"Nervous?" Abhi asks Nikki, who was sitting beside him, twiddling her thumb. They were in the visitors lounge of the airport terminal awaiting her mother.
Nikki shakes her head in the negative, but, begins fidgeting the end of her kurti.
With a smile, Abhi shakes his head at her obstinacy.
"Nikki, relax!" he tells her taking her hand in his and pulling it tenderly over his lap. "It is only your mother," he soothes, as his fingers slowly makes space between hers, till both their fingers are firmly entwined with each other.
A tiny thought alerts Nikki to pull away, but, she begins to enjoy the comfort from the warmth of his hand.
She looks up at his face. His seductive smile begins to charm the strings of her heart and her eyes continue to be transfixed into his.
"Nikki Darling!" a husky female voice makes them turn towards it.
"Mom!" Nikki mutters as she sees her mother standing on the other side of the enclosure that separated the passengers and visitors.
They both stand up abruptly and make their way towards Kavita Ahluwalia, who was walking towards them.
She was dressed stylishly in a black shirt styled top over long black skirt and a printed scarf draped around her neck. As she got closer to them, her strong perfume begin to attack their senses. Abhi notices how mother and daughter shared well chiseled features, delicate built and diminutive stature. The sharp eyes, checking them out, signalled of a strong, domineering woman.
Nikki goes to her mother and they air kiss each other, exchanging a hug that was devoid of any warmth.
"I am so sorry, did I break your little romantic moment Honey?" she gives a fake laugh, the regret not reaching her eyes.
Abhi and Nikki smile awkwardly at her.
'Good Start!' Nikki is secretly pleased. Without even them trying hard, her mother caught them lost into each other.
"Are you okay darling?" Kavita's voice breaks into Nikki's reverie.
"I am fine," she smiles. "Meet my husband Dr. Abhimanyu Modi," she introduces, making signs at Abhi to come forward.
As he nears them, she takes his arm and possessively winds her arm around his. Amused at her action, a smile hovers on Abhi's lips. He then extends his hand towards Kavita.
"Hello Mrs. Ahluwalia!"
"Oh, Abhimanyu, nice meeting you. I am so sorry Jas and me couldn't make it to your wedding as we had already committed to something else."
"No problem," Abhi flashes a charming smile at her. "We were destined to meet, so here we are!"
"I always wondered who Nikki was marrying." Kavita glances haughtily at Nikki. "Amrita, my sister did mention you are a known Doctor and handsome one too, but, nowadays, you see one can never tell. Without thinking properly, youngsters make such hasty decisions to marry and then, regret it later."
Nikki squirms at the taunt in her voice.
Ignoring her taunt, Abhi smiles calmly at his mother-in-law.
"Well, in most cases, most of them are not guided properly into thinking before taking major decisions, but, I am sure you have guided Nikki well into taking the right decisions and will be proud of your teachings." The arresting smile continues to hover on his face.
Nikki was elated at his words. She was tempted to reach up and plant a kiss on his cheek.
Alarm bells begin to ring in Kavita's ears. Her son in law looked to be quiet polite and charming, but, can be a formidable one too. She nervously looks around.
"Ah! Here comes Jas" she says in relief, as she spots a man pulling a trolley with their bags on it.
He was a good looking man of average height, fair with a receding hairline, dressed in an expensive suit.
"Hey Nikki," Jas opens his arms towards her. She quickly goes to him and hugs him warmly, saying "Welcome Jas!
"Meet Abhi, my husband." Nikki motions towards Abhi with her hand.
Jas extends his hand to Abhi
"Hi Abhimanyu, I am Jasjeet Singh Ahluwalia, but you can call me Jas like everyone does."
Abhi smiles at him and shaking his hand says, "Nice meeting you Jas."
Jas looks at Nikki once again and says "You are looking even more prettier, than before. Looks like marriage has done you good."
Blushing, Nikki glances at Abhi who winks mischievously at her.
