Images were flashing through Priyanka's mind.
She was down with jaundice and Rishab completed all the lab assignments for her.Without her even asking him to.
"I can't believe you'd stoop to this,Rishab." The Engineering Graphics professor stared at him angrily.
"I'm extremely sorry,sir," Rishab said in an apologetic tone,his head hung down.'It'll never happen again."
"There will be consequences,Rishab.Trying to pass someone else's assignments as your own is a serious misconduct," the professor said in a grave tone and then turned to Priyanka,who was just standing beside Rishab."I am sorry for doubting you,Priyanka.Don't worry.I'll see to it that Rishab is punished for this."
The professor,the gentle,merciful and considerate soul that he was,dragged the matter to the Dean.Further reprimand and humiliation for Rishab followed.But the Prof. wasn't done with showering his generosity on Rishab.With a single penstroke,he brought down his Engg. Graphics's internal assignment's marks from 40 to 0.But Rishab didn't reveal the truth.
The truth which only he and Priyanka knew.
2 days ago
"U gotta help me,Rish." Priyanka pleaded into the phone."This nasty bought of viral fever didn't allow me to complete any of my Graphics assignments.I don't know how I will complete them in time for Friday's submissions."
"O ye of little faith,ol Rish will take care of everything."Rishab had chucked."My assignments are done.You take them and get them signed.Afterwards,I will take them back,erase your name and put in mine.Simple."
"What if we get caught?" Priyanka sounded alarmed.
"Don't worry.I'll watch your back,"Rishab had said smiling.
Saying NO to Rishab was difficult for her.She was still riddled with guilt over what had happened to him in second semester because of her.
And now he had to mess her up by making such a desperate plea to her.
She deeply wished to help him somhow.How could she possibly say YES to him for such a request?
And it would be so damn awkward to face him now.
She wondered if she should stop talking to Rishab for sometime.
That was a Friday.On Monday classes resumed.
Gayatri Gupta was looking forward to going back to college after a dull weekend.A new day meant always new gossip.And Gayatri Gupta ate,slept and lived for gossip.It was her noble duty to ensure that any spicy news item, quickly and without fail,reached all four corners of the college.Maybe even beyond.Considering her initials,it shouldn't be a matter of surprise that she had quickly earned the honourable title of GG The Gossip Gal.
Classes had not yet started.Gayatri was in the canteen,getting ready for her class when Priyanka sat beside her.She kept her phone and other stuff beside her and started chatting with Gayatri.
Just then Rishab arrived.
"Pri,we need to have a word." Gayatri sensed a tense urgency in his voice.
"There's nothing to talk about," Pri said testily without even looking at him.Gayatri's gossip-sensors immediately sprung to high-alert.
"Pri,this is important.You never replied to my sms yesterday," said Rishab.Gayatri stole a quick look at Priyanka's phone.
"Just five mins,Pri,please," Rishab pleaded.
"Oh!!What the hell!!" Pri rolled her eyes."Could you look after my things for me,GG," Pri asked sweetly as she rose to accompany Rishab."This will be quick,I promise."
"Sure,Pri!!!!!" Gayatri crooned cheerfully."I'm right here."
Just as Priyanka and Rishab were out of sight,she lunged for Priyanka's phone.She quickly navigated her way to her Inbox.The very first sms was from Rishab.She quickly turned her head round in the direction Pri and Rishab had left.No sign of them.Good.Now she could read the sms with relish.
"It was gud whil it lasted Pri.But v gotta muv on nw.i dnt think it ll out wrk anymre.i still luv u.but u r almst bcumin addicted 2 me.plz dnt snd me smses lyk the one u sent just now.and plz try to 4giv me."
Gayatri's eyes grew wide with wonder.Just what was going on between those two?
Her excited fingers quickly moved to the Sent Items folder.The message with Rishab as the recipient was on top of the list.
"I can't beliv u r doin dis 2 me Rish.I still luv u lyk hell.I will die if u leave me.Plz don't go,I beg u."
Wait a min,Gayatri thought,elated beyond measure.Were these two in a super-secret hush hush relationship of some sorts?Man,this gossip was just too good to be true!!!!!!!!!She just had to get to the bottom of this!!!
From a corner out of sight of Gayatri,Rishab and Pri were watching her,with a smile on their lips.
"It seems to be working," Rishab said excitedly.
"Of course,it is MY plan after all," Pri smiled smugly.
Two days ago.Saturday morning.
"U'll do what?" Rishab sat up in his bed groggily,still unable to believe what he has just heard.
"I'll help you out,silly," Priyanka shouted cheerfully into the phone.
"U m-mean,u'll be my imaginary gf?"
"Not your gf,but your ex-gf.Just listen to me.I got this all figured out."
"I'm listening,"Rishab clutched the phone tightly to his ears,afraid to miss out on even a single syllable.
"Look,I think the basic idea is jut to make the other gals realise that someone can find you desirable,right?So this whole thing will work even if she has broken up with you.And I have JUST broken up with you.Since you are single now,you are available.Got it?"
"Ok.But a few questions,"Rishab interrupted."First,if we were a couple,why did we hide it from others?Second,why did we break up?"
"It started off very casually,we'll say.It started at the end of first year.We weren't sure enough about our feelings to make this official.Over a period of time,I became too emotionally dependent on you.I started imagining a future with you.But you weren't so sure about your own feelings.And you wanted to put a stop to this before I get hurt too much.So you decided to pull out.And I'll sneak in a little bit about how even you are not totally ready to pull yourself apart from me right now.But you're doing this for my sake.The gals are gonna lap this bit up,I promise," the excitement was growing in her voice.
"Ahh,a fancy self-sacrificing heroic twist to the tale,"Rishab grinned."Man,you're good."
"Recognised," Priyanka smiled proudly.
"Hmmm.But one more thing.Isn't it gonna sound odd if we kept this secret for so long and now after our break-up we are suddenly telling it to everybody?Are people gonna buy it?"
"They won't if we do the talking.But they will,if someone else does it for us."A wicked smile crept into Priyanka's lips."We'll get Gayatri to do it for us."
"Woaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!!!How???" Rishab asked amazed.
"Here's what we will do........"
Present time.Monday.Recess hours.
"Pri!!!!!Wait up!!!!" Gayatri called out to Priyanka from across the hall.Priyanka stared at her,trying to look surprised as Gayatri caught up with her,panting.
"Gayatri,is anything the matter?"
"Something's the matter all right," Gayatri said,between gasps."Between you and Rishab.You've gotta tell me what's been going on between you two."
"What?????What're you talking about?" Priyanka's guilty-at-having-been-caught act could have put Priyanka Chopra to shame.
"I read your smses.I can't believe you kept this from all of us.Your gang.Now tell me.Tell me,puhleeez."
"There's nothing to talk about,honey.Trust me.It's all done and over with."
"You won't be let off so fast,girl!!!!Spill it!!"
"Ohh,let it go,will you?Besides,it's kinda a long story."
"I got all the time in the world baby!!!!"Gayatri beamed at her,burning with the same anticipation which grips a predator as it is about to gobble up its prey.
Priyanka smiled to herself.That sucker,she thought.She doesn't have the faintest idea that she is just a pawn on my chess-board.Moving as per my wishes.
Somewhere,high above,maybe something was smiling to itself in a similar fashion.Priyanka was just a pawn in a game designed by fate.And she had already been shifted a few positions on destiny's chess-board.
She just couldn't realise it yet.
To be continued....