Part I: Lost and Found
Their acquaintanceship went back a long way in history, but never did Annalise think that she would fall for anyone the likes of him.
Gale had always been in her life, for as long as she could remember. He was there to ward off the “evil entities”, as she called them – aka bullies – who threatened her. He was there to soothe her when her grandmother had passed away. He was there to provide her with words of comfort and advise whenever she needed them.
He had always been there for her, like the brother she never had.
Only…“brother” did not seem to fit the description so well… He was just too perfect for that.
To-day, she would meet him at the airport. He had been away for his studies and was due to return in an hour. Her father had offered to drive her to the airport to meet him and bring him home.
During the ride, Annalise was very quiet, which was unlike her usual bubbly personality. She was thinking about how he would react when they would meet after three whole years.
More importantly, how would she react?
Thoughts of this only succeeded in tiring her out. She sighed – before she realised that it came out aloud – making her father, who was driving beside her, twist in his seat for a moment to glance at her.
“What is it, sweetie?” he enquired, gently. “Is it the meeting?”
She swallowed the small lump that had been forming in her throat. “I think so,” she replied, voice unusually soft and dry.
“It’s going to be all right. After all, he’s been a close friend to you all your life. Don’t you keep saying you owe your life to him?”
Her head turned towards the window on her side of the car, she nodded absently. All the trees she looked at seemed to be thousands of faces that looked just like Gale; the cars that passed by hers all seemed to have his face staring back at her.
’Darn, I miss him so bad!’
Annalise was now quite sure that she would definitely not be able to face him…not with the kind of thoughts she was having now…
“Here we are!” her father’s booming, cheerful voice brought her back from her unhappy reverie.
She shook her thoughts out of her head and prepared to focus on the present moment. Worrying about what the future held for her was not what she was supposed to be doing.
As her father parked the car and turned off the ignition, Annalise inhaled and exhaled deeply. Then, she opened the door on her side and got out. Her father followed suit, took the car keys and his phone out, before he gently slammed the door shut. From the back of the car, another figure got out—a tall youngster, just a couple of years older than Annalise herself.
He caught her eyes in his calm ones and passed a smile, sensing her anxiety.
“It’s going to be all right,” he told her, quietly. “You have nothing to worry about. And certainly, there’s nothing to be scared about. You’ll do well.”
Annalise had to smile at this. She nodded gratefully, before she turned back to her father, who also gave her an encouraging smile.
The three were soon making towards the airport. Annalise could see passengers streaming in and out of the terminals. They sat on a bench nearby, her in between the other two, and waited.
’I wonder what will happen now,’ she thought, fingering the edge of her dress nervously. ’Will he be happy seeing me again? Or, did he already find someone else…?!’
The thought frightened as well as gladdened her heart—while she was glad that he would be happy, she was also frightened that she might just have lost him for good.
’Only Time will tell,’ a small, positive voice inside her head whispered.
She gulped. When she glanced at the calm face of the youngster beside her, a sort of serenity took over her heart and her mind seemed to be at peace. She knew she was ready to face whatever challenge she came here for.
About five minutes later, Annalise got up, although she did not know why. It did not occur to her to wonder about this, till much later when she reflected upon it. Because, just at the instant, a young, tall, and slender lad strode out of one of the exit terminals, a heavy-looking bag over his shoulders and another small bag in his left hand. He had a ticket in his right hand.
When he looked up, an audible gasp escaped her lips. It was him…it was Gale!
Her companions did not seem to notice her reaction, as stood up to greet the boy. Gale made his way in their direction, a big grin on his face.
She somehow knew that somewhere behind that smile was shielded a tired expression…
“Gale!” exclaimed her father. “You’re here!”
“Yes, sir!” replied Gale, giving the man a mock salute.
Then, he tilted his head a little to smile at Annalise. The latter involuntarily smiled back, before all the emotions she thought were gone came back to her in a rush, rendering her breathless.
“Hey, Ann, how’ve you been?” he asked her in his silky-smooth voice that always made her weak in the knees.
Annalise had been looking down, apparently fascinated by the pavement beneath her feet. When his charming gruff voice reached her, however, she immediately looked up.
“I’ve…been OK,” she managed to reply. She was not hesitant, but the words simply refused to come out of her mouth – her mind froze simply by looking at those emerald eyes in front of her.
And his smile…oh that smile…!! How much she missed that one!!
Another lump formed in her throat, and this time, it was bigger and harder to swallow.
’Why…why did I ignore it all this time??’
The fact was that, she did not entirely ignore it. She never thought of it – him – as a lover before.
“Wh-what about you?” she asked in her turn, her stuttering coming back without her consent.
He gave her the million-watt smile he always reserved for her in the past; it warmed her heart to know that he still had it.
“I’m well…been better after seeing you!” he responded.
This made her giggle, but for some reason, she was shy about showing it to him. Nevertheless, he bent down and caught her in action.
Heat flared up her cheeks.
Annalise’s young companion cleared his throat, thus breaking their connection.
“Oh! – Gale, this is Kevin Johnson. Kevin, this is Gale.”
Kevin’s eyes lit up at this. “So, you are this famous Gale Watson I keep hearing!” He extended a hand towards the older boy. “Very nice to meet you!”
With a genuine smile, Gale shook Kevin’s hand. “I’d say the same to you, Kevin – and yes, Annalise has definitely told me about you.”
“Well then,” Annalise’s father said, “I think we should leave for home now. Gale, your parents haven’t been in the city for a while, you know that, don’t you?”
Gale turned that handsome tanned face towards the older gentleman, his smile intact.
“Yes, sir,” he replied. “I’ve been told that they’d be arriving tonight.”
“Good. Come now, let’s go home!”