#17 She is making my heart pound
@Himanshi Khatuma, Thank you for the support.
I played the violin for them while the twins listened.
I stopped and turned around to look at them and they clapped their hands.
“Now, try it, come on,”
I was listening to them playing when Jenni knocked and entered the room.
“Take a break.” she said while placing the freshly cut fruit bowl on the table.
“Congratulations on getting back inside the project group, I am so happy for you.” Jenni smiled.
“So am I!” I said honestly. “My team members even talked for me, I am starting to feel normal.”
“So what’s the next plan?” She asked me. “You know that Michael won’t take any initiative, you would need a clear strategy to win him over.” She winked.
“Um...actually...I do have something in my mind, but I am not very sure about it,”
“What’s it?” Jenni looked interested.
“The year-end party is coming. It is hosted by the final years and they can invite anyone, but I don’t know if Senior Michael will attend it.”
“Then good luck with that, I am sure you can convince him.” Jenni said and I smiled.
“This is for you, Ella.” She took an envelope from a book on the table and gave it to me.
I opened the envelope and looked inside curiously.
I found a few bills of 500.
“That’s your salary. It’s been a month since you started to teach them,” Jenni smiled.
I looked at her, now overwhelmed.
“Thank you for this, but I can’t accept this, Jenni, I am doing this as a favour, Plus, I am enjoying playing music with the kids.” I said sincerely.
“That’s why I am paying you less,” She said. “If you don’t accept it, I cannot ask you to teach them,” she said. “I know it’s not much, Ella, you are Cinderella Adams, after all-”
“Hey! It’s not like that! I seriously don’t know why you should pay me when I am enjoying it here like this!” I exclaimed.
I looked at the fresh, wrinkle-free bills again. My heart was beating rather strangely.
“Are you sure that you want to...pay me?” I looked at her. “I mean, I really don’t think you should.”
“Of course, I am sure that I want this,” Jenni laughed. “That’s why I prepared it for you, silly.” she added. “The kids love you, they are improving too.”
My heart swelled in pride.
“Thank you so much.” I said. “This is my first salary! Thank you so much Jenni!”
Jenni just smiled.
We heard the sound of bike and Jenni and I looked at each other mischievously.
Michael is back from his part-time job.
“Let’s go.” Jenni winked and I nodded.
This has become a routine now; I will have my lunch at college and come here to take Violin classes. I will stay till Michael is back after his works and leave when it’s 7 or 7:30 pm.
“Michael,” I waved at him enthusiastically while he placed the bike on the stand.
“Thank you for helping me to get back to the group.” I said happily.
“It was not me.” he shrugged dismissively.
“I heard that you broke the tie by voting for me,” I smiled shyly. “I won’t let you down, I promise, I will work hard and-”
“You still have to present the new topic with your team.” he reminded me and my smile dropped automatically.
Sometimes I really wonder if he’s making this difficult for me intentionally!
“I know.” I nodded.
“Then good luck, Cinderella.”
“Uh...call me Ella please; I am not very fond of that name.”
My phone beeped and I opened the message.
“Join me for lunch today.”
I read Sam’s message. Below was the name and table number of a fancy-restaurant nearby the college.
“What’s the occasion? You are inviting me for lunch?” I typed back.
“You will know soon.” he sent a smiley.
I shook my head and put the phone back in my pocket.
“Another time, Julian, I have something to do today,” I told him through the phone.
I am super excited about today.
“But you promised to hang out with me.”
“I will, I promise you, but today I am kind of busy. I will call you later, Julian.” I disconnected before he could start complaining again.
I was already near the restaurant. I smiled at the staff at the door and thanked him when he bowed slightly and welcomed me.
I walked straight ahead as I already had the reservation made.
“Hey,” Nisha waved at me when she saw me and walked to her.
“Hello, Ella,” I was surprised to see Senior Sam waiting along with Nisha. He was sitting opposite to her and was partially hidden by the decorated wall.
“Hey.” I smiled as I sit down near Nisha, and then looked at Senior Sam.
“Where is Senior Michael?
“Ouch, I am one of your seniors too, Ella.” Sam laughed. “Do you usually look for Michael every single time?”
“I am not even surprised,” Nisha muttered and I smiled sheepishly.
“Um... it’s kind of a habit, sorry.” I said. “How come you guys are early?”
“I skipped the last class.” Nisha shrugged.
“So do I. I wanted to accompany Nisha.” Sam said.
“Why!?” I asked him in surprise.
“Because I helped her select a gift-”
“Senior Sam! You cannot be that senseless!” Nisha said.
Both Senior Sam and I looked at her in surprise.
