Love Stranger

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Many a times, we do things in life we can’t really explain; to others; and sometimes even ourselves. People tag us as weird, crazy and insane. ‘Have you fucking lost it?!’ ‘What the fuck are you doing?!’ We hear such stuff, sometimes we try and explain but most of the times we just ignore them or give reasons people would brand as foolish and illogical.

Why? Because sometimes, some things make sense only to us and for reasons best known to us and we do them to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. We just say that the world can go to hell ‘coz they have not been in circumstances that we have been through, they have not felt the things we have and so they would never do the things we would.

But little do we realize that sometimes, we fall in our own trap when our actions backfire and we end up hurting and neglecting others who love us and our own selves too, the very thing we sought to avoid from the beginning…!

Submitted: April 17, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 17, 2013

A A A

A A A


 

‘A drop in the ocean,

A change in the weather,

I was praying that you and me might end up together…

It’s like wishing for rain as I stand in the desert,

But I’m holding you closer than most,

‘Coz you are my heaven!’

 

Part I

Emotions

 

“I feel like a failure. My life has been a failure. They say there is no one who never had a dream to live for. They say there is no one who hasn’t had his dreams shattered ever in life. They say this and they say that…they say a lot of stuff! They might call me a coward for taking this extreme step but I feel a failure like me doesn’t deserve to live. I leave behind my experiences in this diary hoping that others don’t repeat the mistakes I did, hoping that it reaches the people that I love and care for, hoping against hope, that no more dreams are shattered. I’d be long gone by the time it reaches people. To everyone who ever loved a fool like me, my apologies…..for I could never reciprocate your love…I was too blinded by my own obsessions...something that I’ll regret till the time I breathe....which won’t be long now…”

It is not very easy to articulate your thoughts on paper when you know you are going to end your life in a few moments. She closed her diary and stared at the beaker kept in front of her. Just a few swigs of concentrated Potassium Chloride would be lethal enough to end all her miseries. It would paralyze her heart in seconds. She ignored her constantly buzzing cell phone. She did not need any reassurances, people telling her to stop. She knew nobody would be able to find her in this remote part of the campus. By the time they do, it’ll be too late. She thought, smiling to herself. She then picked up the beaker and began gulping the liquid. At that very moment, she closed her eyes and then everything went black…

 

…………………

(Four months ago)

“Dear diary, here I am, Rhea, sitting and sharing my emotions yet again with you. It’s been two months! Two months since I last saw him. These semester holidays were like an endless wait but finally it feels good to be back at college for one last time. I used to keep crossing dates on my calendar at home...like literally! Mom thought I’d gone mad! Yeah maybe I am crazy! Have been for him, since four years now! He’s just not realized it yet but I’m sure he will. Asshole! He has to! Final year, 10th semester, 5 months, I know it’s now or never for me. As it is I’ve wasted a precious week of college this semester coming late…and now I can’t wait to see him! Anyway catch you later diary. Just received a text from him! ‘Where the hell are you?! Need to talk!’ Guess it’s something important!”

She hastily admired herself before the mirror. It was something she was accustomed to do especially whenever she had to meet Viraj. They were meeting for the first time after holidays. Perfect! ‘C’min to the mess!’, she texted back as she scurried down the stairs too excited to even lock her room. The room can wait, he shouldn’t!

 

No one would have ever bet on Viraj and Rhea becoming best friends, considering their first encounter. Rhea had been running with a cup of juice in her hand when she accidentally tripped spilling the contents of the cup on an unsuspecting Viraj. You fucking bitch! He had shouted impulsively, instinctively giving her a couple of smutty blows, one that had hit her just below her abdomen narrowly missing her genitals and the other on her right thigh. He had then unfeelingly turned and left in a frenzy leaving behind a whimpering Rhea in the middle of the football field all alone.

The next day when he saw Rhea limping to class, he realized the gravity of his mistake and vowed to make amends. He tried apologizing in person to an unrelenting Rhea who reciprocated the gesture with a couple of tight slaps. He then started slipping a chocolate with an apology card everyday in her bag and on her desk in class. But the chocolates used to make their way back to him untouched and the cards unopened. When this did not work for a week, he found out her number and started sending ‘Sorry’ texts. He used to make an innocent face and hold his ears in apology whenever they came across in college but Rhea used to ignore him turning her face away every time.

‘Rhea you can call me an asshole for the rest of my life but please talk to me at least. Just tell me once that you’ve forgiven me.’ he said one day.

‘Oh really?! First you insult someone and call her a fucking bitch. Then you give her two nasty blows hard enough to make her limp for a month and leave her in the middle of a freaking football field! And then you audaciously trick someone into disclosing her cell number so that you can send cheesy apology texts which don’t cost you a penny thanks to your free SMS pack! On top of this you have the guts to say Sorry Rhea! I made a mistake!! Balls man!!’ she had retorted.

‘The SMS pack thing hurt.’ he quipped, hoping the humour would melt her.

‘Not funny!’ she replied solemnly.

‘Hey Rhea, someone is genuinely sorry and deserves another chance!’ he pleaded.

‘Hmm, so tell that someone to talk to the hand!’ she retorted raising her palm to his face.

‘But…’

Dude! Can you fucking see me limp?! Can you feel the pain I’m in right now?! The second chance you’re talking about…! No way in hell!’

Viraj had realized then that he had very deeply hurt someone. One last shot! Risky but worth it! He thought.

That afternoon, as Rhea sat in the mess having lunch, she heard someone shout her name. She turned to see it was Viraj holding a thick wooden stick in his hand. His voice had attracted every one’s attention and all eyes were on him. ‘Rhea, I have been a Jackass and I know it. I also know that I can do nothing about it. I am responsible for all those cuts, bruises, sprains, limps and whatever you’ve got and I can’t rest until I feel your pain myself.’ he said. He then tightened his grip on the stick and in a sudden act of utmost insanity started heaving blow after blow on his right leg as hard as he could until he fell off and the stick broke into two. ‘Aaarrrghhhhh!!’ he uttered a loud cry as he fell.

That evening, he met Rhea with a cast over his right leg. ‘Hi!’ he said smiling, as he limped towards her.

‘I was right about you. You really are insane! What the hell have you done to yourself?’ she exclaimed, a speck of concern on her face.

