Hello everyone, I haven't been able to finish writing the update and I am busy in too many things this week. My kids are having exams, my younger one celebrates her birthday on 26th, I have to wrap up all aspects of The Masquerade, including blurb, bio, cover, and acknowledgments, my clinic has loads of appointments, and some paperwork is pending. In short, you all will have to wait for a bit :)...
Thank you for your love… you have no idea what it means to me.
– for not replying to each one of you( I try my best to keep up but I keep missing some of you)…
– for not reading when you forward me your books (I can’t, I’m loaded with work, and writing and publishing-related stuff but I keep saving them and soon I will read them)…
– for not giving you a shout out ( trust me, I have way too many requests to honour that, so as a rule, I don’t give shout outs since the beginning)…
I am trying to maintain a schedule of Wednesday – Saturday this time! So Wednesday night and Saturday nights, I will try my best to update between 10 – 11 pm.
I really hope it works.
Take care. Thanks for everything. Love you all…. loads!!
After the day when Nandini declared that she didn’t want to fight with Manik anymore, she was unusually quieter, calmer and poised than before. Her chirpiness, spontaneity, bubbly ramblings, mindless chatters and banters were all gone. She focused more on her work and she was generally so busy that she was practically walking in and out of the home.
Manik was busy too. He had to monitor a project for overseas expansion of Phoenix Adlabs. He had taken up the position of the CEO previously and was mainly supervising the projects under him but there were many people in the office who had been notorious for not doing work properly. He had to observe them and get the work done. So his concentration and time were devoted to office.
Both of them came home at odd times, usually at different times, and hardly ever met. And when they met, they were so exhausted that none had the energy left to talk or fight. Nandini behaved nicely with him, arranged the home when she was home and didn’t speak much. Even if Manik started a conversation, she would smile and either reply in one or two words, or stay quiet. Manik couldn’t guess what to say and what not to say as he had already destroyed a lot by speaking nonsense. So, he mostly stayed quiet too and tried to mind his own business.
One week passed and it only made their silences increase. They were both aware that they were losing even the basic communication between them. None of them liked it but none wanted to speak something that would increase the misunderstandings or fights between them.
A week later, it was a Sunday and it was a day off for both of them. After a long time, Manik was in bed till late. He came out of the bedroom, sleepy and lost when she raised her eyes from the newspaper spread at the dining table and found him looking like a lost puppy. She was having her coffee while reading the newspaper.
He went directly to the refrigerator and took out a bottle of water, and said, “Good morning!”
She nodded, acknowledging his greeting and replied in a soft, “Good morning.”
“You are home today?” He asked coz she was never home at this time. It was 10:00 am in the morning. He usually left for his office around 9:30 am every day and she was never home even when he woke up to get ready, ie around 8:00 am. So, he had practically never seen her in the mornings. It was surprising to see her.
“It’s off-day!” Nandini murmured softly. That’s it. That’s all she had to say when he asked her why she was home.
He too didn’t speak anything. He came back to the hall, drank water and stood by the dining table for some time. Not knowing what else to do, he went back to the room and washroom to freshen up.
After half-an-hour, he came out, bathed and freshened, wearing grey track pants and white tee-shirt. He sat on the living room couch and switched on the tv. Nandini was working so seriously on her laptop that she didn’t even look at him. Manik browsed a few channels and stopped on a sports channel telecasting a cricket match. But his mind was not in the match.
This was one day when both had an off and they were together, awake and alert, together. He needed to make some amends to what had been lost between them. He frantically tapped the remote on his palm and after a few minutes, he asked, “Nandu, will you come out with me?”
She raised her eyes from the laptop and looked at him, surprised at the way he had asked, spontaneously, like a teenager asking his girlfriend. She asked, “Out?”
He hesitated and asked, with a casual shrug, “I mean… movie?”
She pressed her lips and slightly nodded, making a helpless face, “Sorry, I can’t. I have this presentation to prepare for tomorrow. I’m taking a class for undergraduates.”
He nodded, trying to understand, “Hmm. Okay…” Then suddenly as an afterthought, he said, “Then…dinner?”
“Err…” She was still looking at him, clueless and confused about his behaviour.
He didn’t want to give her the opportunity to refuse. So he quickly added, “It’s just morning. You have an entire day. You can finish the presentation by evening … it’s been so many days, we had dinner at a restaurant.”
She nodded, and subtly agreed, in a single word, “Okay!”
