26th December, 2015.
“Argh,” I muttered in my sleep due to a throbbing pain in the back of my neck. I tried to shift to a more comfortable position when something restrained me. I opened my eyes to find Nandini’s beautiful face, still asleep, rested on my arms. In a flash, all the happenings of the previous night rushed back to me. Nandini had asked me to stay there with her, and I had ended up dozing off beside her on the bed, in a half sitting position with Nandini snuggled up close to me. I looked around the room to check the time.
11:25 AM, the digital clock on the opposite wall flashed.
Oh shit! I had been sleeping for so late! I was about to get up when I realised Nandini’s hands were wrapped around my arm, the same one on which her head rested. I tried to slip off from her grip but I guess it disturbed her as she shifted a bit, and I halted right there. I surely didn’t want to ruin her sleep. I gently, with utmost care, moved her hand away from me and placed in on her side. In the same manner, I lifted her head tenderly and placed in on the soft pillow.
Finally, I was able to get up, and as soon as I did, I stretched myself. My body was aching due to the awkward, uncomfortable posture in which I had slept last night. On top of that, I hadn’t even been able to change into my night clothes.
I grabbed my phone which I’d placed on the side table before going to bed and was about to sit down on the couch when I sensed that I was about to sneeze. Neither have I ever been able to suppress my sneeze nor have I ever sneezed silently enough not to disturb anyone. Yeah, I sneeze a little bit too loudly, which was sure to awaken Nandini. Not wanting to destroy her beauty sleep, I rushed out of the bedroom into the lounge.
“Aaacchooo!” I sneezed just when I was out of the room. Like this, I went on sneezing for about five minutes. Damn, I had caught a really bad cold! But how did I get it? It then dawned upon me—I had gotten wet in the rain yesterday! That’s the reason! I so hate this rain! Then I realized Nandini must have also caught a cold. She didn’t even get to dry herself last night, and she was wearing a really short dress.
I picked up the intercom and ordered two mugs of hot chocolate, thinking that Nandini would feel better after having it. She might not have a cold but I was sure she would be having a terrible headache from last night’s hangover.
I then plopped down on the comfy couch and unlocked my phone, which was flooded with missed calls from Maddy, Mukti, Aliya, Cabir and Soha. Wow, I seem to be in great demand! I then noticed I had received a couple of text messages too, but a particular one caught my eye—
Dhruv (12:13 AM):
Hey, I had some urgent work and I left for Mumbai. Sorry, couldn’t meet you.
He suddenly left for Mumbai? Out of the blue? Something had seriously happened, but the question is what? I know Nandini rejected him, but then what was she doing on the beach, where I was supposed to meet him? There were so many questions on my head, and the only one who can answer them was Dhruv. Nandini most probably won’t remember anything about the previous night so it would be futile asking her. I at once dialled Dhruv’s number and pressed the phone against my ears, waiting in anticipation for him to receive the call. The phone rang and rang and finally it went to his voicemail. Damn!
Soon after, I heard a knock on the door, followed by a voice saying “Room Service, Sir.” I at once turned to look at Nandini, and heaved a sigh of relief when I saw she was still sleeping soundly. I went to the door and opened it, to reveal the room service guy standing there with a tray in his hand. I was about to let him enter but then I realized he would freak out on seeing Nandini in my room and I didn’t want unnecessary gossip about it. So instead, I took the tray from him, shut the door behind me and placed the tray on the table. I again sat down on the couch, which, by the way, faced the sofa. While waiting for Nandini to wake up, I started admiring her. Again.
I found myself getting lost in the thoughts of the kiss we shared last night. It was not my first kiss, but it had a hypnotising effect on me. I could still feel her soft, full lips placed on mine. I no longer regret last night. Of course, our conversation started off in a rather rough manner, but eventually how things turned out, well…I loved it. Last night was definitely one of my most cherished nights. I know Nandini was drunk…I wonder if she’ll remember about it when she wakes up or not? If she does remember, will she regret it? I may not be regretting this but she would regret it as soon as she comes to know about this. Will she really regret it? I so wish she doesn’t. I don’t even know if she loves me or not. She has always acknowledged me as her best friend. Does she even have feelings for me like I do, for her? I was so lost in her thoughts, that I didn’t realize that I was about to sneeze.
