I met a girl three years elder, while I was 15 attending a religious teenage retreat. I don't quite remember how I ended up there, but quite vividly remember that I was the youngest in the group of 200 odd teenagers, bursting with energy. I used to talk with her during the breaks about school and friends and she told me about her college and life in college. By the end of the week, we departed as friends, with a promise to write to each other.
She wrote to me from her college hostel, on an inland letter, which I still have in my box labelled letters. I wrote back to her, about some thoughts of mine, about people and about the things I was doing or maybe planned to do. She replied and the letters continued, making a lot of her friends familiar to me through her words.
I grew out of school and started living the life of a young college student, studying engineering as every other friend of mine was doing and the letters continued. She kept me updated with the incidents from her life, through her letters, to which I always replied back. I sometimes re-read the letters when alone and in one of her mails, she told me she does the same, at moments of gloom.
I was home after a fatal crash and being shown the exit doors of engineering, when I received a letter from her, describing to me the aroma of roasted coffee beans. I wrote to her that I would love filling my lungs with the aroma and not just with the thought of it through her words. On an impulse, I made the travel to her home and we spend a day talking, sitting in the family living room. Her folks, quite didn't grasp the relation we shared, but they thought it harmless, since I was younger to her by couple of years.
Time went sweeping and our letters got replaced by distant phone calls, when we tried update each other as to what all was happening. Time was always short, but the care in the voice, the same. She knew about my girl friends, my habits and addictions, my interests and passions and the crazy thoughts on existence, which I always fancied.
She invited me for her marriage couple of years back, for which I characteristically never turned up. But she called me in a weeks time, to share with me the excitement of being newly married and never mentioned to me about my absence in her wedding. She kept calling me once in a while, to share a grief or a smile. I listened to her, but never had a word of comfort to soothe her griefs. She wanted to be a mother badly, but the 3 miscarriages and some sobs were all I got to hear for a long time.
I didn't hear from her for about an year and I never called her back. Three weeks back, I hear her voice over the phone, telling me, she gave birth to a baby girl the day before. I didn't know how to congratulate a new mother and I felt scrambling for words. I told her that I would turn up for the child's baptism and then we would meet. With a twitch in the voice, she hung up not letting me know, whether she believed me or not.
I woke up dreaming about her this Sunday while I was sleeping over at a friends place and I wanted to speak to her, badly. I rang her and she asked me, "when are you coming?" I didn't know when and I just said, "maybe today". She hung up saying, we will be waiting!
It was evening by the time I reached her home over the ghats and there she was waiting for me with the baby in her arms, when the auto-rickshaw stopped in the drive way of her parents home. She dialed up her husband and asked him to come in a jiffy and made me promise, I wouldn't leave today. She wanted to know the life I was leading, about which I have been silent with her for over an year. I told her bits and pieces and she tended to the baby listening to me.
After dinner, when everyone retired to bed, I kept prowling on the balcony, thinking about the strange relation we shared, we were never in romance nor related by blood. Our relation existed in knowing each others life to a good extend and that was all to it.
Her husband found me up and prowling on the balcony at 1am and he asked me "what happened?" I told him, "nothing, just not sleepy." He retired back to his room, with a smile on his face. Moments later, I find the shadow of a lady holding an infant and I turned back to see her, standing in the door way with the infant in her hand, held close to her bosom. I tell her, "you don't have to keep me company. I am good." She came closer and ran her fingers through my hair and said, "my dear, you existed way before I met my husband, way before I gave birth to the baby. You are my closest friend and my husband nor the baby can't take that away from you. Tell me about all the crazy stuffs you been doing recently"