"Abhi" she takes his name questioningly and moves closer to him. He keeps pacing the length of the living room his demeanor that of a caged cat waiting to get out pouncing. Never having seen him this angry and agitated before, Nikita is at a loss how to deal with him. Undecided, she steps in his way and he stops abruptly lifting blazing eyes at her. "A….A…Abhimanyu…..would you like to talk?" she offers softly.
"Talk? Talk? I would like to wring his neck right now….what does he think he is doing? He doesn't want her…..It is just a game for him" he erupts. Stunned at his outburst, Nikita can't help but ask "He? Who he…..what game? I don't understand Abhimanyu" she asks for him to clarify. Resuming his pacing he turns a deaf year to Nikita's question. Taking a deep breath, Nikki decides to make one last attempt.
"Abhi….It will be alright….please don't worry…..am sure you will fix it." She reassures him touching his arm lightly. Her soothing tone brings him to a standstill and he looks at her as if seeing her for the first time. She gives him a hesitant but reassuring smile. "Fix it…..you bet I will…..I am not going to let him get away with this one…..I will do everything in my power to make sure Tia stays with me….even if it kills me" He replies with conviction, his voice rising with each word. "Shhh Abhi….Tia is sleeping" she warns him and he nods his head at the warning indicating his understanding.
"What do you mean? Tia is your daughter….she is with you….am sorry but could you explain what is going on?" a confused Nikki questions him. As he opens his mouth to answer he sees Tia walking towards them, rubbing her eyes and dragging her Winnie behind her. He turns and walks towards her and lifts the little girl in his arms and squeezes her gently, kissing her forehead. A beautiful smile graces the angelic face and she places her head on his shoulder half awake.
"Are you hungry Tiu?" he asks, all his attention focused on the little girl in his arms, tone loving and as soft as butter, oblivious of Nikki's questioning gaze. Tia nods her head in reply and he turns to Nikki. "Can you please hold her for me while I fix something for her?" he asks for her help forgetting all his resolve to keep Nikki away from his precious little one.
"You will fix something for her?" Nikki asks incredulously.
"Well, Dr. Nikita, can you see someone else here who will?" he snaps at her.
"Well what are you thinking of feeding her? You saw what she did to your yummy breakfast" Nikita asks him equally hotly.
"Pancakes" he replies.
"P…Pancakes for lunch?" Nikki's eyes widen with disbelief.
"Yeah …it's Saturday" he replies as if that answered the reason for making pancakes and starts walking towards the kitchen, Tia in his arms waking up slowly.
"So what if it's a Saturday….feed her something healthy ….who feeds pancakes….you can't be serious" she follows him and they face off in the kitchen.
He sits Tia down on the kitchen counter, walks around Nikki and gets some milk for the little girl. He turns to find Nikki staring at him tapping her foot impatiently. "What?" he questions. She gives him a meaningful look and he sighs loudly raising his hand in the air. "Ok fine…..what do you propose miss healthy, wealthy and wise?" he asks giving up.
"Parathas or Pasta" she gives him an option.
"Aww….what a great idea Nikita…..but sadly….though I am a professional chef….I don't know how to make either" he jeers at her which catches her off guard. Nikita bites her lip thinking hard and he moves away and starts gathering stuff to make pancakes. Nikita fidgets a bit, feeling out of place when he catches her eye and sends a questioning look.
"I…. I can" she speaks a little unsurely. "You can what?" he questions. "Make…..teach you how to make pasta or paratha…..if you want…..it's not too hard you know" she speaks hesitantly unsure if he would accept her help though he was very normal to her today or the most of the day she corrects herself.
He looks skeptically at her and thinks about her offer his head tilted to a side. "Fine……which is easier and faster?" he asks. "Pasta" she replies. "Then Pasta it is" he declares. They start making the preparations when done with the milk, Tia's voice floats "Daddy…..I wanna play." Abhi turns towards the little girl who is fully awake and raring to go. "What do you want to do Tia?" he asks her. "Draw" she replies. He hands her a paper and her crayons and she busies herself.
Nikki starts teaching Abhi how to cook. He burns his hand lifting the cover of the pot in which the pasta is boiling. "What are you doing?.....Abhi it will burn" she proclaims at his yelp. She takes his hand and puts it in the water. "Seriously….you are no better than a kid…..ok you cut veggies" she orders him about. When he looks at the different veggies Nikki had placed in front of him to dice he gapes.
"Nikki…you said it was easy……those pancakes would have been done by now" he complains.
"Dr. Modi..…it is easy….and please stop being cranky…..cut them." She admonishes him. He finishes with it when his cell phone rings. He looks apologetically at Nikki who busy in her cooking and talking intermittently with Tia, waves him off. He takes the phone and heads to the other room. Nikki finishes up the dish and decides to wait for Abhimanyu and sits next to Tia.
"Tia….what did you draw?" she asks her. Tia turns her artwork towards Nikki for her perusal. "Who are they Tia?" Nikki looks at her drawing.
