Story 82

He switched off his computer, picked up his car keys and rushed towards the elevator. He was late, he was always late. His daughter had to wait at the school after all her friends had already left. He was helpless – he was trying hard to balance work and the personal responsibilities in addition to mourning his personal loss.
He was new at all this, he did not know how to do it. He was trying his best; his daughter knew it as well and she never complained but he felt guilty.


After reaching the parking lot he ran towards his car, got into it and drove out immediately, waving to the security guard on his way out. He put the car in top gear and drove in the school’s direction. When he reached the school, he found his daughter sitting on the stairs. She got up and walked towards the gate when she saw his car. The peon of the school spotted him and brought his daughter towards his car.


She got in the car and he apologized. She told him that it was okay. On their way back home, he took her to an ice-cream parlour and they had her favourite ice-cream. On reaching home his daughter went to her room and he went to his, to freshen up. He was almost done with preparing snacks when his daughter walked out. She had changed out of her uniform and freshened up as well. She kept her tiffin box on the kitchen platform and took her seat at the dining table. He served two plates and joined her at the table.


How was school? He asked her and she told him everything that she had done in school; every minute detail. This was what they used to do every day. This was the conversation his wife had with his daughter while he used to be busy in office or when at home, in his study. It was his wife who used to prepare snacks for them, help their daughter to freshen up and help her study.
His wife’s disappearance from their lives had changed them both. He had started paying more attention at home and his daughter had matured beyond her age. Things had changed. Why? he often thought and each time he did that he started crying. He drank after putting his daughter to sleep each night, he stayed awake thinking about his wife; the next day same routine began. He made breakfast, packed his daughter’s tiffin and dropped her to school before going to the office. He worked hard, trying to forget about his personal loss and a reminder set off every day to remind him that it was time to pick up his daughter from school and every day he put it on snooze because he was either having an important conference or he was busy on an international call; each day he reached school late, picked up his daughter, took her to ice-cream parlour and back home made snacks for her and then took her studies and made dinner and put her to sleep. He even told her bed-time stories. He had seen his wife doing it a couple of times; the times when he had waited outside their daughter’s room hoping that she would fall asleep soon so that his wife would come to their bedroom and he would make love to her.


‘Daddy’ his daughter’s voice brought him out from the past. ‘Yes, sweetheart?’ he asked running his hand over her head. ‘I do not understand this’ she showed him the book and he tried to find out what it was that his daughter did not understand. It was a question he could find answer to, in his daughter’s book but there were questions in life that did not have any answer. Questions like –
Why did his wife leave them? Did she ever love him? How could she leave their daughter? Did she not love their daughter?
He answered his daughter’s question and told her they could complete the rest later. He told her she could watch TV. He wanted some time alone.


He walked out to the balcony and took out the cigarette from his jeans pocket. He thought about the last conversation they had before his wife disappeared the next morning – without a word. The conversation was simple – they were discussing their future; they were planning on having a second baby. And just like that, without a word of caution she disappeared. He woke up in the morning and found out she was not in bed, he was not surprised since she was an early morning person. He had walked to the kitchen hoping to find her but there no sign of her being there. No breakfast in the making, nothing. He walked to his daughter’s bedroom and found his daughter sleeping. His wife was not there in the room with their daughter.


He searched for her outside, called out her name, asked neighbours about her and finally after leaving his daughter at school he lodged a police complaint and did not go to office that day. He was not in the right frame of mind to work.
No one found any clue about her whereabouts. No one knew whether she was alive or dead. He did not know what had happened to his wife. The police questioned him. They questioned their daughter – they asked her about his behaviour, about his relationship with her mother; whether he scolded her or her mother. The police considered him a suspect. It was always the case – the husband was always the primary suspect. He knew it. Despite that he had gone to the police and lodged a complaint because he loved his wife, he wanted her back in his life. It was almost a month since his wife had gone missing. He finished his cigarette and walked back inside.


His daughter had fallen asleep on the couch. He switched off the TV and picked her up. He took her to the room and lay her on the bed. He tucked her in and stepped out of the room leaving the door open. He opened a bottle of whisky and started drinking.


