“Does it hurt?” He asked. I smiled and shook my head.
“No.” I replied.
That pain was nothing compared to what I had felt during the time I was away from him. It hurt like a thousand knives stabbing me at a time. It would be a colossal lie if I say that I had no feelings for Manik. I was insanely in love with this man, and every gesture of his towards me, was only making me fall harder.
He smiled. “Good! We were doing what? Yeah, eggs. Scrambled eggs! Let’s cook!” He beamed, dragging me back to the kitchen.
I cooked the scrambled eggs while he prepared some coffee. We ate in silence, with him cracking really lame jokes in between. Once we were done, I carried the plates back to the kitchen.
“Nandini, are you free tonight?” Manik shouted from the hall. I walked outside after putting the dishes in the dishwasher.
“Uh, yes. Why?” I asked and took a seat beside him. He was busy typing something on his phone.
“Its Cabir. He’s going out with Navya – I mean, his fiancé, for dinner. He was asking whether we want to join.” He said. Dinner, that too with Cabir and his fiancé whom I had never met. Also, with Manik by my side. Of course I was going to be uncomfortable.
I hesitated. “I don’t think I should come. I barely know them. But you should go.” I said.
He gave me a dirty look. “I’m not interested in becoming a third wheel between them.” He sighed and continued. “I was actually thinking that it might cheer you up, ya know. But its okay. I know, no matter how much I try to cheer you up, you’ll always do what you want.” He said, faking a depressed tone.
“Manik…” I trailed off, trying to give a valid reason for staying back. He raised his brows and looked at me.
“What? I’m just kidding! But on a serious note, you should join us. Don’t sulk here on this couch watching your silly Disney mouse with ice cream.” He said, offending me.
“That’s Mickey Mouse!” I objected in a high pitched voice. He raised his hands in defense.
“Alright, kiddo. Just think about it. I would be really happy if you come. But no pressure whatsoever.” He said. I sighed and gave it a thought for a while. It wasn’t such a bad idea either. I desperately needed to stop thinking about Maddy.
“Well, it isn’t a bad idea. I think I’ll come.” I said.
“You think?” He asked.
“I will come, okay. You’re right. I’ve to get my mind off Madhyam Singhania.” I said. His lips curved into a smile and he got up, stretching his arms.
“Great! I’ll take off, now. I’ve got a few errands to run before heading home.” He said. I really didn’t want him to leave… yet. I hid my frown and got up too.
“Okay…” I said. He looked at me for a couple of seconds and then finally, wrapped his arms around me. Oh how I was longing for that. I held him back.
“You’ll be okay, Nandini. I’ll stop by to pick you up at around seven, okay? Be ready and wear something nice.” He said, stroking my hair. I nodded and pulled back.
“Yes. I’ll see you later. ” I said. He smiled and took off with one last wave at me.
“Nandini! 7:30!” Manik yelled from downstairs.
“I’m coming, baba! Have some patience.” I said, hurrying down the stairs. He stood at the door, arms crossed, staring at the wall clock. My footsteps alerted him as looked in my direction. The moment I saw him, I could only think of one word – handsome.
He was wearing a black button down shirt to go with his ripped jeans. His hair was as usual set up perfectly. I wondered how he even managed to do that. I realized he had shaved. The slight stubble suited him. He smiled at me.
“We’re matching.” He grinned. I realized, that I was in a black jumpsuit too. I smiled back.
“Yes, we are.” I said.
“Now I get what took you so long.” He stated.
“Are we too late?” I asked, worried.
He chuckled. “No. We are supposed to meet at eight. I just informed you in advance so that you could take your time to get ready.” He said. I slapped his arm playfully.
“Ow. Shall we go now?” He asked.
“We shall.” I replied.
Royal China – The most popular Chinese restaurant in Delhi. Like its name, it was royal.
Manik parked his car in the lot. Before I could get down, I was surprised to see Manik rushing out to my side and opening the door for me.
“Allow me, miss.” He said, putting his hand out for me to grab on. I got out with a tinge of blush and a laugh.
“Thank you, kind sir.” I played along. His smile could light up my world even in the darkest days. We proceeded inside.
I had been to Royal China once. It had a typical Chinese ambience to it. We walked in to be greeted by Cabir and a girl, I assumed was his fiancé. Cabur greeted Manik and I with a hug, while the girl stood out. She was beautiful, with a dusky complexion and dark brown curls.
