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Alone long after the others had finished, she was deep in thought, nursing a final cup of coffee, when a warm hand grasped her shoulder and Sonia leaned over.
"May I join you, my dear?" she croaked hesitantly, aware that she had called Nikita back from the far reaches of contemplation.
Relieved at this pleasant rescue, Nikita nodded her head eagerly ."Please do, Sonia! As a matter of fact, I have been wanting to speak to you."
The elder woman frowned, her lips drawing down amid the host of time-hewn creases. "Oh?"
"No nothing like that!" Nikita smiled at the other's sudden seriousness. "Actually its a good news. I've got contact sheets for you to see. They are beginning to pile up and I'd like to do some enlarging. But you'll have to tell me which frames appeal to you, which you feel would be most appropriate for your book."
"Ah, I see." Visibly she relaxed.
Nikita continued her progress report. "I'm thrilled with what I've gotten so far. I think you will be too. But you've got to tell me if I am inadvertently missing things which you'd definitely like included."
"Uh-huh. I get the point" the elder woman mused thoughtfully. "I'd really like Tarun to see them too. He should be arriving tomorrow or the next day. Can it wait until then?"
"Sure. I have plenty of other stuff to work on anyway," Nikita her. Then she paused, noting the other's reticence, quite of character for the ebullient director. "What is it? What's wrong, Sonia?" The woman appeared to be preoccupied, but looked up quickly at Nikita's concern.
After a moments hesitation, she ventured forth. "Have you seen Abhimanyu?" Her weathered faced carried an apologetic expression as she awaited an answer.
Nikita's insides jolted involuntarily. "Ah...not since yesterday," she replied quietly, struggling to instill an evenness in her voice to belie her inner thought. "Why?" Did Sonia know something of the goings-on between her and Abhi? A sudden coldness gripped her, quivering though her veins spasmodically.
But Sonia's next word put those particular fears to rest. "He wasn't at dinner last night, nor breakfast this morning. No one seems to have seen him. I'm getting worried." Her face reflected her sentiment. "Its not like Abhimanyu's vanish like this."
Nikita knew that their encounter the previous afternoon must have had something to do with his absence. And, as much as she fought it, she found the worry contagious. Slowly she shook her head. "I haven't seen him, Sonia," she repeated, a frown furrowing her brow. "I wish I could help you, but ..."
"How are things going between the two of you?" Again the jolt to her insides. "Oh, all right, I guess. We have our ups and downs." She smiled in embarrassment which the other woman regarded closely.
"He hasn't been the same this summer, Nikita." Sonia elaborated on her concern. Within her listener, the warring resumed; on the other hand, she didn't want to hear a word about Abhi, while on the other, she listened with bated breath. "He has been much more tense, preoccupied, brooding. I don't think other can see it as much I can." Here was the elder lady, disturbed by the faltering of a favorite member of her summer camp. Yet, what could Nikita say? True, their confrontations may have temporarily disquietened him and rightly they should have. But would the cool, composed Abhimanyu Modi have been that bothered by them? She doubted it. And as to what else might be eating at that unfathomable soul of his, she would be the last one to know.
Sonia must have sensed the train of thought. "I just wondered if you might have known anything." she added hesitantly, apologetically.
"I'm sorry, Sonia. I really don't. We aren't on the best of terms, as you may have guessed. He certainly would never confide in me if he had a problem."
Sonia gave her a final probing glance before she wrinkled up her nose and whisked her worry into the air with a wave of her hand. "Acch, he is a big boy. I'm probably worrying about nothing. He'll show up." She smiled somewhat dubiously as she patted Nikita's hand. "Thank you anyway, my dear. And I want to see those sheets as soon as my Sonny arrives."
"Sure thing," the photographer promised as she watched her friend take her leave and head out of the dinning room. Unbidden, Sonia's worries sprang back into Nikita's mind. Where was he? Was he all right? The question stealthily nagged at her as she checked the counselors'' bulletin board for her schedule for the day. It hovered in her as she found her way slowly and circuitously- by way of the photo shed to mix a fresh batch of chemicals for the morning's lessons.
