Chapter 1 – Arnie

She woke up… realized that she was still shivering… didn’t know whether it was the fear of death or that of not knowing how it would have been. But well, who cares. It was all a dream. Sure she had had it almost regularly for the last three weeks since her family had shifted to New York. But she attributed it to the fear of the big city.

This was new to her. She was from the small town of Ajmer from Rajasthan and had just made her way into one of the biggest business universities of the big apple – NYU. From there on, the next year almost felt like destiny. Her dad got an offer to join a large multinational right in the middle of the New York City. He decided to take the offer and they all moved together three weeks ago.

The school was everything she had hoped for. The campus, the people, the attention of being a good-looking International student – it was all there and she was having a blast. She had made her friends, gotten a good part-time job working at the library and was so far doing good with her schoolwork.

But the nightmares weren’t the only thing that was bothering her. Sometimes she thought that someone was watching her. But again, was it just the paranoid of the big city life? She didn’t know.

“Siya”, she heard her mom, “you’re getting late. I thought you had a class at 8:30 am.”

She didn’t need to see the time to know that her alarm clock had betrayed her once again. She glanced to the clock to see how much time did she have, when her mom gave the follow up call, “Siya… are you up??”

“Yes ma..”. It was 7:45 am.

“Breakfast is ready, I am making scrambled eggs… how long will you take?”

“5… 10 minutes…”, the answer came out almost instantly, without thinking. She didn’t need to calculate or estimate. The question had only one answer no matter how long it actually would take her. She tried to remember what day was it. Tuesday – Arnie will be outside in another 15 minutes. She got up and and rushed through her morning routine.

She had just stepped into the shower when she heard her mom call again, “Siya, beta Arnab is outside. Are you ready yet?”

Punctual as usual. “Tell him to wait just 5 minutes, I’ll be there.”

Another 10 minutes later, she was running down the stairs two steps at a time. She jumped over the last three steps, and then made her way to the kitchen. Arnie was already sitting there. Eating aaloo paranthas!!

Arey, I thought you said you are making scrambled eggs.”, she said to her mother almost accusingly.

“Arnab said he wanted to eat Parantha’s, and I had some dough from last night, so I made it for him while he waited for you.”

“I’ll have one too…”, she whined.

“No, there was enough dough for only one. I’ve made eggs for you.”

“This is unfair.”, she whined a little more.

“And me waiting for you for the last… 26 minutes is fair”, Arnie cut in. “The class is in another 19 minutes.” It was almost funny the way he looked at his watch to reference the time and then calculated the 19 minute travel time.

“OK. Let’s go.” she blurted.

“Arey, but breakfast??” her mom asked.

“I’ll have something at School”. she had picked up her bag and was pulling on Arnie’s shirt collar to make him get up. She wanted him to get up and not eat the rest of the parantha. He was quick to pick theparantha up and then his car keys. He had somehow gotten a parking pass and could park his car in the University Staff garage.

They ran out and got into his orange Chevy Cobalt. He got in, pushed the music volume to the top and she heard Iron Maiden scream Trooper in her ears. She turned the music down. He looked at her, then pushed the volume slightly up – but bearable noise levels. He put the car in gear and pushed the pedal. The car started moving through Brooklyn’s street.

‘Arnie’ – Arnab Acharya was one of her closest friends in the school. Just like her, he was a first year MBA student. But he had been born and raised in United States. He had done his undergrad from MIT and was a math wizard. Despite being a geek, he was the Devil’s advocate in her life. She had three of her five classes common with him. And two out of four days of the school week, he picked her up in the morning, when they had their morning classes together. Tuesday was one of the days. Tuesday mornings meant Finance in the morning. Finance wasn’t easy for her. She hated it. Not for Arnie though. The math wiz could crack finance anytime he wanted.

As the car rolled entered into downtown Manhattan, she found herself drifting back to the dream she had. She should really call it a nightmare, but she didn’t want to. Something in her kept telling her to call it a dream and not a nightmare. What was happening? Was she starting to like the dream? Why wouldn’t she think of it as a nightmare?

The car entered familiar B-school territory. Arnie was saying something, she wasn’t listening. She looked at her crystal studded wristwatch. It had blue dials, roman numerals, and time said 8:30. Did she calculate it wrong? It shouldn’t be 8:30 yet. The class cannot begin so soon. At least not Finance. Other girls in class would already be sitting at the first layer of the room, staring at their Dutch professor. They called him ‘the flying dutchman’. Not many knew what the truth behind that was, but they didn’t really care. It just felt right to give him a superhero like name.

“…are you paying any attention to what I am saying???”, Arnie was asking her.

“Huh??”, she shrugged. The car was parked and he was already getting out.

“C’mon missy, the class is not waiting for you.”

She jumped out of the car and hastily started to cross the road. Someone shouted her name. She turned to look, but a cab was coming towards her. She was in the middle of the road. She was going to be in an accident. Her mind registered pain even before it hit her. But it didn’t. She felt pushed to the ground. Screeches, smell of tyre burn, concrete earth below her, and her elbow had a shooting pain. She closed her eyes, and opened them again. She saw a bunch of people bending over. She couldn’t recognize half of them.

“Siya… Siya… You OK?”. Arnie. He was around somewhere. She couldn’t see him. Then she did, he was crossing the road towards her. Another hand gave her support under the head. She turned around to see.

“Siya, Are you OK?”. Raj. What was Raj doing here?

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