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Two young adult friends find themselves in a 'weird moment'

In this excerpt from Payal Dhar's upcoming YA novel, unlikely friends Nisha and Sami bond over a second-hand laptop—and much more

A new-but-not-new laptop opens up a further dimension for Nisha, Sami and their friendship.

‘It’s fucking awesome!’ Nisha screeched and immediately slapped a hand across her mouth—her mother went ballistic if she or her brother even said ‘shit’.

The laptop had arrived. It was a MacBook Air, though it was second hand—two years old and quite new-looking. It had belonged to Ma’s business partner, who was selling her part of the cafe she and Ma ran together, and moving abroad. Sami knew that Preeti Aunty took exemplary care of her things, so she was certain the laptop was as good on the inside as it looked outside.

For a few seconds, Sami and Nisha stared at the doorway of the bedroom, expecting Nisha’s mother to come bursting through in a rage. The light flower-print door curtain continued to billow gently in the breeze from the fan, undisturbed, and no irate mothers appeared. The two girls fell on to Nisha’s bed, laughing.

‘It is, isn’t it?’ Sami felt like she could burst from happiness.

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They lay side by side on the bed, faces turned up to the ceiling, only the creak of the fan and the soft notes of Nisha’s music—a new Indipop band she’d discovered—accompanying their comfortable silence. Sami’s shiny silver pride and joy made her buoyant with happiness. She wondered if she would float up to the ceiling if she lifted her feet off the floor.

‘So what are you going to do with it?’ Nisha asked.

‘The computer? I dunno—watch videos, play games, I guess—’

‘Oh!’ Nisha breathed, clutching Sami’s arm. Her eyes were round and shining. ‘We could watch Game of Thrones. And Westworld.’

‘OMG, we could!’ Sami replied, rolling her eyes inwardly. She knew why Nisha wanted to watch those especially.

‘Are they on Netflix?’ Nisha went on.

‘I don’t know. We could find out, but you need to log in to search. My parents are the only people in the world without an account.’

Nisha giggled. ‘Okay, so, my brother has an account. I know the password.’

‘Wha-at?’ Sami laughed as she propped herself up on one arm.

I hope I’m looking as excited as she is.

It Has No Name by Payal Dhar, Red Panda, Westland Books, 352 pages,  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>399
It Has No Name by Payal Dhar, Red Panda, Westland Books, 352 pages, 399

Nisha turned her eyes upwards, trying to look mysterious. She twirled the edges of her hair between her fingers and pursed her lips. She was such a girly girl that it exasperated Sami sometimes. How they had been friends for more than two years was a mystery.

The bigger mystery, though, was why, out of the blue, Nisha sometimes gave her a fluttering deep and low in her stomach.

Her white cotton top edged with lace rippled softly, a strip of brown skin between the hem of the top and the waistband of her shorts rising and falling with each breath. Sami had to school her eyes away from being repeatedly drawn there. Especially as there was a part of her that was straining to reach out and touch the smooth skin—

Stop it!

Not for a lifetime’s supply of MacBooks would she change her plain navy-blue T-shirt and calf-length cutaway jeans, both loose enough to hide the shape of her body, for what Nisha was wearing. Which made these frequent stabs of envy—and that other thing, whatever it was—towards Nisha such a paradox. Imagine being so confident in yourself that you didn’t care about your stomach showing, or care that when you sat up the skin above your waistband fell forward in a roll, like a tiny tyre, or bother with the strap of your bra on your shoulder—a pale purple one in Nisha’s case, that Sami herself wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, even if it was hidden from view.

Writer Payal Dhar.
Writer Payal Dhar.

Not for a lifetime’s supply of MacBooks would she change her plain navy-blue T-shirt and calf-length cutaway jeans, both loose enough to hide the shape of her body, for what Nisha was wearing. Which made these frequent stabs of envy—and that other thing, whatever it was—towards Nisha such a paradox. Imagine being so confident in yourself that you didn’t care about your stomach showing, or care that when you sat up the skin above your waistband fell forward in a roll, like a tiny tyre, or bother with the strap of your bra on your shoulder—a pale purple one in Nisha’s case, that Sami herself wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, even if it was hidden from view.

Sami straightened her own T-shirt, pulling it away from herself, and lay back down on the bed.

It was Nisha’s turn to sit up. She leaned over Sami, eyes dancing with mischief. ‘That’s all you have to say?’

‘About what?’

‘Netflix. Brother. Password.’

What would she do if I kissed her now?

As if she’d heard the question in Sami’s head, Nisha smiled.

Sami’s heart pushed up towards her mouth, like it wanted to fling itself out of her body. She swallowed.

‘I don’t believe you.’ Her throat was dry. She struggled to keep her mind on the conversation they were having.

‘Fine. I’ll prove it.’ Nisha moved away and reached for the laptop.

Sami jumped up and grabbed Nisha’s arm. ‘Wait. Me!’

‘What? I’m not allowed to touch your laptop?’

‘No way. You didn’t let me touch your iPad for almost a whole year.’

The weird moment was gone, thank god.

‘That’s different. It’s touch-sensitive.’

‘Ooh, touch-sensitive,’ Sami mimicked in a sing-song voice.

Nisha picked up a pencil from her table and threw it at her, and Sami twisted away, reaching for her new-but-not-new laptop. Her most prized possession. She had plans for it that Nisha had no clue about.

Excerpted with permission from It Has No Name by Payal Dhar, published by Red Panda, an imprint of Westland Publications. The book, currently on pre-order, will be available from 19 July.

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  • FIRST PUBLISHED
    10.07.2021 | 10:30 AM IST

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