She sat down in the warming sun on her steps to jot down some notes on her lesson plan. Could he have been that angry at her? Tripods and close-up filter for bunk ten. Was her presence that disdainful to him? Self-portrait on Azo for the little ones. No, there must have been some other emergency. Burning and dodging for the printers for bunk nine. Where would he have gone overnight? To see his wife? A girlfriend? To her subsequent bafflement her hackles began to rise at the thought of either.
But had he gone overnight? That was the implication, but was it true? Impulsively Nikita decided to find out. Crossing the grove she made her way to cabin A. She had never been in it, had avoided it like the plague until now. Hesitantly she climbed the steps, her own vague concern - intermixed with guilt feelings galore - urging her onwards. At the top, she rapped. No answer. Again she knocked. Still no answer.
Shading her eyes from the bright sun falling against the door, she leaned forward and put her nose to screen, feeling more like a peeping Tom than a Sherlock homes, yet intent on learning whether he had indeed slept in or not. Against her better judgment, she let her eyes scan the room, identical structure and furnishings to hers, yet totally different in decoration.
From the masculine brown of the geometrically patterned quilt on the bed to the dignified stack of book and journals on the shelves to the intimate slant of frames pictures atop the bureau to the casual array of oddly strewn sneakers lying on the floor.
For a brief moment she squinted back at the picture and she reproached herself, her original purpose had been served. Abhi's bed was neatly made. Given the fact that he had missed both meals, there was only one conclusion to be drawn. She turned and descended the steps, head down and deep in thought.
His voice, low and harsh, brought her head up with a jerk "Were you looking for something?"
"N-no. No," she gasped, simultaneously relieved, mortified and blushing under his cold stare. "Ah''..actually yes. You." Honesty seemed the only way, when one's hand was caught in the cookie jar, she mused. He had obviously seen her at his cabin as he walked down the path. Now he stood opposite her at the bottom of the steps. She couldn't help but noticed that he looked drawn and tired, his hair tousled, his clothes wrinkled, his face shadowed in need of a shave against his always well-presented.
"You look terrible!" she exclaimed spontaneously, the words having escaped without her permission. In the instant, as she regarded him, the events of yesterday flooded back and she paled in turn.
Form his superior height he looked down at her impatiently, his gray eyes flashing their ill humor. "Is that what you wanted to tell me?" His curtness quickly brought her to her senses. "No, I was'''.. Sonia was worried when she couldn't find you. She asked me if I knew where you were. I just wondered if you'd slept late."
"I didn't, "he growled. With both hands on his hips, he was as intimidating as ever. Again Nikita recalled the last time she had seen him, and her only instinct was to run away.
"Sonia will be pleased you're all right, "she mumbled as she moved away toward her own steps.
"What about you, Nikita? Were you worried?" Though the faint mockery in his tone there was a strange hoarseness such that, with her back to him, she couldn't interpret his intent.
She shrugged with feigned indifference "I wasn't particularly aware of your absence until Sonia brought it up in the morning." She lied, biting nervously at her lower lip.
Slowly and deliberately Abhi walked to where she stopped. "You never answered my question." Confused she spun around. "I just told you-". "I m not referring to this morning,"he interrupted. There was an old look in his eyes, an unsure which was so out of keeping with his character that she attributed it to his tired state. His voice was barely audible when he finally spoke. "That first day I asked you, now I want an answer. Do you really hate me as you let on?"
Momentarily taken aback by his bluntness, she lowered her eyes. Then, sighing with resignation, she looked up at him. "I don't hate you, Abhi. I never have," she confessed wearily. Then, when she could take the intensity of his stare no longer, she turned and continued on her way, shaken inside but otherwise unscathed. It had been one of the least traumatic of their encounters.
