The party had come to an end. Almost all the guests had left. It was only Rohit, Sonam, Simran, Amrita, her husband and the gang who stayed back. While the elderly people were inside the house, the youngsters were chatting outside.
‘Wow ! What fun!” an ecstatic Muskaan says happily, as the group were sitting around a big table. “After a long long time we are all here, together.”
“Yeah,” says Atul “Good to have you guys back!” he tells Armaan and Riddhima. “The group seemed incomplete without the two of you.”
The others voice their agreement.
“and looks like we have some lovely new additions to the group,” Riddhima says looking at Rohit, Sonam, Simran and Sid. They smile at her
“Since tomorrow is Sunday, why don’t we have some more fun?” Armaan tells them. “Everyone will be busy for the rest of the week. Lets have a friendly basketball match. What say Abhimanyu?” he looks at Abhi.
“I thought a boxing match would be more ideal between us!” Abhi tells him wryly.
“NO!” Nikki, Riddhima and the gang holler out loud. Abhi and Armaan grin at each other.
“Relax Guys!” Armaan tells them. “Can’t you see he is joking.”
“How about you guys?” Armaan asks Rohit “Do you like basket ball?
“Love it” Rohit replies
“Me Too!” Sonam, Simran and Sid utter in unison and then look at each other.
“Great!” Armaan exclaims. “then we’ll all meet at our court tomorrow.”
Everyone agree. Amrita comes to them and tells Rohit and Sonam they should leave now. Atul, Anjali and Muskaan also decide to leave. Nikki asks Riddhima to stay back for some more time. Abhi tells her he’ll see the group to their cars, parked outside the gates. Armaan and Sid join him.
Left alone with Riddhima, who was sitting opposite, Nikki smiles fondly at her.
“Riddhima, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you both here. Missed you guys so much.”
“Same here Nikki,” Riddhima tells her happily “Remember the last time we were together, how excited we were when we discovered you were pregnant?
A wide smile spreads on Nikki’s lips. She nods her head happily.
“So how is the pregnancy doing ? I hope you have had no problems.” Riddhima’s eyebrows narrow with concern.
“No, its been an absolute breeze ! A bit rough in the initial days, but now, except for acute drowsiness at early dawn, everything else is fine.”
“Nice to hear that, I am so happy for you both ,” The happiness for her friend truly shone on her face. “Tell me what was Abhimanyu’s reaction when you told him you were pregnant. You went to surprise him, after seeing us off at the airport, right? How did he take it? He must have been stunned!”
Nikki freezes as the whole Park Hotel scene flashes in front of her eyes. She remembers how upset and heartbroken she was. How stupidly, she ran away and hid, till Abhi found her and how badly she treated him even after that.
Abhi’s reaction? She recollects how Abhi felt her stomach and came to know of her pregnancy. He didn’t hear it from her. How much that must have hurt him! Morever, her distrust of him, shattered him even more. How will he ever forget that! She is not able to forget or forgive herself for it, How will he? Everytime he is made to face this harsh truth, it will only make him sore.
After such a long time, he was in one of the best moods today. Even though, there is still tension between them, she can see he is trying his best to put everything behind him. Without her doing much, he has started on the road of healing Raw wounds don’t heal overnight. She has to ensure he doesn’t get upset again. She has to see that the miserable past does not show its ugly head in front of him again..
“What happened Nikki? Where are you lost? Tell me what was Abhimanyu’s reaction when you told him about your pregnancy?” Riddhima squeezes Nikki’s hand that was on the table.
“Yes Nikki, why don’t you tell your friend how thrilled I was when you told me about your pregnancy!”
A cold shiver runs down Nikki’s spine. She didn’t have to look at him to know it was too late, the damage was done. The coldness in his voice expressed it all. Somehow, she braces herself with courage and looks up at him. His eyes were frigid, his jaws stiff and his fists clenched on either side. Her lips begin to quiver for lack of words.
“It must be such a wonderful feeling when your wife tells you she is expecting your baby!” Coming up behind Abhi, Armaan pats him on the back. He makes him to sit next to Nikki, while he sits down beside Riddhima.
Nikki and Abhi keep staring at each other. She can see pain and anger has overtaken those very eyes that had filled up with passion a few hours ago.
“Absolutely beautiful experience!” he says, swallowing a lump in his throat. His icy eyes not leaving Nikki.
Armaan takes Riddhima’s hand in his and looking into her eyes, says, “I am looking forward for the day when you give me such news. I don’t know how I’ll react. The thought itself excites me!” Riddhima blushes. They are lost into each other not knowing on the other side, the newly formed scab of a deep wound has been painfully scraped over, once again leaving it bare and open.
