Khanak doesn’t know what she was thinking agreeing to this … whatever this is. Maybe she is still not completely awake. After all she has spent all night tossing and turning, Rishav’s and her mom’s words playing in her head continuously. And only has managed to fall in restless sleep sometime around 4:30. That’s why when her phone has beeped at 7:00 am as it does on weekdays, she has pressed snooze without being aware of it and has woken up one hour late. For a moment she planned to call Ankan and ask him to pick her up, since she was already late. But she didn’t want any company or any interruption between her musings which has continued as soon as she has woken up. So, she has decided to take the bus.
Maybe that’s why she agreed to accept Rishav’s help. She didn’t want to be late. Of course, her sitting on his bike has nothing to do with the fact that her heart has skipped a bit when she has seen him standing there, looking so good, leaning on his bike, in front of her house. And it’s not at all because she has been impressed – he was there as he has said he would be. Yeah, keep lying to herself, Khanak scoffs at herself.
Okay, so she has no idea what made her agree to this madness. But this is a madness, there isn’t any doubt about that. What else would it be? She is sitting behind her ex-bestfriend when she has been telling herself for more than a year that he is no good for her. But that’s what the problem is. After talking to him and her mother Khanak is having hard time to see him as her ex-bestfriend.
“You are shivering. Are you cold?” Rishav asks, slightly turning to see her and she smack his head or she should say, his helmet with the hand she is holding his jacket with. She let herself smile at the familiar action and though she can’t see his face, she can feel his happiness radiating off of him.
“Look straight and I am fine” she is a bit cold. She has gotten ready thinking that she was going to take bus. Her sweater is not made for a bike ride in a cold morning. But she also doesn’t want to admit to Rishav about being cold.
Khanak gets off the bike as soon as Rishav stops it in front of her college and starts blowing in her hands to stop them from freezing. Rishav raises his eyebrows, asking ‘yeah, you were really fine’ with his eyes. And she rolls her eyes at his smugness.
He shakes his head at her, takes her right hand in his and starts walking, “Rishav, where are you taking me?” dragging her with him.
“To stop you from shivering like a leaf on a windy day” He still looks smug. Since she has some time left before her first class, she doesn’t stop him. Khanak wants to scowl at him. Remind him that she is still angry at him, still hasn’t forgiven him but the child-like happiness on his face stops her from saying anything. And Khanak is smart enough to realize that it isn’t all selfless. It has been so long since both of them have been together like this that Khanak doesn’t want this time to end.
She will go back to being angry and unforgiving later on but right now this moment is making her as happy as it seems to be making him. Lost in her thought, she doesn’t even realize that Rishav has stopped dragging her. She looks around her and realizes that they have stopped in front of the tea and coffee stall – the common hang out place for tea lovers.
He orders masala chai for her and one ginger chai for himself. “How do you know I like their masala chai?” Khanak asks, surprised at his order. Though she is a tea lover, she mostly drinks coffee when she is out since she is very fussy when it comes to tea.
“I… I saw it on your Facebook profile” Rishav replies, scratching the back of his head in a nervous gesture. She bites her lower lip to stop herself from smiling like a lunatic.
“Awww, you were missing me so much that you stalked me on Facebook?” Khanak teases playfully. But he shocks her when he blushes and looks away instead of casually dismissing her playful allegation.
“Rishav?” She couldn’t help herself but articulate her surprise. Though he hasn’t admitted to it but she knows that he really used to check out her profile to know about what has been going on in her life.
Rishav doesn’t answer and Khanak doesn’t ask him again. Both of them drink their teas in silence. Khanak is sure that despite her many attempts to not smile, she is smiling like an idiot.
Their moment ends when her phone rings and she whisper the name of the caller out loud. From the heavy breath he lets out, she is sure he has heard it. A wave of guilt hits her and she looks at Rishav in panic. Then she realizes that she is behaving like an idiot, that they haven’t been caught cheating no matter how much this feels like that. For a moment she thinks about ignoring the call and not letting it disrupt her special moment with Rishav. But then another wave of guilt hits her and this time she deserves it.
“hey, sorry. I wasn’t able to pick you up today. I know how much you hate taking bus in winter. I was busy with something” Ankan’s heartfelt apology makes her feel worse. Ankan, her friend who has always been with her and has never upset her, is apologizing for being unable to help her even though she didn’t even ask for the said help.
“You don’t need to apologize yaar. I don’t expect you to be my personal chauffer”.
“How many times do I have to tell you?” Ankan asks and Khanak knows that he expects her to answer as they always do since that visit to India Gate last year.
Khanak turns away from Rishav before answering Ankan, without asking herself why she did it. She just knows that it doesn’t feel right. “Because I am your best-friend and I deserve the special treatment”. Khanak closes her eyes, wanting to be anywhere else doing anything else than this. No matter what she does, how she handles this conversation someone is going to get hurt.
“You don’t sound like you are in bus. Are you already at college?” Ankan asks and Khanak lets out a sigh. It is barely 9:30 and she is emotionally exhausted.
“How early did you wake up that you reached college almost half an hour early before your first class even though you took the bus?” Ankan asks, shocked at her being early. And Khanak groans in her head. Don’t ask me this, Khanak pleads in her head. ‘I don’t want to lie to you but I also don’t want to hurt you by telling you the truth’.
Not wanting to do either, Khanak lies by omission, “Oh, you know usual time. Listen Ankan, I have to go. Have a good day” and disconnects the call before her friend could answer.
Khanak turns back toward Rishav to see the damage she has done. She is sure that she has done some big ones. She can’t just tell Ankan that after sort of hating Rishav for more than a year, she has made a truce with him. She knows that he knows that she has just lied to their friend about him and she knows that it has hurt him. She opens her mouth to apologize but unsure about she should say, she stops.
Rishav shakes his head as if disappointed in her and she wants to tell him that it’s not as simple as he thinks. Rishav turns to leave but unwilling to finish this conversation as it is now, Khanak stops him. She still doesn’t know what she should say but she also knows that she has to say something. He stops but doesn’t turn. “I just…”.
“What Khanak?” Rishav snaps which in turn converts her guilt into anger. He doesn’t get to leave her and come back whenever he wants and expect her to change anything because of him!!! Ankan has been the one to help her whenever she has needed someone in this past year. And he has liked the role, damn it! Khanak can’t just take it away from him.
“I didn’t tell Rishav that you dropped me to college, today. If you could..?” Khanak doesn’t finish the sentence but the way his shoulder stiffens she knows that she doesn’t need to complete it for him to understand what she is asking him.
“I know and don’t worry I won’t tell him either” Rishav turns and the pain reflecting in his eyes, completely opposite of the happiness she has seen in them earlier on, makes her take a step back. “We won’t want to hurt our precious friend’s emotions, right?” He mocks.
“I didn’t mean it like that…” Even to her ears, her explanation sounds like an excuse. She wants to yell that she doesn’t want to hurt either of them. But it really doesn’t sound convincing when she has just hurt him to not Ankan. He opens his mouth to say something but closes it and leaves as if she isn’t worth of whatever he was just going to say. And right now, she really doesn’t feel like she is worthy of much.