Few days later, On a sunday afternoon, Nikki received a call from Sheetal who wanted to know where she got that pretty piece of bracelet from. She informed Nikki that since Adi and Abhi were playing tennis she would like to pick up a few things. Nikki offered to take her jewellery designer from whom she bought her bracelet. Sheetal was very happy with Nikki's gesture and told her she would pick her up as Abhi had left the car and driver for her. Nikki found Sheetal very easy going. The two of them had a great time shopping. Sheetal told Nikki that they have always lived in London and only came to India during their holidays. She is into interior designing and except for her own mother-in-law, they were always surrounded by doctors. Abhi's mother was a pedatrician while Abhi's and Adi's fathers are renowned cardio surgeons. They were best friends and both families were extremely close. So, Abhi and Adi grew up together. They did their schooling, medical college, internship, everything together. Abhi's parents died in a plane crash when he had just completed his surgical residency.
Sheetal’s cell phone rang. It was Adi checking their whereabouts since it was already 7pm. She told him that they are done with their shopping and were headed home. He wanted to know what were their dinner plans, whether she wanted to go out. She told him she was exhausted and why don't they get the cook to prepare a good meal for them at home, instead. She, then asked him to hold for few seconds and checked with Nikki if she would have dinner with them. She was petrifed of going to Abhi's house after all that happened between them the last time she was there. So, she politely declined.
“Oh come on Nikki, we've had so much fun today you must come home for dinner,” Sheetal insisted. Nikki didnt want to break Sheetal's heart and was wondering what excuse she could give to avoid the dinner.
"See an old saying says you should not refuse a pregnant lady's wish and I really wish you have dinner with us” Sheetal’s final words make Nikki reluctantly nod her head in acceptance. Adi, who was listening to their conversation, smiled happily even before Sheetal informed him, she would join them for dinner.
Nikki noticed Sheetal looking tired and flustered. “Are you alright ? you look very flushed!"
"I am fine, I guess being 22 weeks pregnant exhausts you quickly" Sheetal replied with a faint smile.
“You should take it easy." Nikki adviced bring a laugh from Sheetal. "You sound like Adi now !" and they both chuckled.
Abhi opened the door to Sheetal and Nikki.
"Did you guys have a good game?" Sheetal asked, hugging him.
"Yeah!" he replied "What about you? Had fun shopping?" His steely eyes were fixed on Nikki making her skin prickle uncomfortably.
"Oh we had great fun, right Nikki?” Giving her a faint smile, Nikki nodded her head.
“Do you know how much I had to coerce Nikita to have dinner with us ?” Sheetal complained. Abhi and Nikki exchange looks.
“Where is my husband ?" Sheetal asked entering the house.
"He is making some soup for you !” Abhi replied, his were still fixed on Nikki as she followed Sheetal in. Her hand brushed against his arm as she walked past him and there was tingling in her body. He shut the door and followed her in.
"Welcome You Beautiful Ladies!” a cheerful Adi greeted them. “ See what I made for you all !" He looked every bit of a chef with an apron around him. Sheetal laughed.
"Oh my darling chef, that is really sweet of you !” she hugged him warmly. Reaching up to his face, she seductively drawled “You deserve a bonus for that!" , and placed her lips over his. Watching them kiss passionately, Nikki coloured while an amused Abhi grunted "Ahem, Ahem!".
"Oh wow ! then I should have cooked dinner too!" Adi exclaimed in elation bringing laughter from everyone.
"Please, let it be !" Abhi threw wryly. "Do spare us !"
"Baby, you are warm and all flushed” there was sudden worry in Adi’s tone “Seems like you had a great time".
"Yeah we had fun !” Sheetal dreamily mumbled. “I think I'll go and freshen up."
After she left Adi tells Abhi and Nikki, he had to give the soup a finishing touch and will orgainise to serve it too. Nervous to be left alone with Abhi, Nikki quickly offered to helph him. "Are you sure ?" Adi asked. When she nodded her head, he conceded with an "OK". Abhi stared at them as they went into the kitchen.
After some time, Sheetal comes down having changed into a long blue flowery dress. They had the soup and praised Adi's culinary skills. Sometime later, as they were wait for the cook to serve their dinner, they talked about the happenings of the day. Sheetal suddenly held her sides and began to scream in pain. The other three rushed to her side asking her what happened. She told them of an unbearable pain in her abdomen. Abhi quickly dashed to the other room and came back with his kit. Abhi and Nikki went about checking her vitals. Pulling the thermometer out from Sheetal's ears and announced she had fever of 39.4 C. All three look shocked at each other.
"Looks like, we need an ultrasound. Got to take her to Sanjeevani right now," Abhi instructed. The doctor in him was sending alarming signals of an impending problem.
