The 'ring' leader

SHORT STORY

The 'ring' leader

All the students of Std XI (Science) were at the lab, except for Sheela, Anjali and Tina. Since the three of them did not take Biology (an elective subject), they remained in their classroom.

“Here comes Reena,” muttered Sheela, hearing a voice in the corridor; “all set to rummage through our belongings.”

“Take off that ring, Sheela,” said Anjali. “Prefects can’t wait to deprive us of our treasures. Reena, especially, believes that it is her God-given right to grab our stuff.”

“Well, there is a rule against wearing ornaments to school,” pointed out Tina. “Reena is only doing her duty.”

“Time for the usual check,” said Reena pleasantly, as she entered. “None of you need open your bags if you voluntarily surrender any forbidden items. They will be returned later.”

“Not necessarily in good condition,” retorted Anjali. “When I reclaimed the earrings you seized last week, one of them was bent. My mother was extremely displeased.”

“She would have been more annoyed if she knew you had worn them to school,” said Reena. “I’m sorry about the damage, but dangling earrings are not allowed. By the way, Anjali, those simple gold studs you have on today go well with your uniform.”

“Just because some people don’t possess....,” began Sheela, leaving the sentence incomplete as — hands hidden behind her desk — she struggled to remove her ring.
 “I may not have many trinkets,” said Reena calmly, “but if I had, I would reserve them for after-school outings. Now, do you have anything...?”

“To declare?” finished Anjali sarcastically, as Sheela continued to tug at the ring, which stubbornly refused to budge from her finger.

“I brought my mobile by mistake,” said Tina, to deflect Reena’s attention from Sheela’s frantic efforts.

“Mistake?’ said Reena with a smile, as she pocketed the cell-phone. “Unlikely, I should think. Anyway, you can collect it....”

At that moment Sheela managed to dislodge her ring but, with such force, that it slipped out of her grasp and flew across the room. As Reena swiftly retrieved the glittering object, Sheela darted towards her. Reena held onto the ring, examining it closely.

“Give me my ring,” demanded Sheela angrily. “If you confiscate it, it may not come back in one piece. In fact, it may not come back at all. You may keep it and pretend it got lost.”

Tina gasped, and even Anjali felt her friend had gone too far. “That’s enough,” said Anjali to Sheela, who had started to sob. “Of course the ring will be restored to you.”

“Since you’re obviously upset, Sheela,” said Reena quietly, “you may have the ring now, but please put it away carefully. I can tell that it’s expensive and — while I’m not tempted to steal it — somebody else might be.”

Reena handed the ring to Sheela, who — ashamed of her outburst — received it gratefully. “There’s a ruby missing!” she wailed. “Oh why did I bring the ring to school?”

“Don’t worry, the ruby’s safe,” said Reena, picking up a deep-red stone from under Sheela’s chair. “I saw it fall as you were trying to pull off your ring.”

“You mean you knew Sheela had the ring on?” asked Anjali incredulously. Reena nodded. “I was initially puzzled by her mysterious hand-movements, but when the stone came loose I knew that something valuable was involved.”

“Someone, not something,” said Sheela. “I’ve been blind to your worth, Reena, but I realise now — as I’m sure do Anjali and Tina — that in you we have a gem of a prefect!”

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