Nandini woke up in an unfamiliar room next morning. The room heater was on, and she was wrapped in a heavy blanket but still, she was feeling cold. Flashes of last night came into her mind as she closed her eyes. She vividly remembered she had fallen asleep in his arms. The night which could have taken her life, that night had become her most memorable night. Being in his arms, she felt like she was in heaven. She could spend her whole life happily in his arms.
“I wish, you could be mine, Manik. It hurts a lot when I see you with another girl. I will never able to forget last night. You were so close to me. At that moment I was feeling like you were not only touching my body, you were touching my soul. I could never forget last night. It was the best night of my life.” A contented smile touched her lips as she wondered about the last night. She was smiling wholeheartedly after so many days remembering about last night. It was a magical moment which she could never forget.
“But what would be Manik thinking about me? How will I face him?” Her smile faded into a frown as she recalled how she had confessed her love to him last night.
“What is happening, God? Now what I will do? Manik will have lots of question. What I will say to him ?” Nandini was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t even come to know when Manik came out of the washroom and stood beside the bed.
“How are you feeling now ?” She was startled and instantly looked at him as she heard his voice. He was looking at her worriedly. Last night he was horrified after seeing her condition. At one moment he felt like he lost her.
“I… I am better.” She stammered, answering to him, and she was playing with her fingers inside the blanket. Her gaze was fixed down on the blanket, she couldn’t look into his eyes because of her last night confession.
“How are you?” She asked, looking up at him. He was gazing at her and instantly moved his eyes down as she looked at him. Their heart was beating fast because of the presence of each other.
“I am fine,” He passed a small smile to her.
“Is this your room? And when did you bring me here?” She asked him and sniffed, rubbing her nose. She had a cold and high fever.
“Yes, this is my room.” He took out the hanky from his pocket and gave it to her. She smiled faintly while taking it, and they gazed into each other eyes for a second.
“When you became unconscious last night, that time only a worker opened the door. I brought you here and called the doctor. The doctor said you will be fine in a few days.” He told her, and she was rubbing her nose with the hanky and sniffing.
There was a knock on the door. “Come in.” As Manik said, a maid stepped into the room after opening the door with a glass of warm water. She wished good morning to Nandini. She passed a faint smile to him in response. She was feeling so weak and her head was blasting because of the fever and cold.
“Sujata, help mam in getting up.” Manik took the glass of water from her hand and ordered her to help Nandini. Sujata gave a slight nod to Manik and helped Nandini to sit against the bed while he picked up the medicine from the side table. He gave her the water and medicine. Nandini took them mutely.
“Sujata, bring breakfast for Madam.” Sujata left after nodding her head.
“Nandini, Shivansh was worried for you because you were not picking up his call last night. Talk to him.” Nandini slightly nodded at him and Manik gave her the phone. In this, as their hands touched and a shiver of desire ran down their spine.
“Please, don’t tell him about last night. I didn’t tell him because I didn’t want to make him worried.” Manik spoke, and she swiped open the lock of her phone.
She looked at him. “Okay.”
“How are you, Nandini? Why you were not picking up calls last night? Do you any idea that how much I was worried for you ?” Shivansh chided her after picking her call instantly like he was waiting for her call only. Nandini closed her eyes dejectedly because she was feeling guilty seeing his care for her. She was feeling more guilty after the last night.
“Shivansh, I slept as soon as I came back home from the party. I was so tired. I am sorry.” She replied him back after composing herself. She apologised from him and tears welled up in her eyes. She was apologising him for lying to him every day and because she couldn’t love him.
“Okay, fine but never do this again, and listen take care of yourself. I have a meeting. I will call you as soon as I get free.”
“Okay, you too take care of yourself.” She wiped her tears and hang up the call.
“I am sorry, Shivansh. I can’t tell you the truth because I can’t break your heart. I know, you will be shattered after knowing the truth.” Nandini cried in guilt and pain palming her mouth.