She sighed and gave him a disapproving look, then turned around to take a gift box out of her bag.
“Congratulations on your first salary.” she smiled. “I wanted to wait a little more before giving you the gift, but he just ruined it.” she gave Sam a disapproving look.
“Oops! It was supposed to be a surprise?” He smiled, “my bad...”
But I was super excited to see the gift.
“Oh my God! You got me a gift!?” I took it from her happily. “Thank you so much!” I exclaimed. “Can I open this now?”
Nisha laughed at that. “You can silly,” she told me.
So I started to unwrap it.
Inside was a pretty journal book with printed pages that looked cute. I beamed at her.
Wow! Nisha knows me well!
“I thought you will like it,” Nisha told me. “I didn’t know what else to get you.”
“This is awesome! Thank you so much Nisha, I loved it, I was about to get a new one.” I told her.
“Yeah...I heard you mention it a while back,” she smiled.
“Now, this is why you are my best friend.” I turned and hugged her.
“People still write journals?” Senior Sam asked.
“It’s a habit,” I told him as I sit back down and looked at him.
“Where’s my gift?” I asked him jokingly.
“Ah...um...I selected it along with Nisha, so it is considered as a gift from both of us.” he said.
“He is the type to drink acid if it’s free,” Nisha said and both of us laughed while Sam glared at us from his seat.
“Looks like I am the only one who didn’t bring any gifts.”
The tone sent shivers down my spine. I looked up to see Michael watching us.
“You are here man!” Sam moved over to make him space on the settee seat, “come on, we are celebrating Ella’s first salary day.” he said.
“She didn’t invite me.” Michael looked at me.
I didn’t invite you because I thought you wouldn’t accept my invitation...
I smiled brightly. “I thought you were busy,” I said. “But I am very happy that you are here, Please join us, Senior Michael...”
I took the seat in front of Cinderella, near Sam.
“This is Nisha, my BEST Friend,” Ella told me.
“I know.” I said and everyone looked at me in surprise.
“I have heard about you from Sam, You were his crush from school-” I stopped as I got a kick from him under the table.
There was an awkward silence around the table.
I cleared my throat.
“Well...Anyway...it’s nice to meet you, Nisha.” I said.
Nisha smiled and nodded while Cinderella seemed to me trying to hide her giggle.
She looked happy and bubbly, she looked beautiful too...
“Let’s order then.” Sam was obviously still trying to manage the situation.
Soon we had our late lunch. I felt comfortable with the group. It’s the first time I am feeling okay with hanging out with a group of friends.
As everyone finished the dessert, Nisha looked at her phone.
“Oh my God!” She exclaimed dramatically. “It’s already 4:30, I need to go now.” she said and got up, then looked at a bewildered Sam.
“Senior Sam, Can you please drop me in your car? I am already late.” she added.
Sam looked surprised at that.
“But you said you are free today,” Cinderella exclaimed.
“I said I can make it to the celebration, but I can’t stay now.” she said. “Senior Sam...” she looked at him.
“Yea...” He got up. “Sure, I will drop you.” he looked like an excited schoolboy.
“Bye Senior Michael.” Nisha smiled at him and then turned to me. “Bye Ella,” she hugged me tightly and I hugged her back.
“Enjoy with your Michael, and don’t forget to ask him about the year-end party.” Nisha whispered before getting back up.
A light bulb blinked in my head.
Nisha is trying to give me some alone time with Michael...This is my chance to find out if Michael is attending the party or not.
I smiled and waved at her.
Wow...she really is my best friend...
“I will see you man,” Sam touched Michael on the shoulder and the later nodded.
I looked at an unsuspecting Michael and did an evil laughter inside.
Ha...haa...you are all mine now.
“You look...distracted.” Michael frowned slightly.
“I am right here,” I smiled. “Would you like to try my favourite dessert?”
“If I have anymore sweet, I will be having a sugar rush!” Michael said. “Now that Sam and your friend have left, let’s go back now.”
Oh no! I need to do something!
“Come on, I will pick up the tab today. I am the one who turned up without a gift anyway.” Michael got up.
“No...No, it was my treat!”
Michael looked around the restaurant.
“I am sure that this celebration would’ve cost nearly your first salary,” he said. “Do something special with that money, I will-”
“I already paid them when I made the reservation.” I said quickly. “Besides, I haven’t touched the salary yet! It’s too precious.” I opened my bag and pulled out the envelope.
“Tada...” I smiled brightly. “This is my first ever earning in this life, I won’t touch it.”
“What kind of logic is that?” Michael chuckled. “You spent a lot of money, but you don’t want to touch your first salary?”
