It was exactly a month since the two young adolescents spent valentine’s day under the shade of the maple tree promising to be each other’s Valentine always.
For Rajiv Sharma, this particular Saturday morning was filled with anticipation and excitement. After all his older sister Reema was coming home from college for spring break.
His older sister Reema studies microbiology at the University of Anchorage, in the state of Alaska. Anchorage is the largest city of Alaska and it also happens to be just 4 hours and 41 minutes away from Fritz Creek, the place where they lived.
Although his older sister Reema and he had a huge age gap of nine years, they were very close to each other. No doubt all the four siblings share a very tight bond with each other. But Rajiv and Reema being the oldest and the youngest seemed to have developed an unlikely close bond.
The ringing of the doorbell made Rajiv rush down the stairs shouting,” I’ll get it.”
He quickly opened the door wide,” Di,” He squealed giving her a tight hug.
“So happy to see you my little imp.” Reema kissed the top of her little brother’s head hugging him back.
Releasing each other from their embrace. Rajiv helped his sister with her bag wobbling and close to falling down with its weight.
Climbing up the stairs to her room,” So have you been a good boy.” Asked Reema as she opened the door to her bedroom, which was exactly the same as she had left before she went off to college a month back.
“Yes, I have been. I am still the number one in my class and yesterday I scored A in all my assignments.” He filled in proudly puffing up his tiny chest.
“Good boy.” Reema smiled setting down the luggage near the bed. She unzipped her pack bag and took out two large mars chocolate and a big bottle of cheese balls.
“Here is your reward, share some with Rita too okay. I am so proud of you imp.” She ruffled his hair as she handed him the eatables.
“Thanks, Di, I will. Do you want me to get a glass of water for you?” He asked already opening the sealed bottle and eating the cheese balls.
“Please do and where is everyone.” She asked tying up her long dark raven hair in a messy bun as she sat down on the wooden floor crossed leg and opened her luggage.
“Ravi is in his room playing games and Rita is with her friends in the backyard playing their silly, stupid game with their barbies.” He wrinkled his nose in disgust. Rita and Rajiv were just one year apart and like all sibling relationships go they find ways to taunt each other and support each other as well when the need arises.
“What did I tell you about judging what other people do Rajiv.” Reema narrows her eyes at her younger brother.
Rajiv gulps,” Sorry Di.” He looked down afraid to meet that reprimanding strict gaze of his sister. His sister Reema dots on him and pampers him but also knows when to show tough love. And she wouldn’t even pat an eye to call out on his mistakes.
“It’s alright but next time don’t repeat it again. Where are Pa and Ma.”
“They went to the supermarket.” Rajiv returned.
“I see. Now rush down and get me a glass of juice instead of water.” Reema started taking out her folded clothes from her bag and walked towards her closet to keep them.
“Sure Di,” Rajiv called out and rushed down to the kitchen to pour a glass of mango juice for his sister.
“Dumbo what are you doing with the juice and Ma said you are not to use the glasses anymore since you broke one this morning. Use the plastic one dumbo.” Came the sharp smart words of his sister Rita who was holding her Princess Barbie as she walked into the kitchen through the back door.
Rajiv stuck out his tongue and replied,” It’s for Di and I am going to tell her you called me Dumbo.”
“Di reached already?” Rita squealed clapping her hands and rushed upstairs followed by Rajiv behind her with the mango juice.
“Di,” Rita called out as she rushed inside her older sister Reema’s room.
“In here, Rita,” Reema called out from the bathroom as she stood in the basin washing her hands.
“When did you reach?” Asked Rita as she stood in the doorway of the bathroom.
“Just a while ago,” Reema replied as she tried her hands on the towel and walked into the bedroom.
“Come I have a surprise gift for you.” Wrapping her arms around her younger sister by the shoulders she leads her towards the bed.
“Here is your juice Di and just so you know Di, Rita called me a dumbo,” Rajiv complained as he gently placed the glass on the bedside table and sat on the bed beside Rita.
“Not cool Rita. Don’t ever do that and Rajiv did you do something to provoke Rita into calling you that.” Reema eyed them resting her hands on her hips.
Shaking his head vigorously,” I swear I didn’t do anything. I was just pouring the juice and..”
“Okay, okay I got it. Rita last warning don’t call your brother names.”
“Sorry Di,” Rita mumbled but stuck out her tongue at Rajiv when their older sister turned her back to walk towards the closet. Just when Rajiv was about to pull Rita’s hair then their sister walked towards them, stopping him in his tracks.
“Here I got you your advance birthday gift since I wouldn’t be home for your birthday next month,” Reema said handing the blue paper bag to her younger sister whose eyes widen and the edges of her lips stretched into a wide smile.
