The 7 Innocents

John 7:24
'Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.'



Isaiah 64:6
'But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;'


It was when their problems seemed to wane that they escalated. The Australians all disappeared, and the seminary shut down. They were told to run for their lives. Told if they didn’t, their families would die. Told if they did, their families would still die.
They endeavoured to solve the mystery – one that threatened to destroy them and their families – but soon realised that to end it all, they must first find the Australians. But the closer they came to finding them, the more they began to see they should run and never come back.
The question, of course, is why they didn’t call the police.
The answer is simple.
You can’t avoid being condemned unless you’re innocent.
And these men are not.

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20. Chapter Nineteen: The 7 Rebels

 

 

As the seven scrambled over the wall, Bikram wished Arjun organised such escapes more often. He was very careful, and Bikram was sure they would never be discovered.

            He'd managed to gather a reasonable group, including Mehmet, who had not wanted to come until he heard Arjun was involved. Danny had laughed and been so intrigued that he agreed to come, and Suneep, though he had been difficult and wasn't sure why he was being forced to go, was coming too. Chandan and Josha had jumped at the chance of defying Dr. Ashwin once they realised Arjun was organising things.

            Soon the seven were over the wall, and Arjun hid the ladder. Bikram jumped when a voice said, 'well, hello there.'

            Turning around, he was relieved to see it was only Ardi, Alyssa, and Liberty. He was a little confused as to why Ardi was coming – especially since she'd been shunning Mehmet – but appreciated her support all the same. Still, the girl could hardly keep a secret. He wondered who had invited her. Alyssa surprised Bikram by suddenly explaining things in Nepali.

            'Mehmet let it slip. She wanted to come for the thrill, I quote: 'not to hang with Mehmet.'

            Bikram turned to Mehmet and saw that the man was indeed flat.

            Arjun laughed, and began to loosen up. Bikram had never seen him like this before – in fact, nobody had.

            'Now, last time Dr. Ashwin discovered Suneep and Chandan because Chandan had no excuse for not playing cards the night before. He also saw the girls leave and come back un-chaperoned – which just seemed unnatural to him.'

            Bikram was worried. 'But they left unaccompanied again!' He cried.

            'Yes.' Alyssa admitted. 'But Dr. Ashwin did not see us. We came round the back way, far away from his house.'

            Bikram smiled, and Suneep chuckled. 'Why are you all being so naughty?'

            'Because!' Liberty cried, putting her arm around her much shorter elder. 'We just love you this much. Do anything to give you a good time.'

            Suneep smiled with a look of sadness, but did not look as if he were about to cry. Bikram felt relieved.

            'Let's go.' Arjun said, leading the way. 'And this time, try and avoid people we know – like Amit, the Christian rickshaw driver.'

            Suneep smiled sheepishly, as he had paid the man to drive him and Shaktiah last time. No doubt the man had remarked to Dr. Ashwin's wife that he'd seen her husband's students, and given everything away, as she often paid him for his services.

            'You are good rebel.' Suneep complemented Arjun, his eyes filling with a cheeky glint for the first time in months. 'We should have taken you last time.'

            Arjun smiled. 'I do not rebel often. That is why I am so paranoid.'

            The group walked for fifteen minutes before Arjun found a vikash – a very large rickshaw. They managed to squeeze all ten into one vehicle, and remained squished for half-an-hour.

            'It's so dark.' Mehmet muttered eventually. 'I hate winter.'

            Arjun nodded. 'But it will be summer soon – and we will all get to go home.'

            The ten did not really do much at the slums. Only Danny could speak Tamil, so communication was out of the question, but they were able to help one woman by fixing a leak in her roof.

            It felt good to work hard, Suneep thought. The more effort he put into the task, the more he understood why he had been forced to come. He figured that it was not fair of him to hurt those around him by constantly grieving. He supposed in a way he even insulted those who were caring for him. Just take Vijay. His cousin had died in the Muslim attack, and his best friend had died in the Hindu one. Yet he moved on, obviously sad, but not depressing. And then there was Danny. Kannan had been very dear to him, but he still managed to live as if nothing was wrong. It occurred to Suneep for the first time that even the Australians would be depressed – they had known the majority of people that died. Suneep could not completely convince himself that he was being selfish, but he could convince himself that he needed to try harder to move on. He never really had to move on – he just had to pretend. And while two months was not very long at all, he was in unusual circumstances.

