“Nandini, meet Abhimanyu, Dhruv, Cabir, Mukti and Aliya. We all, including Manik used to play for SPACE together.” Said Maddy, introducing me to the guys. I knew them already. Well, just Cabir, to be precise.
“Hello, Nandini. Oh, and call me Abhi. Everyone here does.” Abhimanyu… whoops, Abhi said.
“Hi. Nice to meet you.” I forced a smile.
I had nothing against the guys. I just wasn’t in a good mood to talk to anyone. The only reason I was present at the party, was that, I wanted to get my mind off the kiss. But my luck turned out to go against me, as I soon learned that Maddy had invited Manik as well. Although, he hadn’t yet arrived.
Just then, the doorbell rang. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. I had an idea of who stood at the door. It was probably him. How was I going to face him? Was it going to be okay if we talk? I wondered. I peeped at the door from where I sat. Maddy had already opened up.
“Hey buddy!” I heard Maddy’s voice from a distance. I spotted Manik at the door, giving Madhyam one of those awkward manly hugs. I just wanted to run and hide somewhere. I chose to stay out of sight and entered the kitchen.
There was a lot of mess in there. From the corner of my eye, I could see Manik looking around. Obviously, he was looking for me. The moment he spotted me in the crowd in the kitchen, I quickly tore my gaze from him. I struck up a random conversation with a girl. Till date, I have no idea who the f**k she was. But it was amusing to see her talk to me like I was a long lost friend. It was probably the effect of alcohol.
“Nandini? Honey, come here!” Maddy called out from the living room. As much as I wanted to stay away and avoid Manik, denying Maddy was not a wise option. I was standing far away from the boys, striking conversations with random people like a retard.
Unwillingly, I had to go to Maddy. The boys sat together. Cabir and Maddy on one couch and Manik and Dhruv on the other one. Abhi was on a bean bag and Aliya was sprawled across the floor. I was glad to have kept their names in mind.
“Hello, Nandini. Come, have a seat.” Dhruv offered and shifted a little. I sat in the space between him and Manik. My heart did a little flip-flop as his skin brushed against mine for a brief moment.
“Really Nandini, its so good to meet you at last. Maddy just doesn’t shut up about you. We feel like we know you since years.” Abhi said.
“Manik does. They went to school together.” Maddy piped in. Great. Thank you, Madhyam Singhania. Everyone’s gazes shifted to Manik. He shifted nervously.
“Yeah. Same batch.” He said.
“Really? How was he in school? I bet he was the naughty one.” Said Aliya. I laughed at the memory of a little Manik. No doubt he was naughty.
“He was, indeed.” I answered.
“Okay guys, let’s have some music, yeah?” Maddy announced. He got up and headed to his DVD player, followed by Aliya, Mukti, Dhruv and Abhimanyu. I was left alone between Cabir and Manik.
“So Nandini, tell me something about yourself. About London? What do you study?” Cabir asked.
“I’m doing B.M.M. Journalism. I’m in my final year now. I’ll be done by the end of this year, and then, I’ll have a job.” I replied. His mouth formed an ‘O’ shape as he seemed to process everything I said.
“That’s so cool. Was journalism a constant plan? Or did it change with time? I remember, as I kid, I dreamt of flying planes. But I ended up playing music. Its funny how dreams mature along with you.” He said. I nodded.
“Yes. As for me, journalism was fixed. I always wanted to be a journalist.” I said. To that, Manik joined in the conversation.
“That’s right. When we were kids, we used to pretend to be people. Like, I used to play the role of some famous rockstar and she used to be a journalist. It sounds stupid now, but was fun that time.” Manik chuckled. I couldn’t help but smile at the memory.
I still had a little guitar which Manik had once gifted me. It was his. There were drawings all over it done with crayons. At the edge, our names were carved. It was one special gift.
“I didn’t know you both were so close.” Cabir said.
My smile soon faded away. He was right. We were close. Were, in past tense. Manik too, looked very awkward. I guessed, it was the right time to leave the conversation.
“I gotta go. Excuse me.” I said and left.
Then, when I was least expecting, I felt someone grip my hand. It was Maddy. He gently led me to the dance floor where people were grinding against each other.
“Maddy? I can’t dance.” I protested.
“C’mon Nandinu. Just one dance. Don’t be a party pooper.” He insisted. I sighed and gave in.
His hands rested on my waist firmly. He held me tight as we swayed to the music. I flinched under his grip, but somehow, tried to ignore it.
From the corner of my eye, I could see Manik intently staring at me. He was angry. He looked betrayed. That look was enough to send chills down my body.
“Where is your mind at, babe?” Maddy asked.
“Um, n – nowhere. I need to use the toilet. Excuse me.” I said and left a baffled Maddy behind.
I walked straight into the balcony, away from all the ear piercing noise. “Okay. Don’t be a coward. Go in. Have fun. Don’t think about him.” I chanted to myself while pacing around impatiently.
“Think about whom?” A voice startled me from the back. I turned abruptly only to see Cabir with a confused look on his face.
“Hey. What’s up?” I asked.
“Its Manik, isn’t it? You’re thinking about him.” He stated, standing beside me. I sighed as the both of us leaned against the railing. I wondered how he came to know. I didn’t think Manik would talk about us with anyone.
“How do you know?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Its not hard to guess. The way you both look at each other, its quite evident.” He said.
“Who else knows?” I asked.
“Everyone can see it, Nandini. Except that stupid Maddy.” He chuckled. I was amused by how Cabur just called his close friend stupid. “Do you like him? I mean, do you like Manik?” He asked.
Like? I love him, silly. But I didn’t say so. I just nodded. He sighed and turned to face me.
“I don’t really know what exactly happened between you two. But all I know for sure, is that he likes you a lot. I think, its more than liking.” He said.
“But did he tell you anything? As in, about us?” I asked.
Cabir nodded. “Just a little. Like, I know, you both have had a whole lot of history. That you were together, and then you left. He didn’t tell me why it ended.” He said. Only if he knew, Cabir. Only if he knew.
“I’ve hurt him way too much.” I said.
“I don’t know about that. Only you and him can figure out what’s actually between you two. But all I can say, is that, I know what you’re going through right now. I shouldn’t be saying this, but I know how Madhyam is. I just want you to know, that if you ever need a shoulder to cry on, I’m there for you.” He said.
That was really sweet of him. I smiled at his gesture. “Thank you, Cabir.” I said.
“Mention not. This is what friends are for. Besides, I think we’re more like siblings. We share the same surname after all.” He chuckled. I nodded.
“Yeah. Anyway, we should probably head back inside.” I said. We walk inside and I just hope for the party to end soon. . .
The party isn’t over yet! And Cabir is Cabir Murthy here. I wanted to show some sibling bond here. And we also have Cavya. Navya will make an entry soon. ??