‘Well nothing really. A minor hairline crack! I’d just bargained for a severe sprain though, not this! Doctor said a month and a half, that’s it.  But anyway, now I can limp with you too.’ he said grinning.

For the first time, Rhea smiled at him. ‘You don’t really give up. Do you?!’

‘Well! For certain things, you don’t really give up. Your friendship is one of them. And then I wanted to show you that Viraj is not that bad a guy after all. So, are we limping buddies now?’ he grinned.

That was the first time Rhea felt something for Viraj. Though the feeling had stayed for a fleeting second then, little did she know that the same will eventually become her raison d'être. ‘You are impossible!’ she smiled back at him. 

‘Apology accepted then?!’ he asked skeptically.

‘Well whatever...’ She replied.

‘Ahh, one more thing Rhea…’

‘What now?!’ She asked raising her eyebrows.

‘Now that we are friends, do you mind having a glass of JUICE with me?!’ he quipped grinning.

‘Ummm, Yeah as long as you don’t incapacitate me if it spills.’ she replied with a smile as they both limped together to the mess.

 

That was roughly four and a half years ago. Their bond of friendship had strengthened over the years. But today, Rhea had an uneasy feeling as she made her way to the mess. She started scanning random faces searching for him when she finally found him sitting in the mess lawns staring blankly into the fields as if in a limbo. He turned as he felt her hand on his shoulder. He gave her a melancholy smile, his mind toying with the right words to begin with. He cleared his throat and uttered the first words that came to his mind.

‘It’s over!’ He said blankly.

‘Huh?! What’s over? What happened?!’ She asked solemnly, though she thought she knew what was coming.

‘She ditched…me!!’ He said with a lot of effort.

There was a stunned silence as Rhea assimilated the implication of what she heard. There was shock and disbelief written all over her face.

‘What the fuck! Sylvia…..ditched….You?!!’ It just couldn’t be true. Sylvia and Viraj had developed intimacy during the second year working together on a project. Their relationship was the envy of the whole batch. Everybody idolised the way Viraj was mad after Sylvia and the way she reciprocated his feelings. Rhea stared incredulously at Viraj, lost for words.

‘After all these years…all of a sudden…weird issues between us…and she just says Goodbye…!’ He broke off unable to complete, tears rolling down his cheeks. Rhea had seen Viraj cry just once in her life before and that was when they had had a serious argument in their first year. She knew this had terribly upset him. Viraj never cries otherwise.

She sat there for some time, not knowing how exactly to comfort him. Rhea had not anticipated she’d suddenly be put in such a situation. What can I possibly say? She thought. She had to get the details but this was not the right time. Rhea! Just keep bullshitting! Cheer him up!

‘Hey Viraj, you know what I feel?’

‘What?’ he asked, staring blankly at the ground.

‘Sylvia was never your kinna girl you know! I never really…’

‘Oh please don’t give me that crap!’ Viraj retorted.

Not a good start. She thought. That’s a clichéd dialogue for all break-up situations. Improvise Rhea!

‘No mate, what I meant was maybe God has something better in store…he closes one door…opens another….’

‘Rhea! Please don’t give me that crappy door philosophy right now. No matter how many doors he closes for me, I want Sylvia behind every door I open…everytime.’ He said turning to stare at her solemnly.

 Another cliché! This is not working! She thought. Rhea you can do better! Something Spontaneous!

‘Come on dude! We’ll sail through it together. I’ll help you. Trust me, I’m still there, your bestie! Isn’t it?! I’ll never ditch you. Now don’t let a bitch fuck your happiness!’ She said trying to sound somewhat jubilant.

‘Rhea,’ Viraj began, ‘It’s not all that simple! It’s more than happiness…it’s about dreams. Something that I’ve been living for…something that drives me to…do things….I’d never do otherwise…a dream of seeing her by my side everyday…of laughing at her jokes… sharing her sorrows…of growing old together and taking care of her…of…forget it. It’s very complicated!’

Rhea turned her face away as a tear rolled down her cheek. She couldn’t bear Viraj pining for Sylvia with tears in his eyes. She kept mum for a couple of minutes, not knowing what to say. She decided to change the topic.

‘Hey! You wanna come over for a small walk?!’ she offered.

Viraj stared at her.

‘Oh come on! A walk never killed anyone!’ she coaxed.

‘I don’t feel like.’ he said. 

‘But I feel like going for one…with you. Now buck up dude!’ she persisted.

Rhea kept tugging and nudging him until he finally had no option but to stand up. ‘You don’t give up! Do you?’ he said.

‘Remember?! For certain things, you don’t give up till the end! And to see you smiling right now is one of them!’ She winked.

‘Yes, I do remember.’ he said smiling as they both disappeared chatting into the fields…

“Dear Diary,

Life is full of dreams: metaphorically and literally. I still remember how I used to wake up screaming at nights as a kid, seeing ghosts and monsters running after me. ‘Go to sleep my child! You must have had a bad dream!’ my parents used to say. Then there used to be the good ones too sometimes: me landing up in a chocolate factory savouring the legion assortment of chocolates to my heart’s content. Those mornings, I used to wake up and ask my mom whether I could buy a chocolate for myself.

We all have been savvy to such inconsequential dreams we forget the very next morning. But as we grow older, we start seeing certain dreams we don’t forget the next morning or the morning after that, in fact you know what diary?!, they stay with us for so long that we accept them as part of reality and start living them. I wish I could tell Viraj I understand what he’s going through right now. Little does he realize that I’ve been going through the same since a few years now. You are a part of my dreams Viraj. To be honest, a lot of mornings, I wake up seeing dreams of you forever being by my side, of you sharing my sorrows and my joys, just the way you feel about Sylvia.

Sometimes I dream of you taking care of our kids and bearing their tantrums, of you lending a hand in the kitchen and messing it up and then me giving you those dirty looks. Sometimes strange things like the two of us spending time alone, on a beach, holding hands. Sometimes, dreams of you snuggling up into bed and cuddling me in your arms after a hectic day at work. And I don’t forget them the next morning. They stay with me always I don’t know why. You’ve already taken that place in my dreams and I can’t imagine anyone else there. Is it not madness?

