Chapter One: The Beginning
This story takes place in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, in a small village named Karampon. Karampon was a very poor village. There were some rich people, but most families were poor. There were also a lot of homeless women, mostly young girls. There were never any homeless boys. Boys were the top of the food chain, right below male adults. This is how it went
Government workers ( which were all men)
All girls including adult women
Girls had no rights. People thought that dirt was more important!! It was one of the reasons why almost every person in all of Sri Lanka wanted a child that was a boy. Of course there were some people who did want a girl, but the only thing they could do with girls was to sell them away in marriage. No one in Sri Lanka wanted a daughter, not even the women themselves.
Chapter Two: Why Not Girls?
Now I know the reader must be wondering what does this have anything to do with Neeli Nadarajah finding out what her true potential really was? Well, this is where it starts. Karampon is the village where Neeli’s parents lived, her mother Priya and her father Chandra. At this time Neeli’s mother was just about nine months pregnant. Her parents were praying to Lord Brahma, asking for their progeny to be a boy. They kept on praying and praying, hoping for a son. They never wanted a girl. They thought a girl would be shameful, worthless, and a stupid waste of life. Boys, on the other hand, were able to go to school, get jobs, and have an extraordinary life.
Boys had rights. Girls didn´t have any. But this was going to change. Unfortunately it was going to happen later rather than sooner.
Chapter Three: Birth
It was Tuesday, March 8, 2005. That was the day Neeli Nadarajah was born. Her whole family was there in the hospital, waiting to see the baby. When they saw her, their excitement turned to disappointment. They never wanted a girl, they always wanted a son. A girl would be a waste. A girl couldn’t get a job, couldn’t go to school. A girl couldn’t do anything. They were so disappointed. They had waited nine months, and not for a girl.
“NO! IT’S A GIRL!” Chandra yelled. “THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT! I WANTED A BOY! NOT A STUPID, WORTHLESS, WASTE OF LIFE GIRL!” Chandra was furious. He didn’t know what to do. There was only one thing he could do - abandon his only child. So that’s what he did - he grabbed the baby, and left her out by the trash that night to die. They didn't even care about what was going to happen to her.
Chapter Four: Neeli Nadarajah
So there Neeli was all alone, crying, and hoping someone would find her. Some people say that if it wasn’t for God, Neeli would have died that night. Luckily for Neeli someone did find her, and those people were Seetha and Arjun Nadarajah. They found Neeli all alone, and decided to take her home with them. They named her Neeli. It was the perfect name. Although they didn’t have any experience with children they still took her in. They felt so bad for the child, and kept on wondering why would anyone abandon their her? They were glad to be taking Neeli home with them.
Seetha and Arjun were both very poor. They lived in a small apartment, that only had one bed which they all shared. Arjun came from a very poor family, so he didn’t have a good education to get him a good job. Arjun made a living by selling newspapers. He would only get a few rupees, and that was when he was lucky. Unfortunately Arjun was also an alcoholic. He would drown his sorrows by drinking, and since Arjun did that they would always run out of money to pay the rent for the apartment. They ended up moving quite a lot.
Seetha on the other hand wasn’t even allowed to go to school or to have a job because she was a girl. Although they were both loving parents, Arjun and Seetha would fight quite a bit. They would fight even more when they had to move. As Neeli grew up, it became harder and harder to make sure that she never found out that she was adopted. If Neeli found out, it would tear her apart so Seetha and Arjun both agreed to keep it a secret.
Chapter Five: School
Neeli had always wanted to go to school but was too scared to ask. Neeli knew why they had to move a lot, and that they could barely afford to pay the rent once a month. How were they supposed to afford for Neeli to go to school? Then one night, Neeli screwed up all her courage and asked Seetha if she could go to school. Seetha was very sad about this. She didn’t know how to break the news to Neeli, that girls weren’t allowed to go to school. So instead Seetha said, “We’ll see honey.” Neeli was overjoyed that she might be going to school! Neeli hugged Seetha then ran to their room.
Later that night Neeli heard Seetha and Arjun yelling at each other. Neeli got up and went to see what was happening.
“You told her she could go to school!” Arjun yelled.
“Well, I couldn’t just tell her the truth!” Now Seetha was yelling.
“It would break her heart! The next thing you're going to say is that we should tell her that she’s adopted!!”
Arjun and Seetha both stopped yelling once they saw that Neeli was there.
