In the middle of the night, Nikki's blood curdling scream of his name, makes Abhi bolt up in fear. Disoriented and still trying to find his breath, he turns to look at her. In the dim light coming from her side of the table, he can see her struggling to sit up, but the heaviness of her stomach was weighing her down. Her lips were quivering, her eyes stricken with horror.
"Nikki?" he whispers, worriedly leaning over her. "What happened?"
"Abhi.." Her voice was barely audible. Somehow, she manages to partly lift herself up. Abhi meets her half-way, supporting her with one hand under her back and holding her shoulder with the other. Relieved it was him, Nikki wraps her arms around his neck, clinging on to it tightly and crying hysterically.
Abhi could feel her whole body trembling. Her breathing was coming heavily in between.
"Hush...........Hush," he rubs her back soothingly. "Looks like you had a nightmare.
"I........I........I felt a knife being pierced into my stomach." She wails, one hand instinctively going to her belly. Abhi, shakes his head consolingly and places his hand over her stomach.
"Someone was trying to kill me and the baby Abhi," a terrified Nikki clings on to his neck even more tightly and buries her head in his chest.
"Nikki, in this condition it is natural to have such nightmares. Don't worry yourself about it," he comforts her. But, Nikki was beside herself. She sobbed inconsolably.
"Nikki, calm down. Please calm down. Everything is fine." He continues to pacify her.
Gently, he pulls her up along with him and leaning over, he pours a glass of water with one hand and gives it to her.
"Here drink some water. You'll be fine." Nikki first refuses but on his insistence, gulps down a few sips.
He can see her eyelids were still droopy but fear was keeping her from sleeping.
"You are very sleepy Nikki, please go to sleep." He tells her, gently lowering her down on to the bed. Bending over her, his eyes were brimming with concern. He can see the turbulence in her eyes.
" Look, don't worry. I am here beside you," he assures. "Sleep!"
Her insides still pounding with fear, Nikki shuts her eyes hoping she is able to get some sleep. Abhi lies down on his back. Nikki, however, is unable to banish the frightful dream from her mind. Once again she opens eyes. Abhi can sense the fear, and uneasiness in her.
"Can you hold me?
"Do you want me to hold you?"
They blurt out together bringing an embarrassed smile on their faces
Looking at his outstretched and inviting arm, Nikki leans closer and lays her head on his upper arm. Bringing his other arm around, he clasps her tightly and protectively, at the same time, soothingly caressing her arm. Happy and secure. Nikki closes her eyes and within few minutes, she falls back to sleep.
Even though he was quiet tired, Abhi was finding it difficult to sleep.
A fond smile appears on his lips as he watches her sleeping peacefully, when barely few minutes ago she was all worked up. Her fingertips were lying soft on his chest and her soft whisper like breathing, sounded like music to him.
He could feel her abdomen as it lay against his hip, pinging a profound yearning in his heart, knowing that their precious life was there inside.
Nikki begins to stir. He wonders if she was waking up again, but no, she decides to make herself more comfortable and snuggles closed , now resting her head on his chest.
"Thank you wifey!" an amused Abhi's heart mutters sarcastically. "How can I ever trust you to make things easy for me!"
He was basking in the joy of holding the two lives, his most precious ones, in his arms. His heart swells with pride. He will do all he can, to see no harm comes over them. Caressing her hair tenderly with one hand and holding her abdomen with the other, he happily closes his eyes surrendering himself to sleep.
The next morning, Nikki was surprised to find her head on Abhi's chest, her arm was around his waist while her leg was over his. She colours, wondering how and when did that happen. Abhi was still holding her protectively.
She was surprised to see she was up before him, today. After a long time, she slept so fitfully.
'Perhaps it was the magic of these arms!' A contented smile plays on her lips. 'Oh what bliss! If she had her way she would have loved to lay in these arms for ever! '
She smiles once again, her fingertips playing on the fabric of the sleeveless vest. She wanted to trace her fingers on his calm face, but, knew she has to resist the temptation, lest he wakes up.
