I feel dizzy. My head begins to buzz and my eyes become blurry. I cannot focus on the bulletin board. My board exam’s result is displayed there. I have scored 15 in Economics and 21 in Geography. My life is over. Totally over. I walk away from the crowd and find an empty place to sit. A plan, I need a plan. Should I run away? Out of question, I don’t have any money or skill to earn my living. Should I kill myself? Out of question, I love myself a little too much for that. There is only one option left – face the music.
With a deep breath, I pull myself up on my feet. My eyes fall on Lavania, celebrating her booming success. She had scored 60 percent in total. Her future is bright. I think of my uncle and my father, and Dhruva. They all will team up to kill me. If only I have studied instead of writing my novel.
Before Lavania turns to look at me, I hurry towards the exit gate of my school. I need to go home and tell my family. The faster I do it, the better it is for me.
From a distance I see my home, a two story, red bricked, old fashioned house with white picket fence. I live in the basement of the house. It is not because of lack of available rooms. I simply love the feel of the basement. The wide, square shaped space gives me the freedom to create my stories. I have written my novel sitting in the basement, late at night. Now the thought of my book twists my stomach. I should have delayed the writing process and studied more. But it is too late for the wise thought. I have flunked and the news should come out in the open.
Inside, I find my uncle sitting with a polished looking man. They both smile as I walk in. My aunt comes with a bright expression. She places her hand on my shoulder and says in a cheerful voice. ‘You look tired sweety. Please have a seat. I will bring you orange juice.’ I almost choke at her sweetness. My eyes catches the sight of my mother, standing in a corner, almost hidden in the shadows. Ever since my father has lost his business, she has become like that. I heart aches as I remember the vibrant and fun loving woman who has told me to dream without restrain. That woman has faded and in her place stands someone I don’t know. But today, I catch something unusual in her eyes. I catch a glint of rare happiness and pride there.
‘This is Annya,’ says my uncle, indicating towards me. It seems like he presents a precious jewel to someone. ‘She is the talent of the family.’ I choke again. ‘I have mentored her since her childhood.’ The stranger nods with a smile. ‘I have done everything to support her in her writing journey.’
Now, wait a minute, I think. My writing journey! Support me! Who is he kidding? I almost ask this but my mother’s pleading expression stops me. So I say nothing and keep quiet.
Looking at my puzzled face, the strange speaks. ‘Annya, I am from RedBrick Publication House. We are featuring young writers. I have read your YA contemporary novel Funny Side Up. You are talented.’ He says with a smile. ‘I will like you to work with us.’ I swallow deep, not believing my ears. This cannot be true. Good things don’t happen to people like me. He is joking. Noting the blankness in my eyes, the man brings out a visiting card. ‘Here my card.’ I pick it up. My hand trembles a little as I bring it close to my eyes. Ritam Malhotra, CEO, RedBrick Publication. So, it is true. ‘We have a three book contract for you.’
‘I…’ I stammer. ‘I am writing a series.’
Ritam Malhotra brightens. ‘That’s great then.’ He extends a thick stake of paper. ‘You will be paid separately for each book. We pay 70 percent royalty.’ He pauses to look at my uncle. Then looks at me. ‘We also want to publish Funny Side Up.’
‘Funny Side Up Within?’ I ask. ‘Why?’
‘Have you checked the sale of your book lately?’ asks Ritam Malhotra.
Exam preparation has kept me so busy, I hardly have thought of Funny Side Up during the past two months. ‘No.’
Ritam Malhotra nods. ‘It has topped the bestselling chart two weeks ago. It is still there, selling like cheesy burger.’
The business card which I have been holding, slips from my fingers. I am a bestselling author. It seems so strange and bizarre that I shake my head without being aware of it.
‘Yes, you are,’ says Ritam Malhotra. ‘You are a bestselling author.’ Even though I am painfully aware of my mouth hanging open, I cannot help it. My head bobs up and down. ‘Savor the moment and get ready for the next book. I will send you a contract tomorrow. You are going to be one hell of a rich young lady.’ Saying this, Ritam gets up to his feet. ‘I believe you are eighteen plus.’
‘Yes, I am,’ I say, still numb from all the information.
‘Then you can handle your own finance,’ says Malhotra. ‘I read your blog. Each post carefully.’
‘What’s in her blog?’ asks my uncle, a little suspicious now.
Ritam Malhotra flashes him a crooked smile. ‘She writes passionately about her challenges of being a writer. I know you all are very supportive.’ He turns to look at me. ‘I will be in touch. I not only publish rising writers. I mentor them as well.’
I nod my head, still not speaking, still afraid that the moment will fade into non existence.
‘Keep writing,’ says Ritam Malhotra before walking out of the house.
I take a deep breath before turning around to face my uncle. ‘My board exam’s result…’
Before I can finish the sentence, my uncle waves his hand in dismissal. ‘That is not important. Tell me about your plans to write those books.’ The invitation delivers a strong blow in the lowest part of my stomach. ‘If you face any problem, come to me. I will help you write your books.’ He pauses. ‘Meanwhile, if you need anything, like books or a new laptop…’ I nod my head slowly, marveling at the shamelessness of human nature. ‘Let me know. I will do anything to support your writing career.’