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Stars (Book 2)

Chapter 27


「 Five Years Later 」

"It's been six and a half minutes since you're hiding behind that menu card. Why don't you put it down and tell me what's going on in that small head of yours?"

"Why can't I be just thinking about what to order?" I retort, peeping out of the breakfast menu and keeping it down.

"There's nothing more than eggs and bacon and salad on that menu. And you're vegetarian, not much to think," he reminded, "And especially not for six and a half-- seven minutes now."

I flushed. He raised an eyebrow in return. His sharp jawline and those calming eyes always get to me. And maybe it was the full suit I was seeing in him for the first time today that made me even more flushed every time I look at him.

"It's nothing," I cover up, "Just my nerves. I don't think I'm ready to work yet. And not when I get it without an interview, on a platter. You could get better workers than me for that job."

"Work?" He squeezed his eyebrows. "Let me be the one to remind you, you're not working. It's a simple three month internship as my assistant. You'll get it on your resume, I'll get my work done, and we can get back to regular lives."

I nodded. "I know, but--" my voice faded when a brunette made her way to us to get the orders.

"A vegetable salad and black coffee for the lady, and half friend eggs for me please," He ordered.

"I don't want black coffee," I correct, "It'll be tea please." The lady took her order and left.

"Black coffee will help calming your nerves," he said.

"I hate coffee," I mumbled, whining, "Like I was saying, you're a psychologist, Zubin. Why don't you just stick to your career? Why do you want to join your Dad's business?"

"That's exactly what I want to do, which is why I am hiring you, you see. There's this important case I have, which I cannot leave. And my father wants me to help with the family business. While I handle my cases, I hire you as an assistant, you take my place-- handle meetings with my brother, be everywhere I need to be, cut me the slack for the next three months. You get the internship done, I get my case done. You're qualified for a job after that, I come back and take over. It's simple, really," he explained again.

"It's a wise decision, on your part. But what about me? I'm inexperienced. You can't just hand over your job to be just because we're friends--" I started and he cut me off.

"Best friends," he corrected and my eyes lower, "And it's three years I know you now, Nandini. If there's anything about you I know, it is that you're one of the most hard working and dedicated and loyal people I've ever met. There's no one I can trust more for this job except you. And you'll be fine. It's a small company, really, and I will be there to guide you whenever you need me. You're passionate about your work, and work is all you have to do," he convinced.

I lick my lips, nodding. I felt calmer talking it out, and a part of me felt so glad I agreed to come out for breakfast before going to his office, I really needed to say my problems out instead of sitting in a cocoon in the safety or my room.

"But do we have to start today? Can't we wait for the month start or something--?" I began again but his laughter cut me off.

"You'll be okay!" He interrupted, "I promise. Trust your best friend?"

"You're not my best friend," I huffed.

"Is there anyone else you could turn up to in the whole of London if you need anything?" He raised an eyebrow. I ignored him, not giving in just yet.

"Is there anyone else you even call a friend except me?" He teased again.

"Puh-lease," I rolled my eyes, "You make me sound like a loner."

But then somewhere, a smile cracked on my face. I got what he really did- diverted my attention.

"There it is! That lovely smile," he smiled. And I smiled a little more.

"Ah babydoll, what would you do without me?" He laughed. I smiled back, although that word stuck behind.


I closed my eyes for just a moment and I couldn't ignore the hollow feeling in my chest, like something was empty inside me; which it was.

I tried ignoring it through the years, but deep down, I knew there was something broken inside me, something so shattered that it would never fix, never heal, no matter what I tried doing.

The waitress got our orders, and I looked up to give a polite smile, but her eyes wouldn't be off Zubin. Some charm this guy had.

Although Zubin looked straight at me. I suppressed a smile. "Have you got a diary like I asked you to?" He asked. I nodded as he continued, "Great. Give it to me, I'll put in a few numbers you should have as my secretary and as emergency contacts if I am unavailable."

I nodded, removing it from my bag and handing it over to him, as I left him to it, and continued my food, my mind drifting in and out of the thoughts I was trying hard to suppress.

"I am the psychologist, but you do have a way with words, don't you?" I saw him smirk as I looked up.

"What?" I asked, confused.

"Why didn't you tell me?" He seemed amused, "Isn't my bestfriend an amazing poet!" It didn't sound like a question.

