I was nervous; to be precise I was a nervous wrecked bag of bones. I was going to be the topic of discussion in Kovalam. My hair saga would be remembered forever and ever. I could foresee small kids laughing behind my back, when I would be old and frail, because this story was going down to the next generation.
My numbed limbs felt cold. I was shivering on one of the hottest days in the year. The only person I could think of was Punnu. We were best friends by default.
Once when our English teacher Ms. Lobo had asked us to write an essay on our best friend, Punnu was the first one to finish, while I struggled to think whom should I write about. That’s when he told me that we are by default best friends and have no choice, but to write about each other.
I wanted to call him.Making a phone call from the living room was dangerous. Mom and Grandma are always on the radar, spying, and looking out for anything that can be blown out of proportion.
I sneaked into the living room and hid under our staircase. Once mom and grandma had both sat down for their puja, I stealthily ran upstairs to my room.
“Hah! I am in a safe zone”, I thought to myself.
Punnu was doing a Jacky Chan when I called. He said that he had just jumped from the window’s sill and had accidentally landed on his dog Bruno. I could hear Bruno’s whimpering.
“Looks like I fractured his paw”, Punnu said.
“Looks like both your best friends need you”, I said and told him all about Lola’s episode.
“Don’t you worry”, he said. His words were a bit soothing.
“I shall drop Bruno at the vet and come over, I have an idea”.
It was great to be able to share my sorrows, but I was still nervous. Punnu’s ideas were often wackier than he himself.
Luckily neither mom nor grandma called me. I waited for nearly an hour when Punnu knocked on my room door. He was dressed in a hideous manner.
He laughed when he saw me. He ruffled my hair, but they went back to look like tampered grasslands.
“You look like a cock-a-doodle-doo”, he poked.
“What’s this?” I asked pointing at his get up.
“ I am Jacky Chan”, he said trying to show off his muscles, that only he could see, for others they are invisible.
“So what’s the great plan?”
“Here put this on”, he said, stashing a bag filled with clothes on my bed. He pulled out a warrior helmet, vest, a sword and a shield.
“You are a gladiator now!” he said with pride.
“Is this your bright idea?” I asked. Most of the times Punnu’s wild thinking would shock my brains.
“What after I take this off? I can’t sleep like a gladiator and I definitely can’t go to school like one?”
“Oh yes! I never thought of that”, Punnu mumbled.
“Wait!I can use this costume to get out of here, we can go to Rocky and he can give me a decent haircut.” I was happy that my brains worked in strenuous times also.
“Bingo!” he said as we gave a high five to each other.
By the time I dressed up, Appa had come home. We crossed our fingers and walked down, hoping we could make a swift exit.
As we descended, I couldn’t believe my eyes.“Oh my god! This can’t be happening to me”, I spoke in Punnu’s ears.
What I saw in my living room turned my stomach upside down. In front of Appawas a gentleman and next to him was the girl I dreaded, Lola.
“Is she the one?” Punnu asked as softly as he could
“Yes, what is she doing here now?” I asked myself.
Appa looked at both of us.
“Why are you both dressed like that? Is there a fancy dress competition here?” he asked.
I fumbled. “ Errr… Appa, we are practicing for a school play. I am gladiator and he is Jacky Chan”. I was terrible at lying. My ears twitched and I broke into a sweat.
“You must be terribly hot”, said the gentleman next to Lola.
“Meet Mr. Justin Tyme”, Appa said “ And his beautiful daughter Lola Justin Tyme”.
I shook hands with her father, trying really hard to control my laughter.
I know it’s rude to laugh in someone’ s face, but Lola “Just-in-time” was really funny. I could read the mischief on Punnu’s face.
Mr. Justin said that Lola was joining our school from tomorrow.Punnu’s smile became wider. Lola just in time was going to be the next thing in school.
Lola knew what was going on in my head and what was underneath my helmet. She kept flashing her bratty looks.
“We have no choice, but to add another default friend in our group”, I sighed.
We wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, but mom joined in with a plate full of pakoras. Grandma too came and sat down on the couch next to Lola.
How was I going to eat those without taking off my helmet? Lola kept forcing me to have some.
“Your mom is a lovely cook”, she said trying hard to lift my helmet and stuff one in my mouth.
I dodged my head, but finally gave up when mom ordered me to take it off.
“Ahha! Venky, what happened?” Amma shouted.
Grandma’s eyes widened and she brought both her hands to her mouth. Then I think she got stuck there, because she didn’t say a word nor did she move.
Appa was too shocked to speak either. Punnu stamped his feet and hit his fist to his palm. “Drat! One more idea has flopped”, he said
Mr. Justin looked at me as if he had seen a blizzard coming.
“By any chance have you and Lola met each other before?” he quizzed
I nodded in an affirmation.
“You naughty brat, you are at it again!” he said pulling Lola’s ears.
“Let me tell about this to your mom”, he said tugging her arm.
The father-daughter left, leaving us, and my hair to our faith. Now it was not just myself, butboth of us, Venky and Lola; going down in history.