Three

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Three
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Daniel returned home for Christmas in December and found Lily pissed at him for not returning for her as he has promised. He had to make it up to her with different kinds of treats. And she cried yet again when he had to return to the city after New Year. But year after year, his coming and going became regularity and Lily learned to accept it as she grew, although she often took the liberty of complaining to him once a while for his absence.

Despite the distance and Daniel's ever-tight schedule from being a student to a research scholar to an assistant professor at the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), while working with several other organizations as an Educationist, the girl back at home found herself growing into a teenage girl who had her heart fully invested in make-up and nail art. When she was through high school, she declared to her parents she was pursuing makeup. Oh, how it frightened her father.

"I am out of my wits," sighed Ronghei while on a phone call with Daniel, "I can't tell if she's really being serious or if she's just playing with me. But she needs counseling, that I'm sure. She's not at all interested in her studies anymore. It's not even like she doesn't have the brain for books. She's a smart kid, but she reads just enough to get through the exams and puts the rest of the time sitting in front of the mirror."

When Daniel called her the same night and asked if she meant for her poor father to lose every single hair on his head, Lily laughed into the phone.

"You're going to college, aren't you?" Daniel asked.

Lily giggled. "Of course, I'm going to college. I've been thinking, what are we without Education?"

"Ah! There you go. There's blood in my ear now. Just call Paate and put him out of his misery. Have you thought of the subject you're taking up?"

"Well, I thought about it, but I honestly don't know what I want. I just wanna do make-up but as you said, I could do both. I'm thinking I'm taking education. I've decided to follow in your footsteps, Mocha. All I'm asking for is your blessing and guidance and your wisdom," she ended on a teasing note and heard her Mocha laugh from the other end.

"I got your back. You just make sure you open your books once in a while."

"Okay, fine! Maybe if there's nothing else I could do at the end, when I'm completely out of options, I'm thinking maybe I'll just win a Nobel Prize and live somewhere far off in a village, some place quiet and peaceful."

At this point, Daniel laughed aloud. "What am I even going to do with you?"

She was eighteen then. And he was twenty-nine. And life was perfect. She was still the girl who carried the Sun in her eyes.

Two years later, Daniel returned home. No. Not for a holiday, he was here to stay and Lily couldn't believe it. He had often talked about it but she hadn't truly expected him to leave everything he had worked for behind and return home to nothing, jobless and homeless.

He'd dreamed and often talked about returning to his village in the hills and establishing a school for the kids in the area. But so far, there was no school yet. He'd often talk about building his house too and there was no house yet, and Lily couldn't believe where on Earth he dug up the courage to leave his job, his apartment, his friends, his city, his love (he had a girlfriend, a girl with a job) and return home to nothing but a small plot of empty land that he bought a year ago. He proved himself to be of a special kind of mad men and Lily was over the moon. It was something to celebrate. His glorious madness had brought him back home to her.

Puh Khozii, Che Dune, Paate Ronghei, and Darcha Shangdar all thought he'd made a rash decision, but then the boy had told them he was returning to his lifelong dream. Now, how could anyone refute that? And so he was home.

On a warm afternoon in May, Daniel Ramai met the girl he loved with all his heart in front of her college department, after four long years of not seeing each other in person. It was the reunion of their lifetime. Lily raced down the entrance steps and jumped into the arms of the man she'd loved and missed every single day of her life.

"Oh, my!" gasped her mother Shangdar, who was watching them from the car, stunned at the sight of her grown-up daughter jumping into the arms of a man without a care in the world. It was different when she was a kid.

"This foolish girl. She does all the silly things she wants." Had it been in her time, Shangdar was sure this would've made news in town.

Her husband guffawed on the contrary.

"How have you been, boss?" Daniel chuckled as they kept each other firm in the long-awaited embrace.

"I missed you so much!" Lily hugged him even tighter, clinging onto him like a koala while the rest of the students outside watched rather astonished and a little jealous at the sight in front of them. Here was their classmate in the arms of a handsome, grown man who appeared to love her deeply.

She burrowed her face into his chest and he heard a sad voice ask him, "How could you not return for so long?" An unmistakable tremble in the voice reached his heart. It was so sad.

"I'm sorry. I've been away for too long, haven't I?" he said, planting a kiss on her head.

She nodded against his chest.

"Well, I'm here to stay now. Did you write your exam well?"

She broke the hug, dried her eyes, and looked up at him. "Yeah. I might've drawn your face on the paper."

Daniel smiled at her and Lily thought she saw his eyes twinkle in broad daylight. Lily often took to sketching whenever she was bored, which was mainly when she was required to study, and at this point, she'd drawn about five hundred Daniel sketches. He'd seen them all. She shared most of them on WhatsApp, sometimes when she found the mood, she'd mail some through speed post. No. She wasn't born with the skill. She still had trouble drawing a perfect circle without the help of an instrument, but you could trust her with the sketches of her brother. She might struggle drawing a decent apple, but she would sketch Daniel with her eyes closed, and not a hair would she miss, she wouldn't miss even the twinkle in his eyes.

He held her shoulders and ran his gaze over her. "Look how you've grown!"

This was when he noticed the lady in front of him, not the twenty-year-old big toddler he often talked to on phone. Rich black hair framed her face and cascaded around her shoulders. He noticed the thin line of eyeliners neatly drawn just above the roots of her eyelashes, and her pink lips. The change. And he remembered when he last saw her as a sixteen-year-old, thriving and brimming with drama and style. He remembered how she would paint her nails every Friday right after school just to remove them all Monday morning before school. Is this the same girl? When she was little, she told her parents that her aim in life was to become a Supermodel. Is this the same girl?

"Are you growing your hair?" asked the girl as she quickly brushed her fingers through the hair that fell over his eyes.

"Yeah." He brushed them back and smiled. "What d'ya think?"

"Looks like it got you fired." She laughed. "It's good. You could try a new look for once in your life."

"Hmm. That's what I thought."

He had always looked incredibly tamed.

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I hope that, so far, the story is sitting well with you. Thank you so much for reading, plus all your lovely comments and votes 😇🥰

Love, Hermyne
Until Friday!

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