The next day, unaware of events happened, Tarun Bajaj arrived at summer camp. As always, the camp seemed to take on a subtle undercurrent of the excitement when he was around, almost as though the real business of summer camp. Nikita was also delighted to see him again. The contact sheet she prepared were excitedly received by both Bajaj, the only problem of being that choosing which pictures to be printed in summer camp magazine. In the end they begged Nikita for most all of them, and she obliged, unconditionally pleased with her photographic success. Despite the inordinate amount of work this undertaking would entail, she relished the idea, especially for its therapeutic value.
were no further unexpected absence on Abhi's part and encounter with her. To
Nikita's relief, aside from original explosion, there appeared to be no other
fallout from Abhi's discovery that Nikita had a child. As for Nikita, she
seemed oblivious in any change in her status. She noted that two, Abhi and
Alya, were as close as ever. Although she had mixed feelings about the
friendship to begin with, given its existence. She felt relieved that Abhi had
chosen not to hurt the child by taking out on her, a grievances which he held
against her mother. Parting at the end of summer was natural and inevitable in
the camping experience; a midseason rift would have been harder to explain, to
one as young and venerable as Alya. But as the midpoint of the summer approached,
it was her own emotional survival about which Nikita began to have doubts, as
one thing after the other conspired to throw her into the company of Abhimanyu
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-------------------------------------------After few weeks-------------------------------------------------------------
"Hey, Nikita!" Shikha's voice rang through the screen door as Nikita was gathering her equipment together. It was a quiet Saturday morning, the last before parent s' weekend. Regularly her scheduled classes had given way to the gaining momentum of color war competition, leaving her freer to photograph leisurely than during the class-dominated weekdays.
"Come on in, Shikha," she called from the back room, as she rummaged in her spare case for polarizing filter. "What can I do for you?" she yelled, then grinned as she looked up to find her friend right beside her.
"You can come with us later."
"Where are you going?"
"We thought we'd take a ride down to Rishikesh and Delhi. First there's lots of place to enjoy. If we get the chance, it would be fun to go for river rafting. If not, we'll just take in nature beauty and enjoy Delhi night out. How about it?" She grinned mischievously. "We all need a break from the institution every so often. Come on, Nikita!"
Nikita hesitated. Yes, she had the Saturday and Sunday off like Shikha and Rahul did, but she toyed herself with the idea of going away by herself to photograph. "I don't know, Shikha, " she began, only to having her hesitation read and dismissed.
"You can bring that thing" she pointed kiddingly at the camera dangling from Nikita's shoulder "If you insist. We'll even stop the car at your slightest call. "What do you say?"
Nikita smiled, please at the invitation. "Sounds very tempting." It did. She felt totally at ease with Shikha and her husband. And to admit that a through change of scenery and activity could do her good. Shikha stood expectantly before her as she made her final decision "I' love to."
As the smile broadened on her friend's face Nikita noticed how attracted she was tall, slim and long blond hair pulled back in ponytail. Her spouse was as unpretentious and down-to-earth as she, both in looks and manner. They had been in camp for several summers and seemed to love working here. "Great, "Shikha exclaimed warmly. "How about us meeting at the garage after one hour?"
Nikita nodded "Sound fine''Er''.what should I wear. It's kind of a mixed bag as you have suggested there." Shikha smiled "We'll go first Rishikesh than Delhi. So choose the clothes which apt for first place. I am sure look awesome whatever you choose. Meet us after one hour at garage with your packed bags." It sounded very simple and lot of fun. Just for an instant Nikita had another thought "Shikha, are you sure you wouldn't prefer to be alone with Rahul? I mean, you surely don't get much time to yourselves here."
"Nikita, we'd be disappointed if you didn't come! Believe me, if we wanted total privacy, we would go hiking up into the mountains," she winked with last word and left.
Hurriedly, she returned to camp, depositing her gear and eating breakfast before she changed and headed to the garage. Shikha immediately withdrew her attention from the map she'd been studying and jumped out of the car at her approach, opening the trunk for Nikita to deposit her canvas bag among others. As they moved back to the side door, Rahul appeared at the garage, engaged in conversation with none other than Abhimanyu Modi.
Nikita swallowed convulsively, a disquieting thought threatening her convivial mood. Turning toward her with cautious regard, she spoke in a half whispered explanation. "Oh, Nikita, Rahul invited Abhimanyu to join us. You don't mind, do you?"
