“Had I known the real intentions behind you asking me to be at your home, I would have given you a tough time.” Manik clenched his jaw in irritation while furiously typing over the laptop keyboard.
Nandini laughed and raised her brows in self-appreciation. He angrily glared at her and she pretended to be scared. He rolled his eyes at the ‘nautanki’ and she laughed again.
“See, you only said na, ki you will help me with my project. You offered help. I thought why not use it the right away.” She laughed more with this, clearly impressed at how she had managed to con him into making the project for her, and help her finish all the assignments she had kept pending till now.
“I wanted to spend time with you.” He made a face and murmured, entering the data in software to make pie diagrams and bar charts for her.
His parents and her parents had gone out together to bring Navya back, leaving them behind. Manik had asked her to bunk all classes and be with him. She knew that she had a pile of work to finish and she couldn’t afford distractions, one of them being Manik Malhotra himself. She wanted to go with him but she had unfinished work. When he said that he would help her finish her work, she tricked him into coming to her house to spend some time together and while he was imagining a cozy date with her along with good food, music, and a movie, she had taken him to her room and had him plastered to her desk with a load of assignments for the entire month that she had been putting off and had to submit in a few days.
And now, for the past four hours, he had been helping her organize her work, finish assignments, complete projects, and do all the pending work. He had always hated the way she took her work lightly. He used to tell her to finish them on time and she would always nod and ignore him, until a time came when she had no time, at all, and at that time, she would request him to do it for her.
Like always, Manik could never refuse her. The same, happened today.
“And we ARE spending time with each other, isn’t it?? Quality time!!” She chuckled.
He was not amused. He made an irritated face, teasing her and making it very clear to her that he was upset, “Ha… ha… ha…!!!!”
“What do you expect when you make sudden plans of bunking classes?”
“I always tell you to finish these things on time.”
“You tell me so many things but is it possible to change our inherent ways. You know that I am always the one to procrastinate… and I am trying to work on it…” She defended herself.
He yawned, teasing her, “Oh yes! I have ‘always’ noticed so many times how you are working on it and trying to change yourself.”
She couldn’t stop giggling at that, “Okay, you finish with this last project and I’ll make an awesome coffee for you. How’s that?” She offered sweetly.
Manik had always loved the amazing coffee she made. He had a weakness for a steaming, frothy, piping hot shot of coffee, the one that she beat with sugar, yielding an unnerving aroma. She knew about everything he liked and was too sure that it would melt his anger.
Finally, it made him smile. “You are smart. You know how to deflate my anger.”
“I HAVE to do that. The fate of my project lies in your hand.”
He laughed. “Oh! I can do anything for a good coffee. I wouldn’t have been a friend of yours if you didn’t make that awesome coffee, a specialty of yours.”
She opened her mouth wide. “How mean of you? Is that what I get credit for? That’s it?”
“What else? I don’t see anything else, apart from that.” He smirked teasing her.
She stomped her feet, getting up from her chair and replied, “And, I wouldn’t have bothered to be friends with you if you were not good with making these projects.”
“Really?” Annoyed at that, he pressed CTRL+S and stood up to face her, “Say that again.”
She sealed her lips and turned to look away, at the painting she had been working on, since the last four hours. She had a few art projects pending too and she had to submit this painting to the Arts Department, next morning. It was about to be completed and she had been giving finishing touches. His eyes drifted to the painting too.
She was right, he realized. They had spent some quality time, since morning. While finishing her projects, he had felt closer to her as they had been talking non-stop about so many things – their classes, professors, batch mates, friends. They had discussed how they loved to team up together for everything, in every competition, since childhood and they usually won too, in whatever competitions they had entered together as a team. They had participated in their college fest and went for intercollege festivals as well. They somehow knew what the other was thinking or wanted to say, so they gelled together, compared to everyone else. They had been exceptionally good at Dumb Charades, Chess, Table-Tennis, and random quiz sessions.
While making this painting, she had talked to him in detail about this painting that she had been trying to finish for three days. How the abstract strokes reflected her thoughts. How she loved the riot of colours over the canvas and how it soothed her deep craving of playing with colours. This was one thing she loved doing and wanted to stop studying more after finishing college so that she could devote her time to art.
“Say that again.” He demanded in tough words, just to tease her. He was not angry anymore. he took a step towards her
“I won’t say anything. Move away.” She raised her chin, challenging him and whispered when she found him coming close to her.
He kept walking closer to her and she kept moving back. He curved his lips in a clandestine smile and dipped his fingers in the colour plate she had been using since morning. In a naughty, teasing manner, he called her, “Nandini Murthy, please come back.”
“No way.” She took two steps behind, watching his hands, “I don’t trust you.”
“Good.” He smirked. “That makes me more confident. How I love it when you are nervous.”
His smile grew wider, “Alright. So, what I’ll do is smear my hands over the painting.”
She stammered, nervous this time, “Dare you, Manik. Stay away from my painting.”
“Come back then, if you want to save it.”
“That’s blackmail.” She pointed her finger at him.
“Whatever!!” He shrugged and winked.
“Manik Malhotra…” She threatened him using just her eyes.
“Yes, Nandini Murthy.” He nodded knowingly and smirked more.
“Go back to the project.” She warned him again.
His charming smile flashed brightly illuminating the room.
“I am AT it, sweetheart. YOU are my project!!!”