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Why does it taste bitter?

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I love sweets. I am obsessed with sweet things. Even in the most vague and faded yet blissful memories of my childhood I remember my mouth feeling sweet even if I hadn’t eaten anything, it was always sweet yet these days even if I eat sweets…

“Sakshi! How did you lose so many marks? I thought you studied well this time.” My mother yelled lividly.

Yup! I did well though. I got four less than the highest score. I thought, avoiding her eyes.

 “There are children who’ve scored full marks, right? And you’re just as smart as them.”

Yeah, so what?

“It means you just have to work a little harder.”

 Like hell! Those maniacs study until their minds get fuzzy and eyes are dead. Not like they want to, I am sure they have it rougher than me at home. Pitiful beings.

“Even your friend Ritu, she may not be the brightest but submits all assignments on time and does fairly well.”

Ha! She makes that bookworm four-eyes Ankit do it even though she likes Dev. She even wrote a love letter!  But that blind and dumb four-eyes is only good at acing tests.

“Look child, I am not trying to pressure you.” She said in a seemingly tranquil voice.

Of course! You’re not.

“What’s done is done. Try harder next time, alright?” she said in a tired voice.

“YES, I WILL.” Those were the only words I said out loud. We didn’t look at each other’s faces. I wonder what expression she made.

Earlier, I would voice my thoughts but my voice never reached her rather she didn’t want to hear it. She’d brush them off as excuses. Things started to get annoying so I stopped. But then this started happening…

Ugh… This repulsive and nauseating feeling …BITTER BITTER BITTER…

This bitterness in my mouth is repulsive. Ugh …I’m gonna throw up!

The words I swallow leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I absolutely loathe it! Candy, chocolates, cakes, cream or caramel. They’re sweet but only for a while. I have to deal with it more often these days. To the point that sweetness feels nostalgic.

I don’t know, why does it taste bitter?

I went to the bathroom, gargled my mouth, washed my face and looked into the mirror.

My eyes were red. I don’t know why.

I wonder what expression she made. I only wondered but didn’t dare look at it. ‘Cause I knew looking at it would render my mouth worse.

 I went to the dark balcony, lit up only the orange streetlight nearby and sat down for some cool air. I brushed my hair back with my fingers staring into space.

Hmm…Ritu, eh? I wonder if she’ll like the gift I prepared for slave-driving four-eyes. It should be sweet. I chuckled a little.

Next day, as expected, the atmosphere in class was awkward. Ritu’s eyes were teary.

 Oh! How wretched that face looks! O Damsel in despair, how painful is that love, do you understand now? I still had mercy on you by not enslaving you to that unrequited love.

Sweet! This is sweet.

 Oh my, I got too excited. Ha-ha… Let’s first pick the fruit of my labour.

“Ritu? Why are you crying?” I asked in a gentle voice sitting beside her.

“I…I lost that love letter!” she cried.

‘Cause I stole it, bitch!

“Is that so?” I gasped.

It was supposed to be sweet but somehow it was bitter.

I think last night’s bitterness is acting up.

“Somehow, Dev found that letter and confronted me. I…I accepted and confessed in confusion! He politely tu..turned me down. I mean it was obvious we’ve barely spoken and don’t know each other but…but…” she wailed.

“De…Dev found it?” I asked genuinely surprised. She wailed like a baby.

Huh…this was not what I had planned. Ugh…four-eyes must’ve messed up! I told him that the letter must ‘accidently’ fall into Ritu’s archenemy Nisha’s hands. Then she’d definitely tease Ritu with it. But the letter would be ‘lost’ before people know of it. Hence, only rumours will remain. Ritu will be forced to let go of four-eyes because she’ll fall into the public’s eyes for a while. Dev will be forced to notice her and then whatever unfolds…

I was only going to make up for the damage I caused…That’s how it was supposed to be…but damn that four-eyes…

­ I took out a candy to eat and walked outside the class. Sugar helps brain function. A glimpse of her tears flashed.

Candy sure is sweet but why is my mouth bitter?

Anyways, primary objectives are fulfilled. She’ll have to let go of four-eyes and as for Dev, if she really loves him, she’ll do it again anyway. I’ll help her. I have to clean up my mess, even four-eye’s share.

 Damn… this was sweet at first but is leaving a bitter aftertaste.

In the middle of this brainstorming, a voice called.

“Sakshi”

I knew who it was. That four-eyes has guts to call me out after that mess. I turned my face and said,

“Ah…Ankit, Ritu will treat you better as promised. Don’t worry about that mess. I’ll do something about it.  Just remember you owe me one. You can settle it with some sweets.”

I was just about to go on my way when I heard him giggle.

“I messed up? I thought I delivered it to the correct recipient.” He grinned.

His aura exuded strength and little hysteria. Something always felt off .There were rumours of him being a pushover but I’ve never seen him being meek around anyone other than us.

“Bastard, finally showing your true colours?” I said, grinning.

“Oh dear, you make it sound as if I was two-faced.” He said faking innocence.

“Are you not?” I asked.

“That was just me getting all flustered in front of my crush.” He said tilting his head.

“Ha! Flustered? You were basically her slave.”

“I think you’re mistaken. I did it ‘cause I needed some writing practice. You see… I’ve been having a tough time finishing the paper on time. So, I thought I’d score some points with her as well.”

