Before the Housewarming (Part 2)
Note:- This post is an update of my first ever attempt at writing a novel named ‘Choices and Consequences’. Find the link to my previous updates right below:-
The temperature of the room might have dropped by atleast ten degrees. For no one could believe what had passed between them just now. They had been so close to being the family that they had wanted to be. Reeling in shock, Rachel slowly disentangled her fingers from his. Even then, her eyes stayed latched on to his, searching desperately for an answer.
“What?!” she exclaimed, looking both hurt and confused by his statement.
“Oh boy.” said Chandler, while looking at the pair apprehensively. He was not the only one though. Everyone in the room was tensed, expecting a heated argument to be on it’s way.
But what happened next was something that took them all by surprise.
“We need to talk.” they both said, almost simultaneously.
“Guys, can you give us some privacy?” Ross asked, turning to face them.
“Y…yeah. Sure!” Chandler replied, still surprised by the way his friends were handling such a major disagreement. With a perfectly calm demeanor that was so unlike the Ross and Rachel he knew.
“I am calling the kitchen!” Joey exclaimed, catching everyone’s attention.
“Yeah, that’s right. Lesson learned.” he said, reminding them yet again of the time Ross and Rachel had truly broken up.
“Oh. Then I am calling the bathroom! For even though I was faking it at Monica’s, I definitely have bladder problems now, doctor!” said Phoebe, with a sarcastic reference to Ross’s doctorate.
“No Pheebs, wait. We really don’t want to cause inconvenience to any of you. Right, Ross?” Rachel said, turning to face him.
“Yeah. Absolutely.” he replied, nodding in agreement.
“What say you and I take a walk in the neighborhood? That way nobody has to go anywhere except for us.” he continued, his voice composed.
“That’s a good idea.” Rachel replied, and headed towards the door, followed shortly by Ross.
Shocked, the rest simply continued to look at each other, more out of utter disbelief than anything else.
‘What the hell?! Since when did my brother and my best friend become so mature?’ thought Monica, positive that she wasn’t the only one thinking about it. Her chain of thought however was broken by Ross, who popped in from the front door and said,
“We’ll be back soon.”
As the door shut itself behind him, one thing became absolutely clear in everyone’s mind.
Whatever decision they would come up with today would most likely be the same for the rest of their lives.
* * *
Ross. And. Rachel
“But Ross, I thought you said you loved it here!”
After stepping out of the porch, Ross and Rachel decided to head towards a small garden located only a few minutes away from the house. Strolling, they had barely entered the lush green place when Rachel felt that she couldn’t stop herself anymore.
“I mean, you certainly have made a name for yourself, that much was very clear from your appraisal by the university. Not only that but this city also houses the museum of your dreams. I mean, there’s a lot of potential for you.” she said, the words coming out as though she had been holding them back for quite some time. For a part of her had already sensed that something like this would be coming.
“And Ross, this is the city of my dreams. It… it has everything I could have ever expected from life. Everything… except you.” she said, her eyes turning tearful towards the end.
Ross let out a sigh as he paused right in the middle of his step, coming to standstill as he faced Rachel. It was about time that he finally explained to her the conclusion which he had gradually built up over the past couple of months.
“I do love Paris, Rach. I really do. But… It’s… it’s like my Carol, Rach. You know what I mean?” he asked.
“No.” she said, nodding her head in denial.
‘What did Paris have to do with his ex-wife?’ she thought, confused.
The nonplussed look on Rachel’s face made Ross smile. Apparently, she hadn’t understood the fact that it was all a metaphor. Starting to walk again, he pointed her towards a bench and they began making their way towards it.
“When I refer to Paris as Carol, I mean that though it’s something that brought a whole new side to my life, in reality that’s all there is to it.” he said, trying to make her understand.
“And I shouldn’t live in this city because of the same reason that I shouldn’t have married Carol in the first place.”
Reaching the bench, they made themselves comfortable on it as Rachel said,
“And what is that reason?” she asked, intrigued by his analogy.
“The reason is very simple. For I still love my Rachel. More than I could ever love any Carol, no matter how happy she made me feel.” he replied, revealing at long last why they had divorced.
Though touched, Rachel was now more confused than ever.
‘I am right here. So what is he talking about?’
Her doubts, however, resolved as Ross continued.
“And my Rachel. … is my family, Rach. And though you and Emma are definitely the biggest pieces of the puzzle, you are not all. There’s Ben. Mon and Chandler and their kids. My Mom and Dad. Joey, Pheebs, Carol and whether I like it or not… even Susan.” he said, saying her name as though it left a bitter taste in his mouth.
“And that is something that you realise only when you have stayed away from them for long enough.” Ross said, his lips partially crooked into a smile.
Nodding, Rachel allowed it all to sink in, as she understood the gravity of his words. Agreeing, she said
“Well… if it does mean so much to you, then we’ll do it, Ross. For us. I’ll come back to New York.”
Ross’s eyes brightened momentarily before she continued, saying,
“I mean the city’s no stranger for me. After all, it’s been my home for ten long years. And I still know a few people there in the fashion industry. Getting a job there won’t be a problem. And… I won’t have to learn a new language! So that would be a relief!” she said, laughing.
