A sweet story, by our regular contributor Priya Hunt. Read on, there’s a bit of your high school experience in there too.
Neha was very excited. It was her first date with Vir, the class heartthrob. ‘Wow, Neha! Everyone will be soooo jealous that Vir chose you to take to the party’ gushed Alka, her best friend. Neha smiled a superior smile but secretly she knew just how lucky she was. Vir was drop-dead gorgeous. He was smart (top of the class, after her of course), good looking and his muscles made Daniel Craig look flabby. On the other hand, Neha could only be described as, erm, ordinary. She looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her long dark hair was very attractive but she usually kept it tightly plaited and out of the way. And she was so skinny that some of the cheeky boys in her class used to give her a 25p coin to ‘weigh you down in case you fly away in the wind!’ That evening, she took extra care in getting ready. She wore her favourite bright pink churidar-kameez and with great apprehension, left her hair open. She even put on a dab of lipstick to add a little colour to her face. All in all, it was the best that she had ever looked.
It was a windy blustery day and although it was hot during the day, the evening had cooled down considerably. Vir had come in his motorbike to pick her up, much to her father’s consternation. However, with his charming manners, he had managed to win over her parents within the first ten minutes and they set off for the party with their blessings. Vir took a short-cut to get to the college grounds. ‘Normally, the public are not allowed to cut through this university. However, my brother lives in the hostel here and the security guards know me well – so they will let me through’. Neha nodded – she was tongue-tied and had to pinch herself periodically to believe that she was Vir’s date that evening. The university was beautiful. Bougainvillea bloomed in abundance and there were flashes of pink and red flowers on either side of the long lonely road. Vir drove on for a while and then came to a stop near a stone seat on the side of the road. ‘Let’s sit and talk for a little while before we go to the party.’ Neha’s heart was in her mouth and she was sure that he could hear it pounding. She got off the motorbike with care and perched herself lightly on the seat.
Vir sat down and they talked awkwardly about the topology of the university for a while. ‘This is built on top of a ridge that is part of the Aravalli range. So the flora and fauna is very interesting. Lots of Acacia shrubs and trees’ said Vir, knowing fully well that Biology and botany especially was Neha’s favourite subject. She looked at his handsome earnest face and couldn’t resist asking him the dreaded question. ‘Vir, why have you asked me for a date? More than half the girls in the class were absolutely throwing themselves at your feet to be asked and you picked me?’ Vir looked taken aback. ‘Because you are more intelligent that all of them put together!’ he said, looking puzzled. ‘Are you telling me that at 17 years of age, you are more interested in intelligence than good looks?’ asked Neha, feeling vexed. He was just indulging her and she felt sure that he had some ulterior motive. Her mind was racing at 100 miles an hour. ‘Maybe he wants to make Aanya feel jealous’ whispered her imagination within her mind. Aanya was the prettiest girl in class – she had a fan-following comprising of the boys from all the neighbouring colleges and a green monster was now roaring within Neha’s heart. Vir was still staring at her with concern in his eyes. ‘Dont you realise that I think you’re also the prettiest girl in college?’ Neha stared at him in shock. ‘What? Please don’t humour me with flattery!’ Vir looked hurt. ‘Neha, haven’t you heard about beauty being in the eyes of the beholder? I find you fascinating. You remind me of my mother – she died giving birth to me and I have only seen her photographs. You look so similar to her.’ He fished out an aging photo out of his wallet. A painfully thin girl in a pale pink cotton sari and a dazzling smile stared back at her. A pink rose adorned her loose plait. Neha could see the resemblance immediately. She had read about the “electra complex” and she knew that a lot of people subconsciously chose their partners based on their resemblance to a much loved parent.
She opened her mouth to say something when she felt the hair at the back of her neck stand up. She had always been very perceptive and now her sixth sense was warning her of some danger – someone was watching them. She turned her head behind her cautiously to see what or who was behind them in the shrubland. Suddenly, Vir got up and gave her his hand. ‘Let’s go, we will be late!’ Her heart was beating hard and this time it was with apprehension. She got up with a sense of relief they drove off in silence. Neither spoke to each other all through the way. The party was relatively nice and one or two people even came up to Neha to compliment her on her looks that evening. After a pleasant dinner, they left the party on Vir’s bike. When they reached the gates of the university, Vir stopped and turned around to Neha. ‘Did you see something there when we sat there earlier?’ Neha nodded – ‘yes, it seemed someone was starting at us. I turned around and couldn’t see properly but it looked like it was a woman in white standing behind us. And she seemed to be looking at us from a height.’ Vir’s eyes clouded over and he put his helmet back on. ‘Let’s avoid the short-cut, it doesn’t feel safe.’ When he wished her goodnight at her doorstep, Neha somehow knew that that this was a final farewell. She could not read the expression on his face. It looked worried, sad and very mysterious. She waved after him knowing fully well that they will never go on a date again.
The next morning, she called Alka and they both went back to the university grounds. Neha simply had to check and look at the spot from which this woman had been staring at her and Vir last night. When they reached the stone seat, she stopped in horror. Behind them, there was a dense brushland comprising of thorny acacia bushes. There was no way any human being could stand in amongst them or even on top of them, as this woman had. Neha whispered softly to Alka ‘in the evening light, pale pink can actually appear white. I don’t think Vir’s mother approved of his choice of girlfriend.’ They walked away, never to return to the University grounds in their life.
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