"Mom, can I ask you something?" Vansh asked Mrs. Tanya while eating lunch at home.
"Eat your food first." Mrs. Tanya answered.
"Mommm...!!" he feigned a cry. "Please!!"
"Okay, okay... What do you wanna ask?" she asked curiously.
"Umm mom, can I kill myself?" he deadpanned, watching his mom for a reaction.
"What... What kind of question is that? Please don't joke around with your mom like that!" she exclaimed shockingly. The question made her tremble.
"Mom please, answer the question!" he feigned a cry again. "Can I pleassseeee kill myself~?" he deadpanned again smilingly as if the question was so simple to ask and something so easy to answer.
"But why are you asking me something like that? Why do you want to die?" she asked huffily.
"I'll answer after YOU answer!" Vansh pouted.
"No," she said, "you CANNOT kill yourself, okay?!"
"But why mom?" Vansh asked childishly. "It's an individual choice, right? If I wanna die, I can kill myself, right~?" he asked making a musing face.
"No!" she exclaimed with anger. "What would I do without you?"
"You would live without me?" Vansh answered.
"No, I didn't mean that. I meant how would I be able to live without you." She corrected.
"If you can't live without me, that's your problem~." he said smilingly.
"Vansh, please don't ever ask me something like this! I would never be able to live without you! Please! Don't ever think about doing it. I love you so much!!" she said. Vansh was extremely untrustworthy. She could never know if he is serious or joking and a question like that would make any mother tremble out of fear.
"So, you say that you don't want me to kill myself because YOU would not be able to live without me, isn't that right~?" Vansh asked with a smile. "And then you say that you love me... So if you can't go through life without me and that's why you don't want me to die, isn't that more of an attachment than love?" he asked while touching his chin, making a thoughtful face. "Is it not being selfish? It's like, 'please don't die because I am so attached to you, I would get so depressed and lonely and sad,' instead of 'please don't die because there's so much life ahead and you can always find happiness.' or something like that, hmm~?" he asked getting up from his seat. This made Mrs. Tanya extremely shocked! Just what the hell was her son talking about? She was so speechless, she couldn't say anything. "Anyway, I was just kidding lol, and sorry to bother you. You can finish lunch in peace now, haha~."
She could never understand her own son. She reflected the time when Vansh was taken to a Psychiatrist four years ago...
"Mom, I am not retarded. I am fine. Please don't take me to a psychiatrist. I am absolutely fine..." Vansh said with tears.
"No, you'll have to come. Who said you are retarded? You're not. There are differences between retardedness and mental illness." She said, trying to drag her son to the car.
'No matter how many psychiatrists I took him to, all of them had only one thing to say: 'he is fine'. But his unusual behavior would always make me think if my son is okay...' Mrs. Tanya mused.
"So..." Mrs. Jain said as she welcomed her son. "How is your result?" she asked.
"I scored 87%." Aarav answered enthusiastically.
"Congratulations!" Mrs. Jain said as she clapped. "That's great!"
"Yeah, he did great, but...!" Mr. Jain said as he entered the house.
Mr. Akash Jain, Aarav's dad is a clerk in the school Aarav studies in.
"I have been getting a lot of complaints from the teachers, the staff, and today, the principal himself talked to me about your friendship with Reyansh." Mr. Akash said. "Just how many times have I asked you to stay away from him? Do you not get it? Do you not respect me?"
"That's not it, dad! Reyansh is a good person, trust me!" he tried to explain.
"Oh, of course, you'd defend your friend," he said matter of factly. "And how can I trust you when all the teachers are complaining about your erratic behavior in the class?" he asked. "How many times do I have to ask you to stay away from Reyansh?" he asked angrily.
"My... Erratic behavior?" he asked shockingly.
"Yes, your erratic behavior!" he said angrily. "You're behaving erratically towards teachers. You disrespect and insult them. You should think about my reputation before doing these kinds of things. Please don't make it any hard for me to work there than it already is for god's sake!" he said frustratingly. "I am going to say this for the last time - I don't want you to be friends with Reyansh... Or I would stop considering you my son."
'You're done for good, Aarav.' Aarav mused what Aryan had said earlier that day.
Aarav looked at his mom but she was speechless.
"But da-" before Aarav continued, he was interrupted by his dad. "Yes or no?" he asked.
"But Reyansh-" Aarav was interrupted by his dad again. "Didn't you hear me? Yes or no?" he asked with an undercurrent of anger in his voice.
"Yes." he answered.
"So you're third in the class, right?" Mr. Ahuja asked.
"Yes, dad!" Rin nodded enthusiastically.
"You're such a wonderful child." Mrs. Ahuja said as she came from the kitchen. This made Rin smile.
"Yes but, I heard that you're going out with someone. Is that true?" Mr. Ahuja asked out of nowhere.
"What?!" Rin's eyes widened out of shock. "Where did he hear that from?" Rin asked. "No dad, don't worry. I am not going out with anyone," she answered nervously. "I just hang out with my friends."
"Female friends, I presume?" Mr. Ahuja asked.
"Yes, of course." Rin answered. She didn't even have any female friend except Madhuri and they rarely hang out with each other.
"Please don't do something which would make us bow down out of shame." Mr. Ahuja said.
'Why do you hurt me by flirting with other girls?'
'I wasn't flirting with them. They are just my friends. They are my classmates.'
'You are not supposed to flirt with your classmates.' Rin mused how she was almost caught dating her previous ex.
"Rin?" Mr. Ahuja broke Rin out of her musings.
"Oh, dad... Yeah, I won't!" Rin nodded.
"I am so glad to hear that." Mr. Ahuja said smilingly.
"I scored 84%." Arsh answered.
Mrs. Panjwani smiled. "And how much did Aryan score?" she asked.
