“Sir?” A voice made me look up from my laptop screen. It was my maid, standing near the door of my room.
“Yes?” I asked. What could be the matter so late at night?
“A lady has come to meet you,” she said. A lady? This late? I didn’t even hear the door bell ring!
“Okay I’m coming, get her seated,” I said. She nodded in response and left. Puzzled about who it could be, I put on my slippers and walked out of my room and down the stairs.
Once my eyes fell on the ‘lady’ waiting for me in my living room, I stopped, surprised at the sight. What was she doing here in my house, at—I looked at the clock—midnight?
“Nandini?” I asked, completely baffled, as I approached the sofa where she was seated. She at once stood up, and screamed,
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” With that she engulfed me in her arms, giving me a bone-crushing hug, almost suffocating me. Her touch made my stomach go flip-flop. A chill ran down my spine as I hugged her back, the pleasant smell of her cologne flooding my nostrils. Happy—that’s what I was feeling. I was extremely delighted by her very presence. I’d never expected her to remember my birthday, let alone come and wish me at 12 o’clock. It was a complete shocker—but a good one, of course.
“Thank you so much Nandini!” I said earnestly, once I was out of the hug. “’You really surprised me!”
She started laughing at this statement of mine. She had such an adorable laugh!
“I’m glad I could surprise you! I was absolutely thinking you would have guessed it!”
“Noooo! It was completely unexpected!”
“Aren’t we close enough for you to expect a wish from me at midnight?”
“Of course we are! It’s just that I—“
“Okay fine, whatevs. Now come and cut the cake—I’ve baked it with so much difficulty!”
“You baked a cake for me?” I was beyond words.
“Of course, idiot! Now come and cut it!” She said, tugging at my arm, and led me to the table. Sure enough, there was a box on the table. Nandini lifted the lid to reveal a pure chocolate, heart shaped which made my mouth water. On the cake, in vanilla icing were written the words ‘HAPPIE B’DAY DHRUV :)’ in a fine handwriting.
“This looks so yum! It better be good!” I said.
“Of course it will be! Do you doubt my cooking skills?” She said, tilting her head to a side.
“No re! You have baked your heart for me, I’m sure it would be delicious!” I said and chuckled lightly, referring to the heart shape of the cake.
“Arre I didn’t have any other cake moulds!” She explained. Oh, too bad. I’d thought she had made a heart shaped cake on purpose. But of course, I’m not that lucky. I don’t think she has the same feelings for me as I have for her.
“Oh kay!” I said, hiding my disappointment and took the knife which she held out to me. I bought my hand down to cut the cake, when Nandini shrieked,
“Let me set up the candles on it first!” She said, and started taking out the candles from a packet lying on the table. Once the candles were fixed on the cake and illuminated, she instructed me to go on. I blew the candles, and once I started cutting the cake, Nandini started clapping and singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. These childlike actions of her made me fall for her all over again.
I held a cake piece in my hand which I’d just cut, thinking of smearing some of the icing on Nandini’s face, but rejected the idea, recollecting how she’d hated it in Manik’s birthday party. So I instead aimed the piece towards her mouth, intending to make her eat it when she held my hand, obstructing me.
“It’s not my birthday. Birthday boy first!” Saying this, she took the cake from my hand and stuffed the whole of it in my mouth.
“Umm… It’s yummy!” I managed to say, with my mouth jammed with the delicious cake. I have to admit, it was not only ‘yummy’, it was the yummiest cake I’ve ever tasted! Besides, it was a chocolate cake! And I am a sucker for anything chocolate related!
“Really?” Nandini asked and took a piece of cake to taste. “Hmm yeah thank God! I was so afraid I might have forgotten to add something and it would taste real bad. Anyways, now what?”
“I don’t know,” I said and shrugged. “Let’s sit and talk?” I ventured to ask, speaking out my heart.
“No, I’ve a better idea. Let’s go and eat ice-cream. It’s been ages since I ate ice-cream and I want to!” Nandini suggested.
“Yeah, good idea. But do you think the ice-cream parlours would be open at midnight?” I asked, doubting it would be open.
“Of course!” She said with a good deal of surety in her voice.
“How can you be so sure?”
