Rishav can do nothing but get angry at himself while seeing Khanak with Ankan. Why the hell did he act so stubborn and didn’t let Ankan do the accounts?! He could have been the one helping Khanak and working with her so closely. Agreed, she wouldn’t have laughed as much with as she is doing with Ankan but he could have broken into some of her walls that she has built around her heart when it comes to him.
Rishav looks at Khanak laughing heartily while Ankan is giving her his widest grin – it’s hard to begrudge his actions when his best-friend and the girl he likes are genuinely happy. He begins to feel guilty for even wanting to take this happy moment away from them. It isn’t that he doesn’t want them to be happy, he just wants to be a part of it.
Keep wishing, he thinks to himself! He has been wishing for the same thing so much in these past few days that he is beginning to sound like a broken cassette to his own head. Only god knows when will he get his wish fulfilled?!
Moreover, he will have to go back to college tomorrow and his plan to get Khanak to be his friends again will have to go on pause. But thankfully winter breaks are going to be started from next week. Since he has fought with Khanak and he doesn’t like to spend more than necessary time with his family, he has spent most of last year’s winter break with his grandparents in Uttarakhand but this year he is going to be on a mission – to get Khanak to be his friend again and hopefully something more by the end of the break.
“Ankan, are you going to drop me to college tomorrow or do you have an early class?” Khanak asks while hanging the clothes. When she doesn’t hear a reply from her friend, she turns back to see him looking softly in space with a cute smile on his face. She can’t help but let out a chuckle at his actions. Ankan takes a step back, startled by the sudden sound of her chuckles, making Khanak laugh some more at his expense.
Khanak has known these boys for years but it’s interesting and somewhat disappointing to realize that there is something about them, something she has missed, that can still surprise her. Like Rishav’s behavior last year, or Ankan’s anger this afternoon or this moment right now.
Ankan is always so aware of his surrounding, always the first one to know when a problem is coming their way and always ready with solution and a backup solution (in case the first one didn’t work) to save them. Like the one time in 11th standard, when they were trying to smoke a cigarette for the first time and hadn’t know how to hide it from any teachers or parents but Ankan has been ready with mints and proper schedule of school ground manager so that there wouldn’t be any chance of getting caught while one of his rounds. So, seeing Ankan so lost in his thought that he didn’t hear what Khanak has been going on about last few minutes is new and teasing-worthy.
Khanak raises her eyebrows playfully at him, all the while laughing. Ankan hits her arm and tries making a stern posture to stop her from laughing but it was such an epic fail that she laughs some more at that.
Ankan pulls the elastic band from the perfect French braid she has tried with her hair today making her smile convert into a genuine glower.
“Why the hell did you do that?” Khanak growls at him.
“It made your laugh stop, didn’t it?” Ankan teases, making Khanak narrow her eyes at him with anger. But seeing him smiling so genuinely and playfully, especially after his anger this morning, makes her forgive him without even an apology.
“It took me 20 minutes to tie my hair this way” She pouts and looks down but lets out a smile later on to let him know the she is not seriously upset. Ankan smiles playfully at him and ruffles her hair some more, making her swat his hand away from her hair.
“Why do you spend so much time on these stupid braids, you look better with your hair down, anyway” Ankan compliments and undo her braid letting her hair down and keeps her rubber band in his pocket. Khanak turns back, trying to hide the blush she is sure she must have because of Ankan’s compliments.
Ankan’s compliments are nothing new and it makes her feel beautiful but the feeling with they are given – she has yet to decide whether those feelings of his makes her feel nervous in a good way or in an uncomfortable way.
After getting herself together, she turns back to her friend, “Where were you lost, just now?”.
“Nowhere” Ankan answers in a sing-song tone. His tone clearly implying that he is hiding something.
Even after knowing that he has purposefully dangled the carrot in front of her, she could help but take the bait and ask him, “Tell me, no!”. When Ankan continues shaking his head and turns to other direction to complete the work she has been doing few moments ago, she also continues pestering him. “Tell me, tell me, tell me…. please”.
Both of them stop their one-sided conversation when they hear Rishav chuckle. She and Ankan look at him and he looks back down immediately, pretending to do the accounts, as if feeling guilty for interrupting hers and Ankan’s conversation. She knows it’s a pretension because she knows he has finished doing them about half an hour ago. It saddens her to see him feeling so awkward with her and Ankan. They were supposed to be best-friends. And it saddens her more that he somehow deserves this.
Since the moment she has stopped Ankan for helping her, she has been looking at Rishav subtly every few minutes. Whenever Ankan teased her or she teased him or they were laughing, he looked conflicted. As if he isn’t sure whether he should feel good or bad.
She knows him too well to not know what he has been going through whole day – getting ignored by both of his friends. She has given Ankan one hour, in her head, to go and talk to Rishav and clear the air but Khanak didn’t even see Ankan even giving his friend a smile. She would have expected this kind of sullen behavior from Rishav but as she just realized there is still lot for her to know about him.
Having had enough, Khanak looks pleadingly at Ankan so that he would talk to Rishav. Ankan sighs and rolls his eyes at her unasked demand but looks at his friend and asks him, “Come on, you will have to share what you are laughing about”.
Rishav happy to get finally involved, explains “It’s just that Khanak still behaves the same when her curiosity is piqued” making Ankan and Rishav both laugh at her expense.
This is one of her habit that she has had since her childhood. If someone arouses her curiosity she just can’t relax until her curiosity is satisfied. Her mom’s sister once said that if she was a cat, she would have been dead by then. In childlike naivete, she has replied that she would have been still alive since cat has 9 lives but her aunt smarter than her has replied smartly, “No sweetie, you would have been dead anyway”. I didn’t get it at that time so I asked Ankan about what my aunt meant and he explained it to me but only after he and Rishav laughed at her for at least 15 minutes.
Since then it has been a standing joke between them. She would have been angry or at least pretended at them has it been any other time but it feels so good to see both of her friends laughing so freely, even if it’s at her expense, that she couldn’t do anything but join in. Ankan and Rishav, both looked at her, shocked. But it felt so good to laugh at old memories just as friends are supposed to that all of them begin to laugh again.
It was not until Khanak was closing the shop that she remembered that she has thought of Rishav as her friend in her head and not as her ex-friend.