“Neeli, what are you doing? It’s late - go to sleep,” Seetha said.
“I’m adopted? Why didn’t you tell me? You lied to me saying that I could go to school! Is everything you've told me a lie?” Neeli was devastated. She didn’t know what to believe in anymore.
“Of course not, sweetie. We would never lie to you,” said Seetha.
“I’m not your sweetie! For all I know your names aren’t even Seetha and Arjun!” Neeli ran to their room. She cried herself to sleep that night.
Chapter Six: The Truth
In the morning Neeli went up to Seetha and asked one important question: “Who am I?”
Seetha burst into tears. “I’m sorry, Neeli. I should've told you. I-I-I thought it would break your heart! I’m so sorry! Please forgive me!”
“I just want to know who I am. Where did you find me?”
“Okay, I’ll tell you. It was Tuesday, March 8, 2005. Arjun and I were walking by the hospital when we heard crying from out back. That’s where we found you. You were there lying on the ground all alone. So Arjun and I took you home with us. We raised you. Neeli if we weren’t there you would have died that night. I don’t know who your parents were. I don’t know why they left you. But I do know one thing. Whoever your parents were they were stupid to ever leave you in the first place.”
“Thanks, Seetha,” said Neeli.
“Don’t you mean 'mother'?” Seetha asked. Neeli shook her head no then left. Seetha was still extremely sad, but at least now Neeli knew some of her past. Seetha wished she could give Neeli a better life - a life where Neeli could go to school, have proper food to eat, and know who her parents really were.
Chapter Seven: Arjun
That night Seetha waited for Arjun to come back home, but he never did. When Neeli woke up she saw Seetha crying.
“Seetha, what’s wrong ?” Neeli asked.
“Oh Neeli. Arjun. Arjun. Arjun is gone. He never came back from work yesterday. I’m sorry Neeli, but Arjun left us,” Seetha said sadly.
“NO! ARJUN CAN’T LEAVE US! HE CAN’T! IT’S...IT’S...IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT! If you didn’t yell at him so much, he wouldn’t have left!” Neeli was furious.
“Neeli, how could you say that?” Seetha asked, but Neeli just walked away.
“Neeli don’t walk away from me when I’m talking to you. Listen to your mother!” Seetha yelled.
“You’re not my mother! I’m not your daughter! Don’t you get it - I’m adopted!” Neeli yelled as she ran outside. Seetha chased after her. She saw Neeli crying.
Arjun was outside lying on the road. Arjun was dead.
“Oh Neeli,” Seetha whispered. Neeli hugged Seetha.
“I’m sorry, Seetha. I’m sorry, Arjun. He's dead," she sniffled.
Seetha took Neeli inside.
“How are we going to pay the rent now,” asked Neeli.
“I don’t know. Looks like I am going to need to get married again,” said Seetha.
“Okay, I guess we could do that but Arjun just died - can we wait a little bit longer?” Neeli asked.
“I'm afraid not. It's probably best if I get married as soon as possible” answered Seetha.
Later that week Seetha was still trying to find someone she could marry. Neeli would just go outside and play by herself. She had no friends. Of course there were some kids who lived nearby but all the girls were judgmental jerks and would never play with Neeli. They would just bully her for being abandoned. At first Neeli had no clue how they knew she was abandoned. However Neeli soon found out that rumours spread fast - they even knew that Arjun died. Some boys lived near Neeli too but she was afraid to talk to them, and was worried that they would make fun of her just like the girls did.
Chapter Eight: Marriage
It had been eight months since Arjun died. Seetha was finally getting married again, to a man named Shiva Naren. Their wedding was very long. Shiva looked a lot older than he said he was. He had told her that he was forty - just two years older than Seetha - but when they met in real life he said he was fifty-five. Seetha and Neeli were both shocked. Neeli was wondering why Seetha was going to marry him, but then she remembered that they needed the money to pay the rent, so she kept her mouth shut.
At the end of the wedding after everyone had left, Seetha, Neeli, and Shiva all went outside. Neeli realized that now everything had changed. Seetha would now be know as Seetha Naren, while she would now be known as Neeli Naren. Life was just about to change, and not so much in a good way.
Chapter Nine: A New Life
The next day Neeli decided to go and talk to Shiva. “Morning, Shiva,” said Neeli cheerfully.
“What did you call me?” Shiva yelled. “How dare you call me by my first name!”
