The next morning Ria was ready by quarter to nine and went to the bakery. Adila was there helping her father. Ria debated if she should step into the bakery. She decided against it and sat in the ice cream parlor instead. Sanjay came at ten sharp.
“Shall we go?”, he asked.
“Yes I am ready. Would you like something to eat?”, she asked.
“No, I don’t want to waste time”, he said grinning.
She smiled and mounted on her cycle. Adila’s father saw that his daughter’s friends were going somewhere without Adila and he thought perhaps it was he holding his daughter back. ‘You can join them if you like”, he said. Adila pretended she didn’t hear him and set about dusting the doughnuts with sugar.
“Is everything alright?”, he asked. Adila didn’t answer again. He took a deep breath and went inside without another word. He thought perhaps they had some disagreement in school. Kids !
Ria and Sanjay rode on to the opening in the wall and got out. They went on the long road. Ria was ahead of Sanjay. He rang his bell loudly and rode past her in full speed. “Yipeeeeeeee” he screamed. Ria threw her head back and laughed.
They noticed that there were a few thatched huts here and there. Some women came out of the huts to see who was making the noise. A few naked children chased each other near their houses. But apart from that there was no one else on that road.
They dismounted from their cycles a little before they reached the grove. They walked towards it pushing their cycles with them. There was a barbed wire fence surrounding the grove. They parked their cycles near the fence and crossed over.
“Wow, this is a forest”, said Ria.
“No silly this is a grove”, said Sanjay.
Ria walked a few steps and then stopped. “What if we get lost?”, she said.
Sanjay thought the same. He rummaged in his pockets and found a piece of chalk. “We’ll mark the trees”, he said.
They walked on marking the trees. There were dried leaves fallen like a carpet. They rustled beneath their feet and crackled. The grove had an eerie look. They walked a little further and stopped in their cracks.
Before them was a clearing of sorts and in the clearing there was a pond. The water in the pond was crystal clear. “Wow”, whispered Ria.
They slowly walked towards the pond and looked into it. There were tadpoles swimming in it and a few insects floating in it too. Sanjay touched the water with his forefinger. “It’s cool”, he said.
They sat down on a slab of stone beside the pond and looked at it speechless for a few moments. “It’s magical isn’t it?”, she asked. Sanjay merely nodded not wanting to break the silence.
After a while they opened the picnic Ria’s mother had packed for them and had some sandwiches and juice. They continued sitting in silence for some time and stared at the view before them. There were just trees all around and this magical pond in the middle. It was like in a fairly land.
Sanjay picked up a seed and twirled it on the ground. “Top”, he said and grinned.
After a while they decided to leave for home. Neither of them wanted to but they knew they had to be home for lunch.
“We should do this often”, said Sanjay as they reached the ice cream shop. “Yeah I would love to”, said Ria.
Adila’s father called to them from the bakery. “I am closing for lunch. Do you kids need something?”, he asked. “No thank you uncle”, said Ria.
“What is it with you and Adila? You had a fight or something? You went away without even a hi this morning”, he said.
“No nothing at all. We didn’t see her”, said Ria
He shrugged his shoulder and began pulling down the shutters. “Adila is a good kid. And so are you. I know you kids might be fighting tooth and nail all the time in school, I used to do that with my friends as well, but never prolong a fight too much”, he said patting Ria on her head.
“Yeah try telling that to your daughter”, she thought in her mind.
“Ok Ria, bye”, said Sanjay.
“Hey are we doing something tomorrow?”, she asked.
“I don’t know. If you come up with something let me know”, he said and cycled away fast ringing his bell for no reason.
Ria went home and spent the rest of the day catching up on the week’s lessons along with her father.
The next morning Ria was feeling bored. She decided to call Sanjay home and play with him. She called his home number and her mother picked up the call. “Hello aunty, can I speak to Sanjay please? This is Ria here”, she said. “He is not at home”, said his mother and banged down the phone. Ria didn’t seem to mind. She was too young to feel bad about such things.
The next day in school Ria asked Sanjay where had he been the previous day. “I was at home the whole day.”, he said. “Strange, I called and your mother said you were out”, said Ria. “You called? I didn’t even know about it”, he said making up his mind to go and ask his mother. But by the end of the day he forgot all about it.
Ria tried calling him several times after that but his parents never gave the phone to Sanjay. Ria finally decided to stop calling him. If Sanjay wanted to play or wanted anything he would call her. She was amused by his parents behavior nevertheless.