Stine Hallow : Game of the Unatoned (S1E6)

“Al l human beings should try to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.”

-James Thurber

                So maybe Mira Hallow wasn’t completely alone in life. Maybe she really did have friends other than her supposed posse. They used to be joint at the hip – all four of them. But Mira had always been the most social with the commoners. It’s safe to say that on a day that Mira Hallow decided to hang out with someone other than Pari, Alisha or Naya, even the Gods looked down to watch the show. Today she sat in one of the beautiful arches next to the science labs. A book accompanied her wherever she went and today, a copy of ‘Flowers in the Attic’ sat on her lap while she made idle conversation with a couple of girls from her class. She couldn’t even name all of them.

Who was she kidding? She didn’t have anyone to call a true friend other than Pari, Alisha and Naya. And look how true their friendship is, Mira thought to herself. A sudden vibration on Mira’s butt gave her an excuse to excuse herself from the conversation. She peered into the screen of her cell phone and picked up the call without the slightest hesitation, realizing only once she had said “Hello”, that Pari was on the other line.

“Meeeera! Where are you? I’ve been trying to get through to your phone forever.” Pari was screeching into the phone.

Without giving it a second thought, Mira cut the call. One of the worst things about her college was the sheer number of phone transmission jamming machines that had been put all around college grounds, jarring transmissions on most of the campus. It gave Mira a good excuse to cut unwanted calls, whenever she was lucky enough to have over 2 bars of reception.

Pari and Amelia travelled in the same train sometimes. So there was a fat chance Mira could find Amelia Stine on campus at that time. The first quad was flooded with people of all shapes and sizes. While trying to shield her face from the sun and trying to find her new friend, Mira’s sleek shoulder bumped into another girl. The woman turned around and stared at Mira with her large, khol and eye pencil lined eyes. She was stunning, to say the least. Her face was the most perfect complement to her straight hair, which was tied (again) in several intricate braids which converged into one single, shoulder length braid. She wore a simple kurta with a pair of vibrant tights. And her name was Cynthia.

Cynthia, besides being gloriously beautiful, was fabled for her sharp wit, ready sarcasm – and her writing in the college magazine. Which is how Mira Hallow knew this third year student.

“Watch it – oh wait! Mira! Hi, there. Shouldn’t you be in class?” Cynthia said, without missing a beat, while Mira stuttered to form an audible response.

“Me? Um…hi. Classes – they start at 10 a.m. 10:30, I mean.” What a fool Mira felt like. She’d never spoken to Cynthia directly, before. She had been emailing her about a couple of story ideas over the last few weeks, but had hardly received replies. She was star struck. Cynthia was perfectly perfect . Everyone knew who she was and it was likely that she’d be the first one anyone would spot even in a large crowd.

“Come, we’ll go and look for Terence, the Cool.” Cynthia had already linked her arm through Mira’s and was dragging her to the other side of the first quadrangle, shoving past other seniors.

“There you are!” Cynthia almost screamed when she saw Terence sitting behind the thick wall that separated the classroom wing from the first quad.

Next to Terence sat Amelia Stine. Amelia Stine! Mira was almost overjoyed. Lately, seeing Amelia was becoming a cause of great joy for Mira. It was as though, the more fond she grew of Amelia’s company, the more her attachment to her other friends lessened. But hell, who’s complaining?

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Terence greeted Cynthia with a grimace when she tried to hug him, and said to Amelia, “So, as I was saying, if you think he deserves you, then maybe you should tell him! But with the kind of things this boy is trying, maybe you should lay off it for a while. Yeah?”

Amelia simply smiled, nodded her head and looked at Mira. Mira asked her if she wanted to go to the foyer and Amelia stood up. The girls waved goodbye to the two seniors, and walked towards the foyer together.

“Spill! What’s the deal with you and our sexy, brooding boy?” Mira asked, not caring if they were out of earshot or not.

“Nothing! We were just sitting and talking about life generally. You know I wrote 3 articles for his pages already.” Amelia tried to mask her blush with feigned scandal.

“I’ll bet everyone is just filling up word document after word document, writing articles for Terence’s pages. I know I am.” Mira winked at Amelia, and they sighed collectively.

Terence’s disheveled hair and large specs just contributed to the air of pure cynicism he had about him. His aura gave off such vibes, that he had almost all the junior girls in the college magazine team swooning over his every word, his every step. How Amelia had managed to become friends with Terence, Mira didn’t know. But they had to be close, judging as how they were clearly discussing Amelia’s love life. But Mira let it go for the time being. She had other things on her mind.

“Hey! HEY! Midgie! Amelia!” someone screamed at the top of their lungs, trying to capture Amelia’s attention. Thankfully, Mira heard and waved Chi towards them. Over the last 2 weeks, Mira had rapidly begun to feel closer and more acquainted with Amelia’s friends from her class. They had been inseparable, and Mira had just been accepted as a part of Amelia by girls like Chi. Mira had gotten to know every delicate detail between Amelia and her friends, like Chi called her ‘Midgie’ because Amelia was the shortest of them all, (midget, you see) and Chi was never afraid to tell Amelia want she to needed to hear, perhaps constant truthfulness was what cemented their friendship, and love. Amelia could hardly say the same. Mira’s snotty friends had made it clear that amicability was not one of their strongest suits. They made small talk with Amelia and even allowed her to sit with them at their lunch table, but it was clear enough that they didn’t want her there. Amelia sat through lunch after lunch, listening to the horrifying accounts of how some girl had worn the same top as some other, and who had stolen whose boyfriend this week. Joan Rivers and Jerry Springer seemed more tolerable, but Amelia suffered for the sake of Mira.

“Have you guys heard?” Chi said, between hugging Amelia. “The dead boy’s parents are here at college today. Everyone’s talking about how they’re going to make a memorial for him behind the chapel.”

Mira’s head spun out of control. Physically, she was walking next to Amelia, holding her hand, but mentally, she was a train wreck. Had Neal really meant that much to her? The answer was clear as day. His spiky hair stood up on his head in an unusual way. He didn’t gel it or anything. But it was always perfect. His large, half closed eyes gave him a look of being perpetually stoned – he probably was, anyway. His nose was massive. It was the most prominent feature of his glorious face. It was crooked – a battle wound, really, from one of his boxing matches – and made him look irresistibly dangerous. His broad shoulders gave way to a perfectly chiseled chest, abs and all. He was an asshole, though. And not a lot of people could get over that.

Mira had tried, time and again, to get over just how big a dick Neal could be, but had ended up being in more fights with him than the piercings on his body. No matter where Mira sat, she seemed to have a clear view of Neal. His back, arched over his desk, doing some retarded doodling or texting during classes, was always easily spotted. He died too young. He died too early.

“Mira” someone whispered in her ear ever so softly, and yet, Mira was startled. Jai stood at her shoulder.

“You’re day dreaming, Hallow. Be careful. You never know what kind of danger you stumble onto if you don’t pay attention to where you’re going.” And with that cryptic remark, Jai made off towards the canteen.

Or was it Luke?

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~

The day was turning into a really boring drag. It seemed to Amelia that all the teachers ever wanted, was to scare the living daylights out of their students. Every teacher preached a different bible, and apparently, knowing how many types of early men had migrated to India a million years ago, was very important in life. God forbid if anyone demanded to know what proto-australoid men looked like.

Chi was addicted to the Harry Potter series and sat glued to the books all the time. It reminded Amelia of the first day of college. As if on cue, Amelia’s bladder pulled at her nerves and demanded being emptied. She got up and walked towards the door of her classroom. She had to walk through two classes to get into the main corridor, and one of them happened to be Mira’s class. Amelia prepared to wave out to Mira, but when she got to her class, the room was empty. Almost empty, that is to say.

Zeke sat in one of the middle rows, looking busy on his phone. His usual devil may care face was somewhat distorted in that moment. He looked like he was disturbed. Forgetting that this was the boy who lied to her, and stood her up almost every day, Amelia called out to him. And regretted it immediately.

“Zeke,” she mentally slapped herself for squeaking.

“Huh?” Zeke looked up with bloodshot eyes. He didn’t look okay.

Amelia almost opened her mouth to say something, when Mira entered the classroom carrying two iced teas in her hand and immediately broke into a wide smile when she saw Amelia.

“Hey, you. No class?” Mira asked and Amelia simply told her she needed to go before the teacher got suspicious.

Mumbling an okay, Mira walked over to a very hung-over Zeke and handed him the iced tea.

“You know Derek has probably ordered a hit on you?”

“I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“You laughed- ”

“And it meant nothing.”

Zeke sipped his iced tea and gave Mira a thankful nod. He had been meaning to ask her a couple of things, but he hadn’t dared until now.

“I see you’re hanging out with Amelia Stine. What’s the deal? Pari got you bored?” he asked cautiously.

“I’m just friends with her. She’s a nice girl, you know. And she’s a nerd, I know. But I got tired of hanging out with whores. That Samuel thing was the limit. I don’t know if I can tolerate any more of Pari. She’s got to be taken care of.” Mira didn’t see any point in trying to hide things from Zeke. They had been through a lot, and lately, he was turning out to be a better friend than a lot of other people.

“I think Amelia’s weird.” Zeke had concluded.

“I think we should go to the foyer. People would be wondering where I disappeared off to.”

