“So does that mean that I finally get to see him?!” Sam asked Rachel as they made themselves comfortable on the couch.
“Yes. It does.” she replied, smiling fondly at Sam’s enthusiasm.
December had almost bade farewell by now, leaving the city with a thin trail of snow, it’s treasured gift. There was an air of festivity all around what with Christmas just over and the excitement of a new year just around the corner. People were busy either spending quality time at home or flocking around famous tourist places. Regardless, it meant they were with their families. So it came quite as a pleasant surprise to Rachel when Sam made an appearance at her doorstep, complete with a plum cake and a bottle of wine in her hands. ‘Thought I’d just drop by!’she had said. But Rachel knew why Sam had really ‘dropped’ by for. And she was very grateful for the same.
“It’s a pity he couldn’t make it to Christmas though.” Sam said, cutting out a piece for herself.
“Yeah… But he’ll be here for New year’s! I mean what better day could there possibly be to make a new start, right?” Rachel asked, smiling soulfully.
“True that. Here’s to a better tomorrow” Sam replied, raising her glass for a toast.
“To a better tomorrow!” Rachel exclaimed, in unison.
‘And to the even better day afters’ she thought, bringing the glass to her lips.
* * *
“Uh oh.” Ross exclaimed as he lifted the third and thankfully, last baggage off the carousel. This had been the first time that he had to actually pay extra money for his baggage. Probably because not all the goods he was carrying were his own. Like the one which was now rattling suspiciously as he placed it on the trolley.
And, knowing that it could mean nothing good, Ross opened the bag to confirm his suspicions.
Yup, he was right. His luggage had been manhandled.
“Damn it!” he said, whilst cursing the people responsible for it.
“Crockery?! What the hell was Mon thinking, anyways?” he thought to himself, shaking his head in regret.
He really would have liked to have ‘a talk’ with the airline and the airport staff, but his conscience reminded him that he had much more pressing issues to deal with. And so, grudgingly, he began labouring his way through the crowd towards the arrivals where he would finally greet… Rachel.
* * *
“God! I’m so excited!” Sam exclaimed as she hopped on the spot like a kid waiting for their favourite store to open.
“You’ve said that atleast 10 times since the last half hour.” Rachel said, passing a bemused look at her friend.
“Yes, but I can’t help myself! I mean, you two, finally getting together. It’s just so… romantic, you know! It’s almost like a movie or something.” Sam said, her voice bubbling with excitement.
“Did I ever tell you that you remind me of a younger version of myself?” Rachel asked, smirking at her friend.
“Duh! Almost every day!” Sam replied, rolling her eyes in exasperation. All of a sudden though, her expressions changed, a rather serious look creeping up her face.
“Oh look! That’s him, isn’t it?” she asked, her eyes locked onto a man who had just entered the arrivals section, carrying a rather large amount of baggage considering that it appeared to be just him and a small child atop his cart.
It did not take Rachel too long to realise who Sam was talking about. For she was way too familiar with the figures to miss them.
“Yes. That’s him.” she replied, her eyes turning a shade or rather shades, deeper.
* * *
The moment their eyes met, Ross’s irritation at the airport staff vanished instantaneously, his legs now working harder than before.
“Mommy!” squealed Emma, pointing at her mother with a newfound excitement.
“Yes, honey. We are going to mommy.” Ross said, reassuring his daughter and turning his trolley a bit to the right so that he could reach Rachel through the shortest possible path.
The airport, however is not a place where one can simply cut across the distance. And hence, he had to endure several nudges, curses and an almost head on collision with an old woman before he finally made through. These things only looked good in movies, Ross mused. For they were certainly much more messier in person.
“Ross.” said Rachel, as soon as Ross’s trolley came to a halt few feet away, while Sam watched the scene with rapt attention.
“Rach.” Ross replied, unable to say anything else either.
“Happy new year” she offered, the words coming out in a hurry.
“Happy new year, Rach.” Ross replied, still rooted in his spot.
