She nodded, taking a long pause and then whispered, “Leave me alone.”
He blinked once and then sighed before he spoke in one single word… low, measured, deep, “Never!”
She kept looking at him. He did the same. When she didn’t reply to this, he held her hand and made her sit before him, facing him. Holding a strand of her wet hair coming in the front of her face, he pushed it behind her ear. It sent crazy sensations through her. And then, the eyes focused on her eyes didn’t help either. It reminded her of last night.
She snapped at his hand and removed it from her face. He smiled slightly, not removing his eyes from her face and did it again. She removed his hand again from her hair and her face, with an irked look in his eyes. He did it again. He picked up another curl of her hair and tucked it behind her ear.
She sighed and stared at him for another long moment, rolled her eyes and asked, “What?”
“Nothing!” He nodded and slightly smirked.
She angrily narrowed his eyes, “Manik, please don’t try to flirt with me. I’m seriously angry with you.”
Adoringly, he rested his forearms at her shoulders, leaning towards her and asked, “Why? Why should you be angry?? If you think calmly, you heard something that you already knew about… you knew about my opinions… and… I accepted what you were accusing me of… you said, I was pretending… and I accepted it… so yes, be it! Now, why are you angry?”
“Err…” She couldn’t speak. She had so much to say, so much to rant… But was it of any use? Did it even matter to him? And if it did, it might hurt him if she used words which were acidic. She winced, frowned and stayed quiet. When she couldn’t deal with it, she removed his hands from her shoulders and stood up.
He patiently spoke, stopping her before she walked away. “You are scared.”
“Scared?” She turned around and folded her hands facing him.
“Yes. Scared of speaking all that comes to your mind… Scared of letting others know that true you… Scared of letting go of your inhibitions…”
She nodded to refuse, “I don’t have any inhibitions. I’m not scared of anything…”
He shrugged, carefully observing her face and expressions, “We are all scared, Nandini…”
“I am not!” She softly murmured, her guards weakening with every confident stroke from him.
“Then come with me… we can fight there, if you want… and if you want, we won’t talk, at all… I’m not scared that you will know more about me if you spend time with me!”
She murmured in a low soft tone, “Neither am I…”
“So?” He raised his hands in air.
She went back towards the cupboard to get a folder with her certificates, degree and important documents and came back to him. Stretching her hand towards him, she flashed her passport towards him and didn’t say anything.
He smiled, “Won’t you ask where we are going?”
She didn’t reply to this. Instead, asked in a worried tone, “What happens to Dobby?”
“Cabir will take care of him when he comes back. It needs to repay me, for causing all this chaos in my life.”
“He did nothing. He simply asked for an opinion.”
“Which I gave…”
“That arranged marriage is a compromise?”
“Is it not?”
The way he said it, made her think. Was she over-reacting? They had discussed it and they both knew it. Was she upset because he was not in love with her??
But, didn’t she fear that it was too early?? Wasn’t it early for him as well? Why was she pressurizing it on him? He was right. She had heard everything that she already knew. He had accepted everything that she was accusing him of…
“Great!” She sighed, taking her legs up on the bed, folding them close to her and burying her chin on the folded knees.
She was not angry anymore. She had just accepted that he was not in love with her. And it was actually okayyy!!
Not everyone will fall in love with you the moment they start knowing you. So what, she had special feelings for him. She hoped that it was love… It didn’t mean that she was in love with him… maybe she was jumping into conclusions too soon.
Attraction, infatuation, crush, liking, admiration, obligation, responsibility, care, lust and romantic ideation are different from each other and easily confused with love… one needs to slow down and let the feeling sink in before jumping to conclusions and declaring love…
True love is something elusive… I don’t even know how it really feels like… Maybe, even he doesn’t… Maybe, even he is facing similar questions as me…
She scratched her big toenail while thinking about all this. He observed her and frowned.
“Tch!!” He made a click sound with his lips and tongue to stop her. When she didn’t bother to stop or listen to him, he held her hand and carefully secured it in his hand, “Stop doing it. Why are you always scratching something or the other?”
“I have OCD… hyperactivity syndrome… I can’t keep my hands still. They have to keep doing something…”
“You also have cleanliness OCD… you are always cleaning, arranging, priming and polishing things.”
“No!” She protested as she shot an irked glance at him, frowning and nodding with it.
“Oh yes! Think about it. You are so particular about everything… every damn thing in the house should be at their proper place… shoes in shoe rack, clothes in the wardrobe, towel in the stand, shampoo and lotions in the washroom drawer… you just keep arranging them…”
Confused, she thought about it for a moment and accepted that she did that. Softly, she protested again,”How is it wrong?”
“It’s not wrong. It’s hyper!! I mean… even when you are not doing all that, you are thinking about it…”
“Noooo!!” She nodded vigorously. “That’s wrong.”
“I’m sure, even now, your mind is revolving around this coffee and how it is going to spill over the bedsheet.”
She stared at the coffee and then turned to look at him. He raised his brows making a point. Inadvertently, a sheepish smile came on her lips and she nodded awkwardly, turning her face down to focus on her toenail, “Shut up!”
