Various noises filled my ears. I had been tossing and turning in my bed since the past few minutes. I could not fall back to sleep. My mother cooked something in the kitchen and the sound of the cooker was heard till my room. My pet beagle Mick barked from a distance. I groaned and stuffed my face in a pillow, when I tiny body jumped on my back.
“Aarav!” I yelled, draining my voice in the pillow. My nephew barely heard.
“Uncle! Wake up!” He screeched in his tiny voice. I rolled over as he laid down beside me. He was just five, yet he had so much of energy in his body. “Wake up, chachu. Please!” He whined. I could barely open my eyes.
“Go away, Aarav.” I mumbled, pulling him close instead. He was the cutest person in the house. Ignoring him was next to impossible.
“Uncle, I’m bored! I wanna play! Dad got me a new bat…” He said, fumbling with his words. He still pronounced an ‘l’ for an ‘r’. I snickered and opened my eyes to see him howling over me, grinning wide.
“Have you vowed to take away all my sleep?” I mumbled and got out of the bed, heading towards the bathroom. Aarav followed me like a lost puppy.
“What? Do you wanna join me, mate?” I asked. He giggled and shook his head, showing off the small gap between his two front teeth.
“So run downstairs and play with Mick for a while. I’ll be joining you two soon.” I ushered, making him run downstairs in full speed. He was like a little ball of energy. I could never get tired of him.
Once I was done freshening up, I decided to head down. I could hear Aarav screaming my name. “I’m coming!” I yelled back to him and grabbed my phone lying on the bed. I unlocked it to see that my WhatsApp was flooded with messages.
There were stupid groups, I was least interested to be a part of. Some texts from my manager. Some from Cabir, asking to hangout for lunch and videogames. I replied him with a no. But one text caught my eye. It was from Nandini. I opened it.
XX Hi. Was wondering whether you have any plans for the day. I’m all alone and bored. Let’s meet up? XX
It read. She was online. I decided to type in quickly.
XX Yeah. Okay. You can come over for lunch. XX
I sent. I wouldn’t have said yes to anyone else. I was having a grumpy morning due to lack of sleep. But for Nandini, I could forget about it. I headed downstairs with another call from my little Aarav.
He was with Mick, feeding him biscuits. I joined them, as my mother approached us. She stood at the door separating the hall from the kitchen.
“Kids, what do you want for lunch?” She asked, referring to Aarav and me. I shrugged and looked at the little guy when my phone buzzed again. I had a new message from Nandini.
XX Okay. What time?:) XX
I looked at mom. “We have Nandini coming over for lunch.” I announced. My mother, being extremely fond of Nandini gasped. Just like me, she hadn’t seen or heard from her in the past two years. She was bound to be surprised.
“Is she? When did she come back to Delhi? When did you two meet? As her what does she want for lunch.” Said mom.
“She came back last week. We met at a friend’s. I’m inviting her at 1.” I said and went back to replying Nandini.
XX It’ll be very much fine if you can come now as well. But just for your information, we’ll be having lunch by 1. PS – Mom wants to know what you’d prefer for lunch.XX
Her reply came immediately.
XX I’ll be there by 1. Tell her I’d like anything she makes.:) XX
“Mom, she says anything is okay.” I informed mother.
“Oh. Okay. I’ll make her favorite rajma chaval. I know how much she loves it.” She said and went back to the kitchen.
My mother and Nandini used to be super close. It was like, she was Nandini’s mom and not mine. As a kid, I used to be jealous. But c’mon! I was twelve back then. I went back to helping Aarav, feed Mick.
It was one. For a change, I was changed into something presentable at home, instead of lazing around in my boxers. The doorbell rang, indicating that Nandini was here. I opened up, a little too enthusiastically. She stood outside with a huge grin on her face.
“Hi,” She said.
“Hi. Please come in,” I said. She got inside. Her eyes roamed around the whole house.
“Its still the same.” She stated. I smiled. “It is.” I said. Mom was probably still in the kitchen and had no idea that Nandini was here.
“Ma! Nandini’s here.” I called out. Within moments, my mom was out. A huge smile spread across her face as she eyed Nandini beside me. Nandini too, looked only too happy to see my mom.
“Aunty!” She squealed like a kid, running to my mother. They hugged each other like the long lost mother and daughter. I couldn’t help but smile at the dramatic scene in my house.
“Nandini! How are you, dear?”
“I’m good, aunty. Aapko bohot miss kiya maine.”
“Chal jhooti! No calls, no messages. Where were you? But look at you now, you’ve grown up to be so pretty!” Mom exclaimed like she was seeing her after a decade.
“Thank you. But I think, you need to tell this to your son, who thinks that I looked good before.” She said, pointing at me. Yes, I had said that to her, the night before.