"What?" I asked again, leaning forward and snatching the red diary from his hand which he was reading with so much amusement.

I glanced at the words scribbled across the page in random, in a familiar writing which definitely did not belong to me.

I lost myself
inside her world,
she found herself
inside of mine,
we loved this game
of hide and seek.

My heart skipped a beat the moment the words registered in my head.

My mouth suddenly felt dry and I felt like I was suffocating as everything that I had suppressed inside me came rushing back at once. I definitely lost appetite, feeling the need to puke. I gulped, as I kept staring at the oddly familiar writing for longer than I should, when there was nothing much to read.

I tried focusing on the person opposite me, studying me like he always does, but all I could think about was the hollow feeling in my chest that returned and I could hear my heart pumping blood, and as if it was possible, whatever I felt, felt good and bad at the same time.

It suddenly just broke a part of myself, and that oddly made me feel good.

Like they say, pain makes you human.

Or perhaps, it was the lack of emotion in the new life I had chosen for me, punishing myself for reasons I couldn't even say to myself. I shit myself out from every human contact in the past few years except for Zubin, who happened to my friend by accident.

And after such a long time, I felt something. I couldn't even stop the emotions that hit me like a strong storm, but I somehow felt nice to feel something, anything... even if that were pain.

I pulled myself out of my world, my eyes matching Zubin's, who I was sure was studying every expression of mine. Sometimes, this guy really took his job too seriously.

"It's not mine," I bluntly replied, shutting the dark red leather diary and clutching it tightly in my hand before stuffing it back in the bag.

"And who's is it?" He raised an eyebrow.


"Someone's," I tried smiling but nothing more came out than a crooked half excuse of a smile.

"And is this someone from your past?" He raised an eyebrow.

"What's with the questions?" I snapped back instantly. I just couldn't help it, whenever someone brought out my past, I get onto defence.

But not a lot of people do that, and Zubin was capable of taking my rude behaviour. That is what I did for one full year, trying to push him away but he just wouldn't go and then I simply accepted him as the only person in my new life.

"Why do you get so hulk-y about your past?" He laughed, "It's been five years you left India, isn't it? Let go; which is, unless you're like a serial killer or something."

Something like that.

I managed to crack a small smile, pulling off a facade, but every now and then, my eyes kept reaching the red diary safely tucked in my bag.

Have I had his diary for all these years and not realised it until today?

And how did it even come to me? It's not like it flew all the way from India to London to say hello to me.

The only explanation that makes sense would be if Cabir packed it up and sent it to me with my other luggage after I left India in haste that night? Perhaps, he thought it was mine.

Cabir. Navya. I miss them so much. I miss everyone so much, actually.

But I could never accept that to myself.

I shouldn't miss them, to be honest. Leaving India was my decision. Totally mine. It wasn't like someone had picked me up and thrown me out of the country or blackmailed me to leave everything in the middle and run away.

Brutal, but still the truth-- I ran away. I was so desperate to try to start fresh, I had become so selfish and centred around my pain and my loss that I forgot everyone else in the process. And by the time I got a sane mind back and realised what I had done, it was too late to go back. Years had passed by.

So I did what I could do the best. I tried burying the memories deep inside me and living ahead. Because that's how life works. Life doesn't wait for your pain or to give you time. It moves ahead, and if you can't keep up, you get left behind.

I moved on.

And I was hoping they did too.

I didn't remember any of them very often, or atleast, I tried not to. I kept the memories safely tucked in corners of my heart that I was forbidden from visiting.

And no, it wasn't easy, so I wouldn't pretend to say that it was. It was the most difficult thing I have ever, ever done. And not because I was depressed or anything.

But because I was broken. A lot of people say they are broken, but only very few know what it actually feels like. It's like, you're fine the entire day; you're smiling and laughing with everyone and then suddenly, while staring into a book, you realise you can't think at all. Your head gets filled with scrambled thoughts till the very top and you find yourself not being able to think at all. It feels empty, in the very truest sense. It's not writing poetry or romantic novels till midnight like literature fantasised heartbreak to be. It is tiring, energy consuming and very, very draining; leaving you in nothing but a puddle of insecurities about yourself that keep you overthinking all the fucking time, it's so miserable that I wouldn't even wish heartbreak upon my worst enemies.

But you don't always get what you wish for, do you? We make wrong decisions and sometimes, we are forced to live with the choices we make.

