She didn’t know if it was due to the exhaustion of the tiring journey or due to the biggest step she had ever taken in her life. But either of the reasons didn’t really matter now. Here she was. All alone, in an entirely unknown city.
She looked left, then to the right. No sign of him. “He must be there somewhere, checking every coach for me.” She thought. She hadn’t had a chance to tell him the coach number.
She saw an empty bench ahead. “I better wait for him here.” She sat there with her bag clutched in her lap.
There was life all around. Families getting off the train with loads of baggage. Porters running along in search of prospective customers. The vendors shouting at the top of their voices while doing brisk business. She tried her best to divert her attention to those little details of people’s lives. But at every next minute, she would involuntarily look around in search of him.
Amidst all the noises, she found her mind recollecting the events of the day.
It was early morning, when her dad had announced that the prospective groom and his family would be arriving in two days. And that was when she had lost it. She had announced her disapproval about the idea in no uncertain terms. And her dad had shouted at her. And she had shouted back at him. For the first time in life… !
And then she had rushed in to gather her belongings. She couldn’t breathe anymore in that cage. She shoved her things in the bag even as her mom continued to let her have more than just a piece of her mind.
She had decided. She was leaving. She wanted to be with HIM. HE was her life now.
She had tried to call him. But couldn’t get through. So she messaged him to let him know that she had left all for him. And that she would be arriving by the evening express. She got herself an un-reserved ticket with whatever little money she had saved. And she boarded the train. She was free. She was finally going to be with him.
A slight chill in the air shook her back into the present. The sun had almost gone down, letting the darkness take charge of things. But he still wasn’t there…
She felt her throat go dry. She quickly took a couple of gulps from the bottle she had bought. She felt better. But still…
It was almost an hour since she had de-boarded. Why wasn’t he here ? Did he get her message ? She took out her mobile phone. She hadn’t even got a chance to recharge the battery before leaving. The screen was blank. She switched it on. It showed some signs of life. Suddenly it blinked twice. “LOW BATTERY.” And it went dead again.
She saw a pay-phone on the side of the coffee shop. She went up to it, dropped in a coin and called his number. “NOT REACHABLE !”
She tried again. And again. And again. But without any luck.
She was starting to panic. Here she was, all by herself, in a completely new city. She didn’t know a soul. Except him. She didn’t know where to go. And she didn’t even have enough money.
She took out her purse and counted. She hadn’t eaten anything all day. Would that much be sufficient to buy her a meal ? If it was, then what after the meal ? Or should she skip the meal and buy a ticket back to home ?
HOME ?? What home ?? She had left home for good. There was no one to receive her back. Even if they were, did she have the courage to return ? She had argued… shouted… and vowed never to return. Could she face them now ?
And suddenly she felt her heart sinking…
She slowly went back to the bench and sat. What were the options for her now ? Were there any ?
“Why isn’t he here yet ? He’d surely have got my message. He always does. Ohhh… Why did I leave ? Why didn’t I think ? Did I act too hastily ?” That was all she could think of. Her heart sinking deeper with each passing second. Her mind was inching closer to the extreme decision. Her eyes brimming with tears.
He smiled as he looked at her from behind the pillar, still trying to catch his breath. Running the length of the long railway platform coupled with the immense anxiety about her had almost left him breathless. And then he slowly moved towards her.
He stood there, quietly, in front of her, while she looked down at the floor, almost numb with hopelessness.
Startled, she looked up. And there he was, smiling at her.
She suddenly felt extreme emotions ready to explode inside her. Nothing could match the sense of relief she felt. But the raging anger felt matchless too. She loved him all the more now. But she also hated him with all she had. She wanted to run into his arms. And she wanted to kill him.
But all she could manage to do was to stand up and say, “Where were you ??”
“Sorry. Late as usual. You know I can never get my things ready in quick time…” He replied, still short of breath.
“Things ? What’s in that bag ? Where are you going ?” She was puzzled.
“WE are going back. To your place. I have to ask your dad for you. I don’t want him shouting later that I stole you.” He grinned.
“He won’t let you…”
“Then we’ll run away together. That’s why the bag…” He laughed.
She couldn’t keep herself from folding into his arms. Finally, she let go of the tears as well.
“I’m hungry…” She said.