The answer appeared magically in front of her, hastily scribbled on a piece of torn paper from some single lined notebook.
“Well, Riya, am I going to get an answer or not?” Mrs. George’s voice, stentorian as it were by female standards, boomed once again.
She stole another quick glance at the chit before answering. She had been texting instead of listening to what was being said, and obviously had no clue why was she supposed to speak the words written on that paper.
“Er… reflexive pronoun?” What the heck were those? The compulsion to turn around and see who had helped her was strong, but she remained standing in her place.
“Very good. As Riya correctly identified- sit down, Riya- the problem with this sentence is that it uses reflexive pronouns in the wrong way. See here…” Once again, Riya tuned out.
She turned around and saw a boy sitting behind her, looking intently at Mrs. George and twirling a pencil with his fingers.
“Hey” The boy didn’t move his head, only his eyes met hers. “Thanks”
He pursed his lips in a good natured way and blinked, acknowledging her, and then his eyes went back to following the teacher.
Riya logged out of MSN on her cell and tried to follow what was being taught. She failed at the attempt, tried taking notes to remain interested, and ultimately ended up saying a prayer of thanks when the bell went off moments after her eyelids had begun to get heavy.
If she was happy that the English class was over, noticing the next period on the schedule hanging on the front wall gave her another knot in the stomach.
It was her first day at school after the term break, and contrary to popular belief, senior year was not turning out to be as much fun as people made it sound like. On the contrary, the teachers seemed to be bent on zipping through classes, so that apart from the brainy-looking smart-asses who nodded at everything the teacher said and looked like they could score straight A’s in flash tests, there was nothing interesting that happened in classes.
Riya took a seat on the second last bench in the classroom, pulled out a spiral pad out of her bag and slapped it on the table. The crowd gradually settled and got involved in their daily discussions involving topics thathadto be discussed in class and nowhere else. After all, how else would people know that ‘A’ guy in ‘B’ class was grounded for ‘C’ weeks for doing ‘D’, if the world ended the next day?
The biology professor was a lady in her early forties, divorced, and by the way she looked at people, there were naturally a lot of rumours as to whose fault in the couple it must have been.
“I heard she slapped her mother in law”, whispered Arya.
“What rubbish. She slapped her sister in law”, retorted Suniti in a hush as she put the date on a new page and waited for Mrs. Chaudhary to begin her lecture.
Mrs. Chaudhary introduced the nervous system and began with a diagram of a neuron. Sounds of HB pencils scratching on paper filled the classroom, interrupted by the occasional (and intentional) coughs and requests to borrow erasers.
Suddenly the quiet was broken by a knock on the door, followed by a voice.
“Excuse me, ma’am. Sorry for being late. May I come in?” It was the same boy from before.
“You’re late.” Mrs. Chaudhary spoke after a quick glance at her wristwatch, now covered by white chalk powder.
“Sorry ma’am. I was-” He began to explain, but was cut off immediately.
“If you can’t be on time, you better not attend my classes, got it? First day at school, and you guys are already turning up late for class. I can already imagine what this batch is going to be like. Now go and take a seat.”
Forty pairs of eyes followed him as he walked across the class and sat in the only available seat, right beside Riya.
Oh crap. He had already got unwanted attention, and now Mrs. Chaudhary was sure to glance in her direction every now and then, meaning she couldn’t continue texting anymore.
She slipped her cellphone in her bag discreetly and started to draw the diagram in her notebook, and a moment later noticed that the boy, probably having a death wish, was drawing something on the table top. She leaned the slightest bit to see and saw him complete drawing wings of an eagle in flight. Actually it was a pretty good sketch, but Mrs. Chaudhary wasn’t going to appreciate art. She tried to warn him in a whisper.
“You better stop d-” She broke off, sensing a sudden change in the atmosphere. She looked up and saw Mrs. Chaudhary in front of the class, glaring straight at her and the others turned around in their seats to look.
“If you want backseat romance, I’d rather you get out.”
Riya looked down, her face flushed with anger and embarrassment. The boy beside her had produced a pad in front of him out of nowhere and was copying the neuron diagram with remarkable similarity to the one on the chalkboard. The rest of the class passed like eternity, and not just because she didn’t like biology. She couldn’t help feeling people’s gazes on her all the time while she kept her head bowed and concentrated on taking notes. Only when thirty minutes later the class ended and they were dismissed did Riya look up again. The boy put all his stationary into his bag and turned towards her.
“I’m really sorry about that. Name’s Anurag. Wanna be friends?”
Riya looked at him, the embarrassment fresh in her mind and clear in her eyes.
“No thanks. Please take a different seat next time.” She tried and failed to keep the bitterness out of her voice.