“I knew you’d be here.”
“Well, aren’t you the smartest frog in the well?” her tone of derision didn’t have the desired effect of putting him off. He came closer.
“Are you ok?” he asked gently, “I heard what happened.”
“Shouldn’t you be rejoicing?”
“I’m not that big of a jerk,” he smiled at her.
“Yet,” he agreed.
She whirled around on her heels. “Don’t do that!” she snapped.
“Do what?” the bewildered look on his face did nothing to calm her down.
“Don’t be all nice and agree with me over everything! I know you’ve been doing that all year and I don’t like it! You hear me? I don’t like it at all!” her eyes blazed and her fists were clenched as if she was just holding back the urge to punch him.
“Ha! I knew it!” an impossibly large smile blossomed on his face, “You can’t stand me when I’m nice, can you? You want me to be a jerk. So that you can shout at me, throw things at me; venting, I believe it’s called,” he guffawed.
She narrowed her eyes at him and rapidly covered the distance between them. With satisfaction she noted the hitch in his breath when she placed her palm on his chest.
“No,” she whispered, “When you’re nice, it makes me want to do this,” and she rose up on tiptoe and kissed him.
He froze. He could feel the softness against his lips, but, couldn’t believe it belonged to her. He could feel her lips gently pressing over his, his lips responding to her touch, her tongue teasing the tip of his lower lip and in that instant, he came back to life.
He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her close. The urgency in himself was something he himself couldn’t understand; didn’t care to understand in that moment. He opened his lips and claimed her mouth with his, transferring his sense of urgency to her, letting her get caught up in the rush of it too.
How long they stood there, attached to each other, they weren’t sure. But, when they finally drew apart, hair mussed and lips swollen, she was the first one to laugh.
“Who would have thought?” she gasped as she leaned back against the wall for support.
He just gazed at her, running his hand through his hair, still in a daze, still disbelieving that the event taking up most his dreams over the last couple of years had finally come to pass.
“Hey! Jay!” she waved a hand in front his face, “Hey jerk!”
In reply, he just stepped up to her and planted his lips on hers again.
This time when they drew apart, he was the one to break the silence.
“Now, we are even…” he rasped.
She snorted. “I should’ve known. There’s the kiss-counting jerk I remembered.” She said, smirking.
“Here’s the kiss-counting jerk you like,” he grinned slowly.
“Oy please! You were no ice-lipped rock in what happened just now,” she stared at him contemplatively, “I know you like me,” a simple statement that caused a flutter in her breast.
“Girls always do.”
“Then, why did you go out with Matty? Then, Farhan? And then, Dinesh!”
“Wait! That means…you’ve liked me since then?” her eyes widened and a laugh emerged from her throat.
“It’s no laughing matter! Green isn’t my color and you’ve kept me forced in it for almost 2 years!” he snapped with a little heat.
She was laughing again, “I’m sorry! It’s just- I’ve had a crush on you for that long too; I never thought you reciprocated and well, that it’d be better to shift my focus.” She shrugged sheepishly.
“Well, you thought wrong, didn’t you?” he slipped his arm around her waist.
“Not anymore,” she grinned mischievously, “I figured it out when you punched Dinesh today. I supported you and well, let’s say he didn’t take it well.”
He stared at her, eyebrows raised, “You needed me to punch a guy to figure it out? You are dumb, aren’t you?”
She punched his arm in reply, “Shut up and kiss me, jerk.”
When Laila finally wandered back to her room, it was dawn and she couldn’t stop smiling.
“Where were you?” Mary’s voice snapped as soon as she entered.
Laila jumped, “Sheesh Mare! You startled me!”
“Laila Mahmood! Where were you until this hour? Do you know how worried I was?” Mary hissed.
Laila cringed. Mary didn’t get angry easily. But, when she did, it could be difficult to calm her down. She walked over and sat on the edge of Mary’s bed.
“I’m sorry, Mare,” she apologised contritely, “I was just…working some stuff out.”