            After two hours, the group made their way home. By the time they reached the gates it was 10 o'clock.

            'You know the story.' Arjun whispered, just before the group split up.

            The others nodded, and made their way inside. The girls made their way to their rooms via the back way, certain that they had not been seen by Dr. Ashwin, whereas the men climbed over the wall, and sneaked carefully to their room. They made sure they all went to sleep quickly, so that they did not even miss breakfast the next morning.

 

Dr. Ashwin did not usually eat meals with the students, but that morning he did. The group tried not to tense as the principal sat down at their table.

            'Suneep!' The man cried. 'Good to see you talking again!'

            'Thank you, sir.'

            'Why the sudden change?'

            Suneep shrugged. 'I just feel happy today.'

            'Did you do anything special last night?'

            'I went to bed on time. That is special.'

            'But you have been going to bed early. What made you stay up later? I did not see you at cards.'

            'No. I was enjoying time with Bikram.'

            'Studying?'

            Suneep smiled. 'No, sir.' He briefly remembered the ridiculous things they'd done last night while working and added, 'mainly singing. We don't know the words to most songs, so we made them up.'

            Bikram smiled. 'It's easy with Christian songs.'

            Dr. Ashwin seemed satisfied with these responses, and turned to the girls. 'Where were you?'

            'Talking in our room.' Ardi replied. 'Or rather, I was in theirs. We were tired, and thought we'd go to bed, so we skipped cards. But you know girls. Once we got started, we didn't stop for a long time.'

            'We should come tonight though.' Liberty added. 'I'm not so tired today.'

            Dr. Ashwin's eyes lit up, as he began to think maybe no-one had sneaked out after all. 'Danny!' He cried. 'Who do you share a room with these days?'

            'No-one.' Danny muttered. 'I am all alone.'

            Dr. Ashwin realised the man was still very despondent, and figured that was why he had not socialized the night before. 'Chandan! Where were you?'

            Chandan smiled shyly. 'Going through clothes.'

            'He was modeling for me.' Josha put in. This story was obviously true, as Chandan defensively nudged his friend as if to say, 'don't say that!'

            Dr. Ashwin smiled in amusement. 'A model, are we, Chandan?'

            Chandan had turned quite red. 'No...'

            Dr. Ashwin turned to Mehmet, no longer concerned with Chandan. 'What were you doing?'

            Mehmet thought for a moment and then replied. 'Just studying. I went on Facebook for a while, and chatted to some friends. That's all.'

            Alyssa glanced at Arjun, who glanced desperately at her. Mehmet had forgotten his story, and ruined Arjun's.

            'And you, Arjun?' Dr. Ashwin finally asked.

            Arjun replied with the first thing that came to mind. 'I was reading Haggai.'

            'Ah yes, the book you flunked on an exam over. But come on, that takes half-an-hour.'

            'Yes, but I get very sleep while reading. I fell asleep as soon as I was finished.'

            Dr. Ashwin laughed. 'So none of you snuck out?' He cried.

            Ooh. A direct question. That was hard.

            'What do you mean?' Ardi said quickly, looking concerned. 'We are allowed out wherever we want, right?'

            Dr. Ashwin nodded. 'Of course you are, but the students are not.'

            'How does that work?' Liberty asked. 'We're exchange students.'

            'Yes, doing part time courses. Look, we've just decided to give you extra freedom.'

            'Oh!' Ardi cried, turning on her charm. 'That reminds me of a question I had for you! It's related to predestination.'

            Dr. Ashwin smiled. 'Is it about free will?'

            Ardi nodded, and Dr. Ashwin began a long explanation on free will and God's sovereignty, while Ardi asked all the right questions to keep him going. The funny part was, she agreed completely with everything he said; each question was asked needlessly, as she already knew the answers. The others sneaked away casually, and the doctor didn't even realise that no-one had answered his question. Thanks to Ardi, the ten were out of the woods.

 

Every-one was amazed at the sudden change in Suneep. In fact, the change was so complete that he was soon the happiest man on campus. His fashion-sense began to improve, until one day he came out in a suit and sunglasses. He still wore Converses.

            'Nice suit, man.' Bikram complemented his friend. 'But now I look under-dressed.'

            'You get dressed up too.' Suneep invited. 'Chandan and I are having a fashion day. We will see if you can rope in everyone.'

