Story 23

“Mommy, see how high I am going!” her daughter shouted out to her.
“Sweetie, not so high. I know you are brave but you know mommy is not, she gets scared when you do that.” She called back to her daughter.

They were in a park and her daughter was sitting on a swing in the children’s play area. She was not like other mothers who stood too close to their child restricting the freedom they got to play the way they wanted to. As long as her daughter played it safe, she did not have any problem watching her from a distance. She knew she could trust her daughter and that trust had earned her obedience from her daughter who slowed down on the swing. 

From the corner of her eye she saw him. He was there with his son who was playing on see-saw with another kid. He was unlike other dads who either preferred not watching over their child and left the task to the mother or watched their kids from distance just like she was watching her daughter. He stood too close to the boy and she noticed the boy was getting uncomfortable.
She continued looking in their direction and realized that he looked familiar. She had seen this man somewhere before. She tried to recollect when and where.
“Mommy” her daughter yelled and her mother’s instinct kicked in; she got up from the bench and rushed towards the swing in one fluid motion only to find her daughter laughing. It took a while for her to realize that her daughter was playing a prank on her.
“Don’t you do that again, ever.” She said helping her daughter out of the swing. “Time to go” she said. 
“I want to play on the see-saw” her daughter pleaded.

She had no option but to agree to it. There were a few minutes of play time still remaining and she had never ever refused anything to her daughter. At least not the things that did not harm in any way. She was strict where it mattered and lenient whenever possible.
They walked towards the see-saw; he was still standing near his son who was still playing on the see-saw trying desperately to enjoy himself under the gaze of his father.
The boy on the other side stopped and got up suddenly, resulting in the other kid’s side to go down with force. Before the plank could hit hard on the ground, she grasped the empty end to stop the motion. 
“Thank you” he said to her to his son he asked, “Are you alright?”
“I am fine, dad.” The boy said somewhat irritated. The boy hated how his father made him look like a baby.
“Can she play with you?” She asked the boy pointing towards her daughter. Her daughter smiled at the boy.
“Sure.” The boy said  and raised his end of the plank making it easier for her daughter to climb on the empty side.

“Remember what mommy told you?” she asked her daughter
“Yes. Play safely.” Her daughter said.
“And, when you want to get down, make sure you tell him first” she said to her daughter pointing towards the boy.
She turned to him as their children started playing. He was still watching his son. She had never seen such a possessive and over-protective father before.
“Let’s go and sit over there.” She said pointing towards the bench closer to the see-saw. “That is, if you do not mind.” She added. 
He realized that she had noticed he was being too protective of his son. He did not have to explain himself to anyone but he wanted to share his thoughts with her. Hoping that talking to her would make him feel better. He had never talked to anyone about what was happening in his life; wanting to talk to a stranger seemed weird but he could not stop feeling it that way. 
“Hello” she said.
He had not realized that there was an awkward silence between them all the while when he was thinking or rather talking to himself.
“Sorry, let’s sit.” He said but before walking towards the bench he glanced towards his son who was now enjoying himself. He smiled.

They sat on the nearby bench watching their children play together. From a distance it seemed as if those two kids knew each other for a long time and were close friends. They both giggled as one side went up and as the other kid pushed hard against the ground and rose high, they giggled again.
“They are having a good time.” He said watching his son. Meanwhile she studied him. Where had she seen him before? She wondered.
He cleared his throat and she felt embarrassed because even though she was deep in her thoughts she was staring at him.

“You feel very protective towards your son.” She said. He thanked his fate. She had given him a chance to talk. 
“My wife and I are getting a divorce. She is asking for full custody of our son. She’s got the best lawyer in town and I know, slightest mistake from my end and these people will gulp me down. I would lose him forever.” He said, his voice betraying him towards the end. He had wanted to talk to someone but he did not want to expose his vulnerable self.

She remembered then, who he was. He was the husband of her friend. She had not met him personally but had seen him often from a distance. Her friend did not like to introduce him to anyone. My husband’s a shy person her friend often said.
She found it hard to believe. A man who opened up to his deepest feelings in front of a total stranger seemed anything but shy. Or may be circumstances had made him like this; maybe he was lonely. Or, maybe he knew who she was. He was talking to her hoping that she would convey a message to her friend about how protective he was towards his son and how much he loved his son.

Whatever it maybe, she was not going to be the one to tell him that she had recognised him. She looked at him, how vulnerable he looked. She saw the look in his eyes as he watched his son. Each emotion was genuine. 
“Tell me more” she surprised herself by saying it.
“What do you want to know?” The surprise in his voice genuine.
“Whatever you are comfortable sharing.” She said
He cleared his throat. Before he could start talking their kids got down from the see-saw and started to walk towards them.
“Some other day maybe.” He said as he collected his son in his arms.
“Let me down” his son said and he immediately placed his son back on the ground.
“Some other day” she said and collected her own daughter in her arms. Her daughter did not complain and she started walking but not before looking at the boy, her expression asking the son to respect and understand the possessiveness of his father. The boy looked down at the ground. He held his son’s hand and started walking away from her.

They met in the park again the next day. Her daughter ran towards his son, they held hands and ran off together to play. They watched as their children played on the slide.
“They’ve become good friends.” He said and then continued pointing towards the bench “Shall we.”
He continued watching his son and he was trying his best not to be overprotective. But she knew that he would reach his son in record time if something went wrong.
“I am trying not to be overprotective, especially after yesterday. I really embarrassed him in front of you and your daughter by lifting him up in my arms. I do not want him to choose his mother over me because of my overprotectiveness.” He said and laughed.
She looked at his face closely. Even though he had said it as a joke she knew instantly that it was his deepest fear - being rejected by his own son. 

She recollected what her friend had told her about him. As per her friend, her husband was a monster. Not an inch of him is civilised, her friend had told her. This man sitting next to her seemed anything but what her friend had accused him of. 
It did not take much time for her to conclude that her friend had been lying about him.
She moved closer to him and slid her hand in his. He looked at her in surprise. She let her hand stay where it was and so did he.
“Don’t worry. Your son loves you and you will get his custody. You need to take it a little easy, though.” she said and smiled.
“I know” he said absently squeezing her hand as he watched his son. 

They sat together, hand in hand, watching their children as they continued playing like best friends.

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silent whispers

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