Immediately, I looked up hoping I had not disturbed Nandini. But I was totally wrong. She was already shuffling around, with a crease on her forehead.
“Aah,” she muttered, pressing her forehead with her fingertips. She slowly lifted herself up and sat with her back against the bedpost. For some moments, her eyes roamed around the room and finally halted on me, when she bombarded me with a thousand questions in her feeble voice—
“Where am I? How did I get here? Why don’t I remember anything? And—why the hell is my head aching so damn much?”
“Well, we met at the beach last night, when you were completely drunk. And then, we, uh, umm… Well it rained ad I got you here to my hotel room,” I explained leaving out the kiss part, “You don’t remember anything?”
“No…” came her whispered reply.
“Are you sure?” I asked again. I hoped that she remembered. How was I supposed to explain such a thing to her?
“I, uh…” She trailed, knitting her eyebrows, trying to remember. Suddenly her eyes widened as she looked at me, and said the thing I had been fearing,
“Oh shit. I’m so sorry Manik.”
Shit. She remembered. And she regretted it. What can be worse?
“Why are you sorry? It was my fault.”
“No, no. I was drunk. I don’t know what got over me. You must be thinking I’m so stupid. I didn’t intend to do it, Manik, trust me. I just…”
“Sshh… It’s not your fault. You were drunk! I was completely sober; I should’ve known what I was doing. I wasn’t thinking right… I just…” I made a deliberate attempt to apologize, though I didn’t mean any of the words I said. I didn’t think it was a fault, first of all. I was far away from feeling guilty about it. But seems like Nandini felt different.
“But—“ Nandini was saying when there was a knock on the door. Bless that person!
I quickly got up and walked to the door, and opened it to find Maddy standing there, leaning against the doorframe.
“Hey, you ready?” He asked.
“Ready? For what?” I asked, bewildered.
“I mean, you’re done with the packing and all?”
Then it dawned on me. We were to leave for Mumbai that day! And that reminds me, I hadn’t even started my packing! Great.
“Shit!” I exclaimed.
“You forgot, right? How could you—?” Maddy was saying, but halted as he saw Nandini, who was walking towards the door now.
“Oh, good morning, Nandini! I didn’t know you were staying with Manik,” Maddy said, and then giving a mischievous smile, asked, “Had fun last night?”
I gave Maddy a death glare and turned to look at Nandini, who was… blushing? But soon, she composed herself, and I think it was my imagination. I mean, why would she blush at such a thing?
“Umm no, I’m not staying with him. Actually we met last night and I was totally wasted so he got me here,” Nandini explained.
“Oh…” Maddy trailed off, evidently disappointed. “So why did you get drunk? Manik got the Best Singer Of The Musicana Award, so you were celebrating?”
“Did he get the Award? I had no idea!” Nandini replied.
“Yeah, but forget it. You tell me—Why did you decide to get drunk all of a sudden? Last I checked, you never drank and despised people who drank?” I asked, curious to know what had gotten over her all of a sudden. I wonder how I had not thought about this earlier.
“Umm…actually…I just thought of trying out,” Nandini said. I was confirmed by her reply that she was lying. I made a mental note to ask her about it later.
“Okay!” Maddy said, and after that all of us got in and sat down in the lounge.
“Anyways, now that you both are here, I have something to tell you guys. Cabir is throwing a party back at Mumbai, to celebrate the Fab gives success. He tried calling you two but neither of you answered your phones so he asked me to tell you.”
“That reminds me, I haven’t even started packing. How am I supposed to get ready on time?” I said. I had to catch a flight at 2 o’clock.
Maddy and Nandini said at almost the same time.
“Thanks guys! But I think Nandini you should take some rest. Your head was also aching. And that reminds me, I had ordered some hot chocolate for you—it’s there on the table in the bedroom. Maddy and I would manage with the packing,” I said. It was not quite appreciable to let a girl pack a guy’s stuff!
“Well thanks for the hot chocolate. And yeah my head is paining, but I don’t want to sit alone. And besides, I’ve had enough of you avoiding me,” Nandini said. She added the last part in a taunting manner. I surely didn’t want to avoid her anymore and pick up a fight. Therefore, I let her lend a hand.
