Another morning, waking up groggily, his eyes looked warily at an empty room. He sat up against the pillow to his back and admired the monitor that kept flashing images of bikini girls from a Baywatch themed screensaver. He checked his phone to find no messages, no missed calls. He tried calling Nipun on his phone but it only kept ringing. "Fuck" he just wanted to get out. Looking back at yesterday, and the day before- everything he did seemed repetitive and lacked meaning. Kasturi's party was around the corner, and Nikhil painted a thousand scenarios in his head, mostly of him surrounded by girls, all laughing at his jokes and making eye contact with him. He even looked up various sites that offered advise on female interaction. He could use all the help he could find, post his confidence taking such a blow on Rose Day. It had been a week and three days since that story. It had been a while since he stepped out, fearing he may meet someone who was in direct touch with her, who would ask him about what happened. Time and again, that episode of her taking the yellow rose would come back to haunt him. "What are you doing...?" he could still hear her voice. THUD! His door burst open, throwing Nikhil back to reality. "Are you still on your bed? It's 12 in the afternoon!" Pooja stood at the doorway, hands folded firmly and waiting for an answer. She was taking after his mother. "Mind your own business" he arrogantly retorted to his younger sister. "Suit yourself, and learn to talk properly" she walked off calling for Mom. Nikhil woke up hurriedly to avoid any further confrontation with his mother screaming about him still in bed so late. In a few minutes, she came in to find Nikhil in a fresh set of clothes, tying his shoe laces. "Where are you going?" she asked. "Physics practicals at college", he lied. He had no idea where he was headed, but he made his mind to get out. "Make sure you have no plans in the evening, we are going for a movie". Nikhil acknowledged and ran down to his bike.
He rode around to familiar parts, still not sure where he was headed. Vaishali seemed packed as usual, Fergusson college was buzzing with action, teenagers in groups flocking around wada paav stalls, some sipping on mosambi juice on the other side of the road. He checked his wallet and found a few tenner's that he could use to buy his lunch. He wanted more money, and only the only one who had a soft corner for him in this regard was Raju, his dad. Sunny's Sports was a few blocks away, so Nikhil checked his luck if he could use his charm to refill his fake 'Oakley' wallet. As he stepped into his Dad's shop, he found a life size poster of Sachin Tendulkar showing off his brilliant cover drive at the entrance. He saw his dad seated behind the cashier's desk, reading a magazine. "Hi daddy, need a quick favor" Nikhil tried sounding like he was in a hurry. Raju's eyes were still glued to the magazine and lazily muttered "Hmm?" The shop boys looked at Nikhil, they knew exactly what he was here for, and what he was going to ask for. Nikhil tried not making eye contact with them. "Daddy, listen na. I need to buy chemical apparatus for my practicals. If I don't, I may fail in the exams tomorrow" He knew it was a blatant lie, but he needed the money and this was the surest way of extracting it. Raju looked from over his reading glasses and frowned at his son in distress. He reached out for his wallet, and began counting a few notes of hundreds. "How much?" he asked. Nikhil cooked a number in his head that would last him for a week "Four Hundred and forty" he said. He snatched the money into his own hands and shouted a "thanks!" on his way out, wondering what the other shop boys were thinking of him. For the next few hours, he spent window shopping. Looking at roadside Raybans, premium leather belts and other interesting things that his money could buy. By the end of it all, he got back in the evening with a laser pointer keychain for which he spent all the money. "So much for a week's planning", he thought. The rest of the evening passed swiftly, as he perched himself on a chair by his balcony and tested his latest gadget on stray dogs on the street, amused at how they chased the red dot wherever it went. He tried it on confused watchmen near the ATM on the road. He showed it off to his sister and when she asked where he got it from, he said he borrowed it from Nipun. Life was so easy.
His parents got home from work, and Nikhil found this day ending well with him and his family were now on their way to watch 'Mohabattein' a recent Yash Raj release. "Box office hit" and "Next DDLJ" was some of the feedback he heard about this movie. As they were getting themselves seated, Nikhil found a few more empty seats to his side. He asked Pooja if there was anyone else joining. "You didn't know?" she asked, while adjusting her own seat "Shubhu aunty, Jyotsna and Taruna are also coming to watch"
Her words hit him as hard as arrows then. Nikhil couldn't find himself to breathe. "Oh! there they are!" Pooja waved out eagerly at the end of the row. Three people were slowly closing in towards the vacant seats right next to Nikhil's. The theatre lights slowly faded to leave him in darkness, but he could still make out the girl walking behind Shubhu Aunty and her elder sister. Jyotsna.