Part One

Samarth Mathur.

He was my best friend from high school; we even went on to study together at university. But around that time, something happened, and quite suddenly, he was pretending as though he had never met me before.

Despite this, I didn’t hate him; No, I couldn’t hate him; not after everything that he had done for me all those years ago.

There are, up until now, two days that changed my life forever. The first one was a few years ago when I was in high school.

I was away for a sleepover, when there was a fire, few streets down. We didn’t think much of it then, but the next morning, I woke up without a family, without a home, and the only money I had was the spare change in my pockets.

Since then, Samarth’s family took me in, even bought me the flat I live in now. I was almost a part of the family, but all of a sudden, I was a stranger to my best and closest friend.

Today was the first day in a long time that didn’t feel like that.

It was raining outside; I had just returned home from working at my part-time job. I had just finished undressing, putting my wet clothes aside, when ten minutes had passed, and I heard a sharp knock at the door.

“I’m coming,” I called, and got out of my desk, when I heard a soft thud as if something had dropped to the floor. I rushed to the door and opened it, as a collapsed man revealed himself at my door-step.

He seemed quite young, almost my age. I tried to shake him, but his feverish body didn’t wake.

 So, not knowing what to do, I brought him into the house, and realised two things: one, that this man was running a temperature, and two, with a rather pleasant shock, that this man who had come to my door was none other than Samarth himself.

I let him lie on my bed, after I removed his wet jacket. I gently pulled off the glasses off his warm face. Then I proceeded to search for my thermometer; I always had one, in case I did fall sick.

A fever, though mild. He would have to stay here overnight. After all, he was my friend, and the memory of everything that happened made me relent.

I kept some medicine and water at the table, just in case, for when he awoke. Then I decided that I needed a coffee, and that I’d have to wait until he awoke to ask him what he was doing in this locality; he did, most definitely, live a few good miles away from where I was staying.

A cup of coffee in my hand, I got back to my assignments for the following day at the university. I was working, and working and must have fallen asleep; I only woke to my alarm-clock at seven inthe morning.

I was about to get back to sleep when I realised suddenly that it was a Monday, which meant my first class was at seven thirty.I had half an hour to get going to class; I pushed away my bedsheet and got off my bed and remembered suddenly that I wasn’t in my bed when I slept last night — I was most definitely at my desk. Sheesh, I thought to myself as I felt my cheeks warming. He did it, didn’t he? Where even was he?

And then I realised that Samarth had left. The medicine I left out was gone, and there was an empty glass lying on the table.There were some other things, too — a sticky note, so it seemed, and a business card with an address. I picked up the note and read:

Thanks for letting me stay overnight and sorry for the ultra short notice. If you want to meet me, I’ll be at the address in the card. I’ll see you soon. Samarth.

I took the card and put it into my pocket. That had to wait for later. Now it was time to get ready for the day’s lectures.

Something was off.

Walking to university was usually fun; good to catch up on the latest. But today, no one seemed tobe in a chatty mood. Not even Jan, who walks with me, seemed her usual cheerful self.

“What happened?” I enquired.

Jan looked at me; she was a first year, and always reminding me of my little sister.

“Someone died on campus last night,” said Jan in a small voice. “Jumped off the roof of Hall 2.”

That did not sound good. My throat was tightening itself into a knot; but that didn’t kill my curiosity.”Who?” I asked her.

“A boy,” said Jan. “A second year, like you.”

Now that didn’t help. I most definitely knew all the boys in the second year. But my curiosity hadn’t died yet. I had to know the name.”Who?” I persisted.

“It was Samarth Mathur,” said Arpit, one of the second years in my group.

Wait, I mean, did I hear that correctly?

I was blank for a while. Confused. No, that wasn’t possible. That wasn’t possible, right? Not when Samarth had been at my place last night; Definitely cancelled out the possibility of Samarth dying on Sunday. No; not possible.

But maybe he left, woke up and left later that night and –

No, he left a note. The note. He gave an address too, as though expecting to meet me soon.

I knew that I had to find out what really happened.

Maybe I could meet him. Ask him what the hell he did. Hit him a few times as punishment for deceiving the others into thinking that he was dead. It seemed unlikely that he would commit suicide now.

I wanted to ask him now. Alright; okay, fine, I did enjoy the thought of hitting Samarth.

I stopped suddenly, letting Jan and Arpit walk ahead. Then, before they could realise, I ran all the way back. No, I wasn’t going to attend classes that day, I thought as Jan called to me.

 I had to go meet Samarth. I fumbled through the pockets of my jeans, and found the card.

Taking the card out on the blank side, I noticed Samarth’s hand-writing:

 Ask for Dray.

 I tried to remember this, but was really more curious — laughing in my head, actually — about Samarth’s choice of aliases. But that wasn’t important right now.

 I flipped the card, and noted the address and knew one thing immediately.

I had to go into town.

——