The moonlight shone brightly upon 14, Newcastle Avenue to reveal a girl fidgeting on her bed, doing her best to drift off to sleep. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t do it. She was way too excited about the next morning to sleep. How could she not be when she was finally going to meet them?! Her parents had told her innumerable stories about them, the fun they had together, which made her practically jump with joy when she heard that they were coming tomorrow. Sure they had been in her life, but she had been too small back then.
She opened her eyes for the umpteenth time, in hope that it would be the sun which would be shining through her window. Alas! It was still the moon. Disappointed, she turned herself to look at her alarm clock, only to find that the glowing hands of Minnie had barely moved since she had seen them last. It had been barely five minutes since she had last seen it. If only there was a way to speed up time…
A mischievous grin brightened her face. Well she certainly couldn’t speed up time. But at least she could make it seem like it did…
* * *
What was that sound down there? Was it a cat? Or worse… a thief? Or was it just his kids? He knew it couldn’t be his wife because she lay peacefully beside him, letting out an occasional sound, fast asleep. As he bent down to kiss her forehead, he heard a sound again which confirmed that he hadn’t imagined it. He decided to find out.
“I’ll be back in a minute” he whispered after kissing her and got up to leave. He could swear he saw a hint of a smile on her lips as he did so.
On leaving his bedroom, he was momentarily blinded by the sudden presence of light in the hallway. “What the…” he said out aloud. He went downstairs, still blinking his eyes and shielding them with his left hand. On reaching down, he noticed that all the lights had been switched on and all the curtains were closed shut. Not to mention the clock which proclaimed the time as…
His lips curled upwards in a smile on hearing the soft patter of footsteps in the kitchen.
“What are you doing up this late Ems?”
Emma, who was not expecting it, jumped in shock and dropped the clock in her hand. It made a sound, but not loud enough as to wake up the other members of the house.
“I… I was just thirsty” she offered, blushing a deep red as she did so.
“That required you to switch on each and every light in the house except our bedroom? ” asked Ross, pretending to be angry. In reality, he was amused.
“I am afraid of the dark” she said, defensively.
“And somehow that also involved changing time of every clock in the house?”
Emma said nothing for a while as she felt trapped. Finally, she spoke in a rather small voice. “I wasn’t able to sleep”
Ross smiled “Nor could I. Come on.”
Emma looked inquiringly at her dad.
” We are going to have some fun with Mommy. She is still asleep. “
* * *
” Rach? Rachel? Honey? Wake up! Its time! ” said Ross trying to shake her awake.
“Hmm?” asked Rachel, rolling to one side and refusing to wake up.
“Rach, come on! We have to leave for the airport in an hour. Monica will freak out if you are late.” Boy, Ross was good when it came to co-conspiring with his daughter, who was struggling hard to maintain a straight face. But as Rachel finally managed to get herself in a sitting position, she quickly wore an innocent looking smile.
“Good morning, Mommy! “
Rachel barely smiled. Some things never changed. Like the fact that Rachel was not a morning person.
” Hurry up Rach, we don’t have much time! “
Rachel got up and looked at their bedside clock. 6:15. That was enough to knock off some sleep. But not enough for her to notice that the house was lit by artificial light rather than by the natural sunlight. Or the faces of her husband and her daughter.
Ten minutes later, Rachel was none the wiser and was frantically searching the room for something. Ross began to feel sorry for her and decided to tell her the truth.
“Do you know where our hair dryer is Ross?” said Rachel interrupting his thoughts.
“I have no idea. Rach, listen… “
“Ughh. It’s not here! I’d better ask Monica if I can borrow hers.” she said after closing the drawer shut with frustration.
Ross was alarmed at the prospect as things seemed to be getting out of hand. “Oh it must be here somewhere. Don’t call her, we’ll find it.”
Rachel in the meanwhile, had already picked up her cell and was calling Monica. Ross lurched to snatch the cell from her, but he was too late. Monica had picked up the phone. Ross quickly went from feeling sorry for her to feeling sorry for himself.
