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When my mom and I walked right next door (which only took about ten steps), she immediately went up to and hugged her.
"Thank you so much Naina for inviting us! That was so sweet of you!"
"Oh it was nothing! I love having you two around for company!"
I gave Mrs. Punj a genuine smile. Despite the hatred I felt towards her son, I really liked Mrs. Punj. She was one of the most kindest people I've ever met. Unfortunately, I couldn't say the same for her son.
" Oh, hi Arohi! It's very nice seeing you again!"
" Nice seeing you as well, Mrs. Punj." I answered sweetly
" Hold on! Let me get Arjun! I bet he wants to see you!"
"Oh, no that's fine-" I tried to interrupt.
"Arjun! Arjun! ARJUN!" screamed Mrs. Punj
"What!" Arjun poked his head around the corner.
" Come greet your guests."
My heart pounded when he made his way towards us. Somehow, outside of school, he didn't look like a bully... he actually looked... nice and ... handsome. Wait! Arjun Punj? Handsome? I pushed the thought out of my head quickly.
" Hello Ms. Sharma. Nice seeing you." He gave my mom a sweet smile.
My mouth almost dropped open and my eyes bugged out. Arjun Punj being polite?
"Hi Arjun! It's nice seeing you as well!" my mother said as she shook his hand.
"Aren't you gonna say hello to Arjun, Aru?"
" Uh, h-hi A-Arjun." I kept my eyes downcast. I was still recovering from shock and fear.
"Hey, what's up, Arohi? Long time, no see." he answered with a easy going voice.
I swear, I almost choked. This wasn't right! Arjun Punj and nice didn't even belong in the same sentence!
"Well go on! Take her to meet your friends!" his mother urged.
I could see him hate the idea his mother demanded in his eyes before he turned around to look at me with hate brimming in his eyes.
"Yeah! Come on, Arohi! Let's go!"
I could see now why he had turned around. No one was able to see his face. While it seemed like he spoke genuine words, he glared at me while saying them. I wanted to just run all the way home, change into some sweats, and go to bed. I couldn't take this.
He spun around and started walking towards, what I presumed was his backyard. I could already see from the window crowds of jocks and cheerleaders. Arjun's friends. All the parents were inside chatting. I gulped. He impatiently held the door open for me. I could tell it was a show. It was all a show. He wouldn't be caught doing this in a million years! Not for Assy Aro! I could see the impatience marked in his eyes while he had a fake smile plastered on his face.
I hesitated. I was scared! How was I going to go through with this? How was I supposed to face a crowd of people who obviously disliked me with every single being in their bones? I was snapped back into reality when Arjun waved his hand impatiently, once again, towards the door. I cautiously stepped outside.
The first thing I heard outside was loud music. I willed myself to look around and found that it was beautiful outside. The Punj's had a healthy green lawn. With bright, colorful flowerpots off to the side and a wide open space. To the left of the lawn was a large, clear blue, sparkling pool. I could see to the far right that there was the basketball court that I always saw beneath my balcony. Near the door was a fancy, stainless steel grill. In the center was a large round patio table with many seats.
Loud, raucous laughter interrupted my moment. My head whipped around to find the source of the noise.
My day cannot get any worse. It. Can't. Impossible.
It's all of them. They're all here. Every single one of them. Arjun, Rajveer, Sanchit, Gauri and the rest of her cheerleader squad. Or should I say s**t squad. Priyal, Ayesha, Minisha- Need me to go on? That's not even half yet. All of them. They were all staring at me, Assy Aro. Well, more like laughing.
Why God? What have I done to you to possibly deserve this punishment! I've done nothing wrong! I've been a good girl! I'm a straight A' student! I've never got into any trouble! I don't drink or do drugs! I take out the trash and- wait... besides the trash thing. But everything else is true! Oh COME ONNN!
Anyways, moving on. They were already cracking cruel jokes at my expense. I'm not even past the freakin' door and it's already starting! And it's not like they're bothering to keep their voices down! They are saying it out loud. Like if I'm not even there. Well, I can't expect much from these clowns. They're jocks. It's what they do.
"Oh my gosh, that dress could fit on a whale." This comment came from one of the nasally voiced cheerleaders. At least I'm not wearing a dress that's almost to my underwear! Geez! I mean, have some decency!