“I didn’t say you look bad now.” I joined in. Nandini shrugged earning a laugh from mom.
“Anyway, come in now. The food’s almost ready. Its your favorite – rajma chaval.” Mom said, hurrying back to the kitchen. Just then, Aarav came running to me, with Mick following him.
Nandink was immediately recognized by Mick. The three of us used to be very close. In fact, I always wanted a pet. Mick was a gift from Nandini given to me on my sixteenth birthday. He was the best gift I had ever received. He barked and ran in circles around Nandini. He was happy.
“Mickey baby! How are you!” She crouched down, patting the dog.
“He missed you.” I said, crouching down next to her. Mick only barked in response. She laughed.
“I missed you too, handsome!” She giggled. Aarav was awkwardly standing at the back, when I pulled him ahead.
“Uncle, who’s she?” He asked, grabbing Nandini’s attention. Nandini gasped, the moment she saw him. She looked at me with a hint of doubt in her eyes.
“Aarav?” She asked me. I smiled and nodded. “Oh my gosh! He’s so big!” She gasped. It had been a long time since she had seen Aarav. He was only three, when she left. Aarav was still confused with the gushing around him.
“Hi, Aarav. Do you remember me?” Nandini asked. Aarav seemed to try to think, but he couldn’t.
“No.” He replied. I chuckled.
“She’s Nandini, dude. My best friend.” I said.
“Yeah. You won’t probably remember. You were so tiny when I left!” She said.
“I was?” The little guy asked. Nandini and I nodded.
“But its so good to see you. You’re a big boy now.” She said. Aarav grinned.
“Yes! Just like chachu!”
Nandini laughed and pulled his cheeks before kissing them. Kids are so lucky. I thought.
“Here. Have some more.” Mom said, adding more food to the poor girl’s plate. Nandini whined, for she was already full.
“Oh. I’m stuffed!” She exclaimed.
“What stuffed? You’ve hardly eaten anything. C’mon, have some more. Look how much weight you’ve lost. Stay here for a month more, and I’ll send you back healthy.” Mom said.
“I think I have gained some weight.” Nandini said.
“Rubbish. Remember the old you? That little school girl with pigtails and chubby cheeks? You were so cute. Look at you now.” I commented. Nandini rolled her eyes.
“Try to remember how you were, Manik. You were so chubby!” She replied. I couldn’t even imagine how I was. I didn’t want to. I used to look like a baby elephant.
“Chhodo kal ki baatein.” I said, changing the topic. Mom laughed.
“So, how many days are you here for, Nandini?” She asked.
“A week. Actually, not even a week. I leave this weekend.” Nandini replied, making my heart drop into the pit of my stomach. One moment, I was happy to have her by my side. The next, I was sad to think of her leaving.
It was like, I had been living in this bubble, where I thought that everything was just fine between us. That, she was here to stay. But I was dragged back to reality, when she revealed that she was going to leave me…again.
“So soon?” Mom asked.
“Yes. I’ve university to attend. Holiday’s are over.” Nandini replied.
There was a long silence after that. Ma and Nandini indulged in random conversations, while I chose to stay quiet. I couldn’t even finish what was on my plate. Nandini kept stealing little glances at me, asking whether I was okay. I just looked away from her.
I had so many questions buried inside me. I had to know why she had left. I had to know why she was doing this to me. What were we? Friends? I certainly didn’t think so. I had gathered enough courage, when I walked up to her.
“We need to talk.” I said, straightaway. Nandini was playing with Aarav at the time. She got up from the floor.
“Okay, go on.” She said.
“No. Not here. We’ve to go somewhere else.” I said, and before she could protest, I was dragging her out of the house. I quickly informed mom before leaving.
“What are you doing?” She asked, as I unlocked my car and got in.
“Just get in already.” I ordered. I hated how dominating I was behaving. But she listened to me anyway. She got in after me as I started driving.
“Where are we going?” She asked.
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean by you don’t know?”
“Matlab mujhe nahi pata Nandini, now please shut up!” I yelled. I could sense her tearing up beside me.
I was being a jerk and I knew it. The fact that I was losing her was too disturbing.
“What is wrong with you?!” She yelled back.
“Listen, don’t mess with me at the moment. You don’t know what’s wrong with me? Well, what’s wrong is that I f**king love you and you’re planning to leave me again!” We were getting into a really ugly banter now. She looked taken aback for a while.
“So what the f**k were you even thinking?! That I was planning to stay here forever?” She asked.
“No. But if you had to leave in the end, then why did you come so close to me in the first place? You didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me that you were leaving!” I fought back. The pressure on the accelerator increased as I lost the track of the speed limit.
“I just told you back home!” She yelled.
“Correction – You told my mom, not me.” I said. There was a long silence after that. I could feel the tension in the air. She was definitely angry. So was I.
