A Stamped Love Story – Part 3
If you have missed the part 1 & 2 of the story, please read the begining of the stamped love story here and here
The smell of a freshly baked cake always made me feel wonderful. I smiled in darkness at a cake box that Rajiv, my delivery boy had placed on the counter top in my kitchen. The power outage in India was of no surprise to the Indians. Everyone learned to find their way to the lamps in darkness. Due to the rains, I had assigned my nephew, 5 year old son, Julian to check on the emergency lamp and oil lamps that we had. He was quick to turn one on when the lights died out. Today was no exception. He walked in with lamp and placed it next to the box.
”Jenny, why are you smiling….did you have a mail today?” Maggie asked, as she appeared out of the darkness in the hallway. I tried to stop smiling. It was hopeless. She knew it. My cousin had a knack of picking on the right things. I ignored her by putting the finishing touches with a cake knife to the cake’s frosting. It would be prefect for the party tomorrow.
“Can I have a piece?” Julian asked he spied on the cake in front of me.
“Nope! It’s for the party. Go and check the fridge…” I said as I shooed him off.
“Well???” she asked persistently. My cousin’s knack of reading my thoughts was disturbing at such instances. ” Ok..spill! What does Prince Charming say now? ” she asked as she licked the frosting on the knife.
“Maggie!!!..We agreed….no more questions” I replied trying to keep a stern face.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Jenny, I know you have a soft spot for the secret Prince Charming!”
“We are not discussing anything. I have no time for soft spots. It is a silly notion for lazy people.”
“It’s nice to see that you believe it.” She replied sarcastically.
“I do.” I said, trying to stop the conversation.
“Does that classify me as lazy too…coz I believe in love! ”
“Maggie! You nut; I could never call you lazy! You are my life saver.”
“Jenny,… don’t let the past ruin the present.”
I worked in silence. I moved to the south to run away from the past.
“The accident at Christmas eve was not your fault. You know that…right?”
“Maggie, …. Pleaseeee….drop it”
“You have blamed yourself for 15 years now! You passed up every chance to be happy…I won’t drop it. You need to listen”
“It was my fault. I am to be blamed. Our life will never be the same. ”
“It was an accident. Why do you insist on using it as an excuse?”
I took a deep breath. ” If I had only been careful….the door would have been locked and everyone would have been safe….”
“Jenny, you were 15! What were you suppose to do? You did the only thing you could do…”
“If I had called Grandpa Sam, or your dad to protect us….”
” Look here…” she said as she turned my face and looked into my eyes. ” It was not your fault. Your dad’s fortune was irresistible for people. The attack that night was the fault of men who wanted another man’s riches. They attacked everyone who resisted and you were the only one who called for help. You were brave enough to hit the man who tried to hurt your grandpa and you ran for help”
“I did not do enough…”
“Nonsense! The cops told us that had it not been for your courage, they would have never been identified.”
“Maggie, I was so pre occupied with calling him…I lost my head…I vowed to never do that again.”
“Jenny, don’t be silly. You fought with a guy twice your size and saved your grandpa from being stabbed in the chest. Your fight was the biggest surprise those thieves got. You have no idea how you looked when I opened the door…You were attacked…and bleeding in the face…it never crossed my mind that Jenny the mouse would fight like a lion.”
“My parents….they were never the same after that…”
“I know…no one ever was” she said quietly.
We sat down in silence. Each of us was lost in our thoughts. I boxed the cake silently and put it in the fridge along with the other things I made. She was right, everyone changed. I was not the shy girl of fifteen. I faced life as it came. My parents faced life with fear. Grandpa’s health failed him. I missed the opportunity to meet Jac that Christmas and my courage failed me …we would never meet.
The scars of the battle showed on my left cheek as a reminder. It took years of practice to stop jumping at any shadows in the night. I hated what my fear did to me. It made me weary and conscious. There was an excuse every year to justify why I could not meet him. My parents were in most one of them until they passed away.
”Jenny, did you tell him of the attack?” Maggie asked as she looked determined.
“Maggie! Honestly, what has gotten into you? I don’t want to discuss this.” I responded angrily.
“You didn’t …do you!” the truth dawned on her.
“Not in many words….there was no need. ”
She looked at me and shook her head. I had seen that look and knew what it meant. She had decided to help me whether I liked it or not.
”No Maggie! I don’t need help…let it be. He will be happy as he is. There is no beast in his memories. Let it be….” I begged.
“Beauty is in the eye….”
“Shut up! “ I shouted angrily. She struck a nerve. My face was as ugly and the scar made me look beastly. Jac loved beautiful things. I did not belong there.
Maggie pouted and left without a word.
After Grandpa’s death, I began a small business of my own at 25. Maggie decided to become my partner after she failed to get a job that would give her time with her son. She was a cousin from Grandma Stella’s side and we got along like a house on fire since the attack. Her husband ditched her for a new wife and Maggie divorced him for a new life. Together, the bakery became our life and our home. When business began to pick up, we employed four of the neighborhood boys as our staff. There was no turning back after that. I decide to remain single and Maggie decided to mingle.
Joshua, a handsome charter accountant from town, recently purchased a house in our vicinity and was looking to settle down. His skills became handy to our small business when he took on to being our financial advisor. One bite of our Crustly Love Cake and he was hooked. The housewarming party at Joshua’s house was his idea to open us to opportunities in nearby cities and towns. It was our first major event since the opening five years back. It promised to be huge. He insisted that I cater to the clientele he would have from the city. He wanted to dazzle them with the lovely country side and ambience before hitting their stomach with the gastronomic delights from our eatery. He had convinced Maggie to stand by him as he marketed us for the events upcoming for Christmas. Maggie was blissfully unaware of the looks that Joshua gave her when she talked. She was excited at the prospect and I decided to let Joshua woo her. After all, I did have a soft spot for love.
I was weary of meeting people and hated the spotlight. Jac’s letter unsettled me but determination was what had me survive. I was not going to let a small thing like fear defeats me.
* * * *
“Wear this Jenny! It looks lovely on you” Maggie said as she came in with a lovely plum colored suit with a black skirt.
“Am not sure…..” I said as I fingered the coat. The party was in 4 hours. I was nervous.
“Try it…please!…I want us to look gorgeous…I got Julian to stay with Mrs. Thampi for the night. It’s our night to show our magic Jenny…Pleaseeeeeee! ”
I smiled. I could never say No to Maggie, especially, when she said Please in such a cute manner.
“I ‘ll wait…please try it on right now!”
“Ok! Ms Pushy pants! ” I said as I laughed. She had me sitting at the hairdresser and had my hair done in bangs. The resultant look put a smile on my face as it covered my scar well. I wondered why I never thought of it before. The suit felt smooth and seemed to cover the weight I put on after my 30th birthday. I felt a sudden rising of excitement when I looked at the pretty reflection staring back.
“Oh my God, Jenny!!” Maggie shrieked.
I froze. I looked like a beast….
“You look beautiful!!!!” she said as a tear dropped to her check.
“Really?” I asked in a whisper. I was afraid to look back at my reflection.
“Julian…come up and have a look at Aunt Jenny. I need a 2nd opinion!!!!”
Julian came up and looked suitably awed. I had to smile. Maybe, tonight, I could be the beauty and not the beast.
The crowd at Joshua’s place was a mixture of young and old people. The ambience was lovely. The house was decorated for Christmas and the theme was red and gold. It looked amazing. Maggie had clearly outdone herself in assisting with the decorations. Joshua looked smart in the black suit he was wearing with a crisp white shirt and Maggie looked elegant in her golden satin sheath suit and matching plumps. She was led to meet interesting people and quickly established contacts with many upcoming event organizers. I kept my eyes and hands busy on the catering and managed the confusions at the kitchen. Rajiv and the gang needed my presence to coordinate smoothly.
The cake made for the party center piece had a small accident with Ganesh, the new boy employed for the party, swiping his arm on it by mistake. There was a collective gasp in the kitchen as everyone looked at me. The boy paled and looked ashamed. It was a lovely creation and took a whole day to perfect. I was not sure on how to correct it. There was no time to loose my marbles. I smiled and set to correct it immediately.
