COMING OF AGE – UNVEILING OF THE MYSTERY

“Tanya… Tanya…” Rashmi, Tanya’s Mom, called out her name at the top of her voice as she barged into their house from outside.

“What has happened Ma’am…? Tanya Bibi went out some time ago… She got a call and immediately went out… I asked her, but she didn’t say anything to me…” Maya came out from the kitchen and blurted out everything before the lady of the house.

“Oh shoot… This girl will put us all in deep trouble…. Oh, God! Please be with her…” She looked worried as she tried to call Tanya for the third time and there was no response from her.

When it started to getting late, she called up her husband saying, “Honey, Tanya is not picking up my phone… I saw ten missed calls from her a while ago… I am afraid she is in some mess… Please come home so that we can do something about it… I am distraught now.”

“Why are you so worried Rashmi…? She must have been calling you to inform you that she will be late… She must be at some friend’s place… calm down and wait patiently. She will be back… I will come little later. Do not panic and think negative.” He replied assuring his wife and hung up.

But Rashmi was restless as she was suspecting something was going on in her daughter’s life for last few days which she was observing at a distance. To add to her dismay, Rishi reached after some time searching for Tanya. As he came to know about why Aunty Rashmi was worried for he revealed whatever he had studied and understood about Aditi for last few days and they both rushed out of the house towards Aditi’s house without wasting any time.

……………………………….

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“Get on your knees stupid girl or else I will shoot you…” Aditi screamed at her. She has a gun in her hand aiming at her friend who was shivering in fear so much that she could not even utter a word.

As she sat on the chair, Aditi tied her tightly with a rope which she kept ready. Her planning was flawless. There was no one in that farmhouse. It was only she and her friend, one is the predator, and the other is her prey.

“Now, tell me your last wish before I pull the trigger…” Aditi commanded.

“Moooooo…moooo….pleeeehhhh…” Her friend could only utter these noises from her mouth desperately as she struggled with the tapes tied on her mouth as well.

“Oh… poor you… Can’t you speak haan? Soon your spirit will start talking after I kill you… What do you thought you would do everything you want under my nose, and I will not know… How dare you go against me and the things that are so much important to me and still escape?” Aditi was in a frenzy.

Tears rolled down from her friend’s eyes who could only wish upon a miracle to happen and save her from this vamp named Aditi… She tried to scream one last time…. “Mmuummiiee”. Alas, her Mom has no trace of her daughter.

Shout! Scream!… Yell more… call out to your Mom… to your Dad…” Aditi mocked at her victim’s helplessness.

“Aditi!!!…. What are you doing??? What the heck are you up to?” Another feminine voice shouted on the back entrance of the hall where both Aditi and her captive were there. Aditi got the shock of her life when she saw Tanya at the back door. Tanya thanked God that she could manage to reach the farmhouse on time after she received Priya’s message – WITH ADITI… IN DANGER, SAVE ME. It was not difficult for Tanya to understand and trace them out, being Aditi’s best friend she knew about all their hideouts.

Tanya!!! What are you doing HERE? How did you come to know we are here?” Aditi asked staring back at her with a wrecked look.

“Why, I shouldn’t be here? OR you weren’t expecting me to come to YOU?” Tanya was about to march towards Aditi when she was warned not to come…

Stop!!!… Stop right there Tanya, or else I will pull the trigger on this stupid girl Priya.” Aditi said looking down at a tied and cowering Priya, which froze Tanya, She didn’t move a muscle.

“Aditi!!! Please just listen.” Tanya said thinking fast, trying to comprehend everything, the facts were hard to swallow, but she had to stay tactful to talk Aditi out of this. Tanya took a deep breath and silenced her fears and shock “Why are you doing all this? I know I might be your next target but before that, I want to know why are you doing all this?” She was feeling so sorry for Priya who was almost fainting in fear of being killed.

“Now, Tanya, please don’t move, JUST STAY!… This Priya tried to come between me and …..” Aditi was interrupted by Tanya.

“You and Rishi… Right?” Tanya finished for Aditi with watery eyes and trembling lips; it was unbelievable that Aditi would stoop to these levels. “Then you would tie me up and kill me as well because Rishi doesn’t love Priya, he loves ME…” Tanya said out loud with clarity and determination.

“That is the punishment for everyone who comes in your way, right? I now know it was you who killed your Pug because it showed its affection towards me, not you…And you were angry with Kartik as well, and probably he fell from the hill all because of you, because you couldn’t take it that he was my partner, not yours… Am I right Aditi?” Tanya fumed confronting her best friend.

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“Yess…” Aditi said with a manic smile on her lips as her eyes lit up, “Yesss……everything you told is correct… I did it all…..but…” Tanya screamed before Aditi could finish.

