And don’t forget to put the spoon back into the box…after your meal time..Ok? Rachel kept looking at the watch and murmured a hurried “Alright mama” and tugged at her mom’s frock to rush her into taking her to school as early as possible.
Rachel’s sole aim of reaching school early was only one….to be able to be seated next to Vivian…
With light brown eyes and a kind of wavy tinge to his hair, Vivian was the meek, docile, timid blue eyed wonder of a family and the kind of student a teacher would love to pamper. Always well mannered and ready to please the teacher with the right answer to every question thrown. Vivian was everyone’s dream come true…So it wasn’t any wonder that everyone used to clamber around him just so that a l’il bit of his intelligence could maybe rub off on them ! Every mother around used to insist on using his assignments in case of an emergency and each child was given Vivian as the yardstick of measurement.
We really wouldn’t know about other kids, but definitely Rachel’s mom was insistent that Rachel sat next to Vivian with whom Rachel shared a one two relation. One two in the sense that if Rachel topped the class one year then Vivian would be the second topper and vice versa.
Even today, as Rachel rushed down the drive with her mother and waved her a goodbye after the bye bye kiss implanted on her cheek…she heard her mother calling out… “Remember to sit next to Vivian…” Not that Rachel did it only because her mom told her. From the time she could remember Rachel had her heart fixed on Vivian…Puppy love…but Rachel hardly felt so. For her that was love and that was serious. The small tender mind couldn’t may be differentiate between love and closeness…but it was a feeling that was there and she couldn’t deny her tender mind that.
“Hey there, Rachel, hiya..!” Andre’s voice trailed down the corridor…
Andre was a nightmare to every girl in the school. A prankster and a burly figure he was mischief incarnate and was the last person to be serious about studies or about what the teacher said. With his looming figure and his extra height, Andre anyway looked bigger than his age. and loomed large in the benches. Thus it was that whenever Rachel entered school she used to dread encountering Andre as he would immediately rush into the classroom and sit plonk next to Vivian thus depriving her her prize catch.
Even today as Andre’s voice boomed down the aisle, Rachel murmured a quick hi and with eyes focused on the empty place beside Vivian rushed into the room before Andre could make a hasty entry.
“Phew! That was close…” she said to herself nervously looking at Vivian…Vivian just glanced up from his book and smiled. Vivian had a half smile which endeared him more to Rachel. Wiping the sweat off her forehead…they rose up when the assembly bell rang..
The school anthem over, they all waited for Mrs.Berger’s entry.
“Roll your r’s and dull your s’s. Remember children you must slash the t’s and dot the i’s…always…hullo Rachel ….what are you looking at..?”
Mrs. Berger’s stern voice stirred Rachel out of her thoughts. Rachel was lost in thoughts of how to avoid sitting next to Mike if the need arose. “Mamma has told me not to sit near Mike”
“See, he gets low grades….so you musnt sit near him.” Rachel’s mom always told her. Not that Rachel really measured people as to their performance academically. But she had to obey her mother.
Anyway, as Mrs. Berger’s voice jolted her out of her reverie, Rachel looked at the slightly graying bespectacled formidable personality teaching them English. Mrs. Berger was a rotund, loud and stern lady who was any student’s nightmare. But get into her good books and Mrs. Berger’s heart would melt like chocolate and then there was no turning back. Her soft assurances, stern instructions, firm convictions and affectionate endorsements only endeared her students to her. With her flowing gown swishing to and fro and her heeled shoes clicking on the floor, Mrs. Berger was a sign of endurance, tolerance, patience and conviction all rolled into one.
Mrs. Berger had the ability to make any child write well and this she ensured only by her insistence on the usage of the red,blue and green line books…These books had equally spaced gaps between them and every child from Bloomingdale would surely have the scene of Mrs. Berger holding the hand of the child and encouraging it to write well etched in their mind. The moment she saw a child struggling with its handwriting and she would call the child toher table, make him or her sit on her lap and lovingly but firmly teach the child to hold the pencil properly and write.
That was Mrs. Berger…
As Mrs. Berger entered the class, Mike entered too…He rushed and sat in the last bench. Rachel looked at him behind nervously… “Nnnoo…don’t think of him…”
With curly hair and well developed arms, his tanned features gave Mike the look of a brawny youngster ready to view life headlong. He had the devil may care damn attitude and confidence showed in anything he did. A brainy imp, he had mischief, friends and fun in his life in that order of priority. Maybe he wasn’t a bookworm and maybe he might not spend his entire life trying to get good grades, but he definitely would be the first to help out a person in distress. With a tender heart but a rough attitude, Mike was the teacher’s target always and it was no wonder therefore that he was often found getting caught for no fault of his own.
People like Mike are what make the world. Such people live and let live. They are not a farce and are true to their nature. Mike though might not come across as the perfect take home boyfriend but certainly was the perfect friend. This realization dawns in on people much later…and by then people like Mike would have met and made innumerable companions so it’s people who underestimated who would have lost out.
