Neeta refused to step out of the class during lunch. I guess she was scared of bumping into Sona. Trust me, so was I. I had no intentions of giving Sona more reasons for killing me, but I had survived in the same house with her for 17 years and it was time to put my training in use.
I knew Sona hated the Sun, books, smelly places. Which implied the safe places for me to hang out would be either a) on the ground, b) in the library, c) around the loo. Since options b & c weren’t particularly attractive, I suggested to Neeta that we go around the campus ensuring we stayed in sunny areas.
“Are you kidding me?” She said, mortified that I could suggest such a suicidal plan. Walk around a campus full of seniors just looking for kids like us to torture.
“What? Don’t worry about Sona.” I said confidentally. “I’ll handle her. As for the others, they won't come near us because of Sona.”
“Really? Are you sure?” Neeta hesitated. I could tell she wanted to, but she wasn’t convinced with my assurances. I smiled to myself, she was no challenge for my smooth talking skills. Within a couple of minutes, Neeta and I were on the ground, under the blazing sun.
A couple of minutes passed and nobody approached us. My words turned out to be prophetic.. Maybe Sona’s reign of terror extended to her college as well?
Neeta was relieved but I was feeling oddly left out. I saw a group of seniors sitting at a distance. I couldn’t believe I was actually trying to volunteer for getting ragged. I took two steps towards them when they suddenly became aware of my unfamiliar presence.
All my bravado disappeared and I started walking back rapidly.
“Hey! Stop!” A voice commanded.
I froze in my place, cursing myself for my stupidity.
“About turn..” the voice suggested. I turned around slowly, keeping my head down.
“I can’t believe it!” The voice said and burst out laughing.
I looked up, it was the same guy who had mocked my sister.
“So what do you want? How come Sonam let you out of her sight?” He asked, the question laced with sarcasm.
I had to do some quick thinking, I said the first thing that came to my mind. “I have a message from Sona!” I blurted out.
He stopped laughing abruptly and peered at me, “What?” he cleared his throat and asked again, “What message?”
“Uhhh…” I struggled to think of any plausible thing Sona would like to say to this guy, that too through me. “Its private.” I said, buying myself more time.
He looked at me suspiciously and then after a moment, put an arm around my shoulder and took me aside.
“So what is it?” he asked, opening a pack of cigarettes and lighting one.
If I had known then what a chain of events my next sentence would set off, I would probably have never said it or maybe I would have.
I looked at the cigarette in his mouth as he took a long slow drag and blew out the smoke? Was it called smoke? Anyway, he looked like an infinitely cool movie star right then and I knew what Sona would have told him if she was in my place at that moment.
“She thinks the cigarette doesn’t suit you.” I said.
“Sorry?” he asked pulling out the cigarette and staring at it and then looking at me with confusion. “What does that mean?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know, I’m just the lowly messenger.” I looked at him carefully. I just wanted to get him all flustered so that he would forget about me and it looked like my plan worked.
I tried not to laugh at his confusion but a snicker escaped me.
He looked at me, “Right, well.. Tell her I don’t care.. now get out of here!”
I nodded and started making my escape.
“Hey, what’s your name?” He asked from a distance
“Supriya!” I screamed as I ran away from him.