She stood in a corner admiring the creations of others. Many of the artists were older than her and their works seemed less abstract than her own. She noticed him looking at her from a distance. It had been more than a year since she saw him. When she went to stand near her four master-pieces - Suicide, Spite, Separation and Spirit, he followed her, maintaining a safe distance. They looked at one another in the same way they always had and when he finally decided to walk up to her, her thoughts immediately drifted to their last day together.
She sat in the café, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue sweater. The sweater was a gift from him and when he walked inside and sat down next to her, the only words that came out from her mouth were, “I have a problem, Ishaan. And I need your help.”
Veda was an ordinary girl. She was the type of person you could easily forget about. But to her parents, she was everything. Veda had grown up to be an introvert. She had no friends for most of her life. Throughout her childhood, she had been teased by the other kids for sitting alone in a corner and playing with her crayons while everyone else went out to the playground and had fun. Nobody ever bothered to talk to her because she didn’t seem to like anything or anyone besides her crayons. Her mother had tried hard to get Veda to interact with the kids in the family but since she seemed happy in her own world and didn’t really have any problem, she decided to concentrate on things that bothered her more. And that was Veda’s father. Well, Veda’s father’s biggest problem was her mother! In a way, Mr. and Mrs. Patel were each other’s problems. Veda witnessed petty arguments turn into big fights between her parents on almost a daily basis. She grew up listening to both of them say, “I stay in this house and put up with your crap only because of Veda!” Veda, though, never really understood whether that was supposed to make her happy or sad.
Veda gave up her crayons and color pencils during her teenage years. It was the time when her parents had stopped talking to each other completely. They had run out of reasons to fight over and decided that living separate lives under the same roof would give them some peace of mind. Initially, she was glad that the house was quiet and that her parents had finally decided to give her some of their attention but she realized later that the only thing they were doing was competing for her love. So, she devoted much of her time to studies and unlike other kids’ parents, Veda’s parents didn’t have reasons to complaint about their daughter. Hence, they decided to complaint to Veda about each other. Going home drove Veda crazy. It made her very irritable. Her short temper isolated her from her peers and she came to be known as a ‘cranky witch’ among her classmates. That was when Ishaan Shankar entered her life.
“Are you the cranky old witch?” was the first question he had asked her.
“Who the hell are you and how dare you call me that?” she asked, angrily.
“I’m the new student and I thought it would be great for you to have a pleasant and charming guy like me as your project partner. So, why do they call you the cranky old witch again?” he asked, smiling at her.
“I can do the project alone. I don’t need a dimwit like you with me. Stay away!” she shouted at him.
“I can see how you got the name. Listen, you’re going to do the project with me and I’m going to bring out the happy side of you that you keep hidden away and we are going to be great friends. So, do you have any ideas in your mind for the project or can I tell you mine?” he asked, sitting down on her desk, restricting her from leaving.
“Are you deaf and psychotic?” she asked him, getting up. “Get out of my way or I’ll yell and make a scene here and make sure that you’re thrown out of the school.”
“I can yell better than you. Do you want an example?” he asked, shouting at the top of his lungs, mimicking the scream of a girl who saw a ghost in a scary movie.
“Are you insane?” she asked, shocked. “What do you want?”
“Ishaan Shankar.” he said, extending his hand forward. “I’d like to be your project partner and maybe even your friend!”
She took a nice long look at him and asked, “Did somebody send you here on a dare? Because you can say you won if you could just stop talking to me!”
“Nice to meet you too, Veda Patel.” he said, grabbing her hand. “I’d like to listen to your ideas and then present mine. Ladies first, you see!”
“You’re serious?” she asked, her hand still in his. “This isn’t a joke?”
“I’m dead serious. We are wasting time now, Veda.” he replied, smiling at her and that was the moment when she noticed his brown eyes and found him attractive. It was actually the first time she had ever bothered to notice someone. And he was the first person to see how beautiful her smile was.
They became really close friends soon after and she told him about everything that happened in her ‘boring’ life, as she called it. He was the only person in the whole world who knew how unhappy she was because of her parents’ failing marriage.
“Don’t you think it would be better if you suggested them to get a divorce?” he asked her once.
“No!” she almost screamed. “I’m just hoping they will wake up one day with the realization that they are still in love with each other and that the three of us will have a happy life together.”
“I hope it becomes true.” he said, squeezing her hand.
“Thanks.” she said. She looked away to stop him from seeing her blush. His touch had sent an electric shock down her spine.
“Veda, can I ask you something?” Ishaan asked her, his hand still on hers.
“Yeah, sure.” she said, looking at him.
“Do you love me? Because I love you and I think we should be more than just friends.” he said, seeming nervous.
That was the day her life changed for the better. Every minute of her life was spent thinking about Ishaan or talking to him. They enrolled in the same college so that they could be together all the time. During the orientation program, Ishaan found his long-lost childhood friend, Aisha Bhatia. Soon, Ishaan, Veda and Aisha became the inseparable trio in the college. They were quite popular as Veda was the college topper, Ishaan - the sports champion and Aisha - an excellent singer.
