I love birthdays. Except, when it’s mine. Now it’s time for me to act surprised. I overheard Pooja and Arjun discussing it a few days ago. They'll be upset if they find out that I found it out.
‘Surprise!’ they shouted, as I opened the door and stepped inside my house.
How did they convince my parents to allow a party in here? That was a surprise, so my face must’ve looked really surprised.
‘Happy Birthday, Darling. Isn’t this party great?’ said Pooja, my best friend since first grade.
‘I love it. I’m so happy you’re all here. Thank you sweets’
‘Arjun planned it all out. Here he comes.’ She winked and said, ‘I better leave you two alone.’
‘Hey. I hope you like it all. There’s a bigger surprise after everyone leaves. I’ll meet you in an hour on the terrace?’
Arjun rushed off without even hearing my response. Maybe he had more arrangements to make. If only Arjun knew, I hate surprises. They put me in a position where I have to react spontaneously, which I suck at. That ruins my usually calm presence everyone knows. I have about an hour to decide on that. I spotted Pooja discussing something with another friend. I signaled her to follow me on to the terrace.
‘Arjun is going to propose. I don’t know what to do. Help me now! ’
‘OMG!!! He is so totally into you. He always agrees with your weird ideas. He is totally a yes man for you. I think he is the best guy I know in our friend circle. You should totally accept it.’
‘I agree with everything you said about him, except...’
‘He should’ve proposed ages ago. He was waiting for the perfect moment. Everyone knows he totally loves you a lot. I’m so excited for you.’
She’s the only one I can consult on romantic advice. How do I start?
‘Pooja, I don’t think I reciprocate the feelings. I don’t love him. I have feelings for someone else. How can I reject him without making him feel very bad?’
‘Shoot. He’s totally expecting a yes. Anything else will make him feel dejected. Who’s this guy you like and why didn’t you tell me earlier?’
‘Our Abhi? The one who never misses a chance to criticize you? I thought you hated each other. At least he does. Doesn’t he?’
‘Umm… No. He definitely doesn’t hate me. I too mistook his love for hatred all these days.’
‘I don’t understand. I thought Arjun was the one who wiped your tears whenever Abhi was mean to you’
‘That’s what I thought too. Every time Abhi had criticized me, I went to Arjun. He had always said the right things. He made me feel good about myself. He never used any harsh words against me and agreed with whatever I said. I thought- almost thought, he was the one for me.’
‘I’m totally confused. You say Abhi is the jerk. Arjun is the nice guy. But you fell for the jerk. How and why?’
‘Few days ago I decided not to take shit from Abhi anymore. I called him to say just that. He asked me to meet him at a nearby café and speak about this in detail. I had no idea what he wanted to say, but I like when people explain their apology instead of just saying sorry. So I agreed to meet him there. Except it wasn’t an apology. He proposed.’
‘Yeah, he proposed. I didn’t understand that either. I told him he was always annoying me and never said anything positive about me. He told me that was because I always magnified whatever he said and did. He said that I always challenged him to bring the best out of him.’
‘Did you accept?’
‘No. Whatever he had said didn’t even sound real. I asked for some time to process whatever he said. The next day we all went out to watch a movie. Arjun was complaining about the plot of a novel. He didn’t know that it was by my favourite author. Still I didn’t feel like letting him know. Or even correct him when he referred the wrong character from this book. Abhi said he liked Coke over Fanta and I argued for about half an hour over that. That’s when I realised it was true. It was love that made me highly critical about every word he spoke.’
‘You so totally lost all sense. Because of love you hate each other?’
‘No. It’s not hate. It’s our way of expressing love.’
‘Totally weird way. What about Arjun’s proposal now? Its better you tell him about Abhi before he says anything. That way you don’t have to reject him. It’s a lesser painful way. Whatsay?’
‘That is a good idea. Also tell me how should I accept Abhi’s proposal now??’
‘You didn’t have to ask me that. Argue with him as usual about proposals and then you propose. Duh!!’
I was so busy talking to Pooja that I didn’t even notice Arjun was right there.
‘You’re here before time. How can I present your present when you’re present before the present is present?’
Pooja slipped out when she saw Arjun. It was just the two of us. I knew it would be hard but I had to say it.
‘Arjun, before you say another word of this present thing, I’ve got something important to say, about Abhi. I know you’ve been the best of my friends and I can count on you always. You were always there for me. Abhi hurt me so many times. I’ve lost count of it. Now I’ve reached a decision regarding Abhi. I want you to be the first person to know that.’
‘Like, move away from him?’
‘No. Not away. A way. I found a way to accept what I feel. It is love that I feel for him. I tried to ignore it. When that didn’t work I tried to avoid it. That didn’t either. That’s when I knew denying won’t work anymore and I had to face these feelings. I love Abhi. As my best friend I want you to know this.’
‘Wow. Awesome. It’s great. Congrats. I have to go someplace. I- I need to submit some deadline is there. Oh, the surprise is a special cake to mark our friendship. I hope we stay the best friends, always. I’ll catch up with you later. Bye. Happy Birthday, again.’
I know I hurt him. But that was necessary. I couldn’t fake my feelings any longer, and I planned on expressing them to Abhi soon. Here, he comes. I already know a thousand ways to start an argument with him. Hope this one ends right.
That’s when I hear Pooja screaming downstairs, ‘Anvi luuurvves Abhi.’ There goes all my planning in vain. I smiled. He smiled. It is indeed a happy birthday.