"Well, it was 3 years ago, right before Julian went into hiding that he had requested an appointment with the emperor of Jerome. As you will know in due time, such an appointment is quite easy to obtain. The emperor after hearing him out directed him to me and made me responsible for his special request… Overtime, we became amicable companions and then good friends by the time he left. And he handed me the specifications of your identity…" Trace fell silent for a while.
I nodded and swallowing my inhibitions asked, "Where is he now? How can I reach him?"
Trace’s brow furrowed as he considered my question, or rather whether to answer it or not.
"Wherever he is right now, I think it will be in your best interest to contact him first… I am sure he too would prefer to discuss your plans further."
I agreed and a meeting would be set up by a secure network for us.
I recalled his face for the millionth time and thanked him for not giving up on us, for having faith in me… when I too had thought this journey was madness. Tears welled in my eyes at the thought of coming all this way to receive a confirmation of his… his death or worse… that he had forgotten me.
I had difficulty pointing a finger at the one thing that kept me going. That let me take the decision to come look for me. My world was going to be set straight again… just the minute I would reach his welcoming arms.
ON ZUAN… (Julian’s POV)
The wind reminded me of the early days of my home… the days I had accompanied my brothers to the fields. But the scent in the air was too polluted to mimic the gentle nonchalance of the Juan atmosphere.
I had a gut feeling that an impending revelation was to occur. And though I wanted it to be from the planet earth, that was my beloved’s home, I sensed it to be from another greater power.
Like lightening it struck me. There was only one great power that had my contact… Jerome… Trace, from Jerome.
Had Aura reached?
Or did king Amon get her located on earth… I refused that option… but has she… After all this time…
My heart was racing madly as I barged inside my shelter, not caring for the usual checks for intruders. I flicked on the main screen of my communication system and indeed there was Trace’s message for me.
‘If you see this online, contact me immediately.’
I dumped my coat on the ground and entered the password that would grant me access to the secure line between Zuan and Jerome.
In a few minutes the screen flickered.
Trace’s calm voice flooded my ears.
"She is here Julian."
And the screen transferred to a nervous Aura adjusting her headphones and microphone.
Her hand flew to her mouth, as I saw her eyes fill with tears.
My own eyes were growing moist. I blinked back the tears, my heart slamming in my chest at the sight of her… moving… grace personified. Her eyes the same beautiful color I remembered. Her hair had become longer… she had tied it back in a pony. She had lost weight and the stress showed on her face. How long had she taken to find me. My princess.
"Julian…" her lips parted in amazement as my name rolled off… like the sweetest murmur in a lover’s embrace.
Her hand reached of its own accord to touch the screen… I chuckled at her.
"Are you laughing at me?" She frowned… her lips turning up in the beginning of a smile.
I shook my head and said, "I have missed you…"
She smiled gently, "Me too."
Trace and his wife moved out of the scene, maybe to give us some privacy.
"My love…" I realized my voice was hoarse so I paused before speaking again.
She said after swiping at her dry lips… it had been too long since I had seen her. And every action of hers was making me swallow harder.
For a moment I felt like giving up everything and escaping with her to some remote planet. Giving up everything to give her all that she wanted.
But she saw the conflict in me, I think.
Always perceptive, my little angel.
"What is it Julian?"
I took a deep breath.
"After 4 and a half years… we see each other and yet I am in a dilemma. I need to see you my dear… we need to talk…"
"Julian… just tell me where you are… I will come to see you…"
Trace had returned to the scene….
"No, my sweet, that’s too dangerous. Though I cannot divulge my location to you, I will come to Jerome if I get king Amon’s consent and meet you."
Trace frowned and said. "Julian… that will endanger you. Not that I would not welcome you to Jerome, and the king would not say no… but the journey from there to here, what if someone finds out… and you will not be able to contact us through the travel, lest someone tracks you."
Julian said gravely, "I think it will endanger Aura, if they find out that she is associated to me…"
"What danger?" Aura piped up.
"Nothing my sweet, I cannot even define the danger you or I could be in for I do not know the face of my enemy."
"Enemy? What are you talking about? Julian what is going on?"
Trace paced in the background, in his customary style, while I tried to pacify Aura.
"I want to see you Julian! I…"
She covered her face with her hands and I knew she was crying at her helplessness.
I wanted to reach her, hold her.
The risk of traveling to Jerome would be worth it.
"Aura… I cannot be selfish and abandon all the work I have done…"
She looked stung by what I said, and I immediately realized it sounded wrong.
Fresh tears made their way down her cheeks.
Great. First time in 4 and a half years and I make her cry. Very good Julian.
"Aura…" I sighed and apologized, "I did not mean it that way."
"Yeah, of course you didn’t. Did you not want to meet me too?"
"My sweetest, my little angel, I did not want to, I needed to see you. And I will… if you allow me to explain the situation."
"I need to talk to you about the events of the past couple of years. And I need to meet up with you. Trace, if I do not get permission to land on Jerome, kindly help me make arrangements for Aura to meet me on Emperia or Aria… and be back to Jerome."
"Won’t you be staying with me after we meet?"
It broke my heart to think of not being with her, "That is why I need to discuss certain things with you… and then you get to decide."
"Fine… when and how do we meet?"
Trace had disappeared to make calls for me… to enquire if I could come to Jerome.
"Let’s wait for Trace to return with news from the king… So… how was your journey to outer space?"
"I think I was nervous… scared even. Had it not been for Tara… I would have been a nervous wreck."
My gaze was drifting over her… pure torture. She had grown even more beautiful over the years… her spectacles hung at the neckline of her t-shirt, making it dip teasingly.
She followed my gaze and glanced down, and pulled her shirt up.
I was almost worried that I had upset her with my blatant perusal of her neckline.
She looked at me with a blank expression then gave a naughty grin.
I relaxed immediately. I suppressed my dirty thoughts which involved certain pieces of clothing falling to the floor.
She laughed as she realized my discomfort.
"I think it will be really great to meet up… I hope king Amon allows you to get here… or I can always come and see you."
"King Amon is the head of the inter-galactic pact… He is one of the kindest people I know. I hope you get to meet his wife. Queen Ta… if ever you need advice, talk to her."
"She is a queen! I am a commoner…"
"It does not matter on Jerome. The people are quite close with the king and queen, the entire royal family."
She delicately tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and smiled at me. The same look of admiration I had seen when she used to sit by me in cars… looking at me through the journey.
Trace walked in at that moment.
"Julian… the king will discuss this with Aura and I will contact you again in the evening…"
I was filled with relief and asked Trace for some more time with Aura. He nodded and left the room.
Aura sat quietly, staring at my image in the screen.
I took in a deep breath and said softly, "I had not expected you to take up this journey…"
She smiled a little and I continued, "but I had a feeling you might come if I were late in getting you."
She touched the screen once again, "I know, I found it crazy too… but it was the only thought in my head… my posting at the center was ending. I needed to get out and find you before it was too late. I thought… I mean… I did not even know if you were… alive!"
Sniffling, she went on, "the greatest fear was what if I had lost you? Where would I go? I would have managed to survive… but living would be hard… without you."
This girl… she held my heart, my soul in the palm of her hand. I wish I knew why I deserved a girl like her to love me.
"I promise you Aura, we’ll meet soon… and when we do… I will explain my situation to you… I will leave it up to you if you want to wait for me or move with me… please don’t take a decision without hearing me out. Your decision has to be an informed one."
She laughed then, "you worry in vain, my sweet. My decision was made the day I decided to come after you."
I worried for her. It would be dangerous for her to come with me. I would want nothing more but for her to be with me. And yet… despite knowing the circumstances I knew her decision.