The Enchanting Midnight

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When She Changed

CHAPTER 11

When She Changed

I tried not to think about it till the lunch break, but it seemed as if my mind had stopped thinking about everything else. I was curious but anxious as well. For some unknown reason, my heartbeats went faster than usual. I felt scared and hoped that it wasn’t a wrong decision.

In those anxious moments, I didn’t come to know when the three hours passed away through all the lectures and it was time for lunch break. I couldn’t stop myself from getting jitters and I knew it had nothing to do with the play.

I turned towards the canteen. Ratna was absent that day, so I was all alone; which made it even worse as I had nobody with whom I could share this anxiety. Slowly, I walked towards the canteen, as if I dragged my feet out of obligation for my words.

When I reached there, I saw him, for the first time surrounded by a group. A group of people who seemed much like him at the first glance. Though pointless, it made some of the anxiety melt away.

As I reached the table where they had occupied a place, he looked up to me.

“Oh you are here Miss Sengupta. Thank you”.

He turned to his group, “Friends, Miss Sengupta from first year will be the new female protagonist in the play. She has agreed to do it.”

And he introduced me to all of them, but I heard only his voice, I just heard the names and forgot them. I wasn’t listening actually. I was nervous, facing all of them and thinking what I might have to do in a week.

My silence was soon noticed by him, “Are you okay Mishti?”

That was the first time I had heard my first name from him. I looked up. Those soft black eyes were looking straight into mine.

“I need some time sir. I don’t think I’ll be able to do it”, I heard murmuring in the group.

He kept looking at me, then turned back and addressed them, “Just give me two minutes”.

He signaled me to go with him and took me to a corner far from that table.

“Is there any problem? Well, you can tell me. I’ll help you for sure”, he said softly but with a tone of assurance.

“I….actually..I can’t do it. I am scared. I don’t know why I said yes. I won’t be able to do it sir.”

“Oh of course you can do it. I wouldn’t have asked you otherwise. You need not be scared about it. Getting anxious is normal but not so much that it overpowers you. And I think you said yes because you know inside that it is not a big deal for you.”

He said that looking into my eyes without looking away for a second. I remained silent.

“And you know I am usually not wrong. If I am, you can make me do anything, even call me by my first name in the college, I won’t complaint”.

I couldn’t stop myself from smiling at that.

“I know it is not an easy task. But then everybody knows that and they will help you. I will be there too.”

The way he said those last few words assured me more than anything else he’d said. If he would be there, things won’t go wrong.

I smiled with assurance at last.

“Thank you sir. I’ll try my best. And I am sorry for this. I just got nervous”.

“It is okay. You are not a superwoman, though I think you could be a good one”, he laughed and I couldn’t stop myself from smiling again.

We joined others who had no idea of what had happened but they simply followed the track as it was more than a relief for them that they had got somebody for their play again.

I was explained about the scenario by a senior girl who had a habit of doing things in a haste. At times, it brought more trouble than help. Apart from her, there were a few guys and another girl, who seemed quiet and worked on the dialogues. I was one of the three girls there. Not to mention, I felt a little lonely over there.

The play was about a young girl, played by me, who visited a village for her work. She found that most of the women in the village were illiterate and had to stand up for their education against the dominating authorities in the village.

The dialogues were prepared and I simply had to memorize them and get into the character. At every point, where I felt stuck, I was readily helped by all of them and especially by him. I got to know that he was the one who had put forward the whole idea.

Not just that, I saw that whenever any of us felt drained out, he always made us feel energetic by his own different ways, without making anybody realize what he was trying to do. And once he got us back on the track, he disappeared into his work again.

As I used to get into my character, he would come in between teasing me if I had informed my faculty that I would be absent from some of the classes, and I would get worried, to which he would laugh and tell me that he had already done that, and I couldn’t stop from being surprised that he could be so mischievous.

Gradually, I noticed that he was actually admired by everyone, though they never acknowledged that for reasons I could not understand. Secretly, I had joined that list of admirers too.

By the end of that day, I was quite comfortable with everybody there and with the whole idea. As it was time for us to leave, I was stopped by his voice from behind.

“Miss Sengupta, you are doing a great job. You should have seen how relieved everybody was.”

“Thank you sir. You all helped a lot actually.”

“Great. By the way you can try being a superwoman too. At least I would be saved from being called only by my first name in the college then.”