“Go on guys…serve the guests! This will be ready in no time! “I said as I began to run to my pastry kit for remedies. There was some magic in the evening. My hands began to create and the shape changed from a beastly gap to a beautiful pond with sugar rose and green wines covering the damage. The guests loved it. We secure a kitty full of orders for the whole month. Maggie was delighted.
The evening was long but my heart felt light. I walked in and out of the party checking in on the guests and managed to talk to a few people along with Maggie, on the food presentation and cake arrangements.
“Do you love working on pastries or appetizers?” The questioner was looking at Maggie but the question seemed to be directed at me. He was staring.
I looked at my lovely shoes. I was always in the habit of looking at my shoes whenever a question was directed at me. It helped to conceal the scar with thick hair cascading down my cheek.. I felt hidden and safe from prying eyes.
“Pastries…I guess.” I answered shyly. I felt a blush climbing up my checks.
“Interesting, I thought your specialty was Cakes, Jenny.“
It was the way he said my name…I felt sparks running up my spine. I looked up temporarily forgetting my scar
A Stamped Love Story – Part 2
If you have missed the part 1 of the story, please read the begining of the stamped love story here
Thunder woke me up from my daydreaming. I made another cup of tea and opened the letter without damaging the stamp. China was a nice addition to my collection.
Am back! As promised, the stamp from China is delivered. I wonder why you still chose the snail mail over face book. Anyway, China is too crowded for my taste and one can get lost in the crowd.
I had an accident yesterday. The cat is out of the bag. The whole family knows about you. Alana, the little magpie would not keep her mouth zipped and I am being subjected to 20 questions from everyone, including Mom. Her mind is as sharp as it was when she was 30.”
He was still the same. His letter brought life to words. He would never understand that ink and paper had a strange way of arousing emotions. Facebook would mean that he could track me electronically. The letter was routed to me ….no one would know.
” The secret is out…. am not gay!” I laughed at his declaration.
” They have confirmed that you are a lady friend and not a guy! So much for the plan!! Everything had changed. The stakes are high. They are planning a huge Christmas party at Bangalore with prospective brides. Come and rescue me.
Please save me from that fate and say yes. Your voice still lingers in my ears.
Say Yes Jenny
I remember the first call asking if I was Jenny. A strange thrill traveled from my feet to the tips of my hair at the sound of his voice. I loved his voice. I remember our conversation like it was yesterday.
* * * *
” Jenny, did you like the stamp?” he asked.
“Which one?” I whispered as I looked around cautiously.
” Yes, thanks Jac.”
” Are you scared?”
I wanted to say No…” Yes, if dad sees me on the phone, I will be spanked.”
“What is your dad like? Mine died when I was 10 yrs old. “
” I thought your Dad was alive”
” I mean my real dad is no more. He was a great guy.”
” Mine is strict. He is a business man. Reputation is everything. If I am caught talking to a guy, he will be ashamed….”
” I don’t remember mine being strict. Mom re-married when I was twelve. My step-dad is a great guy. But no one can replace my Dad. I miss him”
I felt sad for him. I had no clue as to who was on the other side and yet that thought did not scare me. As a worry wart, I worried about everything. What people thought of me, my father’s reputation, why people would talk to me…yet this stranger made me feel safe. I trusted him.
“My grandpa says Heaven required a lot of lovely people at different times. Am sure your Dad is in a good place.”
“After my Dad died, I used to be angry. I hated everyone.”
“I don’t know. I felt hurt, I guess. When your letters came, they made me smile.”
There was a smile in his voice. I could feel it then.
“Is that why you called me special?” I wanted to hear him say it.
“You are special. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.” He was so sincere.
” Why am I special?”
I bit my lip. Silence stretched.
” Coz no one makes salty cakes like you do!” his voice cracked with a laugh.
I burst out laughing.
“Jennyyyyyy, where are you? Who are you talking too?!”
My heart froze in fear. It sounded like Dad was walking up the stairs.
“I got to go!” I whispered frantically.
” No you can’t! You have to give me a number to call back!”
“Then promise me you will call back!”
” I will try!”
“Jac..Dad will be up any minute! Please!” I begged. I could not put the phone down.
I was exasperated, ” Look, I promise to call you.”
” What if you don’t?” he asked coolly.
I was stumped. We had kept each other a secret for 5 yrs….one wrong move and Dad would have me punished. I would be humiliated. He considered me responsible.
“What do you want me to do?!”
” Meet me face to face.”
I could hear my mother calling….”Jenny…. Come down.”
I resorted to begging” Please… I got to go…”
“Ok…then promise me….” He whispered.
Even while I was stressing, it gave me a strange thrill. “What….” I whispered hiding by the curtains near the phone. I prayed no one would notice me.
“If I don’t receive a call from you before I leave, you will meet me…”
“I can’t call you! This was the only time…”
” Ok, then I have your address…I will come down to meet you!”
” Promise me…that you will meet me and I will keep us a secret”
” That’s blackmail! “
“Nope. Promise to meet me and I will honor my promise”
” When? When, do you want to meet me and where?”
” There is time…say, next year, 16th July? I shall tell you the place.”
I could hear my mother calling….”Jennyyyyyyyyy…. Come down.”
“No,” I hissed ” let’s meet around Christmas…” I could not believe I was saying that. Christmas was far away but it would give me enough time to plan.
At this point I saw my mother’s face and panicked. I wanted to run away and said the first thing that came to my mind before slamming the phone.
“Yes, I promise. Meet me for Christmas”
* * * *
Promises were made to be broken…..
To be continued…
The Secret Admirer
“I’ll get that mom” said Adrianna running to the main door to answer it. She was hoping it was her new friend Sam from the library. To her surprise, she found a box with her name on it. She looked around to see if the person who dropped it was around. But she just saw the delivery van from the nearby courier service.
“Hmm so weird” thought Adrianna as she doubted anyone would send her a parcel. She took the box inside, closed the door and was heading with it to her room. Normally her mother would have asked who was at the door, but after her dad died in the plane crash, she seemed to not be interested in anything at all. It was like as if her dad took everything human about her mom with him when he died and just left her emptiness. She hated seeing her mom this way. She wished her mom would get over her dad soon enough like she did. She never cared much for the man.
“Well why should I cry over someone who never had time to spend with us at all.” thought Adrianna.
She found her dad to be more of a house guest who used to come home rarely to pay a visit, get them some stuff and leave within two days. She had no real father-daughter relation with him at all. When she complained about her dad to her mom, her mother was always defending him. She said that her dad loved her a lot and that when she was a baby, he could never get enough of her.
“yea right…pffftt!” thought Adrianna aloud while trying to tear away the cover on the box.
She opened the box to find beautiful flowers with a note saying “for my princess.”
“Hmmm that’s odd. There is no name or address of the person who sent it to me.”
She wondered if it would be Sam. But they jus met each other once and if he actually sent flowers to her, then sure the dude was creepy to do it this way. She figured it couldn’t be him since he didn’t look that retarded to her.
There was no other guy whom she could think of who would send her flowers. She thought of letting it go for the moment as she really had no wise guesses, and decided to wait to see where all this would go.
The following day at school, she found a note in her locker which read, “Good morning! You look lovely today.”
Adrianna smiled. She loved that someone was noticing her.
“Hey what’s that, Ade?” asked her best pal, Duncan. She handed the note to him and he had a wicked grin on his face, “O o o o o … someone has a crush on Adrianna! Who gave you this note?”
“Honestly I have no idea. Yesterday I got a box that had flowers in it and a note but no name or address.” replied Adrianna while walking with Duncan to class.
Duncan couldn’t take his eyes off her pretty face. He had fallen in love with his best friend.
The history class was so boring, thought Adrianna. She took a quick scan around the room to see if anybody was noticing her or looking at her, just so that she could have a heads up on who was sending her flowers and leaving her notes.