30th December, 2015.
I was back in Mumbai, and was now in Cabir’s party. He was celebrating Fab gives victory as he had not been there with us when we won the musicana. And that too, all because of me. Had not been driving rashly that day, he would’ve been able to perform. To say I was feeling guilty would be an understatement. The guilt was literally killing me from the insides. I couldn’t seem to get over it, even though Cabir had reassured me several times that it’s not my fault and it’s okay.
Back to the present situation, I was sitting at a table with Mukti and Maddy. The party was not a huge one, but consisted of only close friends. But mind you, Cabir’s close friends’ list consisted of hundred plus people.
I was engaged in some conversation with Mukti and Maddy, but found in difficult to keep myself focused on their talks as my mind was somewhere else. Nandini was supposed to come and I had been looking at the entrance since God knows how long, but she hadn’t turned up yet.
“Waiting for her?” Mukti asked.
“Yeah…” I replied absentmindedly. Soon I realized what I’ said, and immediately added,
“I mean, it’s nothing like that. I’m not waiting for Nandini!”
“When did he even mention Nandini’s name?” Maddy pointed out. Shit.
“See? Caught you!” Mukti exclaimed.
“No guys, it’s nothing—“
“Ugh, God damn it, don’t you dare say that AGAIN! Just stop pretending already! We all know you’re eagerly waiting for her to come, you haven’t averted your gaze from the entrance for a split second also!” Mukti said.
“Exactly! It’s high time you stop denying your feelings for Nandini,” Maddy said.
“Why do I think I heard my name?” A voice asked from my side. I looked up to see Nandini standing right beside me. In the midst of the conversation with Mukti and Maddy, I had not noticed when she came here.
I couldn’t help staring at her. She was wearing a pink flowy dress and like always, looked gorgeous. Her jet black, lustrous hair was left open and there were no signs of make-up on her face. This is what I loved about Nandini. She wears simple clothes and hardly cares about her looks, but yet manages to take my breath away. Every time I see her, I find myself falling in love with her all over again.
“Manik was saying he was missing you,” Mukti said, breaking me out of my reverie.
“Shut up Mukti!” I snapped.
“Oh, so you did not miss me?” Nandini asked, her lips forming an adorable pout.
“I did not say that either,” I said, smiling at her.
She gracefully returned a smile at me, taking a seat beside Maddy, right across me.
“Hey guys!” Soha gleefully chirped, approaching us.
We all exchanged greetings, and once she was seated, Maddy added—
“You look stunning,” winking at her.
Soha at once turned deep red, redder than a big fat tomato, at Maddy’s compliment and looked down. She always did that when she was blushing.
Maddy, as he had told me, had taken Soha out on a date, and now they were just short of being an official couple. Maddy was saying earlier he was going to ask Soha tonight to be his girlfriend. I was really happy for the two of them.
We all got engaged in random talks soon after that. For once all the awkwardness between me and Nandini had vanished. She was back to her normal self and was laughing and smiling genuinely. I really had missed her. Badly.
After some time, the hosts, that is, Cabir and Aliya also joined us. We were having a gala time when I noticed Soha gesturing something to Aliya.
“I’ll be right back,” Aliya said, getting up.
“Where’d she go?” I asked Soha once Aliya had gone. I knew she was up to something.
“How would I know? She went in front of you all only…” Soha said.
I knew she was hiding something but I didn’t know what. It didn’t take me long to figure it out though.
The music stopped playing suddenly and a silence prevailed in the room.
“Attention, everyone!” The voice of the DJ boomed through the hall, “I’m now going to play some slow romantic numbers and I want all the couples on the dance floor. Now!”
I immediately cast a look at Soha, seated beside me, who was smiling mischievously. Of course, it was hers and Aliya’s plan all along to make me and Nandini dance. How do their brains work so much?
“Can I have this dance?” Soha asked, thrusting out her hand. I was totally taken aback. I looked at Nandini, and could see a surprised expression on her face too. I questioned Soha with my eyes but she just smiled. What the hell was happening?
