"Well talk" Nikki nudges him to answer her question.
"About?" he tries to be deliberately dense, not interested in talking about himself but still wanted to share with his wife about the other important people in his life.
"About your family Abhi" she looks at him smiling, anxious to know where Abhi came from and who were the people who had helped him turn into the man he was.
Abhi shifts a little uncomfortably in his seat, unaccustomed as he was to answering questions. Nikki looks at him unabatingly waiting for him to answer her questions. He looks everywhere but at her and then casually places his legs on the table in front of him and rests. "Abhi" Nikki prompts.
"Well Nikki......what exactly do you want to know?" he asks her not knowing where to start.
"Nana......that's what Tia calls your Mom.....why?" she asks starting from the root of the questions.
"Well my Mom is the gynecologist who delivered Tia" he calmly delivers and intently watches the reaction on his wife's face. She gasps and puts her hand on her mouth. "Oh" she says.
Abhi smiles a secret smile, enjoying her reaction. "So .....but Nana?" she persists.
"Yes Nikki......after her grandfather decided that he did not want her anymore and I decided to adopt her, she was with my family......she thinks of my Mom as her Nana and they adore each other" he privys her in to more of Tia's background. Nikki's heart fills with love for her mother- in-law in spite of not having met her. She gives credit for Tia's happy smile to the love of her adopted family and her heart aches to be a real part of such a loving family.
"So your father?" she asks as there was never a mention of him as yet. Abhi's eyes cloud with slight pain but fondness replaces it fast. "A cancer specialist....but he is no more, he passed away a few years ago" he shrugs, the pain of the loss still pinching after the passing of time and turns his face away from Nikki not ready to share his vulnerability.
Nikki refuses to let him deal with it alone anymore and softly presses his hand. A surprised Abhi looks at her. "I am sorry" she says and Abhi smiles. "it's Ok Nikki......don't worry about it" he snatches his hand away.
"Any siblings?" she asks.
"What is it? Confess your guts day?" Abhi asks making light of the matter "You want to know everything about me wifey....what about telling me about you?" he asks trying to shift the focus on her.
"Well.....it's know your husband better day.....so tell me any siblings?" she asks.
"Seriously Nikki.....why such sudden interest in me?" he turns to her questioningly.
"It's Ok if you don't want to tell.....am sorry I didn't realize that maybe I am getting to personal" she feels bad but tries not to show it and gets up to leave.
He catches her wrist and tugs her down on him. She falls on him and steadies herself but refuses to look at him. "Don't go" he says his voice husky. She looks at him and sees warmth and something else which she can't point out.
"It's late Abhi" she tells him.
"I know" he replies, his hand moving up to put her hair behind her ear.
"You have beautiful hair Nikki" he whispers, playing with some.
"Thank you" she blushes furiously, her heart hammering at his closeness and her mind screaming for her to run to the safety of her room. She tugs her wrist free and he lets go. She gets up to leave when she hears a soft, "A brother" and looks back.
"A younger brother" he says looking into her eyes. She smiles at him and goes back to sit next to him. "Thanks Abhi" and he looks at her with half a smile. "One day I'd like to meet them" she smiles shyly but then realizes that their marriage was not a regular marriage and maybe Abhi didn't want her to meet them and her smile dims. "Do they....know about us?" she points at both of them and asks, understanding that his answer to this would answer a lot of questions for her.
"Yes" comes the reply and he turns his dark gaze on her to read the expressions flying on her face. He sees happiness, then shyness and ultimately sadness overtake her features. "Oh" is all she can manage.
"Do they know that why we got married?" she asks him not looking at him, scared of the answer.
"They know we rushed into the marriage because of Tia and also that you are helping me and also that I really" and immediately stops before saying "I love you" which was at the tip of his tongue.
"You really?" Nikki asks
"I really needed your help.....they know about you Nikki and really like you.....but I didn't want to push them on you so you don't know about them" he answers her next question as to why she had not spoken to them as yet and avoids telling her how he really feels. How all he wanted to do right now was pull her in his arms and kiss her and tell her how she made his heart ache and how much he loved her and not sit here and play 100 questions about him and his family.
Nikki sits there, her head bowed; overwhelmed by the answers she received from him. *I wish I could meet your mother and brother.....it would make me feel as I am completely a part of your family.....Abhi please tell me that I have to talk to them.....anything which makes me a part of your family* her heart begs him.
Both are lost in thought, one wishing to come closer to the other ; the other trying to keep his heart locked and lips sealed, fearing that if he told her how crazy she made him she would run far away from. Both want to fall into each other's arms and find their utopia but scared to lose the other. Both look at each other and simultaneously wish, "Goodnight" and get up to go to their room.
The next day when Nikki tells Abhi that she is going to Ridzi's place for practice, Tia throws a tantrum, wanting to go with Nikki.