Worried, Adi sweept Sheetal in his arms and followed Abhi and Nikki to the car. Carefully putting her down on the backseat, he sat in beside her. Sitting in front near Abhi and on his instructions, Nikki called up the resident doctor telling him they were bringing Sheetal in. Sheetal's painful moans were getting the other three even more worried. After some time, she had quietened down as the pain seemed to have eased a bit.
"Adi I hope its not ......." she pleaded tearfully. Adi placed a finger on her lips "No, don't think about anything! Everything will be fine !" he kissed her forehead fondly.
"Sheetal Don't worry ! I am sure its only an infection! Don't stress yourself," Abhi assured her, turning his head sideways to look at her.
"Abhi look out ! a big pothole!" Nikki’s sudden outburst made Abhi turn and focus on the road.
As she automatically reached for Abhi in a bid to to stop him, her hand fell on his lap and fearfully held on to it as he maneouvered his way trying to gain control of the car. Since there were no cars near them, he managed to avert the deep pothole which was just before the approaching traffic lights. Relieved on seeing the traffic signal had turned red, he slammed the brakes and stopped the car. Everyone breathed in relief. Abhi then felt his body gripped in a sensuous spasms with Nikki's hand on his lap. His eyes smouldering with desire, he turned to look at her and found her hand on her chest exhaling in relief, while her eyes were closed. Slowly she opened them and turned to look at him. Seeing his eyes burning intensely, she flushed and followed them as they fell on her hand on his lap and then at her. Embarassment and shyness enflamed her face and she nervously pulled her hand away. Feeling awkward, they tear their gaze away from each other. Then looking at Adi and Sheetal, Abhi mumbled his apologies.
As soon as they reached Sanjeevani, Nikki offered to personally do Sheetal's blood tests while Abhi instructed the resident doctor to get the ultrasound done.
Few minutes later, rushed into Abhi's cabin. "Abhi, looks like there is a problem !" she said waving the reports in her hand.
What ?" he asked worriedly and leaning closer to her began to read the report.
“Damn! something I was fearing all along” he squeezed his eyes shut briefly “ Bacterial infection!"
“What should we do now ?" asked a concerned Nikki looking up at him.
"We first need to wait for the ultra sound reports. If the results are not fine, we may even have to terminate the pregnancy.” he said shaking his head sadly.
Nikki put a consoling hand on his arm. "I am sure the ultrasound will be fine, Abhi" she soothed.
"I really hope so"
Just then, Adi and the Resident doctor walk in. Adi informed them that the ultrasound result is absolutely fine. Abhi and Nikki heave a sigh of relief. He also tells them that Sheetal is being taken to the room. Abhi showed Adi the blood test reports.
"Oh No!" Adi was aghast as he read the results.
"Thank God the ultrasound is fine. Now this can be taken care of with antibiotics and complete bed rest for few days," Abhi said. Seeing the sadness on Adi's face, Abhi patted his friend on the back. “Don't worry yaar, the worst is over. She'll be fine soon" he assured.
He then gave a set of instructions to the resident doctor and left with Adi and Nikki for Sheetal's room. A drowsy Sheetal asked them if everything is fine. They all assured it was. While Nikki and Abhi were standing on either side of Sheetal’s bed, Adi was sittng on a stool near the bed. Adi explained to Sheetal about the infection and told her she had to stay in the hospital for a few days. Sheetal looked pleadingly at Abhi and told him she wanted to go home.
"You be a good girl, I promise to release you early," With a tender smile, he patted her head. Watching Abhi smiling fondly at Sheetal, Nikki was amazed to see a different side to him. Till now she had only seen him being stern and angry most of the time. He looked so different when he was happy and he was in a happy world when he was with Adi and Sheetal. The nurse entered to give Sheetal her medicine and left when she had taken it. “I am really exhausted," Sheetal murmured, her voice barely audible. "Will you be with me?" she asked Adi.
"Of course sweetheart, you know that!" He planted an assuring kiss on her forehead. With a faint smile, Sheetal shut her eyes and in no time fell off to sleep.
"Looks like she really exhausted herself today!" Abhi remarked.
"Yeah” Adi agreed. “Even you guys must be tired! I'll stay here with Sheetal, you both go home now!"
Abhi shook his head. "I think we should stay a while!" he said.
"There is no need,” Adi replied. “I am here, your doctors and staff are good, so we should be fine. You drop Nikki home and carry on!"
"Ok, see you then, Call me if anything!" Abhi told Adi and with a sign to Nikki, he walked towards the door.
Adi rose from the stool and looked at Nikki with gratitude in his eyes. "Thanks so much, you really did a lot for us!" he told her.
