It was her jealousy that got the better of Nandini and made her kiss Manik on an impulse. After a brief brush of lips, she broke the kiss and tried to separate from him.
But too late!
He took no time to curl his arms around her, bringing her closer. Looking right into her eyes, taking a deep breath with a sly smile on his face, he murmured, “Now that was such a wrong move.”
Before she could open her mouth to protest, he had claimed her lips for a deep, compelling kiss. She wound her hands around his neck on an impulse when without giving much thought to the action, she found that she was kissing him back, all over again.
Every kiss they shared was different. As if kisses had their own language, communicating what they could never speak in words. Every kiss was special. He pulled her closer, roving his hands at her back. She arched her neck and wrapped her arms around his neck, teasing his neck lower, towards her. The red-bikini-girl who had been approaching him saw them busy, took the hint and retreated back.
After a seemingly overwhelming moment, they separated and looked at each other, without another word. He swayed his lips in a lopsided click and was even more frustrated. He didn’t speak anything and turned to walk away before she held his hand and stopped him.
She was confused, nervous, and at a total loss of words. Evidently, she fumbled. She couldn’t seem to find a row of words making sense, for what she wanted to say.
“I think, we should…” She didn’t know what did she want to say.
“Talk?” He completed it for her.
“Yes. In fact… we should have…” She frowned and fidgeted with the bangles in her wrists.
She nodded clearly. She had no clue why and how he knew exactly what she had wanted to say and in what way, she was trying to put it across. She sat down on the beach mat over the hot sand, held his wrist, and made him sit too, right beside her. Her face had the cluelessness written all over it.
For a long time, they sat side by side, watching the ocean, watching the waves rock the shores, and their friends playing somewhere in the periphery.
In between, he stared at her face and waited for her to speak. She pressed her lips together and widened her almond-shaped eyes, turning to him and focusing on his face. He shrugged, asking her to continue.
“It’s like…with every passing day…it’s getting… more and more…” She fumbled and stammered, pausing frequently.
“Weird?” He kept completing the sentences for her and she agreed either by a nod of her neck or a small word of approval.
“Yeah. Actually…what happened…”
“Hmm. In Miami. You know… I think… Manik…”
“It was reckless, unthoughtful, impulsive?”
“Exactly… you know, I was…”
“What?” He was slightly disappointed and asked in a low voice, “Trying to get over that loser of your boyfriend?”
“No.” She pressed her lips nervously, “I was terribly attracted to you.”
He sighed at the honesty of the confession. That was how she was. That was how she had always been. She was who she was. No hiding. No lying. No frills and decorations to hide the ugliness of the soul. She didn’t need them because there was not a single ugly cell in her pure existence.
She was not fake, trying to be someone else. She accepted herself. She accepted her flaws, mistakes, and impulses. She was an original piece and he was proud of her.
“And… you?” She asked.
“Same here. I was attracted to you. Moreover, I could have controlled that urge but I guess, I gave in to the impulse. Your fault…” He shrugged, “You just captivated me.”
She gulped her saliva laboriously, at how easily he said that. She was used to speaking honestly but not used to receiving such candid compliments. Not from Manik. He had always treated her like a buddy. Not like a girl who he could hit on.
Suddenly everything had changed!
She blushed at that thought and took her thumb inside her mouth for its nail to be nibbled on by her teeth.
“You know… I was just thinking… why don’t we?” She sighed.
“Leave it behind?” He squeezed his eyes, seriously.
She sighed, “Yeah! And… maybe…”
“Begin a new chapter in friendship?”
“Of course… that’s what I meant…Anyway, It was such a…”
“Hmm… We have never done such a thing before… neither me nor you.”
“We couldn’t have done it with anyone else, though. It happened because it was you and me.”
“Even I think so. We were like always together…so…”
“It didn’t feel stupid.”
She opened her mouth wide, in near shock, “How man, how? How do you always seem to know what I am about to speak? Sometimes, you know it even better than me, what exactly I want to convey, while I am still struggling with words.”
He smirked visibly, this time. Nodding hopelessly, he said, “Two reasons – Similar thoughts and years of friendship.”
She whispered in a soft voice, looking at his face brightened by a glowing smile, “Yup. Years of friendship… and of course, similar thoughts… ALWAYS!!!
He smirked at the way she added ‘always’ in the end… She giggled too, “I don’t have a dirty one-track mind.”
He laughed out loud, “Excuse me, ma’am. If we are comparing you and me, then I cannot even think of getting even 1% of the dirty, one-track mind that you have.”
“Shut up!” She sniggered.
“Seriously, Nandu. We need to stop fooling around and be serious.”
“So?” She asked.
“Hmm?” He curled his arms around his legs, turned his face to her, and adoringly looked at her face.
“Yes, Nandini Murthy?”
“Let’s leave everything behind… our childhood, our friendship and the changed equations in our lives and move on…begin a new chapter, with no awkwardness or weird thoughts. What happened was too small a reason to lose a friend like you.”
“Aww. I’m touched.” He teased her, placing his hand at his heart.
“Shut up!” She whacked him on his arm. “You just know how to make a fool out of me. I spoke so nicely…”
He laughed, and teased her, “Yeah. I heard that award-winning emo-speech. My one-word and one-line answers were better than yours.”
“Great. So now, you say what great things you have in mind because I am done with talking. I’ve said, all that I had to…” She whacked his arm again.
“Really?” He held her hand that had been hitting him, “Are you done?”
“Yeah.” She nodded.
“And? Don’t you have anything else to say?” He probed her.
“Manik, what are you trying to ask me since yesterday? What else should I say?”
He had the most unbelievable look on his face, now slowly culminating in frustration and irritation. Of all the world’s phrases that she had to speak, she had been just beating around the bush. She had said what they already knew. Very easily, she was back in her comfort zone.
“Nandu… I think you are missing something…”
“You just said what we should leave behind. How we should forget the past. But you haven’t said anything about what we should carry forward.”
“Can you please be a bit clear? I don’t understand a word of what you are saying.” She teased him.
“Any newfound feelings? Any hopes for us?”
She blushed and shrugged, looking away. Not meeting his eyes. “Why don’t you say it if you know it so clearly? You have been completing my sentences today.”
“I won’t…” He clearly refused.
He rolled his eyes, thinking about an excuse and said, “I’m tired of finishing work for you… doing assignments and projects for you… completing your sentences… and obeying to everything that you want to do…Now you got to say it,yourself…”
She blushed more, chuckled and stood up, “Manik, I don’t get a word of what you are saying…”
“Listen, just sit back. Why did you stand up? We are talking.” He was irritated.
“Coz I have nothing more to say. If you have something to tell me… I’ll stay back to listen.” Her eyes sparkled as she teased him, raising her chin slightly.
He stood up too and almost roared in an irritated snap, “Nopes. I have nothing to tell you, too.”
“Nandu, I hope you don’t regret not saying it.” He threatened her with a finger pointed towards her.
“Tch…Tch…We’ll see.” She giggled, looking at his irritable, yet irresistible face.
“Fine. We’ll see.” He marched away from her, towards the gang playing volleyball. She laughed at the way he stomped his feet and walked away. He was cute by every means. And she loved how he behaved like a kid with her. For the world, he was a macho, tough guy. For her, he was a softie. Their roles reversed than other relationships and that was the fun part in them. She was the bold, outgoing, extrovert who had a care-a-damn attitude for the world. While he was the cute, soft-hearted, kiddo, who could fight the world for her but couldn’t even talk rudely with her. So much, he cared for her feelings.
She called him from behind, almost shouting his name in a loud voice.
He turned around and shrugged in a questioning look.
“Long drive, tonight?”