Thank you for being patient with me. I’ve finished most of the projects I had set out for, in this break. I will post about them soon.
For now, I won’t come between you and the update 😀
I hope you all are safe, healthy, and coping well.
Love you all… a lot…
She grasped his shirt at his shoulders when she was near him, terrified and shaky, and whispered, “Please don’t leave my hand.”
He hadn’t expected a reply when he had asked her to trust him. It was an instinctive assurance to alleviate her apprehension. So, he was surprised when almost immediately, she replied, in a soft, barely audible whisper, that he might as well have missed if it wasn’t unintentionally spoken near. his shoulder. She had softly sighed and said, “I do.”
Surprised, he couldn’t lift his eyes off her face, and in the next move, his sinewy arms pulled her up the terrace, in a single sweep. He had crawled backward as he pulled her and so she momentarily rolled near him before she could get a hold of herself.
He removed his hands from her arms, but couldn’t remove his eyes from her exquisitely pretty face; her skin with an unpolluted gleam due to sun rays falling on them; her sharp eyes, jet-black, almond-shaped eyes that looked at him as if they intended to tie him down by those threads they weaved from her to him, only through looks; her black wavy curls of silky hair, escaping from her dupatta like dark clouds playing hide and seek with each other; her lips, parted slightly to draw in labored breaths.
“Are you fine?” He asked, taking his eyes away and pretending to dust his trousers, reminding himself that it was mannerless to ogle at a female, this unabashedly.
“Hmm!” She nodded, wondering why he felt so awkward looking at her. She was his wife and it was okay to ogle at someone you got married to.
This part of the terrace was above the corridor that was at the end of the fortress before the valley began. The smoke coming from the other far end and the sound of a blast distracted them. The chaos and the commotion refused to die down.
“There…” He held her elbow and directed her towards a higher wall, made in brick, separating this small section from the entire fortress, leading to taller structures and higher terraces connecting the rest of the terrace. It formed a sort of labyrinth. They crawled towards the wall and behind it, “This part looks safe.” He spoke in a hushed whisper and quickly instructed her, “You stay here.”
With that, he immediately turned around to go. Panic-ridden at that, she quickly held his arm, with both her hands circling it and asked in another whisper, “Where are you going?”
The panicking look on her face – the knot between her brows, the dragged, worried creases on her forehead, the pressed lips and eyes squinting as transverse slits – made him want to hold her and console her. Her small, soft hands around his arm could radiate the warmth that he had never imagined that a simple touch could ever convey from one person to another. He nodded softly and said, “I’ll go that side and see what’s going on.” He used his eyes and brows to tell her where he was going.
She nodded frantically, “No! Please don’t go..”
He smiled softly, and whispered, as one would talk to a baby, “Relax. They won’t come here.”
“They might not. But an explosive or a part of it might land here. And… someone may spot you…”
“Manasvi…” He tried to explain, and started speaking.
Before that, she interrupted him in a trembling voice, with fear-laden on her face, “I won’t let you go.”
“Then…I’ll come with you.”
He took a deep breath and huffed softly. Then he retracted his foot and his body back, which were already in a position to move. Finally, he sat back, right beside her, leaning himself at the brick wall behind him and face towards the end of the terrace from where they had jumped up, facing a part of the valley and jungle far away, till the eyes could see.
She sighed in relief and folded her knees to hug them close to her chest and rested her chin on the knees. He threw one glance sideways, at her, and rolled his eyes at the hopelessness of the situation they were in.
He huffed, “If I hadn’t met you here, in this camp, didn’t get to talk to you or know more about you… I would have never known…”
“That you were so assertive. So-Strongly-Assertive.”
Apologetically, she looked at him and pressed her lips, feeling guilty. Then, she sighed, slowly, “To be honest, even I didn’t know that about myself.”
He appeared restless. He turned towards the side of the constant noise, to assess if he could see something, and spoke, looking at that side, almost urgently, almost scolding her softly, “You know what – I’ll give you a piece of advice. Store this assertion and strength, for better times. We are in a real serious situation, right now. You have absolutely no idea how dangerous, it is…”
She eyed him seriously and questioned him suspiciously, “You’ve been through such serious situations before… also, you are a surgeon…that too, trained for army…you don’t look like such things rattle you up so easily…”
“They don’t… but today…” He stopped speaking. He was still looking at the other side, completely turned towards the distant source of noise, fumes, and gunfire. He was glad that she couldn’t see his face at this time, for he regretted every word he spoke. He shut his eyes tightly, frowned, and pressed his lips.
