I tried calling, WhatsApping, and texting but all my efforts were futile. Stella never missed lectures and to make matters worse, I had not seen her the whole day, even in the hostel lobby, her favorite hang-out. I kept checking for the ‘blue-ticks’ saying she had read my message on WhatsApp, but the more I checked the more I sensed something sinister.
Stella and I became friends as soon as we started taking financial accounting classes. We used to help each other with breaking down the complex financial accounting concepts and since I was performing quite better than she was, I was her go-to person whenever her balance sheet failed to break even.
Our relationship has always been purely platonic bearing in mind that she has a boyfriend and I have always been freaking scared to tell her that I kind of like her. I wish she could break up with her boyfriend for me and blah! blah! blah! Stupid, right? (Don’t judge, guys have fantasies too.)
It’s worse when you have been friend-zoned, but it’s even worse when you are book-zoned. Before I start sounding like a loser, let me take you back to the ‘blue-ticks’ part.
Her ‘last seen’ was still 8:39 PM, which was from the previous day. Stella would never go MIA. Something must have gone wrong. Is she alright? Is she sick? A lot of thoughts crossed my mind.
Perhaps she was with her boyfriend and that was why she wasn’t answering any of my calls, checking her messages on WhatsApp, or even attending classes.
This particular one made me feel a bit green-eyed but oh, have I forgotten that I had been book-zoned. I checked my phone one last time to see if she was ‘online’ and when I saw the same 8:39 PM, and the stupid one-grey tick. I felt my heartbeat increasing.
The more I anticipated the blue ticks, the more impatient I grew.
I don’t know whether it was the ‘friend’ in me wanting to tell her how the class went, or the small ‘crush’ in me wanting to finally come out and tell her that I completely dug her. Or it could have just been nature’s way of telling me things were not good.
I had to see what she was up to and I had to do it the traditional way: right now. I decided to go to her hostel for the first time since she had disappeared.
It was 3:14 PM when I got to her hostel. Somehow, my legs were having trouble supporting my body and my heart was trying to outdo Usain Bolt. I don’t know how fast it was beating, but it certainly wasn’t 72 beats per minute.
Her room was at the far corner. I took a deep breath and felt like running away but I had come a long way to just turn back. After all, wouldn’t she be glad to have someone help her catch up? That day we had learned quite a number of concepts and it was like the lecturer was punishing her for missing class.
Finally, I manned up and knocked on the door.
STILL NO RESPONSE!
After a second thought, I checked the door latch just to confirm if it was locked. NOPE — It was unlocked. I opened the door slightly and called her name out loud, “Stella, are you there!”
Still no response!
I considered leaving, but I decided to enter and confirm that she wasn’t actually there. Perhaps she had her earphones in and that was why she wasn’t responding. The room was quite dark and the curtains had not been pulled back. I groped for the switch to turn on the lights. As I was about to turn on the lights, I heard someone sobbing and I paused for a moment. Was I invading someone’s personal space? I now wanted to run out and leave, but something told me not to.
I decided to be Mr. Bold Guy and switched on the lights hoping for the worst. She was right there on her bed. I don’t know the best adjectives to describe the state or her, or her room for that matter. Something must have happened.
The place was a total mess. Beside her was a laptop and a bowl of leftover Cornflakes and a dozen empty water bottles. She was lying on her stomach with her face in the pillow, one hand hanging and almost touching the carpet while her bedsheet slightly covered one of her legs. She was wearing a baggy purple t-shirt and grey sweat pants. I had to comfort her. Is this not what ‘friends’ are for? I poked her softly on her shoulder. She didn’t even turn to see who it was but kept blubbing.
“Hey, Stella, what’s wrong…” I asked sympathetically.
“Why does it have to always end like this?” She said through tears.
She looked up and saw me, but said nothing else. I didn’t know what to say to her or how to console her.
Her face was red. She seemed to be engulfed by boiling fury inside her heart and the pain seemed too much for her to bear. She could barely talk. I didn’t know whether to squeeze her hand and tell her that it was going to be okay or whether I should give her a reassuring hug or just keep quiet. I finally decided to help her sit upright. A friend once told me that if someone is grieving, you can either change the subject to make them feel at ease. So, I tried.
“I noticed you missed your lecture today and since I couldn’t reach you, even through WhatsApp, I decided to come give you an update,” I said grinning.
“Waruks, I really loved him and now he is gone.”
Apparently, she wasn’t going to fall for my change-of-subject trick. I guess I really suck with consoling people. I wanted to know the whole story but I was afraid to ask. I had no idea who she was talking about or even what had happened. I knew this was a sensitive situation and I tried to ask questions that wouldn’t make her worse.
“They killed him. They ruthlessly murdered him…”
Damn, this is getting intense, I thought. I went mute for a moment. From here on I wanted to be cautious with the questions I asked. I was a bit confused. I had a lot of questions running through my mind. It was now dawning on me why I had not seen the ‘blue-ticks’.
I knew she really loved her boyfriend and I was wondering who could have murdered him. He seemed like a really nice guy. I was sitting next to her feeling as sad as she was feeling. They say emotions are contagious and trust me, I was damn sad.
“I hate how people can betray you even when you sacrifice everything for them,” she said.
She was a bit calm now as she narrated how the death happened. I didn’t want to interrupt.
“The same people he had served and with great honor are the same people who stabbed him. I watched the man I adored for all that time die a miserable and painful death…”
“Wait, you were there when this was happening?” I was quite confused now.
“Yes, I was right here. I have been here the whole night and couldn’t leave my bed…”
“Wait, Stella, you saw someone being killed in your room?”
“Hold on, who are we even talking about.”
“Jon Snow… Waruks, you haven’t watched Game of Thrones, have you?”
“What the …. Stella!!!!!!”