“I am glad you dare to acknowledge that you did it all out of sheer jealousy because they all chose me over you.” Tanya spat as hot tears flowed from her eyes. “You were envious of my Secret Admirer too…..Wow! What a friend I have… My bestie… I took pride in you, I poured out my heart to you with every joy and pain and this is what I get in return, you consider me your enemy and wanna kill me…” Tanya shrieked at the top of her voice, overwhelmed by emotions. Her eyes and face turned red in rage and grief.

Nooo… Nooo… Baby! That’s not the truth… I.. I.. I… I…” Aditi stammered looking bewildered.

Shhhut up! Just shut your mouth Aditi…..Don’t you dare call me by any terms of endearments anymore…..We are not friends anymore, I have got nothing to do with you.” Tanya warned hyperventilating with rage.

Aditi’s hand flung to cover her mouth as she fell to her knees, tears rolled down from her eyes, lips shivering and body trembling, all the fight had gone out of her. She gazed at Tanya for a long minute and said in the soft wispy tone, “Nooo… Nooo, Tanya… Please don’t say that… I did kill that dog… I even buried it in the woods added a plaque over it that said: TANYA IS MINE, Mine and ONLY MINE!!!

Tanya thought she heard wrong and did a double take, squinting at Aditi.

“Yesss… I did that because your attention was diverted from me to that stupid dog. It was me who tied Kartik’s shoelaces together; he fell because he tried to get in between both of us…” Aditi spilt the truth as the gun in her hand shook. Tanya was covered in sweat and goosebumps with Aditi’s shocking revelation. “I… I… schemed with Priya and Rishi against you just to make them seem ugly in front of you so that none comes between you and me… I came to know about Rishi long before Priya even know about it… I plotted to torture you with those letters from your secret admirer…” Aditi continued.

Tanya’s mouth fell open while her eyes grew wide with each truth.

“Yesss… I framed it all. There’s NO Secret Admirer” Aditi said with tears in her eye. “I just wanted to make these two look evil and villains to you Tanya because I was disturbed by the fact that you, MY Tanya will someday get married and go away from me… Rishi’s feelings for you posed a threat to ‘US’… I was in deep distress and did all these… Everything was going on well till this Priya poked her nose inside my matter… Her one-sided love for Rishi made her spy on my activities, and she was about to message you about Rishi’s love for you when I caught her and decided to punish her…” Aditi looked back at Priya, and the poor girl quivered with Aditi’s enraged glance. 

I’m… am not understanding Aditi… What’s the point… I mean…” Tanya was confused what to say as she was unable to comprehend what Aditi just said.

I did all these because I LOVE YOU!!!” Tanya said lowering the gun, looking lost.

I don’t like it when your attention is diverted. I don’t like it when you gave importance to someone else. I am your bestie… I could not see your attention and care being shared with anyone else other than me… I am jealous of everyone that comes close to you my love… You are mine… ONLY mine.” Aditi said as her hand holding the gun went limp and hung by her side.

She blinked as if coming out of some trance and went on “I mean… don’t misunderstand me… I… I… don’t love you romantically, but I love you and unable to digest the fact that we might have to part when we grow up further… when you marry, or I marry … I mean… Ahhh…” Aditi couldn’t speak anymore, she heaved and choked on her words as she broke down and wept bitterly, sitting down resting her whole weight on her palms. Her tears were pooling on the floor making Tanya and Priya perplexed of her behaviour. They both were in tears as well. Tanya started sobbing as she considered Aditi’s heart and her condition, it was too much turmoil to take on.

The gun was still in her hand and Tanya was not sure what to do at that moment… She didn’t know how to react, how to behave… She just took her name…“Aditi…! My dear, dear friend… Can you come and hug me, I want my best friend back…?” Tanya stretched her hands as she sobbed herself.

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Aditi lifted her head and looked up; she was seeing blurred as tears clouded her vision and nodded with a shadow of a smile playing on her lips. She got to her feet, threw the gun aside and hugged Tanya rushing towards her. They felt as if all their fears vanished in a split second. The hard feelings simply washed away with tears of pure love and friendship.

Tanya pulled Aditi into a hug and cupped her face gently, “Babe, love does not envy, it never delights in evil… in fact, there is no fear in love. And perfect love drives out fear. Who can take me away from my shadow, Aditi? No lover, no husband, no other person in this world can separate us, my babe… I am yours, and you are mine… we were and will always be like this… even when we get married, have children, grandchildren. Till death do us apart!! Our friendship will never go… It’s my promise to you, today and forever… We might not give the whole of us to each other, but we will have the best of each other. You are part of my being, and you can never lose me to someone, anyone.” Tanya said taking a deep breath, stress leaving her muscles, replaced by compassion and empathy.

