Abhimanyu Modi would never have imagined to see another man's arms around his wife. He keeps staring at those arms wanting to rip them apart. His fists curl up into a tight ball, at his sides. Eyes burning with jealousy, he looks at his wife.
'Abhi," she calls out softly, her heart leaping with happiness. Pushing away Akash's hands, she runs towards him.
Watching her unsteady movements, a worried Abhi quickly moves forward and just as she trips, manages to secure her in his arms, breaking the fall.
Terror stricken, she clings on to him. Her breathing is heavy.
"What is Mr. Unimportant doing here?" he asks crisply.
"I thought it was you," mumbles Nikki nervously.
Akash Khurana turns around and watches Nikki fall into the arms of a man, he presumed was her husband.
'Oh My God!' his eyes widen in horror. 'Abhimanyu Modi, Nikki's husband ? This can't be!
He finds Abhi's fiery eyes poring at him. The fire smoldering in those eyes was threatening to turn Akash into ash.
'Has he finally recognized me?" Akash wonders. 'I've got to do something, got to make peace."
With his arms protectively around Nikki, Abhi continues to watch Akash as he nears them.
"I guess she mistook me to be You," he tells Abhi.
Hearing his voice behind her, a petrified Nikki digs, even more, into Abhi.
"I gathered that," Abhi tells him frostily. "My wife is not in a habit of hugging strangers, but then," he glares at Akash, "I don't think I can say the same of you, Can I?" The bite in his tone stings Akash.
"Look, because of the darkness, there was a mistake," Akash manages feebly avoiding Abhi's eyes. "I have to be going," he mutters and dashes off quickly.
Looking down at Nikki, Abhi finds her shaking in his arms.
"You got frightened?" he asks her tenderly.
Nikki nods into his chest.
"Of the darkness or Him?"
Nikki is alarmed.
"How do you know him Nikki?" Abhi urges, in a soft tone.
"Abhi, its really not important," She looks at him imploringly.
"Not important enough to tell me, but important enough to fear him?"
Nikki knew she was defeated.
"His parents and my Mom are very good friends," Nikki finally begins to tell him. "Four years ago, when I went to London to visit mom and Jas, she wanted me to meet Akash. Both the families were very keen we marry. I had no such intention because I wanted to concentrate on becoming a doctor. With mom's constant nagging, I relented to meet him once" Abhi is listening with anxiety on his face, his arms still protectively around her.
"When I met him, I told him, I had no intention of marrying him, but, he was very sure that our parents would somehow get us married. So convinced was he, about our marriage, that he thought it was his right and attempted to kiss me on that very first meeting."
Overcome by revulsion, Nikki clings on to Abhi even more tightly.
Angered by Akash's act, Abhi stiffens but tightens his arms soothingly around Nikki.
"Then?" he asks softly
"He was unsuccessful as I managed to give him a hard resounding slap, telling him never to show me his face again."
"Good!" applauds Abhi.
"After that, we meet today. He is following me around begging for my forgiveness, but, something about that guy, I find repulsive, Abhi. He gives me the creeps." Her mouth begins to quiver in fear.
"Hush!" Abhi quietens her putting his finger on her lips. "Don't worry. I won't let him do anything to you. For some unknown reason I also dislike that guy. I don't know why, but I feel I have seen him before. I just can't remember where.
"Abhi, Nikki, is everything okay?" Rohit's concerned voice makes them turn towards him.
"Yeah," Abhi nods his head. "Its just that Nikki is afraid of the dark."
"Nikki, can I get you something?" Rohit asks her.
"No, I am fine now, thanks " she tells him with a weak smile.
"Abhi, I just saw Akash go inside. Did you meet him? How was your reunion? Tell me, I am curious to know." Rohit looks expectantly at him.
Abhi looks puzzled at Rohit.
"Should I know him? I feel I should, but my memory fails me."
"Oh My God! You don't remember Akash Khurana?" Rohit looks disbelievingly, at Abhi.
"That is his name? Its familiar too?" Abhi is astonished.