            'Even Arjun?'

            'Especially Arjun! I would like to see him looking cool, yaar, instead of neat and school-boy-ish.'

            Bikram smiled, and began sorting through his clothes. 'I don't have goggles.'

            'Call them sunnies, or the Australians will laugh at you. Borrow some from Chandan, he has about fifty.'

            Bikram nodded, and arranged things.

            It was a bright, sunny Saturday, and the news spread like wild-fire. All the Australian men came out looking as suave as possible, with or without hates. Sunnies were the go, though not so much with the women.

            Alyssa, Liberty, and Ardi delightedly watched their friends walk past. Mehmet wore a white, V-neck T-shirt with jeans, dress shoes, and sunnies.

            'You like?' He asked, posing a little.

            'Too handsome!' Ardi cried. Mehmet smiled confusedly as Danny approached.

            'Singlet, shorts, thongs, and sunnies?' Mehmet cried. 'That's not cool!'

            Danny shrugged and crossed his arms. 'No. But I am.'

            Josha walked up in his everyday clothes and high-fived Danny. 'Good job, brother. That is what I say.'             Turning to the girls, he smiled. Liberty wore a pretty, dark green pinafore, with white leggings. Her hair was tied back loosely, and blew in the wind. 'You look cool, sister.'

            'Thank you, Josha. So do you.'

            Ardi wore black shorts with purple stockings underneath, completed with and orange, sequin-covered shirt. She wore a purple headband and orange shoes in an attempt to tie all the colours together.

            'Sister,' Mehmet spoke slowly. 'I do not know how, but some-how you match.'

            Alyssa often wore Indian clothes, but had dressed up for the occasion. Her hair was extremely curled, and down, looking relatively short, but it was so curly Mehmet figured it must be long. She wore a cute white cloche with a green ribbon tied round in a bow, and had on a feminine green skirt, which flowed out, and a plain white shirt, completing the look with plain white sandals which had a little heel.

            'You are 2 centimeters taller today, sister.' Mehmet teased.

            Alyssa laughed. 'Yes. I am catching up to you slowly.'

            All heads turned, as Suneep, Bikram, and Chandan approached, walking in slow motion. Bikram wore jeans, white Converses, sunglasses, and an unbuttoned, blue-checked short-sleeve shirt over a white V-neck T-shirt. His hair was naturally spiked at the front, and completed the look. Chandan looked bright, and wore hot pink. He had on the Converses Suneep had bought him, white jeans, and a hot-pink T-shirt. His sunglasses were white, not black, and the girls moaned as he approached, though Alyssa laughed.

            'Not pink, dai!' She cried. 'Not pink!'

            'I like pink!' He returned, sitting down next to her. 'Pink is cool, like me.'

            Suneep raised his eyebrows at Liberty, who laughed at him. 'Come on! Walking in slow motion? You're just too try-hard.'

            Suneep ignored her insult. 'We all have permission to go out today. Would you three like to come?'

            The girls nodded. 'Sure.'

            'Where is Arjun?' Chandan asked, looking round.

            There was a thump, and the nine turned to see Arjun, who had just jumped off the step.

            'Arjun!?' Suneep cried. 'That is not cool!'

            Arjun wore his black jeans, typical black jacket, and black shoes that bordered on being dress shoes.

            'Aren't you hot?' Liberty asked.

            Arjun nodded, and removed his jacket. Suneep, Chandan, and even Mehmet cried out in pain when they saw Arjun's purple and white polo.

            'What?!' Arjun cried, putting on sunglasses. 'This is the best I can do.'

            'No, bhai, that is awful!' Suneep replied.

            'It's not that bad.' Liberty objected. 'I think it's pretty cool.'

            'Look at his hair!' Chandan pointed out. 'Neatly parted. Bhai, let me dress you.'

            Arjun did not like that idea. 'No! No, no, no!'

'           Please?' Suneep pleaded. 'Look, we will even let Alyssa approve everything.'

            Arjun glanced at Alyssa uncertainly, and then slowly said, 'all right then.'

            Alyssa was delighted. 'You trust me, dai?'

            Arjun – who never called any of the girl bhainee or sister – surprised his friend by replying, 'yes, sister.'

            Suneep, Chandan, and Mehmet had fun for the next fifteen minutes trying to dress Arjun.

