I kept thinking the same thing over and over again, as I looked at myself in the mirror and checked whether I look okay or not. My skirt and top was looking good, and so was my hair. I was ready to go.

But I couldn’t figure out why he was inviting me. He has become one of the most popular guys in college now. Every other student wants to be in his friends circle! I think he even has a girlfriend now, I think. It’s been many months since the last time we spoke to each other, till he called up two days ago and invited me to this lunch. Yes, he called.

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And I immediately accepted his invitation, without putting a second thought to it. I didn’t see any reason to decline.

But I also couldn’t see a reason why he would call me. I am one of the invisible ones in college.

I only had him. And I had everything.

But soon things changed and we drifted apart. We didn’t even have a goodbye. We didn’t need any. I just realized one morning that everything was over, just like a shutting a heavy book after it had been left open for too long. In a way I couldn’t do anything about it.

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I think I was quite a few mornings late.

But now, the only thing in my mind was that he wanted to see me again.

I was standing in the middle of the food court, and couldn’t see them anywhere. He was supposed to be here half an hour ago with quite a big group of friends. They should be hard to miss.

I was about to take out my cellphone from my purse to call him, when I saw them coming up the escalator. I saw him turn towards the food court and smile at me. I automatically smiled back. But there was something very strained and tired in his eyes. I hope I get a chance to talk to him about it, try and make him feel better.

A few of his friends threw a glance at me accompanied by some hasty “Hey”s and “Hi”s. I smiled back and responded to them, as his girlfriend came and sat on my left. He sat on her left. The seat on my immediate right was empty.

I quickly realized that I have more in common with this empty chair beside me than I had with anyone else at the table. Not even him.

The tire and strain was gone from his eyes as he engaged in animated conversation with his friends. He hardly ever looked at, let alone talked to, his girlfriend. She was too busy with her cellphone, to ever look up. A girl or two would take a few pictures at times, and then return to their hushed conversations as the guys chatted and laughed loudly.

And I was just there. I couldn’t figure out what to do, or who to talk to. I looked at his girlfriend sitting beside me, her thumbnails making quick tapping noises on her phone screen. Her expression suggested she was probably in some sort of a heated conversation with someone. I wondered if it would be okay to disturb her.

I took out my own phone and tinkered with it a bit. There was a message from Sam, my best friend asking me to call him when I’m free.

After a while, which seemed like years, two of the boys got up to go order the lunch. I heard everyone shout out their choices, I saw him ordering for his girlfriend and himself, without asking her anything. The boys were almost about to leave when I at last made up my mind and shouted out the burger I want to have (and could afford). I hope they heard me.

I decided it was high time I try to have a conversation with someone. I turned to his girlfriend, who now was lightly bobbing her head with headphones on her ears. Her eyes were closed.

I tried to ask her about her college plans. Since she didn’t hear me in the first chance, I repeated a little loudly, and regretted it as soon as the words left my mouth.

The whole table suddenly fell silent and stared at me. His girlfriend looked at me with disgust, as if I was asking about her measurements.

I saw him rolling his eyes.

In the few seconds of awkwardness, I could hear a girl or two whisper something to each other, looking at me, suggestively.

My face was filling up with uncomfortable warmth, as I heard him get up from his chair. The tiredness and strain was back in his eyes, as he said he wanted to talk to me

I complied by getting up, and followed him as he led me away from our table and stopped when we were almost at the end of the food court.

I realized that the thing that was bothering him was the fact that he had to invite me because he lost a bet. He was irritated about the fact that I wasn’t putting enough effort into being more invisible, like I usually am in college.

What stung the worst was his tone. He said so many things in such an obvious way, I was speechless.

I stood there frozen for a while, letting his words sink in.

It’s happening all over again.

I turned around and hurried to the table. Everyone was very quiet, as they were obviously eavesdropping on us. I could feel their eyes follow me, as I grabbed my purse.’ I flashed them a horrid smile, not making eye contact with anyone.

I wanted to get out of there before tears start rolling down, and I embarrass myself any further. If that was even possible.

He invited me because he had to, because he lost a bet. They were betting on me. He was betting on me. And I actually thought…

I must have bumped at least 5 or 6 tables when I was trying to run out of the food court, in the tiny spaces between the cramped tables. By the time I apologized to the occupants of the last table I disturbed, the tears had started flowing down.

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I was delighting in the idea of being able to meet him, just two hours ago. I was planning on talking to him about what was bothering him. But now I don’t have to. I should have known.

I should have seen it all coming.

I called up Sam somehow and left him a vague voice message giving him some idea what ensued a few a minutes ago.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I put the phone back in my purse and sat down on the steps. I was sobbing pretty loudly by now. But I couldn’t help myself.

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Why do I keep letting him hurt me? Why do I always willingly walk into hell just because his sweet voice asked me to?

I have been  hurt and I’ve been broken for too long. This has to stop at some point. I can’t take it anymore. I want Sam.

I wrapped my arms around myself, in a pathetic attempt at putting myself back together.

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