Rohit folds his hand and bows to Abhi saying, "Dr. Abhimanyu Modi, Tussi Great Ho! You almost broke his face and you don't remember the guy?" Akash is holding his stomach as he laughs heartily.
Nikki gasps. She looks at Abhi, who looks at her and then back to Akash.
"Me? When?" he asks in puzzlement.
"Remember 12th grade ? Shikha ?" Rohit coaxes
Abhi's eyes narrow as he goes down memory lane. When realization sets in, his face glows and he mouths a long "Ohhhhh!"
"Yes, now I remember!" he exclaims. Pointing towards the direction Akash had exited, he asks Rohit, "Shit this is that same worm ?"
"Yes. You got it right my friend," Rohit smiles as he nods his head.
Nikki , who was looking confusedly from one man to the other, butts in, "Can someone tell me what happened?"
As Rohit proceeds to explain the details to Nikki, Abhi goes over the incident in his mind.
It was exam time and students were busy preparing for it. On that particular day, Abhi and Rohit stayed up late in the campus. There must have been barely few students and staff on the campus around that time.
Rohit had gone down, to get drinks for them, from the canteen. It was in the basement of the building, whose first floor staircase they were sitting on. On the two floors above them there was an I.T centre and a library. Taking a break from his books, Abhi stands up and stretches himself. He leans over the ledge and looks out at the huge soccer field of the campus.
He, then, hears a girl protesting loudly "Stop it, Stop it I said. Help" It was coming from the floor above. Skipping two, three steps in between, Abhi dashes up the stairs.
On the next landing of stairs, he sees a boy trying to kiss a girl while she was trying to ward him off.
"What's going on here?" he calls out loudly. The boy turns to look at him. Abhi recognizes him as Akash. Though they were of the same grade, they were not in the same class. So they hardly met. The girl, however, was from Abhi's class. Her name was Shikha. She was a pretty, quiet and a studious girl.
Seeing Abhi, she takes the opportunity and shelters behind him.
"Abhimanyu, as I came down from the library, this Akash was asking me about some books. Then he pulled away my bag. When I protested he tried to get fresh with me," she explains with fear on her face. "He still has my books folder. I am getting late. I want to leave for home. Have lots to study."
Akash flashes an evil smile. "You want your books, come and get it." He holds up the folder with his left hand.
"Akash, don't be foolish, Just return Shikha's books to her. Its exam time and everyone is busy with their studies. No one has time to fool around."
"Who asked you to interfere between us?" Akash questions him. "You mind your own business."
"You are making a mistake Akash, I am warning you," Abhi growls. "Don't let me come to get it from you."
"Oh Really! lets, see," He says. "I know how to handle interfering nuts like you," He tells Abhi.
Looking around, he finds a rod lying nearby. He picks it up and is about to strike Abhi with it. Shika holds her mouth with both her hands in horror, while Rohit who had just come up, is stunned at what was happening in front of him."
Consumed with anger, Abhi prevents the hit by firmly holding the rod with his left hand and lifting his right hand, he punches Akash, hard on the jaw. He never expected it to be such a hard blow.
To their horror, blood started oozing from Akash's mouth and nose. It flowed down on to the floor along with a tooth. Akash slumped to the ground. Paralysed with fear, the other three were unable to move.
Meanwhile, the librarian and few other college staff came rushing to the spot and took Akash to the hospital. He ended up with a deep cut on the lip and loss of tooth, which need a minor surgery and fifteen sutures to mend it.
Abhi was lucky not to be punished by the school and pressed with grave charges, as Shika, boldly, told the Principal that Akash misbehaved with her and it was Abhi who saved her.
Akash's parents pleaded with the Principal, and with Abhi and Shika to take back their complaint, so that he doesn't get rusticated . After the involvement of Abhi and Shikha's parents, the matter was amicably settled.
When the parents wanted to make peace between the two boys, Abhi was not interested in meeting Akash. He told Akash's parents to carry his message to him " Tell Akash, I hope he has learnt his lesson and in the future, if I ever found him messing around with any girl again, then I should not be blamed for the consequences." He did not know whether his message reached Akash, but, they never met again. Post exams, Abhi had moved to medical college.
