We both were scared to each strand. I looked around but could only see darkness from void crawling to us from all direction. Some distant faint howls of wolves were the only to disturb the dreaded night.
It was cold; still we were sweating in fear. Without my knowledge I was crying in silent. What next? How to go out from here? There wasn’t any transport from there at such nightly hours too.
“It’s better to return to college building. We will wait there and call for someone to help.” Preeti said.
We turned back. There were two bikes still standing in front of college building and I recognised one of them.
“Arnav is still in college.” I exclaimed.
Just then Arnav came down the stairs with Kishore. Their brows joined into peaks at temples.
“What are you doing here?” Kishore asked bitterly.
“We missed the bus.” I was dismayed by that time.
“What! How could you be...” Arnav stopped Kishore in middle.
“It’s fine. Come with us. We will drop you at home.”
“But we had plans, buddy. We can’t carry them everywhere.” Kishore’s words were sickening.
“It’s fine, Kishore. We will go there some other day.” Arnav consoled him.
“It’s already been postponed for thrice. And some other day..now that’s”
“It’s fine. We will manage here. You should go with your plan.” I spoke under breath but ruthlessly. I was standing next to Kishore and with all my patience gathered I held my fist from jabbing his head off.
“Kishore, It’s more important than our plan. We are going with the girls.” Arnav gave a firm node at Kishore.
“As you wish.” Kishore made a face and they walked past us to their bikes. We, I and Preeti turned back. Arnav was on preeti’s side and I was on Kishore’s.
Preeti held my hands and dragged me a little. “It’s your chance, Ava.”
I looked at her clumsily for a while but then I got at what she was pointing me.
She spoke again. “I will tolerate the next hour with this Devil’s son. You shouldn’t lose this chance at any cost.” Her eyes twinkled in hope.
I speechlessly hugged her. “Anything for you, my dear.” She murmured in my ear.
We switched our sides. I went to Arnav and she went to Kishore.
Arnav revolved the bike’s key into hole, raised the gears and snapped back to me. I faltered towards him hesitantly. It was obvious to have such odd sensation. I didn’t know whether to regret at myself for being stuck at this place at night or be joyous as that brought me this enriching feelings to my experience. My mind was reeling with vertigo and throat was dried out.
“It’s fine. You will be safely at home in time. Believe us.” He looked into my eyes straight. I didn’t know whether it was the magnetism in those charcoal pair of rounded balls contrastingly floating in middle of whiteness and staring at me but it instantly filled assurance inside me. Even if he had told me to give me a ride to some island, then also I was ready to go with me. His eyes were bright, confident and steady on me, sign of trustworthy and a proof that he meant each word he spoke.
I nodded and one-sidedly piled on the bike behind Arnav. Four wheels accelerated through the metal road. I looked at preeti and she was awfully crammed there. I knew she never liked Kishore that much and after that kind of behaviour she genuinely loathed him and it was clearly reflected on her face. She was unsteady and looked harried trying to keep herself as far as possible from him.
We silently rode for around eighteen kilometres till crossed the yellow-headed mile stone. We were just five kilometres away from town when something sloppy fell on my nose. I had enough for the day and didn’t want any bird to poop on my face. I wiped my nose with disgust and again something dropped on my forehead. I looked at my moistened tips of hand and looked up into sky. Three more drops of water fell on my face.
Rain!! I was a rain maniac since childhood. Preeti used to call me rain-nymph. Rain had always been the healer for me washing away all the worries and filling up with freshness. May be angels from heaven were showering their blessings and happiness. Firstly I was with Arnav so close and secondly it rained. I couldn’t ever ask for anything else. It was like some pre-planned movie scene. Hero on dashing bike rescuing the leading lady from goons. Aaah..just perfect. Suddenly Arnav stopped the bike.
I looked at him curiously while he took out the jacket and offered it to me.
“Thanks but I can manage.” I shyly answered.
“I know but right now seeing your clothes, I insist you to take it.”
“I know you love rain a lot but I insist you not to ruin your clothes now.”
I couldn’t deny anymore and took the jacket. Then Arnav turned to Kishore and nodded at him.