“Um..why don’t you go. I don’t think sunlight is the right thing for me right now. Yeah?”

With a soft “Sure” and a pat on Zeke’s head, Mira headed out towards the stairs. Once she reached the landing, she took out her book and iPod, and looked for an empty spot in the very crowded foyer. Terence-Sha and Terence-Ric sat, canoodling, on one of the benches to her right, and Jai and Jennifer sat at one of the tables on the other side. Not willing to make any conversation, Mira took a seat behind a large group of people who had a guitar in hand and were probably trying to sing.

10 minutes into her peaceful shut out, she felt someone prod on her back. Taking her earphones off and turning around, she saw the most astonishing sight ever. Samuel stood behind her.

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But he wasn’t looking at her. He hadn’t prodded her. It was his holier than thou best friend Justin who had poked her. Everything seemed to have slowed down as Mira Hallow took in the sight of the senior boy she was in love with. He constantly ran a clumsy hand through his tousled black, brown hair, making the sweat on his face glisten as the sun’s rays fell on it. He smelt faintly of smoke and cologne, and it almost killed Mira to have to watch from a distance instead of touching him everywhere. Shaking herself out of the thoughts she was having, she looked up at Justin and asked “What?”.

“Have you seen Zeke?”

How could Mira think of Zeke when Samuel stood so close to her? How could she concentrate on anything when his masculine gaze was fixed on Pari, who was making her way towards Mira?

 

Wait – what?

Pari? Why was Samuel looking at Pari? Justin impatiently snapped his fingers at Mira and she replied hastily, “Lecture Room 27. He’s not too well, so no loud noises please.”

She stared intently at what she thought was an awkward eye contact between Samuel, the Sexy and Pari, the Pathetic Friend. Samuel gently nodded his head and walked towards the stairs Mira had just come down. It could have been an illusion. He couldn’t actually have nodded at Pari. It was impossible.

“The last two lectures have been cancelled, book worm.” Pari spat out at Mira.

~

As the bell rung at 2:40 p.m. Mira, Pari, Alisha and Naya found themselves in the mostly empty Lecture Room 27. “We haven’t hung out together in ages! I mean, lectures barely even count, no?” Alisha had remarked while she worked her long fingers on the overused keypad of her phone. Everyone had nodded in agreement. But now that they were hanging out alone, together, none of them knew what to talk about! Especially Naya – she kept glancing at the main door of the room, as though waiting for someone to enter and rescue her.

Mira’s phone buzzed on the wooden desk she sat on. Amelia Stine was calling.

 

“Hey” Mira went.

“Hey” Amelia went.

“I have this lecture free. Wanna hang out?” that was Amelia too.

Of course Mira wanted to hang out. She’d do almost anything to get out of the awkward group of girls she had the misfortune to call her friends. Amelia arrived almost immediately and after gathering a couple of hostile glances from Naya and Alisha, sat down in front of Mira. They began talking about almost anything they could think of. Mira was actually having a good time. Almost half an hour later, when Alisha’s phone battery died, she had no choice but to look up and talk to the girls.

“So Amelia” Alisha started, “where are your friends? Don’t you have any of your own?”

 

There was complete silence in the room, in that moment. What is wrong with Alisha? Mira thought. Amelia looked like she was on the verge of tears.

“Uh..me?…I think…I should…go?” Amelia said quietly as she picked up her bag and begun to walk out of the classroom.

Pari burst out laughing. Her soft cackle turned into stifled barking and Naya giggled too. Alisha stared on with a bemused smirk playing on the corner of her lips, exposing her loose, yellowing, bad teeth.

Mira almost yelled at Alisha, saying “I can’t believe you just did that.” And walked out behind a slumped Amelia.

“Amelia! Amelia! Wait. Please.” She grabbed Amelia’s trembling hand and hugged the red faced girl. “I don’t know what it is with Alisha. Amelia, I’m so sorry about this!”

“You don’t have to be sorry to her Mira. She’s just an insignificant bitch trying to get to someone else through you. Aren’t you Amelia, sweetheart?” Pari said from right behind Mira.

Suddenly seething, Mira turned around to face Pari, and looked her straight in the eye, before saying to her “You’re in for such a treat, Pari, my love.” Mira grabbed Amelia’s hand in hers, and walked away from an irate, and slightly confused Pari.

Could Mira even go back to being friends with Pari, Naya and Alisha again – ever? Moreover, would distancing herself from them even help her? She might end up a social outcast – a burn out. One thing Mira had decided, and that was that Amelia Stine was going to be part of her life. Amelia Stine wasgoing to be her heaven, her panic room. The game was far from over, and this twisted game plan was only just unfolding.

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