Tangles & Ties: Chapter 42: Deeper Connections

“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!”

Almost mesmerized at his words, her eyes refused to leave him while he spoke. After the little quote about time, when he found her stuck on him and thinking deeply, he stopped speaking. A slight smirk and raised brows were enough to embarrass her. She nodded with a little cute smile as if to refuse that it was nothing in particular to tell him.

Whereas, the truth was that she was genuinely surprised and impressed at his maturity level. Once he had told her that he didn’t understand emotions and wasn’t ready for a relationship. That, he had been avoiding being tied down in marriage, as he was scared of relationships.

Similarly, he had also said that he spoke very less…

But the man she was living with, standing right before her, was nowhere short of words when he had to share his thoughts. Also, he didn’t appear like someone who couldn’t handle relationships. He was a pro at it.

Now she knew, that he spoke less to avoid people. Similarly, he had been avoiding relationships, to put away the hard work that they needed…
Maybe, in the garb of a careless workaholic, he had a deep thinker inside him. He wasn’t one of those men who took relationships casually, or who changed girlfriends faster than the gears of their car. Girls were not a ‘thing’ to fool around, for him. If there had to be one, it had to be a deep connection. Or none at all.
Maybe, he wanted to have one stable, rock solid relationship, which he could cherish forever…

Wait a minute… did he just say that they had an entire life to create and solve issues?? Did he say that their bond was …forever?!
Yes, he did!!

One thing, she was now sure about was – What he spoke consciously was just to divert people and their thoughts. Also, to avoid embarrassment to be labelled as someone emotional. He was deeply sensitive and emotional but accepting that would hurt his macho masculine image. So, he would speak nonsense to either deviate people from reading him, or to handle things in his own inexplicable ways…

He never meant even one percent of the mean things he spoke – that he didn’t care about people or relationships… that he was difficult with emotional mess around him. His telling people off when they disturbed him and his rough and ragged replies to people he was close to, were all to protect his softer core.

What he didn’t speak consciously were his actual thoughts…the real ones!!

What he didn’t speak at all, were his true emotions… what he showed in gestures was his stand on things…

Like, he just said that they had an entire life together… Like, he made coffee for her in the morning but said that it was not a special gesture for her… Like, he let stay Dobby in the house, though he had a bad experience with animals, particularly dogs… Like, he didn’t like traveling but was planning a trip for her… Like, he let her renovate the house according to her preferences and didn’t interfere… and there were so many more instances…

Phewww!!!! Now, she had a bigger task at hand. To learn to listen to the unspoken and hear the unsaid. She needed to read the gestures of this man and ignore all the silly things he spoke.

Hard work much??!!! Yes, it was…
And it was again going to take time… hopefully, not a lot of it…
But yet…

With a knot between his brows, he tried to read her face, but she frowned at him. He laughed slightly and raised one shoulder in a half-shrug, “So?? Take your own time. And decide whether you want to trust me or not…”

“There is so much more than trust…”

“And everything takes time.”

She smiled and after a small pause, she threw a heavy breath outwards in an evident puff, “Ufff!!! I hope I don’t let us down… both of us…”

“We!” He nestled closer to her, held her hand and raising it between them, he interlaced their fingers, into each other. “Let’s hope, ‘we’ don’t let each other down… I will handle my part… but you need to be confident before that…”

She protested, “I AM confident!”

“Not emotionally! You are an emotionally insecure girl!”

“No!!” Nervous, she protested again, not yet prepared to be so carefully and efficiently read and dissected by him.

“Oh yes! Don’t get me wrong… Career-wise and socially, you are capable and very strong, but not emotionally…”

She nodded vigorously and refuted him completely, “No way… I’m very strong!”

He grinned, teasing her, tapping her nose with the index finger of his free hand. “You ‘think’ like that … you pretend to stay strong… but you are NOT !!”

“How can you say that?”

“I don’t say that… your tattoos say that… Didn’t I tell you once, that your tattoos speak of your vulnerabilities and insecurities…”

“Shittt!!!! Such a lowdown on my personality… right?” She was embarrassed.

“Nopes! It’s absolutely fine… even the strongest people on this planet have a vulnerable, soft side to them, susceptible to hurt… and it’s good to be honest and insecure than to fake being overconfident, all the time…”

Her eyes shifted between his face and their fingers as she struggled to shun away the fuzzy tickles at her hand, the way he played with their intertwined fingers. She said, “I don’t know… maybe you are right… I have my own set of issues…”

“I’m in no hurry!!” He bit his lower lip and slid his fingers along the length of her fingers, in each web space. She was so soft and delicate. His fingers could completely wrap around hers. His fingers made love to her fingers and were addicted beyond control. Her fingers responded.

