The road was empty at this time of the day but not the same with the clouds above, which were slowly gathering strength. She was staggering towards the bus stop, cursing for not carrying an umbrella. Was she trembling? Or was it just a drab dampness on her face, cast by the fading sky?
It was a cold night, the streets are icy and snow covered. He felt abandoned as so often, but this time it was different. This night shall be the greatest night of their lives; the night they fall in LOVE. But seven seas apart, little did anyone knew that their fates were joined; not even them.
She hated the word love, love was for the weak who had to amuse themselves with petty illusions she often said to herself. She got on to the next bus and settled down for a long journey back home. A journey which turned her life upside down, a journey that would haunt her for years to come. Just then she noticed a book lying on the seat next to hers. It was thickly bound, red in colour and had T.J engraved in golden letters. She looked around to see who left the book and saw that there were just three other people on the bus: a middle aged man two rows ahead of her and an elderly couple on the last row. She opened the book after all her co-passengers denied the ownership of the book, and the first page had it written in slanting bold letters...... To the Love of my life.... Happy Birthday!
That sentence took her memories ten years down the lane, back to the college days; to the first time she saw the very same words 'to the love of my life'. Sighing, she closed the book, not wanting to think about what she left behind, more aware of the numbness that clad her heart. She was invisible that's how anyone would describe her in college days and she preferred being so. And the few lots who noticed her found her slouch pitiable and her eyes, rammed into the ground. She never cared for them or anything. The new black poster on the department wall announcing some new theatre piece, she never saw. The cheery bonhomie of the campus lads hollering over some cricketer's new records, she never saw. And she never saw the pale guy with droopy eyes reading but the book in the library hall. She never saw...him. Everything was just the same until, in the afternoon of a gray day, she got an envelope, addressed 'To the love of my life', written in neat slanting letters. She didn’t open the envelope for a week, afraid it might be a trick. Finally when she had the courage to open the envelope, it was too late. It was not love letters as she feared but few sonnets, musical notations and biblical references.
He knew he was running late for the meeting and the thought that she hated it whenever he was late brought those old memories back to the front. He took the next train, even though it was to follow the longer route, fearing that the snow might pull a stop on all the trains. He settled in an empty wagon and his thoughts again started lingering to her. The first time he faced her, was with a red face, apologizing and requesting to return the envelope which was wrongly delivered to her. It was meant for his granny, which by the devilish deeds of his friends landed at her door step. But once face to face with her, he was mesmerized. The very next day he got another envelope to her, titled “For you, whose name I not know”. By his own standards, he thought had shown exemplary courage to give the envelope to her, but again she never looked like the snobbish kind.
She had opened the envelope to find that this time it was a book, “Love Story”, by Erich Segal. Little did she knew that with each page and with each passing day their relationship grew to become the most important part of their life. There were never enough hours to be spent together; the days were always short and the nights were not enough. Anything and everything was to be done together, to the extent that they even decided to a move into living together. But the conservative milieu around prevented them from doing it. The last of the passengers in the bus, the old couple, had got down at the last stop, but she had only covered half of her journey. She rested back and thought about how by the end of their college days things fell apart. It was neither acrimonious nor heartbreaking, as simple as they had met, they departed, to concentrate on their careers. Though the void was there for long but none that a nine to nine job can’t fill.
That was four years ago and now, after multiple failed relations and a career spanning the length of the country, he was going to meet her again. It was one of his friends who had dropped her name in a casual conversation and he picked up the trails from there to find out that she was in the next state, just a train ride away. He had dropped her a mail, asking about her and they followed it up with a catch-up of the life gone by. With trepidation he had asked her to meet him and she felt hers abate when he did eventually. And today was the day they were to meet, and he was hoping to make it on time, this time. When the next station came he got down and started walking towards the bus station. The weather was not at its best today but he hoped that things should not take a turn for the worst.
The message in the book had brought back some warm memories and soothed her nerves before meeting him. Hopefully there was still hope and maybe the book was trying to point towards something. As her bus stop came, she got up and signaled the bus driver to stop. As she approached the door, with the book held under her arms, she looked at the driver and they both smiled at each other. As she got down she saw him turning from around the block and walking towards her. She waved at him and he did so in return. As they got nearer they scrutinized each other’s face and finding what they were looking for, felt relieved. They hugged each other and started walking towards the other side of the road.
The bus driver watched them, walking hand in hand, talking softly as if they had secrets to hide from the world, until they were out of sight. He smiled and got up, took another book from his bag, the last one for today, and walked back towards the seats. He placed it on the last row and came back to the wheels, to continue to the next stop in his route, hoping that the weather remains peaceful for the rest of his journey.