"What a fat ass." said someone else.
"Arjun! Who invited Assy!"
"Why is she here"
They just kept coming and coming. I mean, hello? Standing right here! Not to mention the fact that my mom is right inside where she can practically hear them! But of course, like always, she doesn't notice anything. Now I know what you're thinking. "Teenagers aren't that mean. You only see that behavior in the movies!" Believe me. That's what I thought. Until I came to Delhi. Nice move, mom (No pun intended)!
"Sorry guys. My parents invited her. They're idiots." Stupid, jerky, Punj.
Meanwhile, I just stood there awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot, my head facing down. I glanced behind me. My mother was in the kitchen talking to some grownups. I would look even more like an idiot if I went back in there, sat next to my mom and said "Hey mom! How's it going? I really want to leave because I hate all those bitches and assholes out there! See you at home!" Insert fake smile here. I really wanted to do that. In fact, I would really like to do half of the things that I say in my head. The problem? Bravery. I have none of that. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
We were interrupted- well they were interrupted- from their "Insulting Assy" game when we heard the sliding glass door open from the inside.
"Hey guys! I think the hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill are about done! Go on ahead and eat. The plates are on the table." said Mr. Punj.
He started taking them off the grill and laid them on a plate.
"Enjoy!" he said.
And with that, he quickly exited the patio area and shut the door. The jocks, well, being jocks, immediately started for the food with very few cheerleaders. Well, that's expected. Probably half of them are anorexic. And I bet the ones that are eating are bulemic. Haha. Good one Arohi. Ugh. I am such a dork. Anyways, back to the current matter at hand. I had no idea what to do. I was starving but at the same time, I didn't want to be made fun of by them. I already had to hear it from them more than half of the year. I didn't need it on the first few hours of summer. I looked towards the assembly line of jocks grabbing the food. All I could see were hands and elbows. Finally after almost everybody (besides the cheerleaders) had gotten their food, I looked towards the table filled with food. My stomach growled. Boy, was I hungry. The only thing I had eaten this afternoon was a few bites of my apple. Before I dropped it to the ground in shock. All in all, this isn't turning too bad. Don't get me wrong. It's terrible. Just not as terrible as I imagined. They seemed to be ignoring me. Which I was perfectly fine with. My eyes flickered to the food. Hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, chips, cole slaw and much more. My mouth was about watering. Wow. I must look really stupid. Oh well.
If I don't eat here and I find something at home, (if there is something) Mom will probably yell at me and scold me for not eating while I was at the party. What am I gonna do?
So I made a quick decision before I could change my mind. I grabbed a plastic plate and started loading my plate with food. Oh. My. Gosh. This is gonna taste so good! I piled on a hamburger, a hotdog, two spoonfuls each of potato salad and cole slaw, two handfuls of chips and some punch. I grabbed a fork and started eating standing up. I don't think I would be welcome at their table. Meanwhile, I heard it had gotten very quite. Oh-oh. What now?
I looked up. They were all staring at me. Probably surprised that I would have the courage to be stuffing food down my throat in my enemy's house. The very last place I wanted to be. I looked down at my plate. Had I eaten that fast? My hotdog was already gone and I was halfway through my hamburger. Then I looked up again and felt extremely uncomfortable under their gaze. Most of them were starting at me with amused, cruel intentions. While the cheerleaders looked at me in disgust. I looked down and continued eating my food. More slowly though.
Whew. Ok Aru. You got this. Just eat and leave. Eat and leave.
Out of nowhere, I saw potato salad sliding down my neck and into my dress. I looked up to what was probably the five hundredth time and swallowed loudly. They were all sniggering loudly. I had my suspicions that it was Sanchit. He was still stupidly holding the spoon smeared with potato salad up, pointed directly at me.
I set my plate down, picked up a napkin and slowly wiped off the potato. Breathe, Aru. Breathe.
I glanced toward the table hesitantly. They seemed to pick off where they were last time. Being pigs.
I threw my plate away. I have obviously lost my appetite. I started to walk towards the green lawn and looked up at the clear blue sky. But before I could, I felt something wet hit my back. I looked. Cole slaw. Figures. I have no idea what I'm going to do. The stupid idiots were laughing their retarded heads off. Haha. Laughing at the fat girl's expense. Funny.
