The early morning sunshine seemed to caress her cheeks, sieving through the creeks in the window pane, kissing her eyelids, coaxing her to open her eyes…
Nandini frowned. It was too early to get up but sleep evaded her soon. The uneasiness of being displaced from her own world … and being in a new place, new bed had been growing slowly…
Since last 4 nights, she was in a different place, different bed, almost every night…
More than that, she was away from her own home, her room, her bed… it started getting frustrating now… She missed her room, the familiar warmth of her wall decor, the wind chimes, dream catcher by her bed, her bed-sheet and quilt…
Everything here was so different, so new, so cold. She frowned again…
The very next moment, she found an arm around her. Comforting, warm and strong arm, belonging to the man, sleeping clueless beside her. She opened her eyes and turned her neck towards him. His eyes were closed and his quiet breathing said that he was asleep. He was sleeping on his belly down and one side of his face tucked to the pillow, with the arm wrapped around her. He had put his arm around her while he was deep in sleep and she found that gesture extremely adorable.
Immediately, the feeling of being in an unknown place vanished away. She had with her, a companion, who made every effort, every discomfort felt worthwhile.
She tucked her lips in and sighed as she observed him sleeping at a breath’s distance. His forelocks falling on his forehead made her want to crawl her fingers in them and ruffle his hair… his closed eyes were a mercy as compared to the open ones, who never failed to make her blush just by an intense, heated gaze… his lips appeared so innocent when he slept like a baby, as if, they were just not capable of any of the tortures they had inflicted all over her, last night and the night before… his sharp jawline with a day old stubble had her writhing in a sweet pain last night, when it brushed across her soft skin, all over her, all the time…
More than anything else, his calm facial features and silent breathing, even in deep sleep had the ability to churn her insides and make her tummy rumble in nervousness.
Manik was adorable… by every means of the word… The way he cared for her and refused to accept it… the way he thought about her first before taking a step… the way he made her comfortable even when they made love…
He was worth every discomfort and every struggle…
Was he the same guy about whose existence, she had no clue about, a month back??… Who had met her in Mumbai and they decided that they will never get married to each other?? … Whom she decided to marry, just a few days back… and entered a loop of situations one after the other, leaving behind their vows to stay away…
And now, within 4 days of marriage, he was sleeping so close to her that no one had ever been even after being known to her for years. How subtly he had broken the physical barriers around her… how effortlessly he had brought them in sync with each other…
Unable to hold the impulse, she touched his forehead to clear some hair away and slowly moved her index finger down over his nose in a long, seductive move, reaching his lips. Without opening his eyes, without making any other movement, he raised his hand up and held her hand in his firm grasp. She was tongue-tied and kept looking at him, lying quietly just beside him. He curled and folded his hand, thus folding her arm under his arm and dragged her closer, almost under him.
She didn’t speak anything, even now… simply smiled, ear to ear. He didn’t open his eyes, even now. Hugging her close to him, almost leaning over her, he tucked her half under him and buried his face in the crook of her neck, with a sleepy, lazy, whisper, “Good morning!”
“Good morning!” She grinned.
“Why so early?”
“I don’t know… I was a bit uneasy…”
He didn’t open his eyes, while hugging her close to him, “Go back to sleep, Nandu… it’s going to be a long day…”
“Manik… I can’t sleep anymore… it is so weird… so new to me!”
“Hmmmmm!!!!!” He sighed more and gave her a soft peck on her neck before going back to sleep.
‘Like really????!!! Was he even listening to her??!!!’
He happily retreated to sleep!!!’
Obviously!! It was ‘his’ home…’his’ city…. ‘his’ place of work … he had stayed there since last 4 years… He had that apartment to him since 4 years… had a well set routine and a well scheduled lifestyle… he had ‘his’ friends there… there were no major changes in his life… in fact…there were absolutely ‘no’ changes in his life, except a ‘pleasant’ addition to his originally single life…
For her, it was a different story — It was ‘her’ who had to face the changes… Sorry… not the changes… it was a massive ‘uprooting’ for her…She had to get adjusted to this new environment, new city, new friends, new house, new work place… and make place in his house, making it a home, make place in his cupboard taking care that she didn’t look overbearing or dominating… she had to subtly carve a ‘niche’ for herself…
She squeezed her eyes and stared at him with an irritated attraction growling through her… He might look like a kid when he slept, as if the world could go to hell… yet, how badly she wanted to punch him for being so non-chalant while she was struggling with fears of adjustment… She wanted to shake him and wake him up and make him sit up and listen to her, but she couldn’t…
Next moment, she found him dragging her closer, wrapping him all around her and kissing her as if the world could go to hell…
The birds chirped and the fresh breeze entered the apartment through large windows, making the morning tranquil, taking away all the fears of the night.
