Serene Shadows —(Chapter-1 Cont.)
“Time for what?”She asked him again.
“God, Khushi, get up. It’s time,we got to go.”Lavanya’s voice got herout of the haze as she shook her shoulders.
Khushiblinked and squinted her eyes at her.
“What are you doing here?”Sheasked Lavanya sleepily.
Lavanya glared at her.
“What am I doing here? You idiot, you’resleeping on the floor. It’s embarrassing, get up.”She hissed at me.
She looked around. Where was the cigarette smokingguy? she was sprawled on the floor. Ina darkcorner of the room. Shelooked down at myself. She was wearing the same blue tank top, white and deep blue denim jeans and shoes. Frowning she blinked several times.
I was at the balcony. How did I end upat the corner wall of the room? she asked herself.
“Where is the cigarette guy?”Khushiasked her confused.
Lavanyastared at herwith those big round green eyes.
“Are you high?”
Shelooked around again. The party was still blaring strong with people dancingwith more vengeance. Some of them were making out from beside us.
“Did you snort drugs?”
“What? No. He was here.”She got up and looked around.
Khushi’s forehead cleared.
He wasn’t here. He was at the balcony.
Shetook her hand in mine.
“khushi,have you gone mad. Shit, I shouldn’t have brought you here.”Lavanyamuttered behind her.
Shegot up the stairs and opened the doors of the balcony, but it was all lonely. shelooked around. How can this be a dream? shefelt him. His breath. His touch. It was like a brand. It was real.
Hereyes widened as shechecked theback pocket of the jeans, but it was empty.
Lavanyawas looking at heras if she hadgone crazy. Khushi sighed. Alright. It was a dream. Sheguessed.
“Come on, let’s go. It’s getting crazy here. I don’t want to getcaught by thepolice.”She said nervously.
They hurriedly got down the stairs, but shecouldn’t help butlook back at the balcony.
Lavanya started the car.
“Did you see the amount of cocaine that was moving around?”She glanced back at her.
Lavanyasighed at her noncommittal answer.
“You still hung up on that dream?”
“I don’t know, Lavanya. It seemed real.”
“You need to rest. You’re working too hard on the assignment projects that you’re seeing things.”She said exasperated.
“Yeah, you maybe right.”I looked back at the disappearing house.
Khushiwalked around the new house and stood staring at it. She sighed. So, this was their new abode. Her hands weighed heavy of a wooden box containing a few expensivecrockery. It was kind of a beach house. Away and far into the woods. This was the third time auntwas changing places that too living in the same city. She was divorced, but uncle visited khushi and her brother on the weekend. They were not a bitter couple. Just separated on amicable terms. Khushi look back at the house. It was a four storeyed white washed one, a very bland and forlorn looking one, with it’s several of French windows glimmering in the sunset.
At least she wasn’t changing college, thank goodness for that. Khushidragged her feet reluctantly into the house and up the stairs. She had already chose a roombefore her nuisance of a small brother wouldn’t bully into it. He was fiveyears younger to her, but he still behaved as if, he was the elder one between the two. He was fifteen, yet he towered over her 5’7height, pretty mucheasily dwarfing her bodywith his lanky form.
It was a corner room, with the view of the clear blue ocean, the simplicity of it just called at her heart and she settled that as along as they live here it would hers forever. She practically shouted out deliberately so that her brother could hear it.He only looked across at her flatly and took the room of the downstair storey. Khushibeamed up more when all of the third floor was left only to her reign.
She sighed finally that after aweek of shifting the furniture, finally everything got settled in all of the respective rooms. When she saw now of how she decorated the hallway and most of the white wallpaper walls with the paintings and everything, she felt like now the house looked like theirs. Her auntobviously busy with her practice, with lord knows how many divorce cases to handle, wasn’t always at home.
Evening settled more and the oceanbreeze turned more frigid. Khushipulled into the coat more warmly and walked downstairs, she put the kettle on the burner and started boiling the milk, sugar, tea mixture.
A sudden blasting musicstarted bursting throughthe wall of the corridors and Khushiwinced jumping back a little.
The fool, Rozan! She muttered cursing heavily and walked fast towards his room.
“Rozan!”She shouted and flung open his door, but words froze over her tongue when she saw that it was empty.
