With a bag slung across my shoulders, I hopped off the school bus and walked towards the Senior building. In an attempt to look presentable, I pushed my glasses up and smoothed my hair. Yet with the looks I was receiving I knew I had miserably failed to do so. The hot air fanned my face while I scowled, my gaze landing at the crowd near the notice board.
What could it be?
I dashed forward to enter the madness. A notice greeted me; written beautifully in the principal's handwriting. It was the same talent search competition which I had been meaning to participate in last year.
"Thank goodness," I mumbled as I sat down the benches opposite, taking out a practical file I was supposed to submit. After browsing through a few pages, I felt satisfied. Fingers crossed, hoped this earned me a good grade.
I smiled to myself humming a melody and reached the classroom a few minutes later.
"Hi!" Rohan said, flashing his braces.
I nodded and waved him off, which could be count as a gesture of ignorance.
"Hi..?" He stretched the monosyllabic sound again. What was wrong with this guy? Why couldn't he get the signal I was sending him?
I imitated him, "Hi... Good morning." My lips curled up into a smile. I sat down on the front seat assigned to me and buried my head in my hands. God, this would send him away.
"Are you.. okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine!" I snapped, immediately feeling guilty at his hurt expression.
"Just need some rest.."
A deep laugh filled my ears and I resisted the urge to snigger. It was an unfamiliar voice; yet its loudness, pitch and quality worked harmoniously to create music. I turned back to find the source sitting a few rows away talking to Prachi Jha, who was twirling a loose strand of hair. She giggled like a teenager with her first crush and I rolled my eyes.
The stranger, probably a newcomer, smirked when he realised he was probably being stalked. As our gazes met, he winked.
I raised an eyebrow, challenging him to dare any further. He stared at me funny before turning towards Prachi who was so engrossed in her speech that she missed the little scene which we had created.
I clicked my tongue and nudged Myra, one of my friends, while she buried her head inside the book she was reading.
"What?" she huffed, annoyed at the interruption.
"Who's the new guy?"
"A firangi (foreigner), I've been asked this question a million times today. Why me?"
"Because you're observant." A blush crept up her cheeks and she resumed her reading.
A new comer, huh? The new session had its perks.
The teacher entered and we wished her a 'Good Morning'. Our class teacher for the year was Mrs. Malik, a physics teacher. After the introductions, -She knew mostly all of us. Including me. Especially me.- we started the chapter 'Light'. I found out that the stranger, who surprisingly had a name, was an Ayaan Woods from New York.
Woo, he had name!
Of course, everybody had a name. Duh. We wouldn't go running around calling everyone with their mobile numbers or their birthdates.
"Oh hey 8888888888! What's up?"
"Nothing much, 1111133333! What about you?"
"Hola 4th March 1987 5:30 pm!"
"Hi, 26th August 1987 4:43 am!"
God, no. I wondered how the world would be if that happened. Yet the little voice inside me refused to die.
Oh come onn, he had an accent too!
I felt like banging my head against the table, or slapping myself with a wet fish. What was wrong with me?
"So, all of us know about reflection of light," she spoke tearing me away from my thoughts, "But how many of us know about.. refraction?"
I raised my hand with confidence.
"Yes?" I was so positive that she smiled at me, encouraging me to speak but when I traced her gaze it was directed at the stranger. (Okay, I liked calling him that. Emphasis on the Liked. The next you knew, I would be calling him mine. Creepy!)
"Refraction of light is the bending of light from a rarer medium to a denser medium, or vice versa. Basically, it is the bending of light from medium to medium due to varying densities." That accent though.
Mrs. Malik clapped while saying, "I'm so glad two of my students have actually done their homework. Let's continue then, shall we?"
Ayaan just ruffled his hair messily before sitting down. I could almost feel a faint blush creeping up his cheeks. My attention returned to Mrs. Malik, who had started giving notes on the topic.
After the class ended, Mrs. Malik decided to appoint the class representative. A few people volunteered as she lingered her gaze between the students, giving a final confirmation to who she was about to chose.
I got up, biting my cheek. The taste of sickly, sweet blood filled my mouth.
"You're appointed the CR for the month."
Not again, no.
No. With a big N.
Being the monitor meant being at the beck and call of every teacher. One strike and you were out. And during the beginning of the session, it was even worse where the teachers judged you as if you were a criminal released from the prison.
They scrutinized ever single detail, they examined your attitude and their sarcastic comments tore you apart. They were like snakes, ready to bite you when you turned your back.
But, that was only during the start.
You knew you had passed their test after being the monitor and had earned their trust. The last time I was the monitor (Which was in the 9th grade. I was the first monitor, yet again. Old habits die hard.) some of the teachers had turned up nice. In 10th, we would be getting almost the same teachers. A few exceptions were there.
