CAN’T WE JUST PRETEND

You said goodbye and you simply walked away,
Never saw my tears, your back was turned my way.
And now, here you are, looking into my eyes;
My heart’s beating again I believe,
As my thoughts go astray –

Oh, can’t we just pretend that you never really left
And it wasn’t goodbye after all?
Can’t we just pretend that my tears were all you really felt
Falling like the leaves in every fall?

As you stand before me now,
I see an apology written in your eyes,
But I think if I should go back,
Would it be wise,
I keep wondering –

Oh, can’t we just pretend that I never really ended
Between us on that September night?
Can’t we just pretend that we’re still so in love
And we never got into a fight?
Oh, can’t we?

You come closer and I want to run away somewhere
But my heart doesn’t want to be anywhere but here.
It was you, it was you,
It was you all along.
Now that you’ve given me a second chance
I just want to sing this song –

Oh, can’t I just pretend to be happy again
With you right here with me?
And can’t we just pretend to be best friends
And lovers all over again?

You take my face in your hands again
And I’m just asking in my mind –

Can’t we just pretend that the raindrops
Are falling stars and if we catch one
We can just wish the past away?

I feel your lips on mine again,
But here I’m just wondering –

Oh, can’t we just pretend that this kiss is our first ever
And promise this time that we’ll last forever?
Can’t we just pretend that this isn’t just another dream,
Another way to escape reality?
Oh, can’t we just pretend…?

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I WISH

Love me,
Hurt me.
Hate me,
Take me.
Oh, if it makes you
Happy,
Break me.

I’ll stand in the storm
Wishing for a rainbow,
Listen to the silence
In hope of a song,
Pick up the pieces and
Put them back together
Again.

I’ve lost myself.
I’ve nothing more to give
But oh,
I wish
I meant something
To you.

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SEVERUS SNAPE – THE UNSUNG HERO

Severus Snape, the greasy haired git. The biased Head of Slytherin House. The sallow faced Potions Master. The one person, apart from Voldemort, who seemed to hate Harry’s very existence. The Half-Blood Prince.

Throughout the series, he has remained the most mysterious anti-hero, because it was never really stated why he loathed Harry so much. And this intense dislike for the protagonist made a large number of readers hate him with utmost passion.

But he was by far one of the most interesting characters in the Harry Potter books, and in my opinion, the very best.

He makes threats, says cryptic things, and is subtly malicious for he never really shows his anger very much. When a firework explodes in his class, he calmly announces that the mischief-maker will be put in detention. Even when someone sets fire to him, he keeps his cool (no pun intended).

There is one time when he does lose his temper, though. When Sirius Black escapes from right under his – to quote the Marauder’s Map – “abnormally large nose”, he talks illogically, starts screaming and is even described as looking slightly deranged.

It might not have made much sense back then in the third book, but as the story progresses, it does fit into the jigsaw. For Snape, catching Sirius would have meant avenging Lily’s death, a small sense of comfort perhaps, that the person who supposedly betrayed their Fidelus Charm was punished.

 

Snape, though he hates Harry with passion, protects him throughout the series. He does it so subtly that Harry is never convinced that he is indeed not the bad guy. Even Dumbledore’s unwavering trust in Snape does little to change his opinion.

Having been a Death Eater previously, Snape is one of the very few people trusted by Voldemort. Thus he was given a most dangerous role to play by Dumbledore – a double agent. He was trusted with the task of providing the Dark Lord with information that seemed important while withholding the vital details convincingly, and in doing so, collect information on Voldemort’s next moves.

He had been the one to overhear Sybill Trelawney’s prophecy regarding the fall of the Dark Lord. But when he had learned that it meant Lily Potter’s son, his guilt, shame and anguish knew no bounds. It was enough to make him come over to the good side, and to fight alongside Dumbledore to bring down the Dark Lord.

So he protected Harry. Not because Dumbledore asked him to, not because he was possibly the one with the power to defeat Voldemort, but solely because he happened to be Lily Potter’s son.