"That is Abinamyu Daddy, Tia, Winnie, Cookie and Nikki" she replies pointing to each character. Nikki's eyes fill with tears in being included in her picture and she places a kiss on her cheek. "I wanna kiss too" Tia flings out her arms and Nikki takes the little girl in her arms who places a noisy kiss on her cheek.
"Who is Cookie Tia?" Nikki asks about the dog in the picture. "Cookie is my doggie" she replies.
"Doggie…where is he?" Nikki asks her questioning the child's imagination.
"Dadi has her….I love Cookie…..she gimme ride" Tia explains patiently.
"Dadi?" Nikki questions but Tia's restless mind diverts from the subject and she climbs into Nikki's lap.
"Nikki" Tia starts.
"Yes sweetie" Nikki replies. Tia hugs her and rests her head on her chest. Nikki holds the little girl securely in her arms, her thoughts drifting to her earlier conversation with Abhi. *I will do anything to keep Tia with me….even if it kills me….who is trying to take Tia away….why?....I don't understand anything…..I should ask Abhi….but he won't tell me……I should still try….Dadi….her grandparents are still alive…..what is going on here?*
"Nikki….let's play with my doll" Tia breaks her reverie. "No ….first you will eat ok" Nikki decides to feed Tia. She puts the food in her plate and sits watching the little girl eat the food. "You like it?" she asks. Tia nods her head, busy eating. "Yummy" she states and a smile escapes Nikki. Abhimanyu enters the kitchen in deep thought and takes a seat opposite Nikki unthinking. All three sit in silence, Tia busy eating, Abhi lost in thought and Nikki wondering what happened again which has Abhi so tense. She gets up and fills a plate and places it in front of Abhimanyu.
"Dr. Modi…..please eat….I think I should leave…..I will work on the presentation at home" and she turns to leave when Abhimanyu grabs her hand and stops her from walking away. "Stay" he asks softly. Nikki blinks in surprise and looks questioningly at him. His eyes soften and need creeps into them. They get lost in each other conveying their need through their eyes, none of them ready to admit it.
"Eat daddy ….Patsa is yummy" Tia breaks their moment and Abhi tugs Nikki's arm. "Please eat with us Nikki" he asks in a tender tone. Unable to resist she nods and fills a plate for herself and the small almost family enjoys their lunch. Midway Abhimanyu's cell phone rings, his expression registers fury when he recognizes the number on the screen and he cuts the call.
"Water……I want water" diverts Nikki from Abhimanyu's expression and she gets up and gives some to Tia who gulps it down. "Thank you Nikki" and she wipes her mouth with Nikki's dupatta and looks at her playfully when Nikki tries to get the dupatta out of her hand. Nikki can't help but smile at Tia's naughtiness.
"Stop it Tia" Abhi rebukes her a little sharply.
"Abhi ….it's ok….please" Nikki intervenes.
"Dr. Nikita……please don't jump in when I am teaching something to my daughter." He snaps at her and turns to Tia. "Say sorry to Nikki , Tia" he orders. When Tia looks down without complying he orders in a stricter tone, "I said now…. Tia" and she bursts out crying. Nikki shoots an angry look at Abhi and gathers the crying girl to herself. She soothes the girl who complains to Nikki, "Daddy bad. "
"Tia" Abhi says warningly at hearing this.
"Abhimanyu please chup" Nikki scolds him and rocks the crying girl in her arms.
"No Tia…..don't say that …..Daddy loves you Ok….now quiet….no need to cry." she calms the child while Abhimanyu watches her skeptically at first and then his eyes soften and he gets up to take Tia from her who goes willingly to him.
"Tia….you did a bad thing….say sorry ok….Daddy is not angry at you" he talks to her. Tia nods and turns to Nikki. "Sorry Nikki" she apologizes. "It's okay Tiu….I love you baby" she places a kiss on her cheek and looks up into furious eyes.
"Don't say what you don't mean Nikita" he bites out softly but anger lacing his words.
"Abhi……what?" Nikki asks.
"I think you should go…..please complete the presentation and we will talk about it in Sanjeevani" he orders her to leave.
"Tia beta go to your room and play……Daddy will be back soon ok…..and say bye to Nikki" he puts Tia down.
"Bye Nikki…..come soon to play" she hugs her leg and runs to her room.
"Abhimanyu ….why are you so mad?" Nikki questions him when Tia leaves.
"Nikita….I don't want you saying all this to Tia….I don't want her to get attached to you…..you will walk whenever out of our lives…..please go" he explains in controlled anger.
"Abhimanyu…..I will never hurt Tia….please don't say this….you are angry since that call came….what is it all about?" she asks.
"Look Nikita…..it's none of your business…..anyway Armaan will not approve of you being here and think I am using you for Tia….so please leave" he flings at her.
"A…Armaan….what are you talking about?....how is he related to all this?" Nikki counters, her temper rising.
"Look Nikita, I do not want to discuss this anymore……go to your friends……go anywhere ….but just go." Bitterness creeps into his tone.