Glaring at her, he said, “So, I was right!! You were thinking about the coffee?”
She blurted spontaneously, and complained in a miffed tone, “What else will someone who lives with you, do?? You are such a disorganized man… everything that belongs to you is everywhere in the house… shoes on living room carpet or under the bed… towel on the bed or sofa… clothes lying here and there and shampoo and lotions all over the washroom, scattered around with caps lost… I have to arrange my things and your things too…you are such a headache to live with…”
He grinned widely as she went on speaking in a flow. When she stopped speaking and huffed, he chuckled.
“Why are you laughing?”
“See… now you are complaining… but you never spoke about it before…”
She shrugged and lowered her tone, thinking about it. Slowly, she admitted, “I didn’t want to nag you for small things… you were busy in the office…”
Taking her hand in his own, he said, “And no matter how irritated and lonely you felt, you pretended to understand. Don’t you think that it is easy to accuse others, but in fact, it was ‘you’ who was pretending to be nice all the time?”
She was speechless for a moment. Gawking at him, she nodded and spoke in a defiant tone, “No Manik… I can really understand the pressures of work and commitments. I wanted to give you space…I was not pretending…”
“All of us pretend. We try to be as nice as possible in a new relationship. We try to give our best. Slowly, we get the hang of it and realize that this relationship is not for a few days or weeks… later when we are comfortable enough…we rant and speak whatever we want… we fight and curse… we say whatever comes to our mind… That ‘my dear’…is a true relationship, when we can say all that we are thinking, without the need to pretend to be nice, anymore…”
“But… I AM a nice girl…”
In a husky whisper, he said. “I have no doubts about that…you are definitely a beautiful human being… in fact, the most amazing girl I have ever met… but all of us can understand others, only up to a certain point… after that, it becomes a compromise… you went on compromising and never cribbed about it, because you didn’t want to hurt me…”
“No…it’s…not…” She stammered to refuse but didn’t get proper words. He might be right there…
There was no doubt about it that she understood his work pressure but yes, once or twice, she did feel like cribbing and complaining, but she didn’t. She wanted to give him space. She wanted to keep him out of stress, knowing that already he was neck deep in work. So, she had gone an extra mile to make things easy for him.
She knew that she was being too nice but she did it… for him!
She was still thinking about it and wondered how he could analyze her so easily. He observed her thinking so deeply and to give time to her to think about it, he changed the topic, “By the way…I’m getting tickets booked for Amsterdam. Is it okay with you?”
She nodded slightly. She didn’t know much about it and she hadn’t given deep thought to the destination of the holiday. Everything was okay, right now.
He said, “Hope it is a much-needed break for us… break from the routine, from the office …all the noise and pollution…”
“And fights!” She sighed again.
He narrowed his eyes and swayed his jaw, “You were fighting! You need a break!”
She rolled her eyes and whispered almost in an inaudible voice, “I don’t fight… you started all that… Do you even know that you are irritating me since morning??”
“Yes… I know that… coz I am doing it purposefully…”
“What??!!” Flabbergasted, she opened her mouth and stared at him, “But why?? Why are you doing it?”
He smiled mysteriously and stood up from the bed and with that, he picked up his coffee mug to go to the kitchen. Before he left, he replied in a sober, calm tone, “At least you are talking to me, because of that…”
He left and she kept sitting there for some time, wondering about what he just said. He had told her that he was scared of people going ‘silent’ on him. She had overheard that discussion and since then, he was irritating her, mainly to engage her in a conversation…
He was scared that she will stop talking to him. He was as insecure about them as she was. What a weird way to keep her engaged…
She followed him to the kitchen.
It was strange that she had been asking him to leave her alone and he was telling her that he won’t leave her alone. While in reality, she couldn’t leave him alone. She found herself following him everywhere. If he went to the living room, she followed him. If he went to the bedroom, she was there. And now, in the kitchen too.
Was she getting obsessed with him? Yes. It was true. He was becoming her addiction. She wanted him around her, all the time… even if they were not talking properly… even if they were fighting… and she hated it that he was not reciprocating her feelings.
“I’m making pasta alfredo.” He informed her, taking out a huge packet of penne variety from the overhead cabinet. She leaned by the kitchen wall, near the slab and didn’t speak anything, while she observed him. With her hands at her back, by the wall, she tilted her neck with eyes on him…
Why was he doing it? He was not a pasta person. She knew that he avoided so many carbohydrates in one diet. Then why?
But she didn’t say anything. She didn’t want to irritate him when he was trying to strike a normal conversation and doing things she liked. Okay, he might have accepted that he was pretending to be nice in initial 10 days. But, he was not pretending today. He was doing it to reduce the tension between them.
She was sure that even in the morning, he made coffee for her and had it too. He was not a coffee person. At least, not in the early morning. And definitely not the milk-sugar kinda coffee. If at all, he had, it had to be black coffee.
He was not known for taking efforts in a relationship. But he was taking an effort right now, so she should do it too.
She took out cabbage and broccoli from the refrigerator and settling them on the slab, she said, “But you don’t like pasta, nah?”
“I do eat pasta.” He declared, twisting his lips and took out a steel pan from the cabinet.
