Tuesday, February 2, 2010

~Covenant of Love~Part 16

Nikki has a fitful sleep in her new room unused as she is to the bed and the room in general. She keeps the lights on in her room as total darkness scares her especially in the new house. Finally deep in the night tiredness takes over her and she falls asleep. Her alarm rings at 6:00 am and she gets up with a start. When she looks around her panic overtakes her but when memory floods back she realizes that today is her first day as a married woman and her heart aches for all the ceremonies and family rituals which she never got to experience.

She sits up on her bed wearing the quilt around her like a shawl. "I wish I could share this with someone.....even if it's not real this is the only marriage I will have.....Abhi is the only man who will be my husband....why oh why did I deserve this" she moans a sob escaping her and a tear falling.

Instantly she straightens up and wipes her eyes, " Nikita Malhotra .....crying is not going to get you anywhere......just enjoy the marriage you have.....Give it a try....show Abhi how much he means to you....if he still wants to let go" she stops her thoughts from going any further. "You want ceremony.....you get it yourself....no more complaining" she hardens her heart and gets up to freshen up.

At 7 O'Clock when she walks into the kitchen she smells tea brewing and a happy Tia sitting on the table drinking her milk. She goes near the child and places a kiss on her forehead and receives a milky kiss on her cheek."Good morning Tiu" she wishes and receives a lilting good morning back. She goes near the gas and sees tea simmering on it. She pours it in the two cups sitting on the counter and tries to look around for Abhi. "Where is your Daddy Tia?" she asks unable to see him in sight.

"Talking to Nana" she supplies.

"Nana?" Nikki repeats frowning her brow confused at the reply.

"Umm hum" is all she receives from Tia who is busy slurping her milk.

"Tia.....no noise while drinking ok.....you sip milk" Nikki chides her lovingly.

"I like it this way" Tia insists.

"You do?" Nikki asks and when she nods her yes Nikki starts slurping her tea.

"Yuck Nikki.....bad" Tia chides her in return.

"Why?" she questions.

"Daddy says bad nammers" Tia tells her.

"Ok......so you won't do it either?" she catches the little girl in her own words and Tia agrees.

"OK Tiu....it's bad Manners.....repeat it" she attempts to correct her.

"Bad nammers" she repeats to which Nikki shakes her head. "Manners" she speaks slowly

"Nammers" Tia imitates.

"Man" Nikki

"Man" Tia

"Ners" Nikki

"Ners" Tia

"Manners" she joins the word.

"Manners" Tia repeats.

"Good job Tia" she stretches her hand out for a high five and laughing Tia slaps her back.

"We learnt a word today" she tells Tia who smiles back at her.

Nikki looks at the watch and it's already ten minutes since she came into the kitchen. Her curiosity piques regarding who Abhi is talking to so she decides to ask Tia but doesn't understand how to ask her.

"Tia what will you eat for breakfast?" she asks the little tot who is wiping the milk moustache from her face.

"French toast" comes the reply pat.

Nikki finishes her tea and starts to gather the ingredients for Tia's request and gently asks her, "Who is Nana Tia?" trying to figure out the mystery lady who was on the phone with her husband.

"Nana is my favorite.....she loves me a lot.....she give me Abinamyu Daddy" she supplies.

"How did she give you Abhimanyu Daddy?" Nikki tries to make sense of Tia's answer.

"She said I was a big girl and that I was supposed to take care of her son when I was coming to live with my Daddy" Tia explains to Nikki.

"Son.....Oh my god....you mean....she is your Daddy's Mommy?" Nikki asks shocked as she realizes that she didn't know anything about Abhimanyu's family members. She processes the information and before she can react a smiling Abhimanyu enters the kitchen. He smiles at Nikki and wishes her a goodmorning and asks her if she slept well. She wishes him back and nods an answer.

He goes near Tia and places a kiss on her head and takes the milk glass from her to the sink and peeks around Nikki's shoulders in the pan and asks her what she is making.

"French toast" she replies. When she hears a groan from him and turns around to face him she finds herself standing within the breadth of his arms. He looks down at her, his eyes smiling but does not move away. Her heart bangs against her chest at his closeness. She smells his aftershave and its heady scent makes her want to stand on her toes and place a kiss on his smiling mouth. The expression in his eyes changes to awareness and she realizes that she must have given herself away so she hurriedly lowers her eyes and tries to step back but he catches her by the waist.