“You guys have been dating for three years straight now!” Aisha said, as all three of them sat down in a pizzeria, celebrating Ishaan’s birthday.
“I know where you’re going with this. I’ll give you another treat for that, don’t worry.” Ishaan said, looking at Aisha, his hand around Veda.
“Oh no, I’m the one who is going to give you guys a treat!” Aisha said, looking at Veda. “I’m going to celebrate your love. My two best-friends are on their way to get married, I’ll have a party with booze!”
“Whoa! Marriage is a really far away thing.” Veda said, looking at Aisha who was twirling her perfect hair with her fingers. “Maybe we should find you someone!”
“Yeah, let’s hear about the qualities you want in a guy. There’s literally a queue of guys waiting to be whatever you want. Do you know how many admirers you have in the college?” Ishaan spoke to Aisha.
“I do. But I’m not interested.” she said, shrugging.
“Are you interested in girls?” Veda asked, teasingly.
Aisha rolled her eyes and they left sometime later in Ishaan’s car. Veda reached her home to find things strewn about. It was unusual because her mother was a cleanliness freak and her father loved to keep things organized. She went to her father’s room to find it empty. He generally came home late so she went to check on her mother. She was sitting in the kitchen, chopping vegetables.
“Oh, you’re home. Did you have dinner already?” her mother asked.
“Yeah, I ate pizza. Is something wrong? Why is the living room in a mess?” Veda asked.
“Your father left.” Mrs. Patel replied, looking up. “We had a huge fight and decided to end this once and for all. We are getting a divorce, Veda.”
“I…see.” Veda managed to say and ran up to her room to calm down.
Her phone rang and she picked it up without looking at the number.
“Dad, where are you?” Veda asked, wiping away her tears.
“You want to know who I’m interested in?” she heard Aisha’s slurry voice from the other end. “Ishaan! Do you know how long I’ve been in love with him? I hunted him down and joined the college he did and what do I find? Little miss Veda Patel, an average-looking creep has stolen my guy! How can you expect him to be with you when I tell him that I have been waiting for him my entire life? Do you think you can win against me? I’m beautiful and talented and Ishaan and I have the same interests. You’ll be a miserable cranky old witch without him!”
Veda threw away the phone, went to the kitchen and grabbed the knife from her mother’s hands and walked out the door. She had always feared that she would lose him. And her nightmare was about to be true because somewhere deep inside, she had always known that Aisha would take Ishaan away from her. He was the only good thing that remained in her life and she was not ready to let him go. She had to stop her immediately! It was a long walk to Aisha’s house where she stayed alone. Veda only heard a constant buzzing in her head and when Aisha opened the door and tried to apologize for calling her up when she was drunk, Veda could not stop herself from plunging the knife into Aisha’s gut! Then the buzzing stopped and Veda realized what she had done. She ran up to the telephone and called for the ambulance, took the knife from Veda’s bleeding body and ran. She wandered around town for a while and finally ended up in a café and rung up Ishaan.
“You didn’t call me after being discharged from the hospital.” Ishaan’s voice brought Veda back to the present.
“I went to apologize to Aisha and to thank her for not filing a case against me. I would have visited you after that but I didn’t know if I was cured enough to be okay in your presence.” Veda replied. He was the one who had talked to her parents after the incident and she knew that he had talked to Aisha too.
“So, what do you think now?” Ishaan asked, smiling lightly. He was uncomfortable being so formal with Veda.
“It’s time for me to go up there and talk about my work actually.” Veda said, shrugging.
Ishaan nodded as Veda walked up to the podium and wondered how he had survived being away from her for so long when she began talking with a smile on her face.
“I would like to thank Dr. George for making me realize where my true passion lay and for helping me recover at a time I thought I had lost everything from my life. The money I get from this exhibition will be donated to his mental facility. Coming to my four pieces, I would like to dedicate ‘Suicide’ to Ishaan Shankar for showing me that living is worth it if there is love, ‘Spite’ to Aisha Bhatia for showing me the power of forgiveness and making me truly sane, ‘Separation’ to my parents whose divorce inspired me to see my life from a better perspective and know that everything doesn’t end even when you quit and finally, ‘Spirit’ to the new life that awaits me which will be filled with art and colors because I have left behind all the bitterness, sorrow and anger.” Veda spoke and went into the artistic details of her work.
Ishaan stayed till the end of the exhibition and went up to Veda when he saw that she was packing to leave after her parents left to go to their respective homes.
“You’re still here?” Veda asked, surprised.
“I have a problem, Veda. And I need your help.” Ishaan spoke in a serious tone.
“What is it?” Veda asked.
“I love you and I need you back in my life.” Ishaan said, looking into her eyes.
“Good thing we both have the same problem then!” Veda replied, smiling and took his hand.