Aditi nodded and hugged Tanya tighter, sobering up, “I am sorry for all that I did……I….I….” her words caught in her throat.

It’s okay… you told me the truth, and everything is fine now… Now can we let Priya go dear?” Tanya asked politely and lovingly, still holding her arms firmly. Aditi looked back at Priya who was still in tears… She looked at Tanya and nodded, “Yes, I think so… But please don’t call the police…” She pleaded.

Of course not… All that happened will be a secret only between us three, and we will carry it to our graves, right Priya?” Tanya asked looking at Priya as she untied her. Priya nodded immediately without uttering a word.

Tanya let Priya and Aditi hug each other and made sure that everything is cleared out in those four walls of the farmhouse of Aditi’s father.

As they were walking towards the door, Tanya suddenly asked looking at Aditi, “By the way, who’s that pan stained Sameer and his stupid friends?

And all three of them giggled before Aditi told that Sameer is their house maid’s son and he brought his friends along with him for money.

When they walked out of the farmhouse they saw Rashmi and Rishi reaching there, Panic written on their faces.

What were you all doing here… Tanya, are you alright?” Her Mom, Rashmi asked caressing her cheeks and shoulders while she scanned from one face to other.

Yes, of course, Mom. I called you many times to inform you that we three were planning a day out here… as we were planning against Rishi…” Tanya said assuring her Mom and looked away as she lied to her but she winked at the girls for what she said about Rishi, and all three of them laughed teasing Rishi.

They all returned to their respective homes with peace.

Later, on Tanya’s earnest request Aditi went for therapy as she was suffering from Obsessive Love Disorder. But their friendship never wavered again through the test of time life brought to them.

Continue reading “COMING OF AGE – UNVEILING OF THE MYSTERY”

COMING OF AGE – XI

Tanya was a lot worried now. She knew the Aditi was capable of doing a lot of things and she does have an evil mind.

“If what I am thinking is true, then I better be careful of Aditi. I might be the next one she decides to hurt. But why? Why is Aditi doing all this?”

Tanya’s head was bursting now and she knew that she needed some help. She cannot handle all this alone. But who can she trust now? Aditi her bestie is probably a major suspect in all this. Few hours back when Aditi was here, Tanya did notice her evil smile and content look. Even if Aditi wasn’t the one responsible for breaking Rishi’s hand – why was she so happy about it? Is the story much more convoluted then it already looks like.

Tanya looked at her reflection in mirror and she was shocked at her reflection. She looked like hell. All this stress had taken a toll on her health. And to add to it she hasn’t been able to study a bit for her upcoming exams. “I need to focus! I don’t need anybody. For a few days, I won’t go to college. Let everybody go to hell – Aditi, Rishi, Priya, secret admirer. I will declare that I am sick with something and stay at home. That will help me stay away from this mystery and I could focus on my studies.” Thought Tanya with determination.

Next day morning she slept almost till 9. Her mother had come and woken her up multiple times but she made up an excuse of upset stomach and convinced her mom that she cannot go to college.

At 9:15 am her mother came into the room for the 4th time. “I told you mom a hundredth time that I want to stay at home. Can’t you understand? Please leave me alone.” Shouted Tanya with tears in her eyes.

Her mom smiled and without a reaction came and sat down beside Tanya. She placed her hand on Tanya’s head and kissed her gently on her forehead. “I know something is troubling you intensely. You are at a delicate age and things can be too overwhelming at this time. If you don’t have anybody to share your thoughts with – then consider me. I am your mother but I can assure you that I will listen to you as a friend.”

Tanya looked at her mom with an utter surprise. “Mom, you can never be my friend. You will judge me and scold me. You are always like that. I am not a perfect person and you expect me to be. There is a lot of pressure on me and I cannot handle it. You are not my friend so don’t try to be.” Tanya snorted and she felt a bit guilty at talking to her mom this way when she saw her eyes.

Tanya saw a rising anger in her mom’s eyes but it immediately softened which surprised Tanya.

“It is fine if you don’t want to share. But if you need a shoulder to cry and somebody to hold you now – I can be that pillar.” Said Tanya’s mom in a soft voice.

Tanya was irritated “Just leave, Mom. I don’t have time for your lecture.” This time Tanya did not look into her mom’s eyes but she knew that she had hurt her.

Mom got up to leave but she left a small note in Tanya’s hand. Tanya was surprised at mom giving her something written.

As soon as mom left, Tanya opened the note and it said – “Whatever it is remember it shall Pass. Someday you will remember this incident as a joke. You don’t know how my life was when I was your age. I had messed up big time and got into big troubles. I don’t know what is pulling you down but I know my Tanya is really strong to overcome any challenge in life. She is not a girl who will hide her tears beneath a blanket, hidden in a room. She is the one who goes out and fight with all her will and courage for what she considers right.”