Severus Snape did all he could to ensure Harry’s safety without letting him know so. He lied, spied, and even put his own life in danger. To look into the most evil dark wizard of all time and lie through one’s teeth was not an easy task, but he executed the task convincingly with elegance.

In the end he gave his life for the greater good, once more, for Harry – for Lily’s son.

The chapter on Snape in the last book, “The Prince’s Tale”, had one of the most touching parts in the series. When Snape casts his Patronus, it is a Doe, the same as Lily Potter’s. Dumbledore watches it bound across the grounds and turns back to him to ask, “After all this time?”

Snape’s single worded reply touched the hearts of the millions who read the books: “Always.”

 

All through, Snape’s allegiance lay with one person alone. Not with Voldemort, not with Dumbledore, but with Lily Potter and the love he had for her.

 

In the end, at King’s Cross, when his youngest son expresses his fear of being sorted into Slytherin, Harry tells him that he was named for two headmasters of Hogwarts – Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man he ever knew.

 

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FROM TOM RIDDLE TO VOLDEMORT – THE JOURNEY OF THE DARK LORD

A memory of the sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle writes the words “Tom Marvolo Riddle” in thin air with Harry’s wand inside the Chamber Of Secrets. He waves his wand and the letters rearrange themselves to form “I am Lord Voldemort”.

This cryptic anagram was another stroke of brilliance by J. K. Rowling, but it also gave a whole new layer to the handsome, quiet, charming and intelligent boy who was once a prefect in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft And Wizardry.

Tom Riddle had been a very odd child, according to the staff in the Orphanage where he grew up…he hardly ever cried even as a baby.

He liked to be by himself right from his childhood, and once he discovered his magical powers, though he did not know of their full extent, he exercised them to have his own way. He scared the other children, killing their pets, taking away their favourite things, terrorising them in mysterious caves. He was convinced he was ‘special’, right from when he was a child. He liked to feel that he was superior to others, and perhaps from this sprung the desire to be above other mere mortals, to be immortal.

His inherent hatred for his father who had abandoned him even before he was born probably lent fuel to his belief that muggles were less than magical people. His mother, who had been a witch, had died right after he had been born…she had chosen to give in to the mortal weakness of death. Tom Riddle believed he was above such weaknesses.

His Achilles’ Heel, in the end, turned out to be this fear of death and the urge to conquer it – he chose to make himself inhuman in exchange of supposed victory over death.

J. K. Rowling has stated that since he was conceived under the effects of a love potion, he was unable to feel love. Thus, he was abnormal right from when he was born – incapable of feeling normal human emotions and of being able to reciprocate them.

As Dumbledore once said, he never had friends. He had some followers, admirers. He was a loner, he trusted no one. The only living being he seemed to feel any amount of affection for was his snake, Nagini.

He manipulated situations from a very young age, like framing the innocent and naïve Hagrid for a crime he had never committed and getting him expelled for the same. He used his charm on Professor Slughorn to get information on horcuxes, a branch of the darkest magic, and killed his own uncle to make his first horcrux with the newfound knowledge.

He sought means to make himself immortal, murdering anyone who stood between him and his dreams of establishing his ultimate superiority over the world. He broke his soul into pieces, creating horcruxes – objects in which he stored the pieces of his soul. The existence of these horcruxes ensured that he couldn’t be killed, for the other pieces of his soul were safe and unharmed.

Once he completed his goal of creating 7 horcuxes, for he believed that 7 was the most magically powerful number, he damaged his soul beyond repair. He seemed no longer human, with snakelike features having replaced his completely distorted and previously handsome face.

Love, he believed, was a weakness. To him, greatness lay in power – there was no good or bad, there was only power and those too weak to seek it.

Tom Marvolo Riddle effortlessly transformed from a small, lonely orphan to an evil, manic, power-hungry Dark Lord. The dormant evil in him ever since he was a child bloomed into an insane urge to bury himself into the Dark Arts, to explore them beyond anyone had ever done before. He was indeed great, in his own way – a supremely powerful wizard who simply chose the wrong path.

He prized his ability to inflict fear in others…he was a racist in magical terms, placing ‘purebloods’ above all others, despising muggles and those of muggle descent.