“No! No more of these vague answers!” her friend snapped, “You do this every Christmas! You disappear the night before and morning after, you’re all lost and mysterious and I don’t understand!”
“Pfft!” Mary pinched her friend’s lips with her fingers, “I know it has something to do with Jay. I’m not stupid. In fact, I know even your break up has something to do with Jay. But, if you believe for even a moment that that nosy twit understands you better than your own best friend, I’m sorry, but, you’re gonna have a war upon your hands and it won’t be pretty!” she breathed hard as a tinge of red appeared in her cheeks and let go of her friend’s lips, “And thank you for not trying to lick my hand,” she added grumpily.
“I’ve had it done to me. It doesn’t feel good,” Laila shrugged.
“Yes, I know. The whole school knows, Lai. You weren’t exactly quiet about it,” Mary said dryly.
Laila let out a gust of laughter and silence fell between them.
“He asked me out,” Laila said finally.
“And we kissed.”
“In that order?”
“No…I kissed him first. Then, he kissed me. Then, we kissed some more and finally, he asked me out…and I said yes.”
A beat passed as Mary stared at her friend.
“Umm…hmm,” Laila nodded while a pretty blush spread across her face.
“I don’t like him.”
“But, why?” Laila stared at her best friend worriedly, “He’s nice, Mare. And he’s being especially nice this year and you know it. You’ve commented upon it. He’s a jerk, sure, but not all jerk.”
“Why did you break up?” Mary questioned in a sudden turn of subject, holding her friend in her gaze.
“Because…well, he punched Dinesh and I supported him. Dinesh didn’t like it; said if I liked him that much, then, I should be with him and not with him, that is, with Dinesh; and I said maybe I should be and that’s that.” Laila broke the gaze and shrugged uncomfortably.
“So, you’re definitely broken up? Not taking a break or some such shit?”
Laila shook her head.
“And Dinesh knows that?”
“Yes, our fight ended with us talking and we decided to break up. Anyway, we’ll all be leaving school soon and both of us knew there’s no point in continuing if we didn’t even like each other that much. Anymore.”
“What about this thing with Jay then?”
“He likes me,” Laila said simply, “And I like him. We’ll see where it goes.”
Mary looked at her best friend for a while. She knew this reserved girl and she knew it wasn’t secrecy that prompted her to not confide in anyone. But, soon, they won’t be sharing a dorm and…
“CONGRATULATIONS, LAI!!!” Mary threw her arms around her friend and hugged the surprised girl tightly, “I still don’t like him. So, if he puts a toe out of line, I kill him. You tell him that, yeah?”
Laila laughed in relief.
“Yeah, I’ll tell him.”
“Where were you?” Nikhil’s voice cut across the room like ice.
“Putting things right,” Jay leaned against the window as he waited for his friend to join him.
“With Laila?” eyebrows wiggling, Nikhil dragged himself and a blanket over to the window.
“With Laila,” Jay nodded, a smile growing on his face.
“Congratulations are in order then?” Nikhil also leaned against the window and breathed in the fresh morning air.
Jay nodded happily.
“And one day, you’ll tell me how it happened?”
“Just a few secrets shared, that’s all,” his friend replied.
“Secrets you’ve kept from me?” Nikhil’s voice was cold again.
“You know them now…”
“But, she knew them before.” It was statement, not a question. But, Jay answered anyway.
Silence engulfed the distance between them and took over the room.
“I like her, though,” Nikhil said at last, in a softer voice.
“Well, she is the school captain,” he chuckled, “I can’t believe you’re going out with the school captain.”
“My best friend is a school captain too,” Jay pointed out dryly.
“Yeah. I can’t believe that either,” Nikhil chuckled again.
“I’m sorry, man,” said Jay after a moment.
Nikhil shrugged. “It’s ok. You got lucky, you know? She’s…good.” He said, turning to face his friend.
“I know,” Jay smiled at the rising sun, “I know.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I know you don’t.”
“But, you’ll call?”
“Believe me.” She said.
And he did.
Thank you for reading!