“I’ve been to have midnight a hundred times with —never mind, let’s go na pleaseeee!” She said, looking at me with puppy eyes. Why’d she stop in the middle when saying the name? It definitely made me curious, but I didn’t ask her. I believe she’d tell me herself if it was something important.
I actually didn’t want to go out at this time. Not that I don’t love ice cream, but I just wanted to spend some time with Nandini alone. So I instead suggested,
“Why to go out this late at night? Dhruv Dixit is a huge ice cream lover and his house itself is an ice cream parlour!” It was true. I always had a good store of ice cream in my house because I am absolutely crazy for it.
“Oh really! Then I’d love to taste the ice-cream of Dhruv’s parlour!” She said, chuckling lightly.
“You wait here, I’d be right back,” I said and rushed to my room, where I had a mini fridge of my own. I opened it to find that only one ice cream cone lying there. The monster inside me had devoured all the ice creams some day and had forgotten to restore. I was quite sure Nandini would tease me a lot about this now. I walked into the living room with only one ice cream in my hand. On seeing me, she burst out laughing, and said between her laughs—
“Ice cream parlour huh?”
“Uhmm…” I trailed off and shrugged.
“Well, we’ll share it.”
“No, you can have it!” I can definitely sacrifice an ice cream for her.
“Oh please Dhruv, don’t show me these formalities. And besides, I don’t want to eat a whole ice cream in front of an ‘ice cream lover’,” She said, making invisible quotes in the air, “…and then arrive at a stomach ache!” She finished and giggled, making me smile.
“Okay! So let’s go,” I said.
“To my favourite place. C’mon,” I said, and led her to my ‘favourite place’. It was near my swimming pool. There was this bridge like thing over my swimming pool, where one can sit. It wasn’t quite high, and when I sit there, my feet get submerged in the water. I always used to come and sit here to calm myself down, and since the last few days, I’d been coming here to think about Nandini.
I pulled up my pyjamas, took out my slippers and climbed onto the bridge, and Nandini followed what I did.
“This is so cool! Nice choice!” She exclaimed, once both of us were seated there, our feet slightly touching the chilling water. For some time, we just sat there, devouring our ice cream, talking about random stuff, laughing and just simply enjoying ourselves. I ranked this day as my best birthday ever.
Soon, we had finished the whole of the ice cream and now only the chocolate at the end of the cone was left.
“I’ll eat it!” Nandini said. I was ready to sacrifice my favourite part of the ice cream but then I thought of teasing her a bit.
“Why? Are you the Queen of India?” I asked, mocking her.
“Nope! This is my favourite part!” Wow. We have so much in common!
“This is my favourite part too! Why should I spare it for you?” I said, but in reality, I can spare anything and everything for her.
“Because I’m your best friend?”
“So? Am I not your best friend? You can also sacrifice for me!”
“Yeah, okay, have it…” She said and handed me the last part of the cone. She agreed so readily? Suspiciously, I took it and acted as if I was about to eat it. As I brought the piece close to my mouth, she jumped and ate the piece from my hand, brushing her lips with my hand. Her lips were so soft and smooth. This sent a thrill run across my body. I wanted to feel those lips entangled in mine. Soon I was lost in the ocean of my thoughts and it was not long before I completely zoned out.
“Hello? To earth, Dhruv! What are you thinking about? Lamenting over your loss?” Nandini said, shaking me out of my thoughts and bringing me back to the real world. A naughty smile was playing on her lips. She was clearly showing the happiness of her victory.
“Huh? Uh, no…” I managed to say.
“What do you mean who’s it?”
“I mean, who’s the girl you’re thinking about? You never told me about your girlfriend.”
How did she know I was thinking about a girl?
“No I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Really? The Dhruv Dixit doesn’t have a girlfriend?”
“Nothing, it just surprised me.”
“Well… Usually such handsome lads like you with muscular abs like these—“ She pointed to my arms, “are not single!”
This statement of her made me smile wide. She found me handsome? That definitely made me pleased.
“Well, there do exist some exceptions!” I said.
“Yeah, right! Don’t you have anybody on your mind? I can bet you were thinking about a girl back then!”
“Yeah I have a girl in mind.”
“Who’s it? Tell me!” She asked excitedly, her eyes gleaming like a Christmas tree.