He laughed and left. I smiled looking at him as his image grew smaller going farther. He was a genuine person I felt. That respect came natural for him, I knew why now.

Five days quickly went away, with our dialogue practices, rehearsals and editing. The play was going to be the centre of attraction for that evening. There was a team of experienced faculty members from Delhi University, who were going to be the Guests of Honour that evening.

I had already informed my parents about it, so that they made sure not to miss it. I felt excited unlike the day when I had agreed to participate.

At the scheduled time, the evening got going with the events. There were only a few minutes left for our play to begin. I was getting ready backstage, rehearsing my part, when he came running towards me.

“All set”, I said smiling at him.

“There’s a problem”, he said and my smile faded away. “The guy playing the lead role will not be able to reach here on time. We cannot postpone the play now.”

“Then what!!??” I said feeling tensed.

“Well, we have the solution, but there’s a small problem”.

“If we have the solution, we can solve the smaller problems. What’s that?”, I asked.

“Well, since I have written the script, everybody else thinks that I will be able to do it without getting it noticed that I was not the one to play that role, but…”

I knew what was coming,”…but we all know that you might feel a little uncomfortable with the changed scenario. So…”

“So, you want me to step back?”

“No!”, he shouted at me, “How can you think that? You’ve helped us till here and we have a long way to go. It is not just about the play. All I need you to do is rehearse that with the changed settings. We have enough time for that. Rehearse that keeping me in the scene. Let the jitters come. They are natural. Face them. I’ll help you”, he added, “ I mean everybody will help you”.

I looked at him. I didn’t want him to get disappointed. He had put in too much of his time and labour into it. That was not the only reason, but I didn’t want to spoil it all for him, just because of my fear for changes.

“Let’s begin then”, I said and saw his curios expressions change to that genuine smile, which came right from those soft black eyes.

We did. I hesitated initially, stammered on my lines, but he was there to help me out without laughing at me, without getting annoyed; and by the time it was time for us to go on stage, I was confident about doing it properly over there.

When I went on the stage, I noticed that there was a larger crowd than I had imagined. I ignored my jitters and saw my parents among the guests. I saw Ratna and many other familiar faces. I regained my confidence and began my part.

When he entered in the scene, the spotlight shifted to him. He seemed like a mesmerizing source of light in reality and I couldn’t stop from looking at him, which I had lacked in my rehearsal back stage.

It went quite natural with the scene and the dialogue delivery went on smoothly by both of us. The play went well, which was confirmed with the huge applauses that I heard as the curtains closed.

We smiled at each other backstage and joined our team. I was appreciated by everybody and I couldn’t stop thanking them too. We had done well and it called for a celebration. We cheered each other and were interrupted by him. I saw him bringing a box of pastries and another of cold drinks towards us.

It was quite a delightful moment to celebrate with the existing spirit of what we had just done.

“When did you get time to do all this? You had so many other things to do!” I asked in disbelief.

“I got some help from the canteen”, he winked at me.

“I think you can better be a superman”, I smiled at him as we got our share.

Towards the end of the evening, we were all tired. As we joined the team backstage, I got to know that everybody was waiting for something.

“What now?”, I asked him.

“Time for the award for the best performer for the evening”, he told me.

“Really! Oh that’s great. I would be eager to know who it can be other than you”.

“I know. But you should see that too”, he kept looking at me.

It was the vote of thanks going on as I could make out. After ten more minutes of the elaborated speech by our principal, it was time at last for the awaited moment.

I was expecting his name, but I got surprised when I heard, “The performer of the evening is”, following the pause came words which I thought I had heard wrong at first, “Miss Mishti Sengupta, First year”.

I looked at him with my mouth open wide. “Impossible!” was all I could say.

He laughed, “Go miss Sengupta, you heard it right and I knew that”.

I looked at him,”I can’t believe it!”

“Go Mishti, we can talk later. I won’t disappear like a superman”, he winked at me.

It was the second time he’d called me by my first name. I looked at him again, but went to the stage, unable to utter a word.

I was welcomed with applauses and cheers. I saw my father showing me a thumbs up sign and my mother smiling with pride. I saw Ratna waving towards me. I felt on top of the world and couldn’t say more than a ‘thank you’.

