Nandini sobbed like a baby wrapped in his arms. He consoled her by slowly stroking her back and hugging her in a soft squeeze.
“Sshh!! Stop crying. He’s gone now.”
“What a creep! I hate such men…” She whimpered.
“Let me take you home,” His husky voice left a fan of his breath on her neck, making her shudder.
They walked together, towards their homes. He reached for her hand as they walked in peace, without talking much, and when she didn’t resist him, he held her hand in his hand. She loved it when he warmly enclosed her hand in his tight grasp. Her home was next to his home. Not far away from the community center but their families were at the party and no one was home. Her parents and the rest of the neighbours were still at the party.
“Thank you,” She turned towards him, at the doorstep.
“Nandu, are you fine?”
“Yeah.” She nodded slightly, wiping her trickling tears. She was still not over that assault. She had been a smart and sassy female all her life and knew how to deal with bad looks, dirty talks, and attempts of sexual harassment. She had encouraged none. She might have had affairs and hookups but she knew one thing that they were all because of her consent. She had never been assaulted like this ever before. This was a shock to her as before this incident, anyone she had shown disinterest in, had backed off. But loser Sahil decided to force himself on her. And right now, Nandini was so angry that she wanted to strangle him with her bare hands.
Her back and neck had severe pain due to the push at the wall and grasp of Sahil’s hands at her wrists. The tussle had shaken her. Manik looked at her face and thought for a long moment, before he said, “You don’t look fine, Nandu.”
“I’m really fine, Manik. I’ll manage. You can go now”
He thrust his hands in his trouser pockets and nodded, “Nopes. I won’t go. I’m staying until your people come back.”
She felt relief when he said that. She had wanted him to stay but had been in two minds how to ask him about it, after their salty exchanges before. She had been rude to him and he had been indifferent.
He spoke, thoughtfully, “We don’t know… the creep can come back. You should not stay alone.”
She neither resisted nor questioned him. She pressed her lips and nodded to agree. He took her upstairs to her room, opened her cabinet to get her comfy wear and giving it in her hands, he said, “I’ll get water for you. Get changed in the meantime.”
Then, he sprinted down to get a water bottle and a glass. When he returned, he made the bed for her.
She came out of the washroom after changing and washing her face. No makeup. No dressy look. He was mesmerized to see her. How he loved her like that, in the simplest of her looks. As she used to be in her teenage and childhood. Adulthood had brought with it, the makeup, the hairstyles, the stylish dresses and accessories. But for him, the baby Nandu, with nothing but her simple smile was enough.
Her hair were now tied in a ponytail and she was wearing a grey loose t-shirt and white tracks. It appeared that she had cried in the washroom. He hated that. She was stronger than that and he knew it. He had seen her fighting with the entire school for things she stood up for. She was a badass don of their group.
How could she be so weak?
He held her hand and made her sit at the bed, “Nandu…”
“Hmm?” She was distracted out of her thoughts.
“Say something to vent it all out. Release it from you and stop getting affected by it.”
She was feeling horrible. Very angry. Very helpless. She struggled for a moment but when he pressed her hand in his hand and insisted, she spoke, “I feel like killing that bas***d. How dare he touch me? I can still feel his dirty hands all over me. Snake. How can someone have such loose character, no morals, and no self-esteem? he couldn’t take a ‘no’ from a girl? And actually thought that he could attack and get over with that?? I’m such an idiot. What happened to me? Why did I freeze in terror?”
“It happens!” He consoled her, “Otherwise, I know what a daredevil you are.”
She felt better when he said that and sighed. “Thanks for giving him those punches.” She angrily squeezed her eyes.
He laughed, “He earned them.”
She was spellbound to see him laughing so beautifully. Manik was a stunner. He was not only bestowed with Greek-God like looks, but he had a lovely heart too. His words that he spoke to Sahil had stayed with her. He had said that real men don’t force themselves on girls. She had been so proud of him, at that time. Indeed, he was a real man.
Manik became quiet when he found her looking at him awe-struck. With a soft smile, he made her lie down on the bed and sat beside him, “Close your eyes. I’ll stay till your parents come back and then I’ll leave.”