“Well, I call Seetha by her first name, and I did the same with Arjun,” said Neeli.
“Well,I’m not Arjun, and don’t talk back to me! It’s about time you learned respect. You call me sir. You call Seetha ma’am. I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget!” Shiva yelled as he grabbed a stick. He put the stick in fire so it would burn, then he burned Neeli on the side with it. Neeli screamed. It had burned her badly ans she started to bleed. Neeli fell on the floor, crying.
“That will show you to treat adults with respect - especially boys,” said Shiva as he walked away.
Seetha had seen everything. She ran to Neeli and helped to cleaned her wound. Neeli was still crying.
“I’m so sorry. You know I only married him for his money. Shiva lied to us. He said he was younger, nicer, and actually had money. Shiva doesn’t even have a job. Neeli, I’m sorry. You are not Neeli Naren, you are Neeli Nadarajah. I am Seetha Nadarajah,” said Seetha.
“No. You’re my mother. I love you,” said Neeli.
Seetha started crying “I love you. too," she said hugging her daughter.
Chapter Ten: Goodbye
It had been almost a year since they began living with Shiva. He was managing to make a couple of rupees, more than what Arjun had ever made. Neeli was now eight years old, and Shiva was still hurting her. Neeli had scars all over her body.
One day, Neeli was outside playing when she heard screaming and plates smashing from inside. Neeli snuck inside to see what was happening. She saw Shiva hitting Seetha. Seetha was on the floor bleeding. Neeli didn’t know what to do. She went up to Shiva and yelled at him to stop.
“What did I tell you about respect,” said Shiva. He grabbed Neeli by the neck. He squeezed Neeli’s throat until Neeli couldn’t breathe. Then he threw her on the ground, and went to bed.
Later that night Neeli and Seetha both agreed it was too dangerous for them to live with Shiva so they packed up their things, and left. They were out on the street, trying to find a place where they could stay. Unfortunately they didn’t find a place for weeks.
Chapter Eleven: Home
At last Neeli and Seetha found a wonderful place to could live. It was sort of like an orphanage, except adults lived there too. It was called “Nojood Althubyani’s Home for the Poor.” The owner of the place was Nojood Althubyani, a kind old lady from Saudi Arabia. She was able to take care of the people, because her parents would often send her money to pay for food and other things.
There Neeli made a friend her age. His name was Sivan Suthan. He lived at the orphanage with his mother. He was the only boy there so he was the only one who went to school. Sivan was a really nice boy. Neeli and Sivan got along with each other very well which made Seetha very happy. She was glad Neeli had someone to play with. Seetha didn’t even mind him being a boy.
Neeli and Sivan played with each other every day. When Sivan came home from school, he would teach Neeli some things from his books. He taught Neeli how to read and write. Then Neeli would teach Sivan how to cook and sew. They did this with each other even as they got older.
Chapter Twelve: Love
When Neeli and Sivan were both fourteen, Sivan was preparing to take the test that would complete his education. When he told Neeli, he couldn’t help but see that she was sad.
“What’s wrong?” Sivan asked.
“Nothing. It’s just that I wish I could take the test too,” answered Neeli.
“Well, of course you can take it. You can take it with me. All you need to do is dress up like a boy and take the test. I’ll take you there.” Neeli was overjoyed. She hugged Sivan tightly. When she let go, Neeli stared at Sivan and saw that he was blushing. She felt her cheeks burning.
“Um… Uh… Well… I… I better go tell Seetha the plan to see if she agrees,” Neeli stuttered.
“Uh… Yeah. Good idea,” said Sivan and Neeli left to find Seetha.
“Well, that is a good plan,” said Seetha.
“So I can do it? Sivan will watch me. Please let me do it,Seetha!” Neeli begged.
“Okay, okay you can go,” answered Seetha, giving Neeli a hug.
“Thank you thank you thank you! You won’t regret this! You won’t! I leave tomorrow,” Neeli said, and ran away to find Sivan. She couldn’t wait to tell him the news.
Later that night while Neeli was packing her things for the trip, she started wondering why had she felt weird after hugging Sivan. Thousands and thousands of questions started roaming through her head. Why was she blushing? Why was Sivan blushing? Neeli had never felt this before, especially not towards a boy. She never felt like this when she hugged Sivan before. So why did she feel like this now? Whatever it was, she decided not to tell Seetha or Sivan. She didn’t want to feel weird around Sivan, and she certainly didn’t want Seetha to find her odd. But Seetha would probably know what was wrong with her and in the end Neeli decided to tell her.
