Nikki went about the rest of the evening, plastering a smile on her face and mechanically doing what she was supposed to do. There was so much laughter, chirpiness, singing and gaiety at Sonam's haldi ceremony, but, Nikki was grieving from within.
"Are you feeling alright Nikki?" finding something amiss, Kavita kept questioning her, concern largely written on her face.
"I am fine Mom. Just a bit tired." She would reply to keep her mother happy.
Sometime later, when Nikki was lost in thoughts, Sonam comes near her.
"Nikki, with Kavita Maasi's coming and the wedding festivities, I am happy we bonded better. You see, earlier, I never really liked you. I thought you were too snooty."
That brought a smile on Nikki's face.
"And, I thought you were the snooty one." They look amused at each other and burst out into a laugh.
"I guess, at that age, everything is new for us, new found independence and we like to show off a bit. We also tend to look down on others especially family members," Nikki explains to her.
"Yeah I agree," Sonam nods her head. "Listen, Nikki I would really appreciate if you can come early tomorrow. My close friends will be around but I would still love to have my stylish cousin there while I dress up," she smiles.
Nikki is very touched. Holding Sonam's chin fondly, she says, "Of course, I'll be there. I promise, tomorrow, you'll be the most gorgeous looking bride."
They hug each other as Kavita and Amrita watch them with teary eyes.
With sadness filled in her heart, Nikki realises its all because of Abhi she got back her family, but , she seemed to have lost him somehow.
Tossing and turning in her sleep, Nikki finally sits up. She was missing that arm, which protectively held her every night. Looking at the empty space beside her, she looks at the time.
Its 2 am. Hasn't Abhi come back from Rohit's place as yet ? She begins to worry.
Stepping out of the bed, she goes out of the room and stealthily walks into the living room. She finds Abhi fast asleep on the couch. His deep breathing told her he was completely exhausted. Her heart wells up with love for him. Filled with an urge to caress his face, she kneels down beside him, but refrains from doing so lest she disturbs him.
"And if it is worrying you so much, I promise you. If these hands ever touch you again, it will only be for the mother of my child, NOT a man's touch for a woman."
How much these words tortured and tormented her the whole evening.
"I desire to see the birth of my baby, but, then not at the cost of harming you! If it helps, let me assure you that I won't take the baby away from you. If you want, take a lawyer's help. I will give it legally written that I will never try to take the baby away from you, no matter what happens to us."
She stares at his face with tears filling up in her eyes.
'I now realize how much you love me Abhi. You love me much, much more than I love you. Papa was so right!' she speaks in her heart.
Nikki recollects her father's words, "For someone to love you so much, he has to be prepared to face any kind of situations, even walk barefoot on a bed of nails"
"Today you walked on that bed of nails for me Abhi. I know how much it must have pierced you to do what you did, yet you did it for me. I was too blinded by anger and jealousy to understand your love" Her lips quiver and her eyes continue to brim with tears. Her throat was painful as she choked.
She caresses her stomach. "No Abhi, this baby will never ever feel its mother's bitterness and resentment to its father, because there aren't any. I love you Abhi, I love you and I promise I'll make it up to you. I promise," she shuts her eyes in pain.
The discomfort of kneeling begins to put pressure on her abdomen. Feeling a slight twitch inside she slowly stands up. Giving him a loving glance one more time, she quietly tiptoes out of the room.
Nikki stirs. She opens her eyes and looks around her.
"Ah, you've finally woken up!" her mother sounded relieved as she enters her room. "Was a bit worried. I thought I should wake you up now."
"What time is it?" Nikki asks, still drowsy,
"Its 11 am"
"What?" Nikki looks up sharply and quickly tries to sit up
"Yes Darling. Looks like you are really exhausted. Abhimanyu said to let you rest as much as you can.
Hearing his name, Nikki wonders where was he.
"Where is Abhi Mom?"
"Rohit has been calling him frantically every few minutes since morning. I tell you," she shakes her head in exasperation. "Inspite of everything being arranged and organized by wedding planners, people are still so nervous on the actual day." She laughs out aloud. "He drove Abhimanyu nuts till Abhi assured him he was coming over. So Abhi and Jas have gone to Rohit's place and will meet us only at the wedding venue.
"Oh!" Nikki was so disappointed.
"Don't look so sad Darling," she holds Nikki's chin. "Its only a matter of few hours. You'll see him in the evening."
Nikki smiles feebly at her.
"Oh, but, when it comes to you he can really be very authorative. He has asked me to call him when you wake up and tell him if you are alright He also firmly told me to take extra care of you in the wedding melee, see that you eat on time and don't exhaust yourself." Kavita laughs.
