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She walked up the stage and took her place at the podium. She looked at the captivated audience in front of her and smiled. “I know that you all expect me to read a paragraph from my book and get this over with.” There was appreciative laughter at her dialogue. “But that’s not what I am going to do. Today, I’m not here to simply promote my book. I’m not here just to pick out the best paragraph from my novel and narrate it. I’m not here just to make you believe that this book deserves being a bestseller. I am going to do this a bit differently. Today, I’m going to tell you a story.”
TEN YEARS AGO
She was being unrealistic.
She repeated the sentence over and over again, hoping it would sink in at some point. She blamed all the mushy Bollywood movies and fairy tales for her current state. Hans Christian Anderson and Yash Chopra had collectively ruined her life. She had started longing for her own soulmate now; the kind of guy who would just sweep her off her feet and nothing would be the same anymore. Every love story has its own unique beginning. Hers was the notification symbol blinking against the cell phone screen. Yes, he had accepted her friend request.
So what? We have so many mutual friends. Almost everyone accepts requests based on mutual friends nowadays. He probably doesn’t even remember me. Why would he? We live in two completely different worlds now.
She looked at his display picture grinning in front of her eyes and shook her head slightly. They went to the same high school. They were in the same class. And yet they couldn’t have been more apart from each other. People simply assumed that school days were the times when everyone was friends with each other. The entire school was one big happy family. Her mother would randomly refer to people in her school as ‘your friend so-and-so’ and she would remain silent, not bothering to clarify. High school was a place full of cliques and each clique was a small world within itself. And of course, in the typical cliché way, she had fallen for the ring-leader of the popular crowd.
She watched him enter the classroom and greet everyone heartily like always. He walked through the row of benches, chatting and laughing with everyone in his way. His eyes flitted across the classroom and stopped at her. That one glance was enough to set her heart thudding hard against its rib-cage. And that was it. Even before she had managed to gain a control over herself, he had joined his gang and become the centre of their attention. She closed her eyes and leaned her head against the cool wall. It was so unfair that a look which could affect one person so much meant nothing to the other one. Unrequited love had been very smartly named as a crush. The term almost made her laugh. It suited everything so perfectly. He crushed her heart, everytime she looked at him. And being the masochist that she was, she fell for him all over again.
They used to be best friends. She wondered if he even remembered that. The teacher had assigned him a seat next to hers in fifth grade. Technically it was only 5 years ago but in a world where people changed their personalities day by day, it seemed like another era altogether. She clearly remembered how he had turned to smile at her and had said,” It’s going to be a fun year.”
And he couldn’t have been more right. It was one of the most memorable times of her life. It was the time when she spent every single moment of the day with him; be it cycling to school together, playing in the recess, going to drawing class, sipping chocolate milkshakes in the evenings. He was her best friend, her first priority.
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