Manik sipped from his mug of black coffee and stared somewhere far away towards the horizon, across the ocean. A myriad of thoughts ran through his mind at a tandem.
Nandini had achieved another breakthrough when it came to him. She had managed to get into his hard skin, which he had kept hidden from the world, from loved ones and strangers alike. That hard shell protected him, shielded him and kept him safe. He had spent years to build it, layer by layer, ever since Harshad had started picking on him, early in his life.
Since then, that hard shell was his recluse, his hiding space, whenever he had wanted to gather all the pieces of his broken self.
But Nandini? What a beautiful soul she was!!
She had not waited for him to mend himself and be his own self before he came back to her. Instead, she had fought with him and made him fight with himself. She entered his fort and smashed everything that kept him away from her. She made him struggle through those layers so that he was able to leave that shell behind him. She didn’t even wait for the broken facets of his personality… She was confident that she was there to heal him…
Last night had been one of those mesmerizing nights where he had immersed his doubts, his worries, his fears and his apprehensions in the ocean of love she offered him. He could never stay aloof. Instead, he preferred to lose himself completely in her, to find his true identity.
And she was right there… holding him… holding his hand… holding his flaws intact…
Scraping them, to make a perfect flawless image out of it…
He was lost in his thoughts when Nandini walked out of the washroom. He was in the balcony, sitting on one of the chairs, sipping from his coffee mug. She came from behind and threw her arms around him to give him a warm hug. His back was tucked to her front. He smiled adoringly at her attempt to copy him. This was how he hugged her whenever he found her lost in herself.
“Hey!!” He was thrilled to have her near him.
“Good morning!” She chirped.
“Good morning.” He was as excited to see her as she was, to see him, “What’s up?”
She moved around him, around his chair and came to stand facing him. He kept his coffee on the table before him and helped her to sit over the table. He always did that. Even at their home. She leaned her rear at the table and excitedly told him, “Manik, it’s such a lovely pleasant day, and I have planned a beach adventure for us.”
“Beach adventure??”He scanned her from top to bottom and smirked. She was wearing a loose white translucent shrug with a hint of a gorgeous black swimwear below it and possibly a pair of shorts, with it. Whatever it was, it left his mind racing in different crazy directions.
She rolled her eyes when she saw the look on his face and in his eyes. She knew him just too well. With an evident smirk, she lowered her face towards him and sighed. Keeping her index finger over his forehead, she teased him, “Hold those thoughts where they are! My idea of beach adventure is something genuinely beachy… and interesting!”
He held her index finger that she had kept on his forehead and then her hand too. Lowering his eyes to fix them on her lips, slowly, he whispered in a husky voice, “How about some genuinely interesting things, here in the room?”
Blush…blush…blushhh harder… Was all she could manage on her cheeks!!
How did he still have that effect on her… she had no idea!!
They had been married for more than two months now… they had been intimate for so many times that it was hard to keep a tab on what they did, and when… they flirted outrightly… their naughty leg pullings had graduated to shameless teasings and dirty talks… they were so close to each other that sometimes they forgot that they were two people and talking to each other and not talking to themselves…
Still, even now, he had the power to send crazy, nervous tingles down her spine. He knew it too!! And he loved it!!! He loved the look on her face when he sent her imagination running wild…
Also… when she struggled to find a suitable comeback for his teasing… just like now…
“I am up for any interesting activity here… but not now! For now, you are coming to the beach with me! That’s final!!”
“Beach??” He made a tired face, “What for?”
“I want to go snorkeling! I always wanted to do it. And you are going to teach me! Just like you taught me bungee jumping.”
“I don’t know snorkeling!” He shrugged.
She grinned, “You know ‘every’ damn adventure sport. You know diving. So don’t bluff it!”
“How confident!” He laughed heartily, “But Snorkeling?? Just how, boring it is! Watch the fish and flora under the water… what’s interesting in that?”
“I have never done that before – is a reason enough for me to get excited about it!” She spoke, nearly offended.
“Okay! But if you really want to do something fun inside water, come to deep-sea diving with me!”
She made a desperate face, “Manik, why are you always taking things to extremes?? Like, you took me to bungee jumping in Lucerne. Directly THAT dangerous. Now, deep-sea diving? I am not that brave. I shudder at the thought of deep-sea ventures. I am happy with shallow water snorkeling.”
“So boring!” He shrugged.
She caressed the hair falling on his forehead and pushed them back, speaking in a low, understanding voice, “No problem. I knew that you might not be interested. You were tired too. You take rest. I’ll go and come back soon!!”
“Wai…wait…. wait!! Going and coming, means? You can’t do that alone!” He was worried.
“I know. That is why I inquired at the office of the hotel. The reception, downstairs. They guided me about it and said that they will provide a coach. So, I’ll be good!” She got down from the table, pulled a towel to stuff it in the sports bag that she was to carry, along with her sunscreen and some tissue napkins.