Now the ultimate question, was I ready for that kind of responsibility?
"Thank you ma'am," I breathed in relief, realising that I had been holding my breath the entire time.
She motioned me to come and I walked towards her.
She whispered while the class was lost in the swarm of talks, "Good luck, you're gonna need it. I have faith in you. Please distribute these information records and the forms for the Talent Competition. And while you're at it, why don't you show Ayaan around the school? The next class is physical, so you'll be free. I'm sure some people would love to assist you," she looked at Prachi (who was sitting next to -you guessed it- Ayaan) and smiled, "Kids nowadays, jeez."
The class ended and everyone scurried off to different directions. While I kept my study material inside my bag, I was interrupt by a high-pitched voice, "Hey Zinia, could I show Ayaan around for the time being if you're busy?"
Without looking up I replied, "Yeah, for this second class only, I'll write you a slip."
I scribbled hurriedly and handed it over to her.
"And what about you?" This voice made me snap out of my monotonous trance. I looked up to find Ayaan staring at me, curiosity adorning his features.
"I'll just go to the science lab. Have some doubts," I shrugged nonchalantly and picked up the files.
"But the syllabus hasn't even started!"
"What are the holidays for?"
I left a gaping Ayaan in the class and went to the science lab. It was my most favourite place in the school, (along with the library, of course) my safe haven to escape from the cruel realities of life and enter the world of wonders, a broadening horizon.
The science lab was a big area, right in the middle of the science department. This big area was divided into three parts, biology, physics and chemistry. A handful of students were present inside, with their huge glasses and focused faces.
Blood rushed through my veins as I ventured forward. I could hear my heart beating furiously.
Call me nerd, but those who knew the feeling could relate to it.
It was like an adventure camp for me, each ride had its ups and downs. My aim in life was to help others and it was only through science that I could turn this dream into reality.
Submitting my files, I went to the chemistry section and was surprised to see nobody there except a teacher. Chemistry wasn't a very popular choice, with all its valencies and numericals, but I knew if I had to choose any subject, I would go for Chemistry.
I greeted the teacher and started conducting an experiment on the separation of a mixture of Ammonium Chloride, Salt and Sand. A few strands of my hair fell on my face, irritating me while I noted the observations.
Nevertheless the experiement was interesting, and it took me a while to complete it. After finishing, I was just about to clean up when the teacher called out, "Zinia Rathore! You need to go to the medical room."
I was torn, should I clean up first then go? She noticed my uneasiness and said, "I'll get someone to do it."
With a polite 'Thank you', I walked out only to find Ayaan leaning against the wall; tapping his foot simultaneously.
"What?" I snapped.
"Your brother is in the medical room," he replied coolly, his hands inside his pockets.
"You must have got the wrong person."
"Zoobin, right? What's with the peculiar Zee names? So hard to remember." I held a giggle but it came out as a snort.
"It's Z-U-Bin," I started walking. As if on cue, Ayaan followed me.
Silence ensued and I crossed my fingers, hoping for everything to be alright.
"How did you find the medical room anyways?" I broke the ice while putting the strands back to their place.
"Leave it, it looks nice. Prachi showed me around." Was it meant to be a compliment?
To irritate him, I clipped the strands. He smirked.
"Where's she now?"
"This class is almost over, so I asked her to leave. When we were at me med room, the nurse was talking to some guy who kept muttering Zinia, Zinia. He looked a lot like ya."
"Are you sure it wasn't Rohan?"
He laughed his adorable laugh, making me smile.
"Nah, he didn't have those nerd glasses on."
We reached the medical room and I peeped inside. True as it was, my little brother Zubin was sitting on the bed with cotton stuffed inside his nose. There was a swelling on his cheek, which was entirely covered by an ice pack. His eyes were closed in a meditating sort of position.
"Hey little bro," I waved and he jumped up, startled.
"I'm thirteen," he spat back nastily before wincing in pain. "Oww!"
"Serves you right. What happened?" I folded my hands across my chest, embracing myself for excuses.
"Uhmm, I-I just feel down the stairs," he stuttered before lying down with his head tilted upwards. I heard a snort beside me. Oh goody, I had forgotten I had 'the stranger' with me.
"Okay, but you are not going to escape with that. I'm going to call Dad," I replied before leaving for the reception.
He nodded and closed his eyes.
Just as we went out of the room, Ayaan stopped me.
"Do you really think he fell?"
"Yup, what is there to think of?"
"Everything about that wound screams 'bullying'! You didn't notice that gash on his hand indicating struggle? You did, right?"