She was neither angry nor upset. She didn’t consider as a big deal too. At least she didn’t show that it was. She was neutral and emotionless. Manik didn’t mind. At least she had said yes to going out with him. It might be a small baby step… but it was definitely progressing…
He was back to watching the cricket match. He saw only for 5-7 minutes when he stood up and asked her, “What did you have for breakfast?”
She was reading a journal, selecting points and writing them in loose sheets before her. Busy in that, she replied, even without looking at him, “Nothing. I just had coffee and since then, I am working.”
“Oh!” He said and went inside the kitchen. Dobby wagged his tail and followed Manik everywhere but stopped at the entrance of the kitchen. He knew that it was his boundary. Nandini didn’t allow him inside the kitchen. Manik smiled and said, “Sit down, there, buddy! I’ll give your food in a minute.”
Nandini spoke while typing the points in the ppt slide, “Manik, I’ve prepared poha. It’s in the casserole. And I’ve already fed Dobby!”
“Really???” Manik exaggerated the response only to make it appear melodramatic, “My God!! He was about to fool me with those hungry puppy eyes!”
“Stop exaggerating! He said nothing about food.” She said, dryly.
Manik picked up the casserole and 2 empty plates and spoons to the dining table. He lay the plates on the dining table, one near Nandini and the other before a seat facing her. Serving the poha, he said, “You didn’t look at his eyes.”
This time, Nandini looked up from the laptop and stared at him, speaking in a sly tone, “Eyes?? You must be kidding me!!! Eyes lie.”
Instead a sitting facing her, he pulled a chair next to her and staring back at her, he said in an emotional, romantic, husky tone, “Don’t tell me that eyes lie. Eyes never, ever lie… they speak what words don’t!!”
Manik Malhotra sitting right next to her, at a hand’s distance away, looking into her eyes, speaking in a sexy, deep voice, telling her that eyes spoke what words can’t, was too much for her poor heart to bear. He was so adorable, so enticing, and so attractive… everything about him was deeply, poignantly beautiful.
And yet, he was such a pain!!
Why should she believe him, to be thrashed mercilessly again?! She had so much to speak, but she was scared. Talking to him was like talking to some crazy boss at work. You never know what will go against you.
She squeezed her eyes disbelievingly and toughed her soft look, with jaws clenched, not leaving his eyes, she softly muttered under her breath, “B.U.L.L.S.H.I.T!!!”
He didn’t expect it. He was flabbergasted as he coughed twice at that abuse word. Only Nandini could do that! He straightened and continued to serve poha, trying to believe she said that word for his emotional move to pacify her. She was no easy damsel to sway to his tunes if she didn’t want to. If she had a firm stand on something and she was not ready to let go, he knew that she would take time.
And he loved this about her!!
At least, she was talking to him and allowing him to be around her. She woke up early and prepared breakfast for them. Though, she didn’t have to do that. But he did it on some days and she did on some. So, without thinking that why she should do it or taking it on her ego, she prepared it today.
He knew that he was bad at more justifications, apologies and making her be natural again. He was sure to mess it up. So, he decided to just be around her, as she wanted and as she liked and use his charms to remind her that they had promised each other to be together through all ups and downs. He was as flawed as she was imperfect. Both had done mistakes at different points but they were both good too. And they respected and loved each other immensely. They just needed to accept it that such phases will come and go throughout life. Instead of letting it affect them and their relationship so deeply and disturb them psychologically, they should get over with it and move on.
Only that, whatever he thought, he couldn’t speak to her…
He was scared that he will hurt her again. It’s not that Nandini didn’t know it. She was well aware of the same and that is why she hadn’t left the home and him. She was mature and sorted. But she was badly hurt and it would take time to build that trust.
It is easy to make people stay with you and stand with you, but it is difficult to gain their trust. More difficult if that trust was broken once…
Manik knew this fact very well and was patient enough to wait for that time when Nandini would be back to her original spontaneous self with him, trusting him with her heart and emotions all over again.
After an hour, Manik brought his laptop to sit facing her and without disturbing her, he started doing his work. She raised her eyes above the laptop and found him focused on his work. After observing him for around thirty seconds, she nodded to herself and was back to making her presentation again. He raised his eyes this time, smiled slightly and then he went back to his work quietly.
His major goal right now was to not irritate her in any way. It would take small building blocks to create the bridge between them.
