The Enchanting Midnight

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The Acceptance of Her Fears

CHAPTER 12

The Acceptance of Her Fears

I had decided to stay away from him, or at least behave formally with him if he crossed my way. It wasn’t going to be easy for me, but I had to do it because I didn’t want to get into anything, of which I felt scared.

I was surely not going to fall in love. I knew I couldn’t stop from thinking about him, but this was not the trap into which I would fall. I decided not to run away like earlier but to remain casual and face it. That would probably make it easier for me to escape that feeling.

With all the anxiety of the previous evening and my newly entertained thoughts, I entered the college premises that morning. It had rained the previous night, and the weather was still much like it was going to rain soon.

For obvious reasons, the college campus seemed very empty. There were very few students as I saw. I had also been tired, but being at home, it would have been difficult to avoid what I didn’t want to think about.

That morning seemed very different though. Never had I seen so many people smiling at me earlier over there. At first, I was more scared than entertained by the fact, until later, when I realized that many had seen me the previous evening.

Thankfully, Ratna appeared like an angel as I wondered how to carry that situation. She was one among the few people in college, who never dared to miss a single lecture. The other among those few also appeared behind her, though I wasn’t ready to face him so soon.

He didn’t seem the same as he had seemed the previous night, but I still felt that warmth of his voice and that look, as he came towards me with her. I tried not to look at him.

“Hey Ratna! I am so glad I saw you. There are so few people, yet it seems they know me, and..,” I whispered it in her ears,” I felt a little awkward at first you know.”

My words had been heard probably.

“Actually somebody has become famous overnight, and she doesn’t realize that”, he said looking at me.

I tried not to react stupidly and responded casually, “Yeah, didn’t think about it sir”, without looking at him.

“That happened with me too”, he said so naturally, that I forgot the awkwardness that was getting me feel nervous since last night.

“Oh really”, I laughed, “We are at par then. You are equally famous I can say”.

“Don’t you think my treat remains, Mishti?”, it was Ratna.

“Of course dear. Any time you say”.

“Let’s go now”, she winked at me.

“You mean ‘now’??”, I checked the time in my watch, “At 9-30 A.M. today??”

“Yes, I mean ‘now’, at 9-30 A.M. today”, she laughed.

“Is Miss S. Ratnashree, the idealist, asking me to bunk college and go for a treat?”, I said in disbelief.

“Yes, can’t I?”

“Of course you can, but I’d never thought you would, Ratna. Where shall we go by the way?”

“The small restaurant outside the college, what say?”

“I am in for that”, I replied.

“Good. By the way, I am ready for that today because there will be no classes as I have been informed”, she winked at me,” But that doesn’t mean you expect that every day from me”, she said in an authoritative tone trying to imitate our Lecturer for Mass Media,” And let me ask somebody else too then. Aryan sir, will you join us?” Ratna asked him. I felt surprised again. I did not want to stay for more time with him, and here she was asking him to join us. He had been pretending not to listen to us till now.

“Me? Thank you but I may not be able to. So nice of you that you asked though”, he said looking at both of us.

“Oh no no, don’t be so happy sir. That hasn’t got much to do with courtesy alone. You had promised me a treat if your play went well. If you remember, it is pending”, she said rolling her eyes.

“Oh I am so sorry. It is pending I remember. Then I have to join you both. I don’t want you to keep saying I didn’t keep my promise”, he laughed.

“Let’s go then”, she said but I did not move. I stood still wondering whether I should join him or leave.

“Any problem Mishti?” he asked looking at me.

I felt startled as he’d called me by my first name for the fifth time, and seemed not to notice the difference. I wondered if that was purposely, unknowingly or knowingly with some different aura around us.

“Yes, Miss Sengupta?”, he asked me again. I looked at him. I wondered if he was reading my mind. Though, it made me feel at ease by what he had just called me.

“Err..sir, have you become a superman now?” I asked in a naughty tone.

“Why so?” he looked confused.

“Never mind. Let’s go. There is no problem..sir”, I added.

“Oh yes, I was going to tell you that you better discuss that later or else our treat will always remain pending”, Ratna finally took hold of my hand and dragged me. He followed both of us. On the way, he seemed his usual way to me. Nothing that had changed since last night.

It was all as if I had spent my time over thinking. Over thinking! This last word in my mind made me wonder if I was really over thinking. More than that, it scared me that I was the one who was thinking about confusing aspects.