Backstage, I was welcomed by my team with cheers as loud as I’d heard while on stage. We were all happy because we had done it so well within that much time. I was looking for him all around, but he was nowhere in sight.

“Ma’am”, I asked one of our team members, “Where is Aryan sir?”

She smiled at me. A smile that made me blush. She pointed to another corner. He was there, watching me continuously from the time I had come back from the stage.

I went to him, “You disappeared like a superman you know..sir”, I handed him the gift I’d got and said, “Thank you sir, all because of you”, I couldn’t say more.

“Oh no, it was all because of your efforts. I don’t think anybody else could have done it better. Which means you can try being a superwoman Mishti”, he laughed mischievously and I joined him, not failing to notice that it was the third time he had called me that, “which also means”, he paused, stopped laughing and looked into my eyes without blinking them even for a second. Holding the gaze upon me he continued, “that you cannot call me by my first name in college”, it was supposed to be a joke when he had said that first, but the way he said looking seriously into my eyes, made me shiver somewhere, not with fear, but with butterflies inside, with my heart beating faster than ever.

I quickly glanced away from him and turned away. I walked away from him, towards the entrance to the auditorium, towards my parents, towards Ratna. I felt his eyes were following me, that he was watching me. I wanted to disappear. I did not want him to notice anything. I did not want him to know that I had that nervousness for him.

I was lost in running away from the place we had just been, when I collided with Ratna.

“Oh wow Mishti, you were wonderful! I didn’t know you were so talented”, she hugged me, “oh and by the way, your parents are waiting for you outside”.

I did not listen any further. I walked towards the exit and met my mother, “You looked so pretty dear”.

“And you were a champion”, my father added.

I smiled looking at their proud faces. I was congratulated by many more random people I didn’t know, but I wasn’t thinking about it. My heart still beat fast and I knew the reason. I did not want this to happen. I was scared of all this. It hurt a lot. I did not want any such thing to come up. That meant, there was only one way, I could let it get buried inside so that he didn’t come to know. It was something I had to do.

“By the way, who was the one who encouraged you for this? At least introduce us to your team, champion”, my father said. I did not want to do that, but I didn’t know what to say.

I took him and my mother backstage reluctantly. Everybody was still there. They were all happy. I introduced them to my father. When I looked around, I saw him, standing at the same place, looking at me. I walked towards him, and introduced him, “He is Aryan sir, Dad, the one who was behind it. He has done everything for this”, I said without looking at him. I could sense he was still looking at me.

“Wonderful. I’ve heard a lot about you. The one whom she had considered to be a junior”, my father laughed, “And aren’t you the same gentleman who had tried to explain about a campaign in the ice cream parlour?”

“Oh yes uncle”, he replied, looking lost.

“Great work. Keep it up”.

“Thank you uncle”, he was still lost.

“I think it is time for us to leave now. What say? Shall we move out Mishti?”, my father asked me.

I nodded in agreement trying to avoid looking at him or at Aryan.

“Good night everyone”, I said looking at them and glanced at him for a second.

He still seemed lost, looking at me and said, “Good night…Mishti”, stressing on my name after a pause.

I felt those words with an unavoidable warmth in my ears, which flowed to my heart. I couldn’t escape the feeling of that lump in my throat as I walked with my parents outside. I had a fear of falling for him. I had a fear of seeing things go wrong. I did not want to get so close to anybody. I did not want him to know that I couldn’t help but think about him when I did not know.

I stayed silent on our way back home. As the night breeze touched my face, I realized that I was being controlled by my unknown thoughts. I did not want to let my expressions speak for what I felt. I entered the gate and saw Timothy waiting for us. It ran towards me. I tried to come out of my existing state for sometime. I played with Timothy, trying to narrate things I wanted to, or didn’t want to, and by the time I was ready to fall asleep, I felt a little better.

Yet, when I tried to, I couldn’t forget that face, those soft black eyes, gazing at me, and those words which seemed more like music to me. As I watched the sky out of my window, I knew something had changed in the past few days. I was no longer the Mishti Sengupta whom people had known.

I was suddenly an ordinary girl with fears, with anxiousness, with a heart, and with something at the back for somebody. I was suddenly a girl, whose heart beats went faster when I saw him around me. I had not realized it till now but I was a girl who was falling for somebody. I feared love. I did not want to be into it. I had to forget it all. I had to forget him. I had to stop from making it visible to him.

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