And his thoughts wandered aimlessly while his heartbeats raced like never before. Ricardo was feeling stuck and suffocated in a bubble where everything seemed so blurred.
He gently took off his pair of worn-out sandals and walked slowly towards the living room where the news was being broadcasted. Without making the slightest noise and after making sure that nobody would see him, he listened attentively to the conversation of his parents who were both racked by a mixture of feelings.
“Do you think she’ll ever come back?” cried Mrs. Cooper.
“We must believe in the work of the authorities, I guess they are trying their best and we don’t have any other choices other than waiting,” replied her husband politely. His face became pale with anxiety though.
“All our hopes are pinned on them…Please come back home soon darling Cherri.” said Mrs. Cooper as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Ricardo’s elder sister Cherri had boarded on that plane and no news came from her since then. As he walked back to his room, his jumbled mind refused to stop reminding him of the tragedy that not only hit his family but also thousands of people.
The 17-year-old teenager was fully aware that he had to sit for his third paper the next day and that he should have been revising like his classmates but his present state of mind made it difficult for him to sit down and flick the pages of his copybooks for revision.
Ricardo was a bright student and had the potential to bag a scholarship for his final year examinations but following the ordeal the day before, he decided to give up on everything and to just pray for his sister’s safety. He wanted to stay updated with the latest news regarding the missing plane and thus made it a must to surf the internet every now and then.
He read with much profundity each and every article that managed to give a plausible reason for the plane’s disappearance. He so wanted to ignore the ones that killed his hopes of the plane not gone for good but part of him forced him to read them all.
As a student, he tried to make his own analysis of what could have gone wrong with the plane and convinced himself each time that he had reasons to hope for the best. He remembered how his sister used to nag him about his pessimism.
He recalled her saying:
“Ric, we are all imperfect but you have to see the sparks in your imperfections if you really want to be happy. Many people find peacocks of sublime beauty because of their exceeding appealing plumage, but you are one of those who fail to appreciate the euphoric vibes these birds give off. You prefer fixing at their dirty feet and hence complain; optimism may improve things but pessimism aggravates things with greater certitude!”
Those words uplifted his mood somehow and he decided to go to bed. He prolonged his usual two minute prayer this night, asking God for his sister. He felt emotionally and physically drained as he crawled onto his bed. The poor soul fell asleep with a painful heart and with an almost empty stomach and could hear his father consoling his weeping mother in the next room.
Cherri was 22 years old and had just completed her undergraduate courses. She was to fly to China with her family after Ricardo’s examinations for a family holiday trip but she booked her seat one week before to spend some festive moments with her college friends over there. The next morning, a lethargic and doleful Ricardo woke up finding his parents watching the shocking live telecast of some experts who revealed that large debris of an unidentified object were spotted by satellites somewhere in the Indian Ocean and were yet to be found.
For the first time since JK460 went missing and since he had last heard from his loving daughter, Mr Cooper burst into tears. His parents cried inconsolably and he stood there frozen. Just then, somebody opened the main door and dashed into the room like a streak of lightning.
It was Hugh, a family relative and the police high commissioner of the region who somehow calmed the atmosphere by saying that the debris found is unlikely to be that of the missing plane, according to knowledgeable researchers. Ricardo felt struck by too many unpleasant feelings for a while: he felt deeply sad for his parents, stressed as hell for his exams and troubled for his only sister.
Within some twenty minutes, he got dressed for school, forced himself to eat a meager breakfast and as he made his way to leave, he murmured “Mum and dad, I’m going for my English paper.”
“Best of luck my son,” replied his mother with a wintry face trying to hide her pain.
Ricardo left with a fake smile and remembered his sister’s pieces of advices that she always gave him during stressful moments. At home the atmosphere became daunting; Mrs Cooper’s health deteriorated with every passing moment. She was forced to take sleeping pills, which unfortunately failed to make her feel sleepy.
She was too perturbed by the thoughts of her missing daughter. She hated herself for letting her daughter go despite Cherri’s hesitancy right from the beginning.
“I don’t want to go now mum, I want us to go together after Ric’s exams!” argued Cherri.
“You’ve toiled so hard for your exams my love; it’s now high time for you to enjoy your holidays and you won’t be alone there! All of your friends will be with you.” replied Mrs. Cooper.
“But what if Ric needs me during his revision sessions?” said Cherri sympathetically.