Nandini was on the dining table in the living room, with her morning coffee and a paper before her where she made a list of things to do for the day. She tapped the pen on the paper, thinking of more when she was distracted…
Manik had walked in…still sleepy and disheveled…
Once again, just for a small teeny-weeny moment, she was irritated that she couldn’t sleep and he was enjoying sleeping till late… almost 3 hours more than her… But when she raised her eyes to look at him, all her anger vanished out of the window… who on this earth could look so adorable, even when straight out of bed… he looked lost, trying hard to open his tired, droopy eyelids, running his hand at the back of his neck, trying to fight a yawn…
She couldn’t stop smiling. He smiled too, a lazy, tired sleepy smile, and equally sleepy, “Good morning!”
She chuckled, without replying to him, thinking about the beautiful good morning wish they had exchanged few hours ago, early in the morning…
“Huhh!??” He shrugged, not understanding, anything, as he pulled his chair to sit facing her on the dining table, yawning again. Obviously, he didn’t remember that little hug and the ‘good morning wish’, early in the morning, followed by the kiss. She nodded and dismissed it. “Good morning!”
“Why are you up so early?”
“I…” She started saying something, about how she felt that anxiety of the new, and that subtle uneasiness and all that shit, but then just smiled and shrugged it off, “Forget it!!!”
He had his own stress to take care of, at office and he already cared about her a lot! She didn’t want to give him an additional stress for which he could do nothing! She had to fight this small battle herself…
He rubbed his temple and forehead with his hand and asked. “What do you plan to do, today??! Yesterday, you were alone only for half the day. Today is going to be long!”
She nodded confidently, “Don’t worry… I have it all figured out!” She slipped the small paper towards him, where she was making the list. He took it in his hand and before reading her list, he peered in her large mug, “What are you drinking?”
“Coffee!” She casually informed him and then was about to get up, “Shall I make it for you?”
He stood up before her, using one hand to ask her to sit. “No… you sit! I don’t drink coffee in the morning…” He didn’t speak anything after that.
“Then??” She was curious.
He opened the refrigerator and took out a ripe, yellow, juicy lemon. Showing it to her, without speaking anything, he took out the bottle of honey. She grinned, raising her hand in air, “Of course!!!! Why didn’t I guess it??”
He sheepishly grinned, and went to the semi open kitchen, behind the tall slab, “You are the only person in the world, who can make someone feel guilty about his healthy choices!”
Grinning more, she followed him into the kitchen, where he took out a tall glass, cut the lemon and squeezed it. She smirked, “I’m sorry for making you feel so…I didn’t mean to…”
“Err…” He bobbed his head side to side to speak more, then he mixed a teaspoon on honey in the lemon water and taking a sip, he walked out of the kitchen with a distinct shrug, “Forget it!!! So??? Going to all the nearby hospitals, today?? Why so?? Don’t you have that online system of application?” He raised his brows and made a point there.
With a wide grin, she explained to him,”It’s not like your field. Doctors usually tend to visit the departments, see the work culture, patient load, OTs and OPD… whether we would like to work in that department… then meet other doctors, meet the HOD, inquire if there is a Residency post vacant or coming up in near future or something like that… I want to work with the best…”
“Fair enough!” He sat down, reading her list and sipping his lemon-honey concoction. She held the coffee mug and leaned by the table.
“Why do you need to go to the mall?” He asked, reading the ‘to-buy’ section, “You can order online, whatever you want to buy!”
“I’ve ordered the basic necessities and groceries, online… but for bedsheets, curtains, some other stuff like clothes, I want to see for myself… touch and feel the fabric, you see…”
He shrugged, “First the hospitals, then the malls and markets?? Will you be able to manage, alone??”
She shrugged too, “I guess, I’ll have to… you won’t be able to come along with me, right?”
He tucked his lower lip in, feeling guilty. “I have several meetings, lined up for today… err… but … if you can wait till weekend…maybe…!!”
“No way!! I have so much on cards… I can’t wait till the weekend… It’s only Tuesday, today!”
He tilted his neck and raised his brows, “And how do you know, where to go?”
