Read time : 5 mins

“I’ll be landing in 10 hours. I know we’ve not spoken in a long time & I don’t expect a reply. I just wanted to tell you that I’ll be home soon…”

She pressed the send button. The plane was about to take off from Heathrow, the snow had delayed the flight by a couple of hours. Seated on the window seat, Hriya saw her own reflection in the glass embossed upon the glowing and flickering lights of the terminal. She wanted to be home at that very moment, but “home” was 10 hours away. Her thoughts flew back in time, to the departure gates of Mumbai. He had come there with a rose; her heart had skipped a beat when she had seen him coming towards her. His round face, the dimple on his left cheek because of his smile, his baggy blue jeans, and sky blue t-shirt stuck to his body because of the strong wind. She had embraced him without a word; she knew she was going to miss him the most. He hugged her back tightly; she got goosebumps just thinking of it and whispered softly into her ear

“I’ll be here when you come back…”

Those words were etched into her heart, despite the fact that it had been eight years since then. She rested her head back on the seat, her thoughts still somewhere in Mumbai. Eight years is a long time she thought, she had not spoken to him in the past seven, but she thought of him during the happiest moments in her life. She had missed him when she was alone in the boat ride through the waters of Venice, she had missed him on the second pier of the Eiffel Tower, she had missed him during her salsa classes in Barcelona and she had missed him in the diving waters off the coast of Athens.

The plane took off, the terminal and its lights were diminishing slowly behind in the tufts of grey clouds. The cabin pressure popped her ears as well as the thick cloud of memories which had surrounded her. She wanted to be home that very moment, but “home” was nine hours away. She hoped he would be there to welcome her; she pictured him standing there with a bouquet of roses desperately looking at the passengers leaving the airport and herself running and embracing him at the arrival gates. The thoughts turned into her dreams as the lights of the aircraft went dim.

She was woken up by the increase in cabin pressure; the popping of ears was very annoying as it woke her up from her sleep. The hostess announced the arrival of the flight at Mumbai Airport. She stood up to join the queue of passengers eager to disembark the plane. She started walking towards immigration and security checks, her thoughts still fighting on the notion of him waiting for her. Why would he come to see her? It had been seven years since they had spoken, her left brain argued. Her right-brain prayed, wished, and hoped he would keep his word and be there for her at the exit gates of the airport. She collected her baggage from the revolving belt and started walking towards the exit. The distance of a few meters from there till the exit seemed to take an eon.

As the glass doors parted to give her way, her eyes scanned the crowd for him, she could see so many faces, smiling gaily and waving to their loved ones, so many, but his. With every step, sadness filled her heart; she didn’t want that stretch to get over. At last, she was outside, she stopped pushing her trolley, people nudged past her, but she didn’t care. And suddenly her entire body swelled up and tears started swimming down her face. She had lost him.

"Why is such a beautiful girl crying..?”

Her heart stopped, she had not heard that voice for seven years, but she would recognize that voice anytime. She turned, her cheeks flustered because of the tears, her sadness was being soon replaced by excitement. There he stood, the same round face, the same smile causing a dimple on his left cheek, this time with a bouquet of red roses, her heart skipped a beat just like the last time.

“Can’t a man be two minutes late….”, she didn’t let him finish his sentence and leaped upon him to embrace. Her tears continued rolling down her face. The hug was intense as if it was an equivalent of the seven years of separation. “I… I knew it..”, she said, “I knew you would be here..” He didn’t say a word. Just smiled.

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- Darshan Pania