“Yup! I am going to keep it safely.” I opened the bag and put the envelope back inside, careful not to wrinkle it while Michael looked at me with a perplexed look.
“Some things are beyond logic, Senior Michael.” I told him as an explanation and he nodded slowly.
“Yea, I know that, I have seen a lot of things after meeting you.” Michael agreed with me for the first time. “Can we go now?”
My smile dropped at that.
I can’t let him go...
Then Nisha’s efforts will be useless...I need to ask him about the year-end party.
And I need to spend time with him!
“Um...yea, sure...” I slowly followed him.
I need to think of something!
We were walking along the garden when I stopped.
“Senior Michael,” I said and he turned to me.
“I...I need to use the...um...restroom.”
Ella...you really are something!
Why couldn’t you come up with another excuse!
The truth was, I couldn’t think of anything else.
“Go on then,”
“It...It will only take five minutes, I will hurry back.” I said and started to flee without waiting for his reply.
I pulled out the phone on the way and dialled Nisha.
I need to have a plan B to make Michael stay with me and I am out of ideas...
I am desperate for some advice now!
This is my first time waiting for someone to come out of the restroom.
What the heck is happening Michael? Why should you wait for her? She’s a grownup who can find her own way straight home...um... maybe not very straight...but she can still find her own way slowly...
I went through my mails when someone greeted me.
I looked at the guy sitting on the bench near me. There was a baby girl and a feeding bottle on his right hand while he had a pink baby bag swung over the left.
He moved a little to make place for me.
I was confused for a moment. I pointed a finger at myself and he nodded ‘yes’.
“You can sit here and wait for your girlfriend,” he said.
“That’s my friend...well...my junior, not my girlfriend.” I said now realising that he has been watching me.
“That’s right, you can sit here and wait for your junior girlfriend,” he said again.
I decided not to respond to that.
“My wife told me that she will be coming back in 5 minutes too, but I have been waiting for her for a long time here,” he added.
What the heck! Has he been spying on me and Cinderella?
“You see...they will take their time to fix their hair and makeup.”
I looked at my watch unintentionally and saw that the time was already past five minutes.
“You can sit here and wait here with me, it will be boring to-” he stopped when there were voices from a side.
I too turned to see people rushing in and outside the restaurant.
The guy got up from the bench and looked at the place.
“I think something happened there.” he said slowly.
The baby started to cry and he started to pat her head.
“Thomas!” A lady came towards us, looking green. “You won’t believe what happened at the ladies rest room! I have never been so helpless like that!” She looked shaken while she sat down on the bench beside him.
“What happened?” The husband asked.
“A young lady...” she closed her eyes for a moment and a shiver went through her. “A young lady got sick all of a sudden! She cannot breathe and nobody knew what to do!”
“What...what did you say!?” I felt like someone has just punched my insides.
My heartbeat started to accelerate and I looked at her in denial. “What the hell did you say just now!?”
She looked alarmed at my tone.
“A young lady got ill and fell down, she was struggling to breath and-”
That’s all I heard before I started sprinting.
If I don’t get her the inhaler in time, I cannot imagine what will happen next.
I can still remember the time I had to pick her up and run to the doctor the last time that guys attacked her!
She was struggling to breathe, her whole body was turning blue and it had felt horrible...
I prayed to the god that she will have the inhaler inside her bag this time.
There were a lot of people gathered at the doorway.
“Move!” I shouted and got inside the ladies room.
But apart from people looking aghast and talking, there was no sign of Cinderella.
“Where is she?” I looked around. “Where is that girl who got sick!?” I asked again, now desperate.
“She...she was taken outside to the ambulance by the medical-”
I heard her shaky voice and stilled, then slowly turned around to see a very pale Cinderella standing there.
“What...what are you doing inside the ladies room-”
She stopped in shock as I took two long strides and engulfed her inside my hands.
The surrounding stilled and disappeared. All I could feel was her body pressed to mine and the warmth of her.
She is still here...
She is here...
She is okay...she’s safe...
Relief flooded me.
I can’t move.
Even if I can, I wouldn’t be able to; Michael was hugging me tightly. I could feel him trembling slightly from head to foot.
My heart went crazy and I felt dizzy suddenly.
Even though I have imagined this inside my head a zillion times, I cannot accept the fact that Michael, my only one love, is hugging me tightly like this.
“You are...you are okay...” he whispered and I opened my eyes in shock. I registered our reflection around all the mirrors in the room first, and then the countless stupefied faces around us.
“I...I am okay, Michael,” I told him. “It was not me...” I added slowly.
I have just put the puzzle pieces together. Michael must’ve thought that I am the one who was taken to the hospital.
