I sat alone inside the school bus in my usual seat, playing “Angry Birds” on my cell phone. Nobody ever sat with me in bus unless there was no other seat left and their legs were aching tired. If you knew me, you would probably not want to be friends with me either. I never liked to go out, I hated crowds, and I hated team work. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life; well I think it’s stupid to think about future.
So there I was, a “nobody” in this huge planet full of talented humans. My mom told me I’m wasting time, my conscience told me I’m wasting time, but I didn’t find anything else to do with my time, so I always, calmly, ignored their warnings.
I studied in an all girls’ school. I didn’t like my school. I had no friends, not a single friend.
Well, I did talk to my batch mates when it came to borrowing notes, but even that was like ‘once-in-a-pink-moon’ stuff. What they talked about never really interested me. Make up, jewellery, nice clothes, guys… I never understood the other girls’ craze for such things, and I probably never will! They think I’m dull and rude, but that’s okay. I don’t think very highly of them either. I like being left alone, so they leave me alone. It’s mutual.
The first class of that day was geography. Our teacher Mr. Smith was a bearded old man with huge spectacles. I sighed sadly. The subject was boring enough without him making it even duller. I didn’t like geography. And I didn’t like any of the other subjects except math. Miss Sheryl taught us math. She was young and beautiful, with blond hair and a beautiful curvaceous body. I was very fond of her.
“Divya?” the teacher suddenly called. Yes, that was my name the old man called. My dad was Indian, so I had an Indian name. I looked up at his old wrinkly face.
“Mrs. Williams wants you at the Drama Club meeting right now,” he informed me.
I raised an eyebrow at him. “Drama?” I said, stressing the word as hard as I could.
He sighed. “Yes.”
“What a bi*ch…” I said under my breath. I didn’t like drama. I didn’t like Mrs. Williams. She would always tell me I needed to “mend” my ways. And I never understood why!
He kept staring at me, till I picked up my bags and dragged my steps towards the Theatre room. I entered the room, which had the best dramatists of our school seated inside, along with Mrs. Williams, our drama teacher and her two assistants.
“Come sit down, Divya,” she purred when she saw me. I obeyed. And the meeting resumed.
“So as I was saying, the play we’re performing this time is Romeo and Juliet,” she said the last three words slowly, stressing every syllable.
“Duh!” I cried out softly. Few heads near me turned. I didn’t bother to check who they were.
“And Divya…” she said, startling me as she announced my name, “Shall play the part of Romeo.”
All heads turned to me. I gulped. It felt sick. There was no way I was going to do it! The only reason I joined drama club was because I su*ked at everything else! But that seriously doesn’t mean I don’t suck at this!
Mrs. Williams went on about her plans for the Annual function, the way the stage was to be decorated, the music, the songs and the dialogues. She handed each one of us a draft of the play we were going to perform. It had all the dialogues and scene changes well written on it. As all the other girls flipped through it excitedly, I shut it and made up my mind to tell Mrs. Williams I won’t do it!
“Are you Divya?” a soft voice called.
I turned around and saw HER. Juliet. She was fair, very fair, with golden curly hair that reached below her shoulders. She had deep blue eyes that twinkled, and pink lips that glistened. She was dressed in a short white frock that ended above her knees. Her arms and legs were so beautiful I wished I could just touch them once.
“Divya?” she said again, waking me up from my fantasies.
“Yeah, that’s me…” I said. I offered her my hand and she shook it. Her touch felt smooth.
“I’m Suzanne,” she said. “I’m a year junior to you. I play Juliet.”
I nodded. I loved her name. I loved her voice. I loved the way she said her name, and the way her pink lips moved when she said it.
“Mrs. Williams says we have to play majority part of the play. And I really want to do this well!”
I nodded again. Suddenly I too wanted to do this really well.
“So you up for it, right? Can we practice extra time?”
“For sure we can!” I said, a little too soon maybe. “You can come to my place after school if you’re free. We’ll practice in my room.”
She smiled when I said that. She had beautiful teeth, and an even more beautiful smile. “See you then!” she said. I smiled back, widely enough to make myself look like an idiot.
“Practice starts tomorrow, Divya,” Mrs. Williams purred again as I was leaving. I nodded and smiled at her. The bickering old lady finally did SOMETHING good to my life by being a part of it.
“Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, which mannerly devotion shows in this; for saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss,” it was Suzanne saying her lines. I watched her as she spoke with so much passion, I felt almost transported into the story.
