Nina’s throat dried. She didn’t know how to react to what she had just heard. She looked at Akash. He seemed equally taken aback.
“So what do you think? ” Nina’s mom and Akash’s mom said in a chorus.
Nina didn’t know what to answer. She wasn’t ready for this. She was just 23. Fresh out of grad school. She was visiting home after two years and was planning on getting back to the US in a month. The word ” marriage” sounded dreadful.
Akash was calm too. He was thinking of his past relationships. It seemed to have never worked out for him. Somehow, he trusted too much and gave in too much. He looked at Nina.
Nina was attractive and smart. She was funny too. And the best part about her was she never judged anyone. She hadn’t judged him once when he had called up drunk after yet another breakup. She was a great friend. Could he do this to her? She clearly deserved better. After what happened two years back with her ex boyfriend. He married someone else and she was heartbroken. Maybe, she still is? Its hard to say with Nina. Always so strong. Always “looks” happy.
Nina looked at Akash again this time to see him looking at her. They seemed to have a conversation with their eyes. Years of friendship have made them omniscient about one another.Maybe if they just joke it off, then it wouldn’t be a problem.
They both laughed. ” Are you serious?” Akash asked. “Yeah, are you guys seriously trying to set us up?” Nina joined.
Both families laughed. Akash and Nina looked at each other. This is not over. Yet. They thought.
Akash’s mother took Nina’s arm and whispered, “why I’d love you as a daughter in law.”
Nina didn’t know how to respond. She loved Akash’s parents. But marriage is a big step. She has just been hurt. She didn’t want that baggage on Akash. He had enough of his own.
The fathers seemed to have taken their parts now. They started to talk about why they both should marry and how great it would be or both the families. Akash and Nina realize that there has been extensive thought on this topic. They wondered how long both had this idea in their heads.
Akash spoke to Nina’s relief. ” She has a job back in the US dad. Its not fair to ask her this now. Plus, I will be in London the next year. I will be studying dad. I can’t really start a family. ”
Nina’s dad spoke. “We thought about all that. Your parents have no problem with Nina working. She’s planning on moving back after a year anyway. You can study all you want in London. We just want you to get married before that. You are just 23 and 25. You can wait a year and start a home.”
Nina tried to open her mouth. ” Just think about it” they all said in a final tone.
Two days later, Nina’s home.
Nina is looking out at the sea. Her life depended on one question. She felt a hand on her shoulder. It was her mom.
” Don’t think too much Nina. Its not good for your health” she chided.
” I am sorry mom. This is such a huge decision. I really don’t know what to do.” she said and looked away.
” Akash is a good guy. His parents love you like their own. What is there to think?” her mom smiled.
” I know. Its just me. I know Akash more than you mom. He is the most honest and kind hearted person I know. ” Nina said.
” Are you still thinking about Milind?” Nina’s mom prodded.
Nina laughed. ” No mom. I am over him. But I guess I am too hurt to trust anyone. I don’t think I can love anyone. Its not just Akash. And he is a such a great guy. He deserves better than a loveless marriage. ”
Her mom hugged her shoulders, ” Nina” she said knowingly. ” Maybe this time its going to be different Nina. Life does give second chances. And what is love anyway? You need to grow in it Nina, not fall in it. Yes, you loved Milind. But sometimes that is not just enough.I know you are fine now. I just want you to be happy again Nina. ”
” I am happy now mom. Stop getting melodramatic. ” She winked. Nina knew she lied. She wasn’t happy. She was just fine. Her life was a series of fines and oks now. There was something missing in it. Why did she ever fall in love? She thought.
” Okay” her mom said. ” But think about it. How many girls are lucky enough to marry their best friend? Me and your dad think you will be happy and well with Akash. We are getting old too Nina. Think about it. We worry about you” She continued.
Nina groaned. ” Don’t do this to me mom. You know I can’t fight that. ”
“Good” her mom laughed.
Nina pulled out her mobile from her pocket. She calls Akash.
