I didn’t go to school the next few days out of fear and embarrassment. When I left school that eventful day, Aditi was doing fine but I was afraid what she might be thinking of me. I was afraid what other students would think of me. But I couldn’t stay away from school for long. It was Sunday evening and I was in my bedroom playing with a rubik’s cube when my mother knocked on the door. I grumbled. I could fairly guess why she was here.
She slowly came and sat next to me.
“You didn’t go to play today.”
I didn’t reply. She waited a bit then began
“Honey I know what is bugging you. But it won’t help if you keep skipping school.”
“I don’t want to go Mom. Everyone must be thinking that I am awful.” I said in a small voice.
“Why would they think that! You are such a wonderful little boy.”
“I am not a little boy.” I said annoyed.
“Well, to be fair you have grown a little bit.” I looked at her with more annoyance.
“Oh come on Anvay. You did nothing. There’s no reason you should be hiding.”
I turned away from her. I knew it was my fault. I shouldn’t have given Aditi that locket. My mother got up from the bed and began to leave. She stopped near the door and said
“If it helps, Aditi called.”
“What?” I was suddenly all ears.
“Yes, she called and asked when will you return to school.”
“You are lying. She doesn’t have my number.”
My mom rolled her eyes and said “That day when I was talking to her mom I had given her MY number.”
I didn’t smile till my mom was out of the room.
Next day I was ready for school and I could see my mom smiling smugly at the breakfast table. The walk from home to the bust stop was easy but the moment I stepped inside the bus and saw a girl from my class look at me and then talk to her partner I realised I had made a mistake. What if everyone in the school knew by now what I had done? What if they knew that I had stolen the locket? I slowly sank on my seat. The ride to school was longer than usual today and I could feel everyone on the bus either staring at me or talking about me. Mom had me fooled. Why would Aditi call me?
I reached school and made a run to my class. I didn’t want more people to know that I was back. In class I quietly slipped into my desk and avoided eye contact with anyone. I barely spoke in the first four periods. My bench partner was absent so it wasn’t a huge task but I dreaded recess when everyone would be free to point fingers at me and laugh. What if they called me names? When the recess bell rang, everyone hurried out to the playground. A few students stayed back in class and I could see them grouped together, talking in hushed voices. I sank deeper. I didn’t have the strength to eat or even move a muscle in my body. Suddenly someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned around to find Aditi standing behind me. I had seen her leave with her friends and was thankful that I avoided a confrontation, but here she was. I sighed and stood up from my seat. Staring at my shoes I said in a grave tone, “Aditi I am really sorry for what happened. It wasn’t my intention to hurt you…” I stopped and finally looked at her. She was on the verge of laughing but she stopped at the look on my face.
“Ok. But what did you say sorry for? You didn’t do anything.”
In that moment I felt a heavy weight lift up from my head. I began to smile and trust me it was bright like the sun.
“Come on let’s have lunch.” She said sitting beside me. “You know you sounded all grown up there…” “I did. Didn’t I?”
She caught up with me again after school was over.
“Hey, see you tomorrow then? You will come tomorrow right?”
“Yes, I will.” I replied.
“Great. By the way I am sorry.”
“What for?” I asked a little confused.
“I lost that locket you gave me. I must have dropped it somewhere in the hospital wing. It was beautiful and I would have loved to wear it.”
“hmmm…” I didn’t know what to say.
“Did you by any chance see it?”
“No. No I didn’t.” I said a little nervously.
“Oh. Ok. I hope you won’t be angry.” She said taking my nervousness as my anger.
“No, No I won’t. It isn’t your fault that it’s lost.”
This small conversation with her reminded me of what had happened last night and suddenly I couldn’t get the locket out of my mind. It was too fishy. When I began to think of what all had happened, nothing really made sense. Aditi was fine before she got the locket and even if her mother said that she was a little feverish the previous night it still didn’t make for a solid reason for the screaming and convulsing. Why did Miss Chatterjee who accompanied us to the hospital wing suddenly leave us alone when she had made a point to not let me visit Aditi until her parents came? Why did my mom bring back the locket and what was it that my father wanted me to know?