She didn’t move either. His back was towards her face. But she could read his emotions in the changing tone of his voice. She asked, “Today? What happened today?”
He nodded and huffed, opened his eyes, and said, “Nothing.”
“Dr. Shekhawat…” She touched his arm.
He turned towards her, glared at her, and said, “It’s – Anshuman!” And after a small pause, almost shooting daggers at her, he gritted his teeth, clenched his jaw, and strictly ordered her, “Stay here!”
Without giving her enough time to stop him, this time, he lay down on the floor of the terrace, with his entire body plastered on the surface, and moved ahead, using only his elbows and toes. He was trained and so he was too quick. Within a few seconds, he reached the edge of the terrace on the other side, facing the entrance of the camp. The visibility had reduced due to smoke and fumes as whatever was left of the camp, the tents, the makeshift wards, the machines had caught fire and were up in the flames. He raised his head up to assess the situation – to locate the army and to see if the situation was tensed or under control. Manasvi could only look at him going away and tuck himself to the floor near the edge. Her heart almost leapt to her mouth and she could feel goosebumps on her arms.
Anshuman couldn’t see much due to the fumes. However, the gunfires continued and there appeared an escalation in the situation. He closed his eyes, trying to fight the growing unease inside him. For the first time in his life, he was so worried, so concerned, and so disturbed. He tried to convince himself that it was nothing to do with Manasvi. But couldn’t.
Manasvi observed him and the surroundings for some time, and when he didn’t move for a few minutes, she crawled to reach near him.
He opened his mouth in shock when he saw her there. Annoyed visibly, he said, “Didn’t I ask you to stay there?”
“Didn’t I request you to not go?” She replied in a sweet, low voice, implying that if he didn’t listen to her, then she was not bound to do that either.
He opened his mouth wider in surprise, at her reply, but didn’t speak anything. Instead, he rolled his eyes and swayed his jaw. She tried to peep out of the edge of the terrace.
When he saw her doing this, he almost panicked. He could feel his heart beating hard and he whispered in an urgent, angry voice, “Keep your head low…”
She stretched herself to lay down beside him, with her belly on the floor and kept her head low, taking a deep breath.
“Were you always this stubborn?” He whispered, frowning.
“No. I was assertive, a few minutes back.”
He didn’t want to but couldn’t stop smiling when she said that. He kept his hands on his temple and turned himself to lie on his back this time, looking at the sunny sky, grinning for a moment. She sighed in relief to see him smile.
“Thank God, you smiled. I was so scared to see you angry.”
He stopped smiling and became a little serious. Not angry but concerned, still. He turned his face to her, and asked, “Amazing! This attack, the blasts, and the fire didn’t scare you?”
“Not as much as your anger.” She lay her head on her forearm folded on the floor, turned to him, and said. She was still on her belly and he was turned towards the sky, lying side by side. She said, “Did I complicate the situation for you?”
He took a deep breath, “You should have gone with Amanda, Alex, and Krish… I would have managed to escape.”
“How?” She softly whispered to ask.
He looked around and pointed towards a higher brick wall, “Can you see that wall?”
“Hmm?” She nodded, turning to look at it.
“I would have climbed that wall, jumped to the other side, ran across the entire length of the terrace to the other side, and jumped down to the side where the army is…”
She looked at the wall, around 18-20 feet high, and the possibility of the escape route that Anshuman had just said to tell her that he could have managed.
She kept looking at it for a minute, then slowly she turned to Anshuman and said, “I think, you should go.”
Baffled at what she said, he became angry again. Very angry this time. Spitting fire from his orbs, he almost fought with himself to not blast her. Gritting his teeth, stressing on each word, he said, “I would have done that IF I was alone. I said that to relieve you, to tell you that I would have managed even if you had left. I didn’t need your saving. That DOES NOT mean that I will leave you here and go.”
She observed him getting so angry and felt that it was more than normal concern or responsibility. She could feel the intensity between them despite them not even touching each other. The struggle in his words tore through her heart and the way he lost his cool at the mere mention of her asking him to go, she could palpate his raging emotions troubling him that he couldn’t control. To add fuel to his fire, she added in a cautious tone, “I don’t care. It doesn’t even matter if I die…”
He replied almost instantly, without thinking, without letting her complete it –
“It DOES matter to ME. And I won’t let anything happen to you, as long as I am alive.”