For a moment they just stood there, not knowing quite what to say to each other. Because words obviously weren’t enough to convey the emotions they had kept locked in for so long.
Tentatively, Ross took a step closer to her. Rachel did the same, her eyes turning moist, their gap reducing to mere inches.
And then, it happened.
The thing which they had almost done twice in the recent past but had not quite gone through it.
Closing in, their lips finally met, giving away all the urgency and the longing they had held dear for the last few months. All of it culminating in a moment which they never wanted to end.
But it had to, more out of their state of breathlessness than anything else. That and of course, just one more, tiny little thing.
“So anytime you feel like paying attention to your child, you give me a call, alright?” Sam said, her expressions midway between adoring and admonishing.
Embarrassed, they both looked away from each other to see Sam holding a fidgeting Emma who was both confused and hurt by her mother’s complete ignorance.
“Aww sweetie! I’m so sorry!” Rachel said in a baby voice as she lifted Emma up in her arms and consoled her.
“And you must be…” Ross began, turning to face her.
“Sam.” she replied, extending her hand.
“Oh right. I have heard quite a lot about you.” Ross replied as he accepted the handshake.
“You have?!” Sam asked, enthused.
“Yeah.” Ross replied, smiling at her genuine childishness. Sam’s expressions, however, sobered as Ross continued,
“Thank you for taking care of her. You know, while…” he tapered, feeling a bit awkward.
Sam simply nodded her head saying,
“You don’t have to thank me, Ross. After all, that’s what friends are for.”
* * *
Ross and Rachel
Ross’s boxes in the living room
“Ouch! Shit!” Rachel exclaimed, retracting her hand which was now bleeding at an alarming rate.
Unaware, Rachel had taken to unpacking the luggage and had only just opened the first of quite a few boxes when her fingers were greeted with a very sharp object. Or rather, objects.
“What happened?” Ross asked, bursting out of the shower on hearing her exclaim in agony.
“What happened is that I got cut by one of those extremely sharp objects you had hidden in that box!” Rachel said, while holding her injured hand in the other.
“Oh my God!” Does it hurt?” he asked, once he saw Rachel’s bloodshot fingers.
Irritated, Rachel was about to say something rude when she caught the amount of concern on his face which reminded her of their ‘good, carefree’ times all those years ago. Mollified, she simply ended up nodding in agreement instead.
“Hang on. I think I have got it here. I always carry a first aid kit with me while travelling. Especially on long journeys such as these.” Ross said, as he hurried towards one of his bags and swiftly unzipped several compartments in search.
“Aha!” he said, getting lucky the fourth time.
Still hurting, Rachel managed a small smile, admiring Ross’s usual ‘preparedness’ for such times. In no time, Ross approached her with a roll of gauze, some cotton and a bottle of antiseptic solution. Things that Rachel hadn’t even thought of purchasing even though she had been living there for the past seven months and had been through more than a dozen visits to the local supermarkets.
“There you go. Let your hand cleanse under the tap first, and then we’ll get on with this. Okay?” he asked, looking at her as one would while explaining a kid.
“Okay.” Rachel said, positively giggling. Getting cut didn’t turn out so bad after all. She did enjoy being babied by Ross. Until he became a little too overbearing, that is.
Once she was done, Ross gently wiped her hand dry and inspected it for any embedded pieces of glass. Fortunately, there were none. As he begun applying the antiseptic, Rachel said
“I have to ask… Why the hell did you pack shards of glass in your bag? Were they supposed to be a part of some anti-theft strategy or something?”
Puzzled, Ross looked at her in confusion as he exclaimed,
“What? Who the hell does things like that?!”
Suspicious, Rachel arched an eyebrow in response, making Ross look away and resume dressing Rachel’s wound.
“Well… I don’t do that anymore. Before that stupid airline manhandled it, it was a pretty decent set of crockery. Mon’s Christmas present to you.” he said
“You’ve brought presents?!” When were you planning on telling me that?” Rachel exclaimed, suddenly eager for Ross to be done with the bandage.
