Next day it was the mehndi ceremony at the Kapoors. Jas had gone for an overnight stay at a relative's place in Pune. After putting in a brief presence for the mehndi, Rohit, Abhi and few friends decide to go out for drinks.
Noticing Abhi's absence, Akash keeps following Nikki around asking her to forgive him atleast once. Fed up of his pestering, Nikki tells him she doesn't feel like forgiving him, but she is ready to put the incident behind her and hopes he doesn't repeat the same mistake with anyone again. Akash insists on them being friends, but, Nikki tells him she is not interested and to keep away from her.
Later, when Nikki and Kavita reach home, after changing her clothes, Nikki realizes Pushpa has not kept drinking water in their room. She goes to the kitchen and finds her mother pouring a glass of water for herself.
"Nikki why don't you forget the past and be friends with Akash," she tells Nikki. "He is really very apologetic"
"I just don't like him Mom, so I am not interested in keeping any relationship with him," Nikki retorts.
" But, he is a nice guy just like your Abhimanyu."
"Don't you dare compare Abhi with Akash, Mom" Nikki yells at her mother.
"If Abhi was anything like Akash, the day I was drunk, my honour would have been shredded into pieces. Even though I wasn't in my senses, inspite of throwing myself at him, he didn't take advantage of the situation, whereas Akash," her eyes fill with disgust, "he hit on me, when I was completely sober. So there is a big difference between my Abhi and that snake Akash."
"Nikki, that is past now. He has changed. He comes from a good rich family." Kavita tries to reason with her.
"He may be filthy rich, but he also has a filthy mind," Nikki's anger was increasing with her mother's defence for that cad. "I can't believe you wanted me to marry him, Mom"
"I just wanted you to marry into a good family Nikki, but then, you never see anything good in whatever I do for you."
"Good?" Nikki yells loudly. "What good could you think about for that daughter whom you always wished dead."
Abhi unlocks the front door and enters the house. Hearing their high-pitched voices, he hastens across the living room.
Entering the kitchen he finds his wife and mother-in-law looking daggers at each other.
"What's going on?" he asks firmly. The two women stare venomously at each other. He realizes the bitterness between mother and daughter has now turned into poison.
"Whatever it is, I want this stopped right now!" He growls fiercely at them.
"No Abhi I am not finished yet." Nikki darts an angry glance at her mother.
"This is my mother who told me that me and my father were the same and rather than having a daughter like me, she would have preferred to see me dead," Nikki begins to choke.
Abhi looks sharply at Kavita who lowers tear filled eyes in shame.
"Calm down Nikki," Abhi holds her by the shoulder. "Its not good for you or the baby,"
He pulls her into his arms. Nikki sobs into his chest.
Kavita goes closer to them. "Nikki I didn't mean it. It was just said in a fit of anger."
"No Mom," Nikki lifts her head from Abhi's chest. "The fact is whatever happened between you and Papa, you put the blame on me."
"Nikki stop," Abhi urges tightening his arms around her.
Nikki is unable to stop. Tears keep streaming down her eyes and on to Abhi's chest.
"You hated the fact that I never stopped loving Papa and continued to meet him. Whatever I did was never good for you, because you were prejudiced against us."
Kavita's heart keeps piercing as she hear those words being hurled out from her daughter's mouth.
"Nikki, for God's sake calm down!" Shaking her Abhi urges.
"These past few years, I learnt to live without you Mom," Nikki chokes. "Why did you come? Why? To take away the little happiness I found? I wish you had never come."
"Nikki," Abhi rasps sternly. "Enough!"
She looks at him and can see the dismay in his eyes. Freeing herself from his grasp, she tearfully rushes out of the kitchen, while Abhi keeps calling "Nikki, Nikki" after her.
Abhi then turns to look at Kavita who is unable to meet his eyes.
"Abhimanyu, I am sorry," Kavita mumbles awkwardly
"I hope you realize your relationship with your daughter has soured real bad," he tells her gravely.
" Yet, I do know you both love each other a lot. All, this is happening because you both crave for love from each other but you, yourselves don't want to give it. "
"After all this, how can you say that?" Kavita asks him in a choked voice.
"For all your outwardly show of I don't care, I've seen how you watch tenderly over Nikki when she is sleeping. The many times, you have lifted your hand to caress her face. The motherly concern and fears, you try hard to hide, when she is feeling unwell."
She is unable to speak. Her cheeks are wet with tears.
"Why are you holding on to so much bitterness Mom?" he asks softly.
"I always believe people are never bad. It's the circumstances that make them bad. Your relationship with Nikki's father left you so embittered that you held on to that bitterness and took it out on to your daughter. In the bargain, you lost out on the best years of yours and your daughter's life."
