Continuing from last week….
Jessica was fuming. They had returned from the canteen in near-total silence and hadn’t spoken a word in the half hour since then. She was leafing through the pages of a textbook but it was plainly visible that her mind was elsewhere. Reena was lying on her bed and busy texting. Finally, seeing that Jessica wasn’t going to broach the topic, she sat up on the bed and said, “Still mad at me, Jesse? Umm, Jess?”
Jessica hesitated for a moment and closing her book, turned to face Reena. “Why did you tell them about me, Didi? They don’t have to know all that na? How could you cheat me like that?”
“Wait, wait, one second please.. Let me explain. I am sorry baby to have hurt you. I know I promised Uncle that I’ll take care of you like my own sister and believe me, I intend to keep my promise. I never thought that you’d not like me telling others about your personal life, and that too without informing you. I’m sorry. That was stupid of me. And I promise, again, that I’ll be more careful in future. You wouldn’t get a chance to complain even. Promise!” Reena caught her earlobes in her fingers in a sign of regret. Her eyes were moist.
“It’s okay Di.”
“No seriously, I would never, ever do it again. Mummy promise!”
“Are Didi! Ab bas bhi karo. Kitna sharminda karogi?” (That’s enough sister! Please don’t embarrass me anymore). Jessica got up from her chair and came up on Reena’s bed and sat behind her, putting her hands through Reena’s neck and giving her a peck on the cheek. ” I love you Didi. I’m so sorry. Shouldn’t have behaved so petulantly. You know I was missing Mummy-Papa and we encountered those two douche bags in the canteen. I didn’t want to even talk to them. And to make matters worse, they knew all about me. It all became too much for me to digest.”
“I know dear. It is tough in the first few weeks. Don’t forget I’ve passed through that same phase myself, right? And I’m cool with that. Spare a thought for Vineet and Karun. They are such genial guys. And they only wanted to make you comfortable. Do you realise how rude you were at the canteen? Everyone was staring at us. That was avoidable babe.”
“Umm, but Didi..”
“No ifs and buts Jesse!”
“Okay I’ll clarify this with those two.”
“Clarify? They deserve an apology hon! Someone tries to be cordial with you and you behave like that. They weren’t trying to molest you na. Plus I was also there. They approached you because you were with me, and they are my friends too. So, it’s not right na. Least you can do is talk with them and apologize for your behaviour. Okay?” She looked back at Jessica and asked.
“Okay, I’ll do that, ” Jessica replied sheepishly and continued, ” But I have a condition. I won’t go around searching for them. I’ll apologize when I meet them next, regardless of where that meeting happens. But I won’t seek them out.” She made a face.
Reena consented. She was happy Jessica had understood her mistake. Plus she was happy for Vineet. He was sweet. Guy had a thing for Jesse, everyone could see that. This could give him an opportunity if he utilised it well. This was the best she could do for him in the circumstances.
Two weeks passed.
Jessica entered the college when she was drawn by the cacophony of a crowd of students at the notice board. A guy was loudly giving out some information regarding some program. She decided to check it out.
“Guys, next Monday is the day for the annual fresher’s party. There will be a formal get together as well as dance and music. We’ve arranged for a DJ. But all that will be preceded by a fashion show. There’s prizes in various categories. A detailed notice will come up by evening. And we expect whole-hearted collaboration and participation from you first year students. After all, this program is being organized for you guys. So let’s rock!”
Okay, this was exciting! Jessica had always loved doing modelling. She had even thought of joining modelling classes when her dream of NDA had crashed. And dance was an added attraction for her. Another of her hobbies. This was the college life she had heard about. Till now, she had only felt load, no enjoyment. All that would change now.
At the end of the day, after checking out the notice alongwith the girls from her class, she left for hostel. The rules and regulations for the ramp walk were weird. She would have to ask Reena Di about that. She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn’t notice the guys from the canteen walking behind her. Suddenly she turned around and her eyes met with Vineet. She immediately turned back and increased her speed. The girl accompanying her, Puja, asked her to slow down. But she was shit-scared. Reena Di had asked her to apologize to them and she hadn’t done that yet, simply because she hadnt met them – yet. But that had changed now. She had to talk to them now. But how? How was she going to start the conversation? She had replayed that conversation umpteen times in her mind but no version came out without her feeling ignominious. Well, forget all those mental dialogues. Maybe she needed to take things as they came. She turned towards the boys.
“Excuse me guys!”
“Yes?” They said in unison. Then, looking at each other, grinned. Karun motioned Vineet to ask. They had already noticed her walking, or rather running ahead of them and then abruptly turning back. And they’d done all the viewing they needed to do. That was a guy speciality. Scanning!
“Yeah, what’s it?” Vineet noticed the hoop earrings and the nose pin, as also the few highlighted shades of blonde at the tail end of her hair. Her sleeveless top – no no, that was a crop top – was amazing too, tantalising things deliciously. He had recently read about the various types of apparels women wore. That knowledge was coming in handy in classification process now.
“I wanted to say that I’m sorry guys. I was too rude the other day,” Jessica blurted it out. All the planning and thought process be damned.
“Never mind. It was our mistake. We ought not to have asked personal questions,” Vineet sagely replied. What else was a guy supposed to say when such a gorgeous, nay hot girl apologized to him? Magnanimity was the need of the hour. Not to show how transfixed he was by her, he was looking at the students passing them and intermittently stealing glances at her, controlling his sudden adrenaline rush. His heart and mind though, were going off the charts.