In the car, on their way home, Kavita tells Abhi "Abhi, I hope you have no problem with us staying at your place. You see, the old school of thought is that parents should not stay in a married daughter's home, but, I don't believe in such old fashion thoughts."
"Yeah, of course! It is also old fashion to attend one's daughter's wedding too," Nikki taunts, her voice saccharine sweet.
Abhi looks sideways at Nikki and makes eyes at her, motioning her to keep quiet.
He then says, "Its absolutely fine Mrs. Ahluwalia. It will be wonderful for Nikki to have close family, especially, now that we are expecting our baby."
"Nikki, you are pregnant?" asks a shocked Kavita.
Nikki nods her head throwing a glare at Abhi.
"Oh!" there was disappointment in Kavita's voice
"No wonder, her face is glowing," the excitement in Jas' voice soothes the tense atmosphere his wife's sharp tongue was creating. "Congratulations both of you!" He pats Abhi on the shoulder.
"Thanks Jas!" Abhi and Nikki reply in unison
"Oh yes! Congratulations !" Kavita manages feebly.
"Thank you" they murmur again.
When they reach home, Kavita is overwhelmed to see the huge house with interiors so tastefully and beautifully done up. After Nikki finished showing her around, they were seated in the living room, when Abhi's phone begins to ring.
"Hey Ma, how are you doing ?" he answers happily. Nikki watches him as he continues replying "Fine. She is fine too. Yeah I'll give her the phone." He hands over the phone to Nikki.
"Hello Mama," Nikki joyously greets her mother in law. Her words and enthusiasm , sends a piercing pain through Kavita's heart.
"Nikki, its been ages since we spoke, how is your aunt now?" Rachna asks her.
"Fine Mama," she replies walking over to the other room, hoping her mother in law discontinues asking her any more questions about the unknown aunt, so created by Abhi.
"So finally, someone is in a hurry to come into our world." Rachna's voice was teasing. "Congratulations Beta, This is lovely news."
"Thank you Mama and congratulations to you too. Be prepared to be called the Sexiest Daadi."
Nikki can hear peals of laughter from the other end.
"Thank you for the compliment Beta and it goes without saying you'll make a very sexy mom."
"Haan, Haan you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." Nikki burst out laughing which was contagiously carried over to the other end.
Its been ages since she laughed so freely.
"I hope Abhi is taking good care of you. If he doesn't, just give me a call and I'll set him right." Nikki was amused, imagining Abhi's ears being pulled by Rachna.
Nikki had the urge to hug her mother in law.
"Mama, won't you come down to us?" She felt a sudden craving for motherly warmth and talking to Rachna, she realized only she could provide her with it.
"I will come soon," Rachna assures her. "But, right now enjoy your mother's warmth for the short time she is there with you. I'll come later."
'If only you knew the truth Mama,' she thinks, eyes brimming with tears.
"Take care of yourself, the little one and also my Abhi." she signs off with a bye.
Nikki clutches the phone close to her heart.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and turns to find Abhi standing there.
"Nikki, dinner is served" he tells her. Then looking at her watery eyes, his expressions change to concern. "Hey, is everything alright?"
"Yeah," Nikki nods her head trying to avoid his eyes.
"Did Ma say something?" he asks worriedly.
"No Abhi, I am fine. I just wish she was here." She walks away with a puzzled Abhi following her.
Dinner was slightly strained with mother and daughter darting barbs at each other, whenever the opportunity arose. However, Jas and Abhi managed to cool down tempers, with their funny chat and jokes. Jas tells Abhi now that he is in India, he would like to eat at good Punjabi dhabas and Abhi should take him to a few of them. He ignores his wifes glares and turned up nose at the mention of dhabas. Abhi tells him he would love to take him there. During the course of conversation, Kavita asks Abhi to call her Mom like Nikki does.
"Mrs. Ahluwalia sounds too formal," she tells him. "Now that you are family, I guess its only right you call me Mom."
