Pavni ended up buying a bright orange dress hemmed with black roses.
She had the money for it; how, I never found out. I only grunted noncommittally when asked my opinion on it, but really I thought it was absolutely magnificent. I only hoped for her sake that she actually got to wear it.
Later, at home, we were alone with Saawan. Pa was at work and Ma had gone to the bakery. I was hungry and Ma hadn’t made anything yet, so I fished around in the pantry for a while, finally stumbling upon chocolate that looked like it had been attacked by rats. Well, it was better than nothing, so I chewed it while I consulted my homework. Saawan and Pavni were conversing in whispers in the family room, so I decided to go see what they were on about. No such luck. They stopped talking and determinedly stared in opposite directions the minute I entered the room. Fine. Let them be, I thought.
I eyed them suspiciously throughout dinner, which they were not unaware of, while Ma and Pa kept throwing glances over in my direction. Was this reverse psychology?
After the meal, Saawan went off to study, while Pavni shut herself in the bathroom. She didn’t come out for ages. And I mean ages. Ma knocked on the door after about two hours. “Pavni? What are you doing in there?”
There was a distant grunt in response. “What do you think I’m doing?”
“I’ll have none of that cheek from you, Miss! Are you all right in there?”
A second grunt. Ma shrugged and walked away. She didn’t look convinced, but I heard her say “It must have been the peas masala,” under her breath. I dissolved into peals of raucous laughter and she came back to yell at me. It was worth it.
Soon, Pavni was forgotten and Ma sent me off to bed. She went to bed herself. Pa came home later; I heard the door bang. Saawan stayed in his room with his textbooks. No one tried to go into the bathroom, and Pavni never came into bed. Soon I tiptoed out of my own bed and knocked on the bathroom door. “Pavni?” I whispered. “You okay?”
There was no answer. I pushed at the door and it opened. Pavni was nowhere to be seen…
But the window was wide open.
I woke up to do my customary midnight check. Pavni wasn’t home.
I later woke up at six thirty. This time she was there, but fast asleep. I got out of bed and brushed my teeth. I came back to check: still asleep. I shook her shoulder gently. “Pavni. Wake up.” She grumbled and pushed my hand away. I wasn’t even sure if she’d heard me. Get stuffed, I thought.
I passed Saawan in the hallway. “What’s up with Pavni?” I asked him. No help there. He had no idea. I walked to school by myself.
When I came back home, it was very, very quiet. Pavni was still asleep. Well, let her sleep, then. I was sick of having to do everything. However, that attitude wouldn’t fill the hole in my stomach, so I fixed myself a snack. Then I studied and studied and studied. I studied until I knew OHMs Law and everything about algebraic rules. Then I put my things away and went for a walk. I walked and walked and let all my feelings dissolve into the humid air. Who cared if there was something wrong with me? Who cared if my parents were control freaks? Who really cared? I could act like I was twenty one, I could go for long and unproductive walks, and I could pretend I didn’t care, but deep inside I knew I did. I knew I cared; I knew I cared a lot.
I got back home and had nothing to do. Pavni was finally up and out of bed (I felt like clapping), and, by the looks of it, was showered and dressed. I ignored her quite completely; she didn’t seem to care. Well, good for her. Ma came home soon after that. She seemed to be spending long periods of the day with Aunty Anita, whose baby was well and truly on the way, it seemed. Ma spent most of the time she was not cooking or at my aunt’s place knitting for the baby. I once asked Ma what she was knitting, and she told me they were socks. I rushed to my room to giggle; they looked closer to lumpy tomatoes than socks. But then again, my fabric talents were so few that it would be thoroughly hypocritical and unfair to laugh at my mother.
Soon, after helping Ma make dinner, sweeping the house, and then admiring my work for a good long while, I felt I could not put off sitting down any more. But sitting down meant thinking about the new and changed Pavni, so I procrastinated further by visiting the bathroom.
It was when I was turning on the tap that my eyes fatefully found the small object. I had never seen a real one before, and I was no expert at all this stuff, but I was two hundred per cent sure that the small white instrument was a pregnancy test.