Cathy knew this was going to be one of those bad, never-ending full-of-misfortunes-laid-out-just-for-her kind of day. The alarm, which happened to be the melodious voice of her mother worked fine. She was up and ready on time. When, this sensing-bad-things feeling came to her, she can’t remember.
She crossed the road to reach her stop thinking of her friend Mereeja. She did not notice the car that had to come to a screeching halt to stop from bouncing on to her or the driver who looked like he might very well have done the job if it weren’t for those jail-mates he’d have to suffer with; he did not like sharing his room.
Maybe that started the bad-luck charm for her. Her handkerchief flew out of the window while she was in the bus. It was a gift from Mereeja. She carried it with her all the time.
Does this mean something was wrong with Mereeja. Why did she have to dream of her in the morning and lose her gift like that now? She wasn’t superstituous but she couldn’t help worrying. She called her up. No answer. Oh oh. This was not looking good. She ran up the stairs as she got out of the bus. She would not get network coverage unless she reached the top of the building. She would be late for class, but that didn’t matter. She had to hear her voice.
If there was background music, like in old-time movies, it might have sounded like “Tummmm tummmm tummmm”.
Cathy missed a step just as she reached the top and fell down 7 steps to land with her face down on the floor.
Ouch that hurts. Quick look around. Ok 10 people saw that. They were all standing with their mouths open. Oh oh someone was coming to help. She had to disappear, vanish, turn invisible! Things seemed blurry. She can’t afford to faint now. She has to call Mereeja.
“Catherine, are you alright?”
Who was that? Oh it’s Lilly.
“Yea Lilly I am fine. Can you get me some water?”
Lilly started putting the things out of her bag, grabbed her water bottle and thrust it on Cathy’s hands. Jesus, the girl was acting like I had a heart attack, Cathy couldn’t help thinking.
Cathy threw some water on her face and drank the rest.
“Thanks Lilly, I will fill it up for you later.”
“Sheesh Catherine who is bothering about that! You sure you are okay?”
By this time 5 other on-lookers decided to join Lilly.
People, there is no earthquake going on here, Cathy wanted to yell.
She stood up. People extended their hands ready to catch her if she should fall. Cathy wondered if she was looking like a wreck.
“I am fine guys, thanks. I gotta go now.”
With that, she hurried and ran up the stairs. Her legs and her whole self was aching but she couldn’t stop and let the others help her. She had to be out of there. Fast. She reached the top floor and called Mereeja. Still no answer. Now, she really began to worry. She must try Mereeja’s friends. But she didn’t have any other number. It might be silly if she called her home. What if Mereeja forgot to take her cell phone. She didn’t want to make her parents upset in case Mereeja was alright. She must wait till later and then try again.
The classes were going on with Cathy scribbling and day-dreaming in the last row as usual. Her legs were still hurting. But she could not worry about that. Mereeja…
“Huh? What was that.”
She looked up. Mr Anderson was standing beside her desk.
“Oh hi Mr Anderson, how are you”
Mr Anderson, did not seem to look so well. He looked surprised for a minute. Then he smiled. Were his teeth clattering?
“GET OUT! NOW!!! THIS INSTANT!”
Gosh! It was Math class. How did she think she was in a supermarket with Mereeja? She must have dozed off.
She went as fast and as quietly as she can.
“I knew it. This is just not my day”
She tried calling Mereeja. There was still no answer.
The rest-room was deserted. Of course, all the good souls of this world are in their class-rooms.
“Not like you! How are you Mr Anderson! Sheesh!!! What was I thinking?”
Oh oh. Her left leg was really torturing her now. It looked alright.
“Hope I didn’t break a bone or something. I hate those stupid crutches people carry around with them!”
Cathy headed for the library. She really needed to lie down. She took a huge book and headed for the reference section. Damn, there was someone there.
“Is that you Dennis?”
“Yup. Thought you have Math”
“Err yea. I got out. Err, there was some problem. What are you doing here”
“Am always here. Only attend classes for attendance. I have 75% already. I realized I can learn more by myself”
“Hey what happened? You have a bruise in your forehead”
She checked her forehead. Oh damn. She could feel a bump. When did that come up!
Sheesh, she didn’t want Dennis Blanc helping her. She didn’t even want to be seen talking to him. Weirdo who thinks he knows everything in this world and the worst part is he does! Who can like someone like that!
“Yes yes oh yes”
She tried to walk fast and go out.
“Gosh you are limping Cathy”
Ouch! Cathy fell down, this time with her legs knocking down a chair she seems to have missed and landing in a sitting position.
“Damn it what is with me today”
“Hey hey relax young lady. There, let me give you a hand”
She took his hands.
“What you need now is rest, a good nurse, and a mother to pamper you”
“Haha”. She couldn’t help laughing.
Cathy did not ask where they were walking to; she somehow felt Dennis would know to take her to the right place.
“What happened to your forehead?”