“Seetha are you awake?” Neeli asked.
“Well, I am now. What's wrong?” Seetha replied.
“Okay, so today when Sivan told me I could take the test with him, I got all excited and I hugged him,” Neeli said.
“What’s wrong with that?” Seetha asked.
“That’s not all. After we both started blushing, and then we stared at each other, and started stuttering. I felt all weird, and now I can’t stop thinking about him! What’s wrong with me!” Neeli asked. Seetha stared at Neeli in astonishment.
“Oh Neeli! I’m so proud of you! You’re growing up!” Seetha hugged Neeli but the girl looked at her confused.
“Neeli you are in love. You love Sivan! No wonder you wanted to take the test. You wanted to go away with Sivan. You wanted to be alone with him for a week. You love him!” Seetha squealed.
“NO! That’s not it! I don’t love Sivan!” Neeli was extremely embarrassed.
“Oh so you wouldn’t mind me coming with you on the trip?” Seetha questioned.
“No! You can’t come! It’s just supposed to be Sivan and I!” Neeli answered.
“Hmmhmm. Is that why you don’t want me to come? Or is it because you love Sivan?”
“Seetha stop teasing me! Maybe I do like Sivan, but promise me you won’t come. I don’t want you embarrassing me,” said Neeli.
“Okay, okay. I won’t come, I promise,” replied Seetha. “Now go and get some sleep, you have a big day ahead of you.”
Chapter Thirteen: A Long Journey
In the morning Neeli woke up to see Sivan by the door of her room. She sat up. “Sivan did I sleep in?”
Sivan stared at Neeli and started blushing. Neeli looked down at herself and realized that she was only wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top. She grabbed a shirt and put it on.
“Um… Uh… I… I just came to give you the clothes and a fake beard and mustache. You know - so people will think you’re a boy, and not a beautiful girl,” said Sivan.
“You think I’m beautiful?”
Sivan’s face turned to a beet red then he ran away. Neeli stood there in astonishment then she got changed and went downstairs.
Sivan gave her a hat.“Use this to cover your hair” said Sivan. Neeli did as Sivan told her.
“Why did you run away from me?” Neeli asked.
“Uh, I didn’t. Someone was...calling me,” said Sivan. Neeli didn’t believe Sivan at all. He was hiding something from her. Neeli knew it.
It was going to be a long journey. They only had one horse, so Sivan and Neeli ended up sharing. Neeli felt that weird feeling again. Was it really love she was feeling? Sivan helped Neeli onto the horse he wrapped her arms around Sivan.
Sivan turned around. “Uh, you may want to hold on tighter. You know, so you don’t fall off,” he said awkwardly. Neeli nodded and held on tightly. Maybe I do love Sivan, she thought as she drifted off to sleep, I just hope he loves me too.
Chapter Fourteen: Past
When Neeli woke up she was at the school. “When is the test going to start?” she asked Sivan.
“Tomorrow. When you talk, use a deeper voice - that way you will look and sound like a boy. Got it?” Sivan said.
Neeli nodded.“What do we until tomorrow?”
“We have some unsupervised fun,” answered Sivan, grabbing Neeli’s hand. He started running and Neeli had trouble keeping up.
He brought Neeli to a lake.“I come here to think” said Sivan. “I used to go here with my dad. You know, before he died. I didn’t know him too well, but I wish I did. My mom says he was wonderful. I was five when he died so I don’t remember the car crash too well. All I remember was we were in a car, and my parents were arguing with each other. Then there was screaming, crying, and there was blood.” Sivan started crying. “That’s how I ended up at the orphanage place. I just wish I had more time with him. So, uh, what about you?” Sivan asked as he wiped away his tears.
“I was abandoned at birth. I don’t even know who my parents are, or were … Seetha found me by the hospital. She took me home with her. Seetha and Arjun were both loving parents even if they did fight a lot. Arjun was Seetha’s husband. He was an alcoholic. One day we found him dead on the street. I was seven when he died. Then after eight months Seetha got married again. We needed the money. The man Seetha married lied to us and abused us both. That’s the reason why I have so many scars. Then one night we left. That’s why I’m at the orphanage place.” Neeli said sadly.
