Part 12

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One evening when Nandini came into the room, she saw Manik sitting very dull.

Nandini : "Is anything the matter?"

Manik : "Nothing. It was a long day at work, so I am exhausted."

Nandini : "Why don't you take a nap then?"

Manik : "I can't. I have to meet Alya today."

Nandini : "Oh! .... Can't you meet her some other time?"

Manik : "No, it is supposed to be some anniversary today. I am not able to recollect what it is. She will get mad if I don't meet her."

Nandini got back to her usual routine. When she came back to the room, she saw that Manik hadn't budged from his place at all.

Nandini : "You wanted to meet Alya right? Are you not going to get ready?"

Manik : "It all seems a lot of work. Either I have to lie to mom or sneak out. The place I have to meet her is also quite far. I don't know how long it is going to take. I am tired just thinking of it. I don't feel like going, but I have to."

Nandini : "You can take mom's driver with you, then you don't have to drive at least."

Manik : "No I can't take that risk. If he sees me with Alya and tells mom, I will be in trouble."

Nandini : "Ok. You freshen up, I will get something for you to eat. You might feel a little better, then you can think what to do."

Manik freshened up and had some snacks. Meanwhile, Nandini was thinking of what can be done.

Nandini : "There is a solution to your problem. If I come with you, Mom won't ask you any questions. So you don't have to lie to mom or sneak out. I can be your chauffeur for the evening and you can take some rest too."

Manik : "No..I will manage."

Nandini : "Really? It looks like you will drift off to sleep while driving."

Nandini : "You really consider me as your friend right? Can't I do even that much for you?"

Manik : "Yes I do. I don't know how long it is going to take. What are you going to do there?"

Nandini : "Oh...so you are worried that I am going to be the third wheel? I told I will come with you, but I didn't tell I am going to stay with you."

Manik : "That's not what I meant. I know you won't."

Nandini : "I know you didn't mean that. I was just kidding. It is such a big shopping mall, I will find something to do. You don't have to worry about it.

Manik agreed and Nandini dropped him in front of the mall. Manik went into the mall. He purchased a small gift for Alya quickly, he didn't spend much time selecting as usual. He reached the place he was supposed to meet her.

Alya : "You are on time! I thought you are going to make me wait today too."

Manik gave her the gift, but Alya didn't seem satisfied. She was expecting something more since it was supposed to be there gift Anniversary.

Alya : "You remember what day it is, don't you?"

Manik didn't remember, but he didn't want her to know about it. So,

Manik : "Yes I do."

Alya : "I was expecting something more from you on our gift anniversary."

So they went shopping and Manik let her select whatever she likes. Alya left after they had dinner. He was already tired before he met Alya, but he was very exhausted by the time Alya left. Manik called Nandini and they were on their way home.

Nandini : "Did you figure out what anniversary it was?"

She suddenly realized something.

Nandini : "You don't have to tell if it is something personal."

Manik : "It was some gift anniversary."

Nandini : "Did you have a good time?"

Manik : "Hmm..it was ok, but very exhausting."

Nandini didn't ask any more questions, nor did he want to talk about it.

Manik : "So what were you doing all this time?"

Nandini : "I was in the book store. I was reading."

Manik : "You were in a shopping mall and instead of shopping, you were reading there? If it was anyone else in your place, they would have loads of shopping bags by now."

Nandini : "I have everything already and there was no occasion to shop."

Manik : "You are little, but...."

Manik saw Nandini's facial expression change suddenly.

Manik : "What happened? Did I say something wrong?"

Nandini : "You called me little. I felt you are commenting about my height."

Manik : "Oh.. I didn't know you were so conscious about your height."

Nandini : "Won't I....that too in front of you. You are so tall."

Manik : "How does the height matter? You may be short, but the things you do, none of them are less than a feat."

Manik : "When I was your age, I was still enjoying with my friends. I started sharing part of my Dad's responsibilities only recently. But you are just out of college and are already shouldering your Dad's responsibility. You also managed to convince Uncle for gradma's happiness, when Mom had given up on him completely."

Manik : "Anyways when I said little, I meant you are the youngest among my friends and you are the youngest at home too. But still you try to come up with solutions for every problem or advice me as though you are more experienced. I was wondering how you manage to do that. Now I think all that knowledge is from the books you read."

Nandini : "Not all. A little from books, a little from my experience, a little from other's experience." 

After a while,

Manik : "What were you reading?"

Nandini : "It was a love story....the usual. At the beginning of the story, the main characters can't see eye to eye. ..(Nandini gave a synopsis of the story) .. At the end of the story they love each other so much that they can't live without each other. I think it only happens in books and movies, not in real life."

Nandini : "What do you think? .. Do you love Alya so much that you can't live without her?"

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