Diary, Will Viraj ever get over Sylvia? Is it actually the end of their relationship? When in spite of knowing everything, I find life without Viraj difficult to imagine, I wonder how he will cope with this?! I don’t know yet! And I don’t know what exactly he’s thinking or feeling right now! But what I know is that I’ll make Sylvia pay for this somehow, whether Viraj likes it or not…”

 

Sandra had a smile on her face as she saw Kabir sitting in the mess lawns, his laptop open before him.

‘Congratulations dude! I just got the news. Somebody’s going to London. Not everybody gets placed with Herbert Smith.’

‘Yeah thanks for that! But there’s still this semester to go before that happens.’

‘Your parents would be really proud of you.’

‘I know! Dad took an education loan for my course here. The university sponsored my law school education on the condition that I’ll repay them with my salary as soon as I get a job. And now, the signing amount and my first month’s salary would be enough to pay off the entire debt like this.’ he said snapping his fingers with a grin.

‘Hmmm I can see the spark in the eyes! So what’s the plan now big man?’ she asked, her expression turning solemn.

‘Plan?’ he asked, raising an eyebrow.

‘Yup! Now stop pretending. As if I don’t know what you’re doing with that laptop!’

Kabir sighed. ‘Well, the plan is to keep myself busy this semester with anything that I can lay my hands on. And then I’ll settle down in London and be gone for good.’

‘And what about Rhea?’ she asked.

‘What about her?’ he asked indifferently.

‘Dude Go die! You’ve been after her since first year. You never looked at any other girl. And now you’ll just leave like this without letting her know?’

‘Sandra chill! You know she’s just a good friend.’

‘Friend, my ass! I’m also your friend and in fact your best one in college but you don’t keep stalking my Facebook profile sitting in the mess lawns when you should be celebrating your job offer. You don’t keep track of my every move, you don’t feel jealous when I’m talking to a guy and neither do you think of me when you listen to your iPod with those fucking ear plugs on.’

Kabir looked at Sandra giving her a wry smile. ‘When you know everything, why do you want me to say it every time?’

‘Coz I don’t want you to run from the truth!’

‘I’m not running anywhere! But we both know that she’s loved Viraj ever since she’s known love. She never saw this other guy…waiting at her backdoor hoping that someday she would turn and notice huh.’ Kabir smiled to himself shaking his head. ‘I can just dream of being a good friend who’ll always be there.’

‘And you’re happy with that? Just being there?!’

‘Sandra, I’m happy if she’s happy. I’ve seen her pining for Viraj every single day and I know how the feeling is like. To be with someone you love, talking to them, seeing them everyday knowing you’ll never be together. After all these years, the passion within her is still alive. When she’s with Viraj, she forgets everyone around her. Have you ever noticed? I have!’

‘And what are you doing? Running away from your emotions to London?!’

‘Nah! Trust me, when it’s real, you just can’t walk away like that. I can’t leave without knowing that she’d be happy.’

‘Then show her that she can be happier with you, rather than running after something she can never have.’

‘Sometimes…a new dream is born on the pyre of another. She’s always dreamt of being with Viraj…not me. And if I have to lose her forever to make it a reality…so be it!’

‘This is not the fucking way to love you idiot!’

‘There never was a prescribed way Sandra. We all have our own ways. The truest of feelings cannot be described in words. You just let them take over you and then do whatever feels right.’

‘Jesus! What good would it do to lose her like this? You don’t even want to try and win her heart?’

‘I want to! But sometimes, winning is all about losing.’

Sandra gave him an I-don’t-get-you kind of a look. ‘You’re talking crap now!’

Kabir heaved a sigh as he shook his head. ‘Have you ever noticed the smile on a mother’s face when her five year old daughter beats her in a game of Ludo?’

Sandra gave him a bemused look, not getting the drift. ‘Ludo?! Where the fuck did Ludo come from? This is your life god damn it, not a game!’

‘You don’t get it! Do you? When a mother deliberately loses a trivial game just to see her daughter’s cheeks turn red with joy! And when the daughter on having beaten her mother gives her a loving hug, the mother sits back and says to herself Sometimes, winning is all about losing.’ He said as he got up, leaving an awestruck Sandra in the mess lawns.

 

Viraj became increasingly morose in the weeks following his break-up. His attendance dropped and he became anti-social and reclusive. He very rarely came out of his room. He even started avoiding Rhea, her calls and her messages. His changed attitude was troubling Rhea too. She just couldn’t concentrate on anything in the college. She constantly fought a strong urge to strangle Sylvia every time she saw her. It was easier for them to avoid each other being in different sections. The time to face her would soon come. Rhea thought.

Rhea suddenly started realizing how accustomed she had become to Viraj’s presence. She generally preferred sitting next to him in class whenever she got the chance. Though they were never dating but just sitting beside him used to make her quite happy. It gave her something to look forward to every morning. She took out a crumpled piece of paper from one of the zippers in her handbag that she had kept since her first year. It was a simple yet sweet poem Viraj had written for her way back then, the times when they were best of friends and spent most of their time together.

The little things you do for me,

Makes me fall in love with you,

Those little things you say to me,

They make my day, believe it’s true,

The little pranks we play in class,

The times we have a hearty laugh,

The little things you do for me,

Makes me feel so nice with you,

That is why my dear friend,

I like to sit next to you!

Rhea folded the piece of paper and kept it back in her bag. ‘I miss you Viraj!’ she muttered softly under her breath.

The reality always stared at her in the face. This would end someday very soon. These classes, lectures and college would be over and Sylvia would take away Viraj with her. They will marry and go away someplace, and I would eventually be forgotten. But she preferred to live in the present. She had gradually prepared herself to live without him in future but being alone in class since the last few days racked her all the time. This had to happen someday! I was prepared to face it! Then why is it killing me today? If just a week can maim me so much, how would I ever spend my life without him?! She gave an ironic smile, shaking her head, as the thought crossed her mind.

“Dear diary, he just doesn’t talk to me! In fact he doesn’t talk to anybody much these days. I don’t know what’s going on in his mind! What is he thinking! What exactly is troubling him so much! I feel his absence in the class, in the mess, everywhere! This is just a glimpse of my future! Didn’t I prepare myself for it?! Why is my heart failing me then? I guess that’s love! It just obscures the flipside of everything. Everything becomes easy, everything becomes possible and everything just makes you feel good. You just don’t listen to anybody but your heart until the reality hits you in the face. I plan to confront him on the first opportunity I get!”