An hour later they are both walking in the beach. Both too embarrassed to talk anything. All this has moved so fast, they didn’t quite process it.
” So, my mom is playing the ” I am getting old” card “, Nina says.
Akash laughs, ” Ha ha. That’s what I’ve been getting too. Emotional blackmail. My mom said I never had one decent girlfriend!”
” I kinda agree with her” Nina smiled.
“Nina!” he complaIned.
“Kidding man. What do you think we should do? ” Nina asked.
“Get a boat. Run away from our parents? ” Akash joked.
” Haha. They are not that bad also you know. ” Nina said.
” I know man. I love them. And in spite of my countless broken relationships and getting drunk, they seem to love me. ” he laughed.
” Akash. I told this then. I am telling this now. Don’t let it define you are. Those girls weren’t right for you. My friend is awesome. ” she elbowed him playfully.
” Awesome enough for his awesome best friend to marry him? he asked.
Nina replied. ” I guess she has to. ”
“Nina! You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to man. You are amazing. Anyone would be happy to marry you. I am going to do this for mom and dad. But, I can’t ask you to do the same” he said.
“I am doing this for them and myself Akash. You know me better than anyone. I just can’t trust a random stranger all over again.” She said with pain in her eyes.
Akash wanted to hug her and say it was going to be ok. But didn’t know what Nina would think. Milind had really changed her as a person he thought. He cursed Milind in his head for doing this to her. He wished to see her happy again.
A month later, Akash’s home.
Nina and Akash are talking about the wedding. The funny and absolutely ridiculous stuff that happened this morning at the venue.
It was past eleven. Akash saw the time and got up from the couch. ” We should sleep man” he said.
Nina and Akash looked awkwardly at each other. It was their wedding night.
Until now, everything seemed normal. Suddenly, there seemed to be an ostentatiously decorated huge elephant in the room.
Akash walked to the bed. Got a pillow and placed it on the couch. ” Good night dude. Get some sleep. I will take the couch. You can sleep on the bed. Wake me up if you need anything. ” he said.
Nina couldn’t sleep that night. How long will this go on. Its not fair on Akash. He deserves someone who adores him. Not me. A broken piece. Tears seemed to flow endlessly.
At around 5 in the morning, Akash calls her name. Nina wipes her tears and turns around.
” Are you okay” he asks.
She breaks down. ” I am sorry Akash. You shouldn’t be sleeping on the couch. I don’t know whats wrong with me. I don’t feel anything anymore. And its not fair to you! ”
Akash sits next to her on the bed. ” Love isn’t going to happen overnight Nina. I really like you. I always have. I have great respect for you. You are the strongest woman I know. Don’t worry about this. Marriage isn’t just about this you know. I think I got a best friend for life. And I know she is never going to break my heart. We do love each other dude. And some day it will be enough. No rush. Sleep now. ” he said.
Nina looked at him. She felt a smile creeping on her face.
Six months later, Akash’s apartment in London.
He threw the car keys on the coffee table and rushed to the computer. He had to talk to Nina. This has become a ritual or both. They shared everything that happened during the day. Every little thing. He had to tell her. This was his favorite part of the day. He loved to see her smile. He loved the way she flipped her hair while cooking and skyping with him. He loved her carefree laugh when she pulled his leg. The way she said his name when she was mad it him. He was in love with her.
He exhaled a deep sigh at this thought. He fell for Nina. It only seemed to get more and more serious day by day. He was in love with his wife. But he knew he couldn’t tell her. I can’t put that kind of pressure on her, he thought. He had no idea how Nina felt about him.
Nina was calling. He immediately pressed the green button.
” Hey “, he said like a school kid.
” How was your day dude? ” Nina asked.
They laugh and talk for about an hour. They never ran out of things to talk. It was easy, effortless and a happy conversation. Always.
” Hey! So, I am thinking of taking the subway from work tomorrow. Car broke down today. ” She said in the middle of the conversation.