“Once I got out of the shower.” he replied, now tying the last knot and inspecting his handiwork. Satisfied, he looked up and said,
“But I guess it should have been obvious. Why else do you think I had so much baggage?”
That made Rachel frown.
“I don’t think it was. For I had more baggage than you.” she said, a tad annoyed.
“Yes, but you see, unlike you I don’t own fifty pairs of shoes.” Ross replied, smirking.
“I don’t own fifty pairs of shoes!” Rachel exclaimed.
“Oh yeah? Then if I were to open your wardrobe right now, how many would I find?” Ross challenged.
“47.” Rachel replied, in a much smaller voice than before.
This time, it was Ross who raised an eyebrow.
“Did you include the bathroom slippers?” he asked.
Quite a few moments passed before Rachel said,
“Uh huh. Your gym shoes?” Ross asked, knowing just the type of loopholes Rachel’s answer had.
This time the pause was definitely longer.
Ross’s smirk was growing wider with every passing moment.
“And those funky sandl..”
Rachel had no choice.
“Alright! Alright! You know me too well.” she said, giving up while Ross chuckled at her obvious frustration.
“Does it still hurt?” he asked, the playfulness in his voice replaced by a serious undertone.
“Not much. Thanks.” Rachel replied, smiling and heading back towards the bags, eager to unwrap the rest of the boxes.
“Need any help?” Ross asked, as he watched her struggle a bit what with one hand now rendered useless.
“No. My left hand can work just fine.” she said, tearing apart at the wrapping determinedly.
Yeah, she was still the same old Rachel. Adorably stubborn and fiercely independent, Ross mused as he took her leave and headed back in to complete his shower.
* * *
There’s a good reason why the term ‘the time flies by’ came into being. Because it truly did. Especially when one didn’t want it to.
A week had simply ‘flown by’, and as Rachel had hoped, it indeed turned out to be the best week she had had in a really long time. And the sole reason for that had been no one else but… Ross.
For whether it be shopping, touring museums or nurturing Emma, whatever they had done in the past seven days, they had done it together. And hence they had ended up enjoying themselves thoroughly.
“Rach!” Ross called out.
“Coming!” Rachel replied from the nursery.
“I am running late already. Can you please hurry?” he asked.
“Just a second.” came Rachel’s response.
Today however, their time together had come to an end. For in mere few hours, Ross had to take his leave for Charente, which was the very reason why he had been able to come to Paris in the first place. Thankfully, with the quarries being within a half day’s drive, Ross had been assured that he would be able to spend atleast a day out of the week with Rachel and Emma. Viewing their recent history, he knew that this was certainly more than what they could have asked for. Restless, Ross was about to call Rachel for the third time when she finally hurried into the room, carrying a spirited Emma in her arms.
“What took you so long?” he asked, a bit irritated at Rachel’s usual lack of timeliness.
“Ems here had an ‘accident’ waiting for me. You try getting through that faster than me, Mister.” she replied, while shooting him an ugly glare.
“You did?” Ross asked Emma in a baby voice, to which she simply let out a giggle.
“She looks cheerful.” he said, looking back at Rachel.
“Of course she does. The mischief’s already been dealt with.” Rachel replied, sounding grumpy.
Ross sighed in exasperation. Rachel. Hated. Changing. Diapers. It was a fact that would probably never change.
“You ready to meet your aunt and uncle sweetie?” Ross asked to which Emma nodded in excitement.
“There you go then.” He said, placing the call.
To their surprise, it was picked up almost immediately.
“Hey guys!” Rachel said, to the four people on the other end.
They were barely listening though.
“Oh get out of my way! Is this even working?” Phoebe exclaimed as she tried to get right to the centre of the screen, while being pushed away by an equally stubborn Monica. Chandler and Joey were just behind the duo, perfectly comfortable with their positions as backbenchers.
“Can you see me?” Phoebe asked, still banging heads with Monica.
