Somehow I had to step out of my room at last. At least Preeti had lost her sanity regarding me lying in that room for any more days. She even suggested my Mom that vasstu of my room could be the reason of my downfall and the renovation of it could change everything, as if she didn’t know the reason of my doom. All that mattered to her at that moment to kick me out of the box.
And she finally did. I couldn’t afford missing classes anymore owing to attendance shortage. I had to anyhow find a way out to stand there among all, bravely face them and I did.
The same old routine hit back into life. We boarded the same bus from the same bus-stop. There first glance of Arnav walking to stop was unbearably heartbreaking. He came in the same manner; his steps same slow and steady and head titled down watching the road. I couldn’t stop myself staring at him wadding like that. After a long time, before our ominous trip to that untraceable village, I had his last glimpse. After that the air between took a wrong turn.
He lifted his head and his eyes met mine and I saw a tint of glow instantly in it. Ohh! I missed those beautiful and persuasive eyes, simply moulded with simplicity, a natural and humiliating tendency of mine. But then again I was so shattered inside that, that look on him crushed me more only. I threw my head in opposite direction.
There weren’t many changes to notice in college. Just the tall eucalyptus trees in campus grew taller; the white-washed college frontier was browner, the corridor was louder and around five dozens of junior year students were engaged with seniors.
But the reason of staying lost for such a long period was not so easy to explain. My entrance raised many brows who were perhaps convinced that I was lost, kidnapped or dead. I ignored them all and it was not that difficult. But the real difficult test was waiting before me; Arnav and Manishaa walking together. It still carried the same searing effect as it had when I heard it for the first time.
He nonchalantly proceeded in my direction with that fake-queen Manishaa in his arms and I watched them laughing together on some funny secret joke. May be it’s me they were laughing at for being such a stupid.
Dozen of bullets punctured through my heart. It was hard to decipher Arnav. For while, I was slightly convinced of his emotions for me seeing the flash of relief and regret on his face at bus-stop. But again he was here, sauntering towards me with Manishaa, holding hands, sharing a big smile and attending some secrets that Manishaa blew in Arnav’s ear that made him laugh more.
Everyone else around me was in rush, busy in their own work while I stood as statue in corridor, watching them stepping into my direction. While crossing me, Manishaa took a turn around Arnav, tossing their joined hands from left to right over his head. The action diminished the thin gape between their bodies and pushed Arnav to his left a bit. His shoulder brushed mine, like touch of electricity spreading enormous vibration and shock through out the whole body. Manishaa did it so deliberately that nobody would ever doubt on her intention, but I knew her intentions very well. The triumphant smile and sharp fiery gazes were undeniable proofs of her victory over my love.
Moisture stung through my eyes. I closed them tight, and hid my face.
“She is a bitch!” Preeti angrily commented.
“Still she has him.”
Preeti nudged me from sides.
“Remember to behave. At least try to look normal, not like you are the recent victim of some harassment.”
I looked at her piteously.
“I was better in home, Preeti. Why did you drag me here?” My voice creaked.
“No ! You have to face the situation. You can’t always run away like this. Whatever it is, it is the reality and you have to accept it.” She stomped her foot hard on ground. She was angry with the situation and blamed Arnav for all my miseries.
She marched into the classroom and I plodded behind her. We chose the seats two rows before last bench instead the first one avoiding everyone's accusing glances. Still some dared to turn their head turn their head and then again whisper to the person sitting next to them.
As we took the seat, like a flock of crow, Manishaa came with her chic gang and sat behind us. Damn! Now I wanted to curse her as bitch as she started her bitching.
I closed my eyes and clutched my hands into fist pounding on legs, trying to gather some courage, not to leave the class in middle. The knuckles went white. I felt a warm hand over it.
“It’s fine. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. If you don’t feel fine, then we can skip this class.” Preeti said caressing the knuckles.
I nodded. “I can’t always keep avoiding it, Preeti. One day I have to face them all. Then why not to make today as that day.” I gave her a faint smile with a deep breath.
The class started. We sat there continuously for next three hours and through out the time I could hear giggles, hushes from the back bench. They left no stone unturned in bitching. I heard a few faint words like Arnav, Manishaa , outing, shopping, chatting. I didn’t know how much it was truth and how much were just colored fake. But I didn’t lose my temper. Each minute lengthened and seemed unbearable, but then I consoled myself.