She couldn’t stop her speaking, “No… You don’t!! And now you are cooking pasta for me. I told you not to do anything for me. It makes me uncomfortable.”
He grinned, gave her the pasta packet in her hand and said, “Okay, fine then. You cook it! I don’t mind… I don’t feel uncomfortable when my wife cooks for me.”
He started going out. She held his forearm and stopped him, “Where are you going?”
“To watch TV!!”
Irked, she frowned, “Hey…hey..typical husband mode on?? Wife cooks and hubby watches TV?”
He rolled his eyes, clearly impressed with the way she was talking to him, now. She was coming out of her anger mood and was slowly going back to being herself. The morning had been terrible and stressful. It had taken so many turns that his head had been reeling. He was sure that the same happened to her.
But one thing was sure – that she couldn’t keep negativity inside. And this was something that he adored about her.
He curled his hands around her, drawing her closer, “You don’t like that? What do you want me to do then?”
She gave him an irritated smile and subtly shoved him away, “Mr. Malhotra! If you remember, we are fighting.”
“Are we?” He rolled his eyes, thinking about it.
“And…we haven’t reached to even a single solution…”
“Nopes!” She raised her brows, “You simply pushed all issues away…”
“Which issues?” He frowned and made a pout, with a focus on her eyes.
She widened her eyes, raised her brows and then rolled her eyes, thinking about it. “They are so many… I feel I can’t even word them…I don’t even remember how did we start fighting…”
He walked ahead again to be close to her but she took a step back, narrowing her eyes. He continued to walk ahead and once again trapped her between the slab and him. Placing her hands on her waist, he made her sit on the kitchen slab so that her height was raised and he could now look at her at a hand’ s distance from him. Nestling close to her, making space around her legs, he whispered, “We started fighting when you didn’t fight with me after you overheard that discussion. You should have fought with me and argued… you didn’t have to understand that stupid thing that I said…”
“But you don’t like people nagging and complaining…”
“Wrong! I never said that… I can handle a fight… I can’t handle tears and I don’t like people going silent on issues… I don’t like people trying to understand me when they are supposed to voice their complaint…”
She pressed her lips and listened to him, before asking, “What else do you ‘don’t like’…”
“Mmm…” He appeared to be thinking about it, and then suggested, “Why don’t we do this for a while… let’s stop telling each other what we like and what we don’t?? Let yourself be ‘you’…like you always say… you be you and … I will be myself… and see how it goes…”
“You mean to say – No rules?”
He nodded, “No rules!”
“Since morning, you have blown away my sanity… my head is aching because of all the confusion and the irrational fight… and now you say – no rules?”
“You want rules?”
“No. Absolutely not. This morning was bad…”
“Can we just select the morning today and CTRL + X it??”
“No. I don’t want to delete it… I want you to talk to me…”
“Talk? About what??”
“Tell me that you didn’t mean all that… tell me, that you were not pretending since last 10 days… tell me that you have broken all the rules since day 1 and you never intended to follow any rule…”
He moved his jaw sideways in a quick sway and scraped his tongue across his gums, “How convenient, Nandu! In the morning, you wanted to accuse me, coz you were too scared to let go of yourself into trusting and believing someone so early… understanding me was easier. Fighting was not, because it would mean that you are exerting your right on me… you wanted to believe all that I said, because it suited your inhibitions… you like to stay at a distance from everyone… that protects you from hurt… you thought that trusting me will make you vulnerable to hurt… isn’t it??”
She sighed and stayed quiet for a moment, before she asked on a heavy voice, “Is that why you accepted all that?”
“Yes!! I wanted to give you the satisfaction of winning…”
“So that I realize that I didn’t win… I lost…”
“And now, you want me to refute all that so that the onus of truth lies on me… whenever you want, you will go back to that episode and drown in self-pity…sorry, I don’t want to give you that luxury any more… I don’t want us to fight on this topic again and again…”
“So, basically you want me to trust you…. but you don’t want to ask for that trust… you don’t want to explain your stand and your words… you just want me to trust you blindly…”
He asked in a very serious tone, “Can you do that??”
She took a deep breath, “Honestly… I don’t know…”
“See!!! I told you !!”
“Manik, it’s just 10 days… blind trust is easy to speak… difficult to observe… I can tell you, right now, that I trust you… But can I really do that? I don’t know… You are right. Tomorrow, if again I hear something like that from someone or have a misunderstanding, we will have differences…”
“Exactly!! So, it’s up to you… if you want to trust me, do that… if you want to believe that my behaviour was fake and I was pretending all this while… and whatever I spoke to Cabir was about us, then, it’s again your wish…. you are free to believe whatever your heart tells you to… I won’t defend myself… there is no point in explaining and defending… people believe what they want to believe…”
“Hmm! I think you are right…” She lowered her eyelids and pressed her lower lip under her teeth, before she asked, “Can you give me some time?”
He grinned. “We are not boyfriend-girlfriend. We are married. Do you know the best part of being married?”
She raised her eyelids again, to meet his eyes, “No! Tell me!”
“There is no dearth of time! You have an entire life to create and solve issues and no one interferes between two people unless they want it!”