She looked at me, and it took me a while to realise that it was my turn to say my lines.
“Have not saints flips, I mean, lips, and holy palm- palmers too?” I said. No, I blabbered. I didn’t understand the meaning of this sh*t. And it sounded even worse when I said it. I looked at Mrs. Williams who shook her head sadly, and then signalled Suzanne to continue.
“Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer”, she said.
“O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do; they pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair,” somehow, the utterance of the word “lips” again and again made me nervous. I still didn’t have the faintest idea what it all meant!
“Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake,” she said.
“Then move not, while my prayer’s effect t-take. Thus from my… ummm… lips, by yours, my sin is… uh… purged.” I did not know what was so funny when I said it, but I did sense a soft giggle rise in the crowd.
“Then have my lips the sin that they have took.”
I swallowed. “Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again.” I said it in one breath. By then the class had started laughing at me, and they didn’t try to hide it anymore. Even fat Mrs. Williams had broken down into peals of laughter. I looked around and felt miserable. Why couldn’t I become invisible for a few seconds? Or why didn’t some dinosaur come in and gobble me up right then?
“Divya, dear, you surely need practice!” Mrs. Williams cried out and laughed like a stupid hyena. “Oh my, what will I do with you!”
I wanted to cry, and yell out. They had no right to laugh at me like that. I hated being laughed at! And I hated the entire drama club! I hated Mrs. Williams! I hated Suzanne! I crushed my paper in my hand, threw it on the face of the stupid looking girl with pimples sitting on my right and left the room. I sensed the laughter dimming in the room as I left. But I didn’t turn back to look. It was over for me!
I went out into the playground and sat down under the shade of a tree, hoping to remain invisible in the blackness. I watched some girls playing basketball some distance away and concentrated on the game to forget about drama and the stupid dramatists. A lonely bird chirped on a branch of the tree, singing away its miseries all alone. As if its miseries were more than me!
“Divya,” a voice called. I didn’t budge a muscle, hoping the person would go away, whoever she was.
“Divya, we’re sorry,” she said. It was Suzanne. “We didn’t mean to hurt you…”
I looked away and stayed mum. I wished she would go away. I seriously needed some quiet time with myself, or with someone who didn’t irritate me, or some dumb who didn’t talk or a total stranger. She didn’t fulfil any of the criteria, nor did that dim-witted bird crying on my tree.
“It’s hurt,” Suzanne said suddenly. I gave her a questioning look.
“That bird, it has hurt its wing,” she said, and went up to it. She took the bird into her hands. It panicked for a few seconds and tried to wriggle out of her grip, but she managed to coax it by gently rubbing its head.
“Look at its wing,” she showed me the left wing of the bird. “I guess she had got herself trapped in a thorny bush or something.”
“Be careful, it might sh*t in your hands,” I told her. I wasn’t fond of birds anyway.
She laughed at my comment. “Divya, it’s such a pretty little bird,” she said. I looked at it. I didn’t know what that bird was called and it looked dull in its black and brown feathers. That’s why I say I never understand the other girls. I took out my phone and started playing angry birds again, raising the sound level to ‘high’. The bird in her hands started panicking.
“Divya, you’re scaring it!” she almost yelled at me.
“Well I don’t care! I like to be alone. So why can’t you just behave like the other girls and leave me alone? What’s your problem?” I said angrily.
She was silent. It felt good; to yell at her and tell her I don’t need her. I had felt deeply betrayed when she had joined the others to laugh at me. I was only making it even. I watched her silent face and her eyes that stared fixedly at mine. The whole world seemed still and silent, except the sound of our breaths. I looked at her slightly parted lips, her bosom heaving up and down… and her fair arms… and the bird in her hands that she was clutching a bit too tightly now…
“You’re killing it!” I cried out.
She got a shock and loosened her grip on the little bird. “O my dear I’m so sorry!” she said. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” she asked the bird.
And that’s why I say I do not understand girls.
“Is it alive?” I asked casually.
“Yeah, it is.”
She sat down cross legged, playing with the bird. “Look at its eyes, Divya. They are so lovely,” she said, holding out the bird so I could look at its eyes. Big black eyes? I had them too!
I said nothing and kept fiddling with my cell phone.
“Divya, we’re really very sorry. Would you like to come up to my home tonight? You and I could practice together and I could teach you.”