Reluctantly, she decides to move out from his arm. 'Uff what a heavy arm!' she muses, trying her best to get out, also, careful not to disturb him. Finally, with great difficulty, she manages to slip out from his grip. He stirs, mumbles something which was inaudible to her and then goes back to sleep. A warm tender feeling overtakes her watching him so blissfully relaxed.
Her eyes fall on the clock on the table at Abhi's side of the bed. Good Heavens! It was 8 o'clock and Abhi was still asleep. He never sleeps this late. He must be really tired. Her own restlessness in the nights kept him awake for most part of the nights. There is tugging in her heart watching him in such deep sleep. She did not have the heart to wake him up. But then, she also knew, if she didn't do it, he would be very upset getting late to work. 'Punctuality was his second name.' she makes a face at him. He hated being late or anyone keeping him waiting. Tenderly she puts her hand on his cheek.
"Abhi," she whispers.
"Aren't you gonna wake up?"
"hmmmn" he mumbles sleepily.
"Abhi, please wake up!" Nikki urges
"Yeah in a while!" he mumbles, enjoying the feel of her warm hands on his face. Unconsciously, he kisses the inside of her palm and turning on his side, hits back to sleep, his cheek was resting on her hand. Nikki was tempted to let him continue with his sleep, but then she knew hell will surely break loose today.
"Abhi you'll be late its 8 o'clock"
WHAAAT ?" His eyes pop wide open.
He looks at her and then at the bedside clock.
"Shit ! I am late! Damn! I forgot to set the alarm." He sits up, grimacing and flexing the arm Nikki slept on. Throwing the comforter off, he jumps out of the bed.
"Abhi relax, its no big deal!"
"No big Deal?" I have a meeting with the trustees at 8.30. Please, Please do me a favour. Call Sanjeevani and tell them I am running late. Let Dr. Shashank start off the meeting" He dashes into the bathroom.
Few minutes later, he walks back into the room, wearing only jeans. He goes to the wardrobe and searches for a shirt. "Why the hell has Pushpa started putting my shirts in this wardrobe, instead of the one inside?" he grumbles. "Wastes more of my time!"
"Not mine!" Nikki thinks dreamily as she stood near the wardrobe drinking in the sight of her shirtless husband. "I just love it."
Oblivious to her reverie, Abhi asks her if she called Sanjeevani.
"No" she tells him calmly.
Abhi stops his search and raises an eyebrow.
"No? Why?" he looks confused at her.
"Because the meeting is tomorrow, not today."
"It is today."
"Was. Now it is tomorrow. There is a message on your cell. Check it." she hands over the phone to him.
"Two of the trustees are ill so they have rescheduled it for tomorrow," she explains as he begins to read the message. "Sr. Menon has sent a message to you , early this morning and then, also to me to ensure you get the message somehow."
"Oh thank Goodness!" Abhi breathes a sigh of relief.
He then continues looking into the wardrobe. His back and hair were wet. Nikki was bewildered.
"Abhi you going to go like that?"
Noting her pointing finger, Abhi shrugs. "I don't care," he tells her, finally settling for a white shirt. "I have to rush, I am late."
"Wait! Don't you, put the shirt on !" she warns him, thrusting her finger at his face. Abhi is taken aback by her sudden attack. He gapes at her with open mouth, as she walks into the bathroom and comes out with a towel.
She begins to wipe his back.
"Nikki, I am late I have no time," he parrots his protest. " I have to rush,"
"Teek hai, Teek hai, its no crime. Anybody can make mistakes and mistakes can't be undone. Besides, its not as if you do it everyday. So stop being harsh on yourself," she admonishes him continuing to wipe the drops of water, off his back.
Abhi recollects these were his exact thoughts the other night. He also recollects the conclusion he had come to. How he had decided to work on their relationship by maintaining a distance. Right now there was hardly any distance between them, he perceives. Instead, she was too close for his comfort and it is definitely not helping his stance.
Nikki completes her task and observes him through the mirror. "Thanks," he mumbles and hurriedly puts on his shirt, trying his best not to look back into the mirror , knowing only too well her eyes were peering at him from his side. He gets ready in the quickest possible way he could manage, not because he was late, but because he could not trust himself when she is this close to him.