On the other hand, Manik was sitting in the hall, holding his head with his hands, and he was stamping his foot. The memories of last night were making him weaker. The way Nandini was begging him to let her die, it was shocking for him. Last night he came to know she loved him a lot.
“Now I am just confused. I don’t know, what I should choose, Love or Friendship. After seeing Nandini’s love for me, I just can’t live away from her. She loves me so much like the way I love her. She needs me the way I need her. She was yearning for my love the way I am yearning of her love. I just can’t control my feelings more. Oh god… whom should I choose?” After seeing the depth of Nandini’s love. Manik was confused for the first time that what he should choose between love or friendship.
“Why, Nandini? Why? Why did you fall in love with me? If I choose you, then I will lose Shivansh forever. I just can’t afford to lose him. His friendship is my strength. I will never able to live happily without his friendship. Whenever I have become weak, his friendship has given me strength. His friendship is like a blessing of god to me. I can’t lose it. I am nothing without his friendship… nothing. His friendship gave me a new life. How could I choose the love of a few days over the friendship of many years ?” He was questioning himself and he was going crazy.
“No, I will always choose friendship over love. Nandini’s love is nothing in front of Shivansh’s friendship. Shivansh’s friendship is most important for me. I can do anything to protect our friendship. I can spend my whole life alone without a life partner but I can’t spend my life without his friendship.” He got up, staring straight. At last, Manik again chose friendship over love.
Will he ever choose Love over Friendship? Will that day come when he will keep his love above his friendship?
Sujata came out of the room and going back to the kitchen with the plate filled with khichadi. “Sujata, why did you bring the food back ?” She stopped as she heard his voice. He walked toward her.
“Mam said she doesn’t want to eat now. She will eat after some time.” Sujata answered him.
“Is she crazy? If she doesn’t eat, how will she get fine ?” Manik murmured to himself.
“Sujata, give it to me. You go and prepare soup for her.” Manik ordered her, taking the plate of khichadi from her hand. Sujata left after nodding at him. Manik sighed deeply and walked toward his room.
“Nandini, wait,” He shouted as he opened the door of the room and saw Nandini. She was about to leave the bed. She was wearing a simple light pink colour lose gown. She looked up at him and he rushed to her. He kept the plate of Khichadi on the table.
“You are very weak. If you walk, you can fall.” He leaned over her and held her shoulders.
“I need to use the washroom.” Her words came out like a whisper at that moment because their proximity was taking her breath heavy and accelerating her heartbeat.
“You could have called somebody. Come on let me help you.” He wrapped his one hand around her back and held her shoulder from behind. He held her arm with his other hand. Nandini’s breath got stuck in her throat as his cold hands touched her warm skin, she closed her eyes in response. He made her stood up holding her in his protective arms. He was leading her to the washroom without looking at her, and she was only gazing at his face and her heart was thumping because he was so close to her.
“Call me when you are done ?” He said before closing the door of the washroom. As she nodded her head in response, he closed the door after last time glancing at her.
“It is even more difficult for me to control my feelings in front of you, Nandini, but I have to be with you because I can’t even leave you alone at this time. You need somebody to take care of you. You are my responsibility right now.” He was answering his heart why he was taking care of her after deciding that he would always choose his friendship.
He was sitting on the edge of the bed, twiddling his thumbs waiting for Nandini to come out of the washroom. As she opened the door of washroom, he stood up and reached her by taking long steps. He led her to the bed, holding her in the same way as before. He made her sit down on bed taking against the bed after putting the pillow behind her. He was covering her with the blanket and she was admiring him. The way he was taking care of her, she was falling in love with him more.
“Eat something. You need the energy to get fine.” He said after picking up the plate of Khichadi from the side table. He was sitting beside her on the edge of the bed. Nandini was not feeling like to eat anything but still, she couldn’t deny him. She just nodded her at him.
She finished the full plate of Khichadi, gazing into his eyes because he was making her eat with his hand.
