Lost and Found
Friends are forever. Or are they? Here’s a story about losing a friend…and finding her again!
“Aren’t you excited? We are going to take the class photo today!”
“Oh no,” Shruti muttered. “It the one and only Miss Photogenic!” Her friends giggled as Avantika walked down the corridor. Avantika always looked as though she were going to a party, if one could imagine attending a party in a school uniform. But today she had taken extra care. Her hair lay hung in a shining waterfall to her shoulder and her face glowed. She grinned widely as she passed Shruti, Nitya and Payal.
“She can’t have really changed that much, can she?” Shruti wondered. She had known Avantika since the day the two of them had joined the school in Class 1. In those days Avantika had been fun. She had continued to be fun till they were in class 5. And then, Shruti was never sure how or when, she had lost her friend. It had begun gradually, the process of moving away but by the time they were in Class 6, the gulf was wide enough for both of them to have their own separate friends. Shruti had become friends with Payal and Nitya, who had both joined school around the time when her friendship with Avantika had been going through the cooling off phase. Shruti had never told her friends what fun she and Avantika had had in the past. Memories of the sleepovers, the birthday parties and all the secrets that they had shared were things that still made her sad. Now all Avantika thought about were her looks and sometimes Shruti mourned the loss of her fun-loving friend.
Discussing the events of the day with her mother that evening, she said, “And that silly Avantika – she came looking as if she were going to model!”
“Has she really changed so much?” Ai asked in a wondering voice.
“Yes,” Shruti said gloomily. “All she can talk of is clothes, perfumes, make up and stuff like that!” And she went to bed hoping that sometime in the future she would get a glimpse of the girl who had been her best friend once upon a time.
But the very next day Avantika came dancing to school, eager to share her exciting news.
“She says some newspaper photographers took pictures of her yesterday,” Nitya reported. “And they will appear in the children’s supplement on Friday!”
“Imagine,” Payal sighed, “how unbearable she will be after that!” Payal rolled her eyes in horror at the thought. The others laughed but Shruti, whose hopes for a better Avantika had just been dashed to the ground, sighed a little.
And so, when Avantika came running into school on Friday, dangerously close to being late for school, Shruti turned away. She wasn’t interested in seeing photos of her old friend looking silly and made up! A crowd gathered around Avantika as she rustled eagerly through the pages. “The paper delivery boy was late,” she gasped. “And Daddy had to go to the shop to get…Oh!” she said.
“What is it?” Niharika asked and then grabbing the paper from Avantika’s hands she looked. And the next minute she was laughing. Everyone crowded around Niharika then, pushing and shoving in their eagerness to see the picture that has caused Niharika to laugh like that. Shruti looked too, her curiosity getting the better of her disappointment.
The photo didn’t show Avantika in her usually groomed avatar. It had been taken in Avantika’s garden and instead of posing below some tree in a fetching pose, Avantika was holding a hose pipe in her hands. Water gushed out of the pipe. Some of it had sprayed on Avantika too, and her hair hung in wild disarray around her face. Her t-shirt was old and faded, and her skirt, a faint pink with dark patches of water on it. But what held Shruti’s attention was the expression on Avantika’s face. Gone was the look of being constantly in control of herself, Avantika’s face reflected her joy. Under the photo was the caption – Children at play. If this was what Avantika looked like, even for a few minutes, thought Shruti, then she hadn’t changed that much.
The others were jostling her out of the way, eager to see the picture. There was a lot nudging and suppressed giggles as the girls looked at this completely unexpected picture of the normally beautiful Avantika. The first loud laugh, when it came, startled all of them. Not because it was so unexpected but because it was Avantika who was laughing. They stared at her, all of them silenced by the unexpectedness of it. Tears they had expected, but laughter? “Oh!” Avantika laughed, holding her sides. “Don’t I look funny? I didn’t even know that photographer had taken a picture! Wait till I see him again! I will tell him what I think of him!” There was no anger in her voice, only pure amusement. And that was why Shruti dared to say, “You should thank him Avantika!”
She paused. All eyes were on her and though the bell clanged for attention, none of the girls moved. “Really?” Avantika stopped laughing long enough to ask. “Why?”
“He actually made you look beautiful!” Shruti said and the two girls collapsed into laughter. Everyone wondered why Shruti was laughing so hard and there were some who believed she was being malicious and mean. Only Shruti knew how much joy ran through her laughter – joy at having found her friend again, joy at having the old Avantika back again!
This story was published in Young Buzz, the children’s pages of Sakal Times.