” Ask Sam to drop you home. Subway isn’t safe in that part of New York. You yourself keep telling me that. ” Akash said with concern.
” I know. But I can manage for a day. Why trouble Sam? ” Nina said.
” That’s no trouble. Samuel will be happy to help dude. Subway isn’t safe ” Akash tried to reason.
” I am not a twelve year old. I can handle myself. I got pepper spray anyway. ” Nina winked.
” Nina please…” Akash begged. He wished he was there with her. He would’ve picked her up.
Nina seemed to be in playful mood. She pushed the matter further for fun.
” Dude, Stop your melodrama. Why are you worrying so much? If someone shoots me, you can marry another girl. Someone hot ” She laughed.
” I don’t want to. You are hot. And hell right, I worry about you. I love you” he said abruptly. Akash regretted saying those words. He dreaded Nina’s response.
Nina looked surprised. But, not shocked. She looked at Akash for a long time.
” I won’t take the subway. I will hire a cab” she said calmly.
Akash felt he should explain. ” Don’t take what I said seriously. That’s my problem. Not yours. Don’t think about it. ” He said.
” But you said it. I heard it. That can’t be undone. ” Nina said.
Akash looked at Nina helplessly. Did he just ruin everything he thought.
“Nina , I don’t expect you to reciprocate. I have you in my life. That’s enough.” Akash said.
” Akash, you can’t always just give. I am not like the girls you’ve dated before. You deserve every happiness in the world.” Nina replied.
” I know you are not. You are amazing.” he said avoiding her eyes.
” You are amazing too. To me you are! And don’t tell me what I should do or how I should feel . Look at me Akash. ” Nina demanded.
He looked at her. Those big beautiful eyes that he couldn’t stop thinking about these past few months.
” I am happy Akash. I am so happy that sometimes I forget that there was a time when I was miserable. And its all because of you. Marrying you was probably the wisest thing I have ever done. I don’t feel incomplete anymore. And its all because of you. ” She spoke with a trembling voice.
” You love me?” Akash asked.
” Yes. Very much so.” She replied laughing and crying at the same time.
A year later, Passenger pickup lounge at the airport.
” Do you want a ride home, darling ?” Mrs. D’souza asked.
” No. My husband will be here. Thank you. ” Nina said. They both were co passengers on a 15 hour long flight. Nina felt it was longer. All she thought was about Akash. She couldn’t wait to see Akash. Should she hug him? Or should she just act casual. She was nervous.
I am probably the only woman who is still nervous about meeting her husband after a year of being married and practically knowing him all my life. She thought.
Then she heard her name. The way he says it. It sounds so safe coming from his mouth she thought.
He was breaking through crowds and smiled every time he saw her between people. He was technically running. Her heart raced. Finally, she thought.
He looked great. He was now standing a foot away from her as if looking for permission.
Nina looked at him and smiled. With that he scooped her into an embrace.
” I missed you so much” he kept saying. All Nina could do was smile widely and hug him back. He didn’t leave her. He swept her of the ground instead, laughing happily.
He took her home. An hour later they sat on the same bed as a year ago. Akash was holding Nina’s hand and saying something. She wasn’t listening. She wanted to tell him how much she had missed him. She didn’t want to sound corny.
Nina leaned in close and looked at Akash. Akash seemed to blush at the sudden change of events. She then kissed him. Not leaving till he responded equally.
” I love you Akash. I am sorry I made you wait for a year. I am yours. You complete me. ” She said tearfully.
Akash kissed her again. ” You are worth the wait Nina. I love you more. I can’t wait to start my life with you. ” he said.
He broke the kiss and Nina was surprised. He put a finger to her lips and said, ” there is one thing I want to do.”
” What?” she asked.
” I want to go on a date with you. I know we messed up the order. We kinda got married first. ” He laughed.
He kissed her again and asked, ” Will you go out with me? ” Akash asked.
She flashed her engagement ring and said, ” I’ll have to ask my husband. ”
Akash pulled her back into his arms and kissed her yet again.