Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Chapter 4: Pit of Loneliness
25th August, 2014 - Monday
"You harassed Riya," Kam said quite bluntly. Her words felt like a thunderclap. "And not just Riya. I've been told about Shreya and Harpreet as well."
"Harassed? As in... sexually harassed?" I inadvertently lowered my voice towards the end. Something about the words felt unpronounceable at that age. I looked around towards the door ajar, trying to ensure no one heard.
"And you believe that I am capable of it?"
"Listen, I wouldn't have believed it if anyone else would have said it, but Riya said it to me, herself. She has been my best friend since first grade." I felt my heart sink for a moment. She really does believe it, doesn't she? Everyone else believes it too!
But then it hit me, almost like realizing the discrepancies of a dream right after waking up... Shreya and Harpreet??? Harpreet, a girl two years junior, was only ever known to us for being Dhruv's crush. We all spoke about how she probably liked him back too, but it wasn't a confirmed fact. And, I hadn't even been close to her... like, ever! What the fuck is happening right now?!
"But Shreya???" I asked confused. "Really? You know how I feel about her, right? How could I ever try something like that with her? And for God's sake, Harpreet is a kid! Moreover, I hardly ever speak to her!"
"I'm just telling you what everyone's talking about. I only believed all this after Riya told me her version of it," Kam replied.
"Fine, then at least tell me that. What did I do?" I was beginning to get frustrated.
"You ask her. You do have her number."
"You know what? I don't care about her right now. And I am beginning to not care about the so-called friends who just shunned me overnight. So, here's the deal: You tell me what Riya's been spreading about me, or we are done right now!" I'm not sure how, but the frustration got to me. In that moment, I had gotten over feeling broken and beaten. I felt anger, and hatred, and the absolute urge for revenge!
"We are done," Kam's voice crackled over the cellphone. I hung up without a word. I punched the wall in a fit of temper. It hurt. The knuckles burnt. But it meant nothing in comparison to the rage burning in me.
26th August, 2014 - Tuesday
"I called Kam yesterday," I broke the silence.
We were in the car, hardly another kilometer to reach school. Shaon and Sahoo had been maintaining an uncomfortable silence. Though I didn't mind the silence in the current state of my mind, I realized I needed the help of my only two existing friends to keep me from being stupid. I knew very well how devastating my temper could be, and they were the only people who I trusted to keep a tab on it. Everyone else, I had to assume, would take full advantage of my rage, in order to frame me in a worse debacle.
"And?" Shaon sat up straight.
"And she told me the same thing you told me. Riya has been spreading stuff about me. And since, they are childhood friends, she believes her."
"Thought as much! Anyway, try to keep your calm, everything will get sorted in time. I have my eyes on everything. We'll sort this together," Shaon took an effort to be sweet.
"Oh, and by the way," he spoke again, "yesterday, when you were laying your head down because of your headache, Dhruv thought you were crying and was gladly spreading the word. I have a feeling Dhruv is getting off on some personal vendetta. In any case, his face was worth seeing when you woke up and he realized you were taking a nap and not crying!"
My lips curved into a smile, the first genuine one in twenty-four hours. Boy, I do hate him that much!
Half-an-hour later, I was seated in the classroom focusing on my class notes, purely due to lack of any other activities, when Mistoo came and sat next to me. I know she acted nicely to me the previous day, but I genuinely didn't want to talk to anyone, especially not a girl! I know, not all girls, okay? But it is my choice who I trust and who I don't, and I do not trust any girl, right now! And honestly, how could I trust anyone? I still didn't know shit about the accusations relating to Shreya and Harpreet.
"Are you okay?" Mistoo reached out to hold my hand. For a moment, I wanted to move my hand away. Then again, she was trying to be sweet and caring, and I had no point to make by being rude to her. But I guess, my hand twitched a little or something, 'cause I noticed her hand stop fairly close to my hand. She held my arm instead.
"If it makes you feel any better, there is at least one of us who doesn't believe a single word they are spreading," she said. "I always knew I could trust you, and you know that."
She had a point. She did defend me when her boyfriend, Partha held me by the collar and pushed me against the wall for having a "perverted sight", whatever that means.
"And how do you know I'm not what they say I am?" I had to ask.
"Because I have been here just as long as you have, and it hasn't been any better for me. That day Partha had to let you go 'cause I stood up for you, right? But that didn't put them away. It just shifted blames. From you being perverted, it came down to me being slutty! The moment I said it wasn't you peeking, they just assumed it was me showing, you know? So, I know these guys very well now! Dhruv, Ojha, Rohan, the entire cool guys gang is the same. I know Partha is my boyfriend, but even he isn't any better. And he won't be, until I can figure out a way to pull him out of their company."
"Yeah?" I let out a smile. "Good luck with that!" Teenage love! "Try your best, but be ready for disappointment. Guy gangs are not that easily broken. At least, in that effort if you slip out of that toxic relationship of yours, you'll finally have a good life!" She smiled.
"I'm sorry, Ani" she blurted, her grip tightening on my arm. "I think they are spreading these things about you because of me. But I'm with you, I swear. I trust you!"
"Thanks," I placed my other hand on her hand holding my arm. "About the stuff Riya is spreading though, it's not entirely made up. But it was unintentional, you know. I wish she would just talk it out with me, instead of just assuming stuff."
"Then, maybe you should talk to her," she suggested.
"No!" I was adamant. "I would have apologized if she would talk to me. Talking to friends is one thing, and spreading it all over the school is another. I won't talk to that bitch, at all!" I could feel blood pump through my carotids. I was boiling up inside all over again. I stared hard in anger towards Riya's black and yellow bag at the farthest corner from mine. "Not after what she has done!"
"That's fine as well," Mistoo got up. The bell for assembly had rung some time ago. "Just don't let yourself fall into that pit of loneliness; it's exactly what they want."
After the first period, Dhillon Sir called Riya outside the classroom. They stood far from the door and spoke in whispers. Within half-a minute, I watched as Murthy Ma'am also walked up to them and joined the conversation. She gave Riya a hug, and the three of them walked away.
I suddenly felt a different kind of fear. Will there be a disciplinary committee against me? How am I supposed to prove I am innocent? Was Mistoo supposed to collect my testimony, and did I give it to her? And then it occurred to me... Her Dad was with us the whole time. She didn't complain then. I know, 'cause on our way back her Dad left the two of us to talk and have fun, while he went and stood near the door. He wouldn't do that if he had even a pinch of mistrust. Also, she was being pretty comfortable with me in the moment too! We were laughing, joking and having fun on our way back. Then why would she spread all this? I got confused all over again.
Five minutes later, Riya walked inside the class. Kam ran up to her, and they whispered amongst themselves as they walked towards Riya's desk . Dhruv got up and followed them from his desk to hers. Arpita, Fatima, Rohan, Ojha, Partha and Shreya reached her desk too.
They had a very whispered head-butted meeting, maintaining a scary amount of secrecy, except when Dhruv finally exclaimed, "I think you did the right thing!", and Kam countered with a firm voice, "No, she didn't!"
Based on real events.
Original series idea: Aninda K. Nanda
Written by: Aninda K. Nanda
Proofreading and Suggestions:
Sayan Mandal, Shaona Kundu, Sneha Banerjee and Tales, Fables and Fantasies Team
Promotional Art and Illustration by: