I stood on my shaking feet, facing the dance floor. The sight of Shashank surrounded by his fan club wasn’t helping. I was aware of the DJ changing the song. It was one of my favourites. I could hear the sound of the others cheering me over the loud music. Adi’s voice was the loudest. I recalled what he had said. He was right. I could always tell Shashank it was a dare. There was no way he would suspect my feelings to be real then. People did this all the time. That filled me with a little courage and I took a few steps forward. The cheers grew louder as I neared the dance floor. The first major task was to navigate through Shashank’s female fans to get to him. Sighing damsels, Raj had called them. I smiled despite myself. He had wanted me to tell Shashank the truth. Maybe he was trying to give me a chance, and I would have loved to grab it. Only if things were that simple. What if Shashank reacted badly?
“You aren’t allowed to just stand on the dance floor when the music is playing! You have to dance!” Shashank pulled me inside the circle of dancing girls. I was too nervous to move a limb, forget dancing. I decided to get it over with.
“Umm… Shashank… I have to tell you something….” He continued to sway to the music. “Oh yeah I forgot! How did the competition go?” he asked. Oh damn, the competition. “Uh… it went well… but there’s something else I have to tell you.” I answered. He looked a little surprised but he stopped dancing and waited for me to begin. “Actually Shashank… the thing is that… you know… it’s just that….” I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. I closed my eyes, well aware of all the attention on me and took a deep breath. “Shashank, I like you.” It came out much louder and clearer than I expected. A loud cheer erupted behind us. I opened my eyes, dreading the expression I was about to see on that handsome face.
Shashank was grinning at me. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe all this was a bad dream. But even in my wildest dreams this wasn’t expected. My shock must have been evident on my face because he started laughing. “What? I know it’s a Dare. I saw you guys playing over there.” He looked at the others and gave them a thumbs up. “She did it guys!” My ordeal was over so I should have been on my way back to the game, right? But something held me back, rooting me to the spot, and making a much dreaded decision for me. It was now or never. I decided to go for it. “Shashank, it’s not just a Dare. I really do like you. A lot. Like, for real.” I was amazed how simply I said those words without stammering. This time, the look on his face didn’t disappoint me. I couldn’t guess it but I thought he looked stunned. So did my friends and the other players who had gathered around Shashank and me to congratulate me on accomplishing the Dare and had become the unsuspecting audience to my declaration. I couldn’t look him in the eyes so I stared at my feet, awaiting some response. I heard the others murmuring to each other, anticipating his reaction too.
Suddenly someone grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the crowd. It was Raj. “Come on, let’s go. We’re getting late for your competition.” His words rang a bell somewhere. I had forgotten all about Round Two! He ran, pulling me along with him. I heard Shashank call out my name, and I risked a glance at him. He stood there surrounded by the others, all equally shocked by my abrupt departure.
(Contd. in the next post)