Judging By The Cover
Asmi was sitting in her bedroom while silvery moonlight shone through her bedroom window and fell onto her book. The cool night breeze was drifting gently upon her window and moist air formed dews on the glass panel. Generally, the reader would assume that the night was still and quiet, but it most certainly was not. Muffled sounds of laughter, talking and party music were traveling through the thin walls of Asmi’s room. As it was a Saturday night, Asmi wasn’t surprised at how late the party was going on. Pari lived near her house and she was a party animal, a complete opposite of how Asmi was. Pari had invited Asmi to the party as well but Asmi was more interested in the novel she was reading about how bewitching smiles lead to a tragic end, so she politely refused. As she couldn’t sleep because of the noises, she decided she might as well continue reading the novel. As she was flipping through the pages of the book while wiping tears off her cheek and telling herself “Augustus doesn’t exist in real life! Hazel doesn’t exist in real life either!! Stop crying for goodness sake”, she heard a terrific scream. “Aaargh!!!” Startled, Asmi let out a gasp and wondered what terrible accident would have happened. She was just reading a book about spirits a few days back and she firmly believed in them as well. Getting out at this time of night was not the most appealing idea to her but she loved Pari and without a second thought, she grabbed her coat and went outside to go to Pari’s house.
Asmi’s mind was a worst-case scenario generator, she had already imagined all the terrible things that could have happened as she touched the doorknob of Pari’s gate. She could hear angry noises of screaming and shouting coming from the other side of the door. She was not a huge fan of confrontation. Even if people who were close to her would act coldly and nastily toward her, she would burst into a puddle of water and later sob till her room became an aquarium. She had no notion if she could stop the brawl that was happening on the other side. She was embarking to give it a second thought. She was never good at quarreling with people. She wondered if she should go inside at all. “Whatever’s going on in there can’t be something Pari can’t handle, she is pretty tough. I don’t think I’ll be of any use to her.” She thought with a sigh. She hastily shook this thought as sounds from the house intensified. She quickly turned the doorknob and the sight she saw was very shocking.
Hemangi was standing there, furiously pointing a finger toward Pari, while Pari was smirking. As Asmi stared closely at Hemangi, she saw that juice was dripping from her body. She was completely drenched in fruit punch. She heard Pari saying “Hemangi! The fruit punch was for drinking dear, don’t you know that?” Hemangi furiously let out “You- ” but Pari cut her sentence off before she could say anything. “Next time you go to a party, learn some manners first,” Pari said. Hemangi looked around and saw everyone laughing at her. She furiously stormed past Asmi and exited Pari’s house. Even when she soaked in juice Hemangi looked dazzling. She was wearing a golden yellow gown with matching jewelry and makeup. Asmi hastily said, “Wait!” but it was of no use. Hemangi went away. Three expressions were combatting to be on Asmi’s face, pity for Hemangi, concern for Pari, and shock for what exactly was happening. The expression that finally settled on her face was awe, and she strolled towards Pari and asked her “I have
seen an angry girl and a fight in your house before but I must admit you manage to shock me sometimes, what is even happening over here?” She watched as Pari’s expression softened and she looked at Asmi, smiled, and said “Oh weren’t you reading that book of yours?” “I was, but-” Asmi said but Pari cut her off by saying “Sit down, have some hot chocolate, no excuses I know you love hot chocolate, because it’s kind of a long story and I am sure you don’t want to stand all through it”.
