Reaching the house, Mrs. Smith thanked both Nikloi and Steven for their help. Chrissy decided to stay quiet though she really wanted to speak to Steven. She went to him to thank him for all he had done. Steven gave her a big smile and shook her hands warmly. He really like the girl but realizing that he was being watched by two piercing blue eyes, he quickly got back inside the car.
Her mother and sister had reached the front door inside the gate. As Chrissy turned around behind the car, Nikloi stepped in her way. Without any preamble, he asked her,
“Why didn’t you tell me you were here with your family?”
She knew instantly he was referring to their talk at the museum but she was in no mood to answer him. She feigned ignorance, “I don’t know what you are talking about”. Saying this, she tried to cross him but he held her hand, making her freeze at her spot. They were standing behind the car, away from the view of the house but Chrissy was apprehensive what he might do next.
They stood like as seconds passed by. She could feel the air around them sizzle even though it was getting dark. He whispered, “I thought you were with..”. his low voice trailed off without completing.
She gulped the air as her own voice failed to help her. Struggling to find her composure, she said, ” I.. I.. need to go”.
“Can I come tomorrow?”, he suddenly asked.
To say Chrissy was shocked with his question would be an understatement.
Nikloi Swaroski did not ask for permission.
He did what the hell he wanted, without any regards to what others thought.
Seeing her shocked, he added with a straight face, “You might need help tomorrow. There are sometimes relapses in such cases. I just thought if you…”. He again trailed off.
This was certainly different from any other experiences she had had with Nikloi Swaroski. She hadn’t seen being unsure of himself.
When she didn’t answer, he took her silence as her acceptance.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then”, said. He wasn’t, after all, that unsure .
With that, he turned back and went to sit in the front passenger seat.
The car went off in the dark and Chrissy went inside the house. Betty Granny fussed around all of them making sure Mrs Smith was comfortable. She adored the Smith family and was worried when they had called her from the hospital. But now they were back and she cared for them like their own family.
That night Chrissy and Alice slept with their mother. The stressful events of the day had brought them closer and they wanted to make the best of their vacation time. All three huddled together and Mrs. Smith talked to them like they were her small girls again. Chrissy didn’t say much but Mrs. Smith knew her daughter. She didn’t want to force her to say something she was not at ease with. Somehow she knew now what had caused so much change in her daughter. She hoped her daughter knew it too.
Her daughter, on the other hand, hoped her mother and sister never come to know Nikloi Swaroski well enough to know that his today’s demeanour was just a façade. The man behind that charming face was too worldly for their liking. They would only end up getting hurt, just like her.
And she didn’t want Nikloi hurting them, not even unknowingly.
Next morning was just as bright and sunny like the day before. Betty Granny had cooked delicious pancakes for them and they were all eating around the small table. They enjoyed a lazy morning making plans about how to spend the day.
Chrissy was relaxed now that her mother was fine. She couldn’t remember last time when they were all so happy and carefree. It must have been before her father
passed away. Life, in last few years, had not been easy to them. Things had started getting better with her moving to Regency Palace but everything came at a price.
While financially they were still not very strong but their days of living hand to mouth were behind them. She didn’t have to think hundred times before agreeing for an additional class that Alice had been requesting for or t
o get something which would make life a little easier for her mother at home.
But her mother still had to undergo her treatment. While she was doing well at the moment but the doctor had informed Chrissy that if the condition worsens, they will have to perform the surgery immediately to treat her nervous system disorder. This was highly specialized surgery which would be performed by a top neurologist and the cost would therefore be fairly high.
Chrissy had been saving for this operation but she was still a long shot from the total amount. Fortunately her mother’s health had not deteriorated and she was coping well with the situation but yesterday’s experience had shaken Chrissy.
In those hours at the hospital, she had been dying silently thinking what if her mother needed that surgery now. What if she had not taken proper care of her mother? She had hardly been at home to look after her.
Her dream, her shop had taken precedence over everything else. And though she kept telling herself that she was working so hard to ensure they had a better life and that her mother could get the best of the treatments, she knew none of that would matter if something was to happen to her mother. She knew she wouldn’t be able to bear another loss.
She had to do everything to get her mother operated in time. And if that means working till she drop dead, she would still do so.
With that decision, Chrissy decided to give Steven a call to check about yesterday’s hospital payment. Nikloi had been around all the time and didn’t let her talk to him but she couldn’t accept Nikloi paying for her bills. She knew he had not a single sympathetic bone in his body and such a favour would only mean that he would extract it back from her when it suited him.
She didn’t want to owe him anything. Definitely nothing to do with her family. She may not be uber rich like him or his class but she had self-respect. Her pride had brought her where she was and she wasn’t willing to let go of it because of a snobbish man.
She had just dialled in his number when there was a knock at the door. Chrissy had move to the backyard to make the call and Alice went to answer the door. While she was still dialling Steven’s number, she heard voices from the living room. She stopped in her track when she heard the male voice. He wouldn’t do that!
Chrissy hurried back inside the house to see Nikloi Swaroski standing tall among the ladies of her family. Mrs. Smith, Alice and Betty Granny were standing around him warmly greeting each other. Chrissy could feel her blood boiling. What was he doing here? She wondered angrily and walked inside the room to interrupt the happy union.
The moment she reached the living area, his eyes shot up to her face. A strange unknown look flashed through his eyes, before he wished her good morning. No smile. Chrissy was irritated by him for being there, but still an unexplainable pleasure ran through her body.
He held her gaze till she reached right next to the company where all the ladies were awing and cooing around him. Apart from him, she was disappointed with them too. Why are they welcoming him inside, making him sit? Betty Granny had already gone to get some tea and cakes for him. She didn’t want him to have tea with her family. She didn’t want him here at all. But she couldn’t simply ask him to leave without scaring her own family of her rudeness.