He slowly let go of me and I took a deep breath. He was crushing me for a few minutes.
Our eyes locked on each other. I am sure that my face is now tomato red.
Michael cleared his throat.
“Let’s go,” he told me and I nodded slowly.
“I am sorry for the inconvenience,” Michael told the ladies before taking my hand and dragging me out of there.
I dragged Cinderella out of there. Even though I know that she is safe, I wanted to get her out of the place as soon as possible.
I stopped in my track and turned around.
I found the guy who was waiting for his wife earlier.
What does he want now?
I raised my eyebrows at him.
“This is yours, you dropped it when you sprinted to the restroom.” he said while he showed me my mobile phone.
I stared at his extended hand for a second.
What the heck! I didn’t even realise that I dropped my phone!?
That was a first for me.
“Um...Thank you.” I said while taking that.
“You are that young lady who helped her,” the wife suddenly appeared beside him, carrying the baby.
I am confused now.
“Wow...your junior girlfriend is a hero!” The guy smiled.
I turned to look at Cinderella who looked sheepish.
She just smiled at them and turned to me.
“She...she had an allergic reaction to food...and I found the Epipen in her purse and gave her a dose...she had...trouble breathing and I...thought of...” she stopped with that.
She must have been thinking about her condition.
“Thanks for finding my phone, but we have to leave now.” I said and guided her outside again. I don’t know why I didn’t let go of her hand. I just dragged Cinderella with me all the way outside.
Once I was outside. I took a deep breath and let go of her hand.
I was still shivering slightly so I fisted my hands, closed my eyes, took another breath and turned to Cinderella who was looking as if she is in a daze.
“I am late for my part time job,” I said the first thing that I could think of.
She just stared at me.
“I mean... I am supposed to go for my part time job now,” I lied. “Will you call your driver to pick you up?”
She was still staring at me, which was contributing to the accelerated pounding of my heart.
“Um...Ah...the driver...part time...”
“Can you ask him to pick you up now?” I asked again and was relieved to see her nodding her head.
It’s rare for her to follow the instructions without any counter.
“Let’s wait here on the side.” I walked to the bus stop near the restaurant.
“That’s...that’s not necessary, I will-”
“Don’t argue and listen to me this time.” I looked at her sternly and our eyes locked.
I could see so many questions, confusion and many other things in the depth of it.
I moved my eyes away and took the bench inside.
I know I am a coward to send her off like this, but I need some alone time to think of what just happened.
Nothing unplanned happened in the past 25 years of my life so I am kind of stunned at my own reaction today.
Cinderella dialled and talked to her driver, then sit beside me.
She was silent.
“I...I was worried,” I admitted slowly. “Don’t think anything about what happened today, I was...kind of...I mean, I didn’t...I thought you were in danger and over reacted like that,” I managed to get it out. “Don’t think too much about it.”
And when I didn’t get a reply from her, looked sideways at her to see that she is still in a trance.
“Are you okay?” I asked her.
“Cinderella? Are you okay?” I was louder this time.
“I am...Okay.” she nodded slowly.
Silence descended on us. Both of us were sitting with a little space between us.
I don’t know how much time has been it, but I was snapped out of it as I heard a car stopping beside us.
“How many bags do you have?” I asked her all of a sudden.
She looked confused.
“I mean...you don’t have to tell me the exact number, but let me know how many bags you usually take out,” I said.
She was just staring at me.
I guess I cannot blame her since I am super aware that I am behaving out of ordinary.
“Cinderella, promise me that you will keep an inhaler in every bag of yours.”
“Senior Michael...” she looked alarmed. “Are you okay?”
No, I am not okay! I am acting like a freak now, but I cannot help it.
“No matter what this is the only solution I can think of,” I looked at her seriously. “It will be better for you to keep an inhaler in all the bags of yours...” I nodded slowly. “Yea, that’s right, it will be even better if you keep one in the car too.”
“How...how did you know that!?”
“That I have an inhaler in the car!?” she looked surprised. “My mama placed it in the car and that’s the main reason she never allows me to travel alone.” she added.
For the first time, I could understand her mama.
I guess she knows Cinderella very well too...
“Then don’t make her worry, your Mama is obviously trying to protect you, take care of yourself well, Cinderella.”
Michael looked flustered and not himself.
“I am okay now,” I said slowly. “I won’t forget the inhaler, I promise.” I said more firmly.
Michael took a deep breath and nodded.
“Thank you for today.” I added before turning back to the car.
I watched the car until it moved out of sight. My heart was pounding crazily at my new discovery.
Sam, Jenni and Professor Abraham are right.
I am getting swayed by Cinderella...I am starting to like her more than I should.