The First Move

It was seven months and five days ago. They had just finished their last conversation. Shilpa sat by her kitchen table and gazed into the night sky. The breeze sent chills down her spine and the truth now stared in her face.

 

It seemed like only yesterday that Anjali and she were shopping at the new Pluto Mall in the city. They’d shopped for a whopping 18,000 bucks in all, celebrating their first paychecks. Exhausted, they dragged themselves to the food court and helped themselves to a sumptuous lunch. Just out of impulse, the giggling duo dumped their bags in the car, pulled up at Inox and went to watch “Dhoom”. How they came out with the oohs and aahs about John Abraham! That was almost two years ago. A tear dropped onto Shilpa’s hand now.

 

She got up from the table and went to drain the coffee- it had grown too cold, with the window open. As she turned on the tap, the smiley on the wall reminded of her of an afternoon, not more than a year and a half ago.

 

Anjali had knocked on Shilpa’s door on a sunny Sunday afternoon and when there was no response, she’d begun to holler her name and the neighbor had come and yelled at her to be quiet. After a minute, Shilpa came- hair all ruffled and kajal spread under her eyes, “Oh, its you! I thought it was Lata aunty!” Anjali could not believe Shilpa was sleeping in the afternoon. “Moron, what the hell are you doing in your bedroom?! Dont tell me you have some guy in there!” “Oh shut up yaar! I’ll get you some water.” By the time Shilpa brought the jug of water, Anjali was in her bedroom. She had spread newspapers on the floor, arranged for water and colours from Shilpa’s drawers and turned the AC on- all set! Shilpa was horror stricken and asked as quietly as she could, “Just what in the world do you think you are doing?” “Come on, monkey! That’s your bit; just over there. We are making smileys for Anu, Parth and other children in your layout.” One hour from then, the floor of the room was filled with little perfect smileys smiling at them in bright yellow. The next day, after giving all the street kids a smiley each, to pin on their clothes, the girls decided to keep one each for themselves. The one smiling at Shilpa from above the kitchen sink was the one from that Sunday afternoon.

 

The memory hit Shilpa like a cold knife through her chest. She wiped away that drop of tear that was about to drop from the tip of her nose. She shut the window and switched off the lights in the kitchen. She walked to her room and sat on the edge of her bed, facing the open window. In the quiet of the night, she could hear a tinkling as the wind chime Anjali had given her for her last birthday danced to the breeze.

 

 When they had shopped one evening for a friend’s birthday present, Shilpa had found the chime in a store and said she liked it a lot and would buy it the next time they visited the store. Many visits later, the chime still lay forgotten. Then on her birthday, Anjali gifted Shilpa something wrapped in yellow-gold paper. As Shilpa unwrapped it, she found to her amazement and wonder the same wind chime that she’d liked in the store but forgot about it for months. She was moved! She gave Anjali a tight hug and unspoken emotions were understood in that minute. Just as she came out of the

reverie, the chime clinked again.

 

Exactly seven months and five days ago, that ugly scene came up in the canteen. A little misunderstanding grew into a feud. Shilpa and Anjali, known across campus as inseparable best friends, got up from their seats, and glared at each other. In less than ten minutes from then, the whole canteen stood and watched as the friends grew miles apart. The girls stopped short of laying hands on each other’s collars. And since then, they had not spoken a word to each other. Each waited for the other to make the first move. And the move was never made.

 

And there, on her table, by candlelight, now sat a lone bit of paper, fluttering under the weight of a cell phone. The scrap of paper that tore away a part of Shilpa’s life, the bit that took away what Shilpa held closest to her heart, seemed as uncomfortable as her aching heart. The cell phone beeped to life with a new message and the background shone bright- two laughing girls sitting on a beach. Anjali and Shilpa. The message was from Riya. Shilpa opened the message and read what she already knew from the telegram: “Hi, I thought you should know. Anjali is no more.” Shilpa slid to the floor, weak and trembling. She clutched the cell close to her heart and tonight she didn’t hold back, she didn’t fight anymore. She hugged her knees and cried. And this time, she knew that the most comforting shoulders in the world were gone. Gone without saying goodbye.

 

A gust of wind blew out the candle just as it swept the telegram outside the window.

 


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