When I had nothing left, I stopped. I stopped and I cried until I didn’t have any tears left, either. Then I curled up under a tree and tried to sleep. It seemed like I slept for a very short time, but I later found out it was ages and ages. I was woken by hands roughly shaking me. They were Saawan’s. The minute my eyes opened, I was converged with a wave as my brother and sister launched themselves upon me. Then I felt a wetness on my shirt as Pavni began sobbing onto me. “Why did you go?” she whimpered. “Why?”
Suddenly I felt really bad about what I’d done. What had I been playing at, taking Pa seriously?
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t think.”
“Uh yeah, we figured that out!” Saawan sounded giddy with relief. “Now come on, let’s get you home.”
It turned out I hadn’t run too far away; it was about a fifteen-minute walk back to the house. Pa was nowhere to be seen. Ma was there, but after I got a good scolding that went on for longer than the time I’d been away, she put hot food on the table and I very gratefully tucked into it. I didn’t dare ask where Pa was, but I had a nasty feeling there had been a previous agreement to not tell me anyway. Saawan and Pavni forced me to bed early once again. I was beginning to think they had obsessive compulsive disorder. However, the sound of the bunk creaking woke me up around midnight. Pavni was trying to sneak off. “Pavni,” I whispered into the darkness. “Where are you going?”
“To the toilet,” she replied shortly. “Now do me a favour and go back to sleep, would you?”
I lay back down and closed my eyes, but could not sleep. I plonked my head down several times several times to check, but Pavni never came back.
The morning signalled the start of another week, and that meant school.
Pavni stayed in bed till long after 6:30, which was when she usually woke up. Ma sent me to wake her. “Pavni!” I rapped my knuckles on the door. I was so not in the mood for this. “Pavni, wake up!” This situation was all too unpleasantly familiar, but it turned out Pavni hadn’t passed out. I went straight in and shouted in her ear and, grumblingly, she awoke. “Get out of my face, Laila.” She moaned, but she obliged, because if she didn’t get herself out of bed now, Ma would arrive to do the job herself and she could hardly use that line on her. I opened the current just so there’d be a little more light. “Where were you last night, anyway?”
“Get out of my face.” She repeated, and headed for the shower. Ah, well. Pavni was Pavni. I’d find out soon enough.
However, this time I didn’t. Pavni emerged from the bathroom ten minutes later looking completely normal. “Hurry up,” she said, just as usual, and so we walked together to school. The rainy season was here, and the rain poured down like the clouds were furious with us. Water was forming in patches and there was actually a minor flood on the way to school.
When I entered my class there was a lot of jumping around and fidgeting. Apparently we were doing course selections for next year. Our teacher was writing guidelines on the blackboard.
When selecting your courses for next year, you must consider:
• Your future career
• Your interests
• Your strengths and potential
• Your attitude
Hmmmm. I think she’d forgotten about 'what your parents want'.
I glanced down at the sheet in front of me.
English Advanced Study
There’s much more but I don’t even bother seeing it. Pa would go ballistic if I took anything other than accounting or business. Pa loves making money, and he thinks his children should too. I take a deep breath and select my two most hated subjects. There. Done. Story over. Now my future is sealed. I’ll probably become some boring office person now. I really want to take bio and art, but I remember one year when Pavni chose French. We don’t find it very pleasant to recall that memory often.
I put my name on the application and hand it in to Miss Garibaldi. “Done already? Did you read the instructions on the board? What about the information book-“
“Yes. And I’m sure. Thank you.” I press it into her hands before I can change my mind and walk way.
That day after school, Pavni looked happier and bouncier than usual. “I’m going to the ball!” she sang.
I gasped. “What? You say that like Pa will let you.”
“He won’t. But I’m going to go.”
“Oh yes I would! That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
I didn’t believe her but on the way home she made us stop at the Dressmaker’s. There were many, many, dresses: dark ones, colourful ones, plain ones, ruffled ones, ones which made you look thinner and one which made (certain parts) look fatter. Pavni spent ages and ages looking at everything as if she’d never get to look at them again, but that would probably be true, if Pa found out what she was up to. In fact, he’d probably do a lot of other things to her which I, merely in consideration for your feelings, will not inform you about.