Manik tried his best to divert Nandini’s attention, kept her occupied, talked to her consistently and tried to make her forget that unpleasant incident on the street when they were nearly lost for some time.
He stayed with her after that… right beside her… holding her strongly at all times…
Next day morning, at La Pubilla, Gracia, they indulged themselves in scrumptious countryside breakfast. With churros, fondue like thick dark, hot chocolate, chicken sausages, and baked beans, they sat for a long time, watching the world pass by them. She didn’t talk much and Manik knew why… he didn’t force her too…
Later, they sat together, holding hands for a long time…
With coffee in disposable mugs, they walked for a long stretch, this time on a secluded street… in a quiet and quaint locality, away from the noise of the city… It worked wonders to soak in the local culture and cuisine. Slowly, she was back to being herself… feeling confident with him beside her…
For next three days, they did everything that regular tourists do… visited the museums, forts, churches, and places of interests… window shopped in the markets… took long walks in the neighbourhood area around the hotel… getting mixed with the locals… eating local cuisine…
He was a pro at sports and adventure activities and he made her do everything he knew about… from parasailing to deep-sea diving, paragliding to sky diving, and even water sports too… Walking along the beach was her thing and he did that with her when all she wanted was to relax at the beach because she would agree to most of the adventures when he wanted her to do something thrilling…
Time spent together was heavenly… it was blissful…
But there was a slight change. All this while, Nandini was talking less and didn’t leave Manik’s side even for a minute. She stayed nearly glued to him, held his hand strongly and never let him out of her sight. He didn’t feel suffocated at all… in fact, he tried his best to stay close to her and held her like a delicate possession, to be handled with care…
Days were spent talking about life in general, about them and their future plans…
Nights were spent communicating at a totally different level, with words deemed to be irrelevant between them. They had grown to know each other so well, that they didn’t even need to spell out their needs and desires.
They just melted into each other, when they were together!
On 6th night in Barcelona…
She was uneasy and restless… thinking about her life – past one week in Barcelona… past few weeks in Engelberg… past 4 months in Paris… past 24 years in India…
“I will never let you go away from me. If it ever happens, I will come back and find you… wherever you are … And it’s a promise!!”
His words echoed in her mind for a long time. It meant so much!! The deeper connotation of those words could one day be a lifeline for her.
Still, she had become insecure. For the first time in their relationship. And she didn’t know how to avert the storm heading towards them.
Was she doing right?
Had she betrayed her husband?
Someone who loved her like his life. Maybe, more than that.
He will be broken.
He has trusted and loved someone for the first time.
Will he ever be able to live without her, if he had to, the way she couldn’t think of a life without him?
Was she testing his patience? His love? His integrity?
In a bid to help him fight with his darker facets, had she pushed him towards more darkness??
She asked herself, some really uneasy, depressing questions.
How was he going to feel when he will get to know of her plans for him and Harshad. The answer was not easy. It wasn’t pleasant either. She shuddered and shivered.
It was late at night. The waves from the sea were the only sounds audible inside the room. With lights off and only a dim yellow lamp by the bedside, the room had a perfect tranquil ambience in complete contrast with the turbulence going inside two hearts. None of them could sleep. It was their last night in Barcelona and tomorrow they were going to be back to their old, routine ‘real’ world… Both were trying hard to forget about their fears and insecurities and slip to a slumber. They didn’t talk for a long time and lay still.
When she shuddered, Manik could feel the movement as she was in his arms. He pulled her closer into him and hugged her from behind, giving her a tight squeeze. She clutched his hands and intertwined their fingers.
“Try to get some sleep!” He whispered from behind, near her shoulder, with his arms around her waist and chin at her shoulder.
“That day… I felt so clearly… how it would be, if I ever lose you…”
He hugged her closer to him, “I know it was stressful. You were almost a nervous wreck that day, but you need to get over it.”
“Hmm!” She nodded. And then she gathered all her courage to speak, “It’s not just about that day… it’s about ‘us’…”
“I can’t live without you, Manik!” She confessed honestly, as straight forward as she could. “I’ve never loved anyone ever, so much. All my life, I trained myself to live alone… to not be dependent on someone… to not trust too much or too easily… to not get affected by things or people… and then came you!! You shattered all my previous beliefs and made me fall in love so hard… that I never realised when I became dependent on you… I began trusting you… I began to get affected by your moods, decisions, actions… I love you so much… I just can’t imagine, having to stay even for a day without you…”
He smiled lovingly, “Is that a cause of stress for you?”
She leaned her head back on his chest, “No. Not our relationship… but the fear of future is definitely becoming stressful!! I’ve never been so insecure… not to this extent… This is scary. Very scary!!”
He turned her to face him and leaned his forehead on her forehead. Caressing her cheek with his hand, he asked, “Insecure about us? Why?”
“We are so different. We have so many differences of opinion… we just don’t agree on any one thing…”
“Think about this – We are crazy in love… we are crazy about each other…”
“Yeah… but we have some weird, totally opposite ways to approach a problem…”
“How does it matter? … When we care a lot about each other…”
“I know… we do… but…”
“I am scared ‘of us’…! Both of us!! … We are so strongly opinionated… two strong people, with fixed views about everything…” Her fingers lingered adoringly over his jawline and chin.
“We always knew that, didn’t we? Probably, that is the reason, we attract each other so much!” He softly kissed her cheek.
