They walked for a long distance over the wet sand that appeared to be snugging the ocean. Cool waves splashed at their feet as if kissing them. The breeze at the beach had a tingling quality in it that made alive everything it touched.
They walked side by side, speechlessly for a long time, watching the moon ahead, feeling the air in their hair and the waves on their feet.
Both of them waited for the other to say something. And because of this, they said nothing for a long while. There was nothing to share, as such, about each other. They knew each other inside out. In fact, they knew everything about each other. Their likes, dislikes, personalities, and behaviour. They went to the same school. Their parents were best friends. Their families knew each other even before they were born. They celebrated festivals and important events together. Lived next door to each other and even their friends were common.
When you know someone so deeply, it becomes unnecessary to talk. Mostly, if not always. Walking in silence with him was as beautiful as this night, she felt.
After a long walk, he took out his hand from his denim jeans and let it fall to his side. It brushed at the back of her hand. When she didn’t react to it, neither took her hand away nor behaved as if it was something unusual, he curled his hand around hers and held her hand. It felt like a testimony to the connection they had shared at all times.
She interlocked their fingers into each other’s and he strongly pressed at them, threading each of her fingers with his own. His hand was warm and soft. And he held her as his life depended on it.
Nandini recalled Navya’s words that you can know how much a man feels for you by the way he treats you, holds you and touches you. She didn’t want to compare Manik with anyone. It would be an insult to Manik. But she couldn’t stop thinking about what Navya spoke when describing a man who cares for you. While talking to Navya, her mind had been stuck on Manik with every word, Navya chose to define a person who demonstrated how much he loves his girl.
“Manik.” She asked, thinking deeply.
“Yeah.” he shrugged.
“What are we doing?”
Her question surprised him. He stopped walking but without leaving her hand which was still in his hand with their fingers interlocked. He asked in exactly the same words but in a different tone, “What are we doing?”
“I mean…” She tried to explain, “I mean…Didn’t we always know clearly about our relationship? But not anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean… we always knew what’s going on between us… until a few months back, we knew that we are friends. The best of friends who know each other a lot, take care of each other, and accept each other the way we are. Then, something changed between us. And, we knew that we were attracted to each other. So attracted that we didn’t consider any barriers between us. We fought with our attraction in our own way but couldn’t resist for long. We were irresistibly drawn towards each other. But at least, we were always clear what was going on. Not anymore…”
He smiled, but he didn’t reply to her. He shrugged implying that he was listening to her and was trying to understand her. He wanted her to share what she had been thinking about. So he let her speak.
“I mean to say that, Manik…what is our status right now? What are we doing? What do we want?”
He had heard her in sleep, asking him not to go to New York, precisely not to leave her. He remembered that. He smiled before he pressed his lips together. Then he cleared his throat and left them in a huff and said, “You can define the status by speaking out in words – tell me about what you feel in your heart.”
His tone was husky and words were strong. Her world was stirred!!
She casually shrugged, turning away, “I was asking about you.”
“Same way, I am asking about you. You tell me about you…”
She gave him the silliest, ‘keep-dreaming’ kinda look, tilted her head, and nodded with a sly smile, “I have nothing to say.”
“Really? Nothing, at all?”
He twisted his hand that was interlaced with hers and brought her closer to him. This time, she squirmed. She had been closer to him like she had been to no one else, ever, yet every single time when she was drawn close to each other, she could clearly feel crazy signals raking inside her belly. That, his warm breath over her forehead and intense eyes rested on her eyes, made it worse. She rested her hand on his chest, mainly to support herself. Not aware of how it affected him. It showed itself when she could see his Adam’s apple moving in his throat. She softly squeezed her eyes, in the helplessness of the situation. he heaved a deep sigh, fighting the fuzzy haze in his mind that overpowered him whenever she was around.
Softly, she murmured his name, “Manik.”
“Nandini… I understand you when you ask me that we shouldn’t speak about us to others. But it is not going to work if we don’t share our own feelings with each other.”
She looked at him cutely, ran her tongue on her dry lips, and said, “Okay, so we’ll start with you. Share with me about what you are thinking… About me.”
He smiled and shook his head. This girl knew how to twist things around – making things work in her favour and making him do what she wanted him to.
“What? Why are you smiling?”
He shrugged, “I am confused.”
“Confused?? About what??”
He left her and started walking again. She walked beside him, and held his hand, “Tell me, na?”
“Let’s say, I am confused about the way things are unfolding. This is very new to me. I have seen people begin as friends, progress to dating, days of courtship, stuff like that, sending flowers, and giving sweet surprises to their girlfriends. And then comes the part where their physical attraction overshadows the emotional connection. It goes in a set flow of events and appears smooth. In our case…”
He stopped speaking and looked at her. She took over from there, “In our case, we began as best friends and directly crossed all lines. We slept with each other but we don’t even know what we feel. Right?? The flow of events is a little… what do we say? Complete the sentence ‘Mr-know-it-all’…”
She sniggered when she said that. He rolled his eyes and added, “Convoluted?”
This time she couldn’t stop laughing, making him laugh too. She tried to control her laughter and said, “Oh my God. We have been idiots. It has become such a mess.”
She casually said that and started walking away. He leaned ahead to reach her and held her hand stopping her. She was surprised to be held like that. She stopped laughing too.
Once again, he brought her closer to him. Looking into her eyes, deep enough to let her see the feelings in his eyes, he said –
“Of course, a mess! But it’s such a cute mess. And I want to mess with you, JUST YOU, every time you allow me to.”