"Careful Nikki" he whispers turning her away from the stove. "Th....Thank you" she whispers back and hastily steps out of his arms. He moves away and stands next to her with his hips resting against the counter and watches her intently. Color rises in her cheek. "You don't like French toast?" she asks him trying to divert her mind from how good it felt to be in his arms.

"It's not bad....just that Tia has been asking for it every day of this week and I can't stand it anymore" he answers her question and then looks at Tia who jumps from her chair and comes near his legs extending her arms asking to be lifted in his arms. He hoists her up and throws her in the air playfully and she chortles with laughter. She sneaks a glance at the happy twosome and her heart fills with love for her happy family.

Abhimanyu finally catches Tia in his arms and Tia hugs Nikki's neck and brings her closer. Instinctively Nikki puts her arms around the duo and places a kiss on Tia's cheek and gets a kiss back.

"Now hug Daddy" she instructs.

"Ok.....but you will have to get down" Nikki teases Tia pulling her pony gently.

"Nooooo" Tia replies and sticks out her tongue at Nikki and hugs Abhimanyu around the neck tightly.

"Tia" Abhimanyu warns "Don't stick out your tongue.....bad manners"

"Sorry....bad manners" she clasps her small hands on her mouth.

"Oh you can say manners now.....good Tiu" he catches her correct pronunciation.

"Nikki taught me" she credits her teacher.

"She did?" he questions and looks at his wife. When both the girls nod he turns to Nikki and catches her in half a hug and places a kiss on her cheek. A shocked Nikki looks up at him with widend eyes. He ignores her look and turns to Tia who is watching the exchange smilingly and tells her, "Thank Nikki like this Tiu" and turns her towards Nikki.

Nikki accepts the kiss, all the time staring at Abhi with questioning eyes and slow anger. He returns her stare with a shuttered expression in his eyes. He places Tia on the ground and asks her to sit and turns away to take a plate and fill it with Tia's breakfast and places it in front of her and lovingly instructs her to eat. Nikki watches all this standing with her arms folded in front of her. Making sure Tia is busy eating he walks back to take a plate for himself and Nikki softly hisses, "What was that?"

He turns his face towards her and tells her shrugging nonchalantly, "I was just teaching Tia manners."

"Abhimanyu don't give me that......you know what I mean" she says her eyes flashing.

"I do?......Fine....why are you getting so worked up.....I just gave you a slight peck on the cheek......give it back" he shrugs and steps closer to her lowering his face. She pushes him away and starts to walk away from him but he catches her by her wrist and sighs. "Fine.....I apologize....I know you said boundaries.....I remember Nikki" he tugs her closer and holds his ear with the free hand and Nikki can't help smiling at the cute sight he makes.

"Fine....ok let me go.....and you have your cold tea" she points to his teacup sitting on the table and he makes a face. They both sit down with their respective plates and Nikki asks him gingerly," Your mom called?" and a frown appears on his face after what seems like an eternity to Nikki he gently nods his head. "I didn't know you ...... I mean I don't know anything about your background" she treads into his personal life unsure of how much he would want to share.

"Now you do" he replies without looking at her and keeps working on his breakfast. Nikki backs off from her questioning immediately not wanting to spoil the day for either. Breakfast done, Abhimanyu gets Tia ready and Nikki clears the kitchen and all the three head out to Sanjeevani. Nikki says bye to Tia and heads towards her car when the little girl calls out at her, "Nikki.....won't you come in Daddy's car?" she asks.

"I ......I have to return at a different time Tia" Nikki explains and Abhi looks at her.

"Actually Nikki we have the presentation at 4:30 pm at Patil's office and will be done around 6.....you get off duty at the same time......so if you'd like" he offers leaving it open for her to decide. She hesitates a little wondering how she would explain if anyone saw her with Abhimanyu and he registers her hesitation and a flash of annoyance reflects in his eyes. He turns and starts seating Tia in the car. Nikki thinks for a few minutes and turns to walk towards Abhimanyu and when he moves out after making Tia comfortable he finds Nikki standing next to him. Surprise fills his eyes and he looks at her questioningly.

