Thoughts kept plaguing me as I stared into the lake often wandering back to that day; the day she left for London to pursue her dream of studying art. I stood at the airport, watching as her plane took off into the sky, carrying her away from me. She had been excited, nervous, and full of hope. I had forced a smile, waving goodbye, but deep inside, a part of me felt empty, like a puzzle piece had been taken away from my life.
Subconsciously as I always do, I was looking for a sign or an answer from my parents and grandparents. It was an eerily calm day and sitting under the tree I was contemplating my life decisions.
I was blessed with sharp acumen and foresight many people called. When I had taken over as the Director of ‘The Khanna Group of Companies’; a mere boy of 18, there were many speculations about my ability. I have seen all the so-called loyalists of my dad’s running the ship and deserting me when I needed them the most. But why dwell on the losers, when I had the fortune of having those who were ready to stick by me and trust my judgments without a doubt or hesitation; Suraj being one of them?
Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. The house felt quieter without her laughter and presence. My interactions with Suraj were frequent due to work, and I was always on the lookout to gather any information about her. Yes, I was the one who got her the so-called scholarship, but I wasn’t one to make anyone in his family feel that it was a debt they had to pay. But Suraj being Suraj, well, he already had kept a sum from his salary aside every month and managed to pay off her sister’s ‘scholarship’ amount to me after two and a half years, as he knew it was no scholarship and I had paid for her admission to the college in London because she deserved the opportunity. We talked about her often, reminiscing about the times we had spent together by the lake, the stories she had shared, and the paintings she had created, especially now that they hung in the office as well; just that she didn’t know it. I had bought every piece of art made by her through an extremely anonymous connection in London and it wouldn’t be wrong if I say that I was more updated about her life and whereabouts than anyone in her family was.
Suraj was the first one to notice the change in me. “You like her, don’t you?” he asked one evening as we sat by the lake, just like old times.
I looked at him, surprised by his perceptiveness. “Is it that obvious?”
He chuckled. “It’s not rocket science you know, I’ve never seen you this way before. I always had a doubt, but these past years with her not around, you are all moody and like a spoilt child who has lost his favorite toy. Everyone in the office is talking about it; some think you are on drugs, always glazed, staring away at her painting that was when I was sure. You look like a part of you is missing.”
I sighed, looking out at the water. “She brought a certain light into this place, into my life. It’s not the same without her. You of all the people should know. It wasn’t intentional; even I didn’t realize when I started harboring feelings for her. She was always your kid sister at first, I guess her paintings, and her art; made me fall for her. In her paintings, I saw the world in a very different light, all beautiful and happy. Maybe subconsciously I was craving to be a part of that beautiful world.”
“Hmmm, I have the solution to all your problems then. I’ve been coaxing her to visit us during her semester break whilst she has been insisting on us to visit her there during Christmas as she’s feeling homesick and hasn’t met us for the last couple of years, either way I want you also to join us and why don’t you tell her then face to face about how you feel?” he suggested.
“I can’t just burden her with my feelings especially when she’s pursuing her dreams so far away.”
“You never know unless you try,” he said with a knowing smile. “Maybe she too likes you and this could be the start of something beautiful. I am just thrilled at the idea itself, my best friend and my sister. I am crossing my fingers for this to happen; besides, Mom and Dad adore you and treat you like their own son. They would be equally ecstatic.”
I don’t know if Suraj was happy or I was happier. I dreaded this conversation with him, especially since he was extremely protective of her, and I was in no way going to jeopardize our friendship by raising the topic of her first. When I heard Suraj giving me the nod, my happiness knew no bounds. It felt like all the broken pieces of mine, were starting to come together again, to form a whole new ME.
This new bubble of happiness showed a happier version of me to the world, someone who was not known or seen before, like I said before, the new ME was unrecognizable by many. But I didn’t care, of late nothing bothered me. Suraj’s acknowledgment and acceptance, that she and I could have a future was enough to give me hope, a term I had alienated myself from. Well, you can’t blame me though; I was practically dealt with a shitty hand of cards by GOD. With no one but myself to rely on, I had learned the hard way that trust and love cannot be forced, but rather earned, and I was more than willing to earn her love.