“Just stop the car.” She said. Ah. Here we go…
“Don’t be such a drama queen, alright. I get the fact that you’re angry. But so am I.” I muttered.
“Just stop the car, Manik, please!” She yelled. I sighed and hit the brakes abruptly. We had halted in the middle of nowhere. It was a deserted road bordered by tress on both the sides. We were nearly out of the city. Nandini got down followed by me. She didn’t bother to say anything. But she started walking away.
“Where do you think you are going?” I asked.
“To hell! Why do you care?” This girl had some serious anger issues. The both of us, for a fact, were short tempered. But Nandini had frequent burst outs. This was one of them. I had no option but to go after her.
“Hell doesn’t need another monster, ya know.” I said. She stopped in her tracks and shot me a glare. “Why are you being so dramatic?” I asked.
“Why are you being so pathetic?”
I sighed. “What do you want, Nandini? Do you want me to apologize for shouting at you? Okay. I’m sorry. Happy now?” I was defeated.
She shook her head. “Its so easy for you to shout at me and then apologize…” She said.
“And its so easy for you to leave me without an explanation all over again…” I shrugged.
“Why are we getting back on that topic?”
“Because we need to! Okay? Someday or the other, we’re gonna have to f**king talk about this.”
“Don’t be a dumb jerk. I don’t want to talk about it!”
“Oh you don’t be a stubborn selfish b***c then!” The moment those swords left my mouth, I saw her expression change. She went from angry to pale. She shot me a blank look, before her anger took over again. It didn’t take much time for her fist to make contact with my face. She hit me. Hard.
“Ow! What the f**k is wrong with you?!” I exclaimed, holding on to my nose. It hurt. She was a great puncher. Now I know, what Maddy must’ve gone through.
“How dare you call me a b***c?!” She yelled, throwing random punches at me. She pushed me away and kept on hitting. But it barely hurt. I could see, that she was torturing herself, while I stood in front of her like a dummy, allowing her to hit me. Once she was tired, she stopped.
“Are you done? Is all your anger and frustration gone now? If its not, hit me again. But its not going to go by hitting someone or even yourself for that matter. Its going to stay inside you, till you yourself take over it.” I said. She hung her head low and sobbed. The sight of it just made me go weak on my knees.
I wrapped my arms around her from the side and nuzzled my face in her hair. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said.” I whispered in her ear. She cried.
“Its okay. Why are you even apologizing? You were right. I am selfish…” She said. She was so fragile and weak in my arms, that I just felt like holding her forever.
“Don’t say that. You’re not selfish, okay? Please. Just understand me as well, Nandini. Here, I am losing you again…” I said. She gently pushed me away.
“You can never lose me. I’ll always be a part of you…” She said.
“But you still won’t stay back. You still won’t change your decision of leaving.” I stated. She just looked away. “Can I at least know why?” I asked.
“Because I’m not good for you. I’m – I can’t even explain, Manik!” She cried.
“Good enough? Really? Nandini, you’re the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you so much. And I know, that you do too. But there is something that’s stopping you. I just want to know what that is. We can fight it, baby. Together.” I said.
“I wish we could.” She said. “But please Manik. Don’t make this any harder for me. I have to stay away from you.”
That angered me. I was frustrated. Heartbroken. What did she mean by she had to stay away from me? Why? I felt like someone was stabbing my heart with a thousand knives as I took steps away from her. I turned my face and walked back to the car. The sound of thundering filled my ears. It was going to rain; and within seconds, I felt the raindrops on my face. I was soaking drenched. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.
I looked up at the sky and wondered – Out of all the girls in the world, why did I have to fall for the one whom I could never have? Suddenly, I felt two small arms wrap around my torso from the back. She rested her head on my back, clutching on to me tighter than the usual.
“I love you,” She said.
“Then don’t go…” I said.
“I love you.” She repeated the same words. I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t know whether she would stay or not. I turned around and cupped her face in my hands. The raindrops rolled down her face.
Without giving it a second thought, I planted my lips on hers. They were wet, yet, I could taste her strawberry chap stick. Her lips were so soft, so good, that I forgot my own name. I had sweared to give her everything. We kissed in the rain. We could feel the intensity of our love.
That day, about one thing, I was very sure –
If it isn’t her, then its no one. . . It was always us. It will always be us. . .
The reason to it all will be in the next chapter. But I tried to add Manan scenes and just to let ya all know, I’ve planned twenty chapters and an epilogue. Comment about the chapter! And any guess as to why Nans left Manik? I wanna know your guesses. ??
And btw, if you don’t read The Broken Strings read it now! We’ve Manan confession in the tenth chapter. ??
You’ll know the truth in next chapter. Its a promise. Comment to let me know if you want it soon ??
Credit to: Nish