'           Wear these things!' Chandan cried, holding up the shoes.

            'They hurt.' Arjun replied.

            'Wear this!' Suneep cried, holding up a loose singlet of Chandan's.

            Arjun frowned. 'That is too girly.'

            'Wear one of Danny's singlets!'

            Arjun did not like this idea any better.

            'Wear these!' Mehmet laughed, holding up a pair of Chandan's short shorts. Arjun's scowl only increased.

            'Dai, what do you normally wear in summer?' Alyssa asked.

            'A loose white long-sleeved cotton shirt and jeans. These shoes and sunglasses.'

            Suneep's mouth gaped. 'Don't you get hot?' He cried.

            Arjun shrugged. 'It's comfortable.'

            'Long sleeves?!' Danny repeated, in shock.

            Arjun nodded, making every-one fall silent, until – suddenly – Alyssa began laughing hysterically.

            'Give up, guys!' She cried. 'I know how Arjun feels!'

            'No.' Suneep objected, sorting through Chandan's clothes again.

            'Wear these!' Chandan cried, showing Arjun a pair of three-quarter khaki pants.

            Arjun hesitated. 'Okay.' He agreed. Chandan smiled as Arjun took the clothes. 'They will be much shorter on me though...' Arjun added, concerned.

            Chandan panicked. 'Not much, dai!'

            'Wear this!' Mehmet cried, throwing Arjun a white V-neck.

            Arjun hesitated. 'Dai, I don't wear T-shirts. And I never wear shorts...'

            'And these!' Suneep added, throwing Arjun some stylish brown thongs.

            'Suneep, I told you I do not wear these!'

            'Please!' The three pleaded at once. Arjun sighed, and went to change.

            'Bhai!' Chandan called after him. 'Let me come with you! I have to do your hair – and do not wear those sunglasses. They are daggy!' Arjun nodded botheredly, and Chandan followed closely.

            The rest of the group loitered slowly back over to the main building, where they waited for Arjun.

            'Here he come!' Danny cried after a few minutes, jumping up.

            The friends looked on eagerly and beheld a sight. The T-shirt was probably a little tight (judging by the way Arjun continually pulled on it – it didn't look tight), the pants turned out to stop just above the knees, and the man seemed uncomfortable with how much leg he was showing. He had a little difficulty walking in thongs, and stopped frequently to re-adjust the things. Chandan had obviously not been too successful doing his friend's hair, and as a result only the front of his hair was spiked – and very little. It looked more like a 1940s hairstyle than anything. Overall, Arjun seemed very self-conscious, and for once did not walk straight and tall.

            'I look ridiculous!' He cried, taking the stylish sunglasses off. Chandan grabbed the glasses from his friend and hung them on the man's V-neck. 'What?' Arjun muttered. 'What is this?'

            'It is the cool way to not wear sunglasses.' Chandan returned. Arjun threw his hands up and followed his elder miserably.

            'Lookin' cool.' Suneep congratulated the man as he approached.

            'Too cool.' Mehmet added.

            'I look ridiculous.' Arjun complained. 'Look how low this T-shirt neck is!'

            'It's not low.' Everyone said, almost instantly.

            'I usually wear shirts with all the buttons done up but the top one!'

            'In that case it's low.' Ardi offered.

            Arjun rubbed his leg against a plant and flinched as a mosquito bit him.

            Liberty laughed. 'Too much leg, Arjun.' She teased.

            'I know!' The man returned seriously. 'And these shoes hurt!'

            'Don't complain, Arjun.' Josha groaned. 'Just wear it.'

            'It is not even modest!' Arjun protested. 'It is inappropriate!'

            'Danny is inappropriate. Not you.'

            Arjun seemed greatly distressed, and turned to Alyssa for help. 'I think it's fine.' She answered. 'But if you don't, don't wear it.'

            'Yeah.' Josha added. 'We don't need to hear you complaining all day.'

            Let's go!' Suneep cried, moving before Arjun could do anything.

            'Dai!' Arjun cried frustratedly.

            'I’ll wait.' Alyssa promised.

            'I won't.' Liberty and Ardi giggled, running off.

            'Please, dai!' Arjun called after his friend. 'Just the jeans! Just let me change the...'

            His friends ignored him and continued walking. Alyssa stood up here. 'Don't worry, Arjun. You look fine. And if you act cool all day then they will never want to dress you up again.'

