When Riya got back home and flung her bag on the sofa, everything seemed just like she had left it. Mother was cooking in the kitchen, father had not got back from work, and little Shreya was sitting at the dining table, trying to reproduce a diagram of the water cycle in her textbook onto her interleaf science notebook. When Riya had washed her face and hands and taken a seat beside her, she saw that at several places the eraser had been rubbed so hard that the paper was about to be torn. She shook her head in part amusement, part nostalgia, and put forth her hand.
“Shreya, it would be better if you’d draw the clouds like-”
The notebook was snatched away immediately, and Riya found herself facing a pouting lower lip and furrowed brows.
“Don’t touch my copy!” Shreya spoke, too loudly than was necessary, and in too shrill a voice.
Mother came out of the kitchen and glanced at the two siblings sitting at the table. She had flour on her hands and beads of sweat on her forehead.
“For God’s sake, Riya, can you leave the poor thing alone for just one day? Or is that too much to ask from you? Please, just please let one day pass when I do not have to hear her crying because of you and I shall be thanking my stars.” She went back inside the kitchen, leaving a younger sister staring sullenly at her elder sister in silence.
Riya looked at Shreya, unable to control the anger she felt, clenched her fist and walked straight to her room, slamming the door shutveryhard.
“You wanna break the door?” , came mother’s voice from the kitchen.
Yep. Everything was just the way she had left it in the morning.
No matter how much she tried to keep away from trouble at home, the little devil of a sister she had would always get her being lectured or shouted at. Her mother was a housewife, and therefore was witness to all the minor altercations she and Shreya had. For some unapparent reason, the younger one had decided that she would shout loudly at something or the other that Riya did or said every day, meaning that mother would have to intervene and make peace. But the occurrences had become so frequent that mother was not just tired of their twenty four-seven bickering, she had also come to the conclusion that Riya was usually the one who had caused the younger one to cry. And when on a few occasions when Riya tried to contest an unfair punishment, her behaviour would be described as ‘insolent’ and ‘irresponsible’. Mother would say, “you are older, you should understand” and then put the topic to an end. Riya had sworn that she would never talk to Shreya again, and she silently chided herself for today’s mistake. And then the incident during biology class had happened earlier in the day to boot.
Lunch was a quiet affair which Riya finished with her eyes averted from her mother’s and sister’s gaze the entire time. After her plate had been lodged into the dishwasher and bag retrieved from the sofa, she retired to her room. She flipped through the pages of her planner, realised there was only one assignment to complete and postponed it, then powered up her Toshiba laptop. It had been a gift from father on her sixteenth birthday, and there were very few things that she was as possessive about as the gadget. As soon as the wi-fi was connected she did what almost every teenager did these days: logged on to Facebook. There were three notifications, two friend requests, some silly spam messages and one reply from a friend who lived next continent now and had been her best friend and classmate till last year, before her father decided to switch jobs and subsequently, address.
“Riyaaaaaaa! I’m in love with Matthew Rogers! Thnks so much 4 introducing me 2 d show. xo”
Riya smiled probably her first genuine smile since morning and typed a reply.
“No problemo. Enjoy! ;-) ”
In a new tab on the latest internet explorer she checked her email in a few seconds, and then reverted to her social networking account to log off. It was then that she noticed his photograph. Below ‘suggestions’ for new friends was a small square showing a face she had started to dislike as soon as she had seen it.
The photo showed Anurag’s face with strips of sunrays across it, as if he was standing under a railing. She did not want to linger too long, but she took notice that the picture had been taken in an artistic manner, one eye in shade and the other in sunlight. Curiosity getting the better of her, she followed to his profile to check why he was being suggested as a friend and found out the reason almost immediately. He had joined the school network very recently. In fact, the notification underneath the wall post displayed ‘2 minutes ago’. Shrugging off the coincidence, she returned to her home page and logged out after browsing a few feeds. Finally, she downloaded her class schedule off the college website and shut her laptop down.
She tried not to be judgemental in her life, figured she would always live spontaneously; but it was not to be so. And judging by the way the first day at her new school had gone, she couldn’tnotjudge how her final year of school life was going to be like. She heard the high pitched “pip-pip” of the automatic locks of her father’s Fiat engaging outside the house and got up to meet him.
They talked as mother handed a cup of tea to father and a glass of warm, sweetened milk to Shreya.
“So how was school?”
“The usual” She knew short replies have her mood away, but there was no helping it.
“Mm hmm. How are the kids?”
Riya found herself immediately thinking of the idiot whose profile she had visited on her laptop. Her expression must have changed, for she found father looking at her amusedly. “Th- they are ok…”
“You sure? Any guys from junior school that you know? ”
The talk didn’t last long, and soon she found herself back in her room, lying on the bed and looking at the ceiling fan’s blade slowly going round and round.
“I hate it” She thought of her new life, as a senior at school and as an adult who was on the verge of making important choices that would shape her future.
“I hate it, hate it, hate it!”