Now that I think about it he was the one who suggested it. Moreover, in the last test he had to leave a 4 mark question due to lack of speed. It makes sense.

“Still she was exploiting you! You looked so pitiful!” I said.

“I can’t say I hated it…” he blushed.

He blushed? He blushed! Slave to love!

 I had creeps on my skin.

“Geez…Are you a masochist? All rankers in our school have sure twisted personalities!”

“Same goes for you, Miss Sadist.” He grinned. My lips twitched.

“Haa…So, why did you do that?” I asked.

“Oh… the letter? I just thought I’d love to see her cry and then console her sweetly. Her teary face sure looked angelic. I envy you. Wish I could see her close up too” He grinned.

“ Tch…You have a sadistic side too? Anyway, you showed something interesting, so I’ll let you off the hook.” And I was on my way back.

“Aren’t you getting used to my personality too fast?” he said awkwardly.

“Even I lost a few screws in my head. And my mouth ain’t bitter anymore. Don’t know why.” I said smiling.

“Bitter?” he mumbled.

“You really don’t know?” he asked. I tilted my head, perplexed. He scratched his head and looked at me.

“How would you like your mouth to feel?” he asked.

“Sweet! Sweet!”

“I can see flowers blooming around you.” He mumbled, smiling awkwardly.

 I could only grin at the sound of the word ‘sweet’.

“Say Sakshi, if you can answer a few questions; I can tell you why it is bitter.”

“Nah, not interested.”

Who is he to tell me, humph!

“I remember I had honey and caramel pastries –”

“Deal! I want all of them.” I replied without reluctance. He just smiled at me warmly.

Why do I feel like I got played by him? Anyways sweets take priority.

“Sakshi, ‘your mouth feels bitter or sweet’, right?” he asked. I nodded.

For some reason, I felt like he was being careful with his words. As if he was tracing my feelings using the same words as me. 

“Have you ever thought about why your mouth ‘feels bitter’?” he asked.

“Nope. Never. Thinking about bitter things makes my mouth feel bitter too. I’ll puke. Besides, that’s what you’re supposed to tell me. Duh” I rebuked.

He seemed dumbfounded for a moment but quickly regained composure.

“Ah, that’s right. How about sweet?”

“I can’t think about it anymore.”

“Huh?”

“When I first thought about it I couldn’t remember ‘sweetness’ anymore. You know, plum cakes were still delish but not that delish. They were tastier than before but I couldn’t feel ‘sweet’. I don’t know if you’d understand but…”

Ugh… why am I telling him this? Just because he asked? Even I can’t make sense out of my own words.

He took off his glasses and brushed off his hair falling all over his face. Then after letting out a sigh, he patted my head.

“I understand. So, no need to worry.” He said in a deep and clear voice unlike his usual low and breaking one.

Rather than being annoyed at this gesture, I was spellbound. He always deliberately slouched in front of us to delude ourselves into having a bigger presence. His hand seemed big as well as reliable. For a moment, I thought he might really have all the answers. All of what we saw until now was an act.

But seriously, why would he go through all that trouble? Seems useless. 

“Hah…your innocence is off charts in a totally different way though. It’s throwing me off.” He cried.

Hah? Innocent? Me? I just bitched against my friend and he saw it. Is he blind?

“Hey, Four-eyes, put back your glasses else you’ll go blind.” I said, annoyed.

“Huh? These are reading glasses, my eyes are perfectly fine.” He replied blithely.

“Why the heck do you use it all the time?” I yelled.

“Ritu said she likes the intellectual and considerate types. Don’t glasses fit that image? By the way I’m into innocent mind types, personality doesn’t matter.” He said grinning.

“Ugh… no one asked.”

This damn Slave to love (not exclusive to one girl) I guess?

“What’s your type?”

“Huh? Me? Um… Someone who leaves a bittersweet aftertaste? So that I don’t feel like puking every time my mouth gets bitter. ” I replied.

He stared at me for a moment. His eyes seemed to carry a deep emotion akin to an ocean. I don’t know what it is.

“Anyways, that’s the end of the questions, now answer me!” I said flustered.

“Huh? I never said I’d tell you now.” He replied nonchalantly.

“Then the cakes?” I cried.

“That’s your priority? Don’t worry. I’ll give it to you today. Damn, aren’t you cute?” he said laughing as if watching over a kid.

“Oh, that’s good. Anyway, let’s go take care of Ritu.”

“Nah. I’m not.”

“Weren’t you going to coax her? Are you tired of her now?”

“Hey, if you put it that bluntly I’ll be in a bind. She won’t be able to bother me even if she wants to.”

“Well, that’s true.”

“Hey, did you always know I was like this? I mean you’ve adapted at an uncanny pace.”

“It’s not about adapting. Also, I was completely fooled by your loser act, it made me drop my guard.  It’s about being able to breathe easy around your own kin. We both are quite off, aren’t we?” I said smiling.

“I can’t tell if you’re a bit off or totally off though.” He said only half joking the other half of it I couldn’t make out.

“Then I’ll be off.” Saying thus I went back to Ritu.

“Hey, Ungrateful Girl, after that little talk doesn’t your mouth feel a little sweet? At least, show your gratitude!” he yelled.

“Shut up! It doesn’t.” I replied.

As I walked further, I heard his fading arrogant laughter.

 How the hell did he know? There’s no way he could. Even I can’t comprehend this.

What is this nostalgic sweetness?

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