It’s you, Nandini. I am madly in love with you. Why can’t you see that? But of course I won’t tell her that. I was not…ready.
“Umm… I’ll tell you her name when the right time comes,” I said, looking at her closely to study her reaction.
“Oh, fine,” She said, and shrugged. She was definitely disappointed; I could see it in her eyes. But I can’t help it.
“But at least tell me about her? What is she like?” She asked, a while later, her eyes shining.
“Well… She’s the most beautiful girl I have ever put my eyes on. She is very sweet, lovable, everyone’s best friend, crazy and a fun-loving girl. Everything about her is just…perfect,” I described Nandini, dreamily.
“Ooooh seems like someone has fallen head over heels over someone!” Nandini cooed. “When do you plan on asking her out?”
“Soon, I guess. But I don’t think she likes me back.”
“Oh c’mon! How can someone not like you! I’m sure you can get any girl that you want!”
“Any girl?” I asked, putting emphasis on the ‘any’. “How can you say that?”
“I just know. I’m a girl too, remember? And if you want to have her, I’d suggest don’t waste much time and ask her already!” She replied, seeming really excited. I wished she also belonged to this ‘any girl’ category. But she didn’t. I’m sure she doesn’t like me, otherwise why would she be so excited to know about a girl I like?
“Hmm…I guess I will,” I said.
“Will you tell me one thing honestly, Nandini?” I asked, suddenly remembering about something.
“Yeah, of course. Anything.”
“Do you, err, love Manik?” I asked hesitantly, thinking about Manik’s diary which I’d read the other day.
“Dhruv! Now you also don’t start, please! I thought you knew me better! I have no feelings for Manik, and I’m sick of repeating this sentence to everyone!”
I don’t know why, but this made me a hell lot of relieved. At least I know Nandini doesn’t like Manik, and what was written in Manik’s diary might actually been out-dated.
“Why did you ask me this all of a sudden?” She asked.
I thought of telling Nandinu about Manik’s diary, but something inside me stopped me from telling her. Don’t know what or why.
“Umm, just like that! So if you don’t like Manik, who is it that you like?” I asked out of genuine curiosity.
“No one, Dhruv. After what Aryaman did to me… I don’t think I can believe in love any more. It’s just too painful. No matter what, you always get hurt in the end. He’d said he loved me, and I selflessly gave whole of my heart to him, only to get it broken by him…” She said, with a faraway look on her face.
Shit. How could I forget about it? I realised I’d brought up a sensitive topic.
“Hey, I’m sorry…” I whispered softly.
“It’s okay! Don’t be. I’m trying to get over it.”
“Uh, okay.” I said and smiled at her, which she thankfully returned.
Not wanting to discuss about this anymore, I asked her, as a brainwave struck me,
“Do you want to have some excitement?”
“What kind of excitement?” She asked, knitting up her eyebrows in confusion.
“Let’s jump into the water!”
“What? NOOO, are you crazy?”
“It’ll be fun!”
“Noooo, I’m not doing that. The water is freezing cold!”
“Okay,” I said, and looked the other side, but of course I didn’t mean it when I said ‘okay’. I clasped her hand tightly and jumped, pulling her along with me, down into the water.
“What the—“ She screamed, just before we both were completely engulfed in the ice-cold water. I was completely submerged in water, from head to toe. And boy! I’ve got to admit the water was really cold. I quickly swam to the surface and gasped for some air. I noticed Nandini a couple of meters away from me. The water was shallower on her side and reached up to her waist. She was shaking her head crazily, her wet hair flying all around her, spraying drops of water in every possible direction. Her shirt, now totally wet, was clinging to her body, highlighting her perfect curves. The wet hair, along with the wet clothes made her look really…hot. I was totally lost, staring at her, when she stopped shaking her head. She looked straight at me, not blinking an eye. I’d thought she’d be extremely pissed off with me, but her eyes showed otherwise.
There was a twinkle in her eyes as she very slowly started walking towards me, not breaking eye contact. As she came nearer, the water started rising up her waist. Within seconds, she was inches away from me, but she didn’t stop. She moved closer and closer, her warm breath now fanning my face. She broke our eye contact for a split second and looked down at my lips, and I did the same. Her usual pink lips now had droplets of water on them, increasing her hotness quotient. They seemed so kissable, almost as if calling to me. They seemed to be drawing me towards them like a magnet.
