“Can you wake up already? We are going to be late for the yoga class. Get up you lazy bum!!”
Kiara’s voice kept on blaring in Aanya’s ears, yet she could make little sense of what she was saying.
* * *
Aanya and Kiara were childhood friends- Best Friends, but they were poles apart. Aanya was an introvert, often referred to as a ‘nerd’ by her school-mates and Kiara was a wild spirit, an adventurous soul and a top-notch extrovert. While the former’s weekend adventure plans included escaping into the world of fantasy, the latter would plan an adventure trip like hiking. The former was as silent as a mouse, while the latter was as loud as a lion. No matter their distinct natures, their rock-solid bond left everyone in awe. After all, why would a class-topper like Aanya be with someone like Kiara who barely managed to pass the exams; and why would a person as cool as Kiara mingle with a boring geek like Aanya. Nobody knew, not even the girls themselves. The only thing common in them was their mutual love and concern for each other. Aanya helped Kiara get better grades and she in turn would strive to make her boring friend a little out-going. There was nothing the girls would do without each other. Together they grew into a squad of their own- unaware of the rest of the surroundings, with not a care in the world- until the dreadful day.
* * *
The girls had to move out of the country to chase their dreams. Aanya wanted to be a Physicist and Kiara, a travel blogger. They knew their parents would agree only if the girls were together. So both the girls shifted to New York. They rented an apartment together and divided the household chores. They also took music lessons together. Aanya played the guitar while Kiara was a natural at singing. They formed a band of their own. In the morning they would go to a nearby yoga class and after college they would perform in a local café to earn a few bucks as their extra pocket-money. Their bond grew stronger with time, making them a pair of inseparable soul-sisters. But destiny had a different plan.
Usually Aanya would be the first to wake up, but the morning of 26th July 2013 was different. It was seven already and the yoga class started in half an hour. Kiara for once wasn’t woken up by the smell of Aanya’s coffee, nor did she hear a single voice in the apartment. Worried, she went up to the adjoining room and found her sleeping.
“Can you wake up already? We are going to be late for the yoga class. Get up you lazy bum!!”
Kiara’s voice kept on blaring in Aanya’s ears, yet she could make little sense of what she was saying. She had a very bad headache and consequently was reluctant to get out of the bed. This was new to Kiara since she had never been sick, never lazy, never late, never not-too-ready for yoga. Also, it was a Friday. They were supposed to be performing in a renowned café, something they had been aiming for since quite some time, and they needed to rehearse. Somehow setting aside the worldly concerns, Kiara got worried for her friend. “She is never like this.” she thought.
She wanted to wake her up, but thought better of it. Instead, she went into the kitchen and made some coffee for Aanya- strong, with half a teaspoon sugar just the way she liked it. Aanya woke up, her head still spinning with an excruciating pain. She made a frail attempt in cracking a joke about the coffee and slept again. Kiara was confused by then, but she let her friend sleep in for a little longer and set out for college herself, having already missed the yoga class.
“You better be fine by the time I come back. We have a lot to do!” she shouted on way out.
The day passed. Aanya looked good when Kiara returned, much to her relief. They rehearsed for a while and then gave a superb performance at the café, which was liked so much that the girls were permanently hired for playing on weekends. This was a big deal and demanded a celebration. Kiara was surprised, rather shocked that the request for a booze party came from Aanya, who was a teetotaler. Keeping aside her curiosity as to what really had happened to her friend, Kiara jumped with joy and out they went to her favorite bar- McGee’s, hopping into the cab.
Aanya drank to her heart’s content and later passed out.
* * *
“Aanya, we need to talk babe!” said a concerned Kiara.
“Not now Kiara, I have a terrible hangover and I need to flush out the poison. Let’s just go to the yoga class and we can talk on the way back.”
Kiara now knew that Aanya was avoiding ‘the talk’, but she would not let this happen any longer. They needed the talk after all. Both of them had been busy in their worlds, so much that lately they had no time to have a heart-to-heart talk. Kiara knew in her heart that something was bothering Aanya, something that had not been spoken aloud, and something that might eat her up if she kept it to herself any longer. And more often than not, Aanya was found sleeping in late, and the number of her headaches had increased considerably.
On their way back home from the yoga class, Kiara turned towards a nearby park. She wanted to be in an airy space, to listen to what Aanya had been hiding, to understand what was eating her up, to breathe in fresh air.
“Stop. Sit here. And talk to me!” Kiara demanded.
“What? No Ki, not here please, can we go home? Please?”
“No! Once we are home, you are going to take a bath and then head for the college hence avoiding the talk again. Look Anu, I know something is bothering you. Do you think you can lie to me?”
Aanya remained silent. She was clearly in pain. She had just opened her mouth to say something but stopped. “I cannot hurt her at any cost.” she thought.
Usually Kiara is the first person to know about the things going on in Aanya’s mind. But this time, it was different. She had no idea as to what was bothering her friend so much that she had to think before speaking to her.