The music system was on, and this fool kept the volume in wall bursting mode.She sighed and saw that the window was open and achill surrounded more. Care less and irresponsible. When was he going to learn.
Khushiwent up to it and closed it firm. Sheclosed the shutters firm. Where was he? Day by day he was going out of hand. At this hour of the night, how dare he disappear. She worried anew if he was into trouble. God, Aunt would be so mad. She ran back to her room upstairs. She took her phone from the bed and dialled his number. It kept ringing and ringing and finally after the nth time it went to the voicemail.
She typed in a message.
-Get home NOW!-
The reply came instant, Khushi glowered. How dare he not answer her call but message her. What was she going to do with her brother now that she didn’t know.
Study night? Was it? It was Tuesday. Oh, yeah, she thought relieved. He would be at his friend’s, Richard’shouse with the study group. Damn, what was happening to her these days. After the strange dream that she had it scrambled her brain since then, but she was sure, she had seen the guy somewhere. Where? Where? Khushi sagged back on the bed thinking.
A sudden zing of memory clouded her brain and she gasped remembering the cigarette. Holy crap! Her widened and her hands went up to her mouth as she gasped.
She hurriedly dialled Lavanya’s number. It connected in only two rings.
“I dreamed about the bullies.”She blurted out in a screech.
“Heck it, Khushi! Lower your voice. My ears did not wake up still…”She said in a bleary voice affected too much with sleep.
Khushi whispered now.
“That night in the party I dreamed about Rayla,the mega bully’s boyfriend….”She said in a panicked voice.
She heard a sound of stirring and ruffle of the covers.
“Oho, Khushi dreamed about a guy..”Lavanya seem to come out of her sleep, as she went into a teasing mode instantly.
“Ugh! Can you please focus….the five have been the nightmare in the campus and I’m fearing that they would come back.”Khushi muttered in an anxious breath.
“Whoa! Calm down. First of all, the guy ain’t Rayla’s boyfriendand second of all he had an accident remember and it had been seven months since… And he just disappeared after it, yes?She asked suddenly.
Khushi remembered about the rumours whispering about like hot news all around the uni since the accident. She felt a little guilty suddenly.
“What do you think might have happened?”Khushi wondered.
She held the phone over her ear and slid down on the bed.
“I don’t know the details, but they were pretty bad. Most of what I got was, he lost his voice…. Or he purposely stopped talking ever since and also had dropped outfrom the uni altogether…”Lavanya said too in a observation and a yawn.
They were having a conversation about the very popular guy in the uni, of was a very popular guy, but after the incident there was a speck about his name around the campus or his friends that were closer to him just drifted apart too. They were the horrible five, except him. He had been a silent nonchalant observer, but he did nothing to protest what other were doing to the rest of the students. Rayla was the queen bee, she was rich, beautiful and all that, andwell she still is, she and her minion barbie crowd terrorised the rest of the girls of the uni. Khushi remembered when Rayla had painted the word ‘b*t*h’ and ‘Dyke’in redflaming big capital letters on her locker, only because Khushi had refused to write an assignment to one of her crowd. She still remembered the day vividly. Most of the other snickering students gathered around and started making fun of her.
“Look at the way she dresses.”One of them scorned in a disdainful voice.
“Oh, god,she had asked for my number. I didn’t know that she was such…thank god I didn’t give her my mail Id.”Another girl gasped in a disgusted tone.
Humiliated tears had former in her eyes.
Rayla had cat walked towards her then and smirked looking up and down at Khushi in scoff.
“Now, you know, what happens when you mess with my group.”She looked all around Khushi’s face in a smug glance.
Her expression had morphed into such evil hate that Khushi remembered the sharpness of it till now.
“Finish the assignment.”Rayla had muttered harshly at her and walked forward to the other aisle of the lockers.
