A little courage. A little courage.
Mentally praying to God for strength and courage, Raven tiptoed towards the pile of backpacks; the neatly enveloped letter shaking in her hand. With every single step she got closer to the couch where Elliot’s gang had dumped their backpacks, she felt her temperature rise. She thought with the way her body was heating up, she was sure to get fever by evening.
“You can do it, Raven,” Darcy Hongsha, her best friend, smiled at her encouragingly from the kitchen door.
Raven looked up the stairs towards Elliot’s room, listening to make sure they were still inside. She heard the noise and so she nodded to herself.
Okay. Great. They aren’t leaving yet.
She looked back at Darcy again, seeking support and motivation to believe she wasn’t doing something stupid.
Darcy gave her a thumbs-up. Before taking the decision to finally get into action, they’d calculated the probabilities earlier. And they thought, Raven held a pretty good chance.
One - Nicholas cared about her as much as her brother, Elliot, did. That must have meant something. It was not the same as how Elliot’s other friends treated her.
Two - Nicholas didn’t have a girlfriend as far as they knew. He was always at their house with his group.
Three - Well, she was still thinking about this one.
Raven tiptoed forward, eyes fixed on the black, Adidas backpack with the soccer ball keychain dangling from the zip. Once she grabbed it, she felt tons of nervousness settle in her head, neck, lungs, heart, arms . . . She felt heavy all over. It was becoming impossible to move an inch. She’d finally taken a hold of Nicholas’ backpack but she’d lost all the courage.
Nonononono. I can’t do this.
She dropped it and turned back to leave.
“What are you doing! This is your last chance!” Darcy chided in a whisper tone.
Raven immediately spun back on her heels, opened Nicholas’ backpack with a newfound courage and threw the letter inside it. Quickly zipping up the pouch, she came running back to Darcy with her hands on her wildly thumping heart. Darcy received her with a warm hug and an amused giggle.
Both Elliot and his gang had graduated from college and soon they’d be moving away to the big cities. Elliot was going for his master’s degree while Nicholas, he had cracked the Combined Defense Services (CDS) exam for Indian Military Academy so he’d be recruited in the Indian Army. Just two weeks back, he’d returned from Allahabad after all the hilarious tests and interviews he had to go through, now he’d be leaving for his training soon.
Hilarious it was. Yes. Raven had overheard Nicholas talking with her parents about how the interview had lasted for five whole days and she thought that was completely absurd and too tough; definitely the hardest and the silliest interview she’d ever heard of.
He was required to do all sorts of things like giving lectures, group discussion, describing pictures, describing himself, blah blah blah. He even went through numerous tests like situation reaction, apperception, military formation, psychology as well and what not.
What’s the point? Really? Shouldn’t he only be shooting machine guns?
Now, Raven basically didn’t know anything about the Army. The main thing for her was that they were moving away. Raven wanted Nicholas to, at least, know how she felt about him before he leave. There was no certainty when they’d even meet again. It could be years after or even after decades.
Young and silly, Raven of thirteen, thought this was the best time.
But then when she thought about Nicholas reading the letter, she couldn’t help but feel major embarrassed about the whole idea.
“Darcy, I think I should just take it back,” she said, frowning, and started to walk back towards the couch.
Just then, the door from Elliot’s room flew open and they came out, chattering like a bunch of wild monkeys and laughing; Elliot, Nicholas, Brandon and Maxwell.
Raven raced back to Darcy at once and stood beside her as though there was nothing going on. She was good at masking her feelings from people. They had returned from the district football (soccer) tornament as the winning team. Elliot and a few of his friends had just stopped by their house as usual before heading for their own homes.
“Raves, when mom and Sarah gets back, tell them I’m over at Nick’s place,” Elliot said as he came down the stairs just behind the boys, pushing an arm through his jacket.
“Okay.” She nodded and then watched Nicholas descend the stairs just in front of her brother.
He was so tall he almost blocked out her brother, Elliot, from her entire view. If you come to the North East Region of India and see the Tribal people, 6 ft is no joke. He was basically a Goliath. And he was only twenty then.
Their eyes met and he smiled at her, his brown eyes gleaming kindly. She instantly smiled back. All the people she had ever known had brown eyes but she thought her Nick’s was different; more beautiful.
“Leaving, Little Dumpling. Bye,” he pinched her cheek when he reached her and ruffled her hair.
“Bye,” she returned with a goofy grin while adjusting her fringes.
From the door, as Darcy and Raven watched the boys get their backpacks, Raven hidingly pinched Darcy’s arm as she struggled to hold back her squeals and whimpers. Darcy, as well, tried her best not to scream out from the sting of the pinch as they stood there in attention, as though there was absolutely nothing going on. Raven could feel her heart hammering wildly inside her and almost breaking free from her rib cage. She could feel the beatings vibrate on her stomach like a stereo box.
Once the door closed behind them, Raven sank to the floor melting to a puddle, “Oh my God. He’s gonna find out!”
“And that hurt. Oww!!” Darcy responded as she rubbed her arm and joined Raven on the floor.
“If Elliot finds out about this, he’ll scold me for sure. God. Why did I even do that?!”
“I don’t think he will.”
“He will, trust me. And he just left with Nick. What if they find it together and read it together! Oh my God. I’m dead for sure. I shouldn’t have done it!!” Raven gasped and squeaked with her palms on her face.
“Oh, Raves,” Darcy sighed heavily, “I’m sure Elliot won’t find out.”
With her hands still covering her face, Raven shook her head from side to side and mumbled into her hands, “Darcy, you must give a speech on my funeral. A good one. Praise me well.”
“Don’t be silly,” Darcy laughed.
Suddenly looking up, Raven grabbed Darcy’s hand and pulled her up. “Let’s go up to my room.”
“For what?” Darcy asked, following Raven up the stairs.
“We need to pray to God for good results.”