Though she was chuckling, her eyes had slowly lost their lustre as she spoke. And Ross had been attentive enough to grasp it. For he had known it all along.
“No, Rach. Coming back to New York would be like you giving up on your Rachel.” Ross said, his lips spreading into a sad smile.
“What?! Will you please stop speaking in metaphors?” Rachel said, utterly perplexed now.
“What I mean is that you will be giving up on your deepest dreams and ambitions. Though New York has a lot of scope for a career in fashion, it’s not Paris, Rach. You’ll never get a job as good as the one you have here. Paris… It’s your Rachel, Rach.” he explained.
“But you are right, Ross. Family is more important. Family is all that matters in the end. It’s something that I should have realised a long time ago.” she said, tears running down her cheek. It was only now that she realised what Ross had been trying to say all along. He had never really intended to make her move back to New York. And his proposal earlier had been nothing more than a ruse. It had been his way to bring things to a conclusion at last.
On seeing her cry, Ross took her in a hug which she gratefully accepted, her head landing comfortably on his chest.
“No Rach, listen to me very carefully. Because this is not something that I am simply making up right now. In fact, this has been something that has bothered me ever since I first fell in love with you, way back in highschool.” Ross said, rubbing her shoulder as he did so.
“Has it ever occurred to you that we are two very different people? With completely different dreams and ambitions?” he said, his voice growing heavier with each word.
“So what, Ross?” Rachel replied, lifting her head to face him.
“Does that really matter? We love each other and we finally have had the sense of realising it at once and at the same time. Shouldn’t that be enough?” she asked, her voice interrupted with sobs.
“Yes, we do love each other, Rach. Very much. But love can be expressed in ways more than one. One does not have to be with the other all the time to revel in it.” Ross replied.
“But we can stay with each other all the time, Ross. And we should stay with each other. I mean, what reason do we have not to do so?” asked Rachel, unwilling to relent.
“Because, Rach, we both want different things in life. Maybe today, you do come with me to New York. Or I might come and stay with you in Paris. But we both know what will happen next. May be not tomorrow, but a month from now, or if we are really lucky then a year from now, we’ll start bashing our heads with each other. Constantly fighting for the smallest of the things, the silliest of the reasons. Trying to make sense of it all when we really had made sense of it a long time ago. And then, we’ll only have ourselves to blame for not living our lives to our fullest potential. Then be it you not having the best job that your life has ever offered to you or be it me not having everyone around. It will be a very dark and frustrating life, Rach.” Ross replied, with a fervour in his eyes which was rare to see. It was obvious that what he had said was true. He had indeed thought it all out.
A gentle breeze blew through the park, trying to provide whatever respite it could to the broken hearted couple seated on the bench. Needless to say, it failed miserably.
“It’s all my fault. I should never have left New York.” Rachel said, her voice laden with remorse.
“No Rach. It’s not just your fault. It’s mine too. For I was the one who let you go.” Ross replied, rubbing her shoulder in comfort.
Nodding in denial, Rachel was about to protest when Ross continued,
“Actually, I really don’t think it’s anyone’s fault, Rach.” he said.
“What do you mean?” Rachel asked, confused.
“You know, how I used to hate all those cheap books they keep on the stalls at the airports?” Ross said, sounding out of context. Then, not waiting for an answer, he continued,
“Well… that changed almost a year ago, when I came across this book named ‘Choices and Consequences’. To say the least, the book made for a very interesting read, to say the least.” he said.
Intrigued, Rachel waited for him to continue.
“It wasn’t the content of the book that struck me the most, though. It was it’s prologue. It said,
Sometimes things don’t happen the way you want them to because you just haven’t tried hard enough. Unbeknownst to you, a last push may be all that you need.
Sometimes it’s because you keep making the wrong choices, yet choose to blame the circumstances over and over again.
While sometimes… it is life’s way of making you realise that it’s simply not meant to be.”
And, to his surprise, it was Rachel who finished the quote for him.
“Not now and not ever.”
“Wow. I didn’t know that you had read it too.” Ross said, impressed.
Rachel simply nodded, unable to say anything else.
“I don’t know why, but I constantly got this feeling that the quote was about us. And for months I kept on thinking that maybe it meant that we simply hadn’t tried hard enough. Or maybe we had just made many bad choices. But I… I don’t think so, Rach. Not anymore. Maybe it’s the last statement that rings true for us after all.” he said.
“Maybe.” she replied, sighing as she laid her head back on to it’s comfortable position on Ross’s shoulder.
In front of them, the sun was now slowly making it’s way behind the woods far ahead as they simply sat there, their hands intertwined and wondering what the future held in store for them, now that they had accepted their fate at last. Rachel turned her head to look Ross in the eye as she voiced the question that haunted them both.
“So what do we do now?”
Exhaling deeply, Ross said,
“It’s us, Rach. We’ll figure it out.”
With their gaze locked on to each other, a sad smile escaped their lips just as the sun reached the horizon, literally calling it a day.
As the rays faded into twilight, they just knew deep in their hearts, that everything would be alright.
For the sun will always rise after a cold, dark night.