Mind? Did she mind? Yes, she minded! She minded with every inch of her body! She minded more than she'd ever minded before! "No, Shikha, I don't mind." She heard her voice softly contradict her thoughts. What else she could do? Had she known in advance, she would refuse outright. As it was, the four were all here now, and her bag had already been stowed in the trunk. To back out would have been obvious, embarrassing and insulting. If Abhi had hoped to further torment her this way, he would find himself disappointed, she vowed on the spur of the moment. No, he could change his mind, if he wanted to, but she would stick it though and perhaps even enjoy herself despite him, she resolved defiantly. Anyhow Shikha and Rahul would be there all the time.
Nikita caught the passing look that flickered over Abhi's face and then was gone, a kind of stricken horror that must have mirrored her own. A new thought occurred to her "Shikha," she whispered suspiciously "Did Abhi know I would be along?" She watched the measure apology creep over friend's face "Rahul just told him I think."
Atleast she rationalized, the slate was even, neither of them known of other's presence and both would have to now cope with their own dislodged sentiments. Shikha joined Nikita, leaned against the car with cross hand across her chest "What is it with you two?"
"What do you mean?" This was last awkward discussion as she had anticipated having with Shikha on such a potentially glorious day off. "Relax!" her companion whispered. "It's just that I saw the look that passed between you two a minute ago. And I've seen it before." She took a breath before she barreled on with bluntness Nikita had come to expect and indeed, respect. "To tell you the truth, Nikita, you'd make a great couple, you and Abhi. We've known him for several years now, gotten together during the summers. He needs someone like you."
Nikita felt a chill pass through her body at repetition of the same thought that Sonia Bajaj had once expressed. Surely if Shikha and Rahul had seen Abhi's off-season, they would be aware of his wife? What was it she was suggesting? Why did everyone think that Abhi needed her? Everyone, that was, except her and Abhimanyu.
"Are you into match-making too?" She cracked helplessly. "No silly! We are all going to have fun."
Much to Nikita's surprise, they did. Once the two antagonists accepted the situation and Abhi seemed to found himself in cornered as she 'both took back seat in the car and manage to conduct themselves with an appropriate amount of civility, more pleasantness. By far the most disturbing part of the ride was Abhi's physical nearness with her, marked at every turn by the brush of his well-muscled thigh against her slim one, both bare below the shorts they wore.
It was several hours' ride to the shore, most of which passed away in easy four way conservation. "Hey, Nikita, "Shikha called back over her shoulder from the front seat. "I didn't see your camera. You didn't leave it back, did you?" she asked in mock horror.
"No. "Nikita laughed and leaned forward to chat with Shikha, knowingly only too well that Abhi's gray eyes studying her."My camera is my work. I need it even the days off sometimes."
"When did you start photographing? I don't remember that you used to do it -"it was Abhi's deep voice that joined the conversation, only to be interrupted by Rahul's tenor.
"Did you two know each other before?" he asked innocently but his question disconcerted her. Nikita sat back against her seat, tossing an uncomfortable glance at Abhi. Abhimanyu was the only one of the group who seemed unbothered and it was he parried to inquiry. "Nikita was a counselor for my summer here" he explained, before he turned back to her expectactly. It took her a minute to recall what he had originally asked, "I''I began to take pictures when Alya was a baby. It somehow blossomed from there. "
They all reached Rishikesh. After successfully settling into their base camp, the foursome moved on near by water bed. Though it was already mid-afternoon, Shikha and Rahul decided to take a long walk. For Nikita, however, the strongest call was from the stream an enticingly cool and refreshing prospect. She headed for the water's edge, stand near uphill of waterfall to get the fresh air and ecstasy nature picture. She felt all worry, tension and responsibility left behind from her as keep her step ahead. There was certain thrill, she mused, to leaving the others behind and joining these new adventurous souls, here in cool wind and stream.
