Twenty-two

We were in the bed, hugging the pillows and talking of the good old days. While I was shaking off my feet and looking around at things in the room, a vas at the top of an wooden cupboard caught my notice. I felt as though I had come across of it ages ago, a feeling of familiarity. I turned to Samiksha, who had invited Swathi and I for lunch at her place, and asked her about the lanky piece of glass with a blend of red and white that ran across it’s body. Before she could finish with her words, I knew where it was from. It was my gift for her birthday when in class 10. And it took me to the night of her birthday we last celebrated together. We were four best friends in the birthday night. Swathi, Raksha, Samiksha – the birthday girl, and I.

At that time of my school days I was living at my Aunt’s place, close to school and far away from my home. I was put in there so my Aunt, mom’s sister would have a company while her children, two handsome boys, were away on business tours. Since it was also the time when I was in my final year of school, class 10, they felt it’d help me in my studies as traveling hours would be saved.
It was already dark when I latched off the gate and informed one more time to my Aunt, who was standing by the door, that Samiksha’s dad would drop me if it delayed and she didn’t have to worry. She had known a few of my friends by name and since Sam (how we call her) was in the list, she was ok with it. She nodded from where she stood. ‘Carefull’ she uttered further.
And it was almost night when I unlatched Sam’s gate, about half an hour long journey from Aunt’s place. The lamps at both the ends of gate looked beautiful, full of glow. Neither my Aunt nor we had them at our gates. I expected her friends and relatives that I didn’t know of to be present but there was nobody and I happened to be the first one reach. It made me feel quite awkward but in a while I saw Swathi being dropped off at the gate, to my rescue. I saw her through the unoccupied part of the gate, which had patterns of flowers and leaves unfurled throughout.
The sitout was shimmered with gleaming with golden lights and it didn’t break till the hallroom inside. Her dad walked in while we were seated in the rows of chairs, Swathi next to me. He looked down at us and gave us a friendly grin, with his eyebrows raised. I had seen him do it everytime we were there and I adored how he’d do it.
We held our glass of Tang that her mother had offered to us. Sam was happy to have us at her place that night of her birthday and she looked pretty, we told her. She was wearing a salwar, amalgam of baby pink and white, glint works here and there. And a neat ponytail curled in the back. When the cake was brought in, and placed on the table, it was confirmed that nobody else was going to be there and it was just us, who knew eachother fair enough.
I was recording with the camera that her mom had handed to me, as Sam blew the windy candles which were in different colours and drew the birthday knife through the big bead of cake. My birthday cakes were not even half of this, I thought. I handed the camera over to Swathi while it was my turn to feed birthday girl the cake and get fed until ‘click’ was heard and yet another memory was captured.

Nothing had been changed since then, we thought as we laid there with our backs onto Sam’s small neat bed, it had a pretty blue bedsheet. It always wore pretty clothes.
Even this time the balloons in different colours and sizes were bouncing from one corner to the other, and there were cone headed birthday hats in red, green and silver, polished with blonde shiny stars and cake weighing somewhat lesser than what her dad had brought for her class 10 birthday. The photographs too were captured in the same fashion as we had back then.
Today when we reached with the pack of cake and other things, hiding them so it wouldn’t ruin the surprise we had planned of.
Her mom was scurrying about in excitement, helping us in getting the matchstick to light the candles and her brother in blowing the balloons and handing them for me to tie, which he was too small for. He’d then shift from one chair to the other while dining table was getting covered with the birthday cake and decorations. Before I climbed up the stairs to her room, I turned off the tubelights, letting the candles lit up the space in radiance. And I ran up to her room.
‘You guys are so late! I’ve been waiting –‘ I grabbed by one of her hands down the stairs. ‘Oh-my-god!’ she was stunned, covering her unzipped mouth with both her hands so nothing entered inside. She blew the candles before we instructed her to, before the coned hats were distributed across and before we started singing ‘happy birthday..’. I saw how she gathered all the little candles, one by one and slipped them into the middle of a cream of rose in the cake, positioned at the north west of the pineapple flavoured. Creative she still continues to be, I thought. I captured moments of cake being fed to one other and as on the night of her class 10 birthday, Swathi took my position and I replaced hers and held the bite of cake until ‘clickk’ was heard. And then we clicked truckload of pictures.
Happy Birthday Sam! ❤
I’m also currently reading ‘The Chamber’ by John Grisham. And the character Sam Cayhall, a Klansman is very obsessive. I think I’ll rename Sam to Miss Cayhall 😁

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