Everyone in the party had circled the sofa set that stood in the middle of Pari’s parlor. Murmurs of approbation were running through the crowd as Asmi followed Pari to the kitchen. They had decided that the kitchen would be a better place to talk as Asmi couldn’t concentrate with too much stimulation happening around her. Pari placed a chair on the threshold of the kitchen door so that she could talk to Asmi while she made hot chocolate. “Ah, where is it?” Said Pari as a plastic jar toppled down. “Oops!” Said Pari and then she bent down to pick up the jar on which “Chocolate wizard” was labeled, a hot chocolate powder. As Pari was bending, her black hair was falling over her shoulders and framing her face. She was wearing a black knee-length skirt and a purple sleeveless top with sequins. In all the commotion, Asmi had not got time to compliment Pari on how gorgeous she was looking. “You don’t need to make-” Asmi was trying to say but Pari cut her sentence off *again*. Pari said “You want to know what happened or not? If yes then you better put a lid on it because I will not tolerate it if I am interrupted. So, It all started a long, long ago. Approximately fifteen minutes ago when I was showing everyone the dresses I brought from Rangoli Mall. This dress, which I am wearing right now, is also one of them.” She took a pause, during which she stirred a spoon in a cup of chocolate milk to dissolve sugar and then she handed over the cup to Asmi’s hand. The cup was warm against Asmi’s cold fingers and hot vapors arose from it as if challenging the otherwise cold air. “Thanks, by the way, yo-ur dress is re-ally stu-nning” Asmi said while stuttering. She felt really cold and was clutching tight to the cup, as it provided warmth to her skin. “Oh is it? Hemangi doesn’t think so.” Pari said while looking down at her shiny dress. She took a seat opposite Asmi and continued “I was wearing a different dress when the party started but everyone insisted upon seeing me wear one of my dresses so I changed. Before I continue, answer truthfully. Do you think that I look nice in this dress?” “Of course! I wanted to tell it to you earlier but-” Said Asmi but Pari cut her off yet again. “Yeah so as soon as I stepped out of the bedroom after changing my clothes Hemangi said ‘Oh! Woww… It’s just… It’s fabulous!’ but I am sure she did not mean it. Her eyes were filled with disgust. I asked her yet again and told her I won’t mind if she would answer honestly. She had been acting rudely throughout the party looking at everything with disgust and then she finally said ‘You look just a little fat in it, nothing else. You could get it changed. It’s not your problem, it’s the dress. It doesn’t suit you.’ CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?. In my own house, she was saying nasty things to me and making me lose my self-confidence. Still, that was not when I lashed out at her. I overheard her saying something about my- *my mom!*. I was livid! How could she! I said nothing to her but went to the kitchen, grabbed the biggest bowl of fruit punch, and poured it on her! You should have seen her face. It was so hilarious to look at. You came in
after that and you know the rest”.
Asmi was listening with patience to Pari’s story while staring at the mug of hot chocolate in her hand. It was less warm by the time Pari had finished but earlier when it was much hotter, the hot chocolate was tempting Asmi to drink it. The sweet aroma that rose from the mug made Asmi’s mouth water and Pari had made it look very pretty by topping it with whipped cream. Pari was an excellent chef. Asmi had been earlier at Pari’s house for dinner and never had she even tasted anything like what she ate at Pari’s house, in even a five-star hotel. Everything about the hot chocolate was so tempting that Asmi wanted to take a sip, but if she did she would certainly burn her tongue, so she waited till it cooled down a little. When it did finally cool down, Asmi was grateful but she was also missing the hot sensation. She took a sip and tasted the hot chocolate. It was sweet and warm on her tongue. “Mmmm! How can you even make chocolate milk better than it already is? Like you have magic in your hands!” Pari blushed but said nothing. Asmi continued “So… About Hemangi… Um, what exactly did she say about your mom?” “I don’t know. As I told you earlier, I just overheard it, but does it even matter what she said? I am pretty sure she said something terrible.” Asmi asked “Are you sure? I mean no one can be so heartless as to say something about your mom. I am sure there’s some misunderstanding.” “I don’t thi-” Pari was cut off in the middle of her sentence as Mansi entered the dining room which was adjacent to the kitchen. Mansi was wearing rhinestones studded V neck black dress with silver earrings and a silver pendant. Her hair was down in curls and she was wearing a silver hairband. She was wearing red lipstick, black eye shadow, and thick eyeliner. Asmi was suddenly feeling very self-conscious. Her hair, although short, was a complete mess and she was wearing her pajamas. She stepped aside and hoped that Mansi won’t look too closely at her. Mansi spoke in her sweet voice “Hey guys, sorry I am in a hurry Asmi I can’t talk to you right now. Pari, it was a great party and I had the most wonderful time but I have to go now. Bye, friends. Good night.” “Good night,” said Pari and they both hugged and Mansi left. It was very late now. Somewhere around one AM. Asmi was very tired. She yawned and said “I’ll be going now. I’m really tired” she took another yawn and continued “Thanks for the drink it was Ah-mazin and good night.” “Should I drop you off at your home?” Asked Pari. Asmi’s house was just a few steps away but Pari very well knew Asmi’s fear for darkness. Asmi had not always been so scared of the dark as she became after her grandmother died. Asmi had started having nightmares one year before her grandmother had died and after that, she had terrible nightmares once every month. Asmi hesitated. She didn’t want to disturb Pari but she couldn’t simply go home alone. Darkness was not the only that she feared at such time. So she nodded. Pari said “Just wait here I’ll go grab my hoodie. Asmi waited. She couldn’t hear any talking and the music was long gone. She concluded that everyone must have left and she was relieved that she wouldn’t have to feel she was underdressed. Pari returned in a couple of minutes carrying two mufflers, one red and one blue, and a blue hoodie. She handed the red muffler to Asmi and put the hoodie and blue muffler on herself. Asmi did likewise.
