Crystal’s lips stretched thinly as she emerged at the arrival hall of Adelaide Airport with her luggage. She resembled a zombie with her pale complexion and swollen eyes. She gulped with sadness when she saw a crowd of people waiting with exuberance to embrace their loved ones and immediately turned away. She took a deep breath to stabilize her emotions. The scene reminded her of her last night in Edmonton and how she turned down her roommate’s request to send her to the airport. If she didn’t exercise self-control, this could spiral into a full blown crying episode and it was in her best interest to avoid it. Her body was already in urgent need of sleep, especially after she endured cross-country flights that included brief stops in Vancouver and Sydney, two time zones, and a severe jet lag waiting to pounce on her.
“I am out of my mind,” she muttered under her breath.
The last four months or so that she spent in University of Alberta opened her eyes to a new horizon, but an important question lingered. How was she to resume her studies in Adelaide after this? She had panicked the moment she received the momentous news as it meant that there was no turning back. But her common sense had prevailed. A semester without Ryan’s presence would allow her to think and live a portion of her dream, which was to further her education in Canada. Make that two semesters - since he would be in good ole Auckland this time.
She stole a peek at her watch at this thought, which read that it was already hitting noon, and patiently indulged in her book while she waited for her mother to collect her. Thank God classes start in a fortnight, she rationalized. Or I’ll be a dead woman walking.
Her head ached with the fury of someone deprived of sleep the moment she neared the tutorial room for her core course. If she thought that she was able to mentally snap back into shape in a fortnight, she was proven wrong. The obstreperous volume of multiple conversations between the students flowed into the hallway. An indication that most of the students were present and waited for the tutor to show his or her face. The sight of a table and desktop computer welcomed her as she made her way in. It was a smaller room with little space for movements without trampling over each other. She instantly recognized a couple of faces in the crowd and fixed a smile with her focus on Trace, who was seated at the far end of the room and doodling on her notepad. It didn’t matter if she was a familiar face to them either. To her, they were all students churning their own grades.
“Trace,” Crystal greeted.
“Hey,” Trace replied and transferred her bag to the floor. “Thank God you arrived on time. I was worried that you’d be late… especially after such a long flight.”
“Oh, I was already back since a fortnight ago. It gave me enough time to recuperate from the jet lag. How’s things?”
“Quite okay. How was Edmonton?”
“Yeah, it was manageable. Experienced my first and only snow. An eye-opener of all sorts.”
“You know, Fate threw me in the same tutorial as him for Administrative Law.” Trace shook her head with a sigh. “The poor chap looked like someone extinguished the fire in his candle. Couldn’t help but think that you were the reason.”
“Oh, please. As if.”
“You never know…”
Her hands shook with trepidation the moment she entered the law building for her final semester. A few more months, and she’d be done with the entirety of her degree. But there was something else waiting for her at the finish line: the prospect of running into Ryan at the graduation ceremony. She hadn’t given him much thought during her sophomore year, but Fate served her with ideas of its own. Her smile was wiped off her face when she caught sight of Ryan entering the room with his mate. She hunched over and discreetly hid her face behind her Mac, pretending that her concentration was on her computer screen. History part two, she thought. Fate is definitely screwing with me again. Tracy will have fun with this. For sure.
She knew that she needed a change of plans when her tutor entered the room with a large folder. An indication that class was about to start. She decided to give Ryan the cold shoulder and feigned that he was a stranger to her. It was a tactic that he once used on her and she accidentally snapped in his face with the same method. She focused on her own things … until he approached her during the tutorial break.
“Hello, Crystal. It’s a surprise to see you here.”
Crystal forced a laugh. “Yeah, I wasn’t expecting to share a class with you again either. How’s Auckland?”
“You remembered. It was better than I imagined. There is something comforting and welcoming about the aura that makes you want to return again.”
“I know that feeling. It’s a smaller country, but you won’t feel constricted.”
His eyes widened with shock. “How’d you know?”
“Come.” She gingerly closed her laptop and rose to her full height. “We’ve another eight minutes. Let’s continue this conversation outside.”
It was moment later when they were out of earshot that she answered Ryan - although he noticed that she folded her arms and crossed her legs as she leaned against the wall for stability. “I’ve lived there for a while.”
She was uncomfortable, but over what, he was unsure. “Too bad you couldn’t be there then,” he muttered. “You’d have been the perfect tour guide then.”
She raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”
“It’s nothing,” he backtracked. “I was just thinking that if I knew that you visited Auckland before, I would’ve asked you for recommendations and tips.”
“Since it’s just us, can I ask you something?”
“Can we start over as friends? My time in Auckland has made me realized that we weren’t exactly fair to each other. For all of the grief that I may’ve caused you as a burro estupido, I am sincerely sorry.”
It meant stupid donkey in Spanish. Why he, as a French speaker, would refer to Spanish words in his apology was something she didn’t understood, but one thing was clear in her mind. Now that he made the first move of admitting his sins, she was more than willing to bury the hatchet and start over.
“Apology accepted. And I’m sorry for what I’ve done too.” She offered a handshake. “A truce?”
He took her proffered hand - smoother than tofu - in a heartbeat. “Yes.”
“Let’s return inside then. I don’t want our peers to frown at our late return.”
“Sure.” He pulled the door open and held it for her. “After you.”