I did not listen to the conversation between him and Ratna. I was lost into my own thoughts. Actually, I was lost in his thoughts. Something at the back of my mind did not let me avoid him. Something made me wonder about his simplicity, his sweetness and all that I had seen in the past few days.

We crossed the road and reached the narrow alley that led us to the restaurant where we wanted to go. I was still not listening to them. As we entered the restaurant, my thoughts were interrupted by Ratna.

“It seems you have spoken so much in the last week that you have decided to take a break now. Till when by the way? Because I am not used to it. I need to listen to your chit chat about everybody”, she emphasized on ‘everybody’ and looked at him.

He looked at me, confused, then took the menu and concentrated there. I felt that he was trying to escape something too. I felt relieved by this thought. So, I was not the only one who was thinking too much.

This simple thought brought me back to my usual self.

“Oh no Ratna, I can never stop talking you know. Actually, I have been made to work too much you know. These seniors I tell you, they know how to make their juniors agree to what they say, and we are the ones who are exploited”, I winked at her and looked at him naughtily.

“Oh it seems I am in a big trouble. Caught between two young respectable ladies who enjoy to condemn their seniors on their face. And what more, I am here to give them a treat”, he tried to look frightened.

“And Miss Sengupta, you did not complaint that you have become famous now”, he rolled his eyes at me.

“Oh, I thought it was better to let the seniors be praised for something at least”, I replied.

“Thank you so much that you think about your seniors so much”, he laughed and we joined.

“Glad to see you back Miss Sengupta”, Ratna tried to imitate him.

“What would you like to have, Miss Ratnashree? Since you are the guest of honour”, I said.

“Masala Dosa, with extra Chutney, and you guys?”

“The same thing”, I spoke at the same time as Aryan did.

We looked at each other. He placed the order and we waited. The awkward silence between us had vanished. The three of us kept on talking about the college, the campus, the previous evening, our respective batch mates and so many other things that it didn’t seem that we hadn’t known each other earlier.

For some time, we had forgotten that he was not our batch mate. He looked the same to me, as he had looked on the first day at college. Over the past few days, I had got to see so many different aspects about him that he didn’t seem a stranger, but that same lost guy whom I had talked to on the very first day.

We remained for two hours over there, discussing everything from Hyderabad to my previous places of residence, from Ratna’s perception of North Indians to her opinion about me on the first day, from the confusion I had on the first day to what I felt then.

No, I didn’t tell that of course. But we didn’t come to know how much time had passed till the restaurant began to get crowded.

“I think we’ve spent more time than our order would allow us over here”, I looked at my watch.

“You are right. Let’s leave from here”, she said as she got up and we left.

Ratna left for a bus stop which was a few steps away from our stop.

“See you guys tomorrow”.

“I have never been to home so early from college”, I laughed,” and what more we didn’t bunk the classes”.

He had heard that but didn’t respond to my words. Instead, he seemed lost in his own thoughts as we waited for our respective buses. I wondered if it wasn’t something I had been thinking about. I wished he had not noticed anything. I did not want that to come up, but I could not tolerate the silence too.

“Is everything alright sir?” I asked anxiously.

“Yes”, he smiled at me and his smile seemed the same as the one when he had smiled the previous evening backstage. My heart started beating fast like it had done that time. I did not know what to say. I wondered if I shouldn’t have asked that.

I feared if something had been visible from my expressions. I wondered if I had been too lost that morning. I did not know what he had been thinking about but I wished it was not the same.

“I think something is wrong with you though”, he said to me and he seemed casual again. I nodded in disagreement. He smiled again.

I came back to the present world. It was like being caught red-handed. None of us spoke anything for a while. It had been a different world when we were with Ratna.

“Have you heard about the upcoming educational tour to Golconda?”, he changed the topic all of a sudden.

“No..sir”, I replied, relieved.

“Hmm, you might be informed soon. You can decide then”, he said lost somewhere else.

“How come you know everything before we are informed?” I asked in an irritated tone.

He noticed that, but ignored and replied, “That’s because we had initiated the idea with one of our lecturers and juniors would be informed when it is confirmed.”

“So why are you telling me now?” I continued with my tone.

“Because I thought you might be interested”, he replied, now surprised at my tone, “and because I thought you can be informed first”, he added without looking at me.

“You need not give me any privileges just because I seem to know you more..sir”, I could not believe I had said that.