"Ok….fine….I'm leaving…..you do what you want…..whenever I try to talk to you …..You push me away." Saying this, Nikki gathers her purse and walks out.
*Well done Abhimanyu…..way to go…..she was sweet, kind and loving and you were mean, rude and bitter…..you took out all your anger on her…..she does not even know what you are punishing her for…..nor do you anymore……staying away from her is a punishment……she wants you to be close to her….but I need to stay away for Tia's sake…..Tia?...or your own self?* He talks to himself when Tia's voice to play with her distracts him and he goes back to his daughter, missing Nikki.
*Sadu….mean…..gets angry at the drop of a hat…..what did I do now?.....just love Tia….even that is wrong…..I am not going near him…..he can stew and deal with his own problems….I don't care…..I just don't care….am not going to take his tantrums anymore* Nikki decides to stay away from Abhi as much as possible.
For the next two days, Nikita busies herself in her duties and the project work but drops in to play with Tia when she gets a chance avoiding Abhi. The whole Sanjeevani is abuzz with how angry Dr. Modi gets these days at the simplest of things but Nikita is unaware of it. She walks into the locker room after spending her lunch time with Tia, when the rest of the gang stops talking at her entrance.
"Hi guys" she greets and walks towards her locker.
"Nikki….where are you these days" Anjie asks
"Am busy Anjie" she replies.
"Where?" Muskaan questions.
"Nikki ,for the last ten days we have hardly seen you……you don't even come to lunch with us" Atul joins in.
"Arre guys….it's nothing….I have some reports and presentations for the New Sanjeevani project and was busy in that" she lies.
"Achha fine, will you come today after work with us or you busy again?" Armaan questions.
"Kahan" Nikki asks.
"Just dinner together" Rahul provides.
"Kyun Dinner….I mean what are we celebrating?" Nikki finally figures out that all her friends are grinning from ear to ear.
"Well…..Armaan and Ridzi are getting engaged" Anjali shares the news happily.
"Oh….oh my god…..you guys…..congrats……when is the date" she rushes forward to congratulate the happy couple who are looking happily at each other.
"On Saturday" they reply in unison and everyone starts talking at once making plans when Nikita gets a page from Abhimanyu.
"Ok guys I need to go" she starts out when the gang tells her to be careful as Abhimanyu has been in the worst mood ever since the last two days erupting with and without provocation.
On her way to his office she meets Dr. Keerti, who stops her to ask a few questions about some patient. She reaches Abhimanyu's office to find him pacing it with a scowl on his face. He looks up at her and his breath gets stuck in his throat. Recovering, he pointedly looks at his watch and tells her, "You are late."
"Yes Dr. Modi, Dr. Keerti stopped me on the way to ask a few questions" she tells him her reason, her eyes drinking in his appearance. *He looks so tired…..I don't think he has slept properly…..but it feels so good to see him*
"Dr. Nikita, there are a few changes we need to make in the presentation……let's get going." He comes straight to the point. They start working together when in the midst of it his cell phone buzzes. He ignores it and keeps going but Nikki stops and tells him to pick it up.
"Dr. Nikita concentrate on your work not my phone" he snaps. "Whatever you say Dr. Modi" she shrugs and continues her work. He tells her to make a change at a particular place and she disagrees. He insists that she do as he tells but she puts forth her point.
"Dr. Nikita……stop arguing…..do what you are told" he orders.
"But Dr. Modi…..I don't agree with you……we should " she tries to explain.
"When I need your expertise, I will ask for it…..now do as I say" he cuts her short.
"It's an opinion" she mumbles "What?" he asks. "Nothing that matters "she supplies.
"Look Nikita, this is not a joke……I need someone competent in this project not someone who thinks it's a joke" he says harshly.
"Well you should have thought about it when you chose me" Nikki replies back a little hurt.
"I should have…..and you are a huge mistake" he replies bitterly.
"I am a mistake ……and you are perfect?" Nikki shoots out of the chair and faces him squarely.
"At least I don't trample on other people's heart and feelings" he fights back.
"No you don't…..all you do is forcefully show your brute strength" she gives it back to him.
"Brute strength….when have I…" and is interrupted by the incessant ringing of his cell phone which he flings on the floor. He turns away from her trying to compose himself and runs his hand through his hair. Taken aback by his action, Nikki too composes herself.
"Sorry "they say in unison.
"Look Nikita…….I didn't mean…..well I took out someone else's anger out on you" he confesses.
"I know…..since that call you have been upset….what is it Abhimanyu……please tell me." She asks him, forgiving him in an instant for his earlier outburst.
"It's nothing…..just ….nothing to worry about." He waves her off.
"Really……you are mad always, snapping at everyone…..erupting at any small thing……and you say it's nothing……look….maybe I can help you" She offers.
"No one can help me" he replies
"Abhi…….please….if you talk…we can figure something out" she touches his arm lightly. He turns towards her, his hands on his waist, eyes glinting and smiles sarcastically. "I need a wife Nikki……how can you help in that?" he looks deep into her eyes.