It was late evening when she had finally put the book down.
Zara had always been bad at self-control.
At home her mom had to shut off the lights in the room to get her to stop reading. Needless to say, she was a frequent visitor to the local library in her hometown as well as the one that was present on campus.
Her social life had never improved much after college. She had always been the odd one out. The friend you made plans with only when there was no one available. She didn’t like partying much and liked being by herself at times, so she had never been a part of the ‘in’ crowd.
As the years passed by, she came to accept the fact that she could never be as outgoing, funny or witty like the other girls in her neighborhood.
At 20, she was a virgin, had kissed just one guy with her lips closed and was beginning to lose hope that she could ever be in a committed relationship.
The only person she considered important, other than her family was Susan.
They had met in ninth grade when Zara was going through a phase that she thought of as ‘frump girl’.
It had been difficult at school. With her dark black hair that refused to settle down no matter what and her plump figure, she had been an exception. She had tried everything to fit in. Diet changes, starving, exercising, cursing herself before the mirror and what not.
But the harder she tried, the worse it became. That’s when she had taken up reading. It was her escape. Her way to erase the world from her memory for just a few magical minutes that would stretch into hours.
After that, life had gotten much more easier. She hadn’t felt the need to try anymore.
She had been in her usual spot in the library one day, with her nose in a book when a curly haired girl approached her asking for a tissue. Her eyes were wet with tears and she had mascara stains all over her cheeks.
Zara had stared at her for a full minute before she showed the girl the book she was reading as she dug into her bag for a wad of Kleenex.
The book Matilda written by Roald Dahl had immediately caught the girl’s attention and she had stopped crying. Zara had placed the Kleenex in her hands and proceeded to tell her about how Matilda, the main character in the story, had devised ingenious schemes to teach her horrid parents a lesson or two.
They had talked and laughed and had come up with a few schemes of own in turn to punish the ragging bullies at school.
From that day, Zara and the girl who had introduced herself as Susan had been inseparable. School had been a breeze after that. They had stuck by each other and all the unavoidable bickering hadn’t succeeded in separating them.
Susan had met Matt at a party and she had claimed that it had been love at first sight. Of course Zara had scoffed at her and warned her against it. Turned out, she was wrong. Matt was a real gentleman and had proved himself on many occasions. The time that he brought Susan home, safe and sound, when she had been drunk senseless, just a few days after they had begun dating had stuck in Zara’s head and from then on she had accepted him not only as her best friend’s boyfriend but also her friend.
They had been together for around a year now and Susan had never looked happier.
Classes at USC would begin in another two days and Zara was determined to fit in as much fun as possible within those forty eight hours. Which meant, reading, reading and reading till she was forced to face reality.
She was in the middle of preparing dinner when her phone rang.
Placing the can of olives on the counter, she hurried into the bedroom to answer it.
It was Susan again.
For a fleeting moment Zara wondered if it was the guy calling her.
" Zara!“, Susan chirped at the other end.
" You are not going to believe what just happened!“, she squealed into the receiver and Zara had to move the phone away from her ear at the sound.
" Susan, will you stop screeching!?“, she yelled at her as she put the call on loudspeaker and began preparing dinner which she decided would be potato chips with ketchup.
" Okay, whatever. Now listen to me! Did you see him?“, she asked, her voice hushed towards the end.
" See whom?“, Zara questioned as she poured out a generous amount of ketchup with the chips and picked the bowl, hugging it to her chest.
" Matt’s hot-as-fuck friend! Are you kidding me!? He told me he spoke to you!“, she accused her and Zara could make out Matt muttering something in the background.
" Yeah, I did speak to him, Susan. And yes, he is fucking hot.“, she said as she placed the ketchup covered chip in her mouth.
" Did you see his hair? Like, oh my God! How can someone look so gorgeous and sexy-“, she was cut off by Matt’s indignant shout.
" I’m right here, okay! What the hell ever happened to praising your own boyfriend?” , he yelled before muttering a few curses while Susan hissed at him to shut up and that people were beginning to stare.
Zara chuckled as she placed the phone at her ear.
" Call me later, Suz. I think Matt needs you more than I do, right now.“, she teased as she waited for her friend to cut the call.
Susan gave a sigh as she spoke, ” I’ll be right back. Save some chips for me.”
And then the line went dead.
Zara tossed the phone beside her as she opened the bookmarked page of her novel.
Propping her feet up on the coffee table, she smiled at the pages printed with words that had the ability to transport her to places that were nonexistent in reality.
Now this was absolute bliss.