“You know I always thought I had a hard life, but it turns out I was wrong,” Sivan said as he wiped away Neeli’s tears. Neeli smiled at Sivan. Sivan smiled back. They both leaned in closer towards each other.
“Do you want to go swimming?” Sivan asked.
“I would love to, but I didn’t bring a swimsuit” Neeli replied.
“So neither did I,” said Sivan. “Just swim with your clothes on. Then we can get changed into dry clothes later. Do you want to swim?”
“Uh, okay, sure,” replied Neeli.
“Wait - go change into your girl clothes first. We don’t want you lose the beard, or anything else while swimming. I’ll get changed too.” said Sivan.
Sivan and Neeli walked back to where they left the suitcases. They had to share an assigned room so they both turned around when they were changing.
They went back to the lake and Neeli had the best time with Sivan. They laughed, swam, and talked. Then they went back to the room, changed, ate, and went to sleep. There was only one mat to sleep on so Sivan and Neeli ended up sharing it. Neeli just had the best day of her life. She hoped tomorrow would be even better.
Chapter Sixteen: Rights
The next morning, Neeli and Sivan woke up very early. They were thrilled to be finding out how they did on their tests. When they got to the school, Sivan and Neeli sat next to each other. They both couldn’t help but think of what happened last night.
“Hello, class,” a man announced. “All of you will be happy to hear that you all did very well on the test. However there was one person who did the best in the whole class. That person is Arjun Nadarajah.” Neeli was overjoyed. Out of forty people she did the best. She went to the front of the class. While she was doing that, she tripped over one of the boy’s bags. Neeli fell on the floor. Her hat fell right off as her hair unraveled. Neeli got up. Everyone was staring at her.
“You’re not a boy, you’re a girl!” yelled the man. “Girls aren’t allowed here. How dare you come here?” Neeli stood, frozen. She was as still as a statue.
Sivan got out from his seat. He went up to the man. “With all do respect sir, who are you to say that girls aren’t allowed to go to school? Saraswati. The Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, and all of the creative arts. Saraswati is a goddess. Did you hear me? Goddess. As in a girl version of a male god. Saraswati is a girl. She is also the goddess of knowledge.” Neeli looked at Sivan. What is he doing? Neeli wondered.
“So? What does this have anything to do with this fraud?” the man questioned.
"Well, the fact that’s she’s a girl, and she isn’t allowed to go to school, is stupid! Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge. She’s a girl. Neeli is a girl. So, if the goddess of knowledge is a girl, then why aren’t girls allowed to go to school? Neeli still answered all the questions right. She studies hard, and is the smartest, bravest, and the most beautiful girl I ever met, and probably I’ll ever meet in my whole entire life. Neeli deserves that award more than any of us,” Sivan replied. The man looked at him, furious. Mostly because he knew Sivan was right. He gave the award to Neeli.
“You’re all excused” said the man angrily.
Sivan and Neeli started walking to their room. “Why did you do that for me? You could of got into trouble. You - you stood up for me, for all girls. Thank you. No one has ever done anything like this for me,” said Neeli, and Sivan hugged her.
“You're welcome. I couldn’t just let him insult you like that. It just wasn’t right.” Neeli smiled at Sivan. He smiled back.
“So I guess we should head back home, huh?” said Neeli.
“Yeah, we probably should,” replied Sivan. When they got back to the room, Neeli got changed. She was happy to be back in her normal clothes. The clothes Sivan had given her were itchy and uncomfortable. Neeli felt a little sad to be leaving. She'd had such an amazing time going to school, swimming in the lake, and spending time with Sivan alone. It was like a dream come true.
“Are you ready to leave?” Sivan asked.
“Yeah, maybe we could come here again,” answered Neeli. Sivan and Neeli got onto the horse. They started their journey back home. Neeli wished that every day could be like these past couple of days. Maybe Seetha would let her come back again. Seetha. Neeli had almost forgot about Seetha. She would have to bring her mother here sometime. She would definitely love it, Neeli thought as she drifted off to sleep.
Chapter Seventeen: The News
By the time Sivan and Neeli got home it was already dark. They grabbed their things, and went to bed. In the morning Neeli was woken by the sound of Sivan screaming. Neeli fell out of bed. “Neeli. Neeli. I have amazing news,” screeched Sivan, hugging Neeli.
“What’s wrong with you? It’s only seven thirty in the morning! Why are you screaming?” Neeli was confused.