He was sitting down on the sofa next to the window and still looking at her, still holding her eyes while he answered her mother’s questions.
Her mother gave her a questioning look when she kept standing staring at him with obvious displeasure. Realizing there wasn’t much she could do, she sat down on the other sofa slightly away from them. Mrs. Smith settled down on the sofa seat adjacent to Nikloi’s sofa. Alice went to help Granny get the servings.
Mrs. Smith was quite pleased with Nikloi’s arrival and thanked him for dropping by. He enquired about her health and she answered him saying she was very well. She was through with yesterday’s illness and felt as if it never happened.
loi being the charming guest, immediately commented. “Glad to hear you feeling that way today. Ms. Smith was quite concerned yesterday”. He was again looking at Chrissy while speaking.
Mrs. Smith looked Chrissy and smiled warmly, “Yes, both my daughters really love me. And now, instead of me, it is Chrissy who is taking care of all of us”.
“Mom!”, Chrissy interrupted Mrs. Smith but she continued.
“She works very hard to ensure that we don’t have to worry. If it wasn’t for her, we would have been lost after their father left us”, she said emotionally.
“Mom please!”, Chrissy said a little more sharply than she intended to. Mrs. Smith was startled by her sudden reaction. Chrissy could see she had hurt her mother, even though unintentionally.
She quickly stood up and went to sit next to her. She took her hands in her lap and said, “I am sorry, Mom. You don’t have to talk about those days. In fact, we don’t have to talk about anything that could make you sad. We are all happy and together. And that is what’s important today”.
“Yes, dear. You are right. You and Alice are the best things to have happened to me”, Mrs. Smith said proudly to her daughter.
Chrissy smiled back embarrassingly, knowing that Nikloi Swaroski was closely watching their conversation. She didn’t want her mother discussing her in front of Nikloi but she didn’t want to hurt her either. Getting trapped in this undesirable situation, her resentment towards the creator of the situation returned multi-folded. It was his fault that she had to lose her cool with her mother. Something that she had never done. It was all his fault!
At that moment Betty Granny and Alice walked back in the room with tea, some cucumber sandwiches and apple pies. As soon as her eyes landed on apple pies, they automatically turned to Nikloi. He seemed to have a similar reaction too and was looking at her.
His expressions was difficult to read but Chrissy was immediately reminded of the time she had eaten apple pies with him. When he had taken her to his room for the first time. And how he had become outraged when she told him she didn’t want to be in his room.
What an irony!. She had not only been to his room again, but had also spent an entire night with him all alone in his room. The memories brought dark colour to her face. Looking at his face, she knew he was thinking about the same things as well.
Not knowing how to control her embarrassment, she turned her face away from his constant gaze. Betty Granny handed over his tea and Alice quickly offered an apple pie. “Betty Granny makes amazing apple pies. They are Chrissy’s favourite”, she said excitedly to Nikloi.
Chrissy groaned inwardly, thinking, what was wrong with family! Why were all of them so keen on sharing her personal details with him?
“I know”, Nikloi answered to Alice and suddenly all four pair of eyes were on Chrissy.
Great! She thought. Now they are all wondering when did I share that with him.
She seethed with anger towards him for planting the question in their minds. She was anyways worried what they must be thinking about his over interest in her mother’s health and now this. With each passing second her patience was growing thin. She had to find a way to make him leave.
Nikloi was praising Betty Granny for the delicious apple pies. She was more than pleased to get some more for the company. She and Alice went in to get another serving. Same time there was a telephone call for Mrs. Smith who went in to take it from the other room.
The moment ladies were out of earshot, Chrissy stood up and questioned Nikloi impatiently, “What are you doing here?”
“Calling on your mother. I told you yesterday, I shall visit her today”, he answered nonchalantly.
“I don’t remember agreeing to your visit”, she asked again.
“I don’t remember you not agreeing to the visit”, he answered coolly again.
Chrissy drew an exasperated sigh and turned away from him. She couldn’t understand the man. He had, on more than one occasion, expressed his stark displeasure at talking to her, her association to anyone he knew, her class, h
er background, etc. And yet here he was, having tea and snacks at her house, that too in another city, as if they were old family acquaintances.
She had controlled her emotions with a lot of struggle. She knew he would hurt her, one way or another. Any kind of interaction (she didn’t want to call it a relationship cause it wasn’t one) with him would only cause pain. And so she had stopped herself. Distanced herself from him in every way possible and he had made no efforts to stop her. In fact he had ignored her existence itself. So why was he doing this now? She was struggling to decipher him.
“Fine. You have met her now. She is well. Thanks for your visit”, she said as calmly as possible without giving in to her desire to push him out of the house.
“Are you dismissing me?” Nikloi asked annoyingly calmly but in the process ensuring Chrissy loses her cool.
“What do you want from me? Didn’t we agree that what we do is not a concern for another?” she asked, infuriated by his behaviour.
She was angry and even more so because he didn’t seem to care.
Coming close to where she stood, he asked, “Do you really want to know?”
There was something about his face and tone which warned her that she didn’t
want to know but it was too late to back down. And really she wanted this over
with. So she said in a low voice,
“Yes… I do”.
His gaze grew much more intense, blue eyes boring deep into green ones. There was complete silence in the room, except, Chrissy could hear her own rapid heartbeats. He was standing very close to her and a slight movement from either one of them would result in touching each other.
Chrissy stood still fearing what he would do. But more than that, she was afraid what she would do next. Would she able to stop him? Stop herself?
But before anything could happen, Nikloi surprised her again when he suddenly turned away from her. She was staring at his back confused what happened to him.