            Arjun smiled a little. 'You think so?' Alyssa nodded, and Arjun relaxed a little. 'Then I will be very cool.' Putting his arm out, Alyssa obligingly linked her arm round his. Then he slipped his hands into his pockets. 'Oh!' He cried. 'Sunglasses!' Arjun quickly slipped his borrowed glasses out, and put his hands back in his pockets.

            'One more thing.' Alyssa helped. 'Just run your fingers through your hair.'

            'Like this?' Arjun asked, following the direction in which his hair was parted. His hair began blowing in the wind – or at least the front did.

            'Much better.' Alyssa approved. Arjun smiled, and the two began walking.

            'I can't see them.' Arjun pointed out, speeding up. 'Shall we run?'

            Alyssa nodded, and Arjun suddenly grabbed her hand. Then they ran. Alyssa began screaming, as for the most part she was being dragged behind Arjun. Then she began laughing. 'This is ridiculous!'

            'There they are!' Arjun cried, stopping suddenly. The two resumed their former pose, with an extra flourish. Arjun stood tall, and walked confidently, his head turned dramatically off to his right.

            Alyssa laughed. 'Just like a model.'

            Arjun did not smile. 'Bhainee, do not make me smile. You will ruin my pose.'

            Suneep eventually turned around. 'Ooh!' He cried. 'Arjun, you look so cool!'

            Arjun turned casually towards his friend, some-how keeping a straight face. 'Thank you, friend.' He replied, walking straight past him.

            Suneep laughed incredulously. 'What is with that?!' Bikram and Chandan were also incredulous.

            'He's so much cooler than us.' Bikram verbalized everyone's thoughts.

            'Yeah, well I dressed him.' Chandan put in.

            Mehmet laughed. 'It's not his clothes that are cool – they stink! No, Arjun is the cool thing.'

            Chandan frowned, and the four caught up with the others. 'I think this has backfired.' Was the nearly unanimous muttering.

 

The ten didn't really do too much that day – they just hang around. But by the time lunch was over, Suneep, Chandan, and Bikram were well and truly fed-up with Arjun.

            'I sometimes wonder if I know Arjun.' Bikram groaned. 'He surprises me very often.'

            Heads turned as Arjun passed – especially if he was smiling.

            'How come they look now?' Mehmet wondered. 'Arjun is always cool.'

            'But not so cocky.' Suneep muttered, displeased. 'He thinks he is so good.'

            Chandan frowned. 'I am always the one people stare at!'

            Suneep frowned as well. 'I spent half-an-hour spiking my hair, and he still gets more attention.'

            'Since when do Danny and Josha talk to Arjun?' Chandan hissed.

            'Since when does Ardi talk to Arjun?' Mehmet added.

            'I hope he gives me my clothes back.' Chandan moaned. 'I never want him to dress this way again.'

            Arjun suddenly turned around. 'Watcha say?'

            Chandan reacted strangely. 'I never want you to dress this way again!' He cried, extremely upset.

            Arjun smiled. 'Really?'

            Suneep nodded. 'You are too cool, okay? You win!'

            Arjun chuckled happily. 'Don't worry, I'll stop.' With this, Arjun pulled out his phone and checked his messages. His sunglasses still hung off his collar, but Arjun figured he wouldn't have to move them. Chandan and Suneep frowned at each other, a little confused as to why Arjun seemed to think he could stop being cool without changing clothes.

            The group continued walking, and Arjun returned to his old habit of checking his phone. After a while, he began chatting softly with Alyssa, though there was a marked difference in the way he spoke. He spoke quietly, and didn't try to use an up-beat vocabulary. He didn't laugh and smile as much, and when he did it was less confident. He laughed softly, and moved away when he did so. He smiled more reservedly, and found it required less energy to do so. He did try to walk with swagger, and – though he stood tall – did not seem as outgoing and confident. When people passed he no longer smiled and held eye contact. He simply smiled and looked away. He certainly did not wink or raise his eyebrows at people anymore.

            To Suneep, Chandan, and Bikram's surprise, Danny and Josha soon lost interest in Arjun. Ardi began speaking to Chandan, and Liberty to Suneep. Only Alyssa remained with Arjun. Within minutes, people began staring at the previous three as they passed.