Kavita gasps at the truth of his words.
"It's the truth for all of us. Instead of retaining the pleasures of the good times, we are quick to hold on to bitterness which only poisons our life and makes us behave unpleasantly.
"Abhi'" Kavita whispers, looking at her son-in-law in amazement.
"No, I am not a preacher, I am also that kind of human" he shakes his head with a smile. "I've learnt this lesson from my own experience. I almost lost Nikki with my bitterness, but then I got to realize my mistake early or else I would have missed out on the happiness that Nikki has brought into my life. And see now we are having our baby." His face is filled with joy and happiness.
He looks tenderly at Kavita.
"There is still chance for both of you," he tells her putting an understanding arm around Kavita. "Trust me when I say it. Just talk things out and show how much you love each other. Everything will be fine," he assures her. Kavita looks at him with tear-stricken face.
"Please, don't lose this opportunity," he tells her. "You may never find another." He then takes her in his arms. Comforted in the warmth of his embrace, Kavita sobs bitterly into his chest.
"Better than having a thankless daughter like you, I would prefer if you were dead" Those hurtful words kept haunting Nikki for the years to come.
It was after the meeting with Akash when Nikki told her mother what he did, she refused to believe it , saying Nikki could have been mistaken. When Nikki kept insisting it wasn't a mistake but Akash's deliberate attempt, Kavita felt she was using excuses to get out of the proposal. Sheetal and she were close friends and how is she going to face her, was the grouse she had.
"I don't care," Nikki tells her mother firmly.
"You are just like your father," Kavita tells her angry at her uncaring attitude. " You both do just as it pleases you. You, never bother about the feelings of other people"
"Don't bring Papa into this," Nikki warns her mother.
"Oh, I don't care a damn about him," yells a livid Kavita. " He has been dead a long time for me. But, it is because of you, I had to keep seeing his bloody face. That is why you have also become like him. I brought you up, yet, your support is always towards your father. Better than having a thankless daughter like you, I would have preferred if you were dead."
Nikki's heart splintered into pieces.
Today's showdown with her mother, opened that wound again.
Tears flow like an never-ending stream down her cheeks. She shuts her eyes.
Abhi enters the room.
"Nikki," he calls out softly, putting an arm around her as he sits beside her. "Are you okay?"
"I am fine," Nikki tells him wiping away her tears.
"I never knew you held so much bitterness towards your mother. I just thought you were upset with her over a small matter like she not coming for our wedding. The last part was way too rude Nikki," he chides softly.
'What about her constant rudeness to me ?" Nikki retorts.
Have you ever asked her what problem she has against you?"
"I don't need to ask that. I just know it. She just hates Papa and because I am close to him, she hates me too."
"Did you ever stop to think, that she must be having some reason to be angry with your Papa. Have you ever asked her why she hated him," Abhi attempts to reason.
"I don't need to. I know Papa is not wrong. She is the one who has caused so much of unhappiness for us." Nikki says adamantly.
"Why do you always take things at face value. What you see, you are ever ready to believe. Why don't you take that little effort, no matter how painful, to go to the root of the problem." Abhi questions her firmly.
"As daughter and parent you have a different relationship than the husband-wife relationship they had. If your mother is so embittered against your father and even if she is wrong, don't you think as a daughter it is your duty to get it sorted out, atleast to remove that bitterness, that resentment from her heart. If not for your mother, don't you think you owe it to that father, whom you love so much?"
The truth of his words hits Nikki. Speechless she stares at him.
"Look lets sort this out tomorrow," says Abhi. "Its pretty late for you. Now go to sleep. "
Nikki nods her head and lies down. Abhi goes off to the bathroom. After few minutes, he comes out having changed into a vest and slacks. Seeing Nikki turned on to the other side, he presumes she is asleep and lies down on the bed.
But, Nikki is unable to sleep. Abhi's words keep playing in her mind. She sits up and to Abhi's questioning of "what happened?" she tells him she'll get some water.
Abhi offers to go, telling her its too late and tiring for her, but, Nikki insists she wants to go.
"Please Abhi, let me do it. I just need that little walk and some time to myself, she explains.
Abhi nods his head understandingly.
"If you meet your mother, promise me you'll not argue with her."
Nikki promises him.
The living room is plunged in darkness. As Nikki walks towards the kitchen, she can hear heavy sobbing. She finds the switchboard and switches the light on.
She finds her mother sitting on the couch by the tall windows at the corner of the room.
Nervously, she walks towards her. Her mother looks up at her, face damp with tears. Feeling awkward, they are unable to look properly at each other.
"Mom," Nikki mumbles softly. "I.........I..........'' am very sorry. In fit of anger, I know I've said some hurtful and disrespectful things to you, which I know I shouldn't have."
