Aditya sat in a corner, feeling out of place and bored. Abhijith was dancing with a girl whom he remembered having seen once or twice around the campus. Vina was flirting with one of the boys from their class named Aakash and Shyam was nowhere to be found. Everyone else in the room was a stranger to him.
He was wondering if it might be polite to leave and was looking around to see if he can spot Shyam anywhere when a stranger came and sat down on a chair next to him.
“Hi,” said the man. “You are Abhijith’s brother, aren’t you?”
Aditya looked at the man. He had never seen him before. He was tall, with a pleasant open face, and pair of very keen eyes.
“Yes,” Aditya said. “But how did you know?”
The stranger chuckled. “Easy to spot the resemblance. I’m Savit, by the way. I’m not from the college, I’m a family friend of Shyam. That’s how I met Abhijith.”
“You’re a professor? What do you teach?” Savit asked.
“Economics,” Aditya replied, nearly suppressing a groan.
“I’m a total ignoramus where that is concerned,” Savit grinned. “Just scraped through with pass marks in school.”
Aditya smiled faintly.
“You’re not drinking,” Savit observed.
“I have to drive home,” Aditya answered.
“Hmm… and your parents are on holiday, I heard.”
“Not exactly. They have gone to visit our grandparents.”
“I see,” Savit said, smiling. “Well, nice talking to you Aditya. Be seeing you around,”
Aditya heaved a sigh of relief as Savit disappeared into the crowd of dancing youngsters. But the sigh turned into a groan as Aakash sat down onto the vacant seat with an ingratiating smile.
"Here you are," a strange girl with a bright smile said as she grabbed hold of Aakash before he even greeted Aditya. With a muttered apology, Aakash went with the girl.
"Enjoying?" Shyam took the seat.
"Would you feel offended if I say no?"
Shyam shrugged. "Not really. Abhijith did warn me you were kinda anti-social."
"I'm not, but I'm not comfortable with people I don't know."
"Come and have dinner then. Buffet is arranged outside. You can go home afterwards."
"Abhijith planning to stay here tonight?"
"I think so. We'll be glad to have you too, you know."
"I think I'll go. I dread having to make small talk to people I don't know."
Shyam laughed. "Well, Saina saved you from Aakash, didn't she? You didn't have to make any small talk."
"Not with him. But there was no one to save me from that Savit guy."
"He said he was a family friend."
"Oh him! Yea. He's a bore. Come to think of it, he wanted to stay the night too. And so did a couple of others." Shyam frowned. "Abhijith will need to go home. How am I even going to explain that?"
Aditya chuckled. "How fortunate l did not take you up on your invitation!"
"I'm bad at organizing," Shyam grimaced. "I will need to sleep on the couch too. Never mind. You go have your dinner. I shall bring Abhijith too."
"He won't be happy," Aditya muttered.
"No, he won't. I'm hoping he'll..." Shyam's brow cleared. "I got it! I'll come with you two. I just need to throw a few things in a bag. How lucky tomorrow is a holiday!"
"What? But it's your birthday! You can't just leave your guests and go like that!"
"Vina will manage them. She owes me one anyway. And mum and dad won't mind too much. You did meet my parents, didn't you?"
"Yes, when we came in. Haven't seen them since."
"Oh, they'll be around somewhere. They don't enjoy this crowd, but they enjoy parties."
"Well, if you're sure, you're welcome to come with us."
"Thanks big bro." Shyam flashed him a smile.