A dog was barking and howling in a distance. The only other sounds that Asmi could hear were rattling of Pari’s keys and beating of her own heart.
The air outside was chilly in contrast to the warmth of Pari’s house, which Asmi missed. She was shivering and clattering her teeth. To protect herself from the cold, she crossed her arms in front of her. She wanted to comment on how cold the air was but she couldn’t find the energy to do so. Pari said while searching for the torchlight application on her smartphone “My! It’s really cold.” The cold air had caused the warm moisture in Pari’s breath to condense into tiny droplets of water and her breath appeared like a small misty cloud. Asmi nodded in agreement. Shortly they found themselves standing in front of Asmi’s main gate. “Good night,” said Pari with a smile. “Goo-d ni-ght… And uh than-k y-ou” said Asmi with all the energy she could muster. “Anytime,” said Pari and then left. Asmi went inside her house and closed the door shut behind her.
Asmi’s phone buzzed and she could hear the sound of her ringtone “If our love’s……………………………. insanity why are you my clarity.” She could have changed the
ringtone a long time ago, this song was at least fifteen years old, but she found herself a bit attached to it, so she never changed. It was somewhere around two o’clock in the night. She wondered who would be calling her at such a time. Usually, she would wait until the phone went silent and later she would text the person who was calling her but as it was late at night she figured out it must be a matter of magnitude. She quickly shook her bed covers and went over to the table where her phone was charging “If our love’s. ” She saw that the call was from Pari,
so she pressed the accept button and raised her phone to her ear. “Hello,” she said with a yawn. “Asmi! Why weren’t you answering my texts?!” Came Pari’s voice from the other end. “Isn’t it obvious that I was sleeping ?” Said Asmi although she knew it wasn’t obvious in her case
because she had often told Pari that she couldn’t sleep for at least an hour after laying down on her bed. She would either contemplate her existence or visualize fake scenarios in her head that would end up making her cry. Sometimes she would also think about how unfair the world is, she was sitting in her warm comfy bed and some poor orphan would be lying on the cold hard ground, “Are they not living beings? How is any of this fair?” She would often ask herself but never could she sleep as soon as she lay down. “Well never mind that check your messages and call me back.” And with that Pari cut the call. “What could have happened?” Asmi asked herself without expecting an answer.
* Asmi saw 15 unread messages from Pari. “Hey” “They made a video of the party when I was spilling juice on Hemangi”
“And posted it on instagem! “Here’s a link to the video”
Asmi didn’t have instagem on her phone. She wanted to stay away from social media as much as possible. Fortunately, she knew a hack to view videos on Instagem even if she didn’t have
instagem. She watched the video and phoned Pari. She said with her voice breaking the sound of silence “Oh my goodness! It’s terrible. Who could do such a thing?” “I know right. I don’t know who uploaded the video but I’ll find out. The title of the video says “Mean girl body shames a girl. The girl gets revenge!” I dropped juice on her because she said something about my mom and the matter ended there!! Why did someone upload it on the internet?! It’s going viral!” Said Pari with a hint of anger in her voice. “How hard it must be on poor Hemangi. I’ll go text her if she’s online. Bye.” Said Asmi. Pari replied “Bye.” Asmi clicked on the green-colored icon of the messaging app “What’s up” while wondering how Hemangi must be feeling right now and if she had seen the video yet. She saw that Hemangi was online so she texted “Hi”. After five minutes Hemangi read the text but she didn’t reply. Asmi soon called her after that but Hemangi didn’t respond. Asmi decided to wait till the morning but Hemangi never replied.