"Nikita"! A deep shout not far from her halted her steps. Treading wind, she turned. Abhimanyu had just about reached his pull was strong and immediate. "What in hell do you have in mind?" he growled through heavy breathe which taking time to come natural way.
Puzzled, she squinted. "I'm just standing. Any problem?"
"Not unless you want either to be jump off of the hill or drawn out by strong stream." The eyes that accused her were suddenly as dark as the murky ocean depths, and she realized only then how near she'd come to the edge of hill. Reversing direction and ignoring Abhi's glower, she turned and stand opposite facing her back toward him.
"Are you often suicidal, or do you merely like being rescued?" The sun, on its steadfast afternoon descent, was behind him, throwing his form into silhouette, his feature into shadow. He was really angry, though, for the life of her, she couldn't understand why. "Come on, Abhi," she chided. "There was no danger. I'm aware of where I was standing. I do watch my limits, and, believe me; I was not in any trouble."
Strangely he persisted, the hand on his hips a roadblock of sorts to forbid her passage. "Is that what I should have told Aliya that her mother knew about that?" Her lips thinned in frustration. "Really, you are making a mountain out of a molehill."
He chastised her "That was really dumb thing you did out there, Nikita. You have a responsibility; don't you think you ought to accept that?"
It took every last bit of willpower for Nikita not to lash out at him then and there on the matter of responsibility. Clenching her fists in anger, she side-stepped him determinedly and waded toward the place where Rahul and Shikha were chatting. The absence of an echoing spatter on the stones told her that she had not been followed out and forced herself into a semblance of calmness, jaw and all, as she needed to face couple.
All four enjoyed the river rafting in the strong stream of Ganga river with two as happy-go-lucky couple and other two with indifference. Nikita and Abhimanyu ignored and behaved stranger as if they don't exist with each other. They spent the rest of afternoon exploring ecstasy beauty of rishikesh, snacking on the treats that Shikha had thoughtfully packed. Than they left for Delhi, so to reach at time to attend the sport club party whose passes were with Rahul.
It was with a smattering of reluctance that they changed into the more dressy wear of the evening and proceeded to the party. But if reluctance it was which caused Nikita to acknowledge how positively devastating had been Abhi's scantily clad form on the hill, it quickly evaporated at the sight of him in the crisp white shirt, navy tie and blazer, and gray slacks-as debonair an image as she could have dreamed.
She had never seen him in anything other than purely casual wear, and found herself profoundly aware of his maturity and sophistication, as well as his overwhelming muscularity. As for herself, she was grateful that she'd brought along the fitted linen dress which suited her so well, loosely slashed as it was at the waist, with cap sleeves and mandarin collar, its smoky orange hue finely complementing her own healthily white complexion.
They were indeed a handsome couple, she admitted with an abandon of her usual modesty, sparked by the heads that turned their way in admiration as they proceeded down the centre aisle to their seats.
The show itself, a revival of one of Nikita's favorite A R Rehman and Terrance Lewnis musicals show, songs was well sung and skillful choreographed, doubly compensating for regretted passing of the memorable afternoon. When the final curtain call had been taken and the house lights had come on, the four headed toward the party hall. Nikita didn't flinch when Abhi took her hand in his, helping her out of the car, placing a strong hand with a feather touch at her back to guide her. She had savored these gestures all day, feeling every bit of women, protected and cared for. Later she was to wonder why this stereotypical role-playing had appealed to her on this day. She was to chide herself nurturing the very vulnerability which she had long ago forsworn. This evening, however, there was no room for practical thought, only for enjoyment.
Unfortunately during dinner, as the four delved into Chateaubriands, the sharp prong of reality began to poke through the veneer of make-believe, jabbing Nikita gently with a reminder that, indeed, midnight was approaching and the coach would soon turn back into pumpkin.
"How is your family, Abhimnayu?" Shikha asked, the innocence of her inquiry not lost on Nikita, whose head swiveled curiously toward him. He sipped of his vodka before he answered, looking directly at Shikha as he did so. "They are fine. Mother's doing well, despite her arthritis."