He feared death, and so he chose to channel this fear into those who were innocent, and good. He lacked the ability to feel. He held as much disregard for his followers as he did for his enemies. He had transformed himself into being so inhuman that he was beyond remorse.

As it turned out, it was his complete ignorance towards things he did not understand or chose to ignore the powers of, that led to his downfall.

In the end, Lily Potter’s love for her son won over the most powerful Killing Curse. Severus Snape’s undying love for Lily turned him into the most dangerous spy, creating the biggest setback to his rise to power. Harry Potter’s love for his friends, for all the good in the world, his willingness to die for his friends – to make the world a better place, defeated his inhuman hunger for world domination and rendered him powerless.

His quest to become immortal was in vain, for no great power is invincible if someone is willing and daring enough to stand up to it.

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CAN’T HELP LOVING YOU

Trapped between his arms, her back to the wall, she stood her ground, chest heaving even as she wanted to throw herself into his arms and hear his calming heartbeat. But she pushed it away. He had hurt her enough. If she let go of her resolve of not giving into her desire now, she knew she’d lose her battle.

Hurt far more than she was insulted, she could take it no more. Her heart was more vulnerable than before. If she lost her senses now, she knew that she didn’t possess the strength to piece together her broken heart once again.

So she fought. She fought her heart which pounded in her chest, she fought her whole being to stare defiantly back into the eyes of the man who was slowly breaking down her defence despite her attempts otherwise.

The man, who drove her crazy with his one touch and hurt her beyond repair with a few words…the man who was her one true love, Abhi.

He inched closer, and she steeled herself for the forthcoming onslaught.

“Why’re you behaving like this?” he growled in a low voice, and she had to close her eyes lest they betrayed the effect he was having on her.

Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes and glared at him icily. “I could’ve asked you the same thing a few days ago.”

“Don’t play games with me, Nikita. I know what you’re trying to do.”, he replied, a sense of anguish mingled with anger in his voice. “And let me tell you something, you can’t fool me, of all people.

“I’m not trying to fool you”, she shot back, a feeling of grave satisfaction filling her heart once she understood how pained he was from the inside.

“Then why’re you hurting me so much?” More than his tone, his eyes questioned her, penetrating her own for answers. But she had blocked the answers she knew he could so easily read in her eyes with a thick curtain of stubborn determination.

Despite her heart’s pained protests, she was going to make sure he was just as hurt as she was.

It was the first time he had said it. For the pervious few weeks, she had realised his steady change of heart. His anger at her for not saying anything during the pool incident had slowly been washed away, replaced with his usual fondness for her. His arrogant attitude has changed to care, but by then she had been broken too much. Having had mastered the art of hiding her feelings efficiently, she distanced herself from him, unwilling to let him shatter her already broken heart.

Their noses touching, lips hardly a breath apart from each other’s, their bodies pressed together and the heat from his body almost intoxicating her alongside the heady smell of his aftershave, it took all the strength she possessed not to melt into him right then and there.

She almost forgot to breathe, his close proximity robbing her lungs of oxygen. Agonised beyond measure, she turned her face away from his prying eyes. Even while trying to block him away, all she saw was her thin wrist trapped between his fingers against the wall.

A sense of frission coursed through her whole body, and he seemed to feel her trying to free her wrists weakly. She was just as anguished as she was overcome with a desire to let him have his way once more. She fought back tears as he moved his hands, but only to intertwine her fingers with his, and she couldn’t do anything but stare and battle the urge to close her smaller fingers on his.

That was when the barrier broke. It was as if she was overpowered with a maddening and painful determination while on the brink of giving in despite not wanting to, turning back to him, she clenches her jaws and gave him the coldest stare she could possibly muster.

“I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m just trying to protect myself.” She wrenched her hands from his suddenly slack grip. Even as she saw his heart break in his eyes and felt her own contract in immense pain, she pushed him roughly aside and ran out of there. Once out of the suffocating office, she ran into a quite deserted side-corridor and breathed. Gasping for air and fighting the tears which pricked her eyes with all her might, she slid down the wall and landed on the floor with a thud.