I looked down, and shook my head, "I guess it slipped out of my mind."
I looked up and stared into his eyes. They were clear crystal blue, and this was the first time I really started noticing him. He had well-defined cheekbones and a firm jaw, and there was a small scar on his lower lip. I felt compelled to ask him about that but bit my lip to stop from doing so. We were standing close and I took a few steps back.
"Yes?" My voice came out a few notches higher and in a bare whisper.
I coughed to regain my composure, "Yes?"
His eyes were now cold and I couldn't decipher the expression on his face, "You need to talk to your brother about this."
"I will, but he won't tell me."
Ayaan sighed before turning back and leaving me alone.
I unclipped my hair, letting my fringe fall on my face.
After a few exhausting, tiresome hours; I entered home and plonked on the sofa of the living room. Zubin had been packed and shipped off to home earlier (with a lecture from the Principal, the Discipline Incharge, the Nurse who tended him and Father- I couldn't help but feel lucky) while I had to complete school and take his homework from his friends (not so lucky enough I suppose). No one was willing to help, but a girl named Sarah helped, with a message for Zubin- 'Get well soon!'.
It was obvious that she liked him. Aww, young love.
Ayaan had ignored me, not even sparing one single glance. Who needed him anyways? It wasn't like I liked him or something, or if my happiness depended on him.
I switched on the Television and flipped channels. The sound of the TV echoed throughout our 3 BHK flat, and I could hear Zubin groaning in disgust. I increased the volume to irk him. Hearing the thuds of his footsteps, I switched off.
"Zinia," his voice was nasally, and upon seeing his face covered in bandages I started laughing. Yes, I was a cruel sister. He threw the sofa pillow at me and I dodged it. Then, I handed him over the homework.
"Yes brother?" I blinked my eyelashes innocently, "I'm sorry, did I disturb you? I didn't mean to." Zubin threw another pillow at me which hit me on my face.
"Payback, Zinny bear!" Now it was his turn to start laughing.
I smiled and winked, "No, I won't hurt you. You're in a fragile state right now princess." Nobody beat me, ever.
He looked frustrated and screamed. My hands were folded across my chest as I stood there, waiting for him to come back to his senses.
"Hey Zubin, why did you lie?" I became serious now, 'bullying' was a matter of concern. (Male ego hurt alert, my inner voice piped in.)
He was taken aback, "Didn't."
"Who's bullying you? I could ask Father to help."
And I dropped the bomb.
He clenched his fists and punched the sofa, "Father this, father that. What the.." he stopped mid sentence, "Father? Uhm, I mean Dad."
I turned around to find Father at the door, his hands full of grocery and shopping. Before anybody could say anything, Zubin had retreated to his room.
"Father!" I hugged our Father, popularly referred to as Colonel Rathore.
"Hey Zinny bear," he poked my nose as I helped him put the groceries to their respective places. I pouted while he made funny faces, until I couldn't control anymore and burst out laughing.
"You're the only person who makes me smile," I said, "Aren't you home early? It's just three o'clock."
"Aww, and I thought you had found someone else to make you smile too." Ayaan,my inner voice whispered. "Figured it would be nice to interact with the kids today, took a half day."
My lips curved into a big grin, "So.. did he talk to you?"
Father's happy expression fell immediately, "Of course."
"Zubin didn't talk to you even once, did he?"
Father shook his head before burying his face in his hands, "I'll go get some rest. Are you making lunch?" He dodged the question and I nodded.
He left me alone in the kitchen. I started taking out the ingrediants for preparing red pasta, my speciality, in order to liven the grumpy moods of the two most important men in my life.
As much I hated to admit it, Zubin despised his own father and blamed him for Mother's.. death. Their relationship had grown distant, it was a miracle for Zubin to even be civil towards Father. Tears welled up my eyes as I fiddled with the pendant of my necklace, gifted to me by Mother.
I missed her.
How I wished she was here.
I wiped my eyes and continued with the dish. I left in the pan for cooking and set the table, before calling out both of them for lunch.
Zubin came running and said, "I'll eat in my room."
"Fine I won't eat."
"Okay. I'll have enough of red pasta to savour," I replied while keeping the pasta in a bowl and covering it.
When I returned to the dining table, I saw both father-son duo sitting on the opposite ends of the table, the former engrossed in the newspaper and the latter plaing with a phone.
"No newspaper. No mobiles," I grabbed both of the things and set them aside.
Serving them both with the lunch, I sat down. After saying a quick prayer and dived in the pasta, which tasted heavenly. Zubin was fiddling with his pasta while glaring daggers at Father and Father was staring right back at him.
"How's the pasta, guys?" I said in an extremely cheerful tone.
