(My first attempt at fiction)
She had not expected him to come back the next night. Horror, shock, shame, guilt, revulsion, sympathy, hopelessness and finally a sense of emptiness had run through his eyes in a matter of seconds. Then he turned his back and went out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him. She had not felt anything, after months now, she could face anyone and anything with a feeling of indifference and detachment. Nothing seemed to matter anymore.
It was as if his senses had disappeared from the moment he stepped out of her room. He couldn’t remember how he reached back or when. The whole day passed in a state of limbo. By evening he knew his feet would follow his mind and trace back yesterday’s steps.
“How?” was the only word that came out of his mouth. Maybe he knew the answer to the question that should have otherwise come naturally – “Why?”
That was the first question he had asked her years back.
“Rumi said I have to ask you”, the voice had startled him out of his reverie on that rainy Sunday afternoon. He had fallen asleep on the armchair and there was this waif like thing with his ‘Mystical Poems of Rumi’ in her hand.
“Why what?”, came the somewhat insolent reply.
“Why do you want this book?”
“I asked your daughter the meaning of her name and she said it is in this book.”
He was surprised that his daughter even remembered the book. She had started hating her name from the time she was old enough to understand the undercurrents in some of the rare conversations her parents had. She could perceive the unseen links between the book, her name and the more and more frequent wistful look in her father’s eyes these days. With each successful project of her mother’s, his father’s grip on that book and the distance between the three of them had grown. She could sense that her father had lost something priceless and this book was the only relic of that past of his.
And the girl continued standing there holding out the book to him. He didn’t know what came over him when he said yes.She had run off like lightning. That is when he realized he didn’t even know who she was.
The girl was back next Sunday, “Can you explain these to me?”
He was surprised at the poems she had chosen. By then he knew she was their maid’s daughter, a favorite of the nuns in the missionary school that she was studying in. He started looking forward to Sundays now. The life and the dancing humor in the girl’s eyes had started lighting up his eyes and there was a new spring to his step these days. She was perceptive beyond her years and her thoughts were far way from where she lived.
The visits stopped as suddenly as it had started. From the bits of pieces of exasperated soliloquies from his wife, he could make out that the maid and her family had returned to some obscure homeland of theirs after the quintessential spar with the drunken husband.
Seasons passed, his wife and daughter had moved on with their lives in which there was no space or time for him.
A wordly wise friend, an alumni meeting and a drunken stupor had led him to the house in the darkness of the night. The first glimpse of her face shook him out of his stupor. He could see that the light had gone completely out of her eyes.It was that darkness in her eyes that he came in search of, the next night.
The shreds of shattered dreams were reflected in the lone tear that balanced precariously at the tip of her long eye lashes.
The old spring was back in his steps as he led his Rumi girl out of that room.
(picture courtesy – vividmix.com)