Decide, Aru. Decide. What are you going to do?
By this time, they were heading closer to me. With their plates, might I add. Ok, well it's fairly obvious what they're going to do. I cannot have food thrown at me! I can't! Why do they have to be such jerks?
I started backing away almost immediately. No, no, no. This isn't happening. It isn't. Please, God! PLEASE have mercy!
By now, I'm pretty sure my face was covered in fear. They all started laughing even more loudly then before. Laughing at my face, most likely.
SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLASH! It all came at once. Potato salad, cole slaw, punch. I tried to get away. I really did. But I was trapped. They herded me in. I was right by the pool. Food was flying everywhere.
Now seriously, what did I do to them? All I think I did was stare at them. What's the crime in that? I'm FURIOUS! What the HELL is their problem? Angry tears immediately sprung from my eyes. I desperately tried to find a way out. In my moment of trouble, I saw a slight space where I thought I could cram my heavy body through. But as I made my way towards the spot, Jay, I think his name is, blocked my only escape. I looked around helplessly. This is it.
I would like to leave all my books to my mom, I know she enjoys reading. And my ipod goes to- to- oh, who am I kidding? My only friend is my mother! Ok! Scratch that! I'll leave everything to my mother.
I couldn't even see anymore. But I had to get away from them. I inched back a few more steps.
SPLAT! Something gooey-most likely potato salad- hit me in the face. Hard. It covered my eyes. I was momentarily blinded. I stepped backwards from the force of the food that had hit me. I gasped when I realized that my foot only grasped air. I fell back into the pool, ( into the deep side, mind you) my back hitting the edge of the step ladder for the pool and flipped over. They probably got a good view of my underwear. I immediately tried to swim back towards the surface but my dress was caught on something. Dreaded stairs. It was caught on the last step on the ladder. I tried pulling loose and failed miserably. My heavy body was quickly weighing me down. I pulled and pushed and clawed at my dress. Trying to get to the surface. I think three minutes passed and I was still holding my breath. And the idiots outside were probably just watching me and laughing. A couple more minutes passed by. My head started to feel dizzy and I couldn't see clearly. The chlorine burned my eyes.
"This is it." I thought. "Im gone. Bye Mom."
But still, no. It wasn't yet over. My lungs kept protesting while my body kept weighing me down. I furiously kicked at the water trying to get up. My oxygen was quickly diminishing. My eyes started to close. Waiting for the end. For the water to end me, Arohi Sharma. I focused instead on the clear blue water. Wondering how something so beautiful could end someone quickly and tragically. Suddenly, I saw a body jump into the pool. Now by this time, I was so out of it that I had no idea who it was. Plus, I couldn't see that well. Hello? Chlorine burns your eyes! A hand snatched at my white dress and ripped it from the bottom step. With a quick, last kick of my feet, my head reached the surface. Someone's hand, I don't know who, pulled me up and helped me up the steps. I numbly got up and stood on the ground. I looked around at everyone. Their faces were astonished, shocked, and scared. I'm pretty sure scared because they didn't want to be charged for the murder of Arohi Sharma. It was deathly quiet. No one moved. Until I heard one voice. His voice.
"A-Aa-Arohi. I-" Arjun struggled to get out. I looked up at his face and realized that it looked just like the rest of them. Shocked and scared. But there was something else to. Guiltiness. I finally looked down and realized that he was all wet. He must have been the one to pull me out. But I felt no gratitude. He was the reason that I almost drowned. I put all the hate I could muster in one glare, directed at him.
"What is going on out here!" Mrs. Punj exclaimed.
I guess I hadn't noticed because I was focused on looking at them. The grownups crowded out the front door. Their faces focused on me, the center of the semi circle, with the exception of Troy. I was dripping wet, with bits of soggy food in my hair. Not to mention that my dress was see through.
"Aru? What happened to you?" My mom yelled loudly.
I shook my head at her and quietly walked past them and the grownups. I felt numb. I couldn't believe this had happened to me. Somehow, my mind still couldn't process everything that had happened. I made my way out the door and walked quickly towards my house. I just wanted to go upstairs, take a shower, and cry about my pathetic life.
