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When Love Goes Astray…
This is a story about two people who go looking for love. We will meet Keith, and his girlfriend, and Neel, and his girlfriend. Two people will fall in love with those whom they should not. But remember, this is not a love story.
“I’m back!” Neel pronounced.
He was back at his usual hideout—his corner away from the world—me: the stairwell at Tower B, away from all the shoppers, the crazy grannies, the smoking teens, and the prattling kids. He squatted, leaning slightly against the wall, sighing contentedly. He took out his book, journal really, and started writing about the new dilemmas in his life.
There she was—head buried in a book—as usual. And there he was—staring at her intensely, as if he were trying to capture her in his memories—as usual.
She was only exquisite if you really looked at her. With wavy black hair cut just below her shoulders, tanned skin that radiated warmth, and eyes so soft and welcoming underneath her large, circular frames, she was easily one of the prettiest girls he had seen. He almost wished that he didn’t have to blink, so that he could bask in her simple beauty.
He was blocking the doorway by the stairwell, the best place to stare at her from.
“Oh, sorry.” He muttered an apology as he moved out of the way.
It was his cue to leave, as soon, the bell would ring, and students would flood the hallways, eager for lunch. He checked his watch and cursed. How could he have forgotten that he was supposed to be at the National Honor Society meeting in 3 minutes? He sighed, lamenting the fact that his schedule was teeming with clubs and assignments. It was what was expected of him: Keith, NHS member, class salutatorian, chess club president.
Stairwell at Tower B,
What should I do? You must have seen so many couples, so many lovers, can’t you give me a clue? How can I really know if I love her when I am not even sure of what love is?
As the President of the Debate Club, I had to give a speech at the assembly today and she was beaming at me, saying I did a wonderful job. She told me that she knew she loved me. All I did was nod and hug her. She seems so happy.
Keith told me he loved me too. He, however, told me that right after I fixed his computer and fished out the speech he had written. So did he really mean it?
If only feelings were as easy as a debate. If only I could work out their weak points, attack them with measured remarks, confuse them and control them.
“Hi babe, what are you doing tonight?”
She turned around, giving him a wide smile.
“Nothing yet. Want to watch a movie?”
Keith leaned in and kissed her in response. A student behind them coughed impatiently, waiting to get to his locker.
Neel’s eyes twinkled with love as he lay in bed. He looked like the cat who swallowed the canary. Though it had been a brief kiss, it matched up to the expectations. Ah. It was so sweet and so good.
It had started out as a SAT relief party, to celebrate the end of the reign of this evil tyrant. And then things got messy; but it was a good messy. After a few drinks, some people sat down for a game of spin the bottle, including his girlfriend, Keith, and Keith’s girlfriend. Of course, the fateful spin had landed on him, and he had gotten that long desired, but inopportune kiss. Neel sighed at the memory, unable to fall asleep due to anticipation. He had gotten his kiss, now it was time for the kisser to get their gift.
“Hey Keith, why do you stalk your girlfriend?” asked Neel.
Keith stuttered as he tried to come up with an explanation of why he would hide near the stairwell and watch her read—everyday. Somehow, Neel had this effect on him; he was always stuttering and stammering around Neel like a 12 year old with a major crush. Now that he thought of it, Neel was quite handsome. He had the chic nerd look going that most girls thought was cool these days. He stood there, imagining what Neel would look like to a girl.
“Oi, I asked you something!”
“Well, uh, I didn’t want to disturb her, uh, I was just, somehow, looking, you know, she reads such great books, and really, I was—“
“So you stalk her to see what she is reading? Everyday? You could just ask her. Or sit next to her.”
He did make a good point. Why did Keith stay away? Why not be with her as her boyfriend? How could he say that this was a good time to look at her and explore his feelings, categorize them? Separate them from those for—well, that wasn’t the point.
“Are you guys having problems?”
Neel was a new student this year, but he was almost like a custom-made friend for Keith. They had similar interests and passions, both were in the Chess club, and Neel had this vibe that attracted Keith. They could have had sensational debates about their difference of opinion in certain issues, only if Keith could stop stammering. Still, they had fun.
“Uh, no, I just like, well, I don’t want to bother, see, she likes space, and I was just waiting, lunch is really noisy, the quiet was good. They are serving sodexo pasta today. I hate it when they mix the mushrooms in.”
“Well, let’s just go eat. We’ll discuss your stalking habits over lunch. And we shall not talk about the SAT today, ok? It will come this Saturday, and we’ll face it then.”
Neel chortled and went on, leaving Keith behind, babbling.
Keith looked so confused; he had walked into his room, but was certain that his room didn’t have balloons or candles in his room last he remembered. He wondered if he was more drunk than he thought? The SAT party had sure been eventful.
