I'd posted the first two parts in the Novel section of the website, but didn't get a lot of response. So from now on I'll be posting the remaining parts in the Shorts Section. Please read the first two parts from the Novel section of the website. Thanks for your patience. And review meeeee!
I can’t get rid of the disappointment. I really wish I could kick my butt now, but I’m helpless. It’s just not leaving my mind.
Nidhi didn’t come to school today.
I’d been searching for her since the moment I got into the classroom. Nidhi usually has a little chatter with Tamanna and some other girls before the classes begin. But I didn’t find her in the benches today. First I thought she was late, and then, when I still didn’t see her coming after waiting for more than ten minutes, I started looking for her outside the class. I left almost no corners unsearched—other classrooms, the playground, the canteen, the washrooms and what not—and yet, she was nowhere in sight.
I was too shy to ask any girl her whereabouts. And afraid too that they might guess something out from my questioning. So I had to wait for the first period and the ‘attendance call’.
And when Mr. Karim had called her name in the first period, Tamanna stood up and said, “She’s absent, sir. She has a fever.”
That was when the disappointment sprang to life.
Strangely enough, I feel like I’m mad at Nidhi. I wouldn’t be suffering now if it weren’t for her, if only she’d come to school today. It’s as if she should’ve come at least for me.
“Tawsif, give away these,” says Mrs. Sriti. She has a pile of exercise-books in front of her on the table. We’d submitted homework last week and she’s returning them today. I’m one of the regular first-benchers, so she picked me.
I get up and take the pile in my hands. They teeter first, but I manage to keep balance and begin giving them away one by one to the names written over them.
Fariha Afrin Nidhi.
My eyes get stuck on Nidhi’s exercise book. It feels very special in my hands, like a precious gem.
I take it in my left hand and keep giving away the exercise books with the other hand. When I’m finished, I walk to Mrs. Sriti and say, “Ma’am, one of the girls is absent today. It’s Nidhi.”
Mrs. Sriti looks up at me and bites her lip. She looks anxious, of course; Nidhi’s a favorite student to all the teachers.
“She’s sick, ma’am.”
“Hmm.” She casts an eye on the exercise book in my hand. “What do you think we should do with it then?”
I’ve already given it a thought and found a solution. And I hesitate to say it. But after a moment of silence, I let it out. “Ma’am, maybe I should take it with me. I’ll return it to her tomorrow.”
As soon as I say it, I see in my mind’s eyes Mrs. Sriti raising an eyebrow and simply waving the proposal away. But in reality, she smiles at me, and then says, “Okay. But don’t forget to bring it with you tomorrow.”
I smile back at her and return to my seat. I wonder if she realized something from me asking to take Nidhi’s exercise book with me, because there was something in her smile. Something playful, like the expression of a mother who found out her son’s cheeky doings by chance.
Anyway, there’s nothing to worry about, I tell myself while slipping the exercise book in my shoulder-bag. After all, I got what I wanted.
My hands are extremely slow and feeble when I open the exercise book.
I’ve had dinner just now. Mom and dad are preparing their bed, my sister’s already asleep, and I’m in my room, alone and safe.
I wanted to at least have a look at the pages of the exercise book the moment I got back from school. But I was too nervous. I had a feeling that it wasn’t right; I’d brought it in my house without even asking her permission. It was as if I’d stolen it, and now my conscience pricked me because of it.
I feared another thing: that my parents or my sister—especially my sister—would find me with it and begin firing questions: ‘Whose handwriting is this?’, ‘Is that a girl’s name on the cover page?’ ‘Why did you bring a girl’s book?’ and so on. And more importantly, they could’ve started having doubts in their mind.
To be honest, I had some doubts too. Why did I actually bring this? Nidhi’s obviously not my friend! Plus, she’s a girl. What does that suggest? Deep inside, I had answers to all these questions. But I didn’t even dare bring them up in my mind lest the truth came out.
As I open it into the first page, a homework that dates a week back appears: the title, Description of a Typical Plant Cell, above the margin; Nidhi’s full name, name of the teacher, and the date on the top right; figure of A Typical Plant Cell covering the top portion of the page; small description of each of the organelles below the figure.
The figure looks….. fantastic. The coils of mitochondrion, the tubules of Golgi body, the chloroplast, the endoplasmic reticulum, the vacuole—everything is in perfect shape, as if it was a printed version of the textbook-figure. I feel a twinge of envy; I’ve always been weak in biology for my poor drawing.
Her handwriting is quite good. Not better than Apon, who writes as beautifully as a typewriter, but it’s still good, pleasing to the eye. Something dad has told me more than a hundred times rings in my ears: Good Handwriting is an asset. It will take you one step ahead of others throughout your life.
My eyes alighted on Nidhi’s full name, Fariha Afrin Nidhi. I stare at it for a long time, so long that tears begin to scald my eyes. Yet I don’t blink, fearing the letters will vanish if I take my eyes off for one split second. I peer at each and every nuance of the writing, trying to engrave them in my memory.
I run my hands over the page. The writings which are sticking out ever so slightly cause a pleasantly rough feeling in my palm. You’re touching Nidhi’s writing, a voice inside my mind reminds me, and the reminiscence gives me goosebumps.
Suddenly I bang the book shut and step away from it. The whole thing seems completely criminal to me, this watching and touching someone else’s belonging. Nidhi would definitely not want me to do this.
I lie on my bed, and soon turn right to look at the exercise book which is on my reading table just a couple of meters away from me. An urge inside tells me to go look at it more, at least flip through all the pages quickly. But I refuse to listen to it. I don’t have the right to do this.
The navy-blue cover of the exercise book is the last thing I remember before drifting off.