This short story became SPIXer (Most popular story) on 16 Aug 2014 and won INR 500
This short story is selected as Story of the Month Jul’2014 and won INR 1000
This story is selected as Editor’s Choice
“Sweetheart, it’s time for dinner. Come, have some food.”, her mother said with a tap on her door.
Anushka shouted back, “Just a few more paragraphs to revise, and I’ll be right there, mom.”
No sooner than her mother’s footsteps had retreated, Annie closed her book and got back to her computer. She hadn’t studied at all since morning, and even though her Board Examinations were approaching, she couldn’t make up her mind to study, not one bit. Vinay kept her from doing that!
Vinay was her best friend, the guy she had started to develop a serious liking for. So what if he lived thousands of miles away, in another state? So what if they had never met? Their conversations were so happy and full of life that Annie felt sure he was her one true love, and she did not need anyone else!
She had first met Vinay on a chat site, and right from the very first word, they had clicked so well. Their first conversation had been awesomeness personified.
Niceguy18: Hey there!
XxAnniexX: Hi :)
XxAnniexX: Nope, I’m Indian.
Niceguy18: I knew it! i’m Indian too!
XxAnniexX: Where in India? I’m from Assam!
Niceguy18: Kerala. Do you pick tea leaves back there in Assam? Lol, just kidding!
And they added each other on Messenger and got to talking. The very first day, they had talked on for almost six hours straight, never for one moment getting bored. And when Annie had gone to sleep, her last thought had been of him.
As the days passed, she got a glimpse into his life, and whatever she saw, she liked it a lot. She learnt that he was a swimmer, played the guitar and hated all festivals just because they were so elaborate. Anushka herself was a closed person, and had never been the outgoing kind. All the travelling she had done had been through her books. She had never touched the guitar, or been in a pool of water herself, and his life, to her, seemed just perfect! And maybe that was why she felt so drawn to him, and got goosebumps when he said stuff like this :
XxAnniexX: So tell me when’s your birthday?
Niceguy18: Take a guess Annieto! (he always called her that, and she loved to pronounce the nickname to herself) Its in October. Somewhere between 1 and 10.
She made some random guesses, and he played along with her, beating about the bush, never revealing the true date, until she got frustrated and said
XxAnniexX : You are SO irritating online! You must be really really irritating in real life too!
Niceguy18: I like to irritate the people I like Annieto, and in real life I am quite different!
And after that he had indeed revealed that his birthday was on the 8th of October, but all Annie could think about was that he had said he liked her. It was enough to leave her with a warm fuzzy glow inside that lasted throughout the day.
Annie had never been this close to a guy, even in real life, and in Vinu (yes, that was what she called him, and she loved it when he got irritated by the name) she had found a confidante. She found herself pouring out her feelings to him. He was always so nice to her, and made her laugh whenever she was down. It was the life she had always imagined she would have, if ever she had a boyfriend! And now all the wonderful things were happening to her, she could barely believe they were for real!
* * *
Presently she typed in her goodbye message to Vinu and went to have dinner with her family. It made her sad to think that today was her last day at home. She would be back in school the next day (Her’s was a residential school, where they did not allow personal computers or cellphones) and she had no way of contacting Vinu. She had grown so accustomed to his “presence” in her life that the very thought of weeks and months without so much as a one line text from him made her sad.
The next day she got up and texted him for the last time.
“Hi Vinu! Guess who it is! Are you sure you are awake?”
There was no reply, and she sunk into a gloomy mood as her father drove her to school. A few hours later, her phone beeped. It was from a strange number, and only later did she realise that he was probably messaging her from his Yahoo! account. The text read “Hey Annie, I really hope you get this. My phone has very low balance, and apparently it isn’t enough to reply. If you are there, then please give me a missed call.”
Her heart beat faster, and she tried to call back, but the network was jammed, and her call did not get through. He texted again, “Reply, Annie. Reply…”
She tried her best to reply, but she couldn’t. She felt really sorry when his last message came through – “Hmm anyway. I hope you get these messages. Enjoy school and enjoy life. Bye and take care.”
She really wished she could contact him somehow. But there was no way. And as she settled down in school, her friends helped her forget her the agony that was Vinu’s absence. And as Annieto slowly became Anushka again, his memories tormented her lesser and lesser. She had her boards to prepare for, and somehow all the distraction kept her going, until finally her exam was over and it was time to head back home! She couldn’t wait to get to her computer and find out how her best friend had been!
She was a tad apprehensive – not sure if things would be the same again between the two of them. He led, after all a very interesting life. Why would he keep pining for just another girl he had met online? But all her doubts vanished when she saw the number of offline messages he had sent her!
“I’m eating chocolates, Annieto. F**k Chocolates!”
“I can’t sleep Annie. Waaaaah. Where are you?”