Shikha grinned. "Rahul told me about her how nice she was." Then sensing the puzzlement in Nikita's eyes, she explained softly. " Rahul went to his home last winter vacation for urgent work. He told me about his mother how nicely she took care of them."
"You live with your mother?" Nikita turned now to Abhi, spontaneously posing questions which she might have vetoed on other, less amiable occasions. Abhi shook his head, his gray eyes studying her independently as he answered her "No. My mother has her own place, a small cottage on the edge of my own grounds." "Your own grounds? Sounds like you have become a wealthy landowner." She kidded him "As I recall'" Her voice trailed off as she realized that she had nothing to recall. Five year ago, she had learned nothing about his personal life, despite the intimacy had capped their relationship. Tonight, on a purely platonic level, she was to learn more.
It was though he had read her mind and understood her unsureness. He explained with touch of reluctance "Things have changed since then. I don't know about wealthy, but I have been able to buy some land. There's my house, then my cottage."
Shikha eyes narrowed as she gazed in gentle accusation. "Come on, Abhimanyu. Why the modesty? Actually Rahul shown me the pictures '" she corrected him boldly ' "Abhimanyu owns a magnificent piece of lands in the mountains. His house is exquisite and his mother is absolutely charming."
Nikita's eyebrows arched, her head tilted in appreciation. "Very impressive," she quipped softly, unable to totally squelch the tiny thread of curiosity at the rest of family. Defensively, she downed her own vodka, barely catching the look of indecision on Abhi's face before curtain fell on his own gray stage.
Rahul, however, was oblivious to the entire shaky undercurrent. "Tell me, how did the year end? Much problem with your students?" Again Nikita's ear perked up, again Abhi seemed a shade uncomfortable to be at the centre of the conversation, though hi gaze held Rahul's steadily.
"Not bad. This year's graduating class was a good one; a large number of them were placed in jobs, many others are going on for advanced degrees. No riots, a few demonstrations, a relatively peaceful year overall."
Now Nikita was thoroughly puzzled. This did not sound like a mere tennis pro talking. What was it Sonia Bajaj had said about a "very demanding position?" Suddenly one side had wanted to hear everything about the man who was responsible of creating that atmosphere. The other side, however, the one which was mother-counselor-photographer, wanted to hear nothing, see nothing and feel nothing. For, she realized with stark and sober shock, it was the former which could too easily fall in love with Abhimanyu Modi, the latter which would not permit it.
Abhimanyu determinedly changed the subject to a more neutral one but Shikha diverted her attention toward Nikita who lost in her thoughts. Shikha asked her in half drunken state "How do you manage all alone, work plus family with no supporting hand?" Her question jerked her and him, to bring immediate attention to her uncertain question.
Nikita didn't like the turn of conversation and make her centre of conversation that was in front of Abhimanyu. It sound better to listen other person life story in public but not specially your, emotional and sensitive which want to kept secret from outsider. Abhimanyu confused and questioning eyes stared blankly toward her but his urgency told his impatience "What do you mean? I didn't get it."
Without waiting for an answer from Nikita, Shikha barged "Abhimanyu, you have to admired Nikita for her willingness and courageous behavior to run the family financially with 5 year growing old kid." She said with proud, Abhimanyu took it into surprise and Nikita listened with fear and hesitation of exposed one more of secret of her life with this man.
Abhimanyu's ear were set on and his eyes demanded more explanation from Shikha who told him "Nikita alone take care of her daughter Alya and her needs. Actually without husband and father, it was pretty difficult to handle and support grow up kid." This was the limit for Nikita to handle any more so she interrupted loudly "Alya's father is not with us now and I don't want to talk about it. Please."
Her immediate reaction on turn of event silenced all three for a moment to remind their limit into her personal life but their silence made her feel guilty for her outburst. To spirit their mood again she broke the silence "What's the point spoiling future fun on the past sorrow?" She drags their attention toward the dance floor where other couple swung on the romantic number. "See couples are enjoying there and you two people are wasting your time on discussing my life problems" said particular to the couple sitting in front of her. She brings both to the dance floor to let them enjoyed the moment.