A sweet, musky-cinnamon scent had hit him as he opened the door. Once he got over that shock, he looked around to see that his messy desk had been tidied up, and his room was pretty much the neatest and cleanest he had seen in years. This was definitely not his family’s doing! He wandered around, admiringly, finally collapsing onto his bed…
Completely ignoring the card on his pillow…
These candles may melt,
These balloons may burst,
But what my heart has felt,
Is a new thirst.
Amabo te donec finis temporis.
Dear Tower B,
Should I tell him out loud that he is my greatest true love? Should I ask him out? Tell him to dump his girlfriend?
I just shuffled my iPod, it tells me “Hey, stay away from the kiss of love!”
Oh, why am I so stupid! I should have told him I loved him that night when we were playing spin the bottle and his spin had landed at me. That was the thing that convinced me that I’m over her. I’m over her and into him!
Die! Die! Die! Die!
How can I relax when this feeling is eating me up piece by piece? Masticating my heart—ruminating like a cow. Oh fudge, I’m so confused. Should I really do this? Help me Tower B?! Please…?
“Are you ok?” Keith asked Neel.
“I. Am. Going. To. Die!” Neel said, silently adding, “…only not for the reasons you’re thinking of!”
“Aw, the SAT wasn’t THAT bad! And it was last weekend, you should relax now!”
“Yeah, of course!” He couldn’t find the strength to be convincingly relieved or tensed. He just gave up.
“Hey! Neel! Relax….let’s get you some extra fudgy brownies, ok?”
Neel sighed, wondering who Keith had imagined “N” to be because he was acting completely normally with him…
“Why—why can’t he see how much I love him” was the thing running through his mind.
Keith woke up with a headache and felt something glued to his cheek.
“What the—? This better not be my little brother’s work! Gaaah.” Keith was really pissed this morning. He had had come home late because he was out, celebrating the end of the SAT. Sunday mornings were really not his thing.
He gasped as he pulled the thing off fast, like a band-aid. He was as shocked to see the card as he was to wake up with something glued to his cheek.
He tried to think back to last night and counted off the things that seemed off, “Candles,”—he looked around to confirm, then continued, “balloons,”—he kicked one to make sure he wasn’t still dreaming—“clean room,”—well, that was still shocking!—“and now, card?”
“Well, this had better explain this oddity,” he thought.
He was visibly distressed as he finished reading the card.
“Who could N be? I wish it was Neel! But…well, I don’t even want to think about it! Who else could N be?! I don’t even know any girl names starting with N. Oh, wait, there’s a Natasha in Chess club, but doesn’t she have a boyfriend? Or Naina…but she has guys falling all over her. OH. OOHHH. This is so depressing: I get a poem from a ‘secret admirer’ along with all these awesome things, and I still feel miserable!
“Ugh, really. Ok. Let’s see, who knows about my favorite things? I told her, but, well, why would she do something like this for me? And the card says, “Love, N”
“Can’t be her!”—a tear escaped his eyelashes as he thought, “Will I ever hear Neel tell me he loves me? After that kiss, I am even more distraught.”
“I am so sick of this, I am going to do it! And my stupid, perfidious brain will not tell me it is a mistake,” decided Keith.
Neel stood next to the stairwell, leaning on the steps, at the exact place where Keith’s girlfriend liked to sit and read. He had asked Keith to meet him here.
He breathed in deeply, ready for the moment of revelation—only to be abruptly shoved, and—well, kissed. Passionately.
“Oh poop.. I thought she had dumped him!”
Keith was torn inside. He felt like chopping her heart to bits, shoving it into the blender and pouring that into the sewer. Yet, he wouldn’t—couldn’t—he wanted Neel to be happy, even if it was with her.
“I am NOT going to eliminate her. No, not even if my mind tells me a million times will I tell him to dump her.” And he walked away, wanting to be “mature”, yet craving love and happiness.
He pushed her off, saying, “We are over! I heard you when you swore at me, and I heard the rumors you spread about me. And guess what, you were right! I am not into you and never will be.”
He turned, leaving her speechless.
Then he screamed back: “PS, you were right about Keith too: I love him” He knew just where to hurt her. She was, after all, his last girlfriend.
Ah, here he came, just in time too, Keith was about to give up, thinking that Neel had gotten over me and had picked a new private spot.
“Neel, I saw what you wanted me to. I’m sorry if I made you feel, well, anything I shouldn’t have. I’m sure it’ll work out better this time! I wish both of you all the best!”
Keith stood there, shocked. But I knew he wasn’t a hopeless case, and I was proven right as Keith turned and walked past Neel. He grabbed Keith’s wrist and drew him close.
“I have to tell you something! What you saw—”
Keith struggled, wanting to run away.
“No, it’s ok Neel, I saw you get back together. Have fun!”
And Keith did something no one had managed to do before. He stopped Neel mid-sentence, with a flaming kiss.