He looked agitated by my words, but tried to remain calm and replied,” Why not? After all, you have proved to be reliable when many stepped back. You have believed me when very few did”. He said that but those words seemed to come from far away, from somewhere I could not make out.

I tried to remain silent but I could not. From somewhere inside, I spoke too, “You should not try to let things go the way they shouldn’t be. It might be tragic. Do not make me believe vague ideas. Please let me remain the same as others.”

“But, I cannot..”

“Please…sir”, I said ‘sir’ with more emphasis, trying to bring things back to reality.

My bus had arrived. I looked at him again. He was looking straight into my eyes, and they seemed genuine, not the way he used to create fun in a group.

I did not say anything else and stepped inside the bus. He was still looking at me. I did not feel happy that I had talked to him that way. I saw his face. It could not be of someone who would hurt anyone.

He was not that kind of a person as much as I had known him. Though, I did not know how much I knew him, and that scared me. I did not want to lose people, yet there had been very few of my old known people who could stay with me.

“Take care Mishti”, he said as the bus started moving, “See you again”, he didn’t leave gazing at me.

I felt a wave of tears running from my eyes. I shouldn’t have been rude to him. “Take care Aryan”, I said the last few words after a second of thinking and saw him smile at me. I smiled back in those few seconds as my bus turned from the corner and he was out of sight.

I sat baffled at my place. I didn’t know what I was doing. More than that, I didn’t know why I had done that. I did not want to be the one to hurt anybody, of course not him. Yet, I didn’t want to be hurt too. I didn’t want to be offensive. I didn’t want to be wrong.

But something was going wrong. I was falling for him, no matter how much I had tried not to do so. I couldn’t stop wondering about him. I did not know what to do about it. I did not know how I could avoid those thoughts.

I did not want to hurt him, yet by trying to make efforts to stay away from him, I was doing it. I was hurting myself too, but I had to do it. However, I could not see him that way too. I did not know what to say to him.

That evening, I wrote in my diary:

“My deepest fears are turning to be my secret desires. Yet, I want to stay away from them and from you.”

I could not sleep at night. I did not know whether I should ignore him or I shouldn’t. I was completely bewildered. I felt helpless and scratched Timothy’s back in anxiety, as I sat confused. I wished I knew what I could do.

I had wanted to be normal and continue with what I did when I saw him, though I was still confused. Yet, I wanted to see him the next day at college. I could not give up the thought of looking at him.

However, the whole day passed without coming across him. I tried to look for him in the corridor, in the canteen and even with some familiar seniors; but he wasn’t there. I thought he might be busy with something important, and tried to concentrate on my work.

Ratna seemed to notice me throughout the day. In the evening, as I waited outside my class with her, for the pretext of moving out after the crowd got cleared, she held my hand. I looked at her, she smiled at me.

“You know what Mishti, you are trying to avoid something that you really want”, she whispered knowingly.

“I…”, I could not say anything,” don’t know”.

“I do dear”, she smiled again, and asked one of our seniors, “Excuse me sir, Where is Aryan sir?”

I looked at her with an angry expression.

“He hasn’t come today probably. Even we were looking for him all day long”, he replied.

I felt disappointed, sad.

“I think you better talk to him and remain normal for whatever happens, and may be stop being rude dear”, Ratna said as she turned ,”and take care Mishti”.

Those last few words reminded me of him again.

I wondered where he was. I wanted to see him once and apologize for being rude. I wanted to tell him that I would never want to speak to him that way. I wanted to speak to him just once.

Ten days had passed, but he didn’t appear in college. I was worried about where he was. According to many, he had never been on a leave for so long. I was getting more scared with each passing day and regretted the way I had talked to him the last time when we were together.

I wished that he came back soon from somewhere. I wished that I saw him once again. I wanted to tell him how much he mattered to me. I wanted to tell him that I was pretending to ignore him. I wanted to tell him that it was fine if he gave me a little more importance than others, that he could believe I would stand for him when there wasn’t anybody else around; that I had known him, and whatever I had known was enough for me to say that he was genuine.

I wanted to tell him that nothing seemed perfect just by the fact that he wasn’t around me. I hadn’t known that I would feel this way and overcome my fears. For once, I wanted to keep my anxieties aside and tell him so much more. I wanted to know if all this made sense to him.

But, if he appeared just once.

Where was he?

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