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Better friends

My palms were sweaty, my stomach in my throat. I rubbed my hands on the front of my jeans and swallowed hard. I stared as my arm reached out and tapped him on the shoulder from behind as if it were somebody else's actions, somebody else's voice asking if she could speak to him in private. He smiled his beautiful smile and nodded, following me into the next room. He sat down on the couch and waited for me to start talking. I tried sitting down but couldn't get my limbs to co-operate, my brain had decided to leave me on my own for this one. Couldn't really blame it; this sudden burst of insanely uncharacteristic courage was more than it should be able to bear. I would have never decided to do this but when I heard he was leaving for the next three months, I couldn't let him go without telling him the truth. We'd never been apart for that long a period of time and I was freaking out slightly. I shook my head and stopped cold when I realized I hadn't said anything yet and was pacing back and forth in front of him. He raised his eyebrows and I could see the corner of his mouth turn up with the hint of a smile he was trying to suppress.

"Something on your mind, is there?" The amusement was evident in his voice. I relaxed a fraction and finally got myself to sit down next to him. I took a deep breath. Here we go.

"I like you"

"Well, that's good, I like you too. We are best friends, you know. It'd kind of suck if we couldn't stand each other. I mean, buying birthday presents for people you dislike is a pain, and those telephone conversations can be uncomfortable."

"Shut up!" I interrupted him. "I mean, I like you like you, as in, more than a friend."

"I don't blame you babe. People find my boyish charm and wit pretty hard to resist, not to mention, my superb bod. Women and men, alike. Although, I don't really swing that way."

"Can't you ever take anything seriously? I'm trying very hard to keep my lunch down, I'm so nervous and you're cracking jokes!" By then, I actually wasn't all that tense, his easy response and lack of complete shock and horror calming me down a lot and allowing me to breathe without choking on air.

"Listen, my all too dramatic friend, don't worry, I knew you'd succumb sooner or later."

I glared at him and kicked him in the shin.

"Ouch! Ok, I'm sorry. I'm very flattered, but I don't know what to think. We've been friends forever. When did this happen?"

"I don't know, a while ago. I saw you with that girl a few months ago, and I got so angry and jealous and not just because I'm possessive of my friends, but also because I wanted you to look at me the way you were looking at her." I couldn't believe the words that were coming out of my mouth, but once I got started, I wasn't able to stop the whole truth from spilling out. I told him about how much I cared about him and how I felt I might even be in love with him. He looked completely shocked to hear the extent of it, and for the first time since I'd known him, he seemed to actually be speechless. I knew he thought I'd been joking when I started this conversation, and it seemed to finally sink in how very real I was being.

"Say something."
"I don't want to hurt you."
"Then don't," I felt myself stiffen, as if to prepare for the blow I knew was coming.
"I love you. You know that. I don't have any good childhood memories without you in them and I don't want to lose what we've always had. I just haven't ever thought of you as anything other than that; a friend, the greatest friend I've ever had but still just a friend. I'm sorry. Please don't let us lose that. Please."

He had a pained expression on his face; his eyes were bright as though on the verge of tears. I'd never seen him look so sad or serious, and it suddenly hit me what I was doing. I was so close to ruining the best thing I've ever had, and that was way more important than anything I felt or could ever feel. My feelings being returned would have been wonderful beyond words, but not having him in my life at all would be torture. No matter how I was hurting, I knew he was hurting just as much at the thought of us not being able to go back to the way we were.

He didn't have the greatest family life; his mother having abandoned them when he was just a child and his father being the hard ass that he was. I never doubted how important I was to him, he always said I was the family he never had and here I was, being unbelievably selfish, completely hung up on me, myself and I. He's very good at hiding his insecurities and weaknesses, but I could always see through those. I knew he had a fear that anyone he cared about would eventually leave him.

It didn't matter how in love with him I thought I was, what mattered was that I loved him period. I wasn't going to jeopardize everything we meant to each other. It was very simple. He needed me to be there for him as a friend, and I would be.

I nodded slowly and gave him a small smile. The tension visibly seeped out of him and his shoulders lost the weight they had been carrying a few minutes ago. I was doing the right thing. I could get over this, because the alternative is so much worse.

"It's ok. We won't lose anything." I promised. I held out my hand and he took it, pulling me in for a hug. I could feel his heart racing.

"You know, it's pretty much an unwritten rule that you've gotta wear underwear when you're out of town. The chances of one's pants spontaneously falling off in public are something like 63% more likely when away from home. I'm pretty sure it was Plato's theory or something. Vital information for me to have since I'll be gone for the next few months, don't you think?
Remind me to stock up on those tighty whities."