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Tanya was crying bitterly now. She ran outside and hugged her mom. She kept her head in mom’s lap and cried her heart out for a long time. Her mom’s hand on her head felt like a shield she just needed now. The assurance in her mom’s eyes was the strength that Tanya needed now. Tanya’s mom just held her for a long time till all of her tears had dried up and she felt much lighter. It was such a strong connection that Tanya felt with her mom, a connection that she could not feel with best of her friends. “Maybe I should tell mom everything. Or maybe not, she might just freak out. Did she say that she too messed up big time at this age, but who knows my mess up is bigger or smaller than hers? She will judge me or get worried about me. Let me not tell her anything.” Thought Tanya debating in her head.

With these thoughts Tanya lifted her head from mom’s lap. Mom was still smiling with tears in her eyes. “You know what Tanya, sometimes experience matters. I know the world better than you just because I have spent more time living than you. Be my friend for once and trust me – I will not be a judging scolding mother for this one case.”

Tanya was confused – “What should I tell mom? How much should I tell mom? Will she put restrictions on car usage if I tell her that I went for blind date?” After few moments, Tanya asked “Is it ok if I think about it for some time and then decide whether to share with you or not?”

“Absolutely. I am right here till 4 pm and after that I am going out with my friends for a movie. So take your time.” Said Mom still with a caring smile.

Tanya entered her room feeling much lighter in her head. It seemed that a big burden was off her shoulders. She suddenly felt energetic and ready to take on the world. She still did not know why Aditi would do all this to her, but she knew that however bad the situation is – she can handle it.

COMING OF AGE – X

Tanya sat down on her bed and took a writing paper and pen. She made a chart of sorts, a kinda walkthrough to figure out things. She wrote ‘Secret Admirer’ on one side and wrote ‘Sameer’ on its side. Then decided he is not the secret admirer and maybe not even the college peon. Then was he a decoy? If yes, then was he planted by someone or was just a stalker? She crossed out his name and wrote ‘Rishi’ on another side of the paper. Gazing at his name she thought everything about Rishi, piecing all the information to reach a concrete conclusion. Rishi was her nemesis as far as the class topper was concerned, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be the one writing those letters. So because Rishi is the admirer he cannot think to harm her and he can’t plant Sameer to meet her. If Aditi knows that Rishi is the secret admirer, then why is she playing vamp this time. Maybe because she likes Rishi? YESSS!!! That is it.

She felt exultant as she was able to reach one conclusion. She wrote ‘Aditi’ on the same paper and chewed on the back of her ballpoint pen. She made an arrow between Aditi and Rishi’s names on paper and then another arrow from Rishi to Tanya.

So this is a love triangle!!!” She spoke out loud.

Aditi loves Rishi, and she can’t swallow that I smite Rishi and that is why she is feeding me wrong information. She lied to me about Priya and Rishi. He isn’t in an alliance with her, in fact, Priya is an excellent girl, she can’t be that nasty. And that is why Rishi was taken aback when I confronted her about THE WEAPON. And it is highly probable that Sameer was a ploy of Aditi” Tanya said to herself and pondered on Aditi.

Aditi and herself had been besties for last 12 yrs, but Tanya couldn’t swear that Aditi wasn’t capable of such an evil act. She was reminded of the one time in summer vacations when Aditi’s Dad gifted her with a Pug, but that Pug would bark at Aditi and threaten to bite her while he would wag his tail on seeing Tanya and roll on the floor to woo her. A few days later the dog was nowhere to be found. Tanya had had a flicker of doubt on Aditi back then, that it was an outcome of the dog’s disloyalty towards her. But the incident was soon forgotten.

And then there was this another time when they were all on a trip to camping and Tanya had been allotted partner with Kartik who was a cousin of Aditi and Aditi had to crush on him. Aditi wasn’t talking to them both on the entire trip and on the first day, they went mountain climbing where Kartik slipped on a rock and rolled down the hill. Someone had played a prank on him and had tied his laces together; he was sent back home.

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The more Tanya thought about it, the more she was sure of her theory. Everything was falling into place. It filled her with deep regret and melancholy. She cherished Aditi and had always wished well for her; she could not think in her wildest dreams that Aditi was doing this to her. 12 yrs worth of friendship was so frail that it shook with the first blow of time. Tanya cried with her head in her lap and slept like that.