Abhimanyu watched her keenly from far but she decided to avoid and immediately accept the first one came to ask for dance. She too joined with other couples; want to live the moment which she hardly remembered enjoyed for her only. After finishing short dance with him, she found Abhi near her and signaled him to have his dance now with me.
The song played on the DJ was from movie Rockstar.
A strong hand had come to rest behind her back and other firmly took her in his warm palm, pull her closer and brading her flesh with its searing electricity.
As she fought the loud thudding in her chest, her eyes met his in a wordless interchange both charged and innocent, intimate and impersonal, questioning and answered.
Ho tum yoon..
Karoon tum ko
Utna hi paa bhi loon
Ho tum yoon..
Khud ko mein
Haar gaya tumko
Tumko main jeeta hoon
It seemed an eternity as they moved together on song which brings all back all happiest moment of her life spent last summer camp with him. It brings blissful smile on her face to enjoy that moment what teenage girl always dreamed about to be in arms of prince charming.
Aao bewajah chale
Pooche bina kisi se
Bandishein naa rahin
Ho tum yoon..
Karoon tum ko
Utna hi paa bhi loon
With that smile, one sorrow also erupts in her eyes as dreams are fantasy of teenage girl and not the reality of woman. Dreams mend to be broken so the reality has its own meaning to stand.
Mujhse yeh jahan
Nikita felt the force of conflict pulling unmercifully at her from both ends, its sting bringing tears to her eyes. Suddenly his warm, lone tone startled her "Are you alright, Nikki?"
Quickly she lowered them, nodding as if she want to hide the reality of her deeper soul consciousness which always escaped by his mere touch. "I am fine", she whispered in contradiction of her own knowledge.
Ho tum yoon..
Khud ko mein
Haar gaya tumko
Tumko main jeeta hoon
With her gaze glued to feet, she did not see the momentary softness in his own, the flicker of warmth, compassion and concern therein, before he returned to rejoin the dance move with tune.
As songs came to end, Nikita again relived all the best moments of life she spent with him but this time without any grudges. She understood one thing whether she accepted or not but his existence in her life not only in the form of her daughter but in her soul is amicable. She pulled her out from his strong grip of arms around her which realized the reality of their relationship.
Overall it was a delightful day, despite those moments of desire and unsureness. Some how Nikita had managed to compose herself and get through the remainder of the evening with no further show of weakness. For, in her own, albeit subjective, judgment, that was exactly what she had displayed ' a sure sign of a weakness which, should Abhi recognize it and decide to play on it, could lead to her downfall. Indeed, there were trials enough to overcome, temptation to enough resist, without the telltale tear to cloud the issue.
As if to illustrate her tribulation, there was the long drive back to summer camp. Becalmed by pleasant company, good wine, and pure exhaustion, she dozed off at one point of time, awakening with a start to find her head resting within the circle of Abhi's arm. Instinctively, she jerked away, regarding the eyes which, even in the darkness, held a hint of amusement at her reflexive motion.
"I 'I am sorry," she stammered in embarrassment. "Don't be," he chided softly, his words held inaudible to the couple in front who also dozed off. "You're tired. Come on," he coaxed, pulling her gently back into the enveloping cocoon. When she tensed involuntarily, he reminded her, "It's just for today. Remember?" She didn't know why wouldn't she fought back whether it was alcohol consumption or more primitive force, the need deep within herself for warmth, protection, and comfort. She was unaware of sigh which slipped unbidden through her moist lips, as she settled herself into the haven and felt its arm close about her, firmly and protectively.
the time drive was over, Nikita was grateful that all four were returning to
camp, preclude any private and prolonged goodnight on a secluded doorstep in
the glowing moonlight of past midnight. It had been a day of pleasure, unreal
and not to be repeated, a one time happening which had no place in her normal
world. Already she felt a strange emptiness at the thought of the end of this
truce which allowed her such contentment. Yet, it had to be. There was no place
for Abhi in her life. She had Alya. She had her career. He had his life''and
his wife. This day had been an isolate interlude for them both. It was destined
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