Saturday, August 13, 2016

Confession - 3rd Best Short Story of The Year 2016

I muttered a curse under my breath.

“What?” she said, craning her neck up. When you are six feet tall your best friend just looks like a dwarf  beside you.  Glad that people don’t take height as a factor of consideration while befriending.

“Nothing,” I said, uncomfortably. 

She smiled. “You are a terrible lair. You don’t like crowd.”

She was correct. Being a claustrophobic, and surrounded by around five thousand students, the feeling of suffocation had started blooming inside me. Somehow, Yashika could discern my situation. She clutched onto my hand. “Focus on me,” she said. “The more you’ll look around, the more you’ll be uncomfortable.”

I did what she said. I looked at her, and miraculously my chest felt lighter, my heartbeats pacing to normal. And then I noticed something dazzling about her. Her eyes, her smile, her face, everything seemed so suddenly mesmerizing. Her lips made a movement, but I failed to catch the phrase they produced.

She snapped her fingers in front of my eyes, and I was dragged back to reality. “Lost somewhere?” she teased.

I was aware my cheeks were red with embarrassment, however, I blurted with same mischievous tone of hers. “Isn’t she looking gorgeous?”

“Who?” She spun, her free silky hair brushing my neck, filling the air with sweet fragrance. I wanted to comment on her usage of ayurvedic shampoo, but something told me to remain silent. I just didn’t wish to ruin her mood for the concert night. As a matter of fact, she had been decorating herself to look the most stunning girl in the crowd so that she could attract the attention of the young singing sensation. It was her logic. I mentally did a quick calculation. Considering the sea of audience and the distance we were standing from the main stage, the probability of her being noticed was discouragingly nil.

“I am still not getting her,” she said, scanning the crowd. “That girl in green dress, right?”


“Then who?”

I took out my phone and adjusted its screen towards us. Realizing that I was about click a selfie, she attuned herself and pouted. “O come on, don’t do that!”


“Why can’t you smile? That pout looks like...” A scowl began to appear on her face, and I realized I should choose my next words carefully. “…that doesn’t suit you.”

She raised her left eyebrow, folding her arms. “Mister, pout is the latest evolution of the smile. Get used to it.”

“That’s a ridiculous theory! You just look like a duck!” I should not have said that, and soon I regretted for my words. 

Without any warning she slammed her one foot on mine. Lesson learned at that moment; never offend a girl who wears high heeled sandals. The pain was excruciating. I grimaced and then I noticed a flash of white light.

With a devilish grin Yashika showed me the latest selfie she had clicked. How she managed to take it is still a mystery to me. The picture showed her pouting, and behind her was me, my eyes shut, lips grimacing. “Now you too are pouting.”

I knew what she was up to. “Don’t upload that!”

“Let me think,” she said dreamily, typing on the screen. “#bestfriend #boystoopout…” She continued to type ten more hashtags and then she looked at me. I read the last hashtag and my heart missed a beat. It was the official hashtag of our university. If the picture was uploaded, almost everyone in the university would laugh at my orchestrated pout.

“I’ll remove it,” she said with an authority. “First, tell me who was the girl you were talking about?”

I pointed at her phone’s screen. “The girl in pink.”

She looked at her own picture and her cheeks turned to the color of her dress. For million times I had seen her smiling, chuckling at my jokes, but her blush, it was the first time I had witnessed. 

Suddenly the people around us started moving forward, pushing us with them. The wait was finally over. The superstar of the musical night had arrived. The stage was flooded with bright lights and artificial fog, and then he sang, his mesmerizing voice laced with melodious music playing in background. 

People around me, especially girls, shouted. Whoever this star was, I rarely listen to romantic songs, he surely had a strong female fandom. Now I comprehended Yashika’s excitement. Her hands shot up in front of me, trying to take a picture of the star singer. She jumped a couple of times to take a good shot, but the wall of the people ahead of her was bit taller. I just snatched her phone, adjusted its zoom, and clicked the moment.

“Thanks,” she said, smiling madly.

“Not a big deal.”

At first, I thought that romantic songs would surely make night boring, but then the singer’s voice and the songs selection proved me wrong. People around me started grooving, singing along with the star. Time slipped, and with every passing second, Yashika seemed to be enjoying the most, cheering me to join her. And I was there, just behind her, making sure no other boys dared to near her. 

And then the singer chanted his magical spell, his most popular song that earned him his fame. With soothing music, he began to sing. The effect was immediate. The throng was slowly breaking into couples, each of them immersed in each other, their bodies swaying with tune. They were spellbound.

My gaze fell on Yashika. She was staring at with admiration. She inched towards me and placed her head on my chest, her hands clutching onto my shoulders. My heart started beating faster than it had ever been. I squeezed my eyes shut, unable to understand my own emotions. They were all jumbled as if a storm had churned inside me. For few moments, I was scared to move, and then I heard her saying, “Don’t leave me. I wanted to stay with you, forever.”

Gently I pushed her away, her eyes relentlessly seeking confirmation in my eyes. 

“Don’t you feel the same?”

My rational mind soon dominated over my uncertain emotions, and I settled on a decision. I grabbed her hand and made my way, cutting through captivated crowd, to the nearby university block, away from the concert. I released her hand. Without facing her, I stared at our hazy reflections, bleached by the moonlight, in the glazed glasses that ran along the side of the red-bricked building. 

“I never had such feelings for you,” I said. 

There was a brief silence and we both watched each other’s reflection for any reaction. She looked determined, I was lacking faith.

“What I said I really meant it,” she revealed. “I have been having these feelings from long time but could not say it to you. Though silly but your jokes made me laugh. Your replies were prompt. You erased the very existence of loneliness from my life. Even my parents failed to appreciate my talent, but you always supported me. You skipped your classes to cheer me up in contests. With you, I started to smile at my life. You are my happiness. That’s what my heart says about you. I can’t force you, but I need an answer right now.”

I blinked. My eyelids felt the building dampness. Piece by piece I was breaking inside. Should I say how I really felt for her? My reflection glared at me, warning me, “No, you fool. You aren’t here to find love. Remember why you are here. The future of your family depends on your academic performance. Do not fail their expectations.”

Confused, I shook my head, releasing a frustrated mumble. 

I felt Yashika’s hand over my shoulder. “Don’t stress yourself,” she sounded worried. “Just tell me the truth and I promise I won’t pester you more.”

“Yashika,” I said broken. “I respect you. And you are really a fantastic person. But…” I took a moment to muster the courage. “…I never felt that way. I…”

“It’s okay,” she said, trying to smile. Her moist eyes betrayed her act of confidence. “I understand.”

We didn’t speak for a while, our silences shared our intentions. Her was pure and pristine, mine was real laced with lies. 

“Can you usher me to my hostel?”

I nodded. We walked silently, my eyes were downcast, and I was aware she was watching me. With each step a strange heaviness began to grow within me. I was struggling to keep myself composed. Fortunately, her hostel arrived, and she bid me a goodnight.

I dropped down at my hostel’s steps, crest fallen.

“What happened?” asked the old watchman.

I don’t know why but I shared everything to him. My feelings, my reasons. I told him I was a coward.

He smiled. “When you start suppressing your emotions, realizing the reality, it’s not cowardice, boy. It is a sign of maturity.”

I looked at him and wondered how much he had sacrificed.

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