Harry he didn’t have any concrete plan as to what he wanted to do when he found Manu. All he knew was that Rajani was upset and that made him want to thrash the over-smart goonda.
He turned the corner and wondered which way to go. Then he heard it – a string of curses.
Harry clenched his fists and set off in hot pursuit. He stopped short.
Manu was involved in some intricate dance routine – jump, twist left, chin down, hop and twist right.
Harry could only stare – Collage practice? He wondered a bit skeptically. He coughed.
Manu froze. He looked warily at Harry.
“What’s the matter?” Harry asked mildly. “Practicing for the dance competition?”
“No! Go away.”
“Why are you jumping about as if you have ants in your pants? And what’s that dripping down the front of your shirt?”
“Yeah, I was just sitting here quietly enjoying a cup of tea,” he waved his hands at the remnants of the party, “samosas and pakoras. You know the that awesome tea guy just outside the campus?”
“Yeah well I was just sitting here enjoying the trees and the birds when…when I stumbled and the tea fell down over my shirt.”
“How come the samosas and pakoras look so squashed and weird?” The stone ledge looked like a mini battlefield.
“I told you,” Manu responded in a surly tone, “I stumbled and sat down with a thud on the remaining pakoras and samosas.”
“Somebody else was also here with you?”
“No. I was alone.”
“There are two cups.”
“Yeah so?” Manu blustered. “I like this tea. I bought 2 cups for myself.”
“Hmm.” Harry wasn’t too convinced. “I thought you were sitting down and enjoying your tea. How and why did you stumble?”
“What’s this? The Spanish Inquisition? I don’t have to answer any question. I am leaving.” Manu turned on his heel and strode off.
“Hey! Hey! What about…?” Harry burst into laughter but Manu didn’t turn around. Perhaps he didn’t hear. Perhaps he didn’t want to risk it. Or he knew what Harry was laughing about.
“What were you laughing about?” The girls asked.
Harry’s grin widened.
“He said that he stumbled and sat down on the samosas and pakoras.” The girls nodded. “Well the oil had soaked into the jeans and made a large round distinctive patch on his bum.”
They burst into gales of laughter.
“Oh how I wish I could have seen it!” Rajani said much later after her giggles had subsided. “He must have stumbled when I pushed him.”
“Why did you push him?” Harry asked. That was the only missing link now.
Rajani flushed and mumbled incoherently.
“Nothing. Let’s go or we will miss the Dumb Charades.” She said.
“I think I have had enough of charades for the day.” Harry said. “Will you guys be okay?”
They nodded. He strode off. But he turned back almost instantly. “Was…was Manu…did Manu, I mean did he…was he was…he improper?” Harry was red by the time he manage to disgorge the thought uppermost in his mind.
Rajani followed suit and went a deep red. She dropped her eyes and shook her head.
“Okay. Bye.” Harry’s voice was curt.
“Why did you lie to him?” Shikha pounced the moment Harry was out of earshot.
“I didn’t want him to get the wrong message.”
“What wrong message?”
“You know what.” Rajani scuffed her shoe.
“No I don’t know.”
“He may think I encouraged Manu. That I am ‘that’ kind of a girl.”
“Ufff Rajji please!” Shikha groaned. “Why would he think that?”
“I don’t know,” Rajani shrugged. “Didn’t you see how strict and stern he looked? Did Manu do anything improper?” she imitated his deep voice.
“So what’s wrong with that? Maybe Manu said something to him, or maybe even told him the truth…”
“No!” Rajani was shocked. “No!”
“Why are you so panic stricken?”
“What will everyone think?”
“What does it matter what they think? You are okay right? Your conscience is clear. You didn’t do anything wrong…”
“I shouldn’t have gone with him.” Rajani interrupted. “I should have listened to you.”
“Yes you should have!” Shikha retorted. “Make sure to remember that.” She melted. “Never mind about today. No harm done and hopefully a lesson well learned.”
Rajani swallowed and nodded.
Shikha looked at Rajani. “Umm, err…umm, how was it?”
Rajani looked up confused. Her brow cleared. She shook her head. “I have no idea! My first kiss and I have no clue. How bizarre is that?”
“Not bizarre at all considering it you Rajji.” Shikha rued.
Rajani made a moue. “I was so stunned and taken aback that it didn’t really register. It felt a bit funny. Weird. Icky.”
“Still think Manu is handsome?” Shikha slipped in slyly.
“Yeah!” Rajani retorted spiritedly. “But I don’t like him as much.”
“What if he comes back tomorrow and says he doesn’t understand why you ran away and that you instigated the kiss…”
“Hawww!” Rajani was horrified, “he wouldn’t do that would he?”
“Perhaps not. But what if he does? Maybe he does genuinely care for you?”
“I don’t know what you are getting at Shikhs, first you dissuade me from going out with him and now you make excuses for him. What do you want me to do?”
“Nothing. I am just playing the Devil’s Advocate here. And trying to understand what’s going on in that head of yours. I have to be ready for the next craziness do I not?”
“Very funny. I have decided I am going to focus on studies from now on. Only studies, no hanky-panky from now on.”
“Amen.” Shikha sent up a fervent prayer.
Giggling the girls ran off to catch the last bit of the Dumb Charades, which was again well attended. As they squeezed in, Rajani couldn’t help but remember the JAM session. How Manu and she had been so close. How his breath had tickled her ear, making her feel funny and breathless.
Shikha nudged her. “What happened?” she whispered.
“Nothing.” Rajani mumbled keeping her face averted knowing her face would give her away. She wasn’t sure she wanted to discuss that with Shikha. It had been such a sweet special moment – she wanted to hold on to it, sharing it would belittle it. What if Shikha gave her another earful?
Stop it Rajani. Have you completely lost? Mooning about a sweet special moment with that creep? He just molested you, for God’s sake. Rajani castigated herself.
Had he? Honestly? Perhaps he had sensed her crush and taken it as willingness. Hadn’t she leaned towards him the fraction of a millimeter? Hadn’t she wanted him to take the lead and now the blame?
Rajani felt uncomfortable. Maybe she was to blame after all.
Up next Chapter 104: At Crossroads
A/N Hello friends! What’s up? No news is good news? Or am I rambling on all by myself (and MM!). Well anyway, 100 chapters is a bit much and I think it’s time to stop and reflect – perhaps take a time leap? Enough of Collage and college – time to move on don’t you think?
Let me know what your thoughts are on the matter (MM included) to help me take a decision on the future course of the story. Else I will be back with Moonshine (as I see fit) on the 14th of December (after I wrap up travels and weddings) 😀 But I do hope to be posting the occasional flash fiction (perhaps sit on DM’s desk) and photos during this period – do check them out if you have the time and the inclination. Be good – and mark your attendance 😉