Feeding kids while they are engrossed in watching cartoon on tv can be a daunting task. Specially if it was a Friday and you have had a long week at work and all you wanted to do was to crash in bed, after a nice shower, pulling up the sheets and reading a book until sleep took over! She didn’t really mind because even these little things gave her immense pleasure. It kept her mind off a lot of things; it became a reason for the joys in her life. As she was clearing the table the bell rang, wondering who it could be at this hour she gingerly washed her hands to get to the door.
As he rang the doorbell, he knew he would cave in any time. The past ten days had been harrowing to say the least, with countless meetings, travelling to and fro, her thoughts plaguing his mind. He felt angry, possessive, calm, distressed and totally devastated in regular succession thinking about her. How could she just calmly walk out of his life and then begin afresh. Anger and jealously tore at him and he wanted answers. Later, much later did he allow himself to think of her, of her happiness and her wishes. She carved her life just the way she wanted and she was happy and a part of him was at peace, felt a lot less guilty. But nothing could stop the thoughts that questioned him, how she could unfeelingly begin life afresh, didn’t she ever think of him while doing so? Was he ever important to her? Was she then lying when she said he was the one and she could never be with anyone else? Bitch! Yes that’s what she is or else why would she never try and find out how he has been all these years? He thought of her all the time, his mind kept replaying their life together; so much that he had memorized everything, every little detail. But at the end of 10 days he couldn’t contain himself. He had to find out for himself and he didn’t really care if she was prepared to answer them or if he was there with her. He needed to talk and he didn’t know any other way but this!
“What are you doing here?” A very surprised Noyona exclaimed while turning pale. She had never imagined he would come and find her. It has been 10 days and she assumed that by now the worst was over, and life would resume at the normal pace. But she was in for a rude shock
“I need to talk! Can I come in?”
“But… it’s late…”
“Look I think I made my intensions very clear… I am not going to rape you. It’s been a hectic 10 days, I’m exhausted and ready to pass out and in this state I wouldn’t be able to rape you even if I wanted to! And you know forcing myself on people, that has never been my style… and in any case people succumb to my charms… as you might remember!” He said smiling cheekily.
Mortified and blushing she moved back to allow him to come in and gestured him to make himself comfortable on the sofa while she went to tend to the kids who were now becoming restless as it was nearing bed time.
“Is it okay that I am here? I mean will he mind if he knew I was here? I mean… I’m sure you know what I mean right?” He said hesitantly.
Startled for a minute, she looked up “no it’s okay… I‘ll just get the kids to wash up and be back…”
“You want me to help?”
“No thanks I’ll manage…”
Here let me…. I‘ll carry her and you can carry him… I feel so shameless… I didn’t ask you their names..”
“Aankhi and Ayon…”
“Hmm… you had always wanted to name your daughter Aankhi haven’t you… Aankhi and Ayon…. Beautiful names…”
As he leaned over to pick Aankhi up he noticed a nervous look pass between mother and son, and Noyona was quick to reassure Ayon that it was okay that Aankhi was being picked up. The little girl however had no inhibitions; she gurgled gleefully, wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face against him. His heart twisted painfully and his throat became dry, he had no clue why he felt overwhelmed with emotions. Was it because he still couldn’t believe that this was Noyona’s kids? The Noyona who was wild, alive, constantly chattering, driving him crazy, whose love was all consuming. The Noyona who loved with abandonment, who had welcomed him in her life without any promises, she let him in a place where she had not let anyone else even come close. The youthful Noyona, as pretty as ever with those same kohl rimmed eyes, was almost the same but she was only quieter, more serious and had two lovely kids. Kids that could have been his
He sighed as he opened the faucet to let water run, as he rinsed Ankhi’s mouth. He gently carried her into the room which looked like it belonged to the kids and sat down with her, as Noyona was busy with Ayon. In no time, he had seen all her toys, the names were known too and she was totally unaffected by a stranger in her private space. Instead she seemed eager to forge a bond with him, her little fingers played with the chain around his neck as he read to her. Soon Noyona walked in with Ayon, and putting him on the bed, she sat down.
“The kids don’t sleep with you?”
“No of late I’m trying to make them sleep in a different room. Sooner or later they would have to, and anyway Ayon takes care of her. He is the mature one of the two so I have nothing much to worry! Moreover they have a habit of sneaking into my room in the wee hours of the morning. So that’s how I begin the day. That partly cures my guilt of making them sleep in a different room.” She blabbered nervously.
He smiled, “A good thing you know… gives you room for some time alone too…” he winked at her and she blushed at his insinuation.
“I had almost forgotten to ask, do you want something to eat? I haven’t eaten too… “
“Are you sure it won’t be a problem that I’m here... It’s already around 9pm. I’d hate it if I caused problems for you”
“No its okay, don’t worry. Can you watch over the kids while I heat dinner? Just sit with them; they will fall asleep on their own,”
The moment she asked him to watch over her kids her heart winced. She even in her wildest dreams could have ever imagined that someday life would bring her face to face with him again. She thought that day at the airport was the last she saw of him, the last she would ever see him. But she was wrong. She saw him everywhere, he was ever present, he was there in Ayon, he was there in Ankhi. He was there in her memories. She was a fool to think that she could deceive fate and have the kids all to herself. That someday she would never have to share them with him. A part of her was angry but another part of her understood that there were things that were beyond her.
With the kids off to sleep, they finally sat down to eat. This entire family scene was getting to her, because she had carefully built her life from scratch and she didn’t want to disrupt any of that with his sudden appearance. But she knew this was temporary, her stint here would last another few days and then they would go back to the life they had embarked together. Then this will be just another memory, a cruel joke by fate
“So how have you been?” His voice startled her and she broke out of her reverie.
“I have been fine, with the kids and work. Life is good. So how are things on your end? And Ria?” she smiled weakly.
“She has been good, grown up and all. Work is good too, I have been busy. Just returned from a trip, and as you can see I’m completely exhausted…”
There was an eerie silence and unable to bear it any long he asked.
“So where is he? What does he do? Is it okay that I am here?”
“It’s fine that you are here. He is not around, never really been around.”
Something unsettled him and he could just not put a finger on to just what. Then he understood, the unhappiness in her eyes, the lack of smile…. She must have loved him a lot… with that realization came a stab in his gut, she has never really loved him as much. Why would she? I made no promises to her. Maybe he had…
“So when did you move in to this city? You came here for work?”
“I came here a couple of months back…for a short time though. Have some assignments to finish.”
He offered to help in clearing up the table but she would hear none of it. Reluctantly he went and made himself comfortable on the sofa. When she had finished her chores, she came to sit beside him with two bowls of ice cream only to find him fast asleep. The sight was very ordinary for her… she remembered so many such evenings, when they would stay up to talk, make passionate love and then she would watch him sleep. So many years later, she still watched over him as he slept only this time a lot had changed. She tried waking him up fearing that he may have to head home, but after his garbled reply that no-one was expecting him home and that he needed to sleep. She just made him comfortable and pulling a blanket over him and went into her room.
To be continued…