Suddenly incapable of crying anymore after months of tear-filled, helpless, hapless, sleepless nights, she stared into blank space, hands balled into tight fists, wondering why she wished to run away from him.

The answer came to her so easily she was shocked she didn’t see it earlier. She didn’t want to run away. All she wanted to do was to make him feel pain. To hurt him just as much as he had hurt her. But today, when she had blurted out the truth with force, in her mad attempt to protect her heart, she had managed to break it once more.

Why was it so hard to be with him? Why was it so hard to simply let go of her inhibitions and give in to instinct? Instinct…which had screamed itself hoarse telling her that her happiness lay with him…he would never hurt her, if not by tormenting himself in the process. Why was it so hard? The answers were elusive, teasing, as they floated near her but remained just out of reach, and the echoing silence of the corridor deafened her.

 

***

 

Forehead pressed against the wall, gasping in air that never properly filled his lungs, Abhi stood in his office exactly as she had left him.

He could still feel the ghost of her touch. Wishing to take back every word he had ever said to insult her, everything he had ever done to hurt her, he had never hated himself more.

So she was protecting herself. From the attacks of her estranged emotions, from his hurtful words…from him. And he knew very well the reason why.

He had run from love all his life. But once he had been hurt, betrayed, and broken, and had almost given up on life, love had found him. And it had found him in the most unlikely place he could ever have imagined. He had been attracted to her against his wishes, and had rediscovered his happiness once more. But then he had been hurt again. Despite knowing how much she loved him, he had chosen to ignore her heartfelt apologies and had shunned her.

And today, he stood here alone once more, hurt perhaps beyond repair, only because he had feared a heartbreak. If only he could take it all back and embrace her once more…

Resting his head on the back of his chair, Abhi closed his eyes tightly. He used to love his loneliness once. Bad memories and a broken heart had wrecked him till he couldn’t recognise himself anymore.

He never expected he would find himself. But that spitfire had changed it all. She had stepped into his dark world, bringing with her a light of happiness, bubbliness, and a love for everything beautiful. She had broken through his every defence with effortless ease, and he never realised when she had mended his heart and had taken it with her.

He let out a frustrated sigh, and opened his eyes to stare dejectedly into space. She had done everything possible to hurt him today. He deserved it too. But it was too difficult to accept what she had said. The words that still rung in his ears pierced his heart every time, but they never settled.

They mocked him, bringing to the fore his deepest insecurity…that of losing her.

When she had come into his life, she had taught him to smile, to be happy, to look at the brighter side of things and to love. But now he hated her for not teaching her how to live without her.

Even breathing was laborious. One blunder had turned out to be the biggest mistake of his life. Taking a deep breath, he grabbed his keys and set off towards to parking lot, intending to head home and wallow in his misery, without informing a soul.

 

Nikki walked out into the parking lot, and into a light drizzle. She froze suddenly, as the memory of how Abhi had almost kissed her once in the rain pricked her insides.

Previously, every such memory brought a warm, fuzzy feeling in her stomach, making her blush and smile slightly. But right now, it was like rubbing salt on an open wound, and she wished she could rewind back to that moment and live it all over again. Despite the sharp contractions in her heart, she experienced an unknown, painful pleasure in her being. It filled her with a sort of disconnected, dejected happiness that engulfed her entirely as she stood rooted to the spot, right in front of Abhi’s car, eyes frozen on its tinted windows, memories of the passionate moments spent with him flooding her mind. They threatened to overflow, until she had to fight hard to resist the scream of agony building up inside her.

But even if she chose to let it out, she feared she had lost her voice. Realisation of what she had done about an hour ago hut her hard, sinking into her soul and pulling her down with it.

Engrossed completely in her thoughts, drowning in her rain, she did not even register when Abhi walked up silently and stood right behind her. The rain poured down in cold buckets, sending shivers through both of them, but it was nothing compared to what they were both feeling.