"No Nikki, I am sorry. I never knew how much my angry and unpleasant words have wounded you."
"Its okay Mom," Nikki consoles.
"No, Nikki let me finish. You and me are of the same nature. We are not able to speak out our feelings so easily. Like Abhi says, I may not get an opportunity again so please , let me pour my heart out today,"
Nodding her head, Nikki sits down besides her mother.
"You see when your father and I married, we were very young. Our families knew each other, so we got paired up and we willingly agreed to marry. Coming from well to do families, I was always pampered and needed constant attention.
Your father, on the other hand, was the more mature one, amongst us two. He was a student of archeology, which I knew before marriage, and because of his work, we used travel a lot within and outside the country. Slowly, he was getting better assignments outside the country, which I wasn't too pleased about. Being a bit immature, I never realized after marriage a little bit of adjustments are so needed here and there, especially in the beginning years, so that things get stable later on.
Unhappy with moving all over the places and having a family in India, who highly pampered me, I preferred to stay back here. Your father was not too happy about this decision, but then he gave in just to keep me happy.
A distant marriage is never a good option especially if two people live in two different countries. The first few years were pretty okay with us visiting each other. Sometime later, he got a stable job in Spain. He was doing well in his field and his work increased, which meant he couldn't be travelling too and fro the countries when he had to be in Spain on a daily basis.
So reluctantly I moved to Spain with him. But, his kind of work needed a lot of research and exploration that took him to various sites, which gave rise to his coming home late. Yet, when he was home, he would shower as much love as he could on me and not let his work effect our few moments together. He did his best to keep me happy. But then that was not enough for an immature, pampered person like me. I wanted his constant attention and never understood that whether relationship or work, everything needs time to be established and once it does, it brings stability and peace. Those initial periods are the most trying and crucial onces. Its important to hang in there. But not for me, There would be constant fights between us.
And then you came into our lives Nikki. The first few years with you was pretty okay. I was so busy with you, that I managed to overlook his late comings. What I see now, which I refused to see then, he was constantly under pressure to come home to us as soon as he could, to give us as much as time he could and also to establish his career at a high level.
"Just a couple of years more Kavita," he would beg. "I am almost there and then we would be secure in life."
"And till then what do I do? Take care of babies?" That was our constant arguments.
"He doted on you and you on him. You would lap up all the love he showered on to you, something, which I should have done, but, did not do. I never saw that whatever time he gave us, he heaped it up with so much love. I guess like any other child, you saw only love and me, like most adults, saw everything else, but love.
Today, Abhi made me realize, that instead of holding on to the little pleasures of life, I let bitterness and resentment grow within me."
Nikki feels a sense of pride thinking of her husband.
"One day when you were 5 years, during one of our arguments I said some most hurtful things to him and came back to India with you. He did beg me to go back but, my stubbornness and ego, didn't allow me to see reason. Nothing could salvage a relationship that had soured bitterly and so we just drifted far away. 3 years later he met Shyla who was his assistant. They got close and then to honour their relationship, he decided to end our relationship legally.
I couldn't digest the fact that he could take on another woman in my place. I guess it was my ego. It shattered me completely. I wasn't able to handle it. I wanted to hurt him and that's when I used you against him. I knew he loved you more than any one in the world. When I refused to let him see you, he filed a case against me asking for equal rights. That bugged me even more. You were 9 years then and when the court asked you if you would live with your father or mother, you said you have to live with your mother but you cannot live without your father either. "
"I wanted to go with him Mom," Nikki reveals the truth she kept hidden all these years, inside her. "It was Papa who insisted I live with you. He thought you would be broken if I also left you."
Her throat pricking with pain, Nikki recollects her meeting with her father.
"I would be the most happiest man in the world, sweetheart, if you could live with me." Ajay Malhotra's eyes were clouded with tears. "But, right now, your mother is going through a very bad phase. Just as I love you, she loves you too. She'll be completely broken if I take you away from her. Also, living partly with her and partly with me, will only make your life even more unstable. So its best you live with her." His voice was breaking as he choked. "I hope what happiness, I couldn't give to her as a husband, you will give as a daughter.
Looking down fondly at his daughter, he continues, "Just remember Nikki, no matter where we are, you will always be my Princess and I will always love you." Nikki buries herself in his arms as they both cry bitterly.
"Oh God Nikki, what have I done ?" Kavita was devastated as she hears the truth. "And all along I thought he was instigating you against me. That is why I lashed out all my anger and pain at you. Every time you tried to protest, I thought you were doing it deliberately and after listening to your father. I hated your adamancy in keeping in touch with him."
"I had guessed that," Nikki whispers.
