~ MANIK ~
I woke up to the sound of my alarm clock.
10:15 am – it showed. How much did I sleep?
The events of last night came back flooding into my mind. The more I thought about her, the more I suffered. I was wise enough to know that I needed some peace of mind.
Deciding I should go out for a while, I got out of my bed to get changed.
I got changed into an old pair of jeans and tee shirt – my usual attire, and drove to my favorite coffee shop. It was afternoon, which meant it was lunch time; so there were going to be some numbered customers.
The little wooden board outside the café read – Karen’s. There used to be a time, when this particular place used to be the most popular café in all of New Delhi. Nandini was the one who had introduced me to this café. Every Saturday of ours was spent there. Even the owners knew us. However her sudden disappearance had caused me to stop visiting the café.
“Good afternoon, sir – Oh my! Manik, is that you?” The lady behind the counter gasped. Her hands cupped her mouth as she eyed me from head to toe. I smiled at the familiar mop of curls, blue eyes, petit yet beautiful figure in front of me. She was Karen.
“Hello, Karen,” I greeted. It looked like she couldn’t believe her eyes. She came outside from behind the counter and engulfed me in her arms first. Yes, we were that close.
“Oh my. I can’t believe you actually came. How are you, my love?” She asked, patting my back.
“I’m doing great. How about you? How’s Jenny?” I asked. Jenny was Karen’s little girl. She was just a year old when Nandini and I used to be the regular customers. I wondered how much she must have grown up.
“Jenny is fantastic. You stopped coming here, but she never stopped missing you. What brings you here today?” Karen asked, going back to her work.
Memories. I thought. I wanted to relive my old days from this café. That’s the only reason why I was here. “Just thought of paying a visit. I missed you and Jenny.” I said.
“Well, we missed you too, honey. We’re really very proud of you. And you have no idea how happy you’ve made me by coming here. Also, do you know who else paid a visit today?” She asked, handing me a cup of my favorite black coffee.
“Who?” I asked heading towards the table to take a seat.
“Nandi -” She was cut off by my major ranting, as I bumped right into someone, making the coffee spill all over my t-shirt.
“f**k. Shit, don’t you have eyes?” I muttered, looking up. If I say, that I the familiar face didn’t surprise me, then I would be lying. Because it did. It was Nandini.
“I’m so sorry!” She gasped. I rolled my eyes as Karen interrupted us.
“Ah! There she is! She’s the one I was talking about. Do you want some more of that tea, honey?” Asked Karen.
“Uh, no, Karen. I should get going.” Nandini replied, grabbing a handful of tissues from a box. She handed them to me. My shirt was partially soaked in black coffee. How were those tissues going to help?
“Oh. So you guys didn’t come together?” Karen asked.
“No.” I answered, attempting to wipe of the stain.
Karen swapped gazes between the two of us. Like we were some major suspects of a crime and she was the investigator. “I thought you both were together. As in… together.” She said.
“We’re not.” Nandini was the one to answer this time. Karen looked surprised. Anyone who knew us back then, would have given the same expression. We were too close to fall apart. It was an ideal relationship. But unfortunately, not all good things last forever.
“I’m sorry. Its just that, the two of you were so close back then. I thought you both must be married by now.” She said with a hint of disappointment in her voice.
“Yeah. Well, I should leave now. I’m sorry for your shirt. Um, do you want me to fix it?” Nandini asked. How was she going to fix the stain? “I mean, I’ll wash it. My house is just a few blocks away. You can come over. That’s only of you’re comfortable.” She added.
Somehow, I was stupid enough to agree immediately. “Oh. Okay.” I said.
Her house was so familiar to me. It used to be like my second home. A place, where Nandini and I had spent most of our childhood. It wasn’t too huge, but just a cute little row house. Since Nandini had no siblings and lived with her parents.
“Welcome!” She said, opening the door and leading me in. I looked around to see that absolutely nothing had changed. Except for the newly painted walls and a couch. There were so many memories attached to this place as well.
“Its still the same. Except that wall. I like it.” I said. She smiled and kept the keys on the shoe rack.
“Yes. My choice.” She beamed.
“Huh. No way. Can’t be. Your choice sucks. I’m sure uncle chose this one.” I said. She giggled.