"Its not necessary though," Nikki tells him. "One has to get that feeling to do it. So only if you feel like doing it, then do it."
Under the table, Abhi puts his hand over Nikki's hand, that was lying on her lap and squeezes it, warning her to stop.
"Thank you," he tells Kavita with a smile, "I would love to call you Mom."
Nikki shifts uncomfortably in her seat and tries to remove her hand from Abhi's grasp, but he holds firmly on to it. Realising he was adamant, she finally quietens down.
Later an annoyed Nikki was pacing , to and fro, on the lawn. Abhi comes and stands in front of her. He folds his hand in front of his chest and stares darkly at her.
"What is it Nikki? Why are you so rude with your mother? I understand you are upset with her because she did not attend our wedding, but, then its over now. Just forgive and move on."
"You just stay out of this!" Nikki angrily snarls at him. "You don't know anything"
"Well there you are right," unfolding his arms, Abhi shrugs. "I really don't know this Nikki. You seem to be turning into some bitter marm these days, which does no justice to your beauty.
Nikki looks at him in stunned silence.
Abhi goes closer to her and looks down into her face. Putting a finger under her chin he pushes it up to face him.
"Look at these eyes. They are so, so beautiful. They are the lights of this beautiful face. Bitterness plunges them into darkness. They should always be sparkling." Nikki feels his warm breath fanning her face. She is unable to speak.
Abhi seductively caresses her cheek. Nikki shuts and opens her eyes.
"And then, this lovely skin, these lovely cheeks. How beautifully they glow when flushed with colour. Bitterness only makes them dull and lifeless." Nikki's cheeks turn red as she revels in the compliments, his soft mesmerizing voice, was dishing out to her. It sounded like music to her ears. Abhi brings his face even more closer. The smell of his aftershave mingled with perfume, covers up her entire senses.
"And these........" Abhi says softly and pauses.
"And these what ?" Nikki urges in a whisper wanting to hear more
"And ?" Nikki repeats
"And these lips, too beautiful for bitter words. How mesmerizing they are when they break into a smile." He runs his finger over them.
Nikki's heart begins pounding.
"Run, Nikki, Run," she hears her inner voice.
"No I want to stay. I am loving it. This is heaven," Another voice contradicts it.
"Don't be a fool, Once he claims them, you have no chance of escape."
"Gosh, they are so soft and......and.....kissable," Abhi's seductive voice breaks into her thoughts. As he bends down to kiss them, Nikki puts her hand on his lips.
"D....Don't," she fumbles, trying not to show him how much she wanted him to go ahead with the kiss. "Don't try to take liberties" she warns.
Abhi raises an eyebrow. "OK" he says resignedly making a sad fish face
Suddenly Nikki notices a slight movement from the guest room above. Through the corner of her eye, she sees her mother standing at the window. Quickly, removing her hands from Abhi's lips, she places her lips on them. Abhi is taken aback by the sudden onslaught.
'Blame it on pregnancy mood swings Boy!' he reminds himself as he succumbs to the pleasure of her lips.
"Oh, sorry to disturb you both, but I needed help," Kavita calls from above. "I want to call Amrita now and also need to charge my phone, so can I get some help?"
"I'll be there in few minutes " Abhi replies.
When Kavita goes in, he has a wicked smile on his face.
"Taking liberties with an abla nar? Now that's a delightful new side to you Nikki" he grins. Trying to hide a smile, Nikki pretends to glare at him. "Let me tell you, I just loved it," he tells her with eyes dancing with mischief.
Nikki's face changes into various colours.
"Please continue taking such liberties, I promise not to complain," Abhi teases, his face filled with mirth. Nikki looks around hoping to find something to fling at him. Realising her intention, Abhi walks off with a laugh.
Once he is out of sight, Nikki bites the corner of her lip, blushing profusely. With the shake of her head, a happy smile breaks out on her face
to be continued...