Aarohi could feel the knot in her stomach tighten as she watched Rhea scroll through her phone gallery, stopping at a picture of herself and her boyfriend.
"Look at us. We're so cute together," Rhea said, holding the phone for Aarohi to see.
Forcing a smile, Aarohi smiled and nodded, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in her chest. She knew what was coming next.
"Don't you have any pictures with your boyfriend to share?" Rhea asked, turning her gaze to Aarohi.
Aarohi hesitated for a moment, her mind racing. She couldn't allow Rhead to find out the truth—at least not after lying about it for over six months.
"Um, not really," she said, sounding casual, "We're not really the picture-taking type; he doesn't really like it."
Rhea raised an eyebrow, clearly skeptical. "Really? That's weird. Don't you think? I mean, you guys have been together for almost a year now."
Aarohi felt a bead of sweat trickle down her temple. She needed to come up with something fast.
"I don't have any on me right now, but I'll bring some next time we hang out," she said, hoping that would be enough.
Rhea didn't seem convinced, but thankfully, she didn't press the issue any further.
"Okay, sure," Rhea said, tucking the phone back into her pocket.
Aarohi was different from most Gen-Z girls. She wanted to preserve herself for marriage, and the boys around her seemed only interested in getting physical. Her parents were strict, especially her mother, who constantly reminded her about the perils of getting involved with boys. Despite her desire for love, Aarohi tried to suppress her heart's desires and stay true to her values. However, losing her only friend was not an option for her. Aarohi knew she couldn't continue living a lie and that being honest with herself and her friend was the only way forward.
A thought crossed her mind: what if she could find someone to pretend to be her boyfriend? The idea seemed appealing. She could preserve her virginity and get Rhea off her back. But where could she find someone willing to go along with this charade? The boys in her school were all either too immature or too interested in physical intimacy.
She struggles to ponder the idea of finding a fake boyfriend. She could think of only three male figures in her life that she interacted with regularly: her younger brother Rajeev, her father Ram Gopal, and the milkman whose name she didn't even know. The thought of involving her family in this charade made her uneasy, and the milkman was a stranger she barely knew. She couldn't shake off the idea of including the milkman in her plan, but picturing herself being romantically involved with him made her stomach turn. She couldn't imagine even the most innocent of touches with him.
Little did she know that her plan would lead her down a path challenging her values. As she struggles to maintain her facade, Aarohi learns the importance of honesty and the dangers of deceit. The tangled web of lies she weaves will come back to haunt her in ways she could never have imagined, leading her to question whether the cost of preserving her friendship is worth sacrificing her integrity.
Open for discussions in private.