The weekend spent at Miami was healing, rejuvenating, and liberating experience for everyone. Each of them did what they had always wanted to do, ventured out of their comfort zones and even experimented with things they had never done before.
Lauren tried bungee jumping and parasailing. Mark and Sammy spent long hours biking and broke their own records. They knew that they were not meeting each other for a long time after this trip so they talked, played tennis, gossiped, clicked pictures, discussed future plans, and made promises to keep in touch forever.
Manik and Nandini swam for hours and tried deep-sea diving. They had talked once about it and how both of them always wanted to do it, someday. This time, they went ahead and did it. They explored the sea and observed the vegetation deep inside the sea, different varieties of fish and sea animals. This trip had made them more open and receptive to all new experiences they had been avoiding until now.
More than everything else, they explored each other. They talked non-stop, spent time with each other listening to the dreams of their future life, and how each was going to achieve it.
The last day of the trip was an overwhelming one. For everyone. They packed their bags and had a long breakfast chat at the hotel restaurant. All of them sat around an oval table in a corner and cracked jokes, clicked pictures, teased each other, and spoke about how they wanted to see themselves in next five years. Each talked about the colleges and courses they were going to pursue and spoke in detail about what they wanted to do in life.
When Manik spoke about his dreams of working and pursuing higher education in New York City, and how he wanted to set up a chain of coffee houses and book stores, something about it annoyed Nandini. She had been trying to put up a brave front until now but Manik’s excitement and enthusiasm to go away were enough to test her patience. It seemed that he didn’t even bother if someone was getting affected by his words. Not his fault, she knew. It was a mutual decision that they had both taken that they won’t look back at what happened between them in Miami.
She had no clue, who she was most upset at. Him? Or herself?
For indulging in this stupidity. She had known much before that it wasn’t going to end well. But there was no point mulling over the spilled milk. What had happened, was beyond their control, and it had been over.
Now, it was just a matter of time that they had to accept to themselves and each other that it was over and was supposed to be forgotten.
As if she had swallowed on a bitter pill, she made a pitiable face, got up and walked away, leaving the rest on the breakfast table.
She looked like a bright, glowing flower in a backless, halter-neck, yellow sundress going up to her knees, with tiny butterflies printed at the hem. A cinch at the waist highlighted her pretty, thin frame. Minimal accessories – a junk bracelet and oxidized metallic earrings in white added the oomph to her style.
Manik noticed it when she stood up and walked away but found it rude to leave the group and follow her so he waited for a proper time to talk to her. He already missed taking her in his arms and kissing her like crazy.
When bags were loaded in the cars, Nandini marched towards Manik, and tapped on his shoulder, “Can I sit with you till we reach Pembroke Pines?”
This was weird. Her words, the tone in which she spoke this, without a smile, without any expressions, as if talking to a stranger, everything was confusing. He didn’t know if he was missing something. Because, until morning before they left the room, everything was fine between them. Now, she spoke as if she didn’t even know him. Sometimes, Nandini was so temperamental. And crazy.
He observed her keenly. Then, he shook his head seriously, and asked, “What happened to you?”
“I just asked a simple question.”
“It appeared like you are asking for a lift from a stranger. Don’t you know me?”
“Do I know you?” She rolled her eyes, trying not to let disappointment rule her behaviour but she couldn’t help it.
“You know that you don’t need to ask this, Nandu. You can just hop in.”
“I just thought.. oh well..!” She murmured.
He huffed, “What are you trying to say?”
“Nothing.” She walked around the car, opened the passenger side door, and got settled by his side. When he was about to say something, she placed her hat over her face, reclined the seat and pretended to doze off to sleep. She couldn’t talk to him. She didn’t want to talk. What was left to talk, anyway? They were going separate ways and there was not much hope left for them. Why create more confusion and awkwardness by talking about what had happened between them in this weekend. She needed to save herself from the embarrassment and avoiding Manik was the only way to be.
She avoided him for the entire journey of over an hour. Manik tried to strike a conversation a couple of times but when she didn’t respond, he let it be.
When they reached home, he helped her unload the bags. When she was done, she dumped her bags in the central hall of her home and returned to see him off.
He looked drool-worthy in khaki shorts and green t-shirt, wearing blue Ray-Ban aviators, and hair gelled backward. No wonder, a horde of young girls went swooning on him, at all times. Not that she cared. Huhh!!
Nandini tried to keep a face devoid of expressions and came to stand facing him, “Bye and thanks.”
“Nandu, what happened to you? You seemed so perfect when we were at Miami and then you were suddenly so upset when …” He could have spoken more had she not interrupted him.
“Can we please not discuss that? Didn’t we decide that ‘what happened in Miami, stays there’… we are never going to discuss it.” She rolled her eyes.
“Wait! But I want to talk…” He really wanted to talk about everything that happened in Miami. For it didn’t feel right to shut it off so easily. It didn’t feel like a closure. he had thought about it for long. In fact, for the entire night, last night and he knew, for sure, that it was not over for him. She was not a one-off for him.
“There is nothing to talk about!” Nandu dismissed him and turned away to go inside, leaving him angry and bitter. If she didn’t want to talk to him, why was he getting so emotional and attached to her, he wondered.
‘She was Nandini Murthy who just knew how to use people. She was a hard nut to crack. Mean. Selfish!!’ One part of his brain was very angry and upset. He knew before this weekend that he was being used and he had allowed that so there was no point being angry but he couldn’t stop this dejection from overpowering him.
The very next moment, the other part of his brain, Nandini’s best friend, told him to shut up because he knew that he was fooling himself to console his bruised ego as he sadly walked away.
Didn’t he know Nandini? She was nothing like what his hurt heart would have believed her to be. Even on the worst of days, she couldn’t be mean and selfish, not even with people she detested. She was the cutest person on the earth who would hurt no soul on will. If she was behaving like this, it meant that she was feeling low and couldn’t share with him what was bothering her. Maybe, it was his fault and he didn’t even realise it?!
He might have hurt her and he had to find out what he had done that pricked her so much that she refused to talk to him anymore.
He walked away to his home as he lived next door to her. ‘Speak it up, Nandu!! You know that I am dumb and don’t understand things if they are not told to me. I may not be able to understand on my own!’
One thing he knew for sure, was that he had hurt her and he had to make things right.