“Neeli we’re in the newspaper! The newspaper! They want to meet us. They want do an interview about us! It’s happening tomorrow! That’s not all - if it goes well, then they might start letting girls go to school! Isn’t that amazing?” Sivan exclaimed.
“Plug your ears.”
“Why?” Sivan asked.
“Eeek! You are not serious! Girls might go to school! That’s amazing!” squealed Neeli hugging Sivan as tightly as she could.
“Oh! Uh… Did I walk in on something?” asked Seetha.
Neeli felt her cheeks burning. “Uh… No. Of course not. Sivan was just telling me that we're in the newspaper, and that we're go to do an interview with them. That’s why we were hugging,” said Neeli awkwardly.
“Uhuh. Okay, I believe you. Mostly because I read the article already. So, are you guys excited?” Seetha asked.
“Yeah, it’s going to be amazing," Sivian said. "Well, I'd better go. Oh, and Neeli can I see you outside? You know, after you get changed into proper clothes.”
“Um okay” Neeli replied, as Sivian left the room.
“So, how was the trip?” Seetha asked.
“It was amazing. I got the highest mark out of forty people! Then they found out I was a girl, but Sivan stood up for me, and it was just amazing,” said Neeli happily.
“That’s great Neeli, but why does Sivan want to see you outside?” Seetha asked. Neeli’s eyes widened. Why did Sivan want to see her outside?
Neeli got changed and, went out where she found Sivan standing by the horse they'd ridden yesterday.
“Hey Sivan, why did you want to meet me?” Neeli asked politely.
“Uh. Well. Um, you see uh...” said Sivan, stuttering.
“Are you okay Sivan?” Neeli asked. “ I've never seen you blush like this before.”
Sivan froze.“Wait... I’m blushing. Uh, never mind. Uh. So, well I was wondering if maybe you want to, uh, I don’t know maybe just.” Neeli cut Sivan off before he could even finish. (Not that he was ever going to finish.)
“Do you want to the movies with me on Saturday night? Like a date,” Neeli said proudly.
“Uh, yeah...yes totally. I’d love to,” Sivan replied.
“Great. Pick me up at around seven. Bye,” said Neeli and went inside to find Seetha. She was so excited to tell her the good news.
“Seetha! Seetha! I have a date with Sivan Saturday night!” she shrieked.
“What! He asked you out! That’s amazing, Neeli,” Seetha squealed.
“No, I asked him out,” replied Neeli. Seetha looked at Neeli in astonishment and hugged her as tight as she could, crying tears of joy.
“My little girl is growing up. Neeli if Arjun were here, he’d be even more proud than me. What I’d do to see his face right now.”
“He would have same expression as you. I miss him just as much as you do. I know he drank a lot, but he was still better than Shiva. He was loving, and he was always there for us...well, almost always there for us.” Seetha wiped away Neeli’s tears and Neeli smiled.
“So does this mean I can go out with Sivan?” Neeli asked. Seetha nodded her head yes. “Thank you.”
Chapter Eighteen: The Interview
The next day Neeli woke up early. She was a very excited about the interview and hoped that it would go well so that girls could go to school. Neeli knew there were other girls who wanted to go to school, like her. She ran to Sivan's room and saw that he was still sleeping. Should I wake him up, Neeli thought. If I don’t then we might be late for the interview, but I don’t want to be rude. He has woken me up a thousand times. I wonder if he thinks about this before he wakes me up. In the end Neeli woke Sivan up. “Sivan. Sivan. Sivan!” Neeli said.
“Go away, mommy. I don’t want to go to school today,” replied Sivan sleepily.
“Uh. Sivan your mommy isn’t here right now.” Neeli couldn’t help but laugh. It was rather amusing to find a fourteen year old boy still calling his mother mommy. Sivan sat right up when he realized that it was Neeli.
“Hey, you’re doing it again. Your face is a bright scarlet,” Neeli said.
“Neeli! Uh! Wh-what are you doing here? Uh! Um! Did you happen to hear anything I said?” Sivan was sweating.
“Oh, I heard every word of it. You still call your mother mommy, and yet you’re older than me by a month.” Neeli couldn’t help but tease Sivan. Sivan put his hands on his head, and closed his eyes. “Oh! Why did you have to hear that? The only reason I said all that was because I was tired.” Neeli glanced at Sivan. She had a pretty good feeling he was lying to her.
“This is really embarrassing,” Sivan said.