During all the time we were apart, somehow it didn’t really feel so. The days and months seemed to fly in a jiffy as I knew her every whereabouts, of coz, that was confidential and I didn’t let Suraj get an inkling of it and I also found myself typing messages to her, sharing snippets of my day, the changes happening at the company, and how much I missed our conversations by the lake. At first, I was hesitant, unsure of how she would react. But as the conversations flowed, I realized that even though the distance was great, our bond remained strong.
The more we talked, the more I realized how much I had come to depend on our conversations. She was like a ray of sunshine that brightened my days, even from across the ocean. We talked about everything – from her studies to her adventures in London, from my work to my thoughts about life. It was as if we were two souls connected by an unbreakable thread.
One day, as we were chatting, I typed something without really thinking it through.
I have a confession to make.
“What is it?” she asked.”
I miss you. More than I thought I would.
“I miss you too, but you have Bhai there with you.’
It’s not the same without you. You brought a different kind of energy; crazy into my life.
“That is exactly how we all feel about you. Since the time you met Bhai, our lives have taken a turn for the better somehow of course life without you guys here isn’t the same for me as well, but you know what our conversations make everything better.”
Hmmm, but you understand me in a way no one else does.
“Me? Are you confusing me with Bhai? Just kidding, well it could be maybe because we’ve known and shared so much with each other.”
Maybe. But there’s something else I want to share with you.
“What is it?” she asked.
I’ve realized that distance doesn’t change feelings. In fact, being away from you has made me realize how much you mean to me.
… She started to type something then erased it. After some deliberation she finally said, “I don’t know what to say.”
You don’t have to say anything. I just wanted you to know.
I poured my heart to her in my messages and made her aware of my feelings in a subtle way. I wanted to have this chat with her face to face, but the talk with Suraj had raised my hopes up.
The conversation ended there, leaving me with a mix of emotions. Had I been too forward? Would she think I was being selfish by expressing my feelings while she was pursuing her dreams?
London was everything I had dreamed of and more. The art college was a paradise for creative souls like me. The classes, the exposure, and the new friends – everything felt like a dream. But amid the excitement, there was a corner of my heart that still held onto memories of him and my brother. Our conversations helped bridge the distance between us. Through messages, calls, and video chats, they managed to make me feel connected to home.
His messages surprised me at first, but they quickly became a source of comfort. He shared stories of his day, the company’s progress, and sometimes just his thoughts. It felt like he was letting me into his world, and I cherished every word. The transition from being his best friend’s kid sister to his friend felt surreal.
One Sunday evening, while I was walking through the bustling streets of London, trying to gather my art supplies for my project submission, a message from him popped up on my phone. This had become a regular occurrence and I kind of waited for them.
“I visited the painting room today. It’s not the same without your presence. Do you know your paintings still hang on the walls of the house and not only just there in the office and also at my crash pad, everywhere I see I am reminded of you?”
I smiled as I typed my response.
I’m glad you’re still enjoying the paintings and not regretting your decision of sponsoring me. As for me, I am missing you all, Mom, Dad, Bhai, and of course you as well. You guys are the only family I have and trust me being this far from everyone has made me realize the value of our people. With my paintings, I try to find a way for me to stay connected to you all.
What he typed next shook me to the core.
“It’s more than just the paintings. Your presence is missed here. Things aren’t the same without you. I miss you.”
I had to read it again and then again as well. Was it what I was thinking? Or am I reading too much into an innocent text? I tried to keep it casual and replied with terrified fingers.
I miss you all too. But I’m learning so much here. London is amazing and the college, the course, everything that I’d ever dreamt of. I was thinking of inviting Mom, Dad, and Bhai here as well for the Christmas break.
”I’m glad you’re having a good time. Just remember, we’re always here for you, no matter the distance. PS: Only them? What about me? You don’t have to say anything. I just wanted you to know.”
