With Khanak teasing Ankan, throughout the drive, the drive from her home to her college which normally takes half an hour with light traffic (which never happens) and 45 minutes with heavy traffic (which is a daily occurrence), seemed like only few minutes.
“… And then I told him that if he won’t grow out of this childish feud then there will be some serious damages” Right now he is telling her about an immature guy who has decided to take up on Rishav and by extension Ankan since the first day of college, Rishav has been trying to handle it in his own way but now that even after almost one and a half year the guy was not learning the lesson Ankan has to jump and end it in his style.
Though Khanak has never seen Ankan in action, only heard about it and that too about the one and only incident in school, she can see him scaring a guy off, who is pissing his best friend off, with his calm yet stern attitude.
“I wish I was there! I would love to see you in action. My nerdy best friend losing his cool…” Khanak tells him with an amazed and slightly impressed voice.
“Are you impressed?” Ankan asks, the tip of his ears turning red. Khanak tries to open her mouth but nothing comes out and after few seconds she hears Ankan inhaling sharply. But before he could take his words back Khanak speaks up. But she knows the few moments of hesitance is enough to change the mood of the moment.
“Why? Are you trying to impress me?” Khanak teases, aware of the new turn her friendship with both guys has taken. This is not the first time they have flirted but this is the first time they have done it while face to face with each other. She doesn’t know the exact day but in last few months during their late-night phone conversations their normal bickering has somewhat turned into flirting.
“Why do you think I am telling you this?” Ankan asks in a forced teasing tone. His grin apparent yet so strained on his face. And Khanak remembers why it’s easy to flirt on phone and nearly impossible once they are face to face. Since the day Khanak has realized that she feels more than platonic things for her best-friend, she has imagined doing the flirting, meaningless late-night conversations, romantic drive countless times but it’s not this best-friend she has imagined doing those things with. It’s easier to not think about those imaginations and the face of the guy she has imagined doing those things with they are talking on phone but when face to face it feels like betraying her friendship with both of them and moreover it feels like she is betraying herself.
Sometimes it seems to her that Ankan feels the same, because whenever they cross some kind of boundary, he tries extra hard to avoid her as if he is feeling guilty but what does he have to feel guilty about, she doesn’t know.
“So Rishav is doing well!” And there it is…
“I didn’t ask” Khanak tells him. Though she wants to know how Rishav is doing she doesn’t want Ankan to ever feel like she is happy to meet him only so that she could ask about Rishav. Khanak has promised to herself to not even undermine her friendship with Ankan because of anything and she is going to keep that promise.
“I know.” Ankan replies while stopping the car near the entry gate.
“Ankan…” She starts, trying to explain herself but not knowing what to say, how to explain.
“Here we are! I am sure your crazy new friend is around here somewhere” Ankan announces with fake cheerfulness. She knows how one feels when one’s feeling is not reciprocated and how humiliating it is so she let it go.
“Hey, she isn’t crazy! She is just weird and sometimes act crazy” Khanak replies making both of them laugh. Though their laugh lifts the mood, it certainly doesn’t make what happened un-happen. Khanak unlocks the door to leave but she couldn’t bring herself to leave him, with him and their friendship in such strange and awkward condition.
“You know Ankan, I really appreciate you doing these small and beautiful things for me” She says while turnng back to him. “I mean what I am trying to say is you are very important in my life and that’s because you are you not because of anything or anyone else” She moves her head toward him and kisses him lightly on his left cheek, surprising him.
“Ye… yeah. No..o I mean thank you.” Khanak teases him by raising her eyebrow. “No… No. Not for THAT! For appreciating me!!” If Khanak wasn’t already feeling so powerful to get this reaction out of a calm and composed guy like Ankan, she’d tease him about the blush covering his ears.
With a grin she gets out of the car and waits for him to go. It takes him few moments to drive away which only manages to make her grin wider.
As she watches him drive away, she compares her two friends.
Rishav has always been the restless kind, the kind of person who has to keep doing something to let his anger and frustrations out. Keep taking some decisions, keep hurting people, not physically but by not letting them in, by not letting them care for him- his mother, his stepfather, Ankan and herself are all examples of this. Whereas Ankan, he is calm, composed and fun. Ankan is always what people needs him to be. His grandfather needed him to be prepared for running their family hospital so he is doing it, Rishav needed Ankan to have his back in the fight so Ankan had it, Khanak needs him to be a mediator between her and Rishav and he does it without asking questions. Rishav is like a puzzle, his randomly kept pieces screaming at people, or maybe it’s just Khanak that he intrigues so much, to solve him but he doesn’t want to get solved whereas Ankan, at first glance he would appear like most non-intriguing guy, what you are seeing is what you are getting but after getting to know him better, one would realize that he is like maze, beautiful and simple from outside but once you get in… the more you get in, the more it seems unsolvable.
“Hey my knight in white top, come and save me” Neha speaks up with theatrics, as always.
And Khanak goes with her so called ‘crazy new friend’ to do the job of her knighthood, all the while thinking whether she has not crossed some invisible line with Ankan