"He really loves you so much Nikki. Now, I am really happy you did not marry that Akash and gave him a deserving slap instead. I am so proud of your decision." She hugs Nikki warmly.
In her mother's arms, Nikki begins to think.
"Yes Mom, marrying Abhi is the only wisest thing your daughter has done, in everything else she has been so stupid."
As Nikki steps out of bed, the phone rings. Kavita who was sitting near it picks it up.
"Ah Abhi, yeah she just woke up. Yes she is absolutely fine, don't worry. Here speak to her."
When her mother hands the phone over to her, Nikki feels jittery taking it. .
I'll go get some milk for you " says Kavita, walking out of the room.
Nikki puts the receiver to her ears. To her disappointment, she hears the disconnected tone at the other end.
"I know you are upset with me Abhi." she says sadly, clutching the phone tightly.
Nikki looks at herself in the mirror. She knew she was looking lovely in the beautiful light burgundy saree with intricate sequined work studded with swaroski crystals. It was teamed with a matching blouse which was held by thin straps made of equally co-ordinated swaroski crystals and crossed at the back. How much she loved the saree ! The work was so simple yet stylishly done and the colour highlighted her delicate chiseled features making it glow even more
She recollects coming home, disappointed after shopping with her mother, aunt and cousins. She was unable to get a nice saree which she could wear for the wedding. Either they were overly done or too simply or the colour was not right. Inspite of going through so many designer boutiques and shops, there was none that really made her happy.
She entered her room and in an upset mood, flung her bag on the bed. Then sitting down on it, she tried to prop up the pillow against the headrest to support her back. Lifting the pillow, she found a big gift wrapped box. Excitedly, she pulls open the ribbon and opens the box to find the beautiful burgundy saree in it.
There was a tiny card lying over it. Opening it she read,
"Its my belief that its only this beautiful lady who can do justice to a beautiful saree like this. Hope you like it !" Abhi.
Nikki runs her hand over the saree. It was so pretty, that at the very first sight she fell deeply in love with it. She looked all over the room, but, could not find Abhi around. Over her strappy kurti, she quickly drapes the saree. Just as she was giving herself a final look into the mirror and straightening her pleats, Abhi enters.
Spellbound, he stands still, looking completely mesmerized at her. Then, in a dazed stupor, he slowly walks up behind her and looks at her through the mirror. Nikki turns to face him.
"You look even more ravishing than what I had imagined," he tells her, raising his hand to caress her face. A sudden thought alerts him and he pulls his hand away.
"Do you know what is the most difficult part of living with you is?"
Nikki looks questioningly at him.
"You are so enticing and no matter how much I try I just can't stay away from you," he tells her with a smile.
"Even I can't stay away from you Abhi." Nikki looks longingly at him. "You don't have to stay away. Not anymore."
"Di aren't you ready," Simran bursts into the room.
Startled, Nikki realizes she spoke to the mirror. 'Wish she had given this reply to Abhi then!"
"Oh My God, Di, you are looking so stunning." Simran's eyes were enchantedly dancing, on seeing her. "Jeeju is going to have a terrible time trying to keep away from you. Bechara toh gaya!" she laughs.
Nikki smiles at her.
They then go to Sonam's room to check on her. Sonam and all the other girls present in the room, were equally in praise of Nikki's looks.
"Nikki you better eat something before the wedding starts," Kavita enters the room with some soup. "Your husband has called so many times telling us to see that you do."
Nikki protests but Kavita says, "Eat Darling, or else he'll be upset." Reluctantly Nikki eats the soup as her mother feeds her.
After Kavita leaves, Nikki is happy with the thought that inspite of being upset with her, he still cared for her. There was still a glimmer of hope for her.
"I miss you Abhi" she whispers.
She feels a flutter from inside and caresses her tummy.
"Haan, Haan, I know you miss him too." She says with a smile.
to be continued ......
PRECAP TO PART 18
After everyone had entered, there was still no sight of Abhi. Nikki is baffled.
She stops Simran who was passing by and asks her if she saw Abhi.
"When I was at the entrance, along with the welcome party, I saw him standing with the baarat. He is looking very Hot Di," she smiles smittenly. "but, I don't know where he went after that. He doesn't seem to have come in here."
Nikki walks out of the lawn and looks around her. Abhi was no where to be seen. She begins to worry.
"Has your husband ditched you?" Nikki turns to see it was Akash. He was smiling at her. She gives him a cold look.
"I don't see its any of your business," she tells him icily.
Rohit pulls Nikki aside.
"Where has your husband disappeared Nikki? I need to speak to him desperately."