After a long relaxing bath, Nandini took another fifteen minutes and she was done. She stepped out wearing smart casuals, as per the weather – suede tunic, woollen leggings, long coat and cowboy boots with a hat.
She stuffed the necessary things for the day in her handbag and walked into the living room, only to find Manik sprawled over the living room couch, still in his vest and black tracks, with his eyes glued to the television.
Shocked, she confronted him with hands spread in the air and a disbelieving look on her face. Her mouth was open and her eyes squinted. When he turned to look at her, he frowned at her act, as if genuinely surprised.
“Manik, what is this?”
“What? Man U is playing against Barca?”
“Are you nuts? Do you think I’m asking about the game on TV?” She dumped her bag on the couch, right beside him.
He raised his brow knowingly and smirked, as if ‘now’ he understood, “Ohhhhh?!! Now I get it. You are asking about yourself. You look good!”
His approval was not needed. In fact, it further riled her up. “I know! Thank you. But why are you not ready?”
“Was I supposed to get ready?” He shrugged.
Another disbelieving helpless look graced her pretty face, “Just before I left, I told you in detail about the plans for today. I asked you to get ready and we will leave by 10:00…”
“Leave?? To go where?”
“We are in Netherlands!” She raised her hands in front of him to make a point. “In case you have forgotten!”
“So… I am not like you who will go from airport to hotel and then back to airport and then home. If I’ve come to Netherlands, I’m going to explore it!” Frustrated, she added, “And just now, I told you to use the other bathroom and get ready…”
“Really?? You said that?” He was looking at her pretty face, cluelessly.
She huffed, “See??!! That’s your problem. You don’t even listen to me!”
“Nandu, I really don’t remember. All I remember is that I was looking for the match schedule when you said that you were going to get ready. Then I switched on the TV.” Holding her hand, he dragged her to sit beside him, “Come… we’ll watch the match together! Whom do you support? Barca or ManU??”
“My foot!” She got up and pointed her index finger towards him to sway it towards their room, “Manik Malhotra, we are going out. And if you don’t get ready in ten minutes, I’ll leave you and go alone!”
He smirked, stretched his hands in a lazy gesture and stretched his body teasingly, before giving a subtle click to his tongue, “Really?? Wow!! Do you really mean that I will be able to watch the match all day without you disturbing me?? Can’t believe my luck!”
She folded her hands across her chest, trying to look threatening… actually looking cute in the process. “You have no idea what I do when I get angry!”
“What you do? When you get angry?? Look cuter??” He chuckled, teasing her more.
She was already pissed off. Now, he was teasing her and intended to watch TV. It couldn’t be more annoying. She hissed, “You really think, you can look cool and all… by doing all this??”
“I don’t need to do ‘all this’ or anything else, for that matter, to look cool. I AM cool!”
“Ha…. Ha…. Ha…” She bobbed her neck, side to side, “Good joke! Now get up!”
He held her hand again and once again, made her sit, this time in his lap. Taking her hat away, he kept it carefully on the table ahead. Her loose hair spread on her shoulders. Her creamy skin had attained a pinkish glow on the cheeks and nose due to the cold. He couldn’t stop from brushing his knuckles across her cheeks, sending goosebumps to her, like always.
“Stop it!” She whispered.
Pushing her hair away from her face and tucking them behind her ear, he sighed, “You look so gorgeous! I haven’t seen anyone so unintentionally sexy.”
“Manik! This is not going to work…” She sighed, knowing that her resolves and tough stand before him was a mere dry leaf before a storm. She couldn’t hold it even if she tried hard. He knew that too. He smirked, trying to read her face, her look, her mind…
“So, you tell me… what’s going to work…I’ll do that…”
“Why do you always divert the topic in your direction? We started the morning so beautifully!”
“Exactly my point… we shouldn’t be wasting the day… going out…”
“Then do what?? Watch the soccer match?”
He smirked softly, “I won’t mind if you have other activities in mind…”
“Shut up!” She blushed and got up from his lap, slightly shoving him away, “Get up now!”