“I wish you never have to miss out on this beautiful experience my friend,” Abhi tells Armaan, his eyes now shuttered. Only the heaviness in his voice betrayed the anguish he was experiencing from within. “Very few men are so fortunate!”
Needless to say, the evening which had started enchantingly beautiful eclipsed into a dark dreary night.
Lying on the bed, Nikki’s thoughts were on the lonely figure reclined on the balcony chair. She knew he was hurting real bad. She was feeling even more miserable that she could not do anything to comfort him. Any attempt on her part would only worsen things between them.
The bitter memories like a distasteful medicine spread its bitterness all over the place.
Abhi is once again reminded of what he was slowly trying forget. He remembers the first time he felt the life that was a part of him, inside Nikki. Instead of joy there was shock "You are pregnant?" His own shocked words still echoed in his ears. If he didn’t search for her, he would never have known about the baby.
How she tried to deny his part telling him “this is my child,” her exact words. How she told him they were not one and that their marriage was over. How, he had to beg for what was his own right.
"You are my wife and now you are having our baby. I want you and the baby in my life. So please come back."
And even after that, he lived with her bitterness, her resentment, her repulsion of his touch. Her repulsion hurt him the most, shredding his heart to pieces. It made him believe that he had wronged her so badly in some way that his very presence disgusted her. Little did he know then, that he was wrongly paying for a crime he never committed.
How do I forgive you Nikki? How do I wipe away this pain? How ?
How he wished he could just kill her and then kill himself! It would be the simplest way to end all the pain and misery between them. But then, even the thought of her going through the slightest of physical pain was killing him. He has every reason to hate her but his heart doesn’t concede. Why Dammit! Why? Weakness was never his virtue before! How has it suddenly taken over his life!
Why does he feel the need to see her happy when all that she has given him is pain? Why does he always feel the need to protect her when she is always ready to attack him ? How much he hated himself for being so weak where she was concerned.
"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."
Damn! Damn! Damn, what happened to that promise today? How did I forget it ? How ? How could I !” he angrily flings his phone that was lying on the table, to the ground.
Hearing the thud, Nikki dashes to the balcony.
“Abhi” she whispers. He clenches his fists tightly.
“Go to sleep Nikki.” He growls in anger not looking at her.
"Abhi,” Nikki still calls out to him. His whole body has gone taut. “How do I sleep Abhi, when I know you are hurting because of me.”
“Don’t get into it Nikki, JUST GO, Dammit!” he hollers fiercely, his eyes were blazing.
Nikki shudders in fear. He was so loud that the baby inside her moved. Eyes stinging with tears, she quickly puts her hand on her abdomen.
Abhi then realized he made the mistake of looking at her eyes. Her eyes has always been his undoing. It is these eyes , that defeats him all the time, like they did this evening, the moment he looked into them, like they always do in every of his endeavours to keep distance between them. Right now too, he finds himself weakening seeing the moist pleading and pain in them. They just tug at his heart strings. He can see she is also hurting and he is beginning to hate himself knowing he is the cause of it.
He then notices her hand on her stomach. Much against his will, he softens his stance.
“Are you okay? Is the baby fine?” the words automatically shoot from his mouth.
Nikki nods her head.
“Go to sleep Nikki, Its way too late.” He coaxes. “Please Go!” he pleads softly.
Swallowing a painful lump in her throat, Nikki goes inside.
Sleep was completely elusive for the two aching hearts who were lost in deep thoughts. Oblivious to them, though far away, their thoughts were in tandem with each other.
Abhi : “When will I overcome my pain. When will it stop pricking me ?”
Nikki “I know how painfully you are pricking today Abhi. I know how much you tried to overcome it.
Abhi “When will you stop hurting her Abhi? You know she is hurting to see you like this. Its there in her eyes.”
Nikki “It hurts me even more Abhi to know this pain has been given to you, bye me.”
Abhi “You were the one to set everything right for her, her family, her friends, now why can’t you make things right between you two?
Nikki “He was the one who always made things right for me. Now, how do I set things right between us ? This time, he is not on my side.
Abhi: Everyone makes mistakes Abhi. Mistakes can’t be undone. One can only ensure they are not repeated and Nikki seems to have learnt from her mistake. Its upto you whether you should let the dark past ruin the beautiful togetherness you’ve both, once again, found in the present and the happiness that lies ahead. Haven’t you both lost enough?
Nikki “Everytime I look back on that grave mistake of mine, I realize how much I really lost. I lost everything when I lost you Abhi
Abhi : What’s stopping you Abhi? Don’t you love her anymore? Do you feel she doesn’t love you? You can see the love in her eyes, its there in her response to your touch.
