I Will Always Find You

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                                                                           The year 1947

"How long would you be gone for?" Akriti's voice was shaking. The last thing she wanted was to break down in front of Parth. She had heard her father rebuking her mother numerous times for weakening his resolve by crying in front of him. It was the same story almost every other day. Subsequently, she had vowed never to let her man see her tears. Even though they hadn't said the words, it was an unspoken agreement that they belonged together. But now, he was leaving for London with his family, for God knew how long. To avoid meeting his gaze, she focused on removing invisible lint off her dupatta.

Parth knew her inner turmoil all too well. How could he not? They had been together since the day his family bought the land next to her house around six years ago. Technically, they were neighbors, but their lives were worlds apart. While the Reddys (Akriti and her parents) struggled to make the ends meet, his family could not spend enough. However, when it came to affection, Reddys had it in so much abundance that Parth wished to have been born in her family. Nonetheless, the thought of having born as a brother to Akriti quickly chased those musings away. There was no doubt in his mind that he wanted, nay needed, to protect and cherish her as a lover and not a sibling.

Without voicing their inevitable predicament, he let his eyes linger on the object of his affection. He studied her pale face that had recently developed dark shadows under her nut-brown eyes. These were the eyes that filled his heart with the hope of a better tomorrow. Although he realized Akriti was on the verge of breaking down, he longed to hear her honey-dipped voice laced with optimism. To make her feel better, he wore the kurta pajama that she had gifted him a few months back. Now the thought that his apparel could eliminate the dismay of his departure sounded moronic even to his own ears. What was I thinking? He thought to himself.

Perhaps, she had the same notion when she chose to wear the red salwar kurta that he had bought for her. "Akriti, have some faith," he said, lifting her chin with his finger to look into her eyes. Dark pools of fear had replaced the ever-residing hope from them. He could not bear to be the cause of her distress, but he had no option but to go with his family. It was strange how his father was treating him like a kid, though he was almost sixteen. Parth insisted that he let him stay with the Reddys, while he took care of his business in London. But, no! Mr. Kapoor was adamant that he would not leave his only son behind. Besides, he didn't know how long this current case would require.

For a moment, she held his gaze, but then began looking at a pair of sparrows poking each other with their beaks. With one hand she covered her eyes to block the piercing sun rays and lifted her eyes to follow the pair as they flew high up in the sky. "I have a sinking feeling that we will not see each other again," she whispered in a gentle voice that held neither anger nor pain. Finally, she locked her eyes with him.

"I would never let that happen, Akriti."

She squeezed his palm and rose from her spot from under the tree. Parth watched as she turned her back on him and strode off toward her house. As much as he wanted to comfort her, he knew nothing could reduce her anguish. Instead, he swallowed the lump in his throat and watched her red dupatta flowing behind her until she turned the corner. Parth succumbed to her misery and allowed himself to cry. Fresh tears streamed down his cheeks as he buried his face in his palms.

                                                                           The year 1959

The sudden jerk of the car broke Parth's reverie. The driver, whose name he didn't bother to learn, turned toward him and apologized profusely. He was a nervous man with jittery hands. If it were up to Parth, he never would have allowed him to drive. But, like many other things in his life, he did not get a say in this decision as well. At least Parth managed to persuade his father, Mr. Kapoor, to send him back to India. That was not an easy conversation. It involved a lot of yelling, begging, and emotional blackmailing from both sides, but finally, Parth won with a lot of terms and conditions.

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