#23 She is transferring college
I dunno how long I slept. When I opened my eyes, my whole body felt sore.
I had slept after watching the second video that was posted on the website in the morning.
I tried to move and noticed the saline drip connected to my hand.
“Ella,” I heard Mama’s voice and jerked up. “How do you feel?”
“Mama? What...what happened?”
“You had a high temperature and you were shivering yesterday,” she said. “And you just slept through the whole day today.”
“Oh...” that explains the saline drip. She must’ve contacted my Doctor.
“Is everything okay at college?” She asked me.
“What’s wrong?” Mama frowned as my face fell. “Is someone bothering you?”
“It’s nothing,” I said. “I don’t feel good, I want to take a few days off and rest here,”
She stared at me.
“Just a couple of days, Mama...”
“What’s going on, Ella? You want to take leave? You? What’s wrong?” She asked me. “The last time you were injured, I asked you to stay back for a few days for your health check-up and you caused a fuss about it!”
“I just don’t feel good,” I said. “I am sick,”
She stared at me for a few seconds and I looked away.
“Okay, Ella, recover first.” she nodded slowly, her face softened slightly.
This is not like the other times, Ella is really down. The maids told me that she had locked herself in the room after college yesterday and that she refused to eat anything.
I checked on her and was shocked to see her shivering with high a high fever.
I took out my phone and dialled Sara, one of my secretaries.
“Sara, find out if there is anything going on in Ella’s college,”
“Okay.” She said. “We know a couple of students from her college, I will contact them now.”
“Don’t get involved in anything; I don’t want Ella to think that I am interfering in her college life.”
“I understand, Ma’am.”
Cinderella didn’t attend college for the last seven days and I resisted the temptation to contact her.
Thankfully I was able to take down the video from the college website even though it had done some damages.
I found the origin of the first video as well.
“Why did you do it?” I looked at Meera and she looked nervous.
We were at a restaurant a few blocks away from the college that was not crowded.
“I...I just wanted to make fun of her, I never thought it would go out of hand like this,” she said. “I swear, I never posted it on the college website, I only forwarded it to a few Whatsapp groups.”
“I...we don’t like her.” she said slowly. “It has always been like that from the first year.”
“What did she ever do to you to go to this extent?” I couldn’t help but ask her. “Cinderella had been on leave since this incident.”
I am actually quite angry at the fact that she started this. I never got involved in other people’s business before, but strangely I am feeling so protective of Cinderella. I am also worried about her as I have never been before.
“It...It was not me who posted the second video, I swear!” Meera looked at me. “Senior Michael, I never thought things would turn out this way!” she looked sincerely apologetic.
“You never answered my question, Meera, What did Cinderella do to you?”
She looked down.
“She...I...she didn’t do anything to me, I was just...”
“You just hated her.” I said stated.
“I am sorry-” she stopped as someone appeared by our table.
“Senior Michael,” Angela looked at me. “It’s not Meera’s fault, she meant it as a joke.”
That got me angry. I don’t see anything funny in this.
“Take a seat if you have anything to tell me about this.” I said and Angela took the seat beside Meera.
“Are you involved in this?” I looked at Angela.
“I have better things to do than waste my time on her.” Angela said.
“You can leave if you have no connection with this incident.”
“Senior Michael, Meera did it because of me. She knew what I went through because of Ella. She never intended it to get out of hand.”
“So you are still blaming Cinderella for this?” I looked at her.
“Her Mama made my life a living hell during school time! My dad used to work for her Mama and she was generous and helped our family from time to time.” Angela looked into my eyes. “But her Mama always wanted me to compromise. She sent me to the same school as Ella, but she expected me to serve her daughter. She would be angry whenever I get an award. She wouldn’t be pleased whenever I scored higher than her.”
“I am not interested in what her Mama did-”
“Ella’s Mama is overprotective of her and she would go to any extent to make her daughter’s life easier. She won’t even bother about the people who are hurt because of that.” Angela looked at me. “You saw how her Mama tried to get me expelled, it had happened in the school too,”
“I don’t see it as a valid reason for doing something like this.” I said. “And you cannot blame Cinderella for what her Mama had done!”
If anything, I can see that Cinderella is also a victim here.
“You don’t understand,” Angela said firmly. “It was traumatizing to me. I was scared, I didn’t have anyone to complain to, she was so powerful and I couldn’t do anything then,” Angela looked really angry. “When I got admission here, I decided to be braver; I won’t let anyone control me anymore.”
“Have you ever thought if Cinderella wanted any of this? As far as I can see, she is as affected as you by these incidents.”
I remembered the time I visited her Mama for the first time to compromise the expulsion issue. Cinderella never came down to meet us and I had pegged her as a rich-spoilt brat then, but later, I came to know through Sam that she had been locked up in the room by her Mama.
