“How old did you become today…” Anushka asked while taking out a rectangular steel Tiffin box.
“New box…what is there…” He snatched the box.
“Can I join you…” it was Elena.
“Yes…you can…” Saibal replied.
“Sangbad, let me open it for you…it’s a surp–” Anushka couldn’t complete her sentence.
“Cake…” Sangbad shouted in astonishment, “so kind of Aunty…”
“No…it was prepared by me…last eve…Ma only helped me…” Anushka said by pouting her lips.
“Will you two stop…there’s a new member among us…” Priyotosh intervene. He had gone to wash his hands.
“Elena…is your name…right…” Sangbad asked while putting the lid of the box back.
“What’re you doing…”Anushka asked as he pushed the box towards her.
“You want to open it…so, do it…am closing my eyes…and then I will act like that lady who has just been declared Miss World or something like that…” Sangbad replied in one breath.
Saibal said, addressing Elena, “you’ll get used to it…hey Priyo, shouldn’t we do something…” Saibal asked.
“Yes, we can be the other winners…” Priyo laughed and said.
“What…” Anushka and Elena said in unison.
“Ma saw that program…so did I…then Baba was seeing the news…I saw them there…” Priyotosh replied in a serious tone.
“Okay…time is running out…come let’s cut the cake…” Anushka said.
Later, that day, after school Anushka called Sangbad on a side and said something. Saibal and Priyotosh saw something had made him angry. Elena was new so didn’t get this subtle anger of Sangbad who hid it under his smiling face. But, other two knew it by seeing their friend’s fair face to be clouded. They questioned Anushka who denied replying them with teary eyes.
“So, when you’re going?” Saibal asked.
That day, it was their last day in school before the Summer Vacation. He and Sangbad were returning home. Saibal used to stay in a rented second floor near to the school. Sometimes, after they were promoted to Class Eight, for last one month Sangbad walked with Saibal to his house and then after bidding him, he would take an alley to neglect most of the busy eve main Kasba road.
“H’mm…what did you ask…” Sangbad was silent at the same time was in brown thoughts. The first one was uncanny because he loved to talk on s’thing that had caught his fascination while being in the school; the second one not because he often gets lost in thoughts–then and now–keeping the speech incomplete or the action undone.
“What’re you thinking…” Saibal asked Sangbad.
“Hmm…” Sangbad replied.
He remains cheerful, happy. The vacation making him said could not be the first thought, couldn’t be the second thought because holiday to him means Madhyamgram and the Basunagar Library.
“When are you going to Madhyamgram…” Saibal asked ‘cause he knew that way he would be able to know his thoughts—the chance is though not high.
“Maybe Sunday, Ma will take me or next week sometimes when Mama will come and pick me up…” he replied in an aloof voice.
“Let’s take the long route to my house today…” Saibal proposed.
Sangbad looked at him and nodded. They walked silently few pace before Sangbad spoke up.
“Do you remember my birthday day…” he asked.
“Yes…Anushka had brought a cake…we ate it…Elena joined us that day…” Saibal replied.
“And the eve…after school…” Sangbad asked.
Saibal stressed his memory and replied, “something had happened between you two—Anu and you…”
“She said this year birthday of mine might be last with him…his Dad might have got a transfer…” Sangbad said softly.
“What are you saying…so, why are you upset today…” Saibal asked because that was the right time to ask.
“She was acting weirdly…today…whole day…never screamed at me for untying her hair…never gave me that piercing look when I snatched the potato curry from her to have it in whole…” Sangbad said.
“She may be upset for the vacation…it’s her ritual to cry on the vacation day…and again at the school after the vacation ended.
“She didn’t cry today…” Sangbad said holding his step.
“We are growing up…” Saibal replied.
“Really or is it something there else…” Sangbad expressed his doubt.
“My home has come…” Saibal said.
“Have a great vacation in Puri…you’re going tomorrow…” Sangbad said with a smile—an imitated one.
“Don’t think so much…” Saibal patted his friend back who looked back at him and again smile.
“Don’t lose the phone number…if you don’t get me…leave a message…I’ll call…” Sangbad said before turning towards the road.
“Are they good neighbor…” Saibal asked.
“Yes…Mama will take a landline connection…may be a few months later…” Sangbad said in haste.
“Okay…and don’t ruminate over Anushka…she’s not going anywhere…” Saibal said.