Manik had asked Nandini to pick him from his office at 3 pm as he had sent his car for her.
She finished visiting 3 nearby hospitals by then. All she had to do was observe the patients load and see OTs and OPD. She met the HODs of the hospitals, introduced herself and asked to be called for the Senior Residency post whenever it was open. She received warm welcome at all three places and assurance of being reverted to.
Happy with the outcome of her visits, she asked the driver to take her to Manik’s office and she reached there by 2:50 pm. She sent the driver in with the message that she was in the parking area and also sent a message on Manik’s phone.
After 5 minutes, an executive of the company came running to help her in. “Good afternoon ma’m, Manik sir is in a meeting and he will join you in 10 minutes. Please come inside the office.”
“No, thank you, I’m fine here!” Nandini smiled sweetly.
“No, ma’m… Sir asked me to make you sit inside his cabin. Please don’t keep standing here!”
For a moment, she felt like refusing again. She wasn’t sure if she would be comfortable inside in the office or here in the parking area. But then, the opportunity of seeing Manik’s cabin was a huge one and she didn’t want to postpone this chance, for some later date.
She slightly shrugged, “Okay!”
The manager took her inside the swanky office of Phoenix Adlabs International… it was all done in white and subtle gold. For a office space to manage and balance these colours was a huge task and Phoenix did it beautifully. It neither looked tacky, nor it was dirty at any part. Sparkling clean, subtly glowing and purity and class oozing out of every corner was this office.
Nandini was impressed at the first go. The manager took her to Manik’s office, located on the seventh floor of the building. The glass door, the plush leatherette chairs in grey and white, large table with soooo many pens, pencils, papers, books, booklets and brochures in a disarray… it was certainly Manik’s table.
Elegant. Class. Ruffled.
Nandini’s hands were itching to arrange the table but she didn’t. She dared not touch his things and later be blamed for an important document lost. It was better to stay non-chalant as that is how he preferred it. She settled in a huge chair facing the main desk, took out her phone and logged in her social networking sites, updating them and replying to people.
15 minutes later, the manager brought coffee for her and with a sheepish smile, he said, “Ma’m, sir will join you in 10 minutes…”
Nandini smiled back, an irritated smile this time. By now, she almost knew that she had fallen in this proverbial ‘never-ending-10-minutes’ trap. She tried to control her irritation and picked up the coffee. She read some political news on networking sites, some bollywood news, some sales pitches, had a chat with college friends and told them about hospitals in Bangalore… and it was an hour already!
She put her phone away and rolled her eyes. It was 4 already!!
Swaying her jaw, she got up to leave the cabin and tell the manager that she was leaving. She was only a few steps from the door. Right at the same moment, Manik dashed into the scene from nowhere. She didn’t know whether to smile and welcome him as they were seeing each other after so many hours since morning or to flare her nostrils and give him an earful…
In fact, she would have excused him, if he hadn’t grinned and hugged her and spoken in a very casual chuckle, “Hey!! I hope I didn’t keep you waiting for long…”
Now, this was too much!!!
She nearly blasted, like her own signature style, speaking of jumbled sentences one after the other, almost cribbing like a baby, “Manik, how can you be so casual? I’m trying to learn to be patient but you are testing it to the limits. I have been waiting for one hour!! Why did you even call me here if you were not free?? You were working and I was doing nothing…passing time sitting in your office… I could have finished some part of shopping by now… I could have gone home and took care of Dobby… I could have slept… I couldn’t sleep well, last night… you just took the liberty …’10minutes- 10 minutes’… and then you come back so unfazed and act ‘oh-so-cool’… you don’t even apologize…”
For a moment, he was gawking at her. The way she spoke, it wasn’t that it was unexpected. She had always been so vocal about things she felt but it came as a surprise as since last 3-4 days, he had seen only the coy, blushing, demure, sweet Nandini Murthy… That newly-wed format was reset to default settings now and she was back to being the girl he had met in Mumbai. And was he loving it…????
By all means…
He curled one of his arm around her and pulled her closer in a sudden jerk. With the free hand, he held her cheek and slightly tilting her face upwards, he gave her a perfect, open mouthed kiss, making her swallow the rest of her rant back in her throat and shudder at the way her entire body responded to accommodate him. Her hand held him to stop from staggering, her torso leaned into him as her toes raised her to reach his level and lips kissed him back.
After a thorough, deep kiss, he left her to land softly on her toes. She blinked at him like a doll in the store that blinked to respond to every command on a button. He smirked and whispered, “Ssshhhhuttt Upppppp!!!!”
“This is cheating!” She whispered as she whined, softly, “You make me wait, don’t apologize and when I say something… you shut me up…”
He smirked more, moved around the desk to collect his wallet and aviators and said, “Complaining and explaining … are we???”
She was taken aback for a moment. She tucked her lower lip inside her mouth for a small moment. But, just a few seconds later, she shot back, “If we are…then, yes we are!!! We have been doing everything that was not planned… and if we are doing things together…we should have every right to complain…”
“I may or may not explain!” He shrugged and declared, right into her eyes.
She tilted her neck and squeezed her eyes, “Fine!! If you want that!!! But then, lets not cross paths… I will never ever again ask you to come with me to shopping…”
He shrugged and smirked, “Suits me!”