“Don’t worry about him sugar, I’ll be there for him, start packing your things and we’ll fly to you after one week.” answered her mother.
“Cool then, I’ll be able to spend quality time with my girls there!” said Cherri in a jovial tone.
Mrs Cooper regretted that moment now and wept for a while. Her loving husband attended the calls of close relatives who showed their utmost support and expressed their prayers.
As the hours passed, both husband and wife sat in front of their television paying attention to every new broadcast concerning the plane and hoped impatiently for some good news. Unsurprisingly, they were not keen on having their meals on time; both relied on their black coffee.
It was indeed a hard time for them; their only daughter boarded on a plane for the first time and on top of that—alone. All they could think of was their daughter‘s safety and health. Cherri suffered from asthma and a small stressful incident could easily affect her health.
Mr. Cooper wondered if the plane had been hijacked; he had read an article online a few days before describing how some unidentified terrorist groups threatened to cause blasphemy in the world in the near future if some governments went against them. His hopes which seemed to be turning forlorn, but he rebelled vehemently with the negative thoughts that raced his mind every single second. His cogitation was interrupted by a
knock on the door.
It was Ricardo who was back from school.
“So, how was it son?” asked Mr. Cooper gently like a good father.
“I tried my best.. I’m going to my room, I need some rest,” answered Ricardo softly.
He lied to his father; he had not done well on the exams for he worried too much for his sister—his closest friend. There was another knock at the door as he walked up the stairs but he felt too morose to find out who it was. As he untied his shoelace, Ricardo’s mind diverted away from his performance today and preferred not thinking of his forthcoming results.
He remembered his friends discussing the possible fate of the missing plane. A feeling of fear jolted down his spine when one of them exclaimed:
“The plane must have been crashed somewhere in the middle of the ocean! Believe me guys!”
He did not feel like giving an opinion for whatever he would say could be retaliated with something he would not wish to hear. Without letting anyone aware that his sister was one of the passengers, he paved his way back home.
The third day following the saddening incident was being marked by something which Ricardo had never witnessed before. On his way, he could see people carrying large banners to be put in various corners of the town to draw attention.
“JK460 please come back soon” and “Home awaits you JK460” were written on the banners.
The young teenager was touched by these humanitarian actions and prayed silently in his heart. Some people had even started distributing small colorful cards on which one could pen whatever they felt like to express their love for the missing passengers.
He reluctantly went to show his love too and such was his message of hope:
“Dear Cherri, the night sky seems dull without you these days, please come back for us, I heart you.”
After he had taken off his uniform and after put on his sweater and trousers, he decided to spend some time with his parents and walked towards the living room where the television was still on. He could see a police officer sitting beside his parents; the latter was asking them various questions about Cherri.
Ricardo felt courageous for a second and interrupted them by asking, “Is sister coming back mum?”
“No son, the officer is here to enquire about Cherri, he’s doing his job.” said Mr. Cooper and thus crushing the hopes of his son.
By this time, he was aware that the names of the missing passengers could have already been revealed to the whole world. He decided to deactivate his accounts on social networking sites because he did not want friends or close relatives to remind him of all this mess. He preferred being isolated in his prayers rather than accepting sympathies that would most probably make him feel worse.
The days went by with the tedious search of experts. Different authorities across the globe decided to give a helping hand to find JK460 but in vain. There were also conflicting opinions about the mystery behind its disappearance but hundreds of thousands of hearts prayed with one voice for a miracle to happen.
At home, Ricardo had completed his examinations with little expectations and was devastated from within. He refused to socialize and spent his time writing in a diary that he hoped to give to Cherri when she would come back. Mr. Cooper began taking his wife to a psychiatrist for treatment; she was being too absent-minded and would barely sleep at night.
He grieved alone and sometimes Ricardo could hear him weeping in the bathroom. The family was in deep pain just like many others. They did not know for how long they would have to wait to see their close ones again but prayed every moment.
That night while the television was still on and everyone was asleep at the Ricardo’s place, Mr. Cooper‘s phone beeped twice. He managed to take his phone from the table room next to the bed and tried to not disturb his wife who seemed to be sleeping well after so long.
The next minute gloomed the atmosphere prevailing in the room utterly and shook the family as well as many people around the world. The message was as such:
“JK airlines truly regret that it is to be assumed that beyond any plausible doubt that JK460 has been lost and none of the crew survived…”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Jen Weddle / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Flickr/ Bombay Sapphire