“I’ll try…” She sighed, fighting the effect it had on her.

“It’s not like, if I tell you to be strong. you will leave all your issues on one side, will become stronger and begin to trust me… but I do wish to see you getting a bit bolder emotionally.”

“Even I don’t want to bring this up again and again, by swinging on my stand, here and there. When I tell you that I trust you, it will be for always and forever… and it will be blind trust… but that needs …” She stopped speaking.

“That needs??” He lowered his eyes to study the waves of emotions on her face, changing slowly.

She wet her dry lips and cleared her throat, avoiding his eyes and shrugged, “That needs a serious effort on my part to let go of myself completely. I need to stop guarding my heart against all the pain that is likely in this relationship. It needs my willingness to let all my delicate emotions exposed… at your mercy…”

He strongly held her hand, as if he was at the edge of the cliff and her hand was his route to life. The soft look on her face was already so vulnerable that she should have come with a warning to be handled with care or else she would shatter in pieces.

He asked, “And that is difficult?!”

She hesitated and searched for proper words before she said anything. She didn’t want to gurt him. Nor did she want another fight. Then, she decided to be honest and replied in an apologetic tone. “It’ll take ‘some’ time…”

He grinned, “That is absolutely fine with me! At least, you didn’t say that it is difficult for you to do so or it is impossible to do… you just said that it will take time… and yeahhh… I understand that! Nobody can blindly trust someone in 10 days of living together…What if I hurt you?”

She heaved a deep breath of relief. Leaning her head on his shoulder, she asked, “You are not angry?”

“No. Trust is not forced out of someone, or begged for, or asked for. It has to be earned. You can’t be angry if someone doesn’t trust you.”

“It’s not like that…” She tried to defend her words. Only to find his index finger on her lips.

“Ssshhh… Let me finish. To be fair to you, it is not your fault. You trusted me when you decided to marry me and came here with me. But, then you heard me saying all that and I accepted that I was pretending. So, it does shake up your trust and makes you question your belief. Even then, if your heart asks you to give me a chance and tries to trust me, then, I think, we are on the right path…”

She closed her eyes, momentarily, “Thank God!”

“Can I say, something more?” He lowered his eyes to rest on her face.

“What?” She opened her eyes and met his, to find his hazel eyes roving over her face and studying even the smallest creases on her face. She raised her brows, feeling the blush returning on her face.

He could do that to her and it was something magical. One look from him and she found herself blushing. Only he could manage that look of admiration, of acceptance, of adoration and deeply rooted care for her that assured her that she could lose herself completely in his arms, for him to take care of the rest of the world. It was precious. She didn’t need years to trust him again.

She trusted him even now, or else she wouldn’t have been this close to him, even after a bitter fight. Now, she just needed both of them to take this time to delve deeper into this bond.

“What Manik?”

He moved his eyes from her face towards their hands, as if hiding the pool of emotions lowered in his eyes. Curling his other arm around her while her head rested on his shoulder, he drew her closer in a hug. In a low, warm and deeply stirring voice, he said in one go, “I will never break your trust!”

She found tear droplets forming in her eyes, out of nowhere. For this one moment between them, everything else appeared frivolous and petty. What she heard him speaking to Cabir, or found him accepting what he didn’t mean to… it was meaningless to even think that he had been irritating her since morning. It was just a way to bring her on one common page with him.

And she had started to read him too… she was beginning to understand the layers in his personality… the hidden softer, emotional part below the irritating, silly, careless casket.

“Manik…”

“Don’t say anything.”

If she thought that she could expose his sensitive side too and talk about it, then she was wrong. It was easy to discuss about her, but when it came to him, he was immediately uncomfortable. He was emotionally strong but the problem was that he didn’t want to let anyone know that he was emotional at all… he preferred being cold and calculative and ruthless, to avoid hurt…

This time, she simply smiled. She had understood him and for now, she let go of the impulse to tease him about being so soft and caring…There will be many instances in future, when she was going to do that…and mercilessly, so… For now, it was okay to leave it…

Before she could get overwhelmed with her tears and gooey emotions around him, he chuckled and stepped away. Slowly, he detangled their hands. She was still trying to understand this when he placed the pan on the gas stove and teasingly said, “We skipped dinner last night… you know why… and missed breakfast because we were busy fighting… we’ve just had one coffee each… And now, I don’t want to miss this meal too…”

She smiled and stepped down from the slab, “Okay… let’s cook together!”

“I’ll boil the pasta… you cut the vegetables…”

She nodded like an obedient student and followed his instructions and noticed that he really knew a lot about cooking and how to make any dish special by adding his unique touch to a recipe. Even Pasta Alfredo looked so yummy that it could give tough competition to the best pasta cooked in a best restaurant in Bangalore.

