"Shall we not visit the classroom?" Shruthi asked Maria, the school counsellor. 
Commerce 3.  Out of the three girls missing from the school, two --Gauthami and Clara --came from that class.  
"Of course, that's a priority of the hour," Sara didn't have to think twice. 

"Good afternoon Mam," the chorus of greetings from thirty-five learners, less than two, hit the visitors like a wave of grief.

Shruthi greeted them with a big smile; being the headmistress, she should cheer the girls up.  

Gauthami's and Clara's desks brimmed with 'please come back' cards, mostly handmade.  

"Who was Gauthami's best friend in the class?" Shrithi asked the class after the initial chitchats.  
"Clara," the answer came in a chorus. 
"Her second best friend?"
Rani stood up from her seat, flashing a shy smile.  The girl with a wiry build and a decaying lower tooth sat a row behind Gauthami.

"Please tell us something about Gauthami," Shruthi said. 
"Yeah, we're friends," Rani began talking in a small voice.  "Living in the same colony.  Our fathers are relatives."

So Gauthami was a ghetto dweller, and that was a shock to Shruthi.  No ghetto characteristics were reflected in her style and conversation.

"Every morning, she and I walked together a stretch of country road to catch the school bus, that stopped only by the main road.  We go to the same temple and have common relatives.  Apart from that, I don't know she has any secrets?"


What does she mean by her secrets?  Has she got a boyfriend with whom she ran away?  Shruthi thought.  If the police knew him, their investigation would be straightforward. 

"I mean," Rani grinned.  "She ran away secretly, so I believe she had some secrets."
Ha, the girl had some bloody sound logic, thought Shruthi. 
"When did you last see her?" asked Sara. 
"Last week Friday, we walked back together as usual along the same stretch after the school bus dropped us."
"Did she give any hint of running away?" Asked Shruthi. 
"I don't think, those who runway give a hint like that to others." 

Shruthi was taken aback.  Another bloody piece of logic from the girl.  

The learner's face flashed with a smile.  Sruthi felt stupid asking that question.  On another occasion, she would have immediately called her to her office and charged her with disrespect. 
"What were you talking on your way back?" asked Sara.
"Just the usual stuff, the school, assignments, class tests, etc."

Rani paused for a second. 

"That evening we were going to attend a birthday party at one of our neighbour's home.  But only her mother came."

"You didn't ask her about Gauthami?"
"I did, she said Gauthami would join is soon, but she never came."

Everybody fell silent. 
"Has she got a boyfriend?" The question came to Shruthi's tongue.  But she didn't ask, fearing the girl would come with another piece of her bloody logic, making the class laugh at her.  She looked at Sara.

Rani was still standing there as if expecting more questions from her teachers. 

"Thank you, class," Shruthi said goodbye to the class. 

"Come to my office," before leaving the class, Shruthi turned to Rani. 


Picture courtesy to Picturhttps://www.google.co.za/search