“Yes Pheebs. We can see you.” Rachel replied, smiling.
“Of course she can! For you are hogging the entire screen!” Monica said, unwilling to relent.
“Mon, Pheebs! Stop fighting! We can see everyone.” Ross said reassuringly.
With a final glare at each other, they both gave up bashing against each other and turned their focus to the screen instead.
“So how does it feel? Being together after so long?” Monica asked, eagerly.
Before either of them could reply, Chandler said,
“It surely must feel different, right? I mean it’s so unlike you!”
Exasperated, everyone now turned to look at Chandler. Even little Emma. Although that was probably only because of the fact that he was the one who was speaking.
“What?” he asked, alarmed by the glares he was getting.
“Can’t a man speak his mind around here anymore?” he continued.
“Thank you Chandler, for pointing out the obvious. Yes, it feels different.” Ross said, while the rest rolled their eyes.
“But, it’s not a ‘bad’ different. It’s a ‘good’ one. In fact, it’s a…” he trailed.
“It’s a ‘great’ different.” Rachel said, completing the sentence for him and taking his hand in hers. Grateful, Ross gave her a smile.
It was a moment before Joey finally voiced the thoughts of the New Yorkers.
“Okay. So you two had sex. Why don’t you just say it out loud, huh?” he said, while pointing his fingers accusingly at the pair.
“Joey! There’s a two year old here, for God’s sake!” Ross admonished, while covering Emma’s ears.
“Yeah, right. A two year old kid who has been listening to an erotic song as a lullaby ever since she was two months old. Really convincing, Ross.” Joey replied.
“Yeah. We have decided to take it slow this time, you know. Get to know each other again. Rebuild our trust and confidence. Get back in the groove.” Rachel replied, while Ross looked at her with a mixture of respect and confusion.
It didn’t take the gang much time to figure it out though.
“It’s because of your injured hand, isn’t it?” Monica asked, barely able to hide her smirk.
“Why can’t it be due to two things at the same time?!” Rachel said, raising her hands in exasperation.
“That may be the case, but Rachel’s right, Mon. We are going to take it slow. We have indeed determined to learn from our mistakes this time.” Ross said, in defence.
There was a bit of a silence at the other end on hearing that.
“Well… that’s… great news, Ross. It really is.” Monica replied, while the others seemed to share the same sentiment.
“But enough about us. Tell me about you guys! I am dying to hear the results of Phoebe’s ultrasound” Rachel said.
The statement had been enough to set Phoebe on a long ramble which was constantly interrupted with snippets from the rest. In the end though, they understood enough to make out that Phoebe was going to give birth to a healthy baby boy sometime in August. That and Chandler’s yet another idea finding it’s way in the advertisement firm made it to the highlights of the almost hour long chat they had. A chat which Ross had to reluctantly end as the car dispatched to drive him to the quarries had finally arrived.
“I’ll be seeing you real soon, Rach. And that’s a promise I’ll do everything to keep.” Ross said as they kissed each other goodbye.
“Say bye to Daddy!” Rachel said to their daughter who was eyeing Ross with a look that suggested a feeling of deceit.
“Goodbye Ems” Ross said, kissing her cheek tenderly. Emma however refused to acknowledge him, looking away in the opposite direction.
Feeling rather sorry for her, Ross cast a look at Rachel who smiled in reassurance, with a look that seemed to suggest,
‘I’ll take care of it.’
Grateful, Ross cast a final glance at the room and was about to take leave when he suddenly turned back, as though he had forgotten something.
“You know, it’s weird.” he said.
“What is?” asked Rachel.
“It’s only been a week since I left New York. But it feels like a month. Sometimes even more.” he said.
Rachel simply looked at him, waiting for him to continue.
“I mean, I’m barely here but I have already begun to miss New York.” he said, smiling at her.
It was a smile which Rachel returned only half heartedly. And before she knew it, he was gone, heading down the stairs in a jiffy.
Yes, they had been right, she thought, staring at the door which had shut itself closed behind him.