“So when are you returning, dude?” Karun asked Vineet. They were packing their bags for their respective trips home.
“15 days, max! Have to check on mum so that could take some time. Jessica will return by then as well.”
“How times change! Once people used to arrange their trips according to our schedule, now its girlfriends who get the slot.” Karun said in half-jest, half-sarcasm.
“Uh..well, not much I can say there. When are you coming back though?”
“Next week. Ritika mam’s orders. We’re going to join guitar classes.”
A week later….
Jessica got a call from Puja on Monday night telling her that classes had started and the professors were making a big issue of the 1st year students’ low attendances. So she changed her fortnight-break plan and returned on Tuesday evening. Reena hadn’t returned yet. She joined Puja in the canteen where she was with Ritika and Karun, who had…..guitars?
“Can you guys actually play this?” Jessica asked them, taking up Ritika’s instrument.
Before Ritika could answer though, Karun broke in. “Oh, yeah. We even played in last year’s annual functions.”
Jessica raised her eyebrows and pouted in appreciative astonishment but Ritika punctured Karun’s balloon.
“We don’t even know how to hold it properly, Jess. We are joining guitar classes from today. Bought these yesterday itself. Karun’s a liar. Never believe him.” She hit him playfully on the wrist.
After some banter and deliberations on the faculty members’ proficiency, Karun asked Jessica to join them for the classes. Ritika was also excited about this, “Yes Jess, it’d be fun.” They also exhorted Puja.
Jessica didn’t have much to do the whole week and thought it better to learn this than sleeping away her evenings in the hostel. She accepted the offer. Puja, who considered useless trends like guitars a waste of money, refused.
“I don’t have a guitar,” Jessica whined.
“Don’t worry, love. That would be taken care of. Just join us,” Ritika reassured her.
On Sunday night, as Vineet and Jessica were talking on the phone through one of their daily, all-night, earphone-enabled marathons, she asked him about his return. When he told her it’d take her one more week owing to some land deal his father had initiated, she was furious.
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” Jessica asked, her voice even but seething.
“I didn’t want to disappoint you, baby.”
“Don’t baby me. Didn’t want to disappoint!” She scoffed. Then, “What are you doing now if not disappointing. You don’t care what happens to me. Do you even know the state I’m in?”
Vineet tried his best to convince her as to why he hadn’t told her beforehand of the delay but in vain. She had crossed that threshold where his words would have made an effect on her. He knew he had committed a mistake but only time could soothe this angry goddess avatar of hers. An hour later, she was still angry. Finally she disconnected the call and didn’t pick up his calls again. To rub it in, she texted, “I hate liars!”
Vineet threw his head back on the chair he was sitting on and looked at the ceiling fan. God!
The next day went by the same way. Jessica was still angry and there hadn’t been any communication between the pair. While Vineet had texted sorry in 17 different ways and phoned half a dozen times, she hadn’t bothered to reply back or pick up. Finally, she had switched her phone off.
In the evening, at the guitar class, Jessica wasn’t her usual attentive self. She was making a lot of mistakes on simple notes and the teacher, exasperated, finally asked her to stop. That led to a minor confrontation between the two. Karun and Ritika had to step in and take her away with them, done for the day.
At the canteen, Karun tried to make her see sense. He and Vineet had been in touch all through the vacation and the resumption of the classes. Vineet had also told him about the tiff she’d had with him last night. Ritika, unaware of the root cause of her anger, tried a bit herself but soon gave up and went to her hostel, “If you can’t see what you did wrong there, God help you.”
Karun kept at it though. He knew Ritika wouldn’t mind his advising her. She gave him space for his friends. At length, the two of them went for a walk around the campus. Couple of minutes into that, Jessica broke into tears. In between sobs, she explained, “He doesn’t care about me, Karun. It was a simple matter of telling me when he was going to arrive. I’m so lonely without him. And how important could a land deal be? If he was going to be late, what was the harm in saying so beforehand?”
Karun murmured something about Vineet being useless and hopeless. They sat down on a bench under a line of trees. Soothing her back, he said, “Listen Jess, he loves you a lot. He might be at fault here but it’s not that he doesn’t care about you. After his parents, you’re the one he cares about the most. Think what he’d be going through being away from you for so many days. It can’t possibly be easy for him, can it?”
Finally, she calmed down. She laid her head on his shoulder and sniffled, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I was being too selfish.” She resolved to call Vineet as soon as she reached the hostel and apologize. Karun was right. Mistakes happen. Only she’d warn him not to do that thing again.
As they got up, she threw an arm around his neck, “Thanks man! You’re a great friend.”
After dinner, they were at it again, all-night!
To Be Continued…