"I must be going now." He tells her, the hyperness completely gone only to be replaced by nervousness.
"Some tea? Breakfast" Nikki asks lovingly.
That was it ! Her persistence evoked laughter from him.
"Thank you," he tells her, amusement on his face, "but I'll catch up with them at Sanjeevani," He turns towards the door but stops and turns back.
"Oh, I meant to ask you earlier," he starts off. "How are you feeling now? That was one scare you gave me last night."
"I am fine now," Nikki replies "and I am sorry about it." She lowers her eyes apologetically.
"Look don't worry about it," he tells her softly " You know such bad dreams do occur during this stage. The less you think about it, the less there are chances of it recurring again."
"Thanks Abhi," Nikki tells him gratefully
"For what?" there was surprise in his voice
"For being there for me last night." She looks adoringly into his face.
"I am always there for you !" he blurts out. His unexpected confession take them both by surprise. Feeling awkward, Abhi glances away for a brief moment.
"I think I better leave," He tells her, smiling feebly, deciding it was best to change the discussion. Nikki nods her head.
Reaching the door he ponders over something and then looks back at her. "Just a small request," His eyes begin to dance with mischief. "The next time you need my arm as a pillow remind me to take an antidote for numbness," Observing Nikki's cheeks flushing with colour, he grins and turns towards the door.
"I can always massage it for you, if you want," Nikki hadn't meant it to be loud, but her words stumped both of them. Abhi stops in his tracks and looks at her astounded.
"Er.......Er..... " she flusters awkwardly. 'Really ! where did that come from!' she wonders.
Abhi is amused at her embarrassment.
'll take a rain check on that," he tells her, a naughty smile on his lips.
Nikki colours even more
"Bye!" he mouths as he walks out.
Nikki bites her lower lip and shakes her head with a smile.
Sometime during the afternoon, just as Nikki finished her briefing with her group of her interns, she was paid a visit by her husband.
He tells her something cropped up at the New Sanjeevani site, so he was heading there and may be late reaching home in the evening.
It was 7 pm. Nikki knew she should be heading for home, but, then she wanted to complete the patients' files her interns were handling. After signing the last file, she puts down her pen, calls the reception and asked the nurse on duty to send someone to collect the files from her desk to be given to Dr. Keerti.
Her stomach was growling with hunger. Should she stop at the canteen and grab something to eat? No, she decides against it. It was already late, she better head for home. Her sweet mother in law insists on keeping fruits in the ice box of the car, so that she is able to snack whenever she is hungry. She'll eat something from there.
Walking past Abhi's cabin, she peeps inside fully aware he wasn't there. What irony! she sighs, heading towards the exit. The day she is late at work, Abhi is not around. If he was, she could have gone home with him. And if he knew she was hungry he would have surely taken her for dinner. Perhaps she could use the oppourtunity to rile him even more with Panipuri. She giggles knowing how the very word makes Abhi shudder. She loves the hassled look on his face. He was even more cute and adorable.
Lost in thoughts, she never knew when she walked out of Sanjeevani and automatically walked towards the parking lot.
The sound of soft footsteps behind, alerts her and she turns to see if it was someone she knew. But, there was no one there. She found it strange, she did hear footsteps. The tiny path towards the parking lot was dimly lit. She should have heeded Abhi's advice to get the driver to bring the car to the entrance of Sanjeevani whenever she was ready to leave.
However, she wanted to avoid the chaos at the entrance with incoming and outgoing of patients which daily took ages for cars to move ahead. Also it gave her an opportunity to walk knowing it was good for her pregnancy. But today, since she was late, she should have called Premchand.
'These are the things which annoys Abhi. She always acts first and regrets it later,' she rues.
Deciding to call the driver and she dials his number but he does not answer.
She hears the sound of a car. Ah! There seem to be someone around,' she sighs in relief. A car was exiting the car park.