Her words hit my heart like cupid’s arrow. She had invited me to her house! Just me and her! I felt special at once!
“S-sure,” I said and looked into her blue eyes.
I smiled back stupidly. I couldn’t believe I had fallen into the trap so easily.
“I’ll see you then,” she said and left.
She left, but her smell lingered on for some time longer. I breathed it in and smiled to myself. I seem to have fallen in love with it.
“Divya, you’re late for dinner. Where are you?” mom called from downstairs. I was in call with Suzanne.
“Coming mom!” I yelled back, disconnecting the phone. Well, let me tell you about this beautifully interesting creature that’s my mom… My parents’ marriage was the funniest circus I ever heard of! My mom was white, a New Yorker, and she was pregnant with me at the age of 21, when my father was around 24. This big news had more impact on my dad’s Indian family than America’s atom bombs had on Hiroshima. I have seen their photos before marriage. Well, dad still looks the same. But mom! Well I’m not surprised she gave my grandpa a minor heart attack on her first visit to India. Multicoloured hair, a pierced eyebrow, a tattoo on her right arm… was not exactly fulfilling their expectations of a daughter- in- law.
“What have you been up to?” she asked me when I reached the dining room. I smiled at her. I was surely glad the tattoos and rings were out of her body.
“I was talking to Suzanne,” I told her.
“She’s my friend, mom. She’s new in school.”
Mom nodded silently. It was probably the first time ever that she heard of any ‘friend’ of mine.
“Mom, are there any chocolate cakes in the fridge that I could take with me to school tomorrow?” I asked her suddenly.
“Yes, Divya,” she said. “But since when did you start liking chocolates?”
“It’s not for me mom. It’s for Suzanne. She likes chocolates.” I gave mom my cheesiest smile. Mom’s quizzical, worried face hung on my mind for a long, long time.
In Suzanne, I found my first friend. It felt good. I finally had someone whom I could text, someone I could spend lunch time with, and who would sit with me in bus. She made my life happier; she would listen to my troubles and would inspire me to face and overcome them. She would hold my hand sometimes and tell me I’m not as bad as I think I am. She became my best friend, and soon we were seen everywhere together. The other girls nicknamed our pair “Juliet and Juliet”.
“Hey Su!” I called out to her one day as I was walking down the school corridor, spotting her near the coffee machine.
“Hey!” she beamed at me.
“What time are you coming today? My tuition class got cancelled so you could come earlier if you want.”
“Divya, there is this BIG news I gotta tell you!” she said. Her voice was full of excitement.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Steve asked me out! I’m going on a date with him tonight!” she said, hardly able to contain herself from jumping with joy.
I took a step backward when she said that.
“But the show is in four days, isn’t it?” I said, with a little anger in my tone.
“Yes Divya, but we’ve practised enough. It’s been a month! The lines are all memorised. One outing won’t harm us. And besides, I just couldn’t say a “no” to Steve!”
She beamed as she spoke. She liked him. She was happy.
“Enjoy your date,” I said sternly, and left. Maybe she had called after me, maybe she hadn’t. I was too deaf to realise.
As I reached home, I saw Jack waiting at the gate of his house to say hello, with that stupid smile pasted on his face. He liked me, or at least he said so. “You’re looking beautiful today” he said.
I smiled clumsily. Other girls might find this crap romantic. I didn’t. I looked the same always, and if he found me suddenly more beautiful one day then it’s nothing but his own stupid imagination!
I didn’t talk to Suzanne that night. She didn’t text me, not even once, not even to tell me how her date with Steve went.
The next day went the same. She didn’t call or text me at all. She didn’t find the need to do so. It hurt. I felt alone. Angry. She was my best friend, my Juliet. Was it so easy for her to stay away?
Finally she called in the evening.
“Can I come over?” she asked. And I forgot all about being angry.
“Sure!” I said. “I guess we do need some practice!”
“Yeah… I’ll be there in ten minutes. Dad will drop me by car. Cool?”
“Cool.” I smiled at my cell phone.
Yes, she was coming! And I couldn’t believe my own happiness over it. I cleaned my room in a jiffy, and brought chocolate cookies from the kitchen. She liked chocolate cookies. And then I played some soft music on my laptop. I was trying to please her. And I had no idea why!
She arrived in ten minutes as promised. She wore a loose t-shirt with short blue denims. Her hair was freshly washed and it smelled of honey. I felt cheerful at once.
