Note:- This is the 8th update of my first ever attempt at writing a novel named as ‘Choices and Consequences’. Find the link to my earlier updates right below:-
6. At Crossroads (Ross)
(Contd. from previous post)
“Yello!” came Chandler’s voice amidst the bawling of a young infant or perhaps, infants.
Hearing nothing but static, Chandler stared quizzically at the phone before he said,
Disgruntled, he was about to end the call when the other end finally responded.
“C.. Chandler? Is.. Is Monica there?” Rachel asked, her voice shaky.
“Rachel?..” Chandler exclaimed, concerned by her tone. “Yeah. Hold on for a second will you? Actually, know what? Just stay on line. It takes decades to pacify Erica. And then just when you’ve thought that you’ve done it, Jack sets off! God knows it ain’t easy raising a kid, huh Rach?”
Rachel could only manage a weak chuckle as she was reminded of the fact that how differently yet deeply the statement rang true for her.
Sensing Rachel’s distress, Chandler decided that now wasn’t the best time.
“I’ll be back.” he said and put the receiver down on the table.
“Mon? Mon?! There’s a call for you!” she heard Chandler call.
“Tell them to leave a message.” came Monica’s voice.
“It’s Rachel.” was all that Chandler said to convince Monica to change her mind and scurry swiftly to receive the call.
“Hey Rach, what’s up? How was your weekend? What happened? Tell me everything!” she exclaimed with all the excitement of a teenage girl.
“It’s Ross…” Rachel said, her eyes brimmed with tears yet again.
“What happened?” Monica asked, concerned. “You two didn’t fight, did you?”
“Not exactly…” Rachel replied, cringing. They did have a ‘minor’ row, but it really didn’t seem like a fight to her.
“Okay…” Monica said, puzzled.
“I think… I think that I’m still in love with him.” Rachel replied.
“WHAT?!” Really? Rach, that’s great news!” Monica exclaimed, barely managing to contain her excitement.
“I don’t know what I should do, Mon!” Rachel said, distressed.
“Tell him! That’s the obvious next step, of course!” cane her best friend’s response, the pitch having risen by an octave. Atleast.
“I really don’t think that’s a good idea, Mon. I mean he’s already moved on, so what’s the point?”
‘What?!’ Monica exclaimed mentally, realising that she was missing something.
“Hey there, Whoa! Who told you that he has moved on?”
“It certainly seemed like he has from the way he behaved at the airport.” Rachel replied, her voice sounding helpless.
“At the airport? When? Today? Tell me everything.” Monica said, following which Rachel narrated the entire incident of how close they had come to kissing each other and how, despite feeling the tension rise, Ross had backed out and had ended up kissing her on the forehead.
“Hmm.” Monica replied once she had heard it all.
“I don’t know honey. To me it sounds like he was protecting himself. I still think you should confess.” she continued.
“You do?” Rachel asked, sounding hopeful.
“It’s the only way to be sure, Rach. And I really am betting on the feeling being mutual.” Monica said, as she recalled the pain in Ross’s eyes the last time she had seen him.
Knowing her brother, she knew that it would probably never change.
* * *
It had been a long day. Quite literally, in fact, as the change in timezone had made it last six hours longer. Even then, it was almost midnight before he headed to the bedroom to ready himself for bed. Before he could do that, however, his phone started to ring and he headed to the living room to receive it.
“Hey, you” came Rachel’s voice, coyly.
“Hey Rach. What’s up?” Ross asked, a little taken aback by Rachel’s words, for it had been their signature when they had been a couple. Which they weren’t for almost 7 years now.
“Nothing…Ahem.. It’s just that I had something to tell you.” Rachel replied, her confidence somewhat diminished by Ross’s ‘cool’ response.
“Oh yeah? Me too!” Ross replied as the prospect of the promotion rang through his mind.
“Oh.” she said, surprised. “Well then, you go first.” she told him, wanting her confession to be the last thing they spoke about. Like a dessert.
“You sure? It did sound pretty important.” Ross reasoned.
“Oh no, no, no! I can wait. You go first.” Rachel replied.
“Okay.” Ross said, shrugging. “Guess what?”
“What?” She asked, perplexed.
“I’m getting a promotion. Straightaway as the head of the department!” Ross said, sounding genuinely excited.
“What?!” Rachel exclaimed in alarm. ‘Oh God!’ she thought.
“Yeah! Double the salary, a place in the campus, a huge office and all I have to do is fill an application.” Ross said, misunderstanding the reason behind her disbelief.