            'Do you see this?!' Bikram cried. 'Every-one is ignoring Arjun now!'

            Suneep was completely confused. 'He is amazing. I do not even know how he has done this.'

            Arjun over-heard this remark and smiled brightly. 'You were right, Alyssa.'

            'Yep. Though I must admit, you did better than I expected.'

            'I'm glad it's over. I don't like being stared at.'

            The two no longer walked with their arms linked, and resumed their slightly stand-offish air.

            'Arjun!' Bikram cried, turning round. 'Ma timilai magya garchu.'

            'You are amazing!' Mehmet added.

            'I love you too!' Suneep agreed with Bikram.

            Arjun smiled, and blinked shyly. 'Thank you.'

            'You should have seen him before,' Chandan suddenly burst into story. 'He was not going to come out in that T-shirt. He was being so fussy, I thought he'd just have to wear no shirt!'

            Arjun laughed embarrassedly. 'I would never do that.'

            'Never?' Danny asked, perhaps unable to relate to such a thing.

            Arjun nodded. 'Even when I swim I wear black T-shirt.'

            Suneep shook his head. 'Arjun, you amuse me.'

            Arjun smiled calmly again. 'I am glad I make you happy, Suneep.'

            Suneep raised his eyebrows and turned back around.

            The rest of the day was very relaxed, though Arjun was still uncomfortable in his outfit. 'I have never shown leg before.' He muttered, as he brushed an ant off his limb. 'I don't like it. And my arms – I do not normally show them. I do not like them.'

            'Why not?' Liberty asked, overhearing this remark. Arjun simply shrugged.

            'It's because he is weedy.' Chandan teased, pushing his friend's sleeve up a little. 'See? No muscle. Now, you should see mine.'

            Liberty laughed. 'You show yours off often enough. But I don't know... I think Arjun may be as strong as you, he just doesn't look it.'

            Arjun laughed. 'Do not say that, friend.'

            Chandan turned competitively to Arjun. 'How many push-ups can you do?'

            Arjun shrugged. '50?'

            Chandan laughed. 'I could triple that. How many sit-ups?'

            'Oh, two hundred easily.'

            Chandan's face fell. 'Are you serious?' Arjun nodded. 'Then I think you just have your muscles in different places.'

            Arjun laughed, and would have reddened were he not so dark. However, despite his colour not changing, it was still very obvious that he was embarrassed.

             'Okay, I will stop embarrassing you now.' Chandan promised. 'Quick, let's catch up with the others.'

            The four sped up, and nothing further was said about Arjun for the rest of the day.

 

Sunday was another bright day, and the students eagerly looked forward to the scheduled picnic. Arjun was surprised when Dr. Ashwin pulled him aside just before the group left.

            'I need to ask you a favour, Arjun.' He had said solemnly.

            Arjun was intrigued. 'Yes, sir?'

            'It's about Ardi.' Arjun could feel his heart harden. No, he did not like Alyssa's cousin any more than she liked Alyssa. 'Keep an eye on her, Arjun.' Dr. Ashwin had said. 'She stands out like a sore-thumb, and she can't be discreet to save herself.'

            Arjun cringed, but nodded. 'Yes, sir, I will look out for her.'

            'You don't like her?'

            Arjun shifted uncomfortably. 'I.... she... disturbs me.'

            Dr. Ashwin nodded. 'Well, sorry, but of all the people I know, you're the best to take care of her.'

            Arjun nodded too. 'Thank you sir.'

            Then everyone piled into the huge bus and left.

            'Sanjay!' Someone cried, as the man limped onto the bus. 'Sanjay, brother, you are back!'

            Vijay was thrilled. 'Brother!' He cried, using the term in the truest sense of the word. Sanjay was Vijay's elder brother, whom Josha did not know well. He had been hospitalized after the Muslim attack, with serious internal bleeding.

            'Sanjay!' Bikram called, giving the man a tight hug. The man cried out in pain and Bikram panicked. 'Are you all right?' He cried. 'You're not going to die now, are you?'

            Sanjay laughed at how worry Bikram was. 'Yes, bhai. I should be fine.'

            The three went to find a seat, and the doors closed. 'In Australia,' Liberty began, 'this would be illegal.'

            Alyssa – on her lap – shifted. Bikram came and jumped on Arjun's lap. The latter slid and fell on Liberty, squashing her and Alyssa against the window.