She actually liked it, and was waiting eagerly for her next note. She couldn’t wait to go to the school library during the break hour. She secretly hoped to see Sam and even though it would be really lame if he were doing all this, she really hoped it was him because he was really cute. She met him at the library and he asked her for her phone number and asked if she wanted to get a bite sometime.
She was thrilled! “Maybe it is him after all!” exclaimed Adrianna to her best friend Duncan while heading back home.
“naa…I don’t know Ade..I don’t think it is him. He comes totally off to me. Just something about him. I don’t know.”
“Yea right. You hardly know him. He is a great guy” said Adrianna pushing her friend around. Duncan hated Sam now. He hated having competition.
“Maybe I should just tell her how I feel” thought Duncan looking at his dreamy best friend.
That evening Sam took Adrianna out for dinner. She put her favourite dress on and tried some make up on.
“Wow Ade! You look gorgeous.” said Sam on looking at his new friend. But Adrianna did not respond. She was staring at the same type of blue flowers that she had gotten the other day in the parcel.
“Oh in case you’re wondering, yes, this is for you.” said Sam to Adrianna who was acting quite strange on seeing the flowers.
“Ohh umm thank you so much” said Adrianna pondering over all the questions in her head “could it be him”, she wondered.
The evening went great and Adrianna grew more and more inclined to feeling that Sam was the one who sent those gifts and notes.
However there were no notes for the next two days and she was quite disappointed. She felt that perhaps Sam stopped it after their one evening together. He had been acting aloof lately and he hadn’t called her after the date. She felt bad about it.
“ohh forget it Ade.he wasn’t that great either.” said a happy Duncan.
“But I was so sure that it was him, Dunky” replied Adrianna rather sadly.
“Hmm after you told me about your date, I had that feeling too. You know maybe it was him. He wasn’t interested anymore and that’s why he stopped sending you notes. It kinda adds up, Ade”said Duncan wondering if this was the right time to swoop in and get his best friend.
“Anyways you know, Ade I think your really great and you deserve someone else who loves you a lot and would do anything to prove it to you just how much you mean to him.” said Duncan with longing in his eyes.
Adrianna felt like there was something in his words there, and also at the way he was looking at her. It looked like as if he wanted to kiss her so badly standing there. She hadn’t thought that way about Duncan at all.
“Get back to class, both of you. Break time was over 10minutes back!” yelled an annoyed principal to a pissed off Duncan who spoilt his moment with Adrianna and to a rather relieved Adrianna.
At dinner, she was telling her mother about school and constantly talking of how she got selected for the school play and about the audition for it. Her mother seemed to be in another world altogether and Adrianna stopped talking, picked up her plate in a haste and left it in the wash and left the room.
“Adrianna,stop. Im sorry. Tell me about it...”said a troubled mom.
“Save it mom, I’m tired of putting up with your drama. He’s not worth your pain.”
“Come back here right now. I told you not to talk like that about your father.”
“He’s not my father. Leave me alone!!” replied Adrianna and banged her room door shut behind her.
She burst into tears in her room. She loved her mom a lot. She wanted to help her but she couldn’t. She hated her father even more for making her mom this way.
Just then her eye caught something glistening in the dark. She switched on her room light to find a shiny stone on the ground. She picked it up and found two others right behind it. It was leading somewhere and right out through her window. She saw many more lying like a trail outside her window. She got scared. She didn’t know whether to go behind it. But her curiosity got the better of her and she decided to follow the stones. She climbed out through her window and once she got down, she saw a note under one of the stones right where she stood.
It read, “Don’t worry. I’m right next to you, just follow the stones.”
Adrianna looked around and she called out, “Hello, where are you? This isn’t funny anymore. Is it you, Duncan?”
But she got no answer. She followed the stones down a narrow path. The only sound she could hear was of her heart thumping wildly inside her.
The stones stopped in front of a tall bush. She realized she had to go through the bush and so she went through it, moving all the leaves and branches to find the most beautiful sight she had ever seen. The bright stones made a huge pattern of her name in a heart. It glistened so spectacularly in the moonlight. Adrianna had never seen such a beautiful sight ever before. She couldn’t believe someone loved her so much to actually go through the pain to do this for her. She had tears in her eyes and a smile on her lips at the same time. She had the most amazing feeling and love for the person who did this for her. She went back home in a dazed feeling. She was on cloud 9 and she couldn’t stop smiling. She had to find out who was doing this and when she would, she would hug him and tell him to never let go ever. She wondered if Duncan was behind all this because of what he had told her earlier in the day. He did mention about her being with someone who would go to any extent to prove his love for her.
She kept getting more parcels from the courier service day after day. Most of the time it would be flowers or small mannequins or her favourite chocolates. She knew she had never told Duncan about her favourite chocolate, the mystery of the admirer kept getting more mysterious.
To worsen it all. she bumped into Sam at the library one day.
“Hey ade!whats up?”asked Sam.
“Nothing much. I got selected for the school play and so just busy with that. You can come watch me if you are free next Saturday.” replied Adrianna hoping at least someone would come there to watch her.
She was sure her mom wouldn’t be interested at all to come since she still acts like as if her father passed away yesterday.
“Oh shoot,I don’t think I can. I got plans with my girlfriend. Anyways catch you later,Ade! bye” said Sam and checked out of the library with his books.
Adrianna was shocked that he had a girlfriend but at least she knew he wasn’t her secret admirer. She wondered if it were Duncan then, since Sam was clearly out of the picture but she had no heads on for it. She wanted to go check out the courier service building to get some details about her secret admirer but she had no time as she was always preoccupied with rehearsals for the school play. It bummed her out a lot that she didn’t know who he was. But the thought of her admirer always brought a smile on her face.
The day of the school play flew by soon and Adrianna was nervous. Everyone in the cast of her play had someone or the other coming to encourage them and reassure them and watch them play. She had no one to come and watch her play. In a desperate moment, she went down to the kitchen and asked her mom.
“Mom, today is my school play and I would really like it if you could make it. It starts at 4 in the afternoon. I am really nervous. Will you come to see me play?”
“Oh darling, you know how I feel. I am too exhausted from working and everything else in my life now.But I will try to come if I can.” replied her mother.
“I’m sure you won’t come, mom. You know what, just forget I even asked you to come. You were never like this before. I have nothing or no one who cares about me anymore. I don’t want you to come to see my play at all” said a broken hearted daughter to her mother.
With that she ran out of the house determined to find her secret admirer. She needed him the most now. She went to the courier service and told the man in charge about the parcels she has been getting and asked if he knew the person who has been dropping them. He said he goes by the name of Frank Thomspon.
Adrianna was left speechless.
“What??!! You have made some mistake that cannot be. Check again.”
“No mam. There has been no mistake.It is Frank Thompson.”
“Do you know him?” asked the man to Adrianna whose eyes were filled with disbelief and tears.
“Yes. I do. He was my father”
“Ohhh he always used to mention about you to me. I know him from a very long time. He comes here whenever he comes back from working on the ship to have a nice long chat with me and send out couriers. I was surprised too when he asked me to deliver the parcels to his own home. I figured there might have been some problem at your home and didn’t want to remind the poor man by asking him.”
“My father died in a plane crash 6months back, mister. I guess you never heard of it”
replied Adrianna to the man who thought she was crazy or playing some kind of joke after hearing what she said because he saw him frequently to come give out parcels to his daughter.
“That can’t be! I saw him. It’s no a good thing young lady to lie about such things” said a positively irritated man.
“Oh then I guess my mom and me are just paranoid for arranging my dad‘s funeral and actually seeing him dead”replied a heavily shaken Adrianna.
Adrianna left for the rehearsal without going back home. She didn’t want to see another note from “the beyond.”
Before the play could start, in the dressing room, she saw so many kids’ parents hugging their children and encouraging them. Adrianna started to cry.
“Hey Ade!! I got something to give you.” shouted Duncan from the other side of the changing room. Adrianna quickly wiped her eyes and went to meet him.