 

Rhea got her chance in the next couple of days when she saw Viraj walking towards the academic block for the morning classes.

‘Hi! Care to talk?’ Rhea said as she caught up with him.

Viraj stared at her nonchalantly. ‘You should leave! I’m in no mood to talk about anything.’

Rhea felt slightly hurt by the callous indifference in his tone but she let it pass. ‘Viraj! What’s troubling you? Discuss it with me, I’ll help you. We’ve always discussed stuff in the past too isn’t it?! You just can’t let her do this to you…’

‘For God’s sake! I have nothing to discuss…! I can’t tell you everything all the time!’ he interjected.

‘What crap?! What has she said?! What’s hurting you so much damn it?! Tell me or we’re not entering that class!’

Viraj sighed, a helpless expression on his face. He was silent as if contemplating what exactly to say. ‘Rhea please! Can’t you fucking let go off me for a while?! Just…don’t…talk…and leave me alone! It’s difficult for me. You won’t get it. Not right now!’

‘You sound demented! You can start talking or we can stand here all day! Your call!’ Rhea said assertively.  

‘I can’t…! I’ve been trying…to think…to do what she says…it’s weird! I tried to hate her for what she said to me and I tried to stay away from her. Thought would be easy! But…you know how strange it is. You decide to hate someone you love a lot and you feel you can do it. You think of all the bad times and it helps you. But as time passes, the bad memories tend to fade away leaving behind just the good ones. And that is when you realize your will is not as strong as it used to be!’

Rhea closed her eyes in fury. Right then she felt like devastating Sylvia’s life for good. She didn’t deserve to stay happy when Viraj was pining for her like this.

‘What hurts more is that she doesn’t even care! She’s happy with her life. If only…if only…Sylvia could realize the pain of losing someone she loves!’

Rhea stared into his eyes. ‘So that is your problem! Is it?’

Viraj did not speak. He kept staring at the floor. ‘I don’t know! Maybe! Now shall we?’ he said motioning towards the class.

 

“I realized something today diary! It is easy to get over a break up. It happens, you accept the fact and move on with life. You accept everything that comes with it; the pangs of loneliness, that feeling of rejection, self-doubt, random memories and those occasional smiles, the casual tears. It’s still easier if you know the other person is yearning for you too. But nothing hurts so much than the fact that the other person is happier without you. It hurts to imagine that your ex is not thinking about you when you are spending sleepless nights dreaming about them, caring about them and somewhere deep in your heart, maybe still loving them. You may not want to accept it but that is the real thing that hurts.

Viraj is going through a similar phase. I can never be with him if Sylvia’s memories keep cropping up in his mind. I also know that maybe he will never ever love me the way he loved her. It hurts diary but I smile to myself and say C’est La Vie.

But I still want to ease his pain. I still want to see him happy the way he was way back in the first semester and I’ll do anything for it.”

 

The next afternoon, Rhea sat in her room staring blankly at the wall, speculating on an idea. Something had been going on in her mind ever since she had had that small conversation with Viraj.

If only Sylvia could realize the pain of losing someone she loves.

Pain of losing….

Someone she loves…

If only Sylvia could realize…

Pain…

Someone she loves…

She needed someone she could really trust. She finally picked up her mobile and explored her inbox for a certain type of forwarded text message. She found a sweet text on friendship. She selected a contact and pressed the green button on her phone. Message sent. She waited, expecting a reply. Within minutes her phone buzzed. 1 New Message. A sly smile crossed her lips as she read the name of the sender. He replies to every text. He always does. He’ll always do what I want.

A rare forward from the young lady! :p He sent.

Where are you? Wanted to talk! She replied.

What happened? I’m coming to the mess in 5 minutes.

Bingo!! J

Across the campus in the boys’ hostel, a guy was jumping in ecstasy as he got ready to leave for the mess. She sent a text. At least she remembers me sometimes. Do I still have a chance? Oh God, fuck me!

 

Kabir was waiting for Rhea in the mess smiling to himself, probably still thinking about the sudden unexpected text. ‘Heyo Rhea! When was the last time you specifically called me for something this way?!!’ he grinned as she entered.

‘Thanks for coming dude!’ she smiled. She had a purpose. She was good at manipulating emotions and she knew it. The messages and the smiles were all a part of it.

‘Hey! No formalities! Just sit down and relax. I’ve ordered juice for the two of us. Now just fire away.’

Kabir could tell it was something very important and he was glad Rhea found him worth sharing it with. Yes! We’re good friends! Close indeed! He thought.

‘I talked to Viraj yesterday about Sylvia!’ She began.

Kabir’s expression suddenly turned dispirited and resigned. Of course! I should have known! She’s always thinking about Viraj. It’ll always be Viraj. ‘Yes! So what happened?’ he asked veiling the dismay in his voice with a smile.

‘I want to see him happy Kabir. He’s suffering.’

‘Of course! We all want to see him happy Rhea and we’re doing every bit possible.’

‘No we aren’t! It kills him inside to see Sylvia happy without him dude. I see it in his eyes. She doesn’t talk to him at all these days. I’ve heard she likes this guy Aseem in our batch. She’s been spending a lot of time with him lately. The spark has been growing and I feel he’s the reason she left Viraj. They are going to make their relationship public very soon.’

Kabir stared at Rhea, a clueless expression on his face. ‘I don’t get what you’re heading at. She’s with Aseem now? As in Aseem?!’

He reiterated the name to double check. His sensibilities didn’t allow him to believe what he heard. Aseem was one of the most infamous guys of the batch known for all the wrong reasons. His charm though was irresistible and the general notion in the batch was that he could easily get a girl if he wanted to. He was wild and profane, a chain smoker and a junkie, sometimes reclusive but otherwise loquacious and a lot of girls harboured a secret crush on him but none admitted probably because of his notorious repute.

‘Umm well, if rumours are to be believed…they are secretly committed!’ she said.

‘So what are you thinking?’

Rhea paused, pondering on how exactly to put forth her idea. ‘Well, I won’t let this relationship last!’

‘Huh? I don’t get it! What will you do?’

