She was so engrossed in perfecting her Santa Claus that the teacher had to call her twice. “Abha, come here.”
Carefully putting down her new crayons, Abha went to the teacher with dread. She knew she didn’t have a good track record with teachers and so every time one of them called her, she would sweat and worry.
“Did you steal Nabh’s pencils?”
Abha was so stunned by the question that she didn’t know what to reply.
Taking Abha’s silence as guilt, the teacher sternly asked her again. “Answer me, did you or did you not steal Nabh’s pencils?”
“No…no, ma’am.” Abha’s voice quivered with terror. She hadn’t stolen any pencils. She knew stealing was bad and that God would punish her for it. She didn’t want God to hate her. Grandma had said that whosoever steals anything from anyone goes straight to hell and it was very hot in hell. She loved God. God didn’t live in hell. He lived in heaven where flowers bloomed and everybody played throughout the day.
“Are you lying? Admit it right now. We know you love to lie.”
“But ma’am I am not lying. I have my pencils with me. I don’t want anyone else’s pencils.”
“Stop lying Abha. Nabh says you stole his pencils and so you must have. Nabh has never ever lied in his life, unlike you. Go and bring your diary. I will write a note to your parents. They will need to come down and meet me tomorrow.”
Abha knew it was useless to protest her innocence. Nobody would believe her and her parents will be called.
Just when she was dejectedly walking out of the classroom at the end of the day, Nabh stopped her.
“Hey liar, how does it feel now?” Nabh asked her with a smirk.
Abha couldn’t control her resentment and yelled at him. “Why did you lie like that? When did I steal your pencils? I don’t even know which pencils you use.”
“I know you didn’t steal my pencils. In fact, my pencils are here in my compass box. See.” Seeing the pencils in Nabh’s compass box, Abha’s rage knew no bounds. She wanted to hit him again and again. But she knew she couldn’t do it. Last time she had hit her brother, she was denied cartoon time by her mother. She loved Tom & Jerry. She didn’t want to miss it again.
Deciding it was better to go home and tear up few things than hit Nabh, Abha started walking away.
“Hey liar, don’t you want to know why I did it?”
Although it didn’t make any difference to Abha why he did it because her parents were called anyway, Abha turned around slowly. “Why?”
“Because yesterday you dared to defeat me in the race. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is better than me. Let this be a little lesson for you. Don’t ever participate in races if I am participating. Otherwise, next time the accusation won’t be about stealing. It will be much more than that.”
Abha was revolted and disgusted by Nabh. Grandma had told her stories about people like him. Until now she had thought that those people just belonged in the stories. How wrong she was!
As the home neared, Abha grew more and more reluctant to go. To delay going to home, she kicked pebbles on the road and played with the roadside street dogs. The dogs knew her as she feed them biscuits regularly while going to and fro to school. She even stopped couple of times and drank water from her water bottle deeply.
When she knew she couldn’t avoid the inevitable, she rang the bell.
“Thank God you are here. I’d started worrying. Why are you late today?”
“Nothing mom. I guess I was just walking slowly today. What’s for lunch? I am very hungry.”
“Go and change. I will serve on the dining table.”
Abha took as much time as she could. She didn’t know how to tell her mother about today’s episode. And even if she did tell the truth, who would believe her? In the past she had told some lies and now those lies were haunting her. But those lies were small lies about homework and cheating while playing games. Stealing was no small thing. Why, God could send her to the hell for the rest of her life. Was she so stupid to risk that? Apparently everybody believed so.
“Abha, stop playing around with your lunch. Start eating. You said you were hungry and now you are not eating.”
Seeing her daughter so sad and down, Kirti wondered what could be possibly wrong. Today morning Abha was so happy about the evening’s movie plans and now this.
“Abha, how was your school today?”
As Abha didn’t want to lie, she continued to look down at her plate and pushed the food around.
“Abha, look at me.”
When Abha looked at her with soulful expressions, Kirti’s heart went out to her. She got up and sat beside Abha.
“Abha, tell me what’s wrong. Whatever it is, we will deal together. You are not alone. Tell me. Please.”
Abha couldn’t contain her anguish any longer. She flung herself on her mother’s lap and started crying earnestly.
“Mo..mom! Today Nabh complained to the teacher that I stole his pencils. But I haven’t done so. The teacher doesn’t believe me and she has called you tomorrow. Mom, I swear I haven’t stolen his pencils.”
“My darling, if you say you haven’t then of course you haven’t. I completely believe you.”
Abha was stunned. How did her mother believe her right away? She didn’t even ask to check her bag.
“But mom, how do you know I am telling the truth? I have told lies in the past, haven’t I?”
“Darling, you do realize that lying is bad, don’t you?”
“And are you lying right now?”
“Then you are saying the truth. I have full confidence that you have learnt from your past mistakes. And more importantly, I believe in you, my little angel. Now stop crying.“ Kirti kissed her and caressed her.
Seeing her mother’s unshakable faith in her, Abha clung to her mother and vowed never to lie again, no matter how small those lies were. She will never ever break her mother’s conviction. One day, her mother will be proud of her.
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