I looked up to see the front door slam shut.
"Arohi Sharma! What were you thinking! What is the matter with you? What happened at the party? You could have at least told us what was going on instead of rudely walking out the door without thanking the Punj's for inviting you! I taught you better than that!" My mother yelled at me in fury.
Wait a minute, I get bullied at a party, get food thrown at me, and almost drown and my mother is yelling at me for it? In that instant, something inside me flipped out.
"Thank them? THANK them?" I let out a humorless laugh. I realize now, I must have looked crazy.
"I get bullied at a party that you made me go to and I have to THANK them? What? Tell me, Mama, where in the right mind does that even make sense?"
"Wait a minute, bullied? Where is this coming from?"
"I get bullied everyday! But you wouldn't know because you're never home!" My eyes were filled with tears at this point and I was making effort to stop them.
" I miss my mom! I miss being with you! I wish I could talk to you about things, like I'm supposed to! But you're never here! Ok? I know you need a job! I know! But you and I both know that you don't have to work overtime! We don't need any extra money, Mom! He left enough for us!" I screamed through my tears.
" Now hold on right there! You do NOT have the right to yell at-" I cut her off before she had the chance to say anything else.
"Oh yes I do, Mom! I know why you're never here! Because you don't want to have any extra time to be able to think of him! You think that if you overwork yourself so much that you'll be too exhausted to even have the time to remember what happened! To think of the memories of my dad!"
The atmosphere grew silent. I was surprised at what I had let out of my mouth. I just said the taboo word. Dad. But I knew I was right. So I didn't back down. I continued to stare at her. Her face was shocked at first but immediately gained composure and narrowed her eyes at me.
"That-That is not true and you know it! You know it Aru! Don't you ever talk to me in that tone of voice again!" But there was a weakness to her argument and we both knew it. It was as if she was pleading at me to forget this. To act like she wasn't doing anything wrong. But I continued.
"Why did you do it mom? Why? Why did you decide to uproot our lives out of Mumbai? Just because of what happened to Dad? And then you just completely erased him out of our lives after he died! Like he never existed! I don't even have a picture of him! He exists only in my mind! Why did you promise me that it was all going to be alright when it clearly wasn't?" I continued screaming. Even though I was angry, I couldn't help but wonder where my new found bravery come from. The Aru from a couple of hours ago would never dream of saying all this. I would have kept it to myself. But I was at my breaking point. And there was no way I was going to stop now.
"Don't do that Aru. Don't you bring him up right now! This has nothing to do with the conversation that we are-"
"It has everything to do with him! Everything! Your unhappiness, my unhappiness! It's all connected to him! You escape to the office every single time he comes up in our conversations! I know it hurts mom, but I need to relive the good memories about my dad! I need to talk about him! I've been depressed for eight years of my life, mom. Why do you think I'm like this?" I waved a hand at me.
"Why do you think I'm so overweight? It's called depression, mother. Depression! This depression has led to bullying for eight years. Years! I don't know if I can take it anymore! I hate my life!"
My mom looked at me with a pained face and had her mouth open, like she wanted to say something to me. I didn't let her. I ran upstairs towards my room and collapsed on my bed in a fit of uncontrollable sobs. And I did what I hadn't done in a long time. I cried. I cried for my dad, for my mom, for my pathetic life. I cried for Arjun punj. But mostly, I cried for myself.
Everything I had been holding in for the past eight years of my miserable life, I let out. While I was crying I looked out towards my balcony and up at the moonless sky. I looked at the bright white stars. But mostly, I looked at his star. My dad's. In a rush of anger, I threw open the balcony doors and threw my one prized possession that I still had of him: His songbook. I threw it out the window and screamed at him, at the world.
"You promised me! You promised that you would be there for me! Where are you, Dad? Where?"
I sucked in the summer air and shuddered. Gasping for breath. I couldn't stop crying.
I threw myself on my bed and continued crying.
"You promised." I whispered and then snapped my eyes shut. Trying to make myself believe that this was all a dream and that it hadn't happened to me. Trying to find a dream where it was just me and my dad
Kay. So its DONE !
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