Rhea had rehearsed this part of her speech really well. She had to sound normal though she knew her idea was insane.  ‘Kabir! You are a good friend and I‘m counting on you to help me on this. Aseem doesn’t seem the guy who’ll stick with one girl for long. He’s with Sylvia and she likes him. I’ll make sure it doesn’t stay that way. I’ll be the bitch in Sylvia’s life. I plan hitting on Aseem and madly going after him. I plan on ridding Sylvia off her new flame.’

‘What the fuck??!’ Kabir stood up shell-shocked, his chair falling back. ‘Do you realize what you’re saying? Can you even do it?’

‘Yes I do! Sylvia has to realize how it feels to be dumped, to lose someone you love! The way she made Viraj feel! That is the only thing that can make him feel better. She has to experience at least a tinge of what Viraj is going through right now.’ she proposed.

‘Wait, listen….this is fucking crazy! What if Sylvia is fooling around with Aseem too?’

‘If she likes him, then it’ll hurt her emotions, if not then it’ll hurt her ego. Either way she’s hurt and that’s what I want.’

‘But hitting on him as in…what the fuck…I mean are you going to…’

‘Yes! I’ll make him fall for me or the least rid him off that bitch. I’ll ditch him later. I don’t care if he suffers. He’s also partly responsible for Viraj’s plight.’

‘You’ve gone mad! Insane! You realize you’ll ruin your reputation going after him, your grades, your friends and god knows what else!! I can’t let you do this Rhea, I’m sorry.’ He objected.

‘Kabir! Please don’t say No! You are the only person I can count on for this. I can’t see Viraj the way he is right now. It kills me!’ She had tears in her eyes and she made no attempt to stop them. She desperately needed Kabir’s help and she could do anything for it. She was prepared for emotional manipulation too. It is about Viraj.

‘Hey Rhea, listen, alright! I’m with you in whatever you’re doing. We can discuss this. But please no more tears!’ Kabir knew it was insane but he had his own failings. He couldn’t see Rhea in pain too. He could see the desperation in her eyes, that strong urge to do something for Viraj. If it makes her happy! So be it! She’ll have my back. ‘But Rhea, are you sure…coz it’s absolutely…’

‘Kabir,’, She interjected, ‘I still remember the time Viraj used to get late for the morning class when he had the fracture in the first year. I still used to make it. I just had a minor sprain. We had an asshole for a teacher who never gave him attendance. He used to ask him to leave early from his room to make it in time. He eventually fell short of attendance. He was fined 2500 bucks and had an extra project and assignment submission as penalty in that subject which the fucking teacher ensured wasn’t very easy. But he didn’t mind it! He was happy coz he had my friendship and I had forgiven him. Ever since, he’s done so much for me. It’s time to repay the favour.’

Kabir was silent. He knew Rhea would never relent. ‘I understand Rhea! Like always, I understand everything! But tell me something?!’

‘What?’ Rhea asked.

‘You love Viraj! And it will always be Viraj, I know! Then how will you do this? How will you manage to hit on someone you don’t really like? To flirt with someone when every second your heart beats for someone else?! To dream of someone else when all your dreams belong to another guy?! You love Viraj right? Then how?’ Kabir asked.

Rhea smiled at Kabir, nodding her head. ‘Yes, I love Viraj and it will always be him and that’s why this won’t be tough. You are my friend and howsoever weird or insane you might have found my idea, you still decided to help me no? That’s friendship! Viraj fractured his leg on purpose just to apologise to me. That’s friendship! And now what I plan to do with Sylvia for hurting Viraj, howsoever crazy it might sound, that’s my Love for him! Don’t you see? Friendship drives us to do strange stuff sometimes, and love stranger!’ she said.

Kabir simply nodded in amazement, his eyes wide open.

 

As Viraj entered his room, he went and stood at his balcony staring blankly at the rocks and the mountains beyond the campus. He was supposed to leave for Vienna for an international competition that night but right then, his mind was elsewhere. I’m doing it for her. It’s about my dreams, about love. He packed his stuff and locked his room taking out his mobile phone. At the gate! He sent a text message.

I have decided. I’ve made the choice. Lord, give me strength to witness the consequences of my actions…

 

 

PART II

For the One I Love

 

“I feel bright today! Sublime! I am about to do something very crazy but then I have a plan and it gives me something to look forward to!

But diary, somewhere deep inside I feel guilty too. I hate to admit it but I’m using Kabir and playing with his emotions. I needed someone I could trust with my plan and who better than a guy who madly loves me! Yes I might sound cruel right now but then we all do this don’t we? We all use people for selfish interests at times and I’m no different! It’s all For Viraj! I tell myself. I’ll make up for it somehow and I’m sure Kabir will get over me once we’re done with college!

Anyway, the plan is to get closer to Aseem. Never talked to him much all these years! Feels weird already! Viraj returns in 2 months. I just hope everything works out! By the time he comes back, Sylvia would be in deep shit and he’s so going to love it! I’ll see him smiling all over again! Forgive me lord, but I’m doing this for Viraj, for the one I love…”

 

Aseem never used to come out much and thus his movements had to be tracked. Rhea didn’t want to miss any chance to bump into him. She needed someone from the boys’ hostel to keep an eye on him. She had delegated the tracking job to Kabir who had further involved Sandra into the hunt. Kabir started spending most of his time roaming around the campus. I shouldn’t miss Aseem! Rhea needs him! After a couple of days of futile efforts, they finally got going.

Target spotted outside library. Kabir texted Rhea the day he saw Aseem.

Roger dude! There in a jiffy! She replied. She felt her heart pounding against her chest as she looked at herself in the mirror. Relax Rhea! Why so anxious! He’s just a batchmate! But the anxiety persisted for some weird inexplicable reason. She felt like she was going for a first date, like a guy about to propose a girl. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she stepped out of her room. Everything’s gonna be just fine!

Kabir and Sandra were standing outside the library when Rhea came.

‘He just went inside! Weird! Dunno what brought him here of all places. Never seen his lazy ass in the library before! All the best!’ Kabir said grinning.

Rhea felt like a small kid being sent for tuitions for the first time. The queasy feeling intensified with every step she took towards the library. It’s a goddamn library! How am I supposed to talk here?! She entered the library building to find a flustered Aseem fidgeting around outside the sitting room. He was searching his pockets frantically for something, muttering under his breath. Yes! This guy was weird! Rhea gathered the courage to walk up to him.

‘Hi dude! Looking for something?’ she asked smiling.