 

Nikki clenched her jaws and balled her fists, nails digging into her palms, barely capable of thinking anymore. She had gotten one chance to relive what she had lost, and a lot more than that…but in her own stubbornness, she had thrown it away. No matter how angry and hurt she was, she loved him, she needed him and wanted him.

Abhi simply looked at her, for the first time wishing to run from there and never look back. He didn’t posses the strength to see her beautiful face again after what had happened. If only he could cry and let it all out…but he didn’t know if he even had the tears which could express the turmoil inside him.

It was mocking tragedy for him when she suddenly turned, and their eyes met. Entirely accidental, the eye lock rendered him somewhat helpless. Running from his feelings had never been easy, but he hadn’t thought the pain would reach such an impossible magnitude with just one look.

He lost control. It was so easy to do what he knew he was forbidden to. His mind simply stopped fighting, and his treacherous heart urged him to say it once. To at least let her know what he had never had the guts to say, even if it was way too late.

“I love you…” his voice trailed away into the sound of the rain, not lost, but hanging somewhere between them, unabsorbed by either.

She just stared. Her heart, which normally pounded in his presence, seemed to have just stopped beating.

“I know what I said was too harsh…what I did was too hurtful, but…” he inhaled deeply. It wasn’t hard anymore to express his feelings. He felt he needed a way out. “…I just…I know I went too far.”

She didn’t say anything. Her clear, dark eyes pierced his own, but he couldn’t read them.

He turned away, unwilling to look at her anymore. He didn’t want to say anything else. A million words would fall short to tell her what he was feeling at the moment.

“I never said I loved you, Abhi”, her soft voice cut through the downpour, reaching his ears with astounding clarity.

“I never said you did”, he replied in brutal honesty, and his trembling voice finally broke.

His breathing deepened and hot tears slipped from his eyes, and he struggled to keep himself steady. She had again brought out his deepest feelings, ones he had shoved to a dark, secluded corner of his heart in an attempt to block them out. He wasn’t surprised to find that the pain had been replaced by a numbing feeling, for now he knew that it was impossible to break him any further.

He had never imagined he would cry again for a broken heart, but this was a moment when sensibility and self-control were beyond him.

If only wishes from shooting stars were real, and if only she loved him…he wanted nothing more than a miracle. And today, this night, he could do anything to be loved, to be embraced and to be told that everything would be alright.

After running from love all these years, it was so ironic that he was dying to be loved right now. He wanted a miracle.

As if an answer to his insane, impossible prayers in utter helpless pain, he felt her presence nearer to him.

“But sometimes, these things are better left unsaid…” her voice, barely louder than a whisper, strangled with pain, floated to him.

 

He didn’t turn around, he didn’t say another word, but his fingers slowly closed on hers when she lightly grasped his hand from behind.

The tears flowed more freely, and he didn’t know if they were of happiness, and he really didn’t care.

Breathing was easy once more, and he could feel his own heartbeat again, smell her perfume mingled with the rain, hear her soft breath and feel her hand in his…but more importantly, he could feel the love.

So maybe miracles do happen.

 

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THE WARRIOR PRINCE

“For men may come and men may go
But I go on forever”

-The Brook, Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Underrated, the most talked about personality in the world of Cricket, the “God of the offside”, the man who built up the Indian Team right from the shambles, the Captain who led the team from the front, declared war in every game – a war that he believed was only to be won. He instilled grit and unity in his boys, forever encouraging them to keep going – to challenge the unforeseen, to conquer the impossible and to call a spade a spade with defiance and confidence. He groomed his men from kittens to tigers, himself the Royal Bengal Tiger leading the pack, putting talent above all else. He taught his boys to return a stare with a glare and a finger with a fist, and charge ahead for all it was worth.

Sharp, feisty, and with an eye for spotting talent, he polished rocks into sparkling diamonds that today are the pride of the nation. He not only encouraged, he set examples. Himself a game changer and a match winner on his day, he gave his all for the team when they needed it.

Undeniably, he had a different approach to things…and more than many times it surpassed the stereotyped image of what an Indian cricketer should be – meek and unchallenging.

