Then next morning Ria woke up at six and was pacing up and down restlessly in her room. She didn’t know what time Sanjay would come. She had her bath and was too restless even to have her breakfast. She sat playing with her pens on her desk. She jumped at every footstep outside and every cycle bell. Every time someone came to the doorstep she’d run to it.
“What’s gotten into this girl today?”, her mother asked. Ria decided to play it down so that no one gets suspicious. She went back into her room and sat at her desk looking out of the window. Why was her room facing away from the road?
At half past nine the doorbell rang. Ria was too tempted to run to the door but she knew it was best to just sit put. A minute later someone knocked on her room door. Her heart beat real fast and she thought her knees would give away. She opened the door and to her dismay it was Adila.
“Oh its you”, said Ria.
“What is that supposed to mean?”, asked Adila flopping on Ria’s bed.
“Oh nothing Sanjay said he’d come over to study along with me. Dad’s teaching us trig today.”
“Awesome, I’ll stay back. I never understand those stupid cos functions”
Ria wanted to hit Adila. But she just smiled and said, “why not?”
Sanjay came at ten. Ria couldn’t stop smiling when he stealthily winked at her.
“Dad you got one more student”, said Ria.
“The more the merrier”, he said.
They all sat Ria’s room. Her father had put up a white board in her room. They sat on her bed. Her mother brought in some snacks. Ria sat in between Adila and Sanjay. But she kept stealing glances at him when her father was not looking.
They took a fifteen minute break after an hour and half. Ria was unusually silent. Adila kept talking of this and that and Sanjay was pretending to be listening to her but his eyes were on Ria all the time. Ria kept dawdling in her book.
Adila went to the restroom and Sanjay chose this moment to give Ria a quick kiss on her cheek. Ria felt her body tingle all over again. “Do you think we should tell her?”, she whispered.
“It’s your wish baby. Whatever you say”. Ria’s parents often called her baby but this was different when it came out of Sanjay. Well he had called her baby before too, but again this felt very different.
Ria wondered how could Sanjay remain so cool while she felt like she would burst any minute. Every time she saw him she grew weak in her knees. And he kept winking at her or blowing kisses when no one was looking. It was making it very difficult for her to keep up with her lesson.
Her mother called them for lunch at half past one. “I think this is enough for today. We’ve covered all the basics. If any of you have any doubts don’t hesitate to call me any time of the day, hear Adila and Sanjay?”, her father said wiping the ink marks off his hands.
Sanjay sat across Ria and she tried her best to avoid him. After lunch Adila turned to leave.
“Aren’t you going?”, she asked Sanjay.
“Yeah in a minute”, he said sitting on Ria’s bed with a sly grin across his face.
“Alright you two what’s going on?”, said Adila closing the door behind her.
“What do you mean?”, asked Ria.
“You think I didn’t notice the two of you?”, said Adila
Ria smiled at Sanjay.
“Yeah I like her, you have a problem with that?”, he asked coyly.
Adila looked at the two of them with a grin and hugged them tight. “You stupid. Since when?”
“Yesterday”, said Ria.
“Well I’ve liked her from the past one year but mustered up the guts to tell her just yesterday”, he said.
“Oh you guys…!” said Adila hugging the two of them again. “I am so so happy for you”, she said. “Ok in that case I’ll leave you to yourselves and I’ll make a move”, she walked out of the room giggling.
Sanjay peeked out of the door for a second to see if anyone was around and gave Ria a quick peck on her cheek and left. Ria got goose bumps all over her again. She blushed and smiled and flopped on the bed unable to stop smiling. He popped his head into her room again. She sat up surprised. “See you at the grove in the evening”, he whispered and ran out.
Ria couldn’t wait for evening. She pretended to be studying all afternoon and in the evening she stepped out telling her father she needed some fresh air.
She cycled as fast as she could towards the grove. She reached the long road and peddled harder. She heard another cycle behind her. The cyclist rang his bell. She turned back and it was Sanjay as she had expected. He raced ahead of her and reached the grove first. He went inside without waiting for her. She parked her cycle next to his and walked in to the grove. She couldn’t see him, then all of a sudden he hugged her from behind. “Sanjay, someone might see us”, she said trying to pull away. “Yeah right, all these years I haven’t seen a crow in here, let alone people”, he said. He turned her so she faced him. She was too nervous to hug him back.
“Hug me”, he said.
She gingerly put her arms around his shoulders. He looked deep into her eyes. She blushed and smiled and looked away. He kissed her ear and softly said “I love you.”