“I got this from Tom. He told me some guy gave him this, to give it to you. I thought it might be your admirer dude, so asked him to give me a description.”
“Tall guy with sandy hair and green eyes?” asked Adrianna describing her father
“Hey yeahh Ade.How’d you know?”
“I always knew Duncan. Now go, I need to get ready.” said Adrianna
“Sure Ade…best of luck!” replied Duncan.
Adrianna nodded her head and went back inside. She was afraid of what the note contained and she wasn’t sure whether she should open it. Then she remembered the beautiful stone pattern her dad made for her and with tears in her eyes, she opened the note.
“Dear princess. I wish you didn’t find out about me this way but it was inevitable. I want you to know that I have always loved you, my precious daughter. I was so preoccupied with my work and never had the time to spend with you. I’m so sorry for being such a disappointment in your life when I was alive. I wanted to make up for it after I died. I want you to know that I am so proud of you, princess. I might not be there with you physically with you but I will always be watching over you, my baby. I could never come before you because I know you never forgave me. I hope you can forgive me for what I did, princess. I love you baby so much.”
Adrianna burst into tears. She felt so comforted like never before in her life. She forgave her father with all of her heart. She didn’t feel alone anymore. With all of her courage she went on for the play. She entered the stage and she froze when she saw the huge crowd in front of her waiting for her to perform. She lost all her confidence. She panicked and couldn’t open her mouth to say a word. Then among all the faces, she saw her dad walk in and stand there right in front of her eyes. He smiled at her and she could hear what he said in her ears like as if he were standing next to her, “You can do it princess. Just look at me only in the crowd and no one else. I know you can do it.”
Adrianna felt a burst of energy and confidence. She was no longer panicking or scared. She did a hell of a show and the audience stood up and clapped at her performance. She saw her mother amongst the clapping audience. She hadn’t noticed her before as she had been looking at her father throughout the play. Her mother was happy and looked so much better than she ever had. Adrianna was wondering what caused the sudden change and thought maybe dad had come to her too. Adrianna smiled at her mom and turned to look at her dad, but he had gone.
She received no more notes or no more flowers from him and she hadn’t seen him after that but she knew that her dad was watching over her all the time and every time she thought of all that he did, she smiled and knew that he would be smiling back at his princess too.
“What do you see?” she asked in a quaint and innocent voice.
“Oh, tell me fast what you see down out of the window” she couldn’t hold her excitement any longer.
“Ha ha calm down, calm down my dear sis, whatever I see it’s beautiful” replied her sister Clara.
“Hey you cannot tell a bride on her wedding day to calm down silly, and now you are going to kill your lil’ sister if you don’t tell her how is everything outside and then you’re going to be chased by cops as the official bride killer ha…ha” mocked Liz.
Clara and Liz always had this sweet and sour relation. They were five years apart but were like a twain. Always supportive, always understanding, they enjoyed this sisterhood since its very beginning. Best friends, best advisers, best partners-in-crime, they were anything and everything one could imagine…sometimes even like a mother and daughter.
Clara was thirty two years old and was married for seven years. She had three adorable brats: two boys and one girl. Liz was always the one to spoil them royally. Clara was a strong person, she always had been, right from the time their mother died when they were kids. In spite of her father, she felt it was required of her to take the lead for her baby sister. If it hadn’t been for Clara, the relation between Liz and herself wouldn’t have been this smooth and comfortable and a joyous one too.
While Clara was the older one, Liz enjoyed all her liberties and privileges of being the youngest. Smart, beautiful, confident, fun-loving and yet she had that peculiar and complacent nature that distinguished her from the rest of the crowd. She was as innocent and appeared as fragile as an angel. With a soft countenance, she was the type that required to be handled with care. Forgiving was her nature, but only to some extent. She made her own decisions with a little help from others but it was her heart that made decisions of her life more than her head.
“OMG! and then your doppelganger will haunt us all (considering it won’t be so easy to kill you after all) haha” chuckled Clara when Liz spanked her head.
“Ouch, that hurts. Ok, ok, my lil drama-queen, I see something really beautiful and magical outside. It’s perfect. Just like you wanted it to be. I see a lush green lawn sporting an emerald green colour overlooking a serene and rejoicing lake. I see long draperies in hues of golden and red flying effortlessly from the tall golden roman pillars ( I guess all we require now are some ducks and hens and the poultry effect will be complete haha ).”
“you jealous old woman”
“Haha and oh! the aisles are intermittently decorated with clusters of Asian lilies, sunflower and orchids just like in fairy tales. Guests in different shape, size and costumes are chattering with each other and (ha ha) oh I see your lovey-dovey down there too.”
“Hey why don’t I get to see him ”
“Coz you’re the bride remember. And now after browsing through the floral settings, my eyes finally are reaching to your much-awaited gazebo in white decorated with blossoming orange roses. Oh Liz, everything is just like a dream. I’m so happy for you (that you’re FINALLY moving away from us)” and Clara juggled between expressions of laughter and shedding tears.
“Aww Clara, it sounds just like heaven, and c’mon don’t cry (and laugh too), I won’t be that far after all to haunt ya” and she found her sister and hugged her after wiping her tears off.
“Well, on a serious note, there is something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
“Yep go ahead.”
“You are sure you want to do this, right? I mean with your current condition, your eyes, your health and everything? I’m sorry I’m just a little worried Liz. I want you to be happy, really happy after all that you’ve been through.”
“I know things haven’t been quite the way they normally should with me, but maybe this is the way they were supposed to happen with me and that might not be normal for others but it is normal for me. In fact it’s more than perfect for me Clara. This is what I want. This is what I really want...”
And she trailed off at the approach of footsteps. It was Charles, their father. Both Clara and Liz stopped talking. Their father wasn’t a big fan of Jason. To top it more, he didn’t even trust Jason with his low financial status, his small house and everything and him striving to become a writer of which Charles didn’t approve of.
“When will this writer of yours start writing for good and start earning something huh Liz?” he used to often say because Jason was still a struggling writer. And it were these very reasons that made Charles oppose the wedding from the very beginning, but who would go against Liz ?
“Hey dad” Clara said.
“Hey kids, so Liz how you feeling?”
Liz looked in the direction of the voice and with an awkward but warm expression replied that she’s feeling good with a mixture of wedding jitters and fully loaded excitement.
“Not getting cold feet are you?” he asked with the obvious pretense of a joke, but everyone knew that he secretly wished for Liz to get cold feet and she would re-think her decision.
“No dad, not with this one”
Her dad looked away, he didn’t have much to say, especially after the epic quarrels battled in the past with this wedding and Jason, it was awkward for him to say anything more. He could no more see Liz go through another series of troubles.
“I’m happy dad, if that’s what’s worrying you. I know you don’t like Jason and you are just worried what the outcome might be, but I want you to let go off your worries now. Jason is not perfect, no one is, but together we, him and me, we are perfect in our own way and that is what counts, isn’t it dad?”
“I know sweetheart, but it’s very difficult for me to give you away to someone whose future doesn’t seem so bright. How will he keep you happy Liz?”
“Dad, for once try to see Jason as I see him. Try keeping all the materialistic factors at the side for a moment and look at Jason for the man he is, for the man who knows how to live his life to the fullest. He loves your daughter very much dad in spite the fact that she has almost lost her vision now” and a roll of tear left her fragile eyes.
“Dad, I am happy and it’s Jason who makes me so happy. Even though he doesn’t have much wealth but he’ll never be poor. He will never be poor, dad, because he has stocks of love, respect, warmth, care, affection, understanding and trust in his heart for everyone. Where can I find anyone like that who makes me feel special in spite of my disability? Where can anyone find a person like him anywhere who raises your self-respect and worth every time you are stuck in a fall? I love him dad and I want you to at least try to get to know him without your pre-conceived notions about him, without you being bias and judgmental about him. It’s still not too late. At least for my sake, dad.”
“Jason, hey since when have you been standing here? Its bad luck to see the bride before the marriage” said Clara in a mild shock and Liz composed herself too.