"I want to go too Nikki" Tia starts crying when her father tells her that she can't go with her.
"I will be back soon Tia" Nikki promises, her heart breaking at watching Tia cry.
"Nooo" Tia wails, refusing to let go of Nikki's kurti. "I want to go with you please Nikki"
Nikki looks helplessly at Abhi, who is at a loss as how to pacify his little daughter."Tiu.....what will you do there sweetheart.....let Nikki go.....we'll go for ice cream" he tries to bribe his daughter.
"I hate ice cream....I want to go with Nikki" Tia bawls, clutching Nikki tighter.
"I....I'll not go" her eyes fill with tears of love for her child.
"Nikki....everyone is waiting....what will you tell them?" Abhi reminds her.
"Anything......that I am not feeling well....but she is crying" she looks with tear filled eyes at her husband who shakes his head at her.
"Why are you crying Nikki? Tia is a kid.....she has got an idea in her mind.....that doesn't mean you won't go.....she'll be fine don't worry about her" he tries to explain to his wife , who by now is sitting and hugging Tia who is clutching her with all her might. Abhimanyu shakes his head at the picture of innocence these two make.
"Nikki.....go" he tries to pull Tia away who screams her displeasure.
"Tia....stop it" he says warningly and the child tries to control her sobs.
"Abhi.....don't be so heartless" Nikki scolds him, clinging to Tia.
"H.....Heartless?" he stammers in shock, not believing that Nikki called him so, when he was trying to help her.
Nikki ignores his protest and her attention shifts to Tia. "Tiu....why are you crying" she asks wiping her daughter's tears.
"I miss you Nikki" she says and tears fall out of Nikki's eyes to which Abhi rolls his eyes, not believing what he is seeing but his heart gladdens at seeing the bonding between his two sweethearts.
"Tia......I have to go for only 60 minutes and I will be back before your cartoons finish.....then we can play as much as you want .....Ok" Nikki promises her.
"Only 60 minutes?" Tia asks, not understanding the concept of time but assuming that they were not long.
"Yes only 60 minutes.....promise" Nikki kisses the girl and gets up to leave.
"Ok" she whispers softly, her tone still sad.
Abhi gathers her in his arms and Nikki walks out with a breaking heart, hating to leave Tia.
All through the practice, she keeps calling Abhi asking about Tia who reassures her that though the girl is waiting, she is fine and not crying. Seeing Nikki's loss of interest, Riddhima asks her what the matter was.
"Nothing" Nikki smiles, her eyes sad.
"Is everything Ok Nikki.....did you and Dr. Modi fight?" she assumes that to be the reason of her sadness.
"Oh No Ridzi.....we are fine.....actually Abhi is really nice....It's just Tia" and she stops, wishing to take back her words.
"Tia......nice name....I am guessing his daughter....what happened Nikki?" Riddhima asks.
"I....I just promised her that I would visit her....but I can't now.....so....but it's ok Riddhima" Nikki tells her a half truth, not wishing to break her friend's heart either.
"Oh Nikki....we are done with our steps....you go and visit Tia.....am sure Dr. Modi is waiting for you too" Riddhima says with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Thanks for understanding Riddhima" Nikki hugs her friend tightly, who wonders what happened to her. Nikki rushes to gather her things and waves goodbye to the rest of the girls and is leaving when Riddhima goes out with her.
"Nikki.....Armaan is worried about you.....please think about all your decisions" she warns her, concern reflecting in her grey eyes.
"Oh Riddhima, you and Armaan don't worry about me.....am absolutely happy and I know what I am doing.....I'll be careful .....I promise" and she rushes to meet her daughter.
By the time she reaches home, Tia is asleep and Nikki is crestfallen at not having made it in time.Abhi tells her it's Ok but she turns on him, "It's not Ok" she almost screams at him in frustration and escapes to her room banging her door closed.
"Women....and two of them....wah Abhimanyu....lucky you" he congratulates himself at having to deal with two temperamental women in one day.
The next day Nikki tells her friends that she is busy with New Sanjeevani project work, so she will practice her steps on her own. She comes back after lunch and picks Tia on the way, determined to spend time with her. They spend time together playing, watching cartoons and talking when suddenly Tia asks for cookies.
"Let's bake some" Nikki tells her.
"I don't know how to bake" Tia makes a sad face.
"Oh I'll teach you.....will you help me?" she asks her daughter whose face lights up at the idea.
They go into the kitchen and start their project. Nikki patiently teaches Tia how to roll the dough and then asks her to make the balls and flatten them a little. Both the girls are covered in flour by the end of it when the telephone rings shrilly.
"I'll get it" Tia rushes to pick up the phone while Nikki is placing the cookies in the oven to bake. She follows Tia outside and hears her cooly conversing with the person on the other end of the line.