And you have to let your heart break.

"Hey?" I heard Zubin as I flinched in surprise of being drawn out of my thoughts, the tea cup falling off the table and shattering into a hundred pieces.

I panicked, still in surprise, a little taken aback and my quickest reflex was to reach for the pieces and assemble them together.

I was just about to touch one of the broken glass pieces when I felt a strong hand grip mine mid way, and looked up to see Zubin's shocked face. He tried looking into my eyes but I just couldn't. I suddenly felt lost, as if being pulled out from another world.

"Let it be," He said, his eyes managing to reach mine.

"It broke. I--..." I shuttered. I understood his surprise. I was always the confident girl, I knew what I did. But this was actually what was left of me. A girl panicky girl who overthought so much.

"It's okay," he stopped me midway. "Sometimes, broken things have to be left broken. You just have to learn to accept that it is broken now and no matter what you do, you can't put it back together; and even if you do manage to do that, it'll never be the same. You just have to know that it isn't a bad thing. Being broken is not bad, not accepting it is."

Oh, the meaning. We were not talking about beautiful tea cup that was broken into a hundred pieces on our feet anymore. We were talking about my heart which once broke in the same way and I had no idea how to pick it up again or piece it back together again.

Maybe I shouldn't.

Because like my best friend just said, sometimes, you have to let broken things be broken.

✿ ✿

"This is your not-so-big company?" I asked with an open mouth as we stood in front of the multi-millionaire company's glass building that reflected the sunlight and stood ahead of me, in all its elegance, in a way that was intimidating to me, but a dream answerer to a lot of people.

Ivory Stars

Yes, that was the name of the company-- fashion house I was going to work in. The biggest fashion house of India started originally in London, then taken to France, and now New York. I was in its headquarters, working as the right hand of the owner. I mean, not owner, but his son but you know what I mean.

I knew Zubin was rich. And when he said about the internship and his company, I didn't expect a lodge house of three people. But I did not expect a fucking talk twenty storey building made of white glass and mirror, screaming porsche and discipline.

He rolled his eyes at me as if it was no big deal as he walked in with me following closely behind him.

The receptionist stood up looking at him, in shock I reckon, maybe they weren't used to seeing him here. Following her, everyone got up, paying attention to him, and then their eyes fell on me, who was standing behind him. Zubin gave everyone a curt nod, unlike his jovial behaviour and they resumed back to their work.

People buzzed around me. Being a fashion house, everyone was dressed with their best, everyone creative in their own way. Some pushed across racks of clothes-- designer dresses, some carried files up and down, some were on their phone. The interior was Just was beautiful as the exterior, and screamed it's elegance in its own way.

I small flashback took me to my first day at Space. This is exactly how I entered that college, looking at everyone deeply busy with their own works, appreciating the aura it rendered and thinking if I would ever be able to fit in. If I would ever be able to be one of them.

I found myself asking myself the same question, especially with all the eyes scanning me and my attire. I was happy I decided to dress good atleast.

"What time does the work start here?" I asked Zubin in a hushed tone as he led me to his cabin.

"Eight," He said. My eyes in reflex reached my watch. It's was ten thirty. My eyes widened. "I am late on my first day at work. What would everyone be thinking about me?" I ranted, to myself mostly.

He stopped, turning behind. He rolled his eyes, managing a smile at the same time. "If anyone asks, tell them you were on a date with me. No one would question you after that," he casually shrugged.

My eyes widened more. "What?"

"I'm joking," he chuckled at my reaction, "It's London. No body cares unless you being late is stopping their work. I'm your boss, remember?"

I sighed, feeling the nerves rising again as I followed him to his cabin.

"The desk right outside my cabin, it'll be yours," he told me. I nodded. "It's not a cabin, but like a small joining room between my brother's cabin and mine, so it opens both ways."

I nodded again. "My brother doesn't have a secretary, in case you're wondering. So you'll have the room by yourself most of the times. No assistant lasts more than a day, so you'd be alone most of the times. You can use my company if you get bored," he winked. I squeezed my brows.

"Is he that strict?" I asked, "Your brother?"

"Nope," He said, smiling, "He's cool. Just when it comes to work, he has extra horns or something like that. Otherwise, he's pretty much chill. He's elder to me, by a year; Always been covering up for me to our parents, so, I love him a lot."