“Kya baat hai, Miss Murthy. You look gorgeous tonight.” Said Cabir. I turned a little red at his compliment. I was not used to getting such compliments from anyone except Manik. As for Maddy, he never bothered to do that.
“Thank you, Mr. Murthy.” I smiled.
“Oh. And meet Navya, my fiancé.” He said, bringing the girl forward.
“Hi, Nandini! Its so good to see you. I’ve heard a lot about you from the source here.” She said, pointing a thumb at Manik and pulled me into an unexpected hug.
“All good things, I hope.” I said. She nodded.
“But its so great to see you two together! You both make an awesome couple. When Cabir told me that you guys were coming, I was really glad. Its like a double date now.” She exclaimed.
I was awestruck at the words couple and date.
Was that a date? I most certainly didn’t think so. Cabir shot a glare at Navya, who seemed to understand the situation now. Manik stood at the back silently. It was awkward.
“Uh, no, we’re just friends. Nothing more.” I said, lightening the mood. Navya smiled.
“She is. I’m not.” Manik said from the back. I rolled my eyes and we made our way to a table. We sat in a corner, away from the people. I sat next to Navya, while Cabir and Manik took the couch in front of us.
“I’m planning to get drunk. What about you guys?” Navya asked, looking at the three of us. Cabir and I looked at Manik and burst into fits of laughter. I remembered his condition from the night before. I knew, this guy wasn’t going to touch alcohol ever again.
“Navya, its not drunk. Its drink, with an i. ” I teased. Manik rolled his eyes at me. It was an inside joke between the two of us, which obviously Navya couldn’t understand.
“You want a drink, mate?” Cabir asked.
“Shut up, you both.” He said, trying to hold back his laugh but couldn’t.
“Anyway, what about you, Nandini?” Navya asked.
“Huh? No, I’m okay.” I said.
“Don’t tell me you don’t drink…” She said.
I shrugged. “I do. But that’s occasionally. What’s special today?”
“You don’t need an occasion to get wasted, babe. I’m ordering one drink for you too.” She said and called out for the waiter. I shook my head.
Once the waiter bought the food and the drinks, we started hogging on it. The evening wasn’t as depressing as I thought it would be. Time passed pretty quickly. I found out Navya to be much like me. Or rather, the old me. Cabir too, was very friendly. He was basically the guy who would joke around always but be a real supportive friend when needed. I had seen that side of him. Their company made me forget about Maddy for those three hours.
“Wait here while I get the car.” Manik said to me, before disappearing in the lot. I was left alone on the street with Navya. She kept stealing glances at me every once in a while. I politely smiled at her. I could feel the discomfort and awkwardness between us, which surprisingly wasn’t there five minutes ago.
“Nandini, can I ask you something?” Navya spoke up, suddenly. I nodded.
“Of course.” I said. She hesitated for a while, and started again.
“How did you get hurt?” She asked. I knew she was referring to the ugly bruise on my face, that I had attempted to hide with multiple layers of foundation. But it hadn’t helped.
“Uh, my um, boyfriend – ex boyfriend did that.” I replied.
“I’m sorry to ask you that question so suddenly. Its just that, you remind me so much of myself. ” She smiled.
“How?” I asked, curiously.
“I have had an abusive boyfriend too.” She said. I didn’t expect that.
“Who? I mean, I’m sorry to ask. But what happened?”
“Harshad. Well, we dated for three years. At first, I thought it was a perfect relationship. An ideal one. But one night, he came home drunk. I wasn’t happy about it and we got into a fight. For the first time, that night, he hit me. When I threatened to leave him, he came begging at my doorstep. I loved him. I couldn’t let him go. I forgave him. But our fights increased with time. He started becoming possessive. He used to hit me every night he got drunk.” She said.
I was shocked. How could anyone do such a cruel thing to a girl like Navya? “How did you get out of it?” I asked.
“I met Cabir while I was dating him. We became really close during just one month. Cabir understood me. Sometimes, I would just go to him and cry my heart out. But he never complained. He just held me. Showed me the right path. That’s when I realized, that my relationship was not an ideal one. He didn’t deserve forgiveness. One day, I found the courage to go up to him and confront him about everything. I broke up with him that day. He tried to claim his rights over me again, like I was his property. But I slapped him.” She said.
Somehow, that joyed me. I was relieved, that Navya had stood up for herself. “You did?” I was amused.
She beamed. “Yes! He deserved it. I wasn’t going to stay quiet, was I? So the point here is, are you satisfied with how your relationship has ended?” She asked.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Did you teach that douche a lesson?” She asked. I chuckled.