“Annie is mad. Annie is bad :( ”
“I start college on Saturday. I’ll be online every night after eight. You HAVE to come online Annieto! Get a new ID and add me if you must. I remain – STILL your biggest fan.”
It was as if Christmas had come early! She typed something heartfelt and sent it to him, not expecting him to be online. But her computer pinged with the best reply she could have hoped for – “ANNIIEEEETO!!! I missed you! :( ” And after talking for what felt like hours, she broke off, realising she was addicted – badly addicted to Vinu, and there was no hope for her now.
* * *
The night before he was to leave for college, they chatted for three hours. He sounded really sad and alone, and Annie could not help but feel bad for him.
Niceguy18: Dude, I don’t want to go.
XxAnniexX: I dont want you to go either :(
Niceguy18: I will miss my old lifestyle. And I will miss talking to you Annie. Sorry I am so slow right now. I am chatting with so many people. It’s my last night online, you see?
XxAnniexX: Oh well, I guess I will go now and leave you free to chat with the other ‘so many people’. How many of them are there, by the way?
Niceguy18: Eight? Screw them. They can wait!
XxAnniexX: Bad manners.
Niceguy18: Absolutely! That’s what defines me. And you are top priority right now!
XxAnniexX: I bet you say that to everyone! :P
Niceguy18: Lol no. Otherwise how would I reply so fast to you?
That made her happy. She then went on to tell him that her mother thought all the online friends were the same – kidnappers, rapists and such like. And he replied –
Niceguy18: Your mom is concerned about you. And so am I. You trust me so blindly. I could be an Iranian terrorist for all you know. Or even a child molester.
She knew she did trust easily, but she was glad to have someone she could trust! When he was about to sign off, she made him promise that he would remember her, even if they never met again. And his reply made her smile.
Niceguy18: You silly girl! We will meet! Now scat. Byeeee :)
* * *
And just like that, he left! In college, he made new friends, and hardly had time to come online. And even when he did, he seemed very distant, not like the Vinu she used to know, not like HER Vinu. He was funny alright, but he no longer cared for her rantings, no longer laughed with her. And Annie had always hated people who dared to laugh AT her. Maybe college had molded him in a way she couldn’t digest. And then suddenly one day, he left this message :
Niceguy18: I am bored. What was the name of the site I met you? I could find another Annie there.
He had indeed changed, and it broke her heart. She didn’t know what to make of him now – past memories were not enough to love a person. Besides her own college had started, and she had gotten busy with her life. After that day she promised herself that she would never send another mail to him. But when she had time to go online, she saw a message that made her go weak at the knees.
Niceguy18: You know Annieto, you’re the kind of person people would like to think of as sweet, innocent, caring and all that bullshit, but you are not. I mean you are all these things, but you are also naughty, cunning and you are totally mental! You are like a butterfly…with rabies. Lol. But anyway, for a person I’ve never met, you’re pretty awesome. Much love and take care. Vinu :P
And that was it! Vinu was doing it again – making her smile when she least expected to! It was her chance to go back to the illusion she had been living for almost a year now. She was almost halfway through her reply to him, when she stopped herself. it was not even practical, she realised. Even if they continued talking, he lived thousands of miles away, and the chances of them meeting were extremely slim, if not non-existent.
With all the self-control she could muster, she deleted her account once and for all! And that was the last she would ever see of Vinu, she knew! She also knew he wouldn’t miss her half as much as she would, but nevertheless she wished him happiness. She did not know if she had made the right choice, and it certainly wasn’t the easiest. And she hoped she might live to regret this day. But right then, it was the only way she could move on.
* * *
She was sitting in the college cafeteria finishing her burger, when thoughts of him came unbidden to her mind. It had almost been a month since she had deleted her account, and she had managed pretty well so far. It felt as if she had lost a part of herself – the part that was carefree and loved to laugh. But how could she carry on if the price of being happy was to be made fun of? Memories of their never-ending chats still occupied her mind for most part of the day, but at least that overpowering urge to check her email every now and then was gone! Very few people knew her new email ID, and Vinu was definitely not one of them. It was almost funny when she thought of what a very famous ‘Consulting Detective’ had once said, and how very well it seemed to fit in with her life –
“I’VE ALWAYS ASSUMED LOVE WAS A DANGEROUS DISADVANTAGE. THANK YOU FOR THE FINAL PROOF.”
As if on cue, Shaina and Palak, her two best friends joined her. Shaina remarked, “Anushka, how come I never see you online? If it weren’t for me, you would have almost missed the last notification that Chemistry class this week was cancelled!”
Palak responded, “What? You have an ID? How come you never added me? Tell me what it is, and I am going to send you a friend request right now!”
It was all she could do to keep herself from smiling. “Its Annieto18”, she replied. Vinu was gone. But the mark he had left on her would stay on.