Gemma was Nisha’s dearest friend. Nisha had loved Gemma since the moment she had seen her. Gemma had sparkling blue eyes, which had a tenderness about them. She was a French girl who had come to India with her grandfather.
Her parents were divorced. Unfortunately, Gemma hardly meant anything to them. The only person whom she loved and who loved her back was her grandfather. He had come to India much before Gemma’s birth, to visit the birthplace of his wife, Gemma’s grandmother.
Gemma was the new girl in Nisha’s class. Her class teacher had asked Gemma to sit beside Nisha for a couple of reasons. One was because Nisha was tall. The other reason was that the teacher wanted to put an end to Nisha’s endless chatter with her bench mate, Subha.
The chatterbox that Nisha was, it didn’t take her very long to befriend Gemma. Still, even by Nisha’s lofty talkative standards, everyone found it surprising how two girls with such contrasting temperaments could be the best of friends. Nisha was short-tempered, unforgiving and rash. On the other hand, Gemma was calm, quiet and considerate.
Whenever Nisha had an argument with her friends or had an outburst of anger, Gemma would be the first to calm her down. She would drag Nisha away from the fight and talk at length about nature and God. One day, in a fit of temper, Nisha snapped angrily at her, ‘Gem, you need not interfere in my quarrels. By the way, who are you to do that?’
‘Me? Well, I’m your best friend,’ Gemma said calmly as she planted a kiss on Nisha’s cheek. Nisha was touched. She gave Gemma a tight hug.
‘You’re the best friend I’ve ever had,’ said Nisha.
Gemma smiled back and went on with her reading.
Gem and Nisha had been going to school for three years now. At the end of the second term of the third year, Gem went absent from school for a month. One day, she came back to school, looking all pale and tired. Even so, she was still Nisha’s old Gem. Nisha hugged her and asked her the reason for her absence. Gemma told her that she had suffered from a typhoid attack. Nisha noticed that Gemma was still coughing incessantly. When she tried to inquire why, Gemma just brushed her questions aside.
Nisha helped her catch up with her classmates and taught her some of the tricky concepts Gemma had missed. They stopped discussing films and novels, and started focusing on algebra and Newton’s laws instead. Soon, the exams beckoned.
The results were announced ten days later. Nisha ran to the school. She was a bag of nerves. However, her fears were misplaced, for she had topped the class. Everyone was congratulating her. Gemma too came forward and hugged her.
‘Goodbye forever,’ she said.
It took Nisha a while to process what her best friend was saying. She then dealt Gemma a stinging slap and said, ‘Don’t you say such things again!’
‘Well, I’m going back to France,’ replied Gemma, who was getting paler by the day.
Gemma handed Nisha her heart-shaped enamel brooch. Nisha made it a point to wear it to school every day, even though she wasn’t supposed to under the school rules. For her part, Nisha gave Gemma her ruby ring. They didn’t keep in touch for some time after that. Then, one day, Nisha received a letter from France. It was from her best friend, Gem. Nisha decided to reply.
The next week, she received another letter from France. This time, it was from Gemma’s grandfather, who wrote that Gem had passed away peacefully on her birthday.
Nisha would make many a friend later in her life, but none of them could replace her dear Gem.
The letter that she had written out to Gem remained unposted.
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As fond of writing a good story as he is of reading one, Pravin is one of the most promising writers at Ameya. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.