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Jatin came striding inside Snigdha’s room and shouted at the top of his voice, “Mini, what is Abir doing at Sameer’s house?”

Snigdha looked up from the book she was reading, her heart starting to pound fearfully. Her mouth had gone dry. “Abir is Sameer’s best friend. Don’t burst a vein about it now.”

“Mini! He shouldn’t be here. Why on earth didn’t you stop Sameer from inviting Abir? I don’t want him anywhere near you and Sameer. Get him out of there.”

Jatin’s thundering voice was getting on Snigdha’s nerves. She replied scathingly, “Dad, that is Sameer’s house. He can invite whoever he wants. Are you trying to control Sameer the way you control me?”

Jatin was incensed. He hated being defied like this. He replied menacingly, “Mini, you are crossing your limits. I’m going to talk to Mrinal about it. That boy won’t taint your life again as long as I’m alive.”

Snigdha stood up, unable to hold back her anger anymore. She yelled hysterically, “It’s you who’s crossing limits.” Beyond anything, she was stunned to be talking to her father like this. This was a first. “What has Abir ever done to you? You wanted him out of my life, you did that. What more is left? Now won’t you even let him have friends? How can you be so cruel? How can you even think of dragging Mrinal uncle in all this mess? What will the Sinhas say if you misbehave with Abir now?”

Jatin was lost for words. Of course, Mini had a valid point. He couldn’t talk to Mrinal or Sameer about throwing Abir out of their house, or else they would realise there was something sordid going on. He said after a pause, “I’ll talk to Abir. He has to leave on his own then.”

Snigdha stared horrified at her father. “No. Dad, no. Please. I promise you I won’t let anything go wrong because of Abir. Please, leave Abir alone. He doesn’t deserve to be treated so harshly. He’s a good person. He won’t ruin things for me. Why don’t you give him a chance?” She couldn’t continue pleading anymore. She had to sit down holding her head; tears—hot and fast—streamed down her face.

Jatin stared at her daughter and said with gritted teeth, “Even now, with Sameer in your life, you can’t stop fighting for Abir. Abir was bad news then, he is bad news now.” He left.

Snigdha heard her father’s retreating footsteps but didn’t look up. What was she going to do now? What if her father actually hurt Abir? She knew this was going to happen. Sooner or later they were going to come face to face. She had been dreading this since morning when she had heard her father was going to Sameer’s house to finalise the guest list. She had tried to stop her father from going there, but had failed. She skipped work that day because she couldn’t concentrate on anything.

Should she talk to Abir? But it would be so unfair. Abir had all the rights to attend his best friend’s wedding. How was she going to protect Abir this time? Sameer—he was the only solution her overwrought brain could conjure. But what was she going to tell Sameer though?

Just then Snigdha’s mobile pinged. In order to distract herself from the pounding headache, she checked the mobile, not in the slightest mood to talk to anyone. Rachit had texted her: When are you coming for classes today, prof??? Dan has some important news, remember? Don’t skip it to spend time with your fiancé.

She decided to attend the dance class that evening, if nothing, it would refresh her mind. All the drama for the last few days had started taking a toll on her.

Later that evening in her dance class, she stared horrified as Abir entered with Daniel, laughing. Abir didn’t notice her initially. But as their eyes met both of them stood transfixed, unable to take their eyes off each other.

Daniel introduced Abir to the entire class, “Guys, this is Abir Sen. I’ve known him since my stint at Singapore. We have performed together at many international gigs there. This fellow is a world class dancer. I’m proud to have him here today as my guest. Please, welcome him.”

The students gathered in the room followed this introduction with a loud applause. Snigdha followed suit as if in a daze. She knew Abir was a world class dancer. But she had no idea that he performed internationally now. She felt proud to see Abir blush as people cheered for him, like always. Pride was suddenly replaced by a scary thought—how was she going to protect him?

Daniel conducted the class as usual for the first hour, while Abir sat and watched from the front. When the usual warmup routines were done, Daniel invited Abir to the dance floor. On his request, Abir did krumping on a piece of fusion music by Bickram Ghosh. He was as breathtaking as ever on the dance floor—free, expressive, exaggerated, and highly energetic. Everyone in the room was spellbound by his performance. It was Rachit’s enthusiastic clapping that broke the spell in the room. Soon everybody joined in with Rachit to cheer for Abir. Abir took a bow and was leaving the floor when Daniel stopped him. “Hey, dude, wait. Let our star dancer match steps with you.” He gestured towards Snigdha. “Snigdha, come here. Let’s see how well you show your swag with Abir.”

Abir and Snigdha kept staring at each other as she approached him, their hearts thudding wildly. Daniel had no idea they had once been the best of partners. Snigdha knew how to challenge Abir with her moves, Abir knew how to tame her energy, and together they knew how to live with the music.

The same music started again and they began moving. They matched each other step for step. The music continued and the room watched in astonishment as Abir and Snigdha got lost in each other—energy, coordination, timing, everything fell into place as the two dancers sizzled on the floor. When at last they ended, the room fell silent once more. This time it was Daniel who broke the silence with his hooting and manic clapping. He exclaimed loudly, “Woah, Snigdha! You are bloody perfect with Abir. You both do know how to nail those jabs.” He strode forward and shook hands with both of them. He hung on to Snigdha’s hand and said earnestly, “Snigdha, I’d like you to participate in an international dance festival that is being organised in Mumbai in a few weeks. Abir would be your partner there. I know you are getting married soon. But this would be an opportunity of a lifetime. You can imagine the kind of exposure you will get on a platform like that.”

