Hi all, Apologies for posting after a gap. I've posted about how disoriented I have been. Back to the groove now. Hope you are all doing fine. Now, the traffic at my blog had increased manifold after my book release. I was too overwhelmed. One, I didn't want new readers to begin reading BEB and make me keep it here for long. Two, I didn't want to leave an entire story here. So, I closed a few ...
I keep mentioning my other site and new manan fic as there are many people who were busy for the last few days and have no clue about the new manan fic.
Words fall short when I want to communicate my gratitude towards all of you for your love, your patience, your encouragement, and support for my stories – each motivates me to better myself and learn more and to be able to write more.
Hope all is well at your end. Stay home. Stay safe.
Love you all.
“Dr. Anshuman Shekhawat, you are yet to hear what I haven’t spoken.”
Anshuman had never seen her speaking so strongly. He waited for her to continue. Dumbstruck and stunned.
Manasvi’s hand was still on his arm, restraining him without any pressure, without any force. A simple, subtle touch was enough to tell him that he had to stand there and listen to her. Anshuman obeyed that unspoken gesture. Now waiting for what more she had to say.
She heaved a deep breath and declared, “You are NOT going anywhere on my behalf, Dr. Shekhawat. And that’s final. I ‘cannot’ allow you to do so… Since you don’t allow me to unravel any part of your world.”
He swayed his jaw slightly. Shaken by her claims to be able to palpate his anguish, his pain, his turmoils, he couldn’t imagine being interpreted more by her. More than she had already done. He had to stop her speculations right at the inception. He tried to refute, yet again, “There is nothing to unravel at my end…”
But she interrupted him, “Allow me to feel the same…”
“Manasvi…” He used his heavy voice, husky tone, intense eyes, and a firm posture to dissuade her. But she was not someone to be deterred or intimidated so easily. She had stood rock-solid before all the ordeals her destiny had to bring to her. And Anshuman was not even an ordeal. In fact, far from that.
He was a soothing breeze of fresh air that gently touched her to ease her pain and alleviate her distress. He was her saviour and angel. How could she be discouraged when it came to supporting him when he needed her the most. He might not believe that or accept it, yet. But she knew that no sequence of words and events that made sense when it came to him. He was clearly hiding something. And she needed to know that part of his secrets that he wasn’t comfortable with. His attempts to discourage her were not going to work.
She removed her hand from his arm and took her hand back to herself to fold it across her chest. She challenged him, “You want to go?… You can go! But you can’t stop me from coming behind you.”
He huffed, evidently struggling with himself, yet again. Moving his jaw to a side, almost rolling his eyes, he shot a fiery glance at her. Then, on a sudden impulse, he stepped closer to her and held both her arms right below her shoulders. Almost squeezing them under the pressure of his palms. The grip of his hands clutching her arms, shocking her, less by the grasp and more by the squeeze as unknowingly, unintentionally, she was dragged close to him and his face was inches away from her. She could see each muscle on his face tightening, clearly highlighting the lines of demarcation of his facial features. His nostrils were flared and his eyes flashed a searing fire to burn her soul if she continued to look into them. She was not scared, because he was not angry. He was constantly, consistently fighting with himself. And clueless about what he wanted from her.
Finally, he whispered, spitting fire with every word he spoke in a husky, gruff baritone, “We will not talk again. Stay away from me.”
This was the defining moment that confirmed to her, for sure, how deeply and helplessly she was in love with him. All her ‘different feelings’, care, concern, deep-seated emotions, thoughts for Anshuman, found a proper name today – love!
For there was no other reason for her to be unintimidated by his tough stance and rude words to deter her. No other chance that she would have allowed him to try to scare her and yet stay unperturbed by his unsettling demeanour. No other motivation to look beyond his roughness and feel the pain he was going through. To see what lay beyond his screen he had erected for the world, wearing a farce of a layer to communicate with others on a superficial level hiding every fire inside him, simmering and scathing him.