“Hey!” she greeted me. “Are you okay today? You seemed to be in such a bad mood when I met you last time.”
“Sorry about that,” I said. I felt embarrassed. “I was just upset you didn’t tell me before.”
“I was going to tell you, you know.”
“Ah! Never mind!” I interrupted her. I didn’t want to make her feel guilty. We went inside to my room and she at once jumped at the chocolate cookies on the table.
“I love these little things that you do for me, Divya,” she told me, munching at the cookies. I felt blessed.
Then we started with our practice. I realised we were growing better every day. She said her lines with so much emotion, they almost seemed real. I think I wished they were!
“So how’s Steve?” I finally popped the question.
“Steve? He’s nice. Sweet guy.”
I nodded. I couldn’t ask anything more. The show was in two days and I couldn’t spoil things at the moment.
“But it feels kinda empty when I’m with him,” she said, without waiting for me to ask. “It feels superficial. Hollow…” her voice trailed off. I put my arms around her and kissed her cheek. She smiled and kissed me back. It felt beautiful. Too beautiful. I watched her pink lips, and the way they moved when she spoke. I felt a strange urge to kiss them.
I moved forward and brought my lips close to hers. She stopped speaking. I went closer, and she started breathing heavily. I could hear her breath, I could feel her panic, and I could hear the million worries screaming inside her head.
Suddenly she backed away. “Call from home,” she said, and flipped open her cell phone. Gosh, I didn’t hear her cell phone ringing!
“Dad’s waiting at the gate,” she informed me and collected her belongings. She was hurrying with her work, but she didn’t seem mad at me.
“I’ll see you in school then,” she said and waved me goodbye. I waved back. I wondered what would have happened if the cell hadn’t rung at that moment… what she would think of me then. What does she think of me now? I didn’t dare text her, and neither of us brought up the topic for the next day two days.
The play was pulled off perfectly well onstage. Everybody applauded the two of us. I had never seen Mrs. Williams so happy before!
“Divya and Suzanne! You girls were marvellous!” she cheered after the show. Suzanne beamed. “We did it!” she cried out, and hugged me tight. It gave me goose bumps!
That night, she agreed to come home with me for a sleepover. We decided to have a small party in my room, just me and her, to celebrate our little victory. She loved to dance, so I put on the best party songs to which she could groove. And as I watched her, I realised that there was no denying this fact.
I was in LOVE with Suzanne.
Everything was so crystal clear. I knew I was in love. It felt just the way love stories made you feel. Just like they show in the movies. It was sweet, and romantic. But there was just one problem… I was a girl. And so was she.
But should that matter? Should people hate us for falling in love? They say the most important thing in love is one’s heart that beats for the other. My heart beats for her. So what if we have the same body? Loving another human is never a crime…
“I broke up with Steve,” she said suddenly and sat down on the floor, tired from all the dancing. I was jerked awake by her words.
“What? Why?” I asked. I tried to hide my happiness.
“I didn’t feel I was in love with him…” she said. “He’s too full of himself to love me.”
“I wasn’t happy with him, you know,” she continued.
“Are you happy with me, Suzanne?” I asked her.
She looked at me, straight into my eyes. She said nothing. But her eyes tried to tell me a million things. She felt it strongly, but there was fear. I didn’t dawdle this time. I went forward, took her head in my hands and kissed her lips.
The kiss lasted for hardly three seconds when I released her. I didn’t know if I had done the right thing. But it didn’t feel wrong either. It just felt… ‘pure’. I stared at her.
She stared back.
I smiled back.
“I love you, my Juliet,” I told her, holding her shoulders.
Her pink lips carved themselves into her very beautiful smile. “I love you too…” she said, and then added, “My Juliet.”
Next Saturday was prom. Steve asked her to go with him, while Jack asked me. We both refused the guys. But we went to the prom all the same, wearing matching pink frocks that we had purchased together for this special day. When we walked into the hall, arm in arm, I could feel the stares and the murmurs around us. But that didn’t stop me from getting down on one knee and asking her to dance with me.
Despite all the rude comments floating around us, we danced the night away in each other’s arms. Suzanne was smiling from ear to ear. I had never seen her so happy ever before. And to me, her happiness was all that mattered. Maybe that’s what true love is all about.
I went closer to her, we hugged, our bosoms pressed against each other. I could feel the fire, the obsession. And we went on ahead, delving into the most passionate kiss one might have ever, ever kissed.