“You are talking for her! Senior Michael, you are taking her side!” Angela looked at me in shock. “You never involved yourself in other matters!”
I know she had a point, but I couldn’t admit it.
“The three of you are my students, as the project leader, I cannot close my eyes on this matter,” I said.
“I am sorry,” Meera spoke up. “I never intended to hurt her like that; I was simply trying to make fun of her.”
I looked at her.
“I don’t see anything funny in this whole ordeal.” I told her sternly. “I know that it was not you who posted it on the website, but I will have to take action for what you have done.”
“Senior Michael! Give her a chance; she worked hard for this project.” Angela pleaded.
“I will let you stay in the project team.” I said. “But I will also report this matter in the department.”
Meera and Angela sat there and stared at me.
“My internals...” Meera dragged off.
“We only have two more weeks for the Tech-fest. I hope you will focus on your studies from now on.”
And with that, I got up and walked out of there. I was still angry at the whole incident.
“Are you okay?”
I turned around from the window to see Nisha coming inside the room.
I ran to her and hugged her tightly. I sure am glad to see her. She has always avoided coming to my house, but she is here for me today.
She patted me on the shoulder.
“Okay Ella, I have some news for you,” she said. “Please calm down first,” she said.
There was something in the way she told me that made me alert.
Soon both of us were sitting on her bed and chatting.
“You look a mess,” I said.
“I had a fever for the last couple of days,”
“When are you coming back to college? It has been a week, Ella.” she asked me and I looked down.
“Mama said she wants to transfer me,”
“What about you?”
She just looked down.
“Don’t tell me you are thinking of it!”
“What...what else am I supposed to do now?” she said slowly. “Ever since I joined college, I needed only one thing...” her voice trembled and she dragged off.
“So you are giving up on him?” I asked her. “Can you do that?”
Ella wiped her eyes.
“I...I cannot stalk him...” she said slowly.”He clearly told me that he has no feelings for me,”
“There’s something you should know, Ella,” I said slowly. “I thought about it the last couple of days and I am still confused about this,”
“What are you talking about?” She looked at me.
That’s right, I really thought of it the last couple of days. I guess it’s now Ella’s turn to make a decision.
“Sam said that Michael has feelings for you,” I blurted out and Ella literally froze while looking at me.
“That’s right, Michael admitted it personally, but he also said that he doesn’t plan to act on it. Michael thinks both of you are way too different to start a relationship,”
“Michael...he...he likes me?” Ella whispered.
“Hear me out completely first, Ella, I have not finished yet,” I said seriously. “Your Mama visited Michael personally and offered him a blank cheque to stay away from you,” I said and Ella’s face morphed into horror. “So Sam thinks that Michael won’t change his decision, he thinks it would be impossible between you and him,”
Silence filled the room for a few moments.
“Are...Are you sure that Michael...he likes me?” Ella asked slowly.
“Michael himself admitted that to Sam,” I nodded.
“Then I won’t give up,” Ella said. “I know that Mama insulted him, I know that it would be difficult for me,” she looked at me. “But I still want to take this chance; I don’t want to give up easily,”
I nodded slowly.
I knew that Ella will take this chance.
“Then give it your everything, Ella, Sam and I will definitely support you,” I said and Ella hugged me tightly, this time she nearly knocked my breath away.
“Don’t strangle me,” I shouted, but started to pat her as she started to tear up again.
When I reached back home, Jenni was waiting for me with a scowl on her face.
“What did you do Michael?” She asked me. “Ella said she is taking some days off,”
“How many days?”
“She didn’t sound like she’s ever coming back,” Jenni said and my heart dropped. “What’s going on?” She asked me.
“Nothing,” I said and stormed out of there.
As soon as I was inside my room, I took out my phone and started to scroll through Whatsapp.
I touched on Cinderella’s name and opened the chat and scrolled through the messages.
I could read all sorts of ridiculous doubts and questions regarding the project there.
But I also realised another thing there. She was trying to have a conversation with me. Her messages started with doubt and ended with some random off-topic things.
I was so immersed in the phone that I nearly missed the beep sound from my laptop...nearly.
I jerked up to see the alarm again.
Finally! The fish is caught in my trap...
When I took down the videos from the website, I had planted a small present for him there.
I started to work. I need to find his IP address before he goes offline.
I was typing furiously as the person suddenly stopped. I realised that he has discovered about the hacking.
“Who are you?”
I sent a message across. I was hoping to get him to stay online.
“Why are you targeting Cinderella Adams?” I typed.
“Because I don’t like her. She has everything while I don’t have anything.”
“I will find you.” I typed again. “And you will regret doing this.”