“Uhm just the part where Liz spoke up in my defense. Hey, Mr. Charles how are you?”
“How can a father be at this time, Jason?”
“Still the same. Mr. Charles I want you to know that I will keep your daughter very happy.”
“That is what they all say, but who knows the truth.”
“Dad” both Clara and Liz shot up.
“No he’s right Liz. A father can not be too sure about his son-in-law if he marries his daughter who has a disability. It’s but natural that he will always fear and be concerned about her, or if her hubby’s treating her well or not otherwise why else would one marry someone who cannot see when the guy can get any other girl. Maybe the guy has ulterior motives. Is it the wealth then? Or what could it be, isn’t that right Mr. Charles?”
“Well, finally I see something sensible out of your mouth huh.”
“Yeah well your daughter has been of utmost help to me in that department. Uhm can we talk somewhere in private?”
“Yeah sure,” and they left the room and headed towards the guest room.
“So what is it, let’s get this over with,” said Charles.
“My feeling exactly. So coming to the point, life is too short to make the wrong decisions especially when it comes to love. All you see is me marrying your daughter who has lost her vision. But what you don’t see (or rather don’t want to see) is I am marrying your daughter for what she is in spite of her vision. I understand your concern for Liz as a father whose daughter is getting married, but what I don’t understand is your incessant doubt about this relation. I don’t know why everyone is making a big deal about Liz’s vision when for me that does not even reside in the same vicinity as my love for her.”
“I respect Liz for who she is, I love her for what she is. I’m not marrying her out of pity but because I have known her in and out and that is what I love about her. I never wanted to give this explanation to anyone because for me, this wedding does not require an explanation. Why should I explain? But you have been persistently pushing the envelope so far that I had to justify myself time and again. Liz is the most amazing person I have ever met Mr. Charles. She is incomparable. She makes me feel alive, special. She instills positivity, faith in me. She showed me what it’s like to love, to support, to care. I see my best friend in her. That best friend with whom I can share anything and everything and with whom I want to spend the rest of my life with. You can keep your wealth Mr. Charles because I really don’t care about it. But because of your doubts I don’t want to lose my Liz because losing her will mean losing myself and I can’t afford to do that. I believe in raising mountains if you have love, but I don’t believe in raising wealth if you don’t have any love. We have been through these discussions many a times and there is nothing more that I can do to make you believe and trust in me but to let time unfold my words in reality. I have tried every way to make you believe in my words, in my feelings because you are really important to Liz and I wouldn’t want her to get hurt if you are not happy with us. I LOVE your daughter Mr. Charles and I will really like it if you give her away today with some satisfaction and content in your heart. That will make Liz happier than your expensive Harry Winston necklace and these grandeur gifts. I won’t take any more of your precious time and wouldn’t keep you waiting to meet your daughter. See you at the wedding” and Jason left with a muffled smile and a disturbed expression
“What happened, is that old-filthy-rich-always-opposing-dead-man still causing troubles?” asked Jason’s cousin in the hallway paces away from the room he came out from after observing the whole scene.
“Hey watch your language Larry, there’s no reason for abusing and name calling. He is Liz’s father and I want you to respect him.”
“But he’s never been nice to you.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s not nice. He’s just worried for his daughter and that’s justifiable. Now enough with the argument. You are not abusing him and that is final. I’m going down to meet the guests. See ya later.”
“How can you be not angry with him but save his image Jason ? You’re one weird guy” Larry said to himself after Jason left.
The scene was set, the bride was ready, the groom awaited impatiently. The band started playing “You and Me” by Lifehouse. It was this song by which Jason had proposed to Liz. Jason stood there smiling to himself and muttered, “this is our song Liz” and almost as if Liz could hear him from the end of the aisle, she replied, “Yes it is, just you and me,” and she continued walking the aisle with her father.
They reached the spot where her man was waiting for her and she turned towards him. Everything was good…till now. The bridesmaids and the best man were all pretty and smiling. The priest welcomed the guests and asked if anyone had any objections to this union? Jason, Clara, Tim (her husband), her kids, aunts, uncles, all but Liz looked at Charles expecting him to object just like the usual. Instead, Charles smiled and nodded in denial and surprised everyone. The vows were read and it was time to exchange the rings.
“I, Jason, give you, Liz, a piece of my heart in the form of this ring as an eternal symbol of my love and life to you. Please handle with care and don’t knead dough with my heart hahaa” and they chuckled and exchanged rings and the priest announced, “you may now kiss the bride” and both Jason and Liz sealed their love and union with the eternal kiss.
“You are smiling. So, is it safe to say that you’ve had a change of heart?,” asked Clara in a teasing manner when she found her dad seated and admiring the newlyweds dance happily.
“What, I’m not smiling; I’m just, you know, just just…”
“Just happy. So what brought about this change dad?”
“Well, as much as I would hate to admit, but your old man might have been just a stubborn ass after all. Maybe I now see what Liz meant by weighing Jason not by his bank balance but by his heart. Just noticed an incident with Jason and Larry, that’s it. There maybe a lot to know about Jason I guess. I hope I’m not too late.”
“No you’re not, dad. Better late than never what say “and they both hugged each other just when the newlyweds came to take Clara and her dad to the dance floor.
“I’m happy for you, and for him too. You both have my blessings” Charles whispered in Liz’s ears while dancing with him. Liz smiled with gratitude and affection and hugged her dad.
“Hey, what’s a dance without the family” jumped in Jason and started dancing with them.
“Is it too late to make a fresh start Jason ?” blurted out Charles loudly in the loud music that was playing.
“Nope you’re still on time…dad” and they just hugged each other with Clara, Tim and the kids joining in too.
“Who wants the bouquet?”
“Me, me, I, me, me” came the chattering replies.
Liz threw the yummy and colourful bouquet behind her, only to find it caught by a well deserved recipient standing away from the crowd, her father.
“See ya at ya wedding dad, ciao” with laughter Liz and Jason left in their “Just Married” blue car…
The clock was ticking towards 2’o clock, and I was staring at the door, listening for footsteps or any sound of a car parking at our doorstep. My 8 year old son and 6 year old daughter were fast asleep. I considered waking them up, but what was the point. He had been late before, but not this late. I tried his number again… I heard the operator’s voice on the other side “The number you have dialled is currently switched off or out of range”… I cut the phone…
Earlier in the evening, I had called up his office; I was told he was attending a conference on behalf of the company in a 5 star hotel. When he didn’t come home till 9.00 in the evening, I picked out the hotel number from yellow pages and called in to enquire if the conference was over. It was over at 8pm itself… Where is he?
I started pacing. I tried not to panic, but try as I may, I could not keep out horrible thoughts from coming into my mind. Car crashes were so common…Some drunken driver…or unruly youths in fast cars… it may not even be his fault. Should I call the police and enquire, No, I am getting simply hyper. I should just be little more patient.
I am not usually this hyper. I am used to his work schedules. It has been 10 years since our marriage, and he has always been home, sharp at dinner time. He did not like being disturbed at work, I called only when he was not home by dinner time.
Ten years, sound like a really long time, but these years just passed in sheer bliss. Ours was a typical arranged marriage. I was 22, working and independent. During my youth, I wanted a love marriage, or at least marry some one I knew. How do you live with a person you met for few minutes? How do you decide who is the right? Does asking a few typical questions that came to mind at that insane second help you to judge?
I argued, day and night with my parents and the elders. The only reply I got ” You will know my child, when you meet the rite person” Yeah, Right!! … Kuch kuch hota hai version … typical….. So, I waited. And prayed for the Cupid to strike me and say here is THE ONE!!
After a zillion Proposals, fashion parades in saris and tea trays, his proposal came.
