Nandini sent a message to him at lunch time —
‘Finished meeting three HODS of different hospitals… tired now… going back home!’
Manik replied back —
‘Great! How were the hospitals? You like them?’
‘Loved them! Applied to all the places. They have openings. I hope I get it.’
‘Awesome. I really hope you do!’
‘I hope so, too. I’m dying to get back to work.’
She frowned. What was he apologising for –
‘Sorry??? For what???’
‘I’ll be home late today as well.’
She smiled. ‘No worries! I’ve bought a book, I’ve been planning to read since long. I’ll watch Iron Man, too. Once I get back to work, I won’t be able to cool my heels.’
He loved it when she displayed her strength… that she didn’t need him to make her feel complete or make her feel happy!
She was a complete individual, who needed people to hang out with and feel loved and cherished only… she didn’t need people to entertain her or make her feel happy!! She was a happy person, in herself!! And that’s what added to her attraction and charm!
He didn’t feel guilty about not making her life better. She didn’t even need it. It was an irony thar now he wanted to be with her when she read the book and watched the movie. He just wanted to sit with her and observe her doing things she loved…
He found himself smiling… just out of nothing…
He tried hiding it and turned his face down, to pretend that he was scrolling his phone for messages, but Cabir was an eye that had a penchant for detail. And if it was this spicy, then who wouldn’t be interested.
“Manik Malhotra!!! Smiling and blushing…OMG!!!” Cabir teased him.
All his smile vanished and Manik glared at him. “Not interested in your nonsense!”
“That toh… I know!!! These days you are interested in something else, only… !!” Cabir chuckled and couldn’t stop laughing, involving Dhruv too and both of them laughed when he added, “Or… shall I say… someone…else!!!”
“Shut up, mannn!!!” Manik was irritated but couldn’t stop rolling his eyes as he had no other way to escape the tease and hide the little man-blush on his cheeks. Nandini had done that to him. He was actually thinking about her and grinning for nothing specific. As pointed by Cabir!
“Nothing!” Manik shrugged casually.
“Come on… don’t act cool buddy! We know what is going on…” Dhruv added.
“What’s going on?? You tell me!!” Manik shrugged, almost hamming by now, trying to avoid the tease, making Cabir and Dhruv laugh more.
“That day you were ordering food for the first time in your life. Okay, it might not be a big deal, but the look on your face was priceless when you were worried…” Dhruv said.
“Yes! And even at your home, everyone noticed how smitten someone was…”
“Come on…” Manik grinned and stood up to walk around the pantry room to get green tea for him.
“Oh really?? And then, what was that – ‘no problem, the dog can stay here…’ Like really??? Mannn, you are terrified of dogs and I can’t believe that a dog is living with you, in your home!!!” Cabir exaggerated. Dhruv nodded.
“And now… it’s hardly a week that you got married and you read messages in the conference room… don’t think, we don’t know who is messaging you… and most importantly, you are smiling just out of nowhere and out of nothing…”
Manik gave up. He grinned and shrugged, “I don’t know what’s going on!”
“You are in love…” Dhruv said.
“Dhruv, you are mad.”
“Manik, I hate to say this, but I agree with Dhruv here!” Cabir chuckled.
“If this is love,” Manik shrugged, “Then, I really don’t what love exactly is… how it feels like… because what I used to think, was love, in my previous relationship, was nothing like this.”
“You are right there. I never saw you happy or relaxed … I mean like this…” Cabir waved a hand before him and continued, “You were always worried about making Sonalika happy… pleasing her… you wanted to be perfect for her and you were struggling… in all that you forgot to smile, laugh, enjoy yourself…”
Manik nodded and leaned by the slab in the pantry room. “I remember that! But Nandini is so different! She doesn’t ask me to do things for her, which she knows that I won’t be able to do. She has set me so free… so free… that I feel tied to her!”
“How beautiful!” Dhruv smiled dreamily and rested his hand on his cheek.
“Shut up, Dhruv!” Both Manik and Cabir scolded him.
Cabir spoke, “But Manik… honestly… that was indeed cute!! Never heard of anything like that!”
Manik shrugged, and smiled again, looking into his cup of ginger green tea, “I don’t know… something is changing and I am loving it!”
“We told you…”
“Yepp!” He shrugged.
“No one-word answers… tell us more…” Cabir asked.
“What more?” Manik tried to avoid them but Dhruv held his hand and made him sit.
“We want to listen more…we have every right! We are your best friends. Remember, how you wailed an year ago when Sonalika left you… We were there to listen to you all night with drinks and tears… if we deserved that… we deserve this too…Right, Cabir??” Dhruv was talking logic.
