Naina woke up with a shudder. It was 03:00am; she checked the clock, hung on the opposite wall. She rushed to the bathroom, and splashed water on her face multiple times, but the reality did not change, she was not dreaming this time. She came back, and checked her phone; it had over thirty missed calls from same name, a name she didn’t want to see, after whatever happened.
* * * * *
Two months ago (Naina’s 19th Birthday)
‘Naina, we’re getting late! Are you coming?’ Shikha was shouting.
She was wearing a huge backpack, with white T-Shirt and black shorts, she looked funky. Naina was going to be 19, and she shared her birthday with Varun, her friend and love interest from school time. They both knew that they loved each other, only a formal proposal was awaited from Varun’s side! After a lot of trouble and tantrums, Naina had finally convinced her parents to allow her to spend her birthday out of the city, with her friends this time.
Her mother was okay with the plan, but her father, being a possessive dad, didn’t quite approve of it; but he couldn’t tolerate Naina sulking besides him on her birthday either. So he thought of his daughter’s happiness and allowed her to go. He arranged the entire trip and made sure the kids were safe.
Naina arrived, wearing a cool tank top and black jeans, with a pair of stylish shades.
‘C’mon, you took so long, yaar!’ Shikha was fretting.
‘I forgot the camera, so I went to fetch it. Let’s go!’ Naina signalled the driver to take them to Varun’s home, from where they were going to the railway station.
‘Take care of yourself, Naina. And do call me when you reach…’ Naina’s mother said in a hurry as the driver zoomed off the car. She turned back, and saw Naina’s father, who was hiding his emotions behind his large spectacles, looking at the car as if Naina got married away.
‘It’s okay, they’re kids! And she’ll be back soon…c’mon…’ Naina’s mother patted him, and took him inside.
Naina and Shikha reached Varun’s place, where Varun, Rajat and Damini also joined them. They were a group of 5, leaving for Goa. Everyone was happy but Varun and Naina were exclusively elated because both were turning 19 that night.
‘Let’s play a game…truth and dare?’ Shikha put forward her idea of time-pass. Everyone joined in.
‘Okay, let’s spin this pen. Whoever is pointed by the cap-side will ask the question from the person who is pointed by the back side, any confusion?’ Rajat rubbed his hands, and swirled the pen.
‘Wow! Naina and Damini!’ everyone shouted.
‘So, truth, or dare?’ Damini asked.
‘Truth, I’d prefer speaking something bad, than doing something bad…’ everyone laughed.
‘Alright, without looking at Varun, tell me honestly, have you guys ever made out?’
‘Whoa! Where is this coming from?’ Varun jumped in defence.
‘Stay out, Varun! This question is for Naina’s. We all know you two quite popular in school, eh?’ Shikha winked.
‘Umm, never.’ Naina said coyly.
‘That’s a sure shot lie. I can see it on your face, girl.’ Damini said.
‘To be honest, everyone knows we’re pretty good friends, and we’ve only hugged so far, that too, hardly three times. As far as making out is concerned, I’m honestly, a virgin!’ Naina covered her face with her hands, everyone hooted and shouted.
‘Okay guys, the next spin…’ Rajat swirled the pen.
‘Hmmm…that’s gonna be an interesting one now.’ Rajat looked at Shikha who was happy for she got to question Varun this time.
‘Okay, so tell me Varun, truth, or dare?’
‘Dare! I’m a man after all…’ he winked and looked at Naina who was smiling at him.
‘Pleasing, here is your task. Cross two bogies and there’s a washroom for females which is usually occupied. Knock on the door, and tell the lady inside that you love her and you love what she’s doing at the moment!’ Shikha narrated her wicked plan. Everyone burst out laughing.
‘This is insane! What if there’s a granny inside?’
‘That’s the fun of it, it’s a dare after all, somebody was flaunting his macho, moments ago, and see, how he’s turned into a purring cat! Meow!’ Shikha mocked him.
‘Fine! Who’s coming along to witness it now?’ Varun got up and adjusted his shirt’s collars. He unfolded his sleeves and stepped out.