I still remember the day, coz it was so funny. I was at a good friends’ place, with plans to spend the day out till late evening. Her marriage was already on the cards and she wanted a spinster party. We decided on a Girls day out, I was excited. As we were about to step out of her place, my parents called up. They wanted me home immediately. A new proposal had come; the boy worked outside and was travelling today, his family wished him to see me before he went. They were already on their way. I tried to argue, but failed immediately. Irritated to the core at the inconvenience caused and postponed the party plans, I travelled back home on my scooty. I had to drop off another friend at her place. I was purposely riding slowly to delay my arrival. Who wanted to parade in front of another family, I was so sure that even this was not going to work. I had to comply with my family’s wishes.
I reached my friends place, and we stood outside chatting. After few minutes a Red Maruti Suzuki stopped beside me, the tinted window by the driver’s side rolled down with a good looking chap looking perplexed.
“Excuse me ladies, could any of you tell me where the 37th street is?
“Sure”, my friend volunteered, “go straight, take the 2nd left, then the next right and then left… and then third right.”
The guy looked at her as though she had just spoken Latin, I giggled, and chided my friend,” You might as well have told him to go around entire colony till he finds the 37th street, stupid…” I could hear laughter from inside the car. The car was full of people; I caught a few faces looking out through the dark panes.
Deciding to be the Good Samaritan, I volunteered “Boss, I am headed in that direction, why you don’t just follow me.”
He smiled and nodded” Thanks, that would be really great!”
”Bye, see ya later, got to get ready for the moron who is coming to see my fashion parade” I said as my friend wished me luck. I zoomed off in my bike making sure that the car followed me. I rode carefully keeping them in sight. On the way, I waved to my neighbour aunty, called out to the kids playing cricket and responded to snide remarks from the local youths. When I reached the mouth the 37thstreet, I stopped. The car stopped beside me. ” The 37th street begins here” I said as I waved at a grandpa next door. The driver thanked me before I shrugged and moved on.
My house was the last one at the corner of the street, just before the beginning of the next street. My mom was waiting at the entrance, all red faced and fuming. I ignored her and casually parked my bike, humming a tune. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA, HOW MUCH TRAUMA I WAS GOING THROUGH TILL NOW. DO YOU WANT ME TO GROUND YOU TILL YOUR WEDDING?!”. “ Sure, sure… if you want me stay single for the rest of my life” I responded.
“Go inside and get ready, FAST! They will be here any minute now!” She muttered as usual, under her breath, “This girl is becoming more and more unmanageable by the day; I don’t know what she will do in another house….”
Her qualms will never end, I sighed. When I was in diapers, she was worried how I will fare in school, when I was finishing school, she worried on how I will fare in college, then it was how I will do in my work and now this… her worries just got bigger and bigger.
So, I locked myself up in my room and relaxed in my bed. Barely a minute had passed, when my mom softly knocked on my door, “Are you done, they are already here”. I jumped up from the bed shocked,” What, already?!”
“Yes, come out fast” she hissed. I hurried through my lipstick. There was no point in changing. What they see, is what they get! In less than five minutes, she was rapping on the door again.” Coming mommmm!” I said taking deep breaths trying to calm myself.
As I entered the hall, I froze, and then nearly ran back to my room. Seated there was the Direction Guy with the same people who looked out of the car. I stared; I had called him “A Moron”. He looked surprised and then amused at my discomfort. A small smile was playing up at his lips and one of his eyebrows arched up. Why didn’t the earth just open up and swallow me alive!! I was surely a worth candidate for it!!
I stood rooted to the spot; I had gone red in face and could feel my heartbeat race. I looked around once and then stared firmly at the floor. His family looked amused. His younger brother, who looked like a school goer, was grinning from ear to ear. My dad was surprised at the sudden change in atmosphere. Something was amiss. Everyone was smiling, like they were sharing a secret that he was not in on. He slowly asked, “Err, are we missing something?”
His father, whom I had seen sitting next to him in the car replied, “No, it is just that, we had met your daughter on the way here. She had so generously showed us the way. Since we had not seen pictures of her, we didn’t recognise her”
My Mother looked like she would faint; I was wearing one of my most fashionable attires, tight jeans and a cute top with deep neck and body length that stayed above my waist. I was all dressed up to freak out with my friends in city hangouts. Decent for me, indecent for my family. The boy’s family had seen me in that! This proposal was already being disposed or written off already in her mind. Poor mother. I was waiting for her to swoon.
I continued to stare at the floor; unable to look at anyone in the face, there was going to be hell and more to pay for this after these people left. The dressing sense was surely considered moot by the old folks. Good bye freedom!
Small conversations continued between our families. I could feel heavy stares directed at me, but I continued to stare at the floor, still red at face. Nobody asked me anything, so I tried to calm myself instead. Its ok, it ok, relax, relax…I chanted in my mind. I was about to finally relax for a second before my father asked, “So if your son and my daughter would like to speak privately, they could move to another room”. NO!!! I screamed silently. I silently led the way to another room. My heart began to beat in double speed and my face was all red again. There was absolute silence for few minutes; I was again trying to calm myself. I could not look up to his face and I could feel him staring up at mine. He was probably waiting for me to speak; I didn’t know what to say. I was trying to think of someway to start a conversation. But I could not remember any questions that I had used on my suitors before.
Finally, I conjured up enough courage to look up at his face and ask something. His expression stopped me short, it was not amused. I was rewarded with an understanding smile, like that of a mature man who looked on at the attics of a mischievous child. He took a deep breath, “I am a person, whose career and ambition keeps him out of the house and on his toes all day. I love my family and love to spend every possible moment with them. It is difficult for my parents to understand my passion and it is difficult to live with me without understanding my freedom. But an independent person like you … would probably understand my life style. Do you think you can handle me… as a life partner??”
The clock struck 2 am, waking me up from my reverie. I went to window looking down at the empty street below. Few cars passed at this hour. I tried his number again, no response.
It is good thing tomorrow is a weekend, at least I don’t have to go for work, else I would be yawning away in office. He never encouraged me to stay awake like this. He would always say “Please don’t play typical orthodox wife. Eat when you are hungry and sleep on time. My work spoils my health; I don’t want your health also to be spoiled. So whenever I am late, I will manage my own dinner and will sleep when I am done. You don’t have to stay awake for me”.
If only he could call and tell me how late he is going to be, I would have relaxed a bit. Initial days of marriage had been as difficult as he had warned me on the day he came to see me. We had shifted to the place where he worked. He tried his level best to reach home on time and spend some quality time with me. Everyday was a new revelation for both of us. Each day we learnt something new about each other. Some good things and then some bad. After all, no one is perfect. I found myself a job thereafter, and then it became easier. I spent majority of the time in office and when I reached home, I would finish off housework, before he reached home. And when he came, we would sit chatting away, for hours till midnight, relating each other’s office experience and problems. He was a person with whom I could share anything, and I found his experiences fascinating.
I have heard of friends becoming life partners, but for me my life partner became my best friend.
We were gifted with a son and then a daughter. Life was perfect, with a few fights and arguments over the order in the house and cleanliness. Some days were even more difficult than others. I had good job and money was getting good. Days became shorter to get all the work done and chores got bigger and worse. I would return after a tough day at work to find broken vases, dirty clothes strewn on the floor and a relieved maid hurrying to leave the house. I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the children’s homework and cook a special dinner before he reached home. By the time he was home, he would be even more tired than me and finding our house in a mess would initiate cribbing, “Is this house a garbage dump or what?” “What is all of THIS?” he would bellow. His temper was really explosive.
He would then throw whatever he would find into the nearest garbage bin, while we would be running around to pick and save valuables from under the sofa or behind the curtains. If spotted during the cleaning parade, they would be lost forever. When the temper had ridden its course, he would inevitably retreat into the bedroom. We would noiselessly retrieve all valuables from the dustbin and arrange it neatly in proper places.
Dinner was always on time. Two things that I learnt foremost about him were that he wanted a clean house and a hot dinner ready when he reached home. Absence of any would ensure a lost temper. When he was fully fed and satisfied, he would be his good jolly self. Best friend for the children and a romantic partner for me. It was always fun to watch him playing with our children, he was closer to them than me. They would sit and relate all school stories for the umpteenth time and he will listen patiently. Some days, when I am exhausted with work, I would doze off in the living room itself only to find out that he had put the children to sleep and carried me to off to bed.