“What is it?” Rita jumped on the bed in excitement as she took the blue paper bag from her sister’s hand.
“Why don’t you see it for yourself.” Reema smiled as she took a sip of the mango juice and sat down on the floor leaning on the bedside table.
Rita pulled out a beautiful shimmery yellow dress that was the exact replica of her favorite Disney Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
“Aaahhh! Di I love you, I love you.” Rita squealed loudly making Rajiv close his ears with both his hands.
“I know you love Belle, so I thought why not I turn you into Belle by buying you the dress.” Reema smiled with satisfaction seeing the joy on her little sister’s face.
She bought the dress from the paycheck she received from working at the Coffee shop near her University campus. Reema was a bright and a hardworking student, she got into the university with full scholarship out of sheer handwork because if she didn’t it would have been impossible for her parents to pay the tuition fees.
They weren’t a wealthy family, their father was the only breadwinner of the family and he worked as a clerk at Fritz Creek’s biggest hotel resort own by the town’s richest family the Jacksons.
“What’s with all the shrieking.” Came Ravi’s voice as he opened the door to the bedroom.
“Rita’s just excited she is finally going to dress up as Belle.” Rajiv returned placing his chin on his palms elbows resting on the bed as he laid on the bed on his belly.
Shaking his head unamused Ravi stepped into the bedroom and sat on the floor crapping the bottle of cheese balls and started to munch on it. For a 14-year-old he was quite hugely built, he was in his senior year in high school. A football star and quite the ladies man.
“Di-did you get the Sony Walkman for me?” Ravi asked munching on the cheese balls and licking his fingers.
“Eww use the tissue. That’s disgusting.” Rajiv scrunched his nose looking at his older brother. Cleanliness was something no one had to teach Rajiv, he didn’t like getting dirty since he was very little, everything was kept spotlessly clean by him.
Ravi chuckled at his little brother’s quirks and hit him with the cheese ball just to annoy him.
“Don’t do it, Ravi.” Rajiv retorted angrily glaring at his older brother.
“Hey, hey stop it, you guys. Here is your Walkman Ravi. I shelled out an extra $3.” Reema handed the music player to her brother. It was the latest model released by the company that year. Year after year they keep launching upgraded models and this year, the year 1992 was no different.
“Thanks, Di. I wish I had enough money to buy the Discman instead.” Ravi mumbled scrutinizing the music player keenly.
“Will if you don’t go on too many dates every weekend maybe you might have saved up enough to get the Discman.” Reema deadpan raising a brow.
“What can I say sis. Someone has to take the girls out for date.” He winked which earned a giggle from his younger siblings.
Ravi is one of those tall dark handsome boys who was every teenage girl’s first crush. The kind of boy which makes going to school very exciting and even more so to sit on the bench and cheer for the football team come sunshine or rain and also even if one has no head or tail of the game.
Reema shook her head in disbelieve,” You are something Ravi. Don’t let the girls curse us when you break their hearts. And don’t tell me you don’t; I hear stories. Their are people filling me up on what you do.”
“Seems like college life is very boring for you di. You have to keep yourself entertained by keeping a tap on high school gossips. It’s sad.” Ravi smiled smugly at Reema.
Reema rolled her eyes at him.
“You know what Di.” Rita called out.
“What Rita.” Reema’s gaze shifted towards her including both the brothers.
“Big girls from Ravi’s class come and ask me all sorts of questions about him and sometimes they give me chocolates and sandwiches.” Rita returned meeting their curious eyes.
“Like what.” Ravi asks curiously.
Rita scrunched her nose her eyes seemed distant as if she were trying to recall the questions,“Like what is your favourite food or color.I told them your favorite food was Uncle Fred’s cheesy french fries and your favorite color was black. Oh oh and they even asked me which side of bed to you sleep in but I told them I don’t know because you never allow us to enter your room.”
“Man they asked that.” Ravi ruffled his front hair with his fingers, a small lift on the right side of his mouth.
“Unbelievable.” Reema shook her head and shifted her gaze towards Rajiv,” Don’t take any tips from Ravi about dating girls okay.”
“I won’t Di. I love Jas.” Rajiv stated with so much conviction it drove his siblings to fits of uncontrollable laughter.
“Man Raj. You need to play the field don’t be a square.” Ravi threw his head back laughing as he ruffled his younger brother’s hair.
The evening went by with updating about their lives among the four siblings. Followed by wholesome dinner prepared by their mother and a healthy conversation at the dinner table.