“Okay, so I guess we are good here,” Jessica tried to finish the matter.
“Yeah, sure!” Vineet extended his arm for a handshake. Jessica wasn’t planning on a handshake. She just wanted to be done with these two. Still, she shook his hand formally, only using her fingers when poor chap had extended his whole palm. Vineet noticed that but took it in his stride. Karun also shook hands with her. Why should he miss out? This was a beautiful girl and the whole college was seeing them. Right time to set girls’ tongues wagging and raise his stock.
“So you’re also going to the hostel I presume?” Vineet asked her.
“Let’s go together, if you don’t mind.”
“Umm….yeah, sure, why would I mind? But let me make one thing clear. Don’t take this as a signal that I’m going to give in to your overtures,” Jessica didn’t want to but agreed, although she was obviously wary and made it clear to him.
“Arrey, I didn’t mean anything like that,” Vineet was on the back foot in an instant.
They started walking in silence, Vineet and Jessica ahead and Puja and Karun following them. Karun had noticed that Puja wasn’t bad either and struck up a conversation with her.
After a while, Vineet asked Jessica, “So which event are you taking part in in the fresher’s party? Dance?”
“I’ll be doing the ramp walk.”
“Ramp walk, ooh that’s… well, great! It is important to be fashionable.” Nervousness was taking over his bravado now, permeating to his bowels which were starting to get some nasty spasms.
“Err…nothing. I mean it us good to take part in cultural events. Co-curricular activities are great for the résumé.” He was feeling a sudden, growing storm in his abdomen.
“Hmm! Actually, I was a bit confused by the idea of predecided couples. To complicate matters further, the organisers have decided to keeping the pairings secret. Now if I want to pair up with someone, I would choose my dressing and makeup in that way na. Here I wouldn’t be able to decide in anything before they declare the lists. The notice said something about submitting names to some Ajay Kaul and the committee will decide on the pairings themselves. That’s weird.”
“Yeah it is weird. But maybe you’ll get to know someone new through partnering in this program. After all, that’s what the functions are for, socialising.” Vineet articulated. He had thought of some things and was already scheming about the obvious.
They arrived near the hostels area and Vineet bade her goodbye. “All the best for the show.”
“Thank you,” Jessica replied, pasting a plastic smile.
After she turned towards the girls’ hostel, Vineet ran to the ground floor washrooms, calling out to Karun to take his bag to their room.
“Abe kya hua (what happened)?” Karun asked.
“Motion sensors have activated suddenly,” Vineet sputtered, turning left from the hostel entrance towards the loo. Once inside, he quickly took a seat in one of the stalls and, finishing his nervous bowels, thought of how he could get his plan successful. He took out his mobile from his pocket and opened whatsapp. Scrolling quickly, he got to Ajay Kaul’s number. Ajay was in the final year and had troubled him a lot during the ragging period. Afterwards though, he had become friendly. They weren’t best buddies now but a friendly hi-hello and a cutting tea, whenever they came across each other in the canteen, was the natural arrangement. Vineet had come to admire him for his helpful and easygoing nature.
He saw that Ajay was online and dropped a simple “Hi”.
A few seconds passed. Vineet was used to spending long hours in the loo but waiting on a text reply while taking in the smell of the toilet didn’t exactly excite him. Finally Ajay replied.
“Hey, what’s up dude?”
“Hw r u bro?”
“M gud. U say? How’s it going dis term?”
“All well and gud bro. I actually wanted sm help 4m u.”
“Are bol bol yaar. Tu to apna bhai hai (Yeah what’s it? You’re my brother man).”
“Actually bro me and Karun want to do ramp walk.”
“That’s cool. Apply then. Come to my room tonight after 10. I have the form.”
“Yeah bro, sure.”
“I wanted to ask whether we could choose our partners.”
“That’s up to the committee, dude. They’ll make the decisions. I can’t guarantee anything. Who do you have in mind though?”
Vineet didn’t want to tell him but had no other option.
“It’s a girl.”
“But of course she’s a girl. I don’t think even a duffer like you’d pair up with a guy for ramp walk. Gimme the details.”
“She’s from the first year bro.”
“Jessica, you mean Jessica Dayal? First year Electrical?”
He knows about her. That didn’t sound good, Vineet thought.
“Beta, us ladki ka to pehle hi fix ho chuka hai (Son,that girl is already taken). Lucky is going to walk with her, if she does apply that is.”
Lucky was a final year wannabe Don.
“But how come Lucky decided that? She hasn’t yet applied.”
“If she does, she is top of his wishlist. Otherwise, he would take someone else.”
Morons, Vineet thought. Nipped his plan in the bud.
“If you want, I can fix you up with Sunita from Civil 5th.”
“Nah bro. Its okay.” Sunita was a decent looking girl but he didn’t want to partner her. He wanted someone else.
“Soch lo (Think about it).”
“I’ll decide and tell you, bro.” He thought it prudent to not make an outright refusal.
“Cheers dude. You’ll go great places.”
“Bye bro.” He had to get out of the loo. It had been too long in there and the plan hadn’t succeeded either.
“Come to our room sometimes dude. Let’s have some chess games. I have to even the score from the last semester.”
“I surely will, bro.
See you. Tc. Bye.” He texted in quick succession and switched off his mobile data.
Getting out of the loo he thought, there has to be some way.
To Be Continued…