He went to his room and went through his wife’s wardrobe. She had not taken anything with her. Her clothes, her jewellery – everything was there – untouched. That was the main reason police suspected that he had done something to her. He took one of her sarees and smelled it. He missed her, he missed her smell, he missed her body. He closed the wardrobe, saree still in hand and closed the bedroom door. He smelled the saree again and unzipped his jeans. He masturbated.


When he woke up it was morning. He got out of the bed and threw the saree in the laundry basket. He opened the door and found his daughter sleeping on the floor. She must have tried to wake him up at night. He had blacked out. He had not heard his daughter. He woke her up and she went into his arms the moment she opened her eyes. I was so scared, she told him. I tried to wake you up, I banged on the door but you did not open it. I was so scared she said and he apologized to her, yet again.
He asked her to get ready for school and she obeyed. She always obeyed. She was his good daughter. Those who did not understand their relationship would perhaps say that his daughter was scared of him. That’s what the police had interpreted when they had questioned his daughter. There was no reason for her to be scared, he knew – they did not. They even asked his daughter if he touched her. He had almost reached for the police officer’s throat but was held back by constables. He was given a warning. How could they think he could do something like that to his daughter? He loved her – like a father loved his child. He was not a paedophile.


He was asked to step out of the room and then they had questioned his daughter again. They had no right to talk to her without a parent being present but they had; they asked her again and she told them the truth – told them that he loved her very much, he was a good daddy.


He was a good daddy, he could never harm his daughter. He hated how the police worked, hated that they considered him the prime suspect but he hated it the most when they thought he had touched his daughter in the wrong way. Finally, he was given a clean chit. His daughter was allowed to stay with him, otherwise they would have taken her away.
Later on, he came to know that the police had questioned the neighbours and his daughter’s school teachers as well and apart from that they had secretly conducted her physical examination at school with the permission of the school principal. They had ruled out any abuse.


He dropped his daughter to school and went to work. He was late for the meeting. When he stepped in, he was told that his immediate boss and the superior was waiting for him. He cursed under his breath and rushed to the conference room. They greeted him with stern faces and accusing eyes. They threw a folder in his direction – told him that he had messed things up. He looked around the room, people were looking at him – his colleagues, his juniors – everyone.
They humiliated him in front of everyone. He tried to explain that he had just suffered a personal loss and he was trying to manage his work and personal responsibilities. They sniggered and asked him to stay at home instead of coming to work and ruining things for their company. That’s when it happened – he blacked out – just like that.


When he came to, he was in a hospital room, his hands and feet were restrained. He yelled, called for help. No one came and then he blacked out again.
The second time he opened his eyes he was in an interrogation room. The police were looking at him in a weird manner. They told him that his daughter had been worried for him the previous night; she had told her school teacher about it. he told them he had slept too much under the influence of alcohol. The police asked him how could he drink when he had to take care of his daughter single-handedly. 'You don’t fucking understand what I am going through. You son of a bitch, you think you know everything' – these were the last words he thought he heard before he blacked out yet again.


When he came to after some time, there were restraints on his hand, he was still in the interrogation room but he could taste blood. He had a cut lip. His head ached as if someone had hurled him against a wall and he had hit his head. He tried to think about what had happened. He remembered the words he had heard, he was the one saying them, he realized after a while.


A doctor was sent into the interrogation room. The doctor asked how often he had these blackouts? He told them the truth. It happened whenever he was over-stressed or when he had an argument with his wife. He should have not said that, a voice in his head told him. The doctor walked out and the investigating officer came in – he laid out some papers in front of him. They were the transcripts of the conversation he had with the police when he had thought he had blacked out.


Those were the times when his other personality had surfaced.


‘Did you kill your wife?’ the investigating officer had asked him and the answer he had supposedly given shocked him. He started to shiver, control yourself he tried to tell himself. Don’t be afraid, a voice in his head said but it was late – he had already wet his pants.

Suddenly his face contorted with anger and he said ‘you disgusting piece of shit.'

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