She proudly smirked, and dangled her phone before him, “Everything is here!!! I’ll follow dear google!!”
“Absolutely!!” She confidently took her list from him and added 2 more things, she just remembered, and with a careless shrug, she spoke, “You continue with your work. I don’t want to disturb you. I’ll call you, in case I need you!”
She had no idea how massively she had impressed him. He had never seen a girl as independent as her. By asking him to stay in his office and deal with the meetings, she had relieved him too.
At least, he was not suffocating under the burden of not being good enough for her, just because he couldn’t accompany her to the market.
Moving his lips slightly, but not speaking loudly, he just sighed and whispered, “Thank you!”
She chuckled and simply blinked, sipping her coffee, as if she was a queen and the world belonged below her feet. He wasn’t complaining.
Manik left for his office somewhere around 9:30 am and Nandini spent another hour, making space in the wardrobe and washroom racks. It was all full of latest body and hair products and so many of his personal things, yet so scattered as if a storm hit it right at that moment.
‘Phewww!!! So much chaos! He is right! He treats it like a hotel… he never gave so much time and thought to the house to keep it arranged…’he just finishes his work and leaves the house…’
Finally, she decided to finish the work in the evening, got ready to go and left the house by 11:00. She was not hoping to meet people before 11 am. The markets and malls too opened late, so there was no point asking Manik to drop her somewhere.
She kept her attire simple and semi formal.
She checked herself in the mirror and satisfied, she decided to leave…
No matter how confidently she had told him that she would manage it alone, but if truth be told, she would have loved to have him by her when she went to the market to shop for necessary stuff for their home or met new people in the hospitals.
This was a one-of-a-kind experience… First, time for her…
She had never been a lonely kid and being in a joint family had it’s perks. She was always with some aunt, or cousins or mom… and when she was out in college, she was with her friends. Her friendly nature and chirpy chatters had earned her a lot of friends, everywhere she went. She had a set of good friends who roamed around with her, across the city, whenever they had to go shopping or for movies or outing and for lunches and dinners.
This was the first time she was going to shopping by herself…that too household stuff and clothes… and that too in a new city!!!
‘Gawwwddd!!!! What a husband!’ She rolled her eyes, thinking about him. She was being nice when she asked him to go to office and continue his work… and Ohhh boyyyyy…!!!
He actually went!!! Awesome!!!
She was locking the main door of their house, when the elevator door opened, almost startling her. A man dressed in driver’s uniform approached her and asked, “Excuse me, Madam…”
The man checked the house number and asked, “Are you Mrs. Nandini Manik Malhotra??”
The name sounded familiar!!!
Wait a minute…. It was HER name!!! … tagged with him!!!
She thought, she heard it right !!!!
He had coined a name for her??? …. To be addressed in public? …. Was that so??
Anyway, she was not going to discuss it with the peon slash driver of his office. She nodded, “Yes, I am!”
He showed her a key with a metallic key ring, written ‘M’ on it. “Ma’m, sir has sent his car for you!”
“What?” She was blank, trying to grasp the information.
“He said, that he will message you about it… I am asked to take you wherever you want to go!”
“Huhh??” She was unable to understand at first, then she simply smiled and followed the driver.
She took out her phone from her bag and dialled Manik’s number. His number was unreachable. She tried calling him twice, in the elevator and before sitting in his car. She didn’t even know if it was ‘his’ car. She was seeing it for the first time – A silver Skoda Octavia!
When an entire bell rang on his phone and he didn’t answer it, she assumed that he was in a meeting! She sat in the car and asked the driver to take her to Manipal Hospital, the nearest one, hence the first in her list.
When she reached the hospital, she received a message on her phone, from him!
HIM : Sorry, I can’t talk, right now. I’m in a meeting. I’ve sent the office driver with the car. He will take you wherever you want to go…
She smiled at his thoughtfulness. He might be in meetings and busy with his projects but so called ‘Mr. Non-affectionate’ had thought about her between his tight schedule and sent his car to make it easy for her. She replied back …
HER : Thank you for sending the driver in your place. So, thoughtful of you!
He read the message and looked around the conference room, trying to ensure that no one observed him reading a message and grinning like a teenager.
“I’ve sent the driver!!! It stops at that! Period. No need to add – ‘in-your-place’… with it!! Please do not consider him as a substitute for me for ANY other purpose!!!’
She chuckled and wrote back – “To ensure that, a person needs to be present himself, for all means and purposes!”
“Point noted! Pick me up at 3 …”