"You are coming?" he asks disbelieving and she nods her head and stares up into his black eyes. He breaks the moment and moves to open the door for her to sit and walks around to his side and they all leave for Sanjeevani.

Nikki works till lunch and spends sometime with Tia and heads over to the locker room where she finds Riddhima who is poring over Designer wedding magazines. They greet one another and Nikki sits beside her and asks her if she had selected anything as yet.

"Nikki it's so hard" she wails "I like so many......why don't you look and help me select" Riddhima solicits her help, as she is at the end of her tether selecting her engagement dress.

Nikki and Ridzi start poring over the magazine and suddenly Nikki places her hand on one page and her Wedding gift from Abhimanyu catches the light and sparkles. Ridzi's mouth falls open in shock and she grabs Nikki's hand. "It's beautiful" she gasps "Who gave it to you?" she looks at her.

Nikki freezes in shock and stammers, "I......um.....I got.....Ridzi.....I" she keeps repeating, no excuse coming to her mind and her heart hammering like crazy.

"Did Dr. Modi give it to you?" Ridzi asks Nikki remembering an awkward Abhimanyu asking her for a reputable Jeweler. At the mention of her husband's name Nikki looks at Ridzi stupefied not understanding how she guessed so accurately. "You know?" slips out of her mouth and Riddhima grins widely.

"So he did" Ridzi confirms and Nikki turns a deep red seeing which Riddhima nudges her shoulder to Nikki's. "What a choice he has Nikki.....It's beautiful....so I was thinking right.....you made up with him.....Oh I am so happy for you " and hugs her friend.

"How.....How did you know?" Nikki asks Ridzi almost choking on her question.

"Well when I went to invite him for my engagement he asked me if I knew a reputable jeweler....so I assumed he must want something for you.....but oh boy Nikki...it looks like an engagement present to me" Ridzi teases.

"No....no" Nikki hastily denies it.

"Then what is it?" Ridzi asks.

"Riddhima.....we are just friends....he ....I was surprised too....well you know" she finds it difficult to speak and has no idea how to explain.

"Oh Nikki.....you don't have to explain....though I am dying to know...but I am happy for the both of you....this ring proves that he is absolutely in love with you.....good for you both." She tells her friend.

"No....No....we are just friends Riddhima" Nikki denies refusing to believe that he was in love with her.

"Yeah....good friends" Riddhima winks at Nikki who laughs embarrassed. "Ridzi" she whispers to Riddhima who gets up to leave for her duty "please don't tell anyone.....I mean .....There is nothing to tell" she pleads for her silence.

"Nikki" the other girl cups her face gently "it's your personal matter.......I promise not to tell......your secret is safe with me" and assuring her she walks out. Nikki slaps her forehead at her stupidity and does not know what to do with her ring so she just turns it around to avoid it from catching anyone's attention. The rest of the day passes quickly and at 3:45 she reaches Abhimanyu's office and they leave for the presentation.

They reach Patil's office and he looks leeringly at Nikki while greeting both of them and Abhimanyu's temper starts to rise. Patil grasps Nikki's hand in a forceful handshake and holds on to it when she tries to tug it free. A seething Abhimanyu softly takes Nikki by the elbow and places her out of the ogling man's grasp. Nikki looks irritated at him warning him to control himself. The minister comes in and the presentation takes place and after it is successfully done the minister congratulates them both.

"Dr. Modi you are doing great progress ......I am very happy with your work" he pats his back and also Nikki's who thanks him.

"Dr. Nikita Malhotra....Right?" the minster asks her and she nods. "You have improved so much since the last time....I like your dedication and Dr. Modi did teach you well....you know he is a very convincing speaker don't you?" the minister applauds Nikki's work and praises her husband. When she nods the minister tells her, "When I spoke to him.....I knew he would do wonders with this project.....you have a good teacher to follow." He smiles.

He turns to Abhimanyu, "Congrats Dr. Modi on your marriage......also convey my good wishes to your wife" and Abhi glances at Nikki who looks away.

"Thank you Sir.....I will" and the minister shakes his hand and walks away with his entourage.