Snigdha was left gaping. Daniel expected her to go and dance with Abir with her wedding drawing ever closer and with her father’s threat looming large over their heads. Yet, she found herself agreeing with Daniel. She wanted to do this. She looked at Abir and saw him looking at her expectantly with a slight smile on his lips. She looked at Daniel. “Okay, Dan. I’ll do this thing. Get me registered.” As she saw Abir’s eyes brighten up on hearing her words, she didn’t feel for a second that she had taken the wrong decision. She knew Sameer would support her. She was going to tell him the news as soon as she got out of there. He would be so happy.

As they were leaving that day, Abir took her aside. “I’m so glad you took this decision. This will be good for your dancing career. I must tell you that your flexibility and transitions have improved vastly.”

Snigdha smiled. “You are still awe-inspiring and enthralling—just as strong and smooth and swift and light-footed. You still rule the dance floor.” Dance was what had connected them. She was glad that it was dance that was connecting them again.

Abir’s smile mirrored hers but before he could reply, Daniel joined them.

Snigdha left after they decided to start rehearsals from the next day, while Abir stayed back with Daniel. She was suddenly feeling so much better.

She went to meet Sameer at Chemtech. She wanted to see his happiness on hearing the news. She opened the door without making a noise and saw that Sameer was standing, slightly hunched over his table, with his back to the door. She tiptoed inside, taking every care not to alert him to her presence. He would be so glad to see her there, she knew. She had never surprised him in office before. She went and slid her arms around him—just the way Sameer always did with her. She kissed his back as she felt him stiffen in her arms.

Sameer swiftly turned around, surprised, and wrapped her in his arms, smiling brightly. His eyes were dancing with mischief. He started running his fingertip along her jaw with a lopsided smile that took Snigdha’s breath away.

Snigdha crooned, “You should be a model for toothpaste, you know. Your smile will increase their sales.”

Sameer asked teasingly, “What’s so special about my smile?”

Snigdha accused him, “You love to hear your own praises, don’t you?”

Sameer demanded, pulling her face even closer, “I asked the question first.” He continued stroking her back possessively while his smouldering eyes demanded all her focus.

Snigdha flushed, getting breathless. “Your smile does strange things.”

He pulled her face up to hers and gave her a long and hard kiss, making her crave for more of him. When they drew apart after several breathless minutes, Sameer asked teasingly, “What’s the occasion? What brought you here?”

Snigdha replied with a pout, trying to control her ragged breathing, “We don’t need occasions to be together.”

Sameer chuckled on seeing the indignant expression on her face and started tracing her lips with his fingertip. “No, we don’t. But this is the first time you have come to meet me at my office. Something must be special today.”

Snigdha nodded vigorously in excitement, her eyes going round, still wrapped in his arms. “God, yes, Sameer. Daniel wants me to participate in an international dance festival in Mumbai. We will start practicing from tomorrow,” she gushed.

Sameer replied enthusiastically, “Wow! That’s great. We must celebrate this. You are going to be a star soon.”

Snigdha’s smile became huge.

Sameer asked curiously, “Are you going alone? Or is Daniel accompanying you?”

“Yeah, Daniel will come with us. But Abir will be my dance partner. It’s on the 20th of Jan.”

Sameer’s jaws hardened instantly. He drew back from her. Snigdha was shocked. “What?” This was most unexpected. Did he suspect something then?

Sameer replied, without meeting her eyes, “Nothing, Mini. Don’t worry. I just remembered a call that I need to make. Wait a bit, and then we can leave together.”

Snigdha stared horrified as Sameer sat across from her. He picked up his phone and started dialling somebody’s number. She kept staring at Sameer as he talked animatedly with someone on the phone. She couldn’t concentrate on his conversation. Her mind was reeling from Sameer’s reaction—first her father and now Sameer. Why was Abir and her friendship so doomed?

Was Sameer getting insecure of Abir? Didn’t he want her to perform with Abir? That was impossible. Sameer could never be so selfish. Then what other explanation was there for his abrupt change in mood? She felt panicked by her own questions. She hated the distance from Sameer. She desperately wanted to go and snuggle in his strong arms. And, that’s what she did. She walked up to him confidently and settled in his lap, hiding her face in his neck. Sameer started playing with her hair while talking over the phone.

Later when they were on their way to Snigdha’s house, Sameer asked her hesitantly, “Mini, is this dance festival very important for your career?”

Snigdha replied without looking at him, “It would bring a lot of international exposure.”

Sameer didn’t say anything for a while.

Snigdha couldn’t take the silence anymore. “Why did you ask that?”

Sameer said, “You know our wedding date is drawing nearer. What if the dates clash? What would we do then?”

Snigdha felt relief whooshing through her. So, this was the thing bothering Sameer. She let out a small laugh as she realised how ridiculous her fears were.

Sameer looked at her with a perplexed expression when he saw her laughing. “What’s so funny?”

Snigdha reassured him, “No, it won’t be a problem. We’ll be done before the wedding. But yeah, I won’t be able to enjoy all the wedding prep. I won’t get to spend too much time with you.” She pouted. “If you say, I won’t do it. You are more important than dance.”

Sameer kept staring at her in wonder. Snigdha turned his face to the front. “Sameer, you are driving.” The awestruck look on his face made her giggle some more—it seemed funny to her that Sameer still hadn’t grasped how special he really was for her.

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