She remembered him standing with other two guy friends of his. Rayla went and high fived with all them. All of the snickering, disgustful, disdainful, judgmental, some understanding and some sympathetic eyes just engulfed her in a shame and she had dissolved in tears, had ran away and rushed to the bathrooms and locked herself there. The other four guys were her power, one was a quarterback, the cheer leaders just went crazy after his dark handsome looks,the other was a hoodie guy. He was like a dangerous biker or sorts. Rumor has it that, he was sent to a delinquent prison for setting up fire to principal’soffice two years back. The third one was quite a skirt chaser,he was a V-card stealer. He gamed every pretty naive girl in the campus and threw them away like discard of a napkin when done. He placed money bets on the girl he sets his hawk eyes on,and thenit was all his the next day, the girl, the money, the bet. Every girl knewabout it and every girl still fell for his charm.They say, his charm was akiller, even ifone knew about his such amorous reputation, and it it flew away when he smiles. The fourth one was he, the ultimate king of the group. He was a mix of all three of them. He partied wild, but nobody knew about it, he raced on the streets, but he was clever to hide it, he placed bets with his friend but his name never came out. He stayed in the dark and played it well. Some say that he too stayed in the prison along with his friend and he too had vandalised the uni properties. Khushi had always seen him smokeBecause all four of those were given a three week punishment of working community service for quite a while.
She came back with a jerk from the memories. Khushi yawned too suddenly, and blinked her eyes.
“But I heard that, he had scars around his throat.”She mumbled in a low tone.
“Yeah, I don’t know what is true now, but what happened to him, shouldn’t have happened at all.”Lavanya’s voice turned sad.
Khushi too felt the same.
“Yes, that’s true.”She mumbled.
Her phone vibrated with another call. Khushi glanced at the screen and she went back to talking.
“Ritu is calling, Lavanya…I’m gonna three way us, yeah?”
“Yep.”Lavanya muttered in reply.
Khushi connected the call, before she could open her mouth, their mutual cynical friend already started ranting.
“I know you’ll start ranting about finishing the projects on time, but my submission is tomorrow and I haven’t even started a stick. Prof. Reynolds is going to croak looking at my hacked up try on the marketing papers and I need your help like ..”She started on in a glower.
Khushi laughed lightly and Lavanya too joined her.
“Prof. Reynolds will bury your assignment first, before he get himself buried four feet under the groundreading one of the episodes of vampire diaries, you write in between paragraphs.”Lavanya snorted sarcastically in reply.
“Haha, very funny, La, but anyways, vampire diaries is old news now. I have new craze of Korean dramas these days and each episode is so cool. I will send the links and you better watch, hah? Coz….”Ritu went on crazily.
Lavanya groaned at her own foolishness, she knew very well Ritu was aTV series buff and nothing could stop her raving about her favorite shows until their ears bled listening and listening on.
Khushi shook her head smiling but another call vibrated on her cell. She glanced down at the caller screen. She put the phone to her ear.
“Hey guys, it’s Dhruv, I’m gonna connect his call to us.”She informed.
Ritu’s frantic talk cut off in mid sentence of explaining some action sequence to Lavanya. Poor, La, might have slept off.
“Eh? Dhruv? What does the dufus want now?”Ritu gritted in an irritated voice.
Khushi sighed. These two were always at loggerheads. Ritu bites off his head and Dhruv just teases her to no end. Heaven only could help the two, god knows she had tried to getthem makeat least civil to each but it always ended up in a mess. Khushi gave up trying.
“Oh, thank god.”Lavanya whispered through the line.
“What thank god?”Ritu asked suspicious.
“I meant, thank god…it..it rained today. It so hot in the morning, isn’t it?”Lavanya hastily covered the slip of tongue very well and diverted the topic to the weather.
Ritu seemed pacified by it somehow.
“Yeah, well….”She started again.
Khushi stifled a bursting laughter. Oh, goodie, Lavanya was awake and didn’t seem to fall into acomatose state by Ritu’s enthusiasm over dramas on TV.
“What is this ruckus? “A deep burr of a very familiar husky voice of their friend entered into the conversation.
“Hey, Dhruv, we’re on a four way here on the line.”Khushi chirped.
She heard his deep rich chuckle vibrate in the sudden silence
“Four way? I never had that before.”He murmured in a too cool an arrogant voice.
All three girls groaned in disgust at the blatant innuendo there.
“You resort to such talking coz you don’t getany of in real.”Ritu muttered in a hiss.
“What’s that mouse voice? Yeah because I don’t hear losers.”Dhruv shot back.
Khushi closed her eyes. This was going insane.
“First your sentences doesn’t match. Second, decide to name me as one and stick to it, dufus.”Ritu retorted.
“Hey, Dhruv, what did call for?”Lavanya asked hastily again.