Patil also moves forward to congratulate Abhimanyu, "Dr. Modi....congratulations....you are lucky....you work with beautiful girls and now you have one at home......some people have all the luck" he delivers meaningfully.

"Mr. Patil" he bites out in anger when Nikki grabs his arm and he looks angrily at her. She shakes his head at her and his hands fist at his sides. Patil notices Nikki's hand on his arm and remarks, "Dr. Nikita ji......did I say anything wrong......this lucky man is happy both at office and home" he goes on and Abhi snatches his arm away. "Look Mr. Patil keep your insinuations to yourself......not all men disrespect women" he delivers warningly.

"Oh no.....I was just praising Dr. Nikita.....not disrespecting her.....a beauty like her" he raises his hand to touch her face and Abhimanyu grabs it before it can even get close and twists it. "Dr. Modi......what are you doing?" he screams in agony and Nikki stares in shock.

"Nothing Mr. Patil.....thanking you for your congrats" he mutters through his teeth.

"Leave me.....I will complain" the withering man begs. "Abhi" Nikki shakes him and he lets go.

"Let's go Nikita" he takes her by her arm and walks out of the office.

Appalled and shocked by his behavior Nikki walks out of the office but as soon as they reach the parking lot, she snatches her arm away.

"What is wrong with you Abhimanyu......what did you just do?" she asks him angrily.

"How dare he touch you?" he roars

"I have told you I can take care of myself....why do you always have to jump in?" she fights back.

"Jump in.....that filthy man was trying to touch you.....and you are fighting with me?" he asks incredulous and angry, hands fisted on his side.

"You almost broke his wrist" she points out mimicing his pose.

"You stopped me......I would have killed him for trying to lay his hand on my wife." He tells her furious.

"Well this is no way to behave Abhimanyu.....we could have talked to him" she tries to talk sense to him.

He turns to face her, his eyes fiery, "Behave......you are telling me to behave.....you are actually taking that weirdo's side?" he asks her.

"No I am only" but before she can complete her sentence he pounces on her, "Oh yeah......I remember .....I am supposed to stay away from you......you set boundaries for us.......don't touch me" he mimics her. Nikki's temper rises hearing him make the thing personal. "Not that you understand, do you?" she throws back at him.

"Oh I understand......I absolutely understand....you can't bear me touching you" he goes on getting angrier.

"Abhimanyu......you are twisting my words" she tells him hotly.

"Oh I am twisting your words....which ones?....that you don't want anyone to find out we are married because you are ashamed of me.....or the ones where you told me to stay away from you because you don't want me near you......distance and boundaries" he asks her hotly.

"I am not ashamed of you.....get that straight.....what do I tell people.....that you married me because you had to?" she asks back hurt lacing her words.

"People or Armaan?" he asks softly.

"What.....what did you just say?" she refuses to believe her ears. He turns away from her moving his hand through his hair. She grabs his shirt around the collar in her fists and makes him turn to face her. "Look at me" she orders sharply and he looks apologetically at her. "Nikki.....I ....didn't" she cuts in "Why would you say that Abhi?" her pain reflects in her eyes and they fill with tears which hit him hard.

"How much proof do you need Abhi" she hits him on his chest and turns away from him tears flowing down her cheeks. Feeling stupid at his outburst he lifts his hands to hold her shoulders but drops them back to his side. Finally he turns Nikki around to face him and wipes her cheeks but she moves away from him.

"Please don't" he says softly and Nikki looks at him teary eyed.

"You got what you wanted" she tells him unhappily.

"No Nikki I did not" he says stepping closer to her and lightly cupping her cheek.

"You want more?" she asks sarcastically and a pained look surfaces in his eyes.

"I don't want to be the reason you cry Nikki.....please" he comes closer wiping her tears.

"You were hurtful and mean Abhi" she lays it down for him, "I don't know what you want from me." She shrugs helplessly.

He looks deeply into her eyes and awareness floods her senses as he comes closer but does not make a move. They stare at each other while the dusk melts into night. Both move instinctively into each other's arms and he bends down to kiss her. Her eyes flutter shut when his lips meet hers and her arms move around his neck and she returns his kisses with a fervor of her own; both trying to tell the other how desperately they needed to cling to each other.

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