Nandini then slowly wrapped her hands around my neck, as she started leaning in. I don’t know what came upon me, but I just stood there, unmoved, like a stone. My heart beat accelerated, now beating at lightning speed. I could distinctly hear my heart pounding against my rib cage. I held my breath, as her lips were now just about to touch mine. I found my eyes getting closed involuntarily.
I felt her lips brush along my jaw line lightly as she swept those tender lips of hers past my cheek and brought them near my ears. I instantly opened my eyes, obviously surprised. I heard her whisper softly in my ears,
“No one messes with Nandini Murthy.”
Before I could analyse what she was doing to me, I felt myself being pushed into the water. It was not before I was deep down in the water that I realised that I had been fooled. She had lured me into her trap because she wanted to take revenge. f**k.
I quickly got up to the surface, fuming from the insides. I felt so humiliated, and cheated. She had been acting all along, and here I was, thinking that she was going too kiss me! How can I be so stupid? Once I got my head out of the water, I found her laughing her head off, to her heart’s content.
“Oh God, Dhruv…” –laugh- “That was so..” –laugh- “Funny!” She said, in between her laughs.
Ugh. No no no. This didn’t just happen. Now she would tease me about it for the rest of my life! I felt so angry and frustrated; I had never seen that coming.
In order to pay her back, I brought my hand down into the water and splashed a good deal of water on her.
And thus started our water fight.
Third Person’s POV
The scene in front of Manik made him turn instantly. ‘No, I don’t want to see this’, he thought, while he walked towards where he’d come from, still in a trance. He didn’t want to think that was he saw was the truth. He tightly closed his eyes shut and that scene again danced in front of him. Still walking with his eyes closed, and his mind preoccupied, he dashed with someone suddenly. He opened his eyes to find Cabir standing in front. The two of them had come together to Dhruv’s house to wish him on his special day. They had a concert in New Delhi after a day and had just landed in Delhi. They both had driven to Dhruv’s house in Cabir’s car, and on reaching there, Manik had entered first, and Cabir had followed after parking his car.
“Hey, where are you lost?” Cabir asked.
“Umm… Sorry Cabir, I wasn’t looking where I was going,” Manik replied.
“It’s fine! You tell me, what are you doing here? Let’s go and surprise our champ!” Cabir said, as he started walking towards the door of Dhruv’s house.
“I have already checked, he’s not in there,” Manik said, still lost in his thoughts.
“Acha…” Cabir said slowly, disappointed. “Well, have you checked the lawn? Let’s go and see…” With this, he made his way towards the lawn, which was adjacent to the swimming pool. Manik surely didn’t want him to see what he had seen, so he went and stood in front of Cabir, obstructing his path.
“No he’s not there, I’ve already checked… I don’t think he’s home,” Manik said. He lied, of course.
“But I think I saw his car in the garage?” Cabir questioned.
“He might have gone with someone else then… Anyways, I’m damn tired, let’s get going. We’ll give him a call,” Manik said, and stormed out of the gate within moments, followed by a bewildered Cabir.
Once they were near the car, Cabir’s eyes fell on another familiar car parked near his.
“Hey, isn’t this Nandini’s car?” He asked.
Manik tilted his head to have a look at the car. Sure enough, it was Nandini’s ‘baby’. He could identify it anywhere and everywhere. A look at the car at once brought back to him memories of their first meeting, when he’d accidentally bumped his car into her’s. Time had fled back so soon, and the hot stranger who had meant nothing to him then, meant the world to him now. Mentally shaking aside these thoughts, Manik said—
“No it’s not her baby.”
“I mean it’s not her car.”
“ But it really looks like hers.”
“Yeah I’m sure it’s not her car, Cabir.” Manik said, though he hated to lie to Cabir. “Can I drive please?” He then asked, trying his best not to lose his self-control.
“Yeah sure,” Cabir said, handing over the keys to Manik, still baffled by Manik’s weird behaviour.
Soon Manik was seated in the driver’s seat, and Cabir in the passenger’s side. Manik quickly put on his seat belt and started the ignition. He pulled the car out of the parking lot and sped off at once.