Coming back to the present, Abhi was amazed at life's surprises.
"How can you not recognize him Abhi?" Rohit laughs
"How could I? In school we barely met and that was what some 16-17 years back. We all looked so different then," he laughs.
Nikki smiles happily. When she had met Akash, she wondered how he got that ugly scar. Now she knows its her own husband's gift to him. She felt so proud of him.
"Something about that guy I never liked then, nor do I like now." Abhi says, with a steely faraway look.
"Me too," agrees Rohit. "I only tolerate him because Sonam and the Kapoors dote on him.
"Looks like that incident didn't change that ars........"Abhi stops himself in time. "He better not mess with my wife," he growls menancingly.
"Nikki, did he do anything to you?" Rohit asks worriedly.
"No Rohit, nothing to worry and now, I don't think he'll dare," she looks fondly at her husband.
Then trying to change the mood, she says.
'Thank God, Shikha spoke the truth Abhi or else you would have been in deep trouble."
"Why wouldn't she?" exclaims Rohit. "She was secretly in love with Abhi."
"WHAAAT?" Abhi and Nikki holler at him.
"You mean, you never knew?" Rohit looks amazed at Abhi. Abhi shakes his head in the negative.
"There you guys are !" Simran comes up to them, looking relieved. " Everyone is waiting for you, inside. They are playing some slow romantic numbers and we want all couples to dance."
Nikki declines, saying she was feeling tired.
"I am not asking you to do fast dance, Di" says Simran, teasingly "I know you can't do it in your condition, but, surely you can dance slowly.
Nikki looks at Abhi for help.
"We'll give it a pass," Abhi tells Simran. "Some other time."
"No we are looking forward to our favourite couples, dancing and you cannot break our hearts," Simran protests sulkily.
"Simran is right. You both have to dance." Rohit chips in. "Its my wedding yaar."
Then patting Abhi's back he says,
"Look Abhi, with these wedding festivities, we got an opportunity to reconnect. After you moved to medical, we barely kept in touch. Then I moved to Mumbai to handle our family construction business. It was only for the meeting with that minster that we were, once again, in regular touch. Yet, we haven't really hung out together, whereas, in school we were best friends. Now lets use these wedding festivities to spend some nice time together.
He then looks fondly at Nikki. " Also, look at the lovely coincidence, your beautiful wife is now my saali."
"Yeah but don't forget she is my Gharwali," Abhi warns teasingly
"Good Lord ! How can I ever forget that? I don't want to die so early in life" he winks at Nikki.
They all burst out laughing as they make their way inside.
As they enter, Abhi's eyes automatically finds Akash standing across the room. Finding him stiffen, Nikki follows his eyes and realizes the cause for it.
"Abhi" she whispers softly, tenderly rubbing his arm.
Rohit, too, has noticed the reason for Abhi's angst.
"Abhi, please relax!" he whispers.
"Don't worry Rohit, I won't create a scene," Abhi assures him.
Then proferring his hand to Nikki, he asks,
"Shall we dance?"
"Hmmnn" smiles Nikki as she puts her hand in his.
As Abhi leads her to the dance floor, Sonam comes to Rohit and asks him where the hell he was?
"Had to catch up with someone," he smiles
"Now can we dance?" She asks him
"Yes of course," he smiles at her. "But, please give me few minutes, I've got some unfinished business to complete. Will be with you soon Sweetheart."
He walks over to Akash and pats him on the back.
"I've got one friendly advice for you. Just stay, far away, as much as possible, from Abhimanyu Modi and his wife Nikita," he tells him with a smile. "He has now recognized you and if he could do what he did to you, just for a classmate, then Nikita is his wife and his life. Who better than you to know what could happen to that person, who messes with her! So be careful," he warns, smiling once again. He then walks off, leaving a stunned Akash, staring after him.
"Don't keep looking at me like that," Abhi tells his wife who was gaping at him with loving eyes while she moved her body in sync with his.
"Why?" she whispers, with a naughty smile on her lips.
"Its too tempting," he drawls seductively, bending his face closer to hers. " I'll have no choice but to kiss you here in front of everyone. Then, don't say I am taking liberties."
