Reuben and Sarah were best friends since they were 5 years old. They were neighbours, classmates and went to the school in the same bus. When they grew up and wanted to explore sex, they slept together. It was the most natural thing to do. So, it was only natural that when they turned 21 years old, their parents talked to them about marriage.
“But I don’t want to get married. I want to get out of this hell hole and explore the world. I want to do something great and not tied down with a wife and kids.” Reuben told Sarah.
Sarah nodded. “I have never known any other boy except you, Reuben. Even I don’t want to be tied down to the person with whom I have grown up. I want to meet other boys, flirt with them, break their hearts, cry in love and then may be settle down with a fine young man.”
“So, it’s decided. We are not getting married.” Sarah agreed.
Three months later, Reuben was flying out of India. The morning before Reuben was leaving, he called Sarah to meet him at their usual haunt – on the beach behind the rock. Reuben showed Sarah two gold rings with their names engraved.
“Sarah, no one knows us better than each other. We also complement each other well. Let’s meet here 10 years from today. If by that time, we are both unengaged and want to get married to each other, we will dig up these rings. However, even if one of us is unwilling, we will leave the matter unspoken and meet again after 10 years.”
They dug up a hole under the giant rock and hid the rings. The two friends hugged each other for a long time.
Ten years later, they met at the beach behind the same rock.
Reuben was a photojournalist and was traveling from one country to another and scaling one mountain after another. He was living his dream. Sarah was a homing bird. In all these years, she didn’t leave Goa even for a day. However, her husband had left her recently.
Reuben hugged a distraught Sarah. The rings stayed there, forgotten under the sand.
The sands of time continued to fall. Ten years later, Sarah reached the venue earlier. She dug up the rings and hid them in her pockets. She was looking forward to meeting Reuben and had been counting months, weeks and days.
At 41, he was a good-looking man. Save for a few grey hair at the temples, age had more or less left him untouched. He had also become hugely popular. His heart-wrenching photo-story of the Soviet-Afghan war had earned him many accolades.
“How are you, Sarah?” Reuben asked, his concern genuine which made Sarah feel warm to her bones.
“Better now after having seen you. You are going places, mister!” Sarah teased him.
“You don’t have any idea, Sarah. It’s the most exciting time of my life. My work’s getting appreciated from all corners of the world. Every week I am in a new country. Girls are literally throwing themselves at my feet.”
“So, what are the plans for the future?” Sarah asked. She wasn’t so confident anymore.
“The same as usual. Visit more places, capture more images and tell more stories.” Reuben was too much concentrated on himself to see Sarah’s smile falter and her eyes welled up.
“Sarah, you should marry again. Let bygones be bygones. You deserve to be happy,” were Reuben’s last words before he left.
Sarah put the rings back in their rightful place and left the beach all alone. Thankfully, no one could see her crying in the dark.
It was 1st May. Thirty years ago, they had made the promise to meet each other at the rock, behind the beach. They had not broken their promise once. Today was no exception.
“Sarah, I have come back for good.”
Reuben was amazed at the way Sarah looked. Her face was calm, her actions unhurried and her eyes looked as if they had found inner peace.
“I don’t want to live out of a suitcase anymore. Even after 30 years, I couldn’t build a place I can call home. I have seen the greed and pettiness in men who have more wealth than they need. I have also seen the hunger and misery in kids of war-ravaged countries. I am tired of travelling the world. I have realised that Goa is indeed the best.”
“Sarah, here are our rings, let’s get married. It’s time we lived happy together.” Reuben was holding the gold rings with their names.
“I am afraid that’s not possible, Reuben.”
Reuben was surprised. He knew Sarah was not married. She was not wearing a ring.
“I am leaving the pleasures of the mortal world and embracing the Faith.”
The rings never saw the light of the day again.
I am participating in the Write Tribe Festival of Words – June 2018