(This one’s a sequel, if you wish. A write prompted by a dear reader’s “:(” and a “Whyyyy”! Yep. This rambler is certified… 🙂 And so, this came to be. Unbeknownst 🙂 )
Renewal (a sequel to Redemption)
(or, What were the Odds!)
She stumbled out of the slowly brightening hall. The credits had rolled out, a smattering of applause gathered momentum, and by the time she’d reached the exit, everyone was standing.
She paused at the door, turned, raised her hands and applauded. She saw him, at the end of the aisle, his parents beside him, Raksha behind. That endearing smile lit his face. She blew him a kiss, which he wouldn’t see anyway, and slipped out. The lobby was deserted. His favourite, this theatre used to be, from school, she remembered.
Glad and sad, she made her way outside, called an auto and fled before the others came. Straight to her hotel. She was booked for the early morning flight. Her goodbyes were done – even though he’d asked for her company at the post-screening informal do he’d arranged. She’d made non-committal noises but had already decided. He knew of course. He couldn’t not.
She was packed. With nothing but her thoughts for company – she felt undone, claustrophobic. Quickly changing into jeans, shirt and sneakers, she fled once again, this time to the park, where they had first met. A couple of introverts who somehow found the courage to smile at each other and talk. She had been in the city as a resource person for a couple of workshops on creative writing. Serendipity, it had to be, that he had been part of a group she worked with. What were the odds, she mused, that a decade on they’d remained friends; more than that, in the least clichéd way.
She’s watched, seen him grow, in confidence, find focus, despite the way life shattered pyrotechnically around him. As it had been for her as well. To have the luxury of owning yourself – with no lien of love, of another’s heart, was at once a tragedy as it was satisfying. She knew that wasn’t her state of being, but she was working towards it.
She walked past the park, to the road that bordered the sea. This was his favourite place. He’d mentioned it often, of taking her there, but it had never happened. Distances, physical distances, the obligation to life, to family, meant it hadn’t been possible. It was pretty much a miracle that they’d even been in touch over the years, and stayed close – mirrored thoughts, hopes, hearts even – both being in hopeless relationships with entirely different people! What were the odds, indeed! She smiled. Found a spot, relatively free, and watched the ocean, perched on the built up wall, with the rocks stretching beyond to meet the waves.
The ebb and surge, the gurgling, the splashing, that constant, hypnotic hum of the waves…she lost herself in it. She wasn’t sure how much time had elapsed, but she was at peace. She held her backpack on her lap, arms wrapped around it, chin resting on top of it. Wispy tendrils framed her face, her tired eyes at peace. The silence, despite the sounds around her, was tangible; almost as if she’d created a bubble of stillness around her.
A bubble of stillness, in which she sat, with that faraway look. These were his thoughts, as he stood a few feet away, watching intently, a warm smile in his eyes, a sigh of relief hovering, unreleased. He continued to stand, and watch- in a stance akin to communion, a prayer. He did so, knowing her to be oblivious even to the night, so alive around her bubble of solitude.
Uncharacteristically, he was lost for words. He did not want to impinge upon her peace, though he longed to smoothen her hair, those wispy tendrils, rest his hands on her shoulders and drop a kiss on the top of her head. A surge of love rushed, and overwhelmed him. With sudden clarity, he recognized it for what it was. What were the odds! It was as if her thoughts had sneaked into his.
In the three hours, post screening, he’d smiled and talked, and been a quiet, but genial host, receiving with gratitude the kind and fulsome words of appreciation. As soon as he was able, he’d beat a hasty retreat, knowing a sense of loss. Of someone. Raksha was beside herself with joy. He was glad for that – that was truly redemption – the dream they had had, had now come to fruition. Honestly the credit went to her, her indefatigable spirit in pushing him. As co-author and instigator, he made sure she’d shared all the credit, in large, bold letters and presence. Yes, he loved her, and would always do so. But her hold on him seemed to diminish, now that he was on the road to forgiveness, to himself. She got that dream of hers, made him work towards his, and now had a foothold for further progress. A certain peace flooded him, lightening his ever heavy heart, filling a vacuum carried too long.
At the same time, his palm tingled with reminiscent warmth. It was the first time she’d reached out in public to hold his hand, even though they were not the hand-holding type. His lips quirked into a grin, as he felt that familiar sense of security, whenever he thought of her. His rock of Gibraltar, that was what she’d been all along. If there was one thing she’d brought back to his life, it was laughter and trust.
He wouldn’t find that elsewhere. It was something he needed, right now.
She wasn’t at her hotel. Her cell phone was switched off. On a chance, he decided to go to the park. Nothing. There was only one place he found solace in all those troubled times. The shoreline. He decided to walk it down, and reaching, began to slowly savour the throbbing life this place always lent to his weary heart. As he walked, he felt that faint prickling at the back of his neck – seriously, it was such a dramatic moment that he nearly laughed out loud, involuntarily.
All those times they’d talked about this, that instinctive knowing, a gut feeling – all that played back, and he knew now what she meant. She was near. As incredible as it was, he simply knew it for real. Walking on, he found her bunched up, chin on backpack resting on her lap. She’d changed into the casual clothes she loved so much.
He stepped up to her, and did just exactly what he’d thought he would. Smoothened her hair, dropped his hands to her shoulders, and dropped a kiss on her head. Sat beside her.
She sighed. Smiled. Leaned into his shoulders, as he put an arm around her shoulders and tucked her head under his chin. This moment was theirs alone. His arm tightened as she snuggled close. He’d tell her, soon, how those demons would never again bother him much. If she’d stay.
She thought. Tonight. It would happen tonight. The inevitable recognition of a soulmate. She prayed for strength to leave; he, that she’d stay. She, fierce, headstrong, independent, kind.
That chasm of yearning, yawning between them, suddenly seemed bridgeable.
22 January, 2017
One of those things, again, that simply had to be.