Slowly I walked home. I was a little apprehensive about Dhruv’s entry into my life. Of course, it made me feel warm and great and he was good fun to be with, but I couldn’t help wondering if I had warmed up to him because of the attention he had been giving me. To regain something I had lost with Arpit.
Now that Arpit and I had been fighting regularly, was I showering all my affection on Dhruv?
I stopped outside my house. Arpit’s yellow scooter was parked outside. I smiled softly as I walked towards it. I remembered the story of the scooter. He had been begging for a bike but his parents just wouldn’t relent. In the end, Arpit agreed to get a scooter but of his choice. Unlike any normal person who would have visited showrooms, Arpit had scoured junkyards to find this one. Painstakingly, Arpit had restored it and painted it, completely retro style.
Of course, not many appreciated his tastes then. He was ridiculed for riding a scooter, that too a yellow one but Arpit didn’t care. He knew he had given something special another lease of life.
And I had been with him every step of the day, from the day he visited the first junkyard to the last brush of paint.
“She’s looking good isn’t she?” Arpit’s voice called out from behind me.
Without turning around, I ran a hand over the headlight, “She always does.” I smiled at him. This is how we were, fight one minute, make up the next. But things would change if we didn’t go to college together. We would hardly see each other, phone calls would be non-existent and then eventually, we would get so busy that we would call each other only on birthdays.
“Why are you late?” He asked. Clearly, he had been sitting at my place for a really long time.
“I had extra practice.” I repeated my lie.
“No you didn’t. I called Pooja.” He came closer, “What’s with the books? Did Dhruv give you these? Were you with him?”
“What are you? My mom? What’s with the questions?” I pushed him away slightly.
He stepped away. “I’m not applying to St. Peter’s.” He said, rubbing his forehead, as though saying it was incredibly tough on him.
I turned towards him, leaning slightly on the scooter. “Did you think about what I said?”
He nodded a little and ran his hand through his hair. He looked a little nervous. “Is that why you are here?” I asked.
“I thought you looked quite upset in school. Just wanted to check up on you.” He picked up the books I had dumped on the scooter. “I’ll help you take them in.” He said.
“I can manage.” I said moving between the books and him.
He gave me a long hard look. I stared right back at him. Finally, he sighed deeply and put on his helmet, “Get off my bike.”
I stepped away clutching my books with both hands my face starting to contort awkwardly, my lower lip starting to droop.
“Now don’t do that!” Arpit exclaimed.
“Do what?” I said, my voice a little hoarse with emotion.
“That face, this time, its your fault. Not mine. I didn’t do anything wrong.” He started the scooter and revved a little as though he was going to push off.
I didn’t say anything.
“Damn you Naina! What do you want? You don’t want to talk to me, you don’t want me to go! What? What is it that you want?” He took out the key from the ignition and parked the scooter.
“I want us to be normal again.” I said slowly, dumping the books on the ground and sitting next to him on the scooter.
“So you’re not mad about St. Peters?” Arpit asked.
I shook my head slowly, “Your life, your choice.”
“You don’t want to know why I changed my mind.” He said it more like a statement, than a question.
“I do, but I think I already know.” I averted my eyes. I could sense another impending argument.
“It’s not because of Sneha okay? And I want you to stop holding her responsible for all our arguments.” He said snapping his fingers at me.
I gasped. “Don’t you snap your fingers at me!”
“Ok I’m sorry!” Arpit deflated pretty quickly, “but listen, I want you to be okay with this.”
He took my hand in his and squeezed gently. I nodded, “I knew you were interested in research, just didn’t know you wanted to pursue that. I just didn’t see. I wanted you to be with me in college.” I wiped an imaginary tear away. “But you’re right, St. Peter’s is not the place for you.” I hit him lightly on the arm. “Why didn’t you tell me all this while?”
He shrugged, “Didn’t seem important. Anyway I would have told you eventually.”
“And Sneha?” I asked hesitantly. She was a sore subject for me.
His face creased into a smile, “Actually, she’s trying for St. Peter’s. Wouldn’t it be great if you are classmates??”
My jaw dropped, quite literally. Classmates? Sneha and I?No! Dear God! No!!