“Speak girl! You are scaring me.” Kiara clamored. She was getting impatient and increasingly worried about her friend.
“Ki.. I am not really comfortable in here, let us just go home. Please?”
“Ok. But you have to promise me to blurt out everything that has been troubling my darling.” She finally gave in.
“I promise.” Aanya responded with a faint smile.
* * *
15 days had passed and Aanya had managed to avoid the talk that she had promised. She had an excuse every time Kiara wanted to sit by her and talk. It felt like she was trying to distance herself from her friend for life, her own little world. Although it caused pain to both of them, they maintained the silence. They avoided talking about anything except about yoga and their musical performances. Everything seemed normal from afar, only if it really was. Aanya was busy making new friends and hanging out. Her eating and sleeping patterns had changed considerably. She had taken up drinking as a habit now. On the other hand, Kiara was desperate to know and understand the sudden change in Anu’s behavior. “She has changed, a lot”, she thought. She felt helpless but could not give up. For her, all those she hung out with were mere acquaintances, but Aanya was all she had, her entire world.
It was not long when Aanya was found in a drunken state near the Empire State Building. She had been out with her new friends, who ditched her when she passed out. It was only after two that Kiara had started to worry and set out to find Anu, to find her in an unconscious state.
The situation was now getting out of control she thought, and she was not letting Aanya out of her sight until they have had a heartfelt talk about the recent episodes.
Aanya woke up at around twelve the next day and found herself lying on her bed. She was home, but how? She looked around and found Kiara dozing off at her feet. She had been sleeping there all night. “What have I done?”
She started crying, inconsolably. This startled Kiara and woke her up. She had tears in her eyes too.
“Anu, it is high time you should tell me what has been happening in your life. It has been a month we still haven’t sat together and talked. We haven’t visited the Empire State Building together liked we wanted to, nor the Liberty Bell. You have made new friends and have been busy off late. You have started drinking heavily and are not home until late in the night. Tell me for the sake of love, what is wrong with you?” Kiara spoke forgetting to breathe.
“You know I’m the first one to know when you are in need of something or whenever you are hurting, I know it all. Then why is it this time that we have grown so apart that you would not even look me in the eyes and speak to me. Why? Speak to me Anu.” She continued while Aanya kept sobbing without looking up.
“Ki, I don’t know how to tell you this. I don’t know how would you react to it, and I didn’t want our friendship to suffer amidst all this. I .. I just don’t know what to say anymore.” she managed to speak amidst her sobs.
“I am listening dear. Take a deep breath and here drink some water.” Kiara poured her a glass of water and continued, “Listen, our friendship has suffered a lot in the last month. We haven’t been talking, we don’t eat together, and we don’t go out together anymore. I know I have been busy with my blogs and you have been working your ass off at the laboratory. But Anu, we are family. Right?”
After having some water, Aanya finally stopped crying. She had calmed down. But she was still mentally preparing herself for the talk. She had to speak it aloud now, she had no other choice.
“Ki, I am on medication. I’ve been seeing a doctor.”
“What? But why?” Kiara was taken aback.
* * *
A few weeks had passed and the diagnosis was almost on the verge of completion. Now that Kiara knew everything, she kept a close eye on her friend and took care of all her needs. It was now time for a bigger challenge– radiation and chemotherapy.
Aanya had found out 2 months back that she been suffering from brain tumor, and it had already reached the final stage. Surgery was not an option anymore. Since the day she had come to know about her final days, she wanted to live her life to the fullest- contrary to her nature- she wanted to live!
She knew that her friend loved her way too much and would not be able to bear the loss, so she was slowly trying to build up the distance between them- so much that Kiara did not have to suffer or go through the pain that she was subjected to after she is gone. But the silence was killing them too, and she could no longer contain herself.
Kiara on the other hand had adopted a positive approach. She would do anything and everything to help Anu emerge out as a warrior by winning the battle of life. After all she was her soul sister.
The radiation and chemotherapy had started taking a toll on Aanya’s health. She barely had the strength to get up, let alone go out of the house. Her hair had started to fall off as the side-effects of chemo. She even stopped talking and barely smiled. She knew it was time, and it broke her to know that she would have to leave her friend behind. She would cry at times, not just from the pain that was inflicted on her fragile body, but more because she was overwhelmed watching her friend strive to do everything in her capacity to keep her alive. But Kiara did not compromise in her efforts of taking care of Aanya. She took her out for short strolls in the evening; from playing guitar for her to making her favorite coffee- she did it all, until the day Aanya departed from her journey of this world to the heavenly abode. It was just a day before her birthday, leaving behind Kiara on a lonely September evening.
Even after years of Aanya being gone from her life, Kiara never really accepted that she was no more. She woke up on time, practiced yoga and sang too. She now played the guitar that had been left behind and felt even more connected to her best friend. Being a travel blogger, Kiara was never static, but she carried her Anu in her heart and the memories that formed the most beautiful part of her life.
* * *
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