When asked later, by her own damned self, what possessed to her to willing crawl under the figurative bus, Yashika would blame the narrow corridor. That, combined with the rose-scent of Apoorvi’s hair oil induced self-destructive tendencies in her.
It began when she was summoned to the school counsellor’s office with Yashika. Or perhaps, it truly began two weeks prior to that, over a school project. In many ways, Yashika insisted all her life had been leading up to that moment. But truthfully, how it began wasn’t as important as how it ended.
The walk to Shilpa ma’am’s office was an awkward one. Neither girl said a word; each musing over why were asked to visit the counsellor. Worry had taken the shape of lines on Apoorvi’s forehead as she recalled the events of last week. Yashika felt her heart hammering in her chest as she replayed the events from a fortnight back.
“Please sit, girls,” said Shilpa ma’am once they entered her small office.
“Ma’am, you asked for us,” prompted Apoorvi, pushing at her spectacles till they touched the ends of her bangs.
“Yes Apoorvi,” Shilpa ma’am said. “This is regarding this letter the school received from Yashika’s mother.” She pointed at an open letter on her desk. “Yashika has been complaining about some trouble with you at home. I checked with your teachers and they also mentioned hostile behaviours. Now I don’t know all the details, so why don’t you both fill me in? Don’t be shy, we are all friends here.” She continued, with an understanding smile to emphasise her point.
“Ma’am, I really don’t know what to say. There isn’t any issue here,” interjected Yashika hastily. She felt a slight fury beginning to build towards her mother. Couldn’t she simply rant without her mother making a spectacle?
“It’s okay Yashika. I know you girls are friends but even friends fight sometimes. You should know that this is a safe space to air out your misunderstandings.”
When faced with silence, Shilpa ma'am prompted, “You both worked together on a project two weeks ago. Did something happen then?”
“No ma’am,” answered Apoorvi. “We are not fighting.”
“Please girls, you have to let me help you. Yashika, do you want to tell me what happened?”
“Ma’am I shall clear everything with my mother; I am sure it was a misunderstanding. I haven’t done anything. ” Yashika replied.
Apoorvi gave an audible snort just as Shilpa ma’am started to lean back in her chair.
“Seriously dude, you are the one who is going to get in trouble, not me.” It was Yashika who spoke up, turning in her chair to face Apoorvi. In the large scheme of things, that was Yashika’s first mistake. She silently cursed her mouth, and the way words fell out without any warning.
“I am sorry, I genuinely didn’t mean to laugh at you,” Apoorvi replied, glancing at Yashika and then Shilpa ma'am. The latter had grasped at the slip-up and was leaning on her desk towards them.
“Nothing, nothing,” said Yashika.
“Yashika, I will not tolerate lies. I know something happened. Please, I want you to trust me.”
“She slapped me,” said Yashika, crossing her hands across her chest. There was no turning back now.
Apoorvi’s mouth fell open and she started to protest.
“No Apoorvi, you had your chance, now let Yashika finish. Yashika, please continue dear.”
“I don’t know why she did it, ma’am. I was standing near the stairs with my friends when she slapped me. This happened two days ago, during recess.”
“That’s because deserved it,” said Apoorvi, her face turning red.
“Okay girls, girls. Let’s calm down.”
“Ma’am, please, believe me, I just want us to be friends.”
“No, you don’t. I was happy being friends but you weren’t satisfied, were you?” said Apoorvi. Yashika stared as she pushed her chair back and stood up. “I can’t do this. Excuse me, Shilpa ma’am.”
With that remark, Apoorvi stormed out the room
Yashika went to school the next day with trepidation in her toes. She had to be more careful today; to make to put an end to the matter. The second meeting with Shilpa ma’am was shorter. None of the three present parties wished to be in the room.
“The school talked to both of your parents about your behaviour,” Shilpa ma’am began. There were going to be no words about trust and safe spaces today. “Apoorvi, your mother insists that you would never behave as you did without any provocation. You get good marks and you don’t have any other black marks on your record; so the school will give you a chance to tell your side of the story.”
“Ma’am, it’s true that I slapped Yashika but it wasn’t unprovoked. She has been mocking me for days; calling me names,” replied Apoorvi.
“That is not true at all,” interjected Yashika.
“No, she is the one who is lying. Ma’am, I assure you I wouldn’t.”
“Apoorvi, isn’t it possible that you are overreacting to some friendly teasing? You were friends right up till you slapped her. You should apologise and bury the hatchet. ”
Apoorvi clenched her fists, opening her mouth to argue but then stopped. Her gaze lowered as she felt tears pooling in her eyes. “She started it,” she insisted, her voice small.
“I’m sorry you feel this way Apoorvi. I wish you would’ve apologised and let bygones be bygones. You shall be suspended for 3 days for your behaviour. My hands are tied in this matter.”
Yashika glanced at Apoorvi as they walked towards their classroom in silence. She fidgeted with her id card, repeatedly glancing in Apoorvi’s direction.
“Please stop staring at me,” said Apoorvi as she felt Yashika’s eyes on her once again.
“I’m sorry... for everything.”
“I am not going to tell Shilpa ma’am. You don’t need to worry about me,” said Apoorvi, crossing the next couple of steps in a stride. And then her hand was on the classroom door when -
“Wait. I know. I am not... I just...Thank you.”
Apoorvi didn’t reply and instead pushed open the door. Maybe it wasn’t just the narrow corridor or Apoorvi’s perfume. There was something about her eyes. In any case, Yashika turned around and made her way back to Shilpa ma'am’s office.
Her heart was hammering as she burst inside without any preamble. It was her second mistake but she was okay with it.
“Ma’am, I need to tell you the truth – from the beginning.”