“Come on Maya, stop being so dramatic. He’s not a baby. He’s thirteen. He’ll be here.”
“Here? Here? Where is here? Do you see him? What if someone …” she gasps, unable to fathom the thought of something untoward happening to me. I squeeze myself further behind the palm tree to avoid any runaway chance of being seen.
I watch her walk up and down the beach. Frantic, hurried, impatient. She yells out my name. Out into the waves where it mixes with the salty breeze and gets lost in the surf. She does it over and over, left and right, this way and that. She starts to get worried. And it bothers me. Suddenly I start to doubt my genius idea. Maybe I should have followed Abhinn’s lead.
And then I hear her bloodcurdling scream. This is it. She has found the shoes. The shoes arranged in perfect symmetry right where the tide starts. It won’t be long now.
“No … no … no … my baby. How could you? Ashish, no …” she cries, falling into a heap. Dad looks like he’s struck by lightning. And I finally realize the joke’s gone too far. I step out from behind the palm tree, my bravado having gone up in smoke. Uh-oh, this doesn’t look like it will end well. But I have to put on a brave face; the task has to be completed. All for a good cause.
“Mom, Dad?” I inch my way towards them, my voice close to a whisper.
I watch them do a double take as they take in the scene – me walking out from my hideout, barefoot, the shoes, and the sheepish look on my face. Mom runs to me and plasters sloppy kisses all over my face, her minty breath in my hair as she mixes in curse words with lovey-dovey nonsensical phrases. I watch Dad’s face change shades of colour and end at a dark shade of red.
“I just … Abhinn said if his folks don’t let him go on the school trip he would go jump into the sea. But … I wanted to show him that’s not needed. I told him … I told him you love me. See? How much you love me? You … so Dad, can I go on the trip?” I say it all out in one long breath and then summon the courage to look up at him.
He looks at me, eyes blazing; the gaze a little too discomforting for me. Then, he slaps me hard across the face. OK, I am pretty sure that means no trip for me. And as it turns out, all that idiot Abhinn had to do was ask his folks nicely and they agreed. My folks are so dramatic, I think as I turn around and walk away rolling my eyes.
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