“I didn’t. But Manik did, by punching him in the face.” I said.
“Oh lord. Manik must really love you to do that.” She said. Before I could give my say, she added, “But that’s the problem with us girls. We let guys stand up for us. I’m not against Manik, here. All I’m saying is, that it should have been you punching him instead of Manik. You get me, right?”
I thought about it. She was right. She was definitely, 100% right. I was snapped out by loud honking of a car. Manik was in the car, halted in front of us.
“Where are you lost? C’mon in.” He said. I nodded.
“Think about it, Nandini. Stand up for yourself and get out of this misery. I’ll see you soon.” Navya gave me the warmest smile and hugged me one last time, before I hopped into the car. Manik started driving.
“Can you pull over at Maddy’s for a while?” I asked. He hit the brakes abruptly, giving me a jerk.
“What? Why? I thought it was over.” He said.
“Its not over yet. There’s some unfinished business.” I said.
“What unfinished business?” He demanded. I sighed.
“I have to – never mind. Can you please drop me there? You can go home ahead if you want. But I have to talk to him.” I said. He rolled his eyes and looked out of the window. He was angry.
“Nandini, why are you doing this? Its over, okay? That guy, he’s not coming back. But going to him is like inviting trouble.” He said.
“No, its not. He won’t hurt me.” I said.
“And I won’t buy that.”
He sighed and shook his head. He looked stressed out. “Fine. But I’m not letting you walk into that hell alone.” He gave in. He was stubborn, so I agreed to whatever he said.
“God knows why I love you so much.” He muttered under his breath, clearly thinking I hadn’t heard. But I had. I just didn’t let him know. He took a sharp turn around the corner and drove to Maddy’s house.
After a lot of protesting, I let Manik come with me to Maddy’s house. We got out of the car and headed to his doorstep.
“Just stay four feet back, please.” I said, stopping him at the stairs. He looked at me, unsure. “I’ll be okay.” I assured. He sighed and gestured me to go on. I went ahead and rang the doorbell. Maddy opened up immediately.
“Nandini?” He was confused, as he held an ice pack to his bruised eye. He look past me at Manik, and his body stiffened. “Why is he here?” He asked.
“You don’t need to know that.” I stated.
He shrugged. “Fair enough. Then tell me, why are you here? Are you here to apologize? Beg me to take you back?” He asked, with extreme bitterness in his voice. He started rambling all sorts of rants about me. I could feel the anger boiling up inside me. I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Maddy?” I called out, as gently as I could. He shut up. And that’s when my palm made contact with his face, slapping him across. I felt relief wash over me. While he was shocked.
“Baby… I’m so sorry for that. I didn’t intent to do it. Please forgive me, Maddy…” I begged, reminding him of how he had done the same thing that morning. Of course, I wasn’t begging to him in real. “Isn’t this exactly what you said to me?” I spat. He was short of words as he dumbly stood at his door.
“Now you know, that this is how I felt last night. You called me a sl*t for not dancing with you? Well guess what, you’re nothing but a bl**dy cheap womanizer. And I’m not your puppet anymore.” I said. I turned around to face a really awestruck Manik. He couldn’t believe what he had just seen. I turned back to Maddy, and without thinking slapped him hard across his face… once again.
“What was that for?” He asked, still taken aback. There wasn’t any anger in his voice.
“I don’t know. I just don’t like your face.” I shrugged and walked away, followed by Manik, leaving a very confused and bewildered Maddy behind.
“What the hell was that?” Manik asked, once we were outside his car.
“Revenge.” I replied. He chuckled and leaned back on the bonnet, probably trying to sink it all in.
“f**k. I can’t believe you just slapped him…” He said. He was laughing inwardly. So was I. It was one crazy night.
“I did. He deserved it.” I said and we finally burst into fits of laughter. Maddy’s face didn’t leave our minds even for a second.
“Oh… ah, that was hilarious. For those five minutes back there, I literally felt like the old Nandini was back. The feisty and sassy one. Good job, dude!” He laughed, poking my sides.
Thus, that night, I was free from a great problem named Maddy. Also, I had found two great friends in Cabir and Navya. . .
Its a long chapter cause lately I came to know that this one is your fav among the two. So I worked kinda hard. How was it? The slap? Nandini and Navya? The girls are always rocking, aren’t they? And also the old Nandini is back. But don’t you wanna know why she left two years ago? The suspense still continues. . .
A special shout out to Anandi. Thank you so much love for supporting me always. Love you all friends!!
Credit to: Nish