Finally the classes ended. As soon as the bell rang, I voluntarily jumped out of my seat and fluidly left the class before anyone did. The corridor was sparse. Not many students were out of their class. I scooted out towards principal’s office. I had to give some excuses for my long absent. I had a fake medical report that said I was suffering from malaria. I submitted at the office counter and the lady behind the counter also believed it. She was too cautious and worried. On seeing me, her forehead wrinkled and eyes declined in sympathy. Do I look so bad then?
I saw pain in her eyes. May be she had lost someone near and dear to Malaria.
Preeti came huffing and panting when I came out the office and looked at me accusingly.
“All of sudden, where did you run away?”
“I had some work in principals’ office.”
“Oh. I searched you through the whole college and you are here. Let’s go to notice board.”
“Just like that. I saw a crowd covering the notice board. There must be something out. Let’s go and check.”
It was something that would keep me busy instead of sitting idle in the class room. We walked to the notice board. Preeti was right. There was an excited crowd around notice board as if it held Marilyn Monroe’s famous gown flying in air photo.
Preeti barged though the crowd and read the notice board from to tip to end. I stood out there leaning over the boundary railing and waited preeti to come out. She took solid fifteen minutes and came out again elbowing some boys and cursing them.
“Wow.” Her eyes were widened and her mouth was open in surprise. I didn’t say anything and let her get over of her star-struck situation. It took another fine minute for her to speak the next word.
“Guess what! Annual function. Three days long. Two weeks more.”
From her blabbering I surmised that a three days long annual function was to held two weeks later.
By then Preeti was standing on her toes with exultation. May be she was trying to levitate. Uff...
“Preeti, it’s just annual function. Not some orgy on alien planet.”
“Oh..you are such a bore. It’s college annual function unlike the school function.
There is going to be lots of fun. Hohhooohoo..” She started making some weird tribal sounds that scared me a lot. I thought for a while she was possessed.
“Calm down, Preeti. You are making a scene.”
“Okay.” She stopped her strange acting. “But there are only two weeks left. How are we gonna do it?”
“What did you have in your mind?” Must be something awfully crazy.
“Hmm..lots. We have lots of shopping to do. And lots of discussion. And lots preparation too.” Her teeth still continued to flash publicly. She couldn’t stop smiling.
“I’m not coming to it, Preeti.”
She halted there in middle.
“So you are gonna leave me alone to all these?” She said exhibiting a childish face, blinking her eyes what looked like one hundred times per minute.
“Why will you be alone? There are so many students in here. You can go with them. I won’t mind.”
“Still without you I can’t do anything. You know it. If you are not coming, I’ll cancel mine too.”
“Preeti, Please try to understand me. I’m not in mental stability to handle all these.”
“I know..okay fine. Let’s forget about it.”
Her face fell dull all of sudden. The outpouring happiness disappeared to somewhere.
“Okay. Fine. I’ll come.” I couldn’t bear to hurt her. She jumped again in joy.
“Now lets go. Get ready in the evening. We need to go for shopping. Lots of shopping. Shopping malls, get ready. Girls are on their way.” She blew a strand of hair off her forehead and smiled. I smiled too and went to the class room.
As she had said, exactly after half an hour from college I found her banging at my door.
I exhaustedly looked at her. “Can’t we just postpone it tomorrow? I have to do a bit of study.”
“Nope. In present situation shopping is more important.” She wore a tight black jeans and a plaid shirt with vibrant lime-green check that clung to her skin exaggerating her body parts. Her hair hung loose in soft curls skimming past shoulder. I was sure she would be a eye-candy in market.
She finally dragged me out. Mom also didn’t deny as she wanted me to go out and hang in the fresh air too.
We roamed from shop to shop for dresses, heels, fancy jewelleries, cosmetics and perfumes and at the end returned home with four pairs of earrings and a bottle of perfume that has a distinguishing muskier smell.
“Great for today. Rest of the shopping will be done tomorrow.” Preeti declared.
“Come on. Don’t be so lame and weak. We have a lot to shop.” She cheered up.
We returned our home. Somehow it was nice. After a long time I spent some hours so occupied that it didn’t allow me to think of Arnav. The whole evening was so wearying that I easily slipped to a deep slumber without having to cry too.