“I want to watch the match!” He whined like a baby. “I don’t like to roam around, you know that. And I love sports, you know that too. We had a pact that we won’t trouble the other and force our ways on each other as other couples do!” He tried his last weapon.
She giggled and couldn’t stop laughing for a moment, leaving him confused. This was not the reaction he had been expecting. Still laughing, she held his arm and pulled him to get up, “Husband dear… which pact?? And which rules?? I DO NOT remember even one rule that we haven’t broken… so shut the f*ck up… and go!! TEN MINUTES… you have!!”
She dragged him and pushed him into the washroom with a no-nonsense stance. He couldn’t decide whether to laugh with her or be impressed by her attitude.
She had started ordering him and pushing him into doing things and he was loving it… It was another weird thing, he just noticed. He loved to take orders from her and the way she exerted full authority on him to make him do things was adorable.
Before her, no one… not a single soul on the earth… not his parents, friends, his ex- or even his bosses were allowed to boss around him. He neither appreciated orders nor did he liked any kind of push – subtle or evident… He simply did what he felt right…
Suddenly, there was someone in his life, who found it exciting to challenge him, push him into doing things he didn’t believe in and make sure that he goes by what she wanted and loved.
He made a pout out of his lips and released a huge bout of air out with an audible grunt. “Phew!! Typical wifey!!!”
He took exactly ten minutes, as she had asked him to. The weather didn’t allow careless dressing. So even he wore a woollen tee shirt, blue denims and a leatherette jacket in brown. As always, he looked suave and dapper. In the meantime, she stuffed cheese and some veggies inside a bun and made quickie sandwiches.
“Super cool!” He grabbed one. “Where did you get the stuff from?”
“Bought it from a vendor just now!”
He raised one brow, “I’m impressed!”
“No… I’m impressed! You really got ready in ten minutes?!”
“I had to!!” He smirked, “Someone threatened to leave me behind.”
She laughed at that, “As if you care! You would have been the happiest if left behind… to watch the match! And exactly for the same reason, I would have NEVER left you!”
He joined the laughter, “Sadist you are, do you know?!!”
“You can watch the match on repeats. We’ll be back before evening. It starts getting dark around 6…”
“Okkkayyy!!! I’ll be missing the match for you. I am already going out of my comfort zone and going out with you. What will I get, in return?” He rested his elbows and forearms on the kitchen slab and leaned forwards, raising his brows.
A soft smile adorned the pretty bow of her lips, curving them upwards, “What do you want?”
“You will have to tell me what do you keep writing, all the time!” He shrugged, moving out of the house and locking the cottage door.
Her face was white in shock. “What… nothing…when??”
It was cold outside. To top it, it had rained last night, so almost everything was wet and cold. Sun was never so noble in this season in Europe, Today, it eluded them even more. But still, the blank look on her face wasn’t hidden from him.
He sniggered, “In flight… or, whenever you are alone… or, when I am trying to sleep… or, busy in some work!!”
“Hubby dear…” She held his elbow and leaned towards him, walking by his side.
“Hmm??” He replied adoringly.
“When you are sleeping, or busy doing something, or relaxing in the flight… you are supposed to do exactly THAT!!! Why were you even observing me??” She blushed as she asked that, in a soft, soothing whisper.
He was not going to buy the tease. Pat came his reply, “You are always so disturbing… so clumsy that invariably one gets irritated and has to look at you… every now and then…”
She knew that he was lying. He was never going to accept it. She was getting the hang of his ways now. She sniggered, “Aww… I hope, looking at me makes you feel better… I must be a breather in your big bore routine…”
“Ha!! Big-time illusions, some people harbour!” He swayed his jaw!
“Big-time compliments, some people give, unknowingly!” She chirped, “I’m flattered!!”