He reciprocated the gesture with a sweeping movement of his hand. ‘Bah!’

Bah?! Is that it?! I offer help and all he gives is a fucking BAH?! Rhea stood there watching his actions with a puzzled expression of a twelfth grader who’s taught Calculus for the first time. She waited for a minute before asking again. ‘Dude is there something…’

‘Wait…lemme jus check…my…’ He interjected, searching his bag now. I rather wait outside! She thought, turning to leave but then suddenly he called out her name!

‘Rhea!’

She stopped and turned. She was surprised he even knew her name considering the fact that they’d hardly ever talked or seen each other much. ‘Yeah so what…’

‘Well, d’ya have a smoke?’ he asked finally in a desperate attempt. ‘I fucking dropped it or lost it or….I mean…I’ve been wasting s’much time…d’ya have it?’ The desperation in his voice made Rhea actually feel sorry for not having a smoke right then.

‘Nah! I don’t smoke dude!’

‘Ahh…Fuck the world! I can’t study without a smoke mahn!! Fuck! How did I drop….Bloody jackass of a pocket I have!!’

‘Relax…’

‘Coming?! Gotta buy a smoke from outside! Fuck!!’ It felt more like an order and Rhea could find no reason to refuse. She immediately relented. Yes that’s what I wanted anyway! Time alone with him!

It was weird for Rhea to be walking alone with him. There were a few awkward minutes of silence before she came up with something.

‘So, Aseem and library huh? Weird!’ she said with a sly smile.

‘Ahh! Rhea walking with Aseem! Weirder! What’s the catch girl?’ he replied, without looking at her, probably still not over the fact that he’d lost his smoke.

Rhea realized quickly that this guy was smart. No Wonder! ‘Dude! You offered a walk and I tagged along! Is it Rocket Science?’

‘Hmmm, fuckin hate Science! No wonder I chose arts with law unlike you Science freaks.’ he replied nodding his head. ‘This fucking seminar Sylvia asked me to work on! Some IPR and The Doha Agreement crap I dunno…says I should do academic stuff….as if…! I need to prepare a project and present it!’ he went on to explain.

‘Oh My..! So your new flame is already controlling your life huh?!’ It was a clever way of finding out their relationship status from the horse’s mouth itself.

‘Ahh! We just hang around man! Friendly stuff! Flame and all…fuckin shit!’ he argued as he bought a pack of smoke.

She felt a sudden flare of anger inside her. Just Hang Around?! You ruined a fucking relationship asshole!  Her dislike for Aseem intensified with every step she took with him. ‘Don’t do it then or ask her to help. No Compulsions!’

‘Ahhh! She doesn’t do shit for me! Says she’ll help me if I get stuck! Stuck?! My fucking candy ass! You need to have a friggin idea where to start!’

Rhea grimaced with amusement as they entered the campus. ‘I can help you with the project. With the structure, research, formatting and all…and then you can go and present it in the seminar.’

Aseem looked at Rhea with raised eyebrows. It was as if someone had asked him for his pack of smoke. ‘I’m already having second thoughts about this crap and here you are…so keen to help! Why? I’d rather fucking smoke up in my abode.’

‘Stop questioning me dude! I’m your friend, an eight pointer and IPR interests me. Just give it a shot! It’ll add to your CV, get you a job maybe get you started with life…’

‘Life and all huh..! The fucking pointers can suck my dick and the jobs can lick my ass for all I care!’

‘Buck up dude! Try looking beyond your pot and hash for once! Give yourself one good reason to work on it. Just one decent enough reason!’ she coaxed as they made their way back to the library.

‘One good reason huh!’ He closed his eyes and inhaled the smoke, deliberating on the idea as the tobacco did its job. ‘Guess you’re right! I’ll try and find a reason and give it a fucking go. But we’ll start tomorrow. Watsay?’

‘Roger! I’ll see you at the library tomorrow then.’ Rhea smiled.

‘What’s your Google Id? I’ll add you on messenger. Instant connectivity! Fucking bless Google for that!’

Rhea hesitated. ‘Ahhh…dude I ahhh…don’t really use the messenger.’

All of a sudden, Viraj and his memories came flooding into her mind blocking everything away. Their first year when they chatted like crazy on G Talk all the time, the time Sylvia had not entered Viraj’s life, the time Rhea was falling for Viraj with every chat they used to have, till Sylvia came and took that place. One day, when Rhea could no longer take it, she deleted the messenger and all her chats with Viraj vowing never to use it again. It reminded her of old times and she wanted to box away those memories in some part of her heart.

‘No messenger?! What kind of a fucking world do you live in girl?!! Anyway phone it is then! Gimme a missed!’

‘I’ll do that.’ Rhea said.

Aseem nodded, making clouds of smoke in the air as he walked away.

Rhea then took out her cell phone and typed a message for Kabir:

Thanks for today mate! Unfinished business though! Get ready to ruin a seminar presentation now! Wohoo I’m so excited! I really love you for this!

At the other end, Kabir smiled as he read the message. I love you too! More than you realize! More than you’ll ever know! Maybe more than I’ll ever show! He thought.

But all he sent back was a simple smiley. J

 

“There are primarily three kinds of girls. One, who are beautiful but not too conscious of the fact. Two, who are beautiful and know how to capitalize on it and three, who have this false notion of being hot and beautiful. With all modesty, I can put myself in the second category. I know I can potentially exploit Aseem and I’ll do that.

I might sound like a bitch for planning to ruin someone’s first attempt at something productive but I’m sorry diary, I just can’t help it! I’ll strike when it hurts the most. His confidence, his morale and his will, all will be shattered. Yes, I’ve stopped caring too much! Yes I don’t think much about people and their emotions, even though I might act like I do. Life made me that way. Who cared about my emotions huh? Who was there when I was hurt? Couldn’t Sylvia see that I was already there for Viraj? Why did she have to just….interfere?!

I learnt caring too much just hurts, so you might as well live life on your own terms. It’s a bad bad world out there and being devoid of emotions just makes me stronger. The only person who still makes me go weak is Viraj.

Viraj did send a text btw. ‘Reached. Safe. Phone would be switched off. Do not contact me, I’ll call soon.’ It’s been a week and no news from his side. Well, anyway, he’ll be happy to hear all the spice when he comes back…”

‘So what’s next on the agenda vamp?’ Kabir asked grinning, a few days later.