The Sharmas were a close knit family. Their parents were very liberal in their out look in life so they try their best to bring up their kids to have a mind of their own, to form their own opinions. The only thing they keep on emphasizing on their kids was to be kind to one another and the people they encounter.
Their dinner table were always filled with discussions of all kinds of topics, be it science, religion, or simple easy topics as what the children did in school. It was how the family bounded with each other.
Once everyone retired to their own respective rooms for the night. Rajiv quickly changed into his pajamas and tip toed towards his older sister Reema’s room.
“Lock the door okay.” Reema smiled at her little brother who since he was two year old sneaked into her room time to time to sleep with her. Especially to make her tell stories about her friends in school or sometimes just fairy tales.
Climbing under the covers they lay facing each other.
“How did the valentine’s day go.” Reema asks smiling at Rajiv. She still can’t believe this little boy would develop such deep feelings for a girl. She still remembers the first time he came and told her.
They were home after school and Reema was helping Rajiv with his math.
“Di you know what I have a girlfriend.” Rajiv declares to her all of a sudden.
“What?” Reema gazes at her little brother in shock.
“Her name is Jasmine Madison but I call her Jas and I love her. When I grow big I am going to marry her. She said she will marry me too.” Rajiv smiles with full of hope in his eyes.
Reema clutches her heart with her hand,” Oh my Raj. Aren’t you the cutest. My you must introduced me to this girl friend of yours then.”
“I will Di.”
Reema thought in time this so call love story between them would die out but it’s been two years since he shared and they seem to be inseparable and very much inclined to marry each other when they grow up. It was quite endearing.
Can such innocence withstand and endure the cruelty of the grown up world? Reema sighed thinking about it.
“She liked all the things I made for her. But we didn’t celebrate valentine’s day.” Rajiv frowned.
“Why?” Reema asked adjusting her pillow.
“Because her older sister Rebecca told her it was a sin to celebrate it like the adults. Why would she say that Di. She is wrong right.”
“Hmm you see Raj not everyone shares the same believe as we would. She thinks its a sin because she was taught that way or their culture or religion teaches them that way. It is what it is, we should respect other people’s opinion. You may not agree on it but you must respect their believes. That’s the only way we can coexist in harmony and also Raj it is the right thing to do.” Reema smiles at Raj who still had a frown on his face.
“But Di you didn’t stop me when I told you about it. And you are even older than her, why is she so strict. I don’t like her.” Rajiv huffed.
“You mustn’t say that Raj. Okay I’ll give you an example what if someone tells you to eat beef and you refused to eat it because it is against our religion and that person tells you are being strict and tells you he doesn’t like you. Now tell me is it fair for that person to tell you that?” Reema waits patiently to let her words sink in on him.
“If you say it that way then I guess you are right.” Raj returned yawning.
“Good. Always keep yourself in that person’s shoe before you form an opinion about that person or their actions Raj.”
“I will Di.” Raj mumbled eyelids heavy he slowly drifted off to sleep.
Reema smiled looking at him, she placed a soft kiss on his cheek and switched off the bed side table lamp.
Raj seemed have drifted into a deep slumber but a sniffing and shifting of body under the covers slowly pulled him out of his deep slumber.
“You can’t keep doing this to me Aaron. I’m a human too I get hurt too.” And a gut wrenching cry came out of her.
Aaron? Who is he and why is Di crying thought Raj feeling very agitated. Slept had fully blown away from Raj. He opened his eyes but only darkness meets his eyes, all he could hear was his sister Reema crying her heart out.
“Aaron I gave my heart to you. Does it mean anything to you, why are you doing this to me. I can’t keep doing this back and forth with you.”
She cries again. Raj wanted to reach out and tell his sister not to cry but then again he doesn’t want his sister to feel embarrassed on having to see her like that in that state.
He shed silent tears along with her sister as his sister keeping begging that guy Aaron to stop hurting her. Raj didn’t understand what was going on but he knows his sister was getting hurt in the heart just like he was too hearing her cry.
Raj tells himself he would never make Jas cry like this. He covered his ears with his palms trying to muffle the pain of his sister as tears stream down his cheek.
That was the last night Rajiv had ever slept in his sister Reema’s room. It was not because he didn’t want to but he couldn’t see his sister cry like that. But he made sure every morning to go to her room and give her a tight hug and tell her he loves her until the day she left for college.
Rajiv always viewed his sister Reema as a strong girl, a wonder woman. But that night shattered him greatly, if only he wishes he were grown up enough to confront Aaron and tell him to stop hurting his sister.
But he knew it was impossible so the only thing he wished was that his sister would smile always and not cry and also his innocence kept making promises that he would never make Jas cry like that.
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