"89%" he answered, realizing why the question was asked to him.
Mrs. Panjwani's smile promptly disappeared. She was suddenly unhappy with her son's result. "Just when... Just when will your surpass him?" she asked with an undercurrent of anger in her voice. "Both Aryan's family and our family are the richest families in the society. But no matter how many times I tell you, you're don't get it. If he can get the first rank, just why can't you? Everyone talks about how Aryan is always ahead of you. When will you learn?" she sighed.
"But mom, both of us have our own pros and cons (except Aryan doesn't seem to have any pros except getting the first rank every damn time). You need to understand that. Just because he is scoring more than me, doesn't mean he is better than me or vice versa." Arsh tried to explain like he always does.
"I don't want to hear your stupid explanations!" she said angrily. "Keep your philosophy to yourself. Getting third or fourth rank would not be enough if you want to be a good doctor. Do you have any idea how much your dad and I have struggled to get as rich as we are right now? It's not so easy!"
Arsh was tempted to tell her that it was his dad who struggled and not her but he stopped himself from doing it.
"I know and I understand but mom, no matter how hard I try, I am not able to get the first rank. What else should I do?" he asked so matter of factly. He really did give his best every time.
"That you have to see." she said with a scowl.
"Alright mom..." he said depressively, giving up. He was in no mood to argue with her.
Mrs. Panjwani went to the kitchen as Arsh sat on a chair.
'It has always been like this. Me, Aarav, Aryan and Reyansh used to be good friends four years ago... Especially Aryan. He was my best friend but every time I came home with my result, I was compared with Aryan.'
"Mom, mom, I am finally second in the class!" 13-year old Arsh said enthusiastically.
"And how much did Aryan score?" Mrs. Panjwani asked coldly.
Arsh's smile disappeared.
'Aryan this, Aryan that... My parents were always more concerned about their reputation than their son.'
"Mom, I scored above 90% for the first time!" 14-year old Arsh exclaimed enthusiastically.
"How about Aryan?" Mrs. Panjwani asked coldly.
Arsh's smile disappeared.
'They never tried to look at me. It was like a condition that if I want their love, if I want their attention...'
"Mom, dad, look at me... Please." Arsh said while kneeling down, crying.
'...I would have to score better than Aryan first. And for that, I tried hard, I gave my best, I studied for hours each day and every day but it was never enough, no matter how hard I tried, I failed to surpass Aryan. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get my parents' attention. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get my parents' love.'
Then one day four years ago, Arsh went to Aryan in the park as tears were running down on his face. "Why are you always ahead of me? Why are you better than me?" he said as more tears streamed out of his eyes.
'I started feeling jealousy. I was so jealous of Aryan that our friendship started to shatter into pieces. And slowly, that jealousy became hatred. I started to hate him. I always used to think, 'why is he always the one to get the first rank in the class and why not me when I am giving my absolute best'?'
"What are you saying?" Aryan asked shockingly.
Arsh promptly pushed him and a fight broke out. Aryan was too shocked to defend himself. Arsh knocked him down and punched him. "Why?" and punched him again. "Why?" and again. "Why?" and again. "Why are you always ahead of me?" and again. "Why?" and again. "Why?" and again.
Arsh beat Aryan till he was tired and then he started crying. "Because of you... Everything is because of you!" he kept crying.
After a few minutes, Arsh realized what he had done. His eyes widened out of shock.
"I..." he said with his wide eyes and a shocking look on his face. "...I am sorry..." he tried to wake Aryan up but he wouldn't wake up. Arsh couldn't believe what he had just done. "I am sorry... Hey, I am sorry! Wake up!" he tried to wake him up again but he was unconscious. People quickly gathered at the scene and took Arsh away.
'Ironically, from that day, my parents started ignoring me more than they ever did as I had ruined their reputation. I really regretted beating my best friend that day. It wasn't his fault. 'Why did I beat my best friend', 'why did I beat my best friend?' I kept asking myself the same question over and over again. I would spend hours crying because I had beaten my best friend like that.'
Next day, Aryan came in the class with plasters on his chin, cheek, forehead and his right eye.
"Hey Aryan, what happened? Who beat you?"
Aryan didn't say a word and proceeded to his seat. Students gathered around him and started asking him about his injuries but Aryan wouldn't say anything. This made Arsh cry and curse himself even more than he was already doing at that point.
'And even though I wanted to apologize to him so badly, I couldn't do it because I felt I didn't deserve to be anywhere near him. I thought it would be better for him if he stays away from a piece of shit like me. Strangely enough, Aryan never tried to beat me back as a revenge. He would just ignore me and I would do the same. I wanted to talk to him, but I couldn't. I wanted to be with him, but I couldn't. I wanted to be friends with him again, but I couldn't... Because how could I? There was no way he wanted to be friends with someone like me again.'
'To feel better, I would make people around me laugh... But that was never satisfying. I wanted Aryan to laugh, not anyone else.'
'...And suddenly, after a year, Aryan was changed. He started bullying Reyansh. He would only bully Reyansh and nobody else.'
"Aryan, I know there are so many things that have happened between us but can you stop bullying Reyansh? Bullying is wrong! What are you trying to achieve by doing this?" Arsh gathered all the courage he could that day to face Aryan because bullying was just too much.
"It's better if you stay away from my personal matters." Aryan said as he left.
'And I couldn't stop him from bullying Reyansh. I couldn't stop him because I had no right to stop him. It used to be 'our' personal matters back then, but it was 'his' personal matter now. I didn't just want to fight with him again no matter what but even if I was ready to fight with him once again, this time for a better cause, I still wouldn't have as doing something like that would've tarnished my parents' reputation further.' Reyansh mused as he looked at the ceiling of his house. "I wish I could go back to the days when we were best friends." he smiled tearfully.
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