This series “After 8PM Meeting” is purely done for creative purpose. It’s my personal visualization on how the story could move forward.
The next morning Abhi is in the office leafing through some papers. Hearing a knock he called out “Come in.” and was surprised to see Nikki entering the room so early in the morning.
“Good Morning Dr. Modi,” she greeted him calmly and handed a file to him.
“These are the New Sanjeevani Progress Reports you wanted to see.” Her face was masked with professionalism, no traces of the animosity they shared the previous night. Taking the file from her, he told her he’ll go through the reports and let her know if any changes are needed. His tone was equally calm. Nikki nodded her head. She saw him watching her closely and began to her legs weakening. She mustered all the courage she could gather and quickly walked out of the cabin. Shutting the door behind her she let off the breath she had sucked in for so long.
Having finished for the day, Nikki was leaving was leaving for home. A ward boy informed her that Dr. Modi wants to see her. When she went to Abhi's cabin, he explained the changes he needed in the report. Nikki told him she would come early the next day and finish it as she had to leave, since she has some pre-scheduled programme at home. With an angry glare he told her he needed it immediately.
"Are you making such demands professionally or is it because you can't help let your personal issues cloud your profession?” she asked in irritation.
His eyes beginning to darken with anger, he strode closer to her. "How dare you ?" he hissed. "Do you know you are talking to your senior ?"
"I know who I am talking to” Nikki retorted, with calm anger “and I also know your opinion about me. You made that very clear last night. I heard everything and I understood it all. We are both professionals and so lets behave like one!"
“You want to know what professionalism is ? I'll show it to you!" he snapped as his face menancingly advanced closer to hers. Their eyes meet and they stood glaring daggers at each other.
There is a knock and the door is flung open.
"Dr. Abhimanyu Modi can I come in?"
Abhi turned towards the direction of the familiar cheerful voice. His expression changed from anger to surprise to happiness. "Adi!" he thundered joyously as he left Nikki and walked towards the cheerful looking man who had just entered. They were soon engulfed in a warm embrace and thumped each other loudly on the back. Nikki watched them with amazement. She has never seen such joy and cheer on Abhi's face.
"You Liar, you said you will not come!” Abhi punched Adi on the arm.
Adi laughed aloud. He was a young, good looking, pleasant faced man, as tall as Abhi.
"I wanted to see this look on your face Abs” he smiled. “ You wouldn't have given me this welcome if I told you before that I was coming". he winked.
Then realising Nikki was watching them, he nudged Abhi. "We seem to forget there is someone else in the room."
Abhi looked blankly at him for a moment and then turned around to see Nikki. It did look like he forgot she was in the room. Adi ambled to Nikki and extended his hand towards her. "Hi, Sorry for barging in like this! Just couldn't contain my enthusiasm. I am Aditya Puri, A childhood friend of Abs and you must be Abs'....." he stopped trying to find the right word. "Abs’ doctor ?” he finished with a smile
“Intern,” Nikki corrected him. “I am Dr. Nikita Malhotra” she shook his hand.
"Nice name, Nice to meet you !" Adi smiled at her.
"Same here!" Nikki returned with a warm smile
"Dr. Nikita you can carry on. Do make those changes and give it to me tomorrow " Abhi’s stern voice made them turn towards him.
"Ok Dr. Modi!” Nikki replied with a smirk. With a smile and an "Excuse me" to Adi she left the room. Abhi was still watching after her.
The clicking of Adi's fingers in front of his face brought him out of his reverie.
"Where are you lost? Set your heart on her have you ?"
“Shut up will you?” Abhi threw in annoyance making Adi laugh aloud.
Going around his desk, Abhi sat on his chair and reclining back looked warmly at his friend. "So you finally did make it! But why did you leave Sheetal in this condition!"
Sitting down opposite him Adi made a sad face, "What to do? For a long time, my friend has been insisting I come to meet him, so I had to leave my pregnant wife and came"
Abhi tossed a pen at him which he manages to duck, "You Nut!” he chided, “I didn't ask you to leave Sheetal behind! Now you put that crime on my head!” He then darted a searching glance at the room. “Now, Where is your stuff? I suppose you are staying with me! Right?"
“Yes of course!” Adi confirmed. “I put up in a hotel as I landed up at 3 am and wanted to give you this surprise.” Rising from his chair he said “Come on lets go collect my stuff and move to your place. We have so much of catching up to do."
“Give me half an hour, I have this meeting with the senior doctors and then I should be free”.
" Ok. Fine" Adi acknowledged.
An hour later when Abhi and Aditya walked into a hotel room, Abhi was stunned to see a familiar looking woman rising unsteadily from the couch to greet them.
"Sheetal!" he exclaimed with joy.
Scrambling hurriedly to her he engulfed her in a warm embrace. Whilst they were hugging, Abhi noticed the mischievous glint in Adi’s eyes.
“Yoooooou” he waved a fist at him. Adi knew he was itching to hurl a filthy expletive at him, but, Sheetal’s presence was stopping him from doing so. He grinned at his annoyed friend.
" This is truly a lovely surprise!" Abhi chimed, kissing Sheetal fondly on the forehead.
