Darsh smiled as he looked at his baby photos. He couldn’t believe he was already sixteen now. This year he would have to go to a boarding school, which he was quite nervous but also excited about. His parents never let Darsh have sleepovers, even in his apartment. Now that, according to his parents, he was big and responsible enough, he was being sent to a boarding school- away from his parents and grandparents.
“My report cards must be here somewhere,” he muttered to himself, digging the huge pile of memories. He needed to show his report cards to his new school.
He got out a green folder that read ‘my marks’ and flipped through each grade, amused at how intelligent he was back then. He remembered clearly when his teacher first praised him in second grade. “Good job, Darsh. You’re the only one who got full in the math test,” she had said. Although the next day, the same teacher had thrown chalk at him because he was talking to his friends during the class.
He recalled what he was talking about to his friend too- the ‘big’ assignment they had. The assignment where you literally had to talk to people more. And that was what he was doing- talking to people. The teacher didn’t seem to like it, apparently. Being the cry-baby, he was in second, he made a scene. He was teased about it for almost 3 years after. They called him ‘Little Darsh’, not only because of the incident but also because he was actually little. He was shorter than the rest of them.
“Wait a minute, where is my seventh-grade report card?” He said, starting to search for it in the pile, in case it fell out.
“Where could it be?” He hummed, getting up from his place after searching for it for a while. Darsh walked to the kitchen and watched as his mother cooked him food for his birthday.
“Mom?” He said to her.
She was grinding a paste so his voice wasn’t heard by the elder.
“Mom!” He repeated, this time louder. She stopped the grinder to listen to her son.
“Where-” Before he could continue, she started the grinder yet again, interrupting him with the noise.
“Okay okay, speak,” she said, chuckling.
“Where did you-” All he could hear was the grinding noise again. “Hey! You’re doing this on purpose!” He complained.
“Fine, I promise I won’t do it now,” she replied.
“Where…” he said slowly, waiting for his mother to start grinding again. She didn’t, so he continued,
“Where did you keep my seventh-grade report card?” His mother remained silent.
“It must be in that pile of yours,” she spoke after a while.
“It isn’t there. I checked everywhere,” he argued. She placed the plate of food in front of Darsh and gave him a small smile.
“Eat first. You can search for it later, okay?” She whispered.
Darsh walked into his room with a sigh once he was done eating. He decided to read old chats with friends, even though he knew he’ll cringe at the messages. He found his seventh-grade class group. Unexpectedly, he hadn’t sent any messages in the group at all. He also noticed a boy whom he didn’t know in this group- who had sent the maximum number of messages in the group. Darsh not knowing a person from his grade was impossible. He never forgets a name. He was friends with many. Three of which were close to him.
He met the three of his friends- Akshay, Yash and Dhruv, on his first day of school in 1st grade. He was very socially awkward when he was in 6th, always stuttering. People made fun of him except the three of them. They became friends at the coconut stall near their school. A football came flying to Darsh when he was sipping tender coconut water. The coconut fell because of the ball, and Akshay, the culprit of the flying football, ran to him to apologize. The three introduced themselves to Darsh. Surprisingly the next day, being the first day of school, the four were in the same class.
“Hey, who is Sanket? I don’t think I know him.” He messaged Dhruv.
“He was in our class in seventh grade,” Dhruv replied.
“How wouldn’t I know him?” Darsh asked.
“I don’t know dude; didn’t you go to the Netherlands in seventh grade?” He read his friend’s message.
“What? I did? I didn’t know I went to the Netherlands for that long myself.” Darsh sent to him.
“We were wondering how you didn’t brag about going there too, knowing you brag about literally everything.” He got as a reply.
Darsh always boasted to his friends whenever he went to the Netherlands. His father was a businessman, they travelled quite often. His friends were always in awe when he explained them about the Europe trips he had.
“Weird,” Darsh thought. He shrugged it off and started searching for his report card once again. “Mom, I’m not able to find it!” He shouted from inside his cupboard. His mother gestured for his father to go to Darsh’s room and help him. “What is the matter, son?” His father asked, walking into his room. “I can’t find my report card,” Darsh repeated, frustrated.
“Oh, look at the clock! It’s time for you to sleep. You can search for it tomorrow.” His father pushed him on the bed, though it was only 11:30. Usually his parents didn’t mind him sleeping at even 2:30 in the night, knowing he was staying up that late only to research the things that interested him. Specifically, wildlife. He always watched his role model, Steve Irwin’s videos. Darsh wanted to be like The Crocodile Hunter. Wildlife really interested him and he would do anything to protect the animals when he grew up.
And his parents knew that well and supported it. Hence, Darsh found his father’s actions strange. Though he wasn’t probably going to research about the wildlife that night and would search for the report card instead.