Manik was now sitting with her on the dining table, working on his laptop. By afternoon, Nandini was tired. She closed her laptop and went to the living room couch.
Even when they were not talking, there was a certain peace when they sat with each other, focused on their work. When she got up, Manik felt weird. He didn’t like it that she had left the table. He turned to ask her, “What happened?”
“I’m tired. Taking a break!” She replied plainly, taking her legs up on the couch to fold them and picked up the remote to surf channels.
Manik got up too and came near her to sit on the couch beside her, “I’m tired too!”
Disbelievingly, she frowned and turned to look at him carefully, without replying to him. He suggested, “Let’s watch a movie.”
She looked cute in a sky blue floral skirt and white crop top. He couldn’t stop looking at her and admiring her while she browsed the channels. After searching for 5 minutes, she stopped on Star movies to watch ‘Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban’
“This??!” Manik had a shocked look on his face.
She shrugged, and asked softly, “You have a problem?”
He nodded innocently and with a plain face, he said, “Nopes! No problem. I LOVE it!”
For the first time, a subtle smile tried to appear on Nandini’s face, which she hid carefully and didn’t let him see it. The way he had said that he loved what she wanted to watch, was hilarious. But she knew him. He would joke at one moment and then say something hurtful. It was better to stay quiet. She had no idea that Manik had noticed that small smile sneaking on her face. His arrows were hitting right and he was going to hold on to this flow.
Manik spoke again, “I love it so much… I can watch it for 98657432954th time… just for you!!”
She couldn’t stop smiling this time. She picked up the cushion and softly pushed it towards him with a whisper, “Shut up!”
“Gaawwddd!! At least you smiled!! I’ve been waiting for sooooooo many days to see this smile!” He spoke in his best, flirtatious tone, making it as compelling as possible.
She twisted her lips, still smiling, “I AM smiling, Manik!! I’ve been smiling for all those days!”
He sighed and nodded, “But there is a huge difference between ‘that’ smile and ‘this’ smile… I’m not able to explain… but there is a world of difference!”
She shrugged, showing him that she was unable to understand. He shrugged too and said –
“Forget it! I don’t want to spoil this moment by analysis and discussions.
In the evening, Nandini eventually finished the presentation by 7:00 pm and stretched her hands up in the air. Manik was drawing a plan of workforce allotment over the spreadsheet before him. He rotated the pencil expertly between his first two fingers and looked up, distracted at the way Nandini was stretching her hands high up in air. He could feel his heart skipping beats.
“Is it over?” He asked, not able to remove eyes from her glorious, beautiful face.
“Yeah!” She sighed, “I finished it.”
“If you are too tired to go for dinner, we can plan it on some other day!” He said in a considerate voice.
She opened her mouth slightly, swaying the jaw and taking a deep breath. Sure, she was tired like hell and would have loved to crash on the bed but she didn’t want to hurt him. She could see that he was doing efforts to save their marriage as she was doing. He was going out of the way. And she was trying to get over the hurt that she had recently suffered. If he had taken a step, she didn’t want to quash it.
She nodded, and softly said, “No, I’m fine. Let’s go!”
With that, she stood up and went inside the bedroom to freshen up and take out a nice dress for her to go to dinner with him. He followed her and entered the bedroom behind her. She opened the cupboard and tried to think of a dress to wear when he reached behind her to take out his clothes. Just then, the power went off. The entire house was immersed in a pitch dark vacuum with nothing visible to the eyes.
“Shitttt!!” She whispered, stuck at one place facing the cupboard, gulping her saliva, “What happened?”
“Seems like the power went off. Don’t worry… the society has generators. It’ll come back in a few minutes.” He tried to relieve her.
“Hmm.” She simply made a sound and stood there, holding the wall of the cupboard.
Her other hand that was over the clothes in the cupboard, on it’s way back to her, brushed with his hand that was in the cupboard, over the clothes. A sudden surge of impulses ran through her at that weirdly intimate touch. She shuddered.
He wasn’t naive to let those sparks fade away.
His hand sought her hand again, this time surprising her. Before she could speak, his finger was already tracing a path from her wrist to her elbow, slightly grazing at the inner aspect of her forearm giving her ample goosebumps, too strong for to deal with. From her elbow, his fingers reached her shoulder and collar bone and her throat, making her quiver.
“Manikkk!” She barely managed to whisper through her nervous breaths.
“Sssssshhhh!!” His finger was now at her lips, stopping her from speaking anything, as he whispered –