The main foyer was a hive of activity. It was lined on both sides with stalls put up by students from various schools and the sponsors of the fest. A small stage raised against the north wall acted as the DJ console. In front of the stage was a makeshift dance floor. I scanned the dance floor for Shashank and was disappointed. He wasn’t around. I decided to head back to the auditorium to check if he was still there.
“Hey bookworm! Where do you think you’re going? To check out the library?”
I didn’t need to think twice to figure out who this came from. I turned around to find Adi leaning against a pillar with a crooked smile on his face. “I guess I am.” I replied, playing along. “You see, my friends are too busy to even wish me luck. At least books are more supportive!” He smiled apologetically. “I am sorry I couldn’t leave! There can’t be a photo session without the winning team’s captain now, right?” That self-obsessed jerk! I hugged him tightly and he laughed. “So how did you fare? Are we winning another trophy?” he asked, as I let go of him. “It’s not over yet. I have a Round Two to tackle. It’s in the auditorium so you can come watch me. But Round One was good. Now where did Raj go?” He had disappeared while Adi and I were having our reunion. “He’s over there with the others”, Adi said, pointing to the left of the stage. I saw him talking to Karan and Garima. The students from our school had gathered there, and I noticed that the teachers had also arrived. “Come on” said Adi “that’s our corner. We are all assembling in one place so everyone stays together. Shashank’s idea.” Of course it was. But where was Shashank?
One look at me and Raj knew what was on my mind. “SR duty calls. He should be back in a while.” The relief on my face seemed to upset him for some reason. “Look, I am sorry. I know it’s totally crazy how he affects me and you don’t like it but….” His look of total disbelief interrupted me mid sentence. “Like it? It’s not about my liking it! I just can’t understand why you don’t want to tell him how you feel. What’s the worse that could happen really?” I knew it was going to be difficult to explain it to him. “I just don’t have the courage to tell him how I feel OK? Things would get really awkward between us, and I would risk losing his friendship too. Besides, the whole school would find out, and you know how traumatising that can be.” I could see he wasn’t convinced. “Oh come on! I’m pretty sure everyone knows already. Who knows, maybe he does too. Just tell him, will you? Or are you waiting for some divine intervention?” he asked sarcastically. My lack of response confirmed his doubts. It was time to end the discussion. “I know it sounds quite cheesy but I am happy with the current arrangement and I don’t want you getting upset over it anymore. Deal?” He sighed, defeated. “Fine. If that’s what you want. But just so you know, if you really like him, then it’s definitely worth the risk.”
(Contd. in the next post)