"You are embarassing me. I did exactly what you would have done in such a situation.” Nikki replied “ Also in such a short time I've really grown fond of Sheetal, so please don't embarass me.” Adi smiled. Putting an arm around her, he hugged her. Nikki smiled at him and walked towards Abhi who was watching them intently, while he was holding the door open for her. When she reached him, they exchanged a brief look and after Nikki walked past him, he followed.
They walked towards the car in silence, glancing briefly at each other, every now and then. When they sat in the car, Abhi moved his tired neck from one side to the other. A concerned Nikki asked if he was ok. Shaking his head, he told her he was fine. "Thank God, Sheetal is fine !" he mumbled with a faraway look.
"Yes, that was a real scare.” Nikki acknowledged with a nod of her head.
"Thanks for being around!" he said, looking at her with grateful eyes.
"Now you don't start saying thanks!” Nikki warned with a smile. He returned her smile. Realising this was the first time they shared a genuine smile with each other, they went silent.
"Would you like to have some coffee ?" he asked, hesitancy in his voice.
"Are you asking me because you want to thank me?” Nikki was unable to disguise the surprise in her tone “If so, you really don't have to do it. I am a doctor and its my duty too!"
"No, because I am hungry and I think you may be too. We could grab a sandwich there." He explained. "OK" Nikki agreed.
Few minutes later, they walked into the coffee shop of a hotel and ordered their coffee and sandwiches.
"You seem to be very close to Adi and Sheetal." Nikki couldn’t help ask him.
"Yes, they are my family,” Abhi replied, his eyes filled with fondness for the couple whom they just left in the hospital “ Adi and I grew up together. After my parents died in a plane crash Adi's parents who were always a second set of parents continued showering their love on me." Their sandwiches and coffee arrived.
"Yeah I know” Nikki nodded , “Sheetal told me about your parents".
Looking at the sadness in his eyes, she softly said "I am so sorry." Abhi tilted his head in acknowledgement. "What else did Sheetal tell you?" he eyed her with suspicion.
"Just about your parents, yours and Adi's growing years."
“Oh!” Abhi breathes a sigh of relief.
They ate their sandwich and drank their coffee in silence.
“Sheetal's mum and my mum are neighbours in London." Nikki broke into the silence.
Seeing Abhi’s surprised look, she continued, "I don't know if you know that my parents remarried other partners. My mum lives in London while Dad travels all over the world."
"It must have been hard on you." The empathy in his tone brought tears into her eyes.
Putting on a brave smile, she said "I am used to it now. It was difficult in the beginning, but now I don't feel anything at all!"
Abhi saw her swallowing a lump in her throat. Excusing herself on the need to go to the washroom, she quickly walked away. Abhi recollected the holi day, when in her drunken state, Nikki told him “Everyone leaves me and goes. Why doesn't anyone love me?” He looked back on all the good and bad moments they shared. Having felt a hand over his shoulder, he looked up and when he saw the face peering down at him, he froze. In a shocked stupor, he rose from his chair and then quickly collected himself.
"Do I know you ?" he coldly asked the woman standing in front of him. She was tall, perhaps a couple of inches shorter than Abhi, model slim figure, fair and very pretty.
"Now come on don't do this Abhimanyu,” she pouted. “ Why don't we just put the past behind us.” Abhi clenched his fists. Holding on to his arm, she continued, "Since papa was coming down for this doctor conference to India, I thought I'll take this opportunity to find you. We arrived this morning and are staying in this hotel."
"Simi, just stay away from me.” Inspite of seething with anger, Abhi’s tone was calm and controlled. “I have no interest in anything concerning you. So stay away,” he warned. "But I miss you so much Abhimanyu.” Simi pleaded, still clinging on to his arm.
On her return, Nikki was surprised to see a lady clinging and leaning on Abhi. "Abhi?" she called out hesitantly. Abhi and Simi turned to look at her. Relieved to see her, Abhi asked “Are you done?” shall we leave?" Nikki nodded. Angrily removing Simi's hand from his arm, Abhi said "Come on" to Nikki and walked away. Nikki looked at Simi and found her looking coldly at her. Perplexed by Abhi's behaviour, Nikki meekly followed him.
The silence in the car was long and unbearable. Nikki was relieved to reach her place. Mumbling a soft "thank you!" she stepped down from the car. Reaching the door to her house, she turned to look at Abhi. Their eyes meet and they kept staring at each other for a long time, till he tore his gaze away. Once she entered the house, she shut the door and leaned against it. ‘Why do things always have to go wrong between Abhi and her?’ she pondered with a heavy heart. ‘Just when they were opening up to each other, his mood suddenly changed again. Who was that woman? Why was Abhi looking so agitated on seeing her? Why was she clinging possessively on to Abhi ? Why didn't Abhi introduce her?’ The questions keep playing in her mind till she mentally exhausted, she fell off to sleep.