A week later at a public library Asmi and Ananya were reading books together.
Ananya was wearing a red shirt with black checkboxes over a white tank top and denim jeans. Her hair was up in a ponytail and she was wearing hoop earrings.
“Okay, I think I should go home now, Friday at the same place, same time.” Said Ananya in her cute voice that made her look like a teddy bear. “Okay, bye, you can go without me. I have to meet Poornima, Priya, and Pari after this.” Replied Asmi while grabbing her red bag. She was wearing a yellow sweatshirt and jeans. She didn’t need to tie up her hair as it was very short. “Okay bye, take care on the road.” Said Ananya. “Okay, you should take care too. Bye, see you soon” said Asmi and soon Anaya left. Asmi stepped out of the library soon after Ananya. It was a Friday morning and the sun warmed Asmi’s cold skin. Asmi looked at her smartphone to find out the time. Although she had a watch, she rarely ever wore it. She saw that it was sixteen minutes till it turned eleven am, the time at which she had to meet Poornima Priya and Pari to discuss their plan to go to an orphanage on Sunday. They had decided to meet at a cafe near “Gardenia”, a public park. As the cafe was close to the library, Asmi decided to walk. The street was eerily empty, and the emptiness gave it a ghostly appearance. Visitors found it disconcerting but Asmi was used to the quiet of her town. As she was walking while thinking deeply about the book she had been reading, which is quite dangerous, she accidentally bumped into someone. The book she had in her hand and her red handbag fell onto the footpath. She mumbled a hasty “Sorry” and bent down to pick her things. The person into whom she had bumped helped her. After grabbing her things she said “Thanks” and looked at the person into whom she had bumped for the first time. She was pleasantly surprised at finding herself in front of Hemangi. Asmi smiled and Hemangi returned her smile.
Hemangi was wearing a black hoodie over a white frock with floral patterns and combat boots. Asmi asked her “Hemangi would you please join me for coffee?” Hemangi visibly hesitated. She wanted to say no but she nodded as she was heading to some cafe as well. They continued their walk without further conversation.
Soon Asmi and Hemangi were sitting inside the cafe. Soft music was blaring from the speakers. Hemangi ordered a donut and a banana bread with cappuccino but Asmi didn’t order anything as she was waiting for her friends. She was practicing the conversation she would have with Hemangi in her head. She didn’t know what to say to her that wouldn’t sound insensitive. Some people thought she was sociable, and those who did certainly didn’t know her properly. She finally said “Hemangi? I- I heard about the video… I mean, you know there’s a video on Instagem tha-” “Yeah… I know about the video…………… ” Hemangi said. “It must be pretty hard to you. I’m so
sorry for what happened. You know it wasn’t Pari or any of her friends that uploaded that video. She was very angry after seeing the video.” Said Asmi. Heat rose to Hemangi’s cheeks as the recollections of people calling her “A mean girl” and blabbering other nonsense things, flooded back to her. This week was very hard for her indeed. She wanted to cry but she held back her tears. “Why did Pari even pour the juice on me?! I know it was not a mistake!” inquired Hemangi angrily. Asmi said, after a pause “Well, she said she overheard you saying something about her mom Is it true?” asked Asmi. Hemangi looked very confused “Me? Something about her mom?
Never!” Said Hemangi. “You know, while you were talking to Khushi?” Said Asmi. “Oh! I was just complimenting Pari in front of Khushi, by telling her how she and her sisters managed the household after her mother’s demise! Did she seriously think that I could say anything about her mom!” let out Hemangi with her cheeks burning red. Asmi was speechless. She was saved from the trouble of talking by the entrance of Pari. Immediately Asmi explained to Pari that what came about at the party, occurred due to a misapprehension. They hugged and pardoned each other for what had transpired.
Epilogue: Pari found the possessor of Hemangi’s video and made her erase it from the internet. They made a new video jointly to show that Hemangi and Pari were friends again. Asmi decided to write a story based on this incident but little did she know, that ten years ago when she was fourteen years old, she already had penned this tale.
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