Nikki: How can I forget how sweetly you softened towards me, inspite of your hurt, inspite of your promise. It has to be love that makes you retrace your steps towards me, against your own strong will, Abhi
Their beautiful moment in front of the mirror flash before their eyes. The hunger, the passion, the love was written all over in that kiss.,
Abhi remembers how beautifully she responded to his touch. How much she wanted him. There was no resentment, no repulsion. They all seemed to have vanished completely. It was only her need and love for him that showed.
Nikki reminisces how ecstatic she was when he touched her. It was as if she was on top of the world.
And then the dance, how lost they were into each other. How much they craved to be with each other.
They still have so much between them, the love, the passion is still so very strong. They just have to get rid of the ugly skeleton hovering over them.
Once again Abhi begins to question himself, “What do you want her to do Abhi? Beg? Grovel? Suffer? Would you be happy with it?
Nikki: What can I do to undo my mistake? How can I make up to him? I badly want to, but I don’t know how.
Abhi : “I don’t know, what I really want her to do. I definitely don’t want her to plead, grovel or suffer. I will not be able to take it, but then, I want something more. I really don’t know what! Perhaps more of herself ?
Nikki: Perhaps its time to give more of myself to you Abhi. To put your feelings before me like you always did for me. To confront every of your anger, resentment, bitterness with calm and patience like you did with me. You worked hard to keep us together when I fell apart, now its my turn to keep us together. I won’t let you fall apart.
Abhi runs his fingers through his hair in desperation. He realizes it was just yesterday, Nikki put herself in danger only to prove her love for him. Even if it was a stupid attempt and did make him angry, nevertheless, she did it only for him, for his attention. He can see she is desperate to redeem her mistake and is ready to walk any path, no matter how thorny or dangerous to make it upto him. He realises this is the very reason he is unable to hate her for what she did, even though he still hurts over it, even though it still makes him cautious and guarded.
Nikki, on the other hand is thinking she has to do something to make Abhi overcome his hurt. She wished she could take him in her arms and comfort him like he always did when she was hurting and unhappy.
Abhi : I am going to try my best to overcome this pain. I know I will. I just need some time and the best way is to maintain a distance between us till I am able to exorcise this demon completely out of me, till I am able to look straight into the past and not flinch even slightly.
Nikki: “I am going to try my best to understand you better and stand by you, Abhi. Take as much as time you want, I will always be waiting for you, waiting for the return of my husband, the love of my life. Its only a few steps more.
Abhi : I am not going to ruin Us. I am ready to battle with myself to overcome this pain. And I will not do it for the baby or the mother of my child, Nikki. Its only going to be for you, my love, my wife, my need.
Nikki : Its not for our baby, Abhi, I will do it only for you, because I love you very much. I really hope you will be able to forgive me some day.
“The baby is ours and will always have our love”
Their unified thought brings a tiny smile on their lips easing their stress, with a promise of a shining new world.
Few minutes later, Nikki hears him get into bed, beside her. She closes her eyes in relief. A flutter in her stomach makes her put her hand on it. She realizes the baby held them together in the worst phase of their relationship. It was because of the baby, Abhi was much softer and patient with her inspite of his pain and angst. “Thank you Baby,” her heart speaks silently as exhaustion begins to overtake her. She remembers his attempt to soothe the baby in the evening, taking them on to the road of passion. A smile playing on her lips, she takes the passion of their kiss along with her as she closes her sleep filled eyes.
Wondering if Nikki and the baby is okay, Abhi clenches his fist tightly resisting the temptation to turn and comfort her . After several futile attempts he finally gives up. Turning on to his side, he slowly lifts up his body and peeps over her shoulder. Finding her in deep sleep, he shuts his eyes in relief. Then looking at her hand on her abdomen as if she was trying protecting the precious life inside it, made his heart flutter with tenderness. It dawns on him that it was only because of the baby, hatred did not rule over them. He lifts his hand and placing it on her stomach, caressing it slowly, careful not to wake her up.
“Abhi,” her soft whisper startles him and he abruptly pulls his hand away. He looks at her and realizes she was mumbling in her sleep. He lowers himself down on to his side and surrenders himself to sleep.
PRECAP TO PART 28
“Hey guys, don’t fight yaar, we’ve all had so much fun after a long time.” Atul tells them
“Haan yaar” Muskaan quips in.
“No champ its never fun when he is around,” Armaan tells him
“Armaan!” Riddhima and Nikki plead with him.
“Well lets have fun your way Armaan!” Abhi tells him coolly . “Its been long since we had a boxing match. Tonight will be fun when I box the hell out of you once again!”