All three went up to the classroom they’d been allotted. Some were waiting for Natasha, some getting ready, some reciting their lines. But the moment the trio entered, all eyes were on Natasha.
Nisha called out to everyone. “I want all you guys to get into the search right now. Divide yourself into groups. I’ll…”
“Wait, the actors aren’t ready yet. So you have no one from the cast who’ll be free. No not even Natasha, Nisha”, a fashion-designing student who was involved with the costume and make-up department interrupted.
“Ok, fine I won’t take the cast. I’ll go and speak to the school’s student coordinator. Lets see if he can help us.”
Personally, Nisha was happy she didn’t have to involve Aakash into this.
She came after a few minutes with some JIS students. Within those few minutes Natasha realized the gravity of the situation. They had to find the pug within the next thirty minutes. And the school was definitely huge. There was no way they could find him in such a short time. He could have gone anywhere.
This was all Shruti’s fault. She couldn’t take care of a pug? How could the pug just vanish? Hadn’t she kept it on the chair in front of her? The students had already gone for the search. Natasha knew the job was in the right hands. She could trust Nisha when it came to managing things. Natasha was getting ready for the play. Ten minutes had already passed. There was no sign of anyone from the team. She was getting frantic now. She just wanted to get up and go out in search of her pug. However she still had to get her make-up done before she was free. She was staring at the door waiting for some news to come her way. Instead she saw Aakash coming in. He didn’t look as if he was ready; then her eyes met his. She felt as if he wanted to tell her something but was resisting. That was momentary. The minute he turned away, things were back to normal. The anxiety, anticipation, frenzy — it all returned.
Just then Shruti came up to Natasha. She was all dressed up for the play to the last touches of make-up.
“Hey Natasha, I’m sorry. I didn’t know this would happen. I’d left him on the chair like we always do. I didn’t bother to tell anyone else because I knew I wouldn’t be gone for more than two minutes. The student coordinator had called me to tell me about the entry and exit points of the stage. In the meanwhile the pug must have jumped down. Looks like he’s growing up! I’m really sorry for what’s happened. But I’m sure they’ll find him before the play begins. Oh! Look here they are...”
Natasha saw the entire ‘rescue team’ come in. She closed her eyes, crossed her fingers and then said with eyes still shut tight, “I hope its good news, guys.” There wasn’t any reply. Mentally preparing herself to face the worst, she opened her eyes. Nisha was standing in front of Natasha with the pug in her hands. Natasha leapt with joy! Beaming with happiness she cuddled the pug. The pug started whining and licking her face. She was so happy she gave Nisha a huge hug! They found her pug! After all JIS was so large and the pug so naughty and curious.
And then suddenly it was all crystal clear to her. Aakash coming in — the entire team arriving together — no one mentioning who found the pug. She looked at Aakash. He was standing aside looking at the celebrations with a smile of satisfaction on his face. Everyone was taking turns to cuddle the pug as if it was the trophy of the drama event! He didn’t know what was coming his way. She went up to Aakash. He looked at her and started going away. She held his wrist.
“Why did you have to do this to me?”
Confused, he asked, “What?”
“Why did you have to find my pug for me?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“I’ve been trying my best to ignore you, to hate you, to forget you and you suddenly come up and do this for me.” She started sobbing. Everyone was looking at them. She knew it but didn’t care. “Who the hell told you to be so kind to me? What do you think of yourself? …”
Aakash pulled her into his arms. “Enough Natasha, not any more. I’ve seen you suffering for the past two weeks. Not any more. I don’t know why I did it. Probably I wasn’t in my right mind. I am sorry for what you had to go through because of me. I know sorry is a very small word but I don’t know what else can compensate for the trauma.”
“Please Aakash can we just forget what’s happened? It’s been a nightmare for me.”
“Just promise her that you won’t do this to her ever again”, piped in Nisha voicing the entire group’s feelings!
“I never will I swear. But if by chance I do it again, give me a good spanking, guys!”
“This is for even thinking of doing it again”, said Natasha giving him a light spank on his cheek. “Ok, enough of this drama. I think we should get back to the original play! Ten minutes to go. Every one get ready,” announced Nisha, still laughing!
Natasha returned to her usual spirit within a matter of few minutes. Her cheerfulness soon radiated to everyone. The play went off brilliantly. Everyone gave their very best. Natasha, who’d been good during the rehearsals acted beautifully, par everyone’s expectations! The cast had only one worry. They had a feeling that they probably hadn’t been very good in the sad parts of the play because of the high spirits they were in! They came third! However standing backstage, hand-in-hand with Aakash, Natasha had no regrets about coming third. Because she’d won her trophy even before the play began!
Aakash walked away towards the dressing room in a huff. Natasha followed him to comfort him. Looked like Aakash had taken the loss to his heart. He was standing by the windowsill looking out.
“Hey it’s okay, Aakash. C’mon, we’ve come third! It’s not that bad after all. And the judge did say that we lost the second position by just a whisker.”
When Aakash didn’t reply or even look at her, she put a comforting hand on his shoulder. He pushed her hand away.
“Listen Natasha, whatever I said before the play began was a lie. I just wanted you to be in a good mood so that the six weeks of hard work and dedication of the entire group does not go waste on the stage today. You were our lead actress and if you would give an okay-ish performance then our chances would have definitely been nil. So in short we’d broken-up and we still remain broken-up. Whatever I said, whatever I did was all for the group’s sake and for the sake of their success.”
Aakash left the room leaving Natasha’s heart filled with anger and disgust but her eyes tearless…