There were reasons why my friends said that I liked Shaena, though I never gave much attention to them. For example, when they asked why her name in my contacts had double quotes enclosing her name, I had no answer for them. And surprisingly, I had no answer for myself. “Go and tell her, how long will you continue this way?” they used to say. “Tell her what?” used to be my regular reply. They stared at me and went away.
We had our board examinations, after which we were promoted to the eleventh standard. Whilst most of my friends had left the school for other schools, I decided to carry on in the same. Coincidentally, Shaena had decided the same, though we had never talked about it. I went on a leave from school for a week, to attend a marriage. Her regular calls convinced my cousins that there was something fishy. How much ever I tried to explain, they wouldn’t understand. Whilst we were returning, something happened. It was nothing great, nothing momentous. I was moving from one platform to another. Since the path was a long way to go, I decided to get down on the track, and cross the width. Whilst I was on the track, (no, no train came and hit me), she called up. I could have crossed the tracks, moved to the platform and received her call. Instead I received it then and there. When I reached the platform, my cousins stared at me. “So you say you don’t have anything to do with her?” they said. I realised almost instantaneously that I had been lying to them, and to myself, for a long long time.
The twenty-third of April of 2008 will remain in my mind for almost the whole of my life. It was the day that changed everything. Shaena and I went to the same coaching class. Topics for the IIT syllabus were covered there, of whose I didn’t understand a word. While returning, Shaena and I chatted all the way. Suddenly she asked me, “Who’s your girlfriend?” I was startled by the question, not because I never got such questions, but because I hadn’t expected it at the moment. I said, “No one”. “There must be someone who you love, right?” I was in a fix. I couldn’t tell her that it was she, for I feared losing her friendship. I couldn’t afford to lie, because it would be very apparent. Plus, I didn’t have much time to decide. “Tell me,” she insisted.
After two minutes of silence, I spoke up. “I’ll tell you on one condition. When that girl gets to know this, she shouldn’t stop talking to me. Nothing should get bad between us.” She promptly said yes, though I knew this promise was not meant to be kept. I said softly, “I love you,” so that no one else would hear. Okay, I had done it. I had said those three words for the first time, and I had no idea what was to come next. She took it rather calmly, or pretended to be calm until we departed. She asked “Are you serious?” for about ten times within a minute. And when she realised I was serious, she said nothing. Her house came, she bid goodbye and left. And I waited for the night to end, not knowing what the morning had in store for me.