* * *
The Bing residence
The silence of Chandler and Monica’s bedroom was broken by the sudden ringing of Monica’s cellphone. “Goddamit” whispered Monica slowly getting out of her bed to answer it.
“Who is it?”
“It’s Rachel.” Monica replied as she picked up the phone wondering why Rachel had called her at this ungodly hour.
“Hello?” she whispered groggily.
After hearing the other end…
“What?” Had she heard her right? Was she SERIOUS?!
The voice on the other end repeated itself now sounding more urgent and aggressive.
“For God’s sake Rachel, why do you want a hairdryer at 2 am in the morning?”
Monica’s face turned from annoyance to confusion on hearing the other end.
“Yes it is. Either that or somehow your house drifted apart by a few thousand miles!”
As Monica opened her blinds, she saw Rachel’s head popping out of the curtains. The look of bewilderment on her face was quickly replaced by anger.
“You are a dead man” she growled at a visibly uncomfortable Ross. Out of the corner of the eye, she caught Emma trying to scoot off.
“And you are not going anywhere! “
Emma stopped where she was, unable to stifle her giggles.
” You think this was funny? ” she asked, her eyes back on Ross.
” I… I guess it was. A little bit… ” Ross replied trying hard not to smile at the expression on Rachel’s face which was a ‘if looks could kill’ one.
Just then the doorbell rang, which moments later turned out to be a formality as the visitors had already stepped in using their keys. One of them had a look of confusion and anger while the other seemed mildly amused. The trio had come downstairs to find themselves being stared at by Monica and Chandler.
“What’s going on?”
“Ross here thought it would be funny to make it appear as though it was morning so that I could get out of bed and make a fool of myself! “
Monica glared at Ross who mumbled something which sounded like ‘It was Emma’s idea’
” Even if it was, I thought you had more sense than a 7 year old to wake us up in the middle of the night knowing full well that we have an early day tomorrow! ” Monica admonished.
” Actually it was Mom’s idea” Emma said, smiling as she did so.
Four pairs of eyes turned towards Emma, surprised by her statement.
“Ben told me the story of how Mom had made Aunt Jill believe that it was morning by doing the same thing. Aunt Jill was actually caught having cornflakes and was shouted at by Grandpa Green for eating cornflakes at 3 in the morning. And by the time Aunt Jill explained, Mom was already in her room pretending to be asleep. “
All now look at Rachel who now seems angry on herself.
“Darn! Why did I have to be his ‘fun’ Aunt Rachel?”
“Impaled upon your own sword Rach!” smirked Chandler.
“Boy we should have brought our cameras for such a perfect family moment! “
* * *
Newcastle Avenue, Westchester
” Checking for positions. Respond with a yes on hearing your name. Ross, you check for the kids’ positions.” ordered Monica, her face hidden from view by a sheet of paper in front of her.
“Jack, back seat on the left in car 1”
“Hang on. Which car is car 1?” asked Rachel from her seat.
“It’s the car which leads. Honestly were you even paying attention during the orientation I gave barely 5 minutes ago? “
” Erica, back seat on the right in car 1″
“Yes mom.” replied Erica.
“Chandler, front seat beside the driver in Car 1”
“Yes mom!” replied Chandler, to which Monica made a face.
“Ross?” Monica called out.
“All in position in Car 2”
“Can I sit besides Jack?” asked Emma.
“When hell freezes over, young lady!” replied Rachel.
“I promise we won’t fight.”
“Like you do twice a day?” demanded Rachel, on which Emma frowned.
“Besides, you’ll keep Daniel company.”
“He’s boring!” she complained, while pointing at Daniel who was busy colouring his dinosaur.
“Emma! That’s rude! Say sorry to your brother! ” scolded Rachel.
“I’m sorry” she said, in a tone which conveyed that she didn’t actually mean it.
“Okay” said Daniel turning to smile at her before resuming his activity.
“Boring” Emma whispered again, looking away at the window by her side.
Ross and Rachel look in exasperation at Emma, before they find themselves trapped in looking into each other’s eyes, a smile on their faces.
