"How are you bhabhiji?" Is your aunt fine ?"
Pushpa the housekeeper, happily greets Nikki, as she and Abhi enter the house. Nikki nods her head and smiles at her.
She looks questioningly at Abhi, standing behind her.
Bending forward, he whispers. "I told everyone you went to see an aunt who is very unwell. She needed a place to stay, due to family problems, so I offered her to work for us full time"
Seeing Pushpa's searching looks, Nikki tells her "I am fine Pushpa and so is my aunt,"
"Would you like to have anything?" Pushpa enquires eagerly.
"Yeah Nikki, you must be hungry," Abhi tells her. "Why don't you have something?"
"Actually I am feeling very tired and don't really feel like eating anything. I wouldn't mind some hot milk."
"I'll get it for you while you freshen up." Pushpa tells Nikki and makes her way towards the kitchen
Sometime later, the bedroom was highly strung with tension and silence. Awareness of the other, lying besidethem, made breathing difficult for the two people lying on the bed. Lying on his back with hands cradling his head, Abhi darts a glance towards Nikki. He finds her staring at the ceiling, lost in thoughts. He is tempted to reach out and touch her lovely face. Sensing his gaze on her, Nikki turns her eyes towards him. Their eyes clash. The longing in Abhi's eyes unnerves her. She quickly turns over to her side wondering what to do. She can feel the heat of his gaze on her back. A sense of uneasiness grips her whole body. She siits up jerkily, unable to bear the eeriness anymore.
"What happened?" Abhi asks her with concern
"Nothing," Nikki mutters, trying not to look at him. " Just thought, I'll sleep outside today."
Abhi sits up and sighs.
"There is no need for you to go," he tells her understandingly.
He, then climbs out of the bed and walks towards the door. At the door, he pauses and turns to look at her.
"I think it would be better if you come clean on what is troubling you. Perhaps, then things will be easier for all of us. No force," he shrugs. "Think about it. The choice is yours." He then walks out of the room.
Nikki keeps staring after him. She makes an irritated face at the shut door.
"Why does he always sound right?" Nikki wonders.
She turns towards the bedside table and sees the wedding gift she gave Abhi. Picking it up, she runs her hand on their picture. They looked so happy in it.
"I commit to be by your side'" she reads. Tears glisten in her eyes.
"I was always with you Abhi," she whispers, "but, you pulled the carpet from under my feet," She feels her throat pricking sorely as she chokes.
She recounts the night she saw Abhi and Sonali at The Park Hotel. She drove home like a maniac angrily wiping away tears as they kept flowing.
Packing her bag, she flings it inside the car and drives off. She didn't know where she was going. All she knew that she had to get far away from Abhi as much as she could.
Sometime later, except for a few stray cars zooming past her, the roads looked dark and deserted. It seemed like she was on a highway out of the city.
She must have driven for more than an hour, when a little distance ahead of her, she sees a car had fallen off the kerb and slammed against a tree. As she drove closer to the car, she notices an elderly man struggling to get off the car. Pulling her car to a side, Nikki quickly gets out and runs over to him. The man seemed to be in his early sixties. Blood was oozing out from the temple of his forehead having hit the steering wheel. He was panting heavily.
"Are you able to move?" Nikki asks him, looking through the window.
"My pills," he gasps breathlessly indicating to his bag lying on the adjacent seat. Nikki quickly runs over to the other side of the car and pulling out a bottle of pills, puts one in his mouth. Finding a bottle of water lying down, she helps him to drink it.
"Thank you," the man manages few minutes later as his breathing turns normal.
" The brakes failed," he explained his condition to her "and fear aggravated my astama"
"Don't worry," Nikki tells him checking his bruise. "I am a Doctor. Its just a graze, you'll be fine. Where do you live?"
"Just 2 kms away."
"I'll drop you home. However, you will have to guide me. I have no clue where we are."
"God Bless you my child," the man looks gratefully at her. "I am Sachin Mahtre and I live here in Panvel with my wife."
"I am Nikita Mo..Malhotra" she fumbles
She helps the man to her car and begins to drive.
"What were you doing out so late in the night?" perplexed, Sachin Mahtre enquires of her. "The highway isn't a safe place for a pretty girl like you."
Nikki keeps mum.
"You are running away, aren't you?" he questions her understandingly
Nikki doesn't answer. Following his directions, she continues driving till they reach his place. It was a beautiful house.
A worried Mrs. Mahtre panics seeing her bleeding husband. Nikki assures her that the wound isn't too deep and he would be fine soon. She cleans up Mr. Mahtre's wounds while Mrs. Mahtre brings some coffee for them.