She woke up an hour later and rubbed her eyes with the heel of her palms to drive sleep from her eyes, and her gaze fell on the paper where she had solved the puzzle. She looked at Aditi’s name, and suddenly her heart spoke to her. She felt that everything she had thought was the product of a very negative and stressed mind. Aditi would not do this to her; they had been together through thick and thin. Maybe Rishi was not the secret admirer, after all, even he was perhaps the evil one was Priya and not Aditi.

The best way out of this dilemma was a face-to-face confrontation with Aditi. Only that way can she reach the bottom of this mystery that has stolen her peace. If Aditi is innocent she will feel hurt, and their friendship would take a big hit and if she were guilty then too, she would lose her friend. Was the secret admirer worth it? But if Aditi hates her that much, what would Tanya gain out of this hollow friendship? Tanya was dealing with this inner struggle when her mother knocked her door and poked her head in through the parted door.

Tanya, are you up?” Her mother asked in a hurry.

Yes….yes Maa I am up. I will be out in a minute” Tanya said curling her hair behind her ears and standing up as she stretched her arms above her head.

Yeah, come out because Aditi is here to see you. Or shall I send her right in?” Her mother asked impatiently.

Tanya nodded, “Yes Maa, please send her in,” she said in a shaky voice, and her mother left.

Tanya quickly tore the page with the names on it from her book and tore it into pieces and threw them in the dustbin just when Aditi walked in.

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Hey, Tani!!!” She told seeing the bits of paper in the bin.

A look of concern came over Aditi’s face, and she asked: “Are you disposing another letter from HIM?” She asked with her hands on her hips.

Tanya merely nodded and came back to her bed. “How come you are here at this hour, isn’t this time for your Gym class?” Tanya questioned Aditi with a sceptical look, trying to maintain a poker face.

Well, darling there is news for you. We now have ways to find out if Rishi is your secret admirer or not. Then we can go back to believing it was really that Sameer guy or keep on hunting” Aditi declared somewhat pompously; her face had a wicked smile as she came to sit on the bed with Tanya.

Tanya’s took a deep breath and blurted a raced “How?

Aditi picked Tanya’s Rubik’s Cube and began solving it as she took her time, building up suspense and Tanya shook her by her shoulders “Tell me na!” Tanya shrieked.

Aditi laughed and threw the cube on the bed and said: “Rishi has fractured his right hand, his writing hand and all those letters were handwritten.” Aditi said with a twinkle in her eyes and Tanya’s breath froze in her lungs.

She was thinking about Kartik from her childhood camping trip…

COMING OF AGE – IX

Finally, Aditi showed up as she walked up to where Tanya was sitting and pondering on what Rishi just told her before going out of the library.

Hi bestie, what’s up?” Aditi wished with a pleasant smile on her face.

I am fine babe, was unaware of the postponing of our class and landed here earlier.” Tanya replied explaining ahead about why she was early here.

I understand… I was actually thinking about you last night… Was really worried about the fix you are in…” Aditi showed her concern as she took her sit beside Tanya.

I… I saw…” Tanya wanted to share about what Rishi just told her few minutes ago but something stopped her to utter that piece of information… She remembered what Rishi told her and about that startling statement which her secret admirer had mentioned in his last letter that she read last night: “I can just tell you that your best friend can hurt you ten times more than your enemy.

What did you see?” asked Aditi curiously.

Nah… nothing I saw…” Tanya thought to be bit careful for some time and keep everything to herself.

Arrree… You wanted to tell me something… you saw something and why are you avoiding telling that?” Aditi got hyper as she insisted Tanya to blurt out whatever she wanted to.

I felt I saw Sameer in the corridor this morning when I came to college to attend the class… When I saw no one was there in the class I got scared and entered the library.” Tanya lied to Aditi for the first time as she wanted to observe everything and everyone around her basing on the last letter from her secret admirer.  Her eyes are fixed on Aditi’s to see her reactions.

Aditi was quiet for few seconds thinking something and then retorted, “Don’t think too much Tanya but simply avoid anyone that comes close to you… Anyone can be dangerous and can hurt you… Just keep updating me so that I will be your shadow and protecting my bestie at every step.

Tanya nodded to her and they walked out of the library and went towards the park in the middle of the college to hang out for sometime before the class starts. But something caught Tanya’s attention behind a bush and she pulled Aditi towards that asking her to keep her mouth shut…

They saw Rishi and Priya talking to each other intensely and Priya was in tears. “Why is Priya crying? Let’s see…” Aditi wanted to interfere between them but Tanya pulled her from behind clasping her fingers on Aditi’s mouth whispering, “Shhhhh…Shut up you dumb head… Just listen to them quietly first.