"Oh," I said, although it didn't make sense. How can his brother be just a year elder to him, if they're real brothers? Not wanting to pry, I nodded again.

"Why don't you go to his cabin?" He urged, "Get yourself introduced. I'll join you within a few minutes with a file to get started and someone to explain you exactly what you have to do and how."

"Alright," I nodded, taking a deep breath when he stopped me. "Take him some black coffee to drink. He'd like you instantly," He added. I smiled, leaving his cabin.

I went outside, and almost collided with someone.

She was beautiful. Tall, fair, brown hair that reached her shoulders, straightened as pins and an adorable smile on her face.

"Hi, I'm Jeff," she smiled apologetically, "And I'm so sorry. Did I hurt you?"

"No, I'm alright," I smiled back, "Are you?" She nodded instantly. "Are you Indian?" She asked, her eyes glittering. She looked curious, not prying.

"I am," I nod, dutifully. "I'm half Indian too," she smiled enthusiastically and I said.

"That's great," I smiled, "Could you just let me know where I could make any coffee?" I asked and she pointed to the coffee counter opposite the room. I smiled in gratitude, "Thanks, and I'm Nandini, by the way."

"Nice meeting you, have a nice day," she waved, getting inside Zubin's cabin as I made my way to make the coffee. Making the black coffee and asking someone for help again, I made my way to the second cabin.

I knocked a few times, but when I didn't get any answer, I entered. The coffee was steaming hot and burning my fingers, and I just needed to kept it down.

The cabin was empty. Much to my dismay, I walked towards the exquisite glass table in the centre and placed the coffee there, covering it, and taking in my surroundings.

It was made of black marble mostly, including the table and the furniture. The room was large, one side of it being tall glass covered with black net curtains. Book shelves on the wall behind the table, left side full of trophies of achievements and certificates and portraits. It was carpeted, and had an enormous vase in one corner, filled with white tulips that seemed fresh. The table had a golden globe on side, a closed laptop in the middle and two frames, turned the opposite side. A coat hung behind the huge black velvet chair, marking someone's presence.

Anyone could be intimidated by just walking into the cabin, with all the black inside it. It looked designed by the best interior designers, coordinated in shades of white marble and black and had a strong scent, as of a perfume, which was giving me a headache just a few minutes after entering inside.

An unknown smile crossed my lips, taking in the surroundings. It spoke of class and beauty.

I walked around a bit, well knowing that I shouldn't. I couldn't stop gawking at all the achievement trophies and certificates that took up the huge wall.

I was looking around a little more when my eyes fell on a name, engraved in black marble behind the closed door of the cabin as I stride towards it, taking a better look at it.


My breath stuck right in my throat, like I had forgotten how to breathe in that moment.

Zubin. His name was Zubin Singhaniya.

It had to be Manik Singhaniya.

This isn't Manik Malhotra. Not the man I knew. Not the man I left behind five years back. Not the man who once made my heart beat faster. It is not him.

I put my hand on my mouth, taking deep breaths like I was instructed to do, trying to calm myself. Don't panic. If you panic, everything goes wrong, remember?

My eyes fell back on the frame on the table, who's black back faced me. I almost jogged there.

My mind adviced me against it like it always does and I didn't pay an heed to it like I always do.

I had to do this. It was wrong, but I had to. It was a necessity. I'll check the frame, it'll be of someone I don't know, this wouldn't be my-- the Manik I knew, and I will work ahead.

The perfume smell that was giving me a headache was replaced by a familiar scent as I approached the table and stood near the black coat on the chair. I tried ignoring the scent, and the familiarity of it. I tried ignoring how it felt like the warmth I had left behind Five years ago.

I was to stubborn to let another thought enter my head. This couldn't be. I was overthinking this situation like I always do.

With trembling hands, I clutched the frames, turning it to myself, holding a breath and taking in the picture I first saw.

It was of someone very familiar to my eyes. Black long hair and fair cheeks with dimples that became prominent, especially when she blushed. It was a candid picture, of her laughing away her hand on her mouth, and I knew it was clicked on that day in Mangalore when we recited our memory around the bonfire that night.


I dreaded even touching the second frame but I still did, flipping it back as my heart skipped a beat. No words came out, no feelings, no expressions. Just a mass of nothingness as I stared at the picture placed safely in the second frame.


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