The Blue Bell Balloon

 

It was Friday afternoon and Oishi had just bagged the best student award and was beaming with pride. She knew few of her classmates would be jealous, but most of them would understand that she deserved it. She had not missed a day in school. She had taken all the precautions to avoid falling sick. She had burnt the night oil day after day to make sure that she was up-to-date with the chapters in all the subjects. She had sacrificed her play time to memorise dates in history and formulae in maths. She had persevered relentlessly to top her class in all the tests and examinations. Her mother had been a strict taskmaster and had not given Oishi any respite from her daily routine.
In the middle of all this she also managed to attend all her extracurricular classes that included dancing, singing, painting, and swimming. At last her hard work had paid off and she held the Best Student Trophy with a shine.
“All I will do this weekend is sleep.” Oishi told her best friend, Srimoyee.
“You have to hold that off till tomorrow morning. Tonight we are all going to The Bluebell Resort. We will party through the night and be back by morning.” Srimoyee looked eager about the plan.
“I doubt if Mother will let me go.” Oishi was uncertain about obtaining permission from her mother.
“Don’t worry; we have already spoken to her. She is fine with your going to the resort as long as Shoumali and I are there with you. Of course we did not tell her that Shayan is coming as well.” There was glint of mischief in Srimoyee’s eyes.
Shoumali was the second most studious girl in class after Oishi and had a sense of responsibility in her demeanour. Srimoyee was street smart and quite capable of handling troubles on her own. The duo gave Oishi’s mother the assurance that her daughter will be fine in their company. Shayan on the other hand was a cynosure. He was from the boys’ school next to Sunshine High, where Oishi studied. He was tall, athletic, and had sharp features. Girls swooned over his gorgeous smile, but this lad had reserved his affections for Oishi. As was common with high school boys, he conveyed his feelings to the Oishi through her best friend all this time. Today would be the first day they would actually find the opportunity to speak to each other.
The Blue Bell Resort was just a few kilometres from Oishi’s house. So she decided to go home, pack a change of clothes, wear something pretty yet casual, grab a quick bite of the delicious chocolate cake Mother had baked and then head to the resort on her moped. But she felt sleep dragging down her eyelids.
The party was in full swing when she reached the venue. The resort was decorated with dazzling streamers, and tinsels. There were balloons on the walls with the name of the resort printed on them. As Oishi entered the party hall, there were cheers from her friends. She was in a peach tunic with matching leggings. She wore a sleek silver chain around her slender neck, and beige ballerinas to walk about comfortably. It was a party organised by high school kids and therefore alcohol was allowed. But soft fizzy beverages were freely flowing and each kid had a big glass filled with the sweet liquid.
“Hi Oishi. Finally you are here. Try some of these nachos. They are so yummy. Don’t forget to get the jalapeno dip. The combination tastes heavenly.” Shouted Srimoyee with glee.
Shoumalee, Joyeeta, Ashmita, Priyanka, and Sunayana were all huddled in a corner chatting and laughing. Shubhayan, Shayan’s friend had also come to the party. The two boys were busy trying to look responsible and making sure that the girls did not run out of soft drinks and snacks. Plates full of prawn, chicken and paneer pakodas made the rounds. The girls bit into crunchy French fries and wiped the oily fingers in soft pink paper towels. The aroma of the delicious dinner buffet and the lively giggles of the youthful crowd filled every corner of the hall. Oishi was getting into the groove and enjoying the bash, when Shayan, mustering all the courage he could, approached her.
“Hi. The party is great, isn’t it?” just on the brink of stammering, Shayan finished his question.
“Yes it is. Sri said your father got the place booked for us. He is a trustee here, isn’t he?” Oishi said.
“Yes, baba told the management to take care of the arrangements. We are booked till tomorrow morning. There are two big suites beside the swimming pool for the girls. Shubhayan and I have a single room on the first floor.” Shayan did not know why he was telling all this when he had come to tell her something completely different.
“Umm, Oishi, it’s getting a little stuffy in here. Would you mind a walk by the garden?” Shayan was feeling brave.
Oishi smiled. “Yes why not?”
So the two slowly got out of the hall and made their way to the garden. The breezy night made the walk a pleasant one. The sleek silver chain shone brightly around Oishi’s neck. The two were walking in silence. Shayan did not know what to say now that they were alone.
Suddenly a heart shaped balloon landed near them. Blue Bell was printed on it.
This is a sign. I should tell her now. Shayan thought
Shayan picked the heart and casually gave it to Oishi.
“I think I am in love with you Oishi.” Shayan blurted even before he could run the sentence in his mind. Oishi suddenly became eerily quiet. Her face was devoid of expressions. Shayan did not know whether it was a rejection or not. But a look of uncanny calm resided on her face. She looked ethereal in the full moon night. Was it the chain that reflected a silver glow around her?
With a heavy silence choking the night, the two kept on walking. They walked past the garden on to the winding narrow road outside the resort. All this while Oishi and Shayan were walking side by side but now she took the lead. She held the balloon with both her hand close to her bosom.
If she wanted to reject me, she could have just let the balloon go. There is something more to her silence. Shayan wondered.
“Do you want to go back?” he enquired.
“You can go back. I have left my bike at a blind turn.” Oishi answered.
May be she wants to be left alone. She had not yet spoken about her feelings towards him. May be she wanted some time to think things over. Shayan tried finding a logical explanation to her sudden change. He decided to go back and send Srimoyee, in case Oishi wanted to speak her heart toher best friend.
He turned back. As he was walking towards the resort, a thought struck him. Why did Oishi park her bike in some godforsaken turn instead of bringing it inside the resort? There was zero traffic on that road after 7pm.
A feeling of unease began to engulf him. He could not leave Oishi alone. Even if she did not want to talk about her feelings, even if she did not want to speak to him, he still could not leave her alone at this time of the night. Despite his misgivings about her reaction, he started walking towards the point where he had left her.
She could not have gone far. Or maybe she could with her beige ballerinas. Nevertheless Shayan increased his pace and walk past the point where he had left the girl of his dream. Soon he came across a hairpin bend. No sight of her still. He kept walking along the road and then suddenly next to some bushes on the side of the road lay the wreck of a bike. A little further from the bike he saw a mangled body, a beige ballerina hanging precariously from one foot. The other foot was bare. Perspiring profusely he took a few steps closer. There she lay, limp and lifeless. The shiny silver chain was hanging from her slender neck. Fear and grief stirred his soul. The heart shaped Blue Bell balloon was clutched tightly against her bosom. Shayan started shivering as he realised the truth. Or was it an illusion?

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