As it was very late in the night, the Mahtres ask Nikki to stay with them. Next day Nikki came to know that Mr. Mahtre was the owner on an automobile showroom and the only son of the couple, has settled in Australia with his wife and two children. They used to let their top room to paying guests and their last paying guest recently moved out. They were happy to honour Nikki's request to move in as a paying guest with them. On her part, Nikki briefly told the elderly couple that she has separated from her husband and has no intention of returning back to him. Realising Nikki's reluctance to divulge anything further, they refrained from questioning her anymore.
Few weeks later, with the permission from the Mahtres, Nikki began to see patients at home. The couple grew very found of Nikki and did everything to make her comfortable at their place. They even gave her a room on the lower floor for her consultation.
To keep away thoughts of Abhi from clouding her mind, Nikki hurled herself deeply in work and started consulting patients from mid-morning till late in the evening. The first trimester of her pregnancy wasn't easy either. Bouts of morning sickness and inability to retain food, left her tired and weak.
One day Mrs. Mahtre, noticed Nikki sweating and breathing heavily. Feeling sharp thrusts of pain in her pelvic region, Nikki knew something was wrong. She informs Mrs. Mahtre she needed to go to the hospital as soon as possible or else she could lose the baby. The Mahtres were stunned to know of Nikki's pregnancy. They drive her to the nearest hospital.
The doctor on duty scolds Nikki for inspite of being a doctor she neglected herself and the baby. Stress, tiredness and lack of proper sleep almost killed the child inside her. Thankfully it was only a ligament pain due to uterine growth. She was hospitalized for two days and when she was discharged she was advised proper rest.
Back home, an overjoyed Mrs. Mahtre started fussing over Nikki. Nikki too reduced her consultations.
Finally, it dawned on her that it was time to focus on the baby completely. She is not going to let anything bad affect her and the baby. Not even Abhi. She had no intention of telling him of her pregnancy but then God willed it differently and here she was back in the same house with him.
Looking at the picture in her hand, her heart warms up to the smiling Abhi looking down lovingly into her eyes.
"After all that he has done, why don't I feel hatred towards him. I should feel it, but, somehow in my heart I don't. Why? Why ?" she keeps questioning herself.
"Should I ask him about Sonali?" she wonders.
"No, I can't do that," she shakes her head. "I can't go through that pain again." She begins to shudder. "What if he tries to cover it up with some excuse ? How will I know if it is the truth or not? No, its best I shouldn't bring that topic up. Atleast not for now. It can only upset me further. Right now my priority is the baby."
She goes out of the room and finds Abhi sitting on the couch, head leaning back, eyes closed.
Sensing her presence in the room, he opens his eyes and stares blankly at her.
"We need to talk, " Nikki tells him firmly.
"Well, about time," Abhi returns wryly.
"I don't want to talk about the past right now. So just lets leave it aside for the time being. Right now my two priorties are the baby and my mother. I want my mother to see I am happily married to you with a baby on the way."
"What about Us Nikki?" Abhi counters calmly.
"There is no Us, Abhi!" Nikki snaps back.
"And, how long can we continue like this? Why don't you just let me know what is bothering you?"
His cool composure was getting under Nikki's skin.
"No Abhi, not now, maybe some time later but not now," There was irritation in her voice. "Right now I don't want to say or hear anything about the past."
"Well suit yourself. " Abhi sighs resignedly. " I am not going to force you to tell me why you are upset with me till you, yourself, are ready to tell me. So, for now, as you say, we will forget about ourselves and concentrate on the baby and your mother . Anything else?" there was sarcasm in his voice.
Nikki nods her head. "I think its best if you sleep in our room. I don't want Pushpa to spill this to my mother."
"Oh!" Abhi mouths sardonically, with the raise of an eyebrow.
Nikki glares at him and walks off to their room.
Next day, sometime towards the end of the evening, Abhi is passing by the reception when he sees Nikki standing there.
"Have you decided to rejoin Sanjeevani?" he questions her with a smile. " Good, Good, right now we are in need of senior doctors what with the interns due to arrive in few days."
"I'..I'" Nikki stammers.
"Nikki, ready ? shall we go?" Dr. Keerti calls from behind.
Smiling at her Nikki nods her head in confirmation.
"Dr. Modi, aren't you coming along for the ultrasound, don't you want to see your baby?" Dr. Keerti asks him.
Abhi turns ashen pale. He looks at Nikki who nervously lowers her eyes.
"You forgot, didn't you ?" Dr. Keerti teasingly chides him.
Turning towards Nikki, she tells her "Nikki, don't make the mistake of letting him get away with it. These guys think when the wife is pregnant its holiday time for them. Get him involved in everything about the baby."
Nikki finds icy glints in Abhi's eyes.
"Some people think that fathers should stay far away during pregnancy," the bitterness in his voice told Nikki he was upset.
"Abhi, I......" she tries to speak to him.
"Dr. Keerti you both proceed, I'll join you in few minutes," saying that, he ignores Nikki and walks away.
Nikki keeps staring at him. He seemed to be very upset that she did not tell him about the ultrasound.