That message confirmed all my fears and also warmed my heart. With him, it had always been this trepidation I felt right from the first time we met to all our gradual interactions. He had never been untoward towards me because of Bhai I guess, but I always had an inkling about his feelings towards me even as a 14-year-old. I was amazed that Bhai and my parents remained clueless about it or rather pretended to be. How was I so sure? No not just the sponsorship, but also because he barely had any friends, forget girls, even boys his age in his school, college, or work, he wasn’t too comfortable getting along with. His tragic past made it very difficult for him to open up to anybody and he hardly trusted many people. When I knew he was the lone witness to his grandparent’s and parents’ accidents, I sympathized with him, but on learning about his younger brother’s death, my heart went out to him. I couldn’t imagine anyone going through so many tragedies in life and keep on fighting, but he did, surprisingly so. In all of his life’s mishaps, he took in his stride and emerged stronger over all of them, but I guess he lost his innocence in the process and matured fast. When I was with them as a kid, I was always amazed at his resilience and patience. I found a vast difference between Bhai and his personality and when I knew of the reason, I guess he had all the right to be.
As the months went by, he never mentioned his feelings again after those texts and our conversations oscillated between friendly and general chats thankfully. Maybe, my lack of reply to his question silenced him. Whatever it was, I was glad. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him, he was everything a girl would envision in his future man, tall, good-looking, and rich, but I didn’t feel anything for him other than affection. He was always my brother’s friend and I never envisioned him in any other way. His confession left me in a whirlwind of emotions. London was meant to be a chapter of self-discovery, a time to focus on my studies and my art. But his words had stirred something within me, something I couldn’t ignore.
I spent days contemplating my feelings, talking to Mom, Dad, and Bhai seeking advice from them. They were all ecstatic and asked me to think rationally and make any decision, not every day a girl from our social status would get such a proposal they implied. They reminded me that if not for him, I wouldn’t be here in London pursuing my dream. And so, one evening, as the sun was setting over London, I typed a message to him.
I’ve thought about what you said. And I want you to know that I feel the same way about you.
“Really? You mean it?” he immediately pinged back.
Yes, I do. I’ve realized that some connections are made by destiny.
“I’m glad you feel that way. I’ve been waiting to hear you say those words.”
I’m sorry if I took too long to respond.
“No need to apologize. The fact that you responded with honesty means the world to me.”
As the days turned into weeks, our conversations took on a new depth. We talked about the future, about what it would be like when I returned from London. We shared our hopes, our dreams, and even our fears. It was a journey of discovery for both of us.
One day, he sent me a surprise – a photo of the lake at sunset. The caption read:
“This is where we first met.”
It feels like a lifetime ago.
“And yet, it also feels like just yesterday. Our paths were meant to cross, no matter the distance. I’m counting down the days when I will see you in person.”
A mix of excitement and nervousness filled me. What if our virtual connection didn’t translate into the real world? What if the chemistry or bond, call it whatever, we had online faded when we were face-to-face? But I pushed those doubts aside, choosing to believe in the bond we had built.
The day finally arrived when I stepped off the plane and set foot on familiar ground. My heart raced as I walked through the airport, knowing that he would be waiting for me along with my family. Just as I stepped outside the arrival gate, I saw him, a smile lighting up his face as our eyes met. It felt like a scene out of a movie, a moment frozen in time.
As I walked closer to him, everything else seemed to fade into the background. The distance that had separated us for so long was now just a memory, a past chapter in our story. He held out his arms, and without hesitation, I walked into his embrace, not caring about my parents or Bhai, feeling his warmth and his frenzied heartbeat against mine.
“Welcome back,” he whispered, his voice filled with a mix of emotions.
“Thank you,” I replied shyly, my voice barely above a whisper.
We stood there for a while, not needing words to convey how much this moment meant to us. The journey that had started by the lake had led us here, to this very spot. It was as if the universe had conspired to bring us together.
As we walked out of the airport, hand in hand, with my family in tow, ecstatic and happier than me, I knew that our story was far from over. Life had brought us back together, and now it was up to us to continue writing our own stories.
Why did I still have an uneasy feeling then?
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