On the other end, Rachel could feel the walls closing in on her. Nothing came out of her as controlling her composure was all that she could manage for the moment.
“Rach?” Ross asked, puzzled, when there wasn’t any response.
“Mmm-Hmm?” she finally said, a tear now escaping her eye.
“Unbelievable, isn’t it? Hard work finally paying off, huh?” Ross said, failing spectacularly to grasp the complete somersault that Rachel’s emotions had taken.
“Yeah. I’m s-s-so happy for you!” Rachel replied, her voice growing thicker as she grabbed a couple of tissues from the table.
“So you think I should take it?” Ross asked, nonplussed.
“Of-of course you should. Definitely! Yeah!” Rachel replied, desperate for the call to end.
“Okay, if you say so. ‘Cuz I wasn’t very sure about applying for it.” Ross said, finally revealing a bit of his indecision.
“Why? You earned it, right?” Rachel asked, her mind visualising a silver lining.
Ross was about to respond when suddenly Rachel’s words echoed through his mind and made him swallow his words before they could be spoken…
‘I mean… we were so positive that we were going to make it, weren’t we?’
‘She has given up on me already! What am I thinking?!’ his conscience shouted at him.
And that was why, moments later, he found himself coming up with a very different response.
“Oh… It’s just… You know… seems like a lot of responsibility. Managing a department and all that.”
‘That’s why, Rach! You idiot! And here you were thinking that it was because of you.’ Rachel’s conscience admonished, cursing Monica for her advice.
“Oh. Yeah. There’s that too.” she finally said, with a small chuckle.
“Guess you are right, though. I did earn it.” Ross said, sounding proud of himself, his head swimming. For he had payed absolutely no attention to the tone of Rachel’s voice.
And of course Ross had earned himself the promotion. For Rachel had seen him work hard at his job, day in and day out.
“Mmm-Hmm.” Rachel replied, tears now falling freely from her eyes.
“Rach?” Ross asked, confused.
“Yeah?” she asked.
“You said you had something to tell me.” he stated, wondering why Rachel hadn’t brought it up by now.
“Oh. Oh, that! Yes! Emma was saying that she misses you.” Rachel replied, thanking her stars that she had an excuse at hand.
“Aww… did she now? Tell her daddy misses her too! Is she awake?” Ross asked, sounding hopeful.
“No, it’s still pretty early.” Rachel replied, sniffing.
“Rach? You okay?” Ross asked, as hearing her sniff finally made him suspicious.
“Yeah, absolutely!” she replied, overcompensating.
An odd silence seemed to descend on both ends as nobody seemed to know as to what to say.
“Well… errmm… I think I should get going. I’ve got some documentation to submit.” Ross said, not quite convinced, but brushing it off all the same.
“Yeah. Me too!” Rachel replied, glad that she didn’t have to be the one to end the conversation.
“Take care, Rach.” Ross said.
“Yeah, thanks. You too.” Rachel replied, ending the call.
Ross latched the receiver in it’s place and got up, not knowing what to make out of the whole conversation. Lost in thought, he was about to leave the room, when a piece of paper caught his attention as it lay crumpled on the floor, his scribble visible on the underside.
And as he unfolded it, he realised that it was the one whose contents he had read almost a million times beforehand.
‘Scenario A:- Rachel’s plane would get cancelled or grounded.
Scenario B:- Her position would be already filled.
Scenario C:- Eventually, she wouldn’t be happy there. Or would realise that she couldn’t be happy without me.’
Letting out a sigh, he finally decided to get rid of it. Artistically folding the paper, he made it into a plane. And gently blowing some air, he let it go, watching it get through the window, the nose of the plane tilted downwards due to it’s own weight.
Strangely though, the plane had somehow managed to cover more than 3000 miles. For Rachel’s mind seemed to prepare a very similar list almost immediately.
* * *
“WHAT?!” Phoebe exclaimed, as Monica told her about Rachel’s confession.
“My reaction exactly!” Monica exclaimed, laughing at Phoebe’s dumbstruck face.
“So this solves everything, right?! My lobsters get together again!” Phoebe exclaimed, as she recovered from the initial shock she had felt on hearing the news.
Lobsters was a term that Phoebe often used to refer Ross and Rachel with because it was believed that the creatures mated for life. And Phoebe was a firm believer that Ross and Rachel would eventually make it. Although, as the years passed, everyone gave up on them until only she remained.
“It’s not that simple, but let’s just say that things are finally heading in the right direction, yes!” Monica replied, feeling nothing but pure joy for her brother and her best friend.
