They had checked in a few hours back at the beach side hotel after a six hour drive. Their two kids looked forward to this trip. The hotel looked grand with all amenities. The kids were jumping with joy as Ambrose got ready to take the kids to the swimming pool. Stella said “You three enjoy but take care. I have some things to buy besides some sweaters for Nancy and Raj. It gets chill in the night. It is 4 pm now and will be back by 6pm."She married ten years back and Ambrose has always been a loving and warm person. She had no complaints.
As she drove the car along the familiar road and saw her college building, her mind went back to her college days. It was here that she did her engineering for four years. It was one of her happiest period in her life made memorable by George, her classmate. Her friendship with him started on a tiff when one day in the first year he jumped the queue in the canteen. Her raspy admonition 'get back to the line' was unexpected and stunning as he was a notorious prankster. He meekly went back smarting under the rebuff but silently admiring her for her grit and beauty.
They were soon great friends. She liked him for his dash, gutsy nature and strong physique. Besides he was in good in studies too. He belonged to this city and was a day scholar while she resided in the college hostel. They fell in love and adored each other. Evenings and weekends were spent together frequently. It was at the end of final semester he took her one day to his home to meet his parents. They were very nice to her and enquired about her parents. George met her the next day early in the morning and announced that his parents were very much impressed with her and surprisingly he proposed to her telling that they can marry after they settled down in life. She accepted and foresaw no objection from her parents.
He took up a good job in a Northern city while she joined a college as lecturer in her own city. They spoke to each other daily and exchanged endless messages. It was well nigh impossible to live without each other. He promised to come in six month's time to marry and take her along with him. Except for the long wait, things were fine till one day she got the devastating news of his being killed in an air crash. She was shattered as all her dreams of a wonderful life with her only love came to naught. Her parents understandingly let her be to overcome the grief.
It was almost a year when she met Ambrose at a family function and his parents approached Stella's for her hand. The marriage took place after gentle persuasion by her mom. Though she liked Ambrose and his caring nature, the thoughts of George held her mind. She was unable to forget him and even saw his image in Ambrose. She knew that was not proper and that she had failed to reciprocate the love of Ambrose in full measure.
"You are always thinking of something and your mind seems far away. Is there anything bothering you for me to set right?" was the frequent refrain from him.
When she confided to her mom how George was still occupying a large space in her heart, she chided her telling that it was a virtual act of betrayal and infidelity and that she should wipe his thoughts completely away from her mind.
It was 4.30 pm and she was at the cemetery where he was buried. She sought the help of the security to locate the tombstone. There were four with same name but the dates of birth and death and mention of air accident in the inscription settled the issue. Obviously his parents were no longer in city as the tombstone lay covered with dry leaves and layers of dust. The space around the place was also dirty. She took a broom and cleaned the place. She swiped clean the tombstone with a bucket of water till the black granite sparkled clean. She laid on it a bouquet of flowers she had brought and knelt before it. She placed her head till the tears from her eyes made the gravestone wet.
Her heart became light and she suddenly found her freedom from the weight in her heart and the mind became free of guilt. She had one last look, said a prayer to Jesus and shed instantly all memories of George. When she returned to the hotel with sweaters, pizza, chocolates for the kids, she felt like she was floating in joy. She hugged the kids and to the great surprise of Ambrose embraced him showering him with smooches to the amused glee of the two kids.
“HeyStella, what has taken possession of you? I have never seen you so happy” he cried in joy
“You’ she said very happily.