The location of the guy blinked on my map.
“You cannot find me.” It was the last message from him, before he disappeared from online.
It was sent from one of the cafes near our college.
I know that there is no point in going there now. The guy would not stay there as he is exposed.
I closed my laptop. I just stopped him from uploading whatever it was he was planning for now, but I am sure that he or she will try it again.
My eyes connected with Cinderella’s red stilettos that were placed inside the shelf.
Why do you have so many people targeting you, Cinderella?
The next day, it was not different. Cinderella was still on leave and I was thinking about everything that happened in the last few days.
“Ella is transferring,” Sam told me as he sits beside me in the cafeteria. “Nisha visited her at her house yesterday,” he added.
I put down the spoon and looked at him.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked him. “She still has the project to finish,”
I had been waiting for the last week. I thought she would come back once she was okay.
“I don’t know the details, but it looks like her Mama has arranged it for her,” he shrugged. “She is going back with that guy; Julian. Apparently, they are family friends.”
I got angry instantly.
“She cannot be this irresponsible!” I said. “After everything she did to get inside the project group-”
“She was interested in you, and not the project and you know it now,” Sam stated. “Now that she is clear that you don’t care about her, she is quitting,”
“That’s...she cannot do that!”
“Why not?” Sam looked at me. “She is not the one who is presenting the project with you at the tech-fest, she is just one of the members, and her absence will not be noticed anyway,”
But I have been noticing it for the past 1 week...
“All the team members are important as we will need our members to cheer for us and support us so as to impress the judges,”
“I didn’t know that project presentation will need a cheering team,” Sam said.
“It’s a closed program, only if we have enough members can we compete with other colleges,” I said. “I shouldn’t have let her in the first place,”
“Let her where? In your heart or in your project team?” he murmured.
“I can hear you, Sam,” I said and pulled my phone out as it started to ring.
“Jeeva?” Sam frowned. “Isn’t that guy you work with from time to time?”
“Yeah, I asked him a favour,” I said and attended the call.
“I just sent you the CCTV footage from that cafe,” he said. “Check it out,”
“Thanks, I owe you one,” I said and disconnected the call.
I opened his message.
“What’s this?” Sam looked at my phone. “Who is he?” He looked at the guy.
“He is a computer science student,” I recognised him instantly. “One of my juniors who has excellent hacking skill, but as far as I know, he took the semester off and nobody knew where he is.”
“I don’t understand,” he frowned.
“He was the one who uploaded videos on Cinderella,” I said.
“Why?” Sam looked puzzled. “That guy has nothing to do with her,”
“That’s what I would like to know too,”
“How come you know about him?”
“When I take down the video clips from the website, I planted a surprise for him and he got trapped,” I said. “But he realised that he is being watched and hide himself,”
“I visited the cafe the next day and they refused to give me the details on who used it, so I used Jeeva to obtain the information,” I said. “After all, he is an officer working against cybercrime in the town,”
“So you just go to all this trouble for Ella?”
“It’s no trouble at all,” I said. “It was easy for me,”
“Then tell me the people whom you helped like this because of your generosity,” Sam said and I stilled. “And yet you say that you don’t care...”
“I don’t feel like it’s a simple thing, Sam,” I said sternly. “They uploaded her video twice and would have done one more if I haven’t interfered,”
“What are you going to do now?” Sam asked me.
“I need to find this guy and see what it is that he wants,” I said darkly.
I made sure that Michael will not be there when I visited Jenni. I picked up the time when Michael would be out for his part-time job.
“So are you really quitting?” Jenni asked me. The twins were still in school, so I couldn’t meet them.
“For now, yes,” I nodded. “Um...This is the final strategy to test Michael,” I said.
“I am glad that you are not giving up on him,” Jenni smiled. “He really needs to understand that life will not always be logical and pre-planned,”
“Thank you for the support,” I smiled slightly.
Yes, after discussing with Sam and Nisha, we have come to a conclusion, that no matter what, I should force a response out of Michael.
For that, I need to take a step back. As they said, it’s a strategy; ‘Retreat to move forward’
I am going to do everything that will make Michael think that I am quitting college.
If that doesn’t make him reveal his true feelings, I don’t know what else would.
Sam, Nisha and Jenni agreed with me wholeheartedly too. What they don’t know is the fact that I am going to really leave here if things don’t go as planned.
If Michael decides to keep away from me even after hearing that I am quitting, I need to move on.
I can’t get obsessed with something I can’t have.
Even the thought of it is breaking my heart, but another bigger part is more optimistic and hopeful after I came to know about Michael’s revelation to Sam.
Michael has feelings for me...it is worth the try...
“I will miss you, Ella,” Jenni said.
