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 :)...
Love you all…. always remember!!!
I have the sweetest bunch of readers!
*Short & Quick Update*
She grinned and giggled for the first time in so many days –
“Shut up! You already know that I’ll choose you!”
He couldn’t stop grinning at the way she said that. Also, she was grinning after so many days. She was bliss to behold. A treat to watch. She was beautiful in every way and the inherent goodness in her made her all the more beautiful. He knew that he had struck gold for having her with him. She was like sunshine in his life. A gem of a personality – she was caring, loving and very affectionate.
His face had an adoring smile for her but his eyes were sad. He was struggling with the myriad of emotions rustling inside his chest, struggling to be let out but he didn’t speak anything. She was being so good, so nice, so sweet to him that it hurt him…deeply!
The doorbell rang. Nandini went out and opened the door. Cabir had come again, “I’m sorry, Nandini, I think I left my phone here.”
“Come!” Nandini smiled to let him in so that he could come and search for his phone. Cabir looked for his phone, while Nandini stood by the wall facing the bed where Manik was sitting. Manik didn’t look happy and it upset Nandini too. Cabir bent down and found his phone fallen on the floor under the bed, “Got it! Sorry guys!”
Manik was looking at Nandini who was standing with her hands folded and looking straight at him. He sighed, and asked, “So?? Did you resign?”
“No, I didn’t talk to the HOD. She called but I disconnected saying that signals were weak. Then, I sent a text message saying that I am taking a leave for 3 weeks. And I’ll send the email by night.” She informed him, tapping her foot impatiently at this court-martial, and settled at the wall behind her.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to disturb!” Cabir apologized and raised his hands in defense, “I must leave.”
“No, Cabir, you wait!” Manik asked Cabir to stay, confusing Nandini. She couldn’t understand why Manik asked Cabir to be there with them.
“What happened?” Cabir asked, “Any issues.”
Manik nodded hopelessly, “Nandini has taken uninformed leaves for 3 weeks…”
“For you?!” Cabir chuckled, “I mean, obviously… but what’s the issue… it’s great, right?”
“No, it’s not! They haven’t ‘allowed’ her to go!” He asked carefully, pressing his lips together. This word pinched Nandini. He was talking like a CEO who was in charge of people who worked under him and she was obviously a junior employee in some other organization. But it didn’t reduce his authoritative stand on the issue. He asked, “What did she say?”
She shrugged, “She didn’t call me after that. I just mentioned that I’m taking leave and wrote about your fracture.”
“But Nandu… she will take it very badly… they may take action against you if you disappear like that. They haven’t granted the leave… they need to sanction it before you leave the work and you should officially hand-over the work to someone who will take care in your absence”
“I don’t know all that,” She nodded sweetly, “I just wanted to be with you, Manik!”
He took a deep breath, and explained patiently, “Listen… don’t do this. You don’t need to stay beside me. I can manage. I’ll ask Cabir to take leaves. He will do that. We know a few people. They can be here and I’ll be fine.”
Cabir nodded and agreed, “Oh yes! We can manage. I have several leaves pending… I’ll have no problem. Plus we are already working here… we can work from home during this time.”
Now, Nandini knew why Manik had asked Cabir to stay back. To have an accomplice who would vouch for him that they will be fine. She observed him carefully, took a long pause and waited for him to finish. Her smile had vanished. She asked slowly, “You don’t want me to stay here?”
Manik nodded… swayed his jaw… and said in a firm tone, “No!”
She sighed, deeply disappointed at his reply. She had expected Manik to be thrilled and overjoyed. He should have been excited about having her around him. He should have celebrated it and they could have spent 3 beautiful weeks together. Instead, he said that he didn’t even want her there. If he was doing it for her job then she had to tell him that she would have resigned anyway.
She explained, “Okay… but it’s not just for you. They are being too unreasonable. HOD wants to give rest to Dr. Padma and she is asking me and Dr. Kavita to do alternate nights. Dr. Kalpana has gone to Chennai and Dr. Medha is on maternity leave. So, now it’s just me and Kavita… who will be tortured.”
“So, is it justified for you to take leaves at this time?” He countered her, “Leaving all the burden for Dr. Kavita?”