Tanya and Aditi heard Priya speaking, “Rishi… You know how much I love you… Please try to understand… annndd… for you I can do anything…”

I don’t deny that Priya… I understand your feelings… but try to understand me. I don’t love you as a lover… You are my best friend and you will remain one till I die but I can’t love you the way you want me to… I just can’t please understand.” Rishi requested Priya humbly and subtly as a loving and caring friend.

Priya wept and wept bitterly… Rishi took her both hands in his and clasped them and hugged her saying, “Priya, don’t be like this my lovely friend… Please understand me…

Priya pulled herself back from Rishi and wiped her tears and spoke feebly, “Okay… Okay Rishi… I do understand you… and respect you… And I promise I will support you everything that you do… I will never be against anything or anyone related to you… May be God wanted me to be your best friend forever, but not as a lover…” She forced a smile on her face….

Rishi felt sad as well as relieved listening to Priya and said, “Thanks Priya understanding… I definitely need your support in the matter of…

Hey, Rishi and Priya what’s going on?” Aditi suddenly released herself from Tanya interrupted before Rishi could speak something of utter importance… Tanya was frustrated and was annoyed on Aditi. She was feeling sad for Priya and was thinking she should be having little time alone to herself yet she had no choice but to show up as well from behind the bush after her bestie.

Rishi and Priya felt embarrassed at the intrusion of both Tanya and Aditi. Priya tried to hide her emotions by wiping her face with her hanky as Aditi went and wrapped her arms around her asking, “Arrre what happened to you Priya… did this naughty boy hurt you someway…?” Rishi was wise to interfere and replied, “Yes, Aditi… I hurt her but we have sorted that out between us…” He gave a pleasant smile at her while the bell rang for the class to begin fortunately and all of them walked towards their classroom.

Tanya was extremely surprised at Aditi’s rudeness yet she was quiet and was in deep thought. Even she was warned by the lecturer twice for not paying attention to his lecture.

After the first class itself Tanya went home without letting anyone know about it. She was extremely disturbed thinking about all the things that are happening around her. First the letters from an unknown person, then the interaction with Sameer, then Aditi’s reports about Rishi and Priya and finally Aditi’s strange behavior towards the two of their friends.

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She knew Aditi for last 12 years since they were tiny kids. They went to school together, they went to dance class together, they giggled together, they made fun of others together, they went to college together and they never did anything alone. As far as her knowledge of Aditi is concerned, she is a very subtle girl and never used to hurt people… She is very sensible about every matter and who had always been a guide to Tanya herself. But today’s behaviour was unimaginable.  “Can she hurt me, her bestie?”she wondered. “I can just tell you that your best friend can hurt you ten times more than your enemy” she remembered this statement again. “What’s Rishi’s connection with all these? Why he tried to warn her as well?” “If Rishi doesn’t love Priya then does he love someone else?” “I and Rishi never got along well with each other because of competition then what made Rishi show that care for me today?” “Arrrgggghhhhh… I will go mad…” She screamed thinking all this clasping her head between her palms.

COMING OF AGE – VIII

“Tanya, get up, you will be late for your college,” shouted her mom. Startled, she woke up and jumped out of bed. She couldn’t afford to miss her college today. She had to solve the mystery at any cost. She had to work her for her exams also. There was so much to be done.

Hurriedly, Tanya had a quick shower and got ready. Her parents were waiting for her at the breakfast table. “I need to rush,” screamed Tanya, trying to put her sandals while grabbing her backpack.

“Calm down, eat something and your dad will drop you.” Tanya’s mom said.

“No mom, you don’t understand”, cried Tanya.

“Yes I do”, said her mom. She made a parantha roll and handed it to Tanya with a paper napkin. “You can’t handle challenges with an empty stomach!”

Tanya looked at her mom, who was smiling at her.

“Now hurry up, let’s go”, her dad shouted.

Tanya ran towards the car, looked back at her mom and said, “I love you mom”.  She was thinking that no matter what, a mom is always there for you.

The car reached the college on time. Tanya thanked her dad and went inside the college with the burden of the commotion going inside her. She looked for Aditi at their usual meeting spot, but probably she was late today. She didn’t bother to give her a call to check. She decided to go and sit in her classroom instead. She had reached 10 minutes earlier than the usual time. The room was empty and looked haunted. She was scared, but stepped inside. Just then she heard an announcement that the lecture which was about to start in 5 minutes has been postponed for the next class. So, there won’t be any class today. Tired Tanya cursed herself for hurrying upto the college so that she couldn’t miss this lecture. She turned back to the corridor, but stopped before moving.

“It can’t be there so early.” She said to herself, thinking about the envelope. She decided to check once before leaving the classroom, making sure that no one was there watching her.  Slowly, she stepped towards the last bench and her heart skipped a beat. It was there!

Baffled, she instantly grabbed it and kept it in her backpack. Pretending to adjust the books, she opened the letter, without taking it out.

