The Rejection - Chapter 3
Vikrant stood in front of the mirror, staring at his reflection. A sudden wave of sadness captured his heart. “Why would she call you there? Just look at you!” he mumbled.
He thought about bailing out and skipping the party. Frustrated with his own thoughts, he sat on the edge of his bed with his head in his hands, feeling exhausted. His heart throbbed and sank at the same time, thinking about Kritika, her friends, and everything that had happened with him over the past week.
As he wandered deep down his gloomy thoughts, his computer chimed, bringing his attention back to the moment. He leapt towards his desktop and as soon as he saw an email notification, a smile started to play on his lips. The email was from Kritika and it read:
Location: Studio XO Bar
Time: 7 PM
See you there!
Vikrant’s smile suddenly turned into a sheepish grin and he found himself beaming at his computer screen. Suddenly, the world seemed different to him. For the very first time in a while, it seemed nice.
Thousands of butterflies gushed inside his stomach as he thought about Kritika and he sank in the chair kept next to him, smiling, blushing.
Was it really happening? He thought and suddenly his eyes fell on the clock in front of him. It was 6 PM.
“Crap!” he mumbled and rushed towards his closet. He dug through his clothes, found something decent and got dressed in no time. He did the best to look his best and before leaving the house, he took one last look in the mirror. He felt nothing but disappointment.
With his head hung low, he left the house feeling helpless but Kritika’s thoughts kept him going.
Standing in front of the bar’s entrance, Vikrant kept shifting his weight between both his legs. He held a bouquet of white roses closer to his chest. He had picked those flowers for Kritika on his way to the bar.
He was sweating profusely because he was anxious and in the 10 long minutes that he had been standing there, he had thought about running back a million times.
It was the first time that someone had invited him somewhere but instead of getting excited and feeling happy, Vikrant didn’t feel good. He felt he didn’t belong to the place and that he shouldn’t be there. He looked at the doorman and their eyes met an umpteenth time. Shrugging all his thoughts, he decided to step in and he regretted it immediately.
The place was jam-packed, smelling of food, brews, and hookah. He took a deep breath and scanned for a familiar face. He saw people everywhere – some college teens, some working professionals, some middle-aged men and women, all dressed neatly, oozing grace, sham, and sophistication.
“Hmm!” he said as his stomach got tied in knots. He was trying to reassure himself that he didn’t need to run away. He was still looking for Kritika and as soon as his eyes spotted her, all her anxiety faded away.
“Wow!” he mumbled as he saw her dressed up in a pretty black dress, engaged in a conversation with her friends. He held the flowers closer to his chest again and as he was about to step ahead, he was stopped by a strong thump on his shoulder that kind of shook him.
“Isn’t she sexy?” he heard as someone put an arm around his shoulders. Disgusted by the tone of the voice he just heard, he snapped his head and found out it was Aashish.
“What?” Vikrant mumbled.
“Ugh…You’re sweating!” Aashish retracted his arm, making a disgusting face. Vikrant was embarrassed. “So, she called you after all. Let’s head to the party?” he spoke with a tinge of sarcasm in his voice.
Vikrant was quiet. He walked after Aashish as he gestured to follow him.
“Kritika! Kritika! Birthday girl!” Aashish spoke, grabbing the attention of all the people on the table. Kritika smiled at him, reluctantly as she noticed Vikrant behind him. Vikrant gave her a suppressed smile.
As she stood up to give Aashish a hug, he pulled her closer abruptly and placed a kiss on her cheek, closer to her lips. Kritika clumsily landed her hand on his chest, startled by his gesture but she smiled and greeted him.
Vikrant felt his cheeks burning, he didn’t know why. He looked away for a second, sweating even more. “Should’ve run back when I had the chance” he thought to himself.
“Hi! You came!” Kritika met with Vikrant after she was done with Aashish. She felt uncomfortable talking to him.
“Yea” Vikrant spoke abruptly, adjusting his glasses. He could see Aashish giggling with other guys on the table. His smile faded away. There was an awkward silence for a moment.
“Uhhh… for you” Vikrant said, stretching both his hands clumsily towards Kritika, handing her the bouquet.
The people on the table said “Awwww” in unison, followed by laughter.
“Oh!” Kritika spoke. “Thanks!” she held the bouquet reluctantly from the edges, as if it was covered in dirt. Vikrant saw the way she tossed the bouquet on an empty chair and gave her another suppressed smile. “Sit?” Kritika spoke, pointing to an empty chair on the table.
He sat on the chair, took the water bottle in front of him, opened it and chugged the water down. His throat had been dry as a dessert from the moment he arrived. Everyone looked at him for a while and then completely ignored his presence for the next 20 minutes. He felt invisible. He would just look at the band playing on stage and then at Kritika who sat too close to Aashish, whispering things into his ear, giggling.