‘I’ve started helping him with the research, Intellectual Property Rights and all huh! You guys aren’t too close in spite of being in the same hostel. You better try and change that soon so that when the time comes, you can easily rob him off his intellectual property! I’ll tell you what to do when the time comes.’

 ‘I’ll do that indeed! But watch your steps carefully Rhea! Don’t mess up your part!’

‘Relax dude! Everything’s under control! It’s gonna be fun!’ She winked.

 

‘Reyo! My Oreo!! Can you fucking believe it!?! I’ve hit the jackpot!  Found some material that can corroborate the crux of my project. Now it’s gonna be fucking awesome. Thanks gal! You’ve been a great help.’

Aseem sounded excited for the first time ever since Rhea had met him. It had been a couple of weeks since she had started helping him and he was indeed making quick progress. They used to spend a couple of hours in the library everyday and Rhea ensured they were productive. She couldn’t help but notice that she’d already become Reyo and Oreo for him. He started feeling comfortable with her and much to her surprise took active interest in research. ‘Once all this is done, we’ll smoke pot together!’ he said smirking one day.

‘Fuck you Aseem! None of that crap with me! How many times do I have to tell you?!’ Rhea cried, frivolously punching him in the stomach. She couldn’t help but smile every now and then at Aseem, his pranks and his insanity.

‘Oh my bad! I forgot. By the way, d’ya have a smoke huh? Guess I lost mine! Let’s go buy another!’ he grinned.

‘Asshole! Stop flirting and focus!’ Rhea smiled. ‘Is this the same guy I talked to a month back huh? Someone detached from life?’

‘Haha! Yeah! I guess so. You only gave me the direction. Told me to find a reason to work for this! And I found mine. I have another month, trust me m gonna fucking nail this seminar!’

Rhea gave a crafty smile. Oh! You’ve no idea! She thought. ‘Ahaan! So what reason was compelling enough for you to sacrifice your pot for once?’ she asked with a naughty twinkle in her eyes.

‘I have my reasons!’ Aseem exclaimed smiling.

‘Woah! So the secrecy and all huh?! Anyway, check this out. Just keep collecting material then we’ll start drafting in a week’s time.’ she said, pointing at her laptop screen.  

‘Hmmm! Guess Sylvia was right after all. There is something beyond weed and pot and it’s equally intoxicating!’ Aseem smirked.

‘What’s intoxicating?! The research or my company?!’ Rhea grinned.

‘Woah! I’d say it’s a freaking deadly combo!’ he shot back with a wink.

‘Ahaan! So, did you tell her I’m helping you?’

‘Yeah I did actually a few days back. She seemed indifferent. Takes the burden off me! She said grinning. I owe you for the last one month Rhea! Really!’

So it’s not affecting her much?! Or is she shamming?! Huh, it will eventually! Rhea thought. ‘Huh?! Oh yeah….no issues dude. I’ll ensure you return the favour. Let’s pack up for today.’ she smiled.

‘Bingo there!’

As Rhea came out of the library, she texted Kabir, updating him with the events, something she’d been doing since the last month.  

Today was cool! In a couple of week’s time, I’ll tell you exactly when, all you need to do is access Aseem’s computer and delete all his documents! As simple as A B C! Fuck the seminar! Thanks bud!  She sent.

 

‘Do you see this?’ Kabir said, as he showed his cell phone to Sandra.

Sandra smiled as she surveyed his inbox. ‘Woah dude! Isn’t someone on cloud 9?! The inbox’s full of Rhea Texts huh.’ she said grinning.

‘Yup! You don’t know how much time I spend every day just staring at my inbox reading her messages. I keep staring even at every Yes, No and K that she’s sent in the last month damn it!’ he said with a glint in his eyes. ‘I feel we’ve come closer in the past month like never before.’

‘Ahaan!’ she grinned.

‘You know what Sandra?! I’d stopped dreaming about Rhea and me together. Somehow I’d told myself to be practical and give up. I tried holding my feelings but in the last month, our growing intimacy has made me think, maybe now she starts caring about me the way I do, maybe she starts loving me, maybe we have a chance…maybe she realizes…maybe Viraj patches up with Sylvia or something…I mean…even the slightest signal from her makes me go crazy…you know…’ he paused.

‘I understand dude! I can imagine that niggling desire inside, a hope of a miracle..! The way you feel right now..! We’ve all at some point of time in our lives, hoped for certain miracles to happen. Sometimes they do, sometimes not. But I sincerely wish they happen for you.’

‘Am I being selfish Sandra? To want someone knowing they love someone else?’ Kabir asked.

‘No buddy! Not at all! Aren’t you selflessly helping her in her plan?! And even if you’re being selfish, you should know it’s beyond your control. Trust me, certain feelings are! You know what’s selfish? Flying away to London just like that?!’

Kabir smiled. ‘Naah! I hope I get to fly with Rhea. We’ll fly together this time. Once all this is over, I’m gonna tell her everything I feel about her right from the very first day when I saw her, when I fell for her, things I’ve done for her over the years she doesn’t even know….everything.’ Kabir stared blankly at a distance saying all this more to himself as if reliving and treasuring every moment.

‘Tell me something Kabir!’ Sandra said biting her lower lip as a smile crossed her face. ‘Don’t you feel jealous sometimes?! Aseem gets so much of Rhea’s time everyday when you secretly wish it were you?!’

Kabir raised his eyebrows with a You-Got-Me smile. ‘Ahh..well…you know…okay…sometimes I do…’ he sighed admitting, ‘But then it’s not like she fancies him or anything…you know..she’s just doing it for Viraj…it makes her happy….and then I’ve learnt to live with so many mixed emotions over the years….I guess I can live with the envy too!’

‘Awww Kabir! You know you’re just too cute sometimes. A real darling!’ Sandra said ruffling his hair.

‘Real darling! I hope she says this to me someday.’ he beamed.

 

With less than a couple of weeks left for the seminar, Aseem started spending more time in the library away from Sylvia, much to Rhea’s delight. Rhea was glad the seminar was keeping him busy enough to ignore Sylvia and piss her off. They’d started devoting more than a couple of hours now and sometimes it used to take up the entire evening. Post the library sessions, Aseem’s narcotic necessities further prevented him from spending time with Sylvia.