Even after his attempt to strictly disconnect from her, she knew that she will never be able to stay away from him. Her soul could rip apart all his layers and see another vulnerable soul hurting because of something that he couldn’t share with anybody else. She wished she could hug him right away and wrap her tiny, tender arms around his torso to assure him that she will stay with him, no matter what came before them. She will never leave his side. She will always support him, and will keep waiting for him to share himself with her. And even when he didn’t speak anything… she would still wait!
For she was in love…unconditionally, irrevocably, and undeniably…
Deep in love.
It made her eyes well with her tears. He was moved to see her moist eyes and almost feeling guilty, he left her. She sighed. Despite feeling otherwise, she didn’t want to force him, push him, and thereby overwhelm him.
She whispered, “As you say! I will stay away from you.”
She turned around to leave, instead of making a show of her overflowing emotions before him. He stood flabbergasted, watching her take the narrow path towards their tents. He took a deep ragged breath and ran both his hands in his hair to push them away backward, and let the hands slide down and stay at the nape of his neck, joined together at the back, wondering why he lost his normal, stable, conscious composure when he was with Manasvi. Why she had the ability to shake him so deeply that he stepped out of his highly practiced tranquility and felt a raging wave of emotions when she talked to him. Why he let go of his self-control and reacted in a way that he would have never done with anyone else challenging him.
Only Manasvi possessed this weird control over the strings of his mind that he was unable to keep the poised equanimity that he practiced religiously before the rest of the world.
Manasvi came back to her tent. Amanda was deep in sleep, by now. Without making any noise, Manasvi lay down over her bed and couldn’t stop tears from rolling down on her cheeks. She couldn’t sleep for the entire night. The solemn vow to focus on the future had dived in a pool of darkness. There was no future anymore, to focus on. Her past had rushed ahead of her in the race for survival and met her future, blurring the present, as well.
She had realised very late that Anshuman was her past, present, and future. All. And he didn’t want her near him.
Anshuman lay on his bed looking at the ceiling of the tent and waiting for the night to end. The feeling of guilt that he had misbehaved with Manasvi, in an attempt to keep her away, and hurting her in the process, didn’t let him sleep. Added to that, was Manasvi’s overpowering effect on him, her ability to tear through the image he maintained carefully, and her confidence that she would break through this image.
‘Did her effort to read him, scare him?’ He asked himself. He didn’t know. But he was sure of one thing – That she was the only one who had the ability to do this!
‘Why?’ He still didn’t know that.
The day began as usual. Amanda got ready for work and Manasvi accompanied her to sit with her today because she was not sure if Anshuman was going to allow her to be with her today after the tension that had erupted between them last night.
They left their tent to go to a central facility where tea was served every day with a basic breakfast of toast and boiled eggs. When Amanda and Manasvi entered the make-shift pantry, they found Krish and Alex having tea, talking to other doctors and paramedical staff. Right at the entrance, they found Anshuman leaving the tent. He was generally faster and non-communicative than others. It meant, he never sat and wasted time, gossiping, or chit-chatting with others over tea or meals. He quickly finished his basic meals at all times and left before everyone else. No one actually cared about that because they knew him well. So, Dr. Anshuman was usually not expected to socialize or chat around during free times.
When Anshuman met them at the entrance, Amanda’s face lit up and she flashed a wide smile to greet him for a good morning. Manasvi noticed that he was not even looking at his ‘supposed girlfriend’. In fact, his eyes were on her. His reddened eyes, slightly swollen, probably due to lack of sleep at night were fixed on Manasvi. He didn’t smile. He didn’t change any expression on his face. Instead, only Manasvi could perceive the very slight, subtle clenching of his jaw. She looked at him squarely and even she didn’t speak anything to him.
Amanda said, “Good morning, Anshuman!”
“Morning!” He spoke as if in a trance and moved sideways to go out, “Excuse me!”