Nikki's face flushes with colour.
Then, moving her eyeballs from one corner to the other corner of her eyes, she asks,
"Abhi, was Shika pretty?"
"Hmmm, yeah you could say so," he replies indifferently.
"If, at that time, you knew that Shika was in love with you, would you have been happy about it."
"Yeah, why not?" he shrugs. "Who wouldn't be happy to know that someone loves them."
Uncomfortable with his answer, Nikki's face turns pale.
"Then I suppose you would have ended up marrying her." she pouts.
Abhi smiles at the glints of jealousy flashing in her eyes.
"Jealous?" he asks.
"Why should I be?" With a nonchalant shake of her head, she tries to brush it away.
"Hmmmn," drones Abhi with the raise of an eyebrow.
Then, putting a finger under her chin, he pushes her face to look at him.
"The moment I found the person I loved and wanted to spend my whole my life with, I married her and made her mine, forever"
Unable to contain the joy his words gave her, Nikki lowers her eyes shyly. Then lifting it up again, she asks softly,
"Were you jealous when you saw me with Akash?"
"What do you think I am ? A Saint!" Abhi asks agitatedly. "Of course I was jealous especially when I saw his arm around you. Wanted to cut them off."
Nikki smiles at the aggression in his voice.
"And me?" she asks softly "What did you think about me ?"
"I seriously began to think he was an old boyfriend, but, then Nikki, why didn't you tell me about him when I asked?" He gives her a hurt look.
"I don't think we can come this far in life without going through some crushes or broken relationships. I think we are now mature enough to understand this. And then there was nothing between you and Akash to hide!"
"I just felt uncomfortable talking about him," she explains. "Didn't my not telling you about Akash and then seeing me with him, make you suspect that there is something between us?" Nikki was eager to know
"I was jealous for sure. I can't bear anyone else to touch you, Nikki. It shakes my whole system," he tells her peevishly. "I was also a bit annoyed with you for not telling me about him, when I could sense you knew him before. Yet, old flame, however uncomfortable, is still understandable, but, something between you two?" there was incredulity in his voice. "This is difficult for me to believe!"
"How can you be so sure Abhi?" Nikki feels cagey.
"Because, we both are emotional people, Nikki. We look for meaningful relationships. Its not easy for, either of us, to flit from one relationship into another so easily." Abhi explains brushing a strand of hair from her face.
"It took us so long to work on our relationship. Earlier, we were highly insecure, because we were very unsure about ourselves and each other. But now, after all that we have gone through to attain this beautiful relationship, it would be foolish, on either of our part, to blow it all up. I agree, things will not always be smooth between us. We are only human beings with different natures. We may not see eye to eye on the same issue. But, a fling or relationship outside our marriage, that too so soon, thats not possible.
A slight worry begins to take over Nikki
"You don't believe in Us, but, I believe in the Power of our Love," Abhi continues with pride. "Moreover, now it is even more secured with this little one here." Smiling fondly, he pulls her hand towards her stomach. Nikki blushes.
However, there is a slight fear within her as her worry begins to increase. Abhi is so confident of them not having flings outside their marriage, but then that is the very reason she ran away!
"Just for information, why am I on the grilling seat ?" Abhi's teasing voice breaks into her thoughts. "Are you planning to elope? Something like feeding the sacrificial goat well enough before the actual sacrifice!" he smiles wickedly.
Nikki playfully punches him on the chest.
She looks awestruck at her husband, realizing she never ever fell out of love with him. Infact her love for him has deepened even more.
As his hand moves, gently and seductively on her back, Nikki closes her eyes in bliss and rests her head on his chest.
They may have been in a large hall full of people, yet, it felt, as if it was only the two of them, swaying romantically to the music.
When the music stops, Nikki opens her eyes and finds four pair of eyes, closely observing them from the seating area. One of them was even filming them with a videocam.
She nudges Abhi who looks at her and following her eyes, notices the smitten girls staring at them.
Looking at each other, they smile, bringing their heads together till their foreheads touch, much to the delight of their mesmerized onlookers.
to be continued........