“Smells and looks so royal!!” She gave him a thumbs-up sign as she served it in two plates. He carried their plates to the dining table, while she poured food for Dobby. He waited and just after a minute, he tapped the plate with his spoon. She knew that it was for her. She smiled and stopped paying attention to Dobby before she joined her husband at the dining table.

The pasta was overloaded with cheese. She was still trying to cool it by blowing air over her spoon, when he had a entire spoonful and then opened his mouth, “Oh mannnn!!! This was hot…”

She giggled, “Have patience!”

“Mmmm….it’s yummy…” He looked so visibly impressed by his endeavour that it made her giggle again.

“So happy, you look!”

“I’ve made pasta after a long time, and I’m so proud of me!”

He went on praising himself on and on, that she couldn’t stop grinning. “How much a person can praise himself!!? Gawwddd!!!”

“When ‘others’ don’t compliment you, you gotta do it yourself!” He grinned.

“Huhh?? I won’t do that. I cooked too…and you didn’t even eat it…”

He laughed when she flared her nostrils, giving him a fake, irritated smile. Then, he continued, “I was really surprised… you cooked dinner…”

“Healthy dinner!!! For the first time in my life!!” She used her hands in an animated gesture to exaggerate the efforts done at the task, making him grin again.

“And, it got wasted.” He made a sorry face to show solidarity to her.

Without thinking much about it, she just blurted it out, “Next time, we will eat first…”

He laughed loudly at the way she said that and pulled her cheek, teasing her, “I can’t promise… such things are not planned, Nandu!”

That’s when she realised what she had just said. He had replied it in exactly the same way as he had said this sentence on their wedding night, teasing her and making her go all red in her face. She couldn’t stop blushing after that. Shaking off the unease, she whispered, “I was talking about the fights…”

He sniggered, “Awesome!! You are so sure that we will fight like this, every now and then…”

On a serious note, she asked, “Won’t we?”

“Even that can’t be planned! No one wants to fight. It just happens!”

………………………

Rest of the afternoon passed watching TV and reading books. He wanted to catch up on the news that he had missed in the last week. So he kept switching the channels between various news and sports channels, watching all that he had in his pending list and the soccer match on air.

She sat right next to him on the couch and got absorbed in ‘Gone Girl’. For almost 2 hours, they spoke nothing to each other. He watched a debate on NDTV news and she kept reading. He was sitting on the couch with his long legs stretched ahead and resting on the table before him, and eyes fixed on the TV. Lost in her book, she never realised when she leaned on his arm with her back tucked to his arm and chest. He slowly turned his neck to observe her. She was reading with a focused concentration, looking all the more studious and cuter with her reading glasses on.

After some time, she lowered further to sprawl on the couch extending her legs ahead, at a right angle to him. Slowly, she slid her head in his lap, distracting him from the news. Tucking his lips in, he slightly tilted his neck to observe her again. This time, she appeared to be tired as her book was closed with her finger between the pages which she was reading, the book tucked to her chest and eyes closed. He took away the book from her hand and noted the page number before closing it again and kept it on the table. Next, he removed her reading glasses and kept them away, letting her curl around herself and sleep.

From here, he couldn’t concentrate anymore. He tried watching another news segment, but the way she was sleeping, on her side, with her head in his lap and arms and legs curled by her body, made him want to settle her in the comforts of the warm bed. It was slightly breezy and cold today.

He switched off the TV and slowly removed her head from his lap to get up. He lifted her in his arms, trying not to wake her up. But when he took her inside and lay her on the bed, she slowly opened her eyes. He was so close to her when he lay her down and removed his arms from around her after settling her, that she didn’t want to let him move away.

She held his shoulders and stopped him. This was surprising, as he didn’t know that she had woken up. Till now, he hadn’t noticed it.

Having her glued to him had always been an unsettling experience. It stirred him. He didn’t know what exactly bound him to her at that time. Her innocence or her softness… the purity of her heart or her vulnerability… the cute frown on her forehead or the warmth in her eyes…whatever it was, it was certainly not her physical beauty. She was pretty, beyond any doubt. But it wasn’t just that about her. Her looks and appearance didn’t even matter to him. All that mattered was the way she looked at him.

He touched her face, moving his finger tips downwards from her cheeks towards her neck in a soft caress. She curled her fingers over his shoulders, in an effort to hold him close to her. His thumb rested on her lower lip, everting it slowly, letting her heave a subtle sigh when he left it.

“I’m sorry, Nandu.” He whispered, on an impulse. In a barely audible, low voice. “I was aware that I was hurting you. But that is how I am…I can’t do anything directly… I knew that I could never defend myself or stop the misunderstandings from growing, just by explaining. I’m such a jerk…”

She sighed when he hovered over her face, closer to her, rubbing his nose on her cheek. She murmured, “No, don’t say that… I can understand…”

“Stop trying to understand all the time!”