Monica cleared her throat to get their attention. “Sorry to interrupt you, but we are kind of on a tight schedule here”
Ross and Rachel looked away, blushing.
“Now. Seat belts?”
“Check” said Ross, who had already buckled Emma and Daniel safely into their seats.
“All done!” he shouted, having done the same.
“Rach, you got your license along?”
“The new one. And not the one which expired a decade ago?”
Rachel’s face changes from exasperation to self doubt. “Hang on…” she says as she searches her purse for the same. “Aha! It’s the right one! See!”
Monica checks it, and verifies it as valid.
“Seems like you’ve finally become responsible” she says, a bit surprised.
As soon as Monica moves away towards her car, Rachel turns to Ross “Thank you!”
“My pleasure. Although I can’t see why I can’t drive!”
“Because we have to reach there by 9 AM Ross and not 9 PM!”
“Car 1 to Car 2. I repeat Car 1 to Car 2. Can you hear me?” Monica’s voice came in through the walkie talkie in Ross and Rachel’s car.
“Car 1 will lead the way. So do NOT overtake Car 1. I repeat do not overtake Car you loose visual then tell that you lost visual. Car 1 will slow down. Our destination is JFK’s Terminal 2. On reaching, we park our cars in the same parking lot and preferably close by. Phoebe’s flight arrives first at 9:21, followed by Joey’s at 10:03. Joey will come to T2 by shuttle, so there should be no confusion of running to T4 in the event that we split. Any questions?”
“Yeah. Mon, why can’t I lead? I know the route pretty well.”
“Because we have to reach our destination alive and in one piece Rachel”
* * *
JFK Airport, New York
The two families constituted a miniscule number amongst the thousands gathered at the arrivals eager for a glimpse of the person they had waited so long to arrive. Daniel was seated on Ross’s shoulder, while Erica and Jack were poking through Chandler’s legs and Emma was jumping every once in a while, desperately trying to look through the crowd.
“Shouldn’t she be here by now?” asked Rachel.
“I don’t know… her flight has landed on time. May be she got stuck at the baggage claim” replied Ross, eyes still towards the people emerging through the gates.
As minutes passed, the necks craning for a look grew sore. They had just begun to worry until…
” Aunt Phoebe!” Daniel exclaimed, all of a sudden, his finger pointing at a blonde women carrying a luggage cart, while his other hand was waving the photograph he had been given.
“Bravo Daniel! Phoebe, hey Phoebe!” Ross called out, followed shortly by the rest.
“That’s not fair! How could he find her first?!” exclaimed Emma, cross with herself for not identifying Phoebe first.
Phoebe, in the meanwhile was still searching for her friends, unable to hear them because of the buzz of the airport. “Here we are kids. New York City!” she told them in delight. They were seated on the luggage and were looking around, taking it all in.
“Over here Pheebs! ” shouted Chandler, waving his hand for her to see.
Phoebe had finally noticed them and started heading in their direction, excitement and glee obvious on her face.
” Excuse me! Excuse me! Oh get out of my way! ” she said, trying to pass through.
” Pheebs!” Rachel shouted in alarm as Phoebe got right in the way of another person and collided head on. Fortunately, the kids and the cart were saved from the impact.
“Be careful… ” continued Rachel, wincing.
But Phoebe didn’t take long to get up and get going, completely ignoring the person who she had collided with, who was glaring and cursing at her.
Finally, after zigzagging through the rest of the crowd, Phoebe managed to reach to them.
” Hey you guys! It feels so nice to see you after so long!”
“Same here! “
“Kids, say hi to everyone!” Phoebe said, turning towards her kids.
“Hi” said Joey Jr. who had inquisitive look in his eyes.
“Hello” said Rain in a small voice, clutching and somewhat hiding behind Phoebe’s legs.
“Aww. She’s so cute.” exclaimed Monica.
“I’m cute as well!” said Joey Jr indignantly.
“Of course you are sweetie! ” she replied while others laughed at his innocence.