“Now you take some rest. I will come back after some time.” He stood up after saying this to her. She didn’t want him to go. She just wanted to lay down in his arms comfortably at that time.
“Okay.” She nodded her head, but her eyes were asking him to stop and hold her tightly in his protective arms. Manik could read her eyes but still, he left the room with a heavy heart.
Nandini lay down and fell asleep within a few minutes only thinking about the last night because of the weakness and the effect of medicines. Manik came to check her and walked out of the room after finding her sleeping.
Nandini woke up after taking four hours of sleep as her phone rang up.
“Hello,” she answered the call in the half-sleep after picking up the phone from the side table.
“I have been calling you from ten minutes, Nandini. Where were you ?” Shivansh scolded her for not picking his calls again.
“I was sleeping, Shivansh.” She answered him, sitting up on the bed, holding her head, it was paining a lot.
“At this time? Didn’t you go to NGO? Are you fine?” Shivansh asked worriedly, sensing something wrong.
“I am fine, Shivansh. I was just tired because of the last night.” She instantly answered him.
“Nandini, listen. Keep a check on Manik. He tries to show himself fine but he is not fine. Mukti and Cabir, they were also out of Mumbai. So I am asking you to take care of him. I am just worried about him.” She could sense how much worried he was for Manik. He made her also worried.
“What happened, Shivansh? Did Manik tell you something?” Nandini asked concernedly.
“Yes. He is in love with the girl.” As Shivansh told her this, her heart broke down after knowing that he was in love with somebody else.
“But that girl is married,” As Shivansh spoke those words and her breath got stuck in her throat. She didn’t know why her heart said to her at that time that he was in love with her only.
“I asked him to tell me the name of the girl, but he didn’t. He just said that she could never be his. Nandini, I want to bring that girl to him. I can’t see him in pain. He is killing himself from inside by going far away from that girl.” Shivansh was on the verge of crying when he was telling Nandini about the reason of Manik’s bad condition.
“Shivansh, relax. He will be fine. If you fall weak like this, then who will handle him? You just don’t worry. I will take care of him.” Nandini tried to calm him down and assured him.
“Thank you, Nandini. I will call you later on. Take care.” Shivansh disconnected the call saying this because he was not in a condition to talk. He was a strong person but he was falling weak after seeing Manik breaking down in front of his eyes every day.
“Does Manik love me too ?” She asked this question from herself and a smile flashed on her face.
“No, how could he love me? I am his friend’s wife. Maybe it just a coincidence that he loves a married woman.” As she answered herself, her smile faded. She was confused if she was thinking right or it was just a coincidence.
She wondered about the past. She remembered vividly how he was apologising from Shivansh in sleep at the hospital. Now she understood the reason. He was apologising from Shivansh because of falling in love with her. He was guilty like her. She had never seen him talking to her while looking into her eyes. She understood that like her, he also tried to avoid eye contact with her. Everything was getting crystal clear to her and her heart was jumping inside happily after knowing that he was also in love with her the way she loved him.
“Why I didn’t see earlier that he also loves me? Last night he was so worried about me. The way he was saying that he would not let anything happen to me, it was clearly showing how much he loves me. I was such a fool that I could not see his love earlier.” She mentally slapped her mind for not seeing his love before.
“He loves me too. Manik loves me.” She whispered those words, having a bright smile on her face. She was overwhelmed with the happiness after knowing that her love was not one one-sided love.
That time only the door opened and Manik stepped into the room. Nandini looked at him, having a cheerful smile on her face and her eyes were sparkling with happiness. He felt happy and relieved to see her beautiful smile after so many days but he was confused. He strolled to her.
He stood beside her and about to say something, but before that, she said something unexpected to him which shocked him to the core.
“You love me too, right?” He widened his eyes in utter shock as she asked after holding his hand. He was not expecting this question from her. How did she come to know ?
Expected this or not?
What will be Manik’s reaction?