Continuing from last week..
Jessica was looking through the open window of her room. There was a Neem tree outside her room. A couple of birds were chirping on it. The evening sun was going down the horizon for the day and she was having the same pangs that she had been having for the past 5 days.
She had always been very close to her mother and now being away from home for the first time, the realisation of staying for four years without her family was eating away at her heart. She thought of the day her admission had been confirmed. Her mother had been in a jolly good mood all through the day, cooking sweet delicacies and serving them to their neighbours. Her father had a touch of pride in his voice that day. And Mayur, who was in Class 10th this year, was already looking up to her as a role model. But when it was time to sleep, neither she nor her mother could hold back their tears. They both sobbed and cried in each other’s arms. Thinking of that night now, Jessica’s eyes welled up. A drop of tear rolled down her cheek. She was feeling so alone and just wanted to run back to her mom. Tears kept flowing but she didn’t even try to wipe them. She was alone in the room and had no need to hide her feelings behind the veil of cheerfulness.
There was a knock on the door.
Jessica turned to look at the door. She got up from her chair, wiped her tears and opened it. Reena was standing outside.
“How was your day, hottie?” Reena asked cheerfully.
“Fine! We had our first lecture of Drawing today. A certain Gupta sir from the Mechanical department came to take the lecture,” Jessica replied, without looking at Reena. She opened the door fully to let her come in and locked it again. She then proceeded to her chair by the window.
“Drawing is interesting, but Gupta sir sometimes gets confused himself while checking different views of an object, although he’d not have reached that chapter yet. That’ll take another month or so,” Reena said, keeping her bag down on her bed and opening the cupboard to take out her pyjamas and facewash.
Jessica was still looking out the window and didn’t say anything.
Reena noticed her sad mood. She knew from experience that the first couple of months, at least until the mid-semester exams, used to be the toughest on freshers and Jessica wasn’t immune to that. She had to do something to cheer her up. She went towards the window and stood by Jessica’s side.
“Kya soch rahi hai? Kaun hai ped pe wahan, hmm? ( What are you thinking? Who’s there on the tree, hmm?)” She asked.
” Nothing didi. I’m just feeling very bored.”
“Achcha! What happened?Someone hit on you? Maybe that guy that day from the bus, hmm?” Reena asked, hitting playfully on her shoulder.
“No Di. Nothing like that. It’s just that…..” She couldn’t bring her sentence to a close. Her eyes filled again and she started sobbing again.
“Arrey, Ye kya? (What’s this?) Wipe this. I know you’re feeling homesick. Don’t cry baby. Sab theek ho jaega (Everything will be alright). Here, come here,” she took Jessica in her embrace.
After a while, she said, “You change into something else. Let’s go eat some hot samosas with chai in canteen. C’mon, get dressed. I’ll just freshen up and change. Have to maintain the standard when I’m going out with a hottie like you, isn’it?”
” Kya didi aap bhi? Kitna mazaak udaati ho mera. (What sister, you always mock me!) OK, you freshen up. Till then I’ll change too.” She opened her cupboard and took out a roundneck top and a pair of blue jeans. Reena kept her pyjamas back in the cupboard and took out a sleeveless top and palazzo pants.
Vineet and Karun were sitting in the canteen, sipping coffee and discussing the action from the previous night’s Champions League matches. The canteen was largely full at the evening. Students were chatting in their groups and the ambience was wonderful. The latest Bollywood songs were playing on the canteen’s FM radio.
“Man, that goal was just incredible. Ibra just ran past his marker and hit that cross from the right-back into the goal with an overhead bicycle kick. That must be a contender for goal of the season,” Karun said.
” Yeah that was superb! And what’s with these jerks from the “D” wing? Why can’t they watch football for a night? There wasn’t any big cricket match coming on TV anyway,” Vineet said.
Karun was about to reply when his eyes fell on Reena and Jessica coming into the canteen. He waved to Reena and motioned her to come over. ” Bhai udhar dekh! (Look there, bro!)” he said to Vineet who was sitting with his back towards the entrance.
But Vineet was already looking past him and towards the girls. His eyes lit up involuntarily. His heart, obviously, had started jumping again.
“Hi guys!” Reena said, high-fiving both of them. The boys were sitting across to each other so they took up the remaining two seats, Jessica on Vineet’s left. Vineet couldn’t help staring at Jessica. She was so beautiful. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. That face, those eyes, those hair and that smell – ooh, the way she smelled – flowery, even after a whole day of late summer.
“So what’s up? Must have enjoyed Singh sir’s pravachan today,eh?” Vineet joked to Reena, hitting Karun in the legs.
“Ah, don’t bring that up man! I think I’ll have to get myself admitted to the trauma ward of the general hospital he continued for another month in this vein. Just keeps banging on until the students surrender. I am thinking of bunking his lectures from next week. Otherwise, I’m going to be deader than dead.” Reena said, with a smirk on her lips.
