“The heat is riding off the Earth in slow, rolling waves, and the air sits heavy in its warm embrace. Outside the classroom, the red flowers of the rhododendron tree have wilted in despondence, waiting for the clouds to darken and touch the parched Earth with their showers of love.
Aaina walks into the empty classroom, her legs gazelle-like across the floor. She takes a look around, and finds that Sameer is the only other occupant of the room. At the school where she has recently moved, he is the head-boy, and pretty much revered as a God. She thinks of walking out; the last thing she wants to do is to talk to the known rake of the school, especially after what happened.
‘Hi,’ he says, before she can leave.
This is not a conversation she wants to have. How much does he know about her past? What if all these other students have heard? She decides not to reply and walks out of the classroom.
It is a 10-minute walk from the school to her house. She loiters around the new school for a while. Her home is not welcoming; her parents greet her with quizzical eyes these days. They’re probably wondering what trouble she’ll get up to next.
She hoists up her backpack, ties her hair into a neat pony and decides she’ll go home. This, a quiet hill-station, and its trails are dense and dark. She takes the one which is a short-cut from the school to her house. The sounds of the forest do not scare her, as her recent life has been a nightmare. However, someone’s crying stands out among the whispers of the blue-frosted pines. To her utter shock, it’s the head boy from the new school, the football-champion, the heart-breaker, sobbing quietly under the shade of a pine tree. ‘Hi,’ she whispers quietly.
He gets startled and sniffles, hurriedly wiping his eyes on his rolled-up shirt-sleeve. A stray lock of hair falls across his forehead and Aaina has an irresistible urge to smooth it back. She picks up his fallen school-bag and sits down next to him, on a piece of rock which is covered with moss. They sit in silence and watch the sky darken and turn ominous. The first drops of rain fall, hurtling through the pine needles on the young boy and girl, both sitting together, unaware of how fate has brought them together.
Aaina doesn’t know that Sameer has a broken home and the blue-eyed boy of the school goes home every day and faces a stern and abusive father. She doesn’t know that Sameer’s father once threw him in a pool because he didn’t perform well as a swimmer and he almost drowned. She doesn’t know right now that Sameer doesn’t like football but he likes to sketch. She’ll find out all these things in due course of time just as the young boy with the unruly hair will learn why she left her old school. Or rather, why she was thrown out and why her parents made her relocate. He’ll learn when he sees the needle marks on her arms, now faded but still visible, which she keeps covered. So, he’ll understand why she will wear a full-sleeved shirt even in summers. But he won’t mind and he’ll love the scars, just like she’ll make him love the water and swimming again, and see him sketch.
But for now, both Aaina and Sameer sit statue-like, getting drenched. Sameer is a little embarrassed that the new girl saw him crying and Aaina tugs hard at her shirt sleeves, covering up the scars from her drug use. When she raises her eyes, he looks at her and smiles. She smiles back, oblivious that the pouring rain, the gently swaying pine needles and the dark skies are all signs from the universe of a new beginning in their lives.”