“Oh, yeah, La, hey, and Khushido you have the cell number of that chick you always share the tutoring class with?”He asked her in a curious.
Khushi’s forehead furrowed.
“Who? Siya?”She asked.
“Maybe,I dunno, with curly hair and all.”He replied nonchalantly in a careless throw of a drawl.
“Why don’t you ask one of your floozies. I’m sure you’ll get a slap instead of the number”Ritu cut in again.
“You so want to be one ofmy floozies.”He replied her in a low heated voice.
“Shut up.”Came the immediate embarrassed reply.
Lavanya opened her mouth to awash a few passive words but it was pointless. Their arguments would never end, but right then, her cell started flashing a light of a familiar number. She smiled a little.
“Hey, guys, Ayush is on the call.”Lavanya connected the line to theirs.
“Sup, man.”Dhruv greeted first.
“Hey, Ayush.”Khushi and Ritu chorused a reply.
“Hey, dude, and what’shappening here?”He asked in acalm composed voice.
He was always is the sane one between them all. Khushi always wondered at his patience and soft tone.
“Nothing new, Dhruv is being a jerk again.”Ritu muttered hotly.
“Yeah, and Ritu wants to be my floozy.”Dhruv muttered back in a flat voice.
Ritu gasped. She started with lots of heavy curses now that vibrated all over their connected phone lines followed by Dhruv’s mirthful deep chuckles. He had a rough and strong rich Irishquality to his voice. Like an actors voice. Surely that’s the reason he was popular too and also added were his boyish looks and buff bodyas a plus bonus to his arrogant personality, but he had a deep rooted temper too. Last time when Khushi was bullied so badly, as it left her shaken, he gaveoneswipe of a look over her teary contorted face in slience, andhe went and took up a fight with The Five all alone. She remembered him coming to her house in a blo*dy mess. They were brutal and he had been impulsive. Khushi swore since that, she would never put her friends in danger. No matter what.
She failed to listen in her ruminating about another conversation that started in low mumurs.
“You didn’t reply to my message.”Ayush’s low intimate voice travelled in her ear.
“Well, I was kinda busy.”Came the evasive reply from Lavanya.
Great, they only got this place, on the phone line to romance. For heaven’s sake, come on.
Ayush was a serious type of a guy. He was geeky and also looked million dollarhandsome. He was in computers class with her friend. La wasn’t into relationships. He wanted something she wasn’t ready to give a commitment.What they had only the two could tell.
On the other end, Dhruv and Ritu were still bickering like crazy idiots. Radhika was one already.
“I’m hanging up.”Khushi sing sang and settled her head on the pillow.
“Wait! What about my assignment?”Ritu’s panicked voice travelled into her ears.
“What about the number, K?”Dhruv number out to her coolly.
“I will mail you mine. You copy it and Dhruv I’ll message her number once I talk to her if she wants to talk to you, yeah?”Khushi mumbled sleepily.
“Oh, thank god, I owe you one, Khushi. I will sending you the DVD of my favorite show.”Ritu thanked in an excited voice.
“Of course, she would want to talk to me.”Came Dhruv’sscoff nextin an indignant response.
He growled low in such insulted voice that, it was just adorable.
“She has a hefty brother.”Ritu countered in dryly.
There was a second silence.
“How hefty?”He asked in a curious tone.
“Very hefty and very protective of her and I have once seen him beat the pulp of a science who came very close to touching her, and the next day poor man could never see.”Ritu explained in a very dramatic voice.
Khushi giggled but she did it silently. She heard a gulping of a sound.
“Well, you can think about giving me her number or not. It’s up to you, K.”Dhruv muttered in a very unaffected tone, as if a very thought of a hefty beefy brother did not matter at all.
“Yeah, yeah, wuss…”Ritu sing sang, and Khushi closed her eyes and beat her palm over her forehead.
The argument started again between the two and Khushi cut the call finally. Lavanya had already cut the call while speaking to Ayush without even saying goodbye. What friends she got really.
She sighed slid the covers over her head and fell asleep in a deep delicious depthsimmediately as soon as she settle in a position.Except her dreams again hounded of smoke and cigarettes and a guy with the cancer stick glowing in his mouth always chased her to the deep end.