“So what’s the plan today? You gals seem pretty dressed up for some party-sharty” Karun remarked, nodding his approval at their dressing. The three of them, Vineet, Reena and Karun, were quite frank with each other. Vineet had helped her with her drawing sheets in the first semester while Reena had helped Karun get acquainted with Ritika. That was the beginning of their friendship.
“Naw man. We just came here to get some hot samosas. Didn’t we, Jesse?”
“Hmm” Jessica mumbled uninterestedly. She remembered the two boys from her first day’s bus trip, how they got up through the wrong entrance and kept making noise. And how that taller one kept staring at her. Stupid fool! All boys were like that only.
“Bhaiya 2 plate samosas and 2 cutting chai” Reena called to the waiter, ignoring her.
“Won’t you get us familiar with your new friend?” Karun asked.
“Oh why not? Meet Jessica, or Jesse for short. She’s in first year, as you guys would obviously have noted,” Reena winked, and continued, “And Jesse, meet Vineet and Karun. They are my batchmates. Vineet is in the same division as me and Karun is in the B-division.” Karun had asked her about Jessica on the first day itself and was now playing innocent. That smart bastard!
Jessica just nodded at them. She was getting red with a mix of anger and embarassment. Why did Reena Di have to take up a seat with these guys?
“So tell us something about yourself Jesse. It’s Jesse, isn’t it?” Karun asked her.
Jessica raised an eyebrow and replied curtly, “What do you want to know?”
“Just general things. Where you’re from, what are your hobbies,how’s the experience here been?” Karun hit back Vineet’s ankle with his own leg, gesturing with his eyes to join in the conversation.
“I didn’t know you were taking an interview for a job. And it’s Jessica, not Jesse,” she thundered. She knew how to handle such boys. Bring them crashing down from their high horses and they’d know that the girl wasn’t to be messed with.
“Whoa, whoa! Easy there. I’m just trying to be friendly. Don’t get all worked up.” Karun brought up his shield.
The waiter came with the samosas and tea. Reena asked the boys to join in and but both refused saying they’d had 3 plates of Idli-Sambhar and two omelettes just before the girls arrived. “You guys are impossible. How can anyone eat so much?”She chuckled. Vineet and Karun had completed a 1-2 last semester in the annual dinner competition and their infamy was already the stuff of the college’s legends.
“Ha ha. We are blessed by the Gods themselves,” Vineet said,then turned to Jessica and, glancing at the newly-discovered mole on her neck, asked,” Say Jessica, how tough is the NDA? I was thinking of applying after 12th but…”
“…Who told you I appeared in NDA?” Jessica shot before he could finish his sentence, then looked straight at Reena. She felt cheated. Why did Reena Di have to tell the boys about that. Reena put up her hands in mock surrender, mouthing “I didn’t”. With the kind of sad mood Jessica was in, the last thing she needed to do was get her feeling betrayed.
“Umm..I..I..actually I just, I just..ya! I just made an assumption that you’d have appeared for NDA. You look quite fit. Plus I saw your father with you on the day of the admission with some army men so I just, you know, added 2 and 2 to make 4.” Vineet was lying through his teeth and praying he’d not be caught. Karun was astonished at his ability to improvise so deftly.
“Achaa! You saw me that day. And assumed too. Cool! Didi, looks like your classmates are great theoretical physicists. How smoothly they assumed all the conclusions from fictional data!” Her voice was laced with sneer and sarcasm. Then, looking at Vineet,”Me and my father weren’t accompanied by any person for the admission. Where did you see the army men then?”
“Um..I..we..actually there was a girl with her father and army personnel wasn’t there, Karun?” Vineet tried to deflect some heat towards Karun.
“Yeah, yeah, there was one. Tell you what, she looked exactly like you Jesse, er, Jessica,” Karun blurted.
“Ok, Ok! Enough with the lies boys. Jessica, I told Karun about you and your desire to join the NDA. And believe me, they are two of the best guys you’ll ever meet,” Reena tried to calm her down.
“My samosas are finished. I’m going back to the hostel. You coming, Di?”
“Er..wait a minute. Let me finish mine.”
“We didn’t want to embarrass you or make you uncomfortable. We were just trying to be friendly. Reena is a good friend of ours and you are her friend, so logically, you know, you’re our friend too. And we were not even thinking of ragging you,” Vineet wanted to take some semblance of a silver lining from what had been a very uncomfortable meeting.
Jessica kept quite. She was angry at all of them. Reena Di, these two jerks, her father, everyone. Why did he stop her from joining the NDA? What was so wrong in that? She looked at Reena’s plate. It was almost finished. Reena took one last sip of her tea and, getting up from her seat, said to her, “Let’s go!”
Jessica got up and started to walk. Reena was mouthing something to the boys and gesturing with her eyebrows. Vineet wanted to call out after her but the words died in his throat. She was gone in an instant.