‘Only I will come along, I’ll make a video and will show it to you; you all take care of the luggage.’ Shikha said. The idea was appreciated.
Shikha and Varun somehow reached the washroom. As expected, somebody was inside.
‘C’mon, what are you waiting for?’ Shikha whispered, her camera lens was focusing at Varun who was sweating and nervous.
‘Alright…wooh!’ he expelled a gush of air and gathered some strength. He knocked on the door twice.
He tried to open the door knob, but it was locked from inside, which confirmed someone was there. He knocked again. Still there was no answer.
‘What now? Nobody’s answering!’Varun hissed.
‘Say it!’ Shikha showed him a thumbs-up.
‘Ahem..’ Varun cleared his throat and started speaking, ‘Excuse me, whoever is inside. I don’t know your name…’
‘What the fuck?’ Shikha kicked him.
‘Wait, I’m saying…’ Varun whispered.
‘I…I don’t know your name, but I have fallen in love with you, and I love what you’re doing right now…’
The door knob was twisted from inside. Varun knew a storm awaited him. They tried to run, but someone caught Varun from his shirt collar.
‘What were you saying? You love me and you loved what I was doing inside? How do you know what was I doing?’
Varun turned to see who it was, and his jaw dropped and touched the floor seeing a healthy man of around forties behind him.
‘I never knew I’ll get someone in train too…come, join me!’ the man offered him his company.
‘What? I thought that’s a ladies washroom…’
‘I know you are afraid to confess, but don’t worry, it will be okay, c’mon!’ the uncle was almost hugging him now.
‘Oh God! I’m not what you’re thinking I am, actually it was my friend’s idea, I was just playing along; it was all part of a game!’ Varun somehow tried to explain things to him.
‘Right, I understand! It’s all a part of game young lad. You see, this entire world is a game…’
Varun pushed him aside and ran away. Shikha, who was standing far away, had shot everything and was ready to embarrass Varun in front of rest of them. Varun jumped like a monkey, from one coach to another, and finally reached his seat.
‘What happened? Got slapped by some aunty?’ Rajat mocked.
‘Worst! Got trapped by a gay-uncle!’
‘Hahaha…’ Rajat couldn’t control his laugher. Everyone almost held their stomachs as Shikha showed them the video.
‘Yeah, laugh your ass off! It’s all, your fault. What if he would have raped me?’ Varun brushed the sweat across his forehead.
‘Okay, next turn…’ as Rajat picked up the pen, Varun almost screamed, ‘I’m out, I’m not playing this shitty game anymore!’
‘Coward, you scared bitch!’ Rajat pulled his leg.
‘Let it be, I’m going to sleep, there’s a long journey ahead…’ Varun smiled at Naina, climbed up the stair and lied on the seat.
Rest of them played truth and dare for a few more minutes, and soon, everyone dozed off. As they woke up, it was late evening, and the dinner was being served. They had their food, played cards, wished Naina and Varun a happy birthday, they both cut the small cake they were carrying with them, everyone sang some songs, and slept again. In the morning, they reached Goa, their destination.
‘Wow, it’s beautiful!’ Naina was admiring the beauty of the city, while Varun was admiring Naina.
‘Where’s our hotel?’ Shikha checked her belongings and asked Rajat.
‘Right here, on that opposite railway line, go, sleep there and do some good to the world!’ Rajat teased her.
‘Shut up, you ass…’ Shikha kicked his leg and they all boarded a taxi for Aguada Fort.
Within an hour, they reached Aguada and everyone was spellbound by the weather and the location.
‘This is the perfect place, guys! I bet this trip will be unforgettable!’ Damini jumped with joy.
‘Happy Birthday, Naina…’ Varun hugged her, ‘Couldn’t wish you properly last night in the hassle of train journey.’ He smiled.
‘Same to you, Varun. Thank you for your amazing idea, I love this place!’ she hugged him back.