“What am I doing here?” he thought and suddenly, everything in his mind went peaceful. He stood up from the chair, grabbing everyone’s attention, looked at Kritika and said, “I’m sorry. I gotta go!”
Kritika struggled to find any words and looked at Aashish. “Oh no! Wait wait. We were just waiting for the band to finish and there – they are done” Aashish spoke and pointed to the stage. Vikrant looked at the stage, the band was not singing anymore. He was confused.
“Now, wait here. Give me a moment.” Aashish sped towards the stage and talked to the band. Vikrant watched him do so, patiently.
“Okay! Ladies and gentlemen! It’s our friend’s birthday! Wish a very happy birthday to Kritika!” Aashish spoke in the mic while on stage. Everyone hooted and applauded, including Vikrant who had a smile on his face now. He looked at Kitika, she had a fading smile and she looked at Vikrant with a strange look on her face.
“Now! I would like to call someone on stage, someone who has known Kritika for so long. He would like to sing a song for the birthday girl. Please welcome on stage – Vikrant Bhatia!”
Vikrant felt a strong jolt in his chest. “What?” he said. The people around him laughed, including Kritika who then gestured him to go. People on other tables applauded.
“No!” he mouthed, looking at Aashish. “Come on! Come on!” everyone around him started to say. “I don’t sing. I can’t sing” he spoke.
“Come on Vikrant. For me?” Kritika said. “But…But I can’t” he said but found himself being pushed towards the stage. “Wait…wait guys” he spoke, trying hard not to stumble.
Finally, he was on stage with everyone’s eyes fixed on him. “Oh boy!” he mumbled as he found himself in one of his worst nightmares.
“Sing a song!” someone shouted from his table. Aashish shoved the mic in his chest. “Good luck!” he spoke sarcastically, snickered, and paced down. He went on to stand beside Kritika, putting an arm around her waist, looking into Vikrant’s eyes with a sly smile on his face.
Vikrant still didn’t realize what was happening. He stood with one of his hands in his pocket, another gripping the mic and his whole body felt weak because of the anxiety that gushed through his blood. His heart was in his throat.
“I…” he spoke and his voice cracked. He cleared his throat while some people laughed. “I…am not at all a singer” he said. He looked at Kritika who had her mobile pointed towards him, like everyone else from his table. They all had nasty smiles on their faces.
Vikrant furrowed his eyebrows and cleared his throat again. “…but Kritika is very special to me…” he spoke. Again, everyone around Kritika laughed and hooted, teasing her.
“Happy birthday Kritika!” he added.
“Sing a goddamn song!” Aashish yelled.
Vikrant cleared his throat again. He opened and closed his mouth a number of times but nothing came out. “I can’t” he whispered and stood there blankly for a few good minutes, looking to and fro between Kritika and the crowd.
“Boooo!!!” he heard the crowd. “Why are you wasting our f*cking time!” someone said. “Let the band play!” “Get down you gavaar!” “What kind of non-sense is this?”
Vikrant was panicking now. “Uhhh…uhhh…she…she’s got a smile that it seems to me,
Reminds me of childhood memories…where everything was fresh as bright blue sky…” he started to sing in a flat voice.
The band didn’t help him at all, they stood still. His dry throat didn’t go so long and his voice ended up cracking. He found it hard to even breathe.
“Now and then… when I see her face…” he kept on going and the crowd lost it.
“What the hell?” “Shut up!” “Such a mood killer!” “Booo!”
Vikrant stopped as the crowd got louder. He saw a paper ball being hurled at him, followed by a few more. They hit him on his chest, arms, and head. He stood still and found his vision blurring. His eyes were welling up now. He looked at Kritika, she didn’t show any expressions at all – if anything – she seemed to enjoy whatever was happening. Aashish, on the other hand was recording everything in his phone, laughing through it all.
Vikrant ran back stage and as he was walking down the stairs with teary eyes, he stumbled and fell down. Aashish managed to capture that too, shoving the camera in Vikrant’s face. “Watch it, man!” he spoke, grinning.
Vikrant got up and started to walk out of that horrible place, feeling nauseous. He stopped by his table.
“This is what it was all about, right?” he managed to speak out in a shaking voice. Kritika stood there, shamefaced but Aashish butted in.
“Yes. This is what it was all about. To tell you where you belong and that it is not with us! If I ever see you again lurking around Kritika or even looking at her, I swear I would smash that ugly face of yours” he spoke, gritting his teeth and as he leaned closer to Vikrant, Kritika grabbed his arm and pulled him back.
Vikrant just walked away – feeling nothing but a lot of things at the same time. Everything got blurred around him and all he could hear was his heart beating in his head, all he could feel was his body burning with humiliation. He walked out, feeling nothing but a lot of things at the same time.
Song - Sweet Child O' Mine By Guns N Roses
Song - Sweet Child O' Mine By Guns N Roses