“What! I’m not doing this. Okay.” Kishore’s tongue again spilled acid.
But Arnav didn’t say a single word and continued staring at him.
“Okay fine. Take this also.” Kishore was wearing off his jacket when preeti shouted him. “No need of your sympathy. Just drop us home. That will be a real help.”
“Oh seriously? Why don’t you then walk to your home alone do whatever you want to do. I don’t care.”
They started to fight.
“Hey guys! Stop it.” I shouted at them. “Stop fighting like kids. And Preeti, we need to get to home soon. Everyone must be waiting there.”
They both nodded at me, Kishore gave her the jacket and engines roared to life.
I wanted to ask Arnav something but could not. I tried twice or thrice but again stepped back thinking how he would react. Finally the words slipped from my lips.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Yeah sure.” He coolly said.
“How do you know..mmm..that I love rain?” I stupidly asked me.
“From you fb profile.”
Silly me! I thought to myself. But then again it flashed to me that I have no where mentioned about it. Then how did he get to know it?
I asked him the same.
“You haven’t mentioned but your photos say it. Or else who would get snapped several times under heavy deluges; and that also when you were only five years old. In almost two dozens of your pictures, you are dripping water from head to toe.” He left out a mocking smile.
“Damn it!” I bit my lip. I could not say anything after it. At least he went through my profile and that was satisfactory enough for my parched heart.
It was the last twenty minutes of that journey. For the first time I wished my home to be far away. I didn’t want this ride to end ever. Me, next to Arnav- it was far beyond I ever dreamt of. The time was flying by really fast like it does inside exam hall. I wanted it to halt for a moment, give me some more time to have a full glance at him.
As we were on bikes, we reached faster while the college buses was stuck in the city-traffic. We four crossed the buses and I could feel stares boring into us. I also heard some regretting oohhh... aaahh..sshhii... hissed chirrup. I slowly turned back to see the buses waiting for the other vehicles to move and Manisha was glowering at us, her head peeped out through the window and eyes inflated in disbelief. She looked like some actress whose lead role in movie was snitched by me. All of sudden a big leaf came floating in air and slapped at her face. I giggled and told the whole incident to preeti though gesture. She left out a diabolical laugh ignoring Kishore.
“What are you doing?” Kishore snarled. Preeti was to say something when I stopped her. I didn’t want any more tussles. I wanted the rest to be cherished and memorable.
They left us on our bus stop. I stepped down and toppled on my heels.
“Be careful.” He held my shoulders steadying me.
I was more embarrassed. “Thank you.” I politely told him.
“Our pleasure, girls. After all having such beautiful girls on our bikes makes us to thank you.” He had his million dollar convincing smile across his face.
“Okay. Finally you are safe here. Our duty is over.” Kishore grumbled.
“Yeah. And we are really thankful to you. You are the great Aryan Rescuers.”
They both made face to each other.
“ Let’s go, Kishore. Spare the girls.” Arnav said.
“Yeah. Why not? Now you got girls. You will take their sides. Who needs this duffer friend anymore?” Kishore angrily replied. I didn’t know what’s wrong with that guy. Why he was so allergic and contentious towards girls. It was the first time we ever talked to him.
“Okay. It’s over. We should leave now.” Arnav said. “Bye, girls. Have a wonderful night.”
“ Hey. Hello. Miss India. Will you kindly return my jacket?” Kishore commented it towards Preeti.
I and Preeti, both of us were wearing their jackets till then. Actually I hadn’t forgotten it by chance. I wanted to take the jacket home. If not Arnav, at least I would get to spend some more time with his jacket. And by the way Arnav didn’t ask for it too. It was a golden chance for me. But at the last moment the Devil’s son thwarted my plan. After that not only Preeti but I also started to dislike him.
Preeti almost smacked the jacket at his face. I also reluctantly returned the jacket to Arnav.
Arnav just nodded at me and turned his bike in direction of his home. I stood there and kept looking at him with all my concentration till he dissolved into the farthest crowd. Finally Preeti had to drag me from my position.
We went to our homes. She was too tired and didn’t ask me anything more. But I was sure of it that lots of questions were stored in for the following morning. They would be aimed at me one by one.