“It is so thrilling when it stays till attraction and all the sparks between us… but becomes so tough, when it comes to actually facing the consequences.”
“How we are different, should never bother us. It should be always about how we complete each other.”
“I know you are right, but how do we deal with it? I’m always worried about your anger and your extreme responses to things unfolding around us… You must be irritated by my stubbornness… none of us is perfect… we are so flawed…”
“That’s just so natural and real…”
“When you react, your anger and impulsiveness rules you… so much so that you forget everything around you… you forget me…”
“You mean to say that I shouldn’t have gone behind that rogue?” He wrapped a curl of her hair around his finger.
“You left me behind…”
“I found you back too!”
She clutched his vest tightly and closed her eyes to heave a deep sigh, resting her face on his chest. He moved his fingertips over her closed eyelids and said, “I never expected ‘you’ to lose faith in us. You were the one holding that thread since the day we realised that special something between us. You made me believe in love… you made me think about marriage in a way that I had never imagined… please, don’t go back that route…Do you remember that it was always ‘you’ who talked about ‘forever’…I’ve learnt so much from you. “
She opened her eyes, “From me?”
“Yes!” He turned to lie on his back, with her face on his chest. Caressing her hair, he said, “You are such a positive soul!! I’ve learnt how to focus only on positives in life. Negative aspects can not be avoided but we need to deal with them effectively, without dwelling on them!”
Surprised, she asked, “You really feel so?”
“Yes. You’ve always been so positive, that it has started rubbing off on me… And then, you insisted on this trip. It has been nothing but exhilarating and rejuvenating. I was focused so much on Harshad that I had forgotten that I have a life. A life – full of fun and laughter. A life full of love and ambitions… hopes and dreams… a life which is nothing without you. I have you. And like an idiot, I was neglecting all of it.”
She couldn’t believe it when he said that. She had brought him here to make him feel how precious their relationship was… how beautiful they felt when they were together… and there was no room for people like Harshad in their lives… but she also knew that it was going to be hard.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear what she had been hoping to hear from him. She didn’t know that he will begin to realise it so smoothly.
He continued, “I used to be good at so many sports, I loved adventure, I love travel and I love food… more than everything… I love you… what the hell was I doing, shoving everything out of my life, to dwell on my hatred for Harshad??…For what?? To take revenge?? To make him learn a lesson?? Wasting time on him was so not worth it… I was so so so mad about that incident that I couldn’t control my anger and saw no respite from my demons… I was neglecting so many things… my business, Niki, Cabir…”
“And you!! Manik, more than all of us, you were neglecting yourself! You forgot what defined you as a person… what made you feel happy… what made you relaxed and calm…”
He held her hand in his hand and stroked the hollow of her palm with his thumb, creating ripples of sensations on her hand. Then, he brought her hand closer to his lips and kissed the center of her palm. “Yeah, I realise that… I was forgetting a lot of things in that mania. I was not even able to think in a sane way! Now, when I think about it, I know that it wasn’t just anger… or just revenge… it was something deeper…”
“I know, what it was! It was your fear of losing what was closest to you! The same insecurity that I am going through right now. All your life, you never had a family, that you could call your own… just like me… and now, when you have me, you love me so much that you are scared to lose me… isn’t it??”
“Harshad knew about that… and he dared to play with it…he dared to harm ‘you’…”
“You did the same… you cornered him on his fears…”
“I had to!! I had to show him how it feels to be scared… to be under a threat… under an uncertainty…”
“For how long it will go on ??” She took a deep breath and played her fingers over his shoulder when he left her hand and moved his hand to her neck.
He replied, “Honestly, it doesn’t matter anymore. Spending time ‘with you’ is far more precious and beautiful than spending time worrying about losing you! And that is what I want you to follow too… I know that you are scared, but I want you to stay focused only on us!! I’ve learnt this from you…about loving the loved ones, instead of thinking about how miserable it is going to be when we lose them…”
“Do you realise that you haven’t asked about your phone or laptop for 4 days? You were restless initially, but what happened now?”
He twisted his lips to think about it and replied, “Yeah, I was very uneasy initially. The whole idea of staying without the phone and laptop was scary…and weird… but see…I did it!!”
“Yepp!!” She smiled. “I’ve told you that you are my hero!!”
He smirked at that, “One thing a man always loves is…”
“Is??” She widened her eyes expectantly to know what he loved.
“His girl’s undying faith in him. The way you trust me and have confidence in me gives me goosebumps!!”
She giggled, “And do you want to know what I have learnt from you?”
“How to be sooooooo passionate about everything you do. You are just so confident all the time…”
“Honestly, I am not confident at all times… but I could leave my phone and laptop because I trusted you when you said that you will take care… How is he, by the way? Doing fine??”
Worried, all over again, she sighed, making a face, “You are not supposed to ask about anything about ‘him’… on this trip… I said that I will take care…”
“Okay… okay… whatever makes you happy!!” He shrugged and smirked, turning them around, with him over her, enveloping her on all sides, squeezing her within him.
Their marriage was not just about two people living together, like how it turns for most married couples, after some time. It was about two people spending time together, even when holding hands and talking about nonsense. They were in love with a devotion that matched their heartbeats, their breaths and all the crazy thoughts. And when they made love, it was about one soul reaching out to another, to make one complete picture and re-unite with the other half of their existence.
It was a love for eternity… it was love for a hundred lifetimes… it was love, forever!!