"Good, if he is upset, Why should I care ?" she thinks. "but then why am I not feeling elated about it?" she laments from within. Damn her stupid heart! It loses its identity when he is around.
"Are you okay Nikki?" Dr. Keerti puts a hand on her arm. Nikki looks at her and gives her a feeble smile.
After applying gel over Nikki's stomach, Dr. Keerti sweeps the transducer over strategic points on her abdomen. There is a knock on the door and Abhi enters. Flashing a smile at Dr. Keerti, he stands near the bed Nikki was lying on.
"There is your baby," Dr. Keerti tells him
The life floating on the monitor bring tears to their eyes. Nikki's hand automatically reaches out and finds Abhi's arm.
"Abhi our baby," she chokingly whispers.
Patting her hand, he nods emotionally.
"We've seen babies through the Ultrasound so many times before," he mutters looking intently into the monitor, "but, its such a different feeling seeing your own," his voice was heavy.
"I agree," Nikki whispers tearfully.
Dr. Keerti smiles at them both.
"I can imagine what you both must be feeling right now," she tells them.
She proceeds to check the baby's heartbeats.
Hearing the loud sounds of hearbeats of their baby, Abhi and Nikki look at each other with moist eyes. They keep on looking at each other stunned with the realization that this life is created by them.
"You both have to see this," Dr. Keerti's amused voice brings them out of their eye contact.
She points at the monitor. A smile breaks out on their faces, as they watch in amusement, the baby sucking its thumb. The sight brings laughter from the three doctors.
"You guys are lucky we were able to catch this," Dr. Keerti tells them with a smile. They nod happily at her. After working the transducer a few more places over Nikki's abdomen, Dr Keerti sighs in relief.
"Well, then Nikki as you can see from the ultrasound, everything is fine. Your baby is growing fine. Now that you are in the second trimester and beginning the 15th week , you can sit back and enjoy your pregnancy." She hands a damp towel to Nikki.
To the surprise of the women, Abhi takes the towel from her and gently begins to wipe away the gel from Nikki's stomach. Keerti darts an amused smile at Nikki whose face is flushed with colour.
"I hope you are taking your folic acid supplements and vitamins regularly," Dr. Keerti enquires of Nikki who nods her head in confirmation.
Noticing Abhi having finished cleaning up the gel and pulling Nikki's kurti over her stomach, Dr. Keerti smiles.
"Nikki, you are very lucky," She tells her. "Not only you have a doctor as a husband, but, a loving and caring one, too. Dr. Abhimanyu Modi is sure to make a lovely father."
Abhi smiles at her.
"I will always strive to be a good husband and father, whether anyone likes it or not, " he tells her, his voice crisp. Throwing an icy glance at Nikki, he then excuses himself from a perplexed Dr. Keerti and leaves the room.
Sometime later Nikki enters Abhi's cabin, and finds he is not there. She looks around the cabin and notices everything kept in neat order, indicating he was done for the day. She calls the receptionist and enquires about Abhi. The receptionist informs her, she saw him leave Sanjeevani.
"Oh No!" she sinks down into a chair. They had to go to the airport to pick her mother. If Abhi was upset, her whole idea of showing her mother she was happily married would back fire. She dials his cell, but he doesn't pick up. As she wonders, what to do, her phone beeps a message.
"Waiting in the car for you," It was from Abhi. She heaves a sigh of relief.
As she reaches the car, she finds Abhi leaning against it, hands crossed across his chest. Seeing her walk towards him, he opens the door of the car for her.
"I thought you left," Nikki mumbles awkwardly.
Abhi does not reply. Once he is satisfied she is seated properly, he shuts the door and going over to the other side, begins to drive.
Unable to bear the long silence between them, Nikki looks at him. Will he continue to be silent like this before her mother? She must say something, but what ?' she wonders.
"Abhi I know you are upset not knowing about the ultrasound, but, then,....
"How does it matter to you Nikki what I feel? You don't want to talk, you don't want to share information. You have the upper hand so you make the rules and all I have to do is meekly follow them," he sneers "Here I am following your rules of not talking and you still have a problem with that?"
"Abhi its not like that," Dammit! why was she pleading with him?
"Oh, now I get it, you are afraid I am not going to talk to you in front of your mother," he glances sideways at her.
"Don't you worry yourself about that. I'll talk in front of your mother, in front of Pushpa, infront of Dr. Keerti and all the staff of Sanjeevani, infront of the milkman, the bhajiwalas, all the walas and walis, in front of everyone we meet," he says scowling in annoyance at her. "but, when we are alone I won't say a word. If need be, I'll even plaster a tape on my mouth, if that will satisfy you."
Nikki is unable to control her amusement. Biting her lip to stop the laughter from erupting, she quickly turns her head towards the window. Once again glancing sideways, Abhi notices Nikki trying her best to smother her laughter. Realization of his own words begin to dawn on him. A wide grin breaks out on his face.