Khushi got ready for uni, wearing blue tank top with a white and blue checkered shirt and denim faded jeans. She put on the coat, slid her long dark hair in waves on her shoulders, with a touch of lip gloss and it was done, though her hair was still damp.
She hurried down because it was already 8, and the business class wouldn’t wait for her arrival. She got into the kitchen made a few fruit jam sandwiches for her and Rozan. She put some in two brown paper bag. She ate two and put one packet in her puma college bag. Just as she was leaving, she heard the front door open.
A few thudding steps later. Her lanky brother came into the kitchen. He looked dishevelled and haggard. He was wearing black coat over a green shirt and black jeans. He removed the coat and greeted a low hey and opened the fridge door. He removed the cap of an orange juice carton and drank thirstily like a mannerless munchkin.
Well, he seem to have a good night, she thought sarcastically.
“How was the study?”She asked while preparing some more sandwiches because he looked hungry as hell.
“Good.”Came his short answer.
She shook her head.
She cut the corners the corners with a knife because he didn’t like those. They generally have a huge rows over it, as he always makes a face like a five year old recalcitrant kid.
She slid the plate over the dinning table. Khushi sighed seeing him rummage the kitchen like a homeless teenager.
She slid her hands on his shoulders and made him sit on the dinning chair.
“Eat like a civilized person.”She scolded him looking at his cake stuffed face.
Disgusting. He could eat pastries even in the morning.
She took away the orange juice carton from his hand, and poured it in a glass and pushed it his way.
“Get off my back.”He mumbled in a super annoyed and irritated voice, while stuffing the fruit jam sandwich in his mouth.
Khushi just stared into his hazel brown eyes identical like hers in a flat gaze.
“That’s not going to happen. Throw this attitude in my face daily and it will push me to scold you more, now finish the sandwiches. Take this lunch and I’m off to uni. Meet you in the evening.”She slid the bag over her shoulder and hurried out of the kitchen.
She didn’t even drag her feet to the front door when she heard a deep suffering tone of her brother.
“Ugh! Always fruit sandwiches for lunch? Can’t you make something nice for me?”Rozan growled in a shout.
Khushi laughed suddenly. Poor Rozan, since many days Khushi had been throwing sandwiches two and fro on his face without making any nice lunch. What should she do, she was getting late always these days because of the weird dreams she had been having she became restless too much.
“Promise in the night, I’ll make you a nice dinner!”Khushi shouted in reply.
Rozan only snorted in reply.
Khushihurriedly walked out of the house and kept walking for a long while. She waited for the uni bus on her stop. Few other students gathered too on the allottedstop of other beach houses. She kept into cheery talking looking at the sun that finally dawned his shiny yellow rays after so many days of dark thunder, rainstorm and shivering, she felt the day as a very amazing one, she chatted away with one of the girls she gets along well withuntil the bus arrived and all of them got into the seats.
How did she think that the day would go better. Half way around the classes till 11AM, Khushi was called by the head of the department in his cabin. She kept biting her nails off thinking she had failed a test, which wasn’t possible, she had titan record of topping all the classes, had she done something wrong? That is impossible, she was the teachers pet, and she had never ventured ever in raising her voice near the lockers. Being called in his office is strange, Khushi gulped, looked up the ceiling, she prayed to her favorite goddess to give her strength and to not let her die of heart attack with all the suspenseand wait.
The HOD came in and Khushi rose from chair. He was tall, pot bellied, jovial looking, glass wearing less threatening man. He was always smiling at the students and encouraging them.
“Good morning, Sir.”She greeted with a smile in a curtsey.
He was wearing a blue blazer, crop white shirt and blue pants. The code dress for the faculty and the MBA class.
“Good morning, Khushi, please sit down.”He greeted her amiable in a white spreading smile.
Khushi sat down. He moved towards the seat and sat down. He had a file in front and got through sliding the papers one by one, observing critically what was written there.
Her heart thudded thinking some Professor complaining about her. She had indeed got into an argument with the Marketing prof, about a topic he wasn’t explaining well, so Khushi had took over the classes from out of his hand, and he very reluctantly had to sit behind to actually listen to her class, because she insisted and persisted after him all day that he should listen to the students too, finally exasperated to an extreme, he had given up. She gulped hard repenting of torturing him. Maybe, he had complaint against her.
The HOD, Prof. Howards looked up and smiled a light one. Khushi just sat there like a frozen cornered animal.
