The rug was snatched beneath her just as and when she thought that she had control over things - emotionally, physically, and academically. It was on the second day before her final and toughest exam that this ensued. Papers were scattered around her on the floor in the living room. Folders containing the combination of her notes and that of her senior’s left open. It didn't help that the pounding in her head worsened with each flip of the textbook page.
She chose to ignore her ringing iPhone with abandon, but when it screamed with ear-splitting volume, she muddled through the revision mess and answered it.
“Hey!” The voice replied. “Did I disturb you?”
“No, not exactly. What’s up?”
“I was wondering whether you’d be game for a hike tomorrow.”
It was a split second decision for her. “Of course!”
As she watched him working his way up the rocky path, she recollected that his personality contradicted her first impression of him and what other students commented about him. She was led to assume that he was a nerd who prioritised studies and work above anything else, not someone who adores nature as much as she does and loves trekking hills. Her past thoughts about him diminished like a disappearing car underwater and replaced by a positive one: helpful, outgoing, comical, kind, and knows when to have fun. Now that she thought of it, her coursemate warned her that there was a possibility of him being smitten with her like a lovesick puppy. She shrugged it off back then, not believing that it was possible as they were associates, not friends who’ve known each other for months.
“It could happen. I don't want to frighten you, but I also want you to be cautiously aware,” was her friend’s justification.
It was crystal clear that things had changed between them. No longer were they acquaintances, but it blossomed into a stable friendship and they were comfortable hanging out with each other to the point where they had each other’s cell numbers and email addresses. There was an awkward silent in which he gazed at her, waiting for something from her a couple of steps away.
“I’m sorry, but did you say something?”
“I said, are you feeling alright? You’ve fallen reticent.” And you look upset too, he wanted to include.
“I’m all good. Just the irrational exam anxiety,” she lied,
“That was the whole purpose of this trip, my friend. It was to take your mind off the papers. I don't want you to think about your revision. Plus, you’ll be alright. I’ve faith in you.”
“Thanks… I guess.”
“In that case, do you think you’ll be up for more scaling on this mountainous path?”
“Definitely! You thought that I’m exhausted by that?!” She thumbed towards the terrain behind her, shaking her head. “No way!”
He ensured that she was in the same foot rhythm as him before he led the way up the hill.
Refreshing themselves with a glass of club soda each, they were leaning against the balcony railing and admiring the breathtaking scenery of them. The silhouette of the hills kissed each other and formed a natural curve that was contrasted by the different shades of green. The sun poured its radiance on the wooden porch and threatened to bake them with the hue of chocolate chip cookies.
“Tell me something.” He shattered the comfortable silence. “Have you decided on next year’s courses?”
“Not exactly.” She sighed. “I’m still in the process of choosing mine. I’m assuming that you’ve yours all confirmed?”
“Want to share?”
He sipped his drink. “Core courses for the first semester and a mixture of electives for the second.”
“You’re bringing forward the core subject from your final year?! Wouldn't that be torturous?”
“I want to complete the core ones as soon as I can and combine the electives with the training. I’m done with everything six months earlier, which leaves me with some time to relax and smell the roses. It’ll be torturous, but I’ll make it.”
“I would’ve done so myself too, but I’ve not completed one of the prerequisite subjects.”
“You could ask for a waiver?”
“Nah, it’s alright.” She drained the remainder of her soda. “I highly doubt the course coordinator would approve the request. You're lucky because you're a postgrad, so they are more likely to let you do the prerequisite subjects in the next semester.”
Her eyes shot open when the loud, obstreperous music permeated the air in her apartment. She barged out of bed when the digital clock read two-thirty on a Monday morning. The nocturnal bat of her neighbor was in his neurotic mode and breaching the house rules and the standard test of reasonableness. Had it been the holidays or the usual Friday's, she could care less. She understood that he loved music - maybe obsessively, judging from his tastes, in her opinion - and longed for some relaxation after a stressful day in the office, but with an exam in at least eleven hours time, she had to resolve it or she wouldn't have adequate rest for the afternoon. With that on her psyche, she threw on a cardigan and rushed down to lecture the person a thing or two about mutual respect and consideration.
“Are you out of your mind?! I’ve an exam tomorrow and would appreciate being left alone to rest in peace!” It wasn't her best choice of words, but she wasn't thinking straight in her annoyance and she had to shout over the music. “If I fail because of sleep deprivation, would you pay for me to retake the entire course?”
Her anger enveloped him with its rage that it shocked him into silence.
“Because if you’re not,” she continued, “please switch off the music or at least tone down to a more appropriate level. I’m not interested in screwing up tomorrow and I can't afford it either.” She inhaled with a deep breath before she broke into a small smile. “Thank you for your understanding and have a good night.”
Without waiting for his reply, she sprinted back to her unit to, hopefully, squeeze enough sleep to hammer the paper blue. It didn’t bother her if her tirade led her neighbor to assume that she was mentally deranged because she would be if he continued with his entertainment.