Cabir too nodded, “Definitely!!! We need to know more…what is so special in her that she almost taught your heart to beat again. You had your heart and mind frozen almost a month back… She was the one who made it thaw…”
Manik sniggered, “She is such a breath of fresh air in my life. I had never imagined that she would be the one…”
Cabir opened his mouth wide as long as possible, “So??? Is she the one??”
“Of course!! The one who makes you want to see the world with a different prespective… who makes you feel things you have never felt before… makes you believe in things you have never believed in…ever!!!… She … Is… the … one… “
Cabir spoke very seriously, “I can believe that now!! He is talking more than required… And he is behaving like a poet…She is the one for him!”
Manik smirked, “She just understands… I mean… almost everything! Sometimes, she appears so cute… so innocent…like a small baby that I want to hold her and protect her from the world. Sometimes, she acts so maturely that I feel awestruck… I feel like giving every control, every access to her to tell her to take care of my life, too.. like she takes care of everything and everyone around her… whether it is home, or her friends, or even a small puppy… she is a storehouse of love that she keeps distributing freely to everyone…”
Cabir sighed, “Did you tell her?”
“Tell her what??”
“That you are in love with her?”
“Of course, not!! I didn’t know myself. It’s just 2 days back, that I realised about some deeper weird feelings for her. I was scared and worried…”
“You know how love has been for me! Jinxed!!! I can’t afford to tell her … what if it spoiled everything?? What if it is not love, and just physical attraction and initial infatuation?? I don’t want to make so many promises to her thinking it to be love and then not be able to fulfil any of them… she will be let down…”
Cabir knew Manik well… he also knew that Manik would think something like that…
“Listen Manik… even your last words that you don’t think it is love, screams ‘Love… love… love… and the best part is that – you know it!! Deep inside, you know that you are crazy in love with her but scared to accept it just because it didn’t go well with you, last time! But no matter, how much you deny… love is love… and will bloom and let itself out even if you try to hide it… But if you speak it right now, it will make her happy!!! Imagine, how surprised and elated she will be to know that you are in love with her…”
Manik sighed, and spoke in a worried tone, “Is it happening too soon?? I don’t want to wake up tomorrow, only to know that it was a rude dream!”
“It’s not soon… even a moment is enough to fall in love with someone, if that one moment strikes right!”
Manik opened his mouth wide, this time, “She said the same!! What are you guys – brother and sister?? Potterheads… and now… this stupid theory!!”
“This theory is not stupid. She is right! Like I fell in love with her, in a brotherly way, the moment she told me about being a potter fan… See, one moment is enough to strike a chord…”
“True!!” Dhruv said, “And I knew we’ll be great friends, the moment she brought that puppy! I mean, she went to Indira Nagar!!! In a new city… to search for the vet…. who does that for a strange pup?? We can only imagine how much she will care for you. You are her husband! tell me… Who wouldn’t like her??”
Manik smiled proudly, “I’m … I don’t know… everything about her is so alluring… ever since, I’ve met her, I’ve felt drawn to her! One meet after another meet, I kept fooling myself that I am meeting her to reject her or make her reject me… but it doesn’t happen like that! When I decided to propose to her, deep inside I knew that I wanted to marry her… I didn’t know why!! So, I kept giving silly reasons to me and her… and thankfully, she agreed…”
“We can see it on your face! Not even once you have appeared lost or confused after marriage, as we were hoping that you would return after an arranged marriage!” Cabir made a point.
“So??” Manik shrugged.
“So… So what??” Dhruv asked.
“What shall I do??”
“Go and tell her…” Cabir said.
“Won’t she think that I am crazy!”
“That you are!! And she must be aware of this, by now! But don;t you think, a girl deserves to know what a man feels for her??”
Manik nodded, “I’ve been thinking about that… and like a boomerang, I have been taking a step ahead and other back… I don’t know… I realised very recently and this feeling is new to me… everything is going so good, already!! Why should I jinx it with an attempt to name my feelings…”
“Your wish!” Cabir shrugged, “We can’t force you… but always remember, when you share your feelings with someone, it’s a matter of respect, that you have given to that person!”
Manik nodded, “I know what you are trying to say… I’ll just take 2-3 days… maybe, till this headache of submission is over. Once this project finishes, I’m taking her for a small holiday…”
Dhruv chuckled, “It’s called ‘honeymoon’…”
Manik grinned, “You too? I thought only Cabir could tease like an idiot!”
Cabir and Dhruv laughed, while Manik nodded, “Yes! We are going on a honeymoon and I’ll tell her that…”
“That???” Cabir folded his hands around his chest and raised his brows.
Manik opened his mouth and closed it again… he wasn’t able to say it… he opened his mouth again and wondered if he really meant it… it was hard for him… it was hard to accept that he had to say that – ‘I’m in love with her…’
He finally replied to them. “That …”
“That, what, Manik???”
“She’s the one!”