‘Ahem! Someone’s getting lovey-dovey!’ Shikha teased them, they immediately left each other.
‘C’mon, we’re already late, we had a reservation of two hours ago.’ Varun picked Naina’s luggage and walked ahead. Shikha was walking with Rajat behind Varun, who was leading the troop, and Naina and Damini were at the last.
‘Naina…well, I think, you guys should go for it now. You both are 19 after all!’ Damini raised a brow and bit her lip.
‘Shut up yaar…You are the one who should go for Rajat, right?’ Naina said.
‘Rajat? Eeww…Shikha is the one who likes him, huh!’ Damini spat out the secret.
‘Don’t tell her, she will kill me!’
‘Promise!’ Naina smiled and sealed her lips with her fingers.
They reached the hotel.
‘Aha, so we both have to share the room?’ Rajat asked Varun.
‘We have no other choice dude; it’s a trip, not your honeymoon!’
‘Haha, chill buddy, I’m thinking of proposing Damini, that’s why I got her on this trip.’ Rajat confessed to Varun.
‘Hey, don’t you like Shikha?’
‘She’s so into you, can’t you see that?’
Rajat maintained his silence.
The receptionist gave them the keys of two rooms, and their luggage was already taken upstairs.
‘Rooms are pretty nice, I like the ambience.’ Varun opened the curtains. He saw the lush green valley in the front, ‘Lovely!’
‘What a place, isn’t it?’ Rajat placed a hand on his shoulder.
‘What are you doing guys? Romancing?’ Shikha entered their room.
‘C’mon Rajat, let’s see the terrace!’ Shikha held his arm and dragged him along. Varun winked at him, while Rajat made faces.
‘Isn’t it beautiful?’ Shikha asked.
‘Shikha, I want to confess something. I’m in love with Damini, so, please…I’m sorry…’ Rajat cleared it out and went down, without even listening what Shikha had to say.
Shikha was shattered. She couldn’t believe that all those signals were for Damini, and not for her. And the way Rajat used to look at her, everything was a lie. It was all for Damini, since the very first day. She hated herself. She sat down on the terrace floor, and cried harder. He had made it, her life’s worst trip.
‘I’m not going to forgive you, you bastard!’ Shikha screamed out loud. Her pain was unbearable. She was into Rajat for more than three years now, she did every possible thing to make him happy, she was always there for him, as a friend, as a guide, and as a companion. She always surprised him, and made his every birthday special. And this was what she got in return…
‘What have I not done for you, tell me?’ she was crying and screaming on the terrace. Nobody knew she was there.
* * * * *
‘Going out for lunch?’ Rajat asked Varun who was locking his room.
‘Hey, ya. We are planning to have lunch in a nearby motel. Damini says it’s a good place, she has been here before.’
‘Cool with me.’
‘Dude, where’s Shikha?’
‘Well, I told her that I like Damini, and she’s quite upset. You know she had a soft corner for me.’
‘God! Girls just mess up everything…now what?’
‘Nothing, I have left her on her own for some time, she’ll understand.’
‘Right. But where is she?’
‘Wait, let me call her.’
‘No, don’t!’ Rajat stopped him.
‘She might be crying and all. Can you handle those girly tantrums on a fun-trip? Besides, it’s your birthday dude, don’t spoil it.’
‘You sure she’ll be okay?’
‘100%, she just needs some time alone, you know how girls are.’
‘Hmm…I guess you’re right, we should give her a little time alone, let’s go.’
‘And where are Naina and Damini?’
‘They’re waiting for us downstairs, c’mon now…’
‘Dude, don’t tell Naina and Damini about Shikha, I have planned something for Damini, and it’s Naina’s birthday too, I don’t want to spoil the fun, you understand right?’ Rajat spoke.
‘Yeah, sure…’ they both rushed down, leaving Shikha alone.
‘Where’s Shikha, guys?’ Naina asked.
‘She’s sleeping, she said she’ll order something in the room only. She wasn’t feeling well actually.’ Rajat covered up.