“Well, I think it’s kind of sweet,” replied Neeli. Sivan looked at her. They both leaned in closer to each other. Sivan held her hand. Neeli felt her cheeks burning as if someone had put fire on her. She was hoping this would end the way she hoped, for Sivan to kiss her.
“The time!” Sivan yelled. “We have the interview - we need to hurry! They’ll be here any second!”
“I totally forgot about that. I’ll wait outside for you,” Neeli said. When Sivan was done changing, he went out to find Neeli. “Sivan, you came here at the perfect time. She just arrived.”
“Hello there. My name is Abi Ajen. I will be doing the interview on you two.” They took her inside, so she could ask them the questions. “So let’s begin,” she said. “Are you two dating?”
“Oh, uh no. Sivan and I are just close friends,” said Neeli. She was blushing and tried her best to avoid eye contact with Sivan. The interview was about an hour long.
“Okay, almost done,” Abi said. “I need to talk to both of you in private, though.”
“I’m sorry, but can you ask us together? It would be faster that way,” Sivan replied.
“Okay, sure. Neeli who do you love?”
“Uh! Who do I love? Uh.” Neeli glanced at Sivan. “Do I really need to tell you, I don’t want it to be in the paper,” replied Neeli. “Okay. Sivan same question.” Sivan glanced at Neeli.
“Same answer. I do love someone very much, but I don’t want it to be in the paper,” Sivan said, looking at Neeli.
“Okay. Then we are done. Oh, and just to tell you. because of this interview, girls may be allowed to go to school now,” Abi said as she left.
“That was amazing,” Neeli said happily.
“Yeah. Who do you love?” Sivan asked.
“Simple. The person I love is standing right in front of me” replied Neeli as she walked away.
“Oh. and just to remind you the date is tomorrow,” Sivan smiled.
Chapter Nineteen: The Date
Neeli woke up with the sun shining on her face. Neeli got up, excited about the date. She just hoped embarrass herself in front of Sivan. “Neeli, look what I got for you,” Seetha said. Seetha was holding a beautiful sari in her hands. It had lovely white elbow length sleeves. The top, skirt, and the shawl were all a beautiful bright shade of orange. It had these spectacular little gems on the top.
“Oh, Seetha. It’s beautiful. I love it. Thank you so much. You really didn’t have to buy this for me,” Neeli said.
“I didn’t buy this. Believe it or not, but there once was a time when I actually fit into this. It was mine. It was my favourite sari, so I never bothered to throw it out. Neeli, I want you to have it. I can’t imagine any other person I would want to see wear this. Besides Arjun, and Sivan, and well, you’re in the top five. Let’s just leave it at that,” replied Seetha.
Neeli smiled at Seetha and hugged her before going to put on the sari. When she came out Seetha looked at her proudly.
“Time for you to put some make-up on,” Seetha said as she grabbed some supplies. Neeli sat down on the bed. Seetha started doing Neeli’s make-up. “And we are done,” Seetha said proudly. Neeli looked in a mirror. She couldn’t believe her reflection.
“Thank you. Wish me luck!” Neeli said as she left the room.
She found Sivan in the hallway. “Neeli, you look beautiful. Are you ready?” Sivan asked. Neeli nodded her head yes. Sivan took her outside. “Hey do want to go to the movies, or do you want to go back to the lake?” he asked.
“The lake of, course,” replied Neeli. Sivan smiled at her and helped her onto the horse. It was a long ride to get to the lake, but it was worth it for another chance to see the beautiful lake with Sivan.
“I love this place. It looks even prettier at night,” Neeli said as she sat down next to Sivan.
“I know. I always dreamed of building a house here. This is the last thing I have of my dad and I want to share it with you,” Sivan said. They leaned in closer to each other and kissed. Neeli stared at him stunned and he kissed her again.
“Neeli, I love you,” Sivan said shyly.
Neeli hugged him. “I love you too.”
Neeli had the time of her life and didn’t want to leave. When she got home it was around ten o’clock. Sivan helped her off the horse. They kissed again.
Seetha saw them from her bedroom window.
“I’ll never forget this night. Thank you” Neeli said happily. Sivan took Neeli inside to her room.
“So maybe we could do that again?” Sivan asked.
“Yeah, I’d love to. Bye,” replied Neeli. She walked inside. Seetha ran to Neeli and hugged her.
“I saw you and Sivan kiss,” Seetha squealed. Neeli only smiled. “Yeah, we did. Now if you don’t mind I’m going to sleep.”
