. It’s your generous words and support that gives me the encouragement to continue to live in this sapno ki duniya, even when asli duniya becomes demanding. I am here, because of my readers.
May I ask you all to drop in a few words or push the like button so I know that you were here and reading? I will consider it as my gift for opening this up to share it once again.
To show my appreciation, as I did when this journey ended the first time, I will post what should have been a one shot, but which turned into an eight part short story… Stripped, The Shaadi Special! Part one to be posted next week on this blog, I hope to see you there!
Loads of love,