The library would be a better place!

Tanya agreed to the statement. If her secret admirer was right, if he really cared about her, he would not want her to be in any trouble. But, what if Aditi was correct…

Thinking about the jeopardy, she decided to take the stairs towards the library.

She checked for the pepper spray can inside her backpack. It was there. She didn’t want to take a chance at any cost. Her neurons were completely freaking her out, yet she was determined to go to the library. She stood outside, making sure it wasn’t vacant.  Yes! The librarian was there, with a couple of other students. She went inside and bumped into Rishi.

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“Oh! Hi topper”, he said in a teasing voice.

“Huh! Whatever”, she replied.

“So, all set to beat me in these exams?” Rishi asked.

“Yeah, but I don’t have a weapon like you” Tanya replied amusingly.

“WEAPON!”  Rishi exclaimed.

“Oh, don’t act innocent. Aditi has told me everything what you guys are planning against me.” Tanya said.

“I am not getting you. What are you talking about? Which weapon? I haven’t even seen or met  Aditi, other than with you the other day. It’s true that I want to top, but I can never think of using any weapon or any unfair means.” Rishi tried to explain.

“Listen, I am least interested in your weapons and all. I am busy right now.  Do whatever you can. I am not scared.” Tanya said irritatingly as she was thinking about the envelope guy.

“That’s what I like about you- your confidence. Hope God keeps you away from all the devils around you.” Rishi said and left the library.

Tanya stood there, thinking about what Rishi had just said…

COMING OF AGE – VII

Tanya was trying hard to focus on her studies but her mind was wandering elsewhere. While she knew that she needed to study hard for the upcoming exams she couldn’t help but think about how her life had changed ever since she had met Sameer.

The events from last few days were running in her mind like a movie. A beautiful girl falling for a secret admirer through the letters they exchanged and then they decide to meet one fine day. A perfect plot for a romantic movie, isn’t it? But Tanya’s story was no more romantic. Her secret admirer had turned out to be a peon with pan stained teeth. Tanya threw her book out of frustration. She couldn’t believe that someone as stupid as Sameer had made a fool of her. Tears started streaming down her cheeks and her room filled with her sobs.

It took some time for Tanya to calm down. She got up, washed her face and decided to start studying again. After all, she had to beat her academic rival Rishi.  With great determination she bent down to pick up the book she had thrown some time back and she froze to see a white envelope. She had totally forgotten that earlier in the day she had picked the white envelope and when she was about to tear it she saw Rishi approaching her so she had no other option than hiding the letter quickly in the book.

Tanya was contemplating whether to read the letter or not. She was scared about how much more details Sameer knows about her. It is what it is, she thought and geared up to read the letter. With shaky hands she opened up the white envelope and removed the letter from it. The paper was same like all the earlier letters – light pink in color and scented. How she had loved this fragrance, only until she met Sameer. While Tanya slowly unfolded the pink paper, she felt like her heart will leap into her mouth.

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The letter read:

“Dear Tanya,

Hope you read this letter unlike last few which you just tore off and threw in the dustbin. I am worried for you dear. Someone close to you is going to stab you in the back. I wish you had met me that day and I would have told you everything. Letter is not a safe medium to share such important information. I request you once again Tanya, please meet me, please! I care for you and I want to safeguard you from all the devils around you.

For now, I can just tell you that your best friend can hurt you ten times more than your enemy. Please be wise Tanya and look beyond the masks of friendship.

Love you dear, hope to meet you soon.”

Tanya couldn’t believe what she had read. So many thoughts crowded her mind. What did the secret admirer mean? Which friend was going to stab her in the back? Aditi? How is it possible? How does secret admirer know that she had torn off last few letters? From all these thoughts, the only thought that comforted her was that the secret admirer was still waiting to meet her which means Sameer was not the secret admirer! Whoa… what a relief!

Now things started making sense. Tanya realized that she had never shared her residence details or her car details with the secret admirer and even then the white car had followed her to the Family Kingdom. How? If Sameer was the peon from her college how did she never spot him ever before and after her meeting? Why did Aditi insist on tearing off the letters from the secret admirer? Did she want to ensure that Tanya never finds out the truth? Why? All these thoughts were pounding in her head and Tanya failed to understand when she fell asleep.

COMING OF AGE – VI

Tanya was perplexed and she wanted to return home as soon as possible. She felt entangled in an invisible unending vicious trap and the worst part is, she had no clue how to rescue herself or who to seek help from! As if this was not enough, impassable dense traffic greeted her, only to worsen her pensive state. She felt doomed! No matter how hard she tried to focus on her steering wheel, she was all at sea. Finally after an hour’s wait, Tanya managed to reach home.  Without wasting any time, Tanya shook off her sandal and hastily entered her room, and shut the door behind her. Tanya didn’t realize instead of removing her shoes, she was dragging it inside and a paper was clumsily stuck beneath the heel of the sandal.