Chapter Twenty: The Paper
It had been a week since Neeli,and Sivan’s date. The newspaper was finally done, and when Neeli saw it she was so happy. It said that they were going to build a school for all kids and that Sivan and Neeli could be in charge of it, or work there. They were also letting women get jobs. Neeli was so excited that she had to tell Sivan now. She ran to his room, but he was still sleeping. Neeli couldn’t help but think of what happened the last time she woke Sivan up.
“Sivan. Wake up. Come on, listen to your mommy,” Neeli said softly.
Sivan smiled, grabbed Neeli’s arm, and pulled her onto the bed, kissing her.
“Mom, when did you turn so ugly?” Sivan asked. He was still smiling.
“Sivan, don’t be rude to me,” Neeli said angrily.
“Be quiet, and let me sleep, Neeli.”
“Sivan I need to tell you something.”
“Go ahead. Tell me.”
“They are allowing girls to go to school, and get jobs. They’re building a new school. We can either work, or run the school. Isn’t that amazing?” Neeli said, excited.
Sivan sat right up. “Really? That’s amazing,” replied Sivan.
Neeli was so excited. Her dream was coming true, and she was happy to be sharing that dream with Sivan.
“Wait a minute. Where’s the school going to be?” Sivan asked.
Neeli thought back to the paper. “Oh, it’s opening somewhere around here.”
Sivan nodded his head then went back to sleep. He is probably tired, Neeli thought. I should let him sleep.
Chapter Twenty-One: The Letter
It had been seven years since the school opened. Neeli and Sivan decided to make the school for both boys and girls. It was for poor children, and they would provide everything. Neeli and Sivan were now twenty-one and they owned The School For Boys and Girls”.
Early one morning. Neeli went Sivan´s room to wake him up but Sivan wasn't there. Neeli found a note on his pillow, addressed to her.
I want you to know that I´m leaving. I couldn't bring myself to tell you. I am sorry, but I have to go. It´s time for me to fulfill my dream. I just want you to know that no matter where we are, I will always love you. Please don't be angry at me. I truly do love you. So now you have to run the school by yourself. Till we meet again, which I hope is soon.
Love, Sivan Suthan
Neeli started crying. He left me, she thought. If he loved me so much, then why couldn't he tell me in person? He hates me. The one man I loved left me, like Arjun, like my parents. It had to happen just when her life was so perfect. It really was to good to be true.
No, Neeli thought. I have to stop crying. I have to. I can´t show up to school like this - it wouldn't be right. Come on, Neeli, pull yourself together.
She ran to find Seetha, and told her everything.
“Oh, Neeli. I´m so sorry. Sivan still loves you. He just couldn't stand leaving you, with you being angry at him.”
“You're right. He still loves me. He just thought we needed time apart. He still cares about me. If he didn't, he wouldn't of left me the note.” Neeli tried to smile. I just hope I see him soon, she thought. It had better be soon.
Chapter Twenty-Two: The End
It had been seven years since Sivan left. Neeli was in her room. She was still thinking about Sivan. “Maybe he does hate me. He probably never wants to see me again. That’s why he left.” Neeli was thinking out loud.
“I think you're wrong about that,” said a familiar voice.
Neeli spun around. “Sivan! You're here! I thought you weren't coming back!” Neeli replied, hugging him as tightly as she could.
“Where were you? You've been gone for seven years. I waited for you. For seven years,” Neeli said.
Sivan smiled sadly.
“I was fulfilling my dream. Do you remember the lake?” Sivan asked. Neeli stared at him. How could she forget the lake. It was the place where she went on her first date with Sivan. The place where she had her first kiss. She loved the lake. She nodded her head yes.
“Well, for the last seven years I've been building a house there. You know, my dream. Neeli, I want you to come there with me. Please,” Sivan asked, desperatel.
Neeli stared at him, overwhelmed, then started crying. “What about the school?” Neeli asked.
“I think we should put a different person in charge now. Then we could build more schools everywhere. For everyone. Neeli you already shared your dream with me. Now it's time for me to share my dream with you.” Sivan bent down on one knee. He looked at Neeli.
“Neeli, will you marry me?” He showed her a ring.
“Yes! Yes! Of course, I will. This is my true dream. Now I know what my true potential really is. I couldn't of done any of this without you. I love you, Sivan.” She hugged him. “And I always will.”