“I don’t think you should do this unless you have a direct talk with HOD regarding any kind of leave that you are planning. Sending text messages and disappearing from work is an irresponsible attitude. I won’t let you do this.”
She twisted her lips, “Manik, I have a night duty… tonight.”
He shrugged, “Then, go! Don’t neglect your job for me.”
She became sad, “And you want me to slog there? Work for all emergencies and nights? I’ll have to be there for 36 hours at stretch… they are being very unjustified.”
He spread his hands, without any emotion, and said in a matter-of-fact manner, “They have every right to do so! They’ve employed you!”
She took a deep breath, “Okay, I understand that. But… right now… I can’t leave you alone…”
“I’m not alone. Cabir is with me. Cabir, stay here tonight.”
Cabir had been observing them, first, he looked at Manik and then at Nandini and didn’t understand what exactly was going on. He had no idea about their fight a few weeks back and all the fiasco with his mom, so it was a new development that Manik and Nandini were talking like strangers. Nandini wanted to help him because he had a fracture and he wanted to send her to work. Without trying to delve deeper, he nodded, and said, “Yes, boss!”
“See! He is here. Happy now. Go and change… you have a night, right?”
Nandini stared at him with piercing eyes. For the first time, in so many days, she was really really angry with Manik. She hated him for doing this. Without saying anything, she marched her way into the washroom to change and go back to the hospital.
Cabir shrugged and sat beside Manik, and asked in a hushed whisper, “What are you doing, dude? She wants to be with you. What’s wrong in that? Why did you hurt her? Look at her face… she is going to cry in the washroom.”
Manik winced and bit his lower lip, clearly worried about her and thinking about what Cabir spoke. He pressed his hand and shushed him, “Ssshhhh!! Keep quiet. I know what I am doing…”
“And…what exactly are you doing?”
“I can’t tell you!” Manik rolled his eyes.
Cabir pointed his finger towards him, “Listen, I’m with Nandini in this… you better behave properly with her…I won’t let you hurt her feelings.”
Manik replied in a deeply saddened tone, “I’ve done the maximum possible damage already… weeks ago… I can’t hurt her more than that. Now, I need to fix it. So, just shut up and follow as I say…”
“But…” Cabir wanted to speak more but Manik interrupted him.
“Please, Cabir! If you care for her, stay quiet and do as I say.”
Cabir nodded and spread his hands in the air in defiance. He stayed quiet after that.
After some time, Nandini stepped out wearing a formal salwar-kameez and gave a long complaining look to Manik. He didn’t say anything and shrugged nonchalantly. Nandini picked up her hand-bag when the doorbell rang.
Cabir volunteered, “I’ll check.”
Cabir left them. Nandini and Manik were alone in the bedroom when she asked Manik for the last time, in a slow whisper and a disbelieving tone, “You really want me to go??!”
He replied seriously, and very firmly, “Yes!”
Cabir came back with a girl behind him – Gorgeous, tall, slim girl in her late twenties with a stylish attitude and strong persona. She had worn a sleeveless, deep red one-piece dress going till her knees and red high-heels. Her make-up was flawless and so was her skin. Her perfume spread in the room.
Nandini wondered who she was to come straight to their bedroom. She had never seen this woman before in their building or Manik’s office. Manik was stunned too as he threw a quick questioning glance at Cabir. Cabir shrugged as he was clueless and Manik looked totally clean-bowled.
This’ was clearly not in his plans!!
The lady opened her mouth widely in surprising concern when she looked at him and his broken leg, “Oh my Goshh!! You have a fracture?? Dhruv told me that you were hurt, so I came to see you.”
“Hi!” Manik said softly.
She didn’t stop at that. She went all the way to him where he was sitting on the bed and gave him a momentary hug by bending over him. Manik was visibly uncomfortable. Cabir dragged the chair before her, “Why don’t you sit?”
“Oh, sure!” She turned around and looked at Nandini. Only to give her a small smile, “So, ‘you’ are Nandini???! Err… Two weeks back, when I joined the office… Manik told me that he got married 5 months ago…”
Nandini looked at them, cluelessly and waited for someone to introduce them. She didn’t say anything, so the woman introduced herself, with her hand stretched towards her –
“Hey, I’m Sonalika. Manik must have spoken about me…”