Chapter 2

843 Words
“We can"t work with him,” I announce as I join Saahil, after navigating through the sea of closely placed tables and chairs in the lunchroom. The table is at the center of the room where nobody likes to sit. Teachers and staff are patroling like hawks to see if we’re eating vegetables or finishing our food. Being new, Saahil doesn’t know that. He has a lot to learn. “What?” The lunchroom is buzzing with kids talking and dishes clacking. Looks like summer’s here; they’re serving summer special tensi, Indian baby pumpkin. The smell of the vegetable curry turns my stomach. I’ll pass on the lunch. It’s okay. I have better things to do. I lean in. “We can’t work with him.” “Who?” Saahil looks at me, eyebrows knit together. “Vikram. Who else?” “Why?” “First of all, he’s the captain of the basketball team and thinks he’s God’s gift to the female population of the school.” “I can see why he would think that. He is good-looking.” Saahil glances at where Vikram is sitting, at the overstuffed table in the far corner. “Oh, God! You too!” I whine. “Don’t worry. I’m straight. He is all yours.” Saahil laughs. “That"s good to know.” I don"t know why I said that. “What? You like him? Could have fooled me.” He is messing with me. My cheeks grow warm. “What? No! I meant that it’s good to know that you are…” I bite my tongue, realizing that it sounds like I’m hitting on him. “Never mind. What I’m saying is that he is a clown. He is never serious. It would be difficult to get any work done with him as a part of the group.” We look at Vikram doing a moonwalk in the middle of the lunchroom, and his dumb friends clapping for him. “What are you suggesting?” Saahil asks. “I’m suggesting that we convince him that we can do this project all by ourselves. We don’t need his help. We’ll promise him that we will get him A-grade. He doesn’t need to attend group meetings.” It’s a foolproof plan. “And you think he would agree?” “Who wouldn’t? He is getting an A without doing any work.” “I wouldn’t. I love doing projects. I wouldn’t trade the experience for a grade.” I look at him in awe. “What?” he asks. He comes to school for the love of learning. “Aww, Saahil, where have you been all my life? I could have used a friend.” I put my chin on my hands on the table. “Better late than never.” He shrugs. “Where have you moved from? Tell me about your old school.” “I’ve moved from Mumbai. I studied at Golden International School there. The school was half the size of this one. I can’t say much about the education as this is my first day here.” He gives his dimpled smile, and I feel the walls around my heart thawing. I’ve to get away from him. I get up and march purposefully to where Vikram is sitting with his friends. Saahil follows me. Vikram and the swimming champion, Ajay Tripathi, are arm wrestling on the table, and all the other boys and girls are circling the duo, cheering. Nobody notices us. Vikram’s wrist is down and he is shaking with the effort, putting all his strength into getting the upper hand. Girls are rooting for him. I can hear their heartbeats drop and rise with the changing direction of his and Ajay’s wrists. There is a deep collective sigh when he loses the match. I’m just glad it’s over. Saahil moves closer and whispers in my ear, “Uhm- Mishti, I think you shouldn"t say anything now. He’s upset. He won’t agree to anything we say.” Ah crap, he’s right. I look at all the boys at the table and then at Saahil. He is sensible, not a quality I associate with boys. He tugs on my hand. I nod, and we run to the classroom. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt attraction towards a guy. I had a few crushes in middle school, but I was too shy, and no guy ever liked me back. A part of me craves the looks, the flirting, and the secret jokes that lovers share. And Saahil promises to be a guy like no one I’ve ever known. I look at our hands holding on to each other. Saahil, who"s breathing hard because of the running, asks, “Why are you smiling?” “Oh, I’m just glad I have one sensible partner.” I hide my face from him with my unruly hair. He smiles and squeezes my hand. My heart gives a leap. After a long time, I feel hopeful. This year might actually be fun.
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