I missed him when he was not there. Our home felt empty when he went for his business trips? Even the kids would be gloomy when dada was not home. He tried not to be away from us for long. I couldn’t understand what was keeping him today. Was he hurt? Should I call the police? Did I miss a call? I debated mentally
The phone rang…I jumped to pick it up…”Hello? ” a male voice spoke on the other side.” Hello, Madam, I am calling in from the traffic Police. Is Car kl-4-25368 your husband’s car? “.. My heart stopped beating” Yes”, I whispered. “Your husband had an accident…..”.”Nooooooo”
I woke up with a start…. It was 2.30am. I had dozed off on the sofa; it was only a dream… I was sweating.
I heard the door close behind me. I turned slowly. My husband was standing at the door, with his coat and tie and suitcase in his hand. One minute we stood staring at each other and then I ran to him headlong nearly knocking him on the floor. “YOU MORON….WHY IS YOUR PHONE SWITCHED OFF…WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL ME IF YOU WERE GOING TO BE LATE…WHY ARE YOU SO LATE?! YOU DON’T EVEN CARE !! SOMEONE LIKE ME IS WAITING FOR YOU AT HOME…”I rated as relief set in and tears poured out.
“Shh…shhh…sorry, sorry…My phone went dead in the afternoon, no battery, I forgot my charger in office when I went for the conference and on my way back, my car broke down….at a deserted place…..no place where I could call you… had to wait for 3 hours before I found someone for me lift…. so sorry… I didn’t realise you would be waiting for me….sorry love….” He pacified me….I was crying heavily into his shirt, but we stood there like that for few minutes…till we heard my son call out…” Dada…Mom…Where are you…” all my screaming had woken up the kids …
“Rite here baby” their dad called back…and he pulled me slowly into the room with him into the little perfect part of our wonderful Life…
Moment of Surrender
‘Don’t worry, will reach home in 5 mins’, I kept on telling this to myself. Today was definitely hard on me, not that I had any better days since last year. But everything would be fine once I go home … back to my sacred space.
Can hear Bono sing “Moment of surrender” on the radio… aah! the story of my life!
Finally I am home. ‘Home’ – I don’t even know if I can call it that now. Things have changed… a lot. I feel a pang in my heart as I look at my brother’s picture on the table.
No, I need to stop thinking about all of this.
I know what could help me. I open the drawer and reach out for it. This would help me sail through.
Soon I am transported to my perfect world. A world which actually existed till a year ago.
‘Colorful, wonderful world’ I say aloud. My twin used to say this a lot. My sacred space reminds me of him… the times we spent together.
I shake my head, no this is not working right, I need more. I reach for it again.
I can feel my pain fade away.
The room is turning dark. Very dark.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
He was already dead by the time the ambulance arrived.
For the city, it was just a case of drugs overdose.
For his parents, it was their second loss to 26/11
The Pangs of Separation
She could feel her heart beating faster,
The pangs of separation had begun to rise within,
When she felt its effect on her,
She let herself free to get immersed in what gave her pleasure like love of her lover would,
It was pitter patter of raindrops that soaked her skin and touched her soul!
Written in 55 Fiction format.
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- Guest article by Pallavi . She calls herself a Delhizen and proud of the fact that she belongs to that city. To visit her blog click HERE
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“Who won?’ they asked.
“I came, I saw, I conquered” He roared.
“He came, he saw, he conquered” She smiled.
“He came, he saw, She conquered!” they proclaimed.
“Says who?” he asked irritated.
“The phrase” they replied…
“Behind every successful man, there is an intelligent woman”
For more about 55 fiction click here
“So now what?” asked Shastri.
“Well… finally I get to say this, Checkmate” replied Shakti.
Twenty Years Ago:
They were at it for sixteen hours now; the court was watching the best game of Chess ever played. Prince Shakti was already awarded the young genius award by the king. Shastri was the peasant’s son and was also called a young genius by the villagers. At age 10 they both had the game played for hours together.
‘Checkmate,’ said Shakti.
‘Look at him, as savage as he can get,’ thought Shakti, ‘No plan, no art, just brutal primitive savageness.’
‘Not yet’ Shastri simply glanced at the board and not seeing anywhere, finally he shouted, ‘Checkmate.’
The whole courtroom was silent, no one was able to defeat Shakti in the game till date. They had no idea what would happen next, was the title of young genius getting transferred to the peasant’s son? They silently watched the game. The king was waiting for the prince to say it.
‘Throw him in prison, sentenced for life,’ shouted the prince, ‘And throw his family out of the kingdom. Their farms are the royal farms from now.’
He kicked the game board and walked out of the room.
Guarded dragged away the ten year old boy to the prison, they heard his last muffled words, ‘The game begins.’
Ten years ago:
King Shakti was on the height of prosperity. The Kingdom had the latest advancement of technology present in the world.
To strengthen the defenses even further King Shakti ordered building a water gate on the great river Indus. The origin of the river was in his kingdom but flowed through the neighboring kingdoms. He knew the neighbors would not like it, but he wanted to win. This would be his last defense. Checkmate.
Ten days ago:
King Shakti received a bad news five days ago. Shastri had escaped prison, they say, for ten years he kept reading books from the royal library. He just learned things in the prison and finally he ran away to freedom.
Not only did he run he placed a challenge for the king himself. Now, the messenger had come with the message that Shastri had camped at the gate of the enemy and had challenged the king to fight.
So finally, the king set out to destroy the adversary with a show of strength. He took double the army out of the gates to the camp, but found it deserted.
The enemy had fled. The king decided to chase him to finally end the chapter of Shastri.
The chase continued for ten days where Shastri kept running
As the king chased Shastri, he came across a narrow path completely surrounded by bushes. Shastri stood there silently. He had no where to go.
The king got down from his horse and faced Shastri.
“So now what?” asked Shastri.
“Well… finally I get to say this, Checkmate” replied Shakti.
“Not yet. I have something to show you” said Shastri, pointing to the tree standing in the dark.
“What some final weapon hidden for me?” asked Shakti sarcastically.
The king lighted his torch to see the tree properly.
Fourteen days ago:
King Biswajit was in deep worries, the neighboring kingdom was building the water gates to obstruct the water flowing in the kingdom. If this would succeed, they would have to depend on King Shakti and his whims for water. He wanted to attack the kingdom but feared, the water gate would be released.
They brought the hooded stranger to the court.
‘I can get you king Shakti’ said the stranger.
‘I will mark his place of death for you’ said the stranger.
‘What do you want for this task.’ asked the king.
The stranger smiled under his hood.
Shastri was about to play the biggest game he ever played. He saw the narrow path on the way and marked on the tree…
‘This is where King Shakti dies,’ Shakti read the mark on tree and jerked his head back.
Arrows shot from bushes and pierce the heart of the king. The remaining army was ambushed in the bush. King Biswajit’s army was waiting for the king in the darkness.
As King Shakti collapsed on the ground, Shastri smiled and said,
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“I would have been dead long ago if death didn’t scare me so much”. She waited for a response but there was none. He remained silent waiting for her to continue. She hesitated before continuing again
“I belonged to a family of six – parents, three daughters and a son. – All trying to live their dreams at once. There was no death. No starvation. No torture. No exam failures. Not even failed marriages or affairs. I did not wish death but living was becoming difficult in spite of my fervent wishes of living a long fulfilling life…The very reason that I had no reason to kill myself resulted in me and my existence go unnoticed – at home, at work, every where – It was as if I didn’t exist… at all, while all the while all I wanted was some body to reach out and find me…”
“Did you try to reach out to someone?” He interrupted me for the first time.