Irked, she turned around to leave with a shrug, “Suits me too!!! Stay here…”
He smirked at the way she became angry and was so vocal about it. Something about her was so endearing. She didn’t keep it to herself when she felt bad about something. Exactly what he wanted and expected from people around him. The openness and the ownership she displayed over him was enough to make his heart go fuzzy!!!
He felt he was poor at understanding emotions and unspoken feelings. He knew that he would never be able to breakthrough when someone felt bad about his actions, kept it to herself and stopped talking. But not this girl! She actually asked him to stay back in his office… And not come with him to shopping if he had nothing to explain. She WILL complain, though!!
He smirked, walked closer and in a soft, apologetic voice, he said, “I didn’t plan to make you wait. In fact, I had managed most of the meetings by 2… but this one came up suddenly … The client came suddenly and the CEO wanted us to brief him. I couldn’t avoid it so I thought that I would leave conference hall in 10 minutes…but I couldn’t… I’m sorry!!”
She smiled cutely, touched his arm in a loving gesture and nodded sweetly, “No problem!!”
With that she opened the door of his room and walked out, almost assuming that he will follow. He did!! Followed her with all his heart…
He drove and she sat beside him, watching the evening rush of Bangalore city in all it’s glory. The traffic, the swarm of vehicles, tall buildings and much cleaner city as compared to Mumbai.
They were silent for some time. She, absorbed in the city… He, absorbed in her…
After few minutes, he received a call on his phone and he answered it on bluetooth, “Yeah Cabir… I’ve explained the details to Dhruv. You can discuss with him… I left early today… we’ll discuss tomorrow…”
Nandini was distracted. When after every few minutes, he received 3 calls back to back, she said, “Manik, don’t talk on phone while driving…”
He nodded, stopped the car at one corner and talked for five minutes. Nandini looked at her wrist watch and showed him that it was about to be 5 pm… and they were still on the roads… Manik nodded and moved on shoulder in a half-shrug sheepishly. She nodded in a hopeless reprimand and when he did it again, stopped the car on one side of the road to talk, she opened her side of the door and walked around…to reach him, totally flustered!!!
She knocked on his side and when he lowered the glass, she said, “Come out!”
“What?” He was still on phone and he was staring at her in disbelief.
“Manik, please come out!!” She demanded, almost glaring at him. He did!!
She slipped on the drivers’ seat and said, “I’ll drive. You talk!!!!”
“I’m sorry!” He whispered… and was back to the phone again… Nandini huffed and puffed and drove the car after setting her Gmaps on her phone for Metropolitan mall.
Driving in the new city was a new high and she was loving it. Manik finished the call and looked at her in a look as mortified as a kid caught cheating in an exam, “Nandu…err…”
She parked the car in the basement parking of Metropolitan mall and locked it. With that she giggled, “It’s okay!!! You made a plan to be with me at the last moment, right? So,It happens!!”
Just how, he could never predict her… she was as easy, as she was difficult… as tricky as she was simple… as silly, as intelligent… just like him!!!
They rode the elevator and entered the mall. “Thank God, you are not angry!! I get these calls from office at all times…and… it’s so difficult to avoid… so much depends on my approval…”
“It’s fine, Manik!!” She spoke as they entered a Home Store, offering upholstery and interior decor. “I try to understand most of the times… and then, sometimes, I become impulsive and impatient… I hope you will tolerate those times, when I become irked and speak non-stop and nonsense…”
He quipped, “Oh!! I love those times… I love to shut you up!!”
She couldn’t believe it that he said that in a store full of people. She laughed hysterically and walked around to select an aisle from where she wanted to begin selecting the stuff she had listed.
Manik looked around and spoke with a sway of his jaw, “Never knew such stores existed!”
She giggled again, “Where do you think we get bedsheets and curtains from??”
His jaw dropped and he was staring at her with eyes widened, “Bedsheets and curtains??”
“Carpets and floor runners and doormats too…”
He observed the stuff being offered and the ones that Nandini was picking out. “Do we really need them? Last time, I went home, mom gave me 2 bedsheets…”
“That was in Stone-Age Manik… I am planning to give those bedsheets to Dobby for his bed as they are so old and worn out after repeated washing that even the maid is not going to accept them!”
He huffed and spread his hands in air, “You know, I was doing fine a week back… now, you make me feel as if I was living like a vagabond…”
“Ssshhhh!!!” She glared at him again, but only for one moment. Then, she smiled cutely, “Manik…do you always crib?? At everything??”
“Yeahhh!!” He shrugged, making it a bit lighter.
She giggled too, “Okay… so your answers… Yes, we need all of that! New bedsheets, towels, curtains, mattresses and everything that you have never shopped for, before… And come on, you only said, na, that you treat it like a hotel… so, it’s okay that you don’t have all this and never had an inclination for the same… but for me… I can’t treat it like a hotel…”
“Once you join the hospital, you will be busier than me… you will hardly get time to come home…”
Her smile made her eyes twinkle and her cheeks glow with the imagination. It made her ecstatic. “I don’t know… I just want to have the home to be waiting for me with all the beauty with which I leave it in the morning… I want to feel the warmth, the love, the closeness, the bond …when I come back in the evening … or night!!”
He waved his hand before her eyes, “Sure, you are talking about our home?”
She smirked and leaned towards him slightly, in a teasing whisper.
“Of course!! You only said that I shouldn’t expect anything like that from you!! Or… should I??”