She stayed in the car as the boys launched themselves out. The vehicle still hadn’t come to a complete halt and one of them stumbled; nearly fell onto his face. The other raced ahead with sand flying in his wake.
A few meters away, the third idiot stood gaping at them as if in disbelief.
They all crashed into each other, first with a little too much aggression deemed appropriate for a reunion, and then with all the happiness of breaking a long separation. Rancho’s face split into a grin that reminded her of the sun, eyes crinkled into crescents and hands clapping excitedly. Farhan playfully punched him in the gut and then went on to shake him by his collar. “You’ve any idea how long we’ve been looking for you, idiot?!” she heard him ask. Raju, who’d been yelling insults and demanding explanations only seconds ago, now had a pair of trembling shoulders. Rancho held a stilling palm against Farhan at the sound. He tilted his head, ruffled Raju’s hair and then pulled him in close, warm and long.
For all the years Pia had known the boys she’d been in awe of their friendship… one that could make a man illegally land an international flight, or race out of his home without a moment’s notice (or a pair of pants, at that). She’d studied their bonds grow stronger with time; seen them run into their veins like invisible ropes that bound them together in an unbreakable circle.
She’d seen Raju grow from a timid nobody into an emboldened, confident man. She’d observed safe, simple Farhan gather a mountain of courage before plunging into uncharted territory. And Rancho had done all this. He’d dragged them out of their caves and shoved them off a cliff so they’d realize they could fly.
And she often caught herself thinking, maybe this wasn’t just a friendship. Maybe it was more than just that. Because the way Rancho held Raju, the way Farhan looked at Rancho, the way they could easily forget years of distance and plop onto the sand to reminisce with their shoulders rubbing and their laughter ringing through the valley—it made her feel a little jealous. She wished she were held like that, revered and adored the way these boys did each other. She wished there was someone in her life she could feel about like that, who reciprocated with just as much intensity.
Love, she thought to herself. I wish I had a love like that.
“Hey, Pia!” Rancho turned around from his seat on the ground and waved wildly, beckoning her to join them. His smile hadn’t dimmed a single inch.
She switched off the engine and rested her chin on the steering wheel, smiling to herself as she looked on.