He had his own rules, and he never gave a damn about who thought what of him. He painted colour in the bleak world of Indian cricket. He didn’t just believe in creating history, he believed it writing it himself.

From waving his jersey while bare-chested at the Mecca of cricket, to making other captains wait for the toss, he gave a tooth for a tooth in every aspect of life. His ‘hell do I care’ attitude was either loved or hated by people.

His personality was such that it evoked the most extreme emotions from people. You either loved him or hated him. There was no space for the neutrality in between.

Here was a man who just couldn’t be ignored, whether loved by worshipping admirers or hated by critics – solely for his never-say-die spirit, and for his immense, and immensely underrated contribution to Indian and World Cricket.

At times it seemed as if he enjoyed pricking fate, revelled in challenging destiny. And every time, he emerged as the winner. A true fighter, he dared to take on whatever life threw his way, and even lost his fight against the tide, only to emerge stronger and better – to rise from the ashes again and again, like a death-defying phoenix, spreading its majestic wings and soaring higher into the sky each time.

He was, is, and always will be an inspiration to the millions who fall, and rise again with new strength, new confidence, and new vigour to start their battle once more.

The turbulence in his career just went on to show the Warrior he is. As is said, a Warrior never dies till his death. True to the saying, he fought back every time, to prove his critics wrong, to show the world that he belonged to the team solely because he deserved his place there.

Winning, losing, being criticised…all these were nothing compared to the battle. What mattered was the he put up a fight against all that attempted to deter him.

 

Few flames mesmerise with their brightness and beauty and yet scorch those who venture near enough to try and douse it, and give direction to wayfarers at the same time. He is one such flame. A leader in every sense of the word, he always was and forever will be a hero.

The man is fire…the man is Sourav Ganguly.

 

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TEN

And sometimes when we touch
The honesty’s too much.
And I have to close my eyes and hide.
I want to hold you till I die
Till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides.

(Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill)

 

“Are you alright?” Armaan asked worriedly as Nikki rubbed her neck with a grimace.

She turned to him with the grimace firmly in place. “Yeah, just tired…”

“What happened to you?” Anjali asked and Muskaan laughed slightly as she commented, “Yeah Nikki, you look like a zombie.”

The rest of them tittered at her expense and she glared at them all.

“Shut up, you all!” she made a face.

“But what got you in such a state?” Armaan grinned.

“I hadn’t gotten much sleep this week and so I messed up in the Path Lab yesterday and Dr. Keerti gave me night duty…after that I had things to do on the New Sanjeevani Project and I didn’t sleep a wink last night.” She shrugged.

“Wow, you’re one busy lady!” Armaan’s eyes went as big as saucers. “But you need to rest. Otherwise you’ll fall ill.”

“Oh don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I can sleep properly tonight since I don’t have work to take home today…at least till now”, she added as an afterthought.

“That was just mean of Dr. Keerti, yaar…she knows that you have more work than the rest of us!” Atul added sympathetically.

“Yeah, even Modi is better than that!” Armaan exclaimed before glancing at Nikki with a sheepish grin, and got a small smile in return.

“Are you sure you’ll survive the day?” he smirked at her and she aimed a punch at his face, which he promptly ducked.

“Don’t worry, even if you don’t, I’m sure someone will be there to carry you home”, Riddhima whispered in her ear with a teasing but wary smile that made Nikki stutter as she giggled.

“Come on, don’t you have duties?” she glared at them, finding nothing else to say.

“Yeah yeah…we’re going, Ma’am!” Armaan winked at her before disappearing from sight.

“What do I do with him!” Nikki raised her hands heavenwards as the rest of them laughed and went about their work.

She finally fished out her pager from the locker before heading to duty, massaging her temple.

 

 

***

“Nikita, what are you doing? Pay attention!” his sharp voice made her hurriedly sit up on her chair and push her hair out of her eyes.

“Honestly, if you’re not interested, just tell me. I don’t like to see my interns dozing off on work”, he glared at her.

“Dr. Nikita”, he threatened when she didn’t say anything.

“You know something? You’re really rude!”