"I love you too.....I miss you Nana" she is saying and Nikki's heart skips a beat. Abhi's mother. Her throat goes dry.
"Yes, Nikki is here.....we are making cookies Nana....I made all....Nikki taught me" she informs her grandmother. Tia looks at Nikki and hands her the phone. "Nana wants to talk to you" she informs her and rushes to watch cartoons.
Nikki's throat goes dry and her hand trembles at the receiver. "H....Hello" she croaks into the phone.
"Hello Nikita" a nice calm voice answers her.
"Hello Aunty" she says, wondering how she should address her mother-in- law and scared to act too familiar. She hears tinkling laughter on the other side. "You are my eldest bahu, please call me Mummy like Abhimanyu" Ritu Modi instructs her and a smile comes to Nikki's face.
"Mummy" she says happy in that bond and seeking her blessings.
"So, are Abhi and Tia troubling you....they are quite a pair these two" Ritu Modi chats with her comfortably and Nikki is pleasantly surprised by the fact that how easy it was to talk to her mother-in-law.
"I know it was difficult for you to marry in haste....Abhi told me that you had to do it for Tia's sake ....though he wanted to wait....I am so happy that he found you.....may god bless you both and have a long married life.....hope to see you soon" Ritu Modi goes on and Nikki gasps at the fact that her mother-in-law thought that this marriage was the real deal.
She decides to ask Abhi the question later and asks the elder Modi why she had called. " Just to talk to Abhi.....he was supposed to make us talk but he told me you were busy with a lot of hospital work and that your best friend was getting married so you were helping with that too" Ritu Modi tells her to which Nikki's anger shoots up at her husband. She makes the right noises, talks for some time and then promises to call her again and keeps the phone down.
"Abhimanyu Modi.....you lied to me" Nikki fumes and makes up her mind to confront him.
Cookies made, Tia and Nikki eat them with milk and then Tia asks her, "What dance are you doing Nikki?"
She tells the girl who insists on listening to the song. So, Nikki plays the song and Tia asks her to show the steps. Laughingly Nikki agrees but asks Tia to accompany her and Tia happily agrees. Both the girls start dancing and having fun and this is how Abhimanyu finds them when he enters the house.
"Desi girl" is on at full blast and Nikki and Tia are dancing holding hands, Nikki teaching the younger girl the steps and Tia learning intently. He watches them standing in the corner, his eyes feasting on a happy Nikki. He takes in her slender form swaying to music and her smile getting brighter and she clapping her hands encouraging Tia, her cheeks heightened with color and sheer happiness flooding her face. His heart swells with love for this child-woman and he aches to take her in his arms.
He stays there watching the two girls dance when suddenly the song finishes and the song "My heart will go on" starts on her CD. Tia and Nikki stop dancing but Abhimanyu moves from the corner and gathers his wife in his arms and starts waltzing with her.
"Abhi" she gasps surprised. He smiles at Tia who claps and smiles happily watching her parent's content in each other's arms. After a few seconds Tia runs to her rooms to play and Nikki struggles to get out of his warm embrace. He tightens his grip, gathers her closer, "Dance with me" he says softly and she relaxes in his arms. They dance to the song, lost in each other's eyes and he twirls her at the end catching her in his embrace. They stand in each other's arms, not wanting to break the magic.
"Cookies.....you smell of cookies" he whispers in her ear and she comes out of her daze and looks up at him.
He bends down to kiss her but she steps out of his embrace, breaking the moment.
"Your mother called" she informs him, wrapping her arms around herself, missing his warmth.
"I see" his tone becomes defensive.
She turns aback at him, "She doesn't know that this marriage is not real....she wished me a long married life and told me that you told her I was busy with work and Armaan's marriage ....that's why I didn't talk to her" getting angrier by the second.
"Look Nikki.....I....didn't want to hurt her" he steps closer holding her shoulders but she shrugs him off.
"Oh I see.....so you lie to her?" she asks him.
"It's not a lie.....you are busy with work and the marriage and I didn't think you would have wanted to talk to her" he tells her his reasons.
"Now you decide for me?" Nikki stands with her hands on her waist looking at him with fire in her eyes.
"Nikki.....I didn't want to push my family" he tries to say when Nikki cuts him short "Our family....I have the right you know"
"Of course you do but you were scared Nikki and then to introduce" she cuts him short again "You should have asked me whether I wanted to talk to them or not"
"Why are you getting upset......it's not real for you anyways" he snaps not understanding why she was so upset at him having not introduced her to the family she didn't want to meet anyways.
"I am your wife" she glares at him.
"A wife who is waiting for this marriage to be over" he points out her view of their marriage and pain fills Nikki's eyes.