Rishi disconnected the conference call and walked straight to the balcony. He removed a cigarette with a shaky left hand and popped it in his mouth. He desperately searched for a lighter and found it in his right back pocket. He looked at his right hand bound in the plaster and cursed himself for racing down the stairs of college corridor on Aditi’s challenge. He took a deep breath and reached his right pocket with his left hand with a great difficulty. Arrrgh!!! The pain was excruciating but a smoke was all that he needed at this moment.  His head was spinning with the way Aditi had threatened him some time back. “You were the one so very desperate to bag the first position and somehow beat Tanya – the unbeatable. And now that you think she is distracted enough not to be able to focus well on the upcoming exam, you want out! Your goal is on the way to be achieved, so it seems . . . But, ours is not yet achieved. So hear it well Rishi, you have no choice. You cannot back out now. You better not!,” 

“Hey dude! What have you done? How could you play such a cheap trick to distract Tanya from studies? Couldn’t you study harder? Who does such a bad thing to the girl he loves?” Rishi was startled to hear these words. “Who is it that knew he loved Tanya?” He had not shared his feelings with anyone! Rishi thought his spinning head was playing a game with him but soon he realized that it was nobody other than his inner voice.

Rishi pressed hard the half smoked cigarette in the ash tray as if he was shutting up his inner voice and trudged to the kitchen. He poured himself a glass of water and gulped it down like a thirsty crow. He sat down at the dining table and pressed his throbbing temples with his left hand. Anger, guilt and insecurity were eating him up. He was angry with himself that he was indeed walking on the wrong path. He was guilty because he spoiled Tanya’s academic performance for this term and he was insecure about his feelings for her. He loved her truly but he was almost certain that she didn’t love him a bit, not even as a friend.

Rishi failed to understand that how did he fall in love with his academic rival. They have been academic rivals from the first day of college but unknowingly Rishi had developed feelings for Tanya. And how he couldn’t? Tanya was a beautiful girl, intelligent, rich and she was everything a guy would want his girl to be. He drifted in to the memories of the first year when Tanya had spoken to him for the first time – she had asked him for notes of Economics because she had missed a class. With a white salwar kameez, silver jhumkas and tinkling bangles, eyes filled with kohol, she appeared to him no less than a goddess descended from heaven. His heart had skipped a beat that moment because Rishi couldn’t believe that he was attracted to a girl who was a contrast to the girls he had befriended so far and whom he had barely known. Further few interactions between them were very exciting where they talked about their passion for studies, shared their ambitions and kept on exchanging notes of various subjects. While everything seemed to be perfect between the two, Rishi failed to understand how it had all turned into an ugly academics war. Tanya was certainly more intelligent than Rishi but Rishi had never had the habit of being on the second position. He had always been a topper but this beautiful girl had beaten him at every exam in the first year. This paved a way to jealousy and hatred between the two.

It was only after drowning neck deep in this dirty game that he realized that he still had feelings for Tanya. It’s not that this thought had never touched his mind before. Every time this thought would knock on his heart, his mind successfully suppressed it with a hard blow of the reminder about the academics rivalry. But all this plotting and planning over the last few days had made him more vulnerable and he couldn’t deny his love for Tanya any more. He regretted for accompanying Aditi and Priya in this disgusting plan. Aditi had made Rishi her puppet. She knew exactly how to pull his strings to make him do what she wanted. And the jealousy had blinded Rishi so much that he easily did what Aditi asked him to.

But now Rishi wanted to quit this game. He was sorry for putting Tanya in so much trouble. He was angry with himself that he had tortured Tanya over and over again in the last few days. He wanted to let Tanya know that Aditi is up to no good. He had, in fact tried telling her the same when he had bumped in to her outside the library the other day. Only if Tanya believed him! Alas, he couldn’t speak more than just dropping that hint – “your best friend could hurt you ten times more than your enemy”. because he had seen Aditi climbing the stairs to the library.

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He was worried for Tanya. He didn’t want her to suffer at the hands of her bestie. He wanted to let Tanya know that she is in a big trouble and the trouble maker was none other than her best friend Aditi. Rishi could imagine how hurt Tanya would be to know this. She was a very sensitive girl, she would be shattered. All that he wanted to do was hold her close and assure her that things will be fine, make her believe that he would stand by her unconditionally no matter what and let her know that he would protect her from all the difficulties. He had the urge of letting her know how much he loves her. But would Tanya trust him? He couldn’t decide whether his confession of love as well as the confession of supporting Aditi in this dirty plan would do anything good, but  Rishi thought he must give it a try. He had already troubled Tanya a lot and hence, he owes this small effort to safeguard her from Aditi. The worst that can happen was that Tanya could slap him and throw him out of her house. He was okay with that! He couldn’t ruin any further the life of someone whom he loved so dearly.

Commotion of thoughts and feelings were driving Rishi mad. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and thought something for a moment. The next moment he dashed out of the house and hailed a cab to go to Tanya’s place.

(Note: We are not promoting cigarette smoking but just representing the 
lifestyle of today's teens and young adults.)