“What the…” he stared at her, flabbergasted, as she went on and on, her cheeks flushed with colour.

“Here I am, working so hard, in fact, working double the amount as the rest of my friends, and you don’t even appreciate all the effort I put in…you can only boss people around, nothing else.”

“Nikki, what is wrong?” he asked in concern.

“What is wrong?” she repeated his question with her eyes as big as saucers.

“What could possibly be wrong? There’s nothing at all wrong!” Her eyes shone.

“Nikki, I’ll appreciate it if you told me whatever it is that is bothering you”, he breathed deeply to bite back the anger that was boiling inside him.

“There is nothing bothering me! Nothing at all, except the fact that I’m drowning in all the work you’ve given me without even considering if I’d be able to handle it all”, she glared at him.

His patience gave way.

“Oh. So that’s the problem. You know what Nikki? If you can’t manage even this amount of work, I don’t know what will happen to you when you become a full fledged doctor. Life isn’t that easy, Nikki…I understand you had extra work, but so did I. We had to prepare for that sudden meeting…there was no way out! You didn’t have any extra work last night, so there’s no need to be so hyper about it!”

She looked as if she was about to say something, but then she took a deep breath and glared at a pen on the desk.

“You have anything more to say?” he taunted lightly.

Her eyes closed for a second.

“Have I told you how much I hate this thing about you?” she looked so calm when she looked up.

He frowned in confusion.

“From the first day I met you, I hated everything about you…your strut, your arrogance, stubbornness, rudeness, attitude, your temper, your guts, and God knows what else!” the calm was replaced by a storm that grew fiercer with every word.

She suddenly found herself standing on his side of the desk.

“Oh yeah? Why don’t you cut it short?” he stood up as well, fire burning in his eyes. “Just say it, you hate me.”

Her breathing deepened as she glared, her eyes unblinking, up at him.

It hurt to hear him say that.

Yet it didn’t hurt to say that she hated all those things about him…but then, they were also the things she loved about him.

It was complicated, unlike other things in her life. If she hated something, she hated it thoroughly. But despite all that she had said right then, at the end of the day these were also among the many things that attracted her to him. It was strange…they weren’t the best attributes…they were everything she disliked in people. But in him, everything had its own charm.

“Go on, say it! Let’s make it official. Do you hate me?” he closed in on her but she stood her ground.

“No.”

It was nothing more than a whisper that escaped her lips, but it stopped him in his tirade of taunts.

“Why not? You hate everything about me…then why not me?” he lowered his head so he could see her properly.

She was still gazing at him quietly.

“Answer me.”

She moved her eyes away from his. “I just don’t.”

“I heard that. I asked you why.”

“It’s not important”, she replied, her voice barely audible, the emotion in them weighing the words down.

“It’s important for me”, he stated firmly but she maintained her silence.

She didn’t know why she avoided the answer. It was a scary concept. She wasn’t prepared to accept it till he did.

He cupped her cheek with one hand and pushed the hair out of the way with the other, pulling her face up. “Look at me.”

Something was broken in her big, red eyes as they stared unblinkingly up at him. It broke his heart.

He could tell she had been crying, but even as his thumb stroked her cheek, he could find no tears to wipe away.

“Do you want to tell me?” he asked quietly.

She didn’t answer.

“Can I get a hug?” her voice was so small he could hardly hear it. It was unsteady, like she was on the brink of losing control, but he chose to ignore her weakness as she would want him to and pulled her close with a small smile.

“Did you have a fight with someone again?” he asked quietly.

She gave a small shake of her head against his shoulder.

“Is it me?”

She didn’t react.

“Nikki…if…if you’re still thinking about what happened between us that evening…” he fumbled, searching for words. He was unsure of how to phrase it. “…I want you to know that I don’t regret it at all.”

She moved her head till it was resting right underneath his chin. Encouraged, he continued.

“We’re weird people, Nikki. We really care about each other but we still keep fighting…I’ve said things I’m not proud of, but if it’s affecting you so much, then I’m sorry.”

She shook her head. “It’s not you.” Her muffled voice came from his chest.