“It’s written here that your record of submitting assignments and completing four projectson Industrial relations in only a month…..is just commendable, and I see it’scommendable.”He praised her abruptly and appreciated her work.
Khushi sagged back on the swivelling chair. She smiled wide in immense relief.
He closed the file and observed her face. Khushi straightened up. He drew his hands together and kept his cool observation.
“I see a great Professor in you in the coming five years….so I had made this decision along with the principal about how we’re going to let you off the fee of next three semesters and approve a scholarship…”He started in a deep voice.
Khushi straightened up and turned into a stone. Let off the fee? Scholarship? Pleasure curled in her spine. No money. Free study. In return money. No stress to mom and dad sending them amounts of cash from India. God, dad worked so hard. This was like gold mine.
The HOD, looked at her shining eyes and bright smile and chuckled.
“It’s not really easy achieve, Khushi. There is something that you had to do for the university in return. We judge you by the progress and might even offer you a place here with a subject…..but you have to tutor a student.”He concluded on a serious note and waited first for her response, before he could go any further on the information.
Tutoring? Oh she loved it. She loved to teach and make her fellow students learn easy with her words. It wasn’t a problem. She had done teaching before with so many of stubborn ones and they had eventually come around at her persistence. She was so game now, and such an opportunity wouldn’t come knocking on her door often and she wasn’t going to let it go.
“I’m in, Sir. I love to tutor.”She said excitedly.
“Well, you don’t just tutor but take over all of the subjectsas the student missed most of months and months of classes and assignment, and that comes with you helping with the notes and all.”He said in a grave voice.
He frowned at her suddenly.
“Are you ready to take this up? As it’s a huge responsibility to take over one student’s every subject and class. We need improvement too or I’m afraid the scholarshipwon’t be approved to you.”
Khushi became serious now too.
“I’m sure, sir, I’ll manage it with much earnestness and never let you down.”She cleared his doubtsin a determined voice.
He observed her a minute more with those blue intelligent eyes and finally nodded her head, Khushi jumped up inside in a celebratory dance. Wait till she blurt it to the guys, she thought happily.
“Well, then, I have the address of the student. He might not be coming to the uni for a few weeks but you could go on this evening and start with giving a few syllabus points and introductory notes of previous four semesters, alright.”He explained, and got out a card from an another blue binding file.
He? Hmm, she thought.
She got up, took the card, and without looking at it, she slid it in the back pocket of the jeans. She was too excited now for to even think properly.
“Of course, Sir, and thank you so much forthe generousopportunity. I really promise not to let you down.”Khushi said honestly with a smile.
The professor smiled amicably too.
“I hope too.”He assented and dismissed her looking down at another file.
Khushi got out of the office and she squealed jumping up and down in an empty corridor.
“Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!”She screamed low in her throat while jumping up and down still in celebration.
But her joy was short lived when someone pushed past her hard, and Khushi went flying with her books and bag. All the papers flew across the polished smooth floor. She stumbled to the ground and gasped in pain as her shoulder hurt with the push. She groaned and rubbed her arm. She whipped her head and glared at the disappearing figure of a guy. How god damn rude, that he didnt even mutter a sorry. She opened her mouth to shout but it was pointless as he turned to the aisle of the principal’s office.
She only could see tight curledfists, long jean clad legs, broad flexing shoulders and hard lean back, angry ground eating strides and very thundering temperamentalvibrations coming off from the student.
Well, he doesn’t look happy, except her, she thought dryly, and gathered the strewn papers, books and put those in the bag and got up still rubbing her arm. She froze suddenly when she got a sniff of the lingering smell in the air. It was filled with peppermint and a hint of a driedcigarette smoke. Her eyes widened, the hair of her back rose, and her heart thudded hard in fear under her chest. She stood there frozen for a second, but she shook her head, pacifying her racing heart that she was just assuming things. Khushi treaded her way to the cafeteria where she knew all of her friends would be waiting for her and she wasbubbling with joy to share the good news to them……
Heyaaaa, my lovelies, and all please plssssssssssssss take a look at this update and do comment guys of how do you like it 😀 It really would mean a lot all of my friends if you do cm here and show your love?? I wud feel so happy if you do guys???
Til den, Louvvvvvvvvv you and you keep rocking always????
Credit to: kfar