“Dude! Slow down! We don’t have to catch a flight!” Cabir said, as he saw the needle of the speedometer move to the extreme right. Manik ignored him and stepped on the accelerator, pushing it still harder. Cabir decided not to say anything else for a while because he realized that something was bothering Manik and that he was trying to get over it. He felt that it was best to leave him alone for a while.
‘Why did this have to happen? How could she get so close to him in this many days? I only wanted them to get together but I never expected this. It’s all my fault. I was such a fool. I should’ve realized how much I love her. I should’ve known that I could not see her spend those moments with him that I want her to spend with me. I should’ve known this would only tear me apart, like it is, now. Ugh, why? Why can’t she f**king see how the hell much I love her?’ Manik’s mind was preoccupied with a thousand questions and the worst part is, he didn’t get any answer to satisfy himself. He was lost in the world of his thoughts, and that’s when, unconsciously, at a steep turning, he drove to the extreme left and before he or Cabir could realize, the car crashed into the tree at the roadside.
“What? Manik was here?” Dhruv repeated the words of his maid.
“Yes, sir. I sent him to the pool,” the maid replied.
“But he never came there!” Nandini pointed out, bemused as to why Manik hadn’t gone to the pool if he’d come up to the house.
“B-but I’d to-told him—“ the maid began to say, but Dhruv stopped her.
“Yeah it’s fine. You go and sleep. It’s too late. I’ll call him and ask.”
To this, she nodded in response and soon disappeared into the servant’s quarters. Dhruv went up to his room where his phone was kept, followed by Nandini. He unlocked his phone to find several text messages, missed calls, whatsapp messages and facebook notifications. Quite a lot of people had messaged him to give him birthday wishes. He ignored the messages and the missed calls and dialled Manik’s number first. He called him twice, but Manik didn’t pick up his phone. When he was going to dial for the third time, Maddy’s call came.
“It’s Maddy,” Dhruv informed Nandini and received the call, and greeted him by saying a “Hey,”
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAN!” Maddy’s voice boomed from the other side.
“I’ve called you so many times, where were you? Don’t tell me you were sleeping on your birthday!”
“Uh—No, I wasn’t. Anyways, it’s not important. You tell me, is Manik with you?”
“Oh yeah, actually Manik and Cabir had gone to your house, but while returning, they had a little accident—“
The word ‘accident’ caught Dhruv’s attention and before Maddy could continue, he interrupted—
“What? How did it happen? How are they now? Is everything fine?”
Nandini, who could hear only Dhruv’s side of the conversation, looked at him with a bewildered expression. The sudden urgent tone of Dhruv made her panic internally.
“They’re in the hospital. I’m al—“ Dhruv didn’t even let Manik finish his sentence, and spoke up,
“City Hospital. But no—“
“Okay I’ll be there,” Dhruv said, and before Maddy could tell him anything else, Dhruv had hung up, worry taking over him.
“What happened?” Nandini asked as soon as Dhruv had disconnected the call.
“Manik and Cabir met with an accident.”
“WHAT! Are they okay? H-how did it happen?” Nandini shrieked, as the news struck her.
“I don’t know. Let’s get to the hospital first,” Dhruv said as he grabbed his keys and started walking towards the door. He suddenly halted in his way and said—
“Nandini, you need to change into some dry clothes. You’ll catch a cold.”
“No I’m fine,” she said and moved out of the door and was already hurrying down the stairs when she realized Dhruv wasn’t following her.
“What?” She asked, turning around to face him who was still standing near the door of his room.
“You sure?” Dhruv asked. He was obviously concerned for Nandini, even though he himself was drenched to the skin.
“Yeah, Dhruv. I just want to meet Manik now—and Cabir too. C’mon quick!” She said, walking up to him, and pulled him along with her down the stairs.
Soon, the two of them were seated in Dhruv’s car and Dhruv was speeding up to reach the hospital.
“Oh God… I hope they’re fine,” Nandini whispered to herself and shut her eyes, praying. All sorts of bad ideas about what could have happened to Manik crowded her mind and tears started welling up in her eyes. She was concerned about Cabir too, but somehow Cabir seemed to be out of her mind then. She was only praying for the safety of Manik.