"God, if we don't wipe out anger and bitterness early in life, we fall into an evil rut. Without realizing it, I just fell into the vice of doing everything against you and your father. It made me so malicious and resesntful that the moment I knew your father would be attending your wedding, I didn't attend it. And look who is the biggest fool and loser ? Me! she sneers.
"Me," she chokes in pain, pointing fingers at herself.
"Your wedding took place, you found happiness with your husband and now your baby. Your father and Shyla, who is not your real mother, experienced the joy of seeing you as a bride and Me, the biggest Fool, stayed back juicing on to my resentment," her face contorts into disgust at her own self.
Burying her face in her hands, she cries inconsolably. "I hate myself now. I hate myself so much,"
Nikki's throat was hurting even more as she watches her mother breakdown.
"Mom," she whispers, holding Kavita around her neck, she pulls her in her arms. "Mom, don't cry," she consoles, her own tears flowing continuously.
"No Nikki, let these tears flow today. I need it to wash away all that bitterness within me." She chokes.
"I ruined my own life. I destroyed everything I had. My husband, my daughter, my home with this bitterness. I can't unwind those years anymore, but the few years that I now have to live, I can atleast live it with a clean heart, devoid of any bitterness and resentment." Her voice breaks.
"Abhi is right mom, as a daughter I should have taken that effort to find out the reason for your bitterness, perhaps, then we wouldn't have lost out on so many years. I should have told you about Papa, then, perhaps, you wouldn't have held on to all those grudges against him. Why didn't I do it?" she laments tearfully.
"I guess there is a time for everything my child. Perhaps in my anger, I wouldn't have believed you then, since, I was too blinded against your father then."
Then patting Nikki's hand, she places a kiss on it. "When things are out of control and God finds there is a still hope for repair, he sends an angel to perform a miracle.
"And our angel is Abhi." she tells Nikki who tearfully nods in agreement.
"Please forgive me Nikki, please I beg you," Kavita pleads
"Don't say that Mom, please don't say it." a tearful Nikki refutes it with the shake of her head. "We've both made mistakes. Now lets undo them. Its still not late. " Sobbing bitterly mother and daughter, embrace each other in a tight hug.
Tired and weary, Abhi fell off to sleep, with a little thought still at the back of his mind that Nikki is out of the room. It was the same thought that jerked him up from his sleep some moments later. The smoothness of the sheet beside him, tells him that Nikki had not come back. Rubbing his eyes, he looks at his watch. Its more than an hour since she left. He gets off the bed and goes in search of her.
Entering the living room, the sight by the corner window pulls the strings of his heart.
Nikki was fast asleep on the couch, her head resting on her mother's lap while her mother's protective arm around her. With the other hand, Kavita was tenderly running her fingers through Nikki's hair and with doting eyes she watched over her sleeping daughter.
Sensing them being watched, she turns towards the door and finds Abhi standing there.
She motions him to come near them. As Abhi goes closer, she smiles at him.
"I guess its best you carry her to your room," she whispers. "This couch is pretty uncomfortable for her."
Abhi smiles and nods his head.
Bending down, he tenderly carries Nikki in his arms and saying a soft "Goodnight" to Kavita, he turns to leave.
"Abhi," Kavita softly calls from behind.
"Thank you my son, Today, because of you, I got back my daughter."
"She was always near you, but, I guess today she is back in your arms." Moist-eyed Kavita lets out a joyous smile at him
"God Bless you my son" she tells him, her voice heavy. "God bless you always."
With the blink of his eyes he accepts it with a smile.
Once he reaches their room, he puts Nikki down gently on the bed.
He pushes back a strand of hair that fell over her face . "How angelic she looks in her sleep," he thinks. "When awake she can be one hell cat!" he shakes his head with a smile.
"Eesh Ah!" Nikki grimaces in her sleep. Abhi watches as her hand goes instinctively to her tummy and then she falls back to sleep. Abhi tenderly puts a hand over her stomach.
"Hush Baby!" he whispers. "Don't trouble your mother. She's had too much to handle for today. Let her sleep well. Can we make a Deal?"
"Abhi, thank you," hearing Nikki mumbling, he looks at her startled.
Realizing she was mumbling in her sleep, he heaves a sigh of relief. He then places a kiss on her stomach.
"Deal Okay!" he whispers, as his face dimples with a smile.
to be continued.....
PRECAP FOR PART 15
Taking short gasps, Nikki invitingly opens her mouth. Abhi slides his hand down to her face, caressing it slowly, up and down . Then with a sudden swoop, he bends down and fiercely claims her lips. The dam of passion explodes inside Nikki . She wraps her hands around his neck and kisses him back, responding to every hungry demand of his lips. Its been so long since he touched her like this and it feels like heaven