"Good," Zubin replied the same time as Father, "Great." This didn't deter them from looking at each other.
"The Talent Competition is around the corner!" I chirped, hoping for a distraction.
"So what," Zubin answered while Father said, "Nice."
The situation got extremely awkward and out-of-hand, with masculine tension building inside the room. Both of them were the most egoistic, narcissistic people I ever had a chance to witness, and they need a good lesson to make them realise the value of family.
Zubin began screeching the fork on the plate, producing an annoying sound.
Before Father could react I offered, "Are you finished? I'll clean up," because I couldn't bare to watch anymore of this.
"Yeah," he got up and left the table, also leaving his plate.
"I'm done too. Thanks kiddo," Father hugged me.
I was left along yet again.
With my thoughts. Going Haywire.
A hurricane of thoughts brewed inside my mind as I cleaned up. If only life could be more simpler, much better. I was tired of being the responsible one, being the sane one. I couldn't leave my family alone, they would be a mess. A big mess.
Each dish I washed reminded me of Mother, who had bought them for wonderful family dinners. Yeah, as if. I played with the lather childishly and it lightened by mood. After cleaning the kitchen and tidying up, I dashed to my room.
I completed my homework and studied for a while. There were some tough Trignometry problems which consumed a lot of my energy. I was pretty much drained out and splashed across my bed, staring at the bright blue walls decorated with family pictures.
My heart stung and I closed my eyes, forcing myself to get distracted.
Mathematics, Alegbra, Talent Search, Science, Ayaan.
Curling up into a ball, I dished out my writing journal.
You would never have guessed what happened today. First day was boring, yet full of exciting possibilities. I met this firangi Ayaan, who thinks he's a Greek God. Okay, now he didn't tell me that but his personality makes me feel he thinks highly of himself. You know, men are narcissists, egoists and jerks?
I admit, I admit. Not all men are but some of them are just out of this world.
Moving on, Ayaan looks extremely nice. And that accent. Swoon worthy. He's from New York too. Indian girls and their obsession with desi (belonging to one's own country) white men. Prachi was practically drooling over him, using her charms to lure him in. Gosh, I sound like I'm describing a witch, she'll make an interesting character someday, along with Ayaan.
Oh, I'll give you his personality profile.
With a running commentary by yours truly. Snarky side comments are irresistible. How can I just not?
Name: Ayaan Woods
Birthplace: New York, USA
Physical Attributes: Tall enough, Fit as well, Has big crystal blue (Remind me of the ocean) eyes (Note to self - never stare at them directly or else melting hazard) and a scar on his lower lip. (Huge turn-off) Black hair, messy hairstyle. (Gives me the bad boy chills/vibes. Whatever.)
Personality: I don't know.. unpredictable? One minute he's like- I want to know you and the next he's like- Stay away from me. Typical Greek God type. Annoying. Don't know much about him, but definitely a 'highly intriguing creature'. Looks troubled and I have a feeling that I'll find out what he is worried about. (Detective Zinia on the investigation)
Other than that, the day was uneventful. And the classes were good, though no one had come prepared except me. The other students give me the stares when I answer something, and it creeps me out.
THE TALENT COMPETITON IS AROUND THE CORNER! Woohoo. I can't wait to start on with my awesome blossom project.
P.S. I got an idea for something. My writer self has become extremely curious.
P.P.S. Yeah, it is what you're thinking of. *insert winks* I will start working soon.
I closed the journal and hid it inside my locker. It felt good to vent out, this journal was my trustee. It had all my deep, dark secrets safely enclosed. I would die of embarrassment if anyone got hold of it.
People would be surprised to know that I had a quirky and emotional side as well, but I tried to block it from the world. One could say that I was living with a façade and I was happy doing so. It saved me the bother of actually interacting with people and having fun. I liked my own world, my dysfunctional family and my aims. It was a protected little bubble and it stopped anyone from ever crossing the lines.
I stretched myself, tired from all the strenuous activities. It was almost nine and I didn't want to make dinner. I filled out the forms and got them signed by Father.
We ordered Chinese and all of us ate in our rooms. After eating, I cleaned up the flat. A little hand there, a little hand here. It was a peculiar case, we neither were at home much nor did we have activities, but at night our flat was a sight to behold.
A jungle, as messed up as our relationships with each other.
I tiptoed towards Father's room to find him working and wished him a 'Good Night'. Zubin was the opposite, he was playing on the net; and I was positive that he was happy because he wouldn't go to school tomorrow.
After checking up on both of the kids, (see what I did there) I locked myself in my room and freshened up. Setting up tomorrow's time table and uniform, I lied on the bed.
With a short prayer, I closed my eyes and embraced the darkness.