|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
|SETTING||College Canteen OR Restaurant|
|THEME||Dream/Fantasy of a Teenager|
I’m not pretty. And I’m not even one of those who are beautiful, but never realise it. No flowing dark hair, sparkling eyes and a rosebud mouth that torments admirers. I have brown hair that is mostly put up in a ponytail, brown eyes that have never suffered from the wand of a mascara tube or kajal and a skin that’s gone bronze under the Indian sun from spending too much time outdoors.
You’d think that my saving grace would be my hands or feet or some nonsense of that sort. My hands are calloused from beating the dhol with a tad too much enthusiasm and my feet are almost always encased in flotters. And I have never made a scandal, nor gushed about a boy in the locker room. The only thing that I seem to care about is books. So in short, for the World Of Boys at large, I’m boring. I’m never the topic of discussion in the locker room – and I do know what goes on in there, I have my spies – and people don’t stop their jabber to watch me pass.
So you understand my turmoil when Shon stopped in his tracks to look at me. I was sipping my coffee when Meghali bumped into the table, sending the hot, scalding liquid flying into the air. Most of it landed on my t-shirt and I bellowed a certain number of un-lady-like words. He stared for a minute or two, slightly open mouthed and inviting flies and all and sundry to buzz in and out of that perfect mouth at will. Well, I suppose I was quite loud. In fact, the whole canteen heard. But apart from a moment of silence, there were no recriminations of my cry. Except for him. There was no scathing retort, no taunt, nothing. He bumped into a pillar on his way out of the canteen, where I was holding court and then disappeared round the bend of the Mathematics building.
People like me don’t talk to people like him. People like him mock people like me, and the favour is returned, believe me.
The next day, I was reclining on my favourite table in the canteen. Kaka, our canteen owner knows me by name and I have a standing order that is delivered to my tale without any prompting or waiting in lines. I turned the pages of the book.
“Hey! Whatcha reading?” Shon said.
To the world at large, I was reading The collected works of O. Henry.
Her bosom heaved as she said, “Oh, Lance, I can’t live without you. Make me yours…”
He looked down at her and swept his manly mane of dark, untamed hair over his shoulder. “Ruby,” he said in a deep voice and her knees gave way. “Oh, dear Ruby-”
“I didn’t know O.Henry wrote these,” said a voice beside my ear and I jumped in fright.
I removed the trashy romance from the pages of the O.Henry book. No need for concealment, now that I was ousted, was there?
“Wha-?” I asked.
Shon’s eyes were twinkling…rather like stars in the dome of the night sky. I shook my head in an effort to clear it. This is what trashy romances do to you. Make you think gibberish and rob you of your ability of speech. Or maybe that’s just his effect.
“Nothing that you’d like to know,” I said primly, stowing away the books in my bag.
The tea was late today. I glanced over at the counter but Kaka was too busy haggling with one of the students. And Shon was still plastered to the seat across the table.
And it wasn’t doing my heart rate any good, for start. Then there was the case of my clammy fingers and my hollow stomach and my mind which was quite worse for the wear, considering that it had spent a number of hours trying to determine exactly why the reigning monarch had deigned to converse with the plebeians.
“Is there anything that you want?” I said, gnashing my teeth.
“Not particularly, no,” he said with an easy smile.
“In that case,” I said zipping by bag shut, “I’m leaving.”
“Okay,” he replied with that maddeningly calm smile on his face.
That would have been the end of it. But then Meghali, my self proclaimed best friend remarked, “Oh, he must like you!”
And that was the really the end. Of my sanity. And reason. And intellect. Because I began to notice how fine Shon’s hair was, all golden brown and it floated in the wind when he strode across the campus. And his eyes. They were grey and twinkled like they knew secrets that I didn’t. And his voice. Oh, my my. It was deep, almost hoarse and every time I heard it, even if he were just saying ‘Excuse me’ to me as he tried to overtake me on the stairs, it sent shivers up my spine.
He looked at me sometimes, and sometimes he ignored me resolutely. On good days, he’d shout my name if he saw me in the distance and saunter up to talk to me. On bad days, he looked at me with the eye of a stranger. Suffice to say, Shon was driving me crazy, making me run around in circles over and over inside my own head.
Oh, who cared if half the population of the college though he was one of the greatest guys ever, and the other half was desperately in love with him? Who cared if I was a nobody, known only to the gymkhana-types and the canteen-people? Who cared, I say!
And then I decided to go and say it to his face. If he did like me, it would be wonderful…If he didn’t… I didn’t dwell on that much. He just had to like me back. He had to.
The next day I found myself in the canteen, waiting for his highness to come around for his regular cup of coffee. I’d decided to resolve the matters. None of this being-pulled-by-a-string situation for me. Operation Confession was planned to every last detail.
He burst in through the doors with his entourage and stopped to give me a tiny wave. I smiled back widely. He had noticed me. Maybe I wasn’t going to crash and burn after all!
I waited till he finished his coffee and made his way over to my table. Meghali accosted him and there was a great deal of animation on her part. She nodded to him almost brusquely and walked towards me with him close on her heels. Any moment now, he’d reach my table and smile toothily and then I’d say-
“Abort!” Meghali jumped in front of me and hissed at me again. “Abort!”
I blinked at her, confused.
She shot Shon a glance and said, “I’ll tell her all about the assignment, okay?”
He nodded. “See ya later, Kritu,” he said to me. I waved.
“The Operation is cancelled,” Meghali whispered once he had departed, “It’s over.”
I blinked at her in surprise.
“Shriya, the idiot who hangs around with him noticed it and asked him. He told her and told Joti who told Srirang who told Farida who told me,” she said with a deep breath, “why he was staring at you that day. In the canteen.”
I blinked again. I really couldn’t make the head or tail out of this. He was obviously ‘in-like’ with me. What else could the reason be?
“He was just surprised that an…uptight…girl like you could shout the word **** for the whole canteen to hear.”