A boat had arrived to pick them up. He jumped in, almost shaking the boat, making her giggle again at the sheer impact of the situation. He was just a kid, at times. He stretched his hand, once he set his feet inside. She let her hand slip in his hand and was held as strongly as ever… like he did, always, without fail… whether getting up or down the boat… or aircraft… or any shaky ground. He ensured that he became her anchor and held her so strongly that she felt confident and free with him. And he didn’t even notice that he did these small things for her.
But she noticed each and every detail and fell in love with him, a bit more each day!
“Come on… tell me… what do you keep scribbling here and there when you think that I’m not around!” He asked again when they settled inside the boat.
“First you tell me, what do you keep doing in your phone all the time?”
“I don’t do anything like that!”
“I’ve noticed you. You keep fiddling with it… changing the settings and focus… it seems you are clicking the photos… sometimes, you appear to be taking selfies.. but what do you do with selfies… you don’t have any social media account active… you post nothing online… what do you do?”
“Nothing!” He smirked when he was caught.
“Show me, Manik! I want to see what do you click…” She nearly ordered.
“Okay!! But first, you need to tell me… what you write…”
“I write poetry!” She blushed again.
“You…what??” He nodded as if he had heard something wrong and was going to confirm it, “Excuse me?!! Poetry?????”
His knee-jerk response, open mouth, bemused face and a subtle frown made her giggle at first and then she laughed whole-heartedly, holding his elbow and tugging over it to prevent her from falling in the canal. Still laughing carelessly, she said, “Please don’t look so washed out!! It’s not that bad…”
He was still not able to step out of that blow. “Poetry??? I mean, I thought you were half crazy… but no… you are totally crazy mannnn!!! Who writes poetry in her sane mind?”
“Come on… don’t be so mean!”
“Nandu, I really thought you are a scientific girl, a doctor with some figures and calculations up your sleeve… I thought you were reasonable and logical… but I give up on that. I used to think only people who have nothing else to do in life, write poetry!”
She giggled again, blushing more, “It seems, I have been given a responsibility by your angels to break every myth and prejudice that you harbour!”
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to sound rude. Just that, I wasn’t able to digest it!”
“It’s okay. I love to break your prejudices…”
Out of blue, he asked, “Will you let me read it?”
She became quiet and conscious, immediately. Suddenly edgy, she stammered, “It’s nothing, really!! Some crazy amateur stuff… it’s just…”
“I want to read it!” He demanded as if he wasn’t even listening to her excuses.
She took a deep breath, “I’ll think about it. But before that, I want to see your phone.” She stretched her hand before him and demanded the phone. He twisted his lips with a disapproving click of a sound and placed his phone in her palm, after unlocking it.
She searched for the picture gallery and was stunned when she scrolled through it. It hundreds of photographs… of her!
She never knew she looked so pretty. The pictures were clicked from his vision. He was amazing at this art. The lighting, the canvas behind her, everything was so beautiful that she was captivated to think that these pictures were taken when she didn’t even know that she was being clicked.
So, when she was thinking that he was taking a selfie, he had been adjusting the camera to take a pic of her. These were the most candid pictures of her… when she had the least idea that she was at the focus of someone’s attention – When she was talking to someone else… when she was searching for something inside her handbag… when she was looking away… when she was looking for a good book at the airport… when her hair blew away in the wind and her entire attention was to set them correct or gather them to form a ponytail… when she was busy licking the dripping melt of her ice-cream…
“I’m not going to explain any of it!” He declared blandly when she turned to him, blushing hard.
She chuckled and shifted closer to him, nestling her face in his shoulder, inhaling the masculine, musk fragrance from him. He wrapped his arm around her so that she was drawn closer. Softly, she whispered, “Only an idiot will ask you to explain it in words!”
“And I suppose, my wife is not an idiot. She thinks she is too intelligent!”
“Thinks?!” She giggled, “I AM intelligent!”
He stayed quiet for a moment, loving the touch of her skin over his jacket, his shoulder. She asked. “Manik?”
“By the way, do you know it is a punishable offense to capture someone’s poses without permission?”
“And… do you know, it is punishable offense to capture someone’s thoughts without permission??”
Next chapter –