“Yeah, sure,” I said, and gave her my hand. I know normally it’s the other way round—the girl give her hand to the guy, but Soha here didn’t actually leave me with a choice. Being the gentleman that I am, I couldn’t possibly refuse a girl’s offer for a dance.
It has been five minutes since I’m dancing with Soha but I can’t help stealing glances at Nandini. I wished I were dancing with her instead. I even caught her looking at me and Soha occasionally, with her eyes filled with…envy? I couldn’t tell.
I suddenly found Soha shaking her head and smiling to herself.
“What’s so funny?”
“You’re so stupid! Go ask her for a dance, idiot!”
“Don’t tell me this was a plan of yours to make me yearn for her?”
“Yes and no. The main aim was to make Nandini jealous, and I guess I and Aliya succeeded. Now go dance with her and let me dance with my Maddy.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” I said and made my way towards Nandini with a huge grin on my face.
I couldn’t take it anymore. Soha and Manik were slow-dancing, and they were just too close for my liking. Soha’s arms were seductively wrapped around Manik’s neck and seeing them together made my heart ache. Manik had a bored expression on his face, why, I couldn’t guess. Nevertheless, he was firmly holding Soha by the waist and this made my blood boil. I wished I was the one in place of Soha.
I don’t even understand Soha’s intentions. One day she’s like ‘Go ask him out’ and another day she is seducing Manik herself. I think the media people were right, Manik and Soha are definitely in a relationship. But what does Soha want to show? She was definitely showing off that Manik could never be mine.
Time flew by, but the two of them didn’t look like they were going to stop dancing anytime soon. I was sitting at the same table with Aliya and Maddy now. Mukti and Abhi, too, were dancing. Abhi was reluctant at first to dance but then Mukti convinced him. They make an adorable couple, I have to say.
I suddenly spotted Soha saying something animatedly to Manik and a couple of seconds later, I found Manik walking towards me.
“Dance with me?” He asked, flashing his dazzling smile, and held out his hand for me.
Without a second though, I said “I’d love to,” and took his hand, smiling ear to ear.
I placed my right hand on his shoulder, and he placed his left hand on my waist. His touch sent shivers all through my body. My left hand was entwined with his other hand and I found us swaying gently to the soothing lyrics of the song.
Soniyo, O soniyo (Darling, O Darling)
Tumhein Dekhta hoon to sochta hoon bas yehi (I look into your eyes and I have just one thought)
Tum jo mera saath do (If you stay by my side)
Sare gum bhola ke (I’ll forget all the sorrows)
Jee lu muskuraake zindagi (And I’ll live with a smile)
He trapped me in the entrapping cage of his eyes and I couldn’t avert my gaze anywhere else. His eyes had a strong hypnotising effect on me. It was almost as if time had frozen. All I could see was him and me, dancing in the middle of nowhere. This was the most perfect moment and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
We were still dancing, lost in each other’s eyes, when I suddenly remembered something.
“Manik’s?” I said.
“Why did you leave Soha and come to dance with me all of a sudden?”
He seemed to think something in his mind for a while, before he replied,
“Soha wanted to dance with her lover. And I wanted to dance with my — I mean I wanted to dance with you. So…” He said.
“Soha’s lover? Isn’t that supposed to be you?” I asked, bemused.
Manik let out a chuckle and said,
“No, silly. Why do you even think I and Soha are a couple is beyond me. That night on the beach also I tried telling you but you wouldn’t listen to me. Soha and I are best friends. Nothing more and nothing less. And her lover, to whom I was referring to, is none other than our very own Maddy! He’s completely smitten by her and well, the feeling is mutual.”
“Oh shit! I—uh, I had no idea about it! Well Dhruv had told me you loved Soha so…” My voice trailed off. How could I not understand my best friend? I was so dumb!
“That was a long time ago, dear,” Manik replied.
I don’t know why, but knowing this made me feel a thousand times happier than I already was.
I was back home, lying on my bed, and staring at the ceiling. I was not even near about sleepy, and a tornado of several thoughts was raging inside my mind. My mind fluttered back to the night, when I last met Manik, on the beach in Bangalore. I knew that day when I went off to drink, it wouldn’t end well. But now that I think about it, I got to meet Manik, and then the kiss…It felt so right.