She held his hand when she lay down and kept looking at his face. He smiled lovingly.
“Can you do something for me, Manik?” She requested.
“Tell me.” He asked warmly and lovingly.
He was surprised but he neither questioned her nor discussed it. He simply removed his tux jacket and kicked off his shoes to lie down beside her in his white shirt and black trousers. He stroked her hand, caressed her curls, wiped the tears off her face, and impulsively bent over her to kiss her cheek.
She took a deep breath to inhale his cologne when leaned over her and was so near her. He couldn’t stop himself at that. Slowly, he kissed her eyelids and nose. She looked into his eyes from this close distance. there was not even a trace of lust in his eyes. Not even a trace of desire lay in his hands when he touched and stroked her. He was simply consoling her.
She clutched his shirt at the collar and pulled him to roll over her. He followed the cue and kissed her forehead after that and then her hair, moving his hands around her in a loving way.
Still looking at her face, he lay down beside her, caressing her hair. She felt her heart skipping beats at this. So did he.
Being in each other’s arms without the maddening rush to make love had a different kind of high. There was no need to remove any clothes this time. No drugged, breathless kisses. No compulsive feeling up. Yet, they were deeply comfortable lying in each other’s arms. As if spiritually, emotionally, deeply in sync with each other.
Her eyes stayed locked to his eyes addictively. His thumb stroked her palm. They didn’t speak even a word for a long time. His leg rolled over her. Her other hand raised up his neck to his jawline before they kissed. Slowly. Softly.
This kiss was different from all the past times. She had leaned towards him with her fingers caressing his neck and jaw. And he had impulsively kissed her. Their lips met with each other without any urgency. Without any lust. There was only love and assurance.
It was more of a sign of togetherness and more of an unsaid promise to be there for the other that they didn’t want to say in words but felt the need to share this kiss, instead of talking. There was nothing steamy about it. Instead, it was a loving, assuring sigh bringing them closer than they ever were. Their fingers interlocked into each other as he laced his fingers through hers.
The languorous, lazy kiss broke for a small moment when it became imperative to draw in a short breath of air. A single look in each other’s eyes for that small fleeting moment was followed by another kiss. So deeply indulging, so natural and inevitable, that they had no control over it. It just felt right to go with the flow.
She slipped closer to him as they kissed and he enclosed her in his arms, yet again. His legs restrained her with his hands around her back. She slowly snaked both her arms up, to curl them around his neck, to kiss him all over again.
It had never been so deeply addicting. Not even when they had nearly lost their minds when they were in Miami. It had begun as something brutally physical. But this was different.
They couldn’t stop kissing each other, out of the love they had for the other and the fear of losing the same.
After some time, he lay on his back and she lay over him, with her face and head on his chest, and her arms curling him. One of his arms was around her and stroked her shoulder in a soft, caring movement.
He had been staring at the ceiling. She wondered what he was thinking for so long. As for her, she had forgotten about Sahil after cursing him and venting her anger. Manik had once again made her feel like a desirable woman who deserved to be respected and not assaulted. She was not thinking about anything else right now. She was just thinking about him.
“What are you thinking about Manik?” She asked softly, distracting him.
“Was it really dirty? What we had…” He asked out of the blue.
She was embarrassed at his question. It was her fault to say so. She had been impulsive when she spoke nonsense about their relationship.
“I was a fool to say so.” She sighed, regretting it.
“Answer my question.” He asked straight.
“No. How we feel about something makes it dirty or beautiful. What Sahil did today was dirty. But what we had between us was surreal… divine… and so beautiful. Even touching someone without consent is dirty. Forcing your will on someone, troubling them is dirty. But two consenting adults making love is not dirty, because both of us decided to do it. We both wanted it so desperately.”
Finally, he heaved a sigh of relief and smiled. He had been tensed thinking that she considered their togetherness as something dirty. She loved his seductive smile and blushed at the way he looked at her. She touched her forehead over his, looking into his eyes and he rolled her over him. He sighed and closed his eyes, wrapping his arms around her once again, and whispered –
“Thank you for not letting me fall in my eyes!”