The Waiting Room : A Short Story

The hustling of trains, the shrieking voice of the Chaiwallah or the constant rumbling of hordes of people, all combined at once – nothing could break her concentration while she was into a book.

A woman of almost 50 was lost deep into a paperback, without her knowing the world around and vice versa. It was more than an hour that her connecting train would arrive and anytime was good enough to read a book.

He entered the waiting room. He hated waiting. Punctuality was his drug, but the railways never shared it. Mapping the room and finding a corner to sit, he gazed through the entire stretch in one motion. But then his eyes abruptly stopped. There she was – lost deep in a book, as always.

He was jolted by what fate had to present today. The woman he always loved. The woman, whom he could never tell why he abruptly fled to a foreign land after her marriage. The woman, who could never let him fall for any other.

She finished a chapter and raised her eyes to have a look at the clock. It was still much time left for a new beginning. While taking her eyes back to the book, they met somebody who had always been there. Life is sometimes much stranger than fiction.

He gathered courage, and himself. She knew he recognized her. He knew she had. There was no running away today.

“Life is an unpredictable journey! How have you been so many years?”, He asked her. He had to start with something.

“Life. Has been a waiting room for me.” An answer that could surprise anyone. But he knew her.

“How is your husband?”

“Must be good. Haven’t heard from him for a while now.”

“Why? What happened?”

“We split up. We wanted lives at very different paces. Somebody had to break away. How about you?”

“Oh me! Work never allowed anybody else inside. She is a demanding mistress.”

Both of them smiled at the remark. He always made her smile. Every issue was trivial when they were together. Even his love became so, at least for her.

Life had given him another opportunity today. But was it right for people of their age to date, to fall in love, to get married? He could not decide. Even after so many years, he didn’t have the courage.

“It has been so many years. You didn’t get married. I failed at my marriage miserably. Sometimes, I think nobody understood me better than you.” She interrupted his thoughts with her confession.

“I wonder if it wouldn’t have been him, if it would have been you. Life would have been so different!” She continued with her confession.

It had been long that she talked to somebody who understood her. She could talk her heart out today and he wouldn’t judge her. He never did.

“Life can be different even now.” He could see the silver lining.

“What do you mean?” She couldn’t comprehend him.

“Everybody deserves a second chance. Shouldn’t we?”

“We? What ‘we’? You never loved me!”

This was his moment. Life was staring at him with a chance to rebuild what he thought was lost. To take his share of happiness and give her the happiness she deserved.

Without wasting another moment, he got on to one knee, raised in palm towards her asking for her hand and said, ” I love you. I love you more than anything else in this world and beyond.”

She was surprised at this gesture. Every soul in the waiting room was a witness to this. She had tears flowing from her eyes.

“After all this time?”

“Always.”

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