Amanda observed him going out, and shrugged, “What happened to him?”
Manasvi shrugged too and commented, “Isn’t he always like that?”
Amanda twisted her lips and rolled her eyes, “Hmm. Yeah, maybe! Avoid him on such days. Stay with me in the maternity ward, today.”
Anshuman heard this while Amanda carelessly joked about avoiding him on difficult days. He really hoped that Manasvi followed Amanda’s advice about avoiding him.
Manasvi was both confused and surprised as Amanda walked in nonchalantly and joined Krish and Alex for the breakfast while cracking jokes with them. Manasvi wondered how Amanda was clueless about Anshuman’s swollen eyes and tensed look on his face and how easily she believed that he was always like that. While Amanda was chatting with Alex, Krish was thrilled to have her as a company. Manasvi found herself disinterested in their conversation. She wished she could follow Anshuman and be with him, and maybe, stand quietly beside him while he worked, whether he talked to her or not.
She found her mind struggling to keep Anshuman away from her and followed Amanda for morning rounds in the maternity ward. Alex and Anshuman went to their OPD tents examining patients turn by turn. Krish was recording the experiences of the nursing staff and new patients for the next few hours.
Suddenly, in the middle of the day, they heard a loud noise at a distance from their camp. Shocked, Alex and Anshuman ran out of their tents and found the patients running for cover towards the brick-walled broken fortress. Krish and the nursing staff helped the patients to follow a path so that they didn’t cause a stampede.
“What happened?” Alex asked.
Krish replied, “Seems like an attack at the camp.”
It was an air-strike. In the next moment, there were two more blasts destroying the tents they used to sleep at night. Krish, Alex, the nursing staff, the paramedical staff, the managers, the patients, everyone ran for cover at the base of the camp as that was a big fort and they hoped to be protected under it. The loud noise, the cries, the dust rising from people’s shoes as they ran around, the chaos all over, and the confusion in the air – suddenly transformed a peaceful place of healing into a war-zone.
Anshuman was worried about Manasvi and Amanda as they were missing in the crowd. Soon, he saw them coming out of the maternity ward, helping a few patients get in the buses managed by PBB, to be taken to another facility before any serious complication happened to them. He nearly sprinted towards them and joined them in helping pregnant women and young kids get inside two big buses. Thankfully, there were only 14 women admitted that day. Once they were sent off, he asked them to go to the base and turned back to check if anyone was left in the ward.
Amanda and Manasvi turned around the buses to cross the road to the base fort when a big bus took a fast turn to that lane, suddenly out of nowhere. Anshuman was far and was startled by the noise. He could see the bus approaching fast on the road between the base and the ward, tearing through the dust storm.
He quickly dashed towards both of them and shouted loudly, “Amanda, run!”
He had shouted Amanda’s name to alert her because he had already grasped Manasvi’s hand to haul her towards him. He didn’t need to alert Manasvi. Manasvi was shocked by the sudden pull. Anshuman curled his arms around her tightly to secure her and rushed to take several steps backward to clear the road. She followed. Amanda was timely alerted and she ran to the other side of the road, thereby saving herself.
The bus came to the screeching halt. The driver jumped down and apologized profusely to Amanda, who was in a state of shock herself. Then, he came around to Anshuman and Manasvi and apologized to them, as well. The commotion was so profound that no one scolded him. Anshuman just nodded and dismissed him before the guy left.
A moment later, Anshuman realized that Manasvi was tightly clutching the lapels of his shirt within her trembling fingers and had hidden her face in his chest. Her warm, irregular breaths on his chest told him that she was terrified. He placed his hand on her head and said, “Don’t worry. You are safe.”
She pressed her lips tightly and looked up at him. He cupped her face in his hands and searched her eyes for an unspoken communication with her. But all he could see in those eyes were tears laden with terror, anxiety, and worries. He sighed and whispered –
“Trust me. I will never let anyone harm you.”