Not wanting to argue with his father, he nodded and laid on the bed.
It was 1 in the night. Darsh groggily woke up. He was on his way to the bathroom when he heard his name mentioned by his mother. Filled with curiosity, he stopped to listen.
“What should we tell Darsh now?” His mother asked.
“We shouldn’t tell him yet,” his father said. Shouldn’t tell what? What happened to the report card? Why are they hiding something from him?
He made a mental note to ask them questions the next morning.
“Good morning,” his mother greeted when he walked to the table.
“Mom, I couldn’t find the report card,” he said carefully, observing their facial expressions. His mother took a deep breath before answering.
“It must be in your room. You haven’t looked well.” Darsh rolled his eyes.
“I looked everywhere,” he replied. He looked at his father, who was reading the newspaper.
“Yes?” His father said without looking up from his newspaper.
“Where is my report card?” Darsh asked. His father simply shrugged. “Should I ask grandmother?” He opened his phone.
“Son, how will she know where it is when we don’t know ourselves?” His mother questioned. Finding the point true, he sighed in defeat and started to eat his breakfast.
“How was your sleep?” His mother asked.
“Eh, not very good.” He played with the fork on his plate.
“Why, what happened?”
He breathed shakily, contemplating whether or not he should tell them about last night.
“I overheard your conversation last night without meaning to. I know you’re hiding something from me. Dad, what shouldn’t you tell me yet?” He spit out, not wanting to make a big deal out of it later.
His father’s eyes widened. “You heard that?” he said. “Um, well…your birthday surprise! Yes. We ordered you a new video game. We wanted to keep that a surprise.” His mother spoke up.
“I’m sure you were talking about my report card?” He tilted his head. “Plus, how old am I, to believe that kind of stuff? Just tell me what you’re hiding. I promise I won’t overreact like I usually do.”
He usually overreacted. A lot. A few months ago, they were supposed to go to his grandmother’s. Because of his father’s last-minute work, they couldn’t go.
Darsh was disappointed; he was the closest to his grandmother. Of course, he would be, he spent half of his life with her.
For that reason, he didn’t talk to his parents for about two months, believe it or not.
There was a minute of awkward silence until his parents exchanged exasperated looks.
“Darsh, we didn’t want to tell you this because we knew it would hurt you. We tried hiding it all these years, but now you’re finally big enough to understand certain things. See, you figured out something was wrong just by-”
“Get to the point,” Darsh interrupted. He didn’t know what his parents’ deal was. How big could this… ‘secret’ be?
“You…no, we met with an accident when you were in seventh grade. The accident was not all bad…for us, but you got hit on your head hard.” His father cleared his throat. “You were in coma for 8 months.”
That hit Darsh right in the chest. The truth can hurt, his father always said. But does the truth always have to be this harsh? This wasn’t what Darsh had expected, obviously, judging by the way he staggered behind- hitting his back to one of the chairs behind him. “Ouch,” he muttered, caressing his back. “tell me about it. About the…accident.” Darsh was curious. Curious and taken aback.
“We were going to grandmother’s house again,” his father said grimly. “It was during your summer holidays. You hadn’t even started seventh then. A truck came behind the car all of a sudden and… well, you were hit because you were on the back of the car. We survived with bruises. But you were a different case.”
“We thought you were dead, Darsh!” His mom added, and Darsh swore he saw tears in her eyes.
“We did. We took you to the hospital and got to know it was a coma and that you would wake up if treated properly. But the doctor also said you might or might not remember anything.” His father paused for a moment.
“We were fine with that. As long as you woke up. Luckily enough, you remembered everything except the accident. You woke up after about 8 months and found yourself lying in the hospital. We told you that you had fainted again, remember?”
“I knew something was wrong with your tone then! You seemed way too happy for your son waking up after just fainting,” Darsh said.
His parents smiled at him.
“You’re back now. Alive and good. Unless…” His mother started.
“…Unless I’m a ghost,” Darsh continued. He lowered his head in a way a ghost would, looking at them creepily.
“Wait but that means…one year of my life I was non-existent?” He managed to say while eating. His parents didn’t answer him. He didn’t need an answer. Instead, his mother placed her hand on top of his for comfort.
“We’re sorry to cause you the shock. We didn’t mean to,” his father said guiltily.
“I almost thought I went on a time-travel to skip seventh. At least now I’ll be remembered as the guy who died for a year and came back to life!” Darsh exclaimed. “I want to go back to seventh grade now! People say that’s the best year of your school life. Too bad I died.”
“Hey! Don’t say that!” His mother slapped his shoulder lightly.
“That’s actually pretty cool though,” Darsh continued. “Now I have something to brag about in that boarding school I’m going to.”