Her heart started racing when Dhruv stopped the car in front of the hospital. She’d never liked hospitals. The atmosphere around it just radiated a kind of sadness and gloom and she had always despised hospital visits. Nevertheless, she wanted to see Manik, and she didn’t care about the hospital then. Dhruv and Nandini got out of their car and ran towards the entrance, but their spirits died on seeing the huge paparazzi crowded outside.
“Shit! How do we get in?” Nandini exclaimed.
“Come with me, I can handle this,” Dhruv said, leading Nandini towards the entrance.
They pushed through the crowd and were able to reach the entrance, but it was blocked by three to four sturdy security men. Dhruv quickly made up an excuse that their relative was sick and was admitted in the hospital. After a lot of arguing, the guards let them in. Besides, they didn’t look much like media persons.
Nandini rushed to the reception to inquire but Dhruv spotted Maddy, Abhimanyu, Aliya and Mukti standing in a circle, at a distance, down the corridor. Dhruv called Nandinu and they rushed towards the group with hurried footsteps. Hearing their footsteps, Maddy and Abhimanyu turned around to expose Manik standing there, with a band aid on his head. Apparently, he hadn’t been injured much, and there was no need to worry. Maddy had tried to tell this to Dhruv but he hadn’t bothered to listen to him.
Nandini, on seeing Manik, ran up to him. She was overjoyed on seeing him. She looked at him from head to toe, and once she was sure that her monster was fine, she threw her arms around him and hugged him firmly. She was no longer able to hold back her tears. She allowed them to flow down her black eyes, down her cheeks, though she wasn’t sure if those tears were of happiness or those which had threatened to come out when she was so tensed.
“Thank God you’re alright, Manik! I was so tensed! You almost gave me a heart attack! Manik, how could you be so careless?” Nandini blurted out in one go, letting it all out. This time, Manik didn’t hesitate and without any reluctance, embraced her.
As soon as Manik wrapped his arms around Nandini, he realized that she was wet and cold. This immediately struck a thought in his mind—‘She’ll get a cold. But how did she get wet?’ Manik had somehow forgotten what he had witnessed but now all of it came back to him in a flash. He felt his grip loosening as his eyes filled with tears. He felt broke from the very inside and he realized he couldn’t afford to stand in front of Nandini.
“I am fine,” Manik said. He didn’t want Nandini to see his swollen eyes. He slid out from the hug with an averted face, careful not to meet Nandini’s eyes. Before Nandini could say anything else, he walked straight out of the place with the help of some guards who sneaked him out from a back door.
Manik sat back on his bed, back home now. There was no one else in the house except him and his pet dog, Champ. He moved his fingers through Champ’s thick fur, softly brushing him. After reaching home, he’d called up Abhi and apologized to all for his sudden departure. Now, his tear glands simply did not agree to stop their secretion as the scene played again and again in his mind as if someone was repeatedly pressing the rewind button on his mind…
Nandini walking slowly towards Dhruv, getting very close to him…Dhruv closes his eyes…and they kiss.
Though Manik had not seen them kiss, he had no doubt that they would have. And this very though shattered him. He felt like someone was stabbing him right in the middle of his heart, with a sharp and pointed knife, cutting intricate designs in it. He was the one who had wanted to see Nandini and Dhruv together, and now he was seeing it happening in front of his eyes, he couldn’t bear it.
He thought about this for a long time, and then finally reached at a conclusion, which had a major effect of hurting him all the more.
‘I tried to bring them closer. And now that I’ve done it, I have no more role in their life anymore. Nandinu loves Dhruv.I have to accept this and move out of her life. For good.’ Manik thought this and closed his eyes, trying to delete her memories one by one. He recollected how she had hugged him in the hospital that night, and suddenly he remembered that she was wet then and would catch a cold as it was the month of December. He murmured to himself,
“Shall I call her and ask her if she’s fine?” But then, a second later, he rejected the idea.
‘I should not be caring about her. Dhruv is there for her. I know he is responsible enough to take cake of her. She doesn’t need me.’
As he sat there, his heart said to him—
“The question is not if she needs you or not; the question is, don’t you need her? Would you be able to forget her?”
Manik could only reply back one thing—
“No, but I will have to.”
Thanks a lot for reading and commenting! and sorry for late updates. Had been busy with tests. The next update is coming pretty soon. x x
Credit to: Naisha