We stood transfixed, staring at the fire that showed no intention of dying down.
“What should we do?” Sreedhar looked at me wide eyed.
“Let’s call for help”, I said. The fire was spreading fast and I knew there was no point in attempting to put it off on our own.
“Have you gone mad?” Girish asked. “Come, let’s get out of here. If we tell someone, we will automatically be held responsible for starting the fire in the first place. Nobody has seen us so far, let’s escape”. He rushed towards the gate.
I looked back one last time and reluctantly followed his lead.
After half an hour or so, we heard the siren of the fire truck. I looked at Girish, panic-stricken. “Looks like it’s headed to the school”, I whispered.
“Act as if we have no clue”, Girish told me as he continued to flick pebbles in to the water. I watched the pebble bounce thrice on the water before sinking down into the river. It was a neat trick, something I never managed to learn.
Sreedhar was a bundle of nerves. “I hope nobody saw us”, he kept muttering again and again.
“Why do you worry?” Jamshed finally commented impatiently. “It’s not like we are the best students or anything. We are already outcasts, what worse can they do to us?”
Sreedhar stared at Jamshed accusingly and added “You can say that, what if they ask for compensation, like last year when we broke those two benches in the class? Appa will skin me alive.”
” I can’t believe that you are so scared of your father.” Ravi joked. “He is only half as big as you are!” Sreedhar glared at Ravi as he continued. “Anyway, the school is closed for the next 10 days and by the time it re-opens no one will remember anything about the fire”
We all nodded in agreement. That seemed to cheer Sreedhar up.
Soon we all bid our good byes and parted ways. By the time I reached home, it was already dark. Grandfather was pacing to and fro in the verandah and he stopped abruptly as he saw me.
“Where were you all evening?” he asked. He seemed very angry, a mood I have never seen my Grandfather in. He is usually a very calm person who never seemed to care about anything.
“I…I was with my friends, since the exams got over…” I let my voice trail off.
He just kept staring at me and then finally added, “Have you started smoking?’. I felt a sudden tug in the pit of my stomach.”N…no”, I answered.
“Don’t lie”, he bellowed. I continued to stare at the floor.
“Your principal had called.” I looked up alarmingly.” He told me that you and your friends set fire to the motor shed”, he added.
“N…no, we didn’t do anything”, I managed to reply.
“Ah…is that so? But there are people who saw you and your so called friends sitting beside the shed, smoking.” he paused as if waiting for an explanation. When I did not come up with any, he continued” And they also saw you running away as soon as the fire began to spread”
I gulped helplessly and weakly mumbled, “No, I didn’t smoke”.
I am participating in the A to Z challenge this April. This is my post in the series – for the letter G