“Well, whatever it is, Nikki, it’s bothering you. And I’ve bothered you quite a bit as well. I can’t and I won’t say I’ll never hurt you again, because I know I will. I’m like that, Nikki, I say things I shouldn’t. I have a short temper and I have a hard time controlling it. I know myself. I won’t make you a promise I can’t keep but I can say that I’ll make it up to you. For all the things I say, at the end of the day I still care for you…and I care a lot.”

“Why are you saying all this?” she raised her head and looked at him. He couldn’t help but note how her voice still wobbled slightly, just hinting at how close to tears she still was.

“Because I feel I need to…I need to make some things clear. Maybe I can’t help much, but still…it would give me a lot of peace just to know that I tried to explain.” He sighed.

“Why?”

He stared at her for a while.

“I hate seeing you like this…your eyes are so red and I’m not used to it”, he answered quietly.

Her eyes softened.

“You’ve never asked me for a hug before”, he said in a strained voice.

“I’m just stressed out…” she sighed. “I didn’t sleep at all last night…I can’t even think.” She rested her head back down on his chest. “It’s not about you.”

“Maybe…but the fact that you had to ask for a hug makes me feel guilty.” He could feel her smile.

“I don’t regret it either, you know…if that’s bothering you in any way”, she told him quietly, and he didn’t need to ask to know what she was referring to.

“It’s not…it’s not bothering me. What’s bothering me is the fact that we let something as beautiful as that become a cause for conflict between us”, he sounded disturbed.

“I hate how straightforward you are”, she commented softly.

“I’ll just add that to the list then”, he said grimly, but his eyes twinkled above her head.

It was a while before he heard what sounded suspiciously like a sob, and he understood that she was finally letting it all out. Glancing down he saw she had her hand on his chest, under her face to stop the tears from wetting his shirt. He smiled in amusement at her adamant refusal to cry in front of anyone.

It wasn’t long before the tears stopped. It could have been hardly five minutes. He gave her some time to dry her eyes and pretend nothing had happened.

“You can yell at me all you like…” he spoke, lifting her face from his chest to look into her eyes. “You’re free to fight with me, argue with me, accuse me of being the worst person on earth…I’ll even be your punching bag if you want me to”, he winked.

“As long as you stay with me and trust me enough to cry into my chest, I’ll take anything you throw my way”, he smiled, and her eyes widened.

“Which movie did you pick that cheesy line off?” she frowned at him.

A wry smile played on his face.

“Just what I felt.”  He took a deep breath and shrugged, and then sighed at the look on her face.

“Well then, if it disgusts you so much then I’ll just cut the frills and get straight to the point.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t care if you hate everything about me, fact is that I love you”, his eyes softened.

She looked at him, slightly taken aback.

“Err…”

“And I will continue to fight with you for the rest of my life. Don’t you dare object to it.”, he glared at her in determination.

“If you’re done, can I say something?” her eyes twinkled.

“Absolutely not! I said it and it is final. If I let you speak then you’ll just end up confusing both of us.” He gave her a hard stare as her eyes widened.

She blinked at him before bubbling with laughter.

“Well at least that took care of the tears”, he smiled.

“I still hate those things about you”, she informed him pointedly.

“Do you want me to change them?”

“Don’t you dare”, she threateningly poked her finger into his chest, and he leant in and touched his lips to hers.

“Shall I drop you home?”

“But the work?”

“That can be taken of later…I don’t think you’re in a sane state right now…rather than dozing off on my papers, better you be safe and sleeping in your bed”, he chuckled.

“You’re impossible!”

“Thank you! I learnt from the best”, he said pointedly.

“You…” he shut her up with a fierce kiss before she could even begin to say something properly.

 

She blushed at his loving assault but pretended to be angry at him for stopping her before she even began her rant. She had missed his touch.

He was right. They were weird people.

As he tweaked her nose, she threw a mock glare at him before he pulled her into another hug.

 

Riddhima was right too. Everyone hurts us in life.

He could feel her smile against his chest.

We just have to find the ones worth suffering for.

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