“I hope I can come back here soon,” I said. “I have to go now, Thank you for calling me a cab.”
“There’s still time for Michael to come back,”
“I know,” I smiled. “It’s just that I want him to know that I am avoiding him intentionally,”
I had been avoiding him successfully for the last week. I don’t want to break it today.
“Then I won’t hold you back, Ella, I hope you will be successful, good luck,”
“Thank you,” I got up. “Jenni, it was nice to meet you.”
“Don’t talk like you are really going away, Ella,” she looked at me sternly. I just smiled slightly and turned back to the door.
As I walked outside, Jenni accompanied me to the door.
“Why didn’t you call your driver?”
“Since Mama is keeping tabs on me, I just avoided calling him,” I said. “I will just go back to the college and call Uncle Jose to pick me-” I stopped as a bike came into the compound.
My heart skipped a beat when Michael got down from it. He removed the helmet and turned to me. We were facing each other after a week and I stilled on my track.
My eyes drank him in greedily and I instantly noticed something different about him.
I really wanted to ask him, but I was frozen in my track while looking into his eyes.
I can’t believe my eyes; she’s just in front of me. It has been a week...no it would be eight days to be exact since I last saw her.
“Ella, your cab is here,” Jenni said and I snapped back to my senses.
I noticed the cab waiting for her in front of the gate.
I turned back to Cinderella, but she just looked down and then turned to Jenni, “I will see you then,” she said quickly and Jenni nodded.
“Take care,” she said.
Cinderella walked towards the gate.
“Cinderella,” I said and she stilled. “Why are you here?”
“She’s here to bid me goodbye,” It was Jenni who answered.
I turned to her, but she was still avoiding my gaze.
“I cannot park here on the roadside,” The cab driver called out of the window and she started to move towards the car again.
“Wait,” I hurried to the gate and clutched her bag just before she opened the door.
I turned to the driver. “She is not coming,” I added more firmly.
“I...I need to go back,” Cinderella talked to me for the first time.
“I can drop you,” I said and nodded towards the porch where the car was parked.
“That’s not necessary,” she said and I pulled her backpack towards me gently, causing her to move back from the car.
“Are you coming or-”
“No, she is not coming, you may go.” I said firmly to the driver. I took out my wallet and gave him some change before turning to Cinderella, “this is not the first time I am offering you a ride,”
The car moved away from us.
“Now that the cab is gone, you can let go of her, she is not going to disappear, Mike,” Jenni said in her annoyingly teasing tone.
I ignored her and turned to Cinderella. “It’s nearly the end of the semester, why are you quitting now?” I asked her.
“Mama arranged everything for me to-”
“What about the project?” I cut across her again. “I deserve to know at least that.”
Yes, I am really angry today. I am angry that she avoided me all week. I am angry that she planned to visit when I was not here.
“I...I am not the one who is presenting the project,” she said slowly. “I didn’t think it would make any difference if I stayed for it.”
Her answer just infuriated me. I let go of her bag and took a step back.
“Fine,” I said. “Then just do it like your Mama wants,” I said and walked to my house.
“Why are you getting angry, Mike? If I didn’t know better I would think that you are angry about her avoiding you,” Jenni said.
I ignored her again and unlocked the door.
“I...I will just leave now,” Cinderella said and my heart skipped a beat.
I was suddenly afraid of her leaving again. I was worried that she would leave and I wouldn’t be able to see her again.
“If you are here to say goodbye, take your stuff back with you,” I demanded.
She looked at me in confusion.
“Your shoe and the dress are here,” I explained before walking inside my house.
I stared at the place where Michael just disappeared.
Jenni laughed and I snapped out of my daze.
“So much anger for someone who didn’t want to have anything to do with you, He so deserved it,” she smirked.
“He...he is angry,” I walked to her side.
“Yes, I can see that,” Jenni said. “He didn’t want you to leave; he wanted to talk to you. That’s why he just asked you to get your stuff,” she explained.
“I...I cannot talk to him,” I whispered, I was suddenly scared of facing him. “Sam and Nisha said I should stay away from him for a few days, no matter what,”
“Then avoid him after talking to him,” she said. “Make him convinced that you are leaving soon,”
“Help me get my stuff?” I pleaded and Jenni laughed.
“Michael is in his notorious pissed off mood and I have no intention of getting involved,” she said. “Good luck, Ella,” she walked back to the house.
“You are ditching me here?”
She just raised her hand and waved before disappearing inside.
I bit my lips and turned back to Michael’s house.
I have two choices now. I can go inside and get my stuff and talk to him.
...or I can just run away...
“Are you planning to stay there the whole day, Cinderella?”
I jumped at his voice and realised that I cannot easily get away this time.
Q: Do you think Michael will confess his love?