            'Bikram!' He cried, a touch of impatience in his voice.

            Bikram giggled. 'Sorry, bhai.' Ardi was directly in front of the four, across two of the Australian's laps. 'In appropriate...' Bikram breathed quietly.

            Arjun nodded discreetly, hoping Liberty and Alyssa would not notice. 'At least they are Australians.'

            Bikram laughed. 'You are right about that.'

            As the bus progressed, Liberty struck up a game. 'Let's play guess the song.'

            'That will not work.' Arjun pointed out. 'You will not know any Indian or Nepali songs, but we will know most of yours.'

            Liberty frowned. Then she smiled. 'Let's play guess who I am!'

            Bikram wriggled delightedly. 'Yes, yes, let's do!' He thought about adding 'bhainee', but did not. He never called Liberty sister, though he had no reason not to.

            Liberty cleared her throat and began. 'Ah! My shoes! I have got dirt on my shoes!'

            Chandan turned around defensively. 'They were brand new!' He cried.

            Liberty laughed. 'But that's what shoes are for, dai!'

            'Chandan's turn!' Bikram cried, turning to face the man. Arjun frowned, as he was hit in the face by             Bikram's elbow. 'Sorry, bhai.'

            Chandan cleared his throat and mockingly began, 'that's what shoes are for, dai.'

            Bikram laughed. 'It is Liberty.'

            'Very good. Your turn.'

            'Okay, okay. Haan, ha ha.'

            'Kannan.'

            'No.'

            'Danny.' Arjun offered.

            'Yes! Your turn, Arjun.'

            'Um... okay.' Quietly, he said, 'if you are caught, you will not be forgiven.'

            Bikram giggled, as Alyssa whispered, 'Dr. Ashwin.'

            'Dr. Bossy.' Bikram quietly corrected.

            'What?' Liberty asked, confused.

            'Who was it?' Chandan asked.

            'It's Alyssa's turn!' Bikram shouted. 'Go, Alyssa!'

            'Okay. Here it goes.' Alyssa giggled, and rolled her head peculiarly.

            'Bikram!' Danny yelled from two rows in front.

            'Yes.' Alyssa laughed, as Bikram gasped.

            'I do not giggle!'

            'Yes you do,' Alyssa said, laughing.

            'Well that is certainly not how I move my head!'

            'No.' Arjun admitted. 'She is very bad at that. It is more like this.' Arjun then perfectly executed Bikram's peculiar head movement.

            'Your turn, Danny!' Alyssa cried, as Bikram stared at Arjun, his mouth open in feigned shock.

            'Okay, okay.' Danny said, smiling widely.

            'Nitin!' Mehmet cried, all too familiar with the man.

            Nitin turned around. 'Are you mocking me?'

            'Yes. Guess who this is: 'achaa, achaa'.'

            'It's me!' Vijay called out.

            Soon, the entire bus was playing the game. Some people were used several times, and others weren't used at all. Alyssa was particularly proud of this.

            'Some-one think of a catch-phrase for our Australian sister!' Braj cried, thinking hard himself.

            'I have!' Suneep called out. 'Sorry!'

            Everyone burst into fits of laughter, as it was so true.

            'Remember,' Mehmet cried, 'that time Emu ran into her and she said 'sorry'?'

            'Yes!' Emu cried, at the same time as many people.

            'Do not say sorry,' Calvin quoted Emu.

            'Okay.' Mehmet continued, quoting what Alyssa had said in reply. 'Sorry.' For the last part, nearly everyone yelled in nearly perfect unison.

            Alyssa turned and found that Arjun was smiling quietly at her, with a look of wonderment. She often found him doing that. In fact, she often found most people doing that.

            'Okay, so it wasn't smart.' She muttered, a little disappointed that her record had been broken.

            Mehmet suddenly began singing a well-known Hindi song.

            'Dr. Ashwin said not to sing that song!' Braj cried. 'It is too catchy!'

            Mehmet stopped and smiled. 'And where is Dr. Ashwin?'

            'I'm here!' The man cried.

            Mehmet smiled and began singing again. Soon, all his friends joined in – even Arjun, though he sung quietly.  Everyone gleaned great amusement from Dr. Ashwin's frustration, and continued singing for a long time, until – eventually – they stopped, but only because they tired of the repetitive tune.

 

 

 

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