She sighed and shook her head. “There was no one to reach out to. Mom and Dad were too busy with their struggles to make a life for their children. Their attempts sincere but their show of satisfaction and happiness? Hollow! Maybe Ma sensed but as I behaved normally so she did not pursue her intuition. My sister- the one older to me was wrapped in her own world. At least her world was moving smoothly which made matters worse for me. There was no sibling rivalry but there was none of the bonhomie and camaraderie either… She was closer to my younger sister. In their some what happier world I was an intruder. I watched on wistfully from the periphery. My brother was the youngest – too young, too rebellious. . And I was lonely… and I remained lonely…One doesn’t try to kill oneself one fine day, out of the blue… well at least that was not the case with me. It was as if life itself was showing me the exit gate. When life gives up on you, you don’t really stand a chance. Life had come to a standstill. No I don’t mean to say monotonous though it was in a way, but what I wanted to say was that there was nothing life could offer me… anymore.”
“You were just 21. How could you say that??” He asked, the contempt unmasked
“This … this made it worse. You know!” She retorted empathetically.
“Which?” he asked
“Exactly this contempt. Condescending attitude. .As if… as if…”she stuttered.
“As if there is a kind of qualifying criteria for suicide, for wanting to die…And if you had no major reason like rape, terminal disease, mass murders at home, debts, you don’t have the right to even think of it. This is not about facts or figure. It is about perception. I perceived life as finished and I could not help it if I perceived it that way. You don’t see it the way I do, doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a problem…I… I wanted to live… but just saying Oh you don’t have a problem. You think too much. Just chill didn’t help at all. Instead it made matters worse. You just start loosing the person to her his dark world”.
“So you had confided to someone?” It was more a statement then a question.
“Yes… Yes I did, it’s a kind of SOS everybody does… but I just didn’t present it that way. I don’t know if any one does… but when I did I wanted my listener to realize that I needed help. .that I was in grave danger from …myself”.
“So if you had asked for help then what went wrong?”
“No it wasn’t an explicit request… rather a rant maybe… maybe just a casual remark said lightly over a cup of coffee that…”
“That?” he asked a little too sharply.
“That life wasn’t same anymore… and I didn’t feel …well..”
Just that? He asked.
“And you wanted the other person to realise that you needed help. Was that person a psychic or a mind reader?” He asked sarcastically.
“I had mentioned quite a number of times but she didn’t take it seriously maybe… To Dimpy – a cousin to whom I was close to… it was the same advice – Don’t be depressed. Your time will come. Have faith – the standard statements that are spoken to a depressed person.”
“So what exactly did you tell her?” he asked warming up to the discussion.
“Well that was the problem… I didn’t have anything substantial to say. Everything about me was mediocre. My schooling. My upbringing, my lifestyle. My life ..even my gloomy desolate job as a reception in a mediocre nursing home… All my life I had just been mediocre and I had enough of it. There was no chance of advancement… I just realized that It was going to be just the same the next hundred years if I lived that long. All around me I saw gloomy sad defeated faces. The faces that were happy did not belong to my world or rather I did not belong there. As I said my life had come to a stand still. Even my reason to stop living was mediocre. A mediocre person with non mediocre aspirations and I had begun hating this existence. When you hate the way you live your life, you die everyday just to survive another day.”
“Ah so it is about expectations. It always is…but you were better off than most…” he trailed away
“I know I know the shoe story…” she said impatiently
‘Shoe story?” Amusement played on that query
“Yes the story of a boy wishing for a pair of shoes because he had none until he sees a boy without a leg…But tell me did his need for shoe vanish? He had none. He still needed a pair. My full sympathies with the boy without the leg but a wish are a wish… It lingers on at a deep dark corner of the mind… making you more miserable because now that you have seen the boy without a leg you can’t even rant…”
“Instead of ranting well he could try to get a pair of shoes? Did you try?”
“That’s a question I keep on asking myself a lot. Did I try? I wanted to… but I didn’t know how to…”
“You could have made friends. Gone out. Have fun. Fell in love…”
“Ah Instant noodles… Instant solutions for suicidal persons. . . Friends? How? Is there some kind of exchange or market which provided friends. Gone out. My family set up wasn’t such that I could afford to go out having fun. Love? More than love I needed a friend.”
“But I thought you had mentioned yourself as a receptionist…”
“Yes I was earning a meager sum which went into the family kitty. That was no great shakes.. I tried to shift job but my qualifications could only go as far as this… And that was another thing I used to think… that maybe if I had better opportunities I would have done better… life would have been more exciting.”
“Had been …would have been…. If only instead of retrospection you had fought for survival… fought to make your life the way you wanted it to be… Found yourself a reason to live.”
“That was exactly the point. There wasn’t any war to fight for or against. There was no high no low in my life. It was one long monotonous path. My life could have gone on only one direction. All around me, I saw people hollow, empty with no desire to neither feel nor make anyone feel… I knew I was going to become one such. Maybe my dull life would have changed say after 40 years but by then I too would have become empty and dead. .Either way I was going to be dead… Reason to live? Well what had I been doing all my 21 years if not that? Honestly, I did not wish to die, but I was left with no choice but to choose otherwise. It was as if the walls were closing on me, the doors were being shut. Many a time I could feel the cold touch of death and I used to weep in desperation, willing someone to save me for I knew I was becoming weak in front of my lack of desire to live. And that day, the trigger point just occurred…”
She paused again for some response. He was quiet with concentration for a moment then asked softly. “So what did you want exactly?”
“Well. I knew what I didn’t want but I was clueless about what I wanted… If only someone had…”
“Everybody has their own struggles. Everyone here is tying to survive yet another day. Attending to vagaries of your life may not have been that important for them when they themselves had their battles to deal with. Still people try to cope. Weak ones find their strength by helping out people weaker than them… maybe you should have too.” He said softly
“I tried. But I couldn’t.”
“Nothing is impossible. Everything is possible”
“I know. Failure is possible too…I failed’ she held on adamantly
“That is a twisted piece of logic… whatever… So what happened that day? Trigger point?”
“Talks were going on at home during that period for both my and my sister Leenu’s marriage. There were two proposals that awaited our confirmation. I was not much excited about it but yes! It did carry a ray of hope. I reached home from my work that day to find a discussion going on in the living room. Leenu’s marriage was finalized and was scheduled three months later. And, mine… Well, the groom had asked for a hefty dowry so obviously it was called off, there was a slight stab in my heart but it was what Ma said next did it for me. –‘If she would have been as pretty as Leenu or an with equally god job as hers, maybe they wouldn’t have asked for so much… maybe if she had a cheerful disposition then,’-, It was not meant as an insult nor a reproach, neither a regret. But it stung… It was always that way. A glance. A look. A remark, suggestion and an innocent question. Anything could just push me to my depths of misery. Sometimes even an absence of a response could do that. At such moments I used to disappear to a storage room upstairs on the roof top… to wallow in self doubt and self pity. .. That day I made quietly upstairs … to my refuge, but my refuge refused to help me that day… Instead I felt more miserable… Well feeling miserable is an understatement.. All my pent up turmoil decided to torture me that day. It was a lost battle. As I sat hunched on the floor, tears streaming down my cheeks, sobbing violently all I wanted was someone who would be just there to hold me back from slipping into that abyss that I had created for myself. I remember waiting for a phone call, a message anything to just hold me back. I wanted Ma to come after me…or any one. None came. I had texted Dimpy in a last desperate attempt. A blank message but maybe she was busy. As I walked towards the lone rickety chair in the room I hoped for some one to come rushing in, even Leenu with her jibes. Anything to make me fight back the impulse. But no one intruded… my loneliness seemed to mock at me then. I walked to my death as if pulled by unseen unknown force.Then, as I felt life ebbing away from me, I realized too late, how desperately I wanted to live … how desperately I wished for a second chance…and then I was dead…”:
They were both silent for quite sometime. Finally he broke the silence,
“I was on my way home to marry Leepika. – My childhood sweetheart. Death was swift and instant… Quite a powerful blast it was… Many casualties” He continued after a pause,” I did not even know who killed me or why I was killed. At least you knew… At least you had a choice…I didn’t have any. Victims of mindless violence, we both are. Mindless Senseless violence. You – of your inner violence and me…”