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R was sitting under her tree on the school playground watching the girls playing Kho-Kho. She had been instructed not to play, run or climb stairs by her doctor first, then repeatedly by her mother. Her mother had told her teacher too. So R just listened to them. She didn’t play. She watched her friends play. She had started liking that. She wasn’t that kind of a rebel anyway.

It was still early. She had reached school early today. She waited for her friend K to show up so they could go for a walk around school behind the music room near the convent where it was green and quiet and pick dry flowers, leaves and soapnuts. She saw K walking fast almost running toward her. R stood up, she sensed K was worried about something. K came closer calling “Riddhima, I forgot….” R didn’t hear “What did you forget?” “I forgot my report card.” K said. They were supposed to bring back their report cards signed by their parents that day. K was a sincere student, she never forgot anything. R could feel her stress. “But Ms.I will understand. She knows how good you are.” R said. K had tears in her eyes she wasn’t convinced. She was scared and upset.

“Do you want to go get it?” R said.

K’s face lit up “Could we?”

“I think we could, its still early. Do you know your way home?”

“Yes!” K said wiping her tears.

“Let’s go then.” R said.

They left their bags outside the classroom and walked out of school.

Two eight year old girls crossed the main street outside the school and walked two kilometers to K’s house . It didn’t occur to them to ask an adult for help. They reached K’s house and her grandma opened the door. K muttered something about her report card as her grandma called after her, asking her why she had come back from school. They were in and out in no time. They walked, half ran their way back to school. Not saying a word, but each quietly content about what they had just done. K was relieved and R was glad she’d helped a friend. When they reached school, the gates were closed. It was their first sense of panic. They hadn’t thought of the consequences of being late to school.

To be continued…

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