Anita knew it was a bad idea to shift into the new apartment block because it looked seedy. The road and the dark dingy buildings gave her the creeps. But she had no option as the rent was cheap and the flat was huge! However she felt it best that she share the place with another person to ease up on her finances.
She had put up an ad at the local departmental store bulletin board and also at the college campus. She felt sure that something would turn up soon. Late that week as Anita turned into the building a person confronted her. For a long terrible second she stood rooted to the spot her heart skipping two three beats.
Then apparition-like she spoke: “Hi, I’m Ritu! Sorry I scared you so. You had advertised for a room-mate and I came to check it out.”
Gulping down and taking a deep breath Anita managed to stutter, “Come on up.”
Ritu liked the place and moved in within the week. The two hit it off like an oil well on fire. Their relationships didn’t seem to have many ups and downs. Ritu knew she could always depend on her friend Anita. They knew that they had their faults and happy times. But as time passed, things changed.
Anita noticed that Ritu had been acting differently of late. She seemed listless where once she had boundless energy. Anita was afraid to ask her for fear of finding out something she really did not wish to know. Was she having boyfriend trouble? Problems at home? As much as Anita wanted to help her, she was reluctant to.
“I wan…wanted… to… te…tell you, Anita …” punctuated by sobs, Ritu broke down and spoke with urgency and nervousness. Anita gently hugged her, hoping that her strength and courage would flow into Ritu.
“You’re my best friend, Anita. No…You are more than a friend to me.”
In that instant, Anita felt closest to her. And it wasn’t just physically.
“An..Anit.. Anita, I wanted to tell you earlier, but…” Anita was already going through her list of probable emergency contacts and mentally went through her address book person by person. “I’m…I’m..invo…involved with Peter,” Ritu blurted out.
Anita got the first jolt of the day. “Peter and I love each very much and we plan to get married.”
Anita felt blown. Peter was HER boyfriend. How dare Ritu go behind her back?
Ritu was sweating uncontrollably. She was afraid to approach Anita. What would she say now? She could feel and sense the hurt it had caused Anita. She had also broken the golden rule of friendship and stabbed her best friend in the back.
For Anita, a single line from school went round and round in her head. Et tu Brutus? Et tu Ritu?
She was back to being a kid sitting on her mother’s knee and asking her, “Mother, why is everybody so mean to me?” She had had heartaches by the number but nothing compared to this. Two people she had trusted with her heart and soul had backstabbed her.
It didn’t make any sense. She felt cold and distant and shied away from Ritu, trying to put in as much distance between her.
In the background she could sense some movement. Ritu was packing up to shift out. Anita felt claustrophobic. She felt people had crowded around her yelling at her. She tried to draw comfort from within.
BBRRRIINNNNGGGG The phone rang. The ring broke up the reverie. Finally Anita answered the phone. It was Shweta, Ritu’s friend but as she knew of Anita she chattered away. From the tone of voice Anita could sense that Shweta was bubbling with some news. Anita could barely say, “Uh, hello and um.. hmm..!” Shweta did not sense Anita’s pain and hurt over the phone. Instead she went on merrily “I know it’s kinda late, but I wanted you all to be the first to know. I am engaged finally, and guess who to?” She asked.
“Shweta, why don’t you speak to Ritu?”
“No, no! That’s okay. Anita, I know you wouldn’t mind this at all. I am engaged to a software guy whom Ritu introduced me to at a party.”
Anita could sense the blow before it fell. “Don’t tell me”, she blurted. But Shweta could not be controlled. She spoke rapidly, “You see its like sort of pulling the rug from under Ritu’s feet. I am hoping you would tell her that I and Peter are going steady.” “Anita…Anita, are you there?” Anita let the handset slide out of her hand. She sat on her bed in silence and looked at the picture of Peter that was framed on her desk.
When she heard it Ritu felt a dull ache creeping up from within her. She started to sway. Next thing that she knew was waking up under bright lights and a nurse standing next to her. The nurse approached Ritu. “You took a nasty fall!” “WHAT?” Ritu looked all around her. There by her bedside was Anita. Her best friend whom she had befriended but backstabbed later. Anita gave a silent nod of understanding.
Ritu put up her hands and Anita bent down and the two friends hugged each other tightly in silent shared grief.