‘Really?’ Damini took out her phone and dialled Shikha’s number, nobody picked up.
‘She’s not picking up, maybe you’re right, maybe she’s sleeping.’ Damini put her phone back into her hand bag and they had lunch.
After lunch, the four of them went to Aguada Fort. Varun proposed Naina on the ridge, and as expected, she immediately said yes! They both hugged and kissed.
‘I want to spend some time with you, Naina…alone…’ Varun said. Naina nodded. It was their birthday, and they wanted some real good memories to carry along!
On the other hand, Rajat was finding it difficult to confess his love for Damini, but Damini made it easy, ‘Shikha likes you, she should have been here!’
‘What? How do you know?’ Rajat was baffled.
‘Everyone knows dude! She’s totally into you, anyone can see that.’ Damini said, casually.
Rajat held his plan of proposing her; he didn’t think the time was right. He genuinely was worried for Shikha now. It was over two hours that he had left Shikha on the terrace. He tried her phone, it was ringing, but no one picked.
‘Hey, guys! I guess we should check upon Shikha…’ Rajat said in a tensed tone.
‘Yeah, you guys go, we’ll come later.’ Varun said, holding Naina from her waist.
Within seconds, it started raining. Varun and Naina searched a shelter and ran for a cover. Naina was dripping wet; her partially transparent top was revealing her beautiful assets. Varun couldn’t stop himself. They started kissing and soon were engrossed in each other, forgetting the outer world.
Rajat and Damini reached hotel and started searching for Shikha. She was nowhere. Rajat took Damini to the terrace where he left her. Her phone was lying on the floor, but she wasn’t there.
‘SHIKHA!’ Rajat screamed, nobody answered.
Damini rushed towards the backside, ‘RAJAT! Come here!’ she shouted.
Rajat ran towards her and both stood there, gaping at the valley behind the hotel, which had Shikha’s body lying in its womb.
Rajat dialled Varun’s number with trembling hands, and Damini dialled Naina’s. Nobody picked. Varun and Naina were into each other, forgetting everything else; they were celebrating their birthdays in their own way.
‘Fuck! What now?’ Rajat held his head.
‘We shouldn’t stay here; I think we should rush back as soon as possible.’ Damini was crying badly.
‘Let me see…’ Rajat booked the tickets for their return and in few hours, Varun and Naina arrived.
‘Hey guys, any news of Shikha?’ Naina asked.
‘What happened?’ Varun could notice tension creeping on Rajat and Damini’s faces.
‘Shikha is dead.’ Rajat said.
‘WHAT? HOW? WHY?’ Naina screamed.
‘How would I know? When we both reached the terrace, she wasn’t there…’
‘Terrace? You told us she was sleeping, right?’
‘Fuck no! She took me on terrace and I told her that I’m going to propose Damini, she confessed her love for me, I left saying that I loved only one girl, and that was Damini…’ Rajat finally confessed, in the most awkward situation. He never thought he’d confess like this.
‘What the fuck? You killed her you bastard!’ Damini slapped Rajat.
‘I did not! I don’t know what happened, she committed suicide or someone killed her. What I know right now is, staying for even one more hour is dangerous here. We should all leave immediately. I have confirmed the return tickets.’ Rajat showed them the confirmation receipt on his mobile.
They all packed everything and rushed back. They checked out in such haste that they forgot they were leaving too many evidences behind.
* * * * *
Almost one week passed peacefully. All were silent and tensed. Naina didn’t say a word about her trip and sudden return, her parents kept on asking, but she was numb. They knew something was definitely very wrong.
The doorbell of Naina’s house rang and her father opened the door. Some police officials were standing there with some papers.
‘Is this Naina Shukla’s residence?’
‘Yes, I’m her father. What’s the matter officer?’
‘We are here to arrest her. She is involved in murder of Shikha Rawat, her friend and school-mate. They went to Goa, 2 weeks ago. Shikha’s body has been found behind the hotel in which they were staying.’
Naina’s father was stunned. He couldn’t believe his ears. The reason for his daughter’s silence was clear now.