She looked at him and smiled. “I love you too”, she said. He hugged her and took a long breath. “You have no idea how I’ve yearned for this moment”, he said. She couldn’t stop smiling.
“Come”, he said leading her to the pond. He sat on the stone block and sat her between his legs and hugged her from behind while placing his chin on her head. It seemed very weird to her. But she didn’t try to pull away either.
“Ria”, he said.
“Umm.. err.. why don’t you say something?”
He laughed. “Well, all I can think of at this moment is how much I love you.”
“How much do you love me?”
“I’d die for you.”
“And then what?”
“What do you think will I do if you die?”
“Hmm that is a thought! Ok, if I die, I’ll come back for you.”
“You mean, like a ghost or something?”
“Yeah probably. And I’ll take you with me.”
“You mean you’ll kill me?”
“Are you having fun by taking romance out of everything I say?”
Ria laughed. “I am sorry. So you’ll come back for me and take me with you?”
“Yes, I can’t live without you.”
“But you’ll be dead anyways.”
“I can’t live without you in the afterlife you idiot.”
“How do you know?”
He pushed her away playfully. “Go to hell woman, I try to sweet talk here and you take all the fun out.”
Ria laughed. “I have no prior experience in such things my dear boyfriend.”
“Oh how could I forget, I’ve been with several other girls and I have an upper hand at this right?”
“Ok, don’t get pissed off now. I am sorry”, she said going close to him. He pushed her away. She bent over and kissed him on his cheek.
“Ok, now we’re getting somewhere”, he said putting his arm around her.
She laughed. “So, back to where we were, you’ll come back for me since you can’t live without me in your afterlife.”
“That is so sweet.”
“Aah now you are just saying that.”
“No no I mean it.”
“Come here” , he pulled her close and kissed her on her lips. She shuddered.
“Don’t be afraid”, he said and kissed her again. She gave in.
He slid his hands across her waist and kissed her deep. She lost herself in the kiss for a brief moment and then pulled away.
“What’s the matter?”, he asked.
“Well, daddy will be looking for me. You know how he is with the exams round the corner and stuff.”
“Yeah I got to go too.”
They got up and he kissed her again quickly and they rode back in silence.
“Bye”, he said softly at the turning to her house. She smiled at him and went inside.
At around half past eight after dinner, she had an urge to talk to him. She dialed his number and his father picked up the call. “Hello?”, he said in a grumpy voice as always.
“Hello uncle, this is Ria here, can I talk to Sanjay please?”
“What do you want?”, he asked rudely
“I.. err.. wanted to remind him to get something to class tomorrow”, she said
“He is not at home”, he said and hung up.
Ria’s father came up behind her. “All well?”, he asked.
“Well some people have no manners or common sense”, she said.
“What’s the matter?”, he asked.
“Whenever I call Sanjay his parents never let me talk to him. What is the matter with them?”, she said very irritated.
“Maybe they are not comfortable with a girl calling their son at this hour”, he said.
“Not just this hour dad, whenever I call it’s the same story.”
“What do you need to call him for?”, he asked.
“I had to remind him to get my..err.. notes to class tomorrow, he had borrowed them from me this afternoon”, she said.
“If he doesn’t get it to class ask him to get it home in the evening. Maybe you two could study together or something, get that Adila girl also to come over. Group study increases the motivation to do well in the exams.”
“Yeah ok dad.”
“Get some sleep now. I’ll wake you up early”, he said.
“No dad, I’ll stay up at night and study, I can’t get up early”, she said.
“Ok, suit yourself. I’m reading in my room, let me know if there is anything you need”, he said kissing her forehead. Her mother came in and left a glass of water and kissed her too. “Don’t stay up too late baby. You can’t concentrate in class tomorrow”, she said.
“Yeah mamma, goodnight.”
Just as her parents walked out of the room the phone rang. “Ria it’s for you”, her father called out.
She ran and picked up the phone. “Hey beautiful”, it was Sanjay. “Oh hey.”
“You had called?”
She giggled. “Your father’s not around?”, she asked him.
“Well, he and mom went out to the chemist for something. Thought I’d steal a quick goodnight kiss from you”, he said.
“Yeah right. Ok listen, get my copy tomorrow alright.” she said.
“What copy? Oh I get it, your dad around?”
He chuckled. “Alright, I hear my parents coming. Goodnight I love you.”
She put the phone down with butterflies in her stomach. She stayed up for a while and studied and then went to bed feeling very queasy.