"Oh Abhi, we missed you so much !" Sheetal tightened her hold on him. She was a pretty, petite lady, dressed in a casual sleeveless top over loose black trousers. As they pulled, Abhi held Sheetal's arms and scanned her from top to toe.
"Its great to see you ! You are looking great! And Pregnancy seems to suit you!"
Sheetal laughs out aloud. “Yeah ! Yeah!” she shook her head knowingly and fondly patted his cheek. Abhi laughed.
He was then distracted by something beyoned Sheetal’s head. He realised someone was walking out of the washroom towards them and when he saw who the person was, he froze. "Nikki?" he whispered in disbelief. Nikki was equally stunned to come face to face with Abhi. Bewildered, they stood still, staring at each other. Sheetal followed Abhi's gaze and noticed Nikki.
“Oh Abhi, Adi, meet Nikita. She is a doctor too.” Pleasantly surprised, Adi stared at Nikki while Abhi was unable to mask the shock on his face.
"We met at a store nearby,” Sheetal continued. “I guess the jet lag and pregnancy made me feel a little dizzy. Nikita, who was in the store at that time, was sweet enough to help me and bring me back to the room."
“Nikki, this my husband Aditya and thats Abhimanyu, our dearest friend and family” she introduced oblivious to the shock the others were facing. Abhi and Nikki found it difficult to speak.
"We just met a couple of hours ago." Adi defused the silence. "Nikita is with Sanjeevani too. This is indeed a pleasant surprise!" While Sheetal stared at them in amazement, He smiled gratefully at Nikki.
"Nice to see you again Nikita and thanks so much for your help." He told her.
"Oh there is no need to thank me, I just did what I was supposed to do!" Nikki replied, returning his smile.
She glanced at Abhi. His stony stares was making her feel nervous and awkward. She turned to look at Sheetal. "I think I should leave now." she said.
"Well we came to pick up Sheetal since we will be staying at Abs' place. So why don't we drop you ?" Adi offered.
Nikki politely declined by saying, "No, I'll manage! I live here remember, I won't get lost !" She smiled at him again.
"Please Nikki, I insist! I'll feel good if you go along with us,” Sheetal pleaded . “Right Abhi?"
“Er, eh?” Abhi was taken aback with the sudden question. He then smiled weakly at Sheetal. .
"Yeah we'll drop you !" he told Nikki with a cold glance.
Sometime later they set off in Abhi's car, the two ladies seated behind.
"I am so happy to be in India and even more happy that we are going to be here for a month.” an enthusiastic Sheetal informed Nikki. Ruffling Adi’s head from behind, she continued “My busy husband has agreed to take a month's off from his medical life and focus all his attention on to me".
“See how Pregnancy helps!” she added, winking at Nikki. The other three smile.
“I didn't know that Mr. Puri was a doctor.” an astonished Nikki said. Adi laughed. Turning a bit, to look at the ladies, he said "Oh don't make me sound so old and formal. Please call me Adi. And, since I am exclusively on wife's duty I prefer dropping the doctor bit, when I'm not working." Nikki smiled.
"Lucky You Sheetal!" Nikki told her squeezing her arm. Sheetal blushed. She then notices the tiny stone studded bracelet Nikki was wearing. "Pretty bracelet!" she remarked. "Thanks!" Nikki acknowledged.
Noticing the car stopped, Nikki glanced out and then to Sheetal.
"Thats my place.” she pointed. “Nice to have met you!” They embrace.
"Oh nice meeting you too!” Sheetal patted her on the back. “We should catch up sometime!"
Nikki nodded. “If you need anything you have my number.” Unable to help herself, her eyes automatically roved to Abhi and saw he was staring at the road in front of him. Pain was pricking into her like needles. She was about to open the door, but saw, Adi has opened it for her. Smiling at him, she stepped out of the car.
"Thanks so much Nikita for your help with Sheetal!"
"There you go again !" Nikki chided. Both smile.
"See you around sometime Adi!" she said and walked towards her house.
Passing the front seat, once again she glanced at Abhi. His eyes were still fixed on the road ahead. Stung by his coldness, she quickly turned her face away. Adi was observing them intently. He was perplexed by the non exchange of goodbye between them. Going back in thoughts, he recollected their tense and angry expressions, the moment he burst into the Abhi's cabin. The lack of communication between them in the hotel room and the car. And now, no goodbye, not even an exchange of looks. Due to his own exuberance and excitement, he had overlooked all this. There is definitely something wrong here’ He concluded. He noticed Abhi’s eyes following Nikita till she reached her house. When she turned, he looked in the other direction. Nikki waved at Adi who waved back at her with a smile.
After she entered the house, Abhi called out to Adi, "Chalein?" Responding with a “haan”, Adi sat in the car.
“Nikita seems like a sweet person!” Sheetal was oblivious to the thoughts going on in the mind of the two men. Through the corner of his eyes, Adi saw the tightening of Abhi’s hands on the steering wheel.
"Isnt she Abhi? after all you know her better!" Sheetal prodded innocently.
“Hmmm” he muttered with a grim smile. Adi seemed to have found his answer.