“Well, yeah. Its dad’s choice. But my choice isn’t that bad as well.” She said. We walked upstairs where her room was.
“Glitters and stars and pink. That’s your choice. I don’t call it good, love.” I said as we entered her room. She opened her wardrobe and started rummaging through it. I noticed how her room too, was still the same.
Ugly pink wall. A huge bed with bunnies and teddies. A huge bookshelf. It looked like she hadn’t moved a thing from its place.
“Here. Wear this till I wash your shirt.” Nandini said, tossing a shirt into my hands. It wasn’t just another shirt. To my surprise, it was my jersey. Stars were printed on the back with Manik written above it.
“Why do you have my jersey?” I asked.
“I uh, I bought it the other day. Anyway, that’s the only thing that can fit you. Please take off your shirt.” She said. I nodded and pulled off my shirt. I could see Nandini stealing little glances at me from the corner of her eyes. I smirked.
“Like what you see?” I was still shirtless.
“Just hand me that shirt.” She ordered. I tossed my stained shirt to her. I was still shirtless in front of her. Of course, on purpose.
“Are you even going to put on that shirt?” She asked.
“I won’t, if you don’t want me to.” I said.
She snickered. “Shut up. Put it on. I’ve had enough view of those abs.” She said and walked out. I followed her, wearing the jersey on the way.
We were in the kitchen, when she asked me for coffee. Since I had spilled mine back at the café. She made some coffee for the both of us while I took a seat outside. I was blankly staring at the newly painted green wall.
“What are you staring at?” Nandini asked, walking in with two mugs of coffee in her hand. I took one.
“Nothing. The color actually suits this place.” I said. She nodded and took a sip from the mug. That was when I remembered her utter hatred and dislike towards coffee.
“Since when are you a coffee lover?” I asked.
“Maddy made me try it out on uh, our first date. I’ve liked it since then.” She replied. Somehow, Maddy’s name coming in between the conversation did not appeal to me. Even though he was a friend, I wanted him out of something that involved Nandini and I.
“So, um, where do you live now?” I asked.
“London. Two years back, I started with my graduation course in arts at the London University. I’m almost done now. I met Madhyam there itself.” She replied. I hated how Maddy managed to be in our talks even though he wasn’t here. I couldn’t show my discontent, so I just nodded.
“Then what brings you here?” I asked.
“Maddy.” She replied, and again, as cringed at that name. Why did everything about Nandini have to be related with Maddy? I wondered. “Well, we have vacations going on as well. So I thought, might as well pay a visit to ma and papa.” She added.
“You’re gonna stick around for a while, right?” I questioned. I really didn’t want her to leave. She nodded making me smile.
“Yes. Maddy is going to stay for a while. We may go back together. He wants me to stay.” She said. Screw Maddy, really.
“So, you’re staying just because he wants you to stay?” I asked, slightly annoyed by how Maddy was poking his nose in between everything.
“No. Its not just him. I’m staying because I want to. I mean, I wanted to see you as well.” She said, probably noticing my discomfort at the mention of Maddy. I smiled.
Half an hour had passed. We kept talking about how our lives had turned out to be. I told her everything about mine. She too, told me how it was living in London. I had been to London a few times. That time, I didn’t even have an idea, that Nandini too would be there.
We were back in Nandini’s room as she handed me my shirt back. It was all dry and the stain was gone as well.
“You do wash well.” I said.
“Its not me. Washing powder Nirma ka kamaal hai.” She beamed as I burst into fits of laughter. Thankfully, her sense of humor was the one thing about her that hadn’t changed.
I took the jersey off and noticed her gaping at me again. I could only smirk.
“Staring is rude, Miss Murthy.” I said.
She snapped out. “Jesus Christ! Don’t ever change in front of me.” She said and walked out waving her hands in the air.
I laughed. . .
I hope you liked it! Next one is a little romantic ???
Please do give me your feedback about the chapters. I’ve shown Nandini as a weakling here cause I wanna show that Manik is Nandini’s ultimate strength and also its something related to their infamous break up reason.
Love you all! Keep reading and supporting.
And I would love if you all check my other fanfic The Broken Strings which is also a Manan ff.