Maybe it was this disposition of his that deterred Rachel’s mom from encouraging her to sit with him. Rachel being a tomboy was likely to sit anywhere she pleased …at least that’s what she thought. If only Rachel’s mom had known that Rachel;s sole destination was Vivian…and to be beside him.
“Ahhhhhhh” …..The wail sent a wail of siren across the classroom..Everyone writing the assignment was shaken up with shock with the agony with which Steven screamed….
“JESUS CHRIST….how did you manage that..?” screamed Mrs. Berger in absolute shock and alarm. Her alarming tone brought everyone in the school running into the classroom….
And what they saw sent chills down their spine…there was Steven a picture of agony writhing in pain as he held the scale on his throat…his face turning blue Mrs. Berger told everyone to move away from him.
As Rachel, Mike and Vivian looked on in fear; Andre came forward and helped to ease the scale out of Steven’s mouth. Steven slowly began to breathe easily but he had to be rushed to the doctor.
“Oh, dear, and then what happened…” gushed Rachel’s mom listening to this story in absolute disbelief. She couldn’t believe a mere simple innocent scale could cause havoc in this manner….Rachel also added how she hadn’t sat near Mike that day.
Time passed and Rachel’s everyday jugglery to sit near Vivian continued and it was on those days when Susie used to come early that Rachel’s emotional security was threatened. Rachel hated Susie because she used to chat up Vivian and Rachel couldn’t do it. Rachel was waiting for a day to snub Susie but she never did get it.
Susie, Rachel, Vivian, Mike, Andre…Mrs.Berger…
Time passed and gradually all these names which were once live characters eased away into fond memories…each in a different intensity in the mind…A year passed, two , then five and slowly it wasn’t long before three whole decades passed.
World had gone a full 360 degree roundabout turn…convertibles were replaced by swanky cars, dial up telephones with granpa size handles had been taken over by digital telecoms, telegrams were passé and e access was the order of the day. You could order everything but maybe God on the Internet.
Thirty years down, social networking sites were like the closely held links of every day activity. Companies, advertisers, monopolies, friends, relatives all alike held sites like Facebook, Twitter etc as their family member.
IN such a scenario, it was pretty coincidental that one of the sites saw three friends chatting up. One had grown to be in charge of taxation of income, the other was the head of Information Technology in his firm and the third was happily married and a mother of two, but her passion for writing hadn’t ebbed. One of her such passionately written articles was chanced upon by one of her other two friends and they mutually admitted to themselves that she really had done justice to creativity. The more committed of the two gave her a call and they both got talking and chatted up totally oblivious of the world around them, the hubbub of activity seeming to take a slow motion and as if the entire globe had come to a standstill. Such was the energy and vibration when these two were chatting up. Not to be left behind, the second friend also called her up and very soon some hearty jokes and fond memories were shared.
One thing stuck out….When she spoke to the first friend it didn’t dawn on her that her mom had told her to keep away from him….Yes we are talking about Rachel, Mike and Vivian…It is they who happened to bump into each other on the social site and it was Mike who took the iniative of calling Rachel up. The same Mike who Rachel kept away from as was her parent’s advice. But today, all relations seemed meaningless to her, but Mike. Why? The only reason being he was her childhood pal, she didn’t have to worry about what he thought of her….no pretensions, no inhibitions…..
How childhood fears turn into adult comforts, how parental advice given in childhood later on break all norms and individuals mature to take conscious decisions for their benefit is a fitting example of this relation between Rachel, Mike and Vivian…
Today, Rachel and Vivian are able to laugh about the so called crush she had on him and how she loathed Sophie just because she was her threat. This is the beauty of friendship, palhood and camaraderie. It is truth, honesty and genuine emotions at their height.
Andre is with the logistics department in a company. Rachel came to know that very recently he wasn’t keeping too well. Yet he is still the same spirited soul that he was.
Mike the apparent threat to Rachel in her childhood was her best childhood pal now, and it is Mike who constantly is gushing in appreciation of her written work. With a loss of both parents at a very young age, Mike has hardened up on the outside but is still soft to think about his pals fondly. Mike is still a living example of how the strands of friendship never wear or tear.
Vivian married to Betty is a proud father of two sons and still has retained his sense of humour in fact has opened out a great deal and has become more of an extrovert. He vividly remembers Steven’s scale incident and shares it with equal feeling even today.
The three are in the process of finding the whereabouts of Susie and Steven.
There is just one common link between the three….Mrs. Berger. All of them fondly remember her….
So after all, Rachel, Mike and Vivian have finally learnt to roll their r’s and dull their s’s and haven’t forgotten to slash their t’s and dot their I’s as that’s the reason they have found themselves together again. As regards Rachel’s mom I guess she is a proud mom today as she regrets her decision of the past and feels good to see Rachel in the company of her genuine pals.
Such is the story of a journey of friendship and such is the truth of true friends. As the famous saying goes….the trio are maybe thinking about it… “And miles to go before we sleep….”
- The Man, The Gas, The Story (talestoread.wordpress.com)
- Small Steps Big Differences (talestoread.wordpress.com)
- Basic Instinct (talestoread.wordpress.com)