My mind was full of these questions when I reached home. My mom was waiting with a hot supper and looking at her benign smile I could not bring myself to bombard her with questions. My father was in office and my elder brothers weren’t home either. I sat at the kitchen table and quietly began to eat my lunch. My mom allowed me to eat before I changed because she knew how hungry I usually became by the time I returned from school. On regular days I narrated the things that happened in school and my mother would listen to me while she did her chores. Today I was silent and it didn’t go unnoticed.
“What is wrong Anvay? Did someone say something to you in school?”
I nodded in negative. But she seemed worried.
“I will meet your principal tomorrow. They can’t keep troubling you for things you didn’t do.”
“Mom no body troubled me. I am tired, that’s all.” I said and finishing my supper I went to my room. I stayed in my room for the entire evening wondering what was the secret my parents were hiding. I did not realise when I fell asleep but when I woke the noise in the living room told me that my father and my brothers were back.
I quietly went to the living room where my brothers were chasing each other after a new video game cassette they had borrowed from a friend and my mother was yelling at them to be quiet. My father sat in the rocking chair beside the large window and was reading the Economic Times. I stood watching them and apparently they didn’t notice me. After reading a few pages my father looked up from the newspaper and exclaimed “They never make any sense to me.” His eyes fell on me and he smiled brightly “Oh good you are up. Your mom is making chocolate cake. Come here.” I went near him and he pulled me onto his lap.
“What am I hearing?”
“What?” I asked in a tired voice.
“That you didn’t speak a word after coming from school. What happened to my little Robocop?” When I was eight I had watched Robocop movie on tv with my brothers and had insisted that everyone called me Robocop. My father still called me Robocop sometimes.
“What did you run out of batteries? Let me see, let me see…” and he began to tickle me. I couldn’t control my laughter and soon Adhir and Ohan, my brothers too joined. My mother watched us indulgently from kitchen and I could see that she felt relieved. I knew she loved me and a single frown on my head was enough to get her worked up. I climbed down from my father’s lap and went over to my mother.
“I am sorry Mom. I was just tired. I didn’t want to upset you.”
“Look at you, talking like a grown up.” She said stooping down to kiss me on my cheeks.
“Mom. Where’s the locket?” I suddenly asked wanting to get done with this.
“What locket, sweetie?” My mom asked whipping the cake batter.
“The one I gave to Aditi.”
“I don’t know dear. Didn’t it drop on the hospital floor that day? Someone might have picked it up.” She replied and went about with her work.
I knew she had lied. I wasn’t expecting her to lie. What was about the locket which made my mom so secretive?
After dinner I made my way to my room and lay thinking in bed. I decided it was time for another adventure. I had to know the truth and the best place to start was the attic. Once everyone was asleep I quietly slipped outside and made my way to the attic. The house was eerily silent except for the tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the living room. I climbed the stairs and gave the door a little push but the door didn’t open. I looked closely and found that it had a small lock on it. I screwed my eyes and focused on the lock. The lock looked ancient and had a small trident carved on it. I stared at it for a while. The little trident looked familiar. I had a feeling that I had seen it somewhere but I could not recall where. I returned to my room frustrated. It was clear that my parents didn’t want me to go hunting around in the attic anymore.
I returned disappointed to my room. I climbed in my bed but couldn’t sleep. I lay tossing and turning about in my bed. I didn’t know what time it was but I heard whispers in my living room. I crept out of my room and made my way to the living room. A light was on and my parents were in conversation with each other. I stood in the shadow of the door and listened.
“You should sleep.” My father was saying to my mother.
“No, I can’t. I am worried. He was asking about the locket. What if he finds out?” My mother replied.
“No, he won’t. Not until you decide to tell him yourself. And we locked the attic so there’s no chance he finds that locket again.” My father said.
My mother mumbled something. I couldn’t see but was sure that my father had moved to hug her and said “He will forget.”