“Coach!!” He raised one brow, not sure if he liked the idea.
“Yup!” She smiled and checked the bag again, before zipping it up.
“For snorkeling?” He confirmed again.
“I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t Barcelona. Now that we have come so far, so I don’t want to miss it. I have always wanted to do it. But I understand if you don’t want to come for sucha-boring kinda thing! You find it boring and then, you’ve been here since childhood. It must have been a regular activity for you!”
“Hmm!” He didn’t speak anything, while walking behind her inside the room, watching her hurriedly pack the stuff and move out of the room. Just before she left, she tiptoed and gave him a peck on his cheek, “Bye…I’ll be back soon!”
When the door closed behind her, Manik placed his hands on his waist and chewed his buccal mucosa inwards on one side.
‘What the hell is wrong with me? It is okay to feel excited about it if she has never done it before. And dude, she did ask you! She was fair enough…
If you were not interested, I think, it’s okay to let her be!!
That is what you always tell her, na? Be yourself!!
Now, let her have the most memorable time of her life, without spoiling it for her!!
Another thought came rushing to his mind… Coach!!!!
Manik’s fears were not ill founded…
And this he realised, the moment he went downstairs and towards the part of the beach that extended from the hotel and where there were rocky shores dedicated to the snorkeling sessions. The staff guided him to the place where the hotel organised snorkeling sessions.
Nandini was right there, getting familiar with the snorkeling gear and mask that she was provided, and talking to someone who was just as Manik had suspected in Barcelona… 6’2” … European… tall, well built and confident… with loads of attitude…
That he was shirtless, with his taut abs on display was not his fault. He was at beach so he had to be shirtless…
Manik almost sprinted to reach Nandini, trying to avoid listening to his chest where his heart and lungs both decided to rebel against the normal rhythm.
Just when the guy took Nandini’s headgear and mask and was about to help her wear it, Manik reached that place, burning like a forest on fire. Nandini noticed him and smirked.
She casually turned to him and mouthed a sweet, “Hey!!”
Then, she turned to the coach and told him, “Meet my husband, Manik!”
The coach shook hands with Manik and Manik knew that this was a genuine guy, yet he couldn’t keep his envious mind to stop hammering stupid thoughts inside his skull.
“Hello, I’m Francis D’souza. I’m the snorkeling coach for your wife.”
Manik flashed a brilliant, wide smile towards him and stretched his hand to take the mask and gear from him, “Thank you very much, but that won’t be needed. I happen to be certified expert and I’ll help her!”
“You sure?!!” The guy was overconfident and smart. Just as perfect as Nandu had hoped. Enough to make Manik Malhotra turn to a simmering, burning piece of charcoal. She smirked and turned her face away, towards the ocean.
Manik gave him another smile and said, “I hope you know what ‘certified’ means! Of course, I’m sure, or I wouldn’t have said that we’ll manage!”
Manik’s tone, his attitude, his persona was no less. He stared at the guy in his eyes, making it clear in no unsure terms that he meant what he said. Finally, the coach smiled and raised his hand for another handshake, “Very well, Manik… I’ll take your leave then. Let me know if you need anything!”
Manik didn’t reply to him. But Nandini turned to him and smiled, “Sure, we will call you! Thank you, Francis!”
“My pleasure, Ma’am!” Francis, the Greek-God, turned and left the area, with Nandini’s eyes following his retreating back and Manik’s eyes stuck over Nandini’s face.
After a long moment, he spoke in a terse tone, “He is gone, already… long back… you can come back to Earth now!!”
She giggled at the way he said that.
How she wanted to tell him that she loved his jealous outbursts… how she wished to tease him… clearly happy that her plan had worked… how she knew that he would definitely come down following her and that is why she had mentioned the coach… By sheer luck, she had got a handsome coach, adding to the drama… She was thrilled…
His face was a cocktail of all jumbled up emotions right now and she loved to explore that side of him… She felt special… she felt wanted…
How she wished she could pull his cheeks and loosen the taut muscles of that adorable face… but before that… how about playing with danger, for a bit…
She sighed, quite visibly, to reply to him, “Yeahhhhhhhh!!! Is he really gone!!!”
Manik was irked like never before, just at the way, she sighed. He couldn’t hold his fury, “Hoping for things to get heated up?? Aren’t we???”
She giggled and nodded, still looking in the direction that the coach went, “Mmm!!! What do I say now … He was hot…wasn’t he?”
Angered at that, he held her elbow and turned her to face him with a jerk, shaking her completely, “If he was ‘hot’… then, what am I?”
She smiled lovingly and ran her fingers up his bare chest to caress his pectorals. Leaning towards him, she replied in a careless, sultry, sexy voice, “You are fire!! Hoping to get things heated up somewhere else is so juvenile when I’m hoping to get totally scorched and burnt in ‘this’ fire.”