She’s coming back, finally!” Sree exclaimed.
Shreya frowned. “No, she isn’t. It’s just for two weeks,” she corrected her friend.
Sree stopped grinning but refused to be sad. “We haven’t seen her in one year,” she thought out loud.
The same question was stuck in both their minds: would Rhea be the same as before? Would she like them as much as she did before she moved to the States?
The next Sunday, Sree and Shreya waited eagerly at the airport gate. Shreya’s parents were with them. The girls kept looking at the huge board that showed which flights had arrived or were on their way. Thankfully, the flight arrived on time, or Sree would have bitten off all her nails!
“Stop biting your nails,” ordered Shreya.
Sree replied, “Can’t help it. It’s a habit.”
Her friend made a face and sipped on her mango drink. It was a hot day and she was in no mood to fight.
Suddenly, the big board said that Rhea’s flight had reached on time. The girls tried to get a view of the arriving passengers but there were too many tall adults blocking their view. They managed to squeeze themselves to the front of the waiting crowd.
“Girls, Rhea and aunty need to collect their suitcases first. It will take some time,” explained Shreya’s mother.
So they waited. Sree was about to bite her nails again when she heard a familiar voice shout, “Sree! Shreya! I’m here.”
Rhea ran through the crowd with her small suitcase rolling behind her. She hugged them both tightly, while her mother said hello to everybody. It had been two long flights, so Rhea and her mother looked tired.
“You must be hungry,” said Shreya.
“Yeah, I am. I can’t wait to have some luchi and alur dom,” said Rhea’s mom.
Rhea wrinkled her nose. She didn’t like Bengali food these days. She preferred the pasta and sandwiches that her friend’s parents served her when she visited their houses. Her mom knew that. She patted her head and said, “You must miss your grandmother’s cooking. Enjoy it while you can.”
They dropped the tired travellers home and went their separate ways. Shreya and Sree were upset because Rhea hadn’t talked much in the car. Plus, they had noticed something; Rhea had an American accent. She sounded different. They didn’t like it.
“Sree, did you notice how she speaks like a foreigner?” Shreya nodded.
The next day, the three friends met at Sree’s house. They were hoping to spend a lazy day, lying around the house, talking about their lives.
Rhea asked, “So what is new at school?”
The other girls looked at each other. They wondered for a minute. Then they realised that things were exactly the same as before. Nothing changed in their little school. Every year, they had the same classmates and the same group of teachers coming in for one period after the next. Even their tiffins were the same. Sandwiches one day. Roti and vegetables on another. Sometimes rolls filled with paneer or chicken. No new boys had joined. They still had the same annoying boys in class who teased Sree about her skinny long legs and Shreya about her round cheeks.
“Nothing new with us,” Sree finally answered.
Rhea looked surprised. She had expected some news about a new teacher or a new student or some new rules at least.
“How’s school in America?” Shreya asked curiously.
Rhea smiled. She looked so happy at the mention of her school. She told them about how she had tried out for the class volleyball team.
“They let us try out for any sport we want to play. There are 15 teams to choose from,” she told them. They were impressed.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)