“Had a fall today morning”
“Jesus, another fall? Definitely not one of your all-balanced days”
“Haha yea. 7 steps. Thought I lost my legs”
“7 STEPS??? What are you doing here?! Go to a hospital”
“Its not that bad”
“Like hell it isnt! I am taking you to the hospital right now.”
“Jeez Dennis”. But she did not stop him. It seemed like a wrong thing to do that.
Dr Kim was not like those rude doctors she saw in her favorite TV show. He was old and kind.
“So my pretty girl, don’t you think you should watch where you are stepping or rather not stepping your leg?”
“There is a tiny fracture in your left leg. Two wounds to be bandaged. One on your right leg and the other on your forehead”
“I thought people couldn’t move a muscle when they get a fracture”
“You thought right! And if you did that, it wouldn’t have got so worse now!”
“Gosh Cathy, why didn’t you cry, make someone call home like a normal girl”. This from Dennis.
“I need to call her!”
“Yes it is important.”
“Ok ok. Give me her number I will call her”
“But I have to talk to her”
“You can. Is it ok if I dial her for you and then give you the phone?”
“Hello? Is this Mereeja?”
Cathy was watching Dennis.
Someone answered! What were they saying, she had to hear.
“I am a friend of your friend Cathy”
Ok, so it was Mereeja.
“Ask her if she is alright Dennis. Give me the phone”
He went on talking.
“Cathy. Catherine. C-a-t-h-e-r-i-n-e.”
“Cathy she wants to know if you are from her school”
“Huh?! What, she doesnt know me now?!. Give me the phone”
Cathy grabbed the phone from him.
“Mereeja! It’s me!”
“What oh! We talked last week remember! We couldnt talk long cause you were having some exam”
“Yes.. yes I remember”
“What is with you! You have been acting so strange lately! You are always busy! I had this bad dream about you last night. And, and… are you alright Mereeja?”
“Yes, I am fine Catherine”
Catherine?! What happened to Cathy and Kate?!
“Listen Catherine. I am a bit tied up right now. We will talk some other time”
Cathy gave the phone to Dennis without saying a word and kept staring at the floor.
“Huh. Is everything alright”
“She is avoiding me. She doesn’t want my friendship anymore. But why..”
“She is always busy. And now its Catherine.. She didn’t answer when she saw my number; she took it when you called… Oh I have been so stupid! And here I am, in a hospital bed, with broken legs and heart.. all for a person who doesn’t even care to talk to me!”
Dennis realized Cathy only needed to talk now. He has to be there to listen to her.
Cathy went on talking for another hour not seeming to notice Dennis’s presence though there was an occasional “Right Dennis” and “Listen Dennis”
Then she cried for a long time and finally went to sleep. Dennis stayed with her all this while. He did not know Mereeja. But he wanted to kill her. Who could do this to a nice lovely girl like Cathy..
“Nice lovely girl?” He was surprised at his own thoughts. When did she become nice, lovely girl. She was just Cathy-a classmate, that day morning. It did not seem to matter now. This poor little girl needs some rest and someone to talk to. He was there for that. But he has to call her parents. He did not want to leave her but then her parents have to know.
When Cathy woke up, she saw her mother watching her.
“Oh dear you are up! How are you feeling now”
“I’m ok Mom. When did you come?”
“Sometime back. Don’t worry dear, you are going to be ok. Your dad is talking to Dr Kim now”
“Yea. Where is Dennis?”
“Oh! That dear boy! He left just now. He wanted to stay. But his parents would worry”
“Yea”. ‘That dear boy’. Just a few hours with him and he was already like a best friend to her. Mereeja.. no, she decided not to spend another minute of thought or tear for that girl. She would not call her bad words. She would not stop talking to her. But she has to call Cathy if she wanted to talk to her. It won’t work the other way anymore. Cathy knew Mereeja has been avoiding her for sometime now. She just did not want to accept it. She has got other friends. Boy friends. She did not need Cathy. But Cathy would be there for her if she ever needed her, she promised herself.
Night came and Cathy was not feeling sleepy. Now her thoughts were with Dennis. The world took a friend from her to give her another. What did that mean? Some kind of balance-phenomenon? “Definitely not one of your all-balanced days”. She remembered Dennis’s words. Everything reminded her of Dennis now. But the best part was his silence when she kept talking about Mereeja and cried.
“I am not angry with you World. You took Mereeja from me. But she still has me though she doesn’t know that. And now you have given me Dennis. And he has me. I don’t mind the fracture. I bought it for Mereeja. But it bought me Dennis. Why am I talking like this? Hihi. Maybe I should start writing diaries.”
Cathy slept a minute later. Her eyes closed tight, her lips shaped to a smile, he thoughts and dreams to friendship and Dennis.
Some miles away, Dennis who did keep a diary had it open in front of him
The open page read “Cathy doesn’t know what she gave me today. She gave me the most valuable gift on earth. Friendship!”