Astrum loved going on long walks in the evenings and turning into by-lanes. She would sigh with delight and longing when she would see the tiny wooden row house tucked in between the opulent, modern bungalows. It wasn’t only because of the chirpy pink bougainvilleas lining the fence that she longed for the house or the green lawn with the cane chairs and wooden coffee table or the stone steps, where she imagined spending her afternoons reading. She also loved it because the back of the house faced the lake. Astrum wanted this space to be hers so bad, as bad as she wanted to settle down and as bad as she wanted to write her first book. The problem with this wonderful dream bubble was that Astrum was thirty and single, no publisher wanted to publish another memoir on how to cope with your loss after your mother had died of cancer and lastly who can afford a fancy house if they worked at a nursing home for cancer patients after studying for years to become a criminal psychologist?
Not like she was scared of working with criminals or doing a government job that paid four, maybe six times as much but she wasn’t entirely over her mother’s death, which occurred two years ago arising from brain cancer. The four years that Astrum saw her mother writhe in anxiety were her worst. Sometimes her pupils would dilate to different sizes, sometimes she would scream all night holding her head and wretch in the mornings. She could simply watch as her mother aged rapidly from a beautiful woman to a haggard looking limp patient. Eventually she had to remove the mirrors from her mother’s room. Her family helped her with the treatments when she had to quit her job to stay home and look after her mother.
Astrum lost her father when she was barely fourteen. So loss wasn’t exactly new for her, but she had no family left, no siblings, not even grandparents. So at twenty-eight, she had no family and was completely broke. Her aunts and uncles called her over for dinner every now and then but she’d much rather stay at home to recover from the mental exhaustion of her work. She enjoyed coming home to her cat, who wouldn’t ask questions or emotionally blackmail her to go on blind dates with strangers or even worse, second cousins.
Change is the only constant in life and on her thirtieth birthday, not exactly when the clock struck twelve but post the grand surprise party her life took on different colours. What is important in this scenario is not that she slipped out of her own surprise party and ran off to the stargazing night trip that she had earlier planned on taking anyway, but that Kato, the mastermind helped her execute it. Kato was dating our birthday girl’s friend’s friend but it was more of a no-strings-attached kind of situation, purely physical. Why Kato was even at the party is not such an interesting story. But what is essential for this story is the fact that Kato was one of the millions of people who avidly followed her blog even before they met. So Kato knew what Astrum was like that night, or so he thought. And Kato kept his eyes fixed on Astrum in a state of absolute awe all night.
The next morning Astrum called in sick, inspite of which she slept like a baby. Later that evening while taking her evening walk she mulled over the last thirty years of her life, she had come so far and yet not taken the leap. Her job made her feel good about helping people but it also held her back and depressed her to a large extent, would she ever give up her job, would she ever give up her Mum? Was this how she would spend the rest of her life? Depressed, lonely and eventually broke?
The tiny wooden house came into view and she thought of last night, of the sky: a portrait of illuminating stars that made up uncountable constellations. She and Kato lied down beside each other after spreading a sheet on the hard ground amongst the several other star gazers huddled up together in the clearing in the middle of a forest. It was his first time, so she pointed out the North star and the arrow that made up the constellation of his zodiac sign, Sagittarius and he thought he saw a man dancing and no centaur with a bow. Astrum and Kato counted upto 19 shooting stars together and every single time, she wished for a miracle that would change her life. Kato was so easy to be with and he brought out a shade of her, she never knew existed, she turned into a person who wanted to live each day like it was her last. He made her laugh so hard that she was asked to either shut it or leave. Kato took a flight back the next morning with his date and they exchanged Skype ids and phone numbers.
She longed one more time for the wooden house and right then she decided she was going to quit her job and concentrate on selling her book, work harder on her blog and apply for a government job. It was nobler than working with a corporate lawyer she figured. She promised herself a house by the lake by the end of that year. Government jobs are not usurped in a day’s time unless you have powerful connections and so Astrum acquired some freelance writing work instead. Sometimes she got nervous if she had made a very spontaneous decision, she wondered whether this was what they call mid-life crises but she would snap herself back to look at things optimistically. That’s what her mother would have asked her to do, to keep the faith.
Kato, she thought would forget about her but they Skyped daily and sometimes even twice a day. A month later she received a return ticket to Chicago and without any commitments to bother about, she took off. A week later Kato came down to spend the weekend with Astrum and they made love for the first time. At the airport he gave her a memory card and he asked her to insert it into her phone and listen to it on her long ride back home on the bus. It was a folder of songs that started off with why Chicago was a great place with Kato’s voice after every song and eventually songs on living together and finally his voice asking her to move in with him.
She wondered what her mother would have said. She wondered if her mother would have liked Kato, him, with his curly dark brown hair neatly trimmed, his round silver framed glasses over his dark brown almond shaped eyes, his fair skin, tall and broad frame. She wondered if she would have approved of her moving out all of a sudden and moving in with a man without taking any wows. She wondered if her Mum would think that she was crazy.
On her way to the airport, she saw the wooden row house from her cab window and smiled to herself. Kato received her at the airport and that night she was introduced to his family over dinner. She felt so comfortable that at first she thought it was weird but soon enough she knew that it felt right. Kato was a graphic designer and worked for one of the best agencies in the city. Astrum continued to write and took up a job with a leading newspaper. They left little notes for each other all the time. As time passed she learnt how to make his tea semi-hot, just the way he liked it and that he hated tomato and loved playing on his Playstation on Sundays. In the evenings they went for long walks by the lake and on the weekends they met up with friends and families and drank to good health.
Two months later he told her that he was taking her on a stargazing trip and while cuddled up under the same blanket, he pointed to a shooting star and whispered he wished to marry her. She squeezed his hand hard and started sobbing, too overwhelmed to speak.
They were married a month later and moved into a tiny row house made of bricks, with a huge lawn with green benches and a swing with creepers embellishing its iron rods, and the front of this house faces a lake. At her wedding she cried like a baby because her mother couldn’t see her looking like a Goddess in her strapless white satan gown decorated with a rust golden sash tied around her waist. Her light brown hair tied up to reveal her sharp features, her fringe above her dark eyes, her skin glowing with happiness. Kato kept telling her how lucky he was to marry a Goddess.
After a few months Kato quit his job and started his own company that outsources to advertising agencies, which he operates from home. Astrum shone on to win a prestigious award for her blog and after her pregnancy quit her job but continued to freelance for the newspaper. This year her baby will turn one and she, thirty-two. Now she works part-time helping teenagers under charges of crime and drugs. She also started work on her second book after her publishers set a date early next year to print and market her memoir dedicated to her mother.