RAINA CLOSED HER eyes, took a deep breath and willed herself to remain calm. This was her final exam, and after today, she would be free from high school and venture out into a world that held a promising future for her. Today was supposed to be the best day of her life, so why did she feel like something was going wrong? Or rather, something terrible had already happened?
Her nerves tingled and she felt tiny needles in her gut. She waved away her thoughts looked down at her paper. The first question was easy. Economics wasn't her favourite subject, but it had always been her easiest one. She scanned the other questions and realized she knew the answers to the other ones too. She picked up the paper and read the first question carefully, waving away the uneasy feeling that was starting to ripple all over her.
Nothing's wrong! She told herself. It's just nerves and the anticipation of what the future would hold for her once she existed the school gates.
Raina leaned back in her chair and rubbed her forehead. All around her, students were busy scribbling away, and here she was, giving rise to all her fears that had been cooped inside her. Everything was okay now; had been ever since she had come back. Mallika had decided to leave her alone. She no longer heard rumours about her and she had noticed Mallika even cringe in fear as she had passed by.
A small part of her hated the fact that people were fearful of her but the alternative was much worse. She didn't think she could take it if Mallika had been up to her old tricks again.
Raina took a few deep breaths and started to feel calmer. She had lost a lot of weight thanks to Uncle Rabindra' gruelling chores and at least she didn't have to hear fat jokes anymore. Nevertheless, she had tried provoking Mallika once by slowly eating a cupcake in front of her; licking away the icing and looking at her with a mocking stare.
She had seen the struggle in Mallika's eyes as she tried to resist and then walking away. She had won! She had finally beaten Mallika!
Raina smiled and bent down her head to write. Yes! Everything was okay. Nothing anywhere was going wrong...
Raina shuddered as she felt a chill up her spine. She took a deep breath and let it out through her mouth. Her breath was foggy as if she had been sitting in the freezer for some time. She looked around her and saw that no one seemed to notice anything and continued to write their exams.
She shook her head and turned back to her paper. With a pen in her hand, she started to write her name on the paper when she felt a chilling sensation in her arm. She looked to her left and saw a bluish hand creeping up her arm.
Raina gasped and turned around to see herself come face to face with a girl she had seen in her Grandfather's house. She opened her mouth as the water from her hair started to drip on the floor beside her.
She pushed herself away and screamed, falling down the floor in the process.
"Raina! Are you alright?" The teacher asked.
Raina stared at the girl who continued to look down at her. The girl's mouth was open and she was whispering something, but Raina couldn't understand what it was the girl was saying.
"Leave me alone!" she screamed and pushed herself back. Her hand hit the desk, but she felt no pain.
"Raina!" the teacher said again. He bent down to pull her up, but Raina cringed.
"Go away!" she sobbed.
"She's totally lost it!" She heard Mallika say to one of her friends.
"It's okay," the teacher said. "It's just an exam. No need to be nervous. Just take deep breaths."
Raina turned to look at the girl and saw that she had disappeared. She took the teacher's offered hand and pulled herself up.
"Do you need some water?" The teacher asked.
Raina swallowed. "I'm...I...I'm okay now." She sat down in her chair and clutched the desk. The room was still spinning around her and she fought to stay conscious.
"Will you be able to write?" The teacher asked.
"I'm fine. Thanks."
"Psycho!" She heard someone say behind her.
Raina bit her lip and restrained from turning around and slapping whoever had made that comment. She picked up her question paper and held her forehead.
"Silence!" The teacher ordered. "Get back to your papers. You have an hour left."
Raina tucked her hair behind her ear and looked down at the paper. She let out a gasp as she saw that someone had scratched her name and written another name on it.
"Aadita," she said softly and traced the scrawls on her paper.