A session of hugs, kisses and introduction followed with the kids getting to know each other, and all the adults as well, who got busy making a fuss of themselves with them. Soon, they found themselves walking to some nearby couches, as they still had time to kill before Joey’s flight landed.
“That must have been fun to watch! ” exclaimed Phoebe, laughing out hard on hearing Emma’s latest mischief.” Give me a high-five!” she said to Emma, who did, giggling.
“Believe me it was not! I’ve been feeling like I’m sleepwalking ever since I got up this morning !” Rachel replied still annoyed.
“Come on! Give her a break! She’s only 7!”
“Easy for you to say! You’ve such cute, harmless children!”
“Harmless?! Oh no, no, no! Don’t you get fooled by this innocent face!” Phoebe said, pointing to Rain.
“Only a few days ago, this truant hid herself for so long that we were about to call the police until she magically turned up. And that was only because she began feeling hungry!”
“Maybe she went to Narnia. Did you Rain?” asked Jack, all of a sudden.
“She couldn’t possibly have gone to Narnia!” said Emma.
“I was asking Rain!”
“And I am telling you she couldn’t have! Because then she would have returned immediately not hours later”
“And again, I am telling you that I asked Rain and not you!”
Emma and Jack stare angrily at each other.
“Okay, for the last time stop fighting!” scolded Monica.
“He started it!” complained Emma
“No, you did!” Jack replied.
“That’s enough Emma! You too Jack!” Rachel being the one this time.
“God we’ve changed a lot! I mean barely 5 years ago it was us who were squabbling over the smallest of things and now look! We are stopping our kids from doing the same!”
Nods and murmurs of assent follow Phoebe’s statement and a silence falls over the group, broken by the arrival of Chandler with refreshments in hand.
“Cookie! ” Erica exclaims, jumping and taking the first one. All the kids follow suit.
“Coffee?” Chandler asks, to which all the adults get up to grab their glass. As soon as they take the glass and settle down, the gang feels a remarkable sense of familiarity, which Ross voices.
“May be a lot has changed. Yet here we are, the five of us sitting down on these couches, drinking coffee and chatting as if we have nothing better to do!”
Everyone smiles as they become nostalgic, reliving the moments when they indeed had nothing better to do.
“I mean, we have moved on, we have settled and started our own families, but moments just like these make me glad that we have still not forgotten our past and choose to relive it. Then be it only occasionally as in this case, after almost 2 years.”
“You still have the quality.” Phoebe says, as a single tear escapes her eye and she dabs it by a tissue. Her face soon turns into a smile, as though reassuring.
“Which quality?” Ross asks, puzzled.
“Of making people feel exactly what you feel.” she replies, her smile now broadening.
“Is that Joey?!” Rachel exclaims.
“Looks like it.” Monica replies, although she is unsure herself.
“No, it can’t be!” opines Chandler.
All are starting at three men in the far distance, all dressed in black suits and wearing glasses. The men were walking swiftly towards them, but it could be argued that it was their general direction. The only reason to suspect that the guy in the center could be Joey was because of his hair and built. Everything else was far off.
The men had a gait resembling seasoned men were flanking the central person, who was talking on a cell. One of the men then walked off towards the refreshments, probably following instructions. All of a sudden, as he was exposed some women swooned around him, shouting and practically screaming. The guy smiled and responded to their requests of an autograph, a photo or just his ‘charm’. Shouts of ‘Joey’ ‘Tribbiani’ were distinctly audible.
The gang had their mouths open in shock. Sure they had seen all of the films he had acted in and produced. But they had no idea that their ‘Joey Tribbiani’ had developed such professional got up to approach him as he seemed to make zero progress with the fans surrounding him.
They finally got close enough, but still were unable to make contact as Joey was busy dealing with his fans. Thankfully, the other guy arrived having what seemed like a sandwich in one hand. The crowd was slowly but successfully cleared.
“Does this sub have meatballs?”
“Extra sauce, melted cheese and bread baked golden brown and not blackened?”
Joey took off his glasses and took a bite of it.
“Good job!” he said in approval.
“Thank you Sir.”
“Yeah, that’s Joey, people!”