The police arrested the four of them. Rajat told them the entire story, and Shikha’s post-mortem reports revealed that she died because her head smashed into a rock in the valley.
‘Her post-mortem reports say that the head injury killed her, now she actually committed suicide, or one of you pushed her, we don’t know, but we’ll find out.’ The inspector signalled the constable to put them all behind bars.
Their parents filed for a bail, but their request was denied. It took almost one month to sort things out, and despite so many allegations and accusations, all four of them were bailed out without any criminal charges. Shikha had committed suicide. The CCTV footage recovered from the hotel, opposite to the hotel they were staying in, showed Shikha jumping into the valley, without anyone around or near her, which proved the innocence of all the four accused.
As one problem was sorted, another knocked Naina’s door. 2 months had passed since her 19th birthday, but she noticed that something was missing. It was her periods. As time flew, her suspicions strengthened. One day, she bought the pregnancy kit, and tested herself.
‘Two pink lines, means you’re pregnant. Oh God! Please, let it be one…’ Naina slowly opened her eyes. The strip showed two pink lines. Naina broke down. She shamelessly stared at herself in the bathroom mirror.
Her nineteenth birthday left her many surprises and presents, and the greatest one of them was her unplanned pregnancy. She called Varun and told him everything. He was equally worried, and suggested Naina, an abortion.
‘Are you out of your mind? What will I tell my parents? After all that has happened, do you think they’ll support me anymore? They’ll kill me this time!’
‘Fuck! We’re screwed so badly this time…let me think of something. Don’t worry, okay?’ Varun hung the phone.
Naina hated Varun at that moment. He was the one who had enjoyed the most, but she was the one who was facing the consequences! She tried to sleep, but could not. She lied down and shut her eyes. Soon she fell asleep.
It wasn’t long since she slept, that she woke up with a shudder. It was 03:00am; she checked the clock, hung on the opposite wall. She rushed to the bathroom, and splashed water on her face multiple times, but the reality did not change, she was not dreaming this time. She came back, and checked her phone; it had over thirty missed calls from same name, a name she didn’t want to see, after whatever happened, ‘Varun’.
‘What the hell does he want now?’ Naina called him back.
‘Naina, be ready tomorrow, I have talked in a clinic, a friend of mine suggested me. They can do your abortion, and you’ll be home within few hours. Just sneak out for some time tomorrow, I’ll take you…’
‘What the hell are you talking about? I can’t leave home, I’m grounded!’ Naina whispered.
‘Then we’ll go tomorrow, after mid night, don’t say no.’ Varun disconnected.
Naina knew she had no other way. Two months had already passed, anymore delay, and the abortion could not be performed. Although it was her child, sign of Varun’s unconditional love, but bringing him into this world was impossible for her. Whole night, she cried. Even Shikha’s death wasn’t as painful, as killing this baby.
‘I’m sorry…’ Naina kept weeping, holding her tummy, ‘Please forgive me, baby…your mumma is a very bad woman…please…’ she cried unstoppably that night.
The next night, Varun came at 01:00am and took Naina along. They reached a shabby clinic.
‘Is this the place?’ Naina was suspicious.
‘Yes, it is. Don’t worry, I’m with you…’ Varun held her hand tightly.
A nurse came and took Naina inside a messy room which was named ‘operation theatre’. Varun patiently waited for them to return.
Within an hour, Naina was out. She was walking and was okay.
‘Naina…thank-god you’re okay!’ Varun hugged her. They both were about to leave that the fat receptionist called them.
‘Who will make the payment?’
‘Oh, sorry…here!’ Varun took out bundles of notes.
‘Varun? From where…?’
‘Sshh…I’m happy you’re okay.’
‘Are you the father of the aborted foetus?’ The receptionist asked. She was filling her record book.
‘Umm…yes.’ Varun felt so nude and barefaced. He just had his child killed.
‘Do your parents know about it?’
‘How old are you both?’ the receptionist fired next question.
‘Nineteen…’ they said and walked away.