Maya was watching the whole episode with the patience of a saint from behind the kitchen wall. But the sight of the paper stuck to the heel, excited her and she had moved closer to take a close look at the paper before the door was shut. But all she could see was a gorgeous bride’s hand neatly placed over the safe hands of the handsome groom!! The very sight galvanized Maya and gave wings to her colorful imaginations. Unable to control her excitement, Maya zoomed towards Tanya’s room and knocked it. Maya worked as a maid at Tanya’s place. “Who’s it? I’m busy!” came a sharp reply. “Didi, its me, Maya. Please open the door. I know what you are going through. This has happened to me once. Please open the door I can help you.” Maya’s words rang in her ears. “Did she just say, something of this sort has happened to her! This means Maya has a solution for getting rid of that paan-stained man! But how on earth does Maya know what’s troubling me?  Are my eardrums playing drums?” Tanya was thinking aloud. On the other side Maya was eagerly waiting for a reply but there was no answer. “Maybe Tanya is feeling shy”, thought Maya. So she knocked the door again and said, “didi please let me in”. Convinced by her voice Tanya opened the door with a big question mark on her face. “Come inside”, snorted Tanya and gave a quick detective glance round the corner and shut the door. “Yes tell,” Tanya said in an optimistic tone. “Didi don’t feel shy, in my time it was different, but my son was telling these days it’s done differently , even in pen and paper your work can be done”.  “Pen and paper!!”  Repeated Tanya with a surprised look on her face. “Not bad! How wrong I was! Maya is not brainless, she too has a brain!  By the way she must have been quite famous in her young days. Anyways why should I bother, my work is almost done,” Tanya smirked to herself.  “Didi,” Maya startled Tanya, “whatever documents you have show it to me.” A chill ran down Tanya’s spine when she heard the word “documents”. “Has she seen those envelopes? My goodness what will I reply now! Has she read everything?” Tanya blew a gasket on Maya thinking she has messed up with her stuffs while cleaning the room.  “Who told you to touch my things without my permission? What else do you know about the envelope?” asked Tanya in a rude tone. “Didi which envelop are you talking about?” replied a bewildered Maya, already sensing she had landed up in trouble as always. “What? Have you gone insane? You only asked me to show you the document. But listen carefully, I..I’m not going to show you that envelop, get that straight! Now go from here foolish woman”, thundered Tanya. “Bu…but I’m not talking about any envelop and I don’t even know what is it”, replied Maya in a perturbed tone. “What! Then what were you talking about all this while?” asked Tanya in a surprisingly sharp tone. “Actually didi, I saw it while you entered the house, and I,.” “Saw what Maya?”, Tanya butted in! Maya abruptly pointed towards Tanya’s sandal. When Tanya looked down, she saw the delicate strap of her sandal was caught in the midst of her toes and she was flummoxed to see a Jeevan Saathi.com advertisement pamphlet stuck to her heels!! Tanya was left wide-eyed and open-mouthed as she understood the entire situation. She was at a loss of words! She immediately shook off the sandal and signaled Maya to leave the room , thus calming herself from another outburst! “But didi what did you mean by envelope? And I never touch your things while cleaning. I..” Tanya didn’t let her complete and politely asked her to leave. Maya turned to leave to leave but Tanya threatened her “don’t you dare tell mom and dad about anything that happened today!” After Maya left, Tanya wanted to laugh out loud, as the situation was so amusingly funny. But she was so exhausted she dozed off.

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Next day morning when Tanya entered college, she saw Priya and her group were giving her nasty looks. She tried her best not to focus and was frantically searching for Aditi. Finally she met Aditi and they headed for the girls common room. Since the room was full they sat in the corridor and Aditi said, “I overheard Rishi, he was talking about some weapon.” “What did you exactly hear? What weapon?” asked Tanya.  “Whoa! Now this will be a great weapon against Tanya. Tanya you are finished!!”, this is what I heard said Aditi, a sense of urgency in her tone. “What are you saying?” shrieked a scared Tanya. “I also saw bits of that envelope and letter in his hand”, said Aditi. Tanya stood up shell-shocked!! She knew Priya, Rishi and their group envied her as she was one of the best scholars. Tanya knew how revengeful they were.  Exam was round the corner and what if they play foul. She felt the ground slip beneath her feet.  Disturbing thoughts nestled her mind, because everyone knows the scar of college rivalry. “What if they tell my parents? What if they team up with that paan-stained-teeth man and harass me?”