“So when is Rachel going to tell him that?” Phoebe asked.
“She might already have. It’s been three days since then and it did sound like she would call him the very next minute.” Monica replied.
“Hang on. So let me get something straight. Rachel realized that she was in love with Ross four days back and planned to call him three days ago. Is that right?” Chandler asked.
“Yes” they replied, in chorus.
“And since then we haven’t received a single call from either of them. Am I the only one who is finding this suspicious?!” Chandler asked again, his eyebrows raised.
A thoughtful silence spread across the room as everyone realized that Chandler was indeed correct.
“Oh my God! I know what must have happened!” Phoebe exclaimed, jumping up in excitement.
“What?” Joey asked, clueless.
“They must have eloped. THEY MUST HAVE ELOPED!” Phoebe shouted, practically dancing with joy.
“I… I really doubt that Pheebs.” Monica said, sounding skeptical while Chandler and Joey let out murmurs of assent.
“Oh, you’ll see!” Phoebe replied, confident as always.
Monica was about to respond when suddenly the phone began to ring.
“Oh, I bet that’s them!” Phoebe exclaimed as Monica received the call.
“Hello? Oh, hey Ross! You are coming over for dinner right?” Monica asked while Phoebe let out a celebratory ‘Ha’ in the background.
“Oh. Why?” Monica asked perplexed, after she mouthed a ‘He’s not coming’ to the rest.
“Because he’s busy on his honeymoon!” Phoebe all but shouted.
“WHAT?!” Monica asked, catching everyone’s attention.
“Pheebs is right?!” Chandler exclaimed, finding it hard to believe. As the ruckus in the living room increased, Monica shot daggers at them and they quietened down almost immediately, wary as they always were of her discipline and temper.
“And when were you going to tell us?” Monica asked, sounding annoyed.
After listening to the other end, she asked
“And R… Rachel? Like, you guys talked about this?”
If only Monica’s words were to be considered, it sounded like Phoebe’s wild guess had been correct. But once one perceived her body language one would know that it couldn’t mean anything good. This time the exchange went on for a good couple of minutes before Monica said,
“Oh. Well… Okay. All the best!” her voice much smaller than before as she kept the receiver to end the call.
She turned around to find three pairs of eyes were focused on to her, hungry for information.
“Ross is applying for a job. As head of the department. In New York.” she said, a bit pale.
“New York. So does that mean that Rachel..” Phoebe trailed, her hopes fading as she met Monica’s eyes.
“Rachel will continue to live in Paris with Emma. Apparently she… encouraged Ross to take the job.” Monica continued.
“What? This doesn’t make sense anymore!” Joey wailed in frustration.
“Rachel never confessed, did she?” Phoebe asked, aghast.
“Nope.” Monica replied, settling heavily on the couch behind her, while nobody knew quite what to say.
They had never felt more helpless.
* * *
“Mommy? Mommy? Mommy!” rang an all too familiar voice throughout the house.
” Yes, sweetheart! Momma’s making pancakes for you!” she replied, mixing the batter.
“Mommy?!” Emma called again, this time sounding more persistent.
“Momma’s busy, sweetie.” she replied yet again, a little ticked off.
“Mommy?!” came her child’s voice, louder than before.
“Emma, that’s enough! I told you I’m busy. If it’s so urgent then pester your dad and leave me alone.” she admonished, as she kept the pan on the flame and added a tablespoon of butter.
“Mommy?!…” wailed Emma, sounding desperate as her voice gave away to a sob.
Something wasn’t quite right. Why was her daughter crying? All she had done was tell her to leave her alone and go to her father. And she would be there in a couple of minutes anyways, wouldn’t she? All set with a plateful of her favourite chocolate chip pancakes.
“Daddy?!… Mommy…” pleaded her daughter, her voice cracking towards the end.
Thunderstruck, Rachel opened her eyes and sat straight up in bed in one fluid motion, only to hear her daughter cry desperately in the other room.
“Shit!” she exclaimed, as the reality of the situation dawned on to her and hurried into the spare bedroom, lifting her daughter in her arms. And to her immense relief, Emma began to quieten almost immediately.
“Shhh… It’s okay. It’s okay. Momma’s here…” she whispered comfortingly into her daughter’s ear.
As her daughter eased on to her shoulder, she realised something.
It wasn’t just something that had been wrong with the dream. It had been everything.
For starters, since when did she began making pancakes?!
Not to point the obvious, but that hadn’t been the biggest problem with the dream at all.