“Sorry!”

“I’m really sorry too…”

“Shuttttt Upppp!!”

Every deep and husky ‘shut up’ had to culminate into an equally deeper kiss growing into something deeply passionate and intimate, which they could neither plan nor stop…ever!

……………………………….

Later at night, she prepared exactly the same dishes for dinner that she had prepared the night before. Health food for him – Grilled Chicken and Mediterranian broccoli radish salad with feta cheese!

This time, she made him sit on the table to do his work and handled the kitchen on her own. He appeared to be lost in his laptop but his attention was on her and kitchen all the time. He couldn’t believe it that she had taken so many pains for him and it was all spoiled.

From behind his laptop screen, he spoke, “I’ve booked tickets for Friday evening. I will work and finish some basic formalities at office this week. We can travel after Friday.”

“Perfect!” She spoke from the kitchen, setting the chicken in the oven. “I have an interview to attend tomorrow. I got a call from St. Martha’s, yesterday evening. I forgot to tell you.”

“That’s great!”

“Yeah!” She smiled with hope, and added, “So, this week, I’ll probably attend a few interviews, do some more of research work and planning…”

“Okay! So…friday travel… Saturday to Saturday – eight days at Amsterdam and around Netherlands… and then return on next Sunday. Will this be fine?”

“Yepp!!” She set the oven at 200 degrees and came back to sit beside him, with a genuine worry on her face, “Will Cabir come back by Friday? I’m worried about Dobby.”

“I think, even Dobby will be fine by Friday. He doesn’t need us if he can walk on his own and be by his own!” He spoke casually and wrote about the itinerary in his diary.

For a moment, colour faded from her face. She realised that Dobby was here on a temporary basis, just because of his wounds and Manik had allowed him there because of her. If it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t have tolerated a dog in his house.

Without speaking much after this, feeling slightly heavy at heart, she just nodded, “Yeah.”

…………………………

In the morning…

With the morning coffee, she flipped the newspaper, scanning the news segments and advertisements. One particular ad caught her attention. Excited, she almost jumped from her chair and entered the bedroom to inform Manik, who was in the washroom. She stood outside the washroom door, “Hey!! There is a walk-in-interview for Senior Residents at Bangalore Medical College today. So many branches are open. They have 2 places for Gynaec residents too.”

“Perfect!” He shouted from inside.

“Come on, free the bathroom fast. I want to get ready too!” She was so excited that she didn’t even notice that he had opened the door and was now smirking with water dripping off his hair and shoulders. Dumbstruck, she raised her brows, “What?”

“Why do I need to free it, if you want to get ready?”

Before she could understand it, he had already grasped her wrist, softly curling his fingers around it and in a soft jerk, he pulled her inside.

“Manikkkk!!! What…” She couldn’t believe, he just did that.

“Ssshhhh!!” He settled her by the wall near the shower and turned the shower on.

It was extremely embarrassing to have his wet body pressed against her, under the running shower, drenching her from head to toe. Before she could speak even a word more, she found his lips over hers and then traveling from her cheeks to her jawline. She whimpered like a wet kitten.

“None of us wants to get late, right?” Somehow, she managed to remind him.

He sighed and grinned, “Did I ever tell you before that you are addictive? Like a slow fire, torturing me but not exactly burning me…”

“No! But you can tell me now.”

“I prefer to show than tell…”

……………………………………..

Finally, they managed to get ready in time, with some struggle between self-control and slipping at the same.

Manik left for office at the set time and after he left, Nandini got the house work done, dismissed the maids and changed. She wore a starched, cotton saree in sky blue colour with small mustard flowers at the borders. It was a pretty saree selected by her mother, elegant and sophisticated  for interviews.

She brought all her certificates and official documents to check them again and arrange them in a neat folder on the coffee table in the living room, when she noticed Manik’s car keys on the table.

A message from him was lying waiting in the inbox –

‘Take the car, today. Keys are on the coffee table. I noticed that you can drive well. Still, if you need the driver, just let me know.’

She was about to type how he didn’t have to do this and how she could have taken the cab, that she didn’t need the driver and she was comfortable while managing the public transport as well as the cabs… she received 2 more messages back to back, from him.

You have two interviews today. Take the car. I rode with Dhruv. And I really don’t need it when I am in office…’

She smiled at first and then, she grinned from ear to ear when she read his last parting message.

‘ Now, please don’t follow up these messages with silly formal messages about how it was not needed. I have more important things to do in office.

For the first time in her life, someone’s rude message had brought a goofy grin on her face.

…………………………………

Tangles & Ties: Chapter 43: Such Is Life

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