I know you must be wondering why I went to drink in the first place. Well, it all started like this…
It was a lazy day, and I was lying on my bed in my room, reading the newspaper. Yeah, my Ams owns a house in Bangalore, so I didn’t have to stay in a hotel or anything. I was flipping though the Mumbai Times, when a certain article caught my attention.
MANIK MALHOTRA MISSING HIS GIRLFRIEND?
The Fab five band member, Manik Malhotra, who has recently taken up the leadership after Cabir’s injury, seems to be missing his girlfriend, Soha Shaw. Our sources tell us he has been behaving really weird as of late, and had been showering his rage on his band mates. What can be the reason behind it? We assume he is yearning to meet his girlfriend, who is back in Mumbai. We texted Manik, but he didn’t correspond.
The rest of the day is almost a blur. I don’t know what came over me, but I just felt like someone was shredding me into pieces. Whenever I am stressed about anything, I wear black and just go out on a shopping spree. I had planned to do the same, but somehow I ended up in the pub. Whatever happened in the pub, I couldn’t remember most of it, but I remember the kiss very distinctly. I know I was apologizing to Manik that day but I didn’t mean any of it. I just didn’t want him to think of me in any wrong sense. I mean, I didn’t regret it, but what if he did? And at that time, I was convinced he was in a relationship with Soha.
And that reminds me, Soha likes Maddy. This was some real news for me. And all this time I had been thinking she liked Manik. How foolish I was! This news really made me happy. But why? How does it make a difference if Manik is single or taken? Am I supposed to be worrying about it?
Then again, my mind wandered off to the dance I had with Manik… It was a heavenly feeling. I felt so nice. It was a wonderful feeling just staring into his eyes and getting lost in them. Just thinking about him made the butterflies in my stomach flutter around wildly. He is so perfect! He always knows the right things to do, and can make me smile in any situation. I’m blessed to have him as my best friend. Thinking about him, I found myself smiling on my own, like an idiot.
“You love him, don’t you?”
I looked up to see Ams leaning against the doorframe.
“No Ams… Manik and I are just best friends! “ I said.
“But I don’t even remember telling Manik’s name…” Ams said with a smirk on her face and came in and sat down on the bed.
Shit. Caught in the act!
“Umm…” I trailed off, not knowing what to say.
“Don’t suppress your feelings, Nandu. True love is hard to find. And when you find it, don’t let it go,” Ams said, softly patting my shoulder.
“But I don’t know, Ams. I’m so confused.”
“It’s normal to be confused. But don’t let your confusion overpower what you really feel.”
“But I don’t know what I really feel!”
“You do. Close your eyes and think. You’ll know the person whom you love.”
I did as she told. I closed my eyes, and even in the darkness which surrounded me, a lone thought—a picture flashed in my mind. I knew my answer.
I opened my eyes and looked at Ams.
“I hope you got your answer,” she said.
“Yes, Ams. Thanks,” I said, smiling.
“Good night Nandini,” she said, kissing my forehead before she exited the room.
I love Manik? Don’t I? I thought of all the moments I’ve had with him…he’s always been there. When I was in total depression dealing with the Aryaman episode, he was there. But for him, I would’ve never been able to get over him. He was the one who let me get over my minuscule fears. He has been the perfect best friend eve. But is that all he is for me? Are we only best friends?
My mind wandered back to the kiss. Even when I was totally wasted, I had a lucid image of that moment I shared with him. I was angry on him seconds before, but when we kissed, the whole world ceased to exist for me then and there. I thought it was stupid to feel that why when Manik was only my friend. But now I know why I felt the sparks fly when his lips crashed with mine— I love him. Heck, I am in love with him!
Was I doing the right thing by falling in love again? What if it doesn’t work this time too?
I guess it’s too late to question myself. I have fallen in love. And once you fall in love, there’s no going back. Oh gawd, this love makes me so cheesy!
Blushing for no known reason, I buried my pace into the pillow, and soon drifted off into a sleep, dreaming about only one person:
My Monster Manik.
Nandini finally realized her feelings for Manik! 😀
How was it guys?
A Long Chapter as it is Silver Jubilee ♥
So what do you think, who’s gonna propose first? Will it be Nandini or will our dashing Manik!