“Am I crazy?” asked Chetan when his friend Harish asked him to propose already to Shilpa.

He continued, “We’ve just joined college. I do not want to ruin my education or hers, for that matter. We are here to study. Though I have developed feelings for her from the first day, I better be careful about what I do or what I say. There are many things at stake here. Her reputation. Our careers. And, the impression we create in the minds of the faculty.”

Harish laughed at him and said, “You sound like a sixty-year old man. It makes no sense for someone so young to think like this. I wonder if people take such things seriously. May God bless you with some courage to speak it out with her.”

Chetan defended himself and said, “You call it lack of courage. I say it has to do with some amount of maturity. We need to think before we say something. It is highly romantic to say that you cannot think before acting upon the matters of the heart. But, I’m not stupid to let such ideas kill my sanity. I’m here to excel in education and prepare a solid groundwork for my career. True, all of us are here for the same reason. But, most of us lose focus when we get smitten by something else. Some are diverted by girls, while others get diverted by bad habits such as drugs and drinking. I want to be careful enough.”

Harish considered it better not to try reasoning to Chetan who is lost in his own exemplary world.

Meanwhile, in the other corner of the classroom, Shilpa had a similar discussion with her friend Malini.

Malini, her friend, said, “It’s been six months since college started. It is so obvious to everyone that you both have some chemistry ever since you both danced in that freshers party. But, you both are so frightened to say it out to each other. I’d suggest, you go and speak to him already. Become friends. See where it goes. Make it possible. Take it to the next level. Stop this game of stealing glances and blushing suddenly at the sight of each other.”

Shilpa replied, “I’m not sure I can talk to him about my love. And, it would be foolish to already approach someone like that. More often than not, every girl is under the impression that some guy likes her. I do not want to make a fool of myself. What if he says that he feels nothing like it? And, do you think this is the right time to think about all these things. Our semester exams are fast approaching. It would make no sense to disturb someone at this time. If it is destined for us to get together, we would get together despite the silence. If it is destined that this should be another story of secret crush, it would end up being so.”

Malini and Shilpa discussed further about this and they decided to skip the topic of Chetan for now.

Three months passed away. Chetan and Shilpa were selected to participate in an inter-college competition to be held in another city. They are supposed to travel together to the city.

Before the trip, Harish told Chetan, “Trust me. You would not get a better opportunity. Use this trip to know more about her and try to impress her. Get closer to her. That way, you need not tell her about your love. But, you can at least learn if she has feelings for you.”

Chetan dismissed the idea and said, “Why would I do something to impress her? She has to love me for what I am. She should not fall for a fake me. That would lead to problems when she realizes that it is not my true nature. It is easier for young to people to say that everything is fair in love and war. I do not subscribe to that philosophy. And, as far as learning about her feelings is concerned, I would surely feel that way because we are prone to believing that someone likes us. It is only after talking to them that we know the real truth. You never know. She might just want to be a good friend. I do not want to end up making a fool of myself.”

Malini told Shilpa, “Aren’t you excited? I’m sure some magic is going to happen in this trip. I can already feel that love is in the air. I’m sure you people will come to terms by the end of the trip. I’m so happy for you. It seems like a fairy tale. Look at the chances.”

Shilpa was not happy with Malini’s approach to life. She said, “We’re going on a purpose. We need to represent our college in the competition. We should not let any other ideas dominate our time. Lest, we get lost in those fantasies and ruin the spirit of competition. I do not want to fall prey to such idiot ideas. This is a great opportunity for me. If I win in at least a few events in the competition,  it would definitely boost my profile.”

When Chetan shared similar ideas to Harish, he was told, “Stop being so studious. There is something more to college life that you are totally missing. You need to enjoy every moment and grab the opportunities that come by.”

Chetan said, “Let us focus on winning for now. Please do not plant any more dumb ideas in my head.”

Chetan and Shilpa traveled to the other city together. They had the best of their time together and really enjoyed being with each other. However, they talked only about the various events and focused on the activities. They hardly got time to talk anything about each other or their mutual attraction.

They become good friends after the trip, but their friendship often got lost in the world of academics, exams, and competitions. They never spent common time to enjoy or talk about anything else.

Unable to express their feelings to each other due to various reasons, they finished three years in college.

In the last leg of the third year, they both again come together for a dance they need to perform in the farewell party they are hosting for their seniors.

One day, as they were rehearsing for the dance, they both overhear the conversation between two seniors.

Everyone in the college thought that these two seniors, John and Regina were in love with each other.

John said, “I wanted to tell you something since the first year. I think I love you.”

Regina was terrified and silent for a few moments. With almost tears in her eyes, she said, “I’ve been waiting to hear this from you all these years. But, I don’t think it can happen anymore. My parents have already arranged for my wedding with someone they found appropriate for me.”

John felt sad and remained silent.

Regina continued, “I had feelings for you all these years. But, I could not muster courage to speak it out to you. When my parents brought up this topic of my marriage, they were broad-minded enough to ask me if I had anyone in my mind. As you never came up to me, I told them that there is no one. So, I cannot go back to them and tell them now that I have you in my mind. And, things have gone so far that I cannot step back at this moment. The guy they have chosen for me – he is better qualified than you and is already successful in his career. My father’s reputation would be at stake even if I can convince him and break the wedding at this stage. Add the fact that he has a heart ailment. I do not want to do anything that might upset him and ruin his health. So, let us forget that we ever expressed our feelings with each other”

John said, “This is really embarrassing. I can understand. Even if we try to bring our topic, comparisons will begin and I will stand no chance. And, this is not a movie. We cannot just run away and get married. It is about two families and having good relationship with your parents, too.”

John and Regina felt sad that they did not speak to each other. They both cried. Regina ran away from that place.

Meanwhile, Chetan and Shilpa were devastated after overhearing this conversation. They could figure themselves in the same place after one year. For a moment, they both felt a bit of shock wave in their minds.

Tears started rolling down Shilpa’s eyes at the thought of marrying someone else.

Chetan broke the silence and said, “I do not want to be too mature. Let me say it out already before things become so complicated. There’s something about you that fascinated me from the first time I saw you. I thought it is mere infatuation. But, it never died. It only increased by the day. The time we spent together only added to my attraction to you. I love you. ”

Chetan’s heart was beating hard and he was terrified about this moment for the last three years. A negative response from her might kill him immediately, he thought.

Shilpa said, “Where were you all these years? Why did you wait for so long? I’m sorry. Why did I hesitate? I, too, tried to be too mature for my age. I’m not foolish to let you go.”

Instead to responding in words, she leaned forward and hugged him tight.

She, after a few minutes of silence, said, “Please don’t leave. Ever. Forever.”

Harish and Malini observed these two happy people from the corner. Harish sent a Thank You message to John and Regina for enacting a play that he has written in collaboration with Malini. They smiled at each other and felt happy for their friends.