Rhea too, had started looking forward to the library sessions lately. She used to get to learn a lot of new stuff. Most of the times they used to sit outside the library building on the steps with their laptops. Aseem used to crack profane jokes whenever he got too ragged with research. Rhea couldn’t help but join in too. He never missed a chance to sneak in a couple of smoke puffs bugging Rhea every time.

‘Can’t you fucking control the urge for a while?!’ She cried perplexed one day.

‘So someone’s started using the fuckin F word too! Naaaice!’, the deliberately elongated ‘nice’ further pissed Rhea off.

‘Fuck off! You refuse to listen isn’t it?!’ she exclaimed giving a resigned smile!

‘Wanna smoke pot?!’

‘Fuck you!’

‘Weed?!’ Aseem persisted grinning.

‘Shall we work?!’

‘Hash?’

‘IPR?!’ Rhea mocked.

‘Okay joint smoke?!’

‘Dude! If you keep doing that trust me, I’ll beat you!’ She retorted grinning.

‘You beat me! I beat you to death!’ he said in a hoarse voice making a growling sound and clawing at her.

‘Oh really?! Take these then!’ she said giving him frivolous punches all over his body.

‘Okay Stop it! I was fuckin kidding damn it! STOP! For my pot’s sake Relax!’ she stopped and gave a feathery blow on Aseem’s nose as he looked up.

‘Owww! That hurt!’ he said rubbing his nose.

‘It should! If you keep mouthing crap…?!’

‘What’s that?! Classified CIA documents?!’ Aseem quipped pointing at a diary in one of Rhea’s jacket’s pockets.

‘Well…that is my personal journal!’

‘Personal huh?! So I’m not the only one with the secrecy and all?!’ He mocked. ‘And what do you really write?! I bet its filled with gibberish on IPR.’ He grinned.

‘No asshole! It’s everything worth remembering after college, my experiences, my feelings and thoughts…everything I feel about…it’s personal!’ she said clutching the diary closer to her chest.

‘So you carry it everywhere like your little kid?!’

‘Almost everywhere…yeah!’ She replied nodding her head.

‘Aha! So why don’t you just let me see what you think about me in that huh?!’ he said grimacing.

‘It won’t remain personal if I show you, will it?!’

‘Oops! I get that, fine! But you know what Rhea?’  

‘What now?!’ she mocked with raised eyebrows.

‘I like our library sessions. The time we spend and the things we do…I mean…I get to do something productive and I’m learning fast…It’s like…you know.. I…feel really nice to sit here next to you every day.’  

All of a sudden, the smile from Rhea’s face just faded away. She clutched her handbag which had a certain piece of paper, as images from first semester crept into her mind. Of Viraj sitting next to her, writing that short piece of poetry for her and quietly passing it under her table.

…The little things you do for me,

Makes me feel so nice with you

That is why my dear friend,

I like to sit next to you.

‘I guess we should pack up for the day now.’ Rhea smiled as she shut her laptop, driving away the nostalgic visions. ‘Just a couple of weeks left! Work hard for this! See ya!’ The words just came out and for the first time she felt like she actually meant them. ‘And give a fucking break to your smoking habit. It’ll kill you otherwise!’ she yelled at a startled Aseem, preparing for another smoke.

“It was weird! The way Aseem talked about our library sessions today! All of a sudden, he reminded me of Viraj. For a moment, I felt as if it was the first semester all over again, Viraj sitting there with me, old times, chatting like there’s no tomorrow. I can’t explain diary, it felt as if there was a connection, a strong, uncanny, inexplicable bond between us! Is he actually falling for me? Is my plan working? Then why doesn’t it seem right?! I better put a brake on my thoughts!

Anyway…just a couple of weeks left, for the seminar and for Viraj to return. ‘Coming back in a couple of weeks!’ That’s all he’s sent! How busy can he be damn it! No Skype, no calls, nothing! I’ll kick his butt when he comes back!”

 

With each passing day, the project was nearing completion and Rhea was soon realizing that she had to take the decisive step but still she kept delaying it for some strange reason. She just didn’t feel like doing it right then.

‘So this is it?! Ten days to go and we’re almost done.’ Aseem said one day.

‘Yeah! Right!’ Rhea said, staring at her laptop screen avoiding his eyes, her guilty mind making her uneasy.

‘You know what Rhea?! I never thought I’d be able to do it initially. And now when I look at the forty pages of hard work, it really feels great. I’d really have given up without you. Guess some things are just worth fighting for you know, like…you just shouldn’t give up….and this is one of them.’

For certain things, you don’t really give up, and your friendship is one of them! Viraj had said something like that! The reveries of the first semester came flooding back into her mind. The fracture, the apologies, their friendship.

‘Keep the momentum going for the end terms too! One last series of exams before we pass out! I’ll help you with them. You gotta work hard, study and nail them too.’

‘Ahh! Fuck it! I never do that!’

Rhea gave him a firm look. ‘Well. Just shut up and start working! For once, study! And we still have a month of college left, any more symposiums and seminars and I want you there. And throw this fucking shit away! You want to live don’t you?!’ she screamed snatching the pack of smoke from him. Viraj doesn’t smoke. You shouldn’t too! Gosh! What’s wrong?! Why am I even comparing?!

‘Whoa Whoa Rhea! Gimme a break! Are you trying to fucking turn a junkie into a geek huh?! Chillax!’

“I’m losing it! Guess there’s something wrong with me! That one question has been bothering me the entire day! What was I trying to turn him into? What is happening to me? Why am I being so nice and considerate to him all of a sudden?! All this time, I’ve wanted to ruin his seminar and now suddenly all I want is for him to do well! My heart and my mind are playing games with me!

Diary, this guy reminds me so much of Viraj! The way he talks, his attitude, his pranks...everything. I cannot bring myself to possibly ditch him now. I’ve seen him work so hard for this, the zeal and enthusiasm on his face like that of an infant who gets his first toy. This is like his first toy, his first effort at something that can change his life for the better.

Oh Fuck me! He was the one I was fighting against and now I’ve forgotten what I’d started fighting for! Seeing Sylvia suffer is one thing but how do I hurt him?! How do I do it?! So then, what exactly did I do there in the library today? What was I trying to turn him into? I think I have the answer. My he


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