"Dr. Nikita," a young man calls out, halting his car briefly. Nikki recognizes him as Anjali's patient. "Its freedom for me," he tells her happily. " I got discharged today."
"All the best," Nikki replies with a thumbs up. He smiles and drives off.
Entering the parking area, Nikki looks out for her car. There were only few cars parked and no one seemed to be around.
"Premchand" she calls out aloud, hoping the driver was hanging around the car. She dials his number on her phone but got no answer. She can hear footsteps again. She turns once more. Again, there seemed to be no one. Her heart starts beating rapidly. She can sense someone's presence. Noticing the huge cemented block which held the fence dividing the two parking lots, she wondered if anyone was behind that.
"Is anyone there?" she calls out nervously. She wondered if she should go back, but then she has come away, quiet a distance now. She should find her car. She did have a spare key in her bag. She can drive away if Premchand was not around.
She hastens her steps inside the car park. To her horror, she realizes the footsteps have increased their pace. She begins to panic. Her legs have gone jelly. She is unable to take a step forward. Her whole body breaks into goosebumps. She begins to contemplate what should she do.
She now hears the footsteps running towards her. She was perplexed. The footsteps which she heard just a few steps behind her now seem to be coming from a distance. Scared and confused, she spins around.
"Nikki Bhabhi!" Sid calls out at that very moment.
"Sid! You!" Nikki gasps, holding her chest and trying to find her breath "You scared me," she tells him partly angry. She notices Premchand was also standing with Sid.
"Bhabhi, thank God I was able to get you," Sid was also gasping with relief. "I was trying my best to catch up with you. Sister Menon told me you just left. So thought I'll take a ride with you. So sorry if I scared you!" he looks sheepishly at her.
"That's fine. But why didn't you show up when I called earlier. Why were you following me quietly. Please don't play such pranks, I don't like it and you," she bellows at Premchand. "Where were you? Why aren't you picking up your phone."
"Sorry Madam, I went to the toilet and left the phone in the car by mistake." he apologises meekly lowering his eyes.
"Bhabhi I wasn't following you, I just left Sanjeevani few minutes ago and have come running right through," Sid tells her. "I did not walk and only spotted you now.
"Whaat?" Nikki is stunned by his revelation.
"Yes Madam," Premchand confirms. " I was returning from the toilet when I saw Sid Baba running ."
Nikki did not know what to make of it. "Please lets go from here," she tells them, her whole body having turned prickly, her stomach still churning with fear.
"Henceforth, she'll get the car to pick her up from the entrance," she decides as they make their way to the car.
Sitting in the car beside Sid, Nikki is happy to have someone who is close to her. She is sure she heard footsteps close behind her. Is she imagining things? Is the nightmare making her paranoid. Oh how she wished Abhi was here. She really needed him. No matter, whatever was his mood, whether he was angry or happy, one thing was for sure, she can find comfort no where else but with him. Like last night, she was able to sleep peacefully since he held her so protectively in his arms.
"Oh Abhi I miss you!" her heart yearns for him. Feeling a thud, she places her hand on her abdomen. Her face begins to brighten up. Atleast, she can feel Abhi's presence through the baby. She smiles happily.
PRECAP TO PART 30
“Simran is here?” Abhi smiles. “let me say Hi to her.”
Nikki didn't want Abhi to know why she called Simran here and she did not find the time to warn Simran against telling Abhi about it. What if Simran blurts out the truth to him? Nikki feels jittery. She has to stop him from meeting Simran.
“Its okay, you must be busy,” her hand on the knob, Nikki blocks his path by putting herself in front of the door. “I’ll tell her you said Hi.
Abhi is perplexed by her action.
“But why shouldn’t I tell her”
“No!” Nikki was vehement, not budging from her place.
Abhi looks suspiciously at her. He places his hand over her hand that was holding the door knob and brings his face closer to hers.
“What are you upto now?” he murmurs softly, looking enticingly into her eyes.
Nikki gulps nervously as she finds herself being captivated by his seductive eyes. Suddenly an activity inside the cabin diverts Abhi’s attention.
“Now why am I not surprised!” he exclaims.