I laughed softly and lay my head on his shoulder. We would be fine. We had to be.

By A Non-Smoker

Book review

The Fourth Protocol

A daring jewelry theft takes place in a posh London locality. In a remote dacha in Moscow, a British traitor receives a call for explanation from none other than the General Secretary of the CPSU (I'm guessing that stands for the Communist Party, Soviet Union) for a remark passed at a cocktail party. An MI5 agent is forcibly transferred to another section by his jealous supervisor after he submits a controversial report.

What could any of these incidents have to do with each other? Well, Frederick Forsyth is a genius at tying up loose ends, and that's exactly what he's done in The Fourth Protocol, hailed by the Washington Post as his best book. Apparently, a movie's been made, based on the book, and it stars Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan.

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, the story is about a highly confidential plot hatched in Moscow, that aims at destabilizing Britain, and breaches an ultra secret international treaty called the Fourth Protocol.

The British Intelligence find out about it only through a freak chance, and that too, most of what they know is an assumption at best. An MI5 agent named John Preston is assigned to the case, and he has to battle petty in-house politics and unknown quantities in his mad race for time to avoid a disaster that could spell anarchy for Britain.

Forsyth is a compelling story-teller, and shows a keen genius for plot-spinning. The Fourth Protocol has the suspense and sense of urgency of a Dan Brown novel, and his tongue-in-cheek narrative flows smoother. You get the sense that Forsyth really respects all his principal characters, be they protagonists or antagonists, so his plots are usually very intelligent. As for the twists, believe me when I say they keep coming even after the main conflict has been solved. Right till the very last page! If I have a gripe, it's against the sheer volume of political history, which, I suppose is relevant to the story, but would bore someone who's only looking for a light read.

My copy of the book was lent to me by a friend, but I've seen plenty of Forsyths on the bookshelves at Etc, Omni Books, and Words n' Pages, so I'm fairly confident The Fourth Protocol will be available too. Judging by the size of it, I would say it costs something between Tk 400-600. It's a breath-taking page-turner that will have your pulses racing throughout, so I highly recommend it.

By Sabrina F Ahmad

Success of students…through teachers

Once upon a time, sitting under an International Examination Board sounded so foreign and distant. The curriculum, assessment criteria, language and style- everything seemed so vague and confusing. Training for teachers and implementation of proper guidelines for such examination has now become a priority. Today the distance is no longer a barrier. With the competent International Examination bodies such Cambridge International Examination (CIE), today it's much easier for teachers to understand the needs of the course and be able to implement proper lesson plans for the success of their students.

The unique fact about CIE is that it doesn't only focus on the exam but also focuses on the need of International teachers and students. It constantly works closely with schools in building proper teaching methodologies matched with the requirement of the Examination.

CIE introduced its much awaited Teachers Training Seminar last week at the Oxford International School Auditorium. The aim of the seminar was to clarify the assessment criteria and marking scheme of the O'level exams and also focus on in-class activities through trainers and Examiners of CIE. The focus was on the three much demanded subjects English Language, Mathematics and Chemistry. The seminar was conducted by three experienced and enthusiastic teachers plus Examiners for CIE for several years.

The English Language Trainer Helen Toner has been working with CIE for the last 30 years and is the principal examiner for the last 11 years. “I think the teachers are extremely enthusiastic and energetic. This has been my best teaching experience, it was a seminar open to suggestions, ideas and most importantly the eagerness of the teachers to share knowledge and solve quires” said Toner enthralled after a full activity and discussion based two day long seminar.

Oxford University Degree holder, Gillian Winkworth added a new flair to Mathematics teaching Methodology among the Maths Teachers. Gillian is at the moment the team leader for O'level setting questions for 2008. “Most teachers were unaware of the positive marking assessment of CIE and this was a chance to clear the conception of extremely strict marking.”

“These seminars seek to break the conservative method of teaching besides focusing on the marking assessment and course objective of the exams. We have also focused on practical teaching methodology that involves two way communications between teacher and students which is a much needed requirement over here at the moment”, pointed Rogger Norris, the Principle Examiner of O'level Chemistry.

In all, the two day long seminar was yet another effort of CIE to build a bridge between the needs of the schools and the Examination Assessment criteria. The workshop, in simple words, was a great success. Teachers from a total of 16 schools under CIE participated in the workshop. One of the teachers put the experience of the workshop in simple words, “The next time we walk inside the class and brief our students for their upcoming examination under CIE, we can guide them with greater confidence and better understanding of the examination requirement. Thanks to CIE for ensuring the success of students through us teachers”

By Tahmina Shafique


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