Rajani paled as she stared at the paper in her hand. Her pupils dilated and her nostrils flared. She felt faint. She was sinking – how was this even possible? She had studied so hard she had everything on her fingertips…
But it was here in her hands in black and white – Rajani Potter declared failed in medical entrance exams. Expelled from Hogwarts until further notice –
Befuddled and bewildered, Rajani thrashed about on the bed as she struggled to escape from the clutches of her nightmare.
With a massive effort Rajani broke free of the crushing weight, panting and sweating. She shuddered as she lay on her bed eyes closed trying to get her bearings. Thank God it was just a dream! But what if it was true? She shivered and broke out in a cold sweat.
Rajani squinted at the clock – just 4 am. Four more hours to board result declaration!!!!
That was like ages away – how would she survive until then? Butterflies, no, huge birds, were having a field day in her tummy – she clutched her tummy and bent over double. Nausea gripped her. Mammmaaa she whimpered wishing she could snuggle in her arms.
But then Mamma was sure to give her an earful. Papa would also be disturbed. She wished she hadn’t asked for Bhai’s room. She was better off in the other room with her parents. At least she wouldn’t have felt so alone, so sick. An involuntary retch shook her. She ran to the washroom and emptied her stomach of whatever gooey stuff it was harboring.
“Rani?” Her mother had woken at the sound.
“I am okay Mamma. Just a little bit queasy.” She smiled wanly happy to see her mother.
“Yes! Oh Mamma!” Rajani threw her arms around her mother and held on tight. “I couldn’t sleep! I am so stressed. What if I fail?”
“Fail?” Nisha stiffened and thrust her away, “but we are expecting you to top your class.”
“Oh Mamma.” Rajani flapped her arms in exasperation, “what does it matter what you are expecting? Even I am expecting, but what if I fail?” she put a hand to her throat as if feeling the noose tightening.
“Don’t think such negative thoughts. Pray and hope for the best. I am sure everything will be fine.” Her mother turned away. “Otherwise…” she muttered under her breath as she folded her hands and appealed to the higher powers.
“Mamma!” Rajani threw her arms around her mother clutching her for support, “you are sure everything will be fine right? What if it is not?” she thrust her mother away and bent over holding on to her middle, “Oh I cannot take the tension, oh Mamma, how will I wait until the results. I am sure I will fail. Mamma, please say something!”
“What’s the matter?” Suryakant stood at the door, his hair standing on end. “Have the results come out? Didn’t you do well?”
“Papa! Please say good things,” Rajani tottered to the sofa, grabbed a cushion and burst into tears.
“What’s the point in crying now? You should have studied harder before…”
“I did! Study hard,” Rajani raised her tear-streaked face to say fiercely, “very hard. B….but what if kismet is not on my side? What if something goes wrong? What if my answer sheets get lost?” she felt as if she was sinking into a vast sea of panic. She jumped up in agitation and the next instant she had collapsed in a heap. Fortuitously the sofa broke her fall.
Pandemonium reigned as Nisha gave a shriek and prepared to follow suit. Suryakant did the only thing he was expert at – he bellowed at the top of his voice. It worked. Nisha steadied even as his shout filtered through Rajani’s subconscious and she moaned.
“Rani!” Nisha cradled her in her arms, “relax dear, there is no need to take so much stress. Nobody is expecting anything from you,” she gave her husband a fierce glare.
He glared right back at her.
Rajani struggled to sit up. “Oh so you don’t have any expectations from me. Only Bhai is good in studies right? Only he can do well is it?”
Nisha clapped her hand to her head. “Think what you like. I can’t take so much drama so early in the morning. It’s barely 5 am. You can sit here and moan all you like, I have a thousand chores to do. They aren’t going to wait,” she muttered darkly as she vanished from the scene, “results or no results.”
“Papa,” Rajani said in a pleading tone.
He reached out and rather awkwardly patted her head. “Hang in there beta. Let’s hope for the best shall we?”
“But you don’t think I can do well right?” there was the faintest note of bitterness in her voice which escaped Suryakant.
“What does it matter what I think? What matters are results.” He looked at her. “Try to control your emotions. Look at me. Am I falling apart? And I probably have more at stake than you.”
Hurt beyond words, Rajani could only stare at her father’s retreating back. For him, his students’ results mattered more than hers!
A dull ache settled somewhere between her heart and her tummy. She clutched a cushion close in an effort to make it go away. The excitement of her results and visions of wearing (albeit an invisible) crown as she topped her class, her city, her state, her region, her country slowly faded into nothingness. A dull hopelessness gripped her – Bhagwanji let me at least pass the exams. He had never failed her surely he wouldn’t start now?
Rajani nibbled on her fingers – if only Shikha was here. She would know how she was feeling.
Rajani peered out of the drawing room window and wondered what Shikha was doing. She scowled. Shikha was sure to be fast asleep without a care in the world, she snorted to herself.
The minutes ticked by slowly and Rajani hovered between an overwhelming desire to know her marks and an equally strong urge to escape from it all. Nisha peeped in to see Rajani still sitting on the sofa clutching the cushion staring into space.
“Oho Rani, now stop moping. Don’t you know a watched pot never boils? Get ready for the day, wash your hair, wear something nice, eat your breakfast, go over to Shikha’s and you can give each other company.” Nisha smiled and pulled her up.
Rajani gave in and took on the tasks on automaton. Except for breakfast – she couldn’t swallow a morsel no matter how much her mother coaxed. The very thought, look and smell made her nauseous. In fact she had to rush to the washroom twice.
She cast yet another agonized glance at the wall clock – barely 7 o’clock. Oh how time crawled! Either it should stop or fast-forward to result time. Where was Shikha? She had sent the SOS message thrice already but no response. Sleepyhead. She fumed. How could she sleep through his tension? Rajani had a good mind to go over and wake her just for the sake of her company – two miserable people were better than one.
“Aunty? Where’s Shikha? Still sleeping?” This time, Rajani let the phone ring till Kirti picked it up.
“Oh Rajani? Actually Shikha has high fever.”
“Yes, very high fever – she cannot even get up from the bed. We have sent for the doctor but we think it’s because of the stress of the results. Hope you are okay?”
“Ye…yes. I am fine, except that I have been vomiting since morning. My stomach is making funny noises and cramping.” Confessed Rajani. She glanced at the clock. “Oh I better go. It’s almost time for the results Aunty.”
“Almost time?” Kirti looked at the clock as well. “More than an hour left.”
“Bye Aunty. Tell Shikha I had called and wish her quick recovery.” Rajani put down the phone feeling quite put out with her friend